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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 ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Just Samachar

Friend, philosopher, and fellow-blogger, Thejovardhana Kote, has come up with a news aggregation website, which he calls Just Samachar. In his email introducing the new(s) service, he writes...

I built it because I got tired of all the ads on samachar.com, the site I was using earlier. I wanted some additional features too...
Built using RSS feeds, the website offers links to content on various Indian news websites, including The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Times of India, Rediff, NDTV and CNN-IBN. The site even features a Technorati-style In the News section, which displays the hot topics in the news in the past 24 hours.

Thejo reveals that he built the site "over the weekend". The About section of the site has the scoop on the site's raison d'etre and also some technical details on how the site was built.

Great work, Thejo!

Monday, January 30, 2006

The sacred lily tank

Most people in Chennai would be baffled to know that there is a famous locality in the city whose name translates to "Sacred Lily Tank". This one can attribute partly to the classicism of the name, and partly to the anglicism of the same.

Triplicane, a name which which actually can pass of as a borough in some English county, is the anglicised form of Thiruvallikkeni, whose Tamilised form is thiru alli keni, and hence sacred lily tank. I consider the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane different, rather unique because it is probably the only temple where one can find Lord Vishnu sporting a moustache. The explanation I got was that the Lord (Partha + sarathy = charioteer to Arjuna, the fabled bowman) was taking part in the Mahabharata war, and hence he was depicted as being bellicose.

The pushkarini or the temple tank (from which the area derives its name) is generally dry around the year owing the lack of rains in Chennai. This time, however, thanks to the more-than-copious rainfall, the tank is a visitor's delight.

Here are a couple of pictures I received in the mail. The pictures were taken on the 1st of January, and show the tank full of water. Nice ones, I thought. For those who know the place, the sender wishes to add that the photos were taken from east to west, in front of the Yadhugiri Mantap.

Remembering Him...

For generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

My Mother's Castle

"I'm back!"

For the past four weeks, indeed for the four weeks before that, work has been excruciating. So much that the time I've taken for sleep breaks every night is only slightly more than that for lunch breaks! Indeed I simply forgot that I had a blog, and that it had readers, and they wanted me to resume normal service. The one thing that has spurred me on suddenly is this. Over the weekend, one of my friends asked me if I blog. I was tempted to say "I used to!" That was the last straw.

Over the last 2 months, I have learnt a lot of things. Firstly, that I can be a workaholic. That working 18+ hours a day isn't that tough. And that work can be fun. The one other thing I've learnt is that there is no limit to the love and devotion of my parents.

Picture this. Every single day, I used to come home at 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 AM, and I won't be needed to even ring the bell to wake up my parents. They won't be lying awake for so long, but the moment I open the gates of the house, they will rush to open the door. Sometimes I've wondered what is it that our parents want. I've wanted to ask "Why are you being so nice to me?" Why should two tired people in their late 40s fall prey to my workaholicism, and at such unearthly hours? I now understand why our forefathers placed matha and pitha before guru and deivam.

In the whatever little time I've had to think about things other than work, my thoughts have been occupied by Provence, one of the most beautiful regions in the world. I don't know why / when exactly I started thinking about it, but once I did, there was no going back. Provence has a special place in my heart because, of all the movies I saw last year, the one I liked the most was "My Mother's Castle", which captures the childhood memories of the celebrated French author Marcel Pagnol. Based on Pagnol's own book "Le Chateau de ma mere", this simple tale of the life of a family in Provence haunted me to no end. I've seen the movie and its prequel, My Father's Glory, half a dozen times now, and I'm amazed how a simple tale, something as simple as a recollection of one's enfance, can leave a viewer spellbound. Surely, there must be something about Provence that inspired Pagnol.

Suddenly there was this brainwave in me - I should live some part of my life in Provence! Never mind, I get such brainwaves often. If I had to implement all of them, I would have to travel across the globe, and across interplanetary space, and I would need a few lifetimes too. However, Provence stands out - why else would the entire world want to backpack to the south of France for a holiday?

I've just started reading Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence". One good thing I like about myself is that I don't envy anyone. However Peter Mayle is fast becoming an exception. His experiences in Provence are all I've dreamt of.

Mayle, a British advertising executive, left behind his job, and settled along with his wife near the Luberon Mountains in Provence. His experiences there, and how he comes around to be come a vrai Provencal form the theme of his books, A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence and Encore Provence. Yes, I would give anything for a decade of anonymous existence in the PACA. Provence, here I come!

There is a link here. Marcel starts his narration by saying "Every single day, dawned before me a new chapter in the life of Augustine and her three men - myself, my father and my brother Paul." Judging by my own experiences of the past month, my own life is similar. The love and support shown by my parents is similar to what Marcel describes.

I may never get to live in Provence, nor may I acquire a castle, as did Pagnol, but I've realised that parents are the greatest gift God bestows upon us.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Welcoming 2006

I don't associate much with the idea of celebrating New Year's Day, or for that matter, most other days. Festive holidays mean three things to me - food, TV and gaming! However, as I was travelling home from work yesterday, I realised the importance of festivals.

Just step out from your home, and get into a busy market during the festive season. You can behold happy people - you can read it from their faces. Women busy cajoling husbands into buying them jewellery, expensive clothes and household articles; kids in multicolour dresses unable to hide their joy and enthusiasm; even the men, they too put up a smile. There is so much hope in the air. They talk about the tsunami, the devsatating rains, even the recent shootings at IISc, Bangalore Bengalooru, and expect that such sadness will not fill the next year.

The one thing that immediately comes to mind is Ayn Rand's description of Hank Rearden at the beginning of Atlas Shrugged. She writes something like "He was so happy that he wanted to bless everyone he would see." Very true, happiness and hope are contagious. That's the reason why we need festivals - we see others who are happy, and that gives us joy.

Today, I visited the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, as is our wont every New Year's Day. Tranquility is the one word I associate with this place. It is so calm, you can hear it if someone dropped pins accidentally. On specific days, the Ashram gives out cards with messages - usually something pulled out from the writings of Sri Aurobindo or The Mother.

Today's message was simple and to the point. People wish each other with fancy messages and the like, but this is really the only message that matters. I've taken this from the website of the Aurobindo Society. You can access the full message here.

Happy new year 2006! May it be filled with happiness, joy, peace, hope and the grace of God.