Bloodlands : Europe Between Hitler and Stalin


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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
by Timothy Snyder
Published 2015 by Vintage

Even though I’ve read about WW2 many times previously and, after a point, it felt increasingly important to me to read more about the eastern front. But the reason behind why I wanted that was different – that this was where the greater war was fought and so less was generally available to be read, even though all the numbers that came out were way too huge. After reading this book, and I’ll be honest that I didn’t have the complete idea about what the eastern front actually meant to the war and what exactly happened there, it dawned that, more than the numbers and durations, this was actually the most fated part of the world soaked in blood and tears, a part that has been so out of the world’s folklore that we don’t ‘obviously’ know about it.

Bloodlands made me angry, sad, horrified, but beyond that, a lot more of a humble human being. It’s not a very easy read, obviously. The great number of lives that suffered and the reasons (and the ideas, the regimes, the killers) that made them suffer seemingly endlessly (or sometimes as quick and fast at thousands in a day) is beyond imagination. Every detail, small or big, is overwhelming.

The book generally takes into account the events that unfolded and future that beheld this land (post world war 1 until Stalin’s death), but specifically about a certain very specific period in history (1933-1945) for a certain very specific part of the world (Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics) for a certain very specific people (people who happened to live in this bloodland and of a certain racial/national distinction to the perpetrators) who still carry that history solely in their lives and deaths.

There are numbers. Numbers so big, as Timothy Snyder notices, that they are too big for simple humans to fathom or understand. The numbers being talked about is of actually human lives and deaths, such as 1 million+ at Leningrad, 780 863 at Treblinka, or 33 761 at Babi Yar, among many other such numbers. Hence, he provided numbers as small, Snyder cautions lest they become a context and implores you to remember them, as 1, such as Tania Savicheva or Dina Pronicheva’s mother, and 2, such as the married couple of Maria Juriewicz and Stanislaw Wyganoswski. The numbers in the middle, talking about the ‘industriousness’ of the perpetrators, such as, killing of 12-15000 jews in a 14hrs nazi workday in Treblinka and 20761 men killed in Moscow by one team of just 12 NKVD men. All kinds of numbers. Two things are certain though – these are the number of the people brutally killed in the bloodlands, and each of these numbers will leave you a little more shattered than before. The numbers are overwhelming but Snyder cautions the reader to not stop at them.

He aims seens to not have these number brushed away and forgotten, like they did until not too long ago (because a major part of these lands were still part of the Soviets – the communists of Soviet and the communists and nationalists of the rest had their own plans and purposes to play with the history for their own goals). He also wants to avoid shaking off the nazis and the stalinists by merely terming them inhuman or savages or anything but humans themselves. The aim of this history, as he points out, has to be avoiding another occurrence of something even resembling that worst part of human history, which can only be achieved when they are treated as humans and what led them doing it. So does he want the dead to remembered as those human beings in particular and their individual lives, rather than just another number part of all the big numbers. 14 millions in total were killed in that part of the Europe, each of them dead were living once. As Snyder says, how could so many of them be brought to such violent end?

He talks about the nations that were made into bloodlands, as well as the nations and its rulers (Hitler and Stalin) who burned these civilisations into ashes. He details the boundaries of these nations and the ideas of the 2 murderous regimes that moved them : both of them fluid and fragmented, in their own ways, so long the period of bloodlands lasted. Sometimes even after that.

Timothy Snyder has written an amazing book, as well as a very important one. A few things that stand out for the author and his book for me –

a) The narrative: that is unlike very many history books and would compel you to read on and on, despite the book detailing one of the most horrendous periods of humanity. As the matter of history books in general goes, a decent length history book with maps and numbers one would finish in a matter of days.

b) The purpose: He seemed to be on a mission and makes sure the reader gets it. I have read a few reviews on this book, which states that some names, numbers, and events are repeated. It does iInitially in the book, which can come across as a little off-putting, but later one knows that it was probably necessary. In the end, he concludes with his points even more precisely and, while doing so, he repeats those names and numbers again. By then, one knows what has he been talking about.

This is a very important book, for a very important and violent part of the history, the numbers and the context, but more for each one of those 14 million fateful normal lives in the bloodlands. Alarming and concerning is how a major part of this history was mostly lost from the world war II narrative for so long. And it remains so yet, for many of it parts.

Snyder aptly says this in his summary note:

Closure is a false harmony, a siren song masquerading as a swan song.



Ship of Theseus – A Review


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If a ship is replaced part by part up to a point where not a single original part remains in it, is it still the same ship?

Sheer delight to watch. An Indian cinema masterpiece, almost!

Ship of Theseus is a movie which we need but didn’t really deserve right now. A lot of things have already been said about it, so with the risk of sounding repetitive, however I’ll try not to be so, here are some of my thoughts:

1. To begin with, Anand Gandhi has made an utterly brilliant movie. The honesty, genuineness, and intent of the director is clear from the word go which is a sheer pleasure to see in an Indian filmmaker.

2. Three stories – totally different to each others in terms of mood and narration, yet so well transitioned that you don’t even notice it. Two thumbs up for the screenplay and editing.

3. Utterly brilliant cinematography, a visual delight which mesmerizes you and grips you with every scene and its details that is on the screen. After I exited the theater, I couldn’t believe I watched an Indian movie looking so beautiful. In fact, I can go on and on about the imagery. Well done!

4. Superb dialogues (and the use of no dialogues) – At times, zen, and other times, so passionate that you feel like talking to your alter ego, just like, the conversations in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Even the humorous and satirical parts don’t make you feel like they are used as punches, except a couple times maybe.

5. Acting – Top notch by the all three protagonists. Relatively good performance by the other actors as well. But the three main actors are so good you long to see more of them. And the sympathies and your connections with them find their peaks in the penultimate scene.

6. Only thing where I felt I had issue is that some scenes and conversations were finished in a hurry. While one talk about something so powerful in detail, it should be a complete conversation, whereas, at times, it appears a lot of important things were skipped (esp. in story #2). Though I didn’t find too many things wrong with the conversations in story 2 and narrations in story 2 and 3, it looked to me that something was amiss, they could have talked a little more, and so on. The movie could have been even more powerful, given the premise and ideas it began with. Actually, the idea is itself so big and extensive that any less would feel like incomplete. Such as, writing about this movie in 140 characters. But I guess I shouldn’t complain as it’s a movie where it’s very difficult to have such kind of narration as well as a speech as long as that of John Galt. Anyways, I am more than glad that such things were talked about in a movie made in India.

Bravo, Anand Gandhi and the team! I stood and clapped for you all when the movie ended in the theater.

Rules For Writing : A Compilation


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Thirty-five finest writers from past and present share the secrets of storytelling. This is a compilation of rules, tips, suggestions, techniques, and commandments for writing as listed by the master storytellers. Read on!

Zadie Smith

(Source: Image, Text)

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

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कितनी ग्राम ज़िन्दगी,
सारी तमाम ज़िन्दगी.

सुनी सकल पकडंडीयां,
राही का नाम ज़िन्दगी.

निकला था जोश में सुबह,
काटे है शाम ज़िन्दगी.

करता रहा सब बेसबब,
दर्द-ओ-हराम ज़िन्दगी.

जागे हैं फिर से धुंध में,
कैसी बदगुमान ज़िन्दगी.

तोडा है प्याला फिर करे,
साकी आराम ज़िन्दगी.

बची खुची जो भी मिली,
बेचीं सरे-आम ज़िन्दगी.

कैसे करूँ समझा मुझे,
अब एहतेराम ज़िन्दगी.

Image Source : La Vida

The most anticipated movies of 2013


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A new year begins and so do a fresh movie calender. 2012 was relatively excellent year for movies – a refreshing mainstream, well flourishing indies, stalwarts with excellence, superheroes extravaganza, some disappointments, and of course the mediocre. 2013 will also have a fair share of all of the above. Despite that, if you look at the calender, it’s most likely that 2013 will be remembered for the science-fiction genre. Science fictions will be all around the year, either as pure sci-fi or clubbed with all sorts of genres, such as, action, adventure, drama, horror, thriller, and art-house.

So, here is my list of the most anticipated movies of 2013. First, 50 movies from around the world, well, mostly from Hollywood. And then, 20 movies from India. The lists come up with usual disclaimer: Chances are that this list doesn’t feature a few movies you expected and the reason behind that could be one of these – a). I haven’t heard about that movie so far, b). I have no interest (animation) or have lost interest in that particular genre (pure horror), c). I have no interest or least expectations from that movie at all (such as sequels of Hangover, GI Joe, Fast and Furious. Still, the suggestions are welcome, kindly leave the comments for the further debate. The details (plot and people) of the movies are taken from IMDb, Wikipedia, and other websites.

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गंगा थेम्स किनारे देखे,
जरमन फ्रांस बुखारे देखे.
आसमान के तारे देखे,
शीशे पार सितारे देखे.
महल बुर्ज दरबारे देखे,
सारे चौक चौबारे देखे.
डॉलर येन फेरारे देखे,
चहूँ वोर तुने प्यारे देखे.
सरगम देखी, नारे देखे,
दोनों ओर बहारें देखे.

घर देखा, बाहर भी देखा,
क्या-क्या बोल नज़ारे देखे?
जीतें देखीं, जश्न मनाई,
कौन-कौन थे हारे, देखे?
कायर देखे, जौहर देखे,
किस-किस ने तुम्हारे देखे?
देखी सागर पे परछाई,
क्या खुद के कभी इशारे देखे?
खुद को अंदर देख बता,
क्या-क्या, है क्या-क्या रे देखे?

Image Source : Doctor Hugo



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Being alive is a pre-existing condition.

Being alive is a pre-existing condition.


घुमक्कड हो फक्कड,
जहाजी मदारी,
कहीं तो कदम कर,
यही दुनिया सारी.

क्षितिज के इशारे,
जमीं की किनारी,
नज़र बे-नज़र
दबी होशियारी.

सवालों की चोटी,
उलझन है सारी,
नादान मष्तिष्क
भरे है बीमारी.

नहीं देखना कुछ,
न मुनासिब तैयारी,
करम बा-खुदा
गुमशुदगी में हारी.

पैरों के तूफान ने
कुचले दरख़्त सारी,
फिर भी ये उन्मुक्त,
शफ्फाक बलिहारी.

भटकती तडपती
खोजती है तू क्या री,
रास्ता क्या, क्या मंजिल,
पता भी है क्या री.

उजड गए मंज़र,
बनी तू भिखारी,
लरजती गरजती
क्या जीती क्या हारी.

यहाँ से वहाँ तक
हवा जो है सारी,
जहाँ से जहाँ तक
बयालीस की मारी.

बयालीस तुम्हारी,
बयालीस हमारी,
बयालीस बयालीस,
बयालीस है सारी.


An ode to 42 The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything
(From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Scott Adams)

Image courtesy - Derek Corneau


बरगद के पेड़ो पे शाखें पुरानी…


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बरगद के पेड़ो पे शाखें पुरानी,
पत्ते नए थे, हाँ,
वोह दिन तो चलते हुए थे मगर,
फिर थम से गए थे, हाँ.

लाओ वोह बचपन दुबारा,
नदिया का बहता किनारा,
मक्के दी रोटी, गुड की सैवाय्याँ,
अम्मा का चूल्हा, पीपल की छया,
दे दो कसम से पूरी जवानी,
पूरी जवानी, हाँ.

पियूष मिश्रा.

End of the ‘Age of Voters’


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I remember, during one election, my father returned from polling booth. I recently had become politically enthu. My mom & I kept asking him that which party did he vote too. He said this is called ‘gupt matdaan’ which means the vote is kept secret and hence why should he share with us that which party did he vote to. We guessed that perhaps he voted BJP dude but we never became sure where did his vote go. When he was politically active, he had friends in all major parties. Most of the times, 2-3 candidates used to be his friends, even the independent ones. During elections, we always had visit from all of candidates multiple times. His friend candidates would stay at home, even those from major parties. He sometimes accompanied their caravan and when he did, he did for all of them. We always had a big box of election campaign materials at home – flags, docs, banners, pamphlets, etc. Sometimes, in childhood, I would like some of flags and would intend to put the flag in house. He always scolded me and never let me do so. I have been very close to my father and I can tell you most of things about his political, social, religious views BUT I can’t tell you which party did he vote to in which election due to the clout, confusion & secrecy he created. I compare that to now, the people of today, here on twitter and elsewhere. Everything is so widely known that you can bet on your life that which party will 1 vote to. You know it about every1 via themselves In a way, I guess, the ‘age of voters’ is dead, ‘age of supporters’ is fading fast and we are now into the ‘age of political activists’ Everyone is an activist of one political party or politician. Only thing left is, perhaps, a valid membership of the party to verify it And people are not official members due to perhaps – either they don’t know how to become or they are too lazy to do that. Just that.

View the tweets as slideshow on Storify

India in 2011 – The Top 20 Videos


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Best of 2011


You may term 2011 as whichever kind of year you want to, but one thing we shall perhaps unanimously agree that it was an year of news. All kinds of news. News of things which happened, and also, on the other hand, few things which happened only for the sake of news. Paid and deliberately created news and also the organic news which surprisingly topped the chart. Some were pushed to us down our throats, some went viral because they were kept secrets. Some of the videos can be revered for the visuals, most for the audio and the genius in the voices. But, most of these were revelations, not with surprise but with sheer awe. Invaluable for showcasing the gigantic amount of genius with super entertainment values.

With this kind of list, I am not quite sure about the title this post has, a portion of which says ‘top 20’. We could rightfully use dozens of adjectives and their superlatives of these videos. In many cases, each of the videos can attract a separate superlative exclusively for itself. Excellent, WTF, genius, lame, stupid, idiotic, outrageous, entertaining, courageous, sad, anger, pathetic, hilarious, shameful, irritating, mindless, mindful(!), and so on. But, I took the simplest path available. Apologies if you decided otherwise.

So, forget all the lists of 2011 videos you came across by far and check this one out.


20. Kolaveri Di
This was the ‘most deliberate’ viral video ever, thus not a viral, and certainly broke all barriers of language and region. This video can be referenced as a marketing excellence in entertainment industry, nevertheless, this was totally lame and stupid. If you feel otherwise, fine, but I’ll still include this video in this list because it turned out to be too “irritating” in the end, even more than 10 Rakhi Saawants put together. Why? Because it became responsible for 100 of other versions of Kolaveri of all shapes and forms. Fuck, even in the Netherlands. And those videos were everywhere, each of them shared via social media by each of our friends.

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