Apr 21, 2003
I usually don't think too much about coincidences, but there have been a few interesting ones in the last couple of days:
ekam: I was continuing to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K.Dick. On Sunday morning, a small and hastily arranged BC session had me incorrectly identifying this picture. More informed people will know that it is The Scream by Edvard Munch. Later in the evening, I read about the same in Do Androids... in vivid detail just a couple of pages ahead.
dwithiyaha: On Fri/Sat, a friend had started a thread on poetry, including one reference to The Bhagwad Gita in one of Tagore's last poems. This led to a discussion on The Gita itself. Monday morning, TOI's front page has this article on How the Gita influenced romantic poets.
They may be mere coincidences, but they've been bright sparks in the last couple of days.
Apr 19, 2003
Nikhil and I got invited to a farewell party, the two parties to which being the two classes we happened to teach at one point: hence a slightly paternal feeling (heck! we're only a couple of years elder to these guys). Having had the privilege to work with some rather intelligent people ,as a result of these interactions, we had gained a lot personally. That's why, at the risk of being two old peas in a young pod (Nikhil says this much better in Marathi), we landed up at the (for the Computers dept.) the most unlikely location for such an event: the terrace of the new E&TC dept. for an engaging evening.
Engaging because of the fact that unlike some other classes I knew, most of these guys got on pretty well with each other. There were the usual party games (though the games were not themselves common), the teasing-that-culminates-after-four-years, the reminiscing. Unusually for us, we were disinterested parties, and we had an objective (we thought) take on all that was happening.
Kept my winning streak at farewells (my own and others) intact with a game that as somebody remarked was pretty much graph traversal. Cautiously watched people asking questions to elicit "No" as the answer for another, but in a moment when I let slip my guard, Ankush slipped one through. Bummer! The final game did take the cake: will remember for a long time the sight of people trying their best not to bump into obstacles which weren't there in reality: an illuminating exercise in mindgames.
Thus we were allowed to partake of the goodies at the evening: the food ("is it good?"), the hospitality ("are you feeling bored"?) and the speeches ("and now for N & R"). The last succeeded a marathon personality dissection of each final year computers student by their own peers, an exercise that seemed all cathartic and laudatory and nostalgic. We even saw a couple of people for the first time, the only people to have the sanity to stay away from our classes! It was fun talking to our friends (for that's what they were, more than students) for ocassions like these seem to draw some deeper thoughts than would be normally possible.
Personally speaking, a couple of observations on moi were passed around: my seemingly sarcastic ways and apparent unapproachability. For the former, I plead guilty, for the BC-inspired training has induced a surivival instinct in the matter that doles out sarcasm at the touch of a button. To all those that may not have enjoyed those parts of my speech, I apologise, and reassure that it is not personal. As for unapproachability, well, it is a side-effect of being born shy: introvertedness lends a helping hand to what is often misconstrued as arrogance, seriousness or high-handedness. I don't know what it is, but I have observed this among others of my ilk: the stiffness of face that accompanies such behaviour is probably because we don't want to embarass ourselves and it stems from an inner thought-process that the extroverted will never comprehend.
Here's wishing the best in life to the B.E. folks: you deserve much of it. And to the T.E. folks: Time to check your termwork ;-)
"And in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night."
- Truman Burbank, The Truman Show
Apr 18, 2003
Apr 17, 2003
After a recent week of words from law, where many of the words are of French origin, I received this email from a reader:
"I propose you no longer feature words which have a base or stem from the French language. I no longer see that as a positive e-mail."
In these times when emotions run high, it's understandable why someone would say that, why US lawmakers would rename French fries and French toast in their cafeteria menus. Or why some German professors think they need to exclude English terms from their vocabulary.
This is not the first time linguistic revisionism is being attempted. During World War I, in the US, some had tried to rename sauerkraut as "liberty cabbage", for example. But we're all so interconnected, as are our languages, that any such attempt quickly falls flat on its face.
"Freedom fries" they say? Well, there's still some French remaining, as the word fry comes from Old French frire. "Freedom toast"? What about toast which comes from Middle French toster. Thinking along these lines, we may even have to rename the US (from Old French estat). Estimates vary, but at least one-quarter of words in the English language have a French influence. In the two lines that the above-mentioned reader sent us, at least six words have French connections (propose, feature, base, language, positive, mail).
A language isn't owned by a country. French belongs as much to Senegal or Canada or anyone else who speaks it as it does to France.
To celebrate the diversity of the English language, this week we'll look at five words that have come into English from five different languages.
-Anu ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
All I can say is: Way to go!
Apr 15, 2003
Let me say this loud and clear: I'm no swearing person. I don't toss expletives around like frisbees. I don't have to rinse my mouth with profanity-removing wash each night. Yeah, occasionally, I'd let slip something, but that would be considered so bland that even nuns wouldn't really mind. Not to say that I don't know the strong words, but to say that I reserve them, as befits them, for special occasions without diluting their filth.
And yesterday was one such glorious moment. I had to turn in a document, pseudo-HTML saved from Microsoft Word, probably from the Office 2000 family. Because I was working from home, with the ancient 97 MS-Word, I got into such an unparalleled mess with the formatting that the cuss-words came rushing out like bats from a cave trying to frighten the tyro explorer. And at one point Word announced it wanted to show me some hidden characters (which were so hidden that I couldn't see them in the source) and hence changed to some strange gibberish. I'm usually a patient person who believes that any feature in any software can usually be turned off or on: all you need to do is to find the right option or setting. Not this time. And so I sat back and cursed like a Marine released from maun-vrat. I could've landed lead roles in Four Weddings and a Funeral or atleast Platoon, such was the prolific nature of my output. I surprised myself to no end: having always doubted the presence of bad-ass fire in my stomach, this was an unlikely revelation. I spent two hours on the blasted document, needing to send the doc in time to get ready for class. I usually try and substitute the censorious euphemism "blip" but I learnt that on some days, it is best to get the f***ing words out in true expression of what one feels.
Apr 12, 2003
Apr 11, 2003
This was the first time he had set foot in a truly international airport of mega-proportions, and though he had hoped to remain blasé about whatever wonders the Western world had to throw at him, he was suitably impressed. Taking the shuttle coach to Terminal 2C, it seemed to him that the longwinded route eked out by the shuttle was an excuse by the Charles de Gaulle airport authority to show off its massive spread, but he was happy to drink in the large, purposefully-built facilities in the company of the steam-exhaling international traveller who was GOING SOMEWHERE IMPORTANT.
Having settled down in a bucket seat after the routine frisking, he opened his copy of Le Monde, intended to help him recollect his smattering of high-school French. He had gained a few valuable hours travelling ahead of the sun and he wanted to make good use of it of his short descent on French concrete-and-ceramic. A peek-in at Duty-Free, more window than actual shopping was plan B, in case he wanted to exercise his legs. Paris, more than any other city he had seen, seemed to be the epitome of the modern internationalism: with the multi-racial and multi-lingual audio-visual proofs endorsing CDG as a hub of cross-culture. The stereotypical Indian swarm seemed curiously absent, as he panned over the mass of heads filtering for the dark-haired and tan-skinned. It was the earrings that called his attention to her: the dangling kunjalams announcing not just nationality but also offering a narrowing-down in region.
She seemed pretty without sticking out in a crowd; that's what he made of the view from his seat two rows back, of course. Sometimes it was best to leave the notion of prettiness there, too often he had spoilt the sweet sense of imagination by gazing at faces. But he soon realized he wouldn't be disappointed with this sighting as it slowly dawned on him that he was seeing her again after 5 years.
Memories rushing back at him mimicking the frenzy of the last-minute boarders at a nearby terminal: of being paired in college group dances, of hot coffee and shared samosas, of scratching around for the perfect birthday gift. Of measured hope and sceptical aspirations. Of her expressive eyebrows and her quirky collection of jotter pens. She would be feeling rather cold in this air-conditioned airport suite, he realised, their friendship had made him privy to the everyday minutiae that comes from being together for periods just a fraction greater than the average casual acquaintance.
"Here of all the places!" he couldn't help repeating to himself as she smoothed her hair back in that familiar gesture of hers. After he had bid goodbye to her on her birthday with the heavy knowledge that the bonds of their (what do you call it?) relationship would probably not be sustained with the mere glue of an email from an overseas University. He, with his usual sense of un-impeccable timing, had not been able to talk about it. It could not be easily broached in the ephemeralness of an instant message, but the thought would tug away in the recesses of him mind, only to pop in ahead of him now, between him and two rows ahead.
Spontaneity was better in such situations, but having been denied that luxury, he had to decide in cold thought whether he should walk up to her (of course, he should: so what if they had been too busy to keep in contact?) and if pressed by the clock, to introduce without much prelude, the long-pending question? He took a deep, meditative breath: how badly did he want to talk about it? Would he rue the missed chance if she were to hear a call for her destination (god knows where to now) in the next ten minutes, while he ruminated over aspects and summoned his mental faculties? It was probably the setting: given the familiarity of a Puneri restaurant, he wouldn't have seemed so tied up, but that's what he imagined. It could even be easier, they would be paradoxically alone in this mass of suitcase-pulling, sleep-yearning, uninterested voyagers.
He stood up with an abrupt jerk, the Le Monde falling to the floor. Hopping past the legs of his Latin-American looking neighbour, he made his way to the aisle. And hesitated. Thinking of what he had to say, right from the exclamation of surprise to what he would ask about her present state of living. And then perhaps... His demeanour seemed to derive strength from this structure of thoughts and he stepped forward, trying to look nonchalant, and failing at it. As he got to her row, he saw her look in his direction: now there was no turning back from unfinished business.
(The opportunity to reflect on the motivations of a canine cop presents itself at the University Circle signal: a representative from the back of a police van ahead of me provokes the question)
Why does he do it? Does he understand the great service he is providing? Or is it pure training, a conditioning of his doggy mind achieved over months of instruction, followed by the meat-bowl? Surely, the timings of the job are not settled or pleasant, so say its human counterparts (not the kutte kameene of the human worlds, but the men suffixed in the police-* ). Nor is the potential criminal-customer-force likely to be appreciative of these working conditions. But does Zanjeer crib while being asked to perform mal-odoriferous tasks at airports at 1.00 a.m. or does he wag his tail to keep his pension benefits intact? If we knew more about what makes them tick and perform their job decently, perhaps we could get more of them to replace the disgruntled parts of the force, and learn how to civilize the savage 21st century working methods. And are they the least corruptible members of any squad, only likely to be derailed by the possible of the juicy bone? I read somewhere that the dog-handlers are encouraged not to get too close to their dogs, for no one knows in the dangerous business of law-and-order, who may fall next.
(The lights decide to switch to green: the van ahead speeds away)
Perhaps, he does it for the view from the back of the open van, with the perk of the air gushing through his collar on a hot sunny day.
It tugs at sanity and also reinforces sense. Sticking by me, conjoined as a twin.
Apr 9, 2003
The tagline for this one should have read:
They've lost their Home. You lose your Joy. (And Jug-dish is just me trying to be clever).
Savouring the pleasures of in-flight entertainment on the Paris-bound flight, I ran into this bland-as-befits-Continental-cuisine film debut-directed, some say, by the same man who made his acting debut in Saaransh though I refuse to believe that. This must have been Anupam Care-not.
The problems with Om Jai Jagdish is that neither is it a good film, but more sadly, nor is it a really bad, awful, despicable film. It just makes no sense at every level: It wants to be something but doesn't know how to apart from dressing like the target. It is so feeble that even passionate criticism is blunted into a sopoforic dismissal. Here are a few reasons to partake of the offerings from the Jug & dish:
- To see how Mahima Chaudhari can go from marrying a well-scrubbed Anil Kapoor (who no doubt buys licensed versions of Windows for his home PC - that nice a man) in frame 33 to playing with her 10(?) year old son in frame 35: the son probably was a wedding gift in frame 34 which I missed when I was reaching out for the orange juice.
- To indulge in Fardeen Khan's dream academic life: heavily subsidised, hence leading to the loss of the Home. Because he brings home foreign-bred bahu (Come in Urmila-jee) who prefers mineral over Municipality in water, he causes the rifts. They do have one enduring quality: They possess white-and-cream colour coordinated clothes just in time to participate in a family ballad.
- To see how one family seems to have run away with Akhand-Bharat's share of sincerety, software and automotible talents: Anil Kapoor forgot to remove the label of "righteous indignation", Baby B even makes an Ursula Andress-like appearance from the waves in his quest to "make a software better than Windows in 100 seconds", and Fardeen Khan's spanner is proof that he built the fastest car ever.
- In trying to lure the software-weaned-masses of the 21st century from Quake to the theatres, Baby-B essays a challenging (and encrypted) role, clanking at his keyboard to break into the college computer to retrieve question papers for his friends (a file named Question-Papers-for-tomorrow's-exam just to help them, of course) and setting up a webcam to show mankind what progress was all about, ultimately resulting in the greatest piece of code in the history of mankind: Om, the eponymously titled intrusion-detection program that succeeds in retrieving the Home directory from venal villains. I was sobbing into my kerchief: QA apparently couldn't find a single bug in it and was hence laid off, a poignant reminder of what Indian software talent can do, especially in 100 seconds.
I can go on singing these odes, but will refrain out of a sense of respect for Waheeda Rehman (did she need the money?). Tara Sharma reportedly used up a lot of sun-lotion and didn't know whether she misplaced her hanky or costume. Urmila Matondkar was the only one, according to me, to get it right: her whiney, stereotypical-I-forgot-how-to-sing-Om-J-J-unlike-Rani-Mukherjee atleast made you want to switch to something else. The rest just induced a strange stupor.
Post-script: Considering that the return journey featured Chor Machaye Shor, OJJ was a stirring example of all that is right with the Hindi Film industry. And last I heard, the Universities of Maharashtra had agreed to include this film in the essential subjects of the computer engineering curriculum.
This addition joins my Quote Hanger (on the right sidebar).
Essentially a case of some warm air meeting something cold air, but for me it was usually "very hot meeting normal" against his "lukewarm meeting cold".
Apr 5, 2003
Since NDTV's contract to provide content for Star News ended on the 31st of March, major developments are starting to happen in the world of the Indian news channels.
NDTV finally cashes in on its extremely valued brandname, with 2 new channels in Hindi & English. More information from this message directly from the horse's mouth i.e Prannoy Roy speaks (seems we'll be seeing more of him in front of the camera again). The big news in that announcement is the return of the extremely popular The World This Week which introduced quality news programming into our lives (even on Doordarshan) on Friday nights. What's not clear to me is when the channels come on air.
Meanwhile, the post-NDTV Star News has a modified logo with the "News" in the logo written in Devanagari and new anchors (some lured away from rival Hindi news channels), in keeping with its almost 100% Hindi broadcasts.
Also, very quietly and lost in all of this, Sahara has launched a news channel of its own (which can be spotted in the inevitable channel surf spray).
Apr 3, 2003
Indira is placed in the rural village setting, more accurately the inter-caste, inter-family ridden-with-strife atmosphere that is unfamiliar to urban-types like me. A more famous and dramatic example of a Tamil film in such a milieu would be Bharathan's Thevar Magan of course. In short, veshtis and aruvals and people rushing through green rice fields dominate the screenplay's more intense moments. Indira features similar components to the frame, but its novelty is about how a woman is thrown into such a traditionally male dominated and usually intimidating setting. The story is optimistic and the denouement is comforting, good and bad are clearly identified, and the movie-experience is very satisfying. If I remember correctly, Santosh Sivan is the cinematographer (In the usual Mani Ratnam crew of that time, only the word "Suhasini" seems prefixed additionally to the Director's name, and rarely has any director, leave alone a lady director, had such ample resources to support her in her debut) and his sweeps over the fields are of an assured quality. The score is one of the best of Rahman's career; a folksy, offbeat set of songs with the standout Nila that gave Harini her first big hit. The cast is very impressive, the ensemble providing excellent company to the lead actress; Nasser, Arvind Swamy, Radha Ravi et al deliver. The eponymous actress was quite a talented find: Anuradha Hassan (a niece of Suhasini's though I still don't know the exact familial connection) performs in a standout performance in what seems to be her debut. Where she disappeared after that, I don't know, but she recently re-appeared in a TV serial made by surprise, surprise, Suhasini. In fact, having watched this, I wondered why many of these naturally talented people don't give us more to cheer these days: where are Arvind Swamy, Anu Hassan and the director Suhasini these days?
Unfortunately, films like Indira will not go down in cinematic history: neither fame nor notoriety will highlight its name in a cinematic encyclopaedia. One more example of the many better-than-average films that won't get seen by too many outside its small region of exhibition. Though it was dubbed into Priyanka for Hindi audiences (a trend of the mid-90s started by Mani Ratnam), there was no way it could do well in a mass release elsewhere: the localized settings would not make into the heads of the populace. But atleast the viewer that can overcome the language barrier and is willing to stretch a little to watch a good film would not be disappointed with Indira.
This has been commented upon in the past and thrashed out at length in different fora, but I felt compelled to talk about it again. (Almost?) Every A.R.Rahman music score seems to have a song in which the lyrics have two repetitions of the first word or principal refrain. The number and consistency of such occurences is quite startling. By way of examples: Chinna Chinna Aasai, Rukmani Rukmani: Roja, Ghanana Ghanana: Lagaan, Humma Humma, Uyire Uyire: Bombay, Tanha Tanha: Rangeela...: the list is large in number.
I wouldn't know if this is a conscious decision between the lyricists working with this music director, or it is an unconscious expression of what works in the world of popular film music. Is it a spillover of the ad jingle making instincts? Does it contribute to a certain degree of lyrical dumbing down that puts forward catchy, syllable repetitions and alliterations? It does not always indicate dumbing down of course, for I wouldn't consider Thamizha Thamizha (Roja) or Kandukondain Kandukondain to have poor quality lyrics. But it is an interesting aspect to the composer's body of work over a decade that does merit thought.
--Translated from Tamil
Another appealing simile.
Life is now 180 degrees out of phase.
"Look! There's Ursa Major!" is more of a reality than "It's 37 degrees C today too".
Venus stands transfixed in the morning sky than the Sun glaring into my eyes.
Breaking News happens somewhere in Chicago rather than on a cricket field in Nagpur.
Married to the thought of sweet, uninterrupted sleep.
Counting down to 6.00 a.m...
Coffee at 3.00, 12 hours behind schedule, with the perfect,uninterrupted view of the empty roads.
Caffeine is a delusional attempt at keeping Morpheus at arm's length.
Toothpaste on the brush, twice, at 8 and at 4 like some special news bulletins.
Thursday feeling like Wednesday.
Human contact reduced by 67%.
Staying up all morning to watch a vaunted movie!
Homer at 3.30, Frasier at 5.00, Jerry at 6.30!
Food, like a struggler in entertainment, does not know when it's on next.
No sense of martyrdom or challenge, just conscious of a quiet survival instinct that doesn't know if it is overdoing its bravado or making too much out of an inconvenience.
Apr 1, 2003
That's what happens when I go to a new place and find bookstores all around me: garrisons of summoning books, "come-here-to-me" enticers in Dawson Street & O'Connell Street with Eason's & Reads (not as ubiquitous as Burger King outlets, but more than in your average city): The books were not very cheap, but a strange surge of shopping mania swept me and I found myself holding books and wanting to buy so many of them: I would have never dared to contemplate spending so much in normal circumstances. Since, I told myself, I wasn't going home with any Irish-chaap clothes or Japanese electronic goods, might as well splurge on books. After the first binge, I had tasted the sweetly addictive sense of piling up books. At some point, I decided to break free of this very scary mercantile obsession: never having been a "shopping type", the strange gravitation to a store to browse and purchase was novel and even exciting!
But in summary, here's all the stuff I got. I bought them for various reasons: of non-availability back home, of smelling a good bargain (one of the days was World Book Day providing a discount opportunity, also note that "bargain" may not, translated into rupees, seem the right word), of old favourites in a flea market sale and plain "I've got the money, let me buy the book" arrogance.
The books were:
The Satanic Verses: Salman Rushdie
The Hannibal Lecter trilogy: Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal: Thomas Harris
Fermat's Last Theorem: Simon Singh
Six Easy Pieces: Richard Feynman
The Salmon of Doubt: Douglas Adams
The Blind Watchmaker: Richard Dawkins
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Daniel C. Dennett
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Philip K.Dick
Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall: Spike Milligan
Stanley Kubrick: A Biography: John Baxter
and two more chota-mota books.
But the find of the trip, though not a book, was undoubtedly the Radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Fit One to Fit Six. I didn't get Phantom's in the Brain inspite of some frantic hunting, but will probably need to order it. The only problem is: when will I read all these books...