Tuesday, April 30, 2013

MLA: Member of__

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The school was quiet except the regular high pitch accent from an English teacher, who had been in charge of the vacation class. The April sun blazed above the tile roofed building and the day was hot.

The time was close to midday and the traffic was milder too. Any kid of voice that interrupted the class was minimal, which was a very impressive factor for the teacher, who was actually fed up from the otherwise roar of the traffic and the chattering of the 1500 students of the school.

He preferred the vacation classes to regular ones. 

The teacher’s preference for the vacation class had one more reason, other than the noise factor—time. During the vacation class, he could experiment with his teaching, provide better opportunities for the students to express themselves, and there was more time to do activities in the classroom rather than the regular school days.

The class was under his total control. There was less interference by the Head Master or anyone else, much like the noise factor.

The teacher was also happy due to the fact that he could spend more time talking with the students, the little boys and girls in the seventh standard. They are a bunch of nice little brainiacs, he thought. With all the pressure from the Head Master to finish the course and the syllabus, student-teacher interaction was the last thing teachers were concerned about. This is the chance, he thought.

Next he was supposed to teach English words and their uses. In order to familiarize the students with words, the teacher thought of an interesting game. He gave clues about what a particular word meant and asked the students to locate the correct word.

“Please volunteer!” He said. “Can you give me a word that means ‘characterized by, based on or done by fraud’?”

He looked around. No one moved. Not even a single head turned either left or right. Dead silence.

The teacher knew what to do next. He kept his face pleasant and smiled at the students. “Please volunteer!” He said again, milder this time. The scene lightened.

“OK. I will repeat the question once again. It’s Ok if you make a mistake. I am not going to punish you for anything. Come on guys.” The he paused for a moment, giving enough time to find some order in the newly sprouted spike of activity, once the teacher turned down the knob of seriousness of his face to minimum. “Find the word that is characterized by, based on, or done by fraud?” He repeated.

The English teacher paused again. When he did not see anyone standing up with an answer or any hand being raised, the teacher repeated the question, yet again. “Give me a word that is characterized by, based on, or done by fraud?”

Then a student stood up and said with a confidence; “Sir…Sir…MLA!”
Image Courtesy: Google
This story is fictional. There is no relationship with anyone living or dead or any organization, governmental or private. Any resemblance is strictly coincidental.    

Monday, April 29, 2013

Season of the Witch

Image Courtesy: Google

At first, I thought this would be a movie about the great witch-hunt during the second part of fifteenth century to the early eighteenth, and the usual sympathizing with those people who were fried and grilled on stakes in public. But then there is a twist. One of the witches that is hanged and drowned as part of the exorcism ritual as per the ‘Book of Solomon’, comes alive and kills the priest who performs the rituals.

Season of the Witch was released in 2011 and directed by Dominic Sena. Nicolas Cage plays the protagonist, a Teutonic Knight named Behmen von Bleibruck. He and his friend and companion, Felson (Ron Perlman) decide they should quit the crusade. The massacre of the innocent people in the name of god is out of their comprehensibility of justice.
Claire Foy
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As they return, they pass through villages hit by the disastrous plague. Black Death had claimed not just villages but cities as well. The two horsemen are spotted by the military in the city and are recognized. As the deserters of the church, they are imprisoned. But the king summons them. He too is bed ridden with blisters with the size of tennis balls, all over his body.  The king assigns the two knights with a mission; the city had captured a witch (Claire Foy). The two knights should take her to a remote monastery where the monks possess the book that can cure possession.
S. King
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I remember Ron Perlman from the Stephen King movie Desperation; the weird police officer in the town called Desperation? But Season of the Witch is a different ground for Perlman. Not even like Hell Boy. Needless to say, I am very much hooked to the role of Ron Perlman rather than Nic Cage. Don’t know why. I am a Cage fan, but this one must go to Perlman.

Ron Pearlman
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The story is nice; it gives a fantastical background to the historical event of the Black Death. There is good ground for some quality witch-craft and horror show in the medieval background. The journey to the monastery holds our attention, but unlike any other flicks about journey or adventurous mission, Season of the Witch dwells mainly about the question of identity of the witch. Many times we doubt if she is actually a witch or just accused by the tradition for being so, just because she is different. I had thought that it would be a sort of fictional rectification of a historical wrong. But it is hardly anything close.

At the end…the twist awaits. This twist will solve all your questions regarding which side the movie has taken in the legendary witch hunt and all. What I think funny about Season of the Witch is its language. The characters, though from the mediaeval period, all use the American language. They all say “shit”! (No pun intended.)

A scene from the movie
Image Courtesy: Google
This movie does not leave you feeling bad about watching it. But you feel more happy imaging yourself happy watching it. You have Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman and all the setting and wonderful art direction. Still, you might feel dissatisfied due to some reason you do not want to put your finger on. However, you would like to like it too, much due to the above mentioned reasons. It is one of those movies which can be similar to faked orgasms. It works, sometimes, you know.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lungi: The Story Continues.

This is part fiction and part darn non-fiction
Image Courtesy: Google
“Don’t you dare, poke a staff in the eye of an angry mammoth!” An outrageous Mohanlal shouts at the villains in the Malayalam movie, Narasimham (2000). As part of the accompanying gesticulations, he slops his right shoulder down at an angle and raises the left leg and tags the white dhoti up, folding it around his waste, ready to attack the baddies.

“What shall I do sir? My father asks me to wear a lungi at home. A full NO to Bermuda shorts!” The student asks over the phone. I stand puzzled.

Then I try saying; “The white dhoti, “mundu” is the traditional male clothing in Kerala. It’s part of the formal dressing style and is used for most of the auspicious occasions such as festivities in temples and marriages, you know. Even kings wrap a dhoti in order to show their affluence and importance. The informal version of dhoti is ‘lungi’. Look at the variety of colours that are available for lungi. In most of the households, male members of the family wrap lungi at home. It’s a leisurely dress, and no need to be ashamed of putting it on. Mundu or lungi is not as complex as the Highland outfit of the Scots. You just wrap it around you waist and it’s comfortable, very.”

“Sir, I have seen women wear it too, surely taking on an attempt to lure the opposite sex. Seen it in old movies of the eighties!” The boy says.
Image Courtesy: Google

Ample examples, where lungi or mundu becomes a crucial motif in movies, show the affluence of this traditional wear in the mind of Keralites, even at a time when most of the youth prefers wearing a Bermuda shorts or half pants or shorts at home. To feel at home, I would rather say. Perhaps, lungi it is very air-allowing and easy to wear. Kerala is a hot place, and, of course, this justifies the choice of lungi or mundu as the traditional dress.

“Look, a white mundu is such a proud wear.” I try to convince him. The informal lungi can be a very convenient trial tool to learn how to wrap mundu on more formal occasions. 

I wait.

For a moment, my student on the other end of the phone is silent. Then he speaks; “Sir, most often when people fold the lungi up their knee, they look like standing with a barrel attached to your waist. Of course, then there is no pointing in hiding what lies beneath, with a large opening. No stitching to cover the groin. If you stand on a neatly polished surface, with lungi folded or mundu this is a guarantee that you could not hide your secrets from a nearby person!”
Image Courtesy: Google

The boy is very open in his concerns and he is right too.

“Why such a vulgarity is hailed the traditional dress is out of my logic.” He barks to no one other end.

It is my turn, now. So I say; “The question here is not which dress is the best, but how can we put an end to this problem by making your father happy and not making you much uncomfortable.”
“You should take inspiration from movies. That was what I did, when the similar problems surfaced. Then I was doing my twelfth.” I say, proud.
“What did you do then, sir?”
“I was asked to wear lungi when I was at home. Shorts were prohibited. And my parents were really strict those days. So I looked up at Mohanlal and Mammooty for inspiration. All those great actors preferred mundu in their movies, as their clothing. They were stylish and masculine. The movie Narasimham is one example. Then there is Vallyettan, Sphatikam, and many others.”

The boy seems to think for some seconds. Then says; “In movies, the more there is mundu or lungi, the more there would be vulgarities and obscenities, considered by directors, scriptwriters, fans and the actors themselves as a sign of masculinity. Sir, do you remember that fight scene in Narasimham?” the boy asked.
“Yea,” I say.
“The hero’s mundu goes up and down, revealing his innerwear and thighs in the nastiest manner possible. And every one in the theatre claps and shouts at the sight of this manliness. And…and…sir, even cinema, these days has shown signs of changing its outfits and style!”
Image Courtesy: Google
He is right. So I just hang up. But before I did, I had told him this; “Those who pay, order. You have one choice and one option; obey.”
And before hanging up my student had asked me; “Is this, what tradition is all about?”   

“Yes, sadly!” I say.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lungi: the memoir of a middle class youngster

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This is non-fiction. What happened was, today evening one of my students called me. A boy, who is a multi-talented performer of sort. His is a dancer, and when he dances the whole crowd gathers around and rocks away along with his natural moves. He says he never learnt dancing, but it comes to him naturally. The unknown source of creativity somehow springs into his mind and fills everything around him with a magic, very unique. He is good at his studies too, although uses his gifts to sometimes cut corners. The best part about him is that he never gives up at anything. Unlike his teacher.

“Hello, sir!” he said excited due to some reason, and with an usual cheerfulness in his voice. After some initial hesitation and usual introductory cookies, we immediately came down to business. He turned to sharing his problems and I to the digging for stories. I knew this boy might have something really wonderful and surprising to share with me. Intuition, you can call it.

He had a story to tell.

The story goes like this: a father, typical Keralite middle class father, wants his son to learn how to wrap lungi and dhothi, because these are the traditional Kerala clothing. The son, like every other young man in Kerala is accustomed to wearing jeans or shorts. For him the order of the father was a dictator’s tyranny. And so the call to his teacher.

Cool. I thought; people asking me for various advices. But then there was a problem; I didn’t know how to let him feel comfortable in a lungi. His father had already told him how to wrap the lungi. What I was supposed to do was the ‘strengthening of the morale’ part. 

And then I had an idea.

The story of lungi is next.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Have a Car. Do you Care?

Sree Narayana Guru
Image Courtesy: Google

Meeting a childhood friend is always a refreshing experience. Somehow, what felt like old, past, ghost-like, dead and gone appear ‘refreshing’, new and approachable with the appearance of a childhood friend.  

It was the day when Narendra Modi came to Sivagiri Madam, pilgrim centre, the tomb of Sri Narayana Guru, one of the foremost social reformers Kerala has seen, and made the place known in the northern parts of India. I did not have anything else to do, so I went to the city, thinking I could buy some fried chicken from KFC.
Image Courtesy: Google

It was a hot day. I bought a burger, a Combo of Friend Chicken, French Fries and a Vanilla Blue. After eating the chicken, I thought why shouldn’t I go out and take in some sea breeze. So I went to the beach. I had the burger with me still and some Vanilla Blue. I sat on a concrete bench, took the breeze on the face, and watched the waves crashing on the wet sandy shore. Right then, I felt I might meet someone I knew.

I did not see anyone I knew, around, never expected anyone there, either. But I just felt so, all of a sudden.

After looking around and not finding anyone I knew, nearby, I turned my attention to nothing again. I took the breeze on the face, watched the waves crashing on the wet sandy shore. A hand touched my shoulder. I turned to look and found him, my old classmate, Racer (name imaginary).

I recognized him immediately. There was no usual clichés of introductory bull shooting. He said; “You are a good liar.”
I replied; “Is that what you came here to tell me?”
For that he retorted; “I read your blog and all. You do a good job. I read that story about a blind boy and all. What else are stories other than lies? I didn’t know before, that you can lie so effectively!” He smiled so I gave in.

“Thanks.” I said. “I heard you own a car now.” I pushed on. I had made an email contact with one of our mutual friends the previous week about fixing some advertising proposals on my up coming book. And in our email chat we had talked about some of our old classmates. That was partly the reason why I wasn’t much surprised to see Racer.
“Oh, yea. It’s at home.” Racer said shyly and we sat there, on the bench.
“Why, you should have taken it out here. It’s too hot and people know no way to stop childbirth in this part of the world. And by virtue of that reality, taking public bus is very difficult.” I said.  
Image Courtesy: Google
“It’s a Maru_800 man! I can’t drive it out too often, especially for outings like these. It’s embarrassing to drive it in front of all these people.” Racer said looking at the women and young men strolling in front of us. The young men had fancy hairdo and muscles and the young women had sleeveless dresses and flat bottom sexy sandals that kissed the ground with each step they took. Most of the girls had their hairs tied in ponytails.

“Then why exactly did you buy the Maru_800 Little Boy?” I used to call him Little Boy when we were in fifth standard. But I don’t think he knew why, still. I am six, two and taller than him; he is five, five. So perhaps, he was thinking I look bigger than him and so he was being called a little boy. Those days, when we were classmates in the Malayalam medium school, he used to drop hot airs in the class. So I called him Little Boy with reference to the bomb dropped by the Americans; only, if Racer knew.
Image Courtesy: Google
“I want to drive it to my office, every day. As you said, buses are very crowded and traffic busy, each morning.” Racer said.

After sharing my burger we said good bye. I did not have much to do. So I sat there taking the sea wind on my face and watching the waves crashing on the wet sandy beach. There was a time when a Maru_800 was a symbol of luxury among the middle class residents of suburban India. This was in the nineties. But as the time passed, things changed. The same Maru_800 and its alter ego and nano-version in the twenty-first century, the car in just INR 100000+ is ‘suffering’ a similar fate. People want to drive it. But not for the evening beach-outings or shopping.
Katrina Kaif
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Standing near a Volkswagen or Mercedes S class, our Maru_800 might look like a scarecrow near Katrina Kaif.

Roll it Little Boy, roll it; I thought.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Easter of Bibliocracy

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Can books save humanity?

Hell, no.

Then why do we celebrate the World Book Day?

Image Courtesy: Google
Apparently, some influential people want us to believe that books can change the world, the time, and the people, and save the asses of the disillusioned rich. At some point in time, someone with power, some megalo seemed to have discovered that there is a chunk of time for leisure, available for those who work in factories, offices, schools and also for those with no jobs and no prospect of getting any in the future. This leisure time became the subject of a great scrutiny in the bureaucratic level throughout the world, after the Cold War. The age-old dictum ‘an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop’ was an archetypal threat they all felt. What if the Devil himself decides to establish his base camp in those many idle minds? Clearly, it was a warning sign, because the bureaucrats were outnumbered had the multitudes with loads of leisure time lodged the Devil in their murky hearts.

Plans were plotted, meetings were held and coffees and snacks were distributed around the table, round and round. The bureaucrats, being who they are, nibbled their biscuits and gulped all their tea. But a solution to take care of the Devil’s abode, the leisurely mind, the implementation of the plan to tap the unhealthy supply of time, was never reached.
Image Courtesy: Google

Discussions were held again. Books and records were referred. Finally, some supremely agitated grey hair mentioned what could be the best way to tackle this situation. Give them weapons and get them into a war, without much thought you can tell how they all are going to end this world. Give them food to munch through their leisure time, free food. You will dig massive graves for people dying of excessive eating, blood pressure, heart diseases and all sorts of obesity. Give them sex to fill their free hours and you will create the next Sodom and Gomorrah. Well, then, there is one rather easy solution—books. Easy to distribute, battery free, cheap, engaging, enigmatic, and deeply intoxicating.

And so they planned and implemented the World Book Day. There was an event they all could look back to, a ghost stuck in the history of human civilization. Simple and largely deemed unimportant, or at least not as important as the Little Boy and the Fat Man, this event remained a life buoy for the supporters of Bibliocracy. On the 23 April 1923 some book sellers in Spain decided to celebrate a Book Day. They chose this day, because it was the death day of the legendary Miguel de Cervantes, the creator of the quixotic character.
Image Courtesy: Google

The later generation decided that they would acknowledge a number of other writers who happen to die on this day or born on 23 April. At the time when the bureaucrats realized they were not the only ones who never turned a page in a book, the thought of a globally celebrated day for books was generated. So they just threw some writer’s who happened to die on this day together, like William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and Josep Pla. Then they threw in some writers who were born on this day, or at least in this month, along with the previous list. Curiously and controversially, the Swan of Avon came up on top in this list too along with other writers who were supposedly born on 23 April, like Maurice Druon, Manuel Mejía Vallejo and Halldór Laxness.        

Like all the other celebrations, different part of the world celebrates World Book Day in its own fashion. That does not matter, though. What matters is if you are a part of Bibliocracy? Then you must celebrate, because this is the festival of resurrection of books.
and other stories
But then, can books save humanity?

