Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Book filled weekend...

Nothing can be as heart warming as reading a book on a friday night when you know that you have tests lined up for the coming week! I had the pleasure of reading Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat. It is all about What not to do at IIT! Unlike other weekends, I got up early in the morning to finish up the last few chapters. You would never see me doing that for an exam or a test. But then these are the good things about good books. You never get to know how time flies. A good book on a weekend is the most amazing thing for anybody in the world. If you have time, grab a copy of this wonderful book to have a good time!!

Five Point someone - Racy

How would you feel if you are travelling in a train at a speed of 500km/hr! yes, that's how I would describe Five Point Someone. A racy book with all the fun elements integrated in a neat package. Chetan Bhagat has come up with a superb debut. What exactly is the kind of life that is being lead behind the doors of the best technological school in India and one of the elite in the world cannot be handled in a more entertaining way.

It is a story of three youngsters, Hari, Alok and Ryan. I wouldn't be going into their academics. Nothing more suffices to explain their academic brilliance than getting into IIT. Obviously they are among the best in the country. It is about life beyond academics. Their friendhsip gels to a nicety on the first day at the hostel when they are ensnared in a ragging session with two seniors. Their bare intentions exposed, Ryan takes the plunge in getting the other two out of the rut from the seniors. This brings the three of them close. To describe the three of them, Alok is a studious guy, who always puts his family before himself. All his thoughts ultimately converge to his parents and his unmarried sister. The decisions taken by him are a clear influence of the kind of middle class environment he has been brought up in. Ryan is more dynamic and can be attributed to have good(or bad!!) leadership qualities. Ryan invariably is the decision maker. He is the one the other two in the group look up to solve the issues. Of course, Alok can get murky at times thanks to his family commitments but Hari is a total Ryan follower. Hari, basically doesn't want to get on the wrong side of Ryan and Alok. He tries to maintain a neutral stand whenever Ryan and Alok have a standoff. Overall, Hari is a very simple person who has a lot of inhibitions about his looks. His static response to a viva question would be in total contrast to the dynamic response of the daredevil of the group, Ryan.

How mechanical can life at IIT be? Anybody would think that life at IIT is only full of studies if you go by what Ryan says in the book. He is totally frustrated with life and feels that the best brains of the country cannot spend four years of their prime time behind these closed walls without any original thinking. The other two do not have to express these views, and Ryan would definitely not get behind their views(literally!). Life changes and so do for these guys, when Ryan decides that one cannot waste away their best days of their life, and they should look for all round development of the self rather than go in for bookish knowledge. So, he comes up with a daily program that has only three hours of studies, while the rest would be devoted for fun. This forms the daily routine upto the first semester, when after the first semester results, this leads to a set of three Five Pointers.

Life just cannot improve for five-pointers at IIT. When you are branded as a five pointer, you are looking at the under-achievers of a great institute. What can they do to get themselves out of the rut? Hari, in the meanwhile, falls in love with the Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Cherian's daughter, Neha. His romantic trysts with her is fascinating and fun filled. Whether Hari can hold on to this relationship in spite of the many blunders that he commits, and whether these guys can beat the system at IIT to herald a good future forms the crux of this fast paced book. I refrain myself from using the words novel or an autobiography, simply because it is neither fictious nor it is an autobiography according to the author. Chetan Bhagat has put himself in Hari's shoes, but goes on to say that not everything what is written is true. So, this is a blend of facts and fiction. Obviously not everything is true simply because of the extraordinary incidents that are written in the book. Such things are unimaginable to take place in an institution of the reputation of the IITs.

Chetan Bhagat has come up with a neat book that can be made into an equally neat movie. A lot of reviews have compared this book to the DCH version of a movie. Being a first time author, it is very difficult to guage the pulse of the readers and I think he has got the equations right amidst the young readers. Ryan is the most difficult character for us to guage his identity. He makes himself to be a rigid persona and stamps his authority convincingly on the other two. His C2D model (Co-operate to Dominate) is his idea when they enter the final year of study. Hari is a subtle version of Ryan. The way he gifts Neha on her birthday makes it too exciting. His regular rendezvous with Professor Cherian keeps the reader in splits. Alok's character is to put in simple words - boring.

Overall this book makes for exceptional reading. This is a book that can be absorbed in less than four hours. This makes for continous reading because this book is just unputdownable. Let us see whether Bhagat can keep up his magic in his next venture One night at the call center. Grab a copy of this book for an afternoon bout!!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Bachelor of Arts - Simply Simple

A book which effectively deals with realistic issues and perfect embodiment of simplicity and values is found in Bachelor of Arts. R.K Narayan has this uncanny knack of portraying Indian values in the most authentic way. He handles it in a way that no author can do the same justice to the Indian conditions. Many foreign authors have tried and faltered to come to terms with the living conditions here. But, R.K. Narayan has repeatedly come up with books that essays deeply into the emotions of the common man, picking out little things from daily lives that makes a big difference to the reader when reading the book. Be it the masterpiece Swami and friends, where any reader can be attributed to have lead a life similar to that of Swami, The Financial Expert which brilliantly deals about the relationship between father and son or The English Teacher, which explores the intricate association between a husband and wife, and the subsequent agony of the husband after his wife's departed soul, R.K. Narayan comes up with touching themes that leaves the reader in deep introspection.

Bachelor of Arts is a walkthrough of a generation revolving around the main protagonist of the story, Chandran. Chandran is so ominously present in us that it doesn't become difficult to get into his groove. There are times when the reader has to stir himself up with the feeling Oh!! Is this happening to me?!! A story starting from college days of a B.A, History graduate, progressing into that difficult phase where every student faces a huge roadblock in his life - whether to continue studies or not or rather What do I do next?, and then, falling unsuccessfully in love with the girl next door only to think that solitude is the best company before realising that family means a lot more than that of a girl's love, and chalking out a career after the worn-out days of love is the walkthrough of this brilliant piece of literature by the greatest Indian writer of all times.

Chandran's college days are a gentle reminder of our days. Planning out a study schedule for the exams brings memories where we have planned more than we studied. The household of Chandran brimming with life, with his mother, father and brother is like any typical Indian family. The college activities of Chandran are superbly written. The debates of whether historians have to be slaughtered or not, is brilliantly depicted. His friendship with Ramu and their mutual admiration for each other is well handled. R.K. Narayan has also beautifully brought out the fact how college friends do not end up as friends for life. When Ramu loses all touch from him after a few years, R.K. Narayan through Chandran says People pretended that they are friends, but the fact is they are brought together by forces of circumstances. How true!!!

His life changes when he sees a girl, Malathi in the town. He constantly ponders about her at home. His parents become distressed seeing his situation at home. They, to fulfill their son's wish try their best to strike the alliance, but due to the conventional concepts of horoscope matching, ill luck has its claim on the alliance. Chandran is shattered with the developments, and all the more, when he sees his hearthrob getting married. He feels that running away from home is the best thing for him to do. He does run away to Madras, where he carefully eludes staying at his cousin's house, and slips away to obscurity. There, he comes to face with circumstances that makes him realise how foolish it was of him to slip away from loved ones at home. He comes back to Malgudi to a relieved reception from his parents. He realises that he has to take up some responsibilities and chalks out a career, until he really falls in love with a girl and gets married.

This forms the gist of Bachelor of Arts. The reader is constantly in a trance while reading this book not because he is elevated to fictitious situations, but because he is take to stunning reality that places him so close to this cherubic Chandan. I have read this book more than a couple of times and everytime it is a new message that gets embedded in my mind. A masterly book by a masterly writer. Not to miss this book for anything in the world.

Swades - A touch of class

A story woven out of wafer thin concept, driven by morals, values and ethics with simple entertainment can be translated to a highly meaningful cinema only by a genius. Ashutosh can walk with his head held high!!! He has come up with a gem of a movie, touching the emotional chords of reality. The fusion of the west and east, and its inextricable separation cannot be displayed in a more authentic way. Swades, starts off in the backdrop of NASA, powered by the big guns of the technological field, with one of its high priority projects managed by an Indian - Mohan Bhargav, in the role of a Project Manager, aptly enacted by Shahrukh Khan. Shahrukh can be attributed to have enacted the role of his lifetime. It was really annoying to see Shahrukh in the usual run-of-the-mill roles as Rahul and what not in every other romantic flick. A highly talented actor like Shahrukh could not have had a better platform to showcase his skills. The sheer agony of having to chose NASA or charanpur to live out the remaining part of his life leaves everyone in a contemplative mood.

Mohan decides to visit India for two weeks to visit his childhood mentor, nanny(whatever) Kaveriamma. The visit to India serves as a double dose, as he gets to meet the woman of his life - Gita(Gayathri Joshi), who is an idealist with contrasting views to that of Mohan. Mohan is witness to the innumerable problems that besets the people of Charanpur. A thing as simple as electricity that remains elusive to the people of Charanpur is not taken well by Mohan. The pathos that fills him when he sees a kid selling water for 25paise at the railway station is one of the best scenes of the movie. It leaves an indelible image on the viewers even after the movie. What can he do to get the country out of the rut? Will he go back to NASA along with Kaveriamma or will he fight for the people's cause forms the crux of this well crafted movie!!!

The actors of the movie have done a fantastic job. Each scene is crafted to perfection. Shahrukh, as Mohan delivers his dialogues in his inimitable style. Gayathri Joshi is a ravishing beauty. The scene where she presents herself during her marriage talks sticks to memory for long. The lagaan actors who play the roles of Postman and cook have done a great job. The rustic countryside is picturised beautifully. A R Rahman and Javed Akhtar have proved once again why they are the best in business in today's cinema. Rahman has come up with titillating tunes, and Akhtar's lyrics are simply brilliant.

All in all, a great movie for all. The critics would simply love such a movie. Whether the Hindi cinegoers are going to love such a movie is another highly debatable topic. A movie with a social message having a documentary touch has never been respected by the cinegoers and whether Swades will change the face of hindi cinema is a million dollar question that can be answered only by the collections at the box office.

A movie not to be missed for sure!!!!

The Fountainhead - A symbol of solitude

The book driven mainly by a single character, Howard Roarke, an architect who is the symbol of ideals, values, morals and principles leaves us in doubt. Who gets the credit? Howard Roarke or Ayn Rand, the author? Ayn has created Roarke to perfection and his ability to stick to his strong ideals in the face of adversity leaves the readers with a sense of deference towards Roarke. The main theme of the book is whether an individual has to live for himself or should he survive by appeasing the whims and fancies of all around. The latter is referred to as the Second Hander. According to the author, the creativity of the owner is modified by the second hander to get adoration and admiration that would prove to be futile in the long run.

The Fountainhead is a simple story of the life of two different kind of architects - Peter Keating(second hander) and Howard Roarke(creative idealist). Roarke is suspended from Stanton institute in his final year of his architectural study as he refuses to believe in the confined system of education that provides nothing to enhance his ability. On the contrary, Keating sticks to his education which lands him in a top architect firm in New York city. The initial struggle of Roarke reduces him to penury and the roaring success of Keating(thanks to Roarke's help in various architectural drawings) makes him the top architect of the country. There is a stage in Roarke's life, where he has not paid his office rent for two months, telephone bills, electricity bills for the same duration and the remainder of his life cringes on a bank contract that he eagerly awaits. In spite of his hard-stricken financial position, Roarke has the guts to refuse the contract since the committe members suggest modifications in his drawing. This tells us the kind of stance taken by Roarke in the worst of circumstances. He undertakes all kinds of work to keep his life moving, even going to the extent of working in a quarry. At a later stage, he meets the woman of his life - Dominique Francon. They share a passionate relationship and Dominique's mind-duels with Roarke forms a very interesting and fascinating sequence. Howard Roarke's association with Gail Wynand, the owner of the prestigious newspaper The Banner, who also happens to be Dominique's husband, steps up Roward in the success ladder. Whether Roarke is successful to stick to his ideals and live out his life in peace forms the essence of this brilliantly crafted book.

Peter Keating might have been successful in the initial stages of his career, but the latter half of his career reduces him to an insignificant character. He wins the initial battles, but ultimately loses the war unlike Roarke. There are different kinds of people in the world - People who practice what they preach and people who preach what they don't do. There is another category which is totally non-existent - People who do not preach what they practice. Roarke finds his name in this elite category. He sticks to his ideals without any sense of reasoning as far as the society is concerned. He might have earned a very contumacious reputation for this attitude, but this also gives us the opportunity to peek into his reclusive ideals.

The whole book treads on the path of altruism but ends with a high note on egoism. There are two trials that Roarke has to face in his life - One for the Stoddard Case and one for the building explosion case. These are the two cases which present a totally different outlook. In the first case, Roarke presents a photographic evidence, while in the other he presents an outstanding argument to win his case.

This is a book that really gives the reader to ponder whether he is on the right path of fulfilling his dreams. Fountainhead springs forth the virtues of solitude - the ability to think alone. The highly philosophical drama embedded with strong messages is a must read for people who look forward for a book without any tinge of commercial elements - thriller, mystery or romance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It hardly matters...

Does it make a difference whether you are in Bangalore or in the United States? I would definitely say no. The general lifestyle tends to change but not to a large extent. Life trudges along the same mechanical lines. The limits are very clear. You tend to do what you have been doing the last twenty years albeit with a touch of independence and measured self-confidence. If Bangalore was all about studies for a student, life here in Rolla encompasses other things too. Cooking, washing, cleaning, reading, surfing, blogging and maybe studying, form the daily chores.

What is this talk about International community and overall exposure? Be it a Graduate Students meet or International Students meet or any other meet, the major chunk of the guys tend to be Indians. International students do exist, but it is largely overridden by the vast majority of us, that they other nations form a miniscule of the student population. I many times, feel that I stay in an Indian colony in Bangalore. The apartment is such that it is filled with Indian students and form typical Indian neighbours!

Human beings are deceptively a coherent unit at home. We fight, shout, and yell at will while in our country. But once we are thrown into the vast unknown, indecisiveness, insecurity and apprehension brings out a lot of cohesiveness and bonding in us. You realise the importance of community and friends. Adjustment and flexibility become new adjectives in your life. Self-dependence and self-reliability forms a crucial part in transforming your personality. We are the birds that flock together. Yet, it is highly mesmerizing when we retain our identity in a group.

Studies are studies in any part of the world. But when studies are just a part of the overall syllabus that life throws, you realise that it is not studies alone that holds the strands of life together!!

The initial days are generally filled with prolonged confusion. Is it all worth it? is the question that hits your mind pretty frequently. But once the daily routine gets embedded in your lifestyle, all these things are just normal. The mechanical element in life gets its introduction and stays on!! That's when you realise that life here is no different than in India. Just as one cannot find out that distinguishing factor between sunrise and sunset, the beginning of a new lifestyle is just as same as the previous one.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


A game of squash is fun - real fun indeed. The recreation center in the university sports great facilities in badminton, basketball, lawn tennis, gymnasium, racquet ball and squash. So, why not Squash today? Experimenting, learning and picking up new things is great fun. Back from a good treadmill session, I happened to meet my friend who was back from an endearing session of squash. I pulled him for another session...obviously I wanted to try out this fascinating game. He came after a lot of reluctance. 25 minutes of back-breaking ball hitting. I was trying my level best not to go for the backhand chops, a habit procured from table tennis. Hitting across the walls, and trying to outwit the opposition is challenging stuff. At the end of a pretty tiring game, we decided we would end the day at the recreation center. And then, casually, we tried to open the door. Oops! The door seems to be locked! Both of us tried rotating the knob in both ways, and it seemed to have stuck. There is no point in shouting or banging the door. It is a sound proof room. Com'on you are playing Squash! An half an hour's wait. We were exploring the combinations of breaking out. Suddenly, through the small glass frame, I could see someone whisking past the pathway (about 2 meters in width). We frantically banged the door. It was our lucky day under these circumstances. The in-charge was there on time. She told us to stay cool! Even she tried her level best to free us out, and then it was decided that there was something wrong in the lock. She called in the physical instructor and after about 10-15 minutes, we had the door flung open. But once we realised what the problem was, we could manage another 8 point game!

If you ever think that you are not claustrophobic, get into a squash court with a damaged lock. You may experience something totally different!!

I better get used to this, I want to play another game of squash tomorrow. I better check the lock before I get in!!