IT Kerala 2006: In detail

Since I spent two of the days I was on break at IT Kerala, blogging about it wouldn’t hurt. From the outset though, I’ll say that there’s not much to talk about. Like I said earlier, the tone set is more in the vein of a village fair than anything business-oriented or techy.

That being said, all the big names in India had a presence there: Intel had two stalls, though none were manned by the company themselves, and I had an interesting time confusing people by asking about the Core Duo processor. The guys were helpful as much as they were able to, but the information was contradictory. I asked about the Apple switch to Intel, and when the new Apple notebooks would be available and received scant information. In the Microsoft stall too, I could not find a single company representative. There were people manning the stall, but none of them had their hands up when I asked for somebody from Microsoft. They were promoting localization in a big way, showcasing Malayalam inside Office: nothing revolutionary. I was also interested in Project Shiksha, a scheme similar to the one that I earlier hinted at, but as was the rule, there was nobody to dole out more information. I dutifuly left my card in a big glass bowl and went gawking at other sights.

Toonz Animation, a company I’ve admired from afar had a nice stall there and I spent quite a good while watching their in-house productions. Not Pixar, but they’ve certainly come a long way since I first saw their videos. Toonz offers courses in 3D Animation and whatnot, but like many computer coaching classes out to make big bucks, they don’t train module by module. The complete package costs something like 70K. I was interested for my bro, but then thought better of the whole thing.

NeST also had a stall, but they were marketing something exceedingly interesting: spices. Yeah, that’s right, you heard me. Spices. NeST condiments had the best smelling stall out there, with an assortment of their wares on display. I thought my days of sleep deprivation had gotten to me when I saw that stall first, but nope. Spices alright. For a company with 20-ish tech subsidiaries, they certainly picked an amazing one to showcase at an IT fest.

The job fair was a huge affair. 99 in 100 people at IT Kerala seemed to be there just for the job, and there are rumours more than 60K candidates attended. I pity those people at Bigleap who organized the event; I’ve worked with them before when they had a small event at Pankaj around a half-year back, but the scale of this recruitment drive was unbelievable. Debated whether to talk to somebody out there and see familiar faces, but the sheer scale of the event was daunting. Waving my delegate card, I was able to cooly walk into all the restricted zones, and I saw a lot of behind-the-scenes talk. The HR people there became a bit crazy after a while methinks, because some interviews were fun to watch :-). Another small observation: if you don’t get placed in-campus, it’s almost 100x as difficult to walk into an interview like this and get a job.

Again, calling this a business event is a joke. I walked through US Soft, Infy, TCS, IBS, and Wipro with some ideas that we had and couldn’t find a single person who I could talk to directly. Maybe those companies are too big, but if good ideas don’t come from the ground up, how will they grow?

Anyways, enough of that, I’ve updated my photo set at Flickr with way more photos. Enjoy.

We Few

We Few by John Ringo and David Weber

@Amazon

Been ages since I reviewed something; the last book I looked at also turned out to be one of the best I’ve read, so if this post hadn’t come along, it would’ve been a fitting burial. Incidentally, that word could have been used to describe this site till just a month ago, with it’s frequency of updation being somewhere close to zilch, but like this review section getting a new lease of life, I smashed up some revamped kewl links so that even if I’m too lazy to type in huge entries, at least something gets on this site via ze magic of push-button publishing.

I’m deviating. We Few by John Ringo and David Weber is branded Military Scifi. Unlike the earlier books in the series: March Upcountry, March to the Sea and March to the Stars, We Few is not purely mil-fi, it’s more a combo of romance, space fiction, diplomatic theory and like all Ringo books, it force-feeds us a healthy dose of Kipling down our gullets. The story of the series is a pretty formulaic “coming of age” tale. Prince Roger, a sugar dandy and heir tertiary to the Imperial Throne is stranded on a deserted planet, and through a trial of hardships, gore, blood, loss and love becomes the uber king who restores the throne to its former glory. Since I delight in growing up tales, I liked this book the best, because Roger was in his element here. However, because of my immediate dislike of militiary fiction – I’ve read about 9 books of Ringo this past month and still I haven’t gotten over it – I didn’t like this as much.

But I’m not sure it’s mil-fi I hate, or Ringo’s writing, because just as the action seems to heat up, he breaks it up with military/diplomacy theory, and why this plan works or should work, and why something else shouldn’t or didn’t. Or why this situation turned out to be like this. Too much analysis is grating. I have to say though that Weber and Ringo write well together, they are very compatible authors. Perhaps this is too harsh, but I also find them decidedly mediocre. It’s okayish writing, but definitely not a cover-to-cover read.

There are definitely other niggles too: weak female characters, unfunny humor, dragging sub-plots, and some really convoluted name creation that takes some “Oh, this is that guy!” moments to get used to. And when you see “scholar”, “non-combatants” and “Imperial throne” in the same sentence and think nothing of it, you know it’s time to get up and take a long break before you come back to read.

Oracle Night

Oracle Night by Paul Aster

@Amazon

I’ve been reading so many books nowadays, on and off, that I even forget the good ones I read. For example, it required a google search to bring back the name of the title (and the author!) of Oracle Night. The only thing I could remember was that the cover featured a blue notebook, and that the first name of the author was Paul. Amazingly, ‘paul blue notebook‘ returned the book title, and another search for that led me to the Amazon page. Google is magic in such cases, and to think our children will take this for granted :-).

Well, now on to the book… ;-). As a rule, I don’t like surrealism in writing… it looks okay when you see it in art (and even then you have to squint and so on) but in a book I can barely stand the layer within layer of meaning that every word seemingly implies. So to pull such a thing off without coming across as ‘intellectual’ is a fine art for any author and Auster does that well.

What is surreal in a book? Well in this case, it’s the technique of a story within a story. The protoganist, a struggling novelist Sidney Orr buys a blue notebook and immediately, seemingly bewitched by it, begins a story about a man who after a near-death experience walks out on his old life and starts anew. Orr’s wife Grace however, starts acting strangely after Orr commences his story. The novel is a fine interplay between the novel within the novel, the menage a trois of Grace, Sidney, and his mentor Trause, and between it all the small blue notebook that so enigmatically shapes the events inside it, and even many things in the real world that Orr lives in. And to add to that, Auster’s book has a very familiar blue cover 🙂

Like all such books ought to be, it’s an experiment in collating unrelated things and finding a larger and deeper whole from it. Surrealism in art works because it’s theorized that that’s how the mind works… the few small flashes of insight that we get everyday (and which allows us to learn… anything) are from unconnected things, and most often such works are trying to explore the essence of intuition. Auster succeeds because he doesn’t delve too deeply into it. He takes a very simple situation, introduces a few random variables, and lets the story evolve. The sudden insight that Orr has in the end about his wife (which interestingly he does not validate) is perhaps due to the story that he evolves in the blue notebook. The reader is led through his process of discovery, and after that, when Orr is free of the spell of the notebook, we are free as well… to imagine what will happen in the delicious open ending that Auster provides.

This book is a decidedly special one. I like.

Ancient Promises

Ancient Promises by Jaishree Misra

@Amazon

Jaishree “Janu” Misra writes a simple, spellbinding tale of love and loss, of pain and deserved happiness which simply rings aloud through and through with bitter experience. Once in a while, I read a book that stays with me for a long, long time. Something inside me takes notice, and I think on the sentences, the words and the characters in the book when I’m doing very different things. Usually, it’s because I identify with some of the characters in the book, and usually, if the protagonist is male, I tend to step into their shoes. But Janu at a lively, imaginative and wonderful 18 years of age, and Arjun a boyish teenager (who loves cricket) that she falls in love with – both of em, can’t be more unlike me. I regret to inform you that it’s her Malayalee husband Suresh I found a kindred spirit in, the Suresh that Janu is forced to marry after abandoning her first love. And Suresh is what I fear I will become 😀

The story, for an Indian author, is refreshingly simple. By that I mean, there aren’t any connivings with the language that both Roy and Rushdie seem to tinker with. Nor is there (despite the name) any deep-rooted mysticism; Janu is human and approachable and her problems are real and vivid and so hard to solve. I can’t draw any parallels with more complicated tales that other Indian authors tend to write nowadays either, but neither is it a return to the ‘before Rushdie’ age with it’s desi tinge; it’s what I feel Indian writing should be – true to the heart, direct, and definitely Indian. Rushdie has said something though that I remember: you have to be an insider and an outsider to see the whole picture. Janu definitely fits the bill, and it’s her unique blend of Delhi-traits and upbringing and her decidedly Malayalee roots that give this story life. I won’t paraphrase the story here because I’m cheating you of a good read, and neither will I give out the many gems of observations that Janu makes about life in Kerala. But if you do get the time, pick up this book; if you’re a Malayalee, don’t miss this.

The Death of Chaos

The Death of Chaos by L.E. Modesitt

@ Amazon | @ YetAnotherBookReview

I’m sure someone must have mentioned this before, but there is a giant power-sucking-vortex when you are dealing with sequels to an excellent story. The nicer the orginal story, the more your readers want a sequel, and the nicer the sequel, the more your readers want another one. Since there is something called the Law of Diminishing Returns, you can only write so many sequels before it starts to taste like dried orange. The rule therefore, if you are an author, is to plan your sequels and to write them well.

The Recluse series doesn’t have many true sequels. It is a large series, but they are more books set in the same universe than continuations of the same plot line. While it helps to read all interconnected books in a series to know everything about everybody, every book stands alone, and that’s pretty wonderful for new readers.

Well, what can I say about this book which is actually the 5th book in the Recluse series and the sequel to The Magic of Recluse? The Law of Diminishing Returns do apply ;-). Lerris returns, but this time as a mage with growing powers. He truly doesn’t understand his powers yet, but as it grows, it changes him in ways that he doesn’t expect. The Recluse series shows why it’s one of the better fantasy sagas out there in this book because it doesn’t repeat or rehash the material of the earlier book. Lerris is much different than what we found in the first book and though his modesty is grating after a while, he does have a few endearing qualities too. Krystal – his consort – is likable, so is Tamra, and so is Justen and Gunnar, and when you’ve read the earlier four books, all these make the story a cohesive unit that’s pretty impressive.

What’s not that impressive is the plot. While it’s fittingly gargantuan and epic, it also has so many ups and downs and twists and turns and confusing details everywhere that it becomes a tough read. The ending is worth it, and is not a let down, however the book is much more long winded than the first one, which is saying something. Recluse is not an easy series to read, and this book proves that too.

For people who like sequels however, this is a good story and one that should not be missed. I for one, liked it more than the first book.