Hell, no!

If you don’t believe in books, what have you been doing these previous four years with Wall of Colours?

I was writing “Wall of Colours and other stories”. It took four years for me to complete it. Well, I didn’t say I don’t believe in books, precisely, did I?   

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Which is Batman’s Best Gadget?

Image Courtesy: Google
Image Courtesy: Google

What Serves Batman Best?!

Bat plane, Bat car, or The Bat, an all purpose flying machine that Lucius Fox presents to Bruce Wayne, which one is the most efficient tool of Batman?
Image Courtesy: Google

What attracted me as a kid towards Batman was his vulnerability. The thought that he could fail was enough for me to unshackle myself from the meta-fantasy of the Superman, the hero of perfections. (Not completely, though, which I later realized.)

However, among battles between good and evil, Batman relies on a number of surprise gadgets which were fun to watch and enthralling to imagine on your side; what impressed me the most was the rope. But then there was Spiderman, with a genetically generated spider-web-shooting gland on his wrist!

Batman has still got the grounds, because he always has the specially designed vehicles and daggers or darts. Some darts, are designed to look like bats. Only Batman has custom designed cars and bikes and planes. They have their names too—bat bike, bat plane, bat car and so on, like a whole “bat” franchise.

Image Courtesy: Google
Then there is the Bat signal. In the relentless fight against evil, injustice, corruption and darkness, Bat signal is the only medium through which any ordinary citizen of Gotham city can communicate with their superhero. This is the answer to the question why are superheroes so aloof from the common population. The Bat Signal is a huge bat wing stuck over a spot light. Anyone can light the signal and project it towards the sky.

In most of the early comic books featuring Batman, his gadgets usually won the war for him. But if one looks at The DarkKnight Rises, and other latest comics or movie versions, one can see Batman miserably waiting for some miracle. Most of the technological advancements Batman possessed were used against him by the shrewd Bane. And Batman finds it miserable.

Image Courtesy: Google
Technology can be copied or stolen. However the might of the hero is undefeatable. What helps Batman succeed at the end?

After being thoroughly defeated by Bane, Bruce Wayne hits the bottom of the barrel. And he was thrown literally into one, by the villain. The emergence of the hero from that dark dungeon, from the fear of failure, loss and death is the only factor we are able to see Batman, at the end, standing against Bane and company. It is to this “emergence” that we owe the heroism of our hero.

The most powerful weapon, therefore, Batman owns is his mind, that at the same time suffers from a series of fears—loss of parents; fear of death; the fear for darkness—and possess the capability at the same time, to emerge from the claws of these fears.

Image Courtesy: Google

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Dark Knight Rises

Image Courtesy: Google
For the first time Batman bored me. Not the movie, but Batman. He was old and grumpy and sad and desperate and hopeless about life, about being Batman.

However, with a really good story line and terse screen writing, the movie is entertaining. There is one character that appears to be worth an enemy for the Bat guy—Bane, the muscle man and wizard of the ‘cone-revolution’, in The Dark Knight Rises. Bane comes to town, proclaims to be a ‘liberator’ and conquers Gotham city in no time, with the help of cones and inmates of the state prison. What attracts the most is his accent and voice that booms out through some sort of a mask that—we understand at the end—helps him breathe.
Tom Hardy as Bane
Image Courtesy: Yahoo.com

Bane used to be a member of the League of Shadows, the same bunch of supremely wrought fighters who taught Bruce Wayne, Batman’s alter ego (clarification for those who are too much into the Marvel Universe and ignore the DC entirely) how to kick some asses.

Batman’s tricks and skills are inefficient in front of Bane. According to Bane’s own convictions he is fighting against the corrupt and amoral wealthy guys, who stampede towards the poor and crush them. Bane is the revolutionary who is not reluctant to kill and one critic, Slavoj Zizek even called this character a contemporary Che Guevara. Tom Hardy merges himself into the role and we have a wonderful character.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle
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Other than Bane and a couple of characters from the law enforcement, one more character might hold your attention. Selina Kyle, played by Anne Hathaway. She is crucial to the story. You may think she could be Batman’s girlfriend, if you haven’t watched the movie yet. But you have to wait for that part, at least until the next installment.

She enters the story as a jewel thief and her character undergoes a positive transformation through the story. It is clear that there is more to her that what she appears to be.

Three characters in The Dark Knight Rises are round characters—characters that undergo transformation. One of course, is Bruce Wayne. Second is Selina Kyle. The third character, who not quite insignificantly worries about a lot of questions of moral and ethical nature and finally realizes that the less trodden path sometimes offers better answers is Robin John Blake played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He is a police officer who works with James Gordon, the Gotham City Police Commissioner, against the evil that grows at high rate after Batman’s recluse. But the system is corrupt and inefficient. So John Blake must find a way to fight evil and corruption in his own grounds, without an official body to control his actions. At the end of the movie, John Blake finds a mysterious cave, equipped with a lot of state of the art Bat-technology. Note his first name once again—Robin. Does it light a bulb? Yes, this could be the first part of the ‘post-Large Hadron Collider’ Batman series to feature Robin, his beginnings.
Gordon and Oldman
Image Courtesy: Google

James Gordon is played by Gary Oldman. He is as good as ever. Alfred Pennyworth struggles with the deterioration of the moral strength of Bruce Wayne. The obedient servant is forced to take some strong decisions to shake the Bat out of his sleeping cave. And Michael Caine is just the best in playing this role.

Miranda Tate, performed by Marion Cotillard, is beautiful and Bruce has all the right reasons to fall for her, until the end when things have a different turn to take. Morgan Freeman too is there among the brilliant line of performers, with his character Lucius Fox.

Image Courtesy: Google
Acting wise, there is one person who falls in the middle of a great expectation and delivers the best as well—the actor who plays the title role. If he could not make it work, the whole stuff would turn into garbage. Playing an older and much exhausted Batman, Christian Bale, does his job with perfection, to the point that you can’t blame anyone if you are made to think that Batman appears boring or hopeless at the start of the movie. Christian Bale exerts the desired impact through his performance.   

The Dark Knight Rises is directed by Christopher Nolan. He worked with his brother Jonathan Nolan on the screen play and with David S. Goyer on the story. Apart from all the action and special effects, there is a crucial idea that remains mostly hidden in The Dark Knight Rises. It is the wish to start anew. Selina Kyle eagerly attempts to start her life afresh with all her criminal records expunged. However, at the same time, she is not very hopeful either about this restart. She doubts that in this era of the Internet when everything regarding your past, present and even future will be written and saved in some database.
Image Courtesy: Google

The answer is the movie.

I would not give stars to any of my reviews. So please do not look for them here. After reading the review, you will know whether to watch the movie or just to dump it. Smile.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Racketeer Book Review; Published Soon

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“I’ve seen this a hundred times in movies, TV shows, and in real-life court reporting—the last, frantic farewell look of the condemned. What do you think about as you’re leaving the courtroom and you’re mot going home? The truth is that nothing is clear.” Malcolm Bannister was sent away for a crime he did not commit. He is a lawyer but he is in prison. However, the mainstream society, the world of the power jugglers finds him an interesting hook to solve a murder. In fact, it is Mr. Bannister himself who comes out saying he can help.

After reading the thoroughly enjoyable John Grisham book The Confession, I decided to get my hands on Grisham’s latest bestseller The Racketeer, published in 2012. You can expect my review of The Racketeer soon.

John Grisham
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Rule 35 is a part of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The rule says that if a defendant helps the system in prosecuting another person, he or she can get a reduction in their sentence. The Racketeer has another legal significance too. RICO—Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. This is the federal law that helped send Malcolm away. Is Malcolm the Racketeer or the bad guy, who is the actual criminal, whose dirty shadow had pushed innocent people like Malcolm into the depths of disgrace and dishonour?

This is my second confrontation with a legal thriller. Like my friend, Arun said in one of his comments made here, I too heard the term legal thrillers only through Grisham.

The book review is sponsored by MySmarPrice.com/books 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Confession

Statue of Justice
Image Courtesy: Google
The Confession follows the story of Donte Drumm, a young black who was convicted for the murder of his school mate called Nicole Yarber. The story begins with the showing up of the real killer, Travis Boyette. The killer meets a Lutheran minister in his church office, Keith Schroeder. This was in Kansas and the execution of Donte Drumm was planned in Huntsville, Texas. Keith’s adventure to take the real killer to Texas, in order to stop the execution is a nerve jangling episode in the novel.

During this trip the two sides of the society confronts each other—one; the ethical and moral side represented by Keith Schroeder and two; the chaotic immoral side in Travis Boyette. During their sparse, but meaningful conversation, Keith investigates into the depths of the stinking and murky self of Boyette. He was in jail as a kid and was addicted to the world of porn, all thanks to his uncle. In Boyette’s own words, “[t]he juvenile justice system does nothing but cultivate career criminals. Society wants to lock us up and throw away the key, but society is too stupid to realize that we’ll eventually get out. And when we get out, it ain’t pretty. Take me.” (184)

The book scrutinizes closely the rituals and norms involved in the death penalty and the life of the inmates through Donte’s life in the death row, with powerful doses of irony. The Confession is a poignant book, emotional and disturbing. John Grisham has not flinched in narrating racial tension and hypocrisy of an American state in its dealing with the death penalty of a black man. A racial riot follows Donte’s case and execution, along with a rattling anti-death-penalty movement.      
Freytag's Arc (triangle)
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I also observed the Freytag’s modal dramatic arc in the book. This makes the book all the more enjoyable. There is exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement. The final pages of the book wait patiently and observe the lives of all the major characters, with no rush to put the full stop at the end. This quality is remarkable in Grisham. Frankly, I would have put The Confession on “the book of the year” in my blog, if I were to give away such an award. I have to say there are places where I wept and everything around me just went blank.

There are many factors that help a book gain a considerable weight in someone’s perspectives. What hooked me to The Confession at this stage in my life is perhaps its deeply poignant dwelling on the prison life of Donte Drumm and the mad rush and honest fight put up by Robbie Flak, Drumm’s lawyer and Keith Schroeder. There was little difference in the emotional and physical experiences that Donte undergoes in prison with my life in a society as deeply corrupt as ours. To tell you the truth, I even thought at occasions when I went through Donte’s life in prison, his daily routines, hopes and the shattering of them—aren’t I living the same lot too, though with no visible iron bars to guard?
John Grisham
Image Courtesy: Google

“…[B]ut as he (Keith) watched the preliminaries unfold, he was struck by the coldness, the ruthless efficiency, the sanitized neatness of it. It was similar to killing an old dog, a lame horse, or a laboratory rat. Who, exactly, gives us the right to kill? If killing is wrong, then why are we allowed to kill? As Keith stared at Donte, he knew the image would never go away. And he knew that he would never be the same.” (296) 

Courtesy: John Grisham 

Reality of Injustice

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In the summer vacation of 2013, I reopened The Confession. I had just finished J. Krishnamurthy’s philosophical treatise Freedom from the Known. The hardcore philosophy left me to wonder if I shouldn't need a light weight book as a dessert, after a heavy and tiring feast.

So I decided to get my hands on The Confession.

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I still remembered the story where I left it off, two years back. Once I reentered to the story universe, it caught me. I stayed there, bowed my head in obeisance, mostly because of the lack of many other options, at the start. I wanted to experiment with including different writers into my reading list. There was little else I could do during daytime at the moment. I worked on Wall of Colours during nighttime. And my day life was occupied with killing time. I had other two tomes in perusal during this period; Charles Dickens was one of them and Salman Rushdie the other. Due to the fact that a young man sitting at home all through the daytime could create caustic friction in the family, I chose to go out each day, find a spot in the public library in the city and read a book. The book I chose for this purpose was The Confession, for it was lighter in weight compared with David Copperfield or Joseph Anton.

