Tuesday, May 31, 2016

34 to 45 - Prologue


June 25th 1995

“Damn I missed it!” he groaned in frustration as he saw the Beach Tambaram local pull out of the station as he ran from the staircase in Nungambakkam suburban station. “Why did the egomaniac choose today to have the discussion on the project?” he rued. The egomaniac was the de facto HOD of his department, The Computer Science Department in the self- financing Stream of Loyola College. A stream that had an odd timing that ensured its students never fit in with the other students, coming in when the Day College ended and going out nearly the time when the Evening College ended. It also ensured that the return trips from college were always in the peak hour with the office crowd for the students taking the train like Rajesh. The highs of getting into one of the most prestigious colleges in the country waned soon for Rajesh when he realized that he and his classmates felt like misfits since they simply could not fit in.

He walked up to the coin operated public phone on the wall looking for coins in his pocket. His frustration increased when he saw the large “Out of order” in chalk scribbled on the wall. “Damn! Damn! Damn!” he exclaimed. That was the only expletive permitted by Iniya who frowned her beautiful face each time his favourite words inadvertently came out and it took a lot of practice to restrain himself these days.

“I really must get one of those pagers. Actually I need to get pagers for both of us” he thought wistfully. “How do I tell Iniya that I am late?” he kept wondering looking at the station clock. It was 7.40 PM and the chance of meeting Iniya looked very bleak today. As he looked around in frustration he saw the telephone in the station master’s room and the room unattended. He looked around furtively and crept into the room and picked up the mouthpiece. He quickly dialled the number and kept an eye out for the station master. He heard the phone ring at the other end and he promptly cut the line. Then he counted 5 and dialled again, he let it ring again. This was their code and if she was there she will pick it up instantly. It was promptly picked up and an angry voice said, “Idiot! later”

A big smile covered his face as he heard the term of endearment and then the station master walked in.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Two years - too good or not?

The second anniversary celebration of the NDA government is puzzling for the scope and scale for the following reasons:
-          Two years appears too early to celebrate as it is less than half the term but it may not be a bad thing if the scale was not so big

-          If the government has done its job and I will concede that they have, why make a big song and dance about it? Was not the mandate given for them to do the job? Having done it why are they feeling so happy about it?

-      Is the government celebrating to hide the fact that they have not done enough? When actions speak louder, should not the actions of the two years suffice? Why go on an overdrive with a Bollywood star to draw the crowds?

-          Is the government feeling unsure whether it is on the right path and is using this media blitz as a measure of public opinion or its popularity? Surely there can be a better way?

-          Is the government just gloating on its electoral victories after disappointing results and trying to wish away the missed opportunities along the way?

-          Is the government simply failing to get out of its election and campaign mode and making this an extended campaign vehicle?

-          Is the government simply trying to cover up on its poor performance in the public eye and trying to deflect the attention away?

   Having ridiculed the AAP and other parties for their advertisement campaigns earlier, is it right for the government to spend public money to highlight its achievements? I am puzzled that when there is a general feeling of slowdown in the country there seems to be an exuberance that does not seem to be founded on reality.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All talk and no work makes ….

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Two debut novels - too much of unsolicited feedback

I have been on a book reading binge and giving my feedback to the authors. This is my first unsolicited feedback of two books by debutant authors. One of the authors has gone on to write few more books so it may be very late but as they say better late than never.

The first book is “You, me and a secret” by Ganga Bharani. This was on my list for a long time and finally I managed to read it. The book starts off with a very interesting premise of the protagonist waking up after a memory loss and trying to reconstruct her past life. The author builds up the plot and takes it to a climax where it all unravels. There are a few gaps in the plot and the climax is rather contrived and seems like an afterthought.

There is a lot of promise in the plot and shows that the author will go far with time and experience.  It is a love story, with thrill, crime, emotions but at the end the book leaves you wanting for a better finish that would have done justice to the initial promise.

The next book is “Make it 2” by Sharada Subramanian. Tagged as a “Soft Erotica” novel it came with some expectations. Set in Chennai in contemporary times the story is about young professionals and their love story. It is a love triangle and has the hero in a dilemma stuck between two women. The plot goes downhill from there simply because of the weak characterisations. The women are supposedly strong but rudeness and repeating their sexual needs hardly denote strength. Also the confusions in the mind of the characters seem to indicate the confusion in the mind of the author. The reason why one woman leaves is never explained convincingly.

The hero comes off as a weak individual when juxtaposed with the strong women in his life. The women are modern, in control of their lives, are clear about their sexuality but confused about basic things in life. The language used is colloquial and while it brings levity it appears contrived at times. The strongest woman in the story appears to be the mother of the hero and I am not sure if it was intended. There is an instance where the friend of the hero wonders if the hero was disappointing in the sack and that was the only clear explanation for the closure the hero wanted, this closure is the climax of the novel.

Tighter editing and rework is needed for a better end result. The book is a light read and will have its own set of fans but it will need more work to appeal to everyone. My best wishes for the author's future endeavours.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Between Now and Forever - by Meera Shivashakar

This is my second attempt at giving my feedback for a novel. I am sticking to feedback as I am still a little wary of calling it a review, more so when the book in question is the fourth of the author. My doubts were partly laid to rest by the author who reached out and got my address to send a copy for my feedback. Thank you Meera Shivashankar for the lovely personal touch.

I liked the cover though after reading the book the couple on the cover looked alien to the story. The interesting cover font and the thoughtfulness of the handwritten note inside made me take up the book on priority. There were some nice touches in the start of the book with two forewords that were engaging and they spurred the interest in me. The foreword and the list of characters further piqued my interest.

The book is a quick read and took me 100 odd minutes but I will read it again to savour and soak in the beauty of the writing. There is some lovely wordplay throughout the book and some beautiful metaphors that have to be savoured. It is the fourth book and the assurance in the writing and the editing are visible. There were some lines that merited a second read and I think you should curl up in a cosy corner and read the book and savour the lines.

To avoid spoilers I will not go beyond the gist that is available online. It is a simple love story but it explores love beyond the simple man & woman to the love of parents, grandparents and much more. How can there be a love story without a villain and there is a villain in the story to take the story to the climax and here is the disappointment. The sting operation did not seem to have the necessary sting and maybe it was intended to avoid deflecting the attention from the simple love story that is the essence of the book. I am not a big fan of the first person narrative and this was another positive for me personally in the book. Also the writing makes you feel that you are in Darjeeling (if that is possible) with Aikya being a character in the book.

The inevitable all ends well ties up all the loose ends & you almost expect the villain to make an entry as a new leaf.

This is a good book for those who like to read a simple uncomplicated love story that is told with lovely word play.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

After the dust has settled - TN Elections 2016

The dust has settled after the elections to the state government; history has been made with the threat of incumbency given a trampling by Amma; memes have been made to celebrate, drown sorrows or ridicule; but the big question on the minds of many is “Now What?”

The more the numbers of the voting patterns are studied the more the story emerges that beyond the 40% or so who wanted the same government another nearly 40% was willing to go to the deep sea and there remains the balance 20% who want change. There is a small percentage of voters in this 20% who did not want any of the current options, which apart from being a symbolic act matters little to either the results or the poll chances of the candidates. To those who kept saying that NOTA would have made the difference in the polling: pause and understand that he / she did not want to vote for anyone and instead of letting the vote get misused or go unused he / she has said “I am not voting for you”

The apathy of Chennai voters let me sad and having celebrated the spirit of the city in December it was a very quick turnaround. The Election Commission may have had its own reasons but giving a long weekend expecting our people to stay at home during the vacation season was optimism at its best. Credit to the EC however for the aggressive campaign to get more voters out but I always felt that the date would be a big mistake and the numbers agreed.

Going back to the question “Now what?”: An open letter to the new CM got shared where many came out with their wish list for the government. I agree with the open letter and many more in the same kind. I would just like to add that the present election if not an affirmation of the good that was done earlier but it is the result of the absence of a better alternative since it is only 40%.

Do I have a wish list to the government? Yes, they are as follows in no particular order:
1.    Stop opening or permitting more professional colleges & closing down the poorly performing ones and open more trade / skill schools instead. Teach jobless people to fish for free instead of giving those fish so that they can eat for a lifetime.
2.    Target the freebies with Aadhar and ensure that it reaches the needy instead of being a dole for all.
3.    Reduce barriers to commerce and industry and stop the exodus of businesses to other neighbouring states due to favourable and easy policies
4.    Be open to criticism and feedback, they will only make the government rise in esteem in the eyes of the public
5.    Open more citizen contact points for the political representatives so that the public can interact with them directly, provide more access both offline and online
6.    Improve the law and order in the state: honour killings, caste related killings, killing of old citizens for gain to stop or be effectively deterred
7.    Continue with the efforts started to recover the properties that were grabbed by politically connected people earlier.
8.    Revive, restart and finish all pending projects that are lying unfinished
9.    Avoid vindictiveness to those whose disagree with the government view and look at inclusiveness
10. Start work for the next election on the premise of development for all, peace & prosperity

Friday, May 20, 2016

300 - a debut novel by Bragadeesh Prasanna

I am not competent to review books but having read the debut novel of Bragadeesh Prasanna, a blogger I like and a person I admire for many reasons I thought I should give my views on the same. This novel made me do a couple of firsts, I actually overcame my aversion to reading novels on devices and finally downloaded a Kindle app for my desktop and my phone for this novel, I finished this novel on these two devices at a stretch and found that it was an interesting experience.

It is a romantic novel and it goes by the name 300; the reason behind the name is given in the novel and I wondered if this name or rather the pet name of one of the protagonists should have graced the cover since it was repeated several times in the book.

Those who are fans of the Gautham Menon style of story-telling will like this book, it appears semi- autobiographical, heavily referenced from real life, moves at a languid pace, lots of detailing with small quirks that the viewers may scoff outwardly but secretly warm up to. You always suspect that Gautham Menon lives out his lost dreams through his movies and you may wonder the same here too. There are no spoilers here so those interested in a love story must read the book to see how love triumphs in the end as it usually does in the movies even with a twist.

This is a debut effort by the author and it is a commendable effort. There are few things which I felt would have been better in no particular order:
-          Typos could have been checked, tighter editing and trimming of some portions would help. Like in the movies sometimes you feel that some flab can always be reduced.
-          The character build up especially the wonderful women in the story left me wanting. I would be happier to know a little more about them
-          The opening scene and the shift to the flashback was abrupt and it threw me off for a moment despite the epilogue.
-          The climax seemed inevitable and almost predictable, maybe like the movies the other heartbreak could have been healed to leave a smile on the face of the reader?

You can find this novel here. Go ahead, read it and support a new author!!!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

I love India, I love Chennai....

A long time ago, I was informed that it is actually just 9 I got drawn into a group called I-Fix, another initiative that was formed on idealism, fuelled by youthful energy with a desire to make a change. There may have been others, in fact I remember voting for Lok Paritran, remember that party of youngsters like Surya in Ayudha Ezhuthu who wanted to clean the muck of politics and contested with the symbol of an axe?

I-Fix wanted to make a change by doing little things by the individuals themselves without waiting for institutional or government support. Yes even before the politicians made “Namakku Naame” an election stunt, there were initiatives by the common man who sought to make things right one step at a time. I-Fix was into fixing potholes, those silent killers that we loathe on the roads but seldom find any solution to including not meeting the elected councillors for resolution. I-Fix volunteers used to meet quietly in some predetermined spot and fill the potholes with available material and tools. I remember going for a couple of these pot hole fixes.

Like other initiatives I-Fix also receded from memory and it was a pleasant surprise when a mail came with a reference to I-Fix and with an invitation for something new. Since I-Fix days I have been following the key person Vijay Anand online and so when the mail came from him I probed further. The initiative was interesting, outrageous and yet it was idealistic. I was hooked. The reason was very simple, I love India, and I love Chennai a.k.a Madras.

Let me digress for a moment to give a personal back ground: Off late I tend to fly at least twice a month so I use the now much hated Chennai airport at least 4 times. Make no bones about it, we the people of Chennai deserve a better airport than this one which I am told was in the news again for having the 63rd instance of a glass panel crashing down. Yet this airport has one redeeming feature, each time I exit it I look up at the majestic Tricolour flag which flutters across the sky. If you are scratching your head and wondering about it, watch it for it the next time you go there. A 100ft odd (I’m guessing) tall flag mast with the tricolour is near the Canon board that is now the landmark for the app driven cab operators.

This flag always brings a smile to my face and for a brief moment it makes me feel proud of being an Indian. The flag sadly is almost out of sight for those outside thanks to the Metro that completes dominates the skyline. The flag howver reminds me of yet another flag which I saw in Connaught Place Delhi which is breath-taking for its size and appearance and more importantly for its location. There is something magical about the Tricolour fluttering high in the sky and this magic has drawn other like-minded people together for an initiative called The Chennai Tricolor Initiative (excuse the American spelling).

I am now sharing below the details of the initiative from the website:

Initiative Overview

Chennai Tricolor is a volunteer driven initiative (open to all), with the mission to install a monumental flag in Chennai in Marina Beach.

What Is The Issue, Problem, Or Challenge?
Since the Monumental Flag went up in Delhi, there are several cities across the country which have gotten monumental flags installed. Chennai is yet to have a flag that is in a public space. While it has been typically institutions - war memorials, airports, ports, and institutions that have been setting up these flags, in the true spirit of Chennai that was on full display during the Chennai floods, we thought about this initiative being one that is of the people. We will still be working with the government on land permissions etc, but this will be a citizens' owned initiative.

Key Information
Height of Flag Pole being Planned: 207 ft
Ideal Location being Planned for: Marina Beach, Chennai
What does it cost: 40 Lakhs
When: August 15th or August 22, 2016


Why should you be a part of this initiative?
-       Because it is a community initiative by folks who call Chennai home
-       Because it is done by your friends
-       Because you love the Tricolour
-       Because you love Chennai
-       Because you…
-       Because you…
-       Because you…
-       Because you…
-       Because you…
-       Because you…
-       Because you CAN

Do join this initiative and share it among your friends and family. One day when you go to the Marina and see the Tricolour fluttering majestically above, you can tell everyone “I am a part of this”.

Read more about this initiative here: http://www.chennaitricolor.in/

Image courtesy – Google Images