Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Steve Prefontaine

"Without Limits" the movie talks about the life of Steve Prefontain, Pre, one of the distinguished American long distance runners, an Olympian, and his coach Bill Bowerman, coach and co-founder of Nike. Good movie and two inspiring people. Some personal quotes of Pre,

  • "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
  • "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more. Nobody is going to win a 5,000 meter race after running an easy 3 miles. Not with me. If I lose forcing the pace all the way, well, at least I can live with myself."
  • "I don't just go out there and run. I like to give people watching something exciting."
  • "I run best when I run free."
  • "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they're capable of understanding."
  • "I'm going to work so that it's a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it."
  • "Someone may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it."
  • "The only good race pace is suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die."
  • "What I want is to be number one."
  • "Something inside of me just said 'Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him,' and I just took off."
  • "Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run like that before.' It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative."
  • "How does a kid from Coos Bay, with one leg longer than the other win races? All my life people have been telling me, 'You're too small Pre', 'You're not fast enough Pre.' 'Give up your foolish dream Steve.' But they forgot something. I HAVE to win"
  • "You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement."
  • "Having a true faith is the most difficult thing in the world. Many will try to take it from you."

Link to Nakul's post whose recco I took

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A point of view

According to Indicus Analytics, an economics research firm, Thrissur features among the Top 10 places to reside in India.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The shameless..

Another case of disgusting mob cowardice and apathy..

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Disturbia

To this day I cannot guess with any sort of confidence that which was going through his head that night - whoever he may have been.

The plane taxied slowly onto the runway.

Like a huge, bulky tight-rope walker it rolled over the smooth tarmac carefully balancing its huge wings with their blinking lights.

Once on the runway it waited, ready to charge, making great sounds from deep within, as if somewhere deepdown the oompa loompas were shoving all the gasoline into one garangutan of a boiler-like engine that was all set to blow up. The engines slowly revved up and soon the whole frame of the beast began to shudder as the sound reached deafening proportions. As the minions ran for cover deep inside, the strings that were attached to the back of the plane stretched themselves to breaking point – ready to catapult us into the dark sky above.

Whatever I maybe doing – reading a book, checking the in-flight magazines, banging the walls of my head with a stray thought, studying the flight path or trying to catch some shut-eye – I always snap out of it at this point. I would slowly shut the book, tuck it into the magazine slot in-front, gaze out onto the wings, wait, look around and press deeper into my seat – in anticipation. This I always do - without exception, and as if feeding on my thoughts, the tele-screens would go blank, lights would switch off, the flight-stewardesses would disappear and the silence inside would mix with the deafening noise from the outside creating a heady concoction.

Then the strings would let go and the plane would hurl itself forward like a loud animal - the powerful head-beams pushing aside the dark-silent night, making way for the strong bulk of the aircraft. The long stretch of lights on either side of the tarmac would hold their ground as the plane zipped past them and disappeared into the night sky.

On that day, there we were, waiting at the head of the runway, the engines revving up. I was seated just outside the business class, right in front of the partition and from where I sat I could see the in-flight attendants who had taken their positions for take off. They were all strapped onto their seats and were chatting happily with each other. The teenagers next to me were trying to catch some sleep – ipod ON, hand luggage secured neatly in front.

I waited, in anticipation.

It happened as the plane began to move forward.

From somewhere close behind me, 5-6 rows perhaps, there rose the most chilling laughter I have heard to this day. Male and youthful, it exploded inside the cabin silencing everyone instantly and continued to reverberate and establish its presence in the silence. It was a strong voice, strong and patronizing. It had the confidence, and madness, of someone who saw the future, of the dark fate that befell him and his fellow passengers, and had decided to go out in a blaze. There was no prelude, no sober conversation that tagged along, no second voice that provoked it further – alone, he laughed.

The stewardesses look wide eyed to some point behind me. The guy next to me, woke-up with a startle, and then twisted and turned in his seat, to which he was still tied down by his seat belts, to get a glimpse of the face that sent forth the sound. I sat still, wide-eyed for sure, too startled and confused to turn around and look at what was happening. It was then that I realized that a chill was running up my spine and that I was scared.

