That time of the year again…

Karvachauth is here again. It is a festival celebrated by north Indian women by fasting from sunrise to moonrise for the long life of their husbands.

From childhood I have seen my mother and grandmother observe this, having not even a drop of water entire day. For most of my lifetime I have even participated in this by reading out the katha for them, running to the terrace to see if the moon is out, clicking pictures when they get dressed in beautiful bright sarees and what not. With each year though I find this festival utterly sexist. Of course, no judgement for those who observe diligently every year. It is all about your choice.

Some husbands out of love observe the same for their wives which is very respectful. I appreciate such men.

Ladies will go about doing all their daily chores without getting any special treatment throughout the day. There will be men who let alone cook a meal will demand their food to be served on the table without picking a glass of water themselves. They might even order a Biryani for themselves without giving a second thought that their better half is starving for them. Again, it is not about food or staying hungry. It is about the sexism. In India, there are no fasts observed by men for their wives but at least one each month that the wife will observe for her husband.

I for one, did observe it few times but with each year it seems like a farce to me. I do want my husband to live long, I pray for his success every day, I want him to be happy forever but I don’t think keeping a fast or skipping it is doing anything for that. The society we live in though makes you do things you don’t want to. Most of the people out there are judgemental. Also, let me add one more thing here. Karvachauth was first time observed when husbands went out on a war and wives stayed at home praying to the gods and observed the fast. Are the husbands nowadays going to any wars while women are staying home? NO. Women in India are fighting harder battles than men – acing at work while doing all the work at home too (no support from men again). I wonder what husbands feel when their wives touch their feet seeking their blessings after the moon is up. Do they feel powerful and a bigger person? Or do they feel shameful that their wives are doing so much when they are doing nothing? I will go with the first one because if it was that they felt shameful they would force their wives not to observe the fast, the way they might be forcing them into many other things. India is a land of weird sexist traditions and what is surprising is women don’t mind. Again, not judging. Maybe they have their own reasons or some other thoughts behind it or just pure love but personally I abhor this.

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Walk down a disastrous lane

I have realized from quite long that I must lose weight but it was only recently that I forced myself to start taking some measures to achieve the goal. Working from 10 to 6 and then 8 to 10 leaves me completely drained out to do any exercise or go to the gym. So, one colleague suggested that instead of taking the bus maybe I should start going by foot on my way back from office to home since the distance is just about 2 km. That felt like a plan and that evening itself I ditched BMTC and decided to take a walk.

Walked the usual route inside the tech park, plants on both sides of the pathway, some blooming with flowers, the chocolate-y aroma while crossing Taj Vivanta on campus, feeling good about myself for finally doing something. I felt great.

Just outside the tech park there is a nice footpath on either side of the road. I walked for about 300m thinking about what to eat in dinner instead of the carbs we usually eat, maybe a salad I thought. I wouldn’t want my walk to go as a waste.

Soon my thoughts got drowned by the constant honking of BMTC drivers, the auto-wallas and the people driving their sedans and SUVs out of their office parking. Traffic police with a lathi standing in middle of the road ready to charge on the unruly bikers who want to cross just when the light turns red (yes, Red not Green).

Soon after crossing this signal, next stretch of footpath starts. It is half occupied by the street vendors and half by the office goers having tea and smoking.

That 100m patch I crossed by yelling ‘Excuse me’, ‘Excuse me’ to get the space to set next foot step. As this stretch ended, footpath disappeared. What I had in front of me was a small hill like structure of soil and cement accumulated probably due to the incessant digging by BBMP.

In a country which has been developing since I have opened my eyes to the world, least you expect is not a state of the art infrastructure but a decent footpath for pedestrians to walk on. Forget about any other part of the country, at least in ‘Silicon Valley’ of India one might expect this much but alas!

The teeny tiny hill was followed by a plateau which was essentially few unstable rectangular cement blocks laid out to reach next ‘hill’. Walking through the whole path I felt like Mario from the popular video game of 90’s. Walking, jumping, taking strategical steps. Well, I did quite good as the Mario though, I will give that to myself. Didn’t fall, didn’t step on poo, phew!

I was soaking in the triumph as Mario all the while taking one big breath to fill my lungs for the next few seconds of holding it. Yes, you guessed it right. It was due to the constant stench from the open drain next to the road. I walked like Flash to escape that patch of road and finally reached my destination.

This was three weeks back. Obviously, my weight loss plan has come to a halt now and if it was up to the municipal bodies I will never lose weight!

