Book Review: Sceptical Patriot

I had been wanting to read this book for a while. I have followed the author (@sidin) for quite a while on a twitter. He does write pretty well, and there were several several good reviews of the book on the twitter feed.

So when the new kindle landed up on my door step, this was the first book I bought.

  • The book starts off at a brisk gallop. Sidin gives his reasonings on why he started writing this book. And the proclamation that this would not be a dry history book, but more of an enjoyable read of Indian history and some of its misinterpretations.
  • I liked the idea of taking apart of a few ‘India facts’ and also the concept of giving a rating to it at the end of each fact. This rating shows how much of the ‘fact’ is truth.
  • I really enjoyed his in-depth research of some of the topics. Most of the history of India can actually found only in history analysis books written by Europeans. Sidin’s readings of these books saves us time, money, and energy. He condenses them wonderfully into smaller chunks we can digest.
  • There is not much of a humour (as he claims) but the light hearted writing style makes one smile at times. Well, I guess that is what humour is.
  • The chapter on the Cholas was a delight to read – it has always been one of my pet peeves that, this chapter was never covered in depth in our school history books. For the extent of the empire that the Cholas had, this deserves a full chapter in a history book. not a paragraph on the Tanjore temple.
  • Cantering on, however, one of Sidin’s choices of the India facts gets a little too dry, and this is strictly my opinion. And this is probably because of his self-confessed bias towards some areas. Any author who writes about something that he is more passionate about, will write more and with deeper interests in those areas. And yes, I am talking about the ‘India was the richest country’ fact. Perhaps, it is my aversion to economics, and ‘numbers’ in general, which put me off, but folks who like that kind of thing will surely enjoy it. Just not my cup of tea (it should actually be coffee!).
  • The last two chapters are well written. This is Sidin’s heart talking on what his dreams are. And how the facts in these books should be interpreted, and why Indians are the way Indians are. Ofcourse, this is subject to personal opinions. I agree with some parts, and am neutral to some. I am sure other readers would feel the same way too. I would go to the extent of saying, that the last chapters some times does get a little prescriptive, which might not bode too well with some readers.

On the whole an enjoyable read. It took me about 3 days of a few hours reading every day on my kindle.

 

Restaurant review: China Pearl

swords

(pic courtesy: link)

This cosy little restaurant is in 60 feet road, Koramangala, Bangalore. I had always seen this restaurant when I had passed by it, but had never been to it. One of my colleagues recently told me that, his family likes the restaurant so much that, they lug it all the way from Whitefield to her, once in a few months.

Ambience: Very nice ambience. Lots of Eastern relics in the decor. Swords. Chinese porcelain dolls. Oriental wall hangings etc. They could with some lesser focus lights – some times, these give you a headache. Music is passable chinese background music – nothing fancy.

Menu: Very clear. Something that pleased me immensely was a note at the bottom of the first page – “For our vegetarian patrons, please turn to page 7″. Most vegetarians are inherently skeptical of what they would get in a Chinese restaurant, since they have this predisposition that it would mostly be non vegetarians. So this note and a few pages of pure vegetarian menu goodness, was a welcome change.

Food: Fairly authentic. Slightly high on the oil, but tasty. We had the crispy fried vegetables, veg ball in Hunan sauce, and Five treasure chowmein. Noodles were hakka type, well cooked, but just the right amount. Quantity of the starter was generous.

Service: A restaurants acid test with respect to service, is how well they respond on a busy saturday night. It was saturday night, and huge crowds. Service was slow. It tends to irritate customers when it takes 10 minutes for the bill to come, and another 15 minutes to get back the change. One nice touch on the service, I should mention though. My kid (who is 4 year old) got his own kiddie melamine plate (cartoon characters and all), and a small plastic fork and spoon. That is a first that I have seen.

Cost: Overall damage was around 700 bucks. It is on the slightly pricier side, but it is worth it.

Overall: Enjoyed the meal and the ambience. Perhaps, if it was not a saturday night, and if service had been better, we would have enjoyed it even more.

 

The Argumentative Follower (Vanthondan) – Part 3

Story so far: Nambi Arooran of Thirunaavalur had almost gotten married. Lord Shiva in the guise of an old Brahmin comes and stops the marriage, and reminds him of his duties to be fulfilled on earth. [Part 1] [Part 2]

Nambi thought back to his time in Kailasa.

Lord Shiva was once admiring his own beauty on a mirror. He was so pleased at his own beauty, that, without realizing what he said, he said – “Sundaraaa vaa” (Come here, my beautiful one). The powers that Shiva had, his reflection stepped out as a person from the mirror. From that day on, Sundarar had become a constant companion and servant of the Lord (anukka thondan). 

On a fine summery morning, he was out plucking flowers for the Lord, he happened to see two maidens (Kamalini and Anindhithai) also in the garden. They were maidens of the Supreme Goddess Parvathi. In a spontaneous minute of love, he fell for both of their beauties. Lord Shiva got to know and did not approve. 

“There is a time and place for everything, and this is not it. You would need to go down to earth for this and finish what you started. You will enjoy your time with these two maidens, who will also descend to earth with you. I also want you to go to the Southern part of India, and sing about me. “

Sundarar had realized his mistake and was ready to accept the punishment, but he made on request of the Lord – to come and remind him of this very moment, in case he got lost in the the pleasures of earthly living. 

All these thoughts came flooding in as he stood in front of the blinding light, now feeling thankful that the Lord had come and reminded him of his past.

But, I do not know how to sing, or compose, or any of that, my Lord, How am I supposed to sing about you?

The Lord still loved him very dearly. He said, “Talk to me, swear at me, admonish me, like you just did a few hours ago. Remember you called me a senile old fool. It will still sound like music to my ears.”

Lord Shiva also added – you will always be my Sundarar, my beautiful self. So I do not want you to renounce anything. I want you to always dress up like what you are now – in true wedding dress (kalyaana kolam). You will also be called Van thondan – the argumentative follower. And he vanished.

Over the course of the next 2 years, he meets Anindithai and Kamilini as Paravai Naachiyar (from Tiruvaaroor) and Sangili Naachiyar (from Thiruvatriyoor). And in these 2 years, he makes dozens of temple tours, singing on Lord Shiva, as he moved from temple to temple. Anecdotes abound on how the friendship of the Lord and Sundarar are played out. The Lord pulls out all stops to keep Sundarar, his friend, happy. Sundarar on the other hand, continues to admonish the Lord, never being satisfied with what he is given.

A peculiar friendship based devotion plays out in this Nayanmaars life. The story is meant to personify how devotion to God should not be of fear, but of trust and respect.

The Argumentative Follower (Vanthondan) – Part 2

Story so far (link): Nambi Arooran of Thirunaavalur is getting ready to get married. An old gentleman comes to the wedding venue and claims Nambi as his slave. He shows a parchment showing that his grandfather had indeed agreed to make his entire clan slave to the brahmin.

The village elders of Vennainallur gathered in front of the temple – where most disputes were settled. The elderly brahmin brought forth the original manuscript.

The brahmin turned to the village elders and said – “Please make sure this young fellow does not tear up this document also. It is your responsibility. “

The contents of the manuscript were verified. The signature matched of some other records that had been preserved by the village authorities, and the case was settled. Nambi was now the old Brahmin’s slave, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Sadness was wrought on Nambi’s face. All of 16 years old, he was looking forward to the marriage and settling down to Grihastaashrama. He followed the old man towards the local Shiva temple, where he was to witness the miracle of miracles. The old man vanished into a blinding light as he approached the main sanctum sanctorum (garba griham).

It was then Nambi realized that the old man was none other Lord Shiva himself, and that the Lord had come down to earth to remind Nambi of his past at Kailasa and fulfill his task on earth.

To be continued ….

 

The Argumentative Follower (Vanthondan) – Part I

It was marriage day. It was celebrations all around. Nambi Aaruran looked around his familiar town of Thirunaavalur with its festivities. It was a time, when a marriage in town meant celebrations for the entire town or village. It was getting closer to the Muhurtha time – the time when he would tie the maangalyam, and officially declared wedded.

There was a commotion in the crowd, and Nambi saw someone walking in from the entrance towards the dias. It was an old man. He walked with a stick. He was brisk though. The age did not show in his pace. Something about him was divine, but Nambi could not figure out what it was. Nambi wondered who this mysterious fellow was, and why he was causing a ruckus here.

He stood in front of the crowd and with a booming voice said -

Hear Ye, one and all. I have something to say before the wedding happens. This man here, and he consulted his olai (leaf scroll) and paused for a dramatic effect, Nambi, is a slave to me.

He let the confusion sink in for a while. A fine orator he was, for he knew, when to get the audience engaged and when to stop. In his booming voice he continued, “So it says, in this parchment, which was signed by his grandfather.”

