Friday, December 5, 2014

NH3 Before Igatpuri

This is a fairly recognizable section of the National Highway 3, as it makes its way towards the picturesque town of Igatpuri, and beyond that to Nashik. It is at this point that the highway bifurcates, and the eastward highway snakes to the left while the westward highway is what you can see in the photo below.,73.5209861,13z

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Shani Shingnapur, Maharashtra

Truth be told, I do not have many photographs of the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra. This is because they do not allow photographs inside the temple, and I was too enthralled by the entire experience to remember to take my camera out. The temple town is about 35kms from Ahmednagar - so it can be done as a quick detour if you're on your way to Aurangabad - and about 70kms from Shirdi. Shirdi is, of course, famous for Sai Baba, and going to Shingnapur and back from Shirdi can be done in about four hours. The road is OK for the most part, except for about a 15 km stretch that is not so OK.

However, this was a somewhat striking moment outside the temple, in the parking lot. Apart from the shops that hawk every knick-knack you could want for instant moksha and to protect you from the evil eye of anyone envious of your prosperity - which could be almost everyone and anyone - there was this loads of color (gulal, kumkum, call it what you will) on a cart that was being tended to by this elderly gentleman. Nothing out of the ordinary till you realize the gentleman is a Muslim. While trite and overused to death cliches do come to mind, it is a measure of India's enduring spirit of inclusiveness that binds people together. Commerce of course is a highly underestimated glue.

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Oracle Restaurant and Bar

Either Oracle, the enterprise software and hardware company, is getting into the consumer space in an example of brand expansion gone horribly wrong, or someone's been getting a bit creative with trademarks and all. In any case, you can't fault the person from sticking with the Oracle "red" color theme. The cuisine also promises to be international - Punjabi, Maharashtrian (OK so far it's all Indian), Chinese (yes, venturing out), Indian (back to the homeland), and seafood (ok, so not that international after all).

Shot somewhere on NH10, between Shirdi and Rahuri in Maharashtra.

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tales from the Mahabharata - 2 When Arjuna Wanted to Behead Yudhishthira

The second installment of my series, "Tales from the Mahabharata", appeared in the Swarajya magazine, on October 7 2014.

The article as it appeared:
When Arjuna Wanted to Kill Yudhishthira
A little-known episode of the Mahabharata illustrates a new idea in the field of social psychology: Ego Depletion.

It was the seventeenth day of battle on the field of Kurukshetra. A most bloody war that had taken a huge toll of human lives and emotions. Even though most maharathis of the Kaurava army had fallen—including Bhishma on the tenth day and Drona on the fifteenth, Karna still remained.

Tales from the Mahabharata - 1 Unintended Consequences

The first installment of my series, "Tales from the Mahabharata", appeared in the Swarajya magazine, on September 30, 2014.

The article as it appeared:
Unintended consequences – tales from the Mahabharata
While everyone has their favorite story or episode from the Mahabharata, and most have more than one, I have found the theme of unintended consequences to be the most fascinating one. Actions taken not only have reactions, but unlike the Third Law of Motion, actions also have quite unexpected results at times.

The story of Abhimanyu and how Jayadratha became the stumbling block in the efforts of the four Pandava brothers to rescue him from within the fearsome chakra vyuha is well known. If not, then that is a topic for a future article! Here I will talk about a little known but equally potent illustration of unintended consequences from the Mahabharata.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Spines of the Mahabharata - 2

When I wrote "The Spines of the Mahabharata Books" in Feb 2013, only the first six volumes of Dr. Bibek Debroy's unabridged translation of the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata had been published. The seventh volume (my review) was published in June 2013, while the eighth (my review) was published in late November 2013 - this one was somewhat delayed because of issues with getting the binding right I believe. So I thought it was time to update my post, actually write a new one, covering the spines of these two volumes. The ninth and tenth are going to be published in November 2014, so there is some time to go before that event.
As I had written, each volume of the series contains a motif that is associated with the content in the volume. You can read my earlier post, "The Spines of the Mahabharata Books", for a description of the spines of the first six volumes. As you may recall, especially if you read my reviews, the seventh volume marked the end of the Mahabharata war, with Karna killed on the seventeenth day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, beheaded by an arrow shot by Arjuna at an unarmed Karna who had got down from his chariot to extricate its wheel that had been mired in mud. Hence the spine of the seventh volume has an illustration of a wheel partially submerged in mud. Given the inclination to avoid persons on the spines, the fifth volume was the sole exception, Duryodhana's battle with Bhima was therefore not a candidate.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India

Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India, by Pinki Virani

5 stars

My review of this book appeared in DNA on the 29th of July 2014 here: 
Book Review - Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India

Below is the entire text of the review:

Each passing day brings into the headlines another sordid story of a child being abused somewhere in the country. After the initial scandal and outrage, the media scatters to find its next new titillating tale to expose, the public finds distraction in the latest sporting tamasha – consoling itself that such things could not possibly happen to people like them, self-proclaimed experts crawl out of their holes to appear on television debates and blame everything on the wanton promiscuity of the west or the patriarchal oppressiveness of the Hindu society – depending on which deep end of the ideological spectrum they have gone over, while the family of the victim is left to pick up the scraps of normalcy in their lives even as they deal with the subsequent abuse of their humanity at the hands of the police and judiciary.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vashi Creek Bridge

This photo is of the Vashi Creek Bridge that connects mainland Mumbai with Navi Mumbai. Taken early in the morning, even as the hot summer sun beat down through a haze of smog, pointing the phone's (a Nexus 5) camera slightly up and towards the sun caused the shot to underexpose a little, providing an nice silhouetted look to the composition.

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Truck Signage - Wives and Families

As far as truck signages go, this one attempts to combine messages on marital fidelity, family planning, and female figure consciousness, and of course, spiced with patriarchal seasoning.
बीवी रहे टिप टॉप, दो के बाद फूल (sic) स्टॉप |

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Photo - Barren Tree

It's a long, hot, scorching summer.
The monsoons are supposed to be here.
It is supposed to be raining.
It's supposed to be cool.

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Accidental India, by Shankkar Aiyar

My review of Shankkar Aiyar's book, "Accidental India", was published in the DNA on May 22nd, 2014. Except for the review's title and sub-title - "Should I Be Stupid Just Because the Government Is?"
Funnily enough, in India that was a fact of life and not an absurdity for several decades. - the review was published in its entirety.

This, below, is the review as it appeared in the DNA:

The opportunities that India has squandered, either through indolence or apathy, either individually or collectively, are far too many to be counted. Then there are the quirks of fate that have convinced Indians that perhaps the gods had it in for India – like Lal Bahadur Shastri’s untimely demise just when it seemed India would break free of the socialist straitjacket that had been imposed on the nation, or Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel being asked to make way for Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as India’s first prime minister despite being the more qualified and better person on every count, or the most unexpected loss of the NDA in the 2004 general elections just when the nation had found a new, confident, and resurgent voice. The list goes on. Perhaps the most public of all humiliations would have been the shipping of Indian gold reserves to England as surety for a paltry loan of $400 million from the Bank of England. But as in every dark cloud, there proved to the silver lining. An accidental silver lining of sorts.
Shankkar Aiyar’s book, Accidental India, has even more relevance in today’s environment, given the trend towards consumption of real-time information in an abbreviated manner (read social media, especially Twitter) which encourages an almost junk-food style of an information diet – quantity without much value. This book looks at seven “accidents” that shaped India’s post-independent socio-economic landscape, for the better, and substantially so.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mahabharata, Vol 8

Mahabharata - Volume 8, Translated by Bibek Debroy

5 stars
I wrote a short review of Dr. Bibek Debroy's volume 8 of the translation of the Unabridged Mahabharata. It was published in the DNA newspaper's website, at Book Review: 'The Mahabharata' Volume 8 translated by Bibek Debroy | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis (DNA tweet). My thanks to Harini Calamur.

The full text of the review:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Indus Valley (Smart Green Civilizations)

Indus Valley: Key stage 2 (Smart Green Civilizations)
2 stars
Kid-friendly introduction, but marred by selective omissions. Also leaves out the truly spectacular achievements of the people

One-line review: Parents are advised to read out and share this book with children, but are also forewarned that they will need to spend considerable time in correcting the several errors - of commission and omission - in the book.

Longer Review:
The Indus Valley Civilization, more accurately known as the Indus Valley Saraswati Civilization, was the largest and most advanced ancient civilization that existed. This short illustrated book does a good job of introducing the reader - children - to this civilization. It tells us that the Indus people were the first to develop the concept of urban town planning, and were the first to trade with the world. The generous availability of wells meant that people were never far away from access to clean water. Children will like the simple and full-colour illustrations in this book, and the easy style of writing. At the bottom of each page is a short line that has a lesson on environmentalism.