Sunday, December 31, 2006
Why do people always look forward to the new year? Why do we always look ahead, try and get rid of our present, and live for the future, promising (and many times deceiving) ourselves into feeling happy that the new year will bring in the success and happiness promised in those myriad messages?
What about those for whom a new year simply signifies the end of an era, the closure of a chapter of hope, and the dawn of a new day that will bring nothing but misery and the ultimate recognition that your hope is dead, that every new day from now on will only be one filled with loneliness, sadness, and failure?
When you wish them a Happy New Year, are you perhaps not rubbing it in?
Monday, December 25, 2006
Rich Dad Poor Dad - the book that really opened my eyes to personal finance, and got me seriously thinking about taking control of my life and doing something about the below limit bank balances! A must read for all ye self-made young men and women and your DINK lives :)
One Minute Manager - definitely the book that inspires me most! The rest of the OMM series is great too, but nothing to beat the one that started it all!
FISH! - Comes a very close second in the list of books that inspire me and affect me most in my day to day job!
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman - the book that started it all. I was always an avid reader of fiction, but EI got me hooked to the category of books that are sometimes sadly grouped under the self-help category!
Life of Pi by Yann Martel - one of the most interesting pieces of fiction. Has three parts - part one sets the stage, part two gets interesting, but it's the part three - just the last 5% of the book - that really blows you away. Read the book - it's really worth "enduring" it if only for the thrill of the last few pages!
The Complete Works of Robert Ludlum - well, most of them anyway (except the Osterman Weekend, and the Road to Omaha). Most people would find it ridiculous that I have actually gone ahead and bought each and every book he's ever written - but something about his spy tales, many of them set in Europe, really turn me on!
The Animal Farm - not a big favourite, but definitely a book that left me thinking hard!
Paulo Coelho's Veronika Decides to Die - wierdly, one of the characters I identify with the most, and a character that has played a huge role in shaping my life!
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Do dead people ever come alive? Certainly not the ones who leave this world, but those whose obituaries are written when alive, do sometimes stage a comeback. Fortunately for Indian cricket, former captain Saurav Ganguly comes across as a classical case.
After a string of casual and poor performances the southpaw was dropped from the Indian Team amidst consternation and jubilation alike. Consternation for those who believed in the eternal worth of Dada and jubilation for those who thought that the Prince of Calcutta had lost his talisman to score runs.
What followed was a media binge to bury Ganguly for good. Obituaries were written with the choicest words. Experts, selectors et al, wanted his scalp. So, Wasim Akram advised Ganguly to retire- "This is a problem in our part of the world, sportsmen don't realise when is the right time to say goodbye to the game."
During his days in wilderness, Ganguly was being consistently advised by a cross-section of the Nation to retire from the game. It's distinctly surprising that people, who can't decide for themselves, make decisions about others. For a moment, people had Ganguly believe that he was no longer good enough.
Against all odds Dada persisted and made an acclaimed comeback into Team India. But people had an explanation for this as well- "He is back not because he is good, but because others are not performing well." Strange - the more people are proved wrong in their prejudices, the more prejudiced they become.
Now what? Ganguly performs well against all odds in South Africa. His stoic 83 in the warm-up match against a Rest of South Africa side was reflective of his determination to do well. This was a well played innings under tremendous pressure as wickets were falling en bloc around him.
In the ongoing first Test match against the Proteas, Ganguly was the top scorer for India with 51 not out in the first innings, holding the innings together. Ganguly fought in the middle for 180 minutes and returned unconquered. The high point of his innings was when he pulled Ntini for a six.It was a relief to see an Indian batsman offer resistance after what seemed to be an eternity. He followed the good work of first innings with a brisk 25 in the second innings.
Dada braved the tension in the middle with utmost composure, knowing well that each ball could be his very last.
For the moment, this Bengal Tiger has been rehabilitated from an endangered status. He is definitely not destined to extinction in the near future.
As adulation start to pour in from various quarters, the most successful captain of Team India has become the unambiguous 'Comeback Icon' in the country.
What a turnaround in the lives of two men, what an ironic coincidence!
In the morning, Sourav Ganguly carried the lower order around his willow to lift India to a fighting first innings total of 249 on a dubious Wanderers pitch; in the afternoon, S Sreesanth bowled with amazing fire and zeal to stun South Africa to their lowest total since 1957: 84 all out. Ganguly scored a patient and unbeaten 51, the highest contribution from an Indian in the first Test; Sreesanth picked up 5/40, one of the best figures for a pacer raised in the dustbowls of the subcontinent. Together, they have set India on course for what looks like a potentially amazing victory.
The man of the Test so far, however, has been Ganguly. For the last few weeks, as India staggered from one defeat to another collapse, coach Greg Chappell has believed in just one line: we need one innings, one good knock to turn this around. He was right. It's just so ironical that it had to come from Ganguly's blade. The same player who had been left out as a finished product.
In a way, everything has changed since his arrival here last week. Within 72 hours, as India collapsed again, he dug deep into his experience and grit to score a defining half-century. His calming presence and fighting spirit helped Irfan Pathan and India score their first century on this tour; it also boosted them to victory. That confidence simply rubbed on to the team as virtually everybody batted with fire and determination. Apart from all the courage and attitude that Ganguly has exhibited so far, one has to appreciate his distinguished behaviour off the field too: he has been calm and dignity-personified, showing remarkable grace under, both, pressure and success. He could easily have bared his shirt again or sent damning signals towards the dressing room. He didn't.
He has been equally poised and assured in the middle too. He took blows on his body, didn't flinch under the bouncer-onslaught and played his shots with the old-world charm and panache. He leaned into his drives and cut with control and precision. Ganguly's 51 will be worth its weight in diamonds. When he came in to bat on Saturday morning, half the side was back in the dressing room. He was left with just the tail and India were certainly not out of danger. He didn't panic; instead he showed enough faith in his mates, allowing them to play their own game. Dhoni fell to a spectacular catch, a one-handed, diving effort by Pollock at mid-off, while Kumble, Zaheer and Sreesanth couldn't handle the wicket. India were down to nine wickets but Ganguly didn't lose heart. He encouraged VRV Singh to play his strokes.
It had all the signs of a leader, a changed man and player. Chappell will surely have no complaints. That crucial, turning-around innings has probably come.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
25 in 38, with 4 fours
On a day when 20 wickets fell, when India bowled out the SA side for 84 in 25 overs, these figures from Saurav Ganguly say it all. Dada is back, and back with bang!
And you could see the difference in the team today - the energy, the team spirit, the huddle - the hunger to win, as one.
Welcome back, Dada! India looks up to you to show the way!!!
Sunday, December 10, 2006
The Lancet Liver Fluke: These flukes get themselves excreted by snails and is then eaten by ants, which likes the snail's excreta, and once inside the ant, it "programs" the ant to go and climb blades of grass and just stay there all day attached to the blade or leaf by it's mandibles, so that it then gets eaten by a sheep, inside which the fluke reproduces heavily, and when the sheep takes a dump, you get millions of them out in the world! Inside each host, the fluke goes through one of the phases of it's complex life cycle!
For more, check out this link
Kopi Luwak: Kopi (the Indonesian word for coffee) Luwak comes from the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi which form part of Indonesia. It's the most expensive coffee in the world, and sells for almost 300 USD per pound. It's not the exotic location that makes it so expensive - it's the way it is processed. On these Indonesian islands, there's a small marsupial called the paradoxurus, a tree-dwelling animal. They climb among the coffee trees eating only the ripest, reddest coffee cherries. The beans come through the digestion process fairly intact, still wrapped in layers of the cherries' mucilage. The enzymes in the animals' stomachs, though, add something unique to the coffee's flavor through fermentation.
For more, check out this interesting article.
A couple of years earlier, I had read one of his spy-cum-science fiction novels, the Covert One series. One of these had this fictional account of a "genetic computer", built using DNA, and much much more powerful than any of the US government's computers - and you can guess the rest of the story. Checked out DNA computers on Google, and this is what I found, reported by National Geographic almost 4 years back!
Israeli scientists have devised a computer that can perform 330 trillion operations per second, more than 100,000 times the speed of the fastest PC. The secret: It runs on DNA.
A year ago, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, unveiled a programmable molecular computing machine composed of enzymes and DNA molecules instead of silicon microchips. Now the team has gone one step further. In the new device, the single DNA molecule that provides the computer with the input data also provides all the necessary fuel.
For more, check out this link.
Truth is stranger than fiction? You bet!
So now imagine how excited I was today when I actually found another new one - and this time, the book is by Ludlum himself!
Great writers do not die - they live in their works, and some like Ludlum, probably write even after they are gone! Call me a non-believer, but that is something I find hard to digest.
Anyway, for now, I am going to curl up in bed with my Robert... and can you please stop thinking on those lines, perverts?
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Presenting to you, the Pune Viaduct!
Flying over the chasm, and into the tunnel across the Katraj ghat, this road will not only reduce congestion in south of the city, but will reduce travel time between Mumbai and Satara by atleast half an hour.
This picture was taken in late July... and the bridge looked so beautiful in the midst of the rolling mists and the rain! The work of man need not always be in disharmony with nature!
I took my first BRTS ride today - from Sahakarnagar to Katraj, and then back. It was an awesome experience!
Very beautiful buses, polite crew, smart tickets (from a punch-on-the-spot machine - like a credit card verification machine), air-conditioned, music, tinted windows, split level flooring (the rear half is raised to make space for the engine and the AC - the front half is very low for easy entry), comfortable seats, high frequency (every 3-4 mins) and most importantly, extremely cheap - the 4 km ride cost just 5 rupees! And remember, for most part, these run on dedicated, high-speed lanes reserved from them - you get this childish pleasure in waving out to other poor, hapless souls stuck in the slow moving lanes :)
It will be so cool to have these running over the city - even if they do not get dedicated lanes all the way! And add the skybuses - and commuting in Pune will be a truly a different experience altogether!
Yes, we have our problems, but our system, our economy, our democratic institutions, our judiciary, our press - it works, and I must say, for a country of our diversity and our size, it works extremely well. How many of us are actually proud of what we have?
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
That's how I would love to be - someone capable of feeling, understanding, and being able to pass through someone's life fleetingly, and yet leave an impression for life. A positive impression.
SRK has sometimes been criticized for being larger than life - but I would so love to be like the characters he plays - like the angel that brings so much happiness and cheer to everyone in KHNH.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
A beautiful structure, this bridge is composed of segments designed and manufactured offsite, from where they are transported to the site, needled together using steel wires, and then literally glued into place! The entire structure is literally hung by the wires, thus requiring very thin support pillars, giving a very clean and open look to the bridge. Also, the lovely curves add to the overall beauty of the structure. Check the wine glass pillars, the broad U-shaped curve underneath, and the gentle slopes on the bridge.
While the E-Square flyover is a simple, one-way bridge, the one coming up at Agricultural University Chowk has 4 lanes, will be 2-way, and has a vertical as well as a horizontal curve (looking from the top, it's not a straight line, but looks like a gentle C). The flyover at University on the other hand, will be much more complex, dispersing it's traffic onto three different exits.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Anyway, so what's Twenty20?
For one, the innings are reduced to 20 overs (that's obvious, isn't it?). Each bowler, hence, gets max of 4 overs. No-balls are followed by a "free hit ball", where you cannot get out unless you are run-out, and so on. Players do not sit in the dressing room, they are on the field, a la soccer! Once a batsman is ruled out, the replacement needs to be on the field within a minute. The focus, thus is on continuous action - no more walking over to the boundary to fetch the ball, you got to run and get it! And what I thought was the coolest piece of the action - live chat with the captains on the field! We just got to "talk" to Sehwag and Smith for barely 2-3 mins during the match, but it added a whole new dimension to the experience!
Is this the future of cricket? I think so - I think it will definitely catch the fancy of cricket lovers all over the world. It's fast, it's continuous action, and it's short! Like a movie - 3 hours.
Purists were shocked when Kerry Packer (isn't that the name?) started one day cricket. How could he do it, they asked! Colored clothes? Under lights? White ball? He was vandalising the game. Pyjama cricket, they called it. But it caught on, and in fact, led to a fresh new approach to Test cricket itself, leading to a renewed interest in that format. Twenty20 will probably do the same, but to be frank, for now, I wasn't too thrilled - something was missing, something was incomplete. But (as I said in my earlier post) it was probably the change that bothered me.
So, is the verdict out? No, not yet :) Let's wait and watch!
Implementing change is simple - all it takes is rule, a management decree, a system, a law. However, the challenge lies in getting the change effected in spirit, in mindset. And that requires selling the change to your team, to your friends, to your children. Making them want to embrace the change.
Resistance to change is one of the most fundamental traits of humans. We resist change not because we do not like what's proposed, but because we hate letting go of what we have. We like consistency, we like the comfort of the familiar, we hate the unknown. We will oppose the BRTS, we will oppose reservation, we will oppose new roads, we will oppose new timesheets, we will oppose everything that's different.
But change is not always bad! After all, you may be giving up something you loved so much, but you have a whole new experience to look forward to, to live! And after all, isn't that what life's all about? Growing, changing, every single day?
Meaning: To refuse to accept blame for your faults, and instead blame it on someone else :)
Professor: You have missed submitting your assignment sheet once again!
Student: I greg to differ! My sister cut it up for her craft project!
For more on him, check out http://www.russellpeters.com/
Warning: You need to take his jokes in the right spirit and an open mind - stay away if you are the over-sensitive kind! Not recommended for children and purists!
Friday, December 01, 2006
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Isn't it cool? Can you imagine such a possibility in the "old" India - A bridge opened for use even before a minister inaugurates it with the customary "janata" speech? There were times when even public toilets were inaugurated by ministers (how they "performed" the opening ceremony is out of scope of this blog :))
I love the way the flyover looks - extremely sexy, beautiful curves, very very petite and very cute! I hope they name her something sweet... will upload a pic or her one of these days.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
To FORGIVE. It's difficult,
especially when the other person doesn't deserve
your forgiveness or doesn't even seek it. It's
difficult when the other person is clearly in the
Forgiveness doesn't mean that the other person's
behavior is okay. He's still
responsible for his misbehavior.
Forgiveness is about letting yourself off the
emotional hook. It's about releasing your negative
emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. It's about
letting go of the past so you can go forward to the
Everyone in your life,
everyone on and off the job
is going to disappoint you. If you know how to
respond to those situations, you'll be way ahead of
So here's why I blog:
1) I love talking and giving my opinion on every damn thing in the world - whether it is movies, the state of the country, religion, or the BRTS!
2) Writing it down makes me think a lot more, analyze a lot more, get a lot more out of my system than I can do otherwise
3) It feels awesome to find random people taking up the thread, discussing with you on topics you could have never opened up in any conversation with that person otherwise
I have visited some absolutely random blogs of people I know nothing about - but an article about someone's cooking here, a small travelogue there, a discussion on the college picnic - something just connects, and you feel part of that life, thousands of miles away!
And yes, it has made me much more aware - I am now always on the lookout for things to talk about, and I enjoy and appreciate things so much more!
Notice how little space it actually occupies on the ground - a twin track can easily be laid over the middle of every main road in Pune without wasting any of the available carriage width! Elevated stations springing up from the side of the road makes it extremely safe for travellers to get in and out without getting run over by other road traffic (another of the major inconveniences of the BRTS!). And the parallel tracks above ground with the SkyBus suspended underneath make accidents almost a zero-possibility! (Yeah, yeah, I thought about Puneites throwing garbage onto the heads of poor, unsuspecting road-inhabitants below, but these will be air-conditioned coaches...)
Except for the exhorbitant cost of laying the tracks, the solution to India's traffic woes seems almost too good to be true.
And finally - we have seen lots of buses all over the world. Can you imagine how sexy it will be for the city if you have hundreds of these SkyBuses zipping over the Pune landscape? :)
Abhishek Bacchan's "adayein" and cool dude drill
Mindless, senseless songs inserted every 10 mins
A story line that doesn't exist, and action that seriously questions your basic intelligence
A hideously presented Rimi Sen
Uday Chopra taking his mummy act too far
Hrithik Roshan performing his gravity-defying "stunts" - shooting out of gutters after jumping into them, and activating his "magnetic hands" - looks like he forgot to keep his Krish mask at home!
OK, I have a long list of things I hated in the movie.
So what did I like? Hmm, awwww, mmmmm, scratch scratch, awwww, come on... hmmm...
You get the point! Stay away from the movie, and stay away from the Times of India movie reviews! I officially take back my earlier posting on Dhoom 2!
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
We need to look for the (W)right coach again !
I have been really amused at some comments made by the Indian team Coach after the 3rd ODI between India and South Africa in Capetown on Sunday. I was really disappointed with the Coach, the Captain and the team and these comments only worked like the finest Desi Ghee in fire ! I read about this comments on the CricInfo website and are being put straight from there. Please let me know, if I am alone feeling it or majority of you guys feel the same too !
He says "I am not sure whether there is a solution other than working hard."
If our Coach (remember, he is paid handsomely to be a Coach) is unaware of a solution, where do we go to find one?
He says "We have to try and turn things around. It has got to come from the players. They've got to dig deep and find a way to do it."
If our players are supposed to dig deep and find a solution to their own problems then why spend money for a Coach?
He says ""We are struggling and we need to try something different"
Weren't we doing different and experimenting all this time? Are't we struggling because all this time we tried to do something different and not stick to thebasics?
He says ""Indian batting teams with more better credentials have struggled under these conditions before"
No Indian team had lost by more than 80 runs before ! Doesn't his laptop have the statistics? Is the current Indian team to SA is the worst team ever to have toured SA?
He Says "The ball bouncing between waist and chest is not something that happens regularly in India"
That's why we have a FOREIGN coach ! Any indian cricket follower would have been able to tell him that before the tour started ! Can we please come up with new excuses or stop touring countries like SA and Australia till we can cope up with the bounce?
He says about the Captain "There's a lot of responsibility on him. He's a key player and he's expected to do well. But he needs support"
Didn't you realize this when Ganguly was the captain? Didn't he need your support? But what did you do with him? or is it something you learnt today?
He says about the MPs of Indian Parliament ""They are entitled to make any comment they like. That's what they are paid to do in parliament."
Well at least somebody knows what they are paid for and are doing their job well !
Will it work? I hope so! I would love to keep my car away for some time and let someone else drive me. Do we have any option? Well, we could have a Metro and a Light Rail System, but public transport is a must now, in Pune, and in other Indian cities.
Will the public treat the buses with respect? Why not? Will the rest of the traffic respect the BRTS corridor rules? Should be possible - the corridor seems pretty well demarcated, and should be workable in most situations! But if you ask me, I think a Skybus would have been a much better idea (though a hundred times more expensive!).
Go have a look - and if nothing else, appreciate the government's move and the vision that has gone into dreaming of the BRTS, and the speed at which the work is being done!
Yes, India is definitely dreaming big! No stopping now...
Sunday, November 26, 2006
This post came out of my first attempt at using Google Docs.
- Pretty fast (I was on standard broadband connection)
- Checking spellings is an explicit step - the incorrect spellings are marked out, and you get a drop down list of suggestions (Ajax-enabled of course!)
- You can compare and go back to various versions of the document - but it was a little buggy. Expect it to be fine soon.
- Collaborate is a cool feature - you can actually share and do online editing with other people. Couldn't test it out - but seems a great idea!
- Allows you to download the document in various formats including Word, PDF and HTML - very neat!
- Did not see support for templates and other stuff which one is so used to with Word
- You can post directly to your blog
So how does it compare with Office? Well, the new Office 12 is way, way ahead of the earlier Office as we knew it. For example, with the kind of customization possible, Word is now not just an editor, but a complete application development framework! Would I use Google Docs? I would if I was stuck in a cyber cafe without Office installed. But for the serious stuff, come on - are you serious?
ps: The doc did get posted, but not after giving me some anxious moments - and as you can see, I posted it in the wrong blog :)
Catching a movie on Saturday
Catching up on pending work on Saturday evening
Some reading at night
A couple of hours washing and polishing my cars on Sunday
Shopping at Shoppers and Crossword on Sunday evening
A bit of gardening
Putting papers and Sanam's toys away
... and lots and lots of sleeping!
1) Very aggressive-minded, but can be a great friend
2) Takes very little risks - does not do anything impulsively (remember, he took more than half a decade to appoint his successor!)
3) Very strong ego, very individualistic, a bit of a show-off when it comes to himself (can understand why!)
4) Very closed friend circle
5) Very optimistic
6) Very analytical, thinks a lot before doing anything (relates to 2)
7) Doesn't set very high goals for himself (OK, history proves otherwise - but remember, this is not about what he did, this is about what he plans/thinks of doing)
8) Does not like personal space too much - kinda needs to be surrounded by people all the time (probably explains all those thousands of meetings he loved to have)
9) Very extroverted - loved to talk about himself, his life, his problems, to everyone possible
10) Was not very good at art and crafts with his hands, not very dextrous
11) Did not like thinking too much about the future, loved to be linked to the past
For more on the book itself, read the earlier post on my other blog.
Hang on for the official review from K3G, coming up soon to the Internet near you :)
Added later, an official recall of this posting: Dhoom 2 sucks, the ToI review sucks, and yes, Mr Bond sucks too!
I have nothing against Dravid, and he can continue giving his batting performances - but please give us a captain that can hold the team together, encourage and groom the youngsters, and drive everyone to perform aggressively as one team. Chappel's experiments have only resulted in ensuring that today no one in the Indian team (except Dravid, maybe!) has any clarity on their role, their position, their future - it's every man to himself, and hello - teams are not built that way!
With a new team of selectors, with Zaheer and Kumble being brought back to add some spine to the Indian team's dismal performance in SA, and with rising calls for Chappel to be removed, can we finally hope to have Dada back? Can we have the glorious days of Indian Cricket back please?
Saturday, November 25, 2006
2) Install an Inverter - aah, the pleasure of having electricity when everyone else is struggling with the candles - totally worth it!
3) Install a Security Camera and Motion Sensors - don't know if it works, but it sure feels good :)
Take today for instance. First I get a call from Esselworld, as a follow up to the feedback I had given during my last visit there. The person asked for details of the issue I had, said sorry for the inconvenience, and promised to look into the matter. May not make a difference to me right now, but then he did not really have to call me back either! Yesterday I got a call from Ford India (though I could not answer it at that time), and today my mailbox contained a greeting card from Ford wishing me a happy first anniversary with Reona. At 7:15 pm on a Saturday, my bank was open. I logged a request, and 10 mins later, the request had been processed, and I had an ack on my cellphone, along with the request number for future reference.
Yes, things can still get better. One of the things we really need to do better in India is "be present" and "welcome" the customer. One of the biggest mistakes you can do is to not acknowledge the customer as soon as he comes in. No matter how busy you are, you need to look up, smile, and engage him - even if you just tell him you will be with him presently. And once you are talking to him, you really need to be present and in the moment. Trying to do two things at one time is a dead giveaway of your lack of interest in the customer. Even if you are talking to your customer on the phone, be present and in the moment, and the customer will feel the difference.
Most of the big malls in India, including my favourite Shoppers Stop, fails in both the key tests. The worst is definitely the Nokia Service Center in Pune. Planet Ford comes pretty close to being bad! The best service I have got is at my local grocery store and the laundry!
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
"When we were young kids growing up in America, we were told to eat our vegetables at dinner and not leave them. Mothers said, think of the starving children in India and finish the dinner.' And now I tell my children: 'Finish your homework. Think of the children in India who would make you starve, if you don't.'"
Monday, November 20, 2006
Fast cars, beautiful girls, breathtaking action, cool gadgets. If that's what you want, go watch Don. For an endless, senseless game of poker, watch Casino Royale.
The movie starts off well with a nice action sequence with the bad guy running off like a monkey in the house of flying daggers, with Bond in hot pursuit. Then suddenly, it stops being a Bond movie - the girl, Eva Green, was much better off in Dreamers, the Aston Martin is only used for a crash scene, Bond actually falls in love, and there are no gadgets except a stupid defibrillator to get him back from the dead! How about a house in Venice going down into the water for some spine chilling action? Add a couple of songs and some running around bushes, and this could have actually been a James Deol movie!
Come on, we actually paid 100 bucks to watch this?
ps: OK, on second thoughts, it not such a bad movie - except that I really had huge expectations from it. And yes, the title song is fabulous!
Thursday, November 09, 2006
What do you get when you take two shopping-obsessed girls, two guys with multiple credit cards, one kid with a penchant for pestering, and a HyperCity and InOrbit next to each other?
Guess the value of this lot (assuming there is no expensive jewellery in here!)... SMS your reply to 8888 and you could win exciting prizes!
Every Goan Hindu house celebrates Tulsi Lagn, also called Vhodli (bigger) Diwali! Here you see my uncle performing the marriage rites... the Krishna is represented by a small idol placed on top of the Tulas, barely seen in the pic.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I spent the last 3 weeks driving a Honda City VTEC (the car in the picture is the lower version, the ZX), through expressways, city roads and village tracks, with and without passengers, with or without good music, in the night and in the day, through lonely streets and crowded places. And with over 10 months in my Ford Fiesta 1.6 SXi in similar conditions, here's my verdict...
Steering & Road Handling: The City has slightly lighter steering, even while the thin grip makes it a little more difficult to handle. The Fiesta though has absolutely perfect road grip and is absolutely stable on high speed curves. I did manage to extract a few squeals and drifts with the City, but the car skids and loses grip if the road is slightly rough and unstable, and I almost managed to crash the car once while trying a S curve on a loose-gravelled road at around 100 kmph. Braking with the City is suspect too, and the car seems to lock brakes and skid on, while even without ABS, the Fiesta is always ready to stop at the drop of a dime. All in all, if you want to take those high speed thrill rides, the Fiesta is the car for you. Don't even try it with the City, which is best left to the city!
Acceleration and Power: Again, the Fiesta wins hands down. The City is almost sluggish, and trying those high speeds manouevers in and out of multi lane traffic and those quick bursts of speed on the highway to edge in front of slow moving trucks are best avoided with the City. Bear in mind that the VTEC is the high power version of the City - my experience with the lower end versions have been worse!
Drive Quality and Suspension: This is one point where the City scores better. Both cars are better suited to take the rough roads at higher speeds, and drive quality deteriorates sharply if you try to take the rough at slow speeds. The City though is much more comfortable on bad roads.
External Looks: This one is completely personal, and I love the rounded, muscular look of the Fiesta compared to the flattened, straight lines look of the City, which looks more like a vehicle from one of those futuristic movies.
Interiors: The SXi has a very good 6-speaker audio system with 6 CD in dash changer, whereas the City's sound system has 4 speakers, and much less audio quality. The City though comes with support for MP3, which is a big minus for the Fiesta. The Fiesta's leather seats and trimmings are also much more refined, and it also has more reading lights in front as well as in the back, while the City has only the single central light panel. Many of the City's controls are found in non-intuitive locations, like the reverse foglight which is situated near the handbrake! The City seems to provide little more interior space and is very comfortable to get in and out of. The double glove compartment of the City is nice!
Fuel Efficiency: This is a big let down for the City, and a car which was expected to give well over 15 kmpl, barely seems to manage 11-12 kmpl, unlike the Fiesta (which turns out an impressive 13-14 kmpl). Maybe it's the VTEC engine that sucks up fuel, but compared to the much more powerful Fiesta, this is definitely a big negative.
Value for Money: This is the biggest killer for the VTEC. At almost 1.25 lakh more than the Fiesta, with it's low fuel efficiency and bad ride quality, and not-too-impressive interiors, the VTEC is definitely not value for money!
Overall: No doubt about it.. whether it is swanky interiors, the external look or the fuel efficiency, the Fiesta more than matches up to it's much more expensive rival. And of course, if you drive with your heart, and if you love those squealing tires and drifts, if you love to see your competition fade in the rear view mirror, buckle up in the new Josh, and Go Fida!
Disclaimer: This is not necessarily an unbiased view, coming as it is from a die-hard Ford loyalist, so City-lovers, if you are reading this, please understand! :)
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Here's the elder batch of 3 cuties...
... and this is the newer one :)
Here you have the deadly trio planning an attack on their mom...
...before they decide the family dog is a more exciting challenge!
Sigh.. end of one day. What do we do tomorrow?
Monday, November 06, 2006
We started out with a visit to the Bandra-Worli Sea Link - if you ever needed proof of how big India is thinking, this is it. A massive segmental-cum-suspension bridge, taking off into the sea at Bandra, and curving around Bandra-Mahim to enter downtown Mumbai at Worli. And unlike most road projects which leave huge ugly scars on the land, the approach roads and flyovers simply add to the amazing splendour of this bridge.
Check out the link http://www.bandraworlisealink.com/ for some cool details.
From the bridge, to Mannat, the den of the don, the castle of the king, Shah Rukh Khan's palatial white bungalow at Land's End, near Bandstand, Bandra. Huge gates and fences keep the prying eyes away, but we couldn't help just parking opposite the gate, the car stereo blasting out the theme song from Don, hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of this person who has given so much entertaining moments, happiness, cheer and hope to millions and millions of Indians all over the world.. the showman of them all, SRK! I do not care how big an actor he is, I know I would love to be someone who could make a stadium full of fans scream and jump in glee just to get a glimpse of me!
Next stop, Atria Mall in Worli. Right beside the Worli flyover, Atria welcomes you with a huge glass facade, dozens of large glass sections held in place, almost magically, by the spider hooks. Huge rays in the floor created by toughened transluscent glass tiles radiating out welcome you into it's fold. The mall itself is very upscale, with leading international brands jostling for the attention of Mumbai's well-heeled, who gingerly step out onto the patio from their air-conditioned limousines. But worry not, no matter who you are, like the rest of this beautiful city, Atria will welcome you with open arms! And as you can come to expect, they have a pretty nice website at http://www.atriamumbai.com/index.htm.
ps: Atria is situated right opposite Poonam Chambers which saw one of the biggest bomb blasts during the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts
We checked out some of the cool stuff available there - the beautiful chess set in China clay for 1.5 lakhs was just a little too expensive for me to pick up. We visited "Illusions of Art", where beautiful portraits rendered on the inside of concave surfaces team up with light to give you a surreal experience - the eyes of the painting follow you as you walk around. Almost scary!
Then to fun and games in the games area. The creme de la creme is the Orama 4D theatre - crystal clear 3D movies (you got to wear the special 3D specs), the moving seats in tandem with the movie, and, hold your breath - water jets and sprays, gusts of air, smells, water bubbles - the experience is COMPLETE. I have never clapped so much in appreciation before!
By this time, it was time for a good lunch, and then we picked up Madhavi, before going to InOrbit at Malad for more shopping. The previous evening, actually, we had been to HyperCity (http://www.hypercityindia.com/home.asp), a HUGE (how about if I say it's the size of a couple of football fields?) mall catering to almost each and every item you might ever need - the only ones we could pin point after a LOT of thinking that were not available, were medicines and jewellery. From fruits, to fish and meat, from electrical appliances to TVs, Refrigerators, from hammers to fire extinguishers, from soaps and deos to books, from laptops to VCDs and XBoxes, name it, and chances are, you will find it at HyperCity.
At InOrbit (http://www.inorbitmalls.com/b2c/index_malad.html), we shopped at LifeStyle, and then at Shoppers Stop. We had just walked into Shoppers, and realised they have a new section for the Home, called The HomeStop. We went up the short elevator, and then just stood in shock and awe at the scale of the "extension". Almost as big as HyperCity, stuff stacked up as far away as your eyes can see, if you ever needed an example of the power of the booming Indian middle class, this was it. Hundreds of people gleefully walking the aisles, excited and enthusiastic at the choices they now have. We spotted one of India's movie/TV stars in our midst, but out there, we were all one with one common goal - shopping to our heart's content.
Finally, tired and exhausted after a long day, we left for Pune by 12, and thanks to another of modern India's engineering marvels, were home and in bed, 160 kms away, in less than 2 hours.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Here's what being in Goa means to me...
1) Being in my ancestral home which has been my only real home every single day of my life - a place where I always have lots of company, from family, from my cats and our dogs - and yet have lots of places and corners where I can sit with a book and a cup of tea, completely alone and at peace!
2) Watching the kittens play as the mom cat sits in my lap, purring with pleasure as I stroke her
3) The smell of the earth, the weeds, the farms, the rain, the spray from the sea, the sand beneath the feet, the cows, the crows, the wind, the chirping of the birds everywhere you go
4) Seeing true warmth and open arms everywhere you go and everyone you meet - from the waiters in the small cafe, to the taxi driver, to the fisherwoman, to the traffic policeman, to the grocery storekeeper - where wishes come from the heart, where smiles are not just curly lips, where true happiness comes from sharing and giving. Where you can have a real conversation with just about every one, where you can just pop into any random house, uninvited, and be sure you will be offered a hot tea, a soft drink, some chilled limbu soda, or maybe even lunch! Where you can wave out at just about any one - the children, or the elderly - and be assured of a warm smile and a wave in return
5) The awesome fish, the mussels, the crabs, the prawns, the "pokshe paav", the "bhaaji-pav", the "kalwache tonak"
6) The clean roads, the smiling people, the majestic Portuguese buildings jostling with the shiny new stores cropping up at every nook and corner
7) The multi colored busses with names like Raegan Baba and Rocket, or Shantadurga Prasanna, the conductors hanging out of the doors, their whistles ready, always pleading with you to "faati woch" (go behind), where there are no tickets, and everything is about trust!
8) The beautiful temples, where even the athiest will experience true peace and serenity, where the bhatjis do not run after you for your donations, and where beggars do not pester you for alms. The numerous chapels and crosses dotting the villages and roads, where you will find a devout Chistrian or two offering candles, or just stopping by for a quick prayer, while their Hindu and Muslim friends stand by to continue the conversations
There's a lot more that is Goa - but isn't this enough to tell you why a Goan is always gonna be a fish out of water any where else?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
1) SRK - he's the King of Bollywood, and Don once again shows you why! He is at his best - you simply cannot take your eyes off him when he is on screen. His attire is sexy - he looks super hot, and the scene at the end of the movie when he flips the cigarette butt, with the evil smile on his face - aah, sexy sexy sexy! The paan song sequence is cute, though he didn't really look like he was drunk on bhaang :) His fight scenes are very nicely done, too - and the jump from the plane - very nice!
2) Pinky Chops - sweet and sexy, she is really much better than the original Roma! Check her introduction scene... check her out when she stands atop the ambulance dressed in white biking gear..
3) The theme song - the ultimate for a super high feeling. Can't wait to blast it on my car speakers.... Mujhko pehechaan lo - main hoon Don!
4) The story - while it is closely based on the orginal Don, the twists added by Farhan Akhtar make this a completely different movie! Do not miss the end!
5) The fight sequences, the locales, the cars and the chases, the aeriel shots over Malaysia - very very slick, very different. Check the ambulance scene, the reverse car chase at the beginning of the movie, the jump from the plane, the end sequence... setting new standards in Indian action cinema, this makes the new Don a completely new experience from the bland original.
Boman could have been better used, Kareena is a waste, and so is Isha Koppikar. The Ganapati song is an unnecessary overhead, and parts of the movie start dragging when SRK and PC are off the screen - but all in all, it's a movie I want to see again and again and again.
Cafe Real is the quintessential Goan restaurant, where you can enjoy some delicious bhaaji-pav, with kanda-bhaji, topped with a cup of steaming tea. Options include the suki (meaning dry in Konkani, and refers to the batata bhaaji), paatal (meaning dilute, referring to the chana masala), salad (meaning the tomato and onion preparation), and mushroom. And yes, all combinations including the favoutire mix (paatal + suki), and salad-suki. A full stomach will cost you around 15 bucks!
Similar to the Irani restaurants, you can share seats with goivernment ministers, fisherwomen and the common Panajimite, engage in some light banter, and generally have a great time! We used to spend so much time here back in the mid-nineties, and our favourite waiter still works there, still recognises us, and still enjoys giving us his recommendations for the day!
Aah, what would I not give to have Cafe Real in Pune!
We hired a bus, filled it up with 30 odd relatives, and one dog, and off we went.
We started off at the resort with some refreshing pineapple sharbat, and then went off to the stream for an hour of bathing and frolicking in the chilly waters, then shifted to the pool for some polo. An awesome lunch of chicken masala and fried fish, with fresh mango and icecream, was followed by a relaxing 45 min long body massage in a small hut by the banks of the stream (Sorry, the pics are censored :)).
I did a bit of Steve Irwin with this beautiful creature...
... but this one was best left in it's bottle!
This tree-tent was simply awesome! Very cool, and very very relaxing to sit inside its dark interiors!
And check out this bathroom - open air, in the company of plants, an experience in itself.
Tired but refreshed, by 5.00 we wrapped up an awesome day with some refreshing chai, and returned home - a game of dumb charades keeping us engrossed, making sure we didn't feel too bad about having to end the day!
Diwali in Goa is all about the Narkasur. While other parts of India celebrate Ram's victory over Ravan, Goa celebrates Krishna's victory over the demon Narkasur.
Diwali in Goa is a wonderful example of communal harmony, the assimilation of so many cultures and religions into one common celebration of life - the warmth and the happiness and the wishes so clean and pure and genuine - complete strangers warmly wishing each other, broad smiles greeting you everywhere, dance and music and happiness permeating every where. I was at the shop... one elderly Christian gentleman walked in, asked another how he was, and then wished him Happy Diwali. Was so beautiful to see that! I do not think you would see this any where else in India.
Thousands of Narkasurs dot the landscape, with excited and happy people milling around, enjoying the atmosphere.
You have the typical demons scaring you with their bared teeth and weapons, but also those that shake and scream at you, demons dressed like terrorists, and there was also a Himesh Reshamiyya.
We made our own Narkasur this time too - a giant effort, loaded onto a TataMobile truck, paraded through town all night long accompanied by slogan shouting and drums, appreciated by all and sundry with big smiles and cheers. We got captured by a local TV crew too, getting almost a whole minute of coverage coming on prime time the next day - instantly making us super stars.. well, atleast we loved to believe so :)
We came back home around 230 am, and then consigned the Narkasur to the flames, and went to bed - and while the rest of India was waking up to Diwali day, Goans went to sleep, content in the knowledge that one more awesome Diwali had passed by, and looking forward to the next!
Monday, October 09, 2006
Look everywhere around you. Construction going on everywhere - roads, buildings, flyovers, viaducts... there are gleaming cars on the roads, mobile companies vying to attract customes... India is growing, and booming.
But the most exciting part is - we are thinking BIG.
We are no longer content building a new road through difficult terrain - we now build 100 meter high viaducts.. no more road widening, we build 6 lane expressways.. no more setting up shop abroad, we are making billion dollar acquisitions... no more industrial estates, we now have multi-crore investments in SEZs, no more Pananis, we now build Persistent Towers..
I had been to the Kakade Magnum Mall in Camp a few days back - walk into the atrium, and you will see the grandeur of the GREAT INDIAN DREAM. Fully air-conditioned, a 16-speaker rack piping out peppy music, hundreds of happy shoppers and visitors alike enjoying just being there, large super stores like Pyramid and West Side, side by side with international chain stores like Marks and Spencer, Pizza Hut, Mac Donalds, Yo China - and see the smiles on people's faces - we are a HAPPY population - I have been to so many cities in Europe and the US, and I have never seen a more vibrant population!
Yes, we do have poverty and corruption and dengue and malaria - but hey, we are getting there!
Life was so different back then..
My earliest memories are as a child in a world of green Bajaj scooters and white Fiats.. endless power cuts (and LOTS of candles and kerosene lamps built out of empty medicine bottles and "sutli")... waiting for 600 pm, for Doordarshan to start its programmes.. the Saturday Marathi movie, and the Sunday Hindi movie... Chayageet and Chitrahaar... Bruce Lee and Amitabh Bacchan on video... going to school in my cycle.. cricket and swimming in the evening...
Then came the Gulf War.. and along with it, cable TV... CNN, BCC, DD Metro... Aamir Khan and Salman Khan.. SP Balasubramaniam, Alka Yagnik... we started tracking "new releases"... Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Maine Pyaar Kiya, QSQT... The Fiats and Maruti 800s started giving way to the Maruti 1000s and Ford Escorts, the Hero Hondas replaced the black ubiquitous Rajdoots, I got my Kinetic, followed by my own Hero Honda.. our 2 digit telephone changed into 3, then 4, and then 6 digits..
Things have changed now.. I have a made-for-Indian-conditions Ford Fiesta, we have 3 mobiles, and 3 land lines at home, we watch a new movie almost every weekend, and many more on DVD (yes, VCDs are already passe!).. are it might not be long before we have DTH.. my house is now secured with infrared intrusion detection devices.. the flat world has arrived!
Those days gone by still attract - once in a while, an old song comes on TV.. those tunes, those dresses, the get-them-by-the-dozen-for-50-rupees-a-day dancers in the background being offered as college kids, and guests at the wedding... the innocence of those days.. aah, how much I would give to have them back!
Or would I..?
For example, press 4663, and you will get Good, Home, Gone, Hood, Hoof and some others as choices. These choices are what I called T9grams, and I have found some really interesting sets of them:
Select and Reject (Very interesting!!!)
Saree and Raped (One of my friends once messaged to say I am getting saree in the shop - but forgot to use the right T9 word!)
Lips and Kiss (So apt!)
Gone and Home (and for Good too!)
Love and Loud
Onsite and Morgue :)
Monday, October 02, 2006
A cute flower I clicked on my camera at the Kamath Residency, Nagothne....
One hour later, its curled up buds were beginning to unwind... while the leaves came together and went to sleep...
And this is how it will finally look, just a couple more hours later... unwound, grown up, ready to accept the bees!
Here are some lizard eggs in our kitchen attic in Pune -unfortunately, by the time I saw them, the eggs had hatched, and the babies were nowhere to be seen.
How small can the eggs be? Well, here they are lying beside my gigantic 2.5 inch tall cell phone.
Teamwork. Do you know ants can typically 40-50 times their body weight? If we were as strong, we could carry our cars to office!
This is a butterfly, hardly a centimeter across from tip of one wing to the other - found it on our hotel bed in the morning - and it stayed there till we checked out.
I found this bird to be a regular visitor to my terrace.
And then I realised why - three little eggs, waiting to be hatched, resting in the nest she had built for them in my fern pot! Here's the first of them hatching...
Hey, they have grown up! Just three days later, can you see the hint of feathers?
A week later, they are ready to fly!