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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Must Read Classics – Atlas Shrugged

Posted by Sowmya on March 9, 2013

So I have spent the last month with Ayn Rand i.e. I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged back to back and to the utter shock of the husband, finished both within a month. I was hooked from the first page and just could not put it down. It was like my teenage years when I used to read in the kitchen behind the cylinder because I was not allowed to switch on the lights elsewhere and I could just not sleep without finishing the book. Good times!

So this are just some lines which struck me and stayed with me after I shut the book too. These lines make a lot more impact in context but most of them are good as stand-alone lines and some are those I would love to tell the so called professionals and experts in today’s world.

There were loads of stuff I liked about it. Some are ‘briefly’ described here. If you have not read the book and don’t want any info that could be ‘spoilers’ then don’t read this now. I can’t think of any ‘spoiler’ but you never know –

My favorite character is neither John Galt nor Dagny Taggart but Henry (Hank) Rearden. Here is a completely logical character arc and one I could identify with. I loved his quiet confidence, his pride in his work, his ability to accept his errors and learn, his dilemmas and how he comes out of it all shining. This was a character I never thought would take the decision to give it all up but things change one by one and when he finally does take ‘the decision’ it felt right and flowed smoothly and did not kill the character for me. He had some of the best lines like –

When he finally makes his Metal after ten years of work –

  • He never felt loneliness except when he was happy
  • The feeling was a sum, and he did not have to count again the parts that had gone to make it
  • He remembered nothing distinct of the years between them; the years were blurred like a streak of speed. Whatever it was, he thought, whatever the strain and the agony, they were worth it, because they had made him reach this day

His thoughts about his family (could seem hard hearted for some) –

  • He despised causeless affection, just like he despised unearned wealth. They professed to love him for some unknown reason and they ignored all the things for which he could wish to be loved
  • She wanted to force upon him the suffering of dishonor -but his own sense of honor was her only weapon of enforcement

His convictions and opinions

  • To me, there is only one form of human depravity – the man without a purpose
  • He had never known fear because, against any disaster, he had held the omnipotent cure of being able to act. No, he thought, not an assurance of victory -who can ever have that? -only the chance to act, which is all one needs
  • The worst things about people is not the insults they hand out, but the compliments
  • What sort of code permitted the concept of a punishment that required the victim’s own virtue as the fuel to make it work?
  • I want to let the nature of this procedure appear exactly for what it is. If you need my help to disguise it -I will not help you
  • I can say to you that I have done more good for my fellow men than you can ever hope to accomplish -but I will not say it, because I do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to work

I also loved Francis d’Anconia. He seemed too perfect most of the time considering he was very rich and intelligent and kind of had it all. Despite that he seemed a nice guy who you would want to root for. And what was the cherry on the cake for me was the lovely detailing of the relationship between Francis and Rearden. Two men who respected and complemented each other beautifully –it worked very well for the story especially since it took away some of the spotlight from Dagny Taggart (which was a relief for me)

Some of Francis’ lines to Dagny –

  • He and she had never spoken of the things that happened to them, but only of what they thought and of what they would do…She looked at him silently, as if a voice within her were saying ; Not the things that are, but the things we’ll make….We are not to be stopped, you and I….
  • What’s the most depraved type of human being? The man without a purpose
  • There is nothing of any importance in life -except how well you do your work
  • The courage to say, not ‘It seems to me’, but ‘It is’ -and to stake one’ life on one’s judgment

Some stellar lines from his speech on money

  • Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth -the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started.
  • It’s the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money -and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it
  • Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue….Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot
  • No other language or nation had ever used these words (to make money) before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity -to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor.

Lines between Francisco and Rearden

  • If one’s actions are honest, one does not need the predated confidence of others, only their rational perception. The person who craves a moral blank check of that kind, has dishonest intentions, whether he admits it to himself or not
  • There are no evil thoughts, except one -the refusal to think
  • The worst guilt is to accept an undeserved guilt
  • A viler evil than to murder a man, is to sell him suicide as an act of virtue. A viler evil than to throw a man into a sacrificial furnace, it to demand that he leap in, of his own will, and that he build the furnace, besides.
  • He has equated virtue with pain and he will feel that vice is the only realm of pleasure

Don’t you love them already????

