Cerebral Shangrila

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


The word means " Lover of Mankind" . There is an unparalleled joy in giving. Community service (Social Service) is a topic close to my heart , having had the privilege to work closely with NGO's in India . Everyone need to do their bit for the society and under-privileged.

I read with great interest last week Businessweek's story on Philanthropy in Corporate America. A major trend these days is to give away wealth when one is alive than after one's death. Americans have donated to a variety of causes like "fight against HIV/AIDS,Cancer"," Education" , " Environmental Conservation" , " Science" , " Open & free societies", " Arts & Culture" , " Reducing Nukes" etc.. Its heartening to note that a lot of American Philanthropy is flowing to fight poverty & diseases in Countries like India & in the African Continent.

Businessweek also published a list of top 50 Philanthopists in the US which had familiar names like Bill & Melinda Gates , Warren Buffet, Gordon Moore, George Soros,Michael Dell, Paul Allen , Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey .

Of course , one doesn't have to be big to donate. Every person with a disposable income can contribute his mite towards making the world a better place. Let's do it.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve , Singapore -- Mangrove forests

Mangrove forests inside Singapore . Are you kidding ? No, I am not.I am inviting all the nature lovers to visit this mangrove forest which has an amazingly unique ecosystem and unmatched tranquility far away from the chaos of the hectic city life.

Where is it located ?
Its located near the Kranji Industrial Area in Singapore . For more details visit this webpage .

What is there to see ?
Its an absolutely tranquil mangrove forest . There are three different treks possible inside the reserve. Route one is 3 kms (Takes 1-2 Hours by walk) , Route two is 5 Kms (2-3 hrs) & route three is 7 kms (4-5 hours).

The mangrove forests have their unique flora like Sea Hibiscus,mangrove trees,Water lily, Bulrush,Water lettuce,Water Banana,Nipah and fauna like Monitor Lizard, Mudskipper,tree crab,mud lobster,barnacles,spiders,kingfisher,plovers,egrets,herons,turtles . Most of these species are rare and found only in this ecosystem.

How much does it cost ? The entry fee for adults is $1 and for children is 50 cents on weekends (Its free on other days).

When is it open ? The park is open from 7.30 am to 7 pm on weekdays and 7 am to 7 pm on weekends.

Personal experiences : It was a wonderful place to visit . The tree crabs were pretty amazing climbing all the way up on the trees. The mudskipper was an enigma as a species lying somewhere between an amphibian and a fish. I managed to get some close photos of Huge Monitor Lizards which seemed to have lost all fear of Humans. The last time I had visited mangrove forests was in Pichavaram in Tamil Nadu,India but I was too young back then to identify the diverse flora & fauna.

Travel Advice : Carry Binoculars and a camera . Also carry packed food and water since the trek inside the forests can be tiring at times. Try to visit in the early morning when the birds are very active. More than anything come here and fall in love with nature again.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Arthur Hailey Dead

Best-selling author Arthur Hailey died on Thursday . During my high-school days , I used to be fascinated by his novels and he used to be my favorite author for a long time until I started reading more serious stuff.

All his novels had a Thematic Industry Background ( Airport - Airline , Moneychangers - Banking , Strong Medicine - Medicine ,Wheels - Automobile, Evening news - Media , Overload - Power etc..) with well-etched fictional characters set amidst the tense backdrop.

May his soul rest in peace.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Search Engines

A confession first . I am a big-time Google Fan.

BusinessWeek states that google is the most dominant search engine with 49% of the search market . I am surprised that the remaining 51% use something else :-)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Snake Charmers,Cows & Call Centers

First it were the Snake charmers & Cows . Now its the turn of Call centers. Any global business magazine, invariably has a story on India ( At least a story a month) . And the photo which adorns the story is the photo of a " Call center" or a " Call Center Worker" . Last heard, the snake charmers & cows were terribly unhappy that they have been dropped from that special privilege.

Come on. We recognize that IT Services & ITES / BPO is one of the fastest growing sectors in India but to tell the world that India is all about IT/ITES is a terrible crime. Let us walk away from that triteness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Street Fun

The " Therukoothu ( Street Show) " just got hep. I was lucky to catch a show by " Buskers" at the Singapore Expo on Sunday. The Buskers is a travelling Street Show around the world. I was lucky to watch two amazing performers there. Here is what they do ( in their own words from the Buskers Website ) :

Pedro Tochas : "The sculptor clown" is an interdisciplinary work where the performer does not communicate through verbal language, using instead physical theatre, circus, and balloon sculptures to express his feelings.

Aaron Greg : From a stunt involving a leafblower, beachball, three garden weasels and a small child to juggling fire torches on a balance board while blindfolded by a flaming bucket, there's no end to the amusement Aaron can provide.

Pedro was able to create all kinds of figures out of Baloons. crown,roses,violin,knife,spear,necklace were all created out of baloons and he weaved them wonderfully into a love story.Aaron juggled with five fire torches simultaneously balancing on a bicycle.Amazing huh !

Since these shows are held in open air there are no fees for these shows though people are encouraged to give whatever they feel at the end of the show . The best part is all this " Voluntary money" goes to charity.

An evening well spent.

Monday, November 22, 2004

It's a wonderful Life - Movie review

There are movies and then there are Classics. I watched the movie " It's a wonderful Life" yesterday . A deeply moving story , it talks about the purpose of human life and the great joy of having friends.

Businessman George Bailey falls on hard times and decides to commit suicide. An angel then shows him what would the world be without him and what he means to his family & friends. Bailey realizes the joy & purpose he brings to people and changes his mind . The Screenplay is excellent and Jimmy Stewart (one of my favorite actors) lives the role of " George Bailey" . Donna Reed lends a wonderful support and breezes through the role of Lover & Wife.Frank Capra's direction is flawless.

The movie reaffirms one's belief in Humanity and powerfully conveys the meaning that " everyone is born for a reason " . Though the movie is almost 60 years old now , it still remains an all-time favorite of movie watchers & perhaps one of the best " Christmas" movies.

" No man is a failure who has friends" .

Sunday, November 21, 2004

E-mail revolution

The free e-mail users never had it so good. In a matter of few months there have been drastic changes in the mailbox sizes and mode of access.It all started with the giant killer Gmail launching its 1GB mail service. Yahoo quickly increased its mailbox size to 100 MB.Rediffmail followed suit with 1 GB. Hotmail finally reacted and increased the mailbox size to 250 MB (They are doing it in phases , I have two Hotmail accounts , one is still 2 MB while the other has been upgraded). Gmail announced its plan to allow users access their mailboxes via POP3 protocol.

I love Gmail's POP3 & Hotmail's http features.It allows me to access my mails via Outlook express & Mozilla Thunderbird ( Mail Client with Mozilla Firefox browser).The Convenience of a mail client makes me prompt in replying to mails,allows me to search mails easily and configure fonts,signatures etc.. More than anything , it makes life simple and saves time.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Innovation for Rural India

Actions speak louder than words. When the entire country is talking about uplifting Rural India , One man and his team are quietly doing it. Meet Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala ( Professor, Dept of Electrical Engineering of IIT, Madras,India). He incubates companies which come up with affordable,low-priced,high-tech products targetted towards the poor of India.Be it his WLL(Wireless Local Loop) for telecom connectivity in Rural areas or TeNet group which he has been intrumental in creating , this man truly believes that " Internet can transform Rural India" . Kudos to such altruistic souls .

Here is the text of his interview in Rediff.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Success & Happiness

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful ---- Herman Cain

I will have achieved " Nirvana" if I am able to achieve this balance.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

"The Economist" on Outsourcing

The Economist has come up with a series of articles on Outsourcing.It traces the origins of Outsourcing,the present and the future.As always India & China prominently figure in this report .

Monday, November 15, 2004

Random Thoughts

One of those interesting,humourous mails.

Random Thoughts :

1. Team work is esential, It allows you to blame someone else.

2. At the end of the money,i still have some month left.

3. Talk is cheap because Supply exceeds demand.

4. I've been working for this company ever since they threatened to fire me.

5. Why is it that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot & anyone driving faster than you is a maniac??

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Diwali - Past,present & future

Nostalgia at times is dangerous.It seeks to change a world which stubbornly refuses to do so.

Diwali - The past : We used to order sweets & crackers from my dad's office. The amount of crackers purchased was an issue of well-being & prestige . The oil bath in the morning at 4 am was a custom and I used to burst crackers till 8 am and then visit my grandparents house where a sumptuous lunch would await me.

Later during my high school & college days I became a "Diwali entrepreneur" in partnership with my cousin. We used to source crackers directly from Sivakasi and sell it in the neighbourhood and make a tidy profit of Rs.1000 & above (a great sum for a student).

The Present (Last 8 Years) : I send mails to everyone in my address book wishing them " Happy diwali" . Ha, haven't even met some of them in the last 5 years. I burst crackers on the internet and crib how good the old days were.

The Future : ? ???

Saturday, November 13, 2004

1984 by George Orwell -- Book review

" War is peace" , " Freedom is slavery", Ignorance is strength" , these are the slogans of the party . The Book 1984 by Orwell is a Classic. Its a chilling account of Totalitarianism and how authority & dictatorship can kill the integrity,freedom & souls of human beings.

It is set in a nation where the activities of every human being is watched ( " The big brother is watching you" ) and those who don't toe the party line are exterminated. You sympathize with Winston,feel sorry for him and cry for him when he is tortured . This novel makes you think and understand the deep meaning of the word " freedom".

There are traces of this novel in everyday world. Something like this has happened , is happening and will happen unless the people realize their self-worth , cherish their freedom and fight against authority. The only hope is in the people's minds or as Orwell says " The only hope is in the proles" .

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Taj Mahal - Moonlight viewing

The Taj Mahal after a gap of 20 years will be opened for Moonlight viewing.That should be an awesome sight . Imagine viewing the Taj sitting in the garden on a full moon night. I wish I was in Delhi . Would have definitely made a trip to agra on the earliest weekend :-) Here is the report on Rediff.

Btw, A very Happy Diwali to all of you !

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Liar's Poker

Currently reading a book titled " Liar's Poker " which is about the Greed & Wreckage in Wall street during the 80's ( Age of Junk Bond Craze & Greedy traders). Found this memorable line in the Introduction to one of the Chapters :

" Wall Street " reads the sinister old gag, " is a street with river at one end and a graveyard at the other." This is striking,but incomplete.It omits the kindergarten in the middle.

A few academic Happenings

The new trimester commenced last week. I have Chosen five subjects in this trimester.

1. Enterprise Systems : Provides a managerial view of ERP and has a lots of hands-on lab exercises in SAP.
2. Organisational Behaviour : A very important subject in the long run. How to manage,motivate people and also provides insights into Behaviour of Humans in Organisations.
3. Mergers & Acquisitions : The title says it all. We have a Great Prof ( An Harvard MBA) who ran an M&A firm for many years and who has done US$ 1 billion plus deals.
4. Marketing Management : A very interesting subject and once again the Prof seems good.What is MBA without marketing ?
5. Managerial Accounting : This is mainly " Costing" (ICWA eqvt by Indian standards). The prof is extremely humorous and course deals more with Strategy than mere numbers.

If you observed, I have chosen very little finance subjects since my interest in Finance waned ( Not sure if it was because of the dry finance topics we had in last trimester or because the Grass wasn't that green when viewed from the same side ! ). This means I might either specialize in IT & Strategy or just take a good mix of all subjects and do a General MBA.

I also got my first trimester results. Haven't done badly. Got a A,B,B,C in the four subjects ( We have a Grade system ranging from A to F ..A being the best and F the least). I am a bit mystified about the obsession about grades by most of my classmates . MBA lies much beyond grades & formulas.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Mile Sur @ MIT

This is Brilliant . Great Creativity. Every Indian is familiar with the famous video " Mile Sur Mera " which used to be Screened on Doordarshan in the late 80's & early 90's starring celebrities like Bhimsen Joshi,Lata Mangeshkar,Amitabh , Kamal Hassan, Hema Malini, Sharmila Tagore etc.

The MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) students as part of the MIT Sangam Diwali festival (a few years ago)have shot this entire song in MIT . Watch this video. Its awesome.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Shopping - Men & Women

A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs, a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item she doesn't.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

One-liners from Jay Leno

Its a week of Happenings.Here are some incredibly funny one-liners from Leno this week :

1. So, I guess we have four more years to find Osama bin Laden. No hurry now. Take your time.

2. God bless him, Ralph Nader has still not conceded. There are still some absentee ballots coming in from Jupiter and Mars. It takes three light years to get here.

3. Do you know the ironic thing about this election? Do you realize that the Electoral College is the only college that President Bush ever did well in?

4. As you know Osama bin Laden has released another video. He bragged that he will "bankrupt the United States.” And today President Bush said, "two can play that game, pal.”

5. Here’s an odd fact – today was the birthday of the cash register. So that’s two day in a row the Republicans are celebrating.

6. Voter turnout very low in Beverly Hills yesterday. You know why? No valet parking.

Friday, November 05, 2004

An Industry in India Cheers Bush's Victory

Thus Spake the New York Times.Here is the Victory speech of George W Bush from NYT (Play the Video on this page).Corporate India is all smiles that Bush has won the re-election.The pro-business tinge of the Republicans has always gone down well with the Indian Industry (and the US Businesses). This US Election was very closely watched by Indians ( and by so many other countries) since it impacted their day to day lives .

I know three guys who would be very happy about Bush's re-election . Dave Letterman,Jay Leno & Conan O'Brien !

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bollywood @ $100 a day

Funny that no one thought of this before. Now One can get a Tour of Bollywood ( Tour to Filmistan Studio,Entertainment shows,Meeting with Film personalities) thanks to the efforts of Suniel Shetty & Renuka Chowdhury (Tourism Minister) . If properly packaged this could be a great idea to attract tourists.Here is the article on Rediff.

Let us face it. Despite the inane movies (At least 75% of them), Bollywood is a huge brand Outside India. Be it the US,UK,Middle east or South East Asia , Bollywood enjoys a great following and tremendous brand recognition.

Such a tour would be wonderful Oppurtunity to ride this brand wave and also a potent platform to attract tourists.

These are some personal experiences I have had with " Brand Bollywood" Outside India :

1. Met a African-american Cab driver in the US a few years ago who was a big fan of Dharmendra and had watched Sholay 26 times.He refused to accept money from us after the "Bollywood Talk" in the cab .

2. A Singaporean co-student in my Chinese Class is a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan and has his entire DVD Collection (He knows no hindi).

3. The Thai tourist guides greeted us with Hindi songs last week in Phuket.

4. Met an American at the San Francisco Bay , who gave me a Half an hour lecture on the greatness of Guru Dutt .

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Big Fight ! Posted by Hello

Its a funny world. The line between the Throne & Oblivion is too thin. One of these two is going to occupy the most important position (arguably) in the World for the next four years. With the latest WSJ/NBC Polls predicting a 48% for Bush & 47% for Kerry , the battle lines are evenly drawn. So Who do you think is going to be the next US President ?

Monday, November 01, 2004

Apple iPod Posted by Hello

Oscar Wilde Said " I can resist anything but temptation". I have never been much of a gizmo guy. My cell phone is a very ordinary Nokia 3310 , My Laptop is a heavy Compaq Presario, I don't wear a watch and never used a PDA or a Digital diary.

However, one gizmo that has caught my fancy is the Apple iPod.As a guy obsessed with Music , I have always been eclectic in my musical player choices. Perhaps , When I finish my MBA and start working , the first " To Buy" item would be an iPod. Apple is undeniably the synonym of Cool. Btw, Here is the review on Apple iPod in ZDnet India.