Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Snapshots from the backyard

I don't even have a count of the number of times I've been to Mahabalipuram. And almost all the time I've been there, I basically went to the Shore Temple and thought that was just about the best thing Mahabalipuram had to offer.

I was proved utterly wrong last weekend, when I was forced to tour the entire place as a part of an official visit. This place rocks, and I think I got some nice snaps. We had a guide with us, and the stories from his mouth gave an all new life to the entire (wonderful) place.

One below is the Shore Temple (Built with granite 8th century).

The place below is called Descent of the Ganges. Built around 7th century, the most surprising thing is the traces of Egyptian design in the sculptures. Can't even begin to think how people exchanged ideas across continents some 1400 years back!

One below is Pancha Ratha. There are five huge pieces of monuments (each named after the Pandavas), and the interesting thing is the whole place was one massive rock which was cut into what is below.

The guide told us the one below was a Light-House some 10 centuries back - lit by a flame at the top.

Can't believe I didn't explore a UNESCO World Heritage site, one in the very backyard. Well, better late than never!

Monday, July 30, 2007

India through Chinese' eyes

Folks with roots in the hill (IIM-I), head to Bhasky's video post on Chinese students who came through the exchange program to India/IIM Indore. Bhasky's post here.

Some photos are great. And sound/video mix/selection is awesome!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard, but don't waste time!

Boy, oh Boy, I went to ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ this morning, and I’m like ‘Do you call this an action flick?’ It must’ve been categorized as Sci-Fi!

I know what to expect from Die Hard movies. They’re generally full of action, Hollywood-masala, larger-than-life stunts et al, but man… this was way over the top. Live Free or Die Hard, which is also Die Hard 4, comes after a decade in the Die Hard series and was also much expected, but I didn’t believe myself when I saw user rating of 8 on ten in IMDB. I just had to watch this flick. 8.15 am show in the morning did not matter.

I try not to take my logical lens with me while watching pure action flicks – Rambo series, Terminator series or Die Hard series etc, because you aren’t supposed to watch these flicks looking for logic. You watch them for their speed, the special effects, the stunts, and larger-than-life heroes and villains. That said, this does not mean than that you become dumb for the two hours while watching these flicks. Die Hard 4 is masala taken to the very next level. It’s not just beyond reason. It’s beyond your wildest imagination, and beyond the wildest absurdity.

Some spoilers start here -->

Our hero is an old school hero - the kind who loves fist-fights, guns, car races and blood. But he is not a geek, a tech-wizard, and he does not understand computers. The villains are everything our man isn’t. You get the idea. Villains hacking into everything – traffic network, banks, nuclear stations, TV stations, getting direct lines to F-16 pilots etc are to be expected in these action flicks, but what you can’t stomach is our hero escaping from F-16s and Helicopters and laser-guided missiles and instead destroying all of them. And wait a minute; did someone say there was a ‘plot’? I wouldn’t call some junkies putting an entire country to jeopardy by hacking into computers and our old-school hero rescuing everything single-handed a plot. That’s way over the top for me.

<-- Spoilers end here

All said, you have to give something to this movie – it’s fast, it’s packed with stunts, some funny dialogues, some sentimental-crap and overall fast-paced action. It is one of the ‘yeah, don’t have much to do this afternoon… can watch this flick for once’ movies, but I, for one, couldn’t really stomach the absurdity in the name of a movie.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Happy Planet Index

Went home this weekend again. I just love being away from all the mails, the internet and the computer. I’m sure I can’t keep away long enough, but 2 days is just about the right time you can stay comfortably away without being troubled. The mobile was a potential intrusion, but it was luckily silent for the most part this weekend.

Coimbatore is so unbelievably pleasant this time of the year. A cool breeze keeps ruffling the leaves… people have a slow pace of doing things; most things look still in time… the houses en route to home, the woman crouching in the hospital footsteps munching paan, the damaged cars that got stashed in a road corner some years back, and the tea-shop that just hasn’t changed its look since the 12 years I’ve seen it. The same people visit and eat the tasty ‘molaga bajjis’ and masala teas for all the years I’ve known. You see them being happy and chatting away to glory, and sun and rain doesn’t really matter. You don’t see any signs of the growth that you could otherwise see in more active parts of the city – where bungalows have doubled in size and number, and traffic jams have become the order of the day.

The opulent side is also where you could get to see irritated looking people chomping big packs of Salt and Pepper Lays Chips sitting inside the car and cursing traffic. I really am confused if all the growth and the so-called action are as good as has been infused into all of us over the years. Does all this capitalistic rat-race really mean anything? Would we have all been better off just taking it easy – the old-ish 8 hours, 5 day weekdays and weekend visits to the temples, pedaling along in an old cycle, and waiting for the only TV channel to show a melody number?

Maybe Governments should actually go the Bhutan way and measure the nation’s growth every year using a Gross National Happiness Index instead of the Gross National Product? Or are we going to be better off just cherishing the 9% growth story year-on-year and slowly but surely yield ourselves to the waistline-widening service sector? I know service sector doesn’t always mean widening-waistlines or lesser lifespan (if you take the Japanese example) but I guess the correlation is indisputable. Whatever the answer is, I’m positive equating an individual’s or nation’s success to material wealth/salaries etc is just about the dumbest thing anybody could do. Interestingly, countries with dominant service sectors rank pretty low in the Happy Planet Index.

P.S: I haven’t exactly become anti-capitalistic/anti-progress or anything, but let’s just consider this as one of those routine thoughts that just got accidentally recorded!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

When in doubt, pay back!

I shudder when I hear friends/colleagues talking about EMI that is more than 40-50% of their take home salaries, and for an extended duration - such as 5+ years. The assumption is that our salaries will keep flowing without interruption, but the risk seems enormous. What if one gets real sick and needs a 3/4 month sabbatical? What if you want to switch a job immediately and there's no second job in hand?

Here's an eye-opening incident that I came across - a man killed over an ICICI bank loan - for a mere Rs. 15,000 loan.
Y Yadaiah, 42, an electrician in the state medical and health department, had defaulted on a Rs 15,000 personal loan he had taken from ICICI Bank a few months ago.

Yadaiah had called her up sometime later, saying the recovery agents had detained him at their office. “He was told he would not be allowed to leave until he returned the money,” she said. Around 2 pm, Sunanda received a message from a hospital saying her husband had died.
It's common knowledge that banks use goons to recover the sum. Here's the version from the 'recovery' agents. I don't think there's a single person who's gonna believe this.
Elite Financial Services told the police that Yadaiah went into convulsions, fell on the floor and injured his forehead. It said Yadaiah was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him dead.
Here's more, and the evidence that ICICI was actually involved in it:
“Many debt-recovery outfits employ retired cops for their expertise in third-degree methods,” said a police official on condition of anonymity.

"We had demanded compensation of Rs 50 lakh but the ICICI Bank officials offered Rs 15 lakh. Whatever the amount, the readiness of the bank to pay implies its connivance in the sorry episode and that it is using goons to recover dues by hook and literally by crook"
The guy has apparently paid 8K out of 15, and the 7K costed him his life. Here's a huge bunch of issues faced by ICICI's customers. Guess I need to rethink about renewing the 'relationship' with them - it's one dark murky world, this entire banking thing.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Mika Brzezinski & the Media

If you are sick and tired of watching news that isn't supposed to be news, you're gonna love this.

Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC refused to cast the lead story about Paris Hilton when on air, and she even made an attempt to burn the script and shred the script papers - Live on air on a 7.00 am prime time news show. Why did she do that? The lead story about Paris Hilton's jail episode was forced on her by her superiors, and she thought it was too frivolous to be a lead story.

Read: I have a new hero and her name is Mika.

It's amazing that one among the media has stood up against all baloney and gossips elevated to news for want of TRP ratings. It's an ethical question alright - should media deal with real news or gossip - that people want to hear?

I personally hate Paris Hilton and everything revolving her since she doesn't deserve to be a serious celebrity that she is - And she is a celebrity just because she's a heiress of Hilton empire and because of a leak of her private sex video, both of which doesn't qualify a person to become a celebrity. She isn't even good looking, for heaven's sake!

You lead Mika! Make her the CEO of our masala (Times) group!