Friday, March 30, 2012

The mandatory medium of communication

At work, there is a person who always talk in French. I am sure he knows English. But he never utters a word in English. This is tedious for me as I am the one who handles his projects. As these projects cannot be delegated to other French speaking members of my team due to the nature of the projects, I have no way to avoid the meetings.

When I have a meeting with this person, I have to take my French speaking colleague with me. It is not efficient but the only way it is going to work! So this person talks and waits for others to explain it to me. While others explain it to me, he looks at me strangely; the same way you look with sympathy at another being trapped in an unpleasant situation. If not for the look in his eyes, I would have labelled him arrogant.

Today, a friend explained the real reason for him to choose French during the meetings. He is in charge of the production systems. According to the French law, all the production related tasks have to be communicated in French in order to avoid confusion in the minds of people executing the instructions. Failure to comply to this rule can end in the organization getting sued. So the people handling these kind of jobs are never allowed to speak in any other language other than French.

This new piece of information helped to take a second look at the situation. It also tells me not to draw conclusion without knowing all the facts.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Movie Review: Wrath of the Titans

Set a few years from where Clash of Titans ended, Perseus(Sam Worthington) is summoned by his dad Zeus(Liam Neeson) to help the gods. Even though Perseus, who now has a son, do not want any part in the conflict of gods initially, he is slowly drawn into the conflict between his relatives which includes his uncles - Hades(Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon(Danny Huston) -, his grandfather Kronos and his brother Ares(Edgar Ramirez). In the battle of good versus evil, Perseus is helped by another demigod Agenor(Toby Kebbell), a fallen god Hephaetus(Bill Nighy) and a warrior queen Andromeda(Rosamund Pike).

The sequel is directed by Jonathan Liebesman. One thing for sure. The sequel is bearable than the first part  although it falls short of being an awesome movie due to mixed bag experience. The good performers were entirely wasted in the first part. Here again, there do not give a performance worthy of standing ovation. But there are able to keep the viewer engaged in the proceedings. At the basic level, this is a familial conflict. This type of conflict works in a big way to capture attention. The drama created from this conflict is augmented with visual effects. What works against the movie is the pedestrian dialogues. Sometimes, you really do not know if these are mythical characters or ordinary characters you meet on the street.

Performance wise, it is Bill Nighy as Hephaetus who entertains. He is no more a god. His mannerisms are bordering on mental instability. But it is fun to watch him perform. He is only actor who rises above the script. Then there is Toby Kebbel as Agenor. That is because he is the comic relief. He does the job well.

If you are looking for 2 hours to kill, this is a good choice.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

Does humor work at work?

Is humor a good tool at workplace? Most of my colleagues have a good sense of humor. Luckily for all of us, one of us eventually diffuse a very high tension-filled situation with light humor. This has always worked in our favor in order to quickly refocus and let out the built-up bad energy.

Recently during a situation update occurring every 4 hours during business hours, a friend was badly bruised for using humor during the meeting. The comment made by him was not inappropriate but it had sarcasm hidden inside a taunt. It angered another attendee who also happened to at the top of the ladder, not way up but getting there. This resulted in non-pleasant verbal exchange both in the meeting and outside the meeting.

Fortunately, all is past. Now I am wondering if humor is a good tool. If humor is a good tool, what are the things to be considered while using humor to diffuse a situation at work?

Tags: Musings,Humor

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Photos: Plans...

These are the kind of pictures I planned to take during Holi. There is a smiling face splashed with colors. The colors are not all over the face in a way to mask the facial features. But when I examined the pictures I shot over 4 hours, I could find only a few pictures meeting this criteria. This is a good lesson for me. It reminds me once again whatever be the plan, everything will not go according to the plan. As one of my acquaintance pointed out, "No war is won according to plan. At the same time, no war is won without a plan!".

Tags: Photos

When to eat oysters?

I have tried oysters but not the French way. The French eat it raw. You can add a bit of vinegar if you wish. I have tried oysters once at Nice. The dish was a mellow one where the oyster was fried in butter. But it is not how French love to eat oysters.

I have read Anthony Bourdain's account of his first experience with oyster. Sitting on a fishing boat during his childhood vacation in France, he eats a freshly caught oyster after cutting open the shell with a knife. He describes it passionately. I am still unsure if I will ever be able to eat oysters like that. Even for sushi, I took many years and 3 attempts before getting it right.

Meanwhile the French has a rule for eating juicy oysters. The rule has to do with the months in an year. Go for oysters on those months ending with er or re. Now, the French has a different way of writing the name of the months. So the best months for eating juicy oysters are Septembre, Octobre, Novembre, Decembre, Janvier and Fevrier.

Monday, March 26, 2012


What does the name "Manjula" bring to your mind? For me, it is a girl who has neatly-tied long hair with a tilaka on the forehead. So when I heard a friend speaking of a Manjula in a discotheque, I couldn't help smiling. The ensuing conversation taught me a new term.

The named "Manjula" is a term used for a desi girl who has moved into a foreign country from India. I stick to the term "desi girl" in a politically incorrect fashion when the surroundings permit and never come across anyone using the term "Manjula". The term "Manjula" follows the M rule where girls from other parts of the world are commonly referred like Marias, Magdas etc. I was smiling because I don't expect to bump into my stereotypical Manjula in a disco. I can't even imagine the Manjula in my mind discarding the sari or the half-sari for jeans and T-shirt.

Coming back to the conversation with my friend, he loves meeting Manjulas in a disco. No, it is not for socializing. As soon as he spots one, he drops everything, rushes to the girl and asks her firmly. "It is late in the evening. What are you doing here? Isn't it your bed time?". According to him, it puts them in a very uncomfortable position. I'm not sure what happens next.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

In the future in a country rebuilding from a civil war, an young girl is chosen for a televised annual fight-until-death gladiatorial contest using the lottery scheme. In order to save the young girl, her older sister Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take part in the contest. With excellent hunting skills, Katniss is not an underdog and has all the chances of winning the contest. But will she be able to kill the other contestants in the same way she hunts for food?

Gary Ross directs this movie adapted from the novel, bearing the same name, written by Suzanne Collins. The movie is an engaging watch because of the emphasis on emotional struggles of Katniss instead of the action. The action is not ignored but it is treated as a backdrop. Katniss goes through vigorous training followed by physical struggle in the jungle. Even when this happens, an young Katniss is constantly coming to terms with lack of confidence, uncertain future, poor/rich divide and emotionally insensitive fellow human beings. It is this struggle which is translated to the screen with a good actress. This struggle is heightened by the shaky camera technique used during the beginning of the movie. The forest is so beautifully pictured in the movie to the point you are distracted from the action.   On the flip side, all characters except Katniss becomes a caricature. Also, the romance between the lead pair is not convincing.

Jennifer Lawrence captures the internal turmoil of Katniss beautifully. Her face has a sad and lost look which amplifies the drama experienced by Katniss. All the other big wigs like Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks are dwarfed due to her performance and bad adaptation.

A good way to spend the weekend.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Woman and shoes

I can't generalize women as the only species with an unexplained fixation for shoes. I have male friends who have more number of shoes than the number of months in a year. This post is not an in-depth study into the psyche behind the love for shoes. Instead it is an anecdote from a friend which features shoes and also a woman.

My friend accidentally comes across a good deal in a moving sale. The seller was moving from the city for reasons unknown and he was selling whatever he couldn't carry with him. The table on the sale catches the attention of my friend. Prima facie, the table is in good condition. Fearing trickery behind the intention to sell this item, my friends examines it, re-examines it and again re-examines it. There is nothing wrong with the table. So, he closes the deal.

