Monday, December 15, 2008

30 Second Summaries

In today's busy world, the attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. In the world of information superhighways and consequent information overloads, people don't have time to read long pages and pages of reviews of the movies they want to watch, when they can just as well spend that time doing something else.

That's why we at The Aerie Institute, constantly aware of the needs of the times, are bringing you Part 1 of our bestselling series:

30 Second Summaries (Bollywood Edition):

Rab_ne That's the Rab:

After making enough actors weary by stealing (or trying to) others' girlfriends and fiancées (and wives) on screen, Shahrukh Khan has to steal the wife from his own older self. Old habits...



Oye lukcy Con-fiction:

After Jai Jr. tried his hand at the conning game, and got caught and conned in return, it is time for Veeru's nephew to pick up the mantle. Should I have put up a spoiler alert there?



oh_my_god God ~ Jim:

... [when] I want to screw with him to get back at him, he never sees it coming. But now, I want to be nice to him and actually give him something, he's like an eel. I just can't grab onto him.

- Jim Halpert, The Office.



Part 2 will be up soon, based on the response. So, keep commenting.


- The Great Eagle Has Spoken


Previously by Aerie Institute: Non-veg and Attack on Community, FNS or Fanatic about Non-issue Syndrome, The New Updated Spamming-101, A Single Guy's Guide to Dating

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lord of The Rings is just another hindi movie

Just a few days back, I was talking to a friend who was ranting about the hindi movies, and the completely over the top masala ingredients added in them to spice them up. After defending the Bollywood for a long time (hey, we Indians may make fun of those movies but we are One when some outsider does it), I went back to my recent re-reading of Lord of The Rings.

And I had an epiphany. Here are

10 Reasons why LoTR is just another Bollywood Masala film:

10. If you are a good guy and a father, you get to die at the hands of The Villain or his Henchmen. Which of course will inspire your kid(s) and others to vanquish the villain for revenge.

9. Things are going very badly for the good guys, when BAM! Help arrives in the form of the Hero.

8. The hero has a bumbling but faithful sidekick (or a group of them), who provides the comic sidetrack, but will lay down his life for the hero.

7. There's a costumed villain, sitting in his snazzy lair, surrounded by costumed henchmen and weird looking followers.

6. The "supporting actress" loves the hero, who cannot return her affections because he is in love with the heroine. But don't worry, she will find her life partner in the "supporting actor" before the climax.

5. The hero and heroine belong to different social groups, and hence her father is not exactly happy about their union, but there is a loving aunt who will help the lovers.

4. The heroine, the one belonging to higher social group in this case, will "sacrifice" her advantages in order to marry the hero.

3. The hero has greedy, conniving, thieving relatives who have their eye on his estate.

2. You can stab him, fire arrows at him, slash at him with swords, poison him... The Hero just goes on and on and on...

1. At moment's notice, there's at least one person who has got to sing up. Sometimes that quickly grows into a group song.


- The Great Eagle Has Spoken


P.S. The comparison is based solely on the books, and those misguided souls who know LoTR as only a movie trilogy may be confused. Solution: read the book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not yet, Fat Lady

It frequently happens in TV serials that following a major crisis, one of the characters says something like, "We did it" or "I think we killed him/her", and is promptly (or not so promptly) proved wrong. Now that's an emotional roller-coaster not everybody is equipped to deal with [raise your hands if you get queasy on roller coasters (before you ask, my hand is firmly touching the ground)].

So, next time such things happen, before you feel relieved that it's finally over or despair that you may never see your favourite character again, here are

10 Signs that it's not over yet:

10. The serial name starts with a "K":  nothing is permanent in those, except the characters.

9. We are talking about the ex- of a main character: Be sure they are coming back to haunt betray the main character, sooner or later.

8. We are talking about the relationship between the main characters: and the series finale is not yet in sight.

7. A main character is dying: and it is not yet time for mid-season break or season finale.

6. A Goa'uld System Lord is dying: Those guys just don't understand the meaning of "death".

5. There is an Australian cricket player who hasn't yet written his book: self-explanatory. (What? The whole Sydney test and after fiasco wasn't a soap opera? Could've fooled me.)

4. The most obvious suspect is apprehended: Rule of thumb: if all evidence points to one person, he/she is innocent. (Called as such because when you point finger at somebody, your thumb may be pointing in a completely different direction.)

3. Somebody said, "I think we fixed it", "Thank God it's over" or some such thing: Did someone say "jinx"?

2. The Earth/human race is about to be destroyed: If earth is destroyed, where will we shoot the next episodes?

1. You are just reaching half hour mark in a one-hour episode.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Friday, November 07, 2008

Kweshchan Hamare Mahabharat Ke

You may have noticed (please say you did) that I have been missing from this blog for some time now. And you may have thought that I may have been a victim to another bout of writer's block. Well, you are right.

And since, try as I might, I cannot find any topics for making up a new post, I decided to fall back on the tried and tested method: I went back and saw some recent episodes of "Kahani Hamare Mahabharat Ki".

What can I say? It worked like a charm. Or rather, I came out with enough questions to cobble together into a post. Like:

Say you are an interior decorator tasked to decorate the interior of a palace for a blind couple. How sadistic you have to be, to place a huge couch right in the middle of the room, knowing something like this is bound to happen?

Or this one:
Say your brother is back from fighting a battle (or rather, 18th one) with a man (whom you incidentally love). How desperately in love (or is it, lurrrve) you have to be, to immediately think that the "good news" your brother brings with him is about your marriage to this man, a.k.a. his mortal enemy?

Incidentally, I always thought of Rukmini as a strong-willed woman, what with her being unconventional enough to write a letter to a man she has never met to come and marry her. Plus, she is supposed to be the favourite wife of a man like Krishna. Then why does the Rukmini I see here is permanently in glycerin-locked-and-loaded mode?
In Mahabharat times, where could you get a daasi who refers to a Princess as tum? How very socialist of her...

And wouldn't it be, I guess "better" is the word here, to show Krishna overpowering Vidarbha soldiers his prowess in fighting, instead of "freezing" them? And, wouldn't a cunning warrior like Krishna go in the heart of enemy territory completely armed? Why should he "pluck" a sword out of thin air to fight?
I guess that's enough questions for today.

In short, what I am saying here is, be back soon...

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

History, Politics and Logic

Since I am quite ignorant when it comes to worldly affairs, I often find myself applying logic to the news I read, trying to make some sense out of them. Some news cycles I read over the last year are a proof positive that human brain can still function after logic attacks.

Here’s what happened:

Sometime last year, Government of India submitted an affidavit to Supreme Court which said that they could not find any proof that Ram existed, ergo, Ram didn’t really exist. After many protests and a huge outcry, they realized that Ram did, indeed, exist.

Conclusion: In a democracy, vox populi = proof of existence

But then, that proof did come in the way of the Ramsetu project, which was really the reason for all the controversy. So, after a lot of research, GoI found out a mention that Ram destroyed the setu himself, based on the Kamba Ramayan written by Tamil poet Kamban. So the structure popularly known as Ramsetu cannot be the real Ramsetu. (Since Ram returned to Ayodhya by Pushpak, this may well be one of the first records of aerial bombardment.)

