Saturday, January 31, 2009

Man standing

Next time you go to meet someone, say, at their home, office, or some place where your host is sitting and there are additional places for guests to sit (hence not in cubicle), don’t sit and just continue conversation while standing. If the conversation is more than mere perfunctory and is expected to take time, then even better. Notice if and how soon your host requests you to sit down. Mostly they do, and it’s polite to do so. However, decline the request saying that you are comfortable standing or just ignore. More often than not, you will be asked again. Is it mere politeness operating or there is sublime power play at work?

A man standing while you are sitting is at elevated level and while he looks down at you, you look up at him, making you subconsciously inferior to him in power game. This feeling is uncomfortable to people and hence possibly repeated requests to level the playing field. This works even when there is no context for power play nor there is any such intention from the person standing. I sometimes stand when I am visiting someone for a while simply because I sit otherwise in my sedentary job and want to stretch my legs. Nevertheless I am requested to sit down frequently and I do the same when someone else converses standing in front of me. Appearing threatening and imposing by looking down is trick in subliminal coercion and works even when not intended because we are wired that way.

This very, and few others, tricks were part of a a hilarious scene in 1940s brilliant comic movie The Great Dictator in which a Jewish barber is mistaken for and installed as Hitler. When a foreign leader comes to meet Hitler, his office arranges meeting “by means of applied psychology” so that Hitler can impress upon his domineering personality. Seating is such that foreign leader looks up at Hitler while he looks at him down. Entrance is such that former has to walk full length of room to confront later while later enters from shorter private gate. Hitler is required to be first in greeting, entering and exiting so that other seems to follow. Of course, things don’t turn out that way.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Recommended free softwares on internet

If TV is idiot box, what is computer? Well, computer is what you make it to be. If you know how to do stuff, computer is best efficiency machine out there, and if you don’t, it will make you commit suicide, or at least, tempt you enough. I love trying out new softwares and applications and want to list some of the best ones in this post. While these may not be new to anyone who follows technology blogs such as, they might still provide a good summary of what you didn’t know you could do. I have decided not to provide direct link to these softwares since doing so is too much work for me and you can do no harm with more practice in web search.

Rename Master is amazingly powerful tool to mass rename your files based on variety of rules (ex: append, replace, meta data) and can be useful for organization freaks who like their filenames to have some conformity. EmptyFolderNuker is also simple software which checks your directories for detecting empty folders and deletes them, again useful for cleaning up your drive rather than saving much space. KeePass is recommended tool to store so many types of passwords that one is required to memorize these days. It encrypts database which can use a master password or some file as key. Launchy is also recommended application launcher tool from keyboards. Stop searching your software in long list of ‘All Programs’ and just press few keys to launch programs by their name. Launchy indexes your programs in its search and is intelligent enough to prioritize your frequently used programs in search results. If you ever wanted to record music playing on your computer then Audacity is for you. It is an amazing audio-editor can be used for practically anything and depends merely on your technical skill. SyncBack is tool to backup your data on external drive and it intelligently synchronizes changed files and backs up only modified file. CCleaner is your key to recover hidden spaces in nooks of your hard drive by clearing all junk. Duplicate Cleaner is pretty good software to search for duplicate photo or music files and offers smart delete options. TrueCrypt is tool to password protect important data on your computer. MediaMonkey and Picasa are recommended softwares to organize your music and photographs. ATNotes is great for on-screen post-it notes. Faststone is slick screen capture utility which provides wide functionality. Finally, Wallpaper Master automatically changes wallpaper on your desktop at set interval to bring freshness in your life.

If you use Firefox for your web browsing needs, and you should be, then following extensions and scripts will come handy. Add to Search Bar adds any search box to your browser’s search bar. All-in-One Gestures are latest invention in web navigation where you don’t have to click anything to perform various tasks on webpages. Better GMail 2, Better Youtube, and Better GReader add multiple functionalities to your Gmail, Youtube and Google Reader experience. BugMeNot skips past annoying registration requirements at many websites and Download Statusbar replaces your pop-up download window with slick small bar in status bar location. DownloadThemAll! is best download manager which is great for downloading multiple objects off same page. FEBE is extension to back up all your extensions, profiles, bookmarks, etc. at regular interval. Menu Editor helps you edit your main menu and context menus to clean out unwanted options. Morning Coffee opens up select sites that you regularly open first thing in the morning. PDF Download provides you many options when you click that pdf link in webpage. Read it Later is slick bookmarking tool to mark pages to be read later when you have more time. Tab Mix Plus is a must have extension covering all that you didn’t know you wanted in tabs in Firefox and more. TimeTracker tracks time spent on web, if that makes you feel guilty. Greasemonkey is javascript handler extension for Firefox. Few of my favourite scripts include The Movie Dude (cross-links movie sites), Google Account Multi-Login, Google Image Relinker (links to images directly in image search) and Inline IMDB Ratings (shows rating whenever link to IMDB is provided). Stylish is extension to change look and feel of webpage by modifying style sheets and you can find out more if you so desire.

If you blog, then Windows Live Writer with Dynamic Template plug-in is best desktop blogging client. coComment is service which tracks your comments at other people’s blog so that you don’t miss the conversation without needing to manually check if reply has been made.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Hindi Poems

Occasionally, I dabble in Hindi poetry. I don’t promise best use of your time in reading this amateurish content, however, this blog being a platform to my thoughts, you will have to bear with me when I present few samples below.

(Note: If you cannot see Hindi below then click here to configure your browser.)

I used to write what only I would have called poetry when I was young, however my diary is lost in winds of time. Among recent works, my first output तुम was when I was missing my mother. Emphasizing her importance in my life, I wrote:

तुम क्या हो ये शायद तुम्हें भी नही पता, माँ!
मेरी जीवन दायिनी ही नही, मेरा जीवन हो तुम

what you are to me, even you don’t know my mother
you haven’t just given me life, you are my life

In similar lines, I described the pain of mother whose all sons have left her for further studies or jobs in माँ as:

बाँध दिया जिसको विधाता, ने अपनी संतान के साथ
क्या व्यथा होगी उस माँ की, परिवार बिखर जाने के बाद?

destiny has bound whom with her progenies
what condition she must be in after her family is scattered?

Parting of my cousin sister after her wedding filled my eyes with tears and my mind with memories as reflected in विदाई:

पर जब बेला विरह की छाई
सीने में करूणाँई लाई
यूँ ही बिखर गये सब कारण
आँखे स्वतः ही डबडबा आई

when the moment of separation dawned
it brought anguish in heart
all reasons were lost just like that
and eyes got watery automatically

Reflecting dilemma of heart in speaking at birthday of a good friend, I wrote in कुछ कहना:

इतना आसां होता यार
कह ना देता कितनी बार?

had it been so easy my friend
wouldn’t have I said it so many times?

A question which has bothered me often is whether as relatively privileged member of society I have obligations for its betterment or can I just be myself. असमंजस describes it as:

क्या उनकी बुद्धिमानी ही उनका श्राप है
बिन चाहे ही
समाज के उद्धार के
आशावाहक बन जाने का?
या फिर उन्हे भी हक है
हर मनुष्य की तरह
अपनी मंजिल खुद चुनने का
अपनी राह खुद बनाने का?

is their intelligence their curse
that without their wishes
for the betterment of society
they must bear the burden of expectations?
or do they have right too
like every other man
to chose their own destination
and to chose their own path?

Memories of father’s role in my life were reflected in पापा:

भाव उफ़नते थे मन में तो
लेकिन थी भाषा नही आती
अढ़ाई दशक की स्मृतियाँ
कागज़ में कैसे समा पाती

emotions would rise in my heart yet
language was difficult to come by
for how two and an half decades of memories
could be penned down on paper

In search for ideas, word usages, phrases and to understand poetic style of other Hindi poets, I read lot of poems. I found that many have written at least one poem about Moon, and I wondered why in एक बात बता ओ चाँद:

एक बात बता ओ चाँद अरे
क्यों ऐसा होता इतनी बार
क्यों युगों युगों से कवियों के
तू दिल का छेड़े तार

tell me one thing o moon
why does it happen so often
why since eons
you tug at heartstrings of poets

As maturity dawns, one’s outlook to life changes. As one grows up, love becomes lovable, as penned in प्यार से प्यार:

कल तक जो ना भाता था, वो आज दिल के पार हो गया
सच कहता हूँ दोस्तों, मुझे प्यार से प्यार हो गया

what i didn’t like till yesterday, that penetrates my heart today
i am saying truth my friends, i am in love with love

I’ve lived away from home from last ten years. And Sunday afternoons have always made me miss my home most. Why? I explain in रविवार की दोपहर:

रविवार की दोपहर में
नींद से उठने की बाद
सन्नाटे के साए में
मेरे घर की याद
हर बार उठती है

on Sunday afternoons
after waking up from siesta
in blanket of silence
memory of my home
always haunts me

Whether New Year is a moment of celebration or an mere instant in ongoing journey of life, pondered in आओ नव वर्ष मनाऐं wishing well for coming year:

नव वर्ष मात्र मील का पत्थर
जीवन बहती धारा हर पल
इस विराम के पल में ना भूलें, हम नव संकल्प ऊठाऐं
आओ मिल नव वर्ष मनाऐं

new year is but a milestone
for life is flowing stream every moment
in moment of pause let’s not forget to make promises for future
let’s come and celebrate new year

These snippets of poems are presented in order I wrote these poems. If you read so far and liked what you read, then you can read these poems in entirety on this page. Comments are disabled on that page but you are always welcome to comment here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Man who mistook his wife for a hat (2/2)

...<< PREVIOUS (Part 1)

Development Agnosia is body part’s forgetfulness of its natural role due to lack of use. A girl child suffering from this was so cared for that she didn’t use her hands since birth and had all things done for her. So while her hands remain sensitive to pain, temperature and pressure, they don’t perceive things. She can identify things when shown but not when touched, because connection of perception to memory images in brain is weak. In contrasting case, some person still continue to maintain body image of missing limb, feeling pain and pressure in it, even after knowing that it’s not there.

In a decease called Hemi-inattention, person loses completely the idea of “left” and his memory erases any notion of left in the world. He cannot understand left turn or left part and when asked to turn, goes in clockwise circles. When given a pie to eat, left half will remain uneaten and unnoticed unless plate is turned to bring it right side again.

Some patients suffering from Aphasia lose understanding of words and speech, while maintaining their ability to listen. Their brain cannot combine words and phrases to make and comprehend sentences. These patients often exhibit enhanced understanding of tone, candour, expression, gesture and posture and cannot be lied to. When speech is de-tone through computer software, they fail to understand anything. Opposite of Aphasia is Aprosodia where person loses understanding of tone, fluctuation, modulation, expression or gesture and can understand only words and grammar. Patient cannot identify from sound if person is happy or sad.

Patients suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome are always in state of agitation, excitement and enthusiasm beyond their control. While they are always happy, quick and witty, they lose ability to calm down and think without being impatient, impulsive, impromptu or loud. They often utter profanities without control and are required to be under drug to help them calm down.

As world is our perception in brain and brain is very powerful, it often records memories of past in very vivid detail. In strange case of Musical Epilepsy, a song or stream of songs from past play continuously in mind which only patient can hear. This can go on for years and may make life unlivable because patient cannot sleep and is unable to concentrate. In related case of Memory Seizure, brain repeatedly plays a past memory is extreme details, which patient even didn’t know he had.

While these deceases are very very rare, the mere existence highlights how little we know about ourselves. What we perceive is nothing but understanding in our brain and subconscious beyond our own control. Many a scientific experiments are confirming that decisions which we assume we take consciously are already taken in subconscious mind and can be detected by brain scanning. In future, all your feelings and desires can be satisfied by sitting under brain tempering device and you can experience diving in sea, enjoying the Hawaii or eating a cake by mere signals sent to appropriate parts of brain and for all practical purpose you would’ve done that thing. A unpopular view in Science is that Time doesn’t exist and all things takes place or have taken place at one instant and it’s our brain which orders things to make us perceive. The day will come when fiction and reality will merge to make both meaningless.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Man who mistook his wife for a hat (1/2)

Man who mistook his wife for a hat” is a book of medical maladies by Oliver Sacks. It is book of so rare yet so bewildering deceases that it questions our own understanding of ourselves and the world. What we see is not what is there but what our brain makes us see, and brain can be a funny thing, so it can make you see what others don’t see, and vice-versa, because world as we know it doesn’t really exist except in our perception of it. We might as well be living in a Matrix and there is no way we can find out. As I wrote in my review on librarything:
[The book is a] fascinating collection of amazing and unimaginable mental illness (neuropsychological) revoking horror, sadness and wonder at the same time. You cannot imagine what could go wrong with you as much as you try.

If tales of wonder amazes you, go ahead and bewilder yourself. If not, you are advised to skip this post. For best effect, imagine yourself in the place of patient.

Prosopagnosia is visual memory loss when one can lose ability to recognize objects, particularly faces. Patient can see alright but cannot differentiate, much like we can identify among human faces but not among cow faces. Patients can understand features, voice, movement and other discernible characteristics of object but cannot identify it because of loss of body image in the memory. Subsequently, he can not see visual dreams and can only identify things by mental definition and association. Author cites example where patient cannot see rose as a rose but a convoluted fragrant red object with green linear base and learns to call it rose. In extreme cases, they can even forget their own faces or their family members’. Title of the book comes from this disorder.

Retrograde Amnesia (Korsakov’s Syndrome) is special type of amnesia where memory suddenly freezes at some point in past. So up to that point everything is clear in mind but nothing remains in memory after that moment. Every day is next day after day of freezing, irrespective of number of decades passed between them. Current memory is very short term (few minutes), even though there is no general loss of intelligence or mental capabilities. Patient lives with no past or future but only present. Sometime retrograde amnesia moves backward in time with date of frozen memory shifting back. Sometimes there may be feeling of familiarity with things done few minutes earlier but there is no mental time frame to link to immediate past. Author mentions that even hypnosis fails to recover traces of past memories for these patients since they forget what hypnotist is saying in time it takes to hypnotize. In extreme case, retrograde amnesia travels back to birth and whole life is erased from memory leading to loss of self.

In one case complete loss of visual cortex in brain of patients eliminates whole idea of seeing. There is no concept of image in memory and patient is not even aware that he is blind because he doesn’t even know what seeing means. Such a thing is simply unimaginable for us and can only crudely be understood by noting that we are not bothered by lack of sonar capabilities in ourselves unlike bats because that concept is meaningless to us.

Our senses help our body interact with outside world. We are commonly aware of five external senses (exteroception): gustation/taste, olfaction/smell, vision/sight, audition/hearing, and tactation/touch (which include thermoception/thermal and nociception/pain). There are two more internal senses (interoception), which are internal information in brain about bodily balance/equilibrioception and relative positions of parts of body/proprioception. Equilibrioception helps us walk straight in dark or rise up when lying down because body knows what is right side and what is proper balance. Proprioception helps us touch our nose from finger without looking because our brain has a schema or diagram of current and ideal position of body parts.

Loss of equilibrioception leads to loss of sense of balance in a person. Without actively visually monitoring himself, person cannot walk straight. He is not even aware that he is tilted nor does he find his vision and world tilted because he has completely lost the concept of balance and upside. Patients need to use external level, not unlike used by plumbers, with a weight hanging from his eye glasses.

Loss of proprioception leads to loss of possession of body and loss of map of body to brain. It’s like brain is blind and deaf because nervous system doesn’t carry senses about body parts movement back to brain. This affects body posture because additional senses such as vision or touch have to substitute for loss of proprioception. Symptoms of this simple loss of information are drastic. Brain losses ability to control voice since lips and jaws don’t automatically adjust to tone, and one has to use ears to listen to self and then control vocal modulation. Face doesn’t display expression commensurate with emotions one is feeling. Unless actively monitored visually, body part don’t maintain their position so that jaws may be hanging down and one cannot open door without guiding hand to position of handle visually. In one extreme case, a patient couldn’t associate his own leg with himself and kept falling out of bed in attempt t throw off an “odd, cold, hairy, severed human leg”. You may recall mild degree of these symptoms with alcohol consumption, and that’s why tests for alcohol level might include walking straight on a line and trying to touch your nose from behind.

...NEXT (Part 2) >>

Monday, January 26, 2009

Miscellaneous thoughts on Republic

Did you know that even after independence in 1947, India continued to recognize King George VI as the head of state until this day 59 years ago? Some say, in jest, of course, that it took India three years to adopt a constitution because many forms had to be filled — in triplicate! Indian Constitution, by the way, is the world’s largest constitution with 395 articles in 12 schedules. Unfortunately, or may be not, it’s also one of the most modified constitution with averaging 1.5 amendments per year. Turning into Republic in 1950 was act of political independence different from, and more important than, mere geographical independence. Therefore President of India presides over Republic Day celebration unlike Prime Minister who presides over Independence Day’s. At this point let me also highlight difference between Republic and Democracy, which I didn’t know until few days ago. While Republic is any nation not ruled by a monarch, Democracy also requires that government is elected by free electoral system by the people.

As India continues to age, such national days become more and more symbolic. However, if someone refers to Independence Day or Republic Day as holiday, I feel bad. In that sense I am that type of overt patriot who many people despise. I also play patriotic songs whenever I feel like without waiting for 26th January or 15th August. Thankfully for most, people like me are increasing minority in Indian landscape. These days are becoming more and more shallow and don’t arouse those feelings in people that they did soon after birth of India. I, however, loved these days in childhood and enjoy watching parade and programs even now on TV. If you watch, though, then you would see amazing juxtaposition of India’s wide ethnic diversity in one place along with amazing stunts by armed forces. India apparently has only surviving Camel Cavalry in the world. From this year onwards, elephants will not be used in Republic Day parade due to animal rights issue, and hence brave children who are awarded and paraded on elephants will travel on tanks.

It may appear customary self-patting, nevertheless, I will leave you today with some pleasant thoughts about India, that is Bharat. Happy Republic Day.

India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.

India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.

So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.

If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India.

If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.

It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues. Enriched by successive waves of migration and marauders from distant lands, every one of them left an indelible imprint which was absorbed into the Indian way of life. Every aspect of the country presents itself on a massive, exaggerated scale, worthy in comparison only to the superlative mountains that
overshadow it. It is this variety which provides a breathtaking ensemble for experiences that is uniquely Indian. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than to be indifferent to India would be to describe or understand India completely. There are perhaps very few nations in the world with the enormous variety that India has to offer. Modern day India represents the largest democracy in the world with a seamless picture of unity in diversity unparalleled anywhere else.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Does market want experience?

Placement season is about to begin in management institutes across country. Currently, IIMs are undergoing what is called lateral placements i.e. placements for candidates with about two years or more of work experience. Later in March, institute will have final placements which will be open to all students with or without work experience.

Over years, management education has been gaining popularity among students in India and IIMs have been observing increasing intake with substantial work experience. Substantial in Indian context is about two or more years where prior work experience is not pre-requisite for admission into MBA colleges. Where such fraction was less than quarter mere 3-4 years ago, this number is above 50% in recent years and steadily going northward. Many colleges have explicitly stated giving more preference to professional experience in their admission formula and others are following suit. That’s what college want to improve learning experience though how far this objective is met with mere two years of work experience, that too in predominately IT related fields is open to debate.

But do companies want their MBA candidates to have prior work experience? If we go by number of companies who chose to come for lateral placements and range of salaries they offer to applying candidates, then answer is unambiguously no. Types of roles and profile offered are not different than those offered to fresh graduates and very few companies try to hire from lateral pool. It seems that market doesn’t care about prior work experience. One can contest that work experience is useful only if it is relevant and given types of opportunities which open after MBA (consulting, marketing, banking, general management), a software engineering background is not going to help much. Objection is justified though it means that despite push from education institutions to intake candidates with prior experience, best move from candidate’s point of view is to join MBA program directly after graduate degree.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

“An eye for an eye…

…makes the whole world blind”, so said a well known guy. How would it work?

Say there are two people in the world who each have 20/20 visions in both eyes. For some reason — and it's not important what it is and without loss of generality, as they say in mathematics, can be assumed anything — first man punctures second man’s one eye. Why one eye and not both, you may legitimately ask? But you wouldn’t have been paying attention to quote then, would you? So if well known guy is correct then second man will take revenge by puncturing first’s one eye. That will leave world half-blind, but that’s not the idea really. So, of course, first will take vendetta by blinding second one completely by hurting his second eye too. Now, if world were to be blind, as predicted, then second man must blind first one too. However, and this is where we must pause and think, when second is completely blind and first is half-blind, what reasonable chance second man has of chasing, catching and blinding first one?

Clearly the well known guy didn’t think it through in his hurry to get quotable quote out. In reality, an eye for an eye makes half the world blind and half the world half-blind, or, whole world three-quarter blind, if we average out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Conviction and Rigidity

What is conviction? A fixed or firm belief, as per dictionary. A person is with conviction if he has strong belief in himself and his views. A person gets convinced, specially if he is reasonably intelligent person, after evaluating various points of views about a position and selecting what he considers best argument. A man of conviction is steadfast in his views, clear about his standing, has structured and thought out thought process which led to conviction, and is not easy to sway because more often than not argument put forward is already considered and discarded as inferior. A man who has, in a way, all figured out. As I see it, conviction is a good thing.

What is rigidity? Inflexible, unyielding and firmly set views (dictionary). A person is rigid if he strongly believes a point of view about any topic. A rigid man is steadfast in his views, clear about his position, sticks to them despite opposite point of view and is not easy to sway. A man who has, in a way, made up his mind and is not open to investigation. As I see it, rigidity is a bad thing.

Only difference between man of conviction and man of rigidity is thought process leading to position taken. Unfortunately, that’s all inside the man, and to outsider, both may appear similar. And they often do. My observation has been that people are very afraid and averse to man of conviction, who they feel has figured everything out and who doesn’t need them or the world anymore. That people don’t like to be corrected even when they are wrong is already discussed on this blog earlier. Without patience to understand rationale leading to outward position, people are quick to label convinced man a rigid man, a tragedy from my point of view.

Two questions arise at this point: why are people afraid of man of conviction and what said man to do to not appear threatening and offending to people? It is possible that both my observations are wrong but let me go ahead and espouse certain hypothesises. In some way people seek solace in discomfort or dilemma of their fellow human beings and a person who is not as confused about life and its vagaries as they are is insulting sign of their own feebleness. A convinced person reminds them, perhaps, of their own fallibility and inadequacy? It is however irrelevant to delve deeper into why people do the same, for beside satisfaction of inquiry, this will not help us much in life. Only way, I see, a convinced person can appear non-threatening to others is to keep his convictions to himself and appear or pretend vulnerable to others. Can he do so, and if he does so, will benefits of social acceptance outweigh weight on his conscience?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Naturalistic and Moralistic Fallacies

Two logical fallacies that we must avoid

The naturalistic fallacy is the leap from is to ought – that is, the tendency to believe that what is natural is good; that what is, ought to be. For example, “Because people are genetically different and endowed with different innate abilities and talents, they ought to be treated differently.”

The moralistic fallacy refers to the leap from ought to is, the claim that the way things should be is the way they are. This is the tendency to believe that what is good is natural; that what ought to be, is. For example, “Because everybody ought to be treated equally, there are no innate genetic differences between people.”

The social scientists’ stubborn refusal to accept sex and race differences in behavior, temperament, and cognitive abilities, and their tendency to be blind to the empirical reality of stereotypes, reflect their moralistic fallacy driven by their liberal political convictions.

I leave you without commentary but reflect and keep these in mind and you’ll see world very differently. What should be doesn’t mean it is, nor vice-versa.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Night life

When the city sleeps, a new city wakes up. Streets overflowing with noise and smoke of vehicles of all sizes and shapes bear the deathly silence of melancholy which is only occasionally torn by a thud or siren. Commotion of chatter, footsteps, horns and chirping is replaced by regular slow humming noise. Colours of ambience are replaced by veil of yellowish hue emanating from street lamps. Boundaries of road which segregated walker from driver, left from right, rich from poor dissolve to bring another order. In the night punctured by garish brightness of scattered neon signs, an underground workforce rises to its feet and occupies large spaces on road and on footpath every night when those they aim to serve sleep in deep slumber.

Hundreds of men and women sitting or squatting on the floor move their hands in mechanical precision. A support industry of tea/coffee vendors, snacks sellers and beedis/cigarettes distributors amalgamates with busy masses to keep the task going. Conversation is at the minimum: there is deadline to be met. There are hundreds of competitors but there is hardly any competition. Earth is their shop and trust is their currency. What will earn wealth next day is carelessly dumped on the road by steady stream of career vehicles. An auto-rickshaw stuffed to brim, a motorcycle precariously balanced, a cycle rickshaw or a cycle carrying more that its weight, anything actually. There is no marking, for whom and from whom, but that place of road is signal enough for who it is intended. Mountains of product bundles lie hither and thither, trampled upon, marked, sorted and collated. Hands work like machine, turning a leaf, inserting another, folding one into another, giving shape to the final output from pieces and fragments which come together at that unearthly hour at night. Owners wander among crowd, giving instructions, urging workers to hasten up, and soliciting business from few folks who are there on that night but who don’t belong there. As night wears off, product is near final and ready to be delivered. Deliverymen come on their cycles or feet, pick their bundles up, and walk toward those residences and businesses where someone somewhere is eagerly waiting with a cup of tea for his day to start.

As the newspaper boy goes along with his deliveries, the city of night winds up and dissolves in the rising warmth of morning sun, as if it never existed, to not matter to denizens of day, and to come alive again next night.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This post from my friend Partho led me to reflect how each of us treats his own birthdays. My views on my birthday are extension of my views on New Year — that I don’t feel too excited or anything particular. Of course, because other do often love their birthdays as special days of their lives, my view doesn’t prevents me from celebrating or enjoying others’ birthdays. And even if I don’t consider my birthday special day, I don’t mind receiving wishes or presents! So much for that, now back to topic.

How one views his birthday can be function of how his birthdays were celebrated in childhood along with other personality characteristics. That’s just my guess though. What I do know that that various people love their birthdays to various degrees and that ranges from absolutely being jumpy whole day with grin on face to being nonchalant and dismissive about friends’ overtures. To some extent, I surmise, it is related to how one looks at life and future, and perhaps how optimistic one is. I think people who take life as it comes, are easy going, less cynical, emotional, in love with self and optimist enjoy their birthdays more.

In middle class Indian households birthdays weren’t very special occasions. Let me rephrase that. Birthdays weren’t loud and public occasions as they are now. These days birthday parties inviting near and dear* ones, involving cake, candles, balloons, food, music, gifts and reverse gifts (for kids) are common. That was not so twenty years ago where birthday of a child was family affair starting with a visit to temple first thing in the morning and ending with consumptions of homemade sweets and snacks. Sometime, evening will include visit to a park or some such stuff. Gifts were not explicit and didn’t need to given on the day itself. In culture that prays to “take us from darkness to light”, putting off candles on birthday was clearly not a home grown tradition.

Despite childhood attachment with self’s birthday, this does tone down as one grows. Someone once said at age 11 one has stop expecting others to make fuss out of one’s birthday. Number may be disputable but as we grow, charm of celebrating that mark in life diminishes, and can even become a haunting sign of failed achievements and impending mortality.

* Not all near ones are dear ones?

Monday, January 19, 2009


Close your eyes…Wait! Read this paragraph first. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Try to imagine a moment when you were the most happy in your life. Relax and let your mind revisit those happy memories. Note your reactions. We you excited? Overwhelmed? Crying? Had lump in your throat? Laughing? Jumping around? Smiling? Grinning? Shrieking? Hugging? Now open your eyes and reflect if that’s how you would have imagined yourself happy?

In Pursuit of Happyness (2001), protagonist’s reaction to his long cherished desire and hard work coming true stood out to me in climax of the movie. Unlike what we might expect sitting and thinking about happiness, moment of true happiness didn’t include joy or jubilation, there was no laughter or smile, not even tears. I can relate to this from my own experience. In fact, moment of greatest happiness is a moment where no one can even notice you are happy. What there is is simple instantaneous calm and relief. It appears that laughter and tears are signs of smaller degree of happiness and the greatest happiness ever makes one so overwhelmed that nothing happens.

In my moment of greatest known happiness, I felt so happy that I couldn’t even swallow food or utter a word, literally. It’s been only one occasion in life so far. Of course, reaction to happiness depends on what is making you happy. If act is desired and worked hard for, then happiness brings peace of mind with it. If act is winning of lottery, for example, which is not strived for, reactions might be more expected shriek and jump.

After moment of relief subsides, there come tears, which may turn into sobbing. In the end, comes the smile. And that’s how happiness works.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

PM and his guests

If your boss comes to your house, you and your family dresses to receive him. If your junior does the same, you may ask servant or kid to seat him until you join. We do behave differently towards people based on their status relative to our. Treating rich friend differently than poor is perhaps mean and hurtful but also reality. On individual level, some good people will probably not differentiate and be equally respectful to both. On official level, this hardly happens. This is what is diplomatic protocol.

When Chief of large and influential country (say US/UK/China) visits India on official visit, Prime Minister of India receives him at airport along with few ministers of his cabinet and welcomes him. When Chief of small country (say Cambodia/Sri Lanka/Chez Republic) visits, a Minister or Minister of State receives him. If anyone less than Chief visits then rank of person receiving is equal or smaller depending on whether visitor if from big (not in size) country or small country. While it is sign of power balance between nations how strange it must feel for Ghana’s President to be received by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, for example. Someday someone will promise to make his country so developed that PM comes to pick him up — a comic revenge plot masala indeed.

For those who are deemed important, streets are lined with school children dressed in starched uniform holding flags of guest nation. In smiling faces lies hidden the pain (I imagine) of young innocents of being herded and lined up by school teachers and being made to stand in Sun waiving flags at someone they don’t know or care about. I don’t have exact idea how it happens but I guess a directive must be given by some official to government schools in vicinity. Or may be school volunteer for such and it is considered prestigious to be invited.

Would it will place us on moral high ground — and may be result in better international relations and long-run tangible benefits — if PM goes to receive Chief of every nation? Or will it eat into his already busy schedule?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

AIDs and Recruitment

A sting camera operation by a TV channel in India exposed some companies’ unwillingness to hire people diagnosed with AIDS for full-time employment. A journalist sought, and was offered, job in BPO and Banking sector, until she revealed the secret. This is clearly issue of bias with legal, economical and moral implications. Let’s examine candidate’s and company’s point of view.

A candidate suffering HIV has right to seek any opportunity on fair ground under laws of the land. Not only will it be immoral to deny such opportunity, but it will also open Pandora’s box in terms of what can or cannot be denied (disabled, nearsighted, asthmatic, etc.). Clearly, setting these boundaries will verge on arbitrariness and can become ground for unfair action. A company hiring an AIDS employee knowingly incurs additional costs. We are assuming that narrow mindedness of colleagues is not an issue, or if it is, company is willing to fight it. Even then, an HIV positive employee potentially brings with himself added healthcare expenses (if there is company sponsored medical plan) and reduced performance due to frail health and more off days due to medical treatment.

Can company account for these factors by reduced salary or not sponsoring medical treatment? That would be considered unfair to employee. But looking from unemotional angle, it is possible that a candidate might just seek job to provide for cost-effective medical needs. From where I see it, I believe that outright refusal is immoral and inhuman, even if company incurs slightly more cost on that candidate. After all, such small differences do exist in workplace and are ignored, for when did your eating more in company cafeteria led to a deduction from your salary? However, to be fair to organization too, there can be clear cut rules discussed beforehand which will reduce exploitation of company by employee, and clearly stipulate at what stage of decease will employment terminate. Further, regular application of existing rules will take care of excessive sick days (unpaid) and productivity (performance review and bonus). Candidate should also accept these limitations and not play victimization card if above happens. It may happen, and is likely, that candidate is unwilling to accept above mentioned restriction and will sue company for discrimination, once offered a job. Alas, fear is these might lead to outright refusal to hire which is more defendable in court of law.

Not that this is happening here, there might be just plain discrimination, but attempt to not forgo anything by some often results in others forgoing everything as rules become more stringent and each party tries to covers its back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shortcut to intelligence

read blog for dummies

Voting no one

For reasons unknown, recently there have been series of emails and news items about a clause 49-O in voting rules which permit a person to vote for no one. Contrary to said rumor, voting for no one doesn’t affect election results and merely registers that said person came to voting booth and chose not to exercise the right, rather than not coming to voting booth at all. This articles explains the clause and its implications in great details. Irrespective of this rule though, one of the reasons some people give for not voting is that there is no one worth voting. Some have demanded a right to express disapproval with all candidates, which this clause was not intended to fulfill but can be assumed to fulfill. What few seem to think about is that even if such demand is approved, this will not improve political climate in the country.

Voting out everyone will leave constituency representation-less and country government-less, which cannot be permitted for obvious reasons. Whether we like it or not, we have to, we must indeed, choose least bad candidate because alternative doesn’t even mean anything. Disapproving all candidates will not make political parties conscious of our desire to seek better candidates because ultimately we’ll have to chose one among those who choose to stand. What will bring change, albeit slowly, is conscious voting thinking overall impact of government without recency bias in larger public interest above narrow caste or communal gains. We might as well recognize excuses for an excuse and not justify it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Conundrum of Love

If a vegetarian and non-vegetarian marry each other, do they brush each time before kissing?


youwouldntbuyour That I am doing my MBA would warrant an intelligent commentary from me on economic recession. That I can do, or at least pretend to do by mixing up whatever I’ve read and heard, but I am a simple man. So only thing that occurs to my mind first when companies lobby for bailout packages is this: they didn’t share their profits with public when things were fine and now they want public to pick the tab when they are losing. Clearly, not ethical in my book. Thing is many governments across the world are actually giving out truck loads of money for this including US, UK, Germany and India. I mean, lobbying is fine and all, but somewhere some economist must think that that’s right thing to do. It perhaps is, though it just looks mean to me. Like what it says on this poster (click to enlarge and read all the way).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Prank call

On 5th December, 2008 a call was made from Indian Foreign Minister to Pakistani President warning him of immediate air strike, which triggered emergency retaliatory alert and war preparation, which was actually not needed because call was a prank call. This possibility is not remote and need for authentication is well known, I think. Question of the day is: how does it work? This question was there in my mind earlier too but this seems good time to ask again.

Long long ago there was no telephone or internet. Kings used to deliver their messages to their officers through messengers on foot or horse. How did that officer know that messenger is authentic and not fake planted by enemy? Perhaps there was some code word or official insignia. How did the recipient know that message was authentic, or was that to be assumed that subject did his duties honestly? Was there an incident in history where messenger delivered wrong message deliberately or under force?

Phone has become de-facto medium of communication these days among administration and government machinery. When Manmohan Singh calls George Bush, which he seem to be doing quite a lot, how do they know that person on the other side of wire is actually real intended party? Are private telephone numbers so secrets that only few people in the world know them? Is there possibility of dialing or picking up wrong number? What are processes of authentication and how long do they take? What about calls from PM to CM within Indian State, or from CM to Police Commissioner, or vice-versa, etc. Is it assumed that no one will want to play such prank? At what stage does the authentication deemed unnecessary or more costly than benefits derived? Call from District Collector to Police Inspector? From City Mayor to some department head? There is always potential for misuse even if inherent dangers are smaller.

These days some part of official communication is in email format, specially documents and memorandums. What is procedure for verifying their authenticity, if any? Does PMO communicates anything by email?

This posts raises only questions because I’ve not been able to find answers. Seems like perfect question for Straight Dope, which by the way, is a highly recommended site for general knowledge and interesting timepass.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Drab dresses

Here is was YouTube link (Edit: video removed) of A. R. Rahman winning Oscars Golden Globes and all those people who despised Oscar for its bias in selection will suddenly forget and rejoice because Indian film (if it can be called that) won. We are quick to lap up to anyone or anything with slightest of Indian connection be it Kalpana Chawala or Sanjay Gupta.

These are the awards where who dresses how is big talk and all I could think of looking at these is that a small poor Indian wedding is more colourful and lovely dressed than these millionaires in their boring blacks and whites. What a drab.

On related note, what on earth led to convention (in Britain prominently, but also in USA) that men must dress in similar looking black tuxedos while women dress in wide variety of gowns, skirts and dresses in all lovely colours (particularly noted in movie Titanic[imdb: 7.2/10]). And why the hell Indians are blindly copying West in discarding pink as colour not for men or holding hands as something men can't do? Even stricter compartmentalization among genders and stereotyping is supposed to strengthen what? A simple gestures of friends men touching each other is being frowned upon.

As I’ve always feared, seems like India can’t move forward and be progressive without avoiding the problems that come with it even when there are example to learn from in developed countries of the world.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pan-India Movie

Indian film industry is largely fragmented because of cultural and linguistic diversity of the country. Movies which involve people of wide ethnic and cultural diversity within India in realistic setting are rare. By realistic, I mean not caricatured, and not used for comic purposes. Movies where Begali character speak Begali and not Begalized Hindi. Despite astonishing growth of Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi and Bhojpuri film industry in last decade, there hasn’t been a truly pan-India film. I wish someday to see a true pan-India movie being made and run successfully at box-office. Countably few movies which had this theme aren’t still true to each culture. Famous movie Ek Duje Ke Liye comes close to what I desire but that is limited to two cultures only.

I can envision many problems with this project. One is the script which realistically necessitates people of wide backgrounds to come together for fruitful substantial interaction (travelling?). Another is need for various subtitled versions for movie for each geography where in Hindi-belt all non-Hindi dialogues have to be subtitled in Hindi and in Tamil-region all non-Tamil dialogues have to be subtitled in Tamil and so on. This dependence on subtitles limits reach of audience this movie can target since Indian public in not comfortable with subtitles not to mention poor literacy levels of masses. Also, are audience open minded enough to patronize such film?

Still, I think, a competent director can pull together things to give us picture what really happens when, say, an Assamese comes to New Delhi. Such movie will be a great indication of national unity too. Plus, this will also pave way for better collaboration between different regional industry and better India-wide recognition of some of the best regional actors. I don’t know when this desire will be fulfilled, or if ever, but I doubt that it will happen in this decade. Move towards cross-cultural and multi-lingual Indian movie is (non-existent) trend I will definitely want to keep an eye on.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Harassed by Wife?

That India's heavily biased Anti-Dowry laws and recently introduced Domestic Violence laws are used against men by some women in no news. Unfortunate as it is, most of women empowerment has only empowered educated city women where misuse is very high while laws themselves were made keeping in mind vast majority of rural, poor, non-empowered women. Those who really need them don't even know that these laws exists, or if the know, rarely use them because of social conditioning or consequence of repercussions due to poor law and order. In a non-violent respectable middle or upper class household, both man and woman suffer risks in entering a matrimony due to potential misuse or abuse. Here is one man cell trying to help such people. Issues such as these cannot even be openly discussed due to vehement opposition from feminists and fear of being labelled as MCP. As any astute observer of polity will note, it’s not majority which counts in democracy, but a vocal minority.

That the law is misused is no reason to ignore the usefulness of the law, for every law is misused to an extent. Question is, how much misuse is prevalent. I think it’s less than 10% while my mom thinks it’s way higher, to the extent of 50% in above mentioned demography. Both of these non-scientific hunches merely. In any case, framing a law to cover both genders is first step since it will cover fairer sex anyway. It’s no question that I am aware of the extent of female-mistreatment meted in this country, and recognize need for stringent rules to curb harassment, violence and unfairness but it’s worthwhile sometimes to pause and see who gets benefited.

