Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bibliophilia


Books are the way to see the world without moving an inch, said the sedate Mr. Ashok Ganguly in The Namesake (saw the movie, haven’t had the good fortune to read the book as yet, and kudos to Jhumpa Lahiri as well).And it is true to the last letter. Not just see the world, but know it, feel it, love it, hate it, fantasize about it, ruminate over it and be aware of it. Books coupled with an aggressive imagination are the gateway to a plethora of thoughts, sensations and emotions. Reading brings out the best human trait of all, the power to think. When I ponder over Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf with an aim to explore his psyche, when I am lost in Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky’s Russia in his Crime and Punishment, when my ribs are tickled pink by the characters created by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (Jeeves & Wooster, Uncle Fred, Mike & Psmith et al), when I was enthralled by and enamoured of Gregory David Robert’s Shantharam, when I could relate to the lost and outlandish Agastya Sen, courtesy Mr. Upamanayu Chatterjee, when I was in awe of Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark, when I got entangled in the magical, mystical and fantastic world of Eragon created by Christopher Paolini, when I was completely bowled over by the mental prowess and perspicacity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, when I am befuddled and beguiled by Fritjof Kapra’s Tao of Physics, I am ALIVE. When my brain is gushing with blood, when there is an avalanche of thoughts, when I can feel a warm glow in my cranium, when it’s whirring, I am proud of being human. And I thank God for bestowing with me this wondrous and inimitable gift. A book is like a jungle for my mental peregrination, I try to penetrate it with my limited intellect and it impregnates me with limitless thoughts.

I guess reading is in my blood. My father was an avid reader, and he still reads when he can. The same can be said for my mother. I am lucky to have an aunt who encouraged this habit of mine, and brought me my first set of Enid Blyton and encyclopaedias. I read to improve myself, to know more, to learn about things I have never heard of, to put my imagination to test, it is not just a hobby or an activity to engage at leisure. It has been a significant contributor to my weltanschauung. Those who read to pass the time don’t read at all, they are just whiling away with the state of their brain hovering just above the level marked inactive. Amongst all the mediums of communication man has at his disposal, the textual one is the noblest and the most powerful. The pen is mightier than the sword was not said in jest. Not everything in this world can be understood and known through audio and visual means, one has to resort to books.

But sadly, reading is a dying art. TV, movies, video-games, mobile phones and a host of other things have contributed to a decline in the number of book lovers. TV must be at the top, and I think even the cell-phone syndrome is responsible for it. Why not chat to your friends using cool sms lingo (which I absolutely hate)? People would rather watch a 2-3 hour movie at the nearest multiplex than pick up a good book and plough through it. I often come across people who are looking for a suitable gift for someone near and dear, but rarely does the suggestion of buying a book seem to work. It only brings out a disapproving no, and that saddens me. The fact that books are expensive is also responsible. Apart from the classics, the Wordsworth edition of which can be purchased at circa 100 rupees only, you rarely find a book which costs less than two or three hundred. And the better they are, the costlier they get. The number of public libraries in India is an indicator of the reading habits of the populace. In my hometown there used to be a British Library, but alas, it’s no more. And not just here, they are closing down in many other cities as well. Any guesses why ? Where is the person who wants to read but cannot afford to, supposed to go ? This will inevitably lead to , in most of the cases, the death of this habit.

A friend of mine went for an interview, where he was asked about his hobbies. Reading was one of them, and he mentioned that the last book he finished was The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. As soon as these words left his mouth, one of the interviewers got visibly excited. He was surprised to find readers of Dostoevsky in the Generation X, and lauded him for it as well. And guess what, my friend cleared the interview as well. Moral of the story – Read Good Books, they help you in ways known and unknown .The digital age that we live in has introduced us to e-books. They may be eco-friendly, cheaper and easily available, but they can never surpass the feeling one gets out of holding a book, rifling through its pages, its smell and touch and the associated pride of ownership. Books are not furniture, but what better way is there to furnish a home, said some great man. To summarise in the style of the amicable Mr. Micawber, from Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, “in short” , Reading ROCKS !



A single book at the right time can change our views dramatically, give a quantum boost to our knowledge, help us construct a whole new outlook on the world and our life. Isn't it odd that we don't seek those experiences more systematically? - Steve Leveen

A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild-flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East. - Henry David Thoreau

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy. - Edward P. Morgan

Reading confirms your aliveness. It's very validating. That's what book groups ultimately are; you get validated in the human condition--the conditions and puzzles, the good stuff and the bad stuff, the aspirations and hopes and despairs. You're not alone out there. - Rachel Jacobsen

When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me . - W. Somerset Maugham

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

A big book is like a serious relationship; it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there's no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending. Kind of like going out with a girl, having to spend time every day with her - with absolutely no guarantee of nailing her in the end. No thanks. - Mick Foley

P.s. – No, I have not been sponsored or hired by any bookstore or chain of bookstores to write this. I wish they had . Could have made some moolah out of it to buy a book . J

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life After People


I watched a documentary called Life After People, which explores the scenario when all human life disappears from the face of this planet one day. It delves into how Nature would react to such an event. It was shown that Mother Nature would eventually reclaim what was hers, and slowly and steadily, in a matter of 10000 years, almost every trace of an intelligent life form would be wiped out. The Earth would be green to hilt, the oceans teeming with life, and every other species except the Homo Sapiens lived happily ever after. My heart rejoiced at the end of this hypothetical yet quite possible episode. It was mentioned in the show that the possibility of us evolving again was bleak, as its first occurrence was a rather fortunate accident for humans (unfortunate for the Planet). In short, the existing chimps might not evolve into the ubiquitous omnipotent human with astonishing brain power, but would be limited to a species with a fair amount of interaction and control with its surroundings. I am not a misanthrope, but sometimes my thoughts are rather misanthropic. I wish to live a full and healthy life, but the chances of it bearing fruition seem gloomy, thanks the havoc wrecked on mother earth by its most intelligent son. I vividly remember the scene from the blockbuster Matrix, where Agent Smith , an AI sentient sentinel delivers the following dialogue to a captured Morpheus,

“I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure”,

and I sincerely believe it to be true, except that I definitely do not wish to be a bloody battery for machines. Our species did not just spread to the entire planet and is consuming every resource the planet can offer, we wage wars, we kill each other, we kill other species, we pollute, we over-populate, and our entire existence seems to be out of sync with nature. The technological advancement that we are so proud of is mostly ungreen. While I am absolutely, indubitably and irrefutably in awe of our brain, the ability of think does have its side effects.

We as a species have evolved to such an extent that we not only interact but more or less control our environment which has taken a severe toll on the natural order of things on planet Earth. Our quest for survival has put to an end the very existence of many species and the others are in imminent danger. Sometimes, I wonder where our civilization is headed with all this incessant development and advancement which does ease our lives in the short term but creates new problems in the long term. Electricity was an electrifying invention, but didn’t it lead to the burning of fossil fuels? Splitting the atom was a momentous event, but isn’t that the greatest threat humanity faces today? One slip, a genocidal maniac ends up with a nuke, and oblivion for a part of humanity. Quite obviously, every thing can be used for good or bad. A knife can be used to chop vegetables or human heads. But what is the collective goal of our civilization? Is our existence fuelled just by the need to do so, the innate genetic programming which drives us to eat, drink, sleep, breathe, copulate and ultimately die? Hindu philosophy has an answer for it called Salvation. But let’s adhere to the materialistic world alone, what is the answer then? I often cogitate on how the greatest gift we have, our brain, could someday be responsible for our obliteration. It’s quite a paradox. But at then end of this tirade against my own kind, the inevitable truth that faces me is that Life for us is indeed precious, because it comes at a great expense.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I have been Tagged

I have been tagged by Indian Home Maker. So here it goes.

I am: a human, humane, a believer, a thinker, a dreamer (day and night), and an Indian.

I think: a lot, about many things, almost everything under the sun, retributive justice, democracy, quantum physics, the plight of Indian women, literature, history, religion, Computers, movies, etc. etc.

I want: right now, a better job, in the near future, to lead a peaceful life in my country without facing any hostilities from the “Locals”, ultimately, Salvation.

I have: a home, a family, friends, 3 meals a day, a job, citizenship of a democratic country, all my limbs and organs, and I am exceedingly grateful for all of these gifts.

I wish: to live in a united India, to see the complete annihilation of China on all fronts (metaphorically speaking) and to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

I hate: cats, most of the Indian politicians, China, Indian communists, pretentious and ostentatious people, religious fanatics, intolerance in general, impoliteness, Casteism, rapists, paedophiles, the dowry system, certain aspects of being Human, the list is endless.

I miss: Manipal, not my childhood, not my schooldays, just Manipal, where I spent the best part of my life, my college days; trees in my hometown of Patna, don’t get to see a lot them these days and playing cricket matches as I used to in my teenage.

I fear: living in a divided India, not being a good son, asthmatic attacks, getting married to woman who loves Saas-Bahu soaps, sways to Reshamiya, loves contemporary Indian cinema (starring the likes of Emraan Haashmi and Mallika Sherawat), is disrespectful to my family and does NOT read at all!

I feel: exhilarated when I see natural beauty, proud at events like the successful launch of PSLV or development of Eka, the 4th fastest supercomputer in the world, depressed when I see everyone going for an MBA (in lieu of higher studies in their own fields) for the big bucks, disheartened when people like Raj Thackeray are hailed, guilty and sad when I see the extremely poor, and on cloud nine with a rainbow around my shoulders when I finish a good book or a movie.

I hear: Rock n Roll of the 60’s and 70’s, A.R. Rehman and everything else that my ears approve of.

I fantasize about: doing an RDB on the mother effing scum bags ruling and ruining India, becoming a vigilante serial-killer, being Marcus Antonius, General of the famed Roman Empire under Julius Caesar, going back in time to be an eye-witness to the wars of Ramayana and Mahabharata, and WW II.

I crave: for knowledge, of everything in and around me and my soul mate.

I search: for the meaning of Life, the purpose of our existence, Life beyond Earth (if I had the resources).

I wonder: how different things would have been had people like Bhagat Singh, Azad and Bose been alive and in power after Independence, had Hitler won the WW II, had India been not partitioned, had I been a girl, had Mr. LPY not been in power for 15 years in Bihar and when the hell will I meet my soul mate.

I regret: doing certain stupid things as a child, procrastinating in my college days, drinking more soda than milk and not learning Sanskrit ( How will I explore my Hindu Philosophy ?)

I love: Mahapurush Bhagat Singh, son of the Nation(if Gandhijee is Mahatma Gandhi- Father of the Nation, then Shaheed Bhagat Singh is a Mahapurush and the son of the nation) , India, my family, freedom, Hindu philosophy, trees, peace and solitude, the company of my friends, Google, the internet, books, movies, rock n roll, computers, coding, food, dogs.

I ache: for my soul mate.

I am not: a male chauvinist pig, a religious fanatic, a criminal, a vegan, an advocate of Gay marriages, a crime-fighter by night, a person who can adopt a child and raise it as his own, a big fan of Himesh Reshamiya, Emraan Haashmi, Anu Mallik, Mallika Sherawat, Mahesh Bhatt,Rakhi Sawant, Ekta Kapoor, desi reality TV , Indian news channels .

I believe: in humanity, in violence and non-violence, in God, in extra-terrestrial life, evolution, the big bang theory, capital punishment, karma.

I dance: when the music persuades me to do so, and in my own whacky style.

I sing: Often to myself, but no better than a donkey brays.

I cry: Sometimes, after I saw RDB and TZP, when Mumbai was ripped by blasts again, when I flunked.

I don’t: like to shout at or be impolite to someone and expect the same, like to wait, like to travel alone, like to hurt anyone’s feelings, like being bossed around.

I fight: when my sense of justice has been offended.

I write: to pen down the thoughts bubbling in my head, to express my self, to blow off steam, even just for the hell of it.

I win: when I don’t give up

I lose: when I surrender

I never: eve-tease, had beef, had a girl friend, tried to kill myself.

I always: am trying to improve my vocabulary, try to know more about everything around me.

I listen: like a good listener.

I can usually be found at: Home, as college is over and I am eagerly awaiting my date of joining.

I need: love, warmth, peace, solitude, food for thought, work that interests me, good music, movies and books.

I am : Kislay Chandra

I am supposed to pass the tag to someone else, and I am not really sure who reads my blog. So its an open invitation. I pass this tag to any reader of my blog who is willing.

Anglophobia

Goddamn the Brits. They screwed us and did a great job of it. I remember my history teacher telling me so in class X that we owe a lot to the British as they were the ones who introduced India to modern technology. Did they do that out of pity for the brown and scrawny Indian native, in an effort to ameliorate him? Or did they do that out of a purely selfish motive, to rule us even more tenaciously? They built roads and bridges, laid down telephone lines and railway tracks, for the “benefit” of the poor and downtrodden Indian and shouldn’t we all bow before the queen and hail her in unison. The “exemplary” education system that we were introduced to was designed to produce literate clerks who would understand and obey orders of their English masters. And that education system still prevails. Learning by rote seems to be standard method of imparting education. Apart from a very few institutions, the rest are still enslaved by it. What percentage of Indians encourage their progeny to pursue careers in a field which interests them rather than the one which is the most financially rewarding? How many schools teach in a manner which encourages free and rational thinking, which inculcate into the students to question and to explore every damn thing around them, and not to take things at their face value? I remember through my own personal experience, the treatment doled out to the students who asked “stupid” questions like, “Why does + stand for addition and – for subtraction” or “Why do like charges repel and unlike attract”. On the surface these questions may seem stupid to the superficial learner but they indicate that the enquirer has an inquisitive mind. On a side note, isn’t the mighty British economy built on the Indian wealth those buggers exploited, raped and plundered out of our country? They owe us a lot of money!

Almost every major problem that we face today can be traced to Brits. They divided us on the lines of religion, caste and language. The North-South divide and the nonsensical Aryan Invasion theory was a part of their diabolical design. Through the aid of their stooges, both foreign and Indian, they destroyed our culture systematically, by sowing the seeds of doubt in the Indian mind, and today many Indians question its authenticity, and dismiss it because the west does not approve of it. Ramayana and Mahabharata have devolved into mythology instead of the history they are. It was Chanakya, the great Indian philosopher who gave the theory of “Sam, dam, dand and bhed” and how beautifully was it used against us. Deceive, inveigle and obfuscate, to the hilt!

Over the years English has become my primary language, Hindi, my mother-tongue has become a second-rate citizen. I watch movies made in Hollywood and other parts of the world, the very thought of watching a contemporary Indian movie (with a certain exceptions) makes me cringe. The music is listen to is mostly western, the clothes I wear are western, the TV-shows I watch are all American or English, thanks again to the quality of Indian TV. I look up to the west for confirmation, being an Indian. How sad is that? What part of me is, in a pure and unadulterated manner, Indian? There was a time when anything imported bore the seal of excellence for the Indian mind. At least, things have changed on that front. It seems that most of my identity has been shaped and influenced by the West and has become pseudo-western. But I guess my heart is still Hindustani. But it is indeed depressing and deplorable. India did free itself from the shackles of the British Colonial rule, but the west still rules us. In our thoughts and our actions. It is the modern colonization. The birth of the coke and pepsi drinking, burger and pizza eating, English speaking generation, for some of whom the ultimate goal is settle and abroad and become a part of the West. We speak a macaronic tongue. There was this rickshaw-Walla who did not know where the “sachivalay” was, but jumped into action as heard the word secretariat. Similarly, a watch-man who did not understand “phatak kholo” but did open the gate when he was asked to “open the gate”. Hinglish is in the air. I guess most of the other Indian languages are spoken in a similar fashion. Do we Indians have our own identity? The Germans do, the Japanese do, the English and the Americans most certainly do, what about us? The apparent fact that I am expressing my distress in English bears witness, ironically, to what I said. The British unequivocally made a horrible mess before leaving, but I do realize that my thunderous diatribe against them will not solve any of our problems, but can't we all learn from our past to not to dance to the tunes of divisive poiltics .