Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Paths of Glory – A Review

The master story-teller hasn’t lost his touch.

In this latest work of his, of 2009, Jeffrey Archer regales us with the wonderful story of the British mountaineer, George Mallory - a character that he builds in such a way that we cannot but admire.

Our love for this protagonist will just keep increasing by each chapter. And, as readers, we become so captured and so enraptured by the glowing spirit of this determined man, that despite insurmountable odds, we want him to continue chasing his dream. We soon begin to hope - in fact, desperately hope - that he will succeed. To the end. To the very end.

But, what’s George’s passion? He wants to climb and reach the pinnacles of success, in their truest sense. The snowy summits and the coarse crests. He cannot resist the Alps, and the Himalayas. But in the 1920s, when neither transportation nor communication technology could aid him - though oxygen cylinders had just made an entrance – it is a big struggle to get funds arranged, let alone climbing up the steep slopes of icy mountains.

Only after mid-way through the book did I realize that it was actually the “true story” of George Mallory. So, I was tempted to do a little research on Google, and was shocked at the enormous and colossal research that the writer must have done - into the real life of George Mallory, his family and his friends. Before coming out with this work of fiction.

Even though many people may know the actual end of this amazing story. The mystery behind whether he has achieved it or not, will keep you riveted to the book.

The story is traced along the historical happenings of the early 1900s. We’ll see his life in the backdrop of the First World War, the freedom struggle in India, the US and New York’s rise, and the Cambridge-Oxford education. It is all very well-brought out in the truest and inimitable Jeffery Archer style.

Yes. George Mallory’s is a unique story. His determination and his die-hard passion for mountaineering. His studies, his friends, his inspirations. His likes and passions. His dislikes and detests are woven very well into this captivating narrative.

It is certainly a great read for all lovers of adventure stories.

My verdict?

Five Stars! ˜˜˜˜˜

(But then, hee.. hee..., perhaps I am biased. By my long-term adoration for Jeffrey Archer’s writings. I think I've read almost all his books – my first book of his being Kane and Abel, which I had read when I was just fresh out of high school in 1983. Now its 2009. And he still is very good at story-telling. I hope he’ll live long to write more).


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joel's Laws of Inevitability

The Oddity of life is that we are often mocked at, by circumstances. But we should just take them in the stride, as God's sense of humour. Here's my little compilation of some things I feel we all encounter. I will keep adding to this list. And you can contribute to these laws too, by sharing experiences similar to these :-)

  • Law 1 : When you switch queues to join a faster moving one, the one you left will move faster than the one you joined.

  • Law 2 : When you are driving at leisure and not in a hurry, all the traffic lights will turn green and the roads will suddenly become free-er.

  • Law 3 : When you accidentally drop a rolling object, it will always be on a sloping surface that rolls the object into some inaccessible place.

  • Law 4 : When you have a special meal to cook, or have special guests over for dinner, the cooking gas will get over that day.

  • Law 5 : When you scribble an important phone number on a little slip of paper, you will lose it when you need it. And you will suddenly find it after its usefulness has expired.

  • Law 6 : When you wear a dress that you don’t want a certain person or group of people to see you in, you will bump into that person or group somewhere.


Friday, July 03, 2009

A Thriller and an Entertainer

Also published in GDN on Jul 2, 2009 (pdf)

In 1984, Grammy awards were not telecast live in India. So, my friends and I had to wait for a whole week to watch Michael Jackson receive that record 8 Grammys in one awards-ceremony.

A week earlier, we had seen the TV episode, of Grammy Nominations. And I was mesmerized by video-clips of Billie Jean, Thriller, and Beat it. And, like my friends, was desperate to watch the videos again.

India had only one TV channel at that time - Doordarshan. MTV had not arrived yet. And music videos were completely new and special for us. They had a wonderfully weird and magically magnetic effect on all of us, fresh out of high-school.

We Oooh-ed and Aaaah-ed listening to those albums and discussing them. Some well-to-do friends had had stereos and audio tapes of latest music. Some even had VCRs and VHS tapes. But getting foreign music video tapes was extremely difficult. Knowledgeable friends - with access to foreign magazines – updated us on the US-Europe music scene.

We listened to, and talked of Police and Eurhythmics. Of Stevie Wonder and Irene Cara. Of Tina Turner and Culture Club. Of Duran Duran and BB King. Many of these were, actually, among Grammy nominations that year. In 1984. But Michael Jackson was our topic number one.

I now wonder how he won those Grammys pitted against the best in the industry.

A few months earlier, a knowledgeable fan - who showed off a large poster of Michael Jackson with Diana Ross in his room - announced that MJ was hurt in a fire accident while shooting an Ad for Pepsi. (By the way, India had not seen Pepsi or Coke then, except as pictures in foreign magazines and tabloids. Thanks to then regulated economy).

I now hear that Michael Jackson donated all the money received as damages from that Pepsi-fiasco to the hospital that treated him.

Anyway, when we finally got to watch the Awards ceremony, we did it with goose-bumpy excitement. We gaped at his effortless moon-walking on a kaleidoscopic dance floor, at his glittering hand of sequined glove, at his swaying of hand-and-hat to that staccato beat, at his robotic movement of fascinating jerks. We were tantalized beyond senses.

The video tape ‘The making of Thriller’ soon became a big hit among friends, and we must have watched the tape again and again to the point of complete erosion.

Needless to say, we soon liked his collaboration with Lionel Richie for the song ‘We are the world’, during the Africa-Aid times. We admired his part in raising money for Africa. We liked his songs with Paul McCartney – especially ‘Ebony and Ivory’ and ‘The girl is mine’. And we are still captivated by the powerful meaning of ‘Heal the world’!

His solo albums – apart from Thriller(1982) – Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995), sold by the million. Thanks to MJ-crazy fans like us.

His recent erratic behavior and child abuse allegations notwithstanding, he will remain unmatched as an extremely talented musician, a vibrant stage entertainer, and a unique dance artist.

His popularity is evident from the fact that - even in the face of new music of newer generation - almost all the tickets of his series of 50 concerts titled ‘This Is It, scheduled to begin in London on July 13, 2009 were sold out, before this untimely death.

Little wonder, therefore, that - after 13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one singles in his solo career, and the sale of 800 million records worldwide - Guinness Book of World Records chose to call him the "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time"!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Republic Revival

The masses of Iran have always been a force to reckon with. And every government that ruled Iran would agree.

So, the scenes of angry mobs on the streets of Tehran and other places, following the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after 12-June Presidential Elections, are not really strange or new.

But the distrust over election results has become increasingly evident from the enraged demonstrations supporting the ousted candidate, and former Prime Minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and other moderates.

The power of people is such that, surprisingly, the Guardian Council - Iran's top legislative body - is now even considering a recount of ballot in areas contested by the losing candidates. But it comes only after a massive protest on Monday (June 15) involved hundreds of thousands of people – who, according to BBC, is the largest since the Iranian revolution 30 years ago – and only after the Radio announced seven deaths during that protest.

Whether this mass movement will grow on to change the course of Iran is something for us to speculate.

But, an unprecedented 85% voter turnout, requiring extended polling time, is itself a testimony to the enormous enthusiasm that these elections have generated in a land already filled with politically-active people.

Returning to a four-year presidential term, with 62.6 % of the vote, Ahmadinejad is saying these were ‘Free and Healthy’ elections. But his main contender, Mousavi – who got 33.7% - and his supporters completely disagree. And the disagreement has spilled onto the streets in violent forms. And other countries are looking at the re-elected leadership with curious suspicion. Not many congratulatory letters to the President yet.

What is noteworthy is this. About a third of Iran's eligible voters were born after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They grew up without direct memories of the early upheavals, such as the storming of the U.S. Embassy and the 444-day hostage standoff, or the early years of the 1980-88 war with Iraq. Their views are moderate and liberal, and often defined by the borderless world of the Web, which Mousavi tapped to build early momentum; while Ahmadinejad relied heavily on state-controlled media.

There were TV debates, in which the two main candidates aggressively confronted each other on a range of issues; a relatively new mode of electioneering in Iran.

There was facebook. The government’s blocking and – later, after protests - unblocking of facebook, the social networking site; a sign of the growing use of technology by youth who make up most of Mousavi’s support.

And then there was texting. And allegations of jamming of text-messaging by the government, just before elections. Texting was yet another way the Mousavi team tapped the power of the youth.

And then, there were potatoes. Potatoes? Yes. Potatoes. Amusingly, "death to potatoes" ("marg bar sibzamini" in Farsi) was a new chant by Mousavi - making a mockery of government alleging that it was giving away 400,000 tons of free potatoes to voters.

But, of course, there are definitely weightier issues than potatoes. Like Iran’s nuclear programme, and its extremely defiant anti-US stance. From a world perspective, these were the real issues that necessitated a change. And Mausavi front had been promising a moderate stand on these.

But now it cannot deliver for at least four more years, if Ahmadinejad stays in power, and/or if the election recount – if it happens – still favours the ruling President.

In four more years, the number of disappointed youth could grow. And will they stay silent? Are they staying silent? Knowing the powerful people of Iran, it is not so hard to tell.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quote. Misquote.

Also published on Page 9, in today's GDN (Sun, 22-march)
"Play it again, Sam".

Isn't this the famous line from the film Casablanca?

No. It's not.

Or that's what I've come to know.

Because this line, though supposedly from that film, was never a part of its script. And was never uttered on screen. The actress Ingrid Bergman actually said something slightly different.

But Woody Allen later wrote and acted in a full-length movie-spoof on Casablanca, and even titled it, "Play it again, Sam"! Fully aware that it was a 'misquote'.

I watched the original black-and-white movie classic five times. But until I read about this 'misquote', I could have sworn I heard her say - "Play it again, Sam." And, maybe, a thousand other viewers would have also sworn the same.

But now, after I came across this startling piece of information, I quickly did some investigation into some 'famous misquotes'. And I was startled even more!

"Elementary, My Dear Watson", is a misquote! Yes. You heard me right. It is not in any of those Sherlock Holmes' books! The creator of this famous fictional detective, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had not, in any of his books, used that phrase. Even once!

But how did this line become so famous? Well, such is the mystery of misquotation. It is said that the phrase "Elementary, My Dear Watson", first appeared in a film review in the New York Times, on October 19, 1929. And people have been using it ever since.

Star Trek fans would say "Beam me up, Scotty" was a great line too. But that's another misquote. The closest that Captain Kirk, the head of Starship Enterprise ever came to it was an occasional, "Beam us up, Mr Scott".

Many people believe that Mahatma Gandhi said: "If someone slaps you on one cheek, show him the other". It was even more popularised in a recent hit Hindi film, Lage Raho Munnabhai. But many are completely unaware that Gandhi himself had quoted Jesus who said it in the Sermon on the Mount. The correct quote was actually this: "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39)

But, hang on. There are more historical misquotes. Did you know that Queen Marie Antoinette never said: "If they have no bread, let them eat cake!" And that Machiavelli never said: "The ends justify the means." Or that Murphy - of Murphy's law - never said: "If anything can go wrong, it will"?

Even the quote attributed to Mark Twain, "The only two certainties in life are death and taxes," should actually be attributed to Benjamin Franklin who said it first.

Misquotations and misattributions like these can be primarily ascribed to journalists and speakers who don't always get their facts right. When they should. Unlike in the olden days when word-of-mouth and passing-on-of-information-from-person-to-person was prevalent, today's journalists can actually verify things, more easily.

I read an article recently, which opened with the words: The Bible says, "marriages are made in heaven......" But I found that nowhere - yes, nowhere - in the Bible are those words. And the author was definitely wrong! He could have simply verified with any of those online Bibles.
But then, with the plethora of website content now available, one cannot simply believe everything in cyberspace.

Misquoting - whether changing the lines, or attributing a line to a source not original- is never a good trait. And, when quoting famous people, films, or books, all writers and speakers must be conscientious and do double or triple checks. Because this attitude of arbitrary attribution should change. It's a change we need. Yes. "A change we need".

But, please, let's not forget that it's a phrase popularised by a certain Mr Obama, who said it first!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where has LOVE gone???

This news was shocking to me!!

Maybe it won't be, to some.

But, two weeks ago - in Bay City, Michigan, USA - a 93 year old man was frozen to death - because the electric company had cut off power to his house, for non-payment of bills. ( I placed the news-link below this write up).

In that cold house, without a heater, he began to freeze, and was unable to get help. He is supposed to have died a slow, painful death from hypothermia.

What is even more shocking is that he had left all his estate to the local hospital!!

If no one was seeing him, calling him, or visiting him, my question is - Where are the neighbours? Where are the Friends? Where are the relatives?

Or simply speaking where has LOVE gone???? What have we become??

Click for the news on CNN website


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Golden Triangle Trip

Thank you for coming over. I know I've not been updating this blog for a while.

So, if you came this way before, thank you for your patience, .

I was in India in the first week of February, and I thought of sharing with you some pictures from the Trip : Delhi-Agra-Jaipur.

Check out the pictures by clicking on links below, from my facebook photo albums.


Friday, January 02, 2009

My Words on BBC World Service Yesterday.

I was able to question Mark Regev, the spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, on their attacks on Gaza.

It was on BBC's Live Radio Programme, 'World Have Your Say' on thursday night (31-Dec-08) at 9.30 PM, Bahrain Time. And I am pasting a link below, for you to hear, an audio clip from it.

Eventhough Israelis say they are targetting only Hamas Installations, we hear of many innocent women and children being killed. And I asked if these killings are justified.

Here, Mark Regev says Israelis are taking care not to hurt innocents and civilians in the Palestinian territory. But that they will continue to target Hamas' military installations.

Well, what's happening there is certainly a terrible humanitarian crisis, and lets all hope and pray that this rain of bombs will stop soon.

But, for me, its a dream come to true - to speak on BBC!!

Listen to it. (It is a 5 minute clip from the one-hour programme..I come in after 1 and half minutes or so)

But you can also find the whole programme ( and all the last week's programmes) at the following website (mine was on Thursday, 31-Dec).