Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Caught with my pants down?

Many accomplished singers owe their success to the known phenomenon of ‘Bathroom singing’. Its not that the place mentioned herein is equipped with some cutting edge instruments and designed to extract the best pitch out of your vocal cords. Rather, it’s the sheer privacy and the confined isolated environment that ignites your desire and triggers the stimulus to build raw confidence during the preliminary solitary trials.

Again ‘bathroom’ affords an ideal playground or the kindergarten that induces an urge and then nurtures some of our earliest pursuits with regards to the smoking adopted during the carefree adolescent days. Now that’s where you drifted and plunged into that habit. Right?

While the former is more innocent and a personal affair, the latter is often mischievous and comes with a twist to relish the taste of a ‘forbidden fruit’ only to be savoured with your buddies and pals at all the appropriate forums like the campus, café, lounge or simply a ‘tharra’. Needless to point out, there is more to the whole deal that partly includes invoking required precautions and experiencing such fun together only when the atmosphere is deemed fit.

When ‘Bathroom singing’ is a commonplace term and ‘Bathroom smoking’ a known reality, it is absurd to realize that someone needs to coin a term ‘Bathroom reading’ for I can’t be the sole offender with the tendency to indulge in such an inhibition.

Whereas it has been conveniently settled in one of the ilogs that the art of multitasking transcends through the centuries to the days of Leonardo Da Vinci and Mona Lisa, my personal history of the act traces itself back a little later and stretches itself to the last decades of the last century.

The earliest known facts comprise reading of suspense-thrilled works by Ishtiaq Ahmed, Famous Five and Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton. Evidence of more profound ‘bathroom reading’ grew as the quantum of assigned homework bundled or as the examinations drew closer. Instances of such occurrences increased as the pastime developed into a habit. Manto, Shafiq –ur – Rehman and Pitras paved way for Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. Naseem Hijazi somehow always resulted in serious bouts of constipation.

As life turned mechanical and demanding, hardly leaving any slots to pursue personal endeavours, proportion of the trapped reading within the four confined walls accentuated. In other words, the pleasure or leisure became more of a necessity. The reading stuff would now vary extensively from anything like a lame leaf of newspaper, a flamboyant business report, a solemn and stringent specification code, magazines like Aurora or Economist to exciting works produced by the likes of Jackie Collins or some great scribbling about the adventures of Isobel Shaw. Thus I always mixed business with pleasure but how my poor stomach would cope with such a huge chunk and large variety of content is entirely a different consideration.

The mix became progressively richer. My fondness for reading aided by typical and conducive environment helped me grab some understanding of the ancient brotherhoods and complexities associated with interpretation of masterpieces of art and convolutions involved in deciphering ancient codes as brought out by Dan Brown. It made me digest intricacies of life, love, destiny and fortune as explained by Paulo Coehlo. Thanks to the reading addiction and equally to my bathroom, I could squeeze something out of the subtle humour and deftly laid absorbing story lines by John Grisham. The arid management theories put forth by Jack Welch and Stephen Covey felt so much lighter and softer_and I confess to have gone through most of the confessions of an economic hit man in_ the secrecy of my washroom.

As the addiction grows, so does the necessity for multitasking. While I have been able to keep such weird desires in check and at bay that takes all the willpower and strength of character when at work or a public place, something needs to be done to respond to that rousing need and addiction with some fidgeting. Well that’s exactly when the cell phone comes in so handy; The best and most personal moments to respond to a text, forward a nasty joke or sms, surf on the web (on a high tide while comfortably seated ‘there’), update your status on FB or something as innocent as composing the latest blog post.

Time is too precious a resource and that’s why we should make the most of it. With mounting work pressures and intimidating targets I feel a strong urge to carry my laptop along each time. So far I have been able to negotiate and curb the temptation but who knows for how long?

(It was originally scribbled and posted on August 2, 2008. Since then the reading has intensified causing the mix to further enrich and diversify.)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Okay. Am done with reading two books on philosophy and science, back to back, dealing with inception, existence, purpose and history of life and universe. Phew! If I still sound intoxicated, so you know who to blame. (Not me, of course!). Just raking my way through the hangover which is more like a dizzying experience we suffer from, while standing at the edge of what we humbly term in structural engineering as an overhang.

The blockbuster ‘Sophie’s world’ written two decades ago is highly recommended. In pursuit of simple everyday babble such as ‘who are you?’ and ‘where did the world come from?’, the book leads you through a philosophical trail of three thousand years of history of mankind and civilization. At the end, the author through his masterly fabricated tale, plot and theme, leaves you wondering whether you are living in reality or surviving in a mere realm of reality. The evolution of mankind and civilization and the ever itching human quest and need to discover and explore the secrets of universe and life have been briefly narrated. A cautious approach, if not meek, towards the existence of God is evident throughout and questions of religion and faith are at best left open ended. It will be fair to remark that the author has stated a variety of perspectives without taking any firm positions for or against them.

On the contrary the assertions of our modern day researcher cum scientist Stephen Hawking are rather revolutionary and blasphemous. Relying upon a notoriously evolving M theory, in his work “The Grand Design”  he painstakingly sweats and is hell bent upon proving the creation of universe and life sans God. The complexity of what he proclaims all boils down to the fact that multiverse i.e multiple universes owe their existence to the big bang that occurred some 13.7 billion years ago when ‘something’ was created out of ‘nothing’. Thus all evolution and creation of universe and lifeform is no miracle but a logical conclusion and result of immaculate obeyance of laws of nature. Knowing our present as a reality and a fact, and eliminating various possibilities by virtue of statistical and mathematical probabilities, he argues, history as well as the future of the universe can be predicted. Thus, there are more than one probable histories as are there probable multiple futures. What comprehensively beats all my wits and senses is the sense and assumption that there exist eleven dimensions in the universe including a dimension of time space. Sounds sense less? Who knows !?

As regards the creation of first physical atom, the author claims it to be hydrogen. However, he fumbles and staggers to build a convincing case for the creation of first carbon atom from thereon, which happens to be the basis and essential element of all organic lifeform. The worst part and the bad news is that he still firmly stands by Darwin on my evolution_ when he stubbornly declares that my forefathers existed in the form of baboons and monkeys for centuries tracing back their roots and tails to the first homo sapien that came to breath some two hundred thousand years ago on the cooling planet.

From here I would rather retreat to the safety of being a believer and a monotheist, for it gets increasingly difficult to chew on and swallow bits as indigestible as these.

Read Full Post »

An eighty four year old groom weds a seventy six year old bride. This is not a page out of an epic tale weaved by the great Marquez Garcia in another world representing another age but a real show staged in our world of happenings and dramas. 

Unlike Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza (a girl with the doe’s gait), who in order to stay together, for the lack of better option mutually decided to keep that gooddamn coming and going forever_ our present day bride and groom preferred to choose a convenient, reliable and prudent course by deciding to settle for good in their native village near Bhowana instead of an old stinky marine vessel. Times and circumstances do change after all.
While Florentino had to wait for fifty three years seven months and eleven days and nights to espouse the love of his life, the history books are silent on the length and even depth of current affair. However, the groom has confessed of knowing the girl for ages. In cultural context, if that took ten years to seek permission from her seven kids (who in all probability would’ve constituted the bulk of the dowry by now), after she turned into a widow, or more than twenty years by the groom to convince his own seven offsprings_ a period for which he has remained a widower, nevertheless, remains an enigma. Whatever the barriers were, the couple has successfully surmounted them together with their stoicism and sweet will to lay foundations for yet another happy beginning in their lives.

Amidst all that torrent of suicidal strikes and terrorist attacks that mars the country, the seven kids merrily bid farewell to their mom. Let us join the celebrations and wish the married couple the very best for their union!

Here is the link to the story as published by local press

http://tribune.com.pk/story/144696/no-age-limit-on-love/

Read Full Post »

GetImage

A splendid piece of writing!

The book is gripping right from the word go. Laced with relentless scintillating humour and satire, Aravind Adiga pierces through the glossy crust and scum of democratic and shining India with ruthless impartiality and lethal audacity to bring to light the rotten core and bitter facade of an ailing third world society threadbare. The filth and garbage, sewage and waste, poverty and hunger, grime and smoke, corruption and pretence coupled with the irony of conventional belief systems and gods that engulf a typical third world nation have been emphatically unveiled. In a nutshell, a place where a water buffalo being productive ‘member’ of a family is far more valuable then a liability of an unwanted feeding mouth.

The story revolves around and covers the shrewd but cunning journey and transition of a downtrodden rural child to a successful entrepreneur from Munna to Balram Halwai and ultimately to Ashok Sharma.

During the course of this discovery and narrative, the author exposes what the democracy brings to and how is it interpretated by a common living man in India _ The contradictions that suffuse every pore of a class ridden and stratified social structure that lend all the inertia against any prospective change. Not just the gulf that divides the society in various castes and segments but the multiple religious, belief systems and creed silos that are prevalent.

Drawing an indirect comparison and alluding to it, on more than one occasion, the writer blames parliamentary democracy as a principal determinant that forces India to lag behind China. At the same time the mockery of socialist forces and Communist China are evident. He sees the parliamentary democracy system and the nexus that it invariably develops between the elite, feudals, landlords and the politicians and the police as the vice and protective barrier that shields and guards the status quo. As he goes

”Sir:

I am not a politician or a parliamentarian. Not one of those extraordinary men who can kill and move on, as if nothing had happened. It took me four weeks in Bangalore to calm my nerves.”

And

”I gather you yellow skinned men, despite your triumphs in sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, still don’t have democracy. Some politician on the radio was saying that’s why we Indians are going to beat you: we may not have sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, but we do have democracy.

If I were making a country, I’d get the sewage pipes first then the democracy, then I’d go about giving pamphlets and statues of Gandhi to other people, but what do I know? I’m just a murderer!”

While the line that hits the nail on the head follows

….parliamentary democracy, Father. We will never catch up with China for this single reason.”

The scribe uses an interesting analogy of the Rooster Coop to describe the element of the servitude and dichotomy of the system that divides the society into the elites and the masses. He compares a common man to a rooster who is being knocked around in a cramped space jostling and pecking for his survival in all that shit and stench. Watching his mates being slaughtered and their blood and innards lying here and there, he knows exactly what is in store for him but still does not rise to rebellion to question his ultimate fate. The following passage highlites the phenomenon thereby:

”A handful of men in this country have trained the remaining 99.9 percent – as strong, as talented, as intelligent in every way – to exist in perpetual servitude; a servitude so strong that you can put the key of his emancipation in a man’s hands and he will throw it back at you with a curse”

But not our white tiger, Balram Halwai. On the contrary, he accepts the key gratefully from his tender hearted master Ashok Sharma to mask his identity. As does his role model the bus conductor Vijay, who coming from a family of pig herds, illiterate and low caste, instinctively knows how to carve his way right to the top into the power echelons.
        
America returned Ashok is a misfit in the society. He cannot reconcile and come to terms with prevailing moral values, sprawling exploitation and filthy corruption that is rampant. Ashok finds himself at odds with the system. But relishing the intrinsic luxury of being a born landlord, that he is naturally entitled to, he prefers India as a living place. Oscillating between the rigid demands of his role in his family and social setup and the voice of his conscious, he is recognized as a weak link and a soft target by the observant and probing Balram standing on the far side of the abyss. Thus he is earmarked as a victim to unleash the simmering rage and angst, brewing for years, amidst all the communal tension and class disparity. Recognizing the possibility as perhaps his only opportunity to liberation and escape from the entrapment and rut that he is destined for, he murders his master and adopts his identity and makes away with a large sum of bribe money that was supposed to be paid to settle a case of tax evasion. The quantum leap lands Balram in the world of opportunity and entrepreneurship far from the grip and jaws of the vicious circle that had swallowed him for years. Nevertheless, there is a heavy price to be paid; A reality that is not lost on Balram turned Ashok. He knows what his family must’ve been through and chances of anyone’s survival even in the extended family are far-fetched.

While the story illuminates the stark and bare bone realities, nearly every heave and furrow along the contours of an ailing and diseased social setup, that is fast assuming the form of a dead corpse_ A fact predominantly true for most developing and underdeveloped economies across the global spectrum, there is a typical philosophical perspective to the whole episode. And that is…..

”Mr. Premier, I won’t be saying anything new if anything I say that the history of the world is the history of a ten-thousand-year war of brains between the rich and the poor. Each side is eternally trying to hoodwink the other side: and it has been this way since the start of time. The poor win a few battles (the peeing in the potted plants, the kicking of the pet dogs, etc.) but of course the rich have won the war for ten thousand years. That’s why, one day, some wise men, out of compassion for the poor, left them signs and symbols in poems, which appear to be about roses and pretty girls and things like that, but when understood correctly spill out secrets that allow the poorest man on earth to conclude the ten-thousand-year old brain-war on terms favourable to himself. Now, the four greatest of these wise poets were Rumi, Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib, and another fellow whose name I was told but have forgotten.”

Read Full Post »