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After two days, I still read The Confession, because I felt if I didn’t I would not be able to include the deluge of this poignant experience in my life. The story had become so crucial that it started demanding my heart and emotions. The book was about an innocent man being convicted wrongfully by a system that boasted of its efficiency. [If I had said, wrongfully executed that would reveal the story an ounce] Injustice, much like in any other part of the world, was the reality and justice was a myth sustained by the sanctimonious media, the religion, and people like you and me.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

How New Age Spirituality Kept Grisham at Bay

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Two years back, one of my students’ mentioned that John Grisham is his favourite writer. Due to the disgraceful fact that I had never before talked to someone who can give me some serious information or advice about Grisham, I enjoyed talking with this boy. Later, on another occasion, in a seminar, in which the student and I were present, the presenter of a paper commented that all popular writers like Grisham, pack their books with some formula. They have someone murdered in the beginning, then some sex in the second chapter, then some fight, then a chase and then finally, the death of the villain. My student got agitated by this comment. He murmured into my ear that John Grisham never pushed sex on your face and in his stories, the good guys died too. I was mighty impressed. The professor was dumb.  
John Grisham
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Much like the situation I suggested in the previous post here, I found a John Grisham title in one of the local book stores in the city. The year was 2010 and the book was The Confession. It was making to the bestseller lists and I had read mixed reviews on the book in NY Times. I bought The Confession right away; had to spend Rs: 250. But I was happy. That was the first ever book I bought by Grisham. First one to attempt to read, as well.

The opening of the book had the flow. But it did not have what I wanted then—new age spirituality. I was dying for more and reading Richard Bach and Castaneda, also I was fascinated by Sidney Sheldon’s autobiographic novel, The Other Side of Me. It was not a new age book on spirituality, but it had the pull, so I munched on it anyway.

Meanwhile, Grisham was forgotten. At the end of chapter six, I had stopped reading. There was a really nice book mark that was packed with the book when I bought it. I planted it in the space between two pages. It stayed there for a long time, almost two years.

Friday, April 12, 2013

John Grisham in India?

John Grisham
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John Grisham is America’s beloved writer. He writes legal thrillers that until a certain period in my life I thought boring.

In Kerala, the southern most state in India, the land that buckles the Western Ghats with the Arabian Sea, the place where people speak a language called Malayalam and the culture where there are more people aspiring to learn English than the total population of United Kingdom, there will be at least one Grisham thriller in every library and reading room.

A quick note on the difference between libraries and reading rooms—well, libraries generally function under a trust or institution. Reading rooms are established by political parties. They will have a fairly good library inside the building, not just newspapers and magazines. But the books the reading rooms keep will always be influenced and inspired and incubated under the heat and sweat of the political propaganda the respective party deals with.   

Left or right, red or white, Grisham can surely be found in the most worn and yellowish of his forms in any of those shelves. There are those reading rooms and libraries that only serve the purpose of offering research books or even limited to newspapers and monthlies. They don’t, of course, keep Grisham, for Grisham is a writer of ‘fiction’.

When I was a little boy, I remember, a visit to one of my cousin’s. It was such a rural countryside that no one even preferred to mention the name of when asked. I did not like the visit either. During those days, they did not even have electricity there. Imagine the torture of spending the whole day there, when the adults discussed their gossips and the only children remaining in the house were my little sister and I. the only way I found to kill some time was to explore the house. Though small, the house was bright with its glass windows. So I searched out each room. My mission was to find out something readable. I loved reading. I realized quite soon that they did not keep comic books there. The three cousins I had in that house were already grownups, I resentfully realized. And comic books were kids’ stuff. How could there be comics when there were no kids? It was late 1990s. My cousins were perhaps in their late teens and early twenties—they were three, by the way. In the room of the youngest cousin, on a small table was a book. It was thick, worn out from repeated handling, with dog ears in the corners. The cousin opined that as what I was—a kid—I may not enjoy the book, so the best thing to do was to leave it where it was. He also said that he had borrowed it from the reading room in the junction, ten minutes’ walk from home.

That was my first encounter with John Grisham, popularly known as the master of the legal thriller. If my memory is not deceiving me, the book was titled; The Firm. The book I found there was a translation in Malayalam language. That tells us about the grip of Grisham. Most of his works deal with America, her cities, suburbs, countryside, people, culture and problems. Then what is it in him that makes such an impact upon the people in India, in Kerala?

John Grisham
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I went through the first few pages, realized that it was not my type of book because there were no kings or emperors or wizards or fairies, but humans and courtrooms. So I left it there. (Note that Theodore Boone wasn’t written then. It came much later; after the first decade of 21st century. And it has no kings or fairies, either.) I did not touch another Grisham book until much later. And when I did finally, it changed the way I looked at the world and especially at John Grisham. But now, I was no longer that little kid, was I?

Another long story, so in the next post.