Sunday, November 29, 2009

What I have lived for

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy—ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me

The above prologue is of autobiography of Bertrand Russell WHAT I HAVE LIVED FOR. A new journey to know and read about Russell has begun


Friday, November 27, 2009

Dubai spoils holiday mood

My Grandfather rode a camel.
My father rode a camel.
I am riding Ferrari, Benz and BMW but I am also riding on the bonds that people in the west fear of becoming a junk.
Would my son also ride a camel ?

One such comment by a reader on the news of Dubai Government seeking a six month standstill for Dubai World on it's payment due this month, sums up the feelings of those who have lost their money on speculative investment in Dubai. Dubai world is the economic might of Dubai and includes DP World, that operates global ports, Nakheel the property developer behind iconic projects such as The Palm Islands and The World.
Dubai has the worst debt per capita in the world and is always portrayed as one end of the credit crunch spectrum. A year ago, economic commentators and analysts were harsh on Dubai's economic revival hopes. But all along, Dubai Govt defied those postures and managed to stay afloat. Big brother Abu Dhabi came to her rescue including the last week’s subscription of 5 Billion dollar bond by two of their bankers. Everything seemed so well for Dubai with a visit of Sheikh Makhtoom to UK and getting accolades from UK Prime Minister Gordan Brown for managing debt crisis with astuteness. But within few days, nobody imagined that Dubai Govt would send ripples among global investment community. Most intriguing part is the timing of the announcement. It comes when middle east is closed for Haj Holidays, US for thanksgiving and rest of the markets over the weekend.

It's interesting to read various articles drawing the comparison between Dubai's default with Argentina Crisis in 2001 and also with the collapse of Lehman brothers. But the big difference is that Dubai has the backing of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi has multi-fold of investments than Dubai's liabilities . But why didn't they come to Dubai's rescue this time ?

There is another alarming factor in Dubai's debt pattern. Out of 80 Billion dollar debt, nearly 60 Billion comes from Dubai World. What would be the spin off of this on Dubai economy ? If various mega projects like Dubai Burj (Tallest buildings) and 'The World' don't go ahead, interest cost would mount without any returns. Construction activity would be severely affected thereby impacting Dubai work force and its GDP. Dubai Trading mainly revolves around infrastructure goods, commodities and tourism. If first two gets affected, third would have some impact despite having an ace of ' Emirates Airlines'. Would it be a cascading effect or within next few months a new formula be worked out that will save the face of the Dubai , perhaps at a political price they may have to pay.

HSBC, Standard Chartered , RBS and Barclays have the maximum exposure with Dubai and so also various individuals from Asian subcontinent. They all would be anxious to see how things unfold when stock market resumes next week. I would be keen to know if Dubai property prices take further nosedive from the 50% beating they took last year ? Dubai World proclaims ‘ The Sun Never Sets on Dubai World ‘ and Nakheel ‘ Where Vision Inspires Humanity’. Would Dubai Sun be back after cloud of fiscal uncertainty and her vision would continue on its growth path ?


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Visiting Taj post 26/11

'Eerie' is one word that I could sum up my feelings when I visited Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai few months ago.

As I stood in the lobby of Taj facing white plywood that blocked the corridor, images of my past rendezvous along the corridor that led past ' Golden Dragon' Chinese Restaurant, 'Tanjore' Indian restaurant leading to an elevator that takes to various function halls and residing rooms, flashed my mind. It was difficult to conjure the plight of hapless tourists that must have been trapped in the ruthless mayhem on that night. I thought of myself being in the situation and was wondering the possible escape routes that must have been available then. When I used the toilet just behind the reception, I thought this could have been one such hiding place. Once I was there , I realized how vulnerable that place must have been. No hideaway except three toilets facing the barrage of terrorist guns, if he opens the door.

