Monday, December 22, 2008


It was the mid nineties, and as I was creeping up from meekness to hit the point of I know everything, my mind was seduced by one of the most romantic tunes of the decade, churned out by AR Rahman. The heroine draped in a beautiful saree, in typical South Indian style, coupled with the beautiful Kashmir background, all in glittering white snow, lent a sensuous touch to the whole romantic moment. The song and the settings went on to become a rage. Every young lad wanted to be the hero, and obviously, the lasses yearned to be loved in such an environment. It was all beautiful, and life was certainly more so. My heart and mind were reverberating with When will I experience such a moment in the snow?

Fast forward the situation by fifteen years, and I can only think of one thing, What the hell are they doing dancing around in that snow. She is just draped in a saree, and the hero is wearing a sweater; the clothes, no way sufficient by any means. Forget the romance, forget the song and dance sequence, all that I can conjure at that instant is to flee as quickly as possible, and find the nearest shelter. I no more care about such a romantic setup, and forget seduction, only dread, awe and terror can strike the romantic couple. In the current cinematic setup, and with the economic slowdown, the heroines reveal more than what they conceal. Maybe it has got to do with the textile industry too being hit by the slump, and our great directors are taking advantage of the situation. So, in such a case, it becomes hard to take your eyes away from the heroine and examine the surroundings. That's a discussion maybe I should take up on my blog some other time.

Last week was terror personified. It was as though each day was having a competition with the previous, as to which one is going to win the battle of the sub zero temperatures. The temperature was falling like the NASDAQ, the peak being well below zero. In such a scenario, I dread even to think about the troughs. Added to the traumatic effect of the abysmally low centigrade, one has to cope up with the outrageously painful wind chill factor. Imagine, at a temperature of -20 degree Celsius, one has to bear the speedy winds at about 10 or 15 miles an hour. It is worse in Chicago, and on east coast, all the more. On Sunday, I just had to park my car, climb about twenty steps from my parking spot, and get into the house. My hands had frozen, and as soon as I got home, I felt as if I was experiencing the warm effects of the sauna without even raising the temperature of the heater. The feeling of staying outdoors was equivalent to being locked in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, with the chillness factor magnified by five times. One of the worst moments, according to me, is to walk down to your car in the morning, and as your jeans makes contact with the chillness of the seat inside the car, it is as though, you are paying for your sins, in fifty births before this and fifty after this. Traumatic, truly traumatic!

Anyway, being in the mid-west or the east, you have to get used to this, as all of us cannot experience the warmth of the steady west coast weather. For the time being, let me forget all this, and expose myself to the snowy romantic song that I was referring to, Pudhu vellai mazhai, from Roja. Let me soak the effect, minus the snow, of course!!!

PS: Happy holidays!

Monday, December 08, 2008

What a victory!

What a victory! What a victory!!! I not only could see the excitement in his voice, but also in his whole body language. He was running around as though India had just won the world cup (Cricket, of course, not soccer!). For a second, I was confused and had to check up whether I was on the right website. This, neither was entertainment news and neither did it have anything to do with sports.

Anyway, I was watching the Assembly election results in six states held across different parts of India. After watching election news all these years,, I can still safely say, without any presumptions, that Prannoy Roy was simply the best in business - calm, composed, and perfect to the point, with a good team of political analysts. Now, with the advent of time, and with the advancement in technology, there is so much access to statistics online, that anything and everything is just a click of a button away. But, those days, to compile everything methodically from different sources, was more like a salesman job, running from one house to another. Today, as media has become over hyped, and always in the region of over the top reporting, the style and class of the traditionalists can still not be surpassed.

So, as my friends and I tuned into one of the channels, and saw the ultra biased reporting, it was difficult for us to fathom the fact that journalism had become so one sided. There is a thin line between reporting and taking sides, and it required no Einstein to figure out which way the analysis, if that's the term you need to use, was headed. It was just half an hour since the results started pouring in, and we were really not sure who was more excited, whether the winning party or the channel. It was as though the party spokesperson was relaying the news of the election results.

Oh, X is winning by a landslide in state Y. So, we can definitely go on to say that X is forming the government in Y without any question. After a few minutes, as the gap closes in, it was equally amusing to hear the statement. Oh, We have no doubt that X is definitely heading to be the single largest party and is all set to form the government with the help of others.

As a neutral observer, the bias was easy to notice, and on an equal footing, totally disconcerting. From time memorial, there has always been some sort of an unspoken relationship between the media and those involved in the political circles. It was visible, but not explicit, as the print media, apart from a few scribes, were careful to disguise their affinity in well worded terms. Some of the brilliant journalists made sure that they conveyed their views in apolitical terms. That truly is straight from the heart journalism. But today, as the hype beyond proportions, reaches almost all sections of the society, it is disheartening to note that media has become vocal in a completely parochial sense.

After a few minutes, we were dying to change the channel, and as one of my friends rightly said, At least for the sake of this guy, I want party X to be vanquished in all states. And, if you have been following the election results even vaguely, you don't need to be a brilliant political analyst to figure out the protagonists.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I try to keep away from current affairs on my blog, simply because, there is so much media coverage that you feel who cares about what is written here. But then, I also realize, that this statement holds good for other posts as well. Whatever said and done, my mind just refuses to forget what happened last night at Mumbai, the financial hub of India and one of the important centers of the world, where a small ripple here can cause major waves in the global market. I try to switch my mind to other things, but, invariably, and rather, involuntarily, my fingers make an impression on the keys that correspond to the different news sites across the web. I want to find out more and at the same time, get away from what's happened last night.

I am not sure whether I am getting callous. Yesterday afternoon, when I was at work, there was an update in the web space that Mumbai was caught in the midst of yet another series of blasts. Oh, God! Yet another one. I hope nobody is injured, and I continued with my day's work. I am ashamed to admit that I could not get myself to evoke a stronger reaction. The number of blasts this year has almost made me (read us) numb to the whole blasts theory. Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and this list, unfortunately, is endless. As I came home, and realized what had happened, I was filled with a sense of terror and guilt. Terror because, you expect to see all these things in an action movie, but when you see it live through the lens of a cameraman, you realize how severe the magnitude of the attacks are. When did we get involved in crossfire? Guilt, because, there is nothing that you can do about the whole thing. It doesn't matter where you stay, these are things well beyond your control. The least I could do was call up friends to find out if their families were safe.

There is a strong media coverage for a day, and magically, after a few hours of debating about the security system and other important things, we switch back our minds to the trivialities, continuing to do what we have been doing all along. Yes, we are born to live tough. We are not a perfect country. We wade through the difficulties, and try to live life, as though there was nothing that happened all along. The system immediately dubs the whole process of getting back to the routine in a phrase that brings in a sense of pride to the citizens - SPIRIT OF MUMBAI. What the hell! How many times are we going to label ourselves with the same tag? Yes, the city will come back to normal, but what about the deaths of so many people. Are we doing anything to stop the terror that gets unleashed time and again? We just cannot walk away from the scene, come back the next day, and say, Whatever happens, we just have to move on with life. Yes, we have to move on with life, but we should ensure that we at least try to avoid the same mistakes in the future. One of my friends quipped, " What are you talking about security? We are a nation of a billion people, even if a firecracker bursts in a corner, we are going to lose a hundred people!". Yes, very much true, but should this be an excuse? We have a strangling population, but we have to do something to regulate our security measures, isn't it? A simple example of how we do not care about our lives - I walk through the metal detector at the railway station; the policeman brushes me aside with a nonchalant swagger. I was not even sure whether the detector works well. At least these are things well within our control, why can't we get these things right?

Blasts apart, our politicians have more compelling issues.
  • Change the names of the cities - Mumbai or Bombay; does it even make a difference to us?
  • We have a great problem, we have to prevent the North Indians from writing railway exams.
  • Whatever happens, we are concerned with votes. Appease him, appease her, appease whoever you can, but win the elections!!!
  • Every politician has to make sure that he has something to offer, even if that means, messing up the whole situation.
Everyone of us is worried about trivialities, when we have more pressing issues on hand. The terrorists have conveyed a strong point through these attacks. What is really ironical is that all these guys want to bring peace by waging a war. We just have to do something to prevent the entry of refugees and infiltrators from our "wonderful" neighboring countries.

