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: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

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:

Continue reading “Book: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz”

Movie: Ek Din Achanak (1989, Hindi, India)

Movie Review: Ek Din Achanak (1989)

Ek Din Achanak is an art film of 1989, based on a Bengali story titled Beej. The movie is directed by veteran Mrinal Sen and has won a lot of awards national and international awards.

Ek Din Achanak Poster

Directed by Mrinal Sen
Released in 1989
Genre Drama, Suspense, Relationships, Art Cinema
Cast Shabana Azmi as Neeta
Shriram Lagoo as Sashank (Professor), Neeta’s father
Uttara Baokar as Neeta’s mother
Aparna Sen as Aparna, a student of Professor
Roopa Ganguly as Seema, Neeta’s younger sister
Arjun Chakraborthy as Amit, Neeta’s brother
Manohar Singh as Neeta’s uncle
Music by Jyotishka Dasgupta
Produced by N.F.D.C.
Language Hindi
Length 1 hour 45 mins

The Plot

One rainy day, when the streets of Kolkatta are flooded, Shashank, a retired professor (played by Shriram Lagoo) steps out of his middle class house for a walk and does not return. His family – comprising his wife (played by Uttara Baokar), his elder daughter Neeta (Shabana Azmi), younger daughter Seema (Roopa Ganguly), and son Amit (Arjun Chakraborthy) tensely wait for him to return and start the process of tracing him after a day or so, by contacting hospitals, informing the police, enquiring with acquaintances, and so on.
Continue reading “Movie: Ek Din Achanak (1989, Hindi, India)”

Movie: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013, Hindi, India)

Movie Review: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)

Bhag Milkha Bhag is a biopic based on the life of the Indian 400 meters Olympian Milkha Singh, who won many international races and held records in the late 1950s to early 1960s.

Bhag Milkha Bhag Poster
Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Released in 2013
Cast Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh (Adult)
Japtej Singh as Milkha Singh (Child)
Divya Dutta as Isri Kaur (Milkha’s Sister)
Soonam Kapoor as Biro (Milkha’s romantic interest)
Pawan Malhotra as Gurudev Singh (Milkha’s army coach)
Yograj Singh as Ranveer Singh (Indian National Coach)
Prakash Raj as tough army officer (Milkha’s army officer)
Dalip Tahil as Jawaharlal Nehru (Prime Minister of India)
K K Raina as Wadhwa (Bureaucrat)
Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Produced by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra & Viacom
Language Hindi
Length 3 hours 10 mins

The Story

The film starts with the 1960 Rome Olympics, where Milkha Singh (played by Farhan Akhtar)  is leading a pack of elite runners in the 400 meters final. Something happens as he hears his coach shout “bhag Milkha, bhag” – he slows down and looks back, comes fourth and misses a podium finish.
Continue reading “Movie: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013, Hindi, India)”

There are no dead ends in Bangalore

Dead End Image
“When you reach a dead end, turn right” was the baffling instruction I got, when I asked for directions to some place in Jayanagar. We had just moved to Bangalore (from Delhi) in mid-2004, and I was trying to get used to the roads and places in Bangalore.

To me a ‘dead end’ meant an end (as of a street) without an exit, a cul-de-sac, or a blind alley, so how could I turn right?

Eventually as I drove to the alleged ‘dead end’, I figured that I was approaching a T-junction (where I could turn right or left). In the next few weeks, it became clear to me that T-junctions are also called ‘dead ends’ in Bangalore.

Continue reading “There are no dead ends in Bangalore”

You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook

This post (written by Swapna Kishore) explains how you can read kindle ebooks without a Kindle device; by installing the relevant app on your machine/ device.

Till a few months ago I had not registered the fact that I could read ebooks on other devices (like my laptop) and didn’t need a Kindle device. This was in spite of my wife’s constantly telling me so for years.

Last month, though, the coin dropped and I took aside an hour to set up my laptop to read Kindle ebooks. Then I felt that it may be worthwhile to have a blog entry on this topic because I suspect there may be a few (or many?) others like me who dismiss the very idea of reading Kindle ebooks because they don’t have a Kindle device. So I invited my wife, Swapna Kishore, to write this post.

[Brief intro: Swapna Kishore is an author of technical books and speculative fiction. She also maintains a comprehensive website to support dementia caregivers in India. She blogs here.

Over to Swapna…

Read Kindle ebooks within minutes on your laptop, mobile, or tablet – by Swapna Kishore

The world of instant information is just a few keystrokes away now because we can buy and start reading ebooks within minutes –  the latest books from across the world. Amazon, for example, has a vast number of ebooks in its Kindle store.

Continue reading “You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook”

Book: Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I picked up Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, on the recommendation of a mathematician (Vipul Naik, my son). I was expecting a heavy treatise on economics and statistics. It was however a very engrossing book written in a lucid and conversational style, with historical events and everyday situations used freely to provide insights.

Here is the book summary/ key insights (that I picked up from the book):

1)      Human beings are wired in a way that they are unable to intuitively handle randomness and chance.

2)      We are adept at explaining everything through a cause-effect; because we just can’t handle uncertainty. And a statistical correlation does not necessarily mean one causes the other.

3)      Ignoring rare events (outliers) in building prediction models is fooling ourselves – rare events are a part of the process and environment, and their impact is rarely understood or considered by people.

4)      We try to explain extraordinary successes as the result of brilliant strategy or business model or formula or leadership skills or intelligence; while it is often just dumb luck. This is more so of domains like stock trading, marketing, and running a business. We try to learn from and emulate the “winners”, without much success ourselves (by trying to implement the so-called strategies of successful people). Basically, according to the book, many of the winners are just lucky fools :-).

5)      Nice symmetrical probability distributions cannot be expected of any human endeavor (symmetrical distributions may be used to understand controlled situations like gambling – toss of a coin, or rolling of a dice). When we simplify probability distributions and approximate them to neat curves, the results that we get are unreliable.

6)      Though Monte Carlo simulations are looked down upon (“that is cheating, it is not statistics!”) by purists, it is still be the best way to model complex, real situations and understand the potential randomness of the outcomes, and can be used for informed decision making.

7)      Past performance cannot be blindly used to predict future performance. Hence, we should not overestimate the accuracy of our beliefs just because we have been successful in the past, we should reexamine our beliefs based on logic, and always have a backup plan.

Continue reading “Book: Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb”

Book: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

I had earlier read two engrossing books by Atul Gawande – Complications and Better. So when I saw The Checklist Manifesto while browsing in the neighborhood library, I decided to pick it up looking forward to an interesting read (some reviewers had strongly recommended it). The title also indicated that it may a good book to review for this weblog.

Well, I was partially right – it was suitable to post a review on this blog. So, here goes…

Continue reading “Book: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande”