Cerebral Shangrila

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Carnatic violin teachers in Singapore

I am looking to learn Violin (Carnatic music) over the weekends. Please do let me know of any good teacher in Singapore. I currently live in the East Coast but would soon be shifting near Yishun.I learnt violin a long time ago (more than a decade) for a few years and ever since that have been wanting to continue it but never found time due to my nomadic existence.

I already have details about organisations like SIFAS,Nrithyalaya who teach carnatic music. But do drop in a comment/email (cogitoergosum@gmail.com) with details if you know someone.Thanks !

Monday, November 28, 2005

IFFI salutes Hrishida

The IFFI (International film festival of India) saluted the legendary hindi film director - Hrishikesh Mukherjee by screening seven of his films in the festival being held at Goa. They couldn't have made a better decision.

Hrishida was a master craftsmen of meaningful cinema. His simple stories woven around middle class families cover a gamut of genre like Humor,family, melodrama & suspense.Most of his heroes & heroines are ordinary people with extra-ordinary qualities ( much like hrishida himself).

He is one of my favorite directors and I adore his films like Anand,Golmaal,Chupke Chupke,Khubsoorat,Anupama,Satyakam,Bawarchi,Abhimaan,Anari. The most amazing thing about hrishida is the fact that he could make laugh-riots like Golmaal & Chupke Chupke yet at the same time make a serious movie like Anand or Anupama. The other incredible thing is the amount of great performances he has extracted from commercial stars like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Rekha, Sharmila Tagore and Jaya Bachchan. He has also worked with a variety of music directors like Shankar-Jaikishan,S.D.Burman,Pt.Ravishankar,Salilda,Madan Mohan & R.D.Burman.

He would weave magic out of a simple story.Bollywood desperately needs such film-makers.I salute Hrishida !

Friday, November 25, 2005

Moral Policing ( Also posted at Indophiles)

The state of Tamil Nadu - the abode of conservatism, finds itself again under national spotlight. The recent moral policing episodes do not do any good to the state's image . An Actress is attacked verbally and with rotten eggs for her opinion , the Anna University passes a dress code for students and media (certain section) & police become cultural torch bearers by invading a Bar. All these attackers have different agenda, none of which is noble. Also such Blatant intolerance of Individual freedom is shocking & despicable.

Whether the remarks made by Khusboo are right or wrong is besides the point. But I fully support her right to say whatever she feels. As Voltaire said " "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

Thankfully , there seems to some respite. Karthi Chidambaram (Son of P.Chidambaram - FM) & Kanimozhi (Daughter of M.Karunanidhi) have joined hands to start a portal named " Karuthu" to uphold freedom of expression.A small step in the right direction.

What is happening now is not moral policing but amoral policing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Indophiles -- My other new Blog

It had been my wish for a long time to start a Blog exclusively focussing on India. But never found time for it and didn't want to start something just for the heck of it. Later I got the idea of turning that idea into a Group Blog. I met Aruna Urs in my strategy class at that time. We realized that we shared a keen interest in Economics ( Though he is a trained economist unlike an half-baked economist like me !) & India.

We finally got the act going yesterday. We have started a Joint Blog called Indophiles which would focus on India. There is something exciting happening there which is transforming a sleeping elephant into a asian tiger. We shall strive to track,analyse & disseminate business,economic,social,political information about India through this blog.

As Mark Twain exclaimed " India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition" . We are pretty excited about this interesting journey. We hope we can keep the readers glued too.

P.S : Will work over the weekend to fine tune the blog template etc..Its quite raw now. Do spread the word around about the Blog !

Friedman wins FT/Goldman Sachs prize

Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, an exuberant account of the challenges and benefits of globalisation, has won the inaugural Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.Judges of the £30,000 prize, meeting on Monday at the FT’s headquarters in London, decided that Friedman’s book – a best-seller worldwide – provided “the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues” of any title published in English in the past year.

The award was launched earlier this year with the aim of picking out the year’s best books in the fields of business, finance, economics and management.

The other finalists were The Search, by John Battelle, the story of the rise of the internet search business Freakonomics, an exploration of everyday life through economic analysis, by Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner; Fast Second, by Constantinos Markides and the late Paul Geroski, which explains how companies can bypass innovation and still win; Pietra Rivoli’s examination of world markets, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy; and DisneyWar, the inside story of intrigue at the Walt Disney Company under Michael Eisner, by James Stewart.

