I am back to doing interviews now :P :)
A couple of weeks ago, I had read a book - The Rozabal Line by Ashwin Sanghi and had written a review here. Apparently the author happened to have a look at it and he included it at his blog as well as on his Facebook wall.
It was then it struck me, that perhaps I could do an interview with Ashwin Sanghi, and I mailed him regarding this. He responded in the affirmative and the result is this email interview, which I am reproducing below, (with some edits for sake of brevity).
My questions were mostly very curt and pointing while his answers had a surprising clarity of thought and he speaks as if he is on earth for a purpose. His replies are overflowing with conviction and I loved the part where he says the difference between an author and a writer.
It is an honor to have your interview on my blog Ashwin !!!
Why two releases? Did you feel the first one did not realize its true potential?
Actually three releases, not two. I began to think about writing the novel from 1999 onwards but never got around to it. I started seriously reading up on the subject from 2002 onwards but it was 2005 by the time that I actually started writing it. I completed it eighteen months later and then spent a year trying to find a publisher. I was unsuccessful in my quest and out of sheer frustration decided to self-publish the novel so that it would become available on international book retail sites such as Amazon, WH Smith and Barnes & Noble. My problem, however, was that the book was unavailable to Indian audiences. I began sending out my book to Indian distributors hoping that they would agree to supply my stock to Indian bookstores but I soon realized that they were not interested in promoting anything other than books by established authors.
Luckily for me, my book got noticed by Westland and they decided to publish an Indian edition on the condition that I was willing to spend another nine months editing it. I agreed. The book was introduced to the market in 2008 and went on to remain a bestseller for several months. We then realized that we had received a great deal of positive feedback from reviewers and press and this needed to be incorporated into the book, thus resulting in a new edition in 2010. As we speak the book is also being converted into a screenplay. The novel is also being translated into Hindi, Turkish and Spanish. I genuinely believe that we are not at the end of this saga but at the beginning.
Why 'The Tomb of Jesus'? There were hundreds of other controversial topics to write on. Why pick up such a touchy topic?
I wasn’t specifically looking for a controversial topic. In 1999, I read Holy Blood Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. A couple of years later, I read Holger Kersten's Jesus Lived in India and was fascinated with the idea that Jesus could have been inspired by Buddhism and that he may have drawn much of his spiritual learning from India.
I began to wonder whether I could marry the two theories i.e. he survived the crucifixion and traveled to India and that he left behind a bloodline. I spent the next two years reading each and every book that I could acquire on topics that I wanted to explore viz. the possibility of Jesus having spent his missing years as a youth studying in India, the theory that Jesus did not die on the cross and that he was whisked away to safety, and the notion that Jesus traveled to India to reunite with the lost tribes of Israel who had settled in Kashmir. In all, I read around forty books during this time besides scouring the Internet for any information that I could possibly find. By 2005 I was well and truly hooked and there was no going back. I started writing The Rozabal Line in 2005 and finished it eighteen months later.
Were you not afraid that you could have got branded as 'Yet-Another-Wannabe-Dan-Brown' and the book might have sank without a trace? What were the factors that made 'YOU' believe that this will not happen? Am sure your publishers would have expressed similar concerns? Did you expect the book to become such a big hit?
Being branded goes with the territory. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion regarding a creative work. Standing up and allowing people to hurl their opinions—however harsh—at you is the most difficult part of a writer’s job. Yes, many comparisons between the Da Vinci Code and my novel were made. Now I’m aware that such comparisons are inevitable whenever one writes fiction that has Jesus Christ or Mary Magdalene as a backdrop. In reality, however, nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent almost two years reading every book that I could find regarding the Jesus in Kashmir theory. I knew that there was a story that needed to be told but I did not wish to follow the rules of a formulaic thriller.
But my aim was (also) to not merely provide a story but also to explore the ancient connectivity between world faiths. If that meant that I had to compromise the formula, so be it. Hence I do find it rather incredible when people who have not read the book call it a “desi Da Vinci Code”.
Writing on such a sensitive topic requires guts. Did you get threatening emails/phone calls accusing you of blasphemy? How does your family react when such things happen?
Someone who wishes to find controversy can find it anywhere… that’s the reason why I’d rather not write according to what I believe will be sensitive or not. The topic must interest me. Period. Having said that, it’s quite obvious that any topic that deals with issues of religion will have a tendency to invite comments from the fringe. There was a time when such comments used to hurt me. Now they simply amuse me, because I realize that, more often than not, the person proffering the comment has simply not understood the deeper message of the novel. My family supports me one hundred percent and is fully aware of the fact that bouquets and brickbats go hand in hand.
When writing this book, did you, at any point of time, feel, a writer's block?
The amazing truth is that there was simply never an occasion when I faced a writer’s block during the writing of The Rozabal Line. The eternal conflict in the writing of The Rozabal Line was this: did I simply wish to tell a good story or did I wish to convey critical information through the medium of a story? At times, these two objectives were at odds with one another.
As I have often pointed out earlier, the main hurdle that I faced in writing The Rozabal Line was not a lack of information rather it was the abundance of it. My head was brimming with connections that I wished to draw, riddles that I wished to answer, strands that I wanted to connect. This necessarily meant that I had to allow myself to veer away from the traditional timeline of a novel. But writer’s block? Never. The story inside me was just desperately waiting to get out.
Getting a book to cross 1 million copies in India is becoming really tough. What is actually causing this? Is it because we have lost the reading habit, or are there other more interesting things to do, rather than take up a book and sit down with it for 8 hours. Your take on this.
I don’t know. You probably need someone like Chetan Bhagat to answer this question, not me. But in my opinion the answer lies in the sort of books that Indian publishers have focused on publishing. For years, our publishers looked down upon anything other than literary fiction. I read a rather witty article recently that said: Indian publishing has been dominated by literary fiction, with authors encouraged to churn out ‘epics that span three generations’ and ‘poignant tales about human relationships’. If a writer was said to have ‘an eye for detail’, the book invariably built the atmosphere with description-heavy prose, while leisurely unfurling the story. This, unfortunately, turned off the average reader.
I was brought up on a diet of commercial fiction and thrillers for most of my growing years: Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Irving Wallace, Jack Higgins et al. I was most impressed by the voluminous research that Arthur Hailey would do for his novels and that strongly influenced my style, which is research-oriented. But it is unfortunate that I had to depend on foreign authors for my daily dose of chills and thrills. Most Indian authors were busy churning out literary fiction. What I’m trying to say is that there was always a market for thriller fiction and commercial fiction in India.
Satyajit Ray would not have given us Feluda if such a market did not exist. It’s just that we allowed ourselves to cede space to foreign authors. Why don’t we have our own versions of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Sidney Sheldon, P.D. James, Agatha Christie, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham?
It’s about time that the Indian reader be given enough alternatives to choose from. Once we offer the Indian reader what he’s looking for, we’ll see the numbers happen.
Since comparisons with 'Da Vinci Code','Daughter of God' are totally unavoidable. Did you at any point of time, feel, that had there been no Da Vinci Code or Daughter of God, you could have met with bigger success? What has been the response from the International audience?
The Da Vinci Code established the sub-genre of the theological thriller firmly on the fiction map. Without it, many of the books that followed may never have been written, including my own. As regards international audience, I must admit that I believe that I have a tendency to write for Indian readers. As of date, The Rozabal Line has still not been published in the UK/US via a mainstream publisher and hence it is not easy to judge what the reaction on a wider scale would be. I believe that western audiences that have been exposed to eastern mysticism have found The Rozabal Line an enjoyable read.
You are accessible on Facebook, Gmail, Website, Twitter. Don't you think that be making yourself accessible to your fans on social media might lessen your importance? Or does it enhance it? Agreed that it helps you stay connected, but too much social media can get saturated. What do you think?
I think that there’s a fundamental difference between being a writer and being an author. A writer can remain an intensely private person (as I am) and churn out his works in isolation. Unfortunately, he has to do a 180-degree turn when it comes to selling himself and his books. At that point of time he has to make the transition from a writer to an author.
Social media is irrelevant to the writer but is vital to the author. I also believe that there is no halfway solution to social media… you either jump into it and embrace it fully or remain away. Being in it halfheartedly can be much more detrimental to one’s image—somewhat akin to an unsure individual sitting at the edge of the pool with his feet inside. Of what use is it? I’d rather be inside enjoying a swim.
Social Media today, can actually determine whether a product becomes a superhit or a dud. Do you think that this is a fair game? Or should there be enough playing ground for the product too?
What is fair? My definition of fairness is in the context of a set of rules that apply to everyone equally. So if the system sucks, it should suck for all equally. Social media, in that sense, is the great equalizer. It can bring the mightiest crashing down and raise the humblest to the exalted status of a demigod. People such as I would never have been noticed if it weren’t for the power of the internet and social media, in particular.
Ok. As cliched as it might sound. What next? Another controversial topic? Expectations are running high, so would you actually give in to the demands of your fans, or write what you feel like writing.
I do not want to be compartmentalized into writing books that are expected of me. The four subjects that fascinate me are history, religion, politics, and mythology… in that specific order of preference. And, funnily enough, all four are inextricably linked to each other. I have often joked that history after a few whiskies becomes mythology. After all mythology is usually based upon real people and events that must have happened many years ago. As the years progress the story gets embellished as it is passed down the generations, and it soon enters the realm of mythology. Once you have enough mythology in place—a set of beliefs—you get religion. And of course, wherever there is religion, there has to be politics. The link between religion and politics is not seen only in modern times but also in history. The crusades were wars fought in the name of religion between the 11th and 13th centuries—and as Mao Tse-Tung has said, “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.”
Any subject that offers me the scope to play within these four walls is my playground. I do not see myself as someone who can write plain-vanilla historical fiction. For me, the real excitement lies in being able to use history as an explanation for a present-day event. Unless there is some relevance of history to the present or the future, I do not find the subject interesting enough for further exploration. The Rozabal Line was a modern-day thriller that combined religion and history to weave a backdrop. My next novel is also a modern-day thriller, the primary difference being that it uses a combination of politics and history—it’s called “Chanakya’s Chant” and attempts to analyze how politics has not changed much over 2500 years. It is to be released in January 2011.
Do people recognise you when you go out, as the 'Guy who wrote a book on Jesus Christ'? Do you get mobbed? How does your wife react to all of this?
I’ve never been mobbed. I guess I’m not famous enough for that! But yes, I have built up a solid fan following and I’m realizing how critical such a following is in making a book successful. Often when I attend social events I am approached by interested readers who wish to discuss the book and I relish such discussions. My wife is rather amused by all of this. She has seen me function as a businessman for most of my life and the relative ease with which I’m applying my business skills in handing this creative pursuit is a source of amusement for her.
Your advice to budding and wannabe writers?
Don’t give up. Rejection is part of the process. The publishing industry all over the world is stuck in a time warp but things are changing dramatically. I was turned down by over a hundred agents and publishers before I signed a contract. What would have happened if I’d decided to simply give up?
Archive for October 2010
I am back to doing interviews now :P :)
OK, here is my official verdict.
Prezi rocks... !!!
For those of you who are wondering what I am talking about, here is the context.
Prezi is one of those very few players in the market who are standing up against Microsoft's monopoly in the Presentation market. We are stuck with MS PPT, ain't we ??
Here is about Prezi in a nutshell. (Wiki content)
Prezi is a web-based presentation application and storytelling tool that uses a single canvas instead of traditional slides. Text, images, videos and other presentation objects are placed on the infinite canvas and grouped together in frames. The canvas allows users to create non-linear presentations, where users can zoom in and out of a visual map. A path through different objects and frames can be defined, representing the order of the information to be presented. The presentation can be developed in a browser window, then downloaded so that an Internet connection is not needed when showing the presentation.
