Friday, December 14, 2007

All for a cup of cafe caramel

I was working(gaming, really), when Pradeep pinged me.

"Hey, Try this... Pour out a bag of chocolate powder and sugar into a cup, and add milk coffee to it. Voila, you have cafe caramel! I did it.. It tastes great!!"

Well, I hadn't yet tasted cafe caramel ever, and I thought this was my best chance. I went straight to the coffee machine, and kept a paper mug ready. I then zipped open the container with the chocolate bags, and took one out. I looked around for scissors. Damn... they weren't there. Not one to be put off by such minor obstacles, I tried to open the bag with my fingernails, only to realise that I had none protruding out of my fingers, thanks to my habit of nail-biting which had born with me.

I was thinking on what the heck could be done, when my eyes wandered to the intersecting line of two adjacent walls, which were pointing towards me. I looked at it closely. Well, was it sharp enough? Would this be the mystery weapon which would tear up the chocolate bag and satisfy my now-burning desire for cafe caramel? In typical South Indian style(where the florists would use walls to cut and measure jasmine garlands), I tried to cut open the chocolate bag. Nope, no use. It just wouldn't even leave a tiny intrusion.

I was frustrated by then. I tried the same with the intersection on the coffee machine. It wouldn't just work. I wondered why people don't keep a pair of scissors at the coffee machine to save so much trouble. It was then that I noticed a CCTV camera fixed above a neighbouring cubicle. The stunning revelation that all my futile attempts to tear open a chocolate bag could've been recorded hit me right in my face. What a shame. I wondered how many security staff had watched me in action. How many would have laughed, jeered, scorned.

I made up my mind. I took sugar with milk coffee in a cup, alongwith the chocolate bag to my desk. I was filled with determination, in spite of the humiliation that I had suffered. Nothing could then stand in the way of me and my cafe caramel. I didn't bother about the absence of any tool to tear the bag. My teeth, the most potent of any weapon on earth, were there to assist. In a moment, the chocolate was out into my cup. I devoured my cafe caramel with relish. It cooled my agony of public humilitation, and soothed my desire. I finished it, and looked back at the camera. It was pretty far, and the only lights that were on in this wing were those of mine.

Would it have caught me biting into the chocolate bag? I shuddered at the thought....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Investment blues

Having observed the bull-run in the Sensex over the past few years, I decided that investment was the way to go to make a quick buck. I invested in a couple of mutual funds, which were 'recommended' by my savings account relationship manager.

That was when fate struck. The day my money went into the bourses, the Sensex began to tank down. I saw my portfolio dive downwards. I became nervous, and began looking at http://www.bseindia.com/ every couple of minutes, rejoicing at the tiniest increments and sulking at every drop. However, the net losses far outweighed profits, and at the end of the week, I found my investments having dropped significantly. My sole consolation was the rise by about 200 odd points in the last day of the week, which gladdened my heart.

Well, there's nothing much that could be done. Even if my portfolio continued to make losses, I could only brood helplessly, as I've invested in a tax-saver MF. Which means, a lock-in of three years. I'm however fairly confident that I'd end up making money at the end of the period, given the way the Sensex has recovered in the past few years from similar lows.

At least, this has given something to be excited about in my rather mundane life, and I'm thankful for it.

A tip before I close, for first-time investors out there. Your attitude towards your money, is what matters. You should be prepared for the worst that might happen to your money, and not expect to make profits right from the day 1. I have a don't care attitude towards my investment, and that's what keeps me from brooding :) .

Monday, October 01, 2007

Judicial activism vis-a-vis executive audacity

I have tried to resist writing related to politics, which is my favourite domain, for long -- but after this one incident of judicial overreach or executive arrogance,whatever you may call it, I couldn't help.


M.Karunanidhi (MK)(Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) had passionately been vouching for the Sethusamudram project, which involves constructing a canal across the Sethu bridge between India and Sri Lanka, to reduce shipping time between the two countries and improve trade. The project had been approved by the Centre during June 2005, and it's implementation started henceforth.

However this project involved dredging right across what is known as the Adam's Bridge(a.k.a Ram Sethu). This 'bridge' is believed to have been built by Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, to cross over to Lanka to rescue his wife.

Quite expectedly, petitions were filed in the Supreme Court pleading a stay/cancellation of the Sethu project. Having granted an interim stay,the SC sought the Centre's response on the issue.

ASI's foolishness

The Archeological Survey of India(ASI) filed an affidavit in response to the SC's query. The affidavit said that the Ram Sethu was a natural formation and not a man-made structure.

It could have well stopped at that. The ASI tried to act smart, exceeding it's brief and claiming that there was no proof to support Ram's existence. The Centre was embarrassed, and fearing a backlash from communalists, suspended a couple of ASI officials and filed a modified affidavit a couple of days later.

MK miffed

MK, a known atheist, was miffed at this. It prompted him to take refuge under his famed anti-Hindu stand. He commented that a mythical character couldn't be used to hinder development. Further, he called for a bandh in Tamil Nadu, to press for the speedy implementation of the project. The game had begun.(MK - 1, SC - 0).

Quite expectedly, JJ, MK's main opposition, seized on this opportunity and filed a petition in the SC against the bandh. The SC came down heavily on MK and ordered the TN govt not to hold a bandh, stating that 'public right is superior to the right of political parties'(MK - 1, SC -1).

MK cleverly changed tack promptly and changed his 'bandh' call to that of a 'hunger strike'. After all, extensive preparations had been done for the bandh to become a success, and he couldn't possibly dissappoint his party workers. And of course, we all know that a 'hunger strike' is just a euphemism for a bandh, atleast in TN.(MK - 2, SC - 1)

Judicial activism

JJ immediately went to court and lamented. Unfortunately for MK, judges aren't fools. They saw straight through MK's ploy. The SC, though, was unusually harsh in it's observation. It pointed out that the constitutional machinery had broken down in the state, and that the Centre should consider the dismissal of the TN govt. (MK - 2, SC - 2)

It's clearly a correct, but impractical observation, especially given the fact that MK is a strong ally of the UPA. The UPA wouldn't even dream of upsetting the old man and losing his support, given the never-ending headache it already has, with the Left. The SC did well to draw the line with an observation. Had it given a direction in this regard, the Centre wouldn't have budged, and the SC would've risked losing it's respect.

MK blinks, scuttles for cover

However, the stinging observation seemed to have had the desired effect. MK immediately left the venue (after about 3 hrs of 'hunger strike') and later in the day, went to office and then home. DMK leaders said that he had to meet a doctor.(Yeah.. He would've gotten butterflies in his stomach :-) ). But he still insists that he had not violated any SC order and that shops had closed on their own and bus drivers had, on their own accord, taken leave(yeah.. as if we would believe that..). With scores level, it still remains to be seen as to what would gain the upper hand.. executive arrogance or judicial activism..

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nothing for the purists

Goaded by my friends-cum-roommates, I decided to buy a shirt for my birthday. One evening, we went to Hyderabad Central, a mall which contained 2+ floors of dresses. I wanted to buy a half shirt or a tee, and started looking at the first floor. There were rows and rows of shirts, most of them formals, from various popular 'international' brands. Though not interested in them, I did steal a look into their prices. Expectedly, they were pretty prohibitive, most of them close to a thousand rupees or more.

Then came the t-shirt section. My idea of a shirt is a pretty simple one.. A plain/striped tee would do, but I loathe tees with huge meaningless text/extravagent designs on them. They do look awful to me. In short, a taste of a typical purist. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite easily find what I was looking for. Most of the t-shirts had some designs... Eagles, Shakespeare(what on earth was he doing on a tee?), beer, a guy on skates attempting to climb a steep hill... and what not.

By then, I'd given up hope that I'd chose anything at all from that mall. So much so that I asked my friends to look for some dresses too, fearing that the 45-minute trip to the mall would become pointless. I then wondered.. what does it take to just make a simple tee and dye it with a color that is appealing? Why do people just splash it with some nonsensical graphic or meaningless text? Maybe they're of an idea that the 'youth' who buy such shirts feel 'funky'?

The very fact that there are so many disgusting tees put up on sale seems to suggest the same. Even if that be the case, I am pretty sure that there would be many like me who would desire a simple, uncomplicated tee. Am I not entitled to one? Are purists like me supposed to be confined to cloth shops where I'd have to pick some (so-called) old-fashioned piece and get it stitched to a shirt? I guess we deserve our own space too.

Anyway, after about an hour or so of searching, I ended up with the best shirt that I could find. I did want to take photos of a few of those horrifying shirts and post them here... But when I was about to take a second photo, the executive over there stopped me :-)... Here's the one that I managed to click...

Monday, September 17, 2007

A rather tame end

This post is long due, considering the fact that I've read the last of the Harry Potter series about a month and a half ago. Anyway, here it is...

The adventures that the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione faced throughout the novel were, I have to admit, pretty gripping. However, the way the novel ended left me pretty disappointed. I expected that the duel with Voldemort would last for quite sometime and Harry would ultimately end up proving his superiority over him. Alas, Rowling chose to introduce the concept of the deathly hallows and use it, rather effectively, to rescue Harry from the first Avada Kedavra death curse and then guarantee his victory over the Dark Lord at the end, courtesy the Elder Wand.

Well, so you might ask, what's your problem.

I had been hoping for an exciting finish, one that would've left me satisfied that Harry had indeed comprehensively beaten Voldemort with skill. I had expected a lot of fireworks, hoping that a minimum of ten curses and counter-curses would've ensued before Voldemort's death. I wondered how Harry would train himself to raise his skill in time for the ultimate duel and how Rowling would handle that problematic point.

But that was not to be. I do realise now that I should've expected this sort of an end. It does match perfectly with the development and portrayal of Harry's character. I failed to look at the larger picture and wondered how Harry would develop his skill.

There's absolutely no doubt that had Rowling set up a proper duel between the two rivals at the end of the novel, it would've been a fitting and an exciting end to the seven-part series. But to effect such an end, Harry should've been extremely intelligent and should've excelled in his academics. He would've had to master, or atleast tried to master, most of the magic out there. And that would've meant immersing himself for hours in the Hogwarts library :-) .

But, understandably, Harry is a simple guy, not a geek or a nerd. It is this image of Potter that has endeared him to his young fans, and has helped Rowling earn what she has. Making Harry an intellectual, with skill that would've matched that of Voldemort, would've been a disaster. Such an approach would've alienated the countless number of ordinary fans who wouldn't have touched the book. Rowling's approach does indeed make perfect sense.

For Rowling, the end would've been a minor compromise. Or it might not be one at all, given that she has compensated quite well with an exciting concept of the Deathly Hallows, and of course, love, right from the first to the last of the series. However, I do feel that she would've desired to give an exciting finish to the series with a good duel instead of a tame single-spell end to the life of a great dark wizard. Even if she had desired to, she wouldn't have been able to provide such an end, given the way she had groomed Potter. Potter wouldn't have been able to master spells in the last novel, nor would he have been able to give a proper fight to the dark lord.

Come to think of it, the end isn't very apt, but Rowling had no other choice.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kaatrin Mozhi

'Mozhi'(language), the film where the song 'Kaatrin Mozhi' appears, is about a woman who has the misfortune of being both deaf and dumb. However, she compensates amply by being fiercely independent. How the hero(Prithvi Raj) convinces the misogamist to marry him, forms the crux of the story.

There are few songs which have stirred me up like this one did. This song is a case where fabulous music, a lovely voice and stirring lyrics come together. 'Kaatrin mozhi...' ('the language of the wind...' ), as it begins, says that you don't need to know any language save that of nature, to interact with anyone. The song does make lots of sense, unlike many others from Kollywood. I've put up the lyrics of the song below. I have also attempted to translate it to English.

katrinnn mozhi...oliyya? isaiyya?
poovinnn mozhi....nirama? manamaa?
kadalin mozhi...alaiya? nuraiya?
kaadhal mozhi...vizhiyya? idhazha?
iyarkeyin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharin mozhigal thevai-illai
ithaiyathin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharikku mozhiye thevai-illai
katrinnn mozhiyee...oliya? isaiyya?
poovinnn mozhi....nirama? manama?

((The language of the wind.. is it it's sound or music?
The language of the flower.. is it it's color or fragrance?
The language of the ocean.. is it it's waves or foam?
The language of love.. is it the eyes or the lips?
Understand the languages of nature,
Man's languages are unnecessary,
Understand the heart's languages,
No language is necessary for man...
The language of the wind.. ))

kaatru veesum bothu...thisaigal kidaiyathu
kaadhal paesum bothu...mozhigal kidaiyathu
paesum vaarthai pola...mounam puriyathu
kanngal paesum vaarthai....kadavul ariyathu
ulavi theeriyum kaatrukku....uruvam theetta mudiyathu
kaadhal paesum mozhi-ellam... satha koothil adanggathu
iyarkeyin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharin mozhigal thevai-illai
ithaiyathin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharikku mozhiye thevai-illai
katrinnn mozhiyee...

((When the wind blows, there aren't any directions..
When love speaks, there aren't any languages..
One can't understand silence (like one understands) spoken words,
(God?) won't know the words spoken by the eyes...
The wind, who roams and wanders cannot be given a shape..
The language of love does not lie in the domain of sound(voice/words)..
Understand the languages of nature,
Man's languages are unnecessary,
Understand the heart's languages,
No language is needed for man...
(Repeat)The language of the wind.. ))

vaanam paesum paechu...thulliyai veliyagum
vaanavillin paechu...neeramai veliyagum
unmai oomai anaal...kanneer mozhiyagum
pennmei ummei anaal...naanum mozhiyagum
osai thoongum jaamathilll...kuchi meengal mozhiyagum
asai thoongum ithaiyathil...asaiva kooda mozhiyagum
iyarkeyin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharin mozhigal thevai-illai
ithaiyathin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharikku mozhiye thevai-illai

(The sky's speech(language) emerges as droplets..
The rainbow's speech(language) emerges as color..
When truth becomes silent, one speaks (language) tears..
When (a woman's) feminity becomes silent, (her) shyness will emerge..
(The time) When all sound sleeps, tiny(?) fishes talk(language)..
In (one's) heart where desire sleeps, slight movements too become a language..
Understand the languages of nature,
Man's languages are unnecessary,
Understand the heart's languages,
No language is needed for man...
(Repeat)The language of the wind.. ))

katrinnn mozhiyee...oliyya? isaiyya?
poovinnn mozhi....neerumma? mannumma?
kadalinnn mozhi...alaiyya? nuraiyya?
kaadhalll mozhi...vizhiyya? izdhala?
iyarkeyin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharin mozhigal thevai-illai
ithaiyathin mozhigal purinthu vidu
manitharikku mozhiye thevai-illai
katrinnn mozhiyee...

((The language of the wind.. is it it's sound or music?
The language of the flower.. is it it's color or fragrance?
The language of the ocean.. is it it's waves or foam?
The language of love.. is it the eyes or the lips?
Understand the languages of nature,
Man's languages are unnecessary,
Understand the heart's languages,
No language is needed for man...
The language of the wind.. ))

(P.S.1.. I've used the terms talk, speech and language interchangeably according to context. They all are translated from the same word, mozhi.. )

(P.S2.. This may be considered as a disclaimer as well.. I'm no expert in Tamil, but I believe I've done a decent job. Comments and corrections are welcome. I'll incorporate corrections regularly. )

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Good food isn't always helpful!

Four years of college life helped me maintain a sort of balance between food and my work. The food was pathetic, needless to say, and all that I managed to eat at the mess was a bit of rice in the afternoon with some buttermilk. The canteen helped supplement my food for a few days, but not always. As a result, inevitably I lost quite a few kilos throughout that time. The only time when I could put on some weight was when I went home on weekends or vacations, but of course such small increments didn't help much. I prevented further damage by doing absolutely no physical workouts(no gym, very limited outdoor sports).

But things have changed at work. The food is pretty good, and I continue to be physically inactive. As a result of which, I've become heavier by about 4 kilos in 2 weeks and even grown a tummy!! Going at this rate, I shudder to imagine how I'd look in 2-3 years time.. :-(

Headache's gone for good!!!

My blog's literally been sleeping for quite a few months, thanks to lack of topics in the author's mind :). But finally it has risen from its slumber, and hopefully'll now be more active.

I've been having headaches for quite a few years now, and thankfully I hope I've gotten rid of it finally, thanks to a doctor at the place where I work. I used to get these numbing, disabling headaches for years, when I didn't have a proper breakfast with coffee. It used to start at one or both sides of the forehead, and spread to the eyelids. Once I got one of those, I wouldn't be able to do any sort of activity, and all that I would earn for was a sound sleep. Once I had a tablet (I was so faithful to Dolopar... :) I never thought of any other :) ) and slept, it would vanish. I'd visited quite a few number of doctors since childhood regarding this problem, but none of them gave lasting solutions nor reasons for their occurence.

Finally I visited this doctor at my workplace, to collect my medical report. Strangely he said everything was normal (ppl looking at me would wonder if I am from a famine-stricken place :) ). I even specifically asked him whether I was underweight. He reassured me saying that the numbers really didn't matter and that what I felt was an indication of my physical state.
Pheww.. I was relieved!!

When he had handed over the report, I decided to ask him about it. Gingerly, I mentioned the headache. He then explained that the brain needed a fixed level of sugar in the blood and that my levels were falling down once in a while. He added that it was pretty common with others as well, and advised me to take sweets/hot milk with sugar to get rid of it. I'm following his advice scrupulously, having hot chocolate with excess sugar twice a day :), just to keep the devil at bay. And I've succeeded!!