Cerebral Shangrila

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sidney Sheldon Dies

He is one of those authors that everyone has read. The master of "masala novels" ( No disparagement - I have read all his novels) , he knew the pulse of his readers churning out one best-seller after another. He also inspired a legion of movies based on his novels ( I distinctly remember the tamil movie " Makkal en Pakkam" that was based on his book "Rage of Angels").

A little know fact about Sheldon is that he has also won the Oscar (for Screenplay) & Tony awards and was the creator of the popular sitcom "I dream of Jeannie". May his soul rest in peace.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 25

Here is the next weekly "Rainbow" quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

X was a star in the Indian scientific world whose interests ranged from radio, microwave,biophysics,science fiction to Yoga.

clue # 1 : "X" was born in Bengal in the 19th century.He received his education first in India and later went to England to study medicine at the University of London.

clue # 2 : He later moved to Cambridge to take up a scholarship to study Natural Science at Christ's College, Cambridge.One of his lecturers at Cambridge was Professor Rayleigh, who clearly had a profound influence on his later work.

clue # 3 : After his studies, "X" returned to India and was a professor of physics at the Presidency College in Calcutta.Many of his students at the Presidency College were destined to become famous in their own right - for example "Y" (who coincidentally shares the same surname with X), later to become well known for the "Y"-Einstein statistics.

clue # 4: In late 19th century, "X" converted a small enclosure adjoining a bathroom in the Presidency College into a laboratory. He carried out experiments involving refraction, diffraction and polarization. He developed the use of galena crystals for making receivers, both for short wavelength radio waves and for white and ultraviolet light. Sir Neville Mott, Nobel Laureate in 1977 for his own contributions to solid-state electronics, remarked that "X was at least 60 years ahead of his time" .

clue # 5 : "X" is now widely credited with the invention of the first wireless detection device (much before Marconi) and the discovery of millimeter length electromagnetic waves.

clue # 6 : His next contribution to science was in plant physiology. His research in plant stimuli were pioneering, he showed with the help of his newly invented crescograph that plants responded to various stimuli as if they had nervous systems like that of animals.

clue # 7 : "X" was the first Indian to get a US Patent in 1904. However he was against the concept of patenting and rarely used his inventions for commercial profits on moral grounds.

Who is X ? ( and also Y?)

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 24

Here is the next weekly "Rainbow" quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

X is the greatest rock star of Indian origin.

clue # 1 : "X" was born in the African island of Zanzibar to a family of Indian Parsis.

clue # 2 : "X" was sent back to India to attend St. Peter's boarding school near Mumbai. It was at St. Peter's where he learned to play the piano and joined his first band, The Hectics. He stayed in India for most of his childhood, living with his grandmother and aunt.

clue # 3 : X completed his school education in India before returning to Zanzibar. He was 17, when he and his family finally fled to England, as a result of the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution.

clue # 4 : As a child, X’s parents listened to a great deal of Indian music, and one of his early influences was the Bollywood playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar.After moving to England, "X" became a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.

clue # 5 : Widely considered one of the greatest vocalists in popular music history,"X" possessed a very distinctive voice, delivering his songs in a powerful tenor, though his speaking voice naturally fell in the baritone range.

clue # 6 : Two of X's songs, "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are The Champions" have each been claimed, in separate polls, as the world's favourite song.

clue # 7 : "X" died from complications due to AIDS at a young age of 45. His revelation that he was suffering from the disease greatly increased public awareness of it.

Easy one. Who is X ?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Going to Chennai, India

I will be in Chennai from Jan 20 to Jan 28. In case you want to meet up/talk to me , please drop me a comment / email.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bangkok Photos

In the past, I have been guilty of writing detailed travel diaries with no photos . Corrected that now. Here are some photos from my Bangkok trip. Would appreciate your feedback .

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bangkok - Travel Diary (Travelogue) - Part II

Tourist Attractions :

KO RATNAKOSIN AREA : Best reached by Taxi. Its quite far from the residential areas such as Silom/Sukhumvit. This area has the following attractions :

Wat Phra Kaew & Grand Palace : A stupendous architechtural achievement .The wat structures are colorful with gleaming stupas & rich marble pediments.Extensive murals depicting scenes from Ramakian (The Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana) line the inside walls of the compound.The beautiful emerald buddha is also located inside the Palace.The palace is a photographers delight.Its open from 830 to 1130 and from 1300 to 1530hrs.Shorts,slippers are not allowed.

Lak Meuang : The city pillar that is adjacent to the Palace. The Pillar is considered the guardian deity of the city.

Wat Pho : No Superlatives can do justice to this temple.The oldest & largest wat in bangkok, it features the largest reclining buddha (46m long and 15m high).The giant reclining buddha is molded of plaster around a brick core and finished in gold leaf.It illustrates the passing of Buddha into Nirvana.Its open from 8am to 5pm and is a 10 min walk from the Palace.

Wat Arun : The pride of Bangkok, this Wat is named after the hindu god of Dawn, Arun ( Aruna , charioteer of Lord Surya). The missile shaped 82m tall Prang is a wonderful sight to watch. Located just across the River on the Banks, catch a ferry from Tha Tien (behind the Palace) to reach here. Sunrise / sunset is the best time to visit.

THEWET & DUSIT AREA : Take a sky train to Phaya Thai / Victory monument and then take the local buses. This area has the following attractions :

Victory Monument : Erected during the world war II to commemorate the victory.This a tall magnificent monument that is entirely western in its design.

Abhisek Dusit Throne hall : This is a classic example of the fusion of Asian and European architecture. Built by King Rama V after his European visit, there is grandeur everywhere in this Palace.

Vimanmek Teak Mansion : Located in the same complex as the Throne hall, this is supposed to be the world's largest golden teak building. Its a beautiful three storey mansion with octagonal rooms and pervasive serenity.

Wat Benchmabophit (Marble temple): The Carrara white marble makes this look like a ice palace. Serene & beautiful.A great place for meditation and the gardens add to the charm of the place.

Suan Phakkat Palace : Also called the Lettuce farm palace, contains artifacts from the bygone area. Provides a great insight into to the Thai culture and antiques. Located very close Phaya Thai Skytrain station.

CHINATOWN : Best way to reach this area is to take a Subway to Hualamphong station or a Skytrain to National stadium.This area has the following attractions :

Hualamphong Railway station : The main train station of the city was built by Dutch engineers. Looks majestic and has some great restaurants inside.

Wat Traimit ( Golden Buddha) : It houses the impressive three metre tall , 5.5 tonne solid gold buddha image which gleams like no other gold artefact I've ever seen.This temple is open from 8am to 5pm.

SILOM AREA :Best reached by Skytrain / Subway.This area has the following attractions:

Lumbini Park : Sprawling public park with well tended lawns and a lake inside. Best place for nature lovers and joggers and the right time to go is early morning.

Snake Farm : View the venomous snakes inside the glasses and you can also catch the anti-venin milking sessions in the afternoons. 10 mins walk from Sam Yan subway station.

Mariamman temple : Built by Tamil immigrants in the mid 19th century , this is a colorful (yet small) temple for hindu gods. The surrounding area resembles little India with flowers,garlands and Indian restaurants.

Other Places : A few others places worth visiting are the Democracy monument ( In Bangalmphu, a majestic structure that was built to commemorate Thai's entry to democracy), Amulet market ( near Wat Mahathat), Jim Thompson's house ( peep into Thai culture), Bangkok doll factory ( huge collection of dolls) and Ko Kret Island.

P.S : I shall try to post two other posts - one on get-aways near bangkok and another one on shopping & Food in bangkok.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bangkok ( Thailand) - Travel Diary (Travelogue) - PART 1

Bangkok isn't a place that you will easily forget. They call it the City of Angels and the Venice of East . It is all that and much more. Bangkok is an amazing amalgam of Magnificent Wats ( Buddhist temples) , Winding Canals , Flashy nightlife and shopping paradise.

GETTING HERE : Most international airlines fly to Bangkok. The new airport is called the Suvarnabhumi ( The Golden Land) Airport and was unveiled in Sept'06. The airport is located 30kms to the east of Bangkok.

VISA DETAILS : Indian Tourists traveling for less than 14 days can obtain an on-arrival Visa for 1000 Thai Bahts (At the Airport). Do remember to carry a photograph along with you for the Visa application. However if one intends to stay for a longer time the visa needs to be obtained from the Country of residence.

WHEN TO GO : By far the best time to visit is from November to February when the weather is kind .The peak season incidentally is also from Nov- Feb.The Hotel rates tend to be quite high in this season. Mar-June is quite hot while Aug-Oct is very rainy. Bangkok is quite humid and hot and hence be prepared to take lot of Sun-block lotion.

CURRENCY : The Currency of Thailand is Thai Baht.One Thai Baht is approximately equivalent to One Rupee ( 1 THB = 1.2 INR). So its easier for Indians to measure the value of goods !

CULTURE : Religion and monarchy are the cornerstones of Thai culture.The Monarchy is revered in Thailand.95% of Thailand is Buddhist (Theravada).

LANGUAGE : Thai is the official and most spoken language. English is spoken only by the business people and hence language might be a challenge when commuting and at the tourist attractions.


Taxis & Tuk-Tuk : Bangkok offers a wide variety of commute options. Taxis are easily available. Called a Taxi-Meter , one has to Bargain in most cases before getting into them. Bangkok is quite notorious for its traffic jams and hence be mindful of that. Tuk-Tuks are like the Indian autos and are good for short distances ( If you can bear their pollution and noise).

Skytrain : The BTS Skytrain is an excellent option to explore the city. Offering wonderful views, the Skytrain runs in two different lines. The Silom line runs from Saphan Taksin to National Stadium while the Sukhumvit line runs from On Nut to Mo Chit. Free stations maps are available in almost all the stations. The trains are air-conditioned and beat the traffic by flying high. The only drawback is that they don't cover the entire city ( At least not yet).

MRTA (Subway) : The recently unveiled MRTA ( popularly called Subway) runs from Hualamphong Railway station to Bang Seu and runs underground. Riders of Delhi Metro would be surprised by the similarity. This is another excellent option.

Buses : BMTA website has info on all buses. Most buses are quite ordinary and have name boards only in Thai.The conductors speak very little English.Nevertheless, riding the buses can be fun and a great way to get to know the heart of the city. I have never seen more helpful co-passengers elsewhere.

Boats : The Chao Phraya Express Boat and other Canal taxis are good option to visit the Wats that lie close to the banks of the river. In fact this is the best option to visit the famous "Wat Arun" .

Car Rental : Not a preferred option given the legendary traffic of Bangkok. Avis,Hertz,Budget,National rentals are available at the Airport and 5 star hotels.

HEALTH: Be careful about the food that you eat and use mineral water ( Nestle, Coca-cola water is available in most places) wherever possible.

SCAMS : Bangkok is a very safe place ( Though there was a bombing incident on the new year's eve this time). But be careful about people who seem too friendly.They might fleece you by taking you to a expensive tailor or a gems shop and might coerce you into buying cheap stuff at high prices. Same is true for Taxis/tuk-tuks that offer to give a free ride in return for a visit to a local gems dealer/tailor. Never believe anyone who says that a tourist attraction is closed because of Holiday unless you have read it in Newspaper.

MONEY : There are currency converters everywhere and in most cases you get a better deal if you convert your foreign currency inside Bangkok ( than in your native country).Most shops accept credit cards.

TIMEZONE : Bangkok is GMT + 7 hours.

TRAVEL TIPS : Bangkok is very kids friendly and you will find that the Thais are very affectionate towards children and don't mind playing the Nanny role in restaurants / shopping malls.

The Lonely Planet Bangkok travel guide is one of the best books to carry for the trip.It has practically all the travel info that you might need.Carry plenty of Sun-block cream. Try to use the Public Transport as much as possible ( That is what I did) since its fast and inexpensive. Travel light and always carry plenty of water since its quite humid. Never be disrespectful of the Royalty and try to dress conservatively particularly when traveling to religious places ( No shorts/ sleeveless shirts when traveling to temples).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Leopard enters a bathroom in Vadodara , India

Yet another incident highlighting the conflict between humans and the wildlife. Watch this Youtube video of a Leopard that entered the Bathroom of a house in Vadodara ( a few days ago). The video is hazy but I hope the lessons are clear.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 23

Here is the next weekly "Rainbow" quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

This weekly quiz comes with a difference. This quiz was framed and left as a comment by someone Anonymous ( Is it KM ? ) in my Blog. By a sheer coincidence, I have been thinking of framing a Rainbow quiz on the same personality for quite some time.

My favorite place in Chennai is the temple run by a foundation in his name. One of those rare human being whose preaching transcends religions.

clue #1 : X was handsome and had a natural gift for the fine arts. He, however, disliked going to school and when asked why he did not want to go to school, his reply was : The so-called education is for earning money only ; I don't care for this kind of education.

clue #2 : X loved Nature and spent his time in fields and fruit gardens outside the village with his friends.

clue #3: Lost his father at the age of seven. Even then he would not go to school, instead, he was seen visiting monks who stopped at his village on their way to Puri.

clue #4 : X declared that he would have his first alms from a certain sudra woman of the village. This was something unheard of in those days! Tradition required that it should be a brahmin and not a sudra who would give him the first alms.

clue #5 : Ramkumar, his eldest brother, ran a Sanskrit school before becoming a priest in Dakshineswar Temple, and "X" took over that job after his brother's retirement as priest.

clue #6: X became a religious leader and taught ceaselessly for fifteen years or so through parables, metaphors, songs and above all by his own life the basic truths of religion. He said God is everywhere but he is most manifest in man. So serve man as God. That is as good as worshiping God.

clue #7 : He taught no creed or dogma. His only concern was man's upliftment. According to him, there is infinite moral and spiritual potential in man. To develop that potential is man's foremost duty in life. He taught man to strive to develop that potential without wasting time over sensual pleasure or religious quibblings.

Who is X? ( Btw, Thanks a lot for framing this quiz. Extremely enlightening. As a side note, I got the personality in 3rd clue and confirmed it in clue 5).