Wednesday, June 14, 2006


As a veddy Vise editor once said...

..of course only to us haloed ones known as journalists... "Google is the next Microsoft - it will take over every aspect of the Internet and we wont even realise it." Of course she must have had a communist outlook but then thats just me...

But that aside -The Google Story by David A Vise & Mark Malseed - was neat detour from what I usually pick up to read. This book, like the site itself, is neat, clean and uncluttered and piqued my curiosity enough to go beyond the first few pages.

Its a story about Google (well that's no surprise) and how it came to represent the name for unqualified searches and its associated products. Google- its origin at Stanford and initial attempts to sell it and finally the famous duo starting out on their own. Slowly how the company retained search as its best service and developed ancilliary services.

Fought almost every step of the way to give out ownership of the company and got their way almost always. Its makes you want to believe that every business model is doable in this fashion. Keep going and doing what you think is right and make sure that you get away and because your product(s) consistently blows market expectations over and you always get your way.

Google, which became famous for its motto "Dont be evil" was almost like a slap-in-the-face for other prevalent technology companies, if this book is to be believed. It continues to, today, make and do bigger things and have even grander plans for the future.

But the book conveneniently glosses over issues like when Google ran into trouble in China and keen that it was to China, it had to bow down to regulatory pressure and block certain words from its search. Then the various cases filed against Google for many a trademark infringements- the whole issue in the book has been glossed over and more emphasis has been laid on how Google insisted on free food for its employees which became something of a cult status in the job market for tech companies.

What is most infectious or perhaps the bigger lesson that you carry on is 'have a healthy disregard for the impossible'. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, geniuses in the own right, made things look disarmingly easy. But these two fought every step of way from refusing advertisements on the home page to not giving up ownership to reluctantly hiring a CEO and going public in a way that was complicated and unique at the same time or getting pulled up for an interview that got published, of all places, in Playboy!

Instances are many and the book is filled with loads of anecdotes. Its worth reading to know the origins of Google (not really humble) especially if tomorrow it goes the conventional way of becoming a traditional enterprise, you at least know it began differently!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Brief notes about Patna Roughcut -Siddharth Choudhury

Friday, May 19, 2006


Norwegian Wood - Haruki Marakami

Like most books on my shelf, this too has been langusihing for a while. I expected it to be another surreal read (thats the problem - expectation kills almost all anticipation) but the book was was tidy read.
Interesting, engaging and unpredictable to some extent. The book kept me going till the last page, at which point, I felt that while it was not the expected end (I still prefer good happy ends where the boy gets the girl), my mind had galloped ahead expecting many more letters from Naoko to Toru and many more conversations with Midori.
A story about Toru Watanabe remembering life when he was just beginning to discover a life of ending adolescences and losing important in your life and how it is a way of life - pleasant or not. The various people he meets and how each teaches him something (a lot like life eh) and its finally a story. Some drama and some mundane-ities and its all over.
Some parts are really sad.. like Midori getting used to funerals or how sex and love can be so skillfully detached and that its so incredibly common. Its like these things happen but you dont want to actually accept that they do.
One part I really liked was the unusual settings Toru gets to know the women in his life - on a terrace with a fire on, in a sanatorium, in trams. This too mirrors life. I mean, it so happens with me that while driving back home, nearing my destination and I am bang in the midst of a superb conversation that I remember for years to come. Oh I always have them in unusual settings - in temples, by the shores of a river while waiting to go rafting, waiting for the soup to arrive at a road side stall or waiting for the movie to begin... such conversations always stay with u...
I did not get understand why this is such a revolutionary book because it is not like his typical writing, where I always most certainly have to go back and read the lines again.. but yes the language is so fluid and delicious that you want to cherish phrases as you read them.

Here are some interesting reviews of the book.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

I just finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I began it it with great trepidation but it more than liked it. The book is deceptively calm - like one of those movies where you something is going to happen but you dont know how or when it will happen but everytime you turn the page you this this is it.
Amir and Hassan - two children who lived in a wonderful bubble called childhood. All it takes is one incident to change all that. And somehow that tone is set from page one of the book. But one thing I did not expect is its sheer grab-you-straight-by-the-throat quality. And that happens every time the books turns a cornerstone and there are many.
The two lose their innocence in ways that makes you put down the book and hope to make the world a safer place for children. It is a story that explores friendship, courage, cruelty, humanism, loyalty and is brilliant without being maudlin. The more I talk about the story, the more I will give away.
You know there is this ugly fasciation where repulsive behaviour is concerned. There is a morbid fascination. You continue to stare and look even after getting digusted like I try and make eye contact with the lizards in my house.. and watch them eat cockroaches and butterflies but on a similar note, here you keep turning page after page, reading and reading and wondering and reading! Of course the book is not repulsive at all but the words conjure up images that are distressingly real.
I could write loads on how the book is so not what you expect and how it affected me and so on. But will just say - go read it. And yes close each lingering issue else it will come back to haunt you at absolutely unexpected times.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Zadie Smith On Beauty

After what feels like a really long time I came across a book where it flows effortlessly from page to page and chapter to chapter. I had only heard about it in Booker lists and read reviews on hugely famous lit blogs. Needless to say I approached it with skepticism.

But it started off unexpected well. A book that starts with little tracks and incidents that take a while to get under the skin off but the story starts flowing much before that.

The best part about the book was the whole concept of beauty that it throws around. Without getting into too much personal information, the book helped me come face to face with the fact that despite whatever your personal image you may have of yourself, not everyone thinks like you. That may be the best thing for you. Beauty truly lies in the eye of the beholder and I have come around to understanding what this can mean in real life parallely while reading this book.

I have never believed platitudes and still do not believe it when anyone does say that looks do not matter. They may not matter in the long run but that is one of the main criteria for attraction. But what I am beginning to discover that it that it is this criteria that is subjective. Its this degree that I am discovering and learning to adjust to. A revelation of sorts for me. Like I said this was parallely happening while reading the book and therefore will probably one of those books which will be remembered forever in my reading life. Like Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree when I truly realised that I like reading about food (all those superb scones, buns, pies, tarts, biscuits and toffees). This one is a similar land mark book.

Of course, unlike the course in real life, the book meanders half way down the story and though is fluid, it does not stay true to itself. A story about a marriage and the required precarious balance, watching other relationships teether and at the same time, having to pass one correct values to your children, despite the fact that those values may not have helped you to rescue your own.

The story progresses in a predictable fashion so no point talking about it here. Kiki, Howard, Zora, Jerome, Victoria, the Kipps, the Belseys, Claire, Choo.. and other myriad characters make it an interesting read. But one point I have to mention. I started the book and about twenty pages into the book (when it gets mentioned that one of the main characters is black), at that point I realised that how by default without even registering it, I assumed the protagonists will be white. I mean, to my mind, it was not something to even think about. Some conditioning...I guess.

Worth reading, its not a tedious read and in hardback with a large font, makes life easier. Here is an interesting review.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


It has been long enough!

Two books read recently and both loved one more than the other - just like a mother and her two children.

When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro

My second Ishiguro and reaffirmed my initial ...ummmm... what do I call it? My initial reasons for liking him. I always worry about extremely popular authors. First time if you do like their first book you read (god help if you dislike the popular!) there is always that niggling worry about not liking anything else that will follow by the author.. especially successive work. So was rightly concerned because I had liked lots of things about 'The Remains Of The Day'.

This book is a simple enough story or so it seems. In the first few chapters itself, you have uncovered many layers - Christopher Banks, his life, his life in China and interspersed with history. For a large part of the book, it seemed like a regular story, which may have a moral at the end of it. The neat little twist was a pleasant surprise and had I read the book in a sitting (or 2 days - which I did not and spread it over a couple of weeks instead) I would have seen it coming.

Another thing that struck me that how events from childhood are inevitably coloured and are much more grandiose than the actual event. Like in My Family and Other Animals, only when he revisits China does he realise some of the squalor and mustiness that even his memories did not record.

His language is typical, like reading a novel with glasses made of Wren and Martin but I am also told, that also has a history, link for which I cannot find. Next on the list for the same author is 'The Unconsoled'. So should I read it of skip it?

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas - Tom Robbins

This is the child (or book in this case) that I prefer between the two for this post. I dont know what about this author that I like so much but his books seem somehow timeless. The last book I read seemed appropriate in the light of the situation then and even so much now!

Gwendolyn Mati a stock broker (read scam between the two words) is worried about her future (and incidentally even the country's) now that the US Stock Market has fallen and fallen and gone beyond depths imaginable. Her future, her doubtfully earned money and her stock related happiness - all is at stake. The whole book is set between the evening before Good Friday and Easter Sunday and all she can possibly do in between.

Thrown in for additional seasoning is a tarot card reader who unfortunately can tell if you have a genuine orgasm or not, a born again(!!) monkey who resorts to turning tricks again - even humans are not as pious, mostly.. and of course her permanent boyfriend and intermitten lovers.

Written superbly with wit, disapproval and some amazing little nuggets of wisdom - of stock market rises, happiness, money, orgasms - I guess it talks about satisfying all your basic needs. And since my roommate has taken this book along for this is the only book she deigns funny and serious and readable on a flight, none of these lines I can share rightaway.

The Easter weekend is around the corner and a correction due in our markets expected not one day too soon.. I cant but help draw parallels.

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