If I were to sketch it, I would have a cabin full of droop-faced, squiggly-mouthed, wide-eyed passengers. The sleeping ones jumping awake from their seat, their eye-brows popping, eye-shades flying-off, and the fainter of hearts shuddering and chewing on their mandibles, an exclamation mark popping out from the captain’s announcement speaker – and the source of the sound, a kind of omnipotent smudge.

By now the plane was rushing down the tarmac, engines roaring with all their might, seconds away from take off. However loud the engines screamed, the laughter seemed to prevail over it, giving it a sort of invincibility.

All this while no one made a sound, and that was a good 3-4 minutes of clean laughter.

I was impounded with scenes of people tearing away their seat belts and jumping on to the source of the sound – pounding him to near fatality. I was sure that any second now he would be pummeled by his fellow passengers. For a while I felt pity.

Then as the plane was taking off the runway, the wheels bumped on the airstrip, stretching the tension in the air to explosive levels. For a second, I was compelled to belive that there was something going on that was beyond my comprehension, something otherworldly, and that things were about to go terribly wrong and we were helpless. Throughout all this the laughter continued, unabated, wave after wave of renewed energy crashing fatally into the collective psyche in that airplane.

The laughter continued until the plane was well up in the sky and was turning to catch its course. Sometime then, as if snapped out of a trance, the seat-belt signs turned off, the flight stewardesses got off their seats to serve the meals, the guys next to me got busy in some animated and happy conversation, and people all around started to chatter and move about - and the laughter, unnoticed, faded away. I sat wondering about what had happened and soon, I too lost myself in the comforts of the in-flight hospitality

Sometime, pre-dawn, as the flight began it’s descend the captain’s voice seeped into my uneasy slumber. As I slowly started to crawl out of my sleep, I heard echos of that laughter, I’m sure - and once again it filled me up with fear.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Watch the end of Poverty

Stunning! Do not, I repeat, Do not miss the end of the presentation.

Simply Joking

The Russian military has successfully tested what it described as the world's most powerful non-nuclear air-delivered bomb, Russia's state television reported Tuesday.

Channel One television said the new weapon, nicknamed the "dad of all bombs" is four times more powerful than the U.S. "mother of all bombs.

"You will see it in action, the bomb which has no match in the world... Despite its destructive qualities, the vacuum bomb is environment-friendly," said Col.-Gen. Alexander Rukshin, a deputy chief of the Russian military's General Staff, said in televised remarks.

[ Applause.. mixed with few Jeers from the back and some Guffaws from the front.. the amused quicky subdued by Huge MIBs ]

More here

Friday, September 07, 2007

Inside Outside

It is weird when a simple combination of words can indirectly indicate the ability to look at oneself, from the outside,

"Let us rest here... These creaky old bones of mine"
- Alfredo to Salvatore, Cinema Paradiso

"In my mind I still have brown hair. Hence it is a shock whenever I look at the mirror"
- Anderson Cooper on Tonight Show

"Hundreds of people lost their lives due to effects of radiation "
- Atom Bomb, Discovery Documentary

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dave Barry and Others

Found this while browsing Rinchen's blog - Point.12 is my fav.

Some interesting snaps found while loitering around the www.

- From GWBE's blog - beautiful snaps of the London Eye

- Finally some emotion! (courtsey Rediff.com)












- American domination in Osaka World Athletic Meet (courtsey Rediff.com)








- From the bottom of the Atlantic (courtsey NatGeo)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For Madmen Only

"There is so much to be said for contentment and painlessness, for these bearable and submissive days, on which neither pain or pleasure is audible, but pass by whispering on tip-toe. But the worst of it is that it is just this contenment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepresible hatred and nausea. In desperation I have to escape and throw myself on the road to pleasure, or, if that cannot be, on the road to pain. When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the very devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life. For what I hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity."
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Kenny

Stumbled on this really good Australian movie recently - some brilliant dialogues, a very documentary-like and biography-like camera-work and script, and some exceptional acting (Kenny's Dad!).

Kenny is a 'Plumber of toilets' in his own words and according to the rest of the world someone who delivers and looks after porta-loos.

Some of my favourite dialogues,

Kenny commenting about his job,
"I'd love to be able to say "I plumb toilets" and have someone say "Now that is something I've always wanted to do"

At the scene of disaster - so to speak
"There's another classic example of someone having a two inch arsehole and us having installed only one inch piping."

