Monday, March 29, 2010


Well. I was sick and then travelling so needed small book, and while sick started on Banker's Ramayana, so the Mahabharata's been on the back burner. However, tonight will resume.

Book Reviews: Guns, Germs and Steel

I quite like Jared Diamond; I'm fascinated by evolution and evolutionary history; and when I started this book in a friend's house in Delhi, I almost wept when I had to put it down.

Cut to last week, when I finally resumed the book. The first part, where he talks of food production and its connection to development, is fascinating, especially when he first introduces it. He does a great job, taking small steps and leading the reader every step of the way. I loved how he explained the development of writing, the development of disease and it's connection with animal domestication. I was tickled by the chapter names.

But then he goes and explains everything again. In the same chapter. And then once more for good luck. And ends with a summary at the end of the chapter. I felt like I was meant to be a retarded 15 year old. Which is not a nice feeling when I'm reading an interesting non-fiction book.

Ashamedly I must admit I didn't finish it. Yesterday, in the afternoon, something snapped. I AM NOT A RETARDED FIFTEEN YEAR OLD I screamed as I slammed it down on the table. I get your point Mr. Diamond, I do. All seventy-five times you made it. Also, the Andamans are part of India.

On Reading

Following on The Bride.

I have often wondered if this reading thing wasn't entirely a good thing. Now I know this isn't true of everyone, but I for one find myself severely restricted when it comes to film, because I like to read so much. For one thing, something in me rebels by not having the freedom to imagine things - watching a movie is so passive. When I read a book I can imagine all sorts of back story, and paint in the leaves on the trees, and the creases on someone's face. Take a very recent example, when I watched Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I read and LOVED the whole series, and was horrified and repulsed by what Hollywood did to it. Granted, the oversimplification of the story and the complete removal of any complexity to characters or psychology was expected, as was the massive edit - the movie is essentially about 50 pages of the book. But what I hated MOST of all was how they dressed the gods. And how Poseidon looked, and Grover. Essentially, having spent so many years tapping into the internal magic of my imagination, I resent having that freedom taken away from me in movies. And this is a hundred times worse when it's a serious film, or something brutal about life etc.

Ok digression over.

I always have a book on me. Usually, when I travel, i carry one book per day, and get very upset if I don't meet my targets. I even lugged the hard cover edition of Wolf Hall all over Delhi in December, because I wanted to finish it! The Mungi was not pleased. In Goa, I refused to get into the water because I needed to finish Empire of the Moguls. I twitch as i walk past Landmark, and have never yet been able to leave a book store with one book. I even eat lunch alone a few times a week so I can catch up on my reading. I wish I took public transport because then I could read; and absolutely ADORE train journeys for all the reading I can get done.

I wonder why the reading doesn't feel like it's spilled over into writing though...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Green Revolushun

This morning, reader greeted me with this post form The Bride. Of course I had to do my own!

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the context, I don't live in HK, so I can't do the calculation thingy. My workplace has one of those though and I usually come out in the 90s of the percent green footprint. (Wow that makes no sense.)

The things I do that I think make a difference:

  1. I never open a tap on full, unless I'm filling a bucket in a hurry. I'm pyschotically anal about no drips - my maid will be happy to testify about how many times in the two hours we share the house in the mornings I will summon her to close the leaky tap properly. I have even asked her, don't you have a water shortage where you live, where do you think it all begins! Big houses who waste water! It still makes me twitch to see how people do the dishes in the US, with about half a bucket per mug. *shudder* This probably has a lot to do with acute water shortages as a kid, which meant summer baths were in half a bucket of water, which you then used to flush the loo. 
  2. Point#1 probably links to why I rarely take more than 10 minutes in the shower, if that much. Am proud to say I can still clean self, this includes two washes and one conditioning rinse when I wash my shoulder-blade length hair, in one bucket.
  3. I'm crazy annoying about putting off lights and fans. Poor BBot has received irate texts messages about there not being a switch elf who will turn the fan off after he leaves. NF has the habit of leaving lights and fans on, and now whenever I wake up in the middle of the night I do a little circuit of the house. Yeah, really.
  4. I used to take public transport when I lived in NY, where it was efficient, reliable, and useful! I also walked a lot. Unfortunately this has not translated to my life in India - but I do drive a diesel car with no emissions that gives me 18-20 kilometres to the litre of diesel, so I'm not doing too badly. I also insist on not taking more cars than necessary - cos most of my friends live in the same area, when we go out together sometimes we end up with a car per person almost and I can't handle that. Course this means I spend a lot of time steaming gently cos I'm always 10 min early, and BBot is always 10 min late, but it's still worth it.
  5. I wish we could recycle where I live. We have some sort of recycling service where my parents live though, and my mum is very big on the little-dustbin-for-vegetable-waste-to-put-in-the-compost-pit, so there's that. I also re-use most plastic take out containers, and use plastic bags from the grocery store for the garbage bins. We also use old wine bottles for water in our house, and I always carry a water bottle, thereby not having to buy bottles/use paper cups.
  6. I have a one-tissue-per-meal rule. Seriously. Very rarely does one really need more than one tissue per meal, and sometimes when I see people use 5 at a time just dotting the corner of most of them lightly, I start to twitch. I also use sponges and cloth towels, not paper towels, and if its absolutely necessary to use paper - old newspapers. (There's one way the internet will never kill them!)
  7. Switch off plugs when they're not being used, especially if they're plugged into chargers.
  8. Am vegetarian, so yay! Hee.
  9. Print on both sides. Am fiendish about this, and have actually been seen going fuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK when I hit print without checking the settings. Luckily we have a shredder right next to the printer, and the shreds are recycled so I feel a titch better. I also bring paper waste from home and stick it in there.
  10. Am lucky that I hate yellow light and love white light, so left to myself all lights would be energy saving. 
  11. I never wash clothes hot, even when I lived in the US! I did use a dryer though, boo. But here in India, where there's ample room for clotheslines, and lots of heat and dry air, I don't.
Things I could do more:
  1. Carry my mug when I got to get coffee!
  2. Carry bags to the supermarket - though I do recycle the bags, I think they're less biodegradable than garbage bags, so it might be better to just buy garbage bags and carry cloth to the store.
  3. Fly less. There was a time when I loved trains so much, and was so broke I never took planes. But now, especially since I end up going places that are more than 14 hours by train, and become impossible to do on weekends, and have acquired frequent flyer miles to give me free flights, I can't remember the last time I took a train. Bad MinCat.
Anything else?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Blogshetra: Away we go

The Bride and I decided to read the Mahabharata, together and in different countries. She's done this before, only that time she chose Joyce's Ulysses. *shudder*

We're also probably going to end up reading different translations, given the fact that here in desh I have access to whatever I want. Mine is Kamala Subramaniam's, and she (The Bride, not Kamala) is still deciding.

So last night, after dragging all and sundry to Landmark to acquire said book, and acquiring about 6 more in the process, I settled into bed to begin reading.

First off, I'm always nervous with translated books, especially if they are originally in a language very far removed from Latin, Greek and the Germanic languages that are the foundation of English. It really does become about interpretation, and then I often wonder how the original is. I found, for example, that W. S. Merwin's translation of Neruda's "Tonight I can write the saddest lines" is quite bad, because he Englishises the structure so much that I feel that much of the charm of the original is lost, since a lot of it lies in the inversions of word order etc. This problem is a million times worse with Indian languages, so I was very happy to see, when I began reading last night, that KS manages to keep the complicated structures and cadences of what I imagine is a chanting, sonorous, oral tradition alive. It may seem a bit...strange, because the sentences are often abrupt, and there is very little active voice, and way too many words - but that's just how I think it would be in Sanskrit. Of course, my Outer Stickler is dying to rewrite the translation for an audience more familiar with traditional English...but I can keep her in check.

The story began very simply, and very much in the way my Grandma's used to when we were children, and I slipped into it immediately. It also ran very quickly, and after Bheeshma spent several years several times over to raise various princes and marry them off and do everything but 'spill his seed' to further the dynasty, I have reached the point where he has successfully married Dritharashtra and Pandu off to Gandhari and Kunti respectively.

I expect tonight's session to be a titch more exciting, and definitely enter into those parts of the story I am familiar with (I had no clue who Devavrata was until the word Bheeshma appeared. Also, it annoys me that I don't know the meanings of these words and names - any ideas where I can find out online?)

P.S. Will post extract for Bride to read and put her out of her misery of not knowing what it reads like in this translation.