Sunday, August 23, 2015

A day in Eden

I long
for a place where time takes a breather.

The breaking dawn
announced by shadowy figures at the milk booth.
A morning jog
through paths that lose themselves into the mist.
The bethlehem star
tickled by the wind that carries the muezzin's call,
into a temple sheltering the faithful
as they resume their trek for a glimpse of the Merciful One.
Greeted back home
by woodsmoke merrily conjuring a breakfast.
A shaft of sunlight for company,
through the glass in the tile roof.
In the market
where the menfolk casually flick their wrists
to neatly fold their sarongs at the pelvis;
then go about their chores.
and the fisherwomen
could dispense justice or fish
with the same equanimity.

Reading the papers,
heaving with irony and satire
bemoaning a million lost opportunities
sacrificed at the altar of petulant pride.

Tea time
and a trip through endless fields and yawning rivers.
Lunch and a snooze go hand in hand here.

More tea and now to the seaside.
A beach nestled
between a roaring sea and a placid backwater.
Building castles in the sand
smiling tourists and long walks.
Slender birds
return to the inky forest
fleeing the sunset.

Dinner and small talk
Hopes and dreams, loves and gossip
Make for a fine dessert.
Sleep is but a pillow toss away.

I long
for an Eden called Kerala.
Next time I'll put the newspaper away.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Impressions - Great Commanders of the Ancient World

“How can one hundred people be led by a single person?”

With this intriguing question begins a compendium of military commanders aptly titled “Great Commanders of the Ancient World, edited by Andrew Roberts. In its scope, the book is certainly ambitions – covering the period 1479 BC to 453 AD is no mean feat. A fascinating collage of characters and their unique talents are presented to the reader – from the empire builder Cyrus the Great to the military genius of Hannibal Barca or even the inspiring leadership of Julius Caesar (and his penchant for seducing the wives of his peers).In this the editor is helped by many a contributor, leading to a generally taunt book complete with a suggested reading list and index.


The federal structure has its pitfalls in writing style. For instance, the profiles of  Cyrus, Xenophon or Atilla are embellished with the author’s view on their contribution to the field of military science, power or the history of the continent they lived in. Others, especially the biographies on Thutmose III and Alaric have little on this subject. In one instance, the puzzled reader is plied with facts without providing the context – Trajan’s profile has the namesake of his rival king serving on a tower on Hadrian’s Wall, but then goes on to reveal that the king was actually beheaded after capture following a failed uprising! One wonders why then the reference to the service on Hadrian’s Wall was at all necessary.

This puzzling treatment continues with the near absence of illustrations or maps on the campaigns profiled or empires carved out in the profiles, excluding a frieze of a forlorn (and un-credited) Alexander riding on his beloved horse Bucephalus on the cover page. The reviewer is tempted to boldly ask – “How can a book profiling 25 military commanders not carry a single map? “

A final disappointment is the obsession with Greco-Roman world to the exclusion of Indian greats. True, the feats in the book are exceptional but so too were the empires created and battles waged by the Mauryan greats (Chandragupta and Emperor Ashoka). No less were the achievements of the Kushanas (Kanishka), Guptas (Chandragupta II and Skandagupta), the Pallavas and the Shatavahanas. It is puzzling that a wealth of emperors could be so casually excluded and would suggest a lack of understanding of the empire building in the Indian sub-continent. But Asia is not completely ignored – Sun Tzu and Zhuge Liang grace these pages with impressive summaries.

Deficiencies aside, the book gives a fascinating insight into the lives of these super-achievers. Hard work, persistence, an excellent grip on the geo-political conditions of their times and a willingness to act (ruthlessly when necessary) despite overwhelming odds are common themes. But fundamental to their success is an unwavering self-belief in all of these leaders. 

“Believe in yourself”, the book seems to say, “and soon enough an army will be willing to believe you and fight to the end to make your dreams come true”. A lesson truly worth absorbing and emulating.

Rating: 2.5 stars.