Somehow I did not like Dagny Taggart so much. I know it is fiction but her character seemed too good to be true. I could not accept the fact that every man she met fell in love with her, be it Eddie or Hank or Francisco or John. And then they all understand how it won’t work out and peacefully move out to make place for the other guy. Too utopian for a book set in a dystopian universe. I did read Rand’s logic behind it and could accept it to an extent. Maybe she could have stopped it with just one example. Every guy was kind of a stretch. Dagny could have been good friends / soul mates with them. I liked her relationship with Wyatt and Francisco (in the later part of the book). Maybe they could have been that way from the beginning. Also Dagny is so adamant about her railroad that her zeal began to grate on my nerves at some point. It was more like she knew she was making a mistake but refusing to accept it.

I also did not fall for John Galt, the ‘hero’ of this story, if you will. His story comes out in bits and pieces and there never seemed to be enough information to form an opinion about him. Maybe his character was so advanced on the ‘maturity’ or ‘reason’ scale that attributing mere human emotions to him seemed impossible. I would have liked some more meat on how he got to be where he got to be. I saw that in Rearden and to an extent in Francisco and so those characters were more identifiable and relatable. John Galt was like the superhero who jumps from space when there is trouble and saves the world. I could not relate to that.

I loved the entire book but somehow the ending did not live up to my expectations. I am unable to think of an alternative ending to it but somehow this end seemed too Bollywood-ish to me. I know she wrote the book before this became a Bollywood staple diet but maybe something else was possible as an ending.

Since the setting is dystopian, the situations and characters are bit of an extreme. So when you read the book, you need to keep that in mind. It may not sound plausible in our world today but after reading I somehow get the feeling we may be approaching such a scenario. I know that is very pessimistic of me and I know this won’t happen in my lifetime but it does seem a possibility considering the path the world is on to.

What I loved most about the book and about Ayn Rand is her way with words. She can put the perfect words for things we know and understand but may not be able to express. I also like the words and sentence construct she uses for conveying the most simple lines in a manner that stays with you long after. Sample these –

  • He didn’t want to make money, only to get it
  • I’ve hired you to do a job, not to do your best -whatever that is
  • But what came from it was only a desire to desire her, a wish to feel, not a feeling (my favorite line, more effective in context)
  • Nobody can accuse me of running a profit-making business (Profit is a dirty word, isn’t it? ;))
  • A future where so great a field of activity lay waiting that no time could be wasted on the comfort of its start (another favorite of mine –when she described Francisco’s house in the Valley)
  • If you don’t know, the thing to do is not get scared, but to learn (aptly put)
  • He has the power to choose but no power to escape the necessity of choice (Whoa!)
  • His body is given to him, it sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not.
  • Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification
  • Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.
  • To arrive at a  contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality
  • To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason -Purpose -Self-esteem
  • Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it -that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life -that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence
  • To hold, as man’s sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality
  • The removal of a threat is not payment, the negation of a negative is not a reward, the withdrawal of your armed hoodlums is not an incentive, the offer not to murder me is not a value.

Strangely I could identify with a lot of possibly ‘controversial’ thoughts in this book. There were stuff I was always accused of or berated for. I liked the concept of the ‘virtue of selfishness’. That has been my belief for a long time and she gave voice to those thoughts.

I never could identify the halo around people who ‘sacrifice’ and have bugged many people with my ‘cold hearted’ opinions on the same. Check this line from John Galt’s speech as how sacrifice is viewed today Sacrifice is the surrender of that which you value in favour of that which you don’t. And how he goes on to denounce it is a class act!

I absolutely loved the ‘dignity of labor’ concept and the way she elucidated it; never in as many words but that was always there as an underlying theme running throughout the book – pride of your work. I loved this line – ‘There’s no such thing as a lousy job -only lousy men who don’t care to do it’.

