Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fire Stones - A Short Story on Tsunami

Fire Stones, is a short story written by Eoin Colfer. The story is set in the Nicobar islands, and the date is 26th Dec 2004, the day the killer tsunami waves struck. Fire Stones is one of the 16 short stories in a collection titled, Higher Ground.

Higher Ground Project was started on 16th Nov, 2005. The chief editor is Anuj Goyal, former director of Blue Peter. The project is aimed at bring to the world, the trauma of disaster that struck the world on 26th Dec 2004, through the eyes of children.

The project contains 16 stories by best selling children’s story authors; these stories are based on real life experiences. There is also a music CD, reading of the stories by famous personalities.

Fire Stone is the story of a 13 year old Nicobarese boy. He survived the killer waves, he was taken away from danger and rescued by a Shompenese boy. Shompens are the tribes who inhabit the dense Nicobar forests.

The Nicobari boy, was on the beach on the fateful day. He experienced the earthquake, and also saw the sea retreat – which is another feature before a tsunami; the sea retreats initially and then comes back with giant waves – he also saw the giant waves, crashing towards the shores.

The waves would have been 30 feet high, but instead of getting scared, the boy was amazed at its gigantic size, and wanted to stay on the beach, and see the huge wave crash on the shore.

That’s when the Shompen boy appears on the scene. He warns the Nocobari boy to run for his safety. The Nicobari boy does not heed to the advice of the young Shompen, and continues to watch the wave closing in. He had been advised by his elders to keep his distance from the Shompen tribesmen.

The rest of the story tells us how the young Shompen saves the life of the Nicobari boy. The story is titled Fire Stones, after the stones which the Shompen uses to light a fire to feed the Nicobari boy after saving him. The Shompen later gifts those stones to the Nicobari boy as token of his friendship.

The simple storyline, narration and the emotions of the characters are good. Looking forward to lay my hands on the book or an online version of the book.

The story Fire Stones can be accessed here.

Higher Ground Project’s official site can be accessed here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Yahaan - Review

The caption below this photograph, which appeared in The Hindu, dated 26th Dec 2005, read – Children watching a gun battle between security forces and militants holed up in a house in a residential locality in Bemina area in Srinagar on Sunday.

The gun battle resulted in the death of a top militant of Al-Badr.

I was awestruck to see that the children’s eyes reflected curiosity, not fear or pain or irritation. Guns, explosions and violence has become a part and parcel of their lives, its something which they would have been hearing right from the days in memory. Having been brought up in peaceful cities and towns, I cannot comprehend the lives of these innocent children.

This picture reminded me of the movie Yahaan. Directed by Shoojit Sircar, the movie follows the life of an Army officer, who falls for a Kashmiri muslim.

Spoiler Warning: The entire movie, with all major subplots discussed below.

Jimmy Shergill stars as an idealistic army officer, Aman, who follows the rules and even goes to the extend of standing up to his superiors when they acted unjustly. During on of his patrol missions, he happens to meet a beautiful Kashmiri girl, Adaa (Played by newcomer Minissha Lamba).

Love blossoms at first sight, and in the due course of time they become inseparable. Opposition comes in the form of the society, which would never allow a Kashmiri girl to marry an outsider. Aman is both an outsider as well as an army officer, which meets with very stiff resistance, especially from Adaa’s elder brother Shakeel, who is pawn in the hands of the ISI. Shakeel, who initially practiced non-violent methods to pursue Kashmir’s independence, took to violent ways after being misled by the ISI.

Then there is Aman’s superior, who having suffered the shame of being rebuked by a subordinate was looking for a chance to get even with Aman. Adaa’s father too is against the relationship, since he wants to get his daughter married to a Muslim of his choice. Adaa and Aman find some encouragement in Adaa’s grandmother, who having seen the pains of staying in Kashmir, wants Adaa to escape and live in peace, away from the world of violence and fear.

Aman is captured by the militants during one of his missions, by Shakeel. Adaa is heartbroken after hearing the news and sets out in search of him. She reaches her brothers hideout in time to prevent Shakeel from killing Aman, and in the resulting confusion both lovers manage to escape alive. Later the army storms the place, and rescues the other prisoners.

Aman’s superior, who was unable to locate him after the incident, labels him a traitor and orders that he be captured. After being captured, Aman is about to be court-martialed. Adaa is prevented from appearing as a witness by Aman’s superior. Adaa runs from post to post, trying to get justice for her lover. She is supported by a private television channel, which airs her woes to the country.

The Prime Minister’s Office, after listening to the televised program, initiates action and Aman is freed of all charges against him. Meanwhile, hard cored militants, who want to prevent the marriage of Aman and Adaa as well as free their comrades who were the prisoners of the Indian army, attack Adaa’s relatives by exploding a bomb in their house. They also take as few hostages, and hole up in a mosque.

Finally there is a confrontation between Shakeel and Aman. Aman makes Shakeel realize the error in his judgment in taking up arms for the freedom struggle. Finally, all’s well that end’s well, and the lovers are united, bringing a new hope to Kashmiris.

I liked the movie for its simple story line, the good performances by the cast. The camerawork made it look realistic. The shootout sequences looked pretty real. Adaa’s innocence was touching. Her dialogues like “Atleast someone in the valley is laughing” and her dialogues with Aman, where she enquires about his home and locality was done well.

A word for Jimmy Shergill - his performance in this movie is by far the best I have seen of him.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Time Capsule - Internet Version

Dear Arun (2038),

I’m writing this mail after returning from a sales visit to one of our many customers in the hot afternoon of May 20, 2006. I am dead tired and am cursing myself for having done an MBA in marketing, which landed me in this job and in this land of Sambar – Chennai.

As I am reading this mail, I would be 58 years old. This would be the ideal birthday gift for me, reading about myself when I started my career, while I am at the verge of retirement. Happy Birthday, Me!!!!

I landed in this dreaded city 11 months ago, and have been cursing myself for all the sufferings I have undergone. I joined QWERT Private Limited as a senior sales executive, have been covering the length and breadth of the state ever since. Have spent many nights in buses, trains, bug infested & dingy hotels, cars, and what not. Could not have dreamed of a better start to my career!!!

My parents are in Cochin, they are very unhappy that I am far away from them. Varun is in his final year of Engineering and he is doing pretty well.

I’ve broken up with Ashwathy, my girlfriend at ASDF Management Institute. Her parents did not believe in arranged marriage, so we had to split. God bless her and her parents. Btw, I am beginning to develop a liking for the girl who lives in the flat below me. I’ve seen her standing in the bus stop, while I zoom off to office on my Bajaj Pulsar. I hope God gives me enough courage to approach her.

Amma has started searching for a girl. I am least interested in marrying now. Would like to settle down in life, with a safer and better job before tying the knot. I have tried all possible excuses, but Amma is adamant. God knows what kind of a girl I’ll get married to. The thought scares me to death.

About my career asperations, I would like to retire as atleast the marketing head of a big FMCG company. Hope you would not have disappointed me.

Convey my regards and love to your wife, children and grandchildren.

With love,
Arun (2006).

I thought about such a fictitious mail, after reading a news article. The article was about a site, which enables one to send mails to oneself, which will be delivered at a specified date in the future.

It provides a perfect way to communicate what your current situations are alongwith what your aspirations are about the future, to your future, so that you can sit back on that day, read this mail and have a good laugh over it. I could not think of a better birthday present towards the end of ones career.

I’ve sent a mail to myself (quiet different from the one above), which would be delivered on my 58th birthday. Am sure to have a nice time reading the mail I sent. Possible loopholes are that I might have stopped using the mail id, to which I have sent the mail, or that the server where the mail gets stored crashes or gets destroyed over the next 32 years or life is a mystery, who knows what would happen tomorrow?? ;) ;) ;)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mahabharata - Book Review

Mahabharata – the second largest epic poem in the world, the national epic of India, marks the transition of one phase to another. The epic poem consists of 1,00,000 stanzas, which is roughly 12 times the size of Bible, was composed by the great sage Veda Vyas around 2500 to 3000 years ago.

Comparable to the Iliad of Greece, Mahabharata is of immense importance of Hinduism. The Bhagwat Gita, which is the religious book of the Hindus, is contained within Mahabharata. Along with Ramayana, Mahabharata is the pillar of Hinduism.

Also known as Bharata, the story recites the exploits the last human incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Shri Krishna and the beginning of Kali Yuga. The story is about the descendants of King Bharata (also called Kurus), son of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala.

The story culminates in the 18 day Mahabharata war, held at Kurukshetra, fought between cousins, The Pandavas and The Kauravas. The Pandava army consisting of the 5 Pandava brothers, Lord Sri Krishna, and kingdoms loyal to the eldest brother Yudhistira fought against the Kaurava army, consisting of the 100 Kaurava brothers, grandsire Bheeshma, guru Drona and Kripacharya and various other mighty warriors.

Inspite of being the weaker army, the Pandava’s win the battle owing to their adherence to Dharma. They were cheated out of their rightful kingdom by the Kauravas, were banished to the forests for 13 long years and were denied their rights after the end of the 13th year.

Every character in the story conveys a moral to the reader. It is said that the Mahabharata shows the path that should be lead by a human being to attain nirvana.

C. Rajagopalachari, the first governor general of India, fondly known as Rajaji was a great statesman and scholar. His adaptations of various epics are must reads for the present generation who are ignorant about mythology. His adaptations of Ramayana and Mahabharata are well acclaimed.

Two weeks ago, while I was on one of my regular book buying spree in Higginbotham’s, my eyes fell on C. Rajagopalachari’s Mahabharata. I know most of the stories in Mahabharata, from bedtime stories from my dad, from comic books as well as the television serial. Still, I had this urge of going through the story again, to read about Arjuna – my favourite character in Mahabharata – and about the Mahabharata war.

In the book, Rajaji had in his own words, brought out the morals behind Mahabharata. He has drawn parallels with the behaviour of current people, with the current method of warfare and the attitude of people and its consequences.

Rajaji has compared the chariots of old times with armored cars of the present times and elephants with tanks. He stresses on avoiding anger to prevent disaster, he stresses on following the path of righteousness to attain the highest honors in the present and subsequent births.

The book is a must read, if you have no clue about Mahabharata. The way various storied are interweaved, the description of the war are really good.

There were a few things which I found missing in the book. The entire Kishna Leela, which includes stories of Krishna’s birth, his childhood at Brindawan and the killing of his uncle Kamsa is missing. Also the recitation of Gita has been skipped. I do not complain about the skipping of Gita, but Krishna Leela is indeed a delight to read.

Other things which I found missing are the stories regarding Shishupal’s birth, Draupadi’s vow regarding tying her hair after Dushaasan dragged her by her hair and brought her to the place where the game of dice was being played, The Pandavas going into the Kaurava camp after the battle on 9th day to seek the blessings of Bheeshma and to ask him how he could be defeated in battle.

Other than the above points, most of the stories within Mahabharata was covered.

A good read for anyone interested in mythology or stories. An online version of Mahabharata can be accessed here.

Sources: Wikipedia
W M Blake Fabrications

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Mobile, Boring Weekend & "It's Pink"

I am at sea to understand this puzzle. For the past three weekends, I have been forced to sit at home, unable to venture out to meet friends or have some sort of a time pass. As if on purpose, three cyclonic systems have been lashing Tamilnadu coast for three consecutive weeks, spoiling my weekends.

I had earlier decided that I would be getting a new mobile on Saturday. The thrill of having a new mobile, coupled with the fact that it would be a better one that I was owning till date, made me venture out of my house in the rain. Since, good things do not happen smoothly, the mobile purchase journey was also an adventure.

During the second weekend of this month, I had gone to the Reliance Webworld in T Nagar, and enquired about the mobile exchange options. I liked a model and since the person who was incharge of exchanging was not available, I could not buy it last week. So Saturday was the day.

I left home in the afternoon, had lunch and headed straight to the Reliance Webworld in T Nagar. When I enquired with the staff regarding the exchange of mobiles, I received the shocker that the exchange offers were withdrawn in Webworlds. The lady there directed me to head to any of the Webworld Express outlets where the offer was still valid.

So I head to the nearest Webworld Express outlet, which happens to be in Kodambakkam. There again, I meet a sweet lady in the reception, who, to my horror, denied any knowledge of any exchange offers. She told me that her shop has never exchanged any mobile till date. I pleaded with her to ask her boss, or someone who could help me out in this. So she calls up the Webworld Express in Virugambakkam, and delivers the happy news to me – I could go to the outlet there and exchange my existing mobile.

I reached the outlet in no time, selected my mobile, tried in vain to bargain, but the shopkeeper was not ready to pay me more than 400 bucks for my old Samsung model. Finally I gave in, paid the money and got my new mobile – Nokia 3125.

Plain simple color mobile, with no FM or Camera or Video recording or MP3 Player. It looks stylish and is very sleek and light. Other than the features I mentioned above, the phone has all other features, and is definitely worth the money spent on it. I spent the remaining time of Saturday going through the user manual and understanding various features available in the mobile.

I had finished Mahabharata on Friday night itself. Planning to write a review on the book, which should follow soon.

Found it very hard to kill time on Sunday. Spent most of the time looking at the rain from my bedroom window or from the balcony. Started reading “The Day of the Jackal”; so far so good.

Last week, I was surprised by the latest campaign from Radio Mirchi. One fine day, they dropped their “It’s Hot” tagline, and hit with “It’s Pink”. Changed the names of all their programs, so that the word pink could be added, even some RJ’s had the word pink prefixed or suffixed to their names.

Since I listen to Radio Mirchi for a maximum of 30 mins in a day, I was unable to figure out why they were doing it. Only when I read yesterday’s newspaper I could make sense of it. There was a one page ad from Hutch, which said that they are changing their corporate logo’s color from orange to pink.

Then it dawned on me that this would be a marketing strategy by Hutch to create awareness amongst its customers regarding its change of identity. Hutch’s advertising has always been excellent. The video advertising campaign which showed a dog following its kid master everywhere, with the background score “It’s a beautiful world” captured all hearts. This latest campaign by Hutch along with Mirchi is surely going to be a huge hit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Postage Stamps & Tanushree Dutta

I was rolling on the floor laughing after I read this article.

Stamps featuring Ponds Miss India 2004 winner and Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta has been released by the Jharkhand government. Stamps and Postcard featuring the damsel has been brought out to acknowledge her achievements.

Now I never knew that winning the Miss India title was achievement for a state to bring out a stamp in recognition of the winner. Its just been a year since she has won the title, and what has she achieved in these 2 years, other than act in two movies and also show some skin.

If Miss India winners were to be honored, then how come Tanushree got honored before people like Aishwarya Rai and Nafisa Ali? I have nothing against Tanushree, but I cannot comprehend the stupidity of the state government!!!

Maybe the Kerala Government should take a cue and honor the undisputed queen, who acts in movies which cater to the needs of a particular age group. Atleast she has been carrying the entire industry of movies for that age group on her shoulders, which in itself is an achievement!!!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Books... Books... Books...

Nothing much happened in my life during last week. It followed the monotonous rituals of reaching office, doing some work, getting back home, reading some books and getting back to bed. I was surprised that time flew so fast.

Back at home, it was Radio Mirchi or Suryan FM along with the books I had brought from home to kill time. I had brought along “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramhansa Yogananda and “Effective Executive” by Peter F Drucker.

I started reading “Effective Executive”, but could not go beyond the first 20 pages. Somehow I cannot sustain the interest; I could not read more than that. I have never been able to read such books; books about motivation, self-confidence, etc. Dad had spent a lot of money and got me the books, but I just could not sustain interest, shall get back to the book after a few weeks.

After “Effective Executive”, I tried “Autobiography of a Yogi”. It followed the life of Paramhansa Yogananda, from his childhood to attainment of salvation as sage. He is a renowned yogi and master of yoga. The reason I was not able to sustain interest in this book is since Swami Yogananda talks of a blind faith in his guru, Swami Yuktheshwar and Lahiri Mahasaya.

I have never believed in a person to be the ultimate guru – to follow him, to worship him or to listen to a discourse. I have never been able to believe in someone like Sai Baba or Sri Sri Sri Ravishankar or Matha Amritanandamayi or anyone for that matter. So I got bored of reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” too.

Yesterday I had been to Higginbotham, and got two books from there. “Day of the Jackal” by Fredrick Forsyth and “Mahabharata” by C. Rajagopalachari.

Started reading Mahabharata, and before I knew anything I had already read around 60 pages. I bought the book since I had read in many places that this edition by C. Rajagopalachari was a must read, since it told Mahabharata, the second largest epic in the world in the most simplest of language, easy for everyone to understand.

I had watched every episode of Mahabharata aired on Doordarshan during the 90’s. The one hour serial was such a craze amongst the masses, that everyone watched the serial, without missing even a single episode. In addition to the serial, I had read various comics of Mahabharata, printed by Amar Chitra Katha. So Mahabharata was not new to me, but the interest levels generated by this book has surely got me hooked.

Mahabharata is the second largest epic poem in the world, after “Tibetan Epic of King Gesar”. It was composed by sage Veda Vyasa. The epic was so large, that he wanted someone to note it as he would recite the poems. He appeased Lord Ganapathy, and asked him to pen down the epic.

Ganapathy agreed, but on one condition. He said that once he starts writing, he would not stop, which meant that Vyas had to recite the entire epic in one sitting. Though Vyas was startled on hearing this, he thought about of a way to counter it.

He agreed to Ganapathy’s condition, but laid his own condition, that Ganapathy would understand every verse that Vyas would recite.

During the course of recitation, Vyas purposely composed complex verses, which Ganapathy could not understand, which gave him ample time to rest as well as think of verses which were to follow.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Oil Mafia

In the wake of Manjunath’s cold blooded murder, I happened to chance through this article in Indian Express. It relates a similar experience, but the author managed to come to terms with the reality, and unable to cope with the corruption resigns to pursue further studies.

According to author, Sanjay Jha, nothing has changed over the 21 years period from the time he resigned to the time Manjunath was murdered. The last paragraph in his article summarizes everything.

Twenty-one years later, oil companies have the biggest advertising budgets on TV networks. They sponsor cricket tournaments, entertainment events and Formula 1 race drivers. Marketing whiz-kids talk of the end of commodity positioning and the rise of product branding in the petroleum sector. Mani Shankar Aiyar is working assiduously to lay transnational pipelines and negotiate oil barrel price deals for India. Oil price hikes are anxiously tracked. But as Manjunath’s death tells us, deep down nothing has changed. Nothing.

Read more

It needs to be seen whether Manjunath’s murder stems the growing mafia in the oil industry or whether it would just be another unsolved murder case, with the culprits walking out free.

From the depth of my heart, I believe that nothing is going to happen to this case. The petrol pump owner might get a life term, but the real problem would still remain unsolved. Oil will still be sold adulterated in majority of outlets in the country, and any remaining Manjunaths in the oil industry would mould in with the system, fearing for their lives.


Updated: 9th Dec 2005 9:30am

Looks like my gut feelings are proving to be wrong. Manjunath's life will not be wasted. Our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has called for a special meeting which would be attended by Chief Secretaries and NSA's. They would be discussing various options to prevent the adultration which is prevalent in the Diesel. Read more about the news here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

At the Mercy of Nature

Today morning while I was on my way to office – which is a 6km drive from my home on my bike – I noticed that I was the only person to wear a windcheater. None of the Chennai population surrounding me felt the need to take protection from the monster which has been hovering within 450kms from the metropolis for the past 26 hours.

The monster goes by the name Baaz, a cyclone over the Bay of Bengal, which has been threatening to hit AP and TN. The funny thing about this cyclone is that it has made a mockery out of the met departments predictions, which has been changing its prediction regarding the cyclones path as well as its intensity every hour.

First it was supposed to hit Tamilnadu, then it moved further north to hit between Chennai and Machilipatanam. Now the met has again changed it to hit somewhere between Chennai and Kakinada. The time has also been changing. First it was the evening of 31st of Nov, then it was the afternoon of 1st Dec, and the latest report says that it will hit coast by tomorrow afternoon, i.e. 2nd Dec.

By delaying so much, the cyclone is increasing its chances of hitting the metropolis. There was a similar cyclone sometime during the late 1990’s – either 1997 or 1998 – which acted in a similar fashion. It stayed put at the Andhra cost, and finally hit coast between Chennai and Mahabalipuram. At that time, it had weakened considerably, but still rained for 5 continuous days. I remember it so well, since my school was closed due to flooding and a live wire which was in contact with the water.

If the cyclone hits as per the final prediction by the met department, then with heavy rains and winds the metropolis will get another bountiful gift from the rain god. This would mean more flooding in the already flooded northern and southern suburbs of the city, which has slowly started recovering from the battering it has been receiving for the past few weeks. Rains would also affect the movement of trains, which means that my weekend plans of visiting my parents in Bangalore is at stake.

Also at stake is the test match between India and Sri Lanka, which is suppossed to start from tomorrow. I hear that Bazz is not the only threat for the test match, someone from Chennai has filed a petition with the Chennai High Court, asking for a stay in sale of tickets as well as a stay in the test match.

Baaz is showing us that how much ever advancements we make in science and technology, we humans are still under the mercy of nature. Being unpredictable, the only thing we humans can do is to wait and see things unfolding by itselves. Let hope that Baaz does not cause extensive damage like the super cyclone which stuck Orissa in 1999, which left more than 10,000 dead and resulted in losses which ran into Crores of rupees.

Picture Source: Indian Meterological Department


Updated on 1st Dec - 1:40pm

Latest prediction by the Met department shows that the cyclone should pass within close proximity to Chennai. Expected to cross sometime in the morning of 3rd Dec. Winds ranging between 80-90kms per hour and rains expected from tomorrow afternoon.

Based on the unpredictable nature of Baaz, lets see how accurate this prediction turns out to be.

Picture Source: Indian Meterological Department


Updated on 2nd Dec 8:30am

According to the latest update by the Met department, the cyclonic storm has weakened into a depression. It is expected to cross the coast between Chennai and Ongole in AP tonight. The wind speeds is predicted to be around 50-60 kms/hr, considerably lower than the 80-90 kms/hr which was predicted while the storm was out there in the sea.

Its been overcast from the morning, with spells of drizzling now and then. The climate is too good, and everything seems so good since I am sure that my weekends will go as planned.


Updated on 6th Dec 4:30pm

Baaz did not ruin my weekend plans. Though it did make my journey to the railway station from home a tough one, I was not troubled later on. It rained very heavily on Friday night, and with the lakes being full, all the water entered the storm water drains and low lying areas.

KK Nagar, where I am put up, had never been flooded in the last one month of rain, but with the water from a nearby lake overflowing, water entered our area, rising up to the main door of the ground floor residents of my flat.

Many areas are still reeling under its influence.

As I'm typing, another depression has formed over the Bay of Bengal. It is expected to intensify further, and hit northern TN and southern AP. Lets wait and see how much trouble this new one will cause.