Friday, September 18, 2015

Lord Ganesha, coolest of all ..

Happy Ganesha Chathurthi to all ... the best part of the calendar year has begun :) 
I am all smiles, I always love this post-July part of the calendar year as the scorching summer season comes to an end, monsoon showers bring along the much needed respite from heat, fresh smell of earth and some chaos too, but above all, this part of the year is full of festivals and therefore HOLIDAYS!

Not much has changed over 8 years of my stay in Bangalore in a locality called New Tippasandra, we are nestled between quiet sectors of Geetanjali layout and the busy, bustling Tippasandra market. Starting from today for over a month, almost every street - narrow or wide will stage a pandal with a big and colorful idol of Lord Ganesha - celebrations galore!!

Just as I began my puja at home today, the song "Deva Sri Ganesha (guess from Agneepath movie) came blaring from the speakers from a nearby pandal. Kids were shouting Ganapathi Bappa Moriya, guess they had a competition on who is the loudest of all. The festive mood had just set in and then came the SHOCK - an abrupt transition and the song Tu Cheez Badi hai Mast Mast played in full volume. Anyone who watched the show Superhit Muqabla on DD would be aware of this chartbuster. Lord Ganesha, I must admit, is quite a mast mast god. He won a special mango after performing the act of circumambulation around his parents thrice when asked to go around the world the same number of times by Sage Narada, how cool is that?

Just as I tried to digest what I heard, the song changed to Chura Ke dil Mera, it seemed like people in the association who installed that pandal loved Akshay Kumar just as much as Lord Ganesha. According to common faith, Ganesha remains a bachelor, so whose hearts he stole remains a highly debatable question. 

I guess someone thought these songs were too old fashioned, a line of new Hindi songs, largely from the item numbers/party numbers subset are dished out in quick succession. One is highly fair as songs of this kind are played in all languages, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. The God gets a brief break from this musical discourse for few hours in the noon as he braces for the worst in the evening hours. 

Come evening time, post 6 pm, mini trucks carrying small time music troupes block the streets and traffic, these artists render their favorite songs for God and common man, they are accompanied by dancers dressed in bright, gaudy clothes who groove non-stop enthusiastically. Over years, my ears have got accustomed to these artists' favorite numbers - Nakku Mooku, Chikini Chameli, My Name is Sheela, Dont' worry Padmavathi, Aa ante Amalapuram, so on and so forth. Around 8/9 pm, smell of liquor begins to dominate the air around, this along with high decibel music, jarring colors and dance moves make the experience of seeing the Lord all so repulsive. 

However, year after year, Lord Ganesha stays calm, unruffled as all this farce unfolds in front of his eyes, he tolerates this chaos in name of celebrations without a single complaint. He remains as cool as a cucumber, drowns into deep filth of today's polluted lakes and rivers only to emerge with more smiles the next year. And he teaches us all the same -to remain calm and cool even in most testing times, be tolerant and endure pain/problems without complaints, doesn't he really do that?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lost in Translation?

Book Review: A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces - edited by David Davidar

A hard bound book containing 39 short stories from Indian authors spanning in time from the 19th century to the present, published by Aleph book company and priced at Rs 695 is what I decided to buy after reading about it in newspapers like The Hindu and Deccan Chronicle. I finished reading ten stories from this "clutch" about three months back, eight of which are translated works. I wanted to finish this book and then review it in a single blog post but that seems quite unlikely, the last few months have been filled with a multitude of activities that have hogged "my" time, been really hard to pay due attention to this or any book.

Today I happened to dust off the book's top cover and recollected few details of all stories I have read till now , I decided to pen down a portion of the complete review before it slips my mind.

The book begins with an elaborate preface titled Our Stories, talks at length about how David got hooked to books, he had the gift of literature from his grandfather who got him abridged versions of Western classics and his grandmother who narrated tales from local folklore, quite like us. In this section, he fervently looks for an apt definition for the term short story, there is actually none and places his trust in Anton Chekhov's (considered the father of modern short story) style/version. The book, according to him, includes stories that he loved, that made a mark on him in the last forty years of serious reading and he has arranged his favorites in chronological order based on author's date of birth.

The most important section of the preface deals with an important observation - how Indian literature is rich and diverse due to the country being multi lingual with 24 national languages (including English and Hindi) and the 2011 census registering 1635 mother tongues. There are a myriad storytellers in each language who created excellent works of literature and  left an indelible impression making the scene complex for an average book lover. That is where translation plays a key role in bringing unreachable volumes of best works to the reader's desk, opening access to otherwise incomprehensible stuff, imparting greater joy of reading and widening scope of appreciation. All said and done, an act of translation cannot guarantee every nuance, fine emotion or inkling in the original be reproduced without loss of meaning or clumsiness.

Most of us will agree to this since we encounter problems translating iconic dialogues or humorous moments while watching a movie in our mother tongue to English to help somebody who cannot understand it. It is much like a Is the glass half empty or half full? situation. The act of translation, however far from perfection, helps the onlooker to at least acknowledge the premise rather than completely drawing a blank. Quoting from the preface - "There's a musicality that underlies a book, and I think that if you can move that into English, you can catch it and you have got it".

The book starts with Rabindranath Tagore's The Hunger of Stones, translated from Bengali to English by Amitav Ghosh. The final translated work is impeccable, but a ghost story or anything supernatural from Tagore was least expected.

The Shroud (published as Kaffan) by Munshi Premchand, translated from Hindi by Arshia Sattar carries the stamp of realism, melancholy, irony blended in describing societal issues especially those faced by women set against rural/poor Indian background. His stories hit you hard and this one is no different.

A Horse and Two Goats (non translated) by RK Narayan comes as a refreshing change from sad overtones of the predecessor in the book. Brilliantly humorous, this story leaves you with a big smile.

A Life by Buddhadeva Bose translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha is a heart wrenching story, depicting toil of one man and his family, the account is engaging all through, easily the best of what I have read till now. This can be declared as a fine masterpiece. I am compelled to read more works of this author and have nailed down The Love Letter and Other stories - a compilation by the same author and translator for a future read.

Toba Tek Singh by Saadat Hasan Manto, translated from urdu by Khushwant Singh is a satirical work on India-Pakistan, the relations they shared right after partition, the story sends one in pensive mood.

The Flood written by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai and translated from Malayalam by OV Usha is set in Kuttanad, a simple story that tells how man and animals behave differently in face of  natural calamity, leave s you with moist eyes even if you don't love pets.

The Blue Light by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer translated from Malayalam by OV Usha is enjoyable stuff. A man's tete-a-tete with a ghost in a haunted house could not have been dealt with more eloquently and beautifully.

The Somersault by Gopinath Mohanty translated from Oriya by Sitakant Mohapatra reveals what we do quite callously, propel someone to towering glory in wake of an achievement, stifle him/her with matchless reverence and then send them dashing to the ground in the first instance of defeat and erase them from memory as if they were non existent.

Khushwant Singh's Portrait of a Lady can be given an quick read. I have doubts if it should only appear in this collection.

Ismat Chughtai's Quilt translated from Urdu by R Jalil leaves one in shock for it is too bold a story in the times in which it was published (1942). The book ends with a note on stories, note on authors and note on translators in which it is mentioned the author was sued for obscenity by Lahore court for writing this story, she contested the case and won it rather than apologize. A hard smack, I must say, much like her story!

Only one story - The Life seemed extraordinary to me but I hope there are more and true masterpieces to come as I progress through the book. 8 of 10 are translated works and if you quiz me is the glass half full or empty, I would only say half-full. If not for translation, I wouldn't have been able to read works of Thakazhi, Vaikom and Ismat which have left a lasting impression and an urge to read more from their quarters. So was anything lost in translation? Hmmmm ... not really, I stood to gain (cheers)

Monday, July 20, 2015

A neat party for Eid from Bhaijaan

Almost a month (or a little over a month) back when I first saw the song "Selfie Le Le Re" from the movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan (the first song from the movie to be unveiled) on television, little did I know I would be watching it soon in a cinema hall. It was my 3 year old son's profound interest in the song, the movie and in Salman Khan whom he fondly calls "Le Le uncle" that made us take the decision of hitting Gopalan Cinemas on Old Madras Road, Bangalore and watch the movie, just two days after its release ... I must admit I have never seen a movie so immediately after its release and also admit that I completely enjoyed it. Bajrangi Bhaijaan came across as a pleasant surprise package, in my opinion, it is Salman Khan's best film till day.

So what makes the movie so different from other films by "Bhai" or Dabangg Khan? Primarily, there are no heavy drawn out stunt sequences, no typical Sallu shirtless acts, no flinging around a bunch of bad men in one shot, no larger than life super hero dialogues, no silly histrionics and no dance sequences in figure hugging vests in Emirates.

Salman Khan (Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi or fondly called Bajrangi in the movie) comes across as a commoner from Pratapgarh, a devout bhakth of Lord Hanuman who eventually moves to Delhi. He speaks nothing but the truth and has a heart of gold. Kareena Kapoor as Rasika completes the love angle in the movie without swaggering around, she is simple, contained in emotions and comes across elegantly without her khandani pomp.

The question why everyone wishes to take a selfie with Salman Khan in the first song of the movie "Selfie le le re" or its relevance at that juncture remains unanswered but the answer that he delivers when a stranger right after the song quizzes on what a selfie is, is fabulous. It leaves you in ripples of laughter and that's when you know that Salman Khan with his toned down machismo mannerisms can be magical and a bigger, better pleasure to watch.

One knows that Bajrangi Bhaijaan is the not the regular Salman Khan stuff from the start. A small 6 year old girl, Shahida (played by Harshali Malhotra) who cannot talk comes from Pakistan to Delhi along with her mom to offer prayers at the Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah. On her journey back home, she gets down the Samjautha Express alone at night and fails to catch it back. Left in a foreign land, separated from her mother by a few yards from the border gates, unable to convey who she is and where she is from, her tryst with Salman Khan infuses some hope. What starts as providing a safe custody temporarily for Munni (Shahida) for Pawan steadily expands to an enormous responsibility of traveling across the border to unite her with her parents which he takes up single handedly placing unquestionable faith in Lord Hanuman. 

Scenes in which Munni's identity is unraveled and those while crossing the border keeps one buoyant. We would have begun to shift restlessly in our seats seeing this duo's arduous journey had it not been for Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays the role of a Pakistani scribe supporting Bajrangi on his mammoth mission. That Nawazuddin is allowed to supersede Salman at places in the second half interests the audience and sets the movie apart. All said and done, towering above all of them is Munni, the small girl conveys immensely with her eyes and expressions; her naive, sweet smile makes you melt and she manages to hold the rapt attention of her audience all through. 

The director does not try hard to thrust any message through his movie but eventually makes it clear that generous acts of humanity win more hearts than adherence to pointless rituals or religious practices/customs. His tenacious efforts in shooting the movie in difficult, picturesque terrains and high altitudes deserve special mention and many rounds of applause. With a mega star on board, the director has done a commendable job by not giving in to making Munni's reunion with her parents merely a Salman Khan soliloquy.   

If Pawan Kumar manages to unite the girl with her parents, if/how he safely crosses the border back to India forms the rest of the story and the climax. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge the details even if you asked me to as I had to leave the hall after two hours of watching the movie; I missed the climax. My son got sleepy and we chose not to test his patience, heeded to his request and got back home. It was his first experience in the movie hall and that he enjoyed full two hours of the picture thoroughly, remained hooked to his seat without fuss gives me utmost happiness. Take your family along (with members from all age groups) without any doubt to watch this movie, you will savor every moment!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Every dream comes to an end

Until today, every time I heard the theme song for ICC World Cup 2015 - WDL Bob's beat, after a match that India played, there was a sense of elation, pride and deep content. The summary of the day's game with the song playing in the background evoked a degree of confidence in the Indian team. For the first time, I felt disappointed as the song played, as MS Dhoni walked up first to have a chat in the presentation ceremony, after India lost the semi final by 95 runs at Sydney Cricket Ground against an indomitable opponent, Australia. 
Expectations which started with a zero balance soared high with every win of the Indian team and seven consecutive wins in a tournament like world cup is highly laudable. Veritable improvement appeared in all three departments for once, and after a long time the home team gave the notion that they did not rely on just one GOD batsman to score all the runs, everyone had to chip in and they did, fielders remained agile, leapt in air and performed unseen acts and fast bowlers proved that they mattered too, much like or may be much more than the spinners in a game. 