Conclusion: A mention in any of the records available = proof

This year, after 15 years of Dadoji Konddev Puraskar, Maharashtra Government scrapped the award since the committee assembled did not find any proof (sorry, the link is in Marathi) that he was the teacher of Chhatrapati Shivaji.

Conclusion: vox committee = proof of absence (?)

After notable historians removed themselves from the committee, it was noted that the 17th century records at the time of Shivaji did not mention Dadoji Konddev’s role as his teacher, and the first record is the Sabhasadachi Bakhar, written during 18th century.

Conclusion: Contemporary records = proof (?)

My brain, trained by Sherlock Holmes, detected a logical fallacy here somewhere. And since such fallacies tend to keep me awake at night, I decided to solve this conundrum.

After a lot of research, I have come to the conclusion that one of the following is the missing assumption for all of the above statements to be true (I always did well on those “Find the missing assumption” questions in competitive exams):

  1. Kamban was a contemporary of Ram, thus possibly predating Valmiki.

  2. Our school board was not looking for just convenient curricular structure when they combined History and Civics (with detailed descriptions of Indian political scenario) together in one subject.

Got any other explanation?

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sultan ka hukum...

sar-aankhon par.

Since I haven't written a post in a long time, and given my current task list, it looks hard I will finish the drafts any time soon, I think it is time I get the tag by Her Highness Sultaan-e-Pitustan Pitu done.

So, here it is:

  1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?
    - You know what they say, if you love somebody, let them go. Especially if that person betrays you. Serves her right…

  2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?
    - Chaand tare tod lau,
    saari duniya par mein chhaoon,
    Bas etna sa khwab hai…

    See, I don't require too much to be happy in life.

  3. What do you love the most in your lover?
    - Paraphrasing Holmes, it is a capital mistake to theorize before you have the necessary experience.

  4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
    - Create a library. Build a time machine. Build this and get rid of commuting hassles. (Given current conditions, investment is out of answer)

  5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
    - Given that all three of my best friends are guys, I would have to go with “No”.

  6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?
    - If loving someone was blessed, my friend is the most blessed man on this earth, at any and all given times.

  7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?
    - Given my time-keeping skills, there is higher possibility that she has to wait for me. Though not more than 15 minutes at a time, given my record.

  8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?
    - I like keeping secrets. Especially if they are mine.

  9. If you like to act with someone, who will it be? Your gf/bf or an actress/actor?
    - Why would I be acting with my girlfriend?
    Oh you mean like in a film or a drama. In that case, why would I be acting with my girlfriend?

  10. What takes you down the fastest?
    - Elevator (The elevator in my office is so impatient to get going that it sometimes doesn’t wait for the doors to close).
    There are faster ways down, but not being a cartoon character, I am weary of trying one.

  11. How would you see yourself in ten years’ time?
    - In a mirror. In a picture (on back of my book). On my blog. Take your pick.

  12. What’s your fear?
    - Snakes. In all shapes and sizes. And all forms.

  13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
    - Ab Sultan ki tarif mein hum kya kahein? I am speechless.

  14. Would you rather be single and rich or married but poor?
    - Why would I be rich and single? Are we talking about the same person (i.e. me) here?

  15. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
    - Check my cellphone and smile that the alarm hasn’t gone off yet, and then burrow back inside the comforter.

  16. Would you give all in a relationship?
    - Refer #3. (I love this “refer” business).

  17. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously, who would you pick?
    - Do tell me none of the people are the one in #8. In which case, I like choices. If not, there is really no choice, is there?

  18. Would you forgive and forget, no matter how horrible a thing that special someone has done?
    - Do I need to answer about forgiving after #1? And… what was the question again?

  19. If you get to go back in time and fall in love all over again, would it still be with the same person?
    - Sorry, wrong setting on time machine. Change the polarity.

List 6 people to tag:

RULE #1: Tag 6 people to do this quiz and they cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by, cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by, and must continue this game by sending it to other people.

RULE #2: People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves.

So, the list goes on:
1. Cuckoo
2. Sid (Haven't been posting anything either)
3. DewdropDream (I hate to do it, but she has to know disadvantages of reading my blog)
4. Princess Stephania
5. First person to comment on this post
6. Anybody who wants to take it up

Please feel free to be as political as you want on #13.

And there... a new post is done.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anatomy of a Bond Novel

I know I have written the "Anatomy of a Spy Novel" before, but James Bond holds a special place amongst all the spies of literary world. And that is why I thought I needed to go into more detail of a standard Bond novel.

Statutory warning for the movie lovers who want to read the novel: Don’t start reading a book thinking you know the story. You will be surprised.

Statutory warning for the readers who want to watch the movie: Don’t start watching a movie thinking you know the story. You will be shocked.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: During the course of Moonraker, the movie, Bond meets three women and gets to sleep with two of them. During the course of Moonraker, the novel, Bond meets one woman and gets to sleep with… none. (Come to think of it, same difference, right?)

You have been warned.

So, here’s how the story goes: Bond, who is usually bored going through the reading material, is called in M’s office and given his assignment. Happy to be out of his office, Bond sets off for his destination, and meets his contact. And then come the three must-haves in any Bond story:

  1. The "Bond Girl": Invariably, Bond’s contact/handler or one of his associates is a woman. At first, Bond is apprehensive about her involvement, but she proves to be very competent girl, capable of taking care of herself (Yes, Bond is quite a chauvinist). We all know where that is heading…

  2. A card game: Since Bond is “professionally” trained in various ways in which one can “win” at any card game (and hence, a card-game enthusiast), any and all of his “cases” must involve a card game of some type. It may be his assignment (Casino Royale), a part of it (Diamonds are Forever) or a precursor to it (Moonraker).
    Of course, any game will put him on the brink of bankruptcy, before a brilliant play will see him win.

  3. A car chase: Some time in the case, mostly towards the end of it, Bond will find himself involved in a big bad car chase. It may be because the enemy has kidnapped his girl (in which case Bond is the chaser), or because enemy is onto him (in which case he is the chased), during which time he might destroy a car or two.
    Of course, unlike the card game, car chase is not exactly Bond’s strong suite. So at the end of it, Bond is firmly in the hands of his enemy, who will then proceed to tie, beat and torture him.

…which of course sets him up for the climax, where with the help of his girl (and possibly some others,) the battered and bruised Bond is going to save the world, before going off into the sunset with his love. And if he has to destroy a submarine or two or a train or some cars for that, that’s not so difficult for our 007, is it now?

And that, my dear friends, is how Bond... James Bond works.

Now, where's my Vesper?

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Saturday, August 30, 2008

If Harry Potter played Cricket

Or rather, the opposite.

A recent conversation about Harry Potter and cricket*, I realised that there were quite a few similarities between Indian cricket team and Harry Potter world. I am pretty sure there is a HP-inspired movie hidden somewhere here.

