Friday, December 30, 2005

Feline Wars Episode V - The Boy and The Knight

In a quiet little village near the Austrian border, a young lad was being trained in the fine art of fermenting barley. The instructor was apprehensive; the lad was known to have a formidable temper (he had once killed a whole brood of hundreds of pigeons because one of them rather unwisely thought his head was a good spot to unburden itself), and an immense power of will which made everyone who spoke to him want to obey him. The lad was also famous because he had a strange mark on his arm, something which looked like a set of windmill blades with flared ends. And as the lone tattoo artist of the village denied all rumors that he had been near the mother of the boy, the mark was believed by the locals to be a divine sign, but whether it was put there by the winged immortal at the top of the ladder or the horned immortal from the pit of fire was not known for certain. Some said that it was put there by a religious cross-eyed Indian with his head bent forty-five degrees, but they were few.

The instructor explained all the nuances of the trade, but the boy disagreed with one particular procedure which involved exposing the crop to tiny invisible organisms (the details are unknown; the hidden microphone which recorded the conversation and the tape obtained from it were both destroyed in the events that are to follow). The instructor had never been contradicted before, and as his pride rolled his common sense into a ball and tossed it out the window, he slapped the boy. Big mistake!! Within an hour the boy had raised the workers in mutiny. He was arrested, and spent several years in prison writing the story of his life.

Now it so transpired that the Chief, who had managed to hide from the rampaging Gods, detected this boys’ energy signature on his Etha-Evil-detector. Now this is a marvelous contraption, which can be bought online and online only, on the famous Rope Bazaar located on the second planet of the Zyklon-B solar system. The system is a haven for the followers of Lucy, and the afore mentioned bazaar is on a rope that stretches across the great river Cyano (the name is self-explanatory). To buy something, one must be an accomplished acrobat, have no fear of heights (those unsure have to bungee jump to test their resolve), and have tons of money (literally, because the local monetary unit is a Wej, which weighs ten kilograms). Payment is made using local currency only and bargaining is banned. Any transgressors are promptly tossed into the river below (luckily, there is no need to worry about swimming, that ability will not be needed here).

Now the Chief went and met this boy, and using all his powers of persuasion, he convinced the boy to destroy the Chosen Ones (as the Mobai were known). The boy gleefully agreed. As soon as he was released, he built an army and set out on his quest. But alas, ha had misunderstood the Chief. The only chosen ones he knew were those who had crossed a desert, a sea, a mountain and then a plain to reach their home. He commenced persecuting them, using advanced weapons of war, including giant slingshots that dropped exploding pellets on the enemy, genetically modified sharks which shot darts through their gill openings at the ships of foes, and vaporized essence of Cyano river (this last attained fame under the name of the planet where it came from). The chosen ones were rounded up, tortured, and killed mercilessly. They were forbidden to bathe, and they were forbidden to stink, and punishment for either crime was a bath in the vaporized essence. And this state of affairs continued for many years.

The leaders of the chosen people prayed to their lord for deliverance, and their lord told them to go to Pasht, for they had been mistaken for the Mobai. While on this topic, it would be worthwhile to discuss where the Gods were all this time. Well, they were as usual busy in sport. In this case, they were all hooked onto the latest game to hit the heavenly glamour columns. It involved a score and two players divided into two teams, and required a circular ground, half a dozen wooden sticks, a ball, and two bats. It was played in the air, and required two referees (specially called in from hell). In simple words, it was a three-dimensional version of cricket (the bowling team was allowed to set the inclination and curve of the ground as they wished to).

So the leaders of the chosen people prayed to Pasht, and she came out of hiding to witness all the carnage going on. She had been oblivious to all this, and now realized that the boy was bent on conquering the world, and in the process, the Mobai would be doomed. So she promised to help them, and set out in search of a warrior who would kill the boy. Her travels took her to Spain, and there, along a lonely forest road, she met a small man riding a donkey. He looked trustworthy, and she confided in him. He told her he knew a knight in the village who could do the job. She went to the knight, and he agreed, on the condition that he would get unlimited access to all the occult libraries in the world. The knight then went to the boy, and challenged him to a duel. The boy agreed, seeing that the knight was old, and had only a lance. Thus began the third great duel in the history of the world. Fierce raged the battle, and the land they fought on was smote with holes. Men perished by the mere sight of the feral looks on the two’s faces. The knight proved a tough adversary, and for days the battle raged. Their clothes were ripped, and they still fought. Then, the knight saw the strange mark on the boy’s arm. “Demon”, he screamed, and started yelling and cursing with all his might. His sanity lost, he charged at the boy, and pinned the mark with his lance. The boy fell. The knight had won.

The war had raged long, and there were countless losses on all sides. But Pasht was now victorious. “The time has finally come,” she declared at the post-war press conference (disguised of course, this time as a village girl). The knight had become a celebrity. When asked how he got the stroke of inspiration that made him spear the mark, he replied, “It’s a family tradition. That was a demon, and I killed it. My ancestor had once attacked a whole bunch of them. He lost that battle, but the trend was born. And I knew I would win, for I am the Don the Xth.” And with these words, he got onto his steed Rozinante the XVth and rode off into the sunset.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

No bookies please...

It has transpired at last. The deadly human game of Tag, played so gallantly on level ground, has now caught up with me. So I got a tag, then what?? If it had a Heuer following it, my life would have been made. Well, so be it. The baton is received with grace, and what follows is my lap of the sprint which this topic is becoming. All I hope is this sprint is legit and there are no stakes involved, which explains the topic (apart from being a feeble attempt at a pun). The tag was passed on by Neelam, and the response follows…

Books that I liked the most:

Now I understand what the selectors felt like while picking the Indian team… anyways, here goes…

  1. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R.Tolkien

This is, well,

One book to rule them all

One book to unwind them

One book to enchant them all

And in the process bind them

Any doubting Thomas’s, just click here.

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

If you like Sci-fi, read this. If you like comedy, read this. If you like satire and sarcasm, read this. If none of the above choices applies to you, read it anyway. This is a book you don’t want to miss for the world (which is destroyed anyway, so what the heck).

  1. Neuromancer – William Gibson

The book which sparked off the cyberpunk genre of writing, the book which coined the terms cyberspace and matrix for the first time, the book which inspired the Matrix movies. It’s gripping; it’s psyching, its path breaking. Just plug into this book, and let you mind do the rest.

  1. 1984 – George Orwell

This one gave me nightmares. Scarier than The Exorcist, more chilling than the spine of a deep sea eel, this story of a future Earth ruled by an all-pervading, omniscient government will ruin you calm existence and plunge into a terrifying nightmare with no possible escape. This one is not for the weak-hearted.

  1. The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov

Simple language, simple characters, mind-blowing details. Isaac Asimov is the God of sci-fi. Seven books in the series, each one a masterpiece. Read calmly, no need for excessive brain work, but be prepared for the unexpected for nothing is what it seems to be.

Authors I like:

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien – He created Middle Earth and Eressea out of thin air, and weaved a mythology around it all. He truly is the Lord of them all.
  2. Douglas Adams – Hilarious. Capable of bringing a smile onto anybody’s face.
  3. Isaac Asimov – Master of sci-fi. Makes you wish you were born too early.
  4. Jim Corbett – For those amazing man-eater tales.
  5. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – For creating the analytical genius Holmes.

Unusual books that I liked:

  1. Matrix Warrior – A philosophical study of how to escape the Matrix and attain Nirvana.
  2. The Tao of Physics – An illustration of the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism. Very illuminating.

Cartoons I like:

  1. Calvin and Hobbes – Hilarious. Terrific. A laugh riot. Out of this World. Need I say more?
  2. Asterix – Attila the Hun’s big mistake. Goscinny and Uderzo’s revenge. This comic is ferpectly outstanding.
  3. Tintin – If you don’t like this, then scram, you Bashi-bazouks, you iconoclasts, you lily-livered lizards, you…
  4. Peanuts – For sheer humor.

Books that I want to read:

  1. I, Cyborg (been hunting for this one for years now)
  2. Shalimar the Clown (its Rushdie after all)
  3. Ulysses (the size and Joyce’s skill are scary)
  4. Pebble in the Sky (Asimov’s first novel. Out of print last time I checked).

Books that I have left halfway thru and want to complete:

  1. Finnegan’s Wake (Joyce at his craziest)
  2. Black Holes and Baby Universes
  3. Homer’s Iliad (fell asleep :p)

Currently reading…

The Journey of Man - A Genetic Odyssey – Spencer Wells explains how the different races evolved from a single man.

That’s it then… My lap is ended, and the baton will go to Fail, the poor soul who is boiling in the coolest Dept., and Mando, who recently immortalized me in the world of cyberspace literature. Enough then… there are a couple of wars to be fought!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Feline Wars Episode IV - The Dark Ages

“Let the race begin,” roared Ra, and then immediately choked and started coughing as the tiny morsel of oriental fowl entered his mouth. He recovered his poise, and scowled at the naughty little ape-boy from the East, who had hurled a ‘Drum of Heaven’ with pinpoint accuracy at his mouth, which had remained open for just five seconds. The kid shrugged, gave that sweet smile which is used by all naughty children to appease angry adults, and turned his attention to annoying Horus by plucking his feathers. Ra smiled to himself, and thought back to the time when the kid had tried to eat him thinking he was an apple. This was definitely much better. He reclined back in the plush couch in the executive stand of the famous ‘United Mythologies’ stadium, built for the sole purpose of hosting the quadrennial Mytholympic Games, where the Gods from different pantheons competed and judged who among them was the best. He had just flagged off the race for the fastest messenger, and the competitors were Naarad from India, Mercury from Italy, and Hermes from Greece. Most of the crowd was cheering for Naarad, and this was not surprising, considering the fact that 99.9% of the Gods, amounting to nearly 33 crores, were from India.

The race was an even contest, and at the halfway mark, the three contestants were neck to neck. Punters had started gnawing their nails and pulling their hair out. Suddenly there was a flash of light, and the great advertising billboard lit up with a picture of a green blob standing next to a spaceship. “O great gods of the Earth,” said the blob (though from where the voice emanated is hard to tell; you see, the blob was, as has already stated, just a blob and had no orifices to speak of). “O mighty immortals, hearken now. Let me introduce myself. My name is Blobbert, and I represent the mighty commercial conglomerate of the Lion. ‘The whole city knows me as the Lion,’ is how he describes himself. Though you may be unaware of the fact (and pardon me if I invaded your privacy), we are a covert group who monitor your governance of this planet. We are pleased with your efforts, and are proud to announce that all you great Gods have won an all-expenses paid trip around the Universe. You journey shall commence in a short while. Any questions?” The Gods had grown decadent over the past many years, and readily agreed (of course, who can refuse to accept a free trip?). So the stadium was sucked into a space warp (oh no, not another one… warps are getting passé) and the Gods began their trip.

“Well, that’s one obstacle out of the day,” said the Lion, as he sipped his wine. The cloaked figure facing him was the chief of Lucy’s followers. With the Gods now safely out of the way, his path to taking over the world was clear. He did not need the Lion any longer, and he definitely did not want him to go back home and talk about it using a revolving sign. He took out his staff, pointed it at the Lion, and said, almost with a smile, “I will destroy as I speak”. (Now this is a very powerful curse, which was earlier fairly common but was later deemed unforgivable by a single mother who became a millionaire.) The next instant the Lion was slumped over in his chair, clearly dead. Let Operation Takeover begin, the Chief said to his lieutenants.

The Messiah’s followers had spent the first many years spreading goodwill and love, but they had remained pure no more. Lucy’s followers had infiltrated their ranks, and even their most cherished and hallowed center (located in a peninsula later conquered by a bald dictator) was contaminated (literally, because Lucy’s followers had vowed never to bathe as a tribute to Jack the Stripper, though they used liberal amounts of deodorant). The good men were fighting a losing battle. Now, with the Gods gone, Lucy’ followers launched a major offensive, crippling the establishment. A feudal system was formed, creating inequality, and the men at the top of the system were chosen for their corruption and decadence. Faith and forgiveness were available now only for a fee, and those who could not afford it were burnt. Women in particular, especially sweeper women who used broomsticks a lot, were given preferential treatment in this regard (which gave rise to the popular saying ‘Ladies first’). The sky was blackened (here you see how pollution first started). And this continued for many years.

Pasht was all this while wandering across the World, drawn towards rationality and common sense wherever she saw it. She it was who sparked the seeds of science in the brains of daring men who were capable of overcoming popular dogmas, and she it was who inspired the common populace to use their heads. But the system was too strong for her, and she knew she would lose the war very soon. Her chosen ones were very often branded non-believers and made to revert back to old ideologies. She knew she had to get a signal to the Gods so they could come back and help her.

The immortals were at that moment relaxing on the famous planet B.E.A.C.H. ® (Bask in Energy Arising from Combining Hydrogen – a geeky name but catchy nonetheless), the original sunbathing destination created just after the Big Bang (though sunbathing started only many millions of years later after adequate cooling of the land). They were now seven hundred Earth years into the trip, and were still having fun. They would have probably continued traveling for ever (as was the Chief’s intention), but suddenly one of them (a hyperactive goddess from some arbitrary pantheon) screamed, “Pasht slept with a mortal last night.”

Of course, Pasht had played her last card. Knowing fully well that nothing travels faster than gossip (especially gossip of a vulgar kind), Pasht had merely disguised herself and spread the news. Mere moments later, there was mass hysteria on B.E.A.C.H. ®, and all the Gods resolved to get back and punish the miscreant. And get back they did, and Ra ripped apart the darkness with ease, and finding Pasht missing (what else did they expect?); they vented their anger on the evil they sensed. And the Earth was cleansed (well, almost). And the immortals dealing with the faculties of knowledge and wisdom spread their gift, and the Earth awoke to a new age of reason.

And what happened to Pasht? Well, she now went back to trying to get the Mobai temples up again. In her euphoria, for Lucy’s followers were effectively destroyed (though not eliminated); Pasht had missed the birth of a boy in a kingdom obsessed with fermented barley. The boy was born with a strange mark on his arm, something which looked like a set of windmill blades with flared ends. The boy would end up derailing her plans for the future.