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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Finding You

Finding out who you are is a cliched expression. So much so that one doesn't really know the exact sense of direction that this sermon might have been intended to convey. What exactly are you supposed to find? If we were all created equal, isn't it going to be tough to determine whatever is one's natural inclination? If one thing is burdensome for some, wouldn't it be burdensome for others too? How come some people enjoy doing something while the others detest it? Is it nature or is it nurture that guides who you truly are? Aren't you supposed to be affected by the worldview that is sold most effectively to you be means of your surroundings, media, films or people around you?

A daily wage labourer cannot aspire to be a published author one day and a convent educated girl cannot aspire to find a menial day job one day. How are people supposed to find their true calling if there is no real calling as such and everything just depends on how the jigsaw pieces fall at the time of their birth and upbringing. I used to ponder such questions and recently became aware that I was not alone in this. The question of "calling" has been a bone of contention in theological studies for quite a while now. It was Calvinists who I think stressed that there is something known as true calling of one's life. The phrase has acquired a common expression these days and people use it to describe what they love doing or what they have found to be their natural talent.

Natural talent seems to be an oxymoron to me in the light of the questions that come to mind. How can something be natural when you're not born with it. I am good at cartooning and even I know that it is not a talent and more like an interest which was piqued by my initial exposure to comic books and children's magazines which led to repeated attempts to replicate those drawings and all the positive reinforcement that I received in the form of accolades and prizes took to the place where I am now. Published my cartoons in a national newspaper, drawn a few things for money here and there. It was all more like coincidences leading from one to other than some inherent natural skill of mine. There was no sword that only answered my call, there was no hammer that only Thor could pick up; it was just good fortune and favourable conditions.

What if I was born in a family of choreographers or had been shown a lot of dance as a kid? Wouldn't then my natural talent have been dancing? How much of it is natural and how much of it is destiny? I am sure neuroscientists have better explanations for this and yes, there are facts showing how one can inherit certain talents from his/ her parents and also how come anomalies can cause one part of the brain to be more developed than the rest. In that limited sense, yes, there is a natural instinct of a human toward a certain activity but brain does not deal in specifics. An artistic mind can be a wordsmith, a sketch artist, a cartoonist, a detective or a sculptor, it is just the senses that are heightened and your true calling is more dependent on what you consider is cool.

So much for the intellectual part of it, emotionally it is really fulfilling to do what you love doing. It would be great to love everything and do everything with equal zeal but then we'd not have any specialists and the performing world would lose a huge chunk of its audience world. If everyone could do everything, how would you hope to bedazzle an audience with your talent?

On the basis of empirical data, we know that 'performers' are very limited in comparison to the 'audience' and the world is balance. Not all of us can be "GOOD" surgeons, mathematicians, scientists or dancers; which is beautiful and also helps conclude that there is such a thing as natural inclination and it needs to be nurtured. The world owes its beauty to the variety of talents it produces and no matter how much ugliness mankind brings to the world in the form of war, hatred, jealousy etc, humans continue to be beautiful in their own special way.

I am sure you are half asleep reading this meaningless self-contradictory rant but, if you have reached this far and are still interested, let me paint a small word picture for you about the beauty of uniqueness. Have you ever woken up in the morning and looked at your disheveled hair, your puffy eyes and thought how ordinary and common you look? Now imagine that you are not you. As in, you are out of your body and watching yourself wake up in the morning, scratch your bum and start your daily activity. If you can correctly perform this simple imagination, you'll realize that all that is ordinary to you is interesting to a voyeur or any innocent observer who has some interest in you. You are unique, you are special and all your mannerisms and habits are adorable to someone. If you cannot picture yourself, picture someone you love; look at all your wonderful friends and family members who don't know how special they are because they are too busy being themselves to realize that they are more than just who they are. They are also people you think they are, they are also people their other friends think they are and everyone is a rockstar in someone else's eyes. (I hope you're still with me).

Anyway, as of now, you might have no idea where I was going with all this so, let me just put this all into perspective. When someone asks you to find your true calling, an invisible precondition is to know yourself from a transcendental third person perspective and love yourself in all your ordinariness. Yes, your true calling might not be something you're born with but if it makes you happy, it is the only thing that matters. I don't believe that if you don't enjoy being the way you are right now or if you think you're making compromises in your life; you have no option to change it because you do not feel passionately about anything. We are all interesting people and sometimes a degree or a job cannot define you. To define yourself, all you need is to cling to those small chunks of your identity that your friends and family associate with you. We are all social animals and love to be appreciated. On that note, I end this rant about acceptance and the eternal quest to the deepest mystery that is 'you'.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Don't Shoot the Zester!

