Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ann Arbor Spring: White, Form over colour - 2

Second of the four parts of this.
One of these snaps is a repeat though from a different angle - couldn't resist posting it again because it looks very beautiful. You'll know which one if you've seen the earlier posts!
So here they are - starting with Miss Elegance herself (click for a larger image):

Friday, June 23, 2006

Powerful Pakistani Islamic clerics form a club...


Get that!? They are protesting because they feel people will become secular and ostensibly start respecting other religions, view-points, etc!

I thought their target would first be Western and Indian media, but apparently not. That's only the second in their priority list. Their first priority is to target those media which hold debates on 'controversial' topics! So basically they do not want free thinking in their society.

Read the news item here.

And oh, did i tell you that the only Hindu temple in Lahore has been demolished? This is another alternative source.
One of the champions of pseudo-secularism in the English media, Asian Age, tries very hard to cover up this act. In that cover-up article, i found this quote by the Pakistani high commission very interesting:
"The temple referred to in the section of the press is not the Krishna mandir but an abandoned property.....".

If there was really no temple demolished, you think Indians are foolish to do this:
"....He (spokesman of the Indian foreign ministry) said the matter had been taken up at a 'sufficiently senior level' with the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi."

Predictably the BJP has tried to make this an issue. I just don't understand what their locus standi is. What has BJP got to do with something that happenned in Pakistan, however deplorable?

This (American) Islamic site while condemning the indicident also has a nice story to share :
"The second Caliph Umar set an example of respecting the sanctity of places of worship when he conquered Jerusalem. At the time of the evening prayer the Bishop of the Church of holy sepulcher offered him a nice place to pray in the church but he refused, saying that he fears that generations after him may try to take over and convert the church to a Mosque. So he prayed out side the church."

Can't these clerics learn from their own ancestors? Why can't they learn to co-exist peacefully?
And speaking of co-existing peacefully, here's a nice Pakistani site i came across. Focuses on the positive news. Also some humour - was reading the post on Pinglish. Some nice ones on leave applications :)...
Letter to boss, requesting leave:
“As my Mother-in-law has expired and I am responsible for it, please grant me 10 days leave.”
An employee applied for leave as follows:
“Since I have to go to my village to sell my land along with my wife, please sanction me one-week leave."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A car i will refuse a ride in...

I saw an unusual car a few days back. Before i tell you about that (and show you it's snaps), i want to tell you about a car we bought when i was a kid - a second-hand fiat car. We were quite excited. Except me. I thought it was cool for me to tell my friends that we didn't have a car. Logic: Everyone has a car. So it's obviously cool to not to have one.

Anyway, two years after we bought it, the family took a collective decision that we needed to get it repainted. My parents being firm believers in familial democracy asked for suggestions. The predictable gender x age spilt happened :
- Older Male (= Dad) suggested white.
- Older Female (= Mom) said 'not white because difficult to maintain but any other light colour preferably in shades of light blue'.
- Younger Female (= Sister) went for light pink or something which brought frowns from dad/mom and peals of laughter from me (after which sister and i fought - but that's a separate story).
- Younger Male (=me) was very clear about black . i pictured myself in black shades, driving a black car in black clothes speeding down the black tar of 2nd cross lane (how in Bombay and how in a fiat don't ask).

So basically it was a hung parliament which showed that democracy wasn't working. So dad-mom decide to go and get a shade card, speak to the garage guy, get his opinion and then decide. After lot of deliberations, we took a momentous decision - "let's stick to the present colour" - but with some variation. We communicated this to Rathod - the garage guy and an ex-defence personnel and he said "You know. I didn't want to influence your decision in the beginning but in the heart-of-hearts i too felt that you should stick to the present colour". You know how it is with us civilians - we have such a high respect for defence/ex-defence people - we were simply bolstered by his opinion. So anyway, this was the colour of our car then:

(cool art-work, eh? yea, i know, i know - thanks)

Now remember we told the guy we wanted the same colour 'with some variation'. Now variation can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. I know people who think black is a variation of grey.(it is? Oh...ok...whatever...) . Basically we trusted the guy to have the same level of taste as us - work a little creatively but stick to something similar to the above.

After a couple of weeks, Rathod gives my dad a call - 'sir, your car has a first coat on it - do you wanna have a look'. Now, for various reasons i will not get into, basically we didn't take a look. One reason was that trust thing again: "How wrong can a brown get? No Rathod, you just go ahead - what do you feel?". And Rathod said:"First class, sir. Your car is just gleaming. Couldn't get better".
And this is what he meant:

Yea. We were as shocked as you are, dear reader. I didn't have to face the initial agony - i was at home wathing Maharashtra thrash Bihar in a Kabbadi match telecast live on DD-1.

Apparently when my dad saw this - at the time he took delivery of the car - he just stood there settling life and death issues - literally :
"Ok. What are the chances that i drive this into Mohammed Ali road* and come out alive" or "Will my wife continue to cook for me? or will i die of starvation?".
*(Mohd. Ali road is a famous road in Bombay, primarily populated with Muslims and Orange/Vermillion is a colour associated with Hinduism and those were particularly communally charged times).

When i saw the car, i had other questions: "What are the chances that i will make another friend in this lifetime?"

Mom was furious. Sister almost had a tear in her eye. Dad's explanations made us even more mad eg. "Now no one will steal the car", "It's easy to find in a parking lot". Grandmom, quick to come to dad's defence, said "All that matters is that the engine runs well".
Rathod who believed that vermillion was a 'shade' of brown said : "What a colour, sir! Amazing! I'm recommending this to whoever asks for suggestions". My dad didn't bother reacting.

At the end of the day we just had to live with it - and we did so for 8 years! I had a very simple strategy to deal with this - sit in the backseat always. If you are driving only with dad - in which case you had to sit in the front seat - you had to be extra alert. "God! - there's Sandeep - can't allow him to see me in this car - DIVE!"... and then just pretend i dropped something and take cover. Used to happen so regularly that 80% of the time i was sitting on the floor of the car.

Hilarious things have happenned while travelling in this car:
- We once got chased by Muslims doing namaz on a street who thought we got this car there on purpose.

- Once we went by this car to attend a religious discourse . When we approached the gate, we heard trumpets blowing, drums beating, flowers being showered - the organizers very logically thought that if a Hindu religious speaker had to come in anything, it had to be a vermillion car. All they got was four shocked passengers getting out of the car. The chap blowing the trumpet looked visibly annoyed. He had reserved his breath-
expelling gusto for the personage to come and it just got wasted on some commoners.

- Once my dad, who is prone to practising music lessons in any vehicle (especially a car he's driving), accidentally broke a signal. He half-looked up at the cop with a guilty expression. The cop saluted him! - orange is the also colour used by a political party in Bombay - evidentally pandu thought my dad was some political bigwig.

The orange car left deep psychological scars in me. i never order orange juice anymore. I see orange in my nightmares. When i develop high fever and get into a delirium i can be heard mumbling '', I have come to hate orangutans etc. etc.
(kind Wikipedia now tells me that Orangutan has nothing to do with orange. The word comes from orang hutan - 'man of the forest' in Malay)

But, But, But....

I would anyday travel in that orange/vermillion car than travel by this:
(click for larger image)

Never. Even if the person who owns it is my best friend. No. Not a chance. I know it's creative but, just looks like someone vomitted a whole lot of toys on the car! Yikes! i would always think of that if i sat in the car. Check the wine glass on the front hood in the snap below. What does it tell you? Yep - Do not drink and drive. Very creative. But still will not sit in.

And the last snap (this is on one of the doors) - cute mask i agree - but what is it stuck with? (see the sides)...Is it....? No!

I'd anyday prefer my orange car to this anyday. While i have recovered from the scars left over from the orange car, i would never be able to recover if i travelled by this car. If you own this car, drop me a line and send me your snap. I'll know whom to avoid.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Make someone happy - 1

My dad forwarded to me a list of '101 ways to bring happiness'. I don't know how many of you have received it through mail. Some really nice ways - many of them, i am sure, you have tried and seen results for yourself.

But i also found some 'ways' artificial. Or some which in the Indian tradition is a given - though fast disappearing - eg. 'Call your parents'. Hey! We live with our parents all our lives - and we like it! or they call us always - we don't need to call :)

I'll post a few a day with my comments (bloggers love that ready-to-post stuff :). Some of these are my additions.

The Good ones:
1. Wave to a child in the car next to you.
Nice one...i've tried this - maybe it's me but most of the time i've got only stunned reactions like these: Pics taken from my mobile - one from India and one from Japan. The Japan one was taken in an elevator.

In the US i smiled and waved to a kid. Maybe my hand actions were not ok...the kid thought i was coming to spank it and just started YELLING...this time i was stunned...ran out of the place before the kid's dad came and spanked me.

2. Hold a door open for a stranger.

I've always seen this being done in the US. But then i've only been in Ann Arbor (leaving aside a short visit 3 years ago to Hollywood - a place i despised), which apart from a very cultured disposition also gives you the impression that you have time on your hands. Maybe if i went to New York it won't happen. Sometimes, people stop being nice in the rush.

I have never seen this being done in India. Don't know why. Are we self-centered? Or is life there so much about day-to-day survival that it's become a 'take-care-of-yourself-first' thing?of course, the survival part is purely because of lack of governance (rarely a problem in the West - in the major towns at least) - just stresses everyone out so roads, no water, no damn anything apart from corruption, general malaise, falling moral standards, populism, etc. etc.

3. As to see a store's manager and comment on the great service.

I've seen LV, my boss doing this in hotels. And coming from the CEO of a company, it just completely makes the manager's day apart from being a great motivator for the person who actually served you. It's fun to watch the manager coming in all perked up wondering what the complaint is. And the poor waiter/housekeeping person is all 'what did i do wrong?'. Just watching their expressions change after being handed the complement is real fun.

The only down part is that they start giving you extra attention the next time you come. So there's this added pressure on you to again complement them.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ann Arbor Spring: White, Form over colour - 1

If you ever found the colour white uninteresting, here's the way nature makes it interesting - introduce it in various forms! This is the first of a four part series.
(click on the snaps for a larger image)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Who's this person? - 1

If you are an Indian reading this: Seen him in any newspaper? No? Thought so. That's the pity.

With our media obsessed with politics, celebrities and the like, why would they profile or publicize someone who's been NOMINATED FOR THE PHYSICS NOBEL PRIZE SIX TIMES!

His name is Ennakal Chandy George Sudarshan - better simply known as George Sudarshan. He's a philosopher. And also a physicist. Stands for the quintessential Indian knowledge-man - simple, quiet, unassuming and wise like crazy.

He is best known for his formulation of 'Tachyons' - particles which travel faster than the speed of light, thus directly contradicting Einstein's theory of relativity. The theory was accepted by the international community only after much hesitation.

Many say he should have won the Nobel prize last year. There was even a petition last year sent to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to award him a joint Nobel prize. The physics nobel prize last year went to three scientists. One of the awardees was Roy Glauber who won it for his work on quantum optics. Best part is that this work was done by Prof. Sudarshan and was critized by Glauber when it came out! Prof. Sudarshan then wrote a paper expressing his ideas and sent a pre-print to Glauber. Then, guess what? Glauber asks Prof. Sudarshan to acknowledge him in the paper saying he also got the same results!

The blokes at the Swedish Academy only responded to the petition by saying they can't comment and the decision making process is secret! Prof. Feynman's (one of the best known personalities in Physics) views on committees comes to mind.

For a more technical acount read this. Of course, this was not the first time that Prof. Sudarshan has had the misfortune of not getting the due credit or even as a student having 'the strange experience of listening helplessly to distinguished scientists puzzling over a problem that i had already solved!' Read about that here. It's something he's used to. He quotes a malayalam proverb which says that you can wake up a man who's really sleeping but never a man who's pretending to sleep!

Finally, Prof. George Sudarshan is also well known for his lectures on Vedanta (this is the real secularism!). Read one of his talks here on the philosophy of causality and unpredictablity.

From 1991 onwards, Prof. Sudarshan is an American citizen. i wonder how many Indian kids back home will learn about him in our pathetic textbooks.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ann Arbor Spring : Trees on fire

This was taken 10 days back when there was quite a cloud cover. I loved the way the setting sun lit up the trees and changed their colour.
(Looks much better in a higher resolution - but you know how it is with Blogger. Also, have increased the brightness here to try and reproduce what i saw)
And the cause:

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Football fever increases world's population! the only conclusion i could come to when i read that:

That's right.About 5 times what we thought the world's population was. And it's not a typo. The mailer i got had the same headline and older articles by the same team have even more astounding estimates like there were 54 billion viewers for the National Games in China.

Now, one might just dismiss this as repeated cases of careless reporting/editing. I don't think so. This is a classic case of an attempt to inflate figures to make them look impressive. Without even considering the fact that the headli
ne just does not make sense.
So, here's what's happenning. Imagine just 100 people on planet earth of which 2 were interested in watching World Cup on TV. Each of them ends up seeing all 64 scheduled games. So the question is how many viewers are there in all. 2? Wrong. As per the above article. Should be 128 according to it. The 128 (= 64 x 2) is a not-too-often-used metric in media planning called Gross Impressions. As the name implies, GIs simply sum up the total number of expsoures received by viewers. And it's certainly not equal to 'no. of viewers'!
GIs are equivalent to the term 'Cumulative Audiences'. The problem with GIs is that it's difficut to relate to. So if, i just told you that the "gross impressions for WC was 128" it would be difficult for you to come to any conclusion. Specifically, is it 64 people who've watched an average of 2 matches or 2 people who've watched all 64 matches? Which is really the question a marketer and media planner would be interested in.
Now, i have no problem if GIs are used. But is it mentioned anywhere in this article that these were GIs and not 'no. of viewers'? No. Which is why i think it's a case of data misrepresentation. Now, one defence that is often used when such cases are pointed out to the party (not this particular one) is that "C'mon...everyone knows that 30 billion is not 'no. of viewers". Ok. So what is it then? And why did you put that as a title? Especially when you know that this article is going to be read by media practioners who would anyway be comfortable with the terms.
Now, here's the good news. Check today's headline out by the same team:

and somewhere down the middle this...notice what happens to our 30 billion figure:

Now that's the right way to report these numbers! Notice clearly the '1.5 billion viewers' (which of course, contradicts the earlier '30 Bn. viewers' thing) as opposed to a 'cumulative global audience of 32.5 billion'. Good work, Ashwin Pinto - in case you didn't notice that's his name in the above article's byline.
and these are the original links:

Monday, June 05, 2006

Laugh and be laughed at

Few years ago.Woke up.Checked the alarm clock.6:00 am.Me and get up at 6:00 - No way! What woke me up, i ask myself. i remember hearing sounds similar to the collective war-cry of a savage tribe attacking a colonoial outpost. Oh...just a dream...but i still dreaming? i can still hear them...and here i am in bed wide awake...what is it?....A vociferous 'stop-the-war-in-Iraq' protest? A better-roads-you-idiots-at-the-Bombay-Municipal-Corporation agitation? At 6:00? Na! Who knows - maybe a Wiccan ritual to be performed at dawn.

I go back to day, same lazy head ignores it again...the next day again! This is too much! Took me some days to force myself out of bed against my own will and figure out the source of the racket that was shattering my tympanum.

So i trudge across to the garden three buildings away at 5:45 am and sit alert on a bench. Nothing suspicious. Young executives on a jog deperately trying to get themselves into shape to impress Wilma, the new secretary in the office. Uncles and aunties in Kurta-Pyjama and Nike shoes on a 'brisk walk'. Gujju share brokers loudly predicting the outcome of todays 'market'. Two Iyer mamas sitting opposite each other and doing Pranayama.

Then suddenly the whole scenario changes. I find people converging to the large green patch in the centre of the garden. Brokers, joggers, everyone just stops doing what they were doing. Or not doing. Which brings me to the philosophical question of 'how do you stop doing something you weren't doing?...but er...we're digressing.

So anyway, all these guys are all robotically converging with deadpan seriousness towards the centre of the garden. My worst fears of an ancient brotherhood of necromancers performing some hideous morning ritual seems to be coming out right!

Worse to come...they suddenly start flailing their arms all about without any instruction from's all so automatic as if they're under some spell...i observe with bated breath...AND THEN OUTTA NOWHERE....ALL OF THEM GO...HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO!!!
Here i am, in the middle of Bombay, watching a bunch of people go....HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO....what the hell's happenning? Did anyone crack a joke i missed? Unlikely. Creepy stuff, this.
And then as i wonder what's happenning, the laughter dies down into susurrations. Everyone take a deep breath and then again....HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO....

Please, can someone tell me what's happenning? I look around...some people are unconcernedly going about their walks/jogs. Am i the only one who thinks this is wierd? Luckily i spot a group of teenagers laughing their guts out watching these laughers laughing. I also see a brinjal seller genuinely shocked (and amused) by what's going on. Ok, so someone thinks this performance is not normal. I think there's something spooky going on...brinjal guy+teens find it funny...but we're agreed this is not normal. So i trudge across to these teens and gently ask them what in the name of heavens is happenning.
"They're laughing"
"Yea...i can see that..but they don't look amused"
"Of course. They don't have to be amused to laugh"
"They're part of this laughter club. They call it 'Hasya Yoga' - the yoga of laughter. They force themselves to laugh. They think it relieves tension."
"So does this happen everyday? Do you guys come here everyday?"
"Oh, we come here to laugh at them laughing. Currently all weekdays. Wish they'd do this everyday - gives us a brilliant start to the day watching these guys go....HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO"

I just didn't believe this! Had we come to such a stage that we have to force ourselves to laugh? Is the world around us so depressing? If we were to believe the members of the Laughter Club, the answers to these questions are 'Yes'.
For me, the best part is the part where they laugh in vowels . So, in most Indian languages the vowels go like - a, aa, e, ee, u, uu etc. and they laugh like 'Ha, Ha, Ha...He, He, He...Ho, Ho, Ho'. and people like me who used to watch them for sheer entertainment went 'haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa......gasp...gasp...someone help...can't take it any longer...get me outta here..haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa'
If you don't believe me, check this super video - thanks to Rajiv who referred me to it - which is close to what i used to see everyday. Everyday, till i got bored watching people laugh.
Watch this, i'm telling won't regret it...and somewhere in the middle of the clip, watch the teens in the background laughing their guts out...
On a more serious note, i know many people think this is good for health. Maybe. But it seems so artificial to me. And if it isn't natural, it isn't 'yoga' like some proponents of this exercise claim. Sure laughter is good for health. But forced laughter? In fact, if you see the faces of some of's so serious!...there's such a forced attempt at laughing. Why not breath in and out deeply in that case? Will produce the same effect on the abdominal muscles or whatever.
Plus, i don't quite like the fact that laughing loudly in a group in the early hours of the morning (or whenever actually) deprives others of their peace and quietitude. That's then being insensitive and selfish.
For me :
Laughter - yes!
Forced laughter - No!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

More on the oft-ignored hydrants...

I was speaking to a friend just after i published the earlier post and she refused to believe that a hydrant that was shown there - an emergency-utility object - can be beautiful. For me - there it was, in the midst of 'real' beauty - flowers, greenery etc. but it stood so proudly amidst all that. It was almost saying "i am happy to be what i am and i know what i am" - yeah, we know - in a God-forbid situation....!

But guess what? There's even a 'movement' called the 'Fire up downtown' movement which involves artists (from UMich and otherwise) here in Ann Arbor to make these objects look beautiful! The movement is sponsored by corporates (obvious eg. paint companies) as well as street associations. The snap below is from one of the sidewalks on South University avenue in 'Central'.

You can read more about this movement here - a nice way to channelize energies. Wish we could do this back home:

There's a similar thing in Ohio (not sure if this is done widely across cities in the US) that i came across:

Ann Arbor Spring - The hydrant too...

I had always seen a bunch like this coming out of porcelain vases - never part of nature herself.

Right, i am talking about the flowers and not the hydrant. The hydrant's part of the snap because i thought it was wrong to have only have the 'beautiful' in the snap. After all it is the 'ugly' that makes the 'beautiful' look beautiful.

And the mandatory close-ups...

Thursday, June 01, 2006


1. Photography
2. Video + Movie features
3. Humour
4. Statistics
5. Philosophy + Indian Culture
6. Japanese Culture
7. Politics ,Media and Current Affairs
8. Who's this person
9. Etc.