Friday, 15 November 2013

Eren, Jaegermeister

So its been a little over a week since I've begun tripping on SnK. As I said before, I watched the first couple of over the weekend before last. Now, I'm pretty much up-to-date with the anime and the manga. When I saw the first couple of episodes, I thought I'd never seen a more unlikeable protagonist. I've referred to Eren as the shouty little shit, quite often. But as the series progressed, he kind of grew on me.

Flawed heroes are old hat. The trick is to make the flaw interesting. Not too many pop writers pull it off. GRRM does it well, JKR doesn't. (I loved the Harry Potter series, but Harry himself was - too nice a kid, except maybe in OOTP).

When I was in school, every kid wanted to become a) an engineer b) a doctor c) a chartered accountant. Yes, when we were younger, we talked about becoming pilots or policemen or engine drivers (show how old I am, doesn't it?), but all that changed.Except for this one kid. He wanted to be a photographer. He was not too interested in acads. He knew what he wanted to be and stayed with it. The last I heard, he was working for National Geographic.

If Eren was at school, I would have stayed away from him. He wouldn't have had many friends. Not many male friends, atleast. There may have been girls who found him cute, but lets face it, he's scary as fuck.

So what could make a 10-12 year old kid that way? An imagination that kept running up against an implacable barrier in the form of the wall? A hyperactive curiosity kept in check by a proportionate fear of the monsters on the other side? And not even the kind of fictional monster that goes away when you put your head under the blanket, but a monster that even the adults acknowledge? The kind of dreaming that's like a pressure cooker because of the constraints its under?

It also explains the anger that kid!Eren unleashes on Hannes. The boogeyman is real. You know that. Why the fuck are you guys slacking?

It's also a key detail - when Eren's father calls him a seeker. "When somebody's on a quest, there's no sense talking them down." Grisha Jaeger knows what kind of person Eren is. And the word is - though I hate to use it - indomitable. You can kick him, you can beat him up, but you cant keep him down.

All this doesn't make Eren any more sympathetic. Even the moment where he watches his mother being devoured by the smiling titan - I felt more shock at the gruesomeness of the scene - and the idea of kids seeing their mother die so horribly than any feeling of Eren seeing his mother die horribly.

The next time we see Eren, after he manages to escape from Shiganshina, is on the night of his graduation, where he picks a fight with Jean. Three years of training and two years of working on a farm don't seem to have changed him any. He's still shouty, and his fights with Jean over what the trainees should do after graduation seem to have become a regular feature. But after shouting at Jean, he talks about his dream. More softly. About leaving the walls and exploring the world. his vision has appeal. You can see Connie and Sasha, Christa and Mina and Thomas listening, and you know that they hear him.Then Jean mocks him and they start fighting.

This part seems to be a bit off, for me. Reiner tells Jean to back off, saying Eren is the best hand-to-hand fighter among the trainees. Then Mikasa comes up to them and picks Eren up bodily and takes him away, to the amusement of the onlookers. This is probably there to re-establish Mikasa's badass cred, but its unnecessary. And it also shows that Mikasa, for all her concern about Eren, wasn't really bothered about making him look ridiculous. And Eren can take care of himself -especially against Jean, something thats been shown in a later issue.
       
Now, maybe Isayama hadn't gone into depth about character progression beyond a rough outline at this point, and it make sense that the anime changed this scene to Eren making his speech and Jean looking on with a mixture of resentment and fuck-I'll-be-glad-to-see-the-last-of-you-ness.
    When Eren sees Hannes the next day, they chat a bit, but its clear that he doesn't blame Hannes in any way for the death of his mother.
Now, here's the part that has puzzled me since I read it. After Hannes talks to him about how Grisha Jaeger saved his wife, he says that they have only Eren's memories to rely on, given that he saw him last, and asks Eren if he remembers anything at all. And Eren goes - a bit nuts.

Now, I was under the impression that Dr. Jaeger left for the inner districts by boat just before the titan attack and never returned, because he told Eren about the basement and showed him the key. The kids leave the house after Dr Jaeger leaves, they save Armin from the bullies and then the titans happen. (Chapter 1, pages 42 on ). At this point, Eren does't have the key. And once the titans hit, the kids run home, find Carla, lose Carla and get transported to the barges and leave Shiganshina. After that, they're at the landfills/farms and then go into training. But at some point here, if I understand this right, Dr Jaeger returns, finds Eren, gives him the key and a shot, a shot which has the side effect of messing with your memory. But Eren's words "You've been acting weird since mom died" also indicate that has had enough time - a matter of some days, if not weeks, to view Grisha's changed behaviour. So when does this happen? Is this error or intent? Plan or plothole?

/*Next:Isinglass and post-trosties*/


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And this has become my theme tune


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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Shingeki No Kyojin (The manga, this time and very spoiler heavy) - 1

By now, it's obvious that I've gone from interest to drooling fangirling over Attack on Titan, I've seen the anime, read the manga, finished the yonkoma, and now spend my time prowling the caverns of Tumblr under an assumed name looking at fan-art. I haven't gone down to the level of reading fan-fiction myself, but that could just be a matter of time.
So anyway, the manga.
Is a great deal more nuanced than the anime. Things that go by in a flash in an anime are explored- highlighted because of the static nature of the manga.For example, take this scene in the anime. It happens before the credits of the first episode, but it may be a foreshadowing of something that happens much later in the manga.
Whoa, thought it was a nightmare Lo, it was so true They told me, don't go walkin' slow 'The Devil's on the loose

If you've begun with the anime, you would think of this as a standard Survey Corps mission, where the missionaries end up as corpses, but the scene gains weight if you've read the manga.

So, anyway. In the pilot, there's a scene where Eren's mother asks her husband to convince Eren not to join the survey corps. Dr Jaeger says "Carla, nothing can suppress a human's curiosity." In the manga, it's slightly different. Here, he says "When somebody's on a quest, there's no such thing as talking them down." Its a small change, with the added uncertainty of translation differences - but the keywords are "human curiosity" in the anime versus "quest" in the manga. The former implies a quirk of humanity, the latter is explicitly personal.
There's also a bit about the government, and how it forbids people from taking an interest in the outside world. Eren says that the King is chickening out, but Armin wonders if that's the real reason. This bit is not there in the anime. I'm not sure if this is foreshadowing, given that the king has not made an appearance after 51 issues of the manga, but we know that the king knows something that the people don't.
Then there's the specificity of the titan attack happening 107 years ago, versus the more generalized "over a century ago"  in the anime. Again, may be nothing, but in both cases - a hundred years ago? Mankind retreated into the walls a hundred years ago? surely there are still stories that people alive at the time would have told their children - about the fight with the titans, about life outside the walls? Even if all books about the outside world were confiscated and destroyed, surely there would have been word of mouth information? Is this a plot hole or something else? Also, the anime explicitly says the survivors built the walls. Now to build 3 walls, the largest about 20% of the size of the great wall of China in a matter of a few years, with steam age technology, while under attack by titans all this time seems to be quite a deal (In comparison, Hadrian's wall - which is 117.5 km long, took six years to build, and it's even smaller than Wall Sina). And there has been peace for a hundred years. So the walls took anytime up to 7 years to build, quite a feat of engineering - which we know isn't as straight forward as it seems.
But one place where the anime SHINES is where the armoured titan makes his appearance. Compare this in the manga:

Like a rock


to THIS scene in the anime
And he strikes, like Thunderball

A short note on ADOM If you've ever played ADOM, and progressed towards the end-game, you may have sometimes seen this message. "*THUMB*" When you enter a dungeon and see this message, its a signal for you to be afraid. Very afraid. If the message recurs with almost every turn, you are in deep, deep trouble. And if, by any chance, you see a dark green H, be prepared to run away or teleport, because the monster you are facing is one of the toughest in the game, a greater titan. Those bastards can SHRED you, however high level your character may be. And just listen to the video soundtrack at 2:14. *THUMB* indeed.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin are on a refugee boat, and Eren shouts a little more, Now, here's where the storied begin to diverge. The manga fast forwards to graduation day, and we are shown the top 10 soldiers of the 104th training corps. The anime cuts to a group of prosperous people discussing the refugee situation, a flashback of Grisha Jaeger - and Eren telling him he's been acting really weird since mom died - (when does Grisha get back AFTER Carla dies? Or am I missing something?) and THE KEY. Then Eren wakes up with the key around his neck and theyre waiting for food in the refugee camp inside Waru Rose.
//TBC

Attack on Titan

Think this is from papermoon2.tumblr.com

After about 14 years of telling my niece what to watch, read or listen to (she is 17 now, and I've been trying to get her to like the stuff that I liked, mostly unsuccessfully, since she was three), I find myself on the receiving end. And it's a strange feeling.

It's this show called Attack on Titan - Shingeki No Kyojin. I started watching it out of a sense of duty as a result of my niece's nagging. I watched the first episode. It was OK. But it's an anime - and I never really liked anime. The last one I ever watched was Sabre Rider and the Star Sheriffs, back at the dawn of  Star TV.
So, back to Shingeki No Kyojin (SNK). The first episode was OK, but then, the second episode really kicked things up a notch.
The premise is straightforward. Sometime in the future (technically, the past), all humanity has been driven into an unnamed area the size of France, ringed by three huge concentric walls, hiding from man-eating giants called the titans. For about a hundred years, the titans have been content to snack on people outside the walls, but one day, a 60-meter colossal titan this guy shows up, and breaks a hole in the outermost wall, letting the smaller titans in. The titans kill and eat people - and they eat the hero's mom. The hero is a shouty 11-year old who escapes into the area within the second wall, along with his adopted sister (badass mary sue stoic action girl) and best buddy (nerdy weakling genius) and swears revenge. he decides to join the army to fight the titans.
But its not a "You killed my mother, prepare to die" kind of deal. There are loads and loads of characters - because people keep dying. You aren't really sure about which characters to like, because they have such a short shelf life.
The anime's first season has 25 episodes.
  1. Episodes 1-2: Set-up, main characters introduced, people die, first titan attack
  2. Episodes 3-4: More characters, training montage, character development
  3. Episode 5-8: Second titan attack, people die, WHAM episode 1
  4. Episode 9-13: People die, The first time the titans are defeated, and the introduction of the recon corps
  5. Episode 14-16: Interlude, more about the recon corps
  6. Episode 17-22: Introduction of the season's big bad, people die in droves
  7. Episode 23-25: Unmasking the big bad, defeating the big bad, WHAM episodes 2 & 3 (finale stinger)
It took me time to get to like the show. Did I mention that the hero is a shouty little shit? He is a shouty little shit. And his best friend is a snivelling little shit. the only person who seemed a decent character was his half sister, who kicked ass. but luckily, there's enough deft world building to take your attention away from the three primary characters, because they cant really carry the early part of story by themselves. for example, in the first couple of episodes, the titans breach the outermost wall, and pour in into human territory. Theres a massacre, and then there's a general exodus into the area within the second wall, which leads to a food crisis. In response, the powers-that-be get almost every able bodied adult immigrant and sends them out to retake the lands of the first wall. These guys are poorly trained and poorly armed and get eaten almost to the last man. The food crisis eases a bit after that.
The shouty little shit (though he does get slightly better) And this guy is the weepy little shit
All this is sketched out, quite deftly, in the first couple of episodes. The fact that the three kids, are left alone in a big city, without much hope, having to stand in long lines for a little bread, along with thousands of other kids, also goes some way to make the principals more likable. Armin (the weepy shit) is luckier than the other two, his grandfather makes it to the second wall refugee camp. The grandfather does what he can, but he gets pulled into the mission to take the first wall from the Titans and dies. The kids spend their next two years working in a landfill, before they become old enough to join a military training camp. And that's where things really start to pick up.
The next two episodes are there to flesh out some of the characters. Eren (shouty little shit), stays shouty, but becomes a little better. Mikasa, the badass, becomes even more badass, and progresses to her God-mode Suehood. And Armin, still remains - well - unlikable, though he shows hints of possibility.
One thing that you notice straightaway. The women in the show kick ass. I'm about as sexist and patriarchical as they come, but there is something to be said about a show where the most interesting people are the women. There's Mikasa, tough, stoic and badass - and flawed. There's Ymir, unreliable, mysterious and sardonic, with her own agenda. There's ditzy scientist Hange Zoe, who can fight with the best of them. There's Sasha Blouse, a backwoods hick who eats - and farts - a lot. There is quiet, cynical action girl Annie Leonhardt - who is probably my favourite character since Buffy.
Among the guys, there's Reiner Braun, a big blonde dude whose built up as a natural leader and mostly nice guy. There's Bertoldt Hoover, a gentle giant whose specialty seems to be sweating silently. There's Jean Kirchsten, who has the hots for Mikasa and hates Eren's guts because she only has eyes for him. There's Marco Bodt, genuinely sweet and innocent and Connie Springer, a not-so-bright loudmouth kid.
So after the character-establishing training-montage episodes, the colossal titan reappears and shit goes down. BIG TIME.
By the time you come to the end of the season, there are so many questions left unanswered.
  1. Who are the titans, where do they come from?
  2. Why do they only eat humans (they ignore animals) when they don't even have a fully formed digestive system?
  3. Why are some titans abnormal?
  4. Are there human habitations outside the walls? (its hinted there are)
  5. Why are books banned?
  6. Who is the mysterious king?
  7. Who are the armoured and colossal titans? Are they shifters too?
The animation is choppy - but not in a bad way, there are some scenes that flow beautifully, and some scenes that are barely animated, but it works. In the middle, we have stills - slides explaining strategy or providing background information.
And because i was left wanting for more at the end, I decided to read the manga.

