Thursday, November 14, 2013

Norwegian Wood


Not the song, but the book by Haruki Murakami
It does however, get its title from the song that the protagonists in the book loved.


I can't say whether I like it or I don't. I can see why it makes a beautiful movie. It can be pictured in some setting of natural beauty in the snow and in the mountains, intertwined with the confusion of Tokyo and a sweet love story under the shadow of a tragic love story. Sometimes I would think of the book as utterly hopeless with 4 characters having committed suicide. It's depressing and I can't understand what could be haunting all these people who kill themselves for no reason as it seems. I think it should never be read by anyone under 25, or may be 35 or may be anyone. It's like the opposite of Veronica decides to die, which I think should be prescribed reading for teenagers. And then I again, I love the way the book flows in and out. It isn't the story, it isn't the writing. But it leaves you with a feeling that is the essence of any book. I read books to teleport into a different world, and this book accomplishes it like it's the most natural thing to do. The writing style, may be because of the translation, is a bit off. I read the whole book and in my mind were people all aged 30 to 35 years old. None of them felt 20, not even Midori. Midori seemed rather childish yet in her early thirties. Is it possible that the author realised this and added a prologue to say the story is actually told by a man in his 50s or 60s talking about when he was 20? Possibly. Interestingly, the back drop of the story is Tokyo in the 1960s with students brewing revolutionary ideas. And yet they are students in their early 20s like Nagasawa, a character so common these days with his ambition and drive and no real meaning. And those not in the inner circle either gape in awe or mock at their hollowness. Like people, everywhere. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

7 days in Barcelona

This post is overdue, written on the very day I came back. I was waiting for pics but I shall add them a few weeks later.

Sitting here in London, right after St Jude and colder, darker nights after the clocks switch back, it's hard to believe I was on a beautifully sunny beach hours ago. Flights and timezones, latitudes and seasons. The world is small place today.

Day 1
It is probably one of the closest airports to any city. It takes barely 18 mins by train (Renfe) from airport to Barcelona Sants. The metro has long transfers, air-conditioned coaches with doors that don't automatically open. The metro shuts at midnight every week night, later on Friday nights and never on Saturday nights. I got a T10 card that allows for 10 travels but if you are staying for longer a Hola BCN might be more useful. To figure all this out reading between Spanish and Catalan, I arrived much later than expected missing a Sandemans walking tour. So no snippets or history this time (any you see is lifted off wiki).
Barcelona Cathedral is old and beautiful, an impressive Gothic structure dedicated to the 13 yr old Saint Eulalia. Within the cathedral are smaller chambers for a number of saints. The blocks surrounding the cathedral are a nice walk too, around other roman buildings like the history museum. A few more blocks and you find yourself at the urbanised Placa de Catalunya, a square with its fountains, infinity pool and the reverse stairway (to heaven?) memorial to Francesc Macia, who spent a large part of his life campaigning for the Free Catalan Republic. One of the corners of the square leads out to the most happening street in Barcelona, La Rambla. It didn't seem very happening the first time around.

Day 2
I was in Barcelona to hang out with one of my closest friends from insti. She found herself in Barcelona to present a research paper at a conference. On a relaxed day we had shared a meal with her colleagues at the conference and met some of the other doctoral and grad students from various countries, studying mostly in the US. We went to a fancy restaurant by the sea, by the Port Olimpic nearly under the Fish sculpture by Frank Gehry (who is also associated with the dancing house in Prague) and Villa Olimpica built for the legacy of the 1992 Olympics.

Day 3
Antoni Gaudi is a famous Catalan architect who is most acclaimed for La Sagrada Familia, a neo-Gothic Roman church. Interestingly, it is incomplete yet is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When Gaudi died in 1926, a relatively small part of the church was complete. However, a jewel encrusted model of the complete structure lies inside the church and generations after have tried to continue with the construction. It was interrupted time and again and was only half complete by 2010. The construction is set to take up more than a decade from today for completion. We visited it while the cranes continue with their work. Where Gaudi style, every single inch of the outside walls is ornately carved with various depictions of the life of Jesus. Even the gates are engraved with words from various Psalms. We've been told to book online to avoid the queue, but we stood in the queue anyway and spent about 45mins in it. We went up the Navity tower whose decorations are mostly surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Yet another famous Gaudi landmark is Park Guell, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gaudi became friends with Eusebi Guell, an industrialist who liked Gaudi's work and commissioned him to build a few buildings, including his house. His house was part of Park Guell which is up on a hill a little far from central Barcelona. It has beautiful views of the city and contains a world of Gaudi's colourful mosaic. It houses the famous mosaic salamander called el drac. Incidentally, the government has decided to charge an entrance fee for this public park starting the very day we decided to visit it.

Day 4
La Rambla does come alive. The last time we walked along it, we just came at the wrong time, during the siesta. La Rambla is a walking pathway full of florists, street side restaurants and pop-shops. On either side of the pathway you have the road for vehicles. Perpendicular to La Rambla are streets that lead you to another neighbourhood of entertainment and food, some lavish some street side. One such takes us down to Placa Reial, a large open space with numerous restaurants on its four sides with open seating and some inside. In one of those little places we watched a Flamenco show after which we strolled La Rambla a little longer.

Day 5
Time for a day out. Mostly when we looked up day trips from Barcelona we found a pilgrimage to the Black Widow at Montserrat which promises great views, Girona with its Dali museum and the Jewish quarters of Figueres. Girona and Figueres didn't seem that interesting but we probably might have liked the views from Montserrat. However, when I was looking up flights to airports near Barcelona, I came upon Reus and its neighbouring Tarragona. So we decided to take a trip to Tarragona.
Tarragona is an old Roman town on the sea, 80 mins from Barcelona by Renfe. A large part of the current town contains many Roman remains and yet again a UNESCO World Heritage Site (looks like I am on a UNESCO suggested trip). There is a well preserved Roman Amphitheater on the beach and a flyover right next to it to click some beautiful pictures (no kidding, we saw a photographer with some fancy heavy cams and tripod and the whole gear). The other Roman excavations are strewn all over the town, all entirely within walking distance. From the amphitheatre we walked along the modern streets overlooking the sea to Rambla Nova which is the main centre of the city and sat down for tapas on one of the side streets. Walking on we came upon another Roman excavation right next to the current market center. It was discovered when the market was expanding and the area had to be cordoned off. Bright and sunny with bits of history, Tarragona was a breathe of fresh air by the sea.


