Saturday, January 24, 2009

Glimpses of Rajkot & Morvi

Jignesh Computers - "We Need You Because You Need Knowledge"

Outside Watson's Museum Rajkot. The main building is a an imposing structure, located right next to the school where M.K. Gandhi once studied. It houses the artifacts collected by the then British agent in Saurashtra, Sir Watson, in the late 1800's. Like all state-run museums in the country, this too is a picture of callous neglect. Poor lighting and displays, missing labels, ancient sculpture dabbed with pink plastic paint, and a pathetic section on natural history.
Entry to the museum costs Rs.2/head, and there is a special sarkari form through which you have to declare and pay Rs.2 for each photo taken within the museum premises!

'The queen is wearing enough for the both of us': - A grumpy Victoria in her tin-pot crown and toy globe, at the rear end of Watson's Museum, Rajkot

Perhaps the only 10th century sculpture without broken appendages.



Masala-chai Katiawari ishtyle. Every roadside teashop in Rajkot uses mechanical bellows.


A close shave: Aftermath of an accident on Gondal Rd.. A truck ploughed through four cars before smashing into this electric pole. Amazingly, nobody was injured!


Outside College St., at 7:30AM, these guys serve the best Sev Khamni and Dokla in town. The best place for a Gujrati Thali is Bhaba Dining Hall near the Panchnath temple.


90% of ceramic and vitreous products manufactured in India comes from the industrial cluster around Morbi (~60km from Rajkot). Tiles, bathroom fittings, pipes, etc.. This new factory is all set to produce large-size floor tiles. The production line has eight kilns and is 106m long; the drying line is 86m long and the whole operation is run by 50 workers/shift!


The spectacular Darbargadh Palace or "Mani Mahal"at Morvi built in the 1880's by Thakur Sahib Waghaji. It was damaged in the 2001 earthquake. Wonder why the enterprising Gujrati's don't see it worthwhile to turn it into a heritage hotel , a museum or any other money-spinner to save it from falling apart...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Books 2009-2017

2017

Doniger,Wendy (2017): THE RING OF TRUTH: And Other Myths of Sex and Jewelry


Mairowitz, David Zane (1990): KAFKA FOR BEGINNERS (Graphic Novel - brilliant illustrations and narrative)


Mukherjee, Neel (2017): A STATE OF FREEDOM, Penguin


Singh, Kushwant (2017): EXTRAORDINARY INDIANS - A Book of Profiles


Higashino, Keigo (2014): MALICE, LittleBrown UK


Dalrymple, William (2013): RETURN OF A KING: The Battle for Afghanistan, Bloomsbury Publishing


Dalrymple, William and Anita Anand (2016): KOHINOOR - Story of the World's Most Infamous Diamond, Juggernaut Books


Dubey, Amit (2017): RETURN OF THE TROJAN HORSE, Platinum Press, Time Group Books, 2017



Sapru, Abhay Narayan (2017): THE BECKONING ISLE - The Real Special Forces Story, Wisdom Tree / Chlorophyll Fiction


Bar-Zohar, Michael and Nissim Mishal (2016): MOSSAD - The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service, JaiCo Publishing House, New Delhi



Barker, Eric (2017): BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong


Allen, Charles (2003): A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET: The Search for Mount Kailas and the Source of the Great Rivers of Asia, Abacus 2017



Nilekani, Nandan and Viral Shah (2015): REBOOTING INDIA: Realizing a Billion Aspirations, Allen Lane-Penguin India


Thompson, Craig (2011): HABIBI (Graphic Novel)


Clydesdale, Greg (2016): WAVES OF PROSPERITY - India, China and the West: How Global Trade Transformed the World


Kalidasa (circa 170 BCE - 634 CE): RAGHUVAMSAM  - The Line of Raghu

Surendran, C.P (2015): HADAL

Kshemendra (990-1070 CE): THE COURTESAN'S KEEPER (Samaya Maatrika) - Tanslated from Sanskrit by A.N.D. Haskar, Penguin Classics

Brittlebank, Kate (2016): TIGER - The Life of Tipu Sultan, Juggernaut-Delhi

2016

Tharoor, Shashi (2016): AN ERA OF DARKNESS - The British Empire in India, Aleph-India, 2016

Aiyar, Pallavi (2013): PUNJABI PARMESAN - Dispatches from a Europe in Crisis, Hamish Hamilton / Penguin 2013

Haskar, A.N.D (2014): JATAKAMALA - Stories from Buddha's Previous Births, Harper Collins India

Sanyal, Sanjeev (2016): OCEAN OF CHURN - How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History, Penguin Random House 2016

Orwell, George (1945): ANIMAL FARM 

Greene, Graham (1969): COLLECTED ESSAYS, The Bodney Head Ltd.

Banville, John (2005): THE SEA

Sharma, Ruchir (2016): THE RISE AND FALL OF NATIONS - Ten Rules of Change in the Post-Crisis World, Allen Lane India

Pillai, Manu (2015): THE IVORY THRONE - Chronicles of the House of Travancore, Harper Collins India

Mukherjee, Siddhartha (2016): THE GENE: An Intimate History, Allen Lane / Penguin; NYT Review

Hemingway, Ernest (1926): THE SUN ALSO RISES, AudioBooks

Davidar, David (2014): A CLUTCH OF INDIAN MASTERPIECES - Extraordinary Stories from the 19th Century to the Present, Aleph, 2014

Raghavan, Srinath (2016): INDIA'S WAR - The Making of Modern South Asia 1939-1945, Penguin

Fosryth, Frederick (2010): THE COBRAGPutnam & Sons (Kindle)

Rinpoche, Sogyal (2012): TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING, HarperOne

Fosryth, Frederic (2015): THE OUTSIDER: My Life in Intrigue, GPutnam & Sons

Levi, Scott (2015): CARAVANS: Indian Merchants on the Silk Road

Ninan T.N (2015): THE TURN OF THE TORTOISE - The Challenge and Promise of India's Future, Penguin India

Bryson, Bill (2015): THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBING - More Notes from a Small Island

Yamamatsu, Yukichi (2015): STUPID GUY GOES to INDIA (Indo e Baka ga Yattekita, Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanan, Nihonbun Geisha Tokyo / Blaft Publications PL, Chennai
- Review in the Hindu

Karnad, Raghu (2015): FARTHEST FIELD: An Indian Story of the Second World War, Random House India


2015


Rajdou, Navi and Jaideep Prabhu (2015): FRUGAL INNOVATION - How to Do Better With Less, The Economist, 2015

Gawande, Atul (2009): THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO: How to Get Things Right, Penguin Viking 2009

Pamuk, Orhan (2004): ISTANBUL : Memories and the City, Vintage Intl, 2006

Radjou, Navi, Jaideep Prabhu & Simone Ahuja (2013): JUGAAD INNOVATION, Random House India

Kaplan, Robert D (2012): THE REVENGE OF GEOGRAPHY: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, Random House, NY

Tripathy, Salil (2014): THE COLONEL WHO WOULD NOT REPENT - The Bangladesh War and its Unquiet Legacy,

Bagchi, Subroto (2013): ZEN GARDEN - Conversations with Pathmakers. Portfolio/Penguin, 2013

Doniger, Wendy (2009): THE HINDUS - An Alternative History , Penguin / Viking 2009

Sharma, Robin (2008): THE GREATNESS GUIDE 2

Singh, VK, Maj.Gen. (2007): INDIA'S EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE - Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2007

Kumar, Rajeev (2014): INTRAPRENEURS @ MJUNCTION - The making of an e-commerce giant, Rupa India 2014

Hemmingway, Ernest (1932): DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON

Morrison, Tony (2008): A MERCY

Murakami, Haruki (2006): BLIND WILLOW, SLEEPING WOMAN

Mehta, Vinod (2014): EDITOR UNPLUGGED: Media, Magnates, Netas and Me

Mukherjee, Siddhartha (2010): EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES

Singh, Daman (2014): STRICTLY PERSONAL - Manmohan & Gursharan, Harper Collins India

Rushdie, Salman (2001): FURY 

Johnson, Faith (2013): FOUR MILES TO FREEDOM - Escape from a Pakistani POW Camp, Random House, New Delhi-- Surprising to know that Chuck Yeager was going around in full USAF uniform, interrogating IAF POWs!

Hesse, Hermann (1930): NARCISSUS AND GOLDMUND -- Into the mind of a compulsive wanderer in the middle ages... the portrayal of the great plague is haunting.

Rushdie, Salman (2005): SHALIMAR THE CLOWN -- Like a patchwork quilt with some outstanding bits here and there, but, on the whole not quite Rushdie enough..

Morris, Ian (2014): WAR - What is it Good For? , Profile Books, London, 2014

Gawande, Atul (2014): BEING MORTAL - Medicine  and What Matters in the End, Penguin, 2014

2014

Guha, Ramachandra (2014): MAKERS OF MODERN ASIA - I was keen to know more about leaders like Ho Chi Minh but this was more about political context than personalities. Disappointed. Here is a  review from the Economist

Bellow, Saul (1953): ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH - A wonderful 'bildungsroman' - coming-of-age story set in the depression years of Chicago.

Atwood, Margaret (2000): THE BLIND ASSASSIN - Two sister's coping with a family business that has run aground..

Guha, Ramachandra (2012): PATRIOTS & PARTISANS, Allen Lane, 2014

Krishnamurthy V (2014): AT THE HELM - A Memoir, Collins Business, 2014 - A common thread runs through BHEL, Maruti-Suzuki and SAIL...

Ashtavakra Gita: Discourse by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Sanyal, Sanjeev (2012): LAND OF SEVEN RIVERS - A Brief History of India's Geography, Penguin Global, 2012

Hemingway, Ernest (1961): SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO and Other Short Stories -- I liked the last one the best - "The Short Life of Francis Macomber" (is there a better description of a lion-hunt?)

Mantel, Hilary (2009): WOLF HALL - The gory life and times of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII

Orwell, George (1938): HOMAGE TO CATALONIA -- Franco's Spain, and the Civil War unveiled.

Murakami, Haruki (1982): WILD SHEEP CHASE - All the essential Murakami ingredients are there - cats, music, food, surreal experiences.... plus an odd sheep, a blood clot and a girlfriend with exquisite ears.

Grass, Gunter (): PEELING THE ONION - My first peek into life during war-time Germany... great narrative but it still leaves you with the impression that Grass is not being entirely truthful..

Philip Roth (1959): GOODBYE, COLUMBUS: A mixed bag..."Defender of the Faith" left an impression..

Deepa & Raja Kodikal (2000): LIFE OF BHAGAWAN NITYANANDA, Kohinoor Printers, Mumbai

Philip Roth (1997): AMERICAN PASTORAL: A neat little window into the world of leather workers (esp. glove mfrs), cattle breeding, Jewish middleclass, anti-Vietnam War protests, and, surprisingly, Jainism!

Chatwin, Bruce (1977): IN PATAGONNIA, AudioBook

Achebe, Chinua (1958): THINGS FALL APART, AudioBook -- very evocative use of language -- a book about Okonkwo and the white man's "Pacification of primitive tribes of the Lower Niger"...

Satrapi, Marjane (2006): EMBROIDERIES, eBook -- chai & granny's gossip in Tehran

Brookner, Anita (1984): HOTEL DU LAC, AudioBook

Pattanaik, Devdutt (2013): BUSINESS SUTRA -  A Very Indian Approach to Management, Aleph Book Company

Murakami, Haruki (1988): DANCE DANCE DANCE, AudioBook

Naipaul, V.S (1979): A BEND IN THE RIVER, AudioBook -- brilliant narrative

Gladwell, Malcom (2013): DAVID AND GOLIATH - Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Little Brown

Mahfouz, Naguib (1981) : ARABIAN DAYS AND NIGHTS: A Novel, AudioBook

Ramo, Hoshua Cooper (2009): THE AGE OF THE UNTHINKABLE, Little, Brown & Co.

Allen, Charles (2012): ASHOKA: India's Lost Emperor, Little Brown & Co.

Singh, Natwar K (2012): WALKING WITH LIONS: Tales from a Diplomatic Past, Harper-Collins India

Boo, Katherine (2012): BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS - Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Hamilton-Penguin, India

Manto, Saadat Hasan(): BITTER FRUIT - The Very Best of Saadat Hasan Manto - Edited & Translated by Khalid Hasan, Penguin, 2008

Raman, B (2007): THE KAOBOYS OF R&AW, Lancer Publishers, 2007 - eBook here - http://getebook.org/?p=112368

Sapru, Abhay Narayan (2013): IN THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, Chlorophyll -- Good to see the Para's telling their stories..

Levy, Adrian and Cathy Scott-Clark (2013): THE SIEGE - The Attack on the Taj, Penguin -- blogpost here.

Dawkins, Richard (2009): THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH - The Evidence for Evolution, Bantam Press, 2009

Churchill, Winston (): BLOOD, TOIL, TEARS & SWEAT - Collected Speeches, Penguin

Sharma, Ruchir (2010): BREAKOUT NATIONS - In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles, Penguin India


2013

Pattanaik, Devdutt Dr.,  (2006): MYTH = MITHYA: A Handbook of Indian Mythology, Penguin India 2006

Joseph, Mathai (2013): DIGITAL REPUBLIC - India's Rise to IT Power, Power Publisher's Kolkata

Aurelius, Marcus (CE 121-180): MEDITATIONS

Khan, Mumtaz Ali (Sri.M): APPRENTICED TO A HIMALAYAN MASTER, Magenta Press (2010)

Suzuki, Shunryu (1970): Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, e-Book narrated by Peter Coyote

Naipaul, Vidiadhar Surajprasad (1961): A HOUSE FOR Mr. BISWAS, Kindle-Ed

Munshi, Porus (2009): MAKING BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATION HAPPEN, Collins Business, 2009

Rushdie, Salman (1995): EAST, WEST, Vintage, 1995

Perkins, John (): THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE, Dutton

Wei, Zhang (2008): THE ANCIENT SHIP, Harper Perennial Modern Chinese Classics, 2008

Gladwell, Malcom (2008): OUTLIERS, Kindle



2012

Faulks, Sabastien (1993): BIRDSONG (Kindle Ed.)

Okakura, Kakuzo (1912): THE BOOK OF TEA (Kindle Ed.)

Gopinath, G.R, Capt., (2010): SIMPLY FLY, Harper Collins India, 2010

Devadoss, Manohar (2007): MULTIPLE FACETS OF MY MADURAI

Ropp, Paul S. (2010): CHINA IN WORLD HISTORY, Oxford University Press, 2010

Tully, Mark (2007): INDIA'S UNENDING JOURNEY, Random House India, 2007


Hoover, Thomas (1988): THE SAMURAI STRATEGY (Fiction/Thriller), Kindle Edition 


Hazarika, Sanjoy (1994): STRANGERS IN THE MIST - Tales of Watr and Peace from India's North-East, Viking-Penguin India


Verghese, BG (1990): WATERS OF HOPE: Himalaya-Ganga Cooperation for a Billion People, Oxford-IBH, Delhi, 1990. 

Corbett, Jim (1944): MAN-EATER'S OF KUMAON, Oxford University Press, New Delhi --- Full Text from Internet Archives 

Stepan, Alfred, Juan J. Linz and Yogendra Yadav: CRAFTING STATE NATIONS - India and Other Multinational Democracies, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2011

Austin, Granville (1999): WORKING A DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTION, OUP, Oxford India Paperbacks

Twain, Mark (Samuel L. Clemens): WHAT IS MAN? AND OTHER ESSAYS, Kindle E-books

Hanif, Mohammad (2008): A CASE OF EXPLODING MANGOES, Random House -- This was a let-down...I wonder what the reviewers found so funny in this book. Also, is Maj.Kiyani now Gen. Kayani? 

Hoover, Thomas (1980): THE ZEN EXPERIENCE, Kindle Edition -- Quite an eye-opener - especially the portion on 

Jalan, Bimal (2007): INDIA'S POLITICS - A View From the Back-Bench, Penguin Global (Note at Jalan's website)



2011

Bhagat, Dhiren (1990): The Contemporary Conservative, Viking/Penguin Books India, 1990

Galbraith, John Kenneth (1975): Money - Whence It Came, Where It Went, Bantam Books, New York, 1975

Hemmingway, Ernest (1952): The Old Man and the Sea - Another book that improves with age :)

Gonick, Larry (2009): Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part-I - Brilliant! Can't wait to get my hands on Part-II and the rest.