 

Book Review : ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage’

First Published in: 2013

Author: Haruki Murakami

Storyline and Review:

Tsukuru Tazaki was one among the special group of five high school friends whose name did not have the name of a colour in it. Other four had the colours in their name like Eri Kurono where Kuro meant Black. Tsukuru was an equal member in the group but sometimes thought himself to be the odd one out. Apart from having colourful names, all other friends also had a talent they were passionate about whereas Tsukuru was a regular average guy. 

Although, it wasn’t until he was banished from this amazing group of friends that he put that much thought to being different. Singled out from the group without giving any reasons, left alone in a big city where he went to college Tsukuru became depressed, on a verge of taking his own life when he had a vision and decided to try to leave this all behind to get better.

After almost 16 years of that incident, his girlfriend at the time convinced him to get in touch with those four friends and find out the reason behind sudden abandonment so that he can find peace at heart. He reaches out and finds the reason behind it all.

Tsukuru’s life seems quite good when looked from outside – a job he had passion for, adequate relationships in life, a good heritage left behind by his father and everything else a normal regular guy would need. It was just this expulsion from group that haunted his life. The book is a literary fiction and very well written. I felt that a couple of things in the book were left for the reader to interpret though. The root of the reason for the main premise is also something the reader must catch up on by reading between the lines. There was another similar incident in Tsukuru’s life in college but the author did not follow through till end to find a reason for that.

Haruki Murakami is a well-known author and I loved the way of writing but I feel I need to read one more of his many celebrated works to become a fan.

Book Review: ‘Delhi’

First Published in: 1990

Author:  Khushwant Singh

Story line and Review:

The author takes us through different times and scenes that Delhi has witnessed – the era of Mughal emperors, Sufi poets, the British era, Hindu Muslim conflict, assassination of Gandhi, the 1984 sikh riots and few other historical events.

The events are not in a thorough chronological order but go back and forth to history and present when Khushwant Singh is a journalist and engaged in his own exploits of Delhi and of what Delhi has to offer. His present is all about his relationship with this eunuch Bhagmati whom he rescued from the side of the road.IMG_20170311_002203_473

This isn’t one of those books which you can read in a day or two. It took me time to take it all in since it covers significant times in the history of India. I have never been a history buff so it was a little boring for me in few snippets of the times of the emperors and renowned poets. Nevertheless, it was a good read.

Khushwant Singh claimed that this particular book was 25 years in writing so it isn’t strange that the anecdotes other than the history part seem like an autobiography of the author to certain extent.

This piece of work categorizes as historical fiction as well as erotic novel.

Book Review : ‘Mistletoe on the 34th Street’

First Published in: 2016

Author:  Lisa Dickenson

Storyline and Review:

I am not really a ‘Romantic’ novel person and that too contemporary but it was around Christmas that I picked this up. Although it seemed like the perfect pick that time I was able to get around to it now in July.

The story is about Olivia who is leading a team from London to a work conference in New York but personally keeping herself closed from getting into any relationships or love interests because of a betrayal in the past. She finds it hard to open up to even that one guy she really adores.

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There is more to the story so I will not give any spoilers but there was a feeling of joy when I was reading this book. Probably because of all the talk about Christmas, the decorations, the hot cocoa, the baubles on Christmas tree and so much more that I could visualize. The language used is very easy and doesn’t let your flow of reading break. Since it is contemporary, the references to ‘Facebook’, the show popular show ‘FRIENDS’ and few other references made me more interested. I felt I was there in New York with Olivia experiencing all the goodness of Christmas. I am sure this is the best compliment for any author to receive if reader feels that she is the part of the story.

This was a light read. I typically enjoy such books when I have been reading some big or very serious novels for a while and about to go into a reading slump.

I would recommend this to beginners for sure.

Book Review : ‘Frankenstein’

First Published in: 1818

Author:  Mary Shelley

Storyline:

