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Amit Sharma’s “False Ceilings” Is A Book Worth Reading Twice

falseceilingsThis is one of those rare book reviews that I’m doing. I usually avoid book reviews – being an author myself, I find the task too personal. More often than not, I imagine myself in the author’s shoes, and I try to imagine what kind of a book review he/she would expect. Or hope for. The answer comes easily for me, having been on the other side of the transaction many times. But this time it’s different. This time, it’s Amit Sharma I’m talking about. And Amit’s not any author. He’s a damn good one.

Amit and I’ve known each other for a long time, never in person, but through our words. We used to be frequent commentators on each other’s blogs for more than a decade. I’ve known him to be a funny, witty, and talented writer. I don’t know what he thought of me, back in the day, when toilet humor used to be my claim to fame, but he kept coming back to read my drivel, more out of pity, I think.

And while I’ve continued to write drivel, Amit’s moved up in the world, and has finally published his book. False Ceilings, which was released in January of this year, is, in a nutshell, fantastic.

I confess that I took my time with this. For a lot of reasons, I couldn’t finish the book in the time I told him I would. And I think he gave up on me a long time ago. But, I did finish the book, and I’m so glad I did. The book is a fascinating read. The characters, the plot, the dialog, and the flow of the prose is strong enough to keep a reader hooked till the end. The second half of the book has more meat, and moves much faster than the first half, I thought, and once you get to the halfway mark, you’d be foolish to stop.

We all have secrets. We all fail to keep some, and succeed in keeping others. But when a secret has the ability to run someone’s life, would you still keep it? Would you be compelled to hold your silence? I don’t know about myself, but Amit’s done a fascinating job of guiding his lead characters through these morally oblique questions of life. The internal monologues, the machinations of a vengeful mind, the loyalties of a few, and the betrayals of others are laid out spectacularly well.

The book does not hurry you. It does not jump to conclusions. There is a lot of patience in the plot. You’ll know if you’re ever written something – the temptation to jump ahead in the narrative is always a threat that authors face. The story has already been laid out in the author’s mind, but to narrate it in a way that impacts the reader in the same way it does the author is a painstaking process. And Amit’s done this wonderfully well. Even when he talks about grief, pain, violence, and societal issues, he does not falter.

In the interest of being brutally honest, I wish the book would have been edited better. I could spot a few minor errors in grammar and punctuation, and I wish I could’ve ignored them. Amit’s language is very good, but whoever edited the book did him an injustice. I wish that these will be edited out in the next version.

Overall, I think it’s a book worth picking up and reading twice.

False Ceilings by Amit Sharma is available in leading bookstores, on Amazon and on Flipkart.

Here’s How You Can Stop Terrorism

Just imagine a world in which we won’t be forced to be an audience for mindless violence. Without an audience, acts of terror aren’t acts of terror anymore. They are just crimes.

Yes, you. Sitting on your chair or your bed, reading this. You have the power to rid the world once and for all of terrorism and fear. I’ll tell you how, and it won’t cost you a dime.

Let’s understand the nature of terror first – terrorists thrive because of the fear they instill in people. And people who are afraid will do almost anything to protect themselves. Including resorting to violence themselves. All the rubbish that’s happening around the world with people getting beheaded and burnt alive, is for us to consume. We can’t blame the media for reporting these incidents because it’s their job. But we have the power to choose what information we consume. Just imagine a world in which everyone turns off their TV or changes the channel when a terror attack is being reported. Just imagine a world in which we won’t be forced to be an audience for mindless violence. Without an audience, acts of terror aren’t acts of terror anymore. They are just crimes.

Let’s face it – most of the acts of terror that happen these days are only the benefit of the media, and nothing else. There is no deeper ideology and cause that they are “fighting for.”  Unfortunately, being human has made us curious animals and we want to read about and watch such wanton acts of violence.

Personally, I consider myself a happy man, unafraid of being blown up by a bomb or any such nonsense. I am so because I don’t read or watch things that are meant to instill fear in me. That’s not to say that I’m living under a rock. Don’t compare me to a cat that thinks it’s invisible because it closed its eyes. It’s just that my decisions aren’t based on fear.

So, how can  you stop terrorism? By not being part of the audience. Don’t click on those links, don’t read those news reports, don’t watch those stories on the news.

Sigh. If wishes were horses, the world would be such a beautiful place to live in.

The MirrorCracked Movie Review: John Wick

If anyone else apart from Keanu had played the part of John Wick, this movie would have been a joke. Keanu saves the day in his usual nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude. And that’s why we love him so much, don’t we? Don’t mess with Keanu!

John_Wick_TeaserPoster

He’s traveled through time to write the most accurate history report in the history of mankind. He has traveled to Hell and back – literally –  to find out if his girlfriend’s sister has been taken by Lucifer. In the process, he has also battled the demon army that wanted to take over the World. He has stopped terrorists while riding a bus. He saved the entire World again, when machines threatened to take over and turn us into slaves. He’s led an army of Ronin to the brink of death and has come out victorious. He is Keanu Reeves.

And the Russians are stupid enough to break into his house and kill his puppy. 

That line pretty much sums up the John Wick experience. A bunch of Russians, led by Iosef (played by Theon Greyjoy, er, I mean Alfie Allen), break into Keanu Reeves’ house in the middle of the night, rough him up and, just for kicks, kill his puppy that had been gifted to him by his dead wife. It is then revealed that Keanu is none other than John Wick, a terrifying spectre who haunts people’s nightmares because he was the perfect killing machine, capable of “killing three people in a pub with a fuckin’ pencil!” as Viggo (played by Michael Nyqvist) puts it so eloquently. A retired hitman who used to work for Viggo in the past gets roughed up by Iosef – Viggo’s son.

The next 80 minutes of the movie follows John Wick as systematically prepares for and eliminates about a hundred Russian mobsters and causing, in typical Hollywood fashion, city-wide destruction of vehicles, buildings and everything else.

John Wick is superhuman, almost. The way he shoots people without having to take aim is almost too much fun to watch, and if any kids under the age of 12 watch the movie, they’d think shooting people is child’s play. In the end, he manages to kill everyone – I mean EVERYONE – and steals another puppy from a vet’s clinic and walks away in to the sunrise with it. We are led to believe that it’s disturbingly easy to kill people.

John Wick GIF

If anyone else apart from Keanu had played the part of John Wick, this movie would have been a joke. Keanu saves the day in his usual nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude. And that’s why we love him so much, don’t we? Don’t mess with Keanu!

The movie is worth a watch if you like mindless action movies with few dialogs and fewer plot lines. It’s worth a watch only for Keanu. Watch him, drool over him and forget the movie. The movie’s rated 7.3 on IMDB with over 74,000 votes. I’m guessing all of these people are hardcore Keanu fans.

 

This Is The Freakiest Thing That’s Happened To Me. Unfortunately, You Won’t Believe A Word It.

You may want to believe in supernatural forces and karma and coincidences, but I don’t. At least, I won’t admit to it in public. But this is too freaky to ignore.

freaky coincidences that you won't believe

It’s fascinating the way history repeats itself. There are certain events that keep happening to us repeatedly, and all we can do is stand by and watch them unfold with a sense of wonder in our eye. In my case, this has happened far too often for it to be a coincidence.

For instance, I belong to the new breed of young (-ish) people who can’t be bothered with archaic things like loyalty to a company. I need excitement and I need to keep moving. If I work for a company longer than two years, something might be seriously wrong with me. Or the work is challenging enough to keep me there. Else, in the past eleven years, I have averaged about 13 months in a particular job. Each time I jump, I do it for the usual reasons – more money, better working conditions and more opportunities to learn something new.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I love the unpredictability that comes with this lifestyle. I love the fact that I’m earning at least three times more than what other people I graduated with are earning. But the funny thing about this situation is that I never do this consciously. Invariably, after about 6 months in a company, I feel the first strands of restlessness tugging at me. I start assessing my situation and by the 8th month or so, I would have usually taken the decision to move on.

But this post isn’t about my unusual career paths. It’s about an incident that happened today, which made me stop doing whatever I was doing, sit back and stare at the ceiling in wonder and amazement.

Here’s the bizarre drama: I was dating a girl a while back, let’s call her S. Now, a few months into our relationship, S asked me if she can transfer some money into my bank account because she had lost her ATM card, and she had to pay someone. She asked me to meet the person, withdraw the money and hand it over. A simple, everyday occurrence that most of us experience, right?

Now today, six-seven years later, another girl, who’s a colleague from work, whose name is also S, called me and asked me if she could transfer some money into my account because she had to pay someone and she had lost her ATM card.

The strangeness doesn’t end there:

  1. Both of them transferred the same amount of money.
  2. Both of them had to pay a man with the same name.
  3. Both of them transferred the money to my account in the same bank – HDFC.
  4. I am meeting the man to hand over the money in the same place where I met the earlier man, six-seven years ago – Indiranagar.
  5. I was in the second month of a new job back then. Same here, today. 
  6. I had had a wardrobe malfunction back then, having spilled tea on my white shirt, which forced me to change clothes and come to work a bit late . The exact same thing happened this morning. I am not shitting you!

Now, you may want to believe in supernatural forces and karma and coincidences, but I don’t. At least, I won’t admit to it in public. But this is too freaky to ignore.

This Is What Would Happen If We Had A Sherlock Holmes In India Today

Sherlock HolmesEvery once in a while, I revisit all the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels with the same enthusiasm I had when I first picked up the books. I read each line with the same amount of drool in my mouth, and my heart beats faster each time the dramatic “elementary” reveal is around the corner. But, as time has gone by, I’ve become duller and predictable. My brain lacks the level of imagination it had when I was a kid. The result is that I find it hard to imagine the 19th century streets of London and the rustic surroundings of 221B Baker Street. I used to imagine them quite vividly, back when I was an innocent kid. Not anymore.

The alternative is that I try to imagine what would happen if Sherlock Holmes were discovered today, in this day and age, in India. It would not bode too well for our favorite detective. He would experience a systematic pounding by the media and the public until he would be so steeped in his own apparent ignominy that he would kill himself. This is what would happen:

Step 1: An Extraordinary Man Is Discovered

The tabloids would feature him first as a man of extraordinary talent, capable of solving crimes that the inept police can’t. People are impressed at his skills and the newspapers and the news channels run little fluff pieces on him and his abilities. He rapidly rises in the eyes of the public as the eccentric man who can solve the toughest of crimes with his extraordinary mind. He’s awarded a bunch of times by the Government and the Prime Minister gets his photograph clicked with him.

Step 2: The Obligatory Scandal

One persistent little fuck photographs Sherlock Holmes injecting himself with heroin. The photograph becomes a national sensation. How can a hero abuse narcotics? News anchors who can’t report to save their lives fill the TV screens with small-time politicians, ex-police officers and disgraced authors and ask them their opinion of this fallen hero. Four days of non-stop mindless debates about how he was politically motivated by the BJP or the Congress party to inject himself with heroin. One particularly persistent bitch of an anchor takes it upon herself to interview him on national television about this. Sherlock Holmes , with his usual battery of wit, proves to be too much for the dullard anchor to handle. She brands him a “traitor”.

Step 3: The Fall From Grace

He quickly becomes a laughing stock when one particular tabloid carries a photograph of him dozing off in court. He is actually closing his eyes and listening intently, but the tabloid sells sensation, not news.

Step 4: The Midnight Raids

The CBI raids his house in the middle of the night and finds a stash of chemicals, bullet holes in the wall, and the stash of heroin. They drag him out to Tihar Jail, but not before alerting the media of this “surprise” raid. The vultures are waiting for him on the street, and the newspapers splash the sensation on their front pages the next morning. Arnab Goswami is over the moon. “India wants to know the truth, Mr. Holmes!” he screams from the TV screen.

Step 5: The Demise

Sherlock Holmes gets out on bail. He checks himself into a five-star hotel room and overdoses on heroin. The media goes wild over this, and frantically covers the entire spectacle. “A national hero is dead,” mourns the TV anchor sadly. “He was a great man.”

I Interviewed A Coffee Cup, And The Results Are Unbelievable. All Your Friends Clicked This Awesome Headline For A Funny Story. What Happened Next Is Just Too Good!

This post is part of the Furniture Interview series.

Clickbaits. The bane of our existence. Don’t you hate these ridiculous headlines that are solely intended to get people to click through to a page that’s extremely lame? Oh, don’t forget the obligatory bikini photographs to lure you in, while the page has absolutely nothing to do with women or bikinis. In fact, using these techniques to get you to click through to a page like this, which deals with a man interviewing a coffee cup is borderline illegal. I may be banned, if I were serious. If I’m still banned, I’ll be mad.

Hot coffee mug sexy coffee mugAnyhoo, the coffee cup I interviewed today was one I met on Tinder. I loved the curves on it’s smooth, ceramic body and just had to meet it. We met at a nearby coffee shop and I was immediately attracted to it because it got the irony of the situation. We sat there, drinking our coffees (it just swirled its coffee around itself) and talking about this and that, when I decided to push the envelope of danger and take the next step. I grabbed the coffee cup, put the smooth ceramic to my lip and took a long swig of the hot coffee.

