[BOTM] Slaughterhouse-Five … So it goes.


Slaughterhouse-Five

I am announcing Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is Book of the Month (BOTM) (What is this? ) for September.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I bought this book paying double price for the number of pages, I was quite depressed. But this 177 page classic does what most of the books fail to do: to present a terrible and macabre situation in an awfully casual and indifferent tone. I have never read a book that mocks value of lives to this level, and that too with a touch of humour.
Nearly 135000 people were killed in Dresden, Germany(more people than in Hiroshima); a place totally inhabited by civilians with no military or artillery resources what-so-ever. This was a very illogical attack (Is logic even exists in war?) and was tactically kept away from public so that people don’t start hating America.

“It had to be done,” Rumfoord told Billy, speaking of the destruction of Dresden.
“I know,” said Billy.
“That’s war.”
“I know. I’m not complaining.”

The way this story is presented with continuous time traveling in back and forth that the whole life of Billy seems as a whole picture in every line mixed with millions of emotions. The absurdity and illogicality of war is depicted aptly with introduction of the theory that nothing is there called free will.

“How—how did I get here?”
“It would take another Earthling to explain it to you. Earthlings are the great explainers, explaining why this event is structured as it is, telling how other events may be achieved or avoided. I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”
“You sound to me as though you don’t believe in free will,” said Billy Pilgrim.

“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”

Billy simply had no control over whatever was happening with his life and that’s the sole concept of war, isn’t it? And guess what was more painful; you can’t do anything about it but accept your FATE. Can you respond to your death prophecy like this:
He declared,


I, Billy Pilgrim, will die, have died, and always will die on February thirteenth, 1976.

Billy predicts his own death within an hour. He laughs about it, invites the crowd to laugh with him. “It is high time I was dead,” he says. “Many years ago,” he said, “a certain man promised to have me killed. He is an old man now, living not far from here. He has read all the publicity associated with my appearance in your fair city. He is insane. Tonight he will keep his promise.”
There are police around him as he leaves the stage. They are there to protect him from the crush of popularity. No threats on his life have been made since 1945. The police offer to stay with him. They are floridly willing to stand in a circle around him all night, with their zap guns drawn.
“No, no,” says Billy serenely. “It is time for you to go home to your wives and children, and it is time for me to be dead for a little while—and then live again.” At that moment, Billy’s high forehead is in the cross hairs of a high-powered laser gun. It is aimed at him from the darkened press box. In the next moment, Billy Pilgrim is dead. So it goes.

This casually letting go of lives with “So it goes” is the USP of this book, showing us how really small and cheap lives are.
There are not many cases, where the author got emotional in such a difficult and inhuman situation (getting emotional is the most normal thing to do here). But when he did, it was magic.

There were diffident raps on the factory window. Derby was out there, having seen all. He wanted some syrup, too.
So Billy made a lollipop for him. He opened the window. He stuck the lollipop into poor old Derby’s gaping mouth. A moment passed, and then Derby burst into tears. Billy closed the window and hid the sticky spoon. Somebody was coming.

A city (which was one of the most beautiful cities in world) was diminished to mountains of rubble, and Billy was returning home.

Billy opened his eyes. A middle-aged man and wife were crooning to the horses. They were noticing what the Americans had not noticed—that the horses’ mouths were bleeding, gashed by the bits, that the horses’ hooves were broken, so that every step meant agony, that the horses were insane with thirst. The Americans had treated their form of transportation as though it were no more sensitive than a six-cylinder Chevrolet.

Billy asked them in English what it was they wanted, and they at once scolded him in English for the condition of the horses. They made Billy get out of the wagon and come look at the horses. When Billy saw the condition of his means of transportation, he burst into tears. He hadn’t cried about anything else in the war.

All I can say now that, this is the best, best anti-war black-comedy I have ever read. Oh, I forgot; the author himself was there in Dresden when it was slaughtered. So it goes.

Read my experience with other books

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Significance of my blog name: ALPHABET SPEAKS


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Okay, I intend to post this historical, one-of-a-kind post, maybe for the first time; where a blogger writes a blog post about meaning of his blog page name. It’s very funny if you come to think of it.

So name of my blog is : ALPHABET SPEAKS.

On paper, it’s a very ordinary name meaning a bunch of letters in English language are speaking. Very ordinary.

Look closer. Let me break the title in two parts:

  1. ALPHABET
  2. SPEAKS

ALPHABET:

It’s the set of letters in English language. We all know that. Right? Now, if I write ALPHABET like this:

ALPHABET ALPHABET ALPHABET… on and on in circle. What do you see?

ALPHABETALPHABET… on and on in circle.

Two phrases are coming out: ALPHA, BETA. We all know them. They are two Greek alphabets which we majorly use in science and calculation. We also use them on another case.

In any project or work we use them to denote version. Right? Alpha version means a very premature state, whereas Beta means a better much improved state, but not the final perfect state, mind that.

So the meaning of ALPHABET(A) SPEAKS is simply this:

It’s the cry of a writer who continuously moving from alpha to beta, alpha to beta in circle but never reaching that perfection, never.

SPEAKS:

Now comes the Speaks part. Grammatically speaking, ‘Speaks’ is normally used in case of 3rd person singular number. But as mentioned above, alpha and beta are separate states, so ‘speak’ would have been much appropriate. But here, ‘speaks’ is signifying a singular entity of different stages as a writer.

I think I am clear enough. It’s my tendency from the very beginning of writing a story is to insert minute, insignificant riddles, metaphors and symbolism. I know very well that, none will notice them and none will care for them. But I keep that anyway, in hope that someday a reader would find that or at least doubt a mere simple line for something else.

So moral of this post is this: though few things may look like shit (generally); there maybe a hidden meaning in that. Try to look for it.

Thank you for reading. ❤ 🙂

The Wet Railing by Anirban Nanda


It’s raining outside, reminding me this piece.

ALPHABET SPEAKS

I wrote this story to fight with my writer’s block participating in #1000wordsmarathon. I wrote it within 50 mins. Hope you would like it.


THE WET RAILING

by Anirban Nanda

What will you feel if you are tied to an iron for your whole life? Pretty bad, nah? Well, think about me. Yes, me. I am a railing; a thin cylindrical metallic rod to prevent you from falling off from a metro. I am too old now, a bit rusty and fragile. Maybe I am no use to you, but still you can lend your ear for a few minutes to this old man’s ─sorry, not man, old railing would be more appropriate─ meaningless ramblings.

images

This is monsoon you know. And for me, monsoon comes to me with bittersweet feelings. Bitter because it gifts me rust on my body and corrode it bit by bit; and sweet, yes; not…

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Review: #Iam16ICanRape by Kirtida Gautam


#IAm16ICanRape

#IAm16ICanRape by Kirtida Gautam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Recently I have read a very lengthy and much talked book  #IAm16ICanRape
by Kirtida Gautam which takes on a very important aspect of our judicial system and more crucially psychology of rape.

Now as the subject is really hard-hitting and the book is 630 pgs long, I was excited to read this one hoping to find a true magnum opus on the current position of woman in India. In fact, I have finished this book quite a few days ago, but I was doubtful about my opinion on the same. So after much thought I am presenting my true opinion about this book.

Firstly, this book is an honest attempt. But in midway through the book, I have almost decided to give it a 2-star and stop reading further. There are reasons for that which I will point out shortly. Basically the book gained 1 more star for Chapter 10.1, 6.4 and few more chapters on Aarush, our protagonist.

Too Many Characters:

In my opinion, this book would be better if it had been presented as a non-fiction book. The fact that, with almost 15 characters and 630+ pages; if the story and narration are not gripping enough, the book will bore the reader.

This book has lot of characters and the author has tried to give equal space for each one of them. Whereas, many characters are redundant and removing them would have made this book far more compact and gripping.

Narration/Language/Style:

Next are narration, language and style. The style is in simple prose for which I have no problem but the presentation is not lively at all. For example consider the following excerpt:

“Around 12:15 a.m., I get a call from the Santosh Hospital. Dad collapsed in the parking area at RK-JEE. How and when did that happen? We rush to the hospital and find out that Dad was backing his car from his parking space when suddenly, he fell on the wheel and fainted. The watchman, Makkhan Singh, rushed to the spot and drove him to hospital.”

As each chapter is devoted to one character only it’s really irritating when in every line the character says “I am doing this, I am doing that.”

Like this one:

(From a chapter on Rudransh)

“I am so excited with this thought that I cannot sleep. I wake up at least five times during the night to check the time. Every night when I go to bed, I get the feeling that it is morning in five minutes; but tonight, the time simply does not pass. By the time the alarm clock rings at 5:30 a.m., I am already up. I go for my morning walk.”

(From a Chapter on Meghana)

“I come home. My cook, Sarojini, has come. I ask her to pack three different Tupperware tiffin boxes. I specify in my instructions to use Tupperware and not regular plastic boxes. The first tiffin is my lunchbox, the second my 4 p.m. snack, and the last my 6 p.m. salad.

