Of tragic classics and a bit of few nothings in Madras

The past few months I have been reading blissfully for a change. It has been years since i have read with so much vengeance but for most parts as always it has kept me in familiar territory. There’s something about reading, you know you are safe, you are doing the right things and that if you successfully read then that everything is normal. SO i decided to read a bit of European Classics. Partly because I can sound all intellectual and wave the hand, tilt the head back and with an odd sparkle in the eye look at the person sitting straight opposite and exclaim, “Europeans my my they were something.” To speak of Thoreau and Voltaire so as to spin a conversation and write a blog post like this were also part considerations. But above all much of these books make great read. So one fine clear day albeit a very hot one , after having listened to the strains of Venkatesha Suprabhatam in Chennai, I flipped the first page of that little devil of a book, Lolita by Nabokov in the most auspicious way possible. One of the most wonderful books I have ever read. The theme of the story gives you indigestion but the masterful narration cures that fine. Reading Lolita is like biting your finger hard and dipping it in ointment, a roller coaster ride but most likely the only one of a kind you will ever have.
My fetish for those boring Europeans didn’t stop there. So I started on Gustave’s Madame Bovary. Another scandalous book of its times but frankly a forgettable affair. Then came my favorite, Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby. There’s one particular scene that’s so dramatic in its impact that you understand why Hollywood wants to recreate this work. Great Gatsby is stinging in its criticism of the rich and their overtly snobbish ways and mingles romance and tragedy into that theme in such a fine manner that it works like a well-aimed kick to your ass. A book that needs to be read – so rich in its dramatic narration and charmingly so, but as is often the case delusional American in its intentions. I cant wait to see the movie.
Finally I landed at the voluminous Anna Karenina. Huge parts of it is preachy where Tolstoy seems to have struggled in fleshing out clearly his own philosophies but the parts that aren’t are brilliantly dramatic. If Great Gatsby has drama in narration, then Karenina has drama in its characters.There are few books where you can distinctly visualize characters and breed with them a familiarity . This is one of those rare ones. It’s not without reason that its feted as the greatest novel of all times. Tolstoy himself considered War and Peace a better work but consented that Anna Karenina was his own true fictional story.
They hit like one strong wave after another the characters of Anna, Karenin, my favorite Oblonsky,Levin and finally the pitiable Vronsky.

Theres something about tragediennes and perhaps the best among them would always be that Anna Karenina!


London, Paris and New York

I am kind of bored these days for obvious reasons. I decided to watch London, Paris and New York.Not great but definitely much much better than the Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan starret ekk mein aur ekk tu or something to that effect. So if you mix Chetan Bhagat’s two states of my marriage with before sun rise and throw in bollywood masala ,voila you have London,Paris and NewYork. So you have this uptight tam brahm girl(ok she’s half tam and half marathi brahm) meets the spoilt brat and flirtatious punjabi guy. I would have railed this is stereotyping but much of it rings true. But yeah its time Indian movies tried other geographies out. I mean you understand why the Tam Brahm with Punjabi pairing works – for the sheer contrast but maybe its time we tried a Gujrati girl with a Manipuri boy or something.

The story is trite and passe but there’s an honest effort by the star cast  and its much better than much of the latest fare. I have lost patience and substance to continue this post so signing off 🙂


We Met & Materialized @NITK

-The M&M tale

The story starts three and a half years ago on a day that none of us can now remember. Thirty of us brave, IIT flunked-AIEEE screwed -almost 18 some things stepped onto the hallowed portals of NITK united in the cluelessness we shared about our branch .Three years witnessed some of us leave seeking greener pastures, a few just staged an act of disappearance and only 25 metamorphosed to speak of a journey that defined the meta batch of 2005-09.
Third semester: Fledglings
Saw us enter the department .Pramod finally found his place in geek haven ECE and Darshan left us for Chemical. The rest of us were force- initiated into the system of compulsory electives and less credits for more hour concept that would remain our branch’s USP till the end. The first grand event of the semester, a fiercely fought CR election was won by Shatman where he managed all the 7 votes from the girls. He showed his loyalty by ‘CR sitting’ only them leaving the rest of us, not-so –lucky ones to fend for ourselves. Machine design and its imported instructor Abraham John came along with a dose of factor of safety 75 and “You will not see this in any textbook” refrain. His abstract leanings and weird absenting patterns resulted in the junta struggling to pass the course. Hebbar tried teaching us BMS and Udupa regaled us with thermodynamics and temp zones in cigarette butts. And, both the professors competed with each other in setting papers we could not complete. The rest of the courses were pretty harmless. Meanwhile a much paid for branch freshers took place and the side effects featured a faculty boycott, a ‘cat’walk malfunction and a Kaptaan in depression. Rumors flew high when an ‘accidental rendezvous’ between KoSu, Hill Gal & Chintu in the loo was discovered. Speculation was soon laid to rest however, when the girls insisted that they had absolutely not seen a thing leaving behind an already much relieved Chintu and a disappointed class. The semester rolled on fast, resulting in a last minute rush to make the deadlines for workshop diary and assignment submissions. With Pramod gone and Kaptaan in what he believed was emotional turbulence , his ‘good’ friend took over the topper’s reins and held onto it till the last sem.The semester ended on a high note with all of us escaping machine design unscathed.
Fourth semester: Lost in Transition
Fresh from a month of winter break we were pushed headlong into PPR’s physical metallurgy. By far one of the courses meriting a ‘YES’ to ‘is it one of the five best courses you have had?’, question in the feedback form, it would make sure we are never able to escape dislocation loops for the rest of our B.Tech lives. Jaggu followed suit with an equally good course in XEM and affected us with his genuine warmth. However the semester shall be remembered for featuring the first of the two infamous run-ins with UBK. His phase diagrams became a dreaded affair with people being robbed of sleep and grades equally over it. The sem also saw ‘Abhishek’ Tutorials and its co-concern ‘Brindha Tutorials’ in the GB , firmly established saving us stationary and note taking for the next 2 years. These two shall be the reason why the rest of us shall inch towards a B.Tech degree. Reddy made all the effort into mass bunking truly worth by conjuring a grading system that did not curve below a BB. However, Chintu and Verma for some Reddy known mystique were tricked out of it despite a word to word micro reproduction of Ray, Sridhar & Abraham. Not the one to be left behind, Verma discovered life at ISTE and took up metallurgy as a recreational course.
This semester is special because Akhil & Anil still made celebrity appearances, Rahul still remembered the way to the department and the first benches actually had people occupying them.
Memorable Moments
Satya, every time he saw a girl in class, “Can I have some water plz?”
AbJohn to KoSu, “You are just like my daughter!” Replying to a doubt on rivets.
Srini to Chintu,” You do not know Chitragupta, What a Vichitra Gupta I say!”

Fifth semester: Dog Days
A summer later and a year less wise we entered by far the toughest semester in three years. We were introduced to daily questions, ppts, leave letters and AOS. The junta faithfully turned up for his classes preferring to tackle polymer bonds than leave of absence excuses.KNP finally debunked the credit for hour myth with seven hour long marathon sessions. However his penchant for black clothing and teeth flashing seemed to mesmerize the girls with side effects ranging from temporary memory loss to motion freezing. Srini’s much anticipated re-entry turned out to be a dud when he set us on reproduce-whole book assignment sprees. Nesargi won the CR elections by popular vote and led us onto the glorious path of postponing every test, assignment and record submission. Satya put that to the ultimate test by bunking Srini’s end sem paper. An attempt to save the plummeting grades saw us celebrate teacher’s day. The desired outcome is yet to be witnessed.AOS redeemed himself with good grades and we pushed ourselves into another semester.

Sixth Semester: Pre-Placement Glory

Began with two weeks of meager attendance, portending the days to come. Our second of the humanities elective in common with Chem handled by a first time cute-in 3 yrs-AL seemed to make all the writing and first hours worth it. Verma went as far as learning the only piece of paper he did in college-her bio data. We also went on a MEA trip to Pilikula and KIOCL.The class had mass transitioned to the back benches much to the irritation of its faithful and privileged occupants-Baba, Sudhir, Sam and Rahul. Shatman by now added ‘U stare, I punch’ title to his name and Chintu all together changed his to VJ. Time hand outs, Vocab cards and Barron’s were whipped out.Kini smashed GATE at AIR 20 making us all proud. Nesargi & James became the PCs. We departed anxiously conscious of the placement season to come. Little did we know….
Memorable Moments
Srini’s take on American all gender dormitory system, “these guys think they can conquer biology, I say! If we follow that in NITK we must build a separate hostel.”
Srini again to a beleaguered Kaptaan,” Whats the use of preface…aaaa? Whats the use of your face?”
AOS to Harsh, “That line in your ppt is wrong.”Harsh slowly in reply, “It can be like that also or how you say also, it depends.”
Sam while filling eco feedback forms,”Whats the best part of the course? It’s her da… the lecturer.”
Seventh Semester: When Recession hit hard
The placements lead to a wardrobe change with the emergence of young men in washed-pressed & shared in rotation basis formals and that helped Madhav finally look in place. This semester taught us the meaning of recession, lay off and no vacancy clearly if ever there had been any doubt. With the placements bleak throughout, TSu & Brindha managed IOCL, Basava & Madhav NMPD, Harsh & Bapin JSW, Shatman landed ZS and MuSigma got Nesargi. KoSu, Kaptaan, Satya, Nandu & Hill Gal, all got Accenture and James IGate. Foundry Lab sought to enliven our sagging spirits by requiring us to wallow in dirt and model with mud and submit records. With a lab so wonderful KNP was perplexed why students periodically disappeared .UBK came and finished the semester with literally a shattering effect when his window revealed a long crack. An outpouring of final year sentiment saw us head towards a class treat for the first time in three years leading to a Basava’s day out. He made full use of the opportunity by taking us to the cleaners and short fusing Kaptaan. Every one stuck to the binary system of attendance faithfully and life moved on .Harsh truly made us proud when in an attempt to placate the SE lady he prostrated to postpone a five mark test. However the episode had an anti-climatic ending when Sam came, smiled and ShE relented. The semester ended and brought us to the last three and a half months of college.
The curious case of the eighth semester
Finally electives dropped their compulsory tag and we heaved a long in due sigh of relief. With companies having completely disappeared there was nothing left to do than bask in the final days of college life. This materialized into a class trip to Coorg. The trip while special for a lot of reasons shall be remembered for Rahul’s wonderful hospitality, Dips’ larger-than-life enthusiasm, Harsh’s crooning skills and Basava’s parting ability. Kadbu almost lost us the bus over a cup of coffee and lava braved the mighty Kodavu Hills on bare foot. Meanwhile Engi euphoria spilled onto our department too with Kaptaan wriggling out to be the Con and Verma lived his dream by becoming the face of Engi.
The rest of us chug along appearing for seminars or an occasional class. With less than a month to go, a few of us await admits, some gate ranks and others better jobs. The four years in college have been special. In retro we are grateful to the Khaitan standing fan that was the cynosure of all our attention and made the classes bearable. The batch of 2005-09 shall also be known as the batch of deliberations. We knew the art of it well, the reason why we churned out one Verma, one Kaptaan, a hundred discussions and along the way managed to earn ourselves a B.Tech degree. The above diary is an account of the journey we shared as a class of 27 -2 , sometimes we took it with a pinch of salt, other times polished till our hands ached and yet all along the way were part of a one memorable journey that we started together but end on 25 different notes.
The Players
Shatman-Shamanth, KoSu-Sudarshna, Hil Gal-Isha, Chintu a.k.a VJ-Vikram, Rahul Raj, Rahul Nesargi , Harsh, Satya, Verma, Kaptaan-Abhishek, ‘good’ friend-Brindha,Tsu-Suhani,Kadbu-Jeevitha,Lava-Lavanya,Dips-Deepa,Sam-Sameer,Nandu-Nandwana,Aditya Joseph James, Madhav, Sunny, Baba-Anil Babu, Sudhir Pawsakar, Anoop Kini, Bapin, Basava-Bharath

Steven Paul Jobs- the man who gave a new pride to ‘i’

There has been a spontaneos outpouring of grief that has overwhelmed both the real and the cyber world alike.No one seemed to have gotten enough of being shocked at this untimely death. Since Princess Di’s death the world has not been united in a global outpouring of grief.Its unlikely that any of the CEOs of Steve’s generation will be able to achieve even half as much adulation as he has.
I have been following Jobs for ten years almost. I remember, that the first time I saw his picture in a newspaper I found him then, as I always have as particularly handsome.But good looks and a sharp wit are not uncommon traits. He was different. He was a man who created a reality distortion and made consumers pay often unjustified premium for his products,that too religiously. Curious isn’t it?
The phenomenon called Jobs is hard to explain. A classic example of a HBR HR case and is bound to be quoted for years to come. People have speculated on Apple’s shares and the state of the company post Jobs. Some have argued that it would be irrational for markets to react to Jobs’ death. After all , the fundamentals remain the same, dont they? Jobs has luckily, chosen a good moment to leave the company when it seems to be at its strongest. There is time to re-organize.I doubt if Apple will ever be the same without Jobs.I remember reading a HBR article on how successful CEOs have been able to turn companies around while similar ones with less able leadership sank.If that article is half true,boy Apple is in a spot of bother.
The phenomenon has been confounding. No where else in recent history would you see the consumers strongly associating a brand with its founder.It has been a careful construction from Jobs’ part. People often credit Jobs for being a visionary ,perhaps he was but most definitely he was the biggest marketer of our times. Jobs had once been thrown out and would have never wanted that to repeat.The best way to ensure that would be to tie yourself irreversibly with the fortunes of the company and vice versa. Hence he identified a latent talent, often positioned himself and Apple as an iconoclast or maverick. Thus, while Apple was advertised to be different ,Steve often projected himself as maverick.His famous quote being Why be a navy officer when you can be a pirate?
The products were predominantly in one colour-white and they were associated with one letter i. It’s a repeated construction in the consumers’ mind of something special and unique. It was reinforced every time the pattern repeated. Curiously Jobs would wear Black in all his product introductions and would appear dressed similarly year on year. It only helped that he made some really cool products and was himself gifted with extra ordinary charisma and showmanship.Jobs also closely guarded his personal space much like the products he launched.Now,it seems that he has been struggling for the past couple of years.Jobs and Apple had consciously mirrored each other,leveraging their spaces manifold.So,every time you picked an Apple product you unconsciously associated with Jobs.R.I.P

How I keepeth my Dolls

Little Nappinai was running down the street ,she was getting late and darkness was already setting in. If she didn’t hurry up Amma would get worried and would send thatha to find her,who in turn will get all anxious and ordain that she should not go alone again.Not that she was afraid of that.She had always got her way and thatha was so patient and never got angry.She was stubborn and wasn’t she the only child? thatha’s pet?Thinking thus she adjusted her specs and smiled at the smell of sundal that Lalitha mami had made which still lingered in her fingers.The sundal had been good. Her favorite kadalai parrupu.While she was thinking thus she tripped on the wretched stone outside Nalini aunty’s home.Her saree which her mother had wrapped around her in a Gujrati style was slightly in disarray.Already the front had flecks of coconut flakes that had been used to garnish the sundal she had before.She hastily dusted them off. This was no ordinary saree.It was amma’s wedding reception pattu saree. Beautiful parrot green with pink border. This garment was not to be taken carelessly.Now .she had made a mess of it.She will quietly get out of the saree and change before her mother notices when she returns home. She knew amma would be busy with other guests.She would not tell her and feign ignorance.Perhaps she can dump it behind the almirah in thatha’s room.
Nappinai had been a good girl today. She had diligently visited all homes she was asked to that day.Now it was time to return home after Nalini aunty’s. Besides,her friends had said they would visit her home this evening.Also wasn’t she needed when the mangalam would be sung at the end of the evening? She always loved this time of the year when young girls like her were given all the importance.Each one was treated like a little princess.Pondering thus she had now reached the doorstep of Nalini aunty’s who was now yelling for her to come in. Vaa vaa ,amma anupinangala? Aamaam aunty she said feeling a little uncomfortable. She all of sudden felt uncomfortable in that saree for Nalini aunty’s eldest son was snickering at her saree and calling her a iyer maami.Stupid fellow she thought she was not even iyer, was an iyengar and then got angry at her mother.Why cant she skip around in frocks? why be dressed in a saree? Thank God it had been the Gujrati one today.The madisar was when she would get the maximum comments.She turned and glared at him through her round specs. By now Nalini aunty had sensed the reddening of the face and said,Avan chumma valayadraan ,seriousa eduthukadha in that quintessential Madras way of mixing english words with tamil.A colonial relic but also what made the language of the place famous and infamous.By now he held out a five star in truce. She ignored and turned to Nalini aunty who took it form her son and gave her. Now the chocolate had been given and that moron had been put in place she took out the kumkuma chimizhl and said to Nalini aunty,“engathla golu vechiruku vethla paaku eduthuka vaango.” With that she heaved a sigh and skipped out, her dolls were waiting for her she must hurry…

Sticky Wickets -Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar

I believe I would be widely hated for writing this post and people would not believe that I am also a great fan of Sachin even if I bother to reiterate repeatedly.Hence, I shall not make that point beyond this.
We as a nation are passionate about cricket but when it comes to Sachin we are hysterics. We throw reason,tolerance and sportsmanship out of the window. I am referring to the widespread furore that Akthar’s comments in his book,Controversially Yours, have created. Akthar is not the first one to be rebuked and made into a villain because he has dared suggest that Sachin is not perfect all the time. Before him many others have been victims of this syndrome.Sanjay Manjarekar in 2006, when he alleged that Sachin may have been faking injuries and then again in 2008 when he claimed his non-performance at the top order was hurting India in ODI. People lashed out against Manjarekar and called him sour grapes. Because Sachin is not only great but no can dare to cast aspersion of humane frailties against him, there have been other such incidents too. Mike denness was perhaps the greatest victim of witch hunting when he accused Sachin with tampering the ball.Technically Mike was right.Cleaning the seam as camera footage seemed to suggest can tantamount to ball tampering. We then of course suggested racial discrimination. Perhaps both the above incidents were in bad taste and Tendulkar’s detractors were wrong mostly. But the below three simply astound me.
Tendullkar had applied for a tax exemption for the Ferrari that had been gifted to him . It was bad enough he applied for one and even worse that fans came out in support of him! Geoffrey Boycott recently made that Himalayan blunder of reminding viewers that Sachin has not scored a century at Lord’s. Harsha Bhogale snapped that it was Lord’s loss, at the end of the series we know who was left red-faced.
Perhaps the most ludicrous of these incidents is the recent one against Akthar. He suggested that Sachin was trembling against him in one of the matches. So what? the best of the players do. May be sachin did. Even our Mythological heroes ,Gods and Goddesses can have moments of self doubt but Sachin can’t! we can digest that Lord Ram had to tell Adityahridyam to win over Raavan, we can also believe that Arjun doubted if he could win Karna.You may tell you are an atheist so let me then remind you of seeing Wasim Akram trembling against Sachin when the latter took him out to cleaners against Pakistan in the 2003 world cup. If my memory serves me right didnt the same akthar come out and tell he was afraid to bowl to sachin that day after being hit for a first ball six.It happens to the best of players. But, no.. its impossible to believe that Sachin could have had a bad day for his fans! Akthar is no joke he has troubled enough batsmen to be qualified enough to comment.We as a nation have become increasingly intolerant .Sachin’s greatness will not be reduced if he was found trembling against Akthar or if Akthar falsely claimed so. Ofourse Akthar wants to sell a book and he would mention any claims to victory he had over the prized wicket of Sachin.Perhaps the west has been more tolerant of its super stars who have been a little less than perfect. Mike Tyson. Diego Maradona and George Best are a case in point. But as Indians we risk reducing our greatest sporting heroes to caricatures by simply refusing to tolerate anything against them! Rajiv Shukla’s demand for an apology reminds me of Tiwari’s rant gainst Katrina .Her fault had been to remind the nation that she is not the only half Indian-half European around. She was factually and technically correct. After so much intolerance for such small issues we have the audacity to complain riots happen, funny isn’t it?

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara-A Movie Review

Zoya Akthar churns her next film out with ZNMD after the subtle yet delightful Luck by Chance. ZNMD is the kind of film that was in vogue before Salman highjacked it all with his Dabangg act.So she has a wonderful star cast,I mean you cant make it hotter than this with Hrithik Roshan,Abhay Deol and Farhan Akthar. I must confess that it was only the male star cast that made me watch the film. And you throw in Katrina Kaif, you have the most visually appealing star cast in recent times.So,its a coming of age film just like her brother did DCH those ten years ago. While Farhan’s protagonists were content to discover themselves in the city of Mumbai his sister’s travel all the way to Spain.At this point I must mention that the background is breathtaking and that alone is worth all your money.
So what about the story? Its a cliche. You have three very handsome,rich,uber cool and talented men ,all in their early thirties I presume who start on a road trip in Spain to conquer their fears and discover their life. I mean who else apart from these guys are poised to do this? So the money minded Financial trader played unconvincingly by Hrithik Roshan realises that life is not all money after diving into the depths of the sea. And then we have our every girl must have character in Abhay Deol who decides his engagement was a mistake after facing raging bulls in Spain’s bull fight. And then we have the best character of the three played by Farhan Akthar as the creative,funny yet brooding Imran who lets the hurt on his mother being forsaken by his biological father go after diving from a height of 1500 metres.
If you were to rewind,the characters are not much different from DCH. Hrithik’s is a more sensible version of Amir Khan. Farhan’s is in sync with Akshaye and Abhay’s is unfortunately not fleshed out properly. If you had everything like Zoya’s characters do you will sit and ponder about life and pay through your nose to discover yourself amidst the beauty of Spain. But,if you are middle class Indian where even trying to get a window seat in a bus without being hassled is a struggle, you will not relate to this most probably. this is a more subtle and more glamorous version of DCH. It tells you live every moment as if its your last. Be sensitized who knows,you may not get this life once more.Fair enough but a tad disappointing from a director who had promised so much more with her debut.But do watch the movie ..its a visual treat nevertheless.

Sweet,Little & Innocent