Sunke Shor Banaraswala...

Or "The noise in Benares and how I felt after being exposed to it" :-).

Here are some delightful snippets from a book I am currently reading - Butter Chicken in Ludhiana : Travels in Small Town India by Pankaj Mishra :-

The most uniform and conspicuous feature of the towns and cities you travel through in North India, and also the most serious menace to civilized life in them, is noise. It accompanies you everywhere - in your hotel room, in the lobby, in the elevator, in the streets, in temples, mosques, gurdwaras, shops, restaurants, parks - chipping away at your nerves to the point where you feel breakdown to be imminent. It isn't just the ceaseless traffic, the pointless blaring of horns, the steady background roar that one finds in big cities. It is much worse: the electronics boom in India has made cassette players available to anyone with even moderate spending power. Cassettes too are cheap, especially if you buy pirated ones. People diminished by urban existence can now fill up the immense vacuum of their lives by a continuous production of sound.

Further along, Mishra writes about his difficult experience in Benares, the previous year, dealing with the aforementioned problem.

For, to be woken up at five in the morning by the devotional treacle of Anup Jalota, Hari Om Sharan and other confectioners, all of them simultaneously droning out from several different cassette players; to be relentlessly assaulted for the rest of the day and most of the night by the alternately over-earnest and insolent voices of Kumar Sanu, Alisha Chinoy, Baba Sehgal singing 'Sexy, Sexy, Sexy', 'Ladki Hai Kya Re Baba', 'Sarkaaye Liyo Khatiya' and other hideous songs; to have them insidiously leak into your memory and become moronic refrains running over and over in your mind; to have your environment polluted and your day destroyed in this way was to know a deepening rage, an impulse to murder, and, finally, a creeping fear at one's own dangerous level of derangement. It was to understand the perfectly sane people you read about in the papers, who suddenly explode into violence one fine day; it was to conceive a lasting hatred for the perpetrators, rich or poor, of these auditory atrocities.

The book was published in 1995. It describes Mishra's journeys through the smaller towns and cities of India during the post-liberalization period. He even visits Bangalore, which was then a "Pensioner's Paradise". I guess the best thing about his travels is that he had no fixed itinerary as such (reminds me of our trip to Pune quite sometime back :-). Thoroughly enjoying the book.

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Bangalore

Posted by Rajat @ 3:42 PM   |  Comments

New arrivals

Of late, I have been on a book coupon redemption spree :-). I bought One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez using the Premier bookshop coupon I got for being a finalist in The Second Ruckus Tangdi Quiz conducted by the KQA in April. Other than that, I used up a set of Landmark coupons (gifted to me by my thoughtful colleagues) to buy the following :-

  • Samskara - A Rite for a Dead Man by U R Anantha Murthy (translated from Kannada by A K Ramanujan)
  • Ice-Candy-Man by Bapsi Sidhwa
  • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  • A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
  • In Xanadu : A Quest by William Dalrymple
  • Butter Chicken in Ludhiana by Pankaj Mishra
  • Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra (900 odd pages of hardbound reading)
  • Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
  • 2001 : A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke

I had read In Xanadu when I was in college (delightful book, of course). Anyway, one book down won't make much of a difference to my reading backlog ;-).

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Quizzing

Posted by Rajat @ 11:53 PM   |  Comments

Foucault's Pendulum

Some gems from Foucault's Pendulum :-

Belbo to Casaubon :-

There are four kinds of people in this world : cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics [...] A normal person is just a reasonable mix of these components [...] Cretins dont even talk; they sort of slobber and stumble. You know, the guy who presses the ice cream cone against his forehead, or enters a revolving door the wrong way [...] a fool is more complicated [...] He's the guy who puts his foot in his mouth. For example, he says how's your lovely wife to someone whose wife has just left him. Fools are in great demand, especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone but provide material for conversation. In their positive form, they become diplomats...

Lia (Casaubon's wife) to Casaubon :-

... Synarchy is God [...] Mankind can't endure the thought that the world was born by chance, by mistake, just because four brainless atoms bumped into one another on a slippery highway. So a cosmic plot has to be found - God, angels, devils. Synarchy performs the same function on a lesser scale ...

Lia to Casaubon :-

... All cultures worship menhirs, monoliths, pyramids, columns, but nobody bows down to balconies and railings. Did you ever hear of an archaic cult of the sacred banister? You see? And another point: if you worship a vertical stone, even if there are a lot of you, you can all see it; but if you worship, instead, a horizontal stone, only those in the front row can see it, and the others start pushing, me too, me too, which is not a fitting sight for a magical ceremony ...

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet

Posted by Rajat @ 12:13 AM   |  Comments

A Bookworm's Diet

It has been 9 months or so since I posted an update on the books I have been devouring. So here goes :-

Currently reading The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple.

I bought these books from Landmark, using coupons given by my erstwhile employer for a host of reasons.

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet

Posted by Rajat @ 12:04 PM   |  Comments

A Bookworm's Diet

Long time since I posted an update here. Over the last 2-3 months I have read the following :-

I went to Landmark last Friday to redeem some coupons I had won for coming 2nd in an intra-company quiz. I bought Snow & Istanbul : Memories and the City, both by Orhan Pamuk. With Pamuk winning this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, a whole shelf at Landmark has been filled with copies of his books. Earlier one had to search around for his books. I have begun reading Istanbul (heavenly stuff).

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Quizzing

Posted by Rajat @ 11:40 PM   |  Comments