Feb 28, 2003

Nothing to do with the budget, but with the workings of the mind of an Indian abroad. I've heard it said that when we Indians go vidhesh, we tend to convert every monetary price into the Rupee equivalent. Usually, the dollar/euro rate is much in demand, as gharwaale are stupefied by the fact that you might have to pay 50 rupees for a burger or so.
I'm worried my Indian-ness is in question, as I have not tried to convert money back into the Rupee at every price tag that came my way. Instead, I apply conversions for time.

I don't know why, but I keep converting into IST. Come to office at 8.30 GMT, and I instantly convert to 2.00 pm IST and wonder "The folks at work must have just come back from their after-dinner walk.". Get up at six in the morning to think "my parents would watching such-and-such programme". 12.30 here on Wednesday had me biting my nails as to who won the toss, Ganguly would know whether he was a lucky man. I keep doing it. Right now, seeing a mail from a colleague made me shoot a reply his way: "What are you doing so late! Go home...". While I plod home in the persistent pitter-patter that is Dublin's contribution to the inches of rainfall (quite like Pune), I know people back home will be in zzz-land. Most of them at any rate.

I'm mindful of the fact that I've been credited five and a half hours of time but would gladly lose the same when faced with the turn to board the swades-bound flight. Home is where the heart is, but my sense of time is strictly GMT + 5.30.

Feb 25, 2003

No cops on the streets (so far!), motorists who obey traffic rules, at night, shops (all having glass windows) are locked up & completely lit up showing what's inside, no water in the hotel rooms: like obelix might say, tapping his forehead, these Irish are crazy...

Feb 24, 2003

Dublin,Ireland is cold (but not too much: 10 deg C), not crowded even on sundays, not very cosmopolitan, not too many young people, wrapped up in woollens, lotsa pubs and to-let signs. Very unchanging in architecture, doors of different colours, cobbled streets.

Feb 20, 2003

Anbé Sivam is Kamalhassan's latest offering and also stars Madhavan. The story is supposed to be quite interesting. For the first time, local multiplex Inox will be screening a regional film (at reasonable rates too!). That's the aforementioned film. From next week. And I will not be there. Damn.
Iyer to Eire

In a couple of days time, I'll be taking a flight out with the ultimate destination of Dublin, Ireland. Ireland isn't the traditional venue for software engineers, but I will be heading there anyway. Things have changed around, but the travelling monkey hasn't really got off my back. I'm never too enthused about travelling in general, but in the last 8 months, I've travelled to 6 cities and now this. For a lot of software types, going abroad is a huge incentive and they expect a visit soon in their short professional careers. That, sadly, doesn't apply in my case: I can always find a few things to worry about and get upset that it spoils whatever plans I've been making for the next two months. It has never mattered to me that I've not gone abroad unlike many others.

The litany of woes (okay, I'm being unnecessarily miserable and fussy, but that's who I am: I prefer the smaller pleasures of daily life rather than the grand ocassions) includes my apprehensions about the climate. It is likely to be extremely cold right now and my long, chequered career with sniffles is likely to be faced with its most challenging phase. That really worries me and I don't know how I'll cope with that. Food isn't that big a worry, I'm not a fussy eater and will hopefully manage. I can only hope there will be some channel that shows the cricket World Cup, otherwise it will be Rugby for me. Three weeks means that, inshallah, I will be back by the semis & final. Will be missing my classes at COEP (Nikhil has a bigger burden), my quizzing, especially Chakravyuh (I desperately wanted to try and win this time) and the this and that of daily life that still keeps me sane. Hopefully will get the opportunity to blog.

Plan to carry The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich so that in the absence of any competing literature, I should be able to complete it. Will also carry the first 4 parts of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in case I need some light and reliable fare. I should probably take Ulysses or Dubliners to make it all very appropriate, but I want to read for fun not for display.

Am trying to think of all the things I need to take to keep me feeling fine. Am sure to miss a few, but let's see. Seeing that it took a series of extremely well-timed coincidences to set me on this trip, I'll wait for some more of the same.