Despite all the above positive changes, an extended stay in Australia and losing many games against the host nation, one has to admit that team India still has to learn few more vital lessons; more aptly, remember lessons learnt and implement them without faltering. We clearly witnessed how fumbling and choking under pressure does not help from the first semi final game between South Africa and New Zealand where the former team despite getting headway in pieces failed to get their act together. Also, within the team there are many lessons that fellow mates have to learn from MS Dhoni before seniors/veterans and many from all quarters question him on when he will relinquish captaincy and take a back seat. After all, sporting tattoos, blowing kisses off the bat and displaying aggression/anger on field alone cannot win matches. 

MS Dhoni gets an ardent fan in me after this tournament, it would only be appropriate to rephrase the simile as cool as cucumber after him. The way he guided the team, toiled keeping wickets, gave essential tips to bowlers and fielders studying opponents on field and came to rescue with the bat when needed proved that there is just none like him. Kudos to this man's stamina, fitness and composure, squat and get up for each ball for fifty overs and still come hit helicopter shots! 

I have always harbored special admiration for other wicket keeper captains/leaders starting from Adam Gilchrist, Kumara Sangakkara to Brendon McCullum. This admiration is the sole reason why I wanted team India to win today's game, sail ahead and lift the world cup; a befitting gift for our captain cool though it was too sweet a dream to come true. Also for the same reason, I will now want New Zealand to win the final on March 29, 2015 for McCullum is a wonderful leader and the team rightfully deserves to win the trophy at least once. 

Sad that dreams of billions came to an end today but have to admit that it was not purely bitter and starkly premature, after all. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

There's always a first time

Victory is always sweet. When India wins in cricket, the most revered game in the nation, it only gets sweeter. And when the victory comes against a long time foe, the sweetness goes up by notches.These are times when the end result of a tournament itself barely matters and all prayers, good wishes and fervent appeals go out unequivocally to make that one win possible. This is precisely what happened on Feb 15, 2015 when India won against Pakistan yielding a 6-0 result, totaling all its world cup duels. 

For me, it was after four full years, after the 2011 ICC World Cup final, I was watching an ODI match so devoutly. I thank the prudence shown by team that scheduled matches for ICC World Cup 2015, they nailed my interest back again in limited overs edition of the game by placing such a high tension encounter right in the start, no other game could have had me so glued to the television. 

Back then, I always ensured that no one in my family changed channels or even moved in their seats or uttered anything positive too early when things were going great for India; vehemently insisted on a change when things were not falling in place for India in such high voltage matches.Mini pujas were performed, thousand slokas were rendered, even ash and kum kum were smeared on favorite batsmen on TV screen. The ardent fan in me for the game just drooped over time, may be due to excessive cricket that was played or the pomp and glamor that IPL brought along with a big baggage of match fixing slush or may be for other reasons unknown. I lack that insanity but the fun, thrill, tension, apprehension and anxiety lurk around even now. To watch such a crucial match almost fully, with my two and half year old son screaming "green uncle OUT" whenever Pakistan lost a wicket, "blue uncle SPEED" whenever Virat Kohli or Raina hit the ball hard was truly, madly, deeply enjoyable. Criticized widely before the tournament; with least or no hopes pinned on them, the Indian team performed magnificently, performed where it really mattered, made the nation that waited with bated breath sing "Neighbor's envy, Owner's pride" in chorus. 

It is not easy to feel content, a difficult test lay ahead. India took on an indefatigable and formidable opponent, South Africa yesterday, on Feb 22, 2015. And what a victory again, the margin by which it came, the manner in which it happened, with all three departments cohesively clicking to render magic on field, eliciting never seen before results, a victory so convincingly supreme/supremely convincing, utterly sweet for a first time. 
My son only got better with this match, he began to focus on jersey numbers and not just colors. For him, Green Uncle 8,  referring to Dale Steyn ran too fast and Blue uncle 99,  referring to Ashwin appeared very very BIG. 

Appreciation poured in from all quarters after India's unprecedented victory, Ganguly showered praises taking true nationalistic pride, Michael Hussey, Warne and Pollock could not hide their surprise, Harsha Bhogle was all smiles when interviewing Shikhar Dhawan (who crafted a beautiful century singing "Kanna, Keep Calm" and received beautiful partnership from a peaceful warrior, Rahane), Dhoni heaped laurels on perennial underdogs - the fast bowlers in the team. The nation so well knows and admires Big Bachchan's baritone voice but Ravi Shastri's voice bettered it yesterday as he announced with all elation "There's always a first time".

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A journey worthwhile

When I came across this book in The Hindu newspaper (dated May 31, 2014 -Book review), I barely knew I would hit upon a splendid compendium on travel, one of the best books in non-fiction category I have read.

Travelling in, Travelling Out - A Book of Unexpected Journeys, carefully compiled by Namita Gokhale, published by Harper Collins, priced at Rs 599, offers great read for its full length of 250 odd pages. As the book's name suggests, the subject dealt with is travel but the 25 essays written by different   and eminent authors are not mere travelogue entries. 

The book opens with an introductory note that provides a gist of what is in store in pages to come. The first essay The Idea of Travel : From place to place and thought to thought is by one of my favorite authors - Devdutt Pattanaik who can be accredited with all I know about Hindu Mythology and my penchant for it. Picking up cues from Hindu gods and myths, Jain Tirthankara and Buddha, Pattanaik explains how travel acknowledges the impermanence of things and constantly embraces the unfamiliar.

The next two essays are by authors from abroad - Ashok Ferrey's The Maharajah of Patragarh and Marie Brenner's A Retreat to Holy India, unique in content and narration style but plagued by preconceived notions about India, harbored by authors that one might have to take a little incredulously. 

Mayank Austen Soofi (In search of Lost Time), Bulbul Sharma (Travelling to the Hills in Search of Myself), Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan (Village on Treasure Hill) and Ipsita Roy (Bhangarh: Of Darkness and Light) play the role of cicerone in their essays. Mayank talks of how Nainital has changed over time in an interesting fashion. Shaya, a small hill village in Himachal Pradhesh teaches Bulbul mighty things and shapes her life. The Queen Mother of Bhutan provides us with a beautiful insight into life, religion and culture in her country, our lesser known neighbor, more precisely details of Nobgang located in Punakha valley. Ipsita who heads a Wiccan Brigade takes you on a supernatural ride to Bhangarh, historical and haunted ruins in a town between Jaipur and Alwar, Rajasthan. 

MJ Akbar's The Land Of Seven Hundred Hills transports us to Saranda Forest, Singhbum District, Jharkhand and he covers a myriad aspects, geography of forests, culture and life of tribals here, administrative politics, even a bit of philosophy, a many-in-one package much like his columns in newspapers.

Rahul Pandita's Hello Bastar, an extract from his book of the same name, provides the quintessence of Maoist movement, what attracts the Adivasis to their cause and movement and how a guerilla zone has formed spanning five states. 

A House for Mr. Tata by Mishi Saran unravels so much about Mr. Jehangir Bejan Tata, his family home in Shangai at No 458, Wulumuqi North Road, the Avan Villa, his family's journey interspersed with changing political scenarios in China; easily the best essay in the book; I would like to read it again and again to unearth more details. There are photographs by Dayanita Singh of Durga Puja Pandals that come with an adjoining note by Ms.Gokhale. Aspects accompanying travel like taking a passport size photo (Aveek Sen's Lost without a Trace) and getting strip searched in an airport (Advaita Kala's Fear of Flying) blow into essays not so fruitfully. The lull that follows the best piece in the book ends after Ali Sethi's The Foreigner's Situation and Jerry Pinto's F for Dharavi. 

