Saturday, March 31, 2007

Visit to Nandi Hills

It was a leave for me on March 19th on occasion of Ugadi. Early morning while I was going through my regular chore of newspaper reading, I got a call from Abk asking me if we could drive to a destination on the outskirts of Bangalore after lunchtime. My instant reply was “Yes” since it was long drive to a new place untouched by crass physical constructions, materialism and city life. Abk, an avid traveler volunteered to take the driver’s seat for our journey to Nandi Hills, which is close to 60 kms from Bangalore city.

The drive on the six-lane Bellary road to Nandi Hills was hassle free. We reached the new Bangalore International Airport and drove on the highway till Devanahalli. The car was cruising on the highway and I was feeling the warm afternoon breeze racing backwards. Hardly after five minutes from Devanahalli, we took a left turn which showed us the way to Nandi Hills.
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From here, the stretch of 22 kms route is unlike the smooth highway road with regular patches of potholes and some with large stones and no tar. The road condition improves from the foothills to the actual hilltop. As we ascended the steep slope curving through the hairpin turns, the scenery was exhilarating. Scattered in the distance down the hillsides were terraces of grape gardens.
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On this road we even found local cultivators selling freshly plucked grapes from the nearby gardens. However, the highlight of this journey was the amazing number of monkeys that we encountered and how unafraid they were of human presence.
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Nandidurga or Nandi Hills is located at 4851 ft. (1478 meters) above sea level. It was the summer capital of Tipu Sultan.
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For overnight stay, government accommodation(typical PWD guesthouse) is available though in limited numbers. There is a resplendent bungalow of the typical British style and format and is named as the Nehru Nilaya. It was at one time used as the summer residence by Sir Markcubbon K.C.B, the erstwhile Commisioner of Mysore from 1834-1861. In 1986, the SAARC Summit was held in this bungalow, so this place has lot of history linked to it.
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From the top, one can enjoy some great views (few appear similar to the ones in Google Maps), walk around the small paths, get lost in the boundlessness of nature and experience its unadulterated substance.
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There are a number of playgrounds for kids with the regular facilities such as the seesaw, the slides, the swings, etc. Tipu's fort wall still stand now and there is one particular area called Tipu's Drop and like the name suggests, if you look down it's a steep fall into the valley below. History says it that Tipu used to execute prisoners from this point.
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As we walked around the little pathways, exploring the area we found many lovebirds with their trademark PDA and families with children and grandparents, just breaking free and relaxing.
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Standing at one place I sensed a deep connection with nature. The earth under my feet, the skies above and the etheric substances beyond it all. I felt that I am indeed a part of the diurnal course, which rolls the rocks, stones, colors and trees through seasons and time.
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On the top of the hill there are two temples. The bigger one is called Yoga Nandeeswara and the smaller one is a Ganapathy temple. Also very near to the temple, I found a post office and radio transmitter center. This place is also the origin for three rivers (Palar, Arkavathy and Pennar), I just saw the signboards indicating this but never saw the source myself. Food was available on the hill top but all I can say is one shouldn’t have high expectations for variety. Nariyal ka Pani a.k.a tender coconut was available in plenty and that’s the only thing we had.
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As were we coming down from the top, we found a small pond, near the entrance gate of the fort. The placid water here gives the impression as if it is waiting for the soft hands of the nature to touch it with trepidation and tenderness of a new bride. But this moment of revelation was hijacked by the stench of garbage from a nearby pit. I found lots of plastic bottles, empty beer and alcohol bottles, bags and other unnecessary particulars. Nandi Hills is a verdant place known for its flora, fauna and especially its lovely virginal views, so wish all those who visit the place, please do conserve the ecological balance by not littering and spoiling the serenity of the place.

As we were coming back, I stopped for a moment to capture my Kodak moment.
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After I had taken this shot and while we were back, a few lines came to my mind which I had written in my ATM balance money chit. So putting the unabridged scribble here:

Go into silence
Find the reality
Look at the skies above
You know there is more
Much much more to life...

The twilight had already set in and as we entered the outskirts of the city, we were welcomed by the serpentine concrete jungles of apartment construction work. We halted for a while, devoured a pile of hot samosas, washing them down with tea at a local makeshift chai shop. All in all it was refereshing to end this trip.

More pics in the album here.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Food For Thought

Like with a lot of workplace incompetence, even the loser gets crowned... Isn't it true ?

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Visit to the Holy Beacon - ISKCON, Bangalore

The introduction of intra-city air-conditioned Volvo buses across various routes in Bangalore covering all vantage points is one the first effort of its kind in the country. This has been running for close to one year or so in the city but I never got an opportunity to use this facility. The coverage of a long distance to reach ISKCON temple, which is located in Rajajinagar, a locality pretty far off from my residential complex offered me this chance, few days back.

I was impressed by the bus facility and these are exactly similar to the ones that I have used in Europe. Even the conductor uses an electronic ticketing gadget, a welcome change from the regular hand signed, tickets placed in the pockets of a tattered leather bag. The only disappointing and unsatisfying feature to my notice was the cost of the ticket, which is pretty high for the regular commuters [i.e. vendors, construction site workers, maids, even humble students as the monthly/daily passes are not valid in these buses.]. The bus was effectively vacant for most part of the journey and by the time we reached the destination it was just my friend and myself. Does this really serve the purpose, as the public transport, be it simple regular buses or the A/C buses should logically cater to regular commuters. But on the contrary these A/C buses just cater to a certain segment of the society, those who can afford. This can serve as an example of the tunnel effect, which was discussed elaborately by Amartya Sen, in the recently concluded NASSCOM meet at Mumbai.
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Digression again, back to the topic then, so let me get back to my ISKCON impressions. It was a unique experience for me. A noteworthy place to visit in Bangalore. The ISKCON [International Society for Krishna Consciousness] temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is situated on the top of a small hillock.

We had to climb several steps to reach the sanctorum but that was not very difficult. First of all, we went up few steps to reach a place where we deposited our footwear and camera [no photography is allowed inside the temple] in the safe custody of the temple authorities. As per Hindu traditions and customs, any form of footwear has to be strictly removed before one enters the temple premises. The temple is like an small amusement park in terms of the maintenance and the peripheral physical infrastruture, and I sincerely apologize if that sounds sacrilegious. Before climbing the marble stairs to the entrance, the visitors and devotees are called for to wash their feet at a washing station. After that starts a human chain meandering through metal railings, similar to those that one would find at an amusement park or while entering through the gates of any open-air concert with a metal detector gate for security check and inspection.

