Cerebral Shangrila

Friday, September 30, 2005

Gandhi -- T-Shirts

He is the most reknowned Indian face globally. Close on the heels of the Telecom Italia's Gandhi ad, its now the turn of T-shirts with quotes by Mahatma Gandhi.

Tushar Gandhi, grandson of Bapu, runs a website that among others things , sells T-shirts with Mahatama's quote. The T-shirts are available in various colors and sizes.Here is a sample of the list of quotes available :

1) Be the change you want to see in the world.
2) An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
3) 8 Deadly sins.
4) I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might.
5) My life is my message. (With Photograph)
6) An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.
7) Anger is the enemy of non violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.

For all those trivia lovers, New Indian Express reports that the latest convert to Gandhi T-Shirts is Jennifer Aniston ("Friends").

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tamil Film Music -- The evolution

The BBC Tamil Radio has a wonderful audio website (Streaming audio) titled " Paatu ondru Ketaen " . The program traces the evolution of tamil film music from Thyagaraja Baghavathar, P.U.Chinnappa to today's Harris Jeyraj & Yuvan.

It features luminaries such as M.K.Thyagaraja Baghavathar,G.Ramanathan,P.U.Chinnappa,S.V.Venkatraman,G.Ramanathan,
Seerkazhi Govindarajan,Illayaraja.

There are interviews with Illayaraja,P.B.Sreenivas,M.S.Viswanathan among others . The usage of "chaste tamil" adds value to most of the conversations. There are 50+ episodes of 10 minutes each.

Wonderfully nostalgic and a must listen for music fans !

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Music -- Truly boundaryless

I visited the Lantern Festival at the Chinese Garden on Sunday. The animals made out of lanterns were truly amazing. After a long walk , I sat next to the podium which was playing some chinese music. For the first couple of minutes I didn't notice anything unusual. But the carnatic music fan inside me could not help noticing that the Raaga being played was Mohanam. I was bewildered for a minute and listened more closely . It was unmistakable ( The swaras Sa ri ga pa dha sa ) . What was raaga Mohanam doing in chinese music ?

Googling tells me that Mohanam is used extensively in Chinese & Japanese music ( I now remember that the famous song "Sayonara Sayonara " from the hindi movie "Love in Tokyo" was based on Raaga Mohanam too ) . Also found an interview of ARR where he says composing for chinese films is quite easy because of their extensive use of the Mohana raagam. Mohana raagam is known as Raag Pahari in Hindustani music .

It just re-iterates my belief that music knows no language and is boundaryless.No wonder that I count musicians as diverse as Illayaraja,Saint Thyagaraja,Bob Dylan,Simon & Garfunkel,Mozart,Beethoven,S.D.Burman,Madan Mohan,Mehdi Hassan,Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as my favorites.

As they say,there are only two types of music -- Good or bad.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

If you are a parent by Azim H. Premji, Chairman,Wipro Ltd

This mail was fwded to me. Premji talks about the age old conflict in "child upbringing" .

If you are a parent, you have many aspirations for your child that may include him or her becoming a doctor, an engineer, scientist or another kind of successful professional. I believe these aspirations are driven by your thinking about your child’s future, and her centrality in your life.

Since good education is often the passport to a good future, I presume it leads you to getting your child admitted to a good school. Then you encourage your child to study hard and do well in school exams. To bolster this, you send him or her for tuition classes. This would have primed your child for board exams and entrance exams, thereby leading to admission into a good professional course. Doing well at college increases the probability of landing a good job.
And a good job means the child’s future is ensured.

I am neither a psychologist nor an educationist, and what I will now state may seem counter-intuitive. I think that these aspirations and actions might be doing more harm than good to your child. To understand why, we need to re-examine some of our fundamental assumptions.

In the first place, I have seen time and again that living for some distant future goal also means you do not live in the present. The distant goal will always translate into an external measure of success, such as exams. And most exam-focused children start forgetting what it means to be a child – to be curious, mischievous, exploring, falling, getting up, relating, discovering,inventing, doing, playing.

