Friday, June 29, 2007

To read in the near future.....

Some books that I want to read in the near future based on recommendations from different sources:
  1. Don't make me think A common sense approach to Web Usability - recommended by PR. A book for the makers of web apps, and any other software apps.
  2. Bound together How traders, preachers, adventurers, and warriors shaped Globalization - reviewed in a recent issue of Newsweek. Whats not to like about a book which explores how everything in the world is connected?!
  3. Fish! A remarkable way to boost morale and improve results - recommended by GN, who in turn got a recommendation from GE employees.
  4. A house for Mr. Biswas - Never got around to read V. S. Naipaul's masterpiece despite the numerous recommendations over the years(one from SB), perhaps because it required quite a bit of patience and I didn't have it at that time!
  5. Another day in the frontal lobe A brain surgeon exposes life on the inside - from KD's book club list. Promises a fascinating look into a profession which revolves around a remarkable object.
  6. The will to lead Running a business with a network of Leaders - From the guy considered as the father of modern management consulting; need I say more?
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - The story needs an end!
  8. Arise Arjuna Hinduism and the Modern world - Recommended by KK.
  9. Sri Aurobindo Centenary Library Full works of Sri Aurobindo - recommended by KK.
  10. The life of Sri Aurobindo Biography of Sri Aurobindo by A. B. Purani
  11. The intention Experiment Using your thoughts to change your life and the world. Recommended by DJ.
  12. Why girls can't throw ... and other questions you always wanted answered. - About word and phrase origins, mainly Americanisms. Excerpt in a recent Readers' Digest.
  13. Headcase How I almost lost my head trying to understand my brain. Recommended in the Experience Life magazine (which incidentally is a very good magazine and I should subscribe to it soon) and could be a better alternative to #5 above.
  14. The world without us Another book recommended in the Experience Life magazine. Very intriguing title!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Road trip across US of A ; A dream come true!

Decided on doing this drive across the country yesterday, after mulling over it for the past few days, and after hoping to be able to do it "someday" for the past six years!

Monsier Victor Hugo was absolutely right when he said There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Given that he was of the opinion that Every man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet, I am sure he would be beaming down in approval at my plans to realise my dreams of driving across the length of United States.

JH had spoken about renting a RV and going around US with a bunch of people a couple of years ago, and naturally he came up as the first possible candidate to accompany me on this adventure. Given that he is an amateur photographer, and has time on his hands, I was quite hopeful that he will agree to join me. And he didn't disappoint me when I called him up!

So I need to figure out the earliest date at which I can start on this trip, list out some of the must see places & people on the way, book the flight to San Francisco, rent a one-way car rental from SFO to EWR with possibly an in-built GPS, find out about friends we could meet and stay with on the way, get details about hotel accommodation and camping information on the way, start a new blog dedicated to the road-trip (after all this is going to be a once in a life time experience, and hence deserves a separate blog of its own!), finish the must-do things in NY and pack some food and snacks among other things.

Life is beautiful when you are doing what you wanted to do for a long time!!

Perhaps the Who will buy... song from Oliver! comes close to express my current state of mind.

Created the Pacific to Atlantic blog; further updates on the trip will be over there. As of now, it looks realistic that I start on this journey during the week of July 9th.

That Elephant?!

A fond memorable incident I noted down a few years ago:
I was playing with a sweet two year old girl yesterday; she gave me a pair of scissors and a piece of paper and told me "Make Elephant". I toiled over it for a while egged on by her frequent "Where Elephant?" and finally showed her my best effort.

And she went "That Elephant?!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lap-tops as life altering devices...

Was considering purchase of lap-tops for two of my nieces who are starting on the graduate degree studies this year; the intention being to give them a means towards a more secure and self-reliant future .

While googling on these lines, came across the OLPC (One Lap-top Per Child) and $100 lap-top initiatives. Looks like an ambitious project with realistic goals; would be interesting to know more about their objectives and the current status. There might be a possibility of getting involved in the initiative as well at some point in the future.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

El Laberinto del fauno

Had read a lot of good reviews and heard extremely positive comments from friends about the movie Pan's Labyrinth. Finally got to watch it on DVD with a few friends recently. It is quite an impressive movie, worth more than the three Oscars it won this year. A story which can be interpreted either as a delightful fairy tale or as a young Girl's delusional fantasy amidst the cruelty and harshness of a Fascist military base in Spain during the WW-II.

The story moves seamlessly between the two worlds the main character Ofelia lives in : The realistic world of soldiers and rebels and a suffering mother; and The Fantastic world of fairies, a Faun, a giant toad and a child eating monster.

I - as well as my friends - got engaged in the movie right from the beginning and came out at the end with a wondrous feeling.

The soundtrack of the movie is very nice.

I can't do this all on my own...

I think I got hooked to Scrubs because it was JHS's favourite show; JHS being a resident at a Boston Hospital at the time I met her first, working some crazy 48 hour shifts at the hospital and having some interesting stories to tell about her work place.

That was 2-3 years ago; now I own all the DVDs of the show, and watch some old episodes when I want a humorous interlude. There are so many episodes which I like to watch and watch again! My absolute favorite is the My Screw Up episode in the third season in which Brendan Fraser has a guest role, and the episode has a sad twist at the end. Other favorites are the one in which Dr. Kelso states "Nothing worth having comes easy in life", the ones with JD's father and brother making an appearance, some episodes with Heather Graham as guest star.

The music associated with the series is one key attraction for me, starting with the Superman single by Lazlo Bane which is the theme song of the series. Some old rock songs featured in the series became my favorites after I listened to them in the episodes and got to see the songs in a new light - most notable ones being Journey's Don't stop believing and Boston's More than a feeling. Turk and the other members of the air-band playing More than a feeling had me listen to the song over and over again for days!!

The lyrics of the theme song Superman:
Out the door just in time
Head down the 405
Gotta meet the new boss by 8 am

The phone rings in the car
The wife is working hard
She's running late tonight again

Well I know what I've been told
You gotta work to feed the soul
But I can't do this all on my own
No, I know I'm no Superman
I'm no Superman

Lyrics continued ....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Games Indians Play

A book titled Games Indians Play Why we are the way we are? caught my eye in Chennai Airport on my recent trip to India. Had never heard of the author V. Raghunathan, and would have dismissed the book as another 'thinker' ranting about the Indian society, but for the "Foreword by N.R. Narayana Murthy" line on the front page of the book.

Unlike a reviewer of the book implying that it is a book to be finished in one Sunday afternoon, I took almost a month to finish reading the book. It turned out to be worth a read, as it provides a framework based on concepts in Game Theory to understand various aspects of the Indian society, which are overwhelmingly negative.

Explaining the Simple and Iterative Prisoner's dilemma to begin with, the author makes a forceful argument that the basis for a course of action should come from within and not from outside. And only when majority of the Indian population understands this would the self-defeating Defect-Defect behaviour present in almost every aspect of 'Indian-ness' would be transformed to a sustaining Cooperate-Cooperate behaviour. The author also makes an interesting parallel between the discources between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefields of Kurukshetra and the concepts of Game Theory, concluding that the Cooperate-Cooperate behaviour is nothing but everyone following Dharma as elucidated by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

I would recommend it to anyone who has asked themselves at any point in time : "Why are so many things wrong with India? How can things be improved?"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Back in the 'City of Light'

Came to Paris on a week-long official trip yesterday, and found the city to be very mesmerising. As usual!

One of the must-do things on my Trips to Paris is a hike up the Montmartre to visit the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. I like the short climb up the hill and getting rewarded with panoramic views of Paris and the serenity of the majestic cathedral with its huge and hollow white dome. Unlike my earlier visits, this time it was drizzling and it made for a different experience.

This time I found out that the trip to Sacré Cœur could be financially lucrative as well. I bought a memorial gold medallion from a vending machine by paying 2€. A German man saw me do so, and asked me if I have another 2€ coin to spare for him to buy the same memento. I gave him the last coin I had, and he gave me a 5€ note!!

Thats a whopping 150% rate of return per (let's say) 10 seconds. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all investments give atleast 0.001 % of this kind of return! On refusing to accept the 5€ note for the 2€ coin, the entire family pitched in to pay me 2€ in change, telling me "Now you can sleep in peace"

Found out that the guy had worked in India (Gujarat) for ABB and had stayed there for 9 months.

June 21 is a special day in France. The whole country resonates with music emanating from thousands of concerts at public places during the La fête de la musique

Found out from a few of my colleagues that Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham is a super-hit in France and is more famous as La Famille Indienne

The trip inspired me to re-invigorate my efforts at learning French Language (oui, I am a closet Francophile ) and that lead to the creation of 2bfrancaise blog

Saturday, June 16, 2007

When you don't know the answer...

Thanks to BK for forwarding me a mail containing the following images with some very funny answers people have come up to difficult questions posed in Examinations. Made me remember the "Gestalt Theory states that if you don't know the answer to a question during exams, you should not answer it" answer to the question What is Gestalt Theory? in college, getting me a "Nice Try!" from the professor.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Pittsburgh, Hindu temples, Amish community...

Accompanied SS on his road-trip to Pittsburgh during the Memorial day wknd as I hadn't planned anything else for the long week-end. While SS was going because he wanted to have a Darshan at the Hindu temple there, I was more than happy to join him for the drive itself. The drive to Steel City takes around 7 hours from my place and for the most part very picturesque - through the Applachian mountains and having 3-4 tunnels enroute.

