Thursday, April 30, 2009

Movie: The Lookout

Chris Patt(Joseph Gordon-Levitt), high school hockey star, suffers a tragic accident on the prom night. As a result, he suffers from a mental disorder wherein he forgets what is happening around him quickly and is not able to remember it. He is working as a janitor in a local bank because the mental disorder leaves him incapable of doing anything else.

Chris is undergoing treatment for this disorder. In order to remember events, Chris keep a notebook where he records key information. He is sharing a room with a blind person, Lewis(Jeff Daniels). Together, they aspire to start a restaurant.

One day, Chris meets Gary Spargo(Mathew Goode), a senior during his high school years. Gary snares Chris in participating in a heist in the bank where Chris works. Chris, bitter with the world, agrees to this plan.

On the day of the robbery, Chris has a change of heart. But it is too late. All the planning goes wrong. Now, Lewis is also caught in the crosshairs of conflict with Chris and Gary. Chris has to quickly put together a plan to save Lewis. How does a person with memory challenges save his best friend?

Touted as a thriller, this is an average movie. You can see the twist and turns a mile away. Since the production values are good, you can still watch this on a quiet night.

Tags: Movies,The Lookout,Joseph Gordon-Levitt,Jeff Daniels,Mathew Goode

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Movie: The Condemned

Breckel(Robert Mammone) is a TV producer. After being turned down by major networks, he goes into an island in the South Pacific. He plans to run a reality TV contest from the island and broadcast the show using the internet bypassing the regular TV networks.

As part of the contest, Breckel identifies 10 death row inmates. He will let loose them in the island for 30 hours. The one who survives will get the ticket to freedom with a lot of money. All the contestants have a ticking time bomb along with a GPS device tied to their legs.

Just before the contest starts, Breckel falls short of one contestant. Searching for an Arab contestant to lure the Middle East, Breckel finds an American, Jack Conrad(Steve Austin), in a Central American prison. Witnessing Jack’s prowess, Breckel chooses him as the final contestant.

Jack is not what he seems to be. A psychopathic ex-military Brit(Vinnie Jones) plays the bad element among the crowd.

The movie has action, violence, maiming and bomb blasts. This is worth a miss unless you are in the mood to see a really stupid movie.

Tags: Movies,The Condemned,Robert Mammone,Steve Austin,Vinnie Jones

Monday, April 27, 2009

Schools, Medical Emergency, Listening…

Two recent incidents involving schools ending in tragedy was reported in the news. Rinky Kaushik is in a coma after her teacher beat her. Akriti died of an asthmatic attack on the way to the hospital from her school.

Rinky’s condition is a result of greed and irresponsibility of an individual,  a teacher in her case. Her teacher wanted her to enroll in his tuition classes. When she refused, harassment and then beating followed. How sick can it get? Is there a permanent solution for greed and irresponsibility?

Akriti’s death has stirred up a storm. Was the in-house medical aid sufficient? Were the school authorities slow in transferring her to hospital?One suggestion is to have a resident doctor in the school. But, is this a practical solution? Why would a doctor this as a career path when he can pursue a career of private consultation or sign up with one of the successful hospitals? If this option to reduced to one of consultation, can a similar tragedy be avoided in the future?

Having a nurse at the school premises or educating one of the staff on the first aid techniques is a far more practical solution. In both the options, the person in charge needs to be a good listener too. When Akriti complained, nobody would have given importance to her anguish!

Even today, I struggle with listening skills. When my wife complained about an abdomen pain in the middle of night a long time ago, we performed home remedies and went back to bed. A week later, I rushed her to the nearby hospital in the middle of the night after she complained of a terrible abdominal pain. After being admitted, she underwent a harrowing experience with a laparoscopic appendectomy followed a nightmarish second operation in a span of one week. I get goose bumps till date when I think of that fateful night. The two operations might have been inevitable. But I could have acted faster!

Tags: Musings,Medical Emergency,Schools,Rinky Kaushik,Akriti,Coma,Listening

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movie: Nights in Rodanthe

The lives of two strangers are interconnected after spending a weekend in Rodanthe during an hurricane. Adrienne Willis(Diane Lane) is bouncing back from her recent divorce and also coping with the loss of her father. She is channelizing her energy in bringing up her kids although her daughter is critical and distant.

Adrienne agrees to look after her friend’s inn for a weekend when her kids are away with their dad. While she is in charge of the inn, Dr Paul Flanner(Richard Gere) is the only guest. Paul is also fighting his inner demons.

Over the course of the weekend and an hurricane, the two gets romantically involved which alters the rest of their lives.

The movie is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks and deals with mature romance. This can be a backup plan if you don’t have anything else to watch.

Tags: Movies,Nights in Rodanthe,Diane Lane,Richard Gere,Nicholas Sparks

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dry day woes

Elections are over and I’m happy. My happiness do not stem from the sure win of the political party, I’m affiliated with.  I don’t even have a party! According to election guidelines, all liquor stores should suspend their operations for a specified number of days! Yeah, spoil sport.

When my brother-in-law visited on Tuesday, we couldn’t get our choice of poison as the neighborhood alcohol boutique, Madhuloka, was closed. Finally, we managed to drain pegs out of a leftover whiskey bottle from a previous party. We rinsed the entire bottle with club soda and before throwing away the bottle. Yeah, more with less.

Yesterday, at Spencer's, I saw another sad soul looking for alcohol. Spencers had sealed off their alcohol section fearing the brave among the sad souls might snatch a bottle and shoot past the door as a desperate measure. The shop assistants, with disdainful looks, explained the situation to the downcast customer. Yeah, no mercy and sympathy for the weak.

Smarter ones made a beeline in front of the liquor stores that are unofficially opened. These liquor stores are run by very generous philanthropists, who understands the hardships of an alcohol lover. They marked up the price way too high so that the customers do not feel indebted towards them. Yeah, we are for you only!

Today, we kiss good bye to all our dry day woes! The liquor stores reopens today! Yeah, baby.

The government will have a logic behind the closure of liquor stores during elections. But, coming to think of it, casting vote for a candidate is one of the major decisions. A citizen is not even sure about the final outcome while casting his vote. The final outcome determines his life in multiple ways for the next 5 years. Don’t you think the citizen deserves a drink during and after making up his mind?

Tags: Musings,Dry Day Woes,Liquor,Madhuloka,Spencers

Planet Money Live at KCRW

Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson puts on a live show at KCRW. This is in a video format and contains the same topics discussed in my earlier post, Banking Crisis explained.

Tags: Bank,Videos,Planet Money,Alex Blumberg,Adam Davidson,KCRW

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Movie: Seven Pounds

The movie starts off with Ben Thomas(Will Smith) making a 911 call to  announce his suicide. While we are hooked, the movie explores the life of Ben Thomas.

Ben makes a nasty call to a blind meat salesman, Ezra Turner(Woody Harrelson). He keeps a tab on a junior hockey coach and a young boy. Ben has conversations with his brother. At another time, Ben also accuses the owner of a nursing home to be bad man and becomes almost physically abusive with him. All of a sudden, Ben checks into a motel and meets with his long time friend, Dan(Barry Pepper). During the ensuing conversation with Dan, Ben reminds him of the agreement between them.

He introduces himself as an IRS agent to Emily Posa(Rosario Dawson). Since Emily suffers a congenital heart disease, he helps her out with her tax problem. When Emily gets attracted to Ben and asks about his past, Ben resists.

The movie unravels to show who Ben Thomas is and what his grand scheme of things are.

Gabriele Muccino directs this drama, his second outing with Will Smith after “The Pursuit of Happyness”. Like the earlier movie, he narrates the extraordinary story of an ordinary person. He uses non-linear narrative to tell the story, giving the movie an abstract feeling in the beginning. Towards the end, the viewers has to piece the big picture together thereby making the viewers to put on their thinking hats longer than the duration of the movie.

Will Smith is excellent depicting a man coping with loss, filled with remorse and repentance. He puts on a brave face for the world while he is breaking up every day every hour. Will makes us sympathize with the character.

The event unfolds on a slow pace. So this is an ideal weekend watch. Make sure you don’t have any distracting interruptions in between.

Tags: Movies,Seven Pounds,Will Smith,Woody Harrelson,Barry Pepper,Rosario Dawson,Gabriele Muccino,The Pursuit of Happyness

Movie: Yes Man

Carl Allen(Jim Carrey), after being divorced, is no mood to socialize with friends. He always comes up with a “No” to whatever plan his friends suggest. His friends wants him to come out of hibernation following the aftermath of divorce.

Taking cue from a former colleague, Carl goes for self-help program. In this program, a self-help guru(Terence Stamp) teaches the power of “Yes”. Carl decides to say “Yes” to everyone. As a consequence, his life and the life of the people surrounding him changes.

The movie starts off in an interesting manner. We also funny expressions on Jim Carrey’s face, that we come to love, in the first ten minutes. Then the movie becomes predictable.

Don’t listen to the self-help guru. Say “No” to this.

Tags: Movies,Yes Man,Jim Carrey,Terence Stamp

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oracle Valley or Oracle Area…

Everybody has a reaction towards Sun joining Oracle’s harem. Some of my friends are expressing their indignation on Facebook. Experts are applauding the decision. While the world analyses the events from various perspectives, I’m thinking about the future landscape of the Silicon Valley and also the Bay Area.

If you check out the list of strategic acquisitions published on Oracle website, you will find 13 companies from this area that were acquired from 2005 till date.

  1. Peoplesoft, Pleasanton
  2. Siebel, Redwood City
  3. Sigma Dynamics, San Mateo
  4. Portal Software, Cupertino
  5. SPL WorldGroup, San Francisco
  6. G-Log, Redwood City
  7. Hyperion, Santa Clara
  8. Interlace Systems, San Mateo
  9. Bharosa, Santa Clara
  10. Bridgestream, San Francisco
  11. Oblix, Cupertino
  12. Tacit Software, Palo Alto
  13. ClearApp, Mountain View

Barring Peoplesoft, all the other companies are headquartered on both sides of Highway 101. If you check the list, the earlier forays into Silicon Valley has only resulted in smaller campuses compared to Sun.

In the near future, when you drive on Highway 101, you will only see Oracle building on both sides. Larry Ellison will be gazing down at the various Oracle properties while flying into town on his private jet or cruising on his yacht cutting through the cold waters of the Bay Area.

Larry should take a leaf from his neighbor in the North bay, George Lucas. He convinced San Rafael authorities to given him enough land and also name it Lucas Valley(although the near heavenly surroundings of Lucas Valley has not enhanced his creativity). On the same lines, Larry can rename these areas as the Oracle Valley or the Oracle Area…

Tags: Musings,Oracle,Oracle Valley,Oracle Area,Silicon Valley,Bay Area,Facebook,Silicon,Peoplesoft,Siebel,Sigma Dynamics,Portal Software,SPL WorldGroup,Interlace Systems,Bharosa,Bridgestream,Oblix,Tacit Software,ClearApp,Pleasanton,Redwood City,San Mateo,Cupertino,San Francisco,Hyperion,Santa Clara,Palo Alto,Mountain View,Highway 101,Larry Ellison,George Lucas,San Rafael

Monday, April 20, 2009

Biodegradable bags!

After ringing in the items, the person at the checkout counter at the Total Mall announced “We will be charging 1 Re for the bag”. It sounded more like a statement than a query. Announcement was made while the person’s fingertips rested on the “Enter” key of the billing machine and the other hand displayed an open bag.

Being the first time, I asked, “Why do I have to pay 1 Re?”. Explanation followed. “These are biodegradable bags”. My two cents for the environment! I pacified myself. But, I did not give up so easily. “Do I have a choice?”, I asked again. The person smiled helplessly. I interpreted the smile as a NO.

Now, I’m a frequent visitor to the mall. I pay one rupee every time I buy something from there. But there are certain things that are not clear to me.

Total Mall is promoting eco-friendliness. In order to that, why are they charging the consumer for the bags? Can’t they get more patronage and mileage by announcing free bags that are eco-friendly?

Total Mall is charging only one rupee irrespective of the number of bags used by the consumer. What is the real cost of these bags? Are they fleecing customers? Are they cashing in on my guilt of abusing the environment?

Tags: Musings,Bangalore,Biodegradable bags,Total Mall,Environment,Eco-friendly,Guilt

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The “Duck”er Diary

My neck and hips are aching! 20 minutes of this exercise is taking a toll on my body. Luckily the soul(or remnants of it after the years of survival) is intact!  I am practicing the art of ducking! With the approaching appraisal season, I have become restless and apprehensive.

In Dec 2008, an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at President Bush.

In Feb 2009, someone in the audience threw a shoe at Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

In April 2009, an Indian journalist threw a shoe at Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram.

There is news about shoe throwing at eminent personalities every two months! I wonder how these shoe throwers walk out of the hall wearing only one shoe! Isn’t that uncomfortable? Be that as it may, this is becoming a popular way to protest (and also humiliate). So, with the appraisal season round the corner, my blood pressure is climbing.

I’m not worried about the outcome of my appraisal exercise! I’m more worried about the dozen plus people who will sit across the table and will be appraised by me! And I’m not leaving anything to chance. I’m practicing on how to duck in front of an imaginary shoe as this mode of protest seem to be the flavor of the season!

First, I tried the neck method. You move your neck (very similar to the kathakali dancers) while the body remains static. After several attempts, I realized this is neither effective nor efficient.

Now, I’m trying the body method. You move downwards and sideward resulting in an angled position. As a result, my entire body is paining now!In this pain, a conversation with a friend comes to my mind. Corporate houses have announced penalty for not submitting appraisal on time! He quips, “Earlier, if you don’t submit your appraisal on time, they don’t give you a raise. Now, if you don’t submit your appraisal on time, they take away your salary!”

Time to get back to ducking…

Tags: Musings,Duck,Shoe,Diary,Appraisal,President Bush,Wen Jiabao,P Chidambaram

Movie: Fred Claus

In North Pole, Mother Claus(Kathy Bates) give birth to a fat child, Nick. The older son, Fred, is very excited about the arrival of his brother. The initial excitement turns into wariness and then anger as Nick turns to be mama’s favorite with his acts of benevolence.

Years later, Fred(Vince Vaughn) lives away from his family. He is down on luck and issues with his girlfriend(Rachel Weisz). He rings up his brother, Nick Claus who has grown into Santa Claus(Paul Giamatti) now, for help after running into trouble with cops. Nick agrees to pay the bail amount of $5000 if Fred visits him in the North Pole. Fred persuades Nick to throw in an additional $50,000 for the visit.

Fred’s arrival into the North Pole coincides with arrival of Clyde(Kevin Spacey). Clyde is an efficiency expert who is running a check on Santa’s operation since he has been noticing problems with Santa’s delivery system. Clyde gives a warning to Santa that he is just three mistakes away from shutting down.

The rest of the story tells us how Fred helps in saving North Pole from complete shutdown by transforming hatred and finding peace with himself.

This is feel good movie with lot of cheesy moments. Watch it when you have absolutely nothing to do or if you are down in spirits.

Tags: ,,,,,,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The sides of the toll road on the outskirts of Kovai on NH 47 was lined with cops on Sunday afternoon. Every 250 meters were lined with a pair distributed on both sides or a lone cop on one of the sides. After the toll road, the density of the cops decreased and they could be spotted every half a kilometer way past Valayar check post into Palakkad. Both Tamil Nadu and Kerala deployed their local cops and their reserve police. It must have been a VVIP who was visiting these cities.

I was swept with an eerie feeling while driving through these roads. Security, in abundance and in plain sight, is always scary! Since these roads were almost deserted with very light traffic, I examined the cops while driving past them.

I couldn’t see a single fit policeman in that lot. All of them had bulging and disproportionate waistlines. Some of them had such big bellies that they were resting on chairs. Where did they find the chair in that wilderness is a question that is baffling me!

I couldn’t find a single alert policeman in that lot. The sun was shaded by clouds on that day. Even without the scorching sun, the postures of the cops suggested that they were bored and about to fall asleep any moment. When the cops were in pairs, they were leisurely chatting with their partners.

This is bunch who protects me from lawlessness! How do I respect them? How can I feel protected on their watch? Why isn’t the governance checking the fitness of the force? If nothing works, why can’t we use the stick here – a compensation scheme or or penalty scheme or even a severance scheme?

What about the armed forces - Army, Navy and Air Force? You will never find these types over there! What does this mean? We are prepared for an external enemy. But when it comes to tackling the internal, cross our fingers and pray?

Tags: Musings,Cops,Kovai,Valayar,Palakkad,Tamil Nadu,Kerala,Army,Navy,Air Force

Movie: Georgia Rule

Lily(Felicity Huffman) takes her daughter, Rachel(Lindsay Lohan), to her mother, Georgia(Jane Fonda), who lives in Idaho. Years ago, Lily had run away from her overbearing mother. Georgia is a strict disciplinarian leading a well planned life. Rachel is a spoilt kid while Lily is an alcoholic.

Lily is still intimidated by her mother. So, she leaves after quickly dropping her daughter at her mother’s house. Rachel finds it difficult to live with her grandmother as she has a rule for everything. She also has a set timetable for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Complying with one of her grandmother’s rule, Rachel finds employment with a local veterinarian, Simon(Dermot Mulroney). Simon was in love with Lily during their high school days. Now, he is a widower after losing his wife and only child in a tragic accident.

While trying to cheer Simon and help him come out of the shell, Rachel proclaims about abuse her stepdad. This changes her life and also the life of all those who are connected to her. Georgia and Simon are convinced about the abuse while Lily is not too sure.

The movie then lets the viewer find out what is the actual truth. The movie is a surprise for me as I had mentally tagged it as a chick flick. The movie is likeable primarily because of the performance of Lindsay Lohan. She is apt as the spoilt and confused kid. All the headlines she has made over the years helps us in identifying her with the role.

Ultimately, the movie is all about faith – faith in a dear one. Watch the movie and find out more.

Tags: Movies,Georgia Rule,Jane Fonda,Felicity Huffman,Lindsay Lohan,Dermot Mulroney

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Riding a bike

“Can I?”, I asked my friend. We intended to watch a movie in Innovative multiplex. Innovative is around 20 minutes away and we decided to go on my friend’s bike. As soon as I saw the bike, I couldn’t resist asking permission to ride. My friend handed over the keys reluctantly. He was relieved later when he found out I was carrying my license with me.

My friend explained the gears to me - 1st downwards and the rest upwards. I was used to this gear type since I owned and rode an Yamaha 10 years back. Yamaha has similar gear type. I tried to start the engine after getting on the bike. No matter what I tried, the bike refused to come alive. I was sweating lightly.

My friend, who was watching my humiliation till then, screamed. “Oh no! We have not turned on the ignition”. I glared at him to indicate my displeasure although I should have checked the ignition before venturing out for this adventure!

I put on my friend’s helmet after starting the bike. We rode towards the multiplex. As soon as I touched 60 kmph on Outer Ring Road, cold air found a way into my exposed parts of my face . The night was cold and the cold air on my face relaxed me. I never went beyond 60 kmph.

I took the service road when we were closer to the multiplex. It turned out to be an harrowing experience because of the speed breakers. Riding on the speed breakers was challenging after 10 years. The engine died when I was right on top of one of the speed breakers. I released the clutch immediately to restart the bike while it was moving. The bike started without putting me to further shame in front of my friend.

We reached the multiplex safely. When I dismounted from the bike, I was a little disappointed. 10 years back, helmets were not compulsory. So you could ride a bike without a protective shield. The wind blows on your face. There are no words to describe the feeling. This is no longer the case. But if you are somebody important, then you still can get away without wearing an helmet!

Tags: Musings,Bike,Innovative multiplex,Helmet,Outer Ring Road

Monday, April 13, 2009

Movie: IG

The capital of Kerala is rocked by bomb blasts. The Home Secretary(Sreeraman) is murdered in his office at the Secretariat. Durgaprasad(Suresh Gopi), currently serving as the Traffic IG, gets a new role as the Anti Terrorist Squad IG to get to the bottom of the mystery with blessings from the Chief Minister(Rajan P Dev) and police chiefs (Devan and Santhosh).

What follows is a clich├ęd scenario for Suresh Gopi to mouth larger than life dialogues and verbally bashing up everyone – including the villains and his superiors. Of course, the Chief Minister is also not spared from his diatribe (Please be advised not to get inspired for using the same modus operandi on your superiors. Most of them are guaranteed to be vengeful and powerful than the CM of Kerala as portrayed in this movie!). There are enough syntactically correct but corny English dialogues!

The nexus of the villains are Jihadi terrorist Yassin Khan, business tycoon Zachariah(Ashish Vidhyarthi) and leader of minority party leader Beeran Kutty(Sai Kumar). They turn out to props for Suresh Gopi to use his fiery dialogues, mighty fists and flashy guns.

When Suresh Gopi gets transferred to ATS, he has three officers reporting to him. Vijayaraghavan, Jagathy and Kiran Raj plays these officers. 20 minutes into the movie, Jagathy disappears. We get glimpses of Vijayaraghavan every now and then.

Govind Padmasurya plays Durgaprasad’s brother and Anaitha Nair(the Chak De girl) plays Beeran Kutty’s daughter. They provide us with a intercaste love story minus the necessary emotions and ending up as yet another prop (You would have guessed by now what these props are meant for!).

Watch this on DVD as a comedy movie. If you are going to a movie hall, make sure it has a good air conditioning system. Excellent movie to zzzzzz...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tipping over the years

During my college days, experienced friends never let me worry about this. They took care of this in the bars and the restaurants. They did so effectively that the alcohol bill in the bars showed lesser number of drink than ordered.

During my initial years of employment, I never had to visit the restaurants where tipping was mandatory or necessary. Even though Kochi boasted of expensive restaurants during those time, I could never afford them. Instead, I tried my hand on tipping at the local bars. Tipping depended on how magnanimous I felt at the moment of tipping. I was magnanimous up to Rs 20 – a princely sum compared to my standard of living! Even this paltry sum guaranteed a welcome smile during the next visit and the waiters lingered over my table for a minute longer while taking orders.

Everything changed when I relocated to US. Here, you tip for everything. During my Fresh-Off-the-Boat days there, friends helped me with standards of tipping. There were other places where I got educated too; especially a dingy restaurant on Oak Tree Road (Iselin, NJ). Fine print on their menu proudly proclaimed 15% of the bill amount has to be given as tips. As if this wasn’t enough, the golden words were printed and displayed on the walls. When I was staring at these words on the walls with mouth wide open before finding a table, an experienced friend whispered in a conspiratorial tone followed with a wink. “It is a buffet! We don’t have to tip!”. This was my first lesson on tipping.

The second important lesson was in a Chinese-Muslim restaurant in Milpitas, California during the dotcom bust era. There were around a dozen and more of us. All of us were subcontractors at one of telecommunication company near Mercury News office and some of our contracts were getting over. Although this should have created a panic in us, we were young and hence called for a celebration together. Aren’t we ignorant when we are young? (Ironically, when I returned to India 5 years later, my colleagues chose the same restaurant to give me farewell party!). After lunch, someone told the person who was checking the items listed on the bill, “Don’t tip. We are more than a dozen. They would have added the service charge on the bill itself!. So, we don’t have to tip them separately”. Seeing the quizzical look on my face, he explained to me, “When there are 6 or more people, the bills will have a service charge line item compulsorily. So, the tips are included in the bill!”

I used to be confused when I came back to India for good. How much do I tip? There are no standards in India then. After a lot of soul searching and consulting with other returnees, I have gone to my old ways of tipping. In addition to being magnanimous, I also relied on my satisfaction levels to tip these days.

Now, all of it is going to change!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Are you forcing me to tip?

According to an article in TOI, the food bills may contain a 10% SC(service charge). So, kindly check your bill after enjoying a fine dining experience in order to avoid tipping twice.

How much do you tip? This is a moral dilemma after a dining experience. On top of it, there are no standards in India. I never questioned the reasons for tipping even though I always believed it should be based on my experience – the food and the service. Now, with addition of 10% of sales tax,  the consumer is being forced to tip regardless of the experience.

Take a look at the real reason for this! Restaurateurs say the reason is high attrition rate of workforce. In my opinion, the restaurants workers are being lured promising huge money in tips. So, they are being offered a very low package.

Attrition has always been an employer’s headache! How can this be passed on to the consumer without any changes in quality? Why would I tip for a average or below par experience?

Take the case of attrition. My employer plans for the next steps during my resignation. My employer also takes necessary steps to prevent it. In turn, as a manager, I also am ready for this eventuality with respect to my team members. We never go to the customer asking for a salary raise. However, we may charge a higher rate for getting things done.

In a similar line, let the restaurants streamline their processes. Otherwise, they can charge a higher price. If they are really good, footfalls will be the same irrespective of the higher price.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Movie: To Hariharnagar

18 years and countless reruns after, Mahadevan(Mukesh), Appukkuttan(Jagadeesh), Govindankutty(Siddique) and Thomassukutty(Asokan) are back. The foursome made us laugh like kids as the laidback, aimless and lazy youth In Hariharnagar.

The movie starts with an epilogue giving us a insight into the incident where the foursome embarked on the road to friendship. Then the movie cuts to the present. Mahadevan is a personality development consultant now. Appukkuttan is a dentist while Govindankutty is a builder.

All, except Thomassukutty, are married and are not living in Hariharnagar anymore. After years of leading a carefree life, Thomassukutty decides to get married. All three friends comes back To Hariharnagar. Since their spouses are joining them after a gap of 10 days, they decide to relive their younger days – by acting 10 years younger. Jolly days come back and so does trouble.

Mukesh, Jagadeesh, Siddique and Asokan looks jaded. Lack of flexibility is evident from their dance steps and chase scenes. They make us overlook this factor with one-liners and comic timing. Of the lot, Jagadeesh is noteworthy with his acts of stupidity. As Appukkuttan aged, he has become more stupid.

Salimkumar is wasted in an insignificant role. Lakshmi Rai is okay.

The voice of Freddy(the villain) is provided by Anoop. Since Anoop is a successful actor known for comic roles, this acts against the villain. First you have get Anoop out of your mind before concentrating on Freddy.

This is Lal’s first directorial venture after split from “Siddique Lal” duo. He pens the script too. Unlike retelling the story on new landscapes like Sagar alias Jacky, Lal decides to take the story forward by telling a different episode in the life of foursome. At the same time, he brilliantly connects us to the characters in the first part giving us a chance to laugh remembering the past and the present. The inspector and Govindankutty’s servant are some of the instances.

Lal had provided us scenes to roll out laughing in the initial part of the movie. Towards the end, the movie focuses on emotions. While coming out of the movie, I wished it was Siddique(the director) who was handling the emotional scenes for Lal fails to raise levels of intensity (from the scene and from the audience). Lal fails only on this count.

Watch it!

Movie: Ayan

Deva (Surya) works for Doss (Prabhu). Doss is involved in pirated CD racket and acts as a go-between in various smuggling deals. Deva is well educated and helps Doss as he was a close friend of his father. Deva lives with his mother, who yearns to see him working as an government employee.

Deva and Doss are highly successful in their operations mainly due to the Deva’s quick thinking and intelligence. This invites rivalry from Kamlesh (Akashdeep Saigal) who is also involved in the same business. Kamlesh always tries to sabotage Doss’s operations and it is always Deva who saves the day. At a critical juncture, Deva directly intervenes in a drug deal by Kamlesh. This results in two coming together in direct confrontation.

The story of the film is as old as the hills. The narration is fast and slick. But, the songs appears as a speed breaker. K V Anand, the director, has made an entertaining movie. Being a cameraman, he gives us pleasing visuals on the screen. The story has been shot in multiple foreign locations. Thankfully, this movie does not have a separate comedy track! The dialogues used in the movie provides the necessary comic relief.

The movie works because of Surya. Like a chameleon, Surya switches between the loud yuppie and local boy effortlessly. The six pack abs, displayed judiciously throughout the movie, adds to the credibility of the character. Vijay tried his hands in a similar role a few months back in Villu and fell flat on his face.

Prabhu as the ageing smuggler is okay. Tamannah provides the glamour quotient. Jagan as Surya’s friend is a welcome change from the loud comedians. Akashdeep Saigal, making a debut in Tamil, sticks out like a sore thumb.

The trailers mislead you to think of this as an action movie. Although there is action, the emphasis is on the cat and mouse game played by Surya’s character with others. For action, watch out for the Parkour action scene in Likasi. Although the camera cuts from one angle to another in between the action to cover up continuity issues, the chase is one of the best picturized Parkour scene in an Indian movie.

Watch out for the brand placements in the movie. Sun TV (the producers of this movie) is featured throughout the movie. There are others. But, see for yourselves.

The film is heavily inspired from movies like Casino Royale, The Bourne Ultimatum, Catch me If You can and  Maria – Full of Grace to name a few. Still, this is an excellent watch on DVD.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Dark side of Dubai

A friend forwarded me an article by Johann Hari, named The Dark Side of Dubai. Divided into 9 sections, this well researched articles tells the stories about Dubai from different viewpoints – immigrants(overpaid and underpaid) and natives. This is a very long but excellent read.

I have many friends who are dependent on this city for a livelihood. Many of them are second-generation dependents whose parents made a livelihood from this international and liberal(with respect to the region and the neighbors) city in the middle of the desert.

On one of the follow up emails after reading the article, my friend responded to my questions. What followed was an emotional and eloquent email. My friend used to work in Dubai. Now, he resides in US. I’m reproducing the email with his permission.

Ok..another long email. I usually don't forward links or write long emails. This one was close to heart. So deal with this :)

Having lived there for a long time, I have personally seen most of the labor issues mentioned in the article. Sonapur is a hell hole. I have driven through that place once and it is mind numbing. If the western human rights groups see what happens there, they will just go crazy. If you have seen the movie "Arabikkadha" (an awesome movie by the way), you will see what really happens there. It is the same story in 99.99% of the cases. Most people who end up there were promised a great life and they get stuck with such slavery and decide to carry on somehow.

I used to work for an Indian company (a guy who is worse than any villain you would have seen in any Hindi or Tamil movie) and he used to keep my passport. Everyone who works in the U.A.E (and most arab countries) need only carry the work permit (Pathaka). So the employer has the right to keep employee passports if needed. Big companies don't do that.

When I was going for my US visa interview, I had to jump through hoops to get the passport from him. First, I needed a letter from my employer confirming that I am an employee there. So I told my manager that I am applying for a liquor he gave me one. Then I had to get the passport out, so I told him it was up for renewal. He said he will give it close to the expiry date. I had to come up with lies to get it out and then go for the US interview. Once I got the US visa stamped, I left copies with a lot of my clients to make sure that I have proof if he ever tampered with my visa. The day I was supposed to leave Dubai, he didn't give me my passport and I missed my flight. He gave it to me the next morning saying he couldn't get it back from the labor department. Imagine if someone with an engineering degree working as a "Senior Network Engineer !!!" has to go through all this to get back the passport, what will a person working construction do?? It is really sad and I don't think those things will ever change.

They need cheap labor from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. No other people will work in 50 degree heat for 10 - 12 hours and get paid peanuts! I have seen people collapsing with heat stroke at construction sites. My company had lot of clients who were into construction and I used to go there to setup their remote networks etc. I am sure there are others who must be witnessing all this first hand.

The comments from the British and Australian ladies really made my blood boil. Some of them cannot find a decent job in their own countries and once they come to the middle east, they get treated as the best of human species for reasons unknown to me. Some of the locals fall for that. Almost all of the big firms in the middle east will have either a European or an American at the top. It is the same for Emirates airlines or any big company. They live a good life. They treat hard working people like crap. I used to work 6.5 days a week and at least 10 hours a day. I have gone through hell in Dubai. I didn't care much that time because I knew I have to go through the grind at some point in my life, and early in the career the better. After going through all that, nothing shakes me up anymore.

And that is one thing I really like it here. People (most of them at least) treat you with respect and appreciate the hard work you do. You have the flexibility to manage work and family together. Can you imagine staying alone in a different country, working like a slave and not even seeing your family.. your kids for years together?? I went crazy when I went to take classes in Pittsburgh for a week and not able to see my daughter everyday.

Reading that article brought back lot of memories and it really struck me. All of a sudden I remembered many people I met who have gone through such misery. It is really sad. But the Dubai world knows is the one where they are building the tallest building, palm shaped housing colonies etc.

The lady at the Pizza place said it right when she said everything there is fake. They don't make anything. They have money, so they buy everything. One thing we have to admit is that, they have done a good job at marketing themselves. They just target the rich westerners who can spend money there. I am sure if they cared well for the people who work hard to make it happen, things won't be as "prosperous" as it is now. They cannot have it both ways. The rulers are open minded and compared to other gulf countries, Dubai is as free as India and the US. But there are these companies who abuse the laws and fearing loss of business they are not doing enough.

Hope they recognize this before its too late and things start to fall apart. Once they do, they may go back to being just another middle eastern place and that would be sad.

Hidden Kitchen: Food palace

This is ideal for beef lovers with a penchant for Kerala cuisine. The food is cheap. Though they offer home delivery in and around Bellandur, they are understaffed. So, home delivery depends on your luck. There isn’t much to try out except the beef.

