Wednesday, March 30, 2005

and i choose not to choose


I have decided. The hunt finally came to a halt, temporarily at least. I have been doing this search for quite some time already. I knew at some point of time I have to make a decision, I have just been postponing it. Was looking at various options, discussing with friends, thinking a lot about this, comparing the choices etc., Finally it has come to a end.. for now.

Iam talking about my Cellphone. It is not a cool one like Raman's on which he wrote a wonderful review. It is a simple Samsung model that works just as a phone - nothing fancy. I have no particular attachment to it, but then this rambling is not about my cell.

It is about choices, or the struggle with choices - to be precise. If someone asks me "Do you need options or not?", I would immediately answer NO - that is the easiest multiple choice question I could ever answer so fast and so sure. At every point of life we are faced with multiple paths and at every such point we need to make decisions. When we were kids we looked upon our parents to make decisions for us. As we grow up, we are forced to make decisions and whatz worse, own them, live with them !!! This scheme is a perfect design to satisfy the Ultimate Master's sadistic game. Imagine what He would be thinking from the heavens above on every wrong decision we make - Oh What a fool...

I cant imagine any time where we are not thinking hard about choosing something. A car, Cellphone, apartment, ticket to India, TV, movie for tonight, a wife - the list goes on and on.. And each of this come with their own subdecision trees as well. Like Used Vs New or a $49.99 Vs $55.99 plan.... and we always put our minds just to decide what we need to do. We try and conclude what is best for us and after a while we justify the finalization to ourselves. Our whole life passes like this.

Some folks are gifted with making on the spot impulsive decisions - they are people whom we classify as know what they want. Some make real bad decisions by normal standards but in the turn it turns into a huge success, labelling the person as a risk taker. Others are people who just pick the first thing that comes to their mind and they are the one who takes life as it comes along.

The book of cliches advises us that making a decision is really very easy. If the difference is big, you know what to choose and if the difference is small, it really doesnt matter what you choose. This statement actually impresses me. For, most of we worry about is a infinitesimally small gain here and there. We all want the best in the lot and that is what breaks our head. Maybe we need to follow the principle above - then deciding anything is very easy. Importance is always relative, isnt it ?

Well.. I have wasted a whole lot of time in deciding what cellphone I need to buy. And all I ended up doing was to make a temporary arrangement to buy me enough time to think and decide - essentially - waste more time. I am not a risk taker, I certainly dont know what I want and I just cant take life as it comes along without making an analysis first. I am just a indecisive moron who
hasnt still figured out that a choice leads to another that leads to another and this is a never ending tree...

Robert Frost rightly put it

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

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

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

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


Saturday, March 26, 2005

the knights templars of today - 2


(This is in response to the first three comments on my previous blog "the knights templars of today".)

There is no disputing to the questions that you have raised in your comments. And for the record, Iam not one of those pseudo securalist ilk, like the Congress and the Janata Dals, who talk abstractly on restraint & religious tolerance etc.,. On the contrary I believe in all religiousness and fundamental faith. Iam a staunch Hindu and I dont believe in sitting around doing nothing when the religion is being abused.

But this is not about me or you.. This is not vague secularism I am talking about. This is fanaticism. You dont handle retards by becoming a retard yourself. Yes.. respect to sensitivity cannot be one way. That doesnt mean one can keep breaking Taj Mahals and Red Forts for a temple which doesnt' exist today. Construct new ones, promote the religion, support the believers. Fight for the Kanchi mutt chief and prove his innocence. Dont become a Ghazni yourself and plunder someone elses faith.

What is hurting today is that, when our Hindus are suffering with Tsunami tragedies, Bhuj earthquakes, the Northeast corridor folks with no money, no food, no education, no security whatsoever and we are still bothered about some piece of land. Gather the Hindus, form a Sena and help these people. RESTORE THE FAITH.

And Eshwar, I take a very strong exception when you say that you dont need someone like me to lecture you on this. Our motherland has welcomed other religions - true.. But most of it is because the other religions did not give us a chance - they took us by FORCE- be it the Greeks, Moslems or the Christians. So lets be cogizant of the fact that we welcomed them because we were not strong enough to come togther to drive them out most of the time. And when you compare this with that of a landlord-tenant, do you mean we sit and trace back history to check and drive out all Aryans out of the South ? Or does it mean that you support reservation policies because few hundred years back our brahmnical ancestors inflicted a castiest-bias towards our other ancestors ? But I dont want to start a historical debate here. That doesnt serve any purpose now, for good or bad, we are what we are today.

People die of hunger even today in India. The Congress hasnt done any magic to solve these issues. Most of us, including me were excited when the BJP came to power for they seemed to have the energy & fire to lead us. We still believe that BJP is a party that has got potential and sense and are the right people of this lot to lead the nation. So when a leader with that party starts a gimmick such as this, it is not very encouraging.

(And guys, please comment in my india shopping blog.... I really need some help there. We can sit and discuss this topic after Iam back).


Friday, March 25, 2005

the knights templars of today


The Da Vinci Code is a very interesting work of fiction. Dan Brown brought to light the alleged hidden facts that almost shake the very foundation of Christendom. The Kinghts Templars or the Poor Knights of the Solomon Temple swore allegiance to recover the hidden truth buried under the Solomon Temple and protect it for generations together.

Unfortunately a few of our generation seem to have misunderstood the history and have taken up the task of breaking down monuments to recover old temples. The self proclaimed knights templars of today roam about the entire Union of India searching for old temples and mosques that have been demolished and currently housing mosques or temples and claiming ownership of the place. The Babri Masjid - Ram Mandir is a complete mockery of Hindutva, Democracy and above all the sanctity of religion. While the Dec 06, 1991 is still an unforgotten incident and is almost a national holiday in many sensitive parts till day, a new templar has woken up suddenly in Lucknow giving voice to reclaim another temple.

This savior of the Hindu religion has declared that Taj Mahal was originally a Shiva Temple called as Tejo Mai Mahal. He is also planning to assemble a Shankar Sena to reclaim the Taj Mahal. Pardon me for being blunt, but, what an idiot !!

Let us assume for a second that the Taj Mahal was indeed originally the Tejo Mai Mahal - so how does it matter ? Every place was always someplace before. We have sufficient temples and mosques already and a good percentage of them need renovation and support. So Mr. Vinay Katiyar - if you have lots of time and/or money and dont know what to do with it, please find temples that are in ruin & shambles and renovate them. There are aplenty of them needing attention in India. Or better, donate it to social organizations to help feed the hungry, 'cause the God Himself would like that.

The BJP is a National party and has headed a full government term. It needs to pull itself together and realise that India is a land of diversity and unless there is a respect to sensitivity, peace cannot be attained. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. The party members should refrain from making such ridiculous religious claims in search of attention. Furthermore, if BJP wants to promote Hindutva there are multimillion constructive ways to do that - construct Hindu Mission hospitals, schools, colleges and universties which research and propogate Hinduism; sponsor poor kids to school, feed the needy; ... ; This is not the time to pick quarrels with other religions and engage in a bloodbath over a temple that possibly existed hundreds of years ago. Cheap gimmicks wont promote religiousness or faith. They prmote fanatics.... and fanatics promote catastrophe.

(adapted from Burt Bucharach)

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some but for everyone

Lord we don’t need another shrine
There are temples and mosques
Enough to pray
There are Churches and Mutts
Enough to preach, Enough to last
’till the end of time

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some but for everyone


Thursday, March 24, 2005

good bye, sambhar


Yesteryear movies -specially Black & White ones- are remembered with so much fondness by our parents, grandparents and by us. They were of the gentle, romantic, family-oriented ones that could be watched almost anytime, unlike today's (Hindi) movies, where one has to watch with one hand on the remote ready to switch to ESPN if someone walks in. Old Tamil movies had an excellent cast with each performer trying to outperform the other. MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, SSR, JaiShankar, SV Ranga Rao, Nagesh, Savithri, Padmini, Saroja Devi - the list of immemorable names goes on and on..

There was always the one man who brought 'colourfullness' to the B&W movies. His movies boasted of light romantic stories, wonderful music and songs and an amazing performance. His films neither boasted of 'action scenes' like that of MGR's nor heavy sentiments like that of Sivaji's. In today's terms, he had a late entry into the films, at the age of 34; but Gemini Ganesan was one of the most popular hero and a ladies-man of that era. He fitted aptly into the roles he played - whether a middle-aged middle-class hero driving a cycle or as the young prince Abhimanyu rowing a boat with his consort. Typically cast in movies that needed a 30 year old hero romancing (yes - there was a time when only 30 year olds were romancing), or just married having a small happy family, Gemini Ganesan was the soft-star of the 60s; A star who didnt enter politics like his peers.

A well educated guy hailing from a orthodox brahmin family from down South, Gemini Ganesan was a Chemistry professor at the MCC. Maybe he learnt the art of romancing from his students during this tenure !!. He was affectionately referred as the Kaadhal Mannan. And this was by no means a surprise. For Gemini was a colourful person not just in the movies but in personal life too. Though he acted in Iru Kodugal - where he had 2 wives, in reality he had Many Kodugal. He had many marriages, the latest when he was in his 70s.. his movies were a real reflection of his real life love stories - a different herione in each one of them. PB Srinivas and AM Rajah rendered most of the songs for this passionate hero. Their tones and tunes matched with the gentleness of Gemini's voice.

I have watched a number of Gemini's movies with great interest. Missiamma, Konjum Salangai, Then Nilavu, Kalyanap Parisu, Maya Bazaar stand at the top of my favorites. A couple of his best performances came in his later years in Unnal Mudiyum Thambi and Avvai Shanmughi. One could tell from these movies that the man had a passion, a flair for acting. Another interesting movie is Naan Avanillai, where he played nine roles - a feat comparable with that of the other Ganesan in Navarathiri.

People age and they pass away. Only few of them leave such a rich legacy to the industry that they grew and dwelled in. Gemini was undoubtedly one of them. His presence in the movie zone was enchanting and he will be fondly remembered as a "gentleman" of Tamil movie. I always prefer to remember him by his famous nickname - sambhar.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

ideas for india shopping


There is always the time when every one of us comes to a standstill and wondering what to do.. Iam not talking of a vague quarter life crisis here - this is simpler. This is the time when one has to purchase gifts to the dear and near ones back home. Iam sure that every desi travelling to India would have given a sound thought about this.

Here Iam, planning to visit home .. Hurrah.. and that too after a long gap of 2 years !! I cant wait to ride on a Splendor over the Mount Road; to watch a movie at Satyam cineplex; to eat to heart's content at Hotel Saravana Bhavan - but most important of all - to spend time, a lot of time, with friends and family. There are friends who have gotten married and have kids already since the last time I saw them. There is family some of whom I am meeting after few years who are in different phases of life since the last I exchanged a Hello with them..

And I want to take a lot of gifts back home - to everyone: my parents, grandparents, all uncles & aunts, cousins, their neighbours, my neighbours, classmates, colleagues, parents-colleagues, (ex-)teachers......

Wait...this is tricky. What does one buy in the US to take back home. Five years back when I left to India for the first time from the US, there seemed to a lot of options - Cordless phones, 35mm cameras, Mini radios, Film rolls, Head phones, Cassettes, Batteries, Digital Diaries - the options were multifold. As time passed and I made more trips, my purchasing choices started waning down. Slowly but steadily, the Indian market has caught up with the US and one can now purchase better stuff in Chennai Spencers with lots of options and warranty.

What does one take back home, to a place where you can get everything ? But then I still cant go empty handed, Can I ? I have seen people visit all shops with a SALE board, flea markets,, dollar stores - sometimes a 99cent store in a pathetic effort to fill all the 64 kgs allowed with some stuff for every one in the family. There is a standard set, for self - laptop, SLR/HandyCam, iPod. Then there is the regular package deal - 1 digital camera, 2 USB drives, 3 Mp3 players, 4 watches, 5 T-shirts (sold for 5 for $10 at the pavement near Smithsonian), 10 Dove soaps.... A courtesy visit to Walmart for ziploc bags, clingwraps, a Turbo Mach-3 (and 8 blades), Jovan Musk; and there is the most important trip to CostCo or BJs for the typical silver-foil-wrapped, conical Herschey's Kisses - this is like a license tag that proclaims to the junta - Iam back from the United States !!!. People in India must be growing sick and tired of this chocolate. The purchase goes on till you land - like the Chevas Regal from the airplane.

Do people back in India really expect you to carry stuff for them ? They earn well, have good tastes and excellent choices. None of this matters, anyways. Most of us always carry it for 'correctness'. And we are very careful to follow our little-socialist policy of 'equality in everything' in the shopping - all young cousins get watches, all uncles get body sprays and the aunts get perfumes - of same cost if not identical... wow !! haven't we learned to be fair after living in the US for few months.

I dont like to do this India-shopping anymore, it seems such a waste of time. Every item is something that I have already taken or is available in India at a better price. I have been shopping for 2 days, or atleast trying to, with limited or no success to buy something to folks back home. After a few trips, the interest fades off. I also know that no one back home is expecting me to bring anything. They have a lot in their lives to think and worry about - least of it being what I will get for them from the US.

But that ego, that false pride just wouldnt let go, would it ? So experienced desis, do provide me with good ideas of what I can stuff the 2 check-in bags with....


Monday, March 21, 2005

and the award goes to


Every year a set of prominent and talented people of every field come together and discuss, evaluate, vote and award the best performers in that field. Some of these award ceremonies are very popular and call for huge media coverage on a closing eve. Others are popular because of what they represent, mean and their impact. The Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Miss Universe/Worlds etc., are examples of the former. The Nobels, Pulitzers, Bookers belong to the latter. Every year millions of us track and follow and sometimes vote for these awards religiously. There is something about competition that keeps people going. There is no one field or industry or subject or whatever without a top 10.

So what about blogs ? The bloggers are becoming a huge community on the internet and my friend Raman seems to think that it is becoming a very crowded place . And one always finds it tough to bookmark interesting blogs to follow religiously. If only there was some jury that declared the following were good blogs to follow up for lazy bums like me who wouldnt want to do their own searching....

Well, the wish is true. Atleast for the desis. I came across the site which confers awards for BIOs. (Bloggers of Indian Origin). They award bloggers in a bunch of categories. Looks like they have been doing this since 2003.

As I went through some of the nominated blogs and the winners, I realised a lot of interesting facts. For example, people blog a lot in their vernacular languages. For example, Dubukku, Desikann etc., are tamil blogs. Likewise there are blogs in Malayalam, Hindi etc., Many of the blogs were very focused like Sadagopan's blog on emerging technology trends. A few of them have multiple authors and operate like a e-zine and/or a collaborative space.

Anyways, I guess we all know whom to nominate for the next year awards. For those of you who arent smart enough to guess who it is, here is a hint - he is the one who sees the road. (come on people, wasnt that a good cryptic?)


Saturday, March 19, 2005

the woes of a bachelor


A bachelorhood is something that everyone of enjoys with passion and will remember with fondness down the lane. Living by oneself, no restrictions, no formalities, no boundaries, unlimited girls to stare at - are precious gifts that will exist only during the single life.

I was talking to one of my friends the other day and we got into a discussion of how women give a benefit of doubt to the married people against the bachelors. Iam of the view that women always tend to give the married people more cushion than what they extend to the bachelors. I have found it always amusing. When I broached on this subject with my friend, she agreed that it was definitely the case. "Trust is better in the case of a married man", she said. "Married men act with more maturity, they know to behave, they know when to stop" - these were all the reasons that she stated for giving that extra cushion for a married person. "It will be a harmless flirt with them."

This offends me as a bachelor.

The bachelors are much more behaved and they dont take advantage of situation that easily. They know that one wrong move and they are done forever. In case of the married men, on one hand while they know that their reputation and family life is at stake, on the other hand they also know that women will think twice before exposing their undesirable behavior. A bachelor ogling a girl at a public place is sure to get a stare or a slap whereas a married man with his wife drooling all over another girl is less likely to be even glared at. This is highly unfair since the married man actually commits a bigger mistake since he is owed allegiance with another woman already.

I dont have anything against the married community. But I dont like the fact that they can always be the nice, harmless people with whom the ladies dont mind anything whereas we bachelors are the bad boys always. Sexual abuses at workplaces are always by married men, if someone noted. Almost never by a bachelor.. Look at Bill Clinton or Phaneesh Murthy or anyone. And the girls always seem to think married people are safe ? Is the marriage a license to flirt with another woman ?

Well women !! for Godssake, there are single men in the city. Trust us. Even if you dont, it is okay. Do not make us jealous by allowing someone's husband to flirt with you. He too was a bachelor just a few years ago. If you dont trust us, you have no reason to trust him now.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

an informed decision


Iam a Michael Crichton fan. I read his books time and again. I never cease to wonder how Crichton does his highly extensive research and blends fact with fiction so smoothly that, at the end of every one of his preposterous situations, one still ends up with the thought that someday this will all be true. Some of his works leave a very uncomfortable feeling nagging what if ? Jurassic Park, Lost World, Prey are samples of this kind. Crichton is a modern day Jules Verne. I have been reading his latest State of Fear with considerable interest. The stroyline is revolutionary attacking the envrionmentalists as hyprocrites and ill-informed people who have no clear picture of the changes around the world.

But this blog is not a review of his work. The following lines in the novel made me pause:
...Her intentions may be good, but her information is bad. A prescription for disaster ..
I put down the book and started to think. This line is absolutely true. Many of us always seem to know a lot of stuff in lots of areas. We appear to know what is better, what is right, how to get it done, where things go wrong, the truth, the intentions, the correct plan - about almost everything. We feel strongly about a lot of stuff - including current day politics, yesteryear strategies, international policies, evils of communism, treaties, coalitions. We have a complete list of things to do and that should not be done for the betterment of the country, for the improvement of the economy. We know how better to run a company, how to unite people, what is wrong in the current setup, how to make a project successful etc etc.,

Our intentions are good. No doubt. All of us want betterment. But do we know/digest the facts necessary ? We get most of our facts from media which is already doctored to a large extent. We rely on hearsays, blogs, gossips & rumors for a bunch of information. We find it tough to even segregate the right information from wrong/influenced ones. We are crippled in making a good independent judgment at the end of the day. Good intentions with bad information lead to crisis.
And we collate and precipitate such informtion into our heads, our friends, our blogs.

On a similar note, one can remember the HR guiding principles of Jack Welch. Welch classified his people into 4 groups, placing each in one quadrant. The axes were belief in values (of the company) and delivery.

First Quadrant : +ve Values & +ve delivery
Second Quadrant : +ve Values & -ve delivery
Third Quadrant : -ve Values & +ve delivery
Fourth Quadrant : -ve Values & -ve delivery

In this classification, people of the First Quad were the FastTrackers - future leaders. The Second & Fourth Quadrans needed trainings and warnings. The most dangerous are the Third quadrant. These are people who have delivered and are successful but dont believe in the values of the organization. They have honorable intentions and they deliver well; but this is only in a shortlived glory. On a longer run, these people end inflicting great losses - because they dont share the values, guiding principles and vision of the company.

So do the majority fall into the third category ? Is this what differentiates commonline thinkers and influencing leaders ? Is this why inspite of having so many well educated and socially conscious citizens, we still have so many problems with no satisfying solutions ? While we always have a medicine in hand for every issue on how it could have been done better, is it well analyzed after an independent assessment ? Or are we merely echoing a combination of our mindsets and a predefined review columns ?

The character from State of Fear continues saying ..Caring is irrelevant. Desire to do good is irrelevant. All that counts is knowledge and results...

Are we just Dilberts who do nothing but sarcastically record our cubicle thoughts ?


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

warriors of the language


We all know that necessity is the mother of inventions. Sometimes when these inventions become part and parcel of our daily routine, we never realise that there was a necessity at some point of time that triggered this invention. Thousands of years ago when one man wanted to communicate to another he possibly used signals. It must have been terrible just to say a "How are you doing?". People possibly avoided each other - it would take an entire hour to exchange pleasantaries. Thanks to all those who have learnt that Communication is the key to growth the hard way, we now have language - a defined medium and easy to learn, understand and helps us exist.

But then too much of something always ends up creating trouble and so is the case of languages. India alone has close to about 900 spoken languages. And these languages have created boundaries - strong enough to be state borders within the Union. While it is certainly beyond a few years of discussion on whether states should be split based on linguistic prominence, it is certainly worthy to step back and see what have we gotten out of it. Language is a basic attribute of a social animal and for an Indian it is a key differentiator. Language defines roots, history, tradition, culture, habits, ceremonies. It is a matter of pride for many. Some languages have a rich saga and there is always a contention or a comparison.

Particularly down South India, language is a very sensitive topic. Right from the early 40's when Hindi - a language spoken by around 40% of Indians - was declared as a official language of communication in India and imposed in schools and colleges, there have been continous strikes and bandhs. Parties have strived on their linguistic affinity. Elections have been fought and won over kindling of lingo sentiments. We have seen self immolation, broken bridges, fallen trees, black paints on signboards & milestones, strikes, total shutdowns, picketing - everything that a democracy can boast of for this cause. Any political or cine celebrity who doesnt show his affinity for the language will be trashed mercilessly.

While the affinity for one's language and the sentiments are to be respected and honored, some of these loyalists end up becoming fanatics and self declared saviors of the language. There are organizations/leaders in Tamilnadu who are the Templars of Tamil. Their job is to make sure that it is all Tamil everywhere. They have no purpose, nor goals nor any honorable intentions. All they want is all sign boards to be in Tamil, all movie names to be in Tamil and all college curriculum in Tamil. They believe that they can bring honor to the language and protect it's rich traditions by painting English name boards with a black paint or by stopping crowded trains on weekday mornings during rush hour traffic. I still cannot understand what good it would do to Tamil by renaming a 150 minute entertainment currently called "Mumbai Express" into a Tamil name. Of course, the irony that the sons of these warriors are all well educated in English(sometimes even in Hindi) in some of the best schools in the country, they even have overseas graduation degrees - but then who can question them, at the cost of being called a traitor.

Love the language. Appreciate its history. Enrich the literature. Contribute to the purity. Spread the word... But realise that petty stuff like renaming movies will only make the lanuguage an object of ridicule.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

sanyasis, murders and courtrooms


It is very unfortunate to see the title of my blog. The three words should'nt even be appearing in one single line, leave alone becoming catchy titles. Neverthless, religions & religious leaders are always surrounded by controversy irrespective of what they believe and what they preach.

Religion is a institutionalized system of belief. A belief that is built over strong thoughts, principles, values and practices. Religion is a very strong factor that can cut across the boundaries of the earth and try to bring about people together. It is powerful than science. Whereas science involves compelling facts to believe in or follow, religion runs by faith; and faith does not ask for proof or factual questions. Extreme faith leads to fanatics. While certainly religion is basic necessity to promote harmony, it can be the most devastating weapon of mass destruction ever.

So this brings us to the religious leader. More than a sizable percentage of the people in India who have capability to think believe that politicial leaders are avatars of Satan; that they advocate personal growth at the cost of million lives. It is religion which provide solace to most of these and other people who have lost their ability to believe in the political or judiciary processes. The religious leader becomes the symbol of truth, justice, peace and hope to millions. And if these people choose to taint themselves..........

For survival reasons religions are operated no better that mutlinational corporations and the religious leaders are more businesslike - like the CEOs. While it is not justifiable to corner out one religion Vs another in this discussion, it is to be universally accepted that the symbols of harmony are marred in controversy in almost EVERY religion. There are Christian "fathers" who molest kids; Islamic leaders who advocate jihads and revenge; crazy god-men who have sex workshops; self proclaimed prophets who have shootouts in their garage; Hindu sanyasis who are charged with murders within temple walls. And when such crimes are committed, it puts the governments, peer spiritual leaders and most importantly the people in tough spot. It shatters hope, kills the faith, breaks the beliefs and ruins peace.

The latest to join this bandwagon of tainted spiritual heads (now we know the universaility of the term tainted 'ministers' ) are the Kanchi Shankaracharyas. While the police investigation is on and it is not my wish to 'guesstimate' if the Acharya had a hand in the murder, it is certainly a black mark to the institution of the religion. This only goes to prove that well educated, highly religious and god fearing spiritual men are nothing but MEN at the end of the day. They come with their own weaknesses and egos. The mutt-head may have done nothing bad, but his sheer involvement in a conspiracy is sacrilege.

Iam certainly not in agreement with the way the Acharya was treated by police or the government. There are rapists, muderers & bomb-lords who roam scot free all over the state & country and few of them even end up becoming ministers. Compared to these people or anybody, the Archarya has involved himself to thousands of social activities and bettered the lives of millions of people. So one can argue that this issue should not be made a big picture of. For Godssake, he could have been placed in a mutt-arrest. But it doenst matter. One can do a zillion good things - but they all nullify when he commits a crime, knowinlgy.. When Gandhi decided to withdraw his first agitation in the late 1920s after about 10 policemen were killed in the protest, Nehru & others told him - "it is only a small mistake. Compared to the millions of lives benefiting by this momentum, this needs to ignored and we should proceed with the struggle". Gandhi said -"go and tell this to the families of the murdered policemen. If we dont believe in what we advocate it means we are not ready for it yet." (source: GANDHI - the movie).

The Kanchi case will go on for a long time without reaching a constructive conclusion. Everyone involved - the religion-based political parties, the so called secular parties, the party-sponsored TV channels, other media, peer Hindu religious leader, other religious leaders, authors, publishers, religious terrorist organizations, casteist forces, police, state government, dalit-champions, atheists, blog columnists - in short everybody benefits for the worse from this episode..... it doesnt matter whether Shri Jayendra or Vijayendra had a hand in this underground activity or they are acquited, it just matters that a symbol of purity is destroyed forver - it will take a very long time before faith is restored.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

the origins of class


Disclaimer: The following is neither a political commentary or a manifesto. It is just an attempt to organize some of the incoherent thoughts flowing in my head.

All Men and Women are created equal.

While the above line is the universally proclaimed decleration of many democracies, manifestos of various (if not all) political parties, in reality there is very little evidence of this being observed.

Class distinction is not something that just chipped into the socities suddenly. It has been there ever since time. Whether one chooses to believe in the Scientific origin of mankind or one chooses to stand by the Biblical history of mankind - in any case, CLASS is a term that has always existed. In any culture of any nation, in the history of the overall mankind, there can be hardly any civilization that has existed and flourished without a distinction of a class.

The necessity to differentiate is the originator of class.

Man has always sought to differentiate himself from another Man. The need for uniqueness has always prompted Man to differentiate himself. This need is motivated from both self as well as in a group. Slowly but steadily, this unqiueness provides an identity to the Man. And those men who are not skilled enough to get their own identity try to find a match with men of other identified identities for the fear of being left out. This match is either birth or profession or both in most of the cases. Identity also provides necessary security to the Man.

Class is not imposed on a man. Man has carefully chosen to divide himself into classes for his want of identity.

Once identities are established, it becomes a war of identities to establish superiority. These are the typical Class Struggles. At no point of time can it be said that one identity will continue to establish permanent supremacy over the others. The identity supremacy can be only in pockets of time, some of which may be longer than the others. But the time pockets do have a definite end when another identity takes over the reins. This is a universal law and will continue to happen.

Class exists in every single unit of a society, big or small.

Religion, Caste, Profession, Nationalism, Race are all identity providers. They are large units of society which provide the much expected identity and security to a Man. It is impossible for a Man to surive and lead a life without belonging to one or more of the classes.

Belonging to a Class is a basic social requirement for survival.

Man has to belong to atleast one class for his survival. This is a basic social requirement. It is impossible for Man to denounce all classes at any point of time. While there may be a constant class struggle ongoing, there will always be volunteers for classes on either side.

Any social transformation will always end up creating classes.

Presence of Identities cannot be destroyed forever. There can be only a identity shift or new forms of identities that get created. Democracy, Republic, Communism, Socialism - are all successful identity/class creators. They successfully change an existing set of identities into new ones. Though a majority of these preach the same law of equality, the reason are they having different faces is that all of them end up creating different sets of identities for man to cling to.

In a nutshell, the concept of class is being driven from the inner ego of Man that pushes his need to differentiate himself and to prove his superiority. Caste, Race, Religion, Professions etc are the key gateways to the world of classes.


the composers combat


Music is God's own gift to man. I dont think anyone can live in a world without music. Iam convinced those who dont like some form of music cannot be a member of the Homo Sapiens genre at all. Light music - particularly film music - is an boon to all of us. Every civilsation/country has its own musical preferences, styles and music-gurus. And India has produced some of the most memorable music composers the world has ever seen - in classical as well as light music.

I am a big time fan of film music.. and I listen to everything - from the golden oldies to the latest trend of encrypted songs - in Tamil and Hindi. So KV Mahadevan, Viswanathan-Ramamurthy, AM Rajah, Ramanathan, Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan keep me enchanted the same way that Ilayaraja, AR Rahman or Ismail Durbar do today. So when my friends ask me who my favorite music director is or when they engage in a serious discussion on something like Ilayaraja Vs AR Rahman, I always keep myself from getting into the discussion.

Indian music composers have come a long way and are far renowned worldwide. RaviShankar got nominated for his music composition for Gandhi. AR Rahman composed Bombay Dreams - a successful Braodway musical - for Andrew Lyod Weber. Ilayaraja composed a symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Zubin Mehata is a world renowned conductor. Balamurali Krishna, L.Subramanian, Pdt Shiv Kumar Sharma - the prominent faces list grows and grows.

However when there are situations where one has to pick and choose who is better, it gets difficult. Each have their own style and leave footprints of the same in their work. So when my friends sit and argue on how Ilayaraja's song are 'more memorable' than that of AR Rahman, somehow I always feel that both the parties are eventually losing out on good music, thanks to their judgemental capabilities.

And when the music composers enter into arguments comparing their work, then it turns nasty. Unfortunately these arguments arent like the 'oru naal podhumaa ?' piece in Thiruvilaydal. You can take a look at this interview by Ismail Durbar comparing his work with that of AR Rahman's. He claims that he has been and is always better than AR Rahman. He accuses that people are looking at fame and not appreciative of good work. Of course, Ismail Durbar has composed the magical tunes of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. But that doesnt warrant him or anyone to compare and belittle the work of a fellow musician.

But this is a world of artists we are talking about. Pride, ego, prejudice, bragging, boasting, arrogance and contempt are all minimum attributes for existence - the more of these, the more popular they become. Anyways, Ismail Durbar or ARR, the music is always enjoyable - and I dont honestly care which is better of the two; just as Wordsworth words flow

Whatever the theme, the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending....
...I stood motionless and still
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I borr
Long after it was heard no more.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

pirates of the 'music'ian

Hey . .

Iam sure that all of us have been pirates one time or another. Nah - not the Johnny Depp kind in the movie wearing a one eyed patch, shouting a base tone he-ha-ho chorus, wearing a pendant with a silver-skull and drinking brandy all day and night. There is a price on your head and then there is always the hope of ending up in a isolated island with the most beautiful girl in a long translucent dress, who falls head over heels in love with you and ... .... ... I should really stop daydreaming like this.

Anyways, back to the subject (do I have one here ?), all of us have been violating copyright rules sometime or the other. In college times, there was the Reddy Xerox in T.Nagar who had a 29 paisa per page copying facility. Or one could pedal 3 kilometres inside the IIT to the copy-center where you can get a better deal - 28 paise per page etc., The Reddy Xerox was abruptly shutdown in year 2000 for violation of publishing rights.

As time moves on and we progress in our lives, we start pirating at a bigger level. When one can pirate on books when at College, piracy should be at a higher level when we make money on our own. We start recording CDs, purchasing pirated MP3 CDs from Ritchie Street and copying them too ! Then there are always the VCDs that can be gotten from unnamed sources all through the city.

After taking piracy to a whole new level and passing the mantle to the younger generation, we land up in USA/UK/Singapore/Australia - the land of oppurtunities ... ... .. for more piracy. When the laptop is bought and hooked up to the cable modem, then starts the riot. Suddenly we discover innumerable gateways to the world of free music, movies and wholesome entertainment. Downloads of thousands of songs is only a few minutes and free most of the time. Throw a few pennies and we can watch the latest movies in all languages - sometimes even movies that are getting released the following month !! There are a number of clubs, associations, file sharers who are the storehouse of this very valuable information of where to find what for free.

And for those of us (like me), who dont have the 'guts' to download music & movies, there are always the local Johnny Depps - the piracy kings who constantly are on the watchout for latest entertainment and feature them during weekends - or burn music CD copies. Almost every community/group is sure to have a couple of them. Anyways, while Amma has been busy cracking down VCDs at Chennai, the UK has been fining appas and ammas of kids who pirate music over the www. The Daily Telegraph carried this article which announced that pirate-parents are fined £4000. So Johnny Depps are heroes only in movies, after all, eh matie ??

Nonetheless, I always wonder why this is called "piracy" ? Why a fancy name when it can be easily referred as stealing, thieving, robbing ? Does the word piracy attach its own aura to the unlawful act, making people feel good about the bad job they do ? Well, it doesnt matter anyways - as GB Shaw said, "if one sleeps with a woman and pays her money, it doesnt matter if it is $1 or $1,000,000 - in any case it is prostitution"... something to think about.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

'desi'wood - where we write the stories


Hollywood is astounding. Bollywood is glamorous. Kollywood is our passion. In the same vein we have desiwood - the wonderful desi movies that are low budget, capturing lives of desis - the Indians who come yearn and finally land up at the oppurtunity rich United States. Most of these movies are low budget, with a low-profile star cast, simple themes, targeting purely the NRI community - and turn out to be - well, awesome.

Hyderabad Blues is one of the first movies from desiwood. Directed by Nagesh Kukkanoor, it portrayed the return of a desi back to Hyderabad after few years of life at Atlanta. The film was amazing inspite of appearing as if it was shot with a handycam. Indians are Indians wherever we go. Our love of movies just cannot end.. Once the potential of this NRI-movie-industry was realised, a spree of movies followed. Many of them turned out to be huge disappointments - like the much awaited Hyderabad Blues 2.. But a few of them turn out to be too impressive and sometimes even crowd pullers in the USA. Bend It like Beckham was a box office hit in the UK and US. Its director Gurinder Chadha has followed it with Bride and Prejudice....

Now, consider the following scenarios:
- a boy in the East and a girl in the West coasts chatting on phone everyday about everything
- a married Andhra housewife who is bored to death in her house
- three software engineers in the bench staying in a guest house and applying jobs
- orthodox parents with a big heart visiting their son at America
- laid off IT consultant who hates his desi boss
- long named Andhrite bodyshopping bachelor looking for a desi wife

These are typical scenes that most of us from India working here at the U.S. witness as a matter of fact. And these are typical scenes from the movie FLAVORS, a movie that I rented the second time in 4 months. The movie has a collection of the lives of typical desis from the Indian towns of New Jersey which come together on a marriage for cinematic purposes. The movie has no strong storyline, infact NO storyline at all; it is not about ABCDs; it doesnt boast of a ShahRukh Khan kind of star cast; the heriones dont wear skimpy dresses; there are no bomb blasts and hostages; and there is no four letter swearing words used repeatedly.

But I could relate to almost every scene from this film and thoroughly enjoyed it.

People almost always complain that Holly/Bolly/Kolly wood movies never show reality as is and are always hyped up storylines featuring larger than life scenarios far away from a realisitic world. And those people who do not want to watch over-exaggerated, foul-mouthing, adultery based, rain danced filled movies, try watching some of these very realisitc products of desiwood. And you will find that desiwood cinema has much more to offer than any of the streotype 70mm commercial motion pictures.

So my desi friends, if you want to enjoy watching yourselves on a movie, watch desiwood movies - watch Flavors.


the chennai challenge


Chennai - the most happening city !
Well, it probably is not, but however that is how I choose to describe my most favorite city. There is always a passion for Chennai that I have had. Coming to think of it, Chennai is not where I was born or raised until I was 18. I did my graduation at Chennai and I have possibly spent very less time at Chennai than I have outside it. However, my love for Chennai has never waned and never will. The movie Minnale has the dialogue - ennadhaan irundhaalum Madras maadhiri varumaa- and I have passionately watched this scene a hundred times.

Coming to the point, I have always wondered why is it that Chennai has almost never been the most favorite destination for most groups in India. The state of Tamilnadu in general and Chennai in particular is possibly ranked third or fourth in most of the areas - services, manufacturing, tourism, education etc etc., - but it is not the No.1 overall.

It will be interesting to note that Tamilnadu is the third largest economy of India; 78% of the population live above the poverty line (when the national average is 64%); 232 Engineering Colleges and a higher school enrollment rate (higher than Kerala, btw); 92% road connectivity and 42% urbanisation and surplus power; about 10 Central ministers for a decade; 54% of population are in working age (22-55); 16 of the 30 districts are listed in the top 100 districts of India - and inspite all this and much more accolades to its credit, why is Tamilnadu not the No. 1 destination for investors ? (couresty: India Today)

Is it true that Chennai has not advertised itself in a bigger way ? Well, Chennai has top car manufacturers established - Ford & Hyundai - it is the Detroit of the east. The top 15 IT companies have their development centers at Chennai. BackOffices of hundreds of Internation institutions & Banks (including World Bank) are setup at Chennai. We have had stable state governments most of the times. Have we not projected our success stories well ? Tamilnadu lost the tourism race to Kerala, IT race to Karnataka, publicity race to Andhra. When Tamilnadu is rated No.3 in overall investor delight state behind Maharashtra and Gujarat, how can it not be a No. 1 in the South India overall ?

A novel project has been started to discuss on this. Every three months about 15 icons who are leaders in their own areas are invited to discuss on this subject and come with positive suggestions on how to make a positive difference. The good thing about Chennai (and Tamilnadu) is that the people will and can make the difference. Unlike states that are heavily dependent on the state governments to support every small movement, the people of this land are empowered and capable to make progress. While it is true that with the changing state goverments during every elections many of the policies are altered and becomes inconsistent, at a general level, the people can come together to bring the progress that is needed.

And as Venu Srinivasan (MD of TVS) says at some point of time the New York of the east should be Chennai, not Shanghai.

We have ambitions. We have the support. We have the infrastructure. We have the capabilities. We have a vision. Transformation of all this vision into a reality isnt far away.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

do you call it a headcount ?


While I cant believe that Iam spending time on this topic, I just cant resist writing about this. I dedicate this blog to those of my friend(s) who love to non stop discuss on these subjects.

Head count is always a complicated job when you are dealing large crowds.. And when you talk about large group of animals, it is more complicated. And when these animals that we are talking about are elephants, it makes it all the more complicated.

So how does the Forest department keep track of all those elephants in the forest areas? Do they keep an attendace register and call out 'Ambika', 'Radha', 'Kushboo' - mind you, these are purely fictional elephant names - so the elephants can come and give their attendance ? Nah.. Bringing together hundreds of elephants to one single area doesnt seem that good an idea. So what is that they acutally do? Believe it or not - they follow a method called dung count .. When I read about this article in The Hindu I was amused. According to the forest department, since you can miss out elephants in a dense forest a physical count is never near accurate, but a dung count is pretty much accurate !!

The best part in this method is that, for precision, a software is used. This software is developed by IISc, Bangalore. Am I to believe that there was actually a set of software engineers who designed and developed a system to do a census calculation based on defecation and dung-decay rates ? [It will be interesting to look at names of their database tables & columns in any case]

....And we on one side sit and crib about not having a domain-related work... I guess sometimes it is better not to have a domain at all !!...

Anyways, if the Census board ever decides to adopt this method to do a population estimate for the nation, I guess I can recommend some of my friend(s) who will be more than willing to develop software for that effort !! Thank God, we still do a head-count ....


Friday, March 04, 2005

what is in a name

Hey ..

Finally I decided to get my own space in the web and start spamming officially as opposed to doing it in other's blog-posts as comments. All you experienced bloggers - please welcome this latecomer into your community. And for those of you who still dont have your own, thanks for not letting me be the last..

So yesterday, when I created by ID in blogspot and the next screen asked for a custom addressable name for the blogspace, my clicks ended there. I sat down thinking about it. How do I get people to visit my space ? For starters I decided to write down the subject that drive people to the net -

1. Free stuff
2. Sex

Since I coudnt think of anything more, I tried a combination of those two.. say, !! and know what - there was already a registered space with that name. And after that I spent the next ten minutes trying out every perumtation of free/cheap/deal and sex/porn/nude (and even gay!) - but no luck. It was all taken.

Giving up that idea, I decided to try out regular (and boring) names.. almost all that I could think of was taken. My curiosity took over me and I started reading some of these blog posts. Many of these spaces were created years back and were updated religiously for about 3-4 months and then abandoned. Godfather, Kewl, secondthoughts, musings, digitalthoughts, lordofblogs, ISaidIt - all taken. I think the latecomers have to pay the price always searching for a name..

Finally as an alternate strategy, I decided to compose a name with the top stuff that I like the most - and those were all food - sweets, karam and coffee.. Coming to think of it, blogs are almost similar to these snacks in one way. We consume each of these and then 'release' them out regularly - there is no direct value add (except for a momentary excitement) and a compulsive obsession is actually harmful to health, but we love them anyway and cant seem to live without them.

Neverthless, as Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet". So a very uncool recieves lot of worthwhile traffic than a bunch of the cool-named blogs. So it is not much in the name, but what that goes into that matters. (Or that is what I want to believe anyway).

So finally here I am, stepping into the blogging world. Thanks to all those people who showed the way into this wilderness - Let me see if I regularly blog or end giving up sweet, karam, coffee !