Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Aankhon Ki Masti - When a woman knows her hold on your heart

Few songs have all the right ingredients for brimming dazzle. Nearly all of them were composed & first sang before the 90's. But one song stands out from amidst all those nuggets of gold - In Aankhon Ki Masti, from the movie Umrao Jaan. This song has had the unacceptably biased grace of Fate in bringing all the apposite facets required to make a song (in a Hindi movie) unforgettable & remarkably so. This song features Rekha in one of her sensuous best. The music by Khayyam is most beautiful for the tone of the lyrics set by Shahryar. The playback singer, Asha Bhonsle, is the Goddess' gift to mankind. I doubt any other singer could have rendered this song as beautifully as she did. The setting is a romantic, sinful yet classy confines of a kotha (a courtesan's hall & not a brothel). The costume is spectacularly fitting to the voluptuous curves of Rekha without being vulgar. The dance is smooth & seductive without being explicitly coy (this is set in the India of the late 1800's to early 1900's). But what surpasses all of these individual cuts of the diamond is the sheer attitude & pluck of the song borne in the haughty lyrics (Shahryar is a gem unheard of by most Indians), carried in the voice of a singer known for her pride & unleashed in the sheer persona of Rekha, known widely for being a bold actress of Bollywood. Such an uncanny combination of vitality & vital embers leaves this song unmatched & clearly the best of what Time & the Hindi movie industry had to offer.

If you haven't watched the movie Umrao Jaan I would urge you to do so before reading the rest of this post. I assure you, I will leave it here till you return. If you do not have access to the movie & aren't privy to the programme schedule of all relevant movie channels, then I urge you to watch the video below. Whatever you do, please do not watch the Umrao Jaan of recent years, a shabby & presumptuous remake of the original classic.

I shall now, nervously, proceed to translate this song. If you are familiar with Urdu, please do not read what remains of this post. I can never do justice to such potent lyrics. No, I have none to recommend to provide better translation. Perhaps, Nabokov, if well versed in Urdu, might have managed something better.

This is one of the few ghazals in Hindi movies. We often think any slow Urdu-sounding song in the movies is a ghazal. Often they are merely nazms. This one, though, is a ghazal minus the takhallus. In case you wish to know more about ghazals, I would refer you to my post here. I skip over refrains & the ghamaks of the singer.

In aankhon ki masti ke, mastane hazaaron hain
In aankhon se vaabastaa, afsaane hazaaron hain

In the inebriety of these eyes, the tipsy are aplenty
Entwined with these eyes, legends (too) are aplenty

Ik tum hi nahin tanha, ulfat mein meri rusvaa
Is shahar mein tum jaise, deewane hazaaron hain

You aren't sole to hail yourself, a lover-neglected
In this town, such as you, madmen are aplenty

Ik sirf humi mai ko, aankhon se pilaate hain
Kahane ko to duniya mein, maikhaane hazaaron hain

There is only I whose eyes serve you the finest wine
Though 'tis said, in this world (mere) taverns are aplenty

Is shamm-e-faroza ko, aandhi se daraate ho
Is shamm-e-faroza ke, parvaane hazaaron hain

I, this brilliant flame, you scare with a storm (of your rage)?
In this luminous blaze's thrall lovers (moths) are aplenty

Sip the lyrics tenderly, dear reader. Such lines were not made for quaffing. Note the vanity infused in each line, especially from the 2nd sher (stanza) on. Not only does Umrao not treat a lover's plight with condescension she also rubs salt on his wound by debunking it to the level of madmen aspiring to be her lover & populating the streets of Lucknow (where this movie was set). So sure is she of her charm & hold over the infatuated that she wouldn't hesitate to debunk all love that doesn't appeal to her. Nevertheless, she does it with aplomb.

In the 3rd stanza she moves to extolling her uniqueness. She proceeds to aver (not suggest or hint) that she is the sole wielder of the skill of intoxicating anyone with her eyes. The sheer pluck of this lady is revealed in the line that follows: Kehane ko duniya mein, maikhaane hazaaron hain. "Kehane ko" is an idiom which poorly maps to the English phrase of "hollow claim". In that line, Umrao, tongue-in-cheek, states that there are many ersatz taverns in the world which can only claim to serve wine & that too not as she does (with her eyes).

In the last sher she moves from chiding the lover (2nd sher) to bragging (3rd sher) to mustering her fans. Here she challenges the storm anyone dares bring upon her in the hope of quelling her grandeur. She cautions that lover to think twice because there are myriad lovers who, like moths to a flame, will lay down their lives for her sake.

I wonder where & when such creative prowess & such splendid combination of artists will recur.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Future of Gaming

To start with, I don't play online games. That doesn't deny me the right to imagine. I was just yawning & stretching myself when a thought struck me - perhaps the future of gaming is not in the players but in the game itself. What I mean is that today gaming is focussed so much on player skills which leads to rapid familiarity with the constraints & then inevitable boredom. What really is required is a means to modify the game by each players behaviour & creating character traits out of each player's choices & moves. Thus the game ends up creating constraints which are lifelike. Soon the game can partly continue purely on the strength of your "character" with choices made as you would have made them, making you live with your choices. So the game continues even when you are not playing because your character has your "character" & effectively "you" are living parallel lives. Of course, you can review the "day" of your character & make different moves/choices/decisions (within the constraints of your "character") but the game lives on, creating alternate worlds & alternate lives to what you live in. In the world you meet people not necessarily out of choice. It is like life, but manipulated by all the players' "characters" & some randomness. So, this is not Second Life. This is an environment which creates "life" for you & you get to live through it. Hence, the ask for the emphasis to shift from player prowess to game's intelligence & ability to create something like this.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Steve Jobs : What he wasn't

Q: Do you see yourself sometimes as Nabokov the writer isolated from others, flaming sword to scourge them, an entertainer, a drudge, a genius, which?

N: The word "genius" is passed around rather generously, isn't it? At least in English, because its Russian counterpart, geniy, is a term brimming with a sort of throaty awe and is used only in the case of a very small number of writers, Shakespeare, Milton, Pushkin, Tolstoy. To such deeply beloved authors as Turgenev and Chekhov, Russians assign the thinner term, talant, talent, not genius. It is a bizarre example of semantic discrepancy—the same word being more substantial in one language than in another. Although my Russian and my English are practically coeval, I still feel appalled and puzzled at seeing "genius" applied to any important storyteller, such as Maupassant or Maugham. Genius still means to me, in my Russian fastidiousness and pride of phrase, a unique, dazzling gift, the genius of James Joyce, not the talent of Henry James. I'm afraid I have lost the thread of my reply to your question. What is your next one, please?

This is from my beloved Nabokov who, by any count or measure, was a genius. Steve Jobs was not a genius by similar or more lenient calibrations. I shall definitely explain why & shall provide the lagniappe of further clarifications on what else he wasn't. The reason I write this post is because I hate hype & feel sorry for Julius Caeser (...the good is oft interred with their bones).

Steve Jobs has been variously called a genius, "Michelangelo of the digital age", technologist, etc. Jobs was none of this, really. I shall break down his sobriquets into two major categories, viz., technologist & creative genius, and show you why he was neither of these. If you have no patience for reading through this or have infinite faith in my reasoning, search for "To quickly summarise" and read thereafter.

I would think a technologist is one who has his skin in the design decisions & implementation of hardware and/or software. The chief minister of Karnataka who opened the doors for MNC software firms is not a technologist no matter what one might have to say about his vision of growing the much abused "Bangalored" word. A technologist must either be an inventor or someone who has been able to lead a team of fellow technologists to create something in which he had a major say or contribution. If all he does is buys pizza for that team and/or pays salaries for that team, he is not a technologist. The devices that we associate with Apple (and mistakenly with Jobs) are the Macs, iPods, iPhones & iPads. Let us take each device and see how much of a contribution Jobs made to them.

Jobs is assumed to have created the Apple computers. Actually it was Steve Wozniak who did the real creation while Jobs did the marketing & handled the business side of things. This is clear from records of Woz creating the personal computer which took input from the keyboard & displayed characters on a screen. What are those records? USPTO Patents 4,136,359 , 4,210,959 , 4,217,604 & 4,278,972 where he is the sole inventor & not a shabby name along with half a dozen other "inventors" claiming some trivial inventions (you will understand why I say this). Being an inventor myself (yes, listed on the USPTO) I know the difference between being a sole inventor & being someone amongst half a dozen other inventors. In the noise, it is rarely clear who really came up with the idea & frankly, Jobs was shrewd enough to project things as if they were his. The Disk II interface of the Apple II was designed solely by Woz. Most of the hardware came from elsewhere. So most of the earlier line of Apple products had very little contribution (if any) from Jobs & were nearly entirely from Woz.

Let us now skip over the controversial years (when Jobs attempted a coup and was instead ousted from the company he co-founded) & head straight into 2000 when he became CEO. Even the iMac G3 was designed by Jonathan Ive & this is not something Jobs whipped up. The PowerMac design has Jobs' name on it which doesn't make sense to me given that it was the time when he was interim CEO & the design has all the traits of Ive's team. Still he has a patent with his name amongst the many on it (and this is one of the slightly non-trivial ones). The MacBooks & PowerMacs that were released thereafter might have had his stamp of approval on them, but Jobs did not make technical or technological decisions regarding their design. The only decision which could be considered technological (though it was clearly & provably business) decision was running on the Intel family of processors.

The Oh-so-famous iPod has been hailed as a great invention from Apple's stable. I wonder why! The click-wheel was not Apple's idea. Capacitive sensing existed since 1919. Even the design for this click wheel belongs to Synaptics & recently Quantum Research sued Apple over patent infringement. MP3 players existed even before iPod. What Apple designers (not technologists) managed to do was combine simplicity, capacity & elegance - mostly intangibles which don't make it a "world-transforming" device. I fail to understand how the iPod is considered a world-transforming device. All it has changed is Apple revenue & helped create the iTunes market. The iPod, like most Apple's devices, are premium-end products. Apple sold about 321 million iPods as of Dec 2010. According to ex-COO Tim Cook, the proportion of iPods bought by new buyers was 40% in 2007. If I keep that ratio, the number of unique people owning an iPod is 128 million. The world population is 6.97 billion (and that is probably just a portion of the real number) which means about 1.8% of the world population are unique owners of a world-changing device! Off the top of your mind, do you know of any device, owned by just 1.8% of the world & still being considered "world-changing"? Missiles are technically owned by an entire nation. Such is the blind stupidity of people to assume that something that reaches out to 1.8% of the world (and these are people who can afford the premium products of Apple) is world changing.

Similar observations can be made of the iPhone. The device is elegant, sleek & works well but there is nothing mind-blowing in any of its components which are truly Apple's. Ironically, it was rated as 8th amongst the greatest inventions, higher than the refridgerator & camera! It is this very idiocy & mindless devotion that was Steve Job's trump card. Were it not for this, there would be very little worship surrounding the devices that his company creates. I do not wish to descend to device-bashing as that is not the intent of this article. I would love to own an iPhone or iPad but I will not seek them out because I personally am not a gadget-freak. Lesser said about the iPad the better. The device is perfect for people who wish to play games & watch movies. Without neat universal extensions to external devices (USB, HDMI, microSD card support etc.) the iPad to me is not value for money. I can show it off & get people to request to hold it but that is that. Hence, to hail these as great inventions (which they aren't) or brilliant technological devices (which again they aren't) is mere gushing. To laud Steve Job's for inventing them or creating them is silly. He did not. There is not a single component in the iPad/Phone's system which was clearly created by Steve Jobs.

To me the interesting ideas in the iGadgets aren't new or unthought of. They existed before these iGadgets came into being. What makes them wonderful is the delightful design & clean interface. That is perhaps less of Steve Jobs' doing than of Jonathan Ive and his team. Even if I were to grant Jobs the greatness of design acumen etc. it is still not a technological gift that we are applauding. If one realises & accepts that, then we can also understand why I do not consider him a gift to the world of technology from a technical point of view.

What makes him a lesser technological person is the vulgarity with which he hunts down other competitors accusing them of patent infringement on the most childish grounds. He doesn't care about technological greatness or growth. Neither does he invent them nor does he let them grow & improve throughout the world. He was only interested in eliminating competition with lame excuses & making more & more money. The irony is that several companies, including Nokia, have sued Apple for patent infringement. Nokia actually claimed 40+ patents infringed. Apple had to settle out of court paying royalty & other charges. In short, Steve Jobs never invented a thing but was at everyone's throat for things that often didn't even belong to Apple. What he should be lauded for is his cunning aggression. Jobs didn't create a single thing (since the first computer that Woz built) which was a technological novelty or advancement. Apple has assembled several things & re-presented or re-designed several things, but that to me is it. They have created excellent marketing campaigns and been aggressive hounds in eliminating competition, but to call that genius or compare Steve Jobs to Edison is ridiculous (except for the Edison vs Tesla episode which can be likened to Jobs' instinctive way of doing things).

In summary, Steve Jobs never invented a single thing, was not singularly responsible for the design of any of the iGadgets, has design patents (and most of them ridiculously trivial as I shall show, shortly), has inhibited competitors from marketing their own versions of iGadgets while he (and Apple) continued to violate several intellectual properties of other companies and finally, & most importantly, hardly ever made a technological decision beyond okaying the Intel platform & perhaps some minor decisions on what went into some of the iGadgets. How does that make this man a technological genius? To even liken him to Michelangelo is vulgar. To compare him to Walt Disney or Edison is a stretch of imagination. He is at best an excellent marketer of technology with a knack for recognising that people love shiny things.

The New York Times was at least partly honest in summarising the same thing:

Mr. Jobs was neither a hardware engineer nor a software programmer, nor did he think of himself as a manager. He considered himself a technology leader, choosing the best people possible, encouraging and prodding them, and making the final call on product design.
Randall Thorne (supposedly a big shot) claims that "Every creative person on this planet has used Steve Jobs #Apple products to inspire or create". I consider myself creative enough to let the world know that I have never used a single Apple product to create anything on this blog or on Twitter or on canvas. It is thanks to such gushing fools (including Paul McCartney) that Jobs has been called "creative" & an "artist". Was Steve Jobs creative? I am not sure how to measure that. At one extreme is the claim that everyone is creative. I have never bought that. It is like saying everyone's a cook. Purely from an artistic point of view, he created nothing of note. If creativity is extended beyond that I do not know of him being a dancer, musician or anything like that. I haven't heard of any of his creative solutions to vital problems of the world. If there is one space he could be considered a creative genius then it must be in the space of iGadget design. But that to me seems far-fetched. His original design for the initial Apple computers reveals that he didn't have any noticeable taste. Jonathan Ive & his team visibly designed all the post-1997 devices & gadgets. Hence, I am not sure how to clearly mark him as a creative genius when he has merely been just one of the pair of several hands that pulled the iGadget design cart. Yes, he was the celebrity name in all those design ideas. At best I can only say that he had good taste and a commendable aesthetic sense. Without a single piece of evidence of his singular creative output, calling him a creative genius is misplaced.

Jobs has his name associated with 317 patents. A beautifully designed page contains all the details. I love this page. It beautifully helps me prove that Steve Jobs perhaps felt so insecure that he had to patent every detour he took on the way to his office. Please spend sufficient time on that page. It is sufficient evidence of the stinginess of Steve Jobs disallowing people to arrive at the same design (and some are such trivial designs that nearly anyone who could draw would probably draw just that) & utilise basic technology which was perhaps never Apple's original creation in the first place. Allow me to highlight two such patents:

Ridiculous Patent 1:
CLAIM: We claim the ornamental design for a package, substantially as shown and described.
Please review the images for this invention. We had a medicine box like this at home, back in 1990. This is the most common idea one would have about a smooth rounded box. Why does it take 14 people to design this? If I submitted this as my design drawing, not one design school would admit me in. So what is novel about this design? NOTHING! And this is one of the 317 patents that Jobs holds. This is not an exception. Nearly all the patents are equally if not more trivial.

Ridiculous Patent 2:
CLAIM: The ornamental design for an electronic device holder, substantially as shown and described.
Again, please review the image & ask yourself whether there is anything unique or unimaginably novel about that design. Again, why does it take 12 people to design this?

There are many many more in the cache of Jobs' patent portfolio which range from ridiculously trivial to decent ideas (perhaps countable on two hands). I am not against the idea of someone being insecure & stupid enough to patent each and everything. There is defensive patenting & aggressive patenting. In the former I patent all my ideas & thoughts & deviation from known ideas & thoughts so that I am protected from other people suing me over infringement of intellectual property. Sickening as it may be, I am ok with that. In aggressive patenting, one patents every cough & sigh so that one can make money out of everyone's emotional outbursts because one cannot be sure of being substantially creative. It is like American cowboys patenting the "Hee haa" as they ride along & then suing Indian workers for their "Zor lagake aiii-sa" as containing the same vowels. Apple is, to the vulgar extreme, aggressive in their patenting strategy. Nearly all of these 317 patents & many others on which the CEO decided not to put his name (lest everyone smell a rat) are trivial and only force people to lose the opportunity to market with rather simple & common-sensical designs because Apple has patented them. And if they make modifications to the obvious, then Apple will sue them anyway for making only modifications.

Recently, Scott Hanselman also pointed out what I believe is a growing trend in associating fundamental obvious things as belonging to Apple's design stables. The cloud icon that Scott refers to is extremely common & sufficiently visible in schoolchildren's drawings. The entire article shows the various places where this icon was used way before Apple decided to make it "theirs". This is the vulgarity of Apple & Steve Jobs which make it impossible for me to associate creativity with them.

I am willing to grant the "obvious" design creativity to Jobs but when he goes hunting after people claiming every remotely resembling thing as his with a rabid vehemence that he has oft exhibited, I cannot imagine associating creativity with him.

Steve Jobs was vindictive when he gets to know that someone else was making more money than him or even getting popular on his account. When Gizmodo published an article based on the lost iPhone that they procured, Apple instructed police to excessive raids on the Gizmodo office. To keep things a secret might be Apple's strategy but if the device did get lost (and there are claims that an offer to return it was made which Apple didn't respond to) then why turn your frustration on a blog!? Again this year, the iPhone 5 was "misplaced" in a bar. Seems like Apple's marketing prefers creating hype in shady joints! There are rumours of Apple paying journalists to rave about their iGadgets. True or not, Apple has consistently presented the face of one who will not tolerate anyone in the vicinity behaving contrary to their preferences. If the Gizmodo episode & other rumours are merely to be forgotten, then at least the latest report where Jobs was clearly quoted as being vehement & murderous about Android's success is sufficient evidence that Jobs was not even remotely a man to be considered creative. While jealousy is often a trait of the creative, being sickeningly vindictive is not (IMO). Jobs called Android a stolen device & a grand theft. Coming from a man who has repeatedly stolen inventions (genuine, and not mere ornamental designs) like the mouse, GUI, clickwheel etc. this is ironic & at once stupidly misplaced. Android is clearly based on the Linux OS. iOS is not(XNU). If they are clones & grand thefts, why would someone want an iPhone when they have freely upgradeable & open systems like the Android? Android is hardly a clone of the iOS. Still, the blood-thirsty Jobs, even while nearing his death, preferred to vow hell for Android. More details are available in the reference section below. Here is an excerpt from an article about Motorola's attempt at annulling some of Apple's patents:

Motorola said in its filing that the ideas in the patents "would have been obvious" to anyone in the industry, given the existence of prior art, and said they included "vague and indefinite and incorporate limitations that are neither disclosed, described, explained, nor enabled by the specification".
To quickly summarise, Jobs invented nothing, created no new technology nor spearheaded any technological invention. His patents are design patents (primarily) where he is just one of the dozen-plus names. He never cared about technology enriching people's lives (else why create a ruckus about a free Android selling so well?). He solely cared only about making money by marketing shiny iGadgets to a premium section of the market. His design ideas (which hardly are his) are so obvious that every decade old object in my house feels like an infringement. Apple & Jobs have shamelessly been thieves of technological inventions (true ones and not mere twinkles to existing ideas) over the past several decades but act like blood-thirsty hounds when competitors use seemingly similar ideas to sell their products.

Steve Jobs had the cunning to know how to manufacture & market technological products without technical complexity. He made them beautiful. He made them desirable. He also made them closed & unavailable for tinkering with (as he once did & hence, was able to market the stuff Woz created). What he had were the following:
  1. An interesting vision of where money could be made in technology (shiny consumer electronics)
  2. An uncanny finger on the pulse of the population that had disposable income coupled with an aesthetic taste of things worth possessing
  3. A lot of luck
So is Apple bad? Jobs was evil? Frankly, I don't care. What he wasn't was creative or a genius. He was a shrewd, cunning, aggressive marketing expert. He had a decent sense of aesthetics & could recognise good design. These are all I think one can remember him for. He changed the world in no way other than giving it a few more shiny devices. By that measure, Nike, Lexus, Zippo, Harley Davidson and several other companies have done & continue to do the same. I wouldn't even think they have scratched the surface of the world let alone change it. Steve Jobs was a money maker (I won't even call him a capitalist in an Ayn Rand sense) & not a technologist. Had he found tonnes of oil wells, he might have dropped it all & gotten into the oil business. Was he a good man? I didn't know him to call him that or anything otherwise, but going by Woz's claims of being cheated by Jobs, and Apple employees who felt micromanaged by Jobs & seeing how he behaved in the face of competition, I do not regret not knowing him. He clearly had no intention of giving back to society or creating products/offerings which could be of use to a vaster & needier population. On the contrary, he stymied competition which might have made technology accessible to a vast population. I might even echo Stallman's sentiments slightly because I think the world of technology is better off without him & his ridiculous patent frenzy. The world of design will continue to grow with or without him. If Apple shuts down due to a lack of a strong aggressive leader, then there is no loss to the world. I am certain better companies will come and go.

Ridiculous praise/mourning for Steve Jobs: (why ask the question about cancer sparing Jobs when that wasn't asked of anyone who died of cancer?)

Obits from around the world:
An honest one:

Perspective about Steve Jobs:

Click Wheel:
Randall Thorne's ridiculous tweet:
Jobs' rant against Android:
Motorola asks to annul Apple's patents:
Workers World's take:
Stallman on Jobs:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Gateway to all Beauty

The birds chirped not that day. Like the bulge of a river nearing an estuary, they knew that something unnerving was around the bend of Time, but what it exactly was, their unimaginative minds, knew not. This was the day when all changed and even the sharpest minds & most sensitive soul would fail beyond that bend of hours to conjure the fabric of breath before that day.
The Devil was on his evening stroll. He looked at the animals slinking behind trees & wondered why they would be so uneasy in the presence of He who guarded their souls from corruption. He walked to a fawn and placed his palm on her cheek. Going down on his knees, he held the fawn in the curve of his breast. All the other animals rushed to Him as did the flowers & leaves. There wasn't an infinite which could fill the expanse of his soothing, murmuring bosom. Behind the shield of his reassuring calm, he realised it was time to meet His brother.
It is strange how the ways of the Devil are. Movement is exaggerated & in that Time is created. Where he wishes not Time, the landscape transforms into the image in His mind while Time awaits a cue. Where he deals only in beauty & joy he withdraws not his pacifying tunes. Never has man known beauty to arrive & cease to be so except over time. When beauty is realised, it stays thus. In that realm, which is unbounded, in that moment, which is unclocked, in that breath, which is never exhaled, one unites with the Devil to recognise & realise beauty & calm like nothing of mental machination can summon from the most austere depths of arrogated chastity & holiness. Hence, the animals & flowers & leaves & the sagging bark of the eucalyptus tree felt a great peace against the caressing love of the Devil although the Devil was at that very instant at the doorsteps of God.
God was visibly disturbed. Not because he sensed his brother's presence in his mansion & certainly not because he had witnessed the affection of the creatures of the world he assumed was his. He anyway didn't care about the souls of animals or insensate beings. He had met Zinkalov in the morning & was unhappy. Zinkalov, along with Setura, was God's favourite creation. Zinkalov was given the mind of God's smile & the muscle of God's sweat. Setura was given the beauty stolen from the clouds (and what we see today up in the sky are just the breaths of clouds which once sashayed on this earth, gorgeous, spell-binding & voluptuous) & the eyes of the river Bhira. How the Devil collected the souls of these dying creatures is another tale which I will let Sdirut, the crow, tell you some other day. It should suffice to say that Bhira, who once was the vines to the heavens & home to all who smiled, nearly died without her eyes, till the Devil rushed to her side & gave her wetness in exchange for her eyes. Now do you know why rivers are wet?
Zinkalov hadn't done anything wrong. He was largely incapable of it. The Devil himself had tutored him. All he did was hum a tune when he had finished running many furlongs with Ghiyu, the leopard. Such was the joy that filled his inhuman heart that he couldn't help but break into a song of unheard tune. God was passing by & that sight & sound made him nervous.
The Devil walked into the room where God flounced between couch & window & floor. Light broke & coughed & shadows missed the lee of the world. At the sight of the Devil, light frowned & darkened. God turned to acknowledge his brother.
"Come, my blood."
"Greetings, one born from the same chalice."
"You fail not to remind me of misty days, Devil."
"One must only forget what was an illusion, my brother. The rest is the substance of our very marrow."
"I am not in a mood to argue, brother. Sit & drink some wine while I fret."
"Such wine wets not my throat, brother. Tell me, what ails you?"
"But he is your blood, brother."
"That doesn't rid him of the ability to crease my forehead"
"But how can one, whose every act is pure joy & entertainment, worry you?"
"Speak not as though you don't know, Devil. It might well be you who taught him these secrets."
"If my tutelage has produced one who is happy & sufficient, then I will never let it be a secret."
"Did you teach him to feel beauty?"
"I beg your pardon!"
"Did you teach him to open his heart & soul to beauty?"
"Most certainly we were heading that way."
"He seems to have overtaken you, dear brother!"
"What!? You revel in a creation that supersedes you?"
"Most certainly!"
"How ridiculous! Why create if you are to be made obsolete?"
"But how do I become obsolete?"
"Because he now knows how to experience beauty. He knows how to smile with the Sun & Moon. He knows how to sing with Bhira & her minions. He gallops with Ghiyu & revels in the breeze that caresses his visage. In all this, he doesn't need me. Why! He doesn't even need you. How could you teach him to be thus?"
"But why should he need you or me?"
"Why then are we needed? We who are the creator of all things, creator of Zinkalov & Setura - the most magnificent of all creations - will be soon forgotten as all these creations of ours revel in beauty & joy not needing us anymore. What is a God who will be forgotten?"
"But you will still be loved, my brother. Zinkalov, in all his sojourns, fails not to love you or laugh with me. Setura too shall learn to ride the winds & become fruit & fish while returning to her originally conceived form. In none of them will she love you less. What then worries you?"
"To be loved is less flattering than to be needed, Devil."
"And to be needed is more acerbic than to be hated, brother."
"What do you know! You need no one & no one needs you."
"Which is why I know."
God hurled a vase at his painting of tomorrow's sunrise. He shrieked & howled & trembled in rage.
"Shut up, Devil. I cannot allow my creation to not need me, to not funnel all their joy through me & only when I allow it, holding it back from them when I deem fit often for no other reason than to test their love for me."
"And that would prove what? That they do love you? That they don't have the capacity to love you through all storms? That they will love you only when faced with trials?"
"Whatever it proves it will provide me with their love & deny them the right to seek anything devoid of me."
"All it will prove is that you need them."
"How dare you!"
God in his rage flung his thunderbolt out of the window at Zinkalov & Setura as she began to learn from him to hum. In the blink of an eye God's creations were turned to ash & Devil smiled, for ashes are better than the bound. He left the mansion of God knowing he'd have to return soon to soothe God.
A sparrow's flight passed before the Devil decided to return to the mansion. As he walked in, he heard God's laughter & the bile rose to the tone of it. He ran up the stairs only to find God staggering over the balcony wall. The Devil rushed to hold him back & saw two creatures more beautiful than Zinkalov & Setura roaming the gardens of Eden. They were shaped beautifully & smelled like fresh dew. He also noticed that all trees were rooted to the ground & fish were not chattering on the swings but had taken to hiding within Bhira.
"Good evening, my brother."
"Devil, Devil! Aah! Just the one I want to see. See! Behold my finest creations, my brother."
"They are beautiful."
"That is Adam. That is Eve."
"When should I start tutoring them?"
"Never!" snapped God, scowling.
"I have taught them all that they need to know & also instilled in them great gratitude for being created."
"I see that the trees do not fly anymore."
"I needed something to create their mind with."
"And the chatter of fish?"
"That is my most remarkable trick, Devil."
"Whatever it may be, you cannot keep them from being tutored by me. All creatures have to be tutored by me. That is the agreement."
"Go on, teach them your stuff."
"You seem considerably at ease with that proposition."
"Because I am, dear Devil."
"You do know I will teach them to enjoy beauty & experience joy & love each other in ways I just invented over lunch. I will teach them ..."
"But in all that teaching", interrupted God,"You cannot teach them to do what will be their unbecoming & their very chain that tethers them to me."
What shall I call this?
The Devil looked puzzled & then remembered the fawn's shivering frame. He turned pale & so did all the roses in the world.
"Yes, darling Devil. I did it."
"Yes, yes, yes. I have taught them words. I have taught them language. I have taught them how to create more & more languages. I have taught them how to create scripts & sounds. I have taught them all the decadent ways of wanting to put their experiences in words."
"Yes, my sweet not-so-clever Devil. They will soon write paeans. They will write tales & allegories. They will write poems & bleeding sonnets. They will usher in ballads & songs to cry their hearts out & woo their latest fancies."
"No!" whispered Devil, struggling to hold the balustrades.
"Yes! Your favourite love shall be quaquaversal degenerate, aching to be captured in words failing which, it shall be deemed non-existent or irrelevant."
"How could you!"
"Oh! I can do anything, dear brother. But you must listen to the masterstroke. After every slice of beauty captured in words, after every object is wrapped in sounds, when all that is felt is hurriedly scribbled as patterns that others ache to learn lest they miss out on "beauty", there is the lagniappe of my genius. When they do find or invent words for all their bursting feelings, they will always find them inadequate. And then, dear brother, they will turn to me whom - alone - they cannot express in words."
And the Devil turned to look at those two unsuspecting souls through teary eyes & knew what would become of him & the rest of his world.

Friday, March 25, 2011

PS: I love you

I sleep in my cereal bowl

And walk the length of mirrors.

My eye-lashes wilt in Spring

And I drink spoonsful of cake.

I talk to flowers

In the potpourri bowl.

I see stars by the sun

And sweat under the blazing moon.

These distances I walk

To quiet my chattering nose.

On your birthday

I wish little puppies and get bitten

But unlike yours.

Stranded in the sea of you

The pirouetting flowers in their descent

Sigh like you did after we made love.

The names that endeared you

I have given to doors of my house

Which I hug on my way out.

The global itch of wanting you

I feel on my thumb and a little

On my little toe.

What Time had given me

I lost amongst the broken

Clocks in my world.

And this sepia tinted present 

Envies colourful memories

Of you and me

And our two cats

Whose tails I would grab.

Today as I think of you

And feed my dog, newspaper

While reading the growing ice

In the refrigerator,

I smile at the curtains around my waist

And how you righted

My once topsy-turvy world.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Management PhD Ranking 2010

I know this is really late in the day with about to come out with their ranking for 2011. Nevertheless, here is a summary that might help. This is an annual feature I do (at least in 2008 and 2009) for the same clueless reasons as mentioned in those posts. I still think that there is no reliable and good ranking of PhD programs out there. You would need to click on the image below or ruin your eyes!

2010 Management PhD Ranking

Monday, March 07, 2011

Tweet Recipes - Part 2

  1. Sundried tomatoes wrapped in potato slices, brushed with herb oil & baked. Add half an olive to the toothpick that runs through this & serve
  2. Brush cauliflowerlets with ginger-honey & char/grill. Mix salt+lemon juice+tabasco sauce+balsamic vin. & spray on each flower while hot.
  3. Pressure cook small colacasia till tender, marinate in tamarind water+chili pow., dust with gram flour & deep fry with curry leaves+mustard
  4. Mildly blanched spinach leaves (whole) fried crisp (please be attentive to the leaves) and tossed with roasted white sesame seeds
  5. One ripe guava, peeled/de-seeded, processed with green chilis+rock salt+oil. Add finely chopped tomatoes if you like. Dip for nachos/grissini
  6. Hollow tomatoes rubbed(in&out) with oil, stuffed with cooked parsley rice+blanched peas+harissa. Bake till crinkled and done.
  7. Char grilled zucchini wedges (balsamic vin. braised) tossed in sour cream+finely chopped caramelised onions+finely cut green chili+parsley
  8. Halve potatoes, scoop to make a cup, deep fry & (when cooled) stuff with mix of cooked corn+liquid cheese+chili flakes+chopped tomatoes
  9. Soften rice paper (in hot water). Place basil leaf+seared crumbled tofu+peanut pow.+julienned sauteed red bell pepp+basil leaf. Roll n wrap.
  10. Blanche shallot and marinate in lemon juice+tamari ;-). Pat dry and sautee with cumin seeds. Top with fresh grated ginger. Use a toothpick.
  11. In thin rice-flour dough circles place a little chopped sundried tomatoes+steamed corn+mozzarella cheese, fold like a garlic bulb & steam.
  12. Marinate long thin strips of cucumber in plain vinegar+lemon juice (2 hrs). Spread paste of black pepper pow.+spring-onion greens+oil. Roll.
  13. Finely dice gooseberries, saute with whole garlic till tender. Add oily harissa+capers+crushed walnuts/pine nuts(optional). Dip or spread

Tweet Recipes - Part 1

Eggplant Ambotik

This weekend I had this sudden whim to create recipes within 140 characters. I had nevertheless, stated a few things which would need to be taken for granted: Wherever I mention rice I mean Basmati, GM is garam masala. Oil - olive oil & salt will never be mentioned.

Given that, it still was a challenge to create them recipes! I enjoyed it thoroughly as it was a departure from my usual poetry/philosophy/etc. The result was 25 recipes in 1.5 days.

Most of these were created only for tweeting. Couple of them are variants to known recipes. So enjoy! As I also tweeted, I think it is my dream to distill all cooking to N vital techniques beyond which all will be pure imagination.

Each recipe below is intended to be complete assuming the basic and standard stuff are taken care of. How much to bake? How much to sautee? How much salt? Should I do this before or after stir-frying? These are things you should ask the veggies in the pan.

  1. Thin yam slices, stir-fried in garlic-butter and oil, tossed with rosemary. Brushing a ginger-sherry glaze would also work fine.

  2. Mashed sweet potato balls with an embedded jalapeno slice, dusted with flour, a little butter & again flour before deep frying.

  3. Cooked mint rice wrapped in lettuce leaves (tied with tender chives) & steamed (like dim-sums). Mild sauteeing after steaming is also ok.

  4. Marinate small, tender slit okra in chili powder mixed with tamarind water. Stir-fry okra with white sesame, basting with remaining liquid.

  5. Conchiglie, cooked and tossed in balsamic-braised babycorn and charred tomato wedges with extra oil. Rosemary, basil & parmesan

  6. Char oiled red bell peppers,de-vein/seed & chop fine. Add to sauteed garlic+balsamic vin.+chili pow. Cool & add sour cream+basil.Nachos dip

  7. But where will you find a banana stem? :-) Sliced & diced banana stem marinated(min. 3 hrs) in lemon juice+sauteed mustard+green chili.

  8. Blanched broccoli+steamed corn+sundried tomatoes+pine nuts+roasted white sesame+Feta+kalamata olives tossed in lemon+oil+balsamic vinegar.

  9. Button mushrooms,stems removed,stuffed with mix of grated mozzarella+sauteed whole garlic+harissa(cheese on top).Dusted with thyme and baked

  10. Tender eggplant/brinjal wedges cooked till near dry in ambotik masala+water added to caramelised onions.

  11. Batter of gram(3 cups)& rice(1/4 c)flour+chili pow+asafoetida pow+salt. Slices of potato/eggplant/carrot/onion dipped in this & deep fried.

  12. Diced red pumpkin+sauteed julienned red bell peppers cooked near-dry in coconut milk+sauteed onions+veg broth+curry paste.Season accordingly

Friday, February 18, 2011

Khaali Haath Shaam Aayi Hai

Recently, I had the good fortune of translating a beautiful song for a dear friend who isn't Indian. I wanted to introduce her to non-classical Indian music which could very well represent what it once was. I chose this song.

This song is a splendid piece of poetry by Gulzar-sahab sung beautifully by Asha Bhosle-ji. The music is by Pancham-da. Dusky beauty Rekha is quite perfect for this song. The movie is Ijaazat. The YouTube video below is slightly out of sync though that doesn't spoil the song itself. There are other versions which would require you to sign in (wonder why, though).

Khaali haath shaam aayi hai, khaali haath jayegi
aaj bhi na aaya koi,
aaj bhi na aaya koi, khaali laut jayegi
Khaali haath shaam aayi hai, khaali haath jayegi
khaali haath shaam aayi hai

Empty handed has the evening come, empty handed it will depart.
Today too, none has come
Today too, whom I await hasn't come
Today, having not come, emptiness will return.
Empty handed has the evening come, empty handed it will depart.
Empty handed has the evening come.

aaj bhi na aaye aansoon
aaj bhi na bheege naina
aaj bhi na aaye aansoon
aaj bhi na bheege naina
aaj bhi yeh kori raina(2), kori laut jayegi

Today too tears do not well
Today too my eyes aren't moist
Today too tears do not well
Today too my eyes aren't moist
Today too they will be blank(2), and to the void return.

khaali haath shaam aayi hai, khaali haath jayegi
khaali haath shaam aayi hai

Empty handed has the evening come, empty handed it will depart.
Empty handed has the evening come.

raat ki siyahi koi,
aaye to mitaye naa
raat ki siyahi koi,
aaye to mitaye naa
aaj na mitaye to yeh(2), kal bhi laut aayegi

This night's dark stain (siyahi is actually ink but can be interpreted as a dark stain too)
Can be wiped if only someone would come
This night's dark stain
Can be wiped if only someone would come
If not wiped tonight(2), it (the darkness) will return tomorrow.

khaali haath shaam aayi hai, khaali haath jayegi
khaali haath shaam aayi hai
aaj bhi na aaya koi, khaali laut jayegi
Khaali haath shaam aayi hai, khaali haath jayegi
khaali haath shaam aayi hai

Empty handed has the evening come, empty handed it will depart.
Empty handed has the evening come.
Today too, none has come, hence, emptiness will return.
Empty handed has the evening come, empty handed it will depart.
Empty handed has the evening come.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Poem Published

Not that it is a new poem but still, published on real paper (not a printout!). My stance on publishing still holds! ;-)
I thank Sinu for the fantastic art work he brought out for this poem. I must have been a nag to work with, what with all those editing and endless deliberating over details.

In spite of all his hard work the actual print in the book has lost all the details and I am disappointed, but that's just me hunting for reasons to be disappointed. Since this image below is a low resolution of the final draft and since the image in the book is different (in the details), this cannot count as copyright violation. Given that the poem is this blog's! :-)

Nevertheless, I would urge you to buy the book (details at No, I get no royalty so there is nothing for me to gain. I think you should buy the book since the poems are decently good, since the artwork is pretty neat for some of the poems, since this is one of a kind visual-poetry project and since this is being organised and run by a bunch of youngsters who deserve the support and encouragement to carry out such work and constantly improve. I think every purchase would only add fuel to their excitement and that is a good cause.

Please click on the image below and study the details on the wall. Sinu has absolutely weaved magic here. The shadow, the scribbles on the wall, the state of the books, the table. Amazing illustration. No, I don't look even wee bit like the guy at the table.

For the love of me

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Education Of A Writer

To the hurried soul, I offer my sympathies and the following list:

1. Book of Disquiet
2. Don Quixote
3. Hamlet
4. Mrs. Dalloway
5. Ulysses
6. Ada or Ardor
7. Century of Humour
8. Complete Works of Saki
9. Niels Lyhne
10. Dead Souls
11. Jane Eyre
12. Golden Bowl

For the cultured ones, I have a tale to offer. Suffer me for the aging through this story might prove worth it.

I recently brought upon myself a terrible onus and couldn't sit still without completing the descended task. It was at once presumptuous to accept responsibility for collating the list and due justification, and stimulating to study the tell of putting together such a necessary array. I cannot sufficiently describe the torment of the past few weeks and it is not imagined pain. It was visible to those who looked long enough including the two squirrels outside my window.

While the education of a writer is vital for everyone, as vital as is the education of a reader or a cook, not everyone is out to be an author nor needs to. A cook is not your award-winning chef, but basically someone who knows their way well around the kitchen to cook up a delicious meal. So be it with everyone being a writer. This is largely missed in the current education system as is missed the vital training to be a cook. I can't say much about the making of a reader because we do read (technical and academic books for exams) but how much do we pause (which is the most vital element in all reading) is a number I can never ascertain. We certainly aren't trained to read like a writer as Francine Prose recommends.

All my appreciation for literature came well after my school days though I have been reading since I was nearly 6 or so. My father considered it best to start putting together a library in the hope that we would organically fall in love with words. I don't think that that is what got me to read. The tales of the world were Siren calls. The possibility of tales in Russia, India, Japan and every faraway land brought an extra tinge of blue to my sky. Having read these tales, I simply had to know how to tell a tale. I also loved the smell and taste of words as they danced their way out of my mouth. So, in summary, the ability to read, write, count and cook are vital for life and the ability to see is vital for love.

So I wish to fill the gap left for ages in the complete education of a man destined to love the letters. Be forewarned, this is not for the basic education of a writer but for one who enjoys writing and wishes to be well rounded. Nevertheless, a student well into his teens could also benefit from this journey. One might ask if this is a journey all genres of writers should take and I am tempted to say yes. And I will. Yes. I think every passionate writer will benefit manifold by embarking on this journey in true earnest. While true education of a writer starts early from rudimentary combining of letters to constructing coherent sentences to being able to say what one means, such a journey, as described in this post, is best started when one has had some experience in this world and has managed to muster a vocabulary sufficiently strong to reduce the shuttles one might need to make between book and dictionary. This varies from one individual to the other. For some, that age might be 18 and for others it might be 12. Let us leave it to an opportune moment in that window of half a dozen years.

Before I introduce the apostles, I must re-introduce the reader to the one who motivated me to assemble this list. Gustave Flaubert's words ring euphoniously true in my head. The frequent reader of this blog would be familiar with the following quote:

Commel'on serait savant si l'on connaissait bien seulement cinq a six livres: "What a scholar one might be if one knew well only some half a dozen books."

I thought that 6 might be just a little less and 12 would be a better number (coincidentally, there are 12 months). Given an average life of 48 years beyond 18, that allows for 4 repetitions of each of these books. I would consider that sufficient pilgrimage for this lifetime.

I shant be going into the details and deliberation on each book. That I will present in a longer and more serious article. Nevertheless, I shall pause long enough to let the reader know why I picked each of these books and what one can expect from each.

  1. The Book of Disquiet - Fernando Pessoa. If there is one book that you must read from this list and expect to gain a lifetime's education in seeing, feeling and converting them as approximately as possible into words, then it is this book. Pessoa is an unheard of author and this book is originally in Portuguese. I have a translation by Richard Zenith and it is splendid. Pessoa is extremely sensitive to the world around him without being too absorbed in himself. His reflections are unique and extremely well articulated. His choice of words are splendid making you chide yourself for not having thought along those lines.

  2. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes.This book is highly recommended by all the lists compiled to identify the best literary books. I have read it in parts and found it delightful. Cervantes' ability to weave in humour while making an important point distinguishes him from all those snobbish writers who believe that to be light is to betray literary worth. This too is a translation of the original in Spanish.

  3. Hamlet - William Shakespeare. This needs no introduction though it was difficult to pick one from amongst the bard's works. I cannot consider myself well equipped to jostle my choice against the opinions of another. I wanted to pick a serious work of his with some of his best lines. After a fair amount of research, I settled for Hamlet.

  4. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf. Her very opening is splendid enough to keep re-reading this delightful tale. Ms. Woolf's writing is spectacular and very British. That adds to the beauty of it all. I have enjoyed her stream of consciousness writing and the blog's reader would have seen some samples of my own.

  5. Ulysses - James Joyce. This is one book I have picked purely on the advice of Nabokov. He strongly recommends this and considers Joyce to be one of the few genius writers in the English speaking world. I have immense respect for Nabokov and willingly took his advice.

  6. Ada or Ardor - Vladimir Nabokov. Perhaps no list of mine could be complete without the magic of Nabokov. This work is his personal favourite and having glanced through it, I can see why. The delightful play of words in the setting of a strange family. One will do well to enjoy the fruits of the hypertexting labour that is Ada Online.

  7. Century of Humour - Edited by P. G. Wodehouse. Towards the end of this post I shall explain my statistical basis for choosing this book. But there is reason beyond that as well. This book compiles some excellent short stories and humourous ones at that. Mr. Wodehouse's choice is pretty good and none of the stories are remotely disappointing. They are best not pitted amongst themselves but studied individually to learn the craft of weaving humour into literature.

  8. Complete Works of Saki - H H Munro. This was my first love. I have spent hours leaping across empty rooms reading his lines with summoned baritone. Saki made me fall in love with words and the magic one can conjure with them (when rightly employed - don't blame me for spells crashing down on your head). I cannot, out of loyalty and certainty, exclude this book from my list. I believe that a young student should be introduced to Saki and made to gargle his phrases. Never spit it out! If only we had teachers who could understand Saki and bring home his worth.

  9. Niels Lyhne - Jens Peter Jacobsen. Another popularly unheard of writer. He is Danish and comes highly recommended by none other than Rilke himself. I have also read his stories and another friend of mine, a more disciplined and beautiful reader, vouches for the goodness of this particular book. I willingly submit to the wisdom of Rilke here and to my meagre experience with Jacobsen's works.

  10. Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol. Another Russian master. I have read his short stories and Taras Bulba. I was convinced and converted. He is an excellent writer and this particular book is a wicked take on the feudalism then present in Russia. He is an amazing writer of great talent (and I subscribe to Nabokov's distinction between a genius and a talented writer. More on that, later).

  11. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë. This book is amazing in its passion and language employed. I might have picked Jane Austen's works but I felt that I needed both the power of language and the passion of a writer to be visible on the pages. After due deliberation I chose Jane Eyre. It also came in gold gilded pages to me from someone with a golden heart.

  12. Golden Bowl - Henry James. This is the climax in James' career and style. I did my research on this book and his other works before deciding to include this one. The complexity in the story and the style makes it belong to this list. James Wood (author of How Fiction Works) too feels that Henry James brings an eye which isn't the detailed microscopic eye of Nabokov, but of a fabric vital to writers.

In collating this list I had a few broad criteria. I needed literature representing a good segment of the English speaking world. I was willing to include translations as long as they didn't exceed 33% of the total list (Book of Disquiet - Portuguese, Don Quixote - Spanish, Dead Souls - Russian and Niels Lyhne - Danish). I also wanted to have shorter works but didn't want them to exceed 25% of the list (Book of Disquiet, Century of Humour, Complete Works of Saki). I also wanted humour to be an integral part of the list (Don Quixote, Century of Humour, Complete Works of Saki).

Believe me when I say that I rummaged through a list of over nearly twice as many books including translations (Glass Bead Game - German, for instance which finally lost out as did The Master And Margerita - Russian). Of course, you must have noticed that I haven't added Madame Bovary (French) by Gustave Flaubert himself. I had included it initially before realising that Lydia Davis' translation was something I needed and it wasn't really available here. That is why I restricted the translations to 33%. Translations are a funny beast. They gain their strength both from the original author as well as from the translator but their weakness comes solely from the translator's abilities. I read Ms. Davis' article about her experience in translating Madame Bovary and I decided to wait for the book to arrive. Perhaps Niels Lyhne will make way for Madame Bovary.

The route on this journey is simple. Read through each book slowly and patiently. If there is a word whose meaning you do not understand, find it out. Keep a notebook (or several of them with one per author) and collect phrases that you like along with the name of the book and page number. In another notebook, try to use these phrases in at least five different situations/scenarios. If a sentence is long, break it down into bite-sized portions and understand how the coherence is maintained over the length.

After each chapter or 30 pages, write a paragraph about anything (or a similar topic as in the book) in a style nearly identical with that of the author. The paragraph should appear as if the author him/herself had written it in his/her younger days. Study where you possibly differ. Do not rush to create your own style of writing. Start my imitating and you will hear a clear voice soon.

Apply counter styles to the author you are reading. Periodically in your study, use shorter sentences where s/he uses longer and conversely without losing meaning. This allows you to create similar impact without losing literary value. Shortening a sentence is not the same as summarising. Please bear in mind that the effect and taste has to be maintained. Where the author is grand, be direct (you might think that the effect is then lost, but not necessarily) where s/he is terse, be verbose.

Study the spell of phrases and styles in a dark room. Read the words aloud in three different styles - in dry monotone, with due theatrical intonations and with the simplicity of someone reading it the first time. Study the effect it brings and understand what breaks through the barriers of the reader's ability (to read in different tones).

Combine random but fairly representative paragraphs from each of these authors to notice how they mingle and depart. This helps study the choice of words for the desired tell.

And last but surely not the least, practice writing, every single day. Keep building your vocabulary (there are several sites which will deliver you a word per day). Use them differently in unexpected settings. Create games where you can study the possibility of using fruits to describe the weather and metals to describe moods and so on. Enjoy every one of these authors and enjoy writing, too.

There might be other books that are great. There might be other works of the chosen authors that might be better. All that I have mentioned belong to the genre of fictional prose. Questions are bound to be raised - "What if I care only about poetry?" "What if I wish to be a sci-fi writer?" "What if I like John Updike better?" "What if I wish to write like Jack Kerouac?" The only answer I have is to once again recommend this study with an assurance that you will be a different person at the end of it and will be able to write as you please and read whomsoever you want. This is not the only list of books you should be reading. Read any other book too. Poetry should be read and studied regularly too (and I might put up a separate list for that) but I do not distinguish severely between prose and poetry beyond Coleridge's pithy summary:

I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose, --words in their best order; poetry, --the best words in their best order.

Compiling any list is a task fraught with debate and I am tired. I can assure with all my life's breath that these books, when studied well, will make a wonderful person and writer out of the reader. That is a certainty (please read Sir Quiller-Couch's Art of Writing to understand why). If after appropriate study you do not find your writing significantly (not marginally) enhanced and affected, do let me know and I assure you that I will not utter a word from that day. I will also take this post down.