Friday, December 18, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar

Avatar apparently took James Cameron over a decade and half to execute... simply because he first needed a worthy camera in which to shoot it. So he got down to building the camera first.

I can understand. The results are there to feel. Yes, not just see. But feel. And feel in 3D.

When humans invade Pandora, a distant planet/moon to plunder it for its riches, the plan is to win the trust of the local humanoid population by cloning the 10 feet tall blue colored Pandorans and infiltrating their society, "driving" the clones by mapping and binding their minds to their human counterparts. But when the plan to win their trust and resettle them from the riches in the ground seem to fail, the humans get the heavy armour in.

Will the "aliens" be beaten back?

I do not want to say much about Avatar. Simply because I cannot do justice to it, no matter how I try and explain. The crystal clear renditions of an amazing artist's rich and vivid imaginations, the grandiose scenery nailed down to the smallest details, the depths, the sounds, the beauty of it all, and most importantly, the sheer realism and believability, you got to experience it to believe it.

The only minor irritant - wearing the 3D goggles on top of your own specs can be inconvenient :( And in swine flu days, also a little scary - although, having the pleasure of watching the special paid preview show meant we probably got brand new ones.

Here's a piece of advice. Do not watch Avatar in 2D. Experience the real thing.

First One Dayer

India scored 414/7
India won by 3 runs :)

Says it all, I guess?

Movie Review: Kill Bill Vol 2

After a very disappointing Part 1, it took me 3-4 days to feel motivated to go watch Part 2, and hey, was it worth it! This is the Tarantino I loved in Inglorious... the same drama, the palpable tension, the silence... and of course, the brutal violence.

Overall, for me, Kill Bill starts good, then gets eminently forgettable in Part 2 of Part 1, then really picks up energy, and climaxes in Part 3 of Part 2 :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Movie Review: Kill Bill

I saw Kill Bill (Vol 1) as part of my promise to myself to see each of Tarantino's movies... must say, I came back pretty disappointed. While Inglourious Basterds was a masterpiece of subtle drama and unspoken tensions, Kill Bill is the other extreme - mindless, senseless violence represented by dismembered limbs and heads, and blood gushing forth like a ruptured high pressure pipeline. Even if you set aside the improbabality of it all - one woman fighter with a sword against dozens of armed, trained men, the story line, the screenplay and the script did not appeal to me.

I actually fell asleep somewhere between kill number 76 and 92.

And even more unfortunately for me, I got Kill Bill Vol 1, and only later did I realise that I needed to get Vol 2 at the same time! :( Vol 1 is incomplete without Vol 2. No, it wasn't obvious to me!

Book Review: Super Freakonomics

If you liked the earlier Freakonomics, you will love this one. The authors come back with a bang, with a book sequel that's even more exciting, and so much more relevant in today's world.

Crammed with interesting examples, very insightful analyses and some thought-provoking questions, the book will keep you engrossed as it tackles issues like prostitution and global warming, and why we need to look at simple answers to some tough questions facing us today.

And, of course, it's all economics... as simple as common sense. Written as it is in simple every day language, it's hard not to get the point!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Movie Review: Rocket Singh

Rocket Singh has a story with a moral - business is all about the people, and when you love and respect people, the numbers will come by themselves.

In spite of the unusual storyline and the slightly long running time, Ranbir holds your attention with a fantastic portrayal of the quintessential young Sardar, and a very controlled and impressive performance. Ranbir's boss and manager also put in fantastic performances, Gauhar Khan is good as the receptionist, and Shazahn Padamsee makes a very striking debut, looking absolutely cute and sexy, eye candy.

The music is nothing to write home about, the promo song coming on TV not being a part of the movie. Or was there something I can't recollect? Well, you get the point...

Oh, and yes, for me, the opening title sequence is just superb... do not miss that!

A good movie, though not really weekend entertainment... might be good enough just catching it on DVD.

Movie Review: New Moon

The Twilight saga continues in New Moon, with vampires and werewolves, more of the beautiful Kristen Stewart, and some amazing cinematography and special effects.

When Bella's vampire boyfriend decides she isn't safe with his blood-thirsty family and walks out of her life, Bella finds friendship, and some much-missed warmth (vampires are cold, remember?) in her American-Indian six-pack friend Jake, who, incidently, is also a werewolf. But while he loves her and wants to protect her from the vampires for the rest of his life, her heart still aches for Edward. And while she loves and needs Jake as her best friend, she's ready to give up everything to be back in the arms of her beloved vampire.

The movie has some amazing special effects, and thrilling action, especially some of the fight sequences between the werewolves, but compared to Twilight, the sequel comes across a little slow, and the second half seems to drag a wee bit. Of course, not that you complain, when the movie pretty much has Kristen in every frame!

Not a see-twice affair, but something you should try not to miss.

HP Photosmart C4788

Got a wireless color printer scanner copier from HP today, and had it up and running on my home wireless network in around 15 mins. Absolutely amazing, how these machines and software are built nowadays to literally install and configure themselves at the touch of a button. Very, very cool!

The printer itself is pretty sexy, and very good for home applications with a pretty decent color scanner/copier, memory card support and computer-less operation.

At around 7500 (with a 1500 cash back), I think it's a pretty good deal.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

If ever I saw a 10/10 movie, this must be it.

Quentin Tarantino is a master of drama and action, and this movie is a masterpiece. I haven't seen any Tarantino movie earlier (The Kill Bills, for example!), but now I want to go back and catch every movie, documentary and MMS he ever created!

Set in the 1940s in Nazi-occupied France, the movie tracks the life of a young Jewish girl Shosanna (the very smart and beautiful Mélanie Laurent), who escapes the bloody murder of her family by the Nazi "Jew Hunter" Colonel Hans Landa, and four years later in Paris, plans her revenge. Also in the Nazi hunt are the "Basterds", a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers led by the ruthless Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), whose mission is to kill a hundred Nazis each, in the most blood curling manners, so to strike fear in the heart of every Nazi. And in a thrilling climax, their paths will cross, changing the history of Europe.

Not for the faint hearted, this is a movie that will grip you through every thrilling second, where your heart pounds, not because of gross visuals, but because of the drama evoked by terrifying silence, and calm. Where the final bullet is really a welcome end to the tension.

The movie has some absolutely stunning screenplay - the opening sequence in the French countryside and the confrontation at the tavern are two of the very best.

Brad is wonderful. Christoph Waltz, as Col Hans Landa, will almost make you believe in the conviction of the Nazis! And I can't get over the amazing poise, strength, resolve and pain on Shosanna's face in every scene she's in.

Check it out, buy the DVD, and cherish it for life. This is one movie you cannot afford to miss.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Vote Please ------>>

I really need you to take this --->> vote!

I want to know where you come from....


Making Choices

Here's a simple game I would like you to play... and if you can please leave your responses as comments, it will be awesome. If you do not want your response to be published for some reason, that's OK too... just let me know.

The game is this: I give you a random partner to play the game with. Then, I give you five hundred rupees. You need to offer part of this money to your partner. The partner can choose to accept or reject your offer. If he/she rejects your offer, you both lose all the money. If he/she accepts your offer, you both get to keep the money.

The question is: how much money will you offer your partner?

Let me know!

Environmental Hazard!

Many decades back, cities like New York and London was growing exponentially but needed a means to improve communication and efficiently and quickly transport people and goods from point A to point B. The solution they found quickly became popular, but also created serious problems that threatened to overrun cities - street jams, fatal accidents, noise, toxic emissions affecting health and environment, and even food shortages and price increases as more and more food crops were replaced by "biofuels".

Guess what this problem "invention" was?

Not, it was not an automobile, it was the horse! Horse drawn carriages were extremely difficult to handle on roads, and caused more fatal accidents as a factor of the city's population than automobiles today. The dung was so all-pervasive, that certain "dung storage areas" had dung piled up to sixty feet high, and lined city roads like banks of snow. In the rains, the dung mixed with water and ran down every street and into people's basements, and emitted methane, a deadly gas that contributes most significantly to global warming. And of course, not to mention the million of flies, rodents and other insects it provided a wonderful breeding ground for!

Finally, the cities had enough, and adopted a wonderful new invention that was even more efficient, clean, environment-friendly and safe. You got it right this time - the automobile!

Solutions of today are problems of tomorrow...

(Based on a chapter in Super Freakonomics)

A Childhood Dream Fulfilled: India is No.1

It's official. India is No.1 in Test Cricket.

The day began with Sri Lanka needing another 59 runs to avoid an innings defeat on the last day of the test, with 4 wickets in hand. Sangakkara was on an unbeaten century, and had raised some fleeting hopes of a Lankan fightback.

But before this lazy Indian had dragged himself out of his bed and switched on the TV, Sanga had departed, and by the time I was through with my morning tea, it was all over.

With Murali Vijay barely missing a century, Sehwag's 293, Dhoni's unbeaten century, and strong contributions from Dravid and Sachin, India's 700 plus score was always going to be more than enough on a wicket that was expected to turn on the fourth day. Interestingly though, in the Lankan second innings, it was Zaheer with a 5 wicket haul who came to the party, using his bouncers sparingly but very effectively, and proving he had not lost any of his venom after his brief stint out of the team for fitness reasons.

