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.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

First impression = best impression?

I am trying to ask myself this. Is the first impression, the best impression? It is "yes" with a probability of 99% according to me. For example, if I have a positive impression of a person on a first meeting, that holds for a long long time. If the person doesn't live up to expectations later, I always tend to forgive it and give them another chance. But if my first impression is negative, I tend to color most of the transactions with that person, though I wouldn't call it prejudiced (which is harsh and not what I do). It takes a really, really long time to get over that and the negative aspect somehow gets lodged strongly in my mind.

Ditto with songs. First time I hear a song, the tune has to be attractive for me to get hooked. I have a corner for soft melodies, though, so it is usually a black brush from me on noisy/dappanguthu songs unless the tune is damn catchy. There are people who swear by songs 'growing' on you as your hear them, but for me it isn't 99.9%. A likable song/tune grows on me, but not the one I didn't like on a first hearing. The first few lines, if catchy enough, cloud my judgement for the rest of the lines even if they are garbage and so it is for the tune. :-)

How about you?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

TV Soap inferences

Kolangal on SunTV is the only mega serial I see, that too at random and I wonder how Thirumurugan, the director brainstorms (if he ever does it) on progressing the story forward (or backward). My inferences from watching the serial.
  • Handling pregnancy for characters in real life? Hide the pregnancy with loose fit dresses as much as possible till the final week or two. Show only face and up-to-abdomen shots. When time runs out, hide her character from public view until the kid is born and 3 months elapse in real time before the actor resumes. (Devayani has already had 2 kids while on the serial.) Or get the character kidnapped by a sinister character. Or do any of the following steps randomly. 
  • Is the story dragging? Kill a member in the serial regularly at intervals or maim them to boost view ratings/sympathy.
  • Develop an unrelated side story with flimsy links to main line and develop it only to abandon sometime later. Nobody will question anyway.
  • Bring new faces in regularly. Can always prove helpful for side stories and can be left loose and hanging.
  • Go off to some remote place for the side story. After all, you can show a full episode or two about that place and get away from moving the story.
  • Develop selective amnesia for the characters. After all nothing works better to justify a 'logic hole' or a 'no-story'.
  • You can always get away with not showing characters who once were key in the story. :-) After all people's memories are short-lived and distracted. They can always be brought back to life later if you run out of ideas.
  • Use a two wife story in the mainline. There is no other easy way to show sacrifice from one wife over the other, create friction between the two (sub) families and to switch context as you like. Harassed husbands are easy to characterize and more so when both the wives have children. Friction between half-brother/sister shall make for a few episodes.
  • Have a property aspect in the story and "signature on blank stamp paper" episodes.
  • Use a divorce in the story. Can be used to sympathetic or revenge effect.
  • If there is a character worth resurrection from the dead, bring em on. There is nobody to question you.
  • Keep the negative character fuming and shouting always. This will cause BP to raise for the viewers as well as you. (I pity that person in real life. They will have high BP dubbing for the serial itself) Have the main character talk bravado every now and then, to teach a lesson, but act nothing more. 
  • Have a drunkard somewhere in the story line. After all they provide for obnoxiousness and can come in for a tear-jerker later when they realize their folly.
  • Make some movement and hints in the story to give a belief that the serial will end. And not to let viewers down, drag it further again. :-)
  • Always include a 'ayyO paavam' (Poor Soul!) moment in every other episode. Fridays will have definitely one of these.
  • Never show a full episode that does not show grumpiness from some one. Smiling is restricted to only sad smiles.
  • There should be no fun tracks in the serial and happiness should be shown for no more than 5 minutes in a week.
  • The characters should be fed on glycerine in their eyes.
Do you think the mega serial culture is only here? In the US on NBC, there are soaps that have run for 20 years and above and I think there is one that is still running, "Days of our lives" close to 25 years now.

Characters may come and characters may go, but the soap goes on for years. :)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Kanakadasa and Udipi

Today being Kanaka Jayanthi (commemorating Kanakadasa, a famous Kannada poet, musician and Krishna devotee from the 16th century AD), I was reminded of my trip to Shringeri, Udipi, Kollur, Kukke, Dharmasthala, Murudeshwar a few years back. A beautiful set of memories and a what a blessed land it is...

In Udipi Krishna temple, the tradition is that the main Krishna idol in the sanctum would first be seen via a small window before going to the main entrance. This window is called 'Kanakana Kindi' (Kanaka's window) and was the one by which Kanakadasa used to worship Krishna from outside the temple through a crack in the wall since class barriers at that time prevented him from entering the temple. The crack was enlarged into a window. Also the interesting aspect in that temple is that the diety faces west instead of east as in most of the temples.

A philosophical poem by Kanakadasa, Nee MaayeyolagO (You, inside Maya (illusion)) [Courtesy: Wikipedia]

Are you a creature of illusion? or illusion your creation?
Are you a part of the body? Or is the body a part of you?
Is space within the house? Or the house within space? Or are both space and the house within the seeing eye? Is the eye within the mind? Or the mind within the eye? Or are both the eye and the mind within you?
Does sweetness lie in sugar, or sugar in sweetness? Or do both sweetness and sugar lie in the tongue?
Is the tongue within the mind? Or the mind within the tongue? Or are both the tongue and the mind within you?
Does fragrance lie in the flower? Or the flower in fragrance? Or do both the flower and fragrance lie in the nostrils?
I cannot say, O Lord Adikeshava of Kaginele, O! peerless one, are all things within you alone?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Musings - Digging roads

Why do our civic authorities dig and repeatedly dig the roads and footpaths that have been laid?

Is it not common sense to build a duct (or a set of ducts each at multiple levels) on each side of the road which holds all the necessary infrastructure like water lines, sewerage lines, electricity cables, fiber optic cables, phone cables, cable TV cables with regular cross-over conduits to the other side of the road and have management points / huts separately for each?

This would be cost effective in the long run and any problems can be quickly identified and fixed.

Chennai's Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) seems to have something like this and this could be applied to all major roads at least and make it a discipline for new layouts.