Saturday, 9 January 2021

A Few Good Books I Read in 2020

 

2020 was a unique year for me. In the early stages of the year, I had to relocate from Hassan to Dehradun. I had planned to continue to my intermittent visits to the Himalayas, to wander in its majestic presence, and stifling my worries in the beautiful sceneries. However, it ended being confined to the campus, thanks to the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. Not to feel undone, I decided to read 100 books in the year. During this journey, I realised my urge for reading is best pursued when other things are equal or to say it simply, when life is hectic as ever. The lockdown got to me after a few weeks, and picking up a book again became a humongous task. I did not do too badly, having managed to read 55 books, and around 12,000 pages during the year. However, I can't control being querulous that this was the best year to read 100 books in a year. However, I started using Audible, which helps me feel good because I catch the technology bus more often than not.



The first book I want to discuss is `Republic of Rhetoric' by Abhinav Chandarchud. This book is for those to whom democracy matters. The book elicits the reason why restriction on Freedom of Speech was placed in India. Read this book to find out who was responsible for introducing a law against hate speech in India. The portion on obscenity is a good read.




Coming out As Dalit by Yashica Dutt was a book with which I could relate to a lot. I have written a blog on this, and you can click on this link to read it.

How `Coming Out As Dalit' By Yashica Dutt Resonates With My Life? 



Mahabharata is not just an epic, it is the story of life. It is a lesson in management, strategies, and personal management. Shakuni is the most egregious of all the villains who come in it. I feel he is the pivotal character of Jaya beside Krishna, especially when it becomes Pandavas and Kauravas' story. I always yearned to read a version of Bharata from the perspective of Shakuni, and Mallar Chaterjee's `Shakuni & Dice of Doom' was an exciting read. The quagmire of the relationship between Kunti, Shakuni, and Vidhura was new to me. The relationship between Shakuni and his wife Arshi is on expected lines. The role of Devapi in shaping Mahabratha was another interesting revelation. Bheeshma it seems had his own reasons in letting Shakuni stay on in Hastinapur. This book is a must-read for all the aficionados of Mahabharatha 





Chaturanga by Anand Neelakantan. He is a master storyteller. I couldn't put down this book till I finished it. The relevance of certain situations in this book cannot be missed. 





Ants among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla – This is a must-read for all Dalits who can read and write English. The book exposes the underbelly of casteism and is a telling tale of the author herself.



Promised Land By Barack Obama is an autobiography of his tryst with politics. The Presidential years, the troubles he faced, and the obstacles he had to overcome as POTUS, especially in dealing with the sub-prime crisis, Health Care, etc. are well documented. A spoiler, the much-expected portion is at the end. I heard it on Audible, and in his booming voice, it was worth listening. This is the story of a politician told by himself, so take it with a pinch of salt.



The Hand of Destiny by Srividya Srinivasan is a heart-warming book. The author is known more for her revolutionary poetry and holds no bar views on politics. It has weaved a wonderful tale involving two youngsters, their death in a terror accident, and how their families are impacted. This book makes you laugh, cry, rage with anger, and generally gladdens your heart.



The Man from Mandu by Manoj V Jain is an amazingly well-written book. It portrays how marketing can apotheosis an ordinary person. This book touches many raw nerves without inflaming them. 



Tharoorosaurus by Shashi Tharoor is a peek into his immense vocabulary. It is a great read, but I dare not use any of the words elicited in the book.



My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologies by Fredrik Backman. This book is written by the author of `A Man Called Ove'. If you liked that book, you would adore this one. It is lively, funny, and straightforward. The story is about Elisa, a seven-year-old girl and her crazy grandmother. It takes us through the land of almost awake; the kingdom of Miamas; and the letter of apologies that Elisa has to deliver after her grandmother dies.



Books that disappointed me.


The Sceptical Patriot by Sidin Vadukut is an excellent book. Still, somewhere the author seems to have taken the easy route.


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I love dystopian novels, but this one went over my head.


Happy Reading in 2021

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

69 Lessons Of Life I Learnt From Animal Farm By George Orwell



I came to know through a good friend of mine that `Animal Farm by George Orwell completed 75 years of publication on August 17th 2020. It is the shortest thesis on dictators but is presented as a fiction. This book is around 70 odd pages but each line is a learning, and has something startling to offer. I hope this becomes irrelevant and true democracy prevails. That fancy thought is just a pipe dream, and this book has become more relevant than ever before. These are the 69 lessons of life I learnt from Animal Farm. Don’t ask me why 69 lessons, you know the answer.

1. It was written to ridicule Joseph Stalin’s regime but megalomaniacs across the globe have used it to shape their own schemes than those who believe in believe in democracy. It has become a manual for the authoritarians.

2. All those who believe in democracy but do nothing to save it are nothing but Benjamin, the donkey who appears in this work.

3. Old Major is sanctified because he hardly gets tested with the fruits of power.

4. Every horse and donkey loves a rebellion.

5. The aim of the uprising is to remove one common enemy.

6. The initial objective is not to become like him.

7. All rebellions require a squealer to turn black into white with words.

8. Be Napoleon if you want to rule society.

9. If you are Snowball, you will get steam-rolled.

10. There is always a Moses who tells tales to make people feel good. Though he seems to be anti-rebellion, he will be useful in the future, keep him at his place.

11. Rebellion is planned, but usually, something trivial sparks the outrage. When the rebellion succeeds, change the name of the society which you are living in. Name it identifying with the genesis of the revolution e.g. Animal Farm. This helps people to nail the thought in mind, how society has changed.

12. Make your own rules, later they can be amended as per your requirements.

13. The leaders always take the cream or milk, whichever is essential or even both.

14. Leaders lead, they don’t work.

15. Workhorses like Boxer toil for nothing’s sake. Keep them in good humour, you don’t have to do anything for them.

16. Donkey’s like Benjamin know your script, but they won’t harm you. This lot includes well read sceptics who are scared of any draconian laws.

17. The main leaders disagree, and that starts the discord. It is usually the ruthless, power-hungry, and insolent guy who is the opponent.

18. After the revolution succeeds, a lot of skill development is done, but don’t worry, it will taper off, like a new broom’s performance when it becomes an old one.

19. Shrink the rules to reduce it to a binary. This impresses the sheep, and when the sheep is impressed no intellectual and critical analysis matters. They just go on bleating and can outshout even an elephant.

20. If you are a Napoleon, cultivate the hounds.

21. Management knows how to justify the unjust perks it enjoys.

22. A successful anti-establishment movement is always discredited by its enemies.

23. A hero emerges after the first war of the new independence. He has to be abused, and chased if you are a Napoleon. Remember what Chekov said about guns appearing in the first act.

24. Usually, the educated leader of the successful uprising talks of technological development to sustain freedom.

25. Donkeys are sceptic, and the converse is true.

26. Use the hounds for the first time as a surprise. The maxim `shock your rivals to make the public suckers’ always works.

27. Squealers are useful in turning the tide.

28. Never stop promoting hatred against the common enemy.

29. Once you become the leader, you should repackage the old regime’s plans, that you had criticised when you were not in the saddle.

30. Squealers will sell the old repackaged plan as the new plan, as initially your project. Remember, a lie said a thousand times becomes a truth.

31. The tactic is the word to be used for every foolish move of yours.

32. If you have ferocious hounds, the chances of acceptance of your ideas increase by 100%.

33. Make sacrifice look voluntary but ensure that non-sacrifice has many crippling penalties.

34. Workhorses like Boxer will always be your side.

35. Tell your people that trade and enmity are two different sides of wholly different coins.

36. The hounds and sheep who bleat in your praise will always keep the rebellion down. Give the sheep something easy and straightforward to suck on, just like `Four legs good, two legs bad’. They will repeat it ad nauseam, and no stratagem against you will prevail. The hounds will put away those who are contemptuous of the sheep.

37. If dogs create fear, the sheep are there to spread the cacophony. They can’t absorb much, so give them something catchy to bleat.


38. Keep your slogans catchy. You need not talk factual nor pleasing. Your talk should create a buzz in the air.

39. People love popular images. In this book, it comes as four legs giving orders to two legs. If you wondered why a politician takes a public servant to task in full public view, the answer is to create a favourable vision of himself.

40. Change the rules frequently, introduce more and more new schemes, put merely, often keep changing the goal post. Before people question on what happened to this scheme, announce another programme, and so on and so forth.

41. Earmark public vision to a grand illusion. In this case, it is the windmill.

42. For everything that goes wrong, blame the previous. In this book, Napoleon blames Snowball for all the wrong, and succeeds in diverting the attention of the animals, from his abject failures.

43. Keep in the horizon, the impending threat of the enemy.

44. Spread the rumour that `all is well’ especially when there is a catastrophe. Convince the sheep, and they will sell the concept.

45. Use false narratives, and frequently compare yourself with a deposed leader to prove how benevolent and assertive you are.

46. If you cannot crack the hard nuts, use the dogs to make them confess of crimes they have never committed.

47. Break the unity among people. Get one animal to kill another animal.

48. Create a blood bath, and exploit those sentiments to perpetuate your regime.

49. Erase all the signs, ideals, and monuments of the rebellion, which got your independence.

50. Manipulate the figures of the economy. Get the squealers to do the groundbreaking, and later you can take on.

51. Get squealers to apportion even the most insignificant achievements to yourself.

52. Create an ugly image of your rival or neighbour in the minds of your people.

53. Keep the scare of attack from them evergreen. Create a few fake ones.

54. Don’t allow discussion on the intelligence failure that caused the attack or lack of security. Focus on the farce of a victory after much bloodshed on your side. Don’t allow fixing accountability for your failures, raise the crescendo, and whip up the rhetoric. Once you whip it up enough, the squealers, dogs, and sheep will ensure it becomes more significant than Mount Everest.

55. New adversity helps people to forget the old ones.

56. Learn how to convince people to accept what you earlier projected as evil, is a good one now.

57. Don’t call any cut as reduction but label it as re-adjustment.
58. People harried, confused, and bullied will act that things are better now than before.

59. Frequently give speeches without reason.

60. Have a con godman like Moses, who keeps telling people a lot of fables. The believers will be fixated to him, and the non-believers will be busy making mince-meat out of his logic.

61. Over time, make friends with your sworn enemies. Learn how to shift people from saying `Four legs good, two legs bad’ to `Four legs good, two legs better’.

62. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal.

63. Never lose your acerbic talk and pungent humour.


64. Be so ruthless with your people that even your enemies mistake it as efficiency.

65. Discard the workhorse when they lose their utility, send them to the slaughterhouse.


66. Make your goal the wish of a soldier or a workhorse.

67. Keep the lies going. Remind the people of their glorious past and hard-working ways.

68. At times, tell the people that stories of attacks by the enemy are untrue.


69. Make the first leader, the secret agent of your enemy.


Thursday, 6 August 2020

The Advanced Art of Getting Offended

To suggest that getting offended is a phenomenon of the 21st Century would be apotheosising the previous generation. People were as mean-minded, as they are today. There was no shortage of idiots who used to get offended at everything. There were countless conspiracy theories about everything. If you were used to long-distance travel in trains before 2010, you would nod your head in agreement to this statement. I know this statement, will offend a few from the 80s and 90s, trying to assume a holier than thou attitude. That itself is the proof how people were always offended with trivial statements.
 