If you are wondering about the main theme of the post, I urge to be patient. The woman is about to appear now. Now, my friend has a tiny problem. He cannot transport the table alone. So, what does he do? He calls his girlfriend, our woman. He breaks the news about the new acquisition. He requests her to come to the location of sales in order to help him transport the table. She is at their home and readily agrees. My friend waits for his girlfriend. She arrives.

This is where the shoes comes into picture. She is here to transport a table which means walking with a heavy object. And what shoes did she chose for this occasion? She is wearing a high heeled shoe; a stiletto heel to be precise! My friend underplays his emotions when he sums up his situation with the following statement. "What the hell? She has a closet full of shoes. And this is the only one she could pick up!".

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Photos: A man in a costume

Most of my photographs feature either a landmark or a woman. I didn't want to be accused of favoring just one category of people. The Venetian Carnival provided an opportunity. Most of the people wore masks which made it harder to photograph them. The masks has holes where eyes should be, enabling the wearer to see the world. But most of the holes doesn't allow light to fall on the eyes. Eventually, you have two dark holes staring at you. The subject in the photograph decided not to wear the mask. He was also kind enough to pose for the photograph.

Tags: Photos

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Photos: Dancing in the rain

I was influenced by our movies for this shot. Recently, I have been watching songs on YouTube where they capture the drops of water, either the raindrops or someone splashing their face with water. With the latest technology and abundant patience, it is possible to freeze the drops creating a visually stunning picture. Although that dream is still distant, this is my step towards it.

Haven't you seen countless songs in Indian movies where everyone dances in the rain? Though the skies were overcast on the Holi day, the rain gods did not smile on me. Luckily, there was water hose. Despite the weak rain created by artificial methods, I was able to click many pictures. With a group of girls in full Holi masti, I didn't have to search for a subject. Of the lot, this picture is what I like.

Tags: Photos

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gap between the teeth

Vanessa Paradis. I am going to talk about her in French Lessons. I am not going to explain her career and her struggles because I am not the qualified person for that talk. In fact, I never came across her until a couple of days back when I watched one of her movies. The subject of this post is teeth. To be precise, that gap between the two front teeth.

If you have seen a picture of Vanessa, you pretty well know what I am talking about. If you have no clue who this person is, then this is right time to google her. She is Johnny Depp's partner. If you are searching for her, then try to find an image where she smiles showing her teeth. I guess, we are all on the same page now.

I was stuck by the gap between her teeth. But aren't there any capable dentists around? That sure looks like a pretty easy thing to fix. This was my first thought. That is when my French friend explained to me the significance of the gap. The French considered it as lucky!

Isn't it ironic? For some cultures, it is lucky. For some, this mean a visit to the dentist!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Photos: Quentin Tarantino shot

This is my Quentin Tarantino shot. If you observe a scene in which two actors are engaged in a conversation, the chances are these actors are placed at the two extreme ends of the frame. That leaves a big vacuum between them. This works both visually and dramatically. Quentin is the director who has pushed this further.

In one of his movies when two actors are engaged in a conversation, they occupy the edges of the frame. The difference from the traditional approach is blocking out the listener. So you see only the speaker in the frame but at one end. The rest of the scene is a vacuum. This works too on both counts, visual and dramatic. It works dramatically because the reaction of the listener is left to our interpretation which is more powerful than the performance.

So when I saw the beer flowing down on the subject's face eventually mixing the colors and a chance for a vacuum in the rest of the frame, I didn't hesitate.

This was taken during the Holi celebrations in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Your back is important for the customer.

When I advised on exercising caution on the kind of jokes you tell at work, Sushma commented on the post about an incident at her work. In a nutshell, it is about how the spoken language affects the way you write. The sender of the email was waiting for a feedback and the sender asked Sushma to feed him back before the end of the day!

Like I have mentioned countless times before, I work with people who doesn't speak English unless they have to communicate with me. For me, this proves to be a challenge most of the time. The challenges are counterbalanced by the many occasions these interactions makes me laugh.

Most recent occasion was an email request to respond. The intention of the sender was to remind me to reply to his email with a plan. So the email was ended thus. "Please give me your back".

Tags: Musings,Work

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Photos: Smile that can kill

I always wanted to do extreme close-up. I have been inspired by other photographers who are good at it. Last weekend, I shot a lot of pictures that are close-ups. This was taken during the Venetian Carnival in Paris. When I saw this girl dressed in pink, I didn't think twice. Luckily for me, the natural lighting was perfect to show her eyes clearly in the picture.

Tags: Photos

Pappettan on planning

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

If you plan to fail, then you fail to plan. Said with an intense stare, carefully spaced words and strong emphasis on syllables, Pappettan confused me with this idiom. I have heard the idiom but in a different format. The idiom is "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Rewinding to the context, how can you photograph Holi without damaging your camera? The answer is simple. You can buy a protective cover for rain and dust in a camera store. But what will you do when the store is closed and you are not getting a cover in time for Holi?

That was the context in which Pappettan spoke the famous words while sitting cross legged on the wooden floor surrounded by two camera and three lenses. Pappettan came up with a simple and practical way to protect the camera with two plastic grocery bags, shoe laces and cello tape. He covered the camera with the grocery bags. You can put your hands inside the bag to click and control the lens. He cut a circle at the other end of the grocery bag for the lens to capture the image. He tied a shoelace over the lens and covered it with cello tape in such a way that will not hinder the movement of the lens while ensuring the plastic bag is tied to the camera.

When we took our cameras out, the first reaction from the crowd was "Wow, look at what they have done for water protection". When we started shooting, I overheard, "They are professionals!". So, remember the idiom. Even if you don't get the idiom correctly, it is okay. The keywords are plan and fail. Without a plan, you will fail.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Holi in Paris 2012

The students of Cite Universitaire organized the Holi celebrations on Sunday at Maison de l'Inde. This was the only event I came across in Paris for Holi. It is a couple of days after the actual event. But then, a celebration is a celebration.

Planned to commence at 12 pm, it had it's own "starting trouble" like we say in India When asked about the time of the event, one of the organizers sheepishly replied 12 pm. It was already 12 pm and there was no crowd. Frankly, I didn't care about the delay.

Once the music system was set up outside the Maison de l'Inde, the festivities began. Colors were applied on the forehead and then the face. Then, everyone moved outside the building. Festivities began. Colors were thrown at each other. Music started followed by dancing.

Very soon, beer bottles were opened. Some of the participants were forcefully bathed in beer. Other hesitant ones were splashed with color. The Holi spirit hit the top of the chart when one guy decided to climb up a pole which terrified the older ones while the younger ones went wild.

Water was sprayed and the music turned louder. All the popular Holi songs and the current popular Hindi songs were played. Then the entire group moved to the Dutch house situated in another part of the campus. There was more festivities there.

I witnessed the most pleasant visual of the day at the Dutch house. Everyone - Indian and non-Indians - gyrating to Hindi songs.

For more pictures of Holi, click on the following links
Quentin Tarantino shot
Dancing in the rain
Up in the Air

Tags: Travel,Holi,Paris

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Le "Carnaval Venitien de Paris" 2012

You must have figured it by now. It translates to the Venetian Carnival of Paris. And a day ago, I was thinking this is going to turn out to be a dry weekend with nothing exciting. That is the good thing about Paris; something or the other happening all the time. Coming back to the topic of discussion, I have no idea about the origins of this carnival. The striking feature of this carnival is the renaissance-style dresses and masks worn by actors participating in various events.

I have seen people wearing masks in photographs and also in movies. But seeing someone wearing a mask in person is a different experience. There were two types of masks - one which covers the eyes and the other which covers the face. The latter one was more interesting. When a person wears a facial mask, it is difficult to see the person's face. You could hardly make it out the eyes sometimes. Sometimes, there are dark holes there.   The mask doesn't reveal the gender or race. Strangely, the facial masks made me think the mask is the real face of the person wearing it. That was strange.

Venetian Carnival is organized in the Notre Dame premises. Notre Dame, being a tourist hotbed, is very crowded. The carnival was very crowded with the performers, photographers and tourists.

For pictures from this event, click on the following links
Smile that can kill

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The "she" who came out of the "he"

A friend recounted the experience of a manager which could be a good lesson to all of us. This manager gets a call from the Human Resources department. The caller wants to know something about one of the persons reporting to him. So the caller asks "I need a feedback about her". It may sound like a normal question for you. But this manager is perplexed. Why? Simple reason. For him, the person is not a she but a he. So this manager corrects the caller. "You mean him?". That is when the caller tells that this person is a she and not a he.

She dresses like a he. So, this manager always assumed she was a he. What you wear to work is your choice if it meets the norms prescribed by the organization. That is not the point here. Can you imagine what went through the mind of this manager when he realized the truth? His mind raced to all the past instances where all he cracked politically incorrect jokes about the fairer sex in front of the he who turned out to be she. And there were too many instances to recollect!

You can tell any jokes in the company of friends. But when you are at work, be careful about the joke for you may know whom you are talking to.

Tags: Musings,Jokes,Work

Friday, March 9, 2012

Photos: Twister?

This building is located near the Dubai Marina. Check out the structure of the building.

It looked like a work-in-progress. With all the construction in Dubai plagued with troubles, I am not sure what will be the fate of the building. Nevertheless, this provided a good photo opportunity.

Tags: Photos,Dubai

Photos: Dubai Marina

The man made Dubai Marina, with tall buildings as the backdrop, is an amazing sight. Moreover, it was a clear day. According to my local guide aka friend, there were sandstorms a couple of days before. I am glad the weather gods smiled at me during my visit. Despite being a new landmark, the Marina has a rustic look.

I couldn't post this picture as part of the original post.

Tags: Photos,Dubai

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dubai, a city with a building for every decade

Why did I decide on 10 different cities on Europe instead of the world? My decision was part of the new year resolution. Anyways, like all previous resolutions, it is going nowhere after 2 months into the new year. Had I chosen wisely two months back, I would have been closer to my goal. Today, I was in Dubai. I could have stuck one down from my list if I had chosen wisely.

I had 9 hours to kill before boarding the return flight to Paris. Time flies. When the transit visa was done, 2 hours had already passed. I am lucky because I was able to catch up with friends despite today being a working day; a couple of friends whom I haven't met for a decade and a half.

What is there to see in Dubai? Shopping malls, the tallest tower in the middle of the desert, Marina with a lot of boat tours... These are among the many ways to spent time here for the tourist. But time is of essence here. You cannot fit all of this into a short time span as these places are far away from each other.

Desert is not new to me. Having spent a year with my dad at his workplace, I have seen the sand dunes, the oasis and the amazing power of 4-wheel drives before. Sitting inside a car, you will not find any of these in Dubai. What you find is the varied architectural styles of buildings which clearly gives away the decade in which it was built.

I decided on two places to visit - the towering Burj Khalifa and the man made Marina. At the Burj Khalifa, I was greeted by the "Sold Out" sign for the ride on the elevator. Marina turned out to be a better option with many boat tours aimed for the tourists. Here again, time was the main constraint. So whatever I wanted to do remains to be done.

Inshallah, there will be another time. As for now, meeting up with friends after a very long time makes me happier.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Review: London, Paris, New York

The three metropolitan cities - London, Paris and New York - form the backdrop for an unlikely couple, an easy going Nikhil Chopra(Ali Zafar) and an intelligent Lalitha Krishnan(Aditi Rao Hydari), during their relationship from 2005 to present time. Anu Menon directs this enjoyable movie which is refreshingly different from anything that is churned out in the recent past under this genre.

Anu Menon's movie works because of the witty dialogues and novel casting though it reminds you of "Ethan Hawke"-"Julie Delpy" starrer "Before Sunset" during the initial segment. The two protagonists meet in three different cities during three different phases of their life and also relationship. The story then moves forward using their conversation. In order to make the proceeding interesting, the viewer should connect with the conversation. This is accomplished by lacing humour in the dialogues. When the two protagonists are of diametrically opposite personalities, the humour is more pronounced.

Ali Zafar and Aditi Rao Hydari are no Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. At the same time, they do not come with excess baggage as both of them have not acted in a lot of films before this. So the casting is innovative. The viewer doesn't have any expectations regarding the lead actors and you are in a for a pleasant surprise. The two young actors glue us to our seats.

On the flip side, there are unwanted songs which actually slows down the movie even though the movie is not very long. The three cities does not blend effectively into the movie. The intentions are good. But if you have never been to these cities, you will not know the significance of the locations. Moreover, the photography gives you the impression of a shoe-string budget as most of the shots look tricky as if trying not to look cheap.

All said and done, it is a breath of fresh air. I strongly recommend this movie for only one reason. If we do not encourage the good ones (or the good efforts), no one will. Go for it. You will not be disappointed. Beware this is not suitable for kids.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Photos: The artist in Marine Drive

While taking pictures of the chinese-fishing-net bridge in Marine Drive, Ernakulam, I came across a very inspiring sight. People were gathered around an artist. The artist was drawing a picture of Jesus Christ on the floor using chalk. The artist was special. His hands were cut off from the wrist. Still, he was drawing using chalk.

I'm glad he was not begging. Instead he is using his skills to earn a living. Many in the crowd were impressed and presenting him money.

Take another look at the picture. It is the Christ wearing the crown of thorns. Can you find any parallel between the artist and the artwork?

Tags: Photos

Monday, March 5, 2012

Photos: Adventure Park, Kollam

The title is a misnomer. I couldn't think of anything else. Adventure Park is situated on the banks of Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam. It is aptly titled as adventure park because most of the games feature an element of this. A little further away from the adventure park, there are house boats available on rent. These houseboats are parked along the coastal line. I wanted to take a picture of the houseboat. That is when I saw this lone wooden trunk sticking out of water. Just when I was about to take the picture, a bird flew to rest on this trunk.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Marine Drive, Ernakulam

It was a disappointment for me. First, I didn't have a tripod. Second, The ongoing constructions on all sides makes this bridge a difficult one to shoot. The upcoming buildings are a photographer's nightmare. It is difficult to get a good composition.

Tags: Photos

Friday, March 2, 2012

Photos: Water Fountain

This was taken at Wonderla, Bengaluru.

Tags: Photos,Bengaluru

Life, Buses, Bengaluru...

Long time back, I read an interview given by a noted scriptwriter for Malayalam movies. According to him, he takes great pain to know life first hand. In order to achieve this objective, he would use the public transport. Judging by the scripts written by him, the public transport rides were not helping him at all as he and his scripts were detached from the real life.

As I write this, I am on a BMTC bus to MG Road, Bengaluru. This is my third ride on a bus while being on vacation. I am yet to see life unfolding. But most of the travelers are on their cellphones like me. They are not blogging. They are either texting or talking on their cellphones. The cellphone usage is something to be noted.

Everyone has a unique fancy ringtone. When the phone rings, it is very loud too. The ringtone provides additional background score; in addition to incessant honking, unique sound of the Tuk-Tuk engine and also the various conversation happening inside the bus. With all this cacophony, it is difficult to hear the caller on the other side. An ingenious way devised by a fellow traveller was to put the call on speaker-phone and press the phone against his ears.

All said and done, Bengaluru has excellent connectivity if you are using the bus services by BMTC. For me, the most difficult part is to find the right bus for my intended destination. Anyone knows how to figure this out?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Photos: From a ride in "Namma Metro"

See below for the picture of a ride in the Bengaluru Metro. In order to read about my experience of riding the metro, click below for the post titled A ride in "Namma Metro".

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