Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Its just not cricket

Its just not cricket when ....
.... the greatest batsman the world has ever known passes a landmark that trivialised every other thing he did. It is a challenge, a bottleneck, a millstone around the neck, an increment of a number that takes a year to happen, a throne that was so close to touch but difficult to get on. Its not cricket when his true fans in the far corners of the world run down the staircase in the morning, having dreamt of seeing a number greater than 100 against his name, and have their wish comes true. Sachin, blaze away. That's a flame's destiny. The last hurrah isn't named in vain. With apologies to Douglas Adams, the meaning of life is not 42. It is 35.

Its just not cricket when ....
.... the most successful captain of an Indian team is treated with such ruthlessness that he earns the sympathies of even his opponents. Ganguly may have had his problems, he may have outlived his stay as a batsman, he may be anachronistic in the current scheme of things. But this is no way to dump him. After having performed reasonably in the two innings of the Delhi test, he was dropped by the selectors. For all the times that I believe he may have been supported unduly, this is the one time my support is with him. Legends deserve better exits. They should bow out, not be bowed out. The selectors reaffirmed their ability to make wrong decisions on the fateful day by making another one. They picked Wasim Jaffer.

Its just not cricket when ....
.... a player of limited abilities (yes, that’s me) leads his team to a first ever league victory in years of playing. It is a dream come true for all those who have pursued and failed. Those who came close (yes, me again, on a few occasions, with the select faithfuls) and strived. Those who struggled their way from one close match to another in this league (yes, that’s my team), from one controversy to another (match suspensions, pitch invasions, you name it), from one great performance to another. We won. It has sunk in, and it feels great. Its just not cricket when a left-handed opening batsman leads his team to victory (yup, that’s me in case you didn’t get it). It is a warning, that he is close to getting dropped :-)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hawa Hawaii

Sorry for the long break in posts. I was in Maui, the second largest island on Hawaii, during the Thanksgiving break. I think the slowing down of pace that the place infected me with carried on when I came back as well. Here's a small sample of the beauty I came across.



Wayside Panorama Posted by Picasa


Wailea Beach Posted by Picasa


Ho'okipa Beach (One of the best in the world for surfing) Posted by Picasa


More of the big waves Posted by Picasa


Keane Peninsula Posted by Picasa


I caught that guy in the middle of the dive! Posted by Picasa


Can't-recall-name Waterfall Posted by Picasa


Seven Sacred Pools Posted by Picasa


Sun peeking through at sunset Posted by Picasa


Sun peeking through in the morning Posted by Picasa


Back to sunset again Posted by Picasa


Haleakala Crater (Dormant volcano) Posted by Picasa


Awesome texture Posted by Picasa


Block long banyan tree Posted by Picasa


Black Sand Beach Posted by Picasa


Need I say anything? Posted by Picasa


Authentic Hawaii Chappals! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Your dreams in a box?

Here’s a tech post that was waiting to happen. XBOX 360 released yesterday. I don’t know how much that appeals to most people, but the build up around it in Microsoft was big, especially among the gaming geeks that also pose as employees :-) There was constant talk around the coolness factor, the power of the new platform and the excitement for it. I don’t think it was too misplaced. A friend of mine went to the local Best Buy yesterday and reported that there were people waiting in line since Friday. That’s four days in advance!!

Such mania is beyond my understanding. But gaming dudes are serious about their priorities. There are people who spend endless hours of their lives locked up in their rooms in front of the PC or their TV playing games. They live and die by their virtual identities. I wonder if the boundary between the real and the virtual world blur for them beyond a point. The good thing is that the new Xbox has things to offer beyond just the gaming experience for the average user. That is important for people like me. The only games I like to play are sport-oriented (I have a Cricket 2005 that I am passionate about) or strategy games (Warcraft). First person games like Halo give me nausea in about five minutes.

However, if I could combine my occasional gaming ability with some other function, the Xbox would serve me well. Which is what the new version allows. It serves as a great one stop shop for my music, movies, pictures. To list a few (quoting the website of course), here are some of the major Media features of XBox 360:
• Create picture slideshows, add music, and share with your friends and family.
• Connect to your digital camera and display your latest pictures on your TV.
• Access the classics in the photo collection stored on your Windows XP-based PC.
• Display the pictures saved on CDs.
• Play DVDs in progressive-scan and use the Xbox 360 controller to navigate the onscreen DVD menus.
• Receive game invites or chat with friends even when you’re watching a movie, listening to music, or viewing pictures.
• Combine Xbox 360 with Windows XP Media Center Edition for more digital entertainment options. For eg. I can record or pause live TV. Watch movies On-demand and more.
• Listen to music while you game and create your own custom soundtracks.
• DJ your next party—create custom playlists, and set the mood with interactive visualizers. • Rip songs from your original CDs to your Xbox 360 hard drive for easy access to your favorite music
• Stream music to your Xbox 360 from your MP3 player or Windows XP-based PC.

And there’s the coolness factor. The design is really slick and well thought out. It has an “hourglass” figure. Wonder if their was any psychological research involved in arriving at that :-) The last one was pretty boxy and not that attractive. Oh well, this almost became a pitch for the product, but I think this one deserves some space. I intend to get one for myself sometime next year, as long as I don’t have to wait four days in a line to get it :-)

I haven’t done much justice to the numerous features of this magic box. Find out for yourself. Here, ogle. http://www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/explorexbox360.htm

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ri-post-e

I didn’t realize that the issue would turn out into an all out deep-rooted defense of the IT industry in India when I wrote about it. Which is good. I wanted opinions from back home and I got some. The only way to do justice to the amount of emotion and effort that the responders put into their comments would be to summarize them once more. So, here goes.

Sushil
(One of my best friends who is working in an IT company in India. I have edited his response for brevity… yup, it was much longer than this :-))

I agree that the attitude issues that u have talked about is there. Ibelieve, it is there everywhere. Moreover, America is a dream realized for very few in this country. So it is obvious that people are envious or jealous about it. Moreover, people do carry attitude when they come from USA. Talk about their fake accent, their behavior, their attitude as if they know a lot is always there.

About the work culture. It depends on your boss how he judges you andyour attitude. Ok Let me tell you, I never reach b4 my boss reached andnever left after my boss left in my 6 yrs of career. I always followedthe work centric approach. But what you mentioned is not false. Yes!This attitude prevails in the industry and I believe it will take timefor us to change this and it is changing. The problem here is that mostof the sr. Mgmt is very old and they have been groomed like that foryears and so they expect the same. But let me tell you, there arecompanies where late sitting is strictly no no. About your friends' wife who works in infosys. I am sure it is a project problem I believe. Not everyone in the project have to work late and neither everyone in infy. Also parth, if u know, even you guys stay up late to complete the work. So how is it different than infy.

"Management" I don't what u mean exactly. But at some point You have toget into people management if u have to move up the ladder. A techie guys doesn't understand the business. It is a different perspective alltogether. But if u mean that people who don't dream to be "CXX" and want to remain techie than they can. But if the person moves to some product company he is again at a higherposition.

Moreover parth, remember one thing america is made up of immigrants soobviously no one is going to have the attitude issue that you aretalking and moreover it has a capitalist economy. This I believe are the main differences between india and USA.

Look parth, All the things that u have written are excuses for notcoming back. People attitude problems are there everywhere and I stillface it more. The percentage of it may be more in India than in US butit is there.

PARTH_SPEAK: I don’t believe you can count these as excuses for not coming back. The whole idea that the discussion veered in this direction is that I intend to come back. When I stay back to work, it is never because I am asked to. There have been days where I have worked from home, or left early. The flexi-time culture is rampant here. The services industry gets its work culture from India, having born and developed over there. The product companies import their culture along with their plush offices. Or so I have heard. Thanks a ton for your detailed and passionate response.

Avinash
Again, one of my closest friends and a PhD student at Texas A&M University

I think parth, I had pointed out a website to u in this regard. I don't know if u read it.http://atcweb.atc.tcs.co.in/~sagar/scit.htmlOf course this dude, M. Vidyasagar, is a well-known academic andreturned to India after a good career in the US and Canada and that tooas a Director of a DRDO lab. So even tho it might seem that hisperspective is different, what he has to say is remarkably similar towhat sush said. It all boils down to being practical vs. emotional.Staying in US is practical. All said and done, less population = lesscompetition. Better quality of life (QoL). More material comforts. Being in India means being close to family, not having the feeling of being a foreigner all the time. Plus for me at least, being the emotional patriot that I am, Vidyasagar's point that u can make max contributions to India only by being there does have some appeal. So I think going to India is a decision which depends on whether u are willing to make the required, financial, QoL, health (ya this is an issue too. I find that my general health in the US is much better than it ever was in India) etc sacrifices to be in ur country.

The issue of children is something completely different. I personallyfeel that while geographical location and 'surroundings' is a factor inthe upbringing of children, it cannot be the deciding or important onethat it's made out to be. The most imp factor is the parents themselves. After all, it's stupid to think that 'American Culture' is 'bad'. There are enough kids in India who go bad. 'Indian Culture' does nothing to help them. There are enough kids in India who lose their virginity before 16. And lets face it.... more Indian kids today are 'more American than the Americans'. And there are enough kids in America who grow up to be good kids who do their parents proud. I am not trying to defend US culture (or lack thereof). My point is that US or India, how kids turn out is decided by how much time and effort their parents invest in their upbringing. I do agree that in India, being surrounded by grandps and uncles and aunts and neighbors does take some of the pressure off parents. But it doesn't absolve them of all responsibility.

I am unwilling to blame some abstract concept like 'US Culture'. As far as I am concerned, it's a trade-off. If I wish to live in the US and enjoy the benefits it gives me, then I should be prepared to pay the price of extra efforts that I have to put in terms of parenting. My personal feeling is I like what Vidyasagar did. Now that I have come to the US, I wud like to use this opportunity to advance my career and knowledge and go back to India to assume a position of responsibility where I can contribute significantly. There are good and bad things everywhere. I wud like to imbibe the good things in this country and go back to serve my own.

PARTH_SPEAK: This is one comment that is completely off-topic but worth reading nonetheless. The man makes sense on most occasions, and I can always banter him in the future for his use of “wud” and “ur” so extensively in the e-mail :-)

Tarun
My fellow blogger and friend and the self-proclaimed target audience of this post He had a lot to say :-) See this: http://25worldcountry.blogspot.com/2005/11/laut-sakte-ho-somewhat.html

PARTH_SPEAK: Thanks for bringing the cohesion back into the post. You validated my point about pretense. Not everyone will be as brazen and outspoken as you at the work place. So, it is possible that when CoderDude can’t impress the fact upon his managers that he wants to go home at 6, he WILL work till 9. Perhaps he works till 9 because the four cubicles next to him are also occupied with CodeDudes. The manager perhaps notices the one CoderDude who left at 6, and has something to say for it. I know that most product companies have branches open all over the place (well, Hyderabad and Bangalore to be precise). After all the arguments I heard about services versus product industry, the latter seems the lesser evil. Alas, these aren’t in my dear Bombay.

Extempore
A fellow blogger, who works in the IT industry in Bombay

I disagree almost entirely because I work in the IT industry and in Bombay. Granted that there aren't as many places in Bby to work as there are in Hyderabad or Blore, but the work situation in India has changed. It is a better place to work now.

I once said on your blog that ppl at my workplace are unhappy but it is because I work in the IT services industry as a tech writer - MS, by the way, is one of our biggest clients - We are working on the Yukon series right now, having finished with Whidbey a while ago.

The biggest source of frustration for us is unreasonable client demands and our PMs who dont contest anything. Pls dont misunderstand - I am not trying to pick a fight about MS - only trying to make the point that the services industry anywhere - IT or advertising - comes with that huge handicap... of being captive to your client's demands.

From everything I hear, even start-ups here are doing really well and are good places to work at. A friend of mine, on confirmation, got a hike from 27 to 35k, never comes in on weekends and works everyday from 10 to about 7 in the evening. Good life, I'd say, esp in Hyd which is cheaper than Bby. I could go on Parth, but I will stop here. :-)I do hope that I have not given offence in anyway and I am quite sorry if indeed, I have

PARTHP_SPEAK: There is no offense taken whatsoever. In fact, I want to thank you for your comments. This isn’t the first I have heard people complain about Microsoft J It is good to see a point of view in defense of the services industry. I didn’t imagine it that way, but thought of it as a stop and go working experience. The depth of the tech industry in Bombay is good, but doesn’t have the presence of product companies that I was looking at. Thanks once again for your comments, and best of luck with your commute (even if it is to SEEPZ, it can’t be easy) J

Niranjan
Fellow blogger and SPCEite

I'd add that the answer to whether to return back to india is in part based on practicality as you have described, and is part emotional (for want of a better word). I'd been to a talk some months back, where the speaker (a distinguished CEO of a start-up) made a snide remark about how indian students take up most grad positions, and then return home only to marry and come back to the US to work again. And the audience thought it was funny! I've since wondered why I'm still in the US, but then again there is the practical aspect that's aptly expressed in this post.

PARTHP_SPEAK: Indeed amazing that an audience would take it lightly. Perhaps, this is indicative of our mentality here. We work hardest, question little and bask in our little successes.

Graffiti Speak
Haven't seen her on my blog, but boy has she made up with a long long comment :-)

Hi there, let me help to disperse some of your misconceptions and fears you have expressed herein.
I am an IT professional, a senior business analyst in a Telco.

I was in the US on H1 for more than 4 years and I moved back to India owing to personal reasons in 2002. Initially I had lots of apprehension, and infact I had quite some disappointments after I came and I thought that I have done a mistake but things started to make sense in the long run. And I must confess that I have no regrets now… Few changes here and there are required…but overall you are happier here than in the land of lust.

I fell sick the first month I came down because I took a sip of tap water in a restaurant and got viral fever. That was a bad start alright but I learnt a lesson not to take anything but mineral water. Like you mentioned, being in the US while giving you an advantage over your career, it has lots of downside as well.

Attitude issues are there everywhere but in India it could be more apparent and prevalent because India Inc. is just getting professional. We ought to just shrug off these and really give these things time to heal themselves. Work Culture is again getting better by everyday but yes if you are in a service industry chances are at critical times you would be called in to put extra efforts but again you can ask for a comp off when there is less pressure which any sensible project manager would grant. I have personally liked the challenges of a service driven company as opposed to the laid-back work environment of a product driven one. We have both here in all major metros including Mumbai and there is really no need to worry.

“Boss” culture is very much here and your fears are justified. But it need not be a rule of thumb to go or come to office based on your manager’s timings. As long as you deliver quality things at the right times and show your presence as much as possible without chitchatting with colleagues for long hours, it should be ok. And of course while not working you can even play games or solve crosswords even with your manager…to lighten the spirit. This trick has worked for me…

Exposure wise, India gives you a lot as in US we tend to focus on mastering one particular thing, which is not the case here as you are expected to be a jack-of-all-trades as there are variety of clients. If you are not one, you become one automatically once you are in such a demanding environment. There are training requests that you can give to your PM during appraisal sessions and if it is genuine, then they are always heeded.
When I came down, this stark truth (of knowing many things) hit me hard but eventually I found myself easily adapting to the demands of the job. This is actually a great plus when it comes to Indian work environment.
Like I said before, India Inc. is just getting professional, so while changes are happening, the change is slow and steady. So patience would be the key for people who want to come back. This is particularly applicable for climbing up the ladder here. Also, you need to preferably have a Godfather to give you the necessary push…at least in not-so- professional companies who still have this bossism. If you don’t know to butter people, then you might as well be contented with your post and pay and get out of all the politics.

There is an automatic pressure to come up in designation as you age in a company but it is not again mandatory. In my office I still see programmers who are in their 40’s something that is not uncommon in the US of A. However, the most key thing being in India is the job security and citizenship status that is seen as a luxury for all foreign returned people because we know the reality we had in the US. There is constant fear or job loss unless you have a green card or citizenship with which you can be at least safe until you get another one. Here there is no one to kick you out…you are a king …literally! If you have a decent monthly income, and a stable job, then nothing like that! You get anything and everything. The labor is cheap, so you get the luxury of having a chauffer, cook, maid(s), caretaker, etc. which if done in the US, would eat up all you earn…
Finally, Mumbai has lots of major IT companies concentrated in SEEPZ and Navi Mumbai where you have this Millenium Business Park…

The conditions are most conducive right now for all NRIs so much that many foreigners are coming to India seeking secure and better paying jobs. The downside I could say being in India is facing bribery and red-tapism in day to day lives along with pollution. Again you can find ways to bypass these things as you mature here. But all said, it is upto you to make up your mind. Good Luck…but hey don’t think too much to comeback to your motherland. It is she who made us what we are and it is time we show our gratitude to her.

PARTH_SPEAK: Thanks for the detailed response. It is indeed good to hear from people like you who have seen both sides of the coin. I didn’t mean that people take my comments about leaving after the manager too literally. Point being that pretense to work should not overshadow actual work done. Job security is a must. I agree. But job satisfaction is equally important. Mumbai may have a bunch of IT companies (I worked in MBT for a year at Chandivali) but the product companies lie outside the realm. Thanks for your copious comments. They were enlightening.

PARTH_SUMMARY

I don’t think my point came across too forcefully. I am not trying to establish that India is a bad place to work in and that US is heaven. I mentioned that a lot of this is hearsay. Nice to know that people are kind enough to dispel some such ideas. At some level, the responses tended to be over-defensive. Relax guys, I am on your side :-) Several people mentioned the emotional benefits as an offset. I agree with that 100%. Never overlooked that. But the whole point of this post was exclusively to discuss what work life looks like in India. The negativities I mentioned can’t be so important that they are make or break the decision to go back. Sorry for the EXTREMELY long post here, but I felt that everyone’s responses deserved a good space.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Kya Ab Laut Chalen?

NRI's spend a substantial amount of their adult lives outside India reminiscing about India. As a NRI blogger, nostalgia is a genre almost at the tip of my keyboard fingertips. I mean, you are either going to India, coming back from India, and if all else fails, missing it. I thought it would be a good reality check to go back and see how many posts I have written about my beloved country, India, the best city in the world, Mumbai and the centre of the universe, Andheri. Oh, never mind. I am not skimming through a hundred plus entries to determine that which I already know. Several posts. It is easiest to romanticize about my favorite beaches and the idyllic life of Surat and the wonder years in school and college. In my post http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/08/n5-theorem.html I touched upon the common trajectory that an average graduate student goes through in his initial period in the United States of America. That was a rant, a complaint, a question and a conclusion at the same time.

The main problem is that we keep viewing India through this prism of emotional imbalance. Its all about family and society and festivals to be celebrated and costs of living and the little comforts. We want to go back to India with the expectation that the fourteen days that we spend on an average with our families are a good enough snapshot of the remaining 351 days that we would have had in case we were resident Indians.

A week back a few enlightened souls, my office mates and friends gathered together for a post-dinner munching of good ice-cream. After the initial pleasantries and comments on the housing market, new deals and a few etcetras, the conversation veered to the all-too-common returning to India. Surprisingly though, we managed to focus on a very practical discussion on why it may be difficult to go back and work there. I am listing out the salient points. Feel free to share your thoughts. Most of this is speculation since I haven’t spoken to a lot of people who have made this switch back. These are questions to which I’d love to have accurate answers.

Attitude issues
My wife worked for a couple of years in India and then came here for her Masters. Subsequently, she got an internship with the evil monopolistic company everyone loves to hate. In the interim, she went back to India and met up with her former managers. When she mentioned where she got her internship, the reaction was drastic. The comments were sarcastic and the tone changed. The whole attitude was one of “she used to work here before, and now she is flying high because of being in the US”. This may be an over-reaction, but how far fetched is it from a common reality? This is precisely what I fear. Is the Indian mentality beyond such pettiness? Another colleague of mine had interviewed with Infosys and TCS in India after having done his Masters here. He narrated how they gave him a hard time in the interviews, aiming to prove a point and boss over him.

Work Culture
A colleague’s wife works for Infosys in India. When he narrated her stories to us, I was made to think hard. They have to work weekends even though they are off, to the extent that she had to notify if she was taking a Saturday off. There is a lot of emphasis on the balance of work and life out here which may perhaps not exist in India. That actually surprised me. I worked for a year in India and we had fixed timings (in fact, we had buses we would catch at fixed times to get to Andheri station from Chandivali). That however, was almost, 6 years ago. Perhaps the reality today is different

I am the Boss of you
Indian work culture is steeped in hierarchy. Apparently IT is no different. You have to get to work before your manager gets there and leave after he does. Again, hearsay for me. But I can believe that some of it may be true. The importance on pretense may be too much.

Services versus Product industry
To me, this is the single most important factor. I work for the largest software company in the world. I work on delivering a product that millions of people use. To me, that is a terrific experience to have. There is continuity, there are familiar processes, familiar stages (Software Development Life Cycle, if you remember your Software Engineering class). The impact I as a single employee can have is tremendous. The services industry is a different ball game altogether. You keep getting shifted from project to project, have to sit on the bench when you aren’t on one, and be too mobile for you own good. There is another issue. in the services industry, the emphasis is on knowing as much of new technology as possible. Everything from SAP to SOAP. The more you know, the better. Out here, even though we develop the technology, we are isolated from knowing a million technologies. I even wonder if I’d get hired back if I go back today.

Management the only way up?
We have the concept of an individual contributor here. You can spend several years in the company growing in your role of your choice. Not everyone is good at managing, especially the uber-geeks we have in-house. The good thing is, you don’t have to be an manager if you don’t want to. You can make progress in life otherwise too. In India, the concept of growth is to do a few projects, and become a lead. At least this is what I gathered.

No IT in Mumbai?
A more localized issue, but it impacts me. I have lived in Mumbai as long as I was in India and frankly, it would be difficult for me to imagine living elsewhere. Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad: perhaps. Gurgaon: maybe. Chennai: I don’t think so. Jhumri-Talaiyya: Anyday! I find it amazing that I settled in Seattle without any qualms and find moving around in my home country a big issue. Unfortunately, the big product development companies aren’t in Mumbai.

Wow. That was a long post. I have to put a disclaimer that working in an American company in America has its own set of issues, which doesn’t make it better than the Indian counterparts. The points above have been based on some personal experiences and a lot of conversations with people. So, of course, it may not be all “factual”. Again, feel free to share/discuss your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Downpour

Let the odd drop bounce off your shoulder,
As I watch one leap off mine.
Wince a little as the spray hits us,
Walk with me under this pleasant confine.

Black is the color that covers us so,
A well-lit dream under a dark shroud.
A pleasant accident as your shoulder brushes me,
A smiling afternoon under a dark cloud.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Tale In The Twist

They stood with a mild distance separating them. Parallel to each other. Yin and Yang, if they would have been of the opposite sex. Yang and Yang suited better. Or “Yanger”, as the punster among the two would remind his older friend on every instance. The philistines swarmed around them holding their wine glasses, and smug demeanors. Soft classical music wafted through the speakers. The older man seemed oblivious of everything. He was two feet from the painting, eyes fixed in unwavering attention. He had been looking forward to this exhibition for months now.

“Piece of art”, he mumbled. “Of course it is”, came the retort. The older man didn’t flinch at the rudeness or the impatience of his younger companion. He was lost in the sight his eyes beheld, completely absorbed in its folds. He continued talking, not moving his eyes from the girl in front of him. It was the most melancholic face he had ever seen. “Have you seen such beauty in someone’s eyes before?”. His flair for the dramatic was well-known. His companion ignored the comment. Get on it with it, he said impatiently. He wasn’t in the mood for paintings today. Six months of planning had gone into this. There could be no mistake, no slip-up. He was hoping the others in the room would do their part. There was no let-up in the conversation though. “I would give anything to have her”. “That’s what we are here for”, came the reply. Moments passed and the time ticked to 11.57 pm. The older companion stiffed up a bit. He could sense a body closing in on him. This is it, he thought. This is the time. Everything has been timed to the ‘T’. Every detail covered, every avenue explored. This would be sweet success. His face broke into a smile.

They stood with a mild distance separating them. Parallel to each other. Backs facing in opposite direction. The younger man stared at the painting. The old man took a step forward and held the hand of the beautiful girl. Six months ago, at about the same time of the day, he had popped the question. She had said yes. She took up the job. His secretary, his trusted aide. She reached into her purse and handed him the keys he had asked for. “Thanks. Have you seen this masterpiece?”, he asked. “No, sir”, she confessed. He stepped aside to let her have a view of the painting. “It is perfect. Titled, The Mirage. It is about the surprises life throws us. See the boy in the painting below the balcony. He has come back bloodied from battle to his lady love. She was sitting in the balcony gazing in the far horizon at nothing in particular. Her dream, her deepest wish has materialized and is a few feet away from her. But she doesn’t know or care. She can look through him but not believe him to be true. He can’t believe it at first. Don’t miss the bafflement in his body language. Moments later came the realization. He was dead.” A dramatic pause later, he added, “A picture does say a thousand words, doesn’t it?”

The effect was eerie. She took a step back instinctively. The setting discomforted her. She had her doubts about her boss in the first place. There were red flags all around that she had discounted. He was in a line of descendents of counts who were mysterious outcasts, and he had inherited those traits. He would disappear by late afternoon and would appear tired and groggy the next morning. But the pay was good and she needed the job, so she ignored the signs. Today however was unusual. He had called her to his private art gallery in the night to give him keys to his office. He said he had lost them. It seemed like a big mistake now. And then, the person next to her boss turned. The last thing she remembered were bloodshot eyes and a pair of fangs and the rest of the people in the room gathering around her. And then, sweet haunting pain.


P.S> The toughest part of creative writing is the creativity. To be precise, how many ways can you avoid retelling a tale? I started off writing this piece and had about 15 different plots in mind, all of which were clich├ęd. So I kept writing it till each turn would be unexpected. You could start to think of the story being one of two men at odds, or art thieves, or love, or a lot of other things. Those did cross my mind. One plot was to have the two as father and son and the woman in question being the mother who thinks the son is dead and gets a surprise. You see the point. There are a million twists in the tale. The tough part is to write a tale for each twist that is worth reading. The end goal was to have something unexpected at each turn. Let me know if you enjoyed it.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Halloween Fable

A friend of mine narrated this incident to me last week and I must confess that I have not heard a gem of a story like this for a while. I wanted to share this with you as it must live through the generations. If ever your kids or grand-kids ask you about the virtues of Indian graduate students in the US, give this example. This outlines the compassion, intelligence, thoughtfulness and awareness like none other. I am but a poor raconteur, so bear with my attempt at doing it justice (it has been spiced up beyond recognition).

It was a windy evening in windy Chicago. Firmly ensconced in his sofa, Kkrish sipped his Diet Coke watching a rerun of the 70’s show. He had the two most critical aspects of his existence close to his hands. The TV remote and a bag of chips. Munching between bursts of laughter, he seemed to be at peace with the fact that he had access to his TV when all of his room-mates had not yet come home. Suckers, he thought. Slogging away at their Food Services jobs and assignments and research assistantships. Three months into the US, he had failed to get any funding or job of any sort. He wasn’t too bothered. It will all fall in place one day, he thought, cracking up at another “burn” by Ashton Kutcher.

A commercial. His eyes wandered to the calendar of Laxmi Jewelers that one of his room-mates’ mother had lovingly given. 31st October, he mumbled. He made a mental note to pay his apartment rent and credit card bills. There was a knock on the door. He got up, distributing the chip crumbs resting on his paunch evenly on the floor. He looked through the keyhole but saw no one. Strange, he thought. Hesitantly, he opened the door. Standing in front with a stupid gloating smile was a small girl of seven. Weirdly dressed, he thought. A crown on her head, a shiny pink frock and a wand with a star at the end. Wow, she is dressed like a fairy Godmother from Rapunzel. Or was it Jack and the Beanstalk? He wasn’t sure. He made another mental note to go and google it up. Back to order, he thought. He morphed his forehead to reveal a questioning look. The girl said, “Trick or treat” and held a bowl upto him. Perplexed, he looked at it. Full of chocolates. How nice, he thought. He smiled, and reached inside the apartment to place the remote. His hand freed, he did the one right thing that came to his mind. Sweet kid. I must not break her heart. After all, the day comes only once a year, he thought. What a fine country. The kids here celebrate the day just like we did in India. And people say the worst things possible about this place. He bent down and gave her the best smile he had. His hand outstretched, he took a chocolate from the bowl and said, “Happy Birthday”

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wrap Around

Is it a fallacy to subsribe to a Blind
Faith in the strokes of the Smiling
Assassin who waits with patience for the Living
Daylights to go down and paints a Tequila
Sunrise on a multihued sky like a Picture
Perfect ending to a long Tongue
Twisting phrase that speaks of a golden morning?


This is a bizarre quick attempt at wordplay. For those who may not have a clue as to what I tried here, I have basically woven a sentence/poem/question around two worded phrases that immediately came to my mind (for eg. blind faith) such that the first word and the second word are split across lines. Read by themselves, each of them could be a sentence, give or take some correct punctuations. Something is better than nothing, especially when it comes to blog posts.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

And the story goes on

My attempt at the story-building tag after being tagged by RS. I don't have much by way of contribution. Have set it up for the next set of people. I have to confess I participated in this simply because I really liked the idea. So here's the idea. The first few blocks below are part of a thread that came to me. I am simply continuing the story below. There are details on the rules. I am tagging RTD2, SD and Ragini

He thought it would be an ordinary journey. Standing behind the pillar he watched the train snort arrogantly into the station. With each snort he was reminded of his grandfather's words "You will fail in the city and return penniless"; with every heavenward whistle, he heard his cousin, "Don't worry. Come here and I will get you a job at the construction site." Now he had a 34-hour journey to prove one of them wrong, and he expected the excitement at the end of the journey. He looked at his ticket once again: compartment S9 berth 23.

Pushing his luggage under the seat, he sat close to the window. "Papa, when will you be back?" - his four year old daughter Munni asked innocently. He stared into those soft brown eyes of the motherless kid. He held her frail palms in his, through the window. "Munni, Papa will get you a nice gudiya from the city..Say tata," his sister spoke to the kid, to avoid an emotional outburst. In a minute, the train pulled forward, and Munni's little fingers parted from between his. "I need to go..", he thought, "I have to, at least for Munni's sake.."

The humid summer breeze and the rattling train coaxed him into an uncomfortable state of drowsy consciousness. He dreamt that Munni ran away, the closer he ran to her, the farther she was, like a mirage. He woke up with a start and squinted at his watch.
"What is the time please?"
A smallish woman, a meek voice as if she was scared that her existence would annoy someone. Her only noticeable feature was her rather large, expressive eyes.
"4.30"

Something made him look at the woman again. He had stopped noticing women long back. Ever since Meenakshi passed away...

PARTH_SPEAK:
Four long years. His daughter’s birth. His wife’s death. Joy and sorrow in an instant. A heady cocktail. He had hardly recovered from it. He barely had a chance to. You can’t be a poor farmer in Andhra Pradesh and have time for emotional upheavals.

Life betrayed him once with the death of his wife. Life betrayed him again, three years in a row, with the failure of his crops. Every year, the debt increased and it felt like a noose tighten around him. Tightened till he could not breathe. He shivered with the memory of the night, where he took a bottle of poison in his hand …


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------(Everything below the dashed line above should be copied and pasted with every accepted tag)

This is a Story Tree and is best nurtured as follows:
1. A blogger can add only 90-100 words (not more or less) at a time
2. All previous snippets of 90-100 words need to be copied before the new set of 90-100 words are appended.
3. Each entire snippet should be linked to the respective author (and not just the first sentence or so)
4. Characters, scenes, etc. can be introduced by an author
5. Bizarre twists, sci-fi, fantasy sequences are best avoided.
6. A tag must be accepted within 7 days else the branch is a dead branch
7. After appending 90-100, the Story Tree can be passed on to at most 3 bloggers.
8. If more than 1 branch leads to a blogger, s/he is free to choose any one of them but cannot mix the snippets of the individual branches.
9. The Story Tree is best left to grow than concluded10. Please attach the image of the Story Tree below with each accepted tag (the link address can be copied and used).



Monday, October 17, 2005

Cultural Bhel-Puri

"Cultures aren't better or worse, they are just different". I remember hearing this oft-used quote by our advisor from international students services at Texas A&M. I have often thought about it. They may not be better or worse, but they are certainly layered one above the other for each individual. For example. An third-generation Italian based in New York is a New Yorker first, an American second, and Italian a distant third. A second-generation Indian kid is perhaps layered like a Cassata ice-cream (now, that's a comparison :-)) You have the Indianness sandwiched in parallel between Americanization and early adulthood. I am post-Emergency era Indian who wears his Indianness on his sleeve even as he tries the American life with kid gloves. What's your layering like? Think about it.

Speaking of multi-cultural influences, there were two polarly opposite experiences over the weekend that impressed me. One is watching Chinese and Americans playing dandia. The Gujarati community (especially on the east coast) has assimilated into the American mainstream (not just the upper middle class) like none other (yes, including Punjabis and South Indians, of all kinds), so it is nice to see the compliment being returned. I have super-impressed with the American dude even doing the complex garba moves. Way to go! On the flip-side, they ended the dandiya session with bhangda. Now, I like Punju beats (Daler Mehndi et. al) and I think that no other form of Indian music has yet seen that kind of proliferation into foreign music streams. Yet. Garba-Dandiya followed by Bhangda? Not a great mix. Come to think of it, even the garbas reflect less of the essence of Gujarati culture. Garbas are time-tested celebrations of poetry and music. But it is the dandiya that is more popular, what with Falguni Pathak's rendition of songs such as 'Pare hat soniye sadi rail gaddi aayi'. Oh no, another Punjabi song :-)

Yesterday, I had a completely contrasting music experience. The event was a concert of choral music played by the Esoterics. It was titled Iman (or Faith) and was inspired by Islam and Islamic culture. This was one in a series of such works that the group has rendered. There was one on Hinduism in the past. Choral music was an altogether new experience for me and it turned out to be a rewarding one. The basic foundations of western classical music are so different from Indian classical music. The basis of Western music is harmonization on the arrangement of notes in different octaves. Indian classical music deals with ragas, where we expand notes based on one musical pattern. Choral music as an art form is pretty powerful because given a group of singers and good instrumentation of the composition and voices, the effect produced can be very powerful and moving. The performance by the Esoterics was really good. The accompaying brochure had the lyrics in Arabic and their corresponding translation in English, which made the concert enjoyable. I look forward to hearing more of their work in the future.

Random thought to end the post. I just came back from a car wash. Wonder if someone will come up with a similar solution for humans someday. Even the laziest guys (and in lesser quantities, girls) would have no excuse to escape shower. That should make some spouses happy.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sau-run

T'is the season of punny villanious blog titles. Also the season of centuries. I complete 100 posts with this one. This is a funny feeling. This occassion calls for me to say soemthing profound. Here goes. I like blogging but I have to wonder if it is a hobby that I am losing interest in. The frequency of my blogging has decreased, the number of people reading my blogs has decreased and better blogs are popping up all over the place that make me feel like I should be in the audience. Don't worry. I am only half-joking. At least about the last part. Yes, I read extensively. But no, I wouldn't stop writing because someone writes more enjoyable matter. Reinvention is the name of the game. Perhaps I need to write in Hindi as suggested (I wonder if I am prepared for the pains of typing) or simply explore other facets of my writing (perhaps about my job, which might just drive the last four five people coming here too). That is the problem with directionless journeys. You are always going in the right direction and always heading the wrong way too.

However, 100 posts are 99 more than the first one and I believe that is a achievement worth celebrating. I have made a conscious efforts to have content in the posts. No one-liners. Real articles, poems, observations, photographs. That makes for a successful experiment for me, given that I wanted to get back in touch with my writing abilities.

I took this chance to go back and read some of my posts and thought I'd list out a few of them. I have not listed my poems or the ghazals I translated in here (I liked them all), but these are some others that I quickly summed up. Feel free to comment/add/delete from the list. The blog may not be of the people, or by the people, but in some measure, is definitely for the people. This is the best I could do in 10 minutes of flipping through the links, so bear with me.

First post:
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2004/08/taking-plunge.html

Some posts that I enjoyed writing:
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2004/10/right-envelope-wrong-address.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2004/10/i-am-navratrilova.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/04/word-play.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/06/hornokplease.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/09/forbidden.html

Popular ones (don't comment on how few these are):
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2004/11/one-last-time.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/01/hindi-film-songs-best-of-2004.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/04/dekha-ek-khwaab-to.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/05/because.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/06/expectnation.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/07/twilight-cadenza.html
http://parthp.blogspot.com/2005/08/n5-theorem.html

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Waldermart

No. I am not talking of a Bihari pronounciation of our favorite he-who-must-not-be-named. I am referring to the all-encompassing, rollback-pricing, melting-pottish, China-venturing Walmart. As a graduate student venturing initially into the US, Walmart was a haven for cheap shopping, be it groceries or bicycles. How do they manage it? Well, Walmart caters to the lowest common denominator. They run their business on volume and single-handedly would have wiped out the mom-and-pop stores all across the US. I think their brilliance also lies in the fact that they have everything. I mean, everything. If isn't available in Walmart, you will be hard pressed to find it elsewhere. Last I heard, Walmart is proliferating (?) in China. Can you beat that? The largest consumer market possible (I would imagine bigger than the Indian middle class too) being treated to a chain of stores that can take care of all their needs.

Now to the drawbacks. At the risk of sounding elitist, there is a bottom percentage of the populace (financially) that they cater to. Their quality sucks once you look for it (which you don't necessarily as graduate students). Off late, I have also realised that they aren't very popular among their employees either (hence the evil title). Some material that I came across that don't necessarily think too highly of Walmart
1. Wal-Mart: The Facts
2. Walmart and Capitalism
3. WakeUpWalmart

Corporations have social responsibilities, especially the large ones. The first one is to treat their employees well. The second is to treat the community well. The third is to look beyond just profits. In our company, there is a streak of philanthrophy that is unmatched on a per-capita basis("evil empire" notwithstanding). Once you inculcate that kind of culture around you, it becomes norm rather than a exception. Perhaps its easy for me to say given the average salary may be four times that of a Walmart employee. But the least they could do is to provide fair working conditions for their workers. Of course, some of these things are being debated in a court of law, and may not be completely true. But there is generally no smoke without fire. Should I stop buying from Walmart? Oh, why not? Its 20 miles away anyway!

P.S> A side note. I have not experienced as much road rage as I have navigating a trolley in the crowded aisles of Walmart. I absolutely hate it when people plonk themselves and their trollies in the middle of the aisle lost in thought about what to buy. Hello, there is barely place for two carts to pass side by side. Can you not move to the side? Then there are those abandoners who just leave their trolleys in between and go on a treasure hunt. Maybe matter for another post, but this is very relevant in the context of Walmart.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Forever Perfect

Punch me, I bleed
Follow me, I mislead
Trust me, I can break your heart
Love me, while I scorn you
Heed me, and my unsound advice
Hold me, watch me leave you alone
Forgive me, I err
Believe in me, as I can’t
Shed tears, on the crystal frame
That sheilds, a happy picture
And remember, with all my faults
I am still perfect
For you


P.S> This is a response to a tag that Curbside Prophet came up with. To pick a word and write a poem that contains it. I asked her for a word and Crystal was what she gave me. Not my best work, but I do believe the usage of the word is not forced. Most people I know have been tagged, so I am not passing it around.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Forbidden

He saw the leaves being swept off their feet and flying towards him. In an instant he felt a shudder going through his body. The flight of the leaves had served a warning. He should have been prepared. Damn September cold, he muttered. He composed himself and looked lovingly at her. Surprisingly, she seemed unaffected by the breeze. She was covered in black, and it always set his heart aflutter to see her so. He could feel his heart beat faster. The anticipation, the excitement was killing him. He loved these moments. Bitter-sweet, tender, careless, expectant. A lifetime rolled into the space of a few minutes. He wrapped his hand around her. Her breath came out in wisps of smoke that rose a few inches and vanished. She was warm and inviting. Her touch invigorated him. He soared above the ground in that feeling, not knowing where earth started and the sky ended. He knew then that this was special. Special because it would always feel this way, every time, until the last. The wind howled. He woke up from his reverie. His heart skipped a beat again. Is it criminal to want something you can’t have? Is it impossible to stop? Is it not permitted for a man to be weak? Follow your heart. Isn’t that what they say? He knew he couldn’t have her forever and that ripped his heart into two. Time to take a stance. Time to be a man, he thought. His forehead shrunk with a frown and he turned to her. She looked back at him blankly, as if to say, ‘it’s your call’. He considered what his friends told him. “You will be destroyed for good. She is poison. She will ruin your life.” Just one last time, he said. It’s a pact. He pulled her closer to his lips. No more after this, he muttered. Moments flew and ecstasy reigned. He closed his eyes in contentment and the sad realization that it was over, for good. He opened them again and turned around to look at the windows of his balcony. The reflection stared back at him, questioningly, understandingly. He gazed back at it. A man of 40, who just had his last cup of coffee.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Oblivion

The banalities of life overpowered him for a fleeting moment. Bills, loan, work. He smiled, amused at his thoughts. So irrelevant, he mumbled. His eyes followed as the car screeched away from the street. Some bodies stepped in to block that view. And then faded. Slowly. A curious voice from the dispersing masses queried. “Accident?”

This was in response to being tagged for a 55-word story by Geetanjali. I thought this was a very interesting tag to have and have given it a shot (no matter what the result). Let me know what you think. In the tradition of tagging, I am going to have the following people try the same

Curbside Prophet
Shantanu
Ragini
Ramya

Monday, September 19, 2005

Frequently Questioned Answers

Ever been advised by an adult on the right things to do in life? The common wisdom passed down to us by generations? I have decide to challenge that. If these pearls of wisdom were so effective, wouldn't our problems be solved for good? Wouldn't we be paragons of perfection? I guess we aren't. Its time to question the wisdom of the ages.

1. Grass is always greener on the other side
Hmm. It implies that when we get to the other side, we are always going to be dissapointed. Hence, we should never try anything else, because we know that we will find that we are doing is better than what we will be doing. By the same token, we should not be doing what we are doing because not doing it was a better option in the first place. Oh, I am already lost.

2. Hard work always pays
Yes, it does. It pays towards my company's profits.

3. We are constantly evolving
Into what? The more I see around me, we are evolving to sufficiently drive us on the path of destruction. Would we be completely evolved when we would have burned up massive holes in the ozone layer and left nothing to consume on the surface of the planet?

4. Sab Moh-Maaya hai (everything is an illusion)
That's wrong. Sab Maaya ka moh hai (don't expect to translate this, the charm is lost)

5. Contribute. Do something.
Disagree. Doing nothing is definitely doing something. I am not damaging the fragile fabric of the universe that way.

6. Practice makes man perfect
Tell is to the guy who took the car on the road the first time and ran over two pedestrians, a beggar, a dog and a lamppost. Life is not a dress rehearsal! Ask cricketers who were dropped after their first test match, or guys who must have stuttered to ask Aishwarya Rai out in school.

7. All you need is love
... and a car, a house, a TV, French Fries, Gulab Jamun, Tendulkar's straight drive, coffee ... don't get me started

8. Slow and steady wins the race
I'll remember to mention this to the 100 meter sprinters and Inzamam Ul Haq and all the tragic movie heroes who sacrificed their love for their best friends of brothers.

9. Looks don't matter
Aishwarya for President. Beauty versus brains. What would you choose if you have to choose it for someone else? Oh, this is a hollow materialistic society. You have to pay for two seats in an aircraft if you are too fat. Even Indians have stopped relating paunches to prosperous times. Most people are not normal. They are either too fat or too thin or too tall or too short. Show me one person who isn't measured that way.

10. Each generation is doing better than the previous one
Yes, we have more devices to complicate our lives. We have more luxuries and die sooner. We spend half of our lives staring at a screen or trapped inside metal coffins we call cars. We love and have heartache, and love and break our hearts again and decide that cynicism will prolong our lives. We are so uncomfortable with our inferiority to nature that we trample it, and become urban warriors. Oh yes, we are getting better each day!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Surviving Water Induced Morbidity

Here's my current standing joke. I was late for swim class ..... by 20 years. Yes, me of the ocean lover yuvak sangh, resident of Washington state which is ripe with water bodies, me of the glorious visions of rains and water and mist and dew, the quintessential lover of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen … never learnt how to swim. I couldn’t swim to save my life. Somehow in the multitudinous extra-curricular activities that I indulged in, swimming never featured. No rational explanation. None is required. It doesn’t matter. Or does it. People say that once you learn basic skills like swimming and cycling, you never forget them. On the other end of the spectrum is also the theory that the older you get, the tougher it is to pick these skills up. Some of it makes sense. I guess you are become more aware of your own fear as you become older. In that sense, swimming does sit in a different categories of skills. There is definitely something to worry about. I mean, its not tennis. I won’t wither away and sink into the ground if I miss a couple of shots. But swimming, that’s a different ball game.

I started lessons last week. It is a group of six people in a basic beginner’s course. The lessons are 30 minutes in duration and I have had three so far. They taught us some basics like how to breath out through the mouth inside water, how to propel yourself with kicking (can’t do anything without floaters, or noodles, as they are called), how to float on your back and move yourself with kicks. Now, I have a general belief that I am good at picking sports. It is true upto an extent. I have seen that in the past with table tennis, badminton etc. I can pick up the basics well, improve rapidly and then plateau out. This one seems a tougher nut to crack. Perhaps it’s the fear factor. My instructor has told me that my body is too stiff, that I should relax a little more. I also find doing multiple things: kicking, breathing out inside the water, doing strokes with the arms, and then breathing in by taking my head up and looking sideways quite a handful. More often than not, my feet find the bottom of the pool quickly (it is a four feet deep). The funniest and the most frustrating part is that I just can’t seem to move in water. I keep kicking all the while, whether it is on my back or trying to push myself forward, I barely move anywhere. More often than not, I am carried by someone else’s wake. Aah, it is frustrating. I think it’s a mixture of slight phobia and a lot of technique deficiencies that is making it tough to pick this up. But I am not going to give up without a fight. It will be an epic battle with these forces. And then shall follow a post titled S.W.I.M. (Surviving Water Induced Morbidity) recounting that.

While on the subject, here’s some excellent advice from someone I should have learnt from when I had the chance at TAMU. A man tailored for the teaching profession if there was one.

“Parth, Having read your description of your attempts at swimming it seems u are trying to punish the water. :-) Don’t do that. Stretch out your foot and leg fully behind your body and try to think that the flat portion behind your leg fingers is a paddle. Kick so that u splash water AS LESS as possible, ie. smoothly. As a general rule, the more splashy u are the more the water will resist u instead of helping u. U will tire quicker. Plus remember that this motion only allows u to stay afloat. to move u have to use your hands. As u progress try and keep your head under water. This makes your profile in the water more spearlike than the flat board of your shoulders and chest. It reduces drag no end.”

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sunsitive

Some people reflect the weather outside. Their moods swing up with rays of sun hitting them in the face, and gloom sets in when gray clouds gather. We have had some moody weather in Seattle off late (as they say, if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes). The sun had been beaming 0n us for a while and now wet and cooler weather has begun its onset. I was thinking where I fit in the reactionary scheme of things. Sunsitive, I guess. But in the opposite sense. I like the sun, don't get me wrong. But I wouldn't give an arm and a leg to be in California. I like the sun in sporadic bursts, but what I am concerned about most is the heat. Cooler temperatures are much to my liking. I like gentle cold breezes or zephyr's (if I remember my last word list in Barron's GRE book correctly). I like greyish skies, with moisture hinting at a potential downpour. A drop almost condenses and falls on your hand. I like the sun partially hidden behind the clouds, providing just enough lighting for the show to begin. Alright, I am a monsoon lover. I love the rains, and flooding notwithstanding, that is one of the reasons I loved Bombay. Some great memories and feelings are associated with it, and that I guess is matter for another post.

Rains in the US however are different. Cold, wet showers, which one cannot enjoy drenching in. Temperatures drop sharply when the rain comes and one prefers being indoors. That said, there is a small pocket of weeks (well, like the current period) where the mist is predominant, the clouds are grey but the temperature is bearable. I love the thought of sitting outside on my patio furniture (yup, four months into my house, what do you expect?) and sipping coffee. Of course, in my parallel universe, when the clouds gather and the temperature drops, I'd love to be on the terrace of an old house in a village, with a hint of cool breeze, with clouds warning of impending rain, with a cup of coffee in my hand while I stare at the vast expanse of land in front of me with the sky lighting up at the edges in varied colours and the trees fluttering in the breeze.

A post to nowhere, about nothing in particular, just reflecting what I want right now. Nonentheless, its out here now. So, why don't you share what kind of a person are you? Sunsitive? Rainman? Hot and happening? Chime in.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Double EnTender

Two pieces of art, worlds apart, that impacted me over the course of a weekend.

Rarely has someone thoughtfully conveyed something to me that relates to me and directly affects me. Thank you. For understanding, and for finding the right words.

Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can waitawhile.
You're twenty-six, and still have some life ahead.
No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.

The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:
To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.

-Vikram Seth

This ghazal owns me at the first line itself. I have a version sung by Noor Jehan of this excellent lyric by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. What starts off as a romantic poem speaking off desirable love turns into a brilliant social commentary. There is more to this world than love and that the poet would see his view of the world corrected before he sees his love go through till the end. Don't miss the transition from the first stanza to the second. The lyrics and the meaning have been sourced over a few places on the net (I knew most of the words, but not all).

Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang
Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang

Maine samajhaa thaa ke tuu hai to daraKhshaaN hai hayaat

Tera Gam hai to Gam-e-dahar kaa jhagaDaa kyaa hai
Teri surat se hai aalam mein bahaaron ko sabaat
Teri aaNkhon ke sivaa duniyaa men rakhaa kyaa hai
Tu jo mil jaae to taqadiir niguuN ho jaae
YuN na tha, maine faqat chaahaa tha yuuN ho jaae

Aur bhii dukh hain zamaane men mohabbat ke sivaa
Raahaten aur bhii hain vasl kii raahat ke sivaa
Anginat sadiyon ke taariik bahimaanaa tilism
Reshm-o-atalas-o-kamaKhwaab mei­n bunawaae hue
Jaa-ba-jaa bikate hue kuuchaa-o-baazaar men jism
Khaak men lithre hue Khuun men nahalaae hue
Jism nikale hue amaraaz ke tannuuron se
Piip bahatii huii galate hue naasuuron se

LauT jaatii hai udhar ko bhii nazar kyaa kije
Ab bhii dilakash hai teraa husn, magar kyaa kije
Aur bhii duKh hain zamaane men mohabbat ke sivaa

Raahaten aur bhii hain vasl kii raahat ke sivaa

Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang
Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang

[daraKhshaaN = shining, brilliant; hayaat = life; dahar = time, world;sabaat = stability, permanence; niguuN = bow;taariik = dark; bahimaana = dreadful, terrible; tilism = spell, magic; atalas= satin; kamaKhwaab = brocade; silk woven with gold and silver flowers;jaa-ba-jaa = hither-thither; lithaDe = imbrued; amaraaz = diseases; tannuuron = ovens; piip = pus; galate hue = festering; naasuur = ulcer;vasl=meeting]

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Piece By Piece

Are we all incomplete, by design?
Employed by force
Expected to find
The matching pieces of the jigsaw puzzle
That add up and construct the “I”

A touch, a smile,
A tacit acknowledgment
An emotion deciphered without words
A sentence as complete as it is broken
A tear, half-welled from its inception
Shed by someone for a foreign pain

Each a small victory, each a small piece
Each peeling off
Layers to reveal a paragon

And so it happens one day
The picture is completed
With hands that helped
And chunks borrowed
From someone else

And whilst I know
That the lien will be up
And drifting winds
Will take the chunks away
To annul
Another imperfection

For a day,
I will be
Complete

P.S> Strange things have happened, and this would qualify as one of them. Thanks to suggested movie watching from Curbside Prophet, I watched the movie 'Before Sunrise' and was duly impressed and glad I saw it. Hours before that, I had written the above piece which fits in perfectly with the theme of the movie. For those who dream of the perfect day with the perfect person and live their imperfect lives in perfect anticipation of it, here's my tribute.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The n+5 theorem

This post was due on the 27th of July. I wrote about Allan Border instead. You know, birthday boys and girls are special. However, the day marked another significant little personal milestone for me. An anniversary of significance. Five long years ago on that day, Avinash and I boarded a Delta Airlines airplane wearing a ridiculous suit, with loads of relatives happy to see us off and a Brief History of Time as reading material (We were sad, sad people then. I’ll reserve my comments on the situation now). The trip abroad for a Masters is a strange little journey. It is a shift of the magnitude of the movement of tectonic plates. The breaking up of world into continents. Literally. It is a fabulous experience, a coming-of-age for home-grown boys like me, a step into a life which is tangentially opposite to the one you know (today’s generation is much more informed than us, you know the one’s the pronounce the J in Jansport with a Y), a rite of passage that will shadow you for the rest of your life.

Therein lies the dilemma. How influential is the shadow? How long will the effects linger? How long are you bound to stay in this country? Graduate students often fail to clearly answer the one question that they should have answered foremost: why exactly are they here? For the love of God, money, education, partying, freedom, women, men, rental cars, Walmart, rental apartments, unlimited refills of soda, Taco Bell, long weekend deals, rolling R’s: one of these, all, or none? They get to the US, get through their Masters, get their first paycheck, their first car, first serious attempts at arranged nuptials, actually getting married, getting their H1B visa stamped, applying for the green card, buying the first house, fussing about their lawn, buy bulk groceries from Costco and if productive, have a couple of babies too. The seemingly unbreakable sequence of events stated above is punctuated with trips to India where a few tears are shed with the parents, comments made about how India is progressing, observations made about how the country has changed beyond recognition, pleasant nods made when told that kids are best brought up in India, US’s role in world affairs is tch-tched, and a general doomsday prediction is made about how your life will go down the drain if you decided to stay on forever in the US.

Sum of all fears, expectations and conversations is a common refrain: I’ll come back to India in five years. Somehow, the magical number of five has stuck. Perhaps it has do with the arithmetic around finishing your degree in two-three years, getting a job and recovering or accumulating some money, depending upon how graduate life has treated you. Somehow, five seems the talismanic number that people agree upon is a good time to have enjoyed the good life before they head back to their roots. Somehow, five seems to be the acceptable threshold at which you haven’t done too much to break all ties with your family and friends, where you and your American passport-holding kids will have least trouble adjusting back to the reformed India.

Which is what makes the five year anniversary a significant date. I have gone through the above mentioned steps but find myself firmly entrenched in a life that I have built out of choice. There are still the trips to India, still the talks about how it is better than ever before to go back, to blend in. There are still beliefs that one so attuned to the comforts of the west will not have to cut back heavily on the benefits as India is fast catching up. There are still talks about how life is empty without having family close by.

However, if it were all so easy to pack up and start all over again, why isn’t it so? It’s a vicious cycle of voluntary entrenchment. You dig your heels in, enjoy the stability and yearn to be swept off by the ocean waters you see from your stakeout place on the top of the trees. There is still always the hope, always the desire, for you know you don't belong here. The plan to return is always existent, just difficult to implement. So, here, ladies and gentlemen is my most realistic assessment on the situation. My theorem about returning back to India. I’ll go back to India in five years time … from today.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Halla Bol!

That, for the unintiated is Mangal Pandey a.k.a. Aamir Khan in flowing hair and puffy eyes and striking moustache's call. Yes, I saw 'The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey' first day first show on Friday at the most disgustingly maintained theater in the whole world: Roxy Cinema in Kirkland. The fact that this is the only theater that shows Hindi films in the Seattle area, they charge $10 for a movie experience like none other. The sound stinks, the movie roll might just slide up such that you see the head below the feet (it happened in Hum Tum), the floor is sticky and I don't want to know what caused it to be that way, the restrooms are terrible, and the service is appaling (they wait a good half hour after the movie's scheduled time to fill in more seats). That said, I have seen more movies in this theatre than any other in my life :-( Why do I like Hindi films so much??

What can one say about the Rising? The first Aamir Khan release in 4 years, first after Lagaan, this movie had great curiosity value from the moment it went on the floors. So what is the movie about? Mangal Pandey is the man purported to have started the first freedom struggle of India (called the Sepoy Mutiny by the Brits). The story goes that the British made bullet cartridges made off cow and pig fat which was unacceptable to both Hindus and Muslims. Mangal Pandey protested against this, led a small revolt where he injured some English officers and was ultimately hanged.

So, that's the story. However, there isn't enough matter to fill in a two and a half hours. So, what do we do? We throw in the story of a friendship with a British officer (this was still ok with me), throw in a romance with a nautch girl, throw in three unnecessary songs (barring the title song and the mujra, none were justified), throw in yet another romance with the British officer and a sati, and brief references to other key players in the uprising (Tatya Tope, Rani Laxmibai, Bahadu Shah Zafar etc.).

There are a lot of good talents involved in the movie. Ketan Mehta handles quite a few scenes with flourish, Aamir Khan is superb in portraying the firebrand sepoy, Toby Stephens impresses with his performance and the technical team is in fine form. But the obvious mistakes are too much to overlook. I had hoped that Aamir Khan would have good 'script sense', but he errs in picking the right script here. The music from Rehman is appallingly bad (if someone disagrees, be my guest) for a big production like this, and the women are completely wasted.

I see a great future for indian cinema in the coming years. I have a firm belief that the presence of songs in the story is our USP, and that we should not bend to the diktats of a western audience or an impatient generation. The key to making a quality product is the presence of a good script where the songs flow with the narrative. There are instances of perfect movies (Sholay, Mughal-E-Azam) on that account so there is no reason it can't be done again.

I would definitely recommend The Rising to be seen at least once. I probably succumbed from the pressure of my expectations and came away a litle dissapointed.

No issues. Its Halla Bol, definitely not Dabba Gol!!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Panoramania

Generally, when it comes to photography, I have developed a strong liking to be in front of the camera than behind it. At about 24 years, 5 months and 13 days, I realised I was photogenic. Or so I have been told.

Nonetheless, a couple of years after that, I purchased my first digital camera. A Canon Powershot S50. It is a utility camera which is at the higher end of the point and shoot family. The standard features notwithstanding, it does very well in daylight photographs. Additionally, the freedom that a digital camera gives in taking a large number of photographs, dismissing those that aren't upto the mark and seeing your results instantaneously is priceless.

One of the things that fascinate me is the 'stitch' mode photos. You can take a series of photos, that can be stitched together to get a panomaric effect. Be warned that I am pretty ordinary photographer (I have seen the work of fellow bloggers like Aparna and Deepak and it is really good), but the photos might interest you.

1. Whistler mountain, Canada
This was my first attempt at using the stich mode and the result is an undirected mess. There is no specific feature of the area I am looking at besides it being part of the mountain range.


2. Lake Chelan - Columbia River
This one is much better and is a striking view of a river flowing on the left and a an independent lake on the right. This would not have been possible with an ordinary camera. The shame is that the 360 degree view from where this photograph was taken was so breathtaking that this area of capture is but a small part of the story


3. Mount Rainier
Fresh from the press. Two days old. Drove to Rainier on a picture perfect day and got a perfect picture. Notice the solitary cloud right in the centre. Produces a terrific effect. This mountain is one of the reasons I like the Northwest so much.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Soli - Lowkey no more

"Finally. After months of procrastination based on my inability to agree upon a title for the blog, here it is. The blog, that is. There is a title too, but it isn't witty by any means. How long could I have continued without doing this? The "Shoot for the moon" theory wasn't working for me. This is much better. I have decided not to fly to the moon. I will jump off the table and land on my two feet on my carpetted floor. Lets see where the baby steps lead."

Thus began my blogging journey exactly a year back. What started as an experiment has blossomed into a full-fledged engagement. I have got to know some truly interesting and smart people over the year, inspired some to start their own blogs, discovered periodically how much I enjoy writing, struggled with the medium like everyone else, and all in all, had a lot of fun. I also met a few long lost friends through the blog, had about 10,000 visits to my site, and was suitably humbled by the sheer magnitude and ability of fellow bloggers. I have also enjoyed the creation of a space and a world that is entirely my own. I spent some time revisiting my blogs from day 1 (you can do it too if you have the time and inclination), and I can see the evolution of a better writing style and clarity of thought. I also enjoyed seeing at what point the 'regulars' to this blog joined in. The first year is probably the toughest. That is of course till you start the second :-)

Stay tuned for more updates as the journey continues. Solilowkey is low key no more! Happy Birthday, dear blog.

P.S> I am on work-inflicted break right now, hence the posts are far and few in between

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

O Captain! My Captain!

(with due apologies to Walt Whitman). This post is dedicated to one of my sporting heroes on his birthday (it must be July 27th in Australia already). Allan Border, may you live long! Australian's captain courageous, the wall much before Dravid came around, gutsy fighter, determined, aggressive with a ruthless spirit and a never say die spirit.


Border in full flow Posted by Picasa


Border is one of the true greats of the game. I don't know when I became a fan, but it was enough to convert me from a right-handed bat to a left-handed batsman. Those who look in awe at the invincible Australian team today might be well-served to remember that in 1984, West Indies had wiped out Australia 5-0 in a test series. After a tearful departure by the then captain Kim Hughes, Border took over. The team went from defeat to defeat with the captain playing several lone hands. He persisted with the team and built a winning combination that captured the Reliance World Cup in 1987. Those who talk about the fact that England hasn't won the Ashes in a while should look back to 1989 where he led the Aussies to a 4-0 win over Gower's team. The foundation was laid and Australia has never looked back. He groomed Taylor, who in turn gave way to Waugh and Ponting now rests easy with the best possible team in the world. His combination with the first super-coach of one day cricket, Bob Simpson yielded great results.


World Cup champions circa 1987 Posted by Picasa


Border was never as talented as Mark Waugh or David Gower, but had the grit and the determination to grind it out. He was fanatical about not giving his wicket away. Kapil Dev once rated him as one of his most prize wickets (and he did get him on 8-9 occassions I believe). His orthodox left spinners were very effective, none more useful than the spell where he got Gatting's wicket in the world cup finals. One of the most cherished cricketing moments for me was when I got to see him play live, at Brabourne stadium in the 1989 Nehru Cup against Pakistan. When he rode onto the field, the crowd was chanting 'Border Border'. The fan following was very evident. To see him get out cheaply that day did dampen my spirits, but not my awe for the man. As a kid, all I wanted to do was to go to Australia and meet him :-) I would also cherish cutouts from Sportstar that I had off Border and the then Australian team. I remember the match where he whipped England for 83 of 42 balls so vividly.


Bowlers beware, I ain't going anywere!! Posted by Picasa

Here is a short summary of some of the great feats he performed in his career.
Most tests : 156
Most test runs : 11,174
Most Test catches : 156 (I think this record is broken currently)
Most Consecutive tests : 153!!!!
Most Tests as captain : 93
First player to score 150 in each innings of a match
27 centuries with a test average over 50
32 test wins as a captain

The Australian Cricket Board have also paid him the ultimate tribute by naming a medal after him. The Allan Border medal today is the top accolade in Australian cricket and players try and perform at their best to win it after the end of every cricketing season in Australia

Stats don't do him enough justice. In Australia, Border was God because he converted his team from sore losers to world beaters. Another left-handed captain with more talents but lesser grit was on his way to do the same with the Indian team. Now we know what seperates the greats from the legends.