Childhood is very precious; precious enough not be wasted by the artificial pressures of contrived competition, by too many hours of bookish study, and by school report cards that simplistically wrap up an entire human being in numbers.

The second assumption is that education is merely a ticket to socio-economic success. Given the state of our country, this reality cannot be ignored. But restricting education to only this aspect is , I think, a very limiting notion of the aim of good education. The primary purpose of a school is to guide the child in her discovery of herself and her world, and to identify and nurture the child’s talents Just as every seed contains the future tree, each child is born with infinite potential. Imagine a school which sees children as seeds to be nurtured – here the teacher is a gardener who helps to bring out the potential already present in the child.

This is very different from the current view which sees the child as clay to be moulded – where the teacher and parents are potters deciding what shape the clay should take. There is an old (and forgotten) Chinese saying “ Give a seed to a potter, and you will get a bonsai”.

Even in a commercial organization, to make profits we do not have to chase profits. Rather, we need to build an institution that gives every employee an opportunity to do meaningful and fulfilling work.

Create an organization driven by values of innovation, integrity, customer centricity and care. And as you practice these values everyday and moment, you will see that the profits take care of themselves.

Similarly, dear parent, this is my request to you. Do not give up your child’s present to secure his or her future. Give your child the freedom to truly explore life with abandon. In doing this, you will see your child flower into a creative and sensitive human being. And when this happens, everything else – money, social success, security – will fall into place automatically.

Let your child be a child.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Surely you're joking,Mr.Feynman -- Book Review

I love reading biographies/autobiographies and have read countless of them but have to admit this is the most hilarious and unusual autobiography that I have ever read.

What would you expect the autobiography of a nobel prize winning physicsist (Richard Feynman) to be ? Dull,filled with equations,lecturing . Feynman's autobiography is anything but that . He is Mark Twain & Albert Einstein & Robin Williams (yeah the funny actor) all rolled into one.
This book is not a typical autobiography but a collection of his eccentric escapedes & adventures.

The Man : His achievements are breath taking. An MIT,Princeton Grad who was part of "Project Manhattan" ( Atom Bomb development during WW2), Professor at Caltech , Nobel Prize Winner (Physics) in 1965 and one of the leading lights of quantum electrodynamics.Behind this serious face is an eccentric ,free-wheeling spirit.

The book is replete with humor & fun. His fascination with languages ( He learnt Spanish,Portuguese,Japanese) , his career as an amateur musician ( bongo drums) , dabbling with arts ( He learnt painting after an argument with a friend over Arts Vs Science) and selling a few of his paintings , Learning how to pick a girl in a bar from an illiterate friend , doing the math behind the gambling in Las vegas , feeling terribly uncomfortable about the parties after winnng the Nobel Prize .Also amusing are his meetings with other celebrities such as Pauli,Enrico Fermi,Niels Bohr, Von Neumann.

Some excerpts from the book :

" When I was a student at MIT I was interested only in science; I was no good at anything else.But at MIT there was a rule:You have to take some humanities courses to get more "culture".I found astronomy & philosophy as humanities courses and signed up for them right away ! It was the closest thing to science I could find"

" You will be interested and amused to know that you are now talking to the chief research scientist of the Metaplast Corp,whose staff consisted of one bottle-washer!"

" I went to register for the spanish class, when this pneumatic blonde came along.She looked terrific.I said to myself "May be she is going to be in Spanish Class -- that'll be great !" But she walked into portuguese class.So I figured, what the hell- I might as well learn Portuguese" .

Behind all this humor,fun & eccentricity lies a razor sharp mind,insatiable curiosity and intellectual honesty. Feynman lived life to the fullest and could have never done it better !

P.S : Here is more on Richard Feynman from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How low can politics get ?

