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Showing posts from April, 2012

Bangalore Alumni Meets

We kicked off this year's chapter meets (of IMT Nagpur alumni, our ex-students), with a bash at the Capitol at Bangalore last night. Attended by a good number from various batches from the first to the most recent, it was a  night of fellowship, fun and generous doses of entertainment provided by some spontaneous singing by lots of people-some unexpected. As usual, the last to leave were there beyond midnight. Hope the spirit is kept alive even after! Of course, some meaningful exchange of views took place in small group discussions too.

Got a chance to catch up with my own batchmates from IIMB this morning (the morning after) at the new MTR on St. Mark's Road. The idli-vada and kesari bath were good, the coffee super and the conversation, scintillating. I think when friends meet, the possibilities are endless.

Fortunately both Spicejet flights were on time, and provided a good experience on the whole. Looking ahead to the rest of the meets, coming soon.

Santoor and Tabla- Subhanalla

That inspired title comes from a concert I went to last night. One thought as I listened to the beautiful music being created on stage, in person by the musicians, was- why can't (or don't) we do this everyday? Might be tough to do live, but may be on a CD or other gizmos, it's entirely possible.

Even if you don't follow the intricasies of classical music- I don't- the master musicians sound divine. The players yesrday were Ram Kumar Misra from the Varanasi gharana on tabla, and Dhananjay Daithankar on the santoor- an instrument revived by Shiv Kumar Sharma in India. If I am not mistaken, it is this instrument that livens up the effect of "Tum agar saath dene ka vaada karo" from Humraaz (old, Sunil Dutt and Raj Kumar starrer), under the composer Ravi.

I went back to the times I heard Pt. Ravishankar (in 1991), Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma and Zakir Husain in Atlanta in maybe 1989, and Hariprasad Chaurasia and Amjad Ali Khan in a lecture-demo at IIMB for the cau…

Anopheles Stages a Comeback- Episode 5

Years ago, I had a friend called Anopheles, the female mosquito who bites. We  used to have a lot of conversations about various things. And then she vanished. Well, she has made a comeback.
I was deep in slumber the other night, when she buzzed me. I thought it was the cellphone, but it was my old friend.
“You don’t talk to me anymore,” she complained.
“It’s not you,” I said. “We don’t talk to anyone, period.”
“Why?” She seemed puzzled.
“Because of Facebook,” I told her.
“What’s that?” She arched her eyebrows.
I said, ‘Every few years, there is a new billionaire who creates something. Actually 'creates' is not the right word, because you can’t see his creations, except for a few fleeting seconds. Not made of flesh and blood, like you and me. The latest is this fellow, Zuckerberg by name, who made his billions and half the world has gone crazy. The other half is not on Facebook yet only because there is no electricity in their town.’
‘But what do you do on this Facebook?’ was…

Practical Sufism

I am not a Sufi, but reading about the 'ism' has been on my list for a while. Some books I had earlier browsed through at bookstores (yes, I am a relic who does my browsing physically) were a bit esoteric, and I left them alone. This one by Phillip Gowins was a trifle friendly looking, and I managed to read it in a couple of days. On the plus side, it is not dogmatic. It is quite funny, witty and well-written. It sticks to the basics, as one can imagine, because words are probably inadequate to explain faith.

Experience may do something to you if....as many mystics and gurus insist, and some philosophers- particularly J. Krishnamurty. This one insists that you must have a teacher, and work your way up the ladder of enlightenment. I have read a couple of others who differ, and say it can happen pretty quickly. It is a good intro, peppered with personal experiences from the author. Interesting stuff, though it would take more than a book to become one, if you were inclined. But…

Paan Singh Tomar

Actually, the title sounded weird, and I put off watching this movie partly due to its title. But in the light of many positive reccos, bought a VCD (poor man's DVD). And was really impressed. The lingo is a bit strange (some rural dialect of Hindi) and takes a bit of getting used to. But a powerhouse performance by Irrfan Khan, that would thrill his fans, and a taut screenplay makes it well worth a watch. And there is a message in it too. That we usually treat sportsmen badly- particularly our athletes.

There have been many good anti-establishment films made by the likes of Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal and so on. Ardh Satya, Aakrosh etc. tackled themes from farmer's problems to corruption and ganglords, and this is another in the category. A bit unusual, like the name of its director, Tigmanshu Dhulia.

Rural India probably has a lot of problems unlike the ones we have (traffic, noise, angst), and this movie makes you aware of some. Sibling rivalry over land is one that is …

The Pleasures of Inefficient Service

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The title may sound oxymoronic or simply moronic, but there are occasions when slow and inefficient service is better than the quick, cut and dried version. I had an experience like this at a McDonald's a couple of days ago. With some friends, we ordered three things, one of which was promised to us soon at the table, and it never arrived for about 45 minutes. We reminded a passing body (employee), and then it did arrive. If we had not, maybe it would have been even later! The whole point of the Irani chai joints in Hyderabad and elsewhere was to have a long chat with friends with a single chai (half a cup of tea). You can of course, carry on at a Coffee Day or a Barista too, albeit at a higher out-of-pocket expense. And you may get some dirty looks if the place is full. This is guaranteed not to happen in an Irani chai place. Here is a pic of one here that does not exist any more- used to be in the Osmania University campus at Hyderabad, and a favourite with students.

Anyway, we…

Places I Liked Living In

Going on with this places thing, I lived in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Calicut/Kozhikode, Lucknow, Harihar, and Nagpur in my working life since 1984.

If I were to think about places that I liked living in, Harihar would top the list. I did not know where it was when I went there, but the small town-great facilities combo was like suburban living in an idyllic suburb of any city. We lived in a colony which had 40 year old trees, a river (Tungabhadra) within walking distance, a market also close enough to walk to- I am reminded of Bill Bryson's comment that we hardly walk anywhere these days- and a golf course within walking distance, to top it all. What more can a man ask for?

Bhubaneswar was also idyllic in its own way, no pollution, all green, and an almost rural feel. Why do we yearn for this rural ambience? Because it relaxes the spirit. Very tough to be relaxed in the midst of screaming traffic and chaos everywhere around you, I suppose. We find an esca…

With Love to Russia

There was a James Bond movie titled From Russia with Love. I took the title and twisted it a little, but primarily, this is to express my surprise (pleasant one, of course) at the readership from Russia (for this blog) crossing the readership in India and that from the U.S. for the current week.

Not very clear about why this happened, but I am quite happy about the fact that it has happened in unexpected quarters. I only knew Raj Kapoor's films were popular in Russia some time ago.

Visiting Hyderabad on some work, met two alumni of early batches of KIAMS for a long chat. One of them had helped write a case about her company called Golftripz, which pioneered Golf tours for Indians wanting to play abroad. Hoping to eat some authentic Hyderabadi biryani as I am in close proximity to one of its major purveyors, Paradise restaurant.


Weird Places- contd.

Chateau D' If, off Marseilles in France. Setting where The Count of Monte Cristo is based. Had an Indian style toilet on the island.

Greece- the whole country behaves like India does. Including the economy getting into trouble. We were already there in 1991. Only the mediterranean/Aegean waters are bluer. And Hindi is not Greek to me. They even have Gods who behave like ours. And have written epics about them.

Nandi Hills near Bangalore- apparently the only reason people go there is to drink beer. I guess people are weird, not the place.

Airports with aerobridges lying idle- as you can guess, I am sitting at one. Gotta go, or I'll miss the bus.

Weirdest Places I Have Been to

There's a website advertised that lets you advertise places that you have travelled to, I believe. Like the websites that tell you what colour your necklace should be, which celebrity you will be reborn as, or things of that sort, if you get the drift. So I thought I would join the movement by listing the weirdest -ok, unusual, if you don't like the word weird- places I have visited.

Gatlinburg in the U.S. is one of them, for sure. The only time we thought of it was when the Fall colours were in full bloom, that is, trees were orange and yellow instead of green. Gatlinburg was a mountain full of these multi-hued trees. One time, we drove 4 hours to get there from Clemson, and drove right back coz there were no rooms available in the whole town.

The four-Presidential-faces-carved-in-stone fame Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Had it not been for the man who carved those, South Dakota might have had a visitor population of zero. I am not even sure there is a population of any kind …

Have Pen, Will Travel by MJ Akbar

This book is a great find. Not only is it a tour of many places around the world, it is also a tour de force. There, I managed to use a big word/phrase, long after I wrote my GRE. But seriously, the book is overflowing with wit. Here are a few sample one-liners (well, two in some cases) from it.

The English are different from you and me. They have more clubs.

The Englishman not only has a stiff upper lip but also a stiff lower hand. (he contrasts this with the Italian who gestures a lot while talking, even on the phone where he is unseen)

A brasserie in France is a kind of restaurant and not a kind of brassiere.

A literary fest is the space between ego and alter ego. Give an author a stage and watch a peacock dance.

If the English could only export tradition they would never have a trade deficit.

I will try a gather a few more as I go along. In the same class as Bill Bryson, in my view. And Indian in perspective.

My IIMB Batchmates- 3

VALIVATI PRABHAKAR (MAASA / DADA)

His was the most purr-fect English accent earning him unbounded laurels in all marketing
courses. At the end of his presentation on OPEC, he was asked about the future of the
organisation. He replied coolly "I give it another six years". Deccan Herald lapped him up when he performed some anti-MBA stunts on their editorial page.

S. SIVARAM (BAAS / R2D2)

His love-life began and ended with the ORG-80. No wonder he was asking for a more
interactive computer to have a proper ORG-Y. George Lucas is reportedly on the lookout for him to star in "The Boss Strikes Again" - the role is the Bass who spoke with a high treble. His addiction : MAD magazine.

Tagline: “The boss is always right”

S. RAVIKUMAR (JACKET RAVI / IAS / IN TOTO)

He was thrilled at the bureaucratic prospect of being nicknamed I.A.S. until he was given the full form-it stands for "Invisible After Sunset". He claims his moustache has never been shaved ever since conception. S…

Hindi Film Song by Ashok Ranade

This is a book I am reading. What I find fascinating about it is that it exists, first and foremost. We in India have a tendency to treat film music as frivolous and unworthy of serious research- academic or otherwise. So mostly we have film journalists who have written about films or film music. Some are commendable, but here is an academically oriented book which talks about the great power of films and music, and its positive impact on people and culture. The reasons why film music had to differ from the classical or laid-out traditions are also nicely explained. There is an anecdote about Anil Biswas being offended by C. Ramchandra's (both composers) use of western instruments, and calling him up, to ask him what he thought he was doing. To which he replied, he was trying to sound like C. Ramchandra, and not like Anil Biswas!

I think the idea itself deserves praise. The book is a great ride into the history of Indian (and world) cinema, with a chronological listing of major wor…

Detain A Celebrity- A New Game

Immigration clerks are a bored lot. Day after day (or night after night), they look at passport photos (in itself a depressing sight), and ask some dumb questions to passengers who are about to slip out of their grasp. So what do they do?

Invent a game, of course. It's called detain a celebrity. Why should only cops who bust gangs of smugglers or a haul of opium hog all the limelight? Just detain a celebrity for an hour or two, and you can appear on national TV- without any talent whatsoever, not even needing to proclaim your love for Mother Tersa, and wanting to save the starving children in Sub-saharan Africa (where is that?).

So the game is on. First Abdul Kalam, for sporting a suspicious hair-style, and Shah Rukh, for laughing in a kinky manner, to Kamal Haasan, for appearing to be a good actor (and therefore, having things to hide). But forgetting an important dialogue in the process. Khel tumne shuru kitya hai mere dost, magar ise khatam main karoonga. Wah, wah. Taaliyan.

Annual Retreat at Pachmadhi

We (IMT Nagpur) have started a custom of an annual faculty retreat for a couple of days in April, after winding up of the academic year. We debate a few issues, including student-related stuff, teaching-learning related stuff, and design of courses and manning them for the coming year.

This year we went to Pachmadhi, a British-era hill station (actually all of them are Bristish-era) in Madhya Pradesh, about 5-6 hours drive from Nagpur. First thing we noticed was that the roads were in good condition. The road winds its way through a few hills in the Satpura range, through Chhindwara, Parasiya, and Matkuli where you turn into the final ghat (hill) road that takes you up to Pachmadhi. Though the area is mostly dry now, there are a lot of trees, that would turn green with the arrival of rains.

Pachmadhi is named after five caves, that the Pandavas are supposed to have occupied briefly while on their wanderings through forests. There are also some views of deep gorges and a couple of temple…

Give us our Daily Soap

Here are some new prayers for the modern generation.

1. Give us our daily soap- as in mind-numbing soap opera, not the body-cleaner.

2. Give us a new Facebook profile- a new way to look at ourselves. Mirrors are so old-fashioned. Vanity, thou hast a new FACE!

3. Give us the daily dose of instant wisdom. Some out-of-context quotes from online storehouses which now replace Himalayan Masters and the Oracles of Delphi.

4. Give us a disaster a day, to keep our media alive. With only one condition, God, that I don't figure in any of them.

5. Give us our high fat, high sodium, high sugar diet so we can be on a permanent high.

Amen!

Papa to band bajayein- Housefull 2 Review

I liked Mithun best of all the actors, though the others were pretty good for their parts too. A farce that plays out nicely, so you don't feel the length of the film, it is much better than its prequel, which was hardly funny. The story is pretty hackneyed, and probably the same as in part 1. But the treatment is slick and the laughs are pretty regular and pretty good. The music also adds to it, and so do the animals in the early part- the alligator and the python. For me, 'Papa to band bajayein' was the best, with its catchy tune, and lyrics, and a rollicking dance sequence. Very colourful.

The (old villain and here the'rapist' with a pun on the word) Ranjit takeoff also works, and Asin does a good job of imitating him too. Akshay acts well, though the effort shows a bit, but John is still struggling to act well, or at all. Johny Lever pulls out a few good punches to keep the drama going. Randhir and Rishi are good in parts, and their wives have nothing to do. Ana…

New Forms of Knighthood

It's time to democratise Knighthood. America is the logical global policeman who should take the lead. But since it is a democratic process, let me, a non-American, outline some of the contours of the proposal. First of all, the people conferred with the honour will be called Days, not Knights.

Citizens (and not Kings or Queens, obnoxious relics of a non-democratic way of functioning) will confer 'Dayhood on the 'Days'. They will be nominated based on what happens in the neighbourhood. I can nominate my bus conductor, or school teacher, or my waiter in the restaurant, or the balloon seller who makes the kids smile, for Dayhood. Not more than twenty nominations will be required to be generated for this to happen.

The Dayhood will essentially recognise a person's ability to brighten up people's days in some way- through being a nice person, by bringing joy into others' lives, by bringing a smile to your face, etc..there will be no control on the number of Day…

Men and Women –A Perfect Balance

Inspired by the Mars and Venus book (he became a millionaire, I may or may not), here is my own attempt to put the two major creations of God (in our neighbourhood, not the jungle) in perspective. That nature needs balance is beyond the shadow of a doubt. Let us examine how men and women help nature achieve it.

Women like to nurture. Man likes to be nurtured. It is a habit formed in childhood.

Women like clean surroundings, and are prepared to work for them. Ditto man, but he is willing to let women work for them, but does not insist they do so.

Women like to cook. Man likes to eat.

Women like to shop. He likes to let them do so, if he can afford it, as long as he is not required to go along.

Women like shiny metal, and men (with a couple of exceptions like Bappi Lahiri) detest the stuff. Keeps the gold economy going. Similarly, man keeps the newspaper industry alive by reading tons of newsprint.

When sports are on TV, he does not even wish to argue, and will readily agree with anything h…

1984 by George Orwell- A Review

Rather late in life, I read a classic that I had missed out on. I would rate it as a masterpiece- can't find a more suitable word to describe it. A few countries in the world probably practice what Orwell has described as fiction even today. A few have stopped doing so recently, particularly the communist bloc of countries, and countless must have done so in different forms of oppression and colonialism.

What is important is to remember that Orwell was unhappy with British imperialism when he wrote it (around 1948), and not with some unknown dark force. He conjures up a great humdinger of a tale, which is about a ruthless, brutal and completely power-mad state operating out of London, the capital of a fictional State called Oceania, the other two being Eurasia and Eastasia. These three states are perpetually at war, or so the citizens are told. The hero works in a department which alters the truth by rewriting all newspapers, books, so that whatever the state says, appears to have …

Of Culture, Epics and Epidemics

Heard that there is an obesity epidemic in the land of burgers and Coke. We were used to some good old epidemics like Malaria, or Plague, or Chicken pox or something similar. But what is an obesity epidemic? Is it more, or less terrifying than a terrorist epidemic? Also, is it endemic (whatever that means) to a particular culture? Also, a related question- is culture good or bad for you?

Organising my thoughts neatly (something I keep attempting from time to time), here they are-

Culture is not entirely good for you, because it is more out of habit that one gets used to a type of food, or songs, or ways of celebrating something like festivals, or a wedding, or many such things. The problem is, you tend to cling to your way of doing things, by force of habit. Which is also fine, but for the tendency is to view your culture as being superior to other cultures that may be different.

Epidemics have a positive side too. They restore the balance between living beings and consumable resources l…

Jumping Jack aka Jeetendra

Going back to the 70s is a favourite pastime of mine. Yesterday I chanced on some choice songs on TV starring Jeetendra and Leena Chandavarkar (separately and together). Some of these songs are actually rollicking and great fun. Humjoli was one such movie where they combine to sing Hai Re Hai Neend Nahi Aaye, and a couple of other songs - Dhal gaya din, ho gayi shaam jaane do, jaana hai (where they sing while playing Badminton, and the sound of the shots is incorporated into the song), etc..

Next to Shammi Kapoor, Jeetendra was the most physical in his dance movements those days, and I still remember him jumping around singing the song from Farz- Mast baharon ka main aashiq main jo chaahe yaar karoon..- in a Bond style role.

He later had a string of songs with Sridevi in films like Mawaali, Tohfaa etc.(which were parodied well in the recent Dirty Picture), but the song quality had significantly deteriorated by then. But the zest and physicality of the action remained.

Some good films h…

SPSS Workshop at Chennai

IMT is doing a workshop at Chennai for faculty and research scholars, of which I will be a part. On April 6th, 7th and 8th. That is, later this week. This is a skill I picked up while I was getting a Ph.D. in the US of A at Clemson. It has served me well since, and I find its actual use (correct use, if I might add) remains rare in India even today. Mostly, it is because faculty trained in using it are not many. And therefore their research scholars face a handicap.

We have tried to contribute our mite by doing these workshops from the point of view of practitioners/Ph.D. scholars rather than mathematicians- we aren't mathematicians to begin with, anyway. But the user needs to know his needs and some really basic statistics to be able to use this statistical package for his analysis needs. So that is what we try to provide, a little background of what is needed, and some hands-on experience so that the user starts using it, and learns by himself after a while. Tried this at IIM Koz…

TED Talks

Many readers may be familiar with TED and an author called Alain De Botton who I have read recently and like. Here are links to two of his talks under the TED banner. One about success and the other about what atheists can learn from religion. Great stuff.

http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_a_kinder_gentler_philosophy_of_success.html


http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_atheism_2_0.html