View Larger Map

This is definitely not a place you can sit and eat. Stick to take away. As this is located on a narrow strip of road, you may struggle to park your car without blocking the road.

Contact #: +919731173580

Movie: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The movie focuses on the last few months of Jesse James’(Brad Pitt) life. During one of the robbery, an young guy – Robert Ford(Casey Affleck) - who is approaching twenty joins up Jesse’s gang. He tries to get closer to the James brothers. He is shunned off by the older brother. But the younger brother, Jesse, takes a liking for him.

Robert Ford idolizes Jesse. Over the course of time, he is slowly disillusioned by Jesse’s unpredictable behavior. Jesse becomes overly suspicious of everyone and paranoid. Robert begins to fear and loathe Jesse. The fear and hatred leads to the assassination of Jesse James.

After the assassination, Robert repents his actions and misses Jesse like everyone else. Jesse gets immortalized in the mind of public while Robert fades away from the public eye only to be vindicated by a Jesse fan.

The movie is directed by Andrew Dominik. Andrew concentrates on the story and the performance of his cast. He slowly unravels the story with long scenes and slow pace. The movie is told by a narrator who provides the much needed background on the main players and events.

With a running time of 160 minutes, this is longer than a normal movie. But,  this is recommended.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Decoding the mind of an ATM user

My card does not expire till April 2011. Why is the ATM showing me this message? I’m going to dip this again. I’m already running late! I have to shop for groceries.

That auto rickshaw ride from Hebbal to my apartment cost me a fortune! Why did I chose Hebbal to disembark? I could have gone into the city instead! Well, I could also have got down at the airport and used their Volvo.

Disgusting machine! Let me try it once more. Is it a problem with the magnetic strip? No, I don’t think so! The machine would have displayed a message saying “Unable to read your card”. I’m not going to teach you how to read.

Let me wipe the magnetic strip before using it again. What will I wipe it with? Why am I hesitating to wipe it on my shirt? I should carry an hanky. Why can’t there be tissues near the wash basin? All they have is a hot air blower. They don’t want to encourage the felling of trees! Forget about the trees. I feel cleaner after using the tissue to wipe out the excess water from my hand.

Give me a break. My card does not expire till April 2011. This is a futile exercise. No shopping for groceries tonight! It will be a good excuse to go out for dinner. I may be able to blog on it too! I can ask my wife to spend. But, is there a problem with my debit card?

I have never used this fancy phone ever. It connects to the bank directly. Let me check with the bank. The board displays a lot of option – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. But none of this is for a debit card problem. I will still give it a try. So it doesn’t call the bank instantly. There is a telephone number written on the board to call the bank. I’m dialing the number. But, there is no dial tone! Let me call from my mobile.

The call is getting connected. I’m so glad to hear the voice although it is mechanical and emotionless with a neutralized accent. Didn’t Thomas Friedman do a documentary before the novel “The World is Flat”? That documentary showed the Indian firms hiring professional help to neutralize accents. The young junta over here already speak as if they are in US and UK.

I’m connected to the bank. What do you want? My 16 digit debit card number. Here is it. If you can’t recognize my 16 digit debit card number, why did you ask me to punch it in the first place? You should have given me an option to talk to a live person directly. Will I have to listen to the awful music while I wait for your person? Will you be telling me the time left for your person to service me? Isn’t that usage weird? No, don’t even go there. You are in public space.

What a surprise! A live person minus emotions on the other side before I get to hear any kind of music. I’m so happy. No, I’m not happy. He is asking me for my 16 digit debit card number. My dear sir, I had entered the 16 digit number couple of minutes back. Your fancy software did not tell you the numbers I punched in. You should get a project going for this functionality and help the economy. We have to bail ourselves out of the economic mess.

What? My account is locked out! May I know the reason? Are you joking? I punched in an incorrect pin while using the ATM. Wait. If I entered the incorrect pin, why did the machine talk about an expired card? No, don’t divert from the issue. First, answer my simple question. Please answer. Why did you mislead me?

I entered the pin correctly. Check with your records. This is my pin. What do you mean? I’m not supposed to disclose my pin over the phone. OK. OK. I will change my pin when my account is reactivated.

Wait. I used my card only twice. Even if the wrong pin, I should have one more chance. Isn’t it the best of 3? Well, that is my rule. You tell me why the logic of disabling after 2 attempts. Forget about activation. You tell me the logic. Everyone gives me a third chance. Well, not that person. Again, not that person too. Those are exceptions. You are a tough nut! You are citing examples of people who don’t give me a chance at all!

It takes 24 hours to reactivate my account. I don’t have any cash with me! I have a wife, a kid and a long grocery list. How will I survive? You have a solution for this! I’m impressed. You are good! You are going to help me out of this fix. Now, tell me what to do?

You are asking me to borrow money from my friends till the card gets reactivated!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hospitals, Cardiologists, Angioplasty redux

The heat in Secunderabad is bearable mainly due to the air conditioning system. What makes life difficult over here is the two hours of scheduled power outage. The power outage starts at 12 pm when the sun is right above our head!

My father-in-law got admitted for angioplasty on last Thursday. While my uncle’s admission into the hospital was a reactive one, my father-in-law’s is a preventive one! The doctor performed the angioplasty on the date of admission itself. I reached Hyderabad on Friday morning.

I was surprised to find a happy, healthy and rejuvenated father-in-law walking across the room when I visited him. The angioplasty was done by cutting a vein on his arms as against a vein on the thigh. Using the vein in the arms is less tiring and more modern than the other method.

