Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sun race

It's 6.00 a.m. at Philadelphia International, and I'm headed west to Chicago. Its still pitch dark outside. I think of the prospect of gaining an hour on touching down at O'Hare. It would certainly be a treat if all journeys would gift me an hour of time, if not more.

The plane races off the wet runway, into the overcast darkness. Small showers couldn't dampen the spirit of this steel bird. I settle down comfortably beside my window, carefully chosen so that I can observe my rival clearly, as I cruise above the clouds. This is a race with time itself. I had a head start and am bent on winning.

The bird gains altitude, and pierces on. Its still dark all around. An hour on, I can see a glint of light behind me. The great giant is peeping up from behind the horizon. At Philly he's already a hero. But he still has to catch me. I gain full speed and dodge through the wisps, careful not to slice them up with my wings. They are slowing down my rival after all.

With a final flourish I touch down at O'Hare eager to look back at him, and see how he's faring. I have beaten him by minutes, and he reaches down to shake hands. I smile back. He has to go now. He has a thousand more races to run.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Spinning the wheels... in the city of fortune

Getting to Atlantic city was fun. Buy a round trip at Greyhound, and you get all your money back as soon as you step into casino land... Hilton was our first victim; or should I say we were Hilton's first victims!

Arriving at the Hilton..

Elegant and luxurious...

Its interesting to note how the casinos cleverly pay you to get there, and shave you off your savings!

Donald Trump's weird makeover of the Taj...

You could light a small city with all this energy..

The blinding extravagance that is the casino hall..

Spinning the wheel at the American roulette.. the extra "00" improves the Casino's chances of a win.

Strong gusts from the Atlantic ocean nearly blow us away..

Full of awe at the Atlantic at 5 am..

Some fish chilling out early morning... wondering if they'd live to see the light of tomorrow..

A distant giant.. the Borgata. A new casino, to suck away old money...

Dawn in a city that makes money...24X7..

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fall for Philly..

The fall colors are rioting everywhere now. Red and orange are ruling the roost. The squirrels usually curious and friendly, are now busily piling up acorns and nuts for winter.

The days are cool and almost misty despite the bright sun. Strong gusts help the temperature dip steadily. Starting from when I landed here in summer, I have felt Nature showing me the magic she can work in a gentle lady like manner.

Soon I will be out of Fall and all ready to welcome winterrrrr....

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Gentle reminders everyday..

People, its a bit weird but many things around here remind me of my home country. As much as it might come across as being home sick, I am not.

Consider these facts:

  • My neighbours house has a huge stained glass window with a colourful 'Om' painted on it.. the Sanskrit letter version.
  • A lady takes a walk every morning wearing bright red and orange salwar kameez. She's African-American.
  • The 2 nearest buffet restaurants to my place are Sitar, and New Delhi.
  • Today I saw a scooter parked in the street leading to school. From behind I assumed it must be an Italian vespa (which are pretty common), but still I was not convinced so I looked closer in the front. It was a Bajaj Chetak.
  • Everytime I enter the library, the security guy..a Black American who checks my ID looks at me and says "toomar naam kayeha?" I smile at him and correct him "Tumhara naam kya he" .. He is learning 'Heendi', cos it's his dream to save enough money and visit India one day. Last week I left him with a sheet of paper, with 2 simple sentences in hindi, and their translation in english.. I told him I'd write a new line everytime i drop by...he was thrilled.
  • There is a Russian looking couple near campus. They both wear pagree's and silk robes and the guy even sports a Sardar beard. Wonder if they visited India recently and decided to convert.
  • Tomorrow (23rd) is the Great Festival of India in Philly.. many rathas of Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subhadra will be paraded on streets along with dancing and food.....see this
BTW, here are some pictures of Philly.. in and around home.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A weekend at NYC

It does seem that a certain post is missing in between. This of course is how I got to Philly and my first experiences. But then I feel like putting up pictures of my long weekend at NJ and NYC.

hmm... i already seem to have lost interest... so just let me be.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Made in India

It always puzzled me when people went out of India. They never seemed to go away. Initially there would be the endless contacting of other Indians 'abroad'. Information collection goes to such heights, I know people who know a lot about a hundred countries without as much as a single stamp in their passport. Traveling without leaving home.

Now sadly, and somewhat self-reassuringly, I find myself in the same spot. Leaving the country. But am I going away? No! I have a piece of everything only we can know and understand.

Such as this,

and this..

or maybe this.

Sometimes, I think where would be the time to use all this Indian-ness. But who cares? As long as the scene around speaks even a mustard grain's worth (there I go again) of homeliness...a thousand miles away is so far and yet may feel so near.

My friend's mother told me last week "Do you know Togree bELe (Tur gram) is going out of stock in the US!". This news could not have been more reliable even if the US Agri Department had personally phoned to tell me. But there it was. I had to do something. So I ask what I needed to do.

"Simple, take 20 kilos with you. Three of our neighbours left last week and did the same. You would not want to drive 25 miles, stand in a 3 hour queue and manage to buy only 3 kilos of Tur there would you!?"

Ok, now I am really wondering how many tons of Togree, rice, jeera and methi, strainers and shaavige presses are being carried by a Boeing 777 leaving Bangalore at this moment.

Are we grateful enough to the chaps at Homeland Security at the 'Foreign' country for letting us whisk through our entire existences hidden in 50 kilos of jam packed trolleys? Maybe we should all get the customs officers a bottle of Hogplum pickle the next time we go. Maybe even a kilo of Togree.

The Eagles must have had India in mind when they crooned:
"You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave..."!

I'm off now; for my kaapi is waiting..

Monday, May 22, 2006

Internet God?

Undoubdtedly, thousands have pondered this after the Internet age started booming. Could the Internet be a metaphor for God? A computer, like a human, is capable of a thousand things; and when hooked onto the Internet, sees a tremendous gain in collective intelligence, wisdom and experience. Much like I do when I connect to my eternal higher self during times of absolute silence and calm (I'm pretending not to have hinted at any morning ritual if you just imagined one).

So before I end up sounding like the likes of Thomas Friedman, here's an un-spiritual, un-holy, matter-of-fact collection of the Internet's biography.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Titanic: Two the surface

Watch the preview of the sequel to Titanic.

Titanic: Two the surface
Made by Derek Johnson

(I'll let you do all the Googling, so you can appreciate it at your own pace).
Hahaha. This video just made my day.

If the embed doesnt play, see this link.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A hot night with thunderbolt madness.

Phew.. the summer is raging here in Bengalooru, and the showers are showing mercy every once in a couple of days. The temperature has been hovering around the 35 degree mark, and it's very very humid. Monday night was so hot, I was sitting half naked in my room with the fan running at the maximum speed the motor could manage, the windows and doors were open, but I was dripping buckets.

Yesternight was something different though. The air cooled down at around 8pm, and much expected showers burst down. By 9 the winds were packing a mean punch, flinging windows shut, and reportedly "knocked down several trees in Bangalore".
The dark sky showed unusually persistent lightning, with high frequency in some areas, and brilliant episodes at others.

I managed to capture a few streaks with a Finepix E550. Manual settings with aperture at F2.8 (biggest available on this), and shutter speed at half a second. I chose continuous shoot mode with last 4 pictures to be saved.

A lone streak

Some intense action

The leader of this bolt is the last place you would want to be.

Today's paper reported that a tree in Rajajinagar (nearby) broke into fire after a solid strike.. hehe Amma Nature sure knows how to balance hot and cool!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Nothing but political wind; this.

There are fanatics, and there are more fanatics. Some actually make sense, the others badly want to make some sense even when they know its non-sense. Environment activists have long been sensible and whole hearted supporters of renewable energy practices like wind farms and other biofuels. The logic behind this being that the overall pollution caused by constructing wind farms is sizeably lesser than when opting wholly for conventional sources.

Wind turbines at the Department of Energy's labs in Texas.

A new breed of 'environ-friends' are cropping up trying to mow down the efforts of stalwarts in this field like those of Denmark who have shown the world what a breeze can do. These self-empowered anti wind groups (like Stop Ill Wind) have had a well established history in their efforts to stop other non-conventional power sources like nuclear power plants from proliferating, and have successfully lynched the chances of setting up of stations which supply liquid natural gas. Agreed that the nuclear plants had a ominous shade to it all due to the 'nuke' in it, but havent the last 2 decades shown the productive wonders that a responsible use of fissile can do?

Now the anti-winders have worked hard in the eastern North America and joined hands with real estate developers and activists to bring the axe to new wind projects. The pains they take to bring out why wind could be dangerous are simply awe-inspiring. Blades killing bats? Sound pollution by rotor hum? Give me a break, more bats are probably killed by cell phone tower emission, and why not try stopping metal concerts altogether?? That would make the world more bearable!

And if they are worried about wind towers marring the scenery, in my opinion, Las Vegas looked much better as an empty desert in the 1900's than it does now with unsightly towers and glitzy water fountains. They would be doing a greater good if they worked on the 'wind people's side, pooled in their criticism and suggestions, and thereby help standardise and improve the whole practise of building wind farms.

It's very clear that guided political motives want to ensure constant demands for oil and coal. Today alternative energy is 4% of the total supply, and they aim to see to it that it doesnt improve, lest it pose a threat to the world's No.1 business - Power. Let's see what they have to say when Sweden hits its target of becoming the world's first oil-free economy within 2020.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Acrobatics on a rocky mountain. (No safety nets attached)

They say lots can happen over coffee. But over chitra anna and curd rice?? This was Sandeep’s mom’s picnic gift to us, as we set out on last Sunday morning to Saavan durga. We knew it was just about an hour’s journey, so we set out well after sunrise. We had on board one doc, 4 IT professionals, and an unemployed youth all set out to kick away the weekend inertia.

Some history:

Saavan durga near Maagadi (around 40 km west of BengaLooru) is one of the historic hill forts of Karnataka. There are many such stone marvels at Nandi hills, Chitradurga, Madhugiri, PaavagaDa of Tumkur, Kavaledurga of Shivamogga.

The Cholas had ruled Maagadi during the 10th and 11th centuries C.E., and had built a town there called Thirumalai in 1139 C.E. In fact the Ranganatha temple there was hailed as the Paschima Thirupathi (Thirupathi of the West).

After the Hoysalas succeeded the Cholas, they added Magadi to the Vijayanagara Empire, and much later Immadi Kempe Gowda (Kempe Gowda the Second) expanded this place by building a palace, the Someshwara temple and of course the hill fortress on the top of the monolith mountain in 1627 C.E. It’s believed that his status of being a Saamanta raaya (tributary chief) of that province gave the name Saamantaraayana Durga to his fortress. Centuries of mispronunciation have rendered it Saavana Durga today.

Back to the future:

Vishwas the doc, Hoba, Nats, Ramp, Sandy and I squished our bags into the car, much the same way we squished ourselves into it too. If you have been counting the heads, it should be quite clear how we all managed it, the car being Sandy’s Santro. It’s best left to your vivid imagination!We took the Magadi highway, cruised beside the TippagonDana haLLi tank (from where Bengalooru used to get most of its drinking water before Cauvery came in). The road at places felt like we were on camel back, but we could ignore it thanks to our Bangalore upbringing. You can get to see some cool spots after T.G. Halli where the traffic is minimal and the narrow road is all yours for the jaywalk.

We parked for breakfast and this is where the chitra anna kicked in. Post breakfast-cum-glucose-shot, we were all geared up for the big climb. Parking in front of the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha dEvasthaana was a good thing, as we could get a peek at the guDi before the uphill task. Coming to think of it in retrospect, it's very strategically placed near the foothills of the mountain, and in that way, as per someone's dark humour, was a boon for unfortunate people who fell off the cliff at one particularly slippery point. Their last rites could be effortlessly completed.

At the beginning, the rock just stood in our faces, with a sharp 60o inclination. I wasnt pretty sure whether this was the right way, but Sandy was leading, and he had done this twice. Ramp and Nats had a mind of their own and decided to take a slightly devious route, and didnt find it any easier! You must have seen that in trailer.

Soon the situation was taken care of as we found arrow marks painted on rocks indicating the 'right' trail. Now try this fact, ImmaDi Kempe Gowda used to take this well worn route to get to his fortress, on horseback! I have to give it to that gutsy animal which had gallop up and (worse) downhill carrying a well built man. Considering that even this trail had some decent - hold your horses- 80o inclinations (our minds were reeling angles!), imagining how the tougher routes could be. The men of history had even carved out small horse shoe shaped niches in the rock, for the stallion's foothold. But it was sheer thrill holding on to ledges, and heaving ourselves across building sized rocks. Small water breaks at every stage were a treat.

The view around the hills just got better and better. We found the fort in the final leg, obviously in a decrepit and unmaintained condition. Atop the peak was an imposing statue of the Basava bull, staring stoicly into the kingdom below. I could imagine ghost riders galloping up the ledges, as if they were riding plain ground; soldiers watching over the fortress with greased and ready archers hidden behind the brick walls; and daring climbers hanging on to their dear chamelons and dear lives.

It was all a walk back into the past, and as I look back, and wonder how much the city of Magadi treasured their city, as the citizens and soldiers fought against the British attack in the late 18th Century. The bloodshed and gore that the mountain witnessed is evident in the the grave sobriquet it earned; Saavina Durga.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Tirupati of the West: The rocking place.

What's in a monolithic mountain if you can't climb it on all fours?
What's in the great Kempe Gowda's 1200 mt high granite fort, if you arent guts enough to parasail off the peak?
What's in Saamantharaayana durga, if you never even heard of this Magadi Hill which was the Tirumalai of the West?

Coming soon more on Samantharaayana Durga (Spoiler alert: Also Saavana durga)
Watch the trailer here...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A journey from freedom to liberation: Mukta

T. N. Seetharam's much followed teleserial Mukta's title song Mukta.

ದೂರದಿಂದಲೆ ಜೀವ ಹಿಂಡುತಿದೆ ಕಾಣದೊಂದು ಹಸ್ತ
ಆದೇವೆ ಬಂಧ ಮುಕ್ತ |
ದೂರದಿಂದಲೆ ಜೀವ ಹಿಂಡುತಿದೆ ಕಾಣದೊಂದು ಹಸ್ತ
ಆದೇವೆ ಬಂಧ ಮುಕ್ತ ||

ಕಾರು ಮೋಡ ಮಳೆಯಾಗಿ ಸುರಿದಾಗ ಕಣ್ಣ ಹನಿಗೆ ಮುಕ್ತಿ..
ಮರದ ಹಕ್ಕಿ ಮರಿ ರೆಕ್ಕೆ ಬೀಸಿದರೆ, ಅದರ ಗರಿಗೆ ಮುಕ್ತಿ |
ಎದೆಯ ನೋವು ಹಾಡಾಗಿ ಹೊಮ್ಮಿದರೆ, ಭಾವಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದ ಮುಕ್ತಿ...
ಎಂದು ಆದೇವು ನಾವು ಮುಕ್ತ ಮುಕ್ತ ಮುಕ್ತ ||

ಏರು ನದಿಗೆ ಇದಿರಾಗಿ ಈಜಿ ದಡ ಸೇರಬಹುದೆ ಜೀವ?
ದಾಟಿ ಈ ಪ್ರವಾಹ? |
ತಾನು ಬೆಂದು ತಿಳಿ ಬೆಳಕ ಬೀರುತಿದೆ ಒಂದು ಇರುಳ ದೀಪ,
ನಿಶ್ಚಯದ ಮೂರ್ತ ರೂಪ..||

ಮೊಗ್ಗಿನಿಂದ ಸೆರೆ ಒಡೆದ ಗಂಧ ಹೂವಿಂದ ದೂರ ದೂರ,
ಎಲ್ಲುಂಟು ಆಚೆ ತೀರ
ಮೊಗ್ಗಿನಿಂದ ಸೆರೆ ಒಡೆದ ಗಂಧ ಹೂವಿಂದ ದೂರ ದೂರ,
ಎಲ್ಲುಂಟು ಆಚೆ ತೀರ

ಕಾರುಮೋಡ ಮಳೆಯಾಗಿ ಸುರಿದಾಗ ಕಣ್ಣ ಹನಿಗೆ ಮುಕ್ತಿ...
ಮರದ ಹಕ್ಕಿ ಮರಿ ರೆಕ್ಕೆ ಬೀಸಿದರೆ, ಅದರ ಗರಿಗೆ ಮುಕ್ತಿ...|
ಎದೆಯ ನೋವು ಹಾಡಾಗಿ ಹೊಮ್ಮಿದರೆ, ಭಾವಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದ ಮುಕ್ತಿ...
ಎಂದು ಆದೇವು ನಾವು ಮುಕ್ತ ಮುಕ್ತ ಮುಕ್ತ....||

You can download this beautiful song at Pratap's page

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Too much is too bad.

Well c'mon people, but this is getting just too much. There were the newspapers, and then TV, then satellite, and there's Google now. I mean, isnt there an end to how much information you can have at your finger tips?

The day is not going to be far when people are going to search for the meaning of their lives on the Information giant that Google is. "I am feeling lucky?" is not going to help them!

Fortunately there is a way to escape from all this Information Overload.
See The Cure for Information Overload.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The crown jewel of BengaLooru.

It had never crossed our minds to go in there, but now that we were so close, it would be ridiculous to pass it by. So we sat down inside the winding tunnel. The fans were running at full throttle, but nothing could clear the room of the smells. It will not be hard for the average Bangalorean to imagine this setting immediately after I give away the spoiler; beNNe masaale?

Vidyaarthi Bhavan might have made news lately with it's 2 minute flashes on BBC and Udaya, but it goes back in time to 1938.

Our waiter eased his way in the narrow aisle between the tables. All the while I was counting the plates he was carrying. Considering he was already a quarter way through the aisle of neatly stacked 4 seaters, he must have started out from the kitchen with atleast 20 plates balancing on his left hand. This must be a good assumption, as most people come there only for the beNNe masaale dOse, and rarely have enough tummy space to try anything else after a couple of dOses.

A crisp dOse was placed beside me, and immediately followed by a generous dollop of kaai chutney serving. The beNNe on my dOse was already melting. My restraint was melting too. Yet another story can be written about the mashed potato masaale inside, and the freshly spiced chutney.. but I deem it in my welfare to stop, and let you go and have a taste yourself..

No. 32, Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore. Bon appétit.

Pronunciation tips for the uninitiated:

bεNNε. Fresh butter.

mŭsälε. Boiled and mashed potatoes seasoned with spice mixture.

thōsε. The crowning glory of South Indian breakfast. Simply indescribable!

käĭ. Grated and seasoned coconut used for chutney.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Corrupt: Worse than the world's oldest professionals. Are you one?

The bloody scenes of Rang De Basanti have still not been fully cleared off our memories. The students on national television werent made to scream "The fire you have ignited will burn in our hearts" just for a different climax. It's not for a whim or fancy that such a supreme effort has been made.

The Post Graduate Entrance Test, Karnataka (PGET2006) recently conducted by the health university, has shown the kind of totally unwholesome and sick levels of immorality that both officials and students have lowered themselves to. The glaring fraud is evident from a simple glance at the top 100 rankers themselves.

See this:
  1. Student x gets a rank in the top 10 (inspite of 5 answer keys found wrong)
  2. RGUHS re-publishes answer key, and re-arranges ranks.
  3. Student x's rank slips to within top 20. (note here that new answer key has 15 wrong keys)
  4. RGUHS re-re-publishes answer key and re-re-arranges ranks.
  5. Student x's rank remains within top 20.
  6. Punchline: x never was a topper or high scorer in the course or degree exams.
Does it need Einstein to scream humbug at this 'doctored' arithmetic?
It does not take the wisdom of a doctor, or the calculative ability of an engineer to smell out all these x's???

It's amusing to say this, but I am reminded of KCET that I took in 2000. That year too, we saw many 'toppers' never losing their position even when the wrong answer keys were withdrawn and correctly re-published.

The root of the evil lies in the students who are readily forking out lakhs to get their hands on answer keys. It's a shame on the schools that made such monsters who don't mind spending their parents' money to get a coveted PG seat.

If you personally know someone who has done this I challenge you to turn them in. Better still turn in the person who took the money. You owe it to this country.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Blackouts: An experience in Time dilation.

Everything went black at 6:30 p.m. yesterday evening.

The Sun was still hanging on to the last few clouds. The unexpected blackout found us scurrying around for the candle and the kerosene lamp. The lamp had existed since the time my grandfather was still earning; and my father a student. It had seen a half dozen students thrash out their exam woes and come out in superb colours. So we had decided not to replace it with the new fangled 'Backup flash lamps'. That would completely beat the purpose of a blackout.

Ajji settled down comfortably on the floor mat with a bucket full of avarekaaLu pods to peel. This let her sit down for while, keep herself occupied, chat, and in the meanwhile get some useful work done. My aunt realised that her favourite Kannada soap had started, in all the television sets of the world except the dark one that sat in the corner. That explained her fidgeting with the newspaper, pretending to read a full page in few seconds. I was on the bed beside reading a section of my current book Electron: Physics for everyone. At that time, the electrons were deciding whether to team up as super couples and coast along the lattice, or just carry on their usual lone battles with the oscillating bully moleclues blocking their way out to the most attractive terminal.

Ajji brought up her favourite topic. Thatha, her husband. She loved telling stories of how as a revenue inspector, he would ride around on his bicycle from village to village checking out if even the smallest farmer had made sure his patch of green was blooming, and he had paid the government his dues, and if all was well everywhere. She would even recount her son's pranks of filling in water in his father's lunch boxes, and packing them off on a hot summer day. His father's fury that noon was something we still have a good laugh at.

Many stories and smiles later, it was time for dinner. Steaming rice with piping hot saaru never turned anyone away. The kerosene lamp was attracting a new kind of attention. We simply had to capture it for posterity. So came out the camera, and the dozen designer clicks.

The surreal mood suddenly burst like a balloon. Power had been restored. Instinct turned us towards the wall clock. In those adventures, those black and white tales of honour, and moments of pride, we had slowly gained many hours in time.

The time was 8:00 p.m.