This post is a part of the #ZestUpYourLife activity in association with TATA Zest and BlogAdda.com

Zest up your life

Here are the five things that would totally zest my life in an upward direction-

1. A sea facing bungalow

I think there is nothing more romantic than a life of tranquility and peace. When I think of a home somewhere near the ocean and walking my dog, preferably a Labrador, by the beach as the sun rises, I get the heebie-jeebies of excitement and happiness.

2. A love story

It is my dream to have a grand love story with twists, destiny, conflict and comeuppance just like in the movies. That surely is going to zest up my life. Love is what makes life worth living.

3. A wingman.

I think just like we all seek 'the one', someone who is meant for us; we also want a friend who'd be happy for us. A wingman who'd be happy when we find a girl and who'd ask her vehemently not to get married so that we can keep being boys forever! Bromance might not be something that men comfortably yearn for in the public but it sure zests up their lives a couple of notches above every level of awesomeness, nay! brosomeness!

4. A late night adventure ride

Nights are mysterious, nights are unpredictable. They change you forever, push you out of your comfort zones and bring out your inner werewolves! I'd love to have one such night which would be filled with all the adventures of a thriller novel. A night to remember! A long drive to discover the underworld!

5. A truckload of cash!

I think it is one of the more shallow but obvious choices. I can build my own castle, keep my own army, buy my own island, declare myself to be the monarch of that island; or maybe just go on a world tour or buy a lot of books. I don't know but, money gives you the freedom to do things and that is the essence of zesting up your life!

Thank you blogadda for letting me wish! :)) Cheers!

Blacking it up!

This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at BlogAdda.com

5 things that you love in Black!

Black certainly is a colour of all times and all seasons. Seasons come, seasons go; fashion changes and so do people but black stays- timeless, graceful and mild yet emphatic as ever.

Here are 5 black things that I'd love to own-

1. A Black Italian Suit!

Yes, Godfather was a timeless classic, and there will be no parallel and I think a part of all the power play is controlled by the sartorial tastes of the mafia. I'd love to own of those dapper suits too! I think there is something about the colour which when coupled with the fabric turns boys into men and men into Godfathers!

2. A Black Superman Costume.

Ok, this might be the geek in me talking but isn't it the coolest thing to see Supes in black in the Alternate Universes by DC? Yes, red-blue is all fine but black is where "awesome" resides.I think with just one black superman tee, I can strike fear in the hearts of good and evil alike!

3. A black sedan.

Yes, Batman in his black suit and black bat-mobile is cool but there is an equally dapper and dashing guy who just drives around in his black sedan and people make way, heads turn and ladies swoon! The guy is just Batman without the suit- Bruce Wayne! I do want to be Batman, but I also want to be Bruce!!

4. Black aviators.

I think once you put those bad boys on, your sex appeal multiplies by a thousand and also, you can imagine punching goons and having them fly away to outer space. Reference here is Salman Dabang Khan.

5. A Black hoodie!

Now since I already have a black laptop, a black bike, I think a black hoodie would complete the gothic look. I'd turn the hood on and disappear in the dark alleys of a metropolitan mysteriously. A hoodie turns you into an agent of the dark and so much more! It can also serve to accessorize the alter ego to my Italian suit wearing persona. On one side I am this sedan driving, dapper powerful guy and on the other side, I am this hooded agent of chaos who walks alone.

Ah! This completes the list- Thank you blogadda for spicing up my imagination!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Book Review- Lucifer's Lungi- Nitin Sawant

ISBN- 978-81-928937-0-9
Title- Lucifer's Lungi
Author- Nitin Sawant
Publisher- Fablery
Pages- 111
Price- Rs 120/-
Cover design- Sunill Kaushik
Genre- Thriller/ Memoir/ Non fiction


I was invited by Fablery to review this book by Nitin Sawant called Lucifer's Lungi and as the title sounded intriguing, I happily agreed to the offer and I am glad that I did. Here's my review of the book-

About the author-

Nitin Sawant is an entrepreneur who has donned many roles from a software engineer to a jewellery designer in his life. He is also a well-travelled person who has many anecdotes to tell as is evident from his short bio on the jacket of the book (Yes, this book has a jacket- old school baby!). The smell of all those adventures and experiences is all over the pages of his book and the sense of nostalgia reminds me of Ruskin Bond's writings.

