Friday, 9 August 2013


I was on my way to the bus stop near my house. It was 9 o'clock and I was already late. Luckily, just before I crossed the road, I saw PP19, the bus which directly goes to my project centre.

I ran across the road and got on to the bus and the bus started to move. I made my way past the crowd, to the conductor and asked for a ticket to NIEPMD hospital. The conductor gave a sympathetic look and said, "this bus goes only till VGP-Injambakkam. Get down there and take the next bus to the hospital." and he handed over the ticket to me. So much for having run to catch a bus that crowded! I was already late to the lab and the fact that I had to change two buses added to my frustration. And the thought of standing there in the crowd for the next one hour, didn't help. I squeezed myself through the passengers and stood where I could at least breathe some fresh air. I had to kill time so I plugged in my earphones to listen to music. The bus reached the terminal after what seemed to me like an eternity.

I got down only to see a direct bus right behind. "I should have waited two more minutes before taking this crowded bus!" I cursed myself and took the direct bus. I gave ten rupees to the conductor and asked for a ticket to the NIEPMD hospital stop. He threw me a weird look as he tore the ticket off the machine and gave it to me. By then, I was used to such weird looks. The hospital is a care centre for multi-disorder and specially challenged people. The research centre where I was doing my project is the only other place with people, next to the hospital, on the deserted road. And since the project centre is pretty much away from the road, very few people know about its existence. I got the ticket from the conductor & sat in an empty seat next to a girl. Another twenty minutes & I would reach my lab. My thoughts began to drift off to the busy day that lay ahead of me. As I sat there prioritizing the tasks in my mind, I noticed the girl who was sitting beside me. She was wearing a simple white & red cotton salwar-kurta and her dupatta covered her head. 

She was looking through the window, deep in her thoughts. So I could not see her face. Just then her mobile rang and she turned to answer the call. I was able to see only her eyes, since the rest of her face was covered with her dupatta. “Pretty eyes” I thought, as she spoke into her mobile. Her eyes were quite big, or at least they looked quite big for the dupatta-covered-face. She had applied kajal and the long curls of her eyelashes brushed her brow bone. Her eyebrows were shaped neatly. Altogether, they were very pretty. I wondered if she had a pretty face too, behind that red-white dupatta. She was still over phone, speaking to someone in Hindi. My stop was nearing and I didn’t want the conductor to miss the stop. The place is so deserted that hardly anybody would get onto the bus from that stop so there were chances that the bus would go straight past the stop. I took my umbrella out of my bag and got up from my seat. I reached the exit of the bus and turned to look at the conductor only to see the girl with ‘pretty eyes’ standing near the other exit . She was still talking over the phone. “Is this her stop?” I thought and I felt an urge to tell her what place it was. Apart from the hospital there was no other building near the research centre. I was pretty sure I had not seen this girl in my lab because I knew everyone there. I glanced at her once more & shot her the same confused – weird look that the conductor gave me. “Is having pretty eyes a disorder?” I asked myself. The conductor saw us waiting to get down & blew the whistle for the bus to stop. The bus stopped & we got down. 

I opened my umbrella & started to walk to my research centre. I could hear her steps behind me. I decided that she must be a nurse or receptionist or care taker in the hospital. As I approached my work-place and began to fill the visitors' register, I paused for a second to think of the date. “28.1.2012” came a voice from behind. I turned around to see it was the pretty-eyed girl. She had removed the dupatta off her face. “She is beautiful” I thought, as she smiled at me. I thanked her, filled the date in the book and handed her the pen. Curious to know who she was, I stood there reading what she wrote in the register, pretending to keep my umbrella in my bag. “Megna - Project at Crustacean culture Division” she wrote. “Oh! So this is why I don't know her.” I thought. She was doing her project in a different lab. I had not seen her before because she had never taken the same bus as me. I smiled at her and rushed off to my lab.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Sphere: Breathtaking

***Spoiler Alert***

Dr. Norman Johnson and the other scientists are ushered by the Navy Commander Hal. Barnes to site of the aircraft crash. But it turns out, lying on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, is a military spacecraft of the USA from the future. It appears to be at least three hundred years old. As the crew explores the spacecraft, they find out that it has picked up an alien artifact, a sphere from the black hole outside our galaxy and has lost track of time and arrived a few hundred years prior to the launch.

Ted (the astrophysicist) wants to make contact with the alien and make a breakthrough in his field of science, Beth (the zoologist) wants to assert her feminism to her peers, Barnes (the navy  commander) wants to acquire the ammunition and defense technology from the alien, Harry (the mathematician) wants to get the hell out of there before any disaster occurs and Norman ( the psychologist) is too old and scared to get himself involved in any adventure when the storm is striking the surface. After a long argument and vote taking, the crew decides to stay in the habitat, a thousand feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, to try and open the sphere.

With no communication to the surface, and adequate air and pressure to survive, the crew encounters danger in all forms after the sphere is opened by Harry. One by one, the crew members die by the manifestations sent by the alien. With only Harry and Beth alive, Norman finds out the root cause of the weird happenings. He explains to Beth that the alien is no one but the shadow (dark side) of Harry. Harry gets the power from the sphere to bring life to his imaginations and hence the monsters of the sea. The final twist in the story is when Beth blames Norman for the mishap and Norman finds out that Beth has also entered the sphere. Beth cracks up and sets explosives around the habitat. How Norman rescues the Beth and Harry and himself from the critical situation adds up to a very interesting climax.

It is the best adventure story I have ever read! I loved it from the very first page. It was definitely a page turner. I felt as if I was in the picture, making contact with the alien, exploring the spacecraft, descending in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.. The face of the alien during the attacks and manifestations of the alien sent to the habitat were nail biting moments..

It is similar to James Rollins' "Deep Fathom" in relevance to the submarine, the investigation on a crashed plane, the stumbling upon an artifact during the expedition in the spacecraft, the giant monster's interference during every tour in Pacific ocean bed by a crew member , the fact that the Earth is not ready for the alien artifact or its wisdom or its technology, the ending where everything goes to normal as if nothing happened.... It was similar but less boring.. Unlike James Rollins, Michael Crichton did not bother to stall the readers with too much technical specifications and he explained in layman terms to interest the readers when the chapters had to deal with scientific facts and theories or laws of physics, astrophysics, psychology zoology and mathematics.

The ending was a little long but the writer obviously knows how to hook the readers through a long climax. I waited with bated breath when the count down of the explosives started at the end. Harry's character was brilliant. Till the last line, the writer had surprise in store for the readers (Beth does not intend to lose the power and hence does not forget it when the others agreed to).

Needless to say, it is a must read for all book lovers!