Archive for September, 2008

Book Review: On the Beach – Nevil Shute

Have you ever thought about apocalypse? What if the world is going to end, and what if you know that you’d be dead in the next few months? What would you do? How would you spend the last few days of your life? This is what forms the crux of “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute. In this 1957 book a nuclear war has already taken place and the whole of Northern Hemisphere is dead, and the winds are carrying the radiation to Southern Hemisphere and Australia where the book is based.

Since the first page you know that everybody is going to die, but how each one embraces the inevitable is what the novel is all about. Commander Towers, one of few alive Americans, his main concern is his submarine. Even if he is about to die, his duty comes first. Moira – her life is now all about Cmdr Towers, even though she knows that he is still married at heart to his long dead wife. Peter Holmes, who just wants to make life (and death) as comfortable as possible for his wife and daughter. Mary Holmes, who is in denial and thinks that they would not die as they live far off from the city. And the most intriguing character – Julian Osborne, who starts living his dream, buys an F1 car and even though does not know racing takes part in the last race ever held, and wins as none of the drivers care about dying and in massive pileups many drivers die; in the end very few cars are left and because of his superior car he wins the race.

This is one powerful book. Even though it is more then 50 years old, this book could have been written/released just yesterday. Keep yourself in the position of any of the protagonists and imagine what would you do in such a situation, that time the full impact of the book hits you. There is a 1959 movie “On the Beach” based on the novel. I’d love to watch it, will try to find the movie.

Do try to read the book, even though at times it is depressing but the way the premise is handled is amazing. I would not term the book “enjoyable” as death is not, but this is a very good read.



At times some words just stick to you. Like a song that you listen to early in morning and no matter what you do, you keep humming the song all day long. You listen to a word, read it, or hear about it from somewhere and you can never get it out. With songs, at least I can forget the song I was humming when I wake up the next morning; I can never say that it has been the same for words. I remember some words from my childhood, and I remember exactly when and how I came across that specific word.

Take for instance the word – Arboreous. The spell checkers of MS Word & FF say, the spelling is wrong, the right spelling is Arborous. The dictionary proves both of them wrong. Anyway, I first came across this arcane word around 12-15 years back in a Jughead comic when he was trying to improve his vocabulary, and was concentrating on the ‘A’ section of the dictionary. Since then this word has always been at the periphery of the circle of my used words, but I never got around to actually using it. I always remembered its meaning though – Jughead had used it to describe the freeways and the over-bridges, saying that it means something that has a tree like structure.

How come I remember this word after so many years, you ask, and go ahead to write a post on one specific word? Well recently in Mahabaleshwar, I came across a tree, shot a photograph of the seemingly tangled branches and when I was naming the shot this was the only word that came to my mind – Arboreous.

Arboreous in Clouds

Arboreous in Clouds

On Hamilton and his driving

You love Lewis Hamilton, or you hate him – but there is no denying that he is currently the best driver on the circuit. With Kimi struggling badly, Alonso in a mediocre car, and Massa never being a natural driver, it is not difficult to find the best car+driver combination in the circuit.

But I am not writing this post to praise him; instead this is about his sportsmanship, or rather the lack of it. Till yesterday I had been neutral to him, but now I’d really hate it if he wins the Drivers’ Championship. Yesterday at Monza at times he was lapping 2 seconds faster than anyone else on the track, and even then while overtaking he was forcing the other cars off the track. Ok, I understand he started 15th and had to race brilliantly to get in to the points – I am not denying that he did not have a brilliant race, his driving was amazing – but why the unnecessary shoves, and nudges? He forced Mark Webber outside the track, when overtaking Alonso he immediately forced his car in front of the Renault making Alonso take evasive action even though Lewis had the track, and the speed to cross Alonso comfortably. And this was not just an isolated incident; there were many such incidents where even when he had the firepower to overtake easily, he was forcing other drivers off the track, and take evasive actions. Hamilton drove wonderfully for the 7th position, but he crossed the thin line that separates aggressive and fair driving from unsportsmanlike and unfair driving.

Hope Massa wins the Drivers’ Championship. Vettel was awesome – deservedly won the race – and so was Kubica. Hardly anybody noticed him till the last few laps – when it was clear that he’d have a podium finish to show for BMW’s awesome strategy, and his near flawless driving.

How perceptions change…

It is amazing how my perception of traffic has changed over the years. Few years back, had I been driving in the present day’s Hyderabad traffic I’d have gone mad within hours… Ok, even today it takes just a few people who totally lack driving sense to bring choicest of the expletives to the fore. But than I am not talking about my choice of expletives, but on the perception of traffic.

Few years back, in Raipur, I would consider a road empty if there were hardly 2-3 bodies in sight (I’m using the term bodies to signify Cars, Bikes, Bicycles, Rickshaws, and Buffaloes). The road would be empty just after everybody is done playing Holi, the road would be empty on the early morning after Diwali, the road would be empty when a India-Pakistan match would be on on a Sunday, the road would be empty in the dead of the night, and the road would be empty during a curfew.

These days, in Hyderabad, for me an empty road means that I can hit the 3rd gear comfortably. An empty road means that I am at least two car lengths away from the vehicle in front of me and no other vehicle is behind me honking to say I should move up that stretch. An empty road means that I can cover a distance of 10 kms in 25 minutes or less. An empty road means that I am driving along with the wife, we see there are around 50-60 vehicles within sight instead of the customary 100+, and we sigh, “Thank God, the roads are empty today”.

If I were to encounter a road today that would be “empty” by the old definition, my first reaction would be – “Something is amiss, something is wrong, there is some problem”. I would not think that I am unexpectedly lucky, because that kind of luck has ceased to exist in any big city now. Only ministers get an empty road of the definition of yore. We sometimes get lucky, and get the empty road of the present day.

Still, I love driving in Hyderabad, this is the only place where you can get a National Park bang in the middle of the city, when you drive towards it the horizon is covered with trees, and a mountain of cloud is erupting behind them trying to touch the bright blue sky.

The perceptions of traffic have changed dramatically; the love for driving remains the same.

Meet the Blogger…

I write! Topic does not matter, can be my life, or my travels, or any match I saw, or the Hyderabadi life, or reminiscing about Raipur, or penning Short Stories & 55s.

I can be contacted at kunalblogs[at]gmail[dot]com.

September 2008
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Ancient mumblings