Rise of the Planet of the Apes – science, sociology and sentience

Just saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  It was a thrilling ride, that kept me glued to the edge of my seat.  I was thinking I would do a review that looked at the some of the science in the film and then I came across THIS: Continue reading

The queen of Regency romance – Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer wrote countless Regency romances where the romance ran as a constant thread but front and center was the Regency period of British history. Continue reading

Warped genius! Sir Vidia’s Shadow (Paul Theroux)


I am more of a fiction reader – murder mysteries, historical romances, science fiction, fantasy and such.  But this book came highly recommended so I began to read what turned out to be part biography, part homage, part autobiography, detailing a friendship between two writing geniuses that spanned several decades and continents.  Paul Theroux (The Great Indian Railway Bazaar, The Patagonia Express, The Mosquito Coast to name a few) was a struggling wannabe writer who was earning his living as lecturer in English at Makarere University in Kampala, Uganda when he first met V. S. Naipaul.  Continue reading

And now for new year resolutions! ahoy there 2011

I decided to make this list before the revelry of the 31st made me lose my judgment. After a few margaritas and some loud music one tends to make all kinds of resolutions that seem foolish the next morning. And then the guilt sets in. So this year I am starting early. In 2011 I resolve to:

1. Spend less time Twittering (I know I know – it is Tweeting) and more time reading. My stack of books is growing at an alarming rate and has been ignored for too long.
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The best, the worst and the in-betweens! Adieu 2010

The year is racing to a finish, and it is time to look back at what went by, or rather whizzed by. I wish I could have read more, seen more films, traveled more places – and eaten less 😀

Films: There were some really good ones and there were some really bad ones, and then there was mostly a lot of stuff in between. After a hiatus from Bollywood I went back to watching a lot of BW films (mostly what released in theaters here), while picking my HW films with care and caution! Here is a HW list:

1. Inception – loved the film, the mind-bender that kept us thinking and discussing for days on end. Leo DiCaprio did not disappoint and Marion Cotillard was luminous.
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The road to Nyaka!

It was early 2005, and I was trying to claw my way out of a personal abyss.  The time of disbelief had somehow run smack into the time to play catchup with everything that had been sitting around waiting.  Work was wonderful as a way to keep demons at bay, and total immersion let me pretend that nothing was really wrong.  I was functioning, wasn’t I?  It was around then that a good friend called me and asked if I would be willing to come to Kenya, and after work perhaps there would be a little time to play.  We would go to Uganda from Kenya, and after a stay at Queen Elizabeth Park, we would go on to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and if we got really really lucky maybe we would see some gorillas!  After Bwindi we would drive to the little village of Nyaka, and spend the night there, visiting with the parents of Jackson Kaguri (who was married to Beronda, someone we had known for about 5 years).  Jackson had started a little school in his village for children who were AIDS orphans.

QE Park

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Who would have thought that Dame Colleen McCullough would disappoint me?

Who would have thought that Dame McCullough would disappoint me?

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Tagore – 150th birth anniversary!

8th May marks the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel laureate, poet, story teller, painter, composer. His stories were often the inspiration for films, and often were intimate tales of the lives of women. Charulata told the story of a woman bored with her life, as her husband works away at his newspaper, the arrival of a cousin who is set the task to keep her amused, and how this relationship progresses into something that enters the realm of forbidden. Continue reading

William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal – Delhi in the 1850s

William Dalrymple wrote the City of Djinns and The White Moghuls but I have skipped straight to The Last Moghul – my favorite period in Indian history. Call it the Great Indian Mutiny or the first War of Indian Independence, the sequence of events at that time has fired countless imaginations and led to many a great story set in the times. The times of Bahadur Shah Zafar are exquisitely researched by Dalrymple and just 90 pages into the book I want to store so many factoids, so many facets, in my brain that I thought I would do a series of pieces – mostly to keep the book fresh in my own head.

For any lover of poetry, and more specifically the ghazal for of poetry, it should be well known that Zafar himself was an accomplished poet. But what I was unaware of was the burning rivalry between Zauq and Ghalib at the time. It was clear that the raffish rake Ghalib was superceded by Zauq in the emperor’s estimation when Zauq was made the Poet Laureate and the tutor to the royal princes while Ghalib often landed up in jail for owing money! History suggests the emperor was a bit clueless, and not just in judging poetry. A lot of this material is painstakingly collected by Dalrymple and his colleagues from the many documents preserved from the time of the “Jang-E-Azadi” and the two dailies that came out of Delhi regularly at the time – the English language Delhi Gazette and the Urdu language Dihli Urdu Akhbar. Back issues of both are preserved in the Indian National Archives. Delhi’s insular nature seems to have been preserved since the time, as Delhi residents called the Mutiny a Danga or Fasad and the mutineering sepoys who landed up in Delhi to declare Zafar their commander, as Tilangas even though the company had long given up the practice of recruiting sepoys from Telangana and the army was now filed with recruits from Avadh (Oudh), a region bordering Delhi.

The Lingua franca of this Delhi was Urdu and the Delhiite spoke it with pride no matter what his faith. It was the language of poetry, and collections of poetry from the time contained compositions not just from the emperor but also a water seller from Chandni Chowk, a courtesan and a barber! One the eve of the marraige of a favorite prince, the most talked about event was the poetry “competition” between Zauq and Ghalib! But while the marriage was performed with great pomp and show the power of the grand Moghul was on the wane – so much so that he could not een make a simple gift to friend or family without the approval of the Governor General! And the White Moghuls – those who had embraced the culture of the Moghul court, following it in all manner of ways including dress and the practice of having multiple wives – were being slowly replaced by the proper Englishmen who looked down on those that had gone native – like Colonel Skinner of the Skinner’s Horse regiment.

(Aside – the motto of this regiment is Himmate Mardaan, Madade Khuda – how cool is that?)
These White Moghuls included Britishers who had over a couple of generations intermarried into Hindu or Muslim families (like Skinner) or those that had turned native after a prolonged stay in India. This intermingling of bloodlines was also apparent in the Moghul royal family itself and Zafar was born of a Rajput mother (like many of his ancestors!). The merging of religions and cultures all the way from Christianity through Islam to Hinduism made Delhi a truly secular state and this allowed for a somewhat peaceful co-existence. But change was in the air as the newly arriving Britishers were more rigid and fundamental in their following of the faith, and certain Muslims returning from Mecca saw a dilution of the rigid Islamic laws in the way the faith was practiced in the court and in Delhi.

(next – the fundamentalists strike!)