Feb 18, 2003

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Metamagical Themas, Algorithmics: The Spirit of Computing, Understanding Directory Services, Good for a laugh: Bennet Cerf: too much round-robin may not be a good idea.
My project has changed, the building in which I sit has changed and as a result lots of other things have changed. I've got to work on Windows now instead of Linux, which housed me for the last couple of years. In honour of this quantum leap, I have had to restart my machine at work for quite a few times already. I feel I have mastered the biggest troubleshooting tool of the Windows life.
My first acquaintance with the idyllic world happened when I was about 10 and feeling, not unusually, bored. Venue this time was in the Bangalore house of my aunt where I was spending the vacation. When asked for something to read, my uncle said he had a lot of those books. Until then, I had never read any of those, and I never minded taking a chance. So I did. I don't remember which one it was, but I didn't quite like it. Probably it was the language, too incomprehensible then. Maybe I didn't quite get the large dollops of slang. I didn't progress beyond a few pages and that was it.

If I had allowed that first impression to linger later in life, it would pretty much have been a big mistake.

I don't know how (this happened many a time: my discovery of Desmond Bagley is in a similar category), but somehow I had a couple of those books myself. I was pretty lucky to have lots of cousins who read a great deal and didn't mind passing on their collections to the younger ones who liked to do so too. A large number of books thus came my way, and probably these ones came through that route too. The back cover featured an actor called Ian Carmichael with a large monocle, and one word leapt out of the description of the book Imbroglio. I read with an open mind, and by the time I had closed The Code of the Woosters, I guess I was part of the legion of fans that loved Pelham Grenville Wodehouse.

The other book I had was completely different from the British aristocracy settings that infest (in a nice way, of course) the Blandings or Wooster stories, and nor do is it like the middle-class musings of the Mulliners or Ukridge or Psmith. Set in Greenwich Village, New York, it reflects, in my opinion, the life that Wodehouse led during his successful stay in America while creating musicals, and contains delicate pokes at the then prevalent Prohibition policy among others. The Small Bachelor is very funny, and those fans who complain about a certain fundamental similarity in the plots of some of the other Wodehouse stories will enjoy the zara hatke setting and American slang. Watch out for Mr. Hamilton Beamish in it!

I haven't read enough Wodehouse yet and there's a lot of books that I hope to read in the future. I think I've managed to touch the various flavours of the plots, including some of the Golfing stories of which The Clicking of Cuthbert will be a personal favourite for years to come. I'm not going to say anything about Wodehouse in terms of what a genius he was at his art, because Evelyn Waugh said all that needs to be said ages ago. What interests me is that Wodehouse wasn't apparently the kind that went through a lot of trauma to produce his output, and in a foreword to one of the Wooster stories, he describes how easily it flowed out, probably like treacle from a jar.

Let me pause here to ask one question that I absolutely love and is the kind of question that gives quizzing a good name:

What sauce provides the colour in the special "pick-me-up" drink of Jeeves, valet to Bertie Wooster in the P.G.Wodehouse stories?

Answer: Worcestershire sauce. Now, I spent a lot of time in life not knowing how to pronounce "Worcestershire". Thanks to Wodehouse, I know it is "Woostershire". Those were also the days when I called "Colonel" like it was spelt, Col-O-nel, but we digress.

