Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Flower man cometh

A middle-aged male waiting for the flower guy. Isn't that an interesting sight? Okay! I agree I am going fast on this story. So let me step back and take you through it slowly step by step. The first and the foremost, I need to explain you about the flower man. If you live in Paris, you have already met him. It is the man with the distinct South East Asian features selling flowers to you when you are dining or drinking in your favorite hangouts. They magically get admitted into all kinds of establishments regardless of the length of the queue. Even though I refer to him as the flower man, they only sell roses with red being the predominant theme.

I am not sure if the flower business is indeed a lucrative business. You see a lot of these flower guys in Paris. Because of the region of their origin, they do elicit concern, affection and sympathy from many of my friends. In most cases, the amount of love is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. As a result, most of my friends buy roses in bunches and give to all the women in the place we are hanging out. In some cases, they ask the flower man to deliver the roses and asks him to say it was from anyone other than the person who bought the flowers. It is kind of social service for connecting people. If the flowers are delivered directly without the help of the flower man, they mention this is an effort to help a decent man earn a living. 

Anyways, that is all the background you need to come to the main story. So here I am, enjoying a few drinks with my friend's colleagues in the south-western edge of this tiny little city called Paris, celebrating the end of a working week. The stress of the entire week was being washed away in drinks and entrees. That is when the flower man made a grand entrance. Upon seeing him, my friend's middle-aged colleague turned jubilous and exclaimed, "I was waiting for you!". Words would be inadequate to describe what unfolded in front of me. The middle-aged colleague picked half a dozen roses from the flower guy. The whole process of examining roses, picking the right one and lining it on the table in front would have taken more than five minutes. The price of the roses was nothing compared to the tab these guys had it going at the bar. So, the casual way of ordering drinks and the careful way of picking up the flowers provided enough contrast to pique my curiosity.

I was not sure what he was going to do with the roses. So I watched him through the corner of my eyes as unobtrusively as possible. Even while drowning the next few rounds of his favorite beverage, he took extra care to protect the roses that were neatly laid on the table. He didn't offer the roses for any of the women in the bar. He took the roses with him while walking out of the bar. Who were these roses for? If you are wondering too, this was my sentiments when I saw him leave. It wasn't difficult to figure out. His friends explained it to me. The roses were for his wife. This is part of the Friday ritual.

Bringing flowers home after drunken revelry provides an interesting lessons for a cynic like me. First, love is still in the air no matter your age or how long you have been in a relationship. Second, you are thinking of your partner even when you are having fun. Third, you are thanking your partner for letting you stay back a little longer even though the little is more a lot longer. Fourth and final, the flower man survives because of these loyal customers.

Tags: Musings,Flower,Rose



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Monday, April 29, 2013

Photos: Windmill of Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge is a good place to shoot picture. The red color is the predominant theme. If you shoot red against a blue sky, it is a recipe for a good picture. Since I had a tripod with me, I decided on a long exposure. I decided to do my long exposure on the windmill that is featured above the building.


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Tags: Photos

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Books: The Good Son

Take a look at the back cover of the book written by Michael Gruber. It tells you the plot line of the book. Dr Sonia Laghari and a group of others are abducted by a group of extremists while there are on the way to a conference to discuss peace in one of the trouble regions of the world. She is an historian whose previous works has shocked and wounded the followers of Islam, not because of what is in the book but how because of how she manged to get the material for her book. As a result there is a death sentence on her. This worries her son Theo a military personnel who uses his contacts to get his mother to safety. While Theo is working to get his mother freed, Sonia is psychologically engaging her captors in dialogues questioning their understanding of the holy book.

I was hooked as soon as I read the back cover. The back cover promises drama in various flavors, political relevance in the form of US policies and religious interpretation in the form of dialogues between Sonia and her captors. That is in fact a lot of things in one tiny small book. How does one manage to cram all these into a book? Luckily, this is not a tough task for Michael Gruber. He manages to put all these ingredients together and also succeeds to keep us glued to the book. In order to build the drama, the story is told from the point of view of the three people; Sonia the abducted, Theo the rescuer and the third a person whose role who is very ambiguous initially. This style helps in building suspense. Sonia's narrative takes precedence as she is help captive and also uses her psychology background not only to stay alive but also to influence the captors. This is where the book gets interesting.

