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Accenture is freeing 300,000-plus employees from performance reviews

Avinash Gupta:

Personally, I am from school of thought that also believes that annual review of employees is the lazy attempt to keep track of in-house talent, their performance & their appraisal . There are many qualitative aspects that gets completely or marginally ignored in this system.

Originally posted on Quartz:

Joining a group that already includes Adobe, Microsoft, and Deloitte, consulting firm Accenture will end performance reviews and rankings for its 330,000 employee starting this September, according to the Washington Post. It’s one of the largest companies by headcount to do so.

The annual performance review has long felt like an immovable fixture of the corporate world. The process and results can feel rigorous, and provide a legally helpful record when it comes to termination lawsuits. But in addition to the stress they put on both sides and their intensely bureaucratic nature, they’re rife with bias (people tend to give excessively high ratings), and ranking people can easily backfire and demotivate huge chunks of a workforce.

Management theorists argue that they’re intimidating and promote bad management. Putting so much emphasis on a once a year process tends to focus all goal setting and feedback to one point, discouraging the sorts of frequent conversations and updates…

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Almost living the dream with Tattva #Kathmandu

” You are living the dream man !” That is what I said to my friend Uday whose cafe and Bed & breakfast, Tattva- Bistro and bar,  is now open for business. A month before the earthquake that shuttered Nepal, I was in Kathmandu catching up with my family and friends. During this visit, I had the first hand experience of Tattva.

Uday, along with his childhood friend Rishavh has started it where you will find the right amount of the hipster Nepali culture, with their love for music & local craft in its full display.

The tables outside

The tables outside

You will notice an old Victorian clock mounted on the pole and the Tantrik faces hung on the rugged wall. The inside of the bar is more warm and cosy. There is screen where Uday has promised to play Manchester United game whenever they are playing (now you know why i am writing this post :P) along with portrait of Rock n Roll icons and Buddha.

Tattva means" Element" in Sanskrit

Tattva means” Element” in Sanskrit

But Tattva’s charm is that its ambiance is just warming you up for the mean feat. In our closed circles, both Uday and Rishavh is know for their music and if you are lucky, you may end up enjoying their jam sessions. And then there is food. I leave the pictures below and refrain from describing it because I really dont want saliva to drop on my laptop ( yeah, I really need that free beer next time i am there, so little extra flattery for the chef there :P)

The Food @ Tattva

The food is accompanied by great ambiance and lovely music

Did I mention the word amazing?

Did I mention the word amazing?

The rooms and facility upstairs are different story altogether. That is when you don’t want to go away from that place ever. Usually they prefer the guests who stay there for longer duration ( 2 weeks or more ), but will not mind a few for shorter stays as well (Do contact them in advance if you are planning to stay). I was impressed by the selection of furnishing around the room, that gave so much personality and personalization to the culture there.

Having done my share of stay in Bed and Breakfast in many cities, I have an understanding what may work and may not work when it comes to rooms and facilities. I can confidently say that in Tattva, Uday and Rishavh have managed a very competent and warm place that the travelers will absolutely admire and love.


IMG-20150611-WA0006

The view of the Room

The view of the Room

Tattva room- kathmandu

Handcrafted carpet and bamboo Coat stand gives adds local flavor in the room

 

 

I imagined myself sitting in this table and writing the next bestseller. Yes, i dream a lot :P

Next time when you are in Kathmandu, don’t forget to drop by to enjoy a glass of beer with amazing music, good food and Manchester United on the screen.

I always dreamed of quitting everything and start a place like this (along with a bookstore and a recording studio) where I get an opportunity of meeting and serving travelers from around the world. When I told Uday that he is living a dream, I not only meant his own dream but also the dreams of many others, well, almost !

 

On Bobby “I am Not Indian” Jindal

Avinash Gupta:

This post makes more sense than any article that I have read in 3 newspapers this morning

Originally posted on Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind:

[From here]

Jindal stresses how he avoided telling his parents of his new faith and how disappointed they were when they found out. He said he read the Bible by flashlight to prevent being discovered by his folks, and compared his clandestine study to the early Christians “hiding from government persecution.” Jindal’s process of finding his true religion also involved participating in an exorcism of a college girlfriend.

There is a lot of Jindal that I don’t agree with. But this I got to give the man.

It’s better to be thrown in front of lions or be crucified upside down than to have to go through the ordeal of being a second-generation Indian immigrant growing up in US in the 80s. How do I know? I was one (for a while).

Jindal

My parents were kind. They didn’t, for instance, make me dress like Anil Kapoor in “Suit boot…

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Book Review: Angela’s Ashes

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

You might have already discussed this book in your book clubs. This is one of the most talked about memoir and I may not be telling anything new in this review but I cannot not write about this amazing book.

Angela’s Ashes is written and narrated by Frank McCourt, Irish-American author, about his childhood and hardship of growing up in Ireland in poverty. When Frank’s father is unable to get an employment in Brooklyn, they move back to Angela’s native village in Limerick. Their situation worsens in Ireland. McCourt family consists of father McCourt who can’t stop drinking away all the welfare money. His brothers and the mother are other members.

The best part of the book remains the humor in the times of sorrow. In the each statement, in each paragraph you can sense the point of view of the child. Like he describes the ground of of their apartment is called Ireland because it is always flooded while the upperlevel is called Italy because it is warmer and pleasant.

[Quote: “The master says it’s a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it’s a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there’s anyone in the world who would like us to live.”]

However this book was published long after Mr McCourt had lived those days and he had been accused of exaggerating his miseries. But I believe no great piece of literature is spared from criticism. It was later adopted as major motion picture.

I rated Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt 5 out of 5 stars in goodreads. This is one memoir that can change your views on the genre itself.

 

 

Just Another Book Recommendation

I need to learn the art of writing a blog tittle. After 5-6 backspacing the perfectly fine tittles, I resigned to the tittle that is little bit too honest. Now, since I have still managed to have your attention with the perfectly average blog tittle (and what happens next will blow your mind, still learning the art !), here are some book recommendations that I have read in the recent months. Needless to say that I loved each of them and they are the only takeaways from the Not-so-good 2015 so far:

1. Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Strange pilgrims is the collection of 12 short stories, originally written in Spanish by the legendary author Gabriel Garcia. Each stories are based in Europe but the characters are immigrants from South America and Caribbean. Some of the stories in the book are very special, they capture the ceremonial space in our soul. There is a story of a former prostitute who is training her blind dog to visit her after she is buried in the pre-purchased burial space. And then there is a story of a President in exile in Geneva who makes acquaintance with a former country-men and his wife in a modest and a non-aristocratic way. I rated it 4 out 5 stars in the goodreads.

12 Short Stories by Gabriel Garcia

12 Short Stories by Gabriel Garcia

[Bonus Read: Satyajit Ray, Khushwant Singh and other keepers of Short Stories]

 

2. Chowringhee by Shankar

Another translated work in the list, Chowringhee is the story of a hotel, in the central Calcutta that is the symbol of the glory and pride for the citizens. This book works the charm that you may have experienced in the movie Grand Budapest Hotel where hotel is as big a character as it gets. The staffs, the guests, the vendors, the legends and the history makes it an interesting read. I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars in the goodreads.

Chowringhee- book cover

Chowringhee- book cover

 

3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I started this book in September 2014 and completed in February 2015. No, Cloud Atlas is not a 2500 page book but it does not mean that it is not epic.  I loved it so much that I didn’t want it to end. David Mitchell narrates the tale using different perspective, eras and motives. This a classic, sci-fi, philosophic  and one of the most re-quotable book that I have read recently. I dont know how to sell it better.

Masterpiece will be an understatement

Masterpiece will be an understatement

 

4. The End of Eternity by Issac Asimov

“When was this book written  ? ” That was my first question to the friend who lend me this book. This is an astonishing book that satisfies all the archs of sci-fi. I don’t want to reveal anything from the plot.Get your copy and enjoy the universe created by Asimov.

 

Asimov's magical creation

Asimov’s magical creation

 

5. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

When two of the greatest writers ever collaborate, you can do little but bow down to the masters of words and take joy from their amazing partnership. Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter Witch- is the book that will make you look stupid in public places because you will be found laughing loudly. Also, your opinion about footnotes will be changed forever. Grab your copy now

And you thought Fantasies can't make you laugh

And you thought Fantasies can’t make you laugh

 

The Adventures of the night bus

Poster of movie Bombay to Goa glorified a bus trip.

Poster of movie Bombay to Goa glorified a bus trip.

If you have not traveled in one of those over dressed night intra-state buses then you are definitely missing something in your life. I mean you keep boasting about your bike trip to Leh, your back packing in Europe or “soul-searching” (hehe) trips to Bangkok but I never hear anyone saying that ” I took a ride in that shady “Video Coach” between Gorakhpur to Lucknow. ”

There may be 2 possible explanation for absence of popularity of these buses. Maybe cool people don’t travel on them or maybe they don’t think that endless playlist of 90’s Kumar Sanu+ Nadeem Sravan music is not swag enough. I always have fun in these trips and meet many interesting characters except for last time, when the bus conductor didn’t play any Mithun/Govinda starer movie.

So, here are the most interesting “Night Bus” characters that I have encountered over the years :

1. Traveling Salesman:

Salesman are fun people to travel with

Salesman are fun people to travel with

If you are traveling alone and looking to make some friends, don’t look beyond a travelling sales man. They are easy to spot. They have a brief-case style backpack, rotten teeth and always ringing cellphone with Ashiqui 2 song’s ringtone. They are fun because they always travel with hidden bottle of booze and chakna, and they know all the cool places on the highway because of their constant travels.

2. Bollywood Fanboy:

Ayega Ayega gaane mein ayega ayega kitni baar aata hai ?

Ayega Ayega gaane mein ayega ayega kitni baar aata hai ?

Another small town Salman Khan replica with his signature turquoise bracelet and bell-bottom pants, he is the funniest guy in the entire ride. He will lip-sync all the songs played, he will communicate in bollywood dialogues (Franndship mein no sorry, and no thank you !), and bring out irrelevant bollywood trivia out of no where ( Do you know the name of Shah Rukh Khan’s father in Baazigar ?)

 

3. Confused Communist

Mr &Mrs Iyer

A confused communist will slowly inquire about your background, monthly income expenditure and other details that will make you extremely uncomfortable. Then slowly he will let you know that he has lot family land and farms but he still lives his life in utter modestly. His sole aim is to shame you and make you feel sorry for yourself but you may end up laughing at the dude.

4. Student of the Year wannabe

student of the year

Couple of movies by Karan Johar has sucked life of this boy and now he is dreaming of high school or college filled with cheerleading girls and synchronized signing awesomeness.  He is about to witness the bitterness of college life. Just shut up and don’t spoil his dream.

More to come in part 2 .

Book Review: Arjun without a Doubt by Sweety Shinde

Arjun- Without a Doubt by Dr Sweety Shinde

Arjun- Without a Doubt by Dr Sweety Shinde

Without a doubt Mahabharata is the most exciting tale that ever existed. Each version, re-telling and book based on Mahabharata leaves me with so many thoughts and curiosity. Dr Shinde’s book was no different in that aspect but again, it was different in every other aspect.

Over the centuries, different writers and artists has presented different voices to this great epic. From Karna, Krishna, Draupati, Supriya to Shrikandi- everyone has been offered a point of view- an opportunity to judge the great war from their lenses. Novelty of this book is that it offered a voice to otherwise silent warrior whose heroic contribution to the war is often taken as granted, and only married with the silence inspite of the grandest conflicts were circling around him. Arjuna, the demi-god, son of Indra, Pandu and Kunti’s third son, an ace archer, compassionate lover, artistic and thinker, Krishna’s friend and cousin and the pride of Dronacharya, takes a central voice. His voice is accompanied with that of Draupadi. They take turns to narrate the events starting from Drupadi’s Swyambar to the after-math of the great war.

Mahabharata is full of so many complex characters that it is challenging to accommodate everything in single book. In this personalized point of view of the couple, they choose to narrate events that were too close to them. However not everything works out perfectly in the book. Some of the conversations and conflicts between Draupadi and Arjuna sounded too modern for their times.  Also the book was written with the pre-assumption that the readers had sound knowledge of Mahabharata and Hindu mythology. In the middle of the book, the language becomes too poetic. Even during the best of their days, like the time when Indrapastha was flourishing, there was always despire in their tone, always certain unhappiness. We all know that Mahabharata is a tragic tale by the end, but we don’t see emotional journey of highs and lows. Also there was a case of lost opportunity when characters like Bhisma, Drupad and Kunti were used in a single dimensional style.

However, the book makes a good come back in the final act. War is always the most exciting part of the story and always expected to raise the bar. Dr Shinde choose not to include event by event description of the war, that I believe worked for the book. The best part was the emotional change in Arjuna post murder of Abhimanyu. An argument between Kunti and Arjuna after Karna’s death was delightful and offered a prospective that was absent from all the other retelling of the epic. At the end, the author also included some explanation of the exploration of myth, that I enjoyed so much that I wished that the entire book was based on it.

