Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Finally

Finding a cyber cafe in the outskirts of Chennai is just as hard as convincing the owner to allow me an extra 2 minutes just so that I can tell you that I still exist and that I will be back sooner than you can say 'unmayava nan pakalapa'.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Hyderabad Blues

In my 50 day stay at Gandhinagar, I hardly got the chance to read newspapers. And so I have been reading overtime here in Mumbai. From the climate conference in Copenhagen to the 'thrilling' confessions of Ajmal Kasab. I even know the names of each of Tiger Woods' mistresses and the amount they plan to sue him for! But the one issue that has hogged the headlines for the past week or so is that for the creation of a separate Telangana state. The premise that smaller states will lead to effective administrative units makes a lot of sense. But where does one draw the line? Mayawati has sent a proposal for the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh, a state which has already been split once. People in Vidharba want a state for themselves. And then we have Gorkhaland in West Bengal, the most sincere of all the proposals. The North East past of West Bengal is so dissimilar as compared to the rest of the state that separation there is inevitable. I frankly don't have any real opinion on this issue and it matters very little to me as to whether India has 30 states or 50. But I really pity todya's school children as when I was in school I had serious issues remembering the capitals of a mere 25 states.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Miss World 2009

I am not a fan of beauty pageants as such, but yesterday while flipping through channels I caught the live telecast of Miss World 2009. And ten minutes was all I could last. By the time I started watching, they were down to the final seven. And it was the question and answer round. Hardly a minute into it and I was disappointed. I had missed my personal favourite, the swimsuit round. But I still continued watching. Here are some of the answers, given by supposedly the 'cream' of the women species.

Q: If you could bring your family to South Africa, which place would you take them to?

A: I would take them to the zoo! I enjoyed the safari, feeding the giraffe and petting the lions. It was an out of the world experience.

Dude! Not happening. Even my neighbour's kid who just learnt to speak a week back would have given a more sensible answer. Zoos are all over the world. You don't need to get your family all the way to South Africa to visit one!

Here is another one.

Q (addressed to Miss Canada): Why should you be selected Miss World?

A: Miss World should be kind, selfless and compassionate. These qualities have always been part of my upbringing. If I were to be Miss World, I would definitely try to bring about a change in the world.

Kind, selfless and compassionate! Excuse me! And the lady ended up in fourth place. Wasn't much of a surprise though, as some of the judges were former beauty queens themselves.

But the issue doesn't end here. There is this entire growing breed of girls who are highly influenced by this miss world culture. Their answer to what do you want to do in life varies from eliminating poverty to making a difference. How? They don't quite know. But that matters little to them.

Friday, 11 December 2009

One Fine Day


It was just like you told me it would be. Exactly the same. Right down to the minutest detail. The dry heat, sapping out every bit of one's energy. The endless mountain ranges, with trees outlining them. The narrow lanes, dotted with foreigners. Scores of hawkers, peddling their wares. Puppet shows at every other corner. Tiny little houses, spread out as far as the eye could see. It was just like you told me it would be.

And everything there reminded me of you. School children wearing blazers, more as a necessity. Teenagers cycling together in groups. Pretty girls bargaining hard as if their life depended on it. Everything.

You were right. Udaipur is beautiful. I saw all the places that there were to see. The others were busy clicking pictures. I was collecting memories. And recollecting memories. I visited the lake palace too. And felt the same way that you must have. I have made up my mind to stay there one day. Just like you did. Probably that is where our paths would meet again.

I kept my half of the promise and came. But you just weren't there.

Friday, 4 December 2009

My Experiments with Learning

Loads and loads to write about, but I just don't have the time! My weekends are choc-a-bloc. Wrote this article during a training session. We had a 30 minute test and a 150 word limit to stick to. Finally my blogging came into use. So here goes:

Learning is something that doesn't come naturally to me. Be it theoretical knowledge or the finer nuances of life. It is something that I have to struggle with, every single day. This leads me to experiment with the art of learning, which to some, comes as naturally as breathing. Bookish knowledge always proves to be the easier of the two. I divide lengthy answers into points, abbreviate them and thus conquer an entire page with a single word. Life's lessons aren't as easy though. There is a saying that in life, one needs to learn from other people's mistakes, as one wouldn't live long enough to commit them all. That is not the way it works with me! I need to commit the same mistake several times before I finally understand life's incoherent speech.

Post Script: Sorry for the late post. And after 45 days in Ahmedabad, I'm heading for Chennai!!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

5000 odd words



My room




View from my room




A friend's birthday celebration




Kareena Kapoor. You can't blame a guy for doing that!




This was at City Pulse, a reasonably priced multiplex

Well Begun and Half Done

Three weeks into the training and I am having a really good time here. Multiple reasons. I have found a good set of friends. Have a like minded room mate. Discovered some delicious non vegetarian restaurants. What I am learning is coming easily to me. Found favour in the eyes of my evaluators. So this world is a rosy place if you are a certain Shawn Francis.

But life at the training program is lived from weekend to weekend. It is pretty obvious as on a weekday you spend the best part of your day staring at a computer screen (which is pretty much what I am doing right now). Evenings are fun. We play mafia, various card and video games until 11, when the security guard comes and chases us up to sleep.

Last weekend I went to see 'Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani'. Off hand I can't think of any movie I have seen which is as senseless as this one. Even Katrina Kaif couldn't hold my attention for more than 5 minutes. I don't know what it is with me and movies which I watch in theaters. But the combination just doesn't seem to work. I managed to catch a part of another movie. 'Gunda'. It is the best movie I have watched so far. It has everything. Comedy, action, romance, suspense. I request you dear blog readers to kindly watch that movie whenever possible. Such movies come only once is one's lifetime. So please don't miss this opportunity.

There aren't any cool places to hang out here. Last Sunday I along with some football fans went to see the Chelsea v/s Man United match. We went to this place called 'The Chocolate Room'. Over 2 cups of coffee, seven of us watched nearly the entire match. Now that was 80 bucks well spent!

This weekend was great fun. I went to Ahmedabad yesterday. If you thought the traffic in Mumbai is crazy, think again. Crossing a street here is harder than boarding a crowded Virar local. There are a scant few things to see in Ahmedabad. The only place worth seeing is Gandhi's aashram. And since the only things common between me and Gandhiji are a shaved head and spectacles, I decided to give that a skip. And so I went to a place called law garden. Two minutes into the park and I realized why it is popularly called love garden. And so I ditched any sight seeing plans that I had and headed straight to the malls. Things are cheap in Ahmedabad. Food, clothes, transportation. It is a very affordable city.

Today evening I plan to go and watch 2012. Well, that's about it I guess. December 11th is my release date. But our evaluation will be complete by 28th November. And then only formalities remain. I am glad I came here. Have learnt a lot of things which will be of great use to me in the times ahead.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Its been a Week!



This happened on the first day here! I was walking along with my roomie at six in the morning. It was going to be our first day at work. And so we were walking with our heads held high. The larger footprints are mine. Obviously!

29th October 2009

I live in a place called 'Infocity'. It is a township in itself. A stone throw away from my apartment is a spectacular mall. It has all the brands on Earth and every kind of eatery. It has pizza parlours, cafes, South Indian joints, snack bars, kiosks and every other thing. There are a bunch of cyber cafes too and the surfing rates are lower than those prevalent in Mumbai. The people here are nice and surprisingly soft spoken by Gujarati standards! This place can easily double up as a sanctuary though. It definitely has more species of animals than the zoo in Mumbai. Cows, bullocks, squirrels, dogs, cats, pigeons etc form an integral part of Infocity. The weather here is extreme. It gets really hot in the daytime and chillingly cold during night. But for a guy who has spent most of his summer vacations in Oman and winter vacations in Canada, extreme weather is not really a concern. The hostel is an epitome of national integrity. It has associates from virtually every corner of India. Seeing a techie dressed in a lungi or a kurta for that matter, is not an uncommon sight here.

Since I share my room with a Jain, I have decided to stay off non vegetarian food for as long as possible. Now that is tantamount to Paris Hilton taking a vow of celibacy. But three days into it and I am going strong. Actually forget non vegetarian food, even swatting flies becomes an issue with him!

I am writing this post at 5 30 in the morning on my laptop and this place seems like a graveyard. Apparently no one here gets up before 7. Now that is really strange when you consider the fact that four people need to share one solitary bathroom!

Coming to work, wearing a tie is mandatory. Supremely talented though I am, I modestly admit that knotting a tie is not something that comes naturally to me. So most of the time I end up wearing what looks like an inverted noose round my neck. Our superiors at work are very understanding and sweet. That is not really surprising because at Tata's, work ethics are of utmost importance.

31st October 2009

Couldn't remain chaste. Ate lovely chicken curry yesterday :)

Quote for the day: The greatest wastage in life is using two words when one suffices.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A lot of Firsts

It is my third day here at Ahmedabad, but mentally I feel like I have been here my entire life. I leave my studio apartment at 8 30 in the morning and return only after sunset at around 7. The poet who wrote 'We have no time to stand and stare' must surely have been referring to the training programs of these software companies. I have taken my laptop along, but I don't have internet connectivity in my apartment. And as expected these sites are blocked at my workplace. These two days largely consisted of introductory sessions. Some monotonous, some very interesting. Today we got our bank accounts made. Net banking , phone banking, e banking, the jargon just doesn't stop. It feels good to have started earning though! I shaved for the first time in my life here. We have to shave everyday. Part of the corporate look, I guess. Shaving would definitely feature in my 'not so favourite things' post, if I were to update it! Wearing formals was another thing I detested, but now two days into the program and it has already stopped bothering me that much. My apartment is not luxurious, but borders on the 'more than enough' side. I share my apartment with three other trainees. The HR wanted them to be from different colleges, but I was fortunate enough to have one of my classmates as my room mate. The evenings are by far the best part. Everyone unwinds and hangs out at the local cafe or plays some game or the other. We don't have a television in our apartment, but we do have some commons ones. Only cricket matches and movies on HBO are placed. The latter, I guess, is largely due to the fact that it is the only decent English movie channel to have sub titles. Our lectures haven't started as yet, but seniors here tell me that it will only get more hectic. The pass percentage for the precious batches has been 19%. If you fail, you get a week's extension. I like this place, but not that much! The morning person that I am, I get up at around 5. It quiet and cold and peaceful. A lot more to write about, including my journey, but I got to leave now. I am sorry if this post has been random, but that reflects my present state of mind.

Quote for the day: It is never an issue of time. It is always an issue of priorities.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Prologue

28th June, 2008.
HR Interview for TCS,
K. J. Somaiya College of Engineering,
Mumbai.


--After a series of rather innocuous and boring questions like how many visas you have, what are your hobbies and some dumb case studies, the interviewer asked me--

"So Shawn, to all the students before you I asked some real tough questions. I am sure you didn't expect me to ask you such easy questions with no right or wrong answers."

"Sir actually whenever I go for an interview, I do so without building up any prejudices from what you asked the previous candidates. In this way, the answers come from my heart and not from my mind. And genuineness is always more appealing"

--I crossed my fingers. Not for the first time in the interview. For I had lied. I had rehearsed this line long enough for it to sound convincing--

"Alright Shawn, you have a GRE score of 1480 and your academic aggregate is 80%. Straight from the 'heart', will you join TCS?"

"Yes Sir, I will"

--I crossed my fingers once again. And the bad part was that even he knew I was lying. Little did the two of us realise how wrong we both were--

This Saturday, the 24th of October, I will be leaving for Ahmedabad to undergo 'training' for TCS. Well that is how unpredictable life is. Updating my blog in Ahmedabad will be tough, largely because I won't have a 24 hour net connection and partly because I might be inundated with work. But whenever I get the opportunity I will definitely post something.

Quote for the day: (In honour of my article being published on Rediff)
The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and to put it back in your pocket.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Emptysea goes Global

That may be an exaggeration, but I'm damn happy! My blog post got published on rediff.com!

You can read it all here

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Oh bummer! He just won the Nobel

'I thought the only thing you get for making empty speeches on world peace was Miss World'

- A post on Twitter


Alfred Nobel was a rather clever guy. The inventor of the dynamite didn't want himself to be remembered as the angel of death. And so he left a handsome amount of his estate to establish the Nobel prizes. It sounds pretty similar to what Einstein did. He spent half his life working on an apparently innocuous looking equation. And the other half trying to quell the destruction caused by it. Coming back to Nobel and his prizes, I feel the jury proved to be a step ahead of the master himself.


When Barack Hussein Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the world looked on in shock. After all, what did the first citizen of the world do in a mere nine months to merit such an honour? And to have his name in the same bracket as Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa? I then read that at the time the nominations for the prize were filled, Obama had just completed his first week in office. And then it dawned on me. It wasn't Obama who won the prize. It was the President of America! The jury could have so easily given the award to some activist protecting exotic species of birds in the Amazon rain forests or to some global warming activist. But instead they chose to give it to someone, who over the next few years will take vital decisions with regards to world peace. And every time he has to make such a decision, the fact that he has been credited with such an honour will definitely be at the back of his mind. And this can only be good for the rest of us.

Obama didn't win it for what he did, but rather for what he can and should do!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

These are a Few of my Not-so-Favourite Things


Commas: I just don't understand when to use commas. And when not to. I'm told that a comma is used when you want the reader to pause. Then what is a semicolon for? A longer pause, they say. But isn't that the job of a full stop?
I, never; get it.

Talking on the phone: I don't quite know what the reason is. But I find it really difficult to talk to people on the phone. I think it is because even the slightest pause in the conversation leads to an awkward moment. Because of which you always have to think of something to say. Which makes me nervous. And it shows. Sadly.

Stripes: Looking at stripes makes me giddy. The first time I realised this was in junior college. The girl sitting ahead of me had worn stripes. That sent me in a tizzy. I thought Cupid had struck. It was only on the next day when she wore another top did it dawn on me that the actual culprit was the stripes and not Cupid.

Indirectness: Hints. Insinuations. Suggestions. I get none of it. I hate when people don't come directly to the point. And beat around the bush.

Shopping: There are a number of reasons why shopping irritates me. Primarily it is because I find it really hard to choose stuff. And then when I happen to like something, they either don't have the size or it is obscenely priced. And when neither is the case, you realise that the thing doesn't look half as good on you as it does on the mannequin.
Besides, there is something mysterious about those lights they have in the trial rooms in the malls. They make clothes look so much better on you.

Shoe Laces: I still struggle to tie my shoe laces. They invariably come off every hour. In school, my doting mother used to tie them for me. Now I buy shoes which are a size bigger. So that I can just slip my feet in them. And I don't have to tie my laces every time.

Noise: I can't stand noise. Whether it is in the form of loud music in a car/club. Or the guy in the car next to you who has his one hand permanently on the horn. Or the Gujju lady standing behind you in a queue, whose vocal cords put loud speakers to shame.

Post Script: That ends the series on my favourite and not so favourite things. It looks like a very odd list to me. But just in case any of you dear readers, think that our likes and dislikes match, stay away! We'd make for horrible company.

Quote for the day: Life gives you exactly what you settle for.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Living Funeral

A living funeral is a gathering centered around someone who will soon die.

I first came across the concept of a living funeral in the book 'Tuesdays with Morrie'. No, I haven't read the book. It is just another bit of reflected knowledge that I have. Morrie was diagnosed with some critical illness and the doctors had given him three months or so to live. It was then that Morrie was struck with the idea of having a living funeral.

A month or so back my mother's college principal expired. He had been instrumental in coaxing my mother to major in English Literature. And majoring in English Lit truly changed my mother's life, in more ways than one. When my mother was reading her mentor's obituary, she learnt things about him that she never quite knew. Her principal had majored from Oxford and then done his doctorate from Harvard. But he chose to leave all that and come and teach students in some nondescript corner of India. And while I was reading the glowing tributes paid to him by his very many students, there was only one thought in my mind.

If only he could have read all this...

