Friday, July 29, 2005

You must be nuts

Look at the extent to which some people work hard. Something from the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" based on Roald Dahl's famous work.

Dreams and Nightmares

One of the reasons I liked about Michael Crichton’s Sphere was the awesome concept of an entity that could make your worst nightmares come to life.
I rarely write about work as a rule, but when it intersperses with life and when I am not even mentioning the company – let alone anything else, I would rather share my experience.

One of the nightmares I carried till today, in life was the fact that my first project as a manager never reached mass production. It died a slow painful death despite the best efforts of some of the best engineers you are likely to find in the country, for reasons other than engineering. I learnt so much from that job that I did start off on another project soon, with the wealth of experience and greater confidence. But that had a longer gestation period than my stay at the job. I shifted due to some personal reasons. Today was the first day of the first project for which I had the manager’s responsibility in my new company. I am glad that it took off.

Phew! Like my boss from my previous job said, “You win some, you lose some, but you learn from all of them.” But boy, was I waiting for this to happen!

It has always been a dream in my professional life that I could contribute to something that made a difference to the company. I did on my first job as a software engineer, but then I have always wanted to be a manager. And my first project as a manager failed due to reasons beyond my control. And despite the detachment that one can carry about having done all one can and leaving the result to life, who wants to end up on the other side?!

Its nice to advise others to take it easy, but it really takes a lot of experience to be able to lead your life that way. I am on way to my dream and exorcizing my nightmares.

Poornamadah poornamidam …

Monday, July 25, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (HP6)

I am about a week late, but then better than never. So here goes. When I described HP as a wannabee TLOTR, a friend modified my descriptoin as a wannabee TLOTR meets Enid Blyton! That is perhaps the best characterization of HP6. The book describes HP6 in yet another fight against He who must not be be named! One of the reasons that Superman, Batman, etc survived is because the villains kept changing. It is not much fun if the hero doesn’t manage to finish off the villain, is there?! The saving grace is humour., There is enough of it, provided predictably by the Weasley twins with their UknowPoo and other practical jokes, several comic romantic encounters, what with this being the coming of age of HP himself. Rowling is not exactly blessed with fantastic prose and lame puns like “… really…” to a secretary named Verity do little to salvage her reputation.

HP6 also features several romances at Hogwarts. The title itself provides a much needed source of intrigue while you plough through 600+ pages of fiction, in addition to the now well marketed theme of “Who will die in HP6?” I figured out a little late in the day that there is going to be another book in the HP series precisely because Hogwarts is a 7 year course.

One can figure out the way the novel is shaping up due to reading countless other similar novels. The novel is really poor in terms of creativity and it shows. There is none of the stage setting that was around even in HP4. In fact the Quidditch matches with the underlying romance dominating the novel reminds one of Erich Segal more than HP. Overall the book is not worth the $15+ that a friend’s friend paid. But then if you need to keep up with the times, do read it.

Virudh

There are 3 garish product placements in the movie – Elf Lubricants, Asian Paints and Western Union (WU) (the last one mentioned at an inopportune moment when John Abraham dies and then, the process of using WU is explained as part of the memory of the dead son!)

Now that we have that out of the way, Virudh is a songless worth-a-watch flick starring the Big B (Amitabh Bachan), Sharmila Tagore, John Abraham and a new star - Anusha Dandekar. Sanjay Dutt essays a special role in the movie and is dominant in the second half. The first half of the movie is fairly humorous and if the movie fails, it is in the second part. What Bollywood could do with some snipping!

Virudh tells the story of a retired couple, whose son returns from London with a girl in tow. The old couple absorbs the new woman in the family to ensure their son’s happiness. When the son gets stuck in an altercation he should not have entered, the life of the couple takes a terrible turn. How the couple (mostly AB) fights against the system, is the story of the movie.
The travails of an Indian family which is stuck in the legal system is shown thru the role of the angst ridden policeman essayed by Sachin Khedekar who is perhaps underutilized in a brief role (which is itself riddled with some dual characterization).

The movie is entertaining in the humour department mostly due to Big B, Sunju baba and then due to the assorted characters. Sharmila Tagore turns in a fine performance as the retired principal. Anusha Dandekar is almost believable as the English Born Indian (?) bahu. If only Ramu could direct movies like this one, we could have had a nice result. One can’t but help feeling, “If only…” several times in the movie as it does promise quite a bit. AB excels as ever.

If you get free tickets to see the movie, watch it!

Tour De Lance

The last 3 weeks were spent in frenetically using refresh on the browser while accessing English version pages of www.letour.fr for live updates - min by min of the Tour De France(TDF), while at office and being glued to the TV while at home. See http://www.letour.fr/2005/TDF/LIVE/us/2000/depeches.html

Lance Armstrong, who’s an incredible athlete, decimated his opposition in characteristic Texan style – brash, in the face. He also showed occasional glimpses of leadership in pulling his team together in a few stages when he could have easily gone on to get higher points. But then the TDF is as much a strategic race as it is test of ability. Physical endurance is required as much as a keen mind.

There were only a couple of real challengers – Alexander Vinokourov, who despite finishing 5th threatened Lance at once stage by his incessant ‘attacks’ on the peloton. Eventually Ivan Basso and Jan Uhlrich who finished 2nd and 3rd finished rather tamely, unlike Vino who attacked even in the closing moments of the TDF in Paris, eventually bulldozing into the 5th place. I am betting that he will come close to winning the TDF sometime in the next few years, if he keeps himself safe. But then this blog is about Lance. Lance won his 7th and perhaps last TDF by his smallest margin ever, but in the coolest way possible. He was never hustled. He responded to every challenge in the race and never lost. He was on song in the individual time trials when he won by 23 secs, which is a huge margin, in the context of the assembled field of super athletes.

The French media came up with the title of this blog as well as a few other amusing taglines. For ex, yday in the finishing stages of the TDF, when it was raining one of the cyclists was saying to the camera that he’s singing in the rain. The commentators (themselves ex TDF participants, some of them stage winners) then came up with an old chestnut about Singing Indurain (Migeul Indurain was acknowledges as perhaps the greatest of his time until Lance came around and made the record his own).

The enduring images of the TDF 2005 will be those of the Discovery team clinking their glasses of champagne for Lance’s 7th victory while riding at about 40 kmph as well as that of the 21 teams riding down the Champs Elysees as part of the tradition of this glorious event.

Au revoir till 2006.

Monday, July 18, 2005

NIMHANS NEGROS!

Atleast that is what I thought my french teacher was saying this morning when I asked him how to describe someone who was "neither thin nor fat." Later I realised he was saying "Ni Mince Ni Gros."

NIMHANS is the national institute for mental health and neuro sciences in Bangalore and is amongst the premier institutes for neuro-medicine and head injuries in the country. Unfortunately for most people from the non-medical area, it is a byword for asylum.

I just thought that the title could be used as the name for my quiz team. We have been desperately looking for a catchy name. I thought it might sound like the Harlem Globe Trotters. Its another thing that we have tried 3 different names in our last 3 attempts and have met with different results. So we are still looking.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Smile

Ever wondered why people who are handicapped in some way (including economically) always seem to smile more than people who aren't?

Was feeling rather foul after a lousy day at work when I saw this guy who was limping along and barely managing to stay up on his legs (which were deformed due to polio). My office vehicle passed very close to him and he was evidently surprised by the appearance of the vehicle which almost edged him off the road and broke into this blissful smile - the kind that infants which can't talk yet, break into.

Brightened up my otherwise dull day. God bless his kind.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Why I Run

"I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure. To win is to honor him" - Eric Liddell

I saw Chariots of Fire in 1994 for the first time. I have never been more inspired to run as much, although my own story is closer to Fauja Singh's than Eric Liddell's!

Fauja began running to get over the sadness of his wife's passing away, while I was running away from something! One of the several stories I narrate about why I began running is this one - While I played football at IIML, I realised that I was running more than anyone else on the field trying to be in step with the best forwards on the rival teams, being a defender. Although I could always eventually catch up, I did little else. So I thought I should atleast be dedicatedly running and quit running around!

The road along the perimeter of IIML is 2800 m and I had started completing it in about 14 mins when I started and was steadily improving.

And then my brother who had taken up running seriously told me about the Cooper's test..

I realised that for the first time in life, there was something I could do which borders on above average physical fitness. So I began running the course as regularly as possible. And my best friend during my days at IIML, Abraham kept me company for most runs serving as some kind of a pacemaker. And in those days, I thought that if I could do a 5 min mile, that would be it. Much later I realised that short runs were not my forte. My best at 2800 m was 10:39, when I ran alone. I never again went under 11 mins!

Running has helped me remain fit. It has also cleansed me of a depressive tendency which dominated me for much of my engineering days primarily stemming from the lack of an outlet for expending myself. It has added to developing a sense of action and a stronger mind since I run more on determination and less on fitness.

I believe in the Steve Prefontaine (Pre) style for inspiration. Here are some quotes which paraphrase his approach -

"A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more. "

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. "

And finally, another quote which perhaps best sums my reason to run ->

"You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement."

At the time of his death at a young age of 24, Pre held 14 American Track and Field Records from 2,000 meters to 10, 000 meters.

There's a certain exhilaration that comes from endomorphines coursing through your veins that can't be described or matched by anything else. Maybe, I am addicted to a drug produced by my own body! Now that's what I call a healthy addiction.