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Showing posts from 2016

Review: An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India

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An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a well researched book that covers all the aspects of the argument against British Raj. There are not only nationalistic arguments, but points against social, cultural, moral, technological, political and utilitarian theories that seek to support the British rule.

Shashi tharoor makes no bones about calling out the people who say that British provided us with democracy, and those who say that they were better rulers because of their liberalism. There are some great data and writing that sum up how British imperialism maimed India badly.

The pages about famine and War efforts make for some really grim reading and out to shut anyone up who plays the utilitarian card. This might very well be Shashi tharoor's first classic.

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A world without Fidel

A world without Fidel

Maruthan

Fidel won't be able to read the thousands of tributes and eulogies that are being written from all over the world. But he has read many eulogies written for him. He has amused himself over the failure of numerous attempts on his life by the world's prime super power, smiling over a cigar on that tiny island. We do not know if he ever saw the viral video 'Castro's last Journey?!' that was released in 2011. But he smiled saying that he has seen news about his own death on the TV and read about it on Twitter.

From Eisenhower who broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba to Barack Obama who tried to renew the relations, Castro has seen 11 US presidents, and opposed them consistently. Just as he looms into our view as one of the greatest personalities of this century, Fidel Castro also remains the most abused and hated "dictator" for many. His death on 25th of November, 2016 has created a vacuum not only for those who admired him, b…

Review: Half - Lion: How P.V. Narasimha Rao Transformed India

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Half - Lion: How P.V. Narasimha Rao Transformed India by Vinay Sitapati
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Take half a Lion, add a mouse and fox to make a whole, and dress it with a garland of Ambition, you have made yourself the Prime minister of India from 1991-1996, Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao. P.V. Narasimha rao is mostly known to us as the Prime minister who led the '91 reforms, ended the License quota raj, failed to prevent the destruction of Babri Masjid, led over the biggest stock market scam, and one who opened up Telecom and Satellite TV to private sector. He is also seen as someone who was done a great injustice by the Nehru - Indira Gandhi clan, and denied his rightful position in the history. Someone, who people like to think of as a underdog.

PVNR, Landed Brahmin from Andhra who was a staunch socialist, began his political career with a loss to a Communist Candidate. He would go on to win eight elections after that, and holding every significant post in the In…

Review: Spin

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Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a brilliant read. The narrative weaves drama and science seamlessly, in a way that I would have not thought was possible. This might even clash with Leviathan Wakes for my most loved SF novel, for its lucidity and the way the characters were shaped. There was a disconnect at times, but it could be pardoned, for this was the single best novel I read in this year, especially in the SF genre. Highly recommended.

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Review: Faster than Lightning: My Autobiography

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Faster than Lightning: My Autobiography by Usain Bolt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is a certain audacity in the way Bolt asserts himself in this biography. I have met some people in my life that are at/near the absolute top of their fields and in a way, they are too humble. When we start to embark on a journey to attain that skill level, we sometimes miss out on the humility. Then there is this rushing towards an excess of it, as our extraordinary lump of tissue sitting atop our neck decides that some failures along the way are due to our lack of humility. While humility or the lack of it can substantially alter our progress in the learning, all other things being equal, humility as is practiced in the post modern world might be disposable. Or that's what Bolt will convince you of. There is a certainty with which he asserts his dominance. He is unapologetic about the fact that he has special talent. He is not overtly humble. He just sails through life with an air of s…

Review: Shutter Island

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Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an exhilarating read.

The plot is extraordinary and makes you feel invested in a way that very things can do. You want to travel along, you want to read just one more page and see what Teddy is up to. Every time there is a twist in the novel, you'll think, "Ha! I know this trick!". And you'll be woefully wrong. Dennis Lehane carves a wonderful thriller and my only regret was that I didn't read it in a single stretch.
Rekindled my interest in thrillers. :D

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Connecting RCC-WiFi in Windows 10, Ubuntu 16.04

Windows 10 users, download this registry entry, double click and add, and restart your system. Don't shutdown, restart.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-QbWCkLjW6qTkg2ZWdFU2ZJdDg/view?usp=sharing


Ubuntu users, download this file, and from the directory where you have downloaded the file, execute the following commands one by one in a terminal. You will have to connect temporarily to a mobile hotspot to install missing dependencies. So, connect to hotspot, run these commands.


sudo dpkg -i wpasupplicant_2.3-2.3_amd64.debsudo apt-get -f install

Review: Demystifying Kashmir

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Demystifying Kashmir by Navnita Chadha Behera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite being an Indian, I knew very little about Kashmir, when I started this book. I was primed to think of it only in ideological terms, and always viewed it as a problem where if India showed enough rectitude and military might, we will win decisively. And this book has proved me wrong, in so many elegant pages.

The first chapter seeks to bust the myth that Kashmir is a bone of contention on ideological, or religious terms. There are enough evidences to point that at times, Kashmir didn't even figure on the plans of Jinnah, not as a constituent state of Pakistan.Jinnah at many occasions, wanted states to be independent or accede to Pakistan, not because they wanted to or Jinnah himself wanted them, but because he thought that would weaken Indian Union.

The level of detail in this book can be overwhelming, but it can also leave you clueless at times, through references to major events in just passin…

Review: Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

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Incarnations: India in 50 Lives by Sunil Khilnani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'India isn’t really a country, It is a sub-continent composed of nationalities, Hindus and Muslims being the two major nations.'
This was Jinnah. He was the man who would be complicit in the partition of India, along with his Indian counterparts, in what would turn out to be one of the bloodiest events in the history of the world. But when reading anything that is related to India, we are taught of eras and empires and kingdoms. Rarely is an individual talked about much in the larger context, as a means of history. One of the reasons might be that it is so vast that even an individual can cover only a fairly small time scale. Perhaps Nehru, if the centerpiece, can tell us a bit about Modern India. But he will be spending much of that time in the northern part of the subcontinent and outside India itself, and very little in the southern parts of it. The geography plays against a single individual inf…

Review: Stoner

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Stoner by John Edward Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”


Rarely does a book, seemingly unrelated captures your feeling in words that you wish were your own. Sometimes, when I am reading a book, or staring at the to-read pile at my desk, I feel a thought very similar to the one articulated above. Now that we have gotten it out of the way, let's come to the book.

An american classic, almost two years since the last one. I have since grown averse of the genre. They have a way of doing things to your heart. Today, the sole reason I started this book was to get it off my to-read list. It's been there for months. And I am glad I took it on.

"He listened to his words fall as if from the mouth of ano…

Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything

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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watson was a misogynist and racist. Halley was the one who actually haggled Newton into publishing Principia Mathematica. Robert Hooke was a shameless plagiarist. Wolfgang Pauli's wife ran of with a chemist. Avogadro, of the Avogadro no. fame, was brought to a school by his mother who hitchhiked 4000 miles, to make sure he got an education and died shortly after they got to the school. Henry Cavendish was quite possibly the worst introvert in history. Almost half of Science's discoveries are misattributed, either because the discoverer's were very secretive, or because the ones who got the attribution were more influential in there fields. And the barrage of facts goes on and on like this.


A Short History of Nearly Everything (henceforth known as ASHONE) is one of those books you have to careful to keep at an arm's length, or you'll have to go through an existential crisis, every few ch…

Review: When Breath Becomes Air

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I opened 'When Breath Becomes Air' once again, I wanted to read something entirely different from the first time. The first read was in the middle of a night, in my college dorm. It was a race against time and sleep deprivation. Once I had started it, I couldn't stop. I raced through the prologue, and immediately wanted to know the story of this man, one if you had told me orally, I would've dismissed as pseudo-motivating feel-good story of someone who never existed. (I'm stupid that way')

But after reading it for a second time, I feel even more inadequate than the first time. I wanted to see meanings in this book, of mortality, of death, of bravery, of love, of commitment, of hard work. And I found them all. Perhaps, it is my tendency to try to relate to my life, whatever I read, is the source of this feeling of inadequacy. This book is pregnant with emotions and hidden meanings, struggles …

Review: Burden Of Democracy

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Burden Of Democracy by Pratap Bhanu Mehta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Indians love to exhort in the fact that India is a nation of contradictions. In fact, it is readily apparent to the outsider, the contradictions that embody the nation state called India. From the very birth of this nation, people have raised hue and cry that it won't survive at all. And they were are all, in their own way, justifiable. But India chose to beat those odds, and for extra points, settled on Democracy as its chosen mode of government.

And it was the most important choice that was ever made. Perhaps, it was, as P.B.Mehta cheekily points out, the result of the British Colony having produced too many lawyers affluent in the Western model of governments. But the choice of Democracy was not intuitive nor was it the result of a revolution as in the case of France or America. It was much a vehicle of social change as it was the result of one.

The idealism associated with State and Democracy in the be…

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I forget count. Sometimes, rereads remove the affection bit by bit. Not in this case. I don't see the book itself when I read, but rather the memories of the days when I first read it. And the depth of characters as well as the story, is just fine for the boy who read it first. There are certain series that grow and mature with you. And this is one of them.

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Review: The Kite Runner

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads is such a strange place.

It has given me much happiness, of course. I have marveled at the fact that someone halfway across the globe can feel the same way I do about a book and it's characters. Yet, it is sometimes almost painful when someone doesn't like the book you liked and for precisely the same reasons you liked it.
I have not read many books. I am young and in an engineering course to boot, so there is not much time to indulge in leisurely reading. I have read about a book a month for the past two and read three in the february, and 12 in January. You get the idea. I cannot criticize effectively, with neither the academic bent that some goodreaders are gifted with, nor with the reader's review some so eloquently write.

But, what I can do, is concede when a negative reviewer makes a good point and supports it with logical arguments. I can see reason. And that is why I have bumped one star …

Review: Morning Star

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Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read only three books in the last month. Which is sad. But two were from this trilogy, so there's that. This book was read during some really testing times for me. And it has grabbed five stars, all deserved ones.

