Of German words

“There is a word in German, Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz. And the closest translation would be “lifelong treasure of destiny.” And Victoria is wunderbar, but she is not my lebenslangerschicksalsschatz. She is my beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand. You know? It means “the thing that is almost the thing that you want, but it is not quite.”

Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz is not something that develops over time. It’s something that happens instantaneously. It causes swirling like the water of a river after a storm, filling you and emptying you all at once. You feel it throughout your body, in your hands, in your heart, in your stomach, in your skin. Have you ever felt this way about someone? If you have to think about it, you have not felt it. Everyone does eventually, you just never know when or where.”

– Klaus, HIMYM


Madras Chronicles Pt.1 : Don’t take the MTC

It is my fourth month in Chennai and I hope that it deems me fit to write about Chennai or rather the incidents I’ve encountered here. I write as I sit with my t-shirt stuck to the skin from this heat. It is no wonder that Chennai is synonymous to heat with blatantly three kinds of weather: hot, hotter, hottest. You take a shower, return to the room only to find that “before-shower” and “after-shower” makes no difference apart from some aspects like odor, this that which emphatically is short lived. Which also explains why my friend has a ledge full of Axe, Nivea Deodorants and nameless other stuff with Boro Plus squirreled away at the back because, um, prestige. But dear friend, the Boro Plus is precisely why everyone around you has not sporadically swiveled down to unconsciousness. Thanks, boro.

This brings to me to my first MTC ride. Despite sage words of grown-up advice from my mother (who lived in Chennai for 9 years; that gave her a million reasons to appreciate Coimbatore and a million more to counsel me not travel by MTC) and a-good-for-nothing Harey Baaprey (a close friend of mine who underwent innocuous incineration from, yes you’re right, Chennai heat for the past 18 years). The one-lined advice she gave me when I moved here was: Most places you go will be air-conditioned but don’t take the MTC. She is a big fan of Kamal Haasan explains why she talks like that, no? No correlation only. So, given the sudden spurts of daredeviltry that is secreted (which I am pretty sure is more than my melatonin secretion), I decided to take 21G to Tambaram that is apparently 20 kms from my place.

A tiny little voice whispered, okay not like tiny little voice but more like Mani Rathnam movie normal voice that said: “hey, this is not Coimbatore, you better take an Uber or maybe even the local train.” But:


The bus was flooding, as I knew it would be but believed otherwise. I didn’t have to find a place to stand but the crowd crusaded me to my rightful one-foot property to hang on. And hang on, you have to otherwise you’ll be that Vadivelu who took flight from the centre of bus bursting through the glass for that one sudden break. Mind you, the buses here move forward on sudden breaks and expletives. The conductor sat in his single-seat asking everyone from all the extremities of the bus to pass on money for the ticket while hollering from his throne “ thallu ma, munnadi po, munnadi po ma” (Bad translation 1: move, lady. Go forward*2)

“yov, ticket eduthiya nee? Enga pora? Enna change illaya? Naan enna inga bank-ah vechikinna unkaandhirken?” (Bad translation 2: That man over there, did you buy the ticket yet? Where are you going? Don’t you have change? Do you think I’m sitting here running a bank?) He motioned his hands and squiggled his eyebrows weirdly at me. What was he doing? So the lady standing next to me said: “he is asking you where you’re going and to get the ticket.”

Oh. Sign language for conductors.

I said Tambaram West and passed on my 50 rupee note. It came back with a 27 rupee ticket and a 20 rupee note for the balance. 3 rupees gone.

The lady standing next to me, with a yellow cloth bag who unquestionably forgot her Boro Plus that day said, “ipdi dhan indha **** sambaadhikudhunga, bus vechirkadhu idhu, change konduvara vendiyadhu dhane. Namma uyira vaanga vendiyadhu.” (Bad translation 3: This is how these **** earn money by taking our balances. They are the ones running the bus, they should know to bring enough change. Taking our lives instead.) Meanwhile, her sans-Boro Plus existence was taking my life. I turned the other way and asked a middle-aged man how many stops until Tambaram, he replied with a scoff (clearly indicating that I have to suffer this heat while standing and that too next to that lady) that the ETA was at least an hour.

Some buses in Coimbatore used to play songs that you could you listen to as the sweet, cold breeze swept across the face. But nothing in these MTCs. Just external forces making an instrumental piece of its own with the horns, the metro rail whizzing above, an occasional drone of the airplanes and the conductor chirping in for a loud rap now and then. In a way, that is better I guess. Just imagine Kalayana Vayasu playing and the conductor yelling for tickets in the background

“Nekku ippo kalayana vayasu dhan vandhuduthu di-

-Ada thallu ma, vandhu maadu maadri

Meet pannava, illa wait pannava-

-Change illa. Guindy, Gunidy. Erangu

Ava Munnala Nikiran / Ava Kannala Sokkuran
Naan Thannala Sikkuren / Pinnala Suthuren
Unnala Savuren” (basically me in the Chennai heat but whatever)

You get what I am trying to put out here no?


2000 years later, one punyavaan told me he’d be getting down in a couple of stops but I can shift into his seat since he’d be getting up then. After a deep sigh from standing too much, I sat and wiped off the grease from holding to the support poles too hard and too long then I took out my bottle to have a sip of water. Who knew that’d be the last time I’d see my water bottle? A new boarder asked me if they could have a sip too and someone else behind them and someone else behind them and someone else… And in two minutes as we reached Meenambakam, I lost sight of my bottle. I told the conductor who came strutting after his respite that I’d misplaced my bottle in this bus.

He said “enna oorukku pudhusa?” and left. (Bad translation 4: New to this place?)  —— (1)

Writing a letter to whomever the current CM of Tamil Nadu is, to implement a “Principles of Logic” class. Where is the logic in (1)? Why does what I ask and what they answer not correlate? Is it just me who cannot make out what they reply to me or is it them who cannot make out what I am saying to them? #WorldProblems.

After what seemed like a long ride through hell (weather-wise), I got down at Tambaram with a vow to never take an MTC again.

I called my aunt and said “I’ve reached Tambaram, what now?”

Aunt: Okay, now take 51T and 3 stops from there you’ll reach home.

Me: Please send uncle.

I’m not a fan of “1984”

“I’ve been writing a four-part article for Field Newspaper Syndicate at
the beginning of each year for several years now and in 1980, mindful of 
the approach of the year 1984, FNS asked me to write a thorough critique of
George Orwell’s novel 1984.
   I was reluctant. I remembered almost nothing of the book and said so –
but Denison Demac, the lovely young woman who is my contact at FNS, simply
sent me a copy of it and said, ‘Read it.’
   So I read it and found myself absolutely astonished at what I read. I
wondered how many people who talked about the novel so glibly had ever read
it; or if they had, whether they remembered it at all.
   I felt I would have to write the critique if only to set people straight.
(I’m sorry; I love setting people straight.)”

– Issac Asimov

You are on your way to Somewhere Street and you see a group of people looking up, without a thought you look up too. This is the herd instinct. Like Rolf Dobelli says “individuals feel they are behaving correctly when they act the same as other people. In other words, when more people follow a certain idea, the better (truer) we deem the idea to be.”

This classic dystopian allegory, i.e 1984 – a novelette of neoteric domination of helots that blew almost everyone’s mind manifesting prognostication of the Future did not appeal to me. I am sorry, I did not like 1984. It is a bad novel but rather a great essay – a description based on his perception of the totalitarian movement of the 1930s (maybe a take on Mao, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler), their propaganda of control of the media, censorship, re-writing the past, secret informants, plain denial of facts to suit ideology and mass murder and all that lay in there.  There are numerable NY Times, the Guardian etcetera articles entailing a 1984 world in the 21st century. In the world of 1984, the technology was suppressed, maybe deliberately even. Apart from the telescreens and cameras mainly for the surveillance of the citizens, the technological doldrums is evident. The book is shelved under Sci-Fi but it’s more of a socio-political commentary which took on demagogues masquerading as national saviours, which is probably why Issac Asimov disapproved of the book.

Basically the book firstly shows how a Government (the Party) exploits the citizens through brutal, evil means of exerting power, stringent rules calling for total commitment/devotion to the Party and the Big Brother (their authoritarian symbol), second – the past is continuously redacted so as to look favourable to the Party which leaves no concrete “past” as such. Thirdly the truth is distorted, altogether leaving zilch veritable data on people’s lifestyle, the government regimes and so on for the people of 1984 to compare their machinelike, time-tabled robotic lives to something else.

And then the language – they alter that too. The language of the 1984 dystopian world is Newsspeak where the words English language are clipped and glued as per the Big Brother’s wishes to favour the Party and limn the language so as to support their maxims like doublethink, thought-crime to mention two. The world (which is sufficiently divided into three parts) – Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia are constantly in war with each other. The people of Oceania – where there is the authoritarian, despotic rule have a decree which states that if you act or even think against the vices of the Party, you will be taken to the Ministry of Love (contradictory to its verbatim) where they are imprisoned and made to undergo brutish punishments, starvation and mental torture until they are made to believe the principles of the Party and truly revere and love the Big Brother wherein then they are “set free”.

(Okay, George. If you say so.)

Now coming to this dunce of a heroine – Julia, who’s hands down the dumbest love interest in a book I’ve come across after Bella from Twilight (duh). She’s supposedly very attractive, captivating and hot as hell. Well, maybe that explains why she’s dumb. (Just a hypothesis, no need to get all worked up.) Anyways she is very active in clubs like Junior Anti Sex League, pure in propagandizing slogans, games, community hikes and processions of the Party in the hope that she doesn’t get killed off being a thought-criminal (a Newsspeak word for thinking against the Party) because deep inside her heart she wants to be free – wild and running in a meadow chasing butterflies than wearing a blue overall every single day of her life and write plots of fiction that promotes the Party. That’s all. She couldn’t care less about the tyrannical regime or anything along the lines of politics, that she falls asleep immediately in absolutely whatever position she is in when Winston tries to educate her about the government, politics, Big Brother, how they should revolt against the Party when they know they’ll eventually be thrown in Ministry of Love before they even spell the word ‘revolution’. So they just connivingly sleep together now and then in the first floor of a house owned by a poor prole (Newsspeak for proletariat) and talk about the civilized barbaric regime with the “politics” of it averted of course, because – Julia would fall asleep.

(yes, you can stand in the corner and roll your eyes.)

Spoiler alert / fun fact: The Julia character was purportedly based on a childhood friend (Jacintha Buddicom) of George Orwell (the author) whom he fell in love with eventually but Jacintha vehemently disapproved of him and stopped any contact with him altogether in the future. Why? Because an adolescent Orwell forced himself upon her one holiday and made her a victim of sexual abuse. And illogically, Orwell starts hating her which drives him to create Julia whom Winston denounces when they are locked up in the Ministry of Love and subjects her to ruthless punishments. Quelle surprise.

I don’t want to spoil of the little that’s left for you and review the shit out of this book beyond repair: but 1984 has a very predictable, lousy ending. I’m sorry if this is one of your favorite books and if you cried at “under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me.” or shivered at “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” and if you are a firm believer of the “21st century heading to 1984” theory. Nonetheless (despite rock-bottom probability, at least according to me) if the theory turns out favouring of that cognitive content then we’re royally done for, aren’t we?


The Good Luck of Right Now!

The Good Luck of Right NowThe Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful book!
This epistolatory novel, another witty one from the author of Silver Linings Playbook charms you with its raw emotions, disarrays of people dealing with mental issues, their lives and so on. The protagonist, Bartholomew Neil (fatherless, introvert, jobless and aged over forty), recently loses his mother to brain cancer, finds coping with life harder than usual. His mom, during her last days, binge-watches Pretty Woman and ends up dedicating her every fibre of last days to Richard Gere, she keeps up with his happenings, follows him up and eventually ends up calling Bartholomew -Richard.

Owing to this, as a respite, Bartholomew starts writing letters to Richard Gere elaborating his daily life as it happens. The story spans further into an amusing tale when his priest Father McNamee (recently defrocked from his priesthood) moves into his apartment as Wendy, his grief counselor lies her way into getting Bartholomew indulge in group-therapy session where he befriends Max, a man equally aged as Bartholomew, who takes counseling grieving over his dead cat Alice and on an average Max’s four-worded sentence would contain two expletives. Previously, though inadvertently Bartholomew falls in love with a girl he sees regularly at the library whom, he later comes to know as Max’s sister.

The Good Luck of Right Now proceeds further as letters to Richard Gere on the adventures sometimes cheerless, embarked by the four; Bartholomew, Father McNamee, Max and Elizabeth (library girl/ the Girlibrarian). And in this book of Jung, Buddhism, synchronicity and Richard Gere, the author Matthew Quick tries to slip in philosophy, the harmonious working of our world the-yin-and-yang, and so much more.

Bottomline: Wouldn’t read it again but it was worth the time I spent reading it the first time.

Favorite quote from the book: “The universe hiccups, and we poor fools try to figure out why.”

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the Girl at the Lion d’Or

The Girl at the Lion d'OrThe Girl at the Lion d’Or by Sebastian Faulks

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The first Faulks’ book that I read was Engleby, it took my breath away. Many critiqued it quite negatively but I loved it for personal reasons.

The Girl at the Lion D’or, set in 1930s France narrates the story of young Anne and her rendezvous with love and adultery. The story is poignant, very picturesque (of course, French countryside in all its glory) and kind of fast-paced, but I’m not complaining. There are few, all very relatable characters and the storyline also has other things in its mind apart from romance like the repercussions of the World War and little tales from Anne and flashbacks from Charles Hartmann (the male-lead).

It starts with Anne moving from Paris to Janvilliers, with the prospect of a job at the Lion d’Or where she befriends Mattlin, the adequate villain of this novel who’s friend is Charles Hartmann, Anne falls in love with. The gimmick being; Hartmann is married. The story revolves around the dark past of Anne, Hartmann’s doomed marriage, the assorted lives of those working in Lion d’Or and so on.

Faulks, despite bringing his characters to life and leading the plot gracefully, misses something that wouldn’t make me reread it.

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A commentary on psyche and suffering

“Why, at such a time as this, I ought to snap my fingers at aestheticism and all the rest of it; and yet, I am all at once as particular as a dog looking for a corner?”

After a series of relentless obstacles from a severe fit of cold ripening to a fever, to vacationing in hill-stations and conning the science of “making perfectly round dosas and chappatis” so I don’t bring ignominy to my family as I step into another (insert face-palm gif raised to infinity) I ended up finishing Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment with a pang of bittersweetness; bitter for it is always devastating to end a splendid book and sweet (kind of) for an edifying ending.

To write that this book is good or even excellent would be an understatement. Crime and Punishment is glorious. It is not your Mills&Boons for a light read on a park bench, for a short flight and it’s definitely not worth for skimming and flitting. You have got to soak it all in- well, you will- because Dostoyevsky’s narration of the mental constitution just has so much to offer, the composition is impeccable-looking like something that was conjured by a spell- it makes you think how we live our lives, what makes us human, perceptions of despotism, poverty, the mind of all, nihilism and a civilization to mention a few.

The fascinating thing about this is that Dostoyevsky traverses his whole psychoanalysis in a book, as the scrutiny of a man who commits a murder and how he is, in turn, punished for it. Despite a lot of characters all sounding similar with a syllable or two for distinction- Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin, Porfiry Petrovich, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin- Dostoyevsky takes the reader deep into the character’s mind, like it is similar to a commentary on the psyche of the mind and suffering and why we suffer like we do.

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart.”


Brownie points if you got this.

Even though Crime and Punishment is a minefield of remarkable quotes, I chose this below and the one at the beginning:

“When choosing between the river and confession, why had he preferred the latter? Was the desire to live so difficult to conquer?”



History Happened While You Were Hungover

A lizard from the far-future at one point observes, “all time was one instant, all space one point.”

Apart from scrambling for the dictionary more than often, this book has got me hooked! You might wonder how I like nearly every other book that I read; the thing is I really find it ill of me to not like books/certain plots for various reasons. There are some books though that I’ve had a hard time getting through, halted halfway which I don’t write about. So if I write about a book, it means I really like it and it has etched an impact on me some way or the other or I plainly enjoy reading a novel for the pure pleasure of it.

Now, enough of that explanatory overture (yep, yours truly has been listening to a lot of classical music lately). So I’m reading a book right now, by Ned Beauman – The Teleportation Accident and whilst I was on page 69 (as the odds would have it), a fanged unorthodox idea sunk its teeth into my brain; why not review the book as I read it and post it all together … chronologically?!

And that’s what I did and I apologize for that in advance.

May 2, 2018

Dear diary

My day was bad. The chapatti I had for dinner did something to my tummy and it looks like I may have to lease the lavatory on a one-day contract.

Where were we? Oh, yes; The Teleportation Accident. The plot of this book still seems unclear even though I’m on page 69! Beauman has spilt his tea all over the place. I am quite not able to pin down a genre on this book. It’s not an erotica for sure but there are more than required compositions of carnal festivities for 69 pages, it is set in 1931 and dwells deeply about Berlin but that doesn’t make this historical fiction does it, the satire is prolific but I wouldn’t go as far as shelving this under Humor and it definitely is not noir – all the lights are on.

Maybe I should get past 69. So you might wonder what got me “hooked” when the mere genre-ascertaining has been disarray for me; the vignettes, kids the vivid vignettes. Allow me the pleasure of showcasing some for you –

On being inebriated Beauman writes: It transformed him into an emotional equivalent of one of those strange Peruvian frogs with transparent skin exposing their jumpy little hearts.

On Adele Hitler’s (whom we’re yet to confirm if she is related to the Hitler) eyes: Most tender eyes that Loeser had ever seen but also the most astonishingly baroque, with each iris showing a spray of gold around the pupil like the corona around the eclipse with a dappled band of blue and green, within an outline of grey as distinct as a pencil mark and then beyond that an expanse of moist white that did not betray even the faintest red vein but sheltered at its inner corner a perfect tear duct like a tiny pink sapphire.

Update: She is not related to the Hitler.

On escalators: Never in your life will you have seen so many apparently healthy adults queuing up for the privilege of standing still.

On how the rich laugh: Nearby he heard one of those startling explosions of communal laughter that are distributed at random intervals through parties like moisture pockets in a fireplace log.

These are just a few. Now you see why I want to keep going despite the dubiety.

May 3, 2018

To put it concisely, the plot has moved from the Weimar Republic to Paris and the protagonist has switched from the German named Egon Loeser to Herbert Wolf Scramsfield, an American in Paris. I’m on the 92nd page and the plot… well, it escalated quickly. We’re in Paris, in 1934 now.

But back to the start for a bit.

In 1931, Loeser, who works at a theatre, sets a stage for a play on Lavicini (a carpenter, a set designer himself and Loeser’s apotheosis, paragon… call it what you want, he adored that guy and has done a lot of research on him). As a tribute to Lavicini, Loeser and his three other friends plan to bring out a play in a tiny Berlin theatre. That play is based on an incident wherein 1679, Lavicini builds a machine called Extraordinary Mechanism for the Almost Instantaneous Transport of Persons from Place to Place, in simple terms: a Teleportation Device. This device on its attempt at Theatre des Encornets in Paris collapses, killing 25 members of the audience and the set designer Adriano Lavicini, the machine is immediately condemned and also believed that it was possessed by some devil and thought to have had infernal features. It has so much history, darting through time carelessly but Beauman has a way through his words that makes this rapid time-travel from past to present, present to past, future to past through the present and the Section – C Grammar of the 4th standard English paper fair to middling.

But on the contrary, I think Beauman riffled through a dictionary, held a random page, closed his eyes, placed his index finger on some word and just spliced the word to the sentence he was writing. Or his vocabulary is just exemplary. The surreal plot swivels here and there aimlessly, there are so many open-ended patches but I’d read the book just for the motley of idiosyncratic, incredibly graphic phrases. The book is just so quotable that my book is almost indecipherable with all that pencil markings! And the cover is even better.

May 7, 2018

Dang it! I’m done with 76% of the book. SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED. No more in Paris either. It’s Los Angeles, baby!

(Weimar Republic (Germany) > Paris, France > LA, USA)

Gosh. There are too many characters to keep up with and then there’s the physics of time and space, all the science behind time traveling, the technical know-how of the Teleportation Device, mechanics and the engineering of set-building, infidelity of the bourgeois’ relationships, literary realism, past, present and future happening all at once. And our anti-hero protagonist is beyond knee deep in being in love with Adele Hister (now Hister from Hitler, to avoid people from misinterpreting that she’s somehow related to Hitler) and devoted rerererere-reading Midnight At The Nursing Academy, that he misses out on important, slightly-of-consequence Nazis dictatorship, the Holocaust and basically the World Wars – politics and world affairs in general mainly because he’s hungover most of the time and partly due to him shunning Politics away.


Note:  Given the kind of a lazy person with way too many aiyo-amma suspirations I am, I have duly neglected my promise of chronologically reviewing this book.

May 13, 2018

Not sure if I am done with the book or if the book did me.

The ending was worth sticking to a plot that went bonkers the word it made sense it to me. It was all worth it. It was all worth it. It was all worth it.

Zeitgeisterbahnhofe (four endings)

The book comes down to four equally mind-bending endings. I am still blown away by the raw brilliance of how neither of the four endings came together like how I thought this book would gird up to the finale.