Book Series: Song of Ice and Fire Series by George RR Martin

This series is an exceptionally well-written, addictive, and brutal epic fantasy set in an imaginary world based on medieval England/ Europe. It is less of a fantasy and more of a political thriller – some say that it is loosely based on the War of the Roses in England in the years 1455-1485.

The first of the series (A Game of Thrones) was published in 1996 and the series has 5 books (often sold in 7 paperbacks) already published. The sixth and the seventh (whose titles are announced) will be eventually published. Each book of the series has been a bestseller and there are a huge number of fans waiting for the next two books.

The epic has also been converted into a HBO serial. Some video games, based on the series have also become very popular.

Here are the images of the covers of these books:Song of Ice and Fire Series Cover Images

The High-Level Story

The story is set in a fictional world, and most action takes place in two continents – Westros and Essos.

The back story (the background for the series): Seven Kingdoms in Westros have been united and ruled for several generations by the Targeryen dynasty (helped by fire-breathing dragons) –  the old kings of the seven kingdoms continue as vassals. Around fourteen years before the start of the series, the dynasty, ruled by a mad king (the dragons have all disappeared) is overthrown by the ‘usurper’ Robert Baratheon. King Robert maintains peace for a few years.

As the series starts, King Robert dies under mysterious circumstances. That starts mutiple rebellions. There are many claimants to the throne of the combined Seven Kingdoms – the brothers and the son of the dead king. Some of the vassals (descendents of earlier kings of the Seven Kingdoms) break away  from the combined entity and declare themselves as kings of their part of Westros. There are also members of the Targeryen dynasty (now living in exile in Essos) who start their journey to reclaim the throne. The result is a heady mix of chaos, treachery, brutality, intrigue, betrayal, honour, battles, duels, torture, magic, and constant political manoeuver. There is also a severe seven-year winter that is about to descend on Westros.

Broadly, the story is played out in three places:

  1. In the Seven kingdoms part of Westros. Here there are constant battles, and realignment between the various claimants, their supporters and independent kings
  2. At the Wall, in the northern most part of the Seven Kingdoms, where the Wall (guarded mainly by convicts who are exiled from the society) divides the Seven Kingdoms from the cold northern part of Westros – the part that is believed to be inhabited by wildlings, giants, whits, ‘children of the forest’, and a species known as ‘others’. The forthcoming winter is expected to make the people and species beyond the Wall move towards Wall to enter the Seven Kingdoms.
  3. In the continent of Essos, where the descendents of the Targeryen dynasty are attempting to raise an army and mobilize resources (including dragons) to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms that they believe rightfully belongs to them.

The series has reached volume 5 (in 7 paperback books). The story has spread itself in multiple directions.  There are two more volumes planned by the author. Let us hope he starts tying up some loose ends.

The Setting / World

In the Seven Kingdoms on the Westros continent, there is a King. Next to the King there are vassals (lords) who rule large parts of the Seven Kingdoms in the king’s name. These lords have other vassals under them (called bannermen). The titles are passed hereditarily with complex and conflicting rules (each conflicting rule has some precedence) which often lead to disputes (like – is the next in line the eldest son? or daughter? or the brother?). There are knights (addressed as ‘Ser’) who protect the king and each lord. The kingdom is run by a king’s council consisting of the Hand (like a prime minster), the Master of Coin (finance minister), the Master of Whispers (spy chief), etc.
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Financial Instruments with Musical Properties (like ‘tenor’)

Once in a while, I invest in bonds, fixed deposits, and mutual funds.

Though I normally do not read the verbiage (I read just the salient features), I have noticed in the last few years, a new term creeping into the jargon – ‘tenor’. At first I dismissed it as one of the typos (attributable to the printer’s devil – a special devil that haunted every print shop, performing mischief such as inverting type, misspelling words or removing entire lines of completed type).

For the benefit of those who have not noticed the use of the word ‘tenor’ in financial jargon, you can see examples by searching for “loan tenor” or “bond tenor” or “deposit tenor”.  The usage seems widespread – all across the world.

And the usage denotes some kind of duration, or term, or period, or tenure (could tenor be just a distortion of tenure with origins in poor spelling used in combination with spell-check/ auto-correction?)

