Melancholia

As I walked alone,
Weary with a heavy heart,
Mind was fogged and bogged down,
With the monotony of Life.

I sought with desperation,
A hole into which I could crawl.
To escape the dull, throbbing pain
Of tedium and restlessness.

“Freedom, I lust for you!”,
My cry echoed out,
As heart filled with a black fire.
Unmoved, the cruel world moves on.

Bitterness fills my lungs,
As I gasp for breath.
Air stifles me as I inhale,
While thoughts lose form.

Smiles and Laughter encircle me,
Filling me with despair.
I see their lives and wonder,
“Is it just me?”

I lay down on the Earth,
Drawing my last breaths.
I welcome Death,
A happy reprieve..

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A Sinister Tale : “The Historian”

“Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history.”

Kostova

I have decided that I will keep putting up book reviews till I am satisfied with one of them.

This fine day I shall attempt to pen down my thoughts about a dark drama written by Elizabeth Kostova. She brings to life a wicked figure of the past, Vlad III the Impaler, and along the way we experience the wonders and horrors of a little bit of history, civilization, and also literature through her highly detailed and descriptive writing. The book is written in the form of the memories experienced by the protagonist and the story is mostly developed in the form of letters which are passed on from one character to the next. It is refreshingly original and sets itself firmly apart from the recent deluge of novels on vampirism by treating the topic from the point of view of an academician.

The build-up of the novel is most elaborate and the way Dracula, who is purported to be the same man as Vlad the Impaler, is introduced and made to feel alive is what gives this novel the constant undercurrent of terror. The book will not make you scream but it will definitely give you the creeps. If you love history and you love old books then this book will make your mouth water. The book is about old libraries which stock even older books. It’s about churches, mosques, and crypts. It’s about exploring historic cities and solving centuries-old mysteries. The plot is intricate and the story goes through many turns which only make unravelling it that much more difficult. There are some parts where I felt my interest waning, because this is a very long work, and not all the pages are riveting but the novel always managed to suck me back. History and fiction are woven together in a complex pattern and the fiction is not always easily distinguishable from fact. But this supplies the charm to the novel.

The are also two love stories which blossomed between the pages of this novel. Fortunately none are between a human and a vampire. One is between the young protagonist and an English student who helps her in her endeavours and the other is that of the protagonist’s father and Helen whose character and story are almost as mysterious as Dracula’s. These moments of compassion, love, tenderness brings us a lot closer to the main characters and compels us to care for them.

                              Vlad III the Impaler

There is a certain splendor in the description of Dracula and his character is what is used to give forward momentum to the storyline. Dracula is a fleeting dark presence for a major part of the novel and he accounts for the mystery and uneasiness of the main characters in the novel. His movements in the world are followed by violence and as the novel progresses, he steadily solidifies from a ghost-like being to a solid, terrorising figure capable of inflicting great pains.

It is a thoroughly enjoyable novel. Hope you guys like it.

Beautiful Cover for “Skinny Love”

A beautiful rendition of “Skinny Love” by Birdy. I loved the original version by Bon Iver but I like Birdy’s version just a little bit more!

Stuxnet: Cyber Aggression?

Is it just me or is Stuxnet not getting the attention it deserves?

I was shocked when I heard what the malware was capable of and what it had already allegedly done. The virus had caused physical destruction to certain nuclear centrifuges (and made it appear as if they were mechanical failures) which had been developed by Iran and were operating in the nuclear facility at Natanz. The Iranians apparently had no idea and had sustained similar losses at the hands of this virus till it was discovered in 2010. The accounts of current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts, all point in the direction of US-Israel collaboration.

Iranian response to the discovery of Stuxnet has been a measured acceptance of the threat without saying it had been able to do any serious damage. Iran is yet to point an accusatory finger against any nation for the virus.

Now consider a hypothetical situation in which some masked gunmen had taken over the Natanz facility for some time and had physically attacked the centrifuges over there and gotten away. One of the gunmen had a marked American accent (I guess this would constitute circumstantial evidence against the US). What would be the Iranian reaction ? Would the reaction be the same as when a computer code physically destroys the centrifuges? I don’t think so.

There seems to be some reluctance in admitting that using Stuxnet was a very aggressive move by a foreign nation against Iran. Just because a computer virus caused damage to important state-run nuclear centrifuges, it seems to make it more acceptable. I was expecting condemnation from every country and the UN for this sort of aggression which is tantamount to launching a full-scale cyber war. This worm didn’t take down just some computers, it was responsible for destroying physical objects. Maybe this is the future of warfare?

The major impediment to the issuance of a condemnation by the UN seems to be the absence of a precedent. Stuxnet may just be the beginning of a different sort of arms race,but is it any less deadly?  There will come a time when because of the actions of a cyber attack, a country will go to war. If the virus was more successful and had managed to destroy half the facility, would Iran have taken it lying down?

Maybe I just don’t get any of it, eh?

If you enjoy this post, you’ll find this NY Times article fascinating.

Of “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

My absolute favorite work in the science-fiction genre.

Orson Scott Card, with his creative genius, weaves a future which is both brilliant and terrifying. It takes place during a time when mankind has already thwarted two attempted alien invasions and are preparing their defenses for the third one. The plot revolves around Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a seven-year-old, who is selected to go to attend a military school based in a space-station orbiting the Earth. Only the most gifted young minds are selected to attend the military school known as “Battle School” and trained to become military leaders who will help defeat the aliens (“Formics”). The first book in the series focuses on Ender and his exploits at Battle School. The pervading theme throughout the series is the presence of “prodigies” who outperform the adults in every aspect of the novel. I will not say anything further regarding the plot. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

The author delves into questions of morality, ethics, violence and the relationship between two sentient species. These discourses on morality fit well into the fabric of the story and give it a grander and a more serious tone simultaneously. The author has created a complex world in which the actions of all the characters are tethered or in some cases untethered by their individual consciences. The plot is one which branches off in every direction and yet seems to have roots which serve to anchor it. It takes some time to digest everything but it is a highly entertaining novel.

I just want to sign off by saying that the ending will blow your mind.

The upcoming movie of the same name!

Sherlock : The TV Series

I just finished watching the second season of Sherlock, the crime/drama series, produced by the BBC which is based loosely on the adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s’ irrepressible character, Sherlock Holmes and his side-kick (a crude but accurate epithet), John Watson.

First off let me say that the plots are completely original, so it doesn’t matter if you have read everything there is to know about Sherlock Holmes. In fact if you have read some of the works, the show becomes even more enjoyable as you will be able to draw some parallels (like in the first episode, “A Study in Pink” as opposed to “A Study in Scarlet”) and have some laughs. I thought the show was extremely well-made without making it over-the top like the Robert Downey Jr. starring, Sherlock Holmes movies. The show is set in present day London and features cases in which Holmes’ arch-enemy, Moriarty, is either directly or indirectly involved. The finale of the second season involves the showdown between Moriarty and Holmes and was a fitting end to the second season.

I like the acting in the series by both the characters playing, Watson and Holmes. Though Holmes was made out to be more arrogant and snotty than he really is in the books, the overall effect is quite humorous, which is I think what the director was aiming for. It is a funny fast-paced show, with each episode timed at one-and-a-half hours so each of them feels like a movie in itself with the only link being Moriarty.

The character of Moriarty is played a little too psychotically by the actor and it is made pretty easy for the audience to hate him from the very beginning. In fact the face of the guy looks so annoying you might fancy yourself throwing a punch or two in his direction. You want to elicit some fear from the viewers when they see a villain, but this one instead of looking formidable, looks like a small puny kid with a huge ego. Not great bad guy material.

Despite a few minor flaws, this series comes out strong and looks like a solid cohesive effort at bringing a beloved British detective to the twenty-first century. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Antipathy in Mumbai

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My friend has an apartment at Nepean Sea Road and he happened to invite me to his home a couple of days back. Now this locale is one of the poshest area there is in Mumbai and an apartment here could cost you anywhere from about 20 to 40 crore rupees (i.e. around 4-8 million U.S. Dollars). The apartment was sea-facing and as I was looking out, from the fifteenth floor, I got a wonderful view of the writhing ocean during high-tide. As I was gazing out, I couldn’t help but notice row after row of shanties which started from the base of this building and extended outwards. They only had a piece of corrugated aluminium sheet in place of a roof. I was amazed by this incredible contrast in the lives of two sets of people who lived not a block away from each other. On one side were multi-millionaires and barely two paces away were people who could not scrape together a hundred rupees a day. Nowhere is this contrast more vividly visible.

You go to a fancy restaurant in Mumbai and have a great time. You come out and get in the car and everything seems all right. Then comes that knock on the window and you see that small dirty hand, incessantly tapping against the glass. You look out and it seems as if the whole derelict population in town has descended down upon your car and is begging for money. You look at the small children with nothing but rags upon their bodies and you can’t help but think that the only reason you are in the car and they are out there is because you happened to have more fortunate parents. You seem to have problems digesting the meal that you had as you experience waves of guilt that seem to assail your conscience. The guilt is not appeased by giving them a few rupees. What can you do? The only thing that you can do is develop a thicker hide.

I have come to realise that the only way to be happy in Mumbai is if you kill the feeling of sympathy towards the wretched that you find swarming all over the city. You cannot escape them. They pervade each and every corner of this metropolis. You cannot ignore them. The only thing that you can do is practise some antipathy.