Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: Freedom

Daniel Suarez's Freedom picks off where his first book, Daemon, left off.

The Daemon has now taken over much of the world's networks plunging governments, companies and the economy in chaos. Gangs rule the streets while Loki's Razorbacks and AutoM8s unleash terror on the non-darknet world. But authorities are trying to fight back too, coordinating all their power in their fight against the Daemon.

But as the darknet communities find their real heroes, and start building pockets of resilient, self-sufficient communities fighting against the world's powerful corporations, and the authorities' murky connections to the private corporates and militaries become more and more suspect, one wonders which is the better side, after all.

Freedom is an interesting book, but fails to create the magic of the Daemon - and after some time, it does become repetitive and overbearing.

Malling

Visited the Koregaon Park Mall yesterday - after a fire at the Shoppers Stop outlet in the mall took it out of action a few months back, it has recently reopened, although the damaged section of the mall is yet to be repaired and is shuttered off to the public.



It's a pretty mall with lots of convenient parking, but sadly, after the mis-start, occupancy is barely 30-40%, and the footfalls are few and far between (we were there on a Sat morning and had mostly shop staff for company!).

While on the topic, for the serious shopper, the foodie and the movie goer, the Phoenix Market City in Pune offers the bext mall experience compared to everything else in Pune and Mumbai. InOrbit at Malad used to be my fav, but has far fewer shops and restaurants, and the profusion of newer malls in the area has also affected footfalls dramatically and it's no longer the go to place in the western suburbs. Phoenix Market City in Ghatkopar-Kurla is another good place in the making, with lots of entertainment options, but is still some way away from being fully operational.

Back here in Pune, Amanora has lots of shopping options too, and probably scores slightly higher on the restaurants list, but I would still vote for Phoenix overall.

Palladium in Mumbai (incidently, next door to the Phoenix High Street Mall) though, has some very high end stores, which are missing in Phoenix, but these are way beyond most of our means :) Another mall for the really high end stuff is UB City in Bangalore.




Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yummy Lobby

Had this amazing lobster at Gajalee in Juhu the other night. The prawn stuffed bombil, the crab green chilli and the clams koshimbir were also freakingly good (much better than the lob actually).



Post dinner, we enjoyed the innovative "ice paan" at a panwalla diagonally opposite - really worth a shot if you happen to be in the area.

Interesting Edifice


This very interesting building is coming up on the Powai-Kanjur Road - four massive pillars holding up the rest of the floors high above the central atrium and associated structure; giving the look of a massive jack/piston being pushed down into the ground. Can't wait to see it done - should be less than 6 months away.

Segway


Had the amazing experience of riding a Segway scooter in Mumbai the other day (at the phoenix Marketcity in Ghatkopar-Kurla). These two wheeled wonders, which balance themselves and provide a fantastic option for moving quickly through closed spaces like malls and airports (and why not outside too?), are getting pretty common in the US for use by the police for patrolling. To go faster, just push the handle bars forward, to stop pull them back and crouch a bit. To steer, lean sideways. Takes a couple of mins to get the hang of it, but once you have got it, it's amazing.

If you are planning to buy one, though, note the price - starting at a cool 6 lakhs, I was told.

Hmmm... could have got a couple of Altos at that price :) But then, you can't take the Alto to the mall!

Fish Pedicure


Tried out fish pedicure at a gaming zone yesterday (Amigos on FC Road) - and it was a pretty fun thing to do. Having dozens of fishes attacking your feet and nibbling on it gives an amazing tickling sensation that's hard to describe. Don't think it has any real benefits - or maybe it does - but the fish definitely had a great time at my expense :)

Movie Review: Rush

Rush explores the world of crime reporters, and Samir Grover is one of the best. When he is approached by Crime 24 to be their chief editor, Sam jumps at the opportunity - and the channel soon climbs to the top, with its breaking news and uncanny ability to be first on the scene.

However, Sam soon realizes there is more to it than good reporting - the channel's flamboyant boss Roger is responsible for "creating" most of the news - arson, murder, rape, riots, you name it.

Once the hunter, Sam and his fiance quickly become the hunted - will they be able to prevent themselves from being the "news"?

Possibly heavily influenced from a similar channel that was busted in Brazil a couple of years back, Rush has promise - but completely fails to deliver in every department. Emraan, Sarika Ghatge and Neha Dhupia look good, but just don't seem to want to get in the mood. Dialogues are flat and amateurish, the action non-existent, the romance lacks fizz, and the story just refuses to take off.

Overall, an extremely non-happening movie, you should probably check out Chakravyuh instead.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quote For The Day

We do not write in order to be understood. We write in order to understand. C. S Lewis.

The Unnamed vs The Named

In Chapter 12, Arjun asks Krishna which are the most established devotees. Interestingly, Krishna tells him that one can search for the ultimate truth, the unnamed, unmanifested supreme being, with the mind serene and striving for the good of all beings. But that path is difficult, especially for the average beings. Hence, devote yourself to the named Krisha, since it is a far easier way towards the goal.

Truly amazing stuff. And makes so much sense!

What Is Krishna?

Chapter 10 of the Gita provides a fantastic peek into what is regarded as all-powerful and important in Hinduism. In the chapter, Arjun, finally realizing that Krishna is the supreme being, asks him to elaborate more on his divinity.

Krishna lists out some of his glorious powers, reminding Arjun that it is impossible to list all.

He says, among other things, "Discrimination, wisdom, understanding,  pleasure, pain, courage, honor and dishonour, nonviolence, charity, contentment - all the qualities of living creatures have their origin in me.

The seven great sages and the four ancient ancestors were born from my mind and received my powers.

Among the gods, I am Vishnu. I am the sun, in the night sky, I am the moon. Among the scriptures I am the Sam Veda. Among the lesser Gods, I am Indra. Among Pandavas, I am Arjun. Among mountains I am Meru, among rivers, I am the Ganga.

Among words, I am OM. Among letters, I am the letter A.

Among animals, the lion, among birds, the garuda.

I am the logic in those who debate."

Interestingly, he also says I am the gambling in gamblers. And he promises Arjun, that anyone who believes in him, will be a sadhu and be delivered from evil - even the sinners (the idea, obviously, is to make sure even criminals seek god at some point in time, and hopefully, turn a new leaf!).


Book Review: Daemon

Daemon is an amazing techno-crime thriller by Daniel Suarez, himself an IT consultant, that packs cutting edge gaming and networking with superb real world action to leave the reader breathless and hungry for more.

After legendary games developer Matthew A. Sobol dies of cancer, his brainchild, the Daemon, unleashes a war-by-proxy on the world, harnessing the collective power of millions of gamers playing his massively multi-user online game, to recruit his foot soldiers, and infiltrate thousands of corporate networks.

Detective Peter Sebeck is called in to investigate the death of two programmers working for the game developer CyberStorm Entertainment. When initial investigations into the murders-by-Internet point to Sobol, the FBI sends in a team to search his mansion. But Sobol's daemon unleashes a wave of terror on the team, killing all but one, using a deadly unmanned Hummer, and cutting edge weaponry the FBI has no idea how to control.

As government and security agencies flounder, the daemon takes over thousands of companies and provides financial and computing resources for creating AutoM8s (computer controlled driverless cars), Razorbacks (sword-wielding robotic riderless motorcycles, specifically designed as weapons) and other devices, terrorizing the world.

How do you catch and bring to justice a criminal who is already dead?

The Hummer scene is so beautifully written, you can visualize it in such vivid detail! The way the daemon executes its recruitment process, the description of the game play, both in the MMOG and in real life, is spot on, and leaves you hungry for more.

Daemon is a must read for fans of crime thrillers, and will be enjoyed and truly appreciated by IT-savvy readers, for it's clarity and authenticity when dealing with bits and bytes. An excellent subject for a movie, with potential of some truly amazing acion sequences that will thrill for years to come.

What Ails Pune BRTS?

Just around six years back, I took my first (and very rare) BRTS ride (see http://siddhesh-k3g.blogspot.in/2006/12/my-first-brts-ride.html) in Pune, and was amazed at the possibilities. Swanky buses, dedicated lanes, smart ticketing.

Six years later though, the only thing BRTS seems to have achieved are eyes sores on the Satara and Shankarseth Road, dozens of deaths, and little else.

So what ails the Pune BRTS, and is there hope?

1) First and foremost, it is the inability to create a truly dedicated high speed corridor for the buses, coupled with the inability and unwillingness/laziness of the traffic police to enforce the dedicated lanes where they do exist. Over time, the khatara lall dabbas started using the same route putting the swanky Volvos in minority, crowding the lanes and leading to backed up traffic. While 90% of the public still respect the lanes (which I find extremely heartening and surprising), even the odd scooter or auto in the lane has a domino impact. And in any case, on small roads, the dedicated lane is just not possible.

2) The BRTS lanes are in the middle of the road, the bus stops are in the middle, and the layout of the lanes, the dividers, the signals, the turns - everything is so confusing at times, that even the most accomplished and alert drivers find it hard to drive on that stretch. For example, when you are trying to take a U turn on Satara road, you are NOT turning from the right most lane - you have to start from the middle, then cross the left BRTS lane (and you have to remember a high speed Volvo might be hurtling down at that time), then cross the right BRTS lane (again, you never know what might be coming at you), and then ease yourself NOT into the first lane, but again, the middle lane. Not only is this bad enough, but the way the lanes are marked out - sometimes with plastic/rubber dividers that have long been trampled, sometimes by cat eyes, sometimes by tiny bricks laid out over the concrete - it cn be a night mare at the best of times.

3) Without effective parking and connecting transport, the BRTS is not commuter-friendly. I hope the Pune Metro doesn't repeat the mistakes and provides serious and ample parking facilities at the stations - without which it will simply not be as attractive as it can be. I would love to take the BRTS, but how do I get to the station and where do I park my car before hopping onto the bus?

4) Finally, the dirty lane dividers - the trampled poles, red and brown with spit from hundreds of callous commuters, the irregularly laid out lanes, the ineffective cycle lanes, the broken footpaths - it's just such an eyesore it makes the city look so pitiable. Compare the sad state of the Satara Road with the beautiful avenues coming into Aundh from University Circle, and you will know what I mean. Add to that the terrible and hideous eye sores called bus stops, and the disaster is complete.

Will our city fathers and planners wake up to the sad state of affairs and fix the problem sooner than later? What the Pune BRTS needs is simplicity. Stop over-engineering. We are not yet ready for cycle lanes. We are not yet ready for dedicated corridors marked off by the stupid lane dividers. Clean up the roads, mark lanes by paint and enforce lane discipline, let people get in the habit of driving with discipline. Give good parking spaces for private vehicles. Deploy the buses on important arterial routes and main roads. Imagine hop on hop off airport-like minibuses with day or month passes taking you around FC-JM, East Street-MG and Laxmi Road.

It's not a difficult problem to solve, we just need someone with the vision to keep things simple.

DGCA Cancels KFA License

Finally, the inevitable happened yesterday. Unable to give a clear roadmap, KFA has got its license to operate flights suspended by the DGCA, putting the future of the airline in serious jeopardy. With 7000 crore in liabilities, the lender banks, led by SBI, will be in a tizzy. And with over 15000 crores in accumulated losses and debt, a very agitated staff, and inability to even maintain flights in the air, it seems very unlikely that KFA will get an investor to bail it out soon.

An example of bad times for a great business, or an example of a sham without any real financial success right from the beginning?

When KFA started operations, Mallya proudly claimed his planes didn't have a separate first/business class, because every seat was business class. The smartly dressed air hostesses were the prettiest, and every air hostess was rumoured to have been chosen by Mallya himself. The food served on board was delicious, the in-flight entertainment was amazing.

