Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This book is a masterpiece. The rather simple story of an autistic boy who sets out to investigate the murder of a dog, is turned into a fascinating peek at the workings of a brilliant but literal mind.

At one level, it is a simple narrative for a young reader. At another level, it is a starkly emotional life-evaluation checklist for an adult. The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time is a brilliant book that will continue to haunt one long after the book has been read.

Mark Haddon, the talented master of this piece writes about the making of the Curious Incident here. Like he says in that article, Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.

The Curious Incident listens well and triggers questions.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Will she? Really?

"I am going to write the exam da. I cannot imagine missing it", she told me.

I reacted in utter puzzlement, "You cannot mean that! Surely!"

"Of course I mean it. What else can I do? The next time these papers come, I am not sure I will be in this city", she added.

I could hold off no longer. "But the exam is on your wedding day my dear", my voice rose to a shrill pitch.

She nodded sadly and said, "Right. Luckily the Muhurtam is really early. I can finish that and attend the exam at 10am."

I was speechless by this point. After a few seconds spent in swallowing my disbelief, I said, "All the best lady!"

I still cannot believe that she is going to write an exam on her wedding. Maybe she will change her mind before June. Maybe she won't. Maybe the problem is my single track antique mind :)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Tales in a jiffy

In the last week, I have become a great fan of Ammani's quick tales, truly Filthy, funny, flawed, gorgeous.

The Land of Contradictions plus Extra

Several months ago, Seth Stevenson wrote in Slate that he was trying really hard to like India. He started off his series by saying that it was okay to hate a place and presented the typical begging, dirty, urine reeking India that takes a materially developed foreigner by complete surprise. He went on to grudgingly add some good words about Tendulkar's, the Casino group and other places that were meant to offer comfort; from the lap of which, the depressing reality can be viewed dispassionately. I recalled this article when I read Vimal's post about Globalization. One of the comments in that post mentioned that rural India will probably remain largely unchanged for the next several years. I couldn't help but agree that India is a land of such vast contradictions. There is so much diversity that it is hard to 'typeslot' this country. Sometimes, I hate the fact that this is how my nation seems to an outsider. At other times, I am proud to see that India is becoming a hot spot for many different things - some for flattering and others for not-at-all flattering reasons.

On one side, we are fighting hard with China to become the number one sweat shop in the world. On another side, we are teaching the West to meditate and de-stress. Which other nation can effectively cause stress to its natives while turning Yoga into a multi million (maybe my math is terribly wrong. Perhaps it is in the billions?) dollar industry? A psychologist I know mentioned that his waiting room is full of IT and ITES professionals these days.

On a third side, the Laloos of the country are refining the ridiculous. On a fourth side, rural India still needs so many basic amenities. On a fifth side, the urban crowd has so much more wealth to flaunt, liquid cash to burn. There are many more sides and far greater contradictions than sides.

Like Tharoor states in the first chapter of his book India: From Midnight to the Millennium, "And yet India is more than the sum of its contradictions. It is a country held together, in the words of its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, "by strong but invisible threads.... About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive." ."

Evidently, Ayn Rand who said, "Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." did not have India in mind!

In a land teeming with billions, can there really be a single good approach that will benefit all, hurt none and can still be implemented? I guess not. There will be good ideas that will benefit a number of people and those will be pursued even when armchair experts lament the loss of Indian-ness. A single common good is Utopian. A greater common good is realistic. That is why there are Pizza Huts and there are beggars outside their doors.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Breakfast with the Bumblebee

I like breakfast meets. Particularly the ones that happen on Sunday mornings. It is a nice reason to get up early on a holiday and it also sets the pace for an interesting day ahead. Last Sunday (hey, is it just yesterday? Trust a Monday to make you forget that!), my family visited a good friend's home for breakfast. I was visiting their home for the first time and from my earlier meetings with this good friend (let us call him Mr.Bee), I knew it would be an interesting morning.

Mr.Bee is a fifty something person who has a tremendously successful foot in a lot of pies (forget the bad metaphor). He does some serious spice trading, dabbles in travel and real estate, networks with such a zeal that the phones in his home ring non-stop and makes interesting conversation with an unhurried air. He is always bang in the middle of some activity and volunteers to take on more. Happily married to a wife who makes awesome masala dosas and full of fatherly pride for a daughter who refuses to wear jewellery, this man is amazing.

While we were waiting for breakfast to be served, in polished silver plates, I struck a conversation with him about his passion, travelling. His eyes lit up and he told me he was off to Sri Lanka in June. "Do you want to join us?" he asked all of us. And before I could get an answer in, he was telling me about an Alaska trip in the offing. My eyes lit up now and I asked him all sorts of questions - when, where, what, how, who? He told me about the cruise he had in mind, how long the trip should be and how he would be delighted if we joined him. And all this when I had not even started complimenting the great breakfast! Now Alaska is something that I intend to pursue. He said next May. Hmm...I have an entire year to dream!

Mr.Bee was pretty well informed on a lot of topics. He moved on from Amadeus for travel reservations to the proportion of peaberry and chicory for a perfect cup of filter coffee, with effortless ease. At the end of a truly sumptuous breakfast that lasted long enough to double up as lunch, we left his home laden with farewell gifts.

In case you are wondering, I got a very pretty yellow Georgette saree as my gift. And did I mention that he designed his house all by himself and that Inside-Outside want to feature it in one of their issues?

It was one amazing breakfast meeting!