Day 6
It was day of El Clasico, especially in La Liga and in Barcelona. On the streets and hanging from houses the Catalan flag was everywhere, not FC Barcelona! Unfortunately, we couldn't watch the match in the stadium but we walked around some of the side streets of La Rambla and watched a bit here and a bit there. When the game was at 2-1 I wasn't even sure it had ended when it did. And here I was hoping it was only the first half. Anyway, Real Madrid lost and the streets of Barcelona was ecstatic.
We walked along La Rambla like we seemed to do all the time, grabbed some tapas and walked all the way to the sea and then over the bridge of Rambla de Mar to a deck where we could sit with legs swinging over the sea and watch the city lights.

Day 7
So long in Barcelona, we never really chilled out on the beach. So we got lots of sun as we walked along the beaches from the Fish sculpture at Villa Olimpica to Barcelonata. From Barcelonata we could see the cable car ride, so we walked up to Sant Sebastia but the wait for the cable car was way too long so we decided to walk back the way we came. We walked back close to the sea, stopped for some tapas and got to the Fish sculpture once again. The water was an amazing blue dotted with a bunch of surfers who couldn't get the surf.  The sun was hot enough to tan anyone and anything. I think I could just lie down and go to sleep there, hopefully with an umbrella.

Day 8
We were staying at a private room in a student hostel, cosy for the two of us, at a location close to the center but not so close that it would be noisy. I could easily live there, in that tiny room with the beautiful weather and a beach. Barcelona felt like home, only with better infrastructure. But it was time to go. We went to Passeig de Gracia for my train to Aeroport but also to do a little bit of shopping only to find out that all the shops were shut on Sundays. So we just waited till I got my train and I left. And in a few short hours I got out of the tube to the rainy cold night that most London nights are like.


I was in Barcelona for only 4 days. I wasn't used to the idea of a siesta. So the second half of every day was yet another day.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pirate Latitutdes

It started out as an annoying and boring book. I am not interested in pirates unless it's Johnny Depp dressed as one. And so it starts. Capt Charles Hunter based out of Port Royal in Jaimaca sets out on a pirate voyage calling it a privateering venture for cutting wood, to rip off a Spanish treasure ship from a Spanish strong hold, Matanceros. 

The operation goes from one precipice to another. It's interesting and you get sucked in. It may get a little too much drama but its fun, all the way to the end. And at the end the epilogue is the best.

The epilogue almost cons you. And it's perfect for this world of smartphones and wikipedia. Ironic isn't it, when the entire plot is based in 1660s and is written for the 21st century audience ?



The Illusionists

One of the last sunny weekend afternoons in London, we watched The Illusionists at Apollo. We had watched Now You See Me and we wanted to watch the real deal. It wasn't as grande obviously. But it was wonderfully done. 

The Mentalist opened the show with the oldest trick of all, pick a card from a pack and guessed a lot of things which he actually manipulated the audience into thinking
The Trickster was funny with audience volunteers and put up an entertaining show
The Escapologist escaped in time and charming with his Italian accent
The Inventor made a lovely rose for a little girl and he even made her do some magic
The Enchantress and the Gentleman melted solid rings through each other taken from the audience and cut her into two
The Anti-Conjuror, Dan Sperry, is the best of all. He didn't say a word, fashioned himself as Marilyn Mason and brought out pigeons out of everywhere and anywhere. But he also did some really weird things like getting a thread into his nose and out of his eyes. 

Incredible couple of hours!



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After Dark

A short tight novel that tells you the happenings over one night. The story is written like a script and with such detail that your brain automatically starts playing a video inside your head. The camera moves back and forth in the book and in your head. The story moves in and out of reality and surrealism. In some places I had no idea where the story was going but it is still delightful to read.However, the writing style was struggling in some places and the words come out forced. It could be more to do with the translation though.


Tales from Firozsha Baag

Firozsha Baag is an apartment complex in Mumbai largely occupied by the Parsi community. The stories are about some of the families living in it. Not that they are exceptionally different. They are ordinary and that's what makes it beautiful. Ordinary stories woven into each other that by the end of it, you feel they are your neighbours. I can't pick out one or another because they are all together a single entity.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

An Equal Music

It's an ordinary story of love; a rather sad brooding unsuccessful love story. But there is a beauty in it that cannot be captured here. Yet I try.



It's the story of Michael and his love for Julia. A violinist and his love for a pianist who met as students of music in Vienna. But Michael walks out on his music teacher in Vienna, walking out of Vienna and out on Julia. A decade passes on in his sad brooding way but he has joined a string quartet and he is somewhat on the happy side of life. He has gotten over the happiness in his life with Julia and settled for this lesser happy life. At least he has his music, even though the violin is not his own but borrowed from a family friend. Unusual fate brings him face to face with Julia again, and unlocks the door to that little room in his heart where he had locked up his memories of a higher happiness in Vienna, in music, and in love. And they start their duet yet again. But Julia is married and is a mother of a delightful little boy. And Julia is also in the process of losing one of her most precious gifts of life. And their match is never meant to be. The book ends with his losing Julia and with that losing his will to perform but at least he has his music and his Toroni is his only true companion.

The beauty comes in the form of music that Vikram Seth was able to weave into the poetic verses It makes you feel happy or makes you feel sad with equal music. At times I can hear it in my ears. On the happy days when I close the book, I would have a spring or a step or two in my feet. On the sadder days, I feel like sitting alone and uninterrupted and listen to the imaginary music in my ears to let it soothe me, even though I know it is the slow poison to make me ever sadder.

I had no knowledge of classical music of the west before I read this book. And here I am writing a review on it with the Art of Fugue playing in the background. The Art of Fugue has a special importance in the story of their love. Not just in the story when they play it together or when she performs it, but metaphorically as a great yet incomplete musical composition.

It's a slow book. You will need to read about 30 pages to get into it. And then once you are absorbed into it, you must let yourself go according to the pace of the book and it's music.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Last summer long weekend

The weekend began with a dinner with an old friend that I don't know when I will meet again.
Good to wake up early on a Saturday morning to make a quick trip to work to run some errands and grab breakfast, only to come back home and have lunch. It was good that I ate well since the rest of the day was standing dancing festival in a big big muddle puddle of a park after a downpour. 
SW4 was amazing in spite of all that. We heard Gareth Emery on the main stage for a short while before moving to a tent to listen to Orjan Nilsen, not so impressive. But he was quickly replaced by Aly & Fila. 


