Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Choices and Effects

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Recently I wrote a post about my views on abortion. There were a number of comments with various views on it. But a discussion with a friend of mine about that post led to a question of how much an individual's choice would affect the society as a whole. He asked how can a parent be sure that the embryo that they are destroying cannot grow up to be one of the scientists that make breakthrough inventions? How can the parents know what will happen in future? In truth, you can never be sure of the future. That is what makes life interesting to live through. If we knew how things would turn out, there would be nothing to look forward to and we would be bored soon.But, how to decide if a path chosen by you would affect the society and by how much?

I am very pro-freedom. I feel that everyone should be allowed to choose their paths in life than being affected by others and the rules as long as it doesn't affect the society much. True, any choice taken by an individual will have rippling effects on the society. But this is true for ANY choice and not just the choice wanted by the individual. Allowing and denying a choice path to an individual depends on the severity of the rippling effects and time difference between the action and the results. So, if a person's choice is not severe not time-sensitive, why not let the person do it as they wish rather than forcing them to do it by rules?

For example, say I decide to buy a car. I have a choice of electric, non-electric and hybrid. Say I'm very conscious of the environment and the world and hence decide to go electric. However, though electric cars have lesser impact on the environment, they don't have a zero impact. Also, they cost more and I have to come up with more cash to cover it. That leads to my giving up some comforts till I get the money or if I can't wait till then, I have to find someone who can loan me money. That brings in another person and his/her views on the whole issue. Also come in the parameters of performance, usage possibilities, etc.

Say, I don't care much about the environment and want the maximum bang for the buck. Then I go in for the non-electric choice. This, as predicted, has a higher impact on the environment but hurts my pocket less and gives better performance. Third case is when I am trying to find a balance between caring for my pocket and the environment. But for it, I need to pay more money again.

None of these three choices that I have before me have a zero impact on the environment. So, any choice I take, I affect the environment, adversely or not. So, my choosing any of these choices finally doesn't make a big difference. If adding one more non-electric car would cause the world to disintegrate(hope that situation never arises), then my buying a non-electric car would have far severe effects than getting a hybrid car. Also, say buying an electric car would help me recuperate my costs in lesser time than buying a hybrid. Then an electric car would be more attractive.

So, I would say that every choice has both good and bad in it. All man can do is to choose the least-negatively-impacting and most-positively-impacting choice and move on with life. That is the only impact of man's intelligence in this whole system. That is where rational thought and wisdom come into picture. There is also where a person starts thinking of himself(remember, my electric car choice when I could get back money faster? I did it more because it helped me as an individual rather than the love for environment) and other forces like fear, greed, etc. come into picture. But even under the best of circumstances, one day this world would end, right? We would just be reducing the speed of destruction instead of accelerating it and giving Mother Earth a chance to recuperate from some of the damage caused by us. Do you think it is possible to stop Earth's destruction?

150, 2008 and more!

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The numbers in the title of this post might sound weird. But they form the crux of the post.

First things first: This is my 150th post in this blog. I took a trip down the memory lane and found that it was a very interesting path so far. From the first post to my 149th post, I can see that I have grown in many ways, had different experiences, met some very interesting people and gone to different places. Also, my writing style has changed a lot(hopefully, for the better!). Going by the numbers, here is a report(I'm in the mood for reports after writing a dozen of them):

Though I'm happy that I got to write so much in these past two and half years, I'm not happy to see the oscillations in the graph. My writing has gone on like a sinusoidal curve touching the trough a lot of times and peaks lesser times than I want it to be. True, nobody can have a steady writing speed. But I fear that the average number of posts is less than five, with some months going down to zero posts. Though the breaks were due to good reason, I feel that I could be a better manager of time and effort and post regularly. I'm hoping for the writing speed to be good for the coming year.

Second: I had one blogging resolution for 2008. To average out atleast one post per week. Since I have 55 posts so far this year(including this one), I'm barely across the line. Yet, I've crossed it and that's what matters. Further, I see that I have blogged more this year than the two earlier years. I've reduced my inhibitions about blogging and have discovered more of a professional attitude towards managing life. Yup! Slowly making the transition from a college goer to a professional. There are a few people in my life who are very professional in all that they do and its a treat to be with them. Also, this year, I've had major changes in life as said in my previous post. I achieved some parts of my wish list, failed at some others, gained a wee bit of wisdom, gathered different experiences and had loads of fun doing it all. In all, this 2008 was memorable to me in lots of ways.

Third comes my fervent petitions for 2009: Its similar to 2008, but this year I aim to finish what I started and finally start off in the corporate world. I also have a few plans for my business and am waiting to see if they would materialize. If they did and if I succeed in those endeavors, I would be really happy for they would tie my dream and fun together. Because, if they fail, then I would decide to pursue my dream. Though my dream has a big fun component in it, it is not the type of fun I know so far. And hence, I'm hesitant to let go of what I know and step into the unknown world. Though there are people to guide me through each step, the unknown is still unknown and I'm reluctant to jump into it without reason. So, this year would be a testing plane for my ideas. So, lets see....
Other than that, my wish list still remains, with some entries crossed off and some entries added on to it. That is the beauty of life, you always have something exciting to do.

What is your wish list for 2009?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Multi Level Marketing - what crap!

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[Note: No flames please! This is more a discussion than a war for/against MLMs. So, any comments, if they are thought to be inappropriate by the blog owner, would be removed immediately.]

Imagine what would you do if you got a call from a girl whom you've spoken to over phone only once asking you if you wanted to make money at 1 am in the night when you are busy with your final project? I got such a call yesterday and started laughing as soon as I heard this question. But I was trying to be courteous and didn't really want to laugh before her. That girl thought I was interested and gave her phone to another guy (her senior partner) who again bunched out a total load of shit!

I asked him some simple questions and he broke into a sweat and gave me really stupid answers. Finally, I got totally pissed off and asked him what exactly did he call me for. Finally, this is what I could salvage from that discussion.

There is a site that combines social networking and ecommerce. He said that I had to register in a site of theirs(like orkut, facebook, etc) and ask all my friends to join too. And, say if I had put on my profile that I liked a movie like "The Dark Knight". If one of my friends sees it and wants to watch the movie, he/she clicks on the link. It opens a site of a seller(like Amazon) that is registered with their network. That site has dvds of Dark Knight for sale. It seems that I would get some money for initiating this deal. Since that girl brought me into the network, she would also get some money. The guy(the senior partner) introduced the girl to the network and hence he would get some money as well. I immediately understood that it was e-Amway. Even in the first conversation, I could find a number of problems;
1) Why the hell would I join the network and make a way to give money to others for my hardwork?
2) First, why the hell should I give money to join this network? Its not as if this network is already well known and I have profits joining it, right? The network is just being established and they should give money to people to join, right?
3) Also, why should I ask my friends to join this network and get products only through this network? Wouldn't it be like controlling them?
4) I'm a person who feels that buying unnecessarily is a waste. Most of my friends feel the same too. Would I, of all people, go and ask my friends to buy?
5) Further, isn't it wrong to use your friend's interests to make money off them? Where have the ethics of business world gone??

That guy mumbled something and gave the phone back to that girl who called me. I couldn't even tell her that she was getting into a spiral trap from where very less people have come out successfully. I told her I'm not interested in it. If the issue had stopped with it, this blog post would not have come at all. But, the call came again...

That guy had the nerve to call me again and talk about it. I asked him some simple questions like
1) what is the profit?
2) what is the rate of profit per hour?
3) how is the network supported?
4) who started this all?
5) is there someone reliable/trustable behind all this? (when I asked this question, that guy said that Microsoft, IBM and Comp arch are endorsing it. A simple Google search showed that Microsoft has explicitly stated that this business was just a customer of theirs and that they were not endorsing it! That showed this business's level of truth! Finally, when I asked him about it, he accepted that the big companies never supported them except as customers. Had I just accepted what he said, he would have continued his story of them endorsing this site!)
6) who are the sellers in this network? (there was not even one big seller. True! Amazon and Ebay are not stupid enough to support this method!!)
7) when does a person break even?

Sad to say, that guy was not able to answer any of them well. He sounded like a cult person who was taught to talk the same thing. When I tried to ask more about it, some of the answers that I got were:
"These are confidential. So we can't disclose it" (Oh! So they want my money but can't disclose what they are going to do with it??? what BS!)
"Join the network and you'll know it all" (Oh! Should I give money to know what your site is all about? What if it turns out to be BS? Do I get my money back? It reminded me of a saying in tamil "Paithiyam thelinja kalyanam nadakkum, Kalyanam nadantha paithiyam theliyum" (To get married, you need to be sane. To be sane, you need to get married). Both are not possible! Total Vidhandaavatham!!)
More questions about the business model made him ask my personal info (as if I would tell it to some unknown person! Mind you, the girl through whom this entire thing came was my friend's ex-girlfriend's friend. I haven't seen her at all! Then, what made them think that I would accept it all?)
I finally told that guy that I wasn't interested enough to join the network by paying for it and that guy got such a shock.
He said that he'll send me "convincing" material to change my mind. He even offered to come and meet me with his wife!! What nerve! Seriously!! How did he expect that I would accept such a request?

Coming to the point, I felt really sad for such people. If alone they could open their eyes and see, they would be able to see the holes in this system. However, googling for more info showed that people lose their minds to such MLM schemes in the aim to become rich and happy and important. There are better ways to achieve them than this junk MLM schemes. Wanting to become wealthy and happy is a good aim to have. But trying to get them without really working hard is akin to trying to cross the Pacific Ocean in a small dingy. Its not impossible but the probability is very very less.

If you are a person who is part of MLM, just think about your marketing system and see if you really "sell" products or buy them yourself to reach the target. Also, see if you are earning enough to atleast break even, if not make a profit. Further, think what would be your ROE if you spent the same amount of time, money and effort in some other business model/job. If you can sit alone(without pressure from others) and get these answers, do some self analysis. If you are happy with the answers, carry on with this life for you have the skill set needed in this system. If you are not happy, start looking at other alternatives too. For, after all, you are not there to build someone else's dream of social network + e-commerce site. Check if there are ways of building your dream. Because you have only one life! If you don't worry about your dreams, no one else will.

If you are a person who is pro-MLM, I welcome your views on it. For there might be something I have missed (for the guy who spoke to me might not have been a good-enough salesperson). You can help me see your viewpoint. I'm interested to really learn about it.

If you are a person who is anti-MLM, I welcome your views as well. I would like to know if there were any points I missed and should have considered. I'm sure that more the experience, the better and wider is a person's view of analyzing something. Adding the experiences of all of us, you and me, would make things clearer.

What is your view on MLMs? What do you think about the ethics and business longevity of this model?

[PS: I really didn't want to write this experience down, for there might be some who are happy with MLMs and I didn't want to hurt their sentiments. But there are two reasons for this post: First, if I can make even one person understand the good and bad reasons as to why they are in this system and chose it as part of their dream, it would be a good deed. And second, this is the first time I got to really check out a business model and find the good/bad in it without anyone's help. So, I would totally welcome any and all viewpoints related to it.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rebuild India Campaign

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I was sent a link to this campaign by a friend in the wake of 26/11 in Mumbai. Though there has been lots spoken on the blogosphere and the media about the acts themselves and the actions needed after that, I have both hope and skepticism regarding the entire issue. However, its best to try something out rather than sitting back and wondering about it for even if we don't reach the "Dream India" of ours to 100%, even a 50% improvement is way better than what we have now.

There are a number of issues that plague the growth of India. Some of the questions on this survey were ones that I would have discussed with friends. Though I still remain skeptical as what this survey might achieve, I encourage everyone to check it out and answer the questions. For, after all, even a small step forward is better than standing at the same point, right?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Drinking and feminism - one feeds another?

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I recently came across an article in NY magazine. I started reading it as a general glance through but slowly got interested. By that article, it says more and more women were drinking and those that drank, are drinking more. Since I'm a woman, I started applying it to my friends and other women I've seen.

When I was in school, drinking was a big no-no and very few(barely 5 or 10 out of 100 of my friends) did it once(maybe two, not more). Moreover, those drinking experiences were more a part of an experience or a wager with their brothers and cousins and friends. None was done for the sake of drinking.

Then came college. As far as I know, some of my friends were regular drinkers(not alcoholics). They drank because it was part of their house culture. So it was not a big deal for them. But most friends tried it out just for the heck of trying it out. Even then, the percentage hadn't crossed 20%.

Then came (pseudo)work life(I know, it was a short 6 month stint, but still corp life). Even here, it was not a big percentage. I had a few friends who frequented the bars of B but they knew when they had to stop and it was more a social reason(going to the bars and hanging out with friends) rather than drinking for drinking's sake.

My masters life saw a huge jump in the percentage to 90-95%. This was mainly because I went from a culture that frowns on it to a culture where people didn't mind about it. Also, the people I knew here were more willing to try out things and felt that drinking was just another habit. A good or bad connotation to it was stupid by their thoughts. Some of my closest friends drink moderately. One of my friends' dreams is to try out all the different types of drinks and to taste the best known concoctions. I know that she saved money through her internship to get a bottle of fine wine that came to $500. Yeah! She spent $500 for ONE bottle of wine. I'm not sure if it was worth it but she said it was and she was on top of the world for a week about it. I'm happy that she loves it but I also know that I wouldn't do it. Also, here, I started seeing people who drank for drinking sake. I also saw people who treat it as a hobby and invest in expensive stuff for it. My friend above was one such person. She tells me that her house in future would have a well equipped and well stocked bar and that she would take great pride in it. And I'm sure she would do too.

Further came my internship time. My company regularly hosts beer parties and freshly brewed beer is served there. I know that a lot of my friends love it and that it is part of my company's culture. When I think of how well I'd fit there once I go back as a full time employee, I'm not sure about the beer parties aspect. I don't really care about all this stuff as long as I'm not forced to drink. Its not that I think drinking is bad or good, its just that I don't want to do it because of a personal reason. As long as my friends don't go overboard, I know that they understand the risks and returns of their drinking and wouldn't force them to stop. True, I discuss about it with some friends, but in the end, its their call. But, going back to topic, I found that the percentage of women drinking in the corporate world was a bit lesser than the percentage of women in college. This might have more to do with the corporate setting that I've seen most women in the corp world than the actual numbers. College, having a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere, is more apt to drinking with perfect strangers. Who knows? Once I start work, I might find that the women in corp world actually drink more, albeit in a non-corporate or semi-corporate setting.

It also shows a big difference in the cultures, the one I was brought up in and the one I live in now. So, is cultural difference the only thing to blame? Or, does misguided views of feminism, more stress for women, social acceptance problems, etc also play a part? Also, does drinking induce one to feel more feminist? And being a feminist implies that one should drink? This seems like a recursive loop with no way out. However, I love that women get to choose in this country, whether to drink or not, and if so, by how much, when, where and with whom? True, people pay different prices based on their choices. But the freedom to choose, ah! That is true liberation!!

Monday, December 08, 2008

An Angel's visit

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Oh! she sat
She waited
The angel said, she will come

She saw
She worried
The angel came, in a different form

She started
The angel asked
"You want me, or my form?"

She wondered
She decided
"I want you, not your form"

The angel laughed
The angel winked
"You'll get me, and my form"

The Voice listened
The Voice was proud
"She made a choice, the right one!"

The Voice understood
The Voice was happy
"I taught her, and taught her well"

The Voice said
In a emotion filled tone
"Thanks for it all!"

The angel smiled
The angel cared
For both were in need of her

Her and her services
Her and her love
Her and her magic, all thru her

She'll do her best
They deserve it
But for now, this form is fine

She and the Voice
Comforted by the angel
Comforted by each other and their choices

They went to sleep
The angel went to work
All was quiet, peace with the world.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A "personal finance" dish

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Writing the previous post, I started thinking more and more about personal finance. Is it the need of the hour, what with more and more people losing jobs and the ones that hold them not yet sure as to how long the entire recession would last? Oh! personal finance has been around ever since man started commerce and brought in the concept of individual wealth management. But it has gained more and more spotlight in present times.

It may be due to the course I'm taking or due to the recession that is unfolding right before my eyes, but I've started taking some interest in finance finally. There are a number of finance guides and people who are great with finance that help people in trouble. Also, there is more openness about finances than before(or may be there were earlier and I am aware of them only now).