An adventure buff along with the team of a captain and sailors were sailing towards the north pole when one day after many days they had spent sailing they encounter a lost man sailing alone, his boat destroyed, they take him in, offer him to stay with them, try to nurse him back to health. On asking how he ended up alone in such a treacherous route he narrates his story. A young boy with inclination towards science sets out to a university to further his studies. There he discovers his interest in biology and life form. He starts visiting morgues and analysing what makes up human bodies, how can this life be synthetically created and similar thoughts occupy his mind uncontrollably. He leaves going to classes and instead starts exploring and working on his new idea of creating life. He studies the tissues that make up the body and starts developing and putting all ingredients together. One day he wakes up to his invention in full life form and gets scared of its horrifying countenance. He instantly regrets what he had done, runs haywire but falls into terrible sickness after that encounter. On his return to his home where this lab was he was relieved to find that that figure was no longer there but doesn’t recover for long. Soon he receives news of his younger brother’s murder. He travels to his hometown and on the way visited the place where the alleged murder had happened and encounters the monster he created again. In that instant, he becomes sure that the monster is the murderer. During the course of time he starts losing his other family members and his closest friend, again in circumstances which were mysterious to others but only he knew who was doing this.img-20170122-wa0007He sets out to find the monster and in fact catches him when the monster narrates his story and his disappointment when his own creator abandoned him, his willingness and effort to establish connection with others but always failing due to horrible countenance which is why he tells he set out to ruin his creator and everything he held dear. Victor requests him to stop all this but he agrees in one condition – that Victor again make a similar form so that the monster has a company to spend his life with, someone who would love him and not fear him. He also warns Victor to be ready to face consequence on his upcoming wedding day if he fails. Victor promises to fulfil his wish and sets out again to a secluded place to setup his lab, starts work again but this time not with the same enthusiasm. After unwillingly dragging himself to work on it every day, one day he decides to let go and let this end with him on his wedding day. As promised, the monster destroys his life once again by sparing him but killing his wife on their wedding night which was not what Victor had expected. That is when Victor sets out to find and destroy his creation which he fears will destroy the world if let off which is how he had ended up on their boat.

My Review:

This is not the type of genre that I usually read but it has always been hailed as a classic so I picked it up. It however was better than I thought.

The premise is very interesting and unique which is highly appreciable but it got a tad bit boring for me in between. The most interesting part for me was when the monster describes how and where he lived, his fears of facing someone, his efforts to develop a relationship. It made me sympathize with him.

Although highly unreal at the time when it was written it doesn’t seem very far away from doable in today’s times. The way the world is moving forward with technological advances and inventing new things, developing AI, reading thoughts, reaching out to aliens, the doom seems near. I am not at all a pessimistic person, believe me, but the extent of technology overwhelms and scares me.

“There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.”  – Bertrand Russell

For me this falls in second category 😀

Book Review : ‘Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished’

First Published in: 2012

Author: Anand Neelakantan

Storyline:

Story begins with Ravana lying in pool of blood having lost the battle with Rama, looking back at his life from childhood until that day. Childhood, when he was a young boy living in poverty with his mother, two brothers and a sister despite his step brother Kubera being the king of the Lanka. His journey to learn the ways of a warrior and a King from the revered Mahabali. His efforts to reach the position he always dreamt of – the King of Lanka and putting up a fight against the unjust Devas. His willingness to establish a fair kingdom, his innermost fears, his relationships with his officials, the challenges he goes through as a King, his love for his son, the prophecy about his daughter that led to his downfall.

Some events leading up to the actions taken up by Ravana are narrated by Bhadra who is always looking out for Ravana, always putting himself in danger for his king Ravana but never trusted by Ravana and his officials who in fact treated him as filthy out caste who is just doing his duty for the King and nothing extraordinary.img-20170122-wa0001

The story tells a more believable justification of different events and things that we know of –  like Ravana having 10 heads which were in fact 10 things pointed out by his Guru that a King should stay away from but which Ravana very vehemently argued about, younger brother Kumbhakaran who had to be woken up by beating drums because he was always intoxicated with alcohol and drugs, reason behind kidnapping Sita and many other things.

My Review:

This one blew me away. Since childhood we have heard the story and watched the tele-series of Ramayana and are well versed with the main characters – Rama, the valiant hero and Ravana, the sinister villain. This story of ‘Asura’ however is told from Ravana’s point of view. It doesn’t deny the actions that make up the epic ‘Ramayana’ but offers a different explanation behind the intention of those actions.

It questions our beliefs in a way that leave you dumbfounded like – we worship Rama as the God of good, the evil destroyer who in fact sided with the people who challenged his wife’s purity after being kidnapped and living in premises of another man’s abode even when Sita spent every moment thinking about and waiting for Rama. Was Rama fair to send Sita to ‘Vanvaas’ after rescuing her and then when she was back from Vanvaas having lived in a Rishi’s hut again questioning her morals and asking her to prove her purity?We consider Lakshman, the ideal brother who left everything to be of assistance to his brother but how about his wife? Was it fair to her to be left neglected?

The novel also highlights the difference between Asura and Deva cultures – Asura women enjoying equal rights, independence whereas Devas practiced Sati, imposed restrictions on women.

The author has taken events of this mythological piece and given a logical perspective which makes the reader think. Even though it is a fiction, I felt it could be real as well. I am so glad to have picked up this book.

 

Book Review : The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

First Published in: 2016

Author: Twinkle Khanna

Storyline:

First story is about Lakshmi Prasad who finds a unique way for women to preserve their individuality, independence and dignity which led her village to celebrate the birth of every girl born. It is so clever that the author chose the name ‘Lakshmi’ but you will understand why when you read the book.