Both Sonia and Theo guards secrets from their respective lives. When the novel opens up, the reader has no clue about their past. When the story unfolds, Michael Gruber carefully reveals their secrets little by little all the while making it clear there are more to come. This is an interesting technique and is used with the sole purpose of keeping us engrossed in the book. If you analyze some of elements of the book further, the facts are very hard to digest for an intelligent mind. This is where I advise the reader suspend their disbelief and enjoy the twists. After all this is fiction. It necessarily do not have reflect the reality!

This is a good read if you are looking for an escapist fare.

Tags: Books,Michael Gruber,Religion




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Friday, April 26, 2013

Photos: One in many

This year, spring arrived late in Paris. As I write this, the climate is still unstable when we forced to change clothes in a span of days alternating between the ones suited for cold and warm weather. Last year, I was at Parc de Sceaux to take pictures of the cherry blossoms. This year, I was there on a Sunday. The particular Sunday I chose was blessed with excellent weather. The park was overcrowded. It was difficult to get a composition with a subject and minimal distractions. Moreover the cherry blossoms were not at the blooming stage. This time around, the white cherry blossoms were a better subject. Here is one for the readers.


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Tags: Photos

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

After the forgettable Iron Man 2, Jon Favreau steps down as the director and Shane Black dons the cap of the director in the third installment in this franchise. If you like filmography of Shane Black, it does not feature a big project like this in the past. Then it has also been the case when Jon Favreau started this franchise and also when Joss Whedon directed The Avengers last summer. Both of them hadn't directed a big project before. So what is wrong in Shane Black directing this one? After watching all the superheroes sharing the same screen space in the enjoyable escapist fare The Avengers from Whedon, what can possibly top the experience? A superhero movie had new standards set last summer.

Shane Black along with Dave Pearce is credited for the script. In a way, this is the curtain raiser for the action festival season of the year with summer marked with releases of this genre. In the latest installment, Shane Black decides to give us the raw Tony Stark(Robert Downey Jr). Tony is still cynic who is politically incorrect. He loves Pepper(Gwyneth Paltrow) and is slightly insecure when Aldrich Killian(Guy Pearce) reappears. This is not the only reappearance. The nerdy botanist Maya Hansen(Rebecca Hall) also reappears after the one-night stand 13 years upon which Tony asking her cautiously if she has brought a 12 year old package as a surprise from that night. When people are reappearing, the evil villain The Mandarin(Ben Kingsley) creates ruckus by destroying Tony's Malibu mansion. To top it, Jarvis and Happy Hogan are unable to help Tony. Thanks to the recent developments, Tony is stranded in the middle of nowhere no resources.

Shane Black creates the most ironic situation available for the protagonist. Coming to think of it, Tony is filthy rich. But all the wealth is of no use for him in this situation. It is the best recipe for drama. That brings us to another question. Do we really want to see such a Tony? I don't want to. Do I have a choice? The story is written that way. So let's overlook that. Is it an interesting movie? Even though the movie starts in an uninteresting way, Shane makes us forget about the bad start and forgive him with the spectacular finale. When the credits roll out, we are a satisfied audience. If you have the patience to sit through the never ending credits, you also get a conversational piece with Tony and another superhero as a bonus. How does Shane Black achieve it? The movie has steady stream of action sequences placed in timed intervals to jack up our adrenaline levels. Of course, CG plays a major role in creating the captivating action sequences. At time, the CG is very evident spoiling the experience. Probably, this is because of watching the movie in 3D. To think of it, this movie doesn't have to be in 3D. On the positive side, there are some hair-rising suit changes of the Iron Man, some of it happening mid-air.

All what I described above is the additional things which make the movie interesting. The main interesting point of the movie is Robert Downey Jr himself. Despite seeing Robert Downey Jr play this character in three different movies, we aren't bored yet. We want to see more of this character. He has overshadowed his co-actors in the previous movies, the most notable is the Avengers last summer. In this one too, he overshadows all other performers. There are only two performers the audience notices, Don Cheadle and Ben Kingsley. Don Cheadle plays the sidekick Rhodes who dons the suit to become Iron Patriot and has scenes written to make us laugh. We all know Ben Kingsley is talented. In this movie, he gets to show us how quickly he can change skins while portraying a character.

Go for it. Even though the movie starts off slow, the finale will satisfy the action lover in you.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

For trailer, click here.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Movie Review: Parker

Before you see the movie, it is better to have some background information on Parker. Parker is the quintessential American anti-hero who features in the novels of Donald Westlake written under the name Richard Stark. Now, Taylor Hartford has adapted the novel named Flashfire for the screen and naming the movie with the name of main character. I have neither read the novel nor have heard about the novelist before. So, I will not be able to comment on the adaptation. As for the movie, Taylor Hackford succeeds in giving us a watchable thriller.

Parker is a criminal. Like all heroes walking on the opposite side of the line drawn by law, he has his quirks mostly to make the character more endearing. So he has a twisted sense of righteousness when it comes to the crimes committed by him and also the moral conduct of his partners. When the movie starts, Parker(Jason Statham) is double crossed by fellow criminals headed by Melander(Michael Chiklis) after a successful heist. As a result of the low standards of his partners where standards are defined by Parker himself, Parker loses his money but gains bullets in his body.

Waking up in the hospital penniless, Parker not only has to track his former partners in order to retrieve his share of money but also serve justice, yes you have guessed it right, by the standards defined by Parker himself. It is this journey that Taylor Hartford films in an entertaining way. Revenge, even when all the powers in the world stands against you, is a theme that will never go out of fashion. We all know Parker will succeed but we are not sure how. That is what makes the movie entertaining. The emphasis is not on action but on the search for Parker's partners. This is actually a relief if you look at the releases of Jason Statham, almost 2 movies every year. That is a whole of action in an year by one guy and a sure fire recipe for obsolescence.

Parker is an American. Why is Jason Statham playing a quintessential American hero? You will forget this question as soon as the movie starts. In all fairness, Jason Statham fits the character except the country of origin. Jason Statham has the screen presence to make us believe he can do when he is still recovering from wounds and broken ribs. He looks like an unstoppable force. Lastly, he also looks like the nut with the quirky sense of justice, honor, duty and what not! Michael Chiklis is a good choice as Melander because of his size. Parker should have a villain matching him. Although we look forward to the final confrontation between the two, it is over in seconds. If you are not attentive enough, you will miss most of the fun here. Jennifer Lopez plays Leslie Rogers, divorced, living with her retired Cuban mother and  struggling to make both ends meet. She likes Parker and interested in helping him for a share in the crime. She gets to crack some of the jokes in the movie and also amuses us by stripping to display her semi naked body. Nick Nolte plays Parker's mentor and confidante.

Go for it as this provides entertainment and a good diversion.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

For trailer, click here.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

There is always a solution

There is always a solution for any problem, no matter the magnitude. We are taught this this principle taught at all stages in our life. I happened to witness this phenomenon three weeks back. Three weeks back, I was still waiting impatiently for spring to arrive. I was tired of wearing heavy and warm clothes to fight the never ending winter which was behaving like a prima donna. The low temperatures was sucking enthusiasm out of my system. Around this time, my friend decided to visit Paris from Dusseldorf along with two of his friends.

My friend is unique. He is a vegetarian and a teetotaler. Yes, I do have this type of individuals in my circle of friends. I have to admit they have never been able to corrupt me. His uniqueness was evident to me when I visited Dusseldorf at the end of summer last year. He took us to his favorite haunt near his house for dinner. He was so popular there. He doesn't order food. He is given a table and the food is brought to him without any questions. Sure, it does say volumes about vegetarian food in Europe too.

So, he arrives with his friends. His friends are craving spicy food. If I rule out Indian food from the spice barometer, then there is only one option left for me. The Tex-Mex restaurant Fajitas near Pont Neuf. The food is good. The spicy salsa makes the experience something to remember. Like all restaurants in Paris, this one is also small. It is very difficult to accommodate a large group even when a large group is as small as our group of five. I decided to wait. That was when my friend swung into action. The low temperature outside was not an ideal condition for waiting.

"We are okay for a table of four. Give us an extra chair", my friend said. That is a good argument. But the attendant raised another point, "It will be difficult for you to eat as the table will be covered with the dishes". My friend was quick to respond, "We are all friends. We will manage. It is okay if we poke our elbows in each other's ribs". At this point of the time, my hopes climbed up. Finally, my friend is going to get us a table. That was when the attendant dropped the final bomb. "Look at this place. It is small. We will not be able to walk around your table to serve you". I understood their dilemma. I was about to turn back and leave when I heard my friend say nicely, politely and assertively. "Don't worry. You hand over the dish to one of us. We will arrange it on the table. You just have to carry the dish to the nearest accessible person on the table. Leave the rest to us".

We were seated around a table for four with five chairs in a minute.

Tags: Musings,Solution,Problem,Winter



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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Photos: The Cathedral from inside

This was taken in Cath├ędrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. Rouen is a city which is 100 kms away from Paris. I was with a group of photographers. Depending on photography experience, I could easily be called a baby in this group. The term is only related to photography experience and not the biological age. Normally, there is usually someone prohibiting you to use a tripod inside a cathedral. Luckily for all of us, there was no restriction on tripods. This actually made life easier. Don't you love small cities?

The trick is always what to shoot and how to shoot inside the cathedral. If you put the camera in aperture priority, then you get a bright and shaky picture. If you use the shutter priority, the camera will give you dark pictures. I decided to use the manual mode. I shot in aperture priority first to take the reading and progressively changed the parameters to get the desired effect. This technique combined with the use of tripod, I got the below picture. Hope you like it.

If you are history buff, you already would have heard about Rouen. Remember Joan of Arc. She was burnt here. There is a church dedicated to her in this small town. The pyre or the wood shed where she was burned alive is marked as Le Bucher in the city.


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Tags: Photos

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Pappettan surprises a lady with a flower

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

Pappettan is a perfect gentleman; courteous, attentive and caring. So, it didn't come as a surprise for me when he was doing the best to his appearance while preparing to meet a lady. Don't get any ideas. Remember, Pappettan is a perfect gentleman.

A smile broke out on my lips when I heard him muttering about picking up a flower. He went out and came back after selecting a flower. When I saw him, his face was lit up with an all-knowing smile. The smile signalled that he met his objective and the lady was going to be impressed.

Me: *waits for an explanation*

Pappettan: *sporting an ear-to-ear smile* She is going to be happy.

Me: *questioningly* Are you sure?

Pappettan: Yes! Any fool can pick a flower. But it takes an intelligent man to pick a special flower which others have overlooked.

Me: *can't handle this anymore* But... you are holding a cauliflower...

Pappettan: *surprised at my ignorance* Cauliflower is also a flower. See... Cauli....FLOWER.

Before you ask, I am not aware about outcome of the meeting.

Tags: Pappettan Says,Flower


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Photos: I'm not the Hulk even though I am covered in green

This is another picture I took during the Holi celebration at Nirwana. Do you like the color green? If so, there is plenty in this picture. 


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Tags: Photos

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Photos: Remains of a Holi day

This is another picture I took during the Holi celebration at Nirwana. The colors were thrown on everyone. This was remaining in the containers shaped liked lamps. In order to make the contrast evident, I decided to remove the colors from everywhere else other than the table. Hope you like the picture.


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Tags: Photos

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Travails of overburdened workers

Is there a lot of work on your plate? Do you have the feeling that the steady stream of work never stops? Are you stressed out because of this? If you are in this boat, let me assure you. You are not alone. Of late, everyone seems to have the same problem. To be precise, everyone I know. I have known these "everyone I know" for a quite a while now. Probably, it is the mileage on their odometers that has placed them with higher responsibilities that is making the steady stream of work unstoppable. I may be totally wrong. It could also be people trying to cut cost and increase efficiency. But that is not the point of this post. What I want to ask you is a simple question. How do you react to such a situation?

At present day work, this is a very common situation. Since I work with a lot of professional, I have observed a spectrum of reactions. The most popular reaction to the increased workload is the demand to prioritize. This works in almost all situations. The keyword is almost. Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to prioritize. My friend quotes his previous boss, "When I say now, it means yesterday. When I say ASAP, it means now". Eloquent but still difficult to prioritize. Everything is equally important. What happens then? You express your unhappiness. Your colleagues listens to you and your manager motivates you. Sometimes, this works. When this also does not work out, you are demotivated and temper manifests.

Recently, I have seen a different way of reacting to the situation. This was shared by a friend. In this particular incident, the overworked employee called for a meeting. He is present, so are one person  representing each of the three levels above him. The overworked employee has a PowerPoint presentation. The presentation comprises 9 slides. He presents it to the audience of three. The slides lists the agenda, his responsibilities and analysis of his tasks depending on his responsibilities along with what is not in his perimeter. The point he was driving was simple. He cannot do all the work. According to the feedback, the presentation was excellent. It seems the overworked employee has really worked hard on the presentation. As to the conclusion of the meeting, my friend was silent.

Tags: Musings,Worker,Prioritize



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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Movie Review: Oblivion

A man living in a post-apocalyptic world gradually realizes the lies around which his world is built. If you already have a sense of deja-vu, then you are not the only one. We have seen similar themes several times before. I don't know why this theme is so attractive to a filmmaker when the genre is science fiction. This is what has inspired the director Joseph Kosinski while conceptualizing the movie. If you are wondering who Joseph Kosinski, his last directorial venture was Tron Legacy.

When you connect Joseph Kosinski to his previous movie, it is natural to conclude this one will also be heavy on Computer Graphics. If you have reached this point, I have one more surprise for you. The movie is based on an unpublished graphic novel by the director. So, the  stage is set for stretching imagination blurring the lines between real and virtual. This is where the director succeeds. We have breathtaking visuals, amazing locations and even a highly mesmerizing swimming pool (of course with a naked woman in it).

Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper. This is the second time he is playing a character named Jack in the past few months. Remember he was Reacher before and now Harper. Jack Harper is the guardian of natural resources constantly checking the installations, guarding them in person and using drones along with his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). The world is run over by alien life forms and hence the need for protecting the resources. Jack and Victoria forms an effective team with only 2 weeks of duty remaining on the earth. That is when everything goes wrong. One of the reasons for the snafu is the mysterious woman who keep appearing in Jack's dreams Julia(Olga Kurylenko) and the other a man named Malcolm Beech(Morgan Freeman).

Although the posters and previews might have given the impression of an action movie, there are very few action scenes. The focus is on the emotional turmoil of Jack Harper. This is what disorients a normal movie goer going in expecting the onslaught of adrenaline. For a drama, the movie feels very long because of the pace. The first act contributes to it. There is a lack of clarity on the villain which makes the audience leave the hall with a feeling of something amiss. As for the performances, there is nothing much to write about.

Stay away from this enterprise

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: *

For trailer, click here.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Photos: I love these colors

Yes, we celebrate Holi in Paris. This year, I was armed with a camera. So I had three different Holi celebrations this year in Paris on three different days. Thank God! I can't imagine myself running between Holi celebrations all on one day. When India celebrated Holi, Nirwana, an India shop in Paris, celebrated it too. I mean on the same day. It was a very controlled affair. It was celebrated indoors and was an open event for it's customers. I gatecrashed with my friend.

