November 8th, 2012

Read this little novel “The Chase of the Ruby” by Richard Marsh. A nice little feel good story. There’s something impishly unvictorian about Richard Marsh. The novel starts with a little ghost story, or a vision as Guy Holland says. An eccentric uncle sets a weird condition in his will, and there are two nephews vying for inheritance. A good one,(well, with slight gray edges) and a thoroughly bad lot. The rest of the story is how they both are in pursuit of a ruby signet ring. And they needn’t even have tried! There is of course the fiesty little girlfriend and the actress you aren’t quite sure of and the exotic foreigner with a temper. Yes, very Victorian and British, but quite entertaining in its way.

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November 3rd, 2012

This is the first Michael Crichton book I read. Somehow I never got around to buying one of his books. I am of a world where Lost World mean more Professor Challenger than Speilberg. Anyway, at last I got around to Chrichton and it so happens that I picked his last ever book to begin with. Around a third of it was written by Chrichton and then completed by Richard Preston.

The story starts with three people dead with no clues and murder weapons. Then there are seven doctoral students visiting a promising laboratory in Hawaii owned by a company Nanigen. Then there are machines and weapons and survival in a rain forest. Too many people die though. While reading, I pictured the fights in the forest in animated form, cause it does remind you of so many movies you have seen. Like ant bully. Of course there you have the story. Then there is the question of evil and whether anyone is responsible when it comes to weapons.

It was interesting. I will pick up another I guess.

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November 2nd, 2012

There is a new library thingy at office, and this is the first book I ordered. I ordered it more for the “& other stories”, but turned out there there none. I do like Oscar Wilde and this though not one of the favourites is still a good read. And you read Oscar Wilde for the witty one-liners more than anything!

The tale is very much a Victorian plot; The woman with a past and her seducer coming face-to-face in a social setting. Come to think of it, Indian society still thinks like the son, and they are not even ready to come their senses as he did.

It does have a hell of an ending line, though.. ;)

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October 18th, 2012

Thais are cruel people. They condone animal abuse as a society and exploit them in the grossest possible ways for money. That is the most striking memory I took away from my (not so) recent trip to Thailand. You can see cruelty to animals wherever you go, and the worst thing is, they don’t even consider it cruelty. I am no vegetarian, but I will never ever treat anything living the way they are being treated in the zoos and temples of Thailand.

1. Nong Nooch Garden, Pattaya – This was a good day. There were signs of things to come, but it was interesting to be able to feed the animals and walk around them, which I had never done in any other zoo. But there was a baboon on tree chained by the hip to a rope. He can travel along the rope. That was it. Yet, it was a momentary dampener on otherwise an interesting day. Till we saw the dancing elephants. They have the fork like things we call “thoti” in Malayalam, and the mahouts had no qualms using them. I love elephants, and I believe they belong in the wild. I dislike the fact that there are domesticated elephants in my homeland. But none prepared me for the circus elephants of my childhood in modern day Thailand. You cry.
2. Kanchanaburi – The worst place to be in Thailand is the tiger temple. Buddhism as a religion is interesting to me, even though I know that the Buddhist monasteries have their share of controversies like molesting of young monks etc. That is the fate of every organized religion and church worldwide. I never disliked monks so much as when I saw those people around the tigers. How can anyone turn these majestic beasts into drug addled kittens and sell their helplessness to tourists, us included. We never should have gone there. It was haunting. Money. God! I have never ever seen greed in those proportions. They drug them, take your money, and then they throw them in water to wake them and show it off as tigers playing and bathing in the water.
3. Safari World, Bangkok – The zoo was good. It was spacious and tropical and there were a lot of animals I had not seen before. I had never seen so many giraffes before much less fed them. Didn’t like the seal show though. The nagging doubt that I am somehow mistreating the animals remained and you can never enjoy the zoo in Thailand once you have seen how they train and mistreat and generally have a lax attitude towards anything other than themselves.

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September 13th, 2012

I always say Honda City drivers are the worst. And today, a Honda City hit my car at a traffic stop.

We had all stopped, and a bicycle rider on the left decided to go horizontal and he promptly went and hit the car in front of me. Then they Honda City behind mine came and hit me. He apparently thought the traffic had started moving. Hello?

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August 27th, 2012

Belur

It was heritage tourism on Sunday, with a friend’s German colleague.Reached Belur after 10 AM, after a roadside picnic breakfast. These are the remains of the 12th century Hoysala dynasty, mainly the temples built by a Hoysala king. The carvings in Channakeshava temple are really breathtaking and there are beautiful damsels and elephants and gods set in stone everywhere you turn. The only eyesore is the Gopuram, a later addition by Vijayanagara kings. You also see the statue of boy Sala slaying the tiger here and there, even in City centre(?). Sala was the founder of the Hoysala dynasty, and the temple was built by a Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. I guess this Kannada dynasty is the reason why the police in Bangalore(maybe all of Karnataka) use Hoysala as their name. There is an organised guide system in Belur, and for 200Rs, someone will come with you and tell you a bit about the temple and its carvings. Though he kept adding his own version of interpretation, it was interesting. The queen at the time seems to have been an enchanting character, and there are many sculptures of the queen in dance poses.

Halebidu

Halebidu is around 16km from Belur and at first the temple looked the same as the Channakeshava temple in Belur. This is a Shiva temple though, the Hoysaleshwara temple. There are two large Nandi sculptures, and the carvings seems to have more layers than the Channakeshava temple. However, this is not as well preserved and the sculptures have been vandalized and pieces broken. The horses were missing legs and Nandi had writing on it.

Shravanabelagola

On the way back to Bangalore is Shravanbelagola, which has a 10th century monolithic statue of Gomateshwara, a jain ascetic. You have to climb up the hill to reach the temple and the majestic statue. The temple closes at around 6.30 or so, so you should reach there a bit earlier. There is also a lotus pond on the way, and a temple pond near the foot of the hill. The view from the top is really beautiful

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August 25th, 2012

Went to Pune on Independance day weekend. A twelve hour drive from Bangalore, including breakfast, lunch and all nature-room breaks. A very beautiful drive indeed. Must be the weather in August. The places were all green and dark green, like some meadows. Had to pay a helluva lot of money in toll though.

Drive aside, like Pune too. After the chaos of Bangalore, Pune looked spacious and green and under-populated.. ;) It helped that right next to where we stayed, there was a river and a park. There was also time for some relaxed sightseeing and shopping.

Pune City Trip

The first day went in touring around the city. First stop was Shaniwar Wada. It is the ruins of an 18th century palace/fort. The foundation’s still there, and you can kind of picturise the walls and the princesses. It has some cool fountains too, considering how old it is. The only bad thing about it was the municipality people manning it, as they asked for money to park in the free parking outside. We didn’t pay on principle, cause it was so disheartening to see the greed. Went to a paid parking and then to the Ganapathi temple in the city. Didn’t go in as there was a big queue of devotees waiting to get in. There was a tiny Shiva temple outside though, with a Nandi. Next stop was Aga Khan Palace. However, on the way two very suspicious guys in a bike came and told our driver we had to pay 150 rupees because it is army road. They had no uniforms and looked nothing like the army. And the driver said it was not cantonment road either. We said we will first talk to a policeman. Then they told us the police chowki was in some road, and they were gonna lead us to the actual cantonment roads! We ditched them and went on to our tour after telling the simpleton of a driver not to follow them. Aga Khan palace is a pretty house, and this is where Kasturba Gandhi died in 1944. It is currently a museum honouring Gandhi’s life. There are some items used by them and Samadhi of Kasturba and Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s secretary.

The last stop of the day was Katraj zoo, which the driver called as the snake park. There was a reptile section as well, with some snakes and crocodiles and turtles, even though olive ridley was missing in its enclosure. The zoo was spacious and had a good walk. There are tiny buses and bus stops where you can board them, but the buses weren’t yet operating when we went it. There aren’t as many animals as in other zoos, but it was quite nice anyway. With that we called it a day and went home and watched a movie.

Lavasa & Sinhgad

Lavasa is a planned city near Pune, quite controversial already. It is in a valley surrounded by hills and bordered by a lake. The idea appealed to me, a retirement place nestled in the mountains and stuff. Self-sufficient and serene and what not. However, not a great fan of it now. The buildings are ghastly. They do impact the environment in quite an ugly way. Guess the builders got greedy in between and messed up the chance of creating something exclusive and private and sought after. The drive was breathtaking though, and they have made beautiful roads for us to enjoy the valley, but the buildings! yuck. Had a picnic lunch not far from the valley, near a tiny natural stream. Was perfect. Then we went to Sinhgad, a hill station nearby with a fort on top. We went mainly for the Kanda bhaji(onion pakoda) though and totally missed the fort. August is the best time for the drive, and the places were beautiful and very Westernghat-ish.

Alandi

Next day we went to Alandi, the place associated with Jnaneshwar, the Gita translator and poet. I did not like the temple. I find that temples are not really very clean outside Kerala (Though I did like the Mathura Meenakshi temple), and the river was very dirty too. Still, Jnaneshwar is new to me, and looked him up and impressed. In the evening went to the riverside park. It is also a bird sanctuary, at least in name.

Laxmi Road & Tulsi Baug

Sunday was earmarked for shopping and spent way too much money than I should have. Bought a bunch of cloths as gifts and even some clay flower vases. Then it was time to leave and started around 5 the next morning and reached at 5 in the evening. That is with a long lunch break. A pretty relaxed trip.

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August 7th, 2012

Back to the Queen of crime. This one is an expansion of a short story called yellow irises, where Poiort gets a call from a woman about a table with Irises. This is not a Poirot story though. I think Colonel Race is the detective, even though the mystery is solved by the young beau. This was interesting beacuse I expected the ending to be same as the short story.

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July 31st, 2012

Just finished reading Wilderness Tips. It is a collection of ten short stories, mostly set in Toronto or children’s camps. It depressed me. The stories itself weren’t depressing really. To me, noone is as depressing as Steinbeck. But they still made me want to scream, because it was so startingly real. And I have nothing in common with them. The time is different, the people are different, the country is different. Yet so bloody real. I couldn’t put down the damn thing. And I couldn’t stand the reality of their lives.

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July 31st, 2012

I read Artemis Fowl at last. That is, the first one of the series. I liked it. Of course it is rather juvenile, and I really shouldn’t be reading it, but my tastes are kinda juvenile when it comes to movies and books. Well, juvenile as well.

There is magic, there is the criminal mastermind kid, there is a pretty elf. Smooth.

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