Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Multipurpose Banyan



Mom(concerned): Are you comfortable travelling by train?

Son(mumbles): Bus or train… Okay…

Mom: Do you have train ticket with you?

Son: My friend has it. He is going to drop me at the railway station.

Mom: What about your purse?

Son: What about what about the purse?

Mom: The railway station is crowded. There are pickpockets! Be careful.

Son: Purse will be safe in my jeans.

Mom(thinking):

Son(watching TV):

Mom(all of a sudden): You don’t wear a banyan!

Son: What?

Mom: You could put your purse inside the banyan! It is more safe, you know?

Picture Courtesy: http://www.macroman.co.in

Tags: Musings,Banyan

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scarcity of clean restrooms



Picture 089 Clean restrooms are scarce, bordering on non-existence. Bangalore City Railway station is one of most dense places in the city. It might not qualify as a crowded place compared to the city standards. But, It is definitely a dense place as you can hardly walk without touching a fellow human being inside the railway station. In such a place, I could not find a restroom. Considering the volume of people that passed through the station, it was hard to imagine that the restroom is not a necessity here. After enquiring around, I finally found a pay-and-use toilet tucked away, like a secret spy office in a James Bond movie, in one of the unobtrusive corners of the railway station. They charged a nominal fee of Rs 2 to use an urinal that stank! I refrain from drawing any parallels here. Be it inside the city or travelling on road, clean rest rooms are scarce.

The only decent options available in the city are the restaurants. If you are dining in a restaurant, it makes you eligible to use their restrooms. If you are walking in with a bladder which might burst anytime, you can still try to reason with the manager! The conditions of the restrooms are mostly pathetic regardless of the rating the restaurants get! For this reason, I prefer the malls. But unfortunately, I can only afford the restrooms in the malls.

Travelling long distance poses a bigger challenge. While travelling with spouse and kids, I have been advised to chart out the restaurants in advance for the much needed breaks. A couple of years back, when Reliance opened their gas stations, the gas station also featured a restaurant, an entertainment room and clean restrooms. When they reopened the gas station after the imbroglio on the pricing strategy, the focus has shifted gas station operations. So, the rest of the space have been rented out to others. There isn’t much to write about the rest rooms now!

On my way to work, I take a shortcut around Iblur lake to bypass the gridlocks. The roads aren’t paved. But, it is still usable. Everyday, I see a bunch of cars stopped near the lake. These cars are mostly Indica/Indigo types used as cabs for the major companies in the city. At first, I wondered why. Not anymore! I see the drivers lined up near the lake to relieve themselves. These drivers are easily identifiable in their white uniforms. For those souls who are on the run in this never moving traffic of Bengaluru, these places are the less populated areas where they can forget decency and get a relief!

Tags: Musings,Travel,Bangalore,Restrooms

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Two faces!



And sometimes he would receive calls from his wife, and he was just tired. He was very gentle and very nice on the phone with his wife, but the wife was apparently, was evidently always complaining about him not coming home, and he was always making different excuses that, okay, I have to finish this guy, and the I promise I’ll come home, and we can…

Are you experiencing deja vu? There is a good chance that you have overheard such a conversation while you were with a friend, a colleague or your boss! Or you may have had similar conversation with your loved one! We change the tone of our voice while we receive a phone call from a loved one no matter the situation we are in. We may have been in middle of the debate when the phone rang. But we take on a completely different persona as soon as we press the “Talk” button.

The excerpt given above is from an interview with Maziar Bahari. Maziar Bahari was arrested and detained in Iran after the 2009 election protests. He was imprisoned for 118 days. He was subsequently released in October 20, 2009 on bail. He will never be able to return to Iran until the Islamic Republic fails. In the excerpt, Maziar refers to his interrogator, who transforms soon as he gets a call from his wife even though a few seconds back, he was inflicting psychological torture on Maziar.

I have been in similar situations; though less traumatic than Maziar’s. While having a difficult conversation with one of my superiors where decibels kept climbing along with blood pressure, the phone rang! There was an immediate silence as both of us reached for our respective phones! I heaved a sigh of relief after realizing that it was his phone. The other person answered the phone and in the process mellowed down completely. It was his son!

Do we all put on a different face as soon as we are inside the office?

Picture Courtesy: http://www.worldsocialism.org

Tags: Musings,Maziar Bahari,Phone

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book: Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin ‘Einstein’ Verghese



In this book, the author Sidin Vadukut traces an year in the life of Robin Verghese nicknamed Einstein. The timeline starts with Einstein’s campus interviews for a job as soon as he finishes his management course with a reputed college and ends with the culmination of his escapades that catapults him into the limelight. Does he get famous or infamous at the end? It will be funny and interesting for you to find it out yourself by reading this book.

The story unfolds in the forms of entries on Einstein’s diary. Einstein makes a detailed entry into his daily journal whenever time permits. So, the entire story is told in the first person narrative where Einstein narrates the events; never forgetting to add his analysis along with these events.

Sidin’s Einstein is a dork; a dull stupid fatous person. In addition to this definition, Einstein is also naive. While reading through the entries in diary, the reader goes through various emotions. At first, you smirk at Einstein’s inferences. Then you are appalled at the way he sees things. The shock turns into contempt as he never figures a way – right or wrong – out of his predicament and continues to live in his bubble! Then you give up and start slowly loving and hating him alternatingly.

If you watch Sidin’s interview with Sunil Sethi, you will find Sidin to be brimming with energy! You will find the same energy in his writing style where he packs punch after punch, giving very little time for us to digest the jokes. He keeps shocking us with the stupidity of his characters and also pokes fun at the various management consulting techniques! These techniques are so generic that anybody with a working experience can easily relate to the story at multiple places.

On the other hand, the narrative style – first person using the diary entries – become taxing at places where the reader feels a slackening of the pace resulting in restlessness. Barring this negative point, this is a nice read.

If Sidin could time his punches, this would have been a far interesting read.

Picture Courtesy: http://dork.whatay.com

Tags: Books,Sidin Vadukut,Einstein,Robin Verghese

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peering outside a Volvo on the elevated highway



While travelling for the first time on the elevated highway in Bengaluru, I was on a Bolero in the afternoon under a scorching sun! While I was conversing with my friend, he was stepping on the gas. Yet, I felt like we were going slow on the deserted road. I was also completely disoriented as I could not see any building on both my sides. Because of this, I couldn’t figure out where we were at and how far we were away from our destination. My friend who daily commutes to Electronics City was glad about the elevated highway as it has reduced his commute time! I was glad too since the elevated highway reduced the congestion and gridlocks in front of my office!

Last Sunday, I zoomed on the elevated highway! This time, it was around 9:30pm and I was in an interstate Volvo. Sitting inside the Volvo, I was able to see the building on my side of the road. Since it was night, the lights in the buildings were beautiful! I tried to capture it unsuccessfully using the camera in my phone. When watching the video, you can hear Malayalam song being played in the background courtesy to the Volvo crew.

Tags: Videos,Bangalore,Elevated Highway,Volvo

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Movie: Raavanan



Test1 A group of tribals led by Singarasan(Prabhu) attacks the cops, killing and maiming them. Meanwhile, a small boat carrying Ragini(Aishwarya Rai) is rammed into by a bigger boat. Veeraiya aka Veera(Vikram) stands tall on the attacking boat. Dev(Prithviraj), a police officer, get a call from his colleague. His colleague tells him about the abduction of his wife Ragini by Veera.

Dev who was already on a mission to destroy Veera embarks on hunt to track down Veera and save his wife. When Dev and his officers reach the entrance of the forest, Gnanaprakasham(Karthik) blocks the way. He is a forest officer who knows his way around the forest. He joins Dev’s team.

Meanwhile, deep in the forest, Veera and his gang drags Ragini to the top of a waterfall to kill her. But, Veera is not able to pull the trigger. Ragini refuses to be killed by Veera and jumps into the waterfall! From then, the movie details the cat and mouse game between Veera and Dev from then. It also focuses shifting loyalties and blurring black and white divides in the mind of Ragini.

Mani Ratnam directs this movie which is based on Ramayana wherein he tries to tell the story from the perspective of Raavan! His vision is translated to screen by two cinematographers - Santosh Sivan and V Manikandan. Mani and his cinematographers weave magic into the screen giving us never before seen locations without leaving India and romanticizing these locations. The chase happens during the monsoon. Check the color and thickness of the forest! The atmosphere is foggy! The scenes near the waterfall are so wet that your body temperature drops couple of notches just by watching it! Mani ensures that all his actors stay in character despite harsh climatic conditions. The camera takes on different roles – extreme close up where the screens are filled by the actors and profiles that are extremely stylish; the noted being the camera revolving around Veera while he talks to Ragini on the small circular boat that is being playfully turned by children. Mani effectively uses CGI for some of the action scenes like Ragini falling off the cliff, Sakkarai falling down the cliff after getting shot and final spectacular fight between Veera and Dev on the hanging bridge. The background score by A R Rahman helps in heightening the drama at most places where it is not too loud. In sync with Mani’s earlier movies, the songs are interspersed with dialogues.

But Mani miserably fails in the screenplay credited to him. The movie starts with a bang and the pace slackens after the initial 20 minutes. The story which is actually a study on Stockholm Syndrome fails to connect the audience with the growing admiration of Ragini towards Veera. These scenes are not established. The sensual play between Veera and Ragini which is supposed to be the height of sexual stimulation between the two fall flat and ends up as two people moving across each other without touching in a very wet place! Veera’s story before the abduction justifies the villain and make him a hero once the flashback ends. But Dev is conveniently ignored to epitomize the self centered man. This is the biggest drawback of the movie. Moreover, Gnanaprakasham in the introduction scene jumps from one tree to the another which ends up looking like a failed attempt to copy the Hong Kong action techniques which defies gravity! This scene is enough to give out which character from Ramayana is this role is based on! Similarly, the nose act by Vennila(Priyamani) is also a giveaway for the origins of the character.

With breathtaking visuals, the performances usually take a backseat. Vikram gives in a sincere performance and get himself noticed among the fog, the rain, the dirt and even the turmeric! He has tried his best to turn around the weak characterization by his strong portrayal! But he is loud in doing so thereby making his Veera an emotionally unstable yet brilliant man.

The movie revolves around Aishwarya’s Ragini! But she is not able to deliver, never being able to match the energy of Vikram. She looks mismatched with Prithviraj. Ultimately, she ends up trying all through the movie. Prabhu and Karthik has nothing much to do. They end up as playing sidekicks to Vikram and Prithviraj respectively.

Prithviraj springs a surprise in a very short role which appears evenly spaced in the narrative; making us overlook the length. It is his cold portrayal of Dev which makes us actually go back to Ramayana and think about the ethics of Ram. It is ironic that his character makes us think about the epic in a whole new light and not Raavan’s!

