Twenty years of magic nostalgia

The day was normal. The usual peak hour London rush. Holborn station was a mad rush this morning. The tube was more crowded than the usual. I had a book to keep me company. Lord of the files. Time flew, my eyes kept getting heavy from the drowsiness. With Ralph and Jack picking on poor little piggy, SNORE and a YAWN! The plot is yet to thicken.

A slow crawl towards the station’s exit and it was then I noticed the familiar bird of red. The phoenix. THE Phoenix, if you know what I mean. Doodled were the lines, Celebrating 20 years of wizardry! It took me a while to soak in the information. Has it really been twenty years? There are so many folks out there who aren’t even 20 yet. I let the information slip into my things to remember and wonder about repository and went about the actions for the day.

I checked. And yes, it’s been 20 already. That’s two decades and I saw the last 20 years of my life flash back. Since we are talking Potter, I’ll tie the memories around them.

I’ve never really enjoyed the Potter mania. I hated the world even before I had bothered reading any of the works. It was a simple choice. Everybody seemed to enjoy Harry Potter and it was easy to not like it. Stand out in the crowd, be a misfit and frankly, I wasn’t reading much anyways , back then. And just like that, I became a Potter hater. I wouldn’t read , exactly the same treatment that I gave to rest of the authors of the world. In time, in pursuit of staying in that character, I found ample reasons to justify the disgust. A lot later, I didn’t matter and my opinions didn’t matter. The world was doing quite well , all by itself. It didn’t need my profound judgement.

My first tryst with Harry potter came in the year 2000 something. I was in love. She was in love, with potter. The chamber of secrets had been opened, and the usual theatre , Sathyam, had a show going in. With the birthday around the corner, I had managed to save a bit of money and book the tickets. When you are a student and jobless, money is scarce. Not really. I wont play that card. I asked dad and only had to lie about the ‘Friends’ with whom I was going to watch the movie. Good times indeed. No guilt, not then and wont ever be now 🙂

I remember my ignorance and my status as an outsider when everybody in the movie exactly knew how that story was going to play itself out. It was a complete surprise to me. Back then, I didn’t care much a about the movie. It was a good birthday present. The smiles meant a lot more than wizards and wands. That was it.

In retrospect, I think the chamber of secrets is one of the better made Potter movies ever. Rest of them are hopelessly boring.

As the relationship turned south, so did my bond and ties with Potter. FREEDOM at last from the boy who lived. He didn’t have to live in my world from then on. Potter and I remained distinctly divorced for a while. Until the one about the order of the phoenix that is. That’s around , give or take, four years? That was an ample time to heal and brace myself for a fresh new impact and shatter something taped together, all over again. Ah the fun fortitude that is life.

New love, new love for Potter and that meant I had to play along. And play along I did. I remember reading the Order. Not that I enjoyed it. I didn’t dislike it though. And for a while , Potter and I managed to coexist peacefully. I’d still bicker and whine about him. Potter would whine quite well, all by himself on the big screen. Together, we whined into a hate-tolerate friendship.

Order changed things. This time around, the lady had branded me a villager and an illiterate for shunning books. I had to impress and hence embarked on a journey of words. I didn’t reach out to Potter. I reached out to John Grisham instead. There was a point in time, maybe it’s relevant today as well, where folks would walk up to me and proudly proclaim themselves to be voracious readers. ‘I’ve read alllllllllllllllllllllllllll the Harry Potter books’, they’d gleefully explain. ‘Sweet’, has always been my condescending , sarcastic response. Truth was, I never thought Potter was literature. Now that I’m pretending to be an adult these days, It doesn’t really matter. Literature or otherwise, there is a story waiting to be conveyed and Potter took about eight books to getting a move on his lifelong relationship woes with Voldy.

And so Order changed things. Love, lack of love, I continued to read the books. I didn’t bother advertising it, but I did manage to read the tale through. When news broke of Dumbledore’s preferences, my interest claimed that she always knew. She also claimed that she always knew how to pronounce Hermione. For me, Hermione was always meant to be called out as HER, ME, ONIEEEEEEEEE. I had a good spell laughing at the alleged truth of cognizance of Dumbledore and how the names were meant to be called. I wasn’t in a position to judge. The first time I read the word SUBTLE, I thought it was pronounced SUBLE. This happened when I was in my mid twenties. So , yeah. I’ve been a bit of a villager for most part of my life.

Looking back at the twenty fantastic years that Mr Potter has existed in our world, his impact as a cultural pop icon can not be denied. The boy who lives, continues to inspire hope and faith in many others. Potter and his buddies do represent the charm and value of a strong friendship. As I write about potter, I remember the adverts for the Deathly hallows. The scene was around Harry and Her ME Onieee smooching and my dad walked in and I felt a little embarrassed and spontaneously blushed. My dad casually said, ‘And so they have grown up now’. We had a good laugh.

Potter to me is beyond all the magic and warm fuzziness that Potter is usually to the rest of the world. Potter to me is the twenty years of my life that I’ve had. I’ve smiled through it, I’ve broken down. I’ve shown courage and I’ve cowered under the weight of the world. I’ve enjoyed the movie Chamber of secrets and have sat through reruns of Deathly Hallows part 1. I’ve also loved reading the half blood prince. Snape was the MAN.

Potter is, and Potter will be remembered for a few more years to come. So whats your muggle fascination towards Potter? What does the world of Harry Potter remind you of ? What do you associate the memories to?

Karthik

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Of Newton, apples and sin

With all my heart, I do detest Newton and his contribution to physics. Not that I don’t believe in science or that Newton’s contribution conflicts with my personal belief system, it’s just that I had trouble passing the exams. The fact that I did manage to pass physics (High school and Uni) is a testament to the fact that there is something which is all powerful and is capable of manifesting miracles. It was a miracle that I managed to pass.

The minute we think about Newton, I think about apples. There are folks who might associate the three laws.

1.A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2.A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

Oh, wrong bloke. Yeah, so when it comes to Newton, my mind goes to Apples. When my mind goes to the apples, fortunately, I’m not materialistic enough to associate that with IPhone or all the vulgarly expensive products that are offered by the company. I think about sins instead. Newton -> Apples -> Sins.

Sin is a wonderful example of context. Have a value system and a put your faith and beliefs into it. Break the cardinal rules and you are a sinner. You are left with remorse, regret and a bucket load of guilt. It’s funny how my mind wanders. Speaking of sins, I remember the first time I did it. I guess I was 18 or 19. Unlike what the world says, one doesn’t always remember the first time in all it’s vivid glory. I felt plagued by fear and guilt. It was against my system of beliefs.

As I tried to cope up with the act, coast through the day, I couldn’t rub off the feeling of dirt clinging on to my soul. It just happened and I thought it shouldn’t be a big deal. It was. Paranoia gripped me. It felt as if I was exposed to the world and that everybody knew what I had done. 18-19, being that, that age, that sense of adventure, that spirit of defying norms, once the fear settled, once that restless anxiety died down, over the next few years, I had found myself doing it a lot more times.

It was fun while it lasted. It’s funny that with repetition, fear and guilt dissipates. You no longer feel burdened by it. It remains your little secret and you stay assured that the ears of the world are unaware of your life’s actions and choices. All was well , till I started growing some sense. A new fear. Fear of science. I had reasons to believe that God would stand to punish me for my deeds. While it had nothing to do with religious and spiritual journeys(and I had neither back then), I just had a bad feeling about things to come. I knew karma would catch up and I’d be super sick and ailment would give away my secrets. The fear of public persecution had gripped me again.

I came to my sense. Decided to clean up my act. For a while, things were good again. I felt good again. Such peace was never meant to last. Last, they didn’t.

