Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Swayambar

Swayambar is a Sanskrit word, Swayam in Sanskrit means Self and Vara means choosing or wanting. It is a practice in which a girl of marriageable age chooses a life partner amongst a list of suitors. In an epic like Ramayana in Hinduism, princess Sita chose her life partner Lord Rama out of hundreds of other eligible bachelors (prince or kings from other kingdoms) by subjecting them to take a tough test.

Recently the reality show by an item-girl (weird nomenclature, means an actress who dances on cheesy songs in movies) Rakhi Sawant brought back memories of the hundreds of years old tradition. She confidently hosted the show – subjected each of her suitors to tests, and finally chose one of them to spend her life with. I was impressed to see the audacity of a relatively new actor to sell an idea like this which has been long forgotten. She impressed me in her honesty and integrity in reasoning to reject many and then finally select one.

I do not deny that the show was a bit dramatic at times – but surely not as dramatic as some other Indian soaps are (i.e., the K series). I do not deny that she might have used this serial to improve her image from an item-girl to a girl dipped in Indian values – but what is wrong in that. I do not deny that nobody used to consider her seriously until this happened and this too people brushed off as a publicity gimmick – but what is wrong if she showed us that we can come up with hit serials on indigenous ideas instead of always copying what exists.

She impressed me by bringing forward something we had not thought of. You may agree or may not agree, but you simply cannot ignore.

Just now I saw a news clipping on Rahul Mahajan, the son of the late Pramod Mahajan, a well respected politician going to kick off a similar concept. I know I was impressed with Rakhi, but somehow Rahul embarrasses me. I foresee that we will now start making movies / serials / shows on this same concept until the concept rots and begs to be forsaken. People out there will keep showcasing dummies to exploit this idea as much as they can until somebody like Rakhi breaks the chain and brings something new to the platter. However, I will be keen to change my views on this.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What's in a definition?

I just managed to stumble upon this in my email - an article I had written 4 years ago. Sounded interesting and relevant so thought of posting it here.

Somebody asked me, "What is Mathematics?" And queer enough but true that I did not have a prompt readymade definiton framed in a few words for mathematics as you have for the other subjects. Being in the 'elite' company of mathematics for nearly five years now I still do not have a concrete idea as to how mathematics can be actually defined. I say 'elite' because people tend to look at mathematicians as esoteric and absent-minded geeks totally lost in their world full of theorems and their proofs. Either they carry an image of a mathematician as Prof. Calculus of the Tintin comics or mistakenly believe that calculating prodigies like Shakuntala Devi are mathematicians. Okay so let me try to define it here.

Greatest mathematician Carl Freidrich Gauss once said, "Mathematics is the queen of all sciences." True to every word indeed. Well mathematics is the science behind every imagination, the spark for every thought and the logic behind everything bizzare. But does it sufffice to call it a science? The morning tea you make, the yoga postures, the bus to work you take, the phone calls you attend, gardening in the evening or switching off the lights before going to bed all use mathematics in some form or the other.

Mathematics these days has its presence in a wide range of human activities. Theory of chance and probability are extensively used in predicting which team will win a cricket match or what will be Anand's next move in chess! Optimization theory has found wide applications in industrial production and marketting scene. Advanced mathematics is used in fields as wide as astrophysics. Invention of calculus aided the study of motion of planets or the well-known theories of Relativity or Gravitation have their base on mathematics. From stock trading to running an economy mathematics is everywhere. Be it natural sciences or earth sciences or social sciences or no science at all mathematics can be traced. Theory of warfare has got excessive importance these days and is a product of mathematics. From counting of election votes to calculating dates of historical monuments or fossils or predicting the next Tsunami, mathematics reigns. Can I actually stop somewhere. No. The list goes endless. Very correct is a saying in Sanskrit whose English translation goes like,

"Like the crest of the peacock and the jewel of the serpent,
Mathematics stands at the head of all sciences."

But wait the examples I cited surely must have made you accept that mathematics is not just a science but an art too. From music notes to drum beats mathematical theory finds a role. We say that giving examples does not mean definition in mathematics though. So I still have not got an answer to that somebody's question.

So let me try again, "Mathematics is a science...or rather its an art...or a vocation...(still confused).......ladies and gentlemen so this mathematics and it can confuse anybody anytime and hence keeps you engaged all the time.

Dated - 5th Sept 2005

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My 3D Experience

If you have not seen a 3D movie, like me, start with 'Final Destination'. It is out in the cinemas. They will charge you £10 instead of the usual £8, rates varying based on which cinema you choose, but it is worth those extra quids.

The movie stays with you long after you have finished watching. After the movie while you are coming down the escalators, you check if you are shoe laces are tied or not. While you wait for your friends to come outside the theatre, you think what is the probability of the lamp post falling on you. As you walk up the car park, you look around to ensure everything is as it should be. Everything from the movie stays with you unless you consciously decide to wipe it out of memory.

I enjoyed the thrill. I enjoyed the realisation that there is a non-zero probability of the world crashing like a deck of cards - may be due to a sudden earthquake, a strong hurricane or cyclone or any other man-made reasons. So why not live the life that we have to the fullest until it all comes to an end? Why not endeavour to make living meaningful, so that death finds a meaning on its own too?

In short, I highly recommended you to watch it if you have guts as I did get freaked out once in a while. Be a part of the freaky imagination of the director which gets freakier by the addition of the dimension. Watch it and enjoy the adrenaline rush throughout the time of the movie.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Love Nowadays & Life Partner

For those of you who have a big grin on your faces – sorry but I am not going to write about my take on love or marriage here! I am talking about the two Bollywood movies recently released – ‘Love Aajkal’ and ‘Life Partner’.

