Brewer’s Dictionary

A week after marriage, Diksha and I had gone to the Oxford store on Park Street, Kolkata. Mostly for its nostalgia value, I had really wanted to visit the place. The last time I went in there- I ended up purchasing a lot of Dicken’s newspaper novels and a DK Atlas. I never found the time to start with those mammoth novels- but I do still page through the Atlas- and it was a delight during the UPSC days. A much cleaner presentation than the darling of students- Oxford Atlases.

The problem with an aimless drop-in at a bookstore is selecting a few. Even in the age of internet abundance, books bring a journey that stop-and-go search of the internet cannot offer. Thanks to the relatively large literature population in Kolkata, you don’t risk being called names while just browsing through a shelf. I liked Kissinger’s book, Diplomacy, which was placed in one of the entry displays. I had heard about it a lot for many years, but never took the trouble of reading it. That was the first book I wanted to buy before I left the shop.

The next one was hidden in the back shelves of royalty-free books. It seems Oxford has released some of the classics in beautiful leatherback and very clean fonts. It’s difficult to find that quality with Indian presses. The Huckfinn and Moby Dick looked beautiful and lay unnoticed in the dark aisle. The trouble was- I would probably never put in the effort to read HuckFinn again, and Moby Dick is too big an epitome for my present life luxuries. Crossed off the list.

The last one I liked was a hardbound 17th edition of “Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable”. The book was being sold at discounted price of Rs 1,000. For a huge hardbound, that was a bargain I didn’t want to miss. Besides, I really loved the page quality and content. It was an encyclopedia of words that the digital dictionary could not replace. The only trouble was, we were carrying alot of weight for our flight back to Bangalore. And a book of that size and weight would not fit-in well.

As was to be, we came out of the shop with nothing in our hands. I had already packed some books from Jamshedpur for the MBA coursework, and any more additions to the pack would not justify the price-to-weight fees that airlines charge you. We ended up paying almost Rs 6,000 extra for the weight we were carrying despite the books we liked in Oxford.

Two week after we reached Bangalore, Diksha wanted to go visit the Blossoms bookshop on Church Street in Bangalore. We reached there early in the evening with plenty of time on our hand. Blossoms is the kind of bookstore where you are pretty much lost and on your own. Having the afternoon or evening dedicated just for browsing usually helps. Right outside the store, the Brewer’s dictionary was lying on a bench. Now, I had never heard of the book before I saw it in Park Street that evening. Later in the days following, I had discovered that it was, in fact, a very popular title being published for almost a century. I was happy that Blossoms exists in Bangalore.

We ended up buying a lot of books. Diksha calls it her quota for the year 2022.

On the variety of words

I like to think about the world around me. Tools and machines, professions and institutions, cultures and people- much of which I have very little knowledge and experience of. It is astonishing the amount of knowledge preserved in words. Much can be learned about any field of human-knowledge by simply understanding its vocabulary. It is not surprising then, how easy it was to restrict knowledge in the past. Shunning people not from your craft and guild.

I’m sure a harmless activity like gardening hides much in its terms. In fact, much of the secrets of gardening can perhaps be completely explained through its dictionary. There are sowing seasons and blooming seasons, types of shrubs, herbs and trees, arrangement of leaves, shears and loppers and rakes and hoes. You get the idea. As long as you know what constitutes “gardening” and its elements, you essentially know the entire field.


Garden at the Schultenhof in MettingenNorth Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

This is, of course, not true for all fields for human knowledge. Much of research is premised on discovering the unknown so it can be put in words and dictionaries to be passed to the next generation. Words then, become the aggregate of all human knowledge. Any man that “quickly” wants to get involved with the world, just needs to pick up the giant encyclopedia and look for the right words. In fact, that is what the schooling system and much of the higher education system geared for. It’s no mystery I am discovering.

Mahatma Gandhi, known for keeping maun-vrat every Monday, would finish off much of his week’s work that day.

Which brings me to the bitter side of language- the one that makes it too easy to sound smart at best and kills creativity at its worst. When powerful words are spoken without their value weighed out in the mind, they trivialize discussions. Impactful- on occasions- but exaggerated more often. When used in self-talk, they have the power to calm the restless and aggrieved self. Misused though, as words often are, we are pulled further into the misery of emotions. An addict summoned by his addiction, one last time to calm a thirst that won’t end. He will search for more powerful words- maybe to hurt us further, push us deeper into misery.

Humans have been smart for much long now. They documented in their stories and tales a lot of what they learnt. We are powered with much of our ancestors’ treasure trove of knowledge- condensed, at times, in single, crisp words. Very often, from across cultures and vast distances. I wish to pay homage to words and their power. They control our inner and outer lives more than what we give them credit for.


The Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Batman: Hush

Cover of first edition of Hush
(Published October 2002 )

Just finished watching a batman movie. Can’t remember the last time I watched anything batman, except the Nolan trilogy. The movie was called “Hush” and to tell the truth it was a rather mediocre story. I am not usually a fan of omnibuses which include all villains of a universe, but even if I were to let that pass, the romance between Catwoman and Batman was vomit inducing. When the writers know they are committing fan-service or atleast experimenting an idea they are not sure of, they tie the loose ends towards the end of the story to let the canon flow smooth. That seems to be the case with the depicted romance.

Film poster for Hush (Released July, 2019)

On the positive side, the animation was beautiful as we have come to expect from the WB house. The closing credits reminded me of art-style from the Arkham novels- some of the best animation in comic book history. The music went well with the story and the sound team seems very talented, unfortunately though, the story itself moves too fast and puts little effort in character development.

Not the worst movie to spend 1.2 hrs on. Look forward to give other batman movies a try. Cheers.

Untitled

Don’t go far from me
For I will be lost,
Like a child lost in a familiar room,
When all who know him have left,
I knock the walls around
Like they were made of wood,
The sound of knocks, alas,
Only heard to me.

Don’t go far from me
My screams will be faint,
Muffled by pain though
They began in wail,
And there will be no one
To hear it,
Around the cold empty box,
The room that surrounds me, all lost.

India's Olympics Team-- An analysis

 

Since the Olympics are less than a week away, I thought of analyzing India's athletes taking their shot this year. Also, it will keep me more engaged and motivated to some of the games which may otherwise be too slow or boring for my taste.

 

A headcount comparison

The Games will feature 339 events in 33 different sports, encompassing a total of 50 disciplines. India has sent its largest contingent of 125 competitors to these Games: 70 men and 55 women in 68 events.

70 Male 55 Female 125 Total 68 Events

We could compare that to China's 125 men and 281 women for 406 medals- just for fun. The much greater number of female participants on the Chinese side is because a lot of the male participants could not qualify for Male events. Basketball, football, vollyball- being team events greatly increased number of female participants.

125 Male 281 Female 406 Total

The United States has sent 248 men and 329 female Olympians to fight for a total of 613 medals.

284 Male 329 Female 613 Total

I could find a decent study in of exploratory nature that links nations and their participation with the health and GDP of a nation. Those interested may find it here. The chart below indicates that being rich is perhaps one of the most important factors in winning medals- makes sense, since fitness and training facilities need huge costs.

Historic Data on 20 best peforming nations in the Olympics

 

Despite being feeble in shine compared to the heavier sides, India is sending its largest contingent to the games. The number of Indian athletes participating in the Summer Olympic Games has risen each time in past 3 olympics and that trend is continuing  at Tokyo 2020.

 

 

A good start for the list is the official site of course. Here is the list of Indians participating in this year in Tokyo. I have found Wikipedia to always be a better organized site, just in general. I hope the wiki page is kept updated by someone during the games.

Sport Men Women Total Event
Athletics 17 9 26 14
Shooting 8 7 15 10
Boxing 5 4 9 9
Wrestling 3 4 7 7
Archery 3 1 4 4
Badminton 3 1 4 3
Sailing 3 1 4 3
Swimming 2 1 3 3
Table tennis 2 2 4 3
Field hockey 18 18 36 2
Golf 2 1 3 2
Tennis 1 2 3 2
Equestrian 1 0 1 1
Fencing 0 1 1 1
Gymnastics 0 1 1 1
Judo 0 1 1 1
Rowing 2 0 2 1
Weightlifting 0 1 1 1
Total 70 55 125 68

I ordered it in descending order of number of events- just to know the odds of a win. Of course- the some of the competitions are team events and participants outnumber the number of medals available to be won.

 

Mapping of Events vs India's participation

 

I could not find a good dataset to match India's events against all the other events being played. I had to do some excel tricks to layout the below table (maybe Kaggle will some day have better country-wise data for recent Olympics).

Indian Contingent
Discipline Medals Male Female Total Events
Aquatics
 Artistic swimming 2
 Diving 8
 Swimming 37 2 1 3 3
 Water polo 2
 Archery 5 3 1 4 4
 Athletics 48 17 9 26 14
 Badminton 5 3 1 4 3
Baseball
 Baseball 1
 Softball 1
 Basketball
Basketball 2
3x3 basketball 2
 Boxing 13 5 4 9 9
 Canoeing
Slalom 4
Sprint 12
 Cycling
BMX freestyle 2
BMX racing 2
Mountain biking 2
Road cycling 4
Track cycling 12
 Equestrian 1 0 1 1
Dressage 2
Eventing 2
Jumping 2
 Fencing 12 0 1 1 1
 Field hockey 2 18 18 36 2
 Football 2
 Golf 2 2 1 3 2
 Gymnastics 0 1 1 1
Artistic 14
Rhythmic 2
Trampoline 2
 Handball 2
 Judo 15 0 1 1 1
 Karate
Kata 2
Kumite 6
 Modern pentathlon 2
 Rowing 14 2 0 2 1
 Rugby sevens 2
 Sailing 10 3 1 4 3
 Shooting 15 8 7 15 10
 Skateboarding 4
 Sport climbing 2
 Surfing 2
 Table tennis 5 2 2 4 3
 Taekwondo 8
 Tennis 5 1 2 3 2
 Triathlon 3
 Volleyball
Volleyball 2
Beach volleyball 2
 Weightlifting 14 0 1 1 1
 Wrestling 3 4 7 7
Freestyle 12
Greco-Roman 6

तर-बतर

जिस कदर , बेबस, रास्तो पर हम चले जा रहें हैं,
गुप्प अँधेरे में साये भी पराये नज़र आ रहे हैं।

जिन सितारों की धूरि पर चली थी कश्ती मेरी,
वे सितारे आज टूट कर ज़मीं पर आ रहे हैं।

जिन्होंने छोर पर उड़ाती रेट पर अपना सर टेक दिया,
वो लोग आज मेरे हशर पर गौर फर्मा रहे हैं।

My recent discoveries in the world of music

If you wander off in your typing errors in this day of Corona scare, you may stumble upon the Jazz band Codona. All the quarantine has helped me discover the world of jazz, albeit only the surface of it.