The number of people getting offended has increased because idiots of the previous generations have left behind the legacy of offended minds, and also multiple off-springs. These imbeciles have evolved from filling withdrawal forms to paying through the scan of a barcode; sending telegrams to transmitting instant messages, and ruing month end to cursing EMIs but their thought process is rapidly going back to when hominoids thrived. To be a learned and rational person was considered a forte, and such a person could snub in public anyone who possessed a regressive thought process. Today, unfortunately, the roles have reversed. To be well-read, with critical and scientific thoughts, is to expose yourself to abuse.
 
Technology has across the globe united people with thoughts worth a caveman. They can link ideas; learn new abuses for their opponents, and raise a crescendo for their invective thoughts, and obfuscation of truth to be accepted. Previously in a group of friends, if there was only one with the retrogressive thought process, gasping due to lack of company, he used to turn into a social animal. However, today he can log on to the internet, and improve his repertoire. He learns how to get offended, more and more. My blog has had fewer views ever since its inception, and I am desperate to increase it. Thus, evolved this blog, how to get offended by everything, and anything. I hope this blog goes viral, and my blog has more than the customary ten views.
 
You can get offended by this blog. It is within your right to ask whether the writer of this blog thinks only he has ideas on how to get offended with trivial things. You can get hurt at a few of the `Shashi Tharoorian’ words I have pinched from his books and used them here out of context.
 
You can get offended at a colleague or friend who waves at you, and says `Hi, how are you?’. He was possibly expecting you to be doing poorly, and it is but natural to get ticked off by him.
 
Being a good citizen, you wear masks lowered, and secure it when a cop comes within your eye-line. The guy who is coming from the opposite direction is also a dutiful one like you. When he is at a kissing distance, he gives a hard sneeze and sends you in a frenzy. You are in a mood to drink a bottle of sanitiser when another half masked guy walks towards you with a smile on his face. There is no need to give a second thought, and it is time to activate the O word.
 
To each, his way, and so is the way one eats. You can get offended by the eating method of others. It doesn’t matter if you eat like an earth mover at work.
 
There are various methods to spend our free time. Right, from the healthy habit of walking, to the filthy pursuit of listening to the journalist who wails and quails on behalf of the nation. In such a scenario, the reason behind a few individuals preferring to read books is sinister. Why do these individuals want to be informed and objective? Why can’t they be uninformed and gross like us? There you go and have another option to feel scorned. 
 
It is hygienic to brush your teeth as soon as you wake up, and later have a cup of tea or coffee. However, a few incorrigibles have their morning cup of beverage and then attend to the essentials. Such different behaviour is one more option to get offended.
 
Do you know a middle-aged colleague, friend or relative who wears flashy spectacle frames or dress up trendily? The unwritten laws of our nosey society require that a person acts his age, and any other behaviour is considered unacceptable. It is imperative that as a social human being, you should get offended by this deviant behaviour.
 
The usual places to go to a holiday are religious shrines, a beach, the mountains or even a historical monument. A few of them go to nondescript places and write about their experiences. The unique choice is another avenue to get displeased.
 
I invite suggestions, what another human/animal/alien behaviour can get an individual or group of individuals offended? You can also get offended at me for asking ideas, and ask me back `If you don’t have the idea of offending science, why did you write this blog?’.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 19 July 2020

A Dummies Guide To Excelling in WhatsApp University - Part I


Everything about WhatsApp university is gross and random. Why should a guide on how to excel in this institute of eggs-silence be any different! Thus, we will have in the First Part, the crucial lessons.

He who controls the past controls the future said, George Orwell. He was a visionary, and possibly had the WhatsApp University in mind when he wrote those lines. To control the past, you don’t require a time machine. All that you need are a smartphone, data connection, WhatsApp installed, a fertile imagination, and friends/families who are on a high without IQ. 

You can alter history by glorifying the obscure. Let’s assume your country in the past has got freedom from foreign rule. A lot of people would have laid their lives fighting them. Some of them would have played the role of leaders. Pick and glorify to the hilt, a guy who was on the sidelines, or even prostrated before the invaders. Use chest-thumping phrases and anagrams, to edify him. If it is the first copy, make a suggestion that the country would have never been freed but for his bravery. In subsequent versions, change the tone from suggestive to assertive. 

You could also try your hand at glorifying a tyrant king, who belongs to your religion/region or language, by attributing various welfare measures that were done by kings, 500 years before or after him. Here patriotic phrases alone will not work, but you need to add liberal portions of abuse and ridiculing of all those historians who presented the correct picture of this tyrant after due research. 

If your cardboard character has to be looked upon to, the genuine leader has to be obfuscated and ridiculed. It is tough for a novice to undo the achievements of an authentic leader. That will be taken care of by the Deans and Professors of the University backed by fertile research cells, with a big budget. 

However, this does not mean you can do nothing about it. When in despair, remember `Every man or woman has a dark or grey side of himself/herself’. The best of follies to highlight is the active libido of a genuine leader. Pick that one and link it to all the mistakes he or she did as a leader. 

Next, you can build conspiracy theories. This is the easiest and examples are a dime a dozen in any country’s history.

The most exciting part of being a part of WhatsApp University is when you understand how to modify mythology into history, and later conclude it as science or social structure of your country. 