Even if it was a normal day sans any fesitivities, still there was a pretty big crowd. Another interesting thing to notice, are the numerous placards warning of pickpockets. The massive crowd of visitors had no problem pushing up close against us, whether it was intentional or un-intentional, I am not aware of that. But it was not the body-to-body kind of close that you find in a typical crowded bus in India. All the while, a bell tolled somewhere ahead in the line and a recording droned on:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare....

There were people of all shades, all age groups and in different moods and there are few foreigners in the crowd too as we climbed through 108 marble steps. So the queue wasn't really for anything in particular and it wound its way through a series of shrines. If I remember it correctly, first there was Lord Narasimha's temple and then Lord Venkateswara's temple which finally ended in an open courtyard from where the entire city's skyline looked splendiferous. The main temple, is large and impressive and few pillars/structures are bedecked with gold. This is the Krishna temple and has a huge hall where devotees and visitors, sit in peace after offering their prayers.
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While Ju was sitting here, I walked to an information counter and started gathering information on Akshaya Patra Project about which I had heard and read lots in newspaper and magazine. Akshaya Patra Project is the mid-day meal scheme, where school children in government-run schools are given free lunches in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa. The reason and rational behind this program is that food could lure children to attend school. Only when a child’s stomach is satisfied, s/he would show some postive inclination for studies in schools in rural or semi-urban areas.

"Akshaya Patra" means the container that never gets empty. It is the container Lord Krishna gave to Draupadi, before the Pandavas started their journey into the forest. The Lord wanted his cousins to eat well and never struggle for food, which finds a parallel in ISKCON's scheme. The entire program is managed by some really smart, experienced and educated people who hail from some of the top engineering schools in India like IIT Chennai, REC Warangal, REC Nagpur, IISc Bangalore, etc. Few among them have even worked in business houses both in India and the US, before dedicating themselves to this altruistic activity. I did a simple calculation to realise that an amount close to 30-32 Lakhs Rupees is spent each day for this Akshaya Patra Project across the various centers in India. Assume that each meal costs around Rs. 6 and there are close to 5,00,000+ children fed daily by this selfless initiative and so this amounts to figure stated above. On enquiry, I learnt that the funding for this comes from software/tech companies, philanthropists, business houses, voluntary donations, and also from the various centers of ISKCON spread across the globe.

This main temple winds its way through a bookstore before culminating in a food stall. There are a number of counters where you can buy books, trinkets, religious icons, posters, postcards, sweets, fruits, savory food, jewelry, incense sticks, dresses, saris, t-shirts, etc. There is also an amphitheatre, equipped with the latest state of the art by BOSE and DOLBY Digital, but unfortunately there were no shows the day, we were there because of some repair and maintainence work. The food stall is a center of attraction and offers a wide variety of mouth watery eatables such as jalebis, samosas, dhokla, chaat, dahi vaada, etc. At few vantage points there are donation counters where one can donate money (credit and debit cards are accepted, although this sign was posted above a drop-box).
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The food court goes over a pedestrain footbridge back to the parking lot where a man with a stack of dried banyan leaves shaped like bowls hands each one a leaf, and another man serves spoonful of hot yellow sticky rice pudding called prasadam into it. It's an offering, and one should eat it with good spirit and appreciation sitting on the limestone benches that borders a pool of placid water there. Birds chirping chee chee and a cacophony of sounds provide the natural music at this sunset hour.

Was it fear of God, spirituality, or just an invitation to see a new place that drew me to this place, ISKCON. Whatever may be the reason, it gave me an inexplicable confidence that one can pass thorough the vicissitudesof human life in this world without any fear and falterings. I recked little of time during this gratifying experience. I don’t know how I can satifactorily explain the mystery of serenity and divine within-ness of this place, with its independence of any temporal sense. By this time it was twilight, and somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I was aware that in the world below, nights come with suprising quickness of traffic jams, yet I felt no concern about that matter.

I stood there and took some pictures from outside the temple premises. Then within a few minutes Ju and I returned to the humdrum of daily life.

We got stuck in a traffic imbroglio and it was life back on normal turf again.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Sue's Place ,The Caribbean Calypso in Bangalore

Cricket in the Caribbean is more than just a game, it is calypso, conch shells, conga, catches, collapso and clichés that gets fans over the boundary. The West Indies started the Calypso party by registering an emphatic win over Pakistan. The Indian calypso fuelled by a multitude of television channels and media houses turned into a collapso for the Boys in Blue in the match against Bangladesh.

But I won’t do a minute-by-minute tracking of the collapso collapse action first and then the huge win against Bermuda, which was tailor made to regain the lost confidence. Rather take you to an oasis of culinary diversity from the Caribbean islands right here in Bangalore. If you are visiting or living in Bangalore, you must try this place: Sue's Food Place, incase you have not done that.
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It's a simple Caribbean restaurant located in Indiranagar much like a bistro in Paris that run the gamut from unpretentious neighborhood joints to the smart ones managed by super chefs. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, a bit homely to put it straight. The walls are decorated with Caribbean memorabilia and Caribbean music genre, reggae history, t-shirts and colorful headgears from the islands.
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The owner, Susan John called Sue is from West Indies and has set up this little cozy nook that you must experience sometime. Quite a popular joint, it was packed when we went for lunch and even saw a good crowd from the Caribbean right here in Bangalore for a weekend lunch. Apparently, it's a must visit for the West Indian cricketers, diplomats and business people from the island when they are visiting India. Apart from the regular Banglorites, the small community of Trinidadians who have settled in this city frequent this place.

Though the buffet lunch was priced at a reasonable rate of Rs 225 per head, we were treated to a delicious spread of about six to seven salads. To name a few there was egg mayonnaise mixed with capsicum, chicken salad, pan fried broccoli, beans and carrot, picnic potato salad, etc. There was soup, which was mouth watering, but I learned about it when I was halfway through the main course and felt kind of upset ;)
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For the main course for the curries, there was crab curry, mushroom and corn curry, delicious fish cutlets, roasted chicken, Trinidad chicken curry and a yummy vegetable baked dish, among other stuff. In the post-slavery era, Indian cooking culture was introduced in Caribbean food recipes and still remains an active part of the Caribbean cuisine. You can realize this, once you have tasted the food as most of the curry powder recipes tastes are directly derived from original Indian cuisine. Like for Indians, rice is a staple item in the Caribbean menu. But since, flavors from all over the world have found a home in Caribbean food through countless generations and the flow of history, I even found two other allotropic versions of rice items. There were lots more, for sure but I didn’t have the appetite for more after two servings of crab curry. There was light music in the background ranging from native West Indian music to reggae hits but Bob Marley remained staple.
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Everything on the island is like a fiesta and there is confusion and fun and it is clearly reflected in the warm environment of the restaurant where one won't be surprised to see small kids just run around here and there and be picked up suddenly by Sue and then cuddled and pampered while the parents ate their food. Sue either cooks or co-ordinates the preparation for all the food and has a vivacious personality. She is more than willing to explain the ingredients and how the food is prepared as I saw many guests asking her about the preparation methodology for few of the items.

No liquor is served, but they have some exotic sounding drinks, which I didn't try. I was happy with my normal water, though people at the neighboring tables were trying out some interesting custom made drinks. The cooking was just fine but it was the savoring that the crowd was enjoying the most.

Treat yourself with the rum cake, pudding and the fruit salad to complete the final lap.
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Some call it minimalist food art, others see it as tweaked nouvelle cuisine. Whatever, Sue’s passion for fine cuisine, peppered with some peppy music makes it worth another visit anytime.

Those who want to try this place, the address is
Sue’s Food Place,
#4, Subadar Garden, Sri Krishna Temple Road,
Indiranagar, Bangalore – 560038

Till then Bon Appetite.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Music Majja Madi

Wow, what fun to hear lots of music and just the fine tune, the type you feel like hearing. Pick a genre and then the mood energetic or calm and then the shade, dark or positive, what I meant was choosing from platter what so ever you like in this pretty extensive collection. At least in the World Music and Latino, I explored, I was pretty much impressed.

What am I talking about? This is nothing but a web-based custom application streaming music radio, capable of satisfying the music taste and mood of just about anyone called Musicovery. Check it here.

What is good about the this application is the way it has been presented and looks like an Apple Ipod to a certain extent for its user interface as far as the look and feel is concerned. To add to it, a selection on a particular genre opens up typically like the rangoli, with the splosh, the spill, the splatter, the splash, the squish of colors, each color denoting the aesthetic appeal of the experience with a pulsating matrix format.

Some of the thanda thanda cool cool features of this application, which I tried myself, are as follows.

  • Each time you change your preferences in the navigation bar the music selector jumps across the screen and plays another song. The best feature is that the music flows effortlessly without any disruption or interruption and having CD music sound clarity. With a good Internet connection there's no lag or song loading time, so you can expect smooth listening from start to finish. This is one of the smartest features of the application.
  • To me it’s something of a blurred interface between an interactive toy and radio, of course for the better. If you see the navigator bar, there is a time frame and you can set it according to your taste and let the music soothe your mood. Find new songs and play with different styles of music. It isn't really a game, but it's got the same sense of exploration and fun free flowing on the Internet. I don’t need to save songs and waste my disk space.
  • On the flip side, Musicovery plays songs in a noticeable Lo-Fi format (for any user free for cost), reserving the better quality for paid users. Subscriptions are reasonably priced but the registration process is befuddling and points at a number of hidden sign-up fees indirectly. I didn’t see it further beyond the initial list of points, as I am better to stick with the free version and enjoy the thrill of musical exploration and its free harvest.
Free tip in Ek Lo Ek Muft ishtyle (can do that gracefully for the music listeners): For a really interesting experience and a curious mind, try un-checking the "hit" box and checking "discovery". You'll unravel a treasure trove, a mine of obscure bands you just might learn to love.

The masterminds for this application are Frederic Vavrille and Vincent Castaignet. To have a detailed cook book approach to the know-hows of this application, the pros and cons, the business model, etc, check here.

Freaking Awesome, isn’t it and go here and enjoy. Next time you listen to any number, do let me know so that I can gauge which mood you are in. Will you ?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Brand It Like Dabbawalla.

Last week, I saw one company, which was certified a global certification in process improvement approach that is based on a process model. A process model is a structured collection of practices that describe the characteristics of effective processes, the practices included are those proven by experience to be effective. There were lot of celebrations and 'yes-we-are-there' feeling was billowing in the environ. Yesterday late night while I was going through my regular RSS feeds, read one news that made me think, the difference in approach and practicality of its application.
"The Mumbai dabbawallas have been a world-famous case study. How they operate with virtually no logistics is what amazes the whole world. In our management textbooks, we can only teach students certain theories and how those can be applied. But these people can show how logistics problems are solved in reality. This will not only be a learning experience for our students but also for the students from Nabraska University," said professor Probir K Gupta, dean of VGSOM.

Members of the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (MTBSA) gave a lecture at the Vinod Gupta School of Management (VGSOM) IIT, Kharagpur, on logistics and supply chain management on Mar’12th. The audience included students and teachers of the engineering and management sections of IIT Kharagpur, along with 30 students and 7 faculty members from University of Nabraska Omaha, US.

This is not the first time that the dabbawallas of Mumbai have offered a lecture, they have done so in almost all the top business schools in India, including the IIM’s.

Now, a simple guess what do global giants like General Electric and Motorola have in common with a humble tiffin delivery network comprising 3500+ dabbawallas, who deliver 1.5 lakh lunch boxes to citizens in Mumbai each day? The dabbawallas have the Six Sigma rating or an efficiency rating of 99.999999, which means one error in one million transactions. Forbes Global, the famous American business weekly, has given this rating to them. They apply in a simple and pragmatic way the principles of logistics, operational efficiency and supply chain management.

But have we ever reconginsed them and acknowledged the innovation that these largely illiterate dabbawallas have done. I guess they have been in news on and off and their case studies have been discussed at large at the top MBA schools in India and in other parts of the world. Beyond that nothing much, why?

The reason is simple. These dabbawallas never attended business schools, corporate board meetings, exchanged business jargons but the way they run the show is like Nadia Comaneci’s Perfect 10. They are management gurus with a difference lacking the chamak dhamak and polish of corporate culture. They work with their heads and speak from their hearts. They do not speak English and what if many of them are illiterate and wear white kurtas and Gandhi topis and not the business attire of suit-boot babu style. Each dabbawala, like any businessman, has his share of investment, two bicycles (approximately Rs 4,000), a wooden crate for the tiffins (Rs 500), at least one white cotton kurta-pyjama (Rs 600), and Rs 20 for the trademark Gandhi topi. Let’s do a simple calculation assume that 4000 (cycles) + 500(wooden crate) = Rs. 4500, this remains constant for say 12 months (note this is an over stepped up estimation, the usage of cycles and the crate is for a much more longer duration) and the 600 (kurta-pyjama) + 20 (topi) = Rs 620 spent say every 3 months. The Dabbawallas still offer their services at dirt-cheap price (Rs. 300/month), to satiate the hunger of their customers with a clockwork precision. The organization treats each of its members as a shareholder and pays anywhere between Rs. 5000 to Rs. 6000 per month.

Think about survival in a city like Mumbai, with this mehgainyee with Rs.6000 a month, this amount is not for a single person but for a family comprising on an average say 4 members.

Still they deliver and deliver shaan se and dil se.

Shaan se because :
They have no trade unions and till date there has hardly been any strike posed by the group members on grounds of mis-understanding or disparity of views and understanding.

Dil se because :
Even in this age of mobile and internet, suppose a house-wife wants to pass of some important document that needs to reach the husband, a small pocket in the dabba’s bag becomes the via media for the transfer, of course the delivery man is the dabbawalla. The dil ka connection runs so deep that even Nokia roped in these people for its latest branding exercise.

Their secret lies in a coding system devised over the years. Each dabba is marked in indelible ink with an alphanumeric code of about 10 characters, like. In terms of price and the reliability of delivery, dabbawallas remain unbeatable. See here, how one of the Mumbaite is so pissed off by the accuracy that, he wants some amount of in-efficiency to creep in, so that he can have food made by someone else other than his dharmpatni who anyhow prepares food for his breakfast and dinner.
Oh kismat, oh badnaseebi, what hast thou done to me? Shouldn't they come down to Sigma 4 or even 3 levels and make mistakes more often so that at least once or twice a month everyone gets a dabba cooked by someone else's spouse?

With their six sigma standards, they make only one mistake in 60,00,000 deliveries. Their website states that they make 1,75,000 deliveries a day. Excluding Saturdays and Sundays there are about 250 working days in a year.

By giving this one example, all that I am trying to convey is that the innovative potential of the people does not plummet to zero, when the people are illiterate or semi-literate. This group of people has achieved something stupendous, the simplest way that even business tycoons like Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic Airways fame can’t ignore their business model.
"It is always good to experience the local flavour of the city with local people rather than sitting in a hotel. It is fascinating to enjoy the feel of the city with such a simple group of people," he [Branson] added.

Dabbawallas achieved another milestone when Shobha Bondre wrote a book on them titled "Mumbaicha Annadata", which was released by Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Prince Charles was so mesmerized by the operation style that he had sent invitations to few of them for his wedding. In reply, Raghunath Medge and Sopan Mare couriered their gifts to Camilla behen and Charles bhau.

Like in any business, with growth comes the question of expansion. The dabbawallas had also thought of this but then declined the plan for obvious reasons.
"Mumbai's geography makes it unique," Medge points out. "It is a longish city where residences are in the north and offices in the south, so it makes our work simple. We tried a similar service in Delhi a few years ago and it didn't work out; Delhi being a circular city, the logistics were difficult."

Next time you feel Hungry kya? What would you like, pizza from the local Domino's (30 minute delivery) or a fresh, hot meal from home? Ask any Mumbaite and you have the answer. With the rise in fast food joints and meals available everywhere, the number of people who eat their lunch from dabbas has plateaued but still this team goes on and on and on the life continues...

A few days back I was having a chat with a colleague of mine, over the mechanism that drives the knowledge industry and the dabbawallas with the epicenter of discussion being processes and quality control. She went ahead and re-affirmed her stance that the knowledge industry is altogether different and here we play with tons of data/information etc. My reply was "So What?" . Just as a knowledge industry worker/programmer deals with data, the dabbawalla deals with dabba, note that "d" is the common letter, just with a different implication and signifance in a different scenario.

For a knowledge industry worker/programmer his/her playground is the data that s/he has and s/he dribbles with it to meet the end results. So is a dabbawalla, the dabba is his world and he dribbles it through Andheri, Borivli, Mulund, Church Gate, etc and makes it reach his customer.

Was I correct or in-correct, even I don’t know? Post replies with your views, email on my profile.

All have heard or read about the dabbawallas, but do you know the tiffinwallas, another great story to reckon.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Mood, Pics and Motion

These are few pics that I had taken in the last few days, the connecting factor is all these pics were taken in motion, while in a car, in a bus, while running etc.

Race and Mood: Ok. This was taken from a moving car.

Accelerate and Mood: Not Ok.

Velocity and Mood : Sort of Ok.This was taken from a moving car.

Amphetamine and Mood: Hmmm, Ok.

Hasten and Mood: Dullish Ok.

Focal ratio and Mood: Ok Ok Ok. This picture, I took when there was power failure in my house and suddenly had laid my hands on my camera.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Connect Infosys and Shivaji Park.

What has the bellwether of IT and Services industry, Infosys share with Shivaji Park, the mecca of Indian cricket, with its innumerable cricket academies that has produced stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajit Agarkar, Sanjay Manjarekar to name a few.

The software giant Infosys was christened at Shivaji Park, as disclosed by Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys founder Narayan Murthy.
"We decided to name our new company as Infosys while sitting at a corner of Shivaji Park," she told the audience at a function after the couple were presented the Yashwantrao Chavan Award for 2006.

More here and I have read few books written by Sudha Murthy, namely Wise and Otherwise, Dollar Bahu and Mahaswetha. These are some simple books and are purely Indian socio-economic and culture centric, written straight from heart.

Was the Infosys and Shivaji Park connection a bit incongruent, if that is so guess for this with it’s "all about cricket" mania in the air,

How does the World Cup Cricket link with China and Taiwan, is it a bit whacky to think that?
Living in temporary plastic huts and taking a single day off each month, about 1,000 employees of state-owned Chinese companies have sweated away the past year on the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Antigua and Grenada as the West Indies prepare to host the Cricket World Cup, the game's premier international event.

Read the entire story here.

Have a nice day and remain connected.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day

The present generation, the neo-age past the 1990’s, liberalized and globalised times have brought a frenzy of activity in political and social life, and business and personal spaces. It says thumbs up for women in many spheres and a case of "still working at it" in others. As every year this year also, Mar 8th is celebrated as International Women's Day [IWD] to inspire women, celebrate their achievements and above all make them feel proud of their womanhood.

The 2000+ era has not only been eventful but also brought a huge number of victories for women. It also brought heartbreak when thousands of innocent women and children were killed in mind-boggling terrorist attacks all over the globe, the center stage of this turmoil being Southwest Asia. But as is usual, this generation has two distinct sides to it. On the positive side, women made globalization a reality of their lives when business, politics, and above all ideas and "openness" view took them to various shores and they made a mark in the international arena. The scene is not that hunky dory with all niceties and has its own share of problems for the women, the issues just varies according to class, creed and group. It varies from dowry, to sexual harassment, to subjugation, to eve teasing, etc. But the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.

The global political scenario changed when Angela Merkel, became Germany's first woman Chancellor last year and also the first leader since unification to hail from the formerly communist East. Critics for reinvigorating U.S. diplomacy laud Condoleezza Rice, the present Secretary of State for US Govt, though many have questioned whether she could sculpt a much-needed grand strategy. She has responded so far with one built around promoting democracy worldwide, without compromise, as a cure for everything from terrorism to economic downturns. But this strategy already hangs by hairs in Iraq and a tumultuous Middle East.

Opening my morning newspapers, these days I find some interesting news from the US political circle, a welcome deviation from Bush’s volumes of false promises of setting in peace soon. "I’m in. And I’m in to win" was the headline reporting that Hillary Clinton had tossed her hat into the 2008 US presidential race. I assume that Hillary, with her own savvy skills, long exposure to the global media and a master strategist as a spouse will hold herself in the widening field of Democratic hopefuls. It’s a different story that, even if US is called an advanced country, will it accept a female as it’s President. Time will tell and the race is on.

Now come to France, few months back, the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal was the clear favorite for the post of President but today the UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has emerged as the consistent favorite in the polls. Why has the Socialist candidate, the first woman who had a serious chance to be elected President of France, fallen from grace so quickly? No comments again as they say in politics anything can happen and so keeping fingers crossed and waiting for the results.

Well when it comes to France, I know some great people there from this land. I know So for a long time and she is my mentor, my guide and helps me like her younger brother. So is one of the smartest women, whom I know, a business grad from one of the best business schools in Europe. She manages business development in one of the largest technology and product companies in the world and handles its growth for various geographies. I am amazed the way she multi-tasks, from her work to travel, from her music classes [she is a trained musician and performs in Paris] to fitness and reading. So is an avid traveler, a storehouse of various cultures and has journeyed to South Africa, the entire Europe, the US and best part is she knows more about North India travel destinations than I do after her visits to Rajasthan, Delhi, etc. During my last visit to Paris, it was So who proposed that we explore the Chateau of Versailles. It was one of the best places, I have seen to date having seen the other must-see places in Paris in my previous visits.

Now how can I go round the globe and forget the Indian women, the Bharatiya naari.

Last year will remain memorable for two women, one an Italian but naturalized Indian and other an Indian, but naturalized American, joining the exclusive Forbes Club of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress, was ranked the third most powerful woman in the political arena and as everyone is aware as she is the person who actually runs the government, true to the Nehru-Gandhi family style.

Finance and banking, business and industry saw the rise of women who now occupy positions of power and influence on the projected growth of the Indian economy. The list is endless but to name a few are Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC, Chanda Kochar of ICICI, Lalita Gupte of ICICI, Kiran Shaw Muzumdar of Biocon, Sulajja Firodia Motwane of Kinetic Honda, Padmasree Warrier of Motorola, etc. I mean the list includes lots more and I am sure about that, just that I am not aware about them.

Since the time, I am in B’lore for the last 4 years, I am fortunate to be in association with Vi[ also worked in her team ], an engineer from IIT Kanpur, a mother of two smart kids, a proud wife, a loving daughter-in-law, an intelligent technical architect and a wise manager who has served in some of the best technology conglomerates in the US and in India. I am able to say all these things about her, as I speak to her anything and everything, both professional and personal and its like she listens with a patient ear and then speaks her mind. Of late, I have not visited her place for a while though I speak to her over phone and emails. Yesterday she called and her first reply on phone was "theek hai tum ghar aao, meet V and I [her smart kids] and P [his husband, but I call him dada]". And as usual it ends with an open invitation for nice homemade food. To me it’s like going to my home, when I am at her place and to add to all this, there is Vi’s mother, an elderly lady, the warmth of the house and it feels celestial to be there.

The face of Indian Law and Justice saw a sea change, a sort of revolution when women succeeded in their protests to bring justice to two women, Priyadarshini Mattoo and Jessica Lal who had been killed brutally by hi-society men and the courts had earlier acquitted the killers for "inadequate evidence".

I have spoken so much till now but if you notice, there is one factor common to all. The common factor is education, access to information and opportunities, and their presence in urban areas and centers of growth.

Despite their considerable involvement and contribution, women’s role in rural India is confined to household chores, livestock production/ maintenance, cooking and last but not the least producing kids, preferably boys, otherwise consequences are dire. To put it straight their role has often been underestimated or, worse, ignored. Gender-blindness is partly the result of a paternalistic bias, but also of the attitudes of women themselves, who may have been conditioned by their culture and society to undervalue the worth of the work they do and also about their gender/feminism.But there is a change in trend, these days as voluntary organizations have mushroomed in mid-towns and villages, organizing workshops and seminars on women's issues, giving legal aid, health training, providing for self-help savings. These schemes, doing developmental activities, create an image of tremendous growth and proliferation of the women's movement.

My mind races back to the days of “Doordarshan”, when Ramayana and Mahabharata on weekends were the star attractions. If you can re-collect there used to be an AD that used to be telecast very frequently then, "Saat Swaad main lijat, lijat papad". It was named "Saat" meaning seven as it was started by seven women from the terrace of Lohana Niwas in Girgaum, a thickly populated South Bombay suburb. Today it employs a little over 50K women and has been hailed as one of the greatest rags to riches stories of contemporary India, what started as the all women run and managed co-operative organization before the age of liberalization, globalization and digitization. With time as the sales took a northward ride, the top brass of lijat, adopted all possible mediums to market and promote their papads and other products. Lijjat today commands quite a healthy export sheet, sites like Amazon and ebay are selling lijat papads online. This is what I call the marriage of technology and grass root industry to reach newer heights of success and profit making. Mind you all this, was managed by women most of them who have barely studied beyond primary education.

Also another person, my maa is a simple lady, and after all her children stood on their on legs, she does something that I am really proud of. She along with a few other ladies from our neighborhood in my hometown has started a small center. The backyard of our house serves as the workshop where tribal men and women come and work with her, bringing to life some forms of art and sculpture which are dying and decaying in this age of consumerism. Also note that this is no-profit center and the products are not sold, it just that she wants the tribal art to get due recognition. This time when I was home in Dec’06, I asked her how is she going to run the show, her reply was simple, "I am putting my passion and I believe in what these people are doing. Money is not that important and if people like this they should come forward and take this initiative forward. It’s more like making the tribal people feel that they can also do it". I presented few of the cards to my friends in B’lore and abroad, which I got from home and they were all surprised as everything was handiwork starting from paper to colors to the final palm leaf cards. I love you maa for what you are doing.

Everyday we come across stories of molestation, sexual abuse and rape in media reports. But there are cases that never get reported because the degree of violence of the act is not serious enough to grant it space even in local newspapers, forget leading dailies. What if media doesn’t give them space, there is the big open world of blogs. Recently a women’s movement called Blank Noise, lead by Jasmeen Patheja, who spread her message mostly thorough blogs,[Blank Noise Project] took to busy Brigade Road in B’lore to combat the sexual advances of the male crowd in true Gandhigiri style. Also a few days back while taking to Nik, a junior from my engg school, she told how she punched a fellow male passenger who was trying to be extra smart with her in a crowded bus. That’s smartie Nik, your population needs to explode. Also yesterday late night, I got this email[below is a direct copy paste] from one of my ex-colleagues,S and I will blog on this soon.
Hi RC,

I read your blog Wipe off the Monster and was really touched.
I would request you if you could write something on Sexual Harassment that young girls face from their relatives. This is a very taboo topic but the truth is what all cases you hear is tip of iceberg.

[If you search for Wipe off the Monster on my blog, you can read more there.]

Also I take pride in knowing some simple people down-to-earth, nothing pompous, no airs, no faltu-ka-dhikhawa, kind, genial, affable souls and put to the point, well-liked individuals from my college batch, school mates since my kindergarten days and few friends. Ju is one such person. Also IP, from my nursery days, is a smart person who juggles her simple work life with some yummy cooking and she is a fundu Orissi classical dancer, just that she doesn’t practice that more often these days. Like, I can count these people on my fingers, very few in number but then like Tennyson’s The Brook says "Men may come and men may go but I go on for ever", these selected people have remained the same what-so-ever and are still the same and so the connection continues for ever.

A lot of change has definitely happened for the Indian women in the last 10 years in the positive track, but with lot of dark clouds still looming over. In the process of rethinking the last 10 years of the women's changing image in India, a number of questions come to my mind.

For instance, would the profession of modeling or participation in beauty pageants be an expression of independence and entry into feminist space or falling victim to a consumerist culture that turns women into sex objects? Would 33 per cent reservations for women in elected bodies, women in the police force, judiciary and bureaucracy be expressions of women's empowerment or merely an assimilation of women into the exploitative State machinery?

There are lots of if’s and but’s but in this age of free expression, at least few are voicing their viewpoints with boldness, candidness and practicality.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally, that’s the driving mantra of this age be it work, life, culture, etc. Have a simple day and ensure that the future is bright, equal, safe and rewarding for the entire female fraternity. Make everyday International Women's Day.

Keep reading and remain connected.

[Note: Check out this week’s Outlook magazine, I just read it after I was done with this post, early morning. It has an interesting article on how few Indian women like Vrinda Dar, Anita Nirody and Pushpa Pathak are making a difference in rendering their services for the various rehabilitation and social activities in war torn Afghanistan. Definitely it’s not a job for the faint hearted with rocket attacks, bombing, murder, killing and bloodshed a regular affair there.]

Also this is a special post for RC, as he made his 100th post today.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pray For Me Brother

After Guru, this is one work from A.R. Rahman, which makes a global brand in a true sense, and I feel the song "Pray For Me Brother" is all set to rule the international music charts for sometime now. This song is composed and sung by ARR in English as it caters to a wider audience and this one is to support the vision of Millennium Development Goals.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was formed from the pact that was signed in the year 2000 at the significant UN Millennium Summit held at New York by Prime Ministers, Presidents, and other noted leaders from 189 countries. Not many people know that Rahman has been appointed by the UN as Brand Ambassador to eradicate tuberculosis.

"Pray For Me Brother" is the world's first music video shot in the mobile cinemascope format to enable suitable viewing by mobile customers. The video is shot in black and white by Bharatbala of "Vande Mataram" fame. The song is written by Blaaze and composed and sung by Rahman. The video was launched exclusively on the Nokia N series music edition of mobile phones. I had seen a snippet of the song when ARR performed on 31st Dec’06 night at Mumbai as part of Nokia New Year Eve concert. Watch the video here.

"It was while planning to compose a song for the same that I started to think about the much bigger universal issue - poverty and hunger. I decided to shift the focus and with the help of my friend Blaaze came up with the song", revealed Rahman.

Check this site here and listen how Vijay Amritraj, Michael Douglas, Paz Veg, Shakira, Richard Gere, etc to name a few who have contributed in their own special way apart from A.R.Rahman.

Time to make the world a better place.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Great Indian Engagement Story

We left at dusk from Bangalore and headed straight towards Kurnool on a Saturday i.e. 24th Feb’07. The air was very murky, less smoke and definitely less pollution than usual Bangalore roads. We stopped at a dhabba after about twenty kilometers from the location where the new International Bangalore Airport to have simple yummy desi dhabba food. Since we missed our lunch that day, this food was like ambrosia to us.

Picture 210

In the gathering gloom, the dry Andhra Pradesh landscape was like something a medieval painter might have used to suggest the environs of pain and turmoil. The car was zooming like fluid on the super smooth NH7, which was hemmed on both sides by parch lands. From what little I could see by the light of the full moon, there was this escarpment, which flattened out to a curvy route.

With songs being played on the player ranging from Pink Floyd to Karunesh, from Don to hits of 1980’s, the vintage classics. Hari was in a romantic peppy mood like "mann mein ladoo phoot rahe thae" and was insisting on all numbers from the latest Hindi movies, which spoke of love in Manhattan [KAHK], to Syndney [Salam Namaste], to Amsterdam [Hum Tum]. The rules for the driver’s seat were simple, for highway road the speed had to be on an average 80Kms/hr and this plummeted to 60Kms/hr wherever there was traffic. During this drive, my memory raced back to a typical Scottish engagement when a song was played with the bagpipe music in the background. I had attended this one way back in 2004, when I was in Glasgow for four months. Scottish engagements are more like family get-togethers, an event that adorns the altar with the brilliance of tartan, the simplicity of kilt worn by men and of course the splendor of the bagpipe.

Picture 219

Going from Bangalore to Kurnool a distance of 400kms, there is a substantial rise in elevation that increased the temperature by measurable degrees. We finally reached Kurnool in the late hours at two o’clock in the night and rushed straight to our beds. The next day morning we were woken up by the dry morning at Kurnool. We freshened up and were ready for the function, which started by 9:30 AM.

The engagement function was conducted with the full consent of parents, relatives from both sides and was a joyous occasion. But there was one factor that interested me, the role of traditional rituals that is still firm and rock-solid in middle towns. Like everything in India the present is constantly layered over the past and if not regularly we visit these age-old traditions at least occasionally these days.

The engagement mandap, which was more like a puppet theater stage, was decorated ostentatiously with flowers, terracotta diyas, mango-leaf garlands and rice-paste alpana. The entire space in front of the mandap was full of people, most women draped in rich Kanjeevarams and silk sarees, jasmine flowers woven in clusters adorned their braids. The bright colors, combined with glittering gold and silver threads brightened the crowded hall.

Swati wore a nine-yard saree in the traditional style, repeated some sholkas which the priest asked her to, applied tilak on Hari’s forehead and the climax came with the exchange of the engagement rings. Since, Swati’s grandma was the eldest living member in the gathering, it was she who acknowledged the bond. As per customs, Swati carried some betel leaves, betel nuts, a coconut, a sandalwood stick and a red pumpkin which was offered as a gift in the name of God, to confirm this relationship forever. Since this function was a prelude to the wedding, the scale and duration of the homam and other pujas was not that grandeur. The guests threw holy rice and flower petals on the couples head who were both adorned with the large traditional bridal garlands. In a short while the stage was dressed in all this colorful melange. While all this was in WIP, the madhyana bhojanam [lunch] started.

The lunch, offered was typical South Indian, of course of the modern variety, with a long list of vegetarian dishes and other mouth watery items. From what I could remember and all that I tasted from the menu, there was lemon rice, brinjal curry [hot and spicy soaked in oil], lady fingers fry assorted with kaju, sambar, rasam, curd rice, stuffed capsicum, salad, ladoos, etc. The ice-cream corner was the center of attraction for the kids who just gathered four to five cups at a time, and gobbled those as each one was in competition with some other friend of his/her as to who would finish first and collect more. The paan counter near the exit of the food court also had lot many guests to collect a piece of paan after a heavy lunch.

Picture 273

We finished everything and started our trip around evening on 25th Feb’07. Excitement was inevitable as we started traveling and saw life in the town of Kurnool, which at one time was voted to be the state capital of Andhra Pradesh. All vehicles were not alike, saw auto rickshaws but without the meters, Brahma bulls (bullocks) pulling carts, full and empty. There were big green buses and smaller yellow, and red buses and trucks carrying water or rocks or bags of rice with people riding on top. Entire families rode together on scooters and bikes carrying five people, young, old, big and little. Traffic is to the left, the British way and one traffic rule is that size matters. The bigger the vehicle, the more rights it has. The bicycles were also numerous and often carried loads of pipe, furniture, computer monitors or computer units. There was a white line down the center of the road, but it might as well not be there because everyone ignored it.

Within thirty minutes of driving we touched the highway road again. When you get on the highway, it is generally for a short vacation, holidaying or any stress buster event. Mind always wanders thinking of the good time ahead and this hinders concentration and focus. This becomes more relevant during the night hours as the highways are poorly lit and often one encounters a serpentine queue of trucks and lorries flashing headlights on high beam.
We made sure that we were alert on all these fronts and took regular breaks to charge ourselves.The hi-tech dhabbas managed by Reliance adjacent to the fuel stations, impressed me a lot and these are better than few I have seen abroad in terms of facilities and maintenance. After long hours of drive, we halted at a roadside daaba for our dinner at around 12 in the midnight.

The paan shop outside didn’t have the regular supplier as it was pretty late but I could find a big inventory of "Bisleri" water bottles stacked in the racks. No wonder, days are not far when Bangalorites would need these, and get these from nearby places, considering the way the city is expanding and the heavy demand for water in the coming years.

Finally we reached Bangalore at three o’clock in the morning and had a few hours of rest and then again back to normal scheduled life.

Sometimes it is hard to make documentary-style footage, after having seen so much of natural diversity, that it goes a long way toward breaking the ice. I've written way too much again, so I'll sign off. But but but for your info, exchanging with you some chumma talk we have over coffee....

Hari, a smart dude was recently complemented by someone that he resembles Saurabh Ganguly, is definitely an artist in his area of work. Yes he possesses the same flair, brilliance and style as dada when he gets into his arena. His first wife is his laptop, and he is not satisfied with using one that he runs a desktop next to his laptop. The usage of double system is simple while he can do his architecture and solution design on one, he can develop and run his programs on the other with intermittent sessions of chat and blogs/news reading. One day while chatting over coffee, he said "Abbe apna life tau time pass hai re", not anymore dude. Leave work early for a change, go out and spend healthy time with Swati, my free tip, what's that. Hehehe.... Dost shine on and best wishes to you as always for anything and everything you do.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Festivals of Colors.

Festivals means joy and celebrations but what about a festival 'full of colors', Holi. In India, especially north India this festival is celebrated with more energy and enthusiasm. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, there are mock-dramas of Krishna trying to break the pots and steal the butter. Hundreds of songs have been screened on this theme in Bollywood. In Eastern part of India like Bengal and Orissa, Holi is called Dol Yatra (the Swing Festival) in which idols of Krishna and Radha are placed on swings and devotees take turns to swing them. In South India, Holi is called Kamavilas, Kaman Pandugai and Kaman-dahanam. The legend prevalent in South India is that of Kamdev, the Love God (the Hindu equivalent of Cupid), who moves through the woods in the season of Spring, aiming his passion tipped arrows that pierce the heart at all who cross his path, from his bow made of sweet sugarcane strung with humming bees.

Picking and smacking artificial colors from roadside vendors or Holi parties by drinking bhang, Thandai and eating lots of Holi special sweets just on the name of 'Bura na mano holi hain' which means don’t mind its Holi, is the way Holi is celebrated.

But slowly this all this is getting diluted. The media constantly needs something new to write about. The advertiser needs an occasion to sell. What better occasion for the two to get together to give us "Holi Bonanzas", "Holi Discounts and special offers", "Holi Contests", Holi anything and everything. Holi cards are becoming increasingly popular. And it's all in the marketing.

Today morning I got my customary weekend long-hour call from my elder brother in US. He was telling me about his plans of celebrating Holi along with his friends, my relatives and cousins out there in Chicago. He asked me about my plans for the day, and that’s when my mind just went blank. The reason is this.

I opened my cupboard where all my clothes are stacked and scanned through all my T-shirts and then sat motionless, numb like a piece of log. I searched my mobile and was able to trace the number and called, "Uggi’s" maa who treats me like his own son. A simple call to her is like a reassuring hug of warmth and of an invisible power, which I can’t put my words into but I do feel it definitely. How idiotic of me that I didn’t speak to her for long and I feel bad about that today.

Anyways, wish you all a very Happy and Colorful Holi. I sincerely wish that this festival brings in your life, goodwill and vibrancy, which is what the true spirit of Holi is.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Cricket Is More Than A Game

The Cricket World Cup is just round the corner and cricketers along with their fans across the globe are waiting eagerly as the biggest event of the game takes center stage on March 9, 2007 in the West Indies.

The game of Cricket is not just a game but a "religion" which drives 1.2 billion people into a state of frenzy once the men in blue are on the field. Introduced in India as a rich man's game, today there is hardly any place in India or any heart in the Indian diaspora that is not infected by its tentacles. "Lagaan", a period film’s script was written with the intention of appealing to the contemporary viewer, particularly the cricket buff about this shift from a phirang aadmi’s game to aam bharatiya game. The country comes to an abrupt stop when a cricket match is being played, the roads are deserted, parties and weddings are postponed, operations in hospitals are rescheduled, parliament goes in for early closing, work schedules at offices are re-planned,etc.

The World Cup is like a festival for us. The craze, the frenzy, the excitement and a feeling of patriotism reaches its pinnacle during this time. Every Indian is soaked in the tricolor whether in his/her attire or spirit. All cricket fans bond with each other ignoring all differences of caste, creed, color or religion. Just about everyone becomes an expert discussing each and every aspect of the game. Like, I myself follow the game but am not an ardent follower or die hard cricket fanatic. But what charges me is the spirit and the liveliness of the fans. Someone holding a transistor in a busy local bus or the busy Mumbai local trains or near a chai shop to know the latest score. They shout for their team and pray for one single cause – An Indian win with a wide spectrum of human emotions on display. Isn’t it amazing! So much so that the drama of the game continues off the pitch, and in recent weeks, the marketing and the branding fraternity has not left any stone unturned in cheering for the men in blue. This is exactly what "Nike", the official apparel sponsor for Team India did in its latest AD.
"Nike has signed a 43-million-dollar deal to kit out the Indian cricket team after outbidding rivals Reebok and Adidas, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said.

The five-year contract, which starts on January 1, 2006, also gives the US sports goods giant the rights to sell the BCCI's official merchandise at its retail outlets across the country.

Nike's bid for 1.97 billion rupees (43 million dollars) topped Reebok's 1.19 billion rupees and Adidas's bid of 1.28 billion rupees, BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi said on Friday."

The AD is a little to long and can be bracketed as a short movie snippet. It starts with a typical Indian scene, a traffic jam something very common in all Indian cities and the city that is highlighted is Mumbai, home to some of the best cricketers the world has ever produced. It’s like "I think cricket, I drink cricket, I breathe cricket". One go-getting boy jumps on to the roof of a bus while another gets on to an adjacent bus and thus the virtual cricket pitch is formed instantly. The game starts amidst the crowd trapped in the traffic blockade. The batsman hits the ball hard and like a projectile it hits a hoarding and then a balcony and after passing through ‘N’ number of hands, the ball suddenly gets under a moving car and one of the fielders risks his life to collect the ball. Note the elephant there in the video, I feel it symbolises the Rising Elephant economy growing at a rate of more than 8% a year. Watch more here, aaram se.

North-south, east-west, rich-poor, men-women, rural-urban, Hindu-Muslim, a craze bordering on madness unite the nation when it comes to cricket. I have one of my cousins, studying in standard seven in the US who asks me for the blue T-shirt of Indian cricket team incase he doesn’t travel to India once a year. It’s a must-buy in his list when he is in Bangalore, else I have to send it somehow may it be by post or through some person. The reason, my cousin wears this blue T-shirt whenever India plays any important cricket match. Few call this craziness but even though he is born and brought up in the US, he is still soaked with cricket-mania.

The matches, the highlights, the strike-rates, the pre-match predictions, the post-match analysis, the schedule, the records, the cricketing histories, and other nitty gritties of the game would be feeders for all forms of media such as newspapers, blogs and television in the coming few days. So let me leave that part here and get into some interesting stuff.

India's latest pace sensation Sreesanth is all set to rock cricket fans. It is not his bowling that I am talking about here [though I want that too], but his song, the lyrics of which he wrote himself. His 6-year old niece lends a seraphic tone to the song. Watch more here.
"It is a motivational song that gives a feeling that the whole nation is there for the team to support them in their ups and downs. It gives a dream that we are going to win the World Cup."
"The song has to be there on the lips of all Indians at the Caribbean grounds to motivate the players," Sreesanth adds.

How can you think of the World Cup and forget noodle strap, Mandira Bedi who will once again anchor Extra Innings on SET. This time she will drape herself in saris, specially designed by fashion house Satya Paul. So from noodle strap to no strap, rest all hoooo la la lee le ho hoooo la la lee le ho. The saris will be auctioned by online website eBay after the mega event and will include flags of the participating nations, signatures of players, a red cricket ball, newspaper mastheads and cricket figurines.

Mandira Bedi has also acted in a movie "Meerabai Not Out" made by her husband Raj Kaushal. Meera, a 30-year-old lady is a teacher in a school, hails from a middle class family, which lives in Mumbai's Shivaji Park, the mecca for budding cricketers. Since she is 30, she is in a kind of a set-up where she seems to have missed the boat as far as marriage is concerned. Of course, her family is still on her case to get her married soon but she is not interested; her first love being cricket.

The World Cup has always been garnished with spicy anecdotes, which make it even more interesting. From the dressing room gossips to the food to the late nightouts if one is across the other side of the Caribbean, everything becomes the flavor of the season. The fans just go crazy and the media, the sponsors even the restaurants all over, try to score on it. Like it happened to me yesterday. I along with two of my friends, started for a late night dinner in some restaurant near my residence. We heard some loud music before entering the food hall, only to realize that something special was happening in a pub, "The Legends of Rock" adjacent to the dinning hall. To satisfy our curiosity we barged into the pub only to find that a live coverage of cheering hangama for the Indian Team being shot by Headlines Today, one of the leading news channel of India today. This was part of the cheering campaign before Team India left for the West Indies on Feb 28th’07.

The time has arrived yet again and it would be no different. The game of cricket would be at its glorious best along with its favorite sons aiming for the trophy. This tournament has always been a test of team spirit and the ability to perform under pressure. At the end of the day, the team, which displays power, performance and passion for the game, would be the ultimate winner. So let’s get set, all equipped with our lucky charms, anthems and prayers to be with our teams as the battle begins.

By the way, do you know what is the official song for World Cup 2007? It’s 'The Game of Love and Unity', sung by Jamaican-born reggae star Shaggy, Barbadian entertainer Rupee and Trinidadian Faye-Ann Lyons. Yes it’s the same old Grammy Award winner, Shaggy, best known for his hit singles Oh Carolina, It wasn't me, Angel and many others.

Khel ke maaidan pe kuch rishte baneiynge, kuch rishte tutaiynge, kuch kwaab sajeegee, kuch umedaiyain bhi, paar TEAM INDIA, kuch kar guzroo ish baar, dekhado 1983 ke woh jalwaee....

Cross-posted at Desicritics here.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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