Saturday, September 27, 2014

Good God ! - Book 2

Today we launch Book 2 of Good God! You can buy Book 1 here:-

Mon Dieu ! - Livre 2

Aujourd'hui on commence le deuxième livre de Mon Dieu ! Vous pouvez acheter le premier livre ici

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chez Blandine - 1

Blandine me demande souvent, pourquoi je dessine des BD ésotériques sur Dieu et religion et n'importe quoi. Pourquoi je ne peux pas dessiner des BD sur des chiens et chats comme des bédéistes normaux? Ben, enfin j'ai cédé. À partir d’aujourd’hui, chaque mercredi, je vais dessiner une BD normale sur des chiens et chats. Je l'appelle Chez Blandine. Il s'agit de tous mes amis à quatre pattes (et un à trois pattes) chez Blandine, dont j'ai fait connaissance pendant mon séjour en France. Mon BD ésotérique, Mon Dieu, va continuer chaque démanche, comme d'habitude.

Blandine's Farm - 1

Blandine often ask me why I draw esoteric cartoons about God and religion and whatnot. Why can't I draw cartoons about cats and dogs like regular cartoonists? Finally, I gave in. Starting today, every Wednesday, I'll be drawing a regular cartoon about dogs and cats. I call it Blandine's Farm. It is based on all my four-legged (and one three-legged) friends at Blandine's place, whom I met on my visit to France. My 'esoteric' cartoon, Good God, will continue every Sunday, as usual.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

God God ! - THE END!!!

End of BOOK 1 of Good God !!!

Next Week: Start of BOOK 2 !

Until then, you can buy Book 1 as eBook or Paperback on Amazon here:

Mon Dieu ! - FIN !!!!!!

FIN - Livre 1 de Mon Dieu!

La semaine prochaine: le deuxième livre se commence !!!

Vous pouvez acheter le premier livre sur Amazon comme e-book ou paperback ici:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Farewell to France

Last day in France. The following day I fly out. Packing, rushing all over Vienne taking last minute photographs. Afternoon, Blandine’s mom has called me over for a farewell lunch. Blandine has made fish casserole for the sendoff party. A fishy farewell.
I take a last look at the Rhone. It has been like a friendly neighbor, all these three months. It is virtually a hop away from Blandine’s house. I had taken a walk on these banks virtually every afternoon I was here, to clear the head after I had written 1000 words of my new novel. The only river I’ll have back home is the endless stream of cars below my bedroom window, late into the night.

Friday, September 19, 2014

King of the Hill

Did I tell you Blandine owns a hill? Yup, no kidding:-
Ok, it’s not really a hill. It’s a rock face on a slice of the Rhone valley. Blandine owns a farm above that rock…

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The best for the last: Vienne

I had chased all over France, looking up fine, historic sights. But the finest and historicest (is that a word?) was right next door: Vienne. Blandine lives in a little commune right across the river Rhône from Vienne. We have to pass through Vienne every time we want to go anywhere, or shop for groceries for that matter.
Vienne, by the way, is also how the French spell Vienna, but this Vienne is a small town in the middle of France, not far from Lyon. Today, it is almost a suburb of Lyon – Blandine often finds it more convenient to say she lives in Lyon, than provide tedious explanation about Vienne, and her commune. Heck, even I have been using Lyon as shorthand for Vienne in these posts.
But in its Roman summer, Vienne was an even bigger centre than Lyon. While Lyon was Lugdunum to the Romans, Vienne was Vienna. Julius Caesar set it up in 47 BC, taking over an earlier Gallic oppidum (Iron Age fortified settlement) that had been there at the site since Neolithic times. Vienne had its own amphitheatre, temples and palaces, on both sides of the Rhône. Many of these Roman remains can still be seen in the city. On the other side of the Rhône (Blandine’s side), there is a Gallo-Roman museum that houses the remains of what had once been an extensive Roman palace complex.
Vienne was also important in Christian history. Legend has it that the first bishop of Vienne was Crescens, who was sent here by Paul, as mentioned in the New Testament.
Having said all that, I was nearing the end of my visit, and I did not have a single picture of Vienne. It is often that way. You keep thinking you’ll do it ‘One of these days’, until it is too late. I still don’t have a single picture of Jodhpur, my hometown – purportedly one of the most important tourist destinations in India.
Eventually, I did manage to take a few shots of Vienne: on my very last day in France. Here they are, taken in a bit of a hurry, in the midst of packing and a dozen other things:-
 The 11th century Cathedral of Saint-Maurice, the seat of the bishop of Vienne.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A buffalo in Montpellier

Trip to Aude, Hérault: Day 12
Evening of Day 11, we ended up in Montpellier. Last leg. Next day, it was to be back home in Lyon. Despite having a history of some sort, and a few assorted monuments in the city center, Montpellier is for the most part a dreary, featureless modern industrial city. So why were we visiting it? Ah-ha! That shows you haven’t read my novels. Because, if you had, dear friends, you would have known that Montpellier plays a major role in many of my novels. Of course I wanted to see it!
Montpellier first turned up in Perl and the Exploding Buffalo (Read the synopsis here). In Exploding Buffalo, I have a mad Indo-French cook called Faltoo Tamatar, an illegal immigrant, who inadvertently poisons a food critic and is on the run from the French police. He smuggles himself back to India in the hold of  a cargo ship, but the French police, in the shape of Inspector Depuis and Lieutenant Quand, come hotfooting after him. Montpellier makes a reprise in Perl and the Psychotic Mutant Space Cattle (read synopsis here), because this time, for reasons too complicated to explain, Faltoo attempts to smuggle himself back into France, to his old restaurant in Rue Du Mauvais Poisson.
When I was still fleshing out the plot of Exploding Buffalo, I wanted a French location. Any French location. So I took a map of France and plonked down my finger on it. It landed on Montpellier. As the novel took shape, and I turned Faltoo into an illegal immigrant, one who habitually smuggles himself aboard cargo ships and lives in a grungy, seedy cityscape, Montpellier started to look a less than optimal choice. Marseilles would have fitted the story better. But by then, it was too late. As Omar Khayyam once said: The plonking finger plonks, and having plonked, stays plonked. Nor all thy Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to unplonk. Nor all thy Tears make it budge an inch. But still, it wasn’t terribly bad as a choice. Montpellier has a lot of Algerian immigrants, some allegedly illegal, who live largely in the seedy immigrant banlieue of Mosson, and it is close to the harbor town of Sète.
Our first move was to the center of it all, the Place de la Comédie at the heart of Montpellier.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Minerve, village of blood

Trip to Aude: Day 11 (Evening)
Having heard princess Carcas sound the bells of the cité, we headed north to Montpellier, taking the scenic route as usual, and trying to take in a couple of beaux villages along the way. We were back in Aude, the land of the Cathars, and a scenic route meant just that: an exhilarating drive through narrow mountain roads winding past scrubby, wild hills dotted with ruined castles with bloody histories.
The two beaux villages we were aiming for seemed right up close on the map: Minerve and Olargue. But when you are driving on winding mountain roads, a small distance can seem to take ages. In the event, we got lost, and eventually managed to take a look at just one: Minerve. But it more than made up for it.
Minerve is not technically in Aude. It is just across the border in the neighboring region of Hérault. But for all practical purposes, going by the landscape and history, it could be. It is very much a part of ‘Cathar Country’.
Minerve turned out to be the most spectacular beau village we had seen yet. Seen merely as a ‘pretty village’, we had seen prettier. But take into account its savage setting and gruesome history, and it went right to the top of the charts. Here is our first view of the village, across the gorge of the river Cesse.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Carcas sounds the bells

Trip to Aude: Day 11
Evening of Day 10 we finally landed up at Carcassonne. We were back in Aude, back with ruined Cathar castles, and back on my original itinerary. Carcassonne was one of the highlights of my original Aude plan, before Blandine threw a fit and upturned it. The reason we were here was simply because it happened to be on the way back home, and Blandine had recovered from the earlier overdose of Cathar castles, and was in a position to take one more.
Carcassonne is the big boy amongst Cathar castles. If you remember, many of the previous castles we’d visited, like Quéribus and Peyrepertuse, had been described as ‘Sons of Carcassonne’. Well, this was the daddy. Carcassonne was the central royal castle in the South of France, and the other castles formed a protective ring around it, guarding the French border with Spain.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Montolieu, village of bookworms

Trip to Aude/ Midi-Pyrénées: Day 10

After a cassoulet lunch at St-Félix-Lauragais, we headed out to the next step on the itinerary, Carcassonne. On the way, we ran into the beau village of Montolieu.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Bells of Villefranche

Trip to Aude/ Midi-Pyrénées: Day 10
While on the hunt for the best cassoulet in France (see last post), we passed this interesting looking structure while zipping through the town of Villefranche, somewhere between Toulouse and Castelnaudary. At that point, we weren’t so hungry that we wouldn’t stop to investigate.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The best Cassoulet in France

Trip to Aude/ Midi-Pyrénées: Day 10
We can’t leave Toulouse without eating cassoulet, declared Blandine. Toulouse is the home of cassoulet. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic. Cassoulet is this kind of pasty white bean stew with lots of goose fat, and bits of roast goose and sausage. It is one of those traditional French dishes, like coq-au-vin, which have a hoary history going back into the mists of time. In case of cassoulet, it is a peasant dish from the South of France, used by farm laborers to fuel up in preparation for a grueling day on the field. First invented, I believe, during a siege of some sort, when the defenders of some place or the other invented a dish with whatever was at hand in their beleaguered redoubt. Blandine had sent me a can of it once. It had tasted pasty, glutinous and bland. A bit like eating a can of industrial woodworking glue.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Old Toulouse

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 9 (Evening)
The best part of Toulouse for me was simply walking about the old city, with houses dating back several centuries.

Many of these old buildings have inhabitants who having been living here several generations. Others have been converted into student hostels, and you can hear students bawling out to each other across narrow lanes.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Balconies of Toulouse

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 9

While walking about old Toulouse, I fell in love with the cast-iron balconies on 18th and 19th century town houses that line many of the lanes. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

Monday, September 08, 2014

Historic Toulouse

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 8/9
We landed up at Toulouse around 5 PM. We headed straight for the historic center of Toulouse, the ‘old city’, to track down a quaint old B&B to stay the night. There were plenty of quaint old red-brick B&Bs in that lovely old part of town, but they were way beyond our budget. Finally, we settled for a small and newish business hotel in the new part of town, just across the river (La Garronne) from old Toulouse. Even if we weren’t in the old town, we consoled ourselves that we were just a walking distance from it. And we did walk that distance, once we’d dumped our suitcases. We walked across the lovely red-brick Pont Neuf (that is French for New Bridge. It was new. When it was built, back in the 16th Century) to the old city for a stroll and dinner.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Good God ! - 173

Mon Dieu ! - 173

The Lombez Cat

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 8 (Afternoon)
While strolling around the old town square of Lombez, we came across an orange cat in the display window of a florist’s shop. 
He was fascinating, that cat. Mysterious and enigmatic. I spent several minutes photographing him. You don’t often get a chance like that. Here are some more photographs of the Lombez Cat. Absolutely natural, not touched up in any way. They say there is nothing like cat photos to boost the hit rate of a website. Now if this does not boost the hits on my little old blog, I don’t know what will.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Lombez Tower

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 8 (Afternoon)

Having checked out Space Cattle country, we nosed our steed homewards, towards Lyon, taking a long arc through Toulouse and Carcassonne.
We were zipping along fast, almost halfway to Toulouse. We had taken the ‘scenic route’, as usual, but it was still pretty boring. Nothing like the amazing route from Perpignan to Lourdes. When we were brought up short by this extraordinary structure peeping over the horizon.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Psychotic Mutant Space Country

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 8
Early next morning, we headed out of Lourdes for the thing for which I had really come to Lourdes. My main interest in Lourdes, if you recall, was due to the fact that I had based one of my novels there: Perl and the Psychotic Mutant Space Cattle (Read about it here). But the town of Lourdes itself features very little in the novel: just the final climax scene happens there. Most of the action takes place in the outskirts of Lourdes, in a fictional farm in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
I had written Space Cattle without ever having seen the Pyrenees, or Lourdes, or even France. Now at last I was going to get to see in real life the places I had seen so clearly in my imagination. By the way, you might wonder why I chose to base my novel in a place I had never seen. Don’t novelists like to base their stories in places they are familiar with? Nope, not experienced novelists. Only beginners stick to the tried and true. Once you have written a couple of novels (I have written six), you like try new things. There is something so incredibly liberating about writing about people, places and things of which you have no firsthand knowledge. It sets the imagination free. Like most beginners, in my first novel I had stuck to locations I knew like the back of my hand: Bangalore, Munich, Singapore. With successive novels, I went further and further afield, until in my new novel, the one I am currently writing, I have left planet Earth altogether. Space Cattle was my penultimate novel. I was still on Earth then… just about.
If you’ve read Space Cattle, or if you clicked on the above link to read the synopsis, you would know that the novel is about a herd of Lourdaise cows in a farm in the outskirts of Lourdes, who start singing opera. Perl and Hari, scientific detectives, are called in to investigate. In Chapter 3, they land up in the town of Lourdes to rendezvous with the project manager for the musical cow project.
Right, so here we were, following the route that Perl and Hari take from Lourdes to the farm with the singing cows. Perl and Hari take D821 out of Lourdes, heading south towards the Spanish border, and the Pyrenees. A couple of kilometers out of Lourdes, they take the first branching road on the left.
Here we are, at the branch.

They then take a narrow country road heading up into the lower Pyrenees.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Lourdes by candlelight

Trip to Aude / Midi-Pyrénées: Day 7 (Evening)
After checking out the Upper Basilica at Lourdes and sampling the holy water at the Grotto, we were just in time for the Blessed Sacrament Procession in the Underground Basilica – The Basilica of St. Pius X. The Underground Basilica is fairly modern, and has been accused of looking like an underground car park. But I rather liked it. It reminded me of an aircraft hanger.