Aug 23, 2015

Smart Bribe

"Sir, do you want your vehicle to be packed?", a labor asked him as Vinod entered through the parcel office of Bhubaneswar railway station". I will charge only Rs. 450 and my work will be neat", he continued. 

Vinod thought about the offer for a minute and nodded his approval. In the next 30 minutes, his bike would be neatly packed and ready to be parceled by a train. He was not in a hurry though. The train would only leave at noon on the next day.

Leaving his vehicle to the labor, he proceeded towards a counter at the parcel office to get the booking done. A railway clerk was looking through his rimmed spectacles at the computer monitor as if a movie is being screened.

Vinod waited to get the clerk's attention. "Perhaps he is still busy with a past booking", he thought. A few minutes went by, but the clerk neither took his eyes off from the monitor, nor he acknowledged the presence of Vinod.

"Sir, will you please do the parcel booking of my bike which is being packed at your office?", he asked politely and waited for his response. 

The clerk lets a glance at him as if to let him know that he was aware of his presence, but did nothing. Vinod continued to wait. Meanwhile, the labor had finished his job and demanded money. 

Vinod went with the labor to inspect his bike and gave him the money after he felt satisfied with the work. "The packing is so secure that the vehicle would be well protected during its 1500 km journey down south", he felt. The labor took the money and offered to pull the vehicle to the loading platform. Vinod came back to the counter and waited for the clerk's attention.

"Sir, please take this", he heard a voice from a man who pushed Vinod aside to give Rs. 500 cash to the clerk. Vinod let a sigh but felt relieved with the fact that the clerk was at least doing some work and finished one booking while he was away with the labor.

But his happiness was short lived when he saw the clerk taking Rs. 500 and asked him what he wanted. "I came first", Vinod wanted to yell at both of them. But he kept quiet and waited for the business to get over so that he can proceed next.

"I want to parcel some items", the person replied with a grin.

The clerk took the parcel items, weighed and calculated the charges. After feeding some data on the computer, he replied "Rs. 1100", to the man over the counter. While the man was counting rupees, the clerk completed the transaction, printed the bill and hand over a copy to him.

Picking up the copy of the bill, he pushed 6 Rs. 100 notes through the counter and left hurriedly.

"Where is the balance amount?", the clerk yelled at him as an attempt to stop him.

"That is what I gave to you at the beginning", he shouted back with a grin and walked away.

May 21, 2015

A Review of Shattered Dreams (Book II: Ramayana - The Game of Life)

Shattered Dreams is a sequel to the first book in Ramayana - The Game of Life written by Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker. Honestly, I have not read the first book titled Rise of Sun Prince, which was based on first chapter or Bal Kanda of Ramayana. But then, a book based on one of the most popular epics is like packing old wine in a new bottle. What really matters is the way it is presented.

Unlike works of fiction, epics like Ramayana does not revolve around a central theme; rather myriads of sub plots are involved. The sub plots themselves are so subtle that it requires a qualified scholar to interpret and tell the story, while retaining its original meaning intact. However, new authors/publishers are more interested in popularizing epics, just like scientific findings reached the common man through popular science series. The advantage is that it makes many young readers "read" the work. The flip side is that only the essence can be captured through such "fast read" works.

Through The Game of Life series, the author has made an attempt to rewrite Ramayana in a "readable" way targeting young Indians. I must say that the author has done a commendable job in achieving this. The book is surely a page turner, so fast that one does not realize that he/she is reading from a classic epic story. This itself is a great achievement in my opinion, as the original work was written ages ago in a language which now barely a few speaks.

In order to add more spice to the story which many of us have already read or heard through different sources, the author has written anecdotes at every page. Though adding spice would excite more taste buds, a food which is entirely made of spice can never be had. As the saying goes, “too much of anything is good for nothing”. While some of the anecdotes were interesting to read, most of them are philosophical.

In a work of fiction, it is not common for a reader to say that I had to read a particular paragraph twice to understand what the author is saying. In my case, I had to read several anecdotes twice to understand what the author is saying! The flow gets affected due to this and that makes the “readable” book non readable. But then, what makes these anecdotes irksome is their presence in almost every page. It sometimes made me wonder if I am reading two books at the same time, instead of one! My suggestion to new readers; ignore the anecdotes and read the story first. After you are done with reading, go through the anecdotes.

We live in an era at which our youngsters do not have time to read classic epics nor to hear them from their granny’s. A few decades ago, Rajagopalachari (popularly known as Rajaji) wrote a simple and yet concise version of Ramayana. Shubha Vilas has reproduced a similar version, but this time catering to the masses.
This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

PS: I should have written this review ages ago! However, I could not find time to sit and compile my views due to prior work commitments. I sincerely appreciate blogadda's patience and tender my apologies for such a prolonged delay.

Jan 25, 2015

5 arrows: Duryodhana and Bhishma

The atmosphere was filled with the overwhelming smell of burning flesh and bone from the mass funeral. Hundreds of thousands of men had lost their lives in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, one of the gruesome war histories has ever witnessed. Many more have lost their limbs and other body parts fighting a brave battle between the good and the bad. Both Kauravas and Pandavas fought the war with valor and utmost resistance that the end of the war is nowhere in sight even after the end of the eighth day.

Duryodhana occupying a makeshift chair outside his tent sobbed continuously looking at the lifeless bodies of eight of his kinsmen who died in the battlefield at the hands of Bhima. His red, swollen eyes and grief-stricken face cried for revenge. “Pandavas should die, every one of them”, he grudged. It seems to be an impossible task as long as the old man acted as his Commander-in-chief, he thought, eying at his great-grandfather Bhishma scornfully.

“There is only one way to end this battle without losing more of your kinsmen, my dear son. It is to seek peace with the Pandavas”, Bhishma spoke to the lamented Dhuryodhan.

The words of Bhishma drove him crazy. “How can such words come out from your mouth, my great-grandfather? Are you fighting the battle for Pandavas or for us?” he asked. “Did you switch your loyalty? Have you forgotten your vow to protect Hastinapur from its enemies?” he continued his questions as if there was a war between them and he was shooting each question as if they were a string of arrows pointed towards Bhishma’s heart.

His last question reminded the invincible warrior of his vow to his father that he would remain celibate and protect Hastinapur as a servant and not as a ruler. “How can you utter such nonsense Duryodhana? To protect Hastinapur has been my Dharma and I have been pursuing it with utmost sincerity. The fact that I am standing in front of you on this battlefield and had raised my arms against your cousin proves the point”.

“But it is of no use old man. It is true that you are standing here and physically fighting for us. But your heart is with the Pandavas. Deep in your heart, you yearn for their victory. Why else would it take eight days for you to fight against five Pandavas whose collective strength does not match your valor?”

Duryodhan’s words were provocative. He conveniently forgot that Bhishma had accepted Duryodhan’s request to command his army on the condition that he would not harm the Pandava brothers. But having seen his kinsmen’s lifeless bodies, he could not satisfy himself with the mere destruction of Pandava’s army. He would like to see them killed brutally, the way his brothers were killed by the ruthless murderer.

“How dare you suspect my integrity?” Bhishma roared. An awful silence reigned throughout the Kauravas camp.

“It is now the time for you to prove it, dear pitamah”, he replied.

Bhishma hasted to his tent furiously, picked up five golden arrows from his quiver, chanted verses and meditated on them briefly. He then returned to Duryodhana and declared, “I have imbued my life’s penance on these five golden arrows. Tomorrow, I will kill the Pandavas using these arrows”.

Duryodhana felt elated hearing Bhishma’s response. Why would not he? Tomorrow, everything would come to an end. The war and with it the killings of his brothers and on top of all, the downfall of his enemies. He whistled in joy. Not having complete faith in Bhishma’s words, he ordered Bhishma to make him custody of those five arrows saying he would return them the next morning.

Did the five golden arrows take the life of Pandavas? Of course, we know that that did not happen. However, there can be no second opinion about the power of Bhishma’s penance. So why did not the five golden arrows kill the Pandavas? What happened to them? The second part of this five-part series will shed more light on these questions.