So what went wrong? It is unimaginable that the airline would fall out of favour with its customers, because it definitely offered one of the best experiences. But was the glitz and glamour on offer out of tune with its pricing and profitability? Seems like that was the case! As long as Mallya could pull it off, he did. But it's like riding a tiger's back... once you get on, it's an amazing ride. But when it's over, it's really over.

Time will tell if one of India's most charismatic business leaders can pull a rabbit out of his hat, and get the proud KFA logo back in the air....

Until then, it will be interesting to watch how Flipkart, another of India's poster boy manages to shake off it's own problems and turn the leaf into profitability. Every time I order from Flipkart, I wonder, am I actually doing them a disfavour?

Movie Review: Premium Rush

As a cycle messenger in NYC, Willie (the very adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt) spends his days dodging traffic, the infamous cabbies, prams, suddenly opening doors, the NYC police, and millions of irritated pedestrians, as he zooms on his brakeless, fixed gear steel frame bike. He is one of the dozens who live their lives at the cutting edge, some for the money, most for the thrill. But one such routine delivery turns into a life or death issue for Willie, and he must race against time and his pursuers to keep his promise.

A wonderful cast, cute dialogues, and some fantastic, heart stopping nerver before seen bike vs car and bike vs bike chases make this a very very watchable and thoroughly enjoyable flick.

A must see.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Movie Review: Student Of The Year

For glitz & glamour, hot bods, fast cars, great music and choreography, SOTY is a good watch. However, coming from a director who gave us masterpieces like KKHH, SOTY is a disappointment. Yes, Karan did not have his A-team to bank on, but even after giving plenty of leeway for that, the movie disappoints on many fronts - the story is unimaginative and contrived, scenes stretched like they are from the Saas Bahu genre (check out the treasure hunt - a completely irrelevant part of the movie that takes close to 10-15 min of screen time), and overall, there are far too many situations that leave a bad taste lingering on.

St Theresa's is an elite school - the best of the best. Unlike in JJWS, both the super rich with their Guccis and Louise Vittons and Ferraris and the poor, the Batas (on scholarships, of course), study together. Well, at least they dance together in teeny weeny shorts. And in continuing with a 25 year old tradition, the obviously gay dean of the school kicks off the Student Of The Year competition - pitting the 100-odd students against each other in a 3 part affair - academics, arts and athletics. It's show time for rich brat Rohan Nanda and his average-middle-class best friend Abhimanyu, who are also fighting for the attention of the designer-clothed Shanaya Singhania, Rohan's girl friend from 4 years. Who wins, and how - that's really the point, but a pretty far-fetched one, and it will take you almost 3 hours to figure that one out.

The movie starts with the dean fighting for his life in a hospital, and half a dozen of his final batch of students - the "interesting" batch - showing up. They sit around the waiting room, exchanging uncomfortable pleasantries, and start narrating the story from 10 years ago. Sadly, even after the movie begins in earnest, they keep coming back with absolutely unnecessary and exceedingly increasing frequency.

As the movie meanders along, the sexy locales, scantily clothed leads, the great music and the dance numbers keep you interested, but the dialogues are flat, and in the few scenes where emotions have a play, the lead trio completely fall on their faces. The confrontation after Alia falls for Abhi is the most pitiable. Between the three, the lanky Amitabh-like Siddharth Malhotra as Abhi is the best, while Varun Dhavan is sincere. Alia Bhatt - hmmm, she has an interesting face, a pretty good bod, and the camera is kind to her - but this doll finds it extremely difficult to emote, and in the few scenes she tries, it just doesn't seem right. Rishi Kapoor as the dean Vashista is great, Boman shines in a tiny cameo, and Kajol totally rocks in her special appearance (SRK was so expected, but doesn't make the appearance). Ronit Roy, as coach, is good. Sana Saeed is too vampy, but Shanaya's friend Shruti (anyone knows her name?) was my favourite.

The stars of the movie fo rme - two songs - Radha Teri Chunri and Disco Deewane. Some of the other numbers are peppy too, and the music and dance is what saves the movie from being a complete no no.

Go watch it, as long as you keep your expectations at home.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Movie Review: Loopers

It's 2044 and time travel is still to be discovered. But 30 years later in 2074, it is very much in use by criminal organizations, who transport the to-be victims back to 2044 for elimination by the hitmen, the Loopers, who are paid in bars of silver, tied to the backs of the victims. Their contracts end when they shoot their future-self sent back to close “their” loop.

But what happens when your future self manages to escape from you?

Loopers has been acclaimed as a terrific sci-fi gig, but to be honest, the 2 hours were too long, the story did not really engage, and the little or no special effects made it a sort-of boring affair.   Try it out, and be prepared to do a lot of interpretation!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kejriwal Against Corruption

After Vadra-DLF and Salman Khurshid, Kejriwal today levelled serious allegations of conspiracy against Gadkari, accusing the BJP colluding with the NCP, in the Maharashtra agriculture scam. While the BJP top brass, in a rare show of unity, rallied behind Gadkari and rubbished the allegations, Salman lost his cool today, almost issuing a threat against Kejriwal, saying it's time to replace ink with blood. The media is baying for blood, and Kejriwal is going for the kill. (Anna meanwhile is completely out of the picture)

How will this pan out? With Kejriwal targetting every party, does he expect to swing all votes to his party? Or will he lose the plot by painting all politicians in the same brush?

Will the police, the courts take notice of his accusations in the press, and will something come of out this?

Or will it be a politicians vs Kejriwal battle for a few weeks, before Kejriwal runs out of steam and it's life as usual for all Indians, again?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: The Secret Of The Nagas

The Secret of the Nagas is the second book of the Shiva trilogy by Amish. Taking off right from where the first book ended, Shiva embarks on a journey through India in search of evil, in search of the Nagas. Secrets keep tumbling out, as Shiva and Sati learn that her first child is still alive, the Naga he has been hunting all this while, as well as her twin sister, the Queen of the Nagas! His search for truth ultimately leads him to the Naga capital of Panchavati, where he comes face to face with the Secret of the Nagas.