If you have seen Paruthiveeran, then you know the reason why Priyamani was selected as Vennila. What happens in Paruthiveeran happens in Raavanan too. But unlike Paruthiveeran, it happens offscreen and the event unfolds in the form of a conversation between Vennila and Veera. Without going overdramatic, Priyamani uses the right expressions to tell us the horror. The credit goes to Priyamani and then Mani Ratnam.

The movie loses the tempo after 20 minutes and degenerates from a fast paced to thriller to slow paced nothing! If you are a Mani Ratnam fan, go for it! The other reason you can choose to see this to find out the most beautiful places in India during rains.

Language: Tamil

Genre: Drama

Rating: **

Tags: Movies,Vikram,Aishwarya Rai,Prithviraj,Prabhu,Karthik,Priyamani,Mani Rathnam,Santosh Sivan,Manikandan,A R Rahman,Drama

Movie: The Karate Kid



Dre Parker(Jaden Smith) moves to Beijing from Detroit because his mother Sherry Parker(Taraji P Henson) has taken up a new job in Beijing. Dre has trouble adjusting to the new culture and also the new school. At his new school, he develops a liking to Mei Ying. But he is bullied by Cheng a fellow student and his friends.

Although his mother tries excitedly to get him hooked on to China and everything China, Dre is unable to. He likes Mei Ying but fears Cheng who beats him up in a showdown. Vengeful, Dre throw dirt at Cheng and his friends by following them surreptitiously. When Cheng and his friends confronts Dre after chasing him, the maintenance guy at Dre’s apartment Han(Jackie Chan) arrives just in time to save him.

Since Han knows Kung Fu, Dre requests him to teach him. But Han takes Dre to Cheng’s martial arts teacher for making peace. Instead of making peace there, Cheng’s teacher throws a challenge which Han accepts. Now, Han has to teach Dre Kung Fu and prepare him for a tournament wherein he will fight with Cheng.

Harald Zwart directs this movie. The movie has a heavy dose of martial arts based action. But the emphasis is on a child who finds it difficult to get acceptance in the new surrounding, finding an equivalent to father in a teacher and standing up in spite of hardships. It is the emotional angle that make the movie interesting. The action scenes and also romance shown in the movie are better suited for an older age group than the age group shown in the movie.

When we walk into the theater, Jaden Smith’s lineage is the major factor which we carry with us. He is the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Jaden’s portrayal of Dre’s loneliness, frustration and desperation is an endearing one which makes us forget about his lineage in the early phases of the movie itself. He is excellent in scenes where he shows the attitude in Kung Fu, where he watches Mei Ying dance and where he persuades Han in helping him heal fast for the final fight.

Jackie Chan gives a very restrained performance as Han to complement Jaden’s character. He gives a brief glimpse of his funny side immediately after the fight where he saves Jayden from Cheng. Jackie Chan continues to awe us with his style of fighting although he only fights once in the movie. He gives a balanced portrayal of Han without going overly dramatic or philosophic.

Taraji P Henson provides the funniest moments in the movie with her actions and also dialogues. In spite of being loud, she still makes us sympathize with a single mother!

Watch this. Although the action is too violent for 12 year old, it is still pleasant to watch.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Tags: Movies,Jaden Smith,Taraji P Henson,Jackie Chan,Harald Zwart,Drama

Monday, June 21, 2010

Movie: Valentine’s Day



On Valentine’s day morning, Reed Bennett(Ashton Kutcher) proposes to his girlfriend Morley(Jessica Alba). In the happy state, he discloses this to his close friend Alphonso(George Lopez) and his employees.

Captain Kate Hazeltine(Julia Roberts) is flying to LA. She is befriended by a fellow passenger Holden Bristow(Bradley Cooper). Kate is on active duty and will be LA for only one day to meet someone special.

Julia Fitzpatrick(Jennifer Garner), an elementary school teacher, is in love with Dr Harrison Copeland(Patrick Dempsey), a divorcee. Unfortunately for Julia, Harrison will be away on a business trip to San Francisco on this day.

Edison, one of Julia’s student, orders flowers from Reed. He wanted the flowers to be delivered during the recess to his valentine. There is a girl in his class who has a crush on him.

Grace(Emma Roberts) and her boyfriend Alex(Carter Jenkins) will be soon off to college. But Emma wants the bond between them to be special. So, she decides to make love to him today.

Edgar(Hector Elizondo) and Estelle(Shirley MacLaine) have been married for long and they intend to take the vows again soon in the near future.

Willy(Taylor Lautner) and Felicia(Taylor Swift) are in high school and are hopelessly in love. While Willy is a sports star, Felicia is a cheerleader.

Sean Jackson, a professional football player, is having difficulties on both personal and professional front. The newspapers are after him. He tries to deal with it with the help of his publicist Kara(Jessica Biel) and his agent Paula(Queen Latifah). A sports reporter Kelvin Moore(Jamie Foxx) closes in for a kill.

Liz(Anne Hathaway) and Jason(Topher Grace) has been dating for the past two weeks. Jason loves Liz. But Liz always has the habit of getting mysterious phone calls between their conversation.

Garry Marshall directs this movie based on a story by Katherine Fugate. The story takes places in a day – Valentine’s day – and it tells the story of many couples spanning age groups, providing different perspectives of love. The best part of the movie is how all these characters are connected together. Given the multiple characters, it is not easy to connect them all. But, the movie does not uplift itself to become an exceptional love story at any time. But it provides an interesting watch at places.

Anne Hathaway is exceptional as Liz. It is Liz’s and Jason’s love story that make you laugh and think at the end. Julia Roberts provides warmth to the character and also the movie. The rest of the performances have nothing to talk about.

