Tuesday, October 17, 2006

God's Gift

For some strange reason, I got reminded of Reddy Sir today. I got my 12th physics tuition from him. He was a great teacher. He was an expert in his domain and was a fun guy to have as your teacher. In particular, he knew how to relate to his students, most of them in their mid-teens.

Ours was an all-boys batch and we used to have a great time cracking jokes(mostly non-veg). One day one guy was like “Sir I got terrible backache”, and Reddy Sir asks in his inimitable south indian accent “Abe kya yaar abhi shaadi nahi kiya aur abhi se yeh sab”. And another day, it was somebody's birthday and one guy asked, “Sir why do we celebrate birthday when actually we are getting one year nearer to our death”. Pat came Reddy Sir's response, “You duffer! you should be happy, you are one year nearer to your marriage”. Jokes apart, he had this knack of explaining complex physics theories like some interesting story. Thanks to Reddy Sir, I started liking physics which is to date one of my fav subjects. And yeah, I did score 92% in my physics boards much to the surprise of my physics teacher in school.

Great teachers are really God's gifts. Funny thing is most of the teachers you find in schools are there because they need some job and not out of passion for teaching, which is really sad. Its the students who suffer and resort to rote learning and in the process are unable to find out their interests and preferred domains. Thanks to the history teachers and our educational system, through out my entire school life I really hated history. History classes were such a drag. We used to sleep in the back bench while Ms Sashi will just sit in her seat and keep reading from the text. I think she was as clueless as we were. Luckily the national economy opened up and we got to watch Discovery and NGC. But for History in Color in Discovery, I wouldn't have realized that history can be so fascinating.

Same goes for mathematics. We studied trignometry, integration, differentiation but nobody knew why on earth were we doing all this and cramming up all those formulas. That's when Rao Sir entered the picture. (There's something with me and Andhraite tuition teachers). I got maths tuitions from him for couple of years and the fact that the hottest girl in my class and my crush (actually crush of pretty much all the boys in the school) used to sit right across me made maths that much more interesting. He was quite opposite of Reddy in his manners. Shy and soft-spoken, he used to get excited only when he started ranting about the power of mathemathics. The whole world is based on maths, as per him. Well, I dont quite agree with him on that count but he did manage to kindle my interest in a subject which I feared like hell. So much so that half way into the class I used to forget to steal glances of “the love of my (then) life”.

Looking back, its unfortunate that the best teachers I got were not in school, but in tuitions. But that's the sorry state of our educational system. If you get a great teacher, its your good luck, for s/he will surely inspire and motivate you for greater things in life. And you will remember them fondly thoughout your life, like I remembered Reddy Sir today.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You talkin to me? Well I am the only one here! You talking to me? Oh Yeah?!

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver is simply awesome!! The movie had been in my to-watch list for far too long. Finally caught it yesterday night. I really dont know how he missed the oscar with that kind of performance. He got into the character with such perfection that after the initial couple of scenes, I just forgot that I was watching a De Niro movie. I was watching the life of Travis Bickle, the lonely insomniac taxi driver who drives all night through the bad, dirty and cruel city. Travis Bickle, in his own words, is God's lonely man! A man who stood up against the scum, the dogs, the filth...

This city here is like an open sewer, its full of filth and scum. Whoever the president is should clean everything..should just flush everything down the fucking toilet...”

Such perfection!! Now I know why my favorite actor is often compared to De Niro! When these men act, acting simply ceases and the character comes alive.

Why didnt he rub the right way?

Sreesanth rubs his seniors the wrong way says this article on Mumbai Mirror. Now I dont get this. All these years we keep talking about indian players lacking aggression and not showing enough killer instinct. We had guys like Srinath who will apologise to Ricky Ponting if his bouncer hits him on the body. And when Ponting, being the arrogant aussie he is, responds by mouthing choicest expletives, our good man from Mysore meekly turns and walks back to his run up. Why then, should we interpret it as misconduct or shooting of the lip when a young fast bowler shows some spirit and indulges in some good ol' sledging? I thought what he said to Sehwag was quite funny and a nice bit of sledging. The fact that Sehwag went and complained to the umpires shows that it had the desired effect.

