Significance of Jesus’ first miracle: Why did He turn water into wine?
first recorded miracle on earth is found in the second chapter of St. John’s
gospel, verses 1to 11. It’s a curious case of divine intervention, turning
water into wine at a wedding feast, apparently to save the bridegroom from a
huge embarrassment. But is that all?
way. There’s lots more to the story.
safe to assume the wedding was of a relative or friend of Mary’s since she’s
involved in the arrangements. The servants share the problem with her, that the
wine has run out.
Jesus has begun gathering disciples by now. He has 5 followers. Two, who had
followed John the Baptist: Andrew and John (Ref: John 1:35-37). Andrew’s
brother Simon Peter. Philip (whom Jesus finds and says simply: ‘Follow me’ John
1:43) and then Nathaniel, who responds to Philip’s call with the famous line:
‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’
find it interesting that Jesus doesn’t berate Nathaniel for his cynicism. On
the contrary, He declares that Nathaniel is a true Israelite and that ‘in him
there is no guile’. He immediately demonstrates His divine vision by telling
Nathaniel that He’d seen him sitting under a fig tree. This blows Nathaniel’s
mind and he responds: ‘Rabbi, thou art the Son of God…’ (John 1:49).
feel this encounter demonstrates that God doesn’t get angry with honest doubt.
Remember Mary’s innocent query when the angel Gabriel announces that she’s
going to conceive a holy child? Mary asks: ‘How can this be, for I know not a
man?’ (Luke 1:34).
In contrast, when Zechariah receives an angelic message (from the same angel
Gabriel) about becoming a father (he and Elizabeth were childless and pretty
old) and puts forth a similar query: ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old
man and my wife is advanced in years’ (Luke 1:19), the angel says he’ll remain
mute until his child is born because he did not believe God’s words.
could be two explanations for the different responses of God’s angel to
Zechariah and Mary.
As a priest, Zechariah was perhaps expected to display faith in God’s word.
Besides, he’d been beseeching the Lord for a child for many years. When his
fatherhood was announced, he could not believe it. Contrast this again with
Abraham, who was in a similar position (childless) when God announced that he’d
become the father of a great nation. Abraham believed God and it was credited
to him as righteousness! Clearly, God was displeased with Zechariah’s unbelief.
The angel strikes Zechariah mute so that he could not articulate any further
doubts! God knows our hearts. Perhaps Zach would’ve confessed doubt instead of
back to the wedding in Cana.
is already there. Jesus and his disciples are invited. The wine runs out and
Mary relays the problem to Jesus. His reply is rather gruff: ‘Woman, what does
this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ (John 2:4). I’m sure the
Lord meant exactly that: His ministry hadn’t yet begun. But look at her
response: she says to the servants: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
His mother, she knows His heart and knows He has the power to perform miracles!
does this episode reveal about the Lord?
that when there’s a need, He responds;
that He cares deeply about our respect in society. Running out of wine would’ve
been a huge social blunder for the bridegroom. It’s clear that in this context,
it was the bridegroom who was responsible for the arrangements. The ‘ruler of
the feast’ (or the Master of Ceremonies) takes the bridegroom aside and
compliments him on the excellent quality of the wine.
God honours marriage
God sanctions festivity and joy on good occasions. (Ref: ‘The joy of the Lord
is your strength’ Nehemiah 8:10; ‘Rejoice in the Lord, always and again I say, rejoice’ Philippians 4:4 and many other scriptures).
400 years had elapsed since the Jews had seen a miracle. Daniel's era was
the last age of Jewish miracles. No wonder, therefore, that the simultaneous
appearance of a prophet like John the Baptist and a man who worked miracles like
Jesus attracted so much attention. People were stirred up and excited!
reveals that God confirms His word by signs and wonders. The 5 disciples had
already committed their lives to Jesus. The miracle at Cana revealed His glory
and caused them to believe in Him.
The miracle foreshadows Christ as the true bridegroom and the church as His
Why did He use ceremonial washing jars?
were used for washing of hands and feet in deference to the Levitical law
(Leviticus 15:11). So, the water from the jars was usually for cleaning the
outside of the body.
replaced it with something on the inside.
the fact that the new wine was better than the old wine symbolizes the new
covenant being better than the old. Moses’ first miracle turned water into
blood (Exodus 7:20). But Jesus’ first miracle turned water into precious wine!
Great wine takes a long time to ferment. Jesus bypassed the entire time frame
in moments, revealing His authority over the laws of nature, the way He did
later by quieting the winds (Matthew 8:24-27) and by walking on water (Matthew
Throughout the scriptures, wine is symbolic of God’s grace and our resultant
joy. It’s unnecessary for life. Its superfluity is a picture of God’s abundant
Our Lord makes the best wine without money or price (Isaiah 55:1-2)
is God’s nature to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine!
Jehovah Jireh: God is our provider. He shall supply all our needs according to
His riches in glory!
Why innovation and strategy outweigh superiority in numbers
The Battle of Gallipolli 18th March 1915
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized,” says Sun
Tzu in The Art of War (5th Century B.C. military treatise).
The Allied forces won the First World War but they
suffered reverses in many battles, too. One of these was the expedition to
break through the Narrows (of the Straits of Dardanelles) leading to
Gallipolli, which was ruled by the Turkish empire.
The British navy was probably the most powerful in the
world at the time. They led the attack with twelve battleships, while the
French contributed six. The Turks knew they were no match for the Allied
forces, so they used an innovative strategy. Instead of laying a series of
mines across the Straits, they sent their mine layer Nusrat on the 7th
of March to set mines parallel to the coast on the Asiatic side of the
Dardanelles. You’ll soon see why.
#Winston Churchill was the First Lord of the Admiralty
during this war.
