Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Poruchcha Kuzhambu

It does get frustrating to cook the same things and have it time and again. So, that's when I decided that for a change, I will look into something different. I got the recipe for Poruchcha Kuzhambu from India and decided to experiment with it. It is always a 90-10 ratio of getting a dish right. Come on! We are staying in the United States for ten months now and that's already a good learning experience as far as cooking is concerned. Even if it goes the other way (I am referring to the ten per cent chance), we have no other choice than to eat it up. To be honest, it is not a bad proposition to eat it even if it is not as good as the way it comes at home. On a lighter vein, I tell my friends Nowadays, I can mix up rice even with sauce and eat it! I know that's a lot of exaggeration and we are not bad cooks either.

Luckily, the dish turned out pretty well and the two vessels of kuzhambu that I made got over in no time. Don't hesitate to ask me for the recipe. It is not everyday that I get to teach somebody how to cook!

Friday, March 24, 2006

St. Pat's Weekend!

Last week, when India was playing with colours, Rolla was in a frenzy. It was the St. Pat's weekend and it is the biggest event here in Rolla. People look forward to this event three months in advance and the planning is done well ahead of time. I wouldn't mention about the history of the event. You can look up here! The St. Pat's parade was held on 19th March, Sunday. The Pine street was lined with people all along the way. We were there to watch the parade at 11 AM. I couldn't stick on for the entire duration of the parade, but here I am posting the snaps of what unfurled that day!

It was a good weekend in Rolla with a green atmosphere all around. By and large, we could get four days' off to break our head for the next week! As always, it is a pain to include a specific set of photos when you have around 300 photos to chose from. I wish I had a project manager to help me select what I need. After all, what are Project Managers for!! Now, now I am not getting nostalgic or am I?

Pristine Water

Impinging the elements of natural catastrophe with the veil of darkness created by man cannot wreak more havoc for the sufferers. The early twentieth century was never a period of ease for the widows when the so called religious officianados imposed restrictions that was stretched to no scalable limits. The pall of gloom for a married woman on having lost her better half was compounded by the misery of having to live the remaining part of her life in treacherously outrageous conditions. All this in the name of religion hounded by the devils of yesteryears!

Water captures the essence of life from a widow's perspective. The film, set on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi portrays the stringent atmosphere prevailing in what could be hailed as the most conservative and orthodox period in Indian history. Talking about the old customs, the legacy carried on from the old generations stifled the masses into obscurity. The story starts off with the nine year old girl Chuiya, played by Sarala being left in a widows' home(Ashram) by her father. Embracing widowhood at a time when not even knowing the meaning of husband and family is menacing. She is left in the lurch (rather discarded) by her family, though she lives with the hope that one day she would return back to her home. There, she strikes chord with the beautiful Kalyani played by Lisa Ray. A person who is at the zenith of his life when begins his final walk, the overlap is really difficult to handle. Such is the state of Chuiya and Kalyani. They are exposed to eventualities commissioned by the brutal force of the unheeding society. The head of the ashram is an old woman, Madhumati, played by Manorama, and her perception towards these people is not any friendly. Her only friend is the pimp Gulabi, played by Raghubir Yadav whose main job is to sell Kalyani as a sexual object. On the ghats one day, Kalyani meets Narayan, played by John Abraham. The stigma on the widows in the society poses a major restriction to break the ice between Kalyani and Narayan. Though both are attracted by the other's presence, both of them are not able to cross the lines. Narayan is a broad minded individual, a nationalist, follower of Gandhiji's ideals and his overtones are more for a rationalistic society with better living conditions for the widows. His argument with the friend goes thus If you are married to a girl, and when she dies, if you are snatched away of all your rights, would it be fair? is very realistic and thought provoking. Seema Biswas as one of the widows is brilliant. She is caught between the two worlds - that she is a widow and her fear that she is not one. When one of the old ladies in the house dies, she tells Chuiya, I hope atleast in her rebirth, she would be born as a human being. That explains her pent up emotions that is concealed by her tough exterior.

Will Kalyani and Narayan meet up in the final phase? Will Narayan's family concede to his demands? Will both of them be able to break the social barrier? Will Chuiya go back to her mother? Will there be a radical change in the outlook of the society? Get the answers to these questions by watching this brilliantly crafted movie. Deepa Mehta has taken up a very sensitive issue and her portrayal of the sufferance of the unfortunate section is really touching. I think the religious communalists should have waited before they froze Deepa Mehta's sets in Varanasi. This prompted her to shoot the movie in Sri Lanka with totally a different cast. The original cast had Shabana Azmi playing Seema Biswas' role. Nandita Das and Akshay Kumar were supposed to play Lisa Ray and John Abraham's role. Lisa Ray is truly enchanting and her inner conflict to break the chains is clearly depicted. John Abraham after his meaningless tryst with conventional movies has essayed out a stellar performance. But the real highlight of the movie is the young girl, Sarala adorning the role of Chuiya. The mischievous gleam in her eyes, coupled with childish innocence and maturity well beyond her years sticks to mind for a long time. The plight, the anguish, the pain, the sorrow and her helplessness causes her to accept what she has to undergo. Truly a fantastic performance. The background music by Mychael Danna is fantastic and so are the songs by AR Rahman.

The Indian audience should keep its fingers crossed to get an opportunity to see this brilliant movie. It would set the minds rolling to see what thresholds have been cleared en route a clear society.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Holi He...

It was Holi, the festival of colours and everyone was in good spirits. We, at Rolla celebrated Holi this year too by the Schuman Lake. It was freezing but nobody was complaining. The Holi colours were purchased in Chicago. Everyone tore open the colour packets and started spraying it around on others in glee. It was supposed to be a dry Holi celebration. We weren't supposed to splash water simply because of the sub-zero temperature. But nobody was listening. People got cans to fill water from the lake to wet others. More than the colours, it was the water we had to escape from. I reached the venue about fifteen minutes late and by that time, all the colours were depleted. I had to bear the wrath of the cold water and I was literally freezing. Then I saw my friend standing. She was literally numb, thanks to the buckets of water poured. She was immediately whisked from the place by others. I realised I was lucky to be late.

After the Schuman lake, the crowd headed to the South West Bell Center(SBC) to have a snack. The menu was Pav Bhaji, Congress Masala and Laddu. Of course, people went home for a changeover.

By the way, Who will be cleaning the Schuman Lake if everybody went to SBC? So, we had to immediately find people who could do this. I along with four others got stuck with the task of cleaning up the colours. Believe me, it is no easy task!

After about an hour and a half of hectic cleaning, we headed to the SBC to have our fill of all the goodies! It was another fun filled day at Rolla away from the usual blues! If you are wondering why there are so many pictures on cleaning, your guess is as good as anybody else's - I was a part of the cleaning!!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

ISC Day...

Any international event here is never complete without the Indian community taking part. India is a part and parcel of the Rolla life.

I guess that's what is happening even at the international level. We are going miles ahead! Last week we celebrated the ISC day. ISC by the way stands for International Students Council. This is one of the important events held every year showcasing the cultural aspect of many countries. The work leading to the event was hectic.

We had to collect the traditional and Indian items from many people here in Rolla. The whole point is everyone had to be convinced that their items would be returned in exactly the same way as we have borrowed it. That's a tough promise and the problem is even the lenders know it! That doesn't mean we did not return the items back. It was given back to them on time.

We also prepared a collage on India. This required a lot of efforts, collecting pictures on everything associated with India. It involved two nights of hard labour to stick the pictures in the right place and get it to shape.

There were a lot of exhibits that we displayed. Others were really dumbstruck at the amount of stuffs we had gathered. Even the cultural show was truly amazing in the end.

It was a great opportunity to interact with people from other countries and view their exhibits. It was a great learning experience and truly fun-filled.

The Indian food as usual went down well with the masses. The menu from India was Jeera Rice and Malai Kofta! Slurp! Slurp! The Indian stall was awarded the first prize for the exhibits. The Malai Kofta ranked second in terms of the popularity. The first rank was missed by 10 votes out of 600 votes. Totally it was a great day with a lot of fun!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Road Not Taken

Poems and quotes have always had a big impact in my life. Some of them have moved me so much that they have remained embedded in my mind for a long time. I am sure they are unforgettable. Robert Frost highlights the indecisiveness shared by so many of us at different points in life. Even today, there are so many interpretations one can guage from this poem. I have read it innumerable times and each time I have learnt something from it. A masterpiece from Frost reads thus:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

According to me, every word worth etching in gold!!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Simple but effective

Nagesh Kukunoor has this uncanny ability to generate the best out of "The Common Man". His themes are effectively simple and reflects the day to day activities of an officegoer, householder, student or any other from a similar walk of life. Hyderabad blues, Bollywood Calling and others portray a story that is very much inherent within the masses and for the masses.

Iqbal is a heart warming story of an individual who wants to make it big in the world of cricket. In today's competitive world, it is very difficult to stick to a goal. It is as easy to forget what you want in life when you realise what you want. Perplexing sentence but that's the truth. A vision encompassed within your mind should not just be confined there but forced into action. How many of us live for a cause? Nagesh Kukunoor depicts the life of a deaf and dumb individual who fights against all odds and pursues what he wants devoutedly. Hailing from a typical Indian middle class rural background, he has to find his way through the drudgeries of poverty, corruption, influence and affluence to realise his dreams. How does he end up doing it forms the backdrop of this brilliant movie.

I have no idea of the actors except for Girish Karnad and Naseeruddin Shah. Both are talented and versatile actors and there is nothing much to say about them. They have essayed their role just as they normally do. Perfect and slick! But what about the guy who plays the role of Iqbal. He is Shreyas Talpade. One gets the feeling that he is a seasoned actor and this is his nth movie. Iqbal's sister is played by Shweta Prasad. The first scene that she entered I wondered who this girl was with those horn-rimmed spectacles. But her love for her brother with her crisp dialogue delivery left me wishing for a sister! The background music is fantastic and so are the lyrics for the songs.

Overall a brilliant movie with fine acting display. Not the usual run of the mill kind and definitely a movie with a message. This movie definitely conveys a positive message unlike...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Short Stories...

In the middle of the night,
I woke up with a fright,
There it was, a lion;
Chasing down my spine,
Thankfully, my friend was ahead in the line

He was a thief of Bhagdad
He snatched everything on his way
Finally the officials had their prey
He had nothing to say
And now, all he could do was pray!

A bus driver it is I wanted to be
Carrying people with all their load
But today, immersed in a sea of code,
It is just not clear, my road!

He was a romantic fool,
Portraying himself to be cool,
Spending all he could for her,
Thinking all the time that she was his
But soon, he had to find another Miss!

An exam I had to write,
A lot of questions filled the page,
I knew none I could get right
Fixed on others, my sight
I just could not end my plight!

After a long time, a movie,
How I wish I didn't see
All the time, the hero,
Behind the lady, he zeroed,
Oof! It blared, the stereo!

I did it for the first time,
The feeling was great,
It was the moment of ectasy,
I knew I had to do it again,
A perfect balance on my cycle!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Hyped beyond proportions

I have always maintainted that watching a movie which has a lot of hype and hoopla will always end in disaster and Rang De Basanti is no different. A movie which backtracks to the heroics of Bhagat Singh and his group ends up in histrionics translated by the present day characters. A movie while all the time talks about conveying a message is in reality a farce. The sad part is people are influenced by the movie for all the wrong reasons. The movie is interwoven with a lot of amusing moments, but when a movie conveys a message that is not good with the current system in the society, one has to take it with a lot of indigestion.

It is not an easy prospect to watch a latest Hindi movie in Rolla. We have to make plans days in advance starting from booking the tickets online, hiring a cab and looking for a guy who can drive around to the multiplex. The worst part is that you will be losing the entire day off for the movie. So, we do not go for the run of the mill movies. We wait and decide to take the plunge only based on the response. Like others, we had to toe the line to watch this GREAT movie. The expectations were soaring from each one of us.

I wouldn't be going in depths about the story of the movie as I guess it is most talked about. Every Tom, Dick and Harry takes pleasure in citing that it is a different kind of a movie. What is the director trying to convey here? If you are not happy with the system, kill the guys involved in the system to cleanse it. Is this what he is trying to project after having made comparisons to the martyrs of the Indian Freedom Movement. Truly, you must be joking Mr. Mehra! What the martyrs did was not for a personal cause. They did it for the country. A personal vendetta cannot be compared to a social cause. I totally agree that we have a lot of flaws in the system and that we can't change them overnight. Mehra could have projected the loopholes in the system and come up with more realistic ways of eliminating the weak points.

I think how a movie fares depends to a large extent on the media. It is the media that creates or destroys the movie and when the critics are penning their points, they should have an unbiased scale in rating a movie. When movies like Swades and Yuva fail to generate good reviews among the critics, then I don't see the reason for Rang De Basanti getting good reviews. All these three movies are running on parallel lines and it beats me why the other two failed to excite the critics. Ashutosh Gowariker had come up with a movie that could stir the feelings of passion and patriotism towards the country. Mani Ratnam proved a point by representing the youth as the next big forward step in Indian politics. I can't think of a similar parallel for Rang De Basanti. There was a void at the end of the movie.

On an overall note, there were some terrific moments in the movie. That particular scene where Aamir Khan realises that he has done nothing for the sake of the country is brilliant. All that that has been confined to his heart gushes out, and he painstakingly realises the flaws in the system. That to me was the unbeatable scene of the movie. It was really moving to see Aamir Khan express his anguish and the strain is easily noticeable in his acting. The rift in the community is clearly exposed and the way Mehra handles it to show to the masses that it is wrong to have communal prejudice is very well handled. Music by AR Rahman is once again delightful. His tunes grow on you on repeated hearing. Luka Chuppi is the song of the album for the music, lyrics as well as for its significane in the movie.

Overall a watchable movie and it is entirely dependent on the individual as to what he takes after the movie.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Functions and Operators

Don't get perturbed by the title. Simple maths to understand this is more than enough. I was in a daze in Dr. Kosbar's class listening to signal space representation of signals and other stuff. And then, there was a mention of Maths. He came up with a good one!

A function is travelling in a dark alley with a lot of money. An operator comes up to the function and asks the function to give all the money. The function refuses to give the money. So the operator says that if the function doesn't give the money, it will differentiate it. The function is not perturbed. It says "Hahaha! I am e ^x(e to the power of x)". The operator is not perplexed. Guess why?

The operator says: I am d/dy!!!!

What do you say for that???