Thursday, February 19, 2015

House of Cards Season 3 : My Predictions

I watched all three seasons of the British version of House of Cards. So, far the series has gone the same way as the British version did. Any differences in the story line are mostly due to differences in political structure of Britain and USA. However a strong businessman character like Raymond tusk is missing in the British version of House of cards.

The British Version

The British version of House of cards has just four episodes in each season and the story moves quickly though not as thickly as its American counterpart. Underwood will have to make it to the vice president and then shoot for president. However, his British version, Francis Urquhart  needs to just pull down the Prime minister. The details are  a bit different. However, the general approach is the same. He implicates his in a money laundering scheme and makes the prime minister resign.

As for the second season, Urquhart picks up a fight with the monarch, who opposes Francis’s capitalistic policy and suggests a more humanistic and socialistic approach would do more good to the society. The war drags on and the king hopes that Urquhart will be defeated in polls. Eventually, the king is forced to abdicate the throne due to one of Urquhart’s dirty tricks. In the first episode of third season, Urquhart wins his second term and returns to office. He feels that he is an unstoppable force in British Politics.

Following this consolidation, Urquhart tries to build a legacy for himself by trying to end a long time conflict between Greece and Cyprus. In the middle of this exercise he indulges in corruption. He makes sure that some waters having huge petrochemical reserves go to Greece.  By such maneuverings   he is assured of a huge ‘pension’ package by an industrialist.

Eventually, past sins of murder catch up with Urquhart and finally knock his door. The secret behind Cyprus also falls out and creates a huge mess domestically as well as internationally. A challenger from within Urquhart’s party revolts and puts up a stiff fight against the PM. Finally Francis Urquhart is murdered by his own guard at the behest of his own power hungry wife.

The Prediction

I do predict something similar might happen in the third season of House of cards. Underwood might run for president and win. He might fight Walker or some past foe. Whatever be the means, Underwood’s political capital will consolidate in the beginning.

This might be accompanied by a major foreign policy blunder in Zulu, similar to a Cyprus crisis in its British counterpart. The clue to this is in the Teaser Quartet part 3 released by Netflix. In addition this , Raymond Tusk might rot in jail because of the denial of a Presidential pardon. Or, he might even get it and become friends with Underwood. That could go either way. Eventually, I predict that Underwood’s murder of Zoe Barnes might spill out. Finally, the series might end with Underwood’s murder by Edward Meechum at the behest of Claire.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

"The body was certainly not the Self, nor the play of senses, nor thought, nor understanding, nor acquired wisdom or art with which to draw conclusions and from already existing thoughts to spin new thoughts. No, this world of thought was still on this side, and it led to no goal when one destroyed the senses of the incidental self but fed it with thoughts and erudition. Both thought and the senses were fine things, behind both of them lay hidden the last meaning; it was worth listening to them both, neither to despise nor overrate either of them, but to listen intently to both voices."

These were the lines that impressed me very much in this book. It epitomises the intent of the book and the kind of content it carries. It is a book that discusses philosophy without making it too didactic. However, it does not reduce the content to a commonplace narrative. 

There are several aspects of the book that make it a great read. For starters it is not too lengthy. I might sound a bit lazy here, but very lengthy books with shades of philosophy are a big turn off. In addition to that , the story here is very straightforward. The number of characters are less, however each of them are crafted well. And they serve their roles well.

The cover page and the title of this book could mislead a lot of people, including those who consciously decide not to judge books by their cover pages. Siddhartha is not a book about Buddha, though he appears as a character in one of the chapters.  Siddhartha is a character by himself, an individual who is seeking out for truth, like many learned wanderers of his time. However, his path is unconventional. It is not an exercise to escape from the mainstream. It is not a conscious effort to shun emotions and human relationships.

The story begins with the academically accomplished youth Siddhartha going to his father and seeking for permission to leave the house and join a group of ascetics called Samanas  (literal Sanskrit translation – equals). His father objects in the beginning, but later gives in to Siddhartha’s determination . Siddhartha is joined by  his friend Govinda. Govinda is literally a sidekick. He always shadows Siddhartha and his endeavours. The writer, Herman Hesse, might have created to make him ask questions that a normal reader would want to ask. Every protagonist needs a sidekick.

After spending time with Samanas, the duo face a stagnation. They hear about Gotama Buddha, the learned one. They separate from Samanas and go to listen to Buddha’s sermons . After his sermon, Siddhartha questions Buddha’s teachings and says that his doctrine had loopholes. Here, Govinda , for the first time disagrees and becomes a disciple of Buddha. The story moves on, and their paths diverge.

Siddhartha continues his journey. He  meets a ferryman, a courtesan, a trader and then again Govinda in the end. He explores the world of renunciation (Nirvana)  and emotions (Samsara) [both are rough and inaccurate translations].  The story ends in their final encounter and a conversation that dwells on the summary of Siddhartha's journeys and lessons learnt from the people he has met in his life. Finally, Siddhartha says : 

“Everything that is expressed in words is one-sided, only half the truth; it lacks totality, completeness, unity. When the Illustrious one taught about the world, he had to divide it into Samsara and Nirvana, into illusion and truth, into suffering and salvation. One cannot do otherwise; there is no other method for those who teach. But the world itself being in and around us, is never one-sided. Never is a man or a deed wholly Samsara or Nirvana; never is a man wholly a saint or a sinner. This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real. Time is not real, Govinda. I have realised this repeatedly,. And if time is not real, then the dividing line that seems to lie between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil is also an illusion.”

On the surface, this sounds abstract. But it does poke into issues that we still haven’t resolved. We have still not proved what is time? We don’t know what happened before big bang or 13.6 billion years. However, the whole paragraph would sound like bullshit when we talk in the context of Boko Haram or ISIS and their barbaric methods. It would sound like absolute bullshit when we speak of malnourished African kids or extreme poverty. 

But then, there isn't any answer to all this mess. Or maybe there is. Somebody will have to bomb ISIS, tax the middle class and feed the poor or whatever the text book solutions may say. Would these solutions resolve all violence and suffering for good? History says , that it hasn't. Evil didn't die with the end of Hitler or Stalin. It has reappeared again and again in various forms. It will continue to do so. And no one knows why or why not. The truth is, we are here for a very short period of time and we have created so much of mess and a pile of unanswerable questions. And individuals will never be able to resolve them in one lifetime. Our problems are too complex to be answered with one abstract paragraph or an enlightened Buddha/Siddhartha.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pedaling in Pondy

Note: There is a difference between pedaling and peddling. 

One of the greatest tests of patience is faced by a man when he is done with his job in the toilet and suddenly finds out that the water supply is cut off.  That is the most appropriate occasion to use the cuss word “shit”. We had woken up early in the morning to see the sunrise in Pondicherry and one of my friends was struck in the toilet due to the peculiar situation mentioned above. However, the delay was not longer than 10 minutes.

The sunrise was to happen at 6.35. We managed to reach the beach by 6.40. This was the first time I had seen a rocky beach. It was good break from all the sandy beaches I had been visiting all these years.The clouds blocked the sun entirely. We could only see patches of orange in the sky. In the small area in between the beach and the well laid cement road, many food carts were lined up. I presume that they function only in the evening. However, those rusty pieces of metal looked like works of art in the background of the sea and sky. Though it may sound abstract , I always feel that poetry is in the ability to see mundane things from a different angle.

We were adequately distracted by the Rangoli competition that was happening on the Goubert Avenue (the road running parallel to the rocky beach). Hundreds of participants were busy drawing patterns and other themes on the lane.

We took a stroll down the entire stretch of the road which also hosted an Indian naval memorial and French war memorial. We also noticed a bouquet with a note “Je Suis Charlie” near the French war memorial. On the other end of the road, there was a structure that protruded into the sea. Though we didn't walk over it, we enjoyed the scene from a distance.

I also noticed that most of the important government buildings including the secretariat of Pondicherry is located on the same avenue. It is perhaps one of the few states where Government officials get to enjoy a great view every morning in their office.  In addition to government buildings, the lane is home to some fine hotels. In fact the entire French part of Pondicherry has that European charm with old colonial buildings and churches. In addition to a huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi, there is also a majestic statue of a French Governor that is situated on the same avenue. One wouldn't be wrong if somebody accused the past and present rulers of Pondicherry of being disproportionately partial to just one small area in the entire Union Territory.

After breakfast in Adyar Anada Bhavan we hired some bicycles. It was enjoyable to ride bicycles in this place and also commute in this area comfortably and cost effectively.  This was followed by a huge lunch. We gorged some pizzas and pastas. I had to part from the group a bit early as I had to reach home in time. I said good bye to my buddies and hoped that we could go on a similar tour again sometime.

P.S : None of these photos were edited or clicked in a DSLR camera.