Thursday, April 27, 2006

My world this week

Wow! It feels great to be back in the thick of things. It is starting to seem more and more like I am one of those guest columnists that makes a contribution once in 6 months or so, the only difference being that I am a guest columnist in my own blog. How weird is that? Well, Now that I have wandered into this "zone", I think it would be impropriety on my part to just turn back and walk away. On that note, here goes...........

Last weekend, unlike most of my other weekends, was eventful. A bunch of friends and I drove to Kettering, OH for the A.R. Rahman concert. We were very excited and full of expectations and I am glad we(atleast I) were not disappointed. The concert was really good and although Vasundhara "Shakalaka Baby" Das was the only other singer, apart from ARR himself, it was truly amazing. Most of the orchestra, including the conductor, and singers belonged to a group called Global Rhythms, consisting of mostly white Americans and some ABCD'S and ABCC's. What I liked about the concert was , more than the performances themselves which were awesome, the commitment shown by these kids to learn and perform music totally alien to them. What I also liked about the concert was the wide assortment of eye-candy on display :). Yeah, Yeah. I know what you are thinking. Guys will be guys, no matter what. A great concert and pretty girls bedecked in great outfits. It is at times like these.........and other times that I feel life is beautiful. :)

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I am sure most of you must have already read about the precocious Indian-American author, Kaavya Vishwanathan, who was paid $500,000 for two books about an Indian-American girl, Opal Mehta, and her efforts to get into Harvard after being rejected by them for not having a social life. Kaavya herself, like the protoganist in her novel, is attending Harvard. Everything was hunky-dory until a couple of days ago when some readers pointed out that quite a few paragraphs in the just-released first part were strikingly similar to the text from a novel by another author. Kaavya apologized to the author publicly saying that she had inadvertently used the lines from the other author's book because, as a high school student, she was so impressed by the author's books that those lines were ingrained in her mind. Now, Kaavya is in the midst of a legal battle, which if she loses, could sabotage her chances of continuing at Harvard. I have seen the two texts in question and it deosn't seem like something done inadvertently. The lines are strikingly similar. Correct me if I am wrong, but how can someone read a book 2-3 years ago and remember exact lines from it? I've read that elephants have great memories and that they remember routes to waterholes that they frequented as youngsters. I guess this beats what even the elephants can do. I empathize with Kaavya in her current ordeal but as far as I see it, it is plagiarism. It is also in the news that the publishers of Kaavya's book have annulled their contract and aren't going to publish her second book. Well, for the sake of a budding writer's career, I sure hope things go downhill( in a positive way) from here for Kaavya.

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Apparently people in Los Angeles, unable to bear the rising gas prices, are resorting to an ingenious method - letting the fuel tanks run dry and breaking down on the freeway in an effort to get some free gas. It seems there are a few publicly-funded vehicles in LA that provide a gallon of free gas and a ride to the nearest gas station for those out of gas. Wow, I must say that is ingenious, although in a not-so-good way. I am pretty sure it must have been thought of by a desi or a chinese because only these two classes of people are capable of such extreme deviousness. :). I wish there were similar vehicles in Lexington :). On a related note, senators today agreed on a bill that would provide american taxpayers with $100 rebate checks towards gas. Now that's something worth salivating over, especially during this time of sky-rocketing gas prices.

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And finally, these days the only songs that are played in my car and at home are the ones from the yet-to-be-released tamizh movie, Godfather. Wow, the music is zimble awesome. "Innisai" by Naresh Iyer and Mathangi is melodious and soothing. Naresh iyer seems to be ARR's latest blue-eyed boy and man, he can sing well. But the best song of the album, according to me, is "Oh Oh ilamai..." by Aslam et al. It is simply an amazing song and the singers have done a great job of it. That's the song on my lips these days. The hardest part in the song was getting the "thithum thaam thaam thaam thiku......" piece and I am happy to say that I can sing it very well now. ARR, are you reading this? ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Its your life!

Sigh! Roger Federer just lost in the finals of the Masters cup in Shanghai and I, being a great fan of the game and an even greater admirer of the man, am naturally very disappointed to the point of sulking. What makes this loss even more painful is the fact that he was on the verge of creating history by winning the highest number of consecutive matches in the Open era. But alas! that was not to be. The law of averages finally caught up with him.

But why am I feeling disappointed? Did i lose the match? No. Did I fall short of creating history? No. Then why is it that I feel a sharp pain in my heart? I think it is because of my admiration for someone who has done things in a way no one has ever done it before, because each time he plays, I put myself in his shoes and his every loss is like a personal loss to me, because he is doing something I've always wanted to do but could not, whatever the reason. I've had and still have the same feeling each time India loses in a game of cricket or Anand loses in a game of chess.
But that's all it is - a feeling of disappointment which fades away in a few days and I am back to my original self until "my" next loss.

But there are people who take these sentiments to such an extreme level so as to cause harm to themselves or to the people surrounding them. There are instances where people have ended their lives or worse, caused public damage, just because the team (s)he supported lost or because his(her) idol faced a setback. One of my friends from high school destroyed the TV in his house when India lost in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. What I fail to understand is the reason behind such fanaticism. If they stop to think for a while before launching themselves into something stupid, they'd realize that its, after all a game, a single instance of failure, and that its not the end of the world. One's life is far too precious to be given up for such frivolity( as I see it). I hope people realize this soon enough so that we don't have to keep reading about such foolhardy behavior. For now though, I am still sulking and contemplating destroying my laptop........Just kidding :). Cheers.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Rest in Peace, my friend

A few days ago, I received a text message from my dad informing me about my best friend who was very sick. This was followed by another text message a few days later which carried the heart-breaking news that he had passed away. He was at the fag end of his life but I never expected this to happen this early. He was still strong and active when I last met him in January this year. Apparently, things started taking a turn for the worse the last month culminating in his death. I am talking about my canine companion of 12.5 years, Tommy.

Tommy was a pure breed German Shepherd. I still remember vividly that day of March, 1993 - the day he was brought to our house in Guntur by one of my dad's friends who was a dog-breeder. Tommy was just 25 days old when he yelped his way into our lives and our hearts. Even at that tender age, he was big and fluffy. He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen, a setiment shared by the others too. I was so taken by this furball that I persuaded my dad, who, at that point of time, had no real interest in animals, to keep him. But it was under the condition that my mother and I would take care of all his needs and that my dad would have no role to play, whatsoever, in his upbringing. No sooner than we let him into our house, he started to sink his tiny teeth into carpets, slippers, doormat - essentially anything he could lay his mouth on. He would play with us during the day and at night, we would leave him in our front room with a bowl of water and a bedsheet for him to lie on, just in case he felt cold. He would yelp all night and go to sleep only at about 4 or 5 AM. We would wake up in the morning only to find this angelic thing sleeping peacefully in a pool of water - he would have emptied the contents of the bowl on the floor and sleep in it. As days turned into months and months turned into years, he grew into a big, strong and handsome dog. Our neighbors were surprised at how this dog could be so big, strong and ferocious on a vegetarian diet(yes, you read it right. He was raised on a veggie diet). One other big transformation that Tommy precipitated was a change in my dad's attitude towards pets. While, previously, he used to be indifferent to our pets(we had a few stray cats we used to feed, which, in time, became our resident pets), he would bathe and feed Tommy. All who knew my dad were surprised at this big change(ofcourse, it was for the better).

After a few years, all of us moved to Hyderabad owing to my dad's transfer. Our house in Hyderabad was on the second floor and all we had for Tommy to run around was a balcony in front of the house(and the house ofcourse). So I took it upon me to walk him twice very day, once in the morning and once at night. I was a strong boy but even i had difficulty, initially, controlling him on our walks. I was amazed at the power he could generate with just his neck. There have even been instances when I would take him for a walk while running a temperature of 102 F, just because he had to do "it". All I had to say was "veleele polaamaa?" and he would jump around because he knew that phrase meant we were ready for his walk. My dad would buy him cake and samosas from the bakery(I don't remember my dad ever being so doting on us. But I am not complaining :-)) and he would finish them with great relish. During the hot summer nights, my dad would turn the air-cooler on and call out to Tommy, "Tommy, cooler pottirukken, vandu paduthukko"(Tommy, I've turned the cooler on. Come and lie down). Tommy would come running and curl up at the foot of out cot, in front of the cooler, enjoying the cool air. He was so ferocious(he used to charge at our gate when anyone neared it) that often people would call out to us from the road just to make sure he was on leash and tied up. He was very famous in our neighborhood because of his ferocity and antics. Our time at Hyderabad was awesome and then I left for the US, my mom was diagnozed with carcinoma of the breast, my dad retired and they moved to Trivandrum, my dad's native place. That was when Tommy's life started going downhill :-(.

My parents' frequent visits to Kochi for my mom's treatment meant he would be left in a dog care center for long periods of time and that was when he started feeling the agony of separation and the not-very-good treatment meted out at the care center. My mom would feel sorry for him and often blame herself(and her ailment) for his condition. We tried to find him a good home so that he wouldn't have to endure the stress anymore but none was willing to adopt a big and old dog(it was almost 12 years old then). And then the event we had all been dreading happened - my mom finally succumbed to cancer in January this year and my dad was alone in TVM and he was getting older(he is 65) and he couldn't take care of Tommy all by himself. So we decided to send Tommy off to Hyderabad again to a friend of ours. We knew he would good care of Tommy and we could rest assured he was being cared for well. But lately he started getting dull and sleepy and was diagnozed with having a liver ailment. We were contemplating the kind of treatment for him when the worst happened. He had left for the heavenly abode. I felt as if i had lost a part of me and what made it all the more miserable was the fact that I could do nothing for him in his last days being 10000 miles away. Well, as they say,"All good things come to an end" and so did my friend Tommy. May your soul rest in peace, my loyal friend.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Movie Tag answered

This is in response to KP's tag about movies I have seen recently. Well, here is the list of movies I have seen in the past few months.

Latest movie : Anniyan(Tamil). Liked it a lot, especially the songs and Vikram's action, not to mention Vivek's comedy. Can't wait to watch it again.

Cinderella man - Nice movie about the pugilist, James Braddock. Nice performance by Russell Crowe in the lead and Renee Zellweger as his wife.

Morning Raaga - Good movie with the story revolving around a carnatic singer and the way she puts the demons of her past to rest. Wonderful songs composed by Amit Kheri and Mani Sharma and nice performances by all the actors, especially Shabana Azmi. Definitely worth a watch.

Anand(Telugu) - Nice, clean love story. A feel-good movie. Pretty heroine :-).

Book tag answered

I was tagged by Prabhu a few days ago to list some books and novels I have read in my short life so far of 27 years. I used to be an avid reader when I was young and the habit gradually eroded as I got older(why?) and now, all I read is the news on the internet and some Reader's Digest. But I was never a big fan of fiction. It was only because my brother had a voracious appetite for books(still does) that I came in touch with a few of them. Well, without further ado, lemme list the books I have read.

Comics(when young):
Tinkle, Chandamama, Jataka tales, Chacha Chowdary comics, Tintin comics, Amar Chitra Katha, Batman, Superman, Tarzan.

The Blue Carbuncle, Hound of the Baskervilles- Arthur Conan Doyle

Where Eagles Dare - Alistair MacLean

Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie.

The Hardy Boys novels.

The Four Faces - Han Suyin

Russia House, Tailor of Panama - John LeCarre

The Firm, Pelican brief - John Grisham

Twenty thousand Leagues under the Sea, Around the World in 80 days - Jules Verne

Time Machine - H.G. Wells

The Man in the Iron Mask, The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

Moby Dick - Herman Melville.

The Other Side of Midnight - Sidney Sheldon.

I thought long and hard to see if there was anything I had left off but.... nay. That's it. All these books were read before I came to the US to do my MS. These days, my favorite past-time seems to be whiling away my time browsing the internet. Hopefully I'll get back to my reading habits soon.

Book(s) on my to-read list : The much-hyped "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. Wanna see for myself what the brouhaha is all about.
Signing off, Ciao.

Tag #1 answered

Tagging seems to be the latest fad in the blogosphere these days. Everyone seems to be tagging everyone else and fortunately or unfortunately, I wasn't left out of it. This is the first of three tags against me, by Dinesh. He tagged me a few days ago and here I am with my answers.

1. Favorite fellow blogger and why?

Uttandaraman because of his ability to write about day-to-day issues
that have more practical relevance in our lives. It also helps that he has a wonderful writing style with nice choice of words.

2. Your favorite person/people in life.(This doesn't include my immediate family)

Stephen Hawking - World famous astro-physicist and a quadruplegic. I admire the fact that he did not let his severe handicap come in the way of realizing his dreams.

Mother Teresa - Who doesn't know her? Spent her entire life serving the poor and the suffering without regard for her own health or aspirations.

3. If you could be one person of the opposite sex, who would it be and why?

Mother Teresa, again, for the reasons mentioned above.

4. If you could be in a book/music band/movie, what would you be in ?

I would be in a movie. That would give me an opportunity to give people a good time(bad time?) and make them forget everything else for a while...atleast.

5. If you were to be marooned in an island and you could pick one friend to go with you, who would it be ?

Why would i wanna pick a friend to be marooned with me? If I still had to pick someone, I'd pick Dinesh. That way, atleast the world would be better off :-). On a serious note, it is in times that like those that I would crave solitude. So wouldn't pick anyone to go with me. Just me and my memories.

The questions were prepared by Dinesh. So please don't hold me responsible if you think they are crappy :).

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Weekends of fun

I am a lazy person by nature but lately, my laziness has acquired frightening proportions. This has largely been responsible for the inactivity in my blog for the past couple of weeks. As my friend Raman puts it, I have become an "insistent" blogger - one who blogs on insistence from others, from being a consistent blogger. The insistence, or should I say persistence, this time, came from Raman himself. He has been prodding me for the past few days to write and he being one of my consistent readers, I acceded to his persistence.

My past couple of weekends have been chock-full of activity with the weekend before last being Memorial day long weekend. One of my friends from undergrad is getting hitched on the 12th of this month and so K and I felt it was the right opportunity to visit him one last time before he was expelled from the elite bachelors' club. So we set out on Friday(27th May) evening, enjoying nature's bounty in the mountains of West Virginia along the way, to reach Raleigh, NC just shy of midnight, in time for a sumptuous meal of chana masala and rasam, courtesy of my friend, P. After the usual friendly banters, pleasantries and a good meal, we watched a telugu movie "Anand". A nice clean love story. It was around 3 AM when we went to bed and as we had nothing planned the next day, we were happy in the knowledge that we could afford to sleep well. As expected, "Good morning" the next day for us was around noon. We got ready in about an hour and decided to go jet-skiing in a nearby lake ,Lake Jordan. But on getting there, after a drive through Reasearch Triangle Park, we found out, much to our chagrin, that there was no jet-skiing there. The girl in charge of the rentals was a hottie and we weren't ready to leave just yet. So we decided to do the next best thing which was to rent a motor boat. Well, it turned out that all the motor boats were booked for that day and the next, and so we had to book one for 8 AM Monday, the day of our return. On our way back, we stopped at a golf driving range and decided to try our driving skills. We weren't bad but the unanimous decision was that I was the one who was most likely to give Tiger Woods a run for his money, ain't it so, guys?

Our next stop was Durham, the home of the Duke Blue Devils. We visited the beautiful Duke chapel built in the Gothic style and the serene Sarah P. Duke Botanical Gardens. All this hard work whetted our appetite and off we went to the nearest Indian restaurant. K (who has an eye for cuties) was eyeing a pretty lady in the restaurant and going ga-ga over her and the very next moment he realized she was a mother of two. P and I burst out laughing, consoled poor K and went on with our dinner. After a great dinner, we headed home, totally pooped out, and settled on the sofas to watch "My brother....Nikhil". We had decided that day that we'd be leaving early the next morning for Asheville, a good 3 hrs drive, for some white water rafting and trekking. But a late nighter did not bode well for our Asheville trip. It was hardly surprising then, that when I woke K and P the next morning at 7:30, I got a "screw Asheville, let's get some sleep, dude" for a reply. I was only too happy to go back to dreamland. And so we all woke up around 12:30 PM, got dressed, went to an entertainment center and did some go-karting, mini-golfing and some baseball hits. It was then I realized I was a natural at baseball and contemplated taking it up full-time. But then the thought of putting A-Rod and Barry Bonds out of work prevented me from doing so. What a player the world has missed(sigh)!!. Next on the agenda was a movie on Coral reefs at the local Imax theater and rounded off the evening with a nice biryani take-out and the movie "Lagaan". I have watched this movie 50 times and I know most of the dialogues by heart but it captivates me even today. We woke up early next morning and kept our appointment with the hottie at Lake Jordan. We rented a nice 4-seater motor boat and cruised on the lake for about 3 hrs taking turns driving it. It totally rocked except for a minor hiccup when P drove too much into the shallows and the rotor got stuck in the mud. We had paddle our way out of it. This was followed by lunch and the trip back to Lexington. That fun trip took care of the entire long weekend.

This Saturday was a day at the movies. A couple of my friends and I watched the 'Cinderella Man', the first time in years that I paid $6.75 to watch a movie. The movie was good, not great. Sunday was a day of great fun with a bunch of friends at Paramount King's Island in Mason just outside Cincinnati. I somehow can't get enough of thrill rides, no matter how many times I go on them. At the end of a very long and fun-filled day, I was delighted to discover a couple of friends in our gang who were just as crazy as I was about thrill rides and were willing to risk the ire of the entire gang to go on one last ride with me, the 'Extreme skyflyer'. This is as close as you will ever get to bungee-jumping in this part of the world. A fitting finale to an adrenalin-pumping day.

That was an account of my past two weekends.

PS: For those unaware of this fact, K and I have been friends since undergrad.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Are we heading towards the Armageddon?

Sorry folks, for the mini hiatus I had taken. It was motivated partly by the fact that it was getting kinda busy at work and more so by the fact that I couldn't come up with anything interesting worth writing about.

I was reading an article on MSNBC.com today about the massive deforestation taking place in the Amazon rainforests. The article reveals a startling statistic that about 10,000 square miles of the rainforest had vanished in the 12 months ending August 2004 and that it was the second worst ever. The Amazon forests cover an area of approximately 1.6 million square miles and even if we conservatively assume that the deforestation continued at the same rate, it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that the forests would be wiped out completely in about 150 years. Mind you, this timeframe is based on a very conservative estimate. It could be way less than that, maybe even in your lifetime.

Now, some of you might be tempted to wonder what all this brouhaha is about a few trees being cut. My friends, a lot of us seem to have no idea how significant an impact the Amazon rainforests have on the weather patterns of the planet we call home. The rainforests are referred to as the "lungs" of the planet because the millions of trees in the forest absorb massive amounts of Carbon-di-oxide and release an equal amount of oxygen so vital for our existence. Imagine what would happen if there were no forests . With no trees to absorb the carbon-di-oxide we release, each breath we take would only take us closer to death. Aside from this, with no trees, there would be frequent flooding and land erosion which would deplete the land of precious top-soil. The lack of trees would result in global warming which would melt the polar icecaps resulting in an increse in sea-level and eventually drowning us all. Just yesterday, I was watching a program on TV in which the scientists said that there had been an increase in global warming lately that a huge glacier in Greenland had begun to melt and that if all the glaciers in Greenland were to melt, the sea level would rise by as much as 20 feet.

The Amazon rainforests are also home to a third of the world's plant and animal species and scientists speculate that there could be many more species waiting to be discovered. Each tree we cut could lead to yet another species becoming extinct. What people, in their endless quest for money or livelihood, don't seem to realize is that what they are doing to the forests is akin to a woodcutter cutting the very branch he sits on. Unless something is done, and done soon, I think we are all heading towards the Armageddon and heading there in a hurry.

The agnostic that I am , I still can't help remembering Vyaasaraaya's kannada lyrics
"Krishna nee begane baaro" meaning 'Krishna, come hither soon".

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Amma, I love you

Uyirum neeyae udalum neeyae uravum neeyae thaayae than
udalil sumandhu uyirai pagirthu uruvam tharuvaay neeyae
un kannil vazhiyum oru thuli poadhum kadalum muzhugum thaayae
un kaaladi mattum tharuvaay thaayae sorggam endbadhu poyyae

vinnai padaiththaan mannaip padaiththaan
kaatrum mazhaiyum oliyum padaiththaan
bhoomikku adhanaal nimmadhi illai
saami thaviththaan thaayaip padaiththaan


This song, from the movie 'Pavithra', beautifully and tersely penned by Vairamuthu, amazingly composed by A.R. Rahman and soulfully rendered by Unnikrishnan, is one of my favorite songs and without an iota of doubt, my favorite song celebrating God's greatest creation - Mother. I am invariably moved to tears each time I hear this song. It elicits the ecumenical truth about mothers and the sacrifices they make for their children. Today, 8th MAY 2005, is celebrated as Mother's day. Not that anyone would forget their moms but let us all take this opportunity, nonetheless, to express our love and gratitude to our moms for the sacrifices they have made to help us achieve what we have achieved today.

Amma, You were the best mother any son could have and if there is such a thing as a next life, I'd like to reborn to you. You were the most gentle, caring, affectionate and compassionate person I've ever known. My love of music and animals are just a couple of the many things I inherited from you. The days when you and I, as a team, would beat appa and anna in carrom are still vivid in my memory. I still remember the days when you would take anna(brother) and I to Bruce Lee movies because appa was not interested in movies. You were my closest friend, guide and companion. I could discuss anything under the sun with you, even stuff that boys find awkward discussing with their moms. The great cook that you were, I knew I could always count on you to have piping hot samosas and cutlets ready when I arrived from college, tired after a long day of loitering in the canteen. Etched in my memory are the days when you took care of appa and I, when both of us had chicken-pox simultaneously, day and night, without any concern for your own health. These are only a few of the countless instances of sacrifices you've made for us. I don't know if I have said this enough but I LOVE YOU AND I MISS YOU. I love you more than anything in this world and I know you are always with me, watching over me, wherever you are. I wouldn't be half the man I am today if it weren't for you and for this, I owe you my life.

All that I am or ever shall hope to be, I owe to my loving angel mother. God Bless her - Abraham Lincoln

PS:
1. My dear friend, Raman, had written a wonderful article celebrating mothers on May 5th. His blogspot can be reached by following the "Uttandi's blog" link on this page.

2. A nice english translation of the song mentioned(for non-tamil speaking readers) would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.