Sunday, November 30, 2008

Whitepaper on Security Spending?

As more and more channels come out with shocking revelations about how the government has consistently turned a blind eye to security of our country, it is time to make the public more aware of what is happening. How much money is spent on bullet jackets and helmets for our forces? How many posts are vacant? How much is the money spent on security of our politicians? Can we have these figures made public?

Can we set up a citizen-led task force to oversee and monitor what the governments do from here on to boost our security and make sure the money goes where it is supposed to be, and not in funding some politicians estates?

Let's Do Something!

Let's do something - let's not stand by frustrated waiting for the politicians to do something. What can we do? We have so many connects today - email, SMS, Facebook, Orkut - let's use this mechanism to stir our passions and our emotions, and then channelize this energy into action.

Let's get more sensitive to the whole issue of terrorism. Let's be more vigilant. Let's fight corruption. Let's be more inclusive in our thinking.

Let's contribute to police funds. Let's dedicate some of our efforts to improve their lives, and their ability to do their work.

I am trying to goad my bosses into kicking off something. I am trying to rouse my friends. I am trying to find some avenues... let me know if you have any ideas... let's make it work!

Government Takes The First Step...

The Home Minister has resigned... the first in the LONG list of things the government needs to do. While it was expected, I think it's a good start!

Can't wait to see Vilasrao go next. As well as some of the top honchos in the bureaucracy... it's time for a major clean up!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Light a Candle

It may be a simple show of symbolism – but maybe it will make a difference. By taking these few seconds from your busy lives to pay your homage to our brave heroes, maybe you will see a small glow of patriotism and pride in your own hearts.

Today, pledge to be a proud Indian! We can make a difference!

Movie Review: Max Payne

Max Pain would have been more appropriate - a dull, grey movie set in the dark and dirty alleys of New York, some extremely ordinary action, a very predictable and boring story, a surprisingly ordinary cast, and an extra-ordinarily wasted Bond girl Olga Kyrilenko, this movie is something you should definitely miss!

OK, that's enough, this movie has already got more attention than it deserves...

We are Indians, Mr Politician!

Dear Mr Politician, I hope these last 3 days have made one thing clear to you - we are not Marathis or Biharis. We are Indians. When Mumbai needed help, a barely out-of-his-teens Major Unnikrishnan from Bangalore, of the Bihar Regiment of the NSG, took a bullet in his head. A Gajendra Dixit from Dehradoon fought along with hundreds of his colleagues under command of a Dutt, and lost his life. The bullets from the terrorists did not ask where he came from. Neither did the thousands of Mumbaikars who came out in the streets to cheer it's heroes and hug and touch them in sheer reverance.

India stands as one today - please stop trying to divide us with your petty politics!

Hey Beautiful Taj - You Will Rise Again!

The beautiful Taj building... this picture taken in May during a visit to Mumbai for the IPL semi-final. A beautiful monument, an icon of the city. Anyone who's lived in Mumbai would have felt his heart bleed at seeing the Taj in flames, raped and abused for almost 60 hours.

But the Taj will rise - just like it has done so many times in the past. Because we won't give up. Not yet, not ever.

Shraddhanjali to Our Heroes

Three days of terror are finally over. The day broke with heavy winds and dark clouds, dull and dreary - it was as if the heavens had also been shocked by the utter senselessness of it all.

Today, let us salute our heroes - those brave men of the Mumbai police, the ATS, the Army and Navy commandos, the NSG, the RAF, the Home Guards, who gave up their lives and tireless fought those bastards. The fire fighters who braved grenades and bullets in their line of duty. And how can one forget the wonderful, wonderful staff members of the Taj and the Oberoi-Trident hotels who never once flinched and showed the rest of the world what Indian hospitality was all about!

Hemant Karkare, a master strategist and Chief of the Maharashtra ATS, Vijay Salaskar, encounter specialist and scourge of criminals and the Mumbai underworld, Ashok Kamte, loved by the very crowds he was a master at controlling, Gajendra Singh, the Delhi commando who lost his life fighting at Nariman House, Major Unnikrishnan of the NSG, who took a bullet in his head, and the dozen plus other policemen who lost their lives in this terrible battle - India will forever be indebted to you. Your sacrifice will not go waste. You will inspire an entire generation of Indians to close ranks and be one.

And you give us countless reasons to be terribly proud to be Indians! I wonder how many police forces in the world will have it's chief reaching the site of a terrorist attack, and getting into the scene of the battle - protected only by an ill-fitting helmet and a jacket that could barely afford any semblence of protection, instead of sitting behind a wooden desk in a plush AC office and directing his men into battle.

