Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Solving the unknown

It is rather cliched, but it is the hard truth.  There are many things in life that I have no clue of, and I really don't care.  At the other end of the spectrum, I know a lot of things which adds no value to the system.  Ask me a question What happened in the 1992 cricket world cup between India and Pakistan? Pat will come the reply, "Oh yeah, it has got that Miandad-More episode".

Dei, do you remember that dialogue in Sivaji?
 
Of course, when Rajini is asked by his mother as to what he does in the US, our thalaivar (leader) comes up with a classic

SoftwareSyssstemsArkitect!!! (All in one fluent rapid motion.  That is the beauty of the response, and only Rajini can do it).

By the way, for the un-observers, it is Software Systems Architect.

There is no question of "Which one?", for the question and answer is supposed to be implicit.  The fun lies in giving the answers to the implicit questions and striking a special bond with the questioner (nobody cares at the end of the day is a different matter altogether!).  

Cricket statistics of any bowler, batsman, fielder, twelfth man, and whoever is associated with the game even remotely, is right there waiting to shoot out of your brains.  Movie trivia, all the tidbits about all the beautiful women in the world, controversies, gossip and as I said, any junk that can be accommodated within that limitless confines of your brain processes the data by placing a "TOP PRIORITY" tag.  Everything else is placed outside this boundary, which means, it is not included in you.  The reaction time is less than a few nanoseconds and the initiator and the initiated do not have a surprised look on their faces, because both of them belong to that elite club of knowing everything about what is not important in life. 

There comes a moment in life, when you ponder, and wish that you could have assimilated useful information  equivalent to at least one per cent of the unwanted junk that you accumulated with so much ease, and also, with a great flair.  This elusive moment is what is called as a passing cloud, though not confronted often, but when confronted, can cause great damage to your central nervous system, and not to forget, your pocket.  As I set foot out of my house today, the early morning snow dampened any little spirit I had in going to work.  It is not a Monday morning, but nevertheless, it is a weekday morning, and the white sleet was in no way going to lift your spirits.  Anyway, I had to start my car, and drive a few paces down the road, and I see that treacherous yellow light blinking, as though the car is fighting for its life.  As the expletives exploded in my head, laced with a few intermittent prayers invoking all the wonderful Gods that my mother prays to with so much fervor, I knew the situation called for something more dramatic.  I had to get hold of a car mechanic as soon as possible and listen to whatever capradaprajaprapapra (If you don't understand this word, that is because, I could not figure out what the mechanic was saying) he has to say.  So, I scheduled an afternoon appointment (yeah, trust me, I did this) with the nearby mechanic.  As soon as I told him that the engine light was on, I could sense the excitement in his voice.  I knew I was going to be milked.

So, as I met up with him to keep up my appointment, and learn the fate of my car, it was as though a patient was waiting for a result from his doctor.

Me: What do you think is wrong?
Lord Mechanic (LM): Let us run the diagnostics and see.  There are 2000 car codes, so I really can't comment.  What is your car?
Me: 1998 Honda Civic!
LM: Oh cool, that saves us a 1000 codes.
Me: OK (there was no relief!)

After about ten minutes, LM pops out from his garage, after the scary inspection
LM: We got the codes from the diagnostics.  They give out 306 & 1700, I can tell you that 1700 is due to 306.  If you solve 306, you will be fine.
Me: Great, I understand everything.  What should I do now? 

LM: There is a misfire on cylinder 2.  You have to change the spark plug.  It will be better if you change the spark plugs on all the cylinders.  We also have to change the distributor rotor, and the complete spark plug set of wires have to be replaced.  You should also get a fuel injection service, and the fuel filter has to be replaced as well.  Basically, you car needs a tune up! (There goes the multiplication problem.  If there is one problem in the car, others will follow suit).

Dude, looks like I can get another car now! You just have one question whizzing in your head,

Me: Fine, how much is all this going to cost?

LM: I don't have the figures off the top of my head, but hold on!

This is when you appreciate his database skill set, as he selects a multitude of items, keeps pressing that enter button with an authority that can drive even Larry Ellison crazy.

LM: It's not much.  It is going to cost you 500$ with labor, but I am going to give you some good discounts.  He dilly dallies around with all possible coupons (actually, he made quite an earnest effort) and came up with 400$, and added that overall, it would cost me 448$ inclusive of tax (buy even a 1 cent item, you will have to shell out a few pence extra in tax).

Me (with that absolute dumb ass expression): Is this absolutely required?

This is one question for which LM grabs you by the scruff of your neck, stomps you under his feet, and squashes you without any mercy.  Mind you, all this effect is the result of the look he gives you for this stupid question.

LM: I would advise you to go ahead with all this.  If you don't do this now, you never know what can happen to your ignition system.  It can fail you any day.

So, here I was, with no idea of what he was saying.  I didn't even know whether he was really going to do what he was saying.  How I wish I could just buy the spark plugs and fit it myself.  Anyway, the trump card works.  I sulk, but there is no choice.  I throw the paper that I had into the waster paper basket.  It had a good laptop configuration - Intel dual core 2.1GHz processor, 4GB ram, 320 GB Hard disk and so on for 400$.

I had made my choice, rather, unwillingly, and forcefully!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Filling up the space

It looks like as though it is a long time since I put up anything on this blog.  Well, actually, it is a long hiatus, for no apparent reason.  The absolute lack of creativity in me couldn't find any motive in churning out those fortnightly posts, but finally found that there is no easy path out than to compose one of those ultra boring posts and get back to the blog world.  One might wonder what I have achieved in the last couple of months, but you just have to look at me, not even skim my brains (if ever I had one), and you will realize that there has been not a single value addition.

Anyway, what did I do? There are not many updates, but there have been those inspirational occasional bursts of reading (yeah, not talking about writing!), juxtaposed by deep (really deep) sleep and lazy slumber. On many days, rather on many nights, just before I get to sleep, I hold on to a book, as though I am praying for mercy, for the welfare of my kith and kin, and hang on to it as though it is the single biggest obsession in my life.  After some time, well into the morning, I get up from a dream world, see the smirk on my wife's face, Switch off the lights before you go to bed.  I had to get up in the middle of the night. You do this every time you hold that book.  Either you don't read before you go to bed or change the book.  I am thankful that she is not holding a stick or something to whip me for my idiosyncrasies.  I get up in a daze without an idea of where I left off the chapter and wishing that the next day would be better suited to my progress.  The day remains the way it was before, and my wishful thinking remains, jutting out to the next day and the day after.  But, the consequences certainly were not disastrous, as I trudged along to the finish line of Yiyun Li's The Vagrants, and felt as though I had scaled the tallest peak in the world.  I did not have a lot of expectations from The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown, and my opinion did not change after I finished the book.  A lot of friends told me that it was a very average book, and I had to agree with them, even though it has a racy plot.  I think it is time for Dan Brown to move on to other themes and save us the misery of re-reading the same things over and over.  But, my best read book in recent times has to be the autobiography of Monica Seles, Getting a grip, for you get the feeling that the contents are pouring out of her heart.  It is very well written, with very nice anecdotes of her playing career, and of course, very inspiring.

Then, coming on to India's most successful author in recent times, Chetan Bhagat, and his book, Two states, I have to admit that he fills his book with all the ingredients that would make an Indian youngster go gaga over his book.  It is not a classic, or a literary masterpiece, but has the necessary contents to finish the book in one sitting.  All his books have been that way, and I am sure, all his future books are going to be that way.  He is not the sort of guy who wants to test the reader's intelligence, and if that is his style, so be it.  With an intense emotional portrayal of all his characters, I am sure he will never get a writer's block.  My current read is about a man who is undoubtedly the face of his company, The second coming of Steve Jobs.

Oh, yes! I wanted to get into the visual world.  So, I thought it would be a good time(actually I have been waiting for years to do this) to invest in a DSLR (a Nikon D3000 to be precise) camera and begin exploring the nuances of the digital world.  But, whenever I look up a technical term to improve my picture taking prowess, a weird thought enters my mind.  Let's say, I am trying to understand what shutter speed is; my mind wanders and wanders like a cloud, and finally envisions the upcoming Martin "Sorakesi" directed movie, Shutter Island.  My skills definitely ought to go to nought! Sigh!

It's the end of the year, and it surprises me as to how fast this year has gone by.  It is as though only yesterday that I wrote this post, but then a year has gone by, as though the pages of a book have been flipped in a second.  Also, this year, the oft used I has been seamlessly replaced by We.  It is a transition that has taken some time getting used to! So, that's been my life, and I hope I get to write some more useless stuff on this space more frequently.  But, then, with so many useless things to do, I am guessing it is going to get less and less frequent.

PS: Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Best Regards,

I sat on the email for several seconds impatiently, for I was finding the right way to end it.  I had taken less than a few seconds to compose the body of the message.  When you are doing something, you don't realize how fast time takes you through, but when you are sitting and staring at the screen as though waiting for a miracle, even the seconds hand of the clock ceases to move, and it is as though the whole world has come to a standstill.  Notice that in both the cases, the action lasts only for a few seconds, and the effect is different in both the cases, mainly due to the streak of impatience and restlessness attributed to my behavior. 

Signing off an email is definitely an arduous task.  If you are writing to close friends, there will obviously be no addressing and signing.  Many a time, the subject line will convey the intended message (which I do very often), and so, there is never a problem with the body or signature of the message.  To sign off letters when composing mails to the other extreme end of the spectrum is not that hard either.  In case of formal communication, it is very easy to end your communication with any of the following,

Rgds/ Regards/ Best Regards/ With best regards

 Illustration courtesy MAK

But of course, it is altogether a different deal that the time taken to formulate a formal communication is much more painful time than worrying about the signature.  In other words, signing off is the last consideration in a careful much thought about framework.  That's what I thought!  It is only recently that I realized that people take a much longer time to decide on Thanks or Regards or sign off with just the name.

There is a different section of your mailing list, where you have a relationship with the group that treads on informal yet not a very close set.  You contact this long lost friend with a tinge of request attached (read with a few strings attached),

Hi xyz,
What's going on at your end? I need to get in touch with abc.  Can you pass on his number? Thanks!


Now, here comes the problem.  I think for a few, very few, ok, very very few seconds to get that perfect sign off.  Should it be Take care/ Thanks/ Cheers/ Rgds or whatever?

Take care does not sound right, clearly because, he has not gone into a state of coma and battling for his life.  Who am I to ask him to take care of himself? I am not even his family doctor.  Man, this does not sound right!

What about Thanks? Oh, come on, he is not sending me a cheque worth five thousand dollars.  He is not saving my life by getting me this guy's phone number.  Moreover, it will be like thanking him a lot (I have already included one in the email.  I mean I really want to thank him!) for as trivial a thing as getting a simple phone number.  Knowing me, he might be aghast, and lose his sleep worrying about whether I am going to ask him for more favors.  God, save the embarrassment!

Cheers has never sounded good to me for whatever reason.  I have never had the habit of ending my mails with a cheers, though that is a rather popular sign off note with most of my friends.  I don't have anything against a bit of happiness, but just that, it does not suit my sign off style.

Love! I have seen a few people use Love indiscriminately.  I don't mind getting that sign off from the opposite sex, but for a fellow guy, come on, I tend to reserve my judgment about these things.

Sometimes, not having a sign off is the best option.  But then, it is like a dangling pointer with just your name hovering around in oblivion.  It does not fit nicely with your personality.  It sounds rude to the receiver.

Finally, I figure after a few seconds, that it is not worth thinking so much about a signature, and I end my email with a neat little four letter word that will leave everyone happy,

Rgds,
Praveen

Monday, October 19, 2009

The fr(l)ight journey

First of all, I would like to thank my friend, M Arun Kumar (MAK), a very important member of the G gang, for having agreed to do an illustration for this blog post.  We have known each other for close to ten years (right from our undergraduate days), and knowing his penchant for line drawings, I had no hesitation when I was thinking of an illustration for this post.  Thanks for your time, MAK!

Driving on Indian roads can be quite a challenge, and if you are sitting in a crammed up small car, the effort required to sit in the car can be Herculean. Irrespective of the type of roads, be it good or bad, broad or narrow, smooth or rough, sitting in the car is one of the most difficult tasks, if you consider the minuscule leg movement space. The driver is driving the car at a brake neck speed, and the oncoming traffic whizzes past you, and in the meanwhile, if you miraculously fall asleep, you have no choice but to get disturbed. The worst part is, you have nobody to blame. By the time you reach the destination, it is as though you are lucky to have arrived without a broken limb.


Illustration by MAK

There is another kind of torture that exceeds the one described above. To be honest, it doesn't even beg comparisons. The flight journey in the economy class section of the Lufthansa can be the worst experience ever. I think there is no other form of travel that can beat this experience. OK, the rates are economical, with minimal concessional rates offered to the travelers, at a very big cost of convenience. Shashi Tharoor had tweeted something about traveling in the cattle class. I think Lufthansa should have him as the brand ambassador for its fleet of planes. If anybody raises any objection to this arrangement, then even he should be made to travel in the economy class. All the furor would subside then. Even now, there is a perception amidst friends and relatives that Lufthansa is the most convenient mode of travel, and that they have a very expensive pricing policy. It is not very uncommon to hear, "It is very difficult to get a ticket in Lufthansa. It is too comfortable and pricey." I would feel like shouting back at the top of my voice, "NOOOOO. It maybe expensive, but you can be rest assured that it is far from comfortable." Lufthansa is the kind of airline that compromises on nothing but comfort.

So, why this critical evaluation of the German carrier? The leg space is of the order of a few nanometers. You stretch your legs a bit, and you are well on your way in annoying the passenger in front of you. To top it, if the good Samaritan in front of you tries to take advantage of the minuscule comfort provided by reclining a few centimeters, then your legs are doomed for the rest of the journey. You should not get alarmed if your legs take gargantuan proportions, and in a way, it will swell up to take the form of elephant legs. So, you should generate quite a bit of guts to inform the guy in front of you, "Sir, can you please get back to your original position. I know you are trying to exercise some comfort, but it is causing a great discomfort to my physical well being. Please try to understand. I am not blaming you at all, for you are well within your right to do this." He might growl, or he might really be a good guy (depending on your luck) and pull back the seat to its original position. This is one of the reasons why I do not exercise the option of reclining and adjusting my seat. And, even if you do try to recline for a few minutes, the hostess will take that precise moment to arrive with pathetic refreshments, and sound out the message "Please get your seats back to your normal position. Refreshments are being served" Whether you like it or not, you have to come out of your "for a few seconds" comfort zone. The less said about the Asian vegetarian meals, the better. Let us not even get into that, for it can be a blog post by itself. I remember Yadu telling me during one of our flight journeys together, "Maga, idhanna nam naayi kooda thinnalla" (Maga, even our dogs won't eat this).   Coming to the 22 micrometer(yes, that's what it looks like from your seat) television screens, they are placed in such an obscure corner that you would require more than an eagle's eye to catch what's playing on the screen.  But, during my previous travel, I was really glad that the microscopic television set was fit in an obscure corner.  Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, a Hindi movie that easily fits in the top 5 worst movies of film history, was being played and I wouldn't have watched that movie even if it was played on a big screen, let alone the micro screen.  It was a classic combination of a worst movie by a worst film maker in a pathetic airline.

Long flight journeys are physically and mentally tiring, but in a Lufthansa flight, every aspect of tiredness is magnified by a million times.

So, ultimately, the catch line for Lufthansa should actually have been

There's no better way to fly!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Diwali wishes!

My last year's India trip definitely does not feel like a year ago. I had planned my trip in such a way that it coincided with Diwali, and it was well and truly worth it. Here goes some pictures from Diwali 2008 (all pictures taken in Malleswaram, Bangalore) and of course, wishing everyone a very happy Diwali 2009.






Diwali is the festival of lights. No wonder, you see the "Akashdeep" hanging out in abundance!












Flowers are overpriced during festivals, but who cares!












The little fella won't have a tough time selling his earthen ware. Earthen lamps, a common sight during any Indian festival, and during Diwali, you just have to see it to believe it













A neat line of bikes; all are sure shopping in Malleswaram 8th cross











Not very surprising to see the crowded 8th cross street!














The shopping spree continues indefinitely for the next few days










Almost anything and everything available in this little shop













The night is buzzing with activity with the firecrackers lighting up the city in style












A watchful little boy trying his luck with the "Bijli"

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Tamil Iyer wedding


It is never hard to imagine an Indian wedding, be it the buoyant north Indian type or the conservative south Indian type. An Indian wedding evokes the oohs and the aahs even from the foreign audience. You guys have a grand wedding arrangement, right. I hear it lasts for weeks. The normal cliches are not too uncommon. But then, they have a point. Even a simple Indian wedding is nothing but grand. It lasts for a minimum of two days, and a maximum depending on the time and money that can be spent on the wedding. It is an exercise by itself, rather a really taxing one.

In the non-South weddings, the fun factor is amplified by the jolliness of the event. What I hear from friends, the event is fun filled with a minimum ritualistic approach. But then, India is so diverse that there are a hundred different ways to celebrate a wedding. So, after saying so many things about a restrictive (or conservative, depends on which way you see it) type of wedding, you might not want to read the rest of the post. Anyway, let me oblige you with the unwanted details. First of all, let us be clear with the fact that the wedding takes place on the day of the wedding (OK, at least try to make a decent effort to explain the event). The explanations can't get worse from here after the first statement, so I am assuming that you are going to go the full distance in reading the post.

Pic: Mantras & more mantras

Be it day zero (the day before the wedding) or day one (day of the wedding), one thing is clear. Forget the bride, the bridegroom, the bride's parents, the groom's parents, friends, few (very few) close relatives, and very many (really many) never before seen relatives, the most important figure of the wedding is the priest. Well, actually, there are two priests, one from the bride's side and one from the groom's side. They have developed this wonderful ability to chant the mantras (prayers) at such a rapid pace that you are struggling to keep up with them. The point here is, the groom has a lot of work to do in repeating the mantras recited by the priests. You are seated on the floor with folded legs, and the mind is asking you to get up and run, ignoring everyone around. My father was shifting positions, changing all possible angles with a hope that at least some position would make him feel comfortable. I am sure he never got the comfort level. A wedding event has a hundred different types of eatables, but then, you end up starving the whole morning to abide by the protocols. This part of the ritual is called as the Viradham (fasting), and by the time you try to feast for lunch, your stomach is just an acidic mass rejecting any entry into it.

Pic: Thirupparankundram Kovil (Temple)

The same evening, you have the Mapillai Azhaippu (Baraat), where the bride's family welcomes the groom and the family for the wedding (it is a different matter that irrespective of the invitation, the groom wants to be there for the wedding). This is generally done with everyone going to the temple, and returning back to the marriage hall with massive fanfare. Then there is the Nischyathartham, a formal engagement to confirm the marriage next day. Even if you feel tired at the end of the day, you realize that there is no respite even the following day.

Pic: The "metti"

South Indian marriages generally have the Muhurtham early in the morning. Muhurtham is the time when the wedding is actually solemnized. Just before the Muhurtham, you have another ritual called as Kasi Yatrai. The explanation goes thus - The groom is suddenly scared of the wedding and informs everyone that he is going to Kasi (Varanasi). The bride's father tries to prevent this from happening, and tells the groom, "Please marry my daughter and become a grihasthi (married man)". I can bet on one thing, no groom would want to run away to Kasi at the time of his marriage. I can vouch for that! Then of course, you have the Oonjal (jhoola or the swing) ceremony, followed by many other Mantras chanting session, before you finally get to tie the three knots around the bride's neck.

Pic: Oonjal ceremony

This in no way offers a complete explanation of a Tamil Iyer wedding ritual. You can refer this link for more information (click on this link). This is more or less a light take on what to expect during a wedding. But, to be honest, every ritual has its significance, and it was made sure that we followed every aspect of the ceremony with due diligence and sincerity. At the end of the day, wedding is a once in a lifetime experience.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rounding off in style

My school days were fraught with difficulties when it came to Maths. I could never understand why 2+2 had to be 4 or why 1+2 had to be 3. It was like Swami (from RKN) learning to solve Math problems in front of his father. Addition and subtraction itself were leaning toward astronomical proportions of difficulty, so there was no way anybody could question my abilities when it came to the mammoth multiplication and division problems. It was at an abysmal dismal level. It took me days, rather years to figure out that multiplication and addition were related by an intricate complexity. 2x3 is nothing but 2+2+2 was a startling revelation learned over the ages, after several years of mutual painstaking experience; mutual because my teacher and my mother used to wield the stick and I used the bear the pain. I had a grudging resolve never to play with numbers because they played around me in weird ways.

Division was an altogether different experience. The strict voice still echoes in my ears, Put your pen on paper, and let's get to solving the next problem. What is 127/5? I had to think ten times to figure out 5/5, and 127/5 was an impossible ask from me. I did try to divide the number in random ways and the quotient would be a value that would be incomprehensible. As I said before, the mutual painstaking experience would surface, yet again.

I, on my current Bangalore trip, finally figured that I am not the only guy in the universe to rank dismally in Math problems. I went to a grocery store located nearby, and bought some items forty seven rupees. I issued a hundred rupee note, but got back only fifty rupees from the shop keeper. Where is the remaining balance? I asked. He grimaced and replied, Here it goes, and gave it to me as if I was receiving alms for some good that I had done in my previous birth. He sulked, I sulked, rather predictably, and came back wondering how things have changed. If this was not enough, I took an autorickshaw to pick up a friend from the railway station. I reached the destination and issued a fifty rupee note to pay the fare. The fare read Rs. 20.40, and I was expecting the appropriate change. I was stunned beyond words when he returned Rs 25. I was still waiting for the change. He looked at me as though he was Lord Krishna and I was the demon king Kamsa, and he was all set to slay me with one stroke. My tone lost all confidence when I asked him What about the remaining? He replied back rather gruffly, What are you waiting for? I have rounded off the amount. After some deliberation, I got back the four rupees. I, for nothing in the world, would have asked the remaining sixty paise. I dutifully took what was offered, went back and secretly prided myself on my skill in Math and I was sure that my high school Math teacher would have been proud of me as well. It also gave me a chance to realize what it is to be on the other side of the mutual painstaking experience.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The groundnut seller

It was a stormy evening, and all that Natarajan could conjure at that instant was to find some basic form of shelter that could keep him protected from the chilly winds and incessant rains. It was a hard day at work, and this was something that he really hadn't asked for. He had to get back home on time, as already his busy schedule was preventing him from spending quality time with his family. He realized that being the head of the Accounts department at Ramanujan Textiles was doing no justice to his personal life. He had to attend to so many different things at a time. He was always held up in some kind of discussion, and that always prevented him from completing his daily work within the stipulated hours. The extension of his professional life encroached well into his personal life. So, that morning, while leaving for work on his two wheeler, he had made a resolve to leave work on time. It was a perfect day for him until he was stuck in this situation. His mind was clustered with worries and a thousand other things, none of which looked seemingly important now.

The bus stop on the way provided temporary shelter to a sizable population. The crowd was diverse, and the groundnut seller was using the situation to his advantage. He was sitting in the corner with a jute bag and a copper bottom vessel lit by a small flame. A crowd was automatically drawn to the aroma of the roasted groundnuts. He was pretty adept in transforming the pages of a magazine into cone shaped structures, and pouring into it the exact number of groundnuts that only his eyes could gauge. There were cones of different sizes to match the different denominations of purchase by the customers. A steady stream of customers formed a beeline for his wares. He eyed Natarajan from a distance, and immediately discerned his disinterested expression. It was raining for the past half an hour, and Natarajan was becoming increasingly agitated with every passing minute. All his evening plans were washed out.

Sir, Why don't you buy a pack of groundnuts from me? Natarajan looked around to see the seller standing by his side. It was just a moment ago that he saw him at least a few paces away.

Oh, no, no, I am not interested right now. I am in a hurry! It was a casual dismissal, highlighting his superiority over the seller.

But, I am sure you don't plan to leave in this rain. A cone of fried groundnuts will do you a world of good now. Moreover, you can also take some for your family.

The very mention of family brought a concern to Natarajan. He had sensed that it was going to rain at least an hour before he left office. He cursed himself for not taking the extra hour off and reaching home on time. Rama had specifically told him to come early, if not for her sake, at least for the sake of the child. She had told him in the morning how Arjun was becoming dependent on him for everything, and that he should show some interest in his activities. He couldn't believe that Arjun was seven years old, and that he was married to Rama for ten years now. Life had progressed a lot in the last many years. It felt as though it was yesterday that he tied the three knots around Rama's neck, and now, all that he seemed to be concerned in life was about the third member of the family!

His reverie was broken by a low voice. Sir, Sir! So, shall I pack groundnuts for ten rupees? I will give you more than the normal quantity. You can also call up home and tell that you are buying groundnuts. Your child will be very happy.

Now, this was getting very irritating as well as embarrassing. The groundnut seller seemed to know everything about him. How did he know that he had a kid? Was his physique giving away everything. Of course, he was taking the typical shape of a middle aged married Indian man, but Rama had made sure that his pot belly did not protrude to gargantuan proportions. She did not serve him rice in the evenings, and strictly maintained a low fat diet for his well being. Call up! From where will I call up, thought Natarajan. He was surviving on a decent, but not a hefty pay cheque, and he tried to cut down on luxuries as much as possible. He did not even have a mobile phone, when today, kids were running around with that electronic gadget. I am either at work or at home. Why do I need a phone? was Natarajan's argument, on not having a mobile device. Well, that was how he always put it. Now, how can he say that to the groundnut seller? He also had a secret worry that the groundnut seller might have a phone, and offer the device to him to make the phone call.

No, I don't want the groundnuts. You don't have to show your magnanimity in offering extra groundnuts at such an astronomical price. You guys always raise the price before hand, and act as though you are really giving a discount. How many tricks I have seen by now! smirked Natarajan.

The groundnut seller, in the meanwhile, had filled a large cone with groundnuts. He was seriously offering him more than the usual at that price. It was not too surprising to expect more than the normal at the fag end of the day. The sellers are generally keen to dispose off the leftovers as quickly as possible and head home.

But, Natarajan refused to budge. He was actually annoyed by the audacity of the seller. What right did he have to interfere on his personal life, he thought.

I am not going to give you even a single paise, he said. Moreover, I don't want to take anything back home in this rain.

Sir, I can put two extra plastic covers, and you can keep it safely tucked in the side bag of the bike. I am sure people will have a good time at home with the spicy groundnuts.

I have a lot of other important things to buy, and I don't want to be spending so much on the unwanted things. The gruffness in Natarjan's voice was just too palpable.

Hahaha! The seller burst out into laughter. Sir, if you are worried about ten rupees, what should I, a husband and a father, do to take care of the family.

Please do not make a scene here. I do not want to buy anything at this point. It also looks like the rain has stopped. Goodbye! Natarajan began to walk towards the bike.

Suddenly, he heard a voice of a kid in the background. Appa, I want some money to buy books for the school. He turned back to see a ten year old boy, totally drenched from top to bottom, and panting heavily, as though he had just run a race. He was talking to the groundnut seller.

Yes, yes, I am ready to leave now. Come, let's go get your notebook from the nearby book store. So, how many books do you want? What happened at school today? Why did you get wet in the rain? Your mother must be getting worried.

Natarajan went back to the groundnut seller. There was an instant when both of them made the perfect eye contact. Natarajan had the look of I know what it is to be a father, and the groundnut seller did not say anything. He gave the packet of groundnuts to Natarajan without uttering a word. Natarajan pulled a note from his wallet, placed it in the little one's palm grasp, and walked away without waiting for the change.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Arranged or love?

What does that mean?, he inquired rather quizzically.

Arranged or love, I said, with a meek look of embarrassment creeping into my face.

Here, we just have marriages
, he said.

Well, the fulcrum of the discussion that I had with one of my many American friends a few days ago, revolves around the age old practices of the Indian society, and marriage happens to be such a key attribute that it cannot be left out of any conversation. If you happen to be talking with a person from another country, the fascination they place in our customs is easily noticeable. In India, marriages are classified into just two categories - arranged or love. If you happen to tell your friends that you are getting married, you will not be surprised to hear the question shot at you almost instantaneously, arranged or love?. You have virtually made up your mind to reply back even before the question is asked. So, arranged marriage is basically a concept, where the girl and the boy are introduced to each other by their respective parents, and both of them eventually get married by mutual consent (this is not actually very obvious for many of them). In case of love marriage, the net result of marriage bears no difference, except for the fact that the boy and the girl decide for themselves and let their parents know that they are ready to get married to each other. Anyway, for an Indian reader, the basic introduction of the type of marriage is inconsequential. Let us go ahead with the conversation,

He: Arranged marriage?
Me: Yes!

He: So, do you get to see the bride only at the time of the wedding?
Me: Yes, she is brought out of the closet at the last minute. It's pure magic! No, it doesn't happen that way. We get to talk to each other many times before arriving at the final decision. It is like speed dating (really?)!

He: Oh, I see. So, it's not enforced upon you? I mean, is it not decided during your childhood?
Me: How I wish!! The whole hassle of horoscopes and other complexities could have been avoided. Come on, nobody does that. Half the time, the parents have no control over their children. Imagine making a commitment at the time of birth. After the children grow up and hear to such a proposal, they are literally doomed (I mean the parents!).

He: So, actually, you guys have no pressure to find your spouse!
Me: Yeah, it is different from you guys. If you do not find the girl, you have a mounting tension. For us, that is taken care because we can fall back on arranged marriage! Moreover, there is no embarrassment if you haven't found a girl for yourself (that's what you think!!!) even in your late twenties.

By this time, it is pretty clear that he appreciates the pros of such a concept prevalent in India. When I was Googling for statistics, I was not surprised to read that more than 90 per cent of the marriages in India are arranged by parents. Considering the many strata of the Indian society, it is the preferred match making technique that can please everyone. It is a good fall back technique for people who haven't found their true love (or whatever!!) in their many years of existence (Yes, yes, laugh at me!!!).

So, two types of marriage! Well, there is actually a third kind, that I got to know quite recently. So, just as I was posing the same question to an about-to-be married friend, he replied in a very different way.

He: Arranged, but we fell in love later. So, it is both arranged as well as love marriage.
Me: OK, did you find the girl yourself?

He: No, my parents introduced me to her.
Me: Well, okay, in that case, it is called as arranged marriage. As for the love part, I don't know, but better see to it that love is a direct consequence of the arrangement.

Amen!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A typical conversation - Part II

It didn't take a long time to realize that we were running out of topics. The normal conversation had turned into a speechless routine after the customary exchanges.

Appa: So, how are things at your end?
Me: Good!

Appa: Are you taking care of yourself?
Me: Yes, no issues!

Appa: Eat properly, and if you need anything, let me know.
Me: Yeah, OK!

Appa: OK, I will give the phone to your mother.
Me: OK!

It was a case of the early years of my stay away from home. Beyond the usual exchanges, the conversation would gain pace once the telephone instrument was passed on to my mother.

Amma: Ennada, what are you upto?
Me: Nothing, just busy with exams and research.

Amma: Enna research? You better take care of your health. What did you eat today?
Me: I was busy the whole day, so just ended up eating curd rice and vadu maanga (mango pickle).

Amma: OK, take care of your health. By the way, that girl in our neighborhood, xyz, is getting married.
Me: What? Really? When did this happen?

Amma: It all happened in two three days. But, I am not sure whether she found the groom or her parents.
Me: Oh, OK. Who cares who the guy is!

I realize now that it is the ideal time to change the topic, and get back to her marriage prospects after a couple of dialogues.

Me: Then, what happened to the controversies in the apartment. Mr. XYZ had swindled some money from the treasury. Has the committee proved his involvement?
Amma: Yes, yes, a lot of things have happened in the last couple of days. He was arrested last night.

Me: Oh! I hope he learns after he comes out at least.
Amma: For all the sins he has committed, he will go to hell. Forget about him!

Now, I have to silently probe about the girl who is getting married.

Me: So, who is she getting married to?
Amma: Oh, he is a local guy from Bangalore. He works for one of these thousand software companies here.

Me: Have you seen the guy?
Amma: Why will I see the guy now? I will see him in the marriage.

Me: Mmmm, ok!

Amma: I saw the photos you sent yesterday. Who is that girl standing with you?
Me: Which girl are you talking about? There are a lot of girls in our school.

Mothers have always been smart, so the sudden change in the way the questions are put forth would take new turns.

Amma: Illeda, the girl who always wears Churidhars, and who looks traditional.
Me: Oh, she is Arundhati.

Amma: Is she Tamil?
Me: No, she is born to English parents, and keeping an Indian name for fun!

Amma: Why are you getting angry?
Me: What kind of questions you ask!

Amma: You are getting angry as if I am doubting you. Don't I know about you? I have nothing to worry about you.
Me: Yeah right, you have to deliver that punchline.

The last sentence conveys many things. It means, I don't want you to exceed boundaries. I want you to listen to me. By saying all these things, I am reassuring myself.

The conversation has ended!!!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Anandhi...

Srinivasan got ready for the afternoon siesta after his usual laborious lunch; laborious, not because there was something special for lunch, but just that, his meticulousness always ensured that everything was laid out in front of him in elaborate detail. A few extra micro particles of salt would leave him in great despair, as though Susila had committed a grave irrevocable sin.

What have you done, Susi? He would shout from the hall, as she would disappear countless times into the kitchen at the time of serving. In spite of having been married for the last thirty six years, she would run back in panic, with a few wrinkles appearing on her forehead "What happened? Have I added more salt in the sambhar today?" Srinivasan would look up and say "Yes, the sambhar tastes like salt water today."

Oh, I thought so. I was talking with Lakshmi, and somehow, a few, more than normal, slipped out of my hand. Please adjust today. Corrective measures will be taken by dinner. She would then slip back into the kitchen, irrespective of whether she had work inside or not, before Srinivasan could utter another word. That, though, would not stop him from murmuring a few protests, "I don't understand what you talk with that servant maid. Is she here to help you in your chores or to distract you?"

Anyway, as he got up from his afternoon nap and freshened up, the postman shouted with his usual shrill voice "POST". This was a part of the routine that the husband and wife were accustomed to. Susila had the usual question, "Any letter from Anandhi?" Srinivasan immediately retorted, "I just got the letters. Wait a minute. There are a bunch of letters from the bank. I have to fill up some forms and send it back. Anyway, here it goes. There is actually a letter from Anandhi." Susila immediately left whatever she was doing, and strained her ears to listen to what her husband was about to read out. "She is going to come next week. I believe the kids are having their usual summer vacation for a month." What else does she say? Wait, is this the way to read out a letter", she shouted, and pulled the letter from his hand. You get back to your bank papers. She gazed the letter in apparent excitement, and made a mental note of the things that needed to be done before her daughter visited them.

The next few days, one could witness a lot of activities in the Srinivasan household. Susila was busy preparing vadaams(sandige/fryums), murukkus, sweets and other delicacies in anticipation of the coming week. Srinivasan did not even try to engage her in any conversation, for he knew that it would be nothing but futile. Susila was lost in her own world. It was as though, there was an added freshness in her life.

What are they doing in Sivaraman's house? Have they found an alliance for him or not? asked Susila. I don't know. There are rumours that he wants to marry a girl from another caste. It seems he is waiting for his parents' approval. Susila frowned, Oh, Siva! Siva! What is happening to today's kids?

What is the news from Ragini aththai? Her son had visited us sometime back and told us that she was not doing well. How is she now? inquired Anandhi.

Mother and daughter were sitting on the swing, placed in the center of the hall. The kids had gone to the nearby ground to play with the local pattalam (group). Srinivasan was easing himself on the armchair, listening to the two ladies talk about everything in the world. He was drowned in the happiness of the moment.

Are you practicing your Carnatic? asked Srinivasan, as though from a trance. Illa appa, it has been a long time, since I have found anything in my voice. With these little devils around me, I just do not find the time to do anything. Most of my time is spent looking after them. Srinivasan responded, "Why do you call them as little devils? They are like Rama and Lakshmana. They are your lives. What better work you have in life than to look after them. At the same time, also remember that you do not lose your interests in life."Anandhi nodded.

There is one thing in life that cannot be stopped, and that has to be the fleeting passage of time. The moments had to be left behind, the days sped past, Anandhi went back to her life, Srinivasan and Susila came back to reality, and eventually, even after many decades of existence, everything was like, as though it took place a few moments ago.

Anandhi was sitting on the swing many years later, after her parents' death. They were clearing up the house. It was to be bought by a businessman, who wanted to replace the old house with a massive shopping complex. Sathyan pulled the drawer hard, and it came out too violently for his liking. What do you do? You always end up doing these things. Why don't you show some patience? Anandhi was replacing the contents back in the drawer, when she noticed a crumpled piece of paper. She saw the smudged handwriting on the paper, and quickly identified that piece to be written by her father. It seemed like a continuation of an essay or a drama.

....there was heavy rain and lightning accompanied by loud rumbles of thunder. We were soaked from top to bottom. It felt as though the Gods were punishing us for not carrying the umbrella. It was just a few minutes away before we could be sheltered in the temple premises. The pitch darkness of the surroundings did not aid us in our walk. We were guided now and then by the flashes of lightning. We thankfully reached the temple safely. There was not a soul inside. Goddess Parvati had a radiance that could not be ignored. The wetness of our clothes left us shivering. Right at the deity's feet, we saw a child sleeping without a trace of worry in the world. We searched for her parents, but could not find anyone. We waited till morning to see if someone would come for the child. After a great deal of wait, both of us knew exactly what we wanted to do. There were no second thoughts, as we decided to take her home, and introduce her to the world as our beloved daughter, ...., the name was smudged with fresh tears.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The lost years

We walked into the new millennium, almost ten years ago, and life just seems to move on at such a rapid pace that some of the years seem as if they have never existed. We are in the mid 2009, and somehow, the last ten years have all, but been forgotten. The realization seems to hit hard when it dawns that it has been more than a decade since I have passed out of my tenth standard (grade). But, if you ask me when India last won the cricket world cup, I would say, Oh, that was about 17 years ago. It just does not seem like 25 years ago!!!!

The years best remembered are captured by events - small or big. The most unforgettable moment of my few years of existence always has to be that one moment - running to school, just across a couple of streets from home, to check out my tenth standard results. It just feels like yesterday. The other events always seem to revolve around that single focal point. Second PUC (twelfth), Bachelors and Masters seem like a culmination of efforts that have moved past at a 32X mode. It is pretty hard not to think about what happened post 2000. Had I been born in the sixties and was living in the nineties today, it would be easy to realize that X years have passed by. Since, my date of birth is many many years later, and with the pivot point being 2000, it is easy to focus on the years pre 2000. The years post 2000 seem as though they don't exist, maybe, because I have spent more years pre 2000. It would be fascinating to note how I can make that mental adjustment when the number of years pre 2000 becomes equal to the number of years post 2000.

As friends, we always seem to have that discussion about how life has moved on post 2000. All my fellow school mates, and college mates have moved on to occupy important positions in the corporate and academic world. It does seem strange, though, when you realize, how you have gone past the academic orientation of the school and college days, to take the important and not so important decisions at different stages, and are peeking at that common point of life, from across different points on the globe. No wonder reunions and meet ups are just so nostalgic, and it gives us the chance to relive those moments many many years later! In a fast paced life like ours, it is easy to lose track of time, but it's the moments that make up for most of the lost time. It would be fair to say that each of us have accumulated quite a many as a part of our growing up process!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Kansas Mallya

The boring routine of everyday evening was further compounded when the usual "humorless" suspects of the group caught up at my place. We were languishing around, and were laughing at our wisecracks, as our low level humor was hitting rock bottom. Some of the jokes (if I may call that way) did not deserve a second hearing, but there was no stopping us.

We were watching Godavari, the romantic Telugu movie. If Emani was with us, he would have been proud of us. He would have also tried to impress us with his trivia about Telugu cinema. Not that we cared about all that, but as I said, anybody in the group can talk, whether anybody else wanted to listen or not. It was always one way traffic. When somebody talks, not that the other person would talk, it is just that there would be nobody else to listen. All said and done, the movie was good, and I like Kamalini Mukherji, and thanks to Dhake, I realized that the other girl in the movie was Neetu Chandra (Man! I really liked her; I mean, we really liked her).

So, it is not hard to figure out what the next step of action would be. Mysore wanted to share his knowledge of some great pictures of Neetu Chandra that he had seen on the internet. That's not pretty hard to find considering how much we spend our time browsing. There, by the side, on another laptop, Kansas (KC) Mallya was enjoying watching Katrina Kaif on youtube. So, this was the scenario at home. There was a movie on TV, two of them were occupied with Neetu Chandra and the other guy was busy with Katrina Kaif. I was taking advantage of the situation by having my eyes on everything at once. It was a full-filling moment. It is another hilarious story as to how the name Kansas Mallya was bestowed on the most influential Indian character in Kansas. I have to share this. The sequence is pretty awesome.

Yadu was watching Katrina Kaif on youtube, when one of them commented, "Man, she made a mess of the closing ceremony in IPL." So, I said, "So what guys, she is in the good books of Mallya." Mysore, who thinks he can talk seriously, said "So, you mean Yadu is Mallya?" Dhake screamed from behind, "Yadu is Kansas (KC) Mallya." There was a loud guffaw. I don't think we have arrived at such good mathematical derivations, even, in school. If we had used even 10 per cent of our miscellaneous skills, we would have been somewhere else now!!!!

Setting all that aside, next day at work, I had not taken anything for lunch. So, I thought I'll make do with some salad. I happily stuffed my plate with all possible vegetables, and went to the counter. She weighed the salad, and casually said 12$. What! I said, but had enough sense to hide my disappointment quietly. OK! I said, and I paid without a word. I came back and told my colleagues. All of them let out a big laughter. I knew I had eaten the most expensive salad at work.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

India votes decisively - Elections 2009

Update: It might seem pretty astonishing, but when Yadu told me about the National Public radio's coverage on the Indian elections, I really could not believe it until I heard this (Click on the listen now link at the top of the page). It is totally hilarious, and I hope Rajdeep Sardesai listens to this and calms down!!!

In what may be the most clear cut verdict since 1977 in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, India emerged out of the shadow of coalition governance, with sulking high profile trouble makers, to offer a unanimous verdict in favor of a stable government at the center. There was a definite paradigm shift in the voting pattern in most of the states in the country. The Indian National Congress was in a revival mode, and after the country had been battered and bruised, everybody was in a mood to vote for a nationalist party, be it the Congress or the BJP. Even during the lead up to the elections, I offered my not-required view to my friends, "I have a feeling Rahul Gandhi will play a major role in influencing the voter's mind during these elections. Personally, I think we should vote for a set of dynamic young leaders to transform our country's affairs. Congress, with youth politicians like Jyothiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Rahul Gandhi and others should be given a chance." Some of my friends were obviously dismissive of my suggestion, "Come on, Rahul Gandhi still needs time." But, I was certainly thinking, and I think, so were a billion people back home. At least, people were not dismissive of Rahul Gandhi anymore. I was following his campaign schedule in Uttar Pradesh, and was actually surprised to see him interact with the rural masses. It may be a gimmick, but at least, there is a start somewhere.

Unlike in 2004, when Congress staked claim to form the government at the center without a resounding majority, now, they have clearly obtained the people's mandate. India has been absolutely clear in delivering what was required. As the last phase of the polls was entering Tamil Nadu, I asked my family members, and as each of them was choosing the lesser of the two evils, it was clear that the Dravidian movement was difficult to subside there. It was always the AIADMK or the DMK that held the key as far as the Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu were concerned. As they reeled out, "I am going to vote for AIADMK/ DMK", my cousin who has just graduated from Engineering made it a point to travel all the way from Madras to Coimbatore to cast his vote on a weekday. He was very clear in what he wanted. "I am going to vote for Rahul Gandhi. I am tired of the others. Let us go for a dynamic young leader." I was actually surprised by the clarity of his thought. It also reflected what the youngsters were thinking. Clearly, the Congress did not have anything to lose. On hindsight, if you look at the Congress manifesto, and a whole lot of other factors, it is easy to notice why they won.

1.) The current Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate well before the polls. Going by Dr. Singh's track record, there is no disputing his integrity or honesty. Even during the Indo-US nuclear alliance, I was pretty convinced that if Dr. Singh is backing the deal, we should go for the deal. He is a kind of person who would not compromise our national interests at any cost. His detractors may say that he is a puppet of the Congress chief, but there is no denying the fact that he is one among the handful of most honest and trustworthy politicians we have in the country at the moment. The Congress had to make its PM candidate clear. Had it been Sonia Gandhi who was projected as the PM, the congress would have lost a lot of votes due to the foreign origin factor.

2.) Congress has projected a lot of young candidates in its ranks. India is looking for a definite transformation, and we need as many youngsters as possible to bring a vibrant change in the country.

3.) India does not want a patch up of lower rung parties to have a say in the government at the center. Actually, people were fed up with the way Left had let down the government after the nuclear deal. There was no point dilly-dallying with parties who had a handful of seats and wanted to play a big role in the government formation. People did not want the government at the center to be negotiating with parties left, right and center, and the only solution was to give the single largest party the free hand to run the country.

4.) Imagine if Congress/ BJP had not got a clear mandate. Who would have been the PM of the country? It is even dreadful to think what would have happened if a clear majority was not obtained. I have no hesitation in saying that our country would have been in wrong hands. It is very clear that this was one of the major factors why the Congress led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) romped home with an absolute majority.

5.) We need a constructive opposition. We do not want people to be arguing over every decision the government takes. In the past four years, we have noticed that there have been outright rejections to whatever steps the government has taken. It is high time our opposition plays the role of a responsible unit and tries to win the confidence of the people.

6.) The NDA has to go for a leadership change. LK Advani is already old to be at the helm of affairs, and there should be a clear visionary to take over the reins. We need people like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Shourie and Narendra Modi taking over bigger responsibilities. India is already fed up of communal issues, and political parties definitely have to come out of temple issues, the religious divide and concentrate on progressing forward. At least, after the 26/11 Mumbai blasts, India is not ready to trust its politicians anymore. Basically, BJP needs to identify a young dynamic leader within its ranks, and release a strong manifesto with immediate effect.

In the end, all these and other factors favored a decisive Congress victory. The Congress now is well within its ability to move forward from here. It is a massive verdict. The Congress should definitely rejoice at this resounding victory, but the actual work has to start now. This is the best time for the party to repay back to the Indian voter in terms of good work and strong economic reforms. I, along with a billion people, wish the best of luck to the new government at the center, and I sincerely hope that elections 2009 will herald a new chapter in our country giving us absolute all round development and a strong progressive economy.

PS: All Images have been obtained from Google Image search and are used for information purpose only. In case of any copyright violation, the images will be pulled out with immediate effect.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The bearded conundrum

I stepped out of my room, stood in front of the mirror near the wash basin and observed my face diligently. I could see a strand of hair jutting out on my chin, and wondered, "I really should have my share of brush with the razor". As a teenager, one of the most exciting things to do is to get hold of the razor, and whether you have facial hair or not, you just want to feel the blade going up and down your cheek. My father would look upon me quizzically and wonder, "What are you doing standing in front of that mirror? Your concentration must be on studies only." I still rue that I did not have any answer to that question.

Anyway, as the strand began to grow at the rate of a few nanometers per day, my urge to get hold of the conventional razor only increased. I used to be in awe looking at people who could transform their looks from bearded to clean shaven. By the way, those days, you hardly had the Gillete Presto or those flashy razors to clear the hair, but it was the old-fashioned one, where you insert a blade on to a small platform, and screw the holder tightly on to the blade. So, one had to be extra careful, as the sharp blade could easily make a dent on your cheek, and you could be caught sporting a blood stained wound, and the pimples would just compound the problem. But, that hardly deterred me from laying my hands on the razor. It would fascinate me everyday as I observed my father pick all the parts of the razor, fix them up carefully and sway the razor as though it was as easy as using a computer today. So, one day my father decided that I was ready to hold the razor (yes, yes, nothing was decided by me; there was always a wrapper class around me to take care of such things). It was an exhilarating feeling, and I was proud of the fact that this was the step that marked my transformation from an immature boy to manhood. It felt like, as though, I was earmarked for selection to play for the Indian cricket team.

Yesterday, I was absolutely bored by the fact that I had a stubble, yet again. I was kicking myself that the hair was growing at a rapid rate. I thought I shaved yesterday, I wondered. I wish there is a mechanism to bypass this everyday routine, I thought, hopefully. It is pretty hard, when you get up in the morning, stare in front of the mirror, and observe the thick layer of hair enveloping your face, leaving you with no choice but to take up the razor. At least, now, you do not have to worry about the conventional blade and the cuts and gashes. So, it is a quick shave, maybe lasting less than two minutes, with my father's tone ringing in my ears, "Don't shave in a hurry. Get up early, and shave at least a couple of times, and don't do a patch work." All that I used to do was nod my head vigorously, get back to my lethargic ways and wait for two or three days, before the feeling of "I really have to shave" hit me. As life goes on, and as my beard grows on, I just have to look back on those days, when l used to run around not with a shaving cream and a razor, but all the other insignificant things that appear so significant now.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bangalore trip - A personal event

Bangalore has changed, and at the same time, there is not much of a change. The traffic is woeful, the sediments of dust settle from all angles, and as I was standing in the imaginary queue to pick up something for dinner, Chetan nudged me from behind and said "Maga, idhu Bostonalla, this is Bengaluru." Both of us had a grin!

Anyway, this was a very short homecoming trip to Bangalore, and the visit was as pleasing. There are two things about a long duration journey. Firstly, it is very uncomfortable to sit in the crammed up space in Lufthansa. It is as though you have not paid a penny for the flight, and the flight attendant and the crew are doing a service to mankind by loading as many people as possible. The food was not bad, but having stayed at home for a week, I think my taste buds are elevated to the next highest level. So, thankfully, I will be taking some home made food for the return flight. It is well worth the extra effort, even though it is your mother who is putting that extra bit. Secondly, it is pretty interesting to sit on a long duration flight, if you can meet some fascinating people. It is altogether a different matter that I have stopped expecting beautiful girls to take their place next to mine in train, flight and bus journeys. That was never in destiny, and now, never! So, I was not surprised, when an old couple took seats next to mine, en route Chicago to Frankfurt. But, I quickly struck conversation with them, and I realized that, that was the best thing that I had done. They were a Jewish couple from Israel, and we covered a lot of topics ranging from India to Israel, the Palestinian issues, along with science & technology. It was a pleasant conversation, and I was really pleased to see the depth of their knowledge.

Yes, coming back to the real essence of the Bangalore trip. I have to say, with all pleasure and happiness, that I have got engaged to Hema Iyer, who has to put up with all my poor jokes and gibberish talks for life. The marriage is scheduled for September, and I invite all my blogger friends and readers for the September event in Madurai. Madurai is known for its cultural heritage, and a couple of hours drive will take you to the beauty of Kanyakumari. There are also a lot of scenic places around Madurai, which should serve as a good motivation for all of you to make your presence felt for the marriage. Looking forward to meeting you all in person, and will also make sure, that the invitation reaches every one of you by mail.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A typical conversation - Part I

It is rather strange to think about the fact (yeah absolute fact!!) how God created (atheists, read creation of the universe at minus infinity) two entirely different species to co-exist on the same planet. It does not require any serious thinking to note that we (we men) tend to have diametrically opposite behavior as compared to the fairer sex. It is not a post to highlight the superiority of one set of beings over the other or vice versa. It is more about the fact how we are made differently.

A typical conversation, when I get back from work, back in India.

Me: Ennama vishayam? (What's the matter, Ma?)
Ma: Inniki xyz mamava parthen (I saw Mr. xyz today.)

Me: Oh OK, enna sonnar? (What did he say?)
Ma: He said he is going to America. His sons are already settled there, isn't it? So, he is getting bored here. He wants to spend some time with his grandchildren. Don't you see, he is such an active person. He was there at the temple today, and he propitiated the Gods with special offerings.

Me (half heartedly): Oh, mama's son is expecting right?
Ma (rather annoyingly): Dei, you don't even listen to what I say. Why do you think he is going to the US?

Me: Oh, when is he going to the US?
Ma: Forget it, indha kaadhula vaangi, andha kaadhula vidu!! (Take it through one ear and leave the matter through the other)

This would be a routine conversation, where my eyes would be glued to ESPN or Star Sports to get the latest update in the sports world, and my hands would be probing the plate that my mother would have placed in front of me. But, my taste buds would be as finicky as ever. En innike uppu koraiyardhu? (Why is there less salt in the food today?) My mother would immediately retort, You don't even listen to what I say, but you seem to have an absolute idea of what is lacking in food!!! It is altogether a different matter that such days were really rare, since I have been fortunate to be bestowed with amazing (an understatement actually) food, as long as I was at home. Our conversation would continue for a few minutes, with majority of the talk being one way.

Let us reverse the scenario. It would be equally funny had I met Mr. XYZ.

Ma: Ennada inniki vishayam? (What is the matter today?)
Me: Onnum illai, inniki xyz mamava parthen. (Nothing much, just met Mr. xyz today)

Ma: What did he say?
Me: Onnum Illai, general talk. He is going to the US for a short vacation.

Ma: Vera onnum sollaliya (didn't he say anything else?)
Me: Adhan sonnene, general talk. (I told you right, general talk!)

My mother would make a silent grimace, and point to the fact that I am such a poor listener and a poorer communicator of facts.

Between guys, it is totally different.

Mysore (it is a name): Maga, I spoke to Karthik today.
Me: Oh, what did he say?

Mysore: He is a chappar (wastrel), what will he say? Just the usual crap.
Me: Oh, OK!!!

The conversation would cease to exist at that point, and we would have moved on to further issues. Not that we do not spend time on talks, rather, we spend a lot of time. There is no difference whether it is a weekday or a weekend. Our usual topics would be Indian politics and cricket, among all other topics. The talks would run endlessly, and meander without a conclusion, only to be continued in subsequent conversations.

So, maybe, we(men) tend to talk about the not-so-important things of the world. But again, by no means, meeting Mr. xyz is an important event in anybody's life. At least, I have grown up in such a way that if something is predictable, there is nothing much to convey. If statistics make sense, then this must be one of the cases!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The "regular" check up

A routine check up with your primary physician actually leaves you more in doubt about your health than before. First of all, you have to summon all your reserves to move yourself from the confines of your daily comforts to set up a regular health check up. The "regular" is not actually regular. If it is regular, do you go there daily? There should have been a more appropriate word in English to describe the "regular".

Anyway, as a part of the annual corporate policy, I had to undergo a "regular" health check up. I generally do not prefer these kind of situations. It is as though you are pressurizing your physician to let you know what is wrong with your body. The whole concept of health check up is seriously baffling. You are doing absolutely fine, but at the same time, there might be something wrong in your body without your knowledge, and the protagonists are itching to tell you what is wrong. You have absolutely no doubt that you will live till a hundred without any doubt, with all the outrageous food habits. So, why find out? The equation in terms of the mortality does not change. You will still live a hundred years, but have to survive on daily diets and complicated nutrition schedule. All of us know that if something is nutritious, no way in the world is it going to be tasty.

So, the conversation between me and the physician goes on like this. After some basic calculation of height and weight, she told me "Oh, your weight is optimum, but you can definitely put on more. You should be eating a lot more cheesy food."

That's definitely not hard, I thought. I made a mental note of the fact that I had an unopened pack of Fritos cheesy chili corn chips, and that I should finish it up first thing after work. I felt hungry. I had not eaten anything for the last 12 hours!

Few more tests, the blood oozes out of the needle, and I have that tired look as though all the blood has been drained off my body, when actually it was not more than a drop.

My blood is transferred to different measuring objects to calculate the amount of sugar, cholesterol and all the unwanted details that my not so active brain can comprehend. As soon as she mentioned about sugar, my mind went back to those dreaded biology classes. Oh, how I struggled to learn those terms - Diabetes mellitus and Diabetes insipidus!

She looked at me, as though reading my thoughts, and said "Your sugar is fine. Make it a point to eat a lot of fibres." If my sugar is fine, why can't I continue what I am eating daily, I thought.

We moved on to cholesterol. There are so many different types - HDLs, LDLs, triglycerides, HDL - LDL ratio and what not. Now what? I asked. She made some calculations with the data she had assimilated from the various devices, and said, "You should follow a good exercise regiment with a healthy supplement of fibres and proteins, low fat and good carbohydrates."

What about my cheesy diet? I remarked. She had a grin, "Oh forget the cheese. Your weight is perfect."

Then, what about the body mass index, I queried, absolutely innocently.

Just take care of the diet, she said.

All in all, it means, "God alone knows how you can get to shape. There is no point in telling you anything."

And, I am not going back until the next "regular" checkup.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Playing with the Raagas

It is no secret to my friends, when I tell them that one of the things in life that I am really vocal about is the fact that I cannot go vocal. My mother, like every other, had a wish in mind, "Oh, my son should be well versed in the world of Carnatic". But, I think she did not have to wait too long for the realization that her son was way beyond music. I assume she must have understood when I let out my first cry. Now, unlike every other mother, she made it a point to remind me "Please don't sing!", and slowly and steadily, the request turned to treacherous rebukes, "Just don't open your mouth". Looking back in time, I wonder I could have done a lot of service to the family. If ever there was an unwanted visitor, I could have let out my Raagas, which in turn would have caused havoc to the visitor. But, the problem with that was, even the people at home would have run helter skelter.

Now, I have to make something absolutely clear. Just because I am blessed with a "great" voice doesn't mean that I am scared to display my musical abilities. The restroom serves as a great place for me to accept the Grammys and Oscars. I am the "all" - music, lyrics, anchor and what not, and I do not have to worry about who is listening. But, my school room mates would be ready to pounce on me for that. They claim to have endured timeless suffering that my voice has caused. It is a different matter that I beg to differ on that, and say that I have been a great source of entertainment over the years. It is an argument that has no definite answer. Yadu recently was commenting on my bathroom singing. It is very easy to determine the temperature of water, thanks to you, he said. You voice quivers when the water is cold, and you are shouting away to glory, when it is at an optimum temperature. I am sure Venkatesh would have seconded that.

All said and done, it is important to enjoy good music. Over the years, as I tried to explain the finer notes to my brother, he would say, "Unakku sangeetha nyaanam illatiyum, nanna paatu keka mattum theriyum", I have grown up listening to different kinds of music that my ears have got accustomed to a nice sense of hearing (really?). Music has an aura of its own that can soak all the pain in the world, and provide a sense of warmth, cutting across all classes of the society (Had I been in an auditorium, I would have got a standing ovation for this statement).

Last week, we had the honour and privilege of listening to Ustad Zakir Hussain(at the tabla) and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (with the santoor) at the Carlsen Center in Overland Park. I have to say that it was music at its highest quality. Pristine, absolutely pristine! I just thanked God that at least, I have it in me to appreciate such high quality music, even if not in a position to render one that is even several notches below that of these maestros. We were just left spellbound at the end of the performance. It was a classic case of time warping as we were glued to our seats for the entire duration of the performance, only to realize at the end of it that two and a half hours had elapsed. I thanked my stars and could hear my brother's voice reverberating in my ears "You have absolutely no idea of music, but you invariably appreciate the song by providing technical details." I will live with that for the rest of my life with no regrets!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blah, blah, blah...

As I made up my mind to write a blog post today, I was wondering about the writable topics that I have on hand. I have nothing to write about movies, since I have always thought that movie reviews are cliched. Just to share something with you, I saw Koncham Ishtam Koncham Kashtam starring Tamanna (the cute girl from Happy Days) and Siddharth. I was happy that I was not all that bad in understanding the unofficial No. 2 language of the States - Telugu. I did not drool over Tamanna too much, since she was not as captivating as she was in the previous mentioned movie. But, I lived with that!!!

Did I read any books? I have been holding Stephen Hawking's A briefer history of time for a couple of weeks. I finished reading about his explanation of Einstein's theory of relativity, and I wanted to go back to that chapter to get a better understanding. But, unfortunately, I forgot to place the bookmark back in position. So, I feel lethargic to go ruffle the pages, and find out the place from where I can continue my reading. I am finding reasons to be lazy and boring. Just blame it on me! (By the way, is anyone experiencing the same problem as I am? When I delete a word from a sentence in blogger, I notice that the adjacent word also gets deleted!) Yeah, getting back to the point, I want to get a whiff of Hawking's interpretation of Physics.

Based on the way I am reading A briefer history of time, you can actually conclude that it is an absolute disgrace to keep twiddling around with the book for two weeks, without even nearing completion. But, that's because, I was hardly reading. I wish there was a word in English to describe the action of holding a book in hand without assimilating even an iota of information from the pages. That's a part of the game. I got Vikas Swarup's Q & A from the library, but this time, it was not just a book, but an audio book. Immediately, I loaded the contents on to my Zune, and my daily morning and evening drive was filled with a myriad of characters, and I lapped up the various forms of expressions, let out by Kerry Shale, in absolute glee. Narration is no easy task, and I was surprised as to how beautifully a narration can be rendered that can keep the listener hooked to the story. So, I just increased my collection of audio books from the library, by adding to my list, my ever favourite Jhumpa Lahiri's books. I still haven't started listening to Interpreter of Maladies or Namesake, but I am really looking forward to a pleasant experience. I also have this weird habit of reading certain books multiple number of times.

What about the current affairs? It is the same old ruckus happening in every part of the world. What can be new with what is happening today? Security issues, terrorism, blah, blah, blah...!!! Moreover, why would anybody want to read my blog post on current issues? There are so many other websites to give the designated information to the readers. I have decided that I will not fill up my pages with boring current affairs stuff. This was a resolution I made after I wrote my last post. It is just not worth the time.

To sum up everything in a sentence, I watched a movie in the theater (at home, I watch plenty), trying to read a book, and in the middle of an audio book. Yup, yup, life just goes on!