Monday, July 17, 2006


I have been wanting to do this for sometime now. And I don't want to put it off any longer. So, as Truman would put it, Good Morning, and in case I don't see ya (again), Good Afternoon and Good Evening and Good Night. And if you ever make it in one peice, see you on the other side!

Friday, July 07, 2006

CRTI and The Drive Against Bribe

About a month ago, the Chennai RTI group along with a number of other organizations and individuals joined together to come up with what has been christened the Tamilnadu Right to Information Campaign. Based on discussions during the initial meeting, it was decided that a concentrated effort to raise RTI awareness in the state shall be launched on the 10th of July which would go on for at least two weeks and end on the 25th. As part of the exercise, it was decided to organize RTI camps in several districts (including Chennai) of Tamilnadu simultaneously during the said period.

To prepare for the campaign, a training workshop for volunteers was held on June 24th. Over 100 volunteers attended the camp which was held to train these volunteers on issues and procedures relating to RTI. These volunteers will be part of the TN RTI campaign that will begin on July 10th and will encompass 15 districts in TN. The TNRTI campaign itself is a part of the national campaign titled "Drive against Bribe". NGOs, unions and citizens' movements in 25 cities in India are taking part in this campaign.

During this campaign, we will target issues that we face in our daily interaction with the government. We might be expected to handle problems that include ration card applications, electricity and water related complaints, license and road transport applications, public distribution system, pension and revenue related problems. As the title of the national campaign suggests, we will use RTI as a powerful and effective alternative to bribes. In addition to this Drive against Bribe related issues, we might also take up citizen vigilante instances where we will use RTI for issues related to public works, state and central government policies and schemes, election commission. The objective of the campaign will be to exercise our right to information, increase awareness about the Act, provide impetus to citizen vigilante initiatives and solve everyday problems using the RTI tool.

Chennairti is playing an active role in the coordination of this campaign in Chennai. It has been decided that the campaign will be run by volunteers from the different partner organizations and individuals not affiliated to any of these organizations. A central camp and several small satellite camps will be set up in Chennai where the volunteers will be available to help citizens draft RTI applications. The central camp will be open all day and the satellite camps will be open for a few hours every evening and during the weekends. The camps will be open for 2 weeks and will be operated by volunteers on a time sharing basis. 4-5 hours of volunteering in total from each volunteer is expected to help us run these camps during the 2 weeks of this campaign.

A training session on the 24th of June (Saturday) trained volunteers to assist citizens in the filing of RTI applications. Each volunteer was trained and provided with the support material (sample applications, case studies, addresses to which RTI applications have to be sent, etc.) to be able to file strong RTI applications that will help get the required information.

The actual campaign will be supported by national media (NDTV, Hindu etc) in the form of daily coverage. We will also partner with local media including Tamil newspapers, TV and Radio channels and neighborhood newspapers.

This is an excellent opportunity to add strength to the largest ever national RTI awareness campaign. Even if you have not been a part of the training session, we would love to have more volunteers during this campaign. 5 hours of your time during those two weeks will help us reach out to more people with this campaign. If you are interested in volunteering, call Guru @ 98407 65030. Please spread the word about this campaign and ask individuals/organizations interested in volunteering to write to or contact us by phone at the number provided above.

(Posted on behalf of the Chennai Right to Information Initiative)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Racing is life...

***Warning - Stay away from this post if you are NOT a motor-sports fan***

I am liveblogging the 24 Hours of Le Mans as two factory Audi R10 TDIs finish 1 and 3 overall. If you are an auto racing fan like me, you will know that this is a monumental event. The 24 Heures du Mans is probably the most historic of auto races in the current racing calendar. This is the 74th edition and so this is possibly the oldest race in motor sports that still races in its original format.

If you are fan of the Mercedes Benz racing teams, like I am, its interesting to note that the a horrific accident at Le Mans in 1955 that killed 77 spectators caused Benz to withdraw from all racing till they came back in 1987. And Le Mans is also the scene of the famous trio of back flips that the Mercedes CLRs (one of the most beautiful cars ever, if you ask me) performed in on their Le Mans debut in 1999 along the Mulsanne straight, one of them during practice by current F1 driver Mark Webber (he had another during the actual race at virtually the same point on the track!) which has caused Mercedes Benz to stay away from from Le Mans since then (click here to see a Google video, which btw, has a funny description of what happened).

Now Audi powered cars have been winning first overall in this race for the last 7 years (six by the R8 cars and one win by a Audi powered Bentley in 2003) in a row. This year has been even more special. After being virtually unchallenged since the turn of the millenium, Audi decided to make things challenging by getting a completely new 5.5 litre diesel engine this year and the car became officially known as the Audi R10 TDI. And a few minutes ago, just as I started typing, the R10 became the first diesel powered car to win the 24 hours race.

It has been a weekend of racing coincidences. Last Sunday, I came back to find that my latest Netflix DVD had arrived. It was the one Steve McQueen movie that I had been hunting for a long time - Le Mans. With the last 10 days being as tiring as they did (will post on that sometime), I never got a chance to open the DVD. Yesterday I did and having some problems in my DVD player setup I put it off and turned on Speed Channel to find catch the start of this year's 24 hours race at Le Sarthe.

Since Speed cut off coverage after a hour to switch to a Nascar show, I decided to go and watch a movie. And the only movie that was beginning when I got there was Cars. And the lead character voiced by Owen Wilson was called - Lightning McQueen ( a nod to Steve McQueen)!
While I knew last week about the Cars connection, I did not realize that this was the Le Man's weekend because for some reason I was thought that the 24 Hours was always during the first weekend of July.

Once I came back late at night after the movie, I caught another hour of the race as Speed was switching back and forth. And this morning, I again caught snatches as the cars raced closer and closer to the finish. In the end, the C06 Corvettes, always strong performers in the American Le Mans series (of which the 24 hours is the flagship race), ran a very good race too and one of the them finished 4th overall. The C06 won the GT1 class along the way after one of the Aston Martin DBR9s that was leading for most of the way with a one lap advantage fried a clutch prompting a pitstop with less than 4 hours left. The Aston Martins finally finished 2nd (sixth overall) and fifth in their class. The GT2 class was won by one of the Panoz Esperantes, a fitting acheivement since this year marks a decade of their participation in ALMS.

For all the trivia enthusiasts out there, Steve McQueen was a budding American Le Mans series racer himself (Paul Newman is another, I think) who drove a Porsche 908 at the 12 hours of Sebring race in 1970 while preparing for the Le Mans movie, finishing second overall (and first in class) behind the winning Ferrari of Mario Andretti. Another interesting peice of trivia is that McQueen holds1 US patent #D219584 (click picture to enlarge) for something that millions of people use everyday while driving - the bucket seat! Talking about multi-dimensional movie stars, for Steve Mcqueen, racing WAS life.

Another Le Mans trivia nugget - every car manufacturer makes left hand drive cars with the ignition key on the right hand side of the steering wheel. Well, every manufacturer except Porsche! This is a direct nod to their Le Mans winning heritage2.

In the old days (till 1970, a year after seat belts were made mandatory), the start of Le Mans, like Formula One, used to be stationary (now it's a race with a rolling start, like NASCAR). The drivers had to run to their cars from the opposite side of the track from the pitwall and start their cars and drive off. Having the ignition on the left helped since the drivers could save a few seconds by starting the engine with left hand while engaging the 1st gear with the right hand, depressing the clutch with left foot and stepping on the gas with right foot simultaneously thus allowing the Porsche to get off the starting line more quickly than other race cars. And so it is perhaps no surprise that Porsche have been perennial winners (16 top overall finishes) at Le Mans.

[1] Source: The First Steve McQueen Site

[2] Source: Wikipedia

Friday, June 16, 2006

Truthiness and the linguistic rule book

Glancing through Rediff earlier today, one came across this piece of news about the Sukhoi deal that the Indian government inked with Russia some years ago. Here is an excerpt from the said article.

According to Irkut Corporation President Oleg Demchenko, his company is ready to execute the fighter swap deal with India and is likely to pre-pone the execution of deal for the licensed production of 140 fighters by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited from 2014 to 2012.

Looking at the word, one finally understands the etymology of the word in question. The word prepone seems to have originated from the mistaken belief that the "post" part of the word "postpone" is a prefix, while it definitely is not. So the original users, surely non native speakers of English (in all probability of East Indian descent) of the word "prepone" just took the antonym, if I may say so, of the word "post" and used it to get a new word which supposedly means just the opposite of the word "postpone". And voila, there you have it - Prepone. But given the poor knowledge of etymology that this blogger possesses, the origin of the word might have been invisible, if not for the inadvertent error made by the editor/correspondent.

Lest you, the kindly reader, think that this is a tirade against the use of the prefix "pre" with the non-existent word "pone", take a step back. One is aware that the word "prepone" has been on for sometime now. Rather it is a tirade against the improper use of the hyphen where it shouldn't be in the first place.

And BTW, a vibrant cell phone culture is no excuse to invent new words for mundane activities like "paying the bill". I don't think "post-pay" has any place in our vocabulary as well. Paying dues to a company after using their services is a process that has been in vogue in business for eons. But paying before you use a service - now that is something new, well sort of. So one thinks that you are allowed to develop words like "pre-pay".

In fact there should be an official limit on people cooking up new words. At least no one except Stephen Colbert should be allowed to invent new words. Now that is a thought that is overflowing with truthiness!

Monday, May 29, 2006


A few weeks ago, Google Current featured a profile on "Tamil". Yes, the word "tamil". One important fact that I learned from this profile was that according to the last US census, Jersey has the largest number of Tamil speakers in the US. Another fact - 30 percent of all searches for the word "tamil" originate from the US.

Assorted other tidbits:

* After approximately half a decade, it could still be possible now for one to download a wall paper of Prabhudeva and Gayathri Jayaram doing the "Walk like a Egyptian" dance while moving to "Manja kaatu maina".

* Vadivelu seems to be having fun in Imsai Arasan - 23 "A.M" Pulikesi! But for the non Tamil readers, "Whoa" is an acceptable reaction as well.

* Ashok (M.S E.E /Santa Clara/Brahmin/Brahmacharanam/Uthradam/Sankrithi), take a bow. You are famous. Or will be, if another 10 or 15 bloggers pick up this and one of them does a funny post. Or if this post is Dp'ed. Or if Nilu does a post that pukes on your profile.

To end, a quick thought that came to my mind when I saw the tag-line for this video. If Tamil Nadu is "Tamilot", then who is King Arthur? The Gaptain, that's who!

(P.S: BG, thanks for the link kiddo!)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pioneers, Kenwoods, filter kaapi and The Hindu

Two comments from an article on CNN-IBN discussing the decision by the AIIMS students to
cancel parallel Out Patient Departments to counter the Govt's decision to reservations in '07:

A 10 yr formula failing even after 60 yrs comes to show that the assumptions are misconceived. The government’s move is draconian, regressive & development retarding. Merit is compromised for creating privileges for an influential section within the asking hands of the backward castes.
While many of my brotherhood cry & moan to deaf, autocratic ears, it is expected of the government to rethink on its approach. The current policy is divisive & does not achieve the primary purposes.
One is underprivileged not by the caste in which he/she is born but by what he is deprived of. The primer of the policy needs a revisit. The government will do good to:
1. enforce reservations at School levels (fundamental right to education)
2. Scholarship schemes & funds within Higher bodies of education to support underprivileged (Based on economic criteria)
3. Distribution of unutilized land for industry/cultivation
4. Micro finance institutions, NGOs to develop vocational skills, self employment
The meritorious people already pay their share due to progressive taxation.
The brains seek challenge and not decay in mediocrity. Let no one have discussions on talent pool drains in future.

* ( Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:26 )

Hey * ...a quick question...are you from Chennai ?
( Posted by ****_******* on Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:19 )

(P.S: The title is pure wordplay. Poineer, Kenwood, types of stereos, stereotypes.. get it? *sigh* I always knew I couldn't do an Art Buchwald. Jokes apart, this is pretty much the only reference to reservations that you might find here. I consider myself uneducated when it comes to matters like this and though I really have strong opinions, my reasoning seems to be very flimsy and I refuse to be drawn into any argument where I'd be forced to concede solely because I am ill-informed! Or mebbe not. Let's see!)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Basketball diaries

One yearns to be playing cricket like this. But regardless of disappointments at not being a part of similar groups, one's day brightens even upon reading about things like this.

If you ask me who I'd identify myself with the most among all the Saturday Game ballers, it would have to be the Commish. I am obsessed with playing right whether it is practice or the game or when I am in the sidelines cheering (happened a lot during my undergrad and grad years). I am not a very good player, but I hate to play with people who act goofy or don't give 100 percent when the rest are playing seriously.

So now, I am hunting for the right group to play with. The group is more than important for me to sustain interest, to help me get out of bed in the morning like I used to during the summer holidays in the 80's and the first half of the 90's and run at 6:30 in the morning to the Hensman Road ground. But I know now that playing cricket like that here is almost impossible. And it is in times like this when I wish I was really in and around South Florida where the beautiful weather permits one group that I know who play regularly.

Maybe tennis is the answer, but the combination of factors like the lack of equally (non) talented hitting partners and ankle-biters hogging the pair of tennis courts in the apartment complex every evening has been the dampener these past few weeks.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A loathsome, offensive brute

(Originally uploaded by superstarksa)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Avuncular Epiphany

Some of my friends (old and new) have conspired to bring me to a point where I have had to transcend to an avuncular state, leading to much introspection about life and the various mysteries it still holds. During one particular self analysis phase a couple of months ago, I realized that this phase, which is going to be forever btw, has the potential to rise at least a few embarrassing moments, unless I do something about it.

This phase came to its head sometime last week when the shiny silver motorola started buzzing with the advent of a text message that read "It's a boy!!! Name (***insert random in-vogue sanskrit name***). 7.5 lbs". Then I had an epiphany1, or to internalize what Frank Maiers once said (via, a spiritual flash that would change the way I viewed myself.

So, in a change that should rank right there with Intel's logo change2, I am letting go of the nick aNTi. Unlike other changes of this kind, this is not about the subject, i.e. me. It is about you all (Gabby, you, Mr.G and the Maharaja are included too). Because I don't want any kid to go Ok, so, here is uncle. Where is aunty? after being introduced to me and later being scarred for life after hearing the reply - Yes dear, this is aNTi. He is the uncle too.3

Now to choose an alternate nickname. That was a tough task. I was tempted to become Superman, but then that would entail a much bigger change, i.e. my tagline, something that my already overdrawn creative juices cannot withstand right now. Then I remembered that mystery Namibian fast bowler !Kabbo.

If you have seen Gods Must Be Crazy, you must remember the weird clucking noises that Xixo (played by this guy called N!xau) and the other Sho "tribespeople" made while conversing with each other in the native tongue. While the prospect of people making clucking noises (to pronounce the "!" in words and names like N!xau) while referring to me made taking a Sho nick an attractive proposition. I was actually going to post pics showing how to move your shoulders like a chicken's wing while mouthing the nick aloud.

But then the amnesia suddenly disappeared and I remembered the embarrassment in 2003 when someone gently reminded me4 that the Cricinfo piece from one year earlier was actually was a joke made on All Fools day. And since the Sho reference is way too obscure, I had to drop the nick with the clucking sound.

Finally I decided to take a cue from that master of name changes, Prince and decided that I could just choose myself a symbol and tell people that the symbol was called TBloFKAa or The Blogger Formerly Known As aNTi. But the presence of the letters F and K one after the other, made be do a rethink and so the symbol and the acronym was dropped in favor of the phraseology.

So there you have it. This blogger as you have known him in the past has ceased to exist.

[1] Yes!!!. Finally got to use the word on a post!

[2] I know..I know. No one noticed the change.

[3] A dig that the likes of Gabby would surely love to indulge in, bah.

[4] Haloscan comments are not available any more, so thankfully, no one can embarrass me about that again!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Of ritualistic eyeballing and the scent of wealth

About a week ago one noticed a Desipundit listing for a post that commented on the almost ritualistic eyeballing between two specimens of the brown kind. And a couple of days later this same post was picked up by that academic cum excellent blogger from Banglore, TA Abhinandan. Invoking that God of good natured self deprecatory humor and the supreme creator of the peerless Ajay Palvayanteeswaran, Abhi opined that things have changed since his time in the US, as a grad student. While one can't agree or disagree with that last line, it is certainly possible to add our own spin into the mix, which BTW, seems to be shared by at least a couple of commenters on Shake's post.

In the past few months that I have spent in desh away from desh, I have certainly experienced enough to identify with everything Shakes mentions. But at the same time, I have also seen things go farther, past the piercing stare stage. It goes like this. Back in the desh, if Pammi mongrel strays into the area ruled by Bunty mongrel, Bunty proceeds to size up Pammi from nose to tail. And then ritualistic sniffing occurs as Bunty seeks to identify what Pammi must have had for dinner the previous night. Some folks have claimed that Bunty is disgusting enough to risk a taste, but I am not being judgmental. For you gotta do what you gotta do. Anyways, if Bunty is satisfied that Pammi stinks just right, then friendship happens. Again whether Bunty gets some, later is beyond the scope of this discussion, but one can safely concur that the two wouldn't curl up with a DVD of Brokeback Mountain.

Okay, too much digression. What we are trying to say is that in most cases this staring ritual is not allowed to proceed. But if the ritual goes forward, the next stage in a large percentage of cases would be a ***drumrolls*** business proposal. Yes, the often lamented I-toiled-for-years-to-make-money-from-my- day-job-and-now-I-have-my-fortune-through-a-unique-business-opportunity-that-I-would -gladly-share-with -the-person-standing-in-front-of-me -at-the-grocery-store-billing-counter. Or the parking lot of the local strip mall. Or the rest room at the strip club. Wait, maybe not the last mentioned, since one has never seen the interior of a strip club. Ever.

This theory has been developed not by conjecture, but through experience - experience that has left us all wary of eye contact and has contributed toward the other common theory - desis will neither make eye contact nor small talk with strangers of the same kind in a constrained environment. This theory is as widespread as the whole A guy and a girl can never be "just" friends theory.

For example, some months, I parked my car in front of the local subzi mandi and seconds before I was to walk past this desi gentleman, I noticed him stopping and staring at me. I hesitated for a second and this was enough for him to start to say something. He started with a 'I have seen you somewhere'? line making me hesitate even more. His next question 'Where are you from'? Too shocked to be silent, I replied. The moment he found I was from Chennai, he switched to Tamil and soon he had shared with me that one of his cousins had graduated from the same college in Tamil Nadu 5 years before I got in. I was startled enough to reply truthfully to all his questions and soon came the standard line about a business opportunity that would let me make some extra money without much effort. He said that his company had a number of patents in biotech and this business opportunity was in cancer testing or something. By then I had started taking evasive measures. It made no difference to me that his idea seemed to be nothing like the ones I had heard so far.

Here is where I get to dispense with some advice. If you ever have to change your cell phone number, remember to never forget the old number. There are situations when such knowledge can help, like this one. My old phone number flew off my tongue without hesitation. It certainly helped that I had changed the number just a week before this incident, but I have resolved carry the memory of my 740 number to my grave, lest one of the pall-bearers hired to lay me down to rest is one such businessman.

If you think this was an isolated incident, here is one more anecdote. A few days ago, considerable part of a weekend day was spent walking around the Jacob K. Javits Convention 11ther, on 11th Avenue between 34th and 39th streets in NYC. Past 9 pm, tummy and soles complaining, we headed down Newark Avenue in Jersey City looking for a desi eatery to gorge on dosas and such. The food was ordered, and soon tummies were in the process of being placated when a tiny hand moved in our line of sight and dipped three thin fingers into a full plastic cup of water. Before we could react the child had run away.

Looking around to see who the kid's parents were, I found my eyes locking on a face that had a questioning look. It was the father (as we found out barely seconds later when the kid plonked itself on his lap). I averted my eyes, but not before feeling a twinge of disgust since the guy apparently did not care much about the fingers in our water. A couple of seconds later, I looked up to find the guy's eyes still locked on me. This time he croaked out a 'You went to the auto show'? I nodded and before long the guy was in the midst of a monologue, peppering us with questions and my talkative friend was soon opining about how there were no new car introductions this year.

Meanwhile sensors of a different sort had been kick-started and I was waiting to hear the line that I dreaded most. But I was made to wait. At different points, the monologue was interrupted by breaks when the guy got up to make small talk with the restaurant's owner and then with another family and so on. But he was always back after a couple of minutes, for another round. He managed to give us a two minute version of his life story and made sympathetic tut-tutt-ing sounds when my ever-talkative friend reciprocated with his. In between, I managed to evade some direct questions about my place of residence, but as is the norm, he managed to go one up and brought out the right answers out of my mouth, against my will and he proclaimed that one of his cousins had lived in the same apartment complex as me years ago when the sight of a desi in Pinebrook was as rare as the Caucasan complexion is on Newark Avenue in Jersey City. This exercise in chummy-ness continued till we were the only customers left,when he realized that it was time for him to leave (we were still gorging on dosas).

As a parting shot, he asked me for my card. I gave him my standard answer about being in the last in the food chain in my company and that I was years away from a business card of my own (actually not so long now, I think). The friends were quizzed for theirs and standard answers of denial were given. He gave us his card, which bore his name and the image of a pair of hands meeting for a shake, with a vague name for a company. My companions and I exchanged knowing looks after a glance at the card. He then asked for my phone number. My talkative friend gave him an office number while my cousin latched on to me and told him that my number was his contact as well. The guy then walked out of the restaurant, leaving us amused, with three cards to show for the 'yada yada yada' droning that we had to endure.

I am sure that if Shake's had witnessed this exchange, he'd tell us that his staring theory had been validated. But what is more important is that, my theory has been validated as well.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Commenting visitors on the beach

One just spent part of a sunny (and mostly warm) weekend in the beaches around Dover (DE). A couple of bumper to bumper drives along NJTP book-ended the trip leading to considerable fatigue. But wholesome fun was had nevertheless, with a group of friends and acquaintances, some of whom were met for the first time and yet gelled with each other like Brylcream on Denis Compton's hair. Legs were shaken and pulled. Tummies were filled to the brim with desi food and in some cases spirit as well. Photos were shot, which one will never post on here since posted pictures seem to take lives of their own, even a year after they were posted. But we cannot just resist this one since it seems to encapsulate the whole weekend.

Sometime during last week this blogger heard that news of this blog had been propagated to one and all in the family circles by the inspiration for what has come to be known as RCDM. So if you are one of those assorted family types who have landed here to see what Ravi is up to, please leave a comment. If such comments are seen, he will understand that stories of you having daily bed time accidents as a 5 year old (mostly imaginary and yet funny) or you falling into a compost/dung pit while trying to retrieve a cricket ball from that pile of "dirt" (true story) are to be avoided.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Can you crack it?

Can you do it? Not one, not two, but 12358 puzzles in all (nice numerical connection, no?). The very first one seems simple and I got it (could you please cut out the drum rolls?) at the first attempt. I am definitely waiting to see the rest.

Click on the picture to go directly to the page and as with all of Google's toys these days, you can add it to your personalized Google homepage (if you have a Gmail account and ergo a Google id) and keep track of your progress.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Chennai RTI updates

*****Sticky Post. Regular programming continues below.*****

A couple of weeks ago, I had posted here an announcement regarding the Chennai Right To Information (CRTI) initiative. On behalf of CRTI, I had requested a few other bloggers to plug this effort on their blogs and help us spread the word around. Thanks to all of you, CRTI is pleased to inform that we received a good response to the first meeting.

At the meeting, some organizational ground work to get the initiative off the ground was done. CRTI now has a very basic website that is slowly being updated with more and more information. We are in the process of setting up a blog as well. There has been some on the ground developments as well. Please visit the Latest News section on the CRTI webpage know more about what is going on.

As of now, the CRTI has several member/volunteers. We are looking for more people to help us get it going. Specifically we are looking forward to hearing from people in the media and the law to spread the word and also to advise on due process. Also, we would love to interact with a graphics designer to help us with some web/banner design. If you think you can make a difference in any way possible, please email us at

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The adventures of Asok

A couple of days ago, this happened.

And yesterday, this was the scene at a routine meeting.

And today we find where Asok is...

Scott, you rock dude.. you rock!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Pattiyal - The soundtrack

Pattiyal forms one half of a CD (self) titled Gangs of Chennai (the other album on that CD being Pudhupettai, which I am tripping on too) that’s looping on my car’s CD player these days. It is a mostly upbeat album, boasting of six numbers, packaged with the usual zest by the youngest scion of the Raja family.

However, invoking his father's name is probably a disservice to Yuvan who has become his own man in TFM. Though he does avail the service of his father as the voice for one number in this peppy soundtrack, the gulf between father and son is never more apparent than in this soundtrack. Again, I don’t mean this negatively. It is just that Yuvan seems to have touched genres that his father would probably never touch with a barge pole. Or may be not.

Dei namma
A regular voice in the Yuvan camp, Vijay Yesudas opens the album with a number whose mood reminds one of the title track from Gilli. While this is unfamiliar territory for Vijay Yesudas who in the past has been more known for soulful numbers, he passes the test with flying colors.

Kannai Vittu
Pattiyal is a movie with two leading pairs. So this number seems to be the customary romantic number used to develop the romance pairings. And since any soundtrack from Yuvan seems incomplete without hearing his voice (more on that later), Yuvan does the honors with this track with Swetha’s lilting voice humming on a parallel track (the melancholic effect being yet another Yuvan trademark). Despite Yuvan's voice, this is the pick of the album.

Kannai Vittu (Remix)
Going by recent trends, any soundtrack from Yuvan is never complete without a remixed hip hop version of one other song. Yuvan groupie Premji provides the additional hip-hop vocals in this remixed track that starts rather unimaginatively with the words Hey Yo, You heard the original. Now hear the remix... In the past, his remixes have tended to be faster in pace than the originals, but in this one, the changes in tempo are subtler.

Namma Kattula
This seems to be the most talked about track in this album, with Yuvan playing around with the old MSV/Kannadasan/MGR bhangra fest Aadaludan padal (from Kudiyirundha Kovil) and using it to drive the tempo of the number. Ilayaraja’s throaty rendition instantly took me on a flashback to Nila adhu vaanathu mele from Naayagan. Pa Vijay’s lyrics which contain lines like vilayaadu vilayaadu, vidiyum varai vilayaadu; kondaadu kondaadu kudichi kudichi kondaadu add to the mood.

But what almost everyone has missed is the first line, which loops trance-like through the whole song. A Google search of the first line (and a subsequent listen) confirms that Yuvan has sampled/remixed the first line from a Chitra Singh ghazal from the soundtrack of Saath Saath (music by Kuldeep Singh), which had a better known number in Tumko Dekha To Ye Khayaal Aaya, sung by the ghazal duo of Chitra and her husband Jagjit Singh. Has this loop/sample been credited to Kuldeep Singh / Chitra Singh in the original CD? Since I heard these tracks on Raaga which is notorious for screwing up credits, I have no way of knowing. But I think I am asking for too much.

Poga Poga
This is the second hip hop and R&B influenced number in this soundtrack. The track starts out like a typical R&B number till YSR’s instrumental arrangement takes over. He has proved in the past that he is no amatuer when it comes to interludes and this track is no exception. This time it is a nadaswaram / shehnai (or its electronic equivalent) that stands out. The four voices, Haricharan, Vijay Yesudas, Harini Sudhakar and Saindhavi are more than adequate for this number which seems to be the gung-ho song of this album.

This track seems to be the perfunctory melancholic number and as has been the norm, YSR chooses to sing it himself. This song ends up being the least impressive of the lot, with YSR’s voice contributing to this standing.

So, in total Sun TV istyle, should we conclude by saying: Pattiyal – Pattaiy-ya Kalappal? Well, sort of. Yuvan Shankar Raja is certainly no slouch as a music director, but as a singer he has a long way to go. Wait, he has nowhere to go. He has to accept that and let better singers sing. His high pitch whining is frankly getting to be ear-bleed inducing and would be the only factors that would pull this album down. In fact by singing two songs himself and featuring his father in another song, he has managed to lay a “speed-bump” on this album whose positive musical impact far outstrips that of his voice.

Yo Yuvan... you are the love doctor remember? Remember, you do it better than the all of us?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gulty gal, Guilty Girl

Disclaimer: Now that one knows how people react to a single guy's pronouncements about women, in fact the barest mention of the word "gal", one feels compelled to issue a disclaimer. Here it is - No Telugu speaking living being was harmed during the making of this blog post. Neither does this blogger have a hidden agenda nor it is the flavor of the season to poke fun on such people. However, being a single guy, one felt a need to drive away all the misconceptions that have been propogated and hence this post. We do hope that this post has some rhyme and if so, all kudos go to Art and Paul. So there. Stop seeing any hidden meanings behind the post. Oh wait, there was at least one and that was DEFINITELY not what you thought it was.

Once there was a Gulty gaal,
She used words like “whee” and all.
Ask, she did, about other gult chamiyas,
Answer, we did, without any guilt and bias.

Then it started, the pulling of limbs,
Scared away the occasional crumbs.
Our admirers came from near and far,
Thought “Oh dear, so near and yet so far”.

Our likeness was hunted for,
A single one was accounted for.
When pointed, it was, to every boy and gal,
Laughed at, it was, from here to hell.

Our celluloid taste tossed and sullied,
Like ellipsoidal shreds and then buried.
Our acknowledged industriousness,
was then mistaken for bull & nonsense.

Our music, our dance and fine language,
(Windy one time, windy two time)
was treated just like some smelly garbage.
(Windy one time, windy two time).

Soon start we did, to talk in rhyme,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Set out we did, walking erect and tall
Try we did, to explain to one and all

Hear Hear, all ye hear,
Chamiya log from far and near.
Punjy, Bong, Tam, Mal and Gult,
But no single gal is yet exempt.

Call me up sometime,
Let’s meet up all the time,
Let’s look at the moon, and at the sun
Till that you’ve done, you’ll miss all the fun.

Lest you assume, we are not mad
Lest you decide, the chamiya’s not bad.
In the cloud, she surely sounds silly,
But ask the crowd, she really is funny.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Chennai Right to Information Initiative

(This post is on behalf of a couple of pals who are behind the initiative described below. As we read the text below, we wish we could do more than just passing this message along. Way to go guys!)

Do you get tired of people complaining about how inefficient, unaccountable and corrupt our public authorities are, but do nothing about it?

Do you want to play your part in effecting a transparent and accountable government without having it disturb your daily life?

Can you spend two hours a week volunteering from home / work / beach / coffee-shop?

Yes? The initiative proposed here might interest you.

What is this?
This is a citizens’ initiative whose objective is to spread awareness among fellow citizens about effecting a transparent and accountable government.

Can you tell me more about this?
This initiative will
• Aim to encourage participatory democracy.
• Use legal and constitutional methods to achieve its objective.
Not be an NGO or a political organization.
• Strive to be a people’s movement.
• Be built on the effort of volunteers who will spend less than three hours a week on projects pertaining to this initiative.
Not require solicitation of funds/donations from volunteers.

Interested? Read on…

The cornerstone of the initiative is the Right to Information Act, 2005.

What is the right to information?
The right to information has been recognized around the world as an important instrument for checking corruption and misuse of power.
The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) came into effect on Oct. 12, 2005. It is a significant milestone in the history of the right to information movement in India.

(a) Information means any material in any form. This includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material in any electronic form and information relating to any private body that can be accessed by a public authority under any other existing legislation.

(b) The bill defines public authority as any authority or body established or constituted
i. By or under the constitution.
ii. By any law made by central/state legislature.
iii. Including any other body owned, controlled or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the government.

(c) Freedom of information means the right to obtain information from any public authority by means of
i. Extracts and notes.
ii. Certified copies of any records of such public authority.
iii. Diskettes, floppies or any other electronic mode or through print-outs when such information is stored in a computer or any other device.
iv. Certified samples of materials.

A powerful legislation like the RTI Act has to be implemented with conviction to achieve transparency and accountability. By themselves, laws can only create a climate for transparency and provide help to determine responsibility. Progressive laws such as these, however, must be backed by a citizens’ movement.

Why do we need a citizens’ movement?
Right to Information laws have earlier been passed by nine state governments in the country, namely Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam and Jammu & Kashmir. (The RTI-Act supersedes these laws.)

The principal objective of these enactments is to facilitate an accountable and transparent government. Information available on the Internet indicates that implementation of these laws have been far from effective. In Delhi, authorities in the administration have been found to be unaware of the existence of the Delhi Government’s Act.

Clearly, mere legislation does not help in the achievement of the objective. Experience has taught us that the effort of individuals and organizations, under the aegis of these laws (the aforementioned state laws), have achieved samples of success in making an accountable and transparent government possible. In Delhi, absent road cleaners turned up for duty when their attendance registers were sought. Incomplete work was completed and quality of work improved when copies of work contracts were sought by the public.

An MLA was forced to release money for a task demanded by the people, when they obtained details of expenditure from her MLA Development Fund. People could get their work done in many other departments without paying bribes. Ration cards were issued, faulty water bills were corrected, pensions were restored as soon as the people demanded to know the status of their applications and the names of the officials who were responsible.

Almost 200 people got their grievances resolved within a matter of days of filing applications under the RTI Act, claims Parivartan (, a Delhi based people’s movement that worked using the Delhi Government’s Right to Information Law. Organizations like the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangthan (MKSS) of Rajasthan, Mahadhikar in Maharashtra and PROOF in Bangalore have also been successful in their efforts to use the RTI-Act.

Thus, the right to information law can be made effective through active involvement of citizens. The movement proposed here will aim at getting the citizens of Chennai involved in enabling transparency and accountability of the government that they interact with in their daily lives. The RTI-Act, as mentioned earlier, will be the cornerstone of this initiative.

How will this citizen’s movement achieve its objective?
Citizens’ movements are typically built around a strong volunteer base. This initiative will strive to create awareness among educated citizens. At this early stage, college students and young working professionals are expected to be the target audience for this awareness campaign. We expect to build a core volunteer base from this section. The volunteers will be requested to spend about three hours a week on projects related to this initiative. The volunteers will not be expected to donate money/solicit donations. They will form groups of 2-4 members and work on small projects. This initiative will strive to build a network of citizens with administrative, legal, political, educational, media and social development backgrounds. This ensemble of like-minded people is expected to provide support to the movement.

The plan:
• The core volunteer base will have a basic understanding of the RTI-Act, the provisions and implementation, the State and the Central Information Commissions, appellate authorities and the procedure for requesting information.
• Legal, media, campaign and awareness and documentation cells will be formed within the volunteer base and will interact with the citizen network described above.
• Public grievances will be received through individual contacts, emails, mail and telephone.
• A group of 2-4 volunteers will be formed to interface with individuals/groups with the grievance.
• The group will understand the nature of the problem and determine what information can be obtained from the relevant public authority to help address the grievance within the scope of the RTI-Act.
• The group will recommend the course of action to the individual/group with the grievance to obtain the information.
• The group will not pursue the grievance with the public authority. The individual/group with the grievance is expected to do this.
• The group will coordinate with the cells mentioned above, to bring the grievance to the attention of the network of citizens with media, administration, education and political background. This network will help bring the grievance to the attention of the public, the media and the administration. Legal action if required can be initiated through the legal representatives in the network.
• The group will support the appeal of the aggrieved party by being available for consultation when required.
• The group will support the appeal by striving in all possible legal and constitutional ways to make resources available to address the grievance.
• The group will continuously learn and add to their basic understanding of the RTI-Act and its provisions.
• The group will document the grievance and the course of action employed to help build a knowledge base for future efforts.

Where can I find more information about this?
A one-hour meeting has been organized at 5 PM on Sunday, March 26 at

Altius IAS Study Circle
27, Eldams Road, Alwarpet
Chennai 600018

The meeting will be to bring together people interested in this initiative. The idea outlined above will be explained and discussed. Please drop in to the meeting to know more and contribute your opinion. If you know anyone who might be interested in this initiative, please forward this email. At this early stage, we are depending on word of mouth for spreading information about this initiative. If you are interested and would like to attend the meeting, send in an email to (or) before Sunday so that we can be prepared for your participation.

For more information, contact



(Downloadable PDF version here)

Monday, March 20, 2006

V for Virtuoso

Combine the dystopian elements from futuristic works such as 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 and throw in a masked vigilante in the guise of a seemingly misunderstood 16th century anarchist and what do you get? Not a movie, but a graphic novel in several parts. Now take this icon in the fringes of British pop culture and place it in the hands of a pair of brilliant recluses cum filmmakers and then what do you get? A sci-fi fantasy that is as relevant in the current day as a multi-purpose remote is to the new age wired household.

The writing credits for this movie which seems to be a loose adaptation of a 80s comic series is shared by the Wachowski brothers. Though Larry and Andy are said to have started working on this screenplay even before the Matrix trilogy, it seems to have been a work in progress, constantly updated as times went by. So while the plot line shares several key elements with the graphic novel and ergo the various pieces of futuristic literature referenced therein, other plot elements are suitably tweaked in such a manner one comes out feeling like one has just watched a newsreel.

This line of thought that governments know more than they are willing to divulge is not new. It has been propagated with great effect by personalities such as Michael Moore. But the Wachowskis screenplay is far subtler. However, what I loved most about this movie was the fact that it has not been "dumbed down" to suit the lowest common denominator.

Just like the Matrix trilogy, much of the movie is about the deep lines vocalized with great relish by the lead characters, especially Hugo Weaving. Poet laureates, bards and venerated novelists are quoted at will. Word list virtuosos would particularly enjoy the vivacious verbosity that accompanies the sudden appearance of the vigilante. But on the other hand, the subsequent verbalization of verbiage that is uncharacteristic of any vernacular could vex you into vacating that seat.

Hugo Weaving could have easily been substituted with a blue screen, his character staying masked through out, for reasons that become apparent as the movie progresses. But his fluid movements behind that masked demeanor, oozing confidence and moving with panache in the action sequences which remind one of a certain Agent Smith, could never have been done by anyone else. Just when one expected that Keanu Reeves would be the Wachowskis muse forever, Weaving pokes holes in this theory, playing the perfect "uppity" vigilante, wry humor sparkling throughout. Knives glint as they trace ellipsoidal paths in mid air, V's skills with a peice of metal more reminiscent of Zarate than Zorro.

As for the female lead, she is a babe. Natalie Portman seems to go through great pain, submitting herself to having her head shorn on camera, another chapter in the unfortunate series of atrocious hair-dos that started with Padme's Amidala's cheese danish. She is perhaps the Jodie Foster of our times, on her way from being a child actor towards the status of leading lady specializing in off beat roles - all this while in the process of getting a Harvard degree. And did I mention that she is a babe?

A list of talented, but largely unknown British actors completes the cast. Watch out for John Hurt who fits the part of High Chancellor and if you are old enough (or a trivia junkie), his portrayal would easily bring back memories of the Big Brother Apple ad from Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. But lest you make a mistake, the reference here is not to the ad, but to George Orwell’s book that spawned the ad.

Just like the Matrix, this movie is bound to spawn discussion at the water cooler. Maybe that is was the intention. While the Wachowskis were constrained by a need to stay true to the original comic book, they have penned a hard hitting critique on the current political and social climate in the US and UK. The movie does seem to incorporate a lot of deep metaphorical references (or maybe that is just me thinking). Some holes are apparent too. Ebert’s comment on the impossibility of V’s peripheral vision under that mask is probably the most trivial and fittingly, when careful attention is paid thorough out the movie, a suitable explanation can be derived.

While some reviewers have tended to characterize the idea behind such movies as leftist and symptomatic of bloggers in general, I don't agree. To me, this movie mirrors currently prevailing political and social climate. The various references to the totalitarian regime and ideology of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party along with the idea of an all-seeing and all-hearing Big Brother are probably a characteristic of the comic book as well, but the references such as the one to a bible-quoting, finger-waving, pill-chomping conservative talk show host, a take off on a number of current day TV and radio personalities including a certain former co-host of ESPN's Sunday NFL countdown are very current.

Lines such as Fear has became the ultimate tool of this government and the reference to home made explosives devices crafted out of common fertilizers may be recent and very relevant in the post 9/11 world. But even with the first week’s reign at the top of the charts, it might not just be long term box office material, especially in a society as hypocritical as in the current day USA.

(This review has been cross posted on Do visit me there too....)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Warning: Extra long post ahead, even by my standards...

My travails with T-mobile started probably the day I got my phone. The phone arrived and a quick call to T-Mobile ensued to take care of activation etc. Deluded I was to think that I could get a custom number, that I requested and surprisingly was given one. But the area code allocated to me did not match that of Athens (Ohio) where I was then and the T-Mobile customer service person tried to convince me that the code was the right one. I hung up and then called back, to get a different agent who accepted my argument and finally gave me a "740" number. Little did I know that my troubles were just at their infancy.

My troubles with cell phone coverage are legendary among my friends. Unless I stood right next to the window in our hall or walked out of the basement apartment to the parking lot, I was never going to complete a call without dropping it at least once. When I graduated that summer, I moved from Ohio to Illinois to hunt for a job, but my scene was no better. To add to it, the Illinois weather in late fall and winter forced my staying indoors for 99% percent of the time. With no alternative, I included V's (my roomy in Illinois) home phone number with my resume and promised myself that I would break the contract and go for a new cell phone when I got my first job. Sadly that was not to happen, till much later.

That was around the time when I heard that friends who tried to call me sometimes got "all circuits are currently busy. Please try your call later" messages. It seemed to happen rather randomly and was limited to just incoming calls. And later, things got ugly when I moved to Delaware. Once the training period ended and I started applying actively for open positions, I started talking to customer service about it along with another friend from Ohio was also facing the same issue. During one particular billing cycle, I spent almost 140 day time minutes (over a period of two weeks) enquiring with T-Mobile about the status of our complaints

The funny part is that they don’t seem to have a logical system. Logically one would assume that, your case history would be available on file. But no, every time you talk, in each level, you will have to explain what is wrong. If you are lucky and the lower levels think that you are eligible to talk to the advanced tech support, you will go forward. There were times when the first person would take my case history, tell me there are no updates with a promise to get back in touch in case something comes up, and hang up. At every level, one would be asked the same dumb questions about turning the phone off and on back again and so on, in spite of one having explained just a minute earlier that it does not work. At different points of time, we got our cases into tickets that we were asked to quote. A few days after I received the first ticket, I called and found out that the ticket had been mysteriously "closed" without us being informed. We managed to get the case re-opened, but all we heard was that they were looking into the issue and would get back to us once they knew what was wrong. Nothing came out of these claims. Then, a friend who used to work on wireless communication explained what was going on with the vague messages that plagued my phone. I won't go into technical details, but it was obvious that T-Mobile's circuits in Athens were the cause.

By then I had lost all hope of getting the issue resolved. And when, in November, I moved to New Jersey, I found that my new apartment was no better. According to T-Mobile’s coverage map, I was in a “fair” area (one above the bottom-most “None” class). The-whole-keeping-my-cell-on-the-window-sill continued, but even that did not help sometimes with calls going directly to voice mail. After I got a couple of pay-checks I decided to chuck T-Mobile and went on to hunt for a new service provider and phone.

I waited till I got the new phone in my hand and called T-Mobile to cancel my account at the end of the cycle. More stories and fantastic offers from T-Mobile followed. The lady in customer service promised to improve my service by putting up a new tower! I almost fell down on the floor laughing. She offered 1000 minutes for the 40 dollars that I was paying. I laughed and asked her if she thought I was a fool. I told her I knew how much a tower cost. I told her not to feed me stories and arranged to have my service cut on the 18th of February, when my billing cycle ended. Incidentally I was going to be in Chicago then for a long weekend.

Within a few days of my return from Chicago, on a Friday, I found a letter from T-Mobile informing me that my account had been referred to collections. It appeared that I had missed paying my bill (due to various reasons) and 30 days had gone past. I was surprised that my account had gone to collections even before I had received a final bill. Again due to various reasons, I decided to call them and pay them first thing on Monday morning from work. On Saturday, I finally found my final bill on the mail.

When I called them, I wanted to ask them why my account had been sent to collection even without a reminder. I know I was technically at fault and felt really bad and worried about the whole thing, but on the light of what transpired later, my worries now seem to be without reason. Anyways, when I called T-Mobile, they asked me to pay my bill and insisted that they had no record of my account being referred to collections. I paid the $90 odd that was due (my final bill) and resolved to take this matter up with the “collection agency” in question.

I looked up their number and called them. And that’s when I realized T-Mobile’s game plan. The “collection agency” acknowledged that they had been asked by T-Mobile to contact me about my over due bill. But the guy I spoke to told me that they were just a “letter” agency, i.e. they just send letters and do not actually “collect”. He said that if I had called them first (instead of T-Mobile), all he would have done, would be to instruct me to call T-Mobile immediately. He told me that T-Mobile does this to all overdue accounts just to offend the customer to pay their overdue bills. And the customers usually do so immediately on the notion that because their account has been “marked” for collection, their credit history has already been maligned and any more procrastination would only damage things more.

I do have with me, both letters that inform me that my account has been referred for collections. And when I call, T-mobile has no record of this, while the “collection agency” claims that this is the norm with T-mobile. I understand I was at fault in the first place for being late with my payment, but was $90 big enough for T-Mobile to play around with the truth by threatening me with (two) collection notices? My co-workers tell me that I should lodge a complaint with the FCC on the basis of “unfair” and fraudulent business practices. Having heard all the bullshit over the last 20 months or so, I am quite inclined to do so. And though I dont want to bring the "R" word or "D" word here, but hey, after all the talk of desi dudes in customer service, I am wondering what would an American do in this scenario, given that not much news/information of this kind comes out in public. Hmmm...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The mayhem spreads...

Kaps had posted about the happenings at SRM yesterday. The issue seems to have spread to other colleges as well. Just a few minutes ago, I received an email from my sister who is in another college notorious for its segregatory practices between the sexes. Here is what she had to say.

.... learnt how a strike would look like....! Jokes apart, day was bad....really bad. Went to coll as usual at 7.30 had brkfast n all. We were asked to go to the library. There is a seminar hall in there where we were asked to wait. So after we got in we really dint know what was happening outside. Till 8.00 everything was ok.

At 8.30 a staff came in and asked us to leave the library. We dint know why. We came out. The next thing we knew was a huge group of student... must be about 100 odd, were screaming in front of the administrative block...that big long block na that one. Some staff came n asked the girls to go to the hostel. So we went. We dint have a clue as to what the probe was. We went to the hostel. That’s where we came to know it was some problem with aicte n thing we knew the hostel was locked from outside!!!! Safety apparently!!! It was 9.00...all the girls were in the hostel by then. I mean the entire coll girls crowd. So we were in there till about 11.30...then around that time we had to walk backside to the bus stand where there was a single bus to st.josephs. Felt like some refugee escaping from terrorists or something. They dropped us in st.josephs. From st.josephs back side we had to walk to jeppiar engg coll!!! There is no road connecting st.josephs n jeppiar engg coll. so we have to walk. Imagine... easily 1 or 2 kms in the open land! Buses were there in jeppiar engg coll...We left the place around 12.15 or so. Didn’t pass thru our entrance coz of road block n stuff. Went thru Hindustan. kelambakkam....vandalur n all!!!! N reached home only at 2.45 or so!!!!! It seems comp n stuff n all were broken inside...don’t know if it’s true n all. Coll is closed indefinitely....don’t know what's going to happen n whether if courses are recognized or not. Training cancelled too I guess. On the whole one horrible day!!!!!!!

Incidentally, my sister will be working for an IT major when she graduates in June and today was her first day of training (in-house in her college). I can imagine the hardship she had to endure on a day like this. When I told her that the incident she mentioned about "comp n stuff n all were broken inside" was actually at SRM, she said that similar things happened at her college too, but the press has not been allowed inside so far. Some students were anonymously interviewed on Sun TV outside the college gate. The students were saying things like "they are cheating us by running courses without approval" and "They will give us a B.S de­gree. What is the difference between an arts college student and us now?"

Is this a case of the mob mentality taking over and I am not talking only about the students here. Was the destruction of property at SRM's campus the handiwork of the management as the students claim? And did the management in my sister's college do the same thing?

In any case the students have to be informed (though I might have felt the same way when I was in college) that it is only some countries that follow the British system, that have separate degrees awarded for sciences and engineering. In most countries, like the US, the degree is a B.S (the equivalent of the B.Sc) regardless of whether the major is biology or bio-medical engineering. In fact most students take the some common courses (with the same syllabus that is) in the same classroom, regardless of their stream of study is. So you will see a biology student and an electrical engineering student in the same math class, if the biology student's academic advisor feels that the class will help him/her. So, IMHO, the nomenclature does not matter. However, if you had asked me the same question six years ago, I'd have felt the same level of indignation.

Another thing is that I was also under the impression that the problem is stream specific, i.e. certain new courses in these colleges are the only ones under scrutiny. But my sister's version (and the reaction of the striking students) indicates that whole institutions are under the microscope. Could someone clarify this?

In fact the best place to clarify this SHOULD be the AICTE's website. But does the AICTE have a website at all? My sister sent me a link to the AICTE web site that seems to link to a list of accredited institutions. But the list is on a word document which contains links to other lists (state-wise). And get this, the links all point to documents on someone's desktop! So these students, in spite of all the claims of all information being available freely, don't exactly have the info they need, i.e., whether their colleges have the necessary authorizations. So, now that we know the AICTE has a half-functioning website, does they have a webmaster?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Three years and two days later....

.... the basic premise of this blog i.e., that I am no Superman, has not changed at all and as I mentioned then, you can still call me Superman-ian if you want to. What's happened gradually these past few years is that this blog has become a part of my daily life, so much that my much lamented trait of forgetting birthdays has expanded to include this blog as well. Hence let me go ahead as usual and issue a note of belated (third) birthday greetings to this blog.

One more happening of note also went past unnoticed by me. This post is my 301st post. It was perhaps fitting that my 300th post was also the first one to be featured on Desipundit. This past year was eventful in a lot of respects, but I don't think I am anywhere close to leaving my little cubbyhole in cyberspace.

Now, we turned three a couple of days ago. Apparently the time between the second and third birthday is called the terrible twos. I did not know that last year, but along those same lines, this coming year could be called the trashy threes. Now with 300 published posts, Blogger seems to hit some growing pangs. But that's for another post for which some knowledgable minds would have to be consulted. So, at least till then, one shall continue churning out the trash that one so cleverly disguises as regular programming. All those of you who come here to get your fix of trash, do come back for more. And yah, for those of you who are wondering, that is *my* trash can.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Moin - Do you listen to yourself?

I believe it was very unsporting of the Indian cricket team to successfully appeal for obstructing the field against Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and that too at a very crucial stage of the first one-day international at Peshawar. To me, it appears that the Indian team was desperate to win the game by hook or by crook, no matter even it came at the expense of the norms of this sport known as the gentleman's game.

Those are sane words - heard normally from one of the game's mostly misinformed greats. Which is why it is surprising when one reads the byline accompanying these words. Even though I believe that the circumstances leading to this quote could have been avoided (from both sides), let me take you back in time to the year 1999 to demonstrate why this particular comment riles me up.

Exactly 7 years and one week ago in Chennai, on January 31, 1999, India lost the first Test of their two Test series against Pakistan. This particular Test match shall forever be known to every Indian cricket fan as a story whose positive end was so near and yet turned out to be so far. For some people in Chennai, that Test match shall be the one that sealed the reputation of the crowds at Chepauk for being the most sporting of live audiences ever. But to me, the Test, particularly the last day, will be a milestone dripping in infamy - the day when Sachin's back began asserting itself and when Mongia's wild hoick against Akram with so few remaining to be scored changed derailed India's fight-back. While these incidents are all that most people will remember about the Test, personally I will never forget one particular ball.

Now, most people talk only about Mongia and the subsequent failure of Sachin and the tail to score those precious 17 runs. But if you ask me, I think the deed was done much earlier. For, I am of the firm opinion that the vital balls/wickets that change the complexion of a game are always the ones that come at the start of a innings. So if you lost a game by one run, don't blame the late order batsmen, but blame the top half of the order for not scoring that vital run.
Similarly don't blame the misfield at the fag end of the innings, but the reprieve earlier. Don't blame that run out that claimed the 9th wicket, but blame the umpiring error that caused the premature demise of number 3.

So, it all happened on the 4th (and what turned out to be the final) day. I did not see the match live. But I remember lying flat on my belly in my hostel room and listening to the radio commentary on AIR. Twenty three overs into the final day, India were with their backs against the wall. Earlier that morning, Dravid had lost his off bail to Akram and Azhar had fallen cheaply too, lbw shouldering arms to Saqlain, while Ramesh and Laxman, the openers had already been cleaned up by Waqar the previous evening.

With Tendulkar looking rock solid at the other end, in walks Ganguly as India are down to the 5th wicket (and last remaining) pair of specialist batsmen, still requiring 191 runs to save the game. But Sachin is soon frustrated, with only 9 runs coming in the next 10 successive overs bowled in tandem by the Saqlain - Afridi pair. And then comes the shocker, the memory of which exposes Moin Khan as a man possessed by double standards like the worst of us. I will let Cricinfo's Travis (Basevi?) describe what transpired in his own words (as part of the ball by ball commentary).

41.1 Saqlain Mushtaq to Tendulkar, no run, a step forward, aggressive shot, played to midwicket fielder

41.2 Saqlain Mushtaq to Tendulkar, one run, bounces and spins a lot, turned to backward short leg, quick run

41.3 Saqlain Mushtaq to Ganguly, no run, short ball, cracked very hard at silly point fielder. both silly point and short cover turned their backs. the ball bounced off silly point's back but short cover was not ready either turning his back too

41.4 Saqlain Mushtaq to Ganguly, no run, pushed to offside

oh no....

41.5 Saqlain Mushtaq to Ganguly, OUT:

India 82/5, Partnership of 9

SC Ganguly c **** b Saqlain Mushtaq 2 (25b 0x4 0x6)

Saqlain Mushtaq 14.5-5-19-2

Ganguly cracked this ball to ohard at silly point. the ball off his body fell down and diving **** caught it off the ground very clearly and Dunne gives him out! this is clearly not out according to TV replays

Now, I saw the replays during the evening news and what I saw clearly corroborates Travis's version of what happened. Ganguly's defensive stroke off the front foot hit silly-point and one could see the ball bouncing on the ground before being pouched by ****.

Guess who "****" is? It is the same man who has been quoted in the first para of this post. Lets see what more he has to say.

A captain needs to stand tall and handle situations, specially when they come in critical stages of the game and I think, Dravid has not only let himself down but also his team. I am dead sure that if Sourav Ganguly would have been the captain, the matter would have been defused tactfully and sportingly.

Ummm.. Moin, if I remember right, you were also the vice captain, that day in Chennai! So now, 7 years thence, you are qualified to comment on Dravid's integrity as a sportsman?

I understand that according to the laws of the game, Inzamam was out and if he does not know the laws, then it is not the fault of the law but Inzamam himself. But my point is that there are several cricketing laws that we don'?t follow because they are not considered within the spirit of the game.

You need to watch yourself, Moin. For, upon reading what you have to say, if they did not know even as much of cricket as I do, someone might start to wonder if you are a Nobel Laureate.

Batsmen don't run for singles or twos when the ball is deflected off their bodies or bats from throws, batsmen pick the ball and throw it to the close-in fielder or the bowler when it falls close to them. So much so, when Greg Chappell told his brother Trevor to bowl the last ball under-arm, it was also within the laws of the game.

So, now it is Chappell's integrity you are questioning? Hmm, wonder what qualifies you. Let us see. What were you doing in Calcutta, barely 20 days later, when Shoaib (while glancing over his shoulder to see Sachin sprinting toward him at the non striker's end) took a step backward calmly plonking himself firmly on Sachin's path, forcing Sachin to run wide (a few extra steps) to avoid him and getting him run-out in the bargain. Did you say something about your own team's insistence to win, hook or by crook. Even if we just assume it was a honest mistake from Shoaib, why did you, the magnanimous clean character you are, not rescind your appeals (in both Sachin's and Saurav's case). I saw that on TV, Moin.

I fear history might not forgive Dravid for his poor captaincy and unsporting attitude. After all, we have still not forgotten the acts of the Chappells, have we?

Yes, Moin, history might not forgive Dravid, if his captaincy was judged to be poor at the end of his career. His tenure is just a few tests old, but every other "expert" has praised his captaincy these past few months. But hey, I forgot. You are the "all-knowing guru", aren't you?

Anyways we have certainly not forgotten about the Chappells, but neither have we forgotten you. And lest YOU forget, a lot of Indians (in fact, let me add the Englishmen to this list too) have forgotten neither your un-sporting attitude nor your chaffing demeanor on the cricket field. Were you not the captain who resorted to moving your fielders after every single ball, and that too making these from mid pitch, seemingly in deep discussion with your bowlers, under fading light at Karachi in 2001 against England when they were fighting to win the test on the fifth day. I saw that too, Moin.

And in case you want to know, this was the verdict from one of your own countrymen (writing for the Dawn) after that Karachi Test match

...Moin Khan's captaincy and wicketkeeping (was) far from satisfactory.

Without taking any credit from England in this Test, Pakistan's batting proved disgusting, their bowling pathetic, fielding horrendous and Moin Khan's captaincy and wicketkeeping far from satisfactory. Saqlain Mushtaq picked up three wickets but conceded 64 runs from 17 overs.

Moin Khan showed that he needed a lot of experience before he can command his men in the field when he made senseless bowling changes. ...

Moin, let me stop now. I think I have made my point. I hope you read this and I also hope to get a chance to remind you of your on field shenanigans every time you conjure up something similar.

(P.S: What the hell was the New Indian Express thinking when they were giving Moin a chance to comment? When will the Indian MSM learn? If this is how they are going to function, looks like I will be making more such posts here!)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tera naam kya hai... basanti?

Rang De Basanti seems to have captured the attention of the desi blogosphere and the Indian media like nothing else before it. Oh wait, a small correction. Before RDB, there was IIPM. But as Jerry would quip, not that there is anything wrong with it. At last notice, a simple search on Blogger Search for "Rang De Basanti" turns up 2,234 posts while a similar search on Technorati returns 1,257 results. In fact, Rang De Basanti has been in the top 15 list of searches on Technorati for the last couple of days and is in the top 10 currently.

What is in this movie that has captured our attention? From what I saw on Saturday, it is certainly not difficult to understand why. First reason - the whole movie has a young tone to it, even the parts that are in sepia. Second reason - the wonderful soundtrack, which some people say is out of place, but the majority has taken to. Personally I found the music refreshing with the director making, what has to be the most novel use, of the ubiquitous songs, in recent times. Having mentioned these reasons, I do have to add that there is one more, something that I find hard to justify and that is the whole business of patriotism.

Most people see Rang De Basanti as the Swadesh of 2006. While the latter deals with the pangs of remorse that first generation NRIs seem to harbor at the bottom of their heart - an almost guilty sense of helplessness at not being able to do their bit for the progress of their homeland, Rang De Basanti looks at a similar, but more cynical mindset through the eyes of the college educated 20 somethings.

It can be safely said that the kind of characters represented in RDB do exist in real life. The first half of the movie is as realistic as it gets in India's universities. Each one of us has known a DJ, Sukhi, Karan, Aslam and Sonia at one point in some form or the other. But as the second half progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to envision a scenario where individuals would react the same way as these five (and Laxman) do. And that is where RDB moves from a potential Swadesh emulator to being just another celluloid fantasy. However any half baked student of cinema would tell you that celluloid fantasy is good too, for fantasies were the building blocks of cinema as we know it. So, Rakeysh Mehra should not be offended if one labels RDB thus. But one senses that there is an intention to convey a message here. What is this message? And so the confusion begins.

As mentioned earlier, the first half of the movie hints at a clean entertainer in the Dil Chatha Hai mold, a growing up movie of sorts. Make no mistake, RDB is a growing up movie. But what those youngsters grow up to be leaves a lot to be desired. One wonders if the ends aimed at by these young 20 somethings is a direct contradiction of the means adopted. The message sounds like one that a hardened pick pocket uses to justify his acts - as a deterrent for others seeking the same path. I don't want to say anything more lest it be viewed as a plot spoiler and one wouldn't want that. Sadly this "message" is viewed as a USP for this movie and that is a shame. For there are a lot of positives in this movie and the "message" is certainly not one of them.

But why should a movie proselytize at all? Why can't a movie be just for entertainment, as one half of this movie seems to be. Maybe it is the resident cynic in me talking, but I think that the longevity of any movie's message is going to be slightly longer than the time spent on the journey back home from the theatre. And one can safely bet that while crimes seem to be inspired by movie plots, there has never been an incident where a movie's plotline has inspired something positive. Wait, that is just what my mom told me 5 years ago when she found I had played hookey from class to watch Anaconda.

So next time I read some review of RDB (you'd think I'd stay away, but at the rate at which people seem to be churning reviews, I don't think I can escape without reading another one) that tells me how the movie brought a lump to the author's throat, I'd say "Ok. me too" (ya it did raise goosebumps too, but that was for the nod to Georgie boy's jaunt in a fighter plane). But if someone writes that this movie will make people raise up and do something, I'd ask the authors for a blood sample to check what they are high on. All those who you see on TV carping on patriotism are not going to give a crap about the same if and when you ask them an hour later. Ofcourse there are exceptions, as usual. But the exceptions are certainly in the miniscule minority.

As for me, I got home last evening and as I got thinking, I decided that I liked the other Basanti movie much better. It had a two leading men, one a brooding man who was "straight face" funny, and another who was a lovable goof. A motor mouth of a heroine and a charismatic villian contributed as well. And it was way funnier and it was not certainly not preachy. Personally, the whole "susaad", angrez ke zamaane" and "Kitne aadmi the" thing was funnier than the Westerner feigning ignorance of the local language and the chemistry of the lead characters certainly seemed to be much better and ergo much more entertaining.

And before you lynch me, you have to understand that I watch movies for entertainment. Don't get me wrong, RDB is certainly miles ahead of the borderline porno flicks churned out by the Bhatt camp and what not. And unlike others, I am not stupid enough to let the story within a story confuse me. Which is why I will gladly watch RDB again.