Sunday, December 18, 2005


Somebody told the kid finally that nobody believes him. "What? I am the most powerful man on Earth. How can people not believe me? Do they even have a choice?". Or maybe they told him his approval ratings were tumbling, and everybody had to see his face for dinner. George W. Bush came on TV to address the nation, the StrangeLand. It was incidental that I caught him speaking, cos I was only looking for an episode of the Family Guy, when instead the quitessential family guy himself turns up from the cosy interiors of the Oval Office. To talk about 'Eye-Rack'.

The 'Begin by Backing Off' Strategy

He begins by being candid and admitting that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. But, no, he wont say it straight out. He winds around long before he finally says it. "We had reason to believe". "We were not the only ones who believed". "We know he turned down requests from UN officials for inspections." "Saddam had the potential to use them". And, finally, "We were wrong. No WMDs were found. Except signs that they had the nuclear know-how to do so." Well, Mr Bush, you were the only one to believe they had WMDs. Tony Blair just tagged along and he got reprimanded for that from his own nation. And, what a way to admit a mistake. You never fully admit, it do you? And this was THE reason to march into Iraq. Of course, later it was re-monikered a War Against Terror.

Must say though, smart move that. All those who were willing to take his side, actually took it at that time. Cos he also said, "I am your president, and sometimes I must do what I believe is right, and be prepared to accept the consequences." Its an endearing statement, made to sound like it comes from a man with a deep sense of patriotism and responsibility. However, doing what ONE believes is right is called dictatorship, or atleast misuse of power. And what consequences? He loses the next election? What about the consequences of a whole nation, one that goes by the name of Iraq, one that has a history of its own much longer than this BushLand has?

The War Against Terror

I'm never gonna buy this one. In Saddam's regime, he might have been the terror, but there were no terrorists or insurgencies. Cos he would squash them. They are his enemies after all. The fact is, the terrorists and extremists who are waging a war against the US will walk in wherever there are US troops. And with Saddam gone and US troops all over Iraq, that's exactly what they did. It wouldn't have been difficult to recruit fighters either, with all the discontent that the youth will have pent up inside; given some nation, especially the US, is controlling their destiny.

For Bush, its a war that he's winning. For me, the war was over in the first few days when he took out Saddam. Fighting insurgencies is not war. If that's the case, India has always been at war in Kashmir. Thank God, my Prime Minister doesn't come out at dinner time to tell me 'We are winning the war, dude.'

Push Iraqis to the forefront

He wants to train Iraqi soldiers and policemen so they can handle the terrorists themselves, and so that he can reduce the troop count. Dude, this is the shit you created. Now, you throw it up at the fan and run? He talks as if he's empowering them. They didnt ask for anything they are getting. I agree Saddam was a bad influence. But, I am yet to be convinced they are better off right now.

What is victory?

In this self-defined war, what is the milestone for declaring victory? Setting up a democracy in Iraq? Setting them on a path to continued development? Or will it be decalared right before the next presidential elections in US? Or maybe, when they have divided Iraq into three parts, one for the Shias, one for the Sunnis, and one for the Kurds, cos no one would accept the draft constitution that didnt support their interests. "Let's have 3 constitutions then", the kid declares. "No matter what, I always win. Cos I define victory."

If US walks out with the job incomplete - and so Bush fears - they will lose the credibility they have today in the eyes of the world. No one will ever trust that they can do something right, he says. Here's some news. You have already lost credibility. The whole world insisted you dont enter Iraq in the first place, but you had your own games to play.

What now?

Bush also said that the troop pull-out decisions will be made by Generals and the President and his staff after careful considerations of the situations on the field, and will not follow "an artificial timetable", one which politicians in the Senate want. Coincidence then, that earlier today, V-P Cheney said the exact same words - and I mean exact - on his short visit to Iraq. I insist they use different speech writers, atleast when they speak on the same day. Or maybe Bush forgot CNN can bring Cheney's voice from 6000 miles, on the same day, using something called Satellite technology.

More deaths, more killings, an extended stay, one which Bush didnt plan for. The result is still shady to me. But, Bush is confident. Not optimistic. Confident. As for the parents of young soldiers who are fighting a war they dont understand, and the soldiers themselves, I only have sympathy. 2,515 is the US death count they tell me. Nobody shows the Iraqi civilian death count on CNN. Cos it would tick more faster than they want everybody to see. Its always hard when a kid gets a lot of power, nothing makes sense. But, someday he will be tired of this game and find something new to play. That's our only hope.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Let the Freeze begin

Man, am I excited or what! Yeah, you can tell from the upsurge in the frequency of my blogs of course. But, today’s the first time I’ve experienced temperatures below zero. In 25 years. Wow! I know it sounds stupid, but this is one of the things I did want to experience when in StrangeLand. Still waiting for it to snow though. Remember my Boston trip, where I had the best opportunity, but the weather didn’t shake-up enough?

The Build-up

I got hints about the temperatures dropping drastically today from people at work yesterday, and when I woke up this morning, it was dark and dull outside. No, I didn’t wake up too early or before sunrise to be precise. It was very cloudy and there was a stiff breeze too. Every morning, I hear my favourite radio jockeys, Mike and Jason on 101X (Austin’s new rock alternative), tell me the temperatures – current and forecast high/low. I missed that today cos apparently I brush my teeth too loudly, although my gums are still intact.

So, I turned on the TV and tuned into the Weather Channel, and they forecast a chill accompanied by rains in central Texas, and other parts of the country I don’t care about. I was elated cos finally, this was really gonna happen. Everyone on my way to work had something to say about the chill. “I’m gonna stay indoors and make hamburgers.” “My wife insists I be home before 5pm”. “Your car rental contract needs to be extended”. Well, not quite everyone.

The real deal

People rushed out early from work and wherever cos rains were forecast for 5pm. And every kid who never went to school knows that when it rains and its below freezing point, the water freezes too. Those who did go to school think about how the volume of water decreases when it freezes and cheerfully imagine smaller puddles as a result. I had a meeting starting at 4:30pm and there was no way I was gonna miss this opportunity. I mean the opportunity to experience freezing cold and drive back home on ice!

It isn’t really fun to tell you the truth. There’s frost on the road, on your windshields. You think it’s just water and turn on the wipers, only to hear a loud creak indicating your wipers slid over the ice and you still have a blurry view of the world. If you peek at your rear-view mirror, your car looks either like its on fire or like the world’s most polluting vehicle, with all the usually invisible vapours turning into a foggy smoke. When you hit the gas right when the lights turn green, the car waits a second before jolting ahead, as if the fuel pipes were frozen from the idling. People are driving at 20mph on the freeway where they usually blast by you at 80mph and you are driving slowly to avoid hefty tickets. Today, you are king and you whoosh by all the others. At 35mph. Wherever water was dripping, you now see ice. Even the wind that hits you when you step outta the car feels like its carrying ice.

Yeah, it ain’t fun. Its kinda like wanting to rummage though garbage even though you know it ain’t fun, but you gotta do it cos you’ve never done that before. What? No, I meant cos you lost your credit card bill in there. In the end, I’m glad to be back in my hotel room, with the heater turned on and hot soup cooking on the stove. But, you still haven’t experienced this, have you? VIRGIN!!


Yesterday was Monday, not very interesting. Tried some Lasagna for lunch, hoping I would love it but I didnt. It also kicked off an emotional rollercoaster in my head cos its hit me now that I live alone, work 7 days a week and miss my family. Yesterday is also the name of the South African movie I just finished watching. Maybe it was because of the state of mind I am in, but I have not felt as touched by a movie ever before.

Thanks to HBO for airing foreign language Oscar nominees. I really needed some amazing cinemawork to take my head off the normal lonely chains of thought. I had seen 'Maria, full of grace' sometime back about a Colombian girl who is coerced into carrying cocaine in her belly. But, I got lost in the pretty eyes of the actress and missed the whole movie! Yesterday was instead simple and frank and didn't ever attempt to pass on any message. It was all about the life of a woman called Yesterday. Depicted as is.


Well, you don't watch enough soccer for sure, or don't keep a tab on African news, if you are suprised by that name. Missionaries did convert ethnic Africans into Christians, and taught them English. But, no one told them Yesterday, Sunday, Tomorrow aren't names of persons, but days. Her daughter is called Beauty, and here's the winner - her husband is called John! Can you beat that?

Why am I going ga-ga?
Like they say, 'This movie has Oscar written all over it'. However, I dont think it won the Oscar. It's about a village lady living somewhere remote in South Africa with a sweet little daughter who can't stop asking innocent questions. Daddy lives far away in Johannesburg and both hardly see him. It all looks so real, when Yesterday walks for hours to see a doctor and the doctor is too occupied with other patients to see her, and she has to walk back. And then, when its pretty late, the doctor diagnoses her with AIDS. The hubby's got it too, from some other woman apparently, so Beauty's safe.