To a fellow in-flight passenger
"Just watch it in there mate. That machine, once you press that flusher, that thing will probably suck your guts out through your bum"

Kenny is trying to clean one of his porta-loos when he remarks to his distracted and chatty friend,
"There's a smell in here that will outlast religion"

Good movie!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Membrane

It was a very Murakamisque experience, that one; like the idea of spending time at the bottom of a dry well – weird, commonplace, disturbing, mysterious and exciting – all in one.


Breathe

A quiet wind swept over the surface of the clear blue water sending thousands of tiny ripples marching in its wake. The ripples hurried to the water’s edge where they lapped on the white-stone edges, some inevitably stumbling through the grills into the drainage system. A big brown ball of a buoy nodded in approval from the center of the large round pool.

Behind me, the restaurant was doing brisk business as the hotel residents looked to enjoy a relaxed Saturday morning.

In front the pool-decks were slowly filling up. Young families with little impish-boys and angelic-girls, cuddling couples applying sun lotion on each other, sexagenarian soul mates engaged in serious conversation, attractive women with their large dark glasses, i-pods and unfinished pop-fiction novels – all took their place around the pool; sit, stand, bend, run, prone.

Two little girls, one wearing a pink flower-printed swimsuit and the other in an off-white two-piece, stood at the edge of the pool - their black-goggled faces like that of the Luftwaffe. Chattering, smiling, pushing and pulling, and being the way only girls can be.

In the pool, away from me, a bulky Australian looked around - at me looking at him though my goggles and at others putting their diligent laps. He had his arms spread out behind him, the way one normally rests after one’s rounds.

Behind me a crow cawed - it is strange how the pool was the only place in town where I had seen these birds.

Then I went down.


Hold

Along with the blue, a thrilling silence and alienness pervaded the scene below. If I listened close enough, I thought I heard the sound of water running down a large pipe. The blue-tiled floor was unbroken and more or less clean, except for a small lump of feathers away to my left. The surface curved in to the center of the large circle where the tiles changed colour to form a dark flower like pattern. From the middle of that arose a white rope. Far away from me, it stood stalk-like, smoke-like, fragile, swaying helplessly, very metaphorical.

Headless torsos moved all around me. Live throbbing headless bodies propelling themselves around silently - eerie, weird and exciting. Only I could see how the muscles stretched and strained, how the supple flesh trembled in motion, how the legs flayed all over the place and pointed feet moved fish-like at times giving glimpses of perfection. I had exclusive privileges to another world and was privy to some part of these people’s life that they themselves were unaware of and more strangely, may never be. It is strange how when we look in a mirror we don’t associate the head as having control over the rest of the body.

Across the pool, the torso of the Australian stood knees bent and feet pointed together. The two girls splashed into the water, disturbing the calming peace of the place and raising a million bubbles around them. Soon the two tiny lean frames were standing on tip-toe and trying to move around. Arms tugged at each other for a while and soon the feet lifted from the floor. As they swam their limbs moved wildly – arms hit the water as they appeared and disappeared, legs kicked frantically at something invisible behind them, and a thousand air bubbles ran to the surface for safety. Suddenly the goggled face of one of the girls came underwater only to disappear just as fast and to appear once again. In an imperfect but nevertheless stunning display of breast-strokes, the body propelled forward sinuously, fighting the resistance of the water. The chest continued to pump the water as the rest of her body followed suite as if tied to it by a rope.

I looked up.

The surface of the pool, uneven, chaotic and colourful, spread above me like live plasma. The underbelly of the ripples took stunning shades of blue as they scampered all over the place. The surface blinded me from the view above like a live, motley alien membrane.

I lifted my hands from behind me and brought them close to my face. They were larger than what I was used to seeing, fingers wrinkled due to time spent in the water. I slowly raised them towards the surface, watching every movement they made.

What I touched immediately sucked in my fingers and soon half my palm had disappeared through the separation. The surface seemed to dance around the stump of my hand that was attached to it. I pulled back my wrist and fingers and the surface connected above leaving no trace of the intrusion, except of course for the microscopic bubbles that soon swam to the surface and disappeared. I repeated my action stunned by the beauty of it.

Breathless I stayed, at the bottom of the pool.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cool!

The rickshaw-race is here!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A True Leader

Steven Gerrard's comments soon after the hard-fought defeat in Athens!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Giving a face to the "Voice"

Here is the face of the famous voice that speaks out to us from all the Hollywood blockbuster trailers that we see. Thanks to Jay Leno show!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Night

The long-tail cut across the jagged surface of the ocean just as everything disappeared in one vast brush-stroke of blackness. The sounds around me - the drone of the engine, the rumbling of the ocean - struggled to escape the enveloping silence that seemed to descend from the sky. It was as if we were staring into the eye of darkness.

The island revealed itself onto our left every now and then - some lighted part of the shore, an array of cottages bordering the white sand beach, and dark hills that I knew flanked them. The long-tails swayed near the shore, in limbo, fleeing the absence behind and hesitant of the presence in front.

The lamp revealed half a lip and chin, adding glimpses of an eye or a nose as the boat crashed into the lashing waves. The red glow of the cigarette on the dark side helped fix the contours of the face. The man stood at the stern, now quiet, alert, guiding me to my destination.

Spray of salt water on the face

The ocean, restless and foreboding, held back its stunning visuals from us. The fluorescent blue and pastel yellow striped fishes with the wonderstruck look in their eyes, metallic green algae on dark purple coral, anemones, the black spiky balls I didn’t have a name for yet – Where were they now? Did they look the same even in this ink blot of pitch black? If I dived in for a peek now, would the waters be as benevolent as it were a few hours ago? What unspeakable creatures awaited me from the chilling depths of the ocean?

My mind bobbed along with my body in that vast sea of emptiness.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Encounter of a Different Kind

Now I have had a bit of the "Indo-Pak" experience. From Group Discussions in college and late night sessions in college canteens, to a trip to the beautiful Kashmir and the electric Wagah Border, to even memories of a bomb-blast that was linked to terror groups in my nice little haven in Kerala.
I'm not an extremist and do believe that history is what historians tell us and hence do not have a very strong view of what happened back then. Though my views on the current situation is clear and strong. Hence an India-Pakistan cricket match is more than just another match, even though that is what I try hard to keep it to. (Well I really can't defend this with conviction after the recent WC experience and the way cricket has moved in our country. Anyway that is just to make a point)
No, this is not about cricket.
There has to be a name for this tactical move, though I'm sure the person I'm about to mention did not intend it as a tactical move - like a Queen's gambit or something. I find it hard to imagine the two leaders sitting across a table to discuss Siachin or Kashmir, and the leader from across the border telling Mr.Singh this. Without much ado, this is what happened,
I was walking home after a late night movie in Dhoby Ghaut. That is a place in Singapore and it is not very hard to figure out the origins of that name. I'm crossing a green signal when I see this guy cross from the other side - lean, boney to conjure a better picture, with a balding head and his hair pasted to the scalp, black rimmed glasses balanced on the nose bridge, and a white faded tee and black trousers giving away the lean frame beneath - much like a malnourished geek from college.
Now we cross in the middle of the road when he queries,
"Excuse me.. Hi.. can you tell me the way to Orchard. (Another Place in Singapore)"
I'm looking at the signal start to blink. Before I can answer,
"You look like a Pakistani. Are you a Pakistani?"
A bit taken-aback - I don't know if that is the right set of words that describe the moment, but something like that - I tell him,
"No.. eh.. I'm an Indian"
"You look like a Pakistani"
"Ok.. Orchard is that way" pointing my fingure
"Ok" As he begins to walk away, he looks back and says,
"You look like a Pakistani. Are you?"
"No.. I'm an Indian"

Monday, April 09, 2007

Man

Don't forget to read the part about the Piranhas!

Friday, February 09, 2007

On Fire-Crackers and the Automobile Industry

So like we have computer controlled fire-crackers la
The idea of computer-controlled fire-crackers snapped me out of my thoughts.
The man behind the wheel was chirpy as usual, but I was lost in a slurry of deadlines.

What do you mean computer-controlled fire-crackers?

Haa, Singapore Government ban fire-crackers-aa. No real fire-crackers in Singaporre. Considered as ammunition.

In India, I was watching the entire night-sky fill-up with multi-coloured flower pots. The crescendo of uncontrolled burst of fire-crackers during the temple festivals deafening my ears.

Even one piece of fire-cracker in your pocket, you get 6 years of jail and 4 strokes

4 strokes?

Yeah, the scars stay on you for life. The skin is pealed off from your body with each whip. Once that wound heals the next stroke is made.

Is one lashed in public?

No. No. Inside the jail. But the scar stays with you forever-ah
It didn’t look so beautiful anymore, the pictures of Singapore financial district and bay-area night-sky filled with fire-crackers.

So I guess the only way you can celebrate Chinese New Year is to go to Malaysia?

No, even in Malaysia fire-crackers ban. You might find in some villages, but still illegal. If caught, you get punished. For that matter even China banned fire-crackers. Few years back one whole factory catch fire and burst- one whole factory – around 200 people die.

I come from India. We still have fire-crackers there. It is a very big industry there.

Oh. It is still not banned there eh?

………..
So are you a Singaporean

Yeah

Since when are you driving this taxi?

Oh taxi part-time. I have a factory in China.

Factory?

Yeah. Taxi my brother-in-law’s. I helping him because he is not well. I’m here for a few months. I did not want to sit at home with my wife and I like driving and talking, so here I’m’
‘What do you do then otherwise?

I run factory in China, go to Sri Lanka and Cambodia

This conversation was getting interesting by the minute.

I take scrap cars from junk-yards here and since they are mostly in excellent condition, sell them for good value in SriLanka or Cambodia. Singapore roads very good, so vehicles usually in good condition.

What followed was a lecture on how the Government regulated the Automobile Industry. This is the gist,

In Singapore the Government on an year-to-year basis, decide on the number of private cars that can be sold in the market. Each new car comes out with a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), or lets say a kind of lease for the car. Now, since supply does not meet demand, these COEs are auctioned, and obviously the richest of the buyer end up with the cars. Hence, any car buyer, in addition to paying the mark-up price of the car also has to pay a price for the COE.
Two immediate questions arise. The first being, why is the government trying to regulate the free market forces when the Per Capita income of Singapore is one of the highest in the world, and you can see every car manufacturer from the BMWs to the Nissan’s here. The answer is to avoid congestion.

The second question then would be, doesn’t that lead to an excellent second-hand car market and over the years with the lack of increase in land size of Singapore won’t we face the problem of congestion anyway. The answer is not that fast. The rule says that anyone wishing to sell his car also has to sell his COE. This means two things, one he/she has to pay a higher price for the new car as well as the new COE thereby deterring him from buying and two, since the COE prices increase every year, the COE prices of the second hand cars are also not depreciated prices of the COEs. Hence second hand cars are also not that cheap. Also, the government is promoting scraping of cars (yeah sending them to the junk-yard) by providing a rebate for such an act. (Does the government bear the rebate? How does that work? I still need clarity on this). Hence there are lots of people sending cars to the junk-yard. Our man here went to the junk-yards and took all those cars that were in ship-shop-shape and sent them to neighboring countries.

Having reached this far I asked him,

So you must be a rich man! Doing all this.

Not really, there are lots of us doing this here. There are lot of us ‘traders’, we call ourselves, around here.

Oh yeah, I forgot to factor in competition!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Amazing Video

Watch some amazing jugglery in this Fat Boy Slim video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEb3YknGUks

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Masseur

What do you tell a man who looks into your eyes and tells you that you stole his job?

I was waiting for my food parcel and this is what the guy at the counter had to say,

I got retrenched thrice and I got fed-up of it. Around the late 90s when you guys (raised eye-brows and pointing fingers, no animosity in tone or expression though) in India and China started picking up work from around the world including Singapore I lost mine. You guys outpriced us out of competition. Your employer, HAL, was the last one to give me the pink-slip. I tried my luck in the job market for about a year after that, but there was no demand for a middle manager. I gave up after one year. Now I help around here in this restaurant in addition to offering my services as a Thai masseur for private clients. I had around 20 years of experience before they kicked me out.

It is definitely a very different experience when you come face to face with the fall-out of the process that flattened the world.

He plans to come down to Kerala and learn the technique of Ayurvedic massage to cater to the ever increasing market for massage therapy in Singapore.