We moved to the main stage to listen to Sanden Van Door and Eddie Halliwell. We went back to the tent for Paul Van Dyk. And finally got back to the main stage to listen to Laidback Luke closing and finally the Armin Van Burren. 

Image courtesy: CB

That was 7 hours of a trance music. Enough for a long long while I think. By the time Armin came on stage I was so tired I just wanted to sleep and my feet were firmly planted inside a thick swamp. But his music was truly a trance. And I don't even know how I survived... This is what it feels like...


I woke up on Sunday at 7am but my legs were so sore I could barely walk. And I had a train to catch at 9.30. I wasn't sure I could, especially considering the fact that I was to cycle 15kms that day and back the next. But I did. We all turned up at between 9.10 and 9.20, each of us thinking the other is late and we all managed to get the 9.30 train to Wareham. At Wareham we hired cycles and rode to Lulworth cove. 


We then had a long walk to Durdle Door. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
 

We took the coastal route back from Durdle Door to Lulworth and played scrabble late into the night. The next morning we rode easier, probably because we were used to it. We stopped at the Lulworth Castle, pretty for weddings. Then we rode back to Wareham and hopped on a train.  


Some friends, some village, some cycling, some countryside, no cellphone reception, some beach, some hiking, some castle - a complete British holiday in two days.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Circus !

In a span for 4 weeks I watched two circuses (not the one with animals, only people doing weird but entertaining stuff).

I watched a massive circus production in a large auditorium last month. They had web pages full of descriptions of each character and the idea and conception of the circus. It was good, really good. And I haven't seen circus since I don't remember when, so I was impressed. But all the shows were of very few people, some even just one or two people shows. It was far away and it was hard to see up close. I enjoyed it though.

I watched a circus on Saturday, in a small tent with a small gathering of people. It was absolutely breathtaking. It was beautifully presented and had everything I would expect in circus except the trapeze but to make up for the trapeze they had three people on three poles do incredible things. The fire show was the best. It's always been my favourite and it was wonderfully done.


The music was created on stage, as is with all circuses. And all in all they are 7/8 performers and may be a couple behind the scenes making it barely a 10 member troupe. All of this was happening so close you could touch them and some of the shows happen above your head.

If I had to choose one word: exhilarating.


Monday, August 05, 2013

Bookshelf

I felt it's time I needed a new header. But I haven't been doing much lately except, working, watching movies and reading books. And since I can't talk about work and movies are not much to add to, books is all I have.

So here is a header with my bookshelf. It doesn't have too many books because I usually borrow from the library here (there are 4 books on the shelf that I borrowed from the library and 1 that I borrowed from a friend). But to compensate for 10,000 books I added my kindle too...



Sunday, August 04, 2013

Illusions and Art: Leandro Erlich

Leandro Erlich has some really interesting ideas about art. He plays with light and mirrors and creates illusions for art. It's beautiful and fascinating; one needs to be really smart to do this. You can check out some his work on his webpage. I especially love his "Double Tea".

Recently I found on the web that he has an installation in Dalston, called the Dalston House. After reading up on the web I really wanted to see it. It's basically the front wall of a house to the scale and complete with a door and a few windows, placed on the ground. Attached to it is an equally scaled clear mirror at 45 degrees. So whatever is on the floor is visible on the mirror like as if it is standing up on the ground at 90 degrees, ie the front wall of the house.



A few of us went to Dalston on a sweltering hot sunny day. There was a long queue for the installation. A long queue not to see it but to take pictures on it. So people lie on it and take pictures of the reflection and it will look like you are falling off the building or something. Here is the fascinating part. You can take the same picture instead of the floor and put it up on Facebook and you can still make it look like you are falling off a building because, well a photograph is a reflection too. For example, I have a picture of me like I m falling down and I'm trying to grasp anything I can reach while I am actually lying on the floor on my back and pretending to be falling.

As for the installation itself, it's right there. The scale of it is amazing. And guess what it is exactly like what I saw on the web. So it is a fascinating piece of art but I felt the trip to Dalston was wasted.

But Leandro Elrich fascinates me almost as much as Dale Chihuly and I will go to his exhibitions in London if they ever happen.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Facebook forwards and Lord Macaulay

Recently I noticed this picture doing the rounds on Facebook.



I must say I was surprised. I assumed it was hoax. I tried to look up the Parliament archives. But before that I saw a lot of articles about this issue. It's an old forward, very very old. Obviously given it is claimed to be some 1835 archive.

The forward is clearly fake.
For the following reasons given by many people (who claim this is purely faked by Hindu Nationalists):
1. Lord Macaulay was in India on this date and stayed in India a few years staring 1834, that includes 2nd Feb 1835 so he could not have addressed the British Parliament.
2. Lord Macaulay would not have been addressed as Lord then because he was not a lord yet.
3. And most importantly, that this was not his exact quotation.

and many more reasons I do not want to give benefit to, but basically surrounding other fringe points as above.

Also many claim that it could have possibly been mis-linked to a report he produced called the "minute on education" about Indian form of education where in he talks of Hindoos learning Sanskrit and various Sanskrit scriptures and similarly Arabic and Islamic laws.

If we were to look at the spirit and not the letter, this so called "forward" was not forwarded because it was Lord Macaulay (I doubt how many would know of him, I heard his name but I had to google him to know who exactly he was). It wasn't forwarded because it was said on 2nd Feb 1835 or that it was addressed to the British Parliament.

It was forwarded for what it said in the matter of the words and not in the words itself. It is true that there is no documentary proof for what Lord Macaulay said (he might have said the same exact words). But in his Minute on Education, he does talk of Indian education. He does talk of how proud Indians are and how useless it is for British to try to conquer India while they are still proud of their cultural heritage. He instead suggests that British create an English educated class of people who feel that English as a language and everything else British is far more sophisticated and elite than being purely Indian in education and culture and that would be needed to be able to break this country.

In spirit he had said those words, and much much more.

So it's up to you when you read this that you would rise up and say it's a hoax or it is true that is indeed a strategy that was adopted. If "divide and rule" was an acceptable strategy why do you find it so hard to believe they had used this strategy as well?

Update: Incidentally a book will be launched recently, a biography of Macaulay by Dr Zareer Masani. If I end up going to the launch, I might witness some interesting debate.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Once upon a picnic

Once a year my school would take us on a picnic. Every day one section of one class would go. And since we have 2+10+2 classes and the lower classes have up to 10 sections it took us a good few months to get it all done. And the picnics were around the rainy season. Not the monsoon really. But Vizag has a late monsoon Jul/Aug and it has a cyclone storm every Oct/Nov. So you could have rain-free picnic but you could not bet on it. And it was short but it was fun. It had to be a school day so we left at 8.30 and came back by 1.

Picnic was fun at school. We would bring our toys out to the school. We would ride our school bus for about an hour and sing songs. At the picnic spot we would play games, play with the toys we brought, share the different food we brought, run around for no reason at all, sit around and play board games too and I loved the swing.

Most of the times we went to Mudasarlova. It's a reservoir with a park. Occasionally we went to Vuda Park. It is more or less the same, a park with some water body we weren't allowed to go near. In class 7 we went to Coca Cola factory and then to one of the above parks; it happened to be my birthday that day. In class 9 we went to a friend's farmhouse outside the city, it was beautiful. In class 10 we went to a beach resort, again not allowed to go to the sea, but we no longer ran around for no reason or played games. We just took pictures and gossiped!

It can't believe I remember so clearly each place and I even can remember little incidents on each and every trip, from class 3 to class 10!

On Sunday we had a picnic in Hyde Park.
We were so lazy we reached there at 2.45pm (actually it wasn't me, I increased the poundage of my bow and shoot about 70 arrows before I came for the picnic, and I dragged my bow along with me all day). We spread a couple of mats and settled down and really didn't move much. We didn't take pictures. We chose a good strong tree and spread ourselves out, some in the sun and some in the shade. It started raining in between and we pulled everything under the tree. It stopped raining in 20mins and the sun shone bright so we pulled everything into the sun again. We had tiny speakers blaring all kinds of music. We laughed until our stomachs hurt. We wrapped up everything but still went hunting for the sun. We lay on the grass under the sun for a while. And we left at 8pm because it was Sunday and we had the Monday Blues. But the sun was still shining bright.

 If you had been to Mudasarlova in late July and then to Hyde Park late July, you would know they are pretty much the same. I had a picnic, like in school. (Except I came home and cooked and cleaned and ironed clothes for tomorrow.)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Rozabal Line

I did not want to write about this book because I had nothing good to say. This was by far the worst book I had ever read in my entire life. I could not believe that I read and appreciated another book by him called Chanakya's Chant. But I realised that book was different. I did not like his writing style at all but I appreciated the concept and there was indeed a story in it.
This book had very little story. It was a bunch of fact, real or not, thrown in together in a mish-mash bound by such poor writing skills that I cannot believe it ever even got published let alone be bought. And no concept was even explained, but just somehow added together. Did you know that simply by being hypnotised you go back into your past lives, as many as you like. And you see the people exactly as they were, it doesn't matter that one time you were European, once Indian and once Japanese. When he did talk about things other than "facts" the descriptions were so weird and out of place. 

In one place he described an East Londoner claiming that they usually wear Armani clothes and Gucci shoes. I was surprised. I never saw anyone like that and I wondered how did he get the idea. I did what everyone in my generation does. I googled. Guess what ?

An excerpt from The Rozabal Line published in September 2007
"At times Fouad found it difficult to remember his old self. Where had the east Londoner’s spiky haircut, the Gucci shoes and the Armani clothes gone? Fouad, a British-born Pakistani, had lived most of his life as a Londonstani, the popular term given to Asian youth of England, staying out late with his friends, and missing prayers quite often. All that had changed after he went for Haj to Saudi Arabia.
He had found himself in Mecca, wandering among 23,000 Muslim pilgrims from Britain. His head had been shaven, and he had grown a beard. His only clothing was the simple white robe signifying that all Muslims were equal before God—quite a radical departure from Gucci and Armani.
As he jostled with the hundreds of thousands filtering out of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, he joined them in raising his hands to the heavens and chanting ‘Labbaik Allah humma labbaik! Here I am, O Lord!’ "

An article in The Independent published in December 2006.
"... could hardly recognise himself. Gone were the east Londoner's spiky haircut, Gucci shoes and Armani clothes. Yesterday, as he wandered among the throng of pilgrims towards Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, his head was shaven, and he had grown a beard. His only clothing was a simple white robe, to signify all Muslims are equal in the face of God. ...  He is a British-born Indian and, until recently, lived what he described as a Western lifestyle, staying out late with his friends, and often missing prayers. No longer. For he is among a massive wave of young British pilgrims arriving here, motivated in part by an increasing sense of alienation in their homeland. He began the five-day Islamic pilgrimage of Haj yesterday, and at least 23,000 more Muslims from Britain joined him. .... Crowds hundreds of thousands strong filtered out of the Grand Mosque in Mecca towards the desert valley, chanting Labbaik Allah Humma Labbaik - "Here I am O Lord" - and raising their hands to heaven."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Identity crisis?

A friend of mine, non-Indian, was telling me how to pronounce my name correctly! He claimed a certain letter was silent. I told him that in my language you read and write and pronounce in the same way and there is no difference, unlike English.
He asked me what my language is.
I said Telugu.
He asked me what my tribe is.
I asked him what he meant by it.
He said Telugu is my clan. So what's my tribe, what town.
I said I come from a city and it's well mixed up because it's a port town.
He said if India did not exist what would I call myself.
It took me a couple of seconds to recover and the conversation then continued separately in my head and in my words.

In my words I said may be probably "Andhrite".I never say I m an Andhrite. I always tell people I m Indian.
He then asked me what caste I am from.
I told him that I refuse to answer.
He said so that it meant I do not subscribe to it.
If I did, would I be here? I just said no I don't.
The conversation ended.

In my head, what would I be if India didn't exist?
I would still be Indian. I could not think of not being one. The whole idea was alien to me. Like what would be I if there were no gender or human race or what would you be if the universe didn't exist.
We do have multiple identities, but if there ever was a situation where I had to be just one identity, the Indian remains. 
And now I claim a new identity. 
NRI. non-resident, but Indian nonetheless!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Circle of Reason

When I read Amitav Ghosh's writing, I realise why I read. For the love of reading and the art of story telling. 
The story goes on and his stories are strong too. But it's the little detail here and a little extra there, that fills up your heart and makes you fall in love with the characters. He allows himself to follow the story with it's little stories woven around and within and through it. One of the accolades on the cover called him "Sheherazade". How true! The name has the same magic his writing seems to ebb and flow in.

The Circle of Reason completes a circle on a man's love for reason and rationality that were inspired by the Life of Pasteur and fights many a fight with his weapons of reason and amusingly taking the form of carbolic acid. He passes on his passion to his nephew who takes it with him across countries and continents. And in unusual circumstances finds peace in the middle of a desert performing a ritual and winning a fight against the greatest enemy of reason, scepticism. 

Every turn of a page you find a new character or a new shade of an old character. How loved you must feel if you were Ghosh's character for he never abandons you. He gives you physique, a language, some mannerisms, little stories of your childhood that made you who you are and a few generations of history, for what is a man with no history?
Much more loved you  must feel if you were city in his world. For not only do you get centuries of history, you are also colourfully complete with all those characters living and dead that changed your face adding a little detail every time until finally you evolve into a beautiful bustling city full of life. 
And the most loved you must feel being a reader, for it is you who is though a minute part of it but the very last dot of infinite dots that completes the circle.


The White Tiger in two 'India's

I remember seeing a white tiger once in the zoo in Vizag. I never thought it was nice though. The shimmering golden skinned Royal Bengal tiger was more mesmerising, not white one. Against popular advice, I read the book by Aravind Adiga.



I understand why people suggested I do not read it. It digs in hard to pull out the dirt of India. Or rather it tries to. The story in the 'darkness' of the Bihari village is a little made up. It is not really out right horrible or improbable but it tries hard to be horrible. I say it 'tries' because at some level it feels fake. Again, I'm not saying it's improbable; such stories do exist and even worse ones do. What I mean to say is that the author is not convincing enough. Like he is not sure how else to portray poverty. Like he doesn't really know it, feel it or even see it. Like he made up a story without living it and yet wrote the story from a first person point of view. So its like a man who is trying to paint a picture without seeing it.
If you put down a list of all the things about Indian society that can be showcased to the western audience and you weave a story around it, you get The White Tiger. When you write serious book reviews, or film reviews even, you talk of "themes" and "reading between the lines" and what the book is trying to say through the story, but not the story itself. Usually, writers would think of those themes I am sure, but would not have a theme to theme flow chart to let the story flow. This book feels like it has a flow chart. Like someone put together a story just to put together the themes. It doesn't feel like it's written by someone who loves to write. It feels more like it is written by someone who wants to get famous and spent a while researching the formula.

He got the formula right! I can see why this book won the Man Booker. It's a well brought together story that illustrates the way of life in India in the 'darkness'. It shows how common corruption is and at what levels. It shows how a society can absorb you into it and turn you corrupt even when you try not to be. It shows you the two types of India that diverge with every growth story you hear. And in spite of all the shit that it flings at you, it still shows you the hope that India carries with it and moves forward. The hope that anyone can get out of the darkness if they try hard enough. Do they have to kill for it? Well, the book also makes you question morality.
With so many deep thoughts, how can one ignore this book, even if it is badly written ?
What if the author may not have seen a village as poor as Laxamangarh other than in passing, what if the author may never have stepped into a government hospital? He wrote about it convincingly enough for most people who may never have been to India except while flying over it. It is true though, the stories of that India and this India do exist and do intertwine time and again. It is true. And so I can understand why this book won the Man Booker.

It's like Slumdog Millionaire, except more wrong and real. And the last Indian book to win was The Inheritence of Loss! The western world needs to get over the Indian poverty already. It's not romantic.

And apparently he beat Amitav Ghosh to the prize! Oh well, Sea of Poppies wasn't Amitav Ghosh's best writing.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

after the quake by Haruki Murakami

This is the first time I've read Haruki Murakami's work.



after the quake is a collection of short stories with the Kobe quake in 1995 as the central character. Actually not, the quake is not central. It is omnipresent like a background setting but doesn't have a direct impact on any stories or characters. It is a brewing theme underneath the day to day life, and time and again it takes the form of simple emotions.

It's a small book. Just a few stories.
UFO in Kushiro - a man who lost his wife (she left him after the quake) finds out about a UFO sighting with similar consequences, and how to keep bears away.
Landscape with Flatiron - a man left his family to light bonfires in a beach town waiting to die trapped in a refrigerator, and how a young woman loves bonfires.
All God's children can dance - a man finds his father and in the dark dances because all god's children can dance.
Thailand - a woman hates a man enough to wish him dead in the quake, and how she finds peace in a small hut.
Super-frog saves Tokyo - a man fights along side Super-frog to prevent a quake in Tokyo, even if no one else believes him.
Honey Pie - a young girl is afraid of the earthquake man who will put her in a box, even as her parents are stuck in an unexpressed love triangle.

Stories are simple instances, some span over a couple of days, some span over an evening. All of them inexplicably sad. The type of sadness instilled by loneliness and longing, accentuated by the almost matter-of-fact narrative style that accepts the sadness without a fight. Pretty depressing actually. But almost all of them end in a tiny bit of hope, and a tiny hint of a smile. Sad stories with happy endings.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Is criticism a new fad?

(A first meeting conversation)

Where are you from?
India.
Yes yes, where in India?
I doubt you'd know. It's a beach town on the east coast. Visakhapatnam.
Oh. I've actually been to India.
Oh you did? Where about?
Mostly north.  ... I don't like what they did to Mumbai.
What do you mean?
I don't like how the government threw everyone out. All the other cities in the world throw people out organically. London becomes expensive and people leave. But mumbai was built by throwing people out. It could have been more organised.

***

(Not the first time. The rest of the discussion did indeed result in fair understanding of each other's point of view)

I would most definitely support a woman.
Over a man.
Yes, if they are equally qualified. I believe a woman worked harder than a man to get to this equal position.
Now that is discrimination.

***

(A first meeting conversation)

Calcutta is safe. As a woman I feel it's a safe place. People come to help you.
Really, like how?
Well one time some guy commented on us girls and I turned around and started blasting him and people came around to blast him too.
Have you ever considered that if you blast him, he'll get only more inclined to tease girls?

***

Monday, July 01, 2013

Locked in

I got locked inside the worst place possible. Trash. My street has a room where you throw the trash bags in, and the trash is collected from there. This room has a combination lock. I have no idea why. What do people steal from trash, and why does it matter if they do? Anyhow it has a combination lock. I usually Just open the door and throw the bag over into the massive wheel barrow like vessel, usually already piled with other trash bags, all the while standing outside the room.Today this vessel was so filled up that if I threw the bag, it would roll back on to me. So I walked into the room to put it in the second empty vessel behind the first one. I put it in while the door closed behind me. I was locked.
The door is the wooden design with horizontal slanting slits for ventilation. I googled it for an appropriate name for the design but could not find (I mean I googled it now, not when I was stuck inside). So I could get plenty of air and that was a good thing. But no one could see me because the slope is downward. I get light though because it was very bright and sunny that day. I stuck my hand out and I realised I could fit my arm almost nearly till my elbow out. And I could even reach the keypad for the combination lock. Sadly I did not remember the configuration of the numbers on it. It had 6 rows of 2 columns. I could only remember that the bottom right (from my point of view, the bottom left) was a cancel button. So I could keep trying but I need to put the cancel button before I try. I tried to push some keys and see if it works but it didn't.
I remembered I had my smart phone with me. I could slip it out and take a picture. For some reason I was afraid it would fall out of my hands and I would lose the only thing that I have to contact the outside world in case I get stuck here really long. I slipped it in a bit, got worried I would drop it and pulled it back inside. The problem is that my phone is slippery and big and obviously does not bend.
In the far end, the massive gates to the road opened up. It meant that a car was either coming or going out. Luckily it was coming in. I started to scream and shout and bang the doors. The car stopped. I was glad. Then the garage door opened and the car went in. No one came out. No one heard me.
Again I started fidgeting with the keypad. I remembered the location of the first character, but I couldn't remember the rest. I started to slip my phone out again when I saw a person walking past on the far side. This time I really screamed. I screamed out saying I m locked in. He turned around and turned back to leave. I guess he couldn't see anything so assumed someone talking inside a house. I screamed again and again till he finally decided to investigate where the sound was coming from . Then I started to direct him towards me and finally he noticed my fingers flapping desperately out of those slits in the door.
He got me out and the first thing he asks how did I get locked in. Err. I was taking the trash out?

Later my friend told me there is a worse place to get locked-in. The bathroom of a hotel room.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Oath of the Vayuputras - Book 3 of the Shiva Trilogy

The cover page, as always is remarkable.
Lord Shiva in his glory, ready for the battles that the second book leads up to and yet you can never see his face. That is for you to imagine. Rashmi Pusalkar has incredible talent.



I simply loved the first book because it was innovative and interwoven with the myths I learnt growing up. I kept playing a guessing game trying to figure out how everything would connect. The second book was rather surprisingly, Shiva insisting he is indeed the Neelkant and demanding respect. The third however has little story and even less character.

And when there is no compelling story to lead you on, the focus moves on to the art of story telling and the writing style, neither of the author can claim. A better editor would have done the trick! Most of the story telling in Book 3 is restricted to battle strategy. The actually story itself had no story-telling to it. It was all narrative facts, including someone feelings and emotions. Brihaspati simply tells him how he stages his death and why and what needs to be done now. The Chief of Vasudevs explains to him the dynamics of the Vayuputras and the Vasudevs.

Look at this.
The Chief of Vayuputras literally (and I mean it, not figuratively) tells Shiva how they are related and how he will help them. He walks into his court and tells his council that he will help Shiva and everyone in council who were strongly against Lord Shiva who undermines their authority, suddenly decide it's fine for Shiva to have the daivastras. That was because they were so well fooled by their Chief and they cannot see through it and speak up against their Chief,. Yet for centuries this council has been deciding when something turned Evil and when a Neelkant must arise. No wonder the world in such a state of mess.

Tying loose ends is all what the book is about. Some of them did turn out well. Sati being killed by Daksha's men was well done. Unintentional, yet keeping the myth in place. However I thought she would die in a blast that would split her body into a million pieces and scatter them all over India. And the grieving Lord Shiva who cannot cremate her, would travel all across India paying homage to her by creating the legendary Shaktipeets.

Nevertheless, I appreciate the effort and the inspiration that led to a genre of Indian mythical fiction. The younger generations have an alternative way of understanding our mythology and have the same awe factor for Hindu gods as they seem to have for the Greek and Norse gods.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

a tune from a different lifetime

A tune, made of three notes in a sequence lasting roughly 6 seconds.
I don't know who played it, where I heard it from or if it was really played at all. But I heard it, crystal clear. 
I was walking down the road, against the tide of people pouring in into the train station in the evening rush. People everywhere,shouting, talking, screaming, laughing, and the wind in my ears making it harder to hear. Yet, through all the loudness, I heard it distinctly. With the sweetness of little bells on a little girl's dress. With the sharpness of a mind-numbing glass-shattering opera singer. With the calmness of still water rippling to music. The tune reached my ears and I stiffened.

For a couple of seconds I stood still. I knew that tune but I could not place it. I turned towards the music, but that wasn't the direction it came from. And suddenly it stopped. I turned to walk away and then it began. And I was transfixed. It repeated in a loop on and on. And I knew it would haunt me till I remember where I heard it first and what it means to me. I needed to find the tune.

I walked to the bus stop and the tune kept playing. I got on the bus and the tune was still playing. I would prefer to say it was playing in my head because it makes sense. But I would then be lying because it was playing in my ears and I heard it like it was external. I thought of it. I needed to make sense of it. Why it haunts me. Why would it not stop. What is that memory it is trying to bring back to me.

As I stared ahead into nothingness trying to grasp on to anything, suddenly my mind was filled with a hundred different memories from my college days in IITM.The times when I laughed at another friend when she watched horror movies and then came to crash in my room too afraid to sleep alone. Times when in I got calls in the dead of the night because someone needed help with an assignment due in 3 hours. Or those endless nights I slept only for an hour before the exam. Or those days when I woke up to find out it was 7 o'clock except pm and not am. Times when I wept for things that really didn't matter and my friends would try to keep me occupied. Times when we had meetings at odd hours and feel important that really felt important back then. It was amazing that my entire college story hit me in one go. During the day we attended classes and/or slept in between and the nights we lived, in our little universe. 

It seemed to me that the tune was reminding me of the universe I had, a universe I built for myself around things I liked. Everything else was extenal and it didn't affect me. Sigh! If I go down the memory lane, it may end at some point, but if I go up the observer's path that's an uphill hike and there is no end. 

Back to my haunting tune. So the tune kept playing and my mind was playing tricks with the rhythm. By now, the bus reached my destination. I walked home, unlocked the door, dropped my handbag and reached for my phone. The tune was still playing and now it was playing in my hand.

A tune. A reminder. To call a friend. From an another world. In another lifetime.

Food types

I am not really the food type. But I do have different types of food. Just to try. I have a good sense of taste. That is to say I can taste different tastes. Does not necessarily mean that I like a certain taste. I like all of them lightly, none of them largely and that is why I am not really the food type.

