Monday, 27 July 2015

A P J Abdul Kalam

A P J Abdul Kalam - 1931- 2015

There are not many living people I consider my role models. Since the day Kalam became India's President, I've looked up to him as my source of inspiration, of strength when I needed it, as the man to learn from when I first formed my principles. The image of India and the image of the man who dedicated all his living days to a better India and Science has always intersected for me. Days I feel I cannot keep with the world I think of him, the young boy who sold newspaper to make a living yet climbed the ladder to greatness with sheer determination.

 When I was ten I wanted to be a pilot and when I read he wanted to be one too, I thought 'I'll become a pilot for you.' My ambitions changed along the way, but never what I learnt from his story. There was a day few years back when I lost an opportunity I had pitted all my dreams on. And the first person I thought of was him and I mailed him a letter. I never got a reply but knowing he was on the other side was enough to gather myself up. I loved him. I love him.

Things Kalam had done in his life time. He is India's proud proud son. He loved children and he went out of his way to assist the young minds. He even died when he was giving a speech to students. That is how dedicated he was - a man with a singular vision of development.

His soft voice is in my ear as I write this and I realize my dream of meeting him, of finally having the day when I bow down to touch his feet as a student does to her teacher in Indian tradition, is never going to happen. I want to cry, to fight the truth he is dead. He always seemed like a man death will be scared of. It makes us aware that time is not always enough and that we need to make each moment count.

I love you, sir. Nothing can make you less alive for me. No even death.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

#2. Reading Challenge 2015 books' reviews

Back again for more book reviews!

I picked these for this time -

A book with more than 500 pages: Pandora by Jilly Cooper
A classic romance: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A book that became a movie: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Pandora by Jilly Cooper. 

No picture ever came more beautiful than Raphael's Pandora. Discovered by a dashing young lieutenant, Raymond Kelvedon in a Normandy Chateau in 1944, she had cast her spell over his family - all artists and dealers - for fifty years. Hanging in a turret of their lovely Cotswold house, Pandora witnessed Raymond's tempestuous wife Galena both entertaining a string of lovers, and giving birth to her four children: Jupiter, Alizarin, Jonathan and superbrat Sienna.

Then an exquisite stranger rolls up, claiming to be a long-lost daughter of the family, setting the three Belvedon brothers at each other's throats. Accompanying her is her fatally glamorous boyfriend, whose very different agenda includes an unhealthy interest in the Raphael. During a fireworks party, the painting is stolen.

The hunt to retrieve it takes the reader on a thrilling journey to Vienna, Geneva, Paris, New York and London. After a nail-biting court case and a record-smashing Old Masters sale at Sotheby's, passionate love triumphs and Pandora is restored to her rightful home. - See more at:

Jilly Cooper
I found this thick book with an interesting cover lying in the second hand book store and I thought Hmmm…should I get it? I’m really glad that I did. This was the first time I was reading something by Jilly Cooper and after Pandora it is not going to be the last.

The book is set during the 19th century and revolves around a painting called Pandora by a famous painter Raphael. The painting is the pride of the Cotswold household, a family of artists and art dealers. The seven sins that Pandora releases in the painting find their way into the plot, ending with Hope finally being restored. There is no one dull moment in the book, absolutely none, it is that interesting! I love the world of artists and paintings and this book had me drunk on it. The multiple mysteries, suspense, adventure, twists, romance (sex is something Jilly is not shy about, everyone has done it with everyone in the story!), dramatic moments and even a legal moment for a law student like me keeps the pages turning. The characters are crazy and individual. You begin to like a character but soon find out their dirty secrets and you go…What!? I hate you now! and the kinda characters that appear despicable happen to be the ones you fall in love with. I think that is genius plotting!
After I turned the last leaf of the book, I was consumed by this crazy desire to paint and maybe create a masterpiece? I did draw but it was no painting or no masterpiece. However that is how addicting the book is. I couldn’t stop thinking or talking about it for days! I would definitely recommend this book.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 

I found this summary online thought it apt to describe this book. –

Wuthering Heights,  published in 1847, revolves around the passionate and destructive love between its two central characters, Emily BrontĂ«'s headstrong and beautiful Catherine Earnshaw and her tall, dark, handsome, and brooding hero/devil, Heathcliff.
Many people, generally those who have never read the book, consider Wuthering Heights to be a straightforward, if intense, love story — Romeo and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like person, from childhood (about seven years old) to his death in his late thirties. Heathcliff rises in his adopted family and then is reduced to the status of a servant, running away when the young woman he loves(Catherine Earnshaw) decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated, and sets about gaining his revenge on the two families that he believed ruined his life.
I’ve heard much about this book and Bella is obsessed with this in Twilight, I thought why not read it for the challenge. I don’t know what I was looking for…I knew it had to do with an unconventional love story but this story was just disturbing. How does one call this a romance?
Heathcliff  is sadistic, dreadful, and evil. Catherin is someone I thought I should like but her character never connected with me. In fact, I completed the book with no favorite character, even the protagonist, Mr Lockwood, who I thought was being overly interested in the dead Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine’s daughter Cathy, Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff.
The writing itself was good and that was the only think that made me finish the novel. Also, my curiosity to know just how twisted and dysfunctional the characters will get. How did Bella even compare Edward with Heathcliff?
The ending is something I was pleased with. I had liked the character of Hareton, he seemed to be the only sane man (or at least the least insane) in the whole drama, and I was glad he got to start his life fresh and Cathy got freedom from Heathcliff. I closed the book happy, but that didn’t made it a pleasing read.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Just how many times am I going to keep re-reading Harry Potter. Maybe forever, it seems. This is my third time reading Half Blood Prince and I still couldn’t put down the book. This book was my exam breather. After long hours of looking at my law notes, Harry Potter was the relaxation.
Half Blood Prince always made me sad. It is where Dumbeldore dies and going through his death is fresh each time for this Potterhead. But it is also now that Harry realizes that defeating Voldemort is no easy job, even for a great wizard like Dumbeldore, and that his near future is decided in respect to the job he has to do. Off the series I feel this is one of the most important, for it gives all the vital details that holds the entire plot together. It never ceases to amaze me how great a story weaver and story teller Rowling is!

Happy Reading!

note: images don't belong to me!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

#1. Reading Challenge 2015 books' reviews

Taking hiatus from my blog is becoming a habit. Never before has writing and school hoarded my time as now, but I shouldn’t complain because both have been very productive. A short story of mine got published in an anthology called In Rain We Met. And four of my poems are also set to get published in another! And I’m currently interning under a Judge in the High Court so that is something I couldn’t be happier about! I finally feel I’m going somewhere instead of just hoping I am, that is a good feeling. Something else I’ve been keeping up with is the Reading Challenge. I’m reading Gone With the Wind and wow, what a book! It got me thinking that I had better get around to writing out those reviews of the books I’ve read towards the challenge. I decided to do short reviews of three/five books each post, that way I’ll have something to keep my blogging up.

I’ll start with these-

A book you started but never finished: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A book based entirely on its cover: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
A book with a one word title: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
A book set in a different country: Specials by Scott Westerfeld
A book by an author you have never tried: Extras by Scott Westerfeld

A book set during Christmas:  Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) by George R R Martin.

There is no more popular a person that George R R Martin. The HBO TV drama set on his books had become an addiction and I who love the show wanted to see just how well the show was keeping up with the books. So, in spite of its scary thickness, I set about reading the book. I already knew the story and it seemed to make the book come more alive for me. Martin is an exceptional story teller and I didn’t find a dull moment. The characters are so well rounded and the politics in the story cannot be more thrilling. As compared to the show, the gore and sex scenes didn’t affect me as much but they are definitely more gruesomely defined.
His writing is so honest and bland in its facts; there is no hiding behind pretty happenings, no evil thought gone unrecorded, no scene beautified. The characters are candid – with no clear distinction between good person, bad person (as it so less often happens in life) – that you get to see why they do what they do. You have to accept a reluctant respect for even the vilest of characters (Cersie Lannister, for instance) because you get to understand them. I think that is what makes his story so powerful.
If you have watched the show, you know how well the Game of Throne world is created. The book has created a place as tangible as the Harry Potter world is to Potterfans. I love that he has so many dominant female characters. There is something gravitating about bad-ass female characters and the book definitely feeds that need.
It is definitely a powerful book. If you have loved the show, you need to give his book a read to understand the bits and pieces the series has left out. 

The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield.

I came across Uglies when I found a link for books one who like if they enjoyed the Hunger Games. The name coupled with the cover made me curious so I tracked down the ebooks.

The story is set in the future where once a person turns sixteen they undergo a surgery that makes them “pretty”. Those under sixteen are called Uglies. The “Pretties'” only job is to have fun and party is their way of life. Tally Youngblood, the protagonist, is an Ugly waiting to undergo her surgery. She has been waiting for the day all her Ugly life and then she meets Shay who introduces thoughts Tally has never had before. Shay doesn’t want to be a Pretty but remain as she is. This idea goes against everything Tally had believed so far and is the seed that initiates a series of rebellious acts. Shay tells Tally about the Smoke, a hideout settlement where the those who prefer not to have the surgery run away to. When Shay disappears the Government recruits Tally as a spy and asks her to locate Shay and find out the secret place of the Smoke. But when she reaches the Smoke Tally sees a world that is both frightening and alluring. She meets David, head of the Smoke, and everything changes for Tally. She sees the beauty in remaining as one is born and living in a world that doesn’t involve all round the clock partying. But things go wrong and Smoke is invaded by the authorities.
In book two, Tally undergoes the surgery and is now a Pretty. Tally discovers that by becoming Pretty an aberration is introduced in their brains that prevents one from having clear thoughts. Tally finds a loop hole, by keeping one high on adrenaline, she is able to think clearly. Zane (her boyfriend) and she self induce pain/hunger/thrill to keep their mind from going hazy to think their way through this life and to find the relocated site of Smoke.

Book three is when I started to lose interest in the story. The plot started to gain a routine. Go to Smoke- get caught- get a surgery- try to beat the authorities again. In book three Tally gets a special surgery that makes her something of a superhuman and is called “Specials”.

Book four’s protagonist is no longer Tally and is set in a world after the revolution Tally Youngblood had caused. Yet, even this world has its weirdness and shortcomings.

Overall, if you are really into YA fiction, maybe you will like the book. I soon got tired of the story but sat through the rest to complete what I started. Book Four felt like the author was trying to drag the story longer than needed. I would give the series two and half stars.  

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Luther and Nora Krank are fed up with the chaos of Christmas. The endless shopping lists, the frenzied dashes through the mall, the hassle of decorating the tree... where has all the joy gone? This year, celebrating seems like too much effort. With their only child off in Peru, they decide that just this once, they'll skip the holidays. They spend their Christmas budget on a Caribbean cruise set to sail on December 25, and happily settle in for a restful holiday season free of rooftop snowmen and festive parties.
But the Kranks soon learn that their vacation from Christmas isn't much of a vacation at all, and that skipping the holidays has consequences they didn't bargain for...
A modern Christmas classic, Skipping Christmas is a charming and hilarious look at the mayhem and madness that have become ingrained in our holiday tradition. (From the publisher.)

I truly enjoyed Skipping Christmas. I wasn’t looking for the Christmas magic so I was not disappointed with this plot that dealt with the mundane of Christmas rather than the fantasy and elves Christmas is usually about.
Grisham’s writing had a humorous touch that kept me reading. I like that Luther Krank was bold enough to come up with the idea of “Skipping Christmas”. It’s funny to see the society’s reaction to it. And the Krank’s reaction to that reaction. Luther comes across as a Scrooge but with his reasons. He breaks tradition and deals with the criticism from neighbors with a determined(almost) outlook. He almost accomplishes this when his daughter calls up and tells them that she is coming home next day for Christmas with her fiancĂ©. Then there is a dramatic rush to prepare for Christmas and putting off the Caribbean cruise. The Kranks soon realize that this last minute preparation is impossible; that is when the entire neighborhood, amused by the Krank’s predicament, chips in to help. Here is where the spirit of Christmas plays its role-the spirit of helping, of giving and of forgiving. When the daughter arrives, she finds her home brimming with people, with food and the atmosphere of Christmas.

That's a warp for today! 
Have you read any of these books? 

note: images don't belong to me!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

In a World of Stories

We live in a world of stories. Our walking life is dominated by it. Our thoughts and memories are stories. Our words are part of a story. Music, dance is story. Sans stories there is no movies, no television series, no Sherlock or Game of Thrones. It is a boring world, where one can only speak in clauses, where there is nothing to keep our mind occupied and no form of art to mesmerise us.

Story is oxygen of sorts. It continues us, it gives us writers something to live for (imagine a world without stories!). Stories feed and form this world; it gives it history, it gives it a future. If not for stories we would not know Alexander the Great or why the Great Wall of China was built. Or even how Earth was formed! Mysteries would be the way of life and it won’t even be fun. Entertainment will be non-existent, there will be no sanctuary called library. No nerds, no book worms, and maybe no exams too!
Yeah, life will be worth living. Sure.

So here is to stories. To the story writers who pour their blood and soul into their words. To those artists who depend on stories. To the men of Stone Age who thought of putting their stories on cave walls. To the first man/woman/child/(or maybe Lucy?) who started this tradition of stories.  Thank you.

How do you think the world would be without stories?

note: images do not belong to me.

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