Thursday, December 30, 2004

All in the bag - Finally

Janjira is an breathtking fort. Inside, it isn't that well maintained. Vandalised more by the dismal restoration efforts of the Archeological department than tourists carving love messages and the people who used to stay here till a few decades ago.

Its bang in the middle of the sea (like so many other forts in Alibag district - Padmadurg and Colaba fort). You have to take boats with sails from Rajapuri. It is quite an experience to ride these boats - no hum of the engines, just the wind whistling through the sails, the water rustling restlessly against the sides, the boatsmen attuned to the slightest changes in the wind pattern and quickly unfurling, rotating and furling the sails up again. The fort has 3 large tanks and could be self-sufficient for about 3-4 months. Legend goes that it was also linked to the village through an underground tunnel. Its quite fascinating to know that this mammoth undertaking took 22 years to build, is build over 22 acres and has 22 buruj (watch towers). Three of the cannons ('Kalal Bangadi', 'Chavari' and 'Landa Kasam' are so large, they could run through any enemy force with ease. Shivaji and later Sambhaji couldn't win over Janjira in spite of repeated expeditions. In fact, Kalal Bangadi, the largest was responsible for the fatal damage to Padmadurg, few kms northwest of Janjira, after which Sambhaji ran away from the fort.

Next day was Datta Jayanti and we went to Datta Mandir of Chaul early in the morning. Of course, whole Konkan had turned up at 6 am. But what made it worse that the facilties and management was so poor. No control over the queue and the temple is hardly big enough to accomodate such a big rush. Add to the fact that, the morning prayers had begun and it was all failed Indian Idols, shrieking from the top of their lungs. Prayers over, bhajans start. More bhajans and devotional songs. And then some more. It was so bad (the howling) that the sound system stopped functioning. Thankfully. We took darshan and scooted.

From there we had to drive north towards Mumbai. So a brief halt at Alibag sea front overlooking the Colaba fort. It is unreachable during high tide, but one can walk to it during a low. Later, Kihim beach. Kihim is another quite spectacular beach, but people are not made aware of its dangers. Not that it has an unsafe slope or the current is strong. Just that, it has rocks along the bed which you don't see during high tide. These are no smooth rocks. They are the ones one which a type of shell sticks itself to and grows. So they are sharp and cut through like a knife. There is no sign to tell people that and it was like people going in for fun and coming out of a battlezone, with cuts and bruises. Even the locals don't warn you. They just sell Band-Aids.

Another sumptuous meal and a visit to Karmarkar Shilpalay (very good) later, we were back to our Karmabhumi - Mumbai.

Some sour notes - Need a proper garbage disposal system in interior villages, as locals tend to dump stuff on the beach. Not a big problem now, but once Konkan becomes a tourist hotspot, it would turn into an eco nightmare.

Absence of good travelogues and local maps sure makes things a bit difficult.

We (as govt. channel or just as visitors) need some education on how to respect our monuments and our history. History isnt just our past. It's our identity.

Dad, mom should learn to chill, rather than be always on the watch for imminent danger.

I should be less demanding of them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

All in the bag -Part 2

Birla Temple at Salav, is built next to an Ispat plant along the creek. So, that takes away the beauty of the location a bit. But otherwise, it is quite spectacular - it is perched on a hill top, carved out of marble, with landscaped gardens and fountains all over.

Next day, first a halt at another of dad's ex-collegue, Phirphire. Lovely place right amongst palm and coconut trees. Its their ancestral home and the family have ditched Mumbai for a spacious and beautiful 3000 sq ft bungalow few km from Alibag (Agrav). Living off pension and land is not such a bad idea, after all. Only problem is that there is no electricity for hours on end.

About 11.00 am, we were off to Murud. Right on the way is Kashid beach. The approach road to the beach is through ghats and from the moutain top, you can see the whole crescent of the tree-dotted silver beach, strectching endlessly. The water was cool and refreshing, but as ususal dad and mom played no sport and refused to join in the fun.
Which was just as well.

