The 52 Week Project

A few years ago I tried this thing where I read a book a week (roughly) for 30 weeks, and then tried to share my thoughts on the book once done.

Trying something similar again this year, only for longer. Starting on January 2 to avoid the curse that dooms all new year resolutions ;-)

To start with, I am re-reading a book that I absolutely loved the first time I read it - Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome (to say nothing of the dog of course).

Here's hoping I don't laugh too hard in public spaces!

On Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a simple story, yet it’s about many things. It’s about a young girl finding her way in the world, with an interesting mix of independence and overarching influence of her family. It’s about life as an immigrant, looking for the comfort-inducing doses of familiarity while navigating all that’s new and scary. It’s about love, and how it shapes our choices. It’s about conflicts, and our tendency to stay in our comfort zones. And most of all, it’s about the longing for home.
Most people can identify with homesickness. You don’t need to be separated by oceans for the feeling to show its face, though being so certainly moves things along. This feeling is what the story is about predominantly, everything else plays second fiddle. It’s interesting that the author chose to name it Brooklyn, since that just happens to be the place Eilis (the protagonist) moves to. It doesn’t really play a traditional titular role in the scheme of things, its biggest contribution being that it’s suffi…

Thoughts on 'Udta Punjab'

Spoilers below. I couldn't find a way to say what I wanted to without going into plot points. If you're just looking for a recommendation, I think this is one to watch.
There’s something to be said about timing. When it clicks in a movie, payback to the viewer cannot be quantified. The placement of the song ‘Ik Kudi’ in ‘Udta Punjab’ is one such instance of impeccable timing, it makes you stop and take notice. It’s almost as if the director was cocky enough to realize you’d stop and notice, and he made the bedridden crook as well as the door-banging cops stop and savor the moment too. Only when the singing stops do the cops come to their senses, and resume their attempts to capture Tommy (Shahid).

The first few minutes of the movie do really well to pull you in. There’s a nod to the filmy Punjab as we start from lush fields, but we soon realize that these are not the same fields where a Raj would be waiting, arms extended, for his Simran. From setting things up for Mary Jane (Al…

Of Sadness, and Wilderpeople

Unplanned movie nights are the best, and spending those on gems such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the icing on the cake!
The film has been much acclaimed, and is definitely one you should take time out for. On display are amazing scenic view of New Zealand, humour from unexpected quarters, strong performances from the cast - especially Sam Neill (Uncle Hec) and Julian Dennison (Ricky) - subtle dose of emotions, and lots of drama!

Image Credit Facebook

(Some Spoilers Below.)
What stood out for me, however, was how it handled sadness. We all have our ways of dealing with life’s sad events. People often show their most unexpected sides when dealing with sadness, and that’s what happens here to Hec. Sam Neill underplays the character brilliantly, and also shines when Hec gets demonstrative about his feelings.  He bawls like a child when he discovers Bella (portrayed lovingly in the short role by Rima Te Wiata) is dead, an act he seemed completely incapable of up until that moment. There’s …

Of Trains and Food, and Childhood

I recently came across this NPR piece by Charukesi Ramadurai, that talks of - among other things - the vanishing food culture on Indian Railways. It struck a chord instantly! I felt she was describing my own childhood, changing the names of the dishes we ate, and the places we traveled to.
For us, the most frequent trip was the 10 hour or so journey to our paternal & maternal villages (which were in close proximity), that started early morning and sometimes lasted through the day, just because. The unreliability of arrival time - that was built into the plan - meant my parents had to ensure enough supply for three meals for all of us. Us were 2 adults and 5 kids, and the invariable aunt/uncle who’d accompany us somehow on most of these trips.
Poori and Aloo-Bhajji was my mother’s go-to item. Packing food overnight was a no-no not only because she just wouldn’t have it, but also because we couldn’t really rely on the power supply and the steady operation of the fridge to keep it fro…

On 'The Basement Room'...

Graham Greene is one of the authors that I’ve read surprisingly little of. I know of the man, but there is no recollection of his work in my memories.
I was looking forward to reading his work, and decided to start with a collection of short stories by him that I chanced upon. The book is called The Basement Room And Other Short Stories, and I started with the first story in the book, ‘The Basement Room’.

Regardless of what other works of Graham Greene I’d be getting my hands on, it’s pretty amazing to start with such a great work of his. I had no idea what to expect, from this story or from his works in general - and my experience was better for it!
The ‘plot’ is simple enough, and isn’t something I’m gonna dwell much over. A small kid, who’s between nurses, is left in the care of the butler and his wife (also an employee of the house) while his parents travel. To me this is a story about his being drawn into the adult world reluctantly - through gradual escalations and a crescendo ev…

Masters of Doom - mini review

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

Such a great experience listening to this one, Will Wheaton really brings it all to life. I did not expect him to do as many impressions as he did (and did well).
The book chronicles the journeys of 'The Two John's', as they pursue their interests, immerse themselves into video games, and build an empire in the process. Any one, who has spent any amount of time playing Doom in their childhood, would be hard-pressed to avoid the hair on their skin standing up when the narrator brings up Doom the first time.

This comes across as a very well researched book, and ends up being as much about the relationships as it is about the state of the industry through the 80's and the 90's. The author doesn't pull punches when bringing out the flaws in each of the characters, but I did feel a tad more reverence for John Carmack than for Romero. Still, it's pretty interesting, and a li…

The Girl On The Train - mini review

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Authors write the books, yes. But Audible narrators can add so much value to it (think R C Bray and The Martian), more so when a few of them collaborate. That's what happens here.
The book itself is a nice breezy read/listen, taking you through the minds of three different women, putting them all on a (sort of) collision path. It isn't until the first major disruption that you notice what was different about at least one of the narrations (not spoiling it here though it might be much easier to spot early on when reading the book). It then becomes mostly about who you can trust, and that becomes a difficult question to answer even though you are privy to their innermost thoughts.
What worked for me, besides the story, was the way the author described scenes and settings. It might have something to do with my current fascination with London Tube, and how I could totally picture what was being described. But I think she did a good job setting i…

The Martian - mini review

The Martian by Andy Weir
Started on Kindle, move to Audible after a couple of chapters based on some recommendations, and really happy that I did. The narrator, R C Bray, is great and really brings the book to life. Most of the technical stuff would not have held my attention if I was just reading it, I'm sure I would have skipped over a lot of it. Probably also because I was a captive audience as I mostly listened to it during my daily commute and so, listening to the book was pretty much the only thing my mind was involved in.
I like the concept, a new twist to the Castaway tale. The story was well-paced (which must have been a struggle given how we were learning about things at Mars and earth at the same time), and the author did a great job giving us enough about all the secondary characters. Just enough so we care, not too much to avoid taking away from the main story - which was the struggle of Mark Watney. I found it interesting that he chose not to talk about friends/family …

"Yes Please" - mini review

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Disclaimers first - big fan of Amy Poehler so bound to be biased in favour of any of her work, have given an extra star here simply because she's the author :)

I've been trying Audible books for a short time now, and this is one of the first books I chose primarily because Amy herself had narrated the Audible version. Having listened to the book now, I feel vindicated. The book is mostly in first person and it really adds a lot to have Amy talk to you about the stories, rather than you reading the book. It helps a great deal in understanding the tone and the message, and keeps you engaged.

To say that Amy's life story is inspiring somehow seem pretentious to me (though her life-stort absolutely is inspiring) given how she talks about here philosophy "Good for you, not for me". This book, though inspiring, is just Amy sharing her story and pontificating on what she thinks worked for her (and sometimes, what did not). It stays far away from b…

Point of View

He's likely unaware he's being clicked, which adds to the photo.

The ferocity of friendship and the terrible speed of loss

Saw Furious 7 last week, chanced upon this review today. This is how it ends... The final moments, when Mr. Walker’s longtime colleagues say their farewells while he still appears to be on screen with them, are both awkward and moving. They remind you what these movies have always been about, underneath all the noise and the bravado: the ferocity of friendship and the terrible speed of loss.So apt.

Yatrik - mini review

Yatrik: The Traveller by Arnab Ray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started on this book during a plane ride, and was somewhat unhappy that the plane was on time - since that meant I had to get away from the book for a while.

You could probably divide the book into three logical parts, and it kept getting better as you moved from one part to the next. Even if you account for the limitation of needing to set up the story, the first part of the book wasn't really as taut as I would have liked. You would need to stick with the book and not give up (which I think most will do given the credentials of Arnab), and you shall be duly rewarded.

Though it's fiction, the book makes you think and reflect at some points (especially towards the end), and you could learn a thing or two about yourself depending on how deeply you end up introspecting. It is difficult to stay spoiler free while trying to explain what the author did well - so I will not try. But this was well worth my time and money.

I wo…

Playing it God's way

Playing It My Way: My Autobiography by Sachin Tendulkar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well I'm not really equipped to give an unbiased view when it comes to Sachin Tendulkar :-)

That said, the non-cricketing pieces of the book are far more engaging and revealing than the cricketing pieces. This is probably also because Sachin fans would know most of the cricketing stories presented here anyways. If you've grown up watching Sachin, there's no way you should miss this book.

View all my reviews

Waiter, There’s A Question In My Soup!

Ashish Shakya (Facebook, Twitter) has a blog that's been on my reading list for a while. It's generally good stuff, and I quite like this week's piece.
Money quote: Why dont you make fun of That Religion Which You Refuse To Name In This Column?We do, but your bias prevents you from noticing it. But I agree that we tip-toe around it more than we tip-toe around other religions. Because we’re too afraid, too broke to afford bodyguards, and too irrelevant to be granted asylum in countries that do not kill you for having an opinion. But is that what you want to become? If you say you’re better, then prove it by not turning me into sheesh kabab every time I make a joke.


Some thoughts on PK
Pretty good acting by Amir Khan. There's always a bit of Amir in every role he does, and there's a bit of the Amir from 'Satyamev Jayate' here as well - but overall he has done a great job portraying the always bewildered man-child that PK is supposed to be. Also, was it a hat-tip to Bhuvan from Lagaan when he says "sarat manjoor hai"?
A problem I hadn't seen in a while, first half being great and second half tapering away, resurfaces. The reason I hadn't seen the problem in a while was because most movies had consistently bad first and second halves :) This could have been solved by not falling for the trope of a necessary love story for the female lead (and to some extent the male lead).
I don't think subtlety is something Raj Kumar Hirani (or Vinod Chopra or Amir Khan for that matter) doesn't get, I don't think he was going for subtlety here. Also, he has enough satire here for those of us looking for subtlety.
Raj Kum…

Of diversity, or the lack of it

I recently came across this pic on every one's favourite ranting ground Twitter @ShashiTharoor This pic of our CMs speaks volumes abt India's diversity. This is y we'll remain to be a great nation!
— Chacko Simon (@ChackoSimon) December 7, 2014It was an interesting enough picture, with the idea that a very diverse mix of people make up the group of Chief Ministers in India. I, however, felt that the picture was not diverse enough. The first I saw it was on my phone, and I literally had to squint to find the two women in the picture.It doesn't seem to be a very diverse group in terms of age, except for UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (he makes a strong case against young people in Politics though, and it's an open secret that his 75 year old father rules the state by proxy).It is highly unlikely that any of these people belongs to the LGBT community, openly or not. In fact, each of them is more likely to belong to the group that treats belon…

What's running on my Mac - redux

About two years ago I'd written about my most commonly used apps on my Mac. That post had come just before a major life event for me as I planned to pursue a two year MBA at Kenan-Flagler business school.

Some of my best life experiences have come over the past two years, but we shall talk about that some other time. Right now I just wanted to take a look at how my list of most used Mac apps changed as a student - before I get too lost in work again and things turn over their head once more.
One quik point before I move on to my list. I realized that back in 2012 I'd recommended sticking to the Mac App Store when possible - well that's changed. There's a numbers of reasons for that and people more atriculate than me have tried to gauge the reasons. For me, the primary reasons are apps from the store lagging in the update cycle and the store app itself being lethargic and unpleasant to use overall. I've since then moved my apps out of the store as much as possible and…

Lessons from How I Met Your Mother

“You will be shocked, kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.”One from the series of life lessons you get when you watch "How I Met Your Mother" - a show which, to my suprise, I still follow and enjoy.


The explore option in Flickr often appeals to me when I am looking to take a break from working but don't want to get up and about. The only downside is that I sometimes end up spending way more time on it than I planned to, but it's time well spent.
There are always some great pictures there. And I often tend to like the ones that happen in the moment (unstaged if you will).

Here is one from today's break:

Thames Boat Cruise

Thames Boat Cruise, a set on Flickr.

Day trip to Cambridge