It is not a bad movie. Perfect for a quiet evening where you have nothing else to do.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: **

Tags: Movies,Ashton Kutcher,Jessica Alba,George Lopez,Julia Roberts,Bradley Cooper,Jennifer Garner,Patrick Dempsey,Emma Roberts,Carter Jenkins,Hector Elizondo,Shirley MacLaine,Taylor Lautner,Taylor Swift,Jessica Biel,Queen Latifah,Jamie Foxx,Anne Hathaway,Topher Grace,Garry Marshall,Katherine Fugate,Drama

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Service roads – An eye opener on BDA’s planning skills



When the elevated highway from Silk Board junction to Electronics City opened up, it reduced the traffic on Hosur Road. The hours-long gridlocks vanished all of a sudden. The commute was transformed from dreaded to bearable. While the elevated highway was being ready, BDA gave the service road on both sides of the Hosur road a much needed facelift.

ServiceRoadMap As part of the facelift, barricades in the form of immovable grilled gates were placed clearly demarcating the service road and Hosur Road. The grilled gates were placed one after the other without any gap between them. On strategic locations, the gate-layers put a sufficient gap for a pedestrian to pass through. This would enable a pedestrian to cross Hosur Road and visit an office or hotel on the service road on the side. If you are driving a vehicle, you drove on the service road till you reached a major intersection and merged onto Hosur Road. You could also take a U-turn from the service road onto Hosur Road or the service road on the opposite side at these intersections. In addition to this, the service road was also given a slight elevation which made service road and the Hosur Road at two different heights. This was to counteract the frivolous elements trying to bring down the barricades to create temporary entries and exits onto the service road.

TrafficJam Within days of opening up for public, the traffic on the service road became a nightmare. Although the hours-long gridlocks were not encountered, the traffic screeched to a halt at major intersections. The vehicles trying to take a U-turn combined with those trying to get onto the service road resulted in standstill traffic together with helpless traffic cops and drivers. The traffic on the service roads were minimal but the entrances and exits at the intersection saw a very long queue that would never be cleared up even when the traffic light turned red! The number of traffic cops were increased. But this did not solve the problem. Before a week was over, BDA and traffic police came up with a solution. The barricades were brought down just a few meters away from the intersection on all sides. The barricades were brought down to provide a gap wide enough for a heavy vehicle to pass through. A temporary makeshift arrangement was created to facilitate the vehicles to climb up or down the elevation. By providing a better way to enter and exit the service road, there were no dazed and confused drivers at the intersection which also resulted in a smooth traffic at the intersection.

But why couldn’t BDA think about this when the roads were being readied? Why did they wait for an incident to happen instead of preventing one? This could have been easily solved if the authorities sat down and tried to figure out all the possible doomsday scenarios! The service road fiasco clearly demonstrates that BDA do not have planning skills. One ride on the service road was enough to predict this traffic nightmare! But the authorities failed!

You can find the elevated highway, service road and also the entry/exit in the below pictures.

Picture 027 Picture 080

Tags: Bangalore,Elevated Highway,Service Road,Hosur Road,BDA

Friday, June 18, 2010

Three kings on the road



On the way to my work, I saw three kings on the road. While everyone around them were frantically trying to reach their destination, the three kings rested; never under pressure to move! They could not have asked for a better place to rest as the roads are smoothest and they were under the shade of the elevated road leading to the Electronic City.

Picture 079Picture 081  

Tags: Bangalore

Conform your seats!



Picture 078 The board is displayed inside the branch office of Kallada Travels in Bommanahalli. The passengers are requested to conform the journey details!

The word “conform” is repeated twice in the display and they have tried to correct one! In order to rectify their mistake, they have blackened one half of the “O” thereby giving us a oval shaped I!

Tags: Bangalore,Travel,Kallada

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

…control our future instead of letting future control us…



By acting now we can control our future instead of future controlling us”. This is an excerpt from the Address of the Nation by Jimmy Carter on April 18, 1977. In this address, Jimmy Carter highlights the growing demand for energy and urges for bringing this down the annual growth rate in energy demand to 2%.

But, what happened to the grand scheme?

Tags: Videos,Jimmy Carter,Energy

Movie: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time



In the Persian Empire of the olden days, the King Sharaman adopts Dastan from the streets after watching him perform a brave act. After 15 years, Dastan(Jake Gyllenhaal) together with his brothers – the king’s sons - Garsiv and Tus are planning an attack on the sacred city of Alamut. Their uncle, Nizam(Ben Kingsley), acts as a guide to matters related to the kingdom. In order to avoid a massacre, Dastan infiltrates into the city from a less guarded side and opens the doors for his brothers. When Dastan, his brothers and their army are entering into the sacred city, Princess Tamina(Gemma Arterton) hands over a dagger to one of her guards and asks him to escape. Unfortunately, the guard is killed in a fight with Dastan and the dagger comes into his possession. When the Persian have conquered Alamut, Tus decides to take Tamina as his wife.

King Sharaman arrives in the sacred city, furious about the attack by his sons on the city. In order to calm their dad, Tus asks Dastan to meet their dad and present him with gifts. Tus offers a gown to Dastan to present it to their father. After accepting the gift and wearing it, Sharaman admonishes Dastan on the attack. While talking with Dastan, Sharaman is killed by the poisoned gown and everyone turns against Dastan. Then, Dastan escapes with Tamina into the desert. Once out of reach from their pursuers, Dastan and Tamina fights with each other for the possession of the dagger. During the fight, Dastan realizes the magical powers of the dagger. It can turn back the sands of time. Now, Dastan and Tamina embark on an adventure to clear Dastan’s name by uncovering the real culprits and also to safeguard the dagger from falling into evil hands. In this journey, they come across a merchant-bandit named Sheik Amar(Alfred Molina) and also a group of assassins. How Dastan forms allies with some and overcomes others form the rest of the story.

Mike Newell directs this movie which is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The movie is based on the popular video game of the same name. An acrobatic hero who uses the rooftops of old Persian buildings, a mysterious princess, deserts and characters with dubious motives are all the necessary ingredients of a romantic adventure. Unfortunately for Mike Newell, this ends up as Jerry Bruckheimer movie which is full of CGI, explosions, unbelievable events, distorted history and cheesy lines. The action scenes provides only a glimpse of the director’s brilliance. The movie as a whole lacks the magical charm of one of his earlier venture – The Goblet of Fire and the characters end up as one dimensional. Out of the action scenes, the fight between the Seso who is a master at throwing knives and the spike wielding assassin is racy to watch. The references of current events like supplying weapons to terrorists and taxes are feeble attempts for providing a modern context to the story and also for generating emotions in the viewer.

The performances have nothing to boast about. In fact, the thespians – Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina – give a mediocre performance in badly written roles.

Watch it only if you like explosions or have nothing else to do.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: **

Tags: Movies,Jake Gyllenhaal,Ben Kingsley,Gemma Arterton,Alfred Molina,Mike Newell,Jerry Bruckheimer,Action

The Raining Room



Picture 077 The sign got me thinking. What is a raining room?

I have heard about rain dance – showers running zig-zag above, water gushing out in force, people gyrating to music!

Are the higher ups using the magical and soothing power of water to invigorate it’s employees?

The room is indeed used for transforming the employee. But the sign missed a “T”. The missing “T” changed training into raining!

Tags: Musings

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book: Outliers



In this book, the author Malcolm Gladwell dissects success to examine two things that influence it – opportunity and legacy. He argues that these factors play a key role in the making of men proclaiming themselves as “self-made men”. The book itself is divided into two parts based on these two factors.

Part 1: Opportunity consists of the following chapters.

  1. The Matthew Effect:Using the list of hockey players chosen for a particular team, the author introduces and also explains the phenomenon of “accumulative advantage” and it’s impact on success.
  2. The 10,000-hour rule: With the help of success stories of Bill Joy, the Beatles and Bill Gates, the author attributes your success to the number of hours you practice a particular skill. 
  3. The Trouble with Geniuses: Divided into two parts, the author introduces the concept of concerted cultivation, wherein parents encourage their children to stand up and put forward their views or concerns.
  4. The Three Lessons of Joe Flom: Taking Joe Flom, a successful attorney, as an example, the author teaches us three lessons.
    • The first lesson is the importance of being Jewish. Jews were not offered jobs in old-line Wall Street law firms and hence he specialized in the litigation case these white shoe firm abhorred. Later in the century, these skills were must sought after.
    • The second lesson is the demographic luck. Joe Flom was born in the 1930s. After the second World War, it was easier to get into the best schools of NY for this generation because of lower population and less competition.
    • The third lesson is the garment factory and meaningful work. Joe Flom’s dad was an immigrant who was also a skilled laborer and became a successful entrepreneur. So, Joe learnt from his dad’s entrepreneurial success.

Part 2: Legacy consists of the following chapters.

  1. Harlan, Kentucky: Here, a blood feud between two families – the Howards and the Turners – in the Harlan County, Kentucky during the 1800s is used to tell us the effect of your environments on your temperament. You develop a “culture of honor”.
  2. The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes: Your cultural heritage influences the style of communication used by you! This is illustrated airplane crashes by Korean Air. When they understood their limitations because of the cultural heritage, they worked hard to rectify the problem. The results are for everyone to see. Here, the author introduces the concepts of “mitigated speech”, “uncertainty avoidance” and “Power Distance Index”.
  3. Rice Paddies and Math Tests. Asian are good at math. The author explains why and how legacy comes into the picture!
  4. Marita’s Bargain:KIPP is a middle school targeting to reduce the “achievement gap” between youngsters from different income groups. Here the author emphasizes on the school system being right! But what happens outside school needs to be addressed.
  5. A Jamaican Story: In this chapter, Malcom Gladwell examines his legacy starting from his great grandfather’s relationship with a Jamaican slave and his grandmother’s persistence in getting a better education for his mother and aunt.

Through this book, Malcolm delves behind the famous lives to uncover what really takes it to be successful. He attributes it to opportunity and legacy more than the talent. Although, it is very difficult to fully agree with the author, he quotes several examples which can be inspiring for our professional and personal lives.

Tags: Books,Opportunity,Legacy,Malcolm Gladwell

Monday, June 14, 2010

Movie: Alice in Wonderland



At 19, Alice Kingsleigh(Mia Wasikowska) is a free spirited girl who questions and opposes anything that she doesn’t believe in. Since childhood, she has recurring dreams about animals and strange lands. At present, Alice is asked to attend a garden party at Lord Ascot’s estate. After reaching the estate, Alice comes to know that she is going to be engaged during the party. She is unsure about the suitor. Just when the suitor asks for her hand in marriage, she notices a white rabbit in the garden wearing a waistcoat. She chases the rabbit and falls down into a hole.

Alice has fallen into the Underland and finds the White Rabbit(voice of Michael Sheen), the Dormouse, the Dodo and the twins – Tweedledum and Tweedledee - there. The group is constantly debating if she is the right Alice. In order to be sure, all of them goes over to Absolem(voice of Alan Rickman) the Caterpillar smoking an hookah. Absolem declares Alice as the wrong Alice.

Despite being the wrong person, Alice still gets entangled in the power struggle between two sisters – Red Queen(Helena Bonham Carter) representing evil and the White Queen(Anne Hathaway) representing good. During this quest, she crosses swords with Knave of Hearts(Crispin Glover) and gets help from Mad Hatter(Johnny Depp) and the Chesire Cat(voice of Stephen Fry).

Tim Burton directs this fantasy which combines live action with animation. The characters and the main storyline of the 2010 Alice in Wonderland are based on Lewis Caroll’s novels. Tim and his team has altered the story to narrate a more edgier story of good versus evil and a girl finding self. His characters and backdrop look weird; but still manages to surprise and enamor us with his imagination. The film features mostly actors from UK. CGI deserve a special mention. While all the characters keep their initial size, Alice keeps changing sizes through out the movie – normal, big and small. This is a challenging task for the director and also the CGI team.

Helen Bonham Carter as Red Queen is fantastic. She is a paradox where her love is evident while interacting with Knave of Hearts and the hatred with everyone else! Watch her transformation during the her interactions with Knave of Hearts and her callous attitude when she interacts with her sister White Queen! Johnny Depp impresses us with his portrayal of Mad Hatter. Mad Hatter is righteous and eccentric. At the same time, he longs for company.

Two other delightful performances happen off-screen. We hear only their voices – Alan Rickman’s and Stephen Fry’s. Alan and Stephen uses tone of the voices and effective pauses in order to generate suspense. This also makes us listen intently to the proceedings. In spite of animation, we are mesmerized by their voices.

Entertaining. Watch it on the big screen.

Language: English

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ****

Tags: Movies,Mia Wasikowska,Michael Sheen,Alan Rickman,Helena Bonham Carter,Anne Hathaway,Crispin Glover,Johnny Depp,Stephen Fry,Tim Burton,Lewis Caroll,Fantasy

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Death of a Butterfly



Picture 073 On my return trip to Bengaluru, my niece was sleeping soundly, with the seat lowered down and her body safely held by the seatbelt. We were less than hundred kilometers away from our destination when I noticed the butterfly on the windshield.

Of late, my niece and my daughter had been conspiring. My niece wanted to capture a butterfly so that she can fly off to play with Ranbir Kapoor. My daughter has been helping her with tips on how to accomplish this task!

I stopped the car for two purposes – to take a picture of the butterfly to remember the moment and to capture the butterfly to show my niece after waking her up. After taking the picture, I realized that the butterfly was dead!

When I was pulling over the car with grand ideas in my mind, the butterfly was slowly dying.

Tags: Musings,Parenthood,Travel,Butterfly

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Raavan v/s Raavanan – A viewer’s dilemma!



1 Was Mani Ratnam thinking about me when he cast Vikram in both the Hindi and Tamil versions of his interpretation of Ramayana? The promos have been around for the past few days and Mani’’s latest offering is set to hit the sceens on 18th June! Going by the promos, Vikram’s Veera seems to be more menacing and maniacal than Abhishek Bachchan’s Beera! Then why should I see the Hindi version?

Aishwarya Rai and Priyamani are enacting the same roles in both versions. Judging by the promos, they are emoting in the same way in both versions. The only difference will be the lip movements and the dialogues! Then why should I see the Hindi version?

Prithviraj stars in Raavanan! Emulating his dad’s style of acting whenever necessary, Prithviraj is the fastest rising star in the Malayalam industry. He might cross over to become the only superstar in Malayalam at the blink of an eye; although in this particular case, we have been blinking our eyes for a while! The “Prithviraj” factor again tips the balance in the favor the Tamil version.

The star power of Govinda, Ravi Kissen and relatively unknown Nikhil Dwivedi in the Hindi version is overpowered by Karthik, Prabhu and unknown Munna in the Tamil version. Karthik and Prabhu were excellent when they came together in Mani’s Agninakshatram two decades back! The optimist in me says sparks will fly like the earlier movie while the pessimist says they will have miniscule roles. Yet, I will watch the Tamil version because of this duo.

Then why should I watch the Hindi version? Mani, the marketing wizard, has cast Vikram in both versions. He enact to two different roles – antagonist in one and protagonist in another. Vikram will be enacting Prithviraj’s role in the Hindi version. Vikram has dubbed in his voice! Wouldn’t it be interesting to watch Vikram enact two different roles in the same story in different languages? It will be far better than dual role in the same movie!

Was Mani thinking about me?

Picture Courtesy:http://www.raavan-thefilm.com/

Tags: Musings,Mani Ratnam,Vikram,Abhishek Bachchan,Aishwarya Rai,Priyamani,Prithviraj,Govinda,Ravi Kissen,Nikhil Dwivedi,Karthik,Prabhu,Munna

360 degree view of Alappuzha beach



A view of Alappuzha beach with the white sand and dilapidated walkway built for cargo ships.

Tags: Videos,Alappuzha Beach

Movie: Invictus



In 1990, Nelson Mandela(Morgan Freeman) is released from Robben Island prison. Within a short time after his release, Mandela wins the elections to become the first black president of South Africa. When he comes to power, he also realizes that his countrymen has not forgiven years of being apart and subsequent hatred generated because of it. Uniting the country by forgiving the old enmity will be his biggest challenge.

When Mandela attends a game of Springboks - the national rugby team, he observes that the black citizens are still cheering against the Springboks. Sadly, this is what Mandela used to do during his imprisonment at Robben Island. He also senses an opportunity to unite the nation using this game. So, when the newly formed sports committee decides to dismantle Springboks, Mandela pleads and convinces the majority to vote against it.

Mandela then arranges a meeting with Francois Pienaar(Matt Damon), the captain of Springboks team. During this meeting, Francois understands that Mandela wants to win the 1995 Rugby Word Cup which will be hosted in South Africa. Francois is motivated. But the country and his team members are not. How Mandela and Francois changes the attitudes of their fellow countrymen forms the rest of the story.

Clint Eastwood directs this inspirational sports drama based on a novel named “Playing the Enemy” by George Carlin. The initial half of the movie is impressive as Mandela slowly convinces the key players. The second half fizzles out as the change in the entire nation happens too abruptly. Clint tells a story of uniting mankind with sports. But, the movie lacks impact as it tries to be multiple things – drama, inspiration, sports – and hence does not have the intended effect.

The backbone of the movie is the performances of Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. But unfortunately, the actors have done similar roles in the past. So, they end up being right for the roles.

Perfect for a Friday evening watch on DVD.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Tags: Movies,Morgan Freeman,Matt Damon,Clint Eastwood,George Carlin,Drama

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pallathuruthy



In the 80’s, all the buses travelling eastwards announced “Pallathuruthy” as their destination. The destination was displayed on the white board hung in front of the KSRTC buses and these buses passed in front of our house in Alappuzha. There were hardly any private buses towards this destination. Each time I saw a bus, I wondered about the exotic sounding destination. The buses that went towards Pallathuruthy was back in 30 minutes. On the way back, the board would have been reversed and will be displaying “Alappuzha”. So, I knew the destination was not far way from my house. In reality, my house was only 3 kms away. But I never got a chance to see it for a very long time.

On one of those lucky weekends in my teens where the restrictions were eased, I cycled to Pallathuruthy with a friend of mine. Even before we reached our destination, we came across “The White House”. It stood out elegantly in the middle of a paddy field; a shack painted in white. It had the name “The White House” printed in black. The shack stood there, mocking the onlookers and daring them to challenge the name! It was a toddy shop! Initially, we had a good laugh. Once the laughter subsided, we reasoned taking sides with the owner. After all, the shack was painted in white!

Pallathuruthy was a few minutes away from “The White House”. Many small shops locally popular as petti-kada (petti being the malayalam word for box and kada for shop) adorned the two sides of a wooden landing for ferry boats. The buses that passed in front of my house and were parked alongside the small shops. The place was bustling with travelers – either waiting for the ferry or waiting in and outside the bus. Glass jars were arranged in front of these small shops, displaying candies and other sweets. Bottles of sugar syrup was also seen in front of the shop; the sugar for making the thirst quencher - sweet lime water or sweet lime soda. From the rope tied to the top ends of the shop, famous malayalam weeklies were displayed in a manner similar to the hanging clothes for drying! The place was bustling with people and energy!

Pallathuruthy is a river that cuts across the place I visited and Nedumudi. On the opposite side of the river, I found a mirror image of what I found on this side. There were buses parked on the opposite side and numerous small shops. A ferry boat connected these two pieces of land – carrying people, cycles, scooter, motor bikes and other light motor vehicles. The two centers of commerce existed because of the river that divided these two pieces of land. With so many people and activities, the place was very noisy.

Curious about what has become of Pallathuruthy, I visited the place a couple of weeks back. In the 90’s, Pallathuruthy bridge was operational. This comes as a huge relief for people travelling into Alappuzha as they no longer had to wait for the ferry thereby cutting down the overall travelling time. When the ferry service was stopped, there was no static crowd on both sides of the river. As a result, the shop owners deserted the earlier vantage points. The place has gradually ceased to exist.

Near the previous the landing for ferry boats, a couple of new buildings have come up. Various tour operators work out of these buildings. The houseboats are docked here for check-out, cleaning and check-in. There were many houseboats alongside the land on both sides of the bridge. The bridge that was became operational had a gaping hole on it’s sidewalls probably due to a recent accident. The bridge still has not been repaired.

I watched the house boats from the bridge. It was 12 pm – the check-in time for the houseboats. Still, the place was eerily silent.

Picture 048 Picture 047

Tags: Musings,Travel,Pallathuruthy,Nedumudi,Alappuzha,Houseboat

Movie: No Man’s Land

Ciki and Cera are two Bosniak soldiers, who are part of a relief team, getting to their destination in darkenss and low visibility due to thick fog at the night time. When the sun breaks through, the Serbians shoot at the Bosnian relief team. In the aftermath, Ciki is the only one alive and he takes refuge in a trench.

The Serbians sent two of their soldiers to check the trench. In the trench, the Serbian soldiers place the dead body of Cera on a mine in order to ambush the retrieval team. Ciki fires at the Serbian soldiers and kills one of them. Nino, the wounded surviving soldier is held captive by Ciki.

When Ciki and Nino argues with each other, Cera regains consciousness. Now, the drama unfolds between Ciki and Nino where Ciki gets an upperhand at times and Nino at other times. They fight and also reconciles. The fight and reconciliation do not last and alternates over the period of time. Meanwhile, in the outside world away from the trench, the Serbian and the Bosnian forces call for UNPROFOR(UN Protection Force) to help the people inside the trench. When the UNPROFOR comes into picture, politics is not far behind; so are journalists!

Danis Tanovic directs this Academy Award winner in the Foreign Film category for 2002. The movie is as beautiful as a short story. In the movie, the events occur in less than a day. With the two protagonists who happen to be play a small and insignificant role in the turbulent struggle pertaining to the area, Danis tells an important story where hatred takes foreground while compassion withdraws to the background. Danis beautifully portrays the helplessness of the outsiders who really want to help but are unable to do so! As a result, the movie stays with the audience even after the show is over.

Simple and brilliant. Must watch!

Language: Bosnian

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Danis Tanovic,Academy Award,Drama

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Movie: Kill!

In 1800’s, Hanji walks into a deserted village, hungry and dressed like a samurai. He comes to know about an old lady who will provide him food. On arriving at her hut, he finds her hanging from ceiling. Disillusioned and hungry, he eyes a hen. But his attempt to capture the hen is foiled by the sudden arrival of Genta(Tatsuya Nakada), a vagrant. Their combined attempt to capture the hen is again disrupted by the arrival of Testutaro, a samurai. Testutaro gives his food to both Hanji and Genta. Genta is grateful to Testutaro for this gesture.

Soon, the two newly accustomed friends – Hanji and Genta – witness a raid by Testutaro and his friends on their chancellor. The chancellor is attacked and killed by Testutaro’s men. Testutaro and his friends were rebelling against the chancellor with the support of their superior Ayuzama. Ayuzama has other plans and was using Testutaro. Genta realizes this. Very soon, the two friends – Hanji and Genta - are involved in the game of intrigue and deceit; not always on the same side but always caring for each other.

Kihachi Okamoto directs this drama about samurais. He tells the story of a disillusioned samurai and a farmer who wants to be a samurai. The disillusioned one tries to show the other the real world of samurai thereby providing a glimpse of what to expect. The movie resembles “Sanjuro”(directed by Akira Kurosawa) and “A Fistful of Dollars”(directed by Sergio Leone). “Sanjuro” and “Kill!” borrows from the same source - a novel named “Peaceful Days” and “A Fistful of Dollars” is an adaptation of Sanjuro. Most of the protagonists have multiple layers wherein you can’t classify them as black or white. The dilemma and decisions faced by these characters make this movie a very interesting watch. The conversational scenes always have all the parties in one frame giving the audience liberty to choose what he wants to see – the action or the reaction. This technique helps in heightening the drama and also is  in tone with the feelings of the protagonists wherein they are all forced into reacting because of the events.

A must watch!

Language: Japanese

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Tatsuya Nakada,Kihachi Okamoto,Drama

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Thamizhan strategy

In Thamizhan, a Tamil movie released in 2002, the lead protagonist played by Vijay devises an ingenious plan to reduce the national debt. He hits upon this idea even before completing his college education. He appeals to the entire nation to dig deep into their pockets and contribute Rs 500. The amount is then handed over to the Government of India and our national debt is wiped out. Vijay is honored by the nation for devising and executing this brilliant yet simple plan. If you take this as the entire story of the movie, you are mistaken! This is just his introductory scene with all the unnecessary paraphernalia associated with a “mass” movie.

My kneejerk reaction to this was a guffaw. It is a simple but impractical solution. But is it really impractical? At least, Kay Fishburn doesn’t think so. In 1980s, Kay, a Wisconsin nurse, rallied to make gifts in to bring down the US national debt. She started “Citizens for a Debt-free America”. Her efforts produced a collective sum of  nearly $3 million in one year. These efforts lost steam when the US economy boomed generating surplus. In the current fiscal year when there is a recession, the collection totaled to $1.6 million! Although this is a drop in the ocean comparing this with US national debt amounting to trillions, the amount signifies the good nature of the citizens and the power of collaboration.

Taking a cue from Kay, will the Thamizhan strategy work? With a national debt of 78% of GDP, we need it! Kay send her checks with a handwritten note to a specific department of the government. Where would we send the check to? Should we write a check to the Finance minister?

Kay’s efforts also have detractors because this urges the people to cut extravagances and save which acts against the economic stimulus. Doing good is not simple anymore!

Listen to the Kay Fishburn story over here.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.visualeconomics.com

Tags: Musings,People,National Debt,Kay Fishburn

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kayeekka’s Biriyani

Picture 038 You may have come across the name “Kayeekka” if you have read through the chain mail extolling the Malayali stereotypes. A few months back, a colleague had forwarded such a mail and I was very surprised to see the reference to “Kayeekka”. I assumed Kayeekka to be one of the “national” treasures of Kochi!

Working out of the restaurant in the bustling town of Mattancherry, Kayeekka became famous for his mouthwatering and scrumptious biriyani. The visitors seldom ate in the restaurant. Instead, they packed their biriyani and ate it inside the comfort of their homes or offices. Even then, the restaurant was crowded which speak volumes about the value for money! At present, Kayeekka is no longer alive. But his biriyani legacy lives on.

Picture 041 Now, we don’t need to travel through the narrow crowded streets of Mattancherry to devour Kayeekka’s biriyani. Kayees Hotel has opened up on Durbar Hall Road in Ernakulam. The biriyani is prepared from a central location and transported to the hotel where the different ingredients are mixed together before serving! Like the hotel in Mattanchery, this also is frequented by people who like to take away their biriyani. So, they have a waiting room that can seat at least 20 people.

The walls are adorned with testimonials from the rich and famous clientele. M F Hussain is featured on the wall. The photo is very old and he is photographed with the management at that time. He has also gifted two sketches for the restaurant. The walls also feature a picture of Mammootty and his testimonial.

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If you are visiting Kochi/Ernakulam, don’t miss this! You will have a taste of our own biriyani.

Picture Courtesy: Mitzzz who is in the pictures!

Tags: Restaurants,Travels,Kayeekka

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