Thank you, my heroes! May your souls rest in peace!

Sandeep Unnikrishnan

Hemant Karkare

Ashok Kamte

Vijay Salaskar

Aye Mere Vatan Ke Logon... Zara Aankh Mein Bhar Lo Paani... Jo Shaheed Hue Hain Unki... Zara Yaad Karo Qurbaani

Monday, November 24, 2008

Movie Review: Dostana

Dostana (would have been better named Gaystana!) is about two guys who pretend to be gay to make sure they can co-habitate with the sexy niece of the Sindhi auntie, fall in love with the niece, try to woo her, and finally get her married to a single father of a five year old to live their part in their dostana!

The first half is hilarious. The second half loses its way pretty quickly, though. John scratches his bum in his yellow and gray undies to keep his female fans happy. Priyanka looks better with each movie, and is a treat in every frame. The darling of the movie, though, is Abhishek who would probably give Ash sleepless nights with his antics... just in case...

Anywayz, a good movie for a one-time watch - but hey, keep those kids at home!

Movie Review: Death Race

It's 2012. The American economy has collapsed. Crime is rampant, the jails are over-flowing, and now run by private corporations. And like in the Roman ages, prisoners are now roped in for entertainment. As TRPs increase and pay-per-view becomes huge business, Death Race is born... The rules are simple: there are none. There are only manipulations. It's like a video game. As the heavily armoured cars race and fight against each other on the prison island complex, panels on the road light up allowing you to "activate" defence mechanisms, weapons and death traps on the road. If you win, you live to see another day. If you lose, you probably lose your life too!

When the audience's favourite driver, the masked Frankenstein meets his match and loses his life, the jail warden needs to ensure TRPs and gets another ex-champion in his place - after implicating him in the murder of his wife. The "deal" is simple - win one more race, and you win your freedom.

The plans, though, are very different...

Statham is perfect for the part - his lean mean physique and emotionless face cool in the midst of the mayhem. Natalie Martinez as his sexy navigator will have your pulse racing if the race doesn't get to you first! She's hot and worth every inch of the screen she occupies!

The action is gory, no-nonsense and fast paced, the soundtrack perfect... and even though it's a little heavy, the movie stays very true to the concept. Be a little patient at the beginning, and trust me, this is one movie you'll definitely want to catch again...

Quantum Again

Watched Quantum of Solace again today... for the second time. And interestingly, I liked it even more this time. Just like Casino Royale, for some reason, the second time felt even more exciting :)

Maybe it's because once I already know the main plot, I can spend more time looking at the finer details and appreciating those small things you miss otherwise?

And of yeah, it did feel like a Bond movie this time :) And another thing I noticed - he's got action on foot, by car, in the water and in the air!

India Make it 4-0

No matter what England does, India seems to be one step ahead. It's 4-0 now - will we make it 7-0? Let's wait and watch!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sunrise over Mahabalipuram...

Interesting to see the sun come out of the sea, for a change :)

A New Crocodile Hunter is Born...

India Crush England, Again!

Yuvraj Singh hit a back to back century, and then demolished the English line up with a 4 wicket hall to hand India a 2-0 lead in the 7 match series in yet another one-sided encounter today :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to Pune!

We came back to Pune last night, finally! Must say, we are GLAD to be back...

Chennai was a disappointment, and didn't really come across as a metro. It's as if the winds of economic growth and change somehow bypassed this city... forget Beemers and Mercs on the road, even Skodas and Fiestas were hard to come by. The Amby still rules the road. But more than the lack of swanky malls and cars, the garbage got to me. Chennai must be one of the filthiest cities I have seen recently... it's as if cleaning the city of it's garbage was never defined as a KRA for the city corportation!

Sanam and I spent all of Friday in the room, watching TV and playing monopoly. We just didn't feel like getting out. We did try talk a walk in the area in the late evening, but were really turned out by the lack of footpaths and the filth and dirt on the roads, and came right back!

Saturday was much better... look out for some following posts on Dakshin Chitra, the Crocodile Park (where I wore a live python around my neck and kissed a baby croc) and the cool rock sculptures of Mahabalipuram.

We stayed at the GRT Temple Bay Resort, splurging a cool 12.5K on one night. Again, I must say, I was terribly disappointed. Can you believe the resort making its patrons buy a 20 rupee coupon to play in some stupid games? Can you believe a five star resort without running hot water, leave alone a tub? Even the decor in the room was minimalistic - more like a budget hotel than a five star resort!

The food was good, thankfully - the live band was nice too!

We had some excitement on the way back last night when our flight was asked to circle over the city for 15-20 mins, since a previous flight had struck a dog on the runway...

And yes, Pune city just seemed like the best place on Earth!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chandrayaan's MIP on the Moon!

At around 830 this evening, Chandrayaan's Moon Impact Probe successfully detached from the Chandrayaan mother satellite and crash landed on the designated spot on the moon's surface, near it's pole, taking with it India's flag to the lunar surface - and with it, India's name in the history books!

This is indeed a moment all of us should be VERY proud of!

India Crush England

Following up on the super successes of the Australian series, India crushed England by a massive 158-run margin after Yuvraj Singh's 138 not out in 78 balls helped India post an imposing 387 for five in the first of the 7-match one day series.

Sehwag and Gambhir opened steadily, staying at over 6 an over, and though India lost a couple of wickets soon after their departure, Yuvraj and Dhoni ensured the Indian juggernaut only picked up its devastative roll. And before critics could slam the pitch for giving nothing to bowlers, Zaheer and Munaf, and then RP struck hard to reduce the English to 5-76... after that, it was only a matter of when, and by how much they would lose!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chennai, Revisited

Sanam and I went to the Snake Park and Children Park in the morning... one had snakes on display, the other had lovers... got wet in the rain (yes, Chennai has rainy season this time of the year)... and then after lunch (which, like dinner, was fantastic) went to a meeting with the Chief IT Manager at BPCL... Sanam making wierd noises after 45 mins of my "anecdotes"... and then we spent the rest of the time bottled up in the room enjoying more of the fantastic culinary delights available...

I gave Chennai 1/10 (1 for the food)... Sanam was a little more gentle with 7/10 (2 for the snake park, 1 for children's park and 4 for the room...)

Frankly, I am very disappointed with the city. It seems colorless, dingy, lifeless.. there are very few cars on the roads, footpaths are broken, there's a lot of weeds, crumbling paint... it's almost like the city was taken over by the lifeless back alleys and gullis of a typical Mumbai suburb...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chandrayaan Update

ISRO scientists today successfully completed the final complex maneuvre inserting Chandrayaan-1 in its final orbit around the moon, at a distance of 100 km from the lunar surface. India achieved this lunar insertion successfully in its very first attempt, something even the US and Russia failed to do. It is also interesting to know that over 50% of other moon missions have failed.

Yenna Rascala in Chennai

Reached Chennai at 9.00 pm after a very uneventful flight from Pune, on a 4-day part-official, part-personal visit. While Madhavi will be at Cogni for 2 days, I will be visiting BPCL for some meetings regarding a new proposal we are chasing with them, and then on Saturday, we are off to Mahabalipuram for the weekend.

While I have been here more than a decade back, I remember nothing of this city... so here are my "first impressions" during the drive from the airport to our hotel:

1) Ambassadors still rule the roads here... and you thought the Ambi was dead?
2) Lungis too, are very much in fashion - though pants have won a lot of market share!
3) Roadside eateries serving piping hot sambhar are everywhere
4) The Chennai police are pretty sexy - including very upmarket patrol cars. 108 is alive and kicking here
5) Bus stops are essentially very tall poles with advertising hoardings on the top. Very little by way of protection from the elements, I must say!
6) Power seems to be in abundance here, if one goes by the number of electrified advertising hoardings lining all the main roads

And of course,

7) You can talk to your taxi wallah in English! Hindi..? Naah!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dada in a NutShell

January 1992: Makes ODI debut against Australia, scores just 3 before being dropped.

June 1996: Scores century against England at the Lord's in his Test debut and follows it up with another century in the very next Test at Trent Bridge.

August 1997: Scores his first ODI century in Colombo against Sri Lanka in his 32nd match.

September 1997: Leading scorer and wicket-taker in the Sahara Cup as India thrash Pakistan 4-1. He scored 222 runs at 55.5 and 15 wickets at 10.66. Wins four Man-of-the-Match awards in five matches and Man of the Series.

November-December 1997: Top scorer and Man of the Series in the three-Test home series against Sri Lanka with 392 runs at an average of 98.

May, 1999: Scores 183 in Taunton against Sri Lanka in the World Cup, then highest ODI score by an Indian.

September 1999: Captains India for the first time in the Coca-Cola Singapore Challenge tournament, against West Indies after Tendulkar pulled out due to sore back.

February 2000: Joins Lancashire.

February 2000: Named captain for the five-ODI home series against South Africa after Tendulkar relinquished post.

March 2001: Led India to 2-1 win against Australia at home in the historic Test series.

November 2001: Ganguly and five other Indian players are warned for excessive appealing during the Port Elizabeth Test by match-referee Mike Denness. Handed a suspended ban for one Test match and two one-day international matches.

July 2002: Takes off shirt at the Lord's balcony after win in the NatWest Series final.

April 2004: Becomes the first Indian captain to win a Test series in Pakistan. Also with 15 Test wins, he becomes India's most successful captain.

October 2004: India lose home series against Australia, first time after 35 years.

March 2005: Draws home series against Pakistan.

April 2005: Banned for six matches for a slow-over rate during ODI series in Pakistan. India lose series 2-4 to Pakistan.

September 2005: Reveals in Zimbabwe that the then coach Greg Chappell had asked him to step down from captaincy.

November 2005: End of five-year reign as Test captain as Rahul Dravid takes over the reins against Sri Lanka.

January 2006: Picked for the Test series in Pakistan.

December 2006: Picked for Test series against South Africa, returns as leading run-getter.

January 2007: Scores 98 in his ODI comeback in Nagpur against West Indies.

July-August 2007: Scores 249 runs at 49.80 in India's series win in England.

November-December 2007: Top scorer (534) and man of the series in the three-Test series against Pakistan with. Scores first Test century at his home ground at Eden Gardens. Slams his first double-century in Bangalore.

December 2007-January 2008: A mixed Test series in Australia (235 runs at 29.37, two half-centuries). Axed from ODI squad.

October 2008: Announces retirement after the Test series against Australia.

November 10, 2008: Plays his last match against Australia at Nagpur


Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

I'll keep this short - QoS has some great action, a good car chase, an interesting dog-fight sequence, Olga makes for a good sultry Bond babe, and overall, the movie is zippy and keeps you engaged throughout...

But, it doesn't feel like a Bond movie. He doesn't call himself Bond, James Bond, the theme music is missing, the gadgets are missing... so while it's a good action movie, it seems more like something from the Bourne series!

Overall, definitely a good watch!

Plagiarism :)

One of the photos I had taken of my friends during our Goa trip last year found itself being used on an article on Goa and Goans, in the Navhind Times, a few days back :)

Now I can feel a little less guilty about using other people's pics on my blogs - even though I never fail to give credit :)

Chandrayaan Enters Lunar Orbit

Last Saturday was another historic moment for India when Chandrayaan-1 was successful inserted into the lunar orbit after a complex series of maneuvres, a step that has led to more than 30% of earlier moon missions to fail... CY is now just about 500 kms from the moon, orbitting it under it's gravitational pull. Over the next few days, it will be gradually brought closer to the moon, until it's just around 100 km away. Then, a capsule will detach itself from the main spacecraft and descend to the lunar surface, carrying along with it an Indian flag - to be firmly planted on the moon :)

India Thrash The Aussies

India beat Australia very comfortably in the 4th test to win the Border-Gavaskar trophy with a 2-0 series win in Nagpur today, to hand Saurav Ganguly an unbeatable farewell gift :)

Among a lot of other things, this series will be remembered for awesome reverse swing bowling by Zaheer and Man-of-the-Series Ishant Sharma, some awesome display of batting by Gautam Gambhi, Sehwag, Tendulkar, VVS and Dada - one or the other firing when it mattered the most, some awesome captaincy by Dhoni, and some shockingly inexplicable tactics by Ponting when he preferred to get through some quick overs by his part-time bowlers to make up for a low over rate and avoid getting a one test ban, when he should have gone all out to get India bowled out on the 4th day of the final test.

But the most beautiful moment of the series was undoubtedly when Dhoni handed over the captaincy of the team to Dada for the final moments of the test, when Australia were nine down, letting Dada lead the team to the series victory. Such a beautiful gift for a man who gave his everything to the team for over a decade.

And Dada didn't disappoint his fans, coming up with a century earlier on, and then a fighting 85 in his last test. And though his last innings ended up being a first ball duck, in the grand tradition of Bradman, he certainly couldn't have asked for a better way to go out... and of course, he did get time, one last time, to take off his shirt in the galleries for his fans!

It may not be the end of the Aussies, and India may still have some way to go before they can be crowned the number one test team in the world, but one thing is certain... the invincibles have lost their crown! A new India can certainly aspire to lay claim to that throne!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

History in the Making?

As Barack Hussein Obama anxiously awaits the results of the US Presidential Election, expected in less tha 24 hours from now, celebrations have already begun in his camp predicting an easy victory...

I wonder - will America vote for him for his policies, or will it vote for him because of his color?

Will it vote for him because he is good, or will it vote for him because McCain is no better?

Are these the two best people in America for this position, a position in which the future of the world is essentially in their hands?

Will Sarah Palin, with all her inexperience and expensive make-up make it to the White House as the Vice President?

Is the American model of Presidential democracy better than our Parliamentary model?

Is a campaign worth more than a billion dollars over 2 years "right"?

What do you think?

Battle of the Titans

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Narkasur 2008

Our Eemays Resammiya Narkasur and the rest of the gang, just before we left for a night in town, on Diwali eve...

And at 2.00 am in the morning, after a grand parade through town, he meets his fate... but I am sure there will be a Karzzzz to chukaofy next year :)

Chandrayaan - 1

Found this beautiful picture on the Twenty22 blog, an awesome blog I love for it's coverage of India... just couldn't stop my self from putting this up.

Makes me feel so proud to be Indian!

Movie Review: Golmaal Returns

Golmaal Returns, and I am still trying to figure out if I liked it more or less than the earlier one...

There are some good laughs, and one hell of a choreographed number that does deserve special mention - if not for the music or the lyrics, then definitely for the sheer effort and imagination that has gone into it's making! Shreyas does a decent job replacing Sharman from the earlier cast, Arshad displays his ever-awesome comic timing but is terribly under-used and Ajay looks listless. Tushar is a mixed bag as the dumb guy - his intonations are funny at times and does add to the movie, but for the most part, border on the pretty irritating! In the ladies department, Kareena looks totally lifeless and is way out of her league as the Ekta-serial-watcher. Amrita Arora and the good looking Anjana Sukhaani are hardly ever on screen, and would have good reason to be upset at being sidelines. Celina looks good at times, and has done a decent job.

Overall, a good way to break off the shenanigans at the end of a very tiring day in office... as long as you do not expect too much, and do not pay through your nose for a front row seat!

Madhosh's Going To Goa!

After a decade in Pune, my dear Madhosh is finally going back to her beloved Goa :) With the maddening traffic and the chaos here, and of course, the pollution, taking her out wasn't fun in Pune any more... besides being extremely dangerous, and I thought this was as good a time as any to send her back... atleast we can enjoy her company whenever we visit Goa!

Movie Review: Fashion

Strong, yet not too intense, Madhur Bhandarkar's Fashion, unlike most of his previous movies, doesn't shock and scare you. It does touch you, it might make you cry a little at times, but you leave with a smile and lighter heart.

Priyanka plays the role of a small town (Chandigarh?) girl, Meghana Mathur, in Mumbai to pursue her dreams of being a super-model. Her spark, some good connections, and some luck, instantly propels her right to the top of Mumbai's glamour world of high fashion. However, power corrupts her - her attitude slowly but surely becomes her arrogance, old friends and contacts are forgotten, then cut out, and the spark in her eyes is slowly replaced by the lost glaze of a cocaine user. And then, just when it looks like it's too late... she gives herself a second chance.

The movie is all about Priyanka. She's looking her best ever, and she's acted very well - although, I guess the real strength is in the way her character has been developed - her transition from a sweet small town girl to the diva of fashion. Mugdha Godse from aamchi Pune has a great debut as the cattish but good-at-heart Janet Sequiera, coming across as extremely confident and comfortable with the camera. Kangana does a beautiful cameo as the showstopper who's replaced by Priyanka as the face of their fashion brand Panache, her drug-abused life slowly catching up with her. She's perfected this role in multiple films including Gangster and Woh Lamhe, but I do hope the girl can do other stuff just as well! The guys - well, they really don't have much of a role, but Sameer Soni looks handsome and will win some hearts!

The movie does lose steam in the last half an hour, and could have edited by 15-20 mins. The music is good, with a couple of very high-energy numbers that will stay in your memory for a long time...

I cannot comment on the authenticity of the life in the fashion industry of course, my only claim to membership being that I just learnt to get my hair colored, but it does reinforce all the stereotypes I've had in my mind... does the fashion industry really have so many gays, and if so, why?

My recommendation - do watch it once!