The movie is all about how Yesterday dreams of sending Beauty to school and she makes up her mind to see her in school before she succumbs. Simultaneously looking after her daughter, tending to the fields, doing the housekeeping, managing the grumbles of the village-folk, she comes out to be a lady of admirably strong character. When an average person would give in to the disease, she stands up and decides to do what she has to.

Some of the parts are ultra-touching. For example, when the villagers dont want the husband in the village anymore, she tries getting him into a hospital in the city. But, there's a waiting list there too and she decides to build her own hospital bed, far away in the plains, for just her husband. She does it with her own two hands and sees him pass away in that hospital of hers. And the motivation coming from the fact that there was news from the neighbouring village about a girl being stoned to death cos she had the virus.

I have seen a few movies dealing with AIDS. Philadelphia comes to mind. From Bollywood, My Brother Nikhil and some Shilpa Shetty starrer come to mind too. But, they were pretty melodramatic. They tried to be phony and at times pushed the limits a bit. Such stories are meant to be made simple without the salt or sugar or whatever they add. It makes you feel like you know the people in the movie and makes you yearn to help them.

What am I doing?
It also made me think about my futile life. I'm into money spinning like everyone else. Chasing the buck. No, not black buck like Salman, please..I'm an animal lover. Millions of people out there toil even with deadly diseases and handicaps, while I lay back, sip my cocoa and watch TV and then decide to write a blog about it. Its not an easy decision to get up and go out and do something notable, but I wish it weren't as hard too. I'm gonna goto sleep and wake up tomorrow as if nothing really hit my mind last night, or in other words, Yesterday. But, someday, I pray, it will be different. I'd been talking about my destiny earlier and how I didn't know what I wanna do. Sometimes the answer's right in front and you can't see it. Is that the case here?

All I have learnt is I need to strive to make Today better, so that Tomorrow I can say Yesterday was good, I did something worthwhile. Yesterday says in the movie too that her dad named her Yesterday cos he always felt, Yesterday was better than Today.
Its a recursive formula guaranteed to make your Today awesome. Think about it..

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fear Of The Dark

When the light begins to change
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it’s dark

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that someone's always near
Fear of the dark, fear of the dark
I have a phobia that someone’s always there

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my cousin brothers extracted a lot of fun out of scaring my little sister Yera with an Ouija board, the one where you sit in the dark and place a finger over a planchette and it moves signalling that you are talking to a spirit. To me it immediately sounds a load of crap, cos obviously they are moving it with their hands, either with intention or not. But, I can imagine myself being 13, and I bet I'd be scared as hell too. She had a hard time sleeping that night, and it kinda led me thinking about the Spirits and the Ghosts.


Why are ghosts considered bad? Why have we always been taught to be scared of them? If a ghost is simply a soul from the body of a person, there have to be atleast as many good ones as there are bad ones.

Why are ghosts only found at night and rarely at daytime? Why do they hide in dark places? From what I have heard, they are ultra-powerful cos the rules of this world don't apply to them. If so, what's with the guerilla warfare? Is one of them watching me right now and smirking at my ignorance? Are they gonna get back at me for this blog?

Another theory I've heard very often is that if one believes in angels, then one must believe there's an opposite too. It may come as no surprise, but angels are as much a myth to me as ghosts. For me, both ghosts and angels are too stereo-typed to be true.

Watching horror films the night before
Debating wiches and folklore
The unknown troubles on your mind
Maybe your mind is playing tricks
You sense and suddenly eyes fix
On dancing shadows from behind

Isn't it true that we 'sense' ghosts more readily right after watching a horror movie, or being told folklores about them? Mere hustles in the curtains and the shadows of trees on windows suddenly come to life. I remember one of my friends returning home after we all watched a late night show of The Sixth Sense. He headed straight for the loo, and poor thing, the lights blew on him when he was inside. What timing! All I'm saying is - Its All In Your Head. Just needs a trigger.

Growing up with ghosts

We are all introduced to ghosts by whoever, when we are kids. What a kid learns at that young age, always sticks. I dont think I was scared when I was 2 or 3 and left alone in the dark. Yes, I missed my mom and cried, but that's different. As I started being introduced to the spooky stuff, I would be scared to enter a dark room, turn off the lights myself before going to sleep. The seeds had been planted for a lifetime.

To make things worse, there were some ruins next to my school and..surprise, they were haunted by ghosts! I could see them from the balcony of my house and I walked past them many a time - only once at night, with my mom. My dad knows how much this bothered me. I would have a hard time even going to the balcony at night. And he was the one who helped clear the mysteries of ghosts and spirits in my head. The interesting thing is that last time I visited Hyderabad, one of my friends who knew how much I was scared of these ruins, invited me to go see them again, in the dark. He had a naughty smirk on his face. I think he was surprised how I readily agreed and actually enjoyed watching them from up-close, in the faint moonlight. Dude didnt know I am over it!

What I Believe

Every religion has its own way of explaining life after death, which to me is a way of comforting a person who has lost someone close. Knowing that they live on, not in this world but some other, and that we will join them soon, is a soothing thought. Somewhere down the line, this was twisted and there were exceptions to the rule. Some souls missed the bus (or is it the boat?) and stayed back cos they had unfinished business - like haunting for example? We have all wanted to do that, haven't we? In the Hindu philosophy, the soul is always stuck in the cycle of karma and may not leave the earth till its time has come and it has done enough good. It has to be re-born in another form. The good thing is they never asserted the souls are bad.

I believe that ghosts do not exist and I won't till I see one myself. And even if they do exist, they are not all bad. Most of these ghosts are my ancestors and they are protecting me, if anything.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Earth to America

I have seen so much television since I've been here in Strangeland. I can't remember watching so much TV in the past 6-7 years. But, basketball and the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs aside, most of the stuff I watch isn't inventive, and for heaven's sake I get to see all that back home too. But, today I saw this completely different show; so different it caught me by surprise.

Best Comedians in the World
Well, we are all familiar by now that the word 'World' in American translates to 'Country' and is never to be taken literally, except for facts like 'Biggest consumer of oil in the world', 'Highest energy consumer in the world', and so on. But, yeah there were pretty good comedians on display for this show - Steve Martin, Robin Williams (he's my favourite), Ray Romano, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Cedric the Entertainer (thats his name!), Larry David, Ben Stiller, and of course, Leonardo Di Caprio. Ok, hes not funny, but I still laugh when I hear the ladies go crazy when he's on stage. Cos, they haven't seen me yet and dunno what they are missing. No, they aren't missing a narcissistic moron.

Why were the comedians there? Well, finally someone had to accept that this 'World' is doing a lot of damage to the Earth (the World as we know it) with Greenhouse gases, toxic emissions, fossil fuel consumption, energy spending lavishness. I think no one takes stuff like the environment seriously here, so some good-natured, earth-loving comedians decided to give it to them in a different serving, like sugar-coated medicine. And I think it must have worked. They were cracking jokes, but also emphasising why the people have to elect representatives who themselves care about the future of the planet, how they can make a whole lot of difference with a little effort in their daily lives. I just hope the message sticks before they flick channels to watch Desperate Housewives tonight, cos thats tough to beat.

Why the fuss?
Everybody knows what the Greenhouse effect is, and how we are hurting ourselves by pumping CFCs and burning hydrocarbons. But, how many of us are serious enough to do our bit? When I see what goes on here in StrangeLand, I realise how much better people in developing countries are when it comes to environmental causes.

- Every dude and damsel drives to work. In a car. Alone. 4 wheels. 1 person. Whole lotta gas.
- Not just that. People don't give too much of a damn to the mileage the car gives. Its all about whose car is faster. And the Hummer that I once accidentally praised, is the king of gas-guzzlers. 44% of the oil consumption is by motor vehicles. This nation has some of the lowest gas prices in the world, which is wrong, cos the way people burn gas here, by the formula of demand and supply, it should be all the more expensive. Thats the only way to hurt people enough to start car pooling.
- Where we use fans back home, these guys have airconditioners, running all day. 10 times more costly in terms of energy consumption. And I've seen people crib when they don't have access to airconditioning, like its a basic amenity.
- Ever heard of the Kyoto Protocol? Well you might want to start here. 154 countries signed the treaty and agreed to put in place restrictions on toxic emissions of greenhouse gases and set targets to achieve certain low levels of emissions. Strangely, StrangeLand didn't sign. Its gonna hurt that lifestyle too much, isnt it? Ooh its so hot in here without the airconditioning. My hair doesn't set without them CFC-laden aerosol hairsprays. Do you expect me to walk for 5 minutes to the grocery store?

An astronaut's view

I dunno about you guys, but the view of the earth from space is one of the most breathtaking views I've ever seen. Wish I'd seen it for real, flying in orbit. The guys on the show including Leonardo himself, and Dustin Hoffman, narrated quotes from Astronomers about the view.