(Courtesy : Financial Times)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Antakshari & Annu Kapoor

I think it must be the longest running show on Indian TV. I used to be a big fan of the Antakshari show on the Zee TV and If I am right the show has been around for more than 12 years now. A big part of the success is due to the bubbly hosts of the show and in particular the male host -- Annu kapoor. Annu is a geniune lover of hindi cinema, bubbly anchor & a decent singer -- the key essential qualities needed to host a music programme.

I learnt most of my hindi film song repertoire by watching the Anatakshari & Sa re ga ma shows on TV. Though I initially felt that Annu over-acted (or sounded melodramatic) in the show, I later discovered a true lover of music . Both Sa re ga ma & Antakshari has brought a lot of singers to the light who have later become successful singers in Bollywood. May the show go on !

Rediff has a write-up on Annu Kapoor.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Globalization -- a bookish journey

I owe my nomadic existence to Globalization .Its the most talked about word these days. Everyone has an opinion on Globalization . Some rave about it while the others rant. But how many of them completely understand the underlying issues? When emotions run high the economics takes a back seat.

I have been reading a lot of books on Globalization in the last few months and thought would write a quick review on some of them . This list might be a good place to start if you want to know the underlying fundamentals and issues surrounding the big "G " word :

1. Commanding Heights by Daniel Yergin & Joseph Stainslaw : This book is a must read. Its a fascinating tale of how the world economies have changed in the 20th century. The author devotes individual chapters to most big nations and analyzes their transformation. The Reagan years in US,Thatcher in UK, Indian reforms in '91, China's reforms under Deng Xiaoping,Japanese deflation ,French socialists, German welfate state, Latin american inflation all find detailed analysis in this book. It best explains how worldwide, countries have switched from centrally planned economy to free markets .

The only negative point of this book (IMHO) is that its not forward thinking and also its very supportive of the absolute free markets ( Perhaps because of Univ of Chicago connection) ignoring keynesians.

2. Globalization and its discontents by Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Prize winner) : This book is a must read too. Not just because Stiglitz is a nobel winner and a gifted writer but also because he was the chief of economic advisors to Bill Clinton & Chief economist at World Bank. He has been there , seen it all. This book is a damning indictment of IMF and its disastrous poilicies which have caused ruin in several countries.He also makes veiled reference as to how IMF's policies reflect Wall street's agenda rather than what is good for that country.

But some of the criticism should be taken with a pinch of salt. Afterall Stiglitz is a known keynesian and hence is always suspicious of absolute free markets (Though he is right most times).

3. Why Globalization works by Martin Wolf : The author is the editor of FT, and thus puts forth eloquent arguments in favor of free markets. The book is refreshingly apolitical (Its really tough to write on Economics/Globalization without taking a political stand !) and a fast read.

4. In defense of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati : This book was highly recommended and perhaps that was why I felt a little disappointed after reading it. Bhagwati is a famous academic at Columbia and one of the fierce defenders of Globalization. I somehow felt the book asked all the right questions but somehow didn't answer them too well.

5. Confessions of an economic hit man : This book is a shocking expose of the greed and politics behind Globalization. The author was a supposed "economic hit man" whose role was to dupe and plunder innocent nations so that rich corporations could exploit them. The book is too vague at times but makes up with a "Le carre" like suspense.

6. The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman : I had reviewed this book already a few weeks ago. Its hugely popular,stylishly written but do not look for too much economics in it. Its one of those "good to read" books.

Would be glad to hear from others about good books in this genre. Happy reading till then !

Friday, November 18, 2005

Confluence -- A missed Oppurtunity

I was flattered when my co-students ( Though the term is a misnomer since I completed my MBA a few weeks ago but degree has not been conferred yet) , invited me to represent the school in a Biz fest (called Confluence) at IIM-Ahmedabad .Perhaps the fact that I am an obsessed quizzer might have made the school approach me. The Confluence has Case contests,online biz games,a Biz Quiz hosted by Harsha Bhogle and will be held between Nov 24-27. Would have loved to take part in the Harsha Quiz.

But having just commenced employment, there is no way I could ask for a leave of 3 days . Plus I might be travelling on work next week and hence had to say NO to confluence.I know its a huge missed oppurtunity. But then one can't have everything in life or as they say " you can't have your cake and eat it too"

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Landscapes -- Amazing pics

They say a picture can say a thousand words. I wish I could say a few words about these pictures.But I am speechless. Watch this amazing gallery of Landscapes (Click on this link and then "next" on top right corner of the page to proceed and view the entire gallery) . Wish I could take photos at least half as good as this :-) Breathtaking !

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Internet Control

Who controls the internet ? No one, stupid. Its the largest confluence of people,ideas & technology. I wish the answer was that simple. If it was, there would be no fight between the US and rest of the world over internet supremacy .

CNN reports , " The very notion of "Internet governance" may seem an oxymoron to the 875 million users of the global computer network,But the United States, which gave birth to the Internet, maintains control of the system that matches easy-to-remember domain names with numerical addresses that computers can understand.

That worries countries like Brazil and Iran, which have pushed to transfer control to the United Nations or some other international body. Even the European Union, where much of the business community backs the current system, has taken swipes at the United States.The issue is expected to dominate the World Summit on the Information Society, which begins Wednesday in Tunis, Tunisia.But progress can't come without legal reform, business groups say. Internet access in the developing world will always remain expensive as long as governments allow their telecommunications monopolies to discourage competition, said Allen Miller, a senior vice president at the Information Technology Association of America.

"For most of these countries that are complaining about it, it's their own regulation and lack of liberalization that's preventing backbone providers from coming in," he said.But the United States has said repeatedly it does not intend to cede control of the domain-name system to a bureaucratic body that could stifle innovation.Many experts say the Internet needs less government involvement, not more."When governments talk about imposing their public policies on the Internet, unfortunately they don't typically mean, 'Let's protect human rights, individual rights, let's guarantee the freedom of the Internet,"' said Milton Mueller, a professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kalaa Utsavam in Singapore Posted by Picasa

The "Esplanade" is presenting a 10 day festival of Indian arts called "kalaa utsavam" from Nov 11-20. I was there over the weekend witnessing two spectacular performances.

On Saturday evening was "Bhukam - Circus of earth & sky" , a novel dance concept. Its a unique combination of Indian dance forms,gymnastics,yoga & martial arts. The dances performed on the sky (With the help of a rope) were daring and graceful. The lead performers were Daksha Seth and her daughter, the beautiful Isha Shravani ( Who acted as heroine in the bollywood movie Kisna , directed by subash ghai).

On Sunday was the concert "Eastern Raphsody" featuring Mandolin U. Srinivas, grammy winner Pt.Vinayakram (Ghatam) , Selvaganesh (Kanjira) & Taufiq Quershi (Drums) -- brother of Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. For the first one hour audiences were treated to a mini concert by the percussionists. The performers were brilliant combining speed,mastery and even resorting to mimicry (to create rhytym out of body & mouth) to delight a participative audience. Srinivas made his appearance after the interval and amazed the crowd with his dexterity & fusion music. The first piece was " Mahaganapathim" ( Raagam : Naatai) and the rest of the pieces were his compositions and those of the Shakti group. I only wished the concert was a bit longer !

P.S : After the concert the four performers patiently signed autographs for the audience. When I told Srinivas that the concert was awesome , he modestly replied " Romba nandri sir...ellam aandavan aasirvatham ( Thanks a lot, all god's grace) ".

Also sighted a few indian bloggers like kaps,divya,ashwin the concert.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Peter Drucker - An Obituary

The World called him the greatest business guru , though he hated that term. He preferred to call himself a "social ecologist". Truly , that is what he was. That employees are the most valuable assets of an organization looks a very simplified theory today (in the knowledge economy) but not when he propounded it. Business Week magazine hailed him as "The most enduring management thinker of our time".Drucker died at his home in California on Friday.

His greatest strength was the simplicity with which he advocated his principles. I have read his seminal work " The practice of management" where he defined "the purpose of a business is to create a customer" . Born in Austria , Drucker rubbed shoulders with the likes of Sigmund Freud,Von Mises,Joseph Schumpeter & Hayek in Vienna during his youth. He fled Austria when Hitler came to power and later went to the US where he became a citizen.

He was a believer in people. A fierce critic of liberal capitalism, he spent the better part of his life helping small businesses and non-profit groups. I was surprised when I entered the business school that I heard very little of Drucker inside the classrooms. No wonder critics contend that there is something seriously wrong with the business school curriculum. Drucker's fans range from leaders as diverse as Jack Welch to Bill Gates to Winston Churchill. Whatever he had to say he has said through his 30+ books, articles and teaching stints at NYU,Claremeont. May his soul RIP.

Here is an obituary from FT.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A-380 in Singapore Posted by Picasa

The much awaited Airbus A-380 was in Singapore today. Singapore was the first city outside Europe to welcome the new Airbus A380, the world’s first fully double-decker aircraft, when it arrived at Singapore Changi Airport today.

As part of the A380 flight test campaign, the aircraft was tested for its long-range flight capability in its non-stop journey to Singapore.A close friend of mine who got to see it from the Public viewing gallery at the Changi Airport commented , " The sheer size of it was an amazing sight . It almost resembled a five storeyed apartment building that flies but the flight doesn't look stylish enough " .

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The nice guy who finished first

The timing couldn't have been better. "The Great Wall of India" is at an all-time high and the Publishers have taken note of it. Rupa Publishers have released a book titled " The Nice Guy Who Finished First - A Biography of Rahul Dravid" . Outlook has a brief review on the book.

I can't think of any other cricketer who can be a better role model for aspiring young players. Dravid is a combination of Hardwork,dedication,"perfect" technique,composure & intellect. If my life is at stake and I want someone to bat for my life, then it would be Rahul Dravid. There’s more to Dravid than just his superb batsmanship. His interest in wildlife conservation and his campaign to spread HIV-AIDS awareness and polio eradication, for instance.

During my high school days I used to be crazy about cricket books and even maintained a cricket photo album of all international cricketers. The Craze is gone these days but I wouldn't mind reading this book.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The art of Bonanza purchases

It was the 2001 Thanksgiving weekend. I used to be based in the US then and had gone to Las Vegas(US) for that weekend. The Thanksgiving weekend is very famous for the "amazing deals" the Retailers & discount stores give. But there is a catch. The deals normally last only for the first few hours (or till stocks last) and hence people start queuing at these stores early in the morning before sunrise ( Sometimes it reminds me of the US consulate queue in India) so that they are the first to enter the shop when it opens in the morning.

My friend cajoled me during this trip for a early morning jaunt to the Fry's electronics shop on the Thanksgiving day ( Imagine standing on a Thanksgiving day morning at 5am outside a retalier shop in Las vegas instead of gambling in the sin city , but then we are Indians !) . We rushed into the shop as soon as it opened and grabbed some unbelievable deals ( Got 100 free CD-R's , Scanner for $9.99, Color Printer for $9.99 etc..) . When I reflect on this incident today, I am surprised and laugh at this whole silly episode. I wouldn't lose my sleep over a "must buy" deal today but then I was far more materialistic and stupid ( perhaps the stupidity still continues !) during those days.

Why the hell am I telling all this now ? I was reading this week's cover story in BusinessWeek on Ikea. Read about this astonishing guy and I look like a saint in comparison !!!

When Roger Penguino heard Ikea was offering $4,000 in gift certificates to the first person in line at the opening of its new Atlanta store, he had no choice. He threw a tent in the back of his car and sped down to the site. There, the 24-year-old Mac specialist with Apple Computer Inc. pitched camp, hunkered down, and waited. And waited. Seven broiling days later, by the time the store opened on June 29, more than 2,000 Ikea fanatics had joined him. Some were lured by the promise of lesser prizes for the first 100. Others were just there for the carnival atmosphere (somebody even brought a grill). The newly wed Penguino got his certificates and bagged a $799 Karlanda sofa and a $179 Malm bed, among other items. He also achieved celebrity status: "Whenever I go back, employees recognize me and show me the new stuff."

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I have been suffering from this addiction -- Gurudutt-o-mania for the past few weeks. This addiction had led me to see five of his movies , some of which are sheer classics. Guru Dutt , the troubled genius who unfortunately died (committed suicide ? ) before he turned 40 , is one of the most respected filmmakers . His movies are visual delights (Thanks to his cameraman V.K.Murthy) with poignant stories (towards the later part of his life) and awesome music . Here is a quick review of the films that I watched ( I haven't reviewed the eternal classic "Pyaasa" here since I already wrote a long review , a few months ago) :

1. CID : Produced by Guru Dutt and directed by his protege, Raj Khosla, CID is hailed as one of the first crime thrillers of Bollywood. It reminds one very much of the Humphrey Bogart thrillers of the bygone era and Dev Anand is suave as the detective. Among other things, the movie introduced Waheeda Rehman , one of the most beautiful actresses & featured some memorable OPN (O.P.Nayyar) numbers like " Ankhon hi ankhon" , " Yeh hai mumbai meri jaan" .

2. Mr & Mrs 55 : Directed & Produced by Guru dutt , this movie is a surprise. I am surprised by the elan with which Dutt handles humor and the dialogues are witty ( Aap tho communist nahin hain na ...ji nahin ..main cartoonist hoon ) . Madhubala looks ravishing and the chemistry between them makes this movie a nice weekend watch. Features some OPN gems like " Jaane Kahaan mera " , " Thandi Hawaa Kaali ghataa" .

3. Kaagaz ke Phool : This movie proved to be the waterloo of Guru Dutt. It was a big commercial failure when it was released ( Though hailed as a classic today) and was the last movie Guru Dutt officially directed . The movie is semi-autobiographical and deals with the obsession of a director with his new heroine and his inability to churn out hits without her . The movie's problem is that its brilliant in pieces and flawed otherwise and also its too pessimistic even by Guru Dutt standards .The best thing about the movie was its excellent camerawork and the unforgettable melody " Waqt Ne Kiya kya haseen situm( tuned by S.D.Burman)" .

4. Chaudavin ka Chand : Its a tale of mistaken identities with Guru dutt, Waheeda rehman & Rehman forming the love triangle. Waheeda rehman looks exquisitely beautiful and the film also features one of Rafi's best solos " Chaudhvin ka chand" (music by Ravi) . The film was a commercial success though it seemed to me like a very slow moving story .

5. Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam : This is a Classic. No doubts about it.It deals with the feudal system of the british India and abuse of women during the Zamindari system. The movie belongs to Meenakumari . As the "Choti Bahu" , she steals the limelight , doing anything to please her wayward husband. The role must have been shocking by the 60's standard , particularly the alchoholism and feminist independence. Guru dutt looks cute (without a mustache) as Bhootnath and Waheeda Rehman looks as beautiful as ever. This social drama is excellent throughout with great acting and some wonderful music. Hemantda delivers great music particularly the songs " Na jao Saiyyan" , " Bhavra badaa" , " Saaqiya aaj mujhe" .

Like most geniuses, Guru dutt never tasted much critical and commercial success in his days but today he is hailed as one of best directors to have donned the baton in Bollywood. Every actor/director , makes it a point to say how much he has been influenced by him. That is the sheer irony of life or as Sahir put it in Pyaasa " Yeh Duniya agar mil bhi jaaye tho kya hai" !

Friday, November 04, 2005

What to Blog ?

My blog is as confused as I am. Its neither thematic nor personal. At times, I think about making this blog thematic and focussed on one topic ( Either Travel or Music/movies or Economics/business or India-centric) but never manage to do it since my mind is chaotic and wanders from one topic to another.

While I am still undecided on what to blog, I am sure about what not to blog. I am not going to write much about technology in the future for two reasons. First, it presents a conflict of interest. Being in a Technology consulting & research role, I have access to tech Industry and firms much more than others and thus writing about it would be unprofessional on my part. Second, since I talk about technology constantly at work , it would be a nice change to blog about my other interests.

Btw, Do let me know if you like what I write. Feel free to criticize/suggest what I should write . I am leaning more towards Music / Books / Travel / Culture/ Globalization / Daily happenings / India .........

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Illayaraja -- unearthing a few gems

I was aimlessly shifting channels with the remote control last sunday. There was a tamil movie titled "Aayiram Nilave vaa" running on Central. The movie itself was pretty amateurish but I unearthed a couple of wonderful Illayaraja gems from that movie. The first song was " Devadhai Ilam Devi" ( A song I had heard long time ago -- An excellent one filled with pathos and rendered in a Rafi like style by SPB) and the other song was " Gangai aatril" -- A solo sung by P.Suseela which has the signature of raja written all over it. An excellent melody.

Its amazing how many films have got a facelift by Illayaraja's music and perhaps he started the trend of films becoming hits because of Music Directors . In many of his movies , the real hero was Illayaraja and that explains the reasons for his spat with some leading directors later in his life.

Btw, If you want to listen to these two songs , here is the link from Musicindiaonline.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

An evening to remember

I know it sounds cliche, but "it's a small world" . Thanks a lot to Bala for inviting me to the Deepavali get-together at his home. I hardly know Bala. Bala apparently reads my blog regularly and recently moved from U.K to Singapore. we had been planning to meet in person and diwali gave us a chance for that.

A big surprise was awaiting me there. Bala's bro-in-law turned out to be my lecturer during college days at SVCE ( Venkateswara college of engg,Chennai).He was also a family friend having lived in the same street as my mom's family in Katpadi near Vellore (TN). Also happened to meet Joslin,a fellow blogger (http://spaces.msn.com/members/topoftheword/) and ex-colleague of Bala .He works for Cisco and knew most of my co-students who are interning there. Another interesting person whom I met was Christian, an Irish research scientist , who knows a lot about tamil movies !

The topics discussed ranged from neuroscience to illayaraja's oratorio to tamil movie scene to IP telephony and outsourcing . I had an absolutely fabulous time and as I said earlier " It's a small world".