So this post about taste-buds and food types comes because after a long time I tried a cuisine that was completely new. Newer than the Ethiopian eat-able plate in Pittsburgh or the potato soup in a bread bowl in Prague. I had Ghanian food.

We have a Ghanian at our workplace (he blogs as well, but differently) who had been planning this for a while. And then in the middle of the day, we took the tube to the end of the district line. Our Ghanian friend had ordered the food before we arrived and there was loads of it. But since it was he who ordered, I don't know what we ordered. I understood someone of it but I can't really name any of it.

Different types of fish, meat, turkey and a chicken like bird called Guineafowl. But I barely ate the meat stuff, I was more interested in the "sides" which I think actually make up a cuisine.

The sides has something that looked like lentil powder but was a cereal of sorts, thought it might be cassava, some kind of beans, plantain, yam, a gooey semi solid made of rice which had really no taste but I loved it. It tasted like an Andhra sweet called chalimidi, except this wasn't sweet. And then a kind of rice, I think called jollof according to wikipedia.

I wish I tasted some dessert. But unfortunately, I don't think I ate much, like always.

It was quite an experience. I want to try it again, may be without a Ghanian. So I can order whatever and then guess what I would get !

And now I want to have chalimidi ! Damn!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Shantaram

I think everyone agrees it's a thick book. But how thick a book is has little do with how physically thick it is and more to do with how it's written. The book to me is three parts and an epilogue. A rather long rambling review. But the book is 900+ pages so...



Part one.
This is the most beautiful part of the book. The literary style flows like poetry describing the most intricate details of the lives of people in Mumbai that will be engraved in your heart. It sets the reader through a voyage of humanity and what it really means to live and let live in conditions that would otherwise be uninhabitable. I use the word voyage and not journey because it isn't something solid or tangible, but letting yourself flow through the ebbs and tides of all feelings that rush at you. Unlike many other foreign authors captivated by the Indian poverty, Shantaram actually understands them. He understands why people fight tooth and nail to get a seat in general compartment and understands why after the train starts moving people settle down amicably. Like he says you need to surrender to India, and surrender he did. The slum, the village, foreigners who call Mumbai their home, all of them have that in common, to surrender and to accept, which is not a weakness but are the strength to survive. A simple, loving life that fights for survival everyday without even noticing it. That to me is India and that is why this part of the book I loved and laughed and cried with.

Part two.
Here is there is this random for-what-love-of-god-do-we-need-that-character Madame Zhou woman and the rather obviousness that it was she who trapped Lin (no longer Shantaram) in the jail. And then the prison and the cruelty of it. Rather disgusting detail of the conditions, the fights, the lice and the worm infested water. I'm not sure if it is true or if it is a massive exaggeration. Slum life wasn't really exaggerated so may be this wasn't either but I can't be too sure. Anyhow here the author begins to lose this readers but not entirely because we are still reading through this random life and hoping that there is light at the end of the tunnel and something great will then happen. But it doesn't. Oddly enough Lin gets out in an hour after someone sees him and he does not go back to his simple slum life. He goes on to become a member of the massive black economy that the overlord Khader Bhai runs. But still it's a life that is believable and everyone knows that there is a massive black market in Mumbai whether or not we have encountered it. So it isn't hard to understand but hard to relate to. We still continue to read in the hope of a massive turning point. But about this time I sort of understand where this is going and then comes part 3. (I had hope of the Sapna story leading to some kind of epicness and was majorly disappointed).

Part three.
Like I mentioned, I understand where it's going and I keep expecting Lin (never again Shantaram) to get involved deeper and deeper into the black economy until he is suffocated by it (and hope he comes out). So he does. And our frightful friendly overlord who trades in currencies and fake passports is suddenly party in a jihad in Afghanistan by trading in arms. Now the author completely lost me. And many of my friends who could not finish the book sighted this point is when they closed the book. Not to say it's not an interesting topic to some. But if it were I would be reading another book based on that and not a book called Shataram. So anyway he goes through the journey. On it he feels cheated by some people he trusted. He comes back miraculously alive.

Epilogue.
I call it epilogue because it sounds like it. The writing has the haste in it to quickly complete the book and in order to do that the author ties up the loose ends quickly. Lin's love is marrying another man. The overlord is dead and there are new factions. A dead man is alive again. The Sapna story dies a premature death. Some other couples have happy endings that were not necessary since we didn't know much about those couples anyway. The group of friends have changed. Some people died, some people left and some people just changed. The face of Mumbai has changed. Time to pack up and go. If you hadn't closed the book already you would be glad that you are about to.

I thought the book was about India, or more precisely Mumbai, or more precisely how this foreign criminal on the run found salvation and redemption on the streets of Mumbai. And not from gurus like how most of the west believes but from the collective common people. I was elated when I began the book but soon enough I was disappointed. The book cannot be titled Shantaram. The only reason I completed the book was that I already invested time in it and I did not want to give it the elite status of joining the list of fiction books I could not complete.

There is another thing that irks me. That it's loosely based on the author's real life. That the author was a heroin addict, committed armed robberies to feed his addiction, escaped from a maximum security prison, and landed in Mumbai with possibly some of the stuff in this book being true. And he is famous and rich and most would say successful because of this book?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brunel and the Tunnel

Wapping station is literally under the Thames, the entrance right on the bank. Marc Brunel made it possible. Actually he made a lot of things possible including machine production and was the first person to envision mass production. He son, Isambard surpassed him and is often regarded as one of the world's greatest engineers.

Brunel Museum was by far the tiniest museum I ever saw. It's actually an engine room for the tunnel. Now used as a museum. But it still had everything. Sketches from the making of the Thames tunnel between Wapping and Rotherhithe, a video about the life of I K Brunel, storied of how young lad and his father made the tunnel happen. It also had a quip on how the tunnel that came after took very little time and money. However, that's now only used for cables while Brunel's tunnel is still used by the Overground, (running underground).

It is worth a visit. Won't take you more than a half hour. But you will love the stereoscopes, is that what they are called, the ones where you peep in to see a scene with a lot od depth that gives a 3D effect. Pretty cool.

I hear they have tunnel tours. Would love to do that sometime.

Outside too they have a lot of art. Murals on the walls. Bridge shaped benches! Would be lovely on a bright summer day.


Monday, March 04, 2013

Colour Wheels

Flowing in waves but straight waves unseen by eyes. A transparent piece of glass can slice it into a million colours and a trillion shades. And the colours continue flowing in many more waves and straight waves. Poetry flows with them. Songs have been forever sung. Feelings and passions swirl and twirl within the many shades. Cold or regal or stable ! Blood or fire or love ! Colours make the world a beautiful place. Black and white pictures are just that, black and white and unreal.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Delirium


I slip in and out of sleep, in and out of dreams. I am aware. I am busy working when somewhere in the horizon I see a blast of lightning. Instinctively I duck away under the table. After a few seconds there is rumbling and then an intense wave of blasting air shattering the glass walls and debris hit everywhere. For a moment I am deaf. Then I am not. I hear people screaming and I get out of my hiding spot and run around to try make some sense of it when a wave of water crashes in from the glass wall that no longer exists. There is no water body around. Hard to comprehend. And the wave of water takes me with it and crashes into another wall. Again, the wall no longer exists and I felt myself being dragged towards it when someone grabbed me and gave me a handhold. Can't tell if it's a table or a chair. I slip in and out of sleep, in and out of dreams. I am aware. The whole world turns over as the water drags me but I am not falling. I am floating in free space. And then I settle on the hard floor. I am the only one of the hard floor. Everything is normal as it was before the blast. I pull myself up and remember that it was a dream. I feel flushed. I need to go to a quite place. I get out through a door and into a tiny little room in a house with a bed. The setting isn't right. It cannot be. There is a woman asleep on the bed. I wake her up. I ask her who she is. She stares blankly. I tell her it is not possible for her to be here. I question how she got here. She mumbles. I tell her I know this is a dream and I challenge her to tell me otherwise. Her world starts twirling over. Wait, I am falling. I hit the hard floor. I get up. She isn't there. Nothing is in an office closet. I dust myself off. I slip in and out of sleep, in and out of dreams. I am aware. I trace my steps back. The whole world was shattered. There was water. The walls are broken. People are trying to get on their feet. The wave had receded. The horizon warms again and there is a low thud of walking. It can't be Godzilla surely. I know this is a dream. I turn around and I run. I do not stop till I am on the street. A lot of people walking around. The building looks normal. Nothing is broken. There is no water. I slip in and out of sleep, in and out of dreams. I am aware. I start walking on the road pointless but determined to do something physical that gives me more command on my senses. It's hard to walk around a throng of people. But I am invisible to them. I am in a dream. All of it. I slip out of sleep, out of dreams. I am aware. Lying in my bed. Feeling hot and cold. Delirious.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Movie time

I've watched a lot of movies lately and haven't gotten around to writing about them...

Django Unchained

It was dark and satirical on an extremely strong topic. Every person shot down has a fountain of pulpy blood burst. Every scene has it's glamour and glitz. And a crazy mix of music! A single word to describe it would be Tarantino and everybody knows what to expect yet everybody comes to the theatre to watch it. Though a couple of scenes were a little disturbing the rest of it is pure entertainment. However, I have new found respect for Morgan Freeman.

Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola

Everyone said it already. Pankaj Kapoor was brilliant. Everything else and everyone else was completely utterly random. If the movie makers spent a bit more time on getting a story around they would have had a bit more of a movie. The saddest were Imran Khan with his "posh" language and Anushka who can't seem to get rid of her spoilt girl roles.

Life of Pi

A directorial pleasure. The film was so beautifully made it's unbelievable. I thought the tiger was real through out and was shocked. I found it wasn't real through out and was shocked even more. Pi was incredible in his role and so was the tiger. For all those who think the story is open-ended, you didn't understand the story. Read the book, you might be able to follow it better. If you still don't understand it, watch the film. Keep doing this cycle until you get it. I hope you get it, eventually.

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Kurana

A heart-warming and lovely movie. One of my friends described it as "comfort food". I agree. Every emotion is so subtle that it makes it real. The humour, the romance, the family relationships, all of it. It feels like a smile.

Barfi

Too much and too many characters in one movie. Deaf and dumb doesn't make you stupid or obnoxious or retarded. It was a bit too long and bit too boring I would think. Ileana did a great job though. Finally a role that adds to her talent.

Argo

It was good, really good. But too heavy if you just wanted to watch a movie for fun. Ben Affleck though was unbelievable, at direction.

English Vinglish

Again a lovely film. I want my mother to watch it. Sridevi is as brilliant as ever and I hear she is the most successful comeback big shot actress! Need more from her. Her husband was great. I hear he is the same guy who played tabu's husband in Life of Pi.

Talaash

The less said the better. A beautifully choreographed movie with a pathetic ending that it got me depressed.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Heritage Hyderabad

To India and back I had a rather long and lazy holiday. All my weekdays were the same. Slept late reading books, woke up late into the day, ate breakfast at lunch time and lunch at tea time, watched a couple of movies on TV and then chat a little with the family and then back to reading a book till late in the night. Occasionally I skipped a movie in the afternoon to go shopping.

Weekends however were different.

I reached on a Saturday so the first weekend was absorbed in my fake jet-lag. What it means is that I practically slept all the time I was not awake to eat or bathe.

The second weekend we went to the Golconda Fort. I have never been there before. It was enormous. I had not expected that. I think a second visit is needed. We didn't climb up all the way to the chambers and we didn't stay for the laser show which was supposed to be the highlight. Quite a historic place. It was built by the Kakatiyas in the 13th century, taken over my the Bahmani Sultans, expanded by the Qutub Shahis and finally left to its fate by the Nizams who moved to Hyderabad.


The second weekend we visited family friends in Warangal. Warangal has a lot of heritage sites in and around. The city was the rich capital of the Kakatiya empire. We missed the Kakatiya festival that happened the weekend earlier. We visited the 1000 pillar temple but unfortunately in the night the photographs were blurry and most parts of the temple grounds were closed for renovation. The place of worship was still open and functional. It is a very large Shiva Lingam.



A few minutes drive away lies the Bhadrakali temple. A very large area right next to a beautifully maintained lake. It also has a natural stone that looks like a face.  The photograph again was in the night so it isn't clear but you can see the semi face stone in it.


The next day we went around to the Warangal fort. Another 13th century structure, it was completely destroyed I believe. However, the archaeological society is doing a great job in extracting pieces of stone and putting the pieces together like a puzzle and we have beautifully reset stone archways and statues and framework pieces and chariot and whole structures together. This was by far the best thing on the trip!
This is the original layout

And these are a few restorations.




It was a great trip. I need to do more travelling around in India.

Back after a vacation and into the new year now... back to cooking, cleaning, working and archery. Actually my first archery session back was pretty pathetic, almost like I forgot everything ! Or, time to buy a bow...