The only common theme was that this view shows us that the earth has no boundaries among nations. You simultaneously get a feel for the astounding and infinite universe, and the gorgeous planet earth teeming with life, both from opposite windows of the shuttle. It also reminds you, ever so deeply, that the gift of life, and the Earth itself, are so precious and we better do our part to take care of it. Its true, a trip to outer space, can turn an Astronaut into a Humanitarian.

If only it were possible, I'd send everyone out for these breathtaking tours and make humanitarians out of every soul. Alas, even though I ensure not to do damage myself to the Earth, I wrap myself in my daily life thickly enough not to do anymore. And that's true of every other person. I don't have a solution to that other than being sadistically shaken by some calamity that is directly linked to these horrible things we are doing. I sound harsh, but that is exactly what drives people to change. Prophecies worked in the age of kings, and people acted on them, not true anymore.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

My Panchatantras

In case you are wondering what Panchatantra is, I could point you somewhere. But, I know you wanna find out if I really know, oblivious of the fact that I may have visited that link already. Panchatantra is sanskrit for 5 (Pancha) principles (tantra) and only the pancha part has any relation whatsoever with this blog, cos I've been tagged! By my bro Sudhamshu. And I'm supposed to list some stuff about me in sets of 5 and then tag others I want to be tagged. It sounds like a venereal disease I'm spreading, but there's always fun associated with that right?

I'm going to switch some of the topics here, cos otherwise it would seem the lists are rip-offs from my bro's blog, when all it is supposed to mean is that we both like the same kinda stuff!

Five movies/shows/sitcoms I'd watch anytime (This is a rip-off)

  • The Matrix Trilogy

  • The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

  • F.R.I.E.N.D.S

  • Any Jim Carrey movie (except when he violates animals rights like in Me, Myself and Irene by sticking his finger in a cow's nose!)

  • British comedies from the BBC production studios

Five things I miss now (Rip-off!)

  • My family

  • Mom's food (Its so good I am assured it can end wars)

  • My closest buddies

  • Playing cricket and football

  • Earning more than I deserve! (Used to get a stipend of 5k for 8 hours a week in college! That was unbeatable)

Five favourite music bands/performers (Original! Along with reasons why I like them!)

  • Creed (Can you take me higher?)

  • Iron Maiden (Hallowed be thy name)

  • Metallica (Nothing else matters)

  • Sepultura (We who are not as others)

  • U2 (I can't live, with or without you)

Five favourite lines

  • I have only two things dear to me - my word and my balls. And I don't like to break any of them. - Tony Montana a.k.a Scarface

  • Make no mistake blah blah blah. We will smoke them out. - George W. Bush a.k.a moron

  • Don't think about what the company can give you. Instead, take whatever you can from them and walk away. - Sudhamshu a.k.a bro a.k.a career advisor in guise

  • There is no try, only do. - Yoda a.k.a green li'l jedi from star wars

  • Do not try and bend the spoon. Instead, only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you will see, it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. - Young bald-headed British 'The One'-wannabe kid at the Oracle's house a.k.a 'You still havent seen The Matrix if you want an a.k.a here'

Five Things I wanna do while I can

  • Be a good son, bro, boyfriend, husband, friend,...

  • Have my own company and emulate Google

  • Have my own rock band and decide whether I wanna do vocals or drums

  • 15 years too late to build a football career that leads to the English Premier League, so wanna watch a big game in England at least.

  • Give something to the world that makes a difference

Five guys who will help spread this venereal disease

Well, I dont know 5 bloggers that havent already been tagged. How about 2?

Saturday, November 05, 2005


I know thats not a real word, the title of this blog. But, its something that crosses my mind pretty often; the thought, not the word. Concentrate on the 2nd part, destiny. Its about what Im here for, what I am meant to do in my lifetime, the purpose of it all. And its clandestine, a secret to me now, and I strive to find it. Everyone is, in a way. We are all searching for the reason for our existence, simply because life is such a special gift. It just cant be that there is no rhyme or reason to it, thats unfathomable.

Yeah, I know I sound a lot like all the characters in The Matrix, that helluva movie that fizzled out in the end. They used words like Purpose, Cause-n-Effect, Fate, Destiny as effective tools to grab our attention and keep us hooked. And it worked, simply because each one of us has time and again pondered over this. And it is so very dear to us, the fact that we are all here to do something important, to affect the lives of others in our own way. And we hate it when someone tries taking it away from us. I remember Agent Smith getting pissed off at Neo cos Neo tried to destroy the agent that he was. He comes back to remind him, "You tried to take away the very purpose of my existence. But, in a way, you gave me a whole new purpose. Now, I want everything."

My destiny taking shape?

From a very young age, I had been fascinated by science and its mysteries and I loved reading about how these mysteries are unresolved. Something that really caught my fantasy was Astronomy. The whole idea of an infinite universe baffled me. As a kid, I used to imagine one day answering to the question "Where do you live?" with "A-403, Krishi Vihar, Ameerpet, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, Asia, Earth, Solar system of the Sun, Milky Way Galaxy. Where are you from?" I read about neutron stars, nebulae, gamma rays, radio telescopes, comets. I used to collect news items about discoveries of far-off planets and stars, photographs of exploding supernovae.

Today, I understand why I am not an Astronomer or an Astrophysicist. If you note the last paragraph, all I ever did was read about this. I never even got myself a telescope. It was merely a fascination. I never really did anything that would prepare me for a lifetime as an Astronomer. Does that mean my destiny lay elsewhere? I was just not meant to be an Astronomer? Or does it mean the seeds had been sown at a young age, but somewhere down the line, they might really sprout into life?

Peer and family

People around you have so much of an effect on your conscious or unconscious decisions. Drives me nuts, cos I dont know if these people are destined to show me my path, or they are destined to distract me. I know they are there for a reason though and I make sure I cherish that feeling. Peer pressure is the strongest force I have ever experienced. Up until the 12th standard, I was still firm somewhere in my head, I wanted to study Astrophysics. I'd still not done anything worthy of showing my interest in the field, but I was still fascinated. I'd not even figured out which college to go to if I needed to build a career in Astrophysics. I wasnt very good at physics either, but decent enough I'd say. Notably, I had taken computer science in the two years in high school and I'd enjoyed programming.

When the results came out, I'd got good enough scores to get into an engineering college, and when friends heard I'm not gonna apply, they said things like "Dude, do you even know where the money is?", "Haha, thats great. One more seat for me to grab. I wish there were more people like you" and the most influential one, "Isn't your dad retiring in like 5 years? You know you will have to get a PhD to get anywhere close to ISRO or NASA, which takes longer than 5 years." That struck me hard. Im gonna be studying even after my dad retires? And this job ain't gonna pay me enough anyway...

My dad for one showed why he's number one, why he's got everything figured out. He told me simply this - "Do what you love doing. I dont want you to regret later you didn't do what your heart asked you to do. We as parents are happy to go with whatever you choose. Dont let external factors influence your decisions."

Have I found it yet?

As things would have it, I went to engineering college and burnt a hole in my dad's pocket. Didn't let that burning influence my decision! Proud of him to get both his sons a good engineering education without showing he ever felt a pinch. Proud of my mom to push me to do my Masters in the best college in the country. And today I'm a software guy, like so many other Indians. Coding virtually for free for the Americans. Yes, I did realise during my education, that I enjoyed Computer Science in general. I loved discussing stuff from Operating Systems and Networks and I enjoyed programming much like an artist would love painting. During my masters, I thought it was my destiny to do a project in computer vision and move into this exciting field. As things would have it, I couldn't get a job in any of the good companies in India offering jobs in computer vision, and instead I got one in the fields I loved during my graduation - Operating systems and in general, simply programming.

I still dont know if this is what I was born to do. I dont see myself making big changes to the world with the code I write. Yes, I bring money into my company, but thats not big enough. Is it that I was born to be a son my parents love, have a brother who's simply the best buddy one can share with? Or am I still blind, still groping in the dark for that one big defining moment where I discover what Im here for?

Ultimate scare

The ultimate thought is one where you ponder over your destiny and realise that the very word means that everything is basically pre-decided. What am I supposed to do then? Is there even a way to let things not happen? "If its meant to be, its meant to be". So easy to say, but so difficult to comprehend. I sometimes feel exactly like Neo says, "I just don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my own life." But, to be frank, life throws so many instances at you where you have to believe that there is something like destiny and fate.

Its the ultimate salvation to discover the reason for your existence..So, all I can say is that the epic continues...happy hunting!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Boston Tea Party

Damn, have I been busy! All my regular readers (yes, both of you) must have realized I’ve been missing for a while. Hope you didn’t report me missing with the local police. I was drowned in tons of work, and now I get the much-needed break..where I have to travel! Ok, Im supposed to see this as an “opportunity”, cos I’m in StrangeLand, and I get to see another new city!

Where am I? I am in the place where StrangeLand’s freedom struggle took its first steps..Yup, my first ever blog from Boston, MA. Not to mention my first ever visit to this place too. Kinda like Meerut, UP. For the uninitiated (read non-Indians), it’s the place where India’s freedom struggle took its first steps, except that it has 100 times fewer cars.

Why the trip?

Well, I get to meet with the Einsteins of the software industry, more correctly the storage industry, and they know who they are (Hint : Whats the most famous equation Einstein ever developed?). More about them later. But, I was supposed to represent the company I work for and basically get some questions answered. They are Einsteins. Gotto have the answers.

The trip

I’m traveling with another guy from the company, and when we choose seats, he amazingly chooses to get a seat in a different row! Man, I didn’t know I was so nauseating…Nah, I think he did ME a favour instead. I’m not the one who’s judgemental about who sits next to me! 1 short and another loooong flight take me to Boston. On the long flight, Miss stewardess herself sits beside me. I’m on the window seat. But, I keep my charms sealed within, and let the other guy sitting next to her hit on her. “So, which airlines do you work for?” “North American” (Did she make that up?) “And you fly American, haha funny” (I don’t think so) “Yeah, I’m on my trip home. We picked up some soldiers from Eye-Rack” (For those who dunno, that’s how StrangeLandians pronounce Iraq). Long pause, more stupid jokes and one bored stewardess who says “Im just looking forward to catching up on some sleep”. Me, Im catching up on reading. Damn, there’s so much pressure. My company’s spending more than 1.5k dollars for the trip, I better ask the right questions to those Einsteins.

After my long serious reading session, stewardess tries chatting me up with stuff like “Can you see land?” Are we on a ship in the ocean, far away from any semblance of land for months? I’m avoiding my stupid jokes here and acting like the Marlboro guy, who says little and acts smart. I’m solving puzzles from the magazine, pondering over the crossword and wondering why they don’t have diagonals to solve. Finally, when we are waiting to get out at Boston airport, “you must be waiting to get out of here right?” Damn, have I been acting like a jerk? Wow, I’ve made a woman feel like I’ve been avoiding her, that’s a first! No, not really. I take that back. I’m an expert at that. My girl will vouch for me. My stupid remark in response, “Only if I can move my feet, cos I can’t even feel them”. 4 hours of flying can do that to you. You end up with numb feet and you tell stupid jokes.

Worst time to be in Boston. Raining. Freezing cold. I use my brand new jacket for the first time. I was kinda hoping for snow too, but not my luck I guess. I still have tomorrow morning to witness snow for the first time ever.

The Cadillac

Kind Hertz car rental gals give us the Cadillac to drive from Boston to the hotel. Damn.
Such a huge car. Not huge actually, just long. But, with leather cushions and sleek interiors, best car I’ve been in. And it sounds so smooth too. Digital tachometers, speedometers and all other o-meters. I’ve got one word for this car – awesome.

The hotel

Radisson hotel. Having lived with 25 odd channels, of which 18 I never watch, for over 2 months now, the TV here with 70 channels is most welcome! I watch a Spanish channel cos they have blaring music and cheesy flashbacks in the soap operas, that remind me of all the soap crap served up back home. Oh sorry, that’s soap Krap. For all the morons who didn’t get that joke, its cos all the damn soaps have names that begin with ‘K’. Yeah, now you are laughing, HA HA. Well, I was lying. I watched them cos they had beautiful latino girls! Only for 5 minutes ok! The bad part is the bed - so bad, I hardly sleep all night.

The Einsteins

Well, the Einsteins don’t answer my questions. They are actually stumped. “Hmm, we never though of that”. So, we flew all this way for nothing? I guess we got some extra context into what they are doing, and our eyes opened to the fact that big companies pretend they are Einsteins, when they really aren’t. The stuff they’ve built in a year, could be easily built in a couple of months by the guys in my company. And in the end, it doesn’t even work that well. I don’t remember much from the trip to the Einsteins cos a breeze carrying ice instead of air hit me before I entered their haven, and I got my senses back only only a few hours ago, which of course you wont believe, cos you have this very blog to prove that I never got my senses back. Damn, its cold! Im surpised I don’t have ice-cream flowing in my viens.

What next?

Well, discover all the channels that StrangeLand strangely presents – Court TV (?), Food TV, Weather channel, Game show network, comedy central, home shopping network, travel tv, Bravo (!), Sci-Fi Tv, My TV, MTV. Ok, we have MTV too. Gotto wake up real early and catch a flight. And return the Cadillac, boohoo. It would have been a perfect b’day gift. Yeah, so you forgot to wish me, huh?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Random Judgements

Yeah, Im in that mood right now. To pass random judgements. Its good I aint the Supreme Court judge. But, if you guys see what the media is obsessed with (among so many other not so relevant issues) here in StrangeLand is the caliber of their new Supreme Court judge. I think I am no worse than her if what they say is true! Well, thats a sample of how random my judgements can be today, so sample everything I say here with a mound of salt.

Here Goes...

The White House?

Ever wonder why they call the Presidential residence for StrangeLand White House? Well, I just did. And I have the answer! Because it was only meant for white people....In over 200 years of democracy, not a single black president. Well, the guys who wrote the constitution of this place intended it to be so apparently. For that matter, they never even had a woman president. Maybe they could have been more appropriate if they'd named it WhiteMan House.

Iraqi Insurgency

For the umpteenth time, StrangeLand should stop showing the insurgents in Iraq in bad light all the time. Damn, they have no idea how it feels to have somebody march into your country, strip your freedom away and force something on them in the name of democracy. Neither do I for that matter, but I can only imagine how it must feel, and what I could have done about it were I put in such a situation. It is only a natural outcome of being in the place where the Iraqi nationalists find themselves. What is wrong of course is that there are foreign guys making the most of this whole chaotic situation (namely Al-Qaeda and their friends) and getting involved to meet their ultimate objective - the personal war against StrangeLandians. Of course, they dont know better, cos they always do turn up everywhere StrangeLandians go anyway.

It is sad to see a nation with an unparalleled history (the Mesopotamia of ancient days) where culture and science and religion has been nurtured over thousands of years, just like HomeLand, having to face times like these. I agree they were suffering under the reign of a dictator. But, what StrangeLand seems to be ready to offer them is a constitution written by people "hand-picked" for the job (wonder who gets to decide) and most likely a democracy with an elected leader, yes, but one who is going to rule like a Putin or a Hosni Mubarak; more like an elected dictator.

Funniest Radio Ad

Yeah this is definitely the funniest commercial I've heard on radio. It goes like this.
"Can I borrow 99 cents?"
"Why do you need 99 cents?"
"Well, I was going to get my car fixed."
"For 99 cents?"
"No, thats a couple hundred bucks. I was planning to go the gas station to put some gas in my car."
"Gas for 99 cents?"
"No, thats about 15 dollars. I was thinking I could then go to Wendys and get myself a cheese burger for 99 cents"
"So, you have 215 dollars for your car, but you don't have the 99 cents for your cheeseburger?"
"Ok, can I borrow 215 dollars 99 cents?"
"Ummm .. what about the 99 cents part?"

Funniest guy in my company

Yeah, Im gonna pass a judgement on this too. This guy goes by the name of jd, but I think he should be JK (cos those are his initials). This is our conversation about me helping him out with some of his bugs :

JK : "Ive got a series of bugs which I think you could deal with better. Can you look at them and let me know what we should be doing?"
Me: "Yeah, I think I can do that cos Ive seen those before. Ill let you know what we should do to handle, if there's something to do at all"
JK: "You freaking rule my world! If we have a third child, we'll name him Satwik" (Just to make it clear with all the dirty minds out there - when he says 'we', he means him and his wife)
Me: "No, that would be wrong. Every 3rd child in the world is Chinese, not Indian. I think its every 4th child in the world thats Indian."
JK: "So, I have to have 2 kids in order to name one after you? Would you just accept my heartfelt thanks and a hearty handshake in place of that?"

There's this other occasion when one other guy (MB, aged 30) from the workplace invites me to his house. He says - "Hey Sawik (they miss the 't' usually), you are welcome to come and hang out with me and my old lady for the football game". JK goes "Oh MB still lives with his mom, in case you didn't know". MB : "I was about to say, dont mention to my wife that I called her that..damn you JD".

One time, JK wanted to skip coming to office, and this is what his email said - "My wife has to visit the doctor and I am supposed to play the role of a doting husband who accompanies her to the doc, for an appointment late in the afternoon, ignoring the fact that its gonna be freaking hot."

If somewhere down the line, you felt I am funnier than this guy, write a blog on me!

Gals, Databases and AI

3 things I never really understood, and I think Im not cut out to understand them either. I atleast have the claim to fame of getting through papers on the latter two. But, them gals, damn they are so uncanny and they so hide behind a facade all the time, greatest actors ever, greatest manipulators ever too. All you guys out there are going "we know what you're talking about", and all the gals are going "What the ....". Why are gals so hard to understand? Why have databases become such a big deal that people do million dollar research on them? When AI is all theory, and nothing really seems to work, what's all the hype about, why are we still dreaming and pumping money into trying to imitate the human mind?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pedernales Doesnt Fall! - Part 2

Continuing...A voice that sounds like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings tells me - 'We had told you. Dont follow the deer!'. Gollum warns the ring-bearer Frodo Baggins not to follow the lights in the marshes, and I complain cos he never warned me before I ventured. All around me I see the same scenes, everywhere looks the same. 5 minutes of dense woods, and a minute of clearing with sunlight and only cactii to tackle. I ponder trailing back. Nope. no good. I will only get more lost. I pull out some more thorns from my jeans and my hair. I stop to hear a rumble! A car is it?? I run forward to a clearing only to realise its a passing small plane. I wonder if they are looking for me? Darn, no one even knows Im here. I didnt tell anybody I was going to Pedernales Falls. I was worried about getting lost on the highway. That feels so much better than being lost in the woods! (Take a look at the photograph alongside to see what I just emerged from at a clearing)

As I march on aimlessly (but in my head Im still moving left), I pull out the map the nice lady had handed to me with the entrance pass. Its only a road map, how can they map the woods? But, it is reassuring to realise that the huge park area I am supposedly in is bounded on the left by the road and on 2 sides by the river, which seems to be meandering away making the area bloat on the top and on the right. 'I just have to make it either to the road or to the river. If I reach the river, I walk upstream to make it the falls and to the road.' I feel better now. I take stock of what I have. I have only sipped a few drops of the Lizard drink and gobbled up a sandwich, so Im left with only one. Damn, I should have had a compass. Atleast I could know which way to go. I dont even have a watch on me to tell the time. After around 20 more minutes of suppressing panic and dismissing thoughts of getting lost, I reach another clearing and hear another faint rumble. I look skywards. Nothing. Damn, could this be a car? The rumble continues for a long time. There is a speed limit of 25mph on these roads. So, if that is a car, Im gonna hear the rumble for some time. And to my delight, I do! I can hear it in the distance. I make a mental note of the direction and hurry on.

Im so excited now that I plunge through the bushes and the thorns. Its like Im a kid in a remote village who's never seen a car, but only heard about it. Another car swishes by. Im so sure Ive traced my route back to the road now. More low-hanging branches and cactii to tackle. But, somehow God has increased the traffic on the road for me! Its like a lighthouse in the sea now, ever visible. After about 10 minutes of maneouvring, I catch a glimpse of the road! Awesome! A glimpse of the Road!It feels so good to be back on the beaten path. Now, Im not looking into the woods again. I will walk along this road like a horse, who sees only straight ahead with those things covering its eyes.

The falls

I finally make it to the falls! This is what I was here for in the first place. I just took a brief sabbatical on the way. The clear blue water is a sight to behold. WhattaviewThe rocks lining the water are pristine themselves, carved by the fury of the river. The RocksAlluvial soil, somewhat yellowish in colour, lines the river. What is disappointing is that there isnt actually a waterfall. Its a trickle a couple of feet high! Thats it. I wonder why they call it the Pedernales Falls. I know the river is called Pedernales. Or is it some famous Mexican guy who comes and falls here? That doesnt make sense. Maybe a mexican going by the name Pedernales once came and fell here. So, they should be calling it Pedernales Fell. But then, the Mexicans aren't really good at English, so I should give them a break. This is really Pedernales Falls. I take my comment back. Falls?

Another exploring session, where I dont venture anywhere where there aint people. I watch a bunch of kids going behind the rocks into the woods. I aint going there pal. Another miss, when I fail to shoot a tortoise that came out of the water for a short time. He (or maybe she, I dunno) makes me wait for another 10 minutes giving me hope that I will get another chance. But, I finally lose patience. Catch a vulture from pretty close though. I havent missed out on all the animals after all. To be frank, there arent many. I have mentioned all the animals I have seen on this blog! Yeah, not to forget the fish in the water, but that goes without saying. Like the dragonflies and the bees and all them wierd insects in the woods.

As I walk back toward the parking lot, I try to locate the point where I ventured out, away from the road. But, its so damn difficult! It all looks the same. Finally, after an exhausting walk with the terrain frequently climbing upwards, and where I have guzzled all of my Lizard stuff, I make it to the car, which is so damn hot! I had put it in the shade, but the shade apparently decided to move. I drive out again, slowly, cos they dont allow fast cars in the park. Once Im on the road again, I hit the radio back on and push the gas pedal. Its good to be back driving! And my rock station is faithful, and plays my favourite stuff again - Audioslave, Weezer, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Killers, Fuel, Foo Fighters. The freeway drive is refreshing. Feels so good to be back in the concrete jungle, on the concrete roads, making my way past the slower cars, on a path I know leads home (hotel in this case) for sure.

Ouch, whats that? Damn, these thorns have gone through my sneakers. There are more on my feet everywhere. I wish I had my mom or my girlfriend or my sisters here to hand me a tweezer. Where do I get one now?

Pedernales Doesnt Fall! - Part 1

Ever since I have landed in StrangeLand, I havent really enjoyed my weekends and my time off work, especially cos Ive been put up in a hotel and havent had an opportunity to make friends. On top of that, all the guys at my client's workplace are married. No, that doesnt imply I am gay please! Just that they'd rather spend time with their wives, and not hang out with me. The only weekend I thoroughly enjoyed was the labour day weekend when I went to New Jersey and had a lot of fun with my little sisters watching Niagara falls (that thing does fall, around 150k gallons of water a second in all!) and New York city.

Well, this weekend I decided to do something I enjoy, hanging out with nature and hear the birds chirping, wind whistling through the trees and of course some glimpse of wildlife (the variety that doesnt like the taste of me). So, I did my research on google, picked up a Texas state park and used google maps to pick a route that I could remember easily. The park's called Pedernales Falls State Park and visitors have given it an awesome rating.


I wake up early (something I cant do when I need to get to work), make 2 cheese sandwiches (my own secret recipe, tastes awesome!) and put a bottle of Lizard Lightning in the bag. Thats a drink for those who dont know, and its neither got Lizards nor is it meant for them. A simple orange and mango blend with ginseng (yeah the stuff that keeps you rocking alert). Something wierd tells me I should prefer a pair of jeans as opposed to shorts. I thank myself twice later that day for listening to that something.

Forward Journey

As I walk out of the hotel at 9 am I realise its pretty cold..good choice those jeans! I was pretty tense about making the road trip although it was only 41 miles. Somehow the thought of getting lost in a StrangeLand without a mobile phone at hand is something that doesnt appeal to me. But, thats really dumb, cos in HomeLand I head out on trails with a mobile phone on me, which practically becomes a worthless timekeeping device with no network coverage, and somehow that never made me tense. Well, here's a reason. I was alone this time!

My car has an awesome audio system with the bass turned up high which makes the car literally shake. The radio station (101x) dishes out some of my favourites - Metallica, Hoobastank, Stone Temple Pilots, Gorillaz, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and I relax and enjoy the scenic drive. Im so damn relaxed I miss the right turn onto 3232 which was supposed to take me to the park. I was expecting a big road. Instead it was a single lane ranch road lined with a dead raccoon and another unidentifiable animal battered by some speeding car. I decide to slow down. The park was a serene and calm place, the calm broken occasionally by passing cars.

At the entrance, the nice lady selling tickets tells me - "Im sure you are hear to do some hiking today, huh?" "Naah, Im just hear to see the place, heard so much about it. Plus I dont hike alone." How wrong I was gonna be! I park my car at the parking lot, and decide to walk the 2 and half miles to the falls. I didnt wanna drive to the falls cos this was the day I do something healthy! After all, it only comes once a month or so. As I trundle along, some nice park rangers drive by, waving their hands and, Im sure wondering why I am walking on the road.


It was kinda boring walking on the road. Both the sides of the road were lined with dense woods, and I could hear the sounds of birds and insects and rustling in the bushes. There was no one else walking on the road too. Somehow, I might have looked like a moron, as everyone who drove by, made sure to give me a wierd second glance. Im now getting bored with this walk, its not exciting at all. Up ahead, I see the road bending to the right, sharply. I tell myself - 'Dude, this is the chance. Lets get into the woods and walk on straight and meet the road at the end of the bend. You've been looking into the woods and holding back too long.'

As soon as Im in, I hear something move around in the bushes ahead. Woah! A deer with horns and all just hopped by! I hurry to fish out my camera and by the time I can focus and prepare to shoot, 5 more have blazed the same trail. C'mon, one more, from somewhere. Nope. No deers to shoot for you today. Im determined to get my photograph, so I follow the deer. After a few minutes, I realise its pointless, cos they are too fast, and my jeans are slowing me down. So, I stop and look at them damn jeans. They're full of thorns! Damn, Im surrounded by cactii and almost all the trees, shrubs, bushes have pointed ends. I thank myself again for choosing the jeans over the shorts. Another glance and I see dead trees and white remains of old trees. Immediately, my mind goes back to the 'Blair Witch Project'. The scene around me, the dense woods, dead trees, rocks, hardly any sunlight making it down to the ground and the bumpy terrain, reminds me of the scary sights in that movie. Of course, its daytime here and Im a loooong way away from sunset.

I decide Im enjoying this and keep going inwards, my geographic sense telling me I must be walking parallel to the road. Ducking under thorny branches, moving around thickets, avoiding huge cactii fields I keep trundling along. After about half an hour, I remember that I had set out to meet the road ahead. And damn, I havent even heard a car rumble by for more than 15 minutes. Where am I? I quickly dismiss the thought that I may be lost. 'The road has always been to your left dude. You just have to walk left and you will meet it somewhere'. What if the road has ended and Ive ventured a bit too far ahead? Now, Im only walking leftwards. Or so I think cos everytime I avoid passing through low hanging thorny branches or a pocket of cactii, I am actually changing course. And Ive been doing this all along without realising.

Dude you are lost!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Dont suck up please!

All of us have seen the guy at the workplace (or in school) who sucks up to the boss (or the teacher) all the time in the hope hes always on the first page of the boss' good books. The eternal 'yeah'-man, who agrees with everything the boss proposes and abides by everything the boss asks him to do.
This is not actually about those people, although for the record, I hate them like crazy and usually let them know too. Cos people like me, who like to keep our noses and tongues in places where there is fresh air (as opposed to the boss' a**), realise sooner or later that being in the good books does matter when it comes to getting good grades on an assignment or getting that all-important pay hike, but its something we'd rather not do.

Ok, then whats this about? I am gonna scale this up a few notches, cos this is about my HomeLand sucking up to the Big Boss that is StrangeLand. In fact, HomeLand has been sucking it up for a long time now, and I dont understand why. We arent that gullible that we need to rely on others for our survival, we have never been. Its not like the Big Boss can stand up anytime and wave its magic wand and ensure we die of hunger or choke to death. Then, why do we always go down on our knees at one snap of a finger even when it comes to issues we firmly believe in? Is it a big gameplan our leaders have been playing forever? Something thats superficial so the Big Boss thinks we abide by the rules while we still ensure our own good? I think only time can tell, but it is really humiliating too see your own nation sometimes act like a hungry weasel on the world stage, one who's living off crumbs thrown off other's plates...when its all just an act.

A case in point is the recent nuclear issue between StrangeLand and Iran (yes, not UN and Iran, cos I firmly believe that the 'N' in the UN doesnt have any relevance - it could as easily be replaced with an 'S', the General Assembly has no powers and among the veto powers, StrangeLand being the strongest, runs the rule). HomeLand has always had great ties with Iran, and even the cultures are in a way bound to each other. When it came to us needing backing on the Kashmir issue in the UN in 1994, Iran was backing us with all its gusto. Why then, did HomeLand take a backward step, pull back its arm from around Iran's shoulders when it needed it the most, with IAEA sanctions apparently in the wait? All for some peanuts that go by the name of civilian nuclear technology relationship with StrangeLand? God knows we are independent when it comes to nuclear know-how. We have hardly needed any help developing our nuclear deterrent and we produce most of our nuclear energy through the use of pure indegenious technology. Still, the government has placed a big price on this latest deal and showed the world that we are ready to suck up for the little pat on the back, which we would get from StrangeLand.

This is not something new at all. This land was flourishing during the rule of the Mughal empire with most of the country under one rule, when the Europeans came knocking on the door as traders. Damn good trade I tell you, what a deal they got. They were welcomed with open arms and all they did was bite us where it hurts most. They asked for trade relations, we nodded. They asked to set up a trading company locally, we nodded again. When they were embedded in the economy, they took over politically too. And we still didnt mind, as we have always been a bunch of peace-loving people, and expect to get in return what we give, a true manifestation of karma. What happened later is history, and we still havent stopped acting in that way. I strongly recommend this read as it captures the economic history of the world in a capsule and lets you know why an economy is where it is today.

Prime Minister Nehru was the first Prime Minister of the country, and in a way, he set the trend for things to come (Those interested can get some of the blunders listed here). No doubt he was a good leader, but some of the things he did were totally uncalled for. Like pulling back his troops during the war with Pakistan when India could have resolved the Kashmir conflict then and there by allowing troops into Pak territory, at the behest of the UN which had no understanding of the issue whatsoever. Nehru, the architect of the Hindi-Chini bhai bhai festivity, had gone out of his way to propitiate communist China, accepting even the Chinese annexation of Tibet in a 1954 agreement without settling the Indo-Tibetan border. This famously led to the ignorance of troop build-up on the huge Indo-China border and the smack-on-the-face defeat of 1962 .

Even when it comes to trade and commerce, we have been given a raw deal all the time, but we suck it up. Big MNCs from StrangeLand wanna set up establishments here..go ahead. They wanna export electronics and consumer products to a nation with one of the biggest markets in the world carpet, green signal. Ok, now we wanna send in our agricultural goods to StrangeLand in return...doesnt meet standards, too much pesticide, the "you are dumping stuff in our market and killing our local farmer" comments, heavy tariff duties, holding up perishables for inspection too long in ports to ensure they rot and are sent back. How about textiles, they will be at competitive prices...StrangeLand allows that but immediately triggers a media campaign showing that Indian imported textiles are inflammable! Dude that was cotton we sent you! And your mannequin is burning like it was doused in gasoline! No change in our response though, we still give Coke and Pepsi massive exposure to our markets, inspite of laboratory tests proving the presence of insecticides in them.

Nevertheless, the globalization process ensures that jobs and manufacturing and trade still flows into HomeLand. We are a prosperous country, with a growth rate only superceded by neighbours China. I have seen so many talk shows and speeches and lectures here in StrangeLand where they are talking about HomeLand and China as a superpower in the coming years, not respectfully, but with a touch of disdain. Like its something they cant prevent. Yet, our leaders fail to see this? An independent nation that stands on its own two feet still behaves like it needs the support of the whole world.. the eternal good boy of the world. StrangeLand never needs support, be it to march into a country with troops or decide the fate of economies of the smaller countries. They wield their power almost like dictators and its time for them to be overthrown. They have warmed their a**es enough on top of the world while everyone else burns.

I want to see my nation stand up for what it truly is and what it believes in. Dont just state that you deserve a place in the Security Council, thats like filling up an application form. Demand it and ensure the world finally realises what this country is all about. We arent a bunch of pushovers. Behold everyone, our time hath come!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The American Cookie : Something HomeLand Can Do With

Yeah, I know, my posts have been meandering yes, but ultimately, always within a quarter mile radius of the closest fuel station - StrangeLand bashing - that keeps me going. I can go on like this and never run out of gas, cos well, after all, Im in the nation that burns the most per capita gas anywhere. Plus, the fact Im living here for the time being and the way things are here, the gas station is always within a quarter mile radius, giving me more fodder to fire my cannons. But for once, I wanna tell you something I do like about this country! Yeah, you can call this a weekend break from the bashing for StrangeLand.

Number 1... Chocolate Cookies! They are everywhere. I absolutely have a brain-dead craving for the chocolate chip cookies. Something about those cookies, I have no idea what, makes them hundred times better than the cookies I get back in HomeLand. Maybe its the fact that the chips are just the right size and the ratio of chip to cookie is perfect, but thats going too far. My office is stacked with Famous Amos cookies and boy I cant stop having them. Im not a great food critic, so dont expect me to zap off a few foodie metaphors here to show you how enjoyable they are!

In case you are scared Im gonna list more cookies here (or you were desperatingly hoping I do that and put you to sleep, you insomniac!), well fear not. The American cookie is something I always liked about StrangeLand, and I used it to represent the good stuff about this land, just like they used that absolute nonsense metaphor "The American Pie" for something equally enjoyable I guess.

Number 2... Land of opportunities. Boy, if someone wants to make it big here, she just needs to work hard, believe in herself and convince the ones with the moolah to pump it into her ideas (Political correctness demands making no gender assumptions, but if you choose she over a he, you are always safe. Of course I slipped in a 'Boy' instead of a 'Girl' to begin with, heeheehaahaa). Well, isnt that true everywhere you moron, you wanna ask? Its the reknowned "Work Hard, Believe in Yourself and Trick Morons to pay for what you believe in" funda, never fails. (Never heard of it? Well now you have!) The only difference is that the morons with the money are all here, and they are desperate to multiply their investments if you have a real good idea with you that assures good returns. (Well, who can blame them, when you can sell salt substitutes with less Sodium in them here! What, the NaCl has half an atom of Na now? Before you think Im a moron, lemme assure you they use some compound without Na to say that Na is almost N/A in this substitute.) Back in HomeLand, apart from multiplying the number of newborns, the morons arent really handing their money on a platter. Of course, there is more money going round here, than back home, too, which helps. But, I think Im willing to fight that stubborn disbelieving attitude and make the morons back home turn around sometime and dish it out to me.

Number 3...Awesome sports cars! Whatever you do, you cant get the variety of sports cars they have in StrangeLand back in HomeLand. I absolutely went berserk when I saw the big Hummer on the roads here! Yeah, they are gas guzzlers and not environment friendly, but they are military design jeeps dude! Never seen something as astounding in my life. For now, check out their website - HUMMER!

Number 4...Open Society. Yeah, Ive been the one whos been concerned about this society being far too open. I still stand by that. However, when I compare that to the one we have back in HomeLand, I realise that all one needs to do is find a middle ground between the two. One where parents still have a say about how their kids are brought up and in what environment, and they can make sure they inculcate the right attitude and values in them. This is the part that the culture in HomeLand does have.

The part it can do without is where the society plays a big role in deciding how parents bring their kids up, what rules they enforce on their kids. If a guy is seen hanging out with a girl, the girl is labelled with a 'bad character' tag (which is as good as saying that the milk carton in the fridge is past its expiry date, and its as easy to say that too). And in a nation where marriages are mostly arranged with the mutual consent of mainly the parents first and then, the actual marrying couple, it is of prime importance for a girl to maintain a squeaky clean image (like me! although I dont need one, cos im a guy!) so that she isnt rejected just because too many people have been talking about having seen her hanging out with guys too often. Yuck! Makes me sick this ridiculous concept. The guys she hangs out with, on the other hand, are totally innocent, as they say in my land (doodh ka dhula - One cleaned with milk, supposed to be enchanting in the old days, but I would die of the stench of milk if you did that to me). They can move around doing what pleases them, and then solely based on their income they earn or the money their ancestors hand down, go ahead and demand the woman of their choice - one with good nature, culinary skills, one who can walk with charm, sing with pride (they sometimes do make wud-be brides walk and sing, ok, as a pre-nuptial test) and of course, one who is utterly beautiful so that he can take her to parties and be the envy of friends. Its still not balanced this world, when it comes to equality for men and women. Sad to see really.

A woman still is the one to make most sacrifices, be it with her career or with the guy she loves. Parents still make sure that the girl marries where they want her to be, oblivious to the fact that she may wanna marry someone else. A girl and a guy together means only one thing - they are never friends (platonic relationship? Whats that?), never brother and sister. A guy is always more adventurous, and brash. He wouldnt give a damn about what others think, about his parents opinions when it comes to marrying someone he loves, about moving around with anyone he likes to hang out with. It is supposedly a lot easier for a girl to tear apart the "Welcome" doormat outside her house (more correctly, her parents house), than it is for a guy, cos hes always forgiven, sometimes even overlooked. Thank God I was born a male! But its not all that rosy (I need a manly flower for this metaphor, cauliflowery?). I cant move around hand-in-hand with my girl without evoking unapproving glares. I cant sit and chat with a female friend openly very often cos people would assume Im her boyfriend. Heck, I cant even treat a girl like a sister, something Ive always yearned for. If one of my dearest aunts, someone whos cared for me from the day I was born, wants to treat me like a son, she cant. Everywhere, the society steps in to show whos the boss. You are either in or you're out. And if you wanna stay in, you play by their rules.

Yeah, I have finally brought out something I seriously hate about HomeLand. Better too open as it is here, than oppressively closed as back home. I wish I could do something about it, but I can only make my own stand, express my opinions, and stand by what I believe is right. In the meanwhile, the people who form this society will carry on spreading their menace, no amount of education seems to change their closed mindset. In Bon Jovi's words - Keep The Faith, cos (in my words) there is a turn up ahead somewhere and everything is gonna be just right, like the chocolate chip cookie from Famous Amos!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Happy Birthday Nandita!

Thats for my sister, Nandita Patel, who turns 18 today. She's my cousin sister actually, but I prefer to call her sister, as she, along with her younger imp (as in devil!) Yera remember to send me rakhis every year, and basically I am closest to them compared to my other cousins. Anyway, I ask the typical 18th birthday question. "So, Nandita, what do you plan to do today on your 18th birthday. You know, like something you havent done before?" You know, if someone would have asked me I would have said "Vote! But damn, they had their elections 3 months back". Nah, I would have said drive a fast car. However, I heard of cases here in StrangeLand where kids ache to turn 18 cos they can officially drink alcohol now. (Yeah, the alcohol prohibition is enforced pretty strongly here. Of course, they dont give a damn about teenage pregnancy though cos I guess everybody is too busy making sure no one who aint supposed to drink, drinks while kids who dont wanna drink find better pastimes. I wonder why I enjoyed playing cricket and football and sports so much when I was young. Those were my pastimes. Thats the longest paranthesised statement I have ever seen. You've forgotten where I was going right?). These guys goto a bar and have competitions where the birthday boy guzzles down glasses and glasses of liqour to check his "stamina" and of course, some drown themselves to death. So much desperation? They must be eternally thirsty.

I have migrated again. So, Nandita still has a teddy bear with her, which is sweet. She loves teddy bears like a lot of other gals. But, I wanted to make fun of her and I went on like a typical elder bro saying how shes too big for her lil teddy and all that. She came back - "Satwik bhai, I think I am glad I chose the teddy over drugs, alcohol and smoking, dont you?" It hit me then! Man, here its a big deal if you get through high school without picking up any of those habits. Drugs?? I have never had a friend in all my education who ever did drugs. And here it is a lot more common. Dude, Nandita is right. She's a strong girl to have evaded peer pressure and all that and come through unscathed. Cheers to that! (My glass is filled with fruit punch ok, remember - teetotaller?) She and her sister are the silver lining in the clouds for me, cos I firmly believed Indians could not bring their kids up here and not have them get affected by the culture and the inherent prejudices and vices attached to it. Three cheers to her parents too for that. But, no.. Im still not gonna advise other Indians to raise their families here! Its too scary whats out there.

Thats it. My tiniest blog ever. Dedicated to my lovely sister on her birthday. You make me proud. By the way, her answer to my stupid question was "Nothing great, I will just go out with my friends and also with my parents". I dont remember when I last spent a birthday celebrating with my parents. Wait, yes I do. I was 10 years old and mom had baked this cake which looked like a cricket field and it had fielders and batsmen on it too. And my bro was jealous, cos he didnt get a fancy cake for his birthday, ever!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Frog In The Well

I bet everyone of you has heard the folk tale of the frog who used to live in the well. If you haven't here's a Chinese version of it. Even in ancient Sanskrit texts, the example of a kupamanduka is well-known and widely used. For those who don't want to take the pain of researching this abstract metaphor I have brought up again, lemme put it down in a line if I can :- The well-frog does indeed have a world-view, but its view is confined to the world of the well. It must be quite apparent where Im heading now, so hang on!

Yes, you guessed it right. StrangeLand is the well. It hit me real hard, this fact, when I heard they called their baseball league the World Series, and that the New York Yankees are poised to become World Champions. Yeah, believe me, when all the teams in this World Series are from the same nation, you are guaranteed to have a World Champion every year from somewhere in StrangeLand. Who plays baseball anyway! Its not even as widely popular as cricket if you take note of the number of people watching the two sports. Well, guess who won the Baseball World Cup 2005? Cuba. Where was StrangeLand placed? 7th. I was surprised to see the World Champions so lowly placed. Of course, Im sure most of their top champion athletes didn't play, cos the world cup of course isn't the true world championship, is it?

"You know, I went to Europe for my holidays, and this car almost ran into me, cos I was walking on the road and these morons drive on the wrong side." Dude! Just because you drive on the right side of the road (as opposed to the left side as found in, well, almost everywhere), doesn't mean everyone is on the wrong side. "Do you watch football?" "Yeah, its my favourite sport!" "Cool, then you are gonna have lotsa fun here, cos we have football all over the TV on weekends" "You mean American football? The one where you wear helmets?" "Yeah, what did you think? Oh. you mean soccer." Soccer? Don't rename the game that is the real football just so you can snatch that name away for a sport that is not really even close to football. How often do I see these helmeted-gladiators actually kicking the damn thing called a football, which is not even round! (To be more mathematically correct, spherical) The ball is mostly found in the hands of a guy trying to run it to the far end of the field, so that he can finally get to kick it into the massive goal. They fight and dodge and tackle for eternity, to get that one elusive chance to actually kick the ball. Why don't you steal handball for a name. How many countries play handball anyway? Why go and pledge the name of the world's favourite sport for yourself. Maybe they were trying to hide the fact that American football was derived from rugby, an English sport. Just like baseball was derived from cricket, another British import. It does really seem that StrangeLand completely rejects whatever is extremely popular elsewhere. They have their own Formula 1 GP, but definitely dont deserve it; it is not even close to being a popular sport here. For those who are not aware, it is the most televised sport everywhere else.

I am being harsh again I guess. Why should I expect one bunch of folks in one corner of the earth to be like the rest? After all they are superhumans here, arent they? We are simple humans compared to them. You dunno what Im talking about? How many disaster movies have you seen? Where the earth is on the verge of extinction. Who saves the world? Yes, it is the StrangeLandian who comes to the rescue, the knight in shining armour, the whiteman on a black stallion. The quintessential American superhero. Man, they love them here. And you know what, this doesnt end here. It actually trickles over (more like floods into) their international politics (I should be calling it diplomacy to be politically correct, but I was more inclined toward using war-mongering and bullying actually) where the President of StrangeLand is a leader of the World and he (I dont need to be politically correct here, over 50 presidents and not a single lady yet, not a single black president either, but thats a whole different cupboard I dont wanna creak open now) gets to poke his nose in the affairs of other nations and decide to change the course of their future and get away with it without being called a war-mongerer. Do good for your own nation first dude; for once be the frog in the well when you should be, blind to the outside world. Believe me, it is widely appreciated. Just dont steal the name football though, its a cheap thing to do!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rocking Start - In Excess

Perception. Plain, untainted, innocent. A common human trait. Even when we have no knowledge whatsoever about something, our brain doesn’t leave a void in our memory cells. There’s something it always cooks up, out of nothing.

Well, it is no more truer (if that’s even a word) anywhere else than in this StrangeLand. The folks here are renowned for having apathy toward knowledge about foreign lands, foreign people and the works, and are famously represented by a President who regularly comes up with fodder for the hungry media when he’s caught as confused as a toddler in a strip joint (One of my favourite Sidhuisms this one!). And this isn’t my view here, its something I have known, but has been reaffirmed by comments from the locals.

I didn’t have to wait long for my enlightenment to begin. I started discovering this from the first day at work here. I was in the land where Rock and Roll took its first lil steps. And I totally wanted to see a rock show by a real kick-*** band in the time that I’m here (which was seemingly short then, not anymore, boohoo). I asked one of the guys, whether he’s planning to go to the OzzFest which was to rock a neighbouring town in 2 weeks’ time. And immediately, 3 guys pop out of their cubicles and rush toward mine with expressions clearly indicating I had blasphemed. One goes – “Did you say Ozzfest? Cos I think I heard Ozzfest.” I went – “Yeah, I must have said Ozzfest, if you heard Ozzfest. But, you know what? I did actually mention Ozzfest.” (One of my stupid attempts at a nervously stuttered joke. No one noticed though, their minds were still grappling with the fact that they had heard an Indian say Ozzfest.). “You mean the show where Ozzy Osbourne plays right?”. “Yeah, unless you have a festival for kids where there are numerous stagings of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.” (By this time, Im on a roll with my stupid jokes, cos well, no one’s actually listening!). “You mean to say Indians listen to this stuff?”. “What did you think? We are tribals, and we dance with sticks??”

A few days later. People are surprised I can handle English as a spoken language with as much ease as a stenographer typing on a typewriter. (You know when she’s so good she doesn’t need to look at the keys while typing away, and all that. If that’s the best metaphor I could come up with, I suck!). “I would have thought Indians would have a hard time with English, cos you know, they must not be teaching that in school.” Well, maybe I went to the wrong school then, cos I have been learning English since my first day at school. Another classic one coming up. “Are you a Hindu?”. “Yeah, I am”. “Oh is that why you said you speak Hindi at home?” “Yes, that’s true, but only if you speak American at home.”

I know Im being harsh here, but I expected people of StrangeLand to know about my country atleast as much as I do about their StrangeLand. Maybe that’s simply cos they don’t have as many relatives in India, as I have in StrangeLand. I wonder why our schools took the pain of teaching us about the American Revolution in History. Im damn sure, folks here haven’t read about Gandhi, although I know the contributions of people like Jefferson and Washington.

Well, lemme just go on meandering again. This blog no longer has any meaning, just a list of anecdotes. I was talking with the lady at the reception, and we were discussing the Tsunami that hit Asia in December last year (cos you know Katrina was in the news, well the only thing in the news to be more correct, and now Rita’s coming in a few hours!). This huge monster of a guy walks in and heard me mention Sri Lanka. He goes, “Is Sri Lanka a country? I thought its an island.” Huh?? Can’t islands be nations? Hasn’t he heard of island nations? We simply laughed it off.

Well, now these things hit me everyday. “You know the apparel stores here cover acres and acres of area.” “I know, they are called malls.” “How do you know?” “We have those!”. “Well, the theaters here are so big, they have 10-12 screens.” “Multiplexes” “Yes, how..”

My roomie has been in the US for 8 years now, and although he’s from Sri Lanka, that doesn’t stop him from getting surprised either. “Man, I wonder who this guy is. He keeps turning up everywhere she goes” “Oh, he’s Carrie Bradshaw’s ex-long-term boyfriend. One she wanted to marry” “Whose boyfriend?” “The character Sarah Jessica Parker plays” “You get this in India?” “These are reruns my dear friend.” “But, isn’t that amount of sex talk taboo?” “Well, we don’t need to talk! We love listening to these girls do the talking!” …. “What is this nonsense? Why are they singing rolling stones?” “Rock Star INXS” “What?” “Well, INXS is choosing their new band member, and they have made the competition a kind of a reality show thingy.” “How ..”

Well, the playing field has evened out now. People around me know what to expect from me. I have seen most television shows StrangeLand has to offer. I am a big fan of Rock music, especially the heavier stuff and Iron Maiden is one band I want to hear like crazy. (Too bad they couldn’t make it to the Ozzfest here). There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about, and that is now common knowledge too, like college football, NFL, baseball (actually my lack of knowledge here surprised them more than what I knew about. “You’ve never seen a football game?”). I totally think there are perceptions I had about this country that have been proven wrong too, but Im not gonna talk about that! Cos this is not about my perceptions! Nah, but seriously, as much as this amused me, I soon realized it is human nature, but something that certainly expresses itself in a more profound way here. Cos people in StrangeLand never keep opinions to themselves. True Freedom of Speech, they tell me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Welcome to Bloggerville

Nah, I'm not welcoming any of you. Just myself, cos as is obvious, this is my very first blog...ever. That is of course not saying you aren't welcome here, cos otherwise I will be writing like a moron with no one giving a rat's ***. So, lemme put out a doormat right now and welcome you too. This first blog will be, simply put, just a rant. No point, no target, no whim.

I have always been intrigued by people who write blogs, and always told myself "Blogs arent for me! I will read them, but never write one." I held this opinion that people who write blogs are those who have either a lot of spare time, or have few around who would hear them out often, or even those who are unable to express views or thoughts freely in any other manner. I for one, run up the longest phone bills I have ever seen (Dear friend Rajan, I've never hit 8 grand, but on an average Im still ahead!), which implies I was mostly found on the phone, talking to my girl, or my sister, or my mom, or my bro, or my dad, or my friends, or ..well, you know. I never felt the need to express myself more. Until now. Cos Im now a Stranger in a Strange Land (ala Iron Maiden), where I have come leaving my family and friends behind. No one will simply listen to me, unless its a bartender getting a kick out of getting me drunk and him tip-rich. Sadly, I'm a teetotaller. I can't simply pick up the phone and call someone and hope they talk to me, unless I call a party-line where bimbos get paid to giggle and talk dirty. Again, this is an assumption, I've never used this service.

Yeah, I've already painted a good picture of myself haven't I? Squeaky clean. Maybe even irritatingly squeaky. You know, like when you rub a faintly damp tissue on a mirror. And maybe you wanna pity me too by now. Boohoo, somebody stole this kid's phone. Someone get him a new one, so he can get the hell out of bloggerville. But, alas, Im here to stay! Or so I say, for now, I'll let you judge whether this turns out to be one of those many things I start out enthusiastically on but never finish. Hmm, but why can't I remember one earlier instance of this when I desperately need one? C'mon jog your brain. That's the only part of your body that gets any exercise since you landed in this StrangeLand where people never walk, except to and from the car park. You know, in India, I took a home on the 6th floor, just so I could walk up and down each day. Of course, that also meant that the damn watchman always assumed I never needed the lift. He would turn it off when I would need it the most, like when I was coming to StrangeLand with 50kgs of luggage. Oh no, I am supposed to put that in pounds right? Cos citizens of StrangeLand dont understand kilos. I guess they have stopped reading this already though.

That was some meandering. I should write with more purpose. Else, my blogs are gonna end up like my phone conversations, where I talk about any damn thing that comes to my head. Let me bring your pain to an end now before you ask for an aspirin. Cos like they say in this part of StrangeLand - "I ain't got one, son!".