Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Morning C&H

Mathe-Magic, it is
All copyrights for the comic strip acknowledged.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What a fragrance!

I recently got drunk (hic!) for a few moments by the heady fragrance of the Sampigé flower (Sampangi Poo in Tamil, Champaka in Hindi) that just filled the road in a market that I pass by. Maybe there was a basketful of those flowers that just landed in from any of the villages around. No other flower comes close to having your head whirr with such a strong fragrance and the aroma wafts for a fair distance.

Jasmine (malligé, malligai, Chameli) is also aromatic, but is relatively muted, but can knock you out from close quarters. :) It is a therapy, walking through the flower market in any city and you can always see bees buzzing around the aromatic flowers. You should see the way the jasmine flowers (buds) are twined together in Madurai, a city famous for its jasmine as much as its temples. Beautiful!!! And the flower vendors count it by the number of buds twined and not by hand-lengths as is usual with flowers. So many variants, for this beauty in white, Madurai Malli, Mysoora Malligé and so on.

Another flower that can give the Sampigé, a close run for its scent, is the Thalé Hoo (aka Kédigé, Thaazham Poo, Ketaki/Kewra). Unfortunately, I have not seen it (or smelt it) for a long, long time. Very, very distinct fragrance which cannot be missed and those large pods. This is the famous flower which is condemned to non-worship in temples in Hindu mythology (Shiva Puránam), along with Brahma for untruthfulness.

Aromas and memories. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Images, courtesy of Wikipedia and University of Graz, Austria

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Those Wordpress snowflakes!

What is it with that slow shower of snowflakes on some Wordpress blogs? Most of the Wordpress blogs I saunter into, have those floaters and it is really distracting. :-(

Reminds me of a TV ad somewhere, where an insect crawls across the TV screen slowly while the ad is on (the insect crawling is a part of the ad itself), but you can get fooled into thinking that it is a real insect that is walking on your TV screen. I would be very tempted to brush it off with my hand or swat it whenever I see that. Aargh!!!

Mmm...  And not to mention that the snow-flakes widget is also a CPU hog. :-(

Monday, December 21, 2009

2012 - A first-feel (non) review

Watched the cataclysmic 2012 at last, in a theater yesterday. This is not a critical review, but a first-feel (non) review of what the movie was. I believe that to write a proper review of some movies, you may have to see the movie twice. First time, make no judgement, sink-in and let your senses take over. Smile, chuckle, laugh, shed a tear, cry, be shocked,  stunned, surprised, shriek, watch with your mouth agape or grab your seat, sometimes sleep :) or whatever it is, let it go. Never even think of reviewing it as it plays. You could look out for critique aspects the next time you see it. :)

Ignore the Physics mumbo-jumbo of a massive neutrino storm from the sun's solar flares boiling the earth's crust and causing reactions all over and changing the spin, the magnetic poles and the world's map once it all subsides. The story line is simple, the world ends in 2012 and a race is on to save a sample of the humans, their art, along with flora/fauna which is a parallel to the Biblical Noah's Ark, in a current day scenario. There are quite a few holes in the movie, which I won't pick on.

The special effects are awesome and jaw dropping, almost plunging you into those ravines that get created by the 10+ on Richter scale earthquakes, the volcanic rocks and flames coming at you, the dust plumes from the extempore volcanoes, the crashing/sinking skylines and ships, the towering tsunamis and the gigantic arks (ships) that get constructed somewhere in the Himalayan ravines to survive out the  doomsday. Character definition is just about okay in this movie, and there are the good vs. not so good clashes, family values, greed, ethics etc, but the soaring canvas of destruction overshadows everything. CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is here to stay and I cannot recollect any scene in this movie in which the CGI was cheesy or tacked.

I was riveted to the seat when the hero drives his limo to the airport with his family to fly out amidst all the crumbling chaos, when the mini plane takes off with the earth caving in right behind, the plane getting away amidst a shower of volcanic mayhem at Yellowstone or when the Antonov cargo plane pulls itself off the remnants of a runway at Vegas to go to China and the surprise when they run out of fuel and prepare for a water landing. The other 'awe' moments are when the plane crash-lands on a glacier (the only 'humor' portion of the movie, 15 seconds maybe, comes where when the Bentley in which all the folks are seated inside the plane, refuses to start as the plane hurtles down the glacier with its cargo gates open for the car to spin out), when the arks are first shown in perspective for size (reminded of the old sci-fi movies where there are Star Wars type starship docks on a colossal mother-ship) and when a giant tsunami gushes into the Himalayan valley pounding the monastery on top of a hill (nay, mountain) into non-existence.

In essence, this is a movie made for the big screen and I don't think looking at it in the small screen can do justice (unless you have a big LCD with 5.1 surround and a Blu-ray disc). Also don't wear your critic's hat, but enjoy it for the sheer wizardry of how movie-making has changed with CGI and its thrills.

Monday Morning C&H

All copyrights for the comic strip acknowledged.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh, these IVRs

What is it with the Interactive Voice Response systems of some of our telecom providers? I shunted my mobile from postpaid to prepaid and there was an outstanding amount on my postpaid. The folks that be, at the Airtel customer center, told me that I would have the bill for the outstanding amount sent to me and I could then pay it. That was in early November and till now nothing has come.

Tried to call up the customer service to get details and boy!, there is no way to easily reach a human. Twice got cut after circling around all the options, pressing 9, # etc in my quest to get a live person.
Latched on to a human after playing with a revenue option (recharge or something like that and pressing invalid keys). If a tech-savvy person like me :-) has to hunt to get a human, how would the multitude do?

Read somewhere that there is a site (for US folks) where there is an exhaustive list of procedures for entities like these, (phone providers, banks, insurance agencies etc) by punching in the appropriate keys on an IVRS to reach a service representative as fast as possible bypassing those "Press Blah for Blah" messages.

We may need to go that way given the mushrooming of IVRSs in our system which are not friendly at all. But the saving grace was that the person who handled my request was polite and directed me appropriately. Mmm...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Of colors, palettes, tones, shades, hues and what I see

Have you ever faced any of these?
  • Getting into arguments about what color a certain thing is
  • Have a strict list of preferred colors to use every time and you seem to always prefer only certain colors.
  • Terrorized by crayons with different shades of colors.
  • Your dress selection is sometimes looked at as a bit odd or a tad drab or consistent. :-)
  • Avoiding the Chemistry lab like plague especially when you have to do titrations for chemical reactions and pH measurements via color strips or identify those wonderful color combination names that the scientists come up with, to detect if a trace of x or y compound is present.
  • In Electronics, you do not want to use the multi-color LEDs which can blink different colors and shades.
  • Certain shades of color in flowers, leaves and  trees categorized as beautiful by others, do not seem so to you. They just look like anything else.
I have faced almost all of the above and that qualifies me as a candidate with "color deficient eyesight" or "color-blindness". No "tch tch tch" sentiments over that. Almost 7-12% of the world population could be potentially color-blind according to rough estimates and especially men are more at risk (Women-0.05% chance). :-) [Ah! now you ladies understand, there could be one more reason why men keep off the dress selection regimen; the multitude of hues and shades and colors you see and discuss may make little sense to them, but they just shake their heads and nod. Went for a quick mission last Saturday, and there it was, all the color combos of red, green, orange and yellow left only to imagination, and I sauntered off to the handbags section which had the drab colors of leaf green (or was it?) and black. :-)]

The sad truth dawned a few years back when I got shortlisted for some applications programming position at BEL after acing the entrance test and an interview. During the medical test, after a battery of the usual height, weight, blood and X-ray tests, the doctor at BEL gave me a book (the Ishihara Test for color-blindness), which consists of colored plates) to look at, which had lots of colored bubbles, and then tell him what numbers or lines I could see or trace out. For a few plates, I could see things clearly, for a few, nothing and for 1 or 2 got it wrong. The doctor dropped the bomb, "You are color-blind and have a red-green deficiency and hence you fail the medical test". Retried the test again and tried squinting, tilting heads, changing the plane at which I saw the plates and other gimmicks, but a problem is a problem. I was disappointed that for an applications programmer who was going to do RDBMS programming or data management, color knowledge was a key criteria to get in. It was good providence in a way that I didn't get in there as I wouldn't be what I am now. (-:

Even before this, I had difficulty in color identification between shades of green, orange and yellow, mild reds, shades of green and brown and self-attributed it to an under-developed knowledge of names of colors, but alas! it wasn't. It doesn't bother me anymore, now that I am aware of what I cannot do and should not do. I still have a problem with those blessed multi-color LEDs however. No clue, whether it is glowing red, yellow, orange or green. They all look almost yellow (or bright green, I am confused) to me. :-) Red looks like darker variant, but I would still be confused what is glowing. I have to look for additional cues.

For starters, color-blindness is not a disease. It is a deficiency. There is no cure for it (no amount of eating orange carrots would cure this, but those carrots are still good for your eyes, Vitamin A, you see) and is 99.99% hereditary. It is not true that those who suffer from color-blindness cannot see colors at all and see the world only in shades of black, white and gray. It is the most irritating perception about color-blind folks. Color-blind people can see colors, but the separation of certain sets of colors or shades is not possible. I can clearly see red, green, blue, yellow, orange and identify them, but give me one of those mixed shades where the green is closer to yellow or a shade of brown or some mix of those overlaps, I blink and fall flat. Blue and related shades are easier to identify. I still have no clue of how to identify a color as either Prussian Blue, Violet, Purple, Indigo, Aquamarine Blue, Magenta, Pink, Sky Blue or the other zillion variants as I don't know how to narrow it down. I have the most common form of color-blindness, the red-green deficiency, which probably afflicts 95-99% of the color-blind folks.

This deficiency doesn't disqualify me from doing a majority of jobs though a few would automatically be closed. I cannot be a train engineer (train drivers are called so, and one of the goals of my childhood was to be one, :( and mind it, it is not easy to become one, and it is a high paying job in India), or a pilot, or a doctor (maybe) or join the military signal corps or any industry like paints that places a premium on the need for color identification / knowledge.

One of the things I don't do is to give children any advice on colors. I have been laughed at multiple times and it is fun for them to see me struggle with placing colors as they doodle and paint. My counsel stops on the pencil outline. On signal lights, when I say that the green looks to me like a jaded or dirty white, the others say "what white, it is green!". One good thing with signals is that the position of each of the lights is always constant, red on the top, amber (yellow) in the middle and green at the bottom or if they put it sideways, it would be left to right, red to green. If there was only one single light which changed colors for everything, then I'd have had the time of my life, especially with the hues of red and amber. In railway signals in India, interestingly red and green are inverted from their road counterparts; the red light is at the bottom and green on the top. But from a distance, it is all the same to me, red or green. (-:

So what else?
  • You can go to this site [Ishihara Test for color-blindness] for looking at some of the test plates to diagnose color-blindness.
  • There is also this site, [Color Vision Testing] which has a different set of plates for diagnosing color-blindness and which also has a few Ishihara plates as well.
  • Don't brood, if you diagnose yourself to be color-deficient. Welcome to the exclusive club! Hey, You may be one of them who can look through enemy lines, as color-blind people can see through camouflage that cannot be seen by people with normal vision. :-)
  • And last of all, if not the least, read the wonderful Wikipedia entry, [Color Blindness] for reference.
Even if you aren't color-blind, you can always know about it, its symptoms, understand and empathize (not sympathize!) with those who might have a color deficiency, especially kids. 

Have a lovely colorful day!!!

Image courtesy Wikipedia on the topic of Rainbows.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Musings - Road Sense

A reference to a Readers Digest article translated into Tamil in got me moving on this post to rant.

All the strain of driving in Bengaluru's increasingly chaotic roads is getting on my nerves.

Do people applying for a Learners Licence in India know the "Rules of the road" clearly? Or for that matter, do the "Bhadralok" who drive the motorized genies on the roads (and that includes me as well)?

By Rules of the road, I mean
  • Traffic Signals and their meaning
  • Common and not-so common road signs
  • Lane Discipline-Line colors, meaning
  • Hand signals and Turn signals - When and how of using?
  • Safe driving - Usage of seat belts, Speed Limits, When to honk or not, hill driving
  • Drunken driving and penalties
  • Parking rules
  • Respecting emergency vehicles (ambulances, police vehicles)
  • Respecting school vehicles/buses
  • Zebra/Pedestrian crossings
  • Your rights as a vehicle owner
My experience is that no info on this is available in the Regional Transport Office (RTO) at Bengaluru nor in any of the so called driving schools. I don't think it is any different in other places. In Bengaluru, they point to some photocopier shop outside the RTO which has 3 pages of a printed booklet containing some common signs, some rules and in essence the info that you need to pass the written test.

If this is all the people need to know before getting a licence, no wonder our road sense is as bad as what it is!!!

Where will people get the idea of what the rules of the road are? A good place to start road discipline is in schools. Let us have a subject that covers this and make it engaging and not drab.

At least can't we (the RTO) come up with a "Rules of the Road" booklet as in the US and charge for it (Even 50/100 bucks is okay for that) But it should give a clear idea of what is expected of you as a driver (2 wheeler, 4 wheeler, commercial driver etc).

Keep the entrance test difficult. Test the driver properly. Let the traffic police enforce the rules strictly and maybe let them start with standardizing the road signs. I see sub-text written inside a "No stopping/parking" sign. How the hell can a driver see what is that? And allowing non-standard sized signs even though there are rules in the Indian Road Congress bible (only that it may have references to archaic rules dating from the British times).

Use common sense rules. The traffic police put a 20 kmph speed limit sign on a stretch of a National Highway, of all things, in a village near my house and caught vehicles exceeding that limit with a speed gun. Have those folks driven at 20 kmph to feel what it is, and that too on a clear stretch of a highway? Even a cycle can go faster. Now, I notice that the sign is missing.)

Look at the following booklet of what the road rules are in California, for example. It is so damn detailed and expects you to know the same clearly to pass the written test there. The driving test is even more difficult there. You make one small miss and there goes your chance for a license. You've to retry after a fortnight or so.

India needs a different type of this book given the wild types of traffic, but it is not an impossible task.

When will we ever reach that maturity? When will we ever attain moksha in road-sense and not moksha by being run over or bumped by wayward drivers? If we start the due-diligence and implementation now, maybe 10 years from now, we may see some real improvement. Else, we churn forever in chaos. Until then, let us drive sane and safe.

I sincerely feel we have had too much of freedom and it is being abused to the hilt. No easy solutions, but that is huge rant for some other day. :-(


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blah blah blah

I am not a conversationalist. You talk 100 words at me and I reply back in maybe 5 or less, sometimes in mono-syllables. I hopelessly go out of topics to discuss when in a crowd or a group. My brain is tuned to listen, listen and listen more. If I blabber, it is either when I have a fever, or it is travel time (the excitement peaks and I talk nonsense, it seems! and I am asked to shut-up and give a helping hand), or when I don't relate much to the topic being discussed, but asked for my views :-)

Some people are a mirror opposite of what I am. They can keep a conversation going no end, talk on everything under the sun, sometimes very witty as well. Envy those folks for that. :)

Went on Sunday to visit my cousin's farm beyond Kolar for a function at his place. Took my parents along and also my aunt (mom's elder sister) and her son. The trip took around 2.5 hours each way.

The chatter started once I picked my aunt up on the way, between her and my mom. Picked up momentum as we moved towards the grid-locked Old Madras Road with all kinds of construction happening around that place. The dialogue continued all the way till we reached the farm, save around a 10 minute break for breakfast. The return trip was no different. Started off once we moved out of the farm-house and ran in a non-stop fashion till it was time to drop my aunt off.

The chat (almost everything in Kannada) covered topics about relatives and their brood, bouquets for some and brickbats for some, their childhood (aunt was born in Kolar, my mom in Mandya, facts I never knew), their parents (long stories), people they knew from childhood, the never ending stream of people at their childhood home, places visited long back, those who are no more and those are still hanging in, memories of their sisters and brothers, bright times, sad times, neighbors, luck, Gautama Buddha, the changed cityscape, weather in Bengaluru/Singapore!, topics on TV these days, their temple (non) visits and their commercialization, health and a few more. All this even when both of them are regularly in touch.

All the while, I was keeping myself occupied at the wheel with my listening antennae up. The three gents in the car talked maybe a total of 15 minutes throughout the entire to and fro journey!

Women and their small talk!!! Mmm... :-)

All copyrights for the image acknowledged.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My state, almost

This is what my state looks like, a lot of times. Starting my PowerPoint in a few moments from now. Let the creativity flow!!!  :-(

Mmm... Two C&H strips posted in a row. :-)

All copyrights for the comic acknowledged.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Morning C&H

Click on image for a larger view.

All copyrights acknowledged for the comic

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nandha Laala - நந்த லாலா

One of the most evocative pieces of short poetry from Subramanya Bharathi and also which is very famous.

Today being Bharathi's birth anniversary (he was born Dec 11, 1882), this is a tribute piece from me to him.

This song comes as a part of Bharathi's collection of worship songs on Krishna who is referred to as "Nandha Laala" here. The original raagam on which Bharathi set this song is Yadhukula Kaambodhi with Aadhi Thaalam. Don't ask me about the raagas, but it is more for a classical music-lover's consumption.

தோத்திரப் பாடல்கள் - நந்த லாலா

காக்கைச் சிறகினிலே நந்த லாலா! - நின்றன்
கரியநிறந் தோன்று தையே, நந்த லாலா!

பார்க்கும் மரங்க ளெல்லாம் நந்த லாலா! - நின்றன்
பச்சை நிறந் தோன்று தையே, நந்த லாலா!

கேட்கு மொலியி லெல்லாம் நந்த லாலா! - நின்றன்
கீத மிசைக்குதடா, நந்த லாலா!

தீக்குள் விரலை வைத்தால் நந்த லாலா! - நின்னைத்
தீண்டு மின்பந் தோன்றுதடா, நந்த லாலா!

The image above is courtesy a dear blogger friend Srivats and he owns all the rights and shows a sunset in Bali. I have picked this image because I feel that a sunset evokes the closest feelings to what the poem conveys in its last stanza with the fiery sun setting into the cool ocean and hence a suitable metaphor.

Here is the English translation to my best effort. The song is very evocative in Tamil.

In a crow's plumes, Nandha Laala!
Appears thy ebony hue, Nandha Laala!

In trees beheld, Nandha Laala!
Blends thy green tint, Nandha Laala!

In sounds heeded, Nandha Laala!
Resonates thy melody, Nandha Laala!

In flames fingered, Nandha Laala!
Feels thy caress, Nandha Laala!

There are multiple raagas in which this song has been sung and one version was sung by K J Yesudas in the Tamil movie 'Yezhaavadhu Manidhan' (Meaning "7th person", released in 1982 and composed by L Vaidyanathan, the brother of the famed violinist L Subramanian), probably one of the only two movies in Tamil where all the songs are Bharathi's songs (the other being the biographical Bharathi movie which came in 2000).

Click on the Play button to hear the song sung by K J Yesudas with a lilting melody. (At times, you may need to press the Play button twice to start the song play)

I have been searching for a rendition of this song with visuals when it used to be aired by Doordarshan a long time back. The raagam used was not any of the ones I have heard singers singing this song (Unnikrishnan, Bombay Sisters, Bombay Jayashree, Sujatha, Rajkumar Bharathi (great-grandson of Bharathi). The song used to start at a high pitch and sustains throughout and at the end, the visuals are something like what is above. I don't know who sung it (a female voice), but that version had such as mesmerizing effect on me that time stood still and tears would well-up in my eyes. Another Bharathi song that used to get played along with that, with soft visuals was "Kaani Nilam Vaendum". Hope I chance upon those again sometime from some kind soul to whom I would really be indebted. There are only weak references to it on a Google scan.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Whither Mechanical Watches?

Sometimes a thing you are used to slowly vanishes right before your eyes. One such thing that I see is the wind-up manual mechanical wristwatch where you have to wind it every 2 or 3 days for the watch to keep functioning. It consisted of a spring mechanism which unwound slowly as time passed by driving the cogs and its intricate system of gears to move time. When you open the back of those watches, everything looked so delicate inside and you could see a swinging mechanism which controlled the system of gears that controlled the hands of the watch. I don't even see those type of manual watches these days, all being replaced by quartz movements and run using small batteries.

The beautiful aspect about the manual watches was that it seemed as if they had a heart. Keep the watch close to your ear and you could hear it tick-tocking away. The tick-tock would never stop until the spring unwound itself fully. If you were not getting sleep, keep one close to your ear and you will be lulled to sleep with those constant ticks. :-) No such pleasure on our digital or the quartz oscillator based watches. They are as silent as the moon. My first watch was my father's wind-up from HMT and it served a long time and used during exams as a faithful time-keeper.

The bigger cousin of the manual watch, the wind-up alarm clock is also on its way out. I see only quartz versions of the same these days. Those clocks had 2 keys for winding, one for the clock and one for the alarm. The Trriiiinnnnngggggg of those alarm clocks could wake up even a sleeping Kumbhakarna and you had to hit the push-button on its head for the alarm to stop or the alarm would ring until the alarm spring unwound itself fully. And the wonderful "tick-tock" heart-beat sound the clocks made which was audible clearly!!!. Some of the clocks had a small dial inside the main one for the seconds hand in addition to the alarm hand which used to rotate like a hamster on a treadmill. Those clocks could almost be used as a metronome if the house was a bit silent. I loved the ticking sound and the feedback when the keys were wound.

And the grand-daddy wall clocks which had a long pendulum swaying with their majestic tick-tocks and some of them having chimes at the hour and having a similar winding mechanism as the wind-up alarm clock. They were lovely with lots of woodwork, typically oak. Nowadays you find them only in antique shops and typically priced out of reach. :-(

Not to say that you don't get pure mechanical watches these days, but it has become almost elitist. Maybe Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan can afford those Swiss made beauties which still have hand wound mechanisms, but for the rest of us, the generalia, the cheap quartz oscillators will keep time, having edged out the manual movements over the course of years.

I have a Casio ProTrek watch now with a bevy of features like altimeter, barometer, tide level, moon phase, a compass with all the other things expected of an electronic watch like a chronograph, multi-city time etc and with a solar based rechargeable battery system on the dial. Still I have a very special place in my heart for those old "tick-tocks with a heart" which were my first exposure to chasing time and have stood by me through thick and thin and for the memories.

All images on this page are courtesy of Wikipedia and copyright rests with its owners.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The ending of a mega-soap serial

Half an hour of my weekday night has been reclaimed!!! [Sigh of relief] Don't ask me what I'll do with the reclamation. I will waste it on something useless, :-) and if I don't, it will be not on a serial again.

I did infer some rules of mega serials in an earlier post (TV Soap Inferences) about Kolangal, the only soap/mega-serial that I watched with any degree of regularity. That serial went down last week on Friday with its guns on blanks, after a run of 6+ years and is off the air from this week. It has been a 'bullet shower' over the preceding few episodes, that would have put a Clint Eastwood western to shame. For a prime time TV show, the antagonist supremo lets loose his revolver, kills an activist (who was the only redeeming part of the serial) in cold blood, poisons his own PA, slaps a kidnapped woman, hijacks a court judge, kills his own mother by mistake, attempts suicide and lands up as an invalid.What a bloodbath! and there is no warning at the start, about the trauma it can cause to people, especially kids. I thought that the serial was going to conclude towards the end of November given the pace of bloodletting, but some last minute twists by our beloved director added a life of 1 more week to the same to add loads of sentiments and tears before the final episode.

RIP Kolangal. Hopefully the concluded serial hasn't gone into hibernation to come back as a sequel to finish the unfinished or untold threads and to add to my sufferance. :-)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Running low ...

From morning, all of a sudden, my brain is working only at maybe 1/4th of what it can and 1/2 of what it does usually. There is an emptiness which I cannot quantize or characterize and nor do I want to because I could end up melancholic, lots of cris-crossing thoughts, sunk motivation and energy levels down. Is it bad weather? Not really. But it is not a good start to this week, anyway.

Last week, had action at work. Was active and found it really challenging to keep up with the amount of diverse, maddeningly long discussions, but time really well spent. Some actions heaped on me as well. :)

Mmm. Let me get my moorings. Have to immerse into work to get out of this rut. First, a cuppa Cappucino or a shot of Espresso to kick me out of this stupid stupor.

Monday morning C&H

Is this what they call LM*O? :-) :-) :-)
Smile, Laugh and enjoy a wonderful week ahead.

All copyrights for the comic strip acknowledged.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Collector Of Small Things

Forget what the some of the anthropologists have to say about gender roles like 'hunter-gatherer', with the males being hunters and the females being gatherers and yada yada yada which was maybe true once upon a time. But whatever be it, the female of the species do have a mothering instinct that is rare in the males and they can immediately smell it out if something is amiss. :-D

Anyway, noticed that I do have a lot of the gathering and accumulation characteristics, mostly what can be categorized eventually as junk (by those who don't understand it :-D). Old papers, notepads with notes taken eons ago, photocopies, unnecessary bills/receipts, old tickets, pens with no caps, used refills, manuals for things long gone bad, books, bags and not to mention an array of electronics spares which are almost never used, wires, cables, non-working items, boxes, nuts, bolts, drill bits, screwdrivers etc which are squirreled away and intended to be taken out on a rainy day which may or may never come. :-) The word "useless item" never appears in the vocabulary of a species like me. :-D

Not an easy thing for me to throw anything off just like that. I save and guard things like the worker ants in "A Bug's Life". A lot of brooding happens before a decision to throw certain things out, if any. When a cleanup and dump happens at home, it happens in my absence. I get to review only a few items before they hit garbage. I audit and cleanup my collection(s) once in a while and do it with immense glee as I immerse myself in that with all the material strewn around rankling everyone as it takes hours for this exercise to complete :-)

Guess that all these have crossed over to the software side as well. On an inventory of the software on my laptop, here is what I found installed additional to the standard software, and that is not required for my work.

Web Browsers - Opera 10, Safari, Google Chrome, Iron, Mozilla Firefox
Mail and Messenger Clients - Yahoo! Zimbra, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype
Audio/Video/Images Management - VLC Media Player, MP3Tag, Kate's Video Joiner, Videopad Video Editor, Bink and Smacker Video Tools, Audacity, Paint.NET, IrfanView, Picasa, DVD Styler, Movica, GIMP
Indexing and Web tools - Google Desktop, uTorrent, Free Download Manager, Privoxy
Editors/IDEs - Gvim, Notepad++, NetBeans
PDF Management - PDF-Xchange PDF Viewer, Ghostscript, PDFill
PC/Desktop Management - Sysinternals Suite (Microsoft), FreeCommander, VirtuaWin
Emulators and Virtual Machines - Cygwin, Sun VirtualBox (with Solaris 10 VM), VMWare Player with 2 VMs (Ubuntu/Fedora Linux)
Transliterators - NHM Writer, Baraha Unicode
Other Tools and utilities - RocketDock, 7-zip, TrueCrypt, XMind, JetStart, Direct Folders, MagicDisk, TeraCopy

Not that I don't use the above, I use at least half of them regularly and are in fact lifesavers (Hurray! to all those open sourcers and freeware folks) All the tools are useful in one way or the other. There are tons of other app installers which get installed and then are removed, but stay in my downloads directory or in a backup portable hard-drive for a potential reuse.

And on mails, used to subscribe to umpteen journals and could not cope up with the deluge of newsletters every day of the week. Accumulation inevitably happened and my Inbox(es) swelled mad (peaked at close to 2000+ Unread status with another 500 unread, but with read status :-)), but I have a policy of not deleting any mail before reading. And so, I just moved the mails off to a sub-folder every now and then on a guilt of having a cluttered Inbox and there they sat, for the all important <Enter> on the mail and a roll of my eyes over it and a hit on the <Del> key or the appropriate mouse clicks for their 'vimochanam' (redemption) from their trapped lives. Used to religiously move mails into appropriate folders once I read them, but laziness has gotten the better of me and they all stay in a single folder. Personal email account mails do get sorted into folders still. Some traits remain.

Guess learned habits die hard and wired behavioral habits die harder!!! Mmm... Let me go and see Linda Goodman and see if I can blame it on my sun-sign. :-) :-)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Wah! Technology

I had been to the railway station last Saturday to drop off relatives heading to Mumbai.

Being of an earlier generation, they weren't any enthused by the need to be clutching a cell phone everywhere and the myriad options it has (I had resisted the cell phone mania for a longgg time, but eventually succumbed and now a virtual slave to it). Their children are in the US and settled in well. I made sure that they were settled in their seats and waved them bye. The train was to reach Mumbai on Sunday afternoon around 3:00 PM. The ticket examiner had told that the train would by-pass Pune because of some bridge damage/collapse and the delay into Mumbai may be of the order of 2 hours or so

Copyright of image acknowledged to its author

At around 11:00 PM on Sunday night, got a frantic call from their daughter stating that her parents are not reachable at their home number at Mumbai and their neighbor had said that they hadn't come yet. Scrambled, widely awake, logged in and looked at the helpdesk number for Indian Railways (IR) and dialed there. Damn the IVR system, there is no easy way to personally reach somebody to talk to to get an update. Then remembered that Indian Railways had a feature called "Track your train" / "Spot your train" which tells all info about the train in motion including stations passed and the time of arrival and departure at each station. Tracked the train and figured that the train had reached Mumbai only at 10:30 PM and as we were dialing the US to inform their daughter, she called in and informed that her parents had reached home just then!

A few minutes of confusion, then desperation, then relief and eventually settled down again for the night. How reliant have we become on technology! A cell phone is a necessity especially for aged folks, to be at least reachable. I am optimistic about India in spite of our slow pace of progress. Thanks to technologists at IR for that feature which was very useful for that night (I think TCS writes and maintains the software). I love trains and especially the engines (my personal delight). The only problem I have with our trains are the toilets. Otherwise, every journey is an experience.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ilaiyaraaja in Balki's Paa

Ilaiyaraaja reuses tunes from his Southern films in his Hindi ones, at least those for Balki (a.k.a. Balakrishnan, the director of Paa) . Was jumping around on TV yesterday and noticed that Paa's (Amitabh, Abhishek, Vidya Balan) premiere was happening and the theme music sounded very familiar and after some degree of firing of synapses in my neurons, figured that it came in from Baalu Mahendra's "Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam" where it comes as the interlude in the "Kaattu Vazhi" song. (Never mind that the film flopped, but had gems in, "Andha Naal Nyabagam" (so soothing) and "Kiliththattu Kiliththattu" (energetic)). The "Gumm Summ Gumm" song in Paa is a take on "Thumbi Vaa" from his music in Balu Mahendraa's Malayalam film Olangal. The tune is very familiar in Tamil, but I can't figure it out. "Hichki Hichki", the "Udi Udi" song and its variations are derivations, but I cannot place it, where. "Halke Se Bole" is a short song based on "Putham Pudhu Kaalai" from "Alaigal Oivadhillai".

Cheeni Kum (also from Balki) reused some beautiful music from his older films (Jaane Dó Na - Jothéyali Jothé Jothéyali (Geetha, Kannada), Baaté Hawaayein - Kuzhaloodhum Kannanukku (Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu, Tamil), Sooni Sooni - Mandram Vandha (Mouna Raagam, Tamil)) The Hindi versions do sound as nice as the originals with a contemporary touch.

I somehow feel that Ilaiyaraaja hasn't been honoured enough for his contribution to Indian music and cinema. From his humble beginning to the heights that he has reached, he deserves much more appreciation outside Tamil Nadu for what he has done. He is my favorite music director of all times, the Raja of melodies, though I am not as rabid as some of his online fans for putting down other music directors. IMO, he deserves a Bharat Ratna. Hopefully the folks that be recognize and honour this gem with a gem of an honour and appreciate people in their hey day as opposed to be awarded at the end of their lives. I am just surprised that the Government of India hasn't recognized him with a Padma Shri or a Padma Bhushan or a Padma Vibhushan so far.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I have DOMS

I have had an attack of DOMS.

No, no no. Don't go off into a thought cycle thinking what this thing is. A virus? A new technology extending the Document Object Model? Or some new less known ailment?

DOMS, though somewhat ominous sounding (is it because of the proximity to doom?) is not what it sounds to be. :-) :-)

Went to an office outing for all the folks (the diktat was those not coming to outing, should put personal leave or attend office. So at least half the folks came there to beat that) to a resort just outside town, last Friday. Was forced into all types of kinematics including running, bending, playing etc etc, hence sweated it out. Mr.DOMS came knocking at me on Saturday morning and stayed with me till Sunday night before bidding adieu.

DOMS is "Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness". Lazy-bones who don't walk or exercise regularly will be at the receiving end, when they try to do something new and so I was there by default. All bones creaked and muscles ached for 2 days. Now feeling good.

Maybe a warning knock for me to do at least some walking, if not jogging which I have forgotten.

Ah! The wonderful world of acronyms. Helps you make a post out of nothing. :-)

Monday morning Calvin

Speechlessly Beautifully Remarkably Wonderfully Witty and Philosophical and brings out a typical child's point of view via Hobbes. Mr.Watterson, dear Watterson, where are you? I am out of superlatives.

Maybe, what Bill did is the best. Stop all this one fine day and go incognito. He is almost untraceable.
All copyrights for the comic acknowledged.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Places, unvisited

I have lived in three (or four) cities so far and I have noticed that there are a few places around in each that I thought would be nice to visit, but never visited in spite of all the time that I was there. All this dawns late. Leave alone other places or states where I sightsee, the cities where I lived in are ignored probably because of familiarity which is captured in the adage 'Familiarity breeds contempt'.

The textile city, Coimbatore has its share with probably Siruvaani ranking at the top and maybe Thadaagam and Anaikatti following close. Coimbatore has the sweetest water that I have ever tasted. That comes in from the Siruvaani reservoir around 30+ kms from Coimbatore. The problem with soft water is in bathing, as the soap seems to love the water so much and doesn't wash off. :)The closest I was to there was a wonderful childhood trip to Alaanthurai, a village on the banks of the Noyyal river (Does it run still, at least in season?) which is on the way to Siruvaani. Thadaagam (Anuvavi Subramaniar Temple) is there because of stories told by one of my primary school classmates about that place (memories in stone about a Murugan (Subramanya) temple, lots of steps to climb and the mendicants et al) and Anaikatti (a forest reserve) are places that I saw only on bus-boards when at school, but still loved them for the Calvinesque flights of fantasy. Those places are inside forests and are elephant territory. The Anaikatti mountain range was visible from our home and it's peak always was a point of intrigue to me. Beyond Anaikatti after around 40 kms comes the Silent Valley range in Kerala.

The temple city, Madurai has a few on my list including the Thirumalai Naik Mahal. The place which finds a presence in Maniratnam's Bombay (the song, Kannaalaney in Tamil/Kehena Hai Kya in Hindi). I don't know if the place is good or bad, but having been in Madurai for a long time, that is a black mark. Never visited the Alanganallur Jallikattu, which finds its name in the papers in January and is Tamil Nadu's equivalent of the Spanish bullfight, but with bulls let loose on a crowd of bull-fighters. I side with PETA, but this is something that I think that flavours Madurai as a region. Maybe irrelevant, but I haven't seen Subramaniyapuram, the movie. For all its gore, the movie seems to have recreated the Madurai of yore very authentically. The beautiful temples around Madurai, like Thirumoghur or Thiruvaadhavur. These two temples were close to where I lived but I have visited Thirumoghur only once and loved the raw mango that had fallen on the prakaaram. Another is the campus of Madurai Kamaraj University. I never even ventured in that direction. :-( And the biggest of them all, I have never seen the Chithirai Thiruvizha (Chitra Festival), in person, a gala 12 day event that concludes in the marriage of Meenakshi, the Goddess Supreme of Madurai. The legend has it that Sundareswarar and Meenakshi (incarnations of Shiva and Parvati) are getting married at Madurai which is visited by all Gods. Sundararaja Perumal (an incarnation of Vishnu), who is the brother of Meenakshi comes from his abode (the Azhagar Kovil temple at the foothills of Azhagar Malai) around 20 kms from Madurai to give her hand in marriage. He grants boons to all those whom he sees, being so happy at the marriage of his sister as he comes towards Madurai and therefore gets delayed. This phase is called Edhir Sevai (Reception Welcome, crudely translated) which is a celebration as the procession winds to the city stopping at the many mantapams that have been erected all along the route. As he enters Vaigai river to cross it, he hears that the marriage is over (Meenakshi being given in hand to Sundareswarar by Koodal Azhagar, another incarnation of Vishnu) before he reaches the venue and turns back. The crowds are seen to be believed. Meenakshi Amman temple is always a joy to visit for the architecture and the vastness of the temple and the streets around. Look at the base of any of the Gopurams and look skyward at the towers and you realize how significant you are in the scheme of things.

My adopted city(!) Thanjavur, the rice-bowl of Tamil Nadu, to which I love my visits anytime more than anybody else at home :-). I haven't yet been to Saraswathi Mahal library there or to Thiruvaiyaaru for the Rama temple. There are lots of places around there which are worth a visit. Have visited a lot of them, but there are always hidden gems. Drive out of Thanjavur along the Cauvery belt and it looks green-washed (like Mandya near Mysore). Acres and acres of paddy and winding roads through it. Green swamp after swamp. Visited Siththannavaasal, famed for its wall paintings, near Pudukottai, sometime back. The place was good and remote, but marred at places by vandals scribbling their name on the rocks or the all-too-common "I love you"s which has led the Archaeological Department to cordon off sections of the cave. We don't know how to preserve history. :-( But to ASI's credit, you should see the Brihadeeswarar Temple in the night or evenings. So gloriously lit and it looks ethereal from the prakaarams around. The temple gopuram is clothed in a color that reflects beautifully off the aged colored stones that form the temple. On pournamis (full moon days), it is so lovely that I don't have words.

Bangalore/Bengaluru. City of my first breath. I am all so comfortable with South Bangalore, visited most of the places with very few exceptions, but the other 3 directions almost draw a blank except for passing through when we go somewhere or to visit some distant relations once in a blue-moon. Long list of "should be visited" here. The Visveswarayya Museum (in spite of all complaints about non-maintenance), watching a cricket match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, visiting the Nehru Planetarium, take a leisurely walk on the Mahatma Gandhi Road end to end. My office abuts M G Road, but the times I walk along M G Road are not leisurely at all. Now even more messier because of the Metro Rail work. And there is the Cubbon Park, Ramohalli banyan tree, Nrityagram at Hesaraghatta. A few random visits towards Malleswaram, Rajajinagar. Went to an office outing yesterday in North Bangalore on the Tumkur Road and the city has changed and how!. I don't know how the people in those areas cope, but it is a mess with all kinds of construction. I used to travel the leg towards Tumkur (almost 60 kms one way) for my final semester project at TVS Electronics and it used to be a lovely and smooth ride. Now it an awful crawl.

One thing I have figured out from all this is that I seem to love temples and forests. :-) So, more kshetraadanam (pilgrimage) in store for me later.

All copyrights for photos duly acknowledged.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tamil Poetry - An attempt

Maybe my only ever attempt at Tamil Poetry. Long time gestation in my head. Now out in the open. :-)


தோரணமாய் வானவில்
பன்னீராய் தூறல்
மத்தளமாய் இடி
புகைப்பட பளிச் மின்னல்
விண்ணுலகில் யாருக்கு திருமணம்?

A simple translation...

With the rainbow the welcome arch,
And the drizzle the scented water,
With thunder the percussion,
And lightning the photo flashes,
Who is getting married in the heavens?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead

The day India stood stupefied on an attack of immense proportion that it had not seen till date, a gross violation of its' self. This day, last year was when Mumbai was punctured.

There are so many people who give their lives for the sake of the country and there are so many who do not even know what hit them and perish. Unfortunately we remember the soldiers and their families only in times of crises (like Kargil). May all the souls of the people, including the unfortunately misguided perpetrators, who died then rest in peace, so that we have a better tomorrow..

The soldiers posted into a war zone wake up each day not knowing if that day would be their last. Their families suffer, day in and out and hoping that their beloved ones are safe. I bow to you, the soldier, who places their country above everything else including near and dear family for their supreme sacrifice in times of peace and also in war. [My brother went recently on a trip to the Himalayas driving around 3000+ kms across 2 weeks on his motorbike and he states that we better worship the jawans who live in extreme conditions and a terrain so difficult that we better quit cribbing about life in the cities]

The poem below from Tennyson drips of sorrow and is based on the family of a soldier, dead, and has a very silent and poignant feel to it. There are critics of this poem who state that this reinforces female stereotypes of living for husband and children, but I see it as a moving statement of the effects of war, orphaning the near and dear.

Here it is, from an English text-book of my school days,  now long forgotten.

Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Home they brought her warrior dead:
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry:
All her maidens, watching, said,
'She must weep or she will die.'

Then they praised him, soft and low,
Called him worthy to be loved,
Truest friend and noblest foe;
Yet she neither spoke nor moved.

Stole a maiden from her place,
Lightly to the warrior stept,
Took the face-cloth from the face;
Yet she neither moved nor wept.

Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee—
Like summer tempest came her tears—
'Sweet my child, I live for thee.'

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The home that wasn't

During my schooling or collegiate days, I have never been away from home. My 'away from home' days were when I starting working, at Bengaluru and the closest to isolation from family was when I went overseas for short visits. There was always a romance with being away from home which was never satiated in my school/college going days except for occasions when we went on the ubiquitous field/study trips which were a riot in their own sense and where I doubt if any 'study' was ever done. :-)

I feel in hindsight, I missed out on a wonderful aspect of college life, the hostel. I had friends who were a mix of day-scholars (wonder who gave such a dull but heady name) and the rogues (obviously the hostelites, for all the fun in the world :-)). The camaraderie and fun that the hostelites had was incredible.

Here are some recollections of the hosteliers' days as an observer (Don't think I was involved in all these. I was a nobody then in the scheme of things, what they call as "vaayilla praani" in Tamil, I can't get a close enough translation in English other than 'dumb animal'/'dumb ass') at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai where I spent my grad days. It would have been more fun recollection if I had been a hostelier than a random visitor. The above "Google Maps" grab shows the whole campus with the mens' hostel, the top 4 horizontal buildings, then the main campus and the bottom most, the womens' hostel.

  • The potpourri of places from where people came in: Pattiveeranpatti, Gobichettipalayam, Chennai, Vellore, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, Nagercoil, Dindigul etc. Some of this diversity led to group formation.
  • The hostel rooms - There would be 3-4 people in a room depending on size. No bunk beds or I don't also recollect shelves or racks to keep things. A drab greyish blue paint at the bottom with the customary white from head level up. I don't know why no cheery or bright colors were being used.
  • The seniors vs. juniors wings. The hostel bullies and the day-scholar bullies. The ragging of the first years!!! Had a torrid time with the bullies. It was a kilometre's walk from the college to the bus stop and the road skirts the mens' hostel and that was enough for the seniors to ambush the day-scholar freshers :-(.
  • Never ending noise and music on the cassette players with cooked up dabba amplifiers. Anyway, there was nothing else then and no mobiles at that time (what mobile?, there were practically no phones as well).
  • Pictures of actresses/models pasted on the room walls and doors with the odd hero here and there, old newspapers and magazines strewn around, mounds of unwashed clothes.
  • The shouting between rooms that always used to permeate the hostel blocks. The poor man's intercom. :)
  • The mess (canteen). The closest to a classless, casteless place. The real meaning of the words 'sama-pandhi' or 'sama-bhojanam' or 'sarva-bhojanam' can be found here. The long rows of tables and the clanking of plates and utensils, the food queues and the occasional faulty seats causing mirth.
  • I found nothing bad about the food at the times I had food there, but the hosteliers always complained. :-) And add to it, the choice was only vegetarian.
  • The movies at the hostel which used to be projected on a makeshift screen which folks watching it with catcalls and whistles. I regret not having learnt the art of whistling. Not the soft ones, but the ones that can be used to stop a bus. :-) There was a gal in our class who put guys to shame by whistling effortlessly which could be heard a mile away. :-) And she wasn't a loudmouth or boisterous one, but one of the silent types.
  • Some of the day-scholars being virtual hosteliers, spending more time piggybacking at the hostel than at their homes.
  • The "flood copying" of assignments that used to happen. Folks would catch me at the entrance of the hostel, take my assignment papers and a cascade of copying would begin page by page, for submissions to be done that day. 
  • Oh, the blazing sun (you've to be at Madurai to believe it! It just scorches) and the short siestas at the hostel rooms of colleagues with the drone of the puraana times ceiling fans with the repeated cluck-cluck-cluck sound, when there were 1 or 2 continuous classes cancelled.
  • The last minute runs to classes from the hostel just as the bell rings. Luckily gravity was on our side. The college was at a lower altitude than the hostel. :-)
  • The joint study time during exams. The omnipresent scourge of most in the hostel, the guys who pester others by saying, dei naan indha lesson/subject mattum padikkavey illaida. Nee padichchittayaa? every now and then? (Hey, I have not read only this lesson/subject. Have you read it?) when the most of the folks would not have read even one chapter/subject.
  • The digressions into discussing absolutely useless topics when trying to revise and the realization that nothing was achieved that day. :-(
  • The large playground and the evening football games once in a while.
  • The vices. Drinking. I have seen folks make cocktails after smuggling them in and then start a verbal diarrhea. Every subject under the sun would be discussed under influence. :-) The Smokers' dens. Some of the rooms were occasionally misty enough for you to assume you were in Kodaikkaanal. :-D
  • The tea drinking at the 'Nayar' tea shop outside the hostel. Though there was a 'kadan illai' (No loans) board outside the shop, some of them managed to be exceptions somehow.
  • Clothes washing time (Sat/Sun) and the clothes-line of washed clothes (colors galore) hung on ropes tied between pillars of the hostel walkways for drying. (In Madurai, you put a fully wet carpet out for drying at 10:00 AM and at 12:00 noon, it would be bone dry. The sun is merciless there)
  • The hostel day/annual day celebrations. The NOISE, festoons and the music bands that get called to play in the playground dais.
  • There is the college guys anthem with meaningless words that gets a vocal presence during these times and for TCE it was for 2 lecturers who caught some students copying in an exam long long back even before we were born :) and had them thrown out of the hall. Tradition at the hostel (esp. during ragging) passed this anthem down each generation. Dunno if it exists now. :-|
  • Taunts and songs to girls walking on the road to/from the college or the hO-Ho noise made when the girls' hostel bus passed by. The girls' hostel was away from the college premises at that time. On a reconnaissance pic of the college using Wikimapia, found that the girls hostel is now in-premise, but far far away from the mens' hostel and in a different direction. :-)
  • There used to be a "TEC times" magazine, but I am running a blank now and unable to recollect. But our class after graduating used to have a shared magazine called "Aalamaram" (Banyan Tree) which was also the place under which groups of folks used to sit chattering during breaks or to idle around or float gossips. The magazine died after 2 or 3 years because people drifted. :(
  • The excursions into the bald hillock near the college in the simmering heat. Would come back sweating like a pig and then sit under a neem tree to relax (power cut in hostel!). The air would be absolutely still with a mild breeze at times. Noticed from the Wikimapia pic that the hillock is still bald. Thought somebody would have made an attempt at afforestation. :)
  • The "home going" and "coming from home" time. The "going to home" for breaks used to be silent and people trickled away. Once they come back into the hostel, any goodies from home would be raided, pilfered and finished off even before the owner has a chance to look into it. :-)
Mmm, those were the days.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oru Deivam Thandha Poovae

I happened to hear the song, "Oru Deivam Thandha Poovae" from the Maniratnam movie "Kannaththil Muththamittaal" after a long time on my shuffled music tracks today, on the drive to work and what a song it is. Scores a perfect 10 in all categories. The tune rips your heart with an orchestration that crescendoes quickly from the time the song starts and stays there till its end, like the Lal Bagh Express thundering at 120 kmph. ARR never goes into a lullabic mode of lows and highs, but keeps the tempo high once he brings it up. It is a heavy song with a tinge of sorrow throughout. The lead singers, Chinmayee (in the female version) and Jayachandran (in the male version) pull the song to beautiful heights with a sustained pace. I get goose-flesh at the pitch at each of them renders with full justice to the mood of the song. And for the lyrics. Vairamuthu may have his own political leanings, but does a mind-blowing and creative piece of work in the second half of the song(s) where he juggles words, juxtaposing contradicting words to paint the same character. I have tried my level best to translate below. At the end of the song, I felt emotionally drained. The visuals for both the versions of the song captured in Sri Lanka are sweeping and beautiful.

[Female rendering]
You are my kin, you are my foe
You are the flower of love, you are the thorn in womb
You are the cherished rain, you are the small thunderclap
You are the new-born body, you are the life that is leaving
You are the Birth born from Death

[Male rendering]
You are my wealth, you are my famine
You are a woven epic, you are the error in it
You are a borrowed light, you are the tears at night
You are my wide sky, you are my broken wings
And the beloved sorrow that I nurtured.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A poem of a lifetime from Robert Frost

One of my most favorite poems ever. Beautifully evocative, and with a hauntingness to it, like Wordsworth's The Solitary Reaper. This poem was hemmed into me since middle school. I studied at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Coimbatore before moving to Mani HSS and interestingly the correspondent for both these schools at that time was Chinnaswamy Naidu, a person of wonderful elocution. He used to end each of his speeches with the last 4 lines of this poem which are just engraved into my brain. Whenever I read this poem, my eyes well up for no particular reason and which I let be.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Friday, November 20, 2009

No comments

Bill Watterson, you rock

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Needle in a Haystack

Search for a Needle in a Haystack. It is an common axiom, but how do you experience that?

Copyrights acknowledged for above C&H strip

My father (now retired) was a Professor in Agricultural Economics at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) at Coimbatore. There were international students studying there and he had one such student studying/working under him from Nepal doing his Masters. He had come with his wife as well. I recollect faintly that they used to come to our house in the University staff quarters on some occasion or the other. Around 20 years later, after the student had moved back to Nepal after his studies, my parents went on a North India tour of religious places like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Varanasi, Prayag etc. This was a few years back. As a part of the tour, there was a visit to Nepal (Kathmandu).

When they were there, my father thought he will check out if he could find his student. All that he knew was the name and that he would be working as an economist. There was no idea of whether he worked for the University there, or the Government or in any other body. With just basic information, he did a name search across directories, called up people, talked to different departments he could have been in and traced him out. The student was so happy on getting to know that my parents were there in Nepal, immediately came down to the place where my parents stayed, along with his wife and children, spent a long time with my parents, got some home made food as well. They gave a gift to my parents before they took leave.

I cannot even imagine doing like what my Appa did there. He did that without the resources that we are all used to like Google blind searches, Names database etc and relied on plain old people networking. When I go out driving to some new location, I don't ask for directions even if we think we are off-way :-), but take a gut-feel route and then try to 'recover'. Though I have a few of my Masters' classmates in Bengaluru, I rarely talk to them and at times feel bad about it. Early this year when I had to go to my company HQ in Sunnyvale, got hold of a few classmates who were around there, met and talked old times. All of us are settled in our own ways and in our own cocoons.

Appa goes every year with Amma to the University Pensioners Association meeting that is held yearly where it is a kind of re-union and they get to network again with people they knew well for lots of years. This year, they went there a couple or so months back and there are large portrait photographs as memories in front of the landmark building at Coimbatore, with those who had come in there with their spouses.

Hats off for an attitude and network like that and to Appa and Amma for all the wonderful memories.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Manga Attack

Who are all these? Take a guessing shot.

Kanzo Hattori, Ken'ichi, Yumiko-chan, Shinzo Hattori, Shishimaru, Kiyo, Kemumaki Kemuzou a.k.a. Amara, Doraemon, Nobita, Shizuka, Gian, Suneo, Kiteritsu, Korosuke, Miyoko, Buta Gorilla, Tongari, Benzo, Father, Mother, Mikan, Yuzuhiko, Perman, Mitsu, Booby, Sumire, Pokemon, Ash, Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander ...

Well, most of them sound Japanese, yep, you are right.

Go further ...

If you can figure it out, congrats!!!, you must be having school going kids in your house or regularly be exposed to them. Those are all characters out of different Japanese anime series (called Manga) that have flooded our kiddie TV channels. I blogged in one of my earlier posts about first impressions, but this category is an exception to my conclusion. After repeated exposure to some of these serials by either being at earshot distance and by watching random episodes with kids, I have figured out that some of these are not bad or kiddish at all. :-) You start to love them unconsciously. :-) Some of the animes (out of the deluge on TV) were obnoxious, but a lot of them are fun and good time-pass. Some of them have very catchy title songs and some real good voiceover translations in Hindi (sounds better than English).

Whenever you come across Ninja Hattori, Doraemon, Kiteritsu, Perman, Ata-Shin-Chi etc on any of our cartoon channels in the course of your "flipping channel" routine, pause and watch for some time.

Who knows, you may just ignore them as kiddie stuff and flip out or you may have some real fun!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The what-meter

Students have their own creative way of passing time in classes, especially if it was boring. In those non-cell phone days, doodling, passing chits around, reading something else, playing some paper game or gazing out of the window (or at the opposite sex)  etc, and it still is! :-)

While doing my UG course, I had a Physics teacher, say X (no name out of respect), who had a quirky mannerism. X used to use the word 'what' in almost all spoken sentences. For example, You know Bose-Einstein statistics, what?, The equation for relating inductance and capacitance is what, inverse of 2 times PI root (LC) what. The relation between joule and watt is what ..., What are you doing there, what? etc

I used to be a quiet, attentive, "teacher fearing" lad and in the good books of most of the lecturers including X (was anonymous for the rest :-)). To get over boredom during X's lectures (each class period was around 50 or 55 minutes), used to divide that time into intervals of 10 minutes each on the notebook margins and measure some of X's most frequently used words like 'tell me', 'what' and generated statistics out of it as 'whats per minute', 'whats per hour', peak 'what' intervals, plot a running graph and see the shape of the 'what' curve. I called it the what-meter and shared it with close friends. It used to be fun doing it and the counting used to be on hand and then transferred to paper once the count gets to five. The margins of my lecture notes from X's classes would have lots of dashes and crosses.

Obviously when you do it more, your attention will be on the 'whats' and not on the class. One fine day, X was discussing some serious topic, quantum mechanics, I think and when someone in the class asked a question, X shot a volley of 'whats', like 'what what what what what what what, repeat it' or something like that. I just couldn't control my laughter and burst out laughing aloud. The whole class was stunned and X ordered me to get out of the class and not to get into any of X's future classes because of my lack of seriousness.

After the class ended, scared out of my wits at his outburst, went begging behind X saying sorry and making promises not to repeat it again. After walking behind X two floors down to X's desk, X said that it was not expected of a student like me to behave that way in class and I was pardoned and warned not to repeat it again.

And thus ended the saga of the what-meter!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering a teacher

If history was a subject that I never worried about in secondary school, it was all because of Velmurugan sir at Mani Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore. It is a long long time since I passed out of that school, but the memories remain like the Cheshire cat grin. When I first joined that school, the name Velmurugan was quaint to me (the first time I heard that name ever) and somehow by the way my classmates pronounced it, I thought his name was 'Belpuri sir'. For a few months, I was so intrigued by the name even though I knew that the name must have been wrong. :-) I was too shy to ask others what his proper name was. :-)

His classes used to be generally in the afternoons, typically the post lunch periods. He never used to look at the book for history, but would start off from where he would have left in the previous class. No books from the students would be open during the class. He was a wonderful story teller with a soft spoken voice and used to have us spell-bound by his description of Indian empires ranging from the Mughal, Chalukya, Chera, Chola, Pandya, Pallava, Rashtrakuta, Vijayanagara, Satavahana etc. Then came the British, the French, the Dutch and the Portugese and the saga of Indian Independence and the two world wars. Dates and names used to flow effortlessly from him with a narration that visualized what might have happened in that time period.

His geography classes used to be drab, but I remember him for his command of history. I missed History and Geography very much when I moved into 11th standard and to a different town as well.

I am out of touch with Coimbatore with rare visits. I still swell with pride on hearing the school name. Velmurugan sir must have retired long ago. Wherever you are, sir, this is my humble way of saying a big "Thank You" for you being a piece of my history.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rain-swept silence

The summer rain pours in torrents,
Drowning the worldly noise.
Making the most of its time,
Washing the world of its grime.

The leaves and the ground are fresh,
With all the dust finely swept.
And then embraces a silence,
As the rain stops to a close.

Only a few drips and drops you hear,
Before a time of deep calm,
You just watch, bewitched,
With your memories blank.

Then the chirps start to sound,
Along with it the tweets of the birds.
And moments later, the worldly noise engulfs,
And with it, your inner voice as well.

Those few wisps of silence,
Where the time stood still,
The frozen thoughts shall wait -
Till the rain again casts its spell right.

This is partly experiential. Have you ever observed clouds passing by lying on an easy-chair or the short silence that follows a heavy rain? Watching the clouds flow by, lulls you into a state which is really an experience. You live, in the moment, for the moment and to the moment.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Oh dear Sun, come back!!!

The past few days have been depressing on the climate front at Bengaluru. Drizzles every now and then, cold winds, no sun throughout the day and grumpy low clouds.

Is this a climate conducive to work or to do anything other than laze and pull the blanket over your head? Can tolerate heat, but not a sunless cold weather for more than a day. The rains are always welcome, but not without the sun after. It is ethereal, if there is a glorious sunshine after a heavy downpour.

I need the sun to recharge my engines.

Hey Sun, சூரியா, ಸೂರ್ಯಾ, सूर्या, सूरज, Sol, Sonne, Soleil, Zon  or however you are called,

Shine and shine bright for a few hours every day. Come on, be out and show me your face.