Falling – A Short Story

As promised yesterday, I have completed and published my second short story, Falling, now available as a self-published eBook from Samshwords.com.Falling_ThumbnailFalling is the story of Roy, a man who feels he has a miserable existence and is in a continuous need to challenge his life in order to feel alive. Today, that need has brought him to the top floor of an 18-storey building where he finds out that the only way to rise above his misery is to first do the unthinkable – Fall.

This eBooks can now be downloaded for free in the following formats from Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/286652):

Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices and Kindle apps)
Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others)
PDF (good for reading on PC, or for home printing)
RTF (readable on most word processors)
LRF (Use only for older model Sony Readers that don’t support .epub)
Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

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My Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2013

It has been a month into 2013 already but this year, I have set a target of reading at least 26 books in the Goodreads Reading Challenge 2013 and of hopefully surpassing this number by a good amount. It is Week 6 and I am about to finish my 3rd book of 2013 already:

127 Hours

127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

Before this, I have already finished reading the following:

1. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer (Read)
2. Annapurna by Maurice Herzog (Read)

I know it looks like I am reading mostly mountaineering/adventure/survival books starting of 2013 but I have developed a real liking for this genre.

But if you thought I was stuck with still the same genre, here are also 3 more half-read books that I am still going to continue reading in parallel with my other book depending on my interest level, so it is not that I read only 1 book in 2 weeks:
 
3. The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
4. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
5. The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto “Che” Guevara
 
And, the next few books in my Reading List are:
 
6. Alive: Sixteen Men, Seventy-two Days, and Insurmountable Odds–the Classic Adventure of Survival in the Andes by Piers Paul Read
7. No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 by Graham Bowley
 
So, that takes care of 8 of my target of 26+ books in 2013. Any other recommendations?
 

The Quotable Reader

reading2

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~Edward P. Morgan

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. ~Mark Twain, attributed

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~Thomas Helm

You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. ~Paul Sweeney

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. ~Oscar Wilde

The Quotable Sherlock Homes

sherlock holmes

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.”
-The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”
-A Scandal in Bohemia

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
-A Scandal in Bohemia

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
-The Bascombe Valley Mystery

“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”
-The Adventure of the The Abbey Grange

“What one man can invent another can discover.”
-The Adventure of the Dancing Men

“You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.”
-The Man with the Twisted Lip

“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
-The Sign of Four

The Hurt-Feelings Group

censor

In my previous blog, Books can be Dangerous, I tried to ridicule a certain kind of people who hate books and are scared of reading them and even intimidate others who read them or talk about them. The reason they give? “Our feelings are hurt. Sob! Sob!”

It turns out, I spoke too soon. And too little.

The fact is, it is not just about books – though books are the easiest targets – it is as much about any other medium of information such as Television, Cinema, Newspapers, Magazines, and other Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. And if you thought you’ve seen everything, you would be surprised to know that even the toy maker LEGO has been accused of racism. (Read this wonderful blog for more or this news link). And why? Because LEGO made a model of the domed palace for a star-wars character called “Jabba the Hutt” and this infuriated a Turkish community in Austria who complained that it was intentionally made to look like a Turkish mosque. And what was the resemblance? The mosque has a dome, Jabba’s palace has a dome, the mosque has 4 towers around it, Jabba’s palace also has a tower. Hence, the resemblance. Conclusion? Racism. See this:

Jabba

Even though some of these disturbances might be dismissed as politically motivated or uninformed and uneducated reactions of “some” people, it is important to analyze these situations with utmost diligence because what look like isolated incidents might turn out to be indications of long term problems.

What gets attacked? Anything.

Protests against Rushdie and his "The Satanic Verses"

Protests against Rushdie and his “The Satanic Verses”

Books they have never read and will never read and which were, in some cases, published decades back but went unnoticed by “them” because of the same reason: they have never read and won’t ever read (and can’t, maybe?). Prime examples of mindless attacks are a) 1980s: Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, b) 2012: Some authors reading from this book, c) 2013: Organizers of previous year’s event even though there isn’t even any talk of the book this year at all. What does the State say? Nothing.

vishwaroopamCinema: Films that have not been released yet are the easiest targets. The most recent example is the Kamal Hassan starrer, multilingual thriller called “Vishwaroopam”. I am not certain what caused this movie to be opposed so vehemently that its release in a few cities in India has been deferred by 15 days. This is going to be a disaster for the project and a complete insult to the hard work of a man who has been a jewel in the crown of Indian Cinema for decades. Instead of saluting Mr. Hassan for his contribution to Indian cinema, some people have chosen to destroy his movie. And, I think the reason given for their opposition to the movie is that the terrorists in the movie are shown to be of a certain religion. And you thought such a detail would be trivial, huh? What does the State say? “Ban the damned movie.”

Social Media: Like a facebook comment or cartoon and the Police might show up and arrest you, even slapping you with the charge of sedition against the state, like what keeps happening now.

mfhussainArt: Take, for example, what happened in India a few years ago when legendary painter MF Hussain, another jewel in India’s crown, was driven out of his own country and into exile by fundamentalist organizations who threatened to kill him for creating a painting which depicted a Goddess naked (at least that is how I percieved the issue). Even the state did not make any attempt protect the legend. And why? Because the hurt-feelings-card was played.

Let’s accept it, art is not for everyone. A piece of art by a popular artist can be worth millions to those who understand it, while to the layman who is uninterested, unappreciative and uneducated (in arts) like most of us (yes, me included sometimes), it might not hold much value. Despite that, I understand that proclamation of the “hidden” meaning of a piece art should be left to those who appreciate and understand it and so, if you ask me, I would completely refrain from passing a judgement on a painting or sculpture. Simply because I don’t understand it, my opinion would be of no relevance whatsoever to the world and therefore the meaning of any such piece of art should not be my business to interpret and attack.

But that is exactly what some people forget. They go around their tiny little world putting their sensitive and underdeveloped intellects in the path of others, ready to flare up and burn the world at the tiniest of provocation (or no provocation).

Today, they are attacking things in public domain, tomorrow they will intrude into our homes and even tell us what we can and cannot do as individuals.

The only solution is for States to crush such misadventures of opposition to anything, even if the issues raised seem isolated. Otherwise, tomorrow, these will become precedents for bigger and bigger problems.

Books can be Dangerous!

books2If you are a backward thinking, feudal, fanatic, unenlightened, unscientific, uneducated, dimwitted, numbskull, blockheaded, ignoramus, fundamentalist, oppressive, tyrant, or a bully, then you should indeed be afraid of books.

Because, books can provoke, enlighten, educate, emancipate, illuminate, inspire, break barriers, and liberate minds from the clutches of traditions and beliefs and challenge conventionally accepted ideas and morals and replace them with skepticism, criticism and an awakening of souls.

One book can ignite a fire in the minds of millions that can change the world. Gandhi, Churchil, Washington, Bhagat Singh, Thomas Paine, Jefferson, etc., were all inspired by books. Even the most hated political figure of all times, Adolf Hitler, writes in his book, Mein Kanpf, that he used to skip dinner so he could buy a book to read.

Books are Man’s greatest achievement ever. Bigger than airplanes, computers, steam engines, nuclear energy, mobile phones, rockets and construction.

Over centuries, oppressive, tyrannical societies have tried endlessly to ban and burn books, authors and readers. Because they understood the immense power of ideas that such tiny leaves with dots of inks held. And yet, books have been every society’s biggest treasure.

And so, even today, literature festivals, something that millions should cherish and be proud of, are being threatened. And why? The reasons haven’t changed. Some people think some books can threaten their strongly held beliefs. They are scared of what a book might contain.

Of course, most of those who are opposing the lit fest have themselves never read the book being targeted (it being quite another matter that the book really has nothing to do with the fest). In fact, I will go a step further and say that it is quite probable that those who are causing an uproar, have never read ANY books at all. And if that much does not satisfy you, let me even say that they CANNOT read any books at all.

And yet, a handful of such uneducated dimwits and numbskulls want to decide which books the rest of the nation should read or rather, should not read. In this digital age where there is no way left to ban ideas, all I can say to them is, “Well, Thanks for playing!”

Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institution – such call I good books.  ~Henry David Thoreau

My last 3 reads of 2012

This week, I have been reading a quite a lot and the reason is that each of these books is supposed to be excellent. Let’s find out.

1. The Satanic Verses (by Salman Rushdie):

satanicverses

This book has been at the heart of a huge controversy ever since it was written by Salman Rushdie more than 2 decades back and that is the reason I felt so attracted towards reading it. Banned in India, I obtained a copy from abroad over 6 months back, but only got down to reading it this week. I have just crossed a hundred pages (the book is over 540 pages) and it is turning out to be a difficult and incredibly slow read. The reason for this difficulty is the toughness of language and also the way in which the author has been jumping the plot from present day to flashback and the sequences of events are also slightly difficult to follow, even for a seasoned reader like myself. Though, I will not talk about the plot here because I have myself not uncovered it yet, but I will certainly say that I am impressed by Rushdie’s writing skills. They way he has described his characters and their lives is excellent and the plot seems to be developing still.

2. Into the Wild (by Jon Krakauer):

intothewildI took a short break from Satanic Verses and started reading “Into the Wild”. This is a gem of a book and I was so incredibly hooked to it that I finished it within a couple of days. It recreates, with incredible emotion and detail, the sad but true story of a young man, Chris McCandless, who decided to give up everything he had and break all links with civilization to spend a few months alone in the Alaskan wild. A few months after he goes into the wild, his dead body is found and it turns out he has died of starvation. The news is made public and then different people respond to this in different ways. Some call him careless, reckless and immature to have undertaken such a journey without preparation, while others have a more humane view of the psychology of McCandless. the author recreates the entire adventure using the photographs McCandless has taken and notes he has maintained in his diary. The book is really excellent and a must-read for everyone. If you haven’t read this, you have missed something.

3. The Motorcycle Diaries (by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara):

motorcyclediariesA very popular book, it is the diary of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in which he recounts his exploration of South America along with his friend Alberto, on Alberto’s motorcycle named ‘La Poderosa’, the Mighty One: a 500cc Norton. Guevara describes the days they spend on the exploration and the kind of places they visited, the people they met and the troubles they got into throughout the journey. I have not know much about Guevara before reading this book, but I understand he has been an icon for many and this book is an incredible read that will appeal to all exploration and motorcycle enthusiasts alike. I am halfway through the book and I think it is a very pleasant read.

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