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Showing posts from December, 2011

Of Cyclones and More- Mission Impossible

I was in Great Lakes Institute at Chennai for a conference. Against impossible odds, when Cyclone Thane (a Burmese name) threatened, we still managed a round of Golf at the Gymkhana early morning before it struck. Mission Impossible? Tom Cruise would be proud. Great Lakes justified its name, and looked like all the Lakes had converged on it. Conference went on quite well in spite of that.

One of the bonuses of a conference is you get to meet academic friends and others too. Both missions were fulfilled. Some interesting papers on advertising effectiveness came from presenters. Also squeezed in some movies, including Mission Impossible 4- The Ghost Protocol. Interesting concept, though not new. Tom Cruise is aging, but still watchable. But a better film was a video watch called Hotel Rwanda, about a brave manager at this hotel who saves many guests through his innovative thinking, during one of the usual civil wars/coups that are the bane of many African nations. Moving, with a very goo…

Airport Blog

A first for me- blogging from an airport internet connection. The first floor on Mumbai airport's domestic terminal. Seems like a damn good terminal, better than the one on the ground floor, which is congested. Making some strides towards an international look and feel, in some areas. The first flight from Nagpur was also surprisingly nice, and almost on time. While I wait for the next to Chennai, these are some musings on life at an airport, as felt first-hand. I am destined to spend a lot of time at airports, so might as well make the most of it.

Nagpur airport also has inaugurated its aerobridge recently, and the number of flights out of Nagpur has gone up too, with added connections to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Srinagar (via Delhi) etc. Spicejet started flying to Nagpur, but Kingfisher seems to have stopped doing so.

Got to go check the food options.

Wit from Douglas Adams and Mark Twain

Here are some gems from two witty authors.

1. Mark Twain

Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.

Familiarity breeds contempt- and children.

2. Douglas Adams (from Salmon of Doubt, a collection of his works)

In the old Soviet Union, they used to say that anything that wasn't forbidden was compulsory, and the trick was to remember which was which.

You can't ignore someone who isn't there, because that's not what ignore means.

...and I discover that the reason why my wife isn't talking to me any more is that she is in fact married to someone else.

Am I alone in finding the expression "it turns out" to be incredibly useful? It allows you to make swift, succint and authoritative connections between otherwise randomly unconnected statements without the trouble of explaining what your source of authority actually is. It's great.

Music Arrangers and the Sound of Music

Times Now had an interesting program yesterday on the men behind the music, apart from the composer, of course. These are called arrangers. They may also play an instrument or two, but they form an integral part of the team that a composer uses, and lead it, so to speak. Some of the innovations in the music one hears are from the arrangers, though they may be behind the scenes, and you may never hear about them.

Maruti Keer, Kersi Lord, Manohari Singh,.. ever heard of them? They were all a part of the R.D. Burman team that produced magical numbers throughout the 70s and some in the 80s (and late 60s). The tinkling sound in the Hum Dono song Main Zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya, was from an innovative instrument brought in by Kersi Lord (for Jaidev, the composer), which was used by church choirs, and brought in an element of novelty that charms you even today.

Similarly, the trumpets (or something similar) in some songs from Teesri Manzil, and the percussion used in 'Saamne ye K…

There is a Child in Us

There is a child in all of us, peeping out of adulthood. It does not stand a chance when the adult self is dominant, which is most of the time. The compulsive urge of an adult is to not do things, whereas the child wants to do things, experiment and importantly, have fun. Also play hookey and do mischief, of course.

There are some occasions where the child in us adults comes out of its self-imposed seriousness, and lets go. It happens often while playing a game. All the natural instincts of a child are apparent- the joy of doing well, the disappointment of a bad shot, the friendly on-field banter and sometimes, even disagreements over fair play. Particularly so in tean games.

Ovia, a cultural activity team of IMT students, organised a fete last week in the tradition of Christmas school fetes we all had in school days. There were games of skill, chance and lots of food stalls with home-cooked food (there's also a chef in all of us!). Everyone had a lot of fun, and relived their child…

Subliminal Communication

Why do we communicate? My theory is that there are subliminal messages we want to send when we say something/wear something/do something. They could be the following-

1. I need you/I don't need you

2. I want to be noticed.

3. Tell me how smart/beautiful I am.

4. The world should be more like me.

5. The world does not understand my greatness/smartness/wisdom/competence etc...

6. My kameez is whiter than yours- brilliant ad which used it well. Don't understand why everyone in washing ads only wears white though.

7. I own this brand/I shop here/I eat at xyz restaurant. Therefore, I am ....

8. Women don't understand what men want...or its more popular version, men don't understand, period! (which may or may not be true)

9. Like me..(not subliminal any more after Facebook invented the option to 'Like' anything and everything).

10. You don't love me...made popular by Western soap operas in which every other sentence is a reaffirmation of a false premise.

Boxing Day

Why this singling out of one sport to the detriment of others? What crime have they committed to be excluded from having a Day of their own? I hereby modify the List of Holidays to include the following-

1. Match fixing day for cricket. The anniversary of the first match fixed will be celebrated on this day, every year. The movie on match-fixing (Jannat) will be screened to celebrate the event. Speeches from invited celebrities accused of fixing matches will be a highlight.

2. World Hooliganism Day for English Football. Hooligans of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but A FEW TEETH. Knock them out, guys!

3. F-1 Day. This is not a cuss-word, but about the motor-sport where adults drive things that should be logically driven by kids, at speeds that can kill- and do! Celebrations are in order, what?

4. Archery Day. How can we forget the (blood) sport that won so many wars before Mr. Nobel's invention of gunpowder (or was it dynamite?) that put it to shade?

5. Doper's Day for…

Fun with English Language

All languages are funny, in different ways. So is English. So I am just having fun with English here.

If you had to find the comparative and superlative for 'I', it would be Iyer and Iyest. I, Iyer and Iyest. Did I hear an I I O?

Why is a dentist called a dentist when he does not repair dents?

Is spice the plural of spouse?

Does everything that starts with the prefix Wiki always leak? Or is it that everything that leaks can be called a Wiki?

Does Waka, Waka have any relation to Wiki, Wiki?

Why does DoCoMo sound a lot like Quasimodo, or an exotic African parrot, by any name?

If Pizza Hut upgrades, will it become a Pizza Palace, or will it only be a Pizza Apartment?

If a government stops governing, what should it be called?

'Anna' means food in many Indian languages. So why is he always fasting?

European governments don't know their differential calculus. That is why, they will never have a "derivatives"-led crisis. Only deficit-driven ones.

If Romanov is not made in…

Delicatessen- French Film

Happened to watch a French film by this name. It is a difficult film to make, I think. The reason being that it moves around in just one boarding house with many tenants and the owner, who runs a butcher shop on the ground floor. What does he butcher? Among other things, his servants. One manages to run away by hiding in a garbage can.

But this is not a horror story. Actually, it is a comedy- a different type, to be sure. Some of the scenes are really creative, like various sounds from different homes in the building starting out slowly, and rising to a crescendo- including you-know-what. Brilliantly conceived, it plays out like a musical performance.

A bit of imaginative characterisation is that of the Troglodytes, who live underground (literally!) and dream of getting enough to eat! Grains are in short supply (even in the world above), and people use grain as currency for buying stuff!

The butcher's daughter falls in love with the new man (an ex-Magician)employed by her dad, and th…

If I were Santa Claus...

If I were Santa Claus with the power to gift things to kids of all ages, these are a few things I would gift-

1. A pin to all those powers-that-be who are puffed up with imagined glory, greatness of their selves. All it would take is a tiny prick of this pin, and they'd be normal again.

2. A tape of old songs to all new/budding/upcoming music directors, to remind them that music can be melodious too.

3. An auto-edit machine to Hindi film-makers that will cut their films to (2/3rd) their size.

4. A cut-and-paste software that doesn't work, to students , so that they put on their thinking caps. Caps will be complimentary.

5. A boomerang that will bring back all negative thoughts to the thinker with twice the force. That will usher in positive thinking, better than Dale Carnegie and all the others.

6. Automatically turn all silly TV programs into something meaningful. That might get people to do other things than TV watching, which would benefit humanity, besides keeping everybody heal…

Staging a Speech

Shakespeare said, "All the World's a Stage, and we are .." but I am not sure if he visualised that the stage would be set for staging several things. When we set the stage for a formal or even informal function, why is it that everyone around who is a somebody has to make a speech? What purpose does it serve? And why do speeches have to eulogise everyone who is in sight?

One could argue that this hones the speaker's speech-making skills. I read a cartoon in today's paper that says "Why is it that all the after-dinner speakers are men?"
The answer is, "Because women can't hold on (without speaking) for so long!" There are even clubs that call themselves Toastmaster's Clubs that encourage members to make speeches regularly. I guess the purpose is to prove that unless you make a good one, 'you are TOAST'.

True or false as it may be, why this urge to speak, usually to an unwilling and disinterested audience? Does it prove that langu…

An Unusual Film - On the Other Side

This is an unusual feature film in many ways. It has more music than dialogue. It stars only amateur actors in lead roles. It is not released in any theatre yet. It is a unique short film, made entirely by IMT students at Nagpur. Shot on a shoestring budget, it is more like an FTII student film- I saw a few tagged on to some World Cinema DVDs by Ingmar Bergman and so on a few times (one of them was made by Kundan Shah of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro fame).

The film is very well-made, focused on its subject of our existence in multiple dimensions, or lives. Starring only two major characters, it effortlessly transcends journeys of multiple lifetimes, through the girl's soul, which does the time traveling (or life-traveling).

The angst of a couple in this multi-life drama is captured very economically and effectively. You wouldn't know it, but almost the entire film is shot in or around the campus, except a sequence at the church. Minimalist in its dialogue, it resembles some good art films…

Lawrence of Arabia- film review (classic)

Not that the review is classic, the film is! I saw it only once before, way back in high school in the seventies, and it stuck in the mind- I think it was at the Sangeet theatre, Secunderabad- another classic that no longer exists!

Anyway, this movie shows what wonders are possible when a film-maker is uncompromising, single-mindedly focused on telling a great story. It is long by English standards, but that does not affect the viewer one bit- at least, not me. Engrossing, it could be called a film about the birth of Saudi Arabia and a few other Middle Eastern Countries, and the role played by a non-descript and maverick Lieutenant Lawrence of the British Army, in it. He brings together warring Arab tribes and puts the idea of Arabia in their heads, in the process snatching a part of the Turkish empire from the Turks.

Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif and a host of others support the strong central character played by Peter O'Toole. A visual delight for its desert panoramas,…

The Emperor of All Maladies- Book Review

The book (about Cancer) is stunning, in the amount of research it condenses into its pages. Incredibly, it is written like a whodunit. A little long, in this case it's understandably so. To go from a Persian Queen diagnosed with cancer to the most modern treatments and the biology of the cell- which is the cause or at least the promoter of cancer in a human body, is no joke. And immense amount of research seems to have gone into fighting it too.

It reminded me of Bill Bryson's book in which he has recreated the history of nearly everything. Absorbingly told, it is a no-holds-barred tale of politics, biology, chemistry, medicine, despair, hope and everything in between. At least, an understanding of cancer seems to be within grasp, and the fundamental changes that happen in the cell that goes crazy enough to multiply uncontrollably seem to have been mapped.

Complex as the disease and its manifestations are, partly because the gene mutations are constantly evolving themselves, so…

Kilkari- A Social Initiative by Students

IMT students have an organisation called Kilkari (Hindi word that represents a sound like chirping, I guess), that contributes in a small way to an NGO that runs a school for deaf and dumb or otherwise challenged kids in Katol, a town near us. These kids study up to 10th grade in their school, and also learn other useful crafts which they can use to make a living if required.

Every year, IMT students bring them all for a day of fun and outing to our campus. The kids sing, dance, play on the grounds, and get to enjoy a day out among our students. Today was one such day. The parts that I saw of the cultural program were heart-warming, with a girl dancing with abandon to a hit Tamil song, and another singing flawlessly a Hindi song.

It is indeed a nice thing to do. We started it in 2009, before I got here, thanks to my predecessor and a faculty member, Prof. Ekkirala. Got to know a little bit of the school's struggle in its eighteen year-existence, and that restored my faith in humanit…

Winter Sets in

Winter has set in at Nagpur, roughly at the time it does every year. I am reminded of some of the winters in my earlier life. Nagpur winters are mild by comparison.

One I will remember vividly for a long time was in Kashmir. I had visited with my parents and sister in 1978, and we stayed on the Dal Lake, in a houseboat. Not a great idea, in retrospect. That night was one hell of a cold night, and two or three rugs were not enough! I think my dad had to save me by lying on top of the quilts for a while to add to their warmth. There were no heaters on the boat!

Another similar night was at The Grand Canyon, USA, one winter. This time, I saved myself with some brandy, I think. There were several cold nights in the US, during my stay of 5 years. One visit to New York during winter holidays, we stayed indoor to beat the cold, the entire time!

Once at the IIM Lucknow campus, it was around zero degrees for almost a week, and gave me the jitters. Wonder how the nawabs coped with it.

A recent visi…

World's Greatest Inventions- General

This is my list of the world's greatest general inventions.

1. The battery- even if electricity connections fail us, the battery can keep us going. Like the heart, which keeps pumping blood for a few decades. Battery life enhancement will win a million admirers to the guy who does it.

2. Cures for common ills- like the flu. Not sure if there is one, though.

3. Books. My life certainly would have been worse off, for the lack of these. Thank you, whoever thought of it.

4. The train. Magical moments are tied to train journeys undertaken, particularly in childhood. The steam-engined ones were the best, like classic wine. The sounds they make is still music to the ears. Even the song 'Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai' gives me the goosebumps.

5. The Single Malts- I am not much of a beer drinker, but single malts are worth celebrating their inventor. Germans will disagree!

6. Parents- you wouldn't survive for too long, if they weren't around to give you unconditional c…

Dropping Names- Benefits of Branding

What would we do for snobbery if there were no brands? They are a great help at all times. Imagine the following snippets of conversation without the brand names and you will immediately agree with me.

I had this urge for a pastry and went to Black Chariot you know....you could substitute this with coffee and Starbucks or other appropriate options.

When I was at the Taj last week,....

I always fly Lufthansa, they are expensive, but their service is great.

I couldn't resist the latest Paco Rabanne/Armani/Dolce and Gabbana/Prada at the Dubai airport while returning from the Shopping Festival, you know...

When I visited my son/daughter in New York/Sydney/Singapore....

McD is the only place I like for my burgers, yaar.

My Blackberry/ipad is so cool. You should get one, you know.

My dream is to drive a Ferrari (in silent mode- actually, I own a Maruti 800).

I lost my Mont Blanc (pen) the other day...I was so sad, but my dad said he'd buy me another one!

When I was at IIM/IIT/Harvard/MIT/,..…

World's Greatest Inventions- Food

There are many foods that qualify to be included in this list. Let me attempt to put down a few.

Avakai- a mango pickle that is delicious and hot! An Andhra speciality.

Rasagolla- needs no description.

Appam- A Kerala version of the dosa, with a puff.

Ice cream. A perennial favourite of all ages.

Chocolate- another favourite over centuries. Can also be combined with ice cream for a double delight.

Prawn/Fish curry in coconut milk. Delicious stuff.

Chicken Chettinad.

Puran poli, a sweet roti which is a staple in Maharashtrian festivals.

Gilawati kabab, also called Tunde kabab. Originated in Lucknow with a melt-in-your-mouth softness.

Hyderabadi Biryani, exemplified by the stuff you get at Paradise (the restaurant).

Noodles- China would not exist without this.

Burger- Americans, and McDonald's would not exist without this.

Tandoori roti- the process of making it is itself fascinating.

Aloo tikki- simple yet great tasting.

Bhel- you can get creative with the ingredients here!

Pan- Banaraswala or any…

Delhi Roundabout

In Delhi for some work, I got a chance to meet some engineering batchmates who live here and some who dropped in from Hyderabad for a mini-reunion of alumni. The setting was the Air Force Golf club. Very nice ambience; they have a private party room.

Many of my friends are into infrastructure development companies, electrical energy or otherwise. Nation-building is their everyday business. Nice to see things moving on many fronts, from airports to solar energy.

The Delhi winter and fog has just begun, with its attendant flight and train disruptions. Maybe it's a reminder that man can't control everything, even though he thinks he does. Having lived here a long time ago for about a year, I am familiar with some parts, but the metro has added a new dimension to the city. Traffic is still bad at peak times in the major corridors though.

IIM Bangalore Visit

Had a chance to visit my alma mater, IIM Bangalore, for a conference on Entrpreneurship where my co-authors and I are presenting a case on a Nagpur-based entrepreneur who exports wood-metal figurines made by craftsmen who are ex-Bastar tribals. It has interesting business issues, and could be a good teaching case.

The campus of IIMB is unique in the sense that it looks like a mini-forest, with plants, shrubs and trees of different hues all around. It is pleasant to walk around. Maybe you could call it a B school in the middle of a forest. Like IIMA which is known for its architecture, and might be termed as a B school in the middle of an architectural wonder. As an aside, at one time, ASCI at Hyderabad used to be called a college attached to a bar, as it had an active beverage service!

The crowd at the conference was eclectic, and had a sprinkling of international faces. Since the focus is on BRIC nations, there were a few Chinese and Brazilian paper presenters too. Maybe some Russians …

Tintin- the Movie

I used to read both Asterix and Tintin, though I liked Asterix a shade better. But Tintin was also a regular read, and his characters like Thomson and Thom(p)son, Professor Calculus, and Captain Haddock were familiar territory. We had even named some of our IIMB classmates after some of these characters, for either their looks or their behavior.

It was fun to see these characters brought to life. Along with their typical traits and dialogues- 'blue blistering barnacles' (Captain Haddock) and 'to be precise' (Thompson). The titles are themselves a work of art, and very enjoyable. The use of the same font as in the comics gave them a very familiar feel.

This one is called the Secret of the Unicorn. I was never too sure what a unicorn was, but that did not reduce the enjoyment one bit. I thought it was an animated film, so it turned out to be a surprise. Not sure if they created masks for all the characters in the movie. Actually, it was running houseful last week, and so …

Dev Saab and his Music

I never tire of writing about music and Dev Anand was much more musically minded than most film directors/actors that I know of. Probably includes Vijay Anand, his brother who directed some of his films and had great music too.

Anyway, these are some of his musical numbers that I recall, from his films.

The Hemant Kumar song from Solva Saal, 'Hai apna dil to aawara , na jaane kis pe aayega'. I had once learnt to play this on a harmonium.

'Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar, pyaar ka raag suno' from Tere Ghar Ke Samne, I think. Very melodious, sung (in the movie) inside the Qutab Minar.

'Hey, maine kasam li' and 'Jeevan ki bagiya mehkegi' from the film 'Tere Mere Sapne'.

'Yeh duniya wale poochenge, mulaqat hui, kya baat hui' from Mahal.

'Nafrat karne waalon ke seene mein pyaar bhar doon', 'Pal bhar ke liye koi hamein pyaar kar de', and 'Oooo. mere Raja' from Johny Mera Naam, which I hold to be a classic of the Bollywood masala ge…

Dev Anand- A Tribute

He made/makes me feel young at all ages- his and mine. He was youth personified. The energy he exuded in his eighties would put a 30 year old to shame. I read his autobiography a couple of years ago, and it is written in the same style he brought to his films. Many of them were classics and dealt with themes which were relevant to the times. Drugs-in Hare Rama Hare Krishna with its unforgettable Dum Maro Dum number, Des Pardes on the theme of migration blues, Tere Mere Sapne on the subject of rural doctors, and of course, the classic Guide with its story of extra-marital love.

Then there were pure entertainers like Johny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief and Hum Dono. Prem Pujari, an unsuccessful movie, also had lovely songs like Phoolon Ke Rang Se, and Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye. His association with SD Burman and RD Burman resulted in some glorious music over a few decades.

He also introduced a few heroines like Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim to the film industry. His peculiar crinkly neck which bob…

A History of Technology- From my Viewpoint

We did use slates in school and at home, I believe. Not e-slates, the good old ones. This was around 1960 and beyond. Then, we had our blackboards and chalk in school. We had exposure to some technology through the radio, fairly gargantuan in size, through the sixties and seventies, and I remember you needed to renew a licence to operate/use a radio at home.

We heard of a contraption called Skylab which was sent into space and the collapsed back on to the earth around 1977 or 78. There was a story that a Sardar had named his kid Skylab Singh after this lab. Around 1982, the Delhi Asiad, colour TV entered our lives, having given us our fill of the black and white variety for a few years before that. I watched all the early TV shows like Chitahaar and the weekly movie in B&W.

The floppy drive computer with 256k RAM and disks of 5 and 1/4 inch was what I first used in the US in 1986. This was state-of-the-art then. Apple was floundering, though it had a loyal band of followers. The IB…

Dirty Picture- a Review

Silk Smitha (deliberately using the southern spelling) was apparently quite a character, and lived life mostly on her own terms. I vaguely remember some of her films. Though not much to look at, she made up with a lot of oomph and verve, and the public lapped it up. Though thinly disguised, this film is probably her story.

Vidya Balan is one of my favourite actresses, and she does the role justice. The spirit of a woman who wants to make it big in films, yet who longs for love after having made it, is well captured. The sidelights or commentary on the whole business of films that the movie presents are themselves worth the watch. What are the causes of the movie moghuls churning out trash (the audience, as suspected), the casting couches, the phenomenon of the 60-year old lecherous hero (brilliantly portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah, who, but for the pot-belly, fits the role perfectly), the cronies, the hapless writers who have to twist their tale according to star whims, the fate of the …

Norwegian Wood- the film

This is a Japanese film subtitled in English, based on a book of the same name. Had read the book just a week or two earlier, and so was familiar with the storyline. But the movie still amazed me. One, the story itself is full of unexpected events. But more than that, the style of telling it is in tune with the storyteller's- it is slow, lyrical, almost magical.

If there were an adult fairytale (can't think of any better description), this might be it. Emotions of grownups, but the candidness of a child comes through in every frame. The enchanting scenery of a snow-laden Japanscape complements the rhythm, and the result is mesmerising.

I do hope more directors take on the challenge of converting Murakami's other books into celluloid (not sure if celluloid is the right term, given changes in film technology). Poetry in motion is what you would get, if that happens.