Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Madrasis worship Ravana!


A friend recently said that when he was very young, he was told that the 'Madrasis' worship Ravana during Diwali! He believed it. In fact, quick as children are to associate one thing with another, he went on to think that's why men from Madras had such big moustaches! Well, he did become much the wiser since then, but we definitely had a hearty laugh when he recounted this.

Let me be a spoilsport and dispel this interesting thought from the minds of others who might also have been fed this misinformation when young...




Diwali is an interesting festival -- one of the grandest events all over India, but if a foreigner asks five Indians why they celebrate the festival he/she will probably get five different answers!

While some communities burst fire-crackers to praise Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakasura, others light lamps to brighten Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana; some worship Goddess Kali’s conquest of Raktavija while others celebrate the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi; to some it marks the fateful encounter between Lord Vishnu as Vaamana and King Mahabali, to others it signifies the attainment of nirvana by Mahavir Bhagwan, the founding of the Golden Temple or the return of Guru Hargobind Sahib; some celebrate the return of the Pandavas from their 12-year exile while others consider it a harvest festival; for some the beginning of a new year, to others it is the day for playing cards and dice games thanks to the example set by Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva… basically, we all have reasons to celebrate.

And less than 10 days to go... hope preparations are on in full-swing?

PS: Oh, when I started listing the mythological/cultural/religious reasons associated with Diwali, and as the list grew bigger and bigger... I wondered if there could, perhaps, really exist some community that worships Ravana on Diwali day!! Highly possible, considering we're literally a land of many... if you know of any such tradition, do leave a comment educating us.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Spontaneous Calligraphy - Image

A lovely piece of art and associated comments that make one fall in love with calligraphy...

Check out... http://creative.linux-delhi.org/?q=node/1467

When I was in school, my brother Mouli bought me a set of simple calligraphy pens from the US (where he was studying then). I just fell in love with those. From greeting cards to charts, I used to title them all with those pens. I used them till the felt tips wore out!

This image made me rediscover the joy of calligraphy, and it's time to buy myself another set of pens! I tell you, no computer font can ever give you the joy you get out of feeling the letters flow from a pen you wield!

read more | digg story

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Those fun and educational jingles our grandparents taught us...

Janani's podcast

Give it a listen!



Click here to get your own player.


Note: The lead-in and lead-out music is by Saxaphone maestro Kadri Sri Gopalnath. The length of clips are within fair use. If however, you'd like to use the content of this podcast in any work of yours, please write to me and I'll email you the content without the background music, licensed under creative commons.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Wise Einstein

Today, 'Einstein' has become an adjective for nerdy, uber-brainy researchers! Intelligence apart, he was also a very wise person, and I am sure all of you know that too. No wonder then that some of his pearls of wisdom are remembered even today. Here are some...

  • "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."
  • "I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details."
  • "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."
  • "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."
  • "Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing."
  • "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."
  • "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
  • "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
  • "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."
  • "Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it."
  • "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."
  • "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."
  • "God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically."
  • "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."
  • "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
  • "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."
  • "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."
  • "Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater."
  • "If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."
  • "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."
  • "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
  • "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

openITis.com is here!!

Been to linuxforu.com? It just got bigger, better, much better, much, much better... the new avatar, also called openITis.com was launched today, on the occasion of India's 60th independence day. And they could not have done it at a better time! There is much talk about India not giving back enough to the global open source community. This website bodes to be a relatively big step towards that.

For one, much of the content of Linux For You magazine is going to be opened up under a Creative Commons license and made available on the website. But more than that, if used well, openITis.com could prove to be a good platform for Indian developers and users to connect with each other and with global projects -- share tips, discuss issues, collate ideas, blog, contribute content, and so on. The site will also point users to the best content already available on the Web, in addition to original content developed by the Linux For You and EFY Times teams. The community can also contribute content to openITis.com

There seems to be something in it for everybody -- CXOs using (or considering the use of) open source in their enterprises, developers, professional users, newbies, etcetera. The website is still in the alpha stage, so do make it a point to share any bugs you find or suggestions you may have with the team!

OH, I almost forgot to tell you... there is a BRILLIANT interview by Linus Torvalds on openITis.com -- he answers around 35 questions put forth by the open source community (the interview was organised by EFYTimes.com). Truly, an amazing, frank interview. Topics discussed range from what textbooks students should read to why there aren't any many notable Indian contributors to the Linux Kernel.

Here is a tiny extract...

Q: What does Linux mean to you -- a hobby, philosophy, the meaning of life, a job, the best OS, something else...?

Linus: It's some of all of that. It's a hobby, but a deeply meaningful one. The best hobbies are the ones that you care 'really' deeply about. And these days it's obviously also my work, and I'm very happy to be able to combine it all.

I don't know about a 'philosophy', and I don't really do Linux for any really deeply held moral or philosophical reasons (I literally do it because it's interesting and fun), but it's certainly the case that I have come to appreciate the deeper reasons why I think open source works so well. So I may not have started to do Linux for any such deep reasons, and I cannot honestly say that that is what motivates me, but I do end up thinking about why it all works.

Anyway, click here and you'll be at openITis.com before you finish saying, "God, please ask Janani to shut up, and take me to openITis.com!"

Independence Day Wishes!

Namaste! Wish you a very, very happy independence day!

This day is all the more significant for me this year, since I am out of the country!! Having always been a person steeped in organic India, savouring its arts, culture and heritage, I have always appreciated and loved our country and been a rather fanatic Indian all the while (as all of you probably know more than me). And I thought I could not get more "Indian", but living abroad for a few months makes you realise all the more what you have back home -- INDEPENDENCE!! If you're thinking, what the heck, it's not like you're gaoled... imagine something as simple as having to carrying a bulky copy of your passport in your handbag all the time, and you'll understand what you have! :-)

And it is amazing how much the Australians respect Indians -- NOT for the intelligence, NOT for the natural tan or the black eyes, NOT for persistence, or anything else -- but for our HERITAGE! Some Aussies claim they are jealous of us Indians because we have such a rich heritage (the word is so virtuous because it signifies a cutlural 'inheritance'), which they, as a nation of immigrants do not have. A bus driver saw me running down towards the bus stop in the city, and waited to take me on board... he wanted to chat about Indian culture. A friend tells me how her Professor's wife invited her over to dinner and made dal (with a recipe she got from the Internet) for her! Another told me how the bus driver waived the ticket fare because she was an "Indian Indian"!!