And the casting is:

  • The Boy Who Lived – a.k.a. The batsman who stands at one end, while wickets keep falling “like bicycles in bicycle-stand” on the other end. Did you get flashes of a stormy evening at Sharjah (amongst others)? Then again, Harry does spend equal time being revered and hated in the books, so there's one more point matched.

  • Albus Dumbledore – my first thought was this was a role custom-made for John Wright. But then, there is past individual performance to be considered, so apne Kapilpraaji or Sunil Gavaskar will fit this role better.

  • Severus Snape – A person who almost everybody hates, but there are some who will always root for him. In the end, does he come through or not? But he is powerful, babumoshoy.

  • Rubeus Hagrid – A reliable person. May make mistakes, but will usually come through in a pinch. Always standing in the background, some might say like a Wall.

  • Fred and George Weasley – The terrible twins. Not the most perfect technique, but effective enough for all. Extremely flamboyant, and have got a way with ladies. If you need more clues, don't forget that incident with the girl (note the singular) in post office.

  • Colin Creevy – There is only one “kid” in recent years, and he is not exactly a genius.

Now, the roles of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters depend on the opposing team, so the actors playing them change often enough. But one role is perfect match:

  • Draco Malfoy – Spoiled rich kid, too full of himself and his status. Just wears the green cap, instead of green robes, in the Muggle world.

On that note, am I the only one who thinks that it is not a coincidence that Slytherin students wear baggy green?

I know the casting isn't perfect. There are some roles which are yet to be cast, and I have overlooked more than a few characteristics for matching the roles with the men. Then again, you may disagree with some of this, and may want to change the roles.

But hey, my blog, my post... suggestions welcome.

So, any takers for this Harry Potter-meets-Lagaan(-meets-Chak De?) extravaganza?

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

* While I was commenting on Amrita's post on “Hari Putter” controversy, there was a curious confusion between Abra ka dabra and Chain Kulli ki Main Kulli. While clearing this confusion, I started commenting on the similarities between Indian cricket team and Harry Potter world. And as usual, I converted the comment into a post.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

3 Days in the life of a Nation of 1.1 billion

3rd August: Vishwanathan Anand wins Rapid World Chess Championship at Mainz...

marking the 11th title (9th consecutive) in the 13 year history of the tournament. He also broke his 38-2 record of simultaneous play by conceding only 2 draws in 40-player simultaneous display. The World No. 1 (since April 2007) will be defending his title later this year.

11th August: Abhinav Bindra wins Gold Medal in 10 meters air rifle event in Beijing 2008...

and becomes the first individual gold medalist for India. The whole nation celebrates, with a frenzy of congratulations and self-congratulations erupting all over the place. A competition starts between various state and local governments to declare prize money for the winner. The sales of guns hit a all-time high.

15th August: Independent India turns 61...

wishing Anand's successor will come from the land where Chess was born, and at least one gun in thousands bought within this week will bring another medal in future. Among some spectacular and some disappointing performances, 3 Indian boxers reach the quarterfinals in Beijing'08, keeping alive the hopes of another medal.

But many people know that most (if not all) guns bought this week will be lying around gathering dust once T20 starts in December, or even next month, with the Champions Trophy. The rest will be searching for facilities which face lack of monetary and other support.

And only a quiet minority will be monitoring the news when Anand goes into his third year as undisputed World Champion.

But for now: Congratulations Anand for the continuing winning streak! Congratulations Abhinav for your well-deserved Gold Medal! Congratulations India for turning 61, and for all these achievements! We will be waiting next time around to celebrate all your achievements once again.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Are you kidding me?

Statutory Warning: This is going to be complete rant. If you don't want to get into a royal funk, you can skip to the photos at the end.

I am assuming all the people reading this love to read rants, so here goes:

Search for "Indian Government + State Funeral" on Google, and you will get two results at the top, about Ishmeet Singh and Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Look at the wording in those news now, and you will know who gets the honour in India. The honour is limited to "public figures", which of course includes people in government, influential leaders, and apparently, winners of reality shows*. But evidently, you have to make an exception, sorry, a "rare" exception for India's first Field Marshal, a man who won a war which created a nation, a man who is a national Hero in his own right.

Oh, and the Defence Minister was not able to make it due to "long flight followed by journey by road". You think the family of the deceased should have had more sense to have the funeral in a more accessible place, don't you?

And while we are on the topic of Indian Armed Forces, did any of you remember that 26th July was Vijay Divas? Nobody? Don't beat yourself up, neither did our Government.

And we wonder why there is a dearth of officers in Indian Army**.

On a positive note, I have changed my opinions about the new and improved Mahabharat. I didn't know it would prove to be such a veritable nail-biter, not to mention a great source of knowledge. I mean, how else would we have known that the "son" Satyavati proposes to use to continue the Kuru lineage is Ved Vyasa and not Bhishma? And in the recent episode, I was completely sure that the God had pulled a fast one on Kansa by talking about Devaki's 8th son, when it was clearly a daughter. Luckily Vasudev cleared that mystery up, otherwise the suspense was killing me.

Now that I have put you in a very bad mood, here's something to make you happy. There's something for everybody in there:

And don't worry about me. Reading Spanish novels on top of everything else does this to me sometimes. Not to mention, the database and the server refuse to start properly, thereby dashing all my hopes of getting any work done today. I will be back to my regular self soon.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

* I haven't heard Ishmeet Singh sing and don't know much about him or his life, and I am not commenting whether he is worthy of the honour or not.
** I am completely aware of my status as armchair critic in this matter. I know that my only connection with Armed Forces is some cousins and friends serving in different branches, and the closest I have come to the service is 2 years stint in NCC. So don't send me any comments saying "if you feel like this, you should join army". The point here is not that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shri Mahabharat Katha - FAQ

Given our expertise on the subject, it is not surprising that our mailbox has been flooded by people wanting to understand the Kahani of Mahabharat. So we thought it better to answer the most common questions here instead of in private e-mails.

After all, answering questions is beneficial to your fame.

In episode one, etna andhera kyoon hai bhai? (Why so dark?)

First off, it is night. Secondly, they are sitting in a courtyard, thereby diffusing the available light even further.

And they have just proved our theories about ancient lighting systems. How? If you see closely, there is hardly anybody who is wearing full reflective golden jewellery.

In episode two, why did the Mushaka kept flying through the forest? Especially when he knew that he could fly just above or just to the right and avoid the trees altogether?

Any pilot worth his tail(fin) knows that the “nape of the earth” approach means that you fly almost at treetop level, and not below the tree line.

Now by this time the Mushaka should have enough practise to judge the correct flight path for the weight on his back, and avoid flying through the same forest twice. Also, looking at how irritated Ganesh looked trying to get all the branches and leaves out of his face, this is one giant mouse who is due for a major dressing down, if not for a pink slip.

