Friday, 29 June 2007

Reviews of 'River Valley to Silicon Valley' and Meaning of life!

Since the time "River Valley to Silicon Valley" has been published, there has not been a single day I have not heard from somebody or the other about this book. Writing and publishing it has been a journey back in time for me. I wrote it in about five months beginning October-November 2005 and completed it in February 2006. While writing the book I was completely unaware that publishing a book can be harder and more time taking than writing it. From March 2006-March 2007, I sent the manuscripts of this books with the working title'Three Generations' to number of publishers. Some responded with rejection some never cared to respond. During this period I concentrated on poetry and wrote around a 100 poems in Moscow. Finally in April 2007, Bookwell India saw the manuscript and was delighted to publish it and the book got finally published last month on 3rd May and was released in New Delhi. Since that day there has been no looking back. In Moscow in the Embassy library there is already a queue to read 'River Valley to Silicon Valley'. The book has been reviewed so far in Australia, Poland, Russia and India and all the reviews are very encouraging. You may click at the links below to read the reviews-
1. Lindsay Byrnes, Melbourne, Author of the Blog" Lindsay Lobes"
2.. Malgorzata Kucharska,Poland, Author of the Blog "Let's Rock & Roll"
3. Vivek Kumar, Moscow, A Diplomat & Author of the Blog "The Other Side"
4. Divyabh Aryan, Mumbai, Author of the Blog "Divine India"
5. Alexander Turkov, Moscow, Interpreter and Political Analyst

The meaning of life?!

The reviews have given me great insight about my own work as well as has helped me to find some understanding of the greatest philosophical question of all times- "What is the meaning of life?"
When I wrote 'River Valley to Silicon Valley' I just wrote whatever came to my mind, my memoirs of the bygone days and I enjoyed writing and for me the story ended there. I had no particular intention in my mind or a particular meaning I wanted to attach to anything.
When I read the reviews of my book by others I was amazed to read their interpretations as each has a different take on the same book. This is very insightful perhaps in understanding the meaning of life.
"Life has no meaning of its own. The meaning is given by us. It depends on us."

Link- What readers say about 'River Valley to Silicon Valley'


Wednesday, 20 June 2007

A Day Opens Slowly

It was a day like no other in Moscow. The day was blessed with the ideal temperature, not too cold, not too hot. Nazim royally got up around 9.30 am and watched his favorite program ‘Click’ about the latest developments in the cyber world on BBC. It was a day planned for an evening party but his guests got busy and it had to be postponed. Only Hafez had nothing to do for the day and expressed his willingness to roam in the streets of Moscow with him. Not the ordinary streets of Moscow but its historical center which has stayed despite being burned by Mongols, Tatars and Napoleon since the city was founded in 1147 A.D.

Since long Nazim had been planning to visit the gallery of Lumiere Brothers at the Central House of Artists near the Gorky Park and freed from the worry of entertaining guests and preparing for it the whole day he had found the opportunity to visit the Gallery. He called up Hafez once again and they decided to meet at the Okhtyabrskaya Metro Station and walk from there to the Central House of Artists where the gallery of Lumiere Brothers was located. Hafez had his Moscow State University Student Identity Card while Nazim had saved his old Student Identity Card from the Moscow State University, that had long expired. There was 50% discount for the students and Hafez showed his identity card which was thoroughly checked at the counter while Nazim showed his identity card from a distance. The old lady at the counter was satisfied with his infectious smile and did not bother to verify his identity card. So they got inside cheap with 100 roubles put together.

Central House of Artists is a huge complex on the bank of the river ‘Moskba’ that houses many interesting galleries, Museums and exhibition halls. The new Tretyakov Gallery is also located in that complex along with the Doll Museum.

