Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books read this year

Its been a while since I wrote a post on the blog. I have been a bit busy, with work, as well as with reading. I want to write about the latter today - books I have read this year. So here they are, in the order I finished reading them:

  1. Book: Brida
    Author: Paulo Coelho

    Ever wondered how the same person can be in love with two different persons? Read this one, to know more.
  2. Book: The Chariots Of The Gods
    Author: Erik Van Daniken

    What if there are no Gods? What if it were some aliens from a much advanced society from distant planet of the Universe, whom the native treated as Gods because they were superior? What if Humans perpetuated from the Aliens?
    Chariots of the Gods poses and discusses these really intriguing question on God-hood.
    The book has been written answering the questions in affirmative. The theory built around the existence of God is what keeps the mind involved throughout the book.

    Spoiler Alert:
    Think on the following lines, and you will start seeing it in better light.
    If we assume Gods happened to be aliens, what about their Gods?
    If we assume aliens were our ancestors, what about their ancestors?
  3. Book: Chanakya Neeti
    Author: Chanakya

    This one was an English translation of the original Sanskrit version. I read it more because of the author. As is the case with most books from those old ages, this one was also originally written in the form of couplets. The english translation is wisdom in multiples of two lines.
  4. Book: The Secret Adversary
    Author: Agatha Christie

    This one happens to be an Agatha Christie novel, so you know what to expect.
  5. Book: The Motorcycle Diaries
    Author: Ernesto Che Guevera

    This one, is once again an English translation, of Che's work. The diary covers the period in the early 1950s, when Che set out  on a motorcycle road trip. I picked it up more so because I wanted to know what kind of thoughts the Cuban revolutionary used to have and how they influenced his future choices. Of course, the contents didn't disappoint, even though I had picked the book by its cover.
  6. Book: My Experiments With Truth
    Author: Mahatma Gandhi

    This one is  a biography, and I am sure most of us know about it.
    Its a very frank account of the life of Gandhi till the early 1920s, given by himself. The one thought from the book that I can never forget, is "How can you appreciate the beauty of another religion, when you don't know the value of yours own."
    Reading the book is a task in itself; I took around 2 months to finish reading it, reading another 7-8 books in the period. But thats my personal opinion; its a biography, and you have to be really inspired to finish one. :)
  7. Book: Keep The Change
    Author: Nirupama Subrahmaniam

    It is a light novel compared to the heavy stuff made up by Mein Kampf and Experiments With Truth, and so I read this one more as a filler. Anyways, the book turned out to be a well written story of Damayanthi, and the issues she faces when she moves to a new city job.
  8. Book: Love Story2
    Author: Eric Segal

    A sequel to Love Story.
  9. Book: It Happened In India
    Author: Kishore Biyani

    Heard of Future Group? Big Bazaar?
    Yup, this is the story of the man behind the group.
    In testing waters, when the ships of Subhiksha, Vishal, and a number of other retailers sank, Future Group not only managed to stay afloat, but also earned decent profits. Some of the insights on how decision making happened initially at the group are really brilliant. A good read for the management junkies, and those otherwise interested.
  10. Book: Mein Kampf
    Author: Adolf Hitler

    This one is an English translation, of the original book in German.
    Anyways, it was a complete pain to read this book. Most of the books tell you what you can let happen. This one tells you what you shouldn't ever let happen. The hate speeches that Hitler delivers are sick - the talk of superior races and what nots just made me sick. That is the chief reason why I took almost four months to read it. That, and the fact that I was reading Experiments with Truth along with it. Hitler and Gandhi did make the worst combo of heavy reading.
    There is not much good in this book, except the parts where Hitler discusses about how to create and run an effective movement and top down bureaucracy.
    All in all, a 'propaganda for the intelligentsia' is what I will call it.
  11. Book: Ignited Minds
    Author: APJ Abdul Kalam

    It is a small book by Kalam, which "contains dynamic and original ideas, examines attitudes afflicting the Indians, and present prescriptions for rapid growth of India to enable the country to emerge as a developed country" (from Wikipedia :P)
  12. Book: The Polyster Prince.
    Author: Hamish McDonald

    This is an unauthorized biography of Dhiru Bhai Ambani. A shocking read, it tells of the malpractices prevalent during the times of Sr. Ambani, and how he raced on the road to success. It sheds light on his professional rivalries as well as well as some of his controversial business practices.
    Politicians and government also receive due words for their role in the rise of Ambani. All in all, a must read for anyone interested in the early 1970's to late 1990's business India.
  13. Book: Vision 2020
    Author: APJ Abdul Kalam

    Once again, a book I chose by its cover, i.e., by seeing the name of the author. However, this is no Wings of Fire, or Ignited Minds. This is the vision document for India, compiled by TIFAC, in around 2002 and contains the vision for the various industries, segments etc for the year 2020. Good for people targeting civil services and those who want to know about policy formulation in general.
  14. Book: A Better India, A Better World
    Author: N R Narayan Murthy

    This book contains speeches by Mr. Murthy, the founder of InfoSys, delivered at different times and locations in the 2000's. The speeches offer an insight into the challenges Murthy faced, with setting up and running of InfoSys. Since a lot of these speeches happened in College addresses, they have a motivating tone to them - they make you aspire to do something just more than money. But of course, reading a speech is not the same as listening to one, and those who have heard Murthy in person can obviously skip it.
  15. Book: 2 States
    Author: Chetan Bhagat

    A love story of a Punjabi boy and a Madrasi girl, this one suits completely to the Indian taste.
    Another Filler Novel.
  16. Book: The Pale Horse
    Author: Agatha Christie

    Every-time I read an Agatha Christie, I try to solve the mystery myself as well. And she manages to to give this one a complete supernatural and sinister touch. Normally, I am able to fix more than half the loose ends, though connecting all the dots has never been possible for me.
    But in this one, I hopelessly completely failed. A good read.
  17. Book: False Impressions
    Author: Jeffery Archer

    Its a novel. I don't want to play a spoiler. :|
  18. Book: Beyond The White House
    Author: Jimmy Carter

    Jimmy Carter is a former US president (1980-84).
    When I had picked this book (once again, by its cover), I had assumed I would be reading something related to White House. Absolutely not.
    This book briefs you, rather, outlines to you the brilliant work that Carter Foundation has done in a number of the third world countries.
    The amount of change that Carter brought is simply immense. From eradicating diseases to hosting free and fair elections to mediating in international crises, in his 25 years after the White House, Carter with his Carter Foundation, makes you redefine the limits of achievement.
  19. Book: The Tigers, The Elephants and The CellPhones
    Author: Shashi Tharoor

    A collection of articles by Mr. Tharoor. Some of the essays on India, its founding fathers, and its secularity are really brilliant. A good read overall.
  20. Book: Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War
    Author: Ernesto Che Guevera

    Once again, a translated version in English, it is a well maintained diary of a Gureilla (Che) - the problems and dilemmas he faces, and life in the jungle.
  21. Book: Freedom At Midnight
    Authors: Dominique Lapierre, Larry Collins

    This book redefines awesomeness. If all textbooks were like this, I would definitely have studied History instead of Maths or Engineering.
    Full of anecdotes, the book is an excellent commentary on the freedom struggle of India. The only thing, I didn't like about this book is that it covers India mainly from 1930 to 1948. :D
    An awesomely must read.
  22. Books: Geeta; Who Am I

    I read the abridged version.
  23. Book: The Steve Jobs Way
    Author: Jay S Eliot

    I read this before Steve Jobs died.
    Anyways, it is good book, which brings out Steve's passionate side, as well as his business side not to forget his field distortion effect. :P
  24. Book: Diary of a Young Girl
    Author:  Anne Frank

    Jealous. That's what I felt while I was reading the book. A girl who was merely two-third my age, and yet who could think at levels at which I still can not.
    Sorry. That's what I felt when I finished reading it. Couldn't stop wondering what would have become of her, if she had survived.
  25. Book: The White Tiger
    Author: Aravind Adiga

    A brilliant book with India and poverty as its background theme. The story of Balram Halwai is simply mesmerizing.
  26. Book: Catch 22
    Author: Joseph Heller

