26 December, 2010

E1 memories

I wanted to write a post about some of the things I don't want to forget. This post is going to be a 'dear diary' post.
I was just talking to KK the other day (who by the way is expecting a baby in March - yay!) and could not recall the area in which most of my friends in London stay. 3 years since I moved out of London and I was never good with names in the first place. I was in London in September 2010 and I did get lost inside tube stations and had to resign myself to reading the noticeboards (such a tourist-y thing to do).
Back to the topic, this post is about my stay in London. My closest friends stayed next to Tower Hill station - zone 1 - but right on the other end of the circle line from my high street Kensington flat. There was a communal garden on the first floor which was the scene of a few summer parties and some a lot of random wine drinking.
My birthday was celebrated there - number 26 - I wanted to go home and sleep and was wondering why all my banker friends who had to be in office (much) earlier than me kept hanging around for no apparent reason. I realised soon after that  there was a cake to be cut which happened only at midnight.
There was a flat in the Pump house mews which was vacated only recently by its distinguished occupants now   happily multiplying in Wimbledon. This flat was just under two minutes away from this garden. I remember one completely mad party at this house - once when the hosts were respectably drunk even before the first guest arrived. I made a fool of myself at this party (quite happily if I might add), insulted one or two people and then fell asleep only to wake up a few hours later still wanting to rejoin the party, which had moved out into another flat in the same complex.
Most of my weekends were spent here in E1 in 2005. I  honed my cooking skills here - scrambled eggs and omelettes and chicken were cooked and devoured with great tenacity here. I am just an average cook, but my friends made me feel like a chef (in substantial measure because of the fact that I was happy to cook). Because of my hostel upbringing, I used to see things between friends in a very tit-for-tat manner. Every exchange had to be equal or it would be resented. However, I saw that people were extra nice in London - not only to me, but to each other as well. I was taken care off and it felt nice. Taking care of young men  boys meant having patience for untidy and unruly behaviour, an ability to cook a lot of food and watch it being gulped down and constant leg-pulling and so on... doing all this every weekend and sometimes even during the week showed a depth of character much beyond what is encountered in some of the 24 year olds I meet today. I had lucked out. .
Summer in London meant long walks longer sit-ins at parks. The park in front of my flat in Camden, Hyde park, Green park, Greenwich, Battersea park - none were spared. There were long meandering walks - a few of which ended in the Beer garden (not so) near Sloane Sq. station which served huge pitchers of LI Tea (made in about 15 seconds flat).
I remember having dinner at the Masala Zones and experimenting with places like Andrew Edmunds. I remember listening to unending cribs about the rain and the cold and equally nonstop stories about the fun during the summer. 
I remember watching a movie called Polar Express when 3 out of 4 of us were asleep and a musical called Les Miserables (2 out of 4 here too). Movies which fared better included Sarkar (with 'angel' written on Katrina Kaif's T-shirt who appeared wearing this for a milisecond but was long enough for two of us to spot it and agree on the words) and Swades (We loved Gayatri Joshi and the songs were touching).

*I need to report a few strange dreams (with one particularly abstract dream just after watching black swan) but am going to park that for now

25 November, 2010

Nitiswa

Bihar has said it like never before. No caste, only 'vikas' (progress)

Nitish was quite subdued in his media appearances yesterday. Part of the credit for this landslide goes to Laloo also. In a state which continues to be ranked at the bottom of all human development indices, Nitish can rightfully claim that he has improved things manifold.

That says some thing about Nitish. He has worked hard etc. It says a LOT more about Laloo and the way he had dragged Bihar down.
From Wikipedia -" Per capita income in Bihar grew by 2.45% during the 1980s, against 3.32% per cent in India as a whole. In the 1990s, per capita income grew by 0.12% per cent in Bihar, as against 4.08% per cent in India. The growth rate in agriculture was 2.21% during the 1980s against India's 3.38%, during the 1990s it was 2.35% in Bihar while at the all-India it stood at 3.14%." (the emphasis is mine)
This is Laloo's legacy. He might have earned a few billion rupees while he was at it, but what is even bigger is the money Bihar could not earn during this rule. Those who could left the state.
While the rest of the country was getting its act together, Laloo paralysed an entire state.