I drive to my office. The intern, Shivani, is not in the office. I don’t appreciate it when people are late when they are on an internship. I criticize Shivani in front of Rajkumar, who is my best friend and colleague.”

It’s just telling, not showing. Even you can’t differentiate the tone of each character; all are almost same.

Dialogues:

Also, most of the narration is based on dialogues and I am not happy to see the author considering her readers so dumb. A tone, or mockery, or sarcasm should reflect in the dialogue itself. We don’t need a comment explaining meaning of the dialogue each time.

For example:

“Hi Dad, I didn’t notice you. When did you come? What is the time? 1:30?” she asks.

Sarcasm!

“No, it is 9:30,” I answer.

“How come RK-Ji is back so early?”

Sarcasm, again!

“Has your MIL’s spirit entered in your body by any chance? Why so much sarcasm? At the end of the day, you are a woman and you can’t change that, right?” I am her father-figure, she should not verbally brawl with me.

Good Mind-play:

But at the end few chapters pay off well as mentioned earlier. Very deep insights are presented at very crucial points that question our beliefs. Like this one:

“There are people who believe in the basic goodness of human nature. I believe in the basic evil of human nature.

I am a memory collector. I like to collect memories of high and intensely emotional moments. Any idea why people watch movies or read fiction and stuff? Homo sapiens crave emotional experiences. They need intense emotional experiences, but the fact of human life is that they don’t get those experiences in their real lives. They bottle up emotions, then they go out and watch or read something and their emotions come out, a process called catharsis. The lower the intelligence of a system; the more prone she/he will be to enjoy vicarious emotions and believe in the make-believe. That is how the film and TV industry survives. By stupidiots, with stupidiots, for stupidiots!”

OR

“When Mom slapped me, the absolute first thought that came into my head was, ‘Does she know?’ Then I quickly put all the pieces of the puzzle together. If she knew, she would not have been the only person to know. Bob would have known too! But Bob just hugged me and welcomed me back home. He didn’t know a thing, which implied Mom didn’t know anything either. She slapped me only because she felt like slapping me. Good! That is good! She thinks I was angry with her. I was not angry, I played angry, but in reality, I was relieved!”

I adore this kind of mind-play. The division of chapters, though very unconventional and confusing, is basically a timeline of the events that take place in the book. A clever way of chapter division.

Nearing at end of this review I can say that, it has good insights, an average plot, an average narration and too many characters (so many that you may forget their names). So it leaves me dangling in between whether I like this book or not. Hence, giving it three stars.

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[Book Experience] Domechild by Shiv Ramdas


Domechild

Domechild by Shiv Ramdas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tomorrow it was past midnight and though I was aware that next morning (I mean today) I have to wake up early and catch a train, I was tensely reading this book clutching the cover and cursing the author for writing such a long book and making me stay awake so late. But it was worth it.

Contrary to expectation, I have found this book a proper mix of Orwellian dystopian and a GOT type thriller. But still, at the end of the book, I am satisfied and happy. The language is good, full of juice and humor proving the author’s mastery over words.

Like any other sci-fi novel this book opens in a futuristic world with total-vigilance on everyone. I was really excited about the theory to be developed later for this totalitarian society . And for that I was reading this book earnestly, waiting for the revelation. But it was sad that I had to wait till next half of the book where things got more complicated with every line. The book is a 100% sci-fi thriller with original thoughts on how our society would turn out if things present in today’s world go wrong. Shiv Ramdas has cleverly used the modern world technology for total vigilance. Here as everything in society is automated, the citizens are appointed for the sole purpose of monitoring everyone’s movement. They have a social network site where people get to check others’ profiles and chat with them (with fake smiles and words). In case, there is some discrepancy, the citizens have to report the same to the concerned officials. I think this is convincing enough in that world.

In midst of all these highly futuristic civilization, there is a different world altogether outside the city(of course the name of the city is Dome). When one timid person is thrown from such a systematic, mundane and fearful world to a wild, dark and addictive world, one can understand how interesting the adventure will going to be. And also, the hidden plot twists have emerged in such unexpected situations that the whole book has become a treat for sci-fi readers. I don’t want to spoil anything but the end few pages are so awesomely constructed that it leaves the reader desperately wanting to read the next part/installation.

I have deducted 1 star because of these:

1. The running through tunnels in mid-section seemed has been dragged too much. Almost 30 pages can easily be reduced.

2. The theory that has established the dystopian world in this book is quite convincing and original. The theory is this: a highly talented scientist with help of a company demystifies the working of human brain reveling which exact points of our brain is sensitive to what kind of information. The problem has arrived when that interface has become corrupted due to some conspiracy and thus making the same information act like a drug.
There is one thought of mine based upon the above theory. In that sense,the information or the digital data itself has the ability to control human brain by inducing exact signals at exact points of human brain. This gives the company the ability to control every human being in the way they have wanted and thus reducing half the effort by everyone(to control and to save). Anyway, this only is my personal thought.

Another good thing about this book is that, unlike other recent books, this one respects your IQ and let you figure out different subtle plot-points by yourself. I thank the author for that.

Well, what are you waiting for! Go give it a read. Highly recommended.
Read all my book experiences

Why (should) humans read?


Yesterday night, I decided to write a post like this. Topic is weird and want to know why I am posting this? Because:

  1. I think it is high time in this awesome gaming/cinema era for publishing a post on reading or telling stories and what is the need to listen(read) to those stories.
  2. I need to increase post reach of my page. LOL, Jokes apart, following lines are implications of a true reader’s feelings.

To tell you the truth, I have been going through a gaming spree for few months. Yes, gaming. I have played games like Transistor , Bastion , Trine, The Walking Dead, Child of Light, Stacking, Bioshock, Brothers- a tale of two sons, FEZ , Her Story and Gone Home. Pretty long list, eh?

But guess what! There is one common denominator in all these games which is …  Story and Presentation. Now why have I pulled gaming in an arguably opposite domain i.e. reading? The reason is simply this: you need to understand the difference of impact on your perception from reading a book and playing a game and watching a movie.
Lets take an example of Game, say The Walking Dead which is both famous in gaming world and in TV series. Now here in this game/serial you find yourself among zombies craving for your blood and your fate depends on the choices you make (in the game also). In that sense, in the gaming world you get to enjoy a better experience of the surrounding environment than in the serial.

TWD_S2_Game_Cover

Now, imagine if there is a book awesomely written on the same and you are reading it. With each line you will be forming images of the scenes happening and as well forming your opinions (sometimes agreeing and sometimes not) along with the characters. You are creating an world all by yourself. When you watch the same in serial, it bound to differ with your world and opinions.

For example, take the famous Bollywood movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ) where in the end Simran’s father declared the epic dialogue “Ja Simran ja, ja jee le apni zindegi”(Go Simran go, live your life.) I know you are remembering the exact scene depicted in the film. But people who have not watched the film and reading this post have already formed a different image from the film. So the film is basically feeding you with an image that is visualized by someone else (most probably the director).

But humans have fortunately been given a brain which can do things which is far beyond understanding of scientists even today. So the thing is, with game or movie you are devouring something, creating nothing which is in a way, not the complete use of your ability to create new worlds.

Next what comes in mind that, why do you even need to use your brain where as you are getting ready-made entertainment from films and games? Well, that’s a tricky question. To answer this, let me talk about a famous book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn where things have happened beyond our expectation. Now among us, who have read both the book and watched the film will know that reading the book before watching the film has made them construct their own anguish/opinion/joy. Do you remember the following lines from the book?

I’m so much happier now that I’m dead.

Technically, missing. Soon to be presumed dead. But as shorthand, we’ll say dead. It’s been only a matter of hours, but I feel better already: loose joints, wavy muscles. At one point this morning, I realized my face felt strange, different. I looked in the rearview mirror – dread Carthage forty-three miles behind me, my smug husband lounging around his sticky bar as mayhem dangled on a thin piano wire just above his shitty, oblivious head – and I realized I was smiling. Ha! That’s new.

My checklist for today – one of many checklists I’ve made over the past year – sits beside me in the passenger seat, a spot of blood right next to Item 22: Cut myself. But Amy is afraid of blood, the diary readers will say. (The diary, yes! We’ll get to my brilliant diary.) No, I’m not, not a bit, but for the past year I’ve been saying I am. I told Nick probably half a dozen times how afraid I am of blood, and when he said, ‘I don’t remember you being so afraid of blood,’ I replied, ‘I’ve told you, I’ve told you so many times!’ Nick has such a careless memory for other people’s problems, he just assumed it was true. Swooning at the plasma center, that was a nice touch. I really did that, I didn’t just write that I did. (Don’t fret, we’ll sort this out: the true and the not true and the might as well be true.)

Only a reader will understand what kind of shock he/she will be in after reading this. Where as in the film, it would take merely 1 sec to show what is told above. My point is: your emotions are more intense in case of book; you are instantly making opinions on the situation which for sure will make you more aware and rational person in the long run. And that’s the whole point of being a human and not a horse. Human can form opinions from which they take decisions. And decisions can only differ between human and animal. Clearly, the more you read, the more you form opinions, and more thinking results in effective decision making capability during important turning of your life.

battles

That’s why from the very beginning of human civilization, humans told stories to their descendants, to pass the tale of their lives, or drew cave drawing which is an intuitive form of telling stories. Presenting stories in form of writing has always remained an useful way of spreading thoughts, and it will remain like this as long as humans exist in this planet.

So read a book, and live another new world.

[Book Experience] A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry


A Fine BalanceA Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked up this book out of curiosity and excitement about reading an Indian author’s book whose name I had not heard much before. Also, though I had heard about the Emergency declared in India in 1975, but was not aware of its real consequences on citizens in both cities and villages.

Immediately after starting the book, I kept saying in my mind: This book is going to be brilliant. Because the language is strikingly beautiful. Lines like:

The chalks and slates fascinated them. They yearned to hold the white sticks in their hands, make little white squiggles like the other children, draw pictures of huts, cows, goats, and flowers. It was like magic, to make things appear out of nowhere.

Sometimes, unjustified beating was described with mocking comedy, like when Ishwar and Narayan was beaten ferociously they ran.

Ishvar and Narayan ran off with their pants straggling, stumbling and tripping comically.

Or when they went for performing their morning calling at railway tracks bearing a vulnerable ‘louta’ :

The water in it sloshed a little as they scrambled over mounds of concrete rubble and broken glass. A foul-smelling stream, greyish yellow, trickled through the mounds, carrying a variety of floating waste in its torpid flux.

To be true, the book is full of misery, pain and loss. But there are joys in little things, more than enough to delight any reader.

At Om’s prompting, Ishvar got on the carrier behind the saddle. He sat sideways, legs straight out. With his feet inches off the ground, sandals grazing the road now and then, they sailed away. Om’s optimism pealed in the tring-tring showers spouting from the bell. For a while the world was perfect.

Halfway through the book and I was wondering this book should be called “A tragedy too long”. Because to be true, none of the characters is happy in this book, their lives were full of tragedies.

I kept reading anyway, just because of the unbelievably beautiful language and prose style. At nearly 70% of the book, some really nostalgic moments had made me smile unknowingly. I have smiled because the way they found joy in midst of total anarchy. And I knew for sure that Mistry would ruin it soon; it was obvious from the experience I got from reading 70% of this book. And true I was.

A 600 page long book describing only pain would not be a great experience, but Mistry has done it in style. There are ample amount of fun and jokes to make you laugh out loud. And LOL, chess of time it was.

Avinash’s hollow-cheeked father would have lit the pyre. Crackle of kindling. Smoke smarting the eyes. And fingers of fire teasing, playing, tickling the corpse. Causing it to arch, as though trying to sit up … a sign, they said, the spirit protesting. Avinash used to often arch like that when playing chess, lying back, almost flat on the bed, turning his head sideways, contemplating the board. Rising on his elbow to reach the piece, to make his move.
Checkmate. And then the flames.

And I think this would be more of Mistry’s thoughts than Dina to justify above:

How much Dina Aunty relished her memories. Mummy and Daddy were the same, talking about their yesterdays and smiling in that sad-happy way while selecting each picture, each frame from the past, examining it lovingly before it vanished again in the mist. But nobody ever forgot anything, not really, though sometimes they pretended, when it suited them. Memories were permanent. Sorrowful ones remained sad even with the passing of time, yet happy ones could never be recreated – not with the same joy. Remembering bred its own peculiar sorrow. It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain.

This book will remain one of the favourite books I have ever read simply because every single character in this book has come alive with masterful hand of Mistry. I repeat, every single negligible character.

I was on the verge of comparing Mistry to G.R.R Martin, for both like to kill every character they create. But the next moment, I thought GOT is nothing but high fantasy, but Mistry’s atmosphere was true. It was truly horrible and miserable as it said. That was really a spine-chilling experience, and I was thanking my fortune for not coming in this world on those black days. Also, the deaths here were justified from the person’s physical and psychological condition, sometimes even symbolic.

I can now say that I have read a truly black and tragic book which everyone should read at least once, for life is too short and pain is too big.

View all my book experiences