Many of you probably appreciate our culture and heritage and INDEPENDENCE already, but in case not, please try to make a conscious effort to understand it -- for every custom you follow, try to find out why or how it came about (for example, we pierce our ears and nose not because it is funky but because it has an acupuncture effect, we wear the toe-ring not just to "show" that we are married, but because it exerts force on a nerve that strengthens the uterus); try to appreciate our cultural inheritance in the form of music, dance, frescoes, bead-work etc; our architectural and artistic prowess in the temples and monuments; and God's gift in the form of our mighty mountains, vibrant rivers, and unconquerable seas! The first step is appreciation, then understanding, then spreading this consciousness to others.

Wish you a wonderful time exploring India!! Don't rely on Google for the info, YouTube for the videos and MusicIndiaOnline for the music -- get into your kurta-pyjamas or saris, get out there, and savour organic India, LIVE! If you're on this journey of discovery, we are sure to bump into each other some day, because I am too :-)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mission Impossible!

Last month we attended a performance at the Sydney Opera House's main concert hall. You know what, the Opera House is simply amazing just to look at... but listening to a concert there is just out of the world! Most brilliant acoustic experience I've experienced so far.

(Hmm, actually no, second-best, because the best acoustics any day is at the Kalakshetra Auditorium - Chennai, in its own natural, ear-friendly, art-friendly, heritage-friendly, cultural, cultured way!)

Coming back to Sydney... so, this concert was composed and conducted by Lalo Schifrin, winner of four Grammy awards and six Oscar nominations to his credit. But you'll probably recognise him best if I tell you he scored the famous 'Mission: Impossible' tune!

This concert was in his inimitable 'jazz meets symphony style', and was performed by the virtuoso James Morrison on the trumpet, and the upcoming Ambre Hammond on the piano, along with The Sydney Symphony orchestra.

As expected, the scores were scintillating and the delivery perfect. This the first time I've listened to a symphony orchestra live, and, not surprisingly, what amazed me more than the performance of the lead players was the brilliant, impeccable coordination of the symphony orchestra. Some of the instrumentalists had to play for less than a total of two minutes during the two and a half hour concert, yet they did it perfectly. The percussionists took such care to make sure that the the synchronisation was perfect... in fact, I noticed that one of the guys who operated what looked like an oversized gong (I don't know what the instrument is called!) actually used his hand to stop the thing from vibrating for a second longer than required! Exemplary team work.

Brilliant experience!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Self-illumination

Self-illumination, an idea designed by Andre Hutschenaden. I guess Andre meant it to be humorous, as my friend said he downloaded this from the 3D humour section of a design website... but I think this is brilliant (no pun intended)!


In fact, use this as a visual cue, let your imagination run wild and jot down a few sentences on what thoughts it triggers in you.

As a journalist, the moment I saw this, I wished we had a gadget like this, which we can plug in every time we need an article idea :-)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Two Choices

I received this by email today morning... and what a lovely start to the day it was! If it brings a tiny tear to your eye as well, do use the 'email' icon at the end of the blog post to send this to your friends as well.

Two Choices

What would you do?... You make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fund raising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe, that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher..

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!"

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world".

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the "appropriate" ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things." So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:
1. Delete
2. Forward

May your day, be a Shay Day

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

StumbleUpon

Every time I am bored, I discover an interesting new website! But how? Well, I just stumble upon them!

Just visit StumbleUpon and install the tool-bar plug-in for your browser. Thereafter, every time you click on the Stumble! button in your browser, a random website is shown based on your interests (which you choose from a list of subjects shown by StumbleUpon during the free registration process -- you can even change these settings later.)

You can even give websites a thumbs up or thumbs down, depending on how good it is. This helps StumbeUpon to serve up interesting websites -- after all, you got an interesting website only because the crowd shared its views about websites they saw, so do your part and rate the websites you see :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lord Ganesha - The Supreme Management Guru

A year ago, my sister-in-law's dad shared with me an interesting insight he gained from a management meet... on how Lord Ganesha personifies umpteen management lessons in his mixed and matched figure!

I have tried and recollected some of those in this podcast... hope this inspires you to look beyond the obvious and glean management lessons from whatever you see around you.

Have a great day!

Janani's podcast (Give it a listen!)



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My first podcast

He he he, I love to experiment!! Well, after half a day of meddling with my voice recorder, Audacity, Podomatic, Feedburner and Blogger, here we go, my first podcast! As will be quite obvious when you listen to it, this is pretty amateur stuff, but well as Lao Tsu so wisely said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Hopefully, I'll improve as I keep podcasting!

So, here we go... please give it a listen! And be warned, don't subscribe unless you are up to listening to sense and nonsense on a wide, wide spectrum of subjects :-) Well, it's rather presumptive to think you'll like my voice, but if you don't, obviously you won't subscribe!

Janani's podcast




Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Are you having fun?


If you are not having fun, you better watch this presentation! If you are, it's still good to see this, because you will end up having more fun than ever before... moreover, after seeing this you might realise you've not really been having fun all along, because this presentation on The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun truly redefines the very word 'fun'.

Well, my favourite quote from this presentation is:


"When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done."
- Lou Holtz

So, let me say no more, and let you discover the eight principles for yourself! Have fun!


Monday, July 23, 2007

A word a day keeps boredom away...

When you take a break... visit www.oneword.com

It is amazing how such a simple website can be so addictive, but it is! Simple... you go to the site, click on "Go" and it shows you one word and a text box. You have to just start typing into the text box whatever thoughts that word inspires in you. Just let your thoughts run wild and jot down whatever crosses your mind the moment you read that word!

As the developers explain on the site: "The real purpose of this exercise is to alleviate our natural tendency to edit everything-and learn to flow. An analogy would be a film camera: when a film is shot, the camera just rolls and captures everything-good and bad. When all the shooting is complete, the raw film is edited into a cohesive piece. The camera operator doesn't keep
stopping the camera and rewinding and editing on-the-fly-the camera just rolls. If it were to stop, some of the best performances and spontaneous moments might be missed. So: be the camera. Well, that's a stupid saying, but you get the idea. In writing-just flow. Go back later and edit."

