Sunday, September 7, 2008


Books Under The Stars

Last week I went for THE walk at 7 pm ish, which is after sunset nowadays. Gone are the days of bright sunlight in the evenings and one can feel the autumn creep up on us. In parts the walking path has some trees- not the tall, straight ones, but the smaller ones whose foliage spreads generously out, giving plenty of shade on a hot day. The leaves on both sides of the path meet in the centre, and one feels one is passing underneath a green arch. The trees also shade the traffic cacophony across the walled boundary. The crescent moon hung on an inky sky, with some stars splattered on the dark canvas. The high lux city lights did not, as yet, overwhelm the beauty of the early evening vista. As I passed a bush full of them I got a whiff of the smell of chameli flowers blooming in the evenings. A perfect evening to read Graham Greene.

In circumstances, the next best thing is to listen to an audio book. Martin Jarvis reading out The Third Man. After the mental gymnastics of Salman Rushdie it was a welcome change listening to the clean, straight lines of Graham Greene. Set in Vienna after the war, when the city was occupied by four powers, it is ostentatiously a murder mystery. But as is the case with many Graham Greene’s novels, it is also a tale of betrayal and loss; a story of flawed men and gods of clay. An unpleasant journey of discovery which on the way also becomes a search for meaning of one’s small and irrelevant lives. Graham Greene does not bother with much elaboration of the complications of lives, but instead tends to put the city and the characters in complimentary settings. The story starts with the harsh winter when Harry Lime is being buried with help of pneumatic hammers, and ends with another burial, this time when the snow is melting, and which in some ways also concludes a matter of some heart ache for the protagonist, Rollo Martins. Graham Greene, I think, has come up with one of his best characters in Rollo Martins. An ordinary writer of cheap westerns, somebody who likes to “mix his drinks” in more than one ways, and a person of some courage who refuses to cow down to threats, Rollo Martins is a reflection of an imperfect person. As in a true classic, the character easily transcends generations and centuries, and perhaps will remain the quintessential human being in all times.

It was a pleasure listening to Martin Jarvis narrate the novel, and the music used in the beginning and end of chapters did much to bring out the atmosphere of the locale.

Odds and Ends


I still shudder to see the Buddha statues at Bamian pounded by rockets. How easy it is to destroy a work of creation. And have the people who destroyed those works, replaced it with another of equal merit? The urge to destroy and control others is so strong with some, and the idea of perceived prosecution and hurt is easily spread by self serving political class, disguised as religious leaders.

It is easy to look the other way, or to condone such acts and thoughts in difficult times, but accepting such ideas is abhorrent. So, here’s another voice for peace in that troubled country.

The artefacts of the Kabul museum, thought stolen, were hidden away by the staff in a vault during the years of strife. These have now been recovered, and are a showpiece in the Washington National Gallery of Art. It is tragic that Afghanistan needs outside help to display its history. Oh! When will they ever learn?

Delhi Chronicles


I visited my ENT specialist, who also happens to be a child hood friend. We met up after decades, and I guess I do not remember him much after all these years. He did remember me, though, and after some prodding of my rapidly degenerating grey matter, I could keep up with the conversation, which mostly revolved around people we knew as kids. Not a surprise that all of us have now grown up, married, have children of our own, and, hence, have not met up since school. I did get a bit nostalgic about this, but I guess I will get over it.

Anyway, it turns out that this guy is the founder of GODS. No, not the head honcho of the celestial cabinet, but of the Group of Delhi Superbikers. Apparently these guys meet up every week on their jazzy super bikes and go for a spin. A group of about twenty people come from various back grounds- doctors, professionals and businessmen, and ride their bikes in open empty spaces around Delhi. Not that there are many open empty spaces- most of these are converted to open empty malls. The Greater Noida expressway was one such haunt, till some other kids met some nasty accidents there. The cops now keep a good look out for offenders, and GODS did not feel like getting caught in the wake. Nowadays they go to NH8 expressway, which is open enough for a superbike, though I do not think it is safe enough. I was impressed by one of their entry criteria- minimum age twenty five. Not that one’s hormones are depleted by that age- but it does show some responsible biking intentions. Hope the crazy kids racing down the Dwarka streets pick up something here.

They have an impressive website at, which has great many photographs, one of which is attached. Dr. Arun Thareja, the founder, does look neat in the GODS T-Shirt, and the rest of the gang look cool too.

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