Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Calcutta Chromosome, a book review

I am a big fan of Amitav Ghosh and if there is any reason for being so drawn to reading, maximum part of the credit goes to him. My first read from his books was 'The Glass Palace', I was so drenched in his writing that I wished the book could just never finish. I read it slowly, feeling and reeling every word written. Most of his work emphasizes on people and history. He has a magical way of bringing the history to you that you can vouch for seeing the whole trade firsthand.

The book 'The Calcutta Chromosome' is a variation from his work. It is an attempt in futuristic science, a mix of mystery, history and science. It has received mixed review on Goodreads, with both kinds, praises and criticism. And as I complete reading it today, I think I understand the arguments in both parties.

The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery
From Victorian lndia to near-future New York, The Calcutta Chromosome takes readers on a wondrous journey through time as a computer programmer trapped in a mind-numbing job hits upon a curious item that will forever change his life. When Antar discovers the battered I.D. card of a long-lost acquaintance, he is suddenly drawn into a spellbinding adventure across centuries and around the globe, into the strange life of L. Murugan, a man obsessed with the medical history of malaria, and into a magnificently complex world where conspiracy hangs in the air like mosquitoes on a summer night.

The book draws you into the story right from the beginning. It educates you with the history (it is part fiction except for the multiple characters, rather scientist and the dates) of Malaria and it's cure. The story is such that it demands that the author has to take us through the future and the past, urging us to pick the clues and to understand the mystery. With moving back and forth in time and multiple characters with their own stories, the plot thus gets complicated and at times you find yourself scratching your head. But by the end of the story you put one and one together and the mystery is solved, except that some (who are in the critics side) are not satisfied. The issue is that the ending seems a bit far fetched. My argument here is that, since it is a science fiction, why do we need an ending that is meaningful to our current intelligence. Let it go beyond our understanding.

The book frequently brings forward philosophical ideas of Silence and Experimentation. Though we believe that we understand the the idea of experimentation and experimenter presented in the book, I am sure there is more to understand the real meaning behind the metaphor and the direct expression. The author has rather kept it open for the reader to interpret it. Overall I think The Calcutta Chromosome is more than just a science fiction, and I am obliged to give 31/2 stars.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Shackles

Those eyes that look at me
They hold me ransom
Unlocked but still not free
Clawing my body and soul

I wake up frightened
If it's you by the door
I stay mum looking calm
Eyes stuck to the floor
 
Inside its shrieking hum
Red stains and cuts I hide
But they are thrilling
Like a hungry tide
 
It's not good they tell me
There are places beautiful
For once I should set free
Run. I run as fast I can
 
But it's just inevitable
I am in his arms again
Is it him or is it me
The mind can't free
From this enticing captivity

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

East Himalayan ‘Dream’ trip

One of my dreams is to travel all the beautiful places in Himalayas. I got the pleasure to visit Shimla, Kullu & Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh. All of these completely beautiful. With Himalayas stretching over as many as five countries, India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Pakistan, I wonder will that take a lifetime?

I love the mountains, specially The Himalayas, however contrary it may sound, but I love to plan the itinerary. So when Skyscanner in collaboration with Blogadda came up with this amusing contest of planning a trip with a kitty of Rs. 1 lakh, I jumped at the prospect. Even though it would be just an itinerary with an imaginary trip, it sounded so tempting.

If I have this credit of Rs. 1 lakh, I would take a step towards my Travel Himalaya dream. My plan would be to travel part of Eastern Himalaya. That is travelling to Nepal & Sikkim starting from Sikkim.

The itinerary will look like following -

Day
Date Cost/day Description Hotel Description
1 04-11-2015 Rs. 3,043 Mumbai to Bagdogra Flight    
2 04-11-2015 Rs. 3,000 Bagdogra to Gangtok Helicopter    
3 04-11-2015 Rs. 3,000 Travel Gangtok to Singhik Rs. 2,000 Singhik Tourist Lodge
4 04-12-2015 Rs. 3,000 Visit Gurudongmar lake & return to Singhik Rs. 2,000 Singhik Tourist Lodge
5 04-13-2015 Rs. 3,000 Return to Gangtok Rs. 3,600 Netuk House Gangtok
6 04-14-2015 Rs. 3,000 Gangtok to Ravangla Rs. 1,800 Queens Regency
7 04-15-2015 Rs. 3,000 Ravangla to Pelling / Yuksom / Uttarey Rs. 1,000 hotel garuda
8 04-16-2015 Rs. 3,000 Uttarey to Gangtok Rs. 3,600 Netuk House Gangtok
9 04-17-2015 Rs. 3,000 Gangtok to Bagdogra by Helicopter     
10 04-17-2015 Rs. 3,905 Fly to Katmandu. Visit Patan Rs. 2,900 Marcopolo
11 04-18-2015 Rs. 7,200 Fly to Pokhara by Buddha Air Rs. 800 Hotel Diplomat
12 04-19-2015 Rs. 5,088 Fly to Pomsom to Muktinath Rs. 1,000  
13 04-19-2015 Rs. 5,088 Muktinath to Pokhara Rs. 800 Hotel Diplomat
15 04-20-2015 Rs. 7,200 Pokhara to Katmandu Rs. 2,900 Marcopolo
16 04-21-2015 Rs. 7,380 Katmandu. Enjoy Mountain flight Rs. 2,900 Marcopolo
17 04-23-2015 Rs. 10,257 Return to Mumbai    
    Rs. 73,161   Rs. 25,300 Total: Rs. 98, 461.

The deal was to plan for trip of Rs 1 lakh. I have it in Rs.98,461. A little change in the pocket wouldn’t sounds bad.  

Now the above itinerary may look simple and plain, let me assure you that it took days and lots and lots of effort. Visiting forums, wikitravel, took lot of my mind peace. In the chaos, simplest was to plan the transport and hotel bookings which took 10% of the entire effort. Thanks to Skyscanner. The Itinerary now completed, I am happy with outcome. I hope it would turn to a real trip some day.

I am tempted to give some of the highlights of the trip :-

Bagdogra to Gangtok helicopter service: Fly from Bagdogra, West Bengal to Gangtok in just 30 minutes and guess what, fly in helicopter. Now I have never been into a helicopter (I bet most of us haven't) and with such a terrific start, the trip cannot be better.

 

Singhik:                                                     

Catch beautiful view of ever beautiful Kanchenjunga mountain range.   A small and picturesque hamlet, Singhik is located around four kms away from Mangan. The popular Singhik View Point offers the most magnificent view of Mt. Khangchenjunga & Mt. Siniolchu . Surrounded by lush green hills, with the Teesta River flowing below it. With the surrounding pitchursque mountain ranges, I bet the sunrise and sunset will be a lifetime experience.

 

Gurudonmar lake: 

Situated at a height of 17,800 feet, it is a fresh-water lake is located northeast of the Kangchenjunga range in a high plateau area connected with the Tibetan Plateau.

It is considered one the most sacred lakes by the Buddhists and Hindus alike.

The beautiful and awe inspiring lake (190 kms from Gangtok) remains milky in colour throughout the year.

 

Ravangla:

Ravngla is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Sikkim. At an altitude of 7000 ft, located on a ridge between Maenam and Tendong Hill, Ravangla offers unmatched views of the Greater Himalayas.

Ralang Monastery, a Buddhist monastery of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism is located six kilometres from Ravangla. Ravangla attracts a lot of Himlayan birds and is a bird watcher's paradise.

 

 

Pokhara:

Pokhara is the starting point for most of the treks in the Annapurna area.

One of Nepal's most beautiful spots, Phewa Tal is surrounded by a combination of monkey-filled forests and the high white peaks. The reflections in the mirror-like water in the early mornings are something you must see at least once before you die. Hire a boat and row yourself across the lake (or hire a local to do it for you - there are some fine times to be had on this lake, even in the middle of the night!)

 

Patan, Katmandu:

Patan is also known as Manigal. It is best known for its rich cultural heritage, particularly its tradition of arts and crafts. It is called city of festival and feast, fine ancient art, making of metallic and stone carving statue.

The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma-Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness). The four thurs or mounds on the perimeter of Patan are ascribed around, one at each corner of its cardinal points, which are popularly known as Asoka Stupas.

The most important monument of the city is Patan Durbar Square, which has been listed by UNESCO as one of seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site.

 

Katmandu Mountain flight:

And the most amazing experience would be the Mountain flight. The captain will fly you at eye level for the perfect viewing experience. Everyone gets their very own window seat.

The plane visits all the nine major peaks that every Himalayan trekker better be able to pronounce, within the span of a Nepali hour.