It took them some time to locate the Lumiere brother’s gallery because it was too small a gallery compared to other galleries. When they got inside the gallery they found only a few photographs in black & white hanging on the walls and nothing impressive that they had expected earlier. These black and white artistic creations belonged to just one Russian photographer. They had to got it completely wrong. It had got nothing to do with ‘Lumiere brothers’ who are credited with the screening of the first moving pictures. A girl who sat there and was loudly talking on phone said that the gallery had taken that name just because they liked it. Nazim and Hafez were thoroughly disappointed and so they left the gallery to wonder around the hall and see the rest of the central hall. There they found some very interesting pieces of art hanging on the walls. They found a book there that had 537 blank pages, closed and it proclaimed to have secret drawings inside.

After a while finding not much of great interest they moved out in the huge central courtyard inside the Central House of Artists where a book festival was going on. All titles placed there were in Russian and books were being sold at discounted prices. The place was full of men and women and small kids. It seemed that parents had brought their kids there as a day out. The kids were playing with their parents in the courtyard.

Nazim bought espresso for two of them from a nearby Swedish café and sat outside in the shadow of a tree watching kids play with the wooden toys and sipping espresso.

Hafez had made a profound statement while he met Nazim in the morning at Okhtyabarskaya metro station-“Love is death!” Nazim could not understand Hafez and what he meant when he said “Love is death.” Hafez then at length had explained to Nazim how had he come to that conclusion while they walked from the metro station to the Gorky Park. According to him he was in love with one Russian girl called ‘Elena’ whom he had met in the University canteen at Moscow State University last year. She was a very beautiful girl as Hafez described her. He told Nazim –“she was initially interested in me but later she started playing games with me. She told me that she had a boyfriend. She gave me her e-mail address and I wrote to her several times and she responded too at times and I wrote to her how much I loved her. That girl is killing me. I can’t stop thinking of her. What should I do? How will I pass my exam? Tell me some solution of this issue.”

Nazim had told Hafez while they were walking from the metro to the park– “You should find an alternative, I mean a different girl and then you’ll slowly forget her. You like her because she is not accessible to you. The time she will become accessible you’ll start moving away from her. So forget her and find an alternative.” Hafez had said that time that he understood what Nazim was saying and would try to solve his 'issue'.

For some time the discussion on ‘Love is death’ was stopped while they were busy looking at the pictures and paintings inside the Central House of Artists but when Nazim bought Hafez a cup of coffee, Hafez could not resist to bring back the issue that had been troubling him that day since the morning.

Hafez said sipping his espresso- “I have another Russian girl who is rich but not so beautiful, by the way her name is also Elena, and she is willing to be my partner but I can’t forget the first Elena. She is killing me. She is playing games with me.”

In the meanwhile they were enjoying their coffee under the gentle sun a girl was watching them with curiosity. She approached them speaking a bit of Russian accented English. She introduced herself as Nastya. Nastya was a slim girl of the medium built. Her hair was brown- reddish and she had brown eyes. Her attitude was friendly and she easily talked and laughed with them. She said that she worked as a manager in a printing press that printed journals like Esquire and was also defending her diploma from the Institute of Printing in Moscow. After introducing herself she asked them many questions viz. from where were they, what did they do in Moscow and how long they had been there and then subsequently how old were they? She told them that she has been to India, Turkey and Egypt. In Goa she said she had spent two weeks. Hafez first introduced himself- ‘I am from Iran and a student at the Moscow State University and I am 26.’ Then Nazim followed- ‘I am Nazim from Turkey and I am a businessman here and I am 29.’After they told her their ages she immediately asked them to guess her age and Hafez like a master age-teller of women hit right on the nail. Nastya then informed her within 15 minute of their meeting that she was going to turn 23 in just a few days. They could not help themselves asking “what are doing on your birthday?” And she was as quick as lightening in her response-“I am going to spend my time with my mother at the Dacha (countryside home).” Then she automatically went on to tell them how her mother and father had met in the Soviet times. She said that her mother was from Belarus and father from Siberia and they met in Moscow one day somehow, that she did not care to explain, and decided to settle down here in Moscow. Then the conversation moved on –“Did they like Moscow?” and Hafez as always was ready with his oft-repeated phrase- “I hate Moscow”. This was certainly shocking for Nastya who was born in this beautiful city but Nazim’s great love for this city was helpful in doing some damage control. Then the discussion moved in the traditional territory of making comparison between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Hafez asked her – “Which city do you like more, Moscow or St. Petersburg?” She said-“I love Moscow as I was born here but I love St. Petersburg more because that is a more romantic city.”

Hafez was carrying a new book on Persian poetry and when Nastya saw it she immediately took it from Hafez and wanted to gift that book to her friend. Hafez offered her that may be the next week he would be able to give her that book but right now he would be very happy if she returned it to Hafez. It was a bit awkward but what to do…

Then she told them that she had bought some books at the book festival but she was feeling a bit shy to show them as she termed them as “women’s stuff”. Then eventually she showed those books she had bought at discounted prices. She had bought two books. One was the life and works of the famous Mexican painter Frida Cahlo and the other a biography of Audrey Hepburn. Nazim looked with great interest at the paintings by Frida. He had seen the Hollywood movie in which the famous Mexican actress Salma Hayek had played Frida and thus was aware of the life and works of Frida Cahlo.

They were planning to leave that place and Nazim and Hafez were interested in knowing about the interesting cafes in Moscow from Nastya. She told them that she loved the café “Propaganda” located near the metro station “Kitaigorod” as she worked nearby and it had a great business lunch at affordable 160 roubles and a set of cafes called “Piragis”. Behrouz was interested in going to Kitaigorod so they said goodbye to Nastya thanking her for her interesting chat with them, the complete strangers and enriching them with such useful and interesting knowledge about the city.

They exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch. Hafez explained to her that at times he feels extremely lonely in this huge city and would like to give her a call sometimes. She readily agreed to show him around the city whenever he calls her. They were ready to say goodbye to Nastya but she had forgotten to ask it seems a very important question and here she was-“Oh! I forgot to ask you guys, how did you meet?” Nazim immediately thought that his orientation was under threat and said-“we were both students of Russian language at the Moscow State University a year ago and we are meeting today after a very long time.” Then they parted.

They moved from the Central House of Artists towards the metro Okhtyabarskaya and then by metro they reached Kitaigorod. Hafez in the middle updated Nazim’s knowledge about the city informing him –“You know Kitai Gorod does not mean China City but Wooden City.” Nazim knew that it did not mean “China City” but “Walled City” but this “Wooden City” was news to his ears. They came out of the metro and asked people in the street about the café “Propaganda.” Hafez preferred to ask women than men and he told Nazim that he thought that women were more responsible than men. A woman told them the address of ‘Propaganda café’ and they moved on in the told direction. When they reached that street where they were told to go and were looking for Propaganda, an old man could not control himself helping them and approached them with his knowledge of the area and finally told them to go back in the same direction from which they had come. Hafez was more than happy to find a man ready to help in this big city and declared him immediately the first gentleman in Moscow who had offered them help looking at their confused faces. They wandered around half an hour in Kitaigorod looking for ‘Propaganda’ and came back to the same place where they had met the spirited old man ready to help and then they found Propaganda just two meters away from that place.

Well, fuming and furious at the first gentleman of Moscow whose able guidance had cost them half an hour of their precious time; they went inside the Cafe and enjoyed its economically priced meal. Nazim had his favorite Greek Salad and Hafez his Casear Salad. They were told by the manager before being given the table in the café that it was up to 7 pm only and Nazim was quick to tell the Manager –“We won’t be here long”! But Hafez was furious. He told Nazim-‘How can they say that kind of thing. I’ll be here as long as I want.’ Nazim had just discovered that it was in fact a night club and in day time functioned as a café and Nastya might have worked here. Hafez was hard to convince and he came up again with his ‘Love is death’ issue.

Around 6 pm they left Propaganda. The sun was still high in the Moscow sky and both of them decided to walk in the streets of the center of the city. From Kitaigorod they moved towards the Lubyanka where the Headquarters of notorious KGB were located in Soviet times. On the way they took a sneak into the beautiful Globus book shop. It was even bigger that the “Dom Kniggi”on the Arbat and had a number of books in English language. Then they moved towards Kuznetsky Most and from there towards the Tverskaya Street through the Kamergichisky side street where a large number of eateries and summer cafes were located including the famous Café De Artiste. There they met a Gypsy woman who was begging right in front of the Café de Artiste. She asked them for money and asked if they were Moslems. Hafez was interested in giving her a few roubles but as soon as she mentioned religion his hands that were searching for a few rouble coins froze inside his pockets. Hafez was opposed to giving h money in the name of religion but not opposed to begging as such. Nazim asked the Gypsy woman if he might photograph her. She readily agreed and even posed begging for Nazim’s satisfaction and Hafez was pleased too. He now had found a new reason to give her money and he gave her two coins of five roubles to her and thanking her for posing for the photograph.

Soon they were on Tverskaya Street and they walked from one end to another (from Metro Okhotni Ryad to Metro Myakobskaya) and even further in search of a bookshop called “Respublica”. Hafez had visited almost all the bookshops in the city and somehow he has not been to this bookshop yet. He did not want to miss this bookshop that had a café as well and worked twenty four hours. They visited a number of bookshops in their search of Respublica and met a few interesting people on the way. Finally they found it at the end of Tverskaya Street and went in.

At Respublica they had found some very interesting books and sat there in the café where all furniture was pink. They had espressos and talked about book, poems, some philosophical questions about individuality, freedom, war & peace and the unity of everything in the Universe. In the bookshop Hafez liked the quotation on a card so much that he wrote it down in his cell phone, wait…initially he wanted to buy it but it was priced 150 roubles so Hafez decided to write it down but there was no pen so finally mobile phone came handy. The quotation was- “Cats and women will do as they like to do and dogs and man should get used to this idea.”

They came back on the same street till Pushkinskaya metro station where a large greenish statute of Pushkin looks over and where the young lovers of the city gather in the evenings. That evening a band was playing some cool R&B music and a number of young people including a few homeless drunkards were dancing with great spirit. A young lady dancing in the center of the circular crowd was leading all the men. They asked many people including some policemen who were standing there if they knew where was the famous Café Pushkin located? They had no clue surprisingly. They had to wait for half an hour to get to the right man who knew the location but even he told them only the rough direction of Café Pushkin.

They moved in that direction and walked through the park in Tverskoy Bulevar looking for Café Pushkin but they had no luck. On the way they saw a statue of the poet Ecenin standing tall in the park. Hafez proposed a new idea by the evening that “one should marry a simple woman as the beautiful women do not stay for long with one man.” They discussed it till they reached the other end of the park. Reaching the other end of the park they asked a policeman standing there about Café Pushkin and he told them to go towards the other end of the park from where they had come. They decided to return to the Red Square walking through street Bolshaya Nikitskaya. On the way Hafez saw a church and expressed his immediate anger over Christianity. He said- “I do not understand Christianity at all as I find this idea of extending your other cheek while somebody slaps you on one cheek. Christianity is very funny.” They walked to the Metro Bibliateka Imena Lenina and took different metros to their homes.

-Copyright 2007 Abhay K.


Friday, 15 June 2007

Vincent van Gogh-I

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30th March 1853 at Groot Zundert , a small village near the Belgian border. His father was a pastor. He had three brother and three sisters. Vincent was the eldest among them. Theo or Theodorus was his younger brother as well as a friend and confidante of Vincent. Vincent went to his local village school and then to a private boarding school and finally to a high school. He left his studies in 1869 at the age of 16 for the reasons unknown to anybody. His uncle was an art dealer who found him a position as a clerk at the Goupil Art Gallery in The Hague. He did well there and was sent to London branch of the Gallery in 1873. Theo was the only member of the family with whom Vincent got along with and they had sworn an oath of life-long friendship.

In London he formed an intense interest in British art and literature and became a fluent speaker of English. He was happy there till he fell in love with his landlady’s daughter Eugenie which was rejected. This had an adverse effect on his morale and his performance at the gallery suffered and in 1875 he was permanently transferred to Paris and was dismissed in 1876. Not knowing what to do after dismissal he took the job of a teacher. Later he took to preaching sermons however he returned to Holland in 1877 and worked in a bookshop in Dordrecht. The same year he began preparations for the entrance examinations to the faculty of theology at the University of Amsterdam. He could not succeed and went to Brussels for a much shorter course to become a lay preacher. He failed even this course but some how managed to get him sent to a Belgian coal-mining district as a lay-preacher. There he gave everything away, even almost all articles of his clothing, slept in an outhouse on straw. His sponsors withdrew support on account of his state of uncleanliness but blamed it on his poor public speaking talent.

He returned to Brussels in 1980 and then moved to Etten where his parents now lived.

He worked hard at Etten hoping to become a draughtsman. Vincent again fell in love with his widowed cousin Kee Vos which was rejected. His relations with his parents worsened following his refusal to attend church on a Christmas day and he left for Hague.

In 1882, in search of his models, he met Clasina or Christine Hoornik(he called her Sien), an occasional prostitute elder than Vincent who was addicted to drink. He made drawings of her (Sorrow) and set up house with her. This distressed his parents. In 1882 Christine gave birth to a boy whom Vincent called “my little boy”. Later his relation with Christine deteriorated as she reverted to her former life he had to leave her.

In 1883 he went to north of Holland but could not bear the loneliness after the Hague and returned to Nuenen where his family had recently moved. There his relations with parents did not improve. They thought him as a barking dog with wet paws, a foul beast unfit for the home. He disliked his family name ‘van Gogh’ and signed all his works with his first name ‘Vincent’. His life was again complicated by Margo Begemann who was in love with him but her family opposed their friendship. Later he tried to take Piano lessons to improve his paintings but he did not pursue them for long. He painted at Nuenen ‘Potato Eaters’ a work which is now recognized as the summation of Vincent’s artistic faith that time.

In 1885 his father died suddenly of a stroke. He left Nuenen for Antwerp and never set foot in Holland again. He enrolled himself in the Antwerp Academy but his teachers were not impressed with drawings and he was relegated to the elementary school. He had been feeling ill at Antwerp and had lost several of his teeth. He was also diagnosed with a very advanced stage of syphilis and he moved to Paris with his brother Theo into a large apartment in Montmartre. Relations between two brothers became very strained there. He met there many painters- Seurat, Pissarro, Emile Bernard, Anquetin, Lautrec, Signac, Gauguin etc. who were impressed with his work.

He left Paris and arrived in Arles in 1888 where he painted ‘Night Café’ and ‘Sunflowers’. Later he decided to go to an asylum in St. Remy where he painted ‘Starry Night’, ‘The Irises’

Later he moved to Paris for three days and moved to Auvers where is painted ‘Gachet’s portrait, ‘Wheat field under threatening sky with Crows’ and ‘Wheat fields under the clouded skies’ and where is shot himself in the chest. Theo arrived and tried to convince Vincent that there are good chances of his survival. Vincent said on this-“La tristesse durera(there is no end to sadness). He asked for Theo’s forgiveness for all the trouble and expense he had caused him and he died in his arms in the morning of 29th July 1890. Theo died six month later.


Wednesday, 6 June 2007

I saw leaves dancing...

I looked out of the window
Taking a break from the cyber world
And my eyes fell on the dancing leaves
Under the blue sky
Dancing with abandon
With the music of the wind
And I thought of freedom
And what it meant to be free!
Locked in the cubes
Surrounded by the uninspiring and arcane
Burdened with files
I had stopped living
And then I could bear no more
I put aside all
And looked out of the window
And I saw leaves dancing with joy
And I thought of freedom
And what it meant to be free!