my author of the august month

Purba Chakraborty needs no introduction to the avid readers and fellow bloggers in Indian blogosphere. So, when I decided to feature her as the author of the month, I wanted her to reveal certain aspects that she had not shared with her readers till now.

I am amazed by her versatility at such a young age. She blogs, she sings and till now, she has authored one book of poetry and three novels. In addition her poems and short stories have been part of a number of published anthologies. Her third novel –  Canvas of a Mind – has been out recently.

It is seen from her Amazon and Goodreads pages that her earlier books have made their marks on the readers’ minds. I am sure, ‘Canvass of a Mind‘ too will captivate the minds of the readers.

Here is my e-conversation with the author:

Q. You are involved in quite a number of creative activities – Blogging, Book Review, Singing, Books…. How do you juggle among them? I mean in a planned way or, you just surrender yourself to the mood of the moment. 

heart listens to no one.jpgA: I don’t have to juggle with them. I cannot survive without creativity. Therefore, I do all these activities out of love. I feel blessed to be able to express myself in various ways through creativity. But my priority will always be to write novels, short stories and poems.

Q. Coincidentally, August is the Birth month of Purba, the author. (This fact, I discovered after I had decided to feature you as the author of this month). Are you as enthusiastic a writer aftet your fourth book, as you were when your first book was released in 2012?

A: Yes, August is a very special month for me as my first book was released on 25th August, 2012. Yes, every time my book releases, I am excited, thrilled, nervous and emotional. The feeling never changes because a lot of hard work goes into the book. Unless you are a very famous author, the struggle of getting a publisher who will fund your book remains. So finally, when the book gets published and you see your words in print, it makes you feel surreal.

hidden lettersQ. Tell about a quirky incident in your childhood that you haven’t shared with your readers.

A: When I was ten, I wrote about 20 poems on a few loose sheets of paper and stapled them. On the first page, I did a doodle and wrote with sketch pen “Poetry book by Purba”. I still have that stapled copy. Every time I see it, I know that I am doing something right in my life. The ten year old Purba wanted to write books, though she was not completely aware of it.

Q. Apart from your family, who have been great sources of support in your writing journey?

A:  There have been so many people who have supported me in my writing journey at various phases of my life. I think everyone who has read my book and left a positive review or took the pain of writing an email to me, let me know his/her thoughts about my writing have helped me grow as a writer. My best friend, Priyam is the first reader of my books. She reads the first draft of the books and the way she encourages me makes me feel I am blessed. She is the one who helps me believe in myself and my writing, when I am having bad days.

Q. How do you cope with the obstacles you face? Life in general and writing activities in particular?

love and destinyA:  The year 2017 has been harsh on me. I lost my beloved grandmother in April. She was with me during the making of “Canvas of a Mind” (also when I was writing the acknowledgment). Losing her has left such an irreparable void in my heart that I find it difficult to go through my work and chores on some days.

There are times when I feel I can’t push myself to sit for work. I feel like breaking down. But I didn’t let my work get hampered and ensured that my book releases on time.

I think my personal motto “I rise after every fall” helps me get back on my feet in the morning even if I have cried the entire night. Meditation and yoga help me to calm my mind and take a bird’s eye view of things. The only way I cope with the obstacles I face is by not giving up, come what may. I keep marching forward even if I have wounded feet.

canvas of a mindQ. You have written one poetry book and three novels. Planning for any other genre?

A: I would want to write a memoir or non-fiction, someday. Right now, I am happy writing poetry and novels.

Q. Any other thing that you would like to share with our readers?

A:  My latest novel, “Canvas of a Mind” is a psychological mystery novel set against the back drop of Kalimpong, a remote hill station. It tells the story of two sisters whose lives change when a mysterious stranger starts stalking the younger sister. If you enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers with a touch of psychological drama, “Canvas of a Mind” will surely appeal to you. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Purba Chakraborty is a novelist, poet, web content developer, lifestyle blogger and social influencer from Kolkata. She has authored two novels “Walking in the streets of love and destiny”, “The Hidden Letters” and a poetry book “The Heart Listens to No One”. “Canvas of a Mind” is her third novel. Her short stories and poems have been published in more than ten anthologies and various magazines. She is a restless dreamer and wishes to write till her last breath.

She blogs regularly at Love, Laugh and Reflect (www.purba-chakraborty.com)

She can be reached at:

Facebook: writerpurbachakraborty

Twitter: @Manchali_Purba

Instagram: purba_chakraborty

email: purba.khushi@gmail.com

author of the month – anupam patra

Starting from this month is a new monthly feature on my blog – ‘author of the month’. What better way to debut my series than to feature debutante author Anupam Patra whose book ‘Promises of a Firefly’ has been released recently.

Even though Anupam is from my home state, I got introduced to him through the blogosphere. I was attracted to the distinguishing literary and artistic quality of his blog from day one.

I was excited to read his book and I was not disappointed. As I gather from his Goodreads page, so have been the experience of many readers who have spoken very highly of the book.

Brief note about Anupam

anupam

 

Anupam was born and raised in the millennium city of Cuttack in Odisha. He finished his schooling and graduation while growing up in the thousand year old city’s narrow lanes and ambient warmth. Inspite of the necessity of having to pursue science and then law for a career, his love for art has always shone the light of his soul. He used to teach and has worked as a banker prior to taking up public service as his profession. An avid lover of all forms of art, he confesses to find comfort in telling stories.

 

My Interview with Anupam

Q: Tell us about your writing journey.

A: It began here in blogosphere in the autumn of 2011. I walked into this space, looking to turn myself away from a few things that were happening in my life at the time. I didn’t expect anybody to read what I wrote, I mean, there were veterans whose essays and stories and poems were around. But I got lucky to earn a small but supportive readership. Their consistent magic with words inspired me to keep scribbling something every day. There were times when the struggle would resurface and take me away from writing for days but whenever I returned my friends here were there to take me back with un-deteriorated warmth. Their support has been my real asset. I had never thought of writing a book. Till I met Mahua Ray Das, a phenomenal artist herself, who on our very first meeting decided to push me towards that goal. She was cynical about my writing but gentle with her guidance, even when I was hostile to her suggestions. She set my sail on that course. She stuck around, never let the boat rock. To ensure it never drowned, she herself got on the boat and took that long, undetermined, lonely, neurotic, journey with me. It was not easy. I was constantly mired with problems but she never gave up, even when I was constantly forcing her to. Her contributions for this book are immense. The journey for this book began with her eliciting a promise from me in a small book café in Bhubaneswar in August 2015, the promise that I’ll give her a book of my own one day. The belief she had in me was what fuelled my will to write.

Q: Who have been your inspirations?

A:The works of Richard Flanagan inspire me. Out of all his works, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Gould’s Book of Fish have left a lasting impression on me. His writings have an effect of breaking me in a beautiful way. There’s an element in his stories that wraps itself around you. Like a sunrise waiting to happen and you wait for it after a long, despair driven night and the sunrise manages to bring a sort of an illumination that is sweeping and vivid and fresh yet you find yourself unable to forget for a moment the night that has passed. For it is that night which Flanagan has by then wrapped around you forever.

Q:  How do you balance your creative pursuits with your public service?

A: It is undoubtedly tough. I am not earning anything from the book. The whole of my royalty shall go to a foundation that will use it for a year’s school fees and ancillary expenses of an orphan girl and if anything remains, it shall be donated for procuring academic essentials for orphan kids. If there is still any money left, the above cycle will be repeated. On the other hand, the earning from my profession takes care of my needs. Actually, it also takes care of my writing in many ways. Plus, the hopes with which the common man comes to the chair I occupy, is a huge responsibility to discharge. I have a moral obligation to justify the tax payer’s contribution that makes my salary. So the scale is always tilted towards the side of my service. My profession involves a lot of reading and research and writing after all of which the mind and the body get worn out. It is then that my heart’s will to weave stories balances out my desire to write fiction. But it is such a physically taxing indulgence. As a result, so many times, I have dozed off on my computer table, only to wake up hours later, about the time of dawn, drooling on the keyboard.

Q: As you evolve as an author, do you feel you are evolving as a person also?

promises of a firefly.jpgA:The life of a writer can be terrible in spite of being purposeful. When he is able to catch the tone of his characters in ink, and everything is flowing out smoothly from his pen, it is the most complete he will ever feel. But when it doesn’t happen that way, there is barely anything he can forgive in this world. By that measure, the worst hit was taken by my family. They had to quietly let me go for hours, sometimes they were wise not to ask why at all must we part, and sometimes emotional to prod, neither of the ways bringing any change of luck. Eventually they understood how it is going to be. Then there would be work and health conditions and lack of imagination and all sorts of things that would make me want to shut everything for once and for all. I don’t know about others but for me, writing is walking down an untaken road where there are equal chances of confronting delight and despair. But you brave that chance because you want to bring to life moments you think deserve to be experienced by your readers. When you’re penning those mistakes, regrets, hopes and love your characters find on pages, you are creating experience, and you cannot create any without letting it touch you. I have always only written in one method, one hand dipped in ink and the other in shades of life. It’s a fulfilling endeavour. And for all that it is worth, you evolve in the end. You evolve because at the completion of any struggle, there is some evolution that is bound to happen.

Q: What were your expectations as you started writing the book? Are you satisfied the way the book has turned out?

A:You’ll perhaps find an author who will claim that his work couldn’t have been better. So I won’t say that I am satisfied the way the stories have turned out. Surely, they could have depicted more, had greater depth and better proximity to what I wanted to tell through them. But, I wouldn’t change the larger picture in any of the stories. That has come out exactly how I’d wanted. As far as my expectations from my book are concerned, to be honest, I never wrote it with any expectations. Maybe because I have no illusions about my writings. The only hope I had in my mind was that my readers should get the point of the stories. That’s all. And I’d happily go to sleep.

Q: Any other thing that you would like to share about you or the book with our readers.

A: I am a novice and there’s a lot I’m to learn about the craft of writing which is why I’m keen on hearing honest opinions as to where I could have done it better. And yes, I hope I’m able to write more books. At the moment, it feels like I cannot write one more line of fiction ever again, like writing this book has dried up all creative juices within me. Believe me, it is frightening, this feeling of inadequacy.

About the book, I’ll say this. Since the book was published, I’ve been asked about its theme. Even at the launch, when I took questions from the audience, a curious girl came from far behind the crowd, asking for the microphone. She must have been a fast reader for she raised some interesting points about the theme and the genre of my stories and if all of them are tragedies and interconnected. Recalling her query, I’d like to say that the stories in Promises of a firefly are not light tales or have cheerful narratives for they intend to show us our boundaries regardless of the occasional heroics life affords us. Now, that is not necessarily tragedy. It could be something as simple as truth. Some of these truths we are likely to have seen or heard around us. And as one of my readers told me over e-mail, there is this element of hope that can be found if the stories are read carefully. I want readers to find out for themselves. And if they are able to remember the stories, recall their moments when they are not holding my book – that would be a great thing for the storyteller in me.

Promises of a firefly is available on Amazon. Here is the blurb:

A blind girl’s chance meeting with a stranger sets her on an unforgettable journey of love and light; a loveless marriage is rebuilt by the very thing that is meant to destroy it; an estranged mother’s fight to reunite with her daughter reveals to her the strengths and flaws of bonds of blood, two women separated by years of hostility discover the many forms of heaven and hell as fate decides to redeem their relationship; an eighty year old man’s chronicle of love and loss that tells us all about the permanent consequences of choosing against our heart’s will. These are stories of promises and letdowns, of faith and betrayal, of sins and atonement; stories that introduce us to lovers, bravehearts, convicts and prostitutes. ‘Promises of a firefly’ binds together eleven tales that remind us of our gifts, our glories and the crushing limits of our lives. 

The author can be reached at  anupampatra2017@gmail.com

moving adaptations

There would be, perhaps, half a dozen movies for which I must have read the original book either after or before I saw the movie. Of course, unlike the Hollywood ones the Bollywood productions have been disappointing.

Gone with the Wind

In case of Gone with the Wind, first I saw the movie, for the first time some twenty five years back. By that time this 1939 movie had already become a classic. I read the lengthy novel  afterwords. Contrary to what I had thought the fact that I had already watched the movie did not diminish my interest in the novel. Maybe, had I not watched the movie  I would not have read the novel. It won 10 academy awards and is considered one of the all time greatest movies of Hollywood.

Unlike the Bollywood movies based on  Chetan Bhagat books, this  movie is not a loose adaptation of the novel. The professionalism displayed by everyone connected with the movie is remarkable.  One can experience all the flavours of this 1000 odd page novel in the four hour movie. I watched the movie (DVD) for the second time a couple of months back.  It is worth mentioning that ‘Gone with the Wind’ is the only novel written by Margaret Mitchell in her life time.

Silence of the Lambs

In this case, I read the novel first. In an earlier post on this blog titled A Gripping Tale,  I have written about my reading experience and how I came across the book. I had read the book before the movie was released. Hence I was curious to see how the movie was adapted. I was not disappointed.

Elementary, my dear Watson

Being a Sherlock Holmes fan since childhood, it was logical that I should not have missed the 2009 movie ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and the sequel ‘Sherlock Holmes-  a game of shadows” released in 2011. Robert Downey Jr. has played the eccentric detective perfectly with befitting support from Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

Earlier, I remember watching a number of BBC serials  based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Even though my memories are vague, I don’t think the serials were as interesting as the books.

Now a days many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes are run as serials on various channels, a Chinese lady passing for Dr. Watson in one version that I saw. It is titled Elementary. With Guinness book of records listing Holmes as the most portrayed movie character, it has become difficult to keep track of the various spin off versions of Holmes.

Tales from Malgudi

R K Narayan was himself disappointed when he saw the movie ‘Guide’.  Narayan’s Guide had to undergo necessary improvisation to fit into the Bollywood version with necessary songs and dance and the usual tadka.

But, the serials produced by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag brought in all the nuances of RK Narayan’s stories. It is still a pleasure to catch up with one odd episode of Malgudi Days telecast on good Old Doordarshan from time to time.

 

 

 

 

girlfriend by two

 

When I first came across the word Half Girlfriend during the launch of the eponymous book written by our great Indian novelist and twenty first century intellectual Sriman Chetan Bhagat ji, I wondered what might be the meaning of such a word.

In Indian hotels, we are used to the rate card of a full plate as well as a half plate. You have half versions of tea and coffee. In Indian tradition, after marriage the girl becomes ardhangini.

Of course, the concept of ardhangini is understandable. After marriage the wife and husband become one unit. So, each unit is half of this arrangement. But, our male dominated society never uses the word ardhanga which should be the synonym to mean the husband.

Half girlfriend?

Is this  girl gifted with only half of the limbs that a normal girl has? Then, her boyfriend must indeed be a great hero to be emulated by all Chetan Bhagat devotees?  (by the way,  bhagat is derived from the word bhakt– a devotee)

Or, the protagonist boy has two girlfriends concurrently, thus, each one deserving only to be a half girlfriend?

Indian BloggersWhen I confided my confusion to a dear friend and Chetan Bhagat fan and who goes by the name Ketan, he suggested me to read the book to clear my confusion. I shuddered at the prospect. The last time I attempted to read one of his books, after two pages I had such mental indigestion that it took me two weeks to recover. Such heavy stuff.

Imagine. If I struggle for a day and break my head to make sense of only one word invented by this great innovative author, what will happen to my chetan man (conscious mind)  if I go through the whole book.

So, I let the meaning of ‘half girlfriend’ remain a mystery. What is going to happen after all. Already I am living with half a million mysteries of the universe that may not get solved in a million years to come. That includes the greatest unsolved mystery of all times, “Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?

At the same time I am afflicted by another mystery. The name half girlfriend is an insult to the women folk. To be more politically correct he could have used the word half boyfriend. Is Chetan, a misogynist?

I expected some feminist organsiations to take up the gauntlet, come in an Arnab Goswami show to  spread  the fire of protest so wide that the nation wanted to know only one thing – How dare Chetan Bhagat be more incoherent than the host of the only fire powered show in India?

The nation wide controversy would have made Chetan rolling on the floor laughing all the way to the bank while the sales figure of his books reached the moon.

But all this did not happen. Chetan did laugh his way to the bank, though. But, what happened to the feminists? Did they think it too trivial an issue considering the history of this nation in treating its female species, or, all of them got converted to the cult of Chetan Bhagat?

Of course, there were some halfhearted protest responses. One wrote a book titled Half Boyfriend. Another wrote a blog post titled Half Girlfriend/ Half Boyfriend.

A few days back,  Ketan  phoned me. He said he was speaking to me from Thailand. He had taken a short break from his vacation activities just to speak to me.

“Hey buddy. You know what. The movie trailer is out.”

“What movie?”, I asked.

“The movie based on Chetan’s  book,  Half girlfriend.” He was so enthusiastic – like  a cult member out to recruit.

“So what?”

“You wanted to know the meaning of half girlfriend. Well, see the trailer”.

He sent me the link. I opened the link and saw the trailer. My confusion got more compounded.

So what is a half girlfriend?

A character in the trailer, who seems to be the protagonist’s friend, tries to describe the boy girl relationship as – Dost se thodasa jyada, boyfriend se thoda sa kam. Somehow it makes some sense, vaguely though.

But man, how do you decide it fits the definition of a half girlfriend/boyfriend or, a half relationship.  How do you assign a numerical value to an abstract concept.

Of course, there seems nothing special about the relationship that the author tries to hype up by assigning it a value of  half. In any boy meets girl story, there comes a point from where the relationship could go either way. It is just a short lived phase of a relationship.

But the relationship must have a number. Otherwise, it will not bring good luck to the book. Thus spake Chetan’s astrologer.

Yes, it is the same astrologer that Ekta Kapoor is affiliated to. Let me reproduce the enlightened conversations between the astrologer and Chetan here:

Astrologer:  Look Chetan. I have already given alphabet K to Ekta. Knowing your type, for you no alphabet. Only numbers will do. Use any number between five and half in your title.

Chetan: Surely I will do. By the way, anybody who knows five words (three English and two Hindi) can not only understand my book, but also aspire to be a best selling author like me. But sir, after spending four rigorous years in IIT, and later on at IIM,  this much I know that half is not a natural number.

Astrologer: It is a combination of two numbers one and two. So don't worry.

After a few years Chetan wrote a book and wanted to titled it - Point Five Someone, to sound like the earlier one and to ride on its popularity all the way to his bank account. But before sending it to the publisher he wanted to have the final word of advice from his astrologer.

Chetan: Sir, I have written another book about a guy who is not even worth five points.  Shall I call the book Point Five Someone? 

Astrologer: No no. Make it more spicy. Give him a girl friend and call the book Half Girlfriend. It will achieve two things - confusion and curiosity. They go hand in hand. Good for marketing, you know. 

Chetan: By the way Sir, I thought you are an expert in astrology only. But, I see you are good in marketing too. 

Astrologer: Ha ha. Why not? let me tell you. There isn't much difference between you and me. Both us make millions by selling truckloads of bullshit.

Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. His books adorn the bookshelves of half of my friends, occupy at least half a self in any library you visit, cover half of all the total space available in leading book stores- offline or online.  He is on TV- on talk shows and f**k shows. (I was thinking of a match making show where he acts like a f**ked up host).

He writes half banal and half unintelligible centre page articles on national newspapers. Like his books, movies based on his books make millions. Ketan, says that the movies are not exact adaptations of his books, but are loosely based.

Oh God, that is the saving grace. Being loosely based, the movies can take any kind of spin off.

It is said that the Americans are so adept in sales and marketing that they can sell real estate located on the moon to the Chinese. Well, Yankey dudes, here in India we have got the baap of  all salesmen.

chetan.png
image credit: schoopwhoop.com

Uncle Moon’s Magazine

In response to Indispire Edition #163 of Indiblogger

indispire 163

Which is the first book I read all by myself?

Well, frankly speaking I do not remember. But, I can guess with a fair degree of accuracy about some of the books and magazines which were part of my reading in my early childhood.

The Magazine Chandamama being one of those. Strictly speaking, it may not fall under the category of books. But the magazine was so much part of my regular childhood reading, I would love to assign it the status of my first love with reading material outside the school curriculum.

The magazine was published in a number of Indian languages and English. I used to read the Oriya version which was titled ‘Janhamamu’.

Each issue contained a mixture of stand alone stories, serialized stories bases on mythology, classic literature, new stories, contests and knowledge tidbits suitable for schoolchildren. Every article had  accompanying colourful illustrations to create visual interest. The stories also had a moral or a practical lesson to teach.

The magazine not only delivered the stories and messages of mythologies and classical literature in an interesting and suitable way to the children, but also kindled interest for further reading. One of the serialised popular features of the magazine was the stories of Vikram and Vetal. Subsequently,  when I came across the original book, I could not resist myself reading it. Of course the magazine authors took the liberty to create their own stories in line with the originals.

At present the magazine is not in circulation, either in print of e-format. However, it survived long enough so that I could buy the magazines for my own children. Only difference being while my children had many options with regard to children’s periodicals, I had very few. Of course many local children’s magazines were available. But, nothing to beat Chandamama.

Another regular feature of the magazine was the caption contest. There were two unrelated photos, and one had to find a suitable caption linking both the photos. I tried my luck on a number of issues, even though I could never make it to the winning stage.

It is sad to know that the magazine started by B Naggi Reddy (also a famous film producer)  and Chakrapani in 1947 is no more in publication. It reached its peak in the 1970s and the 1980s, being published in thirteen languages with a circulation of 2 lakhs.

The best thing about Chandamama was that most of the stories were desi,  unlike today’s periodicals for children. Of course some times it contained abridged and illustrated versions of many western classics. Maybe, that is how I got interested in English classic literature too.

For those who would like to relive the days of Chandmama or have a taste of the magazine, here is link for the archives:

https://archive.org/details/chandamama_magazine

 

A Gripping Tale

 

School reopened after the summer vacation. Now I was in standard VII and a large number of of books had been added to the school library. Prominent among them were translated versions of abridged editions of all time western classics like Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, The Three Musketeers, Time Machine, Animal Farm, Treasure Island and many more.  Each book was a page turner. There being no provision for a librarian, our class teacher doubled up as the librarian.  Sometime, he became irritated and sometimes happy that every day I finished one book and asked for another.

However, among all those un-put-down-able books,  what stood out were the series on Sherlockc Holmes.

In fact when it comes to un-put-down-able, what comes to my mind first are the genre of thriller or detective books.

But, other than Sherlock Holmes, I hardly read any book of suspense or detective genre. Written by  Arthur Connan Doyle, the stories of Sherlock Holmes have been an evergreen fascination. I have read the stories, seen the movies and TV serials over and over again.

However, the book that I have found the most griping is  ‘Silence of the Lambs’ by Thomas Harris.

silence-of-the-lambsI came across the book in our office library way back in 199o. After reading the first chapter, there was no way I was going to stop there. Standing there in front of of the  book rack I  must have finished five or six chapters till the librarian called to say that  it was closing time.

I borrowed the book. As far as I remember other than essential breaks for bodily needs I did not sleep till I finished the book.

I do not wish to divulge anything about the contents of the book so as to spare the prospective reader of any preconceived idea. That is how one enjoys a thriller the best. Like I did. Had I read any review, any gist or any thing about the book , or even the fact that it has  been a best seller, it would have definite affected  my reading experience. (Once you read a book knowing that it is a best seller your expectations would be high)

However I would like to say this much that even though the story and its characters are interesting, what makes the  book unputdowanable is perhaps the way  the author has  arranged the contents and divided the chapters whereby one is naturally drawn to the next chapter just to find out what happens next. I am yet to find such a gripping thriller.

Subsequently, when in 1991 the novel was made into a movie, it bagged a number of Oscars and became a huge commercial success like the book. I watched the movie and enjoyed it. But, the thrilling and gripping experience that I got when I first read the book has remained unmatchable so far.

(In response to Indispire#157 at Indiblogger)

Indian Bloggers

Sunday Musings and Random Notes #8

Wishing you all a happy  wonderful New Year

First of all, here is wishing my dear reader a wonderful New Year. May you remain cheerful and passionate irrespective of whether a few wishes got fulfilled or not.

Note that I have not used the word happy. There are reasons for it –   profound and scary reasons that google threw at me in form of quotes while I was searching for something else. Take the first example:

happy-1

So there is no point in having good health and selfishness if, these are not backed by a healthy dose of stupidity. However, it provides for a lot of hope. To be happy is not that big deal after all. It paints a very rosy picture of  human society since time immemorial- the vast majority of human society have never been as unhappy as we have made it out to be.

The following one is a very strong argument as to why one should not wish another anything related to happiness:

happy-3

However, the following is the scariest of them all:

happy-4

And finally a ray of hope, provided by non other than one of those highest priests of Christianity:

happy-5

Of course, I am not sure whether all/some/any of the above quotes have been attributed to the right source. Now a days on social media, every now and then one comes across strange quotes attributed to strange people. Sometimes, people making up these quotes do not seem to have even elementary knowledge of history. So, Swami Vivekananda gives very sound advice on the side effects of social media and Mahatma Gandhi warns us about the impending disasters when one harbours thoughts like those of Donald Trump.

But I am sure the following one must have been spoken (or, at least thought of) by Adolf Hitler, who swayed even the most intelligent persons of Germany to his Nazist point of view with his banal rhetoric. I am afraid this must also be the secret of success of  writers like Chetan Bhagat churning out best sellers and Salman Khan movies making multiple crores.

happy-6

Here is wishing you again, a happy (er. sorry) , a wonderful new year. 

Three blogposts that you may have missed

I started this blog in July this year.

A blogger is not like an ideal parent for whom all children should be equal favourites. Nevertheless, he has paternal instincts. It is natural for parents to give special  attention to that child who lagged behind other siblings while at the same time proudly bringing to attention of the special skills of a particular child. The following blogposts from this year are a mix of both.

When the wrapper is considered superior to the gift inside

It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place

The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact

A Brief Note on Stephen Hawking

stephen hawking

Here is a brief introduction to Stephen Hawking from his official website: 

Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. Now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.

In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. Professor Hawking has over a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Science. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.’

What does not find mention in his official website is his love life. Sometimes events of his personal life gets so much media coverage that some people develop an aversion to him and ignore his contribution to science. As a person, Stephen Hawking may seem to have crossed certain boundaries of morality, particularly the ‘Indian Standard of Morality’ with multiple affairs and marriages. However, on a lighter note- considering the fact that most of his voluntary organs are not working, even the Superman should be jealous of his female fan following.

Jokes apart – his contribution to science should not be undermined whatever ‘moral’ flaws he may have. Many of the geniuses of past and present are known for their eccentricity and bizarre behavior. Stephen Hawking comes from a culture and society where his personal life is normal acceptable behaviour. Moreover, he is not a hypocrite. His whole life is in public domain. Contrast this with the life of many of our Indian leaders and famous persons. They live/ lived a double life and are/were hypocrites.An honest biographical film about Nehru was stalled time and again. What we read as history in our text books are nothing short of fiction. The stories of Stephens and Clintons would be overshadowed by the real life events of many of our adored leaders, provided these things are available in open domain.

It is surprising that a hardcore scientist like Stephen Hawking recognises the power of love.

“I’ve been privileged to gain some understanding of the way the universe operates through my work,” he writes. “But it would be an empty universe indeed without the people that I love.”

He is a great inspiration for all of us. In spite of his physical limitations, he keeps on exploring the limitless.. and he has never lost the jest for life.

“Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successful in my scientific work,” Hawking writes. “I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Easter Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero-gravity flight. One day, I hope to go into space.”

Stephen Hawkins is a genius. His die hard attitude is an inspiration for all. I recommend my friends to read his works, at least the bestseller – THE BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.

It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place

alice_in_wonderlandCertain lines that I came across in novels, text books and sometimes in the form of Graffiti  never made any sense then. But there was certain inexplicable quality to those lines and they remained in memory. One such line is – “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”. This appears in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. Even though the novel is recommended for children, I am sure adults will be equally delighted if they could decipher lines like these.

There came a time, may be 10 years after I had read it, when one day the meaning, or what the author indicated, by those lines came as a flash of lightning. It was one of those series of busy days, while in Air Force.  I was working on a project. Work would start at 6 am and continue sometimes upto 11 pm. It was like continuous running, both in body and mind with a  few  hours of rest in between. Then one day after may be three or four weeks, orders came from a superior authority, we have to do the project again. A little frustrated, suddenly the line- It takes all the running to keep to the same place- flashed in the mind.

In another sense, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries, all the running one does is just to keep the body and soul together. In other words the whole life is spent in fulfilling only the basic needs. Forget about progress of the individual or the family or the society. It takes all the running just to keep to the same place, so that things do not degenerate further.

I discovered another layer of meaning of this phrase after a session of meditation. I was reflecting on the affairs of life. How much ever you may achieve in terms of position, money, fame, power the final destination is the same. If your body is not burnt, for sometime a few square feet of earth is earmarked for you.  You come from nowhere and again vanish into nowhere, in between running and running. Like Adi Shankaracharya said in Bhajagovindam,

A child is obsessed in playing games, a young man is obsessed in young women, the old are obsessed with worries. Man never turns towards the divine.”

Obsession is nothing but repetitive running in the mind. As long as there is life there is physical running accompanied by running in the mind in terms of obsessions or worries. At the end of it all, one vanishes nowhere. (Of course there are theories and beliefs of rebirth, let us put them aside for the moment)

I do not know for sure whether Lewis Carrol had all the above in mind while he wrote the line. This also must have come to him as a flash of insight. Nevertheless, the line has helped to get insights about certain facts of life , or at least, express certain thoughts in a better way.

An activity is an activity, whether it is pleasurable or unpleasant. Ultimately it would tire you and leave you wherever you were. It is good  sometimes to take a break from all those runnings, physical as well as mental and spend a few day in meditation or just relaxing experiencing the pleasure of ‘doing nothing, achieving nothing and going nowhere’, neither in body nor in the mind.

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