Cerebral Shangrila

Monday, January 30, 2006

Chennai - Classic & Contemporary

What is true for "The Hindu" is true for Chennai too ( Just a few kms away from the Airport , "The Hindu" has a big hoarding Classic & Contemporary) . With every visit I notice the sweeping changes in the city yet there are some things that never change.

Like the Sunday evening concert at Music Academy. I still saw the same silk sarees & Kadhar veshtis and some excellent rendering of Bhairavi & Rithigowla raaga by Ranjani & Gayathri. It was a Saint thyagaraja special . I was also part of a 500+ crowd that recited Saint Thyagaraja's Pancharatna krithis on Sunday morning at Nanganallur . Its so wonderful to be back in chennai.It also reinforced my interest to start violin classes again. ( What with a seven year old kid sitting next to me and singing better than me but thanks to the crowd my abhaswaram was lost !). I haven't seen the "modern" Chennai and perhaps will never see it.

The weather is great. The Margazhi pani (chill) still persists ( Which is quite uncommon in late Jan) and the mornings are heavenly. I just missed the screening of De Sica's Italian Classic " Bicycle thief" (They had a special screening at Sathyam for classic film lovers) on Saturday. Will try to catch up Rang De Basanti one of these days .

Friday, January 27, 2006

Moin Khan - Will the Pakis ever learn how to shut their mouth ?

I did not see the Faisalabad test match on TV. Nevertheless, this article by Moin Khan in Indian express where he makes a veiled reference that Tendulkar walked off even before waiting for the umpire's signal because he was scared of Shoaib Akhtar's pace bowling is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time.

When you have just a second or two to make a decision about walking off ( If you think the ball hit your glove) , these kind of mistakes happen. Sachin did walk away when he was not out. But its shameful to say that he did so because he feared pace bowling. I agree that Sachin is not the old warhorse anymore but he ain't a coward. Mr.Moin Khan , you better watch your tongue .

Coming to Chennai (India) tomorrow

I will be in Chennai from tomorrow till the next sunday (Feb 5th). Would be glad to catch up with folks from Chennai and elsewhere ( Thru' Phone).

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Celebrity & Charity

Just because someone is rich and a celebrity , does it mean that he/she should get involved in Philanthropy and donate money to Charity ? Should he/she be vocal on social issues ? These questions do not have a satisfactory answer. A capitalist would argue that by being a tax-payer a celebrity/rich person is already contributing to the society whereas the socialists would ridicule such an answer ( remember " equality of man ").

I believe that it should be a matter of choice. While there is no denying that we all owe something back to the society, its no point ridiculing someone who fails to do so.Afterall its a matter of personal choice and freedom.

Wired magazine takes this argument to the next plane by comparing Bill Gates & Steve Jobs. It says " Until recently, Bill Gates has been viewed as the villain of the tech world, while his archrival, Steve Jobs, enjoys an almost saintly reputation.

Gates is the cutthroat capitalist. A genius maybe, but one more interested in maximizing profits than perfecting technology. He's the ultimate vengeful nerd. Ostracized at school, he gets the last laugh by bleeding us all dry.On the other hand, Jobs has never seemed much concerned with business, though he's been very successful at it of late. Instead, Jobs has been portrayed as a man of art and culture. He's an aesthete, an artist; driven to make a dent in the universe.

But these perceptions are wrong. In fact, the reality is reversed. It's Gates who's making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who's taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society.Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax.

In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Perks that come with Work

Charles Barkley (the NBA star of yesteryears and a "famous" NBA commentator) & I agree on one thing. " Work is one of the most over-rated things" , which is why I seldom talk about work.

But work though hectic comes with some perks. I was in KL (Kualalampur) on work on Monday. Though I have been to KL three times till now, never climbed up the Petronas towers. I have just seen it from a distance . When one of our IT Channel partners invited me to his office for a discussion, I jumped at it because their office was located in one of the top floors of Petronas.

Afterall , you don't get to visit the (Second) tallest building in the world everyday !

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tuscan Landscapes

What Spectacular photographs ! View this amazing Gallery.

Its time for me to get a digital SLR and go out and explore the world.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tiger Census - The money that disappears

NDTV reports about the inefficiency of the AP Govt in releasing the funds for Tiger Census although the Centre has transferred the money to the state govt.

" With the tiger census set to begin this week in Andhra Pradesh, the state government has not released Rs 22 lakh earmarked for the exercise.This is despite the Centre transferring the funds to the state's coffers in December.Andhra Pradesh is home to the largest tiger reserve in the country, the Nagarjunasagar Tiger Reserve.

The Centre provides Rs 65 lakh every year exclusively for the protection of tigers in this reserve, which is spread over an area of 3500 sq.km.But with just two months to go for the financial year to end, the wildlife department of the Andhra Pradesh Government has not received a single paisa.Last year, the state government released only Rs 71 lakh out of the Rs 1 crore allocated for the 27 sanctuaries and national parks in Andhra Pradesh."

P.S : I was foolish not to visit this place when I worked in Hyderabad. Planned for it a few times but it always got cancelled (Like my planned Bihar trips which never fructified).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Child rights - the first steps

The young nation finally wakes up to protect its young. If all goes well, The Child rights bill would become law with the pending presidential nod. 430 million Indians (Children) would be covered by this bill. Its incredible that it has taken us this long to formulate something like this. But at least now the intent is right. But can it be implemented ? That is another huge challenge. But If India wants to become a "superpower" it cannot ignore the young - the leaders of tomorrow.

Outlook writes, " India's future—its 430 million children—can finally look forward to being treated as individuals and granted their due rights.

This will be ensured by the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Bill 2005, passed in Parliament in December last year. The commission is slated to become functional from March this year, post a formal presidential nod. It will examine and review the safeguards for the protection of child rights and look into matters relating to children in need of special care and protection. This will include those in distress, in conflict with law, juvenile delinquents, children without family and children of prisoners. It will recommend appropriate remedial measures, all of which have been spelt out for the first time in the bill. The commission also has the mandate to examine all factors that curtail the rights of children affected by terrorism, communal violence, riots, natural disaster, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and human trafficking.

And rumour has it that it has acted now fearing censure from the UN. Being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on December 11, 1992, India was bound to come out with an action plan. But everyone working with children is agreed that the bill is a positive first step.Child rights activists have all along confronted the government with startling statistics on the status of Indian children. Nearly 17 million children have to work for a living, many of them in hazardous environments. Close to 30 per cent of the two million sex workers are under-age. Yet only 3 per cent of the GDP goes towards welfare schemes targeted at children. Less than half of India's 430 million children go to schools. Faced with the appalling statistics, the child development department under the Union ministry of human resources and development has finally done something.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Orissa turns turtle grave

I can never forget those wonderful turtle eggs that I hatched and released back to the sea years ago at the Neelankarai coast near Chennai ( as a school volunteer).

Here comes another case of Classic inaction,blame game. HT reports, " The blood of Olive Ridley sea turtles has again reddened Orissa's coastline. Over 2,000 carcasses of the endangered turtles have been found off the coast, a major wildlife organisation said.According to the NGO, Operation Kachhapa, the turtles were killed by mechanised fishing trawlers and the bodies dumped by farmers away from the site of death. The deaths put a question mark over conservation of the turtles, which are found in India only on the Orissa coast. Over 1.29 lakh turtles have died in the country in the last 13 years.

In Delhi, the ministry of environment and forest refused to comment, arguing the matter was a state subject. "At most, we can seek a report," a official said.Aghast at the deaths, environmentalists are blaming the government for ignoring the warning signals.

"Incidents of turtles being killed due to the use of deep water trawlers have been on the rise in the last 10 years. We have asked both the environment ministry and Orissa government to stop deep-water trawlers within 10 kilometres of the coast. But it has not happened. The trawlers not only kill the fish and turtles near the coast, they also destroy the bio-mass that supports them," said Blinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Biswajit Mohanty, coordinator of Operation Kachhapa, was scathing of government inaction, alleging that endangered Olive Ridleys continue to be killed despite directions passed by the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee in April 2004.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Shoot to Kill

Most of them kill wildlife for money but then there are also some "animals" who kill by paying money. While the former is most prevalent in Asia & most parts of Africa , Newsweek writes about the latter - nexus between rich american game hunters & Zimbabwe's Mugabe cronies.

Due to the poor law & order in Zimbabwe, rich game hunters get access to private "game reserves" to hunt African big five and other animals. Is there a way out for the poor animals from these rich idiots ?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Making a Difference

To make a difference, you do not need money but definitely strong will. Outlook profiles Mr.Amit Hazra who has been striving for more than 25 years to make Kolkata a green city.

" His trees have changed the face of Calcutta's streets. Yet, he prefers to remain in the shade.He’s had to fight court cases and tolerate apathy and indifference to provide a green cover to his decrepit North Calcutta locality. And yet, twenty-six years of toil hasn’t fatigued this ‘green warrior’ who has single-handedly planted and nurtured thousands of trees that now form a green canopy over large parts of Calcutta’s concrete jungle. Especially the arterial Vivekananda Road that now sports large shade trees.

Amit Nath Hazra, 43, embarked on his mission in 1979. A grade IV employee in a private firm, he invests a large portion of his Rs 3,000 salary on Calcutta’s future. "I buy year-old saplings, plant and nurture them," says Hazra. He’s never received any monetary help and has declined awards, preferring to remain anonymous. "I have my share of well-wishers, but my detractors outnumber them," he says nonchalantly.

From the very beginning, he had to face opposition."Many people never understood what I was doing—I was purchasing saplings, digging pits along roads and planting them. For some For some unfathomable reason, people didn’t like me doing it. Under the cover of darkness, they used to destroy the fencings and uproot the saplings. People have even cut down trees that I once planted. Such incidents are painful. These trees are like my children."As Hazra saunters down Vivekananda Road, he points to every tree he has planted. Many are fully grown while others are fledglings. He has constructed concrete benches at the bases of the trees for people to take a short breather.The road is one of the very few in Calcutta that remains cool during the sweltering summer, thanks to the lush green cover courtesy Hazra.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The 50 greatest gadgets

Today's world is filled with gizmos and gadgets. PCWorld has come up with a list of "50 greatest gadgets in the last 50 years" . As expected the # 1 is the once ubiquitous " Sony Walkman" . The top 10 consists of the iconic Apple iPod, TiVo DVR,Palm Pilot,Polaroid camera,Atari game console among others.

Being the anti-techie I am , I realized except for the Sony Walkman, I do not own any of these !

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gym Observation

No offense meant to anyone. Just a casual observation in the gym :

Males enter the gym , perform the exercises and sometimes check their weight in the weighing machine.

Females enter the gym , check their weight , perform the exercises and then check the weight again .

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Lal Bahadur Shastri -- A forgotten man (Also Cross-posted at Indophiles)

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan. Jan 10th was the 40th death anniversary of Lal Bahadur Shastri. 40 years ago he died of a sudden heart attack (under mysterious circumstances) in Tashkent, USSR. A man of utmost simplicity and sincereity, he belonged to those rare tribe of honest,simple politicians.

A man of great integrity, he resigned as the Railway Minister when 144 people died in a train accident in Ariyalur,TN. He led India to its first victory over Pakistan in the 1965 war. The man has almost been forgotten today by the echelons of Congress.

Why, because he lacks the surname Gandhi or is it because he did not have a fair skin ?

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Million dollar page

Hail Ingenuity ! This is the most clever thing, I have seen in a long time.

InformationWeek reports, " A 21-year-old British university student has turned a brainstorm into nearly a million dollars in just four months by selling ad space on his Web site pixel by pixel.

Appropriately dubbed The Million Dollar Homepage, Alex Tew's site is within shouting distance of selling out its inventory of 1 million pixels. As of mid-day Friday, the site's count noted that only 53,500 pixels were still up for grabs. Tew's idea -- sell the million pixels on the home page of his site at $1 per pixel --first garnered media attention in October. Once the million pixels are sold, Tew promises to maintain the site for at least the next five years. "The idea is to create something of an Internet time capsule: a homepage that is unique and permanent," said Tew on the site. "Everything on the Internet keeps changing so fast, it will be nice to have something that stays solid and permanent for many years."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Foot in the Mouth

Jan 4th was the 12th death anniversary of Panchamda ( R.D.Burman - famous hindi composer). Rediff featured a tribute to RDB by Anu Malik. After reading the tribute , I was left wondering if Anu Malik was paying a tribute to RDB or insulting him.

To start with , its a known fact that Anu talks too much. If he can compose some good music instead of talking trash, the hindi film music would be a better place. Shamefully boastful of himself he cuts across as a sorry figure trying to prove that he is not a copycat. Anu , if you want to prove that point , try to compose some decent music .

Here are some excerpts :

" I could see that suddenly, at the last moment, he changed whatever music he had composed and whatever his musicians were playing.Today, I find the same trait in myself -- I change my music at the last moment if I find it is not gelling.

He was a complete and versatile composer. He could give you an Amar Prem and a Teesri Manzil at the same breath --which, if you notice, I have done when I did while I composed Judwaa and Refugee and Virasat and Border. They are two different genres of music.

You fall in love with those tunes a million times because he made music from his heart -- the way I make it now.

He could twist tunes so well. He would pick up foreign tunes and make it his own tunes. If you remember Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko [from the 1973 movie Yaadon Ki Baaraat], or even if he lifted from Abba, he would turn the antara [the chorus of the song] so well that it changed the whole tune. I think that is one thing that any composer can learn from R D Burman. Rather, you could say that is what I have learnt from him.

RDB's body of work is amazing -- Teesri Manzil,Amar Prem,Aandhi,Ghar,Aap ki Kasam,Kati Patang,Ijaazat,1942 - A love story. Its a sacrilege to compare RDB to Anu Malik.That is my thought. I rest the case.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Nice Joke

Got this fwded Joke. Good one .

One of the national daily papers in Australia is asking for comments about "what it means to be British" these days.This one from a chap in Switzerland stands out:

"...Being British is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, then travelling home, grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

And the most British think of all?
Suspicion of anything foreign.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mumbai Bird Race - Jan 22nd,2006

If you are a nature lover (Bird lover) and happen to be in Mumbai on Jan 22nd , don't forget to participate in the "Mumbai Bird Race" ! The HSBC Mumbai Bird Race ( Btw, Bird watching of the serious kind !) conducted under the aegis of BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) promises to be a fun-filled day with lot of learning. So get set your binoculars, form a team of 4 and be ready to go !

The event, though a race, is actually a fun event. Teams of 4 are formed, and the organisers take care to assign at least one knowledgeable bird watcher in each team.Last year's event was attended by quite a few new converts to bird watching . They had a great exposure to the joys of bird watching; all in one day with an expert.It is not about winning the race; but more about testing and improving one's own bird watching skills . Due to the race element, one tends to be extra vigilant in recording as many species as possible; so it becomes a personal challenge.

For more details , here is the official website.

P.S : I first knew about such Bird races when I visited Fraser's Hill in Malaysia ( A wonderful hill station with plenty of birds) . The Bird race is an annual event there too attracting a huge flock of tourists and bird-lovers.Wish I was in Mumbai on Jan 22nd !!!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Ruminating the past

Perhaps , the hard disk crash is the best thing that could have happened to me. As I sit on a cozy afternoon, trying to compile the contact list of all the people I have known in my life ( Which was earlier in my address book) , I am growing increasingly nostalgic with fond memories. As I type in every person's name , it evokes a spate of wonderful memories that I have shared with them. As someone who has shifted frequently across cities, I am like a travelling river, having gathered a lot of rich silt (friends) .

This whole data entry process might be cumbersome but somewhere deep within I feel happy that I wouldn't have gotten time to think about so many wonderful people but for the hard disk crash . I know I sound a bit maudlin but try recollecting all those people whom you have met in the last 20 years and am sure you would do the same. Not a bad way at all to start a new year !

Btw, for all my friends , just drop me a mail (cogitoergosum@gmail.com) with your Phone number,email address and Date of birth , so that I can update my excel file !