It's exactly an year since we first saw the last of Harry Potter (in books). Without doubt it is the most amazing book series I have ever read, I haven't read too many but have read LOTR, Bourne, to name a few.
Well, it was a 24 hour train journey for me as well when I picked the second installment of Harry Potter series (first HP book for me). It wasn't bad, wasn't great either. It seemed a lot like a pot-boiler, the kind you won't regret going through once but that's just about it. Sometime later I picked the first one since I couldn't find anything better to read and then I read the third one. And as they say third time is the charm, this time I became a complete convert. It no longer seemed an ordinary series to me and I started waiting for the release of the next ones with quite eagerness until last last year.
There are countless fans of Harry Potter and a good number of detractors. Some of the arguments that I hear to justify the hate are:
1. It is regressive 2. Harry Potter is gifted, a trailblazer of sorts in everything and just cannot go wrong 3. It is childish 4. The series is dark! (Indeed it is)
I don't intend to blame any of those people to have that point of view. What I have noticed in most of the cases is that those guys have read 'about' the books but not the books themselves, may be because they never considered them worthy to be read. However, reading about them may actually give some of the ideas mentioned above as central to the book's theme. But stopping at that will be an injustice to yourself if you enjoy good story telling.
I took my time to start appreciating the series and its characters and mind it, the sum of parts is indeed greater than the whole. Even though each book can be enjoyed as an independent piece, the difference in the scale of enjoyment will be huge when they are all read. To an outsider the book may seem kiddish, they are not. Some of the gems in the book are age old wisdom and are so clearly enacted that it makes them permanent in your mind. Some of my favorite ones are:
- Power should not be given to those who seek it. - It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. ~Professor Albus Dumbledore
This is the central theme of what makes Harry Potter what he is. He isn't the most powerful character, isn't the smartest, may be one of the bravest but with his own share of doubts. He may be the best flier, for sure one of the best. But these are not his defining characteristics. This isn't why he is the hero. He is hero because when it comes to choosing, his natural instinct is to 'not harm' and protect whoever is involved. Sacrifice isn't something that comes naturally to him, but given a situation, if that is something that can make everyone else' life easier, he would do it willingly or unwillingly.
To sum it up, he is essentially a good guy and that is his biggest strength.
- He could not use a dark spell effectively against his godfather's killer because for dark curses to be effective you need to mean them - He didn't kill the guy responsible for his parents' death even when he had a chance (that paid in the end) - In his final showdown with Voldermort, Voldermort casts the death spell on him whereas he casts only the disarming spell. - He chooses to die since that was the only way to stop Voldermort.
Therein lies the difference between the one who won and the one who lost. It is not the most powerful one (Voldermort) who won, it was the good one. That I think is the defining part.
Voldermort, probably the most gifted wizard in terms of capabilities (may not be in terms of knowledge, Dumbledore was far more intelligent and knowledgeable than anyone else) had one mortal fear, of death. He sought throughout a way of being immortal where Harry embraces his death for 'the greater good' and becomes the master of death (and the possessor of Deathly hallows - you will need more context to understand what they are)
There were many times when Harry was saved by his friends and there were times when Harry was responsible for the death of his well-wishers. All because he is normal and makes as many mistakes as anyone else.
Coming to the second most important character in the series, the character is one of the purest villains, interestingly, for no fault of his. For he was conceived under temporary love induced by magic and hence was incapable of love. Barring this he was exceptional in his capabilities magical or otherwise. However, in the final showdown, it wasn't his power that fell short, and caused his downfall. It was Harry's goodness that caused Malfoy's mom to cheat him in the end and something unknown to Voldermort and knows as love caused Snape to do the same throughout. Combined this with his lack of knowledge caused his downfall.
There is a whole bunch of characters equally interesting and with a lot of history in the series that makes it such a compelling read. It has its own parallel world with different rules and laws.
Each book opens up a layer of understanding about what is going on. Remarkably there are references in the books early in the series which get clarified when you move further down and that is what makes the sum much greater than the parts.
It's exactly an year since I last picked a Potter book and now writing this post brings out my withdrawal symptoms. For those of you haven't read the series, try it. As Jeffrey Archer said while he was in India this year, every now and then he discovers a remarkable new author to read. I consider JKR to be as remarkable as the best ones I have ever read, so if you are looking to expand your options, go for it.
(To know more information on the series and characters, you can visit HP Lexicon)
Its been two years since the inception of twitter. I have never been a great fan but recently a friend of mine started twittering. Sounds like another one bites the dust.
New trends, more often than not, come at the cost of old ones at least partially. TV damaged newspapers and reading in general to some extent (but not completely), so did Internet for almost everything around. I wonder, if twittering is taking share off blogging. Blogging is content with connection to audience/friends, twitter sounds like plain connection.
For now, I am not convinced enough to switch to (or start) twitter. Even if I have to do something like it, I intend to keep it to my clog. I wonder, what would I call it, if it happens. No prizes for guessing as I gave it away even before I started!
This is inspired by(in response to) an article written by Shashi Tharoor in his regular column in Times of India. He hailed the court verdict acquitting M F Husain of all the accusations related to his painting nude pictures of Hindu goddesses. Here are a few 'gems' of his articles.
First off, I don't agree to the point he made but that is not the point of this blog. He made a reference to Kamasutra as traditional Hindu text and using it as a defense to drawing pictures of goddesses in nude.
Transporting ourselves to Bollywood, "Mumbai Salsa", a C-grade movie (IMDB rating 3.7) about Mumbai's urban life. There is a foreign character who 'kind of' defends one night stands because we have a history that features Kamasutra and Khajuraho in it.
Looks like, Kamasutra can justify almost anything remotely related to sex or nudity or even pornography. I have nothing against these things, if it were not for the context in which these things are done.
Now, personally I have nothing against one night stands, but I took exception to the reasoning behind justifying it. They are justified in their own right - Kamasutra or no Kamasutra. Just because some sage wrote about sex doesn't mean you use it as a justification/reason for having one night stands or painting gods without clothes. It is akin to saying that it's ok to kill your siblings because we have had some serious sibling rivalry in Mahabharata.
Kamasutra may have been written as a book that touches all the aspects of relationships centered around sex, It wouldn't be prudent to use it to decide about extra-marital affairs or one night stands. Also, I am not entirely sure of the contents anyways.
To Tharoor, I expected better reasoning from you. May be you are extremely liberal, may be even to the point of letting your family members get painted in nude or caught up in acts which most of the less-liberal people intend to keep indoors, but it is harsh to impose your own sense of values on a society as a whole just because someone decided to write a book about sex centuries ago. It was anybody's guess as to what the reaction would have been to those paintings.
To Husain, You have done very well so far in not painting anything absurd for your own religion, that would have probably put a full stop to your career and life (and a lot of people will find it justified after all India has a great tradition not only sex but violence as well). Next time when you put your brush to use, do the same with your common sense else as a not-so-liberal art admirer, I will be inclined to think of it as a gimmick for cheap publicity, which I know it is.
To a blogger, who swears by the line "opinions are like assholes, everyone has one". Most of his opinions certainly are. He has written way too many controversial posts with a good number devoted to the Husain controversy, feeding on his controversy for his own publicity?
Here is the first of the list of things that I think smart people don't do well until they get smarter.
Most of the not-so-smart people are unstructured in their approach towards things, but not all unstructured people can be classified as not-so-smart. For, I know quite a few smart but haphazard people.
The smart ones tend to have a structure to everything they do, but sometimes they go overboard.
A particular example that comes to my mind is a module lead with whom I worked once. He was one of the better folks I have worked with so far in my career. However, his documents would only have numbered points and he wanted me to do the same. On one frustrated night at 2 AM, I made a comment, that if I remove the filter that controls the level of "table of contents", every single thing in this document will be in it. Is that how you intend it to be?
I am not taking it out against him here to prove I was right and he was wrong. But I felt he suffered from over-structure.
A lot of times I am accused of the same, it makes me feel happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I can classify myself as smart in my own post but then that rules me out for consideration as 'smarter'.
Most of the times, people are aware and tend to improve if their feedback loops are strong. So, the critical part that takes them from smart to smarter is being open to foreign opinion and internalize it's valid parts.
I have been a great follower of superhero series', not always, but now certainly. Unlike a lot of people who start with comic books and then move on to movies about superheroes, my real exposure started with the movies (discounting the light doses of Spiderman, He-man and Aladdin on Doordarshan) and I don't think I will go back to comic books.
However, I don't intend to talk about superheroes (not in this post at least), but about super villains. Superheroes is what people think they go to watch, but, the reason why people wait for the next movie or the comic book is because of the uniqueness of the villains. So, I think in sustaining a series it is equally, if not more, important to have good super villains.
To draw an analogy, there is this concept of Freebie marketing where you sell a product for marginal profit or even loss to generate sustained revenues in long run on the basis of re-fills. Gillette is an excellent example of this. The super villains, I believe should be counted as the real bread-earners for their respective superhero franchise.
Talking of the villains, one of the most famous villains of all time, Joker, will be seen in Christopher Nolan's"The Dark Knight" this July. I wouldn't miss it for anything, would recommend you the same.
Recently I visited Savandurga hill near Bangalore for a day of trekking. Before starting for the trip I was looking for some information to help me plan my trip. I got a few blogs but not what I was looking for. Most of the blogs are high on experience but what I wanted was a cheat sheet. So here is an attempt at creating one.
Buy food that can be carried like fruits, biscuits.
You should have a supply of 4 liters of water per person for the trip
First Aid kit (nice to have)
Take a knife with you
Sunscreen if you are the kind who cares about getting tanned
Shoes/trainers should be well fitting and very very comfortable
Abandon the trip if there is a possibility of rain.
Start early, consider 3 hours of travel time each side.
Afternoons, if sunny can be extremely painful while trekking.
Cut your toe nails.
Carry a cap.
Carry a backpack, anything in your hand will be a hassle
Carrying a camera may be a hassle, mobile phone with camera will be a good idea
This is quite obvious but I will still say this, don't wear uncomfortable clothing especially ladies. Sarees or skirts are absolute No-Nos. It is quite windy and they can be dangerous for you or even your fellow climbers.
We tried to mark the exact landmarks on the way but couldn't do it very well so I am giving only a general idea here. For more details do more search, however few tips here won't hurt you.
Two possible routes - Magadi Road/Mysore Road. Look at the picture for better idea.
Most of the people on the way will be able to help you out. It would be a good idea to keep checking whenever in doubt.
If you go through Mysore Road, there will be a very small yellow board on the other side (please note we are traveling from Bangalore to Savandurga) of the road indicating Savandurga - 27 KM. We were very lucky to have spotted it accidentally and then made a U to take it.
Carry at least 2 liters of water per person
There are no shops at the top of the hill, so whatever you need should be with you before you start climbing
I will highly recommend you to follow the white arrows (see picture)
Pace yourself, the hill is quite high and don't be foolhardy to rush in the beginning only to come back mid way. Lots of people do that but I can't imagine myself doing it.
Keep eating and hydrating. If well fed and drunk ;-) (water), you will reach the top in good shape and will be able to enjoy it much better.
Keep enough time in your trip to spend on the top of the hill (we kept 1 hour)
Thumb rule for the time required is, Ascent:Descent::3:1 and Ascent will vary between 1.5 to 3 hours based on your stamina and speed.
Make sure you enjoy the scenery periodically.
Ascent is tough, but descent is risky.
If its slippery, it will be even more risky
Chances of making a mistake are high, partially because you may get overconfident ;-)
Its even more important in descent to follow arrows, because if not done so, you might end up on a path that you could climb down but is too steep for coming back up
Toes will hurt like hell, even worse if you have long nails.
Try moving down sideways or reverse but be careful.
Don't run, unless you are quite sure of yourself.
Make sure you enjoy the scenery periodically
Many people have warned that it is very risky as will be clear if you read the scary blogs linked at the end. But if you are cautious and prepared, its a 'breeze' and literally so when you reach the top.
There is a dam on the way (Manchanabele dam) which can be included in the trip if you have more time.
Be prepared to pee in the open, there are no toilets on the way up :-)