It is mentioned in Nordic Mythology that Asgard had 540 halls. Further, it also talks about Rainbow as being a bridge between Earth to Heaven. If you are a Nordic person, you can use this to showcase the development of civil engineering in your country during the pre-historic times, and claim that all the civil engineering concepts were already known to your ancestors. Further, Skíðblaðnir is a fabulous ship that always moves in the right direction, and its carrying capacity was humongous. It could change shape and size. Using this myth, you can claim that your culture had knowledge of GPS, mega-ships, and even submarine technology.

If you are coming from a Greek or Egyptian background, you can have a whale of a time in apportioning everything in modern science to your culture.

If anyone questions the scientific basis of these claims, you can quote from your holy scriptures. It is always easy to strangulate the dissenter if he/she is from within your country because you can question the patriotism of the person who is being sceptic of the claim. If the laws of your nation permit, you can get the individual punished for destabilising the country.

These are broad case studies. The scope for a WhatsApp University citizen is unlimited. You can create content on nuclear science, space technology, economics, severe ailments, etc. However, to be successful at WhatsApp University, you have to follow specific basic commandments. Those are given below:-

  • Reason is thy enemy. To do so is the equivalent of eating the forbidden fruit.
  • Thou shall forward every public interest message that thou gets on your WhatsApp.
  • Thou shall accept the fact that, if your herd believes it to be accurate, it is the truth.
  • Thou shall lie, rant, and abuse to assert your country’s culture/ religion’s/ language’s glorious and ancient past.
  • The ideology and its leaders that thou believe in are spotless and pristine.
  • Thou shall stoop to any level to defame the ideology and leaders thou doesn’t agree with.

 You are now ready to Fart err Forward the unholy child of your imagination into the atmosphere of WhatsApp University. You will get better at your art with time. May the Fakes be with you. If you are in a hurry to be on my blocked list, forward your learnings from the WhatApp University. 

Thursday, 16 July 2020

A Dummies Guide To Excelling in WhatsApp University - Part II



Credit must be given where it is due. The impact that WhatsApp University has had on the knowledge base is unquantifiable. Is there any aspect of life on which the institution has had no effect. It is the true definition of an open university, there are no students nor teachers nor a campus, yet it has impacted our life beyond comprehension. The other day, I received a message from one of the WhatsApp university students about sunrise. I had to scurry to check on the fact whether the sun does rise in the east or not. To begin with, I had to decipher whether is it the sun which is sustaining life on Earth or life here is illuminating the sun. 

Students/Faculty/Professors and Doyens of all universities would have knowledge in limited areas.  It is the students/teachers of this renowned university who have expertise in all the fields. In all other universities, the syllabus is based on certain validated studies. In WhatsApp university, the sky is the limit, and sensibility is what it demits.

WhatsApp University offers a unique opportunity for students not only to learn but also create their own knowledge. However, as in every other sphere of excellence, content creation has its own rules and methodology. I am unfortunately too sceptic to become a part of the WhatsApp University. However, there is no shortage of students from this e-light university in my friends and family circle. Based on this understanding, I have come up with a dummies guide to being an expert participant in WhatsApp University. This is, in fact, the second part of the guide.

You should begin with generating quotes because this is the easiest thing to do. One of the safest methods to do is attribute it to Albert Einstein, who is long dead and cannot refute any of them. Further, his image is such that no one would question your quote. The important aspect is you have to garnish your random thoughts to make it look like it has been said by this noble soul. To do so, you should have reasonable language skills. It is not a problem, you can watch a few videos of Shashi Tharoor, and this problem would be solved. You can even attribute to the People’s President DR APJ Abdul Kalam. In his case, the language can be understandable but soft, keeping in tune with his nature. If you want to attribute the quote to someone like Alexander the Great, it has to be ferocious.


Next, you can upgrade your to content generation on the image front. To begin with, you should acquire some necessary photo-shopping skills. You should have an idea what to modify because if you try to modify the content, to mock those who are modifying the truth, you are bound to get invective reactions. It is essential to earn the peer respect of the `MAJORITY.’

To begin with, you can replace in a historical photograph or a picture from an iconic moment of another world leader with your favourite leader. To increase your wares amongst your `MAJORITY’ peers, you can superimpose the face of a leader who is hated by them, in a scandalous situation or place. Use some photo-shopping skills to make it look authentic.

The senior level in this field would be to morph the image of your religious artefacts, on the monument of another religion.  Then you can begin a rant and claim that location as yours. Do it at an obscure portion of the memorial from an obtuse angle. The `MAJORITY’ gang will take care of the rest even if the job is half well done. Add a few quotes from some unheard of scripture to claim authenticity. Never mind the mayhem it will create.

If you want to excel at Medicine in WhatsApp University, Corona Virus era is the best. You can cook up any remedy, attribute it to a doctor from China or a World Bank Economist or a character from science fiction to give it credibility. To make it unquestionable, assign it to your country’s cave age medical system. You have to add a few exotic concoctions, and a simple process to arrive at the medicine. To make it look authentic, just mention so and so native medicine expert has offered a price of Rs.50,000 to anyone who can disprove this theory. Don’t mention this expert's contact details anywhere in your material. The incorrigible rationalist's head will go for a spin, searching in google for this expert. 

With this ends, Part-II of the guide.  In the next blog, we will see the Part-I of this guide.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

A Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe Can Resonate With What Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford- Brent Spoke

Michael Holding and Ebony Redford Speaking on Racism


I can resonate with what Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford spoke. Every SC/ST will identify with what these two super achievers spoke.


There have more than a few upper caste persons who have been good to me in life despite knowing that I belong to Scheduled Caste. This has been the case even at work place, there have been a lot of seniors and colleagues who have helped me out knowing well that I belong to Scheduled Caste, and interacted socially well. However, I cannot forget two individuals, one who is long retired, and had the gumption to check with my colleague, whether I knew to read and write English well enough. This was because I had qualified under the reserved quota, though the written test marks were marginally less than the general candidate who was successful. The other occasion was again by an individual, who no longer can affect neither my career (hopefully!) or mental balance, he could not take the fact that a person belonging to the deprived could stand up to him, and show him the mirror. There were numerous occasions when caste played a role but there were minor incidents so I will not highlight it.


I believe in forget and forgive but whom do I forgive for the sub-human treatment my ancestors, and less fortunate brothers and sisters receive even today. What do I forget? Do I forget that we were told that we were born from the feet of Brahma. How to overlook the fact that we were made to believe that menial jobs were only meant for us. Is it humanly possible to ignore that still many of my brothers cannot go on a horse as a groom? What sort of individual would I be to be tranquil about the fact that my sister in some village is considered a sex toy for an upper caste? For age, we were told it is a crime against God to get educated? We were given to believe that entering a place of worship made the place lose its sanctimoniousness. There is nothing that can be forgiven nor anything will be forgotten. I will carry these wounds to my grave.


We are referred to as `Government Brahmins’ by a particular community from Tamil Nadu. This entitled community feels that after 3500 years us getting reservation was the biggest folly that independent India could have committed. They remind us this, day in and day out in office spaces. Every mistake we do is linked to the fact that we came up through reservation. When their kids commit mistakes, they are trying to be innovative but when we do it we are genetic idiots. We are basically considered unintelligent creatures who cannot understand most of the rules and procedures.


I was refused admission in a prominent degree college of Bangalore just because I belonged to the SC community. It is no coincidence that the same community I referred to above controls this college. Till early 2000s, there were certain identified areas in Bangalore from where SC/ST came. The boys from these area were labeled as rowdies and their job application was always declined. Many of them used to give address of relatives in peaceful areas. SC/ST fake themselves as upper caste to escape the ignominy. Some say SC/ST too have gotra but most of us who have to get a pooja done in the temples lie about our gotra.


I despise most those who say to me `Do we practice casteism with you’?. Should I take it as a blessing or acceptance of my social position that refrains them from doing so.


George Floyd is one amongst us, and nobody knows racism better than the SC/ST. I don’t what the future holds for black in America and Europe but I am sure it will be a lot better if they co-exist for 3500 years with the whites. Meanwhile, when we point out cases of caste discrimination, we will be called out for sensationalism and perverted mindsets. It will be told to us in no uncertain terms that we should have an open mind, guess what they were doing with their minds for 3500 years or are still doing?




Saturday, 4 July 2020

Horror-Scope Predictions In Corona Virus Times By An Atheist (Sarcasm Alert)



The health experts are telling that Coronavirus cases are yet to peak in India. The Government is doing its best to to develop a vaccine by Independence Day to liberate us from this scourge. Meanwhile, people are losing patience with the need to be disciplined to avoid the virus. To awaken and enlighten the public, despite being an Atheist, I have brought out for the `first-time' Corona Virus forecast for various star signs. This is serious stuff, so please give the predictions a go by, and read for the fun of it. This piece has been written with the disingenous of research possible.


Aries (March 21 − April 19) – Aries is self-centred, courageous, and bold, Be self-centred on maintaining social distancing. Don't think it is courageous not to wear a mask, or you have to be brave enough to get treatment for COVID-19 in a government hospital.



Taurus (April 20 − May 20) – The entry of your star sign usually wrecks a China shop, but you be careful of this virus from China. Practise SMS (Social distancing, Mask wearing, and Social Distancing).


Gemini (May 21 − June 20) – Just because your star sign is represented by the immortal twins' Castor and Pollux doesn't mean you too are eternal. COVID-19 can asphyxiate and kill you, so the moment you notice any symptoms, get a test done and get yourself treated.



Cancer (June 21 − July 22) – You rarely mingle with people, so social distancing comes to you naturally. Don't be emotional about wearing a mask.


Leo (July 23 − August 22) – You are a born leader but that in no way permits you to infect a lot of people. If you suspect you have any of the symptoms, call 1075.



Virgo (August 23 − September 22) – You are practical, meticulous and cool-headed. Don't rely on WhatsApp Gyan about COVID-19. Not wearing a mask is not being cool-headed, but it means you are Jughead.



Libra (September 23 − October 22) – You are carefree in nature. If you don't practise SMS, you may become a record in the Registrar of Births and Death LIBRAry.




Scorpio (October 23 − November 21) – People are easily attracted towards you but keep them at 6 feet distance or more. The infection of Novel Coronavirus can be as venomous as the sting of the scorpion.


Sagittarius (November 22 − December 21) – Your star sign symbol is an arrow. Beware of the arrow of droplets sneezed at you by a COVID patient. Practise SMS and protect yourself.



Capricorn (December 22 − January 19)  

Whatever the challenges are, you always remain ready and keep attaining your desired goals. However, when there is a lockdown or your place is declared as a containment zone, respect the orders. Otherwise, you may get COVID-19 or even be booked under NDMA or both.


Aquarius (January 20 − February 18) – Aquarians like to be master of their wills. However, to contain the Corona Virus spread, you have to comply with the restrictions imposed by the Government. Else, find a good lawyer who can defend you under Sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act and Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. A piece of free advice, it is cheaper to follow the Government restrictions than pay for a lawyer or be infected with Corona Virus. It is better not to be infected by the Corona Virus as well to fight a case against the Government.



Pisces (February 19 − March 20) – You are passionate about being alone, and sleeping. You are the sort of guy the authorities would be projecting as a role model. Practise SMS at work and public places. When you don't have to go out, pursue your passions


 



Sunday, 28 June 2020

The Road Wrongly Taken - A Micro Short Story On Relationships




Sharadh had just finished his drink in a dingy bar downtown. A few years ago, he would have not even let his driver have a drink in such a place. It was he believed his misfortune, that forced him to go to a below-par watering hole. 



When he drove out his car, he was not sure whether he would reach home in it or would it be seized en-route by the loan sharks. He had changed his number 3 times in the past month to escape calls from his debtors.


  It was only in the evening that he had paid a visit to a famous mendicant fortune teller `XY Godman'. This godman slept on the hard floor in an all weatherproof room and travelled in an imported car seated on a rag, placed above the costliest leather seat. His diet consisted of a little rice, dal, roti, and fresh fruits & vegetables. He had predicted that tonight will be the beginning of the end of Sharadh's worst phase of life. To ameliorate his condition, XY Godman had asked him to leave his hermitage from the western direction, spend the night under the oak tree precisely 14 kilometres away. He had asked him to forget about signing the land deal which would have cleared all his debts and start a new business with substantial capital. Sharadh was happy that the turbulence in his life was about to end, but he could not understand why that this was linked to not signing the land-deal that night. However, he was not in a mood to reason or rant.

 

Sharadh’s life had been a roller coaster ride. He had seen forty-nine summers and a life full of incidents. His fiftieth birthday was a fortnight away. Sharadh, the son of a retired head post-master, had done his post-graduation in Commerce. More than education, it was his innovative thinking and convention defying actions which saw him touch meteoric heights both in business and social life. It is these very qualities which brought him to the nadir of his life.

 

As on today he had a broken marriage, couple of failed businesses, a pile of loans, a pregnant unmarried daughter in her 20’s, a few lost friends, and failing health. He had sold his swanky house and got rid of a good portion of his debts. All that was left with him was his ancestral house in a prime area of his city, adjoining the international airport that had come nearby. He had promised to sell the land. Possibly, his father had some psychic abilities, he had written a will that Sharad could sell this property only after he reaches the age of fifty. It was further ordained in the will, that he could use only 50% of the money immediately, and the balance would be deposited in the fixed deposit of a bank. Sharadh or his successors can enjoy the interest for another 25 years, beyond which the principal will accrue to them.


Sharadh had come to know of the peculiar will just couple of days back. Even his daughter was not aware of. The proposed land-deal would have made him debt-free, and provided him with working capital to start a new business. Sharadh had tucked away a neat amount of money with a reliable friend, to take care of his daughter, for a few years, should anything happen to him. Just before he left to meet the fortune teller, he had informed his daughter of the fortune left with his friendHe was in the danger of being bumped off by the loan sharks at any time.


 

Lost in his thoughts while driving, Sharadh stopped at the 14th kilometre, he saw an oak tree on the left side, switched off his mobile, and parked his car beneath it. Just before he switched off his phone, he received a call from a female whom he thanked for introducing him to the fortune teller. He also confirmed to her that as per his advice, he will be sleeping for the night under the said oak tree. He began to wonder how nice it would be if he can go back to his past, and correct some of the mistakes he had made. It was then he realised the eastern direction he took, contrary to the western side as mandated by the fortune teller. He sighed because his whole life was all about him doing the opposite of what was required. He decided that he was doomed for failure, and his bad times will never end thanks to his reckless manner. He decided to rest there itself for the day. If things get worse, he decided he is going to sell the land, settle accounts with the creditors, and drive off the cliff.


The place looked spooky, but he did not mind being lynched. There was nothing worth stealing from him except his costly wrist-watch, and a few two thousand rupees in his wallet. It was 12:30 midnight, and the day would break in a few hours. Sharadh stretched out his legs on the back seat and closed his eyes. Soon he was asleep and was woken up by a gentle thud on the window panes. He woke up to see a guy in whites, garnishing his teeth. Before he could open the door, the guy was sitting next to him and said "Hi".


Sharadh, without blinking his eyes asked, "So who are you, a highway devil, life has scared me enough, what can a spirit like you do to me?"

 

The guy replied, "You wanted to meet me."

 

Sharadh unable to fathom shot back, "Who are you?" (thinking in his mind maybe I would have called him)

 

The guy replied "I am the Time Keeper; you wanted to go back in time and correct your faults. I have come to give you an opportunity and till I am with you, time will freeze".

 

Sharadh was a drowning man, and he was ready to clutch at the proverbial last straw. He pinched himself and screamed "Wow! Let us get started then". This was the first time in the last one year Sharad had got so excited, otherwise it was always a grumpy face for him.

 

Time Keeper said "Don't get excited so much, this is always your fault, first listen, you will get a chance to revisit 6 situations in your life and correct them. There will be two Sharadhs'; one in the actual situation and another you from the future. You will never get a chance to correct yourself physically but only can advise/shout to Sharadh at the spot. You can instigate any other individual in the situation to save it. You can be in each incident only for 10 minutes, and so you will have an hour to correct your past. Is it OK with you?"


Sharadh nodded his head in agreement. He had no option, did he?

 

Time Keeper "Now write down your choice, take your time, and you can always correct the choices before I begin your journey" and gave Sharadh a pen and a piece of paper to write on. Without much thought, Sharadh wrote down the following choices:

 

1. Neglect of his health after 2005.

2. Refusal to support Preetam's business (Sharadh's best friend) with a loan of Rs.5 lakhs. 

3. His second marriage to Nisha.

4. The decision to send his daughter Veda to a boarding school.

5. Based on the advice of Nisha, the decision to invest in the garment export business.

6. His decision to invest in reality shares during early 2016.

 

Sharadh handed over the slip to the Time Keeper who remarked, "As always fast".