About the cover-
This 111 page journey to Tamil countryside is packed neatly in a small paperback with a jacket. The jacket is decorated by Sunill Kaushik who has accentuated the thrill and horror aspect of the novel by posing a Dravidian temple against the backdrop of a full moon and sepia tinted colours. The humour in the word "Lungi" is overpowered by the aura of the word "Lucifer" and the book displays a foreboding theme from its cover which doesn't quite hold water once you wade through the first few pages. I think a more cheerful cover art would have done the book some more justice.

About the book-
The pages small in size and a font set in classic typeset reminding the reader of old books with their wafting aroma of the written words evoke nostalgia in bookworms like myself. The language is simple and the approach is very Indian which has kept the soul of the book alive. The English is essentially Indian English. There is no pretentious usage of foreign words for local items of cultural importance. The descriptions are vivid and the characters are well-defined and entertaining. The first person narrative of the author is hilarious at times and the book makes for an amazing companion for lazy afternoon readings. It, for me, falls into one of those books which you want to preserve. The book also inspires one to explore the countryside through its simple yet exact descriptions of the land and the people. This simplicity reminds me of Ruskin Bond's Dalhousie yet it differs from him in the treatment. Bond focused more on evoking nostalgia and bringing out the silly nuances of the characters while Sawant is more concerned about the story which is indeed entertaining and the ending makes one realize that sometimes, real life is way more interesting than fiction. In apt depiction of the countryside, you many consider it a non-fictional equivalent of R K Narayan's Malgudi Days.

About the plot-
The back cover of the book describes the plot as the turn of events once an atheist city slicker enters a medieval holy village. The book is essentially a travel memoir with all the peculiarities of a thriller novel and is paced well with interesting turn of events that will make you smile from time to time.

Shortcomings-
Although the book in its entirety is free of most errors and airs which might have clouded any first person account of such kind, it does bear certain shortcomings as no novel can be perfect for everyone. The story could have been more elaborate in terms of descriptions and factual data but the author has adopted a to the point approach which has made the book slick but has taken away some juice. The inner brooding of the author are sometimes too critical of his surroundings and there is a hint of superiority complex which he himself accepts in good humour. I do not think that humour would go well with readers of more mature mind. In a World woven so perfect, I wish there was no room for petty emotions. Anyway, the honesty might be appreciated too and the complex is more of a buildup to the end.

All in all, a great, short read and refreshingly told with great presentation and good language. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

****/5

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Book review- The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi



I had heard many good things about this book and after reading The Emperor's Riddles and reading its reviews that it was inspired from The Krishna Key, I had to read it to see what book could inspire such awesomeness.

The book starts with a curious murder that immediately reminds me of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. The professor and his female sidekick have either become stereotypical features of a historical fiction novel or the authors of this genre find them to be convenient while formulating the plot.
The character of Saini is poured in the mould of Robert Langdon who is a professor, an academic and someone who knows more about symbols, mythology and history than necessary, thus ending up in the proverbial soup.

Priya and Radhika Singh are the two femme fatales of the story. Characters of both have good, complex back stories which is one of the good things about the novel. It is about the story but it is also about the people. Even the villains and side-characters have been given a build-up to their present state and that's what sets this novel apart from others.

The mystery factor lives up to expectation, the plot is tight and 400 pages do not seem much when you race through history with Saini. Language is simple and easy to understand and the size of the book makes it easy to carry around. The cover art seems a tad faded but when the book is good, who really cares, right?
There are snippets from Lord Krishna's life thrown in between and you kind of start thinking whether the main story is going to merge with mythology which is a good exercise. The fiction is definitely predictable at times and the Dan Brown flavour has been given an Indian tadka.