The result also says something about India's average ruling class. They are corrupt and lazy. In comparison to them, a straightforward CM who is applying himself to the job shines out.
BSP fielded 241 candidates and won 0 seats. If I was a CM today up for re-election in 2-3 years, I would have a long think about this election result. For my country's sake, I hope that some of India's CMs think about it as well.

My reading list

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here.
There are a few books below which I have read many times - dont ask me why - To kill a mockingbird, Catch 22 and HHGTTG.

Bold - Read completely  - 21
Underlined - Partially read - 6
Changed colour - plan to read - 2


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - 1/2 (currently reading)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma-Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
5 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - william makepeace thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Life of quality

Parts of India are worse off than quite a few poor African countries - poor life expectancy, access to healthcare, water and the like. It is saddening and speaks about the mediocrity of thought and the corruption in action of everyone who is anyone in India - the political elite and the bureaucracy, the middle class who doesn't really care and is too busy enjoying the fruits of India's prosperity.

The middle class should care - but more on that on another blog post. Right now, we are busy having fun.

You don't need to do much. Things happen without moving a muscle. Every household can expect to provide employment to about 5-7 people directly and many more - indirectly. When you stay in Gurgaon, you will need a 2-3 part time maids, one full time servant, at least one driver, one or two part time errand boys. Indirectly, you are a source of income to tailors, electricians, plumbers, civil work contractors and labourers. At the third level, a middle class family is providing fuel to India's economic engine - by consuming services like banking, credit cards, mobile phones, insurance and so on.

What are the problems we worry about -
- Full time maids are in short supply and the agency will charge Rs. 15000 as hiring fee.
- When will I finally afford that BMW and where the hell will I park it?
- Why don't I find about any one of them scams before

Come to think of it, not much else...

03 October, 2010

Pay for three, get two.

Marketing messages and ads in general usually try to insult your intelligence. There are washing detergents with magical molecules like ultrons and dirt-punchers which clean and bleach new white shirts into white shirts. There are hair models who have digital enhanced hair which would put Lara Croft and the Tombraider animation gang to shame.There are fairness cream ads (a uniquely Indian proposition) and pimple removal cream ads with women, who after using the cream, get a) married, b) become beauty queens and now with the market research teams capturing the changing aspirations of a nation, c) become wildly successful careerwomen.
IF this is not insulting to women, I am not sure what is. 

You are always saving more and more and getting much more free for improved products, while spending more and getting less. There is always an asterisk at the end of price points.
I write these posts over a couple of days. The CWG 2010 inauguration telecast just got over on TV - I regret not going there. It was great and filled me with pride. To see the entire stadium get up when the Indian team walked in made me well up a little bit. I should have bought more tickets. Instead, I bought only 2 and my father and sister ended up going. They tell me that it was even better inside the stadium. Everyone was happy and the crowd was judicious in their behaviour - cheering Manmohan Singh and Sheila Dixit and booing Kalmadi and ignoring Prince Charles and his wife.


*What if more marketing budgets could be allocated to product research or better distribution arrangements, which would either increase company profitability at the same prices, or maybe even pass some benefits to the consumer.I think that there is a bit of game theory going on here as well. If Firm A is advertising, firm B also has to advertise else is loses out, even if the products are similar. Thats positive ROI at a firm level but it might mean a less than optimal ROI at a market level. At the same time, if I advertise my cola, I am sure I help all the other colas in the market. Therefore, my behaviour and decisions affect the others and there is a global maximum (or two) and local maximums. Hmm.