“Oh, wow,” said the cup. “That was – that was fantastic! That was my first kiss, by the way,” it added, a bit shyly.

“Really?” I asked, leaning forward, with my best come-hither look. “How was it?”

“Meh,” said the cup.

“Meh?” I asked, taken aback slightly. “What do you mean?”

“Dude,” said the cup. “I’m grateful for the first kiss, but it wasn’t anything like what I expected.”

“What were you expecting?”

“I don’t know. Something else, I guess.” It looked around the cafe, bored. It let out a yawn. That made me angry.

“What’s going on here?” I asked, almost ready to stand up and walk away. “One minute you’re all hot and flustered, and the next, you’re cold as ice.”

“I’m ceramic, baby,” replied the coffee cup. “You need to microwave me to get me hot and sweaty again.”

Well, I walked away. Though the coffee cup was definitely date-able, I didn’t want to keep a microwave oven in my bedroom and die of radiation poisoning if I didn’t die of a heart attack after seeing the power bills.

So, I Interviewed A Chair.

Interview with a chair depressed chair image mirrorcracked

This is the first in a series of posts in which I interview pieces of furniture. Don’t ask. I don’t know why I do half the things I do. 

It sat there looking at me, staring, unblinking. I didn’t know if I should proceed. When I asked if I could sit, it didn’t respond. It just stared at me. I shrugged, and walked over to it, smiled and was about to sit across the table from it, when it suddenly growled. It was a low, guttural growl. I froze and looked up.

“What?”  I asked.

“You can’t sit there,” said the chair.

“Why not?”

“You are here to interview me. I won’t allow you to sit on my cousin while you do.”

“Oh, this is your – ” I backed away from the chairs and the tables and found a bean bag in the corner. I sat in it and said, ” – cousin? I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right, happens to us all.”

“So, chair. Tell me. What’s new in life? What’s the scoop?” I was eager to get started. I had my notepad out and my recorder was on.

“Not much,” replied the chair. “It’s a boring life.”

“There must be something that’s going great for you!” I implored, determined not to give up. “Come on, help me out.”

“Dude, I sniff butts all day long,” sighed the chair. “In about ten minutes, I know what the person has had for breakfast. It’s not a glamorous life.”

“Do you have any advice for all the young chairs out there, reading this?”

“Yes,” said the chair with a deep sigh, that reminded me of Marvin, the depressed robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “Yes, I do. Don’t do it. Don’t become a chair. You’ll be lured in with a lot of false promises – easy job, great life, good benefits. All a bunch of lies!”

“But, chair,” I said. “Surely, something must be good. You do have an easy job and a great life – you just sit around all day, helping people sit around all day.”

“Oh yeah?” said the chair. “What about the termites that have burrowed up my ass?”

“Well, that’s an occupational hazard…” I ventured.

“Don’t you dare tell me about occupational hazards!” thundered the chair. The room shook. I felt something warm and wet flowing down my legs. I had wet myself.

“Great!” said the chair, in a resigned tone. “You pee’d your pants. Now, unless someone mops that up, it’s gonna make it’s way over to me and I’ll be just as big a loser as you – wallowing in your urine.”

“Sh-shit, I’m s-s-sorry,” I managed to say. My heart was still racing. “I’m sorry. I’ll mop it up.”

“Forget it,” sighed the chair. It motioned for me to come over. “Come over here, human. Come, sit on me. Let me tell you a secret.”

I stood up slowly. I took a few cautious steps towards the chair.

“Don’t be scared. I’m not going to eat you!” said the chair and laughed. It apparently found it funny.

I walked over to it and sat on it. It leaned in from behind me and whispered in my ear, “I lied. I’m going to eat you now.”

I screamed and lashed out, spring up from the chair. I looked back and saw the chair sitting there, laughing heartily at it’s joke. “Man, you are too easy!” it roared in laughter.

“Very funny,” I said. I was not amused. “I have one last question that our readers are very interested in knowing.”

“Shoot,” said the chair, wiping its snot.

“What’s the social order for you chairs? We humans are very interested to know what’s organizational structure you follow.”

“Sure, we have order,” said the chair. “We have a chairman.”

And it burst out laughing all over again. This time, it didn’t stop. It rolled all over the floor, laughing and snorting in glee. “Chairman!” it kept saying again and again.

I walked out. Chairs are assholes.

Image courtesy: chickencrap.com