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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Sunday, July 31, 2005

C O N C E N T R A T E !

[Even if you consider me a prude, I'll excuse you.]

A couple of days ago, while returning home from work (in the company bus), I happened to speak to a like-minded friend. Mostly my conversations with him tend to be on worlds other than ours. He is certainly more devout than I am, and so we talk about God(s), religion, history and (what we assume to be) philosophy.

The discussion that day too was on some such topic - I forget exactly which. Someone was passing by us to reach the front of the bus and get down. Honestly, she was a good-looking girl - the type that people would long to ogle at after a tiring(?) day's work. Suddenly my friend remarked in a hushed voice, "You know, she's a stallion!" Man, we were discussing God, and here was this animal comparison!

I wasn't shocked, because such comments are dime-a-dozen between buddies - and I'm no saint. Nor could I turn so prudish suddenly as to suggest that the comment was an affront on that woman's honour. But it was disturbing to note that a steady flow of thoughts, whatever be its purpose, was diverted because man decided to indulge in one of his oldest pastimes.

In the R.K. Narayan classic Mr. Sampath - The Publisher of Malgudi, Mr. Srinivas sits down to write the editorial for the forthcoming issue of his magazine. He ponders for long on what to write. He then catches some verses from some Upanishad and then commences his piece on those lines. He translates those verses to read, "The devil is always lurking around the corner, waiting for us to lose our concentration..."

Indeed, there can be so many reasons for diversion, but whatever it be, diversion is a crime, a sin. Concentration is veritably the most important of all the virtues. It is the cornerstone of anything worthwhile in this world. When directed properly, there is no miracle that it cannot perform!

P.S.: Apologies to my friend. And to the girl too. By the way, what's her name? :)

Friday, July 29, 2005

The King of the 'ring'

A week ago, India's only other superstar, Rajnikanth's latest movie Chandramukhi crossed 100 days in theatres. Given that it has been three years since we've had a movie from him (and five since his last hit), there was so much anticipation. If you don't care about logic and don't belong to the finicky types (of which I am one) who will selectively espouse the concept of good cinema etc, the movie is quite an entertainer. It has done enough business to make everyone happy - and that's more important than anything else.

There was this mini-scam floating around in the mail today. Someone had the audacity to claim that Chandramukhi was the 30th top-grossing movie of all time ... worldwide! The originator of this fantasy (who thankfully remains unknown as yet) had a simple modus operandi. He visited The Internet Movie Database and got the list of all-time top grossers, then shifted Mission Impossible II (which was the 30th) one place down, and inserted Chandramukhi in its place - mission accomplished!

He had also quoted the collections - right to the last dollar! Thankfully 545 million dollars works out to around 2600 crores of rupees, and because even the bluest of India's blue chip companies don't make that kinda profits in one quarter, a major scam was averted.

In any case, here's a partial list of the movie's (real) achievements. The long and the short of this is that if you want to hear the cash registers ring, then thalaivar is the king!
  1. First movie to complete 100 days in Mayajaal.
  2. Doing a business of 100 crores.
  3. First movie to be dubbed in Zulu (Lance Klusener's mother tongue) and Afrikaans (South Africa's main language)
  4. Doing very well in Kerala, a place from where Chandramukhi's knot is taken from the movie Manichitrathazhu, and dislodged Mohanlal's latest movie.
  5. Doing very well in Andhra and going to complete 100 days in 10 theaters. Many big Telugu movies including Chiranjeevi's movie was released along with Chandramukhi. But all bite the dust except Chandramukhi.
  6. Generally in US, Indian movies will be screened for 2 weeks that too only one show during weekdays and 4 shows during weekends. But Chandramukhi (CM) was screened for 5 weeks with 5 shows a day.
  7. Rajni's salary for this movie is 10 crores and thus making him as the highest paid actor in India again.
  8. Abirami theater alone will get 1 crore.
  9. Vetri theatre in Chrompet, a suburb of Chennai, which is said to have paid Rs 20 Lakhs Minimum Guarantee, and according to trade sources the theatre recovered the amount in five days and thereby created a new record. The rumor mill has it that Vetri theatre had collected Rs 7,62,000 gross on the first day making it "unofficially" the highest collection from a single screen for a day in India! Remember, this can happen only with a Rajnikanth film! He is the only superstar after the late MGR who can entice an ordinary movie going public to part with their hard earned money for three hours of pure fantasy.
  10. After Baba debacle, he silenced all his detractors inside and outside film industry through CM.
  11. Surely Industry will have lucrative year just because of CM as there is no big budget movie in the next 7 months (There is no chance of any big debacle this year). This happened 7 years before on 1998 when 'Padayappa' was release. That is why Tamil Film Industry is considered as one man industry.
  12. Overseas rights will be sold for 5 crores for SRK's movie while for Rajni it went up to 22 crores.
  13. But the biggest achievement of CM is bringing family audiences, female audience who were glued to their TV sets watching 'Metti Oli' and children to the theaters.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Microsoft has rolled out Beta 1 of its next operating system Windows VISTA (formerly codenamed "Longhorn". Most of the initial reviews that I've perused are positive - okeh, at least they aren't negative!

I found Paul Thurrott's review quite detailed and incisive. Click here to read it.

Here are some of the features / enchancements that the VISTA promises:
  • The DotNet-based WinFX platform, as different from the existing Win32 platform which will go into maintenance mode
  • A greatly improved user experience - we need to catch up with jargon like Aero, Avalon, Indigo and Palladium
  • A ubiquitious search bar. Press the Start button, and there is a small search bar there too!
  • Virtual folders
  • Lots of new security features (which some reviewer called as a UNIX clone)
  • A much-needed (and long overdue) IE7, which features tabs!!! Ironically, when introducing IE7, Microsoft's website is silent on tabs whereas a one-click-erase-cache button is touted as a salient feature! Bof, losers!!
VISTA reiterates the fact that adoption, rather than innovation, is Microsoft's forte. However who will complain if provided get neat, fast and comprehensive operating system? Or a they put it a clear, confident and connected OS? It may be too early to judge, but I think Microsoft has a winner here. Let's wait for Beta 2.

Mumbai under siege

Chennai is one of those few wonderful Indian cities where it never rains at all. Least of all in July. But in the past week, we had two blasts of rain worth the name. Some depression off the coast to alleviate the depression of those on it. Therefore the news that Mumbai was being lashed by the rain-gods came as no surprise. After all, if it rains in Chennai, how can any other place be overlooked?

Even otherwise, India's commercial capital is graced unfailingly by the southwest monsoon. Over the years, I have come to know from news channels that the lives of Mumbaikars are put in disarray for a couple of days because of the rains.

But what has come to pass in the past week is quite incredible. As someone put it, it has been raining almost single-mindedly! Yesterday, I came to know from some friends in Pune that their company had asked them to leave by noon. And they are having an off-day today!!! What a midweek! Plus the predictable Rediff.com article which opines that Mumbai has overtaken Cherrapunji as the place in India which has recorded the highest rainfall in a single day.

One of my father's friends has stay put in Mumbai airport for almost two days now. When my father recounted this, I couldn't help being reminded of Viktor Navorski in The Terminal, except that in this case, no one could venture out or fly away. My father's friend should have reached Chennai yesterday evening, but all flights have been put off. And the authorities indicate that the earliest the airport can swing back to work in 3 PM tomorrow. This person has to sleep on the floor, has no access of medicines, clothing or proper food. And he is in Mumbai on a business trip!

In the face of nature's wrath, any system is liable to fail miserably. So to speak ill of the various otherwise-efficient systems is unwarranted. Let us pray that Mumbai returns to normalcy as soon as possible.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

When the Chairman replied...

[Of the dozens of forwarded mails I get, this is something which made sense]

It seems that the story of an inspired young man was floating around cyberspace. Because the story gave away the name of that person in the closing lines, someone decided to mail him directly to find out if it was indeed true. The reply was a pithy one-liner - "Yes, it is true." Here's that story...

He was short. He was sharp. He was the brightest boy in his class. His seniors would ask him to solve their difficulties in Science. He could have gone unnoticed in the crowd, but once you asked him a question related to Physics or Maths, there was a spark in his eyes. He could grasp theories of science faster than the speed of light.

