Monday, December 29, 2008

The Ramparts of 2008!

Time, the cradle of hope.... Wisdom walks before it, opportunity with it, and repentance behind it. He that has made it his friend will have little to fear from his enemies, but he that has made it his enemy will have little to hope from his friends.

Charles Caleb Colton

This year was different, very different, for I felt content in a very long time and attained a state of peace like never before, largely as a result of a very disciplined life I so resolutely lived. The year that was, provided me with many an opportunity to introspect, by throwing up a number of challenging situations that would have put even a hardened soul to the test. Emerge I did quite unscathed and full of lessons which will assist me in shaping my life for a better cause in the future. Although my professional life faced an uphill struggle, I ensured that I kept my personal space free from clutter and resultant pressure. I must say, I lived a very compartmentalized life without much incident.

Having wound up my assignment in Delhi, I moved to Pune which was a welcome change! While Delhi is brash and rowdy, Pune is a city with a great deal of youthful exuberance which appeals to the intellect! It is a confluence of many bearings, old and new, conservative and liberal and yet very rightly poised. To add to the treat, one can enjoy very pleasant weather year round thereby not being subject to the vagaries of the famously agonizing Indian Summer! I cannot quite say the same about the monsoons, for my liking for this season is actually non-existent, and to make things worse, it pours relentlessly during the monsoons in Pune!

While the world at large was at the mercy of the ongoing financial crisis that saw many an enterprise being cast away into history, my industry and organization remained largely unaffected and our guidance figures for the upcoming year were altered by a minuscule percentage, thereby extremely relieving me. A chance meeting with a yesteryear friend added to the cheer.

Most importantly, this blog has served as an avenue for me to give a picture of my views, thoughts and memories which have been greatly appreciated from time to time. I feel greatly privileged for having become part of a family that has in it a great deal of positive spirit, the attitude to be encouraging and unconditionally supportive. Via my space, I have been rewarded the greatest gift of all which is to be able to travel and relish culture and tradition. Virtually, I have been associated with large parts of India, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Australia, Monte Carlo, Malta, China, Finland, Munich, Turkey and the United States. What more could I possibly ask for?

As this year draws to a close, I pray that the coming year bestows upon us all a great deal of peace, happiness and above all else, a sense of hope to prevail over any adverse incident that may occur! Let us live in pursuit of hope and not once ever lose sight of it.

Wishing you a very happy and truly prosperous new year, one that brings you peace, joy, prosperity and above all else, helps foster a sense of togetherness! May this be the beginning of many good things yet!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Life's greatest lesson

"Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?"

Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays with Morrie, 1997

Mitch Albom couldn't have made a better product! This book is based on a true story of a dying mentor and his once-upon-a-time student. What it teaches the reader, in the simplest of words, is life's most valuable lesson that there is nothing more important and deserving than life itself, which needs to be lived to the fullest and enjoyed at all times. It is a very inspirational story of how Morrie, the dying professor narrates anecdotes and views to Mitch, his former student, who visits him during his last days. The strong bond that has been forged between the two is very evident and indirectly suggests to the reader to seek such an association so as to enable one to learn from perspectives and people!

I would certainly not like to elucidate more than whatever I already have about this book and will urge you to read this at least once, for it will certainly prompt one to think about the nuances of life.

What intrigued me among many other instances in this book, is Morrie's question to Mitch, "Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?"

Ever wondered why? I wish I had an answer!

I'd like to thank my friend Nandita who recommended this work of art sometime in 2006 and also my good friend Bharath who quite recently, via an email, recommended that I read it. More importantly, I have to thank my good friend Abhijit a.k.a Bandya for being very kind to lend me this masterpiece!

I did learn life's greatest lesson!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A hard teacher

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt!
Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your own affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind, as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something!

The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that pattern that will be your life.

Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If is does, then the particular balance of success and failure is of less account!

John Gardner

During a trek on January 01, 2004, I took this picture of what is a part of the Ketti Valley. It is easy to notice the completeness of nature which has a great sense of meaning. Like I said before, every part of nature makes tremendous meaning despite not being as eloquent as us human beings! We struggle and squirm to find a purpose without realizing that our existence itself is a first level of that purpose. Nature, very unlike us, is complete and isn't burdened by the onus of having to seek a purpose or define a meaning! We, on the contrary, spend time, effort and resources to attain a state of being while not realizing that that state is not a destination to arrive at but a manner of travelling!


Bharath Natraj and Vivek Venkataraman were very kind to give me the Lovely Blogger and Kreativ Blogger awards respectively! I am thrilled at their gesture and wish to sincerely thank them for recognizing my blog and the ideology it coveys!

I will now roll-over these awards to the following fellow-bloggers in recognition of their blogs and more importantly for the message they convey to the world at-large!

They are;

Usha Pisharody
Kat; and

Wishing You a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The long road to Eden

Until a few years ago, the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary was more famous for the notorious bandit and sandalwood smuggler Veerappan than its Tigers and a multitude of fauna! The Special Task Force (STF) brought down the curtain on him sometime in 2004 and the National Park has since then been steadily attracting many visitors.

On December 12, 2004, during a biking expedition along with friends, I decided to take this picture while we were at the edge of the National Park. Stopping for a while, I noticed the eerie silence that engulfed us suddenly. Although I wanted to spend a few minutes more at the location, I was advised against it and was constantly reminded that I was now 'on foot' in Tiger country!

It is not unusual for one to spot a Leopard or for that matter a Tiger itself. Spotted Deer, Elephants, Peacocks, Langurs and Macaques are a common sight. An early morning or a dusk-time drive through the park can reward one with many an interesting sight. As part of Project Tiger, which was initiated by then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, the National Park holds immense significance and is one of the last vestiges of the great Indian Tiger. Although conversation efforts are underway to highlight the need for preservation of the species, which amounts to a mere 1400 in number, a great deal more needs to be done if we are to ensure that our children be able to catch a glimpse of this magnificent creation.


A dream comes true

Friday, December 12, 2008

A small measure of peace

One of the many perquisites of staying in Ooty is that one can enjoy the magnificence of nature to the fullest. There are many quick getaways that offer very spectacular views of the panoramic landscape. During one such expedition to Pykara, on November 11, 2004, I snapped these pictures of the small lake and the adjoining waterfall.

Much like still waters, life is sometimes calm and quiet without incident. But things change with time, quite like how the excruciating summer dries up even the deepest waterhole or how incessant rains cause a deluge leading to untold misery!

But, neither famines nor floods last long and the spirit of life comes alive with the passing season. We too, like the water, face many an obstacle! These impediments are meant to refine life and help us ascend continuously. In the end, life triumphs by being progressive, determined and consistent.

Consistency and determination are known to bring the best out of human beings. Despite these menacingly fixated rocks, the water gushes forward without a thought or apprehension! Nature is an ongoing process with a great deal of consistency, one that moves ahead with time irrespective of what comes to be! Shouldn't that be the way of life too?

Nature is a fantastic craftsman, for there is always a very high level of equilibrium in every part of it. A healthy balance is very essential for a conducive lifestyle. There is not a natural creation that you could attribute asymmetry to. Why, then, is there a great deal of incongruity in our lives? Are we not natural? Or is it that we choose not to be part of nature?


Vimal Vijayan a.k.a Vimmuuu gave me these awards and cited a distinction with some of the most kind words. I wish to thank him very sincerely for giving me these accolades, which make me feel truly honoured!

This award is given to a blog that invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

As is custom, I will roll out these awards to eight fellow bloggers who have been significant motivators and a matter of pride to be associated with. They are;

Jim of The Hunt for Paradise

Aria of Terminal Moraine

Polona Oblak of Fish Eye

TV Satheesh of Thoughtful Oblivion

Babooshka of Ramsey Daily Photo

Tr3nta of Madrid Daily Photo & Tr3nta

Rakesh Avin of Thoughts Unleashed; and

Glenn Standish of Toruń Daily Photo

Monday, December 08, 2008

Praying Hands

I learnt of Albrecht Dürer sometime last week, via an email that was sent to me by a colleague. Not having heard the name before, I decided that the email could wait until the evening, which is when I usually engage myself in some 'non-business' reading.
When I did read the story that was part of the mail, I was shaken and hence decided to do a post. Read on, to know the story behind the Praying Hands.

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! To merely keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of the children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Dürer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Dürer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No."

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look.,look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother, for me it is too late."

More than 450 years have passed since. By now, Albrecht Dürer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Dürer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Dürer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."

I write this as a tribute for my Father, who turned 60 today.

I salute his remarkable resilience and his patience which has furthered my upbringing in the most positive manner. But for his toil and unconditional dedication, the wonderful side of me would never have been possible!

Thank you God!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Postcard from Heaven

The pristine hills of Ooty are home to many a tea garden, some of which date back to the British times. Being a hill station, the British took no time to discover that their favourite beverage could be grown off the hills of this resort which also served as summer residence to the executive government of those days. Many hills were thus converted to tea gardens with luxurious bungalows amid them, housing group managers of these estates. Tea thus became a commercial enterprise in Ooty and continues to be a source of living for hundreds of planters in and around Ooty, despite repeated calls for diversification by various bodies.

This picture was taken on New Years Day, 2004 when along with a group of friends, I went out on a trek to a nearby town called Lovedale.

We began our trek, walk rather, from the Ooty railway Station and intended to conclude it at Ketti, which is a hamlet situated just outside Ooty. The trek was special because we had decided to walk along the route of the metre gauge railway line that connects Ooty to Mettupalayam. The route is very popular among visiting tourists who often board the Mountain Railway, that snakes its way through some of the most picturesque locales of Ooty.

We had passed Fernhill Station when this marvelous view presented itself. The day was semi-clouded and the winter chill was still in the air despite the mid-day sun which was in and out of the clouds every few minutes, casting huge shadows on the ground below! One can see a cluster of buildings amid the tall eucalyptus trees on the far right hand side of the picture. They are part of the renowned Narayana Gurukula which was founded by Sree Narayana Guru, the famed Social Reformer and Redeemer of Kerala. The Fernhill wing of the Gurukula is currently managed by Swami Tanmaya, who I am associated with for a decade now!

One can envision the lives of the hard-working simple farmer folk who toil for a living. The tea industry is currently in doldrums and revenues are a pittance. Slowly but steadily the call to diversify and engage in crop rotation is being heeded to. Terrace farms are very popular and yield some of the finest crops that one can savour.

The half-rail fencing (two of which can be seen) were laid by the British when the railway line was being built. Both, the line and the fencing, have endured more than a century of wear and tear but have stood still and have not once broken down. I decided to title this post "Postcard from Heaven", after little thought, since this reveals the true picture of the Ooty that was, many many years ago!

Untouched, Unspoiled and Magnificent!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Home Grown

My Mother is a very passionate botanist and devotes a great deal of time and effort in gardening as a hobby. Over the years her efforts have been made visible by the wonderful garden that she maintains at home. Ooty being a hill-station is a very ideal nursery for many an ornamental plant.

A great deal of effort goes into gardening and upkeep of the patch needs be done much like caring for a new-born baby. Manuring, watering, shading and weeding are some of the many activities one needs to incorporate as part of daily routine so as to produce a desired outcome. Being part of a family that did not have a retinue of attendants, my brother and I would often be summoned to be part of many a garden-maintenance exercise, watering being the worst of all!

I took this picture on August 9, 2004. The flowering season was coming to a close with the advent of the monsoons, which can be nasty in Ooty. These last remaining begonias were wilting under their weight. Eventually the flowers would fall off, the leaves would drop and the plant itself would cease to exist leaving behind tubers that would resume the cycle once again at a different point in time.


I was pleasantly surprised to know that I've been awarded! This award, which is the first-ever that I have received while in Blogsphere, was given to me by Usha Pisharody. Her wonderful words of encouragement and the gesture itself has left me elated. I wish to thank her for her gesture which has deeply recognized and appreciated my blogspace and ideologue.

As a gesture on my part to recognize the efforts of fellow bloggers for their remarkable contribution to the world of blogging, for promoting a healthy exchange of culture, for being able to illustrate social and political issues and more importantly for their ability to be themselves at all times, I'd like to roll-over this award to these luminaries of the blog world;

Devika Jyothi
Peter Olson
Man in Painting
Destination Infinity
Gil a.k.a. Blog Trotter
Vibushan Lakshminarayan
Marie Noyale
Barath Natraj a.k.a. The Seeker
Vimmuuu a.k.a Vimal Vijayan
Archana ; and
Rocky Mountain Girl

Many Congratulations! It is a pleasure to be associated with you, always and all ways.

Friday, November 28, 2008

14 years later

We last saw each other in the year 1994, July to be precise! That was in Class Ten, 14 years ago. Naramsimha Murty and I went to school together and in due course became fast friends, only to lose contact!

But technology would ensure that the gap stayed not more than 14 years! So when one day, I saw the name float on Orkut, I did not hesitate once to send out my usual one liner "Dead or Alive?" Imagine my ecstatic surprise when I got an "alive and kicking" response saying that he was in the same city as I! Never before did I experience the power of technology shrinking the world into one connectible space where access to every person could be by way of a simple web page or an email address. So much for the power of the Internet!

One can imagine how 'celestial' an event it is like to meet up a decade and a half later with so many years bygone. Quite surprisingly, we had not been ravaged by the passage of time and connected very well, thanks to the brilliant timeless days spent at school which were undoubtedly the best that I have ever known. We had grown in physique but remained the children we used to be, totally at ease without any restraint whatsoever. It seemed nothing had changed, but for the place and time.

Nature enthusiasts that we were and still are, we decided on an impromptu trip to Khadakvasla . I couldn't help but recollect lines from the evergreen ballad, Wind of Change by Scorpions.., "Walking down the street, distant memories, are buried in the past forever, I follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change......."

As a finale, I will leave you with some serene pictures taken at Khadakvasla.

"I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone" - Bruce Springsteen, Streets Of Philadelphia, 1994.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I belong here

These hills were once densely covered with oak, eucalyptus, pine and conifer trees. Today, only clusters remain! One can see more buildings and fields than trees. It does not take an expert on global warming to infer that the rapidly changing temperatures in Ooty are as a result of massive deforestation.

The spot from where this picture was taken (on December 26, 2004) once housed a shelter that served as a viewpoint for passing trekkers and tourists. It was pulled down many years ago. Apart from a few holiday homes and a small dam, the surroundings of this place remain largely untouched.

Immediately below, on the right, is a small untended tea estate. The long road, far below, on the left hand side is the National Highway (NH) 67, which connects Ooty to Coonoor, Coimbatore and beyond.

The large piece of vacant land (appearing mildly brown and barren), far ahead, which forms a 'C' shaped curve on the right is the Race Course of Ooty which serves as a venue for the yearly horse-racing event. Back in the 80s and the early 90s, part of it was used as a helipad for visiting dignitaries.

Far ahead, among the blue mountains is the Mukurthi Peak, (not clearly visible) which is situated at an elevation of 2554 meters (8346 ft). I scaled this peak during a trek to the Mukurthi park in January 2004.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blue skies of Freedom

This picture was taken on November 21, 2004, en route to the Mudumalai National Park, at a place called Kalhatty, some 20 kilometers from Ooty. A group of friends decided on a bike ride to the edge of the national park on a Sunday and when approaching a steep hair-pin bend, this commanding view presented itself. I lost no time in urging my co-rider to stop and then took this picture and spent a few moments savouring the breathtaking view.

In the immediate vicinity is a turnip and radish field tended by the local farmers. The blue mountains (commonly known as Nilgiris, Nil for Blue and Giri for Mountains, owing to their shades of blue), are a very common and integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. In the distance, past the mountains, is the vast expanse of the Mudumalai Reserve which borders the Bandipur Reserve, famous, among other things, for being part of Project Tiger.

Together, these national parks are home to some of the finest wildlife India holds residence to. They include Tigers, Leopards, Elephants, Bison, Jackals, Deer, Hyenas, Wild Dogs and many more. These places are a must visit for all nature enthusiasts, where one can remain unconnected to the bustle of city life and feel truly rejuvenated and one with nature!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And, You went away too!

The end came on November 4! The world lost Michael Crichton!

But for him, we would not have known the Jurassic Park, the Lost World, Congo, Andromeda Strain and many many more. Apart from the wonderful author and filmmaker that he was, he was also a Doctor, having received his Doctoral Degree in Medicine from the Harvard Medical School. That, folks is just the beginning of what was a long list of commendable accomplishments.

He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he spent time researching public policy while also teaching anthropology at Cambridge University. Amid all this, he also found time to do some writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His speeches on Genetic Research, Complexity Theory, Global Warming, Extra-terrestrials and the Environment were very well received, are descriptive of impeccable knowledge and hold immense scientific and political significance.

I will remember him for being the author who wrote with ease, his process of thought, in a measure of clarity and description like none other.

While I respectfully and rather painfully bid adieu to this remarkable soul, I would like to conclude this post by quoting lines from his speech at the Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy, Washington, D.C., on November 6, 2005, where he criticized environmental groups for failing to incorporate the complexity theory.

In his talk he spoke of the importance of the theory of complexity in environmental management. The lines are very apt, simple to comprehend and extremely relevant in today's rapidly deteriorating environment and highlights how unsuccessful we human beings are while trying to understand systems that we co-exist with.

"Most people assume linearity in environmental processes, but the world is largely non-linear: it's a complex system. An important feature of complex systems is that we don’t know how they work. We don’t understand them except in a general way; we simply interact with them. Whenever we think we understand them, we learn we don’t. Sometimes spectacularly."


With inputs from Michael Crichton - The Official Site
Image Courtesy - Wikipedia

Friday, November 14, 2008


Mondays are usually the worst days ever! In truth, the same is the case with all weekdays (unless one is on vacation)

This Monday was different, for I stole sometime to post a response to Anjali's tag and also found out that Vimal (a.k.a Vimmuu) had tagged me! The feeling of being double-tagged is one of exclusivity, and true blog-bliss! I finally had something to fight Monday morning blues! That nasty gut-wrenching feeling that overcomes many of us headed to work, school, etc on a Monday morning after having thoroughly recharged oneself on the days before (in my case, after spending time and bucks watching Quantum of Solace, where neither quantum, nor solace meant what they were intended to by Barbara Broccoli and Marc Forster, with the exception of Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Aterton that is.., thankfully!).

The Tag

Requires me to post six things that are eccentric attributes of mine (not that I have any, perhaps!!)


Being a foodie (infinitimes), it is not unnatural for me to thus talk about my extra-sensitive food pickings that have over time become certain eccentricities adding to my Mom's woes, when I head home! I guess my staying away from home is God's way of telling my Mother "My child, let me save you from the suffering." So then, part of it begins by blatantly refusing to eat any veggies, anything less than extra-spice, anything that is a few hours old or re-engineered! Somebody once asked me "R, Is there anything that you like?", to which I answered "My choices are very simple! I like the very best."

My Space

An absolute no-entry to anyone who I consider outside the inner circle! I guard my space with fierce obsession. It is the one thing that I cannot compromise. 'The space' also includes the space around my immediate physical self! I have a heightened awareness of my personal space while my friends and folks call that a mere exaggeration of a false self! To me that space is more important than Area 51!

The OCD Factor

I hate to confess this but I am a victim of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (relatively mild, perhaps). So then, apart from the X number of times of washing hands (with Dettol), infinite times of checking the dead-bolts, locks, keys and so on, the story seems far from over! I have a strange thing up my head that prompts me to arrange objects on my desk, workspace and at home in a straight line! That includes books, papers, writing material, clothes, shoes, toiletry and worse..... even the telephone!!!

Oh, and the refrigerator reminds me of my fixation for even numbers! Water bottles, eggs, cheese tins, milk cartons, beer bottles, fruits and vegetables..... all of them are stored in even numbers! An 'intelligent' self-improvement program alerts me of any 'oddity' which is promptly neutralized. My pet hate - The number 3 and it's multiples! [It is not half as weird as it sounds! Trust me ;)]

Halt! No photography!

I'd rather be dead but caught in front of the camera! For some reason, I prefer being the clicker than the clicked! Perhaps, the whole act makes me feel too conscious or perhaps my nature of being the behind-the-scenes guy has over time, taken a toll on me! Anyhow, I love photography, with the exception of being photographed! The result? A decade or more of not being snapped. And to those of you who have tried to coerce me into getting 'pictured', my apologies for having been a jerk! (I know I ain't one, but it pays to be diplomatic right?)

The Restless Mornings

I'm an early morning guy. My day normally begins at 5, with the exception of when I am in Ooty (thanks to the bone-chilling winters). Now, being up early in the morning isn't much of a problem until it affects night-owls! Once up, I cannot tolerate others snoozing and will not lose anytime to kick the dozer out of the sack! The modus operandi - often yelling my lungs out or using some weird pre-recorded gurgling noises 'stored' (for such occasions) on my micro-cassette recorder. No prizes for guessing the intensity of dog-fights that follow!

Darkness and Music

Music can be best enjoyed in the darkness, especially if one is listening to Metallica, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Cold Play, Nickelback, Pantera, Nirvana, Enigma, Eminem, Tupac, Black Sabbath, Pearl Jam, Deep Purple, Linkin Park and Staind (to name a few). While circumstances such as this are a welcome break, they are not always taken humanely by people around who consider this 'act' nothing short of irreverence as a result of insanity! Music is passion and any amount of eccentricity is less! The message is loud and clear ;)

Oh, I must make a mention of a certain friend (whose blog goes who hates rock music or any other genre that sounds like rock! His favourite music is 'anything' except hard rock since he cannot "stand the sound, oops noise." I'd like to gift him a collection of Slayer, Iron Maiden, Marilyn Mason, Acid Death and Atrophia Red Sun!

Any clues on who this could be?

And now as part of the plan, I have to tag friends and let them know that they have been tagged.

I tag

Destination Infinity
The Trooper ;and
Salil Ravindran

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tagged in Silver

On the morning of 6th November, Anjali (a.k.a Silverine) left me a comment on my previous post saying that I have been tagged! I was pleasantly surprised but at the same time, being an old-dog (not quite versed with the ways of Blog Country yet), was thrown in a dilemma as to what this really was! My next pit stop was Anjali's blog, My Think Pad, which told me exactly what I needed to do.

The Tag

As part of this exercise, I am required to answer two questions from the past, present and future and conclude this post by tagging friends from Blog Country and subsequently let them know that they've been tagged! So here I go!


My oldest memories...

They date back to the year 1981, two years after I was born! Back then, in Ooty, we were a joint family and I was one among the five tots at home, the others being nephews and a niece, all but one, elder than me. Ooty was true paradise with lush green eucalyptus, oak, pine and fir trees lining the roads which were immaculate. There was a sense of order and cleanliness that cannot be seen today.

We kids were a well fed and well cared-for lot and that ensured that we were forever hyper-energetic much to the chagrin of our parents. Much of our play-area was the front courtyard of the large house we lived in. I vividly remember Dad bringing us scores of toys (even those failed to arrest our notoriety, particularly mine) which were soon dissected open and rendered useless even before their functionality was fully understood!

The following picture was taken sometime in 1981 at the entrance of the Ooty Lake and I still remember being called to look into the camera which I guess was too much of an effort (considering the lovely girls around). To date, this remains my most admired photograph and will continue to be so undoubtedly. Those indeed were the days! The best, the very best!

What was I doing ten years ago?

November 1998 was past of my last year in St. Aloysius College, Mangalore, where I had gone to study Business Management. Being my first stint out of home, I lived it up and did everything under the sun, but study! Already a music and a movie buff, I missed no opportunity to sample the latest movies in town at the many laser-disc theaters which were a hot favourite among the college crowd! Eat, sleep and make merry was all that I did, much to the contention of my parents. Only time would tell me how costly these mistakes proved, for I lost many a lucrative opportunity to shape up my career and steer it in the right stride and direction.
After the incident, even the fool is wise!


The last few days have been rough and today will be no exception, considering it being the scary Monday! Mounting pressures as a result of creation of plans, white-papers, presentations and endless meetings have begun to take a toll on me but at the same time have been a learning experience like no other. I quite remember how smelting of Gold results in its purification. The ore-content of metal passes through a hell like furnace before it emerges in its final form that accentuates both its lustre and value. Our lives are no different!


Just why don't Sundays repeat? Tomorrow will not be very different from the days that have come and gone! We are in the middle of many an 'engagement' and with the ongoing financial crisis, businesses are on the down-side! Consulting therefore is viewed as a luxury and a luxury it is!
I'm hoping for a quiet day, one that does not warrant the need for too many presentations, documents, road-maps and so on. I will be spending the day building documents on a line of business that has become my baby, and will see myself 'at-work' from day-break to well into the night!
On a lighter note, so much for the musing "Work is fine if it doesn't take too much of your time."

14 years from now

Speaking of 2022, my driving license is due to expire on 25-Feb-2021!
I'm not sure that at 43, the government will want me to drive!
Anyhow, I hope to end the charade [read: veil] of official life by 40 and dedicate whatever remains to savour life along with my family. I heard somewhere that life begins at 40!
I hope to visit many a place and indulge in an exchange of culture, thoughts and desires. Down the road, off in the country-side in Ooty, amidst the blue hills, after a tread down the beaten path, hopefully, I'll live to see the birds fly and the lone deer chew on fresh acacia shoots draped in the morning dew. With a loving family, a brilliant SLR Camera and this blog which is my virtual world, I will live a content man spending time watching his daughter take the first teen steps and thank God for her (I haven't yet told you about my Mom's wish, have I? Well, she wishes that I be blessed with a Son, just like me! A Son????? God... that gives me the jitters. I'm not too sure if Mom's wish is a blessing or a curse!)

If I build a time capsule what would it contain?

In the event of Stephen Hawking being proved wrong, which is highly unlikely, my time capsule will contain digital simulated holograms of all those people and blogs that I am (was) associated with. Needless to say, the capsule will hold terabytes of pictures and videos. An archival system to store the world's best ideas and processes will be incorporated along with a time manager than can display in motion, the significant events that shaped the world for the better!

Finally the Pièce de résistance, where I am to tag friends of mine!

I tag;

Devika Jyothi (A Certain Kind of Woman)
Swati (Escapades)
Keshi (Viva forever)
Man in Painting
Bharath (Musings)
Vibu (The Gemini Mind)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Schematics of a w[o]andering mind

Lost, astray, but still in motion,
forever curbed with inaction,
and amidst certain confusion,
hard, it is to find inspiration.

An atom of thought,
which rises with doubt,
will cause many a belief to flout,
that very scheme it chose to support.

Lost in silence amid a million words,
with choice none, but to play the chords,
a boy listens the drumbeats of his mind,
which is akin to the passing wind.

Oh Creator, what have ye made
of this soul, that is already slate?
I try to take shape, of the present
but shape, is that thing, I most resent


Inspired by; आखरी अलविदा, Aakhri Alvida (Last Goodbye), Strings, 2006

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Nicholas Effect

October 1, 1994 was a very tragic day for the Green family.
While holidaying in Southern Italy, their seven year old son Nicholas was killed by highway robbers in a gunfire! What followed was one of the most compassionate act that humankind possibly ever witnessed, when the Green parents decided to donate the slain boy's organs to save the lives of seven people who went on to live healthy lives with the legacy of Nicholas Green. This was the beginning of what came to be known as The Nicholas Effect (l'Effetto Nicholas).

I first read the story many years ago in Readers Digest while spending vacation time in Kannur, Kerala and was immensely moved at the glorious spirit of the Green parents who at a time of terrible personal tragedy chose to remember their Godsend child by coming to the aid of seven Italians who mercifully clung to dear life while meekly oblivious of their fate with every passing moment.

At a time when organ donations were not readily heard of in Italy, this noble act came as a huge booster to prospective organ donors while adding to widespread growth of awareness. As a result, the stigma and lack of knowledge related to organ donation stemmed drastically and Italy alone witnessed a tripled rate in organ donation since the event, ranking it second in Europe, only after Spain, in the volume of organ donations conducted.

Five years later, in 1999, Reg Green, Nicholas Green's father authored The Nicholas Effect which was an instant bestseller in the United States and Italy while also having been translated in a number of languages for print across the world. Subsequently, a movie by the name of Nicholas's Gift was made casting Jamie Lee Curtis and Alan Bates. With time the young boy's name and legacy found place in many a charitable event that was associated with education, organ donation and sports.

At this juncture, I'd like to quote a message from Reg Green which talks about the seven recipients and the motivation behind The Nicholas Effect.

"These seven people are not rich or famous and their lives are marked by the struggles we all have to face. But they feel they have been reborn. Few potential donors realize what a mighty gift they have in their hands. By one action they can save other families from the devastation they themselves face. With such momentous consequences, donor families often wonder how there could be any other choice.

None of this takes away the pain. The sense that life is missing a vital ingredient is there all the time.

But donating does put something on the other side of the balance. For the rest of our lives we donor families can feel proud that our loved ones saved someone in desperate need when no one else in the world could."

It has been 14 years to the date since the incident and a couple of years since I first read about it. I get the same lump in my throat while remembering the story and have to stealthily wipe off the sometimes spontaneous teardrop that strays down my eyes! I recommend that you read this extremely moving chronicle by sourcing a copy of the Digest that published it. (It is many years old, now)

At a time when we deem it difficult to rationalize how best we can help our fellow beings while alive, this story is a remarkable account of how one boy, all but seven, made a massive difference even after he departed!

I will conclude this post with perhaps the most apt description of the Nicholas Effect.

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

(John Wesley, English Evangelist & Founder of Methodism, 1703-1791)


Do visit the The Nicholas Green Foundation
Photo Courtesy: The Nicholas Green Foundation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From Krypton with love!

As a kid, I've always loved this simply superb character whom I regarded to be the King of celluloid. I must confess, that there was indeed a time not very long ago, when I refused to believe that Superman was nothing more than a product etched out of a creative mind portrayed purely for thrill and entertainment.

My fascination for this Krypton Character who landed up in Smallville began at a time when satellite television had not gained a fast pace in our lives. Had someone mentioned the name of Christopher Reeve then, I would have almost certainly dismissed it as being someone from the forgotten pages of overloaded history. It did not matter then, if I knew the name of that macho guy who flew around in blue and red overalls.

I still recall the sometimes (mostly) ugly squabbles I had in front of the Television yearning to be part of the privileged 30 minute airtime which belonged to Superman. Probably my ideology to uphold the truth in my own manner and right could well be credited to this screen icon, who I would learn years later, existed merely in print and film.

When the news of Reeve's freak accident in an equestrian competition came in 1995, I was not sure how I wanted to react. But from then on, I would rarely miss an article that featured Christopher Reeve. His marathon effort to champion the cause of the physically disabled has certainly been one of true merit and unsurpassed dedication. Today we relate to the names of Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, HealthExtras, The Creative Coalition and The National Organization on Disability because of this luminous personality.

It is indeed tough to come to terms with the fact that a man who made action portrayal a mission of his life had to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Even difficult is to comprehend how this man who suffered so much could move the world for a cause, a very good cause that is.

Not long after his disability, he was asked to be part of the honorary jury of the Academy Awards where he moved an entire audience to tears and I couldn't help shed a tear or two even though the context of his words remain unclear to me this very day.

On October 9, 2004 after attending a game of hockey participated by his Son, he slipped into coma. The end came on October 10th when he succumbed to cardiac arrest.

While America and the rest of the world would remember him as an actor par excellence, and a social reformer at best, I'd like to see him as someone who possessed in him a superhuman quality of human excellence.

Christopher Reeve is indeed an exemplary model of how one person can make a difference. He is a legend not merely for his remarkable portrayal of a Kryptonic character who never existed, but because he did what could never be done at a time when merely a thought of doing it was impossible. As he too leaves this planet, I find myself in the crowd, as one who cannot help but think of this remarkable childhood inspiration that was so much a part of my life.

I'm gonna miss him a great deal. The world is terribly short of superb people.

Little wonder they called him Superman!!!


Originally written on October 12, 2004 on Oblivion Redefined

All those Superman fans out there, do visit Caped Wonder for a stellar collection of Superman imagery.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Friday, October 17, 2008

The real Jonathan Livingston Seagull (within all of us)

Thirty Seven years after it was first published and after considerable recommendation from friends and folks, coupled with very superior reviews I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull last year after I bought the book from a store in Connaught Place, New Delhi on New Years day in 2007.

Barely into a page, I noticed the ease with which Richard Bach introduced the subject whose only purpose was to deeply inspire the reader while helping to take the person deep within the self and understand that being extraordinary was not after all a state limited to the (so-called) extraordinary alone! We have long been conditioned to believe that it takes a superhuman effort to excel and hence become contented with the idea of mediocrity! As children, wide differentiations between the brilliant and the average were imbibed in us, coupled with poor direction and support as a result of which many of us lost trust in our potential and undermined ourselves a great deal only to be condemned to the belief that despite efforts, all results were a direct result subject to the intervention of fate! We have consistently failed to draw inspiration from within and around to make ourselves better, and yet strained hard to achieve the unimaginable only to be violently thrust into dismay in the event of failure.

The story of Jonathan apart from being very simple is a must read. It teaches the most important lesson that one can learn in life, that the individual is unique, whose capability is almost always decided by the manner in which that person looks within and relates to the world outside.

But Jonathan Livingston Seagull, unashamed, stretching his wings again in that trembling hard curve - slowing, slowing, and stalling once more - was no ordinary bird. Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight - how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly.

This is perhaps the case with many of us (me included)! We deem it not in our purview to try what we ought to and seek the help of yet another when the time of judgement arrives, in the bargain immensely compromising not only our will to do what we could have otherwise 'easily' done, but also shatter the mind's confidence while creating a pseudo support system aimed at momentarily calming ourselves. Hence we have come very hard on ourselves and confined our abilities within a boundary out of which we will dare not venture for the fear of failing! Does this sound familiar? I'm sure it does. It is called 'staying within the comfort zone.' Which is why this book does wonders to teach our psyche and the inner self that the first lesson to learn is to be boundary less and unconfined.

The mind does exactly what it has been trained to do, tell it to sleep and it does just that and so, before embarking upon anything it is imperative to train the mind to believe that a possibility can be made a reality by the sheer act of conceiving a thought and executing an idea.

And that is exactly what Jonathan did! He believed with all conviction that he was ace flyer, more than any other fellow gull and flew higher and higher to reach a realm unknown to his kind.

He climbed two thousand feet above the black sea, and without a moment for thought of failure and death, he brought his forewings tightly in to his body, left only the narrow swept daggers of his wingtips extended into the wind, and fell into a vertical dive. The wind was a monster roar at his head. Seventy miles per hour, ninety, a hundred and twenty and faster still. The wing-strain now at a hundred and forty miles per hour wasn't nearly as hard as it had been before at seventy, and with the faintest twist of his wingtips he eased out of the dive and shot above the waves, a ray cannonball under the moon.

It is quite a thing to seek inspiration from within and learn alone! It requires courage, conviction, effort, consistency and belief!
What it certainly does not require is being 'extraordinary.'

I will leave you with the lyrics of one of my favourite numbers ever, from the animated movie - The Prince of Egypt, sung by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
It is called 'Believe.' Do spend a few moments reading the lyrics, since it conveys a very strong meaning and speaks of a thought that is very relevant to every single one of us despite who we are!

Read on......

Many nights we've prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hopeful song
We barely understood
Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill

Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe

In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain
Hope seemed like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I'm standing here
My heart's so full I can't explain
Seeking faith and speaking words
I never thought I'd say

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill

Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe

They don't always happen when you ask
And it's easy to give in to your fear
But when you're blinded by your pain
Can't see your way safe through the rain
Thought of a still resilient voice
Says love is very near

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve

When you believe
Somehow you will
Now you will
You will when you believe

You will when you believe
Just believe
Gotta believe
You will when you believe

Friday, October 10, 2008

Somewhere far away!

Memories overwhelm me as I write this post! The pictures you see are that of my ancestral home Korajem (named after my late Grandfather Sri Kumaran) in Kannur (erstwhile Cannanore), Kerala. This was where I was born and 'kept' for 63 days before being 'shipped' off to Ooty which was my home for decades to come! Built in 1947, it has seen scores of births, weddings and stood mute witness to a number of deaths as well.

Back then, a typical day would begin with a dozen of us cousins foraging around the vast expanse of this behemoth while the women folk worked tirelessly in its massive kitchen to ensure that our perpetually hungry stomachs were addressed to without complaint. Considering the measureless plantation that grew around the place, it needed constant attention and upkeep, a job that required unimaginably superhuman efforts! Afternoons called for a quick siesta after which play resumed. Coming together here was a bonding like none other.

At dusk, exhausted after a days meandering, we were mandated to wash up and present ourselves for the evening prayers which were attended to religiously. The lighting of the Vilakku (lamp) while all of the family, young and old, gathered to pray, signified the human effort to connect with its Creator and call for peace, health and prosperity in a world that was steadily disintegrating!

Popularly known as Tharawads, across Kerala, these expansive edifices once hosted dozens of entire families who lived with each other without incident. Sadly, they are a passé thanks to the nuclear family culture that has caught up!

Kannur was always a source of immense pleasure to me. Come vacations, we were packed off to enjoy a two-month long sojourn with cousins. The lush green outers, the smell of mud when it rained, the endless supply of mangoes, jackfruit, guavas and pineapples to name a few, trips to nearby paddy fields to catch fish and a whole lot more cherished chores are very vivid in my mind to this day. I last visited here during the year 2006 and without any possibility of being able to do so in the recent future, wonder how quickly I have been overcome by the never-ending search for nothing that I continue to be engaged in day to day!

This post is a rich tribute to all my folks for having been such a wonderful lot and kept in touch all along and more importantly for having withstood the test of time and unconditionally supported each other. And Sandeep, thanks very much for these marvelous pictures!

In conclusion, I'd like to quote lines from Mahakavi Changanpuzha's famed poem Gramabhangi which aptly describes the beauty of the countryside in Kerala.

"Malarany kadukal thingi vingi
Marathaka kanthiyil mungi mungi
Karalum mizhiyum kavarnnu minni
Karayattoralasal grama bangi"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Nothing else matters

So close, no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
and nothing else matters

- Nothing else matters, Black, Metallica, 1991

Not a day passes without me looking at the night sky and wondering if we are really alone in this vast universe. My answer comes almost instantly and I stop to contemplate, the focus of thought being my purpose! Neither of these are easy questions to answer since there are no set ideologies upon which they are based and, worse still, they lack any proof to substantiate. I can affirm with a great deal of conviction that these questions dog our minds more than ever. The absolute truths of birth and death having long known and understood by mankind for centuries now, what remains is the causa-proxima of our existence which can better best be explained as the raison d'être (reason for being).

A few days ago, I read that the universe is at least 156 billion light-years wide, courtesy a 'measurement' done sometime in the year 2004. I wonder if we can ever imagine what it means to cross a light year let alone a 156 billion! Perhaps, that answers the big why of not being able to find life in places apart from the Earth! Simply put we are just another tiny system that has been created and placed where it is along with many many other such systems that may (certainly) exist across this colossal space.

While money, creature comforts, security, relationships and a ton of other things may take priority in our minds, metaphysically, they do not matter to the cosmic system since their importance stands nullified once the boundaries of Earth are surpassed. Why then, is it that we attach so much importance to ourselves and our never-ending list of belongings?
How important are we really as opposed to how important the system is to us?

Without wanting to drag you into a web of cosmic philosophy and metaphysics, I would urge you to mull over your thoughts as to what the purpose of us human beings is and rationalize our existence in this world to the best extent possible. It isn't a marathon task as many of us would see it to be. If you'd ask my opinion, I'd be emphatic to state that an individual purpose leads to a collective purpose to aid the system to be a better place, and us better elements. Now, how much that purpose is achieved is a matter of question, not because we cannot, but because we do not will to pursue it or perhaps attach due importance to it! And do remember, what we do or do not is only limited to the boundaries of our planet, perhaps a little more, but not very significantly outwards! We are mere human beings and look what a tapestry we make, reasons apart!

About two years ago, I posted an interesting set of pictures, here on my blog under the name Celestial Wonders. I keep visiting that post often, since it gives me a very clear idea of how small (or big, to some) we really are! I recommend you take a peek and feel the overwhelming sensation for a few moments.


There's so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the suns gone to hell
And the moons riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it’s written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We’re fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

- Brothers in Arms, (Brothers in Arms), Dire Straits, 1985

Friday, September 26, 2008

Until now!

It has been quite sometime since I have written about how my life is headed. My stay in Pune is now six months and a few days old and I feel youthful and energetic considering that my personal and professional lives are on track without being marred by adverse events. My endless quest for purpose and reason continues with a great deal of introspection aimed at making myself a better person. Continuous improvement (Kaizen) is by all means the best method to help one shape a better perspective leading to a rewarding life.

Quite strangely, I find myself more at ease and less ambitious. I find contentment in elementary things. Watching the Sunset, the birds in the sky, people milling around in the evenings and the endless contour of sometimes unruly traffic excite me more than ever before. Having relaxed ambition for a bit, I feel the pleasure of living a quiet yet fulfilling life the purpose of which primarily lies in understanding oneself and connecting to the cosmic space and the Supreme. All else is relative! Is it not?

True happiness springs from within, without the assistance of an external accessory.
Hence, I consciously strive not to entangle myself in a web of wants and needs, which I am sure will be realized with the passage of time. I am however not sure if I see my current state of being as one of bliss or numbness.

My desire to travel is more than ever and wish for a job that entitles me to do so. After all, people and culture are sources of immense enrichment and pleasure. I'd like to be Lao Tzu's good traveller who has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving!

My connection with the Creator is firm and beyond a fair share of tests. I know not still if he exists or otherwise and honestly, I am not plagued by the thought. I know that my faith has instilled in my wild being, a sense of discipline like never before and am glad at reaffirming the thought of being an old-school product! I have long known that life has no text-book way of being lived out. Bertrand Russell once said "There are so many new mistakes that one can make, repeating the same ones is not worth." Although, my life is no comedy of errors, I refrain from sulking in the event of having made a mistake. And during tough times, I loudly remind myself that "This too shall pass."

My endeavour is to certainly progress in life and be better than what I already am, I am after all a servant of capitalism and will to some extent remain connected with the selfish theme of recompense, however, the difference is that I remain firmly grounded and connected to reality at all times without losing focus of who I have been 'Until now.'

I want to thank all of you who visit my blog and make me feel worthy of my creation. There is a great deal of inspiration and encouragement that I derive from you and your posts. Life has been and will continue to be a great theater of learning.

On a footnote, I want you to please spend sometime reading the article via the following link which has reiterated my faith in persistence, education, empowerment and most importantly, the zeal to better oneself with a strong positive attitude!

PS: I wanted the above link to appear on the post as a click-link, however, I am unable to make that happen! I tried using the 'Insert link' option but that does not seem to work on my blog. Could someone help?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wish you were here!

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
........How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here..........

- Wish you were here (Wish you were here), Pink Floyd, 1975

Saluting Richard (Rick) Wright who was the founding member of the band, Pink Floyd and its songwriter,

Without you I would not have known Wish you were here, Interstellar Overdrive, A Saucerful of Secrets, Careful with That Axe Eugene, One Of These Days, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, The Great Gig in the Sky, Us and Them, The Dark Side of the Moon, Division Bell and many many more

Whereever you are, your soul isn't lost amidst even the greatest gig in the sky, there are no more black hole like looks and I will say with high hopes that the dark side of the moon prompts to shine on you crazy diamond.

Living the final cut in remorse, in spirit, numb yet comfortable. Rest in peace.
Heaven is a better place with you around.

Image Courtesy

Monday, September 08, 2008

Remembering Dr.Randy Pausch

I had not heard of Randy Pausch until, as recently as, the end of July when a friend sent me a link to his famed "Last Lecture." Having heard one of the most inspirational talks ever in recent years, I set out to google Randy Pausch and was stunned to know that he was no more and had passed away on the 25th of July, a victim of pancreatic cancer.

For those who do not know (me included, until a few months ago) who Randy Pausch was, here is a snippet.

He was Carnegie Mellon University's most luminous light ever, simply put! Having started his career as an Assistant and Associate professor in the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Virginia's School, he soon became the Associate Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction and Design, at the Carnegie Mellon University. He created the Alice Software Project and co-founded the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon while also working on Virtual Reality Research with Disney Imagineers which, as he put it, was his "dream come true."

However it is not all these long list of important positions and accomplishments alone that made him what he became. It was his uncanny ability to keep things simple and most importantly his humane and extremely positive attitude towards life that made him special. Anyone who has listened to his last lecture will agree with me that his courage is unparalleled. How many people would you know who after being told that they had months to live, would live with a more zealous and energetic spirit and go around telling people to be courageous in what they do?

While at the Oprah Winfrey show he spoke about how important life is and how we as people should make an effort to understand that it is not things but people that we need to attach importance to. He spoke about working towards realizing one's true calling and dream and hence achieving the purpose of life. What was perhaps most inspiring during the show was his display of courage and sign of strength when he went down on the floor, despite his condition and did a few strong willed push-ups and told the world of how strong he was while facing death in the face.

His death was indeed very untimely and a great loss to his family, friends, Carnegie Mellon and millions of people who sought inspiration from his deeds and words. Little wonder that Time magazine named him one of the World's Top-100 Most Influential People.

I'll leave you with what I think has been Randy's best quote ever. It goes thus "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."

Do find time to listen to his wonderful words of wisdom, particularly the last lecture, via the following links

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Great Divide

Just when the nation was recovering from a terrorist attack in Gujarat and its embassy in Kabul, it seems to have another daunting task at hand in handling the religious crisis that has erupted in Orissa (besides the ominous rioting in kashmir)

We seem to have done it again! The Indian brand of secularism is a failing apparatus and needs to be reworked upon with a great deal of conviction and force. With one debilitating blow we have rendered ourselves to be portrayed as uncivilized neanderthals vying for blood all in the name of religion and caste!
While history has been consistent in witnessing bloodshed over religion, in today's democratic system, there is a need for tolerance and understanding that will foster a better and peaceful coexistence which is essential for the social structure to survive and further itself. As a country we cannot afford to be thrust in the face of problems, especially considering the tremendous people and intellectual resources needed to help shape the economy. Political factions and vested interests will continue to encourage factionalism to foster hatred among communities in order to politicize the issue. However, it is extremely distressing to note that people take up cue from such instances and act as savages against their fellow beings. Sadly such communal incidents seem to be prevalent in an environment that is devoid of basic necessities that facilitate a decent lifestyle. People entrenched in such places need to devote their focus on subjects such as self-reliance, food, sanitation, health care, education and most of all tolerance.

Yesterday, a prominent newspaper carried a photograph of a radical someone tying a VHP flag onto a Cross above a church. Such an act does little to help the world understand India better but on the contrary represents the fanaticism of a certain community and labels the country and its inhabitants as mercenaries rather than peace loving people. Taking suo moto cognizance of the ongoing violence, the Orissa high court directed the government to desptach armed forces to take control of the situation and defuse it. It is shameful that we have to be herded like cattle and our movements restricted and monitored all as a result of our own actions. In doing what we did in Orissa we have displayed that despite echoing the need for prosperity and peace across the nation, we live on a fragile platform that can miserably fail at the drop of a feather! We also fail to understand that such incidents result in deep wounds that take light years to heal.

It is 2008 and the world is focusing on development, knowledge management, efficient technological and people resources and above all else an environment to foster good living conditions. Maintaining peace and tranquil is not an option, it is a mandate that has to be followed by the people rather than being imposed upon them top-down by a governing authority. We cannot continue to live in the medieval ages and encourage lawlessness and disdain for that would lead us to a path of certain devastation (if there is anything left to be devastated i.e)

As I close this post, I leave you with a disturbing image that portrays the aftermath of the carnage. Take a moment to notice the poverty stricken family and their misery. Is this how we would want the world to see us? Is this our representation of ourselves coming of age as a people and a nation? Will this be the legacy that we would foster our children to inherit?

Image courtesy: The Times of India

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympics in India?

The recently concluded Beijing Olympics undoubtedly put China on a world pedestal unlike any we have seen or known before. Journalists across the world called it one of the most spectacular showcasing of sporting events yet. Adding one glory on another, China walked away with a hundred medals. Hu Jintao beamed in all glory and had all the reason to do so. His country has done him and the entire Chinese communist establishment proud.

Only several months ago, vociferous protests echoed across the globe condemning China's atrocities in Tibet. Television channels beamed a series of saddening pictures of monks breaking down. A number of world leaders made "tall-order" speeches calling for China to exercise restraint and also lost no time in bellowing their support to Tibet by promising to stay away from the opening ceremonies. (The American & French two-facedness is well known and needs no special mention). The much awaited touring of the torch was marred by protestors who succeeded in putting out the flame which resulted in the Chinese government taking unprecedented measures and stepping security to torch bearers. India's National Security Advisor, M. K. Narayanan was given the task of overseeing the security of the torch while it 'toured' India. Besides, India's Ambassador to Beijing was summoned at an unearthly hour to listen to China's security concerns. (I'm wondering how much more degrading a task the NSA & the Ambassador needed to be assigned for the Government of India to be China-sucking and beaming it for the sake of appeasing the Red Dragon. It did not matter that an Indian Team comprising Army & Intelligence personnel were chased away by the Chinese Army while conducting a border-patrol)
All China-bashing (mere statements i.e.) stopped in the same steam and urgency as they begun as the days to the countdown inched closer.

While invitations were rolled out, it was not the Indian Head of State whose name appeared as a guest to the opening ceremony, but those of a 'prominent' ItalioIndian family who lost no time in accepting the 'courtesy'. So called 'diplomatic sources' pointed out that this should not be viewed as China having snubbed Dr. Manmohan Singh! (I'm confused! And will not be surprised if one day the North Block would be seen flying the Red Flag with Stars) In truth, China had indeed snubbed the Indian government by not inviting its leader to the games (Double-Whammy!!!)

On the evening of August 8 when I watched the Opening Ceremony at the 'Bird's Nest' via the Internet, I was nothing short of having been stunned by the wonderful display of carefully and superbly choreographed stretch of events that were undoubtedly beyond India's capacity of attempting to display (Facts might hurt indeed) What the ceremony showcased apart from its fabulous accompaniment of fireworks and cultural exhibits, was the superhuman effort and discipline that had gone behind making the event. Which brings me to the centrality of this blogpost............ Can we ever host the Olympics in India? Why is it that in a nation of a billion plus people, quality is a very sparsely available commodity? It is surely not because of the Indian population in its entirety being non-committal to excellence! Or is it? I begin to fear! Are we in truth deteriorating as a people with the passing day? Or is it that the system is so riddled and beyond repair that its revival can well be likened to the process of evolution itself? The Common Wealth youth games, to be held in Pune are less than two months away from start while the local government is yet to complete many an avenue designated for the games! Accommodation and infrastructure woes continue to plague authorities as time speeds by. It is estimated that Seventy countries would participate in the games. An opportunity such as this comes rarely and the Government and civic bodies should do all they can to capitalize on events such as these not merely to host a wonderful event but also promote India as a tourist destination and cultural hotspot that will play a vital role in attracting people world over. The never ending problems of inadequate security, pot-hole ridden roads, poor infrastructure and an indifferent people are so malicious that they grow upon the international community who will lose little time and opportunity to label India as an 'unfriendly' destination. It is time we as a people change and ensure that enough pressure is exerted on the Government and civic authorities to ensure that we provide a world-class reception to people from across the globe. We lack training facilities and world-class equipment to facilitate our athletes to perform better. It is a shame that in a nation of Arjuna and Eklavya, archery takes a back seat. Despite hockey being our national game, we failed to qualify in the games! Is the Indian endurance high for the wrong reason? Are we a satisfied lot in mediocrity shying away from excellence since it involves efforts?

Think......, Imagine........., the Indian flag being raised, the national anthem being played in the background, a curtain raiser to the Olympic games. Is it a dream? Can it not be an Indian dream? Will it remain a mere dream?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Why freedom in 1947 was a disaster to India

Us Indians have a very strange trait of never being united despite claiming to ride the waves of national integration, unity, diversity and what not! Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that we never were a whole unified state until the British came invading and in the process unified more then 300 hundred provinces into a single country. While we celebrate being the world's largest democracy and attempt to project a very unified stand to the world outside, in truth, there is a whole lot of difference at the ground level when it comes to the part of the country one belongs to. Regional bias has been a woeful problem although spoken about rarely. Worse still, this regional bias is promoted by political parties and their leaders in a subtle yet distinctly strong manner in order to carve out their identities in the minds of people who decide their fate in local and general elections. Unification of people in India has always been a mammoth task and has tested many a nerve despite electoral command and experience. It has hence come to be believed that Indians wouldnever stand united despite any calling or cause. The differences and biases run deep in our bloodstream that prompt to immediately oppose any call for unification.

Forgetting unified stands for a while and going into real people issues, one realizes thatwe were a mass of people who spent centuries under rulers being their subjects. This probably did not echo the need to carve out a space for ourselves in the society and capitalize on movements of change that swept the world such as the Industrial Revolution. Teamwork and people force were given no importance whatsoever while as sitting ducks we subjected ourselves to imposing oppression.
Worse, this brought about a standstill in the way our minds worked and creativity and callsfor excellence by learning and transcending borders were blatantly shot down! Eventually, people although in the thousands had not convinced themselves that the real forceof change lay in them. While they sometimes did call for change, it was not often acted uponwith rigor and passion.

Sometime in the 1600s the British came calling under the guise of a trade-bannered East India Company, the Indian subcontinent for the first ever time stood united! Although a few princely provinces remained stray, they owed allegiance to the Crown and hence formed part of the 'empire.'
The need for freedom spurred Indian emotions to a new high and pockets of resistance soon evolved to become revolts and a call to quit India became a reality on 15th August 1947.
However, I wonder if we ever deserved freedom as early as 1947. Following independence, India and Pakistan saw a bloodbath and people who once neighboured one another soon stepped out for each others' blood. Social and economic development were inching at snail's pace under a socialist government that came into power following independence. People once again subjected themselves to being ruled, this time by an elected government, that cared little for its people. Slowly, bureacracy and rad-tapism creeped into every governement machinery and efficiency faultered to a bare minimum. Corruption thrived in every sphere of public life and people had no option but to endure this disease. A new breed of politicians inked memorandums of understanding with criminals in a bid to further their money making machine and extend their influence in order to capture a larger share of the electoral pie.
Had we so abruptly altered course barely years after independence? Where was the 'vision' that the government yapped about? Where was the 'golden dream' that every Indian was promised? Had we merely become a state of thugs who care less for its people? Poverty and crime rose by the passing year along with the scourge of unemployment!
Elsewhere, members of the cabinet proclaimed that the emerging Nationalist state would outdo many a developing nation in the coming years! Politics was redifined where talk and act were miles apart. You could have a number of things on paper ratified by officials but when action called, none of these were ever in the forefront. Accountability and responsibility were constantly dodged by politicians and bureaucrats alike.

And then in 1999, the British handedover Hong Kong to China. While the world watched the transfer, it also took note of the industrialized and modernized social structure thatHong Kong had become under British rule. China had indeed received a lavish return on investment.
There will be many a 'self-affirmed' patriotic political bamboozler who would regard my writing to be pro-colonial and argue that India should have been an independent state long before 1947. To them I would emphatically state that Independence is earned with a proof of longstanding and unwavering maturity as it is in the case of animals and human beings.
While India has long been a wonderful bank of natural resources and intellectual capital like no other, a coordinated effort to transform the state with times has been missing.
Today, at a time when global presence and on-demand business are harped upon, I find India divided. An India is home to the super affluent while another witnesses a mass of people who thrive on a meal a day or perhaps lesser. Isn't it a national shame that people do not have food to eat? What use is it to glorify a nation whose people do not have a roof over their heads? Scores of people lack basic amenities of life and do not have access to medical assistance in the event of a threat to health. Unemployment, child labor, poor wages, abuse of all kinds and poor living conditions are common to more than 40% of the Indian population. With an ever increasing population, common civic senses are absent among people. On a morning walk one could see people defecating on the streets (I am told that in certain states, it is customary for people to defecate alongside their houses). Spitting and littering are synonymous to living!

All this makes me wonder, did we after all need independence as early as 1947? What would be our state had we made a choice to let the British rule us for a half-century more?
Perhaps we would have emerged better and civilized Indians and yes, certainly a united lot.