 

Sharadh grinned sarcastically, looked at him and quizzed with a shrug of his shoulders "What next?"

 

Time Keeper whispered a verse into his ears and told "Close your eyes and repeat it 12 times. Remember you cannot come back till you revisit all the six situations and during this time you cannot contact me. All the best to you."

 

Sharadh thanked the Time Keeper with gratitude, closed his eyes and repeated the verse 12 times. Suddenly, a beam of light ejected him into a clock way. He could see the clock reversing at a rapid speed, and suddenly it stopped in his flat which he had purchased from the first million he earned.

 

 

07/11/2002 Time 5:30 am, the alarm rings and a blanket unfurls.

 

A young Sharadh gets up and goes to sleep, banging the alarm. Till then, Sharadh was very particular about maintaining his health and used to exercise regularly. This laziness had set into him with expanding business.

 

Future Sharadh could see what havoc this laziness would cause to him in future. As on date, he was suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol and weak joints. He had to undergo bypass surgery and a knee correction in the past two years. FUTURE SHARADH shouted at the younger one "Please get up, go for a workout, don't spoil your health". He would not listen, and time was running out. FUTURE SHARADH shouted expletives at him still of no avail. He tried to kick him but could not. He remembered the Time Keeper's condition "You will never get a chance to correct yourself physically". Just then he saw his first wife Sita opening her eyes. He pushed her into pouring a glass of water on the sleeping Sharadh. Sharadh got up and shouted, "Shut up, Si, I am tired". She could not understand why she poured a glass of water on his face, so she kept quiet and slept back. FUTURE SHARADH was left banging on his head and soon the time was over, and he found himself in the clock way forwarding till he reached August 2004 when Preetam, his best friend was sitting in front of him.


***********


15/08/2004 Time 7:30 pm, Preetam after hours of talking virtually was begging with him for Rs.5 lakhs. His friend Rajesh was seated besides trying to reason with Sharadh.

 

Sharadh by that time had become a multi-millionaire. Preetam was trying to start a business on his own. He, along with Rajesh, had come to request Sharadh for an Rs.25 lakh loan. Rajesh was settled in his own job, and had come along with Preetam to convince Sharadh. The amount by Sharadh's standard was a petty one, but he refused to neither invest nor lend this amount. Sharadh was not interested in giving the loan or making an investment because he did not believe that farming can be a sustainable business.


Preetam even offered to pledge his house documents with Sharadh. Sharadh displaying arrogance, had said, "I don't have enough servants to accommodate in your big house, who wants those documents?" 


Rajesh held Sharadh by his collar and slapped him. Sharadh gave a contemptuous smile, and Rajesh walked out of the house.


Preetam went down on his knees, but Sharadh would have none of it. FUTURE SHARAD tried to scream at the top of his voice, but his past would not listen and stuck to his stand. Soon Preetam too walked out.


Rajesh stood surety for Preetam's loan. Slowly but steadily Preetam repaid the loan and grew richer than Sharadh. Most childhood friends distanced from Sharadh after this incident but Preetam still retained a soft-corner for him. As fate would have it, it was to Preetam that Sharadh had entrusted the last bit of his savings. This was to be handed over to his daughter in the eventuality of his being got rid off by the marauding money lenders .


Time for FUTURE SHARADH was over, and again he was thrust into the clock way till it stopped when Sharadh's mother arguing against his decision to marry Nisha.


******


10/10/2010 Time 8:45 am, Sharad mother is asking him not to marry Nisha


Sita had expired during November 2008 due to Leukaemia. She was the source of strength for Sharadh ever since they fell in love during college. Though she was from a different language, Sharadh parents readily accepted her. Her death had upset the balance of Sharadh's family. Soon his father died, and his mother was also incapacitated. Sharadh became a loose cannon, and had many illicit relationships.


Subsequently, Sharadh had met Nisha during a party. She was a small-time model/TV actress. True to her name, most men fell for her charms. Playing around with men was not new to her. She had never dated a rich guy like Sharadh. She did everything to entice Sharadh into her web, and he too willing fell for her.


Sharadh wanted to marry Nisha. His mother, daughter Veda, and relatives were against it. His mother was pleading with him not to marry Nisha. He would not listen to her and chided his mother for being old fashioned. He got up and announced, "on 10/01/2011, I am going to marry Nisha; if you want you can come". Saying these harsh words, he rushed out of his mother's bedroom.


FUTURE SHARADH knew of all the tragedies that marriage to Nisha would befall him. She made him a drunkard. She regularly made him buy costly presents and skip crucial business meetings to be with her or take her on a joy trip. Sharadh started neglecting Veda. She got him to invest in the wrong businesses like that of a garment factory owned by a mysterious cousin of hers. It later turned out that this cousin of hers was a boyfriend in reality, and used as a ploy to fleece Sharadh of his wealth. FUTURE SHARADH screamed all this to Sharadh, but he would not hear him out. The 600 seconds were over, and he was back on the clock way to reach April 21, 2014.


*****


21/04/2014, Time 8:45 pm, Sharadh is about to announce his decision to send Veda to a boarding school.


Sharadh’s mother expired during July 2012 and Veda was left alone in the house. Sharadh’s interest in his daughter had dwindled. Though she was doing academically well, she had become a neglected child. Nisha had begun to despise Veda's presence in the house. She planned to send Veda to a notorious boarding school for spoilt rich kids and had succeeded in convincing Sharadh.


