Book Audits: “The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution” by Henry Schlesinger


A few weeks back, I was in dire need of a battery and searched my whole house twice to find one, but couldn’t. Eventually bought one the next day. Co-incidentally, on the same day, found this book in our college library when browsing the shelves. On any other day, I would have overlooked this book. On that particular day, it caught my attention and I started reading it. And I was very glad that I did.
I was highly skeptical about the book (I endured an Electrochemistry course during my Master’s) but the author did a good job of making it interesting enough to keep the reader engaged. I wish I had read it before the electrochemistry episode, but better late than never. Even though the book is about batteries, there are significant detours about the ‘new’ technologies that used batteries and stories behind their emergence (telegraphs, transatlantic telegraphic line, radio, watches, transistors…).
By the end of the book, I’m a little wiser about batteries and their evolution than I was before. Next time I hold a battery in my hand, I would definitely take a moment to awe at the efforts that were put in achieve the current compact form from its initial design of Layden jar which harnessed static electricity, through the voltaic pile, a stack of electrodes and the galvanic cells with sloshing electrolytes to the modern dry cells packing in more power to meet the increasing energy demands of the technology-rich and energy-hungry generation. Although the battery development had plateaued over the last two decades, considering the current energy scenario, I guess there will be another surge (scientific community predict otherwise.)
I would recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in knowing the historical background of everyday things.


Book Audits: “My Inventions and Other Writings” by Nikola Tesla

Book Audits: “My Inventions and Other Writings” by Nikola Tesla

The current educational system is teaching what to think instead of how to think. We set boundaries upon ourselves without even asking why. Reading this book made me question that.
Reading this nearly 100-year-old book (98 years, actually) changed my view about certain things which we take for granted.

Autobiography of this scintillating inventor who owns 700 patents is . . . I wouldn’t say inspiring. Despite his inventions and their impact on the modern society, his name is known to a handful, unlike the household name of Edison. He died in a hotel room where he spent most of his last days, with debts. It’s depressing to some extent. But it encourages us to think crazy, beyond boundaries.
The book tells you about his passion for science and innovation. It tells you about the out of box thinking of Tesla, which may, at times, seem spectacularly absurd. Some topics are quite unfathomable for me. (I don’t have a degree in electrical engineering.) But others were fascinating.
He doesn’t shy away from telling his worst experiences and failures. He even talked about philosophy, the concept of Karma, even though he didn’t use that term.
He was too ahead of his time. He predicted many things in the book, which would have seemed utterly ridiculous to his contemporaries. But some of those ideas have been realized and used extensively in the current world. So, who’s to say that the rest won’t be realized in future?

In Tesla’s words: “The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of a planter – for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.”

Book Audits: The Bridge by Rebecca Rogers Meher

A promising premise. That is not new to me, but I was happy with how I felt while reading the book. Even though the ending is predictable, I was a bit intrigued how the author was going to achieve that.

Good points: revealing the background stories slowly throughout the story, slow buildup of romance. The erotic scenes were both sensual and touch and go fashion, not going into immense details. The climax was unpredictable for me, although there was a small hint somewhere earlier.

The author could’ve done a better job of exploring the ‘why’ part (why the charterers are doing what they are doing?) rather than have the characters repeatedly say the same thing over and over to make it seem okay. There was a tiny bit of stereotyping (rich and handsome hero) which the story would’ve fared the same without.

Moral of the story: Everyone of us have our own problems, but all we need is some love and someone to love.

Blind Love

Blind Love

He rang the calling bell and stood back beside her. She looked at him and smiled. “The new haircut suits you,” she told him. He acknowledged her compliment with a smile. As there was no response, he rang the bell again. “Coming…” shouted a female voice from inside. He slipped his hand into hers to reassure as she became nervous; she never met his mother before. They heard footsteps approaching the door. “Who is that?” the female asked voice from inside. “Maa, it’s me,” he replied. “Ranjith beta, is that you?” the female voice spoke, with a hint of surprise, and opened the door without waiting for his reply. “Hello maa, how are you?” he stepped forward and hugged her even before the door was completely open. The mother and the son embraced for a moment and he released her after planting a perfunctory kiss on her cheek.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming, beta?” she said with a broad smile on her face, looking at him from head to toe as if scanning him to replace his old image. After all, this was their first meeting in seven years. “And who is this beautiful lady?” she asked, feigning innocence. “Maa, this is Radha, my wife,” he said moving back, and Radha stepped in front of him. Vinati, the mother, adjusted her glasses to have a good look at Radha, but couldn’t, as the sun was directly behind Radha. Vinati suddenly realized that she hadn’t invited them in. Cursing herself for being forgetful, she welcomed them in. As they settled down on the sofa in the hall, Vinati enquired, “Beta, your voice is slightly different, are you having a cold?” He replied, “Yes maa. Change of water, probably. But don’t worry about me. How are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be when I have such an amazing child? Now, let me have a good look at my daughter-in-law.” Vinati examined Radha for a moment and said, “You look beautiful but slightly different from the photos. Ah! Your hairstyle is different. Do you always wear like this?” But she didn’t give Radha a chance to answer and continued, “Kids these days change their appearances so frequently that it’s difficult to keep track of it. Anyway, this bobbed hair frames your face very well.” She turned to Ranjith and said, “So beta, tell me how are you? Have you eaten anything since lunch? You must be hungry, let me get you something. I have your favorite sweet, Gulab Jamun, but not much. You should have told me you were coming.” Vinati rose and rushed into the kitchen. She was so excited and couldn’t contain it. She kept on talking, even from the kitchen.

“Ranjith?! That’s new to me,” Radha whispered to him. “It’s my middle name. Also, there is a Ranjith in the office, so never told anyone to avoid confusion,” he whispered back. Radha felt embarrassed for not knowing the middle name of her husband even though they were married for over a year. “And one more thing, I always wore bobbed hair since I met you. How can you have pics of me in a different hairstyle?” she asked like a lawyer cross-examining a witness. But before he could answer, Vinati returned with a tray and offered a cup to each, asking, “What are you two love birds whispering about?” Vinati saw the surprised look on Radha’s face and smiled and said, “Yes, I know. My Ranjith tells me everything,” and looked proudly at him. Then Radha and Vinati chatted for some time.

He was really surprised by Vinati’s reaction. He expected her to be angry and shut the door on their face, but not this. He couldn’t understand how parents can forgive their child whatever the crime may be. Maybe because he wasn’t a parent yet.

During their chat, he saw Radha glancing at him several times as if trying to confirm whether the person sitting with her was same as the one she was hearing about. He realized she could sense something was wrong. He should have told her the truth; there is nothing he could do about it now. He said out loud, “Maa, when will you make dinner? I am famished.” Vinati rose up saying, “Forgot about the dinner talking to my daughter-in-law. Blame her for being such a charming young lady,” and went into the kitchen. “Get freshened up meanwhile,” shouted Vinati from the kitchen.


As they entered the only bedroom in the house, Radha was about to say something. He interrupted her saying, “She has become rather forgetful and clumsy, recalling memories of my cousins thinking they were about me. Please tolerate her for one more day.” She slapped on his upper arm censuringly, saying “Is that the way you should talk about your mother?”

“Oh, it hasn’t been two hours since you two met and you already changed parties? You are the model daughter-in-law.”

“She is just excited to see you, that’s all. So, do you want to go first?” she asked pointing towards the washroom. “On second thought, why don’t we have a bath together? I heard it’ll be refreshing,” he said smiling and tugging her towards the washroom playfully.

*  *  *

“Are you leaving already? It’s been only a day,” Vinati exclaimed as he started packing. “I have some urgent work in the office, maa. They called in the morning. I have to go,” he said trying to console her. “Couldn’t you at least let Radha stay for a few more days?” negotiated Vinati. “I already booked the tickets, maa. They cost me a fortune,” he said playing on her weakness, frugality. Radha was uncomfortable with lying, so she kept mum.

Finally, Vinati agreed to let them go. After they packed and were about to leave, Vinati hugged and affectionately lowered him to kiss his forehead. He backed out instantly as if he touched a hot plate. Vinati was taken aback. Even Radha was surprised. After an awkward moment, Vinati hugged Radha tenderly and whispered to her, “He is a good kid. Look after him.”

*  *  *


Their flight was delayed by one hour. Both of them had been waiting at the airport for quite some time. There was complete silence between them since they got into a cab at the house. Finally, Radha broke the silence.

“So, when are you going to tell me the truth?” she started without beating around the bush. As he maintained silence, she continued, “Look, I know something is wrong. You know me, I will find out. So, better tell me now.”

He spoke after a minute, “She wasn’t my mother.”

“I knew it,” she said with fervor. “And let me guess, Ranjith isn’t your middle name either.”

“No, it’s her son’s name: the same one from the office,” he said dispassionately.

“Oh,” she said, not knowing how to react to this revelation. “So, what happened to him?” she asked after reflecting for a minute.

He continued in the same tone, “He committed suicide.” When she didn’t offer any response, he went on. “He killed a murderer and was sentenced to jail. He committed suicide in there as he couldn’t endure the nightmares of those hapless incidents which led to the murder. He relived them every day. He was a rather sensitive guy. I was the only friend he had when he was in jail.”

She interrupted him and asked, “If he was as sensitive as you say, then why did he kill another person?”

He took out a folded paper from his purse and handed it to her, saying, “This is his last letter to me”. As she read it, tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped her tears as she handed back the letter. (You too can read the contents of the letter here.) “I understand why you visited your friend’s mother. But why did she call you Ranjith? Doesn’t she know her son is dead?”

He reverted his gaze to her and asked, “Can you imagine how a mother would feel if she couldn’t recognize her child from a group of kids? How would you feel if you couldn’t remember the faces of your loved ones?”

“What does this have to do with Vinati?”

“She is face blind.”

“What? Face blind? What does that even mean?”

“She suffered a severe head injury in a major car accident a few years back and contracted ‘Prosopagnosia’, also called face blindness. It means that she can’t differentiate between faces, that she can’t recognize her own son. She didn’t cope up well initially, so she had to be admitted into an asylum. Shortly after, Ranjith committed the murder. During the trial, he used to visit her and she had time to learn to recognize Ranjith by associating him with his hairstyle, gait, and voice. Doctors advised against telling her about the ongoing trial because of her unstable condition. When he was sentenced, Ranjith told her he got a job abroad. Since both of us have a similar physique, he asked me to impersonate him for her as his dying wish. That’s the reason I changed my hairstyle and voice when we visited her. I couldn’t let her feel my face as she would immediately recognize that I am not her son.”

Radha listened in silence. “I need a few minutes to contemplate this. I am going for a walk,” she said and left before he could stop her.

            After some time, he saw her return and sit a few seats away from him. He slowly approached her and said, “There is more, I am the cause of the accident. I was driving the car that hit theirs. I am sorry, Radha, for not disclosing this earlier.” The woman looked baffled and said, “I am sorry, you must have me confused with someone else. My name is Roshni.” He apologized to her, went back to his seat and waited for Radha to come back.

In His Shoes…

“Imagine yourself in the following scenario:

Having reached the age to live on your own, you left your home in search of a new one. The foremost task is to find a food source. You found one. Next, you found a neat little cozy home nearby and started your own family by mating with a suitable partner. You were contented, but have apprehension concerning the vast unknown that stretched beyond your little world of your home and food source. Sometimes you see those giants wandering, not paying you any attention. After some time, you realize that you won’t bother them as long as you don’t trespass their territory.


But what is life if not unpredictable? One day, during the hunt, you slipped and fell right into the giant’s territory. You weren’t aware what injuries you sustained, but you were enduring a tremendous amount of pain and weren’t able to move. Your home was within sight, but you couldn’t reach it. Now as you lie there, on noticing you, a giant shouted a war cry and stepped back as if getting ready to pounce on you. Soon a commotion started and more giants gathered. One of them advanced towards you with a peculiar looking weapon. You uttered your final prayers.

But then what is life if not unpredictable? The giant pushed you on to a big….ramp, for the lack of better word. Then it took you away from your home and dumped you into an abysmal pit. You cannot move and you were trapped in this pitch dark place with no way to return to home, even if you were sure in which direction it was. Although you had fed, you could sense the pang of hunger which your kin will experience in not much time. You were very much worried for your family waiting for you, ignorant of what had transpired.

Now, tell me how you feel.”

He sighed. “What do you want me to do?” he said irritably. “I refrained from killing the bloody lizard on your say so. Now you don’t want me to throw it out of the house. Do you want to breed a big family of lizards in our house? Anyway, it’s not moving. So, give me a break.”

“I’m not asking you to do anything more,” she said in a letdown voice. “I’m only asking you to put yourself in his shoes,” she mumbled and left the room.