Here is what some English dictionaries say about the word ‘tenor’:

Cambridge (online):

  • a male singer with a high voice, or (especially in combinations) a musical instrument that has the same range of notes as the tenor singing voice

Merriam-Webster (online):

  • the highest adult male singing voice;
  • a singer who has such a voice the general;
  • basic quality or meaning of something

Oxford (online):

  • a singing voice between baritone and alto or countertenor, the highest of the ordinary adult male range;
  • an instrument, especially a saxophone, trombone, tuba, or viol, of the second or third lowest pitch in its family

None of them imply ‘tenor’ as a duration, time-period, or term.

Next time you invest in a bond/ mutual fund, with a ‘tenor’, remember that there is a possibility that at the end of the period you may get something like this (instead of your money):

If the clip does not load, click here.

By the way, I believe that in the olden days, many tenors were ‘castrati’ (plural for castrato). Read here for more information, and be careful before you invest for a great tenor!

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I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Book: Armies of Hanuman by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-4)

“The mortal (Rama) stood on the sloping mound, unmindful of the rain and damp, his two constant companions standing to either side. Bow lowered but strung and ready, arrows fitted to the cord. Even the relentless rain had not unravelled his matted locks, bound tightly above his head in the spiralling bun of a forest exile.”

— Chapter 1, Kaand 1, Armies of Hanuman

That is the start of this book, where Rama, Sita and Lakshman wait to battle the last bunch of rakshasas in the Jansthana forest.

Cover Armies of Hanuman

Title Armies of Hanuman
Series Volume-4 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-4

The high-level storyline in this part of the series:

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana are towards the tail-end of their thirteen year exile. Together with a rag-tag bunch of ex-outlaws and other exiles, they wage a final battale and manage to get the forest of Janasthana rid of all remaining rakshasas. They return to Chitrakut to spend the rest of the days of their exile and start preparing for their return to Ayodhya.

In Lanka, Mandodari, as a caretaker ruler, manages to get some order. However, with Suphanaka’s help, Ravana is liberated from limbo and takes charge of rebuilding Lanka according to his own vision. Towards the later part of the book, Ravana abducts Sita on his Pushpak vimana, using trickery, asura sorcery and brute force.
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I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Sent “on the move”/ “from my iphone” and things like that

Now-a-days, I often get messages from my colleague Ooonuj that end with:

  • “Sent on the move from my iphone. Please excuse typos and brevity.”

Most of the time, the actual message is shorter than the signature line, something like “OK” or “Will Get back to you” or “On Dec 6”, so I am not sure what kind of typos to account for (is it really Dec 6? or Jan 6? or Dec 7?)

If I did not know Ooonuj well enough, I may have seen hidden messages in his signature line. Here are a few of them:

  1. I own an iphone, and I want everyone to know about it!
  2. I am on the move most of the time
  3. I work while I am moving
  4. I have sent you a message (or responded to you). Therefore, I have met my response time service level. The fact that I have not answered any of your questions should not be held against me
  5. Now that I have sent some response, the ball is in your court
  6. I know how to use the word “brevity”
  7. If I typed something wrong/ stupid, I will blame it on “typos” (I am covered)

However, knowing Ooonuj, here is the real explanation:

“My 10 year-old child set up this message on my new smart-phone (it is not even an iphone). I don’t know how to take off the message. My child wants to charge me a bomb for the help”.

Anyway, I did compile a set of other email signatures, which you can use (please add “(c) Rajesh Naik” to the email signature):

Typing with my nose image

  1. Sent by My iphone [if my iphone is so smart, just imagine the real thing]
  2. Sent from my Lenovo ideapad Z570 laptop, with my bum on a comfortable cushioned chair. No excuses for the verbosity.
  3. Sent while driving the car with my hands on the steering, typing with my nose. Please excuse the snot.
  4. Sent from a traffic jam, though the traffic was not moving, the cell phone towers were.
  5. This email was conceptualized on my morning run. Mentally drafted while having breakfast. Typed comfortably on my desktop. But I forgot to send. So, finally this pathetic piece of shit was – “Sent on the move from my iphone. Please excuse typos and brevity.”

Another thought. Just like we have signatures on the emails, we can also sign off from telephonic conversations, thusly:

  1. “Spoken while stuck in a traffic jam near the stinky, suffocating Mahim creek, using my Nokia C3 over Airtel. Please excuse the heavy breathing and incoherent gibberish”.
  2. “Spoken while eating sandwich samosa burger with extra butter, and chocolate sauce at the Cholesterol Restaurant. Pardon the choking sound”.
  3. “Spoken from the Thought Leadership Sessions on Integrity in Business Dealings hosted by Enron and Anderson. I admit to nothing”.
  4. “Spoken from the workshop for Simple Living High Thinking by Vijay Mallya of United Spirits. Pardon the luxurious background music sponsored by Kingfisher staff and contractors”.

By the way, it is not for nothing that my colleague is called Ooonuj (I mean it is for some reason that he is called Ooonuj). But that is a matter for another post.

Typed sitting in Bangalore. Under a fan. Sitting on a chair. With a cup of coffee. On my Lenovo ideapad. With a Photon connection. Who cares if you pardon or not?

Your comments are welcome!

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I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Movie: Madras Cafe (2013, Hindi, India)

Madras Cafe is a political thriller seen through the eyes of a RAW field operative, set in the middle 1980s (through early 90s) during the ethnic struggle of Tamils in northern Sri Lanka. The movie starts with the peace accord (brokered by India) and traces the behind-the scenes events that lead to the death of the ex-Prime Miniter Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Madras Cafe Poster

Directed by Shoojit Sircar
Released in August 2013
Genre Political thriller, espionage
Cast
  • John Abraham, as Vikram Singh, a RAW field operative
  • Nargis Fakhri as Jaya Sahni, a British war correspondent of India origin (who speaks English throughout the movie)
  • Siddharth Basu as Robin Dutt, boss of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who directs the covert operations in Sri Lanka, and mentors Vishal Singh
  • Prakash Belawadi as Bala, Major Vikram Singh’s immediate superior for the asssignement and local RAW team leader based in Jaffna
  • Rashi Khanna as Ruby Singh, wife of Vishal Singh.
Music by Shantanu Moitra
Produced by John Abraham, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, and Ronnie Lahiri
Language Hindi (with a smattering of Tamil and English)
Length 2 hours 10 mins

This movie, released in Aug 2013, received good reviews, but did not last long in theatres – its box-office performance is reported to be “average”.

The Plot

The movie starts with the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord in 1987 aimed to end the Sri Lankan civil war between militant Sri Lankan Tamil nationalists rebels (such as the LTTE) and the Sri Lankan military.

The peace accord is violated and the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) is brutally attacked by the Tamil rebels (who were supposed to be protected by the IPKF). The Indian government attempts to salvage the situation by trying to manipulate various factions of the Tamil rebels, to ensure that the less brutal factions win the planned provincial elections, and continue to be on India’s side.
Continue reading Movie: Madras Cafe (2013, Hindi, India)


I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Book: Demons of Chitrakut by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-3)

“She slapped him.

She put all her strength behind the blow. His face was flung sharply to the right, his vision blurring out of focus before the world swam back into view, accompanied by several motes of swirling light, and he found himself facing the wall. ……

‘Stop it,’ she said….”
— Chapter 22, Kaand 1, Demons of Chitrakut   

The above is an interaction between Sita and Rama, when he tells her that he has to go on a long exile, alone

Cover Demons of Chitrakut

Title Demons of Chitrakut
Series Volume-3 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-3

The high-level storyline in this part of the series:

Rama and Lakshman, under the guidance of Vishwamitra, have decimated the host of asuras moving towards  Mithila and Ayodhya. Rama weds Sita and Lakshman weds Urmila (Sita’s sister). The other brothers of Rama marry Sita’s cousins.

The wedding party on its way back to Ayodhya is challenged by the axe welding sage Parashurama – the confrontation between Rama and Parashurama is captivating. Back in Ayodhya, the duo of Manthara-Kaikeyi manipulate Dasharath to exile Rama. Sita and Lakshman accompany him voluntarily.
Continue reading Book: Demons of Chitrakut by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-3)


I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Book: Siege of Mithila by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-2)

“… saw the deep blue wave of brahman ripple outward from the tower itself, rolling harmlessly over humans and their animal friends and the city and its structures. But when it reached the Asura armies massed on the south bank of the Sarayu, the effect was numbing.

The dense black hordes of Asuras disintegrated as the wave touched them, turning them to powder…”

— Chapter 13, Kaand 3, Siege of Mithla

The above passage is towards the end of the book.

Prince of Ayodhya Cover

Title Siege of Mithila
Series Volume-2 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-2

In this part of the series, Rama and Lakshman, having completed the task of cleaning up Bhayanak-van of the hordes of asuras start their journey back home to Ayodhya, along with sage Vishwamitra.

Vishwamitra decides that they need to make their way via Mathila, the city where princess Sita lives, because Ravana has amassed an army of asuras to invade Ayodhya and this army is about to trample Mithila on its way.
Continue reading Book: Siege of Mithila by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-2)


I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Cheating at a Petrol Pump – is this a common ruse?

Petrol PumpOne day while driving from Bangalore to Mysore, we stopped somewhere near Maddur to pick up some petrol. Looking at the fuel gauge, I thought it will be good to top up petrol worth Rs 800/-..
As we drove to the first accessible petrol station without a crowd, the attendant smiled, opened the lid to the petrol tank and asked “How much, sir?”
“Petrol of 800 rupees”, I said.
He reset the pump counter and asked me to ‘check zero’.
He stopped when the meter showed Rs.200/=.
“But I wanted for Rs 800/=”, I said.
Petrol PumpAs he said “sorry sir, will put in”, another colleague of his came along and asked me if I wanted some filter or cleaning spray (or something like that), which I refused. By then first attendant said, “done, sir, please check.” The meter was showing Rs. 600/=.
“I wanted for Rs. 800/=,” I said, getting slightly annoyed now.
“But I reset to zero after 200, so 200 plus 600 is 800”, said the attendant.
Petrol PumpI was very sure that he had not reset to zero. I suspect that the whole thing is a sting operation to siphon off a few rupees from many customers. The act of stopping after 200, the colleague appearing just at the right moment, all point to a coordinated move.
However, I had two doubts – (1) what if he had reset the meter to zero after 200, and I had not noticed it?, and (2) what if he made a genuine error? I also did not have any proof, nor did I have the time to make a complaint and get into endless arguments.
So, I paid the 800 rupees and drove off. Maybe others do the same, too.
I should have just paid Rs 200/- at the first point and driven off (to the next petrol pump), rather than asking him to fill up to Rs 800/-. I will do that the next time.
Please do share your experience and how you handled the situation!

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I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Movie: The Lunch Box (2013, Hindi, India)

Lunch Box Poster

Directed by Ritesh Batra
Released May 2013
Genre Romance, Relationships, Art Cinema
Cast Irrfan Khan as Saajan Fernandez, an insurance company officer approaching retirement
Nimrat Kaur as Ila, a homemaker
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Shaikh, Saajan’s replacement at work
Lillete Dubey as Ila’s mother
Nakul Vaid as Rajiv, Ila’s husband
Music by Max Richter
Produced by Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Karan Johar, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Arun Rangachari
Language Hindi
Length 1 hour 44 mins

When The Lunch Box was released in India in September 2013, after winning several awards and getting rave reviews from critics, it went on my “must see as quickly as possible” list, especially since the movie had Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the cast. A friend who saw it a few days ago also had some good things to say about it.

And then the controversy about the Oscar nomination for the Best Foreign Film category from India (The Lunch Box did not get selected, a movie titled The Good Road was nominated by the selection committee), whetted my appetite even further. I saw the movie on Sept 28th in a Multiplex in Bangalore.

Please be aware that the review below may contain “spoilers” (i.e., information about the plot of a motion picture or TV program that can spoil a viewer’s sense of surprise or suspense :-)).

The Plot

Saajan Fernandez (played by Irrfan Khan) who works in the Claims Section of a public sector insurance company, is approaching superannuation and is proposing early retirement. He is a crusty widower, a loner, and not very friendly with his colleagues or neighbours. He avoids training and handing over of his duties to his proposed replacement Shaikh (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui).
Continue reading Movie: The Lunch Box (2013, Hindi, India)


I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

Book: Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-1)

“…  three breathtakingly graceful leaps, it took him to the veranda that ringed one side of the circular chamber. Sword slashing through the gossamer folds of the translucent drapes that could conceal an assassin. Turn, turn, breathe, slice, follow-through, recover, resume stance. Guru Vashishta had trained him superbly…”

— Chapter 1, Prince of Ayodhya

The above passage is not about Bruce Lee in the movie Enter the Dragon, but about Rama in Ashok Banker’s first book of his Ramayan series.

Prince of Ayodhya Cover

Title Prince of Ayodhya
Series Volume-1 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-1

At the start of this series, young princes Rama, Lakshmana, Shatrughan, and Bharat are back in the capital city of Ayodhya after a long training program at sage Vashishta’s ashram (sage Vashishta is also king Dashratha’s counselor).

Rama is often plagued by nightmares of attacks and destruction of his beloved city (Ayodhya) and kingdom (Kosala).
Continue reading Book: Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-1)


I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.