With a batting lineup that can boast of someone of Dhoni's calibre coming in at no 7, deadly pace bowlers like Zaheer, Sreesanth, Irfan and Ishant, and Harbhajan and Pragyan Ozha keeping alive the spin tradition, this is truly a world No 1 side. A lot of credit also goes to Gary Kirsten, who took over the reins from a terrible John Buchanan 18 months back, and promised to get us here, through a focussed "process". Robin and Venkatesh Prasad as the fielding and bowling coach, also did a great job.

The process really began way back in Aug 2008, which was the last time this team has lost a Test match. Before that, it was a close affair in Australia where India would have levelled the series 1-1, if not for Steve Bucknor.

India had started the upward trend under Saurav, but then John and Dravid plunged the team into chaos, ending with Dravid's abrupt resignation. After Kumble took over briefly, things looked better again, and the mantle finally came to Gary and Mahi. From then on, it's been forward all the way.

In the last 2 years, India has beaten Pakistan (1-0), Australia (2-0), England (1-0), New Zealand (1-0) and Sri Lanka (2-0), held South Africa (1-1) and narrowly lost to Australia in Australia (0-2). We only lost to Australia (as I said, courtesy Steve Bucknor) and Sri Lanka in Lanka (1-2) during this period.

Mahi has been a worthy captain, winning 7 of his first 10 tests and losing none.

Congrats, Mahi, Gary and this wonderful Indian team. You have made us very proud, yet again!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Amazing Feeling... see a full-fledged documentary on a customer you work for!

Watching a story on Coke, it's history and future. And it feels great.

Coke now has "custom proportion" vending machines that allow you to tweak the tastes, and then transfer that data online to Coke, Atlanta (how come we never saw that data there?) giving a huge mountain of data about who is drinking what, with what concentration of ingredients, and so on...

Also, did you know Coke has recently bought stake in Zico, a company that sells "packaged coconut water"? :)

PS: It also pointed out how Pepsi has bought two of its major bottlers recently, giving it something Coke never has had - complete control end to end from bottling to the store. With projected savings or almost a billion dollars per year for Pepsi from these new synergies, analysts say Coke will have to change the way it works, to match Pepsi.

Book Review: What's Next?

What's Next is a collection of essays by some of the world's best young scientists and thinkers today, addressing issues ranging from global warming, to viruses to the way our brains learn and think. When I bought the book though, I expected a lot more focus on technology and science - nanotechnology, for example. Disappointingly for me, most of the focus is on the mind, the brain, morals, ideas, thinking and imagination. Not exactly exciting...

The VW Beetle

The long-awaited Beetle is finally here. A beautiful car, immortalized by Herbie and his antics, it was also very common in Goa and always stood out for their bright colors and unique shape.

The New Beetle is equally beautiful.

And I had this thought in my mind to buy one... as a second family car. Until I saw the price.

No, it's not 4-5 lakhs, it's 20.5 lakhs!

Outrageous, crazy.

Totally crazy!

Power of Persistence

Been thinking a lot these days about Pune's traffic problems, and one thing that never ceases to impress me is how the sustained campaign from Pune Mirror and other newspapers focussing on stopping before the zebra lines at traffic signals have delivered results. When I first came to Pune, people didn't even stop at signals. That changed over time, but it was common to see vehicles inching ahead, making it impossible for pedestrians to cross, and often coming in the way of cross traffic.

That has significantly reduced, and the difference is there for everyone to see!

Mirror has now taken up the issue of helmets, but it's approach has been to point out the consequences. I am not sure too many people relate to that, unless you have seen a loved one suffer.

Wonder why the traffic police do not take up the issue. After all, the MV Act already makes helmets compulsory. We just need to implement it. It would save a lot more lives than seat belts do in bumper to bumper city traffic.

Galaxy Grill

Today we visited Galaxy Grill, the rooftop Greek restaurant at Seasons Apartment Hotel in Aundh.

When you step off the elevator, you are greeted by a calm blue swimming pool, looking so inviting in the soft lighting, and a great view of Baner's shimmering lights on the left. A pretty lady in Greek costume welcomes you, while busy looking waiters wearing Greek caps and sashes dart around. Soft Greek music sets up the mood beautifully as you settle into the seat. 8/10 for mood, lighting and ambience.

But the food is a very big disappointment.

We started with the mocktails - both were very disappointing, very ordinary. Nothing more than a mixture of different liquids, with no rhyme or reason. 2/10.

For starters, we ordered deep fried squid, which was the only dish we liked - but given that it was just fresh squid and some batter, there wasn't much wrong the chef could do with it, I guess! Oh, and yes, I don't dare compare it to the squids at Ritz in Panaji! 6/10. The "exotic vegetable" stuff muchrooms were watery, and the vegetable mix did nothing to add to the taste. 3/10.

The chicken, lemon and egg soup came highly recommended by the restaurant, and was passable, if you could ignore the smell of egg. 4/10.

In the main course, the chargrilled kingfish slice was over an inch thick (the chef probably tried to make up for the lack of girth by increasing the thickness of the slice!), and again, absolutely nothing special there. 4/10. But the pasta took the cake! I can make better pasta on my worst day for my worst enemies with my eyes blindfolded. Fussili with tasteless tomato sauce and a couple of pieces of olives. 1/10. No, make that 0/10.

We didn't dare try the desserts.

We came back hungry, utterly disappointed, and poorer by 1850.

3/10 for taste, originality, serving size and 1/10 for value for money and overall experience. However, if you want to impress your girl friend and get some quality time, this might just work! In any case, you won't taste the food much... :)

ps: The Cinnamon Spice restaurant is a little better, but again not recommended for its very limited choice. On the contrary, I highly recommend the weekend buffet spread at Flavours for variety, taste, and definitely huge value for money! (Both at Seasons)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

India Online

Spent a few mins today paying my bills, and then realised how far India has come in terms of being "online"...

My Tata Sky connection, my Tata Indicom modem, my YOU Telecom modem, my Idea mobile connection - all paid from the respective websites using Netbanking, where I simply choose how much I pay, choose my bank, get transferred to my bank portal, confirm the transaction, and I am done.

Needed to subscribe Chandamama for Sanam, and yes, I simply paid online.

I pay for food, grocery, shopping, pretty much everything I need using my credit card, and pay my credit card bills online.

I got a Tata AIG insurance policy for my home, and yes, I paid by creating a NetSafe online Visa card from my HDFC account, and then used it on a voice-enabled system to pay the premium!

My electricity and BSNL bills also get paid automatically for me. Online.

LIC premiums too! So too HDFC and ICICI insurance premiums.

My salary is credited online.

When do I need a cheque...? Cash... let me think!

Sehwag Pulverizes Sri Lanka

When day 2 of the third test began, Sri Lanka were pretty comfortably placed with around 350 runs on the board and 2 wickets in hand.

By the end of the day, India had piled on 443/1, with the unstoppable Sehwag 16 runs away from a world record 3rd triple century, having hit 284 not out, in 239 balls, with 40 fours and 7 sixes :)

On the way, he already broke a few more records - the most double-centuries by an Indian, the second-highest scorer of 250-plus scores, the fastest 250 in history (breaking his own record) and the most runs by an Indian in a day (breaking his own record)

Here's a snippet from
Even a bad back couldn't slow him down. Virender Sehwag batted like the nearby Arabian Sea in high tide - and when Sri Lanka tried to plug one hole, he rushed in through the other.

And while Sehwag was demolishing the Lankans at one end, Murali Vijay played a beautiful, controlled innings at the other, with some exquisite shots, coming close to his own century before being dismissed and replaced by the rock-solid Dravid.

If India can pull off this vistory, and with the pitch starting to turn, this is a very big possibility... we can proudly claim rightful ownership of the #1 spot that is going to come our way!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Key to Flying... knowing how to throw yourself at the ground, and miss.

Book Review: Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Book 2 of the Hitchhiker series, and the fun continues. After dinner at the Restaurant, a few minutes before the Universe ends in a grand spectacle, our friends steal a "black hole" limousine ship, manage to escape just in time before the ship crashes into the surface of a sun, and get teleported back in time to another ship destined for a soft crash landing on a planet, along with its "cargo" of a few million dumb Golgafrinchans... and guess what that planet turns out to be? You guessed it right, our very own planet Earth, two million years before it got demolished by the Vogans! :)

Now you know where your ancestors came from: not the monkeys, but the Golgafrinchans!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Windows 7 Updates

Cool things you should try with Windows 7:

Peek, Shake and Snap :) It's really a fun way to play with your windows!
Jump Lists - find all those favourite and recent files so much faster!
Themes for your desktop - and yes, don't forget to change the pictures once in a while
Cool gadgets to liven up your desktop
Search for programs, mails, documents - everything you wanted to find, but didn't know where to start looking! And yes, being able to read "found" email without opening Outlook is so cool :)

Wear a Helmet, Please

We've all taken our chances - I remember zipping on the Panaji Ponda highway at 90 kmph, double seat, without a helmet, and on the Kundai slope, taking the entire 2 km slope, with its hair pin bends, hands off the handle bar, using only the thighs and body weight for sterring, double seat, again, without helmet.

But when I look back at those days, I realise how close I was to disaster.