    A must must must read. Absolutely Hilarious.
    It took me a bit long time to read this one, and it was because I couldn't resist laughing for minutes after many of the lines. Yossarian, the central character lets you watch the messy world in a funny light.
  27. Book: Freedom In Exile
    Author: His Holiness Dalai Lama

    A well written book, the thought flow adopted is simply wonderful.
    It taught me a lot about the Tibet problem (considering my initial knowledge was zero).
    His Holiness writes about things with such simplicity, that you can actually visualize the scenery, the people, and the events without any effort.
  28. Book: Essentials of Hindutva
    Author: Veer Damodar Savarkar

    After getting inspired by Gandhi, ("How can you appreciate the beauty of another religion, when you don't know the value of your own."), I read up Geeta. This also followed in the same line.
    This one is written by V.D. Savarkar, who represented the major Hindu Hardline ideology of the 1940's. The arguments he gives, related to Etymology of 'India' are really awesome. The ones related to who India belongs to, was where I stopped following his line of thought.
    A good read anyways.
  29. Book: Absolute Khushwant
    Author: Khushwant Singh

    Khushwant Singh's take on the various aspects of life - His life, religion, secularism and partition. All in all a very good read.
  30. Book: Animal Farm
    Author: George Orwell

    With the anlogy of an Animal Farm, George Orwell brilliantly narrates how changing the people in the System yields no effect, when the system itself is faulty.
  31. Book: Hind Swaraj
    Author: Mahatma Gandhi

    If you ever read somewhere that British believed Gandhi was a Hypocrite, you will find the reason for the same in this book.
    This one sheds the life on the real Mahatma, and the India of his dreams. Some of the ideas might seem like going backwards, but the vision is what makes you truly understand Gandhi, and his principles.
  32. Book: India Without Humbugs
    Author: Khushwant Singh

    This book contains the early articles by Khushwant Singh - those from late 50's and early 60's. A small book, but a good one.
  33. Book: Five People You Meet In Heaven
    Author: Mitch Albom

    This is that one book that blew my mind off. As soon as I read it, I couldn't resist re-reading it.
    The book is based on 5 persons, whose life changed yours in some way - with you knowing some of them, but not all, and you met these 5 persons in Heaven. An interesting take on the meaning of Life, Death and Heaven.
  34. Book: Tata: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand
    Author: Morgan Witzel

    Witzel traces out the whole history, tradition, and life of the Tata Brand in this fantastic book. People talk of Corporate Social Responsibility these days, but did you know that Tata Sons has majority shareholders as Non profit Trusts, that work for Public benefit?
    In fact, this element of Social Responsibility is build into the DNA of the Tata Brand. A must read for the MBA junta.
  35. Book: The Google Story
    Author: David A Vise

    A must read for Google fanatics. Nothing more to say.
  36. Book: The Press In India
    Author: G S Bhargava

    I picked this one by accident. But serendipity is good. Mr. Bhargava happened to be a prominent editor of 80's, and he sketches a beautiful timeline of the press, right from its inception in 1800's, to the modern day 2000's. Add to that the role that press played at various phases of independence struggle and emergency, and the sanctions it faced, and this becomes a real awesome read.
  37. Book: Profiles In Courage
    Author: John F Kennedy

    Once again an accidentally picked book turning out great. Kennedy talks about 8 US senators, from different periods of US history who risked everything - their careers and future, so as to stand by the choices they had to make in tough times, with courage.
  38. Book: The Finkler Question
    Author: Howard Jacobson

    The 'Finkler' here has been used as a reference to Jews. It is a good book, though I didn't enjoy reading it much. It is good because it enriches your knowledge about the Jewa in general. I didn't like it because it felt like an overdose of Jewish culture.
  39. Book: Train To Pakistan
    Author: Khushwant Singh

    A brilliant book by Khushwant Singh. It captures the myriad emotions present among the people of different sections of the then society, with excellence.  The resentment, the fear, the anger - Name an emotion and you will find Singh has done complete justice to it.
  40. Book: Corporate Atyachar
    Author: Abhay Nagrajan

    I read this one as a Filler novel, once again. It contains few humorous moments. But an average read on the whole.
  41. Book: Nemesis
    Author: Agatha Christie

    Another Agatha Christie Classic, from the Miss Marple Series. Enjoyed reading it, as always.
  42. Book: Tuesdays With Morrie
    Author: Mitch Albom

    After reading the 5 People You Meet In Heaven, I couldn't resist laying my hands on this one. It is a good book, and deals very effectively with the question of meaning of life.
    I couldn't enjoy it much though, because I couldn't resist thinking how all books, on meaning of life are written by people associated with someone loosing theirs.

    Anyways, I am sure a lot of people will find it reasonably good to read.
  43. Book: Imagining India
    Author: Nandan Nilekani

    A must read book for guys preparing for Civil Services and people enthusiastic about India.
    Mr. Nilekani, co founder of InfoSys, talks about the India of his dreams, how certain events like the LPG of 1991 affected India, and what issues India needs to address in the 21st century.
  44. Book: Malgudi Days
    Author: R K Narayan

    A collection of short stories from Mr. Narayan.
  45. Book: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
    Author: Arthur Conan Doyale

    A collection of Short Stories, with Sherlock Holmes as the lead detective.
  46. Book: To Kill A MockingBird
    Author: Harper Lee

    Harper Lee makes you see the world from the eyes of 9 year old girl Scott Finch. A great book that touches brilliantly on the hatred rampant against the blacks in the American Society.
  47. Book: The Story of My Life
    Author: Helen Keller

    One of the best books I read last year, not for a moment will you realize the physical handicaps the writer suffers from until she explicitly mentions them to you. If you have watched the movie Black, or ever heard of it, know that it is based on the life of this woman, and much of its original ideas come from this book.
  48. Book: Ideas of a Nation
    Author: Bhagat Singh

    This book contains the English translation of of transcripts of Bhagat Singh's Correspondence with the British authorities, when he was in jail. It also contains the content of his various pamphlets that he used during the revolution.
    A quote I will never forget - "Zindgi to apne damm par hi jiyi jati hey... dusro k kandhe par tohh sirf janaje uthaye jate hey.”
  49. Book: 1984
    Author: George Orwell

    Written around 1949, George Orwell predicts the doom of socialism in this enthralling book. Though nothing as he had predicted happened in 1984, yet some of the things that he mentions are akin to what is happening these days. (#Internet Censorship). The imagination and lucidity with which the writer narrates the story makes this one commendable.
  50. Book: Stay Hungry Stay Foolish
    Author: Rashmi Bansal

    In this book, Rashmi takes you through the journey of 25 IIM-A graduates, who chose Entrepreneurship as their calling at various stages of their life - how they failed, and then succeeded at it, and the roadblocks they faced.
  51. Book: It's not about the Bike, My Journey Back To Life
    Author: Lance Armstrong

    This book is really inspiring. It narrates the story of Lance, who, after recovering from stage 3 of Testicular Cancer, made a comeback to the Professional Cycling Circuit, and won seven Tour De France races back to back. Armstrong very frankly talks about the events, before his cancer diagnosis, and how his cancer diagnosis affected him.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Choice is Always Yours...


Don't know whether this is the right place to express myself in this way.., but anyways.., I shall continue....


Sometimes, people are just dumb and plain stupid.
Sometimes, people shout even though they know they are wrong.
Sometimes, people groan because they feel they have been wrongly served, even though deep within they know they are wrong.
Sometimes, I enter into arguments with people. And then I get to hear arguments, whose worth is no more than a dog's bark to me.

And it is times like these, that makes me question: "who do you want to be?".

Do you want to be the dog running after the speeding car?
Just because you can?
Just because you are a dog?
Just because you think every car is at fault?
Just because you think the car is too fast for you?
Even when you know your chase will yield no result?
So as to satisfy your lame ego?

Or do you want to be the one sitting inside the car?
Unmoved by the actions of dogs outside. Probably found in packs of 4 every street.
Speeding away, because thats what you want to do.
Because you know, that stray dogs are notorious for chasing cars stupidly.

I guess, the choice is always yours: You can either be the dog complaining lamely about things, or you can be the calm guy who knows where he is heading...

Monday, May 09, 2011

I wish I never grew up...


Today I went to the room of a psenti-semite (Some one who is in his last sem). The fellow is leaving early 9th morning. His hostel and the adjoining ones were full of other psenti-semites as well, packing their stuff, to end their college journey, and embark on new adventures in life.

On my way back, I just couldn't resist thinking, how those empty rooms and packed baggages symbolised the beginning of the end for me. And the realisation made me emotional. That I have finally grown up. The realisation, that soon, I too will be packing my bags and leaving, to enter the world of corporates. A world, where career becomes your first priority, not friends. Where work becomes your priority, not joy. Where living becomes your priority, not life.


As a kid, I always wished, that I would grow up quickly, to walk in tandem with the adults, to be a more responsible person than the kids around me and to be considered more intelligent from the lot. I idolized the big ones around me.
I wanted to grow up, because I wanted to be independent, enjoy life without worrying about parting with my chocolates. I wanted to grow up quick, so that no one would pester me when I was playing Mario. There were lots of reasons, most of them kiddish, but  I just wanted to grow up.

And then I came to my high school. And all I wanted was to transcend the boundaries of my school. To become a good grown-up man living a good life. The dreams were smaller back then, and the targets of those days seem laughable to me now. But yet, I wanted to grow out of the cocoon of school and fly into the open world. Because I wanted to live life large. Heard that, 'live life king size' phrase?


Then I came to my college. With a Computer Science degree programme pushing its muscle behind me.
And all I wanted was to grow up into an even more successful person.

But, The life at college was different.

Because apart from my head growing up, I turned a lot more mature. Till +2, all I had done was learn from some books. Now I was also learning from people. I was learning about myself, my good and the dark sides, and fighting my way, to become a better grown up.
I learned a lot about the ground realities of this world.
And yet, the will to grow into an even more successful person only got stronger.

I learned about a world beyond my text books. I developped tastes and interests. in things that till not long ago I considered a waste of time. I learned to appreciate the beauty in other people's actions and lives, and came to respect their thoughts. Sometimes, Life would be the game, and me the hunter. At other times, I would be the game, and life would be the hunter.
And I only wanted to grow up more.

But now, as the end becomes imminent, my heart is crying.
And I wish, that I never should have grown up.
I don't know why.

Maybe, its because I still miss my school friends, and am sad because of this race called life separated us. A deja-vu of sorts that I want to avoid.
Maybe, because I have got too much attached to my surroundings, and I just don't want to break those strings right now.
Maybe, because I never gave it a thought, what I would do, if and when I lost contact with all that has been part of my life for last three years.
Maybe, because the very thought of loosing contact makes me sad enough. Already, I drag with me, the memories of my school life, and now, I will have to carry the burden of my college memories as well. Dragging the burden might seem a wrong phrase; These are a burden, because my heart wishes that these days to never be over. And I drag these, because I wish, one day, I could relive them. Because one day in the future, I want to laugh about all that I lost in the process of growing up. 
But now, I don't know, if I still want to keep growing.

People say, all these are phases of life.
Everyone comes across things and events like these in their lives. 
All I can say is, it is easy to say things, and console. But hard to bear the weight right inside your head. I just don't want to be haunted by those cherished memories of friendship, love and bonding.

There were days at my college, when I would think about the moments of my school life. A tree, which was the epitome of my school days. A building, where I spent 14  years of my younger life, making new friends, and learning new things, everyday. A 30 minutes lunch break, when a bunch of friends would just go on making fun of any one from the group. A staff room, where teachers would discuss our pranks. A class room, where we had earlier enacted those pranks. A lunch box, with a dozen odd friends pounding on it to get some food; not because we were hungry, but because it was fun. Stupid gossips about girls and boys. Making fun of the teachers, in every wrong way. Laughing our hearts out, on the silliest of jokes.

There were days in my life, when I would miss the happiness of my past, the smiles of my teachers and the laughter of my friends. And now, there will be more such days.

Once again, People say that these are all phases of life, you learn a lot as you grow old, you get to have new adventures, new experiences and new encounters in life. 
I don't know whats in store for my future, or just how good or bad my future might be.
But I am sure, it won't have the same old friends with the same old laughter in it.
Sure, there will be days of joy, but I don't think I could compare those with the memories of my life.
Because everyone has grown up now.

And now, I just don't want these experiences to die as memories;
I want them to live forever.
Because now, I wish I had never grown up...


Friday, April 22, 2011

Chariots Of The Gods : Erik Von Daniken


A couple of days ago, I read this e-book, Chariots of the Gods, By Erik Von Daniken.
It presented an interesting idea, of Gods being some aliens who had visited us in the past. And I found the concept really really interesting.

NOTE : To understand the rest of the blog, reading the book is a good idea.
Or at least google/wiki about it.


At First, the idea seems very fascinating and convincing. I mean, just give it a serious thought, once.
  • Here is the possible answer to how there are so many religions in the world: Different aliens, thought of as local gods, protected their followers and worshipers
  • The possible answer to how there are thousands of Gods in some religions, while just one in others: some aliens were more powerful, hence one sufficed, rest were team workers and believed in team spirit.
  • Even a possible window to the construction of some of the most fascinating ancient structures: from the pyramids and the Stonehenge, to strange scientific methods and  weird mathematical calculations.
  • A possible explanation for the numerous unreasoned geographical patterns on the earth: some would have signified a landing spot, others were giant billboards giving directions.
On Second thoughts, however, I found the idea flawed, and full of shortcomings. A lot can be questioned and debated in general. It is like outsourcing Gods to some aliens.

This is because, in the general discussion, there are some 6-7 important questions that I find unanswered
  • If our gods were some aliens, then who were the aliens' gods ?
  • If they too had some other alien gods of same sort visit them in their past, then in this cycle of sorts, who were the Gods of the first such civilization?
  • And if at some level, there was a first civilization in Universe, why can't we happen to be the first civilization in Universe? 
  • How do we know, that among such, say 1000s of civilizations, which numbered civilization are we? i.e., how technically advanced are we?
    This question reminds me of a Turing Machine Problem: How does the TM know when it is going to stop, or what state it will be in, or will it ever stop, until its execution actually stops? Its like life: You are sure will die one day, since you were born on earth, but when do you think you will die?
  • What if the aliens were like, say the spiders?
    Note that the author only considers the aliens as man-like, Because most caves' walls  have human like figures.
    I mean, on earth itself, there are so many species, of which humans are in domination. So why on some other planet also, human like species will have to be in domination?
Finally, There is a third thing in my afterthoughts: Should we pursue alien intelligence as actively as the book advocates?

Suppose, there are 2 alien worlds, say world "A" and "B". Now, in this whole universe, the nearest possible civilizations, unaware of each other's existence could be some 10s or 1000s of light years apart, say "X" light years apart. Further suppose, world A guys start thinking of them as smart, and want to pursue alien intelligence and thus want to communicate to World B guys via some mechanism.

Now neither A knows about presence of B or value of X, nor B knows about presence of A or value of X. In this situation 3 cases are possible:
  1. A is technically more advanced :- In this case, world B will simply not possess the technical know-how to decode world A message. In fact, it may never even know that there was actually some message.
  2. A and B are on similar levels:- In this case, the 2 can interact like any 2 random species on earth. The mutual relationship could range from coordinative to war-like - it will depend on how like or alike the races are.
  3. A is technically less advanced than B :- In this case, any message sent by world A will be easily decoded by world B. Since world B is superior, world A is at risk of attack, subordination, slavery, being expanded upon, annihilation. This case is similar to what happens when a technologically advanced nation meets a backward nation (replace nation with species, tribes, or anything) - exploitation.
For option 2, the existence and growth rate of the 2 worlds should be similar - this has slim chance of happening - since as humans we have progressed into today's technological advances only in the past 500 years or so, while the lifetime of entire universe is estimated at 13 billion years.
For option 1, earth is believed to have come in existence 4 billion years ago, which means there is smaller probability of it happening given age of universe, and hence, option 3 has very high priority of happening.

Thus, pursuing alien intelligence appears more harmful than beneficial, at least in simplistic test. Overall, the book serves as good fodder for the grey cells, and is must read to form your own opinions :)