At Taj, like every big hotel property in India, the security was well enforced and alert with metal detector frame, handheld explosive sensors, CC cameras monitoring every movement. No cars were allowed in the porch. But after seeing the incident of Marriott Islamabad, I feel no amount of security would be full proof . Still it is reassuring to have alert security operations in place along with a sniffer dog.

Behind the glass door, other side of the lobby, lay a marble plaque with names of brave people succumbed to the cowardly terrorists attack. Flowing water fall gives a soothing effect to the numbed feelings. Outside the porch, a high rise barricade was erected to block the view to outside visitors peeping inside. I got a chance to stand on the porch and could take photos of the famed walls and windows that was ravaged in a day to merciless killings.
As I watched the documentary on the TV channel 'Discovery', I thought of my recent visit. So many wonderful memories I cherish from the Old Taj. Attending annual speech competition of Nazareth Speakers Academy , Occasional Sipping coffee at the Sea lounge overlooking the Apollo bunder and dining at the Golden Dragon, Tanjore, Shamiana and Zodiac grill. Seeing Mr J R D Tata climbing down the footsteps without much ado , Be at arm’s length of many Cricketers - most prominent that of Vivian Richards.

It was ' Pateti ' - a Parsee New year and the restaurant that served buffet was crowded and busy. Food was widespread and sumptuous, but an occasion of festivity with live viola play was rather muted with the backdrop of tragic event in the minds of visitors.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Akshta @ new place

Ground to Top
Park to Green
Street 1 to Street 4
We move on ....


Sunday, November 22, 2009

मागे उभा मंगेश, पुढे उभा मंगेश

मागे उभा मंगेश, पुढे उभा मंगेश
माझ्याकडे देव माझा पाहतो आहे

जटाजूट माथ्यावरी, चंद्रकला शिरी धरी
सर्पमाळ रुळे उरी
चिताभस्म सर्वांगास लिंपून राहे

जन्मजन्मांचा हा योगी, संसारी आनंद भोगी
विरागी की म्हणू भोगी
शैलसूतासंगे गंगा, मस्तकी वाहे

Lyricist :Shanta Shelke
Singer :Asha Bhosle
Music Director :Hridayanath Mangeshkar
Movie :Mahananda (1984)


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bhumika - movie by Shyam Benegal

A good movie and a good scotch both briskly transport you to another plane of thoughts and brings back at a speed of ' slow flyer ' leaving behind a refreshing outlook of ' the world around you' that stays over a long time.

Yesterday, I watched 'Bhumika' - a movie that I had read, heard and talked about but not seen. Few questions that immediately posed and stirred my mind ' Does an Indian actress go through the same journey as that of Usha ? '. Is that the reason why every established Bollywood movie star though put all his financial and social might in launching his son as a movie hero, is not keen for his daughter to be a movie heroin? Examples of Sunil Dutt, Amitabh Bacchan, Rajendra Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Jeetendra, Firoz Khan, Sanjay Khan come to my mind.

On the larger canvas, 'Bhumika' also made me squirm of the feeling that being a woman is to some degree 'less advantaged' and ' less privileged' gender compared to a man. Statements like ‘Raising a girl is not easy as that of a boy' a phrase that I had often laughed and discarded now made some sense.

'Masks may be different but the men behind the mask are all the same". "Women may change any men in search of her happiness and identity but she would have to live with the kitchen and the bed with every man she goes with". An advice given by a paralyzed matured woman to Usha who remained in elusive search of a man to provide her own cocoon of happy existence, does make me sympathize with the life of a woman who at every stage of her life gets guided, goaded and exploited by men who do it for their own benefit. "There is no difference in the way human live his life than that of animal and insect. In fact, In order to make it appear different, they try hard to fill and fit some meaning in it ". An innocuous statement used by a movie director to charm his actress also did a profound impact on my mind.

Smita Patil, Amreesh Puri, Nasiruddin Shah, Amol Palekar, Anant Nag, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Sulbha Deshpande, Girish Karnad, Satyadev Dube, Shyam Benegal must have always regarded 'Bhumika' a special place in their heart as every one of them went on to create his/her success story in India's movie industry.