It only takes one moment. One mistake, not necessarily yours, and in many cases, just a very minor indiscretion or stroke of bad luck. It doesn't need to be on the highway, it doesn't need to be in heavy traffic. It can happen outside your gate.

It can kill. Worse, it can paralyze you for the rest of your life.

I have gone through the pain of seeing a very dear friend lying in ICU with her head shaved and stitched together, not knowing if she will pull through.

Wear a helmet. It's inconvenient, but it might save your life, and your loved ones a lot of pain.

Book Review: Hitckhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams was recommended to me by someone who knew I had liked Haddon's Curious Case of the Dog. Both excel in making absolute sense of nonsense, and if you keep an open mind, can be absolutely thrilling reading.

The Earth is destroyed by the Vogons to make way for a super inter-galactic expressway, but two humans and two mice escape destruction, by hitching a ride on the Infinite Possibility Hypership Heart of Gold. Their inter galactic travels finally brings them to the custom planet-producing Magrathea, where they discover the Earth's secret - it's a super computer custom built by Magrathea, sponsored by the mice, to find the answer to the Ultimate Question. And having been destroyed by the Vogons just 5 mins away from producing the answer after ten million years of calculations, the exercise needs to be redone all over again - right from producing Earth Mark 2.

And as the Heart of Gold moves on to enable it's occupants grab a bite at the Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe, you can't help but look out for the sequel.

History Unrepeated

Dec 1992. A structure. Misguided souls. Destruction. Death. A nation scarred.

Nov 2008. A structure. Misguided souls. Destruction. Death. A nation stirred.

Similar stories, very different ends.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cars and Personalities

It is said that a car reflects a person's personality... the color, the make and the model, says a lot about who and what you are.

With malice towards one and all, without hiding under the excuse that after all, this is a generalization based on a statistical bell curve, :) here's how the theory applies to what you will see on the roads in India...

Tata Indica, and all it's variants and later upgrades - mostly indisciplined, will stubbornly stay in the fast lane, ignorning your persistent headlight flashes and honks, requiring you to forget road etiquette and overtake from the left side, if you wish to reach your destination on time. Behaviour gets more pronounced on expressways.

Maruti Swift - truly believe they have the fastest car on the road, will always get into a road race with you, until you decide enough is enough and floor the pedal.

Hyundai Accent - I am a family man, safety, security and economy is most important to me, I am happy with whatever I am up to, please ignore me and carry on!

The Skodas - we are a different class, generally disciplined. We look good, and mean, so keep your distance. No hang ups if you wanna overtake, but once in a while, we will give you a run for the money!

The Audis, the Mercs, the BMWs - you generally don't have to worry about overtaking them, they are too fast, but if you ever do get close, you'll get the space you need - after all, the driver doesn't want to risk you hitting him from behind!

And now, the Fords - will ALWAYS respect another Ford, will ALWAYS immediately give way to another Ford, will ALWAYS slow down at an intersection and let another Ford pass through first. But dare cross our paths in an Indica or an Accent or a Swift, and you have had it :) If you are a Skode, we try and conceal our admiration, and would love to take a shot at outgunning you. And if you have a Merc, an Audi, or a BMW, we will give you all the respect you thoroughly deserve, and immediately pull out of anything that seems to take on the contours of a road race :)

Security Lapse? Really?

When two commoners, with no formal (terrorist/army) training, gate crash a party thrown by the POTUS, under the nose of the Secret Service, shake hands with the President, take photos with the Vice President, and then brag about it on their Facebook, it's time for us to realise that maybe we were a little harsh on our own (poor, deprived, low-tech) security forces for having "allowed" a trawler (among the approximate other 100,000 out at sea at the same time) to "sneak in" on our few thousand km long coastline!

Let's learn to be a little less critical of everything Indian...

Chevrolet Cruze and Captiva

Checked out the latest from the Chevrolet stable today - the Cruze and the Captiva.

At 14L for the top end Diesel version, Cruze is a beautiful car, looks simply great from the outside, has a nice luxury feel inside, although a little cramped, like the Skodas, with a low roof and pretty narrow windows, especially at the back. The coupe look is fine when you have a two seater, not when you wanna fit in a family! With 18 kmpl on diesel, also looks like a great option for your wallet, although I fear it will burn a hole with the regular servicing needed (every 5000 km, with oil change every 15000 km).

The Captica looks great too, very muscular and strong, and not like a mini-bus with a snout, a la Ford Endeavour. At 21L, definitely on the higher side, and with just 12 kmpl on diesel, much less attractive. Also, the manual gears version comes only with forward wheel drive, while the "adaptive drive" version (interestingly, it doesn't say four wheel drive explicitly, wonder why?) comes only with automatic gear shift.

Didn't get to take a test drive, the salesman said he'd schedule an appointment with me with "better test cars" than the ones currently available with him. The regular Cruze test car had apparently had an accident, too, and was off duty for the day.

Anyone with any specific recommendations?

India Wins a Ton!

If I was in the Indian team, I would have had only one complaint: I didn't get to bat in the second innings! India beat Sri Lanka comprehensively in the second test at Kanpur with an innings and 140 odd runs to spare, fuelled by top notch centuries from Sehwag, Gambhir (they racked up 240 odd runs in the first 40 overs) and Dravid, and an awesome comeback from pacer Shreesanth.

This was also India's 100th test win.

Movie Review: Ninja Assassin

Ninjas movies are supposed to be about martial arts, a la Bruce Lee and Jet Li. What you expect are some graceful moves and clean, fast action. What Ninja Assassin serves instead is 2 hours of diluted ketchup splashing all over (they even make absolutely sure you make the connection right at the beginning of the movie), commandos in Kevlars and super sophisticated arms being cut into pieces by tiny "starry" knives, wavy camera work enough to give a paralysed man a serious fit, and some long periods of torturous scenes of torture.

Not worth it, unless you like ketchup on your sandwich.

Movie Review: Kurbaan

After New York, here's another movie that looks at Islamic terrorism through the prism of American excesses in Afghanistan. However, while NY succeeded to some extent in making the audience connect with John and his terrorist group, Kurbaan simply makes you angry given the complete mismatch between the "injustice" and the terror unleashed in response.

Kareena and Saif meet and fall in love while teaching at a college in Delhi, and when Kareena is called back by her parent university in the US, Saif gallantly offers to sacrifice his own career and join her there. They rent an apartment in a desi neighbourhood, and quickly befriend their orthodox muslim neighbours.

Then one day, Kareena is visited by one of the neighbour's bahus, who begs for help, saying she is going to be killed for knowing their secrets. And when Kareena discovers the body of the bahu in their basement, one thing leads to another, and with a shock she realises she's just been used as a pawn in a terrible web of death and destruction.

The movie scores high on screenplay and cinematography, with some of the best and most realistic and believable action scenes in a Bollywood movie. The songs have a distinct appeal in them, and will grow on you over time. And while Saif and Kareena, as well as Vivek (in the role of an investigative journalist who loses his girl friend, the cute Diya Mirza in an airline bomb blast) have their moments, especially in the second half of the movie, the chemistry and passion in Saif-Kareena's relationship fails to excite, and really, gets on your nerves in the first half. The movie could have definitely done without the attempt to attract audiences with Kareena's backless moves and the lip-locks.

Overall a good watch, albeit a serious one. No repeats, though!

Windows 7 Rocks

Just got Win 7 on my laptop, and it totally rocks. It's fast, looks great, and has some amazing productivity enhancing and power saving options. Nothing wrong I can see so far, Microsoft seems to have finally buried the ghost of Vista.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cat and Fish

Trust me on this, my cat actually tried to catch the fish on my blog!

No, seriously, I ain't kidding!

Pune Traffic

When it comes to driving on the city roads, here's something you can do to make life easier, for yourself and your fellow citizens...

1) Stick to the left half of the road when approaching an intersection to turn right
2) Stay out of the opposite lane when faced with a long queue of cars
3) Hold back and let others go ahead when faced with cross traffic at a busy junction
4) Stop honking, especially at traffic signals

Trust me, a few seconds of patience will make hours of difference!

Force One

Just two days before the first anniversary of 26/11, Mumbai got it’s brand new anti-terror outfit, Force One. Of over 3,000 applications received from the State’s policemen, 500 were selected after a rigorous process, and after six months training, 216 commandos made the grade.

Trained on the lines of the National Security Guard (NSG), they need only three seconds to draw out a revolver, cock it and fire six bullets. Force One takes 15 minutes to get ready and respond to a terror strike. It has an array of AK-47s, MP5 and Glock pistols, apart from shotguns, underbarrel grenade launchers, breeching equipment and explosives at its disposal.

As far as the Mumbai police are concerned, there are 39 assault teams, one in each division equipped with AK-47s, which will be the first to respond to a terror attack. The QRTs will be the second line of response with their sophisticated arms. Mumbai alone has about 1,500 trained personnel. Force One will come in next. While the NSG has a regional hub in Mumbai, Force One is expected to be part of the initial response to a terror strike. Coastal security has also been upped with 12 police stations along the shore and the introduction of “Sealegs,” an amphibian vehicle.

From bulletproof jeeps and boats to state-of-the-art weapons, QRTs, an NSG hub, a refurbished bomb squad, 39 combat vehicles with 586 men, and amphibians, apart from 500 new beat marshals, an alert citizen hotline, a coastal security unit — the list is endless.