He came from a poor but educated family. His father was a high-school teacher and an avid reader of English literature. He, like all the boys, in the class was trying to get admission into some engineering college. The brighter ones wanted to study in he Indian Institutes of Technology, or the IIT's. There was an entrance test for IIT. This boy, along with his friends applied to appear for the test. They did not have any special books or coaching. All these IIT aspirants would sit below the shade of a stone mantap close to Chamundi Hills in the sleepy town of Mysore. He was a guide for others. While the others struggled to solve problems in the question paper, he would smile shyly and solve them in no time. He sat below a tree and dreamt of studying at IIT. He was then only sixteen years old.

D-Day came. He came to Bangalore, stayed with some relatives and appeared for the entrance test. He did very well but would only say "OK" when asked. It was the opposite when it cameto food... "OK" implied bad, "good" implied ok, and "very good" implied good!! His principle was never to hurt anyone....

The IIT entrance results came. He had passed with flying colors and the hightest rank. He was thrilled! He went to his father who was reading a newspaper.

"Anna, I have passed the exam"

"Well done, my boy".

"I want to join IIT".

His father stopped reading the paper. He lifted his head, looked at the boy and said with a heavy voice "You know our financial position, and I cannot afford your expenses at IIT. You can stay in Mysore and learn as much as you want." His father was sad that he had to tell the bitter truth, but it could not be helped.

The teenager was disappointed. He was so near to fulfilling his fondest dream, yet so far. His heart sank in sorrow.

He did not reply. He never shared his unhappines with anyone. He was an introvert by nature. His heart was bleeding but he did not get angry with anyone.

The day came, his classmates were leaving for Madras (today called Chennai). They were leaving from Mysore to Chennai. They had shared good years at school and he went to wish them good luck for their future. At the station his friends were already there. They were excited and discussing their new hostels, new courses etc. So he stood there silently. One of his friends noticed and said "You should have made it."

He did not reply. He just wished them. He stood there even after he could no longer see the train or the waving hands. It was June 1962 in the city of Mysore. He stood there motionless.

He said to himself, without anger or jealousy, "All students from the IIT's study well and do big things in life. But it is not the institution, ultimately it is you and you alone who can change your life by hard work."

This son of a school teacher became a pioneer of India's software industry. He is none other than Infosys founder and present Chairman, Narayana Murthy, his motto being "Powered by intellect, Driven by Values."
I remember reading somewhere that back when Rajesh Jain sold a bevy of websites to Sify, some guy actually mailed and got a reply, and was touting this achievement. Now what do you call this? A reply from one of the most important Indians of the modern era! The Indian face of global IT, or the global face of Indian IT. A simple act such as this one actually speaks volumes about this great man - how accessible a man of such stature can be!

When Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was elected the President of India, everyone felt happy. Not because he could change everything with one sweep of the hand. Not just because he wasn't a crony of any political party. Here was a man with towering achievements, and he was leading a simple life. People could relate to him - he was one among them, and one they could look up to. People actually were debating if Mr. Kalam's elevation to the country's highest post added merit to him, or to the post.

I think Mr. Narayana Murthy is one of the very few others in this country whose elevation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan will actually decorate the office of the President. So here goes my vote - Mr. Murthy for President!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Random citings

The wait is over! This week, a gaping Tamil populace found out the colour of actress Jyotika's wedding saree. Colours - with an 's' - to be precise, because there are 54600 of them - all in one saree! RmKV Silks has launched a set special edition silk sarees, which will most probably enter the Guinness book for having the most number of colours. Already a record holder for weaving the longest silk saree, RmKV will sell only 50 such sarees, each for Rs. 50000. They say that's a throwaway price because the cost of weaving each saree is said to be - catch your breath - Rs. 25 lakhs!

Mr. & Mrs. Idly Sambar

The Indian Express reports that weary travellers on the Chennai-Bangalore highway can now find refuge in the hospitality provided by Mr. & Mrs. Idly Sambar. That's the name of a new restaurant now serving people near Sriperumbudur. Though it has had humbled beginnings, its owners are planning to expand it in a big way. So don't be surprised if you find a plush and comfortable hotel on the highway in the years to come!