Nambi was furious. He hissed at the old man – “Who are you, and where are you from?”, to which the Brahmin responded, he was from the adjoining village, Thiruvennainallur. Nambi then roared in laughter, “You, my dear friend, must be stark raving mad (afflicted by pitthu).” He sized the old man  up and down, and hissed – “perhaps senility has set in at this old age of yours.”

The old man smiled and responded by showing Nambi the parchment. Nambi’s smile vanished on reading the parchment, which clearly mentioned that he was his slave. Nambi smile returned with an even more evil twist to it, and in a fit, he tore up the parchment, thinking he had destroyed all evidence.

The old man, in his booming voice, said – “This young whipper snapper thinks that, by destroying that parchment, he has gotten rid of the evidence. I knew this would happen, and that is why I brought a copy of the parchment, and not the original itself. The original is in Thiruvennainallur. The only way to settle this argument is to settle it in front of the elders of vennainallur.

Nambi did not have a choice. The entire crowd, along with Nambi followed the elderly brahmin to the adjoining village, where a village hearing was organized.

(contd…)

Movie review: Jobs

jobsthink

The Jobs movie, starring Ashton Kutcher, is a pretty neatly done movie. I have read the Isaccson official biography and sure, there are a few minor inaccuracies, but then that should be discounted for artistic freedom. Making a movie based on someone as incredible as Steve Jobs is not an easy one.

I personally think, it is a great package. It covers the overall personality of Jobs (atleast the personality that I could decipher from the official biography). Ashton does a fine job of portraying Jobs. I am a big fan of Steve Job and his presentation skills (as some of my blog readers would have observed by now) and have seen several of his keynote speeches, and some multiple times. And the personality, the little body language quirks, Ashton plays them beautifully. The slouch, the walk, the finger on the nose. I think he did his homework well.

I wish the movie could have been a wee bit longer, and covered some more of his NeXT years and his Pixar days (which are woefully not even in the story line). The movie was as fast paced as it needed to be and 15 mins more would not have gotten it bad rep.

Also, I think, the relationship of Jobs and Gates was a much more complex one, and was a bit trivialised by the one f-word-laden phone conversation that Jobs has with Gates. But, I guess, that is defenitely way out of scope out of the movie story line.

On the whole, a nice movie. Super acting by Ashton Kutcher.

Movie Review: October Sky

october-sky-original (1)

:Spoilers alert: 

This is a very inspirational story (based on true life events) about four young boys from a mining community, who stumble onto building “hobby rockets”. They get into this by first watching the news about the first Russian rocket – Sputnik. Despite all odds of getting raw materials and equipment, these young boys succeed in launching rockets. They are encouraged by their high school teacher who pushes them to apply for a regional science fair. The boys win the trophy (and scholarships to college).

The story also weaves in an element of paths and family bonding with the father not very happy with his son going to this hobby. He wants his son to be a miner too. He thinks that all this rocket business is trickery and not worth it. The last scene is an emotional one where he at last comes to one of the rocket launches and becomes real proud of his son.

As an added bonus for those who are fond of hearing different accents, the movie does not disappoint with the Virginian accent – it has the twang and a drawl to it. You should listen to it to understand what I am talking about. It is a period movie set in the 60s – so it has all the sets painfully created – complete with old vintage cars and a couple of Steam Loco runs.

Book Review: How I braved Anu Aunty & Co-Founded a Million Dollar Company

This book is a quick read. You can read it one sitting. The book is a true story told by the author who co-founded the Alma Mater College Merchandising e-commerce company. The book talks about how it is very difficult for a young person from a middle class family to start up something on his own. And yes, I do bring up the middle class here because of the environment that he describes about how his family tries very hard to make him successful. His mother initially takes the help of her “kitty-party” friends – and one aunty specifically – Anu aunty. Every one growing up in India has seen an Anu aunty in their growing years. This person is the one person whose kid is the quintessential best kid in school, in society, has followed the societal template to the dot. And whats more this person is the one who feels and often insinuates others, whose children does not fall into that template.

The book has a lot of realism baked into it. I can picturize the wanton lives of the just graduated college graduates of Bangalore. Familiar places are mentioned. The author starts up his venture with his friends without his parents knowing initially. Over an emotional incident, he eventually bonds up with his mother, who starts supporting him.

It is a well written story – except for one thing. I understand the need for being colloquial and real, but the swear words could have been suppressed more. It is a bit too much. Overall, a good read for a saturday afternoon read.