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

Book Review: Armies of Hanuman by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-4); Rajesh Naik

“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.
Continue reading “Book: Armies of Hanuman by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-4)”

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!

More Such Posts here https://rajeshnaik.com/category/musings/

Movie: Madras Cafe (2013, Hindi, India)

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)”

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

Book Review: 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)”

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

Book Review: 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)”

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!

More Such Posts here https://rajeshnaik.com/category/musings/

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

Movie Review: The Lunch Box (2013)

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)”

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

Book Review: 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)”

Book Series: Ramayan Series by Ashok Banker: Mythological epic retold as an amazing and imaginative fantasy

Book Series: Ramayan Series by Ashok Banker: Mythological epic retold as an amazing and imaginative fantasy

This is an eight-book series where Ashok Banker retells the Ramayan in the style of the modern “fantasy” novel, like the Lord of the Rings series by JRR Tolkien.

The first of the series was written in 2003 and series was completed in 2012 with the eighth book.

Here are the images of the covers of these books:Ramayan Series Cover Images

I had heard the Ramayan in bits and pieces in my early childhood. Later, I read abridged YA versions and graphic art forms (called comics then) from Amar Chitra Katha. Somewhere along the way I consumed the English versions by Rajaji (C Rajagopalachari) and R K Narayan. I was eventually put off this epic by Ramanand Sagar’s teleserial in the 1980s, where it became morlistic, dull, and full of cardboard charaters.

Anyway, a few years ago, my wife (Swapna) had purchased the first of the series, and I picked it up just after she finished it. Once I started reading it, I just could not put it down. I gobbled-up the first six of the series as and when they were released. I was under the impression that the series was over with the six books (maybe there was a gap between the publishing of the sixth and the seventh book, or something in the sixth book gave me that impression). However, I recently discovered that Banker has added two more volumes to the series, making it a total of 8 books.
Continue reading “Book Series: Ramayan Series by Ashok Banker: Mythological epic retold as an amazing and imaginative fantasy”

Book Review – “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz

Review of the book – The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less (How the Culture of Abundance Robs Us of Satisfaction) by Barry Schwartz. This book on consumer psychology argues that excessive choices paralyses us during the decision making and reduces our satisfaction after the decision is made.

I had read this book around four years ago, and had liked it. So posting a review of the book on this blog has been on my list for a while now.

The full title of the book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less (How the Culture of Abundance Robs Us of Satisfaction) makes the author’s thesis / proposal pretty clear. Anyway, here is a passage from the book that contains the key theme:

“Freedom and autonomy are critical to our well-being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefitting from it psychologically.”

Chapter 5- The Paradox of Choice

This engagingly written, semi-academic book on consumer psychology brings in new insights into impact of excessive choices available to consumers in terms of speed of decision making (and whether a decision is made at all), and the statisfaction with the decision after it is made. The book also looks at two types of people – the ‘maximizers’ and the ‘satisficers’ in the context of decision making (when faced with many choices).

The gist is as follows:

  • The universal assumption that more choice is always better is not correct.
  • When people are given too many choices, they get paralyzed and often don’t make any decision. Shwartz quotes multiple studies to support his theory.
    [One such example: At a luxury food store, researchers set up a table offering samples of jam. Sometimes, there were six different flavors to choose from. At other times, there were 24. People could taste the jam before they purchased it. The sales when there were six flavours to choose from were singnificantly higher than when there were 24 flavours (subsequently there have been doubts expressed on the design of the experiment, sampling and possibility of random variation and other factors that may explain the difference)]
  • When we make a decision after evaluating many choices, we are more likely to be unhappy/ anxious about our decision, than if we had fewer choices to evaluate.
    [Example: Students from a photography course were allowed to keep one of their prints. Half of the students were later allowed to change the print they had earlier selected, the other half were not given such a choice. Even though very few of the students who were permitted a trade actually exchanged the print they had had earlier selected, the group that was not given an option to trade was happier with their print than the group that was given a second choice]
  • Decison making is a stressfull process, and when there are too many choices, the stress and anxiety levels increase (reviewer’s note: maybe that is why pre-plated meals are so popular!), during the decision making process and after it.
  • There are two types people – the ‘maximizers’ and the ‘satisficers’.
  • Maximizers try to take the best decision, and they try to make sure that they have evaluated all possible options. Maximizers tend to be slow in decision making and are more anxious about their choice even after the decison is made.
  • Satisficers make their decision as soon as they find an option that is satisfactory and stop looking at other choices. They normally do not keep validating that their decision was the right one. They are less stressed during and after their decision making.
  • Shwartz also provides some practical steps to derive more satisfaction from the choices that we make.

The book presents a new way of looking at decision making. Though availability of choices is empowering to the decision maker, too many choices are paralyzing, time-consuming, stressful, and eventually disatisfying. Excessive choices is a phenomenon of the developed nations in the West and this phenomenon is slowly spreading to all parts of the world. Shwatrz makes a plea to increase the choices for ‘have nots’ and reduce them for the ‘haves’, so that everyone is happier. The book does not say how to determine the right number of choices.

The book is written in a mix of academic and racy/ popular styles. Also, many of the concepts are repeated with multiple examples. In spite of that the book is engrossing and engaging.

I strongly recommend at least one read of the book to following professionals – they can keep the principles in mind while providing choices to their managers, staff, and customers:

  • Product and service designers
  • Process designers
  • HR Policy makers
  • Marketing/ Sales folk

The book is available in multiple formats (you have to make a decision :-)!) at Amazon.com, Amazon.in. The book should be equally readable in all the formats – I read the paperback format.

About the author

Barry Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. In addition to the Paradox of Choice, he has authored/ co-authored many other books like Psychology of Learning and Behavior and The Costs of Living. He frequently publishes editorials in the New York Times applying his research in psychology to current events.

Here are some details, if you want to get a copy of the book:

Paradox of Choice Book Cover
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less (How the Culture of Abundance Robs us of Satisfaction)

Author: Barry Schwartz

Publishing Date: 2004

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Formats Available In: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in.

You can also view this 20 min video where the author Barry Schwartz explains the concepts in the book in his TED talk (uploaded on youtube):

The book is available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).