Playlist

  • Eyes on Fire - Blue Foundation
  • Rooster - Alice in Chains
  • Jigsaw Falling into Place - Radiohead
  • Quien Fuera - Silvio Rodriguez
  • La Tortura - Shakira

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Partly Arranged, Mostly Love

I've been putting this off long enough. I'll conveniently blame Aparna for that. Truth is I have little time to do much else. For what its worth, here's our story in pictures. I have too many of them.



Primary Target: Aparna
Occupation: Consultant
Location: St. Louis. Lives with her sisters family.
Confident, smart and ambitious. Least interested in getting married anytime soon. I had my work cut out for me.




Meet Shreya her impossibly troublesome and equally cute niece.
I had to get past Shreya first. I knew very early that if I scored with her, I could take out the principal target.




Evidently, I wasn't getting very far (in spite of my brave face).





Meet Sekhar, her brother-in-law.
We share our first names and also a love for carroms. I knew I had him in my kitty that night we played till 3am :-).






Was she warming up to me? I thought she was being polite. Couldn't mistake that smile to mean anything .. atleast not then.




Help from unexpected quarters
Anu, her sister, had a vested interest in seeing aparna getting married. Dealing with Shreya was enough. I was more than a willing bakra. But frankly, we do owe a lot to her.




The day I proposed
The Setting: Sunset at Creve Coeur park in St. Louis.
The Answer: Yes.
Hell, she had to melt. I was down on a knee for God's sake when I popped the question.




So Happy together
My much celebrated drive to St. Louis. You can see the dodge dakota in which I drove back to Atlanta.




Proud Parents?
Just Kidding. Thats Shreya. I think I just pushed my luck a little too far. I'm gonna get the long end of the stick for pulling this one ;-)





Together at Stone Mountain, Atlanta.




There you go folks! Not too many words I hope. The marriage is less than a month away. Those of you in Hyd/Bangalore or anywhere close, PLEASE PLEASE do come for the wedding. You can always drop me an email at dilwinATgmailDOTcom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Unannounced visit - Part 2

(Scroll down to read part 1 if you havn't read it already)

I lay there trying to call up my future brother-in-law so (incidentally also my namesake) he could let me in. After three calls spaced 15 minutes apart, he picked up. I duly apologized for disturbing him so early in the morning and swallowed hard as I asked if he could open the front door for me. For a couple of seconds, I heard nothing. He must've been thinking "it's too early for this guy to get drunk .. and even if he is, why is he trying to bug me? Can't he go bother Aparna?". Lucky for me, raising a newborn does prepare a man for crazy people like me. He chuckled warmly and came down to let me in. I picked up the bunch of flowers I purchased at a 24 hr grocery store a little while back and ran up the stairs praying that she was still asleep.

I opened the door gently to find her curled up and fast asleep, her silhouetted form lightly illuminated in the early morning blue light. I switched on the light at which I could feel her body recoil. She curled up further while managing to let out a muffled but supremely indignant 'why the hell did you switch on the damn light?'. It was directed at her sister - it had to be. I gently tugged at her sheet at which point, she had had it. She turned around .. facing me .. expecting to face her sister. In a matter of a couple of seconds, her expression changed from anger to fear to shock and eventually delight interspersed with a sharp breath and squeal. As she reached out to touch me to make sure it wasn't a dream, she said a few things that din't quite register but went something like "It's really you .. when? how? are you ok?". All this while, I had a ridiculous grin plastered across my tired face. I was satisified. It was worth the drive.

DRIVE:

Turned out later in the day that the dead deer I scrunched the previous night might have caused some damage. I heard some serious rattling noise when the engine was idling. Seasoned traveler that aparna is, she quickly called Enterprise's road side service and asked to switch with another car as the present one was giving us trouble. Guess what .. they din't have a car so I came back to Atlanta in a Dodge Dakota. It was the first time I drove a truck and it was quite an experience. It did consume a lot of gas though about which I dutifully cribbed while returning the vehicle and got a free day rental in compensation. This weekend couldn't have been any better.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

An unannounced visit

Atlanta to St. Louis

558 Miles. Approximately 9 hours by road.

I started around 7pm EST. It was a long drive. Coupled with 4 shots of caffeine and a deer carcass (I'll explain), my visual and aural senses were heightened pretty much thru the entire drive. I couldn't help noticing the beauty of the silhoutted treetops and mountains in the clear moonlit sky. When the music was not playing, even the road noise couldn't take anything away from the tranquility of the hills near Chattanooga. I'm sure they look beautiful during daytime, but there is something about the night. The stillness, peace and eerie effect of night all around you.

Tranquility and beauty apart, I couldn't help notice patches of caked blood at alarmingly frequent intervals on the road - DEER hit by vehicles. I gripped the steering harder, slowing down, determined not to collide with one should it appear. That fear more than made up for the wearing effects of caffeine that I consumed to keep me awake. Unfortunately, I did encounter one - a dead one. It showed up about 60 feet ahead of me as a pile on the road. At 75 miles/hr, there was little I could do. I eased my foot off the pedal, I felt the chassis complain loudly as I felt metal scrunch bone and flesh. I gripped the steering hard .. I swore quietly. I prayed that I'd have no trouble with the car. Luckily, it was a rental car - I wasn't too concerned. I drove on. Extra alert.

It's 4am CST in St. Louis. I type/write this as I sit in my car waiting outside my fiance's ( FIANCE??!!!??? ) sister's home in St. Louis. I'm afraid some cop patrolling the area will be very vary of a bloke with a laptop sitting outside a residential area at unearthly hours. I'm half expecting to get out of my car with my hands behind my head - a possible candidate for the show Cops or America's Funniest home Videos. At this stage I don't care. I'm just waiting for the clock to strike 6 so I don't totally piss people off in my attempts to surprise Aparna (Ah! a name).

In a short while (seems very long in the present situation), I'll be presenting Aparna yet another bunch of flowers. Only this time, she's blissfully sleeping unaware of the eager visitor outside her window. For all I know, she might just show a hint of surprise and warmly acknowledge my visit - completely dousing any hopes of a cinematic reaction. But know what? just imagining all her possible reactions made the journey a lot shorter than it actually was. There is something about the journey going in to meet a loved one. It's always exciting .. never boring .. the mind pregnant with exciting thoughts and anticipating the first encounter.

FIANCE??!!!??? (I swear I can hear a dozen acquaintances going - 'out with the story you sneaky bastard')

Yes. Aparna is the reason I havn't been rambling of late. We've been engaged and set to marry come this December. This is the fourth consecutive weekend that I'm managing to meet her (if I'm not arrested - in which case I'll still meet her. so no worries there). If you don't already know this, excuse thy friend. Watch this space for a detailed account of my Choti si Love Story. Wait a minute, since when did I start to think the few who actually read this blog read it in a chronological order?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

My long weekend's a blast ..

How can it be? Its not over yet for people who are actually having a good time. I'm under house arrest this weekend. I won the lucky draw this past week to be on pager duty for our wonderfully stable product. So far, I've been bothered very few times by less than irate customers. No really, the customers were quite cool about reporting their problems - and seem convinced I knew my mass from a blackhole. Either our product works very well or the warehouses are closed for the long weekend. I'd put my money on the former but hey, I could be wrong. That's it for my cribbing. I'll be put out of my misery tuesday.

Anyways, it's been a long time since I've posted and I attribute it entirely to my good old friend - inertia.

