Alexander the Great

Thu 29 December 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Alexander built one of the largest empires in the shortest time and at a young age. But how did he manage this? Was he blessed with unmatchable valour or did he rule through an iron fist? There were a lot of such questions in my mind before I started reading the book.

Robin Lane Fox, the author, sifts through the various historical accounts to detail Alexander's life. The book starts with a disclaimer that it is based on multiple sources like Alexander's personal historians, army generals, contemporaries and subsequent historians. Robin Lane Fox takes a lot of care to weed out fiction while providing explanation. By not relying on a single source and providing disclaimers, this book is transparent and doesn't read like a one-sided hero-worship.

Alexander is pushed into limelight with the assassination of his father, Philip-II. The assassins expect a full-blown succession battle but Alexander, aged 20, displays clear-headedness and takes over the throne with little resistance. After consolidating his hold in Macedonia and the north, he marches to Greece. At Greece, he displays his first glimpse of a master strategist by proclaiming himself as one among them and his purpose in life is to avenge the Darius' attack on Greece a few years ago. One by one the Greek cities fall to him and he builds up a huge army.

With this army, he proceeds to Persia but moves along the coast to neutralize the Persian navy's impact. He is confronted by Darius at Issus. The battle is decisively won by Alexander but Darius escapes.

Alexander then went on to liberate Egypt and the people pronounced him the son of Amun. Henceforth, Alexander referred to Zeus-Amun as his father.

He proceeded to Mesopotamia and met Darius at the battle of Gaugamela. Again, Alexander handed Persians the defeat but Darius escaped. Alexander captured Babylon after this battle and marched towards Susa, one of Persia's capitals. After a small battle, he enters Persepolis and let's his troops free who resort to looting and vandalism.

Alexander went after Darius from here only to find him stabbed by his own men. At the start of his campaign in Greece, Alexander rallied his army by invoking revenge against Darius for his attack on Greece. But now, Alexander changed his tact and proclaimed justice for the fallen king as his new motto. To buy the loyalty of his forces, he paid a handsome price in gold, silver and coveted posts.

In pursuit of Bessus, the killer of Darius, Alexander captured a lot of Central Asia. Finally, Besus was betrayed by his host and executed by Alexander.

Once again changing the tact, Alexander proclaims he wants to conquer the edge of the world (India was supposedly known as the edge of the world then). He motivates his forces to march with him into greatness.

Ambhi, the king of Taxila submits to Alexander who restores him to his kingdom. With the addition of Taxila's army, Alexander targets Porus. After a few weeks of mind-games, the two forces come face to face and Porus is captured in the battlefield. Impressed with his valour, Alexander invites Porus into his inner circle.

With his eyes set on the Magadha kingdom, Alexander started stirring his troops. But having been on the road for so many years, they were homesick and longed to get back home. They soon revolted and Alexander was forced to withdraw.

Alexander moved south to the mouth of Indus and then to Multan before crossing the great desert to reach Susa. The desert crossing was to be Alexander's biggest mistake resulting in the loss of half his army.

While recovering from his disastrous desert journey, Alexander loses his best friend Hephaestion and goes into prolonged grieving. A couple of months later, he plans an expedition to capture Arabia. But a week before they set sail, Alexander mysteriously falls ill and dies 12 days later.

His death is controversial as there are two versions of it. One being that he was probably poisoned and the other being that he died from an unknown fever.

After his death at the age of 32, his generals sparred amongst themselves and divided the vast kingdom that stretched from the Danube in the west to the Indus in the east into their satrapies.


Sun 27 November 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

"Waves" is a collection of short-stories written in Tamil by Sundara Ramaswamy (Su.Ra) and translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom.

These breezy stories are mostly set in a middle-class Tamil Brahmin households some time in the 1960-70s.

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No Logo

Tue 22 November 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

A study asked kids under the age of 12 from an impoverished African country to name their favourite logo. McDonald's ended up very high on that list. This in a country that didn't have a single McDonald store! That's branding for you.

"No Logo" dissects brands for you but not …

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Fri 28 October 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

George Smiley has retired but the events that brought about his abrupt retirement still plague him. He runs into a former colleague with information that he suspected for long, the existence of a mole amongst the intelligence sleuths. Smiley is requested to investigate this discreetly and expose the spy.

After …

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The End of Food

Mon 03 October 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of food? Maybe well garnished food at a fancy restaurant or maybe something yum cooked by you mom or spouse? But food has a history and a story to tell. Paul Roberts documents it's story in "The End …

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Emperors of the Peacock Throne

Wed 07 September 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Babur invades India after he is chased out of his homeland. His arrival in India triggers a war with the Lodhis who are routed in the first war of Panipat. With this, Babur plants the seed to the Mughal dynasty in India.

"Emperors of the Peacock Throne: The saga of …

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Not without my daughter

Mon 05 September 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Betty Mahmoody, an American citizen is tricked by her husband, an Iranian national into accompanying him along with their little daughter for a vacation to Iran. A few days into her stay, she realizes that this is a one-way trip and her husband has no plans of returning. She frantically …

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The Magician

Sat 03 September 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Have you ever been uncontrollably in love with a person even after learning of their flaws? "The Magician" by Somerset Maugham is the story of Margaret who breaks off her engagement with Arthur, a successful doctor a few days ahead of the engagement. She falls in love with an ugly …

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The city of djinns

Thu 01 September 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

William Dalrymple and his wife are on a long visit to Delhi, the city of djinns. The book is a tribute to the city and is filled with stories of interesting characters he meets here like his Sikh landlady, the loud-mouthed taxi driver, house keeping staff etc.

While the back …

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Self-signed TLS Certificate in Linux

Sun 21 August 2016 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Today, I had the necessity to embed an iframe on an HTTPS web page and most browsers now won't allow you to embed an HTTP resource on an HTTPS page raising the mixed content warning. Since the code was quite experimental, I didn't want to deploy it out of localhost …

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