Random Ramblings

#155 : In Search Of……….

What does a human being want from life?

A question which seemingly has a truckload of answers – none of which really make sense. Is it Money? Love? Food? Affection? Gratification? Control?

Trying to find an answer for that question is like trying to find the mitochondria on your skin with naked eyes. It just cannot be found, one has to either trust the scientist who says it is present or they have to resort to finding a microscope which can help find it.

Rising intolerance, rapes and other heinous crimes makes one (a normal human being specifically) wonder as to what drove these people do what they did. Nothing justifies their act but it is strangely intriguing to know what made them to do what they did. What did they want in life? What can a possibly motivate a person to rape a 8 year old child who probably doesn’t even know that her privates could be used for things other than nature calls. That search to attain something in life is vicious. Now that they have raped and murdered the girl, achieving whatever they intended to, would they stop and be happy at that? A million dollar question either a higher being or a time traveller can answer. Moving on from rapists to the sophisticated killers who bombed an entire country in suspicion that the country in question stocked chemical weapons. What would the person who ordered such attacks – whosoever they might have been – have searched for in their life? Would it be destruction? Control? Power? Would they stop at this? Would the search in their life ever end?

Now that it has been established that it is pointless to even phantom as to what the human race is in search for or what they think is the purpose of their life is – the next question is automatically irrelevant. The next question logically would be as to if the “search” in question is justified. When it is not clear as what a human being really wants, it is automatically irrelevant to question the authenticity and humanity in the means and method or the very “search”. In light of the reason friction and inhuman happenings nothing can possibly be justified.

In short, there can never be an answer for what a human wants from life until the evil is flushed out of the word – Utopian fantasy really. Nothing really a human wants can be justified.

 

Random Ramblings

#154: Waking Isabella by Melissa Muldoon : Review

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Having read this writer’s previous work, I was quite sure that I was in for a treat of rich vivid descriptions. This book indeed turned out to be a treat! The story is about Leonora (Nora) – a researcher who is recovering from a broken marriage. She travels to Italy to do a documentary on a Medici princess – Isabella. The princess is quite inspirational which makes Nora pack up her bags to document her life. She also ends up reconnecting with her friend in Italy.

As she lands in Italy she meets Luca, an antique shop owner who tells her about a painting of Isabella with her mother which belonged to their family but has gone missing. The story now shifts to Luca’s grandmother who helped smuggle paintings in order to save them from Nazi destruction. The rest of the story is about the connection between this three women and the mystery of the missing painting.

The writer evidently has done quite a bit of research about Italy, it’s landscapes, it’s history and artists. The history part of the book sounds so authentic and is done to perfection. The story as such is great but the book can be a little difficult to read because of the language and the subject in hand. However, if one is eager to know more about Italian language and culture, this book is a perfect read.

Writing wise, the story is a mixed bag for me. The writer has put in a lot of effort to distinguish between the voices of three women. I could connect really well with Isabella’s story and partly with that of Margherita’s story, but Nora’s story was quite bland and paled out in comparison with that of Isabella/Margherita’s. The other peeve point I had was with the liberal usage of Italian phrases – The story did need it, but at places the translation was missing. Nevertheless, this could be overlooked as it brought in that authenticity to that story.

In short, this is a beautiful and well written tale of lost love, friendship, betrayal and the vagaries of a relationship.

Random Ramblings

#153 : The Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri – A Review

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It is not often that one comes across a book so well written technically yet finds it difficult to like it. I’ve been reading books since I was 6 and been writing about them on public platforms for the past 5 years. There have been just a handful of times when I struggled to give a rating and justify it. The whole concept of rating some human’s effort is such a hard thing to do. This book left me wanting to pull out my hair – I couldn’t decide upon a rating. I settled for a three star writing. I hope to justify it below.

The writing and characterization – These are two things which forms the base of any story apart from the story itself. The writer managed to get one of this perfect and the other almost perfect. The writing was just perfect. I literally fell in love with Teesta river. Exploring north east has been on my bucket list for long, reading this story made me want to be there. Places and people came alive in his writing. The characterization was almost perfect, barring one minor flaw in one character – Fiona – I couldn’t really digest that she didn’t grow out of that shell she went into sooner. However, this writer must have had his own convictions to do so. Overall, very fluid and beautiful writing.

The Story – This is where my problem lies. The story was a good one. Writing a story around death is not an easy thing to do. When emotions are in play, logic might as well be thrown out of the window. What matters is the sequence of events as such. It is understandable that the story is more character and emotion-centric given the theme, but after a point it was quite easy to predict what was coming next. It felt like yet another old movie where two people are joined by their fate. It is hard to explain much without giving away the plot, yet I am trying my best. Towards the end, I felt as if the writer had to resort to certain cliches to give the story an ending. The common solution to a conflict might not essentially be a best one. It is not always necessary to tie down everything with a beautiful ribbon in the end. That’s really why I broke my head over the rating. The story had nothing really wrong with the climax as such but it was something I didn’t really like. The writer – whose words seem to be almost magical – could have chosen differently, but he did what he thought was best and I didn’t like it. Simple.