I enjoyed watching both the movies because they are those feel good romantic comedies (rom-coms) which Bollywood invariably churns out. Recipe of success I realise is to have no extravaganza, a couple of stars, some nice locations, good script with sensible comic. It’s said that Hindi cinema thrives on fooling the audience with its overdose of emotions – gone are Suraj Barjatiya days. Now Hindi cinema thrives on giving the audience with the right dose of comedy.

After a long day at work, who does not enjoy comedy, especially if comic is milked out of topics traditionally considered sensitive and emotional like love or marriage? And is it not true that there is no point in taking life too seriously, at the end of the day life is as complicated as you make it and as simple as you think it is. There is nothing better than trying to find a little humour in everything if this can lighten my brain which is heavier than the laptop I am currently typing on.

On a separate note, while trying to access an old airline’s miles account, I happened to open my yahoo email after years of seldom-use. Wonder why they still decided to keep me alive there. Lots of emails from various weird networking sites that I had registered during internet’s heydays had filled up my inbox. ‘Forgotten password’ for each of them and then ‘Delete account’. Some of them were – Wayn, Who-remembers-me, Names Database, Tagged, Yaari, Skoost, hi5 and some I can’t even recall while I am typing this post.

As Paulo Cohelo remarks in his book ‘The Zahir’ – ‘It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.’ And definitely days of stupid and senseless use of internet are long over for me...

But why?! Why do we have this tendency of getting serious in life all the time?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Tequila Shot

1. Slice a regularly sized lemon or lime into small pieces.
2. Fill a shot glass with tequila.
3. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt onto the skin between your thumb and forefinger.
4. Using the same hand that contains the salt, you must hold one slice of the lemon (or lime) with your thumb and index finger.
5. Quickly lick the salt, down the tequila, and bite the lemon (or lime).

She did all of the above last night. This was after a long day at office, to celebrate a piece of work that got signed off. A busy day at office and she did not get time to eat anything after lunch, she was skeptical before downing the tequila. She surprised herself by behaving better than she had thought after the shot.

She ordered Rosé wine and sat down on the sofa comfortably thinking of dragging the wine till the end of the party. Her drinking appetite is a maximum of two glasses of alcohol. She did manage quite well sipping through small sips of wine once in a while, turning down any offer of refills that came after that. It was quite late into the party and her wine glass had only the last layer of liquid left, that she was offered Sangria.

The Sangria did not do any good. The composure she showed after the tequila shot was diminishing. She could feel her head getting heavier and her smiles getting broader, she looked happy and she was enjoying it all, in short she was drunk.

She told me all this today in the morning, apologising for her erratic behaviour last night. Few pointers that I gathered after listening to her experience – i) don’t drink Tequila empty stomach, or for that matter any drink empty stomach, ii) drink lots of water in between your drinks to nullify the effect of alcohol in your blood, iii) it is better to be drunk with your colleagues than with your boy/girl friend as the worst you will do when you have lost it is make stupid jokes with your co-workers, iv) a plate of Nachos along with the drinks is not enough, order more food as you go along, v) have your trip to go back home sorted before you decide to get drunk and most importantly vi) don’t forget you will have to meet those in the party early next morning for a meeting!!!

Monday, August 03, 2009

A trip to Nairobi, Kenya

I was away last week on a business trip to Kenya. Whilst I did enjoy the business class flight and the stay at one of Africa’s best hotels and facilities which come with a business trip, the real icing on the cake for me was meeting the Kenyans.

8.15pm flight lands at Kenyan International airport and you see Karibu written as you make your way through the airport (Karibu means Welcome in Sohali, the Kenyan language). I walk towards the immigration check officer who after greeting me, remarks with a stone face – ‘Your visa has expired’. For a moment, the world stopped for me, I got my visa done specially for this trip and it has already expired. Just when I was about to say something (even though that moment I dint know what), he replied – ‘I am joking, welcome to Nairobi’. Phew! That was scary. I thanked him for his joke and walked towards the baggage claim rewinding the incident all over in my mind. Back home, I was warned about BA’s record of loosing bags and hence having to go to office in the same pair of clothes next day. It was a relief to find my suitcase taking rounds. I move towards the exit keeping a close watch on the swarm of people holding white pages with names hand-written. I had only started to think that my taxi from hotel is not there probably that just then I spot a big guy waiting with a big placard embossed with N Agarwal. As I jump into the taxi, he remarks to tie the seat-belts as he is going to drive real fast, which sounded strange but I still try to oblige him, only to be told that it was a joke. Gosh! People have a different sense of humour here, nice one I said to myself. And by the way, he drove slower than brisk walking, honestly!

After saying ‘Asanti Sana’ to the driver (meaning thank you very much) and jumbo to the hotel receptionist (jumbo means hello), I went to my hotel room to prepare for a tough next day. The next few days were the busiest days of my life yet. I have never worked so much in any of the 18 years of my academic life that I worked during this trip. The only bit of Nairobi I saw was from my office to the hotel which is 5 minutes walk. Strange is, even if it is such a short walk, but people from office in the evening would come down to book a taxi back to the hotel. It is very unsafe in Nairobi I hear. Having said that, I have met the best people, so professional and yet with such a personal touch. I loved the food at the hotel. My recommendation to those going to Nairobi for a vacation is Hotel Serena. Try it, I loved their hospitality.

What else?! Oh yes the most amazing part – after this arduous week I did treat myself with a Cellutox body massage at Serena. An amazing and relaxed one hour! The flight back home was more comfortable than the onward journey as BA was now aware of my ‘special food requirements’ which in short means vegetarian food. Apart from bringing home with myself the love and hospitality of the Kenyans, I have got some Kenyan tea; I am still to open the box so comments on that will follow later.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A brilliant couple

I am sure most of you who stay away from home have experienced this - your father or mother calling you up to ask you to call some so-and-so who stays in the same city as you, arguing that it is good to be in touch with known people when you are so far from home. You may not have the slightest of hint who that person may be, but just because your parents want you to be in touch with the person, you oblige them by dialling the given number as reluctantly as possible.

The other time, my father called up to say that one of his fellow distributor friends, a very respected blind ex-army official's daughter is married in London and that I must get in touch with her. 'But Papa, what will I talk to her? She must be quite old and I have only talked to Uncle a couple of times and that too when I was a kid'. He replied - 'She is a very nice girl (though I know he has never met her) and you know what - she has married an ex-army official who is blind arguing that since she has grown up helping her blind father, she has no reason to make a different choice'. I was flabbergasted – I dint know what to say and jotted down the number without uttering a word. How many of us would do so?

I gave her a call two weeks after this conversation, after having fought with myself many times over. I din't know in which language to greet her - so a fumbled me said a Bengali Namaskar, followed by a Hindi Namaste followed by an English how are you, all in one breath. She replied hi adding she was expecting my call as her father had briefed her about me. To break the ice she said what was going on in my mind - 'I know you must be feeling a little awkward making this call as our fathers want us to talk to absolute strangers giving us only small references. It happens with me a lot'. I could not agree with her more. We talked about 2020 cricket, Wimbledon and she invited me and my brother on one of the weekends.

Yesterday we visited their place for dinner, a house in a nice location close to Oval cricket stadium. It was a pleasure to meet the couple. I had the most fulfilling conversations with them. The husband Mr. G, was a Major in Indian army, had lost his eyes towards the end of Kargil war in 2000 during an anti-terrorist operation in Kupwara. For the first time I met somebody who had fought the Kargil war and had suffered injuries because of it. I could not stop a few tears, invisible to him and unheard to his wife. He was in various hospitals for the next two years and had met her in one of the hospitals. He was a delight to talk to. Given his life-changing experience, he talked very highly about the Indian army.

The lady of the house, our host Mrs. M, had cooked amazing Bengali food which we both loved. We stayed there for 4 long hours, dint stop talking even for a second. Mr. G currently works in an NGO for people with disability and Mrs. M works for an NGO against the recruitment of child soldiers across the globe. I told them about my initiation to help street children in India and they were very appreciative & supportive.

Meeting such great minds in life is so enriching. I called up my father to thank him. I will now meet everybody he asks me to meet without questioning.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Expecting 25

Every year during this time, I write a blogpost expressing my disdain over turning a year older. While I was turning 23, I felt myself inadequate to make my own decisions and pledged to take charge of my life. While turning 24, I realised that I had an enjoyable 23 and did not want to let it go.

Now while I am turning 25, I have mixed feelings. I am matured enough to understand that however much I wish, I cannot buy time and wish it to stop. I have to go with the flow. There is a plan in the pipeline to register a charity in the UK, a charity which will cater to the needs of the street children in India. A separate blogpost detailing this effort will follow in the days to come. I solicit the cooperation and the best wishes of you all in making this effort not only beneficial to the thousands of kids who deserve the same livelihood as ours but also enriching enough to keep us motivated and focussed throughout.

Some other aspects of turning 25 are – I am now allowed to open a pension fund of my own, essentially as I turn 25, I can start planning for my retirement. I will move to a higher age-group, from my current 18-24 age-group (the young person’s age-group in the UK) to 25 and above age-group. This means that I cannot avail any more discounts (eg. rail/bus) based on age anymore. Thoughts of marriage pop up here and there. Marriage is fun, only if you get to marry somebody you fall/rise in love. I am trying to gain knowledge and expertise in the responsibilities that come with a married life post 25.

Unlike all the years when I have strongly resisted turning older and pleaded time to stop ticking, this year is a bit different however. I do not want to resist it, as I understand that it will still happen (probably this is the maturity that I have gained in years 23 and 24), I rather want to pray that 25 turns out to be the best year yet of my life. I am looking forward to you 25, rock on!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sobbing Lloyds, sombre Lords

I have been meaning to write since a while now. Last week I started a new job in another bank. One year of work at Lloyds (where I saw the transition from Lloyds TSB to Lloyds Banking Group and was a part of it), came to an end. I felt sad not only about the fact that I will be leaving a nice bunch of people, but also about leaving my manager/boss/teacher. Being my first boss, he has been instrumental in shaping the professional that I have become from being a lecturer back in India. He helped my transition from academia to industry – two very different schools of thoughts.

The last few days at Lloyds were emotionally charging for me. Be it the ‘leaving lunch’ or the ‘last treat of cake’ – I struggled to talk and found myself on the verge of tears at the mention of a farewell. The farewell I got can not be described in words; I was very touched to say the least.

Having worked at Lloyds in the ‘City’ (London), I am now working in Canary Wharf. They say that the experience of working in Canary Wharf is quite different from working in the City and it indeed is. City was professional, but not mechanical, while Canary Wharf is professional and to an extent mechanical. May be my opinion changes as I move on to become a part of it!

That Friday, 12th June will get engraved as an important chapter in my memoir - when I left my first company and went to see a 2020 Cricket match at Lords. The grandeur of the place took some time to sink in – an emotional me at LORDS. It helped me look back at my life; it helped me find solace amidst the hustle-bustle of the thousands of cricketing fans around!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

An experience to remember

5.30 in the evening it starts. Since morning my eyes are fixed at the tiny digital clock at the right-most bottom of my mega computer screen. I try to concentrate on the two big monitors in front of me with numbers, codes, and everything uninteresting that I can think of at that moment. I am supposed to be modelling (I do not mean modelling as in modelling, I mean financial modelling). My model has to go live next week and release documentation and bit of testing remains. But then it starts at 5.30 today, I have been dreaming about it since I was a child. I cannot model today I tell myself.

Gosh this tiny stupid clock, takes ages to tick. I think my computer is slower than usual today, am I running too many processes which make it think so much that it has stopped ticking the clock? I open Start->Control Panel->Date and Time and then stop. I think I am going bonkers. Go out and get some fresh air I order myself.

I come back to my desk thinking I will now do some work. Documentation is the last thing I want to do when I am so restless (yeah I need a lot of patience in commercial documentation, as one needs to ensure that everybody, however naïve he/she might be, surely understands it). So I decide to finish the testing bit. Concentrate I tell myself and get on with it.

Wow lunch time! Cannot help but tell my boss that I plan to leave by 4 today and so I will have a quick lunch on my desk (not that I have very elaborate lunches on other days, still!). Those couple of hours till it gets to 4 were the hardest – time has never been so painstakingly slow.

Huge traffic, lots and lots of people on my way! I manage to reach my destination at 4.45. My pilgrimage! My brother is already there waiting for me, I say a quick hi. And I fall into a trance. I let it all sink. I see Bhajji, Yuvi, Dhoni, Raina, Pathan in blood and flesh. I see Afridi, Younus Khan, Akmal all in front of me. I am at The Oval to see the India-Pakistan 2020 match.

Immediately those childhood days of watching cricket on TV being played at Lords and Oval flash in front of me. I remember how my brother and I would dream of becoming capable so as to be able to visit the Mecca of cricket. I feel overwhelmed.

I hear and sing along ‘Jeetega bhai jeetega – India jeetega’, ‘You hit a four, or you hit a six, you are still the famous Yuvraaj Singh’, ‘India zindabaad’ and lots more that you pick up with the crowd and then forget later.

The crowd around me is mixed, Indian and Pakistani fans. Some untoward incidents do happen (with men dipped in beer to the brim, I did expect so), but mostly people appreciate each other and their affiliations which I feel glad to see. Any verbal fight I see around, I immediately hear the crowd singing the famous song to pacify the heat – ‘Ye dosti hum nahi chorenge, todenge dum magar, tera saath naa chorenge’.

India won the match. I absolutely loved the experience. I felt accomplished. My next match tickets are for THE LORDS!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gandhi and Elections

I was surprised by the election results – surprised more because this is the first time that I had not been following the day to day update on Indian politics during the run-up to the elections. I had formed opinions and judgements from the quick-bites I got from Indian newspapers during my lunch time (on-the-desk-lunches).

Now on introspection I would like to believe that I am pleasantly surprised. India badly needed a ‘stable government’ more than the need of a ‘good government’ as I do not think any party seemed to have promised good governance. I knew the markets would react more strongly not to the news of which party wins the elections, but to the news of how decisive would the win be. And I am happy that it is a clear and decisive mandate which resulted in strong stock exchange performance.

Everybody seems to be giving credit to this decisive win of Congress in India to Mr. Rahul Gandhi and his campaign. I do not doubt that he has been instrumental in the election campaigning, all I am trying to question is – does he really have the merits or the suffix ‘Gandhi’ in his name gives him an advantage?

I know most of you would go for the answer – both. And guess that is the best answer to this question. You cannot take away the edge he gets for being a Gandhi clan, and at the same time he could get the maximum mileage out of this advantage because he is clever and knows how to exploit it.

I feel happy whenever I see a youth getting into politics, at least somebody is bold enough to dirty their hands and clear up the mess instead of being a spectator who only passes comments on the anomalies. I am glad that they will bring in new ideas on board; they will pave the way to a new India. But a question still lingers in my mind – is it only a bubble of over-enthusiasm that will burst just like the current economic situation, or is it a sustained willingness to make a change and contribute which will see them face challenges with strong heads on their shoulders?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Panacea

I have been thinking about the concept of Panacea, so thought of writing it down. As per wikipedia, Panacea is named after the Greek Goddess of Healing and is used to call medicines which can cure all diseases.

But does something like this actually exist? If I ask for a single solution to solve all my problems, can somebody provide me a Panacea?

Such questions come up sometimes when I am thinking very hard about my life and the direction it is moving in. The questions may seem reasonable or unreasonable, but I still continue to ask them.

I am reading a book called ‘The Zahir’ by Paulo Coelho. Part of the reason for this introspection is driven by this book. It is a book which drives you into soul-searching, asks to you stop for some time and look at life from a distance like a painter. Some personal and professional experiences tell me that I need to stop. I need to sit back and think about my life and the lives I, intentionally or non-intentionally, affect. And I am enjoying the process. I am convinced that at the end of this search lies my elixir for life. I am determined to find my Zahir.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A quickie

I know I have not been writing since some time, and I apologise that this is not going to be a long one either. The turn of weather in London, from winters to spring has meant that I am spending my free time in appreciating the beauty around and the sunshine which I used to earlier spend on blogging.

Today a friend from college said that she has started learning Guitar. I think Guitar is one of the toughest instruments, guess all string instruments are tough. So on asking how is coping up with it, she replied that she is struggling but feels ecstatic just by the thought of possessing a guitar. I encouraged her to continue and added - 'you have crossed the line of those who do not know to those who try to know and then eventually (hopefully) to those who know'. She felt motivated and good. Thought of sharing this with you.

I have been watching some good movies. Watched Julia Roberts and Clive Owen's Duplicity yesterday - a good and intelligent movie. I also liked the most recent Bollywood sci-fi 'Aa Dekhen Zara' starring Neil Nitin Mukesh - recommended to all those who want to see the sci-fi genre in Bollywood having matured by this movie.

Lots more later!

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Protests & the G20 Summit

“Storm the Banks”, “Hang the Bankers”, “Claim the city back”… I hear these slogans being shouted while on my way to work. As a banker who works in the city (London), I had a potential threat to my life for the past two days – a threat of not just booed while walking down the streets, but a threat of a violent attack by the angry mob.

The world has not seen anything positive in the recent past. People have lost jobs, companies have fallen like deck of cards, poor have become poorer and rich have lost their wealth, the backbone of any financial system – the banks have collapsed, Governments are busy in bail-outs as a result increasing inflation and deteriorating the value of their currency. The economy which was thriving on a bubble suddenly decided to burst. We wonder why it happened and when it would end.

As a student who transitioned into an employee in this critical phase with lots of other class fellows, the diving economy has hit me hard. I felt the heat of the downturn as a job-seeker and I continue to feel the heat as an employee thriving to retain it. In the past six months, I have seen some very bright international students go back to their home countries after giving up the fight to secure themselves a job in the city. They could have been assets to this economy, but in the long run I must say. I can understand that, in the short run, this government has to create jobs for its own people, has to ensure that it can provide jobs to the 2 millions rendered jobless as a result of this crisis.

The G-20 Summit held in London on 1st and 2nd April was a platform for thousands like me to show their anguish to people who can make a difference by their collective effort. The 20 biggest economies of the world came down to a negotiating table, keeping aside their personal animosity, to discuss a collective plan which can help save the system from any further damage. The idea was clear - we all are in a mess so let’s all dirty our hands and clean it up.

How successful the summit has been, only time will tell. But yes, I can confidently say that it is a significant step in the right direction. We need more such collaborative action plans. We have globalised ourselves so much that no more is a problem at one corner of the world not going to have some impact on other parts. For example, since decades India has been crying to have a collaborative action on terrorism but nobody paid any heed until they themselves faced it. Now the world is united in its effort to curb terrorism.

We need such combined action plans for every other problem we see in any other country which could have even slightest of impact globally. The poverty in Africa should be a matter of concern to the entire world, coz if we can address it then we only end up increasing markets for our goods, we end up boosting our own economy. I am in favour of having a motive even in social work. At least it gives some people some reason to do some good to the society.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Introducing Beatboxing

I render my apologies for being away for so long without any communication. I had actually not planned that I will not write. It's just that sometimes you don’t do much in life which is worth writing. But surely this weekend I experienced something which is as much worth writing as it is worth knowing. Here I introduce beatboxing to the uninitiated.

As defined by the World Beatboxing Community, beatboxing is the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue, voice, nasal passage and throat. As per me, I think it is the coolest form of music one can hear. Without using any musical instruments a beatboxer creates different musical sounds. Enthralling - isn’t it?

The concert that I saw at Queen Elizabeth Hall of Southbank Centre, London was called “Music Through Unconventional Means”. The world-renowned beatboxer Shlomo collaborated with Gauri Sharma Tripathi, an exponent in Indian classical dance form of Kathak. Having learnt Kathak as a kid, I always wondered if the way I was taught Kathak is the only way Kathak can be. But seeing this performance of Gauri Sharma changed my opinion. She concentrated on sounds more than bols (or words); she concentrated more on the rhythms in the movements than choreography. I realised one can experiment with everything as long as one is honest in the experimentation.

I quite liked the idea of merging beatboxing with Kathak. Both forms of producing music are based on rhythms.

The collaboration did not end here. Shlomo brought on-stage an acclaimed British Tamil musician Susheela Raman. Even though she sang in Tamil, of which I understood not a single word, but who needs words when the whole ambience is taken over by the might of music. The sounds were reaching the ears with emotions that meant so much; one was free to interpret it the way one wanted. Music is a language in its own right.

I experienced enchanting music full of creative imagination. Attending such concerts gives an opportunity to listen to very good music, to experience the magic created due to synergies of different music forms, to appreciate the extent of man’s creative imagination and to wonder about the capabilities of human faculties.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I am a woman

Let me raise my head with pride,
For I have worked hard to reach here –
Let me walk straight and unveiled,
For I have lots to show and share.

Why should I be mocked at?
For my lips are coloured –
Why should I be taken lightly?
For my skirt is flared.

I can do all the work that you do,
But I can do much more –
Should you not be embarrassed?
For being such a reckless bore.

I am a creation of a woman I admire,
You too had to be created,
What then is the attitude for?
When you too had to be initiated!!

P.S Dedicated to a woman I know...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Emergency service exercise

I was watching BBC the other day and found out about the concept of emergency service exercise. The report talked about a simulation of a hypothetical scenario in which multiple locations in the United Kingdom face a terrorist attack. The exercise was to develop and practice ways and processes to be used to come out of such a situation. The report said that it took 2 days for the officials to simulate such a scenario and now it would take another 24 hours for the on-field officials to finish off the operation successfully.

The report left me a little bewildered and happy at the same. Bewildered to imagine that a simulated act can in anyway match the gravity of a real occurrence and happy to see that atleast we are not sitting hand in hand doing nothing in order to prepare ourselves for such a dastardly act.

Recently the terrorists attacks in Pakistan on the Sri Lankan Cricket team deserves the worst of condemnation. Having grown up watching Sri Lankan cricketers like Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas, I felt very sorry to hear the news. I fail to understand what is the message that these terrorists are trying to convey? I fail to understand how can youngsters like me (most of whom are intelligent, smart and opinionated) get disoriented and lost by people who clearly are spreading violence, panic, terror, anxiety and distrust all in the name of God?

The ongoing economic turmoil should be enough for us to understand that we have already created a lot of mess around in the world, let's now start the process of resurrection. Let's get together to remove the insecurity we have created in our lives - insecurity of whether I will have a job tomorrow, whether I will be able to pay for my house tomorrow, whether I will have my life tomorrow!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bollywood Award Functions

Since a child I have always had a fascination for Hindi Cinema. Due to time constraints, educational priorities and the fact that we had no cable connection in our house (which in India means having access to only Government regulated channel called Doordarshan) I got to watch very few of them. But now that I am at a point in life when watching a movie relaxes me the most, I am fulfilling my childhood wish of watching lots of Hindi movies.

Just as watching a movie is crucial for me, so is commenting on it which may be either a criticism or a compliment. I find a nice way to tally the comments I made throughout the year with the distinguished minds in Hindi Cinema is by watching the Award functions (another reason being to check out the actors, their hairstyles/costumes/makeup).

Yesterday night when I was watching the Star Screen Awards for year 2008 held in early 2009, I was so put off since the start with the presentation of the ceremony. None of the actors (male/female) were dressed up to the occasion (except for a handful). Probably because the Academy Awards held in Hollywood (Oscars) have set my standards a bit too high. Or may be coz I know that Indian actors can look so handsome/beautiful if they want to but I wonder why they come to award functions so casually dressed. Either they do not care or there are too many award functions to care. People may not have watched their movies, but they do take a note of them in the award functions.

Do I also need to add to it that the show host was absolutely distasteful? To make people laugh, he stooped down to levels one can only imagine (or probably not). He made me wonder throughout as to why I dint find any of his poor jokes funny (as audiences seemingly were enjoying them). I was in doubt since the start thinking that probably I have lost my sense of humour. Sajid Khan and sister Farah Khan were the hosts. Together with the distasteful jokes (about effiminate males and gayism), they were also passing comments on the speeches made by the recipients. For a short speech I heard comments like “For a writer like you it's surprising that you do not have way with words” and for longer speeches I heard “Your speech was just a bit shorter than your movie”. Wonder if we can use the pretext of entertaining audiences by hurting those who work hard throughout the year to achieve these awards so that they can thank those who made it possible for them?

Towards the end director Ashutosh Gowarikar (whose movie “Jodha Akbar” won many accolades including best director) had the courage to voice against it. Sajid Khan replied saying that “It is a TV show [and so we got to make fun so that audiences laugh and TRP rises]”. I disagree. It’s is not a TV show. Why does not Sajid Khan host a TV show in which he pulls people’s legs and makes distasteful jokes so that the TRPs tick northwards? This is an award function, something seen by people all over the world, something which represents Indian cinema, something which gives a chance to the fans to see their actors dancing without cuts, something for which film makers (cast and crew) work hard throughout the year to be recognised at the end. I am sorry but Sajid and Farah this is totally unacceptable!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tagged




Thank you Renu for tagging me to write on the above picture.




The picture above is a similar picture (in essence) that I came across last year (of my friend with her boyfriend walking hand in hand in Russia). I was so moved by the picture that I requested her to give me a copy of it on which I always wanted to write a blogpost (I have her permission to publish it on my blog). Thanks to the tag now, it will now be finally written after almost a year.

I wonder what did I find so fascinating about this picture that I so badly wanted to keep it with me and to write on it? I feel that the pictures above can be looked at for hours giving rise to myriad thoughts.

I find shaking hands very special. I know it might sound American/English style of greeting somebody, and I do think ‘Namaste’ (Indian style of greeting with folded palms in front of the chest) has its own charm, but definitely a handshake is a little more personal (while a kiss on the cheek gets far more intimate and I tend to shun it). Holding hands while walking makes so much of sense. It constantly ensures that you are aware of the presence of the person walking beside you and don't have wandering thoughts about anybody/anything else.

Holding hand means a promise, a promise not to leave it again, a promise to hold in sickness and health, a promise to be a shield in times of trouble. Walking hand in hand means walking together the tumultuous journey of life; it means a pledge to understand and undertake the ups and downs of life together.

I might have exaggerated it a bit, but then I am sure these pictures do remind us of somebody. Somebody with whom either we have walked hand in hand or would have wanted to walk hand in hand. In both the scenarios I think we have been a winner as we have proved to ourselves the level of commitment that we are willing to take, the promises that we are willing to keep. In both the scenarios we prove to ourselves that we are lucky to have come across somebody worthy of that. And if not, then we rather need to go on a search of the self!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Raiganj Trip

I had a genuine reason to be away from blogging for a while now. I was in Raiganj for a two week holiday. It has been the best holiday I have had in times I can remember. Let me try to give words to the overwhelming experience I went through in one of the busiest, most exciting and memorable holidays of my life.

Onward Journey:

I chose Air India to fly down to India from London (and return) over numerous European flights – reason being simple – food. And I did not feel let down as the food was indeed amazing (so much so that I told my mother not to bother herself about packing food for the return flight). The flight was very comfortable unlike what my friends had alarmed me about. Most of the time I read the book “The Shadow of the Wind” that I was carrying and rest of the time watched the movie “Naseeb” starring Amitabh Bachchan (Din’t have any good English movie option, and I din’t mind it either).

On reaching Delhi, a very close friend of mine from undergrad days was waiting at the airport. I must have caused her a lot of pain because of the wait and confusion of domestic/international terminal, but I was glad she undertook it without complaining. We are friends since 8 years now, I have never felt so touched by a gesture of a friend that I felt this time. I gave her a bag (apt for weekend travel) I bought for her in London as a wedding gift which she seemed to have liked.