All that splashing around certainly made me very hungry. So, we halted at Murud for a typical Konkan meal of fish, prawns, chicken, rice and sol kadi. The bhakri was of rice, very delicate and almost melted in the mouth. The location was picture perfect- tables laid out overlooking the sparkling beach front, shaded with coconut fronds, fishing boats anchored along the shore. Generally, you need to shell out lot of dough to be part of such indulgence. But sometimes, good things do come cheap.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Tsunami Tragedy

Awesome links by Utterlyboring

All in the bag- Part 1

Was back yesterday evening from Alibag. Actually, we were supposed to stay at Govt rest house, courtesy dad. But, he just dispenses advice and sermons, not follow it ("Do things on time"). He didnt, so at the last moment, we had to ask my grandfather (mom's uncle). He has a place there and finally, it turned out a far better option.

We went on Friday, picked up the key from his office in Alibag and went straight to his bungalow in Nagaon. He and his family doesnt use it too often, so its come to a bit of neglect, esp the garden. Mango and conconut trees could do with a bit of watering. Still the location is quite good in terms of connectivity to various places around Alibag and so no reason to complain.

After a brief siesta, and a halt at grandfather's factory, we were off to meet dad's friend. Unfortunately, he was away coz of Yatra (major fair around the Datta Jayanti festival) and we just met the family. The village was quite off road and it was amusing to see all the women folk busy at some really strenuous jobs - collecting firewood, fetching water in three matkas at a time and of course the house hold chores, while the men busy gossiping at village centres and watching kids play. May be some men, were working on the farm and elsewhere. But I didnt see any!

Then we went to Revdanda, which is some 20 kms south of Alibag. The old village was entirely inside a fort called Aagarkot which sprawls upto the sea shore. Story goes that it was built by the Portugese and has some inter-connected tunnels, though of course, much of that is out of bounds or existence. The beach is quite pristine and un-touristy. It was past dusk then and we were almost the only people on the beach. That turned to be a big mistake.

Not knowing the road to the beach, we had got the car some way onto the beach. Now, it was time to go back and with all the members in the car, I revved it up. Stuck!! More race, just made it to nosedive into the sand. It was time to panic. There was no one around for help. The family got behind to push and then one more guy joined in. I could smell the tyres burning as if on a race track, but the car was an ostrich on Fear Factor. We dumped anything that we could find underneath the car - coconut husks, sticks, small rocks - to give something for it to hold on when kickstarted. Finally realising that there was no point in doing the obvious - to try to drive fowardds, I put it in reverse gear. Fortunately it was out of the grave the front tyres had dug ( while spraying sand on the folks pushing the car).

Now, came the crucial gambit. We needed for the sand to hold, so we started laying a path with the sea shrubs, sticks, the shredded husks, more rocks, anything that we could feel with our hands. It was now very dark, you see. I also found a rock about a foot long, which was flat on one face. I dug up the sand more and managed to lay it just so in front of the right tyre.

Wrooom.. Wroom!! Now, was the climax. Would our efforts pay off or would we be left there fending off for the night? I revved the car and let go. The wheels were spinning furiously, but managed to stick on the material fed to it. Especially, the right wheel rolled swiftly over the rock and the momentum ensured that the car followed through. I silently let out a sigh of relief. We were on solid ground.

It was a lesson learnt the hard away. Especially amazing is the fact, just some while ago, we had managed to drive to the beach without a hitch. What made the sand go quick in such a short span?

Suffice to say, that it was a lucky escape. And to give our thanks to the Almighty, we drove to Birla Temple at Salav.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Run while I can...

1/2 marathon training is coming along quite well. I was afraid my knee would give way, as has suffered an awful hamstring injury during my Harishchandragad trek. Thankfully, it is holding up well. I also had a slight back and neck problem a couple of years back. Esp with the neck, it would recur once a month and I would be a funny sight, pivoting my whole body around, instead of just turning my neck around, for simple tasks. All of these did trouble me for a long time though.

Thankfully, the body still retains self-healing abilities and the injuries have disappeared over time.

Still, for a rookie like me, 21.097 might as well be without the decimal. It remains a herculean task. That's what stops me from getting complacent. In training, haven't yet exceeded 7 km. The target is certainly not hop, skip and jump away

Again tomorrow, I am off to Alibag, so break from training for 2 days atleast. And then few days later, it's year end bash in the car park - my jogging haunt. So, looks like training going for a toss this year end. Well...

Meanwhile, the world's smallest baby was born some time back, along with her slightly larger twin. I suppose the father could put her in his shirt pocket while carrying her around.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Tyrovial Pursuit

I need to give an explanation as to why the name "A Tyrovial Pursuit". What does google say tyrovial is?. Well, that tyrovial doesnt exist.

I came across this word in IITM, when I was attending a quiz to welcome all the freshers. Of course, as is true with most IIT events, there were hardly any Mtechs (matkas as the JEE qualified would say). The quiz master told one funda that they follow in quizzes - that they should be guessable. Now, you have to attend an IIT quiz to understand what guessable stands for. You have the most bizzare questions about the most obscure fields of arts, science, history, whatever. Like... who composed Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Mozart), connect Silence of the Lambs and Salvador Dali ("Salvador Dali was a cannibal and..." No!! You silly, the poster of the movie is inspired by one of his paintings), well anything and everything between big bang and the big kiss (Kareena-Shahid) that you or any sane person would miss (as in not remember). But never any straight forward GK questions. Like... Which is the biggest star in the known universe that doesnt throw an attitude? (not quite but you get the picture)

So, the guy said that this was such a quiz - guessable. Going by any typical IIT quizzer's forte - trivia, the quiz should be called trivial pursuit - a very well known phrase. But since, we were all newbies there and probably, would be found majorly wanting, we were the tyros. Hence Tyrovial Pursuit.

Now, I quite like the word tyrovial coz it conveys the essence so perfectly. A Tyrovial Pursuit would be an activity taken with passion and enthusiasm, but where you may not be the most adept. But you like and enjoy it and that's why you do it. Only after you do it over and over, do you get hang of it.

I am tyring to a get a hang of it.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What's brewing?

A bit under the weather lately. The smog so thick and heavy, it hardly lifts. So, can't help but, be under the weather.

Haven't trained for the last 3 days, coz of the cold. The throat feels like sand paper and the nose is a traffic jam. Well, just hope I can manage a jog in the (car) park this evening.

Yesterday was data model final review. Went Ok, except it just took too long (we havent heard the final word on it yet) and missed another wedding. Ameya's.

Today doesnt look that bright as well. Just got a cup of coffee, but the cup was leaking (and so was the coffee!) and now, my trouser has spots. Tried to wash the coffee stains, but coffee sure knows how to leave its marks behind. Never mind.

Friday, December 17, 2004

State of disappointment, I'm afraid

Crichton, is out with his new book, The State of Fear. Have been reading a lot about the book and Crichton, as a result.

I am actually in awe of Crichton. A graduate in medicine, he is 62 years old, looks 30, almost 7 feet tall and has done it all - written best sellers (most made into blockbuster movies), produced award winning TV series (ER), directed movies and won accolades for many more things.

I have always liked his attention to detail and his ability to even make the most unbelievable hypothesis into a certain fact. I have read Jurassic Park, Lost World (I thought the book was far better than JP and both movies), and Timeline and they were excellent reads. His research and depth of knowledge is truly amazing. In Timeline, he talks of teleportation and quantum computation, and that theory certainly needs to be paid some heed. At least it caught my fancy then

Anyway, State of Fear talks about how Global Warming is all a hogwash started by eco-terrorists for their own personal gain. In spite of his right leanings and even though, the threat to the environment cannot be dismissed, Crichton certainly has a point or two about alarmists coming up with "End is nigh" theories that are not based in science. He talks about how most predictions are completely meaningless. This is certainly a polished speech as his proof.

I suppose we need to take everything in this world with a pinch of salt (and there's enough of it for everyone's pinch)

Talking about things closer home, Swades has turned out to be a big disappointment (reviewers say). I was keenly tracking the progress of this movie and hoped that it would fare well. Here was a movie that wasnt going to go over the top with all the typical Hindi flim ingredients - jingoism, sabhyataa, sanskriti, Gaajar kaa halwaa, sarson ke khet, loud humour, disjointed storylines. Well, its isnt but then, it doesnt make a positive film viewing experience either. Sigh! Whats wrong with Bollywood writers and directors. Why cant they come up with a film that one can sit and enjoy or 2 1/2-3 hours? How difficult can that be, when you spend 30 crores on your film.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Music to one of the otorhinolaryngological organs

Today, I learn a new word. When I first read the word - otorhinolaryngological, the context made me think of something wonderfully unreachable. It still remains unpronounciable. On googling, found that thankfully, it pertains to something far simpler. It relates to study of eyes, nose and throat. Duh!

Nevertheless, I think, Tom Wolfe deserves the award.

Anyway, just heard this song, Wherever you will go by The Calling. Actually, had heard strains of it earlier (I think it plays in Love Actually trailers), but this time, on a certain recommendation, gave it a twice over. I would recommend it highly.

If you are a music freak, you ought to be aware of all the mp3 blogs out there. Earlier, it was just the music sites, I would browse - like mp3shits (read mp3s hits), mp3dimension, but these started getting increasingly erratic and irritating, hence, haven’t ventured there for a long time. Mp3 blogs are blogs with links to directly download mp3. Normally, these sites dont host the songs (how many blogs can allow so much space). But the bloggers know where the downloads are available and they just link to the right page/song. Most of the blogs are dedicated to just one type of music, and are about highly personal tastes. Still there are gems out there that have universal appeal. Won’t it be good to have a consolidated list of all such blogs? Well, take heart, there is. br>

My personal favorite is open dir. No frills mp3 download. What more can you ask for? A Hindi mp3 aggregator, you say!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Analyze this

Increasingly, I am getting this worm (kidA)to write about certain things in today's world that bug me (who gets prize for mentioning insect synonyms thrice in one line?). However, cant seem to get a decent flow, structure and conviction to my arguments.

One of them, is about how the complete hold and propagation of English is killing our identity (How totally ironical that I express this in English). How increasingly, it is getting difficult to express complex thoughts (some of which may lead to new breakthroughs - not actual innovations, just new way of looking at things) in our mother tongue. Esp. I believe, Indians continue to be conservative and dogmatic in reasoning, not only by nature, but also because most havent mastered a single language enough to bring out any path-breaking thought and worse, even if we do, we are not able to express it clearly and convincely

I know, I know, its difficult for me (victim of the Dual regime, myself)to convince you. But this argument holds some water. Well, until, I succeed in finding it, you are spared of a lengthy discourse about the "Harms of Dual Language Policy"

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Leftover days

Mom and sis are away on a mini tirth yatra. Actually they are visiting Asthavinayak along with my aunts (all 4 of them), 2 uncles, and 2 cousins. Quite a racket, isnt it. So, that has me and dad alone at home for 2 days. We had to make do with left-over chicken and rice.

Anyway, today, she will be back, so no more stale food.

Today is also delivery of the data model, before it is sent for final onsite review. So, quite busy with that as well.

Still have to find some time for the Mumbai marathon. Actually I am going to run the half marathon, but lets just skip the half part, while telling people. The half marathon is 21.097 kms. So, its still not any easy task. I started practising since this Monday. I get a good feeling about this, because yesterday ran approx 5 kms (ofcourse stopping/walking for a while), but still no major cramping or muscle ache. Still, the practice has to be continuous and focused.

Let's hope for the best!!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Marriage season

Yesterday, was Vishal's wedding. Another grand affair. Another bachelor lost to the diktats of societal norms. Sigh! Anyway it was fun to meet all the gang again. With the number of weddings lined up, it looks like there's going to more such meeting

Vishal was the first amongst the US gone who decided to come back to India for good. Looks like the trend is catching up, all over India

Have some pics of the wedding, but yet to download them. Meawhile here is a beautiful picture that I took during my trip to my native village, Sawantwadi.

 The gate on the left hand side is entrance to the family home there. To the left of where I am standing, my uncle's home.

Friday, December 10, 2004

i.e. Expose'

Indian Express continues to show the way for other newspapers, by unrelenting investigation and analysis about really about breaking problems plaguing India and the mind-numbing insensitivity with which polticians like Dharam Singh try to ignore/hide them. Just look at this.

Just look at the silly reasons for their ignoring the infrastructure problems. Because the government doesnt have enough ministers. They havent been able to expand due to the bittern infighting between Congress and JD. Then BATF, headed by Nilekani which was doing good work to help improve infrastructure problems was royally ignored. The reason being that it was formed by S.M. Krishna and Deve Gowda hates him. His son is in power, so cold shoulder to BATF. Gowda son even had the gall to accuse the IT bigwigs of doing nothing about the problem. Ha!

India certainly needs more IEs (and no TOIs!!). Also, looks like Sonia also was perturbed by the problem and had pulled Mr Dharam, who's gone naram and is on a massive PR exercise.

"Why did you leave Infosys?"

Brand building is extremely crucial for any company and requires endless strategizing. You can either you go the whole hog, and shout yourself hoarse, about how good you are, what a great product you are selling (you are always selling something), make sure everything you do well gets noticed, grab hold of spin machine and spin. Or you sit back and let your the product or financial figures do the talking. Infosys' way of image building lies somewhere in between. But whatever it is and however that they do, they do it extremely well. Why is it, that I get asked often "Why did you leave Infosys?". I wonder, if guys leaving TCS and Wipro (both provide equal career growth oppurtunity) get asked the same question.

In terms of type of work, none of the Indian IT companies have any niche. Everyone does the same thing (in fact now, anyone has started doing IT). They make a pitch, promise price and quality advantage, and get projects to develop or maintain (mostly maintain) information systems. None of the really big companies here are doing cutting edge work. Research and consulting are two areas being touted by some companies as their focus areas, but that is mostly a con for market differentiation. And it hasnt really worked. The amount of work that percolates through them is quite miniscual. So, no distinction in terms of quality of work, really. The pay scales across companies are also similar. As most companies are adopting the same policies, benchmarking them against their peers, work culture, facilities, benefits, perks remain more or less constant across all the firms.

Infosys also, implements a lot of things well. So do many the other top 5 IT companies. But then, it ensures that these positive aspects get high visibility in the media. Of course, the media too is ready to seize on anything that remotely involves Infosys because they know that the public is ready to lap it up. Anyway, Infosys does its PR with great subtely and tact, and not with the arrogance of a market leader. So, every now and then, you will have news articles related to Infosys appearing innocously. It is a relentess and a patient effort from PR. Of course, over a period of time, it has got well ensconced into the Indian physche, that Infosys is corporate God, that it can do nothing wrong, that its employees are rolling in the dough and raking in more. That is certainly not true. My point is, even though Infosys deserves praise for what it stands for, the pedestal at which it has been placed on, is a bit unjustified.

Still, it works well for all including the employees.

They have a brand which they can trade on they have respect they unduly get as an Infoscion ("You are an Infoscion. You must be a millionare!!"). That's also its downside. An infoscion who goes looking to rent a house would know ("You are an Infoscion. You must be a millionare. What's 7k rent for 1 BHK to you, anyway!").

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Fall was here!

Work's on an upswing now. The first cut of data model looks ok to the Client team as well. But I know there's going to be lot of rework on that,later on.

Anyway, was wondering all this while, how I could make today's post interesting. The topic dropped right in front of me.

I was typing away on my PC, when out of thin air, dropped a guy. From the ceiling above- making a neat square hole in it. He just missed Pradeep, a collegue sitting in cubicle diagonally opposite. Anyway, the noise of the fall was enough to stir even the guys sitting in cubicles some distance away. Everyone just jumped to see, who it was. The first split second impression was it was a guy working on first floor above ( I sit on ground floor). It wasnt. It was a person from the housekeeping department cleaning the concealed space between the ground and first floor -you know the space hides all the wiring, air ducts, plumbing etc. The floor of this space is plaster of paris and not supported well in all places. He had stepped on one such portion and the bottom just gave way.

Fortunately, he was not hurt too badly, though was bleeding due to some broken glass. The celing was supporting a light bulb which had cracked and was hanging limply. He was able to sit up on a chair and then later, hobble towards the door. Hope he doesnt hasnt broken a bone. Anyway, the company should do a checkup to ensure that there's no internal injury.

It was a melee here meanwhile of people coming over in droves to gawk at the spectacle. Soon after the accident, we had to stop them from crowding around the spot. Even later, we had some many people coming over, gaping at the hole and speculating about the incident, and what possibly went wrong ("I am telling you it reeks of corporate sabotage!!!").

Still, I think it was a safety lapse that needs to be fixed at the earliest. The space is frequently used by support staff and surely there need to be instructions about which part of it should not be stepped on. Something like "Trespassers will be prosecuted (in case they dont drop dead)"

An eventful afternoon indeed!!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Yeh hai Mumbai

Another Monday dawns. This weekend, bought Kodak USB cable, Calvin and Hobbes books - Lazy Sunday book and Yukon Ho, DVDs of Shrek, both parts, Toy Story both parts and Monster Inc. Helped out Reema, (Deepti's friend) finish her presentation. The pair of Lee jeans that I want so bad, still eludes me. Later.

Anyway, rediscovered why Mumbai is such a great shopping place (even though, I dont quite like it). You can find anything that you want, any small spare part, any item, any accessory here, and that too, at a bargain. Generally there are hubs of particular type of equipment. So for cameras, you go to DN Road, household items Dadar, Electronics at MuhamadAli Road, Books Churchgate. So, there are n number of places you can have a look, before you are sure you have the right buy. The choice is also amazing. The USB cable I was offered at prices starting from 175 to 1600 (no kidding). C&H, I bought orginal copies at Rs. 520, when the MRP is approx 800 Rs. Same for DVDs, though pirated and without bonus material, were a steal at Rs. 300. I played them and no defect so far.

It is Monday and we have first datamodel design discussion with Client Team. So let me jump into it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Life's a beach

Wish I was somewhere here...

and here

Its Friday, may be I could plan to head there this weekend. Wanna join in?

The Abyss

Yesterday was an awful day. Actually, only me to blame. I found a nasty bug on the floor at our home. Not willing to let go of howlarious oppurtunities to offend my sis' pestophobic sensibilities, I threatened to let it fly at it. Of course, the bug was dead and I had caught it by one of its tentacles. The poor thing was alreay dead. Someone had already involved in a ruthless insecticide. Anyway, whats there to be afraid of of a poor and dead insect. Right! Guess not. Sis started shrieking and getting all uneasy. The colour drained from her face at the thought of a close encounter with the 8 legged kind, She was really upset and warned me to drop my plans and insect. Then without any notice, she let loose a flurry of judo style kicks (or was she dancing?-she had just come from her dance class). Now, I couldnt take it lying down. Had to be a man (with a pest to let loose). So, I was and did. Sis cried out loud. Hit me again. And again. Mom, dad flabbergasted. A totally bizarre melee. It became bloody serious and it was like gladiators in the ring. Of course, we didnt kill each other, but the damage was done. There will be no making up at least for a few days.

I am still recuperating from the vile physical attacks from my sis. As I wallow in the depths licking my wounds and looking around for my self-confidence, you go and have a look at this. Truly amazing. As James Cameron said, there is still so much we dont know about the ocean.