Summary: An interesting reading into the lives of military commanders of the Ancient world, with a particular focus on the Greco-Roman world. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Impressions – The King of Oil

My earliest brush with Marc Rich might have well been the event that, he believed, would bring closure to the demonization that he was subject to for 17 years of his life. Living in luxurious self-imposed exile in reclusive Zug from US authorities pursuing him on charges of treason and tax fraud, he would find himself up chanting the final prayers in his father's wake over a long-distance call and be reduced to listening over telephone to his daughter die a slow death from leukemia, while being unable attend both funerals in person. He would also complete an acrimonious (and expensive) divorce from his wife of 30 years and go on to marry another (whom too he divorced, 9 years on, in yet another expensive affair).

Somewhere in between all this, in the dying hours of the Clinton era, a Presidential pardon ended and began a new chapter in the media scrutiny in his checkered life. Washed over in the torrent of media horror, I slowly picked together the life of the secretive commodities trader who spawned the colossus that today is GlencoreXstrata.

In this world of self-seekers, both myopic and narrow minded, a shrewd calculating man focused on the long term is indeed rare. Rarer still is to see him as evil. Perhaps this is my bias, but one who thinks long term and puts relationships before profits is in my dictionary termed astute.Marc Rich was an astute man, of this I am confident. But what else was he? An amoral trader, a dutiful son, silent intelligence sentinel, a doting father or a bitter ex-husband? How does one reconcile these contradictions? What can we learn from his failures and his astounding successes – notably, creating the global spot market for oil?

The King of Oil is hence an interesting book, as it pieces together the events in Marc Rich’s life and leaves the reader as the final judge. The absurdities that accompanied his trial and the machinations of Rich’s legal term are laid out in equal measure. Hence the book does not feel like a paid advert. It is in fact a sobering assessment of an infallible truth – even the Supermen and Superwomen that the world has seen will one day fade away in their days of glory or be dragged off their pedestals by Time if they tarry too long.

Reminding us of our mortality through the life of one considered invincible is perhaps the book’s greatest contribution. In parts fascinating, in others saddening, this is a Promethean tale that must be read.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Soaring Dreams


Against all odds,
within and without,
You have marched on,
in plumes of flame and dust.
Your goals lie in the heavens themselves,
the heavens and the worlds beyond.

A billion eyes lift skyward,
and quite a few with envy too,
Let not failure stunt your desires,
nor success corrupt your ambition.

A silent sentinel of intelligent mind,
and sheathed in mighty steel,
Tonight we did dare to add,
a new bud in the bouquet of light.

A billion parents today,
have sired a brilliant child,
In rejoicing in your success,
we shall all stand alike.

Such is the penance that sages of yore,
practised to realize the Divine,
Much remains, much needs to be done,
But you have shown us the light.
Our goals lie in the heavens themselves,
the heavens and the worlds beyond.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy Independence Day ! - Address to the Nation

My dear brothers and sisters,

It fills me with great pride to stand before you and present my hearty congratulations on our Independence Day. It is now 67 years since our founding fathers unfurled the tricolor from the ramparts of this historic edifice that has been a silent witness to many an empire. Until the 15th August, 1947, never had the people of these lands the right to determine their destiny by themselves. The Maurya, the Gupta, the Tughlaq, the Mogul, even the British have all laid claim to this right…but never the Indian. Until 15th August, 1947 and democracy was established.

Every Independence Day is not a day to relax, but a day to reflect. On what has been and what could have been accomplished. There comes a day to step back from the monotony of daily work and imagine the endless possibilities that we, as children of the same nation, can achieve if only we work together. That day is today.

Trials and failure are the ingredients in nation-building. Every country has her share of nay-sayers, critics and confounders. We too have fundamental differences and shortcomings. Despite worshipping the female form, we continue to record abhorrent atrocities against women. This is unacceptable. Discrimination in the form of caste, creed and religion continues to blot our glorious record of a civilization that has always embraced the persecuted and the defenseless. Corruption has been and shall always remain India’s No.1 enemy. The grim battle against it continues, and at this Kurukshetra the judiciary, the executive and the aspirations of our people are aligned with the legislature. We shall prevail although success will not be quick.

To brood over the dark spots of the year gone by is an easy recipe for cynicism and a delight for the obstructionist forces in our path. Over the last year we have continued our march to progress. I am pleased to report that our investments in Science and Technology have continued unabated. Your government unveiled new centers of higher learning and focused on delivering skills to young India. Your government has unveiled a roadmap for delivering food security to the urban and rural poor, which is the largest of its kind in the world. Tribal affairs continue to be a core theme in the societal targets of your government. “The people are the prize”- this core tenet continues to guide us in the darkness of the forests of Dandakaranya. While we continue with our efforts to enforce the rule of law in these areas, we must remember to face up to the aspirations of our tribal brothers and sisters and pursue industrial development bearing in mind key environmental considerations. Other nations in the world have trodden this path successfully, and India shall too.

We continue to face global headwinds in the form of muted growth and the implications of easy monetary policies by international governments. Coupled with the cost of domestic development programs, the Indian rupee has been impacted and fallen in value during the last year. We continue to believe that a situation of benign inflation is the best possible foundation for private and public enterprises to pursue growth. Accordingly, while the long-term focus on a healthy ratio between consumption and investment remains, your government has taken the prudent step of a higher interest rate regime to beat back inflationary trends. We remain committed to ensuring that food prices are within reach of the common man. Indian industry has been supported through aggressive de-bottlenecking of investment regulations and simplifying approval procedures which we are sure, will provide the necessary confidence in the security of capital investments. We remain open to a constructive dialogue on further reform measures with all stakeholders.

Your government has taken a key step towards promoting Indian industry with the unveiling of INS Vikrant, which has been designed and manufactured in India. This approach has yielded considerable cost savings and thousands of jobs to our domestic work force. This government is committed to increasing indigenization, while ensuring our brave jawans have the necessary infrastructural support and quality equipment to perform their vital service to the nation.

Let this Independence Day be one of personal reflection – how can you, as a member of this vast family, contribute to a better India? This government believes that when each Indian is given the ability to achieve his/her aspirations in full is the true meaning of freedom achieved. India is a shining beacon of democracy to Asia, nay the entire world. This has been achieved only when the masses that make India have held their elected representatives to account.

Shortly, our great nation will commence the process of deciding her political future. It remains my wish that all Indians take the time to consider the future of our children above petty considerations of ideology or monetary gain and vote for their chosen representatives. This is a cherished right for which our freedom fighters have shed blood. Let this great power not go to waste, and may Indians never lose faith in our perhaps flawed but peerless democratic set-up.

With these few words, I thank you all for your time today, and again congratulate all Indians settled around the globe a very happy Independence Day.

Jai Hind! Jai Hind! Jai Hind!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pride and Prejudice

My love lies deep inside me,
and my hatred is deeper still.
I am a lake, placid and cool
fed by streams of turbulence.

My people span the sea,
that an ancient Lord once bridged.
On one side lies tears and martyrs,
the other holds wails and quislings.

Wait,was it this side or that?
Who has strayed from the noble ideals,
enshrined in lore, epics and sung
in the sweet hymns of saints ?

A great war has come and gone,
but victor and vanquished,
on their day of reckoning
will be welcomed alike
by this holy soil.

The fire of a wronged woman,
burned down a proud city.
Let the pyres that still burn,
burnish the Tamil soul
and teach an eternal truth to her people.

People at war with themselves,
need no enemies to do them in.

Martyrs and quislings,
like conjoined twins.
Each needs the other,
a single heart beats within.

So I patiently wait,
for the people of sweet Tamil
to forgive,never forget,
serenity within.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Letting go...

Do you love me?
Or am I just another trip in this strange relationship? 
You push and pull me, yeah
And I'm about to lose my mind 
Is this just a waste of time? 
Keep acting like you own me,
I keep running, watch me walking out that door
I hear you behind me

Give me that strange relationship
Never felt pleasure and pain like this
Something so right, but it feels so terribly wrong
I keep holding on
Give me that strange relationship
One of us gotta let go of this
I keep pushing and you keep holding on
I'm already gone...

Copyright owner - Darren Hayes.