Monday, December 28, 2015

Halloween Party by Agatha Christie

Image result for halloween party agatha christieAgatha Christie, and her endearing detective, the Belgian, Hercule Poirot is back on my humble little blog. After a hiatus of more than a year, I finally picked up a story featuring perhaps the most entertaining and interesting detective in fiction. There aren't a lot of good Christies left for me to read and I'm slowly going through her bibliography to ensure I don't finish everything too soon. In the spirit of Halloween I picked up and read the Halloween party, even though I'm reviewing it now.

Plot Summary:

An innocent children's Halloween party is being held in a small town near London, during the course of the party a child makes an innocuous remark about witnessing a murder some years back, she did not know at that time that it was murder but now she knows. The child is found murdered after the party ends. Did someone got spooked or did some malignant outsider step in the house and kill her? Ariadne Oliver, prolific mystery novel author and Poirot's friend was also present at the party and she believes that some malevolent person is behind the killing of the child. So, she goes to London to meet Poirot and once again Poirot has to use his little gray cells to solve this most perplexing murder.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Inside the Kingdom by Robert Lacey

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"Nothing is easier to denounce than the evil doer. Nothing is more difficult than to understand him"
- Fyodor Dostoevsky

Saudi Arabia, elusive, Islamic kingdom known to us as the land of Osama Bin Laden, Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia is notorious for its strict laws against women's right and opulent displays of wealth derived from its large reservoirs of oil.

The author, Robert Lacey takes us through a journey to explore Saudi Arabia and get to know it more intimately. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the house of Saud; Almost a century ago Ibn Saud captured large swathes of land in the middle east, wresting them from various tribes and fiefdoms. The house of Saud married into rival tribesman to create an oligarchy that has persisted for almost a century now. Ibn Saud, followed by Kings from his family : Saud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd and then finally Prince Abdullah; have been the reigning monarchs in Saudi Arabia controlling the populace through the Army, their wealth created from Oil and Wahhabism.

Wahhabism is a branch of Sunni Islam, which advocates return to monotheism and it is very puritanical in nature. Saudi monarchy has used Wahhabism as a tool to showcase them selves as good Muslims, pumped billions of dollars to spread Wahhabism and given unmitigated power to their preachers. In return Wahhabis have ensured mutual support and loyalty to the monarchy. The relationship between the Saudi Monarchy and the Wahhabis is reminiscent of the symbiotic relationship between the fascist regime and the Roman Catholic Church, read more about it here:
Pope and Mussolini

"So intimate is the connection between the throne and the altar that the banner of the church has very seldom been seen on the side of the people"
-Edward Gibbon

20th century history has shown that those people who provide fuel to the fire of fundamentalism for political gains, get burned by the same fundamentalists. Whether is the Americans who supported Pakistan, whether it is Pakistanis who supported Jihadis or the Germans who supported the Nazis. Wahhabis came back to bite the hand that fed them.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A History of the Sikhs, Volume 1: 1469-1839 by Khushwant Singh

Being a Punjabi I have always been curious about the history of the Punjab. The political history of Punjab is intermingled with the history of the dominant religion in those parts, Sikhism. Also, one often hears phrases like Sikhs made many sacrifices for us, the Sikh Gurus gave their lives for us etc. So, I was naturally curious about their History; I got myself this book written by Mr. Khushwant Singh.

 In the beginning the author familiarizes us with the topography and climate of the Punjab. Then, Mr Singh, himself a Sikh, dwells into ancient history about the Mohenjo Daro, Indus valley civilizations, whose cradle was the Punjab. Singh, claims that this ancient civilization was later wiped out by the Aryans invaders. The Aryans, bought the Vedic religion to the fore in India and till date are the dominant force in India. The aboriginals were marginalized and the tribals in India today are decedents of the aboriginals. Although after almost 2600 years, anyone claiming that Aryans are still outsiders, and trying to drive political mileage out of it is are just being plain silly. Hinduism, while a great religion has had too many problems, the major one being the caste system, the social hierarchy in which the Brahmins take the top spot(incidentally the same people who came up with the caste system) and Shudhras at the bottom, who were not only given menial jobs but were discriminated and persecuted for centuries. Even in modern day India, this rigid and evil structure persists which the upper casts still exploit.

15th April 1469, Guru Nanak, born into a middle class, hindu, Bedi family was spiritually inclined from an early age. The young Guru could hold his own against erudite theologians. He was married at an early age, 12, child marriage was common in those days. Nanak even had two sons and was later convinced by his sister to find regular employment. Soon, He had his epiphany, and announced to the world his encompassing philosophy where he repeated several times he was "neither a Hindu nor a Muslim". Thus, a new monotheist religion was born. Inspired from the Sufi and Bhakti movements. Nanak used the local language, Punjabi, to spread his word. Guru Nanak, also traveled the world to spread his religion. An anecdote from one of his travels goes something like this: Nanak was travelling in the middle east and was somewhere near mecca, when he got tired and fell asleep. A zealous Muslim started shouting at him; pointing out that his feet were pointing towards Mecca, on hearing this Nanak went back to sleep, the Muslim enraged moved Guru Nanak's feet to a different direction, to his astonishment Mecca moved to where the Guru's feet were, wherever the zealot tried to move the Guru's feet mecca also moved. The Guru pointed out that God was everywhere.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Top 10 Hindi Mystery Movies

hello readers of my blog. In this age of instant gratification, infinite distractions and instantaneous means of entertainment, books have lost their sheen, we are hardly able to focus on one topic before something else comes up to distract us. Reading books has become a chore and that too an arduous one, compared to TV and films where you don't need to be patient or invest mentally or financially.

Some people now even find films to be boring, long and uninteresting. This blog is definitely not for those folks. Some years back I did a post on my favorite English mystery movies, now I'm back with part two(after almost 37 months, insert awkward smile here).

10. Gumnaam - Based on "And then there were none" by Agatha Christie. 10 people are trapped on an island and they get murdered one by one. Manoj Kumar must find the killer before they are all murdered. Great theme music, good ending and atmospheric, the movie was spoiled by some very bad acting and ridiculous/illogical moments. Director should have stuck to the original plot.

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9. 404: Error not found - This obscure gem which was released in 2011, is one of those rare pieces of superlative cinema but with a plot which crumbles on scrutiny. A brilliant student starts hallucinating after moving into a room that was occupied by another who committed suicide. Boasting of no star power this one is atmospheric, slow and very much watchable.
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8.  Gupt -  In 1997, Bobby Deol, the dashing son of the legendary actor Dharmendra was at his prime and during that period one of his best movies was released filled with cheesy dialogues, fantastic songs , music and typical Bollywood action sequences. The Movie is a murder mystery where Bobby Deol's step dad is killed and of course he is pinned for the murder. The protagonist then goes out on a hunt to find out and catch the real killer, aided by Manisha Koirala and Kajol who were also in their prime, the movie is a Bollywood masala with a genuine murder mystery with a huge cast of suspects and lots of red herrings. Oh and it also has Om Puri!

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7.  Woh Kaun Thi? - released way back in 1964, starring the enigmatic Manoj Kumar and directed by the brilliant Raj Khosla. The opening scene of the movie shot through the POV of a driver navigating his car through torrential rains is something that I'm yet to come across again. This movie is a must for msytery and movie buffs in general alike. The brilliant direction transforms even a simple scene of a person driving through rain with no music and only the sound of the wiper into an atmosphere of suspense. The movies keeps on piling impossible situations but in the end screws up everything. Had the ending been better handled, this movie would have been much higher on this list.
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