Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy New Year 2008

As the clock chimes 12 on Monday night to set off a frenzy of global celebrations, and as the New Year hype reaches a crescendo, we would have passed off yet another year having touched the "usual" landmarks on the way. Happy New Year mails and phone calls are exchanged to enliven the moment. It's not a moment of a lifetime, but there's a feeling of new found hope and excitement, as you look forward to life with gusto, albeit for those few moments. Though the general lifestyle of people has changed considerably over the last few years, and as technology has shaped our lives dramatically, the sameness in me has ensured that life has moved on at a steady pace in the year 2007. Personally, there is nothing much as far as I am concerned to unravel the timeline of events in the year 2007.

December 2006
The last week of December 2006 was spent with undergraduate classmates at Washington, DC, and we got back to our respective places just a day before the onset of New Year. New Year was never meant to be a charismatic event to us; it was just a time for us to get together. After much deliberation, I agreed to meet them, and that to them, had been a bigger event than the onset of the new year. Come on! I was a student then, I would say, and still say.

January 2007
It was a scary, apprehensive and a confusing start to the new year. Thesis, defense, job and other academic uncertainties loomed large in my life. Life had seemed to come to a standstill, and I was confused; I had no idea whether I was unplanned or my planning was too much. The academic life was taking a toll on me; well that's what I thought!

February 2007
Course work and research; the phase of winding up had just started. The campus was decked with decorations, as Valentine's day approached. Again, there was no difference in my life. Some of my friends were getting away, thanks to internships and Co-Ops; the first phase of branching out had started.

March 2007
Life had never been more stressful. I just had a month to go for my defense. Would March make a difference in my life? Well, thankfully, it did! The job offer had just clicked, and I was beginning to get a grip on my life.

April 2007
"Congratulations Praveen!!!" You are a Master of Science Graduate, said my Advisor, as I waited outside after the thesis defense. That was one of the unforgettable moments in my life. As with such moments, you also have to live life during the dark moments. My grandmother had breathed her last and I was pondering about the futility of foreign existence.

May 2007
Post thesis defense has been the best period of life. I slept during the day and stayed awake all night. A long overdue Seattle trip was made at the end of April. I also joined work in the middle of May to mark my second stint at work. Again, it was apprehensive to start with.

June 2007
Times Square is just great. Well, first time at New York, and it was a great feeling. I also got to see the demigod of Indian music, AR Rahman, perform in NY. Honestly, one of the biggest highlights of the year. An experience of a lifetime!!!

July 2007
Summer in New England is something that should not be wilted away. So, off we went to Rhode Island and Cape Code. Cruise Control mode!!

August 2007
Boston was after all not a bad place to live in. There was a nice group, nice set of people to hang out with, and thought life was monotonous, there was something to look forward to at the end of the day. Well, living in big cities does make a difference!

September 2007
Quick planning and quick getaways! Everything was planned on the fly, and we made an effort to see the places. The creepy winter was fast setting in.

October 2007
Another year had gone by and the birthday song was still the same. Not much had changed in the last many years, and this year was no different.

November 2007
Talk about depression, and November wins the contest hands down. Everywhere I saw, I could see only the white patches of depression in the form of snow eating away all happiness in life. There was absolutely no motivation to go outside. Sitting inside the car for those few moments before it got fully heated up can dampen even the best of spirits. Chilling!!!

December 2007
Another year gone past, and as I sit back to watch the Boxing Day test match, the expectations still rest on Anil Kumble to pick up the wickets. I still expect Rahul Dravid to score those vital overseas runs. The only difference with this Australian tour is that I don't have to get up early in the mornings and watch the matches with a muted set up. Time difference has created a slight difference!!!

As the years roll by and as the New Years' greeting pile up, different facets of life have changed considerably, but like any other thing, the usual aspects of life have moved on accordingly without affecting any real change in personality or related traits. Just like the way things haven't changed, let's move on to welcome A very Happy New Year 2008.
(Pictures used for information purpose only)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rolla; Graduation walk and Nostalgia

Pic: Graduation ceremony at Recreation Center
Life is rife with little expectations; the little things that can spruce and spice up your life in equal measure. In today's highly global world, it is not unusual to find friends in even the remotest part of the world. United States may be the largest country in the world with vast space, but every state in the US is filled with a known face. It is truly heartening to know that there is nothing to worry when you land up in a new place, because you just can't be devoid of friends. The flip side is that, with so many people in different areas, it has become increasingly difficult to find a common meet-up place. So, when you get a chance to meet up for the right occasion, we just have to make use of it totally. These little expectations may not change your life, but this fleeting passage of a quick time out together leaves you lingering for more.

Pic: Graduates seated!

So, last weekend was a great way to break the norms of life by getting together for a weekend break at Rolla, the place which can be called as the first home for all of us who graduated from UMR. Shubhika and I had booked the tickets a month ago to witness the graduation walk of some of the closest people we had studied with. Graduation ceremony may not mean much for some, but to me and many others, we view it as the highlight of the course completion program. Studying abroad, masking out whatever is happening back home, fighting out those bouts of depression that can leave you with a very troubled feeling without actually knowing the reason; the uncertainty of the future gradually transforms to something really meaningful and these moments leave you with an emotional high when you are proclaimed as a Master of Science graduate in your area of discipline. The final moment is the result of having spent the best part of your stay here with the people who matter the most; in short, friends have become your lifeline as you reach and hope for the best.

Pic: 1300, #7 once upon a time

Pic: Electrical/Computer Engineers

Boston was going through a stormy weather, not that this was infrequent, but the fact was that, this almost coincided with the time of travel. Thursday was rough, with a terrible snow storm doing the rounds, but luckily, Boston was back to normal on Friday with the sun peeping out and so, our flight was perfectly on time. The anticipation was there at both ends, for the travelers as well as for those who were at Rolla. It is easy to plan anything, but the planning from St. Louis to Rolla is something that can drive even the best Project Manager crazy. We hardly slept during the flight journey, thanks to my traveling companion. We reached the airport perfectly on time, and it was good to see the known faces from Rolla, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Chicago and Florida. We would soon catch up with the Kansas City guys later in the evening. Later, off we went in three cars to Rolla. It was the familiar stretch starting from Lambert International airport, connecting 270 and I44 interstate with Rolla. The drive on I44 brought back old memories, and as if there was no change, I helped myself with food from Gokul. It all seemed as usual; a perfect feeling of "I know everything". Exit 186 marked the home stretch to reach 101 West. It was the time to meet everyone; hugs and wishes were exchanged like never before. There were some of them whom I really wanted to meet, and it was just great to spend time with them. Friday night was very much devoid of sleep with talks extending well into the morning; the boys had so much to share.

Pic: Fun @ Graduation

The morning of the graduation ceremony witnessed a frenzy of activities with ten people clamoring all out for a single bathroom to complete the morning ablutions. Thankfully, Yadu got up early and finished up with his long process; well, I mean really long. The remaining members of the gang were ready; the time taken by Yadu and the rest of us seemed to be close! It snowed badly in Rolla, but that did not deter anyone from reaching the Multipurpose recreation center on time. It was a pleasant sight to see the hall packed, and as the graduates walked into the hall, I could sense the emotions that must be going through them. I was in exactly the same situation about eight months ago. It was great to relive the highly emotional feelings of nostalgia. We cheered loudly as one by one, the known faces went to receive the awards. It was wonderful to see Asif bestowed with the Phd degree; we roared as we saw Dr. Grant hood Asif for his efforts. It was heartening to see Pravin's and Karthik Sadanandam's parents make it to the graduation ceremony. What a proud feeling for them to see their sons walk upto the dias and receive the felicitation. It was great to spend some time with them, and it truly reminded me of my parents. It was a proud feeling for the audience to see their kith and kin, and friends, getting the right recognition for their wonderful efforts. It was also a great feeling for us (Yadu, Pavan Shivaram, Shubhika and I) to relive the graduation walk thanks to our friends.

Friends, Hearty Congratulations!!!!!

Pic: The Sadanandams, family & friends

Pic: The Dhakes

After a terrific session of post ceremony photo shoot, we went back to 101 West enroute Panera; Chai Tea Latte, black bean soup and veggie sandwiches had never tasted better before. The best way to relive Rolla days is to get involved in mass cooking, and that's exactly what we did in the evening. All of us joined in with a helping hand as Rama took up the task of making upma, Shankrannaaoww made bondas, while Chaitanya Emani got involved in making fried rice and gobi manchurian. Like the previous night, we stayed up well into the night, but my eyelids just refused to open after 4 in the morning, and so, we had to call it a day, much to the annoyance of the KCs (Karthik Chandramouli and Krishna Chaitanya Emani). Karthik Sadanandam was more worried about his flight early next morning. As always, it was great to have a heart to heart talk with him.

Pic: Venka and his sister with friends

Next day had more to do with getting ready to leave. As such Sundays are bad, and with the goodbye process in mind, the Sunday couldn't have been worse. All of us headed back to our respective destinations. The return journey was killing and depressing. It is just too tough to accept the fact that at the end of the day, all that remains are memories. Memories are the only things that remain forever, and everything else, is transient.

Photos: Rama and KC's camera

PS: Please upload your photos in Picasa and send me the link so that I can include the links here

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Kannada movie; an afterthought

My knowledge of Kannada movies was strictly limited to the single source of entertainment channel in the mid-nineties. I used to wait for the Saturday evening show (later moved to Sunday evening) eagerly, hoping I could see Annavaru Dr. Rajkumar, "rebel star" Ambareesh, "Kottigobba" Vishnuvardhan, or the Nag brothers in action. Movies were plain and simple, and it always ended in a feel good factor. I was never into watching Kannada movies in cinema halls. But as the years went by, as different channels came into existence, I could not keep up with the pace of Kannada movies; not that it was way ahead, but sadly, it had fallen way behind the standards set by its regional peers. So, I moved away from the solitary source to keep track of other things, but I still made it a point to watch the movies played on DD9, the regional equivalent of DD1, as and when I caught the Kannada movie watching mindset.

Though I am not a big fan of Upendra, he brought some entertainment value to the industry. His movies were supposedly different from the conventional mainstream Kannada cinema. Now, now, that doesn't mean that Upendra was involved in art movies; he was an out and out commercial movie maker. He found an audience cutting across all age barriers that made my friends actually talk about watching his films in the hall. That was a big thing. For some reason, watching Kannada movies in the theater was an embarrassment to many; many did not want to admit that they watched one in the theater. That was not surprising considering the fact that the number of movies that could be watched with family declined considerably with time. Unfortunately, you really had to think more than twice before you spent money on a Kannada movie. Let alone watching in the halls, some of my friends did not appreciate my watching the DD9 movies too, ridiculing me to switch to other channels. The advent of Sudeep, Ramesh Arvind and a few others spiced up the industry. There was a much needed revival of the filmdom to bring back the audience. We had to look beyond the golden era of the seventies and eighties and walk out of the shadow of some of Kannada industry's greatest stalwarts to recreate the magic of the yesteryears.

The Nag brothers - Shankar Nag and Anant Nag were a revelation on the celluloid. I have had immense pleasure watching the complete series of SP Sangliana, a cop, played to perfection by the immensely talented Shankar Nag. His potential is very much evident as he took up the directorial venture of Malgudi Days, and got rave reviews for his efforts. It was a path breaking venture, and the simple episodes were way ahead of its time, as Malgudi was captured in the simple town of Agumbe to perfection. His untimely death was a big loss to the film industry, for he could have easily gone places with his acting and direction. Anant Nag had tremendous acting abilities, just like his brother, and was one, who could leave you mesmerized with his on-screen persona. His movies - Beladingala Bale, Aruna Raaga, Gowri Ganesha and Ganeshana Madhuve are movies that can be talked for a lifetime.

After meandering along, and actually now coming to the point, the Mungaru Male bug hit us big time. Everyone was talking about the movie. Friends, who I could not dream of them watching Kannada movies, told me that it was good. Released last year, the movie was running to packed houses in sophisticated cinema halls. That was something unheard of in Kannada filmdom in recent years. Everyone whom I met, and of course, those who knew Kannada, suggested me to watch the movie. I had listened to the songs, and to say the least, they are exceptional. They left me spellbound, as my player played all the songs on a repeat basis, and more importantly, often. I desperately wanted to see this movie, either online or by procuring a DVD. Kannada DVDs are not really popular in the US, and so I had to settle for an online print. The online print was not of great quality, and so I wanted to wait, till I had the best print. Luckily, here in Boston, thanks to a sizable Kannada population, but nowhere comparable to the Telugu population, the movie was screened sometime in October. Since my fellow Kannada mate was not in Boston at that time, I gave the movie a pass and hoped to view the screening later. Luckily for me, there was a screening of the movie last week, and we (read Chetan and I) couldn't be less excited. The last time I had seen a Kannada movie in the theater felt prehistoric. The theater in Boston resembled a mini Bangalore with everyone conversing in Kannada. It was a nice way to enter the theater with a feeling Wow, so many people speaking in Kannada!

The movie was just too good. The way the screenplay and other nuances of the movie were handled was totally commendable. We had great expectations from the movie, as the word of mouth factor played a big role in its popularity, and honestly, we were not at all disappointed. The movie was certainly not out of the world, as it was handling the good old cliched subject of Indian cinema, but the way the storyline was treated really impressed us. We were struck by the picturesque locations used for filming the movie. The locales were breathtaking. The ending of the movie was what actually impressed us the most. It was absolutely realistic, with no jarry melodrama. It was plain and simple, and it really hit the mark with us. We walked away with a very good feeling - What an ending and what a movie!!!

Just like anything else, I love to bother people after a movie. I quizzed Chetan, "OK, what would you do if you feel you have met the girl of your life just a week before your marriage? Would you stall the marriage and marry the newly met girl?" I knew it was a tough question for him, but obviously, family takes precedence in life, and his answer was obviously not surprising. He asked me "What would you do?" It was not all that difficult for me "Where is that elusive first girl in my life?" Both of us laughed our way back.

As I went home and called up my Kannada speaking friends, it was not surprising that most of them had seen it, since they were the ones who recommended the movie in the first place, one of them asked me "So, what sort of a girl do you want?" I remarked "Being conservative, would obviously expect a conservative girl in my life." "Guys are never conservative; it is the girls who decide how conservative guys can be!" A thought provoking statement indeed, and I did not tax my brain as to find out whether I have to agree to that or not. At the end of the day, I was still basking in the glory of having watched a good Kannada movie in the cinema hall after ages.