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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Little Bundle of Happiness

Little Bundle of Happiness
This post is a month and 22 days late. But I had to wait for the photographs. My lazy and now preoccupied brother was too busy changing nappies to let me have a look at the newest addition to the family. And when I did, I was preoccupied with the viewing them over and over again.

There's a little baby inside us, which finds vent whenever it interacts with someone from the same age group. Why else do we all go, "Oooh gulugulu, aaanana coochocoochocoo?" I say that to his photographs. Wonder what else I'll tell him when I meet him? He talks to me over the phone, says "hello" in his baby talk and I respond accordingly. Can't just wait to hold him on my lap, tell him all the wonderful stories, sing him lullabies (my singing has the potential to awaken a sleeping Kumbhakaran). It's been quite a long time since someone wet my shirt, and I smiled.

But the new job doesn't entitle me to leaves before three months of association. He can't possibly grow up so much in three months, so as not to comprehend my baby talk. Till then I'll keep the dry run on with the pics on my PC.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Equating the e-Quotient

Sensing the lack of excitement in my voice, my mother dubbed me an anti-Northeast Dilliwallah. In a nation hooked to high emotion talent-hunts, showing disinterest in programmes of public popularity brings forth some uncomplimentary comments. Debojit Saha from Silchar, Assam winning the 'coveted' Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee TV should have had me partying all night and distributing sweets to my colleagues. The fact that I didn't even watch the show (which ended in its unearthly climax well past midnight), was unforgivable. I was made to feel as if I had missed an India-Pakistan Cricket World Cup final.

The males in the family were of the opinion that Debojit had bridged the gap of animosity and distrust amongst the different communities of the Northeast, and bound them into one for a cause - to make Debojit win, to let for once the Northeast win against the hegemonistic tendencies of the dominant India. He won, they won. The producers won, the channel won, the mobile service providers won, neighbourhood sweetshop owners won and Shivakashi also won.

The last time when I went vacationing home and stretched my itinerary to Assam's Barak Valley - the place from where Debojit hails - the initial impression was that there were some elections on. The town walls were pasted with posters demanding SMSes in favour of their local boy. Locality youth clubs ran special 'awareness' drives. The place must have erupted with joy and celebration.

But I'm not asking anyone. "Did you vote Debojit?" would be the inevitable question. I wouldn't like to lie, nor would I like to be branded something more unflattering.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pleasures of the Pedal

Pedals at Rest
Come 2020 and the Swedes will eject all the remaining residues of petroleum derivatives from their system. Who said that blondes don't have brains? Though not exactly what you'll call an environmental activist, I prefer to ride on two wheels powered by fish curry and rice than any of the fuel guzzling speed devils that make a simple task like crossing the road a life hazard.

Pedalling a bicycle on a winding country road is a feeling that will give a Bentley a run for it Rs. 120 million worth. Though we control the steering, accelerator, clutch and the brakes, it is not us, but the complex internal-combustion engine which takes us forward. Whereas, a bicycle gives a feeling of total control. You are the lord and the master and the bi-wheeled muscle powered thing is at your command.

Living most of my live up on the hills, cycling was pain with pleasure. All pleasure downhill, uphill - the opposite. Those twenty or something changer gears do help, but at a 45 degree incline even the designed-in-Japan 150cc engines splutter.

Two Wheel Connect to the Outside World

Our films have romantacised the bicycle ride. With the beloved on the front bar, the hero lip-synced with many a playback singer. But ask her, is it so much of a fun? All the times I tried travelling with my behind precariously balanced on an inch and a half diameter hollow beam, I was left with a sore bum. Maybe the women find it comfortable with relatively more padding around there?

Doubling or tripling on a bicycle designed for one is not my idea of enjoyment. If two or more want to ride together, there should be two or more bicycles. One person, one bike - that's the rule. And no blaring sirens please. The trrrrrrrring trrrrrrrring of the old steel bell is enough to signal people (or animals) to give way.

In India the bicycle as a mode of transportation in urban areas has remained restricted to the lower middle class. The rich and the famous will put their pedicured feet on the pedal only to burn a few calories. The middle class riding on their hamara Bajajs, slowly graduate to the matchboxes on four wheels. It is only the school kids who I find relishing their ride, but in a few years they'll be zooming like maniacs on the latest Indian-made-Japanese-mobikes.

The Merc Bike
From the sleek racing cycles to the best selling Hero Jet, there's a lot to choose from. And then there's also a Mercedes that I can afford to own and operate. Just hoping that there's an EMI scheme. At Rs. 1,56,000 a Mercedes bicycle doesn't come cheap.

But looking at the roads of Delhi, all my pedalling pleasures hit the brakes. I still remember the sight on my very first visit to the city - a mangled bicycle on the edge of a foothpath, and on the road a bloodied body. During my extended stay I've seen so many more. That debars my potential Mercedes of the luxuries of a six-lane metalled road. Winding country roads here I come.

Bicycle beyond borders: A post from the other side of the Wagah Border on the bi-wheeled companion. (Thanks Shivam)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Necessity Provided, Now for the Invention

Did anyone come up with the idea of a remote locator? If not, here it is and please pass the message to TV manufacturers to include this feature in their forthcoming models. Last night, I needed to switch channels and as always the remote was nowhere in reach. So we started looking for it and it was nowhere in sight too. Finally, we gave up and reverted to the used-only-in-absence-of-a-remote buttons on the television set. Cordless phones have a handset locator, televisions should also have one. For the interim I'm contemplating tying a long thread to the remote with the other end attached to the TV.

Yes we finally found the remote. As always, long after the search was over. It was taking a break on the kitchen shelf.

Q. Why do we find lost things at the last place we look at?
A. Stupid, simply because after you find the stuff, you stop looking for it.

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Chicken Check

As I was getting my Chicken McGrill - the only worthwhile stuff that I consume at McDee's - a lady approached me and enquired whether I was having chicken. I replied in the affirmative. "Is it safe?" came the anxious question. "Oops, I forgot. The birds with running noses are out to destroy the human species," I didn't tell her that, though it was what I thought. "I believe that it has been properly cooked at a high temperature and the virus, if it existed wouldn't have survived," all the gyan that the media was doling out was put to use.

"You guys have whatever you like, I'll be having my chicken, chicken, chicken!" she yelled at her companions. Well that makes one women who I could convince.

It takes only one running nose (or beak, or whatever) to prematurely put millions of chicken necks to the blade. And it also took only one individual for the simian immunodeficiency virus to mutate into its dreaded HIV avatar. I'm not interested in whatever he/she did with a primate to necessitate this transmission.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

The Mystery of the Missing Scroll

A café whose customers sit at computer terminals and log on to the internet while they eat and drink is called a cybercafé - though it was only once when I did sip some coffee at one of these places. That if you exclude the initial days at my previous workplace which we referred to as a cybercafé where you're paid to surf (and the coffee was free).

These places have definitely come a long way from those snaily slow single dialup connection split amongst five (if not more) PCs and that too @ Rs. 120/hour. But something there doesn't seem ephemeral - the mice with their tails stuck in a box. In no cybercafé that I remember visiting had a small luxury in the form of a wheel between the left and the right buttons of the mouse that perhaps makes web navigation a trifle easier.

It's not that a scroll mouse costs a fortune more, but the simple economics that without the wheel the customer will remain stuck to his/her seat for a little longer. The time spent being directly proportional to the money earned. But with surfing rates existing at an awesomely affordable rate of Rs. 8/hour, how much extra dough with the café operator knead?

Someone said, "Boond boond se bharta sagar ('tis little droplets that maketh the ocean)."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006



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Monday, February 13, 2006

The Plank Between

Getting the cut at an Ita-lian salon
Sunday is not the best day to get a haircut. The world around you is enjoying their weekly off and they’ve all kept that trim, shave or massage scheduled for that day. Some of the lucky ones have a five day week but will not be seen anywhere near a scissor or a razor on a Saturday. Superstition says so. Many others wouldn’t go for any voluntary hair shedding on Tuesdays and Thursdays and also the day of their birth. That leaves only three days to choose from and Sunday seems to be the best. Only that on Sundays barber shops are overcrowded and the Mr. Scissorhands is in a hurry to make more money and you get a lousy haircut.

The motive here is not to determine the auspicious day to sit on the chair facing the mirror, but something related to that chair that was a milestone in my early life. I don't remember exactly when, but I must have been 8 or 9 then.

When kids go for a haircut - they are usually made to sit atop a plank balanced on the handrests of the chair (atleast I was made to, for many years). This brings the little head of hair to a level where it is easy to manoeuvre the scissors about. Then one day the barber didn't take out the plank from the corner and for the first time I felt the softness of the foam underneath the faux leather and felt big. That event to me symbolised the transition from a kid to a boy. I felt a little grownup.

Yesterday, the kid sitting next to me on those faux leather chairs seemed very happy. He wasn't sitting on any plank.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Whirling a New Wheel

Looking Out of the Workplace
Tired of being a small cog in a large wheel, I'm moving on to be medium cog in a smaller wheel. For the last three new years all that I changed in my life was the calendar on the wall, but this year finally (to all my friends' great relief) I'm switching jobs.

" will be relieved with the close of working hours of 11-Feb-06," says the relieving note. That gives me a few days of unemployment - an opportunity to recollect my initial few days of struggle in an unknown city. What days those were. Though not exactly a rags-to-riches story of a Bombay struggler, ours does come close (minus the sleeping on the footpath part).

Weeks of uncertainty, knowing not what to do, where to go. No bank account where money could be transferred from home, no fixed address for the money order to reach. I almost forgot about an interview which I had appeared for during my last visit to the capital. At the insistence of my dear friend, I called up the office to discover that my days of unemployment were numbered. Then inertia got better of me and I amused myself with skipping stones on the water rather than taking a dip into it. A few days past the ides of February, I'll be taking a fresh plunge.

A struggler day entry in my diary (nowadays I only blog) reads, "Some days you are the dog, on others the lamppost. Today I was the lamppost..." Tomorrow too wouldn't be much different. The lamppost remains, the dogs change.

Taking a New Turn

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Fog - Not Again!

Fog - Not Again!

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Photos - A Dozen and Two

Basking in the Morning Light
Kalia the Crow
Garma Garam Chai...
and Samosas
Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
Going Places
Buland Bharat Ki Buland Tasveer - Hamara Bajaj
Silently Sold
Yeh Zindagi Hain Ek Jua
Crooked Line
A Lot Can Happen Over Coffee
Alternative Career
Going Bananas
A Hard Day's Night

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Two years of Tehelka - in Ink and Paper

Tehelka - 2nd Anniversary Special
It was late 2003 and I, a recent migrant to the capital was wandering about in a mall, jobless and cash starved. Someone approached me and asked if I would like to contribute to a collective citizens' effort towards free, fair and fearless journalism. Fresh out of J school, I couldn't have said no. Operation Westend (and the aftermath) was still so fresh in my mind. I paid Rs. 100 (a big sum for me then) for a two month's subscription. February 2004, my brother called me up to let me know that the first copy was delivered home. Two years hence, Tehelka tells us 'What's Right about India' in a 68-page 2nd Anniversary Special. I didn't renew the subscription, but didn't stop reading. Now the vendor outside the office gives me my weekly copy.

I usually purchase three types of publications - the popular, the passionate and the obscure (the sets rarely overlap). I pay for the popular but seldom read; the obscure rests in some unnoticeable corner of my cluttered abode. Though Tehelka claims to be 'India's Fastest Growing Weekly,' the reporting and the writing symbolise passion. But passion alone cannot keep the hearths burning. Do get the issue, its Rs. 10 only. If that's not reason enough let me give you ten:

1. Megnad Desai
2. Vinod Mehta
3. JM Lyngdoh
4. Javed Akhtar
5. Tarun Tejpal
6. Jehangir Sabavala
7. Raghu Rai
8. Prabuddha Dasgupta
9. Khushwant Singh
10. Uma Bharati

(and lots more...)

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(8X4) + (1X4) + the Pony's Got His Brains on His Tail

Double tagged by Aquamarine and Rita there was no escaping this. A few more tags and my uncensored biography would be online on this blog.

Four jobs I’ve had:
Poster paster
Office inventory sequencer (actually a painter who disfigures your office stuff scribbling stupid codes on them)
Documentary filmmaker

Four movies I could watch over and over (actually the ones that I feel like watching right now):
Hera Pheri
Dil Chahta Hain
Forrest Gump

Four places I’ve lived:

Four TV shows I love to watch:
The Simpsons
Sarabhai Vs. Sarabhai
Any of FTV's lingerie shows

Four places I’ve been on vacation:

Four of my favourite foods:
Shutkir Chutney
Steamed Momos
Aloo-Piyaz ke Paranthe (the non-tandoor type)
Misti Doi

Four places, I’d rather be right now:
New York
The Amazon
Sub-Saharan Africa

Four sites I visit daily:
and the website on which I work upon

Four bloggers I am tagging:
You and
last but not the least, you.

The following doesn't deserve a separate post, therefore am appending it here.

This is no do crore ka question. A simple one that even a school kid will answer without thinking twice.

Which is India's most respected civilian award?

Bharat Ratna, you say?

The wannabe toothpaste model who prefers to be addressed to as a 'management guru' believes it is the Padmashree, or atleast his article on Shobhna Bhartia (Vice-Chairperson and Editorial Director, HT Media Limited) in 'India's Most Influential Business and Economy Magazine'[1] (he's also the E-in-C) says so. He goes on to add that she won the award in 1996, but as far as my short-term memory stretches, it was a good nine years later in 2005. Wasn't getting the facts right one of the basics of good management? Or is there another 'alternative' theory on the lines of 'Survival of the Weakest', the 'Trickle-up Theory' and the 'Law of Increasing Marginal Utility?'

[1] Chaudhuri, Arindam. "Reprisal of the Oracle." Business & Economy Vol. 1 Issue XII 13-26 January 2006: 68

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1895)

I found this on the Internet Archive and edited the video to meet this blog's requirements.

This short film was a test for Edison's "Kinetophone" project, the first attempt in history to record sound and moving image in synchronization. This was an experiment by William Dickson to put sound and film together either in 1894 or 1895. Unfortunately, this experiment failed because they didn't understand synchronization of sound and film. The large cone on the left hand side of the frame is the "microphone" for the wax cylinder recorder (off-camera). The Library of Congress had the film. The wax cylinder soundtrack, however, was believed lost for many years. Tantalizingly, a broken cylinder labeled "Violin by WKL Dickson with Kineto" was catalogued in the 1964 inventory at the Edison National Historic Site. In 1998, Patrick Loughney, curator of Film and Television at the Library of Congress, retrieved the cylinder and had it repaired and re-recorded at the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound, Lincoln Center, New York. Since the Library did not possess the necessary synchronizing technology, Loughney - at the suggestion of producer Rick Schmidlin - sent multi-Oscar winner Walter Murch a videotape of the 17 seconds of film and an audiocassette of 3 minutes and 20 seconds of sound with a request to marry the two. By digitizing the media and using digital editing software, Murch was able to synchronize them and complete the failed experiment 105 years later. This 35mm film was generously made available to the Internet Archive by Walter Murch and Sean Cullen.

Runtime: 00:20

Download (from the Internet Archive)
64Kb MPEG4 3.2 M]
[256Kb MPEG4 7.4 MB]
[MPEG2 142 MB]

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Colour 'em Saffron

It is not always that I bunk office for some mauj-masti but when you are serving your notice period - the boss is a little lenient and the work heaped upon you relatively less. Hence went watching Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's second coming (after Aks) - Rang De Basanti. Probably an extra y in his name made lady luck smile a little.

So what lesson did I learn from this 'youth awakening' film? Water the ceramic during intermission, especially if you are going to down a large and overpriced Pepsi during the later half. Stranded between a bursting bladder and the climax, I opted for the latter amidst serious discomfort but had to skip the ending titles (something which most theatres don't even bother showing). Somehow I made it to the surprisingly empty and clean relieving zone - what a relief! The friend accompanying me couldn't control her laughter and I know I'll be mercilessly teased for years to come.

Mr. Mehra seems to have a love-hate relationship with the defence minister. In Aks the Raksha Mantri (Amol Palekar) was the good guy, here he is the usual unscrupulous politician (played by Mohan Agashe, he was the Prime Minister in Aks). I'm not going to write a review/synopsis, The Comic Project had already typed out the very first one.

Amidst the good performances (if you excuse an aging Aamir Khan), I found reflections of an erstwhile idealistic existence, where wannabe vigilantes wanted to take on the system, change it for the better. Tough job. The powers at play against you are too overwhelming. In this unipolar world the days of mass revolution are long over. The suppression is swift and brutal. Good people do not want to enter politics, even if they do, they are voted out in the next elections or end up being puppets in the hands of extra constitutional authorities. An honest existence is a difficult one, most don't have enough guts. The rot is evenly spread across all the pillars. Where do you seek support?

Someone might pick up the gun and pump half a dozen lead pellets into a black heart, but there are too of them around. You'll fall short of ammunition (unless the big bully of the west has some plans for you). Kamal Hassan as Indian/Hindustani did something similar, but such characters exist on pages of screenplay alone. Real life is dirty, even the soap to wash the dirt is made of mud extracts.

But all's not lost. We're not a defunct democracy destined to doom. I believe that corruption grows within you as you age. The young are generally good at heart and have a zest for doing things. Let not age be a criterion for high office (a 50 year old here is addressed as a youth leader), usher the young in. Give the newbie a ministry and observe the change (exceptions like Prafulla Mahanta do exist). 70 is an age of retired relaxation, not hobnobbing in the corridors of power. How about a Rajya Sabha seat for a certain Soumyadip (I'll forfeit my deposit in a general election) and the I&B ministry? Don't expect Playboy TV on your coaxial cable my lascivious friends. With great power comes great responsibility (and absolute power corrupts absolutely).

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Chillar Makes Cost-Effective Grease

Last night the auto rickshaw I was returning home in jumped a red light. A prompt traffic policeman stopped us and demanded for the papers. When the driver began to plead, he referred the case to his superior, standing some distance away. Amidst the din of the passing traffic and the darkness after dusk all that I could make out that some negotiation was on. After a few minutes of haggling, the driver returned with a satisfactory grin on his face. "How much?" I enquired. "Rs. 10," he replied. The driver sensed my surprise and gave an elaborate lecture on how to handle cops at the least possible cost. "Never argue with the police," he suggested. "Oops!" Only a few days ago I gave a man in uniform a sermon, when he tried to prevent me from clicking photographs. "Thank god, that particular policewallah was oblivious of this commandment," I thought.

But Rs. 10! Isn't that unbefitting of the status of a head constable/assistant sub-inspector (couldn't differentiate the stars from the stripes in the dark). But on analysing that if an MP can charge Rs. 10,000 for doing something which is in his job description, why can't a lower rung policewallah stoop to Rs. 10 for not doing his job. Rs. 10 gets 10 packets of gutkha (provided they pay the poor panwallah); better than Rs. 100 added to the government's coffers. The last time I knew someone paying a baksheesh-type bribe was when a master haggler of a friend got his police verification (for his passport) for only Rs. 5. The officer-in-charge of the local police station had demanded Rs. 500.

Next time you're caught violating the law, keep some small change handy.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Manipur Mayhem

The police bash up striking union workers in Gurgaon and there is a tremor in the corridors of Sir Edwin Landseer Luytens' Delhi. Grandmothers strip in protest, the state assembly is burnt down, students get killed, there is complete chaos on the streets - and only a few throat clearing noises by the mantris and the media. Why wouldn't Manipur incessantly burn? It has no other alternative, no one seems to take notice.

Anthony is taking forward the cause of his home state through the medium of the blog. Amidst all my mindless musings I feel that once in a while I should atleast strive to do my bit. This is no path breaking analysis, nor is it a magic solution to the decades old issue. These are the visuals from the 2004 protests against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958. Visuals that most of us never remember seeing. Someone had handed me the footage long ago and I too had forgotten about it. Had to edit it a lot to make it viewable on a general interest blog. The state perpetuated violence is disturbing and the extent that it makes people go in protest - nightmarish.

Initially thought of editing it prim and proper with a background score et al. (like what we have on our 'news' channels), but the incidents demanded rawness. But raw truth often becomes too difficult to handle, hence a much toned down form.

The following video contains images of graphic violence. Surfer's discretion is advised.

Runtime 03:49

Can't view video? Download Flash Player

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