Thursday, September 29, 2011

Movie Review: Abduction

Nathan Harper(Taylor Lautner) lives with his parents Kevin(Jason Isaacs) and Maria(Mario Bello). He leads a carefree life. Kevin tries to teach discipline in Nathan by engaging him in boxing fights. Nathan likes his classmate Karen Murphy(Lily Collins). He also consults a psychiatrist named Geraldine Bennett(Sigourney Weaver) on a regular basis to discuss anger management and also the recurring dreams about a woman being murdered.

Nathan is delighted when he is partnered with Karen on a school project. While researching for the project, Karen finds a website for missing children. The website constructs the present picture of the missing child from an old photo taken. While exploring the site for fun, they hit on a picture which resembles Nathan. A curious Nathan calls the contact number from the website. The phone call kicks off dangerous events in the lives of Nathan and Karen involving a Russian mercenary Viktor Kozlow(Michael Nyqvist) and a CIA operative Frank Burton(Alfred Molina).

John Singleton directs this action movie about a kid searching for his identity in a dangerous world of espionage. Despite an interesting premise, the film fails to excite the audience because of a lackluster script and unimaginative treatment. The action starts very late in the movie and the chases are pedestrian. This takes away the fun.

The movie boasts of excellent actors. But they neither rise above the script nor are interested in the proceeding. Even Michael Nyqvist fails to impress.

Skip it.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jolly Pecker

Yes, you heard it right. Pecker, the slang for the male sex organ. This post is going to be about sex. Sex toys, to be precise. I came across a sex toy named "Jolly Pecker" in the office of one of my acquaintances. I learned a valuable lesson from the ensuing interaction with her.

She enthusiastically showed me the toy with the most infectious and innocent smile lighting up her face. Her colleagues sharing the workplace looked eagerly at me searching for shock and embarrassment. I was neither shocked nor embarrassed but amused. The toy resembled the top half of the male sexual organ placed on two wheels. It had a key protruding from the lower half. When the toy is placed on the table after keying, it moved and bounced.

Now, how did she get this toy? A colleague presented to her when she moved from the previous division to the current one. It was a going-away gift. Of course, the idea was to embarrass her. Was she embarrassed? No, she proudly displays this toy to her friends and tells the name of the person who gifted her this toy. So, the table have turned now and everybody teases the guy. This forms a valuable lesson for me. You can turn things around effortlessly with a positive attitude.

Footnote: I did take a picture of the toy. I decided against posting it here as I wanted this blog to be PG-13.

A lighthouse in the middle of Paris

"For what purpose?". That would be your reaction too. Well, that was mine when I heard saw the lighthouse in the 15th arrondissement in Paris. The rocky cliffs and the sea are hours away from Paris. To stretch it a bit, the lighthouse might be for the Seine river. But the river is also far away from this location. So what is the purpose of this lighthouse?

The lighthouse announces the location of local fish market. When the local fish market was setup, the lighthouse was bought and transported to this location. In the olden day Paris, this would have been a good move. The lighthouse stands tall and visible from a distance. Anybody who want to buy fish just have to look up, find the lighthouse and walk towards it.

Yes, there is a fish market even now. Like a fish market, it smells of fishes. To be honest, I love the smell.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Walking the 15th

Walking in Paris is an experience. There is always new things no matter how many times you walk on the same street. Walking becomes more enjoyable when you are with a group of people. Today, I went exploring 15th arrondissement as part of the walking tour organized by Sab.

We started at Pont du Garigliano and finished in Montparnasse. The walk lasted a little more than 2 hours. During the walk, we passed three parks, old Paris railway, hidden Russian church, artist's recluse and buildings with varying architectural style.

The icing on the cake was the impromptu Indian dinner in Saravanaa Bhavan. Click on the video to enjoy a short video featuring the sights from the walking tour.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Think before you gift

Receiving gifts is a pleasure. It is good to know a person cares for you. How would you feel if you received a iPhone as a gift? To take it a notch further, how would you feel if you received a car as a gift? I don't know about you. I know about me. I would be very happy. So, I was surprised to know about a person who received gifts and was unimpressed.

I'm talking about a girl here. I am not sure if she is beautiful or not as I have never met or seen this person. She has a suitor who is head over heels about her. But she doesn't reciprocate the feelings. So what does the suitor do? He buys her a brand new car. Does he stop there? No. He also buys her a brand new iPhone for her. Despite the two gifts, she still has not softened her attitude towards the suitor.

Are there more gifts planned? I do not know. But I know what happened to the iPhone. She sold it to another person. How did I come across this piece of information? My young friend is the one who brokered the iPhone deal. Now, if you are in Paris and looking for a compact car, you know whom to contact.

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Musings,Gifts

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How many times?

Communicating in a foreign language can lead to fun and also frustration. At work, we all communicate in English even though it is not our mother tongue. As part of our daily job, we maintain an application which pulls data from many other applications. We have jobs running couple of times in a week to pull data into our application. We cannot run it everyday as some of jobs take more than 48 hours to complete.

Some of the latest changes implemented has an impact on these jobs. As a result, these jobs have to run as part of the testing. So, my French friend asked "How many times will you run it?". My Indian friend was visibly irritated and answered curtly, "Once". Of course, many times has an indirect reference to the quality of the changes. If the changes are of poor quality, the jobs have to be run multiple times to test it.

The Frenchman persisted, "But how many times?". Hearing the same question repeated for the second time, my Indian friend rolled up his eyes. Sensing a meltdown, I intervened, "Did you mean the duration? How much time will it take?". The answer was given and we moved on.

Since my French friend was talking about time taken, he assumed the plural to be time"s". He was sure this was no one-minute job. So, he wanted to know how many hours and hence the question "how many times".

Picture Courtesy:

Books: Enchantment

Guy Kawasaki writes this book explaining the importance of enchantment to influence people without creating bitterness. For enchantment to work, one has to be likable and trustworthy. After improving on the scale of likability and trustworthiness, one can launch ideas overcoming resistance and enchanting the audience. Technology is also a good tool for enchantment. The enchantment work at many different levels - on your customers, your employees and also your bosses. To provide all aspects of enchantment, Guy explain to the reader on how to resist it too.

This book is primarily a guide to promote your products. Guy uses simple language and on occasions humor in the book. Most of the initial chapters are amalgamation of concepts derived an average reader will find from many self-help books. These are presented in Guy's own style. On the later parts, the book concentrates on how to use technology to make enchantment. This is where the book stands out. At several places, the author asks to suck it up a bit (paraphrasing author's usage) to enchant your targeted audience. Although it raises a few ethical points, Guy uses this as one of the key points to make the entire thing to work. Every chapter ends with a short personal story shared by various people to illustrate the usefulness of the concepts.

This book provides a good read for the second half of the book which deals with using push/pull technology to enchant and also on ways to enchant your employees & your boss. The first half of the book is not very enchanting if you have been in the professional world for a long time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Macarons - Gastronomic delight from France

If you are like me, you would pronounce it like macaroni with brakes applied "o" so that you do not slip past the "n" to the "i". And the "o" will sound like a malayalee "o"; that is if you are like me. But what are macarons?

In simple words, macaron is France's gift to sweet lovers. I agree it was melodramatic and vague. So let me give it another try. Think of cream biscuits. Now imagine a richer cream enclosed inside softer biscuits. The cream and enclosing are unimaginably delicious with insane amounts of butter. The enclosing comes in different colors. That, my friend, is macaron; one more item to the long list of French gifts to the world of gastronomic delights.

From the day I landed in Paris, I have seen macarons displayed in various shops. On Monday, I tasted macarons from Laduree when my friend presented me with a box from this famous shop. As a fool, I distributed it among the people who shared the open space at work with me before biting into the first macaron. As soon as I took the first bite, I regretted the decision to share it. It was an out of the world experience for me.

If you are in Paris, make sure Laduree is in your "places to visit". You can check them out on the net too. The macarons comes in different flavors and attractive boxes.

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: French Lessons,Macarons,Paris

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Friends for life... but how did they meet?

When I wrote about "How do you know each other" a few days back, little did I know that I would come across another interesting story how friends met each other for the first time. What I heard was an original & unique way of meeting and becoming good friends for life. I wonder how often they tell about their first meeting to others.

So, how did they meet? They met at one of the unimaginable places; at the loo. Before I explain, I want you to look back. Do you remember our kindergarten days? Well, I don't mean the noisy bunch that we were and the relay sport of crying. But, do you remember we used to tease those kids who had to visit the loo. Not for #1 but #2! Do you remember the stifled giggles when these kids back after answering the nature's call.

So, the friends I am talking about were two such kids who had to visit the loo at the same time. The maid at the kindergarten washed their bottoms one after the other. They formed a bond during the washing ritual which continues to this day.

Now, tell me what do you think about this "How do you know each other" instance?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Onam 2011 in Paris

Onam is never celebrated on the correct dates in public when you live outside India. At least, this is true in my case. I have only took part in 2 Onam events outside India. The first one was in 1999 when the North American malyalees congregated in Silicon valley. The second time was the last Sunday in Paris.

Why is Onam celebrated on a different date when outside Kerala? The answer is simple. It is difficult to get everyone in a hall in a relaxed atmosphere when you are working abroad. So it is better to do it on a convenient weekend. But the local Maveli had a different and elegant reason to provide. He was busy in Kerala. Now, who can counter that statement? Kerala gets the highest priority in list.

Onam was celebrated in a small town hall near the Porchefountaine station. Near the venue, there were printouts with arrows pointing to the town hall. At the entrance, a table was laid out with two plates containing sandalwood paste and jasmine flowers. The town hall was filled with more than 100 people consisting of different nationalities but predominantly Indian. The traditional mundu and Kerala sarees were the popular dress code.

The event started after 12 pm with Maveli walking into the hall. The local version of Maveli was an emancipated one of what we have seen before. But he could speak Malayalam with a Thrissur slang. This was followed by songs and dance for about twenty minutes. Then, there was the traditional feast in Travancore style. I didn't know there was one in this style. To put it in simple words, rasam and moru are served after the payasam.

After the feast, there was socializing. New contacts made. There were young guns who are either attending university or recently landed up in a job. There were also veterans who have been here for a while.

Surprisingly for a malayalee event, there was no alcohol; not even the characteristic car in the parking lot with booze in the trunk. So, it was a very sober affair. At the end of day, it was making new friends, sharing memories and advices...

Tags: Travel,Onam,Paris

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Carl Weaver(Steve Carell) is shattered when his wife Emily(Julianne Moore) asks for a divorce. They have been married for 25 years after meeting in high school for the first time. Emily had recently slept with a colleague David Lindhagen(Kevin Bacon). She thinks something is missing in their marriage and wants a divorce. As a result, Carl moves into an apartment and becomes a regular visitor to a nearby bar. At the bar, he fails to impress girls or even make friends with anyone.

Carl's depressing antics at the bar catches the attention of Jacob Palmer(Ryan Gosling). Jacob gives him the truth about his appearance and behavior which makes people run away from him. Jacob wants to give Carl a makeover and instructs him to be at the shopping mall at a given time. Carl entrusts his kids to the regular babysitter Jessica and goes to meet Jacob. At the apartment, his 13-years old son Robbie(Jonah Bobo) is smitten by Jessica who is four years older to him. Jessica is not interested in Robbie and is secretly in love with Carl.

Jacob gives Carl a makeover and teaches him the moves to attract women. Although lacking confidence, Carl seduces a high school teacher named Kate(Marisa Tomei) who is alcoholic and emotionally unstable. But this increases Carl's confidence levels and he meets more women. But, he still longs for Emily. At her work, Emily tries to resist David's charm. At the same time, Jacob meets Hannah(Emma Stone) who makes him fall in love. How the lives of all these people cross each other, creating confusion and the final resolution of issues forms the rest of the story.

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa directs this delightful comedy about a group of people trying to find their perfect match and are either trying to woo them or get them back. The directors sprinkle their story with funny lines which makes us laugh genuinely. The comedy is based on the funny situations created by the various characters.

Steve Carrell stands out as the good guy without any charm. He has done this roles many times in the past. Still, he gets the audience hooked. Julianne Moore has nothing much to do. Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei stands out. So does Jonah Bobo.

This is recommended. But, keep the kids away.

Language: English

Genre: Comedy

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Comparison of women with products

Young Friend 1(YF1): Dude.. I do not know how to solve this problem.

Young Friend 2(YF2): What problem?

YF1: I ask girls to dance with me at the club. They tell me they are already with a guy.

YF2: *laughs* Elementary, Mr Watson

YF1: *confused*

YF2: Use the product analogy. That works for me.

YF1: Product analogy?

YF2: Yes, I tell them I compare women to products. So, I classify them into three types. Type 1 are the ones who are divorced. These are products which were rejected by customers. Type 2 are the ones who are single. These are products which have not attracted any customers. Type 3 are the ones with someone or married. These are products which are picked up by customers. The customer are extremely happy with this and do not want this to be replaced.

YF1: *still confused* So, how does that help?

YF2: You tell them they are Type 3. You might not get the girl. But she will definitely introduce to her friends.

Well, does it work? I do not know. Good luck!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Movie Review: Warrior

Tommy Riordan(Tom Hardy) turns up at his father' home in Pittsburgh after several years. His father Paddy Conlon(Nick Nolte) lives alone after deserting his family years back. Tommy remembers his father as a drunkard who was very cruel to his family. Paddy is no more an alcoholic addict and has turned to religion for solace. But Tommy has not forgiven his dad yet. He learns about his older brother Brendan Conlon(Joel Edgerton) living in Philadelphia with his and two daughters. Brendan has also severed all ties with Paddy.

At local gym in Pittsburgh, Tommy knocks out a famous fighter during a warm up bout. This catches the attention of the gym owner who wants to act as Tommy's agent. Tommy agrees and asks Paddy to train him. Sensing an opportunity to heal the wounds in their relationship, Paddy takes up this offer. But Tommy wants to keep this strictly business. A disappointed Paddy orders his son to quit his drug habits and puts him on a strict diet.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Brendan is working as a physics teacher. He is popular among the students. He and his wife Tess work multiple jobs to pay their home loan. Recently, their daughter was diagnosed for heart disease which put them in a tight financial situation. When he learns about the impending foreclosure from the bank, Brendan fights in a local bar to raise money. This event leads to his suspension from the school. He decides to take up fighting seriously and requests his old friend Frank to train him.

Soon, a tournament named "Sparta" is announced where a limited number fighters will fight each other over 3 days at Atlantic City for a prize money of 5 million dollars. Destiny directs both brothers on a collision path. The rest of the story tells us what drove the brothers apart and why Tommy needs the money too. Does Brendan have a chance when pitted against big names? Will the brothers be able to forgive Paddy and each other?

Gavin O'Connor directs this beautiful drama about a torn family. He uses action as the backdrop but the focus is on emotions. The strength of the movie rests in the performances of the three main protagonists. The major part of the movie builds on the tensions among the family members towards each other, culminating in the tournament. When the movie inches towards the climax, the audience are hooked and are waiting for the final fight to happen.

Joel Edgerton as Brendon Conlon shines in the movie as the underdog. Brendan wants the best for his family. Haunted by the memories of his violent father, he constantly struggles for providing the best for his family. Joel displays the helplessness, frustration and desperation effectively. Tom Hardy as Tommy Riordan despises his family members. He is aloof and unemotional. This characteristics works well to build the drama when he meets his brother in Atlantic City and also in the fight sequences. Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon tries hard to bring his broken family together. At every stage, he is met with rejection. Nick gives a subdued performance so as not to steal the thunder from the characters portraying his kids. Yet, he leaves a lasting impression.

This is recommended.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Friday, September 16, 2011

Traveling like dogs

I never had the opportunity to travel business class. One day when I have too much money to throw around or a thrifty employer, I may. Till then, I have to be contend with cattle class. Speaking about cattle class, an acquaintance has another definition. Traveling like dogs.

Recently, two of us had to travel to India. We represent different companies. As part of the organizational policies, he traveled in business class while I in cattle aka economy class.When I told him about the "economy class" situation, his spontaneous comment was about traveling like dogs.

If the conversation happened between me and my friends, they also would have reacted the same way. In fact, some of my friends can be more acerbic. In this particular case, the speaker was an European. On hearing his comment, I was overcome with strong emotions - hurt, anger and helplessness.

Ever since, I have replayed the conversation several times in my mind. I concluded it was a comment without malice. But why did I get hurt, angry and helpless? Is the fear of discrimination dormant in my mind?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Safe to say...

It is safe to say... I have used this expression countless times. Most of these occasions were to coach friends and colleagues on what is a politically correct statement to make in a highly volatile meeting. So, I was shocked to hear these words being uttered on a popular TV channel by reporters covering the recent blasts in New Delhi.

The bone of contention was how busy the fateful day was. So, the reporter at the studio asks if she can say it is a busy day after citing the reasons. The reporter at the location repeats the reasons to give a affirmative node and adds, "... so it is safe to say it is a busy day".

Now, I can understand this kind of talk happening in the backstage so as not to hurt or enrage the public. But what is the point of saying it on the air. Are they as clueless as us? Then, don't they need to shut up and wait for the facts to emerge?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Books: John Wayne: The man behind the myth

Born as Marion Robert Morrison, the actor acquired first the nickname "Duke" and then the screen name "John Wayne" later in his life. The road to stardom was slow and tedious. Although close to the famous director John Ford, John Wayne had to wait a long time to feature in the director's movie. Even after featuring in John Ford's movie, John Wayne still had to wait a few more years for stardom. On one hand, the critics labelled him as a bad actor while on the other hand, the masses just loved him. He was called a right winger but there was no  doubt about his patriotism. His movies showcased American values.

Unsuccessful in three marriages, he loved his children dearly and did everything in his capacity to bring them together. He bounced back from the financial ruin, accelerated by dismal show of The Alamo and compounded by his agent's financial mismanagement. The political messages in his movie earned him the wrath of communists and spawned multiple assassination attempts which were thwarted by his friend & the government. Always conscious of being a star, he took extra care to build up his screen image and maintain it to the outside world. So, his health problems were carefully hidden from the fans.

Wayne was sad when he couldn't enlist in WWII because of the intervention by the studio. He made a lot of movies; some of them are forgettable. Throughout his career, he was moving from one movie to another. Yet, he was one of the biggest box-office draw for a number of years. Before he retired, he got an Oscar for "True Grit" although there were other memorable movies which would have earned him the Oscar years before.

Film journalist Michael Munn traces the life of John Wayne from the conversations with the legendary actor and also those with the people who were associated with the actor both professionally and personally. Divided into chapters highlighting the different phases of John Wayne's life in a sequential manner, the author narrates the phase which is interspersed with excerpts from the various interviews. This narration is similar to a voice-over technique employed in movies and documentaries thereby making this book a compelling read for the actor's fans. Michael tries to debunk the myths associated the actor and uncover the real person who stands taller than the myth.

This is recommended for a John Wayne fan. If you do not know this person, I suggest you see a lot of John Wayne movies before taking up this book. Thanks to Blockbuster and Netflix, I have seen many of them and come to love him although I belong to the "Clint Eastwood" era of westerns.What can I say? They don't make heroes like John Wayne anymore. There is no point in trying too as no one can say the dialogues like he does.

Tags: Books,Michael Munn,John Wayne

Madness, thou name is "Arc de Triomphe" roundabout

The one near the Secunderabad railway station. That would have been my spontaneous response if you asked me about crazy roundabouts. Not anymore. My answer is Arc de Triomphe.There is no need to look shocked. I am well aware about the Indian driving etiquettes. At the same time, you should have been with me in the car last week to have the first hand experience of French driving etiquettes and also the craziness happening around the mother of all roundabouts in this part of the world.

This gargantuan roundabout has 12 streets emanating it like rays. It can hold up to 5 lines of vehicles. Now, imagine the confusion it can create. Add dollops of French impatience. Do you get the idea? My friend, who was driving the car, stepped on the pedal as soon as a rudimentary gap emerged between two cars circling the roundabout. Voila! Our car was in the middle lane in an instant. My friend did not even flinch while stepping on the gap. Nor did my friend halt the ongoing conversation. All of it happened in microseconds and I didn't get a chance to shut my eyes fearing a crash.

Getting out of the roundabout was also adventurous. To make a long story short, I was pressing my foot hard on the floor. If you think my friend was bad, then it is the same case with other drivers too. I have read about the madness happening in this roundabout. On that day, I experienced it. For all those who complain about our driving etiquettes, I have only one question. "Have you been to the Arc de Triomphe roundabout?"

Tags: Musings,Roundabout

Monday, September 12, 2011

Movie Review: Friends with Benefits

Dylan(Justin Timberlake) arrives in NY for a job interview at GQ. The interview is organized by Jamie(Mila Kunis) who is a headhunter. After Dylan gets the job offer, he is unsure as he has to relocate. In order to raise his comfort factor, Jamie takes him on a whirlwind tour of the city during the night. At the end of the tour, Dylan accepts the offer and soon moves to NY.

For Dylan, Jamie is the only friend in the new city. As a result, they spent time together and becoming good friends. One night, while watching a show on TV, Dylan and Jamie talk about relationships and bring up the subject of sex. They both love to have sex sans the emotional attachment. At the end of the conversation, both of them agree to be "friends-with-benefits". But what starts off as a casual relationship has an impact on their lives.

Will Gluck directs this lackluster comedy. The movie offers nothing new and contains all the tried-and-tested formula of a romantic comedy. Mila Kunis with her spirited performance stands out. There is a whole lot of secondary characters like Patricia Clarkson and Woody Harrelson who have funny lines but nothing new to contribute to the movie. The only memorable characters are Dylan's family consisting of his sister and father played sensitively by Jenna Elfman and Richard Jenkins respectively. As the theme is "friends-with-benefits", there is a lot of skin show bordering on nudity.

Skip it unless you want to watch Justin Timberlake's butt.

Language: English

Genre: Comedy

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Mean Competition

Competition can be mean. That is what I deduced from what the owner of the nearby Indian restaurant told me. I have come to love this restaurant for their paranthas and it's nearness to my home. I had discovered this restaurant by accident.

On Thursday, I invited some of my friends at work over to my apartment for an informal house warming ceremony which is locally known as pendaison de crémaillère. Please don't ask me to pronounce this beast. For the occasion, I ordered food from this restaurant. As the owner doesn't know my name, it was challenging to order food on the phone. There were a lot of questions. When the food was ready to be picked up, there were two voice-mails from the anxious owner.

The owner was happy to see when I went to collect my order. After giving me my order, the owner explained the reason for his anxiety. The competitors call up and place large orders which is never collected causing losses to the owner. The competition is also up to other nasty things too. As part of their smear campaign, they go to various websites and write bad reviews about the food.

Like I said, competition can be mean.

Tags: Musings,Restaurant,Competition

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Power and Senility

Jacques Chirac is in the news. He is being tried for corruption charges while in office. This shows an interesting aspect of the French way. While in office, he was immune to a trial. Now he is no more holding the office, he can be tried. There is only one problem, the failing health of Chirac.

I don't remember when I have last seen a picture of Chirac. It may have been over 5 years. At that time, the photograph shown an older man with lots of energy. For the past few days, Chirac's latest pictures are flashed all over the local dailies. The recent photograph shows him as an aging and tired man. A few years can do a lot to a man! That was my take.

My friend has another perspective. He says the power is always in the back of their head which keeps them going. When they lose power, the senility kicks in. He cited the examples of the former presidents of Egypt and Tunisia. Although he has a valid point, there is an uniting factor among the three examples. All three of them await public trial and also public wrath. These are not the right examples to give.

There are many other prominent personalities who have left public office to lead an active life. Bush Sr and his "in-tandem" jump on his 85th birthday is the first incident coming to my mind. Both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were busy with their foundations after they left public office. At home, there is Metro Sreedharan.They could also have gone this path after leaving the office.

Tags: Musings,Chirac,Senility

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How do you know each other?

Last Saturday, I met a group of Malayalis in Paris. A recent acquaintance, who is fast climbing up the charts to being a good friend, asked me to join him as he was meeting with this group of Paris Malayalis. This group asked us this question. “How do you know each other?”.

I had to search my memory a few seconds and answer. I had met my newly acquired friend on Twitter. We had been talking to each other on phone for over 3 weeks. But we met each other in person only last week. We were already behaving like good friends who have known each other for long. That is the most interesting part. He also is the only friend I have made using the two social media(Twitter and Blogger) and have also met in flesh & blood.

The meeting with Paris Malayalis was also interesting. There were four of them. They were born in France. Some of them were raised here and others spent considerable time in India. But their Malayalam was flawless. They talked to us in Malayalam and spoke to each other in French. They even apologized to us for using French. As they have known each other since childhood days, French comes naturally when they talk to each other.

They could have told. "I'm French. My parents are from Kerala, India". But they never did that. I'm glad they didn't. I'm glad I met them.

Tags: Musings,Malayali,Paris

Monday, September 5, 2011

On how we snap pictures

Over the weekend, I met up with local entrepreneurs who has ties with India. All of them are of French origin. One of them is involved with a NGO which works with kids and their developmental activities. As part of their work, they conducted a workshop with kids from France and India. This was conducted at different locations and different times. The kids were given a camera, taught how to use and were asked to click pictures. They observed a curious phenomenon from the end results.

The kids from both groups were enthusiastic. They clicked a lot of pictures. The French kids took pictures of monuments and other structures. The Indian kids wanted to take pictures of their close ones. They wanted the pictures of their grandparents, family members and their houses.

I am not sure on the "why" behind this phenomenon. While in Gent last month, I asked a fellow traveler, who was French, to take my pictures. After two pictures, he remarked, "You do take a lot of pictures of yourself. I prefer taking pictures of the buildings and landscape". I was tongue-tied for a response to this comment which made me look like a narcissist.

Similarly, when I traveled in Cote D'Azur in June, I was playing the photographer for two Asian couples. They too returned the favor. Like me, they wanted a picture of them with the buildings and landscapes as the backdrop. They were not interested in clicking the pictures of buildings or the landscapes alone.

Paris-India exhibition: Generating awareness of India in Parisians

I am no expert in bilateral relationships between India and France. But after living in Paris for the past nine months, I know a few things. They aren't many Indians out here. Of late, you see a lot more Indians here than before. Their purpose of visit is as a result of the offshoring related to Information Technology. France do want to make the influx as easy as possible. This is evident from their intention for opening a consulate in Bengaluru. Having said it, I am not aware if this consulate is operational as of now. Considering all these, it is indeed commendable on the French authorities to organize an exhibition to raise awareness of India in it's citizens.

