Archive for May, 2010

Superman

I’ve been MIA for the past couple of weeks. First, there was a small matter of finishing up the term in Beijing. That done, I was to be in Hong Kong for a few days. For whatever reason, I didn’t end up going and was in Shanghai for the past few days. My Shanghai term starts tomorrow, and I’ve been busy trying to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. I’ll write a blog post about how the difference I felt between Beijing and Shanghai.

Yesterday, while trying to surf the channels, I ended up on a HBO telecast of Superman the movie- the first and the best so far. The movie initially came out in 1978, but I only watched it in 1989 for the first time. Since then, I’ve watched the movie a few times, but the last time was sometime in mid-90s, before I even turned a teenager.

Superman, or Clark Kent, has always been my favorite superhero, I like Superman more than I love He-Man, and that’s saying something. As somebody put it very eloquently, Superman is the greatest of heroes. Batman isn’t Batman, he’s Bruce Wayne, who’s alter-ego makes him a vigilante. Similarly, Peter Parker becomes Spiderman. However,  Superman is Superman, he becomes Clark Kent to fit amongst us [I’ve paraphrased, and couldn’t find the original author of the quote]. I’ve always loved how in comics/cartoons/movies Superman is always the guy, who’s torn emotionally, and can’t express his love to Lois Lane. He’s the alien among us, who tries to save Earth’s beings from ruining themselves. There was a certain purity to his soul, something that Batman’s dark edged vigilante couldn’t match.

Back to the movie. When I first saw the movie, I was unaware of the subtle nuances, moreso the insertion of sexual undertones in the movie. For instance, when Superman visits Lois Lane’s apartment. She’s dressed in night gown, with revealing just enough skin to titilate the imagination. A class act, and not the crass display of skin usually found nowadays. Yes, Bollywood I’m looking at you. She casually asks him if he could see the color of her panties, in reference to his laser vision. The color was pink – the color of seduction, if I may add. There were other moments, which hint towards the lingering sexual tension between Superman and Lois. Sometimes not so subtle moments, such as when Lois asks “how long are you?”, and then quickly corrects to “how tall?”. Towards the end, Lois blushes when Jimmy Olson points out that Superman has a thing for her. As a kid, I loved ‘Superman – the movie’, for what it represented. The good guy who could fly, catch bullets, out run trains etc. etc., beating the crap out of bad gusy. As an adult, I love the movie for the characterization of Clark in love with Lois, him wanting Lois to love Clark, and not Superman, the amazing chemistry and sexual tension between Lois and Superman. Of course, the SFX during 70’s perhaps couldn’t match today’s technology, but that’s a minor issue.

The sequels haven’t matched up to the technical superiority of the original- story, character development etc. There was even crass scene, depicting the consummation of love between Superman and Lois in the second sequel. The latest sequel, paid homage to original one in many ways. I hope the next movie, whenever it comes out, improves the SFX, and finds the balance between action and character development. Perhaps, a combination of Dark Knight and the original Superman, is what’s needed.

NB – I’m working on the last chapter of ‘Incredible Mr. Joshi’, hopefully by end of this week I’ll post it. I don’t plan to reveal who the murderer is, rather just set up the story, for anyone wishing to solve the crime.

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Whodunit? (Part 1)

[Links to Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of the story]

Hasmukh, was walking up to Usha’s house, when Police Commissioner’s car told him what he feared the most. There was a death at Usha’s house. He should have listened to his instincts. A feeling of great regret just washed over him at the moment.

Hasmukh saw John was standing by the flower bed, under Usha’s window. Hasmukh walked up to him, and looked at John. The sadness in John’s eyes, gave Hasmukh another shock – Usha was the victim. Never in his wildest dreams did Hasmukh imagine that Usha would die so suddenly; her death was as surprising, if not more surprising, than Nitin’s death.

Hasmukh walked over to Police Commissioner- his good friend Mr. Shekhar D’souza.

“Hey Shekhar, what happened?”

“Very sad news, Hasmukh. Usha was strangled and mauled in her sleep last night.”

“So, you really think it was a murder?”

“Yes, absolutely. No doubt about it.”

Hasmukh, looked down at his shoes. He made a decision. “Shekhar, can I help you solve the crime. I would love to get hold of the bastard who did this.”

“Hasmukh, I admire you, however, I think this is a not detective story, where the murderer was in the house. It looks like an outside job.”

“Shekhar, let me help you. I had a terrible feeling yesterday at dinner that there was a murderer in that house.”

“Fine. I’ll give you all the resources you need.”

Happy with Shekhar’s affirmation, Hasmukh walked over to John.

“John, I know you loved your madam to death. I will find who did this. And I need your help. Holmes had Watson, Poirot had Hastings. Will you be my John?”

“Sir, my last name is Gomes.” The momentarily relief through John’s humor, confirmed Hasmukh’s desire to use John as his sounding board.

Hasmukh was staring at the flower bed, his eyes slowly rising up to the open window. He presumed it was Usha’s room. Better to confirm it, though.

“John, is that, I mean, was that Usha’s bedroom?”

“Yes, sir. They haven’t yet taken the body. Photographers having been taking pictures.”

Hasmukh was looking down at the flower bed dejectedly, when he suddenly had an idea- “Shekhar, why do you say it was an outside job?”

“Well, the window in her room was flung open. John testified that he closed it every evening, and it wasn’t hot at all yesterday. Oh, and there’s a pipe next to her window, from which the murderer could have climbed up. Her safe was open, and some contents were missing.”

“Hmm…I did see some glass shards on the flower bed. Two things – why didn’t Usha wake up when the window was broken? And why didn’t anyone else hear the sounds and wake up?”

“Hasmukh, that’s easy. Usha took sleeping pills with her, John said so. The guests were sleeping on the other side of house. You know this is a big house.”

“Too easily answered, in my opinion. Ok, take a look at the flower bed, and tell me does nothing strike you as odd about it?”

Police Commissioner trained his eyes toward the flower bed, “No, it looks pristine. What’s so odd about?”

Hasmukh managed to smile, “Exactly, that’s the problem. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a look at the body.”

Shekhar thought to himself, “Old man’s lost it from shock of losing his friend.”

*————————————————————————————*

Hasmukh looked around the room – Usha’s, rather her dead body, was lying on the bed. A serene look over her face.

“She had no idea that she was being murdered.” There was sound of relief in Hasmukh’s voice. It steeled him even further.

Hasmukh walked around. He stopped by Usha’s bed, picked up the half-full glass of water. He sniffed it, and put it back down. There wouldn’t be any traces left in water by now.

Shekhar interrupted him, “I took fingerprints from the glass, and lab just called and said that there only Usha’s prints on glass.”

Hasmukh had a bemused expression on his face. He walked over by the safe, and saw it was open; yet, nothing seemed out of place. He walked over to window, looked outside and satisfied himself.

Finally, he said to Shekhar, “Come, let’s talk to the family members. We’ll get our next clue from them.”

Later, Usha’s body was taken to the morgue for post-mortem. Results of the post-mortem confirmed what was already known – Usha died in her sleep, she was strangled and injuries were post-mortem. She was heavily sedated, traces of over-the-counter sleeping pills were found in her blood.

[Chapter will be split into 2 posts; I’ll post the 2nd part later]

Murder!

[Chapter 1 of my story here]

Hasmukh was whistling a merry tune, as he walked up the path and rang Usha’s doorbell. What a gorgeous Friday morning. It had been a couple days since he had last seen Usha, and was hoping to get invited for dinner.

Hasmukh muttered to himself, “I wish I had a cook half as good as Usha’s, retired life would be so much easier.”

Hasmukh had never truly enjoyed the joys of good cooking. Single, always traveling, and eating at Army mess, he had become used to terrible cooking. Until now, after retiring he moved to Udhgam and started frequenting Usha’s for dinner. Life was good – Hasmukh enjoyed Usha’s company and was able to indulge in exotic cuisine.

Hasmukh snapped out of his thought, as John opened the door, ” Ah, Mr. Hasmukh. Good morning, sir!”

“Good morning, John. Is Usha around?”

“Yes sir. She’s upstairs preparing for guests for weekend. I’ll call her, please take a seat”

Hasmukh walked into the living room, and sat down, looking over the view he had seen many times over the last 3 years. On the mantelpiece, there was a picture of Nitin, just before he died. Next to Nitin’s picture were some pictures chronicling Usha’s married life – her sons, good times with Nitin.

Hasmukh wished that Usha would move past the tragic end of Nitin’s life. Hasmukh had tried hard to bring spark in Usha’s life, and had failed miserably. Hasmukh looked up just in time to see Usha come into the living room.

“Hi Hasmukh. How are you? Haven’t seen you in a couple of days.”

“Good morning, Usha. Yes, it has been a few days. I was out of town, visiting a couple of my Army friends. What a good time it was”

“Usha, why don’t you come over to my place for dinner, and I can tell you all about it.”

“No Hasmukh. My sons, Sam and Neha’s family are coming this weekend.”

“All of them!”

Usha caught the momentarily look of surprise on Hasmukh’s face. She chuckled, “Yes. Can you believe it. Anyways, why don’t you come over to dinner with the guests. I’m sure Amit’s new girlfriend would love to hear your Army stories.”

Hasmukh for all his qualities, had a fatal flaw- he could never resist an opportunity to tell a story. Hasmukh was a very perceptive, sharp fellow. Yet, he missed the dryness in Usha’s voice.

“Yes, 8pm is just fine. If you don’t mind now, I need go fix the house before evening. See you later.”

Hasmukh was happy. He was looking forward to tonight’s dinner, and telling the new guests about his experiences as an MP in the Army.

“Sure, what time? Is 8 o’clock a good time?”

Usha wasn’t surprised at Hasmukh’s accepting his invitation. She knew anybody else would have declined the invitation, not Hasmukh. Yet, she was glad he accepted, a friendly face in today’s crowd wouldn’t a bad idea.

*—————————————————–*

From distance the dinner table seemed a merry bunch of people. Yet, only Hasmukh was enjoying the conversation. He looked around the dinner table. Usha, appropriately, was at the head table. On her left side were her 3 sons. Neha, her son Uday, and her husband Amar were sitting to Usha’s right. Opposite Usha was Hasmukh, and he was flanked by Amit’s girlfriend Jenny to his right, and Sam to his left. Hasmukh had never met either of them before, and was telling them the stories about his experiences at border during ’71 war.

Jenny was good at faking interest and kept goading Hasmukh to tell more stories. Sam on the other hand was quite fidgety and nervous. A couple of times, she even dropped her fork, prompting John to bring out new silverware.

Ashit and Avanish were talking amongst themselves. They both had hit upon a great business idea, and needed capital investment. They had tried and failed to get loans from market, and the only option left was their mother. They knew their mother was not going to easily give them the money. Yet, they knew they’ll be in for a rich inheritance when she passes away.  They were going over the details of the plans that was hatched prior to coming to Udhgam.

Amit, was in a pensive mood. He didn’t want to come to Udhgam, but he had no choice. Nobody knew that Jenny wasn’t his girlfriend. Jenny was a drug dealers associate, and was squeezing Amit for money that he didn’t have. Drugs, alcohol and money were his vices, and he was paying the price. Amit needed money fast to pay off Jenny, or his fate will catch up with him fast. He had to desperately convince his mother for the copious amounts of money.

Neha was smiling to herself. She was poor, in debt and had no way of coming up with the money. Finally, the lady luck was smiling – she had hatched on a plan that would make her rich. Despite Usha’s modest way of living, she had come into information about Usha’s wealth and will. The share would make her rich, but not quite. There was another thing – the anticipation was killing her.

Amar was here to get away from Bombay, and away from Neha. He couldn’t stand her alone. Any more time with her, and he’d kill her.

Uday had heard about Sam coming this weekend. He just wanted one more opportunity to meet with her and woo her. He couldn’t think of anything else other than Sam.

A thought crossed the murderer’s mind – “Yes, tonight’s the night. I’ll do it. She has to die.”

Hasmukh cleared his throat, “In my experience, a murderer is a product of opportunity and psychology.”

Jenny interjected, “Don’t you think, Mr. Hasmukh, that murder is committed for money,” stealing a sideways glance at Amit.

A silence suddenly descened the dining room. There was a perplexed expression on Usha’s face.

Hasmukh broke the silence – “No. Murder has motives, but most of the motives are psychology of the victim. A victim has always done something to antagonize the murderer. Most famous cases in history have always been about the perceived injustice felt by the murderer.A murderer sees the opportunity, a psychological moment, where he or she can’t be explicitly blamed for it, and commits the crime. Any one in this room could be a murderer, provided there was an opportunity.”

Sam laughed heartily at that comment. Hasmukh ignored her, putting it down to her nervousness.

Conversation steered away from morbid topic of death to current political situation and economic climate.

*—————————————————–*

Hasmukh Joshi, retired Army officer, was walking back to his home, when he suddenly froze. The whole gravity of the situation at dinner just dawned on him. There was a murderer in the room; he couldn’t point who he or she was. His instinct told him there was a murder going to happen in Usha’s house. He turned back, and retraced his steps to Usha’s house.

Hasmukh stopped again – what was he going to say? He didn’t know who the murderer or victim was? He didn’t want to warn the murderer away. He decided to pursue the matter next morning – he strangely started to feel very tired. Murder probably won’t happen tonight. The opportunity wasn’t there. With that Hasmukh returned home, and retired to his bed.

Next morning, he woke up to the news of Usha’s death.

Housekeeping

I just put up the first chapter of my short story. I didn’t expect to write a novel; so to reach a happy medium, my first story is going to consist of 3, maybe 4 chapters. All of the chapters should be a short and a quick read. I’m still trying to figure out a style for my narrative vs. dialogues. Hopefully, by end of this story, I would have figured out a way to make it more engaging. Oh, since this is my first attempt at a story, character development might not be consistent across the board- I hope to develop Hasmukh’s character and a couple of other characters fully. Am not so sure I can do that for the rest of the players, with me choosing to restrict myself to a few pages.

Any feedback, is much appreciated.

The Incredible Mr. Joshi

Chapter 1 – All Come Home

Usha looked at her messy bedroom, and sighed. So much work to do, and so little time. Why did everybody have to come at the same time. She loved having guests, just not all the same time. Usha preferred the peace and quite offered by the charming hill-station of Udhgam.

John asked, “Madam, how many towels should I put in the bedrooms?”, interrupting her thoughts.

Usha hated John’s habit of interrupting her thoughts, yet she liked him for being efficient around the house, taking care of all her needs. Finally, she admitted that she needed the guests this weekend.

After Nitin’s death, there was a void in Usha’s life. Two of her children – Ashit and Avanish lived in Bombay, and the third, Amit, in Pune. Her time was spent between trying to convince her 3 kids to marry, tending to her garden and reading history books. Visitors like her niece Sam, her husband’s sister Neha and her son Uday, would stop by and give her company. Occassionally, her eccentric neighbor – Hasmukh Joshi, would stop by for dinner. He would try to regale her with stories about ’71 War, and psychology of criminals.

Hasmukh Joshi, was a retired Army major, studied Psychology in college and loved reading about criminals. He fancied himself to be a detective. He came from Hercule Poirot’s school of criminology – it was always about the Psychology of the victim. Hasmukh was born just before British left India, always spoke propah English, dressed oddly and always for a formal occasion. Often, one would hear him say, “A man’s stature is always measured by the dress he wears”. Hasmukh was fond of Usha, he could see the pain of losing her husband in her eyes. It never occured to him that Usha would find Hasmukh’s company boring, after all Hasmukh always had a story to tell.

“Madam,” John woke Usha up from her reverie.

“Oh, sorry, what did you ask, John?”. John softly repeated his question.

“Let’s see, Amit is coming with his girlfriend. Ashit and Avanish, thank god for small favors, aren’t showing up with their eye-candy” deadpanned Usha.

John knew how much Usha wanted daughter-in-laws and grand-kids to pass her time. Yet, her sons never understood their mother’s desire to have grand-kids.

“Oh, John, Sam, Neha and her whole gang are coming too. Of all the weekends to come, they had to choose this weekend.”

John, slipped away, chuckling to himself- here comes the madness. He knew, Neha and Uday, were after Usha’s money and were always at some pretext trying to siphon money away from her. Sam, a college student, was one of the weirdest persons he’d ever met. There was definitely something sinister about her. Icing on the cake was Neha’s estranged husband, who never socialized, but from looks of it was coming down to Udhgam.

“I hope the madhatter is only coming here for a vacation, and not up to something,” John said to himself.

Ashit, Amit and Avanish were peas of a pod. Always up to something, but never anything good. Always changing careers, job, homes to find the right fit. Once, in a matter of a year, Ashit went from Investment Banking to real estate to selling stuff on internet. To top it off, they couldn’t settle down with a girl. The women, oh the women. Three of them were always falling in love, getting fleeced by women. John laughed everytime he thought about the day when the three brothers were to get married, to the same women- and neither of them realized it! Comedy of errors, meet David Dhawan.

“This should be a fun weekend!” John told the cook, as he walked into the kitchen.

Little did he know that he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Writing

Few days ago, Rabindranath Tagore, if he were alive, would have celebrated his 149th birthday. Tagore was India’s first, and as far I know the only, Nobel prize recipient in Literature. Tagore’s purity of writing in Bengali (the same was lost in translation to English) and ability to conjure up images through his words, attracted me towards Gitanjali – his magnus opus. On twitter, Bhalomanush said that we shouldn’t define Tagore by his Nobel prize. I disagree with him, simply because in 1913 Nobel prize meant something, not any more. Perhaps, Bhalomanush is right, Tagore was more than Gitanjali. An excellent scholarly article by Amartya Sen on Tagore here. I first read this piece in Sen’s  ‘An Argumentative Indian’.

I am going to take an inspiration from Tagore, and start writing short stories. Yep, me going to be an unpublished writer. And if my wife’s reading this blog, she’s probably thinking I’ve lost it in China. Hopefully, I’ll finish my first story by end of this week. Neither do I have an engaging style of writing, nor am I good at using prose often found in classic literature.My writing often consists of simple and short sentences. Hopefully, that’ll be the kind of writing to bring folks to my blog, or not. I do promise to not pull a Chetan Bhagat and will keep my grammar mistakes to a minimum, if not completely eliminate them.

WTF Headlines of the day

After successfully surviving a late nighter for a presentation class, I feel like celebrating. I’m sure Indian cricket team will try to not disappoint me. So in that anticipation, a few mind bottling links of the day.

Without further ado, random dumplings of the day-

  • Title of world’s richest woman wasn’t available
  • How not to use words in a headline
  • This to be tagged in No fucking way!
  • Too funny not to pass along (courtesy Ramesh Srivats on Twitter)

Sigh…case study to finish, so over and out for now.