“The new Standard Operating Procedure has been tested a few times and the 43,000 officers and men of Mumbai are ready for anything,” the Mumbai Police Commissioner points out. “Our response from now will be well rehearsed and better calibrated.”

(Adapted from an article in The Hindu)

Quote For The Day

"I play for India, now more than ever"

Sachin Tendulkar, in Dec 2008, after winning the Chennai Test against England, in the shadow of 26/11.

Movie Review: Twilight

After wasting a couple of hours watching various animated versions of Jim Carrey, the team decided we couldn't just let the day slip away, and decided to catch the late night show of Twilight.

And the decision was so worth it!

Twilight, the movie adaptation of the famous novel and TV series by the same name, is a love story between a beautiful teenage girl (Kristen Stewart) and a vampire, a lover who also fights hard against his desire to drink her blood.

But there's nothing gross, nothing scary about their relationship. The emotions, the heart break, the dilemmas, are beautifully brought out as the movie progresses... The passion and the yearning is wonderfully captured through small but very significant moments. A very strong and effective script lends a lot of depth to the story and the drama.

Some of the visuals are absolutely stunning... the near miss with death and the scene in which he picks her and runs up the mountain slope come in absolutely at the top. The kitchen scene when she visits the vampire's family is superbly done. Overall, the cinematography is top notch, the "atmosphere" and locales just perfect to set the mood.

Kristen is pure eye candy, beautiful, innocent and sexy, and totally dominates the screen... The charaterization of the other key characters is also spot on, the make up of the vampires repulsive, yet unnervingly attractive, at the same time.

Overall, a superb movie, worth a couple of repeats! Don't miss it!

Movie Review: Christmas Carol

There's only so much you can appreciate good animation. After 5 mins, you start looking for something else. Unfortunately, when the movie is based on a Charles Dickens classic, let's get real... it won't be fun! It will be about misery, and poverty, and wretchedness, and yes, it might end happily, but waiting an hour and half for that final smile, is not my idea of a good time spent in the theatre!

Nothing in it for the adults, and too serious and preachy for the kids, Christmas Carol is definitely avoidable.

Even though it has Jim Carrey in 7 "animated" roles...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Remembering 26/11

Take a moment to remember the sacrifices of the 26/11 heroes, as well as those countless brave men and women who give up their lives so that we can live in safety. Use this opportunity to reaffirm your faith in our democratic institutions, and the very special motherland we call India.

Yes we have our problems, but it's up to you and I to stand up and make a difference.

Movie Review: My Cousin Vinny

A very old movie, "My Cousin Vinny" is one of the simplest and yet most exciting courtroom dramas. When two city boys get arrested for murder in a small town in rural America, one of the boys calls his cousin Vinny Gambini, a "non-starter" trial lawyer who's yet to win his first case, to represent him. With a range of witnesses and experts lined up against them, the case looks hopeless. Until Vinny, in his own unique style, starts tearing up the witnesses, one by one. The drama reaches a crescendo with the deposition of his fiancee, Lisa, an "expert" in "general automobile knowledge".

Joe Pesci is fantastic as Vinny. Marisa Tomie is just so cute, especially during her deposition, you will want to watch her over and over again.

A wonderful movie, it's playing on Star Movies these days, do catch it if you can!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Why does Manmohan Singh go for walks only in the evening?

Because he is PM :)

Movie Review: Definitely, Maybe

Another of those beautiful soft romantic movies that will leave a wierd feeling in your heart, "Definitely, Maybe" features a dad narrating a story (the story of his life and loves) to his 11 year old daughter. As the story progresses, his daughter begins to understand who really matters to her dad...

A beautiful scene in the movie is when she is going away with her mom, now separated from her dad, and asks, "but where's the happy ending to this story dad?", and he replies, "it's you".

Very nice movie, comes often on Star/HBO, do catch it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movie Review: Burn After Reading

Yet another movie I missed in the theatres, but thankfully, caught up with on DVD last night.

Burn After Reading is a comedy, and a shocking tragedy, with an amazing script and some brilliant characterization. A decommissioned CIA agent is writing his memoirs, which his wife, under advice from her divorce attorney, copies along with other financial records from his computer. When the attorney's secretary loses the disk in the gym, it is picked up by two employees, who believe they have stumbled upon classified information that the Russians will die for, kicking off a sequence of events that quickly snowballs into an out of control crisis. In a world where everyone seems to be sleeping with someone else's spouse, things quickly get really complicated, finally leading to one killing, then another, then another...

The movie starts off slowly, but then really picks up towards the end leaving you stunned, and hungry for more... stay with the dialogues and the script, and you will thoroughly enjoy this one.

Oh, and yes, George Clooney fans, prepare for a bit of a disappointment, you hardly get to see his beautiful eyes and his naughty smile...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Movie Review: 2012

The Mayans apparently skipped 2012 in their calendar - because that's when the planets will align with the sun in such a way that their combined gravitational pull will melt the core of the earth, as a result, letting the crust loose, which will result in terrible earthquakes, giant tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and a near-complete annihilation of the human race.

They were apparently right.

It's 2012, and the unthinkable has happened. Will the human race survive?

The movie has some of the most amazing special effects ever seen in a disaster movie, the visuals of the giant cracks gobbling up cities will leave you stunned with the detailing and the realism.

Interestingly, the person who first figures out what is happening is a young, smart astro-physicist from India, and gets his moment of glory and praise by the Americans too! And the place where the construction of the "Arks" happen is obviously, China! :)

However, the movie loses its sheen in the second half, stretching the story far beyond the tolerable, bringing in the typical American-with-a-sudden-attack-of-ethics-and-care-for-the-human-race, the countdown to disaster, and the last second save by the hero, the clapping and cheering, and there you go - the Americans have saved the world, one more time.

At almost 3 hours, the movie could have easily been a good target for the editor's scissors.

Go watch it for the first half... once the story moves to China, you can choose to leave and get some other work done, you wouldn't have missed much!

Movie Review: The Ugly Truth

Saw this movie quite some time back, but somehow, didn't really get down to writing a review. You'll not find it in the theatres now, of course, but you'll definitely get a DVD at the rental! And it's worth it...

An adult comedy, the movie is about a talk show host (a cute looking Gerard Butler) and his beliefs that sex is all that brings together a man and a woman, and his colleague and friend (a not only cute but also pretty sexy looking Katherine Hiegl) who believes in true love and romance, which she thinks she has found in her new neighbour.

The story line is predictable, and really, immaterial, but the movie is fun, great entertainment, unless your parents and/or your kids are watching with you! :)

Spoilt Brats...?

IT has undoubtedly led a revolution in India's middle-class, enabling millions to aspire far beyond what their parents could imagine, and in turn, enabling electronic & consumer goods, construction, automobile and entertainment industries to bloom. Truly, IT has pushed India from just another third world country to the top league in the comity of nations.

However, is this a social bubble waiting to burst?

As the years have gone by, IT professionals have begun to believe that we were born special. Not that we got high salaries because of the demand supply gap, but because we were born special. We forgot we worked in air-conditioned offices, had free coffee and lunches, and got fat pay checks and bigger bonuses, while our smarter, more hard working peers in other "non-glamorous" industries slogged out for much less.

We forgot that we have a lot to learn in life. We forgot that 4 years in the industry, covered and cushioned by our managers and seniors, isn't all that life has to throw at us. We forgot that our sweet sounding American customers, who lavish praise on us today, are just being nice to us, and one mistake from our side is going to get us an equally harsh counter-reaction!

It's not uncommon for me, as a manager, to have my team members drop by asking for a change in project because "I have already spent six months on this project, and I do not see any more challenges"!! Really??!!

We want to get rich, and get rich fast! Come on, by the time I am 25, I want a BMW parked outside my bungalow by the river! No, not an apartment in a "society", I am an IT professional remember? And I have achieved so much in my professional life, a full 5 years!

What happens tomorrow if I get fired from because some other more hard working, dedicated and sincere fellow takes my job? What happens if the IT industry collapses from the heights it's enjoying today because the Chinese, or the Brazilians or the Vietnamese break the code and learn what it takes to do IT?

Who will pay my loans? Who will teach me what life is all about?

For our parents, the first 20 years of a career probably meant a lot of hardships and pain, fighting to survive, fighting to live a good life, and planning for their kids' education, a home, a car, and a good retirement where they wouldn't be dependent on their kids.

For the IT pros today, the first 5 years is about buying a coupe and a condo. Learning? What's that? I was born special!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Movie Review: Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani

Raj Kumar Santoshi made a brilliant movie called Andaz Apna Apna. While it was mostly slapstick comedy, Aamir and Salman were just so adorable and the movie was so hilarious, just the name brings a smile to my face even today, almost a decade and half later.

APKGK doesn't quite recreate the magic of AAA. It doesn't even get close. However, as a weekend option, with some good songs, the very lovable Ranbir Kapoor, and the as-always sweet and sexy Katrina, a cameo by Salman, and some good moments (the party, for one, the fight at the end, for another), the movie is not too bad.

A one time see, definitely not unavoidable, but no harm trying it.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Movie Review: The Informant!

Mark Whitacre (another brilliant role by Matt Damn) works at ADB, a food chemicals company. And he has a problem - virus attacks are bringing down his production, and his boss wants an immediate end to the 7M USD/month loss they are facing. It was then that he reports a call from an informant - someone is sabotaging the production lines, and the informant wants 10M USD to reveal the name and help the company get back on track.

But when the FBI is brought in by the management, the calls from the mole stop. Instead, Mark tells the FBI there's a much bigger problem at ADB - an international price fixing scam.

Mark becomes a mole for the FBI, collecting key evidence to expose the scam and stop the exploitation of food consumers all over the world.

But is this really the trust? As the FBI and the lawyers unravell the scam, they come across some interesting details... is Mark telling the whole truth?

The movie is brilliantly scripted, and will keep your attention rivetted till the end. One of those movies you absolutely want to see with no distractions... and yes, enjoy the dialogues!

Factory Format :)

My Nokia E75 suddenly stopped messaging the other day. While resetting to factory settings worked, the problem occured again a few days later. Again, I reset to the factory settings, but this time, the messages refused to go.

Finally, I found this solution on the net: a factory format.

Remove your memory card.
Backup all your stuff.

1) Switch off the phone for 10 seconds
2) Push at the same time the following keys: Green answer button, * (star) and 3.
3) Turn on the phone while keep pressing the 3 keys in step 2. (I didn't have anyone to press the power button while my other 3 fingers were pressed so I put the phone down on a table)

The handset will show you the Nokia screen (keep the buttons pressed) and then will prompt you to select the current country for the phone, the date and the time. It's been reset.

Once done, turn you're phone off. Put your memory card back in and turn the phone on. You can then go through the tedious steps customising your phone the way it was.

Now, I have spent a lot of time doing this today, and the messaging works (!), but I just hope this is the end of the saga. Keep tuned.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Australia 3 India 2

Was a smashing game last night, chasing 351, India came oh so close but lost by 3 runs, for the second time in the in series :(

Tendlya smashed one of his career best innings of 175, but departed when India was within striking distance, attempting a Misbah shot...

2 more to go, India will find it tough to pick up their morale from here...

Hyderabad Blues

Am in Hyderabad right now, here for a client visit. A 30 min meeting at 215, which made me wake up at 400 am to catch a 550 am flight, and my return flight is only at 10 pm, which will hopefully get me home by 1230.


So, my first impressions of this city... (I was last here maybe 20 years back!)

Amazing airport at Shamshabad, a shining example of why greenfield development is so good. Spacious, clean, airy, green foyers. Luxurious AC coaches and AC radio taxis. 6-8 lane highway connecting to the city. Lots of construction, roads, bridges and buildings... gives you a feel of Dubai.

And the rocks. The city landscape is strewn with large rocks, precariously placed on top of each other by nature. Beautiful, different, interesting!

This is definitely a city of growth.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hardy Boys :)

In my childhood, they only used to chase robbers and murderers in my favourite books :)

Types of Disasters

Look closely... at the bottom right pic (thanks for the correction, Smita!). Snapped this from my nephew's fifth standard class project book! :)

Goa Baywatch

They not only look sexy, they do a fab job too! Along with the EMRI 108 service, Goa is in safe hands...


OK, not really, but pretty close

So Where Have I Been?

Back to Pune
Running a Travel Agency
Yes, really

Movie Review: All The Best

All the best, if you go for it!

OK, it's not that bad a deal if there's nothing else to do. And Mugdha Godse is pure eye candy. Indulge...

Movie Review: White Out

Murder mystery in Antarctica, some great snowy visuals, some boring snowy action, overall an OK movie, nothing to write about.

Oh, and yes, I missed 75% of the movie since I was on call center duty... :)

India 2 Australia 1

Dhoni plays another smashing captain's unbeaten innings to guide India to a comfortable 6 wicket victory in Kotla. Nagpur was a 100 run walk-over, helped by another amazing unbeaten century, after a very unfortunate, 3 run loss in the first game.

Keep it up, boys, you rock!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What is it about the 90s?

Aamir Khan, Udit Narayan, Khambe Jaisi Khadi Hai, Phool aur Kaante... names, movies, songs that bring a strange melancholiness, a strange feeling that borders on ecstasy, sadness, pain, and pleasure at the same time. I haven't been able to pin point it yet, but listening to those songs and watching those movies transports me into the 90s with an eerie sense of deja vu, an eerie sense of being transported back into time, not sure I am happy, not sure I am missing something, not sure what it is...

It's just something I want to do again and again.

Maybe it was the innocence of those days, a life without Internet, without cellphones, where a walk at Miramar in the evening, and rides around 18th June Road were all that were needed to make it a great day. Where relationships were uncomplicated, where tensions were few, where money wasn't a criteria, where proving oneself wasn't necessary.

Maybe it was just about being in Goa.

Maybe it was about being a kid.

Maybe moving back to Goa will bring those days back?

Movie Review: District 9

Twenty years ago, an alien ship "drops anchor" on the skies over Johannesburg, South Africa, its "prawns" population "settled" in a refugee camp called District 9. As the prawns go about their lives, humans learn to live with the million plus aliens in an uneasy status quo.

Cut to present day. This uneasy calm is ruptured. As riots erupt with humans demanding the aliens be shifted out away from the city, there also seems to be some other sinister agenda behind the government's tolerance of the prawns. Their unique weapons are biogenetically engineered such that in the hands of the humans, they simply do not work. Can the secrets be unlocked creating a multi-billion dollar opportunity? Is that when the private army, Multi-National United, is looking to do when they are contracted to forcibly evict the population with Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) in charge?

During the eviction operation, Wikus is exposed to a strange alien chemical that starts turning him into a prawn himself, and must rely on the help of his only two new prawn friends. Will he be able to help them retrieve the "fuel" necessary to fire up their mother ship to return to their own world? Will they be able to help him be human again?

The movie is sci-fi, but the emotions are terribly real. As you see the aliens helpless and exploited, covering in fear, you can't help but pity them and hope they win against us humans. You feel the desperation of the young kid, desperately searching for his father. You feel their helplessness and wish you would help.

Shot in a unique documentary mode at times, Sharlto Copley with his South African accent does a great job. This has all the makings of a good franchise, the possibilities are endless, and I look forward to a lot more from the prawns!

A must-see, as long as you can take the gore.

Joy Of Giving

Times of India is celebrating the Joy Of Giving Week... have you experienced it yet? How about giving away some of your old shirts to that old fellow at the traffic signal? Or how about purchasing some nutri bars and handing them over to those kids who come begging for food? Or, if you are feeling good, how about that online donation to EMRI or UNESCO or Help Age? It just takes a min, you know?

Do not pity yourself and give away 50 paise at the traffic signal. You know as well as anyone what that is worth today. Give something substantial. Not something you want to get rid of, something that is of worth to you, that's where the real joy comes from.

And oh, yes, don't start with "it's insignificant". For you, it might be small. But for that kid at the signal, that nutri bar of 10 rupees means a good meal for a day, and that's big when you are living a day to day existence. For that guy, your shirt will mean decency and respectly clothing for a month.

Go ahead, open your purse strings a little, and enjoy the joy of giving.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel for Peace?

Obama gets nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 11 days into office, and then wins the award for "calling for nuclear disarmament". WOW.

I hereby call for total world peace and complete disarmament and a world based on love and harmony. Come on, I TALKED ABOUT it, where's my Nobel?

Sorry, but this is pretty sad... I mean, there are dozens of other deserving candidates out there, working hard to try and make a real difference. And here we have America's new president, 11 days into office, seemingly having NO positive effect on Iran, on North Korea, on Israel-Palentine, on Agfhanistan, on Iran, bungling his way through his first year in office with nothing to show for results, winning the award, nominations for which were closed 11 days into his office!

At this rate, I think even Narendra Modi deserved it more! Or, the Indian government for having tolerated 9/11 and refusing to get drawn into a war that the world could have never faulted it for.

Interestingly, do you know, Gandhi never even got nominated? Or that Hitler was nominated?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Just the Flu

So I went to see the doctor yesterday, since it had been like 48 hours since my first brush with fever - and turns out I just have the flu, the normal seasonal flu. Doctor advised that I just sit through one bout of fever so that the body gets a chance to fight whatever it is that has infected me. Today morning, I am much better.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


After escaping my most common illnesses - cold and fever - ever since the swine flu pandemic broke up in India, I finally seem to have joined the bandwagon. I have been having mild fever since the last 36 hours, which started with some body aches, then got significantly better, and close to normal in the day time, and now seems to be picking up slightly.

No cough or cold, no chest pain, no discomfort in breathing.

Yet, the worry is driving me crazy :)

Morale of the story: it's easy to calm others and run polls on a blog, but when it strikes you, you spend hours searching for "swine flu without cold"!

No doomsday predictions please - comment only if you going to tell me this is "just a common fever" :)

Book Review: The Satyam Saga

The Satyam Saga is a compilation of articles by various writers from Business Standard, providing an in-depth analysis and low down on the biggest scandal to hit the global industry since Enron and Madoff.

Written as a very simple, easy-to-understand narrative, the book provides fascinating insights into the persona of Ramalinga Raju, his public image as a philantropist (he was responsible for EMRI, the medical emergency response service that has saved thousands of lives in half a dozen states in India - for free) and a visionary leader at Satyam, a company he created and nurtured as one of India's top 5 IT giants, in stark contrast to the crook he eventually turned out to be.

It also gives a good understanding of how our regulatory bodies and executive boards work, what can be done better, and how the Govt of India played a stellar role in ensuring Satyam did not go down, protecting its customers, employees and share holders from meeting a similar fate as Enron, Worldcom and Parmalat.

Another interesting article is on EMRI, Raju's pet project which he personally funded and helped grow into one of India's showpiece public-private enterprises through his persuasive powers and contacts. A few months later, Satyam and Cisco announced a joint venture to take emergency medical response software to the world. Was EMRI just a pilot aimed at creating and capturing new markets? Hard to tell, but with Raju, everything's possible! (After the Satyam fiasco, GVK has taken over EMRI)

For those who liked this book, I would also highly recommend "The Smartest Guys in the Room", by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, based on the Enron saga. While Satyam was largely about fudging accounts and showing non-existent bank deposits, the scale, the variety and the reach of the Enron scandal was simply mind-boggling. That's a book you will not be able to put down.

Movie Review: Wake Up Sid

Sidharth Mehra is rich, and works very hard at partying and spending his dad's money. He's not spoilt, he's a good guy really. But life's troubles are far away... after all, his exams have got over, and it's time to enjoy!

Aisha is his complete opposite. Alone in the big city, she's come from Kolkata to try and strike it out on her own as a writer.

Sidharth and Aisha are not meant for each other. You are still a baccha, she keeps telling him. But they quickly become great friends... they set up Aisha's house together, work together at Mumbai Beat, and when Sid is thrown out of his house, he moves in with her.

And every day, slowly but surely, Sid wakes up to life. And to Aisha.

There's no big bang. No overnight awakening, no song to transform Sid from the kid to the man. The movie is slow and subtle, and beautiful. Small incidences, small realisations, as every day life proves to be more challenging that deciding which disc to party at tonight!

In what can be truly called Ranbir's coming of age movie, Ayaan Mukherjee brings out the best in Ranbir, as an actor and a teenage heartthrob. Check out his showdown with his dad, and a few of his scenes with his mother. Konkona as Aisha delivers yet another powerful performance, in a role she's excelled at countless times. Anupam Kher wows you with his brief but very memorable scenes. There are a couple of very fresh and interesting faces and characters.

The movie is also a beautiful essay on Mumbai and its charm and beauty, and I could so totally relate to Ranbir reminiscing about its rains and the sea.

Side Note: For some inexplicable reason, the script writers chose to use the word Bombay, giving MNS a chance to make an issue out of it, and forcing Karan Johar to issue an unconditional apology and clarification at the beginning of the film.

The soundtrack has a couple of good songs, but what I loved was the seamless integration of some beautiful English tracks in the background score.

Definitely worth a watch this weekend!

Book Review: Shopportunity

Shoppourtunity by Kate Newlin promises to teach you how to be a retail revolutionary, how to get the lowdowns on markdown, and reginite the "thrill of the hunt" when you shop.

I love these kind of books because of the profusion of real life examples that give a peek into how the world works. Another exciting book of the genre is The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford.

Unfortunately, where Shoppurtunity fails to excite is in its drab treatment of the subject. Yes, there are examples, but the book takes a preaching style to help you "learn how to love and look forward to your shopping" through steps and rules of Anticipation, Pursuit and Prominence, making each shopping experience like that of buying your wedding dress.

This book was supposedly on the Reading List of HBR 2006, but I would give it a pass.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ford Service

Got a call from my Ford dealer the other day saying they wanted me to get my car for a check up - apparently, the design of the air filter assembly in some cars was such that it could eventually rupture the pipe supplying high pressure air to the power steering, or something to that effect.

Three and half years after I bought my car, they replaced the pipe assembly, some 5000 worth of parts, for free.

Not just that, but now that my car was spending time in the garage, I had also asked them to fix some of the irritating noise coming from the underbody on bumpy roads... they fixed that too, for free.

Pretty nice, I must say :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

All Stir Fry

We went to this "new for me" restaurant the other day, All Stir Fry, at ESquare in Pune.

Try the Tomyum Soup - simply outstanding, and a far cry from what you would have had in other restaurants around Pune. The momos are reputed to be good, and I loved the Chicken & Coriander stuff, very tasty, and you just can't stop having one more! We followed it up with some spicy lamb and noodles, both of which were outstanding. Mocktails were also fun.

We were so full at the end of it, that we didn't really have any opportunity to taste the desserts.

Some of the best South East Asian food I have had, coupled with good, fast service and pleasant decor makes it a worth though slightly expensive weekend option!

Fresh Fruits

Fresh squids and tiger prawns cleaned and prepped for dinner :)

Aren't they delicious? :)

ps: I love cleaning fish, if you ever need help with them, I am just a call away!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Read in Dan Brown's book: Google is not a synonym for research.

Lol, I know so many (including me!) who'd hotly contest that!

By the way, check Noetic Science - another interesting "fact" from the book! Yes, use Google :)

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

Just finished a few initial chapters, but I am loving it already! Like a typical Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol offers an exciting blend of fact and fiction. An amazing, fast-paced novel set in Washinton DC based on the search for the "ultimate knowledge in the midst of the symbology and the secrecy of the Free Masons, you'll be enthralled at learning the history behind Washinton DC's iconic Capitol Hill, the Rotunda, the Obelix, and George Washington's Zeus statues!

Sit with your laptop, you'll have lots of fun checking out the various monuments and facts in the book, trying to separate out truth from fiction.

And you'll never stop being amazed at how much is the truth!

World at Peace

Beauty in Contrasts

Came across this amazing contrast in natural lighting on the Lonavla Ghat on the way from Mumbai to Pune. Blinding sun in the early afternoon, getting taken over by some very pregnant, dark clouds... seconds later, we had been caught in a thunderous monsoon storm.

Check out the tarmac change in the pics below, and the contrast with the sky... and you'll hopefully experience a little of the thrill I got out of this!

Mumbai Metro

Mumbai Metro under construction on SV Road in Bandra...

Worli Sea Link

I was in Mumbai last week for a conference, and took the chance to take a drive on the Worli Sea Link - here are some snaps from the exhilarating drive!

Movie Review: What's Your Rashee?

When the opening credits begin to roll, and roll, and roll, with a jazz score in the background interspersed with a silhoutted Priyanka against black and red, and an always-smiling-like-Bush Herman against blinding white, it's the first indication that all is not well with this latest Ashutosh Gowarikar Magnum Opus... an almost-4 hour torture with amateurish dialogues, a convoluted story line, bad screenplay, a very irritatingly amateurish actor, and around a dozen really-not-needed song and dance sequences!

So here's the deal. Spoilt brother owes 4 crores to his creditors, including the local bhai whose claim to fame is his penchant for betelnut crackers! Grandfather will give "jaaidaad" only to younger brother, who never forgets to send him birthday cards. But only on the day he marries. Elder brother has till 20th to "chukao" his debts. So younger brother is called to India, having been told that his dad has had a heart attack. Younger brother decides to see one girl per rashee - because he doesn't have time to see all the 150+ that have been lined up before the 20th. The wedding invites have been printed, only the name of the girl is to be decided. And they all line up. One wants a contract marriage, one wants him to say no, one says she's her lover from the past life, one says she isn't a virgin, one says she doesn't want to be a virgin, one says she hates him, one says she's mad... and yes, add to that an irritating "detective" who's on a mission to unearth his mama's affair. Why? Don't ask me!

Priyanka desperately tries to hold the show, and you see some very different shades of her, sweet, sauve, smart, subdued, sexy at times, and a flash of her brilliance as an actor, but really, there's only so much she can do in the context of the roles she needs to fit in...

Some advice now.

Priyanka: Stay away from Herman
Herman: Stay away from everything
Ashutosh: Stay close to better actors, you need them, man!
And you: Watch "Wanted" instead this weekend! I heard it's good. If not, just stay home.

Book Review: The Bourne Deception

Jason Bourne returns in Robert Ludlum's "The Bourne Deception", a new novel by Eric Van Lustbader.

Isn't it interesting how characters become so big that even after the death of their creator, other authors continue writing about them?

The seventh of the Bourne series (4 of them not really written by Ludlum!), Deception, unfortunately, doesn't really live up to the billing. The plot is too covoluted, there too many characters, and the biggest sin, Bourne really has very little to do! The locations aren't much fun, set in Russia, Indonesia, Egypt and Sudan, away from the usual European locales which evoke so many beautiful thoughts and memories for me...

It starts very slow, gets pretty boring at the end, though it does pick up some steam in the middle half.

Unlike most of the other Ludlum or Ludlum-inspired novels, this is definitely not one you can't put down once you've picked it up! In fact, you will be well advised to skip some of the more boring ramblings... especially the last few pages.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Education Unleashed

I was talking to my wife's nephew the other day, and was pretty amazed to know that his college, MIT Pune, allows students to carry laptops, not just on campus but even during lectures. Professors share notes in PPT format before the class, and students follow him on the laptop...

Not only that, but they have online access to hours of video lectures from IIT Mumbai professors on almost every subject they have.

Sanam has assignments that include "Write a short note on Shreedharan, the Metro Man". And her teacher gives her a "good" when she names Ashok Kamte and Hemant Karkare as freedom fighters alongside Gandhi.