I am sure every woman would identify a part of her life with that of 'Bhumika ', a movie based on the autobiography of ' Lavni dancer’. With a provoked mind, I also could relate myself with every mask of the male character of 'Bhumika'.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Title musical tracks of Hindi Movies

I am enjoying the luxury of working from home. Eat, Work and Sleep all from the comforts of bed and sofa. It also gives me time to scribble on my blog.

Y'day was Salil Da's B'day . I learnt it only by late evening and had a chance to rummage through two good websites on him. Tribute to Salil Da has some selected Bengali Songs. The world of Salil Choudhary tells us more about him as a person and his political & social leanings beyond the music. Some years ago, I had interacted with his daughter on RYZE. I believe she is a singer too.

I have a CD on title tracks of James Bond movies. Instrument, orchestration and digital recording has terrific impact. It is amazing to hear the track without any distraction of visual or a storyline. I started searching for mp3 clips of some of the musicals tracks on Hindi music. As I delved deeper more on to various music sites, I came across many as the hours ticked by. Unfortunately, I couldn't lay my surfing fingers on my favourite track of Kala Sona.

A. R. Rahman - spirit of Rangeela , The Burning Train , Shalimar , Sholay , Swades ,Heera Panna , Shakti , Taal, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin , Aandhi , Rang De Basanti, Malgudi Days , Shaan , Yuva , Pancham Musicians , Pancham Musicians 2, Pancham Musicians 3 ( Manohari Singh) , Dil Se Mile Dil ,

Here is a line that has lot of relevance . : "A dream is not what you see in sleep, it is the thing that does not let you sleep"

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Corruption Ranking of India

The result was predictable. India's stood at No 85 on corruption ranking. Some solace in the fact that there are still some countries like Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq behind us. Singapore as has been for last decade stood among top three along with New Zealand and Denmark.

As I read more about corruption, its menace and methods used to root out the corruption, I realized the single most effective step is the 'will of the governing leader'. Unless the person at the helm of India's governance has the courage and will to confront this monster, only then he would have necessary implementation program to make institutions ‘corruption free' . In India, it is obvious that election funding is the primary cause for institutional corruption that is backed up, encouraged and protected by political party in power. Corruption patronized by politicians during Arms purchase, Import of commodities, awarding infrastructure projects, land acquisition and disbursement form the huge sources and form the foundation of corruption economy. This is followed by bureaucratic corruption during enforcement of laws dealing with Taxation, Utilities, Rules and regulations etc form the support grid of corruption tree.

Any discussion, article or debate on corruption free society includes the Singapore story and methods Singapore Govt. (In particular Lee Kwan Yew) employed. Mentor Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew says “Fighting against corruption starts from the leader, I mean starting from the highest points to the below, “30 years ago Singapore was like Armenia, it was a corrupted state, but now it is not.” New laws have been adopted to meet the challenge. “If you have a thing which costs more than your salary or business, then you’ve corrupted buying it.

Speech given by Singapore ambassador in France is succinct, focused and puts very nicely the strategies Singapore has embraced to make efficient nation free of any corruption. It says “Three basic principles of Singapore’s good governance include (a) the first is zero-tolerance for corruption. In Singapore, no one will be forgiven for corruption, whether it is a government minister or a government official. Singapore has been consistently rated as having the lowest corruption in Asia (by the World Competitiveness Report). Easy to do business and business costs are lower. (b) The second basic principle of the Singapore is meritocracy. Everyone is judged on the basis of their individual merit and individual talent. It is not the colour of your skin or your religion or family background. What counts is your talent. (c) The third principle is the “rule of law”. In Singapore, no one is above the law. Everyone has to follow the law and if you don’t, you pay the price. What this means is that, if you are a businessman, you have certainty the law will be followed and contracts will be respected."