In that little time that we had, as I had to catch a connecting flight to Kolkata, she showed me the largest shopping mall in India (I think in Asia as well, not sure) called Ambience in Gurgaon. We had a nice lunch and nicer conversations. For a 5 O’clock flight I managed to reach the airport at 4.15pm only to be told that my flight is closed and departing as it has been re-scheduled for 4.30pm. Phew! After not much argument, they decided to send me on a later flight with no extra charges. I was bowled over by the hospitability. Delhi airport came across as clean and not very different from London Heathrow airport in terms of management and facilities.

I reached Kolkata quite late in the night which meant that the train booked for Raiganj had already left. With no alternative we (my father and my younger brother who had come to receive me) agreed to go by bus. Father’s network helped and we got three reserved tickets on a bus. The journey from Kolkata to Raiganj was really miserable. An over-night journey with no proper seats to relax, pathetic roads, and to top it all I felt the need to go to the toilet. The bus stopped in the middle of the night for dinner. I rushed to the ladies toilet of the road-side hotel (called “line hotel”) after ordering some dinner for the three of us. My younger brother warned me about the hygiene of the food, but I decided to eat it anyway. The food served on unclean plates was very tasty - simple chapattis with tarka daal (black curry made with pulses). However the toilet completely put me off. I was on the verge of vomiting. And it is something that I felt concerned about throughout my holiday. Sanitation in India is a huge matter of concern.

Raiganj:

Raiganj was as warm as it has always been. Nothing had changed in the town (apart from the renovation my mother is getting done in our showroom). My mother had planned out lots of visits to family and friends which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found warmth in them. I found an eagerness to embrace shedding apprehensions of all sorts. I felt genuineness in their love, respect, kindness and hospitability. I felt touched. More than once did I have tears in my eyes when I bid adieu to them.

My School:

I went to my alma mater with a joy of seeing the teachers who have made me what I am today, without whom I would not have understood the importance of consistent hard work, the importance of not just reaching the top but also maintaining the position.

I was overwhelmed by the warmth my teachers exuded. They invited me for a talk so that I inspire the current students to aspire and motivate them to work towards achieving the aspirations. I took no time to accept the invitation. On a later scheduled date I spoke to the current students and got an overwhelming response from them. My school celebrates its 100th birthday in 2011 for which I have promised to try my best to gather all the alumni spread across the world on one platform. I reckon to make the celebration worth remembering for times to come.

Cinema:

One thing that I love since childhood is to go to cinema followed by a nice family dinner in a restaurant. “Luck By Chance” was on Asha Talkies and I could not resist my temptation. I coaxed my younger brother and two other kids in our locality to come along with me. My parents could not manage time to go with us for the movie on one of the three cinema halls in Raiganj (the third one generally plays adult or B-grade bollywood movies). All the hype about this movie seemed unwarranted as very soon I found my younger brother, on my left, going off to sleep. The two kids, on my right, were not able to understand what was happening in the film so I started explaining them the scenes. A group of loafer guys were making so much of noise that I myself was not able to understand half of the movie. Thankfully the storyline was the most unpredictable and boring one so it was very easy to fill up the gaps. The gang of guys would start clapping very loudly sometimes when the heroine hugs the hero or gives a sly smile or just like that with no reason which in a way helped my brother to ward off his sleep to an extent. I enjoyed every bit of my time watching Luck By Chance in Asha Talkies.

Return Journey:

It was time to go back. It was time to leave all the warmth, love, and camaraderie back and return to work. I felt weak. I cried in my bathroom or in the room which has temple in it facing God asking Him to take care of my parents and to keep them away from any worry. Coming back from holidays has always been tough for me, but this time it seemed tougher. Life gives and takes so much. Even with so much of maths that I have done, I am yet to understand and formulate the equation of life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Derren Brown Show

What could be more scintillating than knowing that the person standing in front of you can read your mind, that whatever crap is going in your mind can be accurately read and understood by the person in front of you? No, I am not talking philosophical here, I am not talking about soul mates here who know what their better half is upto. I am talking about a professional, a sheer professional who claims that he does not have any psychic powers; all he does is capture the energies that our brains radiate. Each one of us has energies around us, and our thoughts attract those energies. He claims to be aware of those energies and thereby tell what is playing in our minds.


I got totally freaked out when I became aware of this concept. I got freaked out only by his TV show, wonder how would I react when he is actually in front of me. Derren Brown was on the business since the start of the show. There was a huge audience in the large auditorium and he involved as many as he possibly could have in the given time. There were various acts of mastery on display. He asked the audience to write their questions on a sheet of paper and fold it into an opaque envelope with their initials and desk number on the top. Just by reading the initial and desk number, Derren went on to say how old the person who has asked the question is, the sex, the name (!!) and also the question. And phew! He was spot on. Audiences like you and me were aghast; they were more freaked out than I was sitting outside the TV set.


There was another trick in which he asked some people to come on stage and by calling some dead spirits he would make the table move which the people called upon on stage are only touching to ensure that it is actual motion and not a delusion. I initially discarded it saying that probably a magnet has been attached inside the table’s legs and somebody below the stage is driving it (though I am not sure if magnet fitted inside wood is able to create a magnetic field). While all this argument was playing on in my mind and I was about to discard the trick as a nonsense, he commanded the table to rise up. Seeing it rise up for a good 30-40 cm above the ground, my argument failed. I submitted myself.


He dint stop there. After playing lots of similar unbelievable tricks, he threw his masterpiece in which he proved that he could read the minds of hundreds of people gathered in the show at the same time. He was too good there. With his eyes closed, he picked up a 30-35 year old guy sitting far behind in the rows, heard him say a yes, and went on to say that he is not English but of foreign origin, probably Ugandian or/and Indian (!), his name is Sachin (!!) and he recently went for a holiday to Iceland. Sachin was dumbstruck. He admitted each of it being true and that he is totally freaked out.


I was particularly freaked out to see that Derren could guess the names of people (accurate most of the times). Do our names really have so much of importance? Do the energies we radiate have names associated with them? Why did Shakespeare then say “What’s in a name?”?


The show left me restless. Now two days down the line and I am still pondering how all this can be done. How is it possible? The answer is not going to be easy but it will surely be no less than a revelation to go out on a hunt.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A pending tribute to Raiganj

I am born and brought up in Raiganj, a small town in the district of North Dinajpur in West Bengal. I remember as a kid my perpetual quest used to be to spot Raiganj in whichever atlas or geography book I came across. And never being able to spot it used to disappoint me and at the same time also give me a reason to discard that book claiming that it din’t contain enough information. Probably a part reason to why I could never fare very well in Geography. Very recently, to my pleasant surprise I found a small wikipedia entry for Raiganj. The wiki says that as per the 2001 census Raiganj has a total population of just 165,222 with 75% literacy (which is notches above the national average of 59.5%).

Since my mother foresaw a bright future for me, she was very adamant that I do not go to any Bengali medium school and English be my medium of instruction. Being a small town in West Bengal, Raiganj had some renowned Bengali medium schools, but no good English medium school. Hence, as a kid the schools I went to had leaking roofs, no fans and no tube lights. On a rainy day the roofs would leak to fill in the buckets kept under them and on a sunny day the tinned roofs would get as hot as possible and with no fans overhead only added to the torture. My mother had to donate some fans to the school, which followed suit amongst other parents thereby enabling some infrastructural development. However none of the English medium schools had managed to get an affiliation from the central board to conduct the tenth standard examination, so for two years I had to go out to a neighbouring place called Balurghat. I felt Balurghat was only bigger in size and population but much less developed than Raiganj, though that can be argued by some. Those days I missed Raiganj so much that I was ready to pay any price to go back.

So for the final two years of schooling called the twelfth boards, my mother put me into a renowned Bengali medium school with the exception that I would be allowed to take my examinations in English. This meant that all the lectures would be delivered in chaste Bengali. Bengali is my third language but the great deal of fascination for the language helped me manage to understand most of the theory lessons. I, however, found the Mathematics classes very difficult to follow. Knowing a particular language does not guarantee that one can also know Mathematics in that language. I used to struggle to ask questions to the Maths teacher as neither did he understand the equivalent English terms for some of the mathematical concepts. My classmates would make fun of me by calling me a ‘firangi’ meaning a foreigner. And very surprisingly I actually used to love hearing so from them. I never saw it as a mockery; rather I took it as their admiration. I guess I was good at selective hearing and also in extracting the essence that I wanted to hear from a remark/comment. My teachers loved me and appreciated the extra efforts I was putting in to understand all the subjects in a third language. It was a nice challenge to me, and I had a heavy incentive to win as I knew if I dint fare well in exams, then this challenge would only get extended meaning having to do university in third language as well.

I scored the highest marks in not only Raiganj but also in the entire state of West Bengal to which Raiganj belongs. I was on the newspapers and the local TV. I chose to give my interview in English which was commended by the Union Minister on an award function to felicitate my achievement. Raiganj Coronation High School would celebrate its centenary year in 2010 and I feel very proud to be associated with it. Those two years preparing for the twelfth boards were the last years that I spent in Raiganj and the most memorable times of life. Raiganj gave me the recognition for my hard work, and the recognition gave me the confidence that I can do something in life.

This piece of writing is an acknowledgement of my indebtedness to Raiganj and a reminder to my self to work towards my childhood dream of gifting Raiganj with a good English medium school. May God guide me!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A new year gift to you!

Found an old manuscript containing some of my poems I had given to special friends at different points of time in the past. Before nostalgia takes over, let me publish here one of them as a special new year gift to all of you! Let us start this year with a spirit which this poetry conveys!


Jeevan hamesha khushiyan to nahi lata,

Insaan hamesha sab kuchh nahi pata,

Sookh aur dookh samay ke chakra ki tarah hai,

Shanti aur ashanti dono hi har jagah hai.


Kabhi utaar to kabhi chadao-

Kabhi sahaj to kabhi uljhan bhare padao,

Jaise din aur raat, jeena aur marna.

Virah ke dard ke baad milan ki hai bela,

Kabhi hai log saath to kabhi chalna pade akela.

Pehle hai jhagra phir dher saara pyar,

Kabhi hai jeet to kabhi hai haar-

To bhai phir kis baat ka malhaar,

Jiyo zindagi chak do gam yaar.


Pata nahi kal ho na ho,

Pareshaniya to hai par phir bhi tum hanso.

Mana ki tumhara gam kuchh nahi hai kam-

Par lakho logo se phir bhi behtar hai hum,

Unke liye to har ek subah aasha ki nayi kiran hai

Aane wala woh din hi unka jeevan hai.

Shaam hote hi anischittayen gher leti hai unhe,

Agle din ki chintaayen woh jaaker kahe kinhe.


Prem aur vishwaas ki rah se tum na dagmagao,

Ishwar ke prati sachchi bhakti tum mann mein jagao.

Dhyan rakhna ki tum kabhi aham mein na doob jao,

Sahridayta aur vinamrata tum apne mein lao.

Apne aap par rakkho tum poori aashtha,

Sweang hi dikh jayega tumhe woh jagmagata hua raasta!!