From the Guru

Tom Peters has posted quite a few interesting entries on his blog in the past week. I particularly enjoyed Congratulations, Phil, 2 + 2 = 25 = Death Penalty and Beating Wal*Mart is a lark!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Misplaced creativity

Is creativity such a bad thing? Surely it takes a great deal to dream and innovate. But this thing was downright funny, and stupid.

A prominent Indian insurance company had launched a campaign in one city to fire up its agents to sell more insurance policies. The person they had chosen to emulate was none other than the world's most wanted man. Even that can be pardoned. If news reports are to be believed, the campaign wanted agents to follow Mr. bin Laden's focused determination. Calling each sale a kill, employees were goaded into killing as many as they could!

I'm a believer in creativity, but more so in common sense. I've come to realise, through experiences, both first-hand and indirect, that creativity if misplaced is no virtue. It is better to remain mute than to reap the fruits of unwarranted actions.

P.S.: We are informed that the agents are now behind bars. And by the way, where is Mr. bin Laden?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

How to review it?

I had actually decided to post a review entitled "Why I don't like Ilaiyaraja's Thiruvasagam?". I had sufficient reasons to support that contention; and given my verbosity, it wouldn't have been tough. Here go the reasons...

Since Monday, I have been unable to concentrate on anything. My productivity levels (which are already pathetic) are hitting new lows daily. I am yet to begin analysis on a new project, and the deadline was yesterday! I've been feeling so inferior, thinking about what a wasteful life I've led and am leading. A book I started last week is still waiting to be thumbed. I had an exam today and I didn't prepare well either. My blog entries have been erratic. (Thankfully, my readers have been spared lotsa diatribe!) Quite a list, isn't it?

Why? What happened to me? Did I find the woman of my life? Have I found a $100K a year job? Out vacationing in the Swiss Alps? No. All of that is because I started listening to Thiruvasagam: A Symphonic Oratorio by Ilaiyaraja on Monday!

When there was so much hype about the upcoming album, I wasn't quite surprised. Surely, Ilaiyaraja has never let his fans down before. But to set the sacred works of Manikka Vasagar (one of the 63 most important followers or saints of Lord Shiva) to western classical tunes would be a tall order for anyone. More than just that, one would have to please not only music lovers but the religious types also. One wrong step, and the entire house comes down on you.

But Ilaiyaraja is no ordinary raja - he is a Maharaja! He is not called Isaignani (a philosopher of music) for nothing. In what is certainly his magnum opus, he has lent a new dimension to what is considered the sweetest of the Tamil religious texts in Shaivism.

I am not going to review the album. I know very little about music. Though I listen to some baroque music on and off, I am not even a novice as regards western classical music. And though I am a Tamilian, I cannot understand classical poetry because it is too high-strung for Madrasi folks - it is almost in another language! And even if I do, I quite sure that a mortal like me is not qualified to pass comments on such a divine work as this one. However, I'll share some thoughts on two songs which moved me to tears.

Thiru Koththumbi:

This song appears as Track 3 in the CD. From an online version of Thiruvasagam (available here), I learnt that this is the last set of verses in the work. The poet-saint composes songs and tells a humming bee (koththumbi) to recite them to Lord Shiva.

The song starts with the first verse rendered immaculately by Bhavatharini (Ilaiyaraja's daughter). I have never heard her -- already a national award winner -- sing so flawlessly. The first verse leads on to the second which Ilaiyaraja picks up with great elan. There is so much divinity, so much love and devotion in his voice that makes it nothing short of contagious. The tune itself is melody personified. It is reminiscent of some of those evergreen romantic songs composed by the maestro for movies, most notably Sirai Chaalai (Kala Paani). With short interludes mostly comprising of simple but fast flute and violin pieces, placed strategically so as to give the listener just enough time of meditate upon the verses.

The song picks up great momentum by about the fifth minute and progresses naturally like a river till about the eighth minute, and then comes back to the first verse sung in unison by father and daughter. It ends on a typical high note which is quite characteristic of Ilaiyaraja.

Putril Vaazh Aravum (Achcha Paththu):

This song (Track 6) has become the favorite of almost every listener and reviewer. In my opinion they should have placed this one first. The song starts with Ilaiyaraja humming some Carnatic tune. He then hears some music played in the background and remarks, "Ah, how nice this music is! Is this what is known as the symphony? How wonderful will it be if we sing the Thiruvasagam in this tune?" Then comes the high point. He tries to sing one song, but is not satisfied because the words don't fit in properly. So he tries another song which blends well with the tune and continues with it.

The song is about what the poet-saint fears and what he doesn't. The first verse roughly translates to I don't fear serpents, nor the half-truths uttered by liars. But those who think of other Gods - I fear their ignorance!

The song has an accompanying background music which is soulful to say the least. At around the 200-second mark, in comes a very pastoral-sounding violin, which has been used to such perfection. It repeats itself with different notes after each ammanaam anjumare. The next four minutes are among the best I've ever heard in my life. That longing in the voice, those melancholic strains, they could not have been feigned. When he sings, "Oh Lord, I don't fear diseases and disabilities; nor am I afraid of life and death", one can visualize Manikka Vasagar writing and singing those lines in front of Lord Shiva.

And that's where Ilaiyaraja triumphs! With a rare but (almost) perfect fusion of eastern mysticism and symphonic music, he has brought Thiruvasagam to the layman. A million thanks are due to him for bringing God closer to us; for delighting us by adding another dimension to the honey-sweet verses of Vasagar. And personally, for disturbing my concentration, pushing down my productivity and making me feel inferior!

In the release function of the album, someone commented that Ilaiyaraja has achieved the purpose of his life by recreating the magic with his musical acumen and unfailing devotion. Couldn't agree more. I'm not just happy, but immensely proud to live in the same period as his!

Listen to Thiruvasagam: A Symphonic Oratorio. It is compelling. It is delectable. It is amongst the very best of world music. Simply put, it is THE MAGNUM OPUS!

Friday, July 15, 2005

How the Swift was designed

[This is a VKpedia exclusive!]

Maruti's recently launched Swift has been topping the charts since its release. Only today did I have the good fortune to observe it from different angles and be bowled over by the beauty and aesthetic elegance of this engineering marvel. Hoping to find out more, I ventured to the car's website, and found out that the car was designed with a fresh approach to design - no doubt!

Here's my take on how they might have hit upon this fresh new approach...

The head designer of the Swift team returned home one evening and found that his four year old was playing with the computer. When the designer went closer, he saw that the kid wasn't exactly playing but drawing something on Paint. One look and the trained eye set the designer's mind on overdrive. Here's that picture.

Voilà, there it was - and what fresher approach can you get? It was immediately emailed to all members of the design team. Everyone was impressed, they felt they were had a winner. And it is! The Swift - India's best designed car - is out there with that fabulous "back-end" that can put everything from Oracle to Jennifer Lopez to shame -;)

Everyone has his own views on the looks of cars, and it is impossible to please each of them. Some say the new Honda City resembles a duck. One of the early ads for the Tata Indica used to mock indirectly at Maruti by calling its cars box-shaped and bean-shaped. One reviewer called the Versa, a Breadbox-on-Wheels. Now what of the Swift? Hmm, yes... I'll call this one Pumpkin-on-Wheels!

Thursday, July 14, 2005


[I'm posting this just to while away time; as usual, I have nothing else to say]

A couple of days ago, there was an interview on NDTV Profit featuring some intellectual whose name they didn't care to display in those 5 minutes I watched. I think they were discussing about morality and such forgotten things. The only reason I watched it was that the caption said something about Gandhi. But this intellectual swept me off my feet by signing off with "The point is you must be good. And you shouldn't be ashamed about being good."

In The Godfather, Don Corleone tells Virgil Sollozzo, "How a man makes his living is not my concern." I am a great believer in dignity of labour (or how else can I respect myself?). However, what I am unable to stomach is how low people can stoop to earn money and fame. And they have the audacity to call it art!