11/01/2009 Edit: Vikas Gupta talked to the man manning the man-cell and came up with the website See his post for more details.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CAT and Reservations

Of 2,38,665 people who applied to IIMA in CAT 2008, 38,417 (16.1% of total) were in reserved category (disabled, SC, ST, non-creamy OBC). Of 315 available seats, 121 (38.4% of total) were in reserved category. Of 3,776 people (1.58% of applications) who cleared minimum cut-off, 264 (0.69% of applications) were from reserved category, even after relaxed cut-off level by 8% percentage point or roughly 30% lower marks. Of 1,412 people (0.59% of applications) who were further pre-screened to be called for GD/PI, 252 (0.66% of applications, 17.85% of pre-screened total) were from reserved category, again with relaxed standards. Note that after two level of relaxed standards, roughly same fraction of reserved category people are called for GD/PI as general category. Also, note the fraction of applications from reserved category versus fraction of seats reserved. At interview stage, 11 disabled candidates are fighting for 9 seats (82% odds), 25 ST candidates for 24 seats (96%), 109 SC candidates for 47 seats (43%), 107 non-creamy OBC candidates for 41 seats (38%), and 1,160 general candidates for 194 seats (17%). At aggregate level, 0.097% of applicants secure a seat in general category while this figure is 0.315% for reserved applicants, a disparity of order of 3.2 times. [Source]

This is in numbers how much reservations are biased. They can make 38% seats for 16% people who would barely be able to fill disproportionately large quota even at generous helpings of relaxed standards. Reservations can get you a place, but they can’t make you smarter. At some level, mostly during academic grill or later in world at large, reservations stop and reality emerges, but not before many genuine candidates are sacrificed at the altar of short-term public appeasement. If only public and politicians would have wanted later rather than former…

Friday, January 9, 2009

More of me

Some shameless self promotion follows.

I use Google Reader as my feed reader. Among the articles I read, I share some which I like. If you would like to read them or subscribe to them, then you can do so going here. I have recently started using FriendFeed which is aggregator of all things online one does. This service tracks feeds from many services I use online, so if you want to follow my movie ratings on IMDB or my favourite videos on YouTube apart from my blog posts and articles on the internet that I find interesting, you can subscribe to the feed here.

Treatise on F.R.I.E.N.D.S (2/2)

...<< PREVIOUS (Part 1)

A treatise on Friends is not complete without talking about friends themselves. Characters of Friends are bunch of varied lot. Almost any person who has watched it for a while identifies with one or other character. It tells a lot about the viewer which character he identifies himself with. Relative preference of all six characters also suggests glimpse in psyche of viewer.

While Rachel was the most beautiful of the girls, she was also most despicable character to me. Even after repeated viewings I cannot recall an incident when she did something for others or sacrificed for her friends. She was deceptive, manipulative, utter selfish and insensitive, who used her friends for her gain whenever possible. Ross, on the other hand, was at receiving end of her tantrums almost throughout. His sacrifices to her, and others, were mostly unsaid. Yet he tops my list of least likable characters at number two by his continued love for most hateful person among all. His awkwardness, clumsiness and lack humour or looks didn’t help him either.

It’s more difficult for for me to rate rest of the characters so I will not attempt it. Joey’s boyish charm and uncomplicated outlook to life is what I’ve desired for long with no avail. His selfless help to others, bumbling exploits, and innocence wins heart everyday. Of course, there were moments of inconsistency in his intelligence level, but mostly he is person one would love to have as friend. Phoebe was Joey’s female counterpart. She was not as buffoon as Joey but was confident enough to do what she wanted without worrying what others would think of her. Chandler was perhaps closest to normal human male. He was considerate, understanding and caring yet careless, fun loving and enjoyable. An interesting quote I heard somewhere says that every man claims to be like Chandler, wants to be like Joey, but is actually like Ross.

Despite he general unpopularity, Monica is my favourite character. Her obsession with cleanliness aside, she was most the confident, successful and thoughtful ladies of the drama. She is also what I identify myself most with. Her clinical obsession with efficiency, punctuality and organization is what I am accused of by my friends too. Yet, she was also genuine friend in need.

I have not watched Friends in last one and an half year, mostly because I don’t want myself to bore with it. Though I don’t know if that is possible. My craze may not be as some of the peoples here but quotes and friends of Friends will remain in my heart forever as sweet memory and longing of separation of the best TV sitcom ever.

That's right, I stepped up! She's my friend and she needed help! If I had too, I'd pee on any one of you! ...More Quotes

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Treatise on F.R.I.E.N.D.S (1/2)

It all started rather innocently. In final years of my undergraduate study at IIT Madras, in 2001-03, personal computers had just started arriving on the campus scene. They were not as ubiquitous as they are these days but they were slowly becoming prized possessions for few. With computers in hostel, local network soon mushroomed allowing sharing of movies, serials, music, photos and much coveted male juice. I cannot point when or why but suddenly Friends was TV show everyone was watching. People raved and praised comical escapades of six youngsters in New York City. I cared to not to be sucked into this frenzy, partly because I didn’t own personal computer, but mostly because I didn’t wanted to distract myself from study by getting addicted to this new craze.

When I moved to United States in 2003, I had opportunity to watch this series purely by chance. We had TVs in common kitchens of our dorms and only channel that worked without hiccup was TBS. My limited understanding of American culture and accent limited opportunity to appreciate other soaps on TV. That these serials aired at 8pm which was about time we prepared and had our dinner made our encounter with Friends inevitable ritual. TBS used to run Friends, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond back to back in loop successively from 8pm to 11pm every day of week. I think within those two years of Master’s degree, I must have watched all seasons of Friends at least 2-3 times. In 2004, I witnessed sentimentality and emotions among students around me for airing of the last episode of Friends. I was still not that caught up that I missed what I now can say was a momentous opportunity.

When I moved to Los Angeles for job in 2005, more free, and more importantly alone, time made me acquire all ten seasons of Friends on my PC. I would pop one disk in my laptop when I come home while having dinner and watch 5-6 episodes in one go before I went to bed. This was time when I went berserk about my obsession, nay love, of Friends. I probably watched all 10 seasons made up of around 250 episodes of 22 minutes each about 8-9 times then. I became, and am still to date, crazy about this soap. I believe Friends to be the best sitcom ever created. I love the consistency of serial when humour doesn’t run dry from first episode to last unlike many other serials. I love relatively cleanliness of humour. I love them for respecting intelligence of their audience. I fell in love with characters and got to know them inside out by watching them over and over. I felt sorry when things went wrong. I cried when Friends ended. It is not often that I identify with characters of a TV drama but I longed to have their story continued. I detested being torn and thrown away from their lives. I also couldn’t help but not isolate six friends from their future appearances elsewhere. They had to be my loved characters, not some actors and actresses who could work elsewhere.

Friends has its share of crazy fans, specially in India. If two strangers meet, then they just need this common link to have loads of hearty conversation. In those 250 odd episodes I believe Friends covered practically every situation and emotion and many moment of my life can be linked to one where someone did something similar. What’s remarkable about this serial is that I never get tired of watching it and still laugh at right places even after knowing scenes by rote. I laugh when I not watching too by remembering scenes. This is not a usual feat to achieve. What this has also done is that I compare every sitcom with bar set at Friends, and as I said before, none have been able to match it.

...NEXT (Part 2) >>

60lb in 2 weeks

In an nondescript scene in Smart People (2008), a character puts a notice on trees saying “I lost 60 pounds in 2 weeks. Ask me how!” followed by contact information. This will surely work in Britain. When people come and ask, just charge them small fee, say 5 pound. And the panacea?

Lose the wallet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Now or forever?

This is addressed to anyone who has (digital) camera or camcorder or loves to use them often.

Consider this. You are going to witness first birthday of your first born. Joy in the air is contagious and your happiness knows no bound. Baby is at his cutest ever and wonder and innocence on his faces melts your heart. You don’t want to miss a moment of this occasion, now or forever. So, of course, you bring out your camcorder and start shooting. Now the problem, that anyone who has ever looked through 3 inches of LCD screen can tell, is that what you see on camera is just not what you see with your eyes. Ours eyes are surprisingly well suited to look over wide range of depth, width and colour which help us in enjoying a panoramic scene through direct and subconscious/sideways vision. There is more to seeing then visuals too for which I have a feeling but no scientific evidence. Experience of a moment is not just visual, but also made of energy of people around, noise in environment, subtle change in air which affects our whole feeling of moment. You would miss all that when you are shooting not only because equipment will not capture that but also because your attempts at perfect angle and shot will keep you too distracted to be able to absorb your surrounding and prevent your from active participation.

What you gain is memory stored for forever. What you lose is the making of memory, the perfect feeling of the moment. This post is ideated from picture from the left. I’ve had this feeling many a times, specially when I am recording stage performance or fireworks in the sky. Obvious solution is to have someone else do the shooting for you. This is not always possible at small family events and lacks control over what gets shot. Will paid hire or your friend find the drooling saliva of your baby as enchanting as you will? I see that more often than not people chose to record, and hence miss substantially, what they’ve come to see in the first place, an ironic situation indeed. But then memory is so short lived unless revisited. What is the solution? I too tend to shoot though I try to minimize my time behind the eye hole but there is always feeling of being left out. What is your take?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Time management

Chaffing in various gyaan on time management, what I’ve found most useful is simple realignment of priorities. Often times we work on wrong things because we either don’t know better or are simply lazy. There is no cure for laziness since as someone said laziness and impatience are cardinal sins from which all other sins originate. However putting all to-do items in the following matrix is best to force yourself to work on things that matter.

Important & Not Urgent
Important & Urgent
Not Important & Not Urgent
Not Important & Urgent

With this framework, it is very clear that we should work tasks from quadrants in order 1, 2, 4, 3 while we actually work in order 1, 4, 2, 3. Definition of important or unimportant is relative but you know difference in your heart. Studying or work is more important than reading or writing blogs, for example. Reading news is more important than reading movie reviews, and so on.

As with case with all words of wisdom, I wouldn’t not be writing this post if I were following my own rule. But then, as I’ve said earlier, you should not discount value of an idea from fallibility of its originator, for when did your poor sports record stopped you from criticizing Sachin?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vivah and Ek Vivah

Sooraj Barjatya of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun fame have given us Vivah two years ago, and encouraged by its success, Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi this year (what’s with different spelling?). Unlike popular verdict of people of my generation, I absolutely loved the first film and liked the second one. That my taste differed from others is no news, for I cannot understand what made Dhoom 2 super hit or Tango Charlie flop. I fell asleep watching Lord of the Rings — and didn’t like it when I forced myself to watch all three — and loved Harry Potter series (of books). Actually, we are all different yet same in the sense that each in our own mind can cite many examples where he cannot align his preferences with rest of the world in case of movies. This post is about Vivah and why I liked it.

To start with, lets stop the misinformation that these movies are regressive or conservative. They are what India actually is, beyond its glitter of night and under IT savvy facade. At least 95% of India is traditional in the sense that social mores, rituals and customs depicted in the movies are what actually happens on ground.

People have shown their disappointment with flawless characterization of hero and heroine and found saccharine sweetness unpalatable. That people didn’t like a girl who is obedient, shy, soft spoken, and virtuous; and a boy who is caring, patient, virtuous and generous; is signal about not just movie's characters. Cynicism in the world, also known as reality, has blinded our eyes so much that a breath of freshness and purity appears out of place and unacceptable. That we cannot believe that such nice people can exist is sad commentary on ourselves and our society. It is true that these types of character are rare but they are not impossible to find too. We must keep in mind that movies are after all fictional stories and with that perspective these are not unpalatable characters. Just like there can exists curel Gabbar Singh, so can Poonam and Prem.

What is more appealing to me is the use of Hindi in Hindi movie. It’s a pleasure to aural senses to hear people talking in everyday Hindi without sprinkling it with Hinglish, something practically every movie has abandoned. There was a time when opening credits would write movie title in Hindi first and then in English and Urdu. These days you see titles in English only, except in Vivah.

The best part about these movies, of course, is the music. Music has not appealed to public attuned to beats of rap, metal, bhagra and Hinglish lyrics. I find music in these two movies astonishingly refreshing. In day and age where “race saanson ki” and “just chill” are popular numbers, lyrics which actually make senses are like oasis in desert. In these movies, there are songs for almost any occasion. They have more songs in movie than they release in soundtracks and all are perfect for the context with beautiful lyrics. Sweet uneasy sensation of “do anjaane ajnabi” is plausible and so is sisterly teasing in “o jiji”. Where are relationships (other than that of lovers) celebrated in recent movies so respectfully and pleasantly? And who else is composing original lovable devotional music these days?

At some level it is disappointing to see these movies not make more money, because then even likes of Barjatya will understand that public doesn’t want decency and morality in media. It is one thing to complain about falling standards of ethics, which we all do, and it’s another thing to act on it, which we don’t do. Just like in politics and reality television, we will get what we want, not what we claim we want. If nothing else, these are good movies to reminisce for few hours the purity of human heart and greatness of family.

(This post also made me realize why shouldn’t I attempt writing a movie review. I would have expected from myself intelligent commentary, screen caps, discussion about specifics rather than broad overview, etc.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It (2/2)

...<< PREVIOUS (Part 1)

Rock World it lived in was very colourful. It eyed with envy lots of other matters around it. Everyone with different capabilities, doing different things, being in different form. How lovely it would be to form alliance with some of them, though that was hardly its own choice. Lots of things have to be right at the same time, plus other matter should also give importance to the proposal. As rock on Earth, it couldn’t have asked for better life. Born around merely 4.5 billion years ago, it found company from loneliness of space it was thrust upon, and found a home on this land.

Earth As it went round the Sun about 4.5 billionth time, it noticed again that Moon was further away from it. Every year, it seemed, that Moon moved about an inch away from it. Have I offended it lately, it wondered. Nothing really came to mind though, because, first, Moon has been drifting away anyway since they were together long time ago, and second, their brotherly-sisterly love is well documented in a country called India. Ah well, it’s only so much you can do when all you can do in life is go round and round around Sun and dance around your own axis. In last century or so, it also noticed some wobbling in her dance. May be I am forgetting it, it rationalized. But how could it, if it’s doing that everyday, literally, since its birth? Has mass at polar regions shifting toward center, making it fatter? Why would anyone not want it to dance, though it could definitely use some rest.

Solar System In southern thinly populated spiral arm of Milky Way galaxy, solar system went on to its routine running at 200km per second. It didn’t have a choice though, cause someone or something has always been pulling and pushing, and that others around it ran too. Perhaps that’s the way it is, it thought. At least that gave it variety of things to see and company of other solar systems. Being average guy in this place wasn’t much fun because everybody and their uncle kept pushing and hitting it, though it smiled knowingly that it got to live longer, five more billion years indeed. It just wished a little more warmth around it. Nearest friend being 4 light years away was not really best deal in galaxy, though it was proud of having possessed only known intelligent life in among its colleagues.

Milky Way Galaxy As it rotated on its center once every quarter billion years, it was very pleased with the work of its billions of stars. Complacency has not been its motto though. It knew what fate lies ahead as a galaxy. Indeed mere few billion years were between it and its impending collision of Andromeda cluster of galaxies. It didn’t want to run away, it just have to be prepared to die or reborn, and do it’s best to save as many of its solar systems as it can. Meanwhile it had to rush away from original point of Big Bang because no one knows why but there seems some mystical thing everyone is trying to outrun others for.

Universe No one knows courage of stepping into unknown better than it. From the very first instant it’s been stepping into unknown, fast and faster as it got confidence. Unknown it really was for there was no space and time where it marched, it carried them there. Vaguely aware that some destiny awaited it there somewhere, it rushed and pulled everything inside it, which was not really much work with mere weight of one hydrogen atom per cubic meter of space.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It (1/2)

Gluon It was really lonely and depressed. Even though it had others around it in very close vicinity, it felt alone. It wondered what would be world like outside? Life as gluon was not fun. All it did was to help keep quarks together with other gluons. And there were many of them doing exactly the same thing. It wondered about the purpose of existence. For as far back as it can remember, and far away memories can be very vague, but from as early as 14 billions years ago it’s been doing the same thing. Just lying with other gluons so that quarks stick together. One cannot call them really memories but it has vague feeling that moment of birth was very exciting time. It was lot hotter then, way hotter in fact, but life was happening then, unlike never ending monotonity of its current existence. There were many more type of elements all rushing fast and faster, as if they were running away from something. It was fun for a while until they got so far that it lost sight of them. Meanwhile it came along with its neighbours and has been with them since. It is not even sure now that these are its memories or imaginations of bored mind. It wondered if this has an end?

Quark Being surrounded by these sticky gluons was hardly its idea of existence but poor quark couldn’t do much. From as far back as it remembers, it’s been there with same set of gluons along with other quarks of its own kind closely packed in a small proton. It could sense that proton was important, and by analogy, there must be other protons around that, but what are they doing there and what’s point of all this anyway? It wondered where exactly is there in the first place? Its birth was in hot soup of early times and it’s been so cold and boring since then.

Proton “For the quintillionth time I say move out”, it shouted to its neighbour. It was miserable. What a life, to being shoved from and to keep shoving each side forever. It seems forever though it thought that it might have been about 10 billion years or so ago when it was ripped apart from its cousins in Hydrogen and Helium in a hot furnace soup in some far away star and forced to cohabit its current neighbours. It was cozy there, lonely but cozy. Since the very first moment it cannot seem to be at friendly terms with its neighbours. Though all of them had same history, that didn’t help in building rapport any more. All were pushovers but some were worse. It was ashamed that it’s own kind were worse actually. It could manage with neutrons somehow but it just repelled other protons. If not for weak and strong nuclear force of nature which kept it together, it would have escaped right away. What a pathetic life, indeed.

Nucleus “It must be heavenly up there”, it thought. That’s all it could do anyway, being lone nucleus in wide expanse forever, there was no one to talk to. Since its birth in that violent fusion event about 10 billions ago, it’s been alone ever. Except, of course, for continuous rumbling in its stomach. What on empty space is going on there? Still it gazed at those rapidly flying electrons in far horizon. They were never close to it, in fact, they were so far that it couldn’t even see them properly let alone talk to them. Yet, it felt a strong attraction to them, as if they are made for each other, each one perfectly complementing another. Dreams of romantic reunion were only thing that kept into it from going insane.

AtomExhausted, it sat and sighed. Trillionth time since its birth 6 billion years ago in some supernova. Another of those everyday ordeals, where some foreign atoms would come for merger proposal. Sometimes they would be nice, and it and its colleagues in molecule would happily collaborate and form new molecule altogether. It was fun to move since as different group they had different roles and different strengths and got to do different things. Other times, it would not be nice. Then it would fight to keep them at bay and maintain its own little molecule community. Thankfully for it, there was no provision for dying in its world. Though what was nice or not depended lot on mood it and its neighbours were in. And being forced to occupy a fixed position with respect to its neighbour, it knew them well by now. Mood depended on lots of thing like how hot the temperature is or how acidic the environment is, and somebody always seems to be tinkering with it, as if playing with them and observing their alliances. Today’s battle is won, but who knows who will be its molecule tomorrow? Only thing that was constant company was buzzing electrons and heavy lump of nucleus in its stomach.

...NEXT (Part 2) >>

Friday, January 2, 2009

K soaps are best on TV, comparatively

I don’t really watch TV. Thing is there is really nothing to watch for me on TV. Proliferation of channels has not resulted in proliferation of quality content. Lets see what’s on TV these days.

There are lots and lots of reality shows. As everyone knows reality is last thing they show. They cater to basic human instinct of humiliation and voyeurism and are vulgar, dramatic and unethical in their presentation. I am against these channels in principle and cannot tolerate artificial drama. The Truman Show (plot), The Condemned (plot) and Death Race (plot) are movies which I think depict very correctly the extent of evil these show perpetuate in society and to where we are heading unless stopped.

There are also many competitions and games which select talents for singing, dancing, humour, bravery, poetry, knowledge, etc. These are cousins of reality shows in the sense that they are overtly dramatical and focus least on talent but most on humiliation, public perception and charisma. Participants crying, fighting, slapping, and fawning are common — and one would suspect planted — occurrence. SMS voting in many of these shows have made them purely divisive and infantile.

There are also many of 24 hours news channels. What constitute news these days is not everyone’s cup of tea, least of all mine. Neither I am interested in celebrity gossip, nor in supernatural phenomenon, nor personal lives of others, nor in meaningless acts of many. Unless really emergency news happens, I get all my news from print or online newspaper. These channels dramatize and sensationalize news and blow issues out of proportion. Good old 30 minutes daily news of Doordarshan is best to know what really matters.

All of the above don’t respect intelligence of their viewers and that bugs me very much. What remains are sports, movies, music, and saas-bahu soap operas.

I am not into any sports except perhaps in cricket once in a blue moon or some really exciting Olympics events.

I do like movies but watching movies on TV is really uncomfortable since when you want to watch TV, movie may have already started. Furthermore, movies on TV have five minute long commercial breaks every fifteen minutes. Why do I tolerate all that when I can easily get/borrow/rent a DVD and watch movie on my computer at my convenience?

I love music videos too but I cannot handle incessant Hinglish immature-ish blabber of Disk Jokey. Compounding the pain is the fact that music videos are rarely shown in full and are shown often in irritating repeat mode. And commercial breaks are icing on the cake.

Saas-Bahu soaps are overtly unreal drama in their own right. For each 30 minute episode, only 20 minutes of content will be shown, rest being commercials. Of those 20 minutes, 2 minutes will show what happened in last episode, 2 minutes will show what to expect in next episode, and 15 minutes will be real story. Of those 15 minutes, flashbacks, frozen scenes, multiple zooms, thrice-repeat actions constitute half of screen time. Of my 30 minutes with TV, I see story worth 10 minutes because it has been overtly dramatized in the first place, and can be told in 5 minutes in tight editing. Even then, and it pains me to say this, these are least evil of all content on TV.

K soaps and perhaps occasional movie and music is what I can tolerate on TV, if I dare to sit and watch. Except of course, National Geographic, Discovery and History Channels which are gems in themselves. But not all stuff there is interesting either. Thus, I don’t really watch TV.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top posts of 2008

  1. Mirror cracking material
  2. History and psychology of clapping
  3. Adultery should be criminal offense
  4. Top Hindi movies of 2000s
  5. Alcohol as legalized drug

Tale of a New Year

Boston Common Park, 2003 Year 2004 was my first new year in United States. I had just arrived in this exotic land four months ago and was still under culture shock. I witnessed new year’s eve in Boston. It was quite interesting and wonderful experience. For the first time, which would happen again on American Independence Day on 4th of July but I didn’t know it yet, orderliness of city was shattered. There were people walking on streets, happy families in their colourful and funky costumes. Music was in the air, literally, and there were rock shows organized in Boston Common Park and in many places in the city. Town squares were decorated with fluttering lights and colourful flags. Ice sculptures adorned various points on the way. Intricately designed elaborate scenes depicted in ice enthralled the audience. Chilled wind of the night kept people in their warmest of clothes but that didn’t stop crowd from pouring in large number. This occasion was what I can describe as closest to Indian mela or fair. Smell of hot pretzels, popcorns and hotdogs (samosa-pakoda equivalent) permeated the ambience. Kids adorned magical hats and played noisy whistles. Ground was covered in litter of various kind. All in all everybody seems to be making merry. Boston Harbor, 2004As countdown began for the magical moment, people went into frenzy and at strike of 12…lips were locked. Well, fireworks started too but we weren’t looking at them.

I knew all well what to expect, yet sea of people in embrace and smooching simultaneously was too much for me to handle. I’ve had my occasional encounters with public display of affections in first four months, but intensity of this event was way too much. Yeah, that was pretty much the high point of my that night. I wished I could click pictures but basic decency prohibited me.

Personally I find concept of New Year arbitrary. Celebrating arbitrary moment in man made artificial concept of time and giving unusual importance to that instant of rotation of earth is amusing. I do, of course, realize the need for such interruptions in monotonous life. We can call them birthdays or new years, festivals or anniversaries, they are supposed to be symbolic. Yet, I can somehow more relate to them than to New Years. Yes, I know it's random, weird and doesn't make sense. Anyway, if you feel something special today, Happy New Year to you!

Edit 06/01/2010: Found this on a blog. It says pretty much what I said except in much more narcissist tone.
This whole New Year business is just another reaffirmation of the inherent nihilism of our existence. Suddenly whats important is the launch of a new set of an arbitrary number of days, at an arbitrary moment in time initially chosen by an arbitrary group of people, an arbitrary number of years ago.

Planning your own foreign trip, with Sri Lanka as example

Cross-published at This guide is about...