I would be keen to see if India move in the next year ranking,

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Monday, November 16, 2009

A journey past Mulshi Lake

I had heard about 'Vadkhal Naka' in the context of some alleged smuggling scandal involving A R Antule. I also knew about Karnala being famous for bird sanctuary and existence of the fort. Last week, I passed by both Vadkhal and Karnala on route towards the discovery of ‘Vile Bhagad’, a new industrial township being built by MIDC. But the travel past MIDC till Mulshi Dam made our day memorable.

Our ride started from Mumbai at 9am and culminated at Koregaon Park in Pune at 6pm. We passed through Panvel - Karnala -Pen - Vadkhal - Kolad - Vile Phata - Vile Bhagad - Bhira (Tamhini Ghat) - Mulshi - Paud - Pirangut - Bhoogaon - Bawdhan - Chandni Chowk - Pashan - Kothrud - . Alternating between plains, steep mountain curves, along the contour of an expansive Mulshi lake encircled by Sahyadri’s massive mountain range, this journey was turning out to be spectacular. This was a surprise package that we did not envisage. Road from Panvel to Vile Bhagad village, was through barren areas interspersed by heavy industries and town ships. The exception however was that of stretch of forestry in Karnala. Here winding roads flanked by thick foliage on both sides gave a respite from urban clutter and noise.

Once past Vile Phata (railway crossing), predictable yellowish dried bushes turned into a green belt of sugarcane fields packed together on black soil. This fertile transformation must have been due to water source in the vicinity, but we had no idea about the extent of water source. As we entered Bhagad village, it was back to barren rocks and dried bushes and I was happy MIDC won't be using fertile land for factory site. Few yellow colored blocks announced their identities. Village Panchayat, School, water pumping station and few tin roof shacks that served tea, coffee and perhaps meal. A small shop tucked at the corner had group of school kids huddled together. They all stood in great excitement while clicking the picture. In my next visit, I must carry a printout for them. I am sure they would be thrilled. Seeing them in red tie school uniform surprised me. Even in this remotest part of rural Maharashtra, It's not uncommon to see a sight of pony tailed school girls carrying school bags. This is a definite symbol of progressive state that Maharashtra is known for.

As our car climbed the mountain, we came across few ' varkari sampradya' who must have been on the return journey from 'Alandi' or ' Pandharpur’ after completing Kartiki Ekadashi. A glance around the mountain range makes one realize the varied shape of the mountain tops. Some are flat as chiseled. Some have protruding nose, some have one nose on top of another one. As the road encircles and goes half way, the shape of the mountain top becomes more pronounced. These peaks must be challenge to mountaineers and hikers. Soon after a stopover at Trimurti dhaba, we see a huge lake down below on the left side. For next an hour or so, we drive along this lake till we come across Mulshi dam. This ride is the most scenic and soothing. Few small resorts dot along the curve and white cranes appear at a distance. Condition of the road after Mulshi dam was hopeless due to Monsoon rains and bullock carts ferrying the goods. We could have taken a road to Pune via Pali reaching for Khopoli and then take Mumbai Pune road to reach Pune earlier but we would have lost an opportunity to feel the beauty of Mulshi Lake and dam.

I could conjure what this place must be in heavy Monsoon. Steep Mountain creating numerous waterfalls, cloud cover hanging over Mulshi Lake, rains lashing the earth creating a parrot green carpet.

How Mulshi lake side be after 50 years? I can imagine sign boards of five star hotel properties. Dotting of Fast food joints, colourful wind surfing canoes drifting across the lakes, tourist buses howling past the food joints destroying the tranquillity and peace of Mulshi Lake, before that happens, I would love to visit this place once in Monsoon season.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Death must be beautiful

This time, I was keen to erase my unpleasant memories of 1981. Then, the incident was 'acute appendicitis surgery'. Now, it was the surgical correction of 'avulsion fracture with displacement at the base of fifth metatarsal'. In 81, the procedure started with the local anesthesia induced through spinal injection. Was it the cause of an anesthetic agent or my fear ? I don't know. All I recall was I struggled violently for water to quench my parched throat and body. There was no mercy. I was forced to sleep and to wake up after 12 hours. The torrid memories stayed with me all these years.

This time, I wanted to be alert to witness that moment of slipping into sleep. As my mobile stretcher wheeled inside the OT, familiar brands of Valleylab, Maquet were in sight. A bolus through the IV cannula pushed into the vein of my left wrist as the Nurse standing next to my right shoulder sighed in exasperation for a hairless site on my chest to paste ECG electrodes. That was it. Next moment, I found myself in the recovery room, under the protection of CMC Vellore trained nurse. ' You are done and your surgery is over '.

Two hours of deep sleep with no dreams, no past, no present, no future. An emptiness that detached my body and mind. I had no feelings. No pain, no anguish. no elation, no attraction, no distraction . Surgeon's cautery didn't bother me nor the metallic screws that penetrated through my bones rattled me. It was a silence both within and outside. Time froze where it was as I ceased to exist for myself and for the world around me. As I looked back, I realized this is what a death must be. If it is, I savored it with all its beauty.

I don't know if it was the technology of minimal anesthesia delivery system or efficacy of drugs or the skills of an anesthetist, the transition from the ' awakening' to the ' deep slumber' was swift and sudden ; so too was the shift from the 'black hole' to the 'realization of one's existence' . Whatever may have been the reason, it was beautiful and magnificent . I can safely assume that death in reality must be close to what I witnessed. A blissful state of nothingness.


Friday, November 13, 2009

'Auro' in 'PAA'

In my wildest imagination, I wouldn't have conjured that photo of 'Auro' in 'PAA' is that of Amitabh Bacchan. What an amazing creativity that must have involved top class sculptors, cast makers, make up artists, computer graphic designers. The illustrative, vivid description by Amitabh in his blog held me these artists in awe. To endure all that trouble and at the end of it give a theatrical performance is a tribute to Amitabh's abundance dedication to his profession. I like numerous others now await seeing this performance .

It is too early to talk about the commercial success of this movie but one thing is sure, it is going to get lot of accolades and recognition for physical portrayal of 'Auro"

I agree with another reader’s observation that Amitabh's posts away from home country - be it from another city, hospital, hotel and aircraft ‘ has lot of depth, profundity and fabulous choice of words . I guess his busy schedule in India and cacophony that surrounds him may not be giving him time and opportunity to synthesise his thoughts in fascinating words and expressions that has been hallmark of his blog.

His posts while being in London and journey through transatlantic had the same class as were from his posts from Singapore and elsewhere.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mind Boggling stuff by Pranav Mistry

Just today morning I read a news clip forecasting new Bill Gates would be from either India or China. In next few hours, I happen to see this clip by an Indian student at MIT.

It's incredible how the technology - Pranav Mistry called it Sixth Sense - would have an human interface with all its natural abilities that nature has endowed with. As I finished seeing this presentation,mind was almost tizzy as if I had come out of roller coaster ride. This amazing thought process backed by ingenious work sure would change the world sooner than mere advancement of technology.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Phrases that stay fresh !!

If Columbus had been married he might never have discovered America because he would have had to answer all of the following :

· Where are you going?
· With whom?
· Why?
· How are you going?
· To discover what?
· Why only you?
· What do I do, when you are not here?
· Can I come with you ?
· Coming back when?
· Dinner ghar par hi khaoge?
· Mere liye kya laoge?
· It seems you deliberately made this ....
· Don't lie....
· Why r u making such n?
· You seem to be making a lot of such programs..
· Answer me..Why?
· I want to go to my parents place..
· I want you to come and leave me..
· I don't want to come back..
· I will never come back....
· Why are u not stopping me....
· I don't understand what is this discovery chakker?
· You always do like this.....
· Last time also u did like this....
· Now a day's u always seem to do like this....
· I still don't understand what else is left to be discovered..