The very idea that one need not be restricted to a canvas of a 14" wide size is so so thrilling !!! Imagine having a canvas as large as a newspaper and yet you'd be able to zoom in on the exact content you need your spectators to see. Now what do you call that ? I call it 'Thinkovation' - (Thinking-Out-Of-The-Box + Innovation)
I was initially skeptical about it, when I actually read it. I decided what's the point if you can't actually use it on your laptop, but still decided to give it a try. And just imagine, my surprise when I could utilize a huge gigantic page (read "screen") and that too all to myself. WoW !!!
And I immediately set upon doing the unthinkable. I made a presentation.
You can view it here.
I am actually quite pleased with the results. The output is a 'flash-like' PPT with all the features of a regular PPT thrown in. You can save the Presentation online, in a format called .prezi or .prez. And no !! They are not PPT compatible.
To be able to create a Prezi offline, you need to download their Desktop application, and though the download is free, you need to pay for using it beyond a month and that actually sucks !! And I am wondering when will they make it MS PPT compatible.
The prezi is downloadable as a Flash Presentation (but only if you've made the presentation. You cannot download someone else's presentation,unless and until the person has marked it for sharing), and that actually helps you a lot if you are kind who uses an USB to play your presentation. Run the exe and Viola !!! your presentation is Ready.. And its DhinChaak tooo !!! :) :)
I guess Microsoft has realised the potential of Prezi and so they decided to put their Officelabs team to task. The Office Labs team came up with an innovative solution, the pptPlex. Its basically a more watered down version of Prezi, however, it still is slide dependent. Best part about pptPlex is that, if you embed a word document, in a slide, you can actually browse through it. :) ..
YES !! I am serious. And its just so cool, especially when you want to impress somebody...
They've (folks at MS) just made some slight modifications to the framework, albeit technical, it does not convince me that is very good. It's good, no doubt, but not the best.
The trouble with pptPlex is that you need to have the PlugIn installed on the PC where you are going to do the presentation, and it works only in the 'Layout' mode. The 'effects' are not saved onto the Presentation. So if you come to the slide mode and press F5, the effects are all gone. POOF !!!! That was so pathetic.
I am sure they can come up with something that is much more innovative than that.
Anyway, I had fun doing the testing and R&D on this aspect.
Shown below is a screenshot of my actual Presentation at Prezi. You need to press the Darkened forward arrow button to start playing. The effects are all Prezi's. I just gave the directions. :P
Here is one interesting Prezi. It is about the Nestle-GreenPeace Faceoff !!
Have Fun !!!
P.S:- Folks, who've already seen my PPT's get ready for some totally DhinChak PPT's. :) :D
I was browsing through some sites by the TamilNadu government, and guess what did I stumble upon ??
Brought back really awesome memories.
I quickly got to the experiments section of Physics text book for Tenth Standard.
The first experiment took me to a different world altogether.
Srimathi Ma'm was my Physics teacher for the lab, during my 9th standard. And as was the process in 'those' days (makes me sound old, nevermind), we used to study tenth portion in 9th standard. (though we bleddy never got close to 'state-level' marks, that is a different question altogether, and the one lady who got that is now not in this world. So chill)
We used to have these lab sessions. Actually these periods were good time-pass. You fry Kadalai on the sly and make it look as if you were doing experiment. (That I did the same even in college is something that is supposed to make me red, but hell..)
Srimathi Ma'm was very strict in the lab. I remember she once thrashed a guy because he could not balance the scale in the 'Priciple of Moments' experiment. Anyway. Here goes...
It so happened, I was alloted the Simple Pendulum Experiment. This was not the first experiment class. Actually the third. Now all of us knew that the aim of the experiment was to calculate the value of g. And all of us bleddy knew that it was 9.81 m/s2. But here was the catch.
If you got that value in the result post the experiment, you had it coming. Srimathi Ma'm would look at you as if you were a leper or something. Folks would rather absent themselves from lab classes and meet the principal (also a Physics Teacher - shit !!!) and face the lecture rather than 'earn' that disgusting look from her.
Whenever she got an observation notebook that said g = 9.81 m/s2, her blood pressure rose.
'How the hell did you get 9.81 m/s2'.
'Miss, I did it.'
'I know what you did. You were talking to that girl and playing with that tube.'
'No Miss. I did it. I am getting the correct answer also.'
'Chup. I know what the correct answer it. Redo the experiment.'
Her argument was that, how could one get exact figures, when you were actually in a lab, with cross ventilation, on a building that stood with shaky foundations, with the lab on the first floor. Not the exact environment for someone to calculate g with a precision of 2 decimal places.
Man, she had a point. !!! And that is when the villain in me, reared its head.
I knew, no matter how correctly I did the experiment, she was going to pinpoint mistakes in the readings or the diagram. So this is what I did. I 'recreated' the experiment on paper, all over again.
Yes, you read that right !!!
And in case you did not comprehend it, I 'manipulated' the readings. And the word manipulation is actually underplayed. I 'manufactured' the readings. Yes, that sounds right.
I took the value of g=9.767 (more decimals indicate more accuracy. That was what I thought in those days.)
Since 4*pi^2 was a constant, I took it to the other side and calculated the value of l/T^2. And then the madness started.
It took me just half an hour to get the values in place. Realistic values, mind it. I also had to make sure, my figures of l and T were 'close' to the ones obtained by experiment. So after doing all this manipulation, I finally got the answer. :). Sorry, I 'derived' the answer.
Now I went to the lab-incharge to show the results. He took one look and said,
'Go to Miss and get it corrected.'
Srimathi Ma'm was busy correcting the Unit Test Notebooks. She was not expecting anybody else to come up with experiment results atleast for the next half an hour.
Now Srimathi Ma'm had a soft corner for me. And I had a soft corner for her. (er.. You know what I mean, so quit digging into my past. :P)
'Miss...' I extended my observation.
Without bothering to look at it, she said, 'If you've finished the drawing and the text, go and wait near the equipment to do the experiment Hari.'
'I finished the experiment'
'What ? Show.. Show me the observation.'
For a split second I think I saw shock on her face. Then she recovered. She looked at me and then looked at the observation again. The constant rubbing and writing on the notebook, was what alerted her, I think. She quickly said,
'When all others are getting 9.81 why are you getting 9.76 ?'
I did not know what to say. This was Total பல்டி.
I could not even give her back that 'perfect-environment' shit also.
So I said again, this is the answer that I got.
She said, 'Hari, seriously I don't believe you.'
I said, 'Fine ma'm. You check the actual experiment for two readings and then let me know.'
My heart was thumping away like Shatabdi. I should have thought before I spoke. Shit. What would happen if the values did not match. Shit Shit Shit !!! I was all set to be persecuted in glory.
We reached the place where the experiment was being done. She shoo'ed away everybody and took the pendulum in her hands. She examined it for some time. And then asked me,
'What is the value of your first reading.I want l'
She measured it and then started the experiment. I don't remember what was the value, but it almost came quite close to what I had written. There was only a minor difference in T^2 value. That's all. She was not convinced. Second Trial. l=45 cms. Again, I had hit the nail on the head.
Then she took my observation notebook and came back to her desk. I followed her. She did not even look at me, when she signed the experiment. But I knew she was damn impressed. From that day onwards, I had become her favorite student.
I was given 9.5/10, and a V.Good, something which Srimathi ma'm never gave for anybody for the next three years we were in school.
P.S :- The other folks who actually did the experiment with me on that day, got values ranging from 6.2 to 7.6 and they were asked to re-do the experiment.
They were even given lecture as to 'learn from Haricharan, how to do an experiment. One simple experiment you people can't do, I don't know how you people are going to pass Xth standard. :)
P.P.S :- The above incident does not intend to disrespect the educational system in the state. I use it as an opportunity to tell myself, sometimes, process does not take you anywhere, but manipulation does. :P
P.P.P.S :- Srimathi Ma'm, if you ever come across this post, please don't disown me !!! :P You made me look at Physics in different light, by your unconventional teaching techniques and I am eternally grateful to you for that. :)
P.P.P.P.S :- Srimathi Ma'm, always wore a saree to school !!! :P :P
P.P.P.P.P.S :- 'Turshi' in Arabic is Salad.
Well, its been a long time since I wrote a Cairo Diary. So here goes.
The topic of today's diary is going to be food and people.
First the Food.
I have already detailed some items here. I am just recalling them for the sake of clarity.
Falafel - This is basically Paruppu Vada in Egyptian bread (Baladi)
Fool - This is mashed soya beans in Egyptian Bread.
Koshari - Read more here.
Apart from the above items, we also have items like Bedengal (Basically Mixed Vegetables), Baba Ghanoug ( பாபா செஹ்கள் இல்லீங்கோ ... Its actually brinjal made into a paste). Mixed vegetables soaked in Vinegar is called Turshi, and is relished by the localites.
For the non-vegetarians there are so so many options. I will not digress here.
In Downtown, you get Koshari at AbouTarek and Tom&Basal.
Falafel and Fool can be found almost in every corner of the road. They are actually very light on the pocket. You get a Falafel/Fool for 1 EGP. Some places where I have tried them is Kazaz and Felfela. I found theirs to be good. Hence recommending.
From what I could gather, there are about 5 Indian restaurants in Egypt. I've tasted food in 4 of the 5.
Indira @ City Stars (Haven't been there. Heard its quite expensive. Not planning to visit too. So Strike 1)
Nile Bukhara @ Maadi - Decent Fare. They offer you simple Indian Khana, without being too heavy on the pocket. The ambience is decent, without being too in-your-face. Food takes an infinite time to arrive. So go there, when you are not hungry. A Project Party, consisting of 14 people, including Non-Vegetarians, cost us only 1000 EGP , which according to the standards of Cairo is quite less.
Massala @ Nasr City - I've already been there, thrice. It's good. The ambience is excellent, the food is good. I wouldn't rate it quite high. [for the alcoholics] , they serve drinks too. Food is served cold actually. Not hot. The service is excellent. The Price is slightly heavy on the pocket.
Nawab @ Zamalek - Excellent Food. Poor Service. OK Ambience. Have already blogged about it here. Apparently they always require notification especially if you are going to go there on weekend eve or on weekends. Price is the same as Massala.
Indian-Arabian Restaurant @ Khan El Khalili - Went with a closed mind. Came back with my stomach bursting with food. Food is excellent. Ambience is First Class. What lacked was service. The cost is quite reasonable compared to any other restaurant. Located at the heart of Khan-El-Khalili, you'd better book the appointment with your opthamologist if you miss this restaurant.
McDonalds here do not serve Veg. Burger. So Vegetarians - Alert. Pizza Hut has only one variety of Vegetarian Pizza and that too is available only on Select outlets, and its totally Pathetic !!!
Asian Corner @ City Stars does not even attract me. The Pasta counter is good. But not impressive. Carvel @ City Stars has excellent icecream. Its a must-not-miss item if you visit City Stars.
You have a juice shop here every other street. The quality of the juices is very very good. You get thick mango juice for 3 EGP and trust me when I say it, its worth every piastre that you pay. Of course, my favorite, Asab (Sugarcane juice) is only 1 EGP and a lot of people consume it with the same eagerness as I do.
If you go to the corniche on Thursday evenings, or on any evening for that matter, you will meet vendors with Sweet Potato. They actually steam the Sweet Potato and sometimes its slightly burnt on purpose. They sell, one Sweet Potato at 1 EGP. You must try it atleast once.
People here are extremely friendly. Except for some taxi drivers. Even if they do not understand English, which most of them do not, the people try to help you as much as possible. Whenever they see Indians, they tell proudly that 'We are brothers' as the color of the skin is almost the same. They smile a lot and have an easy attitude, something that we need to imbibe. For people here, work is only a part of life, not life itself.
That's it from me for now... More updates next week... !!!
Read a graphical novel (That's a decent way to call comics :P) after a long time. I have a very selective taste in comics. Especially if they are not Indian. The last comic that I read was LogiComix. Yes that wonderful graphical novel on the life and times of Bertrand Russel. That one was sheer poetry in terms of the flow and it was so crystal clear. No confusion anywhere.
I finished reading Cairo today. Yes, there is a comics called Cairo. :) Written by Willow Wilson and Art by Perker.
Let's go through the story in a gist. This was what actually got me hooked onto the comic.
"A stolen hookah, a spiritual underworld, and a genie on the run change the lives of five strangers forever in this modern fable set on the streets of the Middle East's largest Metropolis."
Cairo is basically the story of five strangers.
One struggling manager of an Egyptian magazine whose articles are almost always censored and is struggling to make his ends meet. The girl whom he is dating, is a dancer in a bar. Her brother, Ali, is a drug peddlar. Near the Israel-Egypt border, the bedouins rescue a uniformed woman. A special forces recruit who has hurt herself in ambush and they are taking her to Cairo. An American Expatriate who is excited to be in Cairo, befriends another traveller of Lebanese origin.
By twist of fate, the flight to Lebanon is cancelled and Shaheed is forced to stay in Cairo. When he is wandering about in the streets of Cairo, Ali, the drug peddlar sells him a hookah for twenty dollars. Nar, the underworld Kingpin and a great evil magician is after Ali to get back the Hookah.
The American Expatriate and the Editor are kidnapped by Nar's men to blackmail Ali with the the life of this would-be-brother-in-law.
Meanwhile Shaheed realises that the hookah is actually the abode of a Jinn called Shams. A very powerful genie.
The special agent manages to threaten Ali into getting her into the Israel-Egypt route but not before Ali makes her promise that she will help him rescue his sister's lover.
The Editor and the Expatriate are taken into an ancient pyramid and locked up in a cell, but the Editor using his traditional knowledge and Shams using his magic down under, moves them to the Undernile, the legendary river of the dead that flows in the opposite direction of the Nile, under the Nile.
What happens after that is the rest of the story. Whether the Editor is rescued, Whether Shams is overpowered by Nar, Does Shaheed realise his true calling is the crux of the story told in an extremely crisp and entertaining format.
I would have definitely been thrilled if the comics was in Color. It would have definitely added a lot of depth into the Comic.
This one deserves to be made into a movie. The theme is quite apt. There were some frames where I actually I felt totally overpowered by the strength of the artist.
Color would have definitely made a big impact. Sigh !!!
P.S:- Oops I almost forgot to mention. The streets,the art, the architecture, everything is so genuine and authentic. Totally authentic. I was stunned when I saw the frames of the Egyptian Museum. Almost a genuine replica.
I had the compulsive urge to do it. And hence the change in my template. If you liked the previous one better, sorry folks. But this one's here to stay for some time...
Have always been a fan of V and will continue to remain so. :)
Testing the Tag.
Is this working ??????
Also testing the Emoticons .. Are they working...
I hope so .. !!!
P.P.S:- Had to get Greasemonkey installed to get this to work... Hmmm ...
11 years ago, I came across an article that talked about something. It was something that got me hooked on to it almost instantaneously. My further research in that realm, let me to a number of other major discoveries. Of these discoveries, one was a book. The book's cost was close to Rs. 2500, something that I definitely could not afford at that point of time. And sometimes I felt if it was worth the price I would be paying.
All these years, whenever I visit amazon.com, I've almost always, instinctively, checked up the price of the book. From $50 it has fallen to $18. And I was contemplating, that perhaps, I shouldn't wait for things to fall into place and that I should go ahead and buy the book. My instinct told me to wait. I did.
. Talk about manifestation!!! :)
We get such books perhaps once in a decade. This is one such book.
Man !! What a book... Out of this world is an understatement.
This book starts where Da Vinci Code ends and takes it up from there. Right from the framing of names, like Lashkar-e-Talatashar (Talatashar is Arabic for Thirteen) to the ordering of events, the book has you in its grips right from the first page.
The story, as fictionally told by Ashwin, is that the Lashkar-e-Talatashar is a team of 13 people or rather terrorists who are hell bent on destroying the world and showing to the world, that US is not the only country that can defend itself. How innumerable characters, all interestingly interlinked, bring the ordeal to a conclusion is the story.
The packaging is fantastic. The story does not happen over a period of 24 hours or 48 hours as with the other two novels that I have mentioned before. This one is slightly elaborate. The story line has been interesting conceived, with flashing back between Present, and Past and sometime in the Middle. Excellent work there !!!
Concepts of Karma, Reiki, Yoga, Rebirth, Astrology have all been mixed and matched in every different combination. I would have preferred it if the author had restricted himself to one or two of the topics and concentrating on them fully. The book is very similar to Da Vinci Code in the way, that it strictly abides by the 'a-fact-a-page-keeps-the-reader-hooked' rule. Well, to confess, it indeed has. I was so curious to know what was the next fact the author going to throw at me.
Some of these facts I already know. Some I deduced on my own (after 10 years of painstaking study :P) which Ashwin has again corroborated. Some facts were totally new. I never knew Anandamides took their root from 'Ananda' :) WoW !!!!
I was also surprised to learn some more facts like the conversation between King Shalivahana and Issa of Kashmir. That's something interesting for me to chew on for a while.
Kudos to the author for the wonderful research that he has done. It really is heartwarming to see an Indian author setting the stage with such an awesome performance.
Some major flaws that I could see was,
How are the same people able to be at two different places at the same time. The President of the United States is actually shot and the next scene shows her praying at an Hindu Temple ... And how come the President is shot and declared dead, and her husband dies in a bomb attempt in Pakistan, whereas at the time of President's shooting he is right beside her !!!
Timeframes could have definitely paid attention to.
And that last portion on La Sara Kali ... That was actually stretching it beyond a point yaar. :)
Have to digress here... :)
இங்க நான் தமிழ்ல எழுதியே ஆகணும்.
சில எடங்கல்ல வாய் கூசாம அண்ணேன் கன்னாபின்னான்னு ரீல் விட்டுருக்காரு ...
அமெரிக்க ஜனாதிபதி தான் இல்லுமிநாட்டி ஹெட்டாமாம் , அவங்க புருஷன் தான் ச்கல்ல்ஸ் அண்ட் போன்ஸ் ஹெட்டாமாம், இதுல, இந்திய RAW Agent ரித்விராஜூம் இல்லுமினாட்டியாம் ... டேய் டேய் டேய்.. மனசாட்சியே இல்லாம ஏன்டா இப்டி எல்லாம் ரீல் விடறீங்க ???