Writing flowery obituaries is nice, but honestly dude, you missed the boat. These tributes will be little consolation to the bereaved family. And since not all of us will be fortunate enough to attend living funerals and tell that special some one all that we have felt, I feel a simple 'Thank You' card would be just as effective. Which is precisely why I bought a bunch of them and gave them to my favorite teachers. One friend of mine remarked that since college was over I need not butter them any more. But my relationship with them goes far beyond marks and subjects I couldn't care less about. And as write this piece I see that I still have one card left. One more chance to put a smile on someone's face. Before I buy another set.

Quote of the Day: Time always has some reconciling effect. On every ruin there
eventually grows grass, and then some shrubbery, and finally, before
you realize it, what is really an old hideous ruin becomes a romantic
sight and legend.

Article dedicated to every one of you who has written me a thank you card and shown me the way.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Here we go round the merry go round

'The more things change, the more they remain the same.'

- Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr


Yet another multi nation tournament. Yet another dismal performance. Yet again we are almost certain to not get past the group stages. Yet again our destiny lies not in our own hands.

Foreign coach. Bowling coach. Fielding coach. Masseurs. Physio therapists. An unconventional psychologist who goes against all footballing norms and urges the WAGs to accompany their husbands on cricketing tours in order to revive the fortunes of Indian cricket. The Indian Premier League. We have tried everything. Nothing seems to work. We read articles of how a nation of one billion can't produce a tennis champ or more Olympic gold medalists. But what about producing eleven champion cricketers? Surely that shouldn't be too tough for a cricket crazy nation like ours!

I think the problem lies in our genes. Immensely talented though we are, we lack the mental fortitude and grit, of say the Australians. We have no street fighters in our team barring Dhoni. No one who can dig deep and deliver when the chips are down. No one who can give a good account of himself. And why only blame our cricketers? Our boxers are no different. They struggle to get past the semis. And so do our wrestlers, badminton champs and tennis stars. We are a nation which has always sacrificed grit for flair. Doggedness for flamboyance. Tenacity for panache and charisma.

Yet another multi nation tournament. Yet another dismal performance. Yet again we are almost certain to not get past the group stages. Yet again our destiny lies not in our own hands. Yet again we depend on our best friend, the net run rate to see us through. Here we go round the merry go round, the merry go round, the merry go round...

Quote for the day: Reputation is just the shadow. Character is the tree.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

5 Golden Stock Rules for Market Newbies

Most of us will start earning now, sooner rather than later. Some in rupees, others in dollars. And just in case you, dear reader, are looking to invest in stocks and are new to it, here are the rules that govern the worlds of stocks. Presenting my (unsolicited) advise on trading. My '5 Golden Stock Rules for Market Newbies'.

Rule 1: Don't put all your eggs in one basket


The first and most fundamental rule. Don't put all your savings in a single stock. The risk is just too much. Diversification is the name of the game. Also, don't invest in different stocks of the same kind. For example, investing your money in 4 stocks like TCS, Infosys, Satyam and Wipro is not diversification. All of them are IT majors and so the odds are that they will move together. Instead choose from a variety of sectors like pharmacy, energy, auto ancillary, cement, sugar etc.

Rule 2: Gold glitters

Hedging your investments is extremely important. At times when the markets are experiencing sharp downs, you don't want your entire portfolio to sink. In such cases invest in oil shares like Aban Offshore. This stock normally rises when the oil price goes up and that's when the other stocks are hit.

Coming to gold, we Indians are obsessed with three things: snow, fair skin and gold. So the prices of gold never fall down drastically. And specially when the markets go down, gold prices always shoot up. So make gold a part of your portfolio. Please note that when I mean gold, I mean gold biscuits or gold coins. Don't let your mother or sister sweet talk you into buying gold jewelry. Their rationale will be 'ki investment bhi ho jayega aur hum bahar pehen bhi sakte hai.' Convincing as it may sound, it doesn't make good business sense because you lose a lot of your money on making charges.

Rule 3: To B or not to B

B, C and Z (that would rhyme if you are American) group shares, much like their movie counter parts provide cheap thrills. These shares shoot up only to fall back harder. So beware of them. They offer quick money, but if don't get out soon enough, you may burn your hands. These shares form about 10% of my portfolio. Ideally, you shouldn't hold such shares for more than a month. Invest, get a 15% return and move out. Don't get greedy.

Rule 4: A watched pot never boils


A common mistake made by market newbies is that they keep checking the worth of their portfolio every 10 minutes and get worried if they don't see significant improvements. Once you buy a stock, set a target, both in terms on time and value. When either of it is reached, get out.

Rule 5: Diamonds are forever. Stocks aren't diamonds

Lastly, never get emotionally attached to your stocks. I know this may sound silly to you, but it does happen plenty of times. Stocks that have performed very well for us, we tend to view favourably. We want to hold onto them forever.

I had this share Gujurat Mineral Development Cooperation (GMDC). Had bought it at 85. Shot up to 550 in 6 months. I was in love with the stock. Had even developed a soft corner for Gujaratis because of it. Then it started dropping. 500. 400. 350. I should have sold it. But I didn't. I hung on to it. I was going to be loyal to it, I decided. Guess what? It doesn't work that way! GMDC hit a low of 35! Last month I sold all my GMDC shares at 90. 2 whole years after I had purchased them at 85! Taking into account brokerage and tax, even a savings deposit in a bank would have yielded more! So remember selling at the right time is vital.

If I were to put down my experiences and the foolish mistakes I made in the stock market, a book wouldn't be enough. My initial investment of 100,000 (loaned to me) went up to 750,000 and then crashed to to 40,000! As I write this, I have stocks worth 55,000 after paying off my initial loan with interest! So I guess I am in a position to give you this gyaan.

Post Script: Article dedicated to Nishit Gogri, a good friend but a not so good stock advisor.

Friday, 18 September 2009

These are a few of my Favourite Things

Getting up early: I normally wake up by five thirty. When most of the world is still asleep. Gives me a sense of achievement. And a head start on everyone else. I like attacking the day. Getting up early helps me do that.

Purple: I like the colour purple and all that it stands for. Victory. Triumph. Glory. Royalty. Wisdom. And poison.

Riding my bike: It took me an eternity to learn how to ride my bike. I found it extremely complicated. Clutch. Gears. Front brake. Back brake. Helmet. Pillion rider. Distractions. But now I just love it. I take my bike everywhere I go. To college. Out to dinners. Even to the local grocer.

Going one up: I never knew I had the habit of always trying to go one up until a friend actually pointed it out to me. If I am ever going to meet you, I will always make sure I am at least five minutes early. That way I am more comfortable with the place than you are. And when you come I can always accuse you of being late. And making me wait. And go one up. (I know I'm weird)

Table tennis: We have a table tennis room in our building. Initially table tennis was an excuse for us friends to meet and gossip. I hear that 'catch up' is the word cool kids use these days for gossiping. Now table tennis has become an addiction. I play it at least twice a week for three hours at a stretch.

Texting: I can text up to seventy words to the minute. Without looking down at the screen. On a non qwerty keypad.

Watches and sport shoes: I hate shopping. But I have spent the best part of three hours to choose two pairs of sport shoes. And I have enough watches for a entire rugby team. I like collecting watches and shoes. Not quite wearing them.

Pejoratives: I didn't even know such a word exists until I studied for my GRE exam (which was the dumbest exam I have ever given by a long, long way. But that for some other time.) A pejorative can be crudely defined as something good said with a belittling connotation to it. And I just love using them. So me going to do an MS in this recession hit economy would be 'brave' not foolish. And hoping that one day I become the mythical creature, a professional blogger, would be 'ambitious'. (These two were just examples. I have no intention of making a life out of this. And recession wasn't that compiling a reason to not go on a two year picnic.)

Eliciting reactions: The world can be divided into two halves. Two unequal halves. Those people who say what they mean and mean what they say. And those who don't. I very safely belong to the latter. I am very random. Most of the things I say I don't mean. When I truly, genuinely mean, I find it very hard to say. And if I do manage to word it, making the opposite person believe that I'm not kidding is almost impossible. So I don't even try.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I told you so!


