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28 Feb 2010

The List Family

In Big B (a.k.a Amitabh Bacchan) style, I go, "Dhuniya mein do tarah ke log hote hain" i.e. there are two types of people in this world -- the List people and the Listless people. 

When I say listless here, I don't mean the sad and mournful crowd. I mean people with less lists. I know, listless should at the very least mean 'with no list' if I were to re-define the word but hey, allow me to exercise poetic (er, writers') license here. This is something like the guy who sells juice in our office pantry. When you say 'sugarless', he's not sure whether you want less sugar or no sugar because, depending on what local language you are translating into English, you could either mean sugarless or 'need sugar but less'.

I digress again. I must be the only person on earth who interrupts myself during my own conversations (in this case blog). Coming back to the list and listless people...

The Listless people are those who use lists but at a somewhat subconscious level. They use mailing lists, contact lists, friends lists on social networking sites and so on but only because that is almost a basic feature of the application in question. They would never consciously make a list. Some do not have a list because they can remember things and some because they cannot be bothered to make one. Of course, there are special cases where some people have nothing to do, hence no list, some have lots of things to do and know they can never strike off everything on the list, hence no list and a few others.

My friend K belongs to both categories of listless people - can remember, can't be bothered. He thinks he doesn't need a list because he remembers things. If he doesn't remember it, it probably wasn't important enough. Both of those are untrue, by the way. 

My Lucky never makes a list because she has it programmed into her head. It never changes. Food, Walk, Sleep, Play. Food has sub-lists of chicken, chappati, egg, ghee, etc, but that depends on her mood. Walk is taken care of by her family and when it is not, her basic body functions remind her. Sleep is something she does to fill all those hours that she is not doing other things. Play is when someone is fighting and she needs to stop it, when she feels like it, when everybody is excited and she does not know what it is all about, when there is a guest who she takes a liking to - in short anything that excites her calls for a game of ball.

I belong to a family of List people. We are The List Family. 

The List people are those who are obsessed with lists. We have a list for everything - shopping list, to-do list at work on weekdays, to-do list at home on weekends, list of things to pack when heading on a vacation, list of things for the husband to do, list of tablets for Lucky, list of things to remember, list of places to visit, to-do list for the year, and so on and so forth. 

As a kid, mum used to make a list of things to buy from the nearest "provision store". We would carry it to store and hand it over to the shopkeeper. He would fill a polythene bag with items on the list, mark the price against each and return it to us. We paid and returned home, where mum checked each item in the list against the items in the bag and the price of each. As we grew up, there was no list if we had to buy only a few items (say 2 or 3). With the advent of the supermarkets, where everything is in plain sight and she only has to pick stuff off the shelves, her lists have relegated to the past, except for an occasional day when she needs something delivered or wants one of us to buy something but do not have the time or patience to stop and listen to the list (or remember later). She is almost a list-less person now.

Dad has always been and will be forever, an obsessive list person. He taught my brother and me to make a list when we had to pack things for a trip (in the earlier days, it used to be a month-long holiday in Kerala, visiting relatives... now the trips are wide and varied, mostly short-term). We both still follow it to the letter. In fact, the three of is are so dependent on the list that if there isn't one, you can be sure that we would forget something! When we were building our houses, all 3 of us had our own copy of lists (sometimes my brother would make multiple copy of his list and distribute it to all of us) of things to get done, things that needed fixing, things to buy, and so on. When we have to go out for dinner, we start making lists of restaurants that we could visit, score out names based on the list of requirements (mum needs rice, dad does not like music, the husband is worried about leaving Lucky home alone for long, brother and I need non-vegetarian food, sis-in-law needs a not-too-far place...). It's a 2 to 3 hour exercise to decide which place to eat at. There's usually a list of a few places to book at, just in case the first place we called did not have a reservation or did not meet some of our requirement. There's backup1, backup2, etc.

Most of my weekends start with a Things-To-Do list on a whiteboard, from which I score off items as I achieve them. A lot of times the list is very optimistic, which means that at the end of the weekend, the list is updated to things that need to try to get done over the week or put it on next weekend's list. I also have grocery list (on the rare occasion that I cook, I find that most of my spices and powder are either spoilt or have been used by mum), a shopping list (clothes, shoes, etc), a git-voucher list (all gift-vouchers that I have and expiry date) and a few others. Sometimes I think I need a list of lists because I end up losing a lot of my lists and I am lost until I hit a crisis situation again and need to make a list. I have a pen and paper in every room (including the kitchen and bathroom) so I don't have to fret when something pops into my head. For a while, I even used to have a list of blogs I wanted to write. It would frustrate me when I could not make the list or remember enough to write about something much later. Fortunately, I am over it now. No blog lists! I have the Blogs-I-Follow list, list of labels and the other features that Blogger allows me but no personal list, thank God! 

The husband makes lists too. Weekend lists, not so much off late, because his list seems to have been committed to memory, just like Lucky's. Bike, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Laptop Time. Some days it include 'Clean', which usually involves emptying out the contents of his wardrobe (refer previous blog for picture), folding the clothes and putting them back in. It only lasts till Tuesday or Wednesday but he does it anyway. Sometimes it also includes putting his books back in the bookshelf. It's usually back all over the place by Monday.

It's strange that the husband is a list person (he has a bucket list too) because his family seems to be a listless one. I have never seen my in-laws make a list. My mother-in-law tells her husband what to buy and he brings home the shopping. At times, he does not even need to be told. When the sister-in-law had to leave to another city to pursue a career, she asked my husband what she needed to carry with her. Out came the whiteboard and marker. He made a list of things, ranging from underwear to tissues to clothes, shoes and certificates, to pack. The sister and I were amused. For some reason, that seemed to encourage him because the list branched into sub-lists detailing what underwear, how many pairs of shoes, which certificates, etc. It has been a month since the sister-in-law left, the list is still there in her room.