And what is this “senior” talk? Would it have been OK had he sledged “juniors”? I mean, come on, this is no army camp that he should stop in his run up and salute when bowling to Sachin or Sehwag just because they are senior to him. By that measure he should show respect to even the likes of Lara and Inzamam, because they are also “seniors”. Once on the field, your opponent is just that. You dont need to know care how experienced he is or about his image or whether you play for the same team otherwise. Actually its nice to see someone being so charged up for a Challenger Series match. I think that speaks a lot about his attitude and being dropped from the Champions Trophy must have also played its part.

I really dont think Sachin, Sehwag or Bhajji would have taken this bit of aggression from Sree the wrong way. They are seasoned customers. As Sree himself says here, its really not an issue. But what I find baffling is the way media is portraying it. Killer instinct anyone? First get rid of that parochial coat, I say.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Vagaries of life...

Have you ever experienced happiness and despair one after another, within a matter of seconds? One moment your heart his brimming with joy and there's a spark in your eyes, maybe even a smile on your face without you even realizing it. And the very next moment, your heart sinks to the abyss of sadness, out of nowhere darkness clouds your eyes and you feel helpless and hopeless about life...

It happens to me at the end of every month, like today morning. The first feeling, that of happiness comes when I open my Inbox and find that the salary slip has arrived. And the second one, that of despair follows as I open and actually read the figures.

These the moments when I feel I was Bill Gates and Bill Gates was me.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Onam Celebrations in Southern California

Yesterday, Onam celebrations were held by KALA(Kerala Association of Los Angeles) at the Sanatan Dharma Cultural Center in Artesia. It was a grand celebration and the Sadya was a real feast. Only problem being you had to have it in a small plastic plate instead of “ela”(plantain leaf), which was available only for the early birds.

Here are a few snaps. (Picture quality is not that great coz my camera is bit old, sorry for that)
Note : Click on images to view full size.

Sadya (The feast), the most "looked forward to" event in Onam for many, including me.

2nd gen kids on what onam means to them. This one took the cake - “There was this dude called Maveli, like he was really cool king and stuff but some guy squashed him under the ground”. Said in typical yankee accent. And to make the contrast more marked, the guy asking the questions had this typical old fashioned south-indian accent, you know, those crisp pronunciations.

Thalapoli team on their way to welcome Maveli. Now you know why I drove 60 miles in 85F southern california afternoon heat , apart from the lure of the sadya ;)

Here comes the Maveli. Notice the “chanda” guys in the background. They weren't professionals, but hey, something is better than nothing.


Maveli getting the traditional "Thalapoli" welcome. We can't see Maveli in this image though,but he's there, right there in the middle.

Maveli inside the auditorium

Maveli on stage

Thiruvathira Kali. It was quite good.

Classical Dance. Again, very impressive performance. Its a pity I had a battered sony camera instead of a handycam

Little Talents

Folk Dance

Popular song “munthiri padam” from “Kochi Rajavu” being sung. Before the song, it was announced that kids can come on stage and join in and dance along. They didn't need a second invite. This was probably the most enjoyed program, thanks to the enthu kids.

And when malayalees get together, how can mimicry be far behind. Achumaman, leader, Antony and finally Jayan were mimicked by this little girl who did a great job. The audience were in raptures.

That was a great onam. Thanks KALA. Hope to be there next year too. Oh no no, hope to be at home in Kerala next year!!

Friday, September 15, 2006

He's back.

The little master's back with a bang!

The cherubic face has given way to a “been there, done that” experienced veteran kind of look. Sixteen years of tireless actions has meant that his body is more prone to injuries and break-downs, as evident in the heart-breaking long injury lay offs he's been having these days. But boy aren't these long waits worth their worth in gold when he comes up with jems like this.

The 141 n.o of 148 balls had S A C H I N stamp all over it. Watching it was sheer unbridled joy. The overcast background and a smallish crowd cheering at the top of their voice made the whole atmosphere so romantic and classic in style. And the imposing sixes over long off towards the end overs were perfect finale to a memorable knock. Thanks a ton, Sachin! For giving another memorable day of cricket-watching to remember in the years to come.

Only if Duckworth and Lewis had little more cricketing sense... *Gasp*

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Vasthuhara (The Dispossessed)

Spoiler Warning / Note : This is my attempt to understand and analyse Vasthuhara, a touching story about the trauma of being a refugee. Vasthuhara was directed by acclaimed art director G Aravindan, who was part of the new wave of film making of Kerala that started in the early 70s. Detailed story ahead.

Vasthuhara(1991), a malayalam film by late G Aravindan is a social film which takes a look into the lives of partition refugees from East Bengal. At a larger level, its the universal story of refugees, the dispossessed.

The film takes place in Calcutta, 1971. Story begins with rehabilitation official Venu (Mohanlal) coming to Calcutta in one of his regular visits to shift about 35 - 40 refugee families to Andaman Islands. The current rehabilitation plan is only those who fall under the category of schedule caste farmers. People in Andaman too are not happy about taking in refugees. All the refugees have been staying in Permanent Liability Camp in Rana ghat, West Bengal for the past two decades. Experiencing the shattered lives of poor displaced people deeply hurts Venu, who in his silent moments alone in his small lodge room frequently finds himself lost in the thoughts about the lives of the refuge seekers he meets during the day. Living an oppressed life, their only hope being the occasional promises of land, cattle and other grants by the bureaucratic state.

Aravindan takes us closer into the life of a refugee when Venu realizes that the sorrow of one refugee family is his own. One day, an old lady, Arthi Panicker(Neelanjana Mitra) comes to meet Venu in his lodge. She speaks broken malayalam which surprises Venu. She's a refugee from East Bengal. She desperately wants to move out of the wretched Calcutta for a better future of her children, a daughter (who's completed MA but never appeared of the examination) and a son about whom she's very sad. Her daughter Damayanti(Neena Gupta) quit studies and is a communist revolutionary on parole. Venu realizes that they are no one but his own uncle's family, his uncle Kunjunni Panicker whom he admired so much, a poet and revolutionary who left home long back (probably to join Bose's INA) when Venu was a child.

Venu visits home in Kerala, a typical matrilineal nair household, to discuss about his chance meeting with Kunjunni uncle's family and also to secure their rightful share for them. Venu's mother has no sympathies for Arthi Panicker and her kids. Kunjunni uncle's land is in possession of Venu's aunt Bhavani(Padmini), who, as a beautiful teenager had secret affairs with both Kunjunni and his brother Anandan. Venu remembers his childhood days where he used to run secret errands for a young Bhavani played by Shobana. Aunt Bhavani is more sympathetic towards Arthi. Having never met the wife and children of the man she once loved, she's curious about them. She agrees to give them the land or money, whatever is convenient to them. (One gets the impression that at the late time of her life Bhavani is leading a lonely, guilt-ridden life, having destroyed the lives of both the brothers – She married Anandan who commits suicide, probably due to unhappy marriage.)

Venu returns back to Calcutta and reveals his identity to aunt Arthi. She is pleasantly surprised and she and Damayanti finally feel a sense of security and belonging in their lives. But Arthi rejects the financial help from her husband's family who hadn't allowed her to enter the compound of the house when she visited them years back. Arthi narrates the humiliation of having to return back on a hot summer afternoon from the locked gates of her husband's ancestral house, both she and Kunjunni breaking down on their way back. Immediately after their return back East Bengal, the country gains independence and in the consequent partition they seeked refuge in Indian side. Kunjunni dies of cholera in the refugee camp and a pregnant Arthi is left on her own in abject poverty, with two year old Damayanti by her side.

Venu meets Damayanti's brother who is also a communist revolutionary hiding from the police. Venu's arrival into their life brings long lost hope and happiness. But its short-lived as its time for Venu to return to the Andaman Islands with the selected refugees. As the rest of Calcutta celebrates Durga puja, a few bunch of refugee families are packed in the back of a goods truck and offloaded at the harbor. Arthi and Damayanti arrive at the harbor to see him off. Damayanti is not able to control her emotions and breaks down inconsolably as Venu hugs her, himself overcome by sadness. Arthi Panicker looks on emotionless, here face hardened by years of victimization.

The film ends tragically as Venu has to rush hastily into the ship about to depart, abruptly ending his goodbye to his uncle's family. As Venu rushes through the crowded stairways of the ship, a crying Damayanti shouts from behind, “Write to me Dada... Damayanti Panicker, Apilore Central Jail, Calcutta”.

The ship moves towards Andaman, beginning a new journey, a new era for a few Vasthuharas, towards the green shores of a new promised land somewhere in the eastern islands, a land new hope. But even as a handful of them find hope, another wave of exodus begins, which ends in the Indo-Pak Bangaldesh liberation war in Dec 1971.

Displaced from their homes, unwanted outsiders in their land of refuge, doing sundry small time jobs, working in abject conditions as bonded laborers, some wait to return back to their land, some simply give up, and some others like Damayanti and her brother, become rebels.

Vasthuhara won the State Film awards for best film and director in 1990.


Direction & Screenplay: G Aravindan

Cast: Mohanlal, Shobhana, Neelanjana Mitra, Neena Gupta, Padmini

Cinematography: Sunny Joseph

Editing: K R Bose

Music: Salil Choudhury

Saturday, August 12, 2006

New Guilty Pleasure for Saturday Afternoons

I dont know how many of you have tried out the new Google toolbar for Firefox Ver 2.0.

It has this cool new feature where as you type your search keyword, the drop-down combo automatically lists popular searches matching your keyword. In case its not working for you, its probably because “suggest popular search queries” option is unchecked in your toolbar options.

Quite a useful feature no? Now try typing “how to” and have a look at the “popular searches” people do that start with “how to”.


For some other funny popular searches:

-what is
-where is
-will he/she

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
-Harriet Van Horne

Excerpts from my Diary:

February 12th

After one month of initial hotel stay, Me and Sanju just moved into this apartment with Arvind and Pratyush, guys from Cognizant. Arvind and Pratyush also came to US just two weeks back. Finally had some home made food after one month of pizzas and burgers. Besides, when you have come on short term onsite assignments, you can't afford to waste dollars by eating from ouside all the time. Sanju and Arvind are really good cooks. Arvind's sambar tasted just like the one you get at Saravana Bhavan at T nagar. Sanju made great bindhi sabzi. Pratyush didnt know much of cooking, so he cut the vegetables and as for me, well my only cooking experience involves an extremely courageous act of making Maggi Noodles , which ended up in damaging Mom's beloved non-stick vessel beyond recognition. So only contribution I could make was washing the dishes. Need to learn cooking soon, washing dishes is no fun.

March 6th

Dear Diary, you would be proud to know that I am well on way to become an accomplished cook. Which is a good thing in more than one ways. I dont have to wash dishes all the time and besides if software industry is hit by another recession and I am fired and all, I think I can easily become a Chef at some restaurant. We dont have any hard and fast rules as to who should cook when because basically all of us enjoy cooking and everyday any two of us enter into the kitchen at random. Its fun. I dont miss home made food.

April 25th

I dont know whats happening to the guys. Nobody has been volunteering to cook these days. All have become very lazy. Last week I had to cook for three consecutive days. Arvind and Sanju go to play tennis as soon as they are back from work and come back late in the night. Pratyush has suddenly fallen in love with his old college mate who's now in the east coast. He's obviously on phone all the time. So that leaves only me to do the cooking duties. Cutting vegetables and washing dishes day after day is getting quite boring. I think its high time to make some “Kitchen Rules”.

May 15th

Last friday we had a big fight as to who is supposed to cook that night. Finally we had a meeting and decided to bring some process into the whole thing. We pasted a “Kitchen Rules”chart and a calender on the wall. From now on everybody will take turns and sign their initials on the calender on the days they cook. Things have returned back to some sort of normalcy now. Everybody is reluctant though, but rules are rules. Food doesn't taste that good. The less said about Arvind's sambaar, the better. Everybody tries to finish it of in minimum time possible. How it tastes is of nobody's concern.

June 10th

Ordered pizza tonight. Had dinner from India Cook House yesterday night and made some noodles for myself the night before that. The “Kitchen Rules” has gone down the drain, quite literally. It happened quite fast though I could see it coming. When the kind of food thats being made went from bland to plain inedible, cooking just stopped. It was a mutual decision and everybody were quite happy with that. On the plus side, the camaraderie that was missing in the last couple of months has returned back. The tension in the air that used to be there earlier when nobody enters into the kitchen is gone. Kitchen has now become part of our indoor SCG. If your straight drive lands in the kitchen, it a boundary. A good amount of hard earned dollars is going to India Cook House and Dosa Place instead of my Citi NRE account, but as they say, Health is Wealth.