Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Open Suse 10.0 is kewl!!

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I just installed Open Suse 10.0 and installed a few patches. Worked a little magic and upgraded to the latest KDE 3.5. Well I must say that the default package selection for Open Suse 10.0 left a lot to be desired, especially in the multimedia department, despite the immaculate look and feel of the distro. However adding a few YaST sources and downloading the relevant packages does the trick.

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I must say that the responsiveness of the distro has improved remarkably and so has the speed of KDE 3.5. The latest KDE release is not just visually appealing but has just upped the ante in the desktop wars. It poses a visible challenge to its non-free competitors, in as much as being the most intuitive and user-friendly desktop to work on. Check the snapshots!!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Legend...


Maradona prior to hospitalisation in January

I have a thing for sports and sporting legends. I must confess I was never a good sportsman and the only sport that I am reasonably good at, is swimming. But then this aint about me. Ever since Maradona retired, I have followed his degeneration to a cocaine addicted, overweight slob. And it led me to wonder if this was the genius who had captured my imagination as a little child. There's always been this aura about Maradona's flawed genius. The infamous "Hand of God" goal just adds to the legend. So, it was natural that when Diego was admitted in a critical, near fatal condition, it felt like a part of me was dying. Conversely, his recovery has also been awe inspiring. Take a look at the before and after pictures.


A file photo taken at Amsterdam, in July this year

Its strange how quickly sportsmen come a full circle. I wonder if lesser mortals like me can do that with similar ease...?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Been a while, eh!?

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Its been a while since I've blogged, in recent times and a lot has happened in the mean time. I now own a car, I attended my first Durga Puja in a long,long time and maybe met one of the most astounding woman who has turned out to be one of my best friends. Well new news first. I bought a black Indica V2. Now, the Indica Petrol has lost out a lot of its charm ever since its Diesel cousin became the most widely used commercial/tourist vehicle. However despite a lot of people persuading me to buy a Maruti Zen instead, I chose to buy the Indica. Why? The reason being that the Indica is a more complete package than the Zen. Its spacious, powerful and a lot more modern as far its styling and interiors go. For those that like figures, here goes... The Indica has a 1405 cc engine as compared to the Zen which sports a 995 cc aluminium alloy engine. The Indica V2 is capable of acheiving maximum power of 75 PS@5500 rpm as opposed to 60 PS@6000 rpm that the Zen delivers. Yes, the Zen is a mileage beast, but then the Indica aint too far behind. When you compare the fact that the LXi model of the V2 has features that far outweigh those offered by the Zen Vxi, one can objectively conclude that the Indica is indeed a better car.

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When you are an atheist, it is very difficult to be part of too many religious ceremonies. However, it had been a while since I had attended a Durga Puja, so I decided to get there with Jothir and Amrita. Now the good thing about Durga Pujas is, that its more about fun, adda and great food. I have been paying a lot of attention to my fitness in recent times, what with 1250m of swimming each morning, but that day I just threw caution to the winds and decided to eat like there was no tomorrow.Rolls, Mughlai Paratha, Chicken Kasha, Chops, Sweets, you name it and I would have had it!! Just relived memories of the time that this was so much an integral part of my life... Amrita apparently enjoyed the outing and that perhaps was the icing on the cake.

Speaking of Amrita, I guess I should write a bit about her. Well Amu, or Dum Dum as I like to call her, is perhaps the most wonderful woman I've known for the longest that I can remember. I aint quite the girls kind of a guy, which effectively means that either I get shunned by girls or I eschew their company. But I havent been as comfortable with a girl as I have been with Amu. Now it is a bit strange to be so close to a girl thats 6 years elder to you, but then I'd say thats passe when it comes to being friends. I think for the very fact that she is such an astounding person, she deserves a special mention on my blog!! Well, its been hard work writing this post; I've developed a couple of lazy bones in my body ever since I last blogged. I'd better sign off before they get too tired!!

Friday, August 19, 2005

My new Sony Hi-Fi


I just bought a Sony DHC-AZ5D Hi-Fi Music System. It has some amazing features, a few of which I am listing here:-
  • 470W RMS (10W x 2+40W x 3 + 150W), 5800W PMPO
  • Touch Screen
    Operation
  • MP3, DivX Playback Capability
  • USB Audio Streaming (PC
    Streaming)
  • Dolby Digital / Dolby Pro Logic II / DTS
    Decoding
. Pretty neat, uh? Wait till my neighbours put me in jail!!

Friday, July 22, 2005

One with Nature!

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The entire gang went for a picnic to Mulshi and Panshet today...The outing was tremendous and the pictures say it all. Need I say more??

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Oh Calcutta!!

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I have spent the last week or so in my surrogate home town, Calcutta. Its a strange city, Calcutta...strange simply because it is magnificent and pathetic at the same time; marvellous and pitiful at the same time; orthodox and modern at the same time... I have a lot of memories of the place. Navy Blue. That was the color of my school trousers. It is a wonderful color, navy blue. You can dirty it as much as you want and it still looks as grand as new. I had to travel a long way from home to reach my 216 year old school. 21 kilometers to be precise. Invariably someone would stamp over my nicely polished shoes and then flash a sheepish grin, which meant I couldnt snarl back. The very fact that my uniform had navy blue trousers meant that before our assembly, I would rub my shoes against my trousers to get the dust off it. True to its merits, my trousers wouldnt show a trace of the act. I guess thats why navy blue is such a popular color with schools in Calcutta.


I remember once volunteering for the British Education Fair, one of the firsts in the country. This was shortly after Mother Teresa's demise. There was this lady; a delegate from a British University (whose name I fail to recollect) who wanted to see how stark the contrast between Calcutta's opulence and poverty was. "Two sides of the same coin" was what I remember her saying. It was a journey through the heart of the city for me and perhaps a learning experience as well. What did amaze me though, when we visited the slums of the city was that people out there can end up just as happy as us, with almost nothing to live with. Maybe despite the fact that they had little to live with, they beleived they had a lot to live for.


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A lot has changed with Calcutta since I last lived here. Better roads, better education, better infrastructure and better governance. But most of all, I see a sea change in the attitude of the average Bengali. Happily enough there is a generation of new-age Bengalis that are willing to think beyond "cluber paasher adda" and be socially responsible. Happily enough there is increasing awareness amongst Bengalis to ensure that there is better and more accountable governance. The average Bengali has always been an extremely intelligent and well informed creature. What separates the last generation from the present is the willingness to use this intelligence constructively. I am happy that things are finally beginning to look up in the place where I grew up.


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I spent some time with my friends time round and was able to salvage an evening a Sourav's, Sourav Ganguly's multi-cuisine food pavilion. I must confess the food was a grand spread, though it cost me a pretty penny. I also relived my memories of Kusum's famed "Double Egg Double Chicken Roll" (known as Kathi Kabab in other places) and it sure did live up to the hype. Spent some time with my family as well and thank heavens for that...cos I enjoyed every moment of it. Save the weather of course! I still the sweaty, sticky climate... Love it or hate it though, there still is a charm about this city that keeps driving me back here. Whether its the memory of my childhood or something else, I'll never know...all I do know that it still is my "City of Joy"!

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Sunday Funday

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This Sunday was one of the best there's been for a pretty long time. Grooved myself out to death at a rollicking office party at Ravi Farms. We had a fashion show(wasnt too much of a show, save the pretty women!) a dance and a prize distribution ceremony that saw my friend Gautam, crowned Mr Personality! However on earth that happened is still a mystery to me! Just kidding, Gomzy, and I'm ducking for cover already! I had a blast this weekend! You enjoy the snaps from the party

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Boys' Day Out!!

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The best thing about a Boys' Day Out is the fact that you can be without the excess baggage of having to subject yourself to the whims and fancies of women and their idiosincracies. Jothir, Sunny and myself had an amazing time as the boys had a ball without the girls around. Sunny and Jothir had dropped down to rehearse our team skit, and as it often happens on a hot summer day when three naughty men get together, we ended up spending the day watching p^*n, a movie, sippin on juice, goin for a swim, and finally, munching on pizza!! Credits go to Tom Cruise for his fabulous acting in "The Last Samurai" and Dabur, for manufacturing their awesome brand of Real fruit juices. Reminds me of the last time the gang met up and we went to watch "The Flight of the Phoenix". Tis fun eh? guys?!!

DVDs are fun!

Its been a couple of weeks since I got myself a 16x DVD burner. Yeah! it does support dual layer DVDs as well. Swell, eh? Sure is. Its all part of the agenda of getting the bulky media off my hard drive. Not many people have the luxury of having 320 Gigs of hard drive space to their disposal. But then your needs grow according to the resources at your command. I guess thats whats happened with me. Not much left for me to use, as it turns out!! ;)
Well I've graduated the next level as far as my media usage goes. And now I'm spending some quality time, ripping my favorite movies from DVDs to DivX. Mencoder's been busy on my desktop. See the screenshot below.
mencoder

I sometimes wonder how people end up playing DVDs on Doze considering the innumerable patent issues that surround DVD playback. I aint too knowledgeable about DVDs but hey! patents are threatening to consume free software projects as well.
I wish I were in a worse mood, to write about 'em. Right now I am a bit too busy getting The Matrix Trilogy ripped to DivX. The truth is out there!! Cheers!!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A review of Hitch


Its fun having a broadband connection wherein you can download DVD quality prints of the newest movies and watch them, royalty free. I watched Hitch recently, and I enjoyed it Make no mistake about it, Hitch is a formula, romantic comedy. Yeah, yeah YET_ANOTHER_ROMANTIC_COMEDY !! There aint nothing you havent seen before; naughty boy meets inquisitive girl, they fall in love; they misunderstand and break up; finally the power of love prevails and they get together.

Not once did I find myself teetering on the edge of my seat, wringing my hands in despair because I was fearful of a disastrous outcome. But who cares? What I did find myself doing was laughing out loud quite a bit, while also trying to conceal the drool that would escape on the right side of my mouth whenever Eva Mendes would appear on screen. Woo baby!

The movie is pretty enjoyable itself. Will Smith's smooth. Eva's the hottie with personality. Amber Valetta does a decent job in the movie. And the real pick is Kevin James, with his fat_man_dancing act in the movie. Smith is the ultimate ladies man in the movie who realises in the end, that there aint really no formula to love.

My recommendation is that you grab your sweetie, accept that you're not gonna see any new ground being broken, make sure you have your yellow bucket handy for Will's big speech at the end, and enjoy a funny, cutesy, fairly safe romantic comedy this summer.

Hitch has enough laughs for the guys (and well, enough Eva for the guys) and enough romance for the ladies, for me to recommend it to those of you looking for a cute romantic comedy to help you celebrate a summer evening. There are a few moments that will gag you with sugary sweetness, but strong performances by Will Smith, Eva Mendes, and Kevin James help you overlook it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Eternal Debate



Interesting image, and while I am one of those that aint gonna be classified as a hardliner, it reiterates RMS's viewpoint on the appropriate nomenclature for "mukt" and "muft" software. Cheers!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

We need better idols

My mom is a 55 year old tradition bound lady. Make no mistake about it, she is also the modern head of one of the most prestigious Military Hospitals in the country, but then she makes no compromises when it comes to culture. So if I were to project my mother as the face of Indian culture, I wouldnt really be off the mark. Very recently I spoke to my mother about the ban imposed on dance bars in Maharashtra and her views on the issue matched mine. She was of the opinion that if dance bars are to be closed down, the women employed in these places need to be rehabilitated. If cultural cleansing is the aim of the entire exercise then this is certainly a step in the wrong direction.