As I switch different channels, and try to update myself with the latest happenings, I am very well aware that the next headline would be something to do with the SPIRIT of Mumbai.  But, for now, that's exactly what I want to see, yet again!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The musical conversation

Are you going to put that piece of wood aside or not? I was really stunned to hear my wife shout at me like that. Wood? How dare she call it a piece of wood? I was not going to take it lying down.

So, I screamed out what was in my mind, How dare you call it a piece of wood? Can't you see what I am doing? For your information, this is violin, the heavenly musical instrument.

Aamam, enakkudhan onnume theriyadhu. Yeah, I am the one who doesn't know anything. She replied with sarcasm pouring out as if I was not aware of it in all these years of our marital life. It was just two years since both of us got married, but it already felt like two decades. How many times I have told you not to play the violin in front of me. I really lose it when you attach yourself to anything remotely musical.

Now, now, this was uncalled for. She had touched a raw nerve. How can she insult my musical talent? I had to give a reply. That's the reason I asked you, as well as my mother-in-law, your mother, whether you had any knowledge of the Carnatic world. I still remember your reply, and especially your mother's, Oh, Kavalaiye padadheengo, Ponnu romba pramadhama paaduva. Don't worry at all, the girl sings beautifully. But what do I get these days. I hardly open my mouth, as I spend most of my time listening to you. Sadly, it is nowhere mellifluous. In fact, I doubt your musical abilities.

Kadavule! Oh God! Yeah, I lied to you at the time of marriage. As if you were the district collector and I was not even a graduate. You were the one who said that I should have all the patience in the world to bear your cacophony. Don't you remember?

Oh come on. Music does not come easily to everyone. I definitely have the nyaanam. Don't you see how easily I can rake up the Hamsadwani?

All these days, I would listen to you through one ear, and let it all go through the other, when you start off with Vaatapi Ganapathim... Do you even understand how badly you mess up that song? Because of you, I have developed some sort of an aversion towards Hamsadwani Raagam these days. The transition is unbearable. I have grown up listening to MSS, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and Balamurali Krishna, and suddenly, when I have to listen the same from you, you can imagine how I feel towards music.

Haa! It is just some excuse. At least you have heard me sing. I have not even heard you sing. It is not enough if you have Carnatic knowledge. You should also have the courage to display it in the open. Not everybody has it.

Do you know why the pakkathaathu, neighbour, payyan, boy, has stopped coming to our house? He says that even though you teach him Maths, he cannot manage the extra few minutes of having to listen to your music. Such is the way you have scared people. Even a thief will think twice before coming to our house.

Everybody is jealous of me. I can see that. You cannot bear to see me churn out the Karaharapriya, Sindhu Bhairavi, Bilahari and the other famous Raagams. Learn to appreciate music, irrespective of who creates it.

I was not going to give up so easily. After all, music is my passion.


Can you open the door? I am busy with the strings.

As if I am not busy in the kitchen. OK, I will go, I don't want to pick up another fight with you.

It was my old friend Srinivasan. Enna Sahana, enna samayal inniki? What have you cooked today, Sahana?

As soon as he saw me, Dei, Arun, what the hell are you doing with the violin? Unakku suttu potaalum paatu varadhu!!! Why don't you ever understand that you should have nothing to do with music?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The white tiger

I had queued up a copy of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger in the public library ages ago. Last week, when I went to the library to get my copy, I realized that it was not a hard copy, but actually an audio book. I have never listened to anybody, let alone an audio book, and my spirits were severely dampened. In any case, I got the book home, and resolved to listen to it sporadically.

I was thinking about how India inflicted an ignominious and crushing defeat on the Aussies. India was well and truly on top in the entire series, and it felt weird that there was hardly a fightback from the Aussies. What a way for Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble to retire. It is just a matter of time before the other three of the fabulous five retire - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Having grown up watching these brilliant cricketers on the field, I am not sure whether watching cricket will be the same again. Test cricket without these guys will certainly not attract the "in the twenties" audience.

I don't have to reiterate that the economy is in the dumps. NASDAQ has crashed, and the SENSEX is in no enviable position. I was counting my losses, 1, 2, 3....thousands!!! Will the economy recover ever? Will the new American President make a difference? Who will control the job losses? How can anyone control the shooting unemployment rate? How many companies will survive the dark period? As per reports, it is worse than 1999-00!!! So, the reports of the economic slowdown are surely not exaggerated!!!

Who was that girl I saw today? Was she an Indian or Spanish? Her features would make you think she was not Indian, but there was something in her that made me want her to be Indian. Oh, but she was not wearing a bindi! But, how many Indian girls really care about the bindi? I thought I should have struck a conversation with her. Mmm, now, anyway, it doesn't matter!

Oh! I have to catch up with that latest movie of Surya. What is it? Vaaranam Aayiram! I have to make sure that I don't miss the show here. After all, it is just one show, or you can never watch that movie in the theater here. At least, for this movie, I don't want to be searching for online links. By the way, I am still not sure whether to watch Quantum of solace or not!!! Thinking....hard!!!

After some time, I got up from my reverie, and for a moment, I lost track of time and position. The mobile clock showed 2 AM in the morning. My computer was on, and I saw the different chapters listed on the media player. The white tiger had slept a long time ago after completing the first chapter. I sulked, sighed and resolved to listen on a better evening.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Change or no change?

As I made my way out from the airport, I made a mental note of the fact that I should brace myself for the changes. Well, I had not visited India for the last three years, and all that I could gain about India was from the different websites and inputs from my friends who had traveled back home during this period. There is always a sense of apprehension and fear as you prepare to face what you do not want to face. There is a fixed image of the country in your mind, and for heaven's sake, you want to see it that way. You want to see certain changes, and at the same time, you do not want to see a wholesale of them. Life is strange in the sense that you want to adapt to the changes but without the knowledge that you are actually reacting to the change.

I walked out on the road with not a trace of unfamiliarity. They were the same roads, the same muddy pools of water, and the cracks on the roads did not breed any sense of contempt from my side. The waywardness of life did not stump me, for India is the place where the uncertainties in life somehow help you find a firm footing. People are beset with a lot of problems, yet, manage to find the right solutions to move ahead. This certainly is one of the greatest characteristics of the people of India. I sat as a pillion with my father maneuvering (Googled the word, but still unsure about the spelling!) the bike as though he was trying to escape some sort of meteors in a sci-fi movie. Initially, it was scary, but after a point, you realize that this is the only way to beat the traffic here. At all times, the travel seems unsafe, and you feel it is some sort of miracle once you reach the destination safely. But, actually, you realize that there is nothing miraculous about it. Now, I was feeling queasy, as I was being hit with a different question Has India changed or have I changed?

It was funny as I went to a shop nearby, and as I entered the shop, I noticed two people at the counter, attending to five different customers at the same time. I was wondering how I could get my job done. So, I merged with this imaginary line and almost magically, after a few minutes of wait, I was attended to by one of the two attendants. Well, that's how things work in India. In US, people would automatically align themselves in the order of arrival, but in India, the haphazardness is brought to an orderly fashion by something that is inbuilt in us. It is just the way we are brought up.

In India, there just cannot be something called as solitude (well, that's what some of the foreign aficionados would say), but I prefer to call it loneliness. It was a treat to catch up with family friends, and old timers, who sport a big beam as soon as they see you. Take a walk on any street, there would be a known face, and they would make it a point to inquire in what state you are (may be sarcastic as well!!). But, one of the good things is that, as you walk on the street and meet a fellow Indian, you would not have to sport that weak smile and hope to receive an acknowledgment. Here, everybody is a fellow Indian. What a realization!!!

As I continue my stay in India, I have to reiterate that, come what may, for all its faults, I just cannot hate India. I may be biased, but this is one of the issues where I feel it is not all that bad to be biased!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Malleswaram, Bangalore!!!

Pic: Why Bangalore is called as the Garden city? Mvm 17th cross

After having booked my tickets three months well in advance, I was waiting with bated anticipation for the visit to Bangalore, well after three years. It was a mixture of unexplainable emotions and nostalgia, as I touched base at the brand new fantastic Bangalore International airport (much much better than the Frankfurt airport). I got out of the plane, and almost involuntarily, I bent down, touched the ground, and placed my hands on to my eyes, and I was definitely feeling blessed. One of the airport attendants felt proud, and I felt all the more. Bangalore has made me what I am today, and I was definitely feeling on top of the world. Yadu and I had a good time in the flight, as we made passing references to everybody in Kannada, and at the same time, had to be careful of what's happening around us, as half the flight was filled with Kannada speaking population. It was touching to see my parents wait at the airport, and the agony of three years dissipated in a fraction of a second.

Pic: Cleaning up the streets!!!

Pic: The usual traffic in Malleswaram 15th cross

Anyway, I do not have the time to write much, as I do not want to spend much time in front of the computer. I took a walk in Malleswaram, and I could capture the various moments in camera. To be honest, Malleswaram has not changed at all. It still maintains the conservative touch that it is so famous for. I had written a blog post on Malleswaram some years back, and now, I am going to post the pictures relevant to the post.

Pic: Veena Stores, the legendary Idli Angadi!

A writeup on the place where I have spent more than 20 years ( I will be spending more time when I get back) is not easy to start off. Malleswaram is the oldest residential area in Bangalore North, and together with Basavanagudi in Bangalore South, forms what can be hailed as the most conservative part of this cosmopolitan city. Malleswaram is more than just an area, it is a part of the family for a few thousands inhabiting the area. There is an aura about Malleswaram that prevents me from reaching out to the other parts of the city for a living. The perfect combination of conservative outlook tinged with not too modern and sophisticated way of living makes it a perfect place for a typical middle class family to settle here.

Pic: Malleswaram Railway Station

Pic: Raghavendra Idli angadi, near the railway station

Pic: Elneeru, one of the best ways to quench your thirst!

Malleswaram is characterized by two main roads connecting it to the rest of the city - Margosa Road and Sampige Road. Margosa Road derives its name from the entire stretch of Neem(Margosa) trees lined up on either side of the road. This part of the city follows the Main and Cross structure for representing an address. All roads parallel to these main roads are refered to as Mains and the ones perpendicular to them are the crosses. If you are new to the place, it is very easy to lose your way in the array of mains and crosses. Most of them who visit the city for the first time say Every road looks the same! But once you get adjusted to the area, it is easy to find your way through every nook and corner.

There are many things about Malleswaram that makes me nostalgic and gives me the drive to return back to Bangalore as soon as possible. There are a few things in life not of much significance, but can have a big impact in life. So, where do I start to take you for a brief tour of the place I love so much! I live in the 8th Main Road(one of the busy roads) off 9th Cross very close to the Malleswaram Railway Station. This railway station is a great place and the setting is such that it looks as if it has been lifted directly from Malgudi Days of RK Narayan. By the way, RK Narayan was so impressed with Mallleswaram and Basavanagudi that Malgudi was derived from these two names. The railway station has two entrances just like any other railway station, with two tracks separating the junctions on either side. The area is flanked by a number of trees with benches lined on the platforms in neat fashion. This serves as a meeting point for the many elders in the area, a perfect place for an early morning or a late evening walk, a place for some people to come and read books, a romantic hangout for young couples on the steps that form a sort of sidewalk from an overhanging bridge to the reservation counter, and for some young kids to have a peek at the not so many trains that whizz past the station during the day. For some people like me, it serves as a perfect hangout to meet with friends. How can I forget those days when all of us in the group used to meet here for hours together and discuss about everything in the world ranging from girls, future, placements, life, philosophy, religion, politics, family, wealth, controversies, college, education, bigwigs and what not! This used to be over a jhola(corn) with a lot of Khara(hot chilly paste) or a plate of bhel puri. It is amazing even today to think about the amount of time I have spent here with my friends. Just by the side of the Railway Station is the Anjaneya temple, which provides solace to the residents in the area. I used to make it a point to visit this temple almost everyday with my mother. A visit to the temple was a definite must before taking any decision. It used to provide me the comfort, warmth and confidence like never felt before. Anjaneya was(and is) a part of daily life and I can still hear my mother's voice ringing in my ears, Anjaneyara innikki parthuttu vandhaya (Did you meet Anjaneya today?) Such is the faith in the Lord not just of my mother, but all the residents in the area. On the other side of the railway station is a small shop which sells very good idlies and vadas. Four or five rupees for a plate of idly-vada. Heaven!

Pic: Cricket in 18th cross ground

On the 5th main Road is the school where I studied, BP Indian Public School, from the first grade upto the tenth grade. Just beside the school is the famous Kanchi Mutt and the serene composed face of Kanchi Kamakshi is truly comforting. Though the main Mutt in Kanchipuram is in the news for all the wrong reasons, this is one of those places which can really fill your void. There were a lot of young kids learning Vedas from the main priest and it was truly a wonderfuly sight to see them with the washtee (dhoti) and pattai (sacred ash on the forehead).

The busiest street in Malleswaram is the 8th Cross. This is the main shopping street for the residents. It has everything here - clothes, vegetables, fruits, utensils, chats and what not! This street is always crowded and is the lifeline of Malleswaram. During the festive season, the street used to be packed not with vehicles but of people. There never used to be an inch of space to move, but that was never a cause to lose motivation to shop on this street. This was the best time for the vendors to make business and they never left a stone unturned to attract customers. The price of the essential commodities always used to go up during this part of the time, because whatever maybe the cost, people used to end up buying it. Whenever I used to pass through this street, I used to come across a known face. The charm and joy one finds in shopping at such places can never be compared to the sophistication and gloss associated with the big malls. This is truly a different kind of experience.

Pic: Shankar Mutt on 5th main road

Talk of fast food joints and Malleswaram is the place. Let me list my favourite places:
  • As I told you before, the idly shop next to the railway station is too good.
  • CTR (Central Tiffin Room) or Shree Sagar (if you are going by the new name) is the best place where I have had Masala Dosai. This place is also good for the vadas, pooris, chow chow bath, idlies, but Dosai it is that is unbeatable here.
  • Sahyadri, another place too good for Dosais, and one of my favourites. This is on the Margosa Road at the 8th Cross Bus Stop. Such a place is called as Darshini (fast food joint) and these are the kind of places one should stop by to have superb South Indian delicacies.
  • Janata Hotel on the 8th Cross and this too is very famous for the dosais.
  • Veena Stores on 16th cross right opposite the Telephone exchange and this place is terrific for idlies and chutney.
  • Crunchy Munchy ulundu(uddin) vadai, masala vadai, bondas, Mensinkai(Chilly) bajjis in a shop diagonally opposite the Sai Baba temple on 15th cross, Sampige Road. This is a very small shop but that shouldn't deter anyone from going there. There is also a juice center beside the Sai Baba temple that serves refreshing fresh fruit juice.
  • My favourite North Indian food joint is the Sai Shakthi Hotel on the 8th cross which is just a walk away from Margosa Road
  • There is a place in 18th Cross in the corner on 8th Main road which serves very good parotas with Channa Masala for ten rupees. I can't recollect the name but it is really good.
  • The chat wala who used to park his gaadi just in front of MES College. This guy serves the best Tomato puri, chips masala, cucumber masala and bhel puri in the area.
  • Amrith Ice Cream Parlour in the street adjacent to my school serves authentic home made ice cream.
  • How can I forget New Krishna Bhavan (NKB as it is fondly called) located opposite the Sampige Theater. This place serves very good south Indian dishes with a lot of new varieties, apart from the conventional items. To supplement this with the North Indian dishes is the attached restaurant Gopika and I like the place mainly for its ambience along with good food!
Pic: The famous CTR

Pic: Why CTR has the best "Benne Masale Dose"!!!!!!!!!

Pic: He is responsible for churning out the "Benne Masale Dose"

There are a lot of temples in Malleswaram: Ganesha Temple near 8th cross, Raghavendra Swamy Temple near 8th Cross, Sai Baba temple on 15th Cross, Narasimha Swamy Temple on Temple Street, Kannika Parameswari temple on 8th Cross, Kadu Malleshwara temple (It is because of this temple that Malleswaram gets its name) andVenugopala Swamy temple on 11th Cross. These temples reflect the relgious sentiments of the population here.
Pic: Badminton at Canara Union

Malleswaram also is home to IISc (Indian Institute of Science), the best Research school in India and one of the best in the world. It was established way back in 1909 by J.N. Tata and has built up a terrific reputation over a long period. One of the reputed Pre-University Colleges in the state MES College of arts, science and commerce is situated in Malleswaram.

Pic: The college going population, Mvm 18th cross bus stop

All in all, Malleswaram is truly complete in every sense. I am always filled with passion to talk about this place. It took me about three to four days(couldn't do this continuously) to compose this writeup and I realise how much I love this place. Malleswaram brings a lot of emotions flooding within me and I am sure all those peope who have spent their time here will agree with me on this. It was really difficult for me to write up this piece, as I used to go back to time and recollect all those things that I loved doing here. Though off late it has resulted in a spate of apartments and heavy traffic in many parts, it is the most cherished place for me to spend my future.

I am sure there are many things I might have missed out, and it would be wonderful if you could post your comments on the parts where I have failed to cover. Next time I go to Bangalore, I am updating this writeup with pictures.

[UPDATE: Please click on the image below to view the Malleswaram Album (taken in 2008).  Alternatively, you can also go to the album through this link.]

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Reliving and awaiting...

For the past few days, I tried to read the much recommended book of "Freakonomics", and as I gradually made my way to the middle of the book, I thought it was time to quit what I was reading and venture out to something different. Definitely, it had some funny anecdotes, but I guess, it was not the right time to read the book. It really depends on your frame of mind to enjoy a particular book. So, I called it quits (yes, yes, yet another book) and wanted to read something which reminded me of home. Who else can I turn to, but our very own, RKN. I desperately wanted to read Bachelor of Arts, in spite of the fact that I have read this countless times in the past. If somebody asks me to list out my favorite RKN book, I would list out Swami and Friends, but inherently, I would gloat over Bachelor of Arts and take immense pleasure, as if I was the author of this wonderful literary piece. In spite of having written a review of this book earlier, I just can't control my urge to write more about it.

Anyway, I rummaged through my collection of books; rummaged, not because I have a huge set of books, but because, all of them are lying in a couple of cartons scattered here and there. It really does require some effort to pull out the books from the scattered and hidden mess.  As I found the book, and started to read, it was as though somebody had infused a fresh lease of life in me.  The book starts of with,

Chandran was just climbing the steps of the College Union when Natesan, the secretary, sprang on him and said, "You are just the person I was looking for.  You remember your old promise?'
'No,' said Chandran, promptly, to be on the safer side.

The opening sentence was enough to leave me in splits.  I was wondering how easy it is to encounter such a scenario.  Chandran and his friend Ramu decide to go to a movie, and here you encounter another brilliant subtle humor. 

At the small ticket-window, Chandran inquired, 'Has the show begun?'
'Yes, just,' said the ticket man, giving the stock reply.
You might be three-quarters of an hour late, yet the man at the ticket-window would always say, 'Yes, just.'

The best part about the book is, RKN doesn't enforce the humor, but just creates it emphatically out of the situation.  When Chandran tells his father about the girl he wants to marry, and pushes for an alliance, his father says

Look here, you will never be qualifed to marry unless you cultivate a lot of patience.  It is the only power that you will be allowed to exercise when you are married.  

With such a sense of comic timing, it is just difficult to let go of the book.  RKN, through Chandran, laments about the illusion of love and friendship.  "Friendship was another illusion like love, though it did not reach the same mad heights."

The best part about the book is that, whenever I read it, it takes me home.  It is a very similar family setup comprising of parents and a younger brother.  I could almost visualize the conversation I have with my brother after reading the passages between Chandran and his brother.  The book has got such a middle class setup comprising of a Tamil family, that it is easy to get involved in the book, and draw a lot of parallels with Chandran at different instants of his life. 

Reading the book, I suddenly had the urge to watch one of my all time favorite movies, Swades.  Being away from the country, it is one of the few movies that you can relate to instantly.  As the title of the movie hits you in different Indian languages, you can't help but feel the patriotic fervour gripping you.  I couldn't watch the movie completely, but the combination of Bachelor of Arts and Swades over the last couple of days was enough for me to relive the happenings at home, and look ahead eagerly, in all excitement, my impending trip to India in just a week's time.  With Yadu to give me company, I am sure that Tut-tut-tu-doooon (Yes, I know, I am bad in music; but this is the shehnai of Yeh jo des hai tera) will be ringing in my ears, as I touch base at Namma BengaluruYes, it's all coming back.  Malleswaram, CTR, Benne Masala Dose, Malleswaram Railway station, Anjaneya swamy temple, 8th cross, family, friends, the walk, masala puri,... the list is just endless, and to say that I am looking forward to all these things will be the understatement of the century.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daalara Daalara...

Well, the economy is in pits. Every bank is sitting on the edge, and in an unenviable position waiting to spiral downwards. The problem is, it seems to be happening with alarming ease. Yes, the economy is in doldrums, to say the least. Well, that means, the Indian rupee should be gaining on the dollar right. But, contrary to that, there seems to be a reverse effect. The rupee is weakening by the day, and having fallen in the bracket of an NRI (you can use whichever acronym to suit your needs - Non Returning Indian, as in Swades, or Non Reliable Indian (as in monsoon wedding) doesn't make a difference to me, for me it is Never Rewarded Indian), there is always that selfish glint in my eye to see the dollar strengthening.

So, the common perception among the folks is, Oh, don't keep anything in the bank. Send everything back to India. This is the best period for you to take advantage of the dollar exchange. After all, you never know how long it is going to last. The dollar might go down any day. With the American banks falling in line everyday, you might not get your money back.

Another of those common statements, Do one thing! Why don't you buy an independent house in Bangalore? This is the best time to buy a land or a house. Invest all your money on the site.

All good so far, but what I really don't understand is, how come the dollar tree never grows in my house. Send all the money back to India. It is difficult to explain to most of them that money in the bank is insured by FDIC up to 100,000$, and for me to reach that amount, even by the most optimistic estimates, would take me more than single digit years. Transfer all the money to India, huh? When is my next pay cheque? As for building a house in India, it requires more than the FDIC insured amount, and that means well more than a 100,000$. OK, you are actually talking to the wrong person!!!

I don't know whether a dollar is 45 rupees or 46 rupees, but I still spend the same 6$ to get a burrito bol from Chipotle or one of the local restaurants here. It doesn't really make a big difference as to whether the rupee has gone up by a few notches or not. Life is still dependent on the fortnightly cheques. But somehow there is one aspect of the dollar going up or down that leaves me with a terrible feeling. It is always such that, when you are taking a loan from India, the dollar is perched at the top. But when you have to return that money, you can be rest assured that the dollar would have fallen from the top. It would have hit the depths. There would be the usual cliches - surging Indian economy, falling inflation, NASDAQ is doing great, the SENSEX hitting never before heard values and what not. You are paying your loan back at the worst possible rate. You just sigh, because you have to return at least a few thousand dollars more to get back to ground zero. And then magically, somehow everything hits a spiral, including the rupee, and now certainly you start to think, "Rupee is at an all time low against the dollar. Looks like God definitely has some plans for me. I am sure that it is a matter of time before I take a loan!!!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sh(t)ock brouhahahaha!

My friends can vouch for this, and will agree wholeheartedly. Well, I was never a person with a great amount of intelligence. Translate that to the financial world, and you can put a big cipher in front of my name. I find brilliant ways to land myself into all sorts of mess, and somehow, gasping for breath, would claw my way back, before realizing the futility of the whole exercise. At the end of the day, there should be lessons learned. If not, the mind keeps taunting you with, I told you! Why did you have to get into all this? It has happened in the past, it happens now, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms, I am just waiting for the future!

As soon as entered the corporate world, I was lured into the world of stock market. This certainly has to be the way to make money. What can a software engineer fresh from college earn anyway? There has to be other alternate ways of making money. So, trusting my financial "intelligence" that was embedded in me right from birth, I put my feet in the stock market. My father, who was well versed with the fluctuations of the stock market, warned me "Dei, vendaam da! Don't get involved in all these things. I have experienced all this; at first, it will be very exciting, only when you lose money will you realize that it is too late." As is often with me, this served as an extra motivation to prove him wrong. I laughed silently, "Well, time will tell who has made the right decision." Of course, I didn't tell him that. If it were today's times, I would have cried out "Why don't you support me like Yograj Singh (Yuvraj's father)? See, even though he does not perform well in cricket, you can never get his father to agree that Yuvraj needs to be out of the team." It is a different matter that Yograj, and not Yuvraj, needs counselling. But, those were the days, when I had to silently plan my course of action.

I studied the market for quite some time, and thought I could do no wrong. After all, how much do I have with me to invest, I thought. So, I started with an initial amount, and invested in some well to do companies. Like any buyer, I thought, this is the perfect time to buy. It took me time to realize that there are thousands of sellers, who at that moment are with the opposite notion This is the perfect time to sell. I could see a variety of emotions creep in me for the next few days, and I would eagerly monitor the value of the stock, hoping that the company really does well. Even the CEO of the company wouldn't care about how well his company stock is doing. See the time line of the change of thoughts:

This is certainly the good time to buy.

As soon as the value of the stock goes up by 0.00001% in the next few days,
Thank God, I have made the right decision in buying the stock at the right time. Maybe I should have bought more!

Well, after a few days,
Oh, why is it going down? Maybe it has something to do with the FDI, inflation and other things (I would have no idea what either of them means. Everybody is talking; and so should I). I am sure it is going to bounce back.

I think I better sell this now before I lose all my money.

The net transaction would have resulted in a steaming loss, and thanks to the transaction charges, the damage would be compounded further. But, in spite of all this, I would not breathe a word about my loss. Attitude!!! More than anything, I had to put on some face saving act.

So, last week, as I contemplated investing some money in the NASDAQ, the past came haunting me. As I read the news about the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers, immediately, I could hear the phone ring. Maga, hoduskondodhe maga, bejaan duddu hoyitho...Bonds ella purchase maadidhdhe maga.....
(Man...I lost it...Had purchased a lot of bonds...)

I went back in time!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A "weightless" proposition

Right from time immemorial, read right from birth, I have never had it in me to give importance to fitness. I was never one of them to go around flexing muscles, by doing those pull ups and push ups, that added an aura of invincibility to your personality. Moreover, in India, I always thought it was difficult to devout time to such meaningless activities. Obviously, it is hard to imagine paying a few hundred bucks, going to the nearest gym, and spend about an hour or two in solitary confinement. That, for a person like me is totally unimaginable. Half the time was spent in travelling and the other half, chatting with friends and eating tonnes of junk food by the wayside. At one point, I felt I needed no physical activities, since I felt that spending time bowling and fielding cricket balls, more than served my purpose. Later did I realize that even in cricket, people like Ranatunga and Warne existed with disproportionate assets. In spite of all this, when somebody out of the blue recommended, I would quietly give an excuse, Oh, I cycle five hundred metres daily. So, no way in the world that I can become fat, I would say.

Many, many years later did I realize that all those wonderful samaritans did not ask me to go to the gym to cut down weight, but rather, most of them were getting numb seeing a thin creature walk on the roads, without any sense of understanding. That never meant, I was low on intakes. Never! Even if my mother, when not in her usual self, used to tell my friends, What is this, this fellow doesn't eat properly at all!!, my friends would yell out No aunty, don't worry at all, God only knows why he is like this; you just have no idea how much he eats. Well, that was because, these guys used to see me eat, eat and eat. Even though I used to go to college at eight in the morning, I used to spend the morning recess, afternoon break and the after college hour, eating. The time in between was spent in a trance.

As I continued with my zeal for eating anything and everything, I realized that I should do what I can on my part, and put on some weight. It was after all proper, that, atleast I shifted my center of gravity, from dead center to somewhere near the chest. This, after all, is not a bad thought on my part, isn't it? Immediately, I enrolled myself to the nearest gym. I had to do it at the moment, because such moments of realization are very less, and importantly, they never last long enough. As they always say, when you are in the zone, just go for it! So, as a part of the joining benefit, I was entrusted with a trainer to find out about the initial status of my (lack of)muscular weight. She, being a nice girl, did her level best to suppress her volcanic bursts of laughter that was slipping out from within her. After running through the various physical tests, I could see her sport a devilish grin on her face. Or maybe, the lack of weights was creating havoc in my mind. Or it could be that, she had found a one in a million test case as a perfect example of how not to be. She chalked out a perfect routine for me, and told me to meet her after a month.

So, every day, off I went after work to maintain a perfect schedule of what she advised me to do. I was an eager student wanting desperately to gain that extra ounce of weight, the extra ounce that could really make a difference! Some of my friends were baffled, wondering when I had become fitness savvy, and I was baffled to see them baffled! After all, I wanted to show some progress at the end of the month! So, finally, as my time approached to assess my fitness regime after a month, I was more than eager to find out as to whether my hidden mus-kels had surfaced miraculously. There I was, an enthusiastic student, and she was pleased with my daily schedule. After all, who goes to gym regularly, and that too, in such an energetic and enthusiastic way. Truly, I thought, she must be blessed to have such a student. Finally, she said, OK, let us see how much you weight now. Well, this was the moment I was waiting for. As I stood on the weighing machine, I felt that I should contribute whatever I can to aid gravity. I stood as though I had won the gold medal in Olympics. She played around with the scales, adjusted the lever to perfection, checked my previous entry and yelled in delight. There I was, as if standing in front of my manager, expecting a raise. This had to be the moment. Praveen, congratulations, you have not lost an ounce of weight. You weigh exactly the same as what you weighed a month ago. Looks like you have maintained an excellent diet. I wish somebody could have captured that moment!!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Word of mouth

It is no surprise that word of mouth plays a major factor in the success of a product. Be it movies, restaurants, shopping malls, brand names, music, theme parks or be it anything, word of mouth surfaces and resurfaces time and again, putting the final zing thing in a person's mind. OK, let me go for it or No, the reviews are bad, let us forget the whole thing! Our minds are embedded with set ideas, obtained from different sources that we are absolutely tuned to what we should expect. Over-expectations can sometimes be a real dampener. You expect a lot of things from something, and, even if it is above average, you get the feeling of being let down.

The reverse mechanism, don't hear from anybody's mouth, can sometimes work out to a terrific advantage. You know nothing about something, and when, finally, you get the taste of that something, it leaves you with an exhilarating feeling. Now, I should go around telling something about this. So, the bottom line is, over expectations can be stifling, while no expectations is bliss. You must be wondering, what the hell am I trying to say; as usual, I am making a complete mess of the topic!

Here I go! Life has been pretty hectic in the last few weeks. 8-8 (AM-PM) of outdoor activities from morning to evening leaves me with a drained up feeling. Not that I need an excuse to feel that way, but the truth is, I have kept myself busy. At the end of a hard long day, if in the mood to cook, after having finished up that, when He feels touchy about the whole thing for having treated you like this, will spare you with about forty five minutes to one hour before you hit the bed. This is the time, when you have shut down the always in problem HP (I wish I can write this in size 25 font and a hundred people can look at it) laptop and feel that it is time you took up reading, lest you forget what you think you are passionate about. So, you suddenly remember that you have brought some books from the local library, and there is a collection of books to chose from, for that book that is going to make a difference for the next few days!!!

After having heard so much about Brick Lane, at last, I finally got the chance to lay my hands on Monica Ali's much acclaimed, much talked about novel. Over the last couple of years, I have developed this disgusting habit of reading something and leaving it halfway. It has easily happened with two or three books, and I was determined, come what may, whatever I read, I will finish it completely before going to the next one. So, here I was, flipping through the pages, finding out what happens to this Bangladeshi family, which is settled in London. I sailed through the pages, finding myself immensely involved with the characters, with the usual oohs and aahs floating around, as I made my way through some exceptional quotes. I was truly impressed with the way Monica Ali has dealt with the plot, bringing out the good and vice in each character beautifully. This immigrant setup would lead me to an inevitable comparison with the other popular author, Jhumpa Lahiri, who I am a big fan of. Although it is wrong to compare two different authors, in this case, I was led to doing that. While Monica Ali has written a good book, I still feel that Lahiri brings out an eloquence, when it comes to handling these subtle nuances; those little things that make a big difference when you are reading a semi-fiction. But, at the end of the day, I would say that Brick Lane is certainly a good read.

Now, when I had to choose the second book, I had to select between two books, written by Indian authors. I had not heard of both the books, but I just went ahead with The Romantics, by Pankaj Mishra. He may be a great author, but with all due respect, I had not heard of him. I had not read a single review of the book, so, I had no idea how I would be journeying through the pages. But good books have this great quality of getting you into their fold within the first few pages. That's exactly what happened to me, as the inter-cultural theme set in Benares, India's home of ancient cultural heritage, discussed a complicated relationship between an Indian and a French girl in beautiful English. Some of the quotes are just brilliant, and I lapped up the novel in quick time. I was pleased with this, because, I somehow take ages to complete a book these days. Definitely a good read, and I would love to see a book lover read this book. It is a pleasant experience.

Now, I have ventured on to another unheard of (it may be a popular) book, The hungry tide, by Amitav Ghosh. I have completed about seventy pages, and the language has filled me with bliss. It is heartening to note that we have some amazing Indian authors, many of whom, we have not even heard of, but contributing so much to the world of literature. It is a pleasure to absorb what these people have to say, rather, what they put down in simple, plain English that can leave you with unimaginable after effects.

So, I definitely would recommend these books to you, but I hope the burden of expectations would not create a negative mindset when you read the books. Again, the way you treat a book depends on so many factors, but more often that not, I notice that there is a section, who tend to tread on similar characteristics. So, as I go on to find out about what happens to Piya, Kanai, Fokir and a bunch of other enteraining characters in the Sunderbans, I hope you read my recommended set of books with the least expectations. That way, you are assured of a good read!!! I hope to catch up with the blog world more regularly, and that entirely depends on my irregularly functioning laptop.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Maami, the match maker!!!

In what can be termed as the most orthodox form of arranging a marriage, the match making process is tied to fate rather than love.  Though the conservative image of India is changing, arranged marriages still form the most popular way of tying the knot.  Speculation and analysis fills the household as soon as people realize that there is a boy or girl of marriageable age.  The mega event begins not just a day or two before the marriage, but months, sometimes years in advance, so that the best proposal is sealed.  In this duration, magically, every elder in the house will remember you, and each time, you are encountered with, Ennada (What's up?), as if their sole aim in life is to extract a blush from you.  You are hardly the type to care about such things.

Anyway, Karthik Chandramouli (remember the protagonist of the Boston video mimicking Rajini) and I came up with a gist of the conversation that would take place between two tamil maamis.  I have to do the write up in typical Tamil, because the whole fun would be lost if the discussion is typed in English.  Of course, I have included the translation in brackets, but knowing Tamil would make the whole conversation enjoyable. 

The whole process starts with your mother prodding you with a neat

Dei, unakku theriyuma, naa inniki xyz maamiya vazhila parthen
(Dei, you know, I met xyz maami enroute)

Knowing your mother, you would not even venture to ask what the conversation was about.  But, mothers have developed the kind of resilience and relentlessness over the years, that without waiting for your reply, would then proceed to say what her good friend said,

Maami, unga payanukku varan thedrela?  Enga thambi ponnu, avalukkum varan thedindu irukka.  Ponnu romba azhagu, gold medal ellam vaangirukka.  Sagalagalavalli!!  Enna solrel?
(Maami, are you hunting for a bride? We are looking for a suitable groom for my brother's daugher.  She is very beautiful; she has also procured a gold medal.  Multi-talented!! What do you say?

You would obviously not let go of the chance to take a dig at your mother,
Ennama, ava Olympic Championaa? Jaakardhaima Thorathappora!!!
(Is she an Olympic Champion? Be careful maa, she will chase you!!)

At this point, your mother, very carefully will take a step further
Maami kooda ketta, payyan US la dhaana irukkan? Enna pandran anga?
(Maami asked, the boy is in US right? What is he doing there?)

Obviously, the boy will be working.  As such, it is difficult to stay in US with all the complications of work visa itself.  Who will come to US and stay here without a job?

Immediately, your mother will rebuke you, as if that maami is a lifesaver.
Dei, tharkam pannadheda.  Maami namba wellwisher, nalla varan thedra, nee enna kudarkama pesare!
(Dei, don't argue.  Maami is a great wellwisher, she is hunting for a bride, and why are you talking like this?)

In other words, it means, do what you want, I will do what I want.  Just shut up and listen!!!

Finally, the mami, as if she is truly a lifesaver, will come out with a classic!!
Maami, enakku unga payyanoda jadhagam kudungo.  Naa ponnathukaarala jaadhagam kudukka solren.  Apparam, neengalaachu, avaalachu!!!
(Maami, give me your son's horoscope.  I will ask the girl's house to give her horoscope.  Then, it is left to both your families, here on).

This maami is certainly a clever lady.  She wants to create the alliance, and ultimately, does not want to take any blame on the outcome.  But again, it is also very important for the maami not to let herself disassociate from the whole exercise.  She would be very much involved in the merry making, but at the same time, play safe lest people blame her later.  This comment would certify that move

Maami, namba kayilla enna.  Ellam andha bhagawan parthuppan! Enna, ungaathu payyana enakku nanna theriyum.  Adhe Maadri, enakku en thambi ponna nanna theriyum.  Chinna vayasulendhu parthu valarthadhu.  Iva rendu berum onna sendhu, nanna vaazhundha, adhuve namba manasukku nimmadhi tharum.  Kadasila namba enna eduthundu poporom, naalu perukku nalladhu senja namba atmavukku nimmadhi kidaikkum!!!
(Maami, what is there in our hands? Everything is left to the almighty.  I know your son well.  In the same way, I know my brother's daughter well.  I have seen her grow up from birth.  If these two get together and live happily, that would give so much peace of mind.  What are we going to take in the end? Atleast, if we do some good to others, that will help our soul rest in peace.  )

Just see the beauty of this sentence.  This maami is talking non-stop.  I am sure that the boy's mother would have no chance in uttering anything in the middle.  Every sentence is beset with tremendous amount of sentiments.  In the end, she has even uttered a couple of words that reflect worldly philosophy.  What a lady!!

Aaana onnu mattum solren maami.  Payyan, indha maadri ponna kattikarthukku kuduthu vechchurkanum.  Ponnu besha karyam seiva.  Nalla padippu irukku.  Top software companyla velai paakaral.  Chinna vayasulendhe veetu kaaryamellam, ava amma nanna kaththu kuduthurka!! Periyava kitta adangi amaidhiya nadandhuppa.  Adhan solrene, romba kandippa valathurka ponna.  Paarthu paarthu, aasaiyavum kandippavum valathurka!!! Bhagawana vendikkongo maami, nallabadiya mudiyanumnu.
(But, I will tell you one thing.  The boy must be lucky to get such a girl.  She does her work beautifully.  She has good education; works for a great software company.  She has been brought up with her mother teaching her all household chores.  She treats elders with respect.  That's what I am telling you, she is brought up very well.  Pray to God that the alliance must click.)

This maami is surely a genius.  Starting the conversation with a simple question asking if the boy is ready to get married, she has driven the message beautifully that he will be fortunate to get the girl. 

Then the great saga of horoscope matching enters the fray.  That is no joke.  It is always such that, if one side says that the horoscope matches perfectly, the other side would say the opposite.  In such cases, the maami would again come to the rescue

Maami, jaadhagam paakara kavalaiyum vidungo.  Enakku therunja oru nalla vaadhyaar irukkar.  Pramadhama paapaar.  jadhagam portuththal avarkitta pappom.  Edhakku neenga oru edathula kuduthhu, avva oru edathula kudutthu, edhakku indha confusion?
(Maami, don't worry about horoscope matching.  I know an excellent astrologer.  He sees brilliantly.  Let us take the boy and girl's horoscope to him.  Let us finish the process in one place and avoid all confusion!!)

As a result, the fate of the girl and the boy are perpetually hanging in everybody else's hands except their own.  So, the whole concept of arranged marriage undergoes a strict process with the all knowing maami ensuring that the all unknowing boy and the girl end up in a fine predicament.  If the phone call gets disconnected in the middle of the conversation with your mother, it is not because the line is bad!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life changing moments, really?

Our lives are governed by a random set of fleeting moments that, with the passage of time, it is rather easy to realize which of those are going to assume significance. It is the way we play these moments that propel our way forward, for good or bad. These moments, when viewing in retrospect, define whether we have moved well in time. Of course, whatever happens, we move ahead in time, but the way we move forward rests exclusively on these testing times.

As I bring back these nostalgic moments in life, moving back and forth, with a chain of events that has transformed me considerably in the last so many years, I am not sure whether I could have altered my life by taking a different course of action. Looking back, it is easy to say which are the right decisions, and which of those, if I had gone with the other choice, could have got me in a much better position. I say, one or the other, because all important decisions are taken from one of the two choices that we are presented with. The others cancel by itself.

School life had taken a toll on me, as I wound my way through the much dreaded public examinations. I was fed up of listening to the This is the most crucial examination of your life. By the end of the exams, I had come to a conclusion, that this indeed is the most important moment of my life. As friends and alike poured through books and project materials to find out what exactly happened in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was a sheer battle of will to find out details about tiny nuances of the past that was actually, shaping our future. What do I care how the climatic conditions affect the rest of the world? In any case, I could predict rains on the days I went out, because the going outs were rare, and so was the rain. Magically, they seemed to coincide beautifully. I always had this heady feeling that I was a cool dude when it came to Mathematics, only to realize years later, during my Masters program, how easily, that I could change opinions on things that I was absolutely sure of years ago.

As the results of my tenth exams were announced, the possibility of getting into college for I PU and II PU left me with an exhilarating feeling. Now, nobody can question my authority; after all, I have entered college, I thought. I could not take even the first year easy, and in the second year, I slogged like as if there is no meaning in life, if I got anything less than a fantastic percentage (don't ask me how much I got though) in exams. Again, this is the important exam in life, surfaced repeatedly, much to my annoyance. If you can get into a good Engineering college, you just don't have to worry for the rest of your life. Now, I could not understand why tenth results were so important, because, irrespective of which college you went to, tuition classes ruled the roost in the second year. Luckily, there were no subjects apart from basic sciences, but you just had to see the general attitude when it came to handling language classes. Nobody cared for it, as if studying languages was a sin. Just concentrate on PCMB (Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Biology); why worry about overall percentage, when only PCMB marks are counted for professional courses. Get a good rank and get into a top college; placements will be a cake walk.

I don't have to say how my Engineering life went ahead, with the usual cliched dialogues, and the life changing importance talk given by the general public. After having written well over five hundred exams and tests in my twenty years of the Indian education system, I felt liberated, after having had to get through the grueling system of theoretical studies. Studying for engineering exams was way different from school and college exams. The way I used to prepare for the exams, I doubted whether I could retain any subject knowledge even one second after the exam.

So, at every stage, even after I joined work, and moved on in life, I always wonder how many choices we actually have in life. All that I have done till now is to choose one college over the other or one job over the other. Nothing more than that, really! I think our real decision making process rests once we come out of education. Maybe I just have to wait and watch to capture that one moment that can change my life altogether!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The moving equation

It certainly has been a moving time for everyone in the family.  As I made my way from Boston to Kansas, my brother graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering, and found a job in one of the numerous IT companies in India right now, getting placed in Madras.  Like him, a lot of my friends have their brothers shifting away from their respective homes to wherever the placement calls.  A couple of my cousins too are going out to other destinations to excel in their careers.  So, certainly a moving time for all.

For me, relocation from Boston to Kansas has certainly not been a huge task.  In fact, it has been quite easy, considering the fact that the cost of living in Boston is much much higher than the mid west states in US.  Not that Overland Park is too economical, but at least, compared to Boston, here, it is easy to cut costs on quite a few things.  Just to give you a comparison, a 2 bed room flat in Boston (in the suburbs) costs about 1500$, whereas in Kansas, the same costs about 800$.  That should give an idea of the kind of difference in costs, considering the fact that the standard of living in Kansas is definitely a notch higher than that of the west and the east coast.  Having a lot of friends here makes the task of settling in a new place much easier.  There was never a problem of getting the temporary accommodation, and there was never a feeling of uneasiness to migrate to a different place.  Thankfully, I am settled well here.

I was equating the migration to a different place in India, from within India, and realized how things can be difficult if you don't have any idea about the place.  Even though my parents are comfortable in a place like Madras, and in spite of the fact that they know Tamil (Madras is a place, where not knowing the local tongue can put you in a very disadvantageous position), they really have to put in their best efforts to find a reasonably good place for my brother (he has still not found a good place to live in).  All the talks about being in the Information Technology (IT) sector, and being offered loads of money, pales in comparison, when you consider the fact that you have to stay away from home, and do all the things by yourself.  One might argue that the same thing happens in US as well, but the fact is, at least you have the facilities to make things easy for yourself.  Thankfully, I don't have to wash my clothes by hand!!! Good pay package in India is almost nullified by the monstrous rate of inflation engulfing the country right now.  It is scary to think that the rate of inflation is a double digit number, perched at the top at about 12%, a ridiculously high figure for a country, where most of us are hovering between lower middle class and middle, middle class.  The rent for a 9 by 6 feet room is about five thousand rupees!!! Even if you earn about fifteen thousand rupees after tax, and spend on the bare minimum, you tend to save not more than five thousand per month.  That would have been very good savings, if it was about a decade ago.  But today, with the way the economy is going, it is hardly sufficient.  Considering the fact that today in India, the average cost of building a house is about thirty to forty lakh rupees for a single bedroom apartment in a decent locality, a monthly saving of even five thousand is not much.  The average rate may hold good for a person in IT, but what about a person who has taken up a career in basic sciences.  He must be spending more than the earnings.  The disparity is totally appalling. 

Some of them back in India do not cease to surprise me.  I was talking with one of them, and he told me that he had gone to a restaurant in Bangalore, and was very surprised to realize that he had not spent much for four or five people on dinner.  When I asked him how much it cost, he told me coolly that it was a mere two thousand rupees.  I was shocked!!! When did two thousand rupees for five people become cheap? Are people earning in millions? I still don't know whether I would be able to get past the local darshinis for a decent meal!!! Give me Benne Masala Dosa at CTR; my day is made!!!!

I might have digressed, but the point is, unlike in US, there is no uniform rent structure in our society.  The apartment rent is fixed by high and mighty landlords, who think that anybody in the IT field is destined to make money by hook or crook.  A new city traveler anywhere in India is taken for a ride.  Everybody from auto drivers to the greedy landlords will make him feel as if he is from a different land altogether.

It would be great to see quite a few things set straight back home.  It is fantastic to read reports that the Indian economy is skyrocketing, but on an equal footing, it is distressing to note that the cost of living is going up in unequal steps, and with the current rate of inflation, it is all the more disturbing.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Boston to Kansas: On the Road

It's been quite some time since I wrote anything on the blog. In fact, I have been running busy these days, that I could not find time to keep in touch with the various tech blogs that I have subscribed to, and more importantly, I have not been catching up with the regular blogs of my fellow blogger friends. Honestly, the last few days have been quite hectic, but now, I am in a settled mode, and all set to turn the online world upside down with my write-ups, hopefully, regularly!

In spite of all the haphazardly organized ways of my life, I found time (rather quite some time) to catch up with, probably, one of the greatest Wimbledon finals ever. I was glued in front of the television set for seven hours, waiting for the intermittent rains to disperse quickly, as my mind struggled to keep pace with the phenomenal racquet speed generated by Federer and Nadal. It was breathtaking tennis, and it was a treat to watch Nadal outbeat Federer, though it was painful to realize that there could be only one winner.

Anyways, on the personal front, I have moved from Boston to Kansas City, since I felt that it was time to move on with a new job!! So, I had to take care the hectic bout of paperwork (transfer of immigration documents) and relocation related stuff to move into a new city. Leaving Boston was tough, but then, at every stage you realize that you have to do some tough things. It is all a part of moving ahead in life. Before you realize what happens, you are in a new place with a new set of people (in this case, the old set, since most of my university school friends are placed in Kansas), and you are already getting used to the new pace of life. Quite intriguing and interesting!!! Kansas is very different from Boston, in the sense that there is so much area in the mid west. Nice, single bedroom apartments are well affordable, compared to the expensive east. So, the life style is altered, but the kind of person that I am, the place does not make a difference, as long as the week days keep me occupied.

I decided to leave Boston, and the adventurer in me told me to take a road trip to Kansas. It is a 1400 mile journey, and I planned to cover the trip over four to five days. So, I took my first pit stop at Pittsburgh, PA which was about 800 miles from Boston. I spent a couple of days with Rama and his parents, and the luxury of home life took me back to Bangalore days. Home made food for breakfast, lunch and dinner made me think more than twice about what I am doing here. The comfort and warmth of home almost took me out of the present, and it was as though I had descended in an heavenly abode. But, life is fraught with practicalities, and soon, it was time to cover the remaining distance of my road trip. I packed sufficient food for the next stop, and I halted at Indianapolis, IN for the night at Holiday Inn Express. I ate the packed Puliyogare and curd rice, and slept like a log. The next day, I covered the last leg of the journey, reaching Kansas City safe and sound, and the talkative man in me, along with the rest of the crowd stayed back well into the night. I also had a chance to catch up with the latest animation movie, Wall-E, from Pixar and it was a delightful watch.  I was lucky to have traveled all along without encountering any difficult situations, since I had no idea even to change the tires of the car. It is a different story that I am well versed with this now!!!

Moving from one place to another is always tough, since a whole lot of things have to be taken care of. The initial phase of moving in is difficult, since the period of temporary stay doesn't allow you to settle in comfortably. So, now that I am all set, I should be able to get back to writing and keeping in touch with what my friends in the online world are upto.

PS: It is cool that blogger has come out with a much needed revamp of the dashboard!!!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Open era

My tryst with the game of tennis began way back in the late eighties, when the solitary source of information and entertainment, the Doordarshan, telecast the two of the four Grand Slams, Wimbledon and the French. It was not feasible for the US and Australian open to be shown due to the daunting time difference, and it was a fascination to know that there were other games apart from cricket. Boris Becker had become an household name, what with his unbelievable dives and ripping tennis, that evoked those lovely oohs and aahs from the audience, leaving everyone speechless and spellbound. There was always a mini battle at home, with my mother siding up with Lendl and Edberg, while my dad let his loyalty rip towards Becker. They had their fair share of happiness, as Becker beat Edberg in the '89 Wimbledon finals, while Edberg gave it back in the subsequent year in an incredible five setter.

Pic: Steffi Graf, with one of her numerous trophies

It was a start of the open era (at least for me), with Steffi Graf, the beautiful lady bird, with an amazing talent, and the best woman player I have ever seen, getting the worldwide audience hooked to her brilliance and style. Her ability to win on all surfaces, and the fact that she never displayed out of control emotions, was a clear winner with the fans. Her subsequent duels with Monica Seles were absolutely fascinating. I remember the streets being deserted during the finals, when almost the whole city sat in front of the television to witness the battle of the tennis; undoubtedly the golden era of women's tennis. To me, growing up idolizing the prodigy of tennis, Pete Sampras was a fascinating experience. It was a treat to watch him play, with a sense of perfection and ease, that you almost ended up supporting him subconsciously. He was not there to play for the crowd, and his sense of serve and volley, dished out a cool seven Wimbledon titles. His passion and focus on the game taught many a lot that dedication and sincerity can take us a long way in realizing our dreams. His subsequent handling of events after the death of his coach Tim Gullikson is nothing but pure inspiration.

Pic: Pete Sampras & Andre Agassi

As I continued to watch the game, appreciating several players in the process - Becker, Edberg, McEnroe, Lendl, Ivanisevic, Rafter and many other brilliant talents, I knew very clearly where my loyalties lay ahead. It had to be the pair, Sampras and Graf, who instilled that drive in me to understand what the game is all about, and brought to the forefront, amazing qualities of skill and passion, bringing in a sense of feel good factor to the game. After winning several Grand Slam titles, when these two retired, it was as if a void had entered the game, and I failed to immerse deep into the game, just getting the scoreline to know what is happening in the tennis world. The game also suffered due to the fact that every Grand Slam had a new, unheralded champion, and there was no sense of rivalry that was so visible during the late eighties and the nineties. I, like many of my friends, had lost the interest to follow the game.

So, post 2000, we had the opportunity to witness the modern great in action, Roger Federer, who swept past anyone and everyone on the way. His ruthless elegance was not helped by the fact that none of his contemporaries had the ability to dish out anything competitive to this prodigious talent. It was monotonous and painstaking, as he displayed style and class every single time to erase any form of fight, and there was a sense of pity attached to his opponents, and an aura of greatness was developing around the great man. It was magical, and it threatened to split the tennis world into two categories, Roger Federer and the rest! As he won three out of four grand slams every single year, it was great to see some sort of competition come along his way in the form of the phenomenal muscular Rafael Nadal every time in the French Open. He, as a teen, displayed absolute aggression and brute power to suppress any fight from Federer on clay. Even though Nadal challenged him only on one surface, it was a welcome break, as he exposed the vulnerability of Federer on clay, and made sure that there was not an inch of breathing space, demolishing him in three French Open Finals and a semi final. It was breathtaking tennis of the highest quality.

Pic: Federer & Nadal - Today's talent

As the pre-final hype of the French Open 2008 reached over the top proportions, Federer was looking to complete the Grand Slam collection, while Nadal was well on his way to equal the legendary Bjorn Borg as the only player to secure four French Open titles. But, at the end of the day, Nadal overpowered Federer in a game of ruthless domination, as he tore open the tough exterior of Federer leaving him with unerasable post match scars. People may go on to say that Federer was not playing his best tennis, but the truth is, Nadal was at his brutal best. It will certainly be a mouth watering contest as both of them head to Wimbledon, the heart of tennis, and we can just hope that there is another final between the two titans. It is a different matter altogether that winning on grass is a household chore for Federer.

At the end of the day, as men's tennis has just got absolutely fascinating, and as the Serbs and the Russians have taken the women's tennis to a different level, the matter of realization has just dawned that absolutely nobody is bigger than the game. The next few years are going to be fascinating for tennis, and as Nadal and Federer lock horns in many finals in the future, the classic line for the purists will always be whether Nadal can hold it this time and whether Federer can break the jinx of Roland Garros to emerge as the greatest player of the era.

(All Images have been taken for information purpose only, courtesy Googe Image search)