கடைசில, அண்ணேன் கல்வியா செல்வமா வீரமா ன்னு ஒரு பிட்ட போடறீங்களே...
அண்ணேன்... நீங்க எங்கேயோ போய்டீங்க போங்க...
Jokes apart, This book is excellent. It could have done with some more intelligent editing. Even otherwise, this is one hell of a ride that you would not want to miss...
I recommend you do read the wiki entry of the book before you proceed.
P.S:- Regular readers of my blog would have noticed that I haven't actually told the story .. :) that's with a purpose. You should read the book to feel the adrenalin running in your veins.
P.P.S:- Some theories which I had been propounding become facts after reading this book. These facts might serve as the explosive material for my papers. :)
Thought this was hilarious ..
Germany invades Czechoslovakia.
Britain and France tell them to stop that bullshit.
Germany invades Poland.
(Russia also invades Poland from the other side: everybody forgets this.)
Britain and France declare war. This is the ‘official’ kick-off.
Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania all join the German side. (Everybody forgets the last three.)
Axis forces go through Europe like vindaloo through a colostomy.
Nazis exterminate Jews, gays, gypsies, and the disabled.
(everybody remembers the jews but forgets the rest.)
UK holds out.
Russia and the USA don’t do shit.
Entire divisions of Danish, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, French and Serbian volunteers join the Axis armies and SS.
(everybody forgets this and to listen to them now, they were all in the fucking resistance, which must have been MASSIVE.)
Axis forces invade Russia. Suddenly the Russians don’t think it’s funny any more.
Japan joins the Axis and bombs Pearl Harbor.
Suddenly the US doesn’t think it’s funny any more.
The USA tools up the world, ’cause it’s got more factories than everybody else put together, and they’re out of bomber range.
Axis runs out of steam in Russia, cause Russia’s enormous and bloody freezing.
Allies invade on D-Day… 5 landings: 2 British, 2 American, 1 Canadian. (everybody forgets the Canadians.)
Hitler ends up smouldering in a ditch.
Russians find the body and confirm he only had one ball. Seriously.
The US decides invading stuff is a pain in the ass and invents the atom bomb instead.
Drops two buckets ‘o sunshine on Japan.
Russians steal half of Europe.
UK’s spent almost every penny it had.
US starts telling everybody how it was all about them, and 64 years later is still doing so.
P.S:- Picked this up from here.
Watched a movie .. That thing you do this weekend... Amazing song.. :) Lyrics below.
அவன் and அவள் are separated by a huge distance geographically. This conversation happens over Gtalk.
அவள் - Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii !!!
அவன் - Hi.
அவள் - Happy Birthday ... !!! Enna panra ?
அவன் - Thanks.. Hmmm... Officela thaan irukkaen...
அவள் - Enna aachu ?
அவன் - Onnum illa.. Nee sollu ..
அவள் - Busya irukiya ? Naan venumna apparama phone panattumaa ?
அவன் - illa illa.. busy ellam illa, nee sollu ...
அவள் - ennathu ithu, nee sollu nee sollunu... Talk to me.. Enna aachu ?
அவன் - Hmmm.. Onnum illa...
அவள் - Something's wrong
அவன் - Everything is wrong ...
அவள் - En intha virakthi ... Enna kovam apdi..
அவன் - En Birthday inikku illa.. Nethikku ....!!!!
அவள் - ??????
Why should Girls have all the fun ? :P
Never knew there was a song, to describe the motto of my life.. :)
If you are wondering what lines are these...
Listen to the video below. :)
I was obsessed with that sound, and I had to find out the source, and that search led me into a labyrinth, from which I did not want to be rescued.. :)
Here are the french lyrics and the English Translation...
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
C'est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé
Avec mes souvenirs, j'ai allumé le feu
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs, je n'ai plus besoin d'eux
Balayées les amours, avec leurs trémolos
Balayées pour toujours, je repars à zéro
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie car mes joies
Aujourd'hui, ça commence avec toi
No, nothing at all, I regret nothing at all
Not the good, nor the bad. It is all the same.
No, nothing at all, I have no regrets about anything.
It is paid, wiped away, forgotten.
I am not concerned with the past, with my memories.
I set fire to my pains and pleasures,
I don't need them anymore.
I have wiped away my loves, and my troubles.
Swept them all away.
I am starting again from zero.
No, nothing at all, I have no regrets
Because from today, my life, my happiness, everything,
Starts with you!
BTW you can read a wonderfully amazing and intellectual discussion here.
Its just so wonderful, that a song can so wonderfully convey your deepest thoughts,
er.. I meant the first 7 lines. :)
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
This is going to be a totally outdated post. This happened in 1997. One of the two most happening years in my life. (The other one was 1995).
When this incident actually happened, I was an established quizzer in my school. In the point of view of school, I was a prodigy. Actually I was not. I was smart, not a genius. In the month of August, our school received an invitation to participate in an Independence Day Quiz at Laidlaw Memorial School, Ketti, Nilgiris.
My, then, Geography teacher, Ms. Naidu (One of the most intelligent and well-read teachers I have had the honor of studying under) was made incharge of the selection process of the quiz. She selected me and Malsum Sanga (A Tibetan) for this quiz that was scheduled to be held on the 14th of August. All the while Naidu ma'm prepared us for the quiz, thinking it was going to be a general quiz and that there will be a tough competition.
But somehow my parents had a nagging feel, that this was going to be an Independence day quiz, in the sense, questions related to India's independence will be asked. So I had to prepare, keeping that in mind. Try as much, I could get very limited information from Manorama Year Book :) so, it was quite evident we needed some more information. In the meanwhile, Sanga and myself, decided to split the content among ourselves. I would take up the Freedom Struggle, and he would take up the Constitution and Schedules.
Very Soon, I was searching for material. (remember this was 1997. Internet was restricted to telephone lines in Computer Institutes and Google was yet to make its debut !!! Gosh... Look at that... I lived in times when there was no google... Shit.. do I sound old or something ?)
I remembered that one of my classmates had bought an 'India Quiz' book during a book fair in my school. There was no decent bookshop in Coonoor, where I could buy this book and I was not on talking terms with this female, but I had to get the work done. So swallowing my ego, I went to their house, which, for the record, was the adjacent building, and asked her for the quiz book. She did not even ask me a single question and gave me the book. :P
Then started my preparations. I really prepared very hard. I must mention here, that my Sister and I studied in different schools. She in Stanes, me in Mountain Home. It always used to be 'My-school-is-better-than-yours' argument at home. I got to know from my sister that her classmates were also participating in the same quiz. MK and PKB. I remember their names very well, and I am sure they do remember my name too. This gave me the butterflies. Her class mates meant they were +1 students. I was just a 7th standard 'bachcha'. To be very frank, it gave me the jitters. Losing to Stanes not only meant 'apmaan' to Mountain Home, but also meant I had to maintain a low profile at home. All of this was running at the back of my head.
The day came. All of us, including Naidu ma'm, hopped on to the school van and reached the school. Actually it was the sports and extra-curricular affairs period of the school. A lot many of my schoolmates were participating in games. So we spent some time watching them compete. Soon it was around 3.
Time for the event of the day !!!
In the meanwhile Stanes quiz participants, MK and PKB had seen me and came up to me and started small talk. 'Oh..So you are VP's brother. Good. Very Good. See you in the Quiz. All the Best.' The staff who accompanied them, was their Physics teacher, Mr. Ronald. A Gentleman. I guess he knew I was palpitating inside. :P. He said, just relax and don't get excited and do well. Takes guts for a teacher to calm down a guy from the opposite team. :P :)
That auditorium was the biggest one that I had seen till that day. To say it was huge is an understatement. I never expected the auditorium to be full. How mistaken was I. Minutes before the Principal of Laidlaw walked up on dias, I took a glance behind me. To say that I felt like someone kicked in my gut is something that is quite apt. What I saw took my breath away... The whole auditorium was full. Packed to capacity. Half of the audience was the crowd from other schools and the other half was the school's own students, who were queuing up near the doors and entrance as there was no space inside. My legs started shivering. This was perhaps the first time, I felt so much anxiety and nervousness.
Then the teams were called onto stage. It was truly a David v/s The Goliaths contest. In every sense of the word. A collective gasp went up when I walked up the Dias. I barely reached the thigh of the tallest person in the group. :P To say it was embarrassing is to say the least.
And then the madness started. Stanes was seated right opposite to us. Actually Team 5. And the host team sat at number 4. We were the second team. The quiz master looked quite friendly. It was only until we came to know his scoring system, we decided he was the devil in disguise !!
The quiz started. People must have thought I was in the wrong league or something, until 'it' happened.
The question that started turning the quiz in our favor was this.
'When Gandhiji was arrested for Salt Satyagraha, who replaced him to lead the Salt Satyagraha for the next phase ?'
The question was intended for Team 3.
Team 3 - Pass
Team 4 - Pass (Huge sigh of disappointment from Crowd. Home team :))
Team 5 - Pass (Stanes - I let out a huge roar inside my heart :P)
Team 6 - Pass
Team 1 - Pass
It was almost decided that Mountain Home was also going to pass it, and that was when it happened
'Come again, Team 2.'
'Abbas Tyabji - a lawyer'
'That's right. That's a fantastic answer Team 2. You get 10 points for that.'
The look on MK and PKB's face was worth a million dollars. Well that they had to retain that look on their faces till the end of the quiz :P
The next hour or so, saw me field questions from Pre Independence Struggle, The First War of Indian Independence, Jalianwala Bagh Massacre, Quit India, Indian National Congress.. Questions on Gandhi, Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Constitution all were answered with such detachment that I was actually surprised at myself.
A Question that totally shocked the spectators and the Quiz Master, and impressed Naidu Ma'm immensely was this...
'Approximately what was the longest period of time Nehru was in Jail continuosly ?'
All the teams had passed it. I knew the answer the moment the question was answered.
The answer was 1040 days. :)
One question, the failure to answer which, I still rue today, was -
'Who were the other two people who were sentenced to be hanged with Bhagat singh. ?'
In those times there was no 'Rang De Basanti' to remind us of this. I knew only one name, 'Rajguru' and forgot the other. Stanes remembered the other (Sukhdev) and got the full points. (Shit.. !!!)
'Which was the first state to be carved out based on the language ?'
The answer is Andhra Pradesh.
Only the Home Team were a stronger team than us. Actually they were pro's. They had been quizzing for some 5-6 years and apparently did not have the jitters that I was getting used to. Hence, they had an upper hand during the last two rounds where we were actually running neck-to-neck. I had to take it sportingly because, All said and done, at the End of the Day, they were better quizzers than us.
So when the quiz ended, Laidlaw had come first, Mountain Home came Second, Stanes came Third (Yes !!!!! Extremely satisfied). We were ahead of Stanes by a huge margin. :) :D and we lost out to Laidlaw by a thin margin. :P
I was so elated. MK and PKB had no option but to atleast look happy. How could they go back to school and say to their classmate, your younger brother tore the quiz apart ? :P
The icing on the cake was yet to come. The moment the quiz got over, the principal of Laidlaw, once again came up on Dias, and started thanking the quiz master and the quality of the quiz, and then while he was talking, he caught me by behind my neck and pulled slightly, indicating that I had to stand. What he spoke before that, I remember vaguely, but what he spoke after, will be something that I will remember and cherish all my life...
'... if this boy was studying in my school, he might have been sitting in one corner of this auditorium, but his school, has recognised his talent, and wants him to have more exposure to hone his skills. He is easily one of the best quizzers that we have seen on this dias. Which class are you in ? (7th)... (one big round of applause). I always thought that our quiz team was the best in Nilgiris, looks like we are going to have some tough competition in the coming years....'
And as I stood up, the applause was deafening.
Any quizzer would tell you, that to receive a special ovation, for yourself, is an out-of-this-world experience.