We are denizens of the 21st century. Deputy cheif minister Mr R R Patil seems to have lost touch with reality, when he says that dance bars are instrumental in "corrupting" the minds of the youth. He seems to conveniently ignore the fact that a young man does not need to walk into a dance bar to get his mind corrupted. All he needs to really do is switch on his TV set, or better still, log on to the internet. The business of titillation is widespread today. Why single out dance bars, which turn out to be an honest way of earning a living for many women from underprivileged parts of society? Mr Patil believes that dance bars are the stepping stone to prostitution. My mother says, that downing the shutters on dance bars would mean opening up a whole new market for prostitution. By allowing these bars to function, we are allowing families to be able to make ends meet. Who knows, someday children from these very families could emerge as educated, conscientious citizens. But is Mr Patil giving them a fair chance? He says that the closure of dance bars would not hurt other institutions that allow singing, dancing and other forms of entertainment. Is he expecting to unearth a Lata Mangeshkar or a Geeta Chandran from these dance bars? Mr Patil needs to be able to bring himself to terms with reality and look at the bigger picture. Often, in this era of coalition politics, one chooses to grab every minute of fame that is readiliy available. The people that are remembered though, are those that choose to stand by the right decisions at the right time. Others like Mr Patil, have to be remembered for their infamy.
The other day, I had an exchange with one of my colleagues on the so called greatness of a certain "Bill Gates". I find it surprising to see such a huge number of people idolise Gates just because he has the heaviest pockets in the world. Are we so bereft of idols that we choose to idolise someone who has made all his money swindling, cheating and muscling his way in the industry. Whatever happened to the values of being a contributor to society? Whatever happened to being a good neighbour, to saying "Yes" to freedom? Is the concept of Gandhism totally obsolete in the country? Is ethical technology no more a concern? Its high time we looked at better idols. Linus Torvalds, Eric Raymond, Bruce Perens....and the grand-daddy of idols Richard Stallman...
I think I as an individual would be doing these people great disservice if I were to allow their contributions to be overshadowed by BillyG. And so would every proponent of free software. Its time for the free software movement to ascend to the next level. Its high time we targetted the housewives, the moms, the grandparents, the aunts, the people that wouldnt classify as geeks even for toffee. Its time we created more awareness amongst those that we never counted as prospective parts of our community. Its time free software shed its urban, elite image and became a mass movement. Only then can we expect our generation and those that follow, to have better idols.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I am an MP3

You are .mp3 The kids love you. You get along with just about everybody except the music industry. You really make yourself heard.
Which File Extension are You?

Friday, March 18, 2005

KDE-3.4 released!!

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KDE 3.4 on a Suse 9.2 installation

The latest version of the most popular free software desktop is out!! Find out more here.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Welcome to "Ubuntu"

A few days back, a post from Aditya got me thinking about Ubuntu, a relatively new distro, based on the old giant, Debian. Now Debian was a distro, I never got to like simply because I found it a pain to get working in the first place. No offence meant to existing Debian users, but hey!, the old Debian installer sucked!! But I guess with Ubuntu, I have finally found a distro that doesnt leave me dissatisfied in any manner. Ubuntu is a mix of good 'ol Mandrake's luser-friendliness, Slackware's speed, and Debian's awesome package management. ubuntu-gnome
Ubuntu's Gnome desktop

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Ubuntu's KDE desktop
I always thought Slackware was the easiest distro to install. As it turns out, Slack still has the edge in this department, but as far as functionality+ease_of_use goes, Ubuntu's installer takes the cake. Now make no mistake about this, Ubuntu isnt using a really revolutionary install program. Its just the new Debian testing installer. It isnt much to look at either, just an ncurses interface. But then who ever said you need a GUI to build user friendly software?

Good things have been happening to me off late, and the real high point of this year has been the fact that I now have a 512K broadband connection with absolutely no download limits till Jun 30th this year. I made the most of it by downloading Ubuntu and the 14 CD Sarge snapshot. Ubuntu comes with a GNOME as the default and the only desktop, but is functional enought to be the sole desktop one would ever need.(See above). However, I missed KDE and thats where the 14 Sarge CDs came in handy. I have been more of a urpmi user than an apt-get fan, so I chose to use the frontend for apt that ships with Ubuntu -- Synaptic All I had to do was, to click on Add CDROM and after 14 iterations all I needed to do was pop in whichever CD it asked me too. Now I am running KDE on Ubuntu!! I still wasnt quite done yet. I had to get my broadband connection set up. Now that wasnt too difficult either. I fired up a terminal, and ran pppoeconf to set up my username and password. With that done, I now had access to the online repositories as well!!

After a 30 second apt-get update, my first stop was to correct the infamous Nvidia skew. All that was needed was a search for nvidia in Synaptic and I had the three packages I needed, nvidia-glx, nvidia-kernel, and nvidia-settings. A click here, a click there and that was that. Next I needed MPlayer, which I cant do without. I thought of visiting the MPlayer page to grab the latest tarball and compile by hand, but then the patent infringement issue that looms large on MPlayer's homepage, is too depressