Saturday, May 31, 2008

Overused word of the year.

You may not remember this post. Even so. There is a newcomer this year, taking the reins from the likes of pretentious and hypocrisy. Curiously enough, new word serves a function similar to that of pretentious. Both designed to vilify someone with an opinion (or even when that person is stating facts or making rational arguments,) however authoritative, in fact better suited for when the speaker has more authority. Both designed to make us think less of the argument in the process.

And the overused word of the year is...



A good example of the use of the word comes from here. Sure, Sharon Stone was an idiot for making those remarks, and yes, we ought to put her down for that. But how do we go from her asinine remarks on Chinese bad karma being responsible for the recent earthquakes there to her being elitist?
She is just another useless Hollywood elitist opening her mouth rather than her heart, and that is far too often the case,' wrote a reader called Kevin, on the forum.
Okay okay, so this is a rediff article. And they insert junk that people post on public forums into their news articles. Maybe then, my basis for claiming that this word is so readily used is not all that sound after all?

How about the Republican congressman John Duncan from Tennessee then, who commented on a study which proved that abstinence-only sex education programmes did not work:
it seems rather elitist that people with academic degrees in health think they know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate
So if you have specialized knowledge in a certain field and choose to tell something to those who don't, you're elitist. Gotcha.

And yet in the same vein they call Sharon Stone elitist. For talking about karma. Did she become a Buddhist monk sometime after making Basic Instinct 2?

It would only be superfluous to chronicle in detail the number of times Obama has been showered with this particular epithet.

On an entirely unrelated note, has anyone noticed that in almost all instances of the common usage of the word 'usage', there is no alteration in the meaning when it is simply replaced by 'use'?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A photographic tour of Lepakshi.

So, yeah. I haven't written anything for ages. I'm more ticked off about it than anyone else possibly can be. My creative juices have all dried up and I am currently wasting away under the oppressive heat of a Madrasi May.

Anyhou, had run home for the weekend and while there, managed to go to this place called Lepakshi near the Andhra border. We visited a 16th century Veerabhadra temple constructed on a low hill by a Vijayanagara chieftain, Virupanna.

Do check out the picasa album.
PS. Do read the comments accompanying the pictures.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Princess.

Read these first:
The horsethief.
The Young Lord.

"Quickly!" Commanded the princess. "What kind of a warrior will I be if it takes forever to braid my hair?" The only handmaiden she had brought with her to the battlefront picked up the pace a little. The girl had insisted on slipping silver twine into the braid, and now the princess suspected that the she must be regretting it. A long and thick braid was the symbol of power and authority in the empire, else she would have hacked it off years ago. Soon, the girl had finished her work. Grabbing her helm, the young princess stepped out of her tent.

"General!" She called, at a tall, swarthy man barking orders at a servant. "Your Grace," he said, bending a knee. "Do you intend to continue with your folly of riding with the van? You might remember that I disapprove."

"I do, my good general," She replied, keeping her voice as sweet as she could, "and you might remember that my father gave me the Sixth, and you with it." Weakest of the seven legions, and having the most unruly of commanders, she avoided adding.

"Your Grace is correct, as always." He gave her a little bow, almost mocking, and made to walk off.

"I need four parties of about two score cavalry each, all with quick horses. They are to follow the van on to the battlefield, but are not to take part in the battle. However efficient our horsethief may be, the enemy will get enough warning to whisk the boy away."

"He is only a boy, your grace-"

"He will be seen as his father's son," she said, cutting him off. "Even if he isn't so in spirit. They would not have forgotten his courageous brother either. I will not have them rallying under him, and neither will I have him become a martyr. He is to be captured alive and unharmed."

The general nodded gruffly and turned on his heel, bellowing orders as he walked away from her. She signaled for her horse. Light even when covered in mail, she had always used a steed bought from the western lands, smaller and lighter than the horses from the empire, but also faster and more nimble. Mounted, she went over to where the van was gathering.

Four hundred men with their horses were arming up for battle. Three hundred of them would lead the attack, and the hundred in reserve would wait and watch, and join the attack where they might be most needed. The princess doubted if there would be any real need for them tonight. As she joined them, the soldiers saluted her. Her silver-threaded braid and specially made armour were known at sight to every man in the legion. The men paused to hear her speak. "I know that you will not relish this night., said she, her voice carrying clear over the dead calm of the night. "Neither will I!"

"Yet we all do what we have to. When we first strike, attack with all you have. Kill them in whatever state you find the enemy. Even a man without breeches can stick a knife in you. Unnerve them with a merciless first attack. After that, all will throw down their weapons." She paused.

"Trust me," she said, more softly. "less will have to die this way."

I hope so, thought she as she turned away from them. And even if a few of them think of me as more than just a pretty princess, it's a start.

In an hour the cavalry had quietly started moving north. The thief she had rescued from her father's dungeons had been sent ahead, with a few men. Parties of mounted archers circled the main host, looking for scouts. The two mile journey took half an hour. It was half a mile more to the enemy camp. Till then, thick woods had hidden their approach, but ahead of them grass and bushes dotted the landscape, providing them with little cover.

Now they waited. Don't fail me, she whispered into the gentle wind, thinking of the thief. She had taken a huge gamble by trusting him with their plans. Another thing her good General did not approve of.

Then they heard it. One long note quivered in the air, a solemn portent of doom for the sleeping enemy. The princess unsheathed her sword, holding it high and straight. The soldiers followed suit, unsheathing swords, lighting torches and flexing their bowstrings. As their warrior princess trotted forward, so did the rest of them. The host left the woods, picking up speed with every yard.

Five hundred yards. Everyone was at a full gallop. They could see the men ahead panicking, their own horses running them over.

Three hundred yards. Ahead of them there was only chaos. The cavalry spread out, with the men in the flanks racing forward. They were to ignore the initial onslaught, and head around the camp to encircle it.

Two hundred yards. The lances were lowered. Bows twanged and arrows whistled forward. Wordless cries filled the air as the cavalry charged, their princess at the helm.

One hundred yards. She wondered whether many of them would have had the time to pick up a weapon.

Then they met. Flesh and steel, cloth and fire, hoof and bone.

In no time, it was all over. Men were surrendering, those who were left alive. The princess reached the pavilion as an old, wretched-looking man robed in silks was dragged out. "Where's the boy?" She questioned.

"He was not in the tents, your grace," replied one of the soldiers.

"Let us hope for everyone's sake that the search parties find him. I do not want to wage war against more buffoons like this one," she said, pointing her bloodstained sword at the old man. "Take him away."

She took the largest tent as her own and ordered a temporary camp to be set up, and oversaw the prisoners of war being herded into holding pens.

Near two hours later, with the sunlight creeping up the horizon, the General sauntered into her tent.

"Your grace," he said, bowing. "I congratulate you on your glorious victory, my princess. I am also very pleased that no harm has befallen your noble self."

She waited, knowing that he had more to say. He continued, after a long pause. "However, the little lordling seems to have slipped through our fingers. The captain of his household was a clever man, and his men fought savagely with one of our search parties while the boy got away."

So, she thought, the men still reported to their General first. That has to change. "Do you have any prisoners? We need to know where this boy has run off to."

"Unfortunately, Your Grace, they all fought fiercely and to their dying breath. My men couldn't capture any alive." You also told your men to kill all but the boy then, she thought.

"Very well, General. It looks like my father will have the bloody war that he wants. I will give it to him."

PS. This is the last new Point-of-View I will be introducing, at least for a while. I'll get to writing more about the little lord and the thief soon, fear not.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

You're it!

I've been tagged! First tag, that too. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (Get it together, man.)
Blog Tag.
Last movie seen in a theatre:
The Spiderwick Chronicles, with cousins. I was the only one who had read the little books and knew what to expect. The ones who had come there expecting another Lord of the Rings had to put on polite, strained smiles when I told them later that I enjoyed the movie. :)

What book are you reading?
A Feast for Crows, by George RR Martin

Favourite board game:
Life! Oh man, the number of fights I've been in over those games. All loud, and some physical. Somehow, the excuse "I was a kid back then!" doesn't rob me of all the shame.

Favourite magazine:
*thinks hard* I dunno, does Google Reader count?

Favourite smells:
Crushed mango leaves. Mum's pakodas that I can smell even before I enter the house. Jalapeños soaked in vinegar. And clichéd as it may be, mallige hoovu.

Favourite sounds:
Gates squealing as someone enters the house. Trees swaying to the wind. NOT the incessant cooing of the idiot bird outside my window which does it all night.

Worst feeling in the world:
Despair. Numbness.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?
I wonder whether getting up half an hour later would really be the end of me. And then act on my realisations.

Favourite fast food place:
Adiga's for their Idli-vada-sambhar. Subway for pretty much everything. (Especially the Spicy Italian sandwich. You should try it!) And Sreenivasa Cool Corner on the way to pati's house for the Masala Puris and the Masala Thumbs Ups.

Future child’s name:
Definitely not Karpusaamy.

Finish this statement, “If I had a lot of money I’d…”
Give it all away to charity.

Do you drive fast?
On my cycle? Oh, definitely!

Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
Erm, no.

Storms - Cool or Scary?
Cool. Like when a cyclone almost hit Madras, devastation reigned supreme and a tree fell on my window.

Do you eat the stems on broccoli?
In Chinese food, yes.

If you could dye your hair any colour, what would be your choice?
It would have to be either bubblegum pink or the way evolution made it.

Name all the different cities/towns you have lived in:
Bangalore, Delhi, Bangalore, Madras, Urbana and Chapel Hill.

Favourite sports to watch:
Football! And IPL when the Royal Challengers are losing playing.

One nice thing about the person who sent this to you:
MM can get you laughing in no time. One of the most creative people I know. And she's really pretty. :)

What’s under your bed?
A HUGE suitcase, two dumbbells that have never been used, and half the dirt on campus. I'm sure that intelligent life is evolving there right now as I write.

Would you like to be born as yourself again?
Yeah, like living my fascinating life once isn't enough.

Morning person or night owl?
Night Owl. It hurts my feelings that you even had to ask.

Over easy or sunny side up?
Erm. Well done?

Favourite place to relax:
Room. Home. Saras. The couch when I'm at home.
(I know that this wasn't asked, but I am usually most comfortable like this. :) )

Favourite pie:
Lemon meringue.

Favourite ice cream flavour:
Chocolate. Butterscotch earlier. Prefer other desserts to ice cream.

You pass this tag to –
Pops, KVM, Jayanth, Aquila and Vaishnavi.

Of all the people you tagged this to, who’s most likely to respond first?
No clue. Everyone seems to be so busy these days. Theses and exams and vivas. Pah.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The young lord.

Read this first: The horsethief.

"Quickly, my lord," urged the captain of the house, leading the young liege quietly from the tents, moments after the horn was heard. They moved silently in the night, their grey cloaks making them one with the darkness. Some thirty men on horse were gathered amidst a small, dark grove of trees. They had just finished donning their armour when the boy joined them.

The lordling was a little afraid, recovering only slowly from the shock of being unceremoniously pulled out of his tent. Seeing all his men saluting him, fists to their their hearts, new resolve crept into his thoughts. I will not let them down, he told himself. I will be a lord they will be proud to serve under.

Someone had smuggled out his armour as well. He struggled into light mail. Greaves, shoulder-plates and a helm made for a man not yet full grown, they fit the boy perfectly. Last of all he donned the sword with its leather scabbard, studded with garnets.

Everyone mounted their horses, the young lord onto his grey gelding. The men pulled up their cowls and wrapped their cloaks around themselves before stepping out of the trees. They were on high ground, and to the south west of them they could see the carnage unfold. Men in leggings cut down by armoured knights, fleeing soldiers run down by lances and men visiting the privy set on fire before they could even pull their breeches back up.

The boy could see his and his uncle's tents in the middle, on a small, grassy mound. He watched in stony silence as they were encircled by the invading horsemen, some of whom had got off their steeds and entered inside. The banners outside were cut down and their strips set aflame. A portly, old man was dragged out, barely dressed. A gentle, dignified man at the best of times, the old man now looked weak and pathetic. Uncle!

One of the outriders spotted them. He notched an arrow onto his bow, loosing it on them. Fool, thought the captain, signaling with one of his hands. The arrow landed harmlessly on one of the shields. In moments, three arrows were loosed onto the outrider, two of them finding their mark. He should have reached for the horn, not for the arrow.

"Now we ride, my lord." He said to his young master. The company organised itself into columns of five, with the captain leading and the bowmen bringing up the rear. The lordling rode in the safety of his men, in the middle of the second file.

The cavalry trotted till the fires and the pavilion was out of sight, then quickened to a half-gallop, heading north east. They had ridden for almost an hour without incident. The captain slowed a little to come aside next to the boy. "My lord, soon we will be riding dead east. In a day we will be in safe lands. Your mother's people were always a loyal and courageous folk. Also, it is hill country to the east. Even if the rest of our lands fall, the east can hold its own. We shall be safe there."

His young liege nodded, remembering his days in the hills with joy. Things had been uncomplicated back then, he had been but a boy then, stealing peaches and playing the Giant and the Warrior in the woods with his cousins. Now he was twelve, almost a man grown. Much had changed, too much.

One of the riders the captain had sent back to watch for the enemy came galloping back. "Cavalry. I could not tell how well they were armoured. They are riding hard on our heels, my lord. Not half a mile away."

"How many?" asked the captain, reining up sharply and calling the men to a halt. "They are at least as many as us. If they are any good, they have split their party into two, the one in front smaller and screening the movements of the larger group."

"They could not have sent too many, the enemy would have sent horses in all directions, scouring the land for us. Very well," muttered the captain.

"My lord, I will leave you with five men and the extra horses. Ride hard to the east, do not look back. We will meet up with you later."

"See that you do, Captain." The young lord found himself saying, voice strangely steady. Just when he had thought that they were safe. Twenty five men against maybe twice their number. Even men of the captain's valour can be butchered, thought the boy, I am no fool.

The men bowed to their liege, unsheathing their swords. The five men who had remained with him watched the rest gallop back as they had come, their courageous captain at their helm. "We ride!" Shouted the boy, tugging at the gelding's reins. The men followed.

The horsethief.

"Quickly!" Whispered the thief in the darkness, his body covered in soot and horse-sweat. Unpleasant as the combination was, he was used to it. Strange man-smell would drive the horses into panic, but strange horse-smell they wouldn't care so much about. We need to be holding the reins of enough horses and leading them away before the next stage in the plan, he thought to himself. The others crept in, too noisy for the thief's liking. "Fools," he muttered to himself. You work with what you are given, his brother always used to say. Then he had gotten himself killed, rebelling against his liege-lord by allying himself with poor, disgruntled farmers. Fat lot of good that piece of advice had done to him.

The fellows he had with him were not bad though, and soon enough they had reined in some two dozen of the finest horses, and led them away.

When the others were a safe distance away, the thief singled out a tame mare. "I'm sorry, my friend," he said softly, as he unsheathed his knife and opened the beast's throat. The smell of blood drove the remaining dozen score or so animals into a frenzy. An alarm was taken up, and men started rushing out of their tents, some immediately trampled by the manic horses.

The thief knew that they were fighting an unworthy foe, for no knowledgeable battle commander would house this many untrained horses together.

A lone horn blew a long and quivering note, a few hundred paces south of tents. Seconds later the men in the tents could hear the thunder of hundreds of hooves coming closer. Before anyone could find their arms the enemy came upon them, bearing lances and axes and torches. The cavalry hacked, burned, and drove through everything. Only the three big and colourful tents in the middle were allowed to remain standing, the rest was razed mercilessly to the ground, and the soldiers with it. The battle was over before it had begun, their own horses had seen to that.

The thief had slipped quietly into the surrounding night.

PS. Somewhat of a standalone. I've kinda given up on my fan fics and have been wanting to write something set in some kind of a medieval setting. With destriers and heavily-armoured knights and archers in the darkness. Maybe it has something to do with all the George RR Martin I just read, or maybe it is all the Age of Empires I've been playing that is talking. Even so.