Skip to content

Archive for

Terror in the West Country

I just finished my first book of my RIP 2013 series and as always I am astounded and in awe of the masterpiece creation of detective fiction called Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

I have read everything under the sun which has Sherlock Holmes appearing in it, including regrettably many of the spin offs which have tried to build crime fiction around this brilliant character but with indifferent success. But as usual I digress from the main matter – I finished reading The Hound of Baskervilles.

As I stated before, I have read all the works featuring Sherlock Holmes a million times over and more. But like a very fine wine, every time I revisit the stories, there are new nuances that I can appreciate and new details which I can savor and enjoy. So I went back to The Hound of Baskervilles after a gap of nearly 5 years if not more!

The setting was perfect – the dim setting sun of a chilly September evening which was suddenly overtaken by ominous storm clouds followed by incessant rain and thunder. I did not plan to read the Baskerville because of the weather; in fact I started the book and then the weather changed and it definitely aided the reading.

There have been many things said about the book already, so I cannot seem to say anything original – but I do agree with one simple assessment: it’s one of the finest murder mysteries ever written. Well before the age of high-tech crime and DNA and bio-chemical findings to trace a diabolical murder, this is a simple tale of greed, murder, sheer terror or thrill and brilliant deduction in tracing the criminal in the good old-fashioned way of using instinct and brains.

The story is simple enough – Sir Henry Baskerville becomes the new heir to the Baskerville Hall in Devonshire, after his uncle, Sir Charles Baskerville dies due to a heart complication. However the executor of the will and Sir Charles’s friend and neighbor, Dr. James Mortimer is not convinced that Sir Charles’s death was all natural and is concerned about the well-being of the young Sir Henry Baskerville and therefore seeks out Sherlock Holmes to help in the matter. Dr. Mortimer is worried that Sir Henry might also meet the same end as his uncle and describes the legend that had plagued the Baskerville Hall for centuries – 500 years ago, a Hugo Baskerville, a villain and a thug of highest order had imprisoned country lass, who had refused his amorous advances. In order to escape the clutches and a fate worse than death, the girl climbs down through her window with the help of ivy creepers that grow on the edges of the house and runs away into the moors in the middle of the night. On discovering that his prey had fled, he unleashes his hounds to trace her and follows after them. However his companions soon flow him to prevent any violent actions and discover in the deep moors, the dead body of the girl but also the body of Hugo Baskerville – his throat being ripped apart by an enormous hound.  It is believed that the Hound comes back to kill the heirs of the Baskerville Hall and Sir Charles’s heart attack was brought on by the sight of such a hound. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson then embark on a journey into the very heart of the West country to find the terror and understand if there were actually more things between heaven and earth, which attributes to the truth of the legend.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beautifully captures the moors and the atmosphere. The wild untamed beauty of the West Country is captured in all her majesty and terror. The wild bogs and the proud, lonely and sometimes sinister moorlands is presented very beautifully as a fitting background to this eerie tale, waxing and waning between background and foreground as the story flows.  The characters besides Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are well-rounded and complete with the human capacity of greatness and simple at the same time – Dr. Mortimer could clearly deduce that Sir Charles was waiting for someone the night of his death near the yew path, by discovering the ashes of what constituted as two cigars; at the same time he could not understand why Sir Charles walked on his tip toe towards the moor where his body was discovered; Sherlock Holmes clearly deduces that Sir Charles was running and not tip toeing. His diabolical characters are truly villainous and without the modern-day description towards macabre, his villain is truly a nerve tingling, extremely terrifying character. Finally Sir Arthur’s approach towards women always makes me wonder if he only knew the strongest and fiercest of them since all his women characters from Ms Irene Adler to the women of this novel are passionate, intelligent, loyal and fierce – there is nothing milk and honey and namby pamby about them, something unlike most of the late Victorian writers.  The story builds up to its final climax with some very heart stopping moments and nearly scream out loud instances. The mystery of course is like I said a simple tale, but the setting and the intrigue makes it a marvelous read and reading in an evening like today, makes one look over the shoulder to make sure all is well.

While this tale is celebrated for the “crime fiction” genre, there is one more element that stands out. This is a streak that runs through all almost all Sherlock Holmes based novels – that of “Noblesse oblige”. There is always an element of kindness and good conduct towards the less fortunate not only by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson but by the other protagonists as well. Though first impulse is the stiff adherence to British Law approach, it often gives away to a more kinder resolution, even it means siding against the law to give someone a better chance at life! That kind of humanitarian undertone of the story is often lost in the broader platform of crime and intrigue, but read closely and it’s there!

All in all, it is an absolutely marvelous read and if you have not read, please read it. If you have, then go back and settle down in a comfortable chair, with a beverage of your preference and read it again!

 

Ladies Choice…

I just finished reading a New Yorker article by Laura Hemphill, Why Women Should Skip Business School.  On my very first reading of the article, it left me bristling and the feminist inside me, that rarely comes out, (Feminism and Post Feminism is all very passé! ) kind of exploded.  Ms. Hemphill, herself a survivor of mad-bad world of Wall Street and now an author (She has written a book on a young woman’s survival in the financial world called Buying In – “In” seems to be in; remember Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg!) makes some sweeping assumptions. Though she backs it up with enough data sources, one cannot help but get irritated with the constant chorus of the article – business school is extremely expensive and women don’t make much of it since they by mid 30s, they have a home life to address. Therefore cost benefit analysis shows that women should in fact use the two years to advance in their career instead of opting for Business School.

My first reaction is that she is being extremely narrow in her views; though Finance is a man’s world and there are enough horror stories of women in struggling to gain a footing in this field (that is a whole new post!) there are plenty of women who make it and stay on the top. ( Irene Dorner of HSBC, Edit Cooper of Goldman Sachs, Lara Warner from Credit Suisse etc). While I agree with her that unlike Law and Medicine, a degree from business school is not a pre-requisite to succeed in finance or related industries, one cannot deny that advance knowledge of matter will only help and not hinder. Finally in the era of communication and social responsibility, there are many women who are going full steam in their careers while successfully managing their home lives.

Now after writing all of this, I have to step back and think – I have been working in the financial industry for over 9 years now and have moved from the entry-level to now mid management and have seen how gender opportunities evolve. Though I work for one of the most gender sensitive and sincere organizations, I have loads of friends who belong from this industry of both genders and I have seen the highs and lows of their careers and I have seen how the gender role not consciously but sub consciously seems to affect career choices. Your employer has to do nothing, you will do it yourself!

I have a friend who works in hard-core retail finance – she is one the smartest women I know and her understanding of Analytics and Six Sigma leaves industry gurus gasping for breath. Yet recently, she gave up on a very lucrative career advancement opportunity and instead settled on a relative low-key role because she had a 1-year-old daughter to bring up. She was candid enough to tell me that for the next 7 odd years, i.e. until her daughter is 8 years old or so and her dependency on her mother reduces, my friend will sit tight on the wilderness of career advancement and bide her time out.  She has a husband who is at a lucrative position but travels constantly and therefore she is completely fine with her low-key role where she get a decent remuneration and but most importantly gives her flexible timings and working hours. Career Advancement will come later, much later.  Yet another friend, again very successful and very driven recently declined moving to a new organization that was offering her a better position, a much better pay and benefits because she discovered that she was pregnant. She told me that while her though her current employer did not value her work as much as others, and she had been time and again ignored for promotions, one cannot deny that after working for so long with them she has built up a comfort level and they will be more accommodating of her leaves and other personal needs during the next 9 months than a new organization where she still has to build up her credibility. True, she has to put her advancement on hold for good two years, but at 31, she said her personal life takes priority. These are all examples of women in the fast paced financial industry – even in the more “softer” industries like Art, such choices are being made daily. My sister, a double MFA from University of Boston in Literature and Fine Arts, worked for 8 years in one of the leading Museums where she used to head the Art Restoration department. After my niece was born, she took a complete hiatus from career for good 9 years – true she made that choice willingly and she wanted my niece to have a good home life and not go through some of the downward effects of having a full-time working mother, which my sister and I had ( I never felt there was any downside of having a working mother, but she contends that some of our life choices would have been more thought through if we had more face time with our very kind but always short on time parents). However today when my niece is 12 and quite capable of managing herself, my sister did not go back to the Art field which she loved but instead settled for a teaching job at a Private School since it gave her more time at home and with her daughter.

All of this makes me think that maybe, just may be Ms. Hemphill has a point. She may be right when she states “isn’t the most important thing for a woman to work as hard as she can and advance as far as possible while she’s still in her twenties and her life is as uncomplicated as it’s going to get? That way, by the time she’s a decade or so along, she’ll have more savings, more job experience, and more bargaining power—all of which translate into more options.”  Again I do not want to make sweeping assumptions and there are different stokes for different folks, but there seems to be a significant population of women who attest to the fact that sooner the women get started in their business careers, the better it is.

Does this mean that this is a reinforcement of traditional gender roles?  The man of the house earns the bread and the lady manages the home and hearth? I do not think so; I think this is an over-simplification of the matter. Today most men are equal partners in household chores and managing home front than ever before – these men cook, clean and babysit without qualms and don’t have any inhibition on how these exercises my dint their machismo.  In a nut shell, they are cool with it! The women on the other hand make conscious choices to put their home life ahead of careers.  At the end of the day, they choose to have a baby and bring him/her up, but it was and is their choice. This in itself shows a lot of empowerment and the self-belief to design their destiny. True, it might entail a career step back for a couple of years, but then these women are happy with their decisions.

Last Word – The woman should make her choice that enables her to lead complete and fulfilling lives instead of going  – Shit! I wish…Business School or no Business School!

The End….

I know I was away yet again and I did contemplate a lot before writing this post – but since I have shared all almost all the highs and lows of my life – this one seems proper, though as God be my witness, the idea is not to wash dirty laundry in public or seek sympathy, but to explain that while I will try to be my bouncy, bright, chirpy self – but there might be some days when I falter and I ask you all to bear with me!
I have so often read about such things, heard it happen to other and knew that stuff like this was part of life, but the reality and the fact that it has happened to you or can happen to you, does not really occur until it actually does happen! Then you go from disbelief, to rage to complete numbness! (And yes! Insomnia and writing random blogs in the middle of the night!)
So what has happened, so cataclysmic in nature to make me spew all this bizarre thoughts – oh! the oft repeated, tried and tested sordid ending of a relationship – I have been left at the altar, not practically but metaphorically for another woman. Mr Soulmate has decided that he found another soul better suited to him and was apparently with her for the last couple of months. He told me last week Monday, at work – calling me and saying lets meet for coffee and then “Well I want you to know – yada yada yada!”
I think I spent the next 48 hrs thinking it’s a bad joke that he will come and laugh it off or a bad dream that my flatmate will wake me up from. Apparently it’s not – it’s a reality and he is marrying her in December!
We worked together and that’s how the whole thing started – but I cannot seem to understand the hows/whats/when! He was promoted about 10 days ago and within 3 days after that, it was goodbye to me and hello to someone else! I am still grappling with what hit me/us?
I can’t seem to rant or rage and I do not wish for any scenes or any drama – I just feel very tired and numb and the only thing that keeps playing on my mind is –

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I, how do I, Oh how do I live

If you ever leave
Baby you would take away everything
Need you with me
Baby ’cause you know
That you’re everything good in my life
And tell me now
Ms.Twain really hit the nail there! But I will be back, sooner than you think, but bear with me until then!

Come September……

Yay! Finally fall is on its way! Goodbye to all the heat and dust….no more summers for at least the next 7 months!!!

Oh! How I hate and I mean HATE summers! I love Fall/Winter seasons – cannot get enough of them! You can dress whatever you want, go out in the sun and not melt, eat what you want and of course like I keep saying, it’s the seasons of celebrations – the entire world celebrates their most important festivals during these months! These are just hands down the best part of the year! Give me 12 months of September to January! (Don’t like February too much, it begins to remind me the on coming summer!)

However for now, the summer of 2013 is over and done with! I am so glad that it’s OVER!!!!! I love these days….I see so much beauty, the early morning mist that comes over the valley where I stay, the feel of the warming sun the smell of wood smoke from the small hamlets around the valley; the smaller days and cooler nights – a season of festivals and beckoning of more joy to come!

I am not being poetic; I will leave that to a gentleman named William Blake who himself eulogized this season in a marvelous poem in 1783 and whose words capture the very essence of the season and leave me spell bound!

To Autumn by William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

Once upon a time and everytime…..

So the Classic Club’s September Meme is contributed by Brona from Brona’s Books –

Rereading a favorite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you?

Please be forewarned, this is going to be a loooooonnnngggg post!

Like a lot of people I began my formative years reading a lot of classics and like many I always thought of myself, especially in my teens as (Yup! You guessed it!) Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by the greatest of all, Jane Austin  – I wanted to believe I was clear-headed, was quick  and witty and above all could give it back with all due decorum and politeness! Of course, there was always the sneaky feeling that if I became a Lizzy Bennett, I will find a Fitzwilliam Darcy – I already had a bit crazy and extremely hyper mother and a very laconic and sarcastic, albeit thoroughly sensible father. But life has different plans in place and as I grew older and read all of Jane Austin’s work more closely, I began to realize that I am actually a Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, again by Jane Austin – I was an intellectual and cultural snob, who would turn her nose at anything low brow. I was extremely passionate about everything, still am, the only difference is at that point and this is the University years, I was passionate to the point of fanaticism. I also believed that there is only and only one true love and no secondary attachment could be that passionate. I had even found a semi – Willoughby! (Yikes!!! Super Yikes! Let’s not even get into that!) But now in my more respectable and mature 30 years of age, I know despite every plans and intentions, I have settled down to being a Jane Bennett (from Pride and Prejudice, the elder sister to the much aspired, Ms Elizabeth Bennett)  – how colorless can one get????? But facts are facts – though I do not have the legendary beauty of the eldest Ms Bennett, there can be no denying that I am a fool and do not see faults in anyone unless I am run over by avarice and selfishness of the other.  I am so busy, ensuring everybody else is happy, that no matter how unhappy I am, I keep up the demeanor, without realizing that those that are close to me can never be truly happy unless I am happy! The only thing lacking is Mr Bingley ( Mr Soulmate is nothing like Bingley – he is nothing like any of Jane Austin’s heroes!) and a sanguine temper – I am short fused and this is a carry-over from my Marianne Dashwood days!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is another book, whose re-reading has made me identify more and more with her. As a teenager, when I read the book, I was not particularly impressed by the namby pamby Jane Eyre and her stiff upper lip stance. I wanted fire and courage in my heroines and Jane was a calm stream of water. But re-reading the book during an interesting phase of my life (The Willoughby phase!), I realized how much of strength it takes for an ordinary governess to stand up to a Mr Rochester – to demand to be treated as an equal and what’s more to seek respectability and honesty in a relationship, even when your heart is breaking and you are completely in love with the person. Jane Eyre clearly was one of few books to take such a strong equality stance between men and women, with the subtle underlining of a simple message that took me years to learn, vis-à-vis, matters of the heart, that something simply cannot be compromised on – no matter how high the cost!

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was another novel which I read during my teens and could not really relate too. It took me good 9 years in a corporate environment to understand what it is to be not only very good, but absolutely excel at your job and how the larger crowd with mediocre talents will try to pull you down. Though I am blessed to be working for a great company that actually has very limited if any Corporate politics, but there can be no getting away from the truth – the mediocre crowd would always find flaws with you if you are really good. They would rather you confirm to their average standards, that stand up alone and raise the bar! Individuality is good and having a mind of your own is even better – it’s difficult to stand alone holding the reins of success, but I rather hold the reins than become a blind horse treading the known path!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is yet another book that made me realize a lot of home truths very early. In my Marianne Daswood phase, I could not fathom anyone making big mistakes in life and living on – the concept of forgiving and moving on was alien to me and therefore for a very long time I could not relate to Caleb’s actions in igniting Aron’s mind against their father Adam Trask. It was only much later as I became closer to my sister who was 14 years my senior and always the golden child of the family; therefore for a long time in my eyes taking the place of Aron (though she is undoubtedly more kind to the parents!) that I learnt about making mistakes, accepting them and moving on to make a better life. The day I accepted that I transitioned from a Marianne to a Jane!

Finally and I know I have already written a blog on this but no book at any point of time made me what I am and whose re-reading over the years has just made me appreciate a little more about such non tangential things like courage, honor and integrity – about standing up for one‘s beliefs no matter what and about strength that comes in all forms – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My basic principle of life came from this book and has only become stronger over the years – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!

%d bloggers like this: