Sunday, November 30, 2008

Making History: Stephen Fry

I read this book when I was in the 11th standard. That’s a long time ago. I must have reread it at least 20 times since then and almost know the dialogues by rote.

This book is very immensely significant to me. I read it at a time when I was unsure of what I wanted to do in life, still am though. Yet I have never been so influenced by the protagonist of a book. I am a huge fan of Fry and this book takes the cake without a doubt.

This book is difficult reading, even for someone who has been reading a long time. The writer’s use of British inside jokes, reference to classic American movies and actors, use of phrases rarely heard in India, use of German and Latin words, its backdrop of history, plus the tendency to waver and a lot of soliloquizing contributes to the abstruseness.

But once you make an effort, it is like biting into a banana and finding strawberry juice inside.

The book revolves around a history graduate pursuing his PhD. Contrary to the two categories of stereotyped historians, he belongs to a third imaginary category, the PhDude, history surfing, screaming out juvenile cusses all around type. The protagonist, named Michael Young aka Pup, is the one of the most hilarious creations for me ever.

Then there is Leo Zuckermann, the theoretical physicist, who is pretending to live a Jew life while he was in actuality, born the son of a Nazi storm doctor. Jane, Pup’s girlfriend, who ditches him twice, without understanding or even making the effort to know what he is doing.

There’s the devil Adolf Hitler himself, also called Dolfi. Rudolf Gloder, the fictional and even more terrible and intelligent Nazi who would have come to power in case Dolfi was never born; he, who would conquer Russia and Britain and create a world dominated by Germany, America, Japan and Italy.

Then there’s Steve Burns, Michael’s gay interest, although he doesn’t really know him in the real world, but meets him in the alternate reality.

Enough, you wouldn’t understand a thing. The book deals with Mikey and Leo’s attempt to recreate a world rid of Hitler by going back in time and sterilizing his father using new age male pills :)
The attempt backfires, as Mikey wakes up in America and finds himself in a world ruled by Gloder and a place where black rights or free speech is never heard of. He sets out to find Leo, who is working on the same kind of experiment even in this alternate reality and they, with the assistance of Steve, make sure that Adolf Hitler lived so that the world would be a better place.

The author’s use of movie scripts style in the middle pages, fluent, fruity and biting British humor, the excellent chemistry, be it between Jane and Pup, Pup and Leo, Pup and Steve is endearing.

The book puts across a controversial theory that people are genetically programmed to behave in a certain manner, and it is not the upbringing or the surrounding that matters. Somehow, its discards the notions of fate or destiny, or even free will. Leo’s father, a concentration camp doctor in Hitler’s world, creates a sterilizing water in Gloder’s world (this of course originates from the Hitler family well, in which Leo and Pup had mixed in the male pill originally :) ) which is used to eliminate all Jews in Europe.

Why am I so much in love with this book? Apart from the fact that it has been compared to classics like Catch 22, it introduced me to history. It introduced me to British humor. It introduced to me movies, books I had never heard of.
I have changed over the period of time, and now I find a certain resemblance between Pup and myself and if a book can do so many things, it truly is amazing.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some original quotes :-)

Morally, you are not in the wrong until the opposite side actually knows that you are.

Better to be an ignorant fool than a wise fool who shrouds himself under a cloak of arrogance and rigidity.

I was never on the cliff waiting for the nudge to push me down, rather, I was dangling from the precipice waiting for the finger crunching foot-stamp. Now I am free-falling. The thud will come and it may hurt, but until then I am feeling the wind in my hair!

When you start day dreaming, there is someone up there who always sends an interrupt.

It never was about you against me. It always was about you and me against me and you.

A lie, however good or sincere it maybe, is still a lie, and thus, hurtful.

The Universe is governed by laws; the unfortunate part is God doesn't understand them.

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My moonshine!

O Sweet Sunshine! Soothing Moonshine!
Your appearance, freckled, fresh and fine.
A writers muse; a lovers ruse,
like a canvas of colored hues.

The eyes, a gateway to another life;
The mind full of strife.
Your countenance, epitome of grace,
reminds me of greener days.

Like violets on the air you freshen the mind;
this karmic solace, this eternal peace,
where else can one find?

You smile, you suffer, and its contagious.
Like the plague of yore it will spread.
Drowning me in pools of sorrow,
leaving emotions numb and dead.

You can whisper all day long in my ears;
And shed in my hand all your pearly tears.
For I shall stash every single one away,
to reflect your crystal beauty on a happier day.

Walk with me, trust in me:
Into the crowded streets where we shall both be free.
The touch of your body is like a blazing furnace.
Like sea, salt, silk, coal, ice,
like the unrelenting strike of a mace.
Talk to me, trust in me;
Won't you ever falter, blessed be thee.

The focussed eyes, the luscious lips, the poised movement.
The touch of your hands, a gift heaven sent.
In your train of emotions I ride;
This feeling towards you, of love and sincerity, shall never subside.

Unmatched in sheer exuberance,
Unchallenged in outright defiance,
Unrivaled in your austere beauty,
Gracious like a dove,
Here's the sweetest one I will ever know?

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A day in my life

23.05.08-Today, was one of the better days of my life.

From early morning to evening I had nothing absolutely to do. My Ipod had run out of charge, my phone battery was low and it was annihilated by a couple of long calls. My laptop battery runs for 4 minutes and within that timeframe I surfed Orkut, checked my email, read four lines of Book 1 of the Bartimaeus Trilogy before the battery feebly died. I read no books (ebook, study book or novel). Plus there was no electricity, no water. And I was and am miserably sick and I was alone. Such sad times bring out the best in people, and I found the best companion I could ever: Me, Myself and NO Irene.

During the day, I stared at the sun, at the trees, drank water, strummed a few notes on the guitar, drank water again and again (it was humid), opened the refrigerator and closed it many times, strummed again, reconstructed the 1st World War, a map of Africa, tried my hand at Gabriel G Marquez and left it after 3 lines, sang an awful rendition of Lost for Words by Floyd, Hello by Blackfield and a spiteful version of Blunderwall oops, you know what, almost started writing a modern day satire on Lord of the Rings etc etc.

I realized what I had been doing over the past two years: reading less, writing lesser, working excessively at times for stupid things, being inherently nice and looking for goodness in others. Well, no more Mr. Nice guy, meet Dr. Nasty.
And so the day passed and never have I been so close to myself and at peace.
At the end, I happened to eat some stale rolls from Monginis and am sick again.

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A disclaimer I wrote for the Goa trip, just found it funny :-)


I, __________________________, Roll no: _____________, of _____ Year of Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology, Nerul, Navi Mumbai have read the rules and regulations provided forthwith and agree with it completely. I shall take full responsibility for all my actions in Goa and enroute to Goa. In case of any untoward incident, I will not hold the Organizers responsible in any possible manner.




Rules and Regulations:

· Drunken Driving will not be tolerated and the strictest of action will be taken against the offenders.

· Only valid License Holders will be allowed to drive bikes/ cars. If found otherwise, proper and stern action will be taken against such students.

· The behavior and conduct of the students at all times should be in line with the standards set by the reputation and prestige of the college.

· Students should move around in groups and each group will have a coordinator appointed by the Organization Committee.

· A Bus Service can be provided and recommended for any kind of sightseeing for a group of non-licensees mentioned above.

· Students are asked to hire vehicles with YELLOW number plates and collect the Registration and Insurance papers to avoid any kind of trouble.

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Pincer movement

The pincer movement is one of the oldest and most widely used maneuvers in military history. It has been used right from the times of Hannibal at Carthage to the Second World War at Stalingrad.

Over the years it has been used tactically, that is, on the battlefield itself to strategically, on a larger scale where the entire army movement is based on this theory.

If an enemy force is right in front of you, then a pincer movement is like a hug around him. It can be a single armed hug where one pincer tries to envelop the opponents or a two armed one wherein double envelopment can be achieved and result in the annihilation of the enemy forces.

One of the oldest examples of a tactical pincer movement that is still taught in military schools all over the globe is that of Cannae. The Romans outnumbered Hannibal Barca, the leader of the Carthingian forces. He stationed his cavalry at the flanks i.e. at the extreme ends. His center retreated in an orderly manner thus enticing and later trapping the Romans in an arc. Once his cavalry moved from their positions it was no game for the Romans. Their casualties numbered around 60 to 70,000.

A strategic example of a pincer movement occurred in the First World War. The German forces planned to move against the French from the north, like the movement of a scythe. A single pincer consisting of about 6,00,000 men would drive up through Belgium and then south into Paris, the theory being that the last man on the right would brush the English Channel with his sleeve. On the other hand, the other supposed pincer from the south would try to breach the defenses of the French but hold its position at any cost. The offensive was halted outside Paris resulting in trench warfare for the next 4 years.

A famous example of a two-pronged pincer was the famous Battle of Stalingrad, regarded as many to be the turning point of the Second World War. The German forces had captured the city (now called Volgograd) on the banks of the river Volga. The Soviet Forces had a few pockets in the city itself but the majority of their army was across the river. Attempts to reinforce their soldiers on the German side were bloody as depicted in the movie ‘Enemy at the Gates’.

The German Flanks were, however weak. Poorly equipped Hungarians and Romanians occupied the north of the city along the Don River. The southern flank was weak in a similar fashion. The Soviet offensive (codenamed Operation Uranus) broke through the north and the south in a perfect pincer movement and linked up behind the city, thus trapping 2,50,000 soldiers inside the Stalingrad Pocket. Immediately, two defensive lines were formed; one facing towards the city to prevent any breakout by the trapped soldiers; the other facing outside to avoid any reinforcement of it by the German Army. The total casualties of the battle were around 8,50,000 Axis (German, Romanian, Italian, Hungarian, Croatian et al) casualties.

In the 1971 war, the Indian Armed Forces executed a brilliant multi pronged pincer attack into East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from all sides, coupled with a naval blockade led by INS Vikrant, India’s only aircraft carrier at that time. Within 9 days, Indian Army Forces were deep inside Bangladesh surprising even their own conservative estimates. The final result was around 20,000 dead and 80,000 captured of the Pakistani Army.

The military tactic of a pincer movement followed up by complete destruction of enemy forces has been and will be widely used in future combat techniques.

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The War of the Wills

The 3rd World War has just begun and it is similar to the second in many ways. On one side of the war is Aryan Singh with his nonsensical agendas and grievous views on the Meritocracy. His policies are simple, eliminating and undermining the superior Meritocracy race. His armies are better; he has the lathi wielding and pot-bellied Gestapolice on his side.

On our side are the elite Medical Corps and the respected and money minting Tech Brigade. With no visible leader amongst us we might dither and disintegrate under the onslaught of the Gestapolice. There is a slightly biased yet neutral Media Corps supporting us by propagating our views and sufferings to other rebels and affected people all over the country. A few weeks ago, the siege of Governor House came to an end under heavy losses. Our forces had to fall back to reinforce and reinvigorate themselves. Like it was in WWII, the Gestapolice will not retreat and will try to spread misinformation about the rebels’ activities. A few of our soldiers were nabbed and taken away to the infamous Police Concentration Camps. There was a statement by the head of the Gestapolice, which said that the rebels had used unconventional warfare and WMD’s (Women of Manic Disposition). The highlight of this war has become the widespread participation of the Lady Regiments. They have fought with unnerving ferocity coming under the blow themselves, several times.

We lost the battle but we will win the war. The country was appalled at the blatant lies on live TV. The Media Corps surely is swaying the tide of the war in our favor. Hitler may have had his Goebbels for propaganda, but we have Rupert Murdoch on our side.

Aryan Singh has been trying desperately to avoid a more than Two-Front War. There seems to be a non- aggression pact between him and the Engineering Army of inferior quality, yet a monstrous force to be reckoned with. It is a slow force to mobilize but they have the numbers: around Two Hundred Thousand including reserves in the state of Maharashtra itself. We are waiting for them to be roused.

Then there are the Pharmaceutical Battalions with their Penicillin, the Alumni Reserve with their Pedigrees, and the Dentists with their teeth-shattering technology. We also have the poorly trained nonetheless respected paratroopers from the BSC’s, BCOM’s and the BA’s armed with their Einsteins and Faradays, spreadsheets and complex accounting practices, and their Shakespeares in respective order.

The Meds have a secret weapon and this may affect the civilians as well. All of them have refused to treat members of the Gestapolice. This is a two-edged sword that may turn the civilian populace against us. But it shall have its desired effects too.

For now, we wait for future battles. A tough road lies ahead. But we shall fight on the streets, in the colleges, and the hostels. We shall never surrender. We proclaim forever our right to a meritorious country, not a divided one.

We are still waiting for reinforcements from the Engineering Army. It seems they have exams going on.

Published in RAIT’s College Magazine, The Wall: Written after the Governor House incident where students were lathi-charged by policemen in broad view of the country.

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A crappy article written for DNA NM

Coaching Classes:

Navi Mumbai has become a nucleus for the educational setup in recent years. With the advent of a wave of educational institutions in the fields of Engineering, Medical, Dental and a whole lot of other streams, the number of coaching classes has increased too. The city boasts of a score of eminent coaching classes for all the subjects right from Junior College to Graduation.

The standard of teaching in most colleges in Navi Mumbai has dwindled to lamentable levels despite the spurt in the number of students. As such, students have no alternative but to turn to these reliable saviors- Coaching classes. Private tutors and students alike feel that the concentration level of college teachers is lacking and sometimes appallingly so.

But, are coaching classes so very essential? A year of hard studying on her own didn’t deliver the marks that Shilpi Pathak had hoped for, thus paving the way for enrolling in a coaching class. She believes that the whole system forms a vicious circle. Other students stand by this belief.

Chakravarthy Sridhar, a student of RAIT, who had joined classes for more than half of his subjects in the first year, and stood in the top ten in his college, stresses on the fact that coaching classes are necessary but at the same time detrimental to a student’s education. Some students like Manas Karekar are against the general viewpoint. He believes that coaching classes are like crutches, once students start relying excessively on them, they will never walk on their own.

Prof. Irfan, who teaches Digital Design for technical students, states that students have developed a mindset where they are concerned only with passing and getting marks, hence the obsession with private tuitions. He adds that the coaching classes also conduct their classes in a most unprofessional manner, cramming students in stuffy classrooms.

Prof. Amit Iyer, previously teaching Electronics and now Management related subjects believes that the HSC setup has become a complete rat race to attain the highest marks and thus tuitions are absolutely vital for these students. On being asked who was to be blamed for this ruckus, he said it is the collective fault of the students, their parents and the colleges. He added that the students of today are so used to this system that they are incapable of using reference books on their own.

There is a growing trend nowadays of toddlers hopping onto the bandwagon from their school days. It is alarming as encumbering children at such young ages is the de facto fault of parent’s helplessness and the burgeoning drift towards results and marks. Parents and children have to play an important role to tackle this virus.

Coaching classes can be deleterious to a students overall pragmatic knowledge but have become a necessity now in any field. As long as steps are not taken to improve the standard of teaching in colleges, the classes will stay. Finally, it all boils down to a student.

Some students are consummate in their studies while others are not; most have a laid-back attitude towards education (who can blame them!). But there are things more important than marks or percentages in life.

Think of what William Love Bryan said, ‘Education is...

One of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get.


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A poem a great friend wrote for me once.

I’m a lucky girl, got someone in this world
To tell my deepest secrets to
Fortunately I’ve got someone in my life
And that someone is you
I like the way you listen to me
When I talk about things that matter
I like the way you always stand up for me
When I’m not around
The way we help each other
Through the crazy ups and downs that happen
A thing like this don’t come along everyday
And I just wanna say...
Call on me anytime, call on me rain or shine
Your a friend of mine
Whether it’s day or night, whether you’re wrong or right
You are a friend of mine

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Through my years in college, the home bird that I am, I have rarely ventured far. Commuting up to Vashi is a laborious task, one of the main reasons I never join classes.

So the other day I grasped at an opportunity to take a walk around Vashi in the pleasurable company of a lady friend. The only place in Vashi I happen to know is sector 17. So trudging up all the way to the mini sea shore was a novel experience.

I am not much of a sea-baby, have seen mountain-heads go gaga when they see the sea for the first time. Trust me; you won’t be, if you’ve lived more than half your life, less that half a km away from the beach. And mini sea shore it isn’t much of a shore to the sea. More like a forgotten, decrepit lake of sorts.

The walk inside was pretty endearing though. The walkway, lined with green was something that reminded me of my hometown. There also happened to be some sort of festival over there, meaning crowds; one more thing I dislike. I’d had a tiresome day in college, and howsoever much I may like walks, they do tend to tire me out. So we found a place reserved for elderly and women citizens to sit on and sat a meter apart, I know because that’s how much my hand could stretch out without a trace of human contact!

The story gets interesting now. We were discussing important issues, not like world saving, but salvation on a ‘personal level’ issues. Being brought up in a small town, I am uncomfortable in female company around public places, so I was categorically on the lookout for any kind of intrusive eyes. With a sharp clang, and the cacophony of a hundred Nokia alarms and air raid klaxons sounding all round, a couple of khakis came sauntering in on a Pulsar and stopped right in front of us.

Oh! Another good cop, bad cop routine to follow. I should have trusted these two specimens with a little intelligence though, both were bad cops. With sidelong glances at my lady friend, they both come up to me and asked what I happened to be doing there. The smartass that I am, I said I was taking a walk and was sitting because I was tired. They both delivered ridiculous misbelieving looks that my teachers reserve for the choicest of occasions when I use the lamest of excuses as a cover up.

My lady friend tried to intervene, an inherently flawed move, said her parents knew where she was and it wasn’t wrong to sit in the company of a gent in a public park.

Ouch! Bad cops started a rant about it being illegal and how it was a festival day and there was a bandobast and mentioned about gaadi mein chalo station.

I am a lawyer’s son, have had a few shady encounters with these guys, have a tough skin and would have dished it right back to the nags, but only if it was Ratnagiri, this is Bombay baby. I chose the easy way out. Knew it wouldn’t be beyond the IQ of these guys with their pea sized brains to throw some mud at my lady friend’s character and cook up something frivolous. Festival time means these guys are out on a money drive, and why not make somebody’s day.

I gestured him to come to the side, now it was the three of us, men who would talk business, who could reason without threatening. I asked him for a way out. Thousand came back the reply. I pretended not to hear, I told him I was a student and could give only a fifty. A flabbergasted frown followed up; I was trying to bribe a dishonest police officer with a measly fifty, how demeaning could that be!

They presented a renegotiated deal cutting it down to half. I removed a hundred rupee note, thrust it into their hands and said that’s all I could afford. The bastards smiled; the matter resolved, the cops moved on without ensuring that we leave, leaving us to continue our humble tête-à-tête.

One thing that stabbed me later, I would have gladly paid a thousand quid if I were caught in a compromising position with a pretty lady, but at a meter away almost facing two different directions seems to be a waste of my old man’s money.

I proportion blame to the whole for the actions of a few. So I change from Airtel to Vodafone, just because a couple of Customer Execs were unhelpful.

I started off this article wanting to present an anguished and concerned tirade against these sods. Uncouth ruffians, overweight buffoons, I have a hundred other adjectives in my arsenal, but somewhere in the middle I lost track.

The point is, I really do hate cops, someday if I have the necessary means and power; there will be a change, mark my words.

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