- Along the coast, the Turks had set up shore
batteries (large guns) to protect the entrance to the Dardanelles.
North Sea trawlers had been sent to try and clear the
watery minefield but they were easy targets for the Turkish shore batteries and
suffered major casualties.
British and French ships sailed into the Straits in an attempt to open a way
through the Narrows. They were subjected to intensive shelling and a fierce gun
battle ensued between the ships and the Turkish defences lodged in forts and
mobile gun batteries. The mighty ships realized they had to turn back. As they
tried to manoeuvre around, however, they struck the mines laid along the shore.
The French battleship Bouvet, which had been damaged by shell fire and was
listing hit one of the mines and sank within thirty seconds! About six hundred
British battleships, Irresistible and Ocean sank.
rest of the Allied ships beat a hasty retreat.
The Straits of Dardenelles
Israel-Syria War of 1973
Battle for Golan Heights
Golan Heights has been described as the most hotly contested real estate on the
planet. I guess one could say that of the whole of Israel.
Heights is a flat plateau stretching over 1200 sq km and it overlooks Israel.
It was Syrian territory until 1967 when Israel occupied it after the
Arab-Israeli Six Days’ War.
was desperate to wrest control of the Golan Heights back from Israel and they
used the Cry Wolf ploy to lull their enemy into a false state of complacency.
We’ve seen how effective this is, time and time again. Remember, Sun Tzu’s
famous statement: ‘All warfare is based on deception’?
The Syrians kept mobilizing troops and then recalling them to barracks. They
did this so frequently that, when they mobilized troops for a real attack in
October 1973, the Israelis thought this was just another routine exercise.
The Syrians were confident of victory because they had 1200 tanks equipped with
night-fighting equipment. The Middle East terrain contains long fields of fire.
There’s nowhere to hide and the Syrians considered this to be a huge advantage.
If they simply rushed at the Israelis, how could the latter retaliate when they
were heavily outnumbered with just 170 tanks?
the Israelis got over their initial shock, they gathered their defence forces
with remarkable alacrity. As a small state, surrounded by hostile countries,
Israel had perfected the art of mobilization.
They had dug anti-tank trenches in front of the Golan Heights.
outnumbered, the Israeli tanks were superior to the Syrians’ and could fire up
to a range of 5 kms.
Israel had worked hard to develop long range gunnery skills.
Syrians launched an attack by driving straight at the Israelis on the Golan
Heights and soon ran into the anti-tank trenches. It made them sitting ducks
for Israeli tanks on the Heights. They had to return quickly after suffering
Due to their night-fighting equipment, the Syrians launched another attack
under the cover of darkness. Their Soviet-made T-55 tanks had infrared
projectors which enabled them to see through the dark.
Israelis only had night vision binoculars! (They’ve come a long way since
this, Israel prevailed for one important reason: superior leadership and better
Syrians kept advancing straight ahead on the long, flat terrain. The Israelis,
however, kept moving about and firing, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the
right. They didn’t allow their tanks to become easy targets and managed to
pound the Syrian tanks into submission!
a testament to their success that even today, the Golan Heights remains in
Why innovation and strategy outweigh superiority in numbers
Part One: The First Battle of Panipat (April 1526)
Part Two: The Battle of Gallipolli (March 1915) and
The Israel-Syria War (October 1973)
History teaches us that the numerical strength of an
army is no guarantee of success on the battlefield. The examples are many. I’m
using the accounts of three battles mentioned above to illustrate this. So,
let’s get into it.
“All warfare is based on deception,” says Sun Tzu in
the celebrated 5th Century B.C. Chinese military treatise, The Art
of War, “Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our
forces, we must appear inactive…”
Each of these three examples proves this.
The First Battle of Panipat 21st April,
Babur Vs Ibrahim Lodi
The Lodi dynasty was on the throne at Delhi, headed by
Ibrahim Lodi. A clash between Ibrahim Lodi and the Governor of Lahore, Daulat
Khan Lodi resulted in Daulat Khan inviting a Mongol prince to invade India.
This prince, Babur, had made Kabul his base (in 1504) after struggling to
control his ancestral kingdom Fargana. Babur took over Lahore in 1524 and then
returned to Kabul to plan his strategy for defeating the Lodi emperor. He
crossed the Indus in December 1525 with a force of just 12000 (according to his
memoirs, the Baburnama).
Ibrahim Lodi’s army numbered about one lakh, which was
huge in those days. But it suffered from some disadvantages, which proved
i) It was not a standing army. Rather, it was a force
that had been gathered from different parts of the empire. The soldiers had
never fought together.
ii) It had a large contingent of elephants which, for
obvious reasons, marched slowly.
iii) Lodi was overconfident. He’d heard about the small numbers of Babur’s army and must’ve thought the Mongol would be crushed
In contrast, Babur was fully aware of his numerical
disadvantage and used brilliant strategies to overcome this.
i) Unlike previous invaders, Babur did not rape and
pillage the populace. He’d come to India with the aim of establishing an empire
and did not want to alienate the people. It is said he took care of widows and
orphans in the areas he conquered. As he entered through Ropar and Ambala, he
bought about 700 bullock-carts from villagers. Bought, not grabbed. Will tell you why he needed them shortly.
ii) Babur convinced the powerful Janjua Rajputs to
join his campaign. They were bitterly opposed to the Delhi throne and seized
their chance to overthrow Ibrahim Lodi. With their assistance, Babur’s army
swelled to about 25000. It was still one-fourth of the size of Lodi’s but
better than 12000. Besides, the Rajputs were brave warriors and that was a big
plus for Babur.
iii) This battle saw the use of cannons for the first
time in India. Lodi’s army had no cannons.
iv) Babur had a contingent of expert mounted archers,
which proved more effective than sword or spear-wielding cavalry.
v) Babur’s artillery included matchlock rifles, which
were a rarity in those days.
vi) Babur’s own contingent of 12000 was battle-hardened and fiercely loyal to him. They’d fought together in about
eight or ten campaigns and one can imagine the camaraderie amongst them.
Despite these advantages, Babur knew that his choice
of battle venue- the field of Panipat- would give a large army the upper hand.
So, he had to come up with some solutions fast.
After reaching Panipat on the first of April, he
quickly chose the best possible position. Keeping Panipat city on his right, he
had a seven-kilometer long trench dug up to the Yamuna river on the opposite side. This was filled with wooden spikes and covered with earth and leaves,
etc. to conceal it. Behind them, he made a row of the bullock-carts bound together with rawhide. There were gaps of ten to fifteen feet between them at
various points, where he placed his archers and artillery. His
cavalry, too, could charge through these gaps.
Behind the first few rows of infantry soldiers, Babur
himself led the main position called Kul. He was flanked by a contingent on the
left led by his trusted General Mohammed Mirza and another to his right led by
his son and successor Prince Humayun. His heavy cavalry contingent was led by
another war veteran called Iltmish.
Babur’s scouts informed him about the progress of
Lodi’s army. It was a large, unwieldy force that marched slowly. They covered
only four miles per day, while travelling to Panipat!
To precipitate matters, Babur sent a large force of
about four thousand men to raid the Lodi camp on the 19th of April.
The raid was repelled by Lodi’s Afghan guards and Babur lost a number of men.
This early victory lulled the Lodi army into a false sense of complacency. They
became confident of a quick triumph in battle and attacked Babur’s army two
Lodi sent his 300 strong elephants contingent first.
Babur waited for them to come perilously close and then fired a barrage of artillery
and cannons. The cannons might’ve missed their targets since their range was
short but the mere sound confused and frightened the elephants, who panicked
and trampled their own army. Lodi’s infantry met a similar fate when they fell
into the trench in front of the bullock carts. Babur then deployed his heavy
cavalry to cut off the Lodi army from both sides.
#Babur wanted Lodi to attack first so that the latter's army could be cut down in the trenches and confused with the cannon fire! That's why he'd sent an advance raiding party to the Lodi camp.
The battle lasted six hours. Lodi died on the field. They say he showed exemplary valour, refusing to flee even when his army was being routed. Babur went up to Lodi’s body and said: “I salute your bravery.” But the rest of Lodi’s army, comprising about twenty-five thousand, met a cruel fate. Babur
had them all beheaded. 25000 men! Just think. Gross! And in a grisly message to his future enemies, he made a
mound of their heads.
A rather common practice in those days. Queen Elizabeth I put her enemies' heads (particularly those who rebelled against her) on spikes at public spots so that everyone could see them!
Anyhow, after his quick victory at Panipat, Babur marched on Delhi.
And, thus, began the rule of the Mughal dynasty in
Babur built this mosque at Panipat in 1527 to commemorate his victory. It still stands today.
Why did God accept Abel’s sacrifice and reject Cain’s?
Is God unjust?
The story of Cain and Abel is found in Chapter Four of
the Book of Genesis of the Bible. Cain is the first child, the firstborn of
Adam and Eve. He is born in a fallen state, since his parents had been
banished from the Garden of Eden by then, and the story of his life pretty much
follows the same pattern of sin and disobedience. Abel, his brother, is born
after some time and it’s pretty obvious that they grow up amidst fierce sibling
rivalry. Abel tends the flocks and Cain works the field. Once they come of
age, they both bring offerings to God. Cain brings ‘some of the fruits of
the soil’, while Abel brings ‘fat portions from some of the firstborn of his
Now, here’s the part that’s confounded people for ages: The Bible says
God looked with favour on ‘Abel and his offering but on Cain and his offering
He did not look with favour’.
Hmm…food for thought? Was God unjust? Didn’t each
brother offer something derived from his labour? So, why did God favour one
over the other?
Two interesting themes emerge from the answers:
The value of sacrifice and
The importance of thought control
THE VALUE OF SACRIFICE
We all make sacrifices in our lives. We all give up
the immediate gratification of our desires (at some point or the other) to
ensure future prosperity.
The first act of worship in the Bible involves giving
up something valuable. Abel gives choice pieces of the firstborn of
his flock. Much like you’d offer the best portions of meat or chicken to an
honoured guest. Also notice, that God looks upon ‘Abel and his offering’ with
favour. Shepherds have a special place in the Bible. David was a shepherd and
Jesus is The Good Shepherd. They're portrayed as tough, self-reliant and
responsible for the lives of others. David tells King Saul how he rescued his
sheep from lions and bears (1Samuel 17:34-36). ‘When it turned on me, I seized
it by its hair, struck it and killed it’. Whoa, that’s a powerful image. Not like
our assumptions of the character of a shepherd, huh?
It's reasonable to assume that Abel, too, would’ve had
to fend off wild animals while tending to his sheep. This wasn’t paradise,
after all. Abel is referred to as ‘righteous’ (Mathew 23:35), a man of faith
‘by faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was
commended as righteous when God gave approval to his gifts’ (Hebrew 11:4). So,
we get the picture of Abel as a righteous, good and responsible guy. God
approves of him and his offerings.
Cain, on the contrary, seems to have been a jealous,
brooding sort of guy, who was easily pissed off. Some people have argued that
God rejected his offerings because they came from the ground, which was cursed.
But this isn’t indicated at all. God tells Cain clearly: ‘If you do what is
right, will you not be accepted?’ The same view is expounded in St. John’s
first letter (1John 3:12) when he writes: ‘Do not be like Cain, who belonged to
the evil one and murdered his own brother. And why did Cain slay him? Because
his own deeds were evil, while those of his brother were righteous.’ So, it
wasn’t just his offering; Cain himself was out of favour with the Lord.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THOUGHT CONTROL
Having been rejected by God, Cain is very angry and
his face is downcast. The Lord warns him: ‘Sin is crouching at your door; it
desires to have you, but you must master it’ (Genesis 4:7). One would think
such a warning is sufficient for a man to get his act together but Cain is not
amenable to reason. He doesn’t want to change. He does not
repent, either. Neither does he seem to be bothered about giving God an
offering that would please Him. He’s just mad angry and goes on to murder his
brother, the righteous Abel.
Right here in the first book of the Bible, we’re shown
the importance of controlling our thoughts. There are many, many exhortations
about the need to renew our minds and take bad thoughts captive. Every action
begins as a thought and the Bible tells us over and over again how important it
is that we recognize this.
2 Corinthians 10:5 talks about ‘bringing into
captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’. The book of Romans says:
‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind’ (12:2). Proverbs 3:7 ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he’.
The Mark of Cain
Cain doesn’t control his thoughts, but keeps his
envious wound festering and then slays Abel. God asks him: ‘Where is your
brother?’ and Cain says the now famous words: ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s
The passage describing Abel’s death and Cain’s
questioning by God, mentions the word ‘brother’ six times. It’s a poignant
emphasis on the bond between the siblings that serves to heighten the horror of Cain’s
Instead of slaying Cain in an act of divine
retribution, God condemns him to the life of a restless wanderer. Cain still
doesn’t repent, but complains ‘my punishment is more than I can bear’ and ‘anyone
who finds me will kill me.’ Good riddance, one would think. But the Lord does
something strange: he puts a mark on Cain so that whoever finds him would not
slay him. I think this is amazing: that at the very beginning of the human
race, God rules that revenge is not to be encouraged. Slaying man, who is made in the image of God, is never a good thing. Perhaps it’s true that a
lifetime of suffering would be worse than a quick death.
A few interesting thoughts:
a) In Dante’s Inferno, the ninth circle of hell, which
is the innermost and reserved for the worst kind of sinners, is named Caina,
b) Cain and Abel’s offerings constitute the first
recorded act of worship in the Bible. Ironically, the first act of worship
occasions the first murder!
c) Good Friday is coming up and I’d like to leave you
with a profound thought from Dr. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist whose
lectures are popular on YouTube. While talking about the significance of
sacrifice, he mentions something unique about the Cross.
That it’s the supreme sacrifice of the Mother (Mary
had to give up her son);
The supreme sacrifice of the Father (God gave up his Son)
The supreme sacrifice of the Son (Jesus taking our
place and paying for our sins), all at once!
Many stories in the Bible are short and succinct but
so layered and complex that each time you read them, you’ll learn something
Case in point, the account of Jesus and the woman
caught in adultery. It’s a short narrative in the Gospel of John, Chapter 8,
verses 3-11. For those unfamiliar with the story, here goes:
Jesus goes to the temple courts (of the Temple of
Jerusalem, the holiest of places for the Jews) at dawn, where ‘all the people’
gather around him and he sits down to teach them. Then ‘the teachers of the law
and the Pharisees’ bring in a woman caught in adultery (caught in the very act,
they say). They make her stand before the group and they tell Jesus that she
was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded them to stone
such women. ‘Now what do you say?’
The Bible states clearly that they were using this
question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing him (verse 6). To
illustrate this further, the Mosaic Law said: ‘If a man commits adultery with
another man’s wife…both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to
death’ (Leviticus 20:10). In this instance, the man wasn’t hauled up before
Jesus. The story doesn’t say why. And, surely, the accusers weren’t following
due procedure. They should’ve taken both the man and the woman to the
authorities concerned, perhaps the Roman Governor.? Why did they drag the woman
to Jesus? He was just a popular teacher, a Rabbi, as far as they were concerned. The answer, of course, is as verse 6 says: it was in order to trap
Instead of replying directly to the Pharisees, Jesus
does something strange. He bends down and starts writing on the ground with His
finger. When they keep on questioning Him, He straightens up and says the now
famous, immortal lines: ‘Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone’.
Again, he stoops down and continues to write on the ground. After this, the
crowd begins to melt away one by one, the older ones first, until only Jesus is
left with the woman standing there. Jesus straightens up and asks her: ‘Woman,
where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she says.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ He declares, ‘Go, and
sin no more.’
Before addressing the issue of what He was writing on
the ground, it’s interesting to see how Jesus turns the situation around so
that the woman could not be put to death. For the Mosaic Law said, ‘No one
shall be put to death on the testimony of just one witness’ (Deuteronomy 17:6).
Jesus creates the situation where they aren’t even 2 witnesses left to testify
against the woman. Also note, Jesus does tick her off: ‘Go and sin no more.’ He
doesn't say, you’re alright, your accusers are mean, horrible, hypocrites, which
they were, actually. The thing is, sin is not condoned. Ever.
Now, for the question at hand. What on earth was Jesus
writing on the ground? And why?
Bible scholars have debated this through the ages
and three main explanations have emerged. I’ll give you all three and then give
my point of view:
i) Jesus was simply ignoring the woman’s accusers,
showing his contempt for their attempts to ensnare Him. He was God, after all!
He knew what was in their hearts. It was almost as if He was saying: ‘Uff, you
guys are such idiots. Why are you trying to play with me?’
ii) Jesus was performing a sign that’s fulfillment of
a prophesy. Jeremiah 17:13 says: ‘those who turn away from thee shall be
written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living
water.’ In John 7:38 Jesus describes Himself as the fountain of living water.
So, Jesus was basically writing their sins in the earth. When the Pharisees and
teachers of the Law saw this sign performed, they were convicted of their sin,
and left the scene. As experts in the Mosaic Law, they would’ve recognized the
In short, Jesus springs a trap on them!
iii) According to Venerable Bede and St. Augustine,
when Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, He was harkening back to the
time on Mount Sinai when He had written the Ten Commandments on stone tablets
with His finger (Exodus 32: 15-16). It’s like He was saying, ‘I’m the author of
the Law and you’re trying to trap me with it?’
The only other time when the finger of God appears in
the Bible is in the book of Daniel (5:5) when ‘the fingers of a human hand
appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall…’ during King Belshazzar’s
banquet. The finger wrote ‘Mene Mene Tekel Uparsin’, which Daniel interprets
later as a prophesy of doom against the King, who had stolen gold and silver
goblets from the Temple of Jerusalem and then defiled them by drinking wine in
them during this feast. That very night, King Belshazzar dies.
*An interesting aside: 2 phrases in this episode became
famous in the English language. One was ‘the writing on the wall’ from the
above passage. The other is ‘knees knocking together’. That’s in the verse
describing King Belshazzar’s reaction to the finger writing on the wall. It
says: ‘The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was
so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way’.
In both instances (Exodus and Daniel), the finger of
God appeared in judgement. But what of the time when Jesus wrote on the ground?
I think Jesus was doing both things: He was sending a
sign of judgement against the Pharisees and teachers of the Law and He was
reminding them that He- the Lord Almighty- was the author of the Law, so don’t
try and mess with Him!
A clip from the TV series 'Jesus of Nazareth' depicting this episode
archetype of the cold-blooded assassin has fascinated people through the ages.
The figure of a man or woman stealthily approaching an unsuspecting target
leaves the audience breathless with anticipation, stirring up feelings of dread
and excitement in equal measure.
is an assassin?
Oxford Dictionary’s definition is ‘a person who murders an important person for
political or religious reasons’.
name is derived from the Latin assassinus, which is a variation of the Arabic
word hasisi or al-hashishiyun, meaning hashish-eater! The tradition dates back
to the Crusades (11th to 13th centuries AD) when a
certain sect would use hashish before proceeding on murder missions. No doubt
that helped dull the brutality of it all. But that’s just a name; hired killers
have been around from the time man decided to bump off his neighbour. Why, King
Darius of Persia used a hidden blade to finish off King Xerxes I in 5th
the notable ones are:
Wilkes Booth: shot dead US President Abraham Lincoln at a theatre on April 14,
1865. Booth himself was gunned down by federal troops on April 26 the same
Nathuram Godse: a divisive figure till date! He shot Mahatma Gandhi in New
Delhi on January 30, 1948.
Lee Harvey Oswald: shot dead US President John. F. Kennedy at Dallas on
November 22, 1963. Two days later, while being transferred from a jail cell,
Oswald was shot dead by a Dallas Night Club owner Jack Ruby. Tried and found
guilty of murder, Ruby was sentenced to death but died of cancer in jail in
Earl Ray: shot Martin Luther King Jr in Memphis, Tennessee on April 23, 1968.
He was apprehended by London Police at Heathrow the same year while trying to
flee under an assumed name.
Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos The Jackal, imprisoned since
1994. Planned some high-profile attacks on political figures in the 1970s and
One of the world’s most infamous assassins is Julio Santana of Brazil, who has
over 500 hits to his credits and has a book written about him called ‘The Name
of Death’ by Klester Cavalcanti.
the difference between an assassin and a murderer?
murderer commits the crime spontaneously or in a premeditated way. He’s usually
motivated by personal feelings of revenge or jealousy or greed over property
assassin is a paid hitman who acts with careful forethought and planning. His
reasons may be political, religious or even personal. It’s considered
cold-blooded because of the premeditated nature of the crime and because the
assassin may not be acquainted with the target.
more elusive, more effective and, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, the female
of the species is ‘more deadly than the male’.
killers have been depicted in literature and cinema but they’re a rare breed.
They evoke a greater sense of dread because the trope goes against the grain of
women being nurturers, more refined, the gentler sex. Lady Macbeth, while
contemplating the murder of King Duncan, called upon the powers of darkness to
the years, the female assassin has been portrayed as
physically attractive, so she can lure men in
trained in unarmed combat and the use of weapons.
raised her profile through action flicks like Kill Bill, Colombiana, Proud Mary
and The Long Kiss Goodnight.
1975, not one but two women tried to kill US President Gerald Ford!
attempts were independent and unconnected.
first assassin was a 26 year-old called Lynnette Fromme, a devotee of Charles
Manson. On 5th September 1975 she pulled gun on Ford at a park but
days later, Sara Jane Moore, a woman with left-wing sympathies and severe mood
swings, fired a revolver at the President outside the St. Francis Hotel in San
Francisco but missed.
women were arrested and found guilty of attempted murder but freed after Ford’s
makes assassins so captivating?
have such an enduring fascination with assassins that the internet is filled
with queries about them including- believe it or not- ‘Where do I go to become
of the replies is ‘go join a branch of the military.’ I guess they’re referring
to army snipers. Come think of it, James Bond can be considered a Government
term assassin conjures up images of flashy cars and gadgets, adrenalin-soaked
chases and characters like Beatrix Kiddo (The Bride) from Kill Bill.
what if she’s not like that? What if she’s vulnerable and conflicted? What if
she lives an ordinary life? What if she’s one of us?
my character in Killer Kavita, The Girl With The Poison Touch, a novel just
released by Tara India Research Press under their imprint 4 Hour Books. She’s
an assassin with a heart of gold. Killer Kavita is the moniker she’s given by
the public on account of her propensity to send her targets a poetic warning
declaring the date and time of their death, before eliminating them! Hot on her
trail is a brilliant CBI detective Aarav Singh Rana, whose famed powers of
deduction make him a legend in the Police Force, despite his young age.
out the awesome promo video for Killer Kavita!
The novel is currently available for ordering on Amazon. Here's the link below:
For those of you who missed the last post, do revert back to it. Here's the list of my favourite songs, counting down from 50 to 25, so far.
50. The Rolling Stones, Paint It Black.
49. Coldplay, Hymn for the Weekend.
48. Maroon 5, Won't Go Home Without You.
47. Robert Palmer, Simply Irresistible.
46. Sting, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.
45. Berlin, Take My Breath Away.
44. Amy Winehouse, You Know I'm No Good.
43. A-ha, Take On Me.
42. Santana & Rob Thomas, Smooth.
41. Ed Sheeran, Shape of You
40. Dolly Parton, Jolene.
39. Wham, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.
38. UB40, Don't Break My Heart.
37. Adele, Hello.
36. Magic! No Way No.
35. Taylor Swift, Mean.
34. Billy Joel, For The Longest Time.
33. Wet Wet Wet, Love is All Around.
32.Bryan Adams, Everything I Do (I do it For You).
31. Bon Jovi, In These Arms.
30. Tina Turner, What's Love Got to do with it.
29. Whitney Houston, I Have Nothing.
28. Edith Piaf, La Vie En Rose.
27. Foreigner, I Wanna Know What Love is.
26. Rod Stewart, Maggie May.
25. The Carpenters, Please Mr. Postman.
Now, for the rest!
24. Nazia Hassan: Aap Jaisa Koi.
Anyone who knows me, is well aware of how much I like this Pakistani singer's work. She was amazing, a real superstar who, tragically died young from cancer. Believe it or not, she was just fifteen when Biddu and Feroz Khan discovered her when Khan was looking for something unique for the 'Qurbani' soundtrack. Aap Jaisa Koi entered our world in 1980 and left us all mesmerized. This list of my favourite songs is predominantly for English music. I really ought to do a separate list for Hindi songs but I couldn't resist putting this one in! Here's the video from 'Qurbani', where Zeenat Aman performs it beautifully.
23. R.D. Burman, Mehbooba Mehbooba.
The only other Hindi number in this list. Don't need to say much. The song is loved as much as 'Sholay', providing some much needed oomph and relief amidst all the action. Not taking anything away from Dharamendra and Hema Malini's comic moments, but Mehbooba Mehbooba comes at a point in the movie where it's really required! R.D. Burman's baritone is sensuous, his best singing ever and what to say of Helen and Jalal Aga, except wow?
22. Cliff Richard, Living Doll.
My favourite Cliff number, although they're so many great ones. 'Bachelor Boy', 'Congratulations', 'The Young Ones', 'Travellin' Light'...the list goes on. 'Living Doll' was written by Lionel Bart and a few artistes sang it before Cliff but Cliff and The Shadows popularized it in 1959 in their album, 'Serious Charge', which was a movie, too. 'Living Doll' went to the Top Ten in numerous countries. I'll remember it for another reason. It was the first song I sang with my guitar during the freshers' welcome at St. Stephen's College, Delhi in 1987. It did not go well. They threw an egg on my guitar! I was heartbroken for a while but the song stuck to me! That wasn't a bad thing. Ahem! I still have the same guitar.
21. Bruce Springsteen: Dancing in the Dark.
Do you know that Springsteen wrote this in frustration one night, to meet a deadline? It's a rock hit from his 1984 album, 'Born in the USA'. The story goes, the album's producer wanted one more song before finalizing the list. Springsteen, who'd been working hard, said 'you do it', in annoyance! Nevertheless, he went to his room and composed 'Dancing in the Dark' during the course of the night!
I love the thumping beat and the great lyrics. The video, directed by Brian De Palma (yes, of 'The Untouchables' fame) features Courtney Cox (Monica, of 'Friends'). Unforgettable stuff.
20. Alison Krauss: Ghost in the House.
From the Bluegrass singer's 1999 album 'Forget About It.' Originally recorded by the American country group Shenandoah. Krauss's version is haunting and beautiful. Her voice is angelic. I love her album with Robert Plant, too, but nothing beats this song.
19. Tracy Chapman, Give Me One Reason.
Tracy's 'Fast Car' and 'Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight' are more famous but this one's my favourite. She's naughty, funny and outstanding in it. Besides, the guitar is unmatchable. Check it out on You Tube.
18. Van Morrison, Moondance.
Irish singer Van Morrison was struggling before this. His album 'Moondance' came out in 1970. It was written entirely by him and he's never looked back since. Yes, there are other great song by him: 'Brown Eyed Girl', 'Crazy Love' and all but I find 'Moondance' most enchanting. Love the way he combines Jazz, Pop and other genres in it.
17. Eric Clapton: Change The World.
The phenomenal English musician's tune for the 1996 John Travolta movie, 'Phenomenon'. There's something about this track that leaves an impression. Sure, his other songs are better known: 'Wonderful Tonight', 'Layla', 'Cocaine', 'Tears in Heaven' and so on but isn't that the mark of a great musician? An entire body of great work? So much that listeners are spoilt for choice? Clapton is a genius on the guitar with 'Change the World'. It topped the charts and won 8 awards, including 3 Grammys.
16. Barbra Streisand; Memory
From the 1981 album 'Memories'. Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and adapted by Trevor Nunn from T.S. Eliot's 'Rhapsody on a Windy Night'. My gosh, Barbra's vocals leave you spellbound. It was used in Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End production of 'Cats' and performed by great singers like Elaine Paige and Sarah Brightman. But, I say, Barbra is the best!
15. Roxette: The Look.
This song's chorus: 'Na na na na na...She's got the Look' is instantly recognizable. It's from the Swedish pop duo's 1988 album 'Look Sharp!' Topped the chart in 25 countries. Written by Per Gessle. Sung by him and Marie Friedriksson who, sadly, passed away last year. Roxette had so many great hits: 'It Must've Been Love', 'Fading Like a Flower', 'Dangerous', 'Dressed For Success', 'Things Will Never Be the Same' but it's this one, 'She's Got the Look', that stays with me the longest.
14. Elton John: Something About the Way You Look Tonight.
Another hard choice. I mean, when you've got to pick from 'Sacrifice', 'Nikita', 'Candle in the Wind', 'Crocodile Rock' and the entire 'Lion King' Soundtrack, it's not easy. I love this number from Elton John's eponymous album released in 1997 for its bold execution and grand scale. It's the best selling single in UK history. Billboard was spot on when they described the song as 'a grandly executed ballad'.
13. Dire Straits: Money For Nothing.
From this British rock group's 1985 album 'Brothers In Arms'. Composed by Sting and Mark Knopfler. Knopfler's guitar riff in the beginning and the powerful drums coming in next take this song to another level. It went to No. 1 on the UK charts and they won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance. The video is iconic, making early use of computer animation. Won an MTV video award, too. Oh, and the high notes in the background: 'I Want My MTV', that's Sting!
12. Madonna: Like A Virgin
The title track from Madonna's 1984 album. Gosh, what an impact it made. Madonna said she loved the lyrics. 'Said they were 'so geeky, they're cool'. It reached No. 1 on the US Billboards and became her signature song. Topped the charts in many countries. I love all her early work but this one surely stands out.
11. Shirley Bassey: Killing Me Softly
Roberta Flack sang this originally and many singers have covered it, including Frank Sinatra and, more recently, Michael Buble but the Welsh singer Dame Shirley Bassey's version is by far the best. It featured on her album, 'Never Never Never' and I can never tire of listening to it.
10. Guns `n Roses: Sweet Child O' Mine.
We've entered my Top Ten! It's American hard rock group, Guns 'n Roses with Axl Rose as the lead vocalist and the legendary Slash on the guitar. This song is from their 1987 album 'Appetite for Destruction'. One of the few hard rock bands I like. This song won several awards and topped charts all over the world. Written by Axl Rose, Slash and Izzy Stradlin, it refers to Axl Rose's then girlfriend Erin Everly, whom he married later (for a short period). The video features all their girlfriends. Strangely, they say it began as a joke. The band was just fooling around and the song happened.
9. Boney M: Rasputin.
Who doesn't know this song? The opening riff is one of the most famous in music history. This German-Carribean group had so many hit songs at the time. 'Brown Girl in the Ring', 'Daddy Cool', 'Bahama Mama', 'Ribbons of Blue', 'Motherless Child'...a very long list. 'Rasputin' featured on their 1978 album 'Night Flight to Venus' and it became an instant disco hit. Written by Frank Farian, the group's German creator, the song is unique in its use of instruments. The textured rhythm is created by a balalaika, a three-stringed triangular instrument. The extended drums and clapping give the song a folk-like feel. Love it! My only regret is, there are no good videos for 'Rasputin'.
8. ABBA: Take a Chance on Me
Ah. ABBA. My favourite music group ever. I should've done 'My 50 favourite ABBA songs'. It's impossible to pick the best ones because they're are so many. Shall I start? 'Hasta Manana', 'Honey Honey', 'Mama Mia', 'Rock Me', 'Money Money Money', 'The Winner Takes It All', 'Gimme Gimme Gimme', 'I Am the Tiger', 'Voulez Vous', 'One of Us'...see what I mean? The list goes on and on. I've chosen 'Take a Chance on Me', which featured on their fifth studio album, 'ABBA, The Album' released in 1977 because of its catchy beat and lyrics. For the .00001% of people visiting this blog and are unaware of who ABBA is, let me elaborate: They're a Swedish pop group who dominated the music world from the early 70s to early 80s. Their last studio album, 'The Visitors' released in 1983. The group comprised two couples, Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Annifrid Lyngstad and Benny Anderson. The girls sang most of the songs. Bjorn wrote nearly all the lyrics. He and Benny composed all the songs. The pressures of fame, et all, took its toll. Both couples broke up and ABBA...well, they never really split, just stopped making music. This year, however, two new ABBA singles are due for release!
Bjorn says he wrote most of 'Take a Chance on Me' while he was out running (as he loves to do every morning). Come to think of it, the 'Take a Chance, Take a Chance, take a take take a chance' does seem to mirror a runner's rhythm!
7. The Beatles: Help!
How can any such list be complete without the Fab Four? 'Help!' is the title track from their fifth studio album released in August 1965. They made a movie by the same name. John Lennon, who wrote the song, said he did it 'because I was commissioned to write it for the movie'. Rather dismissive, na? But I love it. The melodies are so good! As is the case of all the top groups, there are a host of songs to choose from. I love most of The Beatles' work, the early ones, especially. 'Can't Buy Me Love', 'Norwegian Wood', 'Love Me Do', 'Just Seventeen', 'When I'm Sixty-Four'...so many great numbers...
6. Tom Jones: Delilah
This one's a title track from the amazing Welsh singer's 1968 album. Probably his signature tune, although they're so many more. 'Help Yourself', 'Green Green Grass of Home', 'Thunderball', 'What's New Pussycat', 'Love Me Tonight'...many, many more. I love 'Delilah' not just for its catchy tempo and Tom Jones' outstanding vocals but also because it was my son's favourite lullaby when he was young! Ahem! Not sure Mom would approve but I used to sing him 'Delilah' and 'Diamonds are Forever' nearly every night. He loved them both and corrected me if I dropped a note!
5. Elvis Presley: Surrender.
This track is from Elvis's 1961 album 'Something For Everybody'. It's one of the best selling singles of all time, the English version of an Italian ballad: 'Torna a Surriento'. Elvis made it his own with his amazing vocal range. Variety magazine said it would be a runaway click because of the 'vigorous vocalizing that nobody seems to be able to match.' So true. Nobody could match The King! I love many of his other tracks and, after ABBA, the most songs I have on my iPod are Elvis's. 'Are You Lonesome Tonight', 'Wooden Heart', 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'Loving You' are some of my other hot Elvis favourites.
4. Gary Moore: Still Got the Blues.
The title track from the Irish guitarist 1990 album. Written by Gary Moore. Certified Gold in the US. Went Platinum in many countries. It's one of the most moving numbers I've ever heard. Moore said in a 1992 interview with Q magazine: 'It was just like starting over, the best thing I could've done.' Sadly, Moore died in 2011 ending a brilliant but short career.
3. Michael Jackson: Billie Jean
This one's from Michael's iconic 1982 album 'Thriller'. It was written and composed by him. Was No.1 on the US Billboard for 7 weeks and it has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Michael won 2 Grammys for it: Best R&B Song and Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. There are so many Michael Jackson hits to choose from: 'Beat It', 'Thriller', 'In the Closet', 'Remember the Time', 'Man in the Mirror'. 'Give in to Me'...among others but 'Billie Jean' is special. Michael said he knew it would be a success. 'A musician knows his material'. His producer Quincy Jones wasn't sure of the 29 second long intro but Michael insisted on keeping it. `Said it made him want to dance. I guess that sealed it.
2. Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody.
Number two on my list is the boldest, the most genre-blending song of all time. Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' written by Freddie Mercury for the 1975 album 'Night At The Opera'. It consists of several sections without a chorus: Ballad, Opera, Rock and...don't know what else. It went to the top of the charts in many countries. It's the UK's third best selling single of all time and Queen's most famous song. I'm a big fan of the group and love nearly all their work. 'I Want to Break Free', 'Somebody to Love', 'Don't Stop Me Now', 'Another one Bites the Dust', 'Good Old Fashioned Loverboy', 'We Will Rock You'...I can't seem to stop gushing over them, either. Freddie Mercury surely ranks as one of the greatest tenors ever. Queen's producer Roy Thomas Baker said of 'Bohemian Rhapsody': 'It was totally insane but we enjoyed every moment of it.'
1. ABBA: Thank You For the Music:
The No. 1 spot has to go to ABBA. As I said before, I love nearly all their songs, This one is special because of the lyrics and it's hymn-like quality. It's from their fifth studio album, 'ABBA, The Album' I mentioned earlier. Released in 1977, the Swedish group was at its peak. This song is perhaps ABBA's most performed number and it showcases Agnetha's awesome talent. Here's the video:
So, that's my top 50.
But, there were so many great songs I had to leave out and they surely deserve a mention;
- The Sound of Music soundtrack
-My Fair Lady Soundtrack
-La La Land Soundtrack
- Scorpions: Still Loving You
- Pink Floyd: Another Brick in the Wall
-The Bee Gees: Stayin' Alive
-Stevie Wonder: I Just Called to Say I Love You
- CCR's Cotton Fields
- John Denver: Country Roads
-No Doubt: Don't Speak
- Shakin' Stevens' hits like 'Green Door' and 'Monalisa'.
- Aerosmith: Don't Wanna Miss A Thing
- Metallica: Nothing Else Matters
- Extreme: More Than Words
- A long list of Gospel songs
- Bonnie Tyler: Faster Than the Speed of Light
-The Eagles: Hotel California
I'd better stop or the list will go on and on.
Here's a recap of my top 50 favourites, this time from 1-50.
1. ABBA: Thank You for the Music
2. Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody
3. Michael Jackson: Billie Jean
4. Gary Moore: Still Got the Blues
5. Elvis Presley: Surrender
6. Tom Jones: Delilah
7. The Beatles: Help
8. ABBA: Take a Chance on Me
9. Boney M: Rasputin
10. Guns `N Roses: Sweet Child o' Mine
11. Shirley Bassey: Killing Me Softly
12. Madonna: Like a Virgin
13. Dire Straits: Money For Nothing
14. Elton John: Something About the Way You Look Tonight
15. Roxette: She's Got the Look
16. Barbra Streisand: Memory
17. Eric Clapton: Change the World
18. Van Morrison: Moondance
19. Tracy Chapman: Give Me a Reason
20. Alison Krauss: Ghost in the House
21. Bruce Springsteen: Dancing in the Dark
22. Cliff Richard: Living Doll
23. R.D. Burman: Mehbooba Mehbooba
24. Nazia Hassan: Aap Jaisa Koi
25. The Carpenters: Please Mr. Postman
26. Rod Stewart: Maggie May
27. Foreigner: I Wanna Know What Love Is
28. Edith Piaf: La Vie En Rose
29. Whitney Houston: I Have Nothing
30. Tina Turner: What's Love Got to do with it
31. Bon Jovi: In These Arms
32. Bryan Adams: Everything I Do
33. Wet Wet Wet: Love is All Around
34. Billy Joel: For the Longest Time
35. Taylor Swift: Mean
36. Magic! No Way No
37. Adele: Hello
38. UB40: Don't Break My Heart
39. Wham! Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
40. Dolly Parton: Jolene
41. Ed Sheeran: Shape of You
42. Santana & Rob Thomas: Smooth
43. A-ha: Take on Me
44. Amy Winehouse: You Know I'm No Good
45. Berlin: Take My Breath Away
46. Sting: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
47. Robert Palmer: Simply Irresistible
48. Maroon 5: Won't Go Home Without You
49. Coldplay: Hymn For the Weekend
50. The Rolling Stones: Paint It Black.
That's all for now. Thanks for your time, everybody. Hope you enjoyed the list.