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Last week, I read the famous & much loved Roald Dahl creation 'Matilda'. I read this book because of a interactive & multimedia project I had prepared for my tuition children of the 5th grade. They were totally besotted with the book & there is no need to wonder why. In his own simplistic style full of made up words & surprises, Roald Dahl enchants the reader making him or her love the character Matilda. I always find Roald Dahl's childrens works very unique & quite direct in nature. He tries to keep the language as simple as possible & does not give the reader an overdose of fantasy. I've also noticed that Roald Dahl never lets the bullies get an upper hand in his books. Ms. Trunchbull the headmistress of Matilda's school who is mean & very violent gets her just desserts in the book like all bullies in Dahl's books. 

Fascinating though the character of Matilda's indifferent parents seem, I too have seen such parents in my short lifetime & at times it is really frustrating. What I admire about the character of Matilda is the way she taught herself how to read & how she managed to stand apart from the crowd.....yet, did not try to be arrogant or proud. I cannot digest arrogance but, that's a personal opinion. In anycase, simplicity is the virtue of  true genius, & Matilda was such a genius. Another lovable character in the book is Miss Honey, Matilda's teacher. I found her to be a teacher who for once cares for her pupils & not just what she gets as a pay packet which most of the teachers today are bothered about. Integrity is lacking in the teachers profession & Miss Honey brings to the readers mind an image of a ideal teacher....not yet born......& if so, quite unknown. What exists today is the commercial tutor who looks at the pupil's face, but never at the pupil's soul. Hopefully a Miss Honey will emerge from the darkness of instability into the light.

Lastly, 'Matilda' is about believing in yourself no matter what & that's how I want to remember myself as. Wonderful read........wonderful Dahl.

st week, I read the famous & much loved Roald Dahl creation 'Matilda'. I read this book because of a interactive & multimedia project I had prepared for my tuition children of the 5th grade. They were totally besotted with the book & there is no need to wonder why. In his own simplistic style full of made up words & surprises, Roald Dahl enchants the reader making him or her love the character Matilda. I always find Roald Dahl's childrens works very unique & quite direct in nature. He tries to keep the language as simple as possible & does not give the reader an overdose of fantasy. I've also noticed that Roald Dahl never lets the bullies get an upper hand in his books. Ms. Trunchbull the headmistress of Matilda's school who is mean & very violent gets her just desserts in the book like all bullies in Dahl's books. 

Fascinating though the character of Matilda's indifferent parents seem, I too have seen such parents in my short lifetime & at times it is really frustrating. What I admire about the character of Matilda is the way she taught herself how to read & how she managed to stand apart from the crowd.....yet, did not try to be arrogant or proud. I cannot digest arrogance but, that's a personal opiLast week, I read the famous & much loved Roald Dahl creation 'Matilda'. I read this book because of a interactive & multimedia project I had prepared for my tuition children of the 5th grade. They were totally besotted with the book & there is no need to wonder why. In his own simplistic style full of made up words & surprises, Roald Dahl enchants the reader making him or her love the character Matilda. I always find Roald Dahl's childrens works very unique & quite direct in nature. He tries to keep the language as simple as possible & does not give the reader an overdose of fantasy. I've also noticed that Roald Dahl never lets the bullies get an upper hand in his books. Ms. Trunchbull the headmistress of Matilda's school who is mean & very violent gets her just desserts in the book like all bullies in Dahl's books. 

Fascinating though the character of Matilda's indifferent parents seem, I too have seen such parents in my short lifetime & at times it is really frustrating. What I admire about the character of Matilda is the way she taught herself how to read & how she managed to stand apart from the crowd.....yet, did not try to be arrogant or proud. I cannot digest arrogance but, that's a personal opinion. In anycase, simplicity is the virtue of  true genius, & Matilda was such a genius. Another lovable character in the book is Miss Honey, Matilda's teacher. I found her to be a teacher who for once cares for her pupils & not just what she gets as a pay packet which most of the teachers today are bothered about. Integrity is lacking in the teachers profession & Miss Honey brings to the readers mind an image of a ideal teacher....not yet born......& if so, quite unknown. What exists today is the commercial tutor who looks at the pupil's face, but never at the pupil's soul. Hopefully a Miss Honey will emerge from the darkness of instability into the light.

Lastly, 'Matilda' is about believing in yourself no matter what & that's how I want to remember myself as. Wonderful read........wonderful Dahl.nion. In anycase, simplicity is the virtue of  true genius, & Matilda was such a genius. Another lovable character in the book is Miss Honey, Matilda's teacher. I found her to be a teacher who for once cares for her pupils & not just what she gets as a pay packet which most of the teachers today are bothered about. Integrity is lacking in the teachers profession & Miss Honey brings to the readers mind an image of a ideal teacher....not yet born......& if so, quite unknown. What exists today is the commercial tutor who looks at the pupil's face, but never at the pupil's soul. Hopefully a Miss Honey will emerge from the darkness of instability into the light.

Lastly, 'Matilda' is about believing in yourself no matter what & that's how I want to remember myself as. Wonderful read........wonderful Dahl.

H. P. Lovecraft : The Road To Madness

I must admit that this was the first time I actually came across the author H. P. Lovecraft. This book I found at the Strand Bookstall in town after it fell on my head as I was rummaging through a bookshelf containing some other great books on philosophy. 

I was taken aback when I read on the back cover of the book that Lovecraft had inspired many of my own favourite authors of the macabre like Anne Rice, Stephen King & Clive Barker. As I poured over the stories at night UNDER my study table with the table lamp on, I was transported to a realm quite different from my own understanding of terror & fantasy. Lovecraft's ideas were not only macabre but also quite morbid & blood chilling. True that his works are steeped in grand descriptions which normally puts a casual reader of, but a true lover of literature & horror will certainly realize after reading Lovecraft's works like 'At The Mountains Of Madness', 'Reanimator', 'Imprisoned With The Pharaohs' etc that, the descriptions are all meaningful to completely realize the actual horror behind it all. 

As Barbara Hambly stated, H.P. Lovecraft struggles to bring out his ideas to the is his idea that is powerful & extraordinary. His pseudo - Poe short stories take on another turn as they get more original & more bizzare as the years go by. Lovecraft's characters too keep on undergoing transformations & at times reappear in other stories. He in the bargain creates a niche for himself in the horror & fantasy genre which no one can rob. 

He is excellent as I have observed in first person accounts of the story, making the reader grip the book tightly in a cold sweat as he administers the opiate of fear into our system....almost like his warped character Herbert West does by administering a special powder into the veins of dead bodies or organs to bring them to life in the 'Reanimator'(this was better than Frankenstein). Most of Lovecraft's protagonists I have observed are men (its always men !!!) who are :

1] Well educated

2] Intelligent

3] Believe in the dark forces & works of very sinister personalities (eg., the constant repition of the book  Necronomicon by the Arab Abdul Alhazred who was a genius par excellance)

4] Have this constant habit of getting into trouble inspite of their intelligence 

No doubt that at times his stories have a certain amount of Racism present in it, never the less, Lovecraft still pens his stories with a masterstroke of a true wizard of the terrible. Most of his main characters as I have stated before are common scholars or scientists except for 'Imprisoned With The Pharoahs' where the poor person imprisoned is the world famous escape artist (got to love him) Harry Houdini. 

My personal favourites in this book were ;

1) The Transition Of Juan Romero

2) The Temple

3) The Terrible Old Man

4) Reanimator (lots of gross descriptions & lots of blood....too good !)

5) Imprisoned With The Pharaohs (I love Houdini)

6) The Horror At Red Hook (out of this world !) &

7) In The Walls Of Eryx (he co -authored this with Kenneth Sterling)

Lovecraft refers a lot to Edgar Allen Poe in most of his early works especially in 'The Shunned House' where it looks like he really was enamoured by the original creator of the macabre. 

All in all.......a thumbs up for Lovecraft & his 'madness'. Now I am going to check out all the movies that have been based on this stories. Indeed, many movies have found their genesis in the works of this master of ghastly descriptions. 

I shall post some more information & links after I finish my research. Got to get my students to check this guy out.

Best Ten : Somerset Maugham

The world famous writer Somerset Maugham selected the following as the ten best novels of the world :

1) War & Peace (Leo Tolstoy)

2) Pere Goriot (Honore de Balzac)

3) Tom Jones (Henry Fielding)

4) Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen)

5) The Red & the Black (Stendhal)

6) Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

7) Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)

8) David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)

9) The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

10) Moby Dick (Herman Melville)

And Then There Were None : Agatha Christie's BEST

I read this book eight years ago when I was still in high school & yet when I read it today, it still grips me & makes me want to shiver. Agatha Christie is an author who can hold the attention of her reader till the startling end. She is known throughout the world as the Queen of Crime novels but for me thanks to this wonderful masterpiece 'And then There Were None' she is the undisputed Queen of Suspense

The novel was first published in the U.K. as 'Ten Little Niggers' & in the U.S. as 'Ten Little Indians'. The first title was done away with because of racist undertones but today it is known as 'And Then There Were None'. The novel is based on judgement & a person's thirst to dispense justice like an executioner. In the novel, ten strangers are invited to a island & all these ten at some point of time or the other have commited murders in one way or another & have got away with it. Through the story we find out that each of these individuals are killed one by one on the island in keeping with the grusome nursery rhyme 'Ten Little Niggers/Indians/Soldiers'.

Who is killing the guests ? Is there a mad man on the lose ? Is there something supernatural in all this ? Or is there something far worse......we are kept on tenterhooks till we find out for ourselves at the end.

I have been an ardent Christie fan ever since I have read my first Christie book 'After The Funeral' in grade 9. What I appreciate in this book mostly is the way the tension is built up with less amount of descriptions as the story goes on. The dialogues especially of one of the characters Wargrave is excellent & bone chilling although he says it in a very placid fashion. There are a few dreams described very well in the story which gives the novel a strange psychological bend. There are no detectives & no policemen in this mystery which is unusual & yet, this happens to be a great story.

This novel has been adapted to the stage & the film industry including Bollywood with the 1960's film Gumnam staring Nanda & Manoj Kumar. But this is one book I think should be read rather than seen.....reading & using ones own imagination as the plot twists & turns is more effective than just watching a film based on it. 

Currently reading :

1) My Life & Hard Times by James Thurber
2) Malgudi School Days by R.K. Narayan
3) My Days (autobiography) by R. K. Narayan

My Top Ten Favourite Books Of All Time :

1) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
2) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
3) I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Hannah Green
4) Dracula by Bram Stoker
5) The English Teacher by R.K. Narayan
6) Bachelor Of Arts by R.K. Narayan
7) Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
8) Drood by Dan Simmons
9) Three Men In A Boat by Jerome. K. Jerome
10) Choker Bali by Rabindranath Tagore

Movie : Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi

Today on the 2nd of September 2012, I went with my family & a Parsi uncle who I am extremely fond of to see the Bollywood movie, 'Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi' at the theatre Suburbia. 

The critics & movie goers all had to say something about this film but that did not interest me, I in anycase never follow the herd. 

Keeping that in mind & going with an open mind to see the picture...I was really amazed. According to me the movie is simple & that is what makes it really brilliant. The comedy timing is fantastic & the depiction of the minority community represented in this film is not exactly very authentic, but not all that bad either. It is not an all in all 'comedy' it is a different kind of a regular love story but, potrayed in a very different way. The lead actors too are not macho hulks with enough of six packs to pack one out of the theatre or skeletons draped in skimpy wear in the name of modernity (whoever said being scantily dressed was modern anyway, in that case, cave women were having better fashion sense than we do....they were nude) BUT...real people with their real lives & problems who still want to fall in love, even if they are in their late 30's or 40's. As it is stated in the film itself, 'Pyaar Ke Liye Koi Expiry Date Nahi Hota'. Infact love is not about the physical or sexual part at all. Love is about being yourself & yet being loved & giving love....the movie depicts love in its glory....& we suddenly realize that the word 'love' today has been twisted by the media & certain people into something that it is not. 

Love is not about being beautiful or handsome, or of having a great paying in this movie is all about being real in the true sense of the term real.

The direction of the film could have been improved upon but Boman Irani excels himself in the role of the Parsi salesman. It is not a continuos laugh riot, there are emotional highs & lows in this film too, like it is there in anyones life. Maybe if they had to do away with a lot of songs it would have been a bit more classy. The acting was good & the script simple & easy to relate with. 

But my judgement was incomplete without the aid of an favourite Parsi uncle, Ratan Pantaki who laughed throughout the movie, ate two samosas & gave me a thumbs up sign at the end of the film. That settled it then & there, 'Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Sach Much Nikal Padi'. 

Dracula : a classic 

I have got a very close bonding with Bram Stoker's book Dracula was the first book that I ever read, on my own. I was at that time in the 3rd grade. I was at school during the summer vacations because mother (who was a teacher in the same school) had got a lot of paper work to do with the other teachers & she could not leave me at home all alone. Without any children around to play with, I was bored stiff & somehow in desparation to find some company, dragged my tiny chubby feet up to our library. I did not find anyone there but the librarian....but I found somebody that would lure me into the paradise of literature forever....stubling over the long & high shelves.....I found Dracula.

" Whats this all about ?" I asked the librarian.

"Why child its a horror book", she answered with a start.

"May I borrow this one ?" I timidly asked.

"As you wish, don't blame me if it scares you", she stated quite matter of factly as she stamped the card I gave her (my mothers) & carrying the fat book to my chest went into an empty classroom to read....& the librarian was right, the book did scare me, it scared me right out of my wits.....but I liked it. I devoured an unabridged classic at the age of seven for over five hours...FINISHING it...UNDERSTANDING every part of it & then returned it to the librarian that very same day before mother was to take me home.

"Scared you ?" asked the librarian in a sarcastic tone.

"Yes indeed, the evil was very bad but the good was very good", said I meekly with a twinkle in my raven black eyes, for I knew at once that hence forward, I had new friends better than the ones I used to play hide & seek with.....they were books...mountains of them...millions of them.....but who brought me to them.....Dracula, & I had entered out of my own free will.

Well, that was my little history with the monster & seducer Dracula, now to the literary part of the whole matter. Dracula it is said when it was published did not give any profits to his creator who we all know as Bram Stoker but from the onset of cienema & television, the vampire who stalks the innocent for their life saving blood became an instant success bring the classic out into the limelight. Each movie or drama based on Dracula colour him in different ways but my concern is with the vampire...or the undead creature that Bram Stoker tried to put forward in his novel.

The real Dracula as Stoker put it was once a royal figure of great intrigue during the middle ages known for his intellect & soldier blood but who lived or survived after his suppossed 'death' as a vampire who is more spirit & blood than really human. We all are well aware that Bram Stoker in his research for a real life character to play the role of his vampire took the personage of the infamous Vlad Dracula who was a great warrior but had some rather nasty habits of impaling people & dining where he could see this happening. There was a lot of speculation as to his death (whether he really died or did not). Facts are that when his casket was removed from the earth & checked, well.....he wasn't there. This was it for Stoker, now his vampire would be this very same impaler king who returned to drink the red blood of the human race...Stoker even recorded the history of this king in his novel & gave his vampire that king's very own name - DRACULA.

Thus now backed by historical evidence, Dracula started to unleash his spell of evil on all & sundry. 

But coming to the theme of Stoker, it is evident that in his time (the Vitorian Period) a vampire was still considered as a thing of evil & something which was ugly & ghastly. Stoker's Dracula however is a learned & very dignified count who lives in a castle & dresses rather well. Although he has all the physical features of a vampire (hair on palms, no reflection, pale skin, canine teeth etc) he can yet pass of as a regular human being to an ignorant person. He is also a master seducer of women which was exaggerated to a great extent by modern film makers. But, Stroker was Victorian & for him, Dracula was evil incarnate someone who was damned by God (unlike the modern day teenage vampire's who somehow have warped the idea of vampirism completely) even though he looked very human to the eye. 

Stoker was clear cut in his analysis of his own vampire, Dracula was different but he was still evil maybe more evil than the vampire's of his predecessors (Varney & Carmilla to name a few). 

While Dracula is evil incarnate...the person who is all good & wanting the death of Dracula is Dr.Van Helsing a medical man who like dracula is also learned...but has deep faith in the living & especially God. It is he who realizes the presence of a vampire in the tragic case of Lucy & he is shrewd enough to know when he should shift from the objective world to the world of superstition. He attributes this to his experience & age. He saw what the others could not see (except poor Mr. Harker who almost got killed in Dracula's castle) & knew what science was not willing to believe. Undoubtably the true hero of the story is Dr. Van Helsing, but since humans are more fascinated with evil...we all regard Dracula as the real hero of this story although after the draining of Lucy's blood, her really does not appear that much in the narrative.

The narrative itself is unique written in the form of journals, ship logs, diaries etc not only of one person but many individuals put together. All events fall into place & this style of telling a story has affected most of my writings. 

Some of the folklore behind the origin of vampires is made accurately by the writer however, some parts are exaggerated. It is scary ,no doubt about that & it also shocks. Catholic customs & traditions are intricately used against the vampires & with a mad house in the story, the novel exceeds itself in generating a new (at that time) kind of horror which was & is still imitated by many authors today.

The best part of the story is the mystery itself & how Biblical terms can be changed to mean something absolutely horrid (the blood is the life). 

This was about the 20th time I was reading Dracula, & yet I felt a shiver rum up my spine but now I have got an extra amount of litery backing not to be shocked out of my wits. Dracula introduced me to literature & the beauty of books....I thank the count a thousand times today for doing at least one good his all so cruel life.

My Days : R.K. Narayan 

I've been fascinated with R.K.Narayan ever since I read his novel 'The English Teacher'. The joke is, when I actually read the novel, I was not at all keen on becoming an English teacher. I was just wanting to be a History teacher as it was my pet subject & is still my pet subject undoubtably. But the moment I read 'The English Teacher', I felt something which I had never felt reading the works of other Indian authors....I felt that I was really Indian & nothing can change that whatsoever. I then went on to read one after the other most of the novels & short stories written by R.K. Narayan like 'The Bachelor Of Arts', 'The Vendor Of Sweets', 'Malgudi Days', 'Salt & Sawdust', 'The Mahabharata', 'Under The Banyan Tree & Other Stories' etc. Every time I read a new Narayan title, I felt that I was reading into the heart & soul of a real writer, who....was just like me. He saw the same things that I as an Indian saw, he felt the same things as I feel as an Indian & most importantly...he loved being an Indian & describing the India that was real...STARKLY real, & yet...there is a lot of love, hope & moving on. 

I was then a few months ago the proud owner of my dear R.K. Narayan's autobiography 'My Days' but which I was only able to read last week due to the work regarding the publication of my own book.

What I read made me want to melt, here was my hero where Indian  writing was concerned....& he did not get the adulation or the money that he truly deserved. Even the movie 'Guide' which was based on his novel 'The Guide' brought a lot of profits for the film makers but not for the creator...not for Narayan. In the autobiography, R.K. Narayan sir very bluntly (with a bit of his usual simple humour which I adore) states the issues he had with not only the Bolywood fraternity regarding 'Guide' but also , foreign publishers, the education system, his landlord etc which is informative as well as rib tickling 'funny'. He also writes about the death of his wife & how he coped with the trauma. I also realized that the book 'The English Teacher' had a lot in common with the phase of Narayan sir's life when his wife passed away & how he started to 'contact' her with the aid of psychics. I knew that Narayan sir was sentimental where his writing was concerned, but until I read that piece about his wife...especially about the part about her sick bed, that really made understand the saying I once read at school :

" Just because I am smiling that does not mean I am happy - I may just be optimistic."

For Narayan sir in his life was always optimistic, even when after six months of waiting, publishers rejected 'his' works. I could not even believe that some publisher's had actually rejected 'MALGUDI DAYS' the epitome of Indian living & the Indian thought process. I was aghast when reading through Narayan sir's life I realized that his first four books which were held later on as one of the greatest works in Indian fiction, did not earn him enough of cash. When I read through his struggles as a man of letters, I found myself...however, by the grace of God I had Kindle & Amazon on my side to make my start very - very easy as a writer of English fiction.....but Narayan sir was completely lost in the beginning because of the lack of publishers who were genuine. I was glad when Graham Greene came to Narayan sir's aid & became his life long friend after that.

R.K. Narayan also I feel shows a gradual development in his reading tastes & then his way of writing. It reminded me of my own writing style which has changed over the years from simple theology to mysticism to complete fiction & these days to fantasy. However, R.K. Narayan's character's were all (or most of the time) people who he really knew in reality like Mr. Sampath the publisher who features as a prime character in a novel. The best part about the characters are that they all feel real, they are not artificial although the town of Malgudi in which all the stories take place is unreal...these characters are the real down to earth common Indians we see selling us our vegetables, sweets, fruits, fish ; the people like our irritating clerks, our over enthusiastic young teachers, our boring college professors, our elderly grandmothers chewing their paan etc.

I especially relate with Narayan sir's love & enchantment with the city where he grew up - Mysore. I was on vacation there last year & I could definately relate with Narayan sir about the beauty of the place especially Chamundi Hill. 

The autobiography to me was an eye opener regarding that in a writers life there is going to be a lot of struggle & letters.....but I am ready for it, full on, just like my hero R.K. Narayan, the Grand Old Man of that little town which lies in the hearts of all those who love their India...Malgudi.

Biography & Autobiography

I never used to read biographies or autobiographies earlier. I used to find them pretty uninspiring & most of the time unconvincing for some reason. It was only in college that I started to read famous biographies official & unofficial as well as autobiographies. The first autobiography I read was ‘Mein Kamph’ by Adolf Hitler which nauseated me beyond comprehension. However, the historical detail of the whole narrative interested me & therefore I took it upon myself to read a few more biographies & autobiographies for this purpose. The next book I came across was ‘Goodbye Shahzadi’ which was a political biography of the late Benazir Bhutto by Shyam Bhatia. She had at that point of time been recently assassinated & so all books based on her life were out in the market. I was most intrigued about the political scenario that led to the assassination of the leader that I purchased the book from Crosswords inspite of my apprehensions towards the genre that I was indulging myself in. Political issues are always a matter of debate, but what I genuinely liked about the book was the personality of the women it spoke about. I almost felt that I was empathising with her to a certain degree. That struck as odd as beyond historical facts, I normally never indulge myself into the emotional aspect of the material at hand….& yet this time, I did.

This encouraged me to pick an autobiography of Benazir Bhutto which again I found in the market titles as ‘Daughter Of The East’. I now knew that my interest in biographies was giving me a further understanding not only about history & politics but also about feelings & an insight into personalities that were foreign to my own way of analysing my environment. The complete metamorphosis took place when I was 19 years old & when I read the autobiography of T. Lobsang Rampa which was ‘The Third Eye’. This autobiography transformed my life & my field of study which has had an impact on me till this day. The oriental story of a Lama led me to comprehend history, philosophy as well as literature at the same time. I from that moment forward continued to read biographies till this day.

Biographies have a way of telling the story of a person’s life. It is always biased for history in the form of the written word has always known to be biased. But, by reading such a genre, one gets to understand two personalities :

  • The person being written about
  • The author of the biography

Controversial features also are apparent especially regarding texts that have been penned before our time, yet they are unique in their own way…they tell a story in their own way which fascinates as well as educates. Autobiographies on the other hand are often one sided & more often than not, defensive in nature, but that’s always bound to be. Here however, I want to make special mention of an autobiography I read about one of my favourite guitar players, Dave Mustaine ‘Mustaine A Life In Metal’ which not only was candid but also very humorous.

Biographies as the old saying goes, teaches us about the lives of people of the past who have tried & either failed, given up or won. Our parents encourage us to read biographies to be inspired by the personalities spoken about at length. Its good in a way… depends on who we have stumbled upon however (I would not let any of my students touch Dave Muscatine’s autobiography even if they gave me a chocolate hamper to do so). I have a theory on this though. I am inclined to believe that biographies educate while autobiographies inspire. When I read ‘The Story Of My Life’ by Helen Keller, it inspired me to see beyond myself which has had an impact not only on my writings but also on my teaching which is remarkable (I do not easily get carried away by anyone or any event). My students say that I have got the mightiest number of biographies related to the ‘King Of Rock & Roll’….Elvis Presley, yet it is strange that the biography that really told me the truth about the singer was one written by his wife titled ‘Elvis & Me’. That proves that not only is a biography subjective but also the person reading it.

I have also known biographies to create ‘monsters’ as well as ‘angels’ (two of my 6th grade students picked a biography to read once. One read ‘Mandela’ by Ann Kramer while the other read ‘Confessions Of An Heiress’ by Paris Hilton which pretty much sums it up doesn’t it).

But biographies have been in print (or inked) long before we knew how to write a fast track novel. They have been the stuff our past leaders, painters, artists, scientists etc., have been reading to keep themselves going. Biographies & autobiographies are the way a human tells about humanity….personalized which may not be all that historically true….but its all about the heart of the matter, & I guess one has to take a queue from the stalwarts to really know the meaning of a whole life.

So my idea is……to read as many biographies as possible… make a difference….to educate……& just to live the life of a person I can never be….or who knows ?

Movie Review : BARFI

This review has been written by my friend Drayton Pinto who likes watching films that have some substance & which are yet entertaining at the same time. This is his take on a movie he saw recently entitled : BARFI.

I watched Barfi the other day and was totally disappointed not because I had high expectations about the film, but because I feel Bollywood has begun to make movies just for the sake of making them especially to cater to the badshahs of bollywood and their children. First of all the movie runs in to flashback after flashback and I m not sure how the common man will keep up with what is happening; more often than not they wait for that hit bollywood song (item girl and item number), the actions pact sequences and the heart throbbing dance steps. Well Barfi has none of the above.

It’s a great story but not portrayed well in some areas. For example the over acting of the star trying to make a name for himself like his grandfather did many years ago. He escapes from the police with some stupid Charlie Chaplin moves. I guess what he is expecting people to take away from the cinema halls is the fact that he is following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Too bad for him he has a long way to go.

Prianka Chopra on the other hand has done a fantastic job and suits the role perfectly. If one jumps straight into the movie without knowing the cast like I did (except the fact that R. Kapoor is the main star) on the first appearance of Jilmil (P. Chopra) you will immediately see the resemblance but then again the makeup and the hair and other features may be conflicting.

In terms of flaws with the movie there were several you will have to watch it to figure it out. Several instances in the movie the director has forgotten that R. Kapoor is hearing impaired and only lip reads. Take for example the first few scenes where he is riding his bicycle with a radio attached to the front.

In a nutshell the story is excellent the casting is also great but the role played by R. Kapoor is over exaggerated the director has tried to bring out the Joker from the golden days in R Kapoor. There are a lot of scenes where the joker or the Charlie Chaplin could have been excluded.

Movie Review : HEROINE

To be completely truthful, I expected a lot from this movie which I did not get despite all the promotional advertisements & buzz about the film. I would be a liar to say that the film did not disappoint me, because it certainly did disappoint me a lot which made the movie lover in me feel a bit….what could I say….cheated ?

But I go by a film by just watching it in the theatre & not by the promotional advertisements & press conferences or reviewers reports. So, keeping my perspective in mind, this is my take on one of the most awaited films of the year : Heroine

The first scene in the movie was certainly a real eye catcher & I was so taken up with it that I thought that the rest of the movie would be sensational . However, that was the only intense scene which captured my attention throughout the movie, the rest of it was not up to the mark or the standard set by the famed director M. Bhandarkar. It occurred to me also that the director who is very well known for his excellent directing skills, somehow did not put any effort in his movie at all. The actors & actresses seemed to me quite puzzled throughout the movie. One could actually see their query filled faces all throughout the film which at times is quite irritating. The character roles were not taken care of at all & every character actor in the film was apparently side-lined & the whole film was only circling around the main heroine or protagonist of the film which was not a wise choice in direction.

I felt that if like in all Bhandari movies, here too the character actors were given more preference, I would have been seeing a completely different ‘Heroine’ altogether. I guess the director went all over the top to promote the lead cast neglecting his other actors which is quite confusing & yet disappointing at the same time.

The story itself seems very scratchy & unwholesome as if the original script of the writer has been amputated in a very unprofessional manner leading one to despise the story being enacted on screen. Too many controversial topics related to the lifestyle of an actor in the Bollywood film fraternity have been tried to be accommodated in a very tight package of a movie which was un-called for. Maybe if the script writer had to stick to a few examples, maybe the film would have turned out better.

Dialogues which are the crux of any film of the drama genre were not given any attention to at all which again surprises me, being an ardent watcher of films like Chandni Bar, Page 3 & Fashion all by the above mentioned director where dialogues & dry humour were his plus points. Rather importance was given to glamour, a lot of make up & a lot of unnecessary smoking. Indeed, every one appearing on the screen were smoking which was making some of the college students in the theatre where I was watching the film laugh cynically.

After realizing that the script as well as the direction was poor, I tried to focus on the leading lady of this entourage but she too was a disappointment. The leading lady according to me seemed rather uncomfortable or to put it bluntly, rather ill at ease during the full movie. The role demanded a person not exactly with a perfect body but someone with great body language & who could emote well enough to paralyse the audience, being the actor in a defining role of sorts. The actress however either due to lack of proper guidance from the director or due to some personal issues was unconvincing throughout the film except as I have stated earlier in the very first scene & later on in another scene where she is denied the opportunity of adopting a child because of her drinking habit & because she was on psychotropic drugs. That scene made me quite sure that Kareena Kapoor was a very good actress but her director had let her down. She could have done a lot for the film if only she was guided properly according to my analysis.

Speaking about actresses, it is undeniable that throughout this whole movie, I was in my mind comparing & contrasting it with the sensational movie of 2011, ‘The Dirty Picture’. ‘Heroine’ sadly as the score goes does not stand up to ‘The Dirty Picture’ at all & Vidya Balan’s acting ultimately made me think that if she was given the role in ‘Heroine’, maybe she would have done justice to that title if nothing else. The spunk present in Vidya Balan was lacking in the person of Kareena Kapoor who is a good actor in her own right (remember Geet from ‘Jab We Met’).

The tamed acting was a rotten tomato in this film of really great potential which is disheartening but, life does go on does it not ?

The much spoken of item number of the leading lady too did not send sparks flying making me yet again compare her artificial dance moves to Vidya Balan’s graceful & voluptuous moves in ‘Oh La La Oh La La La’. Kareena Kapoor tried to imitate the moves & even the sensual lip biting of Balan but it proved to be rather pale in the eyes of a person who has already seen the goddess do her stuff.

The bold scenes in the film were very awkward in the sense, one noticed quite well that both Kareena Kapoor & Arjun Rampal were not feeling comfortable with each other at all. The actress was in a way, shying away while poor Arjun Rampal was left with only a cold shoulder to charm. This yet again brought to my mind Vidya Balan’s bold scenes in two movies : ‘The Dirty Picture’ & ‘Ishqiya’ which were artistically done without any pretensions which is a must if you have to do a bold scene for crying out loud !

All in all, ‘Heroine’ is not exactly what one would term as excellent cinema but its not bad to view it once at least to get a look at all the outfits the leading lady has draped herself in.

Before I end my post, I would like to mention one dialogue which touched me in the film, which is said by the yesterday actress Helen who plays a meagre character role in this film. She states when she is receiving her life achievement award that she thanks not only the people who have supported her through her journey, but also those who did not as they too were in a way, instrumental in making her who she was today. I hope to see some more good cinema next time from both Kareena Kapoor & Madhur Bhandarkar as both have potential if tapped correctly by right advisors & comrades.

  Franz Kafka : The Trial

I was introduced to Franz Kafka the writer by my Younger Uncle who himself had read in his college days many of the writer’s works but gave Kafka up to concentrate on law & finance. I read him because I was fascinated by his personality & the fact that he possessed a schizoid personality disorder whose writings I wished to study carefully. Before I could read Kafka’s works however, I made sure that I did a bit of research on the man & that took me a while which is uncommon in me. But Kafka is a great writer to reckon with, & ‘The Trial’ is a book which left me quite perplexed.

Franz Kafka was a Jew born in Prague, & who spoke in German. Most of his works were published posthumously by his friend Max Brod who I indirectly admire for doing so & gifting Franz Kafka to the world of literature & philosophy. Kafka wrote mostly short stories but he wrote a few novels like ‘The Trial’ but most of them were left incomplete due to his untimely death. ‘The Trial’ is also incomplete but mind you that adds to the beauty of the work in a peculiar way.

The story is about the unseen or invisible court & justice system of the Austro-Hungarian period. It was a novel useful to me not only where literature was concerned but also, to enhance my understanding of the situation of Austria & its neighbours before the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. It is also stated that Kafka through his writings almost prophesized the merciless extermination act against the Jews (he succumbed to Tuberculosis before Hitler came on the scene). ‘The Trial’ is the story of an innocent man by the name of Josef.K. who has been charged of a crime by the invisible court which he has definitely not committed. The novel goes on to show how K tries to fight for justice & instead is killed ultimately in the end without being proven innocent.


The beauty of it all is that, the charge against K is not mentioned at all during the whole narrative & yet, the indignation that K feels when his lawyer does not aid him or when he is unjustly sort of arrested on fine morning on his thirtieth birthday is felt by the reader as well. This was an early warning given by this master of modern 20th century literature to the whole world about the evil of the invisible court. This novel prophesizes the death of many Jews in concentration camps for a crime they have not committed as well as the killings of innocent Russians during Stalin’s era. The novel prophesizes the death of liberty at the very hands that shaped it, the hands of justice.

Kafka shows through the example of the businessman Block, whose case had been going on for five years, how he was now a mere shadow of his former self & now was only concerned about his case which according to Titorelli, the Painter would never end in absolute justice & freedom. Block to this extent even stays like a slave in the house of his lawyer who calls for him at odd hours & who treats him like a worm. K did not want the service of such a lawyer & to be grovelling like Block….& therefore meets his end in an abandoned quarry.

The character in the novel I admire the most is the painter Titorelli who is a court painter & who lives in a dilapidated shamble of a studio. He amuses me thoroughly when he explains to K about the different ways he could help him & also the way he suffocates K in his room by not opening the window or doors of his ill ventilated studio. The novel infact is suffocating thanks to the vivid descriptions & master storytelling. The heat felt in the artist’s studio is not only felt by K but also by us the readers as well as those readers who are aware of the faulty system of justice even in our own present ‘democratic’ times.


‘The Trial’ gave me a glimpse of the futility of justice in the modern world where everything is like a riddle with many interpretations, just like the riddle told by the prison priest to K in the novel, about the door keeper. The novel shows how justice can be manipulated & how a case can go on for years & years while the lawyers & judges make merry. According to Titorelli, perfect justice is a legend while Block states that a great lawyer is never found (as in honest). All this rings a bell, in the sense….it is happening even today, in India itself.


Franz Kafka really brings out truth in this work which ignites one to think about the past, present & future of one’s government & especially ones justice system. He aids us to take a long & careful look at our bureaucracy & how will the future define its justice system. Will justice be equal & available to all, or will all citizens who approach justice be suffocated the way K was suffocated when he entered the attic filled with court offices ? Only time will tell whether K’s story will also be repeated in the 21st century……or will something worse take place which we all will have to endure.


Zoya was a girl living a normal Christian life with her family in a small apartment overlooking the sea. Zoya was a happy child and was thoroughly spoilt by her parents, uncles and aunts because she was the only child in the family. Every day was made special for little Zoya including Christmas.


There would be the beautiful decorations, the elaborate dinner party, the get together and a basketful of Christmas goodies. But little Zoya loved the Christmas season, not for the Christmas Stockings nor for the gifts neatly packed by friends and loved ones but for that Christmas Eve when she would tuck herself up warmly under a little bed cover early, so that Santa would come on his Reindeer driven sleigh and deposit her Christmas gift under her little Christmas Tree. Come Christmas morning she would awaken to clasp her precious gift from her Santa and then go off for the morning mass……. her Christmas was made. This occurred every Christmas and Zoya’s friends used to tease her saying, “Oh! Grow up for once you little Alice in Wonderland there is no such thing as a Santa Claus. The gifts you receive are from your uncle who pampers you so much”. But Zoya in reply would only say one thing, “I know that there is a Santa and he will never forget me”.


Cheerfully the years went by and every year there would be a parcel under the Christmas tree every Christmas eve. One day Zoya decided to join the Convent. As she left her home to follow her vocation Zoya’s uncle whispered sadly into her mother’s ear, “This will be the first of many Christmas’ when Zoya won’t receive her Santa’s gift for where will I be there to place it under her tree?”.


Zoya was nineteen and at her first year in the convent was well respected and loved. On that Christmas Eve however, Zoya as per her custom retired to bed early. When asked for the early retiring by Mother Superior she said, “Santa won’t come when I am awake.” Her weird reply was shrugged off by Mother Superior and she retired to bed….but Mother was curious. In the middle of the night Mother Superior crept into the little postulant’s cell to satisfy her curiosity and what she saw …….filled her heart with profound tranquility for next to the sleeping Zoya was a little gift neatly packed and sitting beside her was an elderly man dressed in a shining white robe.


The next morning it was found that little Zoya was no more. The sisters as they were preparing for Zoya’s final resting place fetched the gift and placed it in the hands of their Mother Superior. As Mother carefully opened the gift she couldn’t stop the tears that rolled down her cheeks, for there in the box lay a little note which read.

 “I kept my promise,      

 No matter how far

 The distance was ---------------

 For it only takes a little faith…

To achieve what you desire.”


(From my book S.O.S. Animals And Other Stories)











On the cover of my copy of ‘False Memory’ is a quote about the author by The Times which states that the author Dean Koontz is :
“ Not just a master of our darkest dreams but also a literary juggler”
This is according to me the perfect analysis of not only the authors works in general but also with regard to the book ‘False Memory’. The novel wraps the reader in a web of literature which makes the reader tense & agog with the happenings……I won’t be exaggerating by saying that, the novel felt a lot like a 3D Film with all the special effects courtesy of Dean Koontz who makes the scenario so impressively real &….’happening’. It’s a fast paced thriller with enough of shocking material to make it a must read for any reader interested in a good mystery. What is more however, is the dark recesses of the human mind that Koontz allows his reader to get his or her teeth into. Koontz actually through this novel, has given us a glimpse of a very morbid side of the human brain which can stoop to the most gross business possible, just to feel POWERFUL or in control……the deep dark desire inherent in all of us to control & manipulate is seen in ‘False Memory’ & …….it is seriously frightening.
Dean Koontz has done something equal to an exorcist. He has managed to make the evil side of the imagination ‘talk’. The sordid nature of men in power who we trust with our lives at times (if not all the time) taking us for a ride…..turning us into puppets for their own disgusting pleasurable purposes is gruesome………but, it is real…….IT HAPPENS…….IT HAPPENED………..IT WILL KEEP ON HAPPENING ! As long as men are power hungry & human life is treated like a mere commodity, ‘False Memory’ can take place over & over again, across borders……….into the very depths of the human brain.
The story puts the reader on target at the very beginning itself in the usual Dean Koontz way, & an ardent Dean Koontz reader will know, the action always begins in the first chapter itself. In the story, we have four people who are connected in a very intricate way. There is Martie who is a well-balanced & great human being, until out of the blue she is diagnosed with autophobia (fear of oneself) ; there is her best friend Susan, who apparently also suffers from a serious phobia called agoraphobia (the fear of open places) & feels that she is being mysteriously sexually violated in her sleep….when there is no one in the house & the doors are bolted ; there is Dusty who is Martie’s ever caring & alert husband who is always out to help people, but who cannot get over the fact that he has been having some memory lapses ; then there is Skeet, Dusty’s wayward 23 year old brother who is an addict to drugs & suddenly one day plans on finishing himself by jumping off someone’s roof. All these incidents are neatly warped up in a maze of deceit & violence beyond ones imagination.
The characterization is excellent but, the character in the book that most intrigued me was the psychiatrist Dr. Mark Ahriman. He is shrouded in mystery although he is the real central character of this whole story & appears in every chapter after the first few three initial chapters. What I appreciate is the way Koontz brings out the terrible side of this man of medicine which results in dire consequences. The doctor himself was a child prodigy but who had a warped sense of living life that clouded his humanity & unleashed his thirst not only for the tears of his victims but also the power to control them. This character brought to my mind the various influential people in today’s modern world who have power in their hands…….but do we really know what’s really going on in their minds, its eerie & so is Dr. Ahriman.
The novel also brings to light corruption in the medical field where people with influence get away with murder or even child molestation……….or worse! (as in the case of the novel) Such practitioners instead of being on the edge, rather, enjoy themselves in style without the slightest trace of a conscience ; of course, sometimes insanity & warped mentalities does aid to obliterate all reason just like in the book ‘False Memory’.
There is a contrast of conscience however seen in the character of the ruthless doctor & in Martie , Dusty, Skeet & Susan ; the later four although not highly intellectual, are much better humans than not only Dr. Ahriman but also Dusty’s step father whose half crazed world of ‘ideas’ got the whole lot of characters into the mess in the first place. This novel proves that, what the world needs is not intelligent personalities, but people with hearts big enough to save even one life.
The way the author unravels the mystery through the person of the astute Dusty is pure genius & his descriptions are spooky enough to drive the reader into a frenzy if read at night.
Altogether, a very interesting thriller to possess in one’s library. 








Simplicity enables a person to understand the depths of human nature as well as the universe. R.K.Narayan's novel 'The World Of Nagaraj' just like his other books, takes the reader on a journey into the simplicity of a man's heart who is unable to comprehend the undertones of normal activities of people. At the same time, the description of an Indian town, Malgudi where all of Narayan's stories are based again soothes the intellectual critic within us & challenges our inner self especially , the Indian within us all to judge the book. The story is simple yet profound in its unique way. The character of Nagaraj is put forward to the reader as a person whose only aim in life is to pen down a novel on the life of the holy celestial Hindu sage, 'Narada'. Nagaraj is a domesticated personality who is simple minded (he cannot even mix his coffee properly) & who is unlike his elder brother Gopu, who is materialistic & very ambitious, ready to make a profit at whatever cost. Nagaraj is dominated & humiliated by his brother which as is seen clearly in the novel, he tries to ignore passing it of as a sort of 'brotherly joke'. The point is however that, no one takes poor Nagaraj seriously...neither his brother, nor his wife Sita, not the card playing pandit who he goes to learn about the life of the a fore mentioned celestial sage, nor his nephew Tim who is adored by Nagaraj....not anybody, except one person......that person is Nagaraj's obsession NARADA. The reason I state that the sage from mythology is the only one who takes Nagaraj seriously is because, the meaning of Narada's existence itself is to cause what constantly happens in R.K. Narayan's novel ; the mother-in-law misunderstands Sita & questions her actions, Tim misunderstands his doting father & runs of to his uncle's home, Saroja (Tim's wife) misunderstands Nagaraj & leaves her abode along with her shady character of a husband...this continues to take place leaving pitiable Nagaraj gasping for a breath of freedom from everyone including his wife & Narada the sage himself. The novel also brings together a number of unforgettable 'Malgudi' characters who not only entertain but who also play pivotal roles in the whole narrative.,example; my favorite the Talkative Man who leads Nagaraj to the card playing pundit. The novel keeps one engrossed till the very end & yet develops a person's understanding of how not being forthright in ones dealings can create a lot of unwanted issues.,example; Nagaraj was not forthright enough unlike his wife (who seems to act as hi Lady Macbeth) to question the mysterious drunken Tim about his whereabouts during college hours. The hypocrisy of the clergy is evident in the novel as well as the rather amusing side of a stationary shop owner who seems to know more about the Hindu sages & gods than the ordinary pundit. In all, the book was a breath of fresh air for me through the humorous characters & their never ending problems (just like mine....a good read if there was ever one. The 'Grand old man of Malgudi' strikes again !

Saki's 'The Stalled Ox' from his 1914 collection 'Beasts and Super-Beast's'

Saki is the true master of witty & macabre storytelling. He proves himself to be a person who does not analyse situations at their face value & gets into the minds of people professing certain ideas. For H.H. Munro, also well known as Saki, the world of simplicity is a world full of weird possibilities. He advances this theory of his, in his story ‘The Stalled Ox’ which appears in the 1914 collection ‘Beasts & Super-Beasts’.

In the story like in most of Saki’s witty stories, especially in this collection of short stories, he presents to the reader an almost ideal set up, where suddenly an unusual problem arises where absurdity begins leading to an anti-climax of a conclusion which at times shocks a person or makes the reader grin wisely. In the story, the main character is an artist named Theophil  Eshley who paints cattle for a living, not because he is obsessed with the theme of dairy farming but because as Saki states, it has become his trademark. This trademark has been linked to him to such an extent that even his two attempts to break away from his own tradition leads him to failure. In the first paragraph of the story itself, one gets an idea of  the hum-drum life of a simple painter who to us on the face of it, will never amount to anything in life but a cattle painter. Saki however, points to us an alternate philosophy to our prejudiced theorization in the form of his ‘problematic situation’.

Most of Saki’s problematic situations are life changing. In this narrative as well, the issue brought to the notice of the artist Eshley by his neighbour Adela Pingsford changes the artist’s life forever. The situation is urgent & absurd to a logical thinker, but simple enough as it goes where probabilities are rampant. Eshley is faced with a situation in which an animal….an ox holds a prominent position. Saki I have observed enjoys to use animals of all kinds, as miscreants of the human world of so called ‘order’. Infact wherever there is a slight trace of order going on, an animal like a piglet, a cock, an elk etc.., play the role of the tutor of humility.

In the story, an ox has entered the garden of the artist’s neighbour which she definitely objects to, as the alleged ox was upsetting her chrysanthemums. The neighbour implores the artist to drive the wayward ox away from her garden. She is of the opinion that since Eshley the artist was a cattle painter, he would be having a sort of ‘extra’ knowledge about how to get an ox off her land. There issues forth a cacophony of crazy dialogues which is hilarious in its simplicity & forwardness.

An avid Saki reader would definitely be aware of the fact that dialogues are of the utmost importance in the author’s short stories. Dialogues are the tools which Saki uses to dish out to the voracious reader of satire a hilarious stream of wacky possibilities which seem so real & yet so fantastic. The dialogues between the artist Eshley & his neighbour Adela are ingenious. The absurdness of human thought & action is presented by Saki very vividly.

Eshley in the story asks rather odd questions to his flushed neighbour that increase the flame of her rage. Eshley also is so indifferent to the whole situation that makes the reader want to chuckle out loud. Sarcasm is used by Saki to the fullest especially through the person of Adela. When Eshley quaintly asks whether the ox won’t just go out on its own, Adela angrily retorts that if it was the beasts initial intention she would not have taken the trouble to meet the artist in the first place & ask for help. Also, when Eshley very feebly tries to drive the stalled ox away with cries of ‘Hish’ & ‘Shoo’, Adela indignantly states that the next time a hen sets foot into her garden, she would definitely call the artist for his assistance in the form of his useless bird calls like ‘Hish’ & ‘Shoo’.

I’ve noticed also where this story is concerned (as well all of Saki’s short stories) Saki has been able in single sentences even to satirise a lot of events, institutions, ideologies & people. Example is when Eshley mocks the cinema when he states that the oxen that are rounded up on screen may be fake even though they contain a lot of horses to help along with many ‘accessories’. He also picks on The Royal Academy stating that they prefer ‘orderly & methodical habits in its children’.

Another part of the story that amuses me is the almost human side that is given to the ox which seems quite devoid in the artist or the artist’s neighbour. The ox is the one who understands that he is not welcome in the garden after a pea-stick is thrown at him & thus drags himself into Adela’s morning room. Adela on the other hand is flabbergasted when she sees the ox entering her morning room & makes the hilarious statement that where personal preference was concerned, she preferred the ox to stay in the garden rather than in her house. She is also the one who induces the novel idea into the artist to paint the picture of the ox in her morning room which he undertakes to do immediately after it was suggested. The situation seems absurd & nonsensical  but Eshley’s painting of, ‘Ox In A Morning Room Late Autumn’ makes him a real success at last although it does not improve his equation with his neighbour. The story is an anti-climax typical of Saki where the ox that caused a lot of trouble becomes a sensation in the world of art.

In all, the story of ‘The Stalled Ox’ appealed a lot to my taste in subtle humour as well as my love for macabre literature.


It was Christmas Eve and there was merriment going on to the loud beat of club dance music all over Mumbai. It was late evening, Jacob and his friends were ‘clubbing’ with beer and shouting at the DJ to increase the volume of the music to full blast.

“Hey dude, turn up the volume! Don’t you want us to have a ‘Merry’ Christmas,” said Jacob in a half drunk voice as he danced about the whole club.

The music was turned up to full blast while the young merry makers squealed in a drunken delight. Some were over by the dinner tables injecting cocaine into their young veins while some were tumbling upon one another in a mood for an orgy.

It was when the music was at its loudest and the stars were in the sky that the watchman of the club was awakened from his sleep. The watchman’s name was Akhil. He was middle aged and very poor. However, when he opened the door, he beheld a sight which made him thank the Lord that he was in a better position in life. Before him stood two beggars, one a middle aged man like Akhil himself who was dressed in filthy rags which were stained with dirt and grime; the second was a woman with a dark face, clad in a foul smelling sack cloth. Behind them was a white cow with the most beseeching eyes Akhil had ever seen.

It was the music that brought Akhil back to his senses. He immediately told the couple to move away from the club’s entrance.

“Please Sir,” said the man in rags, “let us rest in the open. Everyone has driven us away from their front yards because it seems we spoil the look of their beautiful Christmas decorations. I beg of you, let us stay for the night….my wife is with child and is in labour.”

The moistened eyes of the middle aged man in rags warmed Akhil’s heart, but Akhil was aware that under no condition was he allowed to keep beggars at the entrance. His job was at stake….but his humanity triumphed especially when he saw the pain on the face of the pregnant woman, who he now realised looked ever so young.

Akhil at once took out his cell phone and called his wife from their nearby slum. The woman hastened with a group of elderly ladies and guided the beggar couple to a nearby hospital….but the posh hospital refused them admittance on the basis of their clothes. In the end the beggar couple with their faithful cow, were taken to the slum with a lot of love and care by the slum dwellers.

It was nearing midnight when the cry of a new born baby boy was heard throughout the slum. Akhil’s wife was overjoyed as she held the enchanting looking infant in her arms.

“What shall we call him?” asked a little boy from the neighbouring shanty.

“That’s for the father to decide,” replied Akhil’s wife as she looked at the middle aged man in rags. The man merely answered:

“The boy will have no name, for he was forgotten and ignored on his own birthday.”

Ziya's Last Dance

It was the Christmas Night Party and all the college students in their tight miniskirts and hipster jeans were there all bright & happy. They joked and danced the jive to the beat of the music provided by the DJ—–all except, little Ziya.

Ziya was a young teenager who was feeling rather awkward amidst all the short skirted variety while she was dressed in a violet salwar kameez. Ziya had come alone to the party and she knew or thought she knew that like all other Christmas parties this evening too, no one would ask her for a dance. For Ziya was not like every other teenager, she was different ——and very quiet so everyone preferred to keep away from her. She truly was personification of the ‘one, who stands throughout life all alone’, but yet even such a person is never alone as this story will tell.

The last song was being played by the DJ, it was a waltz. Every couple was waltzing slowly over the dance floor engrossed in each other’s eyes. Ziya knowing it was late lifted herself from the plastic white chair she sat on the whole evening and walked to the exit when someone tapped her shoulder. She turned around to see a handsome young man with sea green eyes and bright golden hair staring at her fixedly. The man said “Will you dance with me?” And without giving a second thought, Ziya put her hand into his and they started to waltz to the tune of the Anniversary song. As they danced Ziya was captivated by the young man’s gaze who emanated a soothing calmness that she had never experienced before – she knew she was falling in love. When the song ended Ziya asked the young man who he was. But the young man with a gentle smile held the chin of the excited little Ziya and said:

“Do you want to dance with me again?”

“Yes”, exclaimed Ziya.

“Then next year come to this party once again and I will dance with you”, said the young man releasing Ziya’s chin and running out of the party hall before Ziya could catch him.

Ziya looked for him everywhere even tried later at home to find him on the computer – but she did not see her sea green eyed dancing partner——until the following year when they met again at the same Christmas Party. This time the young man was dressed in a suit and Ziya was a year older. But, they danced the night away without a word passing between them and like the previous year the young man promised Ziya to meet her the following year again and he disappeared.

Every year Ziya danced with her golden haired stranger, her love never failing just like his promise, every Christmas dance.

One year however Ziya got the news from her doctor that she had been diagnosed with Cancer – the last stage. Ziya was not worried about dying really, she always walked this world alone and thus she knew her end would also leave her soul desolate but — she yearned to see her dancing partner.

That Christmas, Ziya was in the Cancer hospital, her hair shaven and her eyes sunken. Her body ached but all she could think of was the words of her partner: “Then next year come to this party once again and I will dance with you”.

The Christmas day was spent in agonizing pain, while Ziya cried thinking of the Christmas Party that she would miss that night.

When night came, Ziya started to cry again, when suddenly she heard the sound of the tune of the Anniversary Waltz.

“Can it be”, wailed Ziya raising her weak self from the bed —- and behold the young man emerged from the darkness of the room and held out his hand….and they danced.

However when the song ended that night, the young man clasped Ziya’s pale and cold hands and said:

“Do you want to dance with me again?”

Ziya cried on hearing his words knowing that her time had come but as she held the palms of his hands….she felt a slight hollowness at the centre of both the palms of the young man….she realized who he was and answered:

“I want to dance every Christmas night with you —- my Lord” and she fell into his arms and breathed her last.

Now those of you who will go for Christmas parties and dance away, here is something you must do. Go to the window and look up at the sky ——-and you will see many stars twinkling as Ziya and her dancing partner dance through the heavens showing that you are never alone. Someone somewhere out there always wants to dance with you.


A story from my book ‘S.O.S. Animals And Other Stories’

THE ENSOULED VIOLIN by Madame Blavatsky

SHORT STORY: The Ensouled Violin

AUTHOR: Madame Blavatsky

This story by  revered Madame Blavatsky is certainly a masterpiece in all aspects be it philosophy, literature, history, psychology, mysticism, religion & above all, music. It seems that this short story stemmed from one of the Madame’s nightmares. There are many themes, personalities & topics that consist of this masterpiece of literature which does not in the least stagnate the horror story, but only accentuates it to a crescendo, quite in keeping with the musical theme of the narrative. More than anything else however, the main theme of this story is ‘passion’….passion that makes a person either rise to the summits of the highest mountains of heaven, or sink into the cauldron of hell itself. It is passion that makes Franz Stenio the young violinist to rival with the great musician Paganini ; it is passion for the beauty of the sound of the violin that makes Franz play to the imaginary onlookers he terms as the very gods & goddesses of Greece ; it is passion that makes Franz believe that he can rival the music of Orpheus’ lyre (Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth) ; it is passion for fame & brilliance that makes Franz challenge Paganini to a sort of violin duel ; it is the passion for mortal acclaim that Franz in desperation uses the intestines of his beloved adopted father Samuel Klaus to string up his violin BUT most of all, it is the passion for music itself that leads Franz Stenio to his ultimate doom for as the story rightfully shows, love always comes before perfection & adulation. Indeed it was strangely the holy & righteous love of Samuel Klaus which lead to the ultimate end of Franz Stenio, the main character of this story.

The story by Madame begins with the arrival of Franz & his adopted father & teacher Samuel Klaus to the city of Paris. They start living in humble quarters & Samuel tries to bring up the career of his adopted son. Unknown to the devoted father of course is the past history & psychology of his pupil. The pupil, Franz Stenio is of a disposition most rare. He was brought up the narrative shows as a typical Styrian of those days (alluding to the years before 1828) surrounded with superstitious lore concerning ghouls, vampires etc. as well as being a dabbler in ceremonial magic, sorcery, occult arts & alchemy. The student however has little to do with these practices, his time, energy & soul being totally devoted to music, especially his violin.

The ‘violin’ itself to me seems like a real life character in this story. There have been many demonic stories & legends concerning the violin in general which are also mentioned in the story. Madame has mentioned rightly, the legend of the famous Tartini & his famous ‘Sonate du Diable’ which according to folklore was actually played on the violin by the devil himself to Tartini while the latter was asleep. The composition till date as Madame mentions remains a most unusual one which people consider to be the consequence of Tartini’s bargain with the devil. Paganini who is also a main character in this short story of horror is also mentioned to have strung his violin with the intestines of a very dear friend who loved him very much, thus his playing drove people into a sort of musical ecstasy or frenzy. Black magic plays a very important role here in this narrative indicating how through the black arts, human organs are used as powerful magical agents.

Franz Stenio however is unawares of this aspect of the black art & continues to play his violin. When his money runs short, he returns to his mother who is a firm Christian & is appalled with the knowledge that her son does not go to church. She unfortunately as the story goes dies in bed of a chill while trying to supplicate heaven to bring back her son to the church. After this, Franz lives a Bohemian lifestyle only playing to the Greek gods until his tutor finds him. This tutor is none other than Samuel Klaus who beseeches his pupil to give up his current state of life & become his son.

It is at this point of time something very important takes place. For a long period of time, Franz was not really interested in worldly glory for his playing………it is Samuel Klaus his teacher who reawakened in his pupil this desire which ultimately leads to his doom, just the way the love for fame & glory without humility always leads to one’s doom.

Note that though during Franz’s three month lifestyle after his mother’s death he spent his life like a bohemian, he was genuinely happy. He infact as the narrative states was leading a life full of bliss……until the greed of fame entered into his mind. The evil of greed therefore is highlighted in this most extraordinary story.

The story goes on to show how adopted father & adopted son travel through several German cities & earned praise but when they reached Paris, they were hindered in their course of work by a musician of unparalleled excellence, Niccolo Paganini.

The arrival of this rival sets the tone of despair in the hearts & minds of Samuel & Franz who were the worshippers of fame. They realize for themselves at a concert after pawning their watches to buy tickets that it was true…….Paganini was a much better player than Franz Stenio. However, Samuel Klaus makes his fatal mistake by stating that Paganini’s talent was not of this world & that he had made a pact with the devil to play so well. Furthermore, Samuel also informed Franz of the theory of human intestines being used as strings for Paganini’s violin. Possibly, the tutor was only trying to make Franz feel better & not to let his wounded pride fester indicating to him indirectly that at least Franz was not a devil worshipper. However, instead of making Franz feel better…… literally drove Franz insane. A sinister look immediately came upon his face as it does on someone who is desperate. Franz immediately declares to his adopted father that to gain human adulation, he too would be willing to sell himself, body & soul to the evil one.

Here, Madame shows us how the craving for human glory can derange a person’s mind & indirectly recalls to our mind how only humility & simple day to day living can only make us true free citizens away from devilish & evil bondages.

Franz immediately goes into a sort of brain fever & is cared for by his loving tutor Samuel Klaus. During this time, Franz starts to rave aloud, indicating that he would only become a great musician if he managed to string his violin with the intestines of his beloved tutor for human intestines was not all that was important as legend goes…….it is important also that those intestines should have belonged to someone who had loved the violinist with an unselfish & holy love. We do however realize that Franz does not want to kill Samuel that’s why he feels like a prisoner. In the narrative, Franz describes himself as Prometheus (the Titan god of forethought and crafty counsel who was entrusted with the task of moulding mankind out of clay) whose arms & legs are bound with the four strings of the violin…made of intestines. All this & much more is heard by Samuel which brings out two other aspects of this story that surpasses pride, self-glory & fame……these are love & sacrifice.

Samuel Klaus being the person he was devoted as a mother to his adopted son & self-sacrificing as a Christian martyr….kills himself for the sake of Franz, so that the young man could use his intestines to string his violin. It is Samuel’s holy & perfect love for Franz that makes him do this. I quote here from the narrative itself which forms part of the last letter which Samuel hands over to Franz :

“Take your instrument with you & dog the steps of him (Paganini) who filled our lives with bitterness & despair…………then only wilt thou hear with what a magic power the full notes of unselfish love will issue forth from thy violin. Perchance, with a last caressing touch of its chords, thou wilt remember that they once formed a portion of thine old teacher.”

Madame shows here how unselfish true love can be & one cannot ignore the choke in ones throat after reading the above immortal line. Yet, fooling with the devil is not wise & this leads to the untimely & horrific death of Franz.

Indeed Franz strings his instrument with the intestines of his beloved teacher & even challenges Paganini to a violin duel. However, before the duel, Franz grows restless & queer. The devil seems to be acting up & tries to force Franz in the voice of his teacher FROM THE VIOLIN BOX to unstring the intestines. Franz refuses to do so forgetting the legend of Tartini who apparently according to his teacher died one fine Sabbath night, strangled by his familiar demon who had taught him how to endow his violin with a human voice (Tartini died on February 26, 1770 after a long illness it is officially recorded).

During the duel, it is true….Franz seems to be outbeating Paganini but at the last moment….from the sounding board of the violin comes out squeaking, jarring tones which ruins the whole performance & makes Franz a laughing stock. To add to this….a voice is actually heard from the sounding board saying:

“Art thou satisfied, Franz, my boy?……Have not Gloriously kept my promise, eh?”

Whether it is really the sarcastic voice of Samuel’s spirit or a devil, no one would know for immediately Franz is killed on stage after being surrounded by a grey mist.

This story is full of meaning & has a lot of moral depth. It shows us how one simply can lose oneself in one’s own ambition. It also shows us how great literature can really be written. I salute Madame.

Saint Francis-God's Pauper by Nikos Kazantzakis

A flawless masterpiece about the devotion of a true devotee.....that is the story of God's Pauper written by Nikos Kazantzakis. The epic story of the life of one of the greatest Saints in the world is narrated in a lucid & yet heart wrenching fashion that makes the reader one with the pain & passion of the man behind the Saint. 

Being a passionate believer & student of the Franciscan way of life, I find this book quite in keeping with not only history but also with the current ideas religious personalities have about the pain behind the total annihilation of the ego (flesh in the case of Saint Francs of Assisi). Kazantzakis in a simple way reveals to the reader not only the life of Saint Francis. The writer does us a favour for which I shall be ever grateful to him as a reader.....he makes the life of this pauper very REAL ! We generally find the lives of most of the Christian saints highly above our normal dealings & therefore most of the time ignore their life histories as well as their writings which seem rather dogmatic....not in keeping with our practical mind-set. Kazantzakis is aware of this failing & therefore, brings out the true side of Saint Francis of Assisi.....the struggling man to become one with his creator. It is not the lofty saint that we encounter in this classic work but, the lowly man trapped by his love for God & the desires of his flesh which he wishes to overcome. The person that we witness in this narrative is the human being that signifies ALL of us with all our faults, yet wishing to love God in perfection sans faults & sinful ways.

This is not merely a religious document, but a mirror into the heart & mind of one of the greatest mystics of the Medieval Age in Europe. In fact, I would not be wrong if I stated that this novel is the life story of a revolutionary. Saint Francis of Assisi indeed was a revolutionary not only where his thinking was concerned but also his ideals on the way his society was progressing. Kazantzakis brings to us that revolutionary.

The story is narrated by St. Francis’ close comrade & fellow friar Brother Leo who although not all that divinely in tune with God (unlike his friend St. Francis) yet loves St. Francis to such an extent that he goes through the worst of situations to prove his loyalty & devotion. Brother Leo in this novel undergoes the hardships of whipping, self-torture, weather changes, sickness, hunger, thirst, mental turmoil etc., all because of his loyalty toward the person he considers to be quite sure about everything heavenly. More than just the narrator however, Brother Leo in this novel signifies…all our doubts…the scepticism that we are born with & in more than one way does he bring out his doubts. Through him, it is we who are questioning the authenticity of God & the divine call of St. Francis. Just like Brother Leo, we do not question because we think we are more than human….we question because WE ARE HUMAN & can a mere human become a saint? Can a human give up the longings of the flesh? Can a mere human overcome the impossible? These are questions posed to us & by us throughout the book.

The characters in this story may have been moulded in a different way by the author so as not to break the rhythm of the narrative….but they all did exist, this is history, and this is fact. Not only was there the ever loyal but doubtful Brother Leo but there was also the loving Saint Clara who followed in St. Francis’ footsteps ; not only was there a devoted Lady Pica the mother of St. Francis but also the crafty Brother Elias who twists the rule of St. Francis to his own liking & for his own self glory. These were REAL people like you & me who lived during troubled times & yet were asking the same questions about God & humanity that we are asking today. 

The author himself has stated in the novel that he has added many stories from his own imagination at times so as to link together certain intricate parts of the legend of this peculiar medieval saint. He does so to merge the myth with the truth to bring out the essence of St. Francis’ teachings. 

The extraordinary part of the book is that, the wild passion of the human soul is dramatised to perfection that even if an atheist were to read this book, he would be pulled in with this tide of emotional outbursts. The maniacal side of the Saint is seen by us & also accepted by us maybe because we realize that he is one of us. His passion was for God whereas currently our passion may be for many other concerns like Democracy, elimination of corruption, feminism, Global warming , communalism……it could be anything, but we all have our own goals & our own personal barometers to assess whether we have achieved our goal. The fanatic following of the revolutionary ideals of perfect poverty, perfect chastity & perfect obedience by St. Francis reminds us of our own fanaticism to our own ideals. His extraordinary way of living…..his stigmata….his fasts……..his bleeding body……..his hunger…..his yearning for Saint Clara…….his semi blindness all shows a level of extreme that was revolutionary for its time & age. It was not accepted readily of course & he resented it much, but did not complain. His job was to show the passion of his devotion to the world, which he did……which we daydream about too…….to show our ‘different’ ideas to the world which wants us to conform with its own set rules. St. Francis in the novel & in real life never followed the bandwagon but was always standing apart & therefore went the distance.

The novel finally is a revelation into our own hearts & minds……..what is our real mission in life? To conform to something that is not right or to change the rules….even if it takes us to the brink of insanity…..or sainthood!