Tuesday, July 22, 2008

me@ntu.edu.sg

Someone had said, "In the book of life the answers are not in the back", but i say at least the hints are there in the back. I am here at NTU (Nanyang Technological University), Singapore, and I will be spending the next 5 years of my life at this place. I reached singapore on 17th morning at around 9 am. After nature calls and calls to india me and hari got out of the changi airport at 10 am and took a cab to NTU. We reached the International House, Students service centre, NTU and we were humbly overwhelmed by the hospitality here. The student volunteers took us through everything we needed in the beginning. We had to pay the fees for accommodation and fill up certain forms. We both got separate apartments at Nanyang Heights, and were dropped by a mini excursion bus to the apartment.
My apartment had 5 Single rooms, a kitchen(an oven, a refrigerator, and an electric heater), a dining hall( with a dining table),a hall , a washing place(with a washing machine) and 2 bathrooms( in one there is a jacuzzi). The room allotted to me was SR 1(Single room). It was a capacious room with a writing table and a showcase attached, a cot with mattress and a cupboard which was pretty spacious. I kept my stuff and took a bath.
After taking bath and getting freshened up we had to run to the NTU medical centre where we underwent medical tests like eye test, blood test, urine test and chest x-ray. After that I had nothing to do but explore the place. And me and hari walked a lot that day and got some necessary stuffs. Singapore is so neat and clean. People who litter the roads and spit in india dont even think of doing that here.Its because they will be fined if caught littering, which brings in a fear not to do it. India is one place where anything and everything can happen. This is what people from abroad think. If we want to change it we should learn from these people. I was talking with the Cab driver on the way to NTU, and i just said the roads are so clean and neat here. He replied in his crisp malay accent, "Oh Yes! People pay a huge sum as road tax so people except better roads. Every 6 months its digged up and new roads are laid, And watering the plants and trees on either side of the road is one inportant thing". We too pay Tax( Although some do not), but we dont expect anything from the government. We are submissive to everything. We get easily satisfied and adapted to any situation and condition. If at all we can change the plight in India we should demand. There might be people asking me who are you to say that? You are not even in India,You went out of India and are cribbing about the conditions back home. I have just got one answer to them, Yes I am outside India but that does not mean I am not an Indian. And i have come abroad just now, there is lot of time left. Time will tell those people if I come back or not. I am not telling them sternly i will come back after 5 years for sure, They would retort back saying everybody says this. Anyway coming back to me at singapore..
One more thing i noticed here was consumerism. Although not as much as USA, but still people equate happiness with material possessions. There are lot of entertainment centres and food courts. Tonnes and tonnes of cash and electrical power is being used up. All the transport systems, MRTs(Mass-Rapid Transit)(Metro trains), buses and taxis are air-conditioned. For a country which is smaller than Chennai probably uses up almost thrice as much power. Thats because people demand and want such conditions. Thats why probably developing countries are still developing. Its not like there are no plus points about this place, its jus that everything here is almost perfect. They do not probably realise how much this affects a farmer or a normal person in under developed countries. These people s demands will get satisfied and supply will increase. A typical case of rich get richer and poor get poorer...And being perfect is not my cuppa tea!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Singapore Diaries - update

"Give me net or let me die here.. "..said Atul Chitnis to the CC administrator, at FOSSMeet '07. He said this looking at the pathetic net connectivity in our college.

Well finally atleast I'm back online already here at NTU!!

So beginning from basics, I reached Singapore Nanyang Technological University on 17th morning. Jetlag and only 2 hours of sleep. Notwithstanding that we went on to our college to proceed with the formalities.

What struck me first was the neatness, systematised (er, is that a word? ) way of functioning of the place. The roads itself were a sight to behold, larger than probably any of our NHs. As I and Naren reached NTU, International Student Services was waiting for us and directed us on what to do. We soon proceeded with formalities and landed in a room in Nanyang Heights.

(not many pics yet, sorry, dint get my cam :-) )

The medical test we had to undergo in the noon was a great experience. We had to undergo all sorts of test, even test our urine using paper sticks!! And there were blood tests and even a Chest X-ray to check for TB !

After that we toured the beautiful campus a bit. NTU looks like a toned up version of IIT Mumbai, maybe twice as big or so. And neater. There were a large number of canteens with enough vegetarian outlets, so I had no trouble finding some vegetable chow for myself.

The only sad part was that theres no more hustle-bustle here because the classes have not started yet. So the crowd is still thin. But yea, there are treats for the eye :-). Still, somehow I dont think the place would match the hullabulloo that we had in night-life at NITC.

In the night I discovered to my delight that I could access wireless net here from my lappie. That was it!! Night out time! It was mailing and chatting till 2 am.

So anyways I guess the blogs not off after all.. Hoping to get a cam and get some pics to post on blog soon..

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sidesplitting Anecdotes: The KuJo Disappearance

Pre-Script: KuJo is a figment of my own imagination and what follows is fiction. Any resemblance with characters living or dead is purely coincidence!

KuJo is a friend of mine. What makes him special is that he is only one I know whose sole aim in life is to lead a Middle-Class TM life. KuJo’s Middle-Class TM theories are an epic in itself and I will discuss them at length later. Even though I have spent quite some time with him, it can at times be very difficult to fathom the workings of his Middle-Class TM mind. That is precisely the why no one in world except Lord KuJo himself knows the explanation behind his mysterious disappearance in the middle of an excursion.

Five of us, me, KuJo, Raul, Chath and Shah (The core AF-gang TM) decided to go on an eco-expedition to Wayanad, a hilly region nestled among the Western Ghats. KuJo had no problems in pledging full support for the tour initially but decided to pull out in the eleventh hour, citing some strange reason that he had to take his aunt to the hospital on the tour day (What the #&*%?). Enquiries made by Raul (incidentally, his best friend) unearthed the fact that KuJo was in fact apprehensive of coming to the tour considering the risk involved in it. One of the most important characteristics of a Middle-Class TM mind is that it will not take risks. But risk is part and parcel of a Wayanad tour package as it is basically a hilly terrain and the places to visit there are mountains, waterfalls, forests and the like. We badly needed KuJo to cut down on the expenses and eventually managed to convince him that we will not take undue risks.

There can at times be a lot of problems created by the idiosyncrasies of a Middle-Class TM guy in your team. KuJo annoyingly keeps on asking you to repeat the itinerary again and again on the eve of the expedition. Our plans to set off as early as possible was almost sabotaged by KuJo’s persistent insistence on finishing off breakfast before leaving (Where to get breakfast at 5 am and that too in a place 20 km away from the city?). KuJo needs assurance that he will get food three times a day, on time. KuJo won’t sleep in a dorm; he needs a proper room if he has to stay overnight. KuJo wants to hire some vehicle in a place where walking on foot is the best way to go. He insists on hiring a jeep when an auto-rickshaw would suffice and on taking two auto-rickshaws when one would serve the purpose. KuJo gets mortally tired on climbing 200 meters of a medium inclined path … Hundreds of problems, but we managed to move on with all those.

We had never anticipated that a Middle-Class TM guy would be so afraid of taking so small risks. Our first destination was the Neelimala view point where, standing at the edge of a cliff, you should be able to see the spectacular Meenmutty waterfalls tumbling into the valley below, from the opposite side. KuJo even considered walking on the narrow mountain trail quite risky. What if a snake comes in? According to him, we should have taken a fully fledged first-aid kit that includes an antivenin! The thrill of a trekking expedition is in exploring new stimulating trails. KuJo won’t let us trek in peace. He would say at least a thousand times that it is risky to go to unknown places and that we should turn back. We snubbed KuJo, scolded him and ordered him to keep quiet, but it was of no avail. We proceeded nonetheless and after some search we finally discovered the trail that would lead us to the view point. But with every step taken, KuJo’s protests grew larger and larger. We finally asked KuJo to wait in some safe spot, while we go explore and come back. To this proposal he would not agree. If you were to go to the edge of the cliff in order to enjoy the full splendor of the viewpoint, there might be some risk involved, but absolutely nothing if you decide to stay a few feet away from the edge. I tell you, it is hard to find a guy with so much fear riddled in him. A road accident has 100 times more probability of occurring rather than someone managing to slide through the thick vegetation among obstructing rocks and tumble down from a cliff!

Having relished the waterfall from afar, we were eager to go around and have a closer look. That we did not know exactly how to get there was reason enough to send butterflies in KuJo’s stomach. Later, on learning that we had to trudge on for 4 km from the main road to the waterfall, KuJo started protesting. He suggested he would go to Mananthavady, a nearby town, get a room and stay there awaiting our return! We were literally pulling him like a tethered goat as we set out our march to the waterfall. The flat road came to an end 2 km down the line. To proceed, we had to take a slippery path that slithers dangerously close to a steep slope. By that time we had realized that taking KuJo along would simply add to the troubles. We acceded to his request that he would wait there in the thatched shed nearby till we came back.

It was indeed an arduous trek. I was panting and taking laborious breaths by the time we came back to the rendezvous point. To introduce a dramatic twist, we decided to frighten KuJo by telling him that Raul went missing, and that he was nowhere to be found. Upon our request, Raul fell back and we started shouting aloud ‘Raul, where are you?’ as we neared the thatched shed. Upon reaching there, the situation was, ‘KuJo, where are you?’ We searched all over the place for signs of KuJo, but he was simply nowhere to be found! Where could he have gone without telling us? He had the eatables and water bag, and there was no reason for him to go anywhere. Finally Shah got an SMS, “Friends, you should not mistaken me for this action of mine. It is for your and my own good that I finally decided to abandon you in the middle of the tour. This tour is too risky for me. I am on my way home”. Everyone was baffled; we had planned on a number of things for the next two days, and this humbug has fled to his home, 200 km away!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sidesplitting Anecdotes:Virus and the Waiter

This one happened during the Trivandrum leg of The Great Kerala Tour. We went to Hotel Highland for dinner. Me, VVS and Vaas teamed up with the intent to eat Non-Veg food. Left alone, Virus ordered three Kerala Parathas and one Dum-Aloo-Kashmiri. The waiter remarked, "നിന്‍റെ സൈസ് കണ്ടിട്ട് മൂന്നു പൊറോട്ട കഴിക്കുമെന്ന് തോന്നുന്നില്ല. I will bring two and if you are able to finish it off, I will bring the third Paratha ".

Virus was all fired up on hearing this seemingly innocuous challenge put forth by the waiter. How dare he underestimates me? I can finish four Parathas easily. This is an insult. With hurt pride, he declared: ഇന്നു മൂന്നു പോറോട്ടയെങ്ങിലും കഴിച്ചിട്ടേ ഇവിടെ നിന്നെറങ്ങുന്നുള്ളൂ!

Guess what happened by the time Virus finished two? He was too full for a third and even with we guys helping him, half of the side dish was left uneaten! Virus failed miserably to the challenge put forward by the waiter. Guess what he told us when we pressurized him to order more Porottas - "Instead of wasting another ten bucks on a paratha, I will try to save 20 bucks worth of Dum-Aloo-Kashmiri" and he resigned himself to eating the side-dish!

The next day, it was Sabareesh's treat at Hotel Sindhoor. Virus set a new record. This time round, he could finish just one!

PS: Virus is a product of mere fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

video

Dasavatharam


Dasavatharam, the much awaited and hyped up movie, proclaimed to make it to the oscars, turned out to be a decent movie with USP of 10 Kamal's. People who have seen the movie would agree with me to just bury the script in reams of cynicism and accept that Dasavatharam with all its flawless flaws, is a decent spectacle to watch and that kamal has re-affirmed his talent. Although it seems to me as a normal movie with overtones of typical filmi masala, no one can take the credit away from kamal for donning the 10 roles he has done. The story starts of with kamal explaining chaos theory and how that is related to his story and then to the fight between shaivaites and vaishnavites in the 12th century over the idol of Lord Vishnu.An ardent Vishnu devotee loses his life to save the idol of Lord Ranganatha. Kamal plays this devotee Rangaraja Nambi. I would like to add here that for all the hype and anxiety they created they could have given us better graphics, although the camera work was fantastic. The graphics were not upto the international standards but then the hype makes us expect to that level. This has been the problem with movie-watchers like us who watch movies made all around the globe.If we accept the simple fact that this was a movie made for Indians, especially south Indians, we would start seeing the positive aspects in the movie more rather than criticizing it. But then again, there is nothing wrong in speaking about the negative aspects too.After the 12th century show, the story revolves around the protagonist Govind Ramasamy(kamal) who is an upright scientist at U.S. From the labs at the firm he is working, a virus vial which was safely guarded, traverses a part of USA before reaching chidambaram in south India. The frantic car and bike chases really stole the show as they were a feast to the eyes and made with pulsating zeal. Christian Fletcher was played with ferocity and without any pity. Although, at times i felt that the chase was way too long and it resembled tom and jerry chases where finally jerry evades tom always. Certain stunts were breath taking and I admired them. Andal played by Asin was like a cantankerous mule. She was very irritating and her screenplay was done with crassitude. She was glutinously holding onto the Idol, whole of the movie and did not feel remorse even after making a huge accident. She showed too much naiveness and there were certain filmi gimmicks too. When she was about to be sexually assaulted she pleads them respectfully to leave her. That was not funny although it was intended to be. The obstinate Iyengar paati krishnaveni, who still beleived that her son was alive created sympathy. Again hats off to kamal for his voice intonation and accent for all his roles, esp to this one. Vincent Poovaraghan who speaks malayalam mixed tamil , tirunelveli and nagercoil side tamil( actually that is the original tamil) was awesome in dialogue delivery and expressions. The kamal i loved and enjoyed the most was Balram Naidu, the telugu-loving RAW Officer. Kamal did a fantastic job in speaking tamil the way a real telugu guy would have spoken. His spontaneity was cheerful and enjoyable, one of the reasons you should watch this movie. Other characters were the seven foot tall Khalifulla Khan, President George Bush, the japanese sama Shingen Narahasi, and the Daler Mehndi types, Avtaar Singh. One of the commendable efforts was erecting a large set at the Taramani Film City in India which was a Replica of the White House, with Kamal Haasan’s makeup for the role lasting six whole hours to obtain the desired outcome. For the climax scenes of the film, a tsunami effect was created in Mahabalipuram. The scene was shot at a 50,000 sq. ft. area land in which a 100-ft. wall was created near Muttukadu. Six machines, which generated 20 ft. high waves, was imported from the US, for a total cost of 3.5 crore rupees. For the climax, another scene was shot dramatically above the Nehru Stadium with the permission of the chief minister, Karunanidhi. Himesh Reshammiyas music was decent, although i feel Rahman would have done wonders. And I also feel shankar could have directed this venture rather than K S Ravikumar. It suits him better. Now We all know that though the movie had 10 roles of kamal, all the roles were not interconnected properly. It looked like Kamal did those 10 roles just for the record sake and that any body could have done those roles. I personally felt the same until i started reading certain articles and blogs regarding why 10 roles were casted and why it was given the name of Lord Vishnu's dasavatharam. Apparently there were certain similarities in those 10 avatars and these 10 avatars and here it goes... The following analysis was done just to understand certain aspects of characterisation by certain people and is not to hurt any person's feelings regarding Lord Vishnu and his avatars.

1.Krishna avatar - Vincent Poovaraghavan Lord krishna is dark-skinned [shyamalam]. He saved draupadi when she was being violated and he was the actual diplomat in mahabharatham. Lord krishna dies of an arrow striking his lower leg. Now look at how vincent was introduced. He appears when asin is about to be molested and he saves her like draupadi. Vincent is the dalit diplomat, fights for land issue [soil issue to be exact] and dies from the metal rod striking his leg. Oh even five of vincent’s men are drugged at P. Vasu’s Place. Sounds familiar?

2. Balarama avatar - Balarama naidu This is an easy asumption as the name suggests.

3. Mathsya avatar - Ranagaraja nambi Nambi is thrown into water in an act of trying to save lord from being thrown.

4. Varaha avatar - Krishnaveni paatti During the mukunda song, krishnaveni paatti does varaha avatar in the shadow puppetry. Moreover, in varaha avatar lord actually hides earth so as to protect life forms. Here too krishnaveni hides the VIRUS vial inside the statue so as to protect life forms.

5. Vamana avatar - Kalifulla khan In vamana avatar, lord vishnu takes the vishvaroopa, that is the giant form! Hence the giant kalifulla symbolises vamana avatar.

6. Parasurama avatar - Christian Fletcher Parasurama is actually on an angry killing spree and killed 21 generations of the particular kshatriya vamsa.He comes around with the gun [modern upgrade for axe] and kills everyone around.

7. Narasimha avatar - Shingen Narahashi First of all the name itself is a play on the words singam [means lion in tamil] and narasimha [the avatar being symbolised]. Lord Narasimha manifests himelf to kill the bad guy Hiranya-kashyap and he also teaches prahaladha. In the movie, he shows up to kill the killer fletcher! and is also a teacher(sama). Lord Narasimha had to kill the asura with bare hands and hence the martial arts exponent here.

8. Rama avatar - Avatar Singh Lord Rama stands for the one man one woman maxim, kind of symbolizing true love.. Here Avatar portrays that spirit by saying that he loves his woman more than anything and wants to live for her.

9. Kalki avatar - Govindaraj Ramasamy As you know, the hero in kaliyug can be none other than the Kalki avatar!!!

10. Koorma avatar - Bush This is considered to be the most loose adaptation by many movie-lovers. But if you look at the real koorma avatar, the lord is the turtle/tortoise that helps in stirring the ksheera sagara and bringing out the amruth. This essentially creates war among the devas and asuras. Similarly today Bush facilitates war between you know whom..May be Kamal also indicates that this avatar is a bit dumb like the tortoise…not knowing what is Na Cl.

I would like to add on one more view regarding this movie. After all the hurry-burry scenes, it all comes down to the basic question of- Is God there?
Lastly when Asin asks Kamal not to say that God is not there, he replies- " i am not telling god is not there, i am saying it would be good if he (chauvinism not intended) is there". This clearly explains what Kamal was intending. It was a conceited reply and kamal has spoken about God in many a movies now. He has tried to incorporate his ideologies regarding God, being a self confessed rationalist, the way he is. And if u ask me why that 12th century story then i would say 2 reasons
1. Its kamal for you!
2. Maybe u can draw parallels between what happened in 12th century and what happened in dec 2004, both these times they were fighting for a God's Idol but for a different reason, making the so called god omni present even over different era's.
In my perspective Kamal has stopped being an atheist and started beleiving that all is one and one is all! Thats why in the end he shows people thanking their respective gods for saving their lives from the tsunami, if there is God, that is!
On the whole the movie is entertaining and a treat to watch if you go without any expectations.

Naren
Writer's Note:- Views about the analogy between the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu and Dasavatharam is not mine. I saw this review in one of the forums and thought would share it.