Second story is so about a girl who due to her ‘marriageable age’ is always being pressurized by her parents to get married. Although under their pressure she agrees and even gets married but finds out the husband is not of sound mind but as usual she is asked to go back and adjust. She struggles to break free but she sure does find peace at last.

Third story is about a widow whose only company is her sister with whom she enjoys her evenings getting into different hobby classes, yoga, playing cards and at night retires to her empty house. She finds a new friend in the Yoga teacher who himself is in a long but unhappy marriage and their friendship blossoms into a beautiful relationship of company, warmth and unsaid mutual understanding.

Forth story is about a poor but loving and dexterous husband who wants his wife to not use unhygienic cloth during periods but clean sanitary pads. When he goes to purchase one for his wife as a surprise, he is baffled by the high cost and decides to study it and build one himself. This invites lot of ridicule to him and his family as such a thing is still not spoken about very openly in our society and on top of it a man roaming around wearing a pad to test it out was abhorred.img_20170108_133435

My Review:

Before reading this book, I had assumed that it will be a sort of folklore of a man Lakshmi Prasad who must have done something unique during his time and likewise. I was right to a certain extent since the book begins with Lakshmi Prasad’s intelligent understanding and unique handling of a social issue but Lakshmi Prasad here is a young girl and this book doesn’t just revolve around that Lakshmi Prasad but is a collection of different characters and their individual stories.

All stories are related to the social issues that are prevalent in Indian society and which mainly affect women. I observed that it begins with story of a young girl, has a story of a woman in the ‘marriageable age’ (pun intended) and another story of an older woman – all of them in their own way trying to break free from the shackles of ‘norms’ of Indian society.

The last and the longest one in the book is based on a real-life story and is very inspirational. It is also female centric in the terms of the topic to which it relates i.e. a man trying to build low cost sanitary pads for rural women but it shows the un-defeating determination of a man working for a cause which is still a taboo in this country. How difficult it must have been for him being a man to work on this since no women in his family or village would talk about it and instead berated him to bring shame to the family. In fact, this last story is being made into a movie #Padman.

Twinkle Khanna, the author is very witty as usual. The way each individual story has been put together is very relatable – either you will know someone struggling with one of the issues or quite probably you yourself must have gone through at least 1 of these. These are things which we see happening around but tend to not talk about but the author so cleverly gets the story around all these social issues that they leave a mark on the reader’s mind and next time before judging someone for something or we might try to think from a different perspective.

Digging our own grave – are we?

With increasing competition, all businesses are eager to use automation wherever feasible to reduce time to market, increase efficiency and decreasing manual effort and errors. Many industries boast of coming up with new and better automation techniques which will ultimately help investors get maximum profits. But as a worker in one of these industries I am worried with this over use of automation. Daily we come across different such automated machines which help us get our work done faster, efficiently and with no human interaction. In few more years, possibly there will be many more services which will be automated – some of which we can’t fathom right now but hey, who thought 50 years back that we’ll have self-driving cars?

In today’s time when unemployment is at rise automation is further adding to this woe. As per the latest survey by Hfs as reported in Economic Times, IT sector is going to cut down 6.4 lakh jobs by 2021 to automation. This number might quadruple in around 10 years- that too in just one sector. Similar matter will surely come up in other service providing industries. Just think what are all unemployed people going to do? More and more people but ever decreasing work. How will such people survive? No work, no money, no survival. I know this is extreme but we can’t eliminate this scenario. Government should really start thinking and preparing for this mind boggling but possible case.

Below are some of the services which are almost there:

  1. Cashiers are replaced by automated kiosks – one example is ATM and other self-check in at airports.
  2. Robot waiters have already been hired in China.
  3. Self-driven cars for personal as well as cab use have come in the market.
  4. Real estate agents are not to be seen nowadays, the websites connect you directly to the owners and even give you a whole 360-degree view of the place in advance.
  5. Writes for data oriented articles are already being replaced by software by Forbes.
  6. Co-Pilots are being replaced by robots in China so that companies don’t have to bear the cost of a co-pilot who after a long flight will give in to fatigue and stress.
  7. Customer care executives are slowly being replaced either by automated voice machines or chatbots.
  8. Teachers are being replaced by learning software for schools, colleges and professionals.
  9. Conductors are probably not there in developed countries but in developing countries like India such jobs make up a huge workforce. These will soon be replaced by card swipe machines here as well.
  10. IT professionals are already getting shunted out due to automated software being used to test and deploy the codes. Look at the irony though, such software is being prepared by same people.

It reminds me of the proverb ‘Apne paon pe kulhaadi maarna’ or ‘Digging your own grave’. Is this where we really want to head to?

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