Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Wishes...

We wept, we cried, we lost, we gained, we fell, we stood up, we were bewildered and confused, we tripped the light fantastic toe, we learnt, we un-learnt, we made mistakes, we made strong allegiances and also pointed fingers at our foes, we rebelled, we read, we blogged, we traveled, we consumed, we foundered, we made headway, we dreamt, we innovated, we embarked the ride on global recession's whammy, but as the year comes to an end we got apprehensive about what next.

Arre, whatever be it, just 'Yes We Can' is my slogan, your song, as is Obama's hope, that today ricochets across the Web. Two brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis founders of JibJab, have put a short video which chronicles some of the major tales of this year.

I wish you, your family and friends a very Happy New Year. A beaming smile, a warm embrace and lots of good wishes to you all. You know why? Because you are simply the best in whoever and whatever you are. My simple gift for you with my first attempt on animation juxtaposed on one of the pics taken long back.

New Year Wishes

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Monday, December 29, 2008

The White Tiger...

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, starts off in an unusual format as a series of letters addressed to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of China by a Bangalore-based entrepreneur, Ashok Sharma spread over a span of seven nights. The Chinese Premier is excited to learn how India is able to churn out so many entrepreneurs in spite of so many stumbling blocks in various domains of life.

Apparently, sir, you Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don’t have entrepreneurs. And our nation though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs.

In short this is the story of the transformation of a man born as a servant to the rich and elite, from Munna to Balram Halwai to Ashok Sharma, the successful entrepreneur. The story is narrated in a one-to-one conversation format with few relevant touches of wit, sarcasm and dark humor. The first person narration is simple and straight-forward.

The main protagonist of the story is born and brought up in a remote North Indian village. To meet the needs of his family, he drops out of school at the age of eight to work in a tea shop. Well a different godsend script is composed for him, to leave the village and become the chauffeur for a rich family. In his chequered career as a chauffeur, Balram Halwai sees life from different perspectives, the good, the bad, the ugly, the honest, the dishonest, the corrupt, the moral, the immoral, the jugaad flocks, the maain baap generation and lots more. Finally he decides to make a 'U' turn in his life and that's when he commits the murder of his master, for nothing else but money. The money he acquires by killing his master is siphoned for his entrepreneurial venture, running a cab company in India's technology and outsourcing hot seat, Bangalore. In short this is the story.

So now you can make out why the title of the book is 'The White Tiger'. Just as the white tiger is a very rare species among animals found in the jungle, so is Balram Halwai a very uncommon individual found in the sea of darkness, who crafts and designs his own blueprint for the road ahead.

On the outside it seems that the author has an excellent understanding of the economic changes and its effect of lifestyle, the oft-discussed topic of outsourcing, the class and caste differences in the society and many such related topics. But deep dive a bit and it has a storyline replete with the clichéd images and reflections, written to live up to the expectations of the western audience. The image of once-upon-a-time, the country of darkness, still retaining its share of darkness.

I don't deny the fact that the country is home to cases of brutal injustice, dirty corruption, victimization of the underprivileged by the rich. But but creating a painting on canvas in which each and every stroke of the paint brush portrays an image of extremity gives a very bland taste and a superficial touch to the entire framework. It smells of an outsider's view from a desi's quill.

Set aside these, the author is remarkably skilled in characterization of the people who dictate the plot. The language is very simple, non highbrow and straight-forward. But at certain segments of the plot, I found that the author was struggling with his script and has used repetition of events as fillers.

'I drove the Mongoose to the railway station and got him his favorite snack, the dosa once again, from which I removed the potatoes, flinging them on the tracks, before handing it over to him.'

The above few sentences with mild variations have been mentioned five to six times in the plot, each time the protagonist, Balram Halwai goes to drop another character, the Mongoose at the railway station.

Overall it was an ok-ok-sort of book to read. Rather it was my fault that I had lot of uber expectations from the book, considering that it won the Booker Prize for the year 2008. But one thing, I am very sure about, if Chetan Bhagat's books storyline could form the plot for Bollywood movies, then Adiga's, 'The White Tiger' can definitely book for an eligible Bollywood movie script.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nothing special...

Is there something special about this pic? Does this qualify for a snapshot or a photograph? You decide and tell me.


I just look it early morning on a foggy day, when I was on vacation. The owner of the car had parked his broken-down car, Ambassador, don't think it is manufactured any more these days.

Few details about this pic.

Time : 7:00 A.M. on a foggy day.
Exposure Time : 1/60 or 0.017 seconds
Aperature : f/5.6
ISO : 320
Metering Mode : Matrix
Exposure : Manual

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Monday, December 22, 2008


How many times did my uncle, tell me the story of how the universe was formed. With his index finger he would draw the line of a rainbow through the air and tell tales about it's formation in the aftermath of light rainfall, with the sun still shining bright. I still remember, I was in standard two or three then and whenever my uncle realized that concepts were not settling distinctly in my mind, he would pull an edition of Britannica encyclopedia from the book rack and show me the details.

Well, he was to me, my Poppins uncle. I used to visit his house on Saturdays after school, (we used to have half day school on Saturdays) and return back on Sunday night, so that the regular school routine from Monday was not neglected. Every time when I used to leave his place, on a Sunday night, it was a sad faced me, tears rolling down my eyes and a tantrum-filled goodbye. This man, in his late 50s then was a member of the teaching faculty in one of well known technical institutes in India, National Institute of Technology, Rourkela.

I always felt the separation anxiety while leaving on Sunday nights for a number of reasons. First and foremost was, Monday means back to school, getting streamlined for the regular monotonous life again. Other than that, those two days spent in the college campus were literally doses of middle class pampered treatment. Those who have seen any of the IITs or National Institute of Technology or IISc campus, can appreciate better, when I saw the campus is vast, open, lush green, widespread and Brobdingnagian. These are mini townships in themselves and the staff quarters are generally situated in one corner of the unit. Staff quarters have open space and the garden within each quarter's boundary provided the perfect pitch for a game of cricket, cycling, and just run around among the guava, mango and litchi trees playing hide and seek. At evenings, rush to the college campus open-air theater and watch a movie, (am sure this is sort of a ritual in every good campus, of screening movies on weekends at night) and fall asleep in my uncle’s lap half way through the movie.

More than all these, he was one who taught me to write perfectly within the four lines in my notebook to master cursive writing. He was never a teacher to me, just that I felt it more fun and interesting to do something when he asked me to do so. He was the one who instilled in me the pleasure of reading since I was a kid, grew up with Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys books, Tintin and Amar Chitra Katha comics, National Geographic Society magazines, etc.

My downhearted and blue departure from his place on a Sunday night was always buoyed up by a simple gift from my uncle every time. Yes, it's every time. A pack of Poppins and a bar of 5-Star chocolate. So don't you feel, it was pampering, when I had to request my parents many a times to get this share of candies during a 5 day week's time. Fullto masti, reading comics, encyclopedia and no school books, cycling, watching movie in the college campus (cable TV by then was not popular), visiting engineering labs full of boilers and machines such as lathes, drilling machine, etc and last but not the least a pack containing 10 differently colored, button shaped candies. What more do you need?

So that was Poppins uncle to me and to this day, I call him by the same name, though both of us have grown in the past 19 years or so. A couple of weeks back when I saw him at a family function after a long long gap, found that he had grown old, could see wrinkles on his face, hair gone white and he had adorned all the symbols of aging. That's natural, but what I liked about him is that still he is youthful at heart.

True to his keen appreciation for books and keeping in mind the childhood days, he had gifted my elder brother, a book on the eve of his marriage. I even overheard what he transpired to my brother when he handed over the gift in the crowd of guests who had gathered for the reception party.

'I am really proud of you and the kind of individual you have grown up to. Work hard, be smart and make sure that you have a nice life ahead with your partner for life. I also recommend you to open this pack and there is something special inside this. Make sure to read 'this' when you settle back at Chicago'.

Later on, when my brother opened the pack, it was this, a book. Just shows how thoughtful someone can be. Perfect cursive writing.

Imagining India

And there was another small pack, and it had 20 packs of Poppins. A small note was there saying that it was for us brothers. It said 'Even today, the taste of orange, lemon, strawberry, black currant or the pineapple flavored sugary buttons of Poppins is the same, what it was when you were kids.'

Still the words keep resonating in my mind.

Because we live in an age of gross accumulation, flash and displayism. Anything big and showy when it comes to gifting draws more attention. Think 'Bada Hai Toh Behtar Hai', it's the size, the bigness that matters AD from Videocon. But still there are things that generate more compassion and warm sensitivity when it comes to gifting. All it needs to select one of those are attitude, an attitude to embrace the good things of life and in a wordless way of telling someone how much they mean to you or what you think of him/her/them.

This brings to my mind, an unforgettable gift, that one of my friends, a retired newsman and reporter, GV Krishnan had given his friend, Kini. Can you make a wild guess what was that? It was a B2B gift. I know your mind would have thought Business-2-Business for the word B2B, but it stands for Blog-2-Blog. It's the tale of two friends who are now in two different corners of the world but started their career in reporting decades back traveling round the globe.

Kini and I had lost touch with each other when we were still young, wild and experimenting in London. When reconnected, we found ourselves wizened by age, hassles of living, and, in Kini's case, by an incurable ailment. Our re-connect dates back to a mail from him well over a year back, informing me of a change of address. He had shifted base from London (where he had spent four decades) to a chalet bungalow in Herne Bay, Kent - "a geriatric land where one is more likely to see dear old ones scooting around on electric-scooters than young lads on noisy motorbikes". The real message was in Kini's sign-off line that read - 'Uncertainty and hope fills my life at present'.

The complete B2B series is here. Check those, perfect tapestry with words.

Now since this is the time of the year, when people exchange gifts, what gift are you giving me? A pack of Poppins, 'Doooin kya'

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Little Fluffy Cotton Candies...

Since we were kids, we always wanted to fly. Fly high above, to see how the earth looks from above and to swim in the clouds. We were taught about different varieties of clouds such as the Cumulus, Stratus, Nimbus and Cirrus. I guess there were lots more but I can re-collect these for now. We used to draw neat diagrams in our Geography workbooks when there were anything related to clouds and I even read the book 'Around the World in 80 Days' always thinking when I will get a chance to fly and go places as Phileas Fogg did.

Hailing from a regular middle class family, I never got an opportunity to fly until I completed my graduation. But still at my early 20's then, for me the clouds meant blotches and patches of cotton puffs floating high up defying the laws of gravity.

Cotton Candies or Clouds

The lessons taught in science that clouds are just aggregates of water vapor would sound so fictitious and un-real. It just meant sufficient cotton candies were sprinkled at a higher altitude to gratify all my buddies and school friends when I was a kid.

Ear plugs please. If you have heard of an English electronic music group, The Orb, the above piece is one of their most popular one, composed in 1990. Its again 'Little Fluffy Clouds'.

Later on as time passed, travel became a regular part of my life and I flew miles and miles and saw some of the best panoramas sitting by my flight's window seat. Flying above the Nordic nations during the dying winter season at an early hour when the sun is dressed in its robe of sybaritic lavishness, had offered me some of the best sights of the earth close to the North Pole. Other than that every other city within my country and outside, that I have traveled to offers something special to see when the flight is about to land. For example, when the flight hovered over Paris city before landing at mid-night, the entire city looks like a black bed sheet with small dots of yellow lights. In this ocean of regularity, suddenly you can see a taller and brighter yellow light and my fellow passenger, a native Paris'ian says, 'Hey that's the Eiffel Tower'.

I always opted for a window seat rather than an aisle seat. It's simple the way it works if you wish to get your choicest seat when traveling in economy class. Either stand in the queue first when collecting the boarding pass or have your frequent flying card ready. For me it worked both ways.

But have you ever thought of taking pics when you are traveling miles above the earth's surface. Try it and it's really a different experience altogether.

Flights of imagination


Some neat tips on how to make your compositions and how to take pics from your plane's window is in a blog here.

Now my mind still keeps racing to my school days when we used to make simple experiments for creating clouds. All one needs are a clear plastic jar, a small metal tray full of ice cubes, and some hot water. Fill the plastic jar till its half full with hot water. On the top lid of the jar, place the metal tray full of ice cubes. After a while one can see the cloud-like formation. What happens is really simple, the air and water vapor inside the jar near to the base of the tray are cooled and temperature falls to a level such that, the air and water vapor condense into water droplets. In a very similar format the clouds are formed in the atmosphere, air rises, cools, and water vapor present in the air condenses into clouds.

Was it too much of gyan? Ah ha, just can't imagine losing interest in the clouds. Even these days, have climbed hills and went out of treks in the early mornings before the city life sets in just to catch the clouds in my lenses. Some days it's luck and some days it's plain disappointment. Whatever be the case, old habits don't die fast and easy. Isn't it.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Missed size 10...

A couple of months ago, Steve Ballmer was treated with eggs thrown at him by a college grad while addressing an audience in an University campus. So now, it was Bush's turn. While Bush was in Iraq, delivering his farewell speech on Sunday evening in Baghdad, a man identified as an Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw shoes at him but missed it by a whisker.

Bush here acts really smart and his reflex action is superb. He dips at the right moment and evades the shoes. Well the Iraqi Premier, Nuri al-Maliki also did his bit of immediate spur-of-the-moment rescue act.

The journalist was yelling in Arabic, "This is a farewell ... you dog!" . "You killed the Iraqis!"

A little later, Bush replies to the press, "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know."

"So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?"

"Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It's one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers. ..."

More details here at BBC news.

I am sure Bush is not going to forget this farewell treatment for the rest of his life. This also sets an alarm for him to be extra cautious for his forth coming farewell addresses, which I am sure, is lined up in his schedule before he hands over his baton to Obama.

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