Another virtue I could identify with was the concept of ‘love being respect’ and not as pity or lust or friendship. Not that those relationships are bad but that is not love. See how she puts it –

  • As there can be no causeless wealth, so there can be no causeless love or any sort of causeless emotion. An emotion is a response to a fact of reality, an estimate dictated by your standards. To love is to value

Another concept that stayed with me was how guiltless her joy is. It reminded me of the countless times I was warned -‘Don’t be too happy now, something awful will happen to you’ or ‘Don’t express your happiness to everyone, nazar lag jayegi!’

Another recurring theme was the confidence of people with ability and their absolute disregard to the rest of the world. It was again guiltless and they did not see the need to be ‘sensitive’ to others’ feelings. Check these –

  • Her feeling for the railroad was the same: worship of the skill that had gone to make it, of the ingenuity of someone’s clean, reasoning mind, worship with a secret smile that said she would know how to make it better some day
  • Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values
  • Whenever anyone accuses some person of being ‘unfeeling’, he means that that person is just
  • Nothing can make it moral to destroy the best. One can’t be punished for being good. One can’t be penalized for ability
  • He was a man who had never accepted the creed that others had the right to stop him (when she talks about Natheneil Taggart)
  • You know, I think that only if one feels immensely important can one feel truly light

Though I am as anti smoking as one can be, Ayn Rand’s definition of smoking left me amazed –

  • I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips

I guess it is a well-known fact that Ayn Rand was an atheist and that is reflected throughout in this book. There were parts I could not fully agree with but her arguments are well put and tough to beat. This is an aspect that needs more thought from my end –regarding my belief in a Supreme Power and balancing that with every man is responsible for his destiny.


I do hope you read it and if you have, please drop in a line to say what you liked / disliked in it.

Posted in I BELIEVE, INSIGHTFUL?, NOW THAT'S ME | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2009 -a recap

Posted by Sowmya on January 22, 2010

I have never been the one to do year end posts mostly because I never found much to write on my year. Most days passed in a blur and were too similar to the other. But this time, as I sit and think there are many things that have happened this year and some that I have done. Maybe it should be put to paper somewhere for posterity when I want to know where my life went and what I have been up to all my life?

This year started out great. I had moved to Mumbai last November since the recession shut down my office in Chennai. It was not the easiest of decisions to make. Sri in Chennai and me in Mumbai was not the happiest of things to happen but quitting a job at the depths of recession also did not seem like a smart thing to do. Sri was his usual supportive self and urged me to keep my job and some hopes of a career still alive. Armed with his reassurances and my in-laws unequivocal support, I set off to Mumbai in November. I was not in a celebratory mode last new year since I was not with Sri and suddenly things seemed incomplete without him. It felt strange and weird that I could live more than 27 years on my own and be perfectly happy but a year with this guy and nothing was the same again. But then, that is what a marriage is all about I guess. It struck twelve and I ushered in the New Year gaping at the television when suddenly the doorbell rang. Imagine my surprise when I found hubby dearest at the doorstep! It is an unforgettable moment, so unbelievably true. For a guy who does not believe in the frills of the relationship, this was a huge step to take.

Work had improved significantly since my return to Mumbai. I found I was learning new stuff daily and that due diligence was not as bad as I thought. Handling two assignments and two seniors was a task in itself but fun nevertheless. Arguing over every single issue and rethinking and redoing a job till it was perfect were pleasure and gave me a well earned sleep each night. Sri visited another couple of times and I visited Chennai too. I can tell you that long distance relationships totally suck especially if they are so early in the marriage before you have had time to settle down and get used to the other. 

I got a job in Chennai in May and I moved back in June. I was hoping that it would never happen, that I would never need to get back to the darned city but destiny had something else in store for me. I quit my job, left an almost promotion and some salary and came back to Chennai. On one hand it seemed like a crazy thing to do. I was giving spiels about having a career and not just any job and here I was quitting and maybe, in a way moving one step lower in the chain. But life did not seem worth it without Sri. Staying with him meant more than everything else and so I took the call to switch my job and get back to staying with Sri and making him pull his hair out in frustration J

So in June I joined my new company where there were about seventy people working but not one in my department. I was the first and only one and it was up to me to do something about it. It was a challenge along with the very different work environment. I had to get used to a lot of things which I had not heard of before. Chennai, and in particular my company, believes in a lot more formality and protocol. Coming from a place where everyone was on first name basis including the boss, it was initially very weird. Protocols again are not my strong point and I struggled in vain trying to follow it. Eventually I have managed to establish some kind of middle path with the people here whereby I can breathe comfortably and offend no one. That should count as one of the achievements for the year. Being new and starting a vertical by yourself meant many days of intense frustration of not doing anything, of trying and not succeeding and of trying to rid myself of the feeling of futility of it all. I missed my brainstorming sessions, my intense work pressures and the joys of trying to learn something new every day. I missed having people around who I could talk to about things that mattered and who understood what I was saying. Being one to think in English, conversations in Tamil were an effort. Yes, it is my mother tongue but I have not spoken in Tamil so often, especially outside the confines of home.

A huge responsibility then fell on our shoulders. We were building our own house. It started sometime in December last year when I was in Mumbai and so could not involve myself in it completely. But since I was back, I started getting a feel of it. It was driving everyone at home totally crazy. There was nothing on which Sri and me could agree on and if we did, by mistake, my in-laws did not like it. Life was at it chaotic worst. Or should I say best? Being involved at every stage of the house is a nerve racking experience and I would prefer buying a ready-made one any day.

In July, I made one of my bigger decisions and my biggest purchase as yet –I bought a car, a lovely new shining grey i10. Driving made some part of my life easier since I could do away with bargaining with the auto guys every day morning but it brought other complications with it. I now know why some people swear so much. They obviously drive around a lot in Chennai. This place is a driver’s worst nightmare coming true every minute he is behind the wheel.  Another challenge I overcome, not unscathed. My car has more than its fair share of bruises and beatings in these past six months. But a car gives you a feeling of freedom which you don’t get otherwise. I still plan to explore the city with my car. That is yet to happen as I only commute to work every day and catch the odd movie some weekends. An exploration, a long drive is definitely on the New Year agenda.

I made a very brief visit to Mumbai before Navratri when I helped mom set-up our annual golu. I, then finally met J and S, my closest friends who had been blessed with a pretty little girl in July. I became an aunt all over again. Seeing J with her little one was an overwhelming experience. It feels good to know there have been people with you since college about ten years ago and we are still there for each other.

Work was still erratic till October and my frustration levels were going up few notches every day. Add the house construction to the equation and there was complete incompleteness all around me. We had decided to forgo our annual vacation and I had nothing to look forward to in November and December.  Life seemed very boring and bleak. Every day was filled with making budgets and cutting costs and looking for increasing revenues.  In a bid to make life interesting I entered the NaNoWriMo contest in which I had to write a story of 50000 words in the month of November. To my utter astonishment, I completed it. I am someone who completes everything up to 90% and then quits. Somehow I do not finish anything fully. It is not something I am proud of but the truth it is. So the fact that I completed a story of 50000 words was a huge achievement for me. I hope to get the final draft out this year and who knows, maybe get it published J I finished the year with an awesome New Year party with some of Sri’s friends.

All in all, I can say 2009 has been a happening year in my life with its many twists and turns and roundabouts but overall a fun year.  Welcome 2010

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Welcome 2009

Posted by Sowmya on January 2, 2009

Hiya ppl

Wishing one and all a very Happy New Year! I had a mindblowing beginning to the year……..Sri surprised the hell out of me by landing up at mindnite to meet me 🙂 wow!!! It was my best new year till date….simply out of this world!!!

Yipeeeeeeeee! Am I excited or wot! And do not remind me of my previous post and my blog backlog…..I will make it up very soon. Hopefully. Fingers crossed

Good luck and god bless you all! Have a fantabulous 2009 😀

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Virtual Vethalapaaku

Posted by Sowmya on October 7, 2008

Its that time of the year again……..which, you ask? Time to unleash your creativity, people skills and time management skills, etc all at once. Navratri it is! 🙂 It is celebrated in various forms across the country. We even had an entire chapter in fourth grade which took an extreme round about route to convey a simple message that Navrathri = Durga Pooja = Dassera = etc i.e. all are celebrated at the same time in different parts of the country by different people.

I am used to celebrate it twin-style – Tamizh and Gujarati. We have an elaborate golu to show off our Tam Bram heritage and we also participate in the local dandiya fest as typical Mumbaites. My golu is an extremely integral part of my life and takes a significant share of my kid-time memories.  For the uninitiated, golu, simply put, is a display of figurines (usually of gods and mythological characters) on odd number of ‘steps’. Gah!!! I am not explaining this very clearly. Take a look –


Thank you! Thank you! I know its awesome and I am insanely proud of it. Though I have no idea why this whole ritual was initiated, my guess would be that it was done to showcase (literally) people’s hidden talents. This whole ensemble takes humungous effort, time and patience as also a year round preparation to boot. I know, not everyone may take it so seriously like us. Anything and everything we see, is with a will-this-be-somehow-useful-in-golu look. Like, the iron piece standing in for a readymade kolam (rangoli, in Hindi) was part of our side-table in the living room. We took it off since it made the small table toooo heavy. The marble pieces serving as a border line for the golu were taken at the time of our house renovation from the contractor with us alternating between threats, bribes and down right theft. See, it does get our creativity to the fore 😉

Some background material – Golu was probably compulsory in the years gone by but like many other traditions and customs has been cast away by the majority. They are not to be blamed considering the sheer amount of time involved! The most important figurines of the golu are ‘mara pachi’ (figurines made of wood), which you can see in the pic above (Just above the Rama, Lakshman, Sita set). These are first to be kept on the golu  and the first to be taken off. People who are not able to do a full fledged golu usually display atleast the ‘mara pachi’. These and other figurines are usually handed down through generations and are something akin to family hierlooms. The other requirement is that the number of ‘steps’ has to be an odd number. The yester-years did boast of many ‘9 step’ houses but space and time constrains have led to an average of ‘5 steps’ in today’s times. Having done this, it is customary to invite every female member of every family you know for ‘vethalapaaku’. A typical ‘vethalapaaku’ comprises of even number of beetle leaves, beetlenut, turmeric pieces and a fruit, usually a banana. The married ladies are given a coconut in addition to this. New age fads include wall hangings, small boxes, kumkum holders, etc as part of the ‘vethalapaaku’. This is always accompanied by ‘sundal’ which is nothing but roasted daal (every daal makes a different yummy sundal). This sundal is an offering to the Gods of the Golu which is then distributed to the invited ladies. Sometimes sundal is replaced with laddu or kesari but mostly it reigns supreme on these 10 days on account of its ease of preparation. The 9th day is ‘Saraswati Puja’ and the 10 day festival is concluded with ‘Vijayadasami’. On the day of the  Saraswati Puja, we keep before Godess Saraswati a sample of all our learning material like study books, music instruments, ghungroo, etc. This is to thank her for her blessings and pray that we propser in all the literary and fine arts. These are kept for a day in front of the Goddess and taken out on ‘Vijayadasami’ which is said to be the most auspicious day to start any new venture, be it studies, music, dance, business, work, whatever…. It is also a day when we pay respects to our teachers who teach us these divine arts.