Recession in some far away city puts you in a cocoon and you don't really care much about it. But recession in your neighborhood is a different game altogether. So, to improve the health of the US economy and the people of the world, I'll show you how to make a dish out of personal finance. Yeah! Eating(doing) this will surely nurse your finances back to robust health. Some of the ingredients are:

1) Spend less than you earn - In a nutshell, don't spend what you don't have. And, keep some saved for the rainy day! Absence of this ingredient led to the mortgage bubble burst and it shows what has happened to us right now. This ingredient is the base of the dish. If this is absent, then any ingredient or tool used would be useless.

2) Earn more than you spend - In a nutshell, try to earn what you want to spend. And, don't touch your rainy day savings. This ingredient might sound eeriely similar to the above one. But it is not so. Say you have $10. Say you spend $5 and save the rest. Now your savings is $5. Say you increase your earning to $20. Then you can increase the spending to $10 and still save $10(an increase of $5). Or if you decide to stick to old spending ways, then you save $15(an increase of $10). That is the difference between both concepts. This is yet another important ingredient without which your dish size would never grow. It is like yeast is to bread and cake risers to cakes. However, you can add as much of this ingredient as you want to the dish(unlike yeast or cake risers). The more of this ingredient, the better is the dish.

Now add generous mixtures of the above two ingredients and add a good amount of patience, confidence and determination. Let the dish sit for some time. Do not add ingredients like debt, new credit cards, loans, etc. These ingredients will make the dish go bad! As you stir the mixture and start eating(using) it, there would come out of it, vapors called "more money" that would chase away the debt ghosts(like how real food chases away the hunger ghosts). These vapors can be seen using special tools like budgets, spending plans, etc. Further, the dish can further spiced up by tools like high interest rate accounts, couponing, deal watching, thrift store shopping, etc.

To magically increase the quality and quantity of the dish, you can use the investing tool to stir the dish from time to time. However, if overused, this tool can even spoil the dish. So care should be taken when using this tool. The author recommends that this tool should be used only by advanced cooks or by beginners under the guidance of an advanced cook. If a beginner wants to try it, he/she should use it only sparingly and can slowly increase the duration and speed as time goes by.

Voila! You finally have a magical dish that can not only chase away debt ghosts and keep them far, far away but also give you benefits of financial health like good credit score, enough money to achieve your dreams(isn't this what all of us aim for?) and most of all, a peaceful sleep at night without worrying about paying bills on time(what else is needed in life?). Eating(doing) this all through your life gives you a long lived robust financial life as long as you live and makes things infinitely easier for your kids and others. Now, don't you want to make your own magic dish from this recipe?? :) Let me know if you find this dish yummy and useful. I'm sure you'll soon send me a postcard from Hawaii thanking me for your robust financial health and hence remarkable mental and physical health.

Note: Longer the exposure to this dish, better becomes your health. So, use it more and use it often!

Personal Finance: some observations

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Recently, I was thumbing through a personal finance magazine while waiting to meet someone. I was amazed at a number of things:

1) Usually, when I visit someone's office, all I see would be general magazines or news magazines. Nowadays, more and more personal finance magazines are seen everywhere(I saw THREE magazines in just one week! And I live in a university town!). Goes to show how deeply recession has affected the US common people, aka "Joe the plumber".

2) One of the coffee shops where I drink coffee regularly is run by a smart and pleasant woman. She manages the entire shop with help from her sons. I've been in awe of her workmanship, the quickness with she serves the orders and her pleasant manner. We got to chatting the other day and she said that lesser people were buying coffee or other drinks. Most people have started asking for water with their sandwiches and meals. Even those that order drinks are switching to smaller cups and less fancy fare. Usually, if 100 grandes were sold, only 50 or less grandes are sold now. And, people are asking for regular coffee in place of the fancy and costlier lattes. She was worried about the recession. As more and more people tighten their belts and start cost cutting, one of the first things to go are drinks like coke, coffee, etc. So, what is going to happen to the coffee shop I so love?

3) I got the chance to read an article about credit card debt and what can be done to reduce/remove them. That got me thinking. Not many friends of mine have huge credit card debts. Most people I know make full payments every month and do not let the credit card debt in any one month go over 50% of their credit card limit. But this could also be due to the fact that most people I knew were Indians. Even among my non-Indian friends, not many had huge credit card debts. But they tend to make minimum payments to the card balances rather than the full amount. There were a few who did the math and knew that letting balances grow would lead to them paying more than they expected. They paid the balances in full but most didn't.

4) Most students had student loan debt. Indian friends usually came here with a loan from banks and plan to repay it once they get a job. Non-Indian friends have a similar structure. I know of American friends who were paying down their student loans even when in college because they knew that letting the balances sit would definitely harm them later on. But most Indian friends I know wait till they get a full time job to start paying their student loans.

5) Most Indians do not feel comfortable discussing finances but most Americans are happy to discuss them and show where they are exactly with their goals. This might be due to the fact that most Indian families do not discuss finance with the children when they are growing up. I did know much about money and how it is handled as long as I stayed with my parents. But I know, from my friends in US, that a growing number of American families are very open and honest about the finances with the kids. It makes such a difference when you get to understand these things when you are young. The kids are more confident because they learn how a key part of the adult world works.

One of the jokes I heard at a party went like this:
If you give $10 to a Japanese guy, he'll save $9 and spend $1
If you give $10 to a Chinese guy, he'll save $7 and spend $3
If you give $10 to an Indian guy, he'll save $5 and spend $5
If you give $10 to a European, he'll spend $10
If you give $10 to an American, he'll borrow $5 and spend $15.

Are these differences in spending structure and loan repayment due to differences in their culture? These are just my observations based on the people I see around me. I'm sure there are all kinds of people all over the world and I personally know of Americans who are very good at managing their finances and a Japanese guy who is neck-deep in credit card debt. This post is not for or against any country. I'm just comparing two cultures I know and trying to make sense of it all. Have you seen any such differences in spending and saving habits of people because of their culture, region, upbringing, etc? I'd love to hear your views.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

One of the lasts!

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One of my last classes was today and I felt sad about it. The professor is a very knowledgeable and interesting teacher. He used to crack jokes exactly during the middle of the class. There are lots of such memories, big and small about this course. I've enjoyed every class of this subject. Though I would continue to work with him, I'm not sure if I get another chance to sit in a class taught by him. Yup! He is my advisor. He is one of the best people in my field and I'm very lucky to get a chance to work with him. I so am going to miss his classes. But I'm glad that I got to experience what a pleasure classes are when they are taught by exceptionally brilliant professors who know how to really teach students.
God bless such great teachers!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Finance, my new interest!!

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There are a few things that, when you do, seems interesting in the beginning but bore off at the end (how about watching shows? I've seen some TV shows that start well but drag in the end.. And I, the ever faithful viewer, still stuck doggedly to its end! An apt example is Kaadhalika Neramillai from Vijay TV. That show deserves a post of its own! There were very, very few movies or TV shows that have held my interest from beginning to end).

There are some other things that seem boring at first but becoming quite interesting as the days go by (for example, VLSI. Believe me, I used to hate VLSI when I was in my junior year. Simply because, all I saw was a chip and the big hulla bulla about it. But going to Cisco changed those opinions and I fell in love with it, prompting me to add it to the already-full list of masters studies. Now, my particular masters topic is so broad that I can work anywhere and yet so specialized that there is no particular job that suits it to the glove! And I'm loving both sides of it!!).

But there are a rare few things that you do, at first, because it is interesting to dip your toes into and captivate you with their beauty that you seem to do them all said and done(like writing, for instance. However tired I am, I write a bit every day! And I found that I cannot stop from writing - my September and October trials would show it).

Now I have found another such interest - finance. There are two basic reasons for this interest in it. First, I was always eager to know how something worked and that includes a corporation, a government and our own lives. I used to have all these questions as why one should work (come on! Don't tell me everyone in this world works because they love their work), till when should one work, what will one do if they don't have the necessity to work, etc. Lets suffice it to say that I was asking questions such that I can understand the adult world much better and safely leap into it from my adolescent and secure life. I tried to learn something about commerce from my mom but it turned out that it never happened! Guess there is something impossible about trying to teach your daughter commerce when she is always dreaming about the latest and coolest stuff. So, here was my wish, simmering under all the normal stuff I did.

Second, I enrolled in a course this semester that taught the basics of finance. When I say basics, I mean "real basics". The professor started off with what is finance, why we need it, what is credit, etc, etc. Also, the US recession(yeah! its officially declared now!) was unfolding right in front of my eyes. What better chance to learn about finance, its myriad facets and all the consequences? I also started reading on some light stuff about finance and how it applies to normal people, you and me! That showed me that man had a powerful tool, that if used, would create such wealth for everyone. And men have been using it ever since the first cave man traded one spear for another with his kinsman. Various forms and complexities, yes but the underlying principle is the same.

Earlier, I never used to bother about it all. My mom was my money-giving tree and I could ask for however much I wanted but had to have a good explanation for it. Further, my family encouraged kids to save whenever possible. My parents were no exception. And my parents were never big on entertainment(Maybe that is why I think working on sundays is not something hard or wrong? I know, from experience, that one of my friends' dad always had a clear demarcation between office work and personal life and never worked on weekends. She was amazed when I said that my dad worked and couldn't really understand why anyone would do so. Not that my dad had to, but wanted to was what made all the difference.Thanks pa for teaching me that trait! I so take after you :)). According to them, a movie per six months was standard fare. I grew up the same and continued through college(Yeah! I know, I know!!)

Now, I get to handle my finances and am able to appreciate the nuances of it all. Man's ingenuity surpasses it all when it comes to handling the wealth of the world. It is all the more interesting how the basic system never changed and though there were new methods all the time, there was some time in history when it was already done. For example, we speak so much about Travelers Checks and consider them the best ones to use when you go from one country to another. Did you know that a similar system was used by the Templars in the 12th century? And they had complex security systems to protect it all and ensure that no cheating is possible.

So, long story short, I'm in love with finance for now and I'm sure this interest would continue for some more time! Till then, my dear readers, I invite you to join me in this fabulous journey to get glimpses of clear minds, ruthless actions, deep seated passions like greed and fear and the beauty with which the world balances it all out over the centuries.

For all the grad students out there, good luck with toughing it out the last few weeks of this semester before we break up for winter.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A refreshing thought!

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I've been reading up on the Mumbai attacks from the news, blogs, articles, etc and have seen so many specialists bash it out. Everywhere I saw, I read about the pain, the helplessness, the terror and what not(Strange that it may seem, the poem that I wrote a few weeks back makes all the more sense now). Combine this with bad economic news coming in daily in US and you have a really depressing view of the world. But there was this blogbharti link that told us what we could do to appreciate the Indians who laid their lives on the lines of fire to protect the innocent people and save India in the eyes of the world. When you read these lines, it might not sound as great as the deeds of a soldier in a full fledged war but a life is a life, all said and done. Losing it to protect your country, either on battlefield or in a terrorist situation, is the same and these jawans and police are worth all our appreciation. Here's what we can do to show it to them:

For the protectors of Mumbai / Bombay
With respect and gratitude.

Our brave police, armed forces and firefighters have been putting their lives at risk to bring our city back to normal. Many have died.

We often criticise them vociferously; we probably will do so again. And we should. Later.

But now is a good time to show our gratitude and respect for what they’ve done since the night of the 26th.

Go over to your neighbourhood police station, fire brigade or army post.

Light a candle or a diya and leave it there.

Or leave a card, or a note of appreciation.

Or a flower.

Shake the hand of any police, army or fire brigade personnel on the spot, say thank you, and explain why you’re doing this.

Do this whenever you can, wherever you can. You don’t have to be in Bombay. This could have happened anywhere in the world.

(People in other countries and Indians abroad: you may want to do this at your nearest Indian embassy or consulate.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Three things this week!

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1) Wow! A cyclone named after me! Believe it or not, this was something I wished for in summer. I was interning at M and saw a hurricane news clipping on my manager's door with his name as the hurricane. I thought it was cool and wondered how nice it would be to get a hurricane/tornado/cyclone named after you. I know, I know, they are destructive, they are cause huge losses, yada yada.... but they are also forces of nature that people won't and can't mess with. And they are beautiful in their own right! Anyways, it was fun seeing one pet wish come true this week without me doing anything about it. [And I had to endure the teasing of family and friends for it :D]
2) I shopped till I dropped! Yup, I went shopping this week and had a great time with MB, SA and SD. We shopped, shopped and shopped. And got so saturated. I'm not looking at the hole I blew in my pockets. But I'm going home, so that justifies all purchases! :)
3) I got served by the geek squad! When the shopping galore was going on, I got served by the geek squad of Best Buy. It's a funny name :D
Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: I'm shocked by the attacks on Mumbai but guess I'm still in denial about the facts. Lots of my blogger friends have already commented on it and I agree with them, their anger and their worry about the general helplessness that surrounds common man in such situations. To the world out there, India will come back, stronger, better. Despite the pathetic Government and politicians that we have, the people who form the crux will push India forward. To the terrorists, killing never solves the problem. You are just morphing it into something else and the world would be hit by the morphed version sooner or later. By the news coming in, it looks like its sooner than later.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nuns Fret Not at their Convent’s Narrow Room

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Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

-Wordsworth

One thought: Wordsworth still rocks, even after leaving the English classes at school. I miss my English teachers who brought out the beauty in his sonnets.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Days and dayz

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Tags are always fun to fill in, especially when they come from one of your childhood friends :) So, here goes the tag about my days (wow! sounds so pompous right? ;) Just like R.K Narayan's My Days?? Nah! Not so good!)

The tag:
Two questions in each category answer them and then tag your friends from the blog-o-sphere. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been tagged and you are all set.

Yesterday:
Your oldest memory:
One about playing hide and seek with friends when I was three and a half and hiding behind a window sill. The window doors were my height and there was some space between the doors and the wall. It was a great place to hide and you had an unfair advantage when you play hide and seek in your house with neighborhood friends. They just can't find you. Lets say I used it too well ;) I hid there and that's all I remember about it. [From my mom's memory, she says that I slept there(I have an uncanny ability to sleep in most places! You can ask my co-travelers or co-lecture-attenders for more proof! Guess this incident was an early indication) peacefully when the whole household and neighborhood searched for me. My mother was distraught and later, when they were about to go to the police, I seemed to have come out because I was hungry! This is one of the my mom's favorite tales to embarrass me :D]

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Hmmmm... Ten years ago, ninth grade, Bio class??? I can't draw, period. No, not even a straight line with the help of a scale. And that problem was compounded by the fact that I have a sister whose artistic talents are the talk of my family. It was a wonder that I even scraped through Bio in school. I would rather write two more pages of answers than draw a single diagram. Ok! Digressing.... Back to the tag!

Today
Your first thought today morning
Wow! Sunday! Oh no! Sunday already! Last day of the weekend! Should I really get up and go to the lab/work? Or can I still snooze my cell phone alarm one more time?
[Btw, I'm typing this sitting at univ... so, yeah I finally got up and came to the univ. And I did hit the cell phone alarm so many times that the next time I hit it, my cellphone would sprout two hands and hit me back!!]

If you built a time capsule today what would it contain?
How about the entire world? Because its too interesting to leave out anything!

Tomorrow
This year
Live the last year of student life and enjoy it to the hilt, for I may not get a chance to be a carefree student once I step out of the walls of my university. Even if I return, I'd be scarred by the good and bad of the world and wouldn't have the childlike curiosity that I have now.

What do you see yourself doing 14 years from now?
I know I'd be having fun.But how, where and with whom, Ah! that is the question!

I tag:
People who haven't written even one post in the past one month. Come on, bloggers! Its loads of fun to do it.

Theft in Times?

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I missed out a call from Sudipta to blog about plagiarism committed by leading dailies against bloggers due to my hibernation. However, its better late than never and so here goes. I have personally not had such an experience but that doesn't stop the fact that such a trend should be admonished.

Blogging is one of the few activities that came up with the growth of internet, and true to the spirit of internet, it has been one of the mediums where people can express their thoughts without restraints. This led to the development of some really good writers and bloggers amongst us. However, using the talents of these writers to earn money and not giving them credit for their hard work would take away the freedom to write and express thoughts because we are not sure as to how our work would be used. Further, the shocking thing is that such acts are done by leading dailies and reputed firms. This leads to a question of ethics. Don't these dailies and firms have people on their payroll to write well? Or if they find something interesting enough to be published, don't they have the courtesy to ask for permission first?

The internet has opened up a plethora of businesses and social mediums where people communicate. With it, there arises new problems. But since internet was in its infancy, there were no ways to deal with it. As with any evolving society, the problems are followed by solutions and we have certain solutions like Creative Commons copyrights(you would find it on my site too! So, before you publish something from my post, ask for permission!!). However, these are not taken seriously enough and that has led to all the woe. The top management of these dailies and firms should make sure that such plagiarism doesn't happen for that would affect the long time growth of the company. If I knew that the content of Times can be obtained by reading some blogs(available for free), would I as a consumer want to go and pay for it??? This question, when given to masses, would seriously affect the bottom line of the company. So, before you flick off material from the net, think..... for you may be erasing the bottom line of your company with the simple Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V that you might do.

From grandma to granddaughter

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[Read it somewhere - very good! I'm sure my grandma would have said the same if she was here]
Dear Granddaughter,

This is a very special gift
That you can never see
The reason its so special is
It's just for you from me.

Whenever you are lonely,
or even feeling blue
You only have to hold this gift
and know I think of you.

You never can unwrap it
Please leave the ribbon tied.
Just hold it close to your heart
It's filled with Love inside.

[One such gift I consider so special is my Granny's pic... despite some days when I've had too much to do and wanted nothing better than being in C, the picture has comforted me in more ways than one. I miss all the good times with her and can still feel her soft fingers on my face comforting me for everything from a scraped knee to horror dreams to serious talk. And, she is THE best cook in the world(even better than my mom, sometimes!) Love you, Paati!]

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Etharkaaga iyyutham?

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[Inspired by a bunch of war torn country pictures sent by my friend, X, who is a photographer and had recently been to the MidEast and the Africas. Her photography displayed the ravages of war so beautifully. Even though I have seen a number of pictures, these pictures touched me in a way that none others did. Perhaps it was because of the stories that came with each of the pictures and the feeling that the portrayed people were my contemporaries in this world. And the irony of all the wars(of poverty, of power, etc) is that people do them because they feel that their knowledge is greater than that of others. And the people who suffer have nothing to do with this knowledge war. So, here goes my poem]:

Nunnarivenru nenaithaalum
Sollarivenru sithaithaalum
Ennarivu enakkaaga
Unnarivu unakkaaga, ithil

Yaararivu yaararindhu
Etharkaaga yuthamittu
Nighalgaala sugathaiyellam
Nitham Nitham veenadithu

Laabamenna adaidhuvittom
Sollada maanudaa!
Seyvathellam seythuvittu
setrinil seerazhindhu

Sennira aruvi seythu
Ulagathai koythu vittom!
Ithuthaan maanudamaa?
Nalla vidivu vandhidumaa?
-Alpine Path

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

'The Andromeda Strain' has become 'The Lost World' now

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My deepest condolences for the death of one of my favorite authors in English, Michael Crichton, who passed away on November 4th, 2008.

I'm a fan of all his works, period. I feel the pulse racing when I read his books, yet filled with a cool and collected thought that can only be the result of proper scientific facts combined with an open mind. He helped me traverse the world of science without fear and with curiosity and made me appreciate contemporary scientific fiction as a thing in itself. I still remember the afternoon when P introduced me to his novels and me forgetting to do anything else by drowning myself into his "Andromeda Strain". And there were days when my friends and I used to discuss his novels. The Andromeda Strain, Timeline, Sphere, Airframe, State of Fear, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, etc. would forever remain my favorite books of teenage, the time and author never coming back now. Another one of my favorite authors/actors gone, damn!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Is abortion personal or public?

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This post is inspired from an article arguing against abortion in my college newspaper followed by a discussion I had with one of my labmates and friends, KC. I’m not pro-abortion or anti-abortion, but merely feel that the decision should be left to the concerned parties and not be interfered by the State and National Governments, other organizations and people.

Abortion is a very strong act, an act to the future, an act by the present. A life, that is as yet unborn, is killed for the sake of the present life that is born. Which life is more important and why?

There are a number of takes on abortion in every part of the world and in every culture. Over the years, it has been one of the most controversial topics to be discussed again and again by politicians, religious leaders, social activists and who not. I feel that abortion should be a private decision, taken only by the parents of the child to be born (with the mother having more say in the matter because it is she who has to go through the process after all is said and done). A number of people, with well known leaders among them, say that abortion should be abolished (no pun intended!) for a variety of reasons. Here are my reasons for why it should be left for the parents to decide the future of their own child.

The parents know what’s best for the kid to be born. No one in the world can love a child more than his/her own parents and so the parents, in most cases, have the right to decide how the child should be and what is best for the child in the long run. Sometimes the parents may decide that the child is better off not being born in this world rather than being born and having to suffer. One great example is the case of Nikita and Harsh Mehta who wanted to abort their child because they knew that the kid would be born with serious heart defects and has very less chances of surviving. Then, is it any wonder that the parents did not want the kid to face all misery that was awaiting it once it entered the world? Don’t they have a right to decide if their kid should face sorrow or not? I’m sure my mother would do anything to protect me from a life of known abject misery and sorrow if she can help it. And it is true for all the parents who really love their kid. Knowingly letting your kid suffer something for the good of no one is akin to not loving your kid at all. There were a number of organizations that offered to provide monetary support to the Mehta family. However, the emotional trauma has to be undergone only by the parents and the child, isn't it? Would anyone be able to share and reduce that? These are difficult questions and the answers are not light, either!

Second, imagine the pain that the parents would have undergone to come to this decision. No one would want to kill off their own offspring without strong reasons. So, if the parents are rational, they should be allowed to decide what to do in such cases.

Third, talking from the child’s perspective, imagine if you were born and knew that your parents, of all people, didn’t want you in the world? It is much better to have not been born at all. This would lead to a lot more complications related to trust and security within the child.

Finally, we talking of a woman’s life here. She has the right to decide what she wants to do, with her life and body. If she decides not to have a baby, then her decision should be respected. For she knows what is best for her body to survive. If there was a case where having the baby would endanger the mother’s life, would you jeopardize a living life to a yet unborn one? That brings us back to the fundamental question of who is more important, the living present or the yet unborn future?

In all, I feel that decision should be taken by the people concerned and not by anyone else for the far reaching consequences of the decision (for or against) are felt only by those people and not others who venture to give their opinions in this matter. Again, I’m not pro or anti abortion and feel that it is a very difficult choice that people make in circumstances. It is one of the worst circumstances that a parent faces: to kill the child you love to protect it from known misery in the name of love or because you love it and want to see it in flesh and blood and give it a chance to fight life, you let the kid be born into known and certain misery and pain. My heart goes out to all parents who make this difficult decision. But at the same time, let no other person or organization or authority decide it for them for they are alone in their misery and none of the above bodies can share it. Do share your views on it(pro or anti or middle ground or indifferent) and do tell us your reasons behind it as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

kulir kaatru alaiyaada!

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When you are working hard on a project, trying to get all the disparate pieces together, there comes a moment when your mind gets out of the project and something else comes up, mostly totally irrelevant but enchanting and with deep meaning nonetheless.
I'm trying to write meaningful code in the order of atleast fifty lines every day. Writing code is easy, writing meaningful code is harder. My journey from a good to a better programmer continues....
Sitting before my project and typing C# code, a pure tamil poem(should I or shouldn't I classify it as a poem? Readers, you tell me!) struck my mind. Its been a REALLY long time since I wrote tamil poems, the habit being lost in transition from school to college. Do take a look at it and tell me your comments.

kulir kaatru alaiyaada,
nitham kaathu thani nirka,
idam paarthu ivaiyaaga,
kshanam serndhu nadaiyaaga


[Sorry, I just can't seem to translate this with the meaning intact. If anyone who knows tamil wants to go ahead with the translation with the meaning captured, please do it in the comments section]
And oh! Happy Deepavali! Have a safe and fun diwali!
Luv,
Alpine

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Block-o-block!

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Too many things to share,
Too many ideas to discuss,
Too many posts waiting to be penned, but
Too less passion to do so.

A bad case of writer's block
A bad case of reader's block
A bad case of motivator's block
So, gone with the wind for now...
But I'd be back, for sure!

Keep safe and sound,
keep going around,
keep doing things,
Meet you all later!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life's lessons!

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Ok! this is going to be another forward sent to me by a friend. This was one of more interesting speeaches I heard. Not only that, I've seen people who come into a situation with lot of spark and then let their spark die and become listless and dull. Recently I saw a school friend of mine, thousands of miles away from where we both went to school. She was one of the bubbliest people I knew in school. Now, into a job that she aspired for and with a family behind her, she should have been jumping with joy. Instead I saw a person who is pushing her everyday life as if it was a punishment and not a joy to live(which it rightly should be). Now what went wrong? I know this question cannot be answered by anyone(maybe her) but I do know that it is sad that she is not having a good time. And, I also know that it is harder still to rekindle that spark once you let it die. Most of my friends ask me why I become excited even for the simplest of things as there is so much to do in life and that simple things don't matter. Well, pal, that is because I'm not sure if I'd be around for the big things to happen and even if I am, I'm only increasing the net joy I have in life by getting excited for the simpler things as well. I'm sure that if I get a new job, a new house, a new car, etc I'd be excited. But that doesn't stop me from getting excited and happy when I get a new book of my favorite author, when I meet a friend unexpectedly, when I play with my friend's son, when I win a pool game, etc. Since this forward related a lot to some of the discussions I've been having with my friends, I thought it would be appropriate to put it on my blog and discuss it with my readers as well. Let me know what you think about it all. I know, some of you have asked, "when is your next post going to be?". I'm caught up in work now and am sure I'd get a handle on it soon. Till then, take care and enjoy this:

Inaugural Speech for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program, Pune - 23rd June, 2008
- By Chetan Bhagat

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame. The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn't the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don't go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it's life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that's where you want to be.

Disappointment's cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Golf course dinner!

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What lesson can be learned in a golf course over a seven course dinner? Loads actually. Today was a very interesting evening where I got to do loads of firsts like go to a golf course, have a seven course dinner and a wonderful conversation(I always thought formal dinners were more a formality than a place to actually do something), meet some really awe inspiring people, get a view of three downtowns at the same time, etc. Let me not go into the details, but three of the most important lessons I learned were:
1) Don't fight all the battles because at the end of the day, not all of them matter.
2) Learn to know the goal and keep that in mind. Don't let the egos come into the picture.
3) Have fun, be passionate and know yourself.
I know this is not new advice, but the way it was said made all the difference, especially the last one. Thanks for all those who made this dinner possible. I HAD FUN!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy or Guilty or both??

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Have you ever felt happy and guilty at the same time? Well, I had such a singular experience last weekend and I'm penning(rather typing) it down before it wears off.

Last weekend, the company that I was interning with hosted an intern event. The event itself was cool with only us in a large and scenic park and two bands playing for us. But the coolest things were just before and after the event. We were asked to take the bus from the company to the park and there were loud grumbles from the interns(around 1000 of us, some even flown from different parts of the country) as it was a Friday evening. If you had lived anywhere in the US, especially in any of the major cities, then you would have a really good idea as to how clogged the roads become on a Friday evening when the entire college crowd tries to hit the downtown and the hot spots. It was no wonder that we complained as well. But our complaints were to no avail. So, all of us got into some 20 or so buses and we were on road after ten minutes.

That was when I felt that something was different! We were on highways and freeways and there were no cars on our side of the lane. That was freaking unnatural, simply because cars are the most common mode of transport in US. Then we saw cops before and after our bus. Finally, realization dawned on me that we had police escorts and that they had stopped the traffic on the freeways and highway. I saw long lines of cars waiting at the intersection allowing us to pass and that was a unique experience. I have NEVER seen such a thing happen, especially in US. In India, I have waited a couple of times for certain VIPS(read, CM or Governor or XYZ) to cross and have always been furious as to how much time is wasted because of it. But for it to happen in US? I haven't even heard one so far. So, the entire incident was freaking and I couldn't stop feeling happy that I was also a VIP(albeit for a day) and got the same welcome as a Governor would. It was so ingrained in me that only VVIPs get such a treatment and the fact that Microsoft did exactly that sent a message that we were VIPs for them. But when I heard on the radio that the traffic on I-5(the highway on which we went) was gridlocked, I couldn't help feeling guilty at having wasted the time of thousands of others who were waiting for us to pass on a friday evening. Hence, the story of feeling happy and guilty at the same time.

Though I wouldn't want it to happen because it was a waste of money and effort and others' time, it left a part of me feeling different. Imagine thousands of people waiting for you. A friend of mine put it succinctly, "I have never felt so important in my life before". This statement from a person who has finished in the top five in India, went to one of the top three universities(in US) for college and is working at Microsoft for X years gave the incident a different view. Though money and education are important, everyone craves for some recognition and larger the mass recognizing/respecting you, the better you feel. So, Microsoft DOES pamper its interns. For more info, check this link.

About the coolest thing after the event, I got an amazing gift from my company. It was all the more sweet because I truly needed it and it came at the right time :) And the entire show was supposed to be a replacement for another big event(yes, you guessed it right, Bill's Grill party), a returning intern said that it was better than the Bill's Grill. The fact that I was among the first batch of interns to have received this attention(escorts and all) makes me feel all the more special. So, if you want to intern somewhere really cool and really awesome, do check out Microsoft. Because, they DO pamper their interns. :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where the hell is Matt?

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Found this on one of my net ramblings:

Just one word: Sweet!!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Heights of geekiness!!

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Sent by a friend of mine. As always, kudos to the original author and the geek in him/her:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary
Over many a long and boring tome of programming lore
While I coded, tab aligning, suddenly there came a whining
As of the compiler pining, pining at my display’s floor,
‘Tis not possible’, I muttered, pinin, nearly a roar,
‘For my code is so hardcore.'

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chocolates are better than kissing!

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I read this interesting article about chocolates being better than kissing. Any comments?
Btw, Happy Chocolate day to all the chocolate lovers out there! Remember me and have a big piece of the most tasty(I know all chocolate is tasty) icecream. My personal favorites are Godiva chocolates :) Let me know your favorite chocolatey secrets too ;)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Top ten reasons why America is the best country in the world!!

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Now that we have the Fourth of July upon us, there have been loads of forwards floating about the best and worst of America. Though America has its bad points(like every other country in the world), I respect it for its people's hardwork, individualism, open mind(some call it crazy mind!!), diversity, etc. Here is a forward from two of my American friends. They said that they had the comments written up when they were bored at work.

Disclaimer: None of the opinions given here are mine and I don't endorse any. So, please don't flame me. I post it here because I see a sense of wry humor in this forward. If you don't, well and good, just lite it.

Top ten reasons why America is the best country in the world

1. Only in America......can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
I’m not sure that this is actually accurate. That is, has someone actually put together a graph with the locations of every hospital, fire department, etc., and analyzed this with traffic patterns? Somehow this seems fishy.

2. Only in America.....are there handicapped parking places in front of a skating rink.
There are legitimate reasons for there to be handicapped places in front of a skating rink. Say we have a handicapped parent. Should we really make it extra hard for him because his able-bodied children are able to use the skating rink. (You can make arguments just about anywhere for things like this; hence why ADA requires them)

3. Only in America......do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
Perhaps because cigarettes are an impulse buy that you remember when you leave the store and prescriptions are not? OTC drugs are also a high-value item for shoplifters. Putting them in the back allows for more reaction time. Cigarettes are behind the counter and more difficult to shoplift.

4. Only in America......do people order double cheese burgers, large fries and a diet coke.
Interestingly enough, the caloric content of a soda is non-negligible. For example, a large coke at Taco Bell has 350 calories. A McDonald’s Double cheeseburger has 440 calories, and a large fries at McDonald’s has 570 calories. The soda has 80% of the calories of a double cheeseburger and 61% of the calories of a large fries. Assuming that you’re eating three meals of this a day, such a diet would have 3000 calories daily. Not healthy, but much better than 25% more calories.

5. Only in America......do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
What bank doesn’t have its doors unlocked during business hours? Pens are chained to the counter to keep you from inadvertently walking off with them. If you assume that you have a thousand customers in a bank a day, 10% take a pen, and pens cost ten cents each, then you’re costing roughly $10 a day in pens. Unless you’re trying to advertise, you probably don’t want to spend something like $200/mo in pens.

6. Only in America......do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
If you have a lot of useless junk, you can’t very well put it out in your yard. Cars can be locked, and even if it’s not great for the paint job, you don’t have much of another option if you want to create the illusion of cleanliness in the home. I don’t think that this is unique to the US either.

7. Only in America......do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.
Although we end up taking messages from people we didn’t want to talk to, answering machines are primarily so that we don’t miss calls at all. What’s wrong with managing information?

8. Only in America......do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
This has to deal with bakers tending to do things in multiples of three and four, not some wide conspiracy. You’ll find that they do this in Europe as well. Hot dog manufacturers use a more natural multiple of 10, as do many other items.

9. Only in America......do we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well:'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures '
This is a false etymology. The derivation is from “politicus” or “citizens of the state”.

10. Only in America......do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.
ATM machines are made mass-manufactured, and we still have ADA in our pocket. It’s also possible for a blind person to walk up to an ATM machine.

Privacy online??

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Here is an article I came across about Viacom and Google and Youtube and our privacy. More on this topic this weekend. Succinctly, life with internet has less freedom and more intrusions than life without internet. Share your thoughts!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sondha Mannil.... (In the native land!)

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I received this poem through a friend of mine. I usually read the poems and either store them in my mailbox(if they are really good) or trash them(if else). But this one struck a chord somewhere and so reached my blog. Here, it is:


I tried translating it to english for my nonTamil readers, but the beauty just gets lost. Kudos to the original author whoever they are. It just portrayed what every person who knows what a happy and carefree childhood is and who is now into the grips of technology(in this grip willingly, so can't complain much! But the heart yearns for those simpler days!) feels at heart. Its worse when you are away from your family because the pangs are harder and take more time and effort to be quelled. Do you guys feel the same way too?

Vegan or Not?

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Do we have a choice to decide our food habits fifty years down the lane? Or, more importantly, would our children have the same food choices as we have right now? I remember my parents talking about Raagi and Kambu and Cholam(varieties of corn) being more popular when they were kids and rice and wheat being less popular. But now, these grains have become almost non-existent(the last time I ate Raagi dosai(a speciality from Raagi) was about seven years ago). So, do we get to make a choice as to what we eat or would all of us be forcibly changed to being vegans(not even vegetarian or eggetarian is possible according to this article)? If so, what is the point in having the luxuries of life when you don't have the freedom to choose what you want to eat and how? Are we moving towards a truly free world? or is the world getting into more and more mess that we can't come out of? Well, time will tell! But it might be too late by then. Shoot your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Canada Day!

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This verse was sent by a friend of mine. I don't know from where he got it. So, the appreciation goes to the original author, wherever he/she is. Happy Canada day to all Canadians throughout the world. Canada is a proud country and I admire your resilience.
In honour of Canada's 141st Anniversary:

Hey, I'm not a lumberjack, or a fur trader....
I don't live in an igloo or eat blubber, or own a dogsled....
and I don't know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada,
although I'm certain they're really really nice.

I have a Prime Minister, not a president.
I speak English and French, not American.
And I pronounce it 'about', not 'a boot'.

I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack.
I believe in peace keeping, not policing,
diversity, not assimilation,
and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal.
A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch,
and it is pronounced 'zed' not 'zee', 'zed' !!!!

Canada is the second largest landmass!
The first nation of hockey!
and the best part of North America

My name is ......!!
And I am Canadian!!!

PS: Thankyou Madhan, for pointing out the source :) Here is the link.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Believe it or Not!!

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This post has nothing to do with Ripley's Believe it or Not! chain of places(actually, IMHO(ok, that's a computer person's version of saying In My Humble Opinion... I've started loving abbreviations for some reason. But I make some of my friends go mad! Ah! This too shall pass!(Ithuvum Kadandhu pogum!)So, my dear friends, hang in there!),that's a good place to go to, especially if you are in New York. They've got an awesome collection there. Even my parents(who have traveled to lots of places) were wowed by the collection. And that's something to say!) but more to do with the last post I wrote about Dasavatharam, Kamal's latest movie. Loads of my friends discussed about it with me and some even said that I hadn't taken the time to analyze the movie better. But even after a full two weeks of analysis and discussion, I still stand by what I expressed in the post. If that movie couldn't wow me in the first place, it just doesn't have that wow factor even if I read a lot about it, watch it again scores of times, talk/discuss more about it. Telling me that the movie grows on me is just not my cup of tea. Come on! I have loads more interesting things to do than spend 6 hours for a movie to make an impression on me. I have better things to do than to re-watch the movie.

All said and done, there were an unprecedented number of forwards about this movie and its interpretations. Kamal should be appreciated for that fact. He has given such a film that everyone has his/her own interpretation of it and each of it seems right. A true test of a person's rationale. Though I got interesting forwards, there was one which stood out amongst them. I was LOLing(again, laughing out loud for those who didn't get it) after reading it(thanks S, for sending it my way! I know you ROTFLed after reading this one!). I'll let you decide if you have to give work to your rationale or not after reading this one. Here goes:

1) In 1978, Kamal's Tamil movie "Sivappu Rojakal" got released. He played the role of a Psychopath killer . One year later, a guy called Psycho Raman was caught for brutally murdering people

2) In 1988, Kamal played the role of a unemployed youth in the movie "Sathya". In 89-90's our country faced lot of problems due to unemployment.

3) In 1992, his blockbuster movie "Devar Magan" got released. Its a village based subject. There will be some scenes portraying communal clashes. Exactly a year later in 1993, there were many communal clashes in southern districts.

4) We all know in 1996 many people in our country was cheated by finance companies. Our Kamal Hasan has clearly depicted this in his movie "mahanadhi" which got released in 1994 itself.

5) In "heyram"(2000), there are some scenes relating to Hindu Muslim clashes . We all know 2 years later, godhra(Gujarat riots) incident happened.

6) He used a word called 'tsunami' in his movie "Anbesivam"(2003).The word 'tsunami' was not known to many people before. In 2004, 'tsunami' stuck the east coast of our country and many people lost their lives.

7) In his latest movie "Vettaiyadu Vilayadu "(2006) there are two characters called ila&amudhan who played the roles of psychopath killers. After 3 months of release of the movie, the noida serial killing came to light (moninder/sathish)


And to add another point to the seven below
8 )He shows the outbreak of a biological weapon(virus/vial) in Tamil nadu --Dasavatharam(2008)

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My view: Does it mean now Kamal will become Kamalanandha and start dancing with women (ok! In a swamiyar garb) and bringing out Lingams and Vibuthis and predict the future of politics, cinema and India?
Your Views: On the comment section, please!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Be there!

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She moved in this world
A world of new beginnings
A world of new thoughts
A world of new starts

She met people
People from different walks of life
People from different countries
People from different parts of life

She felt unfettered
From the people
From the world
From life

She was scared
Scared of the new freedom
Scared of the new actions
Scared of the new life

The Voice understood
Understood her concerns
Understood her worries
Understood her unanswered questions

The Voice reflected
How to explain
How to simplify
How to break it in

The Voice said
"Tis yours to enjoy,
Tis yours to work on,
Tis yours to live!"

The Voice showed
Showed the uses of freedom
Showed the beauty of action
Showed the meaning of life

The Voice warned
Of the ever present slip
Of the ever present danger
Of the ever present oblivion

She vowed to remember
Remember this freedom
Remember these actions
Remember this life
For,
it is the milk of the universe
the honey that sweetens life
the elixir that man is after

She vowed to work hard,
Hard to keep this freedom
Hard to repeat these actions
Hard to live this life
For,
Hard work prevents slips
Hard work protects from danger
Hard work obliterates the oblivion

The Voice was glad
Glad that she understood
Glad that she related to it
Glad that she knew
For,
Knowledge brings maturity
Knowledge brings care
Knowledge brings wisdom

The Voice supported her
In preventing the slips
In protecting from danger
In obliterating the oblivion
For,
The Voice is there to nourish
The Voice is there to elevate
The Voice is there to "be there"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dasavatharam - Review

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I usually don't write a review of a movie. Three simple reasons: 1) The movie is not so impressive or I have nothing new to add to what has been said already 2) I don't watch movies often(yup! I'm NOT a movie fan. If I watch five movies in a theatre in a year, my family and friends would be so surprised because I just don't watch them in theatres!) 3) I usually thrash out a movie with friends or family after watching it(usually, my sister ends up being the scapegoat where she would patiently listen to me analyzing each scene and each angle of the story. Sometimes its good(like in Gajini), sometimes its bad(like in Om Shanti Om) but all the time,its interesting!) But now that I'm stuck in S____ and the first condition got satisfied, here goes the review of Dasavatharam.

Basically, its a good movie but turns bad and then worse as more and more masala is added to it. Kamal is a versatile actor, there is no doubt in it. But he has tried to do too much in the movie. He has discussed everything from politics to religion to science to what not!!!??? Even in each of these categories, he has taken pains to cover each part(or atleast a sliver of each part). For example, in politics, he has used Bush(yup! the very same American president), Dr.ManMohan Singh(yeah, our Indian prime minister), both our CMs(now and then). I fully expected him to bring in or atleast talk about all the problems of the world(like sand burglary). Thankfully he stopped with this array. In religion, he made sure he covered the Saivites, the Vaishnavites(two major sects of Hinduism), Christianity and finally Islam. In science, he went all the way from Biology to Chemistry. And he added the Japanese guy for .........? For what? To create a fan club for him in Japan(just because Rajini has one)?

I like each of the characters that Kamal portrays(I bow for his excellence in acting, but that's about it. I know I might draw flak from Kamal fans but this is my opinion and this is a free world! So, no comments on this statement please!) but my favorite character is Mr.Balram. He is so natural and the character fits Kamal like a glove. The ones with Bush, the old lady(who incidentally likes rose milk and reminded me of the glorious days of summer break where I did nothing but drink rose milk, play in the hot sun, eat icecream and finish a story book a day! Sigh! Now, I just can't imagine a summer like that any more in my life!), Kallif Ulla, Fletcher(Man! Terminator in tamil ;)) were kind of artificial and showed too well that it was pure makeup. It reminded me of someone wearing a mask and acting. Guess the field of makeup hasn't grown to such a level as to what Kamal expects. But its a good effort! And the Vincent character is good as well but it could have been given more screen space. About the first Ramanuja Daasan, his acting was good if a bit too theatrical.

About the story, there was nothing much in it, right from the beginning. It reminded me of some novel where every character hurries every minute only to leave the reader wondering why all this hurry. Similarly, here, the reason to hurry was not captured and delivered properly to the viewer (unlike Kaaka Kaaka or Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu where the viewer can understand the urgency within a scene!) Here, everyone seems to rush all the time but there is no deep meaning for it all. A short version of the story is that Kamal discovers a virus that can kill everyone in minutes and leave the Earth barren and his boss decides to sell it to terrorists. After a melee(I'll tell you, it was neither hilarious nor gripping! It was similar to Race, the movie where it was confusions galore), Kamal reaches Chidambaram followed by Fletcher(another Kamal, the villain) followed by Balram (another Kamal, the ubiquitous law man) followed by a Japanese(God knows why this guy is there in the movie because all he does is to come on in in the end and fight Fletcher, which Kamal himself could have done(given that loads of tamil heroes manage to do it with ease) Or maybe he was aiming to keep the movie natural? Only Kamal should tell) where he meets Asin(who, by the way, is portrayed as a staunch Vaishnavite and says "Perumaalae!"(Lord's name) every minute. But this turns irritating after some time.) and her granny(another Kamal). Now a chase begins where everyone chases in the above given order and finally Tsunami comes to finish up the unfinished business of the humans.

Now on to why I think the movie can't go into must watch list. Simply put, the movie doesn't give time to the viewer to actually get into the story. It starts in US, then chases begin, then moves to India, then chases go on, then climax. What IS happening? A lady before me in the theatre actually asked her husband this question! LOL!

Secondly, each character has been etched too hurriedly and everyone jostles for screen space with the result that no one gets enough to do justice to their roles and finally confuse everyone(now what was the Muslim family doing in the movie? Too many extra characters like that! It reminds me of "I want a share in the apple pie" story and finally everyone gets a crumb and no one is satisfied!). Even Asin seems to have been added to each scene rather than being part of the story flow. Atleast there should have been some good scenes between Kamal and Asin. It finally looked like they kept running all the time and he fights to save her and everyone thinks they go together and she falls in love even though his principles about God are the exact opposite to what she believes. I can take some amount of comedy, but this is atrocious!! Also, talking about life and love in a superficial manner when tsunami has struck is all the more comical!! Maybe that is why they didn't have a separate comedy track in the movie? Its so cruel to use Mallika Sherawat as done in the movie and kill her even before she tries to act(now you can't blame her for poor acting if her character gets killed after a song and a few other shots, can you?)

Third, some of the characters are so out-of-storyish that I just feel that they have been added to the story just to add another character to Kamal's doable characters list(like Avtaar Singh, Fulla, etc). Fourth, there are loads of double entendres in the movie and its kind of difficult to explain kids as to why the audience laugh for a particular sentence when they don't find anything odd or funny in it. I know that it is expected in a Kamal movie (in any movie nowadays, for that matter) but this one had loads(or is my movie watching skills so low that I don't know the present count/trend? If so, I feel sad for the present teens and pre-teens. They have work cut out for them in keeping their innocence and enjoying childhood and adolescence as much as they can)

Finally, I feel as if they've assumed that every person who watches this movie doesn't have basic sense and would accept everything that is dished out as a movie(just because we pay $20 doesn't mean we have to accept all the crap that is given right? Or is it that we are expected to keep our common sense at home when we go to watch movies? This, especially, disappoints me in this movie! I expected better from Kamal Haasan's movie). Example: the bullet from Fletcher's gun hits the cancerous growth in Avtaar Singh's throat and cures him of cancer without need for surgery while miraculously saving his voice and keeping everything else intact. Nalla kaathula poo sutharaangayaa!!

All said and done, this movie is watchable once but not more than once unless you are a film student and want to know how to act even with a makeup mask on you. This is a simple case of "Too many cooks spoiled the broth". Too many things said in three short hours made sure nothing reached the audience, or at best a garbled message reaches them. Want to know how to etch each character and still do something like acting 10 roles in one movie? Watch Navarathri by Sivaji Ganesan. Now, that is a movie! The lead actress(Savithri (thanks for pointing the error, G!)) leaves home on day one of Navrathri and meets eight different Sivajis and returns home on the tenth day to marry the ninth one. Every character adds some meaning to the movie and there is a good flow in the storyline. And each character, ranging from the inspector to the doctor to the skit maker to the terminal patient, has been done so perfectly and is so amazing. We just can't say that one character has been given more attention than the other or has been protrayed better than the rest. Everything was so good and it was all done with lesser makeup! I guess that is why Sivaji is still considered to be among the best of the best when it comes to acting and Kamal is still trying to reach there!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Absolute freedom - Just 9 minutes!!

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Musings tagged me. It is about the things that come to your mind within 9 minutes. I'm not exactly sure as to what absolute freedom means here... so let me take a guess, its the time when nothing matters in the world. You are free from all inhibitions and expectations of the world. Ok! Here goes my list!
1) I would invent a plane that would travel from India to US in half an hour's time(max). That way, I can stay in India and study/work in US. And, I would be living in the skies! What else does a person want?
2) I would relive every moment of my time with my grandmom.
3) I would make Vairamuthu write a song especially for me, get Rahman to compose it and ______ to sing it! (well that is a blank now! Will think of it after these 9 minutes)
4) I would try out the cauliflower chicken dosa that is available in select places in Karaikudi and Chennai.
5) I would go to all the planets and be back in a day.
6) I would have a body that knows no physical abuse (right now, my body lacks sleep( because of exams and submission deadlines), been subjected to jetlag(due to time differences), been hurt(due to the various injuries in games), been pumped with toxins(courtesy: all the fertilizers, pesticides we use for our vegetables),etc.)
7) I would have a tap of milk and honey in every home and every country. That way, our world would be a land of milk and honey.
8) With a wave of a wand, India would become sparkling clean and new(as clean as the leaves get after a good rain).
9) With another wave of a wand, all countries would be free of corruption, drugs and sexual abuse.(I know this is really too much to ask for, but hey! I have 9 minutes of absolute freedom... so, let me atleast think of it and enjoy it!)
10) I will know the thinking of man and the society.
11) I will make life easier for the common man by showing ways of enriching his life.
12) I would ask God what he thought when he created this planet of teeming life.
13) I would find out if ghosts and draculas and vampires truly exist (you can add manthreegam to that list! Black magic, voodoo dolls, african spirits - all are in too)
14) I would keep life simple and happy for the rest of my life

Guess my time is up. But it was an interesting exercise. In the first two minutes all I could think of was how I was going to finish up the pending work for the week. After that, I started with the list and didn't even realize I was over the allowed time by a few minutes. So, here goes my tag: Superficial gibbering prater, Arun, Dream Chaser, Priya and KK.