The brother and his wife are at home this weekend (they are usually at his in-laws'). When he is at home, he usually fixes broken things or cleans the house. Today, he took up fixing one of the drawers in the dining room and while at it, found an assortment of items that were almost forgotten and the wife (sometimes me and mum too) repeatedly bought - dish scrubbers, mops & sponges, room fresheners (six bottles, all either Lavender or Jasmine!!), etc. So, his task for the day was to fix the impulsive shopping habits. We emptied out the two drawers at their place and the box at my house, to see what items we already had and did not have to buy for a long time to come. We could start a stall with the numerous dish-washing scrubs and cleaning liquids we have! The first thing he did was get his wife to make a list (oh yes!) of items they had. Another list of items to buy. Then we compared items, exchanged what was on their have and have-not lists, they scored off items as they gave me some. All my items went back into my store-box, theirs into the drawers. At the end of it, he put up a list of things each drawer contained. 

So, The List Family has varying degrees of list-makers... starting from the no-list Lucky, mum, husband, dad, me, sis-in-law and brother respectively. Oops, did I just make a list of the list-makers in the family? Yikes! I'm almost as terrible as my brother, aren't I? Must have come in the genes. Remember, dad brought us up that way... make a list of things... ouch!

How The Husband Spent His Weekend

On Friday night, he was smashed, courtesy beer and bourbon (from Kentucky, as the host insisted). This was during the wee hours of Saturday morning...

He slept most of Saturday and joined the family for dinner, where he tried to "cure his hangover" with more beer.

On Sunday morning, he decided to clean his wardrobe. Since the last 4 hours, this has been the state of our room.

Current status: Facebook updates, YouTube videos, Games...

Can you blame the dog for wanting to stay in the garage and not come home?

Mathematical Logic

Copied from http://yerjoking.net/2010/02/mathematical-logic/. It's done rounds in forwards for ages, still want to post it here.

What makes 100%? What does it mean to give more than 100%?

Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%?

We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give more than 100%. How about achieving 103%?

What makes up 100% in life?

To assist with these questions, we provide here, a formula:

Assign each of the letters of the alphabet the values 1 through 26. So, A=1, B=2, C=3 and so on.

Now, let’s look at those words:

H+A+R+D+W+O+R+K, or
8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%


K+N+O+W+L+E+D+G+E, or
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%


A+T+T+I+T+U+D+E, or
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%


B+U+L+L+S+H+I+T, or
2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%


A+S+S+K+I+S+S+I+N+G, or
1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that while Hard Work andKnowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it’s the Bullshit and Ass Kissing that will put you over the top.

Unfortunately, I have to agree. Tried 1, 2, 3 ... always always overtaken by 4 & 5.

26 Feb 2010

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Dr. Gordon Livingston

One of my Christmas presents this year was a book called 'Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now', by Gordon Livingston, with a foreword by Elizabeth Edwards. Dr. Livingston is a physician, psychiatrist and writer. Edwards is one of those he met on an online bereaved parents forums and has drawn strength from him to reclaim her life. 

    It's one of the best books I have ever read. I'm still reading it but I wanted to write about it. Dr. Livingston gives a fresh perspective to so many things. Some of the things he said were new to me, some simply surprised me by the obvious nature of it and how I'd failed to see. The chapters are named such that you only need to read the contents page for a host of quotes to think about. Edwards' foreword makes good reading, makes you wonder if you will get the same benefits out of this book that she did. 

    You don't need to be suffering to read Dr. Livingston's book, he just steers you to look in another direction. Each person could get something else to take away from each chapter, often not what the title says. I tweeted one such, from each chapter of the book and am reproducing it here. I've copied from Twitter, so you need to read backwards (starting from the last occurrence of 'bumblebee' to the first, which is from chapter 18).

    bumblebee Ch18. There is nothing more pointless, or common, than doing the same things and expecting different results! bumblebee ...hope, chance, intuition, and a willingness to be surprised.  

    bumblebee (contd) Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on...  

    bumblebee  Ch16. Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between two points, life has a way of confounding geometry. (contd)  

    bumblebee Ch15. The process of building has always been slower and more complicated (i.e. less immediately satisfying) than that of destruction.  

    bumblebee (contd)... people fall out of love, the demands for explanation are insistent.  

    bumblebee  Ch14. It seems ironic that when people fall in love, no justification for their attachment is necessary. When, on the other hand... (contd)  

    bumblebee Instead I ask them to examine what it is that has so far dissuaded them from killing themselves.  

    bumblebee Ch13 Suicide is the ultimate expression of preoccupation with self. When confronted with a suicidal person I dont try to talk them out of it...  

    bumblebee ... of inestimable value to those who survive us.  

    bumblebee Ch12. (Old age) If we can retain our good humor and interest in others even as the curtain closes, we'll have contributed something...  

    bumblebee Ch11. We simply pay too much attention to words - ours and others' - and not enough to the actions that actually define us.  

    bumblebee ...our different roles demand different attitudes.  

    bumblebee ...worker, partner, parent, friend, is a challenge. We think of ourselves as the same person whatever we may be doing at the moment. But...  

    bumblebee Ch10. A certain amt of compartmentalization in necessary to succeed in different areas of our lives. Juggling our mutual responsibilities...  

    bumblebee Ch9. Life is a gamble in which we don't get to deal the cards, but are nevertheless obligated to play them to the best of our ability.  

    bumblebee The best hope is to introduce them to the paradox of perfection: in some settings (relationships), we gain control only by relinquishing it.  

    bumblebee ... can render them insufferable in their personal lives. To be less controlling in their jobs would render them ineffective.  

    bumblebee Ch8. The problem with perfectionists and their pre-occupation with control is that the qualities that make them effective in their work...  

    bumblebee Ch7. I did my best to fit in. I just got tired of it.  

    bumblebee (contd)... to alter their behaviour in ways that allow them to exert greater control over their lives.  

    bumblebee Ch6. While medication can provide crucial, sometimes live-saving relief, people also have an obligation... (contd)  

    bumblebee Ch5. While it takes two people to create a relationship, it only takes one to end it.  

    bumblebee Ch4 Finally, if a person I'm talking to appears wedded determinedly to the past and unwilling to contemplate a better future, I grow impatient.  

    bumblebee Ch3. Many are the ways that parents instill a sense of obligation in their children. In fact, our children owe us nothing.  

    bumblebee Ch2. He says, "Past behaviour is the most reliable predictor of future behaviour" What about when people change? How do we acknowledge that?  

    bumblebee Ch2: We love someone when the importance of his or her needs and desires (to us) rises to the level of our own.  

    bumblebee Ch1: If the map doesn't agree with the ground, the map is wrong.  

    bumblebee 18 chapters. Want to write one best line from each. Let me try. It's gonna be harder when there are more than one lines...

    Maybe when I'm done with the book, I'll pull out a line from the rest of the chapters. 

    You can read this book as many times as you want and still be touched by it. The quotes above won't spoil the book for you, if you ever mean to read it, just like Dr. Livingston's titles didn't change what I would take away from his observations. 

    I'll end this by quoting one of the reviewers/readers of Dr. Livingston's book(s). Mark Helprin, author of the books A Soldier Of The Great War and Winter's Tale says about Dr. Gordon Livingston, "To read him is to trust him and to learn, for his life has been touched by fire, and his motives are absolutely pure."

    21 Feb 2010

    Failure? No!

    It was a harrowing period of designs, documents, coding and testing. Tough as it was, I enjoyed every moment of it. Working with the experts, arguing about working styles and being excused for goof-ups, it's simply an amazing learning experience. The biggest lessons were on cutting through the ice and accepting failures. 

    You think failure is this goddawful thing and wish it would never happen to you. Everyone around you is saying that there is something to learn from "the experience". You might have said the same to someone else but it's hard to remember that when it happens to you. You try to find the lesson(s) you were supposed to learn but fail miserably. Maybe you are an exceptional case. Maybe there is no lesson in this failure. Maybe the lesson is that you can fail. You wish you did not have to learn that this way. Maybe it should have been something milder. You are going in circles, wishing nobody will notice, hoping that no one will know about it. 

    I was done going through the myriad of feelings ranging from shock to confusion to sorrow to anger. Or so I thought. Suddenly, there is a phone call. Then someone leaves you an instant message. Somebody else is asking if you are okay. You do not know what to make of it. Are they feeling sorry for you? Are they just being polite? Sympathy? You do not want any of it. You wish they did not know. The whole range of emotions resurface.

    Left with no choice, you cut your way through the jungle of feelings and fears. It turns out that what you just earned from this experience is priceless. You find who your friends are! It is not a lesson that failure gave you but a gift. What are friends for? Holding your hand every step of the way, guiding you when you did not even know you needed to be guided, letting you make all those mistakes and helping you pick up the pieces to start over, helping you see clearly when tears cloud your eyes... it is the stuff dreams are made of. Is this what they call a pleasant surprise?

    I wondered where it would all lead to. It only got better with time. Things that I would only want and not really expect started coming true. When one door closed, another opened, as the cliche goes. If I had to turn back time and change something, there is not one thing I can come up with. Thank God for friends!

    My Name Is Khan

    A typical KJo movie has a love story, lots of songs, fancy locales, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol/Preity Zinta/Rani Mukherjee, a few double-meaning jokes and plenty of colour. When 'My Name Is Khan' was released and I saw the trailers, it didn't seem much different. There was the colour, SRK, Kajol, shot in America... the usual stuff. I'd watch it if I could, a no-brainer entertainment is always welcome, beats the stress away but I wouldn't kill anyone for the movie.

    One night, while all of us sat down talking after dinner, the sister-in-law said that she was going to MNIK with her colleagues and wished she didn't have to go. A friend, who was visiting, said he thought the movie was good, based on the promos he's seen. Wow! I jumped at that and asked if he would go with me. The next thing I know, I was booking tickets to the movie before anyone changed their minds.

    MNIK was a total surprise. Of course, it had all the overacting and melodrama that a KJo-SRK movie must have. It had a serious message too. KJo has dealt with it in a diplomatic fashion, without offending any one group of people, as is also evident from the absence of publicity for the movie, in the name of religion. Of course, there was the scene with SRK being stopped at the airport in the US and the Shiv Sena issue but that's about it. How much of it is real and how much is a movie promotion is hard to tell (for me, atleast).

    The movie starts of in a pre-9/11 era. As they movie rightly says, the time period was roughly split into two as BC and AD. When 9/11 happened, there was another split. The pre-9/11 and the post-9/11 days. 

    SRK plays an autistic boy, who has a near photographic memory and can "repair anything". He can't emote but hugs his mother when asked to and understands that it seems to make her feel better somehow. He watches people around him and tries to respond to various situations in a similar fashion. As the friend with me put it, he seemed to have a milder version of the illness as he is able to travel across from India to the US and various places within the country on his own. SRK & KJo have kept it as realistic as possible (a few exaggerations in a couple of places but can be forgiven). 

    A relationship between a Muslim autistic boy and a Hindu girl blooms. 9/11 happens. The story moves on to narrate the tale of their lives and how the 9/11 attack affects their lives and many others like them. The story revolves around how he ends up travelling across various parts of the country, with the President's iterinary in hand, in a bid to meet the president and say to him "My Name Is Khan and I am not a terrorist". 

    The movie talks about the anger and reactions of some Americans post 9/11. It also shows that not all of them were upset or turned racists. It speaks about good Muslims who understand the Quran and the ones who twist the tales in the name of Jihad, in order to hire Muslims to act for them. It touches upon the suspicious nature in which various people eye all Muslims, post an act of terrorism. The message 'My Name Is Khan and I am not a terrorist" is hammered into the audiences mind, with innumerable repetitions, by the time the movie finishes. 

    A movie that's worth watching. A pleasant surprise from Karan Johar's regular romance/comedy movies. His signature style remains. He does not have the power that an Aamir Khan's movie might draw. Aamir's casting might have been better too. Yet, well done. A good movie.

    15 Feb 2010

    My V-Day Lunch @ La Casa

    Feb 14, 2010.

    I didn't mean to start the blog like it was a war journal. I'm just trying to get the hang of dates in my head. During days when I am extremely busy with work, I hardly have any sense of dates or days. I used to think that it was because I was too busy to bother worrying about such trivial things. The next day was going to be as busy as today and most likely not much different either. Now, I barely have any work at office (I still have to mark my attendance, sigh) and I still have no sense of dates. It's definitely something about me.

    When I woke up this morning and had an email from a friend who was taking his wife out to celebrate Valentine's Day, I thought "Oh, it must be February 14th today". I reminded my husband, just in case he wanted to take me out too. Other than the original plan of dropping me off at the hospital, he didn't have much else in mind. The romantic element in that was that he decided to stay with me instead of head home after dropping me off. The husband snored while bro and I watched crap on the telly, I fed him and we talked for a while. In a couple of hours, the sister-in-law arrived and we could leave. 

    It was too late to go home for lunch and I was craving chicken. We were too hungry to try out a new place and I decided I wanted lasagne or something on those lines, so we stopped at La Casa. I've been there before and don't exactly have the best of memories. We were seated in a 4-seater table, in a somewhat dark spot, under the stairs. Food was okay. We decided to give it another shot, hoping that maybe things have changed in 2 years.

    I was in for a disappointment. The place is still as nondescript as ever. The chairs and tables are not so comfortable. In fact, our table wobbled when leaned upon (the husband constantly did that and I kept waiting for it to slam his forehead and we'd be heading right back to the hospital, to take another bed for him!!). We had to wait a good 5 minutes before somebody noticed us and decided to bring us a menu (only 1). The water glasses were dirty and drinking the lime soda out of one such glass was a risk we decided to take. It was better than trying to eat without a drink (mmm... probably not... we did anyway). All but one of the waiters seemed extremely bored with their jobs and absolutely disinterested in the customers. The one guy who showed us to our table was limping around, taking orders from everyone at the restaurant. Another waiter or two brought dishes for all the tables. The guy who took our order mumbled under his braces and the husband could not hear a word from across the 2 feet table. It didn't help that the music was too loud and jarring. They could use a good set of speakers. The cranky ones in my car sound much better! When we ordered, I almost expected to hear "We don't have that today, sir" on atleast one of the dishes. Fortunately, that did not happen.

    The order arrived sooner than we expected. The food was okay. The Gobi Manchurian was a wee over-fried but it tasted fine. For the main course, the husband ordered chicken spaghetti, which tasted very similar to the same from another restaurant. I can't say for sure which, but it might have been 100 Feet Boutique. I ordered Fish Mayonnaise. The husband decided that Fish & Chips was a bad idea because fried food is greasy. Somehow he thought fish and veggies soaked and pouring with mayo wasn't. Men are from Mars... who knows what happens there? The portions were large. While the spaghetti was good, my dish could have been better. The fish was good but the vegetables were not boiled well enough. The beans tasted bitter. I brought a part of my lunch home and gave it to Lucky. She agreed with me. The fish was good. The mayo was good. The carrot was alright. The beans, she spilled all over the floor. The husband is cleaning up, as I write this. 

    The sister-in-law had suggested that the sizzlers were good. We did not have enough time to wait for it. I might have visited another time for the sizzlers, had the experience been better. The food was not so great that I would be willing to forego ambience, good service and clean glasses. If you never went there, you have missed nothing. Go there, if you must, for the prices are not sky high. We spent Rs. 600 on a lunch for the two of us, that included 2 fresh lime soda, 1 gobi manchurian, 1 chicken spaghetti and 1 fish mayonnaise. There also give you complimentary bread with the spaghetti as well as the fish mayo but it was roasted too much (it didn't taste burnt but I like my bread to look better. A little ghee or butter would help too. It must smell great).

    In short, not the best V-Day lunch. I had my mother-in-law's bisibelebath a couple of hours later and that finally satisfied my senses. Thank God for mothers!

    13 Feb 2010

    Sherlock Holmes Starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law

    I first heard of this movie from a couple of my colleagues in Melbourne. They said it was a must watch and I put it on my list of movies to watch. It released in Bangalore theatres a few weeks later.

    After failed attempts to find either the time or a fellow-enthusiast to watch the movie, I'd nearly given up until my manager from Melbourne landed in Bangalore one fine day. I decided to drag him along and watch it, me for the first time and he second. A colleague of mine offered to go with me, so I spared him the torture for the moment. Soon after, I realized that whereas the offer had been made, she had no real intentions of honouring it. Fortunately for me, I went back to Mr. Melbourne on my original plan and he agreed to accompany me.

    To cut a long story short, I almost went alone to the movie but ended up with enjoyable company. The movie itself was great. The perseverance was worth it. Money well-spent.

    My first impression of Robert Downey Jr., as Sherlock Holmes, was "What?? This guy?!?" He was nowhere close to the picture of the detective Sherlock Holmes I've carried in my mind, since my school-days when I'd devoured all of Sherlock Holmes stories from dad's library. This guy was shorter, looked older and was nothing like I'd expected! Jude Law as Dr. Watson surprised me too. Wasn't Dr. Watson supposed to be shorter, stubbier and definitely not so cute? I wondered why the characters had received rave reviews on the internet. I hoped the movie would not disappoint me.

    In the next few minutes, I found myself engulfed in the story. The old picture of Sherlock Holmes in my head was replaced by the new, effortlessly. Jude Law, I realized, was not as cute in this movie as he was in The Holiday. He made a good Dr. Watson (a little fleshier might have been good too but hell, he is good). Rachel McAdams, as Irene Adler, and Kelly Reilly, as Mary Morstan (Dr. Watson's fiancee), were perfect casting, as were all the other characters. At one point, when the husband said that Mark Strong a.k.a Lord Henry Blackwood might have made a better Sherlock Holmes, I was inclined to agree. By the end of the movie, however, I did not quite have any issues with the existing cast. It hung together quite well. Strong had a sinister feel to his character, a great deal of his acting expressed through his face, which was not really required of Holmes.

    Reviews had warned me that this was not one of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, so I went with an open mind. As Wikipedia enlightened me later, the movie-makers had used details from a number of Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories to make the movie. Holmes character has been tweaked a bit to highlight some of his idiosyncrasies. He is also more humane. He makes mistakes, is hoodwinked at times and screws up. None of these manage to overshadow his incredibly sharp mind or the demeanour that makes up Sherlock Holmes.

    The story, although new, has retained the typical style of an adventure that one identifies with Sherlock Holmes, yet is refreshing at the same time. It has all the elements of a movie and it has all the elements of the books. I went through a range of emotions akin to disbelief, surprise and relief as the story unfolded before me, on the big screen. At various points in the movie, I was sceptical about certain aspects, felt compelled to accept some inconceivable occurrences and relieved when an incredulous event revealed a more meaningful explanation. 

    The movie finishes with loose ends tied up and the mystery resolved, with a moral that screams 'good triumphs evil'. It also leaves one loose string, as had the book for so many years. I wonder if there will be another movie and if there is, if the professor will die or stay in the shadows until all of Hollywood is satisfied that they have milked Doyle's character dry. 

    I can't wait to watch the earlier movies of Sherlock Holmes now. I've promised myself I won't miss any new ones there may be. I feel the same thrill I felt back when I read the books. 

    Have movies gotten better or am I over-excited? I don't know but this is the third movie, that is also a book, that I have watched in the last one year and I have loved. The next and only movie on my list is My Name Is Khan, starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. It's got some fantastic reviews. Anybody listening?

    8 Feb 2010

    The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

    I am not a very fast reader but even for me, this book took awfully long to read. It didn't help that I was not able to read it in one or two long sittings. I started reading it a few weeks back and did a few pages each day, and unable to read on some days. Yesterday, I decided to sit down until I finished the book at any cost and there ended my beautiful Sunday. All morning, all afternoon, all evening and until 9PM at night, I read and I read and I read. My only consolation is that a friend of mine who has started reading the book a few weeks ago is facing the same fate.

    When I first read the title, and Paulo Coelho's style being somewhat philosophical, I had assumed that this book might touch upon leadership qualities or talk about great success or great people. No such thing to look forward to in The Winner Stands Alone. If you have watched the movie Page 3, you will find a similar theme in there. The world of fashion and glamour.

    The book starts off by introducing the protagonist Igor, whose wife has left him and who he tries to get back in his own twisted ways. The story is set in Cannes, at the time when the fashion and film world from across the globe has assembled there, for the famous Cannes Film Festival. Chapter after chapter, Coelho writes about the glamour world from various points of view, none of them pretty. He manages to convince you not only that all the glitter that you see is make-believe but every smile on every face of every celebrity might be fake. 

    He talks of struggling models, wannabe models, aged (read: 25 years and above) models, film directors and distributors. He talks of money laundering, drug trafficking, casting-couch (without saying so or giving it undue importance) and all the darkness in the world of glitz. As an outsider, it's hard for you to see what it is in this paint and show business that lures men and women by the thousands everyday. As I said earlier, a somewhat bookish version of the portrayal of the glamour industry, the "Superclass" and the rest as he calls it, on similar lines as Madhur Bhandarkar's movie Page 3.

    Interwoven into all this is an even darker, more evil act of murder. Not once, not twice but as many times as it takes Igor to ensure that the love of his live, Ewa, "gets the message". Amidst the glory, the parties, the behind-the-stage scenes, the struggles, Igor is fighting his own battle as a lone soldier. There is a flashback that pops up from time to time, explaining his acts, justifying the need for his actions. Where there is murder, there is the police. There is their viewpoint of the Cannes, the festival, the Superclass, the murder and the murderer. And similar murders in the past.

    Does Igor get caught? Does he manage to convey his message to Ewa? What happens between him and Ewa? If you have the patience to wade through pages of grease-paint, he eventually answers all these questions. Paulo Coelho maintains his style of writing and if you like that, you will make it through the book. However, you tend to come out of it feeling relieved that it is over rather than provoked by the reflections he makes. Yes, there is retrospection, no doubt. That's something Coelho does really well. In here, it is all dark.

    I would not rate this as one of my favourite books. Yet, I cannot say I regret reading it. It's a Coelho, it's not bad. It's not the world's best. If you read it, it's not a time-waster but if you didn't, you've missed nothing.

    3 Idiots - My Take

    After much ado, I watched '3 Idiots' with the husband on Saturday. As is normal with me, I got late getting ready and we missed the first 15 minutes of the movie, much to the husband's annoyance. He was really sweet about it and didn't fuss too much. 

    My head was buzzing with all the controversies and publicity around the movie being a rip-off from the book, Five Point Someone, by Chetan Bhagat. Bhagat's numerous claims on Twitter that people went back to him saying the movie was hugely inspired by the book and comments on his blogs stating that everything in the movie was out of the book had led me to believe that the movie would be an exaggerated version of the book. 

    If you start watching the movie with that in mind, it is not so much fun. The movie feels fake whereas the book real. Brush those thoughts aside and watch the movie, it is immensely enjoyable. At various points, it seems real in a strange way. As real as fantasy can get. Most of the humour lies in the conversation and delivery but there are some comic acts too. The writer has preferred to use Hindi without the intrusion of English or any other language. 
    Spoiler Alert: If you haven't but intend to read the book or watch the movie, avoid this review. 

    The book was realistic. It was believable and it is definitely something that the college-going crowd can identify with. That's why the book became so popular among the younger crowd. The movie, on the other hand, is hugely exaggerated, as most movies go and has traces of a typical Aamir Khan style. The focus of the movie is entirely different from that of the book, as is the treatment of the theme. 
    While the skeleton of the book has been preserved, the fleshy bits have been significantly modified to appeal to the larger audience that the cinema goes out to. The spotlight has been moved from the main character of the book to the more fun character in the movie, to keep the viewers amused as the tale unfolds. The target audience for the message that jumps out of the movie is parents, teachers and students of all genres.
    The writer of the book places himself (Hari) at the centre of the story, with some significant characters woven around it - his 2 friends, the dean's daughter, a lecturer or two. Bhagat narrates the story from a first-person point of view and he could be any one of us, never the star of the college. He brings out the picture of the state of affairs in an IIT, from the student's point of view, without directly doling out a moral at the end of the book. 
    The movie has it's focal point on Hari's friend Ryan. The movie glorifies the more outgoing character that Ryan is and conveys the message of the story through his antics. Aamir Khan, as Rancho a.k.a Ranchoddas Shyamaldas Chaanchad a.k.a Phusukh Wangdoo, questions the current education system and points towards a better way of learning, at various points throughout the movie. The narrator remains Madhavan a.k.a Farhan (Hari in the book). They are supported by Sharman Joshi a.k.a Raju (Alok in the book).
    When we reached the theatre, the scene on screen was that of the seniors-ragging-first-years i.e. first year students. That's the first of the many ideas taken out of Bhagat's book - first for me, I came in 15 minutes late, remember? As is the case with almost all of the ideas that were picked out of the book, this was not a mere exaggeration of the way the writer has related the event but handled in a completely different manner. 

    In the book, the scene has the seniors ragging 3 students - Hari, Alok and Ryan. Alok is the wimp, who is ready to burst into tears, Ryan is the hero among the 3, who saves them from humiliation and scares the seniors away while Hari is the in-between character who neither whines nor has the nerve to protest. The movie, on the other hand has a large room full of scared first year students, all stripped down to their underwear. The senior is standing at the door, trying to get Rancho (Ryan's name in the movie) out of his room. Rancho ignores him, plays a prank right back at him (a moothra visarjan gone horribly wrong) and instantly becomes the hero of all the juniors (except the nerdy guys, of course). Alright, so both the book and the movie start with the ragging scene and Ryan a.k.a Rancho emerges hero - that's where the similarity stops. The literature in the book greatly differs from the comedy in the script.

    Move a few reels ahead. Change of rooms. Alok moves out of his room and checks in with the geek of the class, Venkat, as a fallout with his friends after they scored low grades. He blames Ryan easy-going attitude and Hari hero-worship of Ryan as the reason for his bad marks. Raju & Farhan are invited by the dean into his room and advised to switch rooms if they want to perform well in the exams and steer clear of Rancho's companionship. Raju moves in with nerdy Chatur, Farhan stays with Rancho.

    Who gets the girl? The hero always gets the girl. Hari falls in love with the professor's daughter, "does it" with her and uses her keys without her knowledge to steal papers from her father's office. There's a fair deal of emphasis in the book, of her relationship with her brother who was believed to have been hit by a train but had committed suicide. The father finds out only in the end and his has a change of heart from the grumpy professor that he always was. Rancho wins Neha, the dean's daughter (professor Viru Sahasrabuddi, popularly called ViruS), with his charming ways. Neha has a scooter, which plays a fair role in adding to the comic element in the movie. She incites them into stealing papers from her father's office and the only reference to her brother is very much later in the movie. As for the all-famous "doing it", the movie chooses the more conservative path and they don't even kiss till the end of the movie. This is in keeping with how Rancho's character emerges in the end and is also used to add a bit of humour to the romance.
    Raju/Alok attempts to kill himself. Alok jumps off the terrace of the IIT building because he cannot get his sister married, cannot get good grades and cannot give up his friends. Raju jumps out the window of the dean's office because he is nearly rusticated after being caught peeing on the front door of the dean's house, in a drunken state one night. He has to chose between being thrown out of college or telling on his friends. He chooses to die. Alok's recovery is fast-forwarded to a few days, all is well in the end. In the movie, Rancho and Farhan go through a number of attempts to save their paralysed-but-brain-alive friend (don't know if that's possible in real life but it's only a movie, so the friends can save a life that a doctor cannot). 
    As I said when I started off, the skeleton is definitely the book. The treatment very movie-like. If you try to make a comparison, you might be biased to chose one against the other, depending on what your preferences are. I found the book closer to reality and had I watched the movie with that in mind, I might not have enjoyed it at all. As separate entities, they are entertaining. 
    Apart from the various hilarious moments in the movie, there are a fews twist towards the end - some predictable ones (ViruS gives his famous zero-gravity space pen to Rancho), some not so predictable (who is Phunsukh Wangdu and how did he get there). There are a few emotional moments and some unbelievable heroic deeds (Engineering students delivering a baby with a vaccum cleaner on the TT table in the engineering college campus, you have got to be kidding me!!). 
    The take-away bits from the movie are entirely original. Even though I was skeptical the first time he mentions it, 'Aal eez well' (All is well) seems to have become quite a popular mantra among viewers. That explains all the status messages on Gtalk and Facebook, in the recent weeks. Then there's the extremely funny "Jahanpana, tussi great ho, tohfa kubool karo" (Your Highness, you are great, please accept my gift) - where the guy pulls down his pants, turns around and bends over at Rancho, as a sign of admiration! Love it when Chatur does this in the end, accepting Phunsukh Wangdu as superior to him
    There is lots more that I haven't mentioned in this blog but if I had to cover all of them, I'd be narrating the story of the movie and reproducing the book here. It's worth a watch, might as well spend a few bucks. Value for money, either way - book or movie. I read the book, watched the play and then the movie. Watching the movie again today. The buck stops here.

    I am even more convinced, after watching the movie that the entire controversy between Aamir Khan and Chetan Bhagat was staged. Bhagat has got his due credit (yes, I stayed to watch the credits and see where his name appeared) and his book sales have shot up. Khan and the movie-makers are still minting money out of the movie. The script-writer got his vi-si-bi-li-ty (a.k.a Paulo Coelho style) and his dialogues are repeated in offices and colleges. Everyone is happy. Did I miss mention of the audience? Oh no.. they are happy too. No one's complaining. 
    The movie also has a few rip-offs from ads on television and the internet. Cliches but well presented. Remember the ad where the kid finishes his exam paper well past the time and stuffs his answer sheet in the middle of the bundle when the professor says he doesn't know who he is? Remember those email forwards of a man in black taking pictures of half a dozen women in burqas? I wonder what might happen if all those people came looking for credits. I bet none of them have got any mention in the names that scroll through.

    The ugly business that the media happily fired and flamed has now relegated to being warm coal in the fireplace. Aal eez welll.

    PS. While Aamir Khan is really good in the movie, the guy who took my heart away... Maddy. Look out for Farhan in the movie!

    5 Feb 2010

    Bzzz Bzzz

    The one bad thing about gossip is how caught up you can get in it. Sometimes, you get so lost that even the most workaday things appear bizzare. I try to avoid it but some of them are just too much fun to ignore. 

    The worst kind of gossip is the one at workplace, where you hate your manager and possibly all your teammates. It's so rampant that you hear it wherever you go. Friends, strangers alike unload their rants on you and vice versa. Coffee rooms, water-cooler, at lunch, down the corridors, just about everywhere... if there is a group of people, they're probably ratting on someone they hate at work for the unfair treatment meted out to them. Funny how everyone is treated unfairly, so who is actually handing out the treatment? The happy ones?

    I've been idle and wanting for work, for about 3 days now. Numerous coffee breaks, long lunches and some stop-at-my-desk conversations later, I find myself wishing I had work to do! It's all so negative, so boring. I woke up this morning, decided that I was going to have fun. From now on, there will only be good gossip. (Just finished an email to a couple of friends telling them how much I hate.... that doesn't count, does it? Oh well!)

    Time to go to work. I'm an hour late, at the moment. Be another hour before I get in. How does it matter? It does, because my manager... STOP! Phew! Close call! Better run...

    4 Feb 2010

    Five Point Someone - The Play by Evam

    I love watching plays. I've only watched about 3 that I can remember, since college, but loved the experience each time. Flawlessly delivered, sometimes even better than a movie. The crowd is mature. No mobile phones ringing, no late entry, following the rules for there is a reason...

    I don't know what it is but when I look at something, I can't help looking beyond it, wondering about the components behind it, the efforts that went into it. When I go into Google Labs to enable/disable features, I can't help but look at the name of the guy who created the feature and wonder how he might have done it. It wasn't any different when I went to watch the play 'Five Point Someone' by Evam, based on a book of the same name, by Chetan Bhagat (just making sure he won't sue me for not giving him credit!!). I enjoyed the play and I couldn't help wondering about the crew behind the scenes, wondered what the actors might be thinking.

    It was a beautifully-made play. I had read the book ages ago and could barely remember much of it, so there were no spoilers to the story. It was a bonus that, the drama was so well presented. It started off with a narration from a character who appeared to be a Chetan Bhagat (glasses, sweater, et al) but was actually the narrator of the story (CB or not?). The switch from the past to the present was seamless throughout the play and the usage of lights was done in an impressive manner. They had used minimal props, easily movable ones and yet maintained the essence of the story. At no point during the play did I find a scene wanting in visuals or anything else. 

    The attention to detail was heart-warming. For someone like me, suffering from mild (hmm.. maybe not-so-mild) OCD, that is very important. Scenes where the lecturer was teaching in class. Both the lecturers and the students faced the audience, no backs turned to us. Thank you! They spoke with the audience with the same conviction they might have had, had they been speaking to each other. It was hard to notice the weirdness of the lecturer talking to the backs of the students as they spoke with the audience. I wouldn't be wrong if I said 'impossible to notice the weirdness' either. It just held your attention and painted a picture of a real teacher-facing-students-facing-blackboard classroom. How amazing is it to be able to set up a visual in front of your eyes that gives you a more realistic picture in your mind's eye?

    A scene that I was really looking forward to was the one where the protagonists in the play "do it". I was curious to see how that would be portrayed. It's easy to do that in a movie but in a play? Would they skip it? No, they skipped nothing. The entire hall began to clap when the scene came on. Nothing perve about it, mind you - not the scene, not the audience. It was a brilliantly executed scene! A standing slab of wood, representing a bed, with pillows pinned to it in a slightly messed-up fashion (remember I said the bed was 'standing'... not horizontal on the floor like a bed might be but vertical). Leaning on the vertical bed were the hero and the heroine of the day (they were so natural you'd believe they were 'lying on the bed'), the guy wearing a white vest with a white bedsheet pulled up to his shoulder and the girl covered in the same white bedsheet. It's hard to explain but it was so real. There they were, a log of wood covered in white, two characters standing against it, in front of your eyes... and all you are seeing is a bed with white bed-linen, a boy and girl lying in bed.... just the way the scene is meant to be imagined.

    Much as I love them, I don't get to watch plays so often, so I am not very familiar with how they are presented. It may be normal for the director of the play and everyone else behind to scenes, to pay that level of attention to detail and follow basic rules like never turning your back to the audience. What I found commendable was how every scene was enacted to create just the right picture in the audiences mind, either with direct visuals, change of lighting or by showing a representation that indirectly paints the right picture in your mind. Was I overenthusiastic or were most people in the audience novices like me? Either way... all of us came out of the hall enthralled by the performance.

    The script was very well written and enacted. It made me want to read the book again. It made me want to make more people read the book. It has only managed to increase my desire to watch the movie '3 Idiots', based "loosely" on the book. I loved the play so much that I find myself wondering if the movie will live up to my expectations! It might. If nothing else, it's an Aamir Khan movie. No matter what his role is - actor, director, producer - if Aamir Khan is in it, he carries the movie on his shoulder and more often than not, the movie is a success. Again, attention to detail, striking the right chords with the audience, that's his style. Can't wait to watch it. Until then, revelling in the beauty of the play I watched in the not-so-far-behind past.

    The best part? The show that I watched was the first run of the all-India series. The first show and it was flawless, eliciting laughter and sighs from the audience at the right places each time (believe me when I say each sigh was audible). No faltering, no butterflies-in-my-stomach-actors (not for the audience's eyes atleast), impeccable performance... the accents, the dialogues, the delivery... simply superb!

    Logon to www.indianstage.in for details of the show all over India and any other shows by Evam or others. 

    1 Feb 2010

    iPad - My View

    There's a fair deal of discussions on Apple's new iPad. After ranting about it on Twitter for a bit, I've decided to move my tuppence worth of opinion to my blog. I'm known to be technically challenged, so this is my 'layman version' of a review, from a layman (woman) who has not seen or touched the iPad (no pun intended).

    Frankly, I've seen more of a negative response to Steve Jobs' new gadget, than excitement. I can see why. Touted as a go-between of the Apple Mac and iPhone, I'd have expected it to have some of the best features of both. Days after it's launch, it's still not clear whether it was meant to be a computer or a phone... or just a reader. Brilliant!

    It's definitely not a phone. You cannot make calls, cannot SMS (sending text messages via Gtalk or Yahoo does not count - by the way, does iPad allow that) and do all those 'phone'y things. So, it must be a computer.

    Ok, let us see.

    Cannot multi-task. Whoa whoa whoa!! I love my Nokia 5800 series. I can talk to my friend (speaker-phone), while I send a text to someone, while an email loads in the background. So, the iPhone does not have the provision but wait, the iPad is supposed to better than an iPhone, yeah? Like an engadget review said, "All this power and very little you can do with it at once."

    Does not have a USB drive. I need to connect to a PC to download music, photographs. Wait! If the USP of the iPad was the big screen (compared to an iPhone) for better reading, photographs, music, etc, should it not atleast have a provision to download all of these?

    No CD drive. Hmm. I can watch videos and listen to music but I need a computer to get them first. I need a PC to even convert my music to a format the iPad will play back for me.

    If I need to connect to a PC for everything, why do I need an iPad? It's definitely not compact, so don't try telling me that I can transfer my stuff into the iPad and carry it around.

    good e-book reader, bigger screen, better reading. How about I just plug my computer to a large screen LCD TV, lie in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and read? I like that better. An even bigger screen, even better reading! Alright, alright, it feels like a real book. Still, not enough. I'm a real book reader any day, so I wouldn't want to buy this one, just for the 'real' experience.

    Does not support Flash. Somebody's blog I read explains that this was probably intentionally left out and that SJ would come up with a buy-your-pictures-from-the-iStore idea like the iTunes. Until then, what? Did I mention I like free pictures?

    No iChat. No comments. But the iPhone has... ok, ok, no comments.

    What did I forget? Oh yeah. No camera. Really? Why? The cheapest mobile phones come with a basic camera these days. Laptops don't advertise webcams as a special feature anymore - atleast not as a selling feature - it's just got to be there!

    I don't buy that iPad is a hero just because there are customers lined up in front of their stores. Like another fellow-blogger indicated, it appears to be a case of Apple fans shelling out upwards of $500 dollars just so they can say they were one of the first to own one.

    It's thin but guess what? Not light. It's tilt response is good. Guess what? My Nokia 5800... Okay, I won't go there again.

    All said and done, it's probably not the world's worst bet. I mean, there are some nice things being said about it (even though I can't see it or be convinced). It costs $500 and above. If people are still buying it, either they are excessively rich or see something in it (Tell me! Tell me what you see and please don't say big screen).

    If you are planning to buy an iPad and can't decide, here's my verdict. Don't buy it. Just give me the money. I promise you it's money better spent ;-)