Was shocked to read about this incident in Hyderabad on NDTV.com :

As an ambulance came to a halt outside Union Minister A Narendra's official residence in Hyderabad, Congress workers, some of them even dressed in medical attire, emerged shouting slogans.

They claimed they had come to admit Narendra to a mental asylum for his statements against the Congress leadership.With a week to go for the municipal elections in the state, friends have turned foes and the Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) are training their guns on each other.Politics in Andhra Pradesh has truly hit a new low.

As I read this report , I remembered French philosopher Voltaire's famous quote , "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"
Perhaps , I am expecting too much .........

Monday, September 19, 2005

Filmi Trivia

Answer this trivia ( Its pretty easy actually). This man is the most versatile artist one could think of. He is the Producer of this movie,he also directed the movie and acted as the lead actor in this movie.

This song in this movie was composed & sang by him. He also wrote the lyrics of this song. The question is identify this Actor,song and the movie where this versatile artiste is the Producer,Director,Actor,Music Director,Lyricist & Singer !!

Clue : Its a hindi movie of the 60's....

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Ganguly -- A shadow of the past ?

Controversies are nothing new to Dada. But even his ardent fans wonder if it was proper for him to wash the dirty linen in the public. Ganguly's public disclosure that he was asked to step down during the recent Test match with Zimbabwe ( Which he did with glee after scoring a century) , displays a breach of an unwritten protocol in any game.

Ganguly's assertion that he has scored more than 1000 runs in last 16 tests, hides a lot of truth since most of those runs have been scored against the likes of Bangladesh & Zimbabwe . Here is a Cricinfo report on his last 1000 runs.

Nirmal Shekar , in The Hindu , writes that its time for Ganguly to step down gracefully. We all know Sourav is a fighter but I sincerely hope for his sake and for India, he decides to fight it out on the field and not off it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mouse as engine of e-governance

What is common to Ganesh Chaturthi & PC (Computer) ? Answer : Mouse. If this sounds like a PJ, better brace yourselves.The Hindu reports :

Inaugurating the Rs. 130-crore Ascendas Phase-I business space, a state-of-the-art facility in the IT corridor, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, captured the imagination of corporate whiz kids and the new age managers by highlighting the role of the mouse then and now.

"The meek mouse, which has a special place in the Indian psyche, revered as the vehicle of Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles, today stands reincarnated, powered by Pentium. Today, governance stands reinvented as e-governance at the click of the ubiquitous mouse," she said to a loud applause from the invited audience at the world-class IT facility.

The project also highlights the increased Participation/Trade/Investment by Singapore Firms (and by Govt) in India .

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sun shines at Suntec

I attended a talk yesterday by Scott Mcnealy (CEO & Chairman , Sun Microsystems) at the Suntec convention centre,Singapore. The topic was " Technology in the age of participation" . Here are some quick updates from the talk :

1. Scott emphasized the need for tech firms to be environmental conscious ( Threat of Global warming) .
2. The need for technology to bridge the wide digital divide between the rich & poor
3. The need for open standards in IT
4. The future in Data / Infrastructure management ( Explaining Sun's Storagetek acquisition)
5. Sun's unique GELC initiative ( Global Education & Learning community)
6. Sun's big bet for the future -- Solaris10, Java enterprise system,Storage,Display Grid,Sunfire Servers

The talk was laced with Scott's dry humor and subtle attacks on Microsoft/IBM/Dell brigade.Blogging found reference very often in his talk (as a way of participation )

If you are a Java developer, here are some facts to make you proud :
Java is celebrating its 10th birthday this year ( There was cake cutting on the stage) , There are 2 billion java enabled devices,4.5 million java developers and Java technology was on-board the ROV on Mars .

Scott was extremely excited about Sun Grid ( pay-per-use products, Compute Utility ) and product demos were placed outside the hall to try it out. Lots of freebies were thrown in for the attendees too!

P.S : I am merely reporting the event as it happened. Didn't want to bring in my technology bias !

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Reign Man -- Bollywood

No. I am not talking about Amitabh Bachhan. In a fickle industry like Bollywood where 90% of the movies end up losing money, there is one man who has reigned the kingdom for a long time. He is the masterful marketer in bollywood. His banner has its own distribution, music, design and home entertainment sections, and is the undisputed leader in show business.

They call him the king of romance .His body of work is amazing -- Dhool ka Phool,Waqt,Ittefaq,Daag,Deewaar,Kabhie Kabhie,Trishul,Silsila,chandni,Lamhe,Darr,Dil to pagal hai,Veer-zaara. He is the one and only -- Yash Chopra , who presides over one of the biggest banners in Bollywood (Yashraj Films).

Though I am not a big fan of candy-floss romances , the youthfulness of Yash chopra's films always leave me exhilirated. Heroines always look the most beautiful in his movies and the music & locales are exotic as ever.

Here is an article in Screen where Yashji recollects his banner launch .

P.S : Yashji always worked with the best. He has an ear for poetry.His regulars were Sahir (until his death) and Javed Akhtar. Of course most of his songs have been sung by Lata.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Offshoring -- Where is the limit ?

Everyday sees a new kind of job being offshored from the US. From home tuitions to Prayers ( Seems Kerala is a destination of choice for Christian prayers) -- the offshoring is getting creative everyday. "Bangalored" ,is now a word some say , has found its way into online dictionaries.

So what are the jobs in the US that are safe from offshoring ? Nurses and barbers don't need to fear for their livlihoods, say two researchers. Most everyone else, don't be so confident. Here is more from BusinessWeek :

Economists J. Bradford Jensen and Lori Kletzer have come up with an inventive way of figuring out whose jobs are vulnerable and whose aren't. Jensen and Kletzer came up with a simple test: If a worker has to be located close to the customer, then the job can't be sent offshore. If the worker can be located far from the customer, the job might qualify for offshoring. After all, they reason, if you can serve a customer in Alabama from New York, you can probably serve her almost as easily from Shanghai or Mumbai.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Visa Ad - Richard Gere

Its ubiquitous in Singapore in the last few days. The new Visa Ad (commercial) starring Richard Gere and shot in Jodhpur is superb .
Here is more info on it from Visa's website . Wish there was an online video version of the same.

Filmed in the beautiful city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India, the commercial brings together a cast and crew that is a blend of the best of East and West and reflects the beauty, scenery and the imagery of India. The central theme of ‘Birds’ is based on the spirit of generosity and the giving spirit demonstrated through the ritual of letting birds go free to bring good luck to a relative or friend embarking on a journey, a ritual that runs across several different cultures in the Asia Pacific region including Singapore.

Mumbai-based Ranjit Barot composed the earthy and rhythmic music for the commercial, which was produced and developed by Visa’s advertising agency BBDO.

The commercial opens with a breathtaking view at sunrise of the mystic Jawant Thada, the graceful marble cenotaph of Maharaja Jawant Singh II in Jodhpur. A little girl sees her brother packing for a journey. She runs through the village streets of Jodhpur, stopping at a stall to buy birds, to bring good fortune to her brother, who is embarking on a journey. Hoping to buy five birds but only able to afford one, she leaves dejected with her bird. The visiting tourist - Richard Gere - overhears this and after she has left, takes out his Visa card and buys all the birds from the stalls. As the little girl is about to bid her brother farewell and release her single bird into the air, hundreds of birds suddenly soar into the sky behind her. The commercial concludes on a warm and humorous note, as Richard Gere and the bird sellers look away innocently, disclaiming responsibility.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Focus Group -- Impact of ICT on Education & its future

Thanks to my blog, I was invited to a focus group to discuss the impact of ICT (Info-comm tech) on Education and its future. The focus group had MBA students from NUS,NTU,INSEAD & Univ of Chicago.

Some excerpts from the discussion :

1. Most were extremely bullish about the future of technology. Most of them wanted increased integration of gadgets and emergence of common standards so that various gizmos can talk to each other.

2. The negative sides of ICT revolution -- Lack of Privacy, Health & its negative effects of human / social relationships.

3. Interesting questions like " Will schools exist 20 years from today?" , " Effects of ICT on young children" met with fierce debate with some feeling too much technology does harm and spoil kids .

4. I was the only Asian and a developing country national ( Rest all were from US,Germany,France,UK,Israel) and hence had a drastically different view on impact of ICT in my home country !

It was a wonderfully stimulating discussion and in the end we were paid handsomely for our time . So now I can say , I have "earned" something through my blog !

Monday, September 05, 2005

Mouna Ragam -- Mani's Best ?

Vasantham Central (Singapore's local tamil channel) celebrates Maniratnam special this month. I happened to catch the movie "Mouna Ragam" by Mani on Saturday.

The movie, IMHO, is perhaps the best Maniratnam movie. The screenplay is nearly flawless (ignoring the cinematic ending), dialogues are sharp/witty , excellent characterisations of Mohan/Revathi/Karthik , wonderful performances, nice/decent humor,terrific direction and of course unforgetable music.

Maniratnam is at his best etching human complexities,relationships and bonding. This is what he does best and demonstrated it again in Alaipayuthe & Kannathil Muthamitaal. This is pure vintage mani -- no artifice,pretense ( I disliked his later movies such as Thiruda Thiruda,Aayudha Ezhuthu, Dil se -- they all lacked realism ).

The camerawork was excellent too capturing the best of Delhi & Agra, not to forget the great interiors of Mohan's aesthetic home.

Illayaraja's music score is a classic. All the songs were huge hits and the BGM (Background music) is a treat to movie fans and a lesson for other music directors who want to learn about background music.

What happened to that whiz kid maniratnam these days who is increasingly getting bogged down by the weight of his celebrity ?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

World's poor & technology

Two questions first for which I definitely expect a wrong answer from most of you (at least I answered wrongly !).

Which technology has had the most impact on the world's poor & their economic growth ?
No, its not PC, but the ubiquitous mobile phones.

Which is the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world ?
No, its not Asia , but Africa.

The Economist in an article claims that the mobile phones have had the most profound impact in erasing poverty and in achieving economic growth. The challenge however is in making affordable phones for the poor. The Grameen Phone services in Bangladesh & initiatives such as TeNet in India have realized the " Fortune at the bottom of the Pyramid" (Courtesy : Prof. C.K.Prahalad) and are doing profitable businesses catering to the rural poor and at the same time uplifting millions of people out of their poverty.

"Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”

Thursday, September 01, 2005

ABN Amro Outsourcing Deal

In one of the biggest European Outsourcing deals, ABN Amro has signed a US$2.2 billion dollar IT Outsourcing deal with several vendors including IBM,Infosys & TCS. The deal includes IT Infrastructure Outsourcing ( IBM) , Application Maintenance ( TCS & Infosys) and Application Development ( Accenture,IBM,TCS,Infosys,PCS).

Though IBM has won the majority of the deal, its still a huge contract for the Indian firms . TCS expects revenues from this contract to be around $250 million while Infy expects around $140 million.

The deal also signals the arrival of Indian firms as major global players capable of handling multi-year , multi-site contracts. "This deal is going to establish the kind of scale and credibility that is required," TCS Chief Executive S. Ramadorai told reporters via a video conference from Amsterdam.

Analysts says it's all a sign that Indian IT firms are increasingly being invited to the table to bid on contracts that are global in scope. "I would expect to see a lot more of these kinds of deals going forward," says Cindy Shaw, who tracks IT services for investment firm Moors & Cabot. It's expected that most of ABN Amro's technology work will be carried out in India, where costs are about one-third of those in Western markets.