I am not going to comment on individual character or world building here. Suffice it to say they are really good, especially for a first trilogy from an author. The author acknowledges the influence of roman culture and history in this trilogy, so I will not hold that as a grudge against him.

This book started off with some intense violence, sometimes sexual, in the first book. In the process of getting to the third book though, it has matured extraordinarily. I can justify the violence without having to stretch the reasoning to accommodate anything anomalous. Though this is classified as sf, there is nothing that even remotely resembles science in some of the sf elements. I guess it is normal, since this i…

Review: Nehru and Bose

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Nehru and Bose by Rudrangshu Mukherjee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I need a few days of cud-chewing before I can say anything. But, as it stands now, let me categorically state that those people who claim to fight on behalf of Nehru and Bose, are ill-guided. There may not have been a deep friendship between Nehru and Bose, but there never was so much enmity that fighting after this many years can be justified. It is not just stupid to think that Nehru and Bose were enemies, it is also very dangerous. Both men realized at the time that they played a very big role in much bigger game. True, Bose sometimes thought that Nehru was working against him. But the issue is so much more nuanced than Nehru and Bose were enemies.


P.S. I don't understand the low ratings. This is a brilliantly written book that delivers on the promise. Man, people can be really miserly when acknowledging scholarship.

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Review: Animal Farm

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Animal Farm by George Orwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mild spoilers ahead.


"Four legs good, two legs bad".

So goes the condensed maxim of the Seven Commandments of Animalism. And for some reason, this is the most loved feature of the book, for me. We have a certain passion and lust for evocative, ornamental prose. People have won wars, captured governments, and become billionaires, all on account of their ability to somehow stir the metaphorical loins of the reader, through their writings. And it is very easy, for us as readers, to get lost in the beauty of the prose, that we'll fail in our most important duty of all - making sure to taste some salt every few pages. We forget to question the correctness, we become children at a candy machine. Nothing exists except the candy and our tongues that can savour them. Too often we get carried and become unflinching devotees of our favorite authors, that we never question them, just because their words can appeal to a d…

Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Updated on 10th of January, 2016.

Minor spoilers, but nothing that will compromise the enjoyment of reading the novel in the author's words.

This is perhaps the first novel I have read entirely at the Anna Centenary Library. ACL is one of Asia's largest libraries, and famously received a 2,794 page long invoice from Cambridge university press, for books worth 1.3 million GBP. And it's in walking distance from my hostel.

1984 is not a novel about 1984. It is a novel about every year that follows it, and every passing year has one mission: Vindicate George Orwell and his predictions. And you'll be pleased to know humanity is tirelessly doing just that.

Let's come to the book. I have tried to get through this novel at the formative years of my reading. I have always stopped it in the first 30 or so pages. I am actually kind of happy that I did so.
Why? Because, until you achieve a certain maturity…

Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is perhaps the first novel I have read entirely at the Anna Centenary Library. ACL is one of Asia's largest libraries, and famously received a 2,794 page long invoice from Cambridge university press, for books worth 1.3 million GBP. And it's in walking distance from my hostel.

Let's come to the book. I have tried to get through this novel at the formative years of my reading. I have always stopped it in the first 30 or so pages. I am actually kind of happy that I did so. Now, I can read with much more patience, can understand much more that when I started out, and more importantly, I know much more about state sponsored mass surveillance, which is the crux of this novel.

I am a computer engineering UG student. And there is no doubt that today, computers aid the most massive surveillance, in all of humanity's really long history. And we seldom know about it, much less care, for the surveillanc…

Review: When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better And/Or Worse

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Review: The Stars, Like Dust

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The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a part of trying to read the entire Foundation Universe, starting from the early ones.

It is always humbling to see someone grow up, struggling through the growing pains and teething problems. It is doubly so when the person involved is a genius like Asimov.

I started reading "The Stars, Like Dust" one depressing evening. The story takes place in a far away future, when the Earth itself has been abandoned, and forgotten in many places of the Galaxy. Asimov's writing always cheers me up, but alas, this was not the case with TSLD. The author of the book was not someone I knew, not someone who always knew just how much science to throw in to maintain the book unputdownable. This was an amateur, struggling to build memorable characters, with very less subtlety when going to science, often straight out jumping to defining things, with not so much as a thought to blend them in to the plot.

Yet, someh…

Review: India After Gandhi: The History Of The World's Largest Democracy

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India After Gandhi: The History Of The World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I set to type this review, I also seriously consider not doing so, on account of my naivete. In all fairness, I am new to this genre and this book had been lying around for more than a year in my shelf, till I started reading it after I had finished some 100 odd pages in a friend's copy.

I have not read any other book that was so dense as this and yet so well-paced. The amount of information in each page is staggering. The only book I know that has more footnotes than this is, perhaps, the Infinite Jest.

I started off by watching a TEDx video my Mr.Guha. He was so articulate in his views that I was compelled to read the book immediately. And in his book, he is more articulate, more evocative than I had imagined a writer of history can be.
India, is in it's own right, an exception in the world, as a nation. It had not satisfied any condition that major historians…