Thursday, January 29, 2009

A game of lexulous

An incredibly satisfying game of Lexulous, considering the back-from-nowhere story that the graph tells you, no matter what the final result will turn out to be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bring it on

1:45 AM --> Come to a heartbreaking realization

1:50 AM --> Spent 5 minutes thinking about how different things could be

1:55 AM --> Get out of bed; drink a glass of water

1:57 AM --> Prepare Maggi and a cup of tea; listen to 'Yun hi chala chal raahi' on iPod

2:03 AM --> Consume

2:15 AM --> Hit the bed. Tomorrow is another day. Bring it on!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A photo blog back in action

After a 3 month hiatus, Fotosia is a blog back in action. January has seen the blog flooded with a number of breathtaking pictures.

Check them out for yourself.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The President Is Coming

Saturday night and I was dead tired. I needed a break and wanted to watch a film. Only problem was that I was too tired to even step out of the house. So, when I saw that I could watch 'The President is Coming' on the Showcase feature of TataSky, I gladly jumped at the opportunity.

The film is about George W. Bush's 2006 visit to India. Among the many things on his itinerary is a meeting scheduled with a young Indian who will be responsible for shaping the face of the country tomorrow. The movie traces the Survivor-style elimination of six young Indians who want a chance to meet Bush. We find out more about the personal lives and expectations of these six candidates and the two judges through the 24 hours in which this contest takes place.

The film is a directorial debut and it is very evident in the manner in which it is executed. Add to this the fact that the film's script is based on the director's own popular play and you realise why you sat upright halfway through the film and said to yourself "Wouldn't stage actors do much better than the present crop on screen?"

The movie is fun to watch and brings out many typical Indian eccentricities. The script is light and there is no overwhelming dosage of "being Indian is better than being American".

My favourite episode in the film is when a US diplomat walking down a corridor with pictures of past US presidents on the walls realises that a broken photo frame, displaying the picture of George Bush senior, has been sent for repairs and has been replaced by a picture of Dharmendra. The tongue-in-cheek replies that he gets from the security guard and the peon are absolutely hillarious to watch.

The cast does its best to impress. However, the one person that stood out in his effort was Anand Tiwari (remember the guy from the Tata Tea 'jaago re' election commercial?). Not only does he act brilliantly as the scheming Gujarati stockbroker but is also the Assistant Line Producer and Assistant Director of this film. Watch out for this guy.

My rating for the film: 6 out of 10

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Book of Ram by Devdutt Pattanaik

I briefly mentioned 'The Book of Ram' here. That a book about a mythological religious epic should remind one of a modern-day fiction screen villain should itself should tell you that this is a very interesting book.

It isn't a retelling of the Hindu epic, if that is what you're thinking. The book very briefly outlines the story of Ramayan, but is mainly a study of the various 'versions' of what is essentially the same story. There are various anecdotes from the Ramayan which are extremely popular today which however are missing from, say, Valmiki's Ramayan. For instance, the reader would be surprised to find that although Shabari was mentioned in Valmiki's Ramayan, her offering of berries to Ram "is a later addition that appears in the Padma Puran traced to around the eleventh century".

Even more surprisingly, 'Lakshman rekha' (the line that Sita was not supposed to cross) is nowhere mentioned by Valmiki yet today, Ravan's trickery of Sita to step outside the Lakshman rekha, "forms an integral part of any Ramayan narration".

The chapters of the book are interestingly subdivided into exploring the various stories about the Ramayan from different points of view. Hence, the chapters have titles such as "Sita's Husband", "Ramayan's Protagonist", "Ravan's enemy" and so on and so forth.

What impressed me most about this book was that it often made me think about the Ramayan from a fresh perspective. This is a good book if you like reading about mythology.

I'll leave you with another interesting snippet from the book, taken from a chapter where the author compares Parshuram, Ram and Krishna, the three avatars of Vishnu in three different Yugas:

It is said that as Krishna, Vishnu balances the imbalances created by Ram. Ram created an imbalance by killing Vali, son of Indra, by shooting him in the back while he was engaged in a duel with Sugriv, son of Surya. To balance the score, when Vishnu descended as Krishna, he had Arjun, son of Kunti by Indra, shoot and kill Karn, son of Kunti by Surya, while the latter had his back turned and was busy pulling out his chariot wheel that had got stuck in the ground.

Chances are that you, like me, had always known of these stories separately but had never put these particular associations together. And this is precisely why I recommend this book.

A knock on the door

It has been a long time since I read fairy tales / mythological texts / magical epics. This video, that I first saw a couple of years ago and totally loved, reminds me that I must start reading them again.

Do check out the video. It is simply amazing. And yes, turn up the volume. :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ahead of the curve?

Remember the Joker saying "You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."

Guess what?

I was reminded of the Joker's words at the most unlikeliest of places...while reading "The Book of Ram" by Devdutt Pattanaik. Here's what the book says:

Dharma or the code of civilization will constantly be in conflict with our animal urges of sex and violence.
Hmm... interesting.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's inaugural address

I have just finished watching the live coverage of Barack Obama's oath taking ceremony. Like I mentioned, Obama brings a new world of anticipation (I will not use the word 'hope' lest I be mistaken to be a Democrat supporter; I am merely an interested bystander) to the international stage.

I really liked his inaugural address. Some highlights:

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
I loved the fact that here is a leader who doesn't just ask his countrymen to stand and ponder over what's wrong and what's right and worry about what is possibly the correct way ahead. Action is the need of the hour.

There was plenty of talk about co-operation; no talk about dividing the world into 'axes of evil'.
And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity
Sceptics and critics would've been waiting to pounce had he left an ambiguous message to the Muslim world. Obama never game them a chance.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
Imagine the pride he must've felt when he said the following words:

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
Reminded me of the opening statements he made immediately after the election results were out ("If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer").

My favourite part of the speech came when he spoke of the founding values upon which ANY success, let alone American, depends.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.
All said and done, the United States of America is still one of the most prosperous and powerful nations on Earth right now. Let's hope that God gives its newest leader the gifts of wisdom and courage.

[Full text of Obama's speech here]

A hillarious short story

Gaurav has just finished translating a hillarious Marathi short story about Sakharam Appaji Gatne written by the Sahitya Akadami Puraskar winner Pu La Deshpande.

I absolutely loved it.

Part 1

Part 2

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Barack Obama

Less than 100 hours remain before Barack Obama takes oath as the 44th President of the United States of America.

He has already pulled off two amazing victories; first, by winning the Democratic Presidential ticket against tough competition from Hillary Clinton and then, getting more votes than the Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.

But now, does he have in him what it takes to become a leader who galvanises a nation out of economic turmoil and a visionary who accepts his nation's strengths and weaknesses and plays the role of a responsible diplomat on the world's economic and political stage?

Billions are waiting for an answer to that question.

He has already stated that tough steps would be required to get out of the trap in which modern America finds itself. Indeed, the situation couldn't be trickier. The Iraq War, the economic collapse, the public-bashing that most political leaders' image has taken, the public health system which seems to be on the verge of collapse and an environmental problem which threatens the world, just some of the top topics that the dossier of the next American president would be filled up with.

However, given this moment in time, Obama seems to be the best chance that America has. The first black President of America, a person with an upbringing across the globe, a President-elect who has not surrounded himself with cronies but has put together a team of performers (Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates being perfect examples)... Barack Obama certainly seems to have the necessary qualifications.

The world waits with bated breath as one man walks out to the centre to assume office and brings with him an 'Audacity of Hope'.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Finally, a lazy Sunday

And I'm so thankful for it!!

December was a turbulent month at work and January promises to be more so. But then, I guess it is expected when you are going about starting up new businesses. And the work that is entrusted to me is all the more challenging because I'm trying to kick-start 3 business units simultaneously. ~wipes his brow~ And that brings with it its own share of management problems and skills to be learnt.

And these are lessons that can never be taught in any b-school; you only get a sneak preview on campus. For example, I've already picked up these management learnings:

* I need to be superb at time-management skills if I have to be at three places at once, all of them spread across the metropolis

* To be up-to-speed on all business activities, I've started using a log book like never before. I now have a list of customers being served simultaneously by all three business units, whether the payments by these customers were paid by cash or cheque; if cheque, when these will be cleared, so on and so forth

* In the midst of all this hectic work, one must not forget that one is a team-leader as well. Hence, I need to be calm and in control of the situation and also motivating my guys to move quickly and aggressively on the field

Anyway, moving away from work...

I'm pretty happy that I'm back to reading. I've been wanting to finish 'Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories - Volume 2' for some time now. And now that I'm back to committing myself to reading for at least 15 minutes before I go off to sleep at night, I'm feeling good about it.

Sunday morning also brings with it the promise of a good 'Lexulous' game (Lexulous being the 'renamed' form of Scrabulous). I have already started a game and thus far, I'm in the lead by 23 points. Let's hope things remain that way.

I'm looking forward to a lot of reading (books and blogs) and writing my diary today. If I do find the time, I'd also like to catch up with 'The President is coming', a movie I've been waiting to hit Calcutta theatres. That reminds me, 'The Dark Knight' is supposed to be re-released in Cal at the IMAX theatre. I definitely want to go for that.

Have a lazy Sunday folks! Cheers. :)