It is book worth picking up in spite of the cliched story line.

Note – The book was a review copy from the writer in exchange for a honest review.

Random Ramblings

#152 : I’m Not From Around Here by Ishai Klinowsky : Book Review

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I’m not from around here is a memoir of a Jewish man whose family survived the World War II. It typically reads like the diary with sequence of events which moves on from generation to generation with each set of characters slowly fading out of relevance as the generation progresses. The denominator in such memoirs have always been the torture methods used and the impact it had on the person’s psychology. This book was slightly different in that aspect for me as it was a diary which focused more on resilience rather than failures.

The author traces the journey of his mother from surviving a labor camp to being married twice breaking cultural norms. The author also talks about his father and step father – both of them ended up getting arrested for smuggling cars into the country. The rest of the story is how the family survives in spite of ending up in different places.

The narration is surprisingly from a young version of the writer. However, there were multiple POVs in some place which really didn’t work in favor of the memoir in general. Given the diary itself is spread across generations there were too many characters which really didn’t seem of consequence once this generation faded.

I jumped at the chance to read this book primarily at the mention of Israel. I’ve not read a single account by an Israeli about the war. I expected the narration from a middle aged man. It was uncharacteristic of a memoir to be narrated by a young boy. I could connect quite well with the story and the underlying emotions as the tone of the narrator is quite young.

Note : Received the book as a part of b00k r3vi3w Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Spain Dairies

#179: ¡Buenos días! – Spain Diaries – The People

A nation’s culture resides in the heart and soul of its people remarked a very learned man from my country – Mahatma Gandhi.

The people of Spain are quite friendly, warm, passionate and generally do not indulge in racism unlike their other European counterparts who are notoriously famous for being racist. Of the 72 days I’ve been here, there was just one instance where we catcalled for being brown and Asian. Right from the receptionist and the janitor in the hotel where I stay, to random strangers on lifts, colleagues from work, people in super markets and restaurants, are quite friendly. They always greet you with polite hello (¡Hola! or ¡Bueno!) or the wishes appropriate for the time of the day (¡Buenos días! – Good Morning, ¡Buenas noches! – Good night). Immaterial of the gender, the age, the color or the creed, they go on wishing with a smile. This is one thing I wished my hometown learnt. Yet again, people are different and cities are different.

Physically, it is near to impossible to stereotype a Spaniard. The features are all mix – Tall, short, bearded, blondes, blue eyed, black haired and what not. This can be  attributed to a fact that Spain has a very rich history in terms of the DNA make up. This is bound to happen as the country was conquered, invaded, influenced and ruled by various kinds of people including the Vikings, the Arabs, the Jews and the Catholics. Every town I visited at least had a mix of two cultures as a part of their history.

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Madrid’s Sol square. Teeming with people – Taken weeks before Christmas

One thing that scares me a bit is the intensity and passion of these people – again attributed to their genetic make up. It is a bit unnerving to watch a very jovial person turn all red and intense when they are conversing on certain topics which mean a lot to them. There was this one instance where a Spaniard I work with disagreed with me on a technical topic we were discussing. The discussion quickly went south and I decided not to indulge in an argument. It took that person quite a while to come back to the normal and talk to me like before. Witnessed “Intensity” first hand. There were several instances with several other different people who went from being laid-back to serious in fraction of seconds when touched upon certain subjects including that of Catalonia – a topic I have very limited knowledge and literally no opinion.

Madrid however, seems to be a melting pot of cultures. There are a lot South Americans from Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela to name. Though they share same language with the Spanish people, they seem to have a slightly different accent – evident even to a person who doesn’t know Spanish. Immaterial of the accent and dialect, they also seem to be as intense as Spaniards.

One thing I truly love about the Spanish people in general is their sense of equality. Men and Women are equal. It is apparently characteristic of the people to not bat an eye to the vagaries of women folks. Being from a country where public displays of affection (of any kind) is quite frowned upon, this culture was mildly shocking – in a good way though. Initially I was quite jumpy when my male colleagues touched me to call me. That never does happen back home. You simply don’t touch a woman who is not your wife or daughter or sister. Much to my utter shock (initially again), it is customary here to kiss people to wish them or greet them. I always thought it was only the French who believed in kissing. Turns out, the Spanish are no different. I was just a bundle of nerves all during the Christmas and New Year season. Yet again, I strongly believe in adapting. Different country, different culture – different customs. It was one learning experience. I concluded strongly that this kind of a gender indifference is probably what paved way to equality. It is also not surprising to note that the culture has embraced all sexual orientations quite well.

One aspect of the culture that I would not wish to comment upon is the sense of commitment. Yet again, my Indian upbringing refuses to really let me adapt to notion that a man and woman can live together, have kids without being married.  To me, that kind of a relationship cannot be dissected and debated until one has first hand experience.

At the end, it all boils down to one simple golden rule – When in Rome, be a Roman. Adapting is the key. It is important to respect the culture and way of life of other humans. When you are being treated with respect, I don’t think it is difficult to reciprocate.

Note : I’ve steered clear of talking about the food. The Spanish cuisine deserves a post of its own.

The other topic I have not touched upon is Literature and books in general. That’s a work in progress because literally everything is in Spanish and I need to obverse and converse with people to understand about that.

Spain Dairies

#178 : ¡Muy bien! – Spain Diaries – An Introduction

It’s been a little over two months since I landed in Madrid. My time here has been nothing short of fun. Exploring a new place and adapting to a new culture is certainly fun and is also slightly daunting. I plan to chronicle my time here in Spain via a series about the food, the people, the culture and various places I visited.

An introduction is in need before I go on – I’m here in Madrid for a short term project based assignment for my employer. I’m put up in a hotel minutes away from my work place. I typically work 5 days a week with the 5th day being shorter than the rest. I get to explore Spain during the weekends and other public holidays.

Chennai is quite well connected to Spain, particularly Madrid with a lot of flights by various carriers like Emirates, Ethihad, British Airways to name a few. I took an Emirates which had a 2 hour stop over at Dubai. The Dubai to Madrid leg of the journey was operated by Emirates and Qantas jointly. Madrid is 4.5 hours behind Chennai. Thankfully I traveled on a weekend making it easy to manage the jet lag. I had 2 other colleagues travelling with me in the same flight. We landed in the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport at 7.50 PM (UTC +1:00). Given it was November, the winter had just begun. Thankfully we came quite prepared to ensure we didn’t freeze before we could board the cab to the hotel. Paid EUR 40 for a 24 Km ride from the airport to our hotel.

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Madrid City View – From Roof top of Azotea Del Circulo

Highlights

  • DXB to MAD – Its an 8 hour flight. Prepare to be tired and dehydrated.
  • Madrid is  quite a dry place – My skin went from dry to super dry in just about an hour. It is wise to come armed with a moisturizer and a lip balm. Preferably a strong one. However, it is best to use the ones locally available ones as those are made for this kind of a climate. More about this later!
  • The people are quite friendly, but they don’t speak English well. After all Spanish is the third most spoken language. Be ready with a snap shot or a perfect address of the location you want to reach once you land.
  • November and December – Cold, January is Colder and the wind makes it even more difficult. You can really notice the days getting longer! – If you are here for work like me, Inner thermals aren’t really needed. You need a decent sweat shirt and a good jacket. I purchased my sweatshirt here in Madrid from Decathlon. Chennai isn’t the best place to go winter shopping. A good pair of gloves and something to cover your head is also a must.
  • Shoes – Best solution to wade through the cold. Also, I’d recommend using a good foot spray to ensure your foot stays moist.
  • EUR is the currency. I carried some cash and the rest as a Forex card given I am here for a long time. Most of the cabs accept cards, but it is best to carry some cash in case of emergency. Also, it would be wise to carry coins since most of hotels have a coffee vending machine.

Stay tuned! More about the food and people soon!

PS. This post is strictly for people like me who haven’t been abroad before for work.

Random Ramblings

#177: Book Review : Waterboarding by Bragadeesh Prasanna

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Waterboarding – involves the torturer to pour water over the face of the captive, over a damp towel to give a sensation of drowning. While the mind knows that he is not actually drowning, the captive’s body sends contrasting signals to the brain making it a very painful experience- The kind of a title that you would expect of a psychological thriller or a love story which would probably involve an absurd character. This story turned out to be neither, however, the title was very relevant to situation the protagonist Ved is in.

Post a life changing accident, the protagonist Ved’s memory is blanked out. He relies on his friends – Sara and Ramesh to fill in the gaps. What follows is a story of a complicated man and a perfect love triangle.

The story was simply gloomy. It is fairly apparent that the writer intended it to be this way. The characterization, the narration all of it gave just one feel – The feel of gloom. Having read the previous work of the writer, it was quite a surprise to see his writing undergo a paradigm shift. His previous work was more of a rant rather than a coherent story. Though this plot is fairly similar to of his last publish novel (300 days), this story was a much better read in terms of writing in general and the narration/characterization in particular. The writer has crafted all the characters with care showing enough amount of their traits and aspirations. However, there were parts of the story where I felt a couple of secondary characters weren’t of much use – like the prostitute and the friend who comes from US. It felt like they were are in a mild deliberation to properly tie everything up and bring in a conclusion.

To sum it up, the book was a good but a gloomy read.