An excellent exercise for writers; a good way to unwind for all others as well!

And once you fall in love with oneword, try their other sites onecaption.com and poetc.com as well!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shantaram

The opening lines of Gregory David Roberts' book Shantaram, are perhaps the most beautiful I've read till date. It goes thus:

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you've got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.

I've not been through such miseries in life, thankfully... and hopefully neither have you. But then 'shackled helplessness' can come in different magnitudes to different people at different times -- it can be as simple as not knowing why a friend is upset with you (and hence not being able to bridge the cleft), or when you've made some decision which goes wrong and you 'hate yourself' for it, or when you see an injustice but cannot correct it, and many more such common situations.

But good for us, we now have with us lessons such as that on the freedom to choose, from Roberts' book -- lessons that'll surely help us at some point in life or the other!

Hey, not it's not such a heavy book all through! Mumbaikars especially will love the way Roberts resonates a love for their city! He surely is a master of description, narration... and life!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bots on the ground

Yeah, I'm working on another article on robotics. And really, this is one subject that never ceases to fascinate me.

On the one extreme there is the impression that robots are merely machines that can do repetitive tasks with high-precision (like those used in an automotive assembly line), and on the other extreme there are those who always associate robots with space exploration and such exotic applications... and even beyond, there are those who continue to live in the sci-fi world of Asimov and Star Wars.

But in the midst of all these visions of what a 'robot' really is, even without us realising it, robots are actually racing towards mainstream existence -- no, not on par with humans -- but certainly as part of their lives! In homes, hospitals, war-fields.

Here is a rather interesting article you might want to check out...

Bots on The Ground - washingtonpost.com

And please do write to me, if you have any thoughts on this.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ha ha, who is the foreigner?!

We recently went to an Indian restaurant here in Sydney, and I noticed two Australians relishing a Thali (complete Indian meal). I immediately exclaimed, "Wow, looking at those two foreigners enjoying Indian food!" Then, bit my lip, and stopped :-) For, who were the foreigners there? The Aussies were in there own land! It might have been an Indian restaurant, but weren't we the foreigners... technical speaking, at least? :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Village Diary

By Satyan Mishra, founder, Drishtee

(Opensourced, with his permission! He wants to let it 'fly' - so pass this on as much as you can!)

A monsoon morning in any part of India is as beautiful as it gets. Perhaps it is the smell of wet earth which refreshes or it could be the sight of the cloud laden sky. Being driven on such a morning into the countryside of North Bihar with a chain of thoughts is an experience worth sharing. More so as the past and future run alongside as two lanes on the same road; one on which we are driving and the other one, broader and more promising, being laid fresh. But wait! Before I get philosophical about development let me tell you that I am headed to our project village in Madhubani, for the second time in the same week. That is where the Pollution Control Board has suddenly decided to make a visit and inspect the site where we are putting up a state-of-the-art bamboo gasifier plant to produce 25 kW electricity to bring to life the aspirations of the community.

Bihar's first rural BPO has been setup in the heart of the village to allow young girls and boys to work and compete with their urban counterparts. Ten village youngsters have so far found employment. There is scope for many more if the pilot succeeds. Jobs inside the villages would result in reverse migration and the growth of the market within the community, which should lead to the revival of a dying economy. Here I go again talking of development and future, while the present seems to be hidden under the dark monsoon clouds.

Why has the safest electricity producing technology manufactured at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) with emission levels well within the Euro II levels, all within fancy acoustic enclosures, in the back of beyond village where the average income of a family is less than one US dollar a day, suddenly come under the stern eyes of the Pollution Control Board of an otherwise a sleepy state? Well to answer that question let us go back a week in time.

I had just returned from a trip abroad to receive a notice, under the Section 144 of CrPC, from the district authorities of Madhubani. It was in my name and stated that I can’t visit my home and the site of the BPO and the gasifier in the village Sauarth because there is a threat of riot with my implicit involvement, at the site of the gasifier. In that sleepy village where I have tried hard to shake people from their deep intoxicated slumber on the issues of development, self reliance, social values, what could have happened so suddenly to threaten peace.

I had two options in front of me. The first one was to stay in my air-conditioned office and send my lawyer and a senior Head Office team to represent me in the court of the Sub Divisional Magistrate at Madhubani. The other option was to carry my half unpacked luggage to the village to oversee things myself. The latter option was more tempting to the entrepreneur in me though it meant the defiance of the Section 144 notice slapped on me. I was in front of the District Magistrate the next evening to see a group of villagers gathered in front of the office, to show their support for the project in general and towards me in particular.

During the previous 24 anxious hours, I got a download on the entire story of how one family of bureaucrats had turned the story of unadulterated village development into a juicy family soap. Our next door, non-resident neighbours in the village, the undeclared first family of the village, had made their 'routine' yearly, week-long tour of the village in my absence and within the realms of their unlimited wisdom had declared the renewable, tested, certified and perhaps the best gasifier technology in the world as dangerous on account of causing health hazards, compared it to the famous 'Union Carbide' factory in Bhopal which had caused innumerable deaths.

Since many villagers were not aware about that incident, the hot rumour also included doses of possibilities of earthquakes and 'hot volcanic kind eruption' from the small gasifier. The usually entertainment starved villagers were in awe of the multifarious yet benign looking equipment. But the general reaction was somewhere between fear and excitement for the gasifier which was yet to start. The final touches to the acoustic enclosure had to be provided before the Section 144 was slapped.

At the exact scheduled time of the meeting, the District Magistrate who also is an IIT K alumni, called us. Within minutes of hearing the case, he admitted slackness on the part of concerned officials and agreed to withdraw the notice on the date of the hearing. The admission of mistake and clarity of assurance was either due to his honesty which reflected in his eyes or due to the large group of villagers peeping from outside, who believed more in development and less in the 'earth quake story'. Victory of sorts meant that work had to resume soon by the engineers from Delhi who had mercifully agreed to wait till the drama was over.

The news-hungry media have invaded every corner of the country and Madhubani is no exception. The story caught on to them and the weekend was spent between men, media and machinery.

There was relief and expectation in the eyes of the villagers, knowing little about yet another twist in the tale being round the corner. I left the village for Delhi with mixed feelings on the possibility of replicating such projects in the state as the pilot was proving to be a huge drain in terms of resource and personal energy. I was greeted at Patna with another bombshell. The Pollution Control Board at the behest of a complaint filed by the patriarch of the 'First Family in the village' had swung into action against the symbol of development which had not yet started, to prove its own credentials. The Board (Pollution Control) has anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 such generators (mostly operating on diesel or kerosene which is non renewable) within its jurisdiction. A normal complaint for the fortunate can take in excess of a month to be looked into. The normal remedy is to suggest an enclosure or vibration pads, which our gasifier already possessed. But to move within 2-3 days of a complaint requires some strong push.

By this time, it was clear to me that the path to development in the state of Bihar needs much more than a change in government. It is the attitude of people which has to change. The individuality and selfishness within the rich and powerful has reached levels of obscenity leading to strong resentment within the poor. It is not hard to believe why the Naxalite ideology is finding deep roots in the existing system. While the state talks of attracting NRI investment, it is a mere pawn in the hands of a very small group of people who use the machinery to settle personal scores.

Well, it is difficult to remain upbeat always in the face of such frustrations. While such a small spirited effort acquires painfully slow momentum, there is a strong and harsh force ready to nip it at its bud. The Zamindaars might have shifted their base from the village to the cities but the Zamindari system continues remotely, virtually in various forms. These thoughts are nauseating in this country where time is in short supply. We need to do things quickly to save us from an impending disaster, maybe a civil war which is clearly visible on the horizon.

Talking of horizon, the monsoon morning is still in its rich splendour. The Sun has taken a day off it seems. The air still smells of wet earth. I need to breathe deep to come out of the dark thoughts and look up ahead to counter another challenge. What could the Pollution Control Board inspection team look into a technology certified by the best in the world... is the thought on my head as I enter my beautiful village where development is knocking on the doors from inside. If you can hear the knocks, come out of your own doors and help open these doors!

Copyright © 2007 Satyan Mishra. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license. You are free to share this work with others, in any form, provided this copyright notice is kept intact.



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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boats!

You know, a lot of people here in Sydney have boats parked outside their home like we have cycles or scooters! Initially, I was surprised but then somebody told me that one in seven people owns a water-vessel of some kind here. Interesting! And yeah, if you happen to go to one of the bays or beaches on a clear day you can see a lot of people sailing too.

Check this out, if you don't believe me...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A One-Day Trip To Canberra

Vikram and I went on a one-day tour to Canberra this Sunday. A good trip... comfortable bus, good driver, amiable and knowledgeable tour guide etc. Vikram booked the tour through APT - Australia Pacific Tours.

Nice, planned city, constructed in the early 1900s when the parliamentarians from Melbourne and Sydney started fighting about where to build the Parliament as those in each city refused to travel 6-7 hrs to the other for every session. So, they kind of chose to build a city mid-way between the two cities and so Canberra was born. But till the 1960s I believe the public did not want to settle there at all and it was pretty much like a ghost town with only the parliament, treasury, high commissions etc. It was still called the "bush state" till then. It was only after that that people slowly started moving in, but even now it's a very small city and sparsely populated with just around 2-3 residential localities. So, the focus is on the Govt infrastructure there.

Picture this... the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Parliament House, India Gate, Embassies and a FEW of the memorials of Delhi situated as a standalone city with each building situated really far, far, apart and 1/10th the population... that's likely to be Canberra.

So, here are some notes and pics...


The Highway

The highway from Sydney to Canberra was good and very scenic. But very "empty" as in there aren't many villages etc on the way. There are just a few villages, which are considered as "landmarks" because they "managed to survive"... so it's considered a pretty rare thing here if a village manages to survive. Hats off to the Indian villages!

It was in one of the villages called Berrima which "managed to survive" that the bus was stopped for morning tea at around 10:15 a.m. We had some really yummy brownies, tart and quiche! But what was more interesting was the lovely laid back life at the village! There were four retired people who were staring at a redone vintage car outside the little restro where we had tea. When the owner of the car came out, they surrounded him and started interviewing him about how he did the leather furnishing, the wooden panel in the front etc. And then they waved goodbye to each other, commented about how "freezing" it was and drove away in their cars--which were close to vintage themselves ;-) (Don't ask!!! We too were gawking at the vintage car... so forgot to click pics!!!)

Here are some pics of the highway though...


First Glimpses of Canberra

Rather like the Bangalore of many years ago that appa often recollects... broad roads, almost empty, very green, beautiful buildings...



Canberra Sights

The three main locations we went to were the Parliament House, the National Museum and the War Memorial.

The National Museum of Australia was built in 2001 as a gift to themselves... for celebrating 100 years of federation. It aims to provide a bird's eye view of what Australia is in terms of the land, the people and the culture. As soon as you set sight on the museum you are likely to be a little puzzled because the shape looks very very funny!! Then the Guide explained: apparently they tied a sailor's knot, put it into a basket and filled it with plaster. The Museum was modelled on the shape that resulted... to signify the culture that ties all of Australia together despite it being a land populated mainly by migrants from different lands.

Another interesting thing there is the garden of dreams... built almost entirely of concrete!!! Apparently, they tried to think up all that made Australia special (or normal) and tried to symbolise them in some way or the other in the garden of dreams. Pretty thoughtful though... here's an example... there is a mound of grass around the garden showing that the Australians value and respect the bushes (natural environment) more than anything else; Apparently when they built the garden they planted saplings on the mound's slopes, in a slant. As the trees grew, they straightened up. This is said to signify that when people migrated to Australia they tended to lean towards their homeland and its memories, but as time passed they became upstanding citizens of the new country--some straighter than others.

One of the best parts of the museum is a section called "Eternity" which tries to profile the people of Australia... who are like all other people... experiencing... hope, joy, loneliness, chance, triumph etc. So, there is an exhibit for each of these emotions. Each exhibit has titles for around a dozen stories of famous and erstwhile unknown people... you can click on any of these and watch a video of their story. One of the best, recommended by the tour guide, was the video of Bradbury's Olympic Gold, under the title "Chance"... it was amazing how he won the Gold in ice skating because the three in front of him skid and fell in the last 1/2 a minute!! Since then, I believe that when somebody wins by chance they are known to "do a Bradbury"! Many such interesting stories. The rest of the museum was pretty normal, like any other.

The Parliament House was beautiful too. Amazing how they allow tourists to go right into the main Parliament room where the sessions happen. And like all Parliaments, it looked beautiful when empty (because judging by what the Guide said, Australian partliament too has its share of fish-market scenes!) The colours in the two houses are beautiful shades of green and burgundy respectively, inspired by the eucalyptus tree's leaves and bark... and of course the beautiful Australian sunset.

Here are some pics of the Museum and Parliament...


And when I wanted to win a Pulitzer...

Suddenly I felt like doing a little bit of adventurous journalism... you know, peeping into Dons' dens, digging out political secrets, investigating murders etc... but the most adventurous of course is walking into a warfield to cover the scenes of bravery, valour, triumph, defeat and sorrow there... and that's precisely why we travelled back in time to the time of the First World War and shot these...

So, who's going to nominate me for the Pulitzer now? I might "do a Bradbury" and win after all, you know ;-)

Interesting backgrounds

I'm always intrigued by designs and patterns, so when I found some rather interesting designs on the dividers, walls, aborigine-made-fabrics etc at the museum and parliament house I could not help clicking some close-ups. Have uploaded those too as they might make interesting backgrounds for Powerpoint presentations and even as desktop backgrounds :-)

Here...
http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/jananigopalakrishnan/album?.dir=4676scd&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/jananigopalakrishnan/my_photos


And oh, forgot to mention... we passed very close to the town were the legendary Donald Bradman grew up!! If my grandpa had been in his prime and able to come to Australia, he'd have made the trip like a pilgrimage!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Signing in from Sydney

I'm back after a rather long hiatus. Signing in from Sydney now. Vikram is on a project here till around September-October, and since I know I'm gonna be back in sweet India before Diwali, am able to appreciate Sydney quite a bit. In fact, it's a rather endearing city. So, now, be prepared for a really long post!

First impressions

My first impression of Sydney was, "Wow!!! This is such a lovely change from Singapore!" Sydney is a beautiful city, with a proper balance of majesty and quaintness. Very aesthetically built Victorian buildings and sandstone structures, cute and cosy brick houses, and lots and lots of greenery (of course, the CBD or Central Business District, which is the heart of the city has not much greenery to speak of but once you move away towards the suburbs it's beautiful.) And yes, the bays and harbours are rather delightful too.

Friendly people

Many scared me saying Australia is a very racist country, and that I should be prepared for not-so-friendly people. But, fortunately, so far, my experience has been quite different. I find the people here very friendly (probably because they know that I’m going to be here only for six months—it’s obvious when one talks to me!) In fact, I like the fact that the Australians still have the time to stop and say, "Good Day, Mate!" (pronounced "Good Dye, Myte!"), whether or not they know you. And if you happen to bump into any senior Britishers, they will even stop and chat with you. In fact, I was stopped on the road by an old man the other day who asked me why I did not go to school that day. He was rather surprised when I told him it's been more than eight years since I finished school!

Oh, and one of the most informative conversations I've had since I landed here was with an old lady whom I still do not know who... basically her husband and I were peering at the same curio in the museum and a conversation started because she knew what the strange-looking thing was… it happened to be a hand-rattle as we came to know later, but since it was in a barracks museum her husband and I were trying to guess whether it was some kind of instrument used to torture people—when she came and interrupted the horrendous thoughts saying it was but a kids’ plaything.

As the conversation progressed, she started explaining and delved into the history of Australia and all that. Her insights were very very interesting... she said, "Well, people call Australia 'down under' and 'the land of convicts' and all that, but what they miss out is the fact that these convicts and the wardens managed to build a whole city from absolutely nothing!" The clothes they brought from England were not suited for the weather, neither were the crops they brought. Half the livestock died on the ship. A lot of the food rotted before it reached 'down under'. The people here literally had to start from scratch. And it was amazing how the wardens managed to not blindly make the prisoners do menial labour, but also to identify and tap the talents in them. Those good at carpentry were made to craft various instruments and such, those who had a good knowledge of textiles wove fabric, and those good at farming did that. Of course she could not help quipping that if they had had the good sense to consult the native aboriginal people life would have been much simpler. “But they just could not do that, you know,” she remarked with a wink.

And yes, to me, a city’s libraries are an indication of how friendly the place is. I was just delighted to walk into the nearby library to find a nice, plump, friendly librarian manning the counter. And even more delighted to see her surrounded by kids (since the nearby school had just ended its day) asking for books to be borrowed, searching for lost things (and there was this dear boy who was asking her with a sorry puppy face if she’d seen the cap he lost yesterday--the one that his mother had embroidered his initials on, and she grinned and brought out a dozen caps asking him to find his!) and a lot of such friendly banter!

A normal city, with ups and downs

What I hated about Singapore was the fact that it seemed like I was walking through a video game. Everything worked, everything was predictable, everything was perfect--a small city, built and executed to perfection like a lucrative business! It’s a wonderful destination for tourists (no denying that AT ALL) but if you're a person who is rooted in organic India, you'll get bored after just a week in Singapore (despite the fact that the place is loaded with Indians, Indian restaurants, temples and what not!). Reason is that there is too much automation--even the librarian is substituted by a computer kiosk, and if you are a compulsive extrovert and a person who enjoys variety and uncertainty and all things natural, that automation can irk you!

Sydney on the other hand is very human. It has its pluses and minuses, just like any normal city. There are potholes on the roads, beggars, trains that breakdown, and all the usual quirks that add spice to life! In fact, two weeks after we landed here, one of the trains I was on broke down and I was probably the only one on the train who was delighted--Lovely, I thought to myself, this is a NORMAL city!

The beggars here, by the way, are very interesting. They sit on the roads, with a plate or cloth spread out in front of them. They have a board next to them, where they request you for money, in rather poetic ways—some of the boards read rather well—“I am a homeless bloke, with no roof above my head. Help me get on my feet again, and I’ll be grateful to you. Your gold coin donation will be highly appreciated!” (That means, they want nothing less than a dollar—the minimum gold coin denomination!) And yes, they can usually be found reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee. The heart still hopes that the coffee was donated by a generous passer-by or somebody who could not finish a cupful! It sure would give one a complex if beggars in this land could really afford Starbucks coffee all the time!!

Life in a village

So, for a month after we landed here, we lived in a serviced apartment in the heart of the city (while we were searching for a house.) We made use of that one month to do all the touristy things—to take a tour of the Opera House, walk on the Harbour Bridge, ride on ferries and jet boats, visit the Taronga Zoo, laze on the wooden steps flanking the waters in the harbour, gazing at the ships, living on sandwiches (vegetarian food is pretty easy to find in Sydney), and all that.

All this while, we also parallel-processed the house-hunt. It took us a little longer to find a house because we wanted one in an Indian locality and if possible close to the home of a family friend—whose family is one of the friendliest and most helpful we’ve ever seen!

Here, the residential areas are in the suburbs, outside the core city. Many of these suburbs are called ‘villages’, ‘towns’ or ‘municipalities’—and they typically are so. For example, the apartment we’ve rented is in Homebush Village. And these suburbs are typically villages. There will be a ‘market’ close to the railway station, where you’ll have a grocery store, a vegetable seller, a butchery, an ATM, a post office, and if you’re lucky a cafĂ© or a restaurant! For more amenities like the supermarkets, library etc you have to travel for 5 or 10 minutes by train, past a stop or two, to the nearest, let’s say, bigger village or town or municipality ;-) But it’s rather enjoyable now, because the weather now is good, and it’s like being on vacation in a hill station (no, we do a LOT of professional work—I’m talking about the ambience!) But secretly I suspect, I am enjoying this all the more because I know that the bustle of India (and proximity to our dear families and friends) is only a few months away :-)

So, well, we’ve now rented a unit in an apartment complex, for six months, and I’m back at work and blogging albeit on an extremely slow dial-up connection! Having grown so used to the comfort of broadband, reverting to dial-up is rather painful! Oh, I forgot to tell you why… this is one thing I did not like about Sydney… it’s not really a consumer’s market. In India, ever since the telecom sector began to be invaded by private players, competition is higher, and whatever customers ask for, it’s always “Mil Jayega!” Phone lines will be promptly connected in a week or so, and Internet just as promptly. But here, it’s very very slow—almost bureaucratic!

Telstra is a monopoly player here; so hot-headed that one of their consultants told me they won’t give you a phone line unless you take a 12-month contract! If you break the contract before that, you need to pay them the fixed charges for the remaining months—which is probably the reason why the tenant who occupied this apartment before went away without disconnecting the phone line! So, despite the fact that I found a service provider (Yes Optus) who gives telephone connections without contracts, it’s taking us longer to get a phone line as disconnecting the earlier line is a legal procedure (which fortunately Optus handles on our behalf). But what is TOUGHEST to believe is that a broadband connection takes TWO to THREE weeks after one gets a phone line! I mean, if I get a modem, install it etc., does it take that long for them to activate the line on their server? Oh well, who knows! Anyways, it’s back to basics, working on a dial-up connection, pretty much a big compromise for a geek J

So, here I am, waiting to get broadband… so I can upload photos!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lion Dance



My husband and I were in Malaysia, at a resort called Strawberry Park at Cameron Highlands, during Chinese New Year this year (around mid-February). We were quite fascinated by the Lion Dance that was conducted on the ocassion. Two people wore a lion costume and danced to the music of energetic drum beats with the jerky, fast and fearsome movements of a lion. The "lion" danced at the entrance, the reception, restaurant, and all important areas of the restaurant. I believe this is supposed to ward off bad luck and welcome prosperity and all things good in the New Year.

After returning to Singapore, I noticed that Lion Dance troupes went around the city for a whole week after the new year, stopping and dancing at shops, restaurants, offices and other establishments where they were welcomed.

(You can read more about the Chinese New Year and the Lion Dance at Wikipedia.)

Check out some photos of the Lion Dance shot by Vikram...






Never Say Never

I'm a very fanatic Indian... if you know what I mean :-) Ever since I could think independently, I got it into my pysche that I would never go outside India except as a tourist, and my idea of the ideal time span for a tourist sojourn is less than three months. Well, then I got married and my husband got posted in a project in Singapore--well, you know all about it, if you've read the earlier posts titled "Jottings from Singapura". Oops! Twenty four years in a very closely-knit joint family, and then a sudden move outside the country is tough, even if it's only Singapore, and I got rather homesick. (Well, I think I'd have made my husband's life miserable too with my homesickness... now that's a lesson to newly weds... don't thrust your homesickness on your hubby!)

After India, living in Singapore did seem like living in a video game. But one good thing is that Singapore has a sizeable Indian population, lotsa temples, and a healthy blend of Indian and Western culture. There is one thing about me... I get used to lands and people very very soon... within two days of being in Singapore, I could independently find my way to any place there, I made friends, and all that. So, what's the problem, I can hear you thinking. The problem is that I find it rather tough to forget that our close ones are far away, physically. But I also consoled myself saying India was only 3 hrs 45 mins away from India, and thanks to Air India express, round-trips at 14K were affordable. So, even if it did take more than a month, I ultimately started getting used to Singa, and even liking it a wee bit.


Then, one fine day, we heard that Vikram's next project would not be in India as anticipated, but in Sydney, Australia, instead as an emergency project had come up. And this was within two months of my going to Singapore... I'd just finished unpacking and begun to settle down there! So, we were to leave in 10 days we heard. I complained no end (hey, I'm a woman--complaining is a birthright :-)) Aussie sounded like the other end of the world--and that's what the atlas shows too! And to leave Singa in 10 days... oh, that wouldn't even leave me enough time to say proper goodbyes.

So, I made a list of places (some were left out... like, er, Sentosa Island, for example--which we had put off for later, because we were planning to visit it together with my parents who were to visit us very soon) to visit before leaving Singapore, people to say goodbye to, etc. Okay, so it seemed a manageable move. Till......... I got a call one sunny afternoon saying we were to leave for India early the next morning (as the company preferred us to apply for the visa from there) and then off the Sydney from there. So, that left me, well, half a day to vacate the house! WOW!

We came back to India, applied for the visa, and spent the one week biting our nails, as I believe people usually do when they apply for a visa. We've got it now, and next week might see me on the shores of Sydney, where we are likely to be for the next six months.

True... I did complain no end about this... and it was a rather whirlwindish experience returning the library books, saying goodbyes, packing and leaving so fast... but I've NOT posted this on my blog on a complaining note today. Because once I got to think over the experience a little radically, it seemed like a good lesson--one worth learning in life.

We think too far ahead in life, often forgetting that sometimes things are beyond our control. I never wanted to leave India. I had to. I thought vacating our apartment in Singa within 10 days and leaving for Aussie was too fast and stressful, but ended up doing the whole in half a day instead! (A friend summed it up rather well when she said: Never say never in life, because that'll come bounding back to you :-))

And what's more--I spent more than a fortnight being homesick and upset, and ultimately left Singapore without seeing Sentosa! If you look deeper, these are lessons--don't think beyond tomorrow, and ENJOY the moment--because it WILL NOT come back, however much you repent later! I've learnt that lesson rather well now! And although a portion of my heart will remain yearning to come back to India very very soon--closer to the land I love and my family (and friends) and Vikram's--now I've resolved to set my homesickness aside and enjoy the six months I'm there in Sydney! So, look out for more jottings once I'm there.

(I've written about my experiences here, hoping that others will be able to relate to it or learn the valuable lessons I've learnt, or even better, avoid the mistakes I made :-))

Monday, March 19, 2007

iFuture, at Singapore Science Centre

I recently visited the Singapore Science Centre with Atul Gupta, a friend and fellow-writer from Mumbai, who was here to deliver some guest lectures at S P Jain Centre for Management. There was a display of futuristic devices at the Science Centre... called iFuture. Feast on these geek toys...

View PowerPoint presentation


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jottings from Singapura - Part 3

Where people try to be too perfect!

Hi all!

I'm just back from a short trip to India, which was FANTASTIC! And when everybody asked me how my first impression of Singapore was, I told them that it's a country that's been "built really well--really, there are some brilliant examples of landscaping and architecture here" and where they "try to be too clean and perfect" and where everything is "way too automated for my liking." I'll give you examples of all these in subsequent posts, but here let me give you three examples of what I mean when I say they try to be too perfect and clean.

1) When a truck comes out of a construction site, the watchmen spray water to clean the tyres so that the concrete, sand and dust does not dirty the roads!

2) If you dilly-dally for too long tying your pyjamas or zipping up your trousers after getting up from the potty (at public toilets) the flush will be set on automatically, thinking you've forgotten!!

3) When you enter the various sections at the Jurong Bird Park, you'll have to pass through disinfectant curtains and doormats, to help keep their birds free from infection!

But trust me, they only "try"... and like in every city, it's only in the main areas that the cleanliness is strictly enforced. (I've seen people--Chinese more than Indian--spit and even litter in some localities... will meet you later with photos as proof of this!)

Hats off anyways, because their efforts are more or less successful at least in most parts of the city.

Ciao! More later...
Janani

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jottings from Singapura - Part 2

Quintessential Chingapurian - Quick, Quirky and Cute

Dear all!

As warned, I'm back with more jottings/snippets from Singapura! This time, about my first impressions of the Chinese, based on my limited opportunities to observe them here in Singapore. The Chinese forunately are not the kind of people who try to block foreigners out of their purview... they are friendly people, always ready with a smile. I remember what my uncle Babu Periappa said, "In Singapore and London, one won't feel out of place or unwelcome!"
Anyways, here are a few thoughts I quickly noted down, just to torture you all on a nice bright Thursday morning :-)

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The Chinese have smiling faces, especially the older generation! And they love it if I say "Namaskar"... I just tried it on a few people this morning :-)

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We have a lot in common with the Chinese. For example, they do not wear slippers inside the house... like us, they remove it before entering. I was surprised when the guy who came for servicing the air-conditioner the other day, removed his slippers outside before entering the house!

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They are very religious. We have senior citizens as neighbours on both sides. Every morning at 5:30 a.m. (well, I know because I am an early riser!) the old Chinese lady next door waters the plants outside her house and then lights agarbathis and places them in front of some Chinese engraving hung outside the door (a common sight in most homes). Sometimes she even offers an orange or a banana, JUST like we do neividhyam!! Similarly, like we clean the windows and doors and white-wash houses before Diwali, Hindu New Year etc., these people clean and paint their houses before Lunar New Year (this weekend). Similarly, they also ring a small bell and chant prayers, quite like we do! I must one day chat with her and find out about these customs, just that she finds it very tough to communicate in English, except for saying 'Morning when I open the door in the morning (when she waters the plants!)

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The men like to have long hair, while most women have short hair! But let's face it... Chinese men ARE cute, with their funky, spiky hairstyles... they don't seem to age, at all!

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They love to cycle! Like in Pondicherry, you can find SO many cyclists here.

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The Chinese seem to be sticklers for hygiene and decorum. Here is an example of how cautious they are about personal hygiene. If you get to travel by the train here, notice... if somebody gets up and leaves and a seat becomes vacant, nobody will occupy it immediately. Even if they do, they'll sit in the corner of the seat for a few minutes before settling in. In case you have not already guessed why... they wait till there is no trace of the body warmth of the person who occupied the seat earlier! They also follow the rules strictly... if a person with special needs (a pregnant woman or old/challenged people) board the train, the people sitting near the doors will immediately get up and offer their seat. Similarly, even in a crowded train you'll find that nobody even touches anybody else... except the obviously teenaged couples on dates, who just can't keep their hands off each other, to the extent that you'll feel embarassed and squirm if you're next to them!

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The roads are so smooth here that it is very easy to push a trolley/cart/pram on the road. While most people use prams for their kids, don't think there will be kids inside all prams! An old lady pushing a pram might well have her shopping inside it and not her grandchild! It's common to see old people pushing their shopping bags in a small metal cart or a pram!

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You'll see headphones stuck to the ears of almost EVERY single person here. No, not for the mobile phones, but from their iPods! They keep on listening to music, because they BARELY talk to each other. When on the train, when on the bus, when walking, when driving, they just keep on and on and on listening to music. Well, can't blame them because there isn't much they can do with their ears otherwise while on the road... people don't talk much, drivers don't honk... so the only sense you really need to use is sight, for the signals. Otherwise, you might as well listen to music. I've started taking my 'umble HP mp3 player (since I don't have an iPod) with me when I go out alone. Just that I'm trying to get over a bad habit of mine... of singing along when I listen to music. This morning was funny. I was listening to the track "Bavra mann dekh ne chalaa ek sapna" when walking back from the temple and unconsciously I was singing along since it's such a captivating number. When the track got over I suddenly noticed a homely-looking Amritsari (as they told me later) couple giving me an amused look!

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Despite all this, I feel this society is very impersonal and I yearn for India, where you make acquaintances as life rolls by... back home, I could make friends with the librarian, the veggie seller, the grocery store cashier, and if I travelled the same route everyday, then even the bus conductor, but here it's machines, machines, machines everywhere! You don't have to buy tickets... simple use a smartcard which you can top up online. At the library (which is FANTASTIC, by the way), the librarian is nowhere in sight! To return books, you just drop them into a slot. To borrow books, you just use an automated kiosk, where you slip in the library card and place the books one by one under a camera, on a tray, and the books are automaticlally registered! If you go to the supermarket, they don't even waste energy to spell out the bill value to you... you simply have to look at the cash register and pay and they'll give you the change. Wonder when they'll replace a robot for that as well :-) Somehow, I prefer the lifestyle where there's a librarian who scolds you if she finds doggy ears in a book or says a cheery hello when you step up the queue! Anyways, can't deny that it takes a mastery of technology to automate to this extent, and kudos to them for that! To each their own preferences... I am more comfortable with a blend of technology and old world charm!

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God bless them, the Chinese love tea! So, I can step into a "coffee shop" at any time and ask for Teh Alia (ginger tea) or Teh O Alia (ginger tea - black) and I'll get a well-made cuppa! Fortunately, unlike the Japanese, the Chinese seem to like large cups of tea, not miniature ones. God bless them, again!

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Ciao! Miss you, India! More later!

Till then... ta... ta,
Janani

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jottings from Singapura - Part 1

Of Quays, Clones and Caskets

Newly-married and in Singapore. No. Not the honeymoon. My husband is on a project here. Since the last thing I wanted in life was to "live" outside India (travelling abroad on vacation is very enjoyable!), and since I grew up in a very closely-knit joint family with friends and relatives all around me all the time, homesickness reigns supreme! In an attempt to overcome this, I've decided to jot down tiny observations about Singapore... not what you'll find in a tourist guidebook, but just little things that caught my eye!

Here is batch one. More as I explore the place further.

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There is a place called Clarke Quay here. Basically a river-like canal with a bridge across it, right next to the S'pore Parliament (if there is one thing I hate about Singapore, it is that everything seems "made", even the rivers!) It has restaurants lined next to it, serving everything from Italian to Thai food. You get a Burma Bazaar (Chennai) feel as they sell the restaurants to the visitors as if selling their wares in a moving market or fish market! Every one of those had only lobsters and fish advertised, so I thought it risky to simply step into one of them without recommendations from a Singaporean on which one might serve anything close to good vegetarian food. So, pending such suggestions, we simple ate at an Indian restaurant there!! Blooper... I forgot to take my camera, so pics have to wait.

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Just realised that there is a pure vegetarian Zen Fut Sai Kari Chinese restaurant very close to home. Plan to barge in sometime and chat with the chef!!

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I think there is some kinda play school in the same block as our apartment, because a line of kids walks up and down twice a day with a teacher. They look like clones... little white chubby kids, with hair combed down front, in white and blue uniforms. All of the same height and weight too. Wonder how the teacher tells them apart!

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Was exploring the Chinese 24x7 supermarket in the ground floor, today. Found that they stock innumerable varieties of ready to drink herbal and flavoured teas (chamomile, lemon etc.) in 1 litre cartons. And not expensive... twin packs cost around $4! Same with fruit juices as well. Surprisingly, here fresh fruit juices, tea and milk cost almost the same!! Probably because they import milk? Because forest produce (such as fruits etc) can be easily imported from Malaysia?

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Since half an hour ago, there have been bhajans and shouts of "Govindo, Govindo" and there was a golden coloured kalasam (pot-shaped decoration you find in temple towers) in sight... could not see the whole cart. I thought there was going to be some kind of procession. Then, the procession started and came to the perpendicular road which I can see clearly from outside the house. Guess what?! It was somebody who'd bought tickets to dead man's office (okay, that's how dad used to call the cremation ground when we were kids :-))! They have a vehicle here called "Hindu Casket". Golden coloured vehicle with golden coloured kalasams on top. Glass walls and flowers and a casket inside! The "Govindo Govindo" here is a chant like "Ram Nam Satya Hai"!! And just when my brother was suggesting on chat that I go and show my face clearly in the kitchen window incase somebody was distributing interesting prasad... fortunately realised the nature of the procession before doing that

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Miss you, India!

Smiles,
Janani

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stages

(A poem from Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game.)

As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavour,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.

Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us.
The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.
If we accept a home of our own making,
Familiar habit makes for indolence.
We must prepare for parting and leave-taking
Or else remain the slaves of permanence.

Even the hour of our death may send
Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,
And life may summon use to newer races.
So be it, heart: bid farewell and without end.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lucky me!

Oftentimes I've realised how lucky I am... because I really LOVE my profession... I love being a writer and editor, which makes even loooooong hours of work seem as enjoyable as listening to a concert!

Reading this piece only reinforced my views...
http://www.clemmer.net/articles/article_297.aspx

Happy reading... won't take even five minutes... do spare that time to read it!