   

Well, above were just few of the gems of the trip. As I waded through the photos and forums, sometimes mesmerising and sometimes overwhelming, planning an itinerary was getting tougher. More than deciding the destinations, the selection of Hotels and travel routes & flights can be very consuming. But a perfect companion to me in helping in this bigger task was Skyscanner.

imageI am not being biased here but what I liked in Skyscanner was the response time of the query. It is much faster than most of the sites that I am used to.

Also one major plus with this site is that there are no multiple popups or screens opening on your laptop when you enter your search which is so very irritating.

 

image

The user interface is very easy and helped me in planning the flights and hotels very conveniently!

There are other options like car hire & buses on the site which I bet would also be very helpful and handy for travel.A hands-on on the site and you will find much of your interest and help.

Happy Travelling!


This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at BlogAdda.com

Sunday, July 27, 2014

#WhatTheBlack

From old times, Black is considered evil by puritans. Do you know why? I say, because it's seducing!

Blogadda has brought us a new contest, #WhatTheBlack, where we have to write about five black items that we wish for and why. As I think about the list, here are some black gadgets that have put spell on me. Wish I had these.
 
5) Play Station 4 – Why just play Candy Crush alone ? We can sure have fun with friends at altogether different level!
4) Wacom Intuos 5 – With an apt designer tool at hand, I wouldn't see any of my sketches just waste away on papers.

3) iPad Air – Anyone with an iPad or Mac would be a proud owner, isn't it? The sleek and alluring apple gadget exude finest design and technology.


2) Camera Lenses – Anything that I am desperately want to have my hands on, Filters, Lenses - Fixed, Wide angle etc. Technique, practise and good lenses are key to better photos..


1) The Magic Hat – How about having the black magic hat? I wouldn't bother with a bunny though. I have better and longer list!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazing Things Your Smartphone Can Do

I'm sure we've all had "Aha!" moments. Why, when I upgraded my old phone to a smartphone, I've had them everyday. It took me a surprising while to get the most out of my phone. Well, aside from the obvious - calling and texting, taking pictures, listening to music and playing games, did you know that there are other cool uses for your smartphone?

Health Monitor

With accessories that you can use with your smartphone to measure your blood pressure and blood glucose levels and apps that can track your daily workouts, weight and diet, monitoring your health and fitness has never been so fun and easy.

Tracker

Want to keep a watchful eye on the family? You can locate your loved ones by tracking them on your smartphone.

Remote Control

Do you know that you can replace your collection of remote controls with your smartphone? Yes, you can use your smartphone to control various home appliances.

GPS Unit

If you need a GPS unit for your daily runs and bike rides, you can download GPS apps or maps that you can use offline on your smartphone.

Digital Cookbook

Can't get enough of your favorite recipes? Download cooking apps and recipes and turn your smartphone to a digital cookbook you can carry everywhere.

Scanner

There are tons of apps that will let you use your smartphone for all your barcode or QR code scanning needs.

eReader

If you're unwilling to splurge on tablets or eBook readers, you can use your smartphone as a digital reader. There are lots of apps, both free and paid, that you can install on your smartphone to make it a decent reading device.

Digital Wallets

You can now hold your payment and banking information on your smartphone and enjoy cash-free transactions, making carrying credit cards a thing of the past.

Webcam

You can video chat using your smartphone.

Television

Always on the go? Don't worry, you can still watch your favorite soap via live TV streaming on your smartphone.

Mobile Hotspot

Don't you find it annoying every time a friend has access to the internet and you don’t or vice versa? Good thing you can turn your smartphone into a wireless router and share your data access with other devices easily.

Measuring Tool

You may not have a tape measure or a ruler with you at all times (really, who does?), so if you need a measuring tool to measure height, width, distance, area, and what have you in a jiffy, by all means, whip out your phone and measure away.

Do you know of other practical uses for your smartphone? Please do comment share below! And for anyone in the market for a new smartphone, you can compare plans and get free information at http://www.no-contract-plans.com.


BIO

Sage Harman is a frugal living enthusiast, wife and mother. She runs http://www.no-contract-plans.com, a site dedicated to providing free information to consumers trying to find viable no-contract phone and internet plans.

P.S:.Thank you Sage Harman for putting together some helpful tips. It will help many of us. And thank you for being my first Guest blogger :)