Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Clockwork Chocolate

No chocolate cake was coming back with me this time cause my mom was elsewhere… but then I was told that going home and not getting cake could be bad for employee morale… so I thought of baking a cake and getting it to bangalore… I mean I have the recipe, how tough could it be right… I might as well give it a try… however I was then told that baking a cake myself and bringing it back here could be bad for employee morale….. so I to decided take my sister Sonali's help. I knew that a lot of sweat and hardwork will go into it and maybe some into the batter too. I told my Mom about employee morale and my nobel cause to keep it that way, and then i waited to see what she had to say.

Mumzee: 420 gms maida, 500 gms butter....
Moi: What ?
Mumzee: 500 gms eggs.
Moi: Wait!!
Mumzee: What.
Moi: I already have the recipe. I have it up on my blog. All I need is your blessing.
(After a long pause)
Mumzee: Ok you need the recipe. The one that you have is outdated. I made some improvements. If that was yummie then this is yummieeeee.
(At this point the artist formerly known as Mumzee takes on the role of Mamamia.. in other words she starts to speak with this hush hush tone)
Moi: So the one on the web is not the ONE.
Mamamia: Nope. That one was for others. This one is the family secret.
Moi: The family secret. Like Chocolate Cake Recipe Version 2.0
Mamamia: Yes. The family secret. Version 2.0. And remember the batter has to fall like a blob. And if it doesn't fall properly then you have to add stuff 'Andaaz Se'.
Moi: So 'Aandaz Se' is included in Version 2.0
Mamamia: 'Aandaz Se' was included in Version 1.0 too.

Finally with a little help from my sister I managed to make the batter fall like a blob. However i didn't quite understand the 'Aandaz Se' too well and it came out a tad bit hard :-) But that did not do any harm to employee morale. Good enough for starters though. The next time I'll put Beethoven's 9th symphony in the background. Yeah that should do it :-) And oh yeah I forgot to put 2 tsp Vanilla essence.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Six Strings

Got my first six strings :-) Was thinking about learning the guitar for quite some time. Nikhil and Sonu were in Calcutta where Nikhil was picking up a twelve string for himself. He plays the guitar, synthiszer and the violin. Sonali said that he and his friend spent 3+ hours in the shop trying out various guitars to check the sound.

One of my middle names is Santan. You put an 'A' at the end and it becomes Santana. Well it is also an alphabet away from Satan and then Santa too :-) I guess I'll just have to learn how to play those chords. However I have made music before but by writing a device driver to control a PWM, which stands for Pulse Width Modulator. PWM is also used in audio amplifiers to generate output signals for cellphone speakers to high-power stereo systems. It is used to generate Sine Waves by configuring it to oscillate at a particular frequency. So basically you search on the web for the corresponding frequencies for the various musical chords i.e. A, B, C etc for the various octaves. And then you search on the web for songs in terms of musical chords. And then you feed those chords which are parsed by a program which oscillates the PWM at a particular frequency for a particular duration of time. And thats it.... music :-) Well that's how polyphonic ringtones work.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Krupya Hold Kijiye Aap Kaatar Mein Hai

We have a fancy dress ever year in the Catholic Club in Nagpur. There are two bachelors who for the last few years have sportingly been the butt of jokes about being single. Everyone keeps on poking them about being single and asks them when they are getting married. So for one of the fancy dresses they came together dressed in wedding suits with a red ribbon tied around both of them, with the caption, "Special Offer: Ek ke saath ek free". Unfortunately there were no takers.

Then last year Brian came dressed as an Indian bridegroom who had now turned to technology for help. The internet, wedding portals, cellular technology, mobile phones etc to bridge the gap. He came with his face covered with flowers desperately trying to find Misses Right via the mobile phone. SMSes didn't seem to work.
SMS: Several Missed Shaadis
But there was hope with MMS which worked over GPRS.
MMS: Many More Shortlistings
GPRS: God Please Realise I'm Serious
However it seemed that he was using the wrong network.

Finally this year Brian turned to the Government Cellular Providers and has got engaged to a Mumbai girl.
This time his caption for the fancy dress read.
BSNL: Brian Says No Liaisons
MTNL: Mumbaikar Takes Nagpur Lad
And if you call him now you will hear the following message, "Mera Number Ab Vyast Hai".

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Cold Mountain

Running in winter does take a lot, especially when you are officially on vacation. The thought of getting out of a cozy bed when the temperature outside is pretty low is a bit unnerving. But you manage to convince yourself and in the bargain you see the newspapers boys collecting their lots of papers on the way. And then you see the milk booths being unloaded with their quota for the morning. The dogs look at you and you exchange perceptions of life. An old man sits on the very same spot, along your path, and over time you condition yourself to exchange a 'Good morning' with a face that does not have a name.

Before I came to Bangalore I used to run about 6-7 kms and go to this place called 'Seminary Hills'. Its about 3+ kms from my home. The tree density in this place is quite high and your path has a lot of flora on either side. The upward gradient is not too much and then you tread along a path cut through thick foliage and finally descend down a flight of stairs and find yourself in a nice and peaceful place. Serene by the nature that engulfs it you find a shrine of 'Mother Mary' there, which is visited by people of all faiths; Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians; but at other hours. The solitude of that small hill, that cold mountain, restores a bit of your sanity and then you trot back home to begin your day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Joyeux Noel

'Without an enemy, there can be no war'

Well thats the tagline of the movie named 'Joyeux Noel', based on true events that occured during World War 1, 1914. Its draws a thin line between comedy and drama as the Germans, the French and the Scots declare a ceasefire on Christmas Eve and fraternize at various places along the frontlines. They decide to bury the dead, play football, sing songs, and exchange chocolate. Historical facts can be found here.

Christmas Eve. I was at home with my dad enjoying the warmth from a bonfire. No decorations were up as we were tired from our bird watching hike in the morning, then dada went on to create a high jump thinghy for the children in the neighborhood. We kept on postponing the inevitable and then decided to finally do it after the bonfire. Next day we woke up, went for mass and came home and realised that we had still not put up the decorations. Not even the christmas tree. We then got into superheroes mode and put up things in 20 minutes flat :-) In all that hurry (and superhero mode) there had to be some casualties. And so a plug that supplied power to the light series was trampled upon and it crumbled to pieces. But the lights still came on...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Birds of the same feather

The morning was cold and beckoned us back to bed but the birds were out there somewhere, waiting to be watched as they performed their morning rituals. I headed out with my dad and his friend Anup to a lake on the outskirts of Nagpur. My dad has this bird book which he carries along on bird watching hikes. We spotted a lot of birds basking in the morning hues of the sun.

Amongst them was a bird which ornithologically goes by the name 'small green bee-eater' and psychologically goes by the name 'Yeda Popat'. Why you ask. Well there is a story behind it. It seems that if you try to hit the bird with a stone or try to shuu it away it will fly from its position and then hover above for some time. And then it will come and perch itself on the very same spot. However the thought never crossed our mind to try out that hypothesis. We were just watching. And if we did shoot them then it was with a camera.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

High on Light - A Dark Documentary

Reema, who is a budding journalist called me up a couple of days back, asking if I could participate in a discussion which was part of a documentary she and a few colleagues were making. The theme of the documentary was 'High on Life' and you can get her side of the story out here. The others who were to take part in the discussion were Madhuri (21), Sadhana (21), Karthik (23), Avinash (27) and moi (27). The only person who I knew from amongst the participants and the others in the room was Reema.

I met Reema outside and as we were walking up the stairs we realised that the lights were out. We entered the room which was dimly lit by ambient light. In the dark I was introduced to the other participants and budding journalists. Words were exchanged in the dark, as we waited for the lights; waiting for the camera and sound equipment to be fueled by the electrons and protons that lay unexcited at the moment. Words, familiar words; words that formed ephemeral patterns that could trace their genesis in our minds. Words that had been subjected to the filters that we have built over time. For the documentary we were to talk about youth issues; what gets us high on life, youth and spirituality, peer pressure, how the ambience affects our reactions at that moment, effects of wealth on behaviour and other such issues.

In the darkness time ticked, as we waited; waited to discuss issues of youth; the conversation casually drifting to whatever it could hold on to. First impressions were exchanged in the dark; impressions of people who you know nothing about, neither their looks nor their background; all you can do is base your impressions on their thoughts; impressions that are left to the subconscious whether to consider them or not. And then finally the lights came on. Lights! Camera! Reaction! And words were exchanged in the light, fueled by excited electrons and protons. Words, familiar words; words that formed ephemeral patterns that could trace their genesis in our minds. Words that had been subjected to the filters that we have built over time; filters that seem to be influenced by light and excited electrons and protons. And you notice the difference, however subtle it may be; the difference in the dark and in light. You cannot escape, we cannot escape, but are we aware of it. Ironically it was darkness that threw light on the subject. Youth: High on Life.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Novel Sexual Overtones

It was a time when I was down with delirium during my Novel Writing Marathon days; days of the recent past; days when the finish line was in sight. I had already endured the stages of 'Denial', 'Anger', 'Bargaining' and 'Depression' and had finally reached a stage whose magnified characteristics could be characterised as 'Delirium'. And then around that time I happened to meet 'M'.

M____ : So what are you writing about ?
Alistair : Err... (and then to cut a long story short, I began the long story)...
M ____ : Is your Novel about sex ?
Alistair : Nope.
M ____ : Is your Novel about God ?
Alistair : Nope.

After a short pause. Actually there was no pause cause 'M' knew what he was gonna say :-)

M ____ : Then how is it gonna sell !! I mean, I'm also thinking of writing a Novel. And my Novel is gonna be about God AND about sex. Infact its gonna be about God having sex. Now that will sell !!!!

At that very moment lightening clasped the violet sky above our heads, as the sound of our blasphemies were overcome by thunder, that was dutifully following the laws of physics.

I told 'B' about that incident when we met over the weekend, to which he gave me the 'Been There, Done That' look. It turned out that during our Engineering days he had written a 150 page novel on sex and a Goddess, which turned out to be a Hollywood movie actress. 'B' was a hosteller and during our first year of Engineering he was asked to write a 100 page novel with a sex scene on each page. All this in the name of ragging. When he returned from his holidays, the pages were increased to 150 as he had not even started. He then started with the journey to Hollywood. 5 pages waiting at the bus station. 20 pages travelling by bus. And a sexual scene; if not atleast an overtone on each and every page. He even commented that the seniors found the novel pretty amusing and told him that he was a budding novelist. So if he ever decides to quit his regular day job he can very well take a shot at writing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Being Judged

A friend called me up and asked me if I could judge a contest she was organising at her business school. I replied that the only contests I have judged till now are dance competitions, but that I have taken part in elocutions, debates, extempores during my school days and that I was not particularly good at extempores. She said that I would fit in as a judge and she would get back with details.

For those of you who have taken part in competitions, you would know that there are huge expectations from the judges. Not just expectations from the audience and organisers, but from each and every participant who put in a lot of effort on stage. I've been there, and during the competitions that go beyond an hour, like dance competitions; would wonder what went wrong with the judges when the results came out. Thoughts like "We definately deserved better than second or third. Besides the junta that got first were totally crappy". When we did manage to win, we never wondered if the second/third place winners thought of the judges in the same way.

And then there is the order in which you are to perform. You are told that judges tend to give the initial participants less marks. Its like when the first participant comes up, you can't compare that person against anyone else so you never give them the highest marks even if they are really good. Then marks are churned out relative to the others and in the bargain you tend you forget how the initial performers performed. There is no 'replay' system, as a judge you are expected to be fair and come up with a result that is without conscious prejudice.

There was this one competition where I totally went numb when I heard the result. It was probably the biggest and most prestigious 'Elocution' competition in the city. You had all the best schools taking part, there were 16 in all and 2 participants from each school which made the count 32. By a draw of lots it turned out that our school spoke first and my chance was first, while my schoolmate would get to speak as the 17th participant. It hits you hard and all your teachers tell you to forget about being ranked amongst the top. The topic I was to speak on was partially worked on by me, so there were a lot of emotions from the past weeks that had gone into its making. Not to mention the endless hours of practicing modulation, voice tone, being phonetically correct, body gestures, facial expressions with a conscious realisation of how much time had elapsed after each and every sentence. You do your best from your side and then you expect the judges to do their best. As I mentioned, when the results were out I went a bit numb and the hall went silent in my head, as I somehow found my legs taking me forward. I won by half a mark, with my schoolmate second and we won the overall trophy. I thanked the judges that night and hoped that they felt that they had done justice to all participants.

While preparing to judge the extempore/debate contest that a friend was organising, I got a bit hyper and wanted to have the breakup of marks before hand so that I can think about it and not wonder at the judges table, "What the hell does that mean?". I told her to give me the contact info of the other judges so that I can talk to them about the marks split and so that we can come to a consensus on how things should be judged. She then told me tht I was to be the only judge which totally caught me off guard. Yikes!!! Am I gonna be fair to the participants. I know that by being the only judge that would definately not be possible. I then asked her to send me the topics for the extempore so that I can think about it before hand and not be caught wondering what is being spoken about on stage. I was not a nervous wreck but was definately a bit jittery and doubtful of my abilities to judge. She then informed me that the extempore was just an intermediate contest in a series of competitions. And that teams were to be eliminated along the way, competiting on some other grounds to move up the ranks. On the final day they got one of their professors to judge along with me. I was relieved that we just had to eliminate some teams, cause that day I definately could not decide who was the best amongst them. There were two-three teams amongst the top but I knew that I would be unfair to them if I had to pick one. The prof told me that he felt that somewhere inbetween he was giving teams low marks so then he started giving them higher and in the bargain his marksheet does not reflect the real rankings. I put forward rational behind eliminating certain groups and why certain groups should not be eliminated. Since it was an extempore and the topics were different there were some who spoke decently well on tough topics and then there were those who did not do justice to easy topics. Finally we arrived at a consensus, but I felt that I kinda pushed my opinion on him :-) There was definately something that could have been done better from my end in terms of judging but looking at what was required at the end I think I did a decent job.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What's in a Name ? Duh!

Not 'Duh!' but "What's in a name ?" part deux.
The name is 'Shyam'. Well its 'Shyam Shankar'. Err well its actually 'Shyam Shankar Dharmarajan'.

Shyam just moved to Bangalore and we were out with some friends. Meghana, who like the rest of us, knows Shyam for the past 9+ years was calling him 'ShyamShankar'. Most of us just call him a plain simple 'Shyam'. So naturally the question arose as to why she doesn't call him 'Shyam' like all of us. I then asked Jaya and between a few giggles and just being herself, she pointed out that she calls him 'Shyam'. Meghana then mentioned that she calls him 'ShyamShankar' cause she likes the sound of it.

The guys then got into a huddle, and started discussing our own theories about names. Bala then mentioned that 'Shyam' was more intimate than 'ShyamShankar'. Its like first you call him 'Shyam' and then push him away and reiterate the distance he has to keep from you, by adding the 'Shankar', which makes the gap obvious. Something more intimate than 'Shyam' would be 'Shhh' and then the only thing more intimate than that would be to call him by making eye gestures :-) So while we were on our way to obtaining our Phd in names and the sound of it we decided to ask Jaya what she calls her boyfriend. We then got back into a huddle and started to discuss on the new input we had just received. Jaya who was oblivious to what was going on amongst us, seemed to be get a bit uneasy as we started to out giggle her. No one can take the crown of 'Laughing Queen' away from her, not us, no one. So she queried and we oblidged with the first draft of our thesis.

Then in a final stroke of genuine crown winning giggles and laughter she burst out, "Nooooo..... Shyam Shankar Dharmarajan!!!!". Ouch.

Friday, December 01, 2006

An excerpt from the 'Novel' deed.

I completed NaNoWriMo 2006. For winning I got a certificate in pdf form, which is to be printed. And some winner banners that I have put up on the blog. Long way to go though. Planning to print the excerpt on the back of the certificate so that it reminds me of what I have to do :-) The excerpt is below.

Eight Queens

The landscape was serene, reflected by the life that dwelled on it, although transient. The sun had reached its pinnacle, witness to all that was below, the elements in motion, the gentle flutter of flora, complemented with the random movements of the fauna, each in their own world, their actions unconsciously maneuvered by their conscious decision for survival; survival of the fittest, Darwin’s world reliving itself life after life, breathe after breathe, movement after movement, actions from reactions, each one having a subtle effect on the next, randomness in patterns, patterns out of randomness. And in all that randomness trod a wild horse, white as the snow on which it left its ephemeral mark, making itself one with the picture perfect scenery of which is was a welcome guest. It neighed its way through its feeding ritual, cutting its space through the ambience with majestic poise, moving on to the next grazing point when it partially whet its appetite from the flora that had just served its purpose, oblivious of the eyes that followed its profound beauty.

Eyes that blinked with thirst and hunger; eyes that had grown wary of the promises of life and the living of it; eyes that lay in ambush with a fixated gaze that was as tranquilizing to the flesh as a profane thought was to your dignity; flesh the object of desire that sparked off the covert behaviour. The beauty of the majestic beast was almost resonating; before it was transformed through the need for survival in the eyes of the beholder as yet another stepping stone on the road to El Dorado. At first there was hesitation as to whether this ghost deserved to be relieved of its beautiful body, the very sight of it satiating the hunger of the senses, but reality can’t survive on thoughts alone, the heart was willing to defer its verdict but the mind was playing games, vehemently advocating its case in the court of conscience, pushing rational ahead in the light of current circumstances, the jury unanimous in its decision.

Survival of the fittest, that very thought transformed itself through the senses into outward actions that manifested itself in the lifting of a gun in stealth mode, all senses focused on the impending action to be performed. It was a sacrifice the soul was willing to make, the sacrificial lamb on the altar of the Gods of hunger and the need for survival. The sanctity of the mountain was to be desecrated by the blood of an innocent for the sake of another and there was nothing anyone could do about it, not the Gods, no one; everything around, living and dead would soon be witness to this act as the sound of nature’s laws would soon resonate. The bullet would rip through the personal space of the animal that it thought was its own and it would catch it unaware; too quick to respond to the warnings that travel through space and time.

Was there really nothing anyone could do to stop this act; not even the Gods. Blood would permeate its way through the white snow and the episode would soon be forgotten as nature taking its natural course. The winds then took the smell of death to the senses of the white horse, as it twitched its head in the direction of danger and froze in its stance, making contact with its soon to be assassin; eyes locked and perceptions of life were exchanged, anxiety and opportunity meeting somewhere in between, giving rise to a plethora of emotions locked inside Pandora’s box. As the first pearl of sweat found its way through his pores and down his brow, silently awaiting its final decent to coalesce with the snow below his feet, his finger finally made contact with the trigger and the mind gave a go ahead, with doubts still lurking in the shadows. That moment etched in time was to decide the fate not just of one soul but of two. As he raised his spirit to deliver the coup de grace, a voice was heard in the background, “Let it live. It need not die so that we can live.”