My Autobiography : Charles Chaplin

Posted: February 3, 2017 in Books

Defined in his own words as a nonconformist, Charlie Chaplin lives true to the word in every sphere of his life.

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The accumulating complexities of modern life, the kinetic invasion of the twentieth century finds the individual hemmed in by gigantic institutions that threaten from all sides, politically, scientifically and economically. We are becoming the victims of soul-conditioning, of sanctions and permits.
This matrix into which we have allowed ourselves to be cast is due to a lack of cultural insight. We have gone blindly into ugliness and congestion and have lost our appreciation of the aesthetic. Our living sense has been blunted by profit, power and monopoly…

A writer, a director, an actor, a comedian, a thinker, a businessman and a humanist… A story from rags to the riches,a life too lived to be true… Seen poverty from the abyss and worked with whatever came his way and survived… Unlike so many others, Charlie never romanticized poverty, he lived it, accepted it and made his way out of it…

I found poverty neither attractive nor edifying. it taught me nothing but a distortion of values, an over-rating of the virtues and graces of the rich and the so-called better classes.
Wealth and celebrity, on the contrary, taught me to view the world in proper perspective, to discover that men of eminence, when i came close to them, were as deficient in their way as the rest of us…

A true genius to rule the hearts for decades, all by his skills and intellect. Be it going against the popular culture of talkies or pressure from the U.S. Government, he never gave up on what he thought and believed… He created magic on screen and kept up with the world meeting all the great learners and thinkers of his time.. Einstein, Gandhi, John Steinbeck, Picasso… He made good friendships and always appreciated the ones you did good in their fields and to the world.

The autobiography took more than six years to be written… based solely on his memory, seems honest and very close to reality… Nothing looks to be exaggerated and things less important socially don’t find a mention specially events from personal life.
Enjoyed the book very much…to know how extra ordinary people are carved out of many good and many many bad ordinary moments..

In one collective form of insanity, whole populations of people rise from sleep at about the same time each day, move in great herds to locations at some distance from their home territory, perform repetitive manoeuvres there, return home when evening falls, slump in front of a flickering coloured light, and after a while fall asleep again. They repeat the process day after day for decades. The disease is called ‘normal life’, and variations from it are regarded as eccentric; if the variations are marked enough they are even called ‘madness’ and ‘delusion’.

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This book by A.C. Grayling is a compilation of short essays or introduction to various topics we deal in our everyday lives…War, Nature, Marriage, Death, Philosophy and many more…

The author writes with clarity but the topics chosen are too complex to be written simply. Hence writing these topics in a couple of pages became unidirectional and incomplete for me…
Rather than leaving us with questions, the essays were sort of conclusion on what the author has thought and experienced…

However, some of the topics had interesting discussions like the above on how we describe madness/ abnormal to any unusual behaviour…
Another one is the following on teaching morality using religion :


Religion is worse than an irrelevance as regards the inculcation of morality, for the following reasons: in an individualistic society, where personal wealth is the chief if not the sole measure of achievement, a morality that enjoins you to give your all to the poor, that says it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter heaven, and preaches selflessness towards one’s neighbour and complete obedience to deity – such a morality, wholly opposed to the norms and practices not just accepted but extolled in our society, has little to offer. Most people ignore the contrast between such views and the universal instruction to go forth and multiply one’s income and possessions; and obey the latter.
And when religious fundamentalists add a preparedness to incarcerate women, mutilate genitals, amputate hands, murder, bomb and terrorize – all in the name of faith- then religious morality becomes not just irrelevant but dangerous.

Little disheartened, the book may be read in passing, as an additional perspective, but doesn’t add much value as a solo reading…

Without Feathers

Posted: January 12, 2017 in Books

I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

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The book is as funny as any of Woody Allen’s movies, Its a compilation of his two plays ‘God’ and ‘Death’ and many small excerpts from stories/ thoughts on miscellaneous things.

Movies are way better to be watched than reading Woody Allen. The stoic face with serious sarcasm even in his body language is much more fun. The plays are good and take away most of the book.

A very quick read to lighten up your mood.

What if the worst is true? What if there’s no God, and you only go around once, and that’s it? Don’t you want to be a part of the experience? You know, what the hell? It’s not all a drag, and I’m thinking to myself: Geez! I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I’m never gonna get and just enjoy it while it lasts. And, you know, after–who knows? Maybe there is something, nobody really knows. I know that maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that’s the best we have.
― Woody Allen

Khairlanji : A Strange and Bitter Crop

Posted: January 7, 2017 in Books

Caste, in essence, is an individualistic attitude that constantly seeks to assert superiority.

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Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh !

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
-Abel Meeropol

An infamous incident where a mother and her three children were raped and lynched, made a small place – Khiarlanji in Maharashtra known to the world, for all the wrong reasons..
The family, Bhotmange, was a dalit family living in a Hindu majority… Bhotmanges were independent, devoid of electricity and a pukka home, still surviving despite obstacles… The Bhotmanges were most educated and progressive among the entire village.

The book written by Anand Teltumbde starts with the factual description of the Khairlanji incident which happened on September 29, 2006 and continues to help us understand the social, political and judiciary roles in cornering the dalits to maintain the Hindu supremacy.

Among many things, insight to the various myths like capitalism could have eradicated casteism in India like it did in Europe; having more presence in the state machinery would help dalits in getting their basic rights; were the best take aways for me.

Books like these have to be read, to be aware and to sensitize..
Incidents like Khairlanji which led to country wide Dalit protests for months ; and the recent one where four Dalits were beaten by the Gau-rakshaks and in response, they pledged to stop picking up cow carcasses.. have to be talked about, spread across ,carried on till strict action is taken against the guilty.

We cannot allow Khairlanji to remain an unfortunate incident, an aberration, a forgotten case in some obscure court. The world needs to know the strange fruit that the tree of caste has borne…

So we must not refer a history of sexuality to the agency of sex; but rather show how “sex” is historically subordinate to sexuality. We must not place sex on the side of reality, and sexuality on that of confused ideas and illusions; sexuality is a very real historical formation; it is what gave rise to the notion of sex, as a speculative element necessary to its operation.
                                                                                – Michel Foucault

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To understand our natural self and differentiate it from the second hand self given to us by society, its language and powers in operation; we need to continuously question our conditioning in every definition given to us..

The book discusses the evolution of the concept of ‘sexuality’ and how it was brought in use to administer states/people. How sexuality became the basis of our very existence and when did your sexual preference became a disease and something to be scared of. Why was the communication on sex and child sexuality always avoided…

People will be surprised at the eagerness with which we went about pretending to rouse from its slumber a sexuality which every­thing-our discourses, our customs, our institutions, our regulations, our knowledges-was busy producing in the light of day and broadcasting to noisy accompaniment.

Starting from the sixteenth century when sex was constantly silenced/taboo’ed ; began confessions to be used to (mis)guide people behave in a way;
Then reaching the eighteenth century where sexuality by various discourses had to be limited to reproductive function to build a labour force which was healthy and available( not wasting time in unproductive pleasures). Medicine exploring and claiming the unproductive sexualities ( homosexual and likewise) as diseased;
Nineteenth century saw the psychiatry taking over the medicine, economic forces further to conflict and confuse the human mind. Judicial intervention helping even better controls and punishing the unfitted.

The book also works on the myths like the primary reason for sexuality to what it is today is ‘repression’; and the forces in power only know a ‘no’ in everything, a rejection, a censorship.

Rather than the uniform concern to hide sex, rather than a general prudishness of language, what distinguishes these last three centuries is the variety, the wide dispersion of devices that were invented for speaking about it, for having it be spoken about, for inducing it to speak of itself, for listening, recording, transcribing, and redistributing what is said about it: around sex, a whole network of varying, specific, and coercive transpositions into discourse. Rather than a massive censorship, beginning with the verbal proprieties imposed by the Age of Reason, what was involved was a regulated and polymorphous incitement to discourse.

Enjoyed the book thoroughly and was an eye opener for me. Not being a student of history, found the writing little time consuming to understand (terminology) but it was worth the efforts.

What is peculiar to modern societies, in fact, is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret.

Michel Foucault was a french philosopher, historian and a literary critic. He has written many books discussing power and knowledge and their use in social control.

“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”

The Sellout

Posted: December 25, 2016 in Books

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The only people discussing “race” with any insight and courage are loud middle-aged white men who romanticize the Kennedys and Motown,
well-read open-minded white kids like the tie-dyed familiar sitting next to me in the Free Tibet and Boba Fett T-shirt,
a few freelance journalists in Detroit,
and the American hikikomori who sit in their basements pounding away at their keyboards composing measured and well-thought-out responses to the endless torrent of racist online commentary.

Yes… White people discussing race; Elites discussing poverty; Majorities discussing religion in a country… This is the world and times we live in…
And here come an out of the box novel where a Black American shares his take on race; where a Black man owns a slave and attempts (reverse) segregation on the basis of color…

So many things came to my mind when I was reading this novel..
Apartheid or Segregation on the basis of color has entirely different meaning depending on what side you are on…Described beautifully by the dialogue below, we would never understand discrimination or suppression of any kind without actually living it for real…

Who was I kidding? I’m a farmer, and farmers are natural segregationists. We separate the wheat from the chaff.
I’m not Rudolf Hess, P. W. Botha, Capitol Records, or present-day U.S. of A. Those motherfuckers segregate because they want to hold on to power.
I’m a farmer: we segregate in an effort to give every tree, every plant, every poor Mexican, every poor nigger, a chance for equal access to sunlight and water; we make sure every living organism has room to breathe.

The author attacked the idea of discrimination from a psychological and social front. On discussing blackness and its meaning, he tried describing four stages of blackness as ‘Quintessential Blackness’… Reading about it, I was tempted to apply them to patriarchy where women are taught to imbibe and live being secondary; casteism where one is taught to accept social injustice as fate; and every other form of discrimination…

Stage I is the Neophyte Negro. Here the Black person exists in a state of preconsciousness. Just as many children would be afraid of the total darkness in which we now find ourselves immersed, the Neophyte Negro is afraid of his own blackness.

Stage II blackness is a heightened awareness of race. Here race is still all consuming but in a more positive fashion. Blackness is idealized, whiteness reviled. Emotions range from bitterness, anger and self-destruction to waves of Pro-Black euphoria and ideas of Black supremacy.

Stage III blackness is Race Transcendentalism. A collective consciousness that fights oppression and seeks serenity.

Stage IV is Unmitigated Blackness. It is simply not giving a fuck. It is the realization that there are no absolutes, except when there are. It is the acceptance of contradiction not being a sin and a crime but a human frailty like split ends and libertarianism.

Paul Beatty’s brave attempt in writing this story which is full of content, history and humour, is absolutely praise worthy. The Sellout is Man Booker Prize Winner for 2016.

Slaughterhouse Five

Posted: December 17, 2016 in Books


I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren’t going to want to go on living…

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Wit at its most natural, the book is a cult fiction describing Dresden bombing in the times of Second World War.

Slaughterhouse Five is a wonderful description of war and its details from individual perspective. Wars which are falsely glorified in the name of nation, when we happily kill and forget hundreds as martyrs, is in this novel described by men who suffer…wandering without food and shelter to be treated worst than animals…

Not wanting to make it sound sad, because the book is hilarious…Simple and short sentences convey despair and delight with the same impact… With time travelling of Billy Pilgrim in past and future, the book is convincing, addictive and keeps you stuck although “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”

– Why me?
– That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?
– Yes.
– Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr, himself present in Dresden when bombed, has described what he saw and what he felt…He wrongly and seriously predicted this book to be a failure because in this own words – “there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre…’