And so from time to time, I’d do it. The sense of paranoia now under control, I’d do it for kicks, sometimes out of compulsion. Some times, it was just the way it was.

The secrets were safe, buried within my smug smile. And as years packed on, I knew I dint have anything to feel ashamed about. At 34, it’s a life choice and it’s what I want my life to be.

‘NOT BRUSHING MY TEETH’, was a the lynchpin that shattered belief system, challenged the status quo, instigated fears that were both rational and irrational. It felt so wrong. The feeling of ‘it felt so wrong’ comes from social conditioning and it is factored by how we grow, what our family and society expects of us. The first time was a knocker. The guilt, the fears.

Most fears, most sense of guilt, I think they can be traced back to how we choose to judge ourselves. We are so addicted and dogmatic about our belief systems, a lot of which we inherited and some of which we decided to on board, that breaking away from it renders us psychologically paralysed.

While I’ve aged, I’ve become more sensible, I make it a point to brush MOST mornings. There are days when I wake up a little late, gargle a mouth wash and promise to get home and do it. There are days when I just don’t care. As long as I don’t smell, and the world doesn’t uncomfortably move away in my presence, I’m ok by it.

Apples and sins. Same deal. The more open we let our minds be, we’d be surprised by our evolved view of what sins are. Narrowed minds are usually the most tortured ones.

For what it’s worth, brush everyday. It’s nice to not torment your neighbours!

Karthik

The thing about a fool and his money

And just like that, I was reminded of the words about how a fool and his money can never remain sweethearts forever. While I’m tempted to agree with it, I’m also a bit apprehensive about the statement.

We lead a consumerist life these days. A million things on sale, a billion discounts to choose from, a zillion portals and avenues to buy things. Buying is just a part of the equation. Then comes the social integration. A picture of the things bought, a few likes from people whom we’ve never met and might probably never meet ever, a few jibes from close friends, a few folks left feeling jealous and a few eyes that pass condescending judgement on how pointless the buy was. That’s what passes as the normal average day these days.

GAS. It’s not what you think it is. And yes, the suffering remains to be the same. GAS was a term that a photographer friend of mine introduced me to. GAS stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. GAS is a process of rapid acceleration in buying things in order to fuel a nascent hobby. Example, I have a smart phone. I have a bundle that lets me go online. I have an instagram account. I shoot a few photos, I gather a few likes and instantly I decide to buy a camera, a few lenses, a few filters, a tripod stand, an image monitor, an image processing software, a better laptop that has the juice to process images, a better camera because the one I bought was a rather basic one. A few more lenses , one for macro, one for wide angle, one telephoto for those nature trails that I’ve never really been on.

Take a deep breath. That’s GAS. Gear acquisition syndrome. We are used to it.

The wide audience that the world is through the internet, we feel compelled to put on the best show that we ever can. Most hobbies are easy to pick. The learning curve is short, the gratification is immediate and we often tend to not invest time into understanding the clockwork of how our passion ticks.

For a long time, I’ve always had a few guitars, an expensive floor processor, a few amps. I’m addicted to music instruments. I’ve been a rocker since 2000. The first month, I was armed with a notebook to pen down lyrics. Two months down the line, I had bought a drum kit. Six months down the line, I was a guitarist. In the process, I had managed to survive as a drummer and a guitarist. A lot many years later, my room is now void of instruments. I had the drums thrown away. I lost my guitar to a burglar who opted to steal my guitar rather than the laptops that were lying around. Well almost empty. I have two keyboards and I use both of them almost everyday.

That’s GAS.

There is a fine line that separates passion and compulsive shopping. There are times when I struggle to classify myself. Am I a compulsive buyer. Well, Yes. Am I passionate about music. Absolutely. I don’t regret the buys. I enjoy them whenever I can. I invest a lot of time into studying the theory of music production. I still don’t know to play the bloody instrument. I don’t know how to play them chords. I follow my heart when it comes to music and that’s good enough for me. It will take me a while to make a bit of money from my music but that day is coming.

