The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins


Given the normal Hindu upbringing that I had, I had grown up hearing and knowing about all the innumerable gods we have. Then, my education in a convent school for a few years of my life exposed me to the Christianity as well and a couple of my friends as well as family friends being muslim showed me that way of thinking too. In short, I knew about 3 religions and how they functioned. I loved the mythology. I loved the stories of Gods – more like superhuman beings. There wasn’t much I questioned early in life. It is when I came in higher class in school – around class X or so..that I started reasoning for myself and found many incompatibilities. It was just flabbergasting to believe what mythologies were saying and what science had actually proved. It did not go together and that is when in the hearts of my hearts I accepted that God – be it any religion – was a superhuman character in an elaborate plotline with earth as center.

The book asserts as much and tries to argue rationally. Dawkins is a charming speaker and a gifted writer and he is very passionate about the subject. It is indeed a touchy topic and he starts by pointing out how religion gains much more immunity than anything else (in terms of offence).

I came across Dawkins and his quest for Atheism when I was in college – 2nd year I think. I have been thoroughly convinced since then, of course but reading this book was just a reassertion of the fact that if one begins to see the world through scientific lens and tries to accept the unknown/fuzziness as such , which is as yet unknown, rather than devising supernatural story plots, there would be so much more beauty to be seen!

Rationality is a gift we all have but the choice to use it is what makes a difference. Sadly, most of us choose to believe in something which is incompatible with rationality, science and evidence.

If you want to give even an iota of a chance to see the argument for not believing in a supernatural – This is the book.

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy


Anna Karenina is the first book I have read by Leo Tolstoy and I must bow down to the quality of his work. I amnoone to say it but the descriptive powers of Tolstoy and his keen observations are laudable. His stuff is that of geniuses. The story which he has chosen to depict covers vast range of human emotions and much about the Russian society.

It is mainly based on two major views of relationships, one that of extra marital and that of marital. Whereas Levin finds happiness in the married life that he thought he would never have, Anna Karenina finds the way to love with his beloved Vronsky but is never calmed in her mind and is forever tormented by the pangs of guilt and shame and abandon of the society which she one ruled. The author paints a beautiful picture of the Russian high society when there was monarchy in Russia. The gestures and the conducts and everything is so beautifully explained that one can clearly create a picture in his/her mind. The relationships are realistic and some situations very poignant. He ends his moving tale with a tragedy and so fittingly because there could have been no other ending for the lady Karenina, conflicted as she was between the real desires of her heart and the obligations that she had to fulfill for being called respectable in the society. It is a penetrating view on the pressure that the society exerts on one’s conducts, that how we are often driven by the concerns that others would express without listening to what we really want. Then Tolstoy also gives the angle of a view from a woman who is married but is not exactly fitted into the arrangement. How she has to kill her soul to be present for things she doesnt want to be in, how she has to endure every condemnation of the world if her heart desires that which is not acceptable according to certain rules. The way in which the novel is very touching. The depiction of conflict is amazing in Vronsky as in Anna. The love which is so passionate and which sometimes becomes burdening also is so close to life. The progress and the meanderings which are shown in the becoming and culmination of love evoke a respect for the author who has so finely understood it.

The whole book while being as thick it is, is surprisingly very engrossing. I believe, more so because for the first time I was reading about the history and culture of Russia, which I had till now always imagined as the communist empire and a sordid country where there is always snow and misery. But this book has changed it. I particularly was made happy to find their system of naming women and men, that adding of -ova or -aya – or ina to the surname of the father or the husband to form the name of the girl.

A reading I really relished and enjoyed while taking all my time to read it. I have bought and started with War and Peace too, which I think will find the same interest by me.

Movie Review: Jodha Akbar


I saw Jodha Akbar last night and I liked the movie. I did. It was visually stunning. All compliments to the director and the cinematographer. Battle scenes as well as the most tender of the scenes are shot with equal aplomb. Hritik Roshan is totally rocking as Akbar and to my surprise, Aishwarya plays Jodha just as well. The costumes, oh my god! They are rich, extravagant and amazingly beautiful. The sets..too good. The camera angles are nice and so is the choreography in the song Azeemo-shan-shehenshah. Music by Rehman is not his best but surely it fits the movie and suits the mood. Sonu Sood plays a brilliant supporting role and so does Ila Arun. The shots of elephants and horses are brilliant.

Thats the praise part and I am impressed by the movie. However, it is not without its flaws. It certainly is not at the level of Troy but it would be extremely unfair to compare it to Troy and such and don’t do it but what I am saying is that if there had been more money and resources, Gowariker would have done even better. Make no mistake that the movie is a depiction of history. It is a completely fictitious love tale involving historical figures as big as Akbar. The background and some of the battles are recorded in the history but that’s it. There is no account of the love story between Jodha and Akbar in historical texts. In fact, there is doubt as to if Jodha Bai was Akbar’s wife or daughter-in-law. But what is certain is that Akbar had a Rajput wife ( who was made to convert to Islam, as against what is shown in the picture ). But that does not really matter if you see the movie as a tale told without worrying about its historical accuracy. I believe we should give movies that freedom.

It was an aesthetically pleasing movie all along and well paced. That is why the 3.5 hour length did not matter that much. Hritik looked damn good! For one moment I could not think of him as anyone else other than Akbar. He got into the groove so well. Aishwarya did what she does best: looking stunningly beautiful as an Indian woman. Man! She looked so gorgeous in the Neeta Lulla costumes.

Beautiful movie and laudable effort by Gowariker. I think it could not have been what it is if the director was someone else. The scenes are shot and connected with a keen eye and mastery. Although the story is pretty melodramatic but Ashutosh handles it well.
Applause! One can watch it once if they are even a tad romantic and a little bit more open minded who can tolerate a little tweaking of history.

The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing


I have had the opportunity to read few books and some short stories in the last few days and I will try to review the books here.  This one is about the book mentioned above. Doris Lessing is the Nobel Prize Winner in literature for the year 2007. I read this book as a part of Literary Discussion Group readings and it is a good book. I would not say that it is a fantastic or some incomparable sort of a work but it is certainly very good.

One thing that I have noticed is that the really good writers keep the language simple and that is one of the best qualities in this book too. It is easy to read, the narrative is mainly in first person and the chronology is linear. It is about a family which is created by two people as their dream which eventually becomes a nightmare when a fifth child is born who is a monster to everyone else. The book on the surface is a realistic fiction novel but people have often thought of it as a comment on violence in society, the way to deal with disabled children and metaphorically it is seen as representing the racial, ethnic and class differences.

There are many questions which are evoked that stay unanswered. As has been said about it, the book is provocative and leaves the reader in dilemma. Lessing always seems to give a message that idealism is a fickle concept and that the worse is yet to come. The novel tends to be pessimistic and depressing that way. Gothic elements (like a big Victorian house) and some really horrid scenes in the institution give it a taste of horror. More than that the horror is inside when one sees the death and incredulity of relationships like that of mother and son, husband and wife, siblings. The novel chiefly tells a tale about how the society deals with an abnormal element around it. The basic instinct is that of shutting it out which reflects back in the attitude of the one who is shunned (Ben, in this case).

No doubt about it that it is a thought provoking novel. You think about it and you keep thinking. A depressing and sad, but definitely a good read.