Tuesday, June 28, 2005

michelin pulls a baba


After architecting a disappointing race at Indianapolis, Michelin tyres are trying to get some goodwill. Michelin has offered to repay the ticket fares for all 20000+ ticket holders of the Formula One 2005 at Indy. Furthermore they have also agreed to bear the cost of tickets for next year Formula One 2006 at Indy for this years' visitors. Good news. It will be interesting to watch how they can actually get this done.

Remembering how our thalaivar SuperStar Rajni bore the losses of BABA and reimbursed the distributors....

See you all at Indy 2006.....vroooom.....


Friday, June 24, 2005

brahmin, where art thou ?


I know that Iam inviting trouble (and maybe traffic) with this post. I would like to state for the record that this blog was not triggered by the discussion among Neeraja, Raman and Eshwar in Raman's blog.

So how can one be considered a brahmin ? There are a hundred thousand definitions as an aswer. There are maybe a million rules, guidelines and responsibilities to one being a brahmin. But in my point of view By BIRTH is definitely not one of them.

Hundreds of years ago when the class system originated for whatever reason, it made sense for those yesteryear folks to segregate people based on their profession and continue to tag classes based on birth because most often anybody ended up continuing the family business - preaching, warring, selling, common-chores... there werent too many businesses anyway. However, this classification tended to have a negative impact as people were forced into doing something just because they were born in that class. And the situation became worse when there were priorities and importance and grades attached to the classes

As centuries passed by and there were industrial, economic & political revolutions, society in general and class system in particular adjusted themselves as appropriate - and formed a strong caste system. And today our Hindu religion boasts of thousands of castes - something that we definitely done have to be proud about. Caste is still a sensitive topic and thousands die over it. Caste riots have become common and even a way of life. Caste is the base for politics, personality building, voter base, educational oppurtunities, workplace oppurtunities and a whole bunch of stuff.

A higher degree of education, science, technology, exposure to various cultures, traditions, historical facts, overseas travels, falling in love, devotion, faith & religiousness - all this get nullfied by a five letter word - CASTE. And to believe that that birth dictates a class/caste affinity after all this is even more surprising.

It is important to differentiate the brahmin-caste and a brahmin-class. A definition of a true brahmin (of the brahmin class) is always something like this. Just being born into a brahmin family/caste does not qualify anyone to become a brahmin. The learnings, responsibilities, duties and lifestyle dictate that much better. A parentage and sacred thread are not sufficient enough to certify someone to be a brahmin. Any person good at heart and satisfies the criteria of education, devotion, humility, helping tendencies can become one, irrespective of parentage & genes.

So coming to Shankar's portrayal of Iyer/Iyengar as a social reformer in his movies Anniyan/Gentleman is maybe more to prove the point any person who takes an avatar to do good & propogate goodness is definitely a brahmin. And as on the other side, if someone claims to be a brahmin, he/she needs to do what it takes to propogate what is good and help eradicate the evil. (If I recall correct, in Gentleman, Arjun is not a brahmin by birth, but by his actions & thought).

(there is so much running in my head and I cant seem to organize my thoughts. Will do it better the next time).

Also visit: the origins of class


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

formula (n)one, 'car'thikeyan at indiana'spoils'


Iam sure many of us will remember with painful feelings of some cricket matches when we woke up at 4:00 AM, stood in the queue at Chepauk, purchased tickets at a high price, rushed in with sweat and hunger, yelling and screaming at the top of our voices - only to finally find India lose pathetically to one of the visiting teams. In that case some of us will atleast satisfy ourselves saying "Atleast we got to see a good cricket match!!"..

Last Sunday, a few of us didnt get to say even that.

The Formula 1 race organized by the FIA was such a let down for all the spectators, TV viewers and Formula 1 fans worldwide. Out of the 10 teams that participated, 7 of them withdrew from the race. Only Ferrari, Minardi and Jordan ended up racing, if you can call that racing. The Michelin tyre company advised its teams not to drive as it would put the drivers at risk if they dont speed down at bend 13 of the track. By doing this Michelin tyres, the FIA, Indy cricuit and the teams have done nothing but antogonize the hardcore racing fans.

The mockery of the race had the Ferrari teams racing against each other as if it were a practice session. Schumacher won the race with Barichello finishing a close second. The other part of the race which was happening 1 or 2 laps down was between the Jordans and Minardis. The powerful Toyota engine pulled Jordan ahead giving them points for the first time this season. The crowd kept on booing down every 10 minutes once and very heavily when the trophies were distributed.

The consoling part for us was to watch our own Narain Karthikeyan finish fourth and gain some points for himself and Jordan. There was a huge desi crowd in the Paddock and elsewhere waving India flags, sporting T Shirts celebrating India's presence in F1 and carrying banners supporting Narain. Every time a yellow Jordan sped by, our folks kept screaming and cheering irrespective of whether it was Montiero or Narain. Our Indian patriotism was so visible where hardcore Ferrari fans from India had tattooed Ferrari flag on one cheek and the India flag on the other !! Bad luck and a messed wheel prevented Narain from actually competing to get to the podium , but he did complete the race and got the points which is very very commendable.

Overall the crowd whose mood was severely upbeat before the start of the race, watched in shock as the drivers pulled back into the pit after the formation. It was almost 2-3 laps before which many realised that the race was indeed going on with just 6 cars on the track !!! Even the fanatic Ferrari fans didnt believe that such an atrocius joke was happening.

Irrespective of this, we did manage to have some good time ourselves watching the race, stamping the stands and booing alongwith the crowd. We went crazy at the Official team merchandise shops where some of the Renault T shirts were being sold for $110 !! . We couldnt successfully buy a India flag though every other country's was available - maybe it will take some more time before we get popular in this. Thanks to all friends (Eswar, Raghavan and others) who made this trip fun and congrats on being part of a historical race ! (Btw, Raghavan was cheering the safety car, a wise decision, in hindsight)

Hopefully Michelin, FIA and the non-participating teams will apologize to us fans for letting us down. Though, on the other side, we would always love to watch Alonso and Kimi live and drive rather than watch them getting into an accident knowingly - any $$$ paid for tickets is not worth seeing these fantastic drivers crash and endanger their lives.

And whatever the case may be, congratulations Narain !!! Go .. go .. go.. vrrrrroooooooom..


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

book marks


Arvind tagged me. It reminds me of the anonymous post or the email forwards you recieve which typically begins "If danger should not befall you, forward this to 20 people within 2 days of recieving it. .....". Even after all the high education and social transformation, these kind of things havent changed that much - except for the technology - postcards, emails and now blogs !!

I dont know what the deal with this book tagging is all about, but it sounds like fun to list some of my interesting reads, so let me dive into this ocean...

Books I own:
It will be too tough to count. My dad is always afraid to move from one house to another just because of the sheer number of books I keep stocked at home. I used to run a library when I was at school.

Last book I Read:
* Winning by Jack Welch
- A good follow up to the Straight from the Gut by the same author, Welch insists on the importance of culture, integrity & hardwork for success.

* currently reading The First Crusade
- Historical narrative of the first holy war between Catholics and Muslims for regaining the holy land of Jersusalem.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

* Baburnama by Babur, Emperor of India
- Babur became king at a very young age of 14. All his life he spent on battlegrounds, either chasing enemies or being chased by them. He was a true warrior, a highly energetic and disciplined king. He faced death a number of times and everytime he skillfully weaved himself through the situations. Established a powerful Moghul empire in India and became the first emperor. Inspite of his majorly battle ridden and fugitive life, Babur did have time to keep a journal recording some of the key events of his lifetime.

* The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Engels
- "Workers of the world ! Unite!!" - the powerful words proclaimed by this book instigagted revolutions and inspired revolutionaries. Attained a global popularity with the formation of Soviet Union in early 90s.

* Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
- Set in the end of World War II in a island near Italy, Catch 22 went on to become a masterpiece which Joseph Heller himself couldnt replicate. This satire was written over a span of 12 years. Yossarian, Milo, Major Major are all unforgettable characters. A word of caution: Do not read this novel in public places as you are bound to roll over with laughter and people might book you up in a mental institution.

* Sirpiye Unnai Sedhukkugiren by Vairamuthu
- A masterpiece from Vairamuthu, this book which just is over 40 pages has powerful and terrific messages for youth. Needless to say, the language is simply admirable.

* Unnal Mudiyum Nambu Thambi by Dr. Udayamoorthy
- A book that inspires today's youth with hopes and positive thoughts and outlook. KB was so impressed that he named his movie with this book's title and the hero of the movie was named as Udayamoorthy as a courtesy to the author.

Few others that make me read over and over:

* Thiruvarangan Ula by Sree Venugopalan(alias Pushpa Thangadurai)
- This is the historical narative of how Lord Ranganatha or Srirangam was saved from the plundering Sultans of the North. Though no match to the everlasting classic Ponniyin Selvan, this is still a tale worth reading. The blend of history and fiction is very appreciable. The history is blogged here.

* Love Story by Erich Segal
- A most romantic love story told within 80 pages, it sure brings tears to one's eyes. Simply terrific.

A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking
- Explaining Physics and cosmology to a layman in layman's terms is not an ordinary task. It is tougher than getting multiple PhD's in these subjects and proposing theory of Black Holes. But that is what Stephen Hawking, the most acclaimed scientist in the recent times managed to successfully do. Must for cosmology amateurs.

* Bible - Old testament by Various Authors
- A collection of some of the most interesting and intriguing stories, the BIBLE is an excellent reference for history buffs and conspiracy theorists in addition to being a holy book. However, this is also an excellent story churner that can keep you occupied for weeks together.

* Harry Potter by JK Rowling
- Awesome awesome awesome.... Rowling rules.

I tag :
A few of my friends are ardent readers and we even gift each others books at times. However as I normally do with the other forward this to 10 others mails/posts, Iam stopping the chain here. But I really appreciate the reviews of various books that you read.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

jinnah, advani, secular


The title is a combination of 3 mutually exclusive words.

The Sangh parivar just cannot keep itself out of controversy. Not that the others successfully do, but the saffron junta always seems to be in the sensational news. The latest drama in the Hindutva community went on stage for most of last week when the former deputy PM of India, Mr. Advani went to Paksitan and proclaimed that Jinnah was secular.

It is only surprising that of all people Advani can choose to make such a statement. It is a universal truth that History is doctored everywhere and the Indian History taught in schools and colleges are no different. They are adulterated with pages and pages of stories written by Congress and rewritten by the Saffron party wherever they could. But all the stories of final years Indian Independence authored by anyone, have always pointed out that it was Jinnah who wanted to protect the interests of Muslims and wanted a separate Pakistan.

Jinnah probably didnt anticipate the partition riots would be to this extent. Maybe he didnt think that our nations will be fighting like this for next 6 decades or more to come. Maybe he wanted a separate country under a noble thought. He wanted a Muslim state - of, by and for the muslims. He was a nice man, a tough leader, stood by his principles, provided focus to the otherwise aimless Muslim league, vocal & championed for the muslims.. - All that is fine, but secular ?? - that is still debatable.

It will be tough to argue the merit of Pakistan-plan that was advocated by Jinnah. It will also not be fair to blame partition struggles and countless death only over Jinnah's head. India and the Congress wanted freedom from British. Jinnah wanted freedom from the Congress. Unlike Subash Bose who also didnt share the Congress vision and means to get to the end, Jinnah had a powerful trump card to play - religion. And he coined it well with the Biritsh who were running their divide and conquer game anyway.

It was of course true that Jinnah was called the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity efforts - ironically by few congressmen of that era. And according to history, Jinnah himself was not a religious man. In his initial speeches as Governor general of Pakistan, he called for equal rights to Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan and he hoped that over the years Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims and they will all be united as citizens of the state.

But these few speeches can hardly be used to conclude that the man is secular. The truth is out there on the World map. He wanted a religious state. Religion was the spine and lifegiver of his political presence. He championed, fought, campaigned and stuggled for a nation that was created with religion as the demarcator.

Funny enough, Advani, who by no means is secular himself, calls Jinnah secular and lands in a controversy. Well, we live in a crazy era where god-men go to jails on murder cases, priests are tried in court for homosexual abuses, massacres happen in the name of religion every few years, political parties thrive on faith, religious leaders instigate bomb blasts..... and so there is no harm done when one religious radical calls the other as secular, particulary leaders of strongly opposing sects.

Secularism means to tolerate or show indifference toward religion and believe that religion should not play a role in civil affairs. Such an attitude may be realised only in theory.. None of us is secular. It is a long way to go. So LK Advani, please stop delivering dramatic dialogues in the name of diplomacy and candidness. Because all that this drama has brought is a bad reputation for everyone involved. But again, if the need is mainly publicity and media attention, then well, yeah....... ... .. .


all about the dog


Iam afraid of dogs.

I know that my rating with the female gender just dropped to the negative after making the previous statement, but then I cant help it. Iam afraid of them. I cant seem to like them. A tiger, a rhino, a panda - okke.. a dog - NO. A stuffed dog toy in the Toys R Us shop makes me nervous. It is not that Iam generally averse to the animal kingdom. Iam just averse to dogs.

My periappa is so fond of dogs. He was one of my LGs at college. (For those who havent had the pleasure of staying at hostels while at college, LG means Local Guardian). He had this big tall monstrous dog by the name Jerry. It never ceases to amaze me why they always choose a foriegn name to the dogs most of the time. Tommy, Jimmy, Jerry... these are common. In the land of the Tamils shouldnt they have dogs named as Munusamy, Kuppusamy.. (even if they wanted a name to end with a y which seems to be a trend). The only "Tamil" name for a dog is Mani. I cant think of anything else.

Anyways, Jerry was his favorite in his house. Considering the fact that the household had his wife, a daughter and 2 sons, this was sort of funny. Many a times I have heard him say "He is my most loyal son. All the others may leave me, but not Jerry" - this was just too stretching. Jerry used to roam around the house as if he were the crown prince. My periappa used to take him to long walks in the mornings (for the obvious, of course) and all that dog did later was to eat and sleep and give curious look at visitors scaring them to death. I can only remember of Jerry Seinfeld comment on the dogs when I think of the "obvious" morning dog-walk. "What if aliens from space watch us earthlings, following the dog and picking its poop ? They would think that the dog is the master and man is the slave walking behind his master and cleaning the master's crap"..

I was so afraid of Jerry that I always tried to avoid visits to that house. The dog always gave a nasty growl, kept on barking at the top of his voice during middle of the day giving everyone a wonderful headache for most of midday. The worse part was when at times when you sit down to eat and the dog makes a supervisory rounds. I always felt that the dog was going to pounce on me any minute. It was like living in the central African forest.

This fear of dogs has continued with me for a long time. I was actually happy when I learnt that I was not the only one having such a fear. A few of my friends happily joined my club. In Chennai we shifted our house close to office (right next ot it , actually) so that one of my roommates could walk back home late nights without being barked at by the street dogs.

When I went to Chennai this time for a vacation I visited my periappa's house. Jerry was there as usual, still big, strong looking more like a camel than a dog. I slipped into the house silently so that I dont disturb him. But that smart dog sensed my presence and gave such a shrill bark that I just made a U turn and started running towards the nearest exit as if it were a huge emergency. And he started following me. What a chase. I ran out out of the house, out of the gate and never turned back. The whole gang outside and inside the house watched me in amazement, a few laughing to their heart's content. I could care less....I was in Jurassic Park.

The dog is man's best friend, so they say. And it is the most thankful animal ever, apparently. But whatever it may be, I think I will be nervous around dogs for a long long time.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

the first cut is the deepest

  • Books
  • Late night movies
  • Dinner with the friends gang
  • A trip to home every alternate weekend
  • Countless hours of TV shows
  • Visit to libraries, maybe IIT/British Council/US Consulate
  • ..........
The list indeed had tangible items that I could do. All I needed was to ignore the voice that was sounding in my head. And the person who was causing it. A diversion, a distraction - that would do it. It would be tough for the first few days, mybe weeks. But as time passed, it will disappear forever. I would hopefully have new problems, new issues, new headaches and would forget that this had ever happened to me.

How could I even let the damn thing start- that too in this final year of college ? She is my best friend, after all. We didnt know each other prior to that. There was something that brought us close - I dunno what. We werent even lab mates or project mates. I cant even recall when we started talking to each other. But I can definitely remember when I discovered when I cant stop talking to her. She went on this camp for 10 days and there was no way to reach her.. I went almost crazy. She was my live-journal. Not a day passed by when I didnt tell her what I had done. And these 10 days, I was so damn restless and I didnt know what to do. And thatz when I realised, I was crossing the line of friendship with her.

There was a voice sounding which said that she was the one for me. And there was the other that said I would maybe jeopardize my entire friendship if I did anything stupid. These voices started waging war inside my head. And I started putting meanings to every action that she did or every word she spoke to me after that.

An innocent coffee at the cafeteria didnt seem innocent anymore. Everytime she touched my arm to comfort me when I was dull, my heart would almost burst. I felt like feeling dull quite often. A glance in between a boring class meant a thousand words. When she called me with a da which she had done for years, it suddenly gave me a sense of belonging. And when she let me call her with a da it gave me a sense of possession. Movies appeared like dates. I started looking out for her face in every group photo. And I didnt let her out of sight on our birthdays.. the weekends.... the week evenings.. all the time.

The war of the voices was going uncontrolled. They were sounding like a Dolby surround stereo from every side. She was my best friend. I just couldnt go and tell her that I loved her. What if she is disappointed with me ? What if she walks off, away, forever ?

And so I made the list. I invented distractions, diversions. I ignored the voice in my head, the feelings in my heart. I avoided everything that reminded me of her. I shied away from everything that involved her. I wasnt me anymore. She never understood why her best buddy had suddenly become weird. And ironically, I couldnt confide this confusion to my best buddy. There were intense conversations, long letters, phone calls with awkward silences, sentimental Hallmark cards & gifts, tearful farewell - sometimes I felt that my heart had burst and there was nothing to worry....

then life passed on, we went our separate ways.


Years later, I stand on my patio, on a Sunday morning, with a coffee in hand. My mobile rings and she is on the other line. Her husband is transferred to Chennai. Her brother is engaged. She has bought a new Corolla. Her 2 year old kid is grabbing the phone from her hand and babbling away to glory..... and Iam so happy for her.

Maybe I did a mistake. Maybe I didnt. Maybe she went through the same feelings that I had. Maybe she didnt. Maybe we were meant to be just friends. Of course, the first cut is the deepest, but it was a cut that was all worth it.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

weight loss and the gym folks


Some folks are extremely lucky of not having put on any weight inspite of the food consumption that happens atrociously and erratically. Not me !! Folks like me, who just love the best of vegetarian stuff, know no bounds and eat upto our heart's content - whenever & wherever. On top of this, the body recieves absolutely no exercise. How can it, when we have so much to do ? Like driving to work, taking the escalators everywhere, drinking Chai twice a day, sit glued in front of the computer for hours together, eat plates of rice followed by a sound sleep... there is no way we can burn any calories ever.

And so suddenly when people like me are on the wrong side of the 20's and it is time to start the "bride-hunt", that is when we realise what sort of a unshapy person we have turned into. Suddenly there is the worry about the extra-pounds that we have amassed, the tyre instead of a somewhat flat tummy and the lack of fitness even to climb more than 20 steps at a time.

This realisation hits the ceiling when a collegemate meets up after a few years and says "ennada machan.. ippadi weight pottuta ?" .. or when there is a fire drill in the office and we pant pathetically while climibing up or down within 2 floors.. or during the next trip to KOHLS to buy trousers we find our hip size does increase in arithmetic progression.. or worse, when a certain someone close enough to the heart complements some macho looking moron for his flat 6-pack abs.

Then there is a small sub-gang that forms within the group that has the same issue. "You guys need to do something about this", one of the lucky lean one says seriously. "Else marriage and other stuff is tough".

This is only the beginning of the traumatic experience that a fat single male in his late twenties has to undergo. A dieting plan and a gym plan is made. Everyone knows that the dieting plan goes for a toss in a day or two. The gym schedule is planned well initially. There is a quick trip to Target to buy track suits, shoes. Some even purchase iPods or armband-radios. The plan is to go to the gym and burn as many calories as we can every day. After a massive failure to wake up early mornings to go to gyms, finally the decision is to visit it in the evenings after work.

and thatz how we land in the gym.

The gym by itself is a whole adventure. First there is a reality that there are just too many people exercising in this country. Second, there are people more fatter and obese than us and hence we arent all that bad. Third, it appears easy enough to run for an hour in the treadmill and Fourth, it is virtually impossible to run more than 3 minutes continiously in that treadmill !!

Some of the regular gym-folks are always interesting to watch. These kind of people are there in almost every gym. First there is this slim athletic blonde who comes in and runs in a beautiful rythm with headphones in her ears. She also does sit-ups and all one can do is to just simply stare at her until she leaves. Then there is this large woman who keeps walking on the treadmill on and on and on, smiling at everyone who enters or leaves. She is the one who also tunes the TV, ironically, to the Food channel. There are there typical body builders who keep lifting weights in front of the mirror admiring themselves for hours together. All these fellows do is to walk around displaying their arms to the rest of the unshapy people proclaiming silently "Now thatz a body you fellas gotta possess". They also offer free advise to folks exercising much to the other persons irritation. Sometimes there is a couple who comes in together with the guy carrying a book and reading during cycling while the girl keeps exercising in the nearest spot.

There are always newcomers who are easy to spot. They will spend time at every possible machine inside the gym and they will spend less than 3 minutes at each of these. First is the treadmill where they run as if they are on a Olympic 100m dash for a minute and then slow down before falling down, then a trial on the sit-ups, followed by a short cycling stint and finally ending with the weights - the overall gym visit taking about 10-15 minutes. These people change the TV channels for 5 minutes, consume a lot of water, wipe of lot of sweat and stand on the weighing scale while entering the gym and just before leaving !!

And anyway, the sub-gang that initiated the whole gym-plan does it religiously for a week maximum , talks about it at lunch and dinner and leaves office early so that they can visit the gym. Slowly but steadily, the membership of this association comes down one after the other and at a point of time no one goes to the gym... until realization strikes again and the cycle gets repeated every 4-6 months once.