TSOTN loses the novelty of the first book, has too many characters, and to some degree, the repetitiveness gets to you. The romance and marriage of Shiva and Sati now well understood and accepted, the focus shifting to the amorous designs of Anandmayi on the Meluhan General Parvateshwar, resigned to a life of celibacy. Shiva's travels and adventures make for a fast paced read in most parts, but with the novelty gone, and the almost-pedestrian language lending a feel of amateurity, you might be tempted to put down the book once in a while. Amish does get you smiling about some of the imaginations and explanations - most strikingly the tall temple spires "transmitting" the voices of the Vasudevas :)

TSOTN brings Shiva closer to the riddle of good and evil, the balance between the opposing forces, and the understanding that different is not necessarily evil. It also exposes his weaknesses, his loss of control, his battle to retain his "siddhi" in the face of personal tragedy and emotions.

The first was better, but the second is a worthy sequel!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

SMS Resend

Of the best features of my earlier Nokias that I miss very much in the HTC Win 7 Mango phone is the SMS resend button - an invaluable feature, especially when you sit at home all day with bad network, having to manually pressed resend over and over again...

Remind me to look for it when I go for a new phone!

The Immortals Movie

News has it that KJo has bagged the movie rights for The Immortals of Meluha. Hmmm, should be a very interesting one - will KJo remain true to the original, or will this one be based in the glitzy and charmy world of SRK?

Brahmaputra, The Male River

Just became aware of this interesting fact in the Secret Of The Nagas - the Brahmaputra is the only river in India with a male name :)

Blue Flowers

Sanam did this amazing experiment of dipping a rose and a carnation with its stem in inked water, and here is the result:


Truly amazing, I had no idea such things were possible!

Selfless Service vs Renunciation

Gautam Buddha gave up all worldly pleasures and attachments, and lived a lonely austere life as a monk, returning to civilization only after he had achieved self-realization, to teach the world about nirvana.

While Krishna acknowledges that the path of sanyasa can lead to the goal, he advices Arjuna to take the other path - the path of selfless service. Perhaps he realizes that at that time, Arjuna will be more receptive to action, being practical as he is, instead of living everything in the search of self-realization.

Krisha offers the example of King Janaka, a revered king, who ruled well and did not shirk his responsibilities, yet he was detached of any selfish thoughts, and did his work with a sense of duty towards the world. He was renouned as a wise sage, who attained enlightenment not by renouncing the world, but by working in it and contributing to its welfare.

The Four Yogas

The Gita is basically a textbook on the science of Yoga, the path to self-realization. But there is no one path, and in fact, the Gita presents four of them. Jnana Yoga is the yoga of knowledge, with practitioners using their will and knowledge to disassociate themselves from the body, mind and senses. Bhakti Yoga shows the path through devotion and love (also the path taken mostly by Christianity, Judaism and Islam). The third is Karma Yoga, the path of selfless action. And finally Raja Yoga, the path of meditation.

Interestingly, the Gita begins with Karma Yoga (action), followed by Jnana Yoga (knowledge) and finally Bhakti Yoga (love). While pursuing different points of views and paths, the Gita provides something for every kind of spiritual aspirant.

If one word describes the essence of Gita, it is renunciation. But unlike the image it conjures, renunciation is not about giving up material things, and living a drab life without anything we value. It only talks about giving up selfish attachments to things and people. It promotes nishkama karma, actions without selfishness. It doesn't mean action without any interest in the results. After all, if you do not have a stake in the results, your actions are not likely to be strong enough! Kama doesn't mean desire, it means selfish desire. Without desire, which fuels life, you will not achieve anything, leave alone self-realization! Gita advocates only that you act to achieve results, and to be selfless in your actions, doing it for the larger good.

So, the modern you, do not hide under the Gita and give excuses for inaction. Do something for the good of others, and reap the fruits of your karma.

As Krishna says to Arjun: You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, not should you long for inaction.


Dharma

A sage was meditating at the banks of the river when he saw a scorpion drowning in the water. He pulled it out, and immediately the scorpion stung him with its tail. A few mins later, the scorpion fell back into the water. The sage pulled it out again, only to be stung once more. A bystander, watching this, asked the sage why he bothered to pick it out of the water, when he knew it would sting. The sage replied, it is the dharma of the scorpion to sting, but it is the dharma of man to save.

Explains so much, doesn't it?

Rebirth

Have just begun reading the Bhagwad Gita (translated by Eknath Easwaran), and the commentary at the beginning is already providing some fascinating arguments and thoughts. Here's one about rebirth, a concept that is well entrenched in Hinduism, but until today, had never been presented to be in such a lucid manner!

If personality consists of several layers, the outermost being the body, there is no reason for it to be lost when the body is given up. Our sages considered karma as a set of forces, driving the individual to live in a way that was harmonious with his dharma, and maintained the balance of nature. When the process of death interrupted this, those forces remain, until circumstances allow them to work again (in the new birth).

Consider when we are asleep, and shuttling between dreams and dreamless sleep. During dreams, consciousness is withdrawn from the body and senses, but continues to be engaged with the mind. When a person enters dreamless sleep, the consciousness is suspended from the mind as well, as even the sense of "I" is withdrawn. When a person awakens, though, the consciousness is returned to the body and mind, and personality returns to the body.

The ego dies every night, and returns in the morning, picking up our desires where we left off the previous night. Dying is a similar process, where the consciousness is removed from the body, sense and mind, and finally consolidated into the ego, and the body is taken away. The ego remains, a potent mix of desires and karma. And as our last waking thoughts determine our dreams, the contents of the unconscious at the time of death determine the context of our next life. We take a new body, so we can fulfill our karma.

The self-realized person, however, has no karma to work out, no personal desires left to fulfill, and hence, at the time of death, he is absorbed into the Lord.

Disclaimer: This article, and the many that are sure to follow, are no reflection of my beliefs. They are simply an honest attempt to understand what our sages, and the many learned commentators that have researched our holy scriptures, have to say!


Resting Cat


Sometimes, man creates something better than the original - and this is nowhere more true than in this amazing watercolor painting a close friend of mine presented me today. Can't wait to get my hands on the original, to frame it and put it up to show off proudly to everyone!

Book Review: The Janus Reprisal

When Col Jon Smith of the USAMRIID is rudely awakened in his hotel room at The Hague by the blazing guns of terrorists while at a WHO conference on infectious diseases, he realizes there is a lot more at stake than just his life. Teaming up with his friend and ex MI6 agent Peter Howell, and CIA agent Randi Russel, sister of his dead fiance Sophie, Smith races against time to defeat a devilish plan by just-escaped-from-jail Pakistani terrorist Oman Dattar to attack NYC with a mutated H1N5 virus on the back of electrically-transmitted bacteria through the subway system. And while he is at it, he also needs to protect and save the new love of his life, a determined investment banker Rebecca Nolan, who has had the audacity of stealing Dattar's millions while he rotted in jail, and is now after her.

In the true tradition of Robert Ludlum and Covert-One, Jamie Freveletti takes cutting edge scientific progress and adds a liberal dose of fiction to it, concocting a crime thriller that is worthy of a read. However, unlike the master himself, Jamie's lack of field experience shows, and the amateurish descriptions of software and Internet banking, hacking, and tracking lend a shallowness to the book.


It's a Cat's World!

Yes? Did you say something to me?
Is this how Kangaroos do it?

Birds of a feather flock together

Can you please help us get some more space in here?

Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai

I need some company in here!

Zhug Zhug gaadi

Now you see me, now you don't! How is my camouflage?


Leap of faith!

Too Much Of A Good Thing

The T20 WC is just over, people are still to get over the shocks and surprises, and we are smack into another "Champions Trophy". Foes become friends, friends turn against each other. Too much, too soon? In fact, right in the middle of the T20 WC, TV ads had already started running adverts for the CT, billing it as the real deal. Really?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Movie Review: Aiyyaa

Only three things work in films, said Vidya's character in Dirty Picture: Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment.

In Aiyyaa, Director Sachin Kundalkar delivers on that promise with a wonderful cast led by Rani Mukerjee and south Indian superstar Prithviraj, some outrageously bold song and dance sequences, a very quirky treatment to background score, screenplay and dialogues, all coming together in an amazing amalgamation, beautifully contrasting Lady Gaga brand of shock entertainment with the sweetness and sensuality of a dreamy romantic world.

Rani Mukerjee plays Minaxi Deshpande, a simple Maharashtrian middle class girl in Pune, with a crazy family - a father who smokes 4 cigarettes at once, a crazy old grandma with gold teeth cappings zipping around the house in her motorized wheechair, a crazy-for-dogs brother, and a mom obsessed with getting her married off. But Minaxi doesn't see all that - she lives in her own dreamy world of Madhuri, Sridevi and Juhi, completely in love with her inner self, and at peace with the world. While her evenings at home are spent in Chaha-Pohe programs, she falls in love with the sensual smell of one of the art students in her college, where she works as an office clerk.

See the movie for an amazing performance by Rani, a performance worthy of applause. She's pretty, she dances amazingly well, and her eyes do so much! Contrast her love and the way she expresses her feelings with the nonsensical antics of the junior Kapoor in BArfi, and you will appreciate what emoting is all about...

Not everyone will understand the artists behind the movie, but if you can, this is one movie you will remember for a long time!

Blue Nile Sets New Standards of Customer Service

Atiti Devo Bhava - Guest is God - says the TV ad about Shining India. No one lives and breathes this more than Blue Nile, the Irani non-veg joint in Camp.

Hungry for some of their sumptuous biryani, we landed up at the restaurant at 11:20, well ahead of their opening time of 12:00 pm. Syed, the owner-manager must have seen the huge flash of disappointment on my face, because he immediately welcomed us in, switched on the lights and fans for us, and assured me he would serve us soon. And then he did what made me a fan of his for life. He got the waiter to serve us tea.

Remember, Blue Nile does NOT serve tea-coffee, it is a purely lunch-and-dinner gig.

How many of us treat our customers this way, going beyond our call of duty, and making sure our guests and customers are treated like God?

Stinking Rich

Stinking rich takes a completely new meaning in Mumbai. Never known for fresh air, pollution is setting new lows in Mumbai's beach-side posh localities of Versova and Andheri, with an unbearable stink permeating the air all the time. While locals seem to have grown completely immune to it, for any outsider, getting out of the car and being lashed with the foul stench of rotting garbage and fish from the nearby beach is sufficient to rob him or him of any intention to hang around. Really hope BMC can get its act together and do something about this health hazard.

Maharani of Pune


Mulshi

One of the best things about being in Pune is that getting out of the city and being amidst virgin natural beauty is so easy - hardly 10 km out and the landscape changes dramatically. Took Samara on a longish drive towards Mulshi today, and although Pune is in that uncomfortable period between the amazing rains and the chilly winter, the blossoming flowers and the greens just made everything look so beautiful. Check out some pics below - sadly, I had forgotten take along my camera, and with a mobile, there's only so much color you can capture.





Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Looking Afresh At Religion

Two amazing works in the last few days have provided me a wonderful opportunity to look afresh at religion, and how I felt about it. Oh My God, and The Immortals of Meluha.

Neither question the existence of God. Neither ask you to be an athiest. Neither questions religion. But both provide such a refreshing modern look at what God is, what religion is about, why we need religion, why we need to be believe in God, and yet, in a way that is truly the way our sages and learned men would have wanted and imagined it should be!

The Bhagvad Gita, The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran. They provide all the answers man looks for in life. These are the teachings of holy men, learned men, who knew people needed a guiding light, rules for living in peace, in love and fear of god, because otherwise there would be chaos. God isn't responsible for taking us where we want to go, he simply shows us the way!

The Immortals talk of a great emperor called Lord Ram, who brought discipline and law to a lawless society, these rules resulted in prosperity and growth, and this was called Ram Rajya. Makes so much sense, right? The book talks about the Masculine and the Feminine, not good and evil. Just opposing, different ways of living. And both are needed in the world, to bring about balance. Masculine way is all about law and order, rules, unbending allegiance. Feminine is about intuition, freedom, malleability. When the Asuras (masculine) lost against the Devas (feminine), the world started living a very carefree, open life - resulting in chaos and indiscipline over time, before Ram brought back the masculine way of life. The Suryavanshis of Meluha follow that, while the Chandravanshis are feminine. And both think of the other as evil, until the Neelkanth realizes that they aren't so. They are just different! Today we have societies that are overly masculine, and others that are overly feminine. What we need today is balance! So very true! So very sensible!

Shiva is known as the ultimate fighter, the ultimate lover, the ultimate dancer. Why does he have to be an imaginary God? What if he was really such a person? A Mahadev? What if each one of us could be a Mahadev? That's what Shivaji's battle cry Har Har Mahadev meant, didn't it?
The Immortals talks about the caste system. People divided into classes as per their capabilities and roles. And the concept of the "Maika", where kids were born and then raised by the government until the age of 16... given equal opportunities, with no biases, no baggage. And at 16, they were interviewed for the best job, and accordingly alloted a cast! What a truly amazing idea! No matter who you were born as, it was ultimately your deals and capabilities, backed by equal opportunities. Can you find any fault in that?

OMG doesn't question God, it only questions the business of God. Why donate crores to ashrams and saints, who themselves lived absolutely simple lives? Why waste milk and oil and chaddars and candles on God, when these can help light lives of millions of poor? Why go to a temple when God exists in every atom? Why have "franchises" of the Tirupati diety and a "branch" of Shirdi Sai Baba in Pune, if not just to collect money from "devotees"?

How many of us have even attempted to read the Bhagvad Gita, the Mahabharat and the Ramayana, the Bible and the Quran, and tried to learn the lessons our holy men wanted us to learn? Why aren't these lessons taught to each one of us in school? Why don't parents teach them to their children? Why have we wasted the powerful teachings and learnings our religions try to imbibe in us?

OMG and IOM has really inspired me, motivated me to get in touch with my religion, and search for the real learnings. And as I came out of the theatre today (watching OMG for the second time), I also got a heartwarming feeling that there were many among the crowd that felt the same.

Cowardice

A 14 year old Pakistani girl shot and critically wounded by the Taliban for advocating education for women. Sad. Shocking. Shameful. When will man stop these cowardly acts in the name of religion?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Internet Drives

The advantage of thinking and behaving like a start up is that you start doing things you wouldn't normally do in your "big company" job.

For example, my "start up" sales team and I recently started using Google Docs to share information and have a single point of reference about the opportunities we are working on. Something I would never do in my older role in a larger company, because you have other more expensive and complicated solutions to work with.

What's amazing about Google Docs is how easy it is to keep data in sync - everyone, on every device, is accessing the same file and there is no need to send them back and forth. There is only one version of the truth.

But the pain is there too! Even with a super fast Internet connection in office, the updates are sometimes very slow to propagate, and the lack of immediate feedback/change makes you feel sluggish and irritated all the time. You keep losing connection to Google, and even though the connection is restored automatically after a few seconds, it is disturbing. I guess it's a small price to pay... but on slower connections, this can be a big deterrent.

Overall, cloud drives are here to stay, and like it or not, your data is going to end up there very soon!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Democracy or Anarchy?

Kejriwal threatens to disconnect Sheila Dikshit's electricity connection, then reconnects those disconnected by Electricity Dept for non-payment of dues. Asks people not to pay. Alleges irregulaties by DLF/Vadra and wants IT to raid their offices. Wants government by people power, not by parliamentary democracy.

Crowds blockade Kundakulam Nuclear Plant, demand scrapping of the project.

Power of democracy or descend into anarchy?

Time will tell - will the people of India take the reins in their own hands and eliminate corruption, or will this be a country where might is right?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Book Review: The Immortals Of Meluha

It is 1900 BC. In the land starting with heavenly Kashmir, a land we modern people "mistakenly" call the Indus Valley, a land called Meluha. It is a perfect empire created more than a thousand years earlier by the great emperor Lord Ram. But all is not well. Meluha and its proud Suryavanshi rulers are fighting on various fronts - the drying up of its primary river Saraswati, terrorist attacks from the Chandravanshis and the Nagas. But when a tribal leader from the shores of Lake Manasarovar, Shiva, appears, with a throat that's turned blue, the Suryavanshis see hope in an ancient legend - the legend of Neelkanth. Is this Shiva really that saviour, and will he be able to save them from disaster?

The book is a fast paced read, written in an easy-going flowing manner. The ancient and the revered mixes nicely and effortlessly with modern concepts, and makes you smile. Shiva's portrayal as a strong and mighty fighter at times conflicts with his easy banter and almost juvenile interactions with his friend, but in some sense, that's partly where the fun is. Descriptions of government, registration desk, soap, toilets, and yes, the "maika", lend an interesting angle to the modern-meets-ancient thread throughout the book.

Shiva's love affair with Sati, also known as Parvati, their furtive flirting against the law of the land, is also very interestingly presented!

Overall, a good start to the trilogy, one of the few English novels written by Indian authors that I have enjoyed reading!

WI Win T20 WC

So, after a 16 ball 3 by Gayle, and a final dash to reach a very insufficient 137, West Indies manage to hold their nerve and bowl out Sri Lanka for a paltry 101, to finally win a major title after ages, and deny the Lankans.

Well, can't really say the best team won! But congrats to the West Indians for a well fought final!

Kindle Kamaal

So it's been a few weeks since I bought my Kindle, and while it doesn't replace the pleasure of holding a beautiful book in your hands and being able to smell the print, it does have the great advantage of being able to carry your library with you, switching from one book to another as your mood demands, and letting the instrument do the work of remembering pages, helping you search and so on.

And yes, Kindle books are comparatively cheaper too!

One interesting thing I noticed today while reading "The Immortals of Meluha" - somehow, every "tl" is replaced by a "d"! For example, mantle is mande, cattle is catde, and gentle is gende! I can understand one spelling mistake, even a dozen. But every instance? This is definitely an OCR problem - if you notice the t and l do add up to look like d! Now, the question is - weren't these books proof read?

But let's go back to some of the things that makes the Kindle such an interesting device. The first and foremost - the eInk technology that makes reading so effortless, even in bright sun light. There is no glare, and just like a real book, the paper and the ink feels so comfortable on the eyes. And when you switch it off, the ink creates a design on the "paper" before going to sleep! Amazing.

A single charge can last for almost two months, with 30 min reading per day. So for all those holidays, you don't even need to carry the charger! (Aah, when will they come up with a cell phone that allows that?)

Buying books on Amazon takes 2-3 seconds, once you have your payment set up. And the books are transmitted to the device almost instantaneously.

What's more, you can email your documents to a Kindle mail account (linked to your login) and lo and behold, all your cool documents are available for review on your device.

And the device is so light, so easy to use - no need for a demo, no need to read a manual.

Am starting to get addicted!

Perfect Sunday

Wake up to hot tea and newspapers
Egg burji for breakfast
The Janson Command
Delicious chicken masala and French bread for lunch
Catching up with an old friend for coffee
In the garage tinkering with the car
Cleaning the cat's litter box
Hot filter coffee with The Immortals of Meluha
And waiting for the match to start
What a perfect Sunday!

Book Review: The Janson Command

After a disappointing last Bourne installment, The Janson Command came as a welcome helping of action and excitement in true Ludlum style. Written by Paul Garrison, TJC follows a style very true to the master himself, with a lot of globe trotting, high stakes espionage, dictators, assassins, the works.Janson and his new partner, the sharpshooter Jessica Kincaid, accept the job of rescuing a doctor from an African rebel group, kidnapped from an American oil exploration ship. What starts off as a relatively simple get in get out mission, soon takes them into the heart of an African revolt, and the take over of the country from the dictator by the rebel group. A Sea Harrier on the scene is shocking enough, but when they are almost obliterated by a Reaper UAV, equipment that is known to be operated only by the US government, they realize the stakes are much higher.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Sky Garage

Visited the Sky Garage in Aundh today, after hearing a lot about it for a long time.

Positives: Unbelievable views of the city, especially at night (it's not open in the afternoon anyway). Open till 3:00 am; one of the few places in the city that are open that late, besides the starred hotels. And if you are fresh out of school, this is one place to hang out and be assured of not bumping into anyone from your family! Good for groups of 6-10 on a mild Saturday night out.

Negatives: Poor service. No credit card; only cash. Not kid-friendly. Very limited menu. Very expensive.

Personal take: If you are a kid, good place to hang out. With that kind of real estate, it is sad it isn't for a larger clientele.

TCabs Loyalty Program, TMiles, Powered by eMee!

I am proud to announce the launch of India's first cab loyalty program with TCabs (www.tcabs.in), Pune's premier radio cab service. "eMee’s SAPS based Loyalty Program uses a wonderful mix of game mechanics and advanced data analytics to attract and engage customers, and enhances the whole customer experience right from booking the Tcab! And with eMee, we could go from ideation to implementation in an extremely short duration of 4 weeks." says Shirish Erande, Managing Director, TCabs.

So guys, if you are from Pune, do check out a TCab and leave your traffic headaches behind!


Movie Review: English Vinglish

I never liked Sridevi, and when I went along for English Vinglish, it was more to do with having nothing else to do, than her comeback. I took a late night show, knowing I could always catch up on some much needed sleep!

But then there are times, when, like a wonderful bottle of wine, the old comes back and hits you in a way that you can never quite get over it! Sridevi might have been the irritating wanna-be-cute-like-the-cuties in Chaalbaaz, but as the overwhelmed non-English speaking Shashi Godbole from Pune, on her first trip to America, Sridevi puts in a smashing performance that will be remembered for a long time to come. With debutante Gauri Shinde using the canvas of beautiful New York and the vivid colors of Sridevi, the hauntingly cute Priya Anand, a fantastic supporting cast including a Frenchman, an African, a South Indian, a Chinese and a Pakistani, and a wonderful cameo by the Big B as Big B, English Vinglish tickles your funny bone, brings a tear to your eye, and a big smile and cheer in your heart, in the roller coaster of emotions.

Shashi is a homemaker. She takes care of the kids, and in her spare time, cooks her amazing food. She also runs a tiny home business - selling her much-loved boondi laddoos. But her limited knowledge of English makes her the butt of jokes (and insults) in her family - her husband, her high school daughter and younger son.

Sridevi builds out her character amazingly well - as the shy but demanding wife, the frustrated mother of a rude kid, the scared traveller in the immigration line, the conservative Indian wife in the company of a Frenchman who loves her. With an excellent script and screenplay aiding her, Sridevi performs par excellence.
When Shashi has to spend 5 weeks in the US, for the marriage of her elder sister's daughter, she is understandably worried. With her extremely limited knowledge of English, how will she cope in the land of goras? In an iconic scene in an American cafe, Shashi has to face the horror of ordering a sandwich and coffee. But when she sees an advertisement for English speaking classes, she enrolls. Along with a motley group of other wannabe English masters (reminiscent of the hugely popular Mind Your Language), she embarks on a journey that will teach her not only to speak English, but will teach her to love herself, and to find her true calling.

A word of praise for the supporting cast is due. Everyone is spot on. The two kids are completely believable. The husband (Kay Kay Menon) is also remarkable in being true to his character. The English class students are delightful, and provide a lot of entertainment. Priya Anand as Radha is smoking hot in her innocence and the girl next door look. Amitabh's cameo is fantastic! And the Frenchman - you can't stop falling in love with him. Oh those dreamy eyes :)

From my POV though, there was just one aspect of the movie which leaves a bitter taste. While Shashi's grouse with her husband is completely understandable, her anger and frustration with her school-going daughter seems over the top, unreasonable whichever way you look at it. Towards the end, her heart felt speech could have been a real toucher. Except that it is replete with bitter taunts against her family, and in any real situation like that, would have completely vitiated the happy setting of her niece's marriage - leaving everyone very uncomfortable and off-mood. Not exactly a fair thing to do.

So yes, a very good movie, great entertainment, great performances, awesome cast. But should you take your mom (especially if she doesn't understand English very well)? I wouldn't think so. Except for leaving a very bitter taste in her mouth, and making her feel even more incomplete, I don't think it would achieve much. Unless you are the type who thinks this will be a good lesson and motivator for her to take up English lessons! Remember, she won't even get half the jokes!

So go watch the movie, but hey, take your parents for OMG instead!

Movie Review: Killing Them Softly

"America is not a country, it is a business. Now f****** pay me"

When three small time criminals rob the mob, an assassin (Brad Pitt) is called in to settle the account. Shot in post-Katrina New Orleans against the backdrop of the US presidential campaign, the movie remarkably draws parallels with the state (and the loot) of the American economy with the business of the mob, and the ruthless desperation to win.

An amazing cast that includes James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Sam Rockwell and Scoot McNairy, led by Brad Pitt, put in stunning performances. The dialogue is irreverently funny, the action is infrequent, but when it comes, it is a shocker. The movie can be a little slow, especially in the second half, and subtitles will help many who may not catch the accents clearly, but otherwise this is a very good action flick.

Watch it, especially for the exchanges between Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini, and between Sam and Scoot. A good watch for crime thriller buffs!

Taking Chances


Reona had a flat last night, and by the time I turned and returned home, the tire was almost off the rim :( Thankfully, no long term damage, but as I heard the rim scrape the tarmac, I definitely had visions of those high speed police chases on AXN!

Faith Or Irresponsibility?

Scene in one of Pune's small nullahs after Ganapati immersion - representing our faith, or our carelessness and irresponsibility towards the enviornment?


When the educated amongst us don't think twice before pulling over on a bridge and flinging plastic bags containing "nirmalaya" over the edge into the river, who else can we blame for choking our rivers? If we don't stop polluting our air with hazardous (and expensive!) fireworks in the name of "festivities", how long will it be before we choke ourselves?

Is there no better way to channel our faith?


Samsung Refrigerator - Time To Regret?

We got a sexy shiny black 2 vertical door Samsung refrigerator some months back - 6 to be exact. It looked good, and had tonnes of nifty features. However, very soon, the display LEDs seemed to be malfunctioning. They were changed by the service center, but within a couple of weeks, they were spoilt again. The free water filter provided by Samsung conked out within two months, with almost no usage. And last week, the fridge conked out - it simply stopped cooling. The service guy replaced something, but within a couple of hours, it was conked out again.

I cannot imagine living without the Pepsis, the ice creams, the cold watermelons, the milk in the fridge - and yet, that's what we have been doing for the last couple of weeks. The service center has promised to replace the machine, but I get a sense it's gonna be a long wait!

Is it time to regret having bought a Samsung refrigerator?

Password Rules

Santa gave a secret password for e-banking "ram-sita-laxman-hanuman-jamwant-delhi-spiderman"


Banta-Yaar! Itna lamba password??

Santa- Kya karoon? Bank wale kehte hai ki password main 5 character, 1 capital aur ek special character zaroori hai!

It's Sri Lanka Vs WI

So Pakistan bow out after a clean win by Sri Lanka, and Australia barely avoid complete and total humiliation by the West Indians, to join the underperformers England and SA, along with unlucky India out of the T20 WC.

Should be an exciting final - can WI blow away the Lankans on their home turf and regain some of their lost pride? Or will the Lankans finally come on their own in a big tournament - been quite some time since that happened!

Who are you betting on?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A Win And A Heartbreak

So India hit back hard with the ball and win against SA, but Pakistan go ahead into the semis with a better NRR - just because the damn Aussies didn't know how to play Pakistan's stupid spin!

What heartbreak!

Actually, to be frank, India screwed up today - they needed to bat well, and none of the top order did their bit. 152 was never gonna be enough. And while fielding, India seemed to be defending the 152, not the 121 they needed to restrict SA to. Faf du Plessis scored 65, and took the match away from India.

Now, we cheer for Sri Lanka and the West Indies :)

Will They, Won't They?

India need to restrict SA to 121 or lower to qualify for the semis, and shut out Pakistan. Australia did India a big disfavour by crumbling to Pak, and SA will be kicking themselves for letting Pak off the hook in their own encounter. Yet another major tournament with SA, the chockers tag just refusing to leave them.

Will India be able to hold back SA? Good start so far from Zaheer, but we need a lot more wickets quickly!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Defending Champs England Crash Out

Defending champs England crashed out of the T20 WC after losing to Sri Lanka in the Super Eights, taking New Zealand with them. Sri Lanka join West Indies and await the result of tomorrow's matches where Inshallah, it will be Australia and India.

Time will tell.

Thank You!

World's Most Fuel Efficient Bike

Credit to whoever it is due...