Aakar Patel beautifully elaborates what it means to migrate to Mumbai to a commoner in his Moving to Bombay. Beauty in India by Aman Nath is  a collection of tiny, well written newspaper snippets. Wendell Rodricks proves he knows his subject well when he meticulously details out all about Konkan coast, its language, demography, geography, history, food and culture. 

Many of us might have heard of the Gonds in Madhya Pradesh but how many of us know about their art form, how well it is embedded in their every day living and about its pioneer, Jangarh Singh Shyam and his sudden demise in a foreign land. Nishi Susan traces the journey of Jangarh's Kalam in her essay Gond art

I am sure many have travelled to Tirupati, at least once. But how many of us actually know the names of seven sacred hills that nestle the rich lord's abode?  Kota Neelima in her essay Tirupati describes many facts which we fail to take note of amidst crowd, chaos, confusion and frenzied push-pull accompanied by Jaragandee utterances. Saba Naqvi makes us venture into the fierce man eater's terrain - the Sunderbans and speaks of a Muslim Goddess who guards this territory. 

Urvashi Butalia's The Persistence of Memory presents travel account of Bir Bahadur Singh, one of the many who fled his home in Pakistan during partition, who decades later visits his homeland and meets his childhood friends; truly, a heart wrenching account. 

One is startled to know that there is a tiny Indian corner tucked away in Jerusalem in Navtej Sarna's The Door to His Hospice was Never Closed, a wealth of information that spans from Muinuddin Chisti to his disciple Baba Farid, leading us from Ajmer in India to Mount of Olives, valley of Hinnom, Herod's gate in Israel; a clear favorite for me in this book after Mishi Saran's essay.

Manosi Lahiri in her account Maps for all Times provides good lessons in cartography explaining when early maps were made, when these were refined, why these were made so rigorously, easy enough for a lay man to understand and appreciate. 

For a book that has been excellent all along, the end is not so appreciable. Sans the last essay- Armchair travels by Namita Gokhale, the book would have delivered the same effect; safely said, Namita should have remained content in compiling essays for this book rather than pen down one on her own.

Overall, there are many reasons why one should buy this book -

1) Twenty five different authors write down some great stuff in 25 essays, different authors imply different perspectives. Each piece of work is much like a central piece in a newspaper. These are not conventional travelogues that deal with where to stay, what to eat, what all to see but provide rich information of many aspects that encompass travel.

2) Perfect for "read an article a day" sorts, say while commuting back from work or at bedtime or after your baby goes to sleep.

3) The book ends with a note on contributors which provides wonderful information on each author, their areas of interest, their literary works some of which might interest you and provide directions for future reads.

4) If you are looking for an amalgam of history, art, culture, language, geography - all in one, this book is a perfect choice.

As a mother of a two year old kid, my travel is of limited scope; restricted, preferably, to places where a home like set up can be recreated with ease. Travelling in, Travelling out fills up the void in that scope, it really took me on a journey worthwhile. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year - My first post for 2015

A week into the New Year, 2015 and here I come to wish you all a happy and peaceful new year, one filled with loads of good things and lots of good luck. As I watch 2015 beginning to unfold, there is a part of me that lingers in the year gone by. I try to sum up all that happened in the year 2014 and the not so pleasant or more aptly, some very tragic events stand out starkly. Before you dismiss me as a bizarre pessimist, let me try to substantiate my claim.

Early in 2014, the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared while flying from Kuala Lampur to Beijing; after almost three weeks of rigorous search, a trillion theories propounded to explain why and how it went amiss, it was concluded that the plane ended up in southern Indian Ocean causing death of all on board, a  toll of 239. Before one could move ahead in hope of a breather, a deadlier accident occurred when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 Flight 17 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists over Ukraine in July 2014 resulting in a toll of 298. The year ended up being more turbulent when Air Asia QZ8501 crashed in Java sea killing all 162 on board.

Women empowerment, the most oft-repeated phrase in 2014, thanks to Rahul Gandhi who uttered it like a trained parrot, witnessed new heights when tech giants like Facebook and Apple offered $20,000 to its female employees who chose to freeze their reproductive eggs and not their career aspirations. But it seemed farcical against reports of abduction of over 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram Jihadist group, of spate of child rapes inside school premises in our own Bangalore. Be it inside a moving bus, an Uber cab or inside a deserted mill compound, from sophisticated urban locales in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore to rural Badaun in UP, irrespective of  the hour of the day or age of the female victim, cases of sexual assault gnawed at a woman's basic right, right to return home safe.

Terrorist/militant outfits and Jihadist groups sprang up like mushrooms in Mario game. ISIS perpetrated unprecedented terror smearing territories under their control with blood, beheading journalists, seizing ancient and heritage-rich cities of Iraq and Syria. Pakistan pretended it learnt a lesson that there was nothing called "good" Taliban from the Peshawar army school massacre which consumed lives of 132 innocent children. The year ended with a bang in India in literal sense when an IED blast in Bangalore killed one woman. Even on New year's eve, shelling across Indo-Pak border did not cease and the Indian Coast Guard chased a Pakistani boat sneaking into Indian waters till its operators considered it safe to blow themselves up than surrender.

The Ebola Virus Epidemic in West Africa sent a shudder and reminded us that despite human efforts to make many advancements in the field of medicine and many successes, man quite shockingly loses it all to microscopically diminutive life forms.

The Indian General Elections during the summer of 2014 became a watershed event in the history of Indian democracy. Millions voted for the first time with zeal while thousands who always voted were shocked to see their names deleted from lists. Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, he led his party to power in absolute majority, won an unprecedented mandate and proved that Modi wave existed after all, its ripples felt even in New York and Sydney. Politics in 2014 saw it all, some who knew nothing about politics and administration wanted to make that gargantuan leap, some in whom people placed trust ran away in middle of things after whinging for sundry, some who amassed wealth disproportionately spent weeks behind bars and some who grabbed power by following erstwhile divide and rule policy thus giving birth to the 29th state in India.

Even in department of sports, the year 2014 seemed a joyless mixed bag. Brazil hosted FIFA battling corruption, huge delays and bundles of civic problems but the country sans its star player Neymar and its shocking defeat against Germany in semi final game sent fans reeling in gloom. The Asian Games, Incheon, South Korea threw Indian fans in confusion, whether to rejoice in Mary Kom's gold or regret the brazen denial of silver to Sarita Devi who later faced heavy punishment for refusing to accept the bronze medal bestowed on her. Cricket only got murkier with reports of betting and match fixing bringing top players and officials under scanner and Dhoni's chaotic exit from test match format of the game added more mystery. Fans all over the world still pray for seven time Fomula One World Champion Schumacher's recovery and deeply regret the sudden death of Aussie cricketer Phillip Hughes from an on-field injury.

In the field of entertainment, Salman Khan delivered a KICK, flew a kite alongside Modi and posed by the side of Rajapakse too, Shah Rukh Khan wished a nonsensical Happy New Year much before one really dawned and Aamir Khan reigned over the box office with his PK unfazed by massive protests from right wing Hindu groups.While superstar Rajinikanth's entry into politics remains a mystery, he showed the world he still held unparalleled reverence with the release of his Linga. Our ears resonated to Yo Yo Honey Singh's rap numbers and Bolly/Kolly/Tolly/Mollywood chart busters but yearned for music from that one mandolin that went silent so prematurely.

The Mars Orbiter Mission/Mangalyaan's success filled us with pride and gave us reason to smile but floods in Jammu and Kashmir, its after effects, tropical cyclone Hudhud in Vizag with its bag of colossal damage left common man in turmoil; why bother about Mars when one cannot solve many a riddle on Earth itself.

Even as I write this article, reports of terror attack in France (Charlie Hebdo attack that claimed 12 lives) and sexual assault of a 7 year old girl in Bangalore school by her teacher, more things that make you feel sad and sigh than smile trickle in. However, I look forward with hope, beyond all that has transpired, wish fervently that 2015 be a happier, healthier and more peaceful year, for hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness (quote: Desmond Tutu).

Footnote: An image from that I used as reference in writing this article.