All this Wodehouse-talk was sparked off by an event at the local British Library which promised a presentation (note this carefully, it acquired greater significance later in the evening), a quiz and most importantly from my view, a screening of some episode of a TV series based on Jeeves & Wooster. Presumably this was from the same series starring Hugh Laurie as the bemused Bertie and Stephen Fry as the dignified Jeeves. Having loved their exploits in Blackadder, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of their act one day.
The "presentation" was underway by the time I got to the venue, with some stuff about Wodehouse's collaborators like the illustrator Ionicus and some basic stuff about some of the characters. It did dwell on Wodehouse's Berlin internment which was a controversial period in his life; his speeches & broadcasts were not well received in a Britain where the war's misery had supplanted the traditional English humour leaving it without a place to call home. The "facilitator" of the BCL evening was a seemingly dapper young man (who shall remain unnamed but will be abbreviated as HMC). The quiz had 10 questions and about 5 people cracked it to make it to the final. Then the fun began (as it usually does in quizzes done by people who haven't really quizzed before, a fair assumption to make considering HMC's attitude).
I may be biased against the slick HMC, but his habit of announcing one minute breaks after every round (of 5 questions) to "let the participants get their breath back" was getting a bit on everyone's nerves. It lead me to another paraphrased observation, using the bit about every unhappy family being unhappy in its own way. Every good quiz is probably like every other good quiz, but every bad quiz is usually bad in its own way. Which is good for those who fall off their chairs in laughter, and prevents quizzing from becoming too serious. HMC brought some of the common irritants to the party: passing with the 10/5 system, mixing very easy questions with incredibly tough ones while continuing to exhort all to keep trying even if the question was the "either-you-know-it-or-you-don't" kind and not giving out answers, especially for the elims. But he also had his own unique quirk: after almost every question, he would say with childish glee: "It was there in the presentation". Oh shoot! The syllabus was being paraded all the time. That probably explains my peeves: I didn't try memorising the slides. And if I was a pal of HMC, I might correct him of his notion that you can spell "junior" as "Juniour" everywhere, but on the evidence presented so far, I am not likely to be his pal. The mandatory fox paws came about with HMC (I still can't believe I heard this) saying: "... Yes, fish is good for the brain, especially for the red blood corpuscles...". He was quick to correct it to "grey cells", but I am prepared to swear I heard him say RBCs instead of GCs. Too much...
I signed a muster that I thought merely stood for what we call presentii, but it turned out to be a call up for a Wodehouse club: the supposed aims being to indulge in readings and screenings. When the proposition also included the performance of plays and the fact that HMC was the likely Prometheus who would lead the charge, I started to feel a little uneasy. But the last straw came from the fact that there was no screening that day! There was no explanation offered too, with HMC (having gracefully accepted a presentation from the BCL chaps, no doubt for his "presentation") announcing a huddle for the prospective club members in one corner and that the others could leave summarily, for it was all over. Like the 2003 Verve quiz, there was a veil of secrecy surrounding the events. Though I had been tricked into parting with my phone number on the muster, I took to my heels promptly before I could be marked down for a future "Gussie Fink-Nottle a.k.a Mephistopheles at the party" role.

Though my contribution to the popularisation of the Wodehouse canon seems to be rather circumscribed right now, I promise to atleast acquaint myself with the ones that I haven't had the pleasure of reading. The same about my Pu La mp3s. I don't know if a morning listening to the mp3s and an evening of Wodehouse would leave my funny bones exhausted, but it is a happy thought. I've always felt a twinge of envy for the characters in Wodehouse stories, especially people like Bertie Wooster, the Hon. Galahad Threepwood and Anatole: their lives are not threatened by the dire side of life, and they can be as cool as some cucumbers as Anatole would say. An enviable life with them rolling in the money and having faithfuls like Jeeves bailing them out when it gets hot under the collar. And the best life of them all? Without a doubt, that of the Empress of Blandings. All it takes the royal sow to be contented is a trough full of the best pig-food and her favourite keeper going Pig-hoooo-eey!. Sheer bliss...

The reassuring thing about most Wodehouse stories is that the ending is pretty predictable. So the fun is in seeing how the characters, or rather how Wodehouse extricates them from the mess in which he gets them in the early parts of the story. Much like an exciting sporting match in which the awful beginning and the then unlikely spectacular end are known. The journey of joining the dots between those two points is as fascinating as the conclusion. The service of such men to mankind is immeasurable.

"When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take - choose the bolder."
William Joseph Slim

Feb 14, 2003

Why do we have to kow-tow? Even when we are not at the receiving end.

After finishing the final exams of my 7th standard in Madras, I attended a summer camp for about 4 weeks, a move ostensibly to prevent my chronic boredom. All the other kids were about the same age, and soon the main attraction became football, so much so that we even had coaching on it. The camp had a couple of foreign kids, definitely Nordic, most probably Danish. Brothers they were, with the elder in my age-group, and both were quite athletic befitting the European physical stereotype. The elder played great football, and the rest of us, who just enjoyed kicking the ball around and screaming when we got anywhere near goal were quite awed by his rather physical and intense game, not something we were used to. Just being blond will turn heads and attract attention in India, and the kids were no different. I soon realized one thing: many of the other kids would put on an accent while speaking to him, probably so that the Dane would understand them. I don't think they were trying on a Western accent or were aping that alient intonation, but I genuinely think they were trying to speak in his way. It might be a manifestation of our much touted athithi devo bhava concept, but frankly I didn't agree much. Some of us would continue to speak to him like we normally did with each other, in fact exaggerate our Indian accents; why should we care if he could understand us with difficulty or not. I wasn't going out of my way or changing my speech to make him feel better. I reasoned he could jolly well make the effort to understand us instead of the other way round. Why should we change ourselves artificially just to accomodate some other guy? (Mind you, this kid was brash, rich, prone to acting tough and so on, and didn't deserve any special attention: he was just an oddity there, but the kind we seem to fawn over.)

I don't know if this constitutes pop-patriotism or silly jingoism, but it just seems the right thing to do. If you go to any decent nation, the onus is on you to behave the way their people do, and you make all the adjustments necessary. But, dislike as I do that thought, somehow, it seems borne out of observations that many of us behave in servile manners when confronted with Westerners in India. One may argue that most Westerners are clients for the Indians that deal with them and so it is worthwhile for us to make the changes. But how do kids (as in my experience) learn to behave in such a way? Is it ingrained in them to do so or do they pick it up from the elders around them?

When one joins software firms that deal with Western customers, one is instructed while using email communication to make hajaar spellchecks, ensure the tone is friendly yet businesslike, informal though not casual and so on, to make sure one doesn't offend the other person. When one receives a mail from the other side of the seven seas, one finds that those chaps write in the manner that would send Grammar teachers rushing to send their resignations. Not to say that we should be as lax as them, but why should we exercise such extreme care and try to present ourselves as highly pativrata wives from soap operas, who take a lot of nonsense from many?

I got into a session the other day where the speaker was instructing many with the intricacies of American slang versus their British equivalents. I'm not sure that is very high priority for Indians right now or what message that sends out, but it seems just the kind of things we seem to do. Learning English is fine, but putting on fake accents is a bit too much, and saying faucet is not really required.

Can this not be an aspect of national pride, where one doesn't give up one's daily manner in a vain attempt to impress a firang ? Why talk of grandiose plans to revive national honour when there are so many leaks among us? Or am I being simply impractical? Whatever be the case, I would hope I will be able to stick on to saying "schedule" instead of "skedule" and not drawl over a "sem-eye" final. I've never lived among foreigners, so I don't know if there is a sub-conscious impact to alter the accent, but I always try to notice changes in that direction among friends and relatives who've been abroad a considerable length of time, to see if they've changed in that respect. I somehow seem to have a little more pride in the ones that have held on to their little Indian accents, retaining whatever regional twists they had before. I don't know if it is tough, but their example seems to suggest it can be done. The analysis, from aye to zee? :-)

Feb 13, 2003

If great artistry in poetry, literature, painting et al is borne out of some amounts of suffering, well I may create a artistic masterpiece someday!

If my blog did not revolve around me, who would it revolve around?

Jonathan Neil Rhodes deserves a lot more luck than he's getting right now. The news is that he goes out for three weeks. South Africa lost probably their only flair player (it is debatable of course, but according to me he is).
One must learn to say "NO" effectively. The "NO" feeling usually springs out of the recesses of one's spirit, a nagging gut feeling that something somewhere is not quite right for one. One must be able to draw that feeling out and understand it in its entirety, so that it can be articulated and expressed, often in defence of one's stand. This can help one avoid the pitfalls later, an unpleasant situation needs to be nipped in the bud. Of course, it takes courage to say the N-word, but for that, one needs to convince oneself. Having done that and the reason being worthy of holding onto, one needs to stick to it. One will get challenged hugely by the tools of coercion, emotion, threat, sympathy and so on, but one needs to be steadfast in the stand. At least, extract the pound of flesh if possible. The repercussions will be a factor of course, but having calculated them, one needs to stick to the decision come what may. Difficult of course, but indecision is worse. Take the left or right handed paths at the fork, don't stand there wondering.
If discontent and frustration and depression were an energy source, we might have solved the world's energy crisis!
The Others starring Nicole Kidman as the only well-known face but backed up with an excellent supporting cast, especially the two children is a spook story with a fine twist at the end. Quite impressive story, the mandatory dark and dreary settings supplied with a decent explanation, and a quite taut script I thought. An example for movie makers, it doesn't have any digressions and is quite riveting.

Feb 11, 2003

Some people seem to have a lot of time. I, on the other hand, don't seem to have much time. I base my inferences of the former on the fact that I see many of these time-rich people lounging about, chatting inanely and even giggling while I trot about from meeting to meeting, squashing bugs all around and with not too many moments to, as the poet said, to stand and stare.

Of course, I have some spare time. Curiously, it is just about sufficient to spend in lamenting over the time that I think I do not have (SOS to Douglas Hofstadter to help me get out of that self-referential eddy). Of course, if instead of lamenting the fact I do not have any time (I should qualify it as spare or free time instead of plain vanilla "time") and thus using up all my spare time in it, I had spent it lounging about, chatting inanely and even giggling, I might have considered that I had indeed a decent amount of free time.

Having spent most of my free time in yearning for more, I wonder what I would do if I indeed had more free time. Parkinson and his contribution to the workplace spring to mind to assure me that I would probably not be faced by that practical problem, but in the theoretical realm, it serves as a knotty riddle. It seems that each moment that I spend in thought of unravelling it and in recording those thoughts, each keystroke that produces all these alphabets that made up these paragraphs and the ones to follow and the 'o' in this one... and the one in the next occurence of 'one' (if you get my drift) seems to fill out my spare time, thus further deepening my great envy and glacial emotions towards those who I see lounging about, chatting inanely and even giggling.

So many people see great virtue in depriving themselves of sleep in order to extend the waking hours (not time, as we all know that is a fixed resource) and the associated free time. A Robin Hood like gesture it may seem to them, stealing from sleep which can in concept do with less of it and give it to the that part of the 24 hours that keeps the eyelids open. I disagree. I don't oversleep, but I do like my 8 hours. I don't like to think that I may lose my daily ration, nor do I, if I can help it, take a loan from the eight units, even in the face of the next day's exam. Humans would've benefited if they could retain a sense of time even while sleeping, so that it seems like an essential activity (which it is, but like the backstage technician, doesn't recieve its due and is considered dispensable with the inevitable results) that deserves its fair share of planning and allocation (in manager-ese). "When can you submit this code? I'd like it to be done by tomorrow morning." "Can't. I have some work this night. I have to sleep for 8 hours and I'll mention it in the project plan." When that sort of explanation will start to be accepted would we be a more congenial and accomodative civilization.

Sleep tight!

One aspect that seems to have escaped Dr. Ali Bacher's efforts to present the 2003 World Cup in a favourable and multidimensional light are the rather dull and boring team uniforms doled out to the cricketers. The team colours and patterns resemble the usual uniform sets that teams wear round the year, thus denying this World Cup to visually stand out and be differentiated. If one were to catch a glimpse from any match years later, one would not be able to immediately identify it as a match from this Cup, unlike from the earlier Cups (since coloured clothing was introduced from '92). I quite liked the outfits of the '99 Cup. The designers of the 2003 WC don't seem to have any new patterns in mind, going for the mundane designs. The colours of Pakistan & Bangladesh, Canada & Zimbabwe seem all too similar and so on. Not a Cup to remember if you're sartorially inclined.
Harish had the funda that the World Cup is likely to be the swansong for many a champion cricketer, which may see them provide a sensational performance. And 3 days into it is proving him to be a semi-prescient being: Lara, Jayasuriya and now the great Wasim. Warne may not but who knows what more is in store in this already spell-binding Cup?

Feb 10, 2003

Let's face it: some people can't teach. It's not much of a skill that you can keep practise in the vain hope that it will dawn upon one. No amount of instructing from under the Bodhi tree will light the bulbs behind one's head if one doesn't have some amount of inherent ability. Of course, communication can be improved but the ability to empathise with one's audience, to percieve their moods, to be strict & flexible, to know what one is doing is not so easy to imbibe.

One should probably keep the book & pen ready for such contingencies. You may run the risk of being called a "schol" by your unappreciative classmates/co-inmates, but at least you will have something to do while seemingly making notes. You will find your sketching, poetic, orthographical skills improve. Even your ability to keep the straight face while guffawing behing those set jaws. I remember writing a few poems in Systems Programming classes (the ones I attended, not the ones I take ;-) ) and composing an alternative quiz in Multimedia Techniques. More of those and I'd have been able to take a better career decision.

Ishtori: (My cousin swears he did this)
My cousin is a Ph.D in Dentistry, something that doesn't happen everyday apparently. As a working student, he had to take a class some day. It had the usual compliment(sic) of sleeping students. At the end of this lecture, he apparently woke Rip V. W. and thanked him for not snoring and hence disturbing the others who were soundly off to the land of nod-nod.

Not as bad as the story in which there was one guy who dozed off in the middle of the lecture... which he himself was conducting. Kuch bhi kya!

I got out of work at 6.30 p.m. today. On a weekday. The world seems completely different. And alien. A sense of bewildered wonderment fills me. All I'm used to is the streetlights while going back home shining specks on traffic snarls below. Finding that people can find their way back home with natural light during weekdays is a re-discovery I make. A colleague mentioned how strange it seemed when he left at 8.00 p.m. a couple of months ago after we had spent the earlier weeks in the midst of some strange deadlines that meant we would leave in the wee hours. Spending time, nay doing time in closed confines induces surroundings that are beyond the chronological sense: it seems the same all the time, as long as you are inside.

Kashii hii avastha aaplii!

I've noticed that sometimes I, as do many others, use a great deal of adjectives & epithets very flippantly and loosely, at the drop of every hat and helmet. "Amazing!" or "brilliant" or "fantastic" when all it was catering to was the need to express an exclamation or to say "that was nice" or "quite interesting, haven't seen that before". It wouldn't have caused amazement or didn't shine in any exceptional manner or wasn't out of a fantasy, but I did call them that. What to do if something really outstanding happened? Would need to expand the lexicon to describe that. Need to be more careful in description and composition in future!

Feb 6, 2003

India is going to do rather well at the World Cup. I've just received an indication of that. Or maybe I need a trip to the Total Perspective Vortex.

(Pardon the cryptic messages, but I absolutely need to output all this somewhere.)

loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not. loves me, loves me not.

Sometimes I feel God can't decide. is this all for my good?

Feb 4, 2003

Back to BCJ (with a difference this time)

The General B.C.Joshi quiz or BCJ, as it is more popularly known,is back (though the organizers have been most uncharacteristically lax in publicising that fact yet). One of the top quizzes in Pune, IMHO, it was pretty much the best organized quiz around, though I would say that that crown was probably wrested by Chakravyuh last year. But the first 4 editions were great successes, creating a fount of goodwill that the present organizers can bank on.

BCJ is essentially a tribute to the man instrumental in setting up the Army Institute of Technology, an engineering college in which are enrolled children of armymen from all over India. General B.C.Joshi also was the first Chief of Army Staff to die in harness, and the quiz has been an excellent memory to his honoured name. The first edition began in 1998, in my First Year, and enjoyed a fair amount of participation despite what is AIT's greatest obstacle: their distance from the city. But the excellent organizational skills resulted in them providing transportation to the venue. Though sometimes the transportation did not extend to the reverse journey, it soon became quite apparent that it would be worth the bus/motorbike/van ride back.

They obviously had a lot of juniors in hostels at their disposal, who were put to work in various hospitality departments: the welcome, registration, paper distribution, even filling in empty seats if required! And they're still the only quiz that gives good refreshments, albeit only for the finalists!

BCJ's USP was the three-member team, all other quizzes here are usually for two members. Sadly, they've had to refrain from that since last year, which is quite a shame, but the declining numbers have forced that move. BCJ were also the first to introduce (at least in the local circuit) the use of computers to present the questions, in their inaugural year. They also heralded Owl-in-the-Bowl, a solo quizzing contest, that still continues to be an important sideshow to the main quiz.

Anand, Swap & Pandit from BVP won the inaugural year; Sujay & me made it to the final despite no third partner, and ended up 5th I think. The second year ended better with Sujay, Kunal & me (the three-member concept can help come up with new teams!) ending 2nd behind AFMC. George, Jitu & Salil came in third after us, putting a lot of COEP names on certificates. But that year's quiz was almost hijacked by events in Chennai where Sachin was threatening to pull it off against the Pakistanis despite all his back troubles. George boasted of a pager then, which would broadcast scores, and because of his complete apathy towards the game, we 5 (incidentally all us COEPians were sitting adjacent) were more worried about getting him to tell us the ever-intriguing score. Year 3 and the rules were modified to enable corporates,in particular, one person to qualify. George was no longer under the "student" column and now could get in with a team from Pspl. Whatever hopes Sujay, Salil & I harboured of winning against a seemingly weakened George & co. were put to rest when an unknown entity combined with George to pluck some unbelievable answers from nowhere. That unknown entity was Amit Gardé and Pspl won. Although they beat us by the smallest margin, the manner in which they did so was stunning. The fourth year turned out to be the ones in which we would stop being bridesmaids, in what would have been one of the toughest teams to turn out for BCJ (insert IMHOs here): Sujay, Harish & me. Unfortunately, a schedule mixup meant very little audience and an unnecessary (and painful) drama-cum-musical non-extravaganza. Swap, in his final year like us, made a last ditch effort worthy of his inagural champion status, but it proved a tad short. Harish became the first quizzer on the Pune circuit (since I've known it) to retain a quiz title, teaming up with Sammy (who won on home turf) in the first quiz in the new 2 member format last year. Just reiterating that it is a quiz worth the distance even if one wasn't participating: I did that last time, so I can say that.

A lot of credit must go to the AIT quizzers who conducted BCJ: in particular, Akshay Johar, The Big Four (Kapil Dahiya, Navneet Bal, Srikant Chander & Samrat Sengupta), Nikhil Lasrado and the new guard: Nitin Nair, Roshan et al. (Pardon if've left out anyone). They always strived to do the BCJ quiz in a manner befitting the occasion, and despite a few hiccups, have usually `managed to put up a good show. Here's to hoping this will carry on.

The General B.C.Joshi quiz will be conducted on the 9th of February at the Persistent Systems premises. The Owl-in-the-Bowl quiz is a part of the events this year too. Teams of two members. And I'm sure, good prizes as usual.

Feb 3, 2003

World Cup vignettes from The Guardian

*A ready (and lighthearted) reckoner to the elite panel of ICC umpires : here

*Old Mother Cricket is charged for sabotage

Feb 2, 2003

I like Aamir Khan's performances (I'm not a gushing fan, but I have come to expect a certain standard from him), so the following is just aimed to be a small criticism, not an accusation. Just thinking about the different (and acclaimed) performances he has given over the last few years, I felt the basic personality of the characters he was playing in them was pretty identical. Add to these, the different ad-spots he does for Coca Cola, which seem an extension of the same personality. I can grant him that maybe he has not received the roles that would defeat my criticisms, but I'm just basing this on the majority of the roles he has done so far. I may not be able to explain the crux of my argument well, the blame is entirely mine.

I have not watched Raja Hindustani, which I don't plan to unless I have to watch a double bill of that and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun?, if you get my drift. Nor have I watched Raakh, which I hopefully will some day.

The kind of characterization that Aamir Khan has had in many of his roles usually have him as the pro-active protagonist, not one who is introspective or brooding or reactive to situations. He usually is a smart-alec or atleast one who has the ripostes in the film. His character is usually overbearing, over others in the film. Even in his one role that had dark shades (1947-Earth), the role fits in more or less with the above descriptions. In short, he has not enjoyed the variety that he probably deserves. It doesn't matter if the role was a success or not, but the drastically different role has yet to happen to him. In that sense, his "much awaited" Mann (Current BC-ians would get that) was his only risky venture for it showed how much he would bend over to help his brother! Of course, he has shown flashes of emoting different emotions in the many films he has done, but nothing substantially different on the whole. Perhaps, with his productions, he might have more choice.

I've always maintained that it was a shame that stars like Amitabh didn't have the guts or perhaps the inclination to experiment with roles. But atleast in Amitabh's early years, he had the fortune of obtaining meaty or diverse roles from Hrishikesh Mukherjee in Anand, Abhimaan, Namak Haraam and even, for those who remember, Alaap. He could've made a difference in the 80s when his word was gospel, but didn't exercise that power. Much like Rajnikant these days. These supermegaultra stars seemed locked into a self-perpetuating cycle of the same plots that got them to the top. Hopefully, Aamir Khan will enjoy more dare-devilry in roles.

On a related note, I still find it hard to believe that Lagaan's Bhuvan was first offered to Shah Rukh Khan. Perhaps the other great friendship of Gowarikar led to that rather intriguing casting call, which Shah Rukh Khan declined then. Anyway, Shah Rukh & Gowarikar have their opportunity to show how it might've been with their newly announced Swades.

I've been a great TV watcher, much to the annoyance of a few people at times, but of late my TV watching seems to have been rather restricted; apart from movie-on-TV watching, I don't seem to have too many regular serials or other programming on my list these days. All of this in context of a little list I was making on my current most watched programmes: I wanted to come up with 10 and barely managed to do so. A decade ago, I would not have struggled so. Even though Doordarshan crashed out of our minds with the advent of cable TV, the decade before 1993 did have some rather good (in hindsight, sadly) serials to boast of. DD somehow tried to imitate cable TV offerings and lost its traditional strengths in conjunction with coming up with poor copies of countdown shows, film premieres etc. Anyway, a little list of my current I-try-and-view-if-I-can shows, not in any particular order:

  1. Frasier : Star World - The travails of radio-psychiatrist Frasier Crane, brother Niles, father Martin, Daphne Moon, the invisible Maris, the hormonally-challenged Roz and a canine comic expert called Eddie. Shares directors with Seinfeld (Andy Ackerman for example), features celebrity voices (Chakravyuh 2001!) and has IMHO, the wittiest jokes on TV.
  2. Harsha Online : ESPN/Star Sports - Hosted by the guy who, I think, has the best job in India. Harsha Bhogle knows a great deal not just about cricket but sport in general, and has a most interesting lineup of guests, the latest being Syed Kirmani. His guests seem most comfortable talking to him and the hour-long show is well-structured with no unnecessary frills.
  3. Kondattam/Meendum Meendum Sirippu : Sun TV - I would've chosen Comedy Time if it still aired, I thought Mayilsami could teach a thing or two to all those cosmetic disasters they call hosts. Sun TV, as do most Tamil channels, air these shows that have comedy scenes (they can range from the sublime to the absolutely crude, but somehow the hope of watching a good one draws me back) from Tamil films: Goundamani & Senthil dominating. A post on this someday.
  4. Trendmill, Storyboard : CNBC India - Good production values, excellent presentation even for people like me with little knowledge of business news. The programmes primarily focus on the Ad and media aspects of Indian business.
  5. Seinfeld : Zee English - I still don't know why I like it (on a broad level). Sometimes, it's pretty childish, but sometimes one will get a gem. And that's worth waiting for. I even have a book on the Seinfeld episodes of the 1st 8 years. Jerry, Elaine, Cosmo & George beam at primetime into my house on weekends. And you too, Nuuu-mann.
  6. Sportsline : Star Sports - Filled a long standing need to have a show dedicated to sporting news of the day. The show features a decent set of hosts who know their business well.
  7. Mastermind India : BBC World - Probably not much of a surprise, but it is pretty much the only decent Indian quiz show on TV. Even if you're only watching reruns of two years before, because there is always the chance you might spot someone you know. Of course, there is always the danger of seeing me, but that's only 3 out of the 101 shows.
  8. Shrimaan Shrimati : Sabe TV - This is probably another infra-dig choice, but I just like its manic madness. The reruns still appear and I watch them whenever I can. Keshav "Keku" Kulkarni (RIP), Kokila "Koki" Kulkarni, Prema Shalini, Dilruba "Dilbura" Jarnail Singh Khurana, Chintu, Sharmaji, Ganga "Gangaaa" Mausi and the ever reliable Gokhale have been a source of great amusement.
  9. Ikke Pe Ikka : Zee Cinema - Must be one of the longest running shows on Indian TV. I've got a bit tired of Sajid Khan (and it's not a patch on Kehne me Kya Harz Hai), but the interest is more out of familiarity and a lack of anything else to watch.
  10. Talking Movies : BBC World - Anchored by Peter Brook from New York, this is probably the only decent film discussion programme in the Indian satellite TV space. A substitute for Barry Norman's long running show, it still does feature a wide sweep of film reviews and related items eschewing the tabloid or fawning approach most Indian film shows seem to adopt.
Even a few years earlier, I've would been able to name some more names: Murder Call, the Australian crime series, springs to mind. The Balaji model has unfortunately made extinct the alternative programme space, or atleast pushed them to difficult viewing spots. Need a change soon.

Feb 1, 2003

A week ago, ESPN-Star Sports launched their Super Selector game for the World Cup. The show was anchored by Harsha Bhogle and had a unique touch: the presentation was in the original manner that Naseeruddin Shah used to host (The current show is anchored by Darain Shahidi & Poonam Sharma and has a vastly different look). It also was an excuse to bring back some of the original suspects: Naseeruddin Shah walked onto the sets after Sudhir Mishra's Apple Singh dialogues. More nostalgia with the addition of Sebi (Sabi? Sebby? Sabby?) and his band who were always exhorted by Shah to Take it away!. Navjot Singh Sidhu appeared do his bombastic bit as ever and Joy Bhattacharya had more defending to do of the statistics as usual. The biggest and most notable absentee was Pandit Ajay Bhambi, a big favourite among some of us. To give discredit where it is due, ESS were far more prescient about SET MAX's hobnobbing with Ma Prem Rithambara and her legerdemain with her tarot cards: Pt. Bhambi (enjoys more footage on Jain TV) would make predictions about which players would be likely to do well. How accurate he was with his marksmanship was evident in the ranking he achieved among the celebrity lists, he was quite consistently at the bottom. Apple Singh Mishra, to my mind, must be one of the luckiest guys (along with Gautam Bhimani): free trips to South Africa beckon. (Of course, it might not be all that rosy, but at least they're being offered a ride there!)