After this quiz was over, Ronald sir came up to my parents. (He was my sister's teacher too. :P) and congratulated us and then went on his way. I do not know what he went and said in Stanes, but I knew for one thing, that for the next 6 months, quizzers in Stanes used to ask my sister , 'Your brother is participating in that quiz..?? Then I think we'd better avoid it ..' :)
What better compliment can I get ?
The Answers will Continue...
Well, I am back in Cairo, that's probably the best news that I can give you right now.
We (as a team) recently arrived at a very very important project milestone, that culminated in all of us slogging our asses off till 2 and 3 in the morning.
During the time, I was not in Cairo, a couple of our colleagues found out more Indian eatouts (Yippeee !! :)) One of them is Nawab. So a lot of colleagues were ordering food from Nawab.
I, being the sceptic that I am, was not ready to believe my colleagues when they waxed eloquently about this restaurant. So I decided to put them through the test of fire. :P
A person called Bhattcharya picked up my call. He took my order and said that the food will arrive at my place in another 45 minutes. True to their word, the food arrived, on the dot. Impressive !!!
But one thing I noticed was that Nawab does not send with its parcel carriers, enough change. Its always the case. I am making it a point because, I have encountered this kind of situation thrice in a span of a week. As a result, you are forced to part with the rest of the money as the tip for the parcel carrier. When the amount is less, this case is fine with me. But when you order for 80 pounds and give him a 100 note, and when the guy pockets it and walks away, it comes as quite a shock. So requesting Nawab folks to kindly take this up seriously.
Now, coming to the food. Onion Kulcha, was out of the world. Both the sabzis were good, but unfortunately too oily. You cannot load a dish with so much oil, if you were to parcel it and ensure that the parcel reaches the place safely. So a -1 there. Food was actually quite good. This was the first encounter.
Second was the big meal which had to take a 30 pax order. Malai Kofta was too good. My mouth waters at the thought. I don't usually do that.:P The rotis were good. Rice was exceptionally good. Sweetdishes were good too. So they did manage to make a good impression on me.
It was then I decided to go there and have dinner. So off we went. A group of 4. We had a tough tough time trying to locate the restaurant. Really tough time. It took us about 40 minutes after reaching Zamalek to reach Nawab.
Finally we take our seats. The service is very very ordinary. So don't go expecting some right royal treatment. The restaurant's interiors are nicely done, but unfortunately it is located on such a non-descript street that anybody might easily miss it.
They didn't have the paneer, so no Malai Kofta. Pakodas were hot. They served the Palaak - Aalu just the way I hated it - big big chunks of Aalu put in. Gosh.. When will the chefs ever learn.
Our host recommended the Rabri to us, as it was freshly made. So we tried it. I was swept off my feet. :) Gulab Jamun was equally good. Though it appeared quite plainly that it was Microwaved too much....
Overall - Food wise, they get a 9/10. Ambience, Comfort and Serving styles, they get somewhere around 4.5/10.
P.S:- Don't ask me for an address. I almost got lost. Better try their website. :)
So One Quarter of my life is over... :)
Ok.. Let me stop sounding so pessimistic. :) I have 3/4ths of my life to live :) :D
Birthday this year, was a quieter affair than last year. I actually liked it. And this year, I seriously do not have any complaints of any sort.
I am keeping up quite well with the promises that I made to myself last year.
My life's rocking :) and I seriously never felt better (Except for a little flesh that's hanging around my waist :P, but then I never bothered about it. So chill)
Thanks to Anand's Mantra - Less Expectation - More Happiness !!! :) :D
I think that made a big difference here.
I am writing, writing and writing !!! :)
Mahabharata is over. So waiting for the next inspiration. One of the two papers promised here is on its way. Its shaping up quite well. :)
Haven't found the time to write an Avan-Aval. Am sorry. I have the scenarios in my mind. Just not finding the urge to put it down on paper.
For folks who are eagerly waiting for the next part of 'The story of my life' - I know you people are missing Hari and Gaai. So please wait for the next part. It will be shared to you by email very very soon. And trust me, you will like it better than the previous parts. :) :D. 100% Entertainment guaranteed !! :) :D
As for the Cairo Diaries, I am just back in Cairo, so that will obviously take some more time.
Of Quizzes Answers and Destiny will be back. Basically taking a short break. But I will be writing.
Three folks called for my D Day. V, R and S. Folks, your wishes are much appreciated. You took the time to figure out my Cairo number and call me, without bothering about the cost :) (11bucks a minute :P)
I may have been rude to you before, but trust me, I forgive you all... :P
For those who mailed me, your thanks have been mailed back.
This is the update as of now. So chill, Rest in Next. :)
P.S:- Ok.. For the more curious ones.
The Rest in Next tag used to be my favorite line to sign off mails, during my high-school and college days.. :P
வ means Quarter in Tamizh. So.. I guess that explains it all. :)
People are not worth so much heartache after all. So chill. And since when did I start caring for the others. :P :)
So WTF ? :P :D
I was not at all surprised when the Maran brothers took over Enthiran’s production. The biggest television house in South India, taking up a film, and a super-star wala at that was the one that rose eyebrows.
Definitely the Maran Brothers would not have entered into Enthiran, without doing some (read – lots) number crunching. Here are my statistics.
First the assumptions
There are 2250 prints.
Atleast 4 shows in every theatre.
A seating capacity of 500 people in every show.
Let’s assume a moderate fare of Rs. 150 per ticket. (Black Ticket Sales have touched Rs. 1500 in Bangalore and Rs.5000 in Chennai as per the information trickling in from FB and Twitter)
So let’s do the math :-
2250*4*500*150=67.5 crores for a single day.
And assuming the trend is for the first 30 days, which is usually the case for any Rajinikanth movie, this gives us about 2025 crores in a single month.
Adjusting for the production cost, which is about 200 crores, we get a figure close to 1800 crores in a single month.
The Maran brothers will have their investment returned back to them 9 times in the course of a single month.
I am envisaging a total revenue/profit from Enthiran to touch 3000 crores, making it the unparalleled hit in history of Indian Cinema.
Needless to say, all movies released in India, will now carry the Post-Enthiran Timestamp.