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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Brief History of OCSL and ROFL

A lot of folks on twitter have confronted me with the question "When are you going to quit twitter, for good?". Of course, my rather poor jokes and even worse observations have played no small part in contributing to this situation. I have been able to shrug of this question with the reply "I shall quit twitter, once I get my invite to Quitter". Har. Har.
Recently though, I am being flooded by the question "What the Hell/F*ck is OCSL?". In a world of 140 characters, people tend to notice an additional 4 characters being pushed into their twitter time lines.
To introduce you to OCSL, I would like to take you back to the time when I used to tweet all day and drink coffee analyze functional modules of code at work. I was having a light hearted conversation with Anjana, about how people are never actually ROFL (That is Rolling on The Floor Laughing, for those from the stone age) or LMAO even though they claim to be. Seriously though, just think of it. You are engrossed in your work when a hilarious tweet pops up on your time line. You double over laughing out loud, managing to slip from your chair and finally landing with a dull thud on the carpeted ground. The boss, shocked at the sound of loud hysterical laughter, comes running over to your cubicle to see you on the floor, separated from your posterior, which somehow managed to detach itself from the rest of your torso. Highly unlikely, Isn't it? Especially when you have a boss whose idea of fun is working over the weekend, trying to propose improvements to that patched up piece of junk code that you are struggling to maintain.
Who are we kidding? Its a well known fact that we react to those jokes with a smile on our face, a hand over our face the only thing preventing us from looking moronic to our colleagues.
This is the phenomenon that Anjana and myself christened as On Chair Stifling Laughter. In the greatest traditions of the internet, it got a four lettered abbreviation: OCSL.
Quite naturally, the next step was to make this christening official. I tried submitting OCSL to that great registrar of arcane abbreviations on the internet, Urban Dictionary. They turned down my entry stating that my geek credentials weren't good enough.
I had a dream, one where OCSL rubbed shoulders with ROFL, LMAO and LOL, and it seemed that Urban Dictionary was hell bent on ensuring that it never materialized into reality. Driven to the bottle out of despair thanks to the weekend, I was ready to sell my soul in exchange of my dream being a reality. Which was when Kristopher rings me up and informs me that his OCSL entry to Urban dictionary was accepted.
Being an honest interpretation of facts, our friends on twitter began to popularize the word in their tweets. Of course, initially Anjana and myself had to indulge in a lot of shameless plugs to set the ball rolling. Pretty soon, it was also covered in the mainstream media.
And that, my friends, is the story of how OCSL came into being, punched its way into Urban Dictionary and gave ROFL, LMAO and other such abbreviations a run for its money. As for Anjana and myself, we got the sadistic satisfaction comparable to the kings of yore, who must have gotten their kicks by adding a couple of pages to our thick history text books every time they waged a war or constructed a mausoleum.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Class of '84: The Review

I was tucking into a delicious mallu lunch at my uncle's place, when a friend called me up asking if I wanted to catch the play, Class of '84. She described it as the story of a class reunion, reminding me of a suspiciously similar musical that I had thoroughly enjoyed circa 1999. Considering the fact that I had nothing better to do, I decided to watch the play. On my way to the NCPA auditorium, I had this thought at the back of my mind that I would have to compare Class of '84 with the aforementioned play.
Thankfully, all that both the performances had in common, was the reunion plot device.
I will not allow myself to get ahead, and I will review the play as best as I can. The stage setting was sparse and simple. Before the play started, we had a fun game of 'Guess what the set represents'. However once the play started, all the (minimal) props on stage were utilized to transport us to a beach house: at certain instances I felt guilty of staring into the private life of seven adults reminiscing their past. The story is simple and straight forward: the funeral of a common friend brings back seven buddies to a beach house, for one night of bonding and nostalgia. The self deprecating humor used to introduce the play gave me a positive impression of the production house, Rage Theater Group. Not many Theater groups, nay people, would be willing to crack a joke at themselves.
The simplest stories usually provide the perfect setting for the most multidimensional screenplays and Rahul Da Cunha (Writer, Director) uses this to full effect. The characters that were etched out were believable: Atleast one of the characters reminded me of people I know. I really liked how the characters frequently broke the fourth wall oh-so-casually to discuss their state of mind. The seven characters (with another getting added later on) collectively covers the whole gamut of human emotions and might as well have been a poster boy for national integration (In your face, MNS, Hah!). Mallu, Punju, Goan, Small towner from outside Delhi and of course, the Mumbaikar: The whole lot is covered. Although the play is based in the aftermath of a funeral, the play is interspered with witty dialogues and hilarious situations, case in point: The scene before the intermission. The sarcasm and dark humor of the play resonated with my personal sense of humor; considering the ROFL audience, I am guessing a lot of other folks felt the same way.
Rahul Da Cunha's job as a director would have been considerably reduced by having such a brilliant star cast. Honestly, I haven't seen most of the star cast perform before, but one can just say that the actors are doing a good job when they incorporate even the most subtle mannerisms of their characters into their body language. I should mention that the actors deserved an extra round of applause for their impeccable sense of comic timing.
My personal favorites in the play were the actors essaying the role of the dope smoking beach bum, the loud Punju (Rajit Kapur) and the lady who was into new age meditation techniques. Although I have mentioned my personal favorites with regards to performances, we were unable to reach a general consensus even in our small group. This just reflects how everyone in the cast put in great performances, each one endearing themselves to a different set of people.
The play doesn't have an eventful climax, rather a few thought provoking questions were mentioned. As the lights came back on, and I got back to the comforting presence of pals from college, I could not but help think on what the future would hold for us. As we were clicking pictures and cracking jokes outside the imposing structure of the NCPA, I felt that theater had given us a cruel peek into the state of our friendship, 20 years ahead of time.

P.S. Since we didn't see any program guide being handed out, I had to rely on this link to help me complete this review.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja: The Review

"Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja booked solid for the next two weeks by Mammooty fans"

Being a person who hates the whole concept of fan clubs for movie stars, this was almost enough to put me off from watching the movie, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (fondly referred to as Pazhassi Raja). The fact that Pazhassi Raja is the most expensive Malayalam production(so far), didn't exactly help in my preliminary judgment of the movie. Now don't get me wrong here: I have nothing against producers single handedly trying to reboot a stagnant economy with an expensive movie. Its just that, in my opinion, an expensive production does not necessarily translate into an awesome movie (Remember Jeans?). Anyway, to cut a long story short, I pulled a few strings and managed to conjure up a ticket for Pazhassi Raja.

Although I walked in to the theatre with my preconceptions, expecting a three hour waste of time and money, I was converted and baptized by the time they showed the end credits.The thought that I have to blog about this movie, blossomed somewhere at the end of the first fight sequence.
Since Pazhassi Raja is set in feudal Kerala, at the time the Brits started taking over India, it would help if one knew the context of the movie. I believe that my high school history teacher reads this blog, due to which I would rather not talk about the history. A better option would be to head over and check out Nikhil's brilliant review of the movie/history primer. In short, the movie is a biopic of a King of the Kottayam Royal Family, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.
This review will mainly consider how awesome(yeah, seriously) Pazhassi Raja is in various departments, as a movie(duh). Kindly excuse if it seems amateur-ish, because quite frankly, it is posted by an amateur.
Cinematography: There is a good reason why this aspect of the movie gets top mention. From the very first scene to the last scene, I was awed by the colors that they have used to paint the movie in. In some places the cinematography manages to capture Kerala in the colors that Raja Ravi Varma would have used. Don't expect crazy and creative camera angles from the movie; you are bound to be disappointed. The camera work is simple, but it does a neat job of showing you the carefully choreographed fight sequences.
Sound: There were a lot of expectations from Resul Pookutty in this department, especially considering his Oscar winner status. Resul Pookutty takes those expectations, and comfortably surpasses them with his eye(or should it be ear?) for detail. Every sword strike, every rain drop has been captured meticulously and provide an immersive experience for the audience. The songs in the movie however, although true to the period of the film, didn't have any magic in them.
Direction: Director Hariharan does a great job of keeping the three hour movie coherent. His vision for the movie is manifest in the level of detailing used. Case in point: In one scene depicting the interiors of a palace illuminated by lamps, the soot deposit on the walls is displayed prominently.
Script and screenplay: To recapture the story of a person hailed as the Lion of Kerala, keeping in mind that the story remains relevant to the average theatre goer, is no easy deal. M.T. Vasudevan Nair does well to write dialogues that stay faithful to the story, and to add in a few applause garnering monologues. The characters in his script have an unbelievable depth to them and are the end products of sufficient research(My Aunt tells me this).
Performances: The cast consisting of Mammootty, SharathKumar, Padmapriya, Manoj K Jayan (amongst other stalwarts) have put in sterling performances. Mammootty, in the titular role, plays the role of a King who is torn between his ideals of freedom and the welfare of his people, to perfection. SarathKumar comes across as the surprise package and gets the lions share of the applause-gathering dialogues. His portrayal of the loyal army commander to Pazhassi Raja, is both moving and intense. Manoj K Jayan and Padmapriya, slip comfortably into the role of the tribals that help PazhassiRaja wage a guerilla war. Listing out each and every performance would be time consuming and redundant, as all the actors have(cliched as it may sound) 'become' their respective characters and have put in incredible performances. Special mention has to be made for the foreign cast, which doesn't seem like a ragtag bunch of vacationers made to act in a movie(as is the norm for most Indian freedom struggle movies). The foreign cast manages to provide some value addition for the film.

Negatives: Since I have been going on, babbling about what I liked about the movie, its only fair that I write about what I did not appreciate about the movie. The editing, for one, could have been better. There were situations where I was left wondering as to what happened to the story. I would like to believe that attempting to compress all the footage that was shot into the space of three hour caused this. I also don't know whether an artificial looking wire stunt in between a realistic fight sequence was necessary. While discussing this with my friend the other day, he told me that the warriors of that era were very shaolin-esque.

There you have it. The pros and cons of the film. It is very difficult to tell when a work of art has stuck a chord with you. In my opinion, it is when you are aware of the negatives, but try to come up with justifications to nullify those negatives (the way I am). Needless to say, I will go ahead and watch this film once more, and may even get the DVD, as and when it is launched. In my capacity of an average movie goer that has been made to sit through some positively mind numbing Malayalam films over the last year, my only prayer for the movie is that it recovers its investment manifold and rakes in the moolah. With that, the producers will have an incentive to back new projects that are both intellectually stimulating and financially viable, in the league of Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.

Final Verdict: One watch is mandatory. More than one watch is highly advisable!

P.S. For my non-mallu readers: The movie is slated to be dubbed and released in Tamil, Hindi and various other Indian languages. I am not a big fan of dubbed films and I feel it would be better to watch the movie in Malayalam with subtitles. However, to each his own, and if you feel comfortable with dubbed movies, go ahead and watch it in a theatre ASAP!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who is your (sugar) Daddy?

Caveat Emptor: I drafted this post circa June,2009. Thanks to the hassles (or joy, depending on how you look at it) of putting in my resignation letter, I never got around to posting it, until now that is. Pliss be to excuse if the incident has gone from sweet to sour.

SCENE I: A shopping mall

Last weekend, my roomies and myself went over to purchase some clothes from the Big Bazaar in Mysore. As you may be aware, guys visit Malls to shop for clothes only when something catastrophic happens, such as a wardrobe burning down. Most other times, we make do with wearing clothes inside out or if the situation is out of hand, *Shudder* getting our Laundry done.

We were almost done with our purchases, when we heard an announcement informing us that for every 1000 bucks worth of stuff bought, they were giving away 5Kgs of sugar. Since sugar is the staple diet of Indians, we decided to up our purchases to 2000 bucks, thereby netting us a cool 10Kgs of sugar. Once the bills were settled, we went up and claimed our 10Kgs of sugar. Which was when we realized how much 10Kgs of sugar really is. It may not sound like a lot, but believe me, it weighs a lot, probably even more than 15Kgs of sugar. Considering that we had already gotten it for free, we lugged the 10Kgs of sugar back home and made up this elaborate story on the way :
We enter shopping Mall. See 'buy one get one free' offer applicable to 5Kg sugar packs. Brains get boggled at the Potential Savings. Purchase a 5Kg sugar pack. Gloat at how recession-wise we are.

SCENE II: Our House in Mysore.

Like the spoils won from a fierce battle, we cradled the sugar in our arms. On opening the door, my roomie is surprised to see a huge packet of sugar paying him a visit. Lesser mortals would have gotten spooked, but not my roomie. No sir, he caught onto the fact that we were hiding behind the packet and offered to help with the heavy load. In one swift move, he took the bill out of the shopping bag without disturbing the sugar packet in my arms. We were depressed that our game was up, since the sugar, being free, would have never been billed.
Hearing my roomie go seething mad, slightly changed that opinion. He was absolutely horrified by the 10 Kgs of sugar printed on the bill, even more shocking was his discovery that apparently, we had paid for it. Although we were a little taken aback by this fact, we decided to play along. Needless to say, on explaining our recession beating idea to him, our roomie went ballistic. He began giving us a lecture on how much sugar an average Indian Family would use, how the average production of sugar in some states is less than 10 Kgs, yada yada yada. Needless to say, we burst out laughing on hearing this, which only added fuel to his flaming rage!
Much madness ensued, until our ears were sore from listening to all the choicest epithets, some, in languages that we were unfamiliar with. (What the hell is a *@%#*!@ anyway?)
Finally, good reason prevailed and we explained how we got it free. Now the problem changed from one of Cost Accounting to one of Inventory management. Apparently, we had no storage space for 10 Kgs of sugar. Which was when we hit upon the next bright idea of the day: Give away 5 Kgs of sugar to the Landlord. Although we didn't get the drastic reduction in our rent that we expected, we had saved the day and probably the whole district from an ant invasion. To this day, I can think of the Landlord paying his milkman, cable guy and other assorted folks in sugar. As for the 5 Kgs that we had with us? 2 packets of Gulab Jamun mix and we were almost half way through. Now excuse me while I get myself tested for Diabetes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Secret Identity of Zoozoos

Once the dust from the money making binge sporting event called IPL2 settles down, people are going to be left talking about one thing: How the KKR royally screwed up. Wait-a-minute, that is the current topic of discussion, although the insane laughs provoked by them, could very well be from the neighborhood Laughter Club. I must resist the temptation to joust with this rather harmless group of knights and get back to my conspiracy theory for the day.

Which involves the Zoozoos. Like 'em or Hate 'em, you cannot ignore 'em. People are going to be talking of them long after the IPL is done with. I thought I would get ahead of the pack by disclosing their (secret) identities. They are *Hold your breath* Mallu*. Allow me to disclose my findings, shocking as they may be:

1) Physical Appearance: Any beer/toddy guzzling, meat eating Mallu worth his salt will have, diplomatically speaking, a chubby figure. Take a close look at the Zoozoos: The beer belly, the cherubic face, the short stature and the smooth, fair complexion(Ok, maybe not that last one) all display startling similarities to our physical appearance.
2) Cuisine: The 'International Roaming' ad portrays a male Zoozoo following, what is hopefully, a female Zoozoo begging for "Poottum Kadalayum" and "Kappayum meenum". These are probably the only two things that would make us Mallu guys chase the lady of our dreams around the world(most other times we just find another lady-of-our-dreams closer to home). You wouldn't believe the number of romantic Malayalam movies with plot lines cooked around these venerable dishes.
3) Behavior: Did you see the 'Group SMS' Zoozoo Ad? If so, you would have noticed how quickly(and effectively) the Zoozoos gang up on people, a trait inspired by us. Any Industrialist in Kerala, which I hear is a mythological creature similar to the hobbits, would let you know how quickly we can gang up, float a left leaning party and lock down any signs of Industrial Progress.
4) Romantic Conquests: Our romantic conquest are such tragic defeats that volumes have been written on it. I haven't helped the cause by revealing key plot elements of Mallu romantic flicks. Which brings us to the 'Dating tips' ad and how it might have been inspired from real life. It is quite possible that one of our very own Casanova would have gifted a Jack-In-the-box to his loved one. You have to understand that ever since the recession hit us, things have been bad: a spring and a stuffed boxing glove are all that we can afford nowadays.
5) Nada/Zilch: This last point has been put up to convey the impression that this is a well thought out post, which is a rather silly thing to expect on this blog. If you have any further thoughts on my theory, do voice it out in the comments!

Mandatory Disclosure: This post has been written by a true blue Mallu, the kind that does not hesitate to take a dig at my own community. Although most of this post is exaggerated satire, I am expecting (quite) a few will not get the joke and be offended by it. I have a few words for them: "Mathaikku ithu verum pulla".

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Twitterist Manifesto

When I decided to reboot my blog, I had derived a formula for the frequency of posts. If you are the kind of uber-geek who has to see formulas to believe in their existence, here you go:

Please do not ask me what the letters stand for*. All I am aware of is that the formula tells me that the optimal number of posts per week is 1. If I stick to that frequency, it tells me that I stand a good chance at being nominated for a blogging award, getting a gazillion subscribers and probably landing a 6 digit book deal. These, like the hot neighbor next door, are the things that everyone secretly lusts for and publicly loathe. To be honest, I did not start blogging for any of these perks, which may be why I initially kept up the magic frequency of 1 posts per week.

Lately though, I haven't been able to keep up with that frequency. This has been mainly because I jumped onto twitter and the rest, as they say, was (the recent past) history. There has been a lot of information regarding twitter in the media and in the online space, a whole lot of which tells you what you should do to gain new followers. As you may be aware, A lot of folks consider gaining new followers to be the holy grail of twitter. I, for one, have lost count of my 722 followers. However, there are a lot of folks on twitter who are block-worthy. While hopping through twitter profiles(Yes, I really ought to get a life), these are the folks whom I hit the block button, even if they aren't following me! For your convenience, I thought I will classify and explain the various categories of such tweeple (twitter+ peeple = tweeple). Behold, the Twitterist Manifesto:

1) Twiarrhea - This is a twitter syndrome that is very similar to a much loved medical condition. Its symptoms are: Tweets are short, Tweets are furious,Tweets are most often crap. People with this condition most often think that twitter is about chopping up a blog post into chunks of 140 characters.
2) Sir Follows a lot - This lot follows people by the truck loads. It is their sincere desire to replicate the twitter public timeline in their stream. It can be safely assumed that your insightful tweets(ahem) will get steamrolled by the aforementioned truck load of followers.
3) H4CK3R5/SMSWRTR - This category of people believe that its rather fun to keep their followers guessing what language their last tweet was in. They carefully type out their tweets in English and then attack the vowels with a chainsaw. It is rumored that a couple of their tweets have even stumped Robert Langdon and his cipher cracking friends.
4) Abraham Link-en - People with this twitter syndrome do nothing rather than post links all day long on twitter. This can be pretty informative, until it starts to look suspiciously like an RSS feed from Google News. They frequently urge you to retweet their useful links although it makes no sense to you.
5) Nekkid Chick - Following the webpage listed on their profile inevitably takes you to a sleazy webpage. More often than not, it will have an offer to meet hot and sexy girls somewhere close to your house. Strangely these girls follow me around when I travel across the country, an unwarranted side effect of my magnetism, I suppose.
6) All follow and no tweet- This category of people can easily be identified by the stats: 10,000 following; 1000 followers; O Updates. Apparently, these people are followed because of the 'You kiss my ass, I kiss yours' phenomenon. You can also classify them as 'All fart and no shit'.
7) Celebrity\Female Stalker: This lot of people wants to know what the ladies on twitter are upto. Especially if the ladies in question are celebrities. Their tweets consists solely of @ mentions directed at their target segment. Lets not question their motives though, some of them left orkut and signed up on twitter only 'to make the fraandsheep'.
8) Concern for your follower count: This is the most genuine group to grace this list. They are so concerned for your follower count that they would repeatedly bombard you with tips and tricks to increase it. Their concern for your heavy wallet also shows when you are redirected to a shady looking site asking for your credit card number.
9) Rediff transplant: This group of people have quit flaming the red-iff message boards and have moved onto greener pastures, namely twitter. Their 'holier-than-thou' attitude, their lack of respect for a contrary viewpoint and their complete disregard for the Queen's language go a long way in identifying them.
10) Mallika Sherwani(or something like that) : No comments. Avoid like the bubonic plague.

Phew. There you have it: The 10 most irritating behavior on twitter (in my opinion). The lack of these traits wont make you follow worthy, rather it will just prevent people from scrambling for the block button.
Do you feel that I have left out any other irritating twitter traits? Do let me know in the comments section!

*- Do you still refuse to believe that I derived the equation? Persistence wins. Read about it here. Perhaps you could try explaining it to me, in English. Sigh.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Tale of two WHAT?

Before starting of with this post, let me apologize to anyone who maybe offended by me taking the name of a classic in vain. Considering the fact that movies have to put up with name changes thanks to offended communities, it wont be long before we have people offended with nonsensical blogposts.
However, I refuse to apologize for this story I put forth. This incident takes place in my engineering days, when I was an inmate of the men hostel. Isn't it strange that they refer to people who reside in Hostels as inmates? I thought inmates was used to refer to those-who-we-don't-dare-make-fun-of-for-fear-of-our-lives. In other words, People safely locked away in mental asylums and prisons.
Come to think of it, our hostel was part loony house and part correction facility.
In our mad house hostel, we used to have these impromptu gatherings in a hapless victim's room. Dapaankoothu music was almost always on the CD players, barring the few months when we repeatedly played Jassi Gifts 'Lejjavathi'. We imposed a moratorium on 'Lejjavathi' once we realized that we had started talking to each other in Gibberish rap, the language in which the song was recorded. Some of the studious types amongst us were never happy with the idea of us taking a break in their rooms. A classic case of which was Dildesh*. Needless to say, this reluctance was a green signal for us to invite ourselves to his room.
So there we were, chilling in Dildesh's room, soaking in the music, discussing Advanced Digital Signal Processing the hot girls in our rival college. All of a sudden, the ring of a cellphone interrupts us. As Dildesh was taking a shower, one of us in the room goes over to answer the phone. He picks up the cellphone and barely takes a look at it, when he rolls onto the floor, laughing rather hysterically.
Not realizing what had caused this reaction, we were all shocked for a moment. Impossible scenarios darted through our analytical minds: Could it be something like 'The Ring'? You pick up this phone call and laugh yourselves to death?
I braced for the worst and stepped over my still-hysterically-laughing friend to pick up the phone. I picked up the phone and looked into the display. Which was when I realized what had prompted the ROFL reaction:

There, on the display was the innocent message identifying the caller:

"Papa3 Calling..."

*- Dildesh was a typical example of the innovative nicknames we had in college. No, I wont be revealing what it means. No, I wont tell you what mine was.
P.S: It wasn't what you thought it out to be, you Perv! Dildesh went on to clarify that as his ancient phone could only store a number against a contact, this was his ingenious solution to store his Dad's many phone numbers.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Strict Educational Institutions

Last week, one of my roomies was hospitalized. Nothing serious, just a bout of diarrhea from which he has since recovered. Anyway, A friend and myself had gone over to the hospital to visit him.
On entering the foyer of the hospital, we notice a lot of visibly tensed people. A whole cacophony of languages is to be heard, with Malayalam and Kannada overpowering the others. My friend guesses that they must be students staying in some hostel. I agree, as I can find no other explanation for why such a large, pajama-wearing crowd should be assembled outside a hospital. Since we do not have time to inquire about the situation, we let it go and move directly to my roomies hospital room. A hale and hearty patient greets us, informing us that the doctors have given him a clean chit. Since we were not familiar with the formalities involved in getting a patient discharged, I go to the foyer to find someone who was aware of it. Which is when I overhear one of the students discussing that they are in need of AB+ blood. I butt into their conversation to inform them that my blood group is AB+ and that I was willing to donate it. They take me to the blood donation center and ask me to wait. Seeing that it would take a long time before my turn came up, I strike a conversation with another student who was also waiting to donate blood. He tells me what happened.
To cut a long story short, it seems that they were students at a reputed private college in Mysore, with a very famous figurehead. As is the case with a large number of reputed private colleges, this one was infamously strict. He told me that allegedly(this is how TOI put it) a member of their college administrative board went through the contents of a personal diary kept by a student. Allegedly, he also threatened her that the contents of the diary will be published on the college notice board. This prompted the student to take an extreme step: suicide. Fortunately, the attempt failed. However, she was in a coma and an urgent surgery was necessary to improve her chances. The surgery required eight bottles of blood and fate had willed that I should be there, at the hospital, to give my share.
I am sharing this incident because it would have faded into obscurity with a small note in the TOI being the only evidence that it occurred. The college will be back to normal, the member of the administrative board will continue his rein of terror on the students.
I have never understood the fascination for extreme discipline in private colleges. They believe that suffocating their students and stifling their voice will make them world movers. History tells us that this is rarely the case. Doing so might make them capable drones, but it would never produce original thinkers. I personally know of cases wherein once students escape from the strict confines of their academic institutions, they abuse their new found freedom. Teenage days and college days are very impressionable periods, and an important lesson that has to be picked up during this period is to learn from ones mistakes. Such educational institutions do not give students the freedom to fall, to make mistakes. They ignore the individuality of a student. They figure that every student can be replaced by a number against which violations can be marked, offenses can be fined and civil liberties can be conveniently neglected. One number to rule them all. However, they fail to realize that these numbers, when pushed and shoved for too far, too long, can behave unpredictably.
The destruction left behind in the wake of such behavior is devastating: A student's aspirations shattered, a family's dream destroyed and a section of the students body left emotionally scarred, perhaps for life.
This incident and the destruction it has sowed, is unlikely to shut down the college. I can only hope that this incident is a grim reminder of why 'we dont need no education', at least not of the strict kind.

UPDATE: I had written this post thinking that strict, nonsensical rules were a bane of the private educational sector. This post from Shishir tells me that these problems have started creeping into our premier educational institutes, including the IITs.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Take the bus, make big bucks!

I have read about how, after an aviation accident, airlines take out full page ads informing their passengers how safe flying really is.
However, the fact remains that I refuse to buy any of it. This could be a direct result of the pre-flight instruction: "In the case of the unlikely event of a water landing....". At least they called it right. Crash landing on water and making it in one piece is as unlikely as touring Pakistan, as a cricketer,without being shot upon. All of a sudden, we realize why the Hudson miracle was touted as a miracle.
Keeping this in mind, its heartening to know that there are others who are taking an in-your-face approach towards apprehending the fears of passengers.
The other day, I had boarded a K.S.R.T.C Airavat heading towards Bangalore. Being really bored with the familiar sights whizzing past, my eyes fall on the latest edition of 'Travel Karnataka'. I pray that you do not rush to a newsstand, as chances of picking up a copy of the 'Travel Karnataka' from a newsstand is pretty slim. Supposedly, its circulation had reached an all time high of 1 magnanimous reader as soon as I took it out of a waste basket. Anyway, this ad, placed in it by K.S.R.T.C. , grabs my attention:
In case you got carried away by the oh-so-fake graphics and the funky green background, I request you to check out the encircled point:

Yes, I know. What an effective way to persuade people to take the bus, right? Not only are they sure that you are a goner on traveling with them, they have even insured you for such regular occasions.
So the next time you are traveling in Karnataka, take the bus, grab a copy of the 'Travel Karnataka' and salivate at the thought of the big bucks that you could (God forbid) make!
P.S.: This blog post has been brought to you from an exhausted N82.
Mandatory disclosure: No Nokias were hurt in the making of this post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Question to Jamal

Over the past few days, unless you have been living under a rock, you would have been bombarded with predictions and analysis of Slumdog Millionaire's chances at the Oscars. Since the Times of Twism is meant to reflect the err.. times, I would like to ask Jamal this question:

How many Vijayanagar IInd stage's are there in Karnataka?
A) None
B) One
C) As many as the pink chaddies received by the SRS

D) I quit, Mera paas Oscars hai!

This may sound like a trick question, the kind which Anil Kapoor should have have asked if he really wanted Jamal out of the show, but it really isn't one. If it isn't a trick question, then what is the deal with Vijayangar IInd stage in Karnataka?
Quite frankly, there are too many places named as such, spread over many cities. This is not an isolated occurrence. Hoysala, Hebbal are some of the other places which have a tendency to be repeated across cities. To make things worse, there is also a conspiracy to have the same names repeated within a city. A good example would be Mysore (where I currently reside), which has a place called K.D. Road and for confusion's sake, another place called K.D. Circle. The people who were involved in naming cities here were either sinfully lazy or had a limited repository of names to choose from. Like the sub prime crisis, this can lead to disastrous (and comical) consequences.
With that out of the way, you would be tempted to ask, Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? After all, one could argue, almost every city (in India) worth its salt has an M.G. Road. I intend to silence my skeptics with an incident that would have made Murphy (of Murphy's Law Fame) proud.
A couple of months back, I had received a call from one of those people who pester the salaried population between Jan and March. Contrary to what everyone might think, its wasn't the taxman but an investment adviser, (read as glorified policy salesman) who wanted me to invest in a tax saving mutual fund. Being in a particular tax savingsy mood (this was when the Sensex was in the heady 20,000s), I ask him to come over to the police station at Vijayanagar IInd stage, which is a prominent landmark close to my place. After an hour or so, he gives me a call and we have the following conversation:
Salesman: Hi, I am currently standing in front of the police station at Vijayanagar IInd stage.
Me: Are you sure that you are beside the police station at Vijayanagar IInd stage?
Salesman: Yes.
Me: In that case I should be able to see you. Can you wave your hands?
Salesman(frantically waving): Can you see me now?
Me: Nope. In fact I cant see anyone there. Can you checkup with someone there if you are at the right place?
Salesman: I am 100% sure. I had asked the chai walla across the police station and he had confirmed that this indeed is the police station at Vijayanagar IInd stage.
Me: What? There is no chai walla anywhere close to that place.
Salesman: What are you telling me sir, the chai walla is right across the police station. In fact, a B.M.T.C bus has stopped right in front of it.
Me: B.M.T.C bus? I thought those buses ran only in Bangalore. Since when did they start services to Mysore?
Salesman: Sir, B.M.T.C buses don't have any services to Mysore. Who is in Mysore?
Me: I am in Mysore.
Salesman: This is not fair sir, you had told me that you would meet me. Why did you go to Mysore?
Me: @Q#@%^#$@#$

Yes, sh*t happens to all of us, but it teaches us a lesson too. The mental picture of me trying to pick a guy waving his hands across a street, albeit geographically separated by some 100+ kilometers, taught me why it would be prudent that only a few place names (such as M.G.Road) should be repeated across cities.
By the way, if Jamal had pushed his luck to answer my question, we probably would have had the most anticlimactic ending ever for a movie, probably involving Computer Ji blowing a fuse trying to figure out the right answer.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Procrastinate? Never ever!

A month ago, during a routine dental checkup, my dentist had warned me that there was a cavity waiting to implode and that it had to be filled up. Being the procrastinator that I was, I booked an appointment with him, and promptly failed to keep the appointment. Now before everyone starts commenting on my dental hygiene (or lack of it), let me state that in my defense, i was willing to get it done that very day.After all, if you could sit through a dental checkup, what is the harm in going all the way and getting a filling done?
I have always felt that by the time the dentist is done excavating your teeth and passing snide comments at the pathetic state of it, all in the disguise of a routine dental checkup, you would have crossed the point of no return with regards to pain. Experts(read as me) say that once you reach this zen-like state, nothing can be done to further your pain. I have heard that UFC participants, have a routine dental checkup as part of their pre-match warm-up. Anything that happens to them in the ring after that, is laughable. I think these reasons are sufficient to explain why I wanted to get the filling done along with my checkup. However, the doctor deemed it rather silly and laughed it off, informing me that he had a horde of patients waiting to throw me of that chair. Strange as it may sound, the dentist's chair is the only electric chair where people would fight and maim to boot out the incumbent. As far as I am concerned, both of the chairs should be banned under the Geneva conventions for Human rights violation.
With a heavy heart, I left the dentist's, knowing that I would not keep the appointment. What I did not know then was how a neglected filling was going to come back and haunt me.
Haunt it did, and how! Yesterday as I was finishing my lunch, I get this pulsating feeling in my teeth. Not knowing any better, i had ignored it and was soon engrossed in reading blogs work. Like an ignored child craving for attention, the nice homely pulsating feeling decides to take it to the next level and goes ballistic on my teeth. In the meantime, it also decides to pass a resolution concentrating all its effort on one tooth. By evening, I had decided that concrete action had to be taken to defeat this enemy. I also decide not to humanize 'the pain' by referring to it in the third person.
Reluctantly, I book an appointment with the dentist and soon find myself in the electric chair. The dentist conducts a preliminary inspection. For this, he uses a hammer on my teeth, which I believe, was to beat the pain into submission. To be doubly sure that he is not attacking an innocent tooth, he tries out his new shiny pointy instruments on the tooth and gets a writhing, mumbling, contorted me for confirmation. With the flourish of the CBI cracking open a complicated case, he informs me that his probing investigation has discovered the root cause of all my worries.
Yes, the root. No, really, it was the root of my tooth that was the trouble maker. The dentist informs me that I will have to undergo a Root Canal Treatment to get rid of the pain. I agree. With Glee writ on his face, he brings out his arsenal of Torture equipment.
This next section is not for the faint hearted. Those of you, who have been through this once before and have latent sadistic tendencies, will eagerly look forward to this section. Remember how the Suez Canal was made? The people involved took dynamite and blew their way across the Red sea, thereby opening new shipping channels. Root Canal Treatment is similar, if you replace the dynamite with tiny needles. From what I have heard, I gather that dynamite does not work very well on teeth, hence the need for tiny needles and drills. These dentists use their needles to get to the root of your teeth and to extract the offending root. They simultaneously satisfy their wannabe Harsha Bhogle ambitions by giving you a Live and exclusive running commentary of their actions. "Houston, we have reached the tooth", "I hope this works" and my personal favorite "There is a lot of blood and pus coming out". Once the needles are firmly stuck in your teeth, they negotiate the price of the treatment.
Dentist: This treatment is going to cost you Rs. XXXXXX. Do you agree to go ahead with this treatment?
Me: Illloovugh (Translation to no-needle-in-mouth-English: Its too much!)
Dentist: Oh, that is good. You have agreed on the cost of the treatment. Would you like a local anesthetic to go along with it?
Me: Illgoowagonwe (Translation: I hope that its free)
Dentist: No its not free, you will have to pay Rs. XXXX for that.
Me: Llavaay (Translation: No way)
Dentist: That is good! Nurse, he would like the local anesthetic too, can you please get one bottle?
Me(thinking): I hope my health insurance takes care of this
On hearing the cost, with or without the anesthetic, you are sufficiently numb. The pain does not bother you anymore. Thoughts of selling your rented house and your roommate's two wheeler comes to your mind. With a jolt, the dentist informs me that he is done with. On hearing this, my heart leaps for joy and I swear that I will never ever Procrastinate. Well... at least in matters of getting a filling for my tooth. Before I make a mad dash for freedom, the dentist calls out to me.
Dentist: Oh by the way, there is a tooth there that has to be filled.
Me: Can't we get it done today?
Dentist: No, I have a lot of patient patients waiting. Will you be free for an appointment next Sunday?
Me: I don't think so, but i will get it done sometime soon.Sometime this century.
And the circle of pain keeps on rolling.....

Friday, February 13, 2009

(un)Happy Valentine's Day

Its that dreaded day of the year, once again. When you have to file in your tax forms and with a heavy heart, figure out that your take-home salary for the next few months will be, well, taken home by the tax man.
No wait, its not that far along this year as yet. Oh right, its the other dreaded day of the year. At about the same time as we honor St. Valentine, many workplaces come up with a cruel way of outing your romantic/marital status.
Here is how it works: The evil HR department crafts drafts an email that asks you to celebrate Valentines day, by dressing up in a color, which they say corresponds to your marital/romantic status. A neat spread sheet is attached to describe what color you ought to be wearing for a given romantic state. Next, the email (spreadsheet and all) is promptly cc'd to everyone from the directors to your dead dog. For your benefit, I have selected the most important and thought provoking colors and what they imply about your romantic life. Additionally, I have also added some comments that came to my mind, in italics, like so. Here goes:
White: I am happily married. How come no one is dressed in white?
Black: I am unhappily married. Oh, that is why. I thought there was a funeral at work.
Grey: My marriage has its ups and downs.
Green: I am committed.
Blue: I have met someone who may or may not be the subject of my dreams. Weatherman special.
Yellow: I am open to proposals. A very unassuming way to say: SOMEONE,PLEASE PROPOSE ME.
Peach: I intend to flirt today. For the ones who wear peach, its always flirty day!
Orange: I am free. Read as: I am desperate to get hitched with someone.
Violet: My proposal went down the drain, I am on the prowl now. Strangely, no one was dressed in this category.
Indigo: My proposal just got accepted. Once again, what was green for?
Lilac: I am going to propose. In the company of these people, be scared, very scared.
Razzmatazz: I have the best romantic relationship in the whole world. Is there even such a color?
Pink Chaddi - I will try to disrupt Valentine's day celebrations, as they are against Indian values. I also lack a significant life, social or otherwise, to boast of.
Now those of you belonging to the HR fraternity, would justify this scheme as a really fun way to improve bonding and cohesion within the team. In your heart of hearts, you also hope that more people find their life partners from within the organization, after all, having two birds in hand is easier than having a bird in the bush. Easier to retain them. Easier to manage them. Easier to fire them.
No, I don't intend to go HR bashing today, but nevertheless, there are some tough questions that has to be answered by them.
What should those who are uninterested in this whole fiasco, wear?
Before pink inner ware is flung at me, let me clarify that I am not referring to fanatic-right-wing "uninterested people", but to regular guys like me, who are uninterested due to a long history of spectacular romantic failures.
The observant minority, would be sympathetic, as they would have noticed that, for someone who is just not interested, there are hardly any options to go with. There is Razzmatazz on the list, for heavens sake. In case, you also belong to the subcategory of people who swear by procrastination, (as a result of which your formal dressing involves choosing between the curry stained white shirt and the smelly black T-shirt) may St. Valentine help you. To top it all off, you wear the curry stained white shirt to work, only to be questioned by your colleagues as to what the curry stain signifies in your "happily married" white shirt!
Thus, a day that should have been about fun and romance, becomes the reincarnation of the Bubonic plague. As you all may be aware of, in the 14th century, the Bubonic plague had a grand total of 0 friends on facebook and 0 followers on twitter.
Which indirectly implies how dreaded this day is.
Which is why I am wishing everyone an (un)Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Willing Fundamentalist

Just as my kitty of topics to blog on was running dry, i run into this post by Silverine. It got me thinking on fundamentalism, and how people can readily recognize it in the newspapers and on TV, but not in their own life. Recently, one of the long winding conversations with my cousin, landed on the topic of how certain elders in our family have a rigid set of value systems and how they expect us to conform to the same. The set of value systems, under its umberalla would cover everything from trifle things, such as what sort of music to play in the car, to the more serious things, such as what career stream one should follow. In their defense, let me note here that these people are not cracked eggs by a long shot. They live happy lives, take good care of their families, help out their neighbors and are, in general, fun people to hang out with.
One of the earlier conversation with my cousin had to do with fundamentalism, and how in today's world, we only notice one ugly face of it, namely religious fundamentalism. The other forms of fundamentalism are either ignored or are not recognized. Perhaps it would be easier to recognize fundamentalism, if we knew what it was. Wiktionary tells me that fundamentalism is 'Strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles'. Definition wise, this cannot be a bad thing. Living your life by a strict set of principles, is mostly a good thing, provided the principles are not taken out of a bad slasher movie! So when exactly does fundamentalism go bad? In my opinion, it is when we impose our principles and ideas upon someone who subscribes to a different school of thought and expects them to conform to our ideas/principles. This definition would place a lot of people on the wrong side of the fence. It might place NGOs, who oppose movies based on touchy topics and Journos, who cant take criticism, in the same league as our famed 'Moral police'. However it is high time that we classify
them for what they all are : The Willing fundamentalist. This badge of shame may provoke a few "Fundamentalists" to mend their ways. Only then can we hope to eradicate intolerance from our society.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Death of a VCD Salesman

So there I was the other day, with solid time to kill before a movie. Thinking that it would be a good idea to buy some Mallu flicks to update my DVD collection, I walked into the Music Park outlet located at M.G. Road in Thrissur. Being familiar with the layout of the store* , I went directly to the DVD section of the store. I must have been browsing through their collection for some time as a salesman approached to help me. Now, I really am not aware if purchase of a DVD entails lower margin for the store (vis a vis VCD) or if this person was pushing the sales of VCDs, but he was giving me a load of arguments against purchasing DVDs. The conversation went something like this:
Salesman: There is no point in spending X additional amount on the DVD when you can buy the same thing on VCD for much less...
Me: ...But in a DVD the picture quality is better.
Salesman: These VCDs are as clear as the DVDs.....
Me:....But DVDs have a provision for 5.1 sound, it will be almost like watching the movie in a cinema hall.
Salesman: These DVDs do not have those features, although they may advertise so.....
(The salesman at this point is on cloud number nine, as he has countered all my arguments)
Me: Ok, but if I buy the DVD, I will only have to get up once to insert the DVD into the player!
Salesman: ???????
Me: :)
Last heard, there was a new posting on from a salesman, based in Thrissur, who would rather sell Ice to an Eskimo than push VCDs.

*-During College days, I used to spend countless hours checking out the latest Audio Tracks, before promptly downloading them of the net! Hence the familiarity with the layout of the store.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I can't see, I can't go, therefore i can't conquer

Aloha Readers*!

In between the threat of a nuclear war in the Indian subcontinent and companies that exist only on paper, we are facing a new evil. By we, I am referring to the whole Indian population, one nation under the hot sun and all that. The evil collectively refers to movies made by foreign directors, that negatively depict our glorious nation . As in the way slum dwellers are shown in "Slumdog Millionaire". As in the way prostitution is depicted in "Born into Brothel". Unfortunately, these are highly exaggerated accounts of the ground realities. I can state this truthfully as I have not witnessed any of these. Which must imply that it does not exist. For good measure I also have a lot of authoritative sources backing up my logic. Certain heavy weight bloggers have already informed us that they are not one bit happy with the makers of "Slumdog Millionaire" for showing India in a dark light. Our scissor happy censor board initially did not allow "Born into Brothel" to be released in India, for reasons only known to them. If you still are not convinced by my arguments, prepare to be fumbled by my twisty questions:
Why should we promote forms of art that show us in bad light? Why should we heed viewpoints that we don't subscribe to?
Which brings us to the other pressing question: Since there is nothing wrong with us, doesn't it imply that there is no scope for us to improve?
Which is probably why we are in this sorry state.

*-Although my blog has only 1 person following/reading my blog, I make it a point to use the third person plural: it soothes the ego!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Death of a pyramid scheme

The past few months have shown us that there is more than one way to kill the Financial System. A great number of humongous corporations are putting their best men to work towards this end (whatay pun!). I know for a fact that the readers of this blog do not take anything at face value, and will choose to disagree with me, due to which i will use clear cut examples, carefully gleaned over the centuries, to illustrate my points.
But first, let me give you a rundown of the story till now:
The organized financial system started when a snake gave away an apple to a lady named Eve, promising her that it will give her knowledge, compounded annually at 25% interest with absolutely no risk. A short period later, the first financial con was discovered. Seems that the fine print stated that the cost of the apple included giving up their prime piece of real estate and their eastern European lifestyle (no offense meant to my eastern European readers).
Much time has passed since the incident, but the basic premise of the financial con remains the same. Promise eye-popping returns (in the future obviously) in exchange for the meager little you have today.
Today we will concentrate on one such promise, the Pyramid Scheme AKA Ponzi scheme.
The name "pyramid scheme" comes from the fact that the Pyramids of Gaza were financed by poor souls who put their life savings into it. Once they could not pay the premiums, they were thrown into slavery and forced to work on the pyramids. This scheme has been improved by con artists over the decades. On going through the news over the past few days, I read about a guy who perfected this scheme to such an extent that he duped stock brokers, investment bankers, share traders, car loan salesman and even a couple of banks. This at a time when most of these astute investors where on the verge of limiting their daily bonuses to just 200% of their annual salary! Needless to say once the con was discovered, there were many broken dreams, including the new BMW roadster and the new A 380 for general sightseeing. This only goes to show us that there is no escape from these schemes. Like Air, it is omnipresent. It also shows us that since we are not in the bracket of the ultra rich, we can gloat at the ultra rich for the big money that they lost!
In this blog, I have only skimmed the surface of financial cons. Now that you are armed with knowledge you can defend yourselves in the big bad world of financial cons. Now I will be off to dream about the Hummer H3 and the Yamaha RX1, which I will shortly be buying as soon as I add 12435228 more suckers investors linked to me in SilverSearch!

Wishing each and everyone a prosperous and happy new year!