Archive for June, 2012

When you see an erotic novel, er..a trilogy topping the bestseller charts, you naturally assume that the books have something more than, well, “kinky f**kery” as the author of the said trilogy describes it. Turns out you could be wrong. The Fifty Shades trilogy, which is made up of the books “Fifty Shades of Grey“, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed“, offers little more than some extremely detailed and just moderately innovative sex.

E.L. James, the author of the series, used to write fanfiction. Fifty Shades, I’m told, is an adaptation of a fanfiction (If you can believe there’s such a thing) that she wrote on the Twilight Series. Now if you have read a few fanfictions, and I have, you’ll have noticed two common traits present in most of them. One, the authors always make the characters bigger and grander than in the original books, sort of a pathetic bid to outdo the original authors. Two, a lot and a lot and a lot of completely unnecessary sex. If that sounds bad in the context of Twilight, believe me, there are fan-written versions of Harry Potter that will make you gag.

Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand : Fifty Shades fits those two characteristics perfectly. Edward in Twilight was good-looking.  Christian Grey of Fifty Shades is impossibly good-looking and handsome. Edward and his family was rich. Christian of Fifty Shades earns “roughly a hundred thousand dollars an hour” and belongs to an old rich family. Bella’s mom and dad were divorced. Anastasia Steele’s mom has been through no less than four husbands. Get the picture?

As for the second characteristic that I mentioned of fanfictions, you are not going to be disappointed. In fact, you might get tired of it by the end of the first part and find yourself skipping pages in the second and the third. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I certainly did.

Just to give you an idea 🙂

Christian Grey, the rather faded xerox copy of Edward, is predictably handsome, intelligent, kind, generous, strong, muscular and ultra-rich. He’s also a f***ing psycho, which seems to be the central theme of all three novels. Rather remarkable choice of subject, don’t you think? Anyway, here’s how the story goes (Don’t worry about spoilers, you could have written this yourself) : Anastasia Steele, your average lovely young virgin, goes to interview Grey and falls in love with him. But this Grey is more than you think. He has had a troubled childhood. As a result (please don’t ask me or expect the author to explain), he has turned into a control freak and a sadist, a dominant who likes to tie up young girls and do some extremely obscene things to them. Rich guy that he is, he has an entire room devoted to his Dom-Sub activities. He doesn’t have a heart, nor any tender feelings, he doesn’t do hearts and flowers. In his own words, he f**ks, and hard. Oh by the way, before he takes any of his subs to his “Red Room of Pain”, he makes them sign a non-disclosure agreement, although he knows that sort of an agreement can never be legally binding. Like I said, don’t ask me to explain.

To continue, this paragon decides to make Ana one of his subs and make good use of all his crops and whips and clamps(don’t ask) and plugs(please don’t ask) on her delicious young body. And then of course, she turns out to be more than he gave her credit for. She, in between numerous sessions of intense physical exertion, finds herself smitten, frightened or curious about this man. Yes, they fall in love. Yes, they fight. Yes they struggle to understand each other. Yes, he is overprotective and she finds that suffocating. Yes, she takes risks and he finds that frustrating. Yes, they go through a trial separation. Yes they get married. Yes there’s the obligatory villain and vamp. Yes there’s a happy ending. And yes, they have a lot of issues which they think they will talk and argue and fight about, but both their underwears melt at the sight of each other, all issues forgotten and forgiven. And Yes, of course, they f**k roughly a hundred times a book in about fifteen different ways. See what I meant about not bothering with spoiler alerts?

In my humble opinion, these books (pick any) are good. Provided you’re not looking for anything other than some light porn to pass the time. Ana’s inner goddess speaks way too much. Christian gets mad much too often. The rest of the cast is exactly what you get in any second-rate novel. The conversations are absurd. (For Americans, they speak in too British a way.) And all that fuss about Christian getting carried away with his dominant streak and Ana getting hurt because of it, well, trust me, it’s not worth it.

The books, admittedly, have been immensely popular. That’s understandable. Most people love soft porn. Especially when then can enjoy it while pretending to do something else, i.e, reading a novel. I heard someone say that these books are awesome, because they make men and women explore their own and each other’s sexuality. Well, no offense pal, but if you need to read three novels to explore your own or your husband/wife’s sexuality, maybe medical attention is what you need even more.

Laters, baby.

The Author

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Most war or action novels have a few things in common : A handsome hero who can shoot you between the eyes with his left hand while he lights a cigar with his right, a funny sidekick who never ever tries to steal the limelight, a pretty girl who is in serious and frequent need of rescuing, and plenty of ugly, stupid bad guys. My favorite one of all time (and I assure you, I’ve read a lot), however, involves a single warship at sea. The handsome hero is missing, so are sidekicks and pretty girls. The bad guys are not ugly or stupid at all. They are menacing, ruthless and brilliant; and they manage to outfox the good guys at almost every turn.

Welcome to HMS Ulysses (1955), the first novel by the Scottish author Alistair Maclean.  Maclean, incidentally, also happens to be one of my favorite authors. The story takes place in the backdrop of World War II, and offers a barely believable and emotionally shattering picture of what used to happen in the ill-fated Russian Convoys of WWII. For those of you unfamiliar with the Russian convoys, please check out the link. Also, just to give you an idea of the conditions on those ships, here’s a glimpse of HMS Sheffield on a such a convoy sometime between 1941-45, courtesy Wikipedia :

To return to our story, it’s about an ill-fated voyage of a light cruiser of the Royal Navy. HMS Ulysses, a warship armed with all the latest technologies of her time, is used to escort the merchant ships through the Arctic Ocean, trying to protect them from German attacks as they sail to Russian ports carrying priceless supplies of war equipment.  Repeated voyages through the extreme arctic conditions, the cold, the violent sea, lack of sleep, exhaustion, hunger, and the ever-present fear of a sudden, violent death delivered by a German torpedo or bomb has pushed the crew beyond human endurance. And after a short, failed mutiny, HMS Ulysses is once again ordered North to escort FR77, a convoy sailing from America to the Russian ports of Archangel and Murmansk. Most of the crew went because they were past caring. A few others, like the Captain Vallery, chose to do the job simply because it had to be done. The captain, whom the crew actually loved, is not one of your typical heroes. He is old, sick and dying. His loathing of war is matched only by his bitterness at the futility of it. He does not give rousing speeches, he is not a one man army, he is not a genius. He is just a common man, full of compassion and understanding, whose primary concern is always his men. The voyage is a catastrophe right from the moment it begins. The convoy has to face freak accidents, an unbelievably fierce storm and relentless, determined German attacks throughout the way. Interestingly, unlike most WWII novels, the Germans are not painted as monsters. In fact, the respect the officers and especially the captain has for a brave, determined and intelligent enemy is refreshing and moving.

The beauty of the book is not in its portrayal of naval battles or assault tactics. It is in its depiction of the human elements of the war and the brilliant way Maclean builds each character, from a lowly able seaman to an admiral of the fleet. Maclean describes the sub-human conditions on those ships with a level of detail that will, frankly, torture you. This is not a happy book. Although you will find the occasional humor here and there, the book is heartbreakingly sad in many, many places. You will suffer with each member of the crew as they travel through the hell that the Russian Convoys were. You will cry with them as their beloved ones die around them, you will start praying that the sufferings of the Ulysses be over or that it has a lucky break for a change.  You will love the characters : Tyndall, the admiral with his temper and his pain, Captain Vallery –  the man who carried the ship on his back, Brooks – the good doctor, the L.T.O Ralston who lost his entire family in the war and begged his captain to stay with the ship, The Kapok Kid and Nicholls, Riley and Petersen, you’ll come to know them, you’ll love them and in the end, you’ll cry for them. As I told you before, this is not a happy book. The closest thing to this you have probably come across will the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” Just like the movie, this tells you about the futility of war, about the mindless violence that takes away so many good men, and for no reason. It will tell you how ordinary men, left with no hope and no relief rise up to be heroes.

It’s  a story that will make you sad, but it’s worth knowing, because what you read is actually what happened or used to happen in the convoys in the war. In case you doubt that, please note that the author himself served during the war on HMS Royalist, a ship of the same class as Ulysses. Also, this is scarcely believable, but the story of HMS Ulysses is based loosely on the true events on Convoy PQ-17, a similar convoy which was travelling to Archangel in 1942 under similar conditions, and met a remarkably similar fate.

Alistair MacLean

Alistair MacLean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was 2 am, a crescent moon was giving the perfect glow that the sea needed as we lay on the beach with a million stars twinkling above us. Chandu, an expert astronomer was guiding us through the Orion and Taurus constellations. I have never seen a clearer sky. Tanay got up to guard the wind to light up a joint. We were already hallucinating with clouds looking like  Hanumanji flying and the boulders around us looking like some fairytale beasts.  We passed the joint around and finished the last bottle of beer. Somewhere around 100 mts from where we sat a group of foreigners were singing and playing guitar around a bonfire. The tune sounded like a song by Floyd, “Wish you were here”.  It’s been 5 years and I can still remember the smell in the air.

Om beach, a place in the western ghats not known by many. The best way to reach is by trekking from Gokarna town. It’s an easy but exciting 4 hours trek where you walk  through jungles and cross small streams with a beautiful view of the Arabian sea on one side. With the first glimple of Om beach you will understand why its called so.

India Karnataka Om Beach

India Karnataka Om Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After reaching we searched for a decent place to stay, Namaste Cafe had no rooms to spare. We were already high on 5 joints and were dying of hunger. We ordered some fish n chips and beer. The interior was very interesting with painted mud walls and ashtrays made of bamboo. The whole structure looked like a temporary shelter with no modern technologies used for anything. The 2 best things that I like about Om beach is, it has limited supply of electricity and no mobile network. A perfect vacation from civilization. No laws, no rules, practically you can do anything anywhere so long as you don’t bother someone else, in which case you’ll be thrown out. As we sat inside the cafe,  I saw the people from places all over the world. Some of them playing with their children, some reading books in the sunlight and some writing diaries and  some rolling joints or making a chillum. The place had an unnaturaly peaceful environment. No one had any idea which day or date it is or the time. No connection to the outer world. Its like living in a secluded island with a handful of people from different countries with same purpose.

Om Ganesh Cafe was around 10 minutes walk from were we stayed and the cafe looked like the place you always wanted to stay. A colourful and comfortable place. The interior was simple and everything informal. A tall dark guy wearing lungi (a wrap-around for guys covering from waist to feet) and a white vest with a big bright red flower tucket behind his left ear was the cook . He sat on top of our table with a huge smile and asked for our order. Everything was right out of a fairytale. The food was tasty, cheap and served in good quantity. The ambience was perfect with indian classical fusion music and beautiful colourful curtains flying around and everything around us was organic.  A beautiful clean beach, with hills in the backdrop and a few happy and trippy people around. A perfect place to get high.

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All we did those 3 days was eat, drink, smoke and stare at the untouched beauty of nature at its best. The experiences were crazy and strange. The silence so deep that you will hear the sound of your own heartbeat. The night was a playground for moonlight, darkness and stars. We were like alice in worderland. It was a journey that can never be forgotten, and it was nature that blew me again.

For those who might be interested in visiting the place, here’s the necessary info, courtesy Wikipedia :

Gokarna is about 453 km from Bangalore, 238 km north of Mangalore and about 59 km from Karwar. It is between the Gangavali and Agnashini rivers and situated along the Karwar coast by the Arabian Sea. It is 200 km north from the college towns of Suratkal and Manipal. Gokarna can be reached by buses and maxicabs from Kumta (36 km), Ankola (26 km) and Karwar (59 km) on National Highway 17( NH-17 ). Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) also runs long-journey buses from many cities like Panaji, Bangalore and Mangalore. Private buses (Vijayanand Roadlines – VRL, Sugama, Sea Bird, etc.) operate night journeys from the capital city of Bangalore to Gokarna daily. It can be reached by train Konkan Railway on the Mumbai to Mangalore route. The railway station ( called Gokarna Road ) is 6 km away from the town. The nearest airports are Dabolim at Goa and Mangalore International Airport at Bajpe.