The golu  in my house started a couple of years after I was born. My dad, being elated on having such a charming daughter (*blush blush*), decided to start the yearly custom. Initally we used woodden boxes and stacks of newspapers on a table and ‘built’ the 3 ‘steps’ which were then covered with a white cloth, usually a unused veshti (dhoti).  As is custom, we added a figurine every year, usually more and the Golu  grew bigger and better. Due to many constraints we could never manage to keep over 5 steps. With the collection growing year on year we needed a new idea. Eureka! Dad came up with this whole concept of keeping a section of the display on the floor just before the 5 steps. Actually you can say he pioneered it, atleast in our locality. We commenced this with a huge thermecol cut-out of the India map with a figurine in each state dressed in the specific traditional wear. Around 12 years ago, my mother remembered her childhood dream of having semi-circular steps instead of the usual straight laced ones. We hunted for a carpenter who could understand my mother’s vision and translate it into reality. It was not easy to find one in Mumbai cos few people there understood what a golu  was all about. We finally found our dream man who did a splendid job of creating a dismantle-able 5 step golu padi. Thankfully mom had the presence of mind to photograph each stage of the assembly line which, in later years, was put to very effective use as a guide for future assemblers.

If golu is all about creativity then I can assure you it definetely serves the purpose. All of us at home have come up with various themes, ideas and art work to enhance the display or hide some flaw in it. We have spent nights and days working on it and the end product usually took our breath away. We have drawn, painted, weaved, built so many golus and each one has been a cherished experience and have left us eagerly awaiting the next one. In the 3 months prior, all converstaions invariably turned to the theme of the year -what to do? how to do? what to buy? where to buy? I clearly remember my brother and me fighting to display our favorite dolls in the centre position or the one with maximum prominence. A couple of figurines were the ones handed over to us by our grandmom who never failed to remind us every year that she bought it for just a rupee some 40 years ago. You wont believe but that figurine still retains its charm and does not look a day older than 5 years. Golu  brings to me million fond memories of the 2 decades gone by…… Another purpose I see in keeping a golu  is that you get to meet everyone of your acquaintances. Thanks to the custom of inviting all females, we meet all our friends and relatives during these 10 days. It feels wonderful to catch up with them on the year gone by with promises to keep in touch more regularly. In fact there are people I meet only on these days since catching up otherwise becomes almost impossible. When it comes to my dad’s friends, even the guys turn up using this opportunity to meet the rest of the gang at one place. This is the only time I dress up, rather deck up with all the jewels my mom possesses. In the last few years I even took to wearing a saree leading to compliments and the usual its-time-to-get-you-married dialogue. My personal custom is to buy a new saree for Vijayadasami. If you want a logic for it, here goes – as I mentioned, this day is the most auspicious day to start anything. So I start my shopping for the year with a new saree. Hows that for logic? 😉

I do have a new saree this year but no golu. I am married and I was so keen to get back home and have other conversations with those sweet aunties who would come home for vethalapaaku, instead of the usual time-to-get-you-married lines. This time I realised how much I love this festival and how I looked forward to it every year. Though I troubled mom by postponing my share of duties, though I gave her a earful when she asked me to dress up, though I sometimes got totally bugged with the sacrifice of my sleep for golu  preparations, though I had to go around door-to-door and invite everyone to come home- inspite of all that, I still love it. I want to do it over and over again. I want to go through each of these experiences and then stand proud next to my golu to take a picture and put it on this blog.

Posted in NOW THAT'S ME, ZILLION YEARS AGO | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »


Posted by Sowmya on May 18, 2008

Its euphoric once and then depression
Its a beautiful way of expression
It makes u laugh sometimes & sometimes cry
It gives u the inspiration for another try

It makes u feel light & lighted
Thats when u r absolutely delighted
It gives u a reason to live
A reason to smile and in good things believe

It gives u hope every morning
And soothes your wounds every night
You can’t classify it as wrong or right
You never know when it might strike

We suddenly seem beautiful to ourselves
And feel the days brighter and flowers bloom by themselves
Nothing seems more important than that secret glance
Thats when your heart writes poetry freelance

Your life begins and ends with his one smile
You could do anything for it, even run ten miles
You cease to be your own master
B’cos of him who makes your heart go flutter
Your heart leaps when you see that someone
Its love, its love that makes the world go round 🙂

Posted in I CALL THEM VERSES | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »