Wednesday, February 28, 2007


When your parents told you TV can make you mad, they were not bluffing, or scaring you. Read on (at your own risk) to find out how...

Imagine you are working for a whole weekend on a project, and solving the deep questions of Life like “why doesn't a list containing .toLowercase()d words recognize a uppercase character?” or “Why oh why doesn't 'maltose' start with 'malto'?” (or at least why does my program says so). After two whole days of intense soul-searching err.. code-searching, you are ready to hit the TV.

Now “Rome” is a series worth watching if you can look past the PG-24+ rendition of violence and that other thing ancient Rome was famous for (the things those hills saw before the Vatican stepped in, I tell you...), and not eat you heart out for small historical inaccuracies (I mean, nobody who is supposed to live is dead, and nobody got a new lease of life that I can think of), it's a nice show to watch. So, you get ready to watch some “action” (in all senses of the word), and what you see? The show has been canceled for a week because of some Awards show or other.

But you rally from the shock, saying that you can live without the show for a week, and that you will have endless re-viewings of “Studio 60” and “The Office” to keep you sated for a week. And what do you hear next?

Now, I have said it before many times, but “Studio 60” is (I cannot say 'was” *sniff*) a show worth watching. I mean, look at this... a clear successor to “Sports Night”, a show from Aaron Sorkin (get your hands on any episode of “Sports Night” or “West Wing” and you will see what I mean), starring (for a start) Matthew Perry (for those for whom “Friends” is not a reason enough, watch the whole 19 yards – 9 and 10, I mean, and the 3 episodes of West Wing) and Bradley Whitford (again, refer “West Wing”). The pedigree is enough to raise the expectations of any discerning viewer, and the show didn't disappoint. So, when you hear that the show had to be cancelled even before it finished one season for lack of viewers, you wonder what people are watching here.

At this point, I would like to issue an warning: keep away from “The Office” you people at whoever-decided-these-kind-of-things... All in all, some idiots are making an idiot out of idiot-box.

On home front, I am happy TGILC is going nice. The “Mahayudh” concept was nice, and the champions are really a talented and quality bunch. But the “Comedy Champions” show somehow didn't click for me. And then I watched a show which was supposed to make me laugh, and didn't crack even a smile in 20-odd minutes. That means, it is bad.

So, the only things remaining for me are reruns and sequels. There, I hit gold (literally given that “old is...” concept). So, good news here: “Byomkesh Bakshi” is back on the air. And “Karamchand” back for a second innings. Of course, given that the carrots are supposedly pricey now, the fact I haven't seen him munching one yet is not so surprising.

And at the end, I would like to make a confession: I like to watch a soap opera. This is a show with a typical family in true tradition of saas-bahu serials, where the matriarch of the family rules with an iron hand. They are rich enough that the elder son is able to take his wife to Switzerland and buy her a diamond necklace for their first anniversary, and the younger son gives one of his acquint. Rs. 2 lakh as a loan without second thoughts. Even their servent is treated as one of the family. There is love abound in the family (the couples even have rhyming names for each other like Sonu-Somu), and drama enough. There is also sad moments when there are “affairs” of heart involved. But at the end of the day, they always get together to defeat the people who hurt the family (these include a builder-cum-bhai, a competitor and a scheming share-dalal).

Now before you start judging me, let me tell you that the show is Shekhar Suman-starrer Divan khandan ki kahani “Dekh Bhai Dekh”. Dekh one episode bhai and you will never dekh any other soap opera. Comedy at its best this is...

The Great Eagle has spoken...

Quote of The Day:
Television is the first truly democratic culture - the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.
- Clive Barnes

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Vairangad Part II

Part I is here.

24th Feb.

What a nice day! Start from home at 5.30 am, get the bus at 6 am. Reach Vadachi Vaadi (the village at the “ground floor” of the hill where fort is located) at 10 am.

The plan was to get some last minute perishables (read milk and suchlike) at the village shop, and go onwards to the fort. What really happened was, we got talking with the grocer and the “gang” which it seemed to practically live in his shop. And what an interesting conversation that was. Seems the fort will live up to our expectations. As is standard for all abandoned and ancient buildings, the fort apparently has ghosts, at least 2 distinct ones and maybe one or two more. Not to mention a “room full of treasure, guarded by the old occupants of the fort”. No wonder the area has a bad reputation amongst the people of the village.

All you can see from the village are two towers guarding the road to the fort. The towers are situated at the top of the hill (and which you reach by climbing for about one and half hours). They are not connected to the fort, but having a commanding view of the road and the surrounding area, the watchers there can really do some serious damage to the climbers, before they reach the top when they are in range of the fort's own cannons, and still have a mile's walk before they can reach the fort's walls. A nice security precaution...

Anyways, reaching the fort around 2 pm, we had our lunch, and started exploring the area. The buildings are pretty well maintained (of course, considering that they are at least 350 years old). You can clearly make out where the fallen buildings are, and the nagarkhana (where we are camping) is almost completely free of any grass and possible any wildlife. The temple and the sadar, and some other military buildings are still standing, with most of the walls and some part of their roof. Got some nice photographs there.

The only thing out of ordinary happened around 5 pm. A young man of around 25-30 came upto the fort. We were at the back of the fort, getting some photographs. Apparently he is the son of the Patil of the town and being town-educated, he was “bored because he got very few educated people to talk to in this isolated town”. So, we offered him tea, and had a nice talk with him while roaming around. He left us to continue our exploration just before sunset (which was around 7.30 due to the cliff on the west).

It started getting dark quite early, and we came back to our campsite. Have a nice packed day planned for tomorrow, as we have to finish checking the remaining areas and get back to catch the (only) bus in the evening.

While coming back, it hit us. Due to the acoustics of the place, we had heard our visitor's horse for about 15-20 minutes before he arrived at the fort (traveling the 1 mile flat stretch), which gave us time to come to the door from where we had been getting photographs. But when he left, we didn't hear any sound from him or his horse... and he is definitely not in the fort. Wonder what happened there? Would make a nice ghost-story I am sure.

I am sure everybody got this thought at the same time, and everybody has decided not to mention it. But there was less than usual opposition to the usual night-watch idea.

The slots for night-watch are always fiercely contested. First and last watch are good, as you don't need to take a break from the sleep. As I have to write the diary and today's account, I am taking the first turn to keep watch on the fire and over the door. Now my time is almost over, so let me decide who I hate the most (that person will take the 3rd and worst watch) and who comes the close second (i.e. whom should I wake next). Mwahahaha!!!

1. Nagarkhana - the room usually situated on top of the door, which contained the drums, and flagpole on the top.
2. Sadar - a place like "Darbar Hall".

The Great Eagle has spoken...

Quote of The Day:

Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.
- Steven Wright (1955 - )

Friday, February 09, 2007


Update: Due to time constraints, the story will be continued later this week. Till that time, please read my three-part series "Countdown to 14th Feb" on my other blog, which is my way of telling all that I am not waiting for The Day with bated breath (don't want to suffocate, do I)...

20th Feb.

The Sahyadri ranges in Maharashtra contain many interesting and unique forts. The mountainous region and forts characterize Maharashtra and its people, and have played a large part in its history. And one of the most interesting forts is named “Vairangad” (Fort Desolate).

The uniqueness is not only limited to its name. Even the location is different from the standards for the forts. The fort overlooks a region which does not contain any main roads or passes joining the ghat and konkan regions, the location is remote and contain very few important towns, even today. So it has always been a question why somebody raised a fort there.

The answer is also not forthcoming. The fort is clearly very old, maybe dating back to 16th century, but there are not mentions of the fort in any of the bakhars or any other historical accounts (which is not surprising due to its remote and isolated location), till late 19th century, when a British officer who was mapping that region mentions it in his report. Some people from a nearby village were forced to leave their ancestral village due to plague and move up the mountain, and one of them found a fort when he was out hunting up the mountain from the new village. Not surprisingly, the area had a reputation for being haunted for a long time before that.

But the most unique thing about this fort is its architecture. The fort is not located on a tableland or mountaintop as is common for all forts, but in a kind of valley (of course, located some 1000 metre above the surrounding area), surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, and overlooking a flat land on the fourth side, which slopes down to the lowland. Of course, the cliffs and the flatland with nothing to hide behind make the fort almost impregnable. Kind of reminds me of Schloss Adler in “Where Eagles Dare”, of course, minus the jutting rocks, Nazis and the cable cars.

And so, when grandpa told me to get him info and photographs of this fort for his book, I had to jump at the chance. As much as I am waiting for his book to be published, I really like the chances of visiting various forts and interesting locations from our history he gives me for it.

First thing to do was of course to call The Manager. As usual, The Manager was ready with suggestions and plans for the trip. I left him to do his thing, which left me free to call the other members of our team. I don't know how he does it, but he called me back in about 2 hours with all the plans, bus routes, timings and everything for the trip.

So, to cut the long story short, our team of 2 amateur photographers, an amateur artist, me (the writer, of course), and not to mention The Manager (who also doubles as the cook) is going to visit Vairangad over this weekend.

Kille Vairangad, here we come!!!

This is the starting of my new story, called "Fort Desolate". I am going to write it as diary entries of the grandson of a history teacher, who with his friends is visiting different forts in Maharashtra for a book his grandfather is writing.

Please comment on how you feel the start is, and any suggestions/changes/improvements are always welcome. The full story will be up with my other stories as soon as I finish it.

The Great Eagle has spoken...

Quote of The Day:
An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations.
- Charles de Montesquieu (1689 - 1755)