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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lost & Found in Dubai

 

Losing one's baggage during travel can be a harrowing experience. Once gone, the biggest problem is to list down things that you lost with the baggage.

 

Misplaced baggage or Mumbai-destined baggage going off to some other exotic location is common and airlines have over the years perfected their processes to get your baggage back to scheduled destination with a good efficiency.

 

BUT what happens when you lose your baggage?

 

Well, the mistake is yours and you have no one to blame nor do you have anyone who will take the responsibility of tracing the bag for you. But then there are always Lost & Found counters at the airport and one can 'hope' that the lost baggage has found its way to the lost-n-found.

 

It was exactly this hope that I had when I 'lost' a bag in Dubai International Airport last month. I realized it only when I reached Mumbai that my bag had not made the journey.

 

Well … the trials to trace my bag began. I tried the airline, the check-in counter executive at Dubai airport and finally the Dubai airport website. After a week or more, I got a reply that my bag was with the Dubai police – Lost and Found Department at the airport.

 

When I travelled back to Dubai, I approached the Lost and Found Department who asked me several questions about the contents of my bag. They not only gave me back the bag but also asked me about credit cards, cash and mobile phones I might have in the bag. I wasn't sure so I gave them description of my spare mobile phone. They retrieved a phone and a card from two different sections of the department

 

They verified the card number from me before handing it over and the same with mobile phone. I had to describe it to convince them it was mine.

 

Finally … the cash …

 

They did not give it to me. They informed me that cash was found and it was with a different department. And I could collect it only during the working days and working hours of 8 to 1. A minor inconvenience considering I was getting all my belongings back without any loss of valuables. Guess they have created processes/procedures to remove the 'valuable' items and cash from lost baggage (which is open) and store them separately to avoid any incident of damage or theft within their premises.

 

I would say the whole thing left me with a pleasant experience. Dubai International Airport truly deserves the 'best airport' award it gets. And that is not just for the 'lost and found' incident. I have been travelling thro Dubai International Airport since the past 3-4 years and the experiences have ranged from ok to good to very good. Never bad. Not that I remember. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

3 Meals in 3 Countries … Phew !!

 

Had only heard about such things in movies ... now it is happening to ME in real life ...

 

So 29th March gets recorded in my personal book as a historical day for Me

 

3 meals of the same day in 3 different cities across 3 different countries …

 

Breakfast in Doha, Qatar

Lunch in Dubai, UAE

Dinner in Mumbai, India

 

This reminds me of some old Bollywood movie dialogues (including Border) where some rich guy is bragging about his riches by saying things like Breakfast in London, Lunch in Paris and Dinner in New York !!!

 

Yeah Yeah ,,, looks grand and that's what I used to think when I used to hear the dialogue in movies ... BUT what I never considered was the amount of 'travelling' involved in between those 3 meals !!

 

We are talking countries and not just cities so for the above to be true, you gotta travel … travel across the countries to these cities. One ends up spending the entire day between the meals and the flights. So much time spent at the airports … check-in queues, immigration queues, baggage belt waiting time and so on … It isn't pretty !!

 

Well … I had the company of Robert Ludlum J

I was reading his novel so the waiting times were not bad at all for me. I welcomed them.

 

I kind-of never liked all this cross country travel …. But then now I use all the available time at hand while travelling for READING. With the increase in travel, my reading has increased and I manage to read quite a lot. I am loving it

 

Painful is the time I had time at hand (waiting or travelling) and no book to read … so now I ensure I carry my tab (with all the eBooks loaded) and at least 2 physical hard copy paper-smelling novels with me on my long trips.

 

Well … I digress. The subject of this post was related to cross-country meals and let me not go into books. I couldn't help it though … Both are for 'consumption' and I am fond of both.

 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Robert Ludlum and Matthew … The Best Storytellers (for me at least)

 

I first read Robert Ludlum way back in 2006 … and I became an instant fan

 

I read what I could get my hands on … including the Bourne Series … and read about 10-12 RL novels during 2006-2007. And there was a kind of break. Reading itself became limited until I kind of restarted reading in 2009-2010. This time around I was reading new authors (I had discovered Matthew Reilly and become an instant fan and was reading all of his works) and did not somehow pick up a Robert Ludlum. I did pick one but it somehow did not give me the Robert Ludlum feeling.

 

After a long gap, I picked up a Robert Ludlum novel … I started reading Trevayne a few days ago and have enjoyed every bit of the 550+ pages of storytelling that RL indulges in. There is a particular quality in RL's novel. For me, he is a master story teller who keeps you (the reader) in his grips when you are reading his work. The story develops quickly and the story does not stagnate. It is difficult to summarize RL's novel in a few minutes if you are to cover all aspects of the story. A lot happens in his novels and it's all so exciting that you can't wait to read 'what happened next' …
 
It has been such a nice feeling reading RL ..that I wondered why i hadn't picked up any novels by him in past few years,

 

Robert Ludlum and Matthew Reilly write books which I could read start to finish in a single seating (considering that they both write real long novels 400 to 700 page length). No other author that I have read drew me like this. When I read their novels there is a total oblivion to the world outside. Bliss of reading!  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stay Young My Friend

This was an email forward which came my way ... Thought I would post it here for future reference and for readers of my blog ... 

============================
Stay Young My Friend

We all need to read this one over and over until it
becomes a part of who we are!

HOW TO STAY YOUNG

1. Try everything twice. On one woman's tombstone she said she wanted this epitaph:
"Tried everything twice. Loved it both times!"

2. Keep only cheerful friends.
The grouches pull you down.
(Keep this in mind if you are one of those grouches!)

3. Keep learning: Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever...
Never let the brain get idle.'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.' And the devil's name is Alzheimer's!


4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud.
Laugh until you gasp for breath. And if you have a friend who makes you laugh,
spend lots and lots of time with HIM/HER.

6. The tears happen:
Endure, grieve, and move on.

The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves.
LIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love:
Whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever..

Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health:
If it is good, preserve it.If it is unstable, improve it.If it is beyond what you can improve,get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips...
Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county,to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them,at every opportunity.I love you, my special friend.

And if you don't send this to at least 4 people - who cares? But do share this with someone.

Remember! Lost time can never be found.
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is
fighting some kind of battle.

Wine does not make you FAT ...
it makes you LEAN ... (Against tables, chairs, floors, walls )







Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review: Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul at Work

Once again I have a book to review from BlogAdda.com as part of their book review program. They were kind enough to send it to me by express courier so that it reached me in time for my trip. The book became a very good companion for me during my flights between Mumbai - Dubai and Dubai – Doha. The 101 stories, related to the Indian workplace kept me entertained on this 'work related trip' of mine.
My earliest memories of reading the 'Chicken Soup' series dates back more than a decade when I got my hands on my first 'chicken soup for soul'. It was a nice sentimental read. It was the 'Original' version. And then I began noticing all sorts of 'variations' coming up at the bookstores. Then off late, in recent years I even heard about Indian variants coming up.
It was interesting to read the same flavored sentimental humanly touching stories with the Indian 'tadka'. This book which I read brings together yet another collection of 101 stories of entrepreneurship & creativity at the Indian workplace.
For this book, Juhi Rai Farmania joined hands with Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen and brought together the 101 stories that made it to the book.
The real life stories are typically short and simple; they relate to real life incidents from ordinary people's lives. Since the focus is the workplace; we get to see the dynamics of the Indian workplace through the stories besides the typical failure-before-success stories.
Most of the stories are quick to read and leave you thinking. You spend more time thinking about what you have just read and start relating it to your own personal experience in life. You tend to identify with various characters in the stories and begin to think of similar people around you. I believe that has been the 'soul' of this series of books and this edition of the series manages to adhere to the soul. The chicken soup with Indian workplace tadka is pretty good read.
Not all of the 101 stories are excellent reading; some are boring, some extremely predictable and some of them very generic. When you read an inspiring story; you get inspired by the 'aha' moment or incident in the story which changes the course, mood and sentiment of the story. A generic story of struggle and achieving success by continued hard work don't really inspire (me at least). Unfortunately, there were only a handful of the stories that really inspired me.
The 101 stories have been put in about 13 categories. All of them are kind of a mixed bag -  a mix of generic boring as well as interesting inspiring stories.
Two things I observed were that there were many similar stories and quite a lot of the stories were authored by women. Quite a few stories had an element of personal calamity due to demise of father or husband. A couple of stories had girls/women vying for Mountaineering / Adventure Sports kind of professions. I don't know why there was a need to have similar stories. In a country of more than a billion people, I am sure there are plenty of good and 'different' stories for a chicken soup book. This element of the book surely disappointed me. I was looking for 101 stories of inspiration. I got a lot less. And yes, some stories left me confused about the message they were trying to convey.  
Some stories focus on the importance of personal life (work life balance) while some had a bend of entrepreneurship in them while there were others which touched ethics as well as relationship with other people at work.
I am personally biased towards the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and would pick up any that I come across (except those which are clearly not meant for me [Chicken Soup for the African American Soul, Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul] or have very weird titles [Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul, Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul]; or both [Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause, Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul] which {sadly} seems like a majority)
About this book in particular; the book could have been much better. The selection of stories leaves much to be desired. Maybe the author did not have enough stories to choose from and she probably picked up the best amongst the worst to meet the target of 101 stories. I don't know. I would have loved to have 101 inspiration packed stories in the book. I got less.

Trivia: As per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chicken_Soup_for_the_Soul_books there have been more than 105 Chicken Soup titles till January 2006 and so many more might have been added to this list in the past 6 years. Doesn't that dilute the genre (I am referring to Chicken Soup itself as a genre). Wont people soon get tired of the series?  And yes, this is the place where I found the weird and otherwise titles.


This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program  at BlogAdda.com . Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My First Time

 

The first time you do something, it is always exciting. You become an excited kid (irrespective of your age). You get excited, go to the edge of your seat and stop thinking rationally (really).

Think of the small and big incidents of your life when you did something for the first time. Remember the excitement.

BUT, as time passes and the thing repeats, the excitement diminishes. The joy and pleasure of the 'first time' can never be replicated. It is only there in your memories.

In this post, I am going to focus on visiting a place for the first time; A new city; A new Country.

I still remember my first visit to Switzerland.

It was a one week trip and the whole week was filled with new experiences wrapped in every moment. In fact the experiences began even before the trip. There was an indescribable excitement of losing my passport virginity and packing for my first business trip abroad. And that too for a destination like Switzerland. The first international airport experience, the first time at the immigration counters and security checks of the bags. The first international flight, flying above the clouds with clouds above and below the aircraft (and my own face glued to the aircraft window for most part of the journey) and then flying above all the clouds with darkness above (in day time).

I remember my first day in Geneva where I felt I was in a different world completely. First time seeing a world outside India; it was an eye opener. It was an entirely new way of living. The queues don't extend upto the counter. They stop short at least 3-4 feet before the counter and only one person from the queue goes to the counter at a time. People obey queue systems and most surprisingly public transport buses arrive almost exactly on time (something that I thought was not even possible).

I remember my first day in Kuala Lumpur where I was amazed by the series of Tall buildings in the city … this time my face glued to the window of the taxi while going from airport to hotel. The Petronas Twin towers were a delight to watch. 

I remember my first day in Dubai looking at a flat city with a single road with almost all of its tall structures including the under-construction Burj Dubai (now called Burj Khalifa – the tallest building of the world). I saw the rest of the 'new Dubai' later and realized that there were tall building everywhere in those parts but the first impression of Dubai was a flat old city with a modern skyscrapers road of a kilometer length – The Shaikh Zayed Road.

Why am I writing this post …

One - To remind you about the 'first time experience'

Two – I had a new place experience and went through the feelings all over again J

 

UAE was the last 'new country' I had visited and it was in 2008 that I first visited it. Since then (Oct 2008 to Mar 2012) I have spent time between Dubai, Sharjah and Mumbai. Coming to Sharjah in Feb 2011 was also a new experience since it has a different feel as compared to Dubai. In the past 4 years, the Dubai Airport terminal has become so familiar that I don't even notice things in the airport anymore. I just walk thro it often walking in auto-pilot mode engrossed in a novel.

Yesterday, I flew to Doha, Qatar and it was the same child-like excitement all over again. New airport to land, new airport terminal, new view outside the airport, new currency notes (and the confusion associated with them), new taxi colors (they have Aqua colors for their cabs) and a new skyline to look at. My face was once again glued to the aircraft window for the last 20 minutes of the journey; looking at this new destination from air. The city looks sand color from the top.

I realized that it had been a long time since I had this child like feeling and decided to write about it. I realized that one should travel to a new destination every year (or more frequently if possible) and the new destination need not be international. India itself has plenty of places which will keep you spell bound and open your eyes in wonder.

Take a trip. See a new place. Enjoy ! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

101 stories spanning 365 pages within 6 days

 

Not bad … right?
 

Well, having a collection of 101 stories spanning 365 pages and only a limited time of 6 days to read them might seem to be a challenge but if it coincides with about 4 international flights and plenty of Airport waiting time and Immigration Queue time; it does not seem to be a big challenge after all J

 
The challenge then is in writing the review of this book on the 7th day.
 
Well … I have just received such a book whose review would be up in exactly one week (if not earlier)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Marathon Travel

 

6 flights in 13 days …. I have never travelled this much in so short a time.

 
I have been travelling international routes since last 7 years and crossed international borders practically every quarter and off late it became every month too. But crossing several international borders within a matter of 2 weeks in a new one for me

I would be crossing international borders 6 times in 13 days in the second half of March  travelling about 3500 km by air ...

Add to that 2 train journeys (1500 km) and several Bus journeys (totalling about 500 km) in the first half of the month and it looks like a month of travelling, travelling and travelling .... almost 5500+ km of travelling in the month !!!

 

And the next month promises to be the similar … phew !

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Indian Railway Website Nuisance

 

The Indian Railway website irctc.co.in has been an excellent website for online ticket booking and I have been using it for a long time now. The earlier website at IndianRailway.gov.in, which provided information (although no booking) was also a good one.

But in the past several months both websites have disappointed me … in fact they have irritated me no end.

The IRCTC Website for online booking is way too slow (or let me say 'excruciatingly' slow) during the peak hours (morning 8 to 12). Several times when I have tried to book tickets on the opening day, it has taken me almost 2 hours to book a single ticket. The website becomes completely sluggish and does not even give basic functionality like the auto complete of the station names which is mostly the first step to booking tickets.

The site at 6 AM in the morning and 12 midnight gives a stellar performance and I have booked 2 sets of tickets in less than 5-8 minutes.

I understand that internet penetration in India is increased and the website must be attracting thousands and thousands (probably millions) of visitors in the peak hours BUT with so much of railway ticket booking volume being channeled through the website; the railways surely need to invest a bit more in infrastructure that can handle the current traffic. Hope they do it soon !

Coming to the erstwhile IndianRailway.gov.in website … it now has pop-up ads which completely spoils the website experience and ruins the ease of use. Every time I try to check for some trains or check PNR status; all I get is disturbing pop-ups. I don't mind staring at the ads in the side-bars and around the website but the pop-ups not only irritating but they also spoil the website experience. Why is railways showing pop-up ads … that is so decade ago !

Hope someone from the railways comes across this blog post and conveys the message to someone who can look into these suggestions / pain areas.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

PARAPROSDOKIANS


PARAPROSDOKIANS (Winston Churchill loved them) are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently humorous. 


(I received this as an email forward and found most of them amusing. So sharing it on my blog for my readers as well as my own future amusement.)


1. Where there's a will, I want to be in it. 

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list. 

3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak. 

4. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong. 

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public. 

6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left. 

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. 

8. They begin the evening news with 'Good Evening,' then proceed to tell you why it isn't. 

9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research. 

10. Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. On my desk is a work station. 

11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks. 

12. In filling out an application, where it says, 'In case of emergency, notify:' I put 'DOCTOR.' 

13. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you. 

14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy. 

15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman. 

16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory. 

17. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice. 

18. Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with. 

19. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away. 

20. I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure. 

21. You're never too old to learn something stupid. 

22. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target. 

23. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. 

24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. 

25. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. 

26. Where there's a will, there are relatives.
 
And if you have enjoyed reading them .... here are over 180 more of the similar kind.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

February Reading …

 

February began with a much awaited Matthew Reilly followed by a new author with her debut novel. It was an awesome start of the month on reading front as well as a nice long weekend with cousins in Mahabaleshwar.

After these two reads, I was back to my regulars and also picked up another new author (for me) … Patricia Cornwell. That makes it 3 full length novels (all three of different genres) and my regulars of 3I, Sherlock and Famous Five along with new addition of Satyajit Ray! BTW ... one-third of my Feb reading (5 out of 15) is from the Sherlock Holmes collections.

Satisfactory reading score - A nice month !

 

1. Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves by Matthew Reilly

Finally … I got my hands on the latest Matthew Reilly novel. Aptly titled 'The Army of Thieves'; this is yet another Scarecrow / Schofield adventure. It turned out to be as expected … full of high octane over-the-top action with a whole lot of twists and turns in the plot.

I have already posted my review of this one separately in an earlier post in February.

Suffice to say that although this was not one of MR's best but it was a fantastic read nevertheless. Anybody interested in 'reading' a detailed screenplay/script of a Hollywood action thriller can pick this up !!

 

2. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Devil's Foot by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock and Watson are on a kind of vacation when a strange case comes up. 3 men and a women are playing cards at the table one evening, one of them leaves only to come back in the morning to find the girl dead and the remaining two guys gone completely MAD … in almost the same state he left them; with the cards still lying on the table. The dead girl has a horrified expression on her face.

The survivor dies in a similar horrible fashion a few days later baffling everyone but Sherlock. 

Sherlock keeps his investigation to himself, identifying the killer(s) and even letting him go. Sherlock has done this in several cases where he felt justice was imparted through the murders.

 

3. The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

Well … Managed to get another book for review from BlogAdda.com

This one was a nice interesting one with a housewife turning into a detective (SO this one was yet another detective stuff kind of read along with my regulars Sherlock and 3I). I enjoyed reading the writing style of Kiran Manral.

It will suffice here that it was a good read; since I have already posted a detailed review of this book separately in February as per the requirement from Blog Adda

 

4. Sherlock Holmes: The Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Not much to write about this one. It was not really a case for applying Sherlock style deductions. It's more of a record of a certain long term engagement which Sherlock got involved in as a service to the country. Not a very interesting read.

The only interesting thing about this story is that this was probably the singular Sherlock episode written in third person. It was not narrated by Watson.

 

5. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow by M V Carrey

Imagine the horrors if you have attacking scary scarecrow, dangerous ants which eat anything living that come in their way, a set of suspects who seem to come clean on initial assessments and investigation but later turn out to be not only suspicious but also end up being the 'villains' !! A singular story with many suspects who end up all being guilty of various crimes …

 

6. Pikoo's Diary by Satyajit Ray

I started reading the 'Best of Satyajit Ray' this month … a collection of the best of the short stories by Satyajit Ray. I read the entire Feluda series last year and this year too, I continue to read Satyajit Ray as one of my regular authors.

The first story I read was actually the last one in the book. I read about that story being a different kind in the intro to the book and decided to read it first. It was an interesting attempt at story writing. "Pikoo's Diary" was a child writing in his/her diary. It had been written in the childish manner a child would write and it had but a recording of what the child saw without really understanding its meaning.

It talks about turbulent times, adult affairs and possibly a death … all without knowing that it is doing so. It was definitely an interesting read and gives you a perspective of how children are impressionable and how they perceive things in a different manner than us.

 

7. The Three Investigators & the Secret of the Shark Reef by William Arden

This one was filled up to the brim in adventure. Storming Seas, Stolen fuel from the boat, sabotage, Oil Rigs, oil protests, sharks, shark hunter sub, World War II submarine, a possible treasure, mud-slides, a host of suspects and normally crowded freeway which is completely barren and empty. And … I might even have missed a few.

A nice tale of adventure and danger out there in the sea with Bob and Pete playing significant roles and saving the day; while Jupe figures out his deductions and identifies the innocent culprits from the non-innocent ones.

 

8. Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell

Well … This was my first Patricia Cornwell novel. I started reading it during my Mumbai-Dubai Trip and as usual Kingfisher airlines helped; Not only with bad in-flight entertainment system but with a 2-3 hour delay of the flight.

It was an interesting read; slow at times but interesting nevertheless. A recluse author is murdered (after receiving threats for several months) and the chief medical officer's 'ex' turns up to talk to her (they haven't talked for over a decade) and then another murder and then another death and then another suicide. Things begin to get complicated and our medical officer gets entangled … to the extent that she becomes the 'next target' of the psycho killer.

I found the book slow at times. Having read books with a much faster pace has probably done that to me. A slow book often makes it a boring for me and I am unable to enjoy it.

 

9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (In the memory of 200th Anniversary of Charles)

Charles Dickens' 200th Anniversary Google doodle on Feb 7th inspired me to read one of his works. Last I read a CD work was during my school days. I picked up 'A Christmas Carol' to read and decided to watch the animated movie too.

The book was a refreshing read. When you read a story written for children; you suddenly realize how fun it can be to read that stuff. You enjoy reading adult fiction but children fiction is pure fun! The story was simple … with a pretty straightforward 'moral of the story' … but it was beautifully brought out in the story.

One peculiar thing is that there were times when I found it difficult to read the long winding sentences with countless adjectives stuffed in a single long long long sentence. The book is extremely descriptive which is a good thing but there were times when I couldn't handle it and simply rushed through the sentence skipping the tones of adjectives in rapid fire.

The movie has been long pending for me to see. It has been lying with me for long (and unfortunately I had missed it when it hit the theatres). I felt the movie was an amazingly beautiful rendering of the story. Many movies don't really match up their books … some do. This one was one of them. This one is excellent.

 

10. The Hungry Septopus by Satyajit Ray

This one is an interesting story which involves a man who is interested in strange carnivorous plants. He visits an old acquaintance and requests him to visit his 'farm'. The request comes with an additional request though. He needs to carry his GUN.

A bit of suspense, a bit of a thrill and then some really scary stuff happens … but then alls well that ends well.  

 

11. The Famous Five: Five Run Away Together by Enid Blyton

I picked up another Famous Five for this month. The five are brought together again in an adventure where their Aunt falls sick and uncle has to be with her in the hospital; leaving in the 'care' of a new lady with a repulsive kid and an equally repulsive dog. The kids hate these new members but got to live under their care.

Georgina ... oops … George rebels (as she usually does) and the eldest kid Julian also stands up to the tyranny of the lady threatening them J What is the secret they hold is to be uncovered with the story.

 

12. Sherlock Holmes: The Illustrious Client by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This was not a story about detection but about a fierce and violent but smooth high profile adversary who causes Sherlock bodily harm by getting him beaten up by smartly dressed suit clad goons. Sherlock even uses this beating to his advantage. The case is not about a crime that has been committed BUT about preventing one from happening. There is not much deduction to be done but a daring task to be performed. This was yet another instance where Sherlock indulges in an unlawful activity of 'burglary'.  

 

13. Ratan Babu and That Man by Satyajit Ray

A man loves to travel. He goes to places where most 'tourists' don't go. He goes to off-beat places and gets interested in strange things which other people find mundane. It's difficult for such a person to find another person who can share his interest and give him company on his travels. So our protagonist travels alone.

In one such travel, he meets another man; someone who is like him.

No ... wait a minute … He is so like him that he feels he is talking and looking at himself

 

14. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Closing the month with Sherlock Holmes Stories that I read in Mumbai local trains

The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier is unique from the point of view that it is narrated by Holmes rather than Watson. This itself gives a very different style of narration.

This story is about deductions. Sherlock Holmes is given a set of circumstances and he zeroes in on 2-3 possibilities out of which he begins eliminating the options which had any sort of objection or any theory that could not accommodate and explain or account for the facts available. This approach takes Sherlock to the a single conclusion and he solves the mystery and goes at step further in resolving the root cause of the problem – that is the disappearance of a soldier who hasn't disappeared but is being willingly help in captivity.

 

15. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone is a refreshingly nice story from the Sherlock Holmes collection which focuses on how Sherlock Holmes uses his disguise to his advantage. He disguises himself as  an old man, an old woman and finally … as himself. Now, if you are wondering how on earth a man can disguise as HIMSELF … you gotta read this story.

 This story also highlights the humorous side of Sherlock where he plays a joke on an aristocrat; who is neither impressed by Sherlock nor has any faith in his abilities.

 

The highlight of the month is of course the latest Matthew Reilly that I read; and the beginning of the 'Best of Satyajit Ray' series.

I read 3 new authors in this month … Kiran Manral and Patricia Cornwell to begin with. I also read a Charles Dickens which I can slot in as yet another new author since I haven't read a Charles Dickens for maybe 2 decades (I probably read some of his work during school days).

March also looks promising by what I have lined up for myself. More new authors, Indian as well as International. Exciting adventure reads as well as light reads. The month begins with a new author's book review.

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 29th Feb 2012)

Three Investigators     30 out of 63

Sherlock Holmes         51 out of 60

Famous Five                03 out of 21

Best of Satyajit Ray     03 out of 21

Total                           87 out of 165

 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Getting in Touch with Reality ... Real Nature


We spend so much time online these days. We are online through our computers/laptops, tablets, mobiles etc and the more time we spend online, less we spend with our near and dear ones, the less time we spend with Nature (in fact, it would not be wrong to say that we spend no time at all with nature).
That is yet another reason when we are surprised and astounded by nature and its beauty when we encounter it once in a while (by chance, that is). The vibrant and colorful evening sky which we see by chance as we leave our office before darkness, the sea breeze and the breaking of the sea waves which we see when we chance upon the sea shore, the blast of greenery we see in a garden we might visit by chance again (we usually end up going to the mall over the weekend, not a garden) … all these sights and experiences leave us spell bound.
It should not be that way. These should be part of our everyday life. These natural beauties should be something we should get so much used to that we begin to take them for granted. These should not be rare but in abundance. But, alas … our urban lives and associated lifestyle leaves no room for nature.
I fondly remember days from my childhood (school days) when we would spend time playing outside the house, play in the garden with greenery around. Yes, the city did not have too much green cover but we did indeed go out and play in gardens. Families would go out to Chowpatty / Juhu beach over the weekend. We would sit with grandma every evening on the terrace and enjoy the fantastic and vibrant evening sky. We were much closer to nature than we are today.
Today, not only we don't have time for interacting with nature but we end up spending our weekends in the movie theatres and malls which take us further away from nature. We seek nature in jungle themed restaurants and so called 'nature resorts'. Think about the last you willingly and joyfully got wet in the rains. We get wet when we are caught in rains. We no longer run into the open when it rains (the way we used to when were kids). Instead, we opt for rain-dance in resorts which have sprinklers for artificial rains.
 In January this year, I visited my native place in Rajasthan. I was carrying my laptop, my tablet and of course my mobile phone. I expected work will come up and I would be connecting to office email a couple of times every day and might even need to have a few over-seas conference calls.
Well … fortunately / unfortunately … I was not able to do anything of that sort. The first thing which happened was that I forgot to carry my mobile charger and it was not easy to find a Samsung charger in my village home nor did I find it with my few neighbors.
The next thing that happened was my tablet was not connecting to Internet since the sim card I was using was unable to catch even the faintest bar of signal. Frequent power-cuts and fluctuating power meant that I was not risking connecting my laptop either.
So for all practical purposes, I was of-live for 3 full days that I spent in my native home. Not even mobile connectivity. And boy, what an experience it was.
The first day I was slightly worried and even iterated. Thinking about what might have happened and landed in my company email box. What all mails would have come to my Gmail.  What all I missed on FB and Twitter. And so on …
I spent part of the day visiting a couple of temples in my village … realizing that my small village had 11 Jain Temples and my grandfather was part of the village committee which was responsible for renovating all these temples. I am sure I would have skipped visiting these temples had I been online. I would have stayed back while my parents would have gone temple-hopping.
The second day, I was saner. I did not feel irritated or impatient about being offline. I woke up early and witnessed the Sun rise. While I was enjoying the sun rise, I realized that I had NOT enjoyed the sunrise in its full glory for ages. Maybe more than 15 years. It was an awesome experience. The next thing I got involved was washing clothes. Yes, I joined my dad in washing clothes with our bare hands (no washing machine in our native home). It was quite an experience. I have no words to describe the feeling. Next was the  heating of water on fire for bath. Putting the wooden sticks and twigs together for the fire. It was like an adventure camp.
And that is when I realized that the so called nature camp service providers provide nothing but the pure rural life experience which we have got out of touch staying in our high rise towers in the city.
The rest of the day, me and my brother explored our village and saw so many things. We noticed the various animals on the streets … pigs, dogs, cats, donkeys, cows, buffalos and a few others I couldn't really name. I am sure I would have seen then in my earlier visits to my village but I had really noticed them only that day. Usually, we keep ourselves busy on the mobile or the tablet or something else and miss out on these little beauties of nature.
At night I noticed the sky while we slept out in the open. The sky out there is FULL of stars. Literally thousands of them. If you are reading this post at night, go out and have a look at the sky and if you are in a city, I am sure you would have to struggle to locate even a few stars. In rural areas, the night sky is a treat to watch. Soooo many stars out there in the sky. Its almost unreal. So surreal.  
The third day was a breeze. I was enjoying. I was positively free from stress and was feeling so much light in mind and body. I felt more connected to nature around. A feeling that is so rare and special that it cannot be described in words.
I also realized why my best friend was always so fascinated by her mountain hiking trips to the Himalayas and other places. I knew what I was experiencing was just 10% of what she would experience.  

When I came back (to the city and office and work and online world), I realized that the world had not fallen apart, office work had not stopped, nor the clients were heavily inconvenienced by my absence. None of the emails in my mailbox had a deadline that was a last minute and required my immediate action (not just asap, but as soon as received)
I realized that we often feel compelled to be online; even though it would do good to be offline at times.
I would suggest you experiment it. Go off0line for 24 hours. No mobiles, no internet. Just You and things that REALLY matter to you. Family or Nature or a book you would love to read (and has been on the reading to-do for ages) … just plan it and go offline.
Take the chance to get in touch with Nature. Your Nature.

--- This post was inspired by Kissan : ) surprised.
Actually, this post was inspired by the Kissan run contest on Indiblogger.com … The contest was about a 100% real experience in life ... and this was one the most recent 'real' experiences that I had had.