Monday, February 27, 2006

Ich bin Tagged

Oooooooooo!!! We've been tagged, we've been tagged, we've been tagged!!! [Skips up and down] This is very flattering, we are positively shouting from the rooftops, I say. We have also been accused of making lists, we haven't made lists in ages! Time has lists, but do you see anyone tagging Time? No, sirree.

Be that as it may (and it is), this tag is an 'n' interesting. If you're wondering what 'n' means, we'll have to do '3-dimensional surrender', 'general Olympics' and deesh.

Total number of books owned

We make a distinction between 'owned', and 'bought'. Rough estimates on the latter are 300-350 in Hyderabad, maybe 2 dozen in Vizag, and about a dozen that have been 'borrowed'. If, however, we speak of 'owned', there is a whole wall of crumbly books that is sitting in Vizag that we will inherit. That is, shortly after we have gagged and bound the sibling and dropped her into one of her precious croc pits, and laced amma's tea with some suitably humane toxin.

Last book(s) we bought

This was on Saturday. At Walden, we bought John Keay's When Men and Mountains Meet : The Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1820-1875 and Confronting Love, edited by Jerry Pinto and Arundhati Subramaniam. We then proceeded to waddle over to Odyssey (mainly for the cafe), and mysteriously ended up buying India Discovered by a certain John Keay (Yes, we've decided to own all John Keays. Our recommendation to donors is that when that "Got to give Ludwig a book!!!" impulse seizes you, check with us, and give us a Keay we do not own yet. We will grovel at your Lotus feet in abject humility and gratitude.)

Last books(s) we read

The broken record continues. We read Sowing The Wind. We also re-read a bunch of books we'd already read, but what's the fun in that?

Books we are currently reading

Apart from dipping into the ones we bought this weekend, we are engaged in concurrently reading Pillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux and another book. We really like Theroux because he is observatory (yes, his pet name is Jantar Mantar) and sarcastic, and sympathetic when necessary. If we could, we would make a living out of doing what Theroux did. We also like Theroux because he grew up in Meffid, and he keeps referring to Meffid, and Summahville and Cambridge, and Baws'hn in his writings. We may have done some long runs near his house when we were circumambulating the Mystic Lakes in the summer of '03.

We are also re-dipping into The Riemann Hypothesis. One of these days, we'll understand the whole damn thing, prove (or disprove) it, pocket a cool million, and retire.

Five books that we have really enjoyed or influenced me

Five? Five??? This seems to be the response that all self respecting reader types seem to be giving to this koschan. Nevertheless, we will shamelessly plagiarize an idea floated by the jester and and idea floated by the individual under the influence of infusions made from an Amazonian giant vine, and implement here.


Somerset Maugham - Of Human Bondage
Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird
J.R.R.Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings, Silmarillon (when you're a certain age and are at certain institutes, this can't be helped, sorry)
Lawrence Durrell - The Alexandria Quartet
R.K.Narayan - Swami and Friends

Also Jack Kerouac - On The Road, Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment, Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient, Kazuo Ishiguro - Remains of the Day, Haruki Murakami - Wild Sheep Chase, Kiran Nagarkar - Seven Sixes are Forty Three and so on. This is really pointless.


John Keay - The Honourable Company (well, this was the first, but needed to be read)
James McPherson - Battle Cry of Freedom
Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs and Steel
V. Narayana Rao, David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyam - Textures of Time: Writing History in South India
Crease & Mann - The Second Creation


Stephen Dobyns - Pallbearers Envy The One Who Rides
Coleman Barks's Rumi book
Various - Making Love To Marilyn Monroe
V. Narayana Rao, David Shulman - A Poem at the Right Moment: Remembered Verses from Pre-modern South India. This is a must have. [Nudges violently :)]
Constantine Cavafy - The Complete Poems of Constantine Cavafy

This is getting tiresome, we stop here. There are several other 'influential' books (Alistair Maclean who set off the whole Navy obsession, Commando comics which set off the whole Rommel obsession, Rani Mukherjee who set off the whole Jibanananda Das obsession, Ruskin Bond who set off the Himalaya obsession, Kenneth Anderson who set off the whole South Indian wildlife obsession and so on).

Books we plan to buy next

Bit of a mystery. Only definite ones in mind are the Keay books, and Kolatkar's Kala Ghoda poems. This one we've been looking for high and low and not been able to find in Hyderabad.

Books that caught our attention but we have never read

Oh God, so many.

James Joyce - Pretty much everything, but Ulysses mostly
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Again, everything
Milan Kundera - Ditto
J.M.Coetzee - Ditto

And so on.

Books we own but have never got around to reading

Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace (Hello, Veena)
Douglas Hofstadter - Godel, Escher, Bach (started, but haven't finished, yet)
John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath
Voltaire - Candide
Lawrence Durrell - The Avignon Quintet

People we are passing this on to

The loblolly, who never ceases to remind us how well-read she is; Srin, who with the addition of movie star hair has become a bona fide celebrity (even if she questions the existence of sepia); Deski, who has cooked a number of bun-omlettes and is waiting for public to consume; young Thos., maybe this will get him to post something finally; and Anand, because he will definitely have something interesting to say.

Friday, February 17, 2006

PFR 2006

It is comforting to know that one can wake up in the morning, ablute, accept a cup of steaming Chikmangalur coffee from amma, grab the newspaper, and saunter terraceward; and find the Indian Navy thoughtfully arranged in the roadstead (as it were), for one's kind perusal.

To smell the rising vapour of the coffee; to feel the crisp crinkliness of newsprint as one peels open the sports page (usually to find that Onnu Onnu Onnu has won again, praise the Lord 1); and to gaze upon the clean, unfussy lines of the Mumbai, as she waits silently on the navy's flagship whose grey bulk lowers a couple of boat lengths from her bows. Is this too much to ask of life?

The 9th Presidential Fleet Review happened last weekend at Vizag - home and headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command. Friday and Saturday were tiresome for the good people who live off Ramakrishna (RK) Beach. A quantity of "dignitaries" was due to land on top of this little city on Sunday. This sent the "authorities" into a tizzy of organization and reorganization, especially the police. One could almost feel the frissons of anticipatory excitement as SI Appa Rao stopped our car as we were about to turn into the street where home lies, "Traffic not allowed, please cooperate sir. Order from superior officer." We were barred from entering our own homes!! Sacre bleu! But then, it will be a long time before anything like this ever happens, so we said, c'est la vie and plodded on.

Some of us carefully studied the anchorage plan, so that later on we could rattle off the classes (if not the names) of the vessels parked outside our windows. Of course, it would take a particularly clueless landlubber who would need the anchorage plan to tell the Centaur, Kashin, Krivak and Leander classes apart. Apparently, such people exist. Tsk tsk.

Sunday morning was bright, warm, and hazy. One could only vaguely discern the shapes of the argosy in the distance. Nevertheless, the Prez boarded his "yacht" (we wants one!!) and went up and down the lines of ships, as the sailors manned the decks and cried

Rashtrapati Ki Jai! (3)

As the Presidential column steamed past the outermost line of ships on the seaward side, a number of other ships, submarines and aircraft propagated past at high speed.

Lunch was taken at 2:00. By now, to our astonishment, all the ships had vanished. Gone without a trace.

In the evening, many peepals converged on RK Beach. This was an enthralling sight. (Normally the peepals in Vizag stay rooted to the ground and twirl their leaves in the sunlight.) Be that as it may, the lucky ones with navy issue passes (us, my precious, us!!) found ourselves sitting on the strand, more or less right next to the Presidential stage thingumabob. The sun beat down on the throng. Busybodies were going about, asking people to sit down and stay calm. A vendor was selling cucumbers, "Fresh cucumbers, cool cucumbers." OK, that really didn't happen, but we could've used a cuc. or two.

Proceedings began with the flying past of two power gliders that made a few low passes over the assemblage; the silhouettes of the pilots waving to us. Public was enraptured, and everyone craned their heads skywards and babbled, like so many pigeon chicks waiting for mama (We hate pigeons!!!!!! But this will take a whole post to explain...) Even as the gliders receded in the distance, the placid waters of the Bay of Bengal were churned into a frenzy, as a brace of Super Dvora Mk. II class fast patrol vessels strutted their stuff for drooling Vizagites. Up and down they went, zipzapzoom, tight turns, firing of flares. Very pretty.

While this went on, unbeknownst to us, a bunch of paratroopy chappies had jumped off a Sea King at 8000 feet and started plumetting earthward. As their chutes opened, a collective gasp went up from the pigeon chicks. The fallschirmjaeger swooped down over public and landed right in front of the Prez's podium. They were guided by some smoke bomb type thingys.

The Prez arrived, the Postmaster General presented him with a commemorative stamp, a pair of Chetaks flew past the podium carrying the Indian flag and naval ensign, Lt. Commander Rashmi Singh also dropped in (literally, mit parachute attached, merupu teega laaga in the words of the Telugu announcer) and presented Prez with a commemorative Eastern Naval Command coffee table book, and so on. Once all this hullaballoo had died down, we were free to turn our attention oceanwards, as more interesting things began to happen. Four Type 25 A Kora class guided missile corvettes steamed past in formation.

Everyone was engrossed in this corvettian display. All eyes were turned towards 2 o'clock. No one saw something emerge rapidly out of left field.

Glory be, she came back!!!! She was sailing right in front of our unbelieving eyes. She was gorgeous. She turned into the wind smartly, and launched 3 Harriers in short order. She landed one more, and slipped away towards the horizon.

Not to be outdone by this ostentatious display of naval aviation, 1 nos. Delhi class, 1 nos. Krivak class, 1 nos. Kashin class and 1 nos. Leander class ships came out of the blue, and even as they passed (in staggered formation), 1 nos. Sea King and 3 nos. Kamov helicopters came flying in and hovered over the helipad on the poop deck.

The boys from "Sagar Pavan", the naval aerial acrobatics fellows, showed up from behind us, and did a number of ridiculously dangerous and dangerously ridiculous things (because it was Valentine's day, 3 of them flew about "painting" a heart in the sky, complete with interesecting arrow) with their planes.

We were all wondering what the two oil rig like structures off the beach were. We found out soon enough. A bunch of marine commandos (MARCOs) shot off from the beach in a dinghy type thing, acted busy at the feet of the oil rigs, and a few moments later, they were blown away to kingdom come. A thoughtful Sea King picked them up mid-sea and flitted around with the MARCOs hanging off the rope.

A Kilo class boat that had been coyly lurking in the background chose this moment to launch its own detachment of MARCOs.

These buggers advanced on the Prez, to the accompaniment of much rat-a-tat-boom, staging some sort of an Operation Overlord redux.

Beating of retreat occurred (they played Bolero), and everyone started trooping home, muchly satiated. Later, when it was dark, there was a splendid firing of guided missile, rockets, tracers and ack-ack.

And then the lighting of the lamps.

1. A most remarkable equine. Shows up in the news practically every day. Its always Onnu Onnu Onnu this, O. (3) that, nowadays. This may warrant a separate post.

2. More pictures here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

शं नो वरुणः

It is upon us. We are seeking it, all our thought is bent on it. She will be there, they will wait on her, and these ones will be lurking. There will fireworks, and lighting and all.

And its all happening at home. We can sees it from the terrace. And we're going to.


Thanks to these good fellas for transliteration facilities.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ludwig Who?

A question that has oft been asked is, "Why Ludwig?". And, "Ludwig who?". And, "Who's Ludwig?". And "Whose Ludwig?". Clarifications are in order. In the Beginning, we assumed that the choultry would give rise to more questions than the Ludwig, but strangely enough, everyone seems to be very okay with the choultry.

Verily, the Poetess has said, "How many of you are there? Let me count the Ludwigs."
  • William F. L. (Sr.) - Born in 1879 in Germany, migrated to the US, set up a drum company which went on to be reasonably successful. No particular reason to take particular note for this Ludwig, if it were not for the salient fact that the best band ever happened to use this Ludwig's drums. Rock on, Ludwig.

  • L. Mies van der Rohe - German born, leading architect of the modernist flavour. Do not know too much about this gentleman, but he seems to be a nice sort of Ludwig to be.

  • UPDATE (16 Feb 2006) L. Friedrich Wilhelm - In a horrendous error of omission, we left out this other architecturally significant Ludwig from the list and have been suitably castigated. He built crazy castles, ornately decorated, was a great fan of Dick, and died mysteriously.

  • L. von Mises - Economist and social philosopher. Libertarian. This, unfortunately doesn't endear him very much to us. Not that there's much wrong with being a libertarian. While we're not very clear as to exactly what kind of a creature libertarianism is, we have read enough to suggest that we wouldn't agree with most of what most libertarians espouse. But then we have libertarian friends and family, so we get by with a little help from our friends.

  • L. Andreas Feuerbach - German philosopher. Apparently inventor of the phrase, "You are what you eat." This would make us a chicken biryani.

  • L. Eduard Boltzmann - Now we're dragging ourselves out of the realm of the Merely Great Ludwigs to the sphere of the Sublimely Immortal ones. Many will disagree with our characterization of Herr Boltzmann as a Sublimely I. Lud. But for heaven's sake, the man invented statistical mechanics. For someone who has not invented much beyond a new and interestingly gruesome way to pick one's nose, inventing a whole branch of science appears to be the Holy Grail. Bolty also has a constant named after him. If they name a constant after us, it will be defined as
    Ludwig's R is the constant governing the relationship between the number of biryanis consumed over a lifetime to the girth of the individual. In limiting cases, the girth may increase to such a magnitude that traditional bipedal locomotion becomes a physical impossibility. Once the limiting value is reached, the individual propagates non-rectilinearly by using one's girth as a tyre to roll in the desired direction. Discovered by Ludwig von Pizzathehutt while seated at a table in Paradise...
    We bow with deep respect to L. Eduard Boltzmann.

  • Beethoven - God. We wish we were like him. Deaf, insane, bitter.
But but but, Ladeej and Gentlebhainses, we present the winner of the Ludwig sweepstakes. There is simply too much information about Him on the internet, but suffice it to say that anyone who can come up with "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen." has got to be in a class of his own. We will depart, with some quotes and stories about The Ludwig.
  1. Russell, on meeting Ludwig for the first time - "An unknown German appeared ... obstinate and perverse, but I think not stupid"

  2. Russell, one year later - "I shall certainly encourage him. Perhaps he will do great things ... I love him and feel he will solve the problems I am too old to solve"

  3. Ludwig's doctoral dissertation examination - It (his Ph.D. thesis) was examined by Russell and Moore; at the end of the thesis defence, Ludwig clapped the two examiners on the shoulder and said, "Don't worry, I know you'll never understand it." Moore commented in the examiner's report to the effect that: "In my opinion this is a work of genius; it is, in any case, up to the standards of a degree from Cambridge."

  4. Keynes, in a letter to his wife Lydia Lopokova - "Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5.15 train."

  5. UPDATE(9 Feb 2006): Ludwig devoted his philosophical energies largely to identifying and combating what he regarded as insidiously disruptive forms of 'nonsense'. An anecdote from Fania Pascal
    I had my tonsils out and was in the Evelyn Nursing Home feeling sorry for myself. Wittgenstein called. "How are you?", he asked. I croaked: "I feel just like a dog that has been run over." Witggenstein sounded disgusted: "You don't know what a dog that has been run over feels like."
So, in short - we were looking for a nice tag line for the blog; "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must pass over in silence." seemed like a great one; and therefore Ludwig was adopted.