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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Book Review: All quiet on the western front

Once in a while, you happen upon a classic. You know what it is by the worn nature of the book when you pick it up from the library's shelf. 'All quiet on the western front' is a book of that sort. Originally written in German by Erich Maria Remarque in 1929, the book is a first person account of World War I by a German Soldier-Paul Bäumer.

Paul and his friends - a bunch of German schoolboys, enlist in the army at the insistence of their school master, some doing so against their own wishes. We see the war through the eyes of these youngsters. Though filled with fine feelings of patriotism at the beginning, they find themselves systematically broken down during the harsh training. When posted at the front,they learn to rely on their instincts rather than reason to direct their actions. They learn to give in to the animal in themselves in order to survive.

Indifference becomes their way of life - the only way they find, to be able to take the horrors of war. Starvation, disease, non existence of any personal space, fear of pain, death and the morrow fills each day. Outnumbered by the enemy, they soldier on in the face of the inevitable. How would you feel if you had to march past a bunch of newly made coffins, knowing one of them was meant for you - perhaps to be used that very day?

Theirs is a generation betrayed by the previous one. No future seems to be possible after having seen so much at such a young age. Some die painful and prolonged deaths. Some lose the will to fight. Some go insane. Some are crippled. And the rest go on, the numbers of their company reducing each day.

Nations at war depend on the bravado of the soldiers at the front. Sometimes, one wonders who the real enemy is. Is it the soldier on the other side of no man's land, the leader who first decided to go to war, the commander who has to send half healed men into the battle again, the school master who first almost bullied them into believing this was their duty or the people who sit back home and feel proud of the 'young heroes'?

This is a book that will question boundaries, nationalism and patriotism by showing what they all reduce to finally. Read More......

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First Impressions - Delhi

I was at Delhi for a couple of days in August. Here are my first impressions of India’s capital city.

Delhi is a huge city and each place feels so different – the government offices – majestic in their power, the monuments and memorials - silent and mourning, the bazaars – loud, confusing and vivacious and the people - mostly unhurried.

Very little traffic and pollution

Most of the sight seeing attractions are far from each other and hence, there is very little traffic at any one point. The roads are great, so just cruise along! You can get around on the metro or bus or autos or taxis. Pollution by vehicles is kept to a minimum by the public transport that runs on CNG.

The sight-seeing

A tour of the monuments is a must - India gate, Raj Ghat, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament building, Birla Mandir, Qutb Minar, Red fort, Bahai temple (Looks beautiful from the air). The kind of intricate work on some of the older monuments leave you gaping. I also visited the doll museum that houses over 6000 dolls from all over the world representing their country's customs and ways – quite interesting to children and adults alike.

A haven for bargain shopping

Bazaars are around everywhere and you can bargain a lot in most places for clothes, electronic goods etc! So, put away your timid feelings and jump into a heated discussion - more often than not, you'll get a good deal. Check out Connaught Place, Palika Bazaar, Karol Bagh market, Sarojini Nagar Market and Chandni chowk. Each market is closed on a particular day of the week – do check before you decide your itinerary.

The weather is pretty hot. I wonder if all the gardens and parks have helped any to reduce the heat. Most places demand some walking. You'll find lemon soda stalls everywhere and it tastes a bit like heaven after a tiring walk.

Agra is just a few hours away and I am told I missed a lot by not visiting the Taj Mahal. Oh, well – there is only so much one can do in two days.

Helpful websites:

http://www.bharatonline.com/delhi/

***First published in Bodheverse September Beta Edition***

Read More......

Saturday, September 20, 2008

When the scales fall

The truth is out there,
Though obscured by high hopes and
Hidden by clouds of love and lies;
The hiding made easier by trusting eyes.

But, when I hold a tear in my eyes,
The fog clears up; I see what is.
Everything so clear and true when
Viewed through the lens of pain

Moments of healing of another kind-
Those cold fleeting moments,
When true colors flutter into view;
Trembling, with each drop's fall. Read More......