We attended the Vishnu Sahasranama recitation in the morning at SV temple. Found out that my first name is one of the names of Vishnu! Makes me extra proud of my name :)

During the recitation, a young girl sitting next to me on her father/uncle's lap said to him "I don't understand anything the priest is saying." It made me wonder about the thousand odd rituals like this which Indians/Hindus perform regularly without knowing much about the details, and about the historical Brahminic hegemony on all things religious in Hinduism. I also felt sad that in a few years that girl is quite likely to stop raising such complaints to fit in among her family and peers.

I bought the book Hindu Culture An introduction by Swami Tejomayananda at the Temple store to learn more about my religion; I don't think I have really had a formal introduction to the religion at any time.

Got to see some people wearing a odd-looking red cloth on their head, and on enquiring with one of the women in the group, found that they were Kannadigas from all over US who come to Pittsburgh regularly (usually during a long-weekend) to perform Mettilotsava. The head-clothing they were wearing was supposed to be a simile of the 'cap' worn by Purandara dasa.

In addition to the SV temple, we also visited the Sri Shirdi Saibaba temple and the Hindu Jain temple, all of them being in close vicinity of each other.

On the way back, we took a detour from the regular Penna Tpke route and drove onto Interstate Route 99 with Penn's Cave and Route 80 being the guiding markers. The trip to Penn's Cave did turn out worthwhile even though we couldn't take part in any of the cavern/wild-life tours there. We started seeing road-signs on Route 192 asking us to expect seeing some Horse-buggies, and within a few minutes a Horse-buggy came along making us aware of our inadvertent entry into Amish country. It was surprising to us as we were far from Lancaster county which is commonly associated with Amish.

For a half an hour or so, we got to see Amish men and women go about their lives in their traditional head-covered (and mostly black) dress, walking to places within short distances and traveling by horse-buggies to far away places. It was quite an experience to partake of their anachronistic life-style. A few Amish women - most likely returning from work in the fields - waved at us when we passed them and were looking at them like they were some tourist attractions. While SS was taking a photo of the Horsebuggy as it approached, one of the Amish men in the buggy took out a cellphone and was taking our photo with it :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mungaru Male : Pure magic

I have been listening to the songs of the movie Mungaru Male repeatedly (often 4-5 times a day) over the past couple of months, after listening to my friends and my family rave about it for months. I love it, and can't wait to see the movie to have the full experience of these songs with the beautiful picturisation of the songs in Malnad. Wish I had made time to see the movie when I was in Bangalore last month! I will have to wait till the movie comes out on DVD or travel to some faraway city in US where it is being premiered now according to this web-site. I guess I could make it to Pittsburgh on July 14th to watch the movie!!

These songs were the favourites of my nephew and nieces as well; recalling them cutely singing these songs while I was at home lends an additional charm to the music and the songs.

Got to know that the music director for this movie - Mano Murthy - is part Music director and part Silicon-valley Entrepreneur. More surprising was the fact that he scored the music for the movie America! America!! which has been one of my favorites both for its story and its melodious songs. How could I have not known about a guy who has such wonderful scores to his credit!

Songs of Mungaru Male uploaded on YouTube:
* Anisuthide yaako indu : Sonu Nigam
* Kunidu Kunidu Baare : Udit Narayan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Stephen
* Mungaru Maleye : Sonu Nigam
* Onde Ondu Sari : Kunal Ganjawala, Priya Hemesh
* Suvvi Suvvali : Hemanth Kumar
* Araluthiru : Shreya Goshal
* Ivanu geleyanalla: Shreya Goshal

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

True transformation can indeed happen!

I spent three days (Fri 8th to Sun 10th from 9:00 AM to almost 11:00 PM everyday) in a basement in Manhattan with around 130 total strangers. I entered on Friday morning as a person with thousands of unsolvable problems, and left on Sunday evening with a "Bring on the Problems, World" attitude!

I must thank RR for pestering me over the past two years to do this. Of course I called him yesterday to thank him and also mentioned that he will get a kick on his butt next time we meet for not dragging me to the Landmark Forum earlier! My life would have been so much more fulfilling, and a whole lot of trouble I got into wouldn't have happend, if I had attended this seminar before!!

RR was telling me for a long time about Landmark Education and I was always ignoring his entreaties to take up the course. I finally came around recently and decided to attend the Landmark Forum Seminar, and was blown away from the moment I stepped in.

The 130 odd people who had signed up for the Forum along with me each ended Sunday evening as a different person with a new-found confidence in themselves and a better understanding of their stature and interactions with the world.

I did have quite a few break-throughs and achievements during the three days.

On the personal note, I was able to let go of one of the long-persisting notion of inferiority which I had been grappling with for most of my life. It happend just like that. I was doing a 2 minute exercise with my neighbour in class at that time - a black woman. She said something very simple and obvious about my complaint and I - after a brief pause - burst out laughing at the simplicity and the absurdity of the revelation, and was left wondering why I couldn't see it for myself before!

