Monday, August 28, 2006

Men, Women and Life in General

The Shawshank Redemption is about Andy Dufresne, an investment banker who is wrongly implicated in his infidel wife's murder, and is sent to the Shawshank Penitentiary in Maine. And how he comes to terms with his destiny. Realising he has a lot of time in his hands, he starts to occupy himself in a variety of things to keep busy. He begins to make himself a chess set carving the rocks with a jack hammer, gets the prison library into order, writes letters every week to request the authorities to provide an allowance to enhance the library, and begins to teach English. But mainly, he helps the jailors evade some tax, and makes the warden a cool wad of money, by handling his financial deals. Until one day, his English student reveals to him the truth of a lifetime.

Forrest Gump is all about man's achievement. It's about how Forrest, a crippled child, realises his strength and takes life head on. He gains his legs back, and runs like a man possessed. His running earns him a place in college, and he gets his degree by playing football all through college. He gets into the army, and goes to the Vietnam. He meets Bubba, from whom he learns all there is to the shrimp business. During the war, he also learns to play ping-pong and gets selected to the national team. He returns from the Nam with a Medal of Honor, and sets up the shrimp business to keep the promise made to his dead friend Bubba, and makes a big fortune out of it. With nothing left to do, he does what he does best - running. He runs all over the country for three years, and finally says, "I'm pretty tired now, I think I will go home."

I can't but draw comparisons between these two movies. Both are superlative, and hold your attention from the start till the end. While The Shawshank Redemption is all about patience, and willpower, Forrest Gump is about humility and simplicity. While Andy comes across as an extremely willed person, with a sound mind to draw a long term plan, and has the patience to implement it, Forrest is your local village simpleton. Yet both are ingrained with an exemplary zest for life. Both have good mentors, Andy in Red, and Forrest in his mother.

Both movies have beautiful lines which sum up the gist of life in the most marvellous manner ever, and mould your attitude towards life. The Shawshank Redemption - "Get busy living, or get busy dying." and Forrest Gump - "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get."

The Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair is about the life of a single middle-aged woman, and her pathos. Ladies Coupe reads like One Night at the Call Center, where four-five stories are woven around a central character. Akhila is your typical Tam-Bram lady, and the story begins as she enters a train to escape from her dreary life of being a daughter, a sister, an aunt and basically the provider for a family where she has no existence of her own, where she has no one to ask her about HER welfare.

As she sits in the coupe, she meets other passengers in her compartment, and delves into their lives, and realises everyone has problems, and viewpoints of looking at them. She meets an aged lady, who thinks that the happiness of a woman lies in the happiness of her husband and family; a middle-aged teacher, who overwhelmed by her husband's self-importance and lack of affection for her, seeks revenge by feeding him and making him an obese glutton, thereby making him lose his self-respect and come back to her; another lady who was the embodiment of the perfect orthodox daughter and wife, until her husband takes her ona trip abroad, and she realises what she was missing out on; a fourteen year old, who perceives what her parents cannot, and does things that others consider sacrilege; and finally, a house-maid, whose life is a pathetic kaleidoscope of poverty, unwed pregnancy, lesbianism and bisexuality.

All this is beautifully woven against Akhila's own life, her father's death at an early age, her being the 'man' of the family, and the parasitic attachment of her sister's family to her money. The story travels deep into her own life, bringing out her strengths and her realisation of her wants. The book does not give any answers, but leaves you with Akhila at her hotel, where you stand with her, having been a spectator to her whole life, as she looks out into the sea.

After the two movies and the book, I strangely feel, Akhila would have enjoyed watching The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump, as she broods on her own life. Life, indeed is a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get, but you have to move on - either getting busy living, or getting busy dying.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mysore and Me

Adi publishes my comment on Anu's post here. Thanks a ton, Adi, you have spared me of converting yet another comment of mine into a post.

Anu wrote this at a time where I had made it a point that I will not convert my post-length comments on others' blogs into posts on my own blog. And as much as I wanted to write about Mysore and my love for it, I stopped myself. I would still have written about it, another day, but then, it would not have been verbatim.

So go ahead, and read all about my love for Mysore, here and here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The perfect date

... is when, after all is done, the girl remembers the evening in the few moments before drifting off to sleep, and goes "Oooh !!!".