Collin Walcott, Don Cherry, Nana Vasconcelos. I will not pretend that I knew them before but I do feel their courage to explore a completely new form of music was commendable. I can imagine listening to this at night after a hard day.

I was looking up for Philip Glass compositions on piano when I stumbled upon his Sanskrit Opera called “Satyagraha”. I had not not imagined a Sanskrit Opera because the east and west have traditionally taken different paths to music. Glass, however, bravely took this opportunity and created a fusion. It was to my pleasure that I discovered the jazz musicians had done it before the classicists. That’s when I stumbled on Codona.


Loosely based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi , it forms the second part of Glass’s “Portrait Trilogy” of operas about men who changed the world

And then there was the Taus instrument. It looked like the Sitar being played like violin. Turns out that the Taus was invented in the first half of 16th century- around the same time that the violin family came into being.


Sandeep Singh on the taus (or mayuri veena). The tune feels devotional and reminds me of temples in early morning or afternoons.

Indian instruments were, in that respect never behind their western counterparts in terms of variety and color of not surpassing them. The Age of Enlightenment, however, gave a boost to all of Europe later on where it surpassed the world in most respects. The support of catholic churches and powerful monarchs far surpassed what puppet ministers of colonial rulers could manage to patronize their artists. The invention of Operas as temples of western music was hastened by the money industrial revolution and colonial bullying brought to Europe.

In the age of digital music production, it feels difficult that a revolution in classical music(a sort of “revivalism” that some in this country would love) is possible. The form of content creation and delivery has changed. The costs of a grand symphony are prohibitively large for most in the west. The East will find it difficult to draw large audiences to sustain such an enterprise. This is especially true when the world today offers cheaper and easier forms of entertainment – with just the touch of a button, on the elevator or inside a car.

The Jazz and, in more recent times, Rap culture is proof that music will adapt to tell stories of modern times. What has been a bit concerning is the lack of original musical styles developing organically in the East. While the far east has adapted to the western styles of music quickly, India has had a healthy film industry supporting its classical forms. The ‘pop’ culture made an entry in the 90s thanks to growing affluence and a healthy cassette market. This was soon overshadowed by reducing profits thanks to rampant piracy which more or less killed the industry. Bollywood and film scoring, despite all its flaws, has been the last refuge for musicians in India.

Gamelan survies thanks to tourism in Bali and the general spiritual way of Balinese life.

I will continue my journey in the world of music and learn and discover more with time.

The Media and the Mind

Listening to Marlon Brando’s speech on the Dick Cavett show was humbling. His rejection of the Oscar might have been the single most powerful moment that altered how Hollywood portrays different cultures. Perhaps, it would also become the seeding idea that led to mindless “PC-culture”, as some like to call it.


Of course the world is a different place now. A lot more noisier and a lot more crowded. The same act would perhaps not have the impact. The silence engulfing the world back then was broken at the alter of its largest and most worshiped temple.

It is acts of such courage what distinguishes greatness from intelligence. Kindness and virtue far surpass any gift that nature bestows upon us. On the path to growing up, we forget the hollowness inside us- and learn to live with it. Laughing with the crowd, dancing with the music and moving with the rhythm- all that feeble voice is ashamed to wake us up from the drunken ecstasy.

The Lusty Argonian Maid

My sleep schedule is greatly hampered with all the lockdown. Last night I thought of translating and drafting the popular tale of “The Lusty Argonian Maid” from the world of Skyrim into Hindi. This, I thought, would encourage more Indians into the world who have been discouraged because of huge learning curve associated with RPGs. Turned out, typing in hindi is challenging without the google hindi input software. Nonetheless, I feel I liked the formatting that FinalDraft allowed me to come up with. Maybe a github project on translating all Skyrim lore into a screenplay setting with a more readable formatting can be begun. Who knows, it will feel like Shakespeare…

lustyArgonianMaid-Vol-1-1

lustyArgonianMaidVol2_

Things I did not hear during Corona Shutdown

  • The Raddiwala shouting out
  • Heavy moving traffic
  • Dogs Barking
  • Soft rumble of office floor
  • Mechanical silence and beeps of server room
  • More than 3 vehicle horns screaming together
  • Chirruping groups of young friends on streets
  • The building janitor banging her mop against my door
  • The tea stall chit-chat
  • Auto-rickshaw starting
  • Loud whistle of arrogant office guards
  • Echoing sounds of Shopping malls