Thursday, August 05, 2010

Constant Memories

I dig them out randomly, reuse them to fill the dark
in my days over and over again.

But those beautiful memories and carefree laughter
seem void of emotions after so much reuse.

Strained present has firmly altered the past
and weeded the life out of those moments.

Memories are all you have, they say.
No. Not always.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Monsieur Meursault (MM) is not a stranger in the literal sense and is not always a stranger. Over the course of the book Camus has done a brilliant job of unraveling the protagonist. At what point MM becomes a stranger depends solely on the reader's personality. After about half the book when the murder is committed and MM finds himself being shuttled between his cell and the courtroom, there is a lot going on on his mind. The following pages are quite intense as MM tries to assess the gravity of his situation, while none of the small details escape his attention.

MM comes across as a very strong and rational character ill at ease with the ways of the world, which is understandable. During his entire trial that goes on over a few months, he has innumerable thoughts and opinions, which is also natural. However, not once does he feel a flash of remorse or thinks that he could have shown some restraint on that fateful day. Not once. To him, that day is done and over with. He has no eyes for the past. That is the place he turned alien to me.

Camus has not made any conscious effort to make MM a stranger. Its just this particular human identity is a bundle of queer and firm opinions, desires, dislikes, and thoughts. None of it will change come what may. Camus could write another hundred pages and still MM would turn a stranger at some point or other. Must read.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

My First Solo


Date: Dec 30, 2009
Time: 10AM to 12 Noon
Out of: Freeway Airport, W00
Rwy: 18
Tail Id: N971FM

Conditions:
Winds - About 3kts from WNW (300 deg) - Calm
Visibility - Unrestricted
Ceiling - 7000 ft (broken)

Today I flew my first solo in the pattern. It was such a wonderful feeling being up there on my own. After months of flying in the pattern with my instructor, yesterday was such a big break for me. I am just so happy and feel a lot more confident now. One thing is for sure - every take-off and every landing is so special and unique.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring

With every twig and stem teeming with life
it seems spring was always here, leaves
hidden behind the layers of snow, waiting
patiently to be discovered by the sun.

Note: I am amazed how the trees turn from bare to green in such a short time. It's as if there is a green explosion. And they seem to be in such abundance that you forget winter was even here.

Blindness

Like many novels that I read over a period of time, I read Blindness in five months. It's my first novel by a Portuguese author and Saramago's writing style is distinctly different from any that I have read before.

First, the sentences usually are very long, running to ten or twelve lines on an average. So the entire book just runs in paragraphs. Then, there is hardly any punctuation except commas (in abundance). Dialogs by different characters are separated by commas within a single sentence making it slightly difficult to follow. There are no quotes around conversations, which makes you pay close attention. Second, none of the characters have names. Throughout, they're all addressed by some unique trait that they have. For instance, "girl with dark glasses", "doctor's wife", "old man with black eye patch" and so on. Third, there is no name to the city where this epidemic strikes and there is no definite mention of time when this happens, which lends some kind of uncertainty and timelessness to the novel.

The plot itself revolves around the onset of a sudden "white" blindness in a city. There are a handful of characters that come together by chance and face the difficulties, albeit with one pair of eyes -- that of the doctor's wife. Within a matter of days, the whole city is blind and law and order, governance break down quickly. There is chaos everywhere and people are soon resorting to barbaric means to obtain food and basic necessities. Eventually civility disappears. The authorities try to quarantine those struck by the epidemic, but with all losing their sight, there is little point in keeping a few in seclusion. The story revolves around the survival of these blind people amidst the anarchy that results.

Saramago glorifies the human spirit. At several places, he speaks very highly of human nature. The nature to help and share, to face adversity with courage, and to stand together in harrowing times. When newspapers today often print news items quite the contradictory, this is a refreshing perspective of human nature indeed.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Name is Red

There are several notables about this novel. First is the narration. A handful of characters narrate different pieces of the story, thus building a beautiful, continuous piece and at the same time giving their thoughts and opinions. Second is Pamuk's description of sixteenth century Istanbul. Arcane and brilliant at the same time, it rouses in the reader an extremely strong desire to be where the action is. There are numerous stories on painting, art, and illuminating (intertwined within the novel itself), which the characters narrate to put forth a point or express an opinion.

The quest for truth and the fear of profanity leads the master illuminators into unexplored territories, then turning them against one another and eventually to murder. There is heavy debate on style, on whether an miniaturist should sign his own painting, and what form of painting is an affront to Allah and Islam. While each of the master illuminators is proud as a peacock (not to mention how proud they are of their wives' beauty), each is also torn between sticking to the ways of Chinese masters and innovating (switching to Frankish style) to preserve a place for himself.

The story revolves around a manuscript that the Sultan has commissioned, a book that would glorify his reign. There is varied opinion on its style and how provocative it is, resulting in the feud for power, and murders, around which the story revolves. On the whole, a good book, although the language is distasteful at times.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Federer on Clay

I was an ardent tennis fan and Pete Sampras is my favorite. Even after four or five years of his retirement from professional tennis circuit, my loyalty remains unchanged. I still watch and enjoy tennis, so I realize that Roger Federer seems formidable to all his opponents now, perhaps except of course on clay. His recent loss to Nadal at Roland Garros reminded me of Sampras' only semi-final run at French Open in 1996, where he lost to Yevgeny Kafelnikov (it is a solace Kafelnikov eventually went on to win the open). That was a sad moment, because it was the closest he got to the title, unlike Federer, who is a two time finalist. Federer has a lot of great tennis left in him and might still go on to win on clay in the next year or two (unlike Sampras). Once I would have vouched that Sampras' fourteen grand slams was unbeatable. But now I know Federer will beat Sampras' record before he retires, which I am not too happy about. But then, records are meant to be broken and a few years down the line someone else will break Federer's.

Friday, June 08, 2007

List of books I've read

2007:
The name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
Banker to the Poor - Muhammad Yunus
July's People - Nadine Gordimer
My Name is Red - Orhan Pamuk

2006:
Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Lord of the Flies - William Golding

2005:
One flew over the cuckoo's nest - Ken Kesey
Canary row - John Steinbeck
Sweet Thursday - John Steinbeck
Short stories by American authors
Beloved - Toni Morrison
Things fall apart - Chinua Achebe
The great Gatsby - Scott Fitzgerald
Years of childhood: AKe - Wole Soyinka
Heavier than heaven - Charles R. Cross
Random walk down wall street - Burton G. Malkiel
Trial - Franz Kafka

The Name of the Rose

It's very hard for me to write a fair and personal review on this book. First, because of all the Latin text, which I initially tried to follow by hopping on to the web every now and then. I began to realize I was spending way too much time understanding these (I have more books to read) and so decided to find the meanings of only those phrases that seemed important to me, given the context, or those that occurred repeatedly. Well, it worked (because I finished reading the novel), but I am sure I have missed a great deal in not understanding those beautiful phrases, which convey much more than a reader like me can perceive. Books like these are lot more than a rudimentary plot. Often they express and solicit varied opinions on bigger things like life, its meaning, death or trivial things like sleep, dreams, food etc. At every stage the richness of content and power of words feed to your mind, forcing you to think and form a viewpoint. As for the novel itself, it is sort of firsts to me in some respects. Being my first about early Christianity, it was a great opportunity to read about Franciscans, Benedictines, Papal legations, and monks. The story itself moved at a relatively slow pace giving ample time to absorb these details. The manner in which chapters have been titled is novel. One handicap was that I was unable to visualize their settings and appearances very clearly (although I did surf for images on the web). I plan to watch the movie soon. On the whole, a different kind of book to read. I am still in the process of figuring out the meaning of the final Latin hexameter.

Monday, May 28, 2007

One Hundred Years of Solitude

I read this book over a period of six months. It's not the kind you can't put down. There are so many characters spinning around and so many things happening over such an extended period of time, to comprehend it all takes a while. That multiple characters have same name make it a little more harder. Very thoughtful of the author to have provided a family tree right in the beginning.

It has one of the most beautiful opening lines impressively followed by pages portraying Jose Arcadio Buendia's passion for science. I loved the reference to ice, magnets, earth and its shape, the compass and so on. Unbeatable portrayal of a curious mind. Set in a fictional village Macondo, it traces Buendia's family history over a period of one hundred years. This is my first attempt at reading magical realism and there are parts of this book I thoroughly enjoyed. Somewhere in between, I thought it got a little repetitive with the arrival of Pilar Ternera. However, after a few pages of boredom, it always got interesting, so I had to just hang in there. Since I read this more than a year ago, I am unable to mention finer details. Ursula's character lived for most part of the novel, being a pillar of the huge family from beginning to end. Melquiades' character was like Godfather for the entire Buendia family, continuing to live even after his demise through his parchments. The closing pages are equally absorbing and sound so surreal, especially the sentence

The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants.

It is hard to keep the reader's attention to the variety of events happening to all the Buendias, their sons and daughters, and their offsprings. But Garcia Marquez has achieved the same effortlessly by combining science, history, war, and magical realism. A classic.

Lord of the Flies

"The theme is an attempt to trace the defect of society back to the defect of human nature." -- William Golding

When I started reading 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding, I was rather amused. In my enthusiasm to get started, I had skipped the introduction by E.M. Forster and was blissfully unaware of the impending twists and turns. I was plain lucky, because I did not know what to expect and as the stage was set, I was getting prepared for a fun filled adventure. Well, needless to say I received pin pricks and huge shocks as I read. The murder of Simon was unexpected and the language used to describe it was subtle, yet intense. I had to read the para thrice to make sure I was understanding it right. I began to realize this was an adventure of a very different kind. Another important feature is the emotions characters are able to evoke. Anger towards Jack, sympathy towards Piggy, and admiration towards Ralph surfaced purely because of the beautiful language. Although I have little patience for pages describing locales, I must admit this one was done in a very engrossing way. Well, I don't wish to let out anything more than I already have.

Through a bunch of eleven or twelve year olds (and some even younger), Golding has proved emphatically how very human we all are. Behind the facade of civilization and development, we are all just animals eventually drifting towards chaos and savagery. It is as if our true self comes to the forefront when devoid of rules. If this is what pre-teens are capable of, I wonder what would happen with adults in the same situation. Would we be more disciplined and rational? I doubt it. A lot more would have happened in the first few pages, I am sure.