Pretty amazing, I must admit... a far cry from my own school days where we had nothing on current affairs, and where I had no Internet connectivity AT ALL until I graduated with BE Computers!

Friday, September 11, 2009

India on Top

After beating New Zealand today in the tri-series in Sri Lanka, India climbed to the No 1 spot in One Dayers :)

Meanwhile, at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Adrian Sutil from the Force India team lapped up the fastest lap in free practice. And Leander, after losing the mixed double final last night, now faces off with Bhupathi in the men's double final, ensuring an Indian wins the crown anyway.

And of course, Vijendar Singh is assuring India of a medal by making it to the semis of the world boxing championship.

Good days definitely adding up :)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Gen Z

Siddhesh: what re, why such a complicated status message
Sanam: i thot it was cool
and so i posted it
Siddhesh: hehe
Sanam: v simple
what hehe?
Siddhesh: nuthing
u crazy
Sanam: huh me??
Siddhesh: ok ok chill :)
Sanam: hmmm

That's a 34 year old dad conversing with his 7 year old kid, one in the living room and the other in the drawing room, at 750 pm on this Tuesday evening in Pune :)

Movie Review: The Taking of Pelham 123

When the Pelham 123 subway train is hijacked by armed men under New York's streets, the call comes to the dispatcher, an under-investigation-for-bribery MTA official, William Garger, turning an ordinary day's work into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.

"The Taking of Pelham 123" is not about terrorism. It's not even about the 10M dollars ransom money. It's about a Wall Street felon with a diabolical plan to crash the market and reap rewards through soaring gold prices.

The movie is well made, and although there are a few liberties taken with the script, it is a rivetting drama. Denzel Washington as the calm and composed Garber, and John Tavolta as the maniacal Ryder, share a wonderful chemistry on screen adding tremendously to the otherwise straightforward script. You will love their conversations and get sucked into the drama. The action scenes, though few and far between, are well shot.

Overall, a good option for thriller buffs.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Is One Way a Good Idea?

JM and FC Roads have recently been made one way, leading to rotary traffic in the area. There have been some praises and mostly brickbats for the police, so I decided to see for myself.

The drive along JM then onto FC and all the way to Agriculture College was very fast and smooth, and took less than half the time it usually takes. With all the road width available and very little cross traffic, there's very less need for traffic signals, and no snarls at junctions.

At the same time, the half-removed dividers need to be taken out completely, lanes need to be marked, footpaths can get much broader, and finally, pedestrian crossings and signals need to be installed.

Here's hoping that better sense prevails and the plan moves forward rather than backward!

Movie Review: Transformers

Saw Transformers on TV last night - just like Terminator Salvation, there're some very interesting machines transforming themselves pretty impressively, Megan Fox is HOT, the story keeps you awake, the dialogue/script is idiotic and funny and interesting at the same time, and overall, it's a good way to end a Saturday!

I need to see the sequel... maybe I have seen it, I am little confused right now :)

Movie Review: Final Destination 4

Warning: This review is not recommended for children and the squeamish. The joke at the end though is rated U :)

Final Destination 4 comes in 2 flavours, 2D and 3D. Unfortunately, I could only catch the 2D version. And it was so totally not worth it, unless you like images of bodies being crushed and intestines and bone marrow being thrown around on screen. The cool thing about 3D will be that it'll be thrown at you!

Now for the story, there's nothing different in the concept or the treatment. Our hero has a premonition about a disaster at the race track, and manages to save his friends and a bunch of others. But it's not over yet. One by one, the survivors end up dead - all in gruesome accidents involving being crushed or sliced and having their anatomies spilled out. Will they be able to change fate and cheat death? Or does death have other plans?

Now for the joke.

A guy watching a 3D movie taps the guy in front on the shoulder and says, "Do you mind removing your hat? It's blocking my view!" The guy turns around and says, "Hey, I am in the movie!"

Lol lol


There's an ancient land,
few understand,
surrounded by myth and mystery,
with the highest mountains, the clearest fountains,
where mystical men make their sanctuary,
she has jungles of green,
and rivers of blue,
tigers and peacocks and elephants too,
if you come to her, with a heart thats true,
she'll have a garland of flowers to welcome you...
India, India a a a , India...


Another Night, Another Position :)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Cat's Soul

Lick Lick...


This works better, I was geting a little suffocated!

Get A Life, I Am Sleeping!

A typical scene in our home... the cat needs the chair, no one dare wake her up! A little standing and typing works just as well!

Note: No humans were harmed during the capture of this image

Lost Baby

An amazing thing happened yesterday.. we'd had dinner and were lazing around when there was a meouw at the door. We were surprised, because we were pretty sure both our cats were nicely curled inside!

I opened the door, and guess what?

It was one of the 3 babies born to Catrina - Casatta's brother, Mango. Shyly, he meowed again. We gave him some milk, which he quickly drank. Waited outside until I went to him and caressed his neck... he rubbed against my back, and then walked right in, searching for his sister and mom!

Sanam had tears in her eyes, and I dare say, we did too!

Movie Review: Quick Gun Murugan

Lol lol, go watch it, I say! And mind it, leave your brains at home, I say!

Our Indian cowboy will wow you with this gun handling skills, shooting faster than everything except his dialogues, I say! Saving vegeterianism, cows and the ladies - our green, red and leopard dressed super-hero will keep you laughing for most part of the less than two hour movie...

Now, if only there was a little less blood and gore, I might have even recommended you take your kids to the party!

Perfect for a team movie, I say!

Ok, enough, I say!

India Loses a Good Leader

Andhra CM was finally traced in the jungles of Nallamalla, dead in his helicopter crash.

And while we mourn the death of yet another seasoned leader, I want to ask the question... isn't this reason enough for governments to spend millions on upgrading the planes and the security of our politicians? We get upset at the cordons, or when Mayavati orders her new jet plane, but aren't they so necessary to safeguard the lives of our leaders, good or bad, who are such pillars of our democracy, irreplaceable in loss?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


My cat was unwell - and we suspected poisoning. Along with Betnesol, my vet recommended an injection - if it's not poisoning, it won't harm. But if it's poisoning, it will save her life, he told me.

So off I went to the pharmacy, got the vial and the syringe and the needle, set up the contraption, took her hind leg skin in my fingers and administered the dose.

Out it spilled into my fingers. I hadn't managed to poke her.

Thankfully, half the vial was available for a second try.

This time, I felt the needle go in, the cat yelped, and a new vet was born.

She's fine now. It wasn't poisoning, it was constipation. She had to be given an anema, but this time, I got the vet to come home and do the dirty job himself!

I am one vet who will only do the glamorous stuff. Like injections.

Indian Sports

When I was in school, we really didn't have much to cheer for in sports... hockey had gone past its prime already, and Dhyan Chand was history. Cricket was fun, but bearing those losses to Pakistan every time was too painful to endure, whether Pakistan won because we capitulated in front of Akram or the umpires!

This week saw Force India take podium in Belgium. The next day, India lifted the Nehru Cup in football. Yes, we are far from the Brasils of the world, but it was a good win anyway!

In cricket, we've put the ghost of the Pakis far behind us, and even the Aussies have conceded defeat.

And now, we have new heroes. Leander and Bhupathi, and Sania. Vish Anand in chess. Saini in badminton. Jeev Milkha Singh. Vijendar in boxing.

Still a long way to go, but winning the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune last year is perhaps a good indication that the country is finding its rightful place in the world of sports too!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Golden Baby

Check this amazingly rich gold cocoon...

Didn't meet the lucky guy in there, but he's surely got more than a silver spoon in his mouth!

Reismagos Beach

The beautiful rock-strewn Reismagos beach...

A very interesting feature of this beach is that the rocks seem to appear and disappear every once in a while! Something to do with erosion? Some other tidal impact? I don't know! But one thing is sure, a few months back, there weren't as many rocks!

Country Roads.. Take Me Home...

A collage of beautiful roads on the way from Pune to Goa... the 4 laned superbly maintained NH4 from Pune gives way to the tree-lined road to Ajra and Amboli, where the mist-laden ghats lead you down into Konkan. A short cut to Banda gets really narrow and exciting, cutting out 15-20 kms and the town of Sawantwadi, getting you to Goa half an hour before schedule!

Big Foot

Can you guess the shoe size of this shoe?

Tell you what - the feet are mine, and I am a size 7. That's big enough, normally! This giant is my nephew, Kunal, he's 6'4'' and his shoe size is an unbelievable 13!

Shiny Tenuja

I Guess We're Safe Here... long as Mom doesn't come to shoo us away!

Movie Review: Kaminey

Here in Goa, away from the shut multiplexes of Pune, I finally got the chance to catch Kaminey... the 11.15 pm show also meant we were part of a small group of twenty odd bleary eyed guys, and we thought, the chances of catching the lovely flu were minimal anyway...

The movie itself is a mixed bag. Shahid does another great job after Jab We Met, Priyanka is subdued and has a pretty small role as Sweetie, a Marathi mulgi, but comes across pretty hot and sexy in the few scenes she shares with Shahid and Amol Gupte as Mr Bhope (no, not Mr Bhobe) is pretty interesting too. The editing and cinematography is top class, and very Hollywood-ish, although the camera work does get to you sometimes. Dhan Te Nan sounds good on an audio CD, but is difficult to watch. The rest of the songs (I think there was at least one more) are very forgettable.

Watch it for the different treatment and the film-making, but it's not one of the absolute musts for me! OK to give a miss, if it keeps you safe from the flu!

One More To Go!

As you may have guessed from my long silence on the blog, I have been away in Goa... No matter how many times I come here, and for how long, it always hurts the day I need to go back. I love being back in Pune, after all, my entire life revolves around it, but it's really difficult leaving this home where I spent all my childhood, the fish, the people, the late mornings, the evenings on the beaches... and of course, the rain! The amazing rain of Goa!

But hey, I still have one more day to go here :) For the next twenty hours or so now, the attempt will be to slow down time, to live every second, to soak in the atmosphere to the maximum, then, the moment we leave from here, the need will be to gobble up the 500 kms as fast as possible...

Until, the door opens, and I greet my two cats in the warm comfort of my own home...

If ever there was a guy torn between two homes, it has to be me!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

BJP Losing It?

The BJP today summarily expelled one of its most senior leaders, Jaswant Singh, from the party, for his alleged "glorification of Jinnah", which "crossed the party's ideological Laxman Rekha"...

No show cause notice, not explanation asked, dismissal conveyed on the phone.

I am not a historian, nor do I have any authority to comment on how parties should be run, but is a book on a topic 60 years old so critical for the BJP in today's times? Is this what their Chintan Baithak will be debating today?

In a democracy, is this what freedom of speech means to the party that has governed this great country not too many years back?

Karan Thapar made a very strong point today - he's been given marching orders for allegedly saying something which is actually very much in line with the party's official stand! He asks, has the BJP president actually even read the book?

I am worried... The Congress is doing a great job governing us, but where is the opposition? The Left? The SP-BSP? Or the BJP? Are they even capable of being a responsible opposition?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chilli Bomb

Scientists of the DRDO and HEMRL, Pune have come out with the latest weapon against terror - a non-lethal chilli bomb made from the most pungent chillis in the world, the Bhut Jolakia chillies from Assam :)

It won't kill, but it will definitely make you run away from your hiding place! Would also be extremely effective in controlling riotous crowds...

Reliable and Fresh? Check the Expiry Date!

I went to one of the large retail chains promising "reliable fresh" stuff, and guess what, I found Tropicana juice packs dated Jan 09, with an expiry period of 6 months... the latest stock I could find was from. And remember, this is now August, and AFAIK, Tropicana juice sells like hot cakes... yes ok, cold cakes... whatever...

So next time you drop by one of these outlets, be very careful with the expiry dates!

Sleep Flu


For all ye papad lovers out there, here's a refreshing look at where they come from... this is view from my office building, the object of my affection being the tin roofs of the various sheds and huts in the mini-slum behind us :)

If you can't figure out, look for the lady walking on the roof with the mat in her hand, and those cute looking yellow somethings spread on the mats laid out, and the ones that didn't find a place, spread right on the roof...

Swine Joke

The US Embassy has issued an urgent cirdcular to all Gujratis - please do not apply for H1N1, it's a virus, not a visa!

He He He, sorry Gujjus, no offense meant, especially since this one was forwarded to me by a Gujju himself :)

Joke for the Day

Elephant to nude baby boy... I am amazed, how do you manage to eat with a trunk that small? :)

lol, lol

My Reading List

Been reading a lot of interesting books these days, with my outdoor extra-curricular activities severely limited because of the flu.

Undercover Economist is an exciting peek into how markets and economies work, and how it impacts what we buy and how much we pay for it. Along with Freakonomics, it makes for a very interesting read.

I have also been readong Ann's book on handwriting analysis, a skill I picked up many years back, and have used effetively during personal as well as professional interviews. For the disbelieving, you should know that graphology is a statistical science, just like medicine and psychology, and works on determining patterns and then applying it to your case. When I first heard about it, I was doubtful too, which is when I started learning it, and fell in love with it.

Have also finished reading Dad Rules, a must-read for all wannabe dads (and their spouses too!). I wrote to the author, Andrew Clover, and got a personal reply immediately :)


You are kind. I'm busy trying to do a new one now - all about how to be a good husband, and am worried that Dad Rules hasn't sold like it might've. Do please recommend it to your friends. Would you also consider doing a review on Amazon or Waterstones website? Have a wonderful summer. What are you up to?

Andrew x

So for the sake of my new found author friend, all ye dad's-to-be, please buy one copy. And if you aren't dad-to-be, then be one!

Another book I picked up from my collection of bought-but-not-read for reading finally is on Intuition. Started off well, but has too much of "divine" stuff in it. I would have preferred something that told me it was scientific, and helped me improve my ability to catch it and work with it... so it's kinda lost out.

I also recently finished reading this leather-bound reproduction of a 1850s account of a Britisher's first visit to Portuguese Goa. Fascinating, although depressing, given the amount of negativity and poverty and wretchedness described in the book.

Another superbly funny and well-written book is "all a man needs to know about work and sex". Just an awesomely funny and enlightening read!

And finally, to top the list, is Buzan's Mind Map series. A revolutionary way to think and improve memory, I am just too lazy to try it, but I will. A friend recently used it to understand a pretty revolutionary paper I wrote on thought leadership in solutions management, and she claims it all became pretty clear to her.

Thinking back, I am not sure that was a compliment to me, my thoughts or my writing... maybe it was for the book :(

Swine Flu Updates: None

For the last couple of weeks, all we read was about the flu. only had flu news on its front page. Yesterday, that changed, and flu was given space on the side bar. Today, I can't find the flu :)

Today, it's SRK.

Much better, even though it's not such a pleasant news item!

Detaining Obama?

Picture this. President Obama on a visit to India. Gets detained at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Why? Because he has a Muslim-sounding name. Rubbish. He's the President of the United States, everyone knows him!

Muhammad Ali on a visit to India. Gets detained at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Why? Because he has a Muslim-sounding name. Rubbish. Everyone knows him!

Salma Hayek on a visit to India. Gets detained at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Why? Because she has a Muslim-sounding name. On come on, that's got to be utterly rubbish! Everyone has the hots for her!

Shah Rukh Khan on a visit to the US. Gets detained at Newark Airport. Why? Because she has a Muslim-sounding name. Aah, that's perfect. American security forces are on high alert. Their intelligence is of the highest order.

I feel safe in America now!

Movie Reviews: Border

Well, swine flu isn't going to stop me from reviewing movies! But I cannot help that Kaminey is out of bounds for me (theatres are closed, and in public, I cannot admit to watching pirated DVDs, or even give any hints to that effect...), so here comes Border :)

Border was the first movie I watched in Dolby Surround sound :) at the Topiwala theatre in Goregain West. I was studying at IIT Bombay at that time, and movies were few and far between (others at that time included Pardes at some really sidey theatre in Ghatkopar, and The Peacemaker at the IITB convention hall cum theatre), so when we went for Border, it was such an amazing experience - as the bullets flew on screen, different speakers in different parts of the theatre came alive, when the fighter flew overhead, the sound did too!

Anyway, that's why Border is so memorable, and when I saw it listed on UTV on Independence Day, I thought, why not! I had missed a significant part of the movie already, and I was hoping I didn't miss much of the fight... and had to spend the next hour or so "being primed" on the human angle, the lives of the soldiers back home... boodhi, andhi maa, ek adhuri suhaag raat, cancer se mar rahi biwi, tuta hua chhat, and a few songs to boot. Yes, the movie could have easily been sniped and stripped of all this drama, and it would probably be a lot more fun.

Border is the story of the battle of Longewala on the night of Dec 4th during the Bangladesh war of '71. Most of you guys would not even have been born by then (neither was I, lol). A small contingent of the Indian army led by Major Kuldeep Singh was left defending the Indian border post of Longewala against the advancing tank regiment of the Pakistani army, with plans to "have breakfast in Jailsalmer, lunch at Jodhpur and dinner in Delhi". Air support wouldn't be available until morning, since the Hunters stationed at the nearby airbase were not capable of fighting in the dark. The company commander was given the option of abandoning the post and retreating to safety, bu the and his men bravely chose to fight. And won. A historic battle that perhaps epitomizes the "yeh dil maange more" attitude of the Indian armed forces, brought to the forth time and again in subsequent battles. An attitude that truly distinguishes the armed forces of this country from the rest of the world, an army where senior officers do not fight from air-conditioned bunkers, but go out there in front of their troops, leading by example.

The Indian contingent had 120 soldiers and one jeep mounted M40 gun. And they were joined by 5 aircraft in the morning. The Pakistanis had 2800 soldiers, 65 tanks, and over 100 other military vehicles and arms including anti-aircraft and artillery fire. At the end of the battle India had lost 2 soldiers and the jeep, Pakistan lost 200 and more than half their tanks and vehicles.

Here is a satellite grab that shows the desperate moves made by the Pakistani tanks to try and escape the assault by the Indian hunters on the morning on Dec 5. The circles mark the destroyed tanks. Apparently, the Americans just couldn't believe that their favourite Pattons had met such a desperate end at the hands of the outdated Hunters :)

For more on the battle itself, Wikipedia has a nice page at