01 October, 2010

The next generation

This year has been a year of babies. There has been at least one new baby born every month in my circle of friends and close family and this will continue till the end of this year. We end up visiting all those who are in Delhi and try to keep in touch with those in Mumbai or elsewhere.
Every time I see a new baby lying there, in his or her cocoon, surrounded by glowing parents and grandparents, I feel the love such events generate. The parents are relieved at the end of the pregnancy but the overriding emotion is love. And hope. Hope for all the best things in this world for their newborn. In the small hospital rooms where we usually go to, we end up being part of this envelope of love and hope.
I was born in 1979. The world has changed. The ozone hole was creeping into public limelight while the oil shock was slinking out. The Soviets entered Afghanistan and the US was just waking up to its role of arming its proxies to take on the Soviets. India was resettling in with Indira Gandhi at the helm, after a few unsettling years of Emergency (imposed by her) and the subsequent Janata Dal government. 1984 was still in the future. So was MS-DOS and Bill Gates's fortune. Life is definitely better in India for a lot of people than it was in the 70s and the 80s. But there are things which have changed for the worse also I guess.
Everything will change only faster now. Al Gore's documentary  is depressing. So are the flavours of terrorism - homegrown, imported and vigilante. Will our children see a world where the ice caps will be a 'winter thing'?
Or will we manage to put them through wars - wars about water and land if not about religion and energy resources?
I know that a lot of these scenarios are because of watching disaster movies. But what if one of them is right?

30 September, 2010

Time flies...

Time Flies. You Can not. They fly too fast.
This is a puzzle which my father posed to me many, many year ago.
There were a few such puzzles.
There are 9 balls, out of which 8 are of the same weight while one is of a different weight. There is a balance which can be used thrice to isolate the ball with the different weight.
The above remained unsolved by me. I had to go back to my father for the first one and I got the second one solved by someone else in 2007 in London. 
The third one, which is actually a class 9 physics question.
If there is a tunnel along a diameter of a planet and an object is dropped into it, what will happen to it.
This one I got in class 9 itself. It took a lot of work though.
The only reason I am reproducing this here is to record it lest I forget it. I do not think I will ever forget it because I did not solve the first two. My father had to solve it for me. I wrestled with it for many years off and on and eventually gave up. I am not sure if my father was disappointed with me - I have not thought about it until now.
I think that it is common for children to admire their father. Your father is probably the second person you start to recognise. He is not always there, adding to the allure. He is strong, dependable, full of love, always busy with work and taking care of the family and knows just about everything a child might ask. As a child grows up into a young person, he might start to see some chinks in this image. As time passes, the parent shows up more and more as a human with a set of strengths, weaknesses and limitations.
I live with my father now. I have always admired him.I am a few years away from the age he was from when I remember him. With this comparison at hand, I admire him even more.
He has always taken care of everything I have needed. More importantly, he has always heeded to all that I have had to say - keeping him awake when I was young and wanted to know everything about trains while traveling overnight to Patna till now, when he wants to listen to me talk about my business every week. He has been like this with my mother and my sister. He might have his physical limitations, but his mind has always been something different. He rarely loses his temper or control over what he says. He has always been fair - a good husband and son and parent.
As I become a man of my own right, I realise that on this planet, just being a decent human being is gradually inching towards the superhuman.

07 September, 2010

Post post

Regular writing has definitely been impacted since December. I am not sure why.
Theoretically, I do even less work at home than I ever did - if that was possible. But seriously, everything is taken care of. Every day, I am home by 8pm (at the latest) and then go to  sleep after 11:30. I am reasonably busy during this time but have nothing to show for it.

This is an often repeated problem I have.

I have spent chunks of my life without earning a bullet point for my CV. In 2001, due to some kind of calculating or administrative error, I was invited to apply for the Aditya Birla Scholarships. This scholarship is given to 20 students every year from the country - 10 from IIMs and 10 from IITs. I remember the exact moment I realised that the scholarship was not even a very long shot. It happened like this - We had a session where the last years scholarship winners were to guide us with filling the form. There was a bio-data + achievements form to be filled along with a statement of purpose. I had no achievements to speak of (except for the admission and scholarship invitation I guess). I wanted to ask them how bad would it be if I did not have national or international level achievement to speak of (I did not have any state or district level achievements as well, but the form did not ask for those). Thankfully, the seniors did not let me ask this question. Instead, Magic Mittal asked the seniors if he could add additional sheets given if he ran out of space. They answered yes. A few heads nodded in that room. That was the moment.

IIMA did not give you a lot of time for introspection. Both years zoomed by - the first learning the tools of the trade and the second in using substances to forget the first. However, that moment stayed on with me. I always wonder about it - how did everyone else manage to have a few sheets of achievements while I had nothing to show for the 22 years spent in getting there.

I was a geek quite early on.

I used to tinker (and break) electronic toys. I built an audio amplifier (no innovation here - used a circuit board from a hobby kit which came with instructions). The amplifier's loudness depended upon the potential difference it was given - which was related to the number of batteries given. The reverse side of the carrom board at home had a wooden frame which could fit batteries in. I used to play video games with the audio routed through these speakers.

I built a paddle ship which did not work (I had not discovered torque) and tried to build an aeroplane which would use diwali rockets in multiple stages. Like some of ISRO's older rockets, the project never took off due to lack of funding and political (read parental) interference.

I had also built a small dam in the garden. I would flood the entire garden and then run all the water through a paddle linked to a small motor which would act as a dynamo and generate electricity at a low AC voltage. I never thought much about hydel power as I had to empty a drum of water to light a bulb.
There were rumours that a particular pond had a turtle and I wanted to build a periscope to investigate it. However, a periscope was too easy and I was too lazy.

I also managed to get a video game at home on which I played Mario and Contra. I played Mario quite well. A few people used to sit and watch me play whenever they could. My cousins used to hate me for it as they did not get to play if I started a game. Anyway, that was quite a waste of time I guess. 

All this happened between 1988 and 1991.

I joined DPS Mathura Road in 1991 and lost the means to do much of this - no garden to flood, no carpenter to command etc.

From 1991 onwards I avoided any and all competitions. I tried to get into the students council in school but was not good enough. I did not attend or win any quizzes or make my presence felt at a city/district/state/national/international level with any dance, drama, debate, elocution, poetry, piano or even sports (I did run quite fast at school level but that was that). I was asked to apply for the post of a house captain by a housemistress - had I been asked by the correct housemistress, I would not have avoided her for the rest of my time in school .

Energy counts more than talent when it comes to achieving something in life (There is little of either this side of the post)
Hats off to the ones with the energy - they shall inherit the earth (along with the meek).

01 August, 2010

The Common-Wealth games 2010, New Delhi

The common-wealth games has helped make a lot of people rich and might help India make a gigantic fool of itself.  Depending upon which paper or newschannel you pickup and time of day and day of week, the amount of money used for the commonwealth has been anywhere between 5000 to 40000 crores and initial estimates have been from 400 to 1600 crores and the number of times the spend has gone up is between 8 and 17.
There are all kinds of deadlines, none of which are met usually. The deadline for project to go into testing, the deadline for the project to be handed over from the MCD to the IOC to the CWG are all there for us to shake our heads about. The TOI reports that none of the quality checks (not even one) for a series of stadiums seem to have been done properly. They further report that the external agency retained to do the checks seem to have managed doing them without ever visiting the facilities being developed.

For some reason today, I want t register my cribs about the TOI also.