Juan Martin del Potro, the 20-year-old Argentinian, won his first Grand Slam title today with his five-set victory over No. 1 seed Roger Federer. At the end of the epic 260 minute battle, the score line read 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.

In 'Greatest Ever?' I had predicted that Federer would win Wimbledon quite easily since his nemesis Nadal was out with an injured knee. Sure, he won Wimbledon. But it wasn't the normal walk in the park that Federer is used to. He was made to struggle and I consider him hugely fortunate to have won it. Had Roddick served first in the fifth set, Federer would have proved me wrong. I thought Federer would retire after winning Wimbledon. He didn't. And I am quite sure as he goes to bed tonight, he would be wishing that he did.

During the fag end of today's US Open final, Federer looked a pale shadow of the champion he once was. Serving at 2-5 down in the last set, he was a bundle of nerves. His forehand was crashing into the net and his backhand was struggling to stay in court. He served 11 double faults. A player double faults either when nervous or when under extreme pressure. The champion shouldn't have experienced either. During the course of the match, Federer has several run ins with the chair umpire and even swore at him. All of a sudden, the halo over Federer's head seemed a little bit murkier. Seeing the champion cut such a sorry figure evoked sympathy in me. I can only imagine how his die hard fans must be feeling.

Let's get one thing clear. Reaching the final of a grand slam is no mean feat. And I am not yet completely writing Federer off. Before he eventually decides to call it a day, Fedex may win a couple more slams. But Federer was not born to win the odd Grand Slam or keep reaching the finals. He was born a champion. He was destined to destroy opponents with the ease of one swatting flies. He wasn't born to be second best. He wasn't born so that a 20 year old kid with a big forehand and a bigger heart could beat him at his game. No! He wasn't. And if only Federer would have realised that!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

End of an Era

Yesterday I went to college to collect my final semester mark sheet. When I turned in my identity cards, I realised that an important phase of my life had just ended. I had a lot of expectations from engineering. Firstly, it was supposed to teach me how to fix my computer at home. It didn't. Secondly, it was supposed to make me mature. I am still as kiddish. Engineering was supposed to build character! No, it didn't. On the other hand it fooled me into believing there was indeed a short cut to success.

When I received my first semester mark sheet, I couldn't stop myself from jumping for nearly five minutes. And now I was amongst the very last to collect my final year mark sheet, more than 20 days after it was out. That was more or less how engineering turned out. Exciting at first, but the novelty wore off too soon. By the end of it, I was just going through the motions and waiting to get done with it. I had absolutely no interest left. And I think when I looked at my final semester mark sheet, it pretty much told me the very same thing.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Media - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good:

The manner in which the media has covered the ongoing strike between the pilots and the Jet Airways management is praise worthy. Pilots are some of the most envied people in the world, for the job they have and the amount of money they make. And all that for just using the 'auto pilot' button during the entire flight! Coming back to the strike, the pilots had decided to form a union, which the management opposed. Taking a strong stand on this issue, the management even sacked the two pilots who started the union. 40 days have passed since and no sort of agreement has been reached between the warring parties. So in protest, the pilots have gone on a strike. Oops! Not a strike technically. It is just that 432 of them happened to fall ill on the very same day. And so scores of flights are canceled and poor passengers harried. Opportunistic Air India has increased its flights and even has a stand-by crew to fly to any place where Jet flights are canceled. Naresh Goyal, Chairman, Jet, is absolutely adamant that he won't let the union be formed. But Goyalji, this is India. We are a democracy. People can and will form unions to safeguard their interests. And you can do nothing about it. And just in case you forgot, let me remind you, that it is this very same democracy that gave you 'open skies' and allowed you to fly on any route you wished to, thus killing our national carrier.

The Bad:


The media coverage of the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy or YSR, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister had to be seen to be believed. They kept showed photos of him addressing rallies, starting new schemes, visiting farmers while all the time having some sad Hindi song playing in the background. Such was the praise lavished on him that it would have evoked sympathy even from the most stone hearted of people. It is no wonder then that around 70 people either killed themselves or died of a heart attack after watching the news. Agreed that the people in South India are rather fanatical when it comes to movie stars or politicians. And one need not have watched Quick Gun Murugun to know that. But 70 is just too big a number. As for me, I never knew much about YSR. But the fact that a BJP led Karnataka government declared two days of public mourning tells me that YSR is as good as they get these days.

The Ugly:


When swine flu first arrived in India with the death of an NRI, the media was in a frenzy. At least five pages of print were dedicated each day to this deadly virus. Sneezing in public had become an unpardonable crime and elicited stares, glares and dirty looks. Sharma Aunty from my building who normally wore jeans while going shopping or to the market, now strictly wears salwar kameez. Only so that the dupatta doubles up as a mask. People stopped going to public places and even the Sunday church bore a deserted look. Nothing much has changed as far as swine flu is concerned. At least three people still die everyday. But now the media has juicier stuff to cover. And swine flu is no longer in vogue. And so now sneezing in public is no longer an offence and life has returned to normalcy.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Quick Gun Murugun - 3.5 on 5


There are mindless comedies, sleazy comedies, comedies which just aren't funny and then there is Quick Gun Murugun - a cult comedy. I went to watch Murugun expecting it to be just another spoof. But guess what? It has what most recent Hindi films don't: a very decent storyline.

The film revolves around Quick Gun Murugun, a South Indian Tamil cowboy who believes his duty is to protect the world from rival, Rice plate Reddy who wants to convert the world to non vegetarianism. Quick Gun Murugun enters into an epic battle that spans time and space, from a small South Indian village to an Indian heaven and then finally to a cosmopolitan Mumbai across 25 years.

The USP of the movie has the be its melodramatic nature and the exaggerated mannerisms of the cast. The movie has more than its fair share of laughs. The cowboy battle between Murugun and Rowdy MBA on a crowded Mumbai street and the payasam scene between Murugun and Mango Dolly were the pick of the lot and had the audience laughing like crazy. Every single member of the cast delivers a power packed performance, especially the supporting cast. Shanmugha Rajan as Gun Powder, Vinay Pathak as Chitragupta and Ranvir Shorey as a television host are simply fabulous, even though they have very little to do. The two songs that the movie has, are short and catchy. At times, the movie drags and the characters try extra hard to be funny, but that I think can be forgiven.

In this day and age of multiplexes, when watching a movie is a luxury that you can only afford every once in a while, I don't know whether Murugun is worth the 200 bucks you pay at a multiplex. But if you happen to live in South Bombay, then it is definitely worth every cent of the 70 bucks you pay at Regal!

My verdict: Watch it, I say! (Multiplex or not)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Sach ka Saamna - India's Moment of Truth


If there was one reality show I was absolutely certain wouldn't come to India, it had to be 'Moment of Truth'. Now that 'Sach ka Saamna' is here, I am sure 'The Jeremy Kyle show' will soon follow suit. And I am real, real proud of India for not succumbing to the pressure of publicity hungry, hypocritical politicians who did everything possible to get the show off air. 60 odd years into independence and finally we have shown some sense of maturity.

Coming to the show, I really enjoy watching people make a complete fool of themselves on national television. It beats me as to why a person would want admit/confess to her fiancé, her family (and the entire world) that she had been cheating on him, all this while. I mean there are less embarrassing ways to dump a guy! However, the absolute high point of the show has to be the use of the 'buzzer' by any of the family members or friends of the contestant. This buzzer is used if the person doesn't want the contestant to answer a particular question and can be used only once. But the producers, as expected, are always a step ahead. The question which follows the one that is 'buzzed' out is either even more embarrassing or is the same question paraphrased! Picture this.

Question buzzed out by contestant's newly wed wife: Do you feel trapped by marriage?
New question: Do you regret marrying your present wife?
Answer: Yes!

And here is another instance. The contestant was a marine engineer and spent most of his life on the ship.

Question buzzed out by contestant's brother: Have you been leading a promiscuous lifestyle?
New question: Do you frequent whore houses?
Answer: Yes!