To conclude, I believe this book is a great effort to give a voice to Arjun who is often relegated as a silent hero. I liked that the author didn’t over glorify Karna, who is often popularized as a tragic hero of this tale, rather then a side-kick to Duryodhun. I gave Arjun, Without a Doubt by Dr Sweety Shinde 3/5 stars on goodreads, only because there were no option for 3 and half stars. I wish that it is a start of writing career that will give us many interesting books in the future.

 

PS:  Dr Sweety Shinde is a good acquaintance and had also gave me a free copy of the book. However that didn’t influence my review.

You can connect to Dr Shinde via her blog or through her goodreads profile.

Sanskaari Social Media Advice

A good family always believe in keeping in an eye on their kids even if it includes creeping them out and asking annoying questions about their friends. Some parents even try hard to discover the sexuality of their kids by invoking Justin Bieber, One Direction, Varun Dhawan and Miley Cyrus in the casual discussion.

However with the rise of social media, the medium of usual creeping and stalking the kids has been changed. Parents are happily making their facebook profiles to share God-fearing Sai Baba photos (if you don’t share them, dragons will slay you ), Desi medical remedies ( like how excessive use abuse of neem can bring shine to your dull pubic hair)and Dainik Bhaskhar’s daily WTF news featuring the Housewife who urinates in her in-laws tea (ok, this particular news is by UK’s Daily Mail)’. But the real purpose of these profiles is to keep an eye on the newer generation of their family.

Once I was cornered by a worried uncle. I thought it will be usual shaadi talks where he will coolly inform me that I can marry any modern and independent girl who may not be allowed to enter kitchen when she would be menstruating. But that conversation was reserved for different kind of irony. He was apparently worried about my choices in social media. According to him, my posts does not reflect that I am very sincere and sanskari, a blow to his Alok Nathic wet dreams. I tried my best to handle that conversation as maturely and sincerely as I handle arrange marriage talks, that is- by making an attempt to run-away from the room or by making fart noises from my armpits.

But I somehow agree with him. People will judge you according to your social media profiles so it is important to fake it. So even when ‘Facebook ask you  “What’s on your mind?, remember that it is yet another trick question and you should not end up saying what’s really on your mind (otherwise you will see Sai baba replaced by Sunny Leone ). So my dear friends, occasional religious post, non-sarcastic Feeling-blessed posts, occasional Modi praising and a picture of you driving your family car will take you there.

And remember, whenever you see your Buas and Maasis on facebook, don’t get fooled that they are just there to share their satsang selfies.

Till Death Or Other Weird Reasons Do Us Part

Originally posted on Ashish Shakya:

The Great Indian Wedding Season is drawing to a close, which is sad because I look at weddings the same way I look at getting tasered – it’s great fun if it’s happening to someone else. The best one I attended was basically a beach-and-beer party where there just happened to be a ceremony. However, recent news events have made me realise that you can do all the cool stuff you want at your wedding, but if it’s going to go through without anyone getting ditched at the altar, then don’t even bother inviting me.

The gold standard for excitement was set by a bride in U.P this week, when she canceled her wedding at the last moment after realising that the groom had hidden his complete and utter lack of education from her. She did this by pretending to be a human Captcha. No, seriously. She asked the groom…

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The best CWC campaign-Britannia khao, World Cup Jao

Mauka Mauka by Star is the best WC campaign this year

Mauka Mauka by Star is the best WC campaign this year

Every 4 years, brands in India are taken back to the drawing board to design an engaging campaign for the cricket world cup. Maybe now, the need of this engagement is diminishing because of too much cricket and rise of other sports in India. Brands like Vodafone and Hyundai are more focused on IPL while Amul & Docomo are more associated with Premier League Football than cricket.

This year, 2 campaigns stand out for two completely different reasons. Stars ‘Mauka Mauka” represents a great story-telling layering with nostalgia, humor and relativity. On the other hand, Lays World Cup campaign is pretentious, cliched and too much dependent on the star power of Ranbir Kapoor.

Lays wc ad

In my memory from 1999 cricket world cup stood out for 2 excellent campaign. The first campaign was Pepsi’s “Yeh Dil Mange More” with Shah Rukh Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Azhar and others. In search of Pepsi, Shah Rukh breaks into Indian Dressing Room wearing a Sachin wig. If you don’t remember what happens next then you should definitely watch this commercial.

SRK SRT in pepsi commercial 1999

Another campaign was Britannia’s – Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao (Eat Britannia, Go to the World Cup). The idea of campaign was that each Britannia product had runs in the packet depending on the value of the product. For example, 50-50 biscuit’s packet had 10 runs, Fruit cake 40 runs and so on. When you score a century after collecting empty packets worth 100 points, you get a booklet with Cricket facts, statistics and a scratch card to find out if you have the World Cup ticket or not.

britannia worldcup

Of the 10 odd booklets that I had (yes, i force feed myself for those biscuits to get more of those booklets ), all of them said try again but still there was no hard feelings because that booklet itself was novelty for kids like me.

[Bonus Read: Britannia tried a similar campaign in 2002, but ICC had problems with that.]

The reason this campaign is still in memory is because of the engagement that it managed with it’s target audience. Not only teens and school going kids were collecting those packets, I also saw retired uncles and soap watching aunties collecting them too.  The result for Britannia was healthy too. That year, the companies financials show 37% increase in the profits.

So, well done Britannia with that campaign.

Do you remember any other campaigns from previous World cups that stood out. Do share.

Guest Post- The Joy of Discovery by Avinash Gupta

Avinash Gupta:

Sharing my guest post that I contributed to Aman’s blog. Amandeep is one of my favorite blogger and it was honor to feature in his blog.
Do check out his blog if you have not done so already.

Originally posted on CONFESSIONS OF A READAHOLIC:

The Joy of Discovery 

by AVINASH GUPTA

I have no right to speak in favor of book stores. Last year, of the commendable fortune of my modest income that was spend on books, smaller portion was actually contributed to the bookstores. Amazon and Flipkart enjoyed the larger share, and the reasons were simple:

  • Change in the content consumption pattern.
  • Way cheaper than the book store.
  • Amazing service (can you beat on click delivery of Amazon for my kindle)
  • Change in style in discovering the book

Of all the above, I want to focus on the 4th point. Now we select our books from the book recommendations by fellow bloggers, by goodreads timeline, through tweets and through Facebook book crushes. I mean, when was the last time when you went to the bookstore and said, “It looks like an interesting book” and took that book home with you. If you have not done it for long time…

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A like for Dahi Please !

Aah .. Dahi

Aah .. Dahi

Before I discovered the fun loving, alcohol dipped dudes and food frenzy of Delhi, I was introduced to the cruel summer heat and hopelessly rude city during my first real encounter with the capital. My hosts for the chaos were Sushil and Sunil, and in the streets where you will find Manish Sisodia campaigning these days were our backyard in those days(ok, now you realize this post has been in my draft for too long). There were times when we were up all night and used to talk about insanity that this city is, not only because we were good friends, but also because of the insomnia sponsored by 45 degree Celsius, 6 hours load shedding, FIFA World Cup 2006 and a crazy housewife next door. Only saving grace in those days were the 400 gram packets of Mother Dairy Dahi (curd) that were packed for two but we preferred 2 packets each. That chilled bacterial form of lactose was better than the bowl of ice cream after each heart break that Delhi offered us each day.

While Delhi was literally doing Dimag ki Dahi (making yogurt of our brains- well some phrases should not be translated ), the Dahi was saving us from the heat and the madness. Years rolled down and my days of hating Delhi was behind me. I fell in love with its madness, made peace with its weather and started associating with the cities flaws.

Click on the picture and give a like to Dahi

Click on the picture and give a like to Dahi

Sunil decided to dedicate rest of his life in the service of Dahi. He started this Facebook page that only 66 people thought was cool but he writes awesome Dahi poetry and monologues. Please spare your like button for this page and show love to encourage Sunil to come out with cooler than ever Dahi-fanboy stuff.

What you may see in the future?

– Yo Yo Dahi Singh Rap ( Tunne Mere Raita… ka kar diya Siyapaa..)

– Annual Dahi Appreciation Award ( Feature Award- Dahi Innovation Award- Past winners include Shubham Jain for making Kimaan ka Raita)

– All India Backlol’s Dahi Toast

– Podcasts including interviews of Misti Dahi sellers in Howrah station.

So I request you all to show the love for the Dahi . Here is the link.

P.S- As you guessed, this post was sponsored by the founders of Dahi page in exchange of 5 Million Dollars of Monopoly Cash.

 

Musings of Jhumpa Lahiri: Looking Back at Time

Avinash Gupta:

I really loved this post by Eshita. As she says, “some thoughts are best left to be mused on”

Originally posted on NightSoulWhisperer:

jhumpa_lahiri_260813_20.jpg

Ever felt the joy when you stumble upon a favourite article of yours that you had written long time back and had forgotten all about it? I felt the same when I chanced upon this article I had made on Jhumpa Lahiri, after attending her much-talked-about prologue session in conversation with Rudrangshu Mukherjee, a notable historian, as part of the Kolkata Literary Meet 2014, at the epic Victoria Memorial, Kolkata. Not only was I impressed by what she had said, I could also connect with many of her thoughts, as I’m sure many of the readers will as well. So, without further ado, here it goes.

(Jhumpa Lahiri obviously doesn’t need an introduction. However, for the ignorant mortals, she is an Indian American author. Lahiri’s debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (1999) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and The New Yorker Debut of the Year…

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Takeaways from the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

JLF 2015

JLF 2015

This was my second consecutive visit to Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). During my last visit, I reserved myself mostly to the sessions and had little or no interaction with the fellow attendees. But this time, I made sure that I interact and take away more from the largest literary gathering of the world.

I visited on the 23rd January, 3rd day of the event. My first stop was Front Lawns that had house full attendance. I am too young to associate with Woodstock but this place was closest literary version of Woodstock. In the cold winter morning, huge crowd was waiting for the session on “The Conflict of Dharma in the Mahabharata” with the panel consisting of co-director of JLF Namita Gokhale, Shiva Trilogy sensation Amish Tripathi and Bibek Debroy.

Audience were the most diversified group you will ever witness in any cultural gathering in India. The proportion of outsiders were higher than locals. Tourists, resident Westerners in India, families of different foreign diplomats, Authors, Journalists, students and other literature enthusiasts were sipping masala chais & listening to the session on the world’s largest mythological tale from India. It was great group to be part of.

JLF- On going session with Co-director William Dalrymple in center

JLF- On going session with Co-director William Dalrymple in center

More crowd may not mean better quality

Seema has been visiting JLF since 2009 from Noida. She has witnessed this event to grow in to stature and become a mark-off event in the calenders of  all literature lovers around the world. However, she miss the previous versions of the event when crowd was lesser and authors/speakers were more approachable. I somewhat agree with her. There were many noisy groups in the lawn that had no idea why they were at JLF. Also, arrangements were insufficient for the gathering as in most of the sessions, there were audience waiting behind the rows of chairs and there were always long queues for washrooms, bookstore and book signings.

Great writers are not always great speakers

Eleanor Catton is the youngest booker’s prize winner that she had won in 2013 for her brilliant novel The Luminaries. However, during the session on Art of Historical Fiction, she was very nervous and could not translate her thoughts in to words. To be honest, it was a relief to see an author to be nervous in public speaking. Most of the authors are projected as great speakers but it’s reassuring to find some of them humanly imperfect.

Empathy is high on Literature lovers

In the session  “The Twilight Zone: Between Arabs and Israelis” moderated by former Indian representative to UN Security Council, Hardeep Singh Puri hosted a very outspoken and pragmatic panel. While popular Israeli journalist Gideon LeBor was critical on the Israel’s right wing politicians, the famous poet Fady Joudah brought the much needed Palestinian point of view in the discussion. I saw lot of empathy in the audience, even few had moist eyes when Fady read out one of his poems on the children of Palestine.

Discussion on the tension between Arabs & Israelis

Discussion on the tension between Arabs & Israelis

Kids don’t know how lucky they are

Many schools in Jaipur had organized a trip for their students to JLF. The idea was good and I was really envious of these kids for the kind of opportunity they have in this age. I spoke to Megha and Raghav, who were looking visibly bored in their maroon blazers. They were here to attend a session by the former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam but they were not really trilled about it, particularly considering it was a Saturday afternoon. “I don’t care much about books and literature, I will rather stay at home & watch TV” said Raghav. I wish he could unsay that.

Politics and Literature don’t necessarily go well together

Shashi Tharoor is one of the best author from India. Currently, he is a Member of Parliament and active member of Indian National Congress. His session was mostly taken away by his mocking of Government’s Clean India mission and gaining sympathies from the majority of the politically liberal audience on his reservation of the current conservative government of India. I would rather listen to Shashi Tharoor discussing his books & writing on Lit Fests, than the usual TV news channel kind interviewique talks.

 

Draupadi: an inspiration for Chanakya?

Avinash Gupta:

Beautiful Post by Dr Sweety Shinde

Originally posted on Impractical Dreamer:

The exotic and fiery Empress of Indraprastha. {5000 B.C.E}

The homely and cool headed diplomat cum Kingmaker. {370 B.C.E}

What possible thread could bind them?

Draupadi as portrayed by Rupa Ganguly  chanakya

I] The loosened HAIR, the oath for REVENGE:

Chanakya was insulted in full court by King Dhanananda. Stung at this barb, Chanakya unfurled his shikha (knotted braid) and swore not to tie it until Dhanananda’s evil rule was demolished.

Sounds FAMILIAR?

Draupadi, heinously insulted in Hastinapur’s court. Verbally, physically and psychologically – swore not to braid her hair until her sinners, the Kauravas were avenged in battle.

In both cases, their righteous rage led to a ‘Constructive Destruction’,

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Book Review: Down and Out in Paris & London

Orwell's memoir of his time in Paris and London

Orwell’s memoir of his time in Paris and London

What’s not to love about George Orwell’s Down & Out in Paris and London. Yes, it’s written by George Orwell, I know, how can it go any wrong. And pay attention to the tittle: It says  down and out- three words enough to say that it book have enough things to remember it by. And then it says Paris and London- just like Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities.

It is a memoir by Orwell during his times in Paris and London that he mostly lived in abject poverty. After his sting with British East India company in Burma, he returned to Europe to become a writer. But like all master plans, it ddn’t get the right start. We all know how it ended for him, but the journey is not pleasant at all.

After his fringe experiences with journalism, he ended up in Paris. He does not go in to details of his expedition in between, but this book mostly covers his last 10 weeks in Paris where he worked in restaurants in the most bottom end of the hierarchy. In his narration, when it is expressing his hardship and non-existing lifestyle, he made sure that he entertains with his humor and presence of mind. His observant mind allows us to go through the brains of various immigrants in Paris of that era, and chuckle on the drunken conversations and confessions. I loved the part when he explains the point of view of restaurant staffs and how waiters will never make a good communists.

The second half of the book is sort of travelogue, but with the perspective of the tramp. London must be one of the worst city in the world to be without any money. With his curiosity, Orwell made friends with group of tramps and narrated their unexplored. He introduced amazing characters like Irishman Paddy and street artist who goes by the name of Bozo. Paddy who is infamous for his ignorance while Bozo who was formerly astronomer who has resigned to the lifestyle of a tramp.

To be honest, what Orwell went through those years in Paris and London cannot make anyone jealous but even during those days of smoking from rejected cigarette’s butts and pawning all the possible possession, he made sure that we are left with a good tale to read. I rated Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell 4 out of 5 stars in goodreads. This book is available in Penguin’s modern classic paperback, which is glorious in its own league.

Year 2014 in Books

A week has already passed of the new year and everyone is looking forward for another year of big promise that will eventually disappoint them (and they call me optimistic :P )

But I am still looking back at 2014, but only in terms of books. First of all, I am glad that I completed my Goodreads challenge.  I started the year with the initial target of 25 books but gradually increased my target to 45 and read 46 books.

I am so happy

I am so happy

Here are the tittles that I read this year

My books in 2014

My books in 2014

Favorite books from 2014’s list :

I really envy people who can name one favorite book or author. I can’t do that so, here are my 10 favorite books from 2014, in no particular order.

1. Em and the big hoom by Jerry Pinto (Book Review)

2. And the Mountain Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (Book Review)

3. The Illicit Happiness of other people by Manu Joseph (Bonus Read:Book Review by Sanjay Gopinath )

4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Trueman Capote  (Bonus Read: My Own Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

5. The book Thief by Markus Zusak (Bonus Read: 5 Reasons to love The book thief )

6. Cuckold by Kiran Nagrarkar (Book Review)

7. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Book Review )

8. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (Book Review)

9. On writing by Stephen King (Book Review)

10. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

 

Reading Challenge 2015 

For 2015, I have challenged myself to read 35 books (almost 3 books in a month), but I hope I read 50 :P

Reading challenge for 2015

Reading challenge for 2015

Do tell me about your reading pledge for 2015.