So, the wedding (my sister's, not mine) went very well. It was a short and sweet affair with about 200 guests on the actual day of the wedding. But God, I wish I got to see more of the wedding. If I ever help out in another wedding to the extent I did this time, I'll wear a mechanic's overalls. It's just not the time to wear your best outfits to show off. You got to run (for the coffee; from people who want coffee at 6am in the morning. Never underestimate the need for caffeine at 6 in the morning), you got to invite (folks .. for lunch/dinner/breakfast), you got to fight (with the wedding hall managers .. bastards won't give an inch), and did I mention running?

.. and did I mention Tirupati. Behold me at my devout best ..


Thursday, August 25, 2005

back to bad food & good roads

Got back last Sunday after a frenetic two weeks. The jetlag is slowly wearing off and I've mustered courage to actually put a few words up here. There's so much to write about .. the marriage, tirupati, family ..

For now ..

I'll miss:
mom & pop, home food, restaurant food, pani-puris, sweets, indian icecream, water cooler, cheap (and free) cab rides, breakfast, trains, stone temples, milkshakes, sports coverage, movie audiences, suit tailors, fabindia, indian gals, kurtas, shirts & trousers, shoes, haircuts, open windows, concrete walls

I won't miss:
the roads, traffic, unpunctual people, autos, slow internet, jewellery shopping, movie sound systems, the cars, mineral water, jeans, indian airports

sustain me oh lord .. cause I got so much to say.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

week of get-togethers

.. and I thought I couldn't possibly meet any more people in bangalore. I met so many old friends and made as many more new ones. Still, thanks to efforts from Kingsly and Arora, we put together some last minute reunions.

The first one at Casa Piccola featured St Pauls alumni - Anshul & wife, Parag, Kingsly, Avinash and yours truly. Kingsly took pains to make sure no one knew who else was coming. Now, normally that wouldn't be a problem. However, when people are meeting after almost 10 years, they can be forgiven for not recognizing their old pals. Parag took a while to get into his groove and provided most of the entertainment. Avinash, who actually grew a full foot after leaving high school heaved a sigh of relief after correctly recognizing the rest. Of course, none of this would have happened had it not been for King Lee.

The other one a few days later came about at Tandoor on MG Road with a good number of folks from the class of 2000, IIT-G. This place serves awesome food. I mean it's not every day that you shell out enough money to disburse your entire semester expenses (oh, those good old days) and still feel great about it. The evening provided pleasurable company in the form of Mr & Mrs. Meel, Mr and Mrs Item :-P, Arora, Clint, Giri, Sahu, Shariq, Vivek and Dhingra. After the party, I even got some good old bums. For once, there was an upside to clint's inertia. I remember being at the receiving end (and I'm sure Ghosh would more than anyone else) of some pretty formidable kicks from him. I guess Dhingra was the only guy who hasn't changed one bit. A special thanks must go to the missuses for having graced the occasion and sitting thru a lot of peurile IIT G talk that we just can't seem to get away from.

There was also a small party at Annachi's, a chettinad restaurant for the MA crowd. featuring Mustafa, Karan and Gangadhar. Boy, was the food hot. It was also delicious - particularly the Egg Appam, Dosa and Parupu Payasam.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Pictures --July





Check out some of the latest pictures.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Visa Interview

I had an interview in the American consulate yesterday for my H1-b status validation. After two hours of watching nervous hopefuls wanting to enter the land of the free, I got an approval for my petition after a minute of questioning. While my experience was quite pleasant, I'm afraid it wasn't so for many people. Some of the interviewers (interrogators??) were openly hostile from the word go. Of course there was the occasional whole-hearted smile and genuine warmth that you get to see routinely in most american establishments but the not-so-pleasant ones stuck out. Let me explain.

Giri thought that some of the questions asked were very funny. In a perverted sense (sort of like a scene from a coen brothers movie), they were but I couldn't really see the humor. This sounds evil (precisely!) but each time the interviewers had something harsh/rude to say, like ..

"Ma'am, you are not listening to me. Please don't waste my time."
"Do you understand English? You made your appointment in English din't you, even though you cannot speak the language?"
"Sir, I am going to have to reject your visa application."

.. I felt the speakers went louder than usual drawing everyone's attention to the spectacle that was unfolding. Really, I mean I could barely hear any positive verdicts but I could hear a lot of rejection 'pronouncements'. As it is, when you are seated for two hours with nothing else to do, you just sit and watch the show. There were a couple of performers (bad cops?) for the day who questioned petitioners so rapidly interrogation style (i've never witnessed this style of questioning off-screen), the poor creatures hardly had time to complete their answers - if they understood the question in the first place. I felt sorry for a lot of them.

To be honest, they grant visas to most of the applicants but I din't know why they had to draw attention to the rejected cases. If any of you can support this claim of mine, speak out. I'm curious.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

AUTOcracy

Nope .. that ain't remotely political. I have developed a perverse desire to become an auto-rickshaw driver in Madras for a day in my life after my visit to the city yesterday for a U.S. consulate appointment. They rule Madras - I kid you not. I've never seen a more brazen bunch when it comes to demanding outrageous fares - and more or less getting them. Naidu calls them bashas - an allusion to rajni's role as an autodriver in the movie by the same name. I witnessed the truth to his fond sobriquet.

I knew that I'd have a tough time negotiating fares since I don't speak Tamil. Turns out it doesn't really matter whether you know the language or not. They refuse to budge from their initial quote. I still wonder why they have meters mounted on their vehicles. Worse still, apparently all the meters are rigged. Be very wary of one who wants to go by the meter. You end up paying double the fare you might have negotiated (as my friend found out).

What beats me is how they continue to do this in a fairly civilized and well managed city. Maybe the auto-lobby in TN has as much clout as the Jewish lobby in Washington. I hope they are reined in soon. Madras doesn't deserve them. It appeared clean, well-maintained and less congested than both Hyd and definitely bangalore.

Thanks to my very early arrival at 5:30am, I got to spend an hour or so at the beautiful beach near Thiruvanmiyur where Akha lives. We walked for a mile on the beach passing people of all ages exercising and or running. It reminds me so much of Tatayya when I see old men dressed in white walking briskly. There was also this amazing 60+ (maybe 70+) old lady dressed in a simple cotton saree effortlessly holding yoga poses facing the sun.

Some people just carry their age so well. They don't need botox or facelifts or any of the countless gimics people resort to and pay for through their noses. Their skin may be wrinkled .. hair substantially gray .. bags forming under their eyes and yet, there is an undeniable radiance in their appearance. A purity and simplicity that screams elegance and of contentment in life. I wonder if I can ever put a finger on that elusive and invaluable something that people of two generations past seem to have.

Considering how good I am with words, its better to have a picture of what I had in mind while writing the previous para. Here is a picture of MS Subbulakshmi.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

oops ..

It's mom's birthday today, so "Happy Birthday Mom!!!" From me and all my friends who come by.
Except, I totally forgot about it today morning. Mom called me and asked "so howz everything?". "ma, I'm in the bath .. can I call you back later?". "you sure you arent' forgetting anything?". "Doh!!!". :-(

I forgot for the first time in I don't know how long. Felt shitty but hey, she's ma .. forgiveness begins there :).

"Wish you many many more happy returns of the day!!!"


Update:

This is the smiling marine giri mentions in his comment. I changed it to the current one yesterday.


This one's the original.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Still lovin' it

It's been a while since my last post. This was partly because I was getting a bit lethargic and partly because blogspot's new photo upload feature wouldn't work properly. It seems to be working fine now.

My India trip has been going on great over the past couple of weeks. Still meeting up with friends/relatives, still gorging on great food (and telling folks back in the states about it - kya kare .. control nahi hota).

I've been wanting to write about my Sringeri trip for a while now. It was one of the more enjoyable trips I've made in recent times. I got to know my sister's in-laws-to-be better and also got to see some of the most beautiful tropical terrain during the drive. Not to mention the temple itself, the ambience and the asramam. I discovered the joy of walking barefoot on centuries old stone floors. The surface is naturally anti-skid and gently massages your feet as you walk. I'm not much of a devout Hindu but I couldn't deny the calm soothing effect of the vedic chants in and around the temple. And did I mention the food :) ? All these temples serve free food everyday to hundreds of devotees. Typically Kannada style cooking. I can't figure out how they manage to cook such delicious food on such a scale. If I ever cook for more than three people, my sense of proportion goes awry.



After Sringeri, on the way back to Bangalore, we stopped by the Balur and Halebidu temples. These are famous for their intricate and painstakingly detailed stone carvings. Apart from traditionally ornate sculptures of buxom beauties and Gods and Demons, I was blown away by the geometric precision of the pillars and other structures inside the temple. Sadly, preservation efforts undertaken by the government leave a lot to be desired. I couldn't help thinking how a similar structure would've been treated in the US. Like Eddie Izzard says in 'Dress to Kill' (which is btw, the funniest stand-up routine ever), "Massive restoration and preservation efforts were being undertaken for a building built *fifty years ago* in Florida."

Last week, I saw 'Sarkar' and 'War of the Worlds'. Both were OK, the latter more disappointing because I expected something more from Spielberg. In any case, it was quite an experience watching the movies in bangalore's multiplex. The sound was ridiculously loud. I had to block my ears many times. But there is one advantage though, you don't need to worry about cell-phones ringing.

Sarkar was more or less on expected lines. And a movie like this is always going to be compared to Godfather - and it's going to fall short. I don't think Varma can achieve the same effect he did in Siva. Now that was a cracker of a movie. He changed the landscape of telugu cinema (and unfortunately Nagarjuna's career .. for the better :-( ) with one shot - and gifted a whole generation of college students with the ultimate weapon, the cycle chain. Still Sarkar was a watchable movie and Abhishek B looks cool - though nowhere as commanding as his dad. And there was this absolutely gorgoeus dame who plays Amitabh's daughter-in-law. Heard she's called Rukhsar and she acted decent too. The other two female 'leads' were hopeless. If someone like RV picks such total duds, how can our industry ever find redemption?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

profile pic

The picture I had on my profile previously was the most polarizing one I've known in recent times. The feedback ranged from 'horrible!' to 'cool pic'. For the record, my mom thought it was horrible. Here's something more recent. What say you folks?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Home Sweet Home

Check out pictures of the Upanayanam here.

I finally got to go home last Thursday. It was a heady feeling; not so much because of the pent-up emotions but because of a very bumpy flight courtesy Air Deccan. Air Deccan is India's first low-cost carrier and its pretty cool. They actually have a neat in-flight magazine that proudly talks about what they don't provide including (and not limited to) pretty lasses (I sure hope the stewardess do not read that) and food. Bangalore's thunder showers made the ascent a bit more bumpy than it should have been but as I was stiffening up in my seat, the stewardess was calmly serving the passengers. I concluded that this was normal and proceeded to relax.

As we approached Hyderabad, the view from the top revealed the chaotic splendour of Hyderabad's street lines and houses. The addition of numerous flyovers only made it more spectacular. As I came out of the arrivals lounge, my searching eyes first picked up dad's silver crop of hair. It felt very good to see him after such a long time. He didn't change much and in spite of mom's repeated complaints about his laziness, he seemed to be in fairly good shape. The drive back home felt very familiar. It was a road oft traveled - the only change being the density of traffic. However, I found Hyderabad's roads a lot better. I was sad to see some of the calmest, widest and regal roads in the area serving increasingly high volume traffic.

I was back in Hyderabad for my Upanayanam. For the uninitiated, Upanayanam (or Thread Ceremony) heralds a young brahmins entry into his lifelong duty to study the vedas and serve the Lord. It was a bit late as far as I was concerned but not too late. The activities began at 3am on Friday. It starts with the women-folk applying oil to the head and turmeric to the limbs. I felt like the female model in the vicco vajradanti ad that used to air more than a decade ago. My uncle helped me put on a silk dhoti and after securing the folds with a safety-pin, I was ready to start.

The ritual was quite elaborate and involved two changes of clothes. The most difficult part of the ritual was having to sit down cross-legged for long stretches spanning a total of 5.5 hours. I attempted to alleviate the pain by changing my posture several times. In retrospect, thanks to the video recording, it looked quite hilarious. I heard it's a lot longer during a wedding ceremony. God help me and my hamstrings.

Jokes apart, there was an inherent beauty in the arrangements and the chants. While I didn't understand most of what was said, the Brahmam garu (the master of ceremony) took time to explain the purpose and meaning of the whole ceremony.

Towards the end, I went around begging for rice and whatever else my relatives had to offer. In the old days, the brahmin would go around town begging for food as that signifies his entry into an austere life. Ironically, my beggings amounted to a total of Rs. 6000. Not a bad haul. Later that night, I just hung around with relatives recalling days past drowning myself in a solid dose of nostalgia. Can't get enough of that.

On saturday morning, I went running at the Kasu Brahmananda Reddy park. This is an increasingly popular park with lots of trails. Going by how it has shaped up so far, it holds a lot of promise. The longest trail in the park was 4 km loop that I ran thrice completing my longest run yet. It was something else running in the Hyderabad heat. Back in Atlanta, I was able to run 6 miles quite comfortably even in the noon heat. In hyd, the sun at 7:10am was enough to trouble me. I slowed down substantially towards the last 3 km and I could feel the physical drain. I enjoyed the challange and felt glad to complete the run.

The only downside to the run was the near absense of other runners. It felt weirdly satisfying to pass walkers twice or thrice during my run. I really did stick out from the rest of the people there because of my running gear. I anticipated some wise-cracks from the local chokras but none really came forth; atleast I din't hear them. In the company of friends I would've given me some serious taunting had I been there.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The favorable effects of jetlag

I hope I'm not speaking too early but I could not resist. Three continuous days of solid sleep at night and non-drowsy afternoons were too much not to gush about. Restless nights, reluctant awakenings and drowsy post-lunch sessions have been dogging me for far too long.

Somehow, my body-clock seems to love IST. I've been going to bed at 11pm and getting up around 6:30am since Monday. I even exercised yesterday and went running today morning. I feel alert and fresh all day in the office. Gosh, I wonder what it is that I'm doing right. I'd love to replicate that back in Atlanta. One thing is I move about a lot during the day, meet friends and hang around differnt places during the night. I return to the guest house around 11pm, take a shower and immediately hit the bed. No TV, no internet. Maybe I should try that.

BTW, I retract some of the statements made in haste the first day around. I ran about 3 miles near the guest house on reasonably busy streets. I was hoping they wouldn't be as busy at 6:15 in the morning but in any case, the interior roads are OK. There aren't many vehicles going around on these roads, just a lot of people. Shyamoly, it might take you a bit longer to internalize the indian road scene but it looks very encouraging. I had a very good time today.

pix and music

Check out some of the pictures I took in the last few days ..

Three excellent albums have attained 'great album' status on my list. 80% or more of the tracks on these albums are really good.

You Gotta Go There To Come Back - Stereophonics
The Bends - Radiohead
From a Basement on the Hill - Elliot Smith

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Road Etiquette

1) Honk if ..
a) .. you need to turn
b) .. you need to pass
c) .. you are pissed off
d) .. someone cuts in
e) .. you are bored
f) .. the silence bothers you

2) If honking doesn't seem to work with pedestrians (in the case of cows, follow b & c), nudge them (gently if you are in a benevolent mood) with different parts of your vehicle in the following order:
a) the rear-view mirrors: These are pliable on impact so they don't make much of a physical dent. You can always turn them back after your target is no longer obstructing you.
b) the handle: for the more soporific, moony and/or obstinate crowd. Be prepared to shift down and speed away before they have a chance to react.
c) the front wheel: same guidelines as c. The added bonus is you can cause some serious dirt damage to your targets pants.

note: For the record, I've seen a & b in action. I'm hoping to see c too.

3) If you need to cross the road
a) Always make sure the road is reasonably busy and there is no chance for vehicles to speed. It is riskier to cross an empty street with this technique.
b) Always look away from the vehicles approaching you. Never make eye contact with a motorist (or his middle finger .. unless you are in the mood for some good old wrangling) while doing this.
c) Walk confidently, slowly and continuously (or part 2 of previous section might kick in). Do not send out ambiguous signals by stuttering. The motorists usually stop.

note: derived from personal experience developed over several years in Hyderabad. I take no responsibility for non-standard behavior from motorists. They are law-breakers and need to be in jail.

arz hain ..

The ride to work is enlivened by the local radio station broadcasts. There's a two minute funny sher that pops up every 3-4 hours. it's plain hilarious. I seek forgiveness from easily offendible shayri afficionados as I try to piece together what I heard in urdu.


arz hain ..
har kamyaab aadmi ki kamyaabi ke peeche ek aurat hain ..
har kamyaab aadmi ki kamyaabi ke peeche ek aurat hain ghalib ..

isliye kyonki aurten kamyaab aadmi ke heen peeche padte hain ..

wah wah wah wah ..

The on air commercials are quite funny too but there's no way I can convey that in writing. I'll keep an eye out for some that can.

Monday, June 06, 2005

6th June - Day 1 at MA India

I woke up to a call from Mom at 7:15 in the morning. After a nice bread/omelette breakfast and freshly squeezed orange juice ( i must not get used to this), I headed out to the office in the company van. Being driven in the crawling bangalore traffic gave me a chance to observe people. It was an interesting experience - particularly because of my new found interest in photography. People were busy driving, napping, cursing, smoking, adjusting make-up, combing hair, what not. And I found the FM station here quite good. Some of the ads were plain hilarious. I was actually waiting for the on-air commercials instead of the songs. Even the RJ was pretty cool and relaxed. It had a very original feel to it.

Today also happens to be MA India's first day in the new office. Everyone is just about finding their feet and the higher-ups are quite busy. It took me a while to find a power adaptor for my laptop but I'm finally in business. It's like joining a new company again. I got to meet a few classmates and juniors from IIT who are over here. The office looks pretty good - a lot better than the american one.

And a runaway winner, the canteen food is fantastico. Just check out the lunch menu - on the house. Pudeena Pulao, Curd Rice, Sambar, Rasam, Aloo Curry, Fruit Salad, Veggie Salad, Buttermilk, Pongal, Avial and Roti. Unfortunately, there is no gym nearby but I had better find one soon or I'm gonna come back a tonne heavier. Ironically, my friends here said the food was so-so. They have got to come to Atlanta and learn to survive on the subways and quiznos.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Day 1 - Part 2

After being served hot paranthas by mani - my ultra soft-spoken bengali housekeeper - I called up Clint who was to chauffer me for the rest of day. I woke him up at around 7:45 and he promised to get ready in a half-hour and start. He finally ended up arriving after 3 hours. During this time, I was getting terribly restless. I was in India after five years and I wasn't with friends or family. It felt strangely painful. Anyways, Clint arrived and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he hadn't put on any weight and in fact lost some.

We decided to go to MG Road to do some shopping and some other important stuff a new sim-card for my phone and exchanging dollars for rupees. Thus began my first pillion ride in 5 years. Clint did nothing to ease me into the experience as he started off in the opposite direction on a ridiculously busy one way street. Clint, a Yale educated IITian who worked at Oracle, Moutain View for 3 years had adapted fairly well back to Indian roads. I did have fun riding the two-wheeler though. And as many people would say, the pollution never really got to me as much. I could smell the smoke but it did not trigger any breathing difficulties as I would have expected. To me, the traffic is still the only thing that doesn't cease to shock me.

I was able to get my new cell phone set up. It cost me about 1200 Rs and I was ready to go. We got together with Shariq and Shakti for lunch. Shariq hasn't changed a bit - except that his beard got a bit more thicker - and he looked exactly like a hippie. He would have neatly blended with a group of tree huggers. The only diff being - you'd see a $600 piece of equipment pop into his hands when he answers calls to his cell. That looked cool.

Money was disappearing fast - whether I ate, drank, or anything else. I had never previously spent my own money in India. Back at IIT, any meal costing more than Rs30 was exorbitant. Here even really modest restaurants end up costing about 70Rs per head. Luckily, I was able to feel better converting the amount spent back to dollars. Much as I hated to do it, I ended up asking for bottled water wherever I went. I wanted to ease into this and so far I havn't had any tummy trouble. I hope it stays that way. There's too much good food to miss if I fall sick.

Finally, a word about the shopping malls. This place really rocks. The stuff we get back in the States really pales in comparison. There's tremendous variety and better quality available for a fraction of the dollar price we pay there. I really had to hold myself back from picking up bunch of t-shirts and jeans. For now, I just picked up on pair of Pepe jeans that Mom insisted I buy for wearing after the Upanayanam.

My jetlag did not affect me during the day at all. I was able to retire at around 11pm at night after dinner and meeting Mr and Mrs Chatterjee (Deba and wife). I can't seem to get enough of these first encounters with close friends after so many years. A big smile, a roar and a nice tight embrace.

Day 1 begins

So, I get out at 6:15am in the morning hoping to find a PCO nearby so I could call Mom. As I ventured about 1/2 a mile in both directions, the thing that hit me first was a conscious effort on my part *not* to smile at other pedestrians. Then I saw something that I was hoping to see - I heard someone jogging slowly behind me. As he passed me by, a motorist approached from behind moving at about 15km/h and honked - I guess that's an 'on your left' biker equivalent in India. The motorist swerved right because the runner did not react in the few micro-seconds he had, the runner followed suit - also swerving to the right a second or so later - and the motorist came within millimeters of hitting the jogger. The funny thing was, the runner was blissfully unaware of what was ensuing behind - the motorist threw a wasted glare. I had stopped in my tracks watching in horror. All my hopes of running in the morning were shattered immediately. It's going to be a challange finding places to run while I'm here. Also since its raining my adidas runners are going to get royally screwed. I soon realized how unaccustomed I got to hearing honks. It was reasonably calm at around 7am on a sunday so the honks were spaced apart and not as continuous a feature as I soon found out later in the day. I would react each time someone honked. Anyways, I was happy that my hyderabadi road-crossing skills were still pretty good.

After Five Long Years

I'm finally back in India - can't say *home* yet as I'll be going to Hyd only on the 9th - after five long years. I can't stop saying it .. after *five long years* - and I'm loving it. Every minute of it so far. The journey from start to finish couldn't have gone any smoother. No trouble at check-in in Atlanta, transit at Frankfurt or immigration/customs at Bangalore. I was carrying so many electronic items that I was positive I was going to have to put up a fight so I don't have to pay any duty. Surprisingly, the customs officers were pretty cool about the whole business. I landed at 12:30am in Bangalore and I guess they were as eager to call it quits as we
were to get out of the airport.

The bangalore airport in Thom Friedman's words was akin to a Greyhound station and some like in Portland quite comfortably look a *lot* classier. It was raining around the time I landed so the weather was a bit muggy but nothing I couldn't handle as yet. I had MA's driver waiting to pick me up at the airport and I was promptly dropped at the company guesthouse in Koramangala. At the guesthouse I had a small army of the maintenance staff ready to pick up my bags and show me my room. The room was a pretty good one with an a/c unit that was on UPS. Later that night, there was no power - the only reason I knew was because I just couldn't sleep .. i had enough of it on the flights - but the a/c was going strong.

I was pretty restless and I badly wanted to talk to friends in Bangalore but at 2am at night, I decided otherwise. I couldn't call mom because there was no PCO open at that time. Anyways, after going thru a 6th rerun of Radiohead's 'The Bends', I had enough - I was ready to get out and get some bangalore air.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

the poisonous language of academia

I read this article by Robert Fisk, a plain speaking jouralist who reports on events in the middle east. He talks about the ridiculous language used in most academic publications. I felt such a sense of relief knowing I wasn't alone in my disdain for supposedly scholarly writing. This style of writing while serving as a stellar sleeping aid most times also gave me several headaches - specially the kind that showed up in GRE verbal comprehension passages. Come to think of it, some of the NY Times movie reviews come very close.

On other fronts, today I took my first rock-climbing lesson along with Mukta. Learnt the basics of climbing and belaying. We both pretty much killed each other while belaying the other person :-) . Luckily, the whole setup is so safe, your mistakes don't really cost anything. I need a lot more strength in my fingers. It was a great experience on the whole. After my trip in India, I'll go do some outdoor climbing.

Saw 'Crash' the other day - fantastic movie. I'd rate it the best I've seen so far this summer along with Sin City. Kingdom of Heaven comes a close second. The screenplay was the clear highlight, weaving a tale so involving around so many characters. I absolutely loved the movie's in-your-face take on racism and the various funny, sad and uplifting elements. In particular, the monologue about car thieves, forensic investigation and discovery channel was hilarious.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

27 now

I just completed 27 years of my life today. hmm ... tick tick tick ... I have nothing interesting to say .. tick tick tick .. waiting for mom to finish her call with manju so that I can call and get wished a second time. birthdays last 36 hours in the US for me. Isn't that cool?

Went to Raj's anniversary party and I kid you not - every living being who came to know of my impending trip to India popped the question - 'getting hitched?'. of course I am! bharath offered to mail me some additional documentation that I'll need if I'm to bring my young new bride to the states. the future is clear my babies - I'll be back with a spanking new wife.

Actually, I want to take a sabbatical and go on a 6 month trek of the Himalayas.

OK .. I give up. I don't see this blog headed anywhere interesting.

tick .. tick .. tick

i'll be 28

Sunday, May 15, 2005

music hotlist

Street Spirit, Black Star - Radiohead
La Main La Dance La Main - Faudel
Mohammed, Bohemian like you - the Dandy Warhols
Adarghral, Walagh, Amegh Asinigh - Abdelli
Vibuthi - Ozric Tentacles
Extreme Ways - Moby

And there's nothing like running to ac/dc. This friday, I ran a couple of miles on the treadmill with a rapid turnover and kept my foot elevation really low. This doesn't look great at all - it seems more like a fast walk as opposed to a high knee running action that looks a lot more elegant. But remarkably, this technique almost nullified fatigue/pain in my shins. I'll see how my shins react to a four miler tomorrow. This will hopefully increase my leg/feet strength and adaptability which will eventually lead to a faster pace and longer mileage without any niggling injuries/pain.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Quarter Life Crisis

First off .. I din't write it. A friend sent it to me a while back when I was 25 :-). It was written by Brenda Della Casa for Play magazine. I got this information from a comment left by the author's bot. Full credit to her.

They call it the "Quarter-life Crisis." It is when you
stop going along with the crowd and start realizing
that there are many things about yourself that you
didn't know and may not like. You start feeling
insecure and wonder where you will be in a year or
two, but then get scared because you barely know where
you are now.

You start realizing that people are selfish and that,
maybe, those friends that you thought you were so
close to aren't exactly the greatest people you have
ever met, and the people you have lost touch with are
some of the most important ones. What you don't
recognize is that they are realizing that too, and
aren't really cold, catty, mean or insincere, but that
they are as confused as you.

You look at your job... and it is not even close to
what you thought you would be doing, or maybe you are
looking for a job and realizing that you are going to
have to start at the bottom and that scares you.
Your opinions have gotten stronger. You see what
others are doing and find yourself judging more than
usual because suddenly you realize that you have
certain boundaries in your life and are constantly
adding things to your list of what is acceptable and
what isn't. One minute, you are insecure and then the
next, secure. You laugh and cry with the greatest
force of your life. You feel alone and scared and
confused. Suddenly, change is the enemy and you try
and cling on to the past with dear life, but soon
realize that the past is drifting further and further
away, and there is nothing to do but stay where you
are or move forward.

You get your heart broken and wonder how someone you
loved could do such damage to you. Or you lie in bed
and wonder why you can't meet anyone decent enough
that you want to get to know better. Or maybe you love
someone but love someone else too and cannot figure
out why you're doing this because you know that you
aren't a bad person. One night stands and random hook ups
start to look cheap. Getting wasted and acting like an idiot
starts to look pathetic.

You go through the same emotions and questions over
and over, and talk with your friends about the same
topics because you cannot seem to make a decision. You
worry about loans, money, the future and making a life
for yourself... and while winning the race would be
great, right now you'd just like to be a contender!
What you may not realize is that everyone reading this
relates to it. We are in our best of times and our
worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure
this whole thing out.

Monday, May 09, 2005

music mania arabica

I'm suffering from a bout of cannot-get-enough-of-middle-eastern-music since yesterday. It was one of those days when I wanted to badly badly listen to some high-energy music - the kind that will get you jumping ten feet high with each beat. My 60 gigs of music came up short as I went thru song after song remaining unsatisfied. It was then that I decided to listen to a freak download of 'Dhoom Machade' remix. THAT kicks ass - atleast the first couple of minutes. After that, I went on a rampage downloading music from Coolgoose and thus I rediscovered my love for arabic music - thru Faudel. One of his tracks, La Main Dans La Main is wildly infectuous. It kicks off with a weeping, imploring violin riff that gives in to a teasing banjo-like arpeggio that ultimately morphs into a fast-paced track featuring typically melodic vocals and irresistable ethnic arrangements. That led me to search feverishly for more such music. I eventually stumbled into Abdelli, an artist who blends arab-african music with other world influences. Two of his songs (Adarghral and Walagh) were exceptionally pure compositions featuring melting vocals, flute and guitar (or atleast what I think were flute and guitar). But frankly, it's riduculously time-consuming to search for new music. I couldn't believe the amount of crap I had to go thru to end up with these gems but I think it's worth it .. as I sit back with my headphones and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

All this frenzy for music east of the Atlantic began ever since I saw MF Husain's Meenaxi (kindly lent to me by Rupa). Meenaxi had some typically exhilerating tracks from Rehman like Chinnamma Chilakamma (yes, it's telugu and one of the reasons I took notice), Yeh Rishta, Rang Hain and Noor-un-ala-noor. That led me to listen to Swades - Yun hi chala, Saawarian, Yeh Tara. As I searched on coolgoose for Swades music, I ran into Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Kinna Sona and eventually to Faudel. So, now that I've etched my journey east to west having listened to some truly remarkable music, I'll sign off praying that the God of Sleep will whisk me away for some much needed shuteye.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Fitter, Happier

An apt title for this entry but you got to listen to the song with the same name by Radiohead. It's something else altogether.

Today, I road-tested my new Adidas runners that I got at Phidippides last week. It felt great to run after a six week layoff. Among my many obsessions, running is one and I had to stop dead in my trax after repeating pain on the outer side of my left knee (aka runners knee). After furiously pondering many possible causes, I stumbled upon the fact that I started developing the pain around the time I switched leg extensions with situps. After putting them back in my routine, my knee hasn't been misbehaving and today I was able to run 3 miles quite comfortably. Hopefully, I can keep running without much trouble. I'm really looking forward to running in India, specially near home. Banjara Hills had such great terrain, atleast it was so around the time I left.

I also came across a very interesting site on weight training the other day. I'm going to try a low volume routine for the next few weeks and see how that feels. This site is very clean in appearance, features no endorsements and comes across as quite honest and straightforward. When it contains stuff like Evidence suggests that less than 20 percent of men and very few women can develop large muscles even if they wanted to, regardless what program they follow you cannot but trust the author.

I attended a wine-tasting party this friday at Giri's. Because I my self confessed dislike for wine, Giri arranged a great selection of dark chocolates so I could do a paul giamatti on chocolate. On the whole I had a great time at the party and met up with some very fun people. Atlanta only seems to get more and more interesting with time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

the merits of dark chocolate

I thought I'd write about a favorite pastime of mine - eating dark chocolate. It's a pastime because I tend to eat copious amounts over an extended period of time. I also eat ridiculous amounts of other things but I've come to know that dark chocolate is actually good for your heart. I don't feel all that bad about my indulgence now.

There are few things that excite me as much as the possibility of tasting - no pigging out on - a new intensely dark chocolate bar or truffle. The good thing about gourmet chocolate lust - especially dark chocolate - is that it is not available widely and it's good for the heart or so I'm (easily) led to believe. Trader Joe's is the best place on earth to taste a great variety of chocolates at very reasonably prices - especially if pigging out is your thing. Atlanta, luckily does not have a TJ's around so I manage to keep my consumption down to sane levels. The last time I chanced upon a TJ's in Boston, I grabbed 12 different bars; pledged to eat them over three months .. and managed to make them last a whole three days. Some day my teeth are going to rot and fall off but hopefully my heart will be running stronger than ever.

Here are some of my favorites:
Terra Nostra - Intense Dark
Green and Black - 70% Dark
Lindts - Intense Orange Dark
Starbucks Espresso Choc
TJ's French Truffles
Fran's Truffles and Bars (that Manju so kindly sent me from Seattle)
a couple of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan dark chocs available at TJs.

Some suck and others are too expensive. But give these a try - you won't go back to milk chocolate again. Oh, another great advantage - you'll never need to hide these things from your predatory friends. Most don't fancy them. Maybe some day, I'll start liking alcohol but I doubt it - I've been waiting and trying five years for that to happen.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Not another movie review

I was hoping that I'd have something to write besides movie reviews. Apparently, I don't have the stomach to write about other happenings in my life. I'll start off with a review but I'm determined to talk about other things.

Saw telugu movie Anand for the second time today with the newlyweds, Bharath and Sandhya. I saw this movie a few months back with mom when she was in Atlanta. I quite liked the movie then and I liked it as much today. This time, I had more time to think about it. The USP of the movie is still the feel-good factor. For someone like me, living in the US for the last 5 years and still holding onto a picture of home as I knew it 10-15 years ago, it was gratifying to see that the director had it in him to depict the intrinsic but subtle beauty in daily routines. Many scenes were genuinely funny in a natural way much in the way Geetanjali was years ago. Mainly, I liked seeing a multi-dimensional and intelligent female character.

To be fair though, the movie has its flaws. The telugu was terrible all through. I really hope the director was facing serious casting constraints, otherwise it is inexcusable. It really could have done without that irritating kids. I think the movie would have been more logically coherent if it completely did away with the first and last 20 minutes. The story of the guy falling in love with a smart and independent girl and his efforts to get her would have made more sense. It appears that the director set out to do something original, then lost his way, found that path (the beaten path) a lot more interesting or motivating and eventually woke up towards the end to hastily tie up the loose end.

So much for the movie. Of late, as the date for my India trip nears, I'm more and more excited. Almost everyone who comes to know about it ask if I'll get hitched and/or if I've begun bride-hunting. I'm not going with any specific plan in mind, but the Lord knows I'm quite open to the idea of finding someone. After one failed relationship, I have come to enjoy bachelor life a lot in the last one year. But hey, I'm too much of a romantic to kid myself into thinking I'm not interested in finding the one. This trip will also give me an opportunity to reassess my priorities in life and the possibility of settling back home. I need to get involved in something creative and I hope to use this opportunity to gauge the possibilities for a promising future in India. I'll turn 27 next month and by Jove, I've been fooling around for too long. I've got to wake up and announce myself to the world.

I saw I Heart Huckabees the other day. It was a pretty confusing movie but it asked a good question - 'How am I not being myself?'. In my case, the line blurs between what I do and what I want to do before I set out to do it. I'm not sure if my true self is my inner voice aware of all my thoughts or the eventual manifestation that eveyone else sees and is ultimately the one I've chosen to project to the outside world. I've got to think more about this one. As of now, I'm afraid to even think about it. Maybe, it's because it will affirm the existence of a self that I don't want to accept. Either way, it's out there and needs to be accounted for.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sin City

I wasn't a heavy comic book reader as a kid but I read enough to appreciate the brilliance of Sin City. I just saw it a couple of hours back and it's still fresh in my mind. Agreed it was violent and explicit throughout but it couldn't have been otherwise. I thought the use of color was brilliant and the dialog dry and witty. I seem to have a great affinity for humor blended in with profoundly violent scenes and there are scores in this one - a lot seem like they could've been conceived by the Coen Brothers. Among the galaxy of characters, I thought Micky Rourke and Benicio Del Toro had the juiciest parts. Clive Owen continues to impress and it was just another day at the office for Bruce Willis; the girls were all gorgeous. Frankly though, most of the credit should go to Rodriguez. Though I din't read the comic books, I'm not sure how much more fun they could be compared to the screen version.

From the time I first saw Desperado - to date one of the ultimate expression of style (along with Kill Bill vol I&II) - Rodriguez has been one of my idols. He just went up a few notches with this one. If I ever make action movies, I'm going to be heavily influenced by Mr. Rodriguez.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

the week that was ..

The weekend was hectic. Spent time with bavagaru climbing and skiing in Denver. Colorado is addictive. The hike-climb near flat-iron trail was close to technical - a great rush of blood to the head. I was frankly lucky to end up in one piece. I'm going to take some rock-climbing classes soon. The skiing on Sunday was great too. It was a warm sunny day - 64F. I ended up skiing in my fleece vest - one layer of clothing and it was exhilarating.

My luck with movies is still going strong. Saw Spanglish and Closer in the last couple of days. Liked 'em both.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Do I know that person?

"People who don't want to get dragged into some kind of work often develop a protective incompetence at it."
-
Paul Graham

Broccoli

This article from the NYTimes talked about including vegetables in our diet and the associated (in)convenience factor. Here's an extract containing a well-expressed plaudit for broccoli.

..
As a primary dividend, broccoli and cauliflower come compact and easy to rinse. They do not harbor sand or bugs. They do not bruise if you tear them wrong, and they do not demand careful drying. They have nice little cut-on-the-dotted-line contours.
..

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Longevity is a big hardship in continuous hell

The topic of interest today happens to be the chinese cop thriller Infernal Affairs. I've been having some pretty good luck with movies of late. A high percentage of movies I've watched in the last week or so have been good to excellent.

Infernal Affairs takes the story of the undercover cop and pushes the envelope. The movie reminded me of face/off because of the role reversal after the identity switch. That one was a pretty cool action movie directed by John Woo. This one is a lot more cerebral. It takes the story beyond what is predictable - the showdown between good and evil. It enters the psyche of two sharp individuals committed to their cause and who have penetrated the highest levels of their respective targets. Ten years is a long time to be doing something diametrically opposite to one's role in real life and remain unaffected. Though we see this dilemma and it's ultimate manifestation in only one of the characters, there is still enough payoff.

The movie breezes through the introductory scenes and plunks us down into the middle of the main plot almost immediately. Needless to say, the screenplay is very tight and well thought out. The direction is stylish and maintains the suspense level in pivotal scenes with clever editing and close up shots of the characters involved. A lot is conveyed through the emotions (or the lack thereof) shown by the two moles and their internal conflict. This is not an action movie and one would be disappointed if they expect high voltage action sequences. In summary, another great movie from the hong-kong masters.

As for the blog title, I needed something interesting so I chose one of the lines at the end of the movie. I interpret it as a reference to the continuous suffering that the survivor will carry within himself for the rest of his life.

eot.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

open-ended

o·pen-end·ed
adj.
  1. Not restrained by definite limits, restrictions, or structure.
I saw Donnie Darko today. I came across this title many times before but I finally decided to pick it up. I'm glad I saw it. Fortunately or unfortunately though, I can't make much sense of the ending. There's no closure. The movie builds up beautifully, weaving uneasiness into every scene, creating hair-raising (literally) tension most of the time. Add a bit of dry humor here and there and it makes for a very entertaining movie. I liked Drew Barrymore in the movie - specially when she asks the new girl in class to sit next to the guy she finds cutest and actually asks one of the other girls in class to get up when the choice is made :-). There are a lot of characters thrown in, all with enough promise to entice us into thinking the movie will offer an explanation in the end but that wasn't the case.

But why should it? I mean, it made more sense than '2001 - A space odyssey' anyway. For that matter, it made as much sense as 'Pulp Fiction' or 'The Usual Suspects' ( well .. almost but that's not the point). There were a million other things to admire in those movies and I found enough reasons to like this one. It's one of those movies where things seem to be converging as the movie progresses but instead completely diverge as we near the end - 'Mullholland Drive' a case in point. I guess part of such movies' allure is it's open-ended nature. And don't even begin to think that the Matrix II & III fall into a similar category. I actually got a headache when the 'Architect' starts to speak in Matrix II.

Plus, I discovered a great new artist. Gary Jules's 'Mad World' is a sublime song - falling in the 'Sad Lisa', 'Wise Up' mold.

Oh and I can't let this one go - 'Chunking Express' is a similarly intriguing movie - the second half particularly. The two characters in the second story are the most unique ones I've ever come across on-screen. The relationship between the two characters surprises, frustrates, amuses and ultimately conquers you. I mean what can you say about a girl who confidently lies to her uncle (for whom she works) that she can't come to work because it's raining heavily - she lives a coupla blocks away; and the guy who comes home everyday to a freshly redecorated house, doesn't notice it, and talks to a towel he feels is not getting enough attention. Magic - it has to be seen really.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Girl Power

I saw two very good movies today, 'Vanity Fair' and 'Crazy/Beautiful'. Both featured terrific performances by the female leads - Reese Witherspoon and Kirsten Dunst. IMO very few actresses can articulate as well as Ms Witherspoon silently. I saw her first in 'Legally Blond' and I din't really care much for her or the movie - it was mildly entertaining. Later on, I chanced upon 'The Man in the Moon' and as a thirteen year-old she blew me away with her performance. I rate that among the finest performances by any actress ever. I saw Ms Dunst in a few movies including the Spiderman movies, Bring it on, Wimbeldon and The Cat's Meow and found her more of a looker than anything else. In 'Crazy/Beautiful', she gives a very hard-edged performance as a troubled teenager - she is frustratingly out of control in her actions yet manages to garner sympathy for her part. The movie has a very restive feel to it, looks sleek, contains several good performances and doesn't compromise on the film's material to make it more palatable for a general audience. Still it doesn't (thankfully) approach the bleakness of 'Thirteen' - I preferred the optimistic ending in Crazy/Beautiful.

While I'm on the subject, I might as well mention two other imperious (in every sense of the word) performances by female leads. One was by the legendary Bhanumathi in the telugu movie 'Palanati Yuddham' and the other by Judy Davis in Woody Allens 'Husbands and Wives'. In both instances, the women have such overpowering characters - we cannot but feel sorry for the male characters in both movies.

In 'Palanati Yuddham', Rajanala stands at the receiving end of such biting sarcasm, I clapped when I first saw the movie. The sheer force of Bhanumati's personality reduced Rajanala to a caricature in several scenes. One scene in particular is vivid in my memory - She hands Rajanala (playing the King's brother trying to usurp the throne) the Bhagavadgita. He gets offended and accuses her of mocking him as he considers the act a suggestion to take up sanyasam (or sainthood). She smiles knowingly - demonstrating that she expected his pea-sized mental apparatus to come to exactly that conclusion - and then in a brilliantly sinister interpretation of the Mahabharata reminds him of how Arjuna goes after the throne hinting that he draw lessons from that. Her body langauge, expression and intonations are spot on - theatrical acting at it's best. Simply Unforgettable!

Judy Davis does a more subtle job of destroying Liam Neeson's character in the latter part of the movie by slowly chipping away at his self-esteem. She is more overt in her domination in an earlier part of the movie when she commands one of her colleagues to take her out to the theatre right after being informed of an impending divorce on phone. The unfortunate man actually sits thru the conversation during which she breaths fiery invective at her husband, then takes a moment or two to collect herself and calmly announces to her hapless colleague that she is ready to leave for the show. When the man hesitates, suggesting that it might not be the best time to go out, she spews forth yet another burst of pure hatred for the male race. Frightening and hilarious .. phew!!!

Movie Soundtracks

Movie Soundtracks - what would I do without them. They are the best source of music by relatively new and unknown sources. There are several instances when I'd go crazy after listening to the faint background score in a movie. Before google and napster, I had a hell of a time fighting the urge to find out the name/artist of the song in question. Now, I just google a few words that I manage to catch and tada, I have the song. Another great source is amazon. You can listen to the samples to find the song that haunts you.

I find it very interesting how the visual association can have such a profound affect one one's perception. Take for instance Kill Bill Vol I. The fight sequences take on a life of their own when accompanied by the super-slick background score. The songs by themselves don't sound half as impressive but the combination is unbeatable.

Here's a list of some of my favorite soundtracks:
Amadeus, Kill Bill Vol I & II, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, High Fidelity, Chicago, Big Lebowski, Oh Brother, Where art thou, Mr. Holland's Opus, Deserado, Ocean's 12, Out of Sight, Say Anything, A Life Less Ordinary, I know what you did last summer, Garden State, Dazed and Confused, Faculty, Lock Stock and Two smoking barrells, Snatch, Master and Commander, Pleasantville.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Nowhere in Afrika

I just finished seeing 'Nowhere in Afrika'. It's one of the best movies I've seen in a while - and really got me thinking. We are introduced to the main characters as normal well-to-do citizens of a western country with all the comforts and protection that society affords them. A very telling dialogue that appears later on in the movie refers to them as 'playing their parts'. However, when circumstances force them to flee their country and face unthinkable hardships, their attitudes change, unpleasant characteristics and prejudices bubble to the surface. The film scores spectacularly in the manner it depicts how they eventually grow to be more accepting of each other and develop compassion - towards each other and their fellow human beings. They ultimately come to realize the meaning of love and understanding while still pursuing what one believes is important in life.

That really made me think today about Adversity - and what it can to you. It can shape your life in ways you never dreamed possible. I've always thought of myself to be very fortunate because of the relative ease with which I've pulled through life so far. I've been riding this blanket of protection that has always kept me afloat in most situations where I could have stumbled. But do I know what's really inside me? Do I have the 'right stuff'? The more I think about it - the more I realize - 'I have no freaking idea'. Things that mean the most to me change by the month - the only constant being my family. It was teaching yesterday, photography and movies today, business and God knows what after that. Am I really that fortunate?

I always pray to God regularly and dutifully to let things play out easy for me. I crave smooth sailing for me and all the things and people for whom I'm directly or indirectly responsible. I'm afraid of taking risks - afraid of the the consequences - the uncertainty - I guess most of all I suspect my fortitude in the face of adversity. Every once in a while I do ask ofHim - 'What is my true calling?' 'You must have had a reason for putting me on earth! What is it?' but for the most part I'm quite content going to bed every day knowing my sister is doing well - soon to be getting married - Mom and Dad are happy and living in relative peace at home and the knowledge that I can get to the office tomorrow morning without all hell breaking loose around me.

I don't know how I'll react when I'm pushed outside this comfort zone. Will I put up a brave front in the face of adversity? I sure hope I do and I do think I can .. and now the million dollar question - Will I ask God to put me in that state where I'm bound to struggle? It sure won't be my prayer before I crash tonight. Somewhere around the corner, life's vissicitudes are awaiting me. I too will confront my biggest devils and emerge a different person - preferably somebody who won't need to ask these questions!

Like Walter in the movie, I'm only 'playing my part' so far. I want to know what lies underneath ..

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

D70 or Rebel XT

I'm torn between which of these two Digital SLRs I should buy. I was leaning towards Rebel XT till I met Sanjeev a week back. The D70 has been around for more than a year is quite well respected. I guess I'll have to go to the store and actually try them out and see how it feels in the hand. My fear about taking the D70 is that Nikon will come out with a newer model in a couple of months. Then I'll end up feeling crappy about my purchase.

However, for my purposes both these cameras seem to be good enough. I should decide in a couple of weeks from now.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I discovered Radiohead ..

I'm listening to 'OK Computer' by Radiohead right now and it's one of those rare albums where each track seems to hit home. Usually it takes a few listens for the album to kick in but not so in the case of Radiohead. There is something about certain albums where you find it difficult to pick up a particular track as your favorite. Beck's 'Sea Change' is one, AIC 'Unplugged' (though technically, it's a compilation), and the beatles 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver'. Don't get me wrong, there are great great albums like 'Led Zep 4', 'Aqualung', 'The Wall', 'Back in Black' but I can easily pick out my favorite tracks from among them. It's an impossible job with albums like 'OK Computer'. I frequently put together compilations for friends who aren't music fanatics and it's easy to throw in 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Comfortably Numb', 'Locomotive Breath' or 'Hell's Bells' but if someone asked me about Radiohead I'd just ask them to listen to the whole damn album - I cannot pick a standout track.

Anyways, the following is my current music hotlist in no particular order:
Mambo Italiano - Rosemary Clooney, Vanilla Sky - Paul McCartney, Sad Lisa - Cat Stevens, New Slang - The Shins, 10000 Lightyears, Rasputin - BoneyM, Am I ever gonna change - Extreme, Medication - Garbage, Dragonstea Din Tei - OZone, Bang Bang - Nancy Sinatra, Float On - Modest House, My Own Prison (Acoustic) - Creed, Erase and Rewind - Cardigans, L'Appuntamento - Ornella Vanoni, Across the Universe - Fiona Apple, Sunny Came Home - Shawn Colvin, Familiar - Incubus and DJ Greyboy, Perhaps - Doris Day, Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz, Sour Times - Portishead

Friday, February 18, 2005

iTunes Sucks

As much as I'm thrilled to have the shuffle, I'm quite frustrated with the way iTunes works. Apparently, iPod will not play songs that wern't transferred thru iTunes. Fine, so I installed iTunes and it "organized" my library of music. Now, it's next to impossible to pick up songs that I had neatly organized in the last 4 years the way I want to. It used to be pretty easy picking them up using WinAmp but NO NO .. iTunes is way too smart for that. It organizes stuff by ratings, album name, artist name, album release date and other mp3 meta data that songs that I accumulated since the napster days don't have. Most of my data is in the file name, artist/title .. isn't that all one needs really? what do you have google for? But now I've got no clue about 100s of songs that show up as unknowns on the iTunes library. I'm really pissed off. I'd have just loved to drag and drop music that I wanted onto the ipod.
I'm really not very happy about the way iTunes "organized" my music. For Gods sake, why couldn't the interface be something like the classic WinAmp? I'm going to try and override iTunes automatic 'organization' and try and use the file structure to access the library. I pray that it will be possible to do that.
Anyways, that apart, I did manage to load the iPod with music that I wanted to listen to. It's quite cool looking and sounds great. Waiting to go for a run wearing them.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Shuffle is MINE

Today, I became a proud owner of an IPOD shuffle. One of my dear friends Bharath ordered the gadget on amazon and found out that it is incompatible with his old and only laptop. I happily snapped it up as the thing has a 4 week wait time at most places. I'm charging it right now.
I think the IPOD shuffle makes a lot more sense to own than the other bigger capacity ones. It is ridiculously small, stylish and mobile and I'm all for mobility. Further, it's as good as any key drive. Nevermind the MacMini but the shuffle sure makes financial sense.
Thanks Bharath and may you have a happy married life starting March :).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Knuth of Photography - Ansel Adams

I've gotten interested in photography very recently. I was looking for books that din't treat the camera as a black box with tweakable controls to take 'good' photographs. Most books are show pieces of the writers work or contain naive and sometimes useful information but do not even remotely make for compelling reading (books on digital photography are even worse). There were very few books that took a logical approach to explaining the inner workings of the camera and it's intrinsic relationship with the creative pursuits of the photographer. Along with the Ansel Adams series (The Camera, The Negative and The Print), I'd also rate Lighting for Imaging by Norman Kerr very highly. I'll talk about that in another blog.

The Camera and The Negative contain simple ray diagrams and graphs to explain concepts like DOF, Shutter Lag, Flash synchro, etc; smart and sensible advice like It's easy to confuse the hope for accomplishment with the desire to obtain better instrumentation or talking about the Zone System as a basis for the visualization procedure, whether the representation is literal or a departure from reality as projected in our "mind's eye".

Frankly, reading Ansel Adams is like reading an engineering textbook except he manages to talk with precision, clarity and simplicity about what is essentially a fuzzy art.

Buy them at Amazon.com:
The Negative (Ansel Adams Photography, Book 2)

The Camera (Ansel Adams Photography, Book 1)

Monday, February 14, 2005

No Pain, No Jane

I visited my sister and future brother-in-law in Denver this weekend and we went skiing to Winterpark and Copper Mountain. Winter Park is home to Mary Jane, the purists delight. Though I did none of the black runs (they all have waist-high moguls, so I did the only blue run available on that mountain) I still bought the 'No Pain - No Jane' T-Shirt. I'll return to Mary Jane to really 'earn' the shirt but it won't stop me from wearing it.

Loved Jane and Copper. Can't wait to get back ..