I was able to make huge progress in getting close with my family members. When I joked with my mother about her having to learn English language atleast for the sake of being with my English-speaking-only kids when they are born in the next five years or so, I knew the money I paid for attending the Landmark Forum was worth every penny, and I was being rewarded immensely on the investment.

I also made some breakthroughs in normalising my strained relationships at work. On Sunday afternoon, I called up my boss at his home and had a pleasant - and significant - conversation with him after a long time. I am glad to have turned the tide in the way our relationship was disintegrating. I am very confident that I can build on this small victory and achieve what I want most at work - harmonious relationships with everyone and working as part of a team towards achieving the Organisation's Goals.

In addition to my transformations at the personal level, I am also thankful of this forum for giving me some close friends. Two of my Black/African-American friends had never had Indian food ("because of ignorance" as one of them mentioned) and were very happy that I introduced them to Indian cuisine. Later on as they made significant breakthroughs in their own life, they thanked me for my role in their transformation. I could be flying high in the sky now :)

I don't think I have ever interacted with Homo-sexuals before, and I always have had a thought at the back of my mind that if I ever came face-to-face with someone, I would be embarassed and not know how to behave. There were quite a few Homo-sexuals in this forum, and I had no problem relating to them, and made some good friends by the end of the sessions.

It was amazing to see the transformations in each and every participant. The most astonishing transformation was of one young white woman who started as obnoxious and everyone was referring to her in their private conversations as 'The cynical one' or 'a B***h'. She ended as everyone's favourite at the end of sunday's session after she thanked the Seminar Leader for "conducting the seminar and trying her best to throw her out" and addressed everyone in the audience and said "I apologize to all the people I have been mean to over the past three days." Later on in the day, when she was thanking her boyfriend - who was in the audience - for bringing her to Landmark, everyone in the audience gave her a huge ovation.

I was very impressed with the way the Seminar Leader - a French woman - handled the sessions and the impact she had on the 130 odd people there. At the end of the sessions I decided "I want to be like her. I want to be able to make a difference in the world, 130 odd people at a time over one week-end!" I volunteered to assist in Landmark's courses and have gathered information about what needs to be done to become a Seminar Leader.

This realisation was quite significant for me. I have had a nagging complaint about myself over the past few years that I hate many things about my family, my community, my city, my country, in fact everything associated with my roots, and that is why I 'ran away' to United States. And that I had to earn millions to make a difference back home. Now I know how I can indeed make a difference RIGHT NOW, and I feel liberated from unnatural and unhealthy drives!
I am amazed at the changes Landmark Forum has helped me bring about in myself, and I am sharing it with everyone I know - my family, my friends, my colleagues, the people I meet on the road :) It is a good thing that Landmark Education has a large presence in India and conducts regular seminars in many cities including Bangalore. I told my family members and requested them to attend the seminar. Right now only my father has agreed and others say they are not interested. That is awesome - my infectious enthusiasm affected atleast one person in my family!

I am inviting everyone I know to attend the seminar session today evening, and the more I talk with people about this, the more it becomes clear to me what I am gaining from attending this course. Yesterday, while speaking with one of my friends I realised that one of my rackets is to "prove that I am better/different than everyone else". Thinking about it further I realised I have that need for one-upmanship in reaction to a sense of rejection I experienced as a kid and was trying to gain my parents' affection back by proving that I am better than everyone else. Very typical of the script I wrote for my life as a 5 or 6 year old kid! Now that I know I have this behaviour and understand why I behave that way, it should only be a matter of time before I take this unwanted characteristic out of my behaviour.

I was thinking earlier "If this course is so life-changing and beneficial, why don't everyone benefit from it?" Drawing parallels from my own case, I came up with the following answer: "Everyone can benefit from it, but only when they are ready for it and are willing to receive what it has to offer"

RR was telling me for 2 years and I kept ignoring him. Anusha's untimely and tragic death shakes me to the core, makes me go on a 'emergency' vacation to India to reconnect with my family and friends, return to US with a thorough sense of dissatisfaction about every aspect of my life - family, friends, work,.... - and am desperately looking for some help with these problems and I sign up to Landmark Forum without too many second thoughts, and voila! My life is transformed!

Earlier today I was wondering if all this was a momentary 'high' induced by some master manipulators and that I would be back to being as I was before on Friday. Then I realised it is not temporary; I have it in me to use the things I learnt over the three days in handling every difficulty life throws at me; the friendships I built at Landmark would be my support for life.

World! You have another content and proud man among your billions!!!

As a close friend says "The best way to measure the positivity of this cult is to see how much money they ask you for. On a scale of ZERO = very positive : MUCH = Negatively cynical ;-) "