The exhibition titled "Paris-India" is hosted on the 6th floor of Center Pompidou. This is a paid exhibition; being there on the first Sunday of the month which is supposed to be free entrance for all do not exempt you from the entrance fees. At the entrance, you are greeted with a wall exhibit of Indian flag embedded on a French flag.

The first exhibit is created using computer parts indicating the wastage from the modern technological development which flows into India.

Then, you walk into a circular room. Inside the circular room, there is another circular wall constructed which encloses a woman with a nose ring. On all the walls, there are many pictures and televisions running programs showcasing the modern India. One section of the wall depicts photographs from the major events in India right from 1947 to 2011. This is a very informative piece for anyone who doesn't know a thing about India. The posters indicating economic growth, various political parties and challenges like domestic violence adorn different sections.

There are many noteworthy exhibits. A motorbike resembling a bull, a village in LOC indicated with bullet holes created on black paper and a garland made of shaving blades to indicate Rajiv Gandhi assassination are the ones which caught my attention.

The most touching exhibits were a recreation of India's slum and the room filled with stainless steel utensils. The former highlights the economic divide clearly. It also shows how we as a country move forward with these differences. The latter evokes memories of Tiffin carriers we carried to schools.

There was a Bollywood section too. Clips from movies like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Swades were being displayed. It was fun to see French attentively watching Kajol's histrionics.

There was two big rooms dedicated to homosexuality and also for hijras. Personally, I thought the space dedicated was huge for such issues which are not even treated in a big way in India. Neither do the majority of Indians have tolerance nor are aware of these issues. Then, why this should be given such a huge floor space?

Overall, this is a positive step by the French authorities to build relationship with India. In order to build relationship, the first step is to let everyone know about India, it's heritage and it's culture.

Tags: Travel,India,France,Pompidou

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Books: The Box

You might have the seen the long rectangular boxes used for shipping in either movies or in real life. In movies, the hero is fighting villains on top of these boxes. In real life, these might be hauled by either trains or trucks. Yes, I am talking about the containers. Have you ever wondered the impact of containers in our daily life? We may have not realized it. But the containers have changed the world we live in. Marc Levinson, an economist and a journalist, tells us the how containers changed the rules in shipping business and eventually making the world smaller.

At the beginning of the book, Marc gives us a glimpse of how a container terminal operate in the modern world powered by technology and hence very insignificant number of men. This is in direct contrast with the years prior to 1956 when the first container sailed off from a port. Before 1956 and also to some years from then, the longshoremen played a very important part in shipping. This also meant unions, rampant corruption and a job which was hereditary. If there is any one man that needs to credited for the container boom, it is Malcom McLean. Although he did not invent containers, it is his vision of the capabilities of containers that led to him to acquire a shipping company and transform the business.

The journey of containers is rampant with difficulties. First, the unions had to be convinced. Then, the ports had to be redesigned. Then businesses need to be convinced. But no one including the shipping industry, the government or the union could fathom the changes that would be triggered by containers. Most of the city officials miscalculated the impact resulting in the gradual deterioration of the earlier busy ports in the major cities. The unions miscalculated the loss of jobs as the earlier work of longshoremen were now shifted to the factories. The shipping industry miscalculated the impact of fluctuating fuel prices. The highly regulated industry in US added to the woes of the shipping industry.

Marc writes a captivating non-fiction book on containers. He drives it on facts and avoids any anecdotal mentions. Despite of avoiding anecdotes and humor, this book ends up as a very interesting one because of the narrative. He builds his novel in a well structured way so as to present the events to lead the reader effortlessly and naturally to the conclusion. He mentions the lack of proper scientific study on the effect of containers and also the lack of documentation available on containers in his preface. So it has been a challenge for him to find the material for the book. Against all odds, he succeeds.

If you are interested in non-fiction, this is recommended.

Tags: Books,Marc Levinson,Containers

Friday, September 2, 2011

The essbama principle

Parisian waiters are a separate breed. I have stepped into a Parisian restaurant and wondered when will anyone show up to seat me. I'm not sure if it shortage in human resources, lack of training or plain indifference. Anyways, I was at a restaurant in Montmartre yesterday with two of my Parisian friends. The topic of discussion gradually veered into waiters primarily because of the boyish antics of the waiter serving our table. That is when the essbama principle was revealed to me.

The essbama principle is all purpose benchmark for waiters. It is written SBMA and pronounced essbama. If you are wondering why, the letter b is not pronounced bee but ba. SBMA is an abbreviation and stands for Sourire, Bon Jour, Merci and Au revoir respectively.

  • Sourire means smile.
  • Bon Jour translates to good day and a salutation equivalent to hello.
  • Merci is thank you.
  • Au revoir is goodbye.

As you may have realized by now, the first two letters guide how you greet and last two how you part.

One of the friends, who was with me, works in the hospitality second and this little gem of information comes from this friend. This is a good way of benchmarking waiters all around the world. Next time you are in a restaurant, use this principle to decide on the tip. If you are in Paris, you always have the option of not tipping no matter the quality of service.

Tags: French Lessons,Waiter,Tip

la rentrée

Last month, I blogged about the month of August in Paris. Parisians are on vacation during this month. Vacations are good. Like all good things, it comes with an expiry date. This forms the basis of the latest French lesson.

In the last week of August or the first week of September depending on how a Parisian likes to cling on to good things, the vacation ends. The Parisians, who went away, now returns home. After having returned home, they all have to resume working. For others, the schools open for the new academic year. This period is called "la rentrée".

"la rentrée" is marked with crowds everywhere. Suddenly, the metros are crowded. Earlier, you could travel without any hassles. Now, there are more trains but also more people. The lines are longer at the office cafeteria but also more choices. There are more movies at the nearest cinema but the tickets get sold out faster. You wait longer at the restaurant or fast food joint because they are more people.

If you think getting a place is the hardest thing, wait. Wait for that email at work you have nearly forgotten. You get a reminder from your colleague who has travelled around the world doing exciting things before coming to rejoin work. He has more energy than you. He may also seem more perseverant than you.

That reminds me. I need to get back to work!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Movie Review: Mankatha

Vinayak(Ajith Kumar) is suspended from the police force for shooting a fellow officer while aiding a criminal Faizal(Aravind Akash) to escape from an encounter team. Currently, he lives in Mumbai with no purpose other and partying hard every night. He is also dating Sanjana(Trisha) who is the daughter of Arumuga Chettiyar(Jayaprakash). Chettiyar runs a gambling den in a run down theater. Meanwhile, the government is cracking down on bookies. Prithviraj(Arjun) is in charge of this operation. He is fast making progress in his mission. His aim is to stop the influx of money to be used by bookies before the IPL season begins.

At Chettiyar’s house, Vinayak notices two people – Sumanth(Vaibhav) and Inspector Ganesh(Ashwin Kakumanu). Sumanth has been with Chettiyar since his childhood days and is now the latter’s right hand man. Ganesh is the local law enforcement officer who tips Chettiyar on police moves. Vinayak starts following these two people. Soon, he finds out there are two more people associated with Sumanth and Ganesh. They are Mahat(Mahat Raghavendra) a local bar owner and Prem(Premji Amaren) a IIT computer graduate. The four of them are planning to rob the money that is due to arrive at Chettiyar’s gambling den.

When the four get ready to rob the money, Vinayak stops them. The foursome were planning to rob the wrong place. Vinayak convinces them to do this job together. But Vinayak is not a thief with good heart. He doesn’t intend to share the loot. But all plans go haywire when everyone has plans of their own. With a vengeful Chettiyar and a resourceful Prithviraj, will anyone get to enjoy the loot? The rest of the movie tells you this.

Venkat Prabhu scripts and directs this thriller which is engaging at times. This is  also incidentally Ajith Kumar’s 50th movie. Venkat’s script plays to the gallery. It also tries to showcase the personality of Ajith Kumar. On the flip side, the movie has a weak first act. The engaging parts are in the final act where Venkat makes the audience in grips. Luckily for the director, his band of boys(Premji, Vaibhav, Ashwin and Mahat) save the day with their antics. Venkat is also backed by a good technical team which tries to quicken the pace in every which way they can.

As for the performances, Ajith Kumar is the weakest link in this movie. He has a perfectly written role to showcase his histrionics. But he loses out on a golden opportunity and lets his personality overshadow his acting. Ajith tries to redeem himself towards the end of the movie. The supporting cast of Vaibhav, Premji, Ashwin, Arjun and Jayaprakash make their presence felt. The girls, Trisha, Andrea Jeremiah and Lakshmi Rai, are completely wasted in miniscule roles.

If you are nothing else to do, then you can go for this. As for Thalai fans, is there a way I can stop you?

Language: Tamil

Genre: Thriller

Rating: **

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