On any given day, the morning paper (Times of India) has most of the below topics -
1. Stories on commonwealth games related delays and corruption
2. Stories about rain related problems and the obvious corruption and apathy of the MCD
3. Stories about Pakistan and the US and India. If they have nothing on terrorism, then they try to write about 'Aman ki Asha' . To my mind, this is a P2P publicity initiative designed for socialites who are bored of appearing on page 3 in the Delhi times and now want to get some footage in Lahore.
4. The TOI has a new paper called the 'Crest' - I might be wrong but for the life of me, I can not be sure about the name even though there is a light green shaded section every few days on the goodies which are going to be published in the 'Crest'. It is a paper which is supposed to get us to the bottom of the news and give us real analysis - I wonder if I am naive in believing that any daily newspaper aspires to provide that for its readers.
(I checked on Google - somewhat hard to find, but the name is Crest)
So they say that the Crest is not a paper, it is "a journal that allows us the luxury of the 2,000-word piece that’s as rich in style as in substance. One that is serious and stimulating, but quirky and enjoyable too. A paper where good writing heightens the joy of reading."  

5. Apart from the types of news stories, there is a section embedded in some stories called 'Times View' (Again, I don't vouch for the name). The section is usually a set of issues or questions which the user should be asking which are relevant. It reminds me of a  'Tool tip' in Microsoft Excel. The auto help feature has long held its position in the list of the first few things I turn off when on a new PC. The tool tip inside a news article makes me feel as if I am reading the News for Dummies.
6. There is another section inbuilt into a lot of news stories in the TOI. It is that part of a story which reminds users how they read it first in the TOI three weeks ago. Or how the government has responded to the TOI story and then taken steps. Or how the TOI's coverage led to a simultaneous public demonstration and is now leading to a windfall of justice. I think that the paper tries to remind its users that through its pages, they are part of something bigger - an unstoppable juggernaut of a central vigilance commission. News maybe not, but emotive marketing - right on!!!

7. I have always read dated stories in the TOI. Let me clarify. Not all stories are dated, but there have always been stories (Especially from foreign lands) which can be read on Google news today and will appear in the TOI day after tomorrow. 

Well even I read the TOI every day, but only because the HT and the Hindu though more serious as newspapers manage to get boring. I guess it is a sign of the times. Boring is not cool. Not cool is out.

03 July, 2010

Pins and needles

So there are times when I listen to music and the lyrics that give me a funny sensation on the back of head. Sometimes, a song can makes its presence felt all the way down my spine. Sometimes the song is just very apt.
To explore this a bit more, I wanted to document it. It happened a few times today.
I was happy. I think that this is a prerequisite. I am going for a wedding. We are family friends with uncle and aunty for over 20 years now. That is how old the girl who is getting married is. I remember the day the first time Aunty had gotten her out of the house. That was the day my family would have met her. That was 1987 I think and this girl was 3 months old. Should I be feeling old? I was 8 then. I am 31 in three weeks. I was thinking about the four of us sitting together in a room in Assam watching TV - my sister, this girl and her elder brother. We were such kids. The eldest (me) is married. And tomorrow the youngest will get married.
I was also thinking about our parents. I remember quite a few things from the time I was in Assam. He was running a factory which had over 600 men. There were excise inspectors and forrest officers to contend with. The ULFA insurgency started around then.
My father was 36 when we went there. I am 31 (almost) now. Compared to what I remember of my father, I am still growing up. I guess the remaining 5 years will do the trick. You never know.
Back to the topic. The mood has to be good. The lyrics have to be apt. If the music system is nice. The eight speakers in my car do the trick.
There is an expression - music that touches the heart. I think that when music touches my heart, I get pins and needles.

bkid = A070305397

26 June, 2010

Closure

Both of them were present, albeit with their new families. They were acutely aware of each other. They had played this game in their heads many times before, one of them had. They could have looked into each other's eyes and exchanged a lifetime of stories. This is what they had always done. This is what had drawn them to each other. Stories. 
The beginning was long removed from the present. It was a summer and an half from half a lifetime ago.Simple kindnesses were shared. There was always a shudder when things which did not make sense ended up happening. You wanted them to happen. You made them happen. Even though it did not seem that way, it was meant to be. Closest friends could not tell the difference. Even their own heart was not let on into the secret.

There was always the real world. There were always threads. From the past and the present, from near and from far. Thread which tugged and threads which pulled. 
The real world finally caught up. It cut the lifetime back to its summer and a half frame. 
When it finally happened, nothing actually had to happen. No one walked up to reassure anyone. It was not required. The smile said it all. 
_________________________________________________________
My attempt to sound like an Indian origin author. No theme easier than this one.

17 June, 2010

Carbon neutral blogging

My blog, amongst the billions of others, will take about one tree to negate the effects that this blog is having on the environment. There is a website that does just that - With one post about the initiative, I will get a tree planted. I might be too late as they were planting trees in spring 2010, but I am still trying.

How can you take part? 

Just write a short blog post about our programme “My blog is carbon neutral” and include one of the buttons below on your site (ideally in the sidebar). Send the link to your blog to CO2-neutral@kaufda.de and we plant a tree for you, neutralising the carbon dioxide emissions of your blog. The trees will be planted in the spring of 2010 by the Arbor Day Foundation. For more information about how and where the trees are planted, see the NEWS section.
Just a few easy steps to make it green:
  1. Write a blog post about the initiative + insert your favourite button
  2. E-mail the link to your post to CO2-neutral@kaufda.de
  3. We plant a tree for your blog in Plumas’!
Note: We plant a tree for each domain. Please copy the html-code and paste it in your blog. Make sure the carbon-neutral button works, the html-code must not be changed. Use the carbon-neutral-white button for a white background or the carbon-neutral-transparent button for different colored backgrounds. If you need help, please contact CO2-neutral@kaufda.de. We are looking forward to planting your tree!


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05 June, 2010

The end of hope

I have been reading more about the middle east that anything else in the recent past.
I also happened across the historycommons website. Now that I have seen it, it is quite an obvious use of a wiki for making a timeline using publicly available and referenced information. It is very exhaustive. For example, the complete 911 timeline on this website starts from 1968 and has 6318 (and growing) articles.

The current book I am reading is The Great War for civilisation, written by Robert Fisk. It is quite a formidable volume, but I think that everyone should read it. Much as everyone should read the Catch 22 and War and Peace. I have always thought of how someone can walk into a market and explode a bomb tied to his body and die peacefully. This book shows me that I can never understand it. This is because I have not gone through some of what has been going on in some of these places.

The word "free" has a new meaning for me from now on.

12 April, 2010

Planned growth (or a random walk)

If the stock market is to be believed, India is out of the recession. It has grown by about 60% in the span of a few months leaving quite a few economists with a sheepish grin on their faces and their complete inability to provide an explanation to wtf is going on.
There are some who made a lot of money here. Some of us  exited the market at 9000 and congratulated themselves at their superior sense of timing and heard their lower jaw hit the floor when the market breached 15000. It hit 18000 two days back.
There. I needed to vent a bit about the 'unearned income'.
I have not been able to post for a really long time. Some of it is because of being busy -
Last time this time was about - A very hot summer with power cuts, an office move, some more clients, hiring new people, meeting new companies and getting a bit more serious about what I have to do and where I have to be... and some of it is about not finding too much to write about. More accurately, not being able to decide what to write about..
This time, some of last year makes a reappearance. We are still hiring - this time for growth and not due to attrition, we have an office but need to plan an expansion. New things this year include the fact that Envigo is offering more services now - we have started to dabble with mobile applications and facebook games and social media marketing.. we are working for two French websites.

Personally, life is moving in a nice little routine with the two of us. We got ourselves a new car and are planning a few new road trips. Let us see when and where.




We took the car and went straight to the pandit - keeps everyone happy - Mother, wife and may be even God (in that order of importance). Below is a snap from April 9th... a nice evening spent at Olive with a bottle of wine, good food and decent weather....what else is there? (Planned as a surprise by the wife.. which made it all the more fun)

13 March, 2010

repo 105

The internet is ablaze today with repo 105. Everyone is searching for it and twittering about it. "Repo 105" is one of the top 100 searched terms on Google today.
The world of high finance - with its exotic products - has to fall back upon simple lies to dress up its balance sheet. Lehman's financial pundits did basically this - 'sell' something toxic off their balance sheet every quarter with a guarantee to buy it back soon after. It appeared as a sale, when it was actually just parking. You had to do more and more of it every quarter. Oh yes and the CEO was not aware of it - not $50 billion worth of it.
Ernst and Young were ok with it - they reported for numbers till nov 2007 that the numbers were fairly presented inspite of whistle-blowing by an insider.

I would love to retain E&Y any time I need help with the HMRC. Oh yes and Linklaters as well.

Crooked E and PWC have company now. And given the similarity of events, this line will only grow longer.

1942

I was a 20 year old bachelor. I lived in Mastichak,a village close to Seetalpur, just north of the Ganga. The independence movement was getting restless. So was I. Youth is a wonderful thing - it lets you dream and it makes you act. 
My father had died when my brothers and I were still young boys. Responsibility at a young age had made my elder brothers very cautious. They decided to get me married. They hoped that a new bride will calm me down and keep me at home. I got married to Ms. Rajkumari on May 6 1942. She was 18 years old. I remember this date because of the events which were about to happen.My wife thinks otherwise and is equally sure that we were married in June. After 68 years of being married, it is hard to remember.
On Aug 8th, Gandhiji had asked us to ' Do or Die'. The country shook into action. every day, we heard reports of arrests and torture. All Congress leaders were jailed. The movement however continued and gained in strength.
Kilometers of railway track was uprooted and laid waste. Telegraph and telephone lines were cut. In Ballia, a small town closeby in UP, the British administration was overthrown. The jail was broken into and everyone was released. A local leader called Pandeyji led the revolt at Balliia. 
There were rallies, sit-ins and speeches everyday. We hoisted the national flag on a police station. The district administration caught us in the act and we made a run for it. The DC was sympathetic. He ordered the police to fire in the air and not at us. There was a police investigation nonetheless and my house was visited a few times by white policemen. I went into hiding for a few weeks. My sister-in-law's husband went to jail during this period for some time. 
In 1947 my country was liberated. It was a humbling experience. We were elated but saw the horrors of partition.  I was at the Gandhi Maidan at Patna on Aug 15 1947. It was as if all of Patna was also there. The air rippled with excitement. We did not know what would happen next, but we were free.
I wanted to take part in the  first Congress session of free India. I took leave from the Chapra post office. My supervisor thought I was crazy as I was not even a member of the Congress then. I took a loan to pay for my travel. I boarded trains, buses and bullock carts and made my way to Jaipur. I was there. I saw everyone - 
Acharya Kriplani, Nehruji, Sitaramayya, CR, Azad, Patel. India seemed safe in the hands of these men. The crowd was even larger than Patna in 47. 
Now that I look back, I am amazed at the times I have lived through.
I did not go to jail pre-1947 because of which I was not able to claim being a freedom fighter. 
Had I been one, I would get free train tickets, which would make my wife happier. 
___________________________________________________________
As narrated to me by my grand father who will turn 88 this year. 

Post script: My grand father passed away a year later. He was very happy when I wrote this out as a blog. He was quick to write out another story for me. I have that piece of paper with me. It is very precious. I only wish I had spoken more to him about his youth. 

28 February, 2010

Siamese Saga

The wife and I packed up our bags and left for Krabi via Bangkok on the 12th of December. I was only too happy to leave - there were too many people all over the place and she was also the centre of all attention, which is bearable only for about 5 minutes in real life.
Our flights ensued that we stayed awake for about 36 straight hours, so by the time we were on our last leg, she was nodding off constantly. Krabi airport reminded me instantly of Mohanbari airport (Dibrugarh) - the single runway and the greenery all around, but the airport itself was a miniature version of Mumbai airport - spanking clean and modern. Krabi is one of the lesser developed provinces in Thailand for this part of Thailand, but the roads were smooth and undulating. (I will rattle off facts thanks to the 900 page lonely planet which I bought). As a normal red-blooded north Indian, I was not very happy to note that even countries so close to home and so looked-down upon in India (development is supposed to have happened only in the US, UK, Western Europe, Australia) are better off than us.


(Mr and Mrs and our shiny black SUV in the corner)

Our itinerary for Thailand was as follows: 
Ko Lanta (6 days), Ko Phi Phi Don (2 days) and then Bangkok (2 days). 
Ko Lanta was exactly as isolated as I had wanted it to be - a private beach for the resort but not isolated enough to compromise on any of the comforts. 
Phi Phi has been made famous by 'The Beach' - a movie which is about a secret beach. The beach in 'The Beach' is Maya beach on Ko Phi Phi Leh, a smaller island close to Phi Phi Don.
(approaching Maya Beach (above) in a long tail (see below))
The coolest parts of the trip: 

3) View point #2, Ko Phi Phi Don - This was a 45 minute staircase trek to the topmost point of the island. The island, which is actually a paid of islands joined by an isthmus, with giant limestone rocks, was quite imposing. We timed it well so that we were there as the sun began to set. Also, we could not find the camera and used the mobile instead, only to realise later that we were in fact carrying in the camera. 

2) Snorkeling aoff the island of Ko Rok - We snorkeled at 4-5 different places but the best by far was the first one which took us to Ko Rok. There were no jellyfish, the coral was colourful, the water was clean and most of all, there were plenty of fish of lots of different colours. The best by far, for sure. We had lunch and got to laze around on Ko Rok for a couple of hours - we took pics during that but not of the snorkeling as we did not have a waterproof camera. 


1) Emerald cove, which was an enclosed beach which could only be reached after swimming through a tunnel of water for about 80 meters.

(The mouth of the tunnel and the inland beach at the Emerald Cove)

A parked long tail below

02 February, 2010

Sugandh and I

I have the wedding pics finally. I also have a macbook  which is brand new. I have gotten it for envigo, where we are going to be building facebook applications now.  

Below is what happens when I get a Mac. 

A few pics from the Baraat
video

and then the wedding itself... 


and then the reception ...




As I wait for the rather large baraat video to load on youtube, I will record my thoughts on my wedding for posterity. I think that it was a lot of fun, important things to note were as follows: 

1. The disappointment of not too many of my friends making it ... which was made up quite quickly by those who did. 
2. A series of four top secret get-togethers, which happened every night from the 4th till the 7th were an excellent buildup for the functions. 
3. Family gathered from all over and every breakfast, lunch and dinner was an event in itself for 3-4 days. 
4. The bigness of the deal that a wedding is was driven home when I looked up after exchanging garlands - an entire field of people were looking at the two of us. 
5. Bihari weddings are torturous for the couple, especially the bride, who gets to sleep only for about 5-6 hours in two days (and nights). 
6. The sheer delight felt by close family, especially parents, at this occasion and being getting reminded all over again about how much I get pampered by my parents and my sister. 

At the end of it,  everyone who came left 1-2 days after the wedding. The kitchen, which was feeding around 70 people a day for 3-4 days was disbanded. Even Sugandh and I left for our honeymoon (yes, thats the next post!) by the 12th. (The wedding took place on the 9th).  Both my parents and my sister had a very bad throat and a cold. My mother in law fell ill soon after for 2-3 days.

What is left with us - apart from each other - is a smorgasboard of memories - extending far beyond the  few days of the wedding itself - an entire memory map of relatives and friends and how long and how well we know and how much they mean to us (and we to them). 
It is quite incredible and humbling to have so many people pause their lives for a few days and come to be a part of this celebration called a marriage.