Sharadh "Veda, I am sending you to ****** boarding school."


Veda "Papa, you want to send me to a boarding school, I have no problem, but don't send me to that one. It's notorious and a spoilt one."


Sharadh "Enough, your mama has made a choice, and you are going there."


Veda agitatedly remarked "This female is not my mother."


Sharadh came rushing towards Veda, caught hold of her, slapped her couple of times and threatened, "If you don't go, you are dead". Veda wept inconsolably on the dining table, but there was no one to console her at home or to stand for her rights.


Veda reluctantly went to the boarding school. It was a school for all the rich spoilt kids. Veda did hold on her ethics for a short while. Soon, the pleasures of youth took her over. She started with gambling, dating, boozing, drugs, and finally landed up being pregnant before she could complete graduation.


FUTURE SHARADH screamed all this to Sharadh as he was leaving the dining hall but of no avail. FUTURE SHARADH was desperate to get back to the Time Keeper to ask him what sort of option he had given him but could not do so. Soon FUTURE SHARADH was on the clock way and stopped in Aug 2015 where Nisha was introducing her cousin who wanted Sharadh to invest his "Hi-fashion garment factory".


******


11/08/2015 Time 3:45 pm, Nisha's cousin, is explaining the project to Sharadh.


Nisha's cousin was convincing Sharadh to invest in his "Fashion Garment Factory" which he claimed had a lot of committed orders from abroad. The magic of Nisha was wearing away for Sharadh. Nisha realised her time was up and was getting ready to pack off. This supposed cousin was her boyfriend, and they had hatched this plan to fleece Sharadh's fortune. Though his CA was against this investment, Sharadh agreed to invest in it just to keep Nisha happy, and the projections made by her cousin were too tempting to ignore. FUTURE SHARADH tried to scream for sanity to prevail. He shouted several questions about the project to Sharadh. He questioned the intimacy of Nisha, and her cousin but all these, as usual, fell into deaf ears.


As planned, slowly the investment started turning into a nightmare for Sharadh. Nisha became the managing partner, and he had less power to question its progress. Every second month there was some mishap or the other, draining out funds. By December 2017, Sharadh had lost 70% of his wealth on the project. He had started to borrow, something which he had not done for the past 12 years.


Then one day, he got up to find a piece of chit "Bye Buddy – Nisha". Nisha had rendered him bankrupt and flown out with her "cousin" to Bangkok. Sharadh never got a chance to divorce, and till date she and Veda had equal share to his property.


FUTURE SHARADH lost yet another chance to correct his past and soon was back on the clock way to find himself in June 2018, when Sharadh was doing the proverbial "last throw of dice".


****


16/06/2018, Time 10:30 am, Sharad is handing over a cheque to his investment banker


He was handing over a cheque of Rs. 2 Crores for investment in reality shares. Sharadh had over the past two months made some informed trading calls in the market and made substantial money. His friend Rajesh had given him these bits of advice. Sharadh financial position was beginning to look up when he decided to invest in reality shares. Rajesh advised him not to do so, but Sharadh would have none of it. He felt that Rajesh was jealous that he would become affluent again. FUTURE SHARADH knew there was no point in advising Sharadh, and remained a mute spectator. Sharadh went ahead and made the deal. As luck would have it by the end of October 2008, the investment value was less than Rs.35 lakhs. Sharadh had to sell off most of his remaining property except his father's estate.


The time for FUTURE SHARADH was over, and he was back in the car with the Time Keeper. As soon as he reached, he howled "What a cruel joke that was! It was like having a read-only document. I had no chance to correct my past except being a screaming unheard witness to the disaster."


Time Keeper "That is not my problem, Sharadh did not listen to you. What can I do?"


Sharadh "Where is the question of listening, he could not hear me."


Time Keeper "Come, I will make you listen to what your mind and soul was telling during those six incidents."Sharadh listened to it. He realised that what he spoke just now had gone through his mind and heart when the incidents actually took place. He knew that it was wrong to neglect his health. He had felt at that time it was inhuman not to support Preetam in his business. He seemed to remember telling to himself that the decision to marry Nisha can turn out to be catastrophic. He had felt sending Veda to that boarding school or to invest in the stupid business of Nisha's cousin were decisions bound to end in disasters. When he took the decision to invest in the reality shares, his conscience told `This is the final nail in the coffin’. It is just that he did not listen to it, all the six times.


The Time Keeper reminded Sharadh "Your future is always there with you in the form of your soul and mind, just that you have to listen to them. Henceforth you will do that, and you will have a bright future". Saying these words, he disappeared.


Soon the sun began to rise and as Sharadh started his car, committing to listening to his inner voice. To go home, he had to take an U-turn. While travelling back, he passed the oak tree, the fortune teller had originally asked him to park his vehicle under. The tree had been felled, and it had smashed a car parked under it. Out of the car, two dead bodies of a naked boy and girl was being removed. A little distance he saw Nisha's best friend, gesticulating and talking to someone on the phone. She was the one who had introduced him to the fortune teller, and also checked his whereabouts the previous night. He deciphered the sinister design and decided to close the land deal. It would get rid of all his loans, and help him start a new life. He was not sure whether this decision was rational, but his heart and mind seemed to be in harmony. Moreover, the expression of shock on the lady’s face, when he waived at her made him doubly assured that a new horizon was waiting to unfold itself for him, Veda, and his yet to be born grandchild.


 



A Few Good Books I Read in 2020

  2020 was a unique year for me. In the early stages of the year, I had to relocate from Hassan to Dehradun. I had planned to continue to m...