Friday, April 29, 2005

God's Own Country

The power of marketing is such that, a few things are imbibed into your system as facts - irrespective of the reality. Kerala, a beautiful strip of land - has been well marketed as God's Own Country by the Tourism Ministry and i fully agree with them.

The pics on the blog were taken in September 2004, during a visit to my friend's wedding. The pictures were taken on the ride from Kollam to Allepey. A picturesque journey of about 80 Kms, taken at a lazy & leisurely pace of over 6 hours - the journey allows one to enjoy the beauty all around

The best time to go visit Kerala would be September to November after the yearly monsoon season. The day of my trip, i rained early in the day and to my surprise the weather changed over the course of the day - from rain to overcast to bright & sunny: all in 3 hours allowing me some breathtaking shots.

On the tip please don't forget the following - a camera, casual clothes, lots of cash in small denominations. Also, the trip pleasure is inversly propotional to te time you spend broodinga about work back home.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Organized Chaos - Traffic In India

For all international travellers or otherwise, it is an amazement that traffic in India doesn't suffer from more accidents that the current rate. A concept of organized chaos (quite a good oxymoron) - quite a few international friends of mine has liked it to the video/computer games at 'Expert' Level

Quite frankly, after the purchase of my Indigo Marina and the subsequent effort of learning driving a car in Indian roads, disgust has creeped into my system. I am disgusted at the lack of basic driving etiquettes in Indians. Be it the cyclist who doesn't even respond to repeated horns; or the motorcyclist - for whom overtaking a car on the right is the biggest insult of his life; or the autorickshaw - traffic rules! they are more mortals like us, not for these exalted rulers of the road; and i have not even started.

A good example is the recent introduction of lane system in one of Chennai's arterial road networks - Poonamalle High Road where the right most lane was marked & reserved for motorcyclists and Autorickshaws. A week into the introduction, i was going through the road and could hardly see any motorcyclists use the lane.

I can also hardly understand why cyclist, autorickshaws and motorcyclists have to stand outside the STOP line, when they are waiting at the traffic lights - just as they seem to make deft turns at the last possible minute without any indications to the hapless driver behind

Welcome to the world of Indian Traffic logic!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fire Evacuation Drills - A Real Necessity followed by few

Last year, my company introduced the concept of yearly fire drills. In a country like India, where fire accidents are numerous but knowledge very limited; the necessity of ordinary citizens to learn fire drill and evacuation process is very high; sadly, very few do.

If we indeed knew the basics of evacuation - incidents like
  • Kumbakonnam School Fire: 80+ children between 8 - 10 years perished when the tatched roof of their school building caught fire from a nearby hotel)
  • Uphaar Cinema Fire: 57 Cinema goers of various ages perished when the sparks from a transformer turned an evening of watching a movie (Border) into a death trap
  • Erwadi Asylum Fire: 25 Mentally challenged people, chained to posts were consumed by fire when the asylum staff fled on first signs of fire leaving those unfortunate souls to weather agony before death came by

Every person who heard of these great tragedy would certainly be moved. Of the people today, i know quite a few, who would volunteer to help the victims as well as do social service to correct these errors.

However, work always begins at home. People should learn about fire evacuation drills and be prepared to face it & that would ensure that the tragedy of material loss will not be compounded by human loss.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Lord's Shepard

Habemus papum

"The Lord who bought his shepard home, has sent the Holy Spirit to show the next shepard"

And as last night unfolded, my entire family - orthodox Hindu in tradition - gathered around the television to witness the White smoke, followed by the proclamation by the senior cardinal & the subsequent introduction of Pope Benedict XVI.

It was also a time of reflection, of what god-men bring to lifes. Dad mentioned that he had to face a 150,000 strong crowd to have a glimpse of Pope John Paul II during his visit to India in the 1980s. Even the few interactions that i have had with saints & sages, hindu or otherwise are quite cherised.

During the telecast, the discussion moved to establishing a mattam peethadipathi (Head of a Monastry). The following is the procedure that my parents explained:
  • The elected person should obtain the permission of his mother; as the bond of mother - son is the most pious in Hindu dharma. Also, the mother & son are not to meet each other ever again; the mother's desire to see her son take this path - needs to be verified by the electing authorities
  • After the prayers, the elected person is made a sanyasi (Man detached from materialistic world) and has to take a dip in the temple tank
  • During the holy dip, his upanayam (sacred thread) is cut off - indicating the release from earthly bondage. As he raises from the dip, Kashayam (Sacred orange clothes) are draped around the holy one, indicating to disciples - that the lord has raisen.
  • After the dip, when the holy seer comes out of water - the immediate family - father, brother etc along with the temple authorities seek his blessings, by prostating to him (but not touching him/his feet)
  • However, as said earlier - the mother is not allowed to come in front of the seer. But, she is allowed to look at him from one a distance and then she is taken away; never to see her son.

Interesting to see, a lot of commonality between the cow herd & the shepard.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Terri - The last thoughts from me on her suffering!

In her death, Terri Schiavo has raised more questions than ever. I first noticed the case early this year when it was competing with the Tsunami news on CNN. I followed the story even after i came back from the US through news channels and Terri's Parent's website.

I must admit that i made a few judgement calls about the manner in which the law made judgement on the case and believe me, i would not have invited Michael Schiavo for a drink to my home. Infact, i was wondering why the Judiciary was so firm on its decision; that logic seems not to be part of their system

A lot of that changed, a week earlier as i was hosting a few friends from US - one of them a lawyer who used to fight for the under privileged. I was expecting her to take sides with Terri's parents but she showed me the neutral path -
  • A path where one cannot deny that the law was implemented in letter
  • A path where the judiciary was kind enough to have the case come up to review, a zillion times
  • A path where the fundamental rights of privacy of a marraige were allowed to be questioned - Did Terri ever tell her husband that she didn't want to suffer? Did Michael have the best interest of his wife?
  • A path where a person's actions has been subject to the highest scrutiny

and i could not, but agree with her. The only thing that i still feel is that the lady could have been delivered to the Lord in a much more decent fashion. Michael Schavio might still not be invited home, but when i meet him on the road - i will atleast spare him a smile; a dignity, most might not shower on him -with the negative press he had to endure.

Let Terri, rest in peace and her husband carry on with his life.

PS: Politicians are know to mess with things that they need not get attached to in the first place and the Republicans sealed the fate of Terri, by trying to gain publicity out of supporting her. They, more than anyone else, should shoulder the blame for her cruel end.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Dakshin Chitra

Last week, after hearing a lot about Dakshin Chitra (Portrait of South), i took some time off to visit the place. The name of the place, is apt - the entire trip is bound to take everyone into nostalgia; of the often talked about "good old days".

The place is defenitely a "potrait of South India" as it stood not so long ago, before being 'invaded' by the influence of the apartment complex and modern architecture & culture. The place has 2 complete sections - that of Tamil Nadu and Kerala; while Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka (often the 2 "neglected cousins") is Work in Progress

The potrayal of homes and culture is very accurate & every detail has been painstakingly put together. What was quite noticeable, was the mastery over the science of house building; as the temp was in the higher 30s and still the porticos and the main section of the house remained cool; without any modern amneties like fans, coolers or the AC.
  1. While the TN & Kerala section were impressive, the same cannot be said about the food. At 75, it is moderately priced but did not do anything to the taste buds. A definite area that needs improvement.
  2. The Tamil Nadu section missed out a TEMPLE GOPURAM. It is not an understatement, that lifes of people revolved around temples in the days gone by - hence the lack of temple was quite surprising
  3. The AP & Karnataka sections needs to come up fast.

Parting advice, the glass blower was amazing and personally - i haven't seen too many of them. I felt that the pricing on his products were quite a bargain. If anyone has expertise on buying these products, keep me posted.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Poor Commentry is as bad as Indian Pitches

As the Indo-Pak Series come to an end; i am mighty relieved for a fast endangered species of cricket called Bowlers. In the quest to produce a high scoring game; the groundsmen (most of them illiterate on ground sciences) prodcue such docile pitches that even McGrath (Ave of 7!) would have sweet dreams of belting opposition all round the park. Add to that, the craze of the crowd for boundaries - we now have boundaries that are less than 75 yards - scores of 300 are quite common. I remember a couple of years back, when WI toured us - there were 6 matches, where totals in excess of 275 were chased with ease. Does anyone feel symathy for the bowlers or am i alone? Unlikely

While bad pitches spoil cricket, poor commentators are even worse. Blame should lay on TWI Int., that picked Ramiz Raja, Aamir Sohail & Waqar Younis and add them to Indian Cricket's lightweights - Arun Lal, Sanjay Manjrekar anf you will feel bad for the TV Viewers. While the Pak commentators are so biased, not even healthy nicks, inside edges are detected by them. To add to my anguish, i cannot see Srikanth (a great star with the bat & not the mike), Charu Sharma, Mohinder Amarnath & the lady do Fourth Innings. I believe that this is god's punishment for my cribs against Mandira Bedi and the entire crew on Sony. In comparison to ESPN Star's crew of Harsha Bhogle, Sunil Gavaskar, Geoff Boycott and the likes of Alan Wilkins - the crew on Sony & DD look amateurish. I wish the BCCI award the broadcast contract to STAR & make it soon (Heard news clips that BCCI is going to bring it's own BCCI TV & BCCI Radio)

Cricket, for purists - is poorer to the unreasonable demands of the fans as well as the irksome commentary on offer. Glad, the series is over.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Of Temples and Culture

On a visit to a temple here - i was reminded of the benefits as well as the pitfalls of modern development within a short span. I was standing in queue at the Mangadu Amman Temple (One of the key sakthi sites dedicated to the godess) when one of the cellphones of a very religious devotee starting ringing - in the middle of the temple, embarrasing him for the thoughtlessness. Made me wonder - why can't people develop cellphone etiquettes. I dont like cellphones and this incident goes further in my cause against this 'modern marvel'. Not to be pegged down with the incident, i saw a near fight erupting near the enterance of the main temple - some 15 yards from the diety. Wonder, if the devotees came to pray or pick up fights!

A few minutes later, after a good darshan - went to the neighbour Vishnu temple (where legend has it, that the lord bought dowry for his sister's wedding & when it got cancelled, he holds the ring till date, in that location). The temple is not more than 20 Kms off downtown chennai - but has a huge complex. After a long time, saw a temple that resembles the old days with the priest & his associated families were bringing up a herd of cows. Seen a lot of large temples have a couple of elephants, but with domestic animals, the lifes of the temple residents are entwied with these children of god. Reminded me of a temple in Tanjore that raised deers and peacocks some time back.
A couple of minutes later, in the main temple - as i was going in for the darshan - saw the priest's son - a boy of 10/11 years getting prepared for his yearend school exams. In his traditional clothes of a dhoti, upparayanam (upper cloth) and the sacred thread, he was reading lens and a few lessons on reflection & refraction & its associated properties - the scene potrayed the mixture of 2 cultures - the old & ancient hindu culture along with the modern educational system

A few scenes of modern India in the temple world - one that adds joy to the heart; the other, something i wish no one ever repeats.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Telugu & Tamil New Year

Yesterday - 14 April; traditionally has been celebrated as Tamil New Year Day. My mother tongue is Telugu and the Telugu New Year is always before the Tamil New Year and there is no fixed date. It is usually between the last week of March to the first week of April. This year, it was on April 8th.

Telugu is a modern language that has been derived from sanksrit and is 'proper' where all complex constanants can be pronounced. Tamil, on the other hand, is one of the oldest langauges and is popularly believed to have preceded Sanskrit. That might be the main cause for the langauge to be simple and bereft of any complex pronouciations. When compared head to head, it resembles the clash between the old, experienced & mature and the young, correct & dashing. Both the cultures are filled with pride, though i see the scale tipping towards the Tamilians with their coloured past

Moving on the New Year, both are eagerly awaited in my home. Ever since we moved to Coimbatore (1982) & Chennai (1986) - we have seen the 2 functions celebrated up close. Telugu New Year is special because of the Ugadi Chutney - a paste made of Tamarid juice, mango peices, jaggery, neem flowers - each signifying an aspect of life namely Sour, Sweet & Bitter. It is believed that the first taste that you feel, would be an apt reflection of the upcoming year. I also wish it was sweet; but am in no mood to tell me which one it was this year.

Talking of Tamil New Year, the pattimandrams - debates have attracted my attention for long. These debates entertaining, enriching and has everyone in splits. I admit that intellectual content & context is not the primary concern; but the intellectual capabilities of the participants on issues of culture and people behaviour are impeccable - most, if not all have doctoral background. These debates enrich the soceity on gray areas. The 2 that i watched yesterday where - Pleasures - Do you have it in Cities or villages? Importance to Culture; Who takes it to the limits - Man or Woman?

If you know Tamil & are in town for New Year, i suggest drop other things - pattimandrams are as great as the Ugadi Chutney of Telugu New Year

Monday, April 11, 2005

Troubling the Tourists

I was not planning to make a blog this week because i am just overwhelmed with the amount of work that saps everybit of energy left. This blog is more as a mark of protest, to the kind of treatment that a few friends of mine from the US received during our trip to Mahabalipuram.

The minute, we got out of the car - they descended on us like vultures spotting fresh carcass. Constant harrasment, bargaining, thrusting gift items into the hands of these people and even invocing the recent Tsunami for those few rupees that they stand to gain. Whats more irksome is that they start foul mouthing anyone trying to come to the rescue of the visitors. They really have incorporated the doctrine - By Hook or Crook and are so shameless that a few rupees and they would not mind doing anything for it.

In the end, they nearly ended up picking a fight with me & the only thing that prevented me from responding to them - is the maturity & educational level difference. What upsets me the most - is not the treatment that i received, but the treatment that the visitors received.

Would you ever go to a holiday destination where you are surrounded by people trying to pressurize you to buy their products? Would you be ready to interact with hawkers who would take NO for an answer? Would you feel comfortable and relaxed when there are a dozen people who surround you and force you to buy gifts?

Of one thing, i am sure - If this was to happen in the US - one would cuss the people and the entire setup for having put you with this difficulty; but in India, a lot of people feel that the visitors should endure the beggers and the hawkers as that's part of 'our culture'?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Meaning of my name & Cricket

As i was looking to create a blog - i "googled" for the meaning of my name and turned up with this link - where the meaning of my first name is described as 'Fortunate'. That sets me of look for the meaning of my full name - which as i know stands as Chatrathi Venkata Aditya Vimal Kalyan. Once i know the results, will let you know. I thought the name meant "Good luck" as the term Tera Kalyan Ho would be used to bless someone with good luck but i guess the word fotunate goes too!

Enough of the name! but before we move on - i sure am very fortunate to have parents, family, relatives and friends as i have. I just hope i am bringing as much good fortunate to them as they are to me.

Today, India is playing Pakistan in the 3rd ODI of the series in Jampot (Short for Jamshedpur) - the place where
XLRI is. It would have been fun if there was any international match during my MBA days - but the closest we had was a ODI in Kolkatta that we defeated England. I am not too sure if India will win today - but the whole series has been quite a lot of ups and downs and i believe that that does good for the game.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Small Pleasures

Last Saturday, i went to a movie after a long time (Night Shows in India usually start at 2200) along with my school friends & my brother.

The movie was called Mayavi (Magician) & deals with a young vagabond (
Surya) kidnapping a cine star (Jyothika, playing herself!). Wonderful movie (music & songs are not too great!) and is a must watch!

Quite a few thoughts during the movie -

1. The fact that i was in a movie after nearly a year (discounting HPIII & Spiderman II - movies watched in cinema halls in US) did not escape my mind. In fact, wondered - Didn't one have time to enjoy small pleasures of life when quite young and not so much to do? I always looked forward to movies that the entire family went to - Dad used to take to family oriented movies (of
Visu) & i always looked forward to the Rs 5 Icecreams. The evening of movie, i went to Movenpick along with friends & ran a bill of Rs 700; but the pleasure wasn't the same - no problems with the Movenpick product; However the pleasures of a crowded cinema hall ice cream was much more than the one consumed in the comfort of leather couches.

More can be named; however - the questions still remains: What happened to the small pleasures, have we lost the smaller details of life in pursuit of the 'bigger picture' or is it vice-versa?

2. In the movie, there is a role of a handicapped lady - wonderfully acted (Dunno if the lady suffers really or otherwise!) - leaving me to wonder the kind of treatment that we subject the handicapped people in India. When i visited US, the first thing that i noticed was the amount of effort taken to make sure these people lead normal life. When i came back from US, the lack of handicap facilities was the first thing i noticed in the Chennai Airport as well (No, the weather & air pollution are not even factors i feel, after 3 trips!)

What makes us treat people in such brutal fashion? Excuse of being a developing nation is a sham; while i keep seeing reports of the large handicap population in India; my heart feels for them.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The First One

While i was thinking about the contents of the first post between the 2 ears - it struck me that most of all new activities that i started - usually began with a prayer to GOD & thus quite fast, i had recited a small prayer to my lord - Shri Saibaba

Having done the first part right, would welcome you to my new home in cyberspace. Earlier attempts to host a website ... forget about the past!., not a nice time to remind someone

Between, i am targeting one post a day ... the one for today is complete. See you next time.