More on that here and here

Monday, 4 November 2013

Kipling on the Uses of Reading

Saw this on Andrew Sullivan's blog. Dated, but still interesting - if you can get past the colonial attitude.
We have times and moods and tenses of black depression and despair and general mental discomfort which, for convenience sake, we call liver or sulks. But so far as my experience goes, that is just the time when a man is peculiarly accessible to the influence of a book, as he is to any other outside influence; and, moreover, that is just the time when he naturally and instinctively does not want anything of a mind-taxing soul-stirring nature. Then is the time to fall back on the books that, neither pretend to be nor are accepted as masterpieces, but books whose tone and temper soothe your trouble for the time being. 

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kipling/rudyard/words/chapter11.html

Friday, 11 October 2013

Flash Fiction - 3 : The Pornographer

"The trouble with porn these days is that everything has been done," said Kanjilal Cwmbullet. "But, now, I have a idea that will be the first original idea thing since the original sin."
"What would that be, Cwmber?" asked Caiaphas Crown, his assistant.
"The evolution of nunsploitation. The pinnacle of prophet perversion. Gods going at it," said Kanjilal.
"Religious porn?" asked Caiaphas.
"Indeed," said Kanjilal.
Greek God Gangbang was an instant success. It started with Kratos fans, and spread quickly among the general public. Historians and bestialists praised the realistic depiction of the taking of Europa. Myth nerds marvelled at the accuracy of Io's seduction. The Daily Beast featured an interview with Kanjilal on its home page. Time magazine put him on its cover. Rick Riordan and the Olympian Society contemplated legal action.Gawker and Fleshbot tripled their pageviews with their coverage of the phenomenon. Bunnies, the vibrator manufacturer, launched a new line of Hephaestus devices - "The mythical experience for the Venus in you." Jon and Lon Long, the real life twins who played Castor and Pollux, became superstars.
"This is just the beginning," announced Kanjilal to Tracy Clark Flory. "Our next production is going to be the greatest thing in porn ever. The porn industry's Intolerance. There will be four stories - The Rasa Leela from Hinduism, The Last Supper from Christianity, Mohammed and his harem, and the Bodhisatva Avalokiteswara helping a group of villagers achieve Nirvana. They will be linked by images of the procreation principle - a man and a woman lost to time and space - doing what they do best.  I'm planning to get James Deen to play the role of Krishna, but he will have to shave and get his skin dyed blue. That sequence should cater to the milf lovers - after all, the gopis were older than Krishna. The last supper, of course will be one for the bukkake aficionados. Mary Magdalene with Jesus and the apostles. And the Islam scene will be the mirror image - the prophet (pbuh) with his 13 wives. And finally, the Avalokiteswara scenes will have things that should stimulate viewers of all orientations. Or we may replace that with a section titled Dawkins Duz Darwin - that's a twofer right there - catering to the gay community and atheists"
"Aren't you afraid that most people who identify with these religious or atheist groups may find this concept offensive?" asked Clark Flory.
"Oh, we will take great care that we don't stereotype. All the actors who play the main characters will all measure the same. We do not want to people fighting over whose prophet or god is bigger. Holy Fucks - that's the working title - wants to unify all religions through the one one thing that unifies people. Sex," said Kanjilal.
Word spread about Holy Fucks. Pat Robertson raged about it on TV. Even Pope Francis said that it may not be the best idea in the world. The mullahs of Iran went beyond fatwas to fatwhaaaa???s. In Sri Lanka and Burma, the buddhists stopped butchering others to protest the film.
Kanjilal was delighted. "The publicity is superb,"  as he got off the Emirates flight to Ahmedabad. He was met by a mob of infuriated Hindus, Muslims and Christians, and a lone Buddhist, who attacked him in perfect harmony.
The Nobel Prize for Peace that year was the first one awarded posthumously. "For services in uniting religions all across the world," read the accompanying citation.


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Flash fiction - 2

I'm a sucker for punishment...


"The peeper is out," said Neha. She was standing on the balcony. Dev thought she looked beautiful, in her white T-shirt, against the backdrop of the green and scarlet of the bougainvillea that cascaded down from the top floor. It was Saturday evening.They would have to leave for a party soon, but now, there was just enough time to savour the end of a beautiful day. He picked up his glass of Pepsi joined her.

The peeper was the man who lived in the apartment across the road. They didn't know his name, but he spent a lot of time on his balcony, ostensibly looking at his roses - he did grow beautiful roses - but most of the time, he was looking at their apartment, checking Neha out. At first, they hadn't noticed it -they had moved into their apartment only three months before, and the peeper wasn't the only one trying to get a look at the new couple that had moved into the neighbourhood. There were the old women who counted the boxes the movers brought in, the housewives who evaluated the furniture, the watchmen who tried to strike up conversations with the movers and the men who checked Neha out.

Men were always checking Neha out. It made Dev both proud and a little apprehensive. He still wondered why she had chosen him. Things settled down soon after. The old couple who lived on the first floor were decent people. And since both Dev and Neha worked, the apartment was usually empty, coming to life only at around 9 pm. But the peeper stayed interested. As soon as their car swung into the lane, he would be out on the balcony. Sometimes Dev and Neha considered drawing the curtains and shutting the glass doors that led to the balcony, but it seemed silly to shut themselves in. "We're just encouraging him to continue peeping, you know,"said Dev.

"Let’s give him some more encouragement," smiled Neha. She went over to the balcony railing and bent over, leaning on it. "Let's do it here, now," she said. Dev gaped. "You're crazy!" he said.

She turned her head and gave Dev a long, slow wink. "But in a good way," he said, tugging at his track pants. They put on quite a good show, Dev thought to himself, as they got dressed for the party. It was nearly 1 am when they returned. They were both pleasantly buzzed. They were about to turn into their lane when Dev saw that it was completely blocked by cars. There were people standing in small groups, talking in muted voices, in front of their apartment. Dev and Neha got out of the car and went up to a group near a Toyota that was parked in front of his gate. Subramanian, the old man who lived in the ground floor apartment, was one of them. "What happened," Dev asked. "Kumar Gowda passed away this evening," was the whispered reply. "Kumar Gowda?" asked Dev. "The gentleman in 301 - the apartment right across the street to you? Heart attack, I think. Happened this evening. His wife found him on the balcony, poor woman." A driver moved the Toyota away from the gate. Dev and Neha walked back to their car in silence. "Maybe we shouldn't have done it," said Dev. "Maybe he shouldn't have looked," said Neha.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Flash fiction

I was reading this story about flash fiction, and decided to try my hand at it.

Gandhi Jayanti

Gandhi Jayanti, and my divorce is a year and a day old. I haven’t spoken to my wife since. My ex-wife, that is. I’m still getting used to that term. Now I live in a small apartment next to the Bangalore’s Malleswaram station, a lonely 42-year-old with a cat called Smithers to keep him company.  Smithers is pure white, and is so well fed that he looks like a snowball.
My second floor window looks down on the rail tracks and the wilderness on either side. There are rat holes hidden in the undergrowth, and sometimes a snake makes its way into the apartment block. It doesn't affect me that much, though the Nairs on the ground floor have had to deal with the occasional rat snake. Sometimes I worry about Smithers, but not too much. His laziness is his protection.
My lane doesn't see much traffic, but this morning there was a small Tempo van, with the words "Apollo Hospital Emergency Medical Supplies" painted on the side. A man in grey was unloading a carton of "Ruchi Tea."  He waved to me as I picked up my newspaper. Today is a dry day, and a holiday. I had stocked up with a bottle of Royal Stag whisky which I hit at about half past eight in the morning. The cook came and went. I ate, and drank some more. By around two the bottle was nearly empty and I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. I dozed.
I'm not sure when I woke - it may have been six - it may have been seven. It was not yet dark outside, but there was little light in the room. My drawing room is long and L-shaped with the bed and TV occupying the base of the L. Smither's den was at the top. And I could see Smithers, a fuzzy white blur in the darkness. I was still drunk - the smell of whisky hung heavy in my mouth - but I could see something moving on the floor. Something big.
It was a snake. Not a rat snake, but a python - a rock python, its dappled off-white body with brown markings making it just a series of sinuous movements against the floor tiles in the gloom. It was gliding unhurriedly towards Smithers - who was either frozen in fear or too lazy to move.
I just watched. I wasn't horrified or anything, just stuck in that state between sleep and wakefulness, not sure if I was dreaming.  Then, Smithers tried to make a run for it, padding out of his corner. The snake moved, faster than I could think, and had wrapped himself around the cat.
I jumped out of bed - not sure of what I could do - but knowing I had to do something. But I was slow. The snake had released Smithers, and had somehow managed to tear him open like a melon. I could see the red of his insides as the snake rooted around. Pythons aren’t supposed to behave like this. They unhinged their jaws and swallowed their prey. They didn't disembowel them. I stared. The snake lifted its triangular head and looked back at me, incuriously.
"I taught him to do that, you know," someone said. I realized that there was another person in the room. It was a man in a grey t-shirt who had been sitting in the corner. He got up. I couldn't see his face, but he was short and stocky. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you were here," he said. "But it's all for the best. We feast tonight." He had a knife in one hand and a fork in another. When he smiled, his mouth was full of teeth.
(655 words)

So that's 155 words over the word limit. Obviously, there's a lot of dreck, and it's quite derivative, but still...

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

When I was 9, I was invited to a birthday party. It was my
neighbour Vivek's 6th birthday. His parents had invited a whole
bunch of kids from the neighbourhood. There was a birthday cake
and we all sang "Happy Birthday to You." Afterwards, there was
cake and chips and orange squash for everybody. There were games.
That night, I crossed the street and returned home in a daze.

I made plans. I would call everyone in the street. I would
cajole my father - who, I thought, would never refuse me anything
- to get a cake. It would be white and pink and it would have
candles on it. I would blow them out as people sang "Happy
Birthday" to me. At some level, I seem to have understood orange
squash for everyone might be too much to ask for. But maybe
people would get me presents.

My birthday came. I pulled out an old shawl and laid it on the
floor, thinking it would make a good carpet. My mother asked me
what I thought was doing. I explained. In a few well-chosen
words, she told me not to be a fool. On my birthday, I would get
new clothes. I would go to the temple and pray that I would be a
good boy. She would make potatoes and lemon rasam. And that was
that. All that stuff about cakes and squash - we didn't do that
kind of thing. Now, I should stop thinking of all this
extravagance and go take my bath.

I did get new clothes, and my sister bought me a book, but I
still remember going to bed feeling gutted.

So where did all this come from? What triggered this
especially crappy memory of a especially crappy birthday?

There is an scene in Neil
Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane
where the narrator
talks about his seventh birthday, which "had consisted of a table
with iced biscuits and a blancmange and cake and fifteen empty
folding chairs."

Ocean is - hard to describe. It is a fantasy. There are shades
of Stephen King and Diana Wynne Jones (especially
The Pinhoe Egg
) in it. I don't know whether Gaiman put in
specific incidents from his own childhood - or just dreamed it
all up, but it seems very personal. It's probably the effect of
the first person narrator - the first time, I think Gaiman has
used one, but you also get the feeling that "this was true. this
happened. maybe not really in the same way it does in the book,
but close enough"

Spoilers, maybe

It reads like a fairy tale. But not one of those
happily-ever-after fairy tales.

Once upon a time, there was a boy. He didn't have many
friends, this boy, but he made friends with a strange girl. The
boy had a tough life, but he didn't know it. One day, the boy got
into trouble. Some of it was of his own doing. He was a
frightened little boy and frightened little boys don't always do
smart things. Some of it was because of things beyond his
control, and the adults in his life let him down. The girl saved
the boy, but it didn't end happily. The happiest thing about it
was that the boy forgot, but he also never forgot.

That is about the gist of it, but obviously, there's a great
deal more to the book than that. There are the narrator's
parents, and the boy's terror as they seem to drift apart; his
terror at his fathers anger. And there is Ursula Monkton, who
doesn't have to make you swallow bilgewater or cut your foot off
with an axe to be utterly terrifying. There are the hunger birds,
like The Dark Half's psychopomp sparrows. And there are the
Hempstocks - whoever or whatever they are.

There's no happy ending - but there is a possibility of hope.
Granny Weatherwax may believe that everything is a test, but
Mrs Hempstock says "You don't pass or fail being a person." As an
answer, its unsatisfying, but its also the only thing we get.

It's not a children's book, of course. Or atleast, it's not a
book that I would have read as a child. As a seven-year-old, I
was reading The Three Investigators and the Hardy Boys and Billy
Bunter and Enid Blyton. I doubt that I would have even enjoyed it
in my teens - when I was reading both Ludlum and "serious"
literature. But now, as a forty-three-year old, the book really
speaks to me, never more so when it comes to remembering an
imperfect childhood.

There's a line, "I was not happy as a child,although from time
to time, I was content." It's a simple line, a statement of fact,
but it ... resonates. And isn't that what art is about? Making
that connection?

Diversions

Tripping on Doctor Who, so it was a pleasure to discover the classic series available on Dailymotion.
Here's the episode that kicked it all off
An Unearthly Child




And this is a brilliant set of playlists of a number of the classic adventures - from Hartnell on.

And there's also Dangermouse.
He's the greatest. He's fantastic. Whenever there's danger he'll be there.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Return to Sanctuary

I've been playing Diablo 3 for the last fortnight, pretty much non-stop. The PC version was pretty hard to get, but good old Venus managed to get me a copy of the XBox version a week after release, so its been all about Tristram, Caldeum and the Arreat plateau almost every minute I can spare.
I was 28 when I first played Diablo. I picked it up in Landmark and I think I got till the penultimate level - I fought Archbishop Lazarus and maybe even killed him. I'm sure I did not fight Diablo the first time around. I played it without really getting into it. At that time, my nieces were like and 8 and 3 years old and I was much more into playing Prince of Persia 2 - with Malu sitting on my lap, watching the "red prince", as she called him, wade through skeletons and slither under slicing blades. It was only after I went to Hyderabad that I really got hooked by Diablo. This time it was Diablo 2. I bought the second game, and was blown away. I was working in Satyam at the time and had rented an apartment in Ameerpet. Rented furniture, empty rooms - pretty spartan. But I had a PC and a TV and a DVD player, so everything I needed was right there.
I loved it. From the first quest in the Den of Evil where you meet Corpsefire the zombie, your first superunique, to the final level in hell. The green fields and caves of the first act - meeting that little blue bastard Rakansihu, who diarrhea'd lightning and moved frustrating faster than your mouse; Treehead Woodfist, who hit like a truck; Bishibosh the Shaman, the resurrector of Shamans; bloody Blood Raven, zipping around the screen; the Countess and her minions, who dropped the first rune I ever found; Andariel herself, spidery, nipple ringed with her poison nova; Radament the mummy, another fucking poisoner, the huge Coldworm the Burrower, lying surrounded by minions; Duriel - oh Christ - fucking Duriel, moving like a snake and hitting like a battering ram - and freezing you as he does it over and over and over; the Fetishes in Act III, swarming all over you while one of their number climbs on the shoulders of another while breathing flame at you and Witch doctor Endugu, waiting for you at the lowest level of the Flayer Dungeon, infested with soul killers and Stygian Watchers. And there was the fight with the council members in the temple: Geleb Flamefinger, Toorc Icefist and the other guy - where the only strategy that works is the "Run Away" And then on to hell itself- where you make your way past Hadriel into the Chaos Sanctuary and open the seals. I still remember the Oblivion. The Infector of Souls was a joke,  The Grand Vizier of Chaos was tough but Lord DeSeis - oh man, he was the absolute pits. I believe that he was nerfed later, but when I played him - first as a paladin, he would kill me in seconds. And there was big red himself. With his streams of fire and that bloody red lightning, the bastard made me run for cover into the cathedrals entry way and town portal something like every 10 seconds.
Fuck, the amount of time I spent on that game! I would return from work at around 10:30 and think, "OK, just a couple of hours" and the next thing you know, it's 4:00 am.
And then I bought the box-set. This one.

Yes, that was just one box
The opening cutscene blew my mind.
 It doesn't seem like a big deal now, but then, back in 2001, it blew me away - especially the old Barbarian at the gates of Sescheron. Irritation, curiosity, shock, terror, resignation and weak defiance chase across his face - not at all bad for 800x600 resolution. And Baal himself - ghibbering and gleeful, turning the old man into chunky giblets, giggling all the time.
So now I had two more character classes to try out, and more baddies on to kill. Almost a year went that way.
Looking back, I realise that despite all this obsessive playing, I never was close to hardcore. My best character was a level 80-something assassin, but I never lasted very long in Hell mode. I think (I may be completely wrong) that I made it past the first couple of acts on Hell, but I got tired of dying so often and losing my experience and money that I finally gave the game up.
I left Satyam in 2002 and left the box set with my nephews. A few months later, my cousin tells me "What have you done? All my son does is play that game - for hours at an end, while his textbooks gather dust." I felt a quiet glow of satisfaction. I had passed the torch on.
Anyway, about DIII. I'm 43 years old. My eyesuight is going. My reflexes are nowhere near what they were 15 years ago, when I first entered the town of Tristram, one one 640x480 pixelated night.
So, now I play on the console.It's a lot easier. I'm playing the demon hunter, who looks like this. I didn't want to start with the melee characters.
http://i1-games.softpedia-static.com/screenshots/Diablo-3-Demon-Hunter-Class-Trailer_6.jpg
And she totally kicks ass
So, I've played for about a week now. I've completed the normal run, on normal difficulty. The art is a combination of D1 and D2. Tristram is darker - it's always night-time. The monster enchantments now include stuff like "Vortex", which pulls you in from afar;"Jailer", which locks you in a force circle or some kind; "Plagued", where you have to dodge green pools of poison and "Nightmare", which is just good old D&D  "Fear".
It's smooth, the loot keeps falling, you find rares and legendary items at reasonable frequencies. The dialogue is not much, but the story is a great deal better than the first two versions. And it's enough to keep an old fogie happy for a long time.
//The only problem? I have GTA V lying unwrapped on my table


Monday, 9 September 2013

Giovanni Guareschi

My first encounter with Guareschi was "The Apple Tree Complex". It was an extract from "The House that Nino Built," his account of his life with his wife and kids. The Apple Tree Complex mostly featured his daughter (he called her the Duchess).
I think there is such a thing as a 'textbook curse.' If a story appears in a school textbook, it effectively kills off all curiosity about the story's  author for a long time. Victor Canning, Mark Twain - how many  did I put off reading because their stuff had appeared in the Gul Mohar reader?
Anyway, when I was in Biella, I mentioned Guareschi to Gianni - I dont remember the context - and Gianni told me to check out the Don Camillo books. I made a mental note but nothing came of it until a few months ago.
I was in Blossoms, as usual - whenever the office gets a bit much, I take refuge there - and
in the shelf behind the makeshift counter were to Guareschis - both hardbacks with distinctive yellow dust jackets, both in terrible condition. I grabbed them - at 500 Rs each, they seemed to be bargains. The books were
Don Camillo and the Devil
and
Don Camillo meets Hell's Angels


I don't know what I was expecting, but I was completely taken by the first story. Don Camillo is a priest in a village in Italy's Po valley. He desperately wants to get rid of a hideous statue of a saint, a six-foot terracotta monstrosity that was modeled "waist down with a shovel, and and dusted waist up with a chicken feather." One night, he decides enough is enough and struggles and smuggles the statue out of the church and drowns it in the river. Unfortunately for him, he is seen by one of Peppone's men. Peppone is the communist mayor of the village, and he has a long standing rivalry with Don Camillo - the representative of the evil papacy. The next day Peppone and his main raise a huge outcry about the villain who dared to steal the of the sainted Babila. They track the vehicle that took the statue from the church to the river. The entire village helps in raising the statue and soon, it is back at its old post in the church.
Peppone knows full well that it was Don Camillo who dumped the statue he keeps that to himself. Instead, he gives this speech when the statue is returned. "Father, the people's callous but honest hands have brought you back the venerable image of their protectress, Saint Babila, stolen by some sacrilegious criminal but washed and purified in the waters of our country's mightiest river." All poor Don Camillo can do is look daggers at Peppone.

Most of the stories are either like this - or about the eccentricities of individual villagers, there are romances between communists and catholics, there are couples who claim to be living in sin, in defiance of social convention - but who actually got secretly married before living together. The village sees floods and droughts and life goes on. Stalin is replaced by Malenkov and Kruschev; Peppone struggles with change and Don Camillo deals with a recalcitrant and free spirited niece, but most of the books are a tender look at life in Italy in the post war years. There are some really tragic stories as well - there is a story about a horse that is guaranteed to make you cry. The thing is, they are written with love. And it shows.

Also many thanks to +Anu Hasan - for getting me two more Camillos - and The House that Nino Built. I'm reading The Apple Tree Complex again. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

No toon like an old toon...

Around the world in 80 days. Just because of...Doordarshan
Thank you, Malathy Girish, whoever you are


The entire playlist is here. We never did see Fogg marrying Belinda, though, did we?

"The motto of the wise is: be prepared for surprises"

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The coolest man of the Renaissance

So here's a guy who inherits 179,000 florins and is the richest guy in Florence. By the time he dies, he makes 600,000 florins, of which he leaves 200,000 to his son - the rest he spends on making his city better.
Here's a guy who gets arrested because of the machinations of a rival family and escapes a death sentence by bribing his judge into exiling him. He goes away and then returns a year later and kicks out the Albizzis and the Strozzis, the two families that had joined up to get rid of him.
Here's a guy who - well - if not the founder - was one of the men who laid the foundations for a dynasty which produced four popes, two queens and any number of grand dukes.
And here's a guy - who was not the father of the renaissance(that honour goes to book maniac Petrarch) - but whom Durant calls its midwife - though personally, I think "Godfather" of the renaissance works better.
The guy, boys and girls, is Cosimo De Medici. Cosimo il Vecchio. Cosimo Pater Patriae.
Meet the coolest guy of the Renaissance.
Cosimo's dad, Giovanni Di Bicci de Medici was no slouch himself. The richest man in Florence, he endeared himself to the poor by supporting an annual income tax  which really pissed off the rich, who, up till that time were taxed at the same rate as the poor.
Giovanni Di Bicci popped in 1428, "bequeathing to his son Cosimo a good name and the largest fortune in Tuscany - 179,221 florins." (Durant values the florin at $25. the book was written in 1952-53 and according to dollartimes.com, that would make a 1952 dollar worth 8.66 of todays dollars, setting Giovanni Di Bicci's fortune at $ 38.8 million).
Cosimo took over at the age of 39 - not exactly an impetuous youth. The De Medici businesses were already global. "They were not confined to banking; they included the management of extensive farms, the manufacture of silk and woolen goods, a varied trade that bound Russia and Spain, Scotland and Syria, Islam and Christendom. Cosimo, while building churches in Florence, saw no sin in making trade agreements, and exchanging costly presents, with Turkish sultans. The firm made a specialty of importing from the East articles of little bulk and great value, like spices, almonds and sugar, and sold these and other products at various European ports," writes Durant.
Cosimo handled his business with unostentatious skill. He also found time to dabble in politics.  As a leading member of the Dieci, the Florentine council of 10, he directed Florence to a victory against Lucca[1].
Cosimo's popularity with the masses came with its usual share of enemies. One of the Medici's rival families, resented Cosimo's successes. The Albizzis also dominated the parlamento and asked for the arrest of Cosimo - on charges that he was planning to overthrow the Republic. An unpopular idea - but Rinaldo Degli Albizzi was sure he could push it through. One noble they tried to convince, Nicolo Di Uzzano responded:" The justice of our cause is wholly founded upon our suspicion that Cosimo designs to make himself prince of the city. And although we entertain this suspicion and suppose it to be correct, others have it not; but what is worse, they charge us with the very design of which we accuse him. Those actions of Cosimo which lead us to suspect him are, that he lends money indiscriminately, and not to private persons only, but to the public; and not to Florentines only, but to the condottieri, the soldiers of fortune. Besides, he assists any citizen who requires magisterial aid; and, by the universal interest he possesses in the city, raises first one friend and then another to higher grades of honor. Therefore, to adduce our reasons for expelling him, would be to say that he is kind, generous, liberal, and beloved by all. Now tell me, what law is there which forbids, disapproves, or condemns men for being pious, liberal, and benevolent? And though they are all modes adopted by those who aim at sovereignty, they are not believed to be such, nor have we sufficient power to make them to be so esteemed; for our conduct has robbed us of confidence, and the city, naturally partial and (having always lived in faction) corrupt, cannot lend its attention to such charges. But even if we were successful in an attempt to expel him (which might easily happen under a favorable Signory), how could we (being surrounded by his innumerable friends, who would constantly reproach us, and ardently desire to see him again in the city) prevent his return? It would be impossible for they being so numerous, and having the good will of all upon their side, we should never be secure from them. And as many of his first discovered friends as you might expel, so many enemies would you make, so that in a short time he would return, and the result would be simply this, that we had driven him out a good man and he had returned to us a bad one." Still, Rinaldo persisted and was able to muster enough support to ask for Cosimo's imprisonment.
Cosimo surrendered himself. Everyone thought he was a moron, and the death sentence was inevitable. The Albizzis would make sure of it. But Cosimo was as cool as Tyrion Lannister and somehow, between imprisonment and sentence, Bernardo Guadagni, the gonfaloniere (standard bearer, equivalent to the city's judge) found himself richer by 1,000 ducats (a little over $ 100,000), and discovered mercy, exiling Cosimo instead of having him executed. He went to Venice, where his open handedness soon had the Venetian government lobbying for his return. Sure enough, in 1434, one year after his banishment, Cosimo is back in Florence.
After his return, Cosimo briefly served in the government of Florence, but soon gave up all official positions. He didn't need to stay in power to get his stuff done, everybody in power was a friend, or someone he had helped on the way. "To be elected to office is often prejudicial to the body and hurtful to the soul," he would say.
Cosimo used his money well. He gave loans to influential families to get their support. His gifts to the clergy made them Medici fanboys. And the loads of money he spent on the city had won him admirers among the citizens. "The Florentines had observed that the constitution of the Republic did not protect them from the aristocracy of wealth; the defeat of the Ciompi had burned this lesson into public memory. If the populace had to choose between the Albizzi, who favoured the rich, and the Medici, who favoured the middle classes and the poor, it could not long hesitate," writes Durant.
Cosimo was discreet and subtle, but wasn't exactly Gandhi. "Cities are not ruled by paternosters," he would say. People who opposed him hit the road fast, like the Albizzis, and sometimes with a heavy splat, like Baldaccio D'Anghiari. He replaced the fixed income tax with a sliding scale of levies which essentially drove his enemies out of the city. "Cosimo accepted their departure with equanimity, remarking that new aristocrats could be made with a few yards of scarlet cloth"
Cosimo understood the importance of stability, having personally experienced the problems caused by the Lucca war. It was not moral - unlike today, back then, war was bad for business. And Cosimo - and the other Florentines - were businessmen, more than anything else. So when Milan seemed to be destined for chaos after the fall of the Visconti in 1447, he made sure that it did not happen, by financing Francesco Sforza2, allowing him to take over as Duke of Milan. When the Bentivogli, the rulers of Bologna, seemed to be in danger of dying out, he found an illegitimate son of Ercole Bentivoglio, who was at that time an apprentice wool carder in Florence, and sent him to Bologna. Sante Bentivoglio never forgot Cosimo's kindness, and turned out to be one of the better rulers of Bologna. Sante later married into the Sforza family, tying Bologna with Milan and Florence against the other city states.
When Venice and Naples decided to band together to fuck with his city, Cosimo started calling in the loans he and his bank had made to various prominent Venetians and Neapolitans. Needless to say, the Venice+Naples plan got nowhere. [4]. And while Wikipedia attributes the Balance of Power policy to Sforza and Lorenzo De Medici, it is quite obvious that Cosimo was the real master of that game.


//OK, this post has gone on too long, but I will post a follow up, in the hope that someone is reading :)



1. OK, It wasn't a victory over Lucca, but Cosimo's conduct during the war that endeared him to the plebs and scared the nobles.
2.More on Milan later.
3.Yeah, yeah - the word Machiavellian gets thrown about a lot when talking about the Patrician, but there's a whole deal about Machiavelli that remains to be discussed. And while Nick's role model was supposed to be Cesare Borgia, it seems inconceivable that he was not aware of Cosimo's reputation.
4. The more I read about Cosimo, the more I'm convinced that Terry Pratchett modeled Lord Vetinari3 partly on him. There's a scene in Feet of Clay, describing Ankh Morpork's foreign policy - summed up as  "If you fight, we'll call in your mortgages. And incidentally that's my pike you're pointing at me. I paid for that shield you're holding. And take my helmet off when you speak to me, you horrible little debtor." Cosimo also hated actors and mimes, much like Vetinari, who had them thrown into scorpion pits. Cosimo dressed very simply, in the traditional red robes of the citizen and lived simply as well. People used to be shocked at the austerity of his private life, when compared to the feasts he threw as a public citizen.
And look - I was right! From an interview with Pratchett here
"On the other hand, a gag that no-one's ever said they've got is the Patrician's name, Lord Vetinari. I always think of the Patrician as a vaguely Florentine prince, a sort of Machiavelli and Robespierre rolled into one. And of course there was Medici. So I thought if you had the Medici then you would have the Dentistri and the Vetinari. The Discworld is full of things which don't look like gags but are gags if only you can work out what the intervening step is which I haven't given. "

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Renaissance - Book blogging

I'm reading Will Durant - something I always wanted to do for a long time, but the time was never right. A few days ago, at Blossoms, I stumbled on the series and bought two books - Our Oriental Heritage and The Renaissance. I started with the latter - my distaste for Indian history a fallout of having to swot up large chunks of it in school, I suppose. Plus, I value the time I spent in Italy a great deal, and so ...
The book is very well written, so much so that I would have loved it as a textbook. Take this sample, early on.
Robert the Wise had just died, and his granddaughter Joanna I had inherited his throne and dominions, including Provence and therefore Avignon. To please her father she had married her cousin Andrew, son of the king of Hungary. Andrew thought he should be king as well as consort;Joanna's brother, Louis of Taranto, slew him(1345) and married the Queen. Andrew's brother Louis, succeeding to the throne of Hungary, marched his army into Italy, and took Naples (1348). Joanna fled to Avignon, and sold that city to the papacy for 80,000 florins ($2,000,000?); Clement declared her innocent, sanctioned her marriage, and ordered the invader back to Hungary. King Louis ignored the order, but the Black Death (1348) so withered his army that he was compelled to withdraw. Joanna regained her throne (1352), and ruled in splendor and vice util deposed by Pope Urban VI (1380); a year later she was captured by Charles, Duke of Durazzo, and in 1382 she was put to death.
So there are so many stories in that little paragraph - tragedies and histories, love, murder, politics, bribery, passion, war and death, all in one paragraph about the life of one forgotten queen. Joanna is not mentioned again, but there are so many stories like hers.

Petrarch
There's Petrarch, pudgy and passionate; Boccaccio, earthy and amorous and Giotto, who Dante called "The lord of painting's field". There is Cola di Rienzo, the son of a tavern keeper and a washerwoman, elected Dictator of Rome, who administered the city state so well that the church and the Italian nobles conspired to over throw him. They succeeded but Rienzo made his return, only to be stabbed a hundred times by the same peasant's whose cause he had championed. His corpse was dragged through the streets and hung up like carrion at a butcher's stall. "It remained there for two days, a target for public contumely and urchin's stones," writes Durant.

Cola Di Rienzo
All this happens in just the first chapter, called "The Age of Petrarch and Boccaccio." There are stories of the writing of The Decameron, speculation on who Petrarch's Laura could have been, descriptions of the bubonic plague that was still doing its work, the manipulations of Pope Clement IV, the beginning of Florence's wealth and much more. And in the background, influencing and being influenced are Petrarch and Boccaccio, one wealthy and respected in his own time, all but forgotten now, the other immortalized because of The Decameron - which lives on through Chaucer and others, even finding new life as an Italian porn film (starring the amazingly endowed Sarah Young)
The book collector
One of the most endearing things about Petrarch is that he was crazy about books. He began his first book collection as a student in Bologna. Then his dad visited him and thought it would be a good idea to burn all the parchments that Petrarch had collected. His dad wanted Petie to become a lawyer and not muck about with books and parchments.
But Petrarch couldn't. When he wasn't writing besotted poems to a woman he never spoke to (why does that sound familiar?), he spent all his time and money collecting books. He was a great traveller, and wherever he went, he had to hire a retinue to carry his book collection. He would go foraging in Flemish monasteries and the back alleys of Paris and bemoan the fact that Brit and French merchants regularly plundered Rome of its books.
He would read while at the barber and at dinner, even while riding. I'm pretty sure he was the first great bathroom reader.
And in this world of blogs and self absorption, his words seem particularly appropriate: "All the world is taking up the writer's part, which ought to be confined to a few andthe number of the sick increases and the disease becomes daily more virulent...yet it might have been better to have been a labourer or a weaver at the loom. There are several kinds of melancholia: and some madmen will write books, just as others toss pebbles in their hands.As for literary fame, it is but a harvest of thin air and it is only fit for sailors to watch a breeze and to whistle for a wind."
Petrarch is the hero - so to speak of the first chapter. But he is also a character moving across the tapestry of the Italian city states. Siena, where the Palazzo Publico rose against a backdrop of nobles and peasantry uniting to fight against a corrupt and wealthy merchant class; Milan, under the Viscontis, "seldom scrupulous, often cruel, sometimes extravagant, never stupid"; Genoa, the birthplace of double entry bookkeeping and maritime insurance; Venice, Verona and so many others.
The second chapter is about the popes at Avignon - but more on them later. The third chapter is the best - so far - and it profiles one one of the coolest people I've ever read about. The chapter is called "Rise of the Medici," but the person the next post will be about is not called Lorenzo.

Friday, 2 August 2013

BITS Day

Just saw the film that's been making the rounds. Again. You know the one - with Anu, R, Padmini and several others saying how awesome BITS was. It's what? 25 years now? I suppose it is easy to go all sepia tone. And outside the campus, the place was pretty brown anyway.
I hated the place - not all the time, of course, but often enough. I was mixed up, a brat, too full of myself, a fool who desperately wanted to be cool. I remember bawling out my inadequacies to Natty and Premdas. I remember being deeply fucked up - a puritan tambram streak at odds with a natural inclination towards hedonism. I hated the fact that I was uniformly terrible at acads. I  think I only made 2 'A's in my time there - PS 1 and PS 2.  hated the fact that I could never find the courage to talk to a girl. I was perennially broke and piling on to others. And of course, the things I did there - the smoking, the phens and all the rest probably laid the foundations for a fucked up heart and perforated kidneys.
It wasn't the place of course. It was me.
There are times in your life when you only remember the bad stuff that happened - never the good. And there are times when you can remember only the good stuff.  Maybe it works differently for you, but that's the way things roll for me.
But here's the thing. With BITS, I have to work harder to remember the bad stuff. I know that it wasn't an idyll, lazy days and glorious nights, but even the bad stuff seems better than the other bad stuff.
The BITS film is well meaning, but fuck - who spent time in classes? Who fucking danced Bharatha Natyam in Shiv G? In those clothes? Where are the filthy rubber chappals? Where are the horrible bogs? Where the fuck is Pappu?
Yeah, yeah. The place has changed. It is now a global brand (oh how I HATE those words). The kids there talk knowledgeably about management and marketing. They're setting up their e-commerce companies even before they get their degrees. And that's all good, all right for this century, I suppose.
But for me, it was those luchcha sessions in the back wing of Ram, with Aavi and Micko and Gundu and Pettai looking thuggish in his vest and lungi. It was those rare occasions in Connaught with Midnight Beauties and fried Maggi - the day you got your draft and made the trip to UCO Bank, just off RP and came back flush with a few hundred rupees. It was cutting yourself on the barbed wire fence as you made your way from Ram to Krishna. It was in the names of the hostels - Ram, Budh, Malviya, Krishna, Gandhi, Shankar, Vyas, Viswakarma and Bhagirath, Rana Pratap and Ashok - and of course, in a different dimension altogether, Meera.
It was getting stoned for the first time, listening to Indian Summer. 2 js and 4 chis. Still remember tottering back to my room, after that, thinking I was walking through a time tunnel. It was stumbling out of bed at 3 in the afternoon, too late for lunch and making my way to Sky for that chai-cigarette. It was about sky - more than anything. Sitting on that curved stone bench with a bunch of others who hadnt seen the inside of a class for months. Standing under a waterspout on those strange days when there was rain. And it was also about classes. VPG and LinAl. Ghule like a rockstar, his classroom overflowing in the first week of the semester. Pulak Das and ceteris paribus. JP Varma and PD Chaturvedi. Guys moaning over Transport Phenomena. Looking at TSKV Iyer's Circuit Theory textbook and wondering why all that stuff that seemed to make such glorious sense while you read it stoned seemed to melt away on test day.

And it was about the music, the rages that swept the college each year. Tull. The Doors. Dylan. Cale. The Dead. Airplane. Natty playing "My object all sublime" from The Mikado.Listening to Freebird, stoned, for the first time. Kaustav and "Where do you go to my lovely." Bong and "Bobby Brown". Driving my backie crazy by playing Rock'n Roll Music non stop. Getting driven crazy by my backie playing 'Kashmiru loyalu Kanyakumarilu - O Santamama.' Fuck. I heard that song in my fresher sem, and will carry it with me till I die.
The kindness of seniors. Madan Babu taking me in hand in my first sem. Being ragged by Guru and Siddharth Kanoria in Budh's T-wing. Being quizzed on Wodehouse by Loki. KM - who nearly made me cry. Being woken up at 2:00 in the morning and sent to the bus stand to buy a guy called Negi two Esquires. The Gult gang - Suresh, Tra, Boobs and Guntax.

Movies at the Audi. Furiously wanking off into the Audi curtains gawking at Shilpa Shirodkar in Kishen Kanhaiya. Earthquake, which looked so bad, you'd think it had been through one. Michelle Pfeiffer in Tequila Sunrise and The Witches of Eastwick. Music Nights and VPK.
Reading Stephen King and Tolkein and The Magic Mountain and Eliot and Steinbeck. Fighting over Cherry's Penthouse. Human Digests. Sherlock and Tolkein. Fitzgerald and Thoreau.  
The nicknames: Vochak. Catprick. Muds. Gunds. Baldy. Kandaar. Mapper. Crypper. Chai. Of. Babban. My own -smelly/shit/woman. The words: abso/jhool/haloo/cracko/crash/chome/blown. The places: BC/Giridharis - the shack -  the first porn (Society Affairs, with Harry Reems) - Nagarji - The temple - finding JFK and Lenin sharing sacred space - and its lawns.
Architecture: Wings - T, front and back, new. Sideys and backies. ET/QT/Audi/Blocks M, C, IPC. Central  Lib and students lib.
Other places: Mad Max to Pahadi. Bhagode. Manikaran trips. Holi in the snow.
Stuff: Sampath and Gyanoo. Posat and op. The trips to Delhi. The loo at Nirulas. Flying past the fences.
The contests: Oasis. Apogee. T-Shirts. Casaram the camel. 333031. Jams. Connections. Quizzes. BoB. OHT. Chanty and Venky. Salmagundi. R making the connection to Professor Moriarty after one clue 'asteroid'.
Names to fear: Bond.
The long runners. Pat. Sangeeth. PV.
Saying goodbye. Goodbye Audi, goodbye Bhavans. Goodbye messes. Goodbye Blocks. Goodbye MB (I hardly knew ye). Goodbye Sky. Goodbye Pappu (thanks for that SPLENDID parting boozer you threw us). Feeling self-consciously nostalgic about it all.  Goodbye, Pilani, you strange petridish, you closed eco-system, you way of life.