Ananth, Sashikala (1999): Vaastu - The Classical Indian Science of Architecture and Design, Penguin-India, 1999

Haskar, Aditya Narayan Dhairyasheel (2000): Shuka Saptati - Seventy Tales of the Parrot, Harper Collins, India, 2000

McDonald, Hamish (2010): Ambani & Sons - The Making of the World's Richest Brothers and their Feud (Formerly titled as The Polyster Prince), Lotus-Roli, 2010

"Kazuma Tateisi: The Story of OMRON & Ninety Years of Driving Innovation"

Nilekani, Nandan (2008): Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century,  Penguin India / Allen Lane

Stein, Burton (2005): The New Cambridge History of India - Vijayanagara,  Cambridge, 2005

Ahamed, Liaquat (2009): Lords of Finance. Windmill Books

O'Hare, Mick (2006): Why Don't Penguin's Feet Freeze?, New Scientist / Profile Books (Collection of Q&A from the "Last Word")

Ghosh, Amitav (2010): River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy - II), Wiki article

Diyanni, Robert (2008): One Hundred Great Essays (Third Edition)

Talbott, Strobe (2004): Engaging India - Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb

Gaarder, Jostein (1995): Sophie's World

Tolstoy, Leo (1877): Anna Karenina

Bowles, Paul (1949). The Sheltering Sky

Shourie, Arun (2010).We Must Have No Price: National Security, Reforms, Political Reconstruction

Yoro, Takeshi (2003). Baka no Kabe - The Wall of Fools.
(Is it the translation that makes Japanese scholars appear to be so full of themselves? or is it just the way they are? This is the sort of book that makes you wonder about `bestsellers` in Japan... Yoro`s book does have some gems though - tucked away under loads of drivel.)

Ellul, Jacques (1965). Propaganda - The Formation of Men`s Attitudes. Vintage Books, NY
Excerpt - here.

Diamond, Jared (1997). Guns, Germs and Steel - the Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton & Co. New York.
Wiki-page - here; Google videos - Part 1/3.

Daviron, Beniot and Ponte, Stefano (2005). The Coffee Paradox - Global Markets, Commodity Trade and the Elusive Promise of Development.

Easterly, William (2001). The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economist's Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics.

Spiegelman, Art (1986). Maus -I: A Survivor`s Tale - My Father Bleeds History
Spiegelman, Art (1991). Maus -II: A Survivor`s Tale - And Here My Troubles Began


Weston, Anthony  Hackett(2009). A Rulebook For Arguments, 4th ed

Mauss, Marcel/translated by W.D. Halls/foreword by Mary Douglas. Norton(1990). The Gift : The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies


2010

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (1880). The Brothers Karamazov  - my first book on a Kindle (what a boon for those who want to read bulky classics! :) )

Davis CB, Wilburn KE Jr., Robinson RE (1991), Railway Imperialism, Greenwood Press, New York, 1991


Odagiri Hiroyuki and Goto Akira (1996), Technology and Industrial Development in Japan - Building Capabilities by Learning Innovation and Public Policy, OUP-New York Press, 1996


Murakami, Haruki (2007), What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Drea, Edward J (2009), Japan's Imperial Army - Its Rise and Fall (1853-1945), University of Kansas, 2009

Frank, Andre Gunder (1998), ReOrient - Global Economy in the Asian Age, University of California Press, 1998

Mokyr, Joel (1990), The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity & Economic Progress, Oxford University Press, 1990

An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
Story of Masuji Ono, former artist of the floating world (pleasure quarters), who becomes a member of the Cultural Committee of the Interior Department in pre-war Japan. Also Official Adviser to the `Committee of Unpatriotic Activities`...



=============================================
2009

December 2009

Exploring Japanese Literature (Murray, Kondansha)
Short-stories by Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima and Juichiro Tanizaki


In A Free State (V.S. Naipaul)
Loved the story `One Out Of Many` and `The Circus at Luxor`.




November 2009
Persepolis - The Story of A Childhood (Marjane Satrapi)
This is one graphic-novel I wanted to borrow for a long time now. Recently I got to know that it was available online, for free! It was a quick, good read. Now I want to know more about 'dialectic materialism' (Marx, Descartes), Ashraf Darvishian (Iranian Dickens), Iron Maiden and Kim Wilde, and, of course, the neo-colonial games (1935-1979) that led to the 'Islamic revolution' in Iran.

After the Quake (Haruki Murakami)
A couple of months ago I had sworn not to pick up another Murakami. But as Oscar Wilde said, "The best way to resist temptation is to yield". This was a collection of stories distantly related to the Kobe earthquake. A quick read - the last two stories were the best.


My Brother, Ant (Betsy Byars, illustrated by Marc Simont)
A wonderful little bed-time storybook for kids!

October 2009

The Pianist (Wladyslaw Szpilman)
Story of a man's survival in Warsaw (1939-45), saved, in part, by Chopin's Nocturne in C Sharp Minor. A one-day read after a long time - thanks to Typhoon 18/Melor, which hit Tsukuba today morning (8 Oct 2009)!
Lost Japan (Alex Kerr)
Lots of interesting insights on the transformation of Japan during the past 40 years. See this post for details.

September 2009

The Canon - A Wirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science (Natalie Angier)

August 2009

South of the Border, West of the Sun (Haruki Murakami)
Please see this post.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)
This must be the most surreal, other-worldly book I've read this year. Totu Okada is taking a break from being a salary-man, and lives a sedate life with his wife Kumiko. Trouble starts when their cat disappears. Desperate to find the cat (named Noboru Wataya, after Kumiko’s obnoxious brother), a sorority of clairvoyants come into the picture (Creta & Malta Kano), followed by a mother & son pair (Nutmeg & Cinnamon Asakasa) with similar talents, and a precocious teenager in the neighborhood - May Kasahara.If anything stands out in this book, it is the link with the Russia-Japan wars in the Mongolian border areas - especially the intelligence foray across the Khalka River in Outer Mongolia by Corporal Honda, Sergeant Hamano, Lieutenant Mamiya and Yamamoto, the intelligence officer. I am still haunted by the description of Yamamoto being skinned alive by Boris Gromov's 'specialist'...
Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami

Murakami's are now beginning to feel like one of those Bollywood formula movies. The main characters love western classical music; somebody loves cats, cars and the right way of killing with bayonets. This story was an overdose of surreal metaphors and incestuous teenagers.
Kafka Tamura runs away from home, ends up in a private library. Mr. Nakata talks to cats and goes about looking for an 'entrance stone' with a truck-driver named Hoshino. Fatelines cross in the last few pages...long-winded and disappointing.
Little Book of Famous Insults (Edited by Betty Jo Ramsey; Illustrations - Fitz Kredel)
My favourites -
"Do not insult the mother alligator until after you have crossed the river." -- Haitian Proverb
Iphicrates, the Athenian general, was the son of a shoemaker. When a descendant of a Harmodius reproached the general for his ignoble birth, Iphicrates replied, "The nobility of my family begins with me; that of yours ends with you."
"Canning in office is like a fly in amber. Nobody cares about the fly: the only quesion is, 'How the devil did he get there?'" -- Rev Sydney Smith

A Stream of Windows - Jagdish Bhagwati
July 2009

A Hundred Verses from Old Japan (Hyaku-nin-isshu)
Please see A Few Tanka Verses.

Short-Stories by Ryonosuke Akutagawa

May 2009

Fooled by Randomness (Nassim Nicholas Taleb):

My first book from the Tsukuba University library... a good thing to read when you're exasperated by all those probability assignments on continuous random variables.

April 2009
Anil's Ghost (Michael Ondaatje):

Disappointing... I'd expected something better after 'The English Patient'
March 2009
Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez):

Florentino
Ariza, in the evening of his life, finally wins the confidence of his childhood sweetheart, Fermina Daza (widow of Dr. Juvenal Urbino). To think there may actually be people out there who are so compulsively obsessed with winning a woman's love, across a span of 50 years maybe be romantic to some. To me the very idea is disconcerting. But what a story!

February 2009
The Last Mughal (William Dalrymple):

Please see this post.

January 2009

Where The Rain Is Born - writings about Kerala (edited by Anita Nair) :
What a wonderful collection of articles! Some of them were quite thought-provoking -

  • Charlis & I - Shashi Tharoor - The amazing social transformation in Kerala over the past 50 years, seen through the eyes of ST and his childhood friend, M.C. Thekkote, IAS.
  • Fool's Paradise - Ammu Joseph - setting the record straight on the freedom allegedly enjoyed by the women of Kerala.
  • കര്കിടകം (Karkitakam) - M.T Vasudevan Nair - Dignity, self-respect and one day in the life of a hungry schoolboy. Wish I could read / listen to the original in Malayalam!

------------------------------------------------------------------
LINK to BOOKS 2008 - http://dinakarr.blogspot.com/search?q=books+2008
------------------------------------------------------------------

Movies 2009-2015

2015


Killa (2015, Marathi, Avinash Arun): Childhood in a rain-drenched Konkan town...so, so evocative!

Masaan (2015, Neeraj Ghaywan): FB and inter-caste love along the burning pyres of Benaras

Aankhon Dekhi (2014, Rajat Kapoor) - Is there a better portrayal of life in Old Delhi?

Shutter (2013, Malayalam, Joy Mathew) - a remarkable thriller that pops out of an ordinary, empty, roadside shop.

The Visitor (2007, Thomas McCarthy) - An economics professor returns home to find a Syrian artist (a drummer), and his Senegalese girlfriend occupying it...

The Secret World of Arrietty (2010, Japanese, Hayao Miyazaki)

2014

PK (2014, Hindi, Rajkumar Hirani) -- Irony, in a hilarious package :)

Reversal of Fortune (1990, English, Elizabesh Schroeder) -- Jeremy Irons, after a long time... as a European aristrocrat, Claus von Bulow.

Mugabe and the White African (2009, English documentary) -- The 'white man's burden'... or is it?

Poetry (2010, South Korean) -- A granny seeks an outlet in poetry..

Stanley Kubric - A Life in Pictures (2011, English) -- what a life!

Interstellar (2014, English, Christopher Nolan) -- Travel across galaxies and turn up behind your bookshelf. Spectacular and dramatic but vague all the same.

Unknown (2011, English, Colet-Serra) - Liam Nesson as a professor who forgot he was an assassin.

The Edge of Heaven (2007, Turkish) - A professor in Germany, his abusive, lonely father, and of ties back home. Nice.

Saraband (2003, Swedish, Ingmar Bergman)

True Romance (1993)

Okuribito (2008, Japanese, Yojiro Takita) -- A cellist moves from Tokyo to Yamagata...to become a nokanshi, a ritual mortician.

Paleri Manikyam (2009, Malayalam, Ranjith) -- Mammotty in a triple role... talk of death by overdose...

The Conversation (1974, Francis Ford Coppola) - Surveillance, wiretapping, murder..

Vikramadityan (2014, Malayalam, Lal Jose) - Chor-Polis kahaani with a rather predictable ending..

Mary Cho Cho ( Japanese) - Teenage kids, bullying, summer paddies..

Jobs (2013, Joshua Stern) - Aston Kutchner was quite good as Steve Jobs...Did he really have that funny gait?

About Schmidt (2002, Alexander Payne) - Ol' Jack Nicholson wonders, "Did my life make any difference to anyone?"

12 Year's a Slave (2013, Steve McQueen): Nigerian-born Ejiofor was just amazing.

Dedh Ishquiya (2014, Urdu, Abhishek Chaubey): Strictly for those who have a good grip on Urdu.

Drishyam (2013, Malayalam: One of the best crime-thriller's I've seen in recent times..

Artist (2013, Malayalam, Shyamaprasad): 'Dreams in Prussian Blue' - travails of two fine arts grads. Tvm is nicely framed.

2013

Gravity (2013, English, Alfonso Cuaron): Perhaps the best 3D movie I've seen... Captures the emptiness, silence and despair so well..

Baraka (1992, Ron Fricke): Non-narrative documentary...beautiful!

Lunchbox (2013, Hindi, Ritesh Batra): N. Siddiqui stands out again..

Michael Clayton (2007, Gilroy): George Clooney, the 'janitor' lawyer fixes nasty corporate.

Hitchcock (2012, Eng., Sacha Gervasi)

Shuddh Desi Romance (2013, Hindi, Maneesh Sharma): The first half is path-breaking for a Hindi romance..

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011. English, Steig Larsson): Damn good.

Raanjhanaa (2013, HIndi, AL Rai): JNU romance...Sonam Kapoor makes Dhanush looks like a great actor.

The Conjuring (2013, English, James Wan): A vengeful ghost in an idyllic old house in USA...and the conjurers need to get "approval" from the Vatican! Crazily contrived.

Argo (2013, English, Ben Affleck): CIA and Hollywood swing in to the rescue during the Iran Hostage Crisis...

Smurfs 1&2 (English, Animation): Another entry from the land of Tintin.

Noukadubi (2011, Bengali, Rituparno Ghosh): Wonderful narrative...great music.

Kai Po Che (2013, Hindi, Abhishek Kapoor): Nice.

D-Day (2013, Hindi, Nikhil Advani): Fantasies of taking out Dawood Ibrahim..

Talaash (2012, Hindi, Reema Katgi): Interesting...the real star is Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Lootera (2013, Hindi, Vikramaditya Motwane): Archaeologists-robbers and a Zamindar's daughter..

Chitrangada - The Crowning Wish (2013, Bengali, Rituparno Ghosh)

Memories in March (2010, Hindi-English, Sanjoy Nag): Rituparno Ghosh as himself?

Cocktail (2010, Malayalam, Arun Kumar)

Special 26 (2013, Hindi, Neeraj Pandey)

Sugata Sanshiro (1943, Japanese, Kurosawa): Aka - "Judo Saga-I" - AK's directorial debut

Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola (2013, Hindi, Vishal Bharadwaj)

Bombay Talkies (2013, Hindi): Anthology of four short films

Dabangg 2 (2013, Hindi, Arbaz Khan)

Talaash (2013, Hindi, Reema Katgi)

Taxi Driver (1978, English, Scorcese) - The old De Niro classic..

I've Loved You So Long (2008, French - Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) - Dr. Juliette struggles with life after 15 years in prison...for murdering her infant son..

Samsara (2001, Ladakhi, Pan Nalin): Lama Tashi asks his teacher, "If Buddha could enjoy the world for 29 years, why can't I?"

Rathinirvedam (2011, Malayalam, TK Rajeev Kumar)

Jolly LLB (2013, Hindi, Subhash Kapoor): A small-town lawyer aims big, falls for short-cuts and is shamed to the righteous path...remarkable, engaging narrative. Boman was brilliant, as usual.

Dah ("10") (2002, Persian, Abbas Kiarostami): A woman, her car and a dashboard camera.

Ashes and Snow (2005, Gregory Colbert): Wildlife in grand sepia tints..

秒速5センチメートル( Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru -5 Centimeters per Second): 1978, Makoto Shinkai 

Autumn Sonata (1978, Swedish, Ingmar Bergman): A neglected daughter confronts her mother, gently.

Mishima, A Life in Four Chapters (1985):

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): Batman, again.

Lucía y el sexo (Spanish, 2001)

To Live (1994, Chinese/Pinyin, Yimou): "Don't Gamble"

Paradise Now (2005, Arabic, Abu-Assad): Two Palestinian friends seek 'revenge'.

An Education (2009)

2012

The Sea Inside (2004, Amenabar, Spanish- Mar Adentro): A quadriplegic, always a ladies man, seeks euthanasia.

Gangs of Wasseypur - I (2012, Kashyap, Hindi)

Seven Pounds (2008, Muccino):Will Smith and the lives of seven organ-recipients

A Separation (2011, Iranian, Asghar Farhadi): A father suffering from Alzheimer's; a wife who wants to immigrate or a divorce; a pregnant help with a short-tempered, unemployed husband...very nuanced.

The Intouchables (2011, French, Nakache & Toledano): A rich tetraplegic & a poor immigrant. I liked the tagline too - "Sometimes you've to reach into someone else's world to find what's missing in your own")

Kahaani (2012, Sujoy Ghosh): Brilliant...the array of Tollywood talent is a bonus!

The Color of Paradise (1999, Iranian, Majidi): A blind child and a widower-father

Shanghai (2012, Dipankar Banerjee): A Hindi thriller with a misleading title. So-so.

The Big Year (2011): Birder's delight... (Cornell Lab Blog-post)

I Love You, Man (2009): An engaged man seeks male friends.

Pan Singh Tomar (2012, Hindi): Athlete, armyman, dacoit...Irrfan is brilliant, as usual.

The Help (2011): Maid for each other.

The Ides of March (2011): Clooney for President slips up..

Hugo (2011, Martin Scorcese): Clocks at a Paris station...

The Descendants (2011): Clooney, a trustee for 25,000 acres on Honolulu

Apocalypto (2006, Gibson): Jaguar Paw runs for his life in Mesoamerica..
.
Katha Thudarunnu (2010, Malayalam, Sathyan Anthikkad): A forsaken widow goes back to medical school


Adams Rib (1949): Lawyer couple at odds (Spencer Tracy & Kathy Hepburn)

The General (1926): A silent era romance of a stolen locomotive

Dinner at Eight (1933): Funny in a quaint sort of way..

Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982): Sean Penn is fantastic as Jeff Spicoli :)

The Odd Couple (1968, Jean Saks): Two divorced guys and their friends...funny.

Duck Soup (1933): Groucho Marx & Bros. in their elements :)


What's up, Doc? (1972):  Barbra Streisand. Funny.

Victor Victoria (1982): Julie Andrews and her queer friends.

You Can't Take It With You (1938)


Take The Money And Run (1969): Woody Allen as Virgil Starkwell, a bungling crook...funny, but not quite.

Shampoo (1975) - Goldie Hawn in a satire on the social mores of the 1960s.

Moonstruck (1987) - Cher as a book keeper and Nicholas Cage, a maimed baker...nothing exceptional.



2011



The Big Lebowski (1998) - "The Dude", bowling and blackmail...contrived.

The Odd Couple (1968) - The story of two divorced friends shacked up together - Hilarious! :)

Witness for the Prosecution (1957) - Charles Laughton is absolutely brilliant as the barrister, Sir Robarts.

You Can't Take It With You (1938) - An old-world innocence and charm..

Sleuth (1972 Joseph L. Mankiewicz) - Brilliant...especially Laurence Oliver's performance.

Rock Star (Hindi, 2011) - Ranvir is great - until the interval. Review at BL

Indian Rupee (Malayalam, 2011) - Nice plot...the movie hangs on Thilakan's acting skills.

Despicable Me (2010) - Gru and Dr.Nefario - what a combo!

The Mona Lisa Curse: Robert Huges' on the Business of Art. Video at Top Documentary Films - http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/mona-lisa-curse/

Whisper of the Heart (Miyazaki 1995 -Japanese - 耳をすませば): How far did you think John Denver's song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" traveled? :) Japanese lyrics here.

Inglorious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009): Unadulterated nonsense.

Raise the Red Lantern (Mandarin 大红灯笼高高挂) - Gong Li as the third mistress to a wealthy man during the Warlord Era in China. YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DbIymkDC-EVk 

The King`s Speech - Colin Firth as King George VI and G. Rush as Lionel Logue, his speech therapist
The Fountain - A conquistador, scientist and space traveler...hallucinations, love and mortality


Loudspeaker (2009, Malayalam) - Mamooty as a rustic, garrulous kidney-donor 

2010

OZU YASUJIRO



Floating Weeds- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWJS-d3ZfA8&feature=related

Tokyo Monogatari (1953) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt8IicHIL38&feature=related

Early Spring - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt2peWTXY0A&feature=related

Tokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight, 1957) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dyUyI4TArQ&feature=related  - Troubled daughters staying with father; Cast: Noriko Hara, Ineko Arima, Chishu Ryu

Higanbana (Equinox Flower, 1958) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AVGD4vjqvw&NR=1

Ohayou (Good Morning, 1959)- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GchR71M7jp4&feature=related  (comedy)


2009


ന്റി 20 (Malayalam - 'Twenty 20') 010109 - A formula blockbuster skillfully woven around the who-is-who of contemporary Malayalam cinema. The Mamooty/Mohanlal Fans Club are thrilled to bits. I missed Nedumudi Venu.

Sorry Bhai (Hindi) 17012009 - The long long wait for Chitrangada Singh's second movie is over. So are the hopes of another Smita-Patil-in-the-making. Some of the dialogues are good but, sorry brother, the movie quite forgettable.

Anuranan (Bengali - 'A Resonance') 17012009 - At a scenic guesthouse in Darjeeling, an executive is found dead by a colleague's pretty wife. Some relationships remain undefined, and some art movies are a waste of time & money.

Mes Amis Mes Amours (French) 20012009 - Mathias (Vincent Lindon) a jobless, book-lover makes clever use of his acrophobia to woo a lady named Audrey(Virginie Ledoven), who has a striking resemblance to Lara Dutta, especially when she grins!

Shrek The Third (Animation) 23012009 - Now these guys are really running out of ideas. There is only so much you can flog an ogre.

Bow Barracks Forever! (Bong-lish) 24012009 - Now I know where all the Calcuttans polish their English. Wat Man? - I told you, no? Victor Banerjee was damn good. So was Lillette Dubey.

Slumdog Millionaire (Hindi) 26012009

Luck By Chance (Hindi) 01022009

Changeling (English) 25022009 - A single mom (Angelina Jolie) fights for a missing son. "Never be the one to start a fight; but be the one who finishes it."

Australia (English) 011032009

2 Harihar Nagar (Malayalam) - It was a great idea to make a sequel , clearly, somebody ran out of ideas while preparing the script.

Rashomon (Japanese) - Akira Kurosawa film based on Akutagawa's short-story. Noticed so many new things while seeing this movie for the second time...

Ran (Japanese) - The only Kurosawa film in color...quite powerful.
Hoichi the Earless (Japanese 281109)
Kwaidan Yuki Onna (Japanese 271109) - Tanaka Tokuzo's 1968 adaptation of the folklore.

Un Chien Andalou (French, 291109) - surreal, scary...it was surprising to know that Salvador Dali acted as one of the two confused priests who had been dragged in with rotting donkeys.
City of Life & Death (Mandarin - "Nanjing!Nanjing!, 301209) - Shocking, depressing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Public Health & Medicare

Excerpts from  Getting There from Here by Atul Gawande, New Yorker (Annals of Public Policy ), 26 Jan 2006


In every industrialized country, the movement to reform health-care has begun with stories of cruelty...


Britain - Universal health care under the National Health System.


George Bernard Shaw was visiting an eminent physician when as assistant came in to report that a sick man had arrived requesting treatment. `Is he worth it?` the physician asked. It was the normality of the question that shocked Shaw and prompted his scathing an influential 1906 play, `the Doctor`s Dilemma`. The British health system, he charged, was `a conspiracy to exploit popular credulity and human suffering`.


Universal health-care coverage:
Britain - 1945
Canada - 1966
Australia - 1974


Britan has the most socialized system in the industrialized world...Established on July 5, 1948, the National Health Service own the vast majority of the country`s hospitals, blood banks, and ambulance operations, employs most specialists physicians as salaried government workers, and has made medical care available to every resident free.


France - Securite Sociale provides payroll-tax-financed insurance to all French residents, primarily through 144 independent not-for-profit, local insurance funds. The French system has the highest satisfaction levels of any industrialized country, and compared to the Americans, the French have higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality and more physicians and lower costs.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sautoy's Maths

To me mathematics has always been like a pretty girl I was afraid to talk to. She seemed friendly enough with everybody else but I could never muster the courage to say hello.

Today I stumbled upon this wonderful documentary called "The Story of Maths" on BBC World. I think it was the second of a three-part series but I was hooked by the very first image I saw on it - of reeds pressing into soft clay leaving impressions that would be later deciphered as evidence of quadratic equations in ancient Mesopotamia.

Presented by Prof. Marcus de Sautoy, it seemed to be connected in some way to an article that appeared in the Economist a few days back. It had presented some interesting stories linked to the various types of numbers -

Irrational numbers: The relationship between musical pitch and lengths of viberating strings (double the length of the string and the note falls by an octave). This led Pythagoras and his followers to believe that all of nature must be expressed as ratios of whole numbers. But when one of them discovered that a simple geometric ratio (length of a square's diagonal to the length of its size) gave an 'irrational' answer, he was actually bumped off!

Negative numbers: The concept was rubbished by leading mathmaticians in the 1700's

Imaginary numbers: Since bothe negative and positive numbers, when multiplied by themselves, give positive answers, such numbers are labelled "imaginary", and regarded by many as meaningless. The ideas was accepted only after Carl F. Gauss came up with the idea that imaginary numbers could be considered perpendicular (?) is to real numbers.

Sautoy makes the pretty girl less intimidating but she continues to be enigmatic. One of these days, when she comes dressed in History, maybe I'll have a long chat with her...

------------------------------------------------------------------
References:

  • The Story of Maths - BBC - Open University - http://www.open2.net/storyofmaths/index.html
  • "When 1,2,3...is not enough" - Arguments over what counts as a number - The Economist, Jan. 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Kaviyoor Kshetram



Childhood memories have a sneaky way of siding up to you. All it takes is familiar sights & smells, and your mind starts conjuring up experiences tucked away in some forgotten corner.

I had forgotten much about Kaviyoor temple. Only vague memories of clambering up stone steps and intricate wood carving remained and that too must have been remnants of what I had read while preparing the Thrikodithanam Temple website. But the moment we turned from the road to the gravel slope leading up the temple, I was flooded by memories of my last visit.

It was more than thirty years ago. My grandmother had taken me along on bus from Mukkattu Padikkal, Thrikodithanam. While walking up the steps, she had pointed to a little shrine housing an oversized shiva-lingam and said, “That was brought here by Hanuman. He had been send out to get an appropriate idol but by the time he got here another one had been consecrated. When the monkey-god tried to take it away, it wouldn’t budge. And when he yanked it harder with a coil of his tail, the entire temple compound rose to a height, and so steps had to be built leading up to the temple.”

Her words were the gospel truth then, but now I seemed to be looking at everything with a fresh pair of eyes. Was this not another geographical feature in the hilly landscape that had been used to build a raised temple? Is it possible that the big shiva-linga was kept outside the temple because it had been damaged in transit?

More questions came up as I walked into the temple – why is this place called “Kavioor Hanuman Temple” when the main sanctum houses Shiva in two forms (east & south)? If childless couples are trying to please Hanuman by offering tiny, wooded cradles, why are these being tied in front of Narasimha-moorthy??

If curiosity was the initial reaction, it was soon overwhelmed by a sense of absolute wonder. This was such a lovingly preserved temple! It had none of the new eyesores that irked me an hour earlier at the Thrikodithanam temple – no fancy elephant podiums, no garishly painted new shrines, and no obsession with covering exposed earth with interlocking tiles.

Kavioor temple is compact, yet neat, beautifully proportioned and spacious. The intricate carvings around the chuttambalam were so, so beautiful! It must’ve taken such a good deal of effort for the craftsmen to create the finely embellished gods, the warriors, frisky elephants and the women carrying jackfruits and pots to the market!

It’s a pity that camera’s are not allowed inside.