June 30, 2010

1984 - George Orwell

After a long lull, finished reading three very different (from each other !) books. Guess the long gap was due to a) not able to decide what to read b) I like to read only when on the move and my travel time in the crowded metro was only 20 minutes. But then I began feeling very fidgety and depressed at not having read anything for a long time ....so I just started off and in the process experienced what 20 + 20 minutes each day could mean !

Someone has rightly said - Don't do nothing because you can do only little !


What luck ! Under that am-depressed-as-have-not-read-anything mode, I picked up 1984 by George Orwell.

It's a scary book if you imagine yourself in the world of 1984. A world where there can be no friends, where you cannot trust even your children, where you are being watched 24*7 by Big Brother and his men, where even 'thought crimes' are tracked and can leave you begging for mercy if you commit one.

There are no memories as the past is being constantly changed according to the present !! The dictionary being constantly modified to reduce the words so that people have lesser vocabulary to think and express themselves.

Then there is Room 101 where your worst fears come true ! ..on reading that part, my first thought was that Thank God my house number is 102 and not 101...else I would have had nightmares for a few days !

The book is basically a satire on a totalitarian society..where a group tries to tightly control everything for the society. And if you come to think of it, it is not entirely impossible. In fact ! it does exist in certain parts of the world in some form.

I can already experience in Singapore, how things are controlled...the gov.  controls the number of cars by auctioning a quota for it. There is a well defined fine/punishment for almost everything - from not using flush in public toilet to drugs ! To get over the difficulty of removing littered chewing gums,  a total ban on it's consumption was imposed...If you are found littering you will be subjected to public shame by having to wear a bright jacket of corrective action and cleaning a public place while local media will be invited to cover the event and you will not be spared on account of being a foreigner :-)

Well..all is OK till you are on the right side of the law....and I am not complaining here at all, as all this has made Singapore one of the cleanest and safest place in the world. But probably if I were a citizen here, I might have felt a little stifled sometimes at so many dos and donts!

Not to forget the Taliban, the secrective N Korea and what is happening to Google in China !

The book is still relevant even after six decades, though it goes on the extreme. It gives you food for thought and though the book was depressing (but very very interseting), it did make me stop cribbing (for a while ;-) and feel lucky and thankful to be where I am !

The famous Big Brother show (which Shilpa Shetty won and on which our desi Big Boss is based !) takes it's name and concept from this book.

June 20, 2010

Movies (1)


I intended to pen brief thoughts on movies watched recently with a little background on the library system here ...but I got carried away and wrote quite a lot on that topic already....so continuing with the original intentions...

1. The Full Monty (Not Bad)
A very warm story of how a few unemployed, very average looking guyz decide to perform a one time striptease for quick money.For a little drama ..they went overboard and claimed to go full monty...What follows is how they overcome their fears to perform the final act...! Quite a good play of emotions between a couple and a father and son with some very funny moments (like the encounter with cops was hilarious !)!

2. Stepmom (Nice Watch)
Julia Roberts is not beautiful in the traditional sense but there is something about her that just lights up the screen. Very interesting to watch how the mom and the stepmom (Julia) treat the kids lovingly but in their very own different ways....some moments being very emotional...a scene where Julia says that she is worried that the daughter will grow up and on her wedding day will be thinking of how great it would have been if her mom was here and the mom is worried that she will not ! The Christmas presents from mom to her kids were beautiful ......and emotional.....but in the end I couldn't quite understand what was the point of discord between the man and his first wife and could understand that life really is a total mess when you start looking for love out of marriage especially when there are kids involved...the biggest victims of this are the kids !

3. Life or something like it (Don't tell me I didn't warn you)
Quite boring actually, even though it stars Angelina Jolie ! The pace of the movie is extremely slow and very predictable.
Our very own 'Dasvidaniya' is a great watch in this respect (though the comparison with this movie may not be correct but worth a mention here). Also it is interesting to note how the story and direction of the movie can make a difference where a movie with AJ do not appeal while you may want to see a movie with Vinay Pathak and no female lead more than once !

4. Miss Pettigrew lived for a day (Drama, May Be)
It's like an english drama...the British style of dialogues, slow paced...predictable....but a very watchable one....due to some misunderstandings a nanny lands up as a high profile secretary for a day and does fix things up... ! nothing too great and nothing bad either !

5. अतिथि तुम कब जाओगे ! (Laugh Riot but please don't use brains)
Pranav kept asking us 'kitne aadmi the (कितने आदमी थे )' for many days after the movie...to a stage that we became as bored as the man was in the movie :-)

6. PS I love you (Romantic, Must watch)
Must watch ! Felt like kicking myself why I never heard of Gerard Butler before....amazingly handsome man I have seen in some time.....still not sure if it was the character or the man himself. But when I mentioned it to a friend who is an ardent follower of Hollywood movies...she said 'Welcome to the gang !'...so the man must be handsome...!!! He is Scottish, by the way, and not American !
No idea why the movie is termed as romantic comedy...

7. How to train your dragon (Animation, May Be)
We watched the 3D version...needless to say that the Pixar animation and effects and detailing were simply great....but somehow the story did not quite click me....though Pranav had a good time watching the dragons. 

8. October Sky (Inspirational, Don't Miss It)
 I am generally a little hesitant to see a movie or read a book which is termed as inspirational per se. This movie was recommended by my brother Nishant. So I picked it up from library and it just sat in my home for close to two weeks. Finally having nothing better to do on a weekend we started watching it....and what a movie it was ! It is based on a true story. The life in mines, finding an aim ...a calling in life, the passion, the gang of friends, the drama....the almost losing it ...the winning ....it was all engagingly woven together...

June 16, 2010

Library System

You hardly get to see many hollywood movies in India unless you are the sort who will buy each and every expensive DVD for one time watch or you watch movies from internet (something that we did try but couldn't enjoy). Same goes with books to a large extent!

Something I really really miss in India is availability of good public libraries.

I was a member of the British Library in Delhi but that too did not have a good collection (collection was majorly British)  though the kids books and CD collection was great. It also did not have any facility for maintaining individual account, online. There being only one branch in central Delhi and the family membership costing 3500/- per year were big deterrents for most.

Earlier we had tried a site called cinesprite which was something like netflix of US and for some months we enjoyed good quality DVDs being delivered at our home...when suddenly the company closed down and we lost all our advance payment !

I first experienced the concept of  centralised public libraries in London. I could not make very good use of it though, as the library timings were something like 10 to 5 (Sunday closed !) and with hectic office life it wasn't very viable for me.

Singapore has even better setup. A foreigner can become member in any library by paying around 45 SGD a year (for PRs and citizens it is almost free). With this, one has access to all national, public and community  libraries. They are open till 9 or 10 in the night (even on Sundays), with many having 24 hour book drops. Even if you are not a member you can walk in and read inside the premises.
I recently reserved a book, at a nominal cost and got it delivered to the library of my choice. I was informed once the book was available and was given ample time frame to collect it.
You can maintain your library account online, can drop your personal used books in library, can participate in book exchange programmes, buy books at a bargain during library books sale or be a volunteer in library. I could go on....but these are not new or great ideas...just some practical things which any good library should have....but never experienced them even in the capital of India !

If someone in India thinks of it as an enterpreneur option or it is gov. led, there may be a good business case. I know a lot of people who will really be interested in being members of good and accessible library system even if it costs a little.
I remember, around 7 years back, there was a book wala in my neighbourhood who had a good collection of magazines and books available on rent. Not sure, but I think he charged something like 10 Rs per day for novels. I read the first 6 Harry Potter books from him...even if I finish them in 7 days each (though Harry Potter fans would know that they are unputdownable and you are bound to finish them in max 3-4 days)... I still spend 420 instead of 4800 (if 420 seems to be big amount for paying in rent ...see it relative to spending 4800 or not reading at all !)

On the other hand I also know people who do not like the idea of reading a book which has exchanged many hands. e-book reader might be a good option for them to some extent. Well...as for me.. I do like to buy books, but not all are collectibles and worth the money and space !
I am not well informed about the dynamics in India...but would be great to see a centralised library system coming up in India ! Till then, as Bertram Wooster would say - Right Ho !