Posts

Showing posts from July, 2007

Sears, the big book and America

Image
It was many a decade ago, a rainy day when I trudged up the steps to the 3rd floor attic under the tiles and the rafters of my mother’s ancestral house in Pallavur, a remote village located close to the Western Ghats in South India. Radio was around, but no great fun, neither TV or movie theatres (close by) existed in those days, so playing outdoors with cousins was the thing to do. For some reason I was alone that day (I guess the intensity of the monsoon rain & lightning), and this bored 10 year old was looking for things to do.

The attic was always ideal for such times. An abundance of mystery lurked in the darkness, and due to the unexpected, like witches, ghosts, snakes, spiders, bats & mongoose, it was sometimes a bit spooky too. But braving all the sinister possibilities, I stepped up the ladder through the corner room to the attic. The attic had an assortment of old boxes, a few big tortoise shells (where they came from, I have not the faintest clue – I concluded that g…

Straight to the ‘Heart’ of the matter

Image
Erich Segal had written a very readable book called ‘Doctors’ some years ago. For those who have not heard of this great writer, he is the chap who authored ‘Love Story’, its many sequels and other books like ‘Class’. In the opening chapter, the medical school dean is addressing a new class of wannabe doctors and he concludes his speech thus – Gentlemen, I urge you to engrave this on the template of your memories: there are thousands of diseases in this world, but medical science only has an empirical cure for 26 of them. The rest is ……..guess work. Segal wrote this in 1988…

I think the figure is pretty much the same, even today. Research doctors strive to find cures, Medical consultants & surgeons meanwhile work on brilliantly applying known cures while treating symptoms and ailments. When I repeat this story to people, few believe it. Try thinking about it rationally and you will realize that it is indeed quite right.

Medicine has always fascinated me, being a doctor’s son had man…

India & WW II

Image
Remember my Hum Dono blog? Where I was writing about watching Hum Dono the movie while flying across the US with seatmates wondering who this strange guy was, seeing black and white movies from a foregone era, on the laptop, but then who cared? The dual role Devsaab’s in that movie were at the Burma front, fighting the Japs….

WW II has always fascinated me, though I have still many a page left to read on that tragic war that stretched a long six years. I am still to wade through the great 3rd Reich book written by William Shirer. Over 60 million people died in a war that mobilized over 100 million troops from 61 nations. India was primarily involved as a supplier of troops supporting Britain and as a base in the CBI Theater – the China Burma India Theater of the war front.

I had heard from my grandmother that grandpa used to fight for the British Army, but he was stationed around the North African theatre fighting at Persia, Egypt and all those places. I never saw him, but one thing I c…

How to argue effectively

I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me. You too can win arguments. Simply follow these rules:

Drink liquor
Suppose you are at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you're drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you'll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date. But if you drink several large martinis, you'll discover you have STRONG VIEWS about the Peruvian economy. You'll be a WEALTH of information. You'll argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.

Make things up
Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove that Peruvians are underpaid, a po…

Introducing SuRaa, The tale of a Tamarind tree & JJ

Image
I had not the slightest clue who this man was or about the book that is mentioned, till I saw it on Sen’s blogsite. The few comments on the book were arresting and I looked up the volume on Amazon. Seeing that a second hand version was available, I ordered it. When it arrived, I was a little perturbed; it was a thin yellowing Penguin volume from India, smell and all. With some trepidation I started reading it. I realized soon that the translation from Tamil to English had made the prose very formal and laborious, and I got stuck in the middle. I hope the other translations (Hindi, Hebrew & Malayalam) are better.

But all the time, I saw a similarity in style to RK Narayanan – now here was somebody who wrote about India, Indian villages and the simple common man, around the same time. I was soon caught up with fascination. The third and fourth quarters of the book were brilliant, beautiful studies of the human mind – amongst the many simple souls one could discern the selfish man, t…