A very dear friend went to meet a prospective better-half sometime last week, but certainly didn't end up feeling the above. Which means, unless they lacked topics to speak on, and ended up feeling like Ross and Mike in Friends, the guy must have done something wrong. Because I believe that if an average guy does everything right, and speaks even half the amount he does when he is explaining a gadget to his gang, he has the potential to make the dinner work.

Allow me ... ahem ... to make a checklist which guys like him could go through before a date. (I seriously wish he reads this)

1. Get the timing right - As a guy, take initiative, and make the call. And time it well. Do not call her right in the morning, when she is still in a big rush to leave for office. All girls are in a rush, and she wouldn't have had a dream the previous night that you'd call. Do not call at night to fix up a date next evening. If you call her at nine, when she's at the dinner table with her parents, chances are she might agree half-heartedly or might not appreciate your "last-week's-email-forward's-santa-banta" PJs. Call in the evenings, when she is most likely be relaxed and ready to strike conversation.

2. Ask her preferences - Just because you like Chinese does not mean she has to eat chow-mein when she is getting to know you. Ask her what she likes, and whether there's a place she'd like to go. Personal experience tells me that all girls have a fave eat-out where they want to go. If she suggests one, there's nothing like it. If she doesn't and/or leaves you to make a decision, choose a quiet place which has a great ambience, and does not serve only one cuisine.

3. Offer to pick her up - Personal experience also tells me that nothing pisses a girl off like waiting alone in a public place. Now while it is perfectly okay that she agrees to come on her own, it still is chivalrous to offer. And in the rare case that you are late, for reasons beyond your control, she would be waiting at her house, touching up her make-up, rather than ruining it outside. If she insists on coming herself, then be punctual. Leave home an hour in advance, or if in Bangalore, two.

Great, now that the girl is ready, let's work on you.

4. Call the restaurant beforehand - Restaurants like it better if you inform them beforehand. This way, you can get a better table than when you walk in, and they will be more than ready to accomodate your requests. If you have been to the restaurant before, choose a cosy table far from the maddening crowd, and request it for the day. Ask for candles and/or flowers to be on the table. Girls love flowers.

5. Dress formally - While this is not a job interview and does not require ties, it does not mean that you can walk in in torn jeans and "Sepultura" T-shirts. Your dressing shows how much you respect a lady and look forward to meet her. Believe me, you wouldn't want to escort a lady to her table in faded jeans and floaters. We guys don't notice it, but girls do 'check us out', and this is not a day where you would want a 3-on-10. Wear a clean, ironed shirt. Do not go to a date straight from office, just because the restaurant is next door.

6. Smell good - Allright, I know, in hostels, you have proved that you can go without a bath for more than a month. There is no need of making it the first point in your resume. Take a bath before the date, use a deodorant and unless you sport a beard / moustache, shave. But please don't make the mistake of using a deo on your body, perfume on your clothes and after-shave on your face - all together, else the chef might just come out of the kitchen to park your car. Polish your shoes, carry a CLEAN handkerchief (yes, I know you forgot it. Your only hanky was in the pocket of your suit, which you bought when you went onsite).

7. Buy flowers - By that I don't mean the kanakambra in front of the Shiva temple. Buy roses, or carnations if you please, or have a combination of flowers with a few green stalks. Wrap them in shiny ribbons, and give them when you first see the girl, not "Oh!!! I had got these for you", when you drop her off.

8. Be courteous - Be polite. Remember your P's and Q's. Tell her she looks good (Tip: Even if she doesn't). Order her drinks/dishes to the waiter first, instead of going "A Bloody Mary for me, and you'll have ... ?". Say "My pleasure" or "Don't mention it" when she says "Thanks", instead of giving her a "Kya-aap-close-up-karte-hain" smile. Say "Please" and "Thank you" to the waiter, while he serves you. Tip the waiter well, at least a fifth of the bill in cash (preferably). Insist on paying, but if she does not agree (to the point of making a scene), then its perfectly okay to go dutch. If dutch, double the tip. (You don't know how she tips, do you?). This particular tip in life, thanks to this.

9. Be yourself - When you are meeting a girl, who would probably be your partner for life, it is imperative that you be yourself. Honest. Tell the truth, and be comfortable in your own skin. She's only a girl, and even if she's non-vegetarian, she won't eat you up. So, unless there are no butterflies on your plate, there is no reason why you should have any in your stomach. Have a nice dinner over a great conversation, and drop her home. No pretences, no false promises.

However, if you are not a gentleman, but a bachelor ogre with dirty long nails, an unshaven face and clothes which were washed before they were made into a shirt, then I would suggest you don't follow any of these, because you would end up giving a false impression. And it is not a good thing to start a relationship with a falsehood. You ought to be yourself, and not someone else. But then again, being yourself does not mean you can ignore personal hygiene and present yourself like a shabby chap. Come on, if you couldn't take care of yourself, what woman in her sane mind would expect you to take care of her?

10. Following up - is not going behind her wherever she goes. Following up is sending her a mail next day, that you enjoyed her company over the dinner and thanking her for her presence.

Now, if you are the gentleman you are, and have followed these tips, I don't see why the girl should not sit with her face cupped in her hands, and gaze starry-eyed into the distance. (Yash Chopra ke picture nahi dekhta kya?). This is in no way an exhaustive list, and are written with the assumption that the date in question would be fixed by parents of the 'daters', though it can be extended to hold good for EVERY date. You might get poked at by family peers for going all out like this for an unknown girl, but let me tell you, you might be the nth person the girl is meeting like this. We guys generally don't make much of it, but it is pretty hard on the girls. The least you can do is make it enjoyable for her.

Even if the match does not work out, at least a dinner will.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The only high point

of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is Kajol onscreen for ten seconds.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

23 minutes... the time it takes to reach from Bangalore to Mysore, or so it says here.

Or if the link doesn't work, here is the transcript -

To Mysooru at wind speed
[ 9 Aug, 2006 2226hrs IST TIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

BENGALURU: Vayu Express, the bullet train between Bengaluru and Mysooru, has been speeded up. This means that the travel time between these two cities will now be reduced by 5 minutes. This is a major step forward for India's only bullet train.

Introduced last August at a speed of 300 kph, it enabled you to reach the City of Palaces from the state capital in 28 minutes. At a simple ceremony here on Wednesday, Infrastructure Implementation Ministry (IIM) administrator Bharat Kumar commissioned the new Track Maintenance Technology which enables the bullet train to zip along even faster to Mysooru.

Sanjay Rao, a regular commuter between the two cities, is thrilled by this development. "I'll spend less time on the train which means I get more to spend with my family. I hope the state introduces such trains to other cities too." His hopes may soon be realised. Track testing is under way on the Bengaluru-Mangaluru and Bengaluru-Hubbali routes and if all goes as per the IIM plan, the bullet train should be ready to roll from August next. This should dramatically improve the connectivity between the three IT hubs of the state and give a boost to further development of the region. The Hubbali link is of particular significance for travellers to Mumbai because the Maharashtra government is pushing the Railways to finish the Mumbai segment.

However, the occasion was marred by stray protests orchestrated by the opposition party which does not see much benefit in this Rs 1000-crore upgradation project. "What is the big deal in cutting short a journey by 5 minutes?" said opposition leader A Murthy. Most businessmen could easily give him a fitting reply. At least, he got his 5 minutes of fame on Web TV. Despite these carping critics, the bullet train continues to be a huge draw. Thousands of passengers have already travelled by it and there's no looking back on this Japanese technology.

My first reaction at this was - What is this crap about? Introduced last August? Yeah!!! And why was anybody not talking about it in September when I went home? 28 minutes from Mysore to Bangalore is national, no international news. How come no part of the hungry media, which carries every cough and fart of our cricketers on primetime, carried it? Except TOI of course...

And I googled, but could not find a Infrastructure Implementation Ministry headed by a Bharat Kumar, nor is any opposition leader in the State or Centre named A Murthy. And the three IT hubs of Karnataka are Mysore, Mangalore and Hubli? Whither Bangalore?

The article carries actual commuter-speak, too. The guy is thrilled by this development, the development being a reduction of travel time from 28 to 23 minutes. And he says he gets that much more time to spend with his family. Poor guy. I would like to know the time at which it leaves Bangalore to Mysore and also the fare for the half-an-hour journey.

What I did find out was that there was a proposal in 2004, here and it was shelved, here.

UPDATE : All right, I KNOW now. You don't have to tell me what this particular article was all about. It turns out that there is a Refresh Bangalore project going on, where ToI is requesting readers to contribute their dream for Bangalore. The article above, and the ones Shastri and Adi wrote about, are a reflection of the article author's dream for Bangalore in 2025.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Untimely Resolutions

I love books. I like to buy them and read, rather than borrow, because once I have read the book, I lose the interest to buy it anymore. At another point in life, I used to buy books off the footpath, because as much as I hated piracy, I loved books, and my pocket was too small to afford a new one. So, footpaths and second hand shops it was.

Now, I'm earning, so I don't mind spending on books. Sadly, that is also the case with things other than books. The result being running up huge bills on the credit card. Yes, I am one of those people who got financial independence and went on a shopping spree, only to find that living out of your means is suddenly very stifling, however nice your job may be. Having burnt fingers in that way, I cancelled many of my innumerable "lifetime free" cards, with the exception of a MasterCard and a Visa.

And I'm on a strict budget. It has been almost six months since I shopped anything (clothes/watch/shoes/shades/accessories). It has been a few months more that I have bought books/CDs. And no, in all these non-shopped months, I haven't saved money. I have managed to send home a fixed sum every month, a fine improvement on the sparse and undecided amounts I used to send home irregularly. I have managed to identify how much spare cash I am left with at the end of each month.

But of late, my wishlist is growing longer and longer, and my wardrobe looks outdated, and so I have decided that starting next month, I will buy one book, one CD and one piece of apparel every month. This fits nicely in my scheme of things. I also plan to put a little amount into an SIP. Those who have a good idea on markets can suggest an SIP which is doing good. Please drop some names in the comments.

It is with great reluctance I came out of Crossword empty-handed yesterday. And I'm not going there until next month. After days and days of just silent browsing in the store, I get a "Can I help you, sir?" five minutes after I enter.

Talk of conversions

My ISP still blocks blogs, so I post using a mailer. And I read blogs using pkblogs. Now, an interesting observation is in the last post, I put in the address of my other blog as (read undertheshiningstars dot blogspot dot com) and when it got posted on the site, you can see, it shows http://www.pkblogs/undertheshiningstars. I'm baffled.
Is it that whenever I open a blog through pkblogs, it actually runs through the whole text and replace * with pkblogs/* ???

Update: It works only with pkblogs. When tried with another proxy, it comes up as dot blogspot dot com only. :-)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Of partners and hands

They say in Bridge, as in sex, if you don't have a good partner, you better have a good hand. In badminton, however, you better have TWO good hands - A backhand and a forehand.
My partner last week, says he is used to playing badminton "mind-your-own-court" style, and not "net-and-baseline". Fine, I say. Now, whenever my right-handed partner is in the left side of the court, he gets me points with his strong forehand. He stands at the very outer edge of the left court, and rallies all his shots to the center, while I take care of the right side of the court.
Sadly, whenever he is in the right side of the court, he cannot cover the center court, and loses me many points as I try in vain to cover the left court, front, back and center. And then he attempts a few false shots but ends up dropping the shuttle in our court and losing us the game.
After the game, I sit for a break, and the poor guy walks across to me and says sorry for losing me the game. He explains that he has a poor backhand, and so he cannot play "net-and-baseline". I shrug it off, say it's just a game and make some small talk. Later he goes and plays with other guys while I rest for some more time.
It is raining hard so there is not much crowd to play with. Sometimes, lack of crowd becomes a problem in itself. Like, a court is vacant, and we are three guys resting now, and none pro enough to play singles. I wait for some time before another game ends, and partners switch, and then I play until N says she is hungry and wants to go home despite the rain.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Have you ever wondered how the first time you meet a person, you make an impression of him in your mind, and as you start interacting with them, to the extent of back-slapping, how your impression changes. (It changes for the better or worse, depending on whether you are back-slapping or back-stabbing). How, the first time you are ready to ignore a particular trait as a discount in the persona, but a few months later, you can joke about the same trait.
My cousin runs an internet cafe in Mysore. He has a live-in hire, who looks after it because the cafe is open 24 hours. The fellow maintained the sanctity of the cafe for a month or so, then he was seen to be managing the cafe in shorts, or on a rare day, pajamas.
A guy joined my gym a few months back. He would gingerly walk about the men's room, waiting for everyone to leave the room before he changed for the shower. Today, he walks all over the men's room, sits in the steam room, dries his hair after a shower, all in his briefs, and with the towel over his shoulder. As it was becoming quite an embarassment to the shier gents in our gym, I once ask him why he did not wrap the towel across his waist. His answer - choD na yaar, apna hi gym hai...
It is not without reason they say familiarity breeds contempt.