Coming back to fool and his money. I was in a bit of a discussion about kindle and books. I do have two kindles. I don’t use them. I buy books and I read plenty. I am quite pleased at this bookworm phase of my life. The thing about being a fool is, if you enjoy your status as fool, why would it matter? It’s one of those things that I can’t quite comprehend. I save my money for as long as I can. I find something worth buying, I blow it off. The iteration kicks in.

Have you experienced GAS? Do you enjoy the happiness and peace that consumerism offers? Do you feel guilty about the shopping spree? pssst, are you a fool and do you find yourself parting away your money a lot 😉

Last but not the least, does your toothpaste have SALT ??????

Karthik

Book review : The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared

Cover Page of the 100 year old man

The hundred year old man who climbed of the window and disappeared, Jonas Jonasson.

Where oh where do I begin. A hundred year old man, Spanish civil war, America’s Atomic bomb, Stalin singing a song, Mao Tse-Tung’s communist ambitions, Kim Il Jong’s legacy in the making, A few presidents, a hot dog seller, an Elephant, a cop on a mission , an Einstein, a prosecutor who wished he had not been born. That’s one convoluted sentence that has way too many characters who converge and fuel madness to this fantastic tale of a warm , hilarious adventure.

Lets take a moment to let all of that sink in.

Phew.. Feeling better? okie dokie. Let us begin.

The hundred year.. is a story of Allan Karlsson. On his hundredth birthday, he decides to climb out of this room in an old age care home. That sets of a wonderful adventure that consumes you with every page that’s turned. Allan is a very ordinary bloke who has had an extraordinary life. There are absolutely two things that Allan does exceptionally well. One, he always manages to have an open mind. Two, he’s good at blowing things up.

An open mind and an uncanny ability to blow things up, these are the two things that fill Allan’s life with a million memories. As the tale continues in the present, we are introduced to roads that he had travelled in the past.

So Allan sneaks out of the old age home, he manages to steal a suitcase that is loaded with money. A mafia-ique gang is after him. A gang that goes by the name ‘ Never Again’. Allan’s escape from the house is now also a escape from the gang. The police get involved. Initially they are called in to find Allan and as the events unfold, the police now suspect Allan of murder. A 100 year old man on a killing spree!

Allan’s life is an adventure. Straight through the Spanish revolution, to America’s hunger for creating the A-Bomb, to Stalin’s desire to make a nuke for the motherland, North Korea’s war for identity, Allan finds himself participating in all these milestones that have shaped up the world. The history is something that will leave you in a sense of awe. The circumstances would leave you laughing.

Besides the adventure, this is a beautiful tale of friendship. Allan bumps into Julius, a bloke with a reputation for being a petty thief. The two become friends and they bump into Benny. Benny’s a hotdog vendor who has almost been a lot of things. The trio meet Gunnila. Gunnila’s the lady of the tale. Gunnila loves sonya. Sonya is her pet elephant.

The bonds of friendship are forged through honesty. As the tale ascends into mad hilarity, you’d grow warm reading the way their friendship evolves. The tale is also a tale of a cat and mouse chase. The inspector, Mr Aronsson , is absolutely relentless in his quest to find Allan.

The book is a light hearted read but it does nurture deeper themes within it. Each of the character , that you’d come to enjoy in time, is plagued by loneliness and solitude. The characters grab the opportunity to connect and take that leap of faith in forming ties with each other. I’d like to see them as a reflection of ourselves. We , most of us, are alienated with the world. We exist in a crowd. While a lot of us have shown that courage to take that leap of faith and invite people into our lives, there are a lot of us who are fenced up. We wait.

The book’s central theme is that of blind optimism. Allan doesn’t really worry a lot about the past or the future. He keeps an open mind and goes with the flow. Life hands him lemons, bananas, vodka, sausages and a lot many other things. He makes a good use of them and powers on. Allan is neither too ambitious nor does express a defeatist view of life. He is one of the grandest examples of living in the present. In a weird sense, he represents a zen-like peace. He remains unperturbed by most things.

The book does take a dig at two of the most influential factors that have shaped up our world. Religion and Politics. Allan doesn’t care for either. He’s not judgemental about them. His point of view offers a neutral stance on how silly that both religion and politics can be.

The book is a happily ever after waiting to happen. It’s a casual, funny breezy read. The plot might seem a bit outlandish at times, but that’s precisely the point. Strap your seatbelts, hang on tight and enjoy the fun ride that is The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

Next stop : The Handmaid’s tale.

Karthik

Book review : memoirs of an imaginary friend

My name is Budo.

I have been alive for five years.

Five years is a very long time for someone like me to be alive.

Max gave me my name.

Max is the only human person who can see me.

Max’s parents call me an imaginary friend.

I love Max’s teacher, Mrs Gosk.

I do not like Max’s other teacher, Mrs Patterson.

I am not imaginary.

Coverpage of Memoirs of an imaginary friend

That’s what the preview of the book in Amazon read. On an impulse, I hit the click to buy button. The book came and along with it came a wonderful journey of words. Memoirs of an imaginary friend is a cute teddy bear with a bright pink heart that you hug tight to feel warm and fuzzy. It is a kind of a book that leaves you feeling warm, nice and happy. It’s a Disney movie that you watch by reading a book. I think this is by far the most ADORABLE thing that I’ve ever read.

Memoirs of an imaginary friend , Matthew Dicks is a fantastic fantasy-adventure of Budo. Budo is an imaginary person. He is very much real as he is not. Max, an autistic child , imagines Budo and Budo has now been around for five years. Given the world of imaginary friends, five years is almost a near impossible lifetime for an imagination to stay alive.

Budo understands the world that Max tends to skip at times. Budo never sleeps and has a curiosity of a child. At five, Budo is torn between the world of adults and children. He’s too mature to be a child and a product of a child’s imagination to be an adult. Budo’s view of the world is often perceived as an outlook of a child.

The story picks speed as we soon realize that Max is a special child with special needs. Max and Budo’s conversations are a bliss to read. There is innocence sprayed all over the book in vulgarly copious amounts. Nuances and mannerisms of an autistic child are beautifully portrayed in the book. We , as readers, soon associate ourselves to Max’s strengths and limitations. We cheer him for the things he does. We feel bad for the things he does differently. Max’s challenges become our challenges.

While innocence does remain cemented throughout the journey of this tale, it’s Budo’s curiosity, his self awareness of being an imaginary being , and his questions on life and death; the difference between existence and fading away into oblivion that offsets the childlike tone of the book. Thankfully , Budo does not go Gung-Ho and spew philosophy. He has simple needs, simple wants and it’s that pursuit of needs and wants that drives the themes of existence and purpose of life in this book.

Budo would ‘Die’ if Max stopped believing in him. As boys grow older , they do grow out of the ‘having an imaginary friend’ phase. Max’s direction towards a better , fuller, normal life also means Budo ceases to exist. It’s this conflict that is so wonderfully nurtured through the book.

One fine day, Max goes missing from school and it’s up to Budo to embark upon a fantastic adventure in finding Max and saving the day. A challenge which would have been easier had Budo been a real bloke! The rest of the book is all about this excellent , heart warming adventure. The pace is perfect, it gives us beautiful moments to pause and absorb the adventure. The story doesn’t feel rushed.

I couldn’t help but draw some connections out of the plot. I imagined Max as the transient point in time. Max was a summation of the past, the present and the future. I imagined Budo to be the self. Budo’s status quo changes with how Max grows in time. Aren’t we like that. The best days of our lives, always tend to be in the past. We coast through the present, we exist. The unknowns of the future probes fear into our hearts and we do tend to worry about our existence.

“It’s very strange to be an imaginary friend. You can’t be suffocated and you can’t get sick and you can’t fall and break your head and you can’t catch pneumonia. The only thing that can kill you is a person not believing in you.” Budo

I refused to let myself wander away in thoughts. I enjoyed the story narrated. Far away from the land of murders, crimes, deaths, contemplations about life, this felt like a breath of rejuvenating fresh air to read.

Make time for Budo. Give his story a shot. You wont regret it.

Next stop, A man called Ove.

Karthik

When in Rome.

One of the funniest aspect of living in the UK is along the way you get greeted. 'You alright?' . The first thing , every day, every new meeting, you are asked the question which is always accompanied by a smile and sincere tinge of politeness. You alright? It is the quintessential ice breaker here in the UK.

Of course, none of that goes down well in my head. I'm from Chennai. Where I come from, When careless motorists ram their vehicle on carefree pedestrians who carelessly , drowned in their pressing mobile call or a whatsapp message, BHAM, accident later, the first question that gets popped is, 'You alright?'.

To me the question is, and probably will be, always tagged to self preservation and overall enquiry about the status of being alive or dead upon an impact. The question is not confined to the road. Walk the canteen with piping hot sambar in your plate( he he he he, irony is humongous. Hot food and canteen!!!), a mad rush during the peak hour and we are bound to bump into someone. Accidental spillage is inevitable. You alright? followed by an awkward sorry boss!

Now that's what I call comforts of home. The parlance is ingrained into the subconscious. The reflexes are sharp. The responses are immediate, to the point and crisp. The instantaneous delegation of blame and accountability is spot on. If we are the guilty one, sorry boss comes up. If we were but innocent victims of circumstance, you alright? sorry boss with a air of entitlement. Human to human interaction at it's elemental best. Yup. That's the way I like things.

Here, it's a different beast. Although I'm a bored shopper , I do accompany my friends when they visit the malls here. Stand idle inside a shop for a little while, vultures start to circle and the inevitable happens. You alright?

Just looking, I'd sheepishly admit. Awkwardly wait a little while longer, I'd get the question asked by another vulture. Endure a few iteration and a random sense of obligation kicks in, exit shop one. Enter shop two.

I've done my part trying to understand the phrase. Of course I failed. It's just the way it is. I trained hard to adapt to it. I still don't offer a 'You alright?' as a response. Much like I don't bother with How do you do to meet a How do you do. Excellent. Not so bad. And smashing. I've found creative and yet perceived as a bit imaginative and annoying way to reciprocate. That being said, my struggle with the question has also been very real. I hate it, I detest it, it irks me. I leaves me uncomfortable. Naturally, I found deliverance by whining about it from time to time.

And so, one late evening I made it back home. The night was cold. The street was deserted at 9. I knew there wouldn't be much movement on the streets that night. The routine was almost set. I'd gently open the front door, soft enough to muffle the creaking sound it'd make. I'd then tippy toe upstairs. The wooden stairs always did announce the return of the king! Two quality gates, passed with flying colours. I always failed the last one. I always, and I mean on most days, would end up slamming my door shut. Call it the breeze, call it carelessness, call it the euphoria of knowing that your bed is a minute away from transporting you to a land of sleepy lazy heaven, net result ; that door would slam. Everybody knew I was in.

Silently I made a mental note to refrain from slamming my door. I reached the house. With an expertise that would put a petty burglar to shame, I opened the front door stealthily. Success.

I walked in, only to notice my neighbour, an Indian, was waiting by the washing machine to wrap it's spin cycle.

This was odd. I never bump into my neighbours. His presence obviously put me off guard. I'm willing to bet that my presence was just as awkward to him as well.

A few seconds of shocking silence later, I thought I might as well get on with the show. Whats up, hey buddy, yo dude, pair laago maaji, I knew I could exercise the birth right of being an Indian by picking a cheesy greeting.

'You alright?' I popped impulsively.

It was his turn to shake his head disapprovingly.

Karthik