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Friday, January 7, 2011


Oscar Wilde once said:

The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible.

One might consider that the days of slavery, with slaves being whipped, hanged or tortured are begone with the Dark Ages. However, a new form of slavery is on the rise - corporate slavery. No matter how fancy your designation is, the world can be divided into two clear-cut 'classes'. Like we had 'the haves' and the 'have-nots', we now can divide society into 'the slaves' and 'the slave-nots'.

The urban dictionary defines 'corporate slavery' as:

The people who make the business world go round and round, without them executives might actually have to do something besides make rules to make it more difficult for the slaves under them to do their job. Corporate slaves are easily identifiable by the vacant look in their eyes as they are always overworked, underpaid and underappreciated.

That actually sounds a lot like my job description. What do you think; does this seem like what you do all the time?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Black vs White. Good vs Evil. Master vs Slave. Evolution vs Divine Creation. Civilization vs Primitive Instincts.

These are some of the themes touched upon by Kunal Basu's novel - Racists. The book narrates the tale of an outrageous experiment - an endeavour to settle the debate of whether the European whites are superior to the African blacks. Set in the year 1855, the novel charts the paths of the English scientist - Bates, and his French rival, Belavoix. The two scientists decide to leave two children - a black boy and a white girl on the deserted island of Arlinda for 12 years, to decide who will emerge the master, and who will be the slave.

The children are to be raised by a mute nurse, Norah, whose sole prerogative is to keep them alive for the duration of the experiment. The scientists constantly pit their theories against each other, with Bates focusing on proving his hypothesis by using the 'science' of craniometry - periodically measuring the dimensions of the skulls, and postulating that the larger dimensions would belong to the more intelligent. Belavoix, on the other hand, takes out time from his feigned illnesses to predict the insanity of the nurse, and that one of the children will kill the other at some point of time.

Norah, and Bates' assistant, Quarterly begin to see the children as humans, as opposed to the scientists who only view them as test specimens. Do they watch from the sidelines, as their masters plot a dance of death and destruction? Do they interfere and stop what could possibly be an experiment that has never taken place before?

Kunal Basu's characters have strong dimensions to them, and the reader begins to understand how each one's mind works. One can even draw parallels with contemporary characters, and how racism manifests itself in modern times.

However, what begins promisingly enough, ends with a damp squib as Mr. Basu takes the easy way out and finishes his book without answering the all-important question. The narrative slows down and peters out towards the end into predictable mediocrity.

Still, a fairly good read and I'd give it around 3/5.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Such a Long Journey!

Dear Shiv Sainiks, please do not print copies of this blog and burn them because the title has nothing to do with Rohinton Mistry's novel of the same name. (I don't give two hoots about what you think of the blog - just that printing and burning, you know - causes pollution) However, if you wish to send the link across to your brethren across the globe, do so - I don't mind the extra publicity. (I'd love to see a headline like "Shiv Sena left red-faced after blog faux pas" or comments like "No wonder there are so few tigers left. They must be killing themselves on seeing their picture so grossly misused.")

Anyway, onwards with the story!

So, the journey began on a fairly innocuous note. All I had to do was accompany a set of 55 factory workers to Bangalore from Ahmadabad (or Amdavad, if you're Gujju) - by train. No issues there, except that the journey was to be undertaken by what former minister Mr. Shashi Tharoor calls 'cattle class'. This part was uneventful enough, except that there was some confusion over the train that we were supposed to board. With half the junta on board, the train started pulling out of the station, and so, yours truly had to sprint along half the platform, jump on to the train and pull the chain. (Yes, I CAN sprint! That was a discovery that I made that day, though I concede that after 100 yards, I was huffing and puffing like a steam engine of yore.)

The rest was all mundane. So, a few days spent in good ol' Bengaluru, with a trip to Church Street and MG Road, some shopping for books at Blossom's and a Chinese dinner (with litchi-flavoured chicken, yuck!!) with a friend.

Now comes the interesting part. Somehow, I had this notion in my head that I was scheduled to leave at 2207 hours from Yesvantpura Junction on Dec 31. However, at about 1800 hours, on the way back to the guest house from office, I happened to glance at the ticket in my hand, and saw the time of departure as 1745 hours. A frantic call to 139 gave me the bad news - Indian Railways, with uncustomary efficiency had ensured that the train was on time and had pulled out of the station. (Damn you, Mamatadi!)

Well, back at the guest house, I figured that I could still catch the train at 2025 hours. A mad scramble to pack all stuff, almost abduct an autowallah, asking him to speed up (and getting him challaned in the process :P) ensured that we reached the station. At 2023 hours. To be told that the train no longer stops at the station. (This is what the twitterati call a #facepalm moment.)

In one of the rare moments of lucidity, the option of taking a bus presented itself, and I latched on to it. Another mad dash to 'Majestic' meant that I made it to the bus. Whew! Without realising that I was being conned into being seated on the last seat (That's called a 'sofa' seat, a euphemism for a highly uncomfortable seat that is bumpy, non-reclinable, and possibly shared with 6-8 other members of humanity.)

Thus began 16 hours of sheer torture. Apart from the seats, the other torture was an assault on the senses, by a bunch of insanely stupid movies being played on the screen. I had to go through the pain of watching Tees Maar Khan (No, even Sheila ki Jawani does not redeem it), Toonpur ka Superhero, and No Problem. Back-to-back.

Anyway, at 2 pm on January 1, I found myself in my favourite city. Maximum City. The City of Dreams. Mumbai! Making my way to one of my dearest friends' house. She was suitably thrilled to see me (who wouldn't be?). Spending the next few hours chit-chatting, and catching up on the latest in life was great. In keeping with tradition, I introduced her to a super-insane 'SPAXI' song that was a part of one of those movies that I had to see.

Then, we decided to step out and eat something. Before that, we stopped to get some 'food for the soul' - books, duh! After running amok and spending nearly 3K between the two of us, we made our way to a restaurant called 'La Kebabiya' - after entering the lounge first, and finding it too loud and smoky, we decided to hang out in the non-smoking section (even though it did not have screens telecasting Liverpool-Bolton)

Nice food. Good ambience. Great conversation. A wonderful time. Totalled up to more fun than I've had in a long, long time. (The only dampener was Liverpool trailing Bolton by 1 goal to nil, at half-time.)

By the time we reached back home to pick up my stuff, the match was in its dying stages. And the icing on the cake was the winning goal that came in dramatic fashion in the 92nd minute. I think I might have done a bit of a jig right there.

Then, began another 8 hour bus journey (in a more comfortable seat this time) to Baroda. And here I sit, clattering away at my keyboard and smiling at the adventure that began with a missed train and ended in truckloads of fun.

P.S. On second thoughts, I could've titled this note as 'There and Back Again' too. :P

P.P.S. I hope all of you have a brilliant year. Wishing you loads of success and joy. :)