Happy reading

Book Review: “On Writing” by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King

There are not enough writing talents like Stephen King who seldom takes more than a cigarette’s length (non scientific measurement of time representing a period of time taking to consume a cigarette) to establish the character and its motivation. “On Writing” is a partial memoir and partial writing guide. He does not take more than a cigarette’s length to establish his motivation to write this book.

There is so much to learn from one of the finest writer of the era. He is not the kinds who wins major  literary awards but he is always respected by both the readers and his peers as one of the best storytellers of his generation. But this book is not all about how to write. He starts with his memoir, his childhood and his upbringing. He tells the stories of his brother and his mother, how he met his wife, and how they all contributed in his writing career. In his own style of modesty, sometimes he make it sound like an accident but he does mention his love affair with reading, humor, sci-fi and scary stories.

It is a cliche when successful people write how they handled rejection and failures to come back stronger and better than before. Mr King knows that there is no way to avoid this cliche because that seemed the way his career graph worked. His focus on the second half of the book was on the craft of writing.

Perhaps it is the single most important piece of literature available for the inspiring writers. I have attended few writing workshops, lectures and read fairly large number of articles on it. I believe all these workshops and lectures had an essence of this book. I can’t think of any writing coach who has not mentioned the advice given by King in his book.

My thoughts

In India, students are usually left confused when it comes to writing style. While most of them are fed classics in their literature classes, they are excepted to follow the outdated journalistic style in writing consisting of introduction, body and conclusion. It is not only in writing, but also evident in speech or school debates. Everything is template driven and it goes from school to corporate to government organization. It is important that schools incorporate creative writing and encourage students to try things out of the templates. Also, inclusion of modern literature in the curriculum will improve the perception towards reading and writing in general.

I gave “On Writing- A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King 5 out of 5 stars in the goodreads. There is no better way to educate yourself about the craft of writing.

2014: The Year of IIN

Idea's IIN is equivalent of everything about 2014

Idea’s IIN is equivalent of everything aout 2014

Nothing this year made any sense. 2014 was suppose to be epic. A landmark year in the stories of our lives. Our generation were suppose to rave about it in years to come. But what we got in return was pretty average and non-significant, where promises were big and delivery was lame. Last month, Idea’s  IIN commercial aired on the television. That commercial summed up the year for me:Simple, straight and worthless. A kid who escaped his years of puberty to prove his father that one need not be in IIT to look awkward and constipated in public places.There were so many hidden messages in the advertisement that it started making sense of the year 2014. (Watch the commercial if you have not yet) :

1. IIN is the metaphoric representation of Amit Shah as IIN knows everything and you can learn a lot when you are around it (meanwhile it is learning about you). IIN, like Amit Shah, is the invisible force that is behind the biggest events of the year.

2. Idea’s creative team and agency represented Rajdeep Sardesai. Like his shameless efforts to sell his book in the spirit of “whatever it takes”, Idea tried to prove it’s exclusibility to internet and superiority over other networks  by just bragging about the utility of internet. Worked for Rajdeep, will work of Idea.

3. The talking drone represented Manoj Kumar’s Kaleidoscopic Hanuman Chalisa yantra. Like all the problems in the life could be solved by wearing the yantra (beware of the counterfeit product. Watch out for Manoj Kumar’s picture on the box), talking drone bridged the gap between a baker father and ambitious son. Also, the son got a platform to rise up as a love-child of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook and also feature in TOI front page along with Deepika Padukone’s cleavage.

4. The father’s ambition matched the ambition of Arvind Kejriwal’s. Father was like, “If you can’t make it to IIT, start working in my bakery”. In Arvind’s version, “If no Lokpal in 1 month, no need to be CM (because he have already made it to IIT).

5. Absence of Abhishek Bachchan represented the quality of movies released this year led by Happy New Year and selection of Youngistaan in the Oscar long-list.

6. Germany won the football World cup and ISIS rose to power. World has an Official Yoga Day, our Prime Minsiter quoted Star Wars in a public event in US, Shrinivasan is still the head of ICC, India has a major Hockey/football/cricket/badminton/tennis/Kabaddi league, ISRO launched the mission to Mars and Moons, and Idea still things Drone is the new stuff. ( I am not judging)

And I thought Airtel makes the worst commercial.