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)

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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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