I am Prashant Mudgal, an engineer by degree, a drop out from my masters degree, mathematical analyst and data scientist by profession, travel enthusiast, budding marathon runner, avid reader, love history and archaeology, love doing puzzles(even though I can't crack more than half of them), scrabble player, modular origami enthusiast, international cinema and indie movies zealot, dabble on both harmonica and violin, a healthy diet seeker, vegetarian by practice, a decent cook......etc etc
When you find yourself in unknown parts of the world, trying to finish some work assignment or a presentation while nibbling on your croissant and listening to some white noise to gain concentration,
always try to find some time for yourself, to gather your thoughts, to introspect and retrospect, to write your thoughts down to crystallize the concoctions of your brain over a cup of coffee and to listen to some music to enjoy those stolen moments,
because it is important to find your own story at the end. The story of our life to break us free from ourselves and from the tangible and intangible object, so even if our body can’t walk through walls and obstructions but our imagination and soul can.
Paris is no stranger to literature. It has been the centrum of not only the classics such as The Tale of Two Cities(Dickens) and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame(Hugo) but also Paris, France of Gertrude Stein and My Life in France by Julia Child. Henry Miller’s Quiet days in Clichy has a scene in which a policeman arrives at Joey’s and Carl’s apartment and questions them about Colette’s presence. By the grace of Franz Kafka Carl isn’t charged and only given a warning and that makes the statement ” It is Paris, even the policemen are literary” true.
I am in constant search of that literary Paris. Shakespeare and Co. is definitely part of my universe and so is Librairie Galignani on Rue de Rivoli. A part of me is always looking for that moment where I am in tight quarters with the books, the place with a personality of a human being, the one that makes you stay there and stand there leafing through myriad collections of timeless pieces. The place that tells the story, the place where books aren’t neatly stacked on shelves but in bundles. The place where they breathe and are allowed to be dog eared, where they aren’t an embellishment to an institution but an integral part that makes the institution. And I found one such place. In the city of lights! A friend had recommended Abbey Bookshop to me a while ago and this time I wasn’t in any mood to see the gimmicks of tourists on Rue de Bûcherie, I wanted to be in a quiet place which isn’t laden with people adorned with mini cannon sized cameras and taking photos of anything that moves or doesn’t.
It was one of those days when I wasn’t carrying my umbrella and it rained cats and dogs. Drenched, I entered the book store, dried myself a little and began my adventure in this heaven on 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie 75005 Paris. The place reminded me of Doctor Glas of Soderberg, Raskolnikov of Dostoyevsky, Holden Caulfield of Salinger, and Huckleberry Finn of Twain. It seemed all of them were having a conference there in their night suits while sitting on their warm and comfortable arm chairs generating the còsagach (competitor of Hygge these days) in the ambience.
I browsed through the various sections for hours and so did the two other people who were there in the store with me. The place has so many books that it seems to defy the laws of Physics. Brien, the owner, told me that gravity had its way many times there. I got my copy Chekov’s farces and polar opposite Miller and his escapades in NYC and Paris and decided to leave but it was still raining very hard. I asked Brien if by any chance he sells umbrellas as well, he went inside and fished for an umbrella and gave it to me and said with the usual Canadian warmth “Bring it back whenever it is a sunny day.”
With a smile on my face and an umbrella over my head, I knew I will be back again.
It took me a while to find Moilère and have a dialogue with him on a rainy day in Paris in Père Lachaise. I was reading the map incorrectly and was hovering around entirely different section of the cemetery when I realized where I was and where I have to go. Finally I found myself in the triangle formed by Av. transversal No.1, Ch. LaPlace, and Ch. Moilère et La Fontaine. Number 44 is where Moilère rests but I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it. The phone battery was getting immensely low and I didn’t dare to check how the resting place of the greatest masters of comedy looks so I can check each and every grave in the triangle. After running from pillar to post within the confines of my area I was about to give up and leave and then somehow it was there. Right in front of me! All this time!
Rightly he had said, The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.
The first step in problem solving is to acknowledge that there is one. When one acknowledges one’s ignorance, when the seed of doubt and uncertainty is allowed to flourish and nourish, then we are on the path towards progress. If one believes his knowledge is thorough and complete then there isn’t a room for improvement but the nature has taught us persistently that there is enough since time immemorial.
The eternal question has troubled the human mind. Thousands of philosophers, scientists, poets, religious bodies have tried to fathom the meaning of life. The general consensus is that great human potential would be untapped once we know what our actions are directed at and what goal we are aiming at.
If I were candid I would admit I don’t know a great deal but when I take the knowledge from the ancient civilizations, the knowledge that exists in our minds and our great libraries and books I would forthrightly say – we still haven’t found the answer to the eternal question despite the fact we have taken every piece of knowledge that ever existed or is existing. When we admit that we still haven’t answered the question than we have left the door open for the possibilities. That there can be an answer out there in open lurking behind something.
Admitting the ignorance isn’t a new idea, it is the idea from the age of reason. It is the idea of democracy. It is the idea that one plus one greater than two (not mathematically). It lays the foundation for a system that can be an incubator for the new ideas. The old practices, thoughts can and should be weeded out if they are no longer relevant. It gives rise to a more flexible system based on inclusion and exclusion of ideas on the basis of their relevance. It creates a system that lets us leave the door to an unknown ajar while solving a problem, howsoever trivial or esoteric it might be.
I have been wondering for a long time for how to start writing this piece. I have cooked spaghetti in between and have put two large morsels of it in my mouth and pacing up and down the floor in my apartment. Last year while coming back from Hangwai in Korea town, I found a diary in Q train. The diary itself had small pieces of pasted papers in it and the small papers dated back at least 100-150 years. Those papers were the excerpts from the diaries of then Manhattanites. I read a little bit of it before returning it to the station agent and I hope the rightful owner would have found that precious collection. I smiled at many of the entries. There isn’t anything surprising but then too something peculiar about the human emotions, the thoughts, and the struggles. They have been the same only the context and the setting has been changing. The insecurity, solitude, envy, buoyancy, fear etc have been there irrespective of me writing this down in a well lit apartment or by someone on a park bench. What matters is how deep we can reach within ourselves to tingle those chords but the religion, education authorities, morality have been twisting and turning the fate of the society since time immemorial and the result is a concept that is what Nietzsche called sklavenmoral – the slave morality. What it results in is a factory producing followers. Followers of something and followers of everything. The concept of Ubermensch is not to be found and such beings exist only in fictions and may be that’s why all the Marvel and DC Comics movies do so well on box office. But Nietzsche is grossly misunderstood thanks to his sister and brother in law and the various interpreters who have a knack of twisting words to imbue their ideas on the masses.
I didn’t want to write this post but George Whitman’s words illuminating over the bookstore made me realize that if I want to be frère lampier then I have to be ready to light the metaphorical lamps.
The visit was akin to a pilgrimage for me. Situated by the river Seine in the latin quarters, the store does nothing but embellishes the bibliophile quotient of the city of lights.
The store is enormous and it holds so many books that it seems the place has achieved the best Weissman score for its compression algorithm. Initially the store was at 12 Rue de l’Odéon and was used as an office by Fitzgerald couple, T.S. Eliot, Hemingway. The owner of the store, Sylvia Beach, was the one who put James Joyce’s Ulysses into publishing.
The place has a beautiful cat that is not to be disturbed and I really admire the concept of no photography inside. At the entrance or by the bench one can find those tourists, with DSLRs larger than medieval cannons, looking through the eye piece of those massive devices and asking their friends/families/fellow travelers to pretend reading a book. How many photos and what types of photographs they are aiming at? Ich warum nicht!! Despite all this harakiri, there is a vibrant energy here that is scarce to find. The bookstore has rooms like chapters in a novel and Whitman had rightly described it by saying “Where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.”
It is a place where entire world comes, stays for a while and then leaves and for whatever time I was there, those moments were moments of Hygge for me.
I feel happy when I find such movies coming out of the Indian production houses. When you watch a movie you are investing your time in an experience that you would like to cherish. There can be many reasons why a writer, director, and other members gather to create a motion picture. It can be a message they want to pass across, want to portray a character and its development, financial reasons and many more. The movie Newton succeeds on many levels such as acting and storytelling. It is about a young Government officer who has been sent to a naxal infested area for conducting elections. He is single minded and would do anything to see that his job is done. The moral fiber and integrity of his character are exemplary of how one should act. The film reflects on various aspects of elections in the largest democracy in the world in a dark comic fashion. The dialogues of Raghubir Yadav are punchlines and the constant bickering between Aatma Singh and Newton is one can relate to the experiences one might had in the Govt. offices.
Before Issac Newton proved the three laws of motion everyone had their own laws – church had its own, other astronomers had their own, and rest of the people believed on what they chose to believe. Issac Newton showed the world (earth is an inertial frame of reference) that the same law is applicable to everyone and we are bound by the same laws and the same message is passed by the film.
I sometimes wonder why Scandinavian skies are so dreamy. Whenever I am there it feels I am in a limbo.
Photo Credits : Wikipedia
Last week I watched this movie while having my early dinner. Klumpfisken or The Sunfish, a Danish movie. The sunfish also known as Mola Mola is the heaviest bony fish on earth.
Photo Credits : National Geographic
Coming back to the movie, there wasn’t anything extraordinary about the movie as it isn’t pretentious. In today’s world that is extraordinary. It’s a story about a fisherman and his struggles, a marine biologist and her perspectives. The beautiful sky, the virgin beaches, and life like emotions add to the plot of real people with real life and real stories. If that’s not how movies should be then I don’t know what movies are for.
This post has been in the draft mode for a long time, to be precise – since the day I watched the masterpiece of Nolan and it was the day when the film was released in US. I watched the first show itself and as expected I was in awe with it. Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight series, Inception, Interstellar all of his works tell the story that Nolan charms his audience by presenting something that hasn’t been done before and does so audaciously and his assiduousness often succeeds. Dunkirk takes you to the beach city of France where the battle of Dunkirk was fought.
Memento employed the method of going back and forth in the past and telling the story non linear and reverse chronological fashion and same non linear method was used for Dunkirk as well. The storytelling is impeccable in the sense that three different narratives are there in the film with different protagonists and Nolan used all possible form of war – air, water, and land. One thing to note here is that all those narratives took place in three different times and not simultaneously but the place for the events was the same. It is similar to the questions in my head when I receive letters of those people in my mailbox who used to live in the apartment before I moved. What was their life? How did they keep the apartment? What side did they keep the bed?
The three stories in the movie augmented with Hans Zimmer’s music keep the tension alive in theater. Every minute of the movie has been utilized to its maximum efficiency. One doesn’t worry about the bigger war but only the one that is taking place in Dunkirk and eventually realize that the place – Dunkirk is the subject. Another masterpiece from Nolan!
Point 1 : I didn’t have a better title for this post
Point 2: This post was in the draft mode in an open Chrome window for more than 2 months.
Point 3: A phone call with my cousin made me realize that the post is in draft mode
Few weeks ago I was analyzing the web content, its relevant data and the investments in the TV and digital channels for advertisements. Eventually I ended up watching the old advertisements from India in 90s to reminisce the good old times. Even Lithuanian writer Giedra Radvilavičiūtė agrees with me that Happiness is reminiscing. One thing that was very stark in those ads and even the ads that surface today was men were shown purchasing cars and taking loans for the houses while the women were shown happy in the kitchen and taking care of what goes into family members’ bellies or how white the shirts are. The competition among women wasn’t about who will write better python code but who will produce whiter shirts. Shifting the focus to movies and most of them fail the Mako Mori test ( film should have at least one female character who isn’t supporting a man’s story and she should have her own narrative). Almost all of them were rarely ambitious beyond getting married to someone they loved, no career, nothing. Jewelry is sold under the pseudo emotional statement that it makes a woman happy and having gold is associated with domestic stability. Being in a couple is the only approved way to live.
What else can you expect from the patriarchal, myopic society of India where women have been marginalized for centuries and have played only certain roles in the society barring a few outliers. Few days ago I was at Vasa Museum in Stockholm, a museum of Viking ship from 1626. The ship sank and so did women and men aboard. The women were identified as Beata and Yvla(made up names given by Archaeologists). I learned while sati was the only ‘chaste’ choice for a widow in India, Svenska women enjoyed far higher rights and sort of absolute freedom post the death of their husbands (Beata was probably a widow)