Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sometimes, we just care less ...

Today was one of those many special days when traffic control went awrily wrong. After boarding a BMTC (state transport) bus at 8.35 am, I reached my office, 11 km away, at 10.15 am. There were bee lines of two and four wheelers, buses packed with school children, office people, all and sundry - stuck on a patch of road, for what seemed like eternity.

In a span of 5 minutes, I would have seen about 100-150 cars of varied sizes, moving at snail's pace on the opposite lane, their windows veneered with sun-protective film, neatly and completely raised. Most of these vehicles had a solitary person at the wheel. The driver, swaddled in the inner air-conditioned sphere of his/her vehicle, wore a big frown on face. Broadly summing up, this was the sight. Only empty Tata Indica taxis formed an exception as cab drivers do not have the privilege to drive with AC on unless requested by customers.

The scene left a sense of revulsion in me. It was only 8.30 am and the city in question is Bangalore, widely known in India for its pleasant climate round the year. The date is 08 Dec 2010 and December mornings are little cold. I had only one question, out of sheer antipathy - "Why are these people using AC at this hour in the morning, at this time of the year and in this city?" The post does not bud from a single day's observation; records from memory signify it as a trend, seen under the most pleasant timings of the day and weather conditions.

I have invited the wrath of many while attempting to discuss the right/wrong aspects of such behavior. There were three major, highly preposterous reasons in defence of such an act and they are listed below -

1) If the windows are left open, it would spoil a person's hair do/make up. Given one spares time to comb his/her hair before alighting or entering the office premises, has a mirror in the car and dashboard that can house some basic cosmetics, this did not seem a serious excuse, barring the case when a person needs to attend a social function, he/she has to be prim and proper.

2) There is so much pollution outside. When this is cited as the reason, I get stunned at the brazen effrontery. The pollution, definitely, will not cause death due to asphyxiation/suffocation. In an attempt to shield oneself from pollution outside by turning on the AC, a person is only adding a noteworthy amount of heat to the immediate and external precincts of the vehicle. This heat component only becomes a huge overdose with each one of the hundred vehicles aping the same action. This excuse can only be dismissed as a display of pure and uberous selfishness.
3) It is a question of affordability. I have the money and luxury to buy a vehicle, turn on the AC 24*7 and drive. Not to bother my vehicle will offer me lesser mileage with AC turned on. This act distinguishes me from the lower middle class/poor class. "If I can afford luxury, why should I refrain from it?" With this excuse, comes a smile of contempt hinting at how I must get ahead in life and soon ape him/her.
I am not entirely and blatantly against the use of air conditioners and I am not imposing sweeping bans. Most of us sit in office in air conditioned premises for a greater part of the day. If we visited a restaurant/mall/theatre/supermarket, there again, we spend appreciable time in air conditioned interiors. Using airconditioner in cars, more than affordability, poses a vital question of avoidability whenever possible. For instance, the windows of a vehicle must be raised, AC/blower turned on when it rains lest water should enter the vehicle. There may be many such simple cases where excuses are necessary and valid.
However, the bottomline is - live and let live. It is not just about your luxury and convenience in the inner limits of the vehicle every time. It is about many who are standing in the vicinity of your vehicle and its exhaust. In toto, it is about the summation of such small avoidable actions which can help heal the ongoing damage to this world. It is about the regurgitations that, not we, but our future generations, your children and my children will have to face for our loose definition of luxury.
The question always is - How does my action alone help? I will be the only fool, lowering my windows, inhaling plenty of smoke and soot, I gain nothing out of it. Just try out once, make it a habit, others will follow suit definitely, some time or the other. At least, you can rest assured that you have done the simplest thing from your side to preserve this earth as is for your children and grand children.
The next time you look at the sky and wonder - "By golly, why this sudden change in climate here, this place has never been like this?" do not forget to ponder what you can do to minimise the extent of surprise. You and I alone cannot stop the damage but may be with our sensible, timely and quintessential actions, we can mitigate the catastrophic effects or postpone the day of judgement.
Before turning an year old, our children will know atleast two alphabets of English language, without our assistance - A C. The requirement is to draw the line between what is essential and what is pompous, define it in a way that benefits you and more importantly, your neighbours. It is our duty to pass the lesson of judicous use to future generations and refrain from providing avenues to splurge just because one can afford.
All said and done, it may be cool to shrug one's shoulders and throw a carefully trained accent but if all this leaves a cooler planet to stay on in the future is the most intriguing question.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quiz time again !!

Prologue: A dry spell loomed in the arena of television quiz shows after the end of Sports Ka Superstar, a sports quiz show on DD. This show specially crafted to enthuse audience before Delhi CWG 2010 kindled abundant interest in me on topics related to sports trivia and I enjoyed every episode thoroughly.
KBC season 4 cast away this dry spell and renewed my television interests. The new season of KBC has Big B - Amitabh Bachchan donning the role of a host. It commenced on Oct 11, 2010 - Big B's 68th birthday. The show is aired on Sony TV, every Mon-Thurs from 9-10pm.
There are minor changes to the format -
1) 50-50 lifeline does not exist anymore. There's an expert advise lifeline instead.
2) A double dip lifeline (4th one) comes into existence when a participant crosses Rs 3,20,000 mark. The contestant is bound to play if he/she chooses to use this lifeline and cannot quit. This lifeline allows a contestant to answer twice to a question.
3) The number of questions has fallen to 12 from earlier 15.
4) An additional jackpot question for Rs 5 crores appears when one has won 1 crore.
5) Questions 1-6 (Rs 5000 - Rs 1,60,000) are timed. The time limit is 30 sec for questions 1 and 2, 45 sec for others. The timer stops when a lifeline (audience poll, phone a friend, ask the expert) is used. Questions 7-13 do not have any associated timeline.
6) The show has a new logo that bears the new rupee symbol.

The creative head/director remains the same for this season - Mr.Siddartha Basu. I am sure every Indian student will attribute a share of his/her interest in quiz/trivia to this great guy. Amitabh Bachchan, unquestionably, is the biggest strength of this show. His immense and unparalleled fan following, his poignant personality, his powerful diction in crisp, baritone voice, his affable manners, his decent and enjoyable sense of humor remain the erstwhile ingredients for making the show a huge success. The show has revived my quiescent interests in quizzing, driven me to buy a copy of the first official edition of KBC Quiz Book. This post is a brief note on the book and its contents.

The book and its overview:
Donning a brilliant blue cover, published by Rupa and Co, priced at Rs 95 per copy, Kaun Banega Crorepati - The Official Book, edited and compiled by quizmaster Siddartha Basu, on stands, in the Reliance Timeout Store, Cunningham Road, Bangalore, attracted my attention. The book begins with a Foreword written by Big B, he quotes two lines penned by his father, reiterates the spirit of human nature and endorses the fact that there are many questions each one of us face and no question is small - Koi bhi sawaal chotta nahin hota. The preface section by the quizmaster hands out a token of thanks to all who have contributed to the questions set. He writes to stress the popularity of the TV show given that it formed the baseline of the Oscar winning movie - Slumdog Millionaire, conceived from the novel - Q&A by Vikaas Swarup.

The book has 100 questions in Fastest Finger First section, 120 each in Rs 5000 section Rs.10,000 section, 100 questions in Rs 20,000 section, 90 in Rs 40,000 section, 80 questions each in Rs 80,000, Rs 1,60,000, Rs 3,20,000 and Rs 6,40,000 sections, 45 questions in Rs 12,50,000 section, 40 questions each in Rs 25,00,000 and Rs 50,00,000 sections and a set of 15 questions in the final, big, Rs 1 Crore section. The questions in different sections procuring increasing money rewards are of increasing complexity. Answers to all questions are provided in the book for reference. The book facilitates its readers to play the game - KBC with its questions as options like audience poll and 50:50 find suggestions/stats in the end of the book.
My Review:
I would'nt say that this official book of KBC will help one in getting to the hot seat, the writers of this book too do not lay the claim. Also, it is not the exhaustive compilation of trivia and quiz questions. If you expect the complexity of questions in this book to be in tandem with Siddartha Basu's Mastermind TV quiz show, then you will be terribly let down.

Upon reading through its contents, I suggest, this book is apt for anyone interested in KBC and in quizzing - it is a fun exercise. I loved it thoroughly. The book is a good read during travel/lone time and even at home when with a group of like minded friends/children/elders.

The book, definitely, offers many things for us to learn and remember and the question set compiled in here is no cakewalk. After all, koi bhi sawaal chotta nahin hota - no question is small.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pune's CadB, now in B'lore

How would you like a Friday evening stroll down Brigade Road, a sumptuous meal at one of its many food joints and end it with a drink of thick, dusky chocolate shake. Perfect ten!!

This blog post is about the serendipitous discovery of one of the most delectable drinks I have ever had. Friday brings immense respite to me; the fervor with which I wait for it has only surged with time. A stroll down Brigade road and MG road on a Friday without hurry and worry of next day’s chores, watching people unwind from their sphere of flit and flutter, refreshes one immensely. Brightly lit shops doing brisk business, multiple eateries teeming with young crowd, cars and bikes honking to get into Rex Theatre for a night show of the latest release, all this and much more, in this part of the city, pumps a new lease of energy into lackadaisical souls weary from the week's toil. Viswa and I had a meek dinner at Stars and Stripes, a small restaurant, opposite Eva Mall, on Brigade Road last Friday. After the meal, we needed something to rejuvenate our sweet tooth.

A few feet away from this restaurant, after Kanti sweets shop, diagonally opposite to Eva Mall (Brigade Road) and directly opposite to St.Joseph’s college of commerce, existed our new find - the CadB outlet. The shop had alluring pictures of chocolate shakes and everything super-yummily chocolicious. These pictures provided a warm promise of a sweet surprise in store for us.

The menu card bore names like CadB - a thick brown chocolate shake and CadM - a thick white chocolate shake, the major highlights in the outlet. Their exotic variants were walnut topped CadB, Coconut blended CadM, Hazelnut CadB (Ferrero Rocher), Roasted almond CadB, Dry Fruit CadB, all available in both medium and large quantities. The shopkeeper politely explained that these thick, creamy shakes offered a unique taste.

We ordered a CadB (medium) priced at Rs 50. Topped with crushed, rich chocolate flakes, this dark brown beauty enticed us thoroughly with its divine but sinful taste. The shopkeeper was true to his word and the drink was truly one of its kind. In just one attempt, the dark temptation seemed irresistible. We ordered a CadB Hazelnut (medium) priced at Rs 80. An opulent offering of finely ground hazelnuts atop grated chocolate, floating on thick, dark chocolate potion provided a magical experience that enriched our taste buds.

From our conversation with the shopkeeper, we inferred that CadB is a highly popular chain in Pune with 20-30 outlets meeting demands of many who queued up to relish its yummilicious offerings. CadB’s sole outlet in Bangalore is on Brigade Road, the one we visited and is about four months old. The menu also lists 30 flavors of thick shakes and mastanis (thick shakes with lavish topping of ice cream) – mango, butterscotch, roasted almond, custard apple to name a few. There are chocolate sandwich and cheese-corn sandwich for people who to intend to take a quick bite along with a drink. Strategically located opposite a college, the outlet already has its share of loyal customers and is beginning to get popular amongst others.

From my first experience at CadB, I would award it a neat 100. The residents of Pune are definitely gifted to have indulged in CadB for longer than us in Bangalore. While I have earmarked a Friday, about 2-3 months from now, to pamper myself with another CadB, I only wish time flies fast (the way it normally does) to expedite another sinful indulgence.

A plunge into a tall glass filled with thick, creamy chocolate is sheer BLISS !!!

Note -
Contact details of CadB outlet –
Shop #1, St.Patrick’s Complex, Opposite St.Joseph’s Commerce College,
Kanti Sweets lane, Brigade Road, Bangalore
11 am to 11 pm (open on all days)
Ph: 8147543894, 8088810816

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kollywood’s gift to Isaac Asimov

After witnessing an extraordinary hype for over a month since its release, exorbitantly, yet sustainably high prices of tickets, reading innumerable articles on Rajni, the Superstar and soaking up the essence that he undoubtedly has a Midas touch, I watched Enthiran, the super blockbuster Tamil movie, during Diwali 2010. I got my turn for this interesting rendezvous with Kollywood’s work on science fiction, on Nov 6, 2010.

I put my share of Rajni frenzy under control for a month and waited for the price of the ticket to fall from the range of Rs 1000/Rs 500 to a meek Rs 70. I am still aghast at multiplexes in Bangalore screening the movie for no less than Rs 200 per ticket, for even the earliest show of the day. That, in short, suggests the kind of boffo this movie is, at the box office.

Date: Nov 6, 2010
Time/Show: 6 pm
Venue/Theatre: Single screen, Cauvery Theatre, Sankey Road, Bangalore
Ticket Price: Rs 70 per ticket

The film opens with Dr.Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth), a robotics scientist, researching and creating an andro-humanoid robot out of ten years of dogged diligence. His robot, his look alike, christened as Chitti, functions at a speed of 1 Terra hertz, has humungous memory, possesses ability to understand multiple languages, cook dishes from world cuisine, perform different martial arts, dance to classical, rock, jazz and techno tunes and grasp details from a dozen books in a single scan – be it medical literature or telephone directory records. Chitti performs all tasks as instructed by its master, Dr.Vaseegaran, blissfully devoid of emotions and any reasoning derived from them. The inability to comprehend human emotions and apply those drives Chitti and its creator to face varied problems. Chitti’s rejection by Professor Bora, played by Danny Denzongpa, in a conference held at research centre, drives Dr.Vasee convincingly into a compulsive urge to make his robot emote and take decisions based on emotional reasoning.

It is a treat to watch Danny don the role of a villain after a long span. When Vasee proudly announces to Professor Bora that Chitti can now emote, infer human emotions and is not merely a dumb machine that executes orders blindly, Bora laughs sheepishly and cites unfathomable problems are just about to begin.

Sana, Dr. Vasee’s long time girl friend, played by Aishwarya Rai, is cordial with Chitti right from the start and completely awestruck by his abilities. With human emotions newly activated in the robot and a hormone like mechanism topping its original neural schema, the closeness between the two lets love blossom in Chitti for Sana. All hell breaks loose. There is so much pandemonium that Vasee is forced to destroy his most cherished creation.

However, like a phoenix, from the garbage, with Professor Bora’s help, Chitti rises, with bouts of negative qualities injected via a red chip. A new stylish look is imparted to Chitti, the terminator, with insurmountable abilities to destroy and devastate. Intense love for Sana still lingers, forcing Chitti to abduct her from her wedding and confine her in quarters, run and managed by robot clones like itself. The remaining story is on how this mayhem leads to incalculable damage to life and property. Anyone/anything coming in way of Chitti’s love for Sana is ravaged completely without the slightest hesitation, not even Prof.Bora is spared.

The climax is stupendous as man takes up the extremely difficult and nearly impossible task of terminating the machines awfully gone wrong, he had created. It is a heap of special effects perfectly crafted and executed that leaves the audience spellbound and in complete acceptance of the fact that Enthiran is better than likes of English movies like I, Robot.

Good prevails over evil always; the red chip is ejected from Chitti, thanks to Dr. Vasee’s efforts. Chitti, the robot Vasee created and held close to his heart, becomes adorable again. It dismantles itself completely upon instructions issued by the court of law. Vasee and Sana marry. Chitti is lodged in the Robotics museum, available for millions to view and is hailed as a man-made marvel even 20 years later.

The film is 100% special because Rajinikanth stars in it. For audience who has seen Rajni in negative shade years back, in movies like Avargal and Apoorva Raagangal, Chitti with a red-chip in this movie is a gentle reminder that Superstar a.k.a Thalaiva is indomitable even as a villain. Like all Rajni movies, Enthiran too ends with a message – human beings across the world are infested with many red chips with negative emotions like anger, jealousy, lust etc. Robots are only machines and can be dismantled with ease, but how to handle human beings ?

Enthiran has true strengths apart from Rajni, the Superstar. The story is interesting, a concept each one of us can relate to. We are living in an era where scientific spirit tends to overdominate, man is trying to create life; artificially tweak and interfere excessively with many natural phenomena. The movie clearly points out the stark reality behind all these human excesses – complete devastation.

Special effects in the climax are stunning, thanks to posse of technicians from the West who helped Tamil film industry scale such heights. AR Rahman’s music is catchy only in two songs in my opinion – Kilimanjaro and Irumbiley. Even here, the brilliance is largely because of beautiful locales like Machu Pichu, Peru and excellent choreography. Aishwarya Rai is a beautiful lass, comes out pretty in all costumes and grooves well to all tunes.

There is a hero about whom I have not yet uttered a word, more appropriately, the true hero. It is the movie’s director – Shankar who dared to dream so big and ensured that his dream thrives in minds of millions, world over. His zeal to experiment and provide a genuinely refreshing movie to the audience, deserves unlimited accolades. I am sure, Isaac Asimov, the renowed sci-fi writer will be content with this small Indian gift from the kitty of Sun Pictures.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Diwali !!

Diwali 2010 was truly different for me in that Viswa and I were in Bangalore. Diwali 2007-9 were spent in Chennai in company of our parents. Bursting crackers and digging into sweets and great food were the major activities then.

This Diwali, we purchased an assembled PC/desktop for our home on Nov 5, 2010. Both Viswa and I needed a desktop to surf Internet, edit documents, download and upload stuff. We both detest gaming to a great and equal extent. Therefore, we came up with a no-frills/minimalistic configuration and completed the deal for Rs 16,600

Details of PC configuration are as below -
Processor - Intel Pentium Dual core E5500 (2.8 GHz clock, 800 MHz FSB, 2 MB L2 Cache)
Mother board and chip set - Intel G31 express chipset with Gigabyte Mother board (Taiwanese make - GIGABYTE G31M-ES2L) that supports DDR2 memory. The motherboard has 4 USB ports at back and 4 on the front panel.
Memory (RAM) - Transcend 1 Gb DDR2 memory at 800 MHz
Hard disk - Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 (7200 rpm SATA hard disk drive) 500 GB capacity
SMPS - Mron (450W)
Cabinet - Zebronics basic cabinet (similar to model - Raunak)
Keyboard and Mouse - wired keyboard and mouse package from Microsoft (Microsoft wired keyboard and mouse 500 series)
Monitor - DELL 18.5" TFT

Purchase details are as below -
Date: Nov 5, 2010
Place/Shop details: IT Gain Computers, #1, AM Lane, SP Road, Bangalore - 560 002. Ph 080-42108651
(SP Road in Bangalore is fanous for multiple shops trading in electronic goods, computers and accessories, mobiles etc. The market is similar to Richie street, Chennai)
As for other activities during Diwali, we watched Endhiran movie in Cauvery Theatre, Sankey Road, Bangalore. We happily devoured samosas with sweet/sour tamarind chutney, sheera (a sweet dish made of chiroti rava), paneer bhurji, cucumber raitha, vegetable pulav, potato smileys, rava dosa with coconut chutney that I made at home. We had a brief, namesake session bursting crackers - 4 boxes of sparklers and 2 lar crackers at night and lit some diyas to decorate our house. It was a very quiet and simple Diwali.

Friday, October 15, 2010

CWG 2010 – First a trickle, then a drizzle and then a TORRENT

The title of this post is inspired by a line in an article that featured on the The Calcutta Telegraph newspaper. This one-liner was used to describe the crescendo effect in India’s medal triumph in the 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games held at Delhi. With an event of such international importance happening in India and sportspersons from all fields striving hard to prove their mettle in their home ground, I could not refrain from capturing special moments these laudable achievers offered us. Many a times, our national flag was hoisted before the medals podium. Many a times, our national anthem was played before an awestruck audience and proud winners.
I list down, in this post, all gold medals that our Indian sportspersons won in the 19th edition of Commonwealth Games, Delhi starting Oct 3-14, 2010. The shower of gold began on us on the 5th of October. On this day, we won 5 gold medals from shooting and wrestling.
1)10 m Air Rifle Men pair event - Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang - win the first gold medal in CWG 2010 for India.
2)25m Pistol pair event- Rahi Sarnobat, Anisa Sayyed
3)Greco Roman style 96 kg men - Anil Kumar
4)Greco Roman style 74 kg men – Sanjay Kumar
5)Greco Roman style 60 kg men – Ravinder Singh
The quest for gold proceeded in full vigor with sportspersons from weightlifting arena joining in.
6)10m Air Rifle Men (individual) - Gagan Narang
7) 25m pistol women (individual) - Anisa Sayid
8) 50m pistol men (individual) - Omkar Singh
9) 58 kg category Women - Renu Bala Chanu
10) Greco Roman style 55 kg men - Rajendra Kumar
11) Greco Roman style 69 kg men - Ravi Kumar
Wrestling, Weightlifting and Shooting emerged the strong areas for India.
12) Pairs 25 m Rapid Fire Pistol Shooting Men - Vijay Kumar and Gurpreet Singh
13) 10m Air Pistol Pairs Men - Omkar Singh and Gurpreet Singh
14) Freestyle Women 55kg - Geeta
The archers joined chorus with fellow Indian comrades. Women clinched gold in wrestling and ensured a near clean sweep; much like men did in Greco Roman style wrestling.
15) Women team recurve - Dola Banerjee, Dipika Kumari and Bombayala Devi
16) Men's 50m Rifle three Positions (Pairs) - Gagan Narang and Imran Hassan
17) Men's 25m Rapid Fire Pistol - Vijay Kumar
18) 10m air pistol event Men (individual) - Omkar Singh
19) 59Kg Women Freestyle Wrestling - Alka Tomar
20) 67Kg Women Freestyle Wrestling - Anitha
The shower of gold medals continued unabated for the nation. However, it was localized over the rain bearing areas of shooting, archery, wrestling and weightlifting.
21) 25m Centre fire Pistol (Pairs) – Vijay Kumar and Harpreet Singh
22) 50m men's rifle 3 (individual) event – Gagan Narang
23) 60kg Freestyle Men - Yogeshwar Dutt
24) 74kg Freestyle Men - Narsingh Pancham Yadav
25) Women Individual Recurve - Dipika Kumari
Tennis figured in the list of sports that won India gold on Oct 10, 2010. The day offered a pot pourri of golds.
26) Men's 25m Centre fire Pistol – Harpreet Singh
27) Archery Recurve Men Individual – Rahul Banerjee
28) 66kg Men Freestyle wrestling – Sushil Kumar
29) Tennis Men Single – Somdev Dev Varman
On 11, Oct 2010, India added only one gold medal to its kitty. However, the day witnessed a remarkable feat. Gold, Silver and Bronze in women's discus throw were all won by Indians. The podium shone brightly with these valorous women and nation's flag flew higher like never before.
30) Discus Throw Women – Krishna Punia
Athletics was for long deemed a drought prone arena, since 1958 Cardiff Games where Milkha Singh proved his prowess by winning a gold in 400 yards track event. On Oct 12, 2010, the shower of medals that brought merry to the nation turned into a heavy torrent bringing unprecedented joyous and proud moments. The long term drought was over.
31) Women Pairs 10m Air Pistol - Heena Sidhu and Annu Raj Singh
32) 4*400 women's relay event athletics - A.C. Ashwini, Manjeet Kaur, Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose
Neatly completing an act of tribute to their coach - Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu, the Indian boxers won three gold medals. And the Indians went ping pong in merry, winning gold in Table Tennis for the first time.
33) Men's 62 kg light-welterweight boxing event - Manoj Kumar
34) Men's Boxing Flyweight (52 kg) event - Suranjoy Mayengbam Singh
35) Men's Super Heavyweight (Over 91kg) Boxing event - Paramjeet Samota
36) Table Tennis men's doubles - Achanta Sharat Kamal and Subhojit Saha
Dreams of a second place in the overall ranking in CWG 2010 and total medals over one hundred were turned into reality by Indian badminton players and the country's national game, hockey, earning a silver.
37) Badminton women's doubles event - Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa
38) Badminton women's singles event - Saina Nehwal
The above list looks flabbergasting for a nation highly undervalued in multi sports events, even by its own people. With such achievements, Indian sportspersons had every reason to party with huge gusto and we, Indians, loved getting drenched in this torrent.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Back in 2006, I wrote a short story for a Flash Fiction competition in my office.
The contest imposed a word limit and insisted that the piece of fiction start with the sentence -- On a dark and foggy night, a small figure lay huddled on the railway tracks leading to the Bangalore station.
Now, I post below, the entry, I wrote for the contest. It got a special mention then.
Article: (I chose to name it Thrive .. and that's the title for this blog post as well)
Thrive ...
On a dark and foggy night, a small figure lay huddled on the railway tracks leading to the Bangalore station. I drew close by; a girl lay there, it seemed I knew her since my birth – had to be so as she resembled me in every way. Astounded by the similarities, I stood there, holding her in my arms, feeling an eerie sense of weightlessness.

I was left staring at her pale eyes, face marked with wrinkles. She was weary of deep thought, helplessness and fear of failure. Her intensely morose look held me in silence and she softly uttered – “Life holds no meaning to me, no more. I have failed to accomplish what I wanted to!” Her voice revealed strong pessimism, lack of drive to make her dreams come true, haste, pandemonium and much more. She was choked – choked out of peer pressure, her accountability to her family, a burden of satisfying everyone around her which she took on her out of her own volition.

Just as she hung her head in shame and frustration, not willing to talk more about her pitiable state for which she took sole responsibility, I took my turn to speak . In a solemn tone, I tried to make her understand that a person derives the energy of fulfilling his/her ambitions out of sheer self-faith, being selfish about one’s own interests to a sensible extent that peers, parents and their thoughts cannot intrude that private space.
Hitting it harder than ever, I said, “Thrive , FIRST for your self , then think of others around you!!”. We talked, one at a time and I silently, inferred !!!

She had lots of dreams, profound interest in many diverse subjects, in academic and arts and was capable of excelling in all fields. However, her intention to keep everyone happy with her choices weighed upon her extensively and thrust her into a hollow circle of failure. She had gone off the tangent into the circular trap and there was no getting back. Unable to overcome the inertia of her negative thoughts, her helplessness only increased and my words imparted no change in her.

At this moment, I let her go and climbed on to an elevation off the track. I turned back and saw her run over by a train, more aptly, a behemoth of pessimism and fear, squashing her dreams even before they came into existence in this material world.

A loud screech and a sudden halt woke me up , the train arrived at Bangalore Cantontment station. I got down with just one thought in my mind “Thrive , FIRST for yourself , nurture your dreams boldly and give them a form , don't give them up in fear of others petty opinions!”

My Name is GUL and I am not a terrorist!

My Name is GUL, Gulmohar and I am not a terrorist.

I am a tree, one of the many, scalded and bleached by irresponsible and ignominious human activities. Bridges, buildings, flyovers, foot over bridges, road-widening projects, name a commercial activity and people axe us to death mercilessly. There is an unanswered question that keeps ringing in my mind – “Why do people slay us when we provide them shade from scorching sun, cleanse the air that they breathe, decorate their avenues with an orange red hue in full bloom and nurture life of many forms like insects, squirrels, birds and even their young ones in nests?” Practically, photosynthetically and aesthetically, we resolve to stand by humans, enduring bouts of negative emotions from them.

We share a common family name – Gulmohar, Laal is my first name. Our relatives in Canada and America are known as Royal Poinciana. Some in Taiwan and New Zealand are known as Flame of Forest. Scientists who studied us long back gave us an incomprehensible Latin name – Delonix Regia. They state, we hail from an island named Madagascar and are best suited to live in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

In India, we are grown as a street tree, also found in botanical gardens and big parks .Very few mansions shelter us within the limits of their compound wall. People admire us for our fern like foliage, the many leaflets that are vivacious in the morning and fold up lazily in the evening. They adore our red-orange flower canopy. They run around our thick, rounded barks, children merrily and adults shyly and romantically. Some manage to climb on us and play funny pranks on others. Squirrels, crows, million insects thrive in the labyrinth of our branches. Bees hover busily and hungrily over flowery cups of nectar.

I was born and brought up on 100 ft road, Indiranagar, Bangalore. My parents are no more. Last month, they gave way for a new cosmetics outlet and retail showroom. They were axed to death in my presence. For once, I felt I should have a voice like humans do, then I would have shouted aloud for help. I wished fervently that I could move my branches like human limbs, then I would have stopped the atrocities on my parents right when the first crack fell on my mom’s bark. All I did was sway violently in the chill breeze that evening, unable to wreak vengeance on my foes.

We, Gulmohars, are naturalized trees and I have a dozen half brothers and half sisters, tens of cousins, in and around Indiranagar, some in Koramangala too.
My parents always cherished their young days. They reminisced kind gestures made by people who took immense care of them. They basked in abundant sunlight, drank sweet water from the table below, derived indispensable nutrients from the soil that smelt fresh. The air was laced with sweet smell of their comrades – laburnum and champa. They were cherubic with dense, verdi green foliage and bright vermillion flowers.

In the last decade, their health condition deteriorated drastically and so did the attitude of common man towards us. The water turned saline and their xylem vessels, like mine, were choked with salt deposits much like atherosclerosis in humans with high cholesterol. They had breathing difficulties as their leaves were coated with dust, soot, sulphur and high concentration of air pollutants. Their leaves turned from green to an insipid grey color. The velvety texture of their leaves was replaced by a puckered appearance, much like the wrinkles on an octogenarian’s face. Their flowers wilted faster, they lacked the bright and lustrous shades. They grew bald even during spring with only empty branches spreading out in an eerie agony. Much to their despair, they saw all these signs of ageing in my siblings and me at a much younger age.

How could people turn a blind eye to such obvious signs of destruction? Does their education not impart basic knowledge of environment and its timid balance? They did not give a hoot to my parents’ calls for help and change. Instead, they massacred us in large numbers as if we were traitors, outlaws and terrorists.

In a mad rat race towards development, man lays down concrete roads, widens them, digs and mines to reach an abyss, builds glass and aluminium panel buildings, stifles the soils with artificial fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.. an endless list of harmful chemicals, chokes it even further with plastic bags and garbage, emits plumes of heavy, stifling smoke through his various activities. Man no longer wants the chill breeze and lower temperatures that trees provide, they have artificial air conditioning systems. Man no longer wants our fruits, they want to genetically engineer them to their requirements and tweak our very identity. Man no longer wants rain to fill the water table, he no longer wants us to stop floods for him or bind the soil in its place. Man no longer wants balance in the biosphere; he want to be an omnipotent and ruthless power despite being blessed with super brain faculties.
Man no longer wants peace and he decapitates us like terrorists?

Monday, October 4, 2010

CWG 2010 Opening Ceremony: Glitz and Glory

On 3rd October 2010, the whole nation, starry eyed, awaited the opening ceremony of the 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. Shadowed by only negative attributes in the last month, the games and the nation bore the brunt of endless scams; embezzlement of public money; shoddy, unfinished and delayed work; innumerable reminders of unlivable conditions in the athlete’s village, collapsing foot over bridge and false ceilings, caving in roads; slaughter by heavy rain and inundation. It seemed that the nation had to gear for more embarrassment with the commencement of the games.

However, yesterday, thousands of people from Delhi and outside buried the hatchet and came to laud the glitz and glory showcased by a nation that possesses prolific culture. A long, boring conversation between Charu Sharma and his colleague, the anchors for the show on DD; long commercial breaks made the audience impatient in many homes. The channel Doordarshan, the official broadcaster of the Delhi CWG 2010, provides LIVE High Definition content of the games to all its viewers.

The opening ceremony began with huge posse of percussionists from all over India marching to the forefront, playing bold music. The central dais was huge and had a small kid, Keshava from Pondichery at the tabla. He was oblivious of the many eyes watching him as he played the tabla. He shook his small hair curls and locks, his face wore a constant smile, as he enjoyed every musical moment in true maestro Zakhir Hussain style, the crowd went into a crescendo of applause.

A presentation on the various forms of classical dance in India was the next grand event – groups of Bharatanatyam, Mohiniaattam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Odissi and Kathak dancers performed to classical tunes, first singly and then in unison. Next was the turn of thousands of children, neatly forming a pattern of hands folded in welcome – the Swagatham symbol against the backdrop of a song rendered by renowned singer Hariharan. The children swiftly changed their hanging robes and created the tricolor. Shrouded under a huge white cloth, they used altha (red dye) and created an image of mehandi on palm in no time. At this point, the audience roared in cheer and amazement and it was clear that India was doing every essential act to recover its lost pride.

The central showstopper in yesterday’s opening ceremony was the 70 crores rupees worth aerostat held aloft, above the central dais. Huge in perimeter, with many reflector panels in its base, it created magical lighting and stunning visual effects. Events happening far below on the floor of the stadium were displayed vividly on the aerostat's screen. Hogging all the limelight, this helium balloon added the quintessential element of BIG scale grandeur to the ceremony, making it a sheer visual treat to millions.

There were speeches by heads of India and the British Empire – our Prime Minister, Mr.Manmohan Singh addressed the gathering, he appeared sober and preoccupied. The head of OC – Mr. Suresh Kalmadi was next in turn and welcomed by incessant booing from the crowd. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales declared the games open, reading out Queen Elizabeth II's message. To my surprise, the President of India – Ms. Prathiba Patil possessed more energy and fervor than anyone did in the stadium, she announced boldly – “Let the games begin”.

The contingents from 71 nations across the world marched in pride and cheer waving to the audience. The previous games host, Australia, led the parade followed by other nations in alphabetical order, with India, the current host, marching in the end. As the various contingents marched, the name and the national flag of their country appeared vibrantly on the aerostat. The Indian contingent was led by Olympic Gold medalist, Abhinav Bindra who also delivered the oath of the games in a composed manner and with clear diction. The Queen’s baton relay continued in the stadium passing from hands of one Indian sports icon to other - Vijendra Singh, bronze medalist in Boxing, Beijing Olympics 2008, Mary Kom, 5 times world champion in women’s boxing, Samaresh Jung, nicknamed the "Golden Finger" for his medal kitty in 2006 CWG and Sushil Kumar, a bronze medalist in wrestling in Beijing Olympics, 2008. The Commonwealth Games flag was hoisted with impeccable military honor.

The cultural extravaganza continued in full throttle in front of the athletes’ teams assembled in the floor of the stadium. There was a pompous display of rich culture and diversity in India by the Indian Railways. A temporary, but beautifully crafted rail engine wriggled into the stadium to the tune of Chaiyya Chaiyya song, with its many coaches displaying varied elements of a common man’s life in Indian states. There were dabbawaalas from Mumbai, bangle stores, sweets and condiments shops, cycle repair shops, porters walking and folk dancers from all parts of the country dancing to lively music. The celebration was huge and it was like a Kumbha Mela/fair.

Highly talented artists crafted art, using sand, on a screen and depicted the Dandi march – salt Satyagraha movement led by the father of our nation. The brilliant piece of work was thrown open to full view on the aerostat. Prince Charles and Princess Camilla were caught staring at the sand art in rapt attention. Towards the end of this creation, a Gandhi like figure, in rich illumination of laser beams arose from the central stage. There was an astounding display of the various Aasanas in Yoga by school children. This event ended with a human figure in a yoga posture with dazzling laser beams and rich lighting effects emerging from the central dais. The delegates from various nations wore a completely look, a look of ratification that when it comes to richness of culture, color, life and vivacity, India is Incredible, and is undoubtedly, unbeatably the BEST.

The maestro AR Rahman arrived in the last segment of the ceremony along with an elaborate and ornate array of fireworks springing up from every corner of the stadium. He rendered the CWG 2010 theme song accompanied by synchronized gyrations from a group of dancers. The folk dance artists were still on the floor performing their classy steps to his tune. More power packed than his theme song, was his rendition of Jai Ho song that sent the stadium into reeling applause, cheer and uproar. Jai ho truly works out magic – be it the Oscar awards podium or the Delhi Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. To mark the end, Rahman sang loudly – Jiyo, Utho, Badho, Jeetho; bolstering further, the message – Come out and Play!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Label Guide

Hello All,
Hitting over a half century in my blog, I found navigation to my older posts clumsy. I decided to use labels to enable classification and easier access to my earlier posts. This post is a guide that briefly describes the labels I have used and their intent. I intend to update this post as I add more posts and use more labels. I hope this label based classification will provide a broad idea of what Furore Scribendi has to offer to its readers.
1) Bangalore Magic - I currently reside in Bangalore and this label points to all articles about Bangalore, my life here, info+entertaintment here.
2) CWG 2010 - All articles pertaining to the Commonwealth Games held at Delhi from Oct 3-14, 2010.
3) Intro - This is the first post I wrote on my blog.
4) Music and Movie review - I am music and movie buff, love Hindi film music lots. An equal fan of Tamil classics, old movie songs and Carnatic music, look out in this space for some reviews of films and music.
5) My fav articles - this section consists of some articles written/posted by eminent journalists/persons who have inspired my thoughts. I have put up these articles for my personal/future reference and I can vouch that these will offer a good read.
6) On a serious note - This is exclusively MY SECTION where I have penned down my thoughts and opinions. These are mostly issues of national importance, though some generic and international issues may also surface.
7) Quizzing - I like quizzing and look at it as a very productive and involving hobby. Please refer to this section for some Q & A.
8) Travel - I am fond of traveling and so is my husband. Together, we have visited many places, predominantly in the state of Karnataka, more precisely, in South India. This section consists of some travelogue entries.
9) Short stories - This section consists of some short stories/fiction.
10) Help - Look for any help or general blog related information here.
11) Book Review - A brief review of some books I have read. Not a voracious reader, still grab a book when I get time.
12)Foodies' Sphere - A new label added on July 10, 2011 to accomadate posts related to cooking/eating , everything related to food.
13) Sporty Affair - My observations and related deductions on sports and sport related activities appear under this heading. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Verdict with so much Brouhaha

I decided to write down my thoughts after heavy contemplation on this topic. Yes, this post is on the verdict delivered on Sep 30, 2010, by Allahabad High Court in the 60 year old Ayodhya title suit. There was immense brouhaha surrounding the verdict, release dates of movies were altered, schools, colleges, shops, bazaars and IT companies were closed as a precautionary measure, petitions were filed to postpone announcement of verdict fearing dire consequences.
Here, I am not going to discuss the correctness of the verdict. I do not possess the required qualifications for it. And at most times, it is better not to mouth one's thoughts and opinions openly.
Primarily, there are three things that worried me in the immediate aftermath of the verdict and I list them below -

1. The way the media scavenged for news on Sep 30 and Oct 1, 2010
Gone are those days of my childhood, when I listened to 30 min news daily, watched The World this Week news by Prannoy Roy on Fridays on Doordarshan channel. This dose of news supplemented with "The Hindu" kept me well informed. The news channels of today host only debates and arguments. The actual news comes as meta data running in the lowermost section of the TV screen. The remaning portion of the screen is spilced into 4/6/8 sections with each bearing a face and an argumentative voice.
On Sep 30, 2010, from 3 pm, the Allahabad High Court was made a no access zone. Media persons roamed in its limits diligently, waiting for the smallest iota of news to leak from the courtroom. It was a race on who will grab the iota first, a race, more organised and planned than the races in our forthcoming CWG.

People who watched the movie "Peepli [LIVE]" saw like events happen in reality, on TV. Instead of Nathadas' hut (the protagonist in the movie), the venue for this posse of mediapersons was the courtroom.
Post verdict, talk shows continued endlessly till Oct 1 dawn. I realised that senior journalists on TV news channels remained in the same attire and grew doubtful if they attended to their natures' call in this melee. Such HUNGER for news .. INDIGESTIBLE !!

2. Hope this verdict does not justify acts of vandalism and destruction.
The Babri Masjid remained a site of worship for Muslims from time of its erection by/under Mughal ruler Babar to 1949. In 1880s period, Hindus and Muslims worshipped here alongside in peace. This could have continued. But on Dec 22, 1949, idols of Ram Lalla were placed under the central dome of the mosque and a case of trespassing was filed in 1950. In 1985, the site was opened by Rajiv Gandhi's government to Hindu worship. And we all know what happened on Dec 6, 1992 - the mosque, a prominent symbol of religious faith for Muslims was trampled upon, brought down to debris in no time.
The verdict issued by the three judge HC bench states that the place where the idols were kept in 1949, belongs to the Hindus. Nobody dared to question the legality behind placing the idols at that place. It is now ratified that the area below the central dome is the birth place of Lord Rama. We do not have eye witness accounts to substantiate this claim but the outcome is - the idols will not be removed from their position and the area rightfully belongs to Hindus. The land at the disputed site will be shared 2: 1 between Hindus and Muslims. If Bhagawan Sri Ram Virajman himself is a litigant in this case, a minor, represented by Mr.Nandan Agarwal, then a lesser mortal like me cannot make further comments on this verdict.
I only hope history does not repeat itself. Atleast, from now on, let no group erect idols of some god in the altar of a church or below the dome of a mosque, later demolish/vandalize it, then 50-60 years later, claim that the place where the idols were erected, is actually, the birth place of the God they revere, and therefore rightfully belongs to them only.

My fear is not unnatural because we all know, India is primarily, a Hindu nation. It was with the arrival of Dutch and Portugese missionaries that Christianity arrived on this soil. These fierce missionaries destroyed many temples and erected churches on top of them. One can visit Old Goa to understand this. With the arrival of Mughals in North India, Islam permeated to a vast extent. Many mosques and tombs stand on early temple sites. If today's common man in India wants to rewrite history and lay his claim on a past bygone, it will be wasteful and inharmonious, heinous and irrational.

3. Are we still a Sovereign, Socilaist, Secular, Democratic Republic ?
Yes, we are a Republic, but stripped of all other adjectives. Democracy is in doldrums in parts of India flooded with curfew. There is no right to education;shops and hospitals are shut down for months. Instead of rubber bullets, tear gas shells and water cannons, it is real bullets that tear through many chests.
I have grave doubts on socialist component after viewing the pictures of food grains rotting in the open in Haryana and Punjab. It is this rotten stock, fed upon by dogs and rodents that was distributed to flood victims in Uttarakhand last month. A nation that spends 74000 crores to build and renovate stadiums is unwilling to spend even less than half this amount to build warehouses and godowns to ensure proper storage and distribution of food.
Sovereign, a partial yes, the state and its police force are sovereign, supreme and independent but the people, it governs, live as its subordinates.
The SECULAR aspect ceases to exist following the verdict. A certain party's leaders were happy that the verdict divides and provides lands for everybody - Hindus and Muslims, they say it is all encompassing, promotes peace and ushers a new era. On news channels, they sought the cooperation of their Muslim brothers for the construction of a temple in the area demarcated lto them legally. When these leaders were asked if they will cooperate with their Muslim brothers and help build their mosque, there was no straight answer. Tongues twisted, faces changed, words were minced, the person who threw the question was reprimanded for short sightedness and irrelevance and heavily ridiculed. Everything happened barring a terse "YES, definitely we will help" !
The clarity with which help and cooperation were sought in building a temple disappeared gawkily when the question of paying back came.
Does this mean that we all have to endorse and bolster one religion? How are we a secular republic?

Before the verdict was announced, many said India has moved on, India has come a long way. It is not the India of 1992. There is more tolerance and amity in the air now.

They all should be reminded that Mayawati complained of inadequate security in her state, washed her hands off any responsibility; a neat disclaimer even before the verdict was announced. A fellow citizen filed a petition for postponement of verdict to a date after the Commonwealth Games lest we should have riots and add that last, unforgivable element of embarrassment. Nobody on roads were willing to risk their lives. Irrespective of age, caste, sex, religion, profession and class, we all, shut the doors and nestled ourselves in safe premises, promptly before 3 pm on 30th Sept.

Tolerance, trust and a sense of security is built in a nation with meaningful symbiotic relations; with help, respect, love and cooperation flowing in all ways. If one party begins to extract it all and refuses to payback or even commit on a possible act at a later time, then that's a phony symbiotic relation, more aptly, a parasitic one in which destruction is inevitable.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A satirical account from a novice


Years of serious news, news of bouts of corruption, a zillion scams, grim news of deaths in Kashmir valley, deaths due to Naxal attacks, 26/11, 9/11, post 9/11, deaths in Iraq, suicide bombings, overt and covert terror attacks, false encounters, rape and murder, dowry harrassment, sodomy, honor killings, a never ending saga of dirty politics, market/sensex dynamics, global climate change meets, BT brinjal - raise an eyebrow, twitch a muscle or two, rack our nerves, send a shiver down our spines.

The lesser mortal has got complacent to an egregious display of such news items on many television channels. For long, our elders taught us to refrain from heated arguments, they avoided debates with best efforts. Now, the TV encourages us to engage in raging debates and pointless arguments. One day, the media blows a matter hot and we fume, the next day it blows it cold and our reactions mellow down.

A refreshing change from all of the above, comes in the form of a website -
A serendipitous discovery, I must admit, this website gave me hours of laughter. The website handles current, hot topics of national interest, largely and makes a satire on them. These satirical accounts provide a meek, completely harmless pleasure. I have been following this website for over a month and am its huge fan. So when Arnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt get boring, when Karan Thappar gets irritating (he is born that way and meant to be so) and when Rajdeep Sardesai blasts his vocal chords, turn to these fake news for sheer fun :)
When your quota of satire for a day is met, get back to meet the real world.

Some of the good reads from this website are provided below, I am sure you will have a good time LOL and ROFL.

And yes, the website inspired me to try my hand at satire. I picked up a current topic - Obama's visit to India in Nov, 2010, his constant urge to awaken Americans to supersede Indians and Chinese, to build my satirical account.

Some good reads on
My Account (read below)

Obama’s secret agenda for visit to India revealed
We all know that Obama is highly paranoid about the pace at which India and China are catching up with the USA in all fields. Last week, Obama woke up American school students from an eternal hibernation and asked them to race faster than their counterparts in Bangalore and Beijing. But reporters at have progressed an extra mile. Tying up with Wikileaks, the special correspondents of the website have uncovered the ulterior objective of Obama’s trip to India in November.

It is not the Civil Nuclear Bill, it is not about Warren Anderson, it is about means of demolishing Indian schools and demotivating Indian children, particularly Bangalore kids, from studying well. Secret sources from the White House indicate that Obama is planning to table a 456 agreement with India, given that the 123 agreement is drafted and passed.

This agreement seeks India’s complete and unconditional cooperation in performing the tasks below –
1) Curbing the mid day free meal scheme at schools with immediate effect
2) No free primary education
3) Allow 100% reservations in all professional educational institutions
4) No more new IIM s and IIT s
5) Destruction of esteemed schools in Indian urban centers with special focus on Bangalore. Obama plans to deploy well-trained American forces with decades of war experience in Iraq and Afghanistan for this cause.
6) Provision of a free Nintendo Wii plus other hi-fi gaming gadgets to every Indian student in an attempt to ruin focus on studies. Free distribution till stocks last and students from class 10 and 12 will be given first preference.
7) Guaranteed chance to every student to show case their talent on America’s Got Talent show, encourage full time participation in other US reality shows, thus prodding the students to bunk schools.

Undercover agents reveal that the above is only a rudimentary draft and Obama intends to list out more naughty shenanigans. They also state that US government officials are urging the Indian government strongly, to pass the 456 agreement in the Parliament before Obama’s arrival.

When we questioned the ruling party and some opposition parties on this leaked out draft of 456 agreement, this is what they had to say –
CPI senior member, D Raja said, “We were always against literacy, always hated English medium schools. Take West Bengal in Jyoti Basu times, he was a master translator, man with a great vision and never allowed English to be the medium of education. His loss is the biggest tragedy. Had we followed his foot steps, we would not have faced this day”

Arun Jaitley of BJP remarked, “All this is because of the Congress party. They have for ages had elite associations, studied in Harvard and Oxford. Now the current generation is facing the ire of US government and paying the price.”

Kapil Sibal, the Union Minister replied in his characteristic brilliant fashion, “The media is creating unnecessary hype, the government has still not received a copy of 456 bill. And, for God’s sake, Obama has nothing to be scared of Johnny-come-lately India. However, if US intends to table a similar bill on China, we welcome the decision wholeheartedly”

Children from urban centers largely welcomed the 456 agreement. In fact, they wanted its quick approval before the board exams in Mar-Apr 2011. They justified that free gaming consoles, trip to USA with parents for participation in reality shows were zillion times worthier than a free meal at school or a seat at IIM/IIT. One of them sheepishly remarked, “Obama knows how to bell the CAT”.

Obama is planning to avoid a visit to Bangalore during his Indian trip. Upset at Bangalore’s skyrocketing progress, he raised the slogan, “Say NO to Bangalore, YES to Buffalo”. The people of Haryana and UP have welcomed this slogan, extremely happy that Obama respects buffaloes. In fact, they have invited Obama to visit their state.

When we questioned Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa if he was unhappy that Obama boycotted Bangalore, this is what he had to say, “He is not POSCO, he is not Arcelor or Vedanta, and who is he? I am not bothered.”

With such indifferent response from politicians, 456 bill may pass with minimal vocabulary corrections, but the future of Indian education, is truly, at stake.
The End

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sports Ka Superstar - Grand Finale

My favorite sports quiz show came to an end yesterday - 20/09/2010. After the last semi final on 13th Sept, I was eagerly expecting the finals on 15th as the quiz show is aired on Mon/Wed every week. But that day, on DD National, a show on All India Radio was telecast during the quiz slot 10 - 11 pm. A mixed reaction, one of ennui and confusion resulted, "Why no quiz today, if not today, then when is the finale?"
The question snowballed into an unsolved mystery as Internet searches did not yield desired results and Times of India newspaper does not tabulate DD national daily program schedule.
To make matters and my fear worse, KPL started in Bangalore from Sept 16th and our cable operator conveniently replaced DD National with a certain Udhaya Kannada Varthagalu in the evenings to telecast ongoing KPL matches LIVE. My husband and I, after a couple of phone calls to our cable operator, topped it with two visits to his office requesting him to restore DD national channel. Our dogged fondness for the show took us to the cable operators' office for one last time at 9 pm yesterday, a fervant attempt to remind him of the indispensable channel restoration. Success !! and he reinstated the lost channel. The clock struck 10 and Mini Mathur, along with Shera, the mascot for CWG 2010, appeared on the sets of the show with a battalion of ten, brilliant finalists.

Atul Nath qualified to the podium and contested with P Sarin in challenger rounds for the title of Sports Ka Superstar that carried cash prize of Rs 3 lakhs and a trophy as honors. Sarin turned out victorious at the end of the final buzzer round.

I was highly excited yesterday for reasons below -
1) this quiz show has been on our regular must-watch list for over two months and it was good to see the sports trivia bigwigs battle it out
2) we would have missed the finale by a whisker if not for the timely, personal reminder from my husband and quick/polite response from the operator

Without further ado, containing my excitement, I list down the questions from the Sports Ka Superstar Grand Finale (dated 20/09/2010) below - (please refer to the comments section, a comment from me for answers)

Sports Ka Superstar Grand Finale Questions
1) What trophy is given to the winner of World Men’s Team Badminton Championship?
2) Which Dutch footballer is nicknamed the “Non flying Dutchman” because of his aviophobia?
3) Name the first Indian woman to become a finalist at the Summer Olympic games.
4) Which country’s President is a former weightlifter and winner of seven Commonwealth Games gold medals?
5) Which athlete currently holds the world record for women in 100m and 200m races?
6) In the world championship of which sport is Richard Bergmann Fair Play award given?
7) When did beach volleyball make its debut in Summer Olympic games?
8) Name the only Indian to score a hat trick in football at Olympic Games.
9) Name the Australian athlete who won gold in 400m event in Sydney Olympics in 2000 (visual q modified)
10) Name this legendary middle distance runner who after retirement took to politics, headed the London bid to get the right to host Summer Olympics in year 2012 (visual q modified)
11) Name the current president of FIFA (visual q modified)
12) Name this swimmer turned film actor who is best known for portraying Tarzan (visual q modified)
13) The basketball shooting technique called Skyhook became a trademark of which player?
14) Name the last event in decathlon
15) Name the first recipient of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Rathna award
16) Which Indian cricketer has also played Davis Cup?
17) Name the event for males for which the female counterpart is 100 m hurdles (visual q modified)
18) Name the legendary athlete who won gold in 400m hurdles in 1976 and 1984 (visual q modified)
19) Name the gymnastics event that includes jumping on a taut cloth surface (visual q modified)
20) Apart from athletics, aquatics, wrestling, boxing, lawn bowls, which other game featured in the first edition of CWG?
21) Who is the first double centurion in women’s ODI cricket?
22) In 1997, a head to head 150m race was held to determine the world’s fastest man, this was between Michael Johnson and which other athlete?
23) Shiva Keshavan represented India in which sport in Winter Olympics?
24) Who is the first Indian to reach the semifinals of Wimbledon Men’s singles?
25) Name the famous race held on the Thames river between Putney and Chiswick
26) Cricket, my style is a book from which cricket captain?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Travel Pictures: To God's Abode

Srirangam, Trichy
View of the main temple tower, Srirangam

Ucchi Pillayar temple, Malakottai/Rock fort, Trichy
The hillock, fort and temple view

Thiruaanai kaaval temple, Trichy
Huge compound and high walls enclosing the sanctum

Tirumalai Nayakkar Palace, Madurai
Painting on the ceiling
White, rounded pillars

Palace darbar hall view
Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple, Madurai
Long hallway, ceilings with paintings

Temple gopuram

To God's Abode

The pretext of a friend’s wedding took Viswa and me to Trichy, Tamil Nadu on Sept 10, 2010. Friday, the 10th Sept was a holiday on account of Ramzan and we, like most in Bangalore, promptly packed our bags to a nearby tourist destination.

Our itinerary for the extended weekend included a visit to Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) and Madurai, then back to Bangalore on 12/09/2010, a Sunday, to grab some rest and bring the house back to order after a two-day hiatus. As requested in most wedding cards, we graced our friend’s wedding, provided them our company on their special day and headed out on our religious odyssey.

First, we headed to Srirangam, about 8 km from Trichy central bus stand. Srirangam is a temple town standing between Cauvery and Kollidum rivers, connected to the mainland by a bridge. Considered, possibly the largest temple complex in India, Srirangam is the abode of Sri Ranganatha Swamy (Vishnu) and the temple, of immense importance to Vaishnavites, is revered as Vaikuntam on Earth. About 156 acres in extent, the tall, imposing main gopuram (tower), 13 tiered and 72m high, completed in the year 1987, welcomed us to an architectural marvel, dotted with 21 gopurams in a complex spanning seven concentric walls. Built from 14th to 17th centuries, the Hoysalas, Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Vijayanagar Empire and Nayaks of Madurai have all contributed their bit to this temple.

We walked through the crowded market streets, right across the tall, concentric compound walls to reach the main complex. To our left, we visited the deity of Chakrathalwar and to our right, the shrine of Shri Ramanujacharya, the 1000 pillar mantapa (under renovation and therefore closed, it consists of 953 pillars actually) and the art/sculpture mantapa. Walking straight, we crossed the Garudaalwar shrine, the prasadam/food counter and reached the sanctum sanctorum after a short wait in the queue. We were in front of the lord, Sri Ranganathaswamy, huge and charismatic, in reclining position. Outside the inner sanctum, to the left, is the shrine of Ranganayaki Devi. There were three deities in a line here, Sridevi, Bhoo Devi and Ranganayaki, all adorned beautifully. There are many other shrines in the temple complex - Narasimha, Dhanvantri, Varahaswamy, Krishna and Kodanda Rama to name a few. We visited the temple at 2.30 pm, right after it opened for devotees and completed our tour in two hours; the temple complex is that HUGE.

From Trichy Central bus stand, many buses ply to Srirangam. Similarly, many buses connect Srirangam to Chattram bus stand (Trichy Rockfort/Mala Kottai), our next destination. The hill temple dedicated to Ganesha is an iconic landmark in Trichy. The barren, rounded, brown hillock, about 3500 million years old, houses the Manicka Vinayagar (Ganesha) temple at the foot hill/base, the shrine of Thayumaanavar (Shiva) mid way and Ucchi Pilayar temple at the top (again a Ganesha shrine).

The rock fort was originally built by Pallavas, later fortified by the Nayaks. The hill temple overlooks a tank (water pavilion) used for ceremonial purposes. The tank is flanked by shops/market area on all four sides. A flight of about 417 steps takes one from the base to the Ucchi Pilayaar temple atop the hillock; I did not count to check. The climb is not at all tedious; it is highly rewarding, a superb, visual treat all the way.

The Thayumanavar temple mid way has a shrine for goddess Kundalambikai with a golden tower (vimana) over it. There are two Pallava cave temples of the 7th century times, one close to the Thayumanavar temple and another is little difficult to locate. After leaving Manicka Vinayagar shrine at the base, one hits a road, turn to the left here, walk for about 50m on it and take right to reach the second cave temple, behind a bunch of houses.

The climb from Thayumanavar temple to Ucchi Pillayar temple can inspire life in any trite soul; the cool, refreshing breeze at that height, the beautiful, panoramic view of the temple town, view of the rail/road bridges over river Cauvery, of the imposing tower of Srirangam at a distance, a mix of trees, fields and houses/shops and a mild drizzle recharged us thoroughly.

We drank a cup of hot filter coffee and devoured hot bajjis from a restaurant near the temple, reminiscing the images, we captured of Trichy from atop the hill and that of gods/goddesses so beautifully decorated. As we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant in the central bus stand area, we acknowledged that the temples are truly BIG in every aspect and rituals are performed with immense sincerity and devotion.

On day 2, we began early at 6.30 am and visited the Thiruaanai Kaaval temple, which we reached by bus from the central bus stand after a 20-minute ride, crossing the bridge on Cauvery. Thiruaanaikaaval temple is a highly revered Shiva temple, built by Kochenga Chola Raja about 1800 years ago, in a sprawling compound (about 18 acres). Housing the deities – Shiva and Parvathi, more appropriately – Lord Jambukeshwarar and Shri Akhilandeshwari, this temple marks its prominence as it signifies one of the five elements (pancha bootha) i.e. water (the other 4 temples and their elements are - Chidambaram (sky), Kalahasti (wind), Tiruannamalai (fire) and Kanchipuram (earth)). The temple compound is huge and consists of five concentric walls encompassing the main sanctum.

We visited the shrine of Akhilandeshwari, (on the left on entering the main temple complex) first, many small shrines and temple tank on the way to the main deity – Shiva’s shrine. A custom at this temple is to see the Shiva lingam (Jalakandeshwarar/Jambukeshwarar) through the nine square window frame/grilled window. The vast expanse of this temple astounded us.

There are many temples around Trichy – Samayapuram Amman temple, Narthamalai, Gunaseelan temple to name a few. We intended to cover the three primarily important temples in Trichy town and I must say, our first phase of the journey ended well with a sumptuous meal of idli, vada, dosa and pongal at the Kurunji restaurant near Central bus stand. Food in Trichy (South Indian tiffin items, more precisely) is of a very high quality/taste, very affordable and is served with a lot of courtesy and affection. The autorickshaw drivers, shop vendors were exceptionally rude, but that came as no surprise as auto drivers are more ill behaved in Chennai.

We boarded a bus to Madurai from the Central bus stand and embarked on a 116 km long journey from Trichy via Viralimalai and Melur on NH 45B. Three hours on the smooth highway brought us to another equally important temple town-Madurai.

We lodged our backpacks in the Mattuthavani bus stand cloakroom and geared up to visit the Tirumalai Nayyakar palace. Built in 1636, by Tirumala Nayak of Madurai, this palace supposedly built by an Italian architect is an exemplary piece of Indo Sarcenic architecture. The palace consists of two portions, the Rangavilas and the Swargavilas, of which only the Darbar hall, Dance hall/Nataka shala and the entrance remain. The present remains account for only ¼ th of the original palatial structures. It is purported that Tirumala Nayak’s grandson demolished the Rangavilasa to procure materials for building a similar palace in Trichy, an activity he never accomplished. The restoration work commenced under Lord Napier, the governor of Madras in 1868-72. The palace is closed during lunchtime 1-2 pm and hosts a light/sound show in Tamil and English in the evening hours. The audience hall has an array of huge, cylindrical, white pillars, long corridors marked by arches and ceilings full of exceptionally beautiful paintings, restored with utmost care.

As the clock ticked 4 pm, we left the palace, drank two full glasses of a certain, yummy and highly satiating “fruit mixture” from a road side shop and marched towards the most prominent landmark in Madurai – Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple; a temple looked upon with immense veneration in India. I was filled with awe when I caught an ariel view of this temple in the World Tamil Conference 2010 anthem (Semmozhi Maanadu anthem), the concentric rectangular walls with tall, beautiful gopurams (towers), one on each side. The temple is extraordinarily marvelous and houses deities equally awe-inspiring - Shiva in the form of Lord Sundareshwarar meaning Beautiful Lord and his consort, Parvati, as the gorgeous Meenakshi.

The main entrance to the temple is through the east gopuram, the road first hits the Raya gopuram, reaches a Mantapa that teems with bookshops and then a Nandi Mantapa facing the sanctum. A clean, wide pathway, devoid of shops and encroachments exists around the temple, for people to walk around and see all four peripheral gopurams. Visitors can enter the temple through any of the four entrances (each has a cloakroom/footwear stand) but the main entrance is through the east gate.

The breathtaking experience at this temple commences as one walks in the long hallways, their ceilings covered with colorful paintings, seeing the brilliant, full relief sculptures adorning the pillars before the main sanctum, that of Nataraja, Bhadrakali, Agora Veerabhadrar, Agni Veerabhadrar, Kalyana Sundaram, Dakshinamurthi and many more. All these sculptures are labeled in English, Hindi and Tamil; this is an appreciable effort.

We headed straight to the Sundareshwarar shrine, saw a big, silver idol of Nataraja – in the Rajata Sabha/Velliambalam on to our right and the Lord Sundareshwarar, in the form of a Lingam in front of us, the sight was a true spectacle. Leaving the main shrine, we reached the shrine of Mukuruni Vinayagar; a Ganesha idol carved out of a single stone. Truly, a fortuitous event to see the lord in such a revered temple on an auspicious day like Ganesha Chaturthi. We walked further and saw the Porthamarai Kulam (the temple tank/tank with the golden Lotus), the passage around the tank had walls full of mural paintings depicting the marriage between Lord Sundareshwarar and Meenakshi and from the epic Tiruvilayaadal. We took time to study the model of Meenakshi temple kept on display and visited the shrine of Meenakshi Devi lying in the south west. The goddess is sheer beauty personified. In the last leg, we visited the shrine of Lord Kalyana Sundaram and the 1000 pillar mantapa on our way back to the east tower. The 1000 (actually 985 pillars) pillar mantapa houses a museum and is maintained by the ASI. The Madurai Meenkashi Amman temple, truly, marks the pinnacle in the Dravidian temple architecture; abounds with beauty and grandeur in every aspect.
Filled to hearts content, caught in a mild shower, we grabbed a simple dinner from West Masi Street, headed back to Maattuthavani bus stand to board our bus to Bangalore. On our journey back home, on NH-7, we recounted all we had seen. Feeling of regret, of not paying a visit to Thiruparankundram Murugan temple in Madurai, not being able to explore good food options remained but were easily subdued by an overwhelming sense of joy, or term it, a serene sense of satisfaction/a tranquil demeanour that results only when you return from the Abode of Gods.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sports Ka Superstar - More Questions

The semi final episodes are drawing to a close, there's just one more round before we BANG onto the grand finale of the sports quiz Sports Ka Superstar. Yesterday's episode had a mixed bag of questions, some easy, some difficult, not a very high scoring episode. Also, some contestants like Ramki, Pranav and Arun Hiregange, more adept in quizzing, slipped from becoming the "awesome twosome" by a hairline margin. In my opinion, the two selected from this episode, especially the winner - Gaurav from Bangalore, will face the heat with the rest at the grand finale.
I decided to list down the questions of yesterday's show (dated 08/09/2010) in a new post, I had some problems formatting the contents of the earlier post. Guess it ran above the prescribed/manageable length.
Set 4: (Questions from the episode dated 08/09/2010 + 8 questions from prelims episodes, answers to this appear as my comment - refer comment 1 of the comments section to this post)
1) Which one of these games does not have a goalkeeper – polo, water polo, football, hockey?
2) At 2004 Athens Olympics, which athlete broke the 400m national record made by Milkha Singh in 1960 Rome Olympics?
3) Crocodile hold, elephant stance, charging elephant are all skills employed in which sport?
4) Which country’s national football team bears the nickname – Bafana Bafana?
5) Name the only Olympic medalist from Namibia who holds the current CWG record for 200m, a record since 1994.
6) With which team did Michael Schumacher make his formula one debut?
7) What is the “bull taming” sport in Tamil Nadu known as?
8) Name the strongest female chess player in history who became the grandmaster at the age of 15 years 4 months. (visual q modified)
9) Name the French footballer of Indian origin who made his debut for the French national team in the year 1999. (visual q modified)
10) Which edition of CWG is known as the “boycott” games?
11) The player who hit the fastest century in Indian Premier League.
12) Name the sport that is played with two kinds of balls – “kitty” and “woods”
13) Name this Swedish athlete just behind Jackie Joyner Kersie in the all time heptathlon points list (visual Q modified)
14) Name the gold medal winner in 2004 Athens Olympics – women’s singles tennis (visual Q modified)
15) Name the first woman sportsperson to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award
16) Name the first recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award
17) Name the sporting organization founded on 23rd June 1937 in Army HQ at Shimla
18) In Durand cup, currently, the winning team is presented with two other trophies, name them.
19) In 2010 Wimbledon, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest ever tennis match, how long did this match last?
20) Name the first woman to have run the entire Boston Marathon.
21) Name the South African band that featured along with Shakira in 2010 FIFA anthem – Waka Waka
22) Name the first Indian in NASCAR
23) Name the president of Rajasthan Cricket Association from 2005-2009
24) Name the players of the very popular/successful men’s tennis doubles team from Australia which bore the nickname “The Woodies”
25) Which major mishap is associated with the Tamburello corner?
26) Who is nicknamed as the “The Flying Sikh”?
27) In the name Jeev Milkha Singh, Jeev is the shortened form of what?
28) To whom did Milkha Singh lose the Bronze medal by a whisker in the fateful 400m run in 1960 Rome Olympics?
29) Who threw his Olympic medal into the Ohio River after a feud with a whites gang and after being refused service at a whites restaurant?
30) Name the player who received two golds in CWG for lawn bowls and was inducted to Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2007?
The last round of semi finals happened yesterday - 13/09/2010. With just 20 days more for the CWG at Delhi, the concern of a neat display is a perennial high - first over corruption, money laundering, completion of venues on time, then on health aspects as the number of dengue cases are skyrocketing by the day, most recently on warnings from host nation government officials on an impending terror strike during the games. As a nation, we all are on tenterhooks, waiting to see events unfold from Oct 3-14, 2010. Not digressing further, I have updated a set of 40 questions (26 from yesterday's show and rest from previous episodes, after a gruelling memory exercise :)). The questions in yesterday's show mostly dealt with Olympic events, the questions I recollected from past episodes are more CWG centric.
Please find the answers to the questions below as a comment (comment 2) from me in the comments section. Happy Quizzing !!
Set 5:
1) Which of these events will be a part of the Delhi CWG? 50km walk, 20 km walk, pentathlon, bicycle motocross
2) The term steeplechase derives its name from which sport?
3) Which team won the Ranji Trophy in the year 2009-10?
4) Which game originated at Melrose, Scotland in 1880s when a local butcher Ned Haig organized it for fund raising for a sporting club?
5) Which city did Delhi beat by 46 votes to 22 to win the right to host 2010 CWG?
6) Ippon, Koka, Yuko, Waza-ari are four scores in which sport?
7) Who is the only tennis player to have won all the 4 grand slams and an Olympic gold medal in the men’s singles?
8) Which city has hosted the Asian games maximum number of times?
9) In which Olympics, did Leander Paes win the bronze medal for men’s singles, becoming the second Indian to win an Olympic medal in an individual event?
10) Name the Ukrainian heavyweight boxer who is the current IBO, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine champion of the world. (visual Q modified)
11) Name the legendary baseball player who bears the nickname “Sultan of Swat” and “The Bambino” (visual Q modified)
12) What is the title of Dhyan Chand’s autobiography?
13) In 2010 FIFA world cup, Jerome Boateng represented Germany, which country did his half brother Kevin Prince Boateng represent?
14) Who defeated Bobby Riggs in the widely publicized match called the “Battle of Sexes” in the year 1973?
15) Which Bollywood actor represented Indian in cycling?
16) Name the Czech long distance runner nicknamed as “Czech Locomotive” who won gold s for 5000m , 10000m and marathon in 1952 Helsinki Olympics. (visual Q modified)
17) Name the first woman athlete to have won 6 Olympic gold medals. (visual Q modified)
18) Name the athlete who holds the record for 1500m middle distance track event (visual Q modified)
19) In which Olympic Games did women compete in weightlifting event for the first time?
20) Kalenjin tribe, the running tribe, known for long distance running skills belongs to which country?
21) Ever Onward is the motto of which sporting event/games?
22) Name the Olympian who was diagnosed with Polio at the age of 7 but accumulated 10 golds over 4 games.
23) The athletes of which country were taken hostage/murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympics?
24) In which sport did Jonty Rhodes represent South Africa apart from cricket?
25) Which five time US open men singles champion is also the youngest to win the title?
26) Which sport was demonstrated by the Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics?
27) Which athlete was forced to leave Munich (1972) before closing ceremony of the Olympic Games for the fear that he should not be targeted by the Palestinian gunmen?
28) Which sport is locally known as Hu-Tu-Tu or Chaduguddu in different regions of India?
29) Where did the first edition of CWG take place?
30) Who marches first in the Parade of Athletes in the CWG?
31) Who hosted the games under the name Commonwealth Games for the first time?
32) When and where did the Commonwealth Games take place for the first time in Asia?
33) The CWG held in 1962 were also known for “heat, dust and glory” for the inhospitable weather conditions. Where was this edition of the games held?
34) Name the first black African to win a gold medal Olympics, who clinched the gold (1960 Rome Olympics) in marathon event running barefoot.
35) Name the Indian athlete who failed the gender test and was stripped off her silver medal of 2006 Asian games.
36) Who remained not out in the innings when Kumble picked up all 10 wickets in the test innings in the year 1999?
37) Who won the Orange Cap for the IPL held in 2010?
38) In which edition of Olympic games did Agassi win the gold in men singles, managing to complete a career golden slam?
39) Name the legendary figure in Indian motorsports who died in an air crash while flying a trainers aircraft
40) Which of the following is not related with Cricket? Deodhar trophy, Irani trophy, Shimla trophy, Ranji trophy