Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mahabharata Quotes - Karna Parva

Quotes from the Karna Parva

By the time Karna takes over the reigns of the Kaurava army, the fighting has gone on for fifteen days, and the worst is almost over. Cousin will still kill cousin, and brother will still kill brother, but both armies have been decimated, more so the larger Kaurava army, and Karna is commander for only two days. The seventeenth day also sees Shalya appointed Karna's charioteer - a masterstroke of psychological warfare. Shalya ends up completely distracting Karna, leading to his death at his younger brother Arjuna's hands. Bhima tears apart his cousin Duhshasana, and Sahadeva kills his uncle Shakuni.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mahabharata Quotes - Drona Parva

After Bhishma falls in battle on the tenth day, there are two important decisions taken. The first is Karna's entry into the war, and the second is the appointment of Drona as the commander of the Kaurava army. The fiercest, bloodiest battle takes place in this parva. It is perhaps most famous for the killing of Abhimanyu, the sixteen year old son of Arjuna, but there are several other incidents that are noteworthy, especially for the way in which they bring out the utter despair of war.

  • "Learned ones say that in this world, association with the virtuous is more important that a relationship resulting from birth. Do not make your association with the Kurus false."
    [Bhishma to Karna, Dronabhisheka Parva, Drona Parva, Ch 4]

  • "Someone whose objective is at stake, sees things in a different way that another person never can."
    [Karna to Duryodhana, Dronabhisheka Parva, Drona Parva, Ch 5]

  • Berenstain Bears' Report Card Trouble

    The Berenstain Bears' Report Card Trouble

    by Stan Berenstain (Author) , Jan Berenstain (Author)
    3 stars
    Grades, soup, and stereotypes.

    Brother Bear has not been studying, spending most of his time in physical education. When the report card comes, it is expectedly unpleasant, and Papa Bear unsurprisingly explodes. Will Brother Bear stay grounded for kingdom come, or will he be able turn around his grades.

    Friday, June 28, 2013

    HBR - Change for Change's Sake

    Change for Change’s Sake

    by Freek Vermeulen, Phanish Puranam, and Ranjay Gulati

    Change for Change’s Sake - Harvard Business Review, from the June 2010 issue of HBR, is a good article on how to decide it is time for organizational change in a company, and how to ask whether the persistence of any one organizational structure is fostering the growth of silos and entrenched networks, stifling of innovation, and adaptability.

    A short series of questions, grouped into three sets can help companies get started on assessing the need for change.

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Mahabharata Quotes - Bhishma Parva

    The names of Parvas six through nine of the Mahabharata are easy enough to remember. They are each named after the commander of the Kaurava army during the eighteen day war - Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Shalya. Bhishma Parva then is the name of the sixth parva in the Mahabharata, and it covers the first ten days of the war. More pertinently, the sixty third parva of the Mahabharata, which is the third parva in the Bhishma Parva, is the Bhagavad Gita parva - which contains the song of the lord. I have not included quotes from that parva in this post. That needs to go into a separate post of its own. Here then are selected quotes from the Bhishma Parva.

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    HBR - The Unmanageable Star Performer

    The Unmanageable Star Performer

    The Unmanageable Star Performer - Harvard Business Review, from the May 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review

    This is a fictionalized case-study, "based on the case study "Superstar Leaders," by Abhishek Goel and Neharika Vohra (Indian Institute of Management, 2007)."

    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    Tinderbox, by MJ Akbar

    Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan, by M.J. Akbar

    "One good section, two okay parts, and several instances of selective interpretations."

    4 stars
    (Flipkart, Flipkart ebookAmazon US / CA / UKKindle US / UKCAPowell's)

    One-line review: Two books, three parts, and some parts confusion and obfuscation.

    Monday, June 10, 2013

    The Indian Renaissance, by Sanjeev Sanyal

    The Indian Renaissance: India's Rise after a Thousand Years of Decline, by Sanjeev Sanyal

    3 stars
    "Useful enough. But... Misleading title, dry and unengaging prose"
    (Amazon USUKCA, Flipkart)
    One-line review: Useful in its own right, but makes for dry and uninviting prose.

    Short review: If a country is indeed seen as rising after a thousand years of decline, and if you put so in the title of your book, it stands to reason you are expected to devote some amount of reasoning and logic to that line. This book does not. Why the decline happened is only fleetingly touched upon, and without much conviction. The book's stronger sections are towards the latter part, especially when talking about the country's broken education system and its archaic and dysfunctional justice system. The book's heart is in the right place, but it needed more meat on its bones, and a more vigorous heart, so to say, to elevate it from the ranks of the me-too to a must-read.

    Saturday, June 8, 2013

    The Book of Story Beginnings, Kristin Kladstrup

    The Book of Story Beginnings, Kristin Kladstrup

    Like the title, the book's start is worthy of a book, but peters out after that.
    3 stars (FlipkartAmazon USAmazon UKAmazon CAKindle USKindle UKKindle CA, Powell's)

    The problem, nay - the challenge, with writing a good book is not the beginning, though unsuccessful writers find ways to make a hash of even this. It is the middle of the book that maters the most. Of course, the climax is like the icing on the cake, and sour cream does not a good icing make. It is the bulky middle that takes the tiny sparks of a good beginning and sustains it through to a hopefully satisfying end. This book, "The Book of Story Beginnings", suffers from a strong start that magically sucks you in, but which leaves you in a sort of storytelling vacuum for much of the middle. In fact, within a few pages of the  plot starting out in earnest, I had lost interest. I persevered through to the end, and while the book did pick up somewhat, the beginning belied the book.

    Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Mahabharata Vol.7 - Translated by Bibek Debroy

    Mahabharata, Vol. 7. Translated by Bibek Debroy

    5 stars
    Weapons kill, but words will hurt much, much before that
    (Flipkart, Amazon US, Kindle US, Amazon UKAmazon CA)
    One-line review: The war ends, but the carnage will take a night more to stop.

    Short review: This seventh volume sees the war come to an end, with the fulfillment of vows, the killing of family, the drinking of blood, and the breaking of thighs. The Pandavas have won this terrible war, but the final price they would have paid for this victory will be known only in the eighth volume.

    Bangalore Comic Con, 2013

    The 2013 edition of the Bangalore Comic Con (@ComicConIndia) was held at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium - the same venue as last year, on June 1 and 2 (today is the last day). Unlike last year's event, which was the inaugural edition, this second event was perhaps an order of magnitude larger in attendance - it seemed like every school and college student was there. I felt like an outlier in terms of age - till I saw Vinay's photo from the event.

    Saturday, June 1, 2013

    Laugh With Laxman - Review

    Laugh with Laxman, R.K. Laxman
    5 stars
    (AmazonFlipkart, Amazon Kindle)
    This is a collection of cartoons that RK Laxman drew outside the world of his famous pocket cartoon - You Said It. While several are from the sunday edition of the Times of India, during a period when RK Laxman was at his prolific best, there are some that have been taken from cartoons he drew for the monthly magazine, Science Today.

    Spring is Here, Big Bear, by Will Hillenbrand

    Spring is Here, Big Bear, by Will Hillenbrand

    5 stars
    We read in Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep (my review), Maureen Wright's delightful book that was gorgeously illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, that Big Bear kept getting confused when told to go to sleep. Once he finally fell asleep, he slept right through winter, as bears are supposed to. Now that spring is here, Mole wakes up, smells the air, tiptoes outside and feels mud under his feet. Yes! Spring is here. It is time for Big Bear to wake up. Bear is snoring. Mole cannot get Big Bear to wake, try as he might. Will he get Big Bear to wake up, and how? This is a short and endearing story for pre-schoolers as well as kindergartners, made that much cuter by the expressions on Big Bear and Mole's faces. The illustrations are double-spread, and while I read an Adobe Digital Editions version of the book, this book is perhaps best enjoyed in paperback form.

    ISBN:  978-0823424313 (paperback)
    ISBN 978-0823416028 (hardcover)

    Adobe Digital Editions version of the book
    © 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.