Are we about to see 360 degree shots starting from multiple angles with the name of the character said over and over again every time a new character is introduced? And even later whenever the character is on the screen? (Who knew Ganga had so many names, or rather, adjectives)

Well, at least 50% of the viewers (the men who watch saas-bahu serials balancing the numbers for the women who don't) see most of the actors as completely unrelated, and in many cases, completely opposite characters if they just change the channel. So, it is understandable that they want to make sure everybody recognizes a character from every possible angle (kind of like when you get 360 degree views of cellphones or cars on websites).

And they have to hammer name in our heads enough times for the same reason. So many times in fact, that you are almost forced to ask like Raabert, "etane saare naam? baaki log kidhar hain?" (So many names? Where are other people?)

Plus, it helps in keeping the plot of an episode within two lines. And have you forgotten the 90-10 rule of mythological serials?

Since Ganesh, being a God of Knowledge, is omniscient, why didn't he just know what Vyasa was going to tell him? In short, why didn't he write the story himself?

This particular question deserves a whole chapter in our upcoming book on Mahabharata. But in short, Vyasa is known as “Adya Kavi” (the First Poet). Given modern poetry, do you think it is so surprising that even the God of Knowledge, in his infinite wisdom, does not understand poetry?

What kind of wolf did Devavrata kill?

Aah... contrary to popular belief, it was a Himalayan Wolf, and not Gray Wolf (a species commonly found near Greece till it was endangered by the Spartans).

Keep them coming folks. We live but to serve...

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Kissa Cricket Ka Part IV

While Gully Cricket awaits ICC approval (hey, the same number of people watch Gully Cricket as do Ranji), there is another form of cricket which has long gone unacknowledged. But perhaps that is fitting, since the main purpose of Book Cricket was to entertain students who had to sit through boring classes, while still looking as “study” to watchful teachers (Underground Cricket, if you will).

For those who don’t know, the rules and format are pretty simple. Take any book, the bigger the better (though smaller books had their own advantages. Read on). The “batsman” will open the book to a random page, and the “score” is based on the LSD of the even page number. 2, 4 and 6 are self-explanatory. 0 is “out” (no dot-balls allowed). 8 had many interpretations, from 8 runs for general players, to a single or no-run for seasoned veterans. Given the running between the wickets of Indian batsmen in that time, we didn’t need anything for 3 runs.

The zero-preparation and easy format allowed matches of all flavour (from ODI to Test to OPI – One Period International), played between bench-mates, or between benches. And as in the normal form of game, heroes (and some villains) emerged. Some “players” had such absolute run of luck that they were responsible for making some of our friends' loss of faith in so-called Probability, while others tried to restore that belief and the "cosmic balance".

And then, there were those who could emulate Bradman by getting exact score they wanted, with a skill which would impress even the best card-sharps in town. (You see kids, getting to know your text-books better is good for you). I can tell you some tales of a well-thumbed mathematics book (what? I like Maths. Anybody got problem with that?), with page number 10… well, let’s wait for those anti-match-fixing guys to go out of earshot, shall we?

The epic battles which raged in class included some ultra-low scores, with some runs thrown in between a string of 0's to avoid suspicion, and/or soothe our conscious. They also included some extra-high scores, particularly one innings, where the luck favoured us so much that the opening batsmen had scored more individually than Kambli-Tendulkar pair in their record partnership, before the bell rang. Before that, the opposing team had collapsed to a measly 17/10.

Thus, Book Cricket (along with pencil-football, and a form of pencil-battle), carried us across many a school days, while our teachers tried to make us understand that “energy crisis is over” or something like that. For those who haven’t played it yet, you can’t compare a well-played game of Book Cricket. Go open your books and start scoring.

And what reminded me of these happy times today? This match came straight out of BC, played on “home ground”, by people who were feeling particularly vicious about one team in the game.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. Click here for parts I, II and III in the series.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shri Mahabharat Katha Part I

It is often said that what is not in Mahabharat is not worth knowing. In short, Mahabharat contains all the knowledge. And I am not talking about just the wisdom contained in Bhagvadgeeta, or the talks on politics, social life and religion between many of the extremely knowledgeable characters here. Neither am I talking about the endless plots, subplots, conspiracies, relationships and other things which would give the best soap operas of our times a run for their money.

What I am talking about is that every single time you start reading this story of Bharat, you find yourself with a new understanding of those times and a new knowledge of people and how they functioned then.

It is to spread that knowledge amongst the masses that we have started this new series, a collection of teachings the Mahabharat story provides us. After all, fame increases by spreading knowledge1.

The series will contain some dramatic insights in the life of people of ancient Bharat, as well as carefully researched thoughts on how this tome of endless knowledge can be used to improve the standards of our lives today.

Part I: How they achieved Enlightenment?

Just as an example, we all have seen the palaces and houses of those times. But has anybody stopped to think about what we saw2? Those houses were often full of rooms without proper-sized windows (visualize any throne room in any palace), and yet they would always be full of enough light to shame today’s 100-watters and tube-lights. Now, we are not amongst those people who believe that our ancestors had invented everything, including electricity. There is a much simpler and much more elegant solution which they had found out.

And what is that solution? Just visualize any king, noble or even simple soldier from those times. Now answer me this. How much lumens of light will be reflected into a room when (say) 50 people, each covered with 75% of their body-area with highly reflective metals like gold, stand at strategic positions around one candle3? Now substitute that candle with a brace of torches, or a candelabra, and you should get some serious lighting in any room of any size.

Told you, much simpler, environment-friendly and visually pleasing at the same time. Our ancestors were a smart lot.

Don’t believe us? Perhaps you will believe us when the idea is copied by the West and comes back to us from them. Oh wait, they already did it. Remember the scene from “The Mummy” where they reflect a single ray of sunlight with a mirror to light the entire (cavernous) room?

That’s all for today. And till the next time, here’s something for you to consider: Cheese must be an ingredient in Draupadi’s “Akshaya Patra”. How many times have we seen a pizza slice reluctant to let go of the comfort of the circle, and the resultant endless strings of cheese like the hands of two lovers from Bollywood cinema being dragged apart by their “pyar ke dushman” parents?

Coming up next: Measuring time in ancient times

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

1. Before you start shooting e-mails correcting me, that is the correct proverb for the Kaliyug.
2. Hint: nobody before us did.
3. Did you expect the answer here? We are not going to do all the hard-work here, people.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Definitely Not 42

And here is your this week's supply of completely random questions which probe into the deeper mysteries of life:

  • Why didn't I go to a highschool in a(ny) serial on US television?

    Corollary: Where do all highschool kids in Indian television serials go to "learn"?

    Corollary to corollary: Are there any highschool kids on Indian TV?

  • Is there some Murphy's Law which gets you ambushed by heavy rain when you are about five minutes walking distance from home, on the very day that you don't take your jacket with you?

    If not, is it too late for me to start a list of Fleiger's Laws? (Yes, before you ask, the law will mention the fact that the rain will stop when you are soaking wet, and about 10 meters from your door)

    Or, like faces on currency notes, is it a requirement that you can only compile lists post-mortem?

  • How do you have simple spelling and grammer mistakes (not to mention complete and obvious lack of research) on the websites of (admittedly) major newspapers?

    How come a newspaper reporter and/or editor does not know that Aamir Khan was blogging way before Amitabh Bachchan started, and not the other way round?

  • Why does every episode of CID end in such a lame fashion?

    In how many ways can you say "You will [go to jail, hang]" before it starts getting repetitive and boring?

    Can once in a while a criminal confess before the officer of appropriate gender moves his/her hand near the criminal's face with some force? And why do killers start crying, and confess after just one slap?

  • Read on a bus window: "Please keep all body parts out of window opening." Am I crazy or does that sound extremely uncomfortable, not to mention, dangerous?

The regular programming will continue soon.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How to Write a Crime Serial

Second in series of our “How to write a…” posts, we bring you a tutorial on how to write a crime serial. And by “crime serial”, we mean a serial with crime-fighters, and not criminals as protagonists (Elementary, my dear friend).

Now, before starting to write a crime serial, you need to decide what genre you want to visit: Crime/Action or Crime/Comedy (dark humour and unintentional jokes not included). The difference between these two is that the “serious” ones would include a government organization/team, while the “lighter” ones will normally feature an independent “consultant”, with either tense or friendly (sometimes both, with different members of course) relationship with the authority. Of course, given that there can only be co many crime-fighting organizations, you can place protagonist in some auxiliary field (clinical pathologist, psychologist etc.)

Next, if you are going for a government organization, you need a catchy name. After all, EIA1. So, the best way to approach this would be to think of a nice sounding acronym, and then create the name of organization based on that. The name should have some form of C-word in it, or failing that, words like “Special”, “Department”, “Squad2. Oh, one thing before we go on. Most of the three-letter combinations being already in use by now, you will need a four letter acronym.

Of course, your main protagonist needs a crime he wants to solve, but cannot. It can be against his near and dear ones (or at least, or against himself). This gives you plot points for the season finale, and maybe the “driving force” for your protagonist.

Now that you have all the basic things in place, you can go ahead and write the episode. (I know, I know. Too much prep. for a 40 min episode. But you need all this if you want to be back for a second season)

First you will need to decide what kind of crime you want in the episode: Theft or Murder. Theft can be information theft (and espionage), while murder always follows rape. Of course, you can combine these two crimes together, too.

Next thing, how many dead bodies you want to show? The established standard is 1-2 murders in "screen" time. If your props department goes crazy and creates more dead bodies, you will need a serial killer, and the “extra” bodies are previous murder victims.

If there is a person your protagonist (or one of the protagonists) can get attracted to, make sure that the person is either the criminal for the episode, or one of the victims. The only way for the character to avoid either of these fates is to make sure the actor can come back for next (at least a few) episodes.

Romantic attachments between two characters from same team are strictly for second part of last season. A little flirting and "resultant" tension can be introduced any time.

Also, the "team" will lose at least one member in one of the episodes. If the episode is not a season finale, the death will be a faked one, and the person will be back one or two episodes later. A death in season finale is usually permanant, and you will need a replacement for that member from next season.

And finally, here are some ideas for your stories which have stood the test of time:

  • The "team" is exposed to a deadly contagion and has to solve the case before one of them dies or they all can get out of quarantine.

  • The protagonist is (almost literally) "caught red-handed". The only thing is that, she3 is innocent, but cannot prove it because of stress-induced amnesia.

  • The protagonist wakes up in a container buried underground4, along with another person. They have to solve the case before the air runs out.

  • An obsessive "fan" develops (what may or may not turn out to be) a "fatal attraction" for the protagonist.

  • Serial killers are always a good bet, since they can come back for multiple episodes till they finally get shot. Then again, you have copy-cat killers and "apprentices" carrying on the legacy.

So, ready with your deerstalker cap, magnifying glass and pipe? May the "little grey cells" be with you!

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. The first chapter in the series: "Anatomy of a Spy Novel".

1. Everything's in Acronym
2. You can sneak in "Wing" if nothing else is working.
3. It is usually a "she".
4. I think there is a redundant word in there, but I am not so sure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

And That Was A Great Saturday

They say that everything happens for a reason. Missing a bus last week made me catch the metro (which adds 30-40 minutes to my travelling time, and triples the cost), when I saw the poster for Armed Forces Open Day, which included an airshow.

By now you must know that for me an airshow is like offering a chance for an average Indian man to go into the dressing room of Indian cricket team. Or like offering a backstage pass for a VS fashion show to an average teenager. It took me two seconds to find a seat. It took me considerably less time to decide to attend the show.

They say that the best laid plans never survive first contact with morning (I may have been paraphrasing). I saw my "planned" metro leaving the station while still outside. Which meant I was to reach the AFB half an hour later than I intended. But it was worth it.

Spending ages in front of a flight simulator doesn't even come close to seeing the actual fighters. You have to see them up close to see how superb F/A-22 looks. Or how JSF looks. Or a C-130, F-4, Hurricane or Spitfire. Or a Harrier, F-14, cockpit of A-10 and F-16. Or how Blue Angels "perform".

Let's just say that I could not get the end of Blue Angels on ground because I ran out memory card in my camera. This was just one of those times which push me to get an SLR without looking at the price-tag.

Here's just a small sampling of my 6 hours yesterday:

Surprisingly, this was my first airshow, not counting the impromptu show we saw in Hyderabad when Suryakiran team was practising before their Afro-Asian Games performance (the ground is just round the corner from Hyd Infy office).

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. The show was also worth the knowledge that I can get sunburned. Ouch!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Anna Vadgaonkar

Those who have been reading this blog for some time will know that one of the things I mourn is that some of the great Marathi books have never been translated in any other language (the main reason I started writing about Marathi books). Keeping that in mind, here's my attempt at translating "Anna Vadgaonkar" from "Vyakti ani Valli" by Pu. La. Deshpande.

Before continuing, be warned that the following post has two big handicaps: One, it is a translation, and two, it is a translation by me. You have been warned:

Anna Vadgaonkar

The class was laughing their guts out. Those listening from outside would have thought that Prof. Vadgaonkar is performing a stand-up act instead of teaching Sanskrit in class. You won't believe it, but he was teaching Kalidas' tragedy, “Ajavilap” (अजविलाप). But this was a normal day for us students. “Wow! गृहिणी सचिवः! How great is Kalidas! How should a wife be? My good fellows, don't laugh, don't laugh. What a tragic scene! Indumati is sprawled on the ground like this. Aja is mourning – मरणं प्रकृतिः – short life my good fellows, short life. Aja is sitting like this -” showing us exactly how Aja is sitting, Prof. Vadgaonkar continued his lecture(?). “Suppose, this table is Indumati. Aja is petting her on the back like this, crying – What a Love! Modern people like you won't understand -”

And his Sanskrit class used to go like this. I learnt Sanskrit from him for two years. Diminutive stature, long yellow coat (like Parsis used to wear), pagdi on head. He always reminded me of the Dipoty (Deputy) who took my third grade's exam. He wouldn't stay on any point more than two-three minutes. But he was extremely passionate about Sanskrit literature. “Take your authors of today- I don't even remember their names – how bad they write. No literature. Consider Baan (बाण), consider Kalidas, Bhavbhuti. Great! Great! My good fellows, they were great!”

He used to teach in multiple languages. The class would start in English, and slowly slip into Marathi. Then he would remember that there are some Gujarati students in class who don't understand Marathi, and, “Oh. What I was telling to these Marathi fellows was... you see my Gujarati fellows,” and back to English. Every three-four words would be followed by “my good fellows”. After every five-ten minutes, would be “not for Gujarati fellows”. And suddenly, “Do you understand, Deshpande? You won't get any other professor with so much passion for teaching. Not just Sanskrit, I teach you English, I teach you about life. Go to any other college, no stuff. Have you seen how that Prof. *** teaches Sanskrit. See my style. I get homogeneous with my teaching. Write down, “homogeneous”. You won't hear such English words anywhere else”. And this would be a normal stuff, too. He would use some multisyllabic English word, and would make us write it down.

Once, He was teaching us “Mruchchhkatik” (मृच्छकटिक). “Oh! How beautiful was our Vasantsena. Not anaemic like her (pointing to a girl in class). Put down “anaemic”. Good word, write it down. So beautiful, even your Greta Garbo would pale in comparison. And how Shudraka has portrayed Shakar... Shakar is the King of Villains! And how that %^&$ (girls blush at this word) Shakar tortures Vasantsena... Pity! Pity! And see our Charudatta. Great! Not like your modern heroes – no butterfly mentality.” I find many such words written down in in our notebooks [rambhoru (रंभोरू)= banana-tree-thighed-one] But even then, students loved Prof. Vadgaonkar. He used to get emotional when talking about “our Shakuntala”, “our Vasantsena”, “our Malavika”. All the students were laughing when he taught us the scene of Shakuntala leaving her home. But he had tears in his eyes. “You are kids. When your daughter leaves your home – great agony. Write down – agony. Correct word.” Everybody in college used to call him “Anna”. Though he tried to act like an angry teacher in class, he would tell everybody during exam, “just scribble something on the paper, so that I can give you 30 marks. If you can't write anything else, just write down Ramraksha. Just don't give me blank paper.”

He used to take students to his house. “Rama, these are my students.” he used to introduce us proudly to his wife.

“Sir, I didn't understand 'Shankarbhashya'. Can you teach me again?” I once asked him.

“You know what... even I don't understand Shankarbhashya.”

I just kept staring at him.

He retired when I entered “Junior” class. All students arranged a send-off for him.

Prof. Vadgaonkar started his speech, “My good fellows...” And he just couldn't continue after that. After just “my good fellows...” he had to sit down.

P.S. More translations will be posted depending on response to this post.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Incredibly Popular or Irredeemably Polluted?

Now that everybody is speaking about IPL and its effects on the game of cricket, it would be remiss if I didn't put my two knuts in (as they say, Bhagwan ke ghar der hai...). After all, my love for (and experience of) the game is well-documented.

Given that I haven't seen any of the matches and given the lack of an essential ingredient (to wit, a TV) even if I wanted to watch one, you would be asking yourself, “how can this guy comment on IPL one way or another?” For all those "you"s out there, let me clarify first that I am neither for nor against IPL. Secondly, I am a Punekar (do scroll down to part about “Punekar” in the link for details). (Actually we don't need to continue after that, but still), thirdly, as you can tell by my experience, I am no less expert on cricket than most other people online.

So, why don't I find IPL the very embodiment of capitalist evil and an abomination of the great game? Simple. To paraphrase (and possibly extrapolate) PuLa, "in other countries, cricket is played on the grounds. In India, every hallway and compound has a match going on." How many of us haven't played 6( and lesser)-a-sides and T20s (or T10s or F5s) long before anybody else thought of the game? Don't we all have fond memories of those "hit out or get out" games (and less fond ones of team-mates who refused to listen to the first part of instruction at the worst possible moment)?

Not to mention, now the tournament seems to be serving a unique blend of sports for men and drama to rival any saas-bahu show on TV for women (with “ees thappad ki goonj” and all that). Talk about all-family entertainment.

Just leave out the cheerleaders.

Which brings me to the main point I have against the IPL. No, not the commercialization of the game, not the attack on Indian culture, but the underhanded tactics used by the teams to win the "gentleman's game". Now, using scantily-clad and attractively-gyrating cheerleaders to distract your opponents is just an overt method. There are other more subtle, but more dastardly methods in use on the ground. How else can you justify players draped in highly reflective golden helmets playing under high-powered halogen lamps? Talk about (opponents'-eyes-)dazzling performance. But then, what else can you expect from the team owned by the guy who steals (or tries to) others' girlfriends and fiancées (and now, wives) for living?

In summary, the gist of this post is that, as an Indian, I... have an opinion about IPL. Does it really matter what that opinion is?

Didn't think so...

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. This post grew out of a two line comment on Amrita's post. (Tell me I didn't hear the word “cancer” just now) After all, what is a genius but someone who creates an epic out of a single word?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Spy Novel

The history of the masters of “cloak and dagger” is mysterious, and hence, famous. The tribe (who according to Chanakya is one of the major weapons for safety of a country), includes famous fictional names from Scarlet Pimpernel, Beauvallet to James Bond to Jack Ryan. On desi front we have aiyyars like Tejsingh, Badrinath and so on (whose one of the claims to fame is that they always find some female around whose clothes they can don), but they don't have books dedicated to their craft.

For all the rookie writers out there, who want to get a piece of spy-fi pie, we bring you the anatomy of a spy novel. Fill in the stuffing according to taste, and you've got yourself a turkey, sorry, a successful spy thriller:

The novel starts with the Good Guys (GG) catching the Bad Boys (BB) doing something they are not supposed to do, or something the BB are doing better than GG. Now GG start running around, trying to get the intel on the secret BB project.

There is of course a spy within BB (Good Spy = GS) who will get the information back to GG, and he is sufficiently high-placed (or well-placed) that he has access to the intel. But the BB will get a lucky break, and the spy will either get caught, or they will come to understand that there is a spy, and will start hunting for him.

It turns out that the BB also have a well-placed spy amongst GG (Bad Spy = BS), who told them about GS, or the intel he provided. Now, GS is acting as a spy because of the injustice he or someone close to him was forced to suffer, and he wants to help GG to achieve world peace. But BS is acting as a spy because he has a baser personal motive, and he is fooling himself that he is doing it because he wants world peace. So, while GS is respected on both sides, even the BB handlers don't like BS, but they have to tolerate him, because they are bound by duty and he is a valuable asset.

Thus, while both sides are busy gathering the intel and hunting for the spy amongst them (and in case of GG, ensure the safety of GS), a third party (TP) will step in. Depending on the relationship between the TP and the Central Character (CC), TP will either meddle into the GG investigation, or provide some important intel to GG, which will aid in their investigation.

With this information (or despite it), CC will concoct a plan. The GG will make an all-out try, and get the BS, while making it easy to confuse BB, and get GS out. And GG will live happily ever after.

Points to Note:

  1. If BB are from a country with whom GG hasn't had an armed conflict, then you can treat BB with some respect. They will be able to get good breaks in their investigation, even coming as far as actually catching GS. And GS will be able to get out in spite of BB' best efforts, and not because of BB' stupidity.

  2. Make sure to put in some good guys within BB, who are doing their duty well and honestly. They will do their utmost, but will be thwarted by the crooked among BB, and of course, by the CC.

  3. If TP is another country or people, they will be inferior to GG and BB in technology, but that will not be their only motivation in helping GG. This will allow you to make condescending remarks about their current political situation, civilization and so on.

  4. If you are sure that the country where BB are residing will not be a big market for your novel, then you can pass judgements on everything related to them.

  5. Make sure that you preach about current world situation, war, enmity and hatred among people. This sounds better if coming from CC, or the Head of GG. For extra points, the head of BB should be the audience.

So, get your pens, typewriters and word processors ready, and write that spy-fi you always wanted. Who knows, your “Spiare EspionTM” could be the next James Bond...

Coming up next: Anatomy of a crime serial episode

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Sunday, March 23, 2008

5 Deadliest Jobs, Onscreen

The lot of today's TV actors (both sexes) is a hard one. In the old days, they had to cry and smile (a lot) on screen. Today, every self-respecting TV show has a scene where somebody is crying, and/or praying to some god, and/or getting slapped. And while main actors are impossible to kill, there are certain roles which you cannot get if you are not good at playing dead.

Traditionally, Bollywood movies make it easier to decide if you need to be there for all the filming schedule (e.g. hero's sister, heroin's friend or the vamp are the roles which allow you to film a dying scene or two). But now even in TV serials, that there are certain roles for which you must be a perfect possum-impersonator (possumnator?). For all you aspiring actors out there, if you are auditioning for any of the roles in the following list, there's a very little chance that you would be coming back for next episode:

  1. The person of attraction for a criminal investigator: If you are cast in this role, there's a 90% chance you will be killed in second half of the episode. If you are in lucky 10%, the person you liked would be the one who slips handcuffs on your hands (to arrest you, not for the “other” reason).
    Unless of course, you are part of the team yourself, in which case, you have got about 50-50 chance that you would be there for a few episodes. Your cue to start looking for other gigs is when the main character starts noticing you (on-screen).

  2. The "guruji" for good side in horror serials: The amount of time you will be alive is inversely proportional to the piety and holiness of your character. You would be especially lucky to make it to the second half of the story.
    By now, I am pretty sure that this is a conspiracy on behalf of pseudo-secular, liberal media to undermine the traditional Hindu religious practices. After all, what message does it give to our young generation if a person who spends his lifetime in praying is so easy to kill, while somebody else gets a divine intervention? And that too, a person who cannot even pronounce half of the words in the shlok properly.

  3. The “modern” boy/girl in horror serials: If your wardrobe consists of modern clothes or if you don't spend half your time praying and bent half doing charan-sparsh to all and sundry, start making plans for the rest of the day you will be getting off.

  4. For any crime serial, if you are in cold open, specifically, if you are the first person the viewers would see, your role after the titles would be to lie down on a cold slab/freezer, playing a dead body. If it's a horror serial, your role ends with your first shriek.

  5. A drunk: Alcohol kills. Ask any drunk from horror serials. Oh yes, you cannot, because they are all dead.
    The only difference is that instead of a painful, drawn out death due to organ failure, you will have a painful, quick death by most bizarre means possible.

Have I missed anybody?

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Want To Conquer The Earth?

Do you want to get out of your planet to another? Didn't the last planet you conquered fulfil your ambition? Are you sick and tired of hearing about the planet your neighbour annexed last week (as your better half keeps reminding you)? Then you have probably heard about “Conquer That Planet You Always Wanted” series of guides from Diabolical Press.

This week, we were lucky enough to get an advanced copy of the new “Earth” edition of “Conquer That Planet...” for review, and are glad to bring you some excerpts from the book:

Conquer That Planet You Always Wanted: Earth

Are you a radioactive slug (or a radioactivity buff)? This planet may turn radioactive any moment now. Are you someone who loves being around water? This planet is mostly water (and the level is increasing by the day). All in all, Earth is a good prospect, no matter what your tastes (as long as you pack for an oxygen rich environment).

Earth is classified as “Mostly Harmless”, and our guide is carefully tailored to take out that “Mostly” part from the equation, giving you a completely hassle-free campaign. So read on...

How to get there: You are looking for a nine (or eight, or ten, based on your definition) planet system in the extreme arm of a spiral galaxy. Once you get there, go past the ringed gas giant, an orange gas giant and a red planet, to the third planet from the sun. (Make sure you get the latest directions from your local astronomer).

The best time to get there: Make sure you get there on Friday night, Saturday or Sunday (known locally as weekend) local time. This is the time most of the local populace (humans) is busy either in “parties” or lazying about at their homes. That will guarantee a spectacular panic when your spaceship “arrives”.
Any other day of the week is also not bad, but make sure you avoid Monday, especially Monday mornings local time. Most of the humans are not exactly at their most hospitable behaviour at this time, which may prove costly to your enterprise.

What to wear: Most humans are afraid of giant things. Giant insects (“bugs”) and lizards are specially feared. So even if you are a emancipated two-foot high humanoid, make sure that your bodysuit or the robot you are controlling, projects a fearsome façade. Plus, this also makes a good plot point for the “movie” your attack is guaranteed to result in.
The other option, if you have enough time, you can go dressed as natives, and work from “inside”.

Local Defences: Due to lack of a centralized government, there is no single central agency you will be fighting, but a bunch of local agencies. Depending on situation, this may be both an advantage as well as disadvantage for you. The agencies may continue their policy of non-co-operation (or better yet, fight) each other even in the face of your attack. On the other hand, you may have to face several local battles.
At any cost, make sure you do your best not to do anything which will cause them to band together against you.

Some General Tips:
1.Take care of your equipment: It doesn't really suit a inter-planetary conqueror to lose a flying saucer or two. Not just that, if humans get their hands on your material (however technologically primitive they may be compared to you), they will use it to cause your destruction. So make sure that you fit all your fighting craft with “self-destruct” button, and train your fighters in its proper use (specifically, the difference between “Self-destruct” and “Fire-to-destroy” buttons).
2.Respect the local customs: Specifically, the local adage about the female of the species being more dangerous than the male. So, in the middle of campaign, don't get distracted, even if you are running out of fighter spawn, and you must get more soldiers right now. Believe us, it never ends happily.
Also, think how it will look when your better half finally joins you after you are victorious.
3.Stay healthy: Make sure that you are sufficiently inoculated against all known viruses and pathogens (that goes for your software too). And beware of (local and alien) Doctors.

The “Conquer That Planet...” guides are intergalactically well known as the foremost (and last) word about planetary invasion among the discerning elite. The “Earth edition" continues the tradition of the books containing extremely useful information collected from well-known (and some lesser-known) sources, excellent photography, and erudite and pertinent commentary on local conditions.

The edition will be available soon in your neighbourhood book-shop. Following the time-honoured tradition, the Earth edition of “Visit That Planet You Always Wanted” (the sister guide series of “Conquer...”, popularly known as the “Trepid Visitor's Book”) is already available for the readers.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Oldest "Living" Detective

After a (not so) brief break from "Detectives" series, we are back with the non-desi detectives. And to start off, we bring you the oldest "living" detective.

Marcus Didius Falco (series by Lindsey Davis):

Apparently, the lot of a Personal Informer in the roman times was not so different. He had to work on divorce cases, sometimes was treated worse than the criminals he investigated, and got the girl at the end (if not girls in between).

Luckily for Marcus, he literally bumps into an important case. When he uncovers the plot surrounding the missing silver pigs (ingots, which are used to pay the Praetorian Guard, the emperor's personal bodyguards), he gains the favour of the Emperor Vespasian, who is establishing himself on the throne.

Unfortunately for Marcus (and quite otherwise for us), the tight purse strings of the emperor means that Falco has to work as an imperial spy, at the same time handling the same-old murder and divorce cases. While this makes him an enemy of the Chief Spy Anacrites (whom Marcus easily outwits when necessary), it also means he can have two masters pay him for "important" cases, a fact he uses shrewdly.

He meets his lover, later wife and partner, Helena Justina, on his first case. A Senator's daughter, she is a headstrong, yet loving woman, who handles Falco's family as well as the pressures of his dangerous job quite well. Elegant, highly intelligent (and well-read being a Senator’s daughter) and thoroughly stubborn, she is at the same time perfect and highly inappropriate (given the times and their social ranks) match for Falco.

Falco, on his own is not an easy man to handle either. A soldier who served (but did not fight) in Britain during Boudicca's revolt, his military service has given him valuable experience. He is well aware that being a spy and a PI, puts him on almost the last rung of any hierarchy (though his social "rank" improves thanks to the royal favour), but has wits and brute force more than enough to survive in the cut-throat world. Being a staunch republican, he frets before taking up the job for Vespasian, but love conquers his personal beliefs.

Amidst the rich descriptions of post-Nero Rome, its culture, class relationships and festivities, what makes these novels really special is the wit and sarcastic commentary by one Marcus Didius Falco. Having a horrific murder or two, and a beauty or two doesn't hurt either.

Note: The age of the persons, as mentioned in the series refers to how old they would be if they had lived till today, and has nothing to do with the age as per canon. "Living" means that the author is continuing the series, as opposed to "non-living" where either the author cannot continue the series, or the character is dead according to canon.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. From now on, The "Detectives" series will be a monthly (possibly twice-monthly) feature with non-desi detectives.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

5 Little Insights

As if you wanted to know more about me, Amrita tagged me with this:

Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given (family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like). Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better.

So, time to take you over my journey till now. Fasten your seat-belts, and grab hold of your seats (no sticking your hands out of the windows please). We may yet have a few glitches in our time traveler:

Family – Interestingly, it seems that I haven't written much about my family, or my family members. I mean, I have posted about the things we did when I was younger, or about our Sunday morning activities, but that's it. So, this post about the Yesteryears is as close as I can come to fulfilling this.

Friends – Now this is easy. After all, you have read the exploits of the Knights of Round Table before. And there are plenty of Knight Chronicles on this blog and on (now R'ing-IP) Talons. (Which should make up for not giving you anything for point #1).

Myself – When it comes down to it, the whole blog is really about me. Otherwise I wouldn't be writing a blog right? So, here you have a collection of random thoughts.

My Love – If you really want the gossip, head over to this post about how I fell in love twice in a single day. Then again, here's the object of my latest affection, but I have yet to write a post on it, though I wrote almost an entire post on it last week [there's an inside joke in there ;)]

Anything I Please – Hmm... a bit too hard to decide this. Better to take you over to “Romeo and Juliet: The True Story”, “On The Seventh Day”, the short stories “Studio 14” and “The Relic Hunter”, not to forget “Vairangad” (the third and last part of which I will get around to edit sometime soon).

So, now I have told you quite a lot about me, myself and my interests. How's the information overload working for you? Had enough already?

And now, time to link people up... Now that the old acquaint. are disappearing right and left from the blogging scene (and rest are MIA), I guess it would be better if I just leave it open to anybody who wants to do it. Then again, don't be surprised if you wake up tomorrow with a comment on your blog telling you to take it up. Mystery, my name is...

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. Why don't these people learn? Just yesterday I read a piece about how Sachin hasn't scored a century in Australia (and how India is yet to win a final there) yet.

P.P.S. What is this Aussie fixation with monkey? I thought they had kangaroos over there, not monkeys. Then again, that explains that. Or is it due to the fact that the Aussies have been sledging for so long that they are not able to come up with new stuff?

Saturday, February 16, 2008


No, this is not a review of the film. I haven't yet seen the movie (nor any trailers), and I am not sure when I will watch it, since I don't know any place nearby where the movie is screened. These are just some random thoughts connected to the movie.

This movie will probably create a new famous Indian historical "pair", but that comes at the cost of another famous jodi. Where is the witty Birbal in the story? While Akbar has featured in not a few movies, Birbal has been ignored by Bollywood (even his so-called competitor Tansen got his own movie). Watching Akbar without a mention of Birbal is like watching Hardy with one of his on-screen crushes/fiance/wife. He may be is funny on his own, but he is not the Ollie we know and like without Stan goofing up things with him.

And Bollywood broke the famous Akbar-Birbal pair by matching him up with a fictional character. A character, who (as probably all know by now) was possibly his daughter-in-law, one of the wives of Jahangir. But that does not surprise me as much as it should. After all, Jahangir (when he was known as Salim) was paired off with another fictional character, in perhaps the most famous historical in Hindi film history.

Incidentally, Jeahangir and his son Shah Jahan defy the saying about art and life. Shah Jahan is famous worldwide for his Taj Mahal, Jahangir not so much. But on the other hand, almost all Bollywood lovers have heard of Mughal-e-Azam, while I doubt anybody remembers the fate of Taj Mahal.

And does this (third in the line) movie denote the start of a trend to convert the lives of Mughal emperors into film media? Akbar, his son and grandson are already covered. It would be hard to find any romance in the life of his great-grandson though. Although the marathi novel "Shehenshah" by N. S. Inamdar is a great one, everybody would agree that the last important Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was definitely not a romantic.

So let's go up the family tree, shall we? I am sure as the exile, Humayun would definitely provide much fodder to the creative imaginations of the Bollywood. Don't tell me you can't put a romance or two in the life of the person who spent most of his life as a refugee.

So, here's to Humayun, or rather, Jodha-Akbar, till somebody have go at the idea. Ashutosh, Sanjay, Shekhar, call me and we will discuss my fees.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken