Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The year that was...

My motto in 2009: "I am my competition" and "Re-live and enjoy the intellectual waywardness all over again long after my doctoral studies"

Job, professional
New and pleasantly unexpected creative challenges, geared up to do my best
Exploring social media, its potential for learning, marketing B2B enterprise software
Completed 10 years in e-learning, new media and corporate training- glad that I followed my heart and quit teaching English
The convenience and power of social networking, connecting through Facebook, touch base with old friends
Writing my book and working on a plan to market it
Writing, writing and writing...simply loved every bit of the slog
Movies I thoroughly enjoyed
Kaminey, Wake up Sid
Movies that could have been better
Kurbaan and 3 Idiots
Became a fan of
Ranbir Kapoor (doesn't mean I'm ditching Shah Rukh Khan)
Enjoyable moments
Listening to Sanjeev Abhayankar during those stress-filled days
Early morning 'Moonset' and catching it on my lens
The drive to airport on Expressway
The thrill of seeing 267pages in shape!
Spending at Shoppers' Stop and Woodland and ending up with dresses that shrunk and got discolored and footwear that never lasted for more even 3 months.
Not checking the stepney of my car when the tyre got punctured and I ended up with two punctured tyres
Best buy and ownership
Replacing my kitchen chimney with Faber
Over with EMIs - now I own my car
Finally decided to own a vacuum cleaner as borrowing from Madhu was more of an excuse for not cleaning frequently...nothing much has changed even after owning one:)
Satisfying buy at Fabindia, Bangalore
Parting with my earrings (a collection of 100+) coz of problems with the piercing in the earlobe and for medical reasons... wasting money on a pair of diamond and gold earrings...imagine what a gold-hater like me had to go through, being unable to match my earrings with my dress:(
Several visits to the physician at Care clinic, diagnostic tests etc what with viral fever, swine flu, dengue all over the place
Seem to be on the verge of sleeping disorder because of my erratic sleeping habits to cope with my writing and office timelines
Kept postponing
Visit to L&M for eye check-up and new spects
Bravery or agony or endurance?
Underwent RCT for 3 teeth and one pending:)
Pleasant ones
Meeting Kavitha's kid Vaishnavi
Playing with Shreya's friends on her birthday and seeing her dress up as a fairy on the eve of Christmas
Maansi's surprise visit one morning in the month of May 
Shreya improves her sketching, she writes stories in English and attempts the same in Hindi
Maansi playing "air hostess" and offering us food and drinks while I was in Bangalore
Mostly work related- other than this, well nothing:(
In fact, my reading took a back seat because I concentrated more on my writing
Books and CDs
Books - none, CDs - some Hindi movies
Convenience of ordering movies on Tatasky Showcase
Michael Jackson memorial service
50 years of Doordarshan - a documentary revisiting those serials, songs and sitcoms
General and local elections - voted for the first time from my own house
My presentation at national e-learning event and the appreciation
Driving back home from office on my birthday in real heavy rain, late in the evening
Unable to get started with
My initiative on web based help and counselling for students to 'follow their heart'
The Telangana turmoil and resultant impact on the lives of commoners in Hyderabad and other places in A.P
My city missing a beat again...too soon!

My city is where my heart is, this is where I belong, being born and brought up here. Past few days have been a testing time for the city dwellers gripped by the 'fear' of the unknown and uncertain. Today, I simply wasn't able to be normal self - somewhere there was a lurking apprehension and anxiety, "would I return home safely, will my colleagues who depend on private and public transport make it to office?" and so on... Something has gone wrong somewhere - will things get back to normal soon? My heart overpowering my mind, perhaps my dirve to office today was the most painful one, may remain in my memory for long, as a sad reminder of the day my city missed a beat. The frequent 'bandhs' seem to have paralysed the lives of millions of peace-loving people who have made Hyderabad their home.

The familiar scenes were missing - there wasn't a soul on the otherwise bustling Kirshna Nagar-Jubilee Hills road. Every little tea and tiffin stall is closed. I could empathize with people waiting perhaps for their breakfast at these outlets. People waiting at the bus stops with forlorn looks. People stranded in trains and buses at the outskirts of the city. People waiting to reach hospitals and people faced with emergencies. Vendors who depend on us to make their daily earning. It's the people - we the commoners who bear the brunt of agitations, bandhs, strikes and other similar violent manifestations of public ire. This time it's a region that wants to establish its identity - later it would be another region that wants to do the same and this may be followed by similar instances all over the country- a country that was divided on the basis of linguistic identities for better governance- how ironical! Apparently, this was not-so-flawed a strategy for retaining our regional identities yet understanding and tolerating other cultures and religions.

Scratch a little and it's all over the place - strong feelings of regionalism, casteism, communalism - when provoked come out with true colours-making no difference whatsoever in terms of education and culture. Even the most 'educated' get a pleasure in establishing so-called 'superiority' on the basis of religion, caste, region and other parochial priorities. North Indian? South Indian? From Telangana? From Andhra?From ...endless ways to establish our identities, where are the actual issues of economic and inclusive development? Why don't people explore avenues of cooperation and collaborative development? If these were the issues on the basis of which the 'struggle' was planned, there could have been other means of achieving the goal - perhaps with less agony and destruction to the lives of common and innocent people.I'm sure my city will soon get back to normal, one can destroy the physical assets and cause similar damage but one can't kill the soul of a city that's consituted by its sincere citizens who have toiled to make it what it is today!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All is well?

Perhaps not, hmm, certainly not...especially with our educational system, social pressure and rat race and all that. Was this the message Hirani was trying to convey in typical Munnabhai style? The message, though strongly intended, got entangled in those innumerous twists and turns and those overly exaggerated 'comic' scenes, like the one where Chatur makes a speech on Teachers' Day and the childbirth on a table tennis table.
Devoid of such farce, may be the movie could have been more honest and fresh in treating the same theme.

If Five Point Someone (the novel on which the movie is  based) is itself a pulpy version of the dark side of engineering education, the movie based on this novel, remotely addresses any issues raised, leave alone developing them, at least in 'Lage Raho Munnabhai' style. In bits and pieces the movie does make some points- student suicides, lack of recognition for innovation and creativity and parental pressure to outperform others etc. But the conviction with which these points could be been conveyed is missing, since there is so much of typical Bollywood mass-appeal kind of 'comedy' that the actual story is lost somewhere in between the witty one-liners that comment on our engineering education and the stereotypical depiction of schools and colleges in Bollywood movies.

3 Idiots can at best make you laugh and enjoy for the moment, if you can ignore the excesses, you will come out with a 'feel-good' that there is more to life than becoming an engineer or a doctor. Other than this short-lived feeling the movie lacks the sophistication and finesse that was evident in handling social comedies like previous Munnabhai flick. What gets proved again is the difficulty involved in conveying a message without being preachy and yet making it comic, likable and memorable- like two extremes - the Gowarikar type and the Hirani type. Or, the maturity with which Aamir himself handled a similar plot in Taare Zameen Par. How does one do a balancing act while handling series of connected themes like freedom of education, creativity in curriculum and following one's heart. No easy answers here!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Innocent, funny and...
Today's four-year-olds have much more at their disposal than any one of us in our childhood - no two thoughts about this! Mostly the wordly stuff they catch from TV - be it kids' programs, movies or daily soaps. I got to see how my little niece Maansi was playing a prank with her papa the other day when she was in Hyderabad. Vinod had just returned from office and they had an hour or so to leave for Bangalore, perhaps he got busy talking to all of us and Maansi felt she didn't get the attention she wanted. She quickly picked up the phone (intercom) and started dialling some numbers to "call the police" saying her papa is a "bad boy" and they should come and take him, perhaps thinking that bad boys are better handled by police.

She seemed to enjoy her imaginary call, and later started playing with the other phone as well. Shreya was watching her intently. We were having fun observing her 'seriously imaginary conversation' with the 'police'.

In the meantime, my landline phone rang and I picked it up wondering who it was. It was Sandip calling from his mobile from the other room, asking me to give the phone to Maansi. He pretended to be the police and wanted to have some fun. I handed the receiver to Maansi saying that the police is on the line. As soon as she picked up the phone, Maansi got the scare of her life...her innocent expression said it all and I asked her who it was. P-o-l-i-c-e!!! "Please don't take my papa away , he's a good boy" cried Maansi, suddenly her cherubic face turning literally scared. Little wonder, her teeny-weeny brain couldn't figure out that it was Sandip who was on phone.

I felt sad seeing her fun turn into something 'serious', she ran to and sat beside Krupa, tears rolling down her cheeks. Like several kids of her age, Maansi loves to watch TV,  I also heard that she likes detective serials like, 'CID' and seems to be clear about what needs to be done with 'bad boys':)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Latest from Shreya

Shreya has picked up words like "e-learning", "Design" and "Storyboard" :)) And she proudly says she knows the shortform for storyboard; I always write it as "stbd" and once she asked me what it means. Hats off to the observing power of little kids!
And she tells me I write only about these words and not stories like she does about "cheat jackal and clever rabbit".
P.S: I got to know that she learnt about storyboards in the school, here's one I saw her illustrating by reading the description.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Children's Day

Shreya and Maansi were out on some children's day shopping at City Center Mall. They participated in the painting competition at Max on the occasion of children's day. Sad, I missed seeing them perform live... Good that their masterpieces were captured on mobile phone by Krupa. Here they are:



Saturday, October 31, 2009

31st October, 25 years ago...
It was my instant reaction to Mrs. Gandhi's assassination. My first write-up was published in the Deccan Chronicle, a couple of days after the tragic event. Mine must've been one of the hundreds of articles that were published all over the country, but to me it was important and memorable to see my writing in newsprint format. I still remember how some of my friends, family members and acquaintances encouraged me to pursue writing as a hobby. Not to mention that I've still preserved a copy of that day's edition, as with all the later write-ups. It feels good to go back and read it fondly remembering my teenage days.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Who has seen the wind?

While helping my niece Shreya with her English lessons, I couldn't help reminiscing my primary school days at Paramount High School, in the old city of Hyderabad. I fondly remember this poem (must have 'learnt' it in my primary school...probably 2nd or 3rd class) along with stories like William Tell, the Brave Little Dutch Boy (I forget the actual name of the story) and several others...I'm lucky to find this poem on the Web:

Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you.

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I.

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.
by Christina Georgina Rossetti(1830-1894)

Want to try for those English textbooks during my next visit to Orient Blackswan or other such stores. These books were meant for lower primary classes, before the introduction of "Let's Learn English" series from CIEFL which we followed from 4th class onwards.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Tragic end...
Sad and tragic end of a bold and powerful leader who carved an identity for himself and broke all records in providing a stable Congress government in Andhra Pradesh. Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy leaves a vacuum in state politics that may never get filled...however, the inevitable practical reality forces a question. After him who? Can't help thinking back of the pre-TDP days when we would have a new chief minister almost every year during the Congress regime controlled by the center. Will history repeat itself now?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Fifth Anniversary at Srisairam Manor

Today I complete five years at Srisairam Manor Apartments. Memorable years! More because this is the first place where I stayed beyond 4+ years eversince I moved out of CIEFL campus after my father's retirement. Feels good because I know I've a place that'll, after few years, be my own. Not to mention that these five years seem to have fleetly fled. It really feels as if we just entered here couple of years ago.

Just remembered those years when I was inviting queries about when I'd "settle down" ... getting this flat was my way to settle "up" in life and live it to the full!!! (BTW, there can be no real "settling down" as no private job gives you the stability and security of being in the same place all your life). And I wonder how can one ever "settle down" in any other sense of the term? How can someone be so certain when there are so many struggles and unsettling experiences as we move ahead, do our best on the way to realize our dreams! And this flat has seen me live my dreams, be a part of me in highs, lows and mediums. Just remembered the stressful time I had finalizing this flat and then till the loan got approved, those anxious moments. Just recollected the day when my parents saw this flat for the first time...that nice feeling after having climbed the stairs of six floors when the lift was not fixed as the building was still under construction.

With time we all age- so has my dwelling, it's high time I got it re-painted, it's high time I did proper caring; there are so many pending things about my home, I think I haven't been to dedicate myself there , but I know I will, very soon!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Stopping by… Remembering Robert Frost

Remembering Frost
There are loads of things I need to do
Domestic chores keep bothering me
From cleaning the dust to changing curtains
From buying things to getting things done
The clutter on the table is piling up
Some Post-Its on the wall have gone
Some new ones have come up
I’m scared of looking into the deep
The to-do list is getting longer
Writing is an endeavour
That demands everything of me
My mind, body and soul
All come together
As the thoughts come and go
Lines become paragraphs
Paragraphs turn into pages
Profoundly remembering Frost
I’ve lines to compose before I sleep
I’ve lines to write before I sleep

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Past, present and future
If past was in the past
What about the present that's linked to the past
If future is still unknown
What about the present that'll impact the future
When future is known, it no longer remains future
It becomes either present or past
If present is now
What about past that was yesterday
What about future that'll be tomorrow
Worry about present and not past
Worry about present and not future
What about past that was today's yesterday
What about future that'll be today's tomorrow
Is past something really over and done with?
A matter of lost control
Future can't be in control
For it's unknown
So, look at present
Look at present in the way it connects with past
Look at present in the way it builds the future
Hold what is firmly
Between what was and what'll be
Present is NOW
THEN is over
WHEN is yet to come
NOW is what we have!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The daybreak

Piping hot mug of ginger tea
Kick starts my day
After those hours of involuntary sleep
My laptop gives me company
Feels good to be connected virtually
Emails, Blogs, Facebook and all that...

After some time
The gentle breeze sweeps across
The Azan echoes from Masjids around
The only other sound is the clatter of vessels
From the caterer whose day begins at midnight
The birds are about to chirp and twitter
Though very few of them live near the concrete structures

It's that precious time of morning
When the mind gets nourished with fresh ideas, beautiful thoughts
There is something about the time just before the Sun rises
The darkness before dawn may be the darkest
Yet, there's something about it
Mystic, saint-like feeling...truly energizing, empowering

As I read, write, think, compose my thoughts
Picking up where I left it all
Sometimes stitching the pieces together
Or putting those puzzling thougths together
As puzzles get solved
A picture forms
A picture gets erased
A picture gets recomposed
A picture gets repainted
The canvas waits to be filled with myriad strokes

As my mind brims with new ideas
I try to control my thoughts from wandering
Though my mind resists this taming
There is so much to do
There is so much to complete
Dreams remain dreams if they aren't accomplished
How can goals be reached without focus?
How does one focus without concentration?
How does one concentrate without clarity?
How does one have clarity without goal?
Isn't this something like the circle of ...

The first light of the day- it really brightens me up!
And I am in complete control of myself!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The day my car was left alone...
21st July 2009
People tell me I'm very protective about my bike and car. Why should'nt I be so? My bike and my car are a part of my family so I naturally get worried if I haven't parked them well or if they are not cleaned properly and maintained well with regular servicing and so on.
Yesterday was one of those rare days when I missed the ground floor parking in my office building (Auriga Block).* The other slots in the open which face the cafeteria were also full. The parking space outside our IT park which usually has late comers' and visitors' vehicles lined up was also completely packed. I wanted to try my luck in the Vega Block on 1st, 2nd or 5th floors...the moment I crossed the first floor, the security person, stopped me to say it was full. With nowhere to go, I seemed desperate and perhaps cut a sorry figure for the other security person who voluntarily suggested a free parking slot on the 5th floor. Having driven all the way and parked in the "free" slot, I was about to get into the lift...then suddenly another security person approached me and asked me to take away my car immediately. I realized that it was not really a free slot and it was officially allotted to some company, and I was thoroughly misled by the other security person.
After driving out, I kept searching if there was some space anywhere in front of our IT park so that I could squeeze it in at least till lunch time. But I wasn't lucky... now I was left with two options - either go back home or park it on the opposite side of the road. "I can't do this to my car" I felt like screaming ...leaving it all alone on the other side of the road and worrying all the time with "what if...' kind of thoughts !?
Eventually that was the only solution (look at the picture taken by Harry, from the 7th Floor). With a heavy heart I left it on the empty road, but wanted to keep an eye, so parked it in such a way that I could see it from my office which is on the 7th floor. I was just not comfortable...till I found an empty space in front of our building and asked Harry to physically hold on to the space there till I got my car and parked it there...this made me feel better. Now my car had other cars for company:)

Cut to the next day ...I was in office sharp at 9 am as usual ... this time more for my car than for anything else!
* I had decided to come an hour late to office for few days because of some personal work.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Earth Song - Michael Jackson

a sensational, complicated and controversial life and an even more sensational and controversial death... What a life it must've been! flawed, touching, tragic and tormented..of someone who broke all boundaries with his enigmatic performances...with powerful, energetic visual music...simply phenomenal!
What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain.. .
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said was yours and mine...
Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we've shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores?

Aaaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaaah

What have we done to the world
Look what we've done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son...
What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine...
Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores

Aaaaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaaaah

I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don't know where we are
Although I know we've drifted far

Aaaaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaaaaah
Hope the world really becomes a better place the lyrics of another song go.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

While I was driving and listening to my fav music

Some fine lyrics from Suresh Wadekar's songs that are sure to haunt me this Monday morning:
1. Khamosh sa afsana paani se likha hota
Na tumne kaha hota na hum ne suna hota
2. Seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofan sa kyun hai

Is shahar mein har shaksh pareshaan sa kyun hai

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bharatanatyam in the time of the Taliban

80-year-old Indu Mitha has been teaching the dance form to Pakistanis for the link below to read the complete story.

This story appeared in The Hindu.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mall'd from all sides

There seems to be steady addition to the number of shopping malls around the place I live. With so many of them, Hyderabadis are not far behind their counterparts in other metros. I needed new batteries for my watch so visited Titan in Amrutha Mall.

Amrutha Mall...yes, this used to one of those 'original' malls in the busy Somajiguda Circle...with Midways, Minerva, etc. After ages I visited this place, also wanted to see if those old shops are still there like Pallavi and some others. After the widened road and the flyover this hardly looks like a shopping mall, not to mention that horrible stench at the dark and dingy cellar parking. In fact I didn't know such a parking existed coz earlier we would happily park all around this place. I was disappointed to see that now Pallavi sells only sarees and no dresses.

With so many malls around my place I think very soon we are going to be mall'd from all sides, all within a distance of 2 - 3 kilometers. Though I'm not a regular at malls coz I don't ever do window shopping or even find time for it.I shop only when I need something...most of the times I end up in desperate buys. GVK One has a very spacious Shoppers Stop with good collection of trendy ethnic wear....mostly tops with a poor collection of bottoms (but nothing to beat that real original shoppers stop dresses that were there in early years of this brand, can't believe that I still wear a dress, bought from their Bangalore outlet , sometime in 2000), hope that the proposed Fabindia outlet here will have more variety. City Center appeals more for its Crossword and Sahib Sindh Sultan, Lumbini has a good Food Bazaar, Basil there is just ok, what with the dearth of veg-restaurants in Hyd. Central of course has lots of stuff, but always crowded; I really enjoyed watching movies at PVR. Closer home is Big Bazaar that has Rajdhani for that authentic desi khana served in huge thalis. Cinemax is more a multiplex on the lines of Prasads. Haven't been to Ashoka mall at the intersection of Road No 12, the Music World there is quite tempting. Maheshwari group is coming up with a mall at Nagarjuna Circle. And I heard there'll be at least too more on Road No.3. I really don't understand how the retail outlets sustain their business with presence in all the malls at the same time...the same brands everywhere.

Malls don't spare me at my workplace too:) There's Inorbit Mall coming up literally next to my office. Doesn't it look like being mall'd from all sides!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tata Tea Jaago re Campaign

I liked the Tata Tea "Jaago Re" campaign for its novelty, use of media, innovative approach to social advertising in community building. Check out the link below to know the details of this advert.
All of a sudden*

It was a strange moment of nostalgia
Of days that were what I made them to be
When I was in college
Of time that was spent reading, writing, listening to music

Time spent with friends and cousins sharing same interests
Especially in music
Buying, borrowing and sharing cassettes
Saving all that was possible to add to the list of priced possessions
Don Williams, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Pink Floyd, Madonna and a long list of favourites
On some holidays a medley of favourite numbers would play on
With the living room door bolted from inside
Often singing along with photocopied lyrics
As siblings we had our choice of music
Love songs vs soft rock
Hindi songs vs English numbers vs Hindi pop
Classical music vs ghazals
On radio and casette players and later walkman
Not to miss an hour long program on Yuva Vani for latest pop numbers

Carpenters took me on a high with "such a feeling" and "there's a kind of hush"
Denver and Williams - my eternal companions
Incurable romantic what I am...
Still never lose a chance to play and replay those favorites
Some evenings with George Michael or Lionel Richie
"Father figure" and " it me you are looking for"
Those innumerable hits from Grammies in late 80s and 90s...

I listen to most of them today
But the experience is never the same.

(*Felt really nostalgic when Sandip laid his hands on an old Don Williams cassette and played one of the afternoons in summer...I simply could not control the flight of my thoughts, fondly remembered the time, people and places)
No real stuff this!

After ages I got interested in following a TV serial. Aired on Real Channel, I felt it was worth a watch... thought this would be different from those never-ending sagas of weeping and wily women in those unreal and utterly non-sensical 'stories'. Called 'Namak Haraam' with Narayani Shastri in lead role it seemed to tread a different track, seemed interesting coz it could have thrown up some relevant conflictual situations faced by several women in decision making roles, perhaps, more so in administrative services. But soon it was not to be...I simply couldn't figure out how a potentially interesting storyline could suddenly get transformed into a mushy love-triangle-sort-of-thing with the actual issues the serial was trying to address getting completely sidelined. Stereotypical characters with typical emotions resurfaced - where has that headstrong character of the District Collector gone? What about issues of idealism in today's world and her dedication to bring in and live the change she wanted to see? Why is a woman in lead always made to show up her emotional side, no matter how tough she is personally and professionally for that inevitable twist in the story?

Call it TRP or competition, can any channel worth its name has some content that is dedicated to real issues? Can it not sustain its viewership on the basis of such content and still compete with other channels? Not sure if we will get back simple and sound drama that communicates and entertains and drives good sense - all at the same time, makes the viewers ask questions, makes them reflect on reality around them... make them socially aware and so on.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

As the democracy matures...

16th April was election time in Hyderabad - a holiday for many private establishments to facilitate their employees to exercise their franchise. It was a nice feeling for me to exercise my vote from my permanent address; I missed the previous elections because of change of address. There's something that made this election different from the previous ones. The awareness and education on the importance of voting, especially for younger generation, who don't relish talking politics. Worth mentioning is the Ads on TV- one by Tata Tea and many other types of awareness campaigns in rural areas. So there was something more than the usual rhetoric and rigmarole.

With each election, the number of parties seem to increase, we seem to move more and more towards coalition governments. This requires sound judgement in positively participating in the process to strengthen our democracy. Being world's largest democracy by itself doesn't mean anything - the challenge lies in evolving the right policies and sustaining our efforts in providing equal opportunities for development through a stable government. It's time we find ways to avoid frequent elections as coalitions may not be able to last a full term, given the fact that each election process drains our exchequer.

The election commission deserves a mention since it's no easy task managing this process efficiently, ensuring that it goes smoothly despite a country as huge as ours, with so many states, union territories that require different administrative different climatic conditions, difficult terrains, threatening situations, till the counting of votes closes and the verdict is announced.
You are in queue...please wait

Do we need to be told this in so many words!

Each time I see people crowding around cash counters or registration booths, my hunch gets re-confirmed - there are two different cultural aspects to queuing - one that holds it in utmost reverence, and the other that simply hates to line up and wait. No doubt we Indians belong to the second one. I tried finding a word that means 'queue haters' to describe ourselves, but sadly didn't succeed. Picture this: hotels, airports, train and bus ticket counters, supermarket billing counters, cinema halls even hospital counters... would we ever queue up unless thus instructed or forced?

Given a choice, every Indian would exercise his or her right to demonstrate their 'egality' by standing next to each other than line-up one behind the other. Rather strange way - it's the same behaviour whether in a star hotel or in a fair price shop. Is this some trait of being Indian, something to do with our culture -uniquely ours- we seem to display unacceptable signs of restlessness, impatience and anxiety when in public, jostling and shoving people, as if this was the best way to show off our might.Though I'm not a stickler for rules and disciplinary action, I always felt queuing is one of the significant traits of civilised societies.

This time it has to do with the school function I attended at Future Kid's School at their premises. As soon as the school staff announced that the parents could collects their passes for the show, all the parents simply crowded the make-shift counter near the school gate, making it chaotic for the school staff. I wish one of them had 'enforced' the queue system. What an example these parents were setting for their kids. This may be a very small and 'insignificant' instance, just observe our behaviour at cash-counters in food court and you will see how we spread 'horizontally' around the corner, rather than forming a straight line! I really admired the 'discipline' abroad, whether it's an eatery or any public convenience...lines make it orderly and manageable, I still remember those long queues of visitors patiently waiting for their turn to use the rest room in the Louvre Museum at Paris.
Beat the heat with cool salads

This summer I'm freaking out on cool melange of fruits,veggies and cereals. I really enjoyed these, so thought I'd share my 'recipes' for a healthy and wholesome diet.

Recipe 1: Cucumbers (unpeeled), pomegranate, musk melon and meusli
Cut cucumbers and musk melon into cubes and toss some pomegranate seeds, top it with meusli for that crunchy bite.

Recipe 2: Cucumbers (unpeeled), apple, carrots and grated beetroot
Cut cucumbers, apple and carrots into tiny cubes, add grated beetroot just before you serve it.

Recipe 3: Watermelons, grapes, cucumbers, pomegranates and pineapples...amazing mix!!! top it with some crunchy Britannia high-fibre or nutrichoice biscuits

Recipe 4: Tomatoes, cucumbers, coriander and moong sprouts...cut tomatoes and cucumbers, add chopped coriander and sprouts, spice it up with some pepper and salt

Recipe 5: Cucumbers and roasted and coarsely ground peanuts....cut cucumbers into cubes and toss in some coarse peanuts, squeeze a dash of lime, salt and jeera powder for that tangy taste!

Recipe 6: Pears, corn, grapes and apple - Cut pears and apple into cubes and mix grapes and boiled corn, add some honeyed cornflakes just before serving it.

There are many more creative and imaginative options to decide what can be 'saladed' fresh and be healthy!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Robots smile in classrooms

"Unlike more mechanical-looking robots like Honda’s Asimo, the robot teacher, called Saya, can express six basic emotions — surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, sadness — because its rubber skin is being pulled from the back with motors and wiring around the eyes and the mouth. ...."

"Japan and other nations hope robotics will provide a solution for their growing labour shortage problem as populations age. But scientists express concern about using a machine to take care of children and the elderly....." Read on...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Reflections on the global economic crisis

Markandey Katju' s perspective includes reflections on global crisis, Indian economy and role of tax.

"The central problem is not how to increase production, but how to increase the purchasing power of the masses in a grossly iniquitous economy. This is the time for all serious thinkers to address the challenge. "

The problem is also not how to increase demand. The demand is there but people do not have the money to purchase goods. In India, for instance, 70 per cent of the people live on incomes of Rs. 20 a day. This is not sufficient even to buy necessities such as food or medicines, not to speak of durable goods.

The solution to the economic crisis lies in raising the purchasing power of the masses. How this is to be done requires a great deal of thinking and discussion, and all serious thinkers must address this problem facing India, and the world.....Read on...
(The author is a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. This article is based on his speech, ‘Global Economic Scenario – Role of Tax Professionals,’ given at the National Tax Conference at Varanasi on March 7, 2009.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Time - a great healer

Come February - and I cannot help re-living the recent past however much I try to engage myself in other activities. Each of those days comes back as fresh as today, Feb 22, ....March 11. Even after three years my sense of loss is still the same and I continue to reconcile with eternal truth of what it means to part with your loved one. Several memories flash through as if my mind is working parallelly in past and present while I'm at home or office, cooking or cleaning, reading, talking or writing, driving or walking, awake or asleep.

His pure white Khadi wear and nicely oiled hair
His short tempered outbursts at slight mistakes
His walking stick and spectacles that made him look older
His joyful moments playing with little Shreya
His annoyance at all those strips of medicine
His restlessness when the newspaper got late
His love for tea that was prepared tastefully
His love for early morning bhajans on radio
His tendency to switch off the television when India was losing a cricket match
His neat way of arranging things
His habit of waking up before the world does
His habit of dozing off while watching TV
His habit of reading aloud some interesting stuff in books and showing it to me
His recently acquired interest in solving simple Sudoku puzzles
His sense of bewilderment at computers and Internet
And the list goes on...

It is these images that we capture and preserve in our minds. This is the stuff one leaves behind that gets imprinted in us, and you begin to wonder at the healing power of time. I'm reminded of these lyrics from Boney M:

Time, changer of seasons, time will see another flower growing.
Climb over the mountains, there you'll find warm winds blowing.
Somewhere in the world ...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shreya explaining the four seasons and the earth

This was recorded on my mobile phone,when she was reading and explaining from a book. She wasn't aware that I was videoing it.

Is this a curse of the rocks?

Suddenly everything has come to a standstill. Few months ago the surroundings of my office building were buzzing with several unrestrained quarrying and construction activities and now it's all quiet. It was painful to see such picturesque rock formations razed to ground in no time. And I felt helpless, all I could do was capture these remnants of changing ecology on my lens as they told several tales about the character of my city, as they became the 'silent victims' of the newly emerging cityscape and as the place would never be the same again!

And I became a witness to the sad saga of destruction when dozens of cranes, forklifts , tippers, dump trucks and other 'demons' lay siege of these rocks. I used to watch the events unfold day by day till the rocky surface was quarried, blasted and levelled into plain land ready to be dug to hold the new skyscrapers. Today's it's all changed - there's complete silence, thanks to recession and slowdown in realty and infrastructure sector, things have come to a grinding halt. The activity may pickup again soon but the curse of the rocks cannot be ignored. Here are a few snaps of 'then' and 'now' scenes.

Click here for some news on 'saving the rocks' in Hyderabad:

Of Indian Slums and Englishmen

Sex sells, porn sells, poverty sells too! Especially when it has to do with 'modern mysticism' of urban India in times of ubiquitous call centers, electronic media, reality TV etc- perhaps the only country with such starkly contrasting realities, seamlessly woven in its sociocultural fabric. Sure this movie will break all boxoffice records abroad and get as many awards in various international film festivals. India, in this format has always been a bestseller - in print or cinema like all those images of India constructed by the West for the western audience.

I got a chance to watch Slumdog Millionaire* when it premiered on TataSky, didn't want to miss this much-talked-about movie, that too, when it is being served at the comfort of my living room at a nominal price of Rs.25.Would I have seen it in the theatres? Perhaps not! Too much of publicity often kills interest in watching a movie, especially with so-called 'global recognition' and a plot like slum-kids-poverty.

I knew as an Indian I was watching this movie at my own risk. Having watched it I can't remain silent, a keen student of Cinema that I am. The plot of the movie (and the imminent trend it's going to set with apparent neo-realisitc portrayal of a single aspect of India) was so striking that I shall refrain from going into other themes like the love story, the street smartness of kids, music or screenplay.

Now to the movie - it seems to have all the ingredients that could please the voyeuristic palate of typical 'western' audience when it comes to an Indian subject. I don't think it offered me anything new other than blatant exploitation of people in slums. Very correct, it has nothing for the Indian audience but we are curiously positioned since it is made on our subject, with our actors on our soil. We are caught in a complex interplay of emotions because though the subject is not alien to us it's treatment is!

Sure, for us, poverty is something we live and breathe all around us - be it beggars at traffic signals and places of worship or slums adjacent to our skyscrapers. Poverty is both organized and unorganized - it is 'natural' and inflicted though its 'eradication' is always on top of the agenda for any government. But we don't see the glamour side of poverty - in fact we may be ashamed of it, we feel guilty and we may abhor it and shun it but we don't hesitate in accepting this aspect of our reality. For the west, our slums present a spectacle of human condition with unending scope for dissolute perception and misrepresentation.

When hunger, deprivation, nakedness and homelessness become subjects of attraction for a Westerner especially an Englishman, say Danny Boyle, you know what you can the stereotypical BBC or CNN. No difference here: instead of those images here you have a collage stitched with a popular game show (an English game show in Indian avatar) , in the backdrop of callcenter and reality TV that present a 'contemporary' India. Because of the similarity of subject, I was suddenly reminded of Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay but later felt that these two are as different and hence there can be no comparison.

The same set of questions arise again: why is Indian media raving and ranting about this film? Why do we/the film industry yearn for 'global' recognition be it Golden Globe or Oscar or whatever, isn't appreciation from our billion - a verdict big enough? There's nothing in this movie that can make any Indian feel great even from cinematic perspective, other than opening up more commercially competitive avenues of making and selling cinema or music (A R Rahman type, btw I love Rahman's music, that's besides the point). True global recognition lies in accepting our reality by others, as we see it in the backdrop of our history, our culture and our unique socio-political milieu - but this will not fetch awards! The west would reward us for what they would like to see in our movies. And I'm sure no self-respecting Indian would stoop so low to make poverty a subject of entertainment at this scale. Don't be surprised if "Indians" get Oscars thanks to this movie - a recognition manipulated and managed by Englishman for Indians with an overt agenda of inviting more on similar subjects. Let's not equate such an 'honour' with Bindra's gold medal in Olympics or similar feats.

*I haven't read the book "Q and A" by Vikas Swarup on which this movie is based.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shreya's suggestions

Seeing me drowned in reading, writing and surrounded by books, Shreya was worried and restless that I was not playing with her. She asked me what I was reading and writing.

I found it difficult to explain that I was revising my book based on reviewers' comments coz she thought that I'd already completed it few months ago. She had half-a-dozen queries: why was I writing the book again, what is it about, for whom was I writing it...

I told her I need lot of time for this and once I'm back in office it'd be difficult to concentrate on my book. First suggestion that came from her made me burst out laughing: "see Maasi, you write every evening after coming from office till middle of night...when you go to office, be there till afternoon, then tell your friends , you have a feverish feeling and come back, then again you write". I said that's not right thing to do etc..Otherwise, try this, she said: "when you are in your office, take the microphone and make an announcement to everyone saying you have something important to write and you cannot come for a few days".

Though I was touched by her concern, I could not implement either of her naive suggestions:)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 - already uh?!

2009 has quietly swept me in its fold. I hardly realized that 2008 is already past. Friends asked me "so what's up for 2009" I said, "for me 2008 is still not over".I'm mentally in 2008, funny right? Perhaps because all that I wanted to accomplish in the last year has spilled into the new year. I've extended my 2008 by two more months, so this time it will have fourteen months instead of twelve. Sounds crazy?

Well, that's the spirit with which I shall go ahead this year - non-conforming, rebellious, outspoken and all those qualifiers used by my college friends to describe me during my college days! Who says entering mid-life is like a crisis? Mere thought of my college days makes me feel rejuvenated, much younger, reminding of times when I didn't have to think much about mind-body-soul therapies, haemoglobin and thyroid levels, yoga and detox methods.

I want to re-live those moments in totally new and challenging times - defined by terror trails, political scandals and corporate scams and what not- all in the backdrop of perhaps the worst economic recession. Isn't this what we are into as we herald this year. Sounding cynical? That'd be the last thing for me, i'm just trying to be realistic and calculative in understanding the magnitude of issues that characterise our age. We still continue to do the same old things - new year parties, fireworks, celebrations, greetings, visiting crowded temples...aren't we tired of all this? Some self-indulgent and some meaningless acts of self-mockery - taking shelter in transient experiences devoid of any introspection or self-reflection!

Time to introspect: Just wondering, did I take things very seriously so far? It's high time I change my perspective of looking at things, people, surroundings - I think I need to consciously change my focus and re-set my goals for the next five years. There's lot to do in these years - more for personal satisfaction through social extension than anything else. Not the least, undermining the importance of clocks, calendars, to-do lists and deadlines.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Some good news for train passengers

Delayed but not denied - the right of every passenger for dignified travel. At last the goverment has realized that it was not worth the 'effort' to add that additional berth in 2nd class and AC 3tier. Read the details at:
My earlier blog on the same topic can be viewed at: