Cerebral Shangrila

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rainbow Quiz - Week # 69

Anna Hazare has galvanized an entire nation through his hunger strike. Here is a quiz dedicated to him and numerous others who have used fasting as a tool for social change.

1. The act of hunger strike dates back to Hindu mythology. “X” went to ask the exiled Rama to come back and rule the kingdom. “X” tried many arguments, none of which work, at which point he decides to do a hunger strike. Rama, however, quickly persuades him to abandon the attempt. Who is X?
2. “X” started fasting for attaining statehood for Andhra in Madras on 19 October 1952. After 58 days of fasting, he died on the 16th December. X’s death started mass protests and led to Nehru announcing the formation of a new state 3 days later. Who is X?
3. The British arrested him in 1929 for revolutionary activities and X was imprisoned in Lahore jail. In the Lahore jail, “X” started a hunger strike along with other revolutionary fighters, demanding equality for Indian prisoners. His fast lasted 63 days and he died as a martyr in the end. Who is X?
4. An American suffragette, “X” fought to get women the right to vote with passion and tenacity. “ X” went on a hunger strike while imprisoned in 1917 at Virginia’s Occoquan Workhouse to protest the poor conditions. Her hunger strike got her a ticket to the psych ward, where she was force-fed raw eggs, but her protest served a larger purpose by helping fan the flames of public opinion. In 1918, President Wilson spoke of the need for suffrage, and women earned the right to vote in 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment. Who is X?
5. In 2009, actress and activist “X” began a hunger strike to protest the conflict in Darfur. She also blogged about her experience and posted video updates to YouTube. Before beginning the fast, she wrote that she planned to go for three weeks without food, but a doctor put an end to her strike after 12 days, citing severe health risks. With her blood sugar plummeting, she passed off the hunger strike to Richard Branson, who took over for three days. Who is X?
6. “X” went on a fast unto death to protest against illegal mining on the bank of the Ganga in Haridwar. X, who was on fast beginning February 19, 2011 was declared dead the following June 13, after being on a hunger strike for 115 days. Who is this great patriot?
7. “X” also known as the "Iron Lady of Manipur" is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur. Since 2 November 2000, she has been on hunger strike to demand that the Indian government repeal the Armed Forces Act, which she blames for violence in Manipur and other parts of India's northeast. Having refused food and water for more than ten years, she has been called "the world's longest hunger striker".

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Monday, August 15, 2011

I am @ Seoul

I am in Seoul this week on business. First visit and mightily impressed with the way Koreans use technology in day-to-day life.

Here are some first impressions:

a) Internet access is a roller coaster. Average speeds even in hotel rooms surpass 75 mbps (Almost 10X times faster than most parts of the world).

b) The audio guide tour at Korean palace museum relies on infra red to automatically recite the relevant information. Cafes use IR tokens that buzz when take-away food is ready.

c) Sub-way is efficient, ubiquitous and a great way to get around.

d) The palaces and cultural heritage centers have been very well maintained and most of them either have free admission or very low entry fees.

e) A big minus is the air pollution. Friends tell me it has now reduced but it is still very visible and casts a bad shadow over the city.

f) Today is the "Liberation day" in Korea and a national holiday. Coincides with our independence day.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Rainbow Quiz - Week # 68

Trying to revive my now defunct Rainbow Quiz. This quiz is inspired from a book that I just finished reading - 100 Great Businesses and the Minds behind them".

Take a stab.

What am I talking about?

1. Mr.X, while studying economics at Yale, wrote a paper about the growing number of uses for computers (This was way back in the 60’s). He reckoned that as people become more reliant on computers, repairing them in a timely manner will be critical for the manufacturers. Legend has it that he received a “C” grade for the paper. Which company am I talking about (that was born out of this idea) and who is Mr.X?

2. While working in Asia, Mr. X came across caffeine filled drinks with foul taste that were sold in small vials at exorbitant prices (primarily as a cure for Flu, impotency). He set about finding a formula that he could take back to Europe. He found the answer in Krating Daeng (a Thai drink). He licensed it from the founders and gave a sporty makeover to the health drink. What am I talking about?

3. “Across Asia on the Cheap” was first printed in 1970’s and enjoyed modest success. Not many realized then that the publisher would become a cult brand that would forever change an industry. Which brand am I talking about?

4. An entrepreneurial streak pulsed through Mr.X since an early age. At 5, he was selling matches to family members and at 17, he was selling pencils in the neighborhood. The pencil selling was successful that X decided to change it to a mail order business by including other merchandise such as soaps, seeds and stockings. He decided to coin a name for the company with an acronym that stood for the first letters of his first name, last name, farm name and village name. Who is X and what company am I talking about?

5. In 1930 Japanese scientist Dr. Shirota discovered a strain of bacteria that was both good for the human intestine and tough enough to survive the digestive process. What sweet, skim milk based drink, named after “yoghurt” in Esperanto, emerged due to this invention?

6. Fashion retailing isn’t known for shy, retiring types. Yet this Spanish billionaire has created one of the largest fashion retailing empire in the world, though he has rarely granted interviews or been photographed. He believes advertising to be “pointless distraction” and the company spends less than 0.5% of its revenues on advertising. Who is this maverick, reclusive billionaire and which company am I talking about?

7. What started in 1979 as “Graphics Group” as part of Lucasfilm? Amongst other things, the group tried selling high-end graphics computers which were a disastrous failure. The company eventually stumbled into film-making after making a few successful commercials. In the fickle world of filmdom, the company till date has never produced a flop. Which company am I talking about?

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Sunday, July 10, 2011


No one except Google can create such as buzz. For someone who has never been on facebook, I succumbed to the buzz and joined Google+ today. Anyone needing an invitation, give me a shout.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Behind every successful artiste is a liberal parent

It seemed to be the best seat to choose. I had just entered the concert hall as Ravikiran was winding up his concert with the Mangalam. The next concert was by Sanjay and it was expected to be a full house. I wanted to get the best seat and though this seat was a lone empty seat in a crowded row, it had the best view of the stage.

I settled in the seat and to my left was an "Iyer Mama", close to 60 years of age with Vibhuti splashed liberally over the forehead. The Mangalam got over and it was announced that the next concert would begin in 15 minutes. That is how the conversation began :

Him : Are you new to Sydney, I haven't seen you in past concerts?

I ( I quickly guessed that he was a veteran of carnatic music scene in Sydney) : Yes, I am new to Sydney. I just moved here 6 months ago.

Him : It is good to see youngsters (!!) like you being interested in carnatic music.

I : Thanks. It is an interest passed on from my dad. How long have you lived in Sydney?

Him : I came here 35 years ago. Most of the accompanists who play here were all introduced by me and our circle.

I: wow. For someone who has lived here for 35 years, your Tamil is still intact. It has lost none of the Madras brahmin flavor.

Him: Thanks. We always speak Tamil at home. Btw, I lived more in Bangalore than Chennai but still how can we forget our language and culture. In fact, my daughter although born here in Australia is well trained in our language and culture.

I: That is very good to hear.

Him : In fact, she is a well trained dancer, winner of Miss India Australia and is now an actress in south Indian films.

My trivia brain immediately started working its way and quickly deduced the gentleman next to me was none other than the father of Actress Vimala Raman.

I: Are you the father of Vimala Raman?

Him (Excitedly): Yes, How did you know?

I: I have seen her movie "Poi" and also attended a Bharathanatyam recital by her in Singapore.

Him ( Calling his wife): He knows Vimala and has attended her dance performance.

That is when his wife turned to look at me. The resemblance was very palpable, Vimala looked exactly like her mom (minus the wrinkles).

Him : She can speak Tamil very well too. She learnt dance for a long time and even now performs when she gets time. She chose to pursue a career in films and now lives in Chennai.
She is a very intelligent girl and hence we decided to allow her to pursue her career of choice. Once they become adults, we should be an advisor to them and not a decision maker.

Something tugged at my heart then. I suddenly became an unabashed admirer of his liberal values . Here was someone, who wanted his daughter to grow up in a conservative manner but yet had the courage to not force his value system on her, once she became an adult.

We chatted for a few more minutes and promised to keep in touch. Hopefully I will meet him again during other concerts. I should conclude by saying " Behind every successful artiste, there is a liberal parent".

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sanjay Subramanian - Live at Sydney - Concert Review

It has been raining music in Sydney. Braving the cold weather and drizzle, rasikas turned up in full steam (with steaming filter coffee for company) at the UWS Campus for the 3-day Sydney Music Festival.

Sanjay started the concert in his usual brisk manner with the Viriboni varnam in "Bhairavi" sung to three speeds - Vilamba, Madhyama and Dhuridha Kaalam. It was a great warm-up for the day, akin to a Sehwag sixer in the 1st over. He then sang the Thiruvarutpa " Sama Geetha Priyan" in Raaga "Gaulai". I had listened to this song a few years ago in Sanjay's Jaya TV Margazhi Mahotsavam concert. His pronunciation was commendable with no "Sanskrit vaadai". The next two songs were the Thyagaraja compositions "Evari Kai" in Raaga "Devamanohari" and "Janaka" in Raaga "Asaveri". He elaborated the "Asaveri" Raaga for 5 minutes giving enough glimpse of this rarely sung raaga.

Next came a "Kamboji" raaga alapana that was out of the world and then followed with the song " Adiyenai" that dripped with Karuna rasa, a hallmark of Kamboji. Hindolam is one of my favorite ragas and Sanjay sang a quick "Neerajakshi", preparing the listeners for the RTP. Just when you thought RTP was around the corner, there was yet another brisk " Niravathi" in raaga "Ravi chandrika" that added pace and fervor to the concert.

He started the RTP and within seconds I was throwing by dice between raagas "Nattai" Vs "Chala Nattai" - which were both unusual choices for an RTP. Quickly I figured it was indeed "Chala Nattai" and was amazed by his choice of this rare raga for an elaborate rendition. Contrary to my expectations, he didn't sing a ragamalika and sang the RTP fully in one raga for almost 45 minutes. He brought the intricacies of this beautiful & romantic raaga and kept the audience enthralled for the next hour. Though a Melakartha raagam (36th), Chala nattai has rarely been sung in an elaborate manner in concerts. On a related note, Illayaraja, the musical genius had captured the essence of this raga in the beautiful melody " Pani Vizhum Malar Vanam". As Sanjay elaborated the raaga, I realized the boundless genius of Illayarja for capturing the raaga's essence in a mere 4 minutes song. The more he sang it, "Pani Vizhum" was running like a background score in my mind. Viloiinist Nagai Sriram followed Sanjay in an adept manner throughout the rendition. The Kriti chosen was "Jalame".

How can one not have a Bharathiyar composition? "Payum Oli Nee" followed next (Not sure what the raaga is , seemed like Mand to me) and Sanjay 's delight was evident as he enjoyed singing it, imagining himself as the great poet. It was followed by "Vizhikku thunai" a virutham in "Mohanam" and "Va Va" in "Sindhu Bhairavi". I adore Sindhu Bhairavi and wished Sanjay had sung a bit more of it. He then wrapped up the concert with a Thillana in "Kapi" and Mangalam.

It was a phenomenal concert and yet another exhibition of the creative peak that Sanjay has been enjoying in the past few years.Great start to a weekend !

Here is the full song list:

1. Viriboni - Bhairavi
2. Sama geetha - Gaula
3. Evari kai - Deva manohari
4. Janaka - Asaveri
5. Adiyenai - Kamboji
6. Neerajakshi - Hindolam
7. Niravathi - Ravi chandrika
8. Jalame - Chala Nattai
9. Payum oli - Mand (I think so)
10. Vizhikku - Mohanam, Sindhu Bhairavi, vaa vaa
11. Thillana - Kapi
12. Mangalam - Sowrashtram


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Is Maran set to follow?

With deep apologies to Shelley who must be turning in his grave, " If Raja goes can Maran be far behind"?

If this CNN-IBN article is to be believed, the allegations against Maran (Apart from the Aircel Scandal) are nothing short of serious.