Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reading Books

“Wear an old coat but buy the new book” was once quoted by great American Educator Austin Phelps. There are many quotes attributed to Books and reading books, glorifying the hobby. Many people boast about reading as a habit and also about having huge collection of books. Well..collecting books is one thing and reading them is altogether another thing. Everyone has one or the other hobby. For me reading is a sheer delight and also have a sizeable collection of books.

Like for people with hobbies, I was introduced to reading during my childhood. It started with comics and story books. I had huge collection of Tinkle, Chacha Chaudhary, Diamond Comics, Tintin etc. Gradually I started reading teen novels of Nancy Drew, Secret Seven and Hardy Boys series. Till college my reading was restricted mostly to Fiction. Medical thrillers of Robin Cook and Espionage/Military based novels of Frederick Forsyth were a pleasure to read. My typical weekends used to involve hours of reading. Post college I started venturing in non Fiction. Reading Non fiction became part of hobby during my preparation for MBA entrance exams. Argumentative Indians, India After Gandhi, Breaking India were few of the books that I enjoyed reading.

Slowly I started taking this hobby more seriously. Just as sprinters or sportsmen have goals and target, I started having my own. Targets worked out to be fun. Reading an page within a minute, completing novel in a day were typical targets that I used to set. Reading within time frame does not mean just reading. You need to read, understand and remember the ideas which were propounded in the read lines.

Later I moved on to reading Biographies and then politics. It is fun to learn about a particular event in 2 different books. Few years back I got interested in 2 events happened in Modern India. Emergency of 1975 and Accession of Jammu Kashmir to India. I read books by multiple authors on same topic. Many books have been written on the topic of Jammu Kashmir and Article 370 where authors build different narratives. Each event is described with totally different viewpoint by authors.  

In Non Fiction it is real challenge to read books of few authors like Nicholas Nassim Taleb. His books address very complex topics and are so verbose that it requires reading twice or thrice to actually understand what is written. I have completed reading his book Black Swan and now moved on to his second book, Fooled by randomness. Hope to blog these books soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

You just can’t Predict

Reading Non Fiction is pain and reading books by Nicholas Nassim Taleb is hell of an onerous task. The makers of Blue Whale challenge should have thought of reading his books as one the task. Nicholas Nassim Taleb is a very famous author who came to limelight in Finance and Risk Management world through his books Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness and Anti Fragile.
So what is Black Swan?
It was accepted belief all over the world for centuries that Swans are white in color. It was a proposition made on empirical evidence which was never challenged. Later something amusing happened. Australia was discovered. It was also discovered for first time that Swans in Australia are Black in color. So, one observation shattered the years of universally accepted fact that Swans are only white in color. All the Ornithology and Biology books world over had to be changed due to this one new discovery.

Coming back to my question, what are Black Swans?

They are events that are immensely rare, have huge impact and retrospectively they are predictable. Taleb goes on explaining how not to miss the ‘Black Swan’ events in his book. One sentence that I liked the most in his book is “We can get closer to truth by negative instances, not by verification. It is misleading to build a general rule from observed facts”. How to be immune (in case there is possibility) from Black Swans? There is a whole book written to answer this question i.e. Anti Fragile.

I happened to attend a conclave recently on Project Management which had marvelous speakers. One of the speakers was Mr. Rohit Chaudhary who commanded the fleet of Artillery Guns during Kargil War. He spoke on Project Management during scenarios called VUCA which stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. He spoke how there is no turning back or stopping when war is going on. He was commanding team of Engineers that was responsible for artillery guns.  It was ordered that heavy shelling should be continued nonstop else soldiers may lose life. Guns had undergone heavy wear and tear, there were shortages of crucial spares and soldiers were exhausted due to long travel. Such challenging situations demand balanced and out of box thinking. Rohit told present Project Managers that they should be ready and accept the disruptions during Project Execution. It is only then you can come across solutions. Another session on similar topic had IPS officer Mr. VV Lakshminarayan who is Addl. DGP of Maharashtra. He shared his experience of handling riots during at Ramabai Nagar during 1997 and his investigation of Satyam Computers Scam. His talk was around situations where months of Project Management and planning(Yes, Police too do Project Management) are changed within a day because of changing dynamics. In such scenarios you have to keep your eyes and ears open. Take help from experts but do not ignore the advice from foot soldiers. Non-conventional situations demand non-conventional solutions. Keep convention aside during crisis and throw away the rule book.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Review: Nothing Bad Can Happen (Tore Tanzt)

My job comprises of traveling for around 4-5 hours a day. Thanks to Mumbai traffic. The best way to kill time or to use the time productively is to watch movies or read a book. But reading book in in dim light and in slow moving bus is not an good option. Hence I mostly spend my time either watching movies or tv series. 

Recently I started learning German. In order to complement my German studies I decided to watch German movies. The problem is to search good German movie. IMDB and Wikipedia were not of great help. I wanted to watch movies which had been greatest hits in recent time.

During my search for movies I came across Tore Tanzt thats was released in 2013 and received critical acclaim. I prefer watching light hearted movies which are fun filled. Tore Tanzt (or Nothing Bad Can Happen in English) is far from being light hearted. The movie is very well made and directed considering the fact that this is debut movie for its Director Katrin Gebbe who also wrote this movie. 

Spoiler Alert

Movie is story of Tore and it starts with his baptism in group of young Christian group called Jesus Freaks. Jesus Freaks are bunch of punk religious guys who merge religion with punk culture of easy going life, rock music etc.

Tore stays with his friend. After his baptism on their way to home Tore and his friend meet a family who are stuck on the road due to car breakdown. They had recently arrived in city after they were allotted plot to stay.Tore and his friend pray to Jesus to start the car. To the amusement of entire family the car starts. The family comprises of Benno, his wife and his wife's 2 kids who were born of different father.

Benno goes to the bar run by Jesus Freaks. There he spots Tore dancing on the rave music. Tore has epileptic attack during the dance. Benno takes unconscious Tore to his home and gives him food and shelter to stay at night. Next Benno tells Tore to stay with his family at their allottment which he accepts. Since there is no room for him in house, Tore stays outside in tent. 

Things are good initially. Benno is shown as kind and level headed man trying to help Tore. His wife is indifferent and their 15 year old daughter Sanny in reserved to herself and is not happy with the presence of Tore.

Slowly the attitude of Benno towards Tore changes. On the day of birthday of Sanny he hits Tore hard on face. Later he apologizes for it but slowly his violence and ill treatment towards Tore increases with time, Benno gets angry with Tore and his wife when he comes to know that they had gone for outing in spite of him saying not to go. 

Tore gives his money and his card to Benno. Benno takes all his money rendering Tore penniless. 
Tore goes to visit his Jesus Freaks friend and comes to know that the group has been disbanded and most of the freaks are now moving to Berlin. His friend tells Tore to come with him which he refuses. 

Meanwhile Benno stops giving food to Tore. Sanny comes closer to Tore and Benno does not like it. Out of jealousy he stops giving him food and limits his entry in house. Tore bears all the torture having belief that this is the way Jesus is testing his faith in him. 
Tore out of hunger starts eating thrown away food from trash. His condition goes from bad to worst. Once he sees Benno trying to molest Sanny. Benno gets angry and mistreats him more badly. Tore is physically molested by Benno's friend. Slowly wife of Benno also starts mistreating Tore. Condition gets worst when Tore is force fed rotten meat and he gets bad food poisoning. Sanny quietly takes him out of his tent and tells him to go to hospital and never come back. She calls ambulance and leaves him on street. Tore is admitted to hospital. He recovers but again goes back to Benno's place.

Sanny's face is bruised and it seems that Benno has started physically hurting her. 

Tore is confident and out of his religious beliefs he says that he will get stronger and Benno will change one day. He bears all the physical torture of Benno quietly. 

One day Benno's neighbor and friend come to their home for dinner and party. During party Benno gets very angry on Tore. He hits Tore very badly and leaves him severely bruised. After this Benno's wife and his friend's wife torture Tore leaving him half dead. Tore bears all the torture without any retribution.

Later Benno, his wife and his friends decide to dump half dead Tore somewhere. They take him in their pick up truck outside city in remote place. He is thrown near small drain. Benno has one last look at Tore and realizes that he is not dead. He asks him where is his God to which Tore replies by pointing finger to his heart. Out of hatred Benno kicks him in the drain where the plants around him form a sort of halo or wreath. 

During this time Sanny sneaks out of home with his brother taking all her stuff.

Spoiler Alert ends

Though this movie has many uncomfortable and violent themes the story grips you. The theme of immense belief in times of impending bad times is beautifully portrayed. During the entire movie you are forced to think that why does not Tore just leave the family. He accepts the Benno family out of his own will thinking that his belief in Jesus will change them one day.
The change of attitude of characters during the course of movie stands out. Benno is shown as benevolent and helping man in beginning but he slowly turns in to violent sadist. Same goes with his wife and his friends who slowly takes pleasure in torturing Tore. Sanny is shown as rude and indifferent character in beginning but she turns out to be kind hearted.

Turning such a story into good movie is a challenge which is brilliantly delivered by director Katrin Gebbe. It is mentioned in the beginning of the movie that it is based on true story.

I would rate this movie 7 out of 10

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Narayan is actually Jesus dude

There is too much fuss all over in media over Wendy Doniger and her book 'On Hinduism' which her publishers, Penguin India, have decided to pulp. Out of curiosity I googled the book and downloaded it in pdf format. After reading more than half of the book it did not seem at all that this book is written by an 'Expert' in Hinduism or of Hindus. I read another book authored by her which was translation of Manu Smriti.

While interpreting a culture or a cultural book or a religious book it is expected that ideas or thoughts are interpreted keeping that culture in mind. Wendy Doniger's writings interpret Hindu religion with western yardstick which lead to misleading and erroneous interpretations. While going through her books I remembered something.

About two years back I went for vacation in Goa with my friends. At night while discussing all the topics under the sun and then we stumbled upon  the topic of religion. While discussion one of my Christian friend told that Narayan means a person who walks on water and it was Jesus who walked on water and hence Narayan (or Lord Vishnu) is actually Jesus. So when Hindus pray to Vishnu they are unknowingly worshiping Jesus. Hindus were later misled by a bunch of brahmins and under their influence Jesus was sanskritized and transformed in to Vishnu. This was told to him in church by a christian priest.
I did not laugh on his face thinking that it will be rude. As any one would have done, I ignored and forgot this incident. The manner in which my friend recounted this fact, it seemed he had totally accepted whatever the priest had told him.

Many books in English about various topics on Hinduism are authored by non Hindus. If they continue to interpret Hinduism with such western yardstick I wonder if real Hinduism will survive after few decades.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Suddenly Amitav Ghosh ???

I was surfing news channels today. Most of the channels ran same selected stories...riots in Muzzafarnagar, elevation of Narendra Modi as PM candidate, tourism of PM and Gandhi family to riot hit Muzzaffarnagar etc.

On NDTV I saw a bespectacled person in khadi jacket and kurta speaking about Narendra Modi. While speaking about Narendra Modi (as expected) interviewer suddenly diverted the discussion to Muzzaffarpur riots. I was wondering who is this guy. His face seemed familiar but I could not recollect who he was.

After sometime his name appeared as Amitav Ghosh.

His views were amusing. He said that riots there may be link between rise of Narendra Modi as PM candidate and Muzzaffarnagar riots. Then after a pause he continued..."I don't really know and I an not sure of." Like most of the experts he too did not know and was not sure but he put forward his view.

I changed the channel and was surprised to see Amitav Ghosh being interviewed on that channel too!! This time by Sagarika Ghose. And yes there were discussion about Narendra Modi also.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sethji by Shobha De, Review

I am not a big fan of Shobha De. My wife has read few of her books and recommended me to read her once. This novel is typical political masala novel. It is not very big and language is simple hence it took just 4 days of travelling in local train for me to complete it.
Sethji is a story of a politician from Mirpur, Uttar Pradesh who is leader of ABSP, Azad Bharat Socialist Party. Story revolves around Sethji, his two sons Srichand and Suraj and daughter-in-law Amrita. Also there are stories in novel about two business-man fighting for a highway contract and a politician and goon from Maharashtra named Bhau. 
The novel is in good readable English and is a bit slow paced in beginning. There are ample of incidents where Shobha gives good description of sexual acts between different characters of novel. The conversation comprises of ample amount of crude foul language and bad words. This may not go well with most of the readers. May be this happens in reality and Shobha wanted to do justice with the characters and hence presented them with all their foul language and lecherous behavior. 
 Half way through the novel the plot takes very filmy turn. The events described seem too fictional (even though this is a fictional novel). Initially the novel starts as if there is great plot involved in it which will be a page turner later. But in the end the plot turns out to be dud. 
There are many stories in between which are not very interesting. The people involved in business and politics seem too lecherous, especially the women. 
The part in which Sethji and Amrita are stuck in Mumbai is stretched too much. There is not much stress on central plot which involves contract of highway. Power struggle between Sethji and another female party leader, which I expected to be interesting, is hardly taken ahead. 
The book is interesting enough to read but not very great piece of fiction.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Genesis Code - Review

I finished reading The Genesis Code by John Case.

My younger brother had purchased this novel. Once he finished I took it for reading while travelling for work in local train. I finished the novel in 3 days which was quite fast considering this novel. Usually I finish books this fast only if its too interesting and has high thriller quotient like in Tell me your dreams, The Cobra, The Afghan, Da Vinci Code etc.

The Genesis Code is story of Joe Lassiter who is lawyer working as consultant and has served in Army. His sister and nephew are killed in fire accident. Later it is found out that it was murder committed by an Italian ex-secret agent called Grimaldi. There is another story of Priest Azzeti which runs in begining. A doctor confesses to priest about something. The priest is so shocked to hear the confession that he leaves for Vatican and after desperate efforts informs an high official about it.
A Catholic sect called Umbra Domini then comes into picture. Joe's investigation reveal that series of murder were ordered by Umbra Domini to supress result of a research which they think is act of Devil.
The story is fast paced in begining and in the end but in middle its too boring. There are some interesting facts mentioned in the novel regarding Catholic Church, importance of relics in Christianity and Lilith the first women on earth (ya...and not Eve).

Overall I rate it 3 out of 5.

Rohinton Nariman Quits

Once again Solicitor General of India has quit.
Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman - Third from Left

Rohinton Fali Nariman has resigned as the Solicitior General of India. The reasons are not yet clear but it is mentioned in newspapers that his differences with Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has led to his exit. Rohinton Nariman had replaced Gopal Subramaniam in July 2011 as Solicitor General of India.

Gopal Subramaniam had also quit due to differences with Indian Government. He quit in protest to Indian Government's decision to hire a private lawyer to represent Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal in court.

I came across amusing fact on both the Solicitor Generals. While Gopal Subramaniam was Solicitor General he represented Indian government in Novartis Case and Rohinton Nariman represented Novartis. When Gopal Subramaniam quit, he agreed to represent Novartis while Rohinton Nariman represented Indian Government (since he was appointed Solicition General of India).