Of course, I am talking about Mallika Sherawat - somehow, I can't keep away from the girls -;) She just manages to stay in the news for all the wrong reasons. I don't know if she is the person in the latest MMS (I swear I haven't seen it!) but who cares to defend a woman of such low morals?

Tamil, that beautiful language, has a not-so-nice word for expressing disapproval, dislike and shame at another's actions. The word is "chi" and it has no meaning, but is used occasionally in the above scenarios.

So, here's to Mallika, a big CHI.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

And now theNet.mobi

Today, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (shortened as ICANN, so as to sound optimistic) has unveiled a plan to carve out a separate area of the Internet for people who browse through mobile phones. The new TLD (top-level domain) will be .mobi (dot mobi). So in the future if you wanna surf the Net from your mobile you would have to go to "ThatGreatSite".mobi

When ICANN, under tremendous pressure from various quarters, announced that it would move all pornographic content on the web to a .xxx TLD, I thought they were talking nonsense because it would be impossible to draw a line as to what is adult content and what isn't. This latest move raises more doubts.

The Inquirer features an article which quotes Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, suggesting that he is fed up with ICANN's obsession to carve out slice after slice of the pie. The argument is that new TLDs like .biz and .info found very few takers. Even those who did were existing dotcoms who were forced to take them to protect their names. Tim compares the creation of new domain names to that of printing more money, by which the value of money (or in this case, the existing sites) only goes down.

It is easy to see the increasing convergence between mobile phones and computers. This would mean that in the coming years, the mobile phone (or whatever it becomes) would be increasingly used for browsing the Internet. In the longer run, when an integrated device comes into being, content providers would choose a single access point (the primary domain), which would render the .mobi extension useless.

And since the day when that integrated device becomes a reality isn't far, this decision by ICANN makes me wonder, "The question is not whether ICANN or ICANNot. Yes, of course you can. But why?"

Technorati tags: mobi, .mobi, ICANN

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Yahoo! I'm a Crorepati

I've tried to collect some random thoughts after writing the previous post.

I had assumed that it was a wrong move on Yahoo!'s part to rope in Malaika Arora to promote their web mail service in India. I still stand by it. Going by Thejo's analysis, more users might mean more profits, and some advertisement is imperative to get more people to sign up. I agree. But how else could Yahoo! have done it? Someone like Shahrukh Khan? Or Sachin Tendulkar? Or Amitabh Bachchan?

Amitabh Bachchan wins my vote. He is appearing in almost all ads these days selling everything from pins to planes. Why not Yahoo! India Mail? Here's the blueprint...

Kaun Banega Crorepati 2 is on the anvil. I read somewhere that 1.5 crore (15 million) people rang up in the first 10 days. That's quite a number. Yahoo! India can sign a deal with STAR to promote KBC on its website, and in users' mailboxes. They can then organise some kinda contest themselves on these lines.

1. Invite your friend to Yahoo! and get 100 points. For each person he signs up, you win some referral bonuses.
2. Each time you send a mail, you get 10 points. (Beware: No spam allowed!)
3. Each time you open a new mail, you get 5 points.
4. Create a Yahoo! group, win 1000 points.
5. Register with partner sites (like Shaadi.com etc) and win some points accordingly.

At the end of each month, a random draw will be held. A person will have as many entries as the points he has (say you've accumulated 10000 points, your chances of winning are that high). That winner will gain an automatic entry into the Fastest Finger First round in KBC. Or direct to the Hot Seat.

This way, Yahoo! can ride on the popularity of KBC thus creating a win-win situation. Actually, Yahoo! stands to gain more from this because they can use Amitabh Bachchan's images to promote their services. No dud-vertising this, eh?

Of course, MSN and Rediff can try this too... but whoever does it, don't forget me. All I need is one ad-free, spam-free 100 MB mailbox!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Yahoo fe-Mail

These days, Yahoo! Mail users from India have a great new reason to keep coming back to their mailbox often. And those who don't have a Yahoo! ID can trash GMail, HMail and all that, and sign up with Yahoo! India. The reason: Malaika Arora (Khan) has been roped in as eye candy for the promos!!!

Yippie, now I'm gonna sign up for 100 new IDs myself. Just to catch a glimpse of that beautiful smile. See a logical disconnect there? I'm amazed, even disconcerted at Yahoo!'s desperation.

I know nothing about advertising etc, but I have observed that good ads don't need any star value. Seen the Tata Indica ad where the guy gets boxed left and right? He isn't Sachin Tendulkar or Amitabh Bachchan, but the ad is a zillion times better than most others - and it conveys the message. Stars do add some value to the ad, but whether they can carry it all along by themselves is debatable - almost improbable. Of course a dud product will fail irrespective of who is roped in to hawk it.

In the first place, we should seek to know if an online mail service is such a valuable commodity to be advertised. Also, an advertisement should have a pay-off (get Shahrukh in, sell more Santros - fair deal). What does Yahoo! aim to achieve by this? A spurt in the number of people who are going to sign in? I don't think so. Yahoo! doesn't need to entice me in such ways to continue using their mail service.

As more and more users start becoming tech-savvy, they look for features and value-adds, rather than a needless picture. Have you used GMail? Seen the ticker that increases the size of the mailbox each second? That's what the future's about. That's what we like to see. That's what keeps us glued. Not some Chaiya Chaiya female who has been forgotten after her 15 minutes of fame have come to an end.

P.S.: A hundred GMail invites available with me. Interested? -:)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Road to Blindness?

London is in the news again. The old city, which only yesterday had won the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, was rocked today by a series blasts on the metro and bus networks. Popular modes of public transport are being targeted serially by extremists. This is understandable because they can make a poignant statement by hitting directly where it hurts the most, and with relative ease too.

The ways of terror elements, their motivations and their modus operandi have been well researched and documented by many scholars and analysts before. Suffice it to say that each person, in whatever he does, is in war against the society. The only distinction (er.. difference) that terrorists have is that their war is blatant and outward.

There is an oft-circulated quote in forwarded mails which reads "I've learned that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is stalk them and hope they panic and give in." How true this is when applied to terrorists. They cannot achieve anything constructive... never! They can only strike fear and hope that we will succumb. All their talk of creating an ideal world - a shrine of equality and justice for all - sounds hollow and lacks credibility. What can anyone achieve if his / her sole intention is to spread hate?

The greatest man of our time once said, "An eye for an eye will end up making the whole world blind." Let us meditate on that vision. Let us not continue on the road to blindness. Let us spread love, humanity and peace.

Om shanti: shanti: shanti:

Technorati tags: London, London blasts, Terrorism

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Down to earth

This afternoon, I took some real time off the work and checked out what is easily the coolest piece of software yet - Google Earth. It delivers cutting-edge technology to satiate the curiosity of the schoolboy (or -girl) in us.

That most Indian cities (I checked Chennai and Mumbai) are yet to be mapped came as a disappointment. But that was overcompensated by such visual treats of London, Paris and New York City!

I personally recommend that you query for San Francisco, and Bay Area. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from as many angles as possible simply reduced me to tears! Some of my project members who were at onsite took us to their former residences.

Going around Yahoo! 360°

It would be unfair to compare apples with oranges. But to compare a rotten apple with an orange of the highest quality isn't wrong. That is what one can say about Google Earth (the orange) and Yahoo! 360° (the apple). Just like its competitor MSN Spaces, Yahoo! 360° is such a let down.

One wonders what exactly did those behind 360° were instructed to do. They have tried some kind of fusion between a web page, a group, a photo album and ... did I forget something ... yeah, a blog! Even die-hard fans of Yahoo! would agree that 360° is just "yet another" failed attempt.

As with Spaces, Yahoo! tries to keep the template and the code proprietory. Surely any serious blogger would be opposed to that as it restricts his / her elbow space. Why would anyone prefer something like that to Blogger or some such killer tool. As I told a friend the other night, "Beggars can't be choosers. But why would anyone choose to be a beggar?"

Monday, July 04, 2005

We men are such losers!

[I'm male. My Chinese sign is the pig. But I'm no MCP, pleeeeease!]

I was speaking to a college junior last night. Life in the final year of an engineering degree programme should be among the most enjoyable things in the world... especially when you've landed a job too. This chap however had some things to complain about. A new Vice-Chancellor, and predictably, new rules...

Just like in Bombay University recently, Anna University is planning to enforce dress codes! Though I've never worn a T-shirt or jeans to college in my four years of study, I would side with the no-to-dress-codes side. Dress codes, at least in colleges, are such a farce. They actually achieve nothing, except of course the brickbats. Rashmi Bansal's blog entry on this topic makes for an interesting read.

[Feminists and wannabes, I suggest you stop reading here -:)]

There is a larger aspect to the idea of regulating what students wear. In more ways than one, men are pretty simple creatures. Especially in this case, because there are only about four kinds of external wear - a shirt, a trouser, a T-shirt and jeans. There are a couple of variations in each kind - mostly as to how many pockets a trouser should have or the number of buttons on the shirt.

Dress codes are actually for the girls. The infinite variety of womenswear and the obnoxious fan following for each makes it difficult to enforce a coherent set of rules. Because there is only a fine line between decency and otherwise, and also because there isn't any benchmark for decency, any code is bound to fail - or bound to be trespassed.

I observe this even at the workplace. The company I work for has a well laid-out set of rules on the appropriate apparel for each day of the week. If you forget the tie on a Monday morning, you part with 200 bucks immediately! But that's the sick part of being a man. Women are given an almost free run. Their dress code reads something like "sarees or salwar suits, or formal western business wear." I must concede that my idea of formal business attire in the west has undergone a sea change in the last one year. Precisely because what many a female colleague wears cannot be classified under saree or salwar suit. Designer houses like Armani, Gucci, Bennetton and the like can descend down to my workplace and easily triple their Fall/Winter business attire wardrobe for women.

Funny, isn't it, that we call this a man's world? Just to please women, we make rules that are prejudiced against ourselves... and have the audacity to call it women's liberation! What tyrannies inequality can brew!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Hail the new chief!!!

Yesterday, as I was on my way to work, I observed that the roads were teeming with posters, banners and hoardings welcoming Mr. Vijayakanth (a frontline hero in the Tamil cine industry). The banners read "varungaala mudhalvare varuga varuga" (We welcome you, our future Chief Minister). This ostentation was present for more than 10 kilometres, and at intervals of no more than 50 metres!

Surely the organisers must have spent quite a lot. But for what purpose? The money employed for this should have easily nourished a thousand gourmands for a year! And all this when Mr. Vijayakanth (or Captain, as he is known generally) hasn't even formed a party yet!

The other thought that springs up is about the credentials of the wannabe CM. I don't doubt his past - I'm giving him a carte blanche; but what about the future? Other than the obvious reason that there is a lot of money to be minted from politics, why does Captain aspire for the top post? The one answer we often hear from wannabes is that those already in politics are no good. So what? Is that a sufficient enough reason for one's foray?

It is the bane of Tamil Nadu that the CV of most frontline politicians indicate a prolonged brush with filmdom. Whereas we need charismatic politicians, charisma shouldn't be the only criterion. We need men of action - leaders who can get things done. For example, how convincingly would Mr. Vijayakanth's replies be to questions on poverty eradication, ridding of unemployment, ensuring proper irrigation, state budgetary deficit, industrialisation and the like?

Even as I write this, I am searching for the answer to "why should anyone vote for him?" But people will vote for him. The masses assume that the real is only an extension of the reel. One smile, one sweep of the hand and one promise to threaten the rain god into submission would win the applause and the approval of the poor, the hungry and the deprived - parched skins and parched throats, what else can they do?

Despite the great hype given to them, elections in India are such a farce - those who don't vote don't care; and those who vote are never cared for. NDTV has ensured that even elections aren't a day of rest for India's coverage-hungry celebrities. When they aren't busy shooting in Switzerland or Paris (or when they aren't shooting blackbucks), the Khans and Kapoors of this world appear on screen extolling the virtues of Indian democracy!

I'm not sure if Captain has the panacea to the problems of Tamil Nadu, but I am extremely sceptical about what he can achieve. As Michael Corleone tells Kay Adams in The Godfather, "... I don’t trust society to protect us, I have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men where only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them..." Mario Puzo is a genius, what say?