Westland has done a good job with the quality. The typographical errors are rare. Only one error that could I find was the names of Radhika and Priya being interchanged in the narrative.
The book will be liked by history buffs, mythology enthusiasts and people who have a knack for mainstream pulp fiction.
I give it 4 stars.
****

Monday, 7 July 2014

A poem from a little girl

Hi, so after reading one of my blogposts, Raksha, a fellow netizen wrote to me with her daughter Siri's poetry. I couldn't help but notice how cute and talented this girl is. She had written a poem about cycling and I think she is really talented. Siri is in 6th grade and I was so impressed with her that I've drawn some cartoons for her poem and am featuring it here. I hope you all like it-


God bless you Siri, keep writing.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Book Review- Devil's Gate- Deepak Kripal



Title- The Devil's Gate- An Impossible Journey
Author- Deepak Kripal
ISBN- 978-93-83562-06-0
Publisher- Frog Books (www.leadstartcorp.com)
Price- Rs 175
Genre- Fiction/ Thriller


This is again a review on request as I received an email from this budding author and also an MBBS doctor- Mr Deepak Kripal to review his book. Glad that my blog is garnering an audience for itself. I wonder why it still shows just around 50 visits per day still?!

Anyway, coming to the book, as can be understood from the back cover summary, the book is an unusual thriller with the animal world rooting for its own survival from the deadly human race. I wonder if there if it's the medical professional in the author that has led to selection of this particular theme. Comparison with Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park fame)
 
becomes inevitable. I mean there is no comparison really as Crichton is really multitalented (author, scriptwriter, producer, director and oh yes, physician) and has made a name for himself; Kripal is just in the beginning stage. So, does the book really launch him? The answer can be anything but an emphatic 'yes' or 'no'. It is somewhere in between. 

About the author
Deepak is 29 years old, born in Uttarakhand and currently living in Delhi, he is a medical professional and a blogger. He blogs at theoriginalpoetry.blogspot.in and tweets with the handle @deepakkripal. Writing a book was his dream and through this story, he has chosen to debut in the arena. 

About the cover

For a medium level publishing company, leadstart books have been surprisingly good with the print quality and cover art etc. This cover shows a haunted gate and some paranormal activity as smoke builds up around an arid land with a gate in the middle of nowhere an a devil-like figure lurking behind it. The back cover describes the story involving Katy the cat and Dug the dog's journey to this island of 'five hundred graves'. I do think the back cover gives too much detail and some of the suspense could have been saved for the book. I recommend not reading the introduction.

About the book

Spread across 248 pages, the story of cats, dogs and various other animals does try to create empathy in the reader by making the characters less animal and more human. Love, fear, hatred and other universal emotions are generously used in the book to humanize the characters. I did wonder whether the author wanted to name the dog Doug instead of Dug but then I figured- he must really like word associations and since dogs 'dig', it makes more sense. The cat is named Katy (not Katie) and that too is obvious (Catty). I think using animal characters instead of humans is both a downside and upside of the book. Upside in the sense that it makes it unique and gives room for a lot of wordplay (which is never enough) and downside in the sense that it becomes less relatable and hence less thrilling. You tend to humanize the animals which sort of defeats the purpose of using animals. If your characters are crying and frowning instead of meowing and chewing on bones, you could have gone for human characters with litte tweaks in the plot. 

Anyway, the plot which involves demons and mystery trips has no flaw in terms of storyline which is interesting and weird and has a fair share of humour. Language is lucid, sometimes too lucid and the word selection is pretty familiar with hardly any need of brains. This is pu'l'p fiction (See what I did there?) but the characters are all taken from children's magazine. Here's how I would describe this book- if Champak (A children's magazine) was given to Tolkien to write and if English was his second language, this book might have been the result. There are cats, dogs, rabbits and all cute creatures and their tussles but then there's also mention of demons, angels, invisible islands, graves, blood and characters named like Akida and Nataniel. I think this book could be made into a graphic novel and then would reach more easily to its target audience who are teenagers.

The imagination of the author is pretty strong and many scenes create a very distinct picture that bring one's heart to his throat and interestingly, all this cliff-hanging daredevilry is performed by cats, dogs and their ilk. 
I think that though he is no Crichton, Kripal deserves applause for a different theme and though the book could use more puns and less paranormal stuff or a premise that declares that it doesn't take itself seriously, the book does a good job of keeping the reader hooked. I'd give this book two woofs and one cat-paw!

(3 stars out of 5)

See you until next time!