So you see, the buzzer is not of much use if you ask me. Another thing which adds to the charm of the show is the translation in Hindi. I mean shoplifted, living in and slept with don't sound half as bad as dukaan se chori, najayez rishtha and sharirik sambandh.

The best way to go about the show in my opinion is to answer the first 6 questions and walk away with 100,000 bucks. The starting lot of questions are relatively innocuous. Remember, the key word here is relatively!! That way you get the money (albeit a small amount), you get your 15 (or rather 22) minutes of fame and plus you save yourself from embarrassment. But if it is the money you are after (like Bobby Darling) and care two hoots about what the world thinks about you, then answer each question smartly rather than truthfully. Here is an example.

A particular contestant had answered 16 questions correctly and had already won 2,500,000. This was a guy my grand dad's age, who had had 3 ex wife's and was living in with his equally old 'girlfriend' (that is how she was introduced in the show). During the course of the show he admitted to visiting harlots, having a child out of wedlock and stealing hotel bedspreads among other things. His 17th question was whether he has been a good father to his only daughter. Now obviously the answer they wanted is 'No'. But the dude answered in the affirmative. He thought he was on some charity show where the organizers would let him walk away with half a crore and be a hero in his daughter's eyes. Not happening sirji.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Second Impressions

22:00 hrs,
August 25, 2008,
Jet Airways,
Somewhere above the Arabian Sea.


I was watching 'Luck by Chance' (Farhaan Akthar is one helluva talented person!) on the in flight entertainment system, when all of a sudden the air hostess announced in a highly put on accent,

'Ladies and Gentlemen, we have begun our descent. We will arrive in Mumbai in about 20 minutes. Fasten your seat belts, fold your tray table and keep your seats upright'

She continued to bark out some more instructions. 20 minutes! Damn! I still had 35 minutes of the movie left. Seeing my frustrated look, the techie on the other side of the aisle told me that the Jet guys allow you to sit in the aircraft for an additional 5-10 minutes in case you wanted to complete watching the movie. I told him that I was not going to give him company. I was in a hurry and wanted to catch a full nights sleep. And considering that I normally sleep at 9 30, I had already lost out on valuable time. So even if it meant sacrificing the climax of a movie on which I had wasted the best part of the last two hours, I was game.

I scrambled ahead and was among the first few to alight. Before immigration they had the swine flu screening. It was a total farce. We were given a simple form to fill which asked us how many times we had sneezed in the last week and whether we were in contact with anyone affected by the virus. That form was then stamped by a group of sleepy officials who every five minutes removed their masks, to squeeze in a long yawn. The female operating the thermal sensor had dozed off and switched it on after a dozen or so passengers had already passed her.

After immigration, I proceeded to get my luggage. The baggage belt is the greatest leveler. For 20 minutes, all of us, economy class, club class, first class and crew members were waiting for our luggage. Then the initial set of bags came. I spotted my techie friend arriving. He picked up the first 2 bags he could lay his hands on and left. Some times life just isn't fair.

After I finally got my luggage, I completed the customs formalities. With the free allowance substantially increased in the last few years, the custom officers are a pale shadow of their former blood sucking selves. The half an hour night ride home took me 45 minutes thanks to the Ganesh Chaturti festivities. I finally reached home at one in the night and as dragged my bags to the elevator I did something I hadn't done even once in the last 24 days. I took out my kerchief and wiped the sweat off my brow.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Niagra - In, Around and Beyond!


This weekend I went to Niagra to see the world famous Horse shoe falls. I had been there before, but from the American side. If the view from the American side is good, then that from the Canadian is purely brilliant (as you can see in the picture above). There are three falls in all: the horse shoe falls, the bridal falls and the Niagra or American falls. The horse shoe falls gets it name because it is shaped like a horse shoe! The bridal falls is located on the American side and is the smallest of the three, though I have absolutely no clue why it is called so. Incidentally, Niagra is called the honeymoon capital of the world! Apparently, a huge number of couples flock here for their honeymoon. I always thought that the honour lay with Paris, cause Eiffel tower is way more romantic. You even get to drink champagne right on top of the tower!

Besides ogling at the falls (and the honeymooning couples) for hours on end, there are quite a few other things you can do at Niagra. There is this extremely popular boat ride called 'maid of the mist'. It takes you right beneath the falls. It takes a lot to wow me but this boat ride sure did. Then you have the 'journey behind the falls'. You get to go in a man made tunnel and see the falls from behind! Another wow moment. And finally just a kilometer away from the falls is Marineland - an amusement park with a lot of sea creatures on exhibit. Here are some pictures.

That boat is the maid of the mist. You get to wear a blue raincoat. The raincoats can be kept as souvenirs.

This was part of the journey behind the falls. Yellow raincoats here! And that is as close to the falls as you can get. Almost impossible to stand there with the strong winds!

That is what the falls look like from behind!

This is the view from my hotel room. I stayed at the Sheraton, 17th floor! Life is beautiful :)

That ride in the background is the sky screamer. Absolutely scary. It takes you to the height of about 30 storeys and drops you down at the speed of gravity!

A beluga whale at marineland. Managed to click him just when he looked up!

And in case you want to see the video of sky screamer, you can see it here!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Train of Thought

Everywhere my dad goes he gets asked the same question by every second person. "Air India is suffering from such huge losses. Will the airline recover?" I totally empathize with him. I can understand how it feels to get asked the same question over and over again. Especially when you don't really have an answer to it. I feel the same when ladies in my building keep asking me, "So Shawn, now you are done with engineering. What next? The whole day I see you playing down. You don't have anything to do? You were such a bright student. What happened? Ladki ka chakkar toh nahi?"

The last time I was here dad said he would 'consider' letting me drive his car. So this time around I brought along my driving license with me. However, it turns out that my dad has got himself a new car. A spanking new Corolla '09 edition. I keep telling him that if he lets me drive, he may just have to get himself the 2010 edition releasing next month! He remains quite unimpressed though.

When I visit a country I believe in embracing its culture totally. And for that very reason for the past twenty days I have being using paper instead of water (ewwww), having bath in a tub as opposed to using a bucket and greeting people with a 'hey, how ya doin' even if they are my grand dad's age.

Speaking of greeting, I really like the way people greet each other here. I mean, the girl may be very good looking and may never have seen you her entire life (nor want to see you again), but she'd still smile at you. Anything of that sort happening back in India would be reason enough to treat your close friends.

Dad and I both don't really cook great. So every evening we go out for dinner. The leftovers act as my lunch the next day. But cooking is quite easy. It is not as tough as people make it out to be. The tough part is eating what you cook!

I have finally learnt to click pictures on my digital camera and upload them on the computer. My sister made it seem like the process was as hard as getting a doctorate in molecular biology, but believe me it is a whole lot simpler.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Once bitten, Twice shy?

First, this happpened



And then, this:



Surely Obama doesn't believe in the saying, 'once bitten, twice shy'

Monday, 10 August 2009

1000 Islands


On Saturday, I went to this place called 1000 islands. It is a 315 km drive from where I live, but we covered the distance in a little over two hours. As the name suggests 1000 islands are a group of 1856 islands (to be precise), situated in Saint Lawrence river, on the US Canada border. A grand majority of these islands are quite small in size and inhabited, but some have beautiful villas built on them. One of the larger islands has a permanent population of 80, with 2 churches, a shopping center, a fire department, post office and a community hall! To qualify as an island, the criteria are:

1. The body of land must be above water all the days of the year.
2. It should have a minimum of one tree on it.
3. In area, it should be larger than a square foot.

We went on a lazy two and a half hour cruise. I must have seen about 200 islands. I didn't have the chance to set foot on any of the isles, but if you take the five hour cruise, you are allowed to spend two hours on one of the larger islands which has a lovely castle (forgot the name!) The cruise was quite a novel experience but after an hour or so, it became monotonous. The islands are so very similar that it is hard to distinguish one from another. On hind sight I should have opted for the one hour cruise. I have uploaded some pictures on my facebook and orkut profiles. The picture on top has a villa named 'Just Room Enough' lol


This is my personal favourite. The white bridge is the shortest international border. It has Canada on the left and the United States on the right. By the way, 1000 islands is also the largest unguarded international boundary!



On Sunday, I went to the town square with dad for an India day parade. The parade was held in honour of India's 62nd annual day. Before the parade as usual there were patriotic songs sung and speeches were given by some dignitaries. Every person who spoke praised India so much that one East European tourist standing besides me remarked that India must be one helluva country. It was ironic to see these guys, some third generation migrants harp so much about how great a country India is and how patriotism flows in their veins. The parade in itself was quite a bit of fun. There were these huge floats, each representing a state of India. The Goa float was the best. It had sunbathers, footballers, dancers, fisher folk, hippies and every other thing you associate with Goa.

Most of the people were dressed in traditional clothes. Seeing me dressed in a short shirt and jeans, a gentleman asked me if I had left my patriotism at home. To which I replied, "Patriotism is not leaving India for another country even if it promises you the best education and a future you can only dream of. I got admitted in some of the best colleges in the States, but chose not to go. Cause I feel that it is each person's responsibility to contribute to their country's progress. I have stayed back in the hope that my children won't have to make a tough decision and leave their homes, parents and country, just so that they can have a better tomorrow. That is patriotism. Turning up every year in this costume of yours with the tricolour pinned to your breast is not patriotism."

Post Script: Patriotism was the 4782nd reason in my 4783 reasons not to do MS in US, the 4783rd being sisterly affection. But it helped shut the man up!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Return of the Legend

He is back. Michael Schumacher has announced his return to Formula 1. Following the injury to team mate Felipe Massa, Schumacher has accepted Ferrari's invitation to fill in for him till Massa fully recovers from the accident. Schumacher's return has created a frenzy both in the racing world and outside. Current champion Hamilton dubbed it as an honour to race against the legend. Championship leader Jenson Button welcomed the move while bitter rival Fernando Alonso said it would be good for the sport. This is definitely the boost Formula 1 needed. With viewership dropping, sponsors backing out and teams in financial disarray, Schumacher's move could set a lot of things right, considering the popularity that he enjoys. But what interests me is the motive behind this decision of his. There will huge expectation from him for a podium finish at least, if not a race win. Nobody doubts his genius, but with the car Ferrari currently have, it will need more than Schumacher's superhuman skills to get him on the podium. And currently being the 'expert consultant' at Ferrari, Schumacher would be the first to know that. So then why would he do something which seems so foolish to an outsider like me? Why would someone as ruthless as Schumacher want give the likes of Button and Webber (for those of you who don't follow F1, these guys were never any where near Michael) the chance to brag to their grandkids that they beat the legend at this own game? Why? I think the answer lies in the fact that the champion has listened to his heart. It must be paining him to see Formula 1 die a slow death. Even if reviving the sport means putting his reputation on the line, he is game. He is selflessly giving back to the sport, which has made him what he is today. And that is precisely why Schumacher is by far the most loved racer in the world. Not as much for his genius as for the person he is.

Footnote: I am not a Schumacher fan. I think Fernando Alonso is the best racer F1 has seen. But that for some other time.

Post Script: Enjoying myself in Canada. So much to do that I hardly have time to blog.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Adios Amigos

I am leaving for Canada in another 73 minutes. Will definitely post from there. Have learnt to use my digital camera. So you can expect some pics! Getting ready for another really long day in my life. This one doesn't promise to be anywhere as good as my last one. Anyways, last minute packing left. Have to leave. Bye and happy friendship day!

Barbeque Nation - The World on a Grill

If you are looking for a place with great ambiance, multiple cuisines, all-you-can-eat food at an affordable price, your search ends right here at Barbeque Nation.

Location: Dr. ambedakar Road, Junction, Pali Hill, Khar (West)

Price: 550 bucks on a Sunday, 450 otherwise.

Menu: 6 non veg starters, 7 veg starters, 1 veg and non veg soup, main course and 7 desserts!

I was initially supposed to go to Barbeque Nation last Sunday for a friend's treat. When I called up in the morning to book a table for 4, I was told that their reservations were full! So if you want to go there on a Sunday (which I advise against, the extra 100 bucks is not worth it) you must book at least a day in advance. Finally, I ended up going there yesterday for lunch. The interiors are really good and I liked the lighting. Not too dim nor too bright.

All the tables have a cubical cavity bang in the center, which is covered with a wooden lid. As soon as you sit on the table, they put a vessel with burning coals in it and cover it with a skewer stand. You are then given a choice of complementary drinks. Kingfisher beer, ice tea, fresh lime soda or a soft drink. I advice ice tea because the aerated drinks occupy space you see. Barbeque nation seems to have a tie up with Kingfisher. Even the mineral water they serve is manufactured by Kingfisher. I never knew Kingfisher water existed before I visited Barbeque Nation. I thought only one bottle must have been manufactured for that surrogate ad.


Skewing your own food is truly a novel experience. It is optional actually. You can have the starters without skewing them. But I like skewing my starters. Made me feel like a chef and all.




There is this small flag on each table (you can see part of it in the background in the adjacent pic). Whenever you are done with the starters, you have to put the flag down. The flag says 'Stop the starter service'. With a very heavy heart and a heavier stomach I had to put the flag down. The only low point of the day! The charcoal vessel is taken out and the wooden lid is put back on the table. Since they have this 'globe on the grill' tag line the dishes are named after countries. Like Tunisian lamb and Lebanese mushrooms. The Cuban potatoes are excellent. I had decided to keep off the grass (veg that is), but just couldn't resist the potatoes.

Main course is like the normal food you get in most restaurants. I gave it a miss and headed straight for the desserts, which once again were exceptional. So after a fulfilling 3 hours, I finally left barbeque nation, totally content and vowing to come back soooooon.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Catch Me if You Can

When it comes to watching movies or reading books, I am a very stoic person. My face hardly betrays any kind of emotion. You wouldn't know if I am watching Cartoon Network, a tense football final with Chelsea one goal down or some touching documentary. Even Tom and Jerry can barely elicit a smile from me. And it is no different when it comes to books. But 'Catch Me if You Can' by Frank Abgnale had me laughing, howling and pacing the floor in excitement. It is by far the most thrilling book I have read. And the fact that it is an autobiography just adds to the charm.



The novel is the autobiography of Frank Abagnale Junior, who was one of the most famous, successful and sought after con-artists in the 20th Century. It tells the story from his own point of view of how he managed to cheat the system by en cashing bad bank cheques in over 20 countries, spread across four continents. In the process he became a millionaire, twice over. During his criminal career Abagnale donned the pilot's uniform, practised law, passed off as a college professor and a child doctor. And all that before he turned 20!

There is also a movie based on the book by the same name starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hanks. The movie is fun to watch as well, but the two just can't be compared. The book with its witticisms is far far better. And like they say you should never judge a book by it's movie. So irrespective of whether you have watched the movie or not, rush to your nearest book store and grab the first copy of this book. And ya, thank me later.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Juggle me de




Juggling is a physical human skill involving the movement of one or more objects, usually through the air, for entertainment or sport. The most recognizable form of juggling is toss juggling, where the juggler throws objects through the air.


Juggling has always been my favourite circus act. I, though, am not very good at it. At best I can manage to juggle three balls and that too for not more than 10 seconds. But juggling really fascinates me. And the best part about juggling is that the object really doesn't matter. It could be plain balls, bowling pins or even chainsaws. The very act can keep you so engrossed that you remain oblivious to every other thing happening around you. And then just when you settle into a comfortable rhythm, you add that extra object and repeat the process all over again! That is what's keeping me busy these days. Juggling. Red balls, black balls, tennis balls. Newer ones, older ones. And just when I think I am easing up, I add another ball. Whichever is near at hand.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Kim Kardashian and Simona Halep

Mumbai currently is reeling under 30% water cuts. The only reason I know about it is because the read the papers. I have been getting 24 hours water supply ever since I can remember. So much for equality! The prime reason for our scarcity of water has to be the location of these stupid lakes. Had one been in the lane adjacent to my house and another on the railway tracks between Byculla and Sandhurst road, Mumbai would have enough water and some more, .

So 'New York' is the latest box office super duper hit. Doesn't surprise me at all. The guys would go to watch Katrina, the girls John Abraham and the couples anyway would take the corner seats. I don't blame them. Katrina looks stunning in the film. I don't remember the last time I watched an entire song on television, but I have already watched some song (I really couldn't figure out which one it is from the lyrics) featuring Katrina thrice. Twice on mute.

I have been watching this reality dancing show called 'Superstars of Dance'. The show features dancers from eight different countries spanning six continents. Countries compete against each other in the solo, duet and group dance rounds. This show really brings out the fact that India is a country of individuals. Whilst having won the silver in the solo category, India did not even qualify in the group dance category. And interestingly, it is the exact opposite when it comes to China.

HBO, with its subtitles, is a real saviour for people like me. I enjoy watching English movies, but not with the concentration like that of one attempting the 'listening' section in a TOEFL test. So now I can watch movies without straining my ears and shutting all the windows. The only issue with watching these movies on HBO are that they are 'suitably modified for family viewing'! Baaaaaah.

End of blog post. In case you are wondering what the title is all about, I just couldn't think of one for a post as random as this. So I put up two names which I feel will be the most googled or binged :P Helps in increasing your blog hits you see ;)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Chhatrapati Shivaji Sea Link


After a couple of failed attempts, I finally drove on the Bandra Worli sea link on Saturday, at six in the morning. That way I killed two birds with one stone! The toll and more importantly, the traffic. Some observations. The sea link is actually only 4.6 km long. The 5.6 km figure quoted all over the papers takes into account the approach roads at Bandra reclamation and Worli. The link is only half complete as of now. It was supposed to be an 8 lane link. As of now, only 4 lanes are open. So once the sea link is complete, you can expect traffic to reduce further. Of the 4 lanes currently available, 2 lanes are blocked because people park their cars there and gaze endlessly at the sea beneath, little knowing that it is the same body of water that can be viewed from Worli or Bandra. Apparently, China built a sea link 6 times the length, in half the amount of time. Coming to the most important thing about the sea link, its name! I fail to understand the fuss about it. I mean, isn't everything in Mumbai supposed to be named after Chhatrapati Shivaji? Both the airports are. Our premier railway station is. Our best museum is. The fish market is also named after him. The zoo is named after his mother. So why bother about Veer Savarkar or Rajiv Gadhi? Enjoy your ride down the Chhatrapati Shivaji Sea Link!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Wacko Jacko


I fail to understand the big fuss over the death of Michael Jackson. Whether it is the news, VH1 or the MTV ticker, Michael Jackson is everywhere. You just can't escape from him. That is a lot for someone who hasn't released a music album or for that matter made a public appearance since God-knows-when. But one thing that really caught my attention was the fact that Jackson's funeral will be the most watched funeral ever. It would even surpass the television audience for Princess Diana's funeral. Now that is something! Considering that Diana tried every trick in the book to be popular and a people's person. And Michael did just the opposite! As for me, I haven't really thought much of a man who says

I Said If
You're Thinkin' Of
Being My Baby
It Don't Matter If You're Black Or White


And then goes on to paint himself white!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Greatest Ever?



My first memory of Roger Federer dates back to the summer of 2001, when he ended Pete Sampras' unbeaten run at Wimbledon. I instantly liked him. The long hair tied back in a pony tail reminded me of my all time favourite Patrick Rafter. And I enjoyed the way he used to break his racquet when he erred on a crucial point. I became a Federer fan. Federer, however, did not go on to win Wimbledon that year. But there were many like me, who believed that a superstar was born and winning Wimbledon was only a matter of time. The coveted slam eluded him the next year too. I identified with this genius, who was striving extra hard to achieve his potential. All fell into place in 2003. Federer won Wimbledon without even breaking sweat. I rejoiced with him. By the end of 2004, the French Open was the only trophy missing in the Federer showcase. He began to demolish his opponents. Federer was no longer a mortal like the rest of us. The long hair had gone and so was the breaking of racquets. Federer seemed to be on a completely different plane, unbothered, unaffected. I couldn't identify with this emotionless machine anymore. It seemed unfair to me. I had stopped watching tennis completely. Tournaments were being played just to find out who the second best was. Never in any sport have I seen such dominance for so prolonged a period. Between 2005 and 2008 Federer went on to win tournaments without even dropping a set. And in 2009, he finally won the French Open which had eluded him all these years. That was the final feather in the Federer cap. It is another thing that he didn't have to face his nemesis, Nadal. But then again, Federer loyalists would argue that that is something he had little control over. And so as I see hundreds of people proclaim him as the greatest ever tennis player, I grudgingly nod my head in approval.

Footnote: Of late, Federer's popularity and invincibility is being questioned by a particular Nadal. Federer seems to win tournaments only in his absence. One thing that I have admired about Federer is his timing. Be it his serve, drop shot or the famous backhand, Federer always gets his timing spot on. On the 5th of July, when he holds aloft the Wimbledon trophy for a record sixth time and subsequently breaks Sampras' 14 slam record and sissy ishly wipes his tears, I hope he times his retirement as well as he has timed his strokes all these years.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Update

I guess the Congress ka haath is really with the aam aadmi. Mangalore has changed a lot. The power cut is just for half an hour every day. I suggest my Mulund, Thane and beyond friends should come and live here. Tata Sky has also found its way here. Even the daily wage workers have cell phones. The nearest cyber cafe is just 20km away now! The airport is exceptionally beautiful. It is surrounded with trees and is on an elevated area, so the landing is scenic. It is done up pretty well. Helps to come from the same part of the world as Vijay Mallya. It has begun to rain here and even as I type this piece is a rundown cafe with sad Hindi music playing in the background, it continues to rain. The climate is really pleasant here. It is such a relief from the Mumbai heat. A lot of greenery around. Houses are few and far between. The girls here are clad in salwar kameez's and to be quite honest it comes as a welcome change. I guess the cafe owner is snooping. In fact I am pretty sure. All of sudden he has snazzy English music playing. Not that I am complaining. My tracker tells me that a lot of Aussies have been visiting my blog. I guess I was a bit angry while writing that entry. My sincere apologies if I have hurt any of you down under. Have started reading a book called 'Blink'. Seems interesting, but slightly hard to digest. Definitely recommend it as a read though.

Want to write a lot more, but this keyboard is as bad as some of those vintage typewritters. I have typed just this much and I am already tired and have aching fingers.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Happenings

~ So India is out of the T20 World Cup. Surprise, surprise! India have never done well whenever they have had the favourite's tag associated with them and this time was no different. Accusations have already started flying. Everyone from the taxi driver to my liftman is telling me with unwavering surety, "India ne wapas paisa khaya"

~ My mom and sis have returned from their 45 day trip to Canada and Australia. I was very curios about how passengers were tested for swine flu. No a pork sausage isn't passed under the nose of every passenger. Apparently all you have to do is truthfully fill up a form consisting of questions like how many times you sneeze every day and how often does your nose itch. And then pass through some heat sensor.

~ Speaking of Australia, my sister climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a below 15 years child. That helped us save a neat 89 dollars! My dad bought the tickets and stated my sister's age as 14 years and a few months. The woman at the counter then insisted on seeing my sister. When asked her age, my sister said 15 and a half. The woman gave us, as she put it, 'the benefit of the doubt'. Next time we shall make sure to collaborate! For the record my sister is 24 years and 58 days.

~ The monsoons have ditched us. The heat is totally unbearable. For the first time in my life I slept with the air conditioner on the entire night. It is a momentous occasion in my life. I always looked at my air conditioner as something we needed to switch on when guests came home to show that we are an upper middle class family. That is why I once so identified with the 'Do you own an air conditioner but not use it?' ad. Not any longer! Thanks Malhar.

~ I am leaving on Thursday for a week long trip to Mangalore. I have no idea how I got talked into spending time at a place where three hours of uninterrupted power supply is considered a miracle of sorts. I have taken a boring motivational book along. It has to last me seven days. The only silver lining is that I hope I get to eat some new animal.

~ So I don't think I would be able to post on my blog for a week. I need to travel an hour to the nearest cyber cafe. But I plan to undertake the journey and spend an entire day there. Suggestions on how to bide my time are most welcome.

Sporting Brains

It is something that has always intrigued me. Are great sportsmen born with their brain in their knees? Or does it get replaced with their inflated egos? But no sooner does a sportsman become a star than he has his 'moment of madness'. The examples are plenty. Whether it is Mike Tyson biting off Hollyfield's ear or Sunil Gavaskar staging his infamous walkout in Australia. More recently we had Schumacher cheating and banging into Damon Hill's car. And who can forget Zidane's head butt. Sachin Tendulkar considered by many the best cricketing brain keeps it in cold freeze when he is appointed captain. The single major reason for Mumbai Indians' pathetic showing in this years Indian Premier League was his captaincy. And now we have Dhoni reacting to the allegations by the Indian media that he is leading a divided team. Why react to something as stupid as the Indian media? Nobody takes them seriously any which way. Why can't a sporting great have an IQ of above 140? Why? WHY? Is it really true that God doesn't give everyone everything?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Curry Bashing

You have to give it to the Aussies when it comes to naming things/people/incidents. Whether it is calling a barbeque, barbie or the Sydney Harbour bridge, the coat hanger, the Aussies are definitely the best at naming. And to add to that long list of names, we have curry bashing. For the ignorant, the spate of racial attacks against the dark skinned Asians and more specifically Indians, has been dubbed as curry bashing. However, the fact is that unlike England, Australia never had a law against racism, a fact that was conveniently hidden from the students by their counselors. Seeing the behavior of Aussies like Ricky Ponting, this hardly comes as a surprise to many. But then we in Maharashtra have always been two steps ahead. It was lungi bashing first and then bhaiyya thrashing. When we have a problem with our fellow country men coming to our state and grabbing our jobs, I don't think we have any right to point fingers at the Aussies. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Or roam naked either.

Friday, 29 May 2009

It's final, it's Veronica



70 years and a whole lot many comic strips later, the suspense is finally over. Archie has chosen the rich and loaded (in more than one way) Veronica, in favour of the smart and elegant Betty. The move has left a majority of Archie fans shocked. Betty seemed to be the crowd favourite and the popular choice. So I was a bit surprised. But certainly not shocked! I was firmly in Veronica's corner. I have always held that dumb girls are a major turn on. The rich, stunningly good looking, dumb girls, that is. And in choosing Veronica he has just been pragmatic. Besides, Betty will continue playing the part of the perfect friend and so this philanderer can have the best of both worlds.

But what has really surprised me is the unprecedented success that Archie comics has enjoyed. And that is mainly to do with its protagonist, the serial skirt chaser, Archie. The point being that most losers like me identify well with him. Archie is highly average looking, isn't clever nor is he rich and worse still, tries his luck with every other girl. And still the banda has two extremely gorgeous girls at loggerheads with each other, over him. And so people like me think we can do an 'Archie'. It is precisely the reason why so many Archie comic books are gladly lapped up by foolish guys like me. But the sad truth is that Archie, you suck big time and so do I.

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Beast

She stood at the junction, visibly frustrated, waiting for the traffic lights to change colour. She seemed to be in a terrific hurry and kept glancing at her wrist watch. I stood behind her and envied as a bead of perspiration found its way down her cheek. She flicked it off in disgust and started fanning herself melodramatically. The ticker told me that I could admire her for a further 82 seconds. She slid her hand down her back pocket, pulled out her phone and checked for a message, more out of habit than anything. She once again looked angrily at the traffic lights. They were in no mood to appease her. She then started toying around nervously with her finger ring. My heart skipped a beat as she suddenly turned back and looked back at me. I smiled. It went by unreturned.

The lights turned amber and I closed in on her from behind. I greedily took in long, deep breaths. It felt wonderful. Green. She quickly mopped her forehead with her handkerchief and proceeded to wriggle her way through the maze of vehicles. Little knowing that the animal had got her scent. The beast had found his next prey!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Of hope and second chances

"You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo."
- Eminem, Lose yourself

Right from a very young age I had always been taught that life was about taking your chances and making the most of every opportunity that came your way. Life was supposedly cruel and there was no looking back. There were no second chances in life. It was about making hay when the sun shone and the wretched sun shone just once a day. And then I stumbled upon this crazy song by Eminem, which further strengthened my belief.

But as I complete this phase of engineering, the one major lesson that I have learnt is that life isnt really that bad. It does give you a second chance and at times even multiple chances. Whether it is reputations, relationships or revaluation :P life will always offer you that second chance. You can always start all over again with a clean slate. The so called point of no return doesnt really exist, if you are willing enough to turn back. You can go wrong once, but life is all about second chances.

And it is precisely this fact which will keep me going these next few days, these next few months...

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Songbird

(Wolverine's head, my fingers)

She was the Letician police’s greatest asset. In this small port town in the south of Colombia, the town which is the fiefdom of Jose Rodriguez Gacha, she was the only ray of sunlight in a world clouded by the white powder which is the downfall of our nation.

In a bar on the east side, in this town where cocaine trafficking is at its most fervent, we would meet once a week at seven o’clock sharp and she would disclose to me secrets from El Mexicano’s mouth itself and these reports I would transfer to my commanding officer and thus we had a semblance of control over Gacha’s movements.

I can never forget the first time I saw her. We were conducting a raid on a Letician brothel and in one of the rooms she lay, barely conscious, obviously high on the drug. Later, at the station, we could not fathom what to do with her. She had no name, no address. The one thing she did have though, was beauty, plenty of it and to this day I cannot picture that face without an increase in heartbeat. Such beauty that the very gods must visit her in her dreams to enjoy her company. We were under pressure from the capital regarding Gacha, and in an act of desperation rather than intelligence, we decided that we would send her to Gacha and possibly charm him.

It was not at all difficult to arrange a meeting. Gacha was famous for his womanizing ways and kept a harem at his palatial mansion on the outskirts of Leticia. Soon she began to work her magic on him. What we had conceived as a long shot had actually come off. Gacha found his feet wandering more and more towards her room each night. Soon she was his mistress and was always near him. Slowly, she became privy to the most vital information about his drug operation, and along with her, so did we. Little by little, we began to chip away at Gacha’s empire and had reached a stage where the governor wrote us a letter of commendation for our efforts.

It was seven ‘o clock sharp and there she was at the allotted booth. She wore a blue dress and a pretty pink hat with a flower in it. I was surprised at her posture, but assumed that she must be tired or something. As I went closer and looked into her eyes, I felt a knot in my stomach, for in her eyes I saw death.

The Letician police’s greatest asset, I shall always remember her as ‘mi pajaro cantor pequeno’, my little songbird. She died when someone crushed her throat.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

IPL 2

After a one week delay, the Indian Premier League 2 has finally kicked off. A lot of junta was saddened by the fact that the tournament will not be held in India. Not me! I am quite happy with the fact that it is being held in South Africa. Firstly, I don't need to wait for the camera to focus on the cheer leaders. Even the dames in the audience are just as good looking. Secondly, the grounds are so much more picturesque. And thirdly had anything gone wrong in India, the consequences would have been disastrous.

I happened to read a newspaper article which said that the viewership was 15% low as compared to last year. I dont think Modi and Co. will be overly bothered about it. With the television rights already sealed, they are making good money irrespective of the viewership. And it would be foolish to expect the same kind of viewership as the novelty of 20-20 cricket is now wearing off.

Most of the matches so far have been horribly one sided and that certainly won't help the TRPs. I will stick my neck out and put my money on the Delhi Daredevils to win the tournament. They have all the ingredients to make it all the way. Wily Vettori, swashbuckling Sehwag, destructive Devilliers and great (for lack of a better adjective starting with G!) Gambhir should seal it for Delhi!


Post Script: Google beat me 3-0 :( *awwwwwww*