Friday, May 15, 2009

"The Catcher in the Rye"- Almost a review

I just finished reading “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D.Salinger. It was a parting gift from my juniors when I passed out from college. And now, for the review, or rather, my response to the novel:

If you think reading ahead would spoil the book for you, don’t worry. There’s nothing to be spoilt! It’s as bad a novel as can be. It was the first novel I’ve finished in over a year. I thought my lack of reading was responsible for the searing headaches I used to get after reading a few pages of this novel at night. But now I’m sure the culprit was just the novel, and not lack of novel-reading. As I lumbered my way to the final few pages and the long-anticipated climax- and I was a fool to believe that there was a climax, the 'carousel incident' being a strict non-event- my mind drifted to another death-inducing bore (Inducing sleep is a noble thing to do- ask my mum! Saas-bahu serials have gone a step further by inducing thoughtlessness- that dream of nirvana-seekers; but some books unleash a boredom so ghastly that they might induce death). I’m referring to “The Namesake”. Just as Jhumpa Lahiri had done in her literary sleeping pill, J.D.Salinger suffocated me with the insignificant travels and travails of his protagonist.

Holden, the protagonist, is an aimless teenager who gets kicked out of every good school his parents get him into. Fed up with the phonies in his school, the teachers included, he roams around in his hometown New York on his own to keep his parents from finding out that he was thrown out. Our anti-hero utters the word ‘goddam’ with an irritatingly high frequency- I couldn’t find a goddam sentence where he didn’t swear. He calls nearly everyone a phony, notwithstanding the fact that he’s the biggest phony of all- a shameless liar who's pretentious and manipulative. Narcissistic, directionless and a major drunkard, Holden’s almost a juvenile Devdas, or is at least on his way to becoming one. Reading those pages was very painful- especially considering that the book I read before this one was Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” and the one I’m reading now is Orhan Pamuk’s “My name is Red”.

They say that “The Catcher in the Rye” is a book about adolescent angst. That, the phony that Holden really is weary about, is ‘adulthood’. Bollocks I say. Good ideas and noble intentions cannot make up for bad writing and the utter insignificance of what’s being described- I would have thrashed this book even if I had read it as an adolescent. Here’s someone who shares my views about this nightmare novel.

But yes, nothing ever goes in vain- this bad little book got me blogging again- reading sure helps me shrug of my laziness to write.


I return to blogging with 'spam'. In the academic environs of IIMA, spam is ubiquitous. It’s not simply the umpteen mails on the institute email id, or the barrage on the internal messenger ‘Dbabble’- there’s a spamming of gyaan, ideas, gossip, and of course, the mind-boggling sights, sounds and smells on campus. Some despise spam (at least the electronic kind), some live for it, while I like it because it makes the place seem alive. Indeed, the spam in my mailbox and on the google group created for the incoming batch at IIMA makes sure that I don’t miss IIMA while I’m on my internship.

Then there’s spam discussing 'spam'. People on Dbabble justify their spam using principles of logic, and post references and links to videos that substantiate their points. And so it was through one such link that I first watched a Monty Python sketch. (For those who are asking what the hell Monty Python is, please find out- you'll thank me for this). And then, last week, I stumbled upon another meaning of ‘spam’ through another spam message on Dbabble.

Spam: Noun
‘a canned meat made largely from pork’, or
‘a trademark used for a canned meat product consisting primarily of chopped pork pressed into a loaf.’

Now, this ‘spam’ stands for "Shoulder Pork and hAM"/"SPiced hAM". Apparently, my fellow intern’s mum makes spam for him sometimes. Haha! That cracked me up when he told me. On further digging, the link between this ‘spam’ and the friendly neighbourhood Dbabble spam became clear. The link is Monty Python! The term spam, as we now use to refer to repeated unsolicited messages, originated from a Monty Python sketch called ‘Spam’. In the sketch, a restaurant serves all its food with lots of spam (the kind that’s eaten), and the waitress repeats the word several times in describing how much spam is in the items. When she does this, a group of Vikings in the corner start a song:
"Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam! Wonderful spam!"
Here’s the video.
Now you know…spam leads to more spam!!!

PS: Here’s a history of how the word spam came to be used as it usually is now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What's in a name?

When Sweden scored the other night, I heard the commentator saying "....son" had scored. I presumed it was Larsson. The goalscorer turned out to be Hansson. "Another 'son'", I thought. The 'son' here literally means a son. Such surnames are patronymic- named after the father. What immediately comes to mind is the Norse father-son duo of Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson. But present-day seemingly patronymic names are not, in fact, patronymic. Except Iceland (if you consider Iceland a part of Scandinavia), the other Scandinavian countries have forbidden the use of patronymic names for quite some time. Surnames became permanent when the more usual family name system was brought in- new generations would keep the patronymic of the head of the family at that time. The result of such a law in Denmark was that two thirds of Danes still carry a limited selection of names such as Nielsen, Jensen, and Hansen. (Danish patronymic surnames end with 'sen').

Now, a new law allows a return to the Viking tradition of patronymics. Instead of maintaining a single last name across generations, in this system each generation of children is given a last name that consists simply of the father's or mother's first name with the suffix "son" or "datter" (daughter) added on. More on this here.

P.S.: I wonder why many Poles have surnames ''. Some more on this later :D

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tracks on the tracks

The last few months of local train journeys have been enjoyable. The reason: my IPod. Immersed in music, it's easy to forget the heat, sweat, smells, taunts, curses, shoves that make a typical train ride. Infact, I've got used to wanting to take the train just so that I can listen to some music. A curious incident happened in the train the other day. The man standing next to me asked me about the music player. He looked a little ragged and surely a man of less than modest means. I was concerned- he was not the kid of guy I'd usually have a chat with. I told him about the IPod and about it's memory. He wanted to listen to it as well and I couldn't say no. The first song was the Liverpool FC anthem "You'll never walk alone". He seemed to like it. We listened together as the next few songs were Talat Mahmood's classics. I hummed along as the IPOD played "Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni". It must have been quite a sight because many in the compartment were staring at us. "Jalte hai kiske liye" was followed by"Shaam-e-gham ki kasam". Taking a cue from me, my fellow Talat fan sang aloud as "Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badha" played. My initial embarrassment gave way to an appreciative (of both the music and the music-lover) smile as we listened to Talat's mellifluous voice. I couldn't see the staring faces anymore, even though they might still have been there. Before I got down, the man complained softly that he did not get to hear songs often. As I took back the earphone from him to get down, we both wished this Ipod mehfil could have lasted a bit longer.

P.S. I'm going to miss the trains once I leave for Ahmedabad. Here is Abhinav's excellent piece on Mumbai's local trains.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


It's been only a few minutes since I stopped crying. DP, my friend is no more. He died in a bike accident this night. I had known this bloke right from the first year of B.Tech. A strapping lad- smart, suave and handsome. The goalkeeper of the college football team. He had this peculiar way of laughing, where he would put his hand on his stomach and let out a staccato laugh. And people would imitate this laughter when pulling his leg. And he was laughing this evening as we chatted in the quadrangle. Feeling bored, he asked for my Ipod and listened to a couple of songs. And then we'll played basketball. Here I was, right next to him, jostling for the ball. And now he's gone. Poof! Just like that. He would get his engineering degree in a few days (posthumously now). He was placed in a good company. And so a promising young life ends.

Is this a dream or is it all a dream? This puts everything into perspective- life, existence, the fickleness of it all. At times, I used to wonder how I'd manage if my parents died someday. Terrible though the thought might have been, I would steel myself to think about such a situation. As I see it now, such pain is only another flavor of life, making it the smorgasbord it should be. I know, that a few years down the line, when I look back at these times, I'll see the laughing Daidipya Kamble. Not the pain, not the tears. Only the good times we've shared at V.J.T.I. Rest in peace buddy!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

IPL- Where people kiss and make up

It was just another lazy evening as I switched to SetMax for the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab. It was the pre-match show, with the studio commentators/models spouting their usual gyaan and making predictions. And then, it was time for the toss. And lo behold! At the toss was none other than Greg Chappel! Yuvraj won the toss and had a chat with Greg. But I was waiting for the mouth-watering prospect of Greg talking to Sourav. And so it began- the Guru and Dada. Sourav explained that he was looking forward to a good performance etc etc. For a moment, I thought I saw a nerve in Greg's neck twitch. That looked eerily similar to a man meeting his ex accidently. He fumbled before asking the second question "And the wicket? Do you think it's a good wicket to bat on?" The 'interview' ended with Greg wishing Sourav all the best. Quite professional I'd say- their conduct during the interview. Well, if Harbhajan Singh can claim Sreesanth is like his younger brother after slapping him, Guru Greg and Dada might as well forget their feuds in the larger spirit of the game!

Friday, March 21, 2008


Last week (or was it the previous one?) saw me taking the long-awaited driving test and passing with flying colors- flying colors, even though I drove at a marvelous top speed of 25kmph! I had been preparing for this ride for months. 3 months to be exact. I distinctly remember having wished the Motor Training School guide "Happy New Year". That would be my 4th training session or so. Things were going well until about the 16th session, after which I couldn't find time for the sessions. And so started a game of hide-and-seek. I changed the route I took to get home from the railway station, in order to avoid walking by the Motor Training School. I dreaded hearing the "Bhole Saheb!" that the trainer is prone to calling me. If the trainer saw me on the road I'd look the other way and pretend I had not seen him. Or maybe duck into the nearest gully. All because I hadn't a clue about how soon or how late I'd get back from college, and hence couldn't book a slot for a driving session. The biggest brat in the country couldn't avoid school the way I did.

The first week of March offered some leisure and I made up my mind to get done with it. The driving license I mean. I trundled up to my trainer with a sheepish grin on my face. The expression on my face might have been saying "Hey old boy! Is this a nice morning or what?" but his face clearly said "Oh! The crown prince is here! How wonderful!" in a sarcastic way. After 3 more evenings I was pressing all the right peddles and was up for the test. The test would be on Friday. But hold on! I was missing something. I had put off getting recommendation letters from my profs for a number of days, and Friday would be the last chance to get them, if I had to post the recos on time. The price of procrastination, one would say. But then I'm one who likes to learn things the hard way.

Frantic Friday : I called up dear old Srikanth. If there's someone I can trust to dig me out of a hole, it's him. Even Jeeves would approve with a "He is quite the man, sir". So, Srikanth agreed to get the letters from the profs on my behalf while I went for the driving test. My driving trainer drove 5 of us trainees to the RTO office in a place in Wadala that resembles a wasteland- the kind you see in movies, where all the bad guys get together to buy and sell hardware. I'd been here before for getting the learner's license, and was not looking forward to spending much time in this foul place. It took an hour for the driving school's agent to set up the test- the relevent papers, the policeman, the car et al. And then I took the test, with only the agent in the front seat. I changed a gear or two, and took a beautiful U-turn- I wish I could draw so well. A bit of waiting, stamping documents and thumb-impressioning later, I left the place, secure in the knowledge that the license was on its way. By 2 p.m. I was back in college, and I found that Srikanth had done some of the cumbersome work I had given him. Finding 2 of the profs turned out to be difficult and it was at 4.55 p.m. that I found myself in Dr.Daruwala's cabin, getting his reco. At the same moment, Srikanth was getting the reco from Prof.Nair, just as she was leaving. As I reached the quadrangle in a daze, I marveled at how lucky I had been. I spent the next hour with Srikanth, idling my time away in the quad , as I have lately been predisposed to doing. And I enjoyed the chocolates gifted by my juniors (I adore them all, the juniors I mean!) since it was chocolate day in college. Life couldn't be better, or what?