Amrita Hospital in Cochin uses the “thigh” method while Care Hospital in Hyderabad uses the “arm” method. Both these hospitals perform more than 2 dozens of these procedures daily! I do not want to know the “success ratio”!

After a quiet weekend, I will be starting for Bangalore soon with my family; thus marking the end of (bachelor) days.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Out of an Interstate Volvo

As soon as I alighted from the interstate Volvo on to Lakdikapul in Hyderabad, I realized most of the metros are similar. There was an army of auto rickshaw drivers near the door waiting for the passengers to step out. It was an army of khaki shirts in various styles – half sleeves, full sleeves, doctor sleeves, rolled up sleeves. Some wearing only the khaki shirts while others wearing it as a jacket. Some roll up the khaki shirts alone while other roll up the sleeves along with the sleeves of the shirt below. Sometimes, I wonder if the fashion designers are inspired by the auto rickshaw drivers!

My neck was stiff from the uncomfortable sleep in the Volvo and my energy levels were down since I skipped dinner the previous night. I was in no mood to argue. Hence I ignored all auto rickshaw drivers on my way out of the bus. Once outside, I watched the group curiously. The group of drivers were no different from their brethren in Bangalore.

The first among them are the confident ones. They are very sure that the tired passenger needs his help more than he needs their approval. So these go forward, greet and invite the passenger into their auto rickshaws. They do not wait for the passenger to think and make a decision.

The second among them are the pleading ones. They do not make things happen. They tirelessly follows the passenger, pleading and cajoling them to use their services. Sometimes, the pleading can be suffocating for the target.

The last among them are the silent ones. They patiently wait for passengers even after the first and second group disperses. They are usually lucky to get a ride in spite of the first and the second group.

The interesting part is all three categories get their share of passengers! This time, I chose the second group.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Movie: Body of Lies

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA agent who is tracking down the dreaded terrorist, Al-Saleem. Ferris reports to Ed Hoffman(Russell Crowe). Hoffman watches over Ferris through an eye in the sky.

On the wake of Al-Saleem, Ferris land in Jordan. Here, he befriends Hani Salaam, head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department. In spite of disapproving the American methods, Hani develops a liking for Ferris.

Hoffman constantly tries to undermine Hani’s operations by running secret operations in the background. Due to this, Al-Saleem destroys one of his own safe house in Jordan. Consequently, Ferris is asked to leave Jordan.

While in Washington, Ferris and Hoffman devises a plan to smoke out Al-Saleem. They plan and execute a mock attack on American military base. A fictitious group owns up the responsibility. This group also take up ownership of some of the previous attacks by Al-Saleem. Ferris sets up a Dubai based architect as the leader of this group. The idea is to catch Al-Saleem when he makes contact with Dubai based architect.

By this time, Ferris is requested back to Jordan by Hani. But, now the entire game becomes very dangerous for Ferris as Al-Saleem finds out the identity and intention of Ferris.

This is a good thriller, directed by Ridley Scott. The performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe go unnoticed in front of the narrative style and technology used by Ridley Scott. This is a perfect weekend watch. Don’t look for performances. Concentrate on the explosions, camera and twists in the tale.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rivermark and shooting

After reading the tragedy in Santa Clara, the first thought coming to my mind is about the necessity of a hand gun in Santa Clara. Isn’t Santa Clara among the safest cities in US? After living in the area for around 6 years, that is my perception.

A friend had recently moved into Lick Mill Blvd near to the place of shootout. I queried immediately without giving him a chance to complete, “You mean… the Cisco ghetto”. Cisco has a sprawling campus on both sides of Tasman Drive. Most of the employees invariably end up in and around Lick Mill Blvd for apartments. A coworker in 1999 told me, “I was working for Cisco before this assignment. If you are in Cisco, you end up in Lick Mill. It is a quiet neighborhood”.

View Larger Map

Rivermark Plaza was quiet(compared to my present environment) even during the lunch hours. The restaurants set the tables outside for office going crowd their meal in the sun. My previous boss preferred the Chinese fast food joint (Chef something…). The food was not spicy but the sun was always shining there. Ruby Tuesdays in the plaza also was the venue for dinner with friends once.

The stretch of Montague expressway in front of Rivermark Plaza gave an eerie feeling. The three lane expressway was always empty on one side. The traffic was heavy in front of the Rivermark Plaza. Once you cross Rivermark Plaza, the traffic thins out.

Hearing about this nice and quiet place rocked by an act of tragedy was indeed disturbing. The newspapers are filled with reports about how normal looking this person was. Isn’t that the case always?

A person cannot breakdown without rhyme or reason. A series of events might have happened that culminated in the tragedy.

What drives a person into rage resulting in such a violent act? The depressing economic scenario?

Has he been silently calling for help? Nobody listened?

Movie: Atonement

Briony lives in their family mansion with her mom and her sister, Cecilia(Keira Knightley). She loves Robbie(James McAvoy), son of the family’s housekeeper. During the summer of 1935, she finds Robbie and Cecilia are getting closer to each other. This devastates her so much that she implicates Robbie in a crime he did not commit. As a result, three lives are changed forever. Decades later, she finds atonement through her skills.

The movie spans from 1935 to 1999 and is told from Briony’s viewpoint. Briony’s story depicted in three phases – teenager(Saoirise Ronan), adult(Romola Garai) and old age(Vanessa Redgrave).

The movie switches from the Briony’s viewpoint to the novel she is writing. Joe Wright, who directs this movie, successfully makes us believe the novel is the actual events that transpired.

At various places in the movie, the sounds of the typewriter fills in for the background. The sound goes up couple of notches at times throwing you off guard. So have the remote ready with you.

This is perfect watch for a weekday. Avoid watching with kids because there are graphic scenes.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 India License.