I liked this picture because the subject was happy. Check his eyes. They are stretched in the smile. Isn't that proof enough that he is loving it?


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Tags: Photos

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Waking up to the music of abuse

A few days back, I talked about waking up in the morning. While writing it, I overlooked one factor. The waking process can be induced by an external factor. Although an alarm clock is technically an external factor, I am referring to an external factor which is forced upon you like a unexpected telephone call. This happened to me yesterday. Incidentally, the telephone call came through 10 minutes before my alarm clock rang.

Luckily, It was not bad news. If it was indeed bad news, believe me you would have had a bad night after which you would have woken up minutes before the telephone call. This has happened to me 2000 when my dad passed away. I was awake and restless minutes before the fateful call happened. Like most things in  life, everything makes sense after the event transpired. Until then, you have no clue. I have categorized it as things an ordinary mortal can't explain. I will not dwell on it further.

This telephone call wasn't a carrier of bad news. It was my friends (2 couples) calling from the other side of the Atlantic. They were in a very happy state. Why else would they call me? All of them professed their love to me in their own special way. At the end of the call, I only remembered abuses showered upon me by the boys. Strangely, I was smiling all along. In a way, this is the closest I can come to an abusive relationship. The smile may have been my gratefulness in getting an opportunity to experience something otherwise not possible.

Anyways, the call lasted for a while before they returned to what they were doing. At my end, I was fully awake which resulted in me getting to work early and accomplishing a lot. Today, I didn't have the special wake up call. The day was ordinary leaving behind a wish for a more productive day. Analyzing the two days, the sudden surge in productivity could be either of two reasons. The first being the call from friends placed me in a very high state from where gave me enough momentum to propel myself ahead in the path to success. The second is with a lot of abuses, my day had already hit a low that it couldn't get any worse.

I believe it is the first. But if you want to experiment, try the second option and let me know. In case your friends are not abusive enough, I can introduce you to couple of my friends....

Tags: Musings,Waking Up,Abuses



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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Photos: The Loner

A quiet winter evening in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The theme was black and white with tripods. There was a bunch of us. This was one of the pictures taken. A lone scooter, the graffiti on the door and cobbled street combined together to give me a photo opportunity.


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Tags: Photos

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Why do we like to corrupt innocence?

Innocence is sweet. So I do not understand why people are obsessed in corrupting it? Have we all crossed over to the dark side that we now hate the permanence of innocence? That might not be the right way to think about it. But I do not know what else to deduce from a tale told by my young Indian friend. The tale involves 4 people, my young Indian friend, his Australian friend and two newly arrived Indians. The two newly arrived Indians have not fully acclimatized. As a result, they are still searching for good places to eat palatable food as per their needs. They also belong to a select minority group which doesn't consume alcohol.

As you can see, these two newly arrived Indians are the right fertile ground to introduce new habits. The very thought of it is exciting. Their mind is like a blank paper. You plant a bit of local culture, sit back and enjoy the results. If the bit of local culture isn't impressive, you restart the cycle with some other bit of local culture. For the bit of local culture, my young Indian friend and his Australian friend decided to choose wine. The French do take pride in their wine making skills. At the same time, they take pride in many other things for instance cuisine, language and in some cases their accented English too. From the ocean of possibilities, my young friend and his Australian friend picks up a drop. A drop named wine.

What do they do after picking up wine as the subject? They select a fine dining restaurant in their area. They order bottles which some of my wine connoisseur friends would even label as costly. They ensure the two new arrivals have their first taste of costly and quality wine. This part is good. What happened next wasn't pleasant! The night was long. The alcohol levels climbed up to the levels where the newly arrived couldn't handle the liquor. As a result, out came the alcohol from the alimentary canal through the oesophagus on to the table of the fine dining restaurant.

My young Indian friend and his Australian friend are happy now. They have introduced a new concept to the newcomers. Wine. For me, it was a fiasco. What was the new arrival's takeaway from the night? Embarrassment? The only good thing about the night would be the two new arrivals might stay away from alcohol and fine-dining restaurants. Staying away from alcohol is fine but staying away from fine dining restaurants is such a waste.

If you ask my opinion, let innocence alone. This not much in supply and hence we need to have this around for clearing our polluted brains. If you are still adamant and do not want to listen to my advice, then try to make the first experience memorable. Remember whatever we love at present, it is because we had a  memorable first experience.

Finally to my young Indian friend and his Australian friend, I have a remark. If you guys had taken it easy, these guys would have joined you everyday for a drink!

Tags: Musings,Innocence,Wine



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Monday, April 8, 2013

Photos: Marathon de Paris, 2013

This weekend, it was the marathon in Paris officially called Marathon de Paris. Last year, I was out in the cold morning trying to get a picture of the runners. It turned out to be a disastrous venture. My hands were so cold that I could hardly hold the camera. After a few disappointing clicks, I decided to go back home. This year, I took my own sweet time. Instead of getting up early and going to the starting point of the marathon, I decided to visit the finishing line of the marathon when the sun was fully out. Sunday, the day of the event, turned out to have good weather too; something we haven't seen for a while.

Port Dauphine, the finishing line, was crowded. The roads were barricaded keeping the spectators away from the runners. So I walked all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe where the runners were swarming out of the finishing line, picking refreshments and meeting their dear one while on their way home. The photo opportunities were abundant with the right kind of lens. It looked like the day for wide angles lens although I ended up using wide angle and a prime lens.

A few months back, a friend talked about her experiences after participating in the marathon. It is an energizing event. After the marathon, she was in an elevated state of being for almost a week. A researcher by profession, she literally amazed (read it as bugged) her colleagues with her energy levels. 

Running a marathon is a great achievement. So it was no surprise when I saw this person smoking a cigar after the event. He deserved it.


If you look at the photograph below, tt is not random people kissing. They are a couple who ran together . Their friends and family were standing behind the camera encouraging them while they posed for the camera.


I could find a lot of English speakers and many flags from different parts of the world at this location. This is an indicator to how popular this marathon is. Imagine running from Arc de Triomphe and ending a few meters away from it while passing through some of the major monuments on the way. It is a group tour if not a healthy adventure.

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Tags: Photos

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Pappettan goes to marathon

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

Pappettan, although athletic, has not participated in a marathon yet. This week, he was in Paris to watch Marathon de Paris. I was with him. Pappettan was impressed.

Pappettan: *excited* This is incredible.

Me: hmmmm....

Pappettan: These guys have amazing stamina.

Me: *confused because that is a key factor for this event*

Pappettan: *silently contemplating*

Me: *interested as I sense a pearl of profound wisdom emanating from him any time now*

Pappettan: You know what?

Me: *hides my smile and looks at him*

Pappettan: When the world ends, these guys can run to safety. I should start preparing for marathon so that I am prepared for the end of the world.You should also do the same.


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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Photos: International Pillow Fight Day, Paris 2013

Who doesn't like a pillow fight? Who hasn't played a pillow fight? Pillow fight. A sweet memory from our childhood. And probably even a spontaneous event in our adult life which transports us to our childhood. But imagine a day dedicated for pillow fight. How ridiculous can it get? That was my first reaction. Once I got over the initial reaction, the photographer in me woke up. The event provides a good way to spend time on the weekend and also for taking a few pictures. 

There is a site dedicated for the Pillow Fight Day. It list all the cities where this is celebrated. This year, the event was held in Gare Saint-Lazare. The railway station had undergone a major make-over last year. Following which, all the temporary construction in front of the railway station was cleared up opening up a lot of space in the front matching the grandeur inside. There was also a Facebook event for Pillow fight. The rules were simple and listed in the event details.

The event started at 3 pm on 6th April. All the grown ups transformed into kids as soon as the whistle blew to mark the start of the event. It is something to be seen with your own eyes. The pillows came out. There were joyful screams everywhere. People were all over the place. That is when I understood how difficult it is for a photographer to shoot such an event. Dodging the pillows was easy. But to get a good shot was very difficult. I managed to click a lot of pictures. But there are only a few I found worthy of sharing.




Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page and don't forget to hit "Like" if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Are you happy when you wake up in the morning?

Are you happy when you wake up in the morning? To be frank, sometimes I am happy at this time of the day. At other times, I am sad and lazy. If I analyze this further, sad corresponds to the days when there are a lot to accomplish in the limited time. The way the economy is tanking and everyone tightening up their belt strings, sad and lazy is winning the game more often these days. Happy corresponds to the weekends. There you go. I said it. But why am I talking about waking up in the morning? If you have an aim, the whole waking up phase is interesting. It motivates you to take the day head-on. This is what the learnt say.

The other day, I was talking to a friend who brought up this subject about waking up in the morning and charging ahead to meet another day with enthusiasm. The subject we were talking was death. Yes, you heard it right. My friend's colleague passed away recently. It was neither sudden nor unexpected as the colleague was diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is a killer which appears in many forms. I am not sure which form of cancer had afflicted the colleague. But the colleague in question had known this for the past few years. He had no family. All his friends were from work. Work was only thing that kept him alive all these years. When he got up in the morning, he was happy and motivated because he had his work and office.

This brings up another subject about workplace. The manager play an important role in such situations. The colleague had moved between teams during the time he was diagnosed with cancer. The first manager was very sympathetic allowing him to work whenever possible and whatever mode(on location or remote) convenient. But when he moved to a new team, the new manager was afraid because he was a liability. I did not understand why. Staying in my state of ignorance, I attribute the liability to the strict labor laws in France. The manager and the HR was always concerned about the situation. This is a sorry situation as the colleague would have given up the hope for living if he did not have his work and office.

There is a lesson for me. I should not feel sad and lazy in the morning as I get to enjoy one more day. Now, the uphill task is not to think about work when I get up in the morning for the happy feeling to last more.

Tags: Musings,Morning,Work



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Photos: Picture within a picture

A picture within a picture. It is always exciting to me. I have in the past clicked pictures as the camera at the center of events unfolding. The camera screen shows what is being clicked when what is being clicked is in the background. This is one such picture. The idea of the evening was to picture blue hour. Check out the sky. I succeeded in taking the blue hour. But with the camera in the frame, it adds another dimension to the picture.

This picture was taken from Pont Neuilly near La Defense in Paris.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page and don't forget to hit "Like" if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Books: Contagious

Word of mouth. This is the most effective and least costly form of advertisement. You only hear this from one of the person whom you trust. Hence it is reliable too. If an enterprise or an artist can garner these, then they are set in the path of success. At the same time, it is not easy to engineer word of mouth. Jonah Berger has a secret formula. He discusses this secret formula in this book. Okay. It is not a secret formula but part of the curriculum he teaches at Wharton.

For word of mouth to happen, Jonah points out a framework. The framework is termed as STEPPS based on 6 principles. They are Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value and Stories. In this book, Jonah details how these principles help making something contagious enough to generate the word of mouth. The writing is interesting. For each principle, Jonah Berger explains the difficulties in doing the research. So he starts with an interesting example, stop it midway, goes back to the research involved, results achieved and how those results are relevant to the example he was talking about. This generates a curiosity in the reader to know more.

These principles are very useful for our enterprises no matter the size. It could be the next big project or a personal blog. By exploiting these principles, we will be able to get the extra mileage for our ventures. The best part is the word of mouth is absolutely free. Although the topic is marketing, this is a must read for all professionals because unknowingly we are involved in this aspect in our everyday life. Moreover as these are the materials from curriculum, it is as good as attending his class at Wharton.

The following are the videos from Youtube about the various examples given in the book.











Dove's evolution campaign

Tippi Hedren, godmother of Vitenamese Nail Salons

Tags: Books,Jonah Berger,Word of Mouth


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