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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eternal debate of Love Marriage v/s Arranged Marriage

Marriage is a pretty complex concept ...

In India, it is not just 2 individuals who get married but 2 families who get married. Hence the concept of Arranged Marriage is still very prevalent where marriages are arranged / fixed by the family elders.

The entire concept of 'Love Marriage' as made popular by Bollywood where the rebellious young hearts go against all odds to get together has made the youngsters somewhat crave for such a fantasy and often mistaken lesser feelings for Love.

But of course, many a flames stand the test of time and emerge the so-called 'true love' who eventually lead a 'happily lived forever' kind of life. Some of these love stories go through without a hitch with understanding / open minded parents while a majority of these face stiff resistance from their families and go through a lot of struggle. Some perish (the relationship, I mean) while some fight their families, some others emerge victorious winning the hearts of their families.  

Coming back to Arranged Marriages … unlike what possibly happened half a century ago, increasingly the boy and girl getting married have a greater say in the arranged marriage process. They meet, interact (albeit for a short while) and get to choose to say no even if the families are saying yes.

Similarly, love stories also have a better change of getting a hearing in families these days. Families give their youngsters a chance to present their choice and give their verdict. If unacceptable, sometimes they are able to convince he youngsters while at other times they just give-in to avoid the case of the youngsters eloping which would result in a bad name for their families. This gives us an interesting phenomenon called "Arranged Love Marriages" where the families support the love stories and arrange their marriages.

The traditional Arranged Marriages more than often lead to happy couples who tend to love each other with their love growing as time passes …. "Love in Arranged Marriages".

I have seen both forms of marriage result in very happy couples … two individuals who have come together and formed their own private happy world. Irrespective of love or arranged, love has blossomed between them fertilized by understanding and respect for each other and the need for preserving the relationship. Such couples reinforce the age old belief in the institution of marriage.

And then there are marriage failures … Arranged marriages where the partners are completely incompatible leading to regular fights and general disconcert in life … leading to domestic violence and even death or divorce. But then failures are not reserved to Arranged Marriages alone. They are present in love marriages also. In fact, they come as a greater surprise in love marriages where one feels both partners know each other very well and hence there should be no conflict.

In an arranged marriage, the girl and the boy don't really know each other well. They meet and interact asking routine questions like academics, hobbies, work etc and some general talk before deciding if life will click together. They are taking a huge risk … let us call it a gamble with life. They enter into a married life with some expectations and a lot of tolerance for what differences might arise. This generally leads to a greater degree of understanding and compromise between the two … leading to greater stability in married life. This of course has its own pro's and con's.

In the love marriages on the other hand, the girl and the boy have known each other for long and 'assume' that they 'really know' each other. Once married, as they begin life together being with each other 24X7 instead of occasional or few hours a day kind of being together; a lot of things surface. Both feel that these new discoveries were hitherto hidden deliberately and the feeling of 'being cheated' only increases. Tolerance levels are low and hence the fights are frequent. In fact, some quant statistics show a greater failure of love stories as compared to love stories (that is, if such studies are even to be believed)

Marriage is a complicated and extremely complex phenomenon. Love and Arranged marriages though prominent are not the only forms. There are several other varieties which are prevalent in small measures but the love and arranges debate is a favorite topic of many a youngsters (including yours truly, at least when I was a youngster, anyway).

The complexity of the concept makes it difficult to call one option better than the other. In either case, love or arranged, it is ultimately the two individuals who come together that are responsible for making it a success or failure. Whether love comes before or after marriage does not really have a strong bearing on the life of the marriage; the level of tolerance, understanding and commitment of the two individuals has all the bearing.  

I have been myself a part of many a 'Love v/s Arranged' debates and discussions with friends during my college days. I always enjoyed them and FYI, I was a strong proponent of Arranged Marriage. Well … life has shown me greater wisdom and I now respect both forms of marriages and just hope that a greater number of love marriages as well as arranged marriages are successful (and Divorce lawyers end up looking for alternate professional works).

Well … if you are by any chance wondering why am I striking up the storm once again so many years after my college days … well … this post was actually inspired by Sony Channel's new serial "Love Marriage ya Arranged Marriage" (you can check out their FB page at www.facebook.com/LoveYaArrange ) and their collaboration with Indiblogger.in to come up with a contest for bloggers to express their views on this eternal debate.   
This post reminded me of a school friend of mine who would say that the foundation of the institution of marriage was getting hollow with decades and this concept would eventually disappear. He was pretty convincing in his arguments and I tended to believe him at times.
Two decades later, I am slightly more wiser and I believe that the institution of marriage, whether love or arranged, is here to stay and will definitely stand the test of time and tide.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cloud Computing and Portable Computing Devices

 

 

Laptops, tablets and smart phones have become pretty common and you are right now most probably reading this on one of these devices. And if you are a user of these devices, then the concept of cloud computing must be fascinating to you. You must have heard about it and might even have used it (knowingly / unknowingly).

Cloud Computing in practical application means that you can upload/modify documents/files from one device and it will be available updated on all your devices since the documents are residing in a remote server and not on your device. Think of it as your email (yahoo / hotmail / gmail) which you can access from any device.

Cloud computing has actually been around in concept and application for a long time now BUT has gained prominence only recently since the usage of multiple devices has become prominent only recently with individuals having 2 or more of devices like Laptop, tablet, smart phone etc.

Also, since we use our own devices these days to login to our 'cloud services' – whether it is email or file sharing or even social networking websites – we have most of them on auto log-in so that we spare ourselves the trouble of typing in the passwords again and again.

That's quite a background I have built for the one situation I would like to present before you …

Theft or Loss or Selling of a device …

Losing a phone is neither uncommon nor very difficult. You could lose it while commuting or it could simply be stolen while you are travelling, at the café or simply snatched off your hands. Once the device falls into 'other' hands; they have access to your auto-logged-in accounts too. Some may not intend to do anything and they would simply remove the sim and reset the phone to sell it off.

Others may either not be careful or they might intend to cause you some harm. They can easily enter into your accounts and delete files, send reputation damaging emails etc. Imagine the kind of havoc they could create in your life.

As smart phones begin to get more and more apps which store more and more of your information; I wouldn't think I am stretching it a bit by saying that someone could easily steal your identity if they stole your phone.

We are also witnessing the introduction of mobile wallet where you will transact using your phone. Your phone will be your purse and its loss would be colossal. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Canon v/s Conan

 

I was literally laughing at myself (as well did exactly what the picture above shows) when I discovered my error.
 
For a long time now, I have been reading the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle … and all the while writing his name as Canon in several places. In fact, I have been using both, Conan and Canon, in different parts of my blog.

 

I am so ashamed and amused by this mistake of mine. I was mis-spelling the name of the author / creator of my favorite fictional character!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Art of Thinking

This came as an email forward and I found it interesting enough to share …

……………………………………………………………………………………

Moishe the Carpenter, returning home with his week's wages, was accosted by an armed robber on a deserted street.

"Take my money," said Moishe, "but do me a favour: "Shoot a bullet through my hat otherwise my wife won't believe I was robbed."

The robber obliged.

He threw Moishe's hat into the air and put a bullet through it.

"Let's make it look as if I ran into a gang of robbers," said Moishe, "otherwise my wife will call me a coward! Please shoot a number of holes through my coat."

So the robber shot a number of holes through the carpenter's coat. "And now…" continued Moishe.

"Sorry," interrupted the robber, "No more holes. I'm out of bullets."

"That's all I wanted to know!" said Moishe.

"Now hand me back my money and some more for the hat and coat that you've ruined or I'll beat you black and blue!"

The robber threw down the money and ran.

 

Moral of the Story: It's never too late to use our brains to get out of a difficult situation!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book (s) Review: The Mayan Trilogy by Steve Alten

 
The Mayan theme fascinated me. 2012 being predicted as the end of the world and this being 2012; I wanted to read more of Mayan related fiction. I saw the Mayan Prophecy at my dear friend Nikhil's home and grabbed it. After reading the Mayan Prophecy in May, I had ordered the other two books of the trilogy; reading them during July and August.

Each of the 3 novels span across 600+ pages and has a heady mix of mythology, time travel (time warps and worm holes), out-of-body experiences, history, technology, weapons of mass destruction, faith/cult/religion, global politics, past-present-future paradox, aliens, human evolution, fantasy and science fiction  

Mayan Prophecy begins with Michael, his background (parents, childhood and marriage), his schizophrenia and a new medical intern assigned to him culminating in Michael sacrificing himself and saving the world from total annihilation in 2012. The book introduces a lot of things and creates a mystery around them. A lot of questions are unanswered.

In Mayan Resurrection, the story shifts focus from Michael (who is lost in some parallel universe in a time warp or something) to his wife and his twin sons. The twins and another evil incarnate have a crucial role to play in human life sustenance and human evolution. The world is expected to go through another round of impending doom (this time pretty much certain end-of-the-world) and these 3 are supposed to play a role in survival of the species. Towards the end of the story, we also realize that the grand-children also make an appearance and are critical to the story / fate of the world / revolution / evolution etc … the child born from the union of one of Michael's son and evil incarnate lady.

Mayan Destiny is the culmination of the series with so many mysteries uncovered and the readers gets a much better understanding of what and how on so many things that have mystified them since Mayan Prophecy. The time warps, black holes and other cosmic entities become important to the history and geography of planet earth. The best part of the final episode of the trilogy is that halfway down the novel … the story ENDS ... and we are back to the point where the story BEGAN in Mayan Prophecy (the first of the trilogy).

The story kind of restarts with some new members added to the cast in an altered reality where the End of World events are to occur in 2012 (those which occurred in 2047 in the first half of the novel) and this time around there is help from the 'future (2047)'. It is a Déjà vu experience, reading the same story again with parts of it changed due to the new characters introduced.

There is strong characterization in each of the novels focusing on different shades of different characters. Each character has complex shades and they go through inner turmoil as well as external hardships; all through the story. Lives of key characters are full of trouble, pain, loneliness and they wish to break away from life as it is.

The most interesting character turns out to be Lilith (the so-called evil incarnate born on the same day as the twins who is a soul-mate for both and gets emotionally and physically involved with both brothers). There is a point in the story where she seems to have turned 'positive' and the son of Lilith and Jacob emerges as the evil incarnate. What is the truth though can be known only by reading, understanding and absorbing the entire trilogy.

The story moves a lot between past, present and future and also parts where the 3 of them or at least 2 of them converge. Time travel through wormholes and time warps enable the meeting of the different eras. There are a lot of mysteries and loose questions which burden the reader thro the story.

One drawback of the novels is that there are parts of the story (in book 1 and 2) which I personally felt acted as fillers or just to build up some sort of background. These were avoidable and would have made the novel slightly shorter.

With the time-travel twist and story shifting back to the starting point (in the third novel); it made for an interesting reading and kind of re-kindled the interest in the novel. Something difficult to sustain across 1800 pages …   

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Alice in Wonderland

My first month in the new job was akin to my having feelings like 'Alice in Wonderland' … at times Lost, at times Confused, at times Bewildered, at times the feeling of 'What have I got myself into' … and so on. I have written earlier that this job is almost like a career shift for me. A lot of things here are new for me and what I bring to the table is the wisdom and experience of my past 10 years work experience. My skill set from the past is just a small part of my role here. A significant majority is all new to me.

Having worked in IT companies till date (Patni, Satyam, Fujitsu) this one is going to be different. I have always been on the delivery side as a Consultant, now I would be crossing over to the managing projects and business development side too

Also, the way KPMG works is different from the way my previous organizations worked. Things are different here, remarkably different.

The feelings through the first 4 weeks oscillated from excitement to kind of bored to being lost and then slowly getting grips on myself.
The second month was a lot of exploration and reading new stuff. I even ordered 2 academic books related to my work and am back to the 'study table'. Things are moving fast and i am learning new things every other day ... Life is on a Rock-n-Roll !!!
 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tale of 3 Cities

 

 A few months ago, I wrote about another 'tale of 3 cities' which was more of tale of 3 countries … where I had breakfast, lunch and dinner in 3 different countries.

WELL, now my international travels have stopped and my passport is resting but the travel bug is still around albeit on domestic sectors. The first place my new job took me to was Ahmedabad. Since I had been to Ahmedabad, I wasn't so much excited. But now my travels take me to 3 cities which I have not visited earlier.

Gwalior, Sagar & Ujjain in the princely state of Madhya Pradesh – 3 days – 3 cities

This would actually be my first visit to MP.

I am actually excited about this aspect of my job - the India Travel part. I always wanted to travel across India but my earlier jobs have taken me to different countries in past 7 years but seldom would I need to travel to other cities.

 

 

 

Trivia - I was also at Indore (although very briefly) during this visit. I did not really visit Indore.
After spending the day in Ujjain, I rushed to Indore in the evening to catch the flight back to Mumbai.

 

So technically, I can even say I was in 5 cities over 5 days J

Mumbai – Gwalior – Sagar – Ujjain – Indore – Mumbai
 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fun with English

I got this as an email forward and loved it. It is Old but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.
 
........................................................................................................................................................

 
I think a retired English teacher was bored.
 
You think English is easy?? (read the following statements ALOUD)


1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture..

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?


Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig..

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick' ?

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this ..

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is
'UP.'

It's easy to understand
UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ?At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
We call
UP our friends.And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.At other times the little word has real special meaning.People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP
at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed
UP about UP!To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary.In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.When the sun comes out we say it is clearingUP.
When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things
UP.
When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry
UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it
UP,for now my time is UP,so........it is time to shut UP!
Now it's UP to you what you do with this email.
.......................................
 
If this brought a smile to your face ... well ... the purpose of this post is served !!
 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Series Count Reset

 

This is what I posted in the previous blog post and also mentioned completing the Satyajit Ray series of short stories.

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st July 2012)

The Three Investigators         39 out of 43    

Best of Satyajit Ray                21 out of 21     (Completed)

Sherlock: Exploits                   07 out of 12    

Sherlock: Misadventures        23 out of 33    

Total                                      90 out of 109

 

So I will now remove Satyajit Ray from the count and reset the scores.

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st July 2012)

The Three Investigators         39 out of 43    

Sherlock: Exploits                   07 out of 12    

Sherlock: Misadventures        23 out of 33    

Total                                      69 out of 88

 

A total of 19 - 4 of Three Investigators, 5 of Sherlock Exploits and 10 of Sherlock Misadventures left to read from the list above which will reach completion in (or probably before) December.

 

Reading will not be slow though; as I am adding a lot of short stories and novella by Arthur Canon Doyle and Philip K Dick to the reading list for coming months.
 
As I complete the reading of the series above; I will keep removing them from the count ... and not post 'reset' posts again in this year.
 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

July Reading – Part 4

 

Continued from previous post …

 

28. The Second Variety by Philip K Dick

 

This was not exactly a short story but a long story, as compared to the other stories of PKD that I have read till now. The central theme of man versus machine, with a nice little twist in the climax, along the concept of how humans design machines as a reflection of themselves; raises an evolutionary question. A pretty awesome story; I have to see the movie now.

The story is set in a post-world-war-kind of era where the Russians gained an upper hand and destroyed most of Central America forcing people to flee to other countries in South America and Canada while the government and key people have fled to the 'Moon Base'. The war was almost over with the Russians winning when the Americans invented the 'claws' (robotic churning sphere of blades) which turned out to be more devastating than the radiation warheads; wiping out any and every form of human life in the vicinity. The Russians began to lose. The story is based in such a war setting.

It is revealed that there have been newer versions of the robotic weapons which are very efficient killing machines, an enhancement over the claws. As the story proceeds, more 'versions' (each more advanced the previous as a killing machine and more human-like) are discussed and there is a search of a particular unknown variety. The known varieties include a wounded soldier and a child carrying a teddy bear … both involving sympathy amongst soldiers who would allow them into their trenches / camps / hidden places.

Since these robotic killing machines are humanoids, the characters in the story have a constant distrust of each other, killing each other in the process. The ultimate survival strategy for our American hero of the story is to escape from earth and go to the moon base … but the robotic humanoids are planning the same so that they can destroy whatever human life has escaped to Moon. The climax is interesting !!

The movie adaptation (Screamers) closely follows the actual story with little deviation and a slightly different twist in the tail. Would love to watch it …

 

29. Sherlock Misadventures: The End of Sherlock Holmes by A. E. P.

This story is not about a case but about Sherlock himself. Watson gets a message from his 'long lost friend' Sherlock and is surprised to meet a 3 year old kid who deduces several things about Watson in a single glance. The child has the talents of his father and Sherlock has a problem he can't solve !!

There is indeed a slight mystery about the author of this burlesque identified by initials A.E.P. which the editor conjectures might be Edgar Allan Poe; but confirmation available.

 

30. The 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat

The story is interesting though the narrations lucks the punch or the pace. It has an ordinary narration style – merely relaying of storyline – rather than making it interesting. Cricket and Religion are touchy and emotional subjects in India so a story revolving around them would definitely strike a chord with the typical Indian reader.

Chetan made good use of Real Events to weave a story around them. Using the actual cricket matches with their actual dates, events and scores along with cataclysmic events like the Bhuj Earthquake in Gujarat, the 9/11 Terrorist attack and the Godhra Train Burning in Gujarat and the consequential riots; and weaving them into the story (making them integral to the story and critical plot change points) was a good device and made interesting reading.

The so called 'first mistake' of the protagonist was not convincing. How could that be a mistake? It was more of fate. The second mistake though could be considered one in some ways although 'love' is ordinarily not counted as a mistake.  The third mistake was again something that was situational and fear-affected. Not everyone is a hero, getting in the way of danger/death which is about to strike someone else. Thing is … his suicide is NOT triggered by these 3 mistakes. It is triggered by another event a couple of years after the third mistake.  

On the whole, I was not convinced that the protagonist had to commit suicide because of these 3 mistakes or because of the trigger event. It just did not sound convincing. I rather feel that he committed one and only one mistake: Committing Suicide.

 

31. The Field Bazaar by Canon Doyle

This is yet another example of Sherlock Holmes deducing Watson's chain of thoughts by simply observing him. This story ties in well with the story which I read next (although the stories were actually written several years apart by Canon Doyle; both stories written on special request)

 

32. How Watson Learned the Trick by Canon Doyle

This one was a humorous take on Watson. Watson has been witness to Sherlock's deductions including Sherlock guessing Watson's chain of thoughts by simply observing him (the previous story was an example of the same). In this particular story, Watson attempts to read Sherlock's mind … and fails miserably.

 

33. Non-Fiction Reading: Fish Sticks

I had hinted at non-fiction academic reading in an earlier post. Well, as part of my job and role, I will be reading an increasing amount of non-fiction. To begin with, I picked up a light one (as a warming up exercise actually). Next pick will be heavier, if not heavy. I had read 'FISH' a long time ago (maybe almost a decade ago) and when I visited the library at KPMG, I saw Fish Sticks and decided to have a look. I read the summary of FISH before starting Fish Sticks to refresh my memory and keep things in context.

'Fish Sticks' is about sustaining the change. It revolves around the three major principals of continued success: Commit, Be it, and Coach it! It highlights the fact that sustaining change is an equally (if not more) challenging task than making the change happen in the first place.

A manger is faced with a workforce who has been following Fish! Principles BUT is slowly losing interest in work and has begun to get bored and cranky; retreating back to their old ways of working. Instead of the Pike Fish Market, this time the learning and inspiration comes from a Sushi Restaurant where she learns the secrets from the restaurant waiters and owner. Focus is on keeping the work fresh to sustain the change that has been painstakingly brought about!!

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st July 2012)

The Three Investigators          39 out of 43    

Best of Satyajit Ray                 21 out of 21     (Completed)

Sherlock: Exploits                    07 out of 12    

Sherlock: Misadventures        23 out of 33    

Total                                      90 out of 109

Monday, August 06, 2012

July Reading – Part 3

 
Continued from previous post …

 

20. The Holcraft Covenant by Robert Ludlum

The story has its background in the 1940's around the Nazis and then immediately fast forwards by 30 years to 1970's where the son of one of the 3 Nazi guys is given a huge responsibility of compensating the children of several of those who suffered due to Nazi actions a generation ago. And immediately Holcroft finds himself shadowed and followed by people who want to kill him as well as those who want to protect him. This part sounds like the Mayan Resurrection intro :) which I read at the beginning of the month.

Not just himself; he needs to execute the task given to him with the mandatory help of 2 other persons whom he has to trace and find and then convince to join in the mission. There are too many different parties involved and it is never clear to our hero (and us), who are the protectors and who are the killers. The perception keeps changing as story progresses. There were times when I was thoroughly confused about who's who in the story and who is good / bad / neutral and what their motives were. The protagonist as well as the reader is discovering different shades and intentions of different characters and parties involved in the complex web of the story. There seem to be too many conspiracies around.

As usual, Ludlum brings in a complex interplay of characters where you keep guessing and are positively surprised by not only the twists and turns of the story but also by the behavior and action of the characters. Written in true Ludlum style, the story keeps you on the edge wondering 'what next'. The climax is absolutely unpredictable. The Swiss connection is ever present in Ludlum novels and its nostalgic for me since I read my first Ludlum novel in Switzerland J

 

21. Sherlock Misadventures: The Adventure of the Table Foot by Zero (Allan Ramsay}

Yet another extremely short one where the detective solves a mystery in the matter of a few seconds and gives an instant solution to a confused puzzled young man whose father had proposed to a much older woman for her wealth. Interesting trivia: the Detective's name is  Thinlock Bones and narrator is called Whatsoname (a corruption of the names Sherlock Holmes and Watson)

 

22. The Golden Man by Philip K Dick

 

We have a memory, enabling us to see the present and recall (see in mind's eye) events of the past while the future is a blank slate … only guesses. Imagine this being reversed, if the past became a blank slate and you could see the future (and it numerous possibilities). The future will pose no surprises. Such is the ability of a human mutant which is discovered by the agency which is hunting down mutants who pose a threat to humanity. The being might not have survived these hunters, but he found use of another natural ability of his. The climax is about this ability while the story is about humanities perception and point of view of differently able'd beings/people/mutants which are referred to as homo-peculiar instead of homo-superior.

And yes, the movie (Nicholas Cage starrer NEXT) hardly had any co-relation to the story; except the common sci-fi concept of ESP / peeping into future and viewing events accurately.

 

23. Sherlock Misadventures: The Sign of the "400" by R. K. Munkittrick

This story retains the names Sherlock Holmes and Watson but makes a mockery of Sherlock's power. Jewels are stolen from a house and Sherlock is called in to investigate. By observing the clues (which include the cigar smoke, footprints, etc), Sherlock declared the name of an esteemed gentleman as the thief.

Athelney Jones, the inspector, then ignores Sherlock's work (and his supreme deductive reasoning) and goes ahead and catches another man and puts him behind bars for this crime on 'flimsy evidence'

 

24. Bhuto by Satyajit Ray

I was never quite sure of what the title meant. I was oscillating between Bhuto being a name as in 'Benazir Butto' or being related to spiritual/ghostly being as in 'Bhoot' … it turned out to be latter. The term Bhuto was Bengali variation of a proper name 'Bhutnath / Bhootnath' and NO the Bhuto in question is not a ghost but a puppet used by a ventriloquist.

A person gets enamored by ventriloquism after watching a performance and approaches the ventriloquist to learn from him; only to be refused and turned down harshly. In anger, the person decides to learn it on his own. He learns and gets a puppet made which closely resembles the ventriloquist who refused to teach him. It was his way of getting back at him. Our insulted man visits him and tells him about his displeasure and also about his skills as magic besides ventriloquism. The story beyond that point turns a bit scary and supernatural as Bhuto (the puppet) begins to gradually affect his master and haunt him.    

 

25. Sherlock Misadventures: Our Mr. Smith by Oswald Crawjurd

It is an instance of Detective Purlock Hone's deductions gone terribly wrong, narrated by Jobson. Just imagine: Purlock Hone's going wrong with his deductions … and there isn't even a case.  

 

26. King of the Elves by Philip K Dick

 

An old man who owns a petrol/gas filling station on a highway which is no longer frequented encounters strange guests one rainy night. The sick King of Elves along with his elves arrives at his doorsteps seeking refuge. The dying king tells his elves to make the old man their king … having faith that he would be able to defend the elves against the terror of the huge trolls.

Our man takes up his new responsibility and eventually manages to kill the king of trolls (who turns out to be his friend). He then embraces change.

 

27. Sherlock Misadventures: The Footprints on the Ceiling by Jules Castier

"The Footprints on the Ceiling" is a double-barreled burlesque* of Doyle. It parodies not only Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, but that other great Doyle character, Professor Challenger, as well; and it concerns a disappearance so strange, so unique, that it can be described only as "out of this world." (Detective: Purlock Hone and Narrator: Jobson)

The story has a third person as a narrator who is approached by Watson with a request for introduction to Dr. Challenger; only to be revealed later that Dr. Challenger has disappeared. Sherlock solves the mystery and deduces the time travel undertaken by the Dr.

Now that I know of this Dr. Challenger character, I will dig up his stories and read them as part of my 'non-Sherlock Canon' reading.

 

* Trivia: Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which itself derives from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery. The short stories that I am reading in 'The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes' are essentially burlesque in nature and mock the great detective in different ways

 

To Be Continued …

 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

July Reading – Part 2

 

Continued from previous post …

 

10. A Strange Night for Mr. Shasmal by Satyajit Ray

Mr. Shasmal goes out to a Forest Guest House to spend some time only to encounter a strange night. He begins to see some animals in his rooms at night. At first, he doesn't realize their significance, but then he recognizes them. He also remembers the connection he had with them. Thing is, they are all animals that he had killed during the lifetime. And then, a man appears.

 

11. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Sealed Room by Adrian Doyle & John Carr

Sherlock and Watson are up against the 'death' of a gentleman (while his wife is fatally wounded) by what appears to be a murderous and suicidal behavior of the said gentleman. Murder doesn't even seem to be a possibility since the 2 were found dead immediately after shots were heard and people rushed to the scene of the crime which was a room bolted shut from the inside. Its deemed as suicide albeit a bit strange one hence the involvement of Sherlock

Sherlock in his inimitable style suspects murder just by hearing the account of the incident which are amply confirmed by evidence (ignored by the others) when he visits the murder scene. He reaches his conclusions but cannot prove murder and murderer with concrete evidence. He then lays a trap for the culprit who literally walks in it.

 

12. Shibu and the Monster by Satyajit Ray

Strange are the ways of the child's mind and how their imagination runs wild based on random words? Shibu, based on random thoughts from a supposed mad man; begins to imagine that his new Math Teacher is a monster. The mad man helps him confirm this supposition and even gives him a way to 'control' the monster.  

 

13. Sherlock Misadventures: Shylock Homes: His Posthumous Memoirs: Mr. Homes Solves a Question of Authorship by John Kendrick Bangs

Kendrick Bangs continues to use well known names to construct a story. This particular story has the famous bard, Shakespeare and the infamous duo of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde as part of the story. Holmes is given the responsibility of determining the true authorship of the Shakespearian works. He takes help from Dr. Jekyl (by almost blackmailing him) and uncovers the secret of the Bard.

 

14. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Trail of Terror by M V Carrey  

Would a detective consider babysitting an old gentleman, on his road trip across the country, a case? Well, the trio gets exactly that as Pete's Mom retains the 3I to ensure that her father (Pete's Grandpa) reaches New York safely and does not get into any trouble or get arrested (considering the kind of troubles he seems to be getting into now and then). The interesting but seemingly harmless 'case' gradually gets very exciting as they discover grandpa's neighbor following them and often checking out their car.

Grandpa is sure that his neighbor, Snable, is out to steal his 'invention' which he is going to present in New York. Eventually, the trio is also convinced of the same (they were skeptical in the beginning). Things get sinister and the 3 Investigators enter into a working relationship with the FBI. At some point, the FBI drops the case but the trio persists and takes the 'case' to conclusion. The action almost entirely takes place outside of the Rocky Beach. The story also acts like a tourist guide to cross country road trip across the USA.

 

15. Sherlock Misadventures: Maddened by Mystery or the Defective Detective by Stephen Leacock

The story has the 'Great Detective' who is given the case of finding the disappeared 'Prince'. It ultimately turns out to be a case of mistaken identity and although the Great Detective is unable to 'solve the case', he does offer an alternative arrange to 'resolve the problem'

 

16. The Imposter by Philip K Dick

 

The premise of the story is a 'terrorist' conspiracy of replacing a man with a look-alike android robot which will explode obliterating a whole town. The special agencies discover this conspiracy and attempt to apprehend the 'man' in question. The story is about the mistaken identity. The climax is unexpected but then I guess it is expected that it be unexpected.

 

17. Sherlock Misadventures: An Irreducible Detective Story by Stephen Leacock

An extremely short story (more like a long joke) about the great detective using a single piece of evidence to begin his search for a murderer; the climax showing him catching up on a potential murderer of not one but million murders. Definitely not a story but more of a joke

 

18. Mr. Eccentric by Satyajit Ray

An old man, in the beautiful hill station town of Darjeeling, is labeled as eccentric due to his habit of collecting ordinary old items from the roadside and of course for his odd behavior at times. The whole eccentric effect is enhanced by the stories he tells people about these ordinary objects. According to him each of the objects has a murderous story behind them and he can see the story flash visually in front of his eyes when he sees the objects.

Usually he sees the distant past (several years and months) but then he sees something from just a few days past and gets involved in the murderous story; something that he has never done before. 

 

19. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of Foulkes Rath by Adrian Doyle

The first 6 stories in the 'Exploits' were co-authored by Adrian Doyle and John Carr; while the remaining 6 were written by Jr. Doyle only. This is the first of the 6 by Jr. Doyle.

Imagine 2 men having a heated argument over the sale of real estate property and then the same night, the one who sold the property is found dead with his head hacked by an ornamental execution axe which usually hung over the fireplace. For most people including Lestrade, this is an open-and-shut case where the other gentleman is the murderer; but Sherlock Holmes as usual observes the ignored clues and reaches the real culprit.

 

To Be Continued …

 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

July Reading – Part 1

 

After an astounding quarter with a total reading going beyond 75, I was not sure if July would live up to the trend or prove to be an anti-climactic month. The demands of the new job were set to reduce my 'fiction' reading time and increase work related reading. As anticipated, there is a non-fiction addition to my reading this month (albeit a light one). A bit of travel helped me to increase my reading score.    

The novels of the month were the Mayan Resurrection (Sequel to Mayan Prophecy) by Steve Alten, the Holcroft Covenant by Robert Ludlum and the 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat. Between them, I continued reading the short story regulars - 4 Satyajit Ray stories, 5 by Philip K. Dick, 9 from the Misadventure series while 2 from the Exploits series of Sherlock Holmes.

With the 4 Satyajit Ray stories I read, that completed the 'Best of Satyajit Ray' collection of 21 stories. Wish more of his work gets translated to English. I came to know recently that some of Prof. Shonkhu stories are indeed available in English (I had a different impression) so now I got to lay my hands on them.

New authors this month: Chetan Bhagat. Don't be surprised to see his name as 'new author' in my post. I have not read any of his books (until this month that is). The third edition of the Mysterious Traveler Magazine had another set of 6 short stories by 6 different lesser known (literally unknown) authors and the Sherlock Holmes Misadventures were by different authors again. Both novels that I read were by already familiar authors. I also discovered 2 very short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Canon Doyle.

A phenomenal reading score of 33 for this month; (so this post gets split in 4 parts instead of the regular 3 every month).

 

1. The Mayan Resurrection by Steve Alten

After reading the Mayan Prophecy in May, I had ordered the other two books of the trilogy. The Mayan Resurrection picks up the story from where part 1 left it. The story now shift focus from the protagonist of part 1 (who is lost in some parallel universe in a time warp or something) to his wife and his (yet unborn) twin sons.  The pregnant wife is paranoid about her safety and comes across another lady who seems to come with a message from Michael or his mother.

There is a conspiracy to protect as well as kill the 2 kids. The kids themselves, in spite of being twins, are pretty much different from each other. And there is a third kid (a girl) who is supposed to be the evil (who would prevent the kids from achieving their goals).

The story moves a lot between past, present and future and also parts where the 3 of them or at least 2 of them converge. Time travel through wormholes and time warps enable the meeting of the different eras. A few mysteries are left unexplained amid the evolution of the human species. There are parts of the story which I felt acted as fillers or just to build up some sort of foundation. These were avoidable and would have made the novel shorter.

The 600+ page long novel an interesting mixing mythology, time travel (sort of), out-of-body experiences, history, technology, fantasy and science fiction … all in a single package. Now I am looking forward to reading the last and final episode of this trilogy.

 

2-7. The Mysterious Traveler Magazine - Oct 2006 edition (6 short stories)

Picked up yet another edition of MTM with 6 interesting short stories themed around Terror

Mystery - Devil's Night by Jay Norman

A tired man arrives at a Motel and senses something amiss. He investigates a suspicious room and finds traces of evidence indicating murder. He accuses the old motel owner of the crime and asks him to come clean and tell him everything. The old man's story brings the twist in the tale.    

Strange Stories - Second Chance by Charles Morgan

Would you live life differently if you were given a second chance? Would you live it differently (and more on the 'good' side), if you died and were sentenced to go to hell and given another chance to make good? Our man in the story gets this 'second chance' but the anti-climactic end of the story teaches us something else.

Crime - Favorite Chair by Mark Zahn

Imagine returning late into the night to your lonely apartment and your lonely life; only to find a dead man (well … almost dying man) sitting on your favorite chair. While you are grappling with this discovery, you hear the police sirens around your apartment. I am sure this can be a life altering moment in life. And this is exactly what happened to a girl.   

Suspense - The Fourth Man by William A. Hall

In the era of cut-throat competition and greed, people tend to go to great lengths to ensure their wealth and increase it beyond what they deserve. Sadly they don't even mind using criminal means to achieve more. This story is about corporate murders where people are being knocked off before they can lay a claim on a portion of the corporate wealth. The climax has an interesting twist in the tale with elements of suspense. 

The Macabre - Carved by Mark Allan Reynolds

This one was a proper traditional horror story with the background of Halloween, carved pumpkins, an old man, a seemingly haunted house and one very scared kid.

Short Shocker - Jack & the Devil by 'The Mysterious Traveler'

A 2-page short story about a man who tricks Satan and then ends up between heaven and hell (after his death of course) as Heaven won't admit him (for his sins, mischief and pranks on innocent souls) and Hell won't let him rest (a revenge for tricking him).  

 

8. Adjustment Team by Philip K Dick

 

Having read 3 of his short stories last month, I decided to pick up a few more stories which have a Hollywood connection. The movie in question this time is 'The Adjustment Bureau' and I have not seen the movie.

The story itself was pretty interesting. A higher power changing things in reality so that fate may follow its due course … something like doing minor 'adjustments' to reality. A clerical error leads to a person 'discovering' this adjustment phenomenon and how he is 'enlightened' to arrangement. The climax of the story was pretty anti-climactic.

From what I read about the movie on IMDB; the movie is neither based on the story nor an adaptation; it is only inspired by it. It borrows the concept of the "adjustment team's actions and authority to regulate FATE" 

 

9. Sherlock Misadventures: The Stranger Unravels a Mystery by John Kendrick Bangs

It turned out to be a damn confusing story with a host of characters put into the storyline (who are not supposed to be there). Imagine Socrates, Confucius, Shakespeare, Noah, Solomon, Caesar, Napoleon etc all in one room struggling with a problem which Sherlock Holmes offers to resolve. This story is not about THAT mystery but more of the dialogue the esteemed gentlemen are having about the mystery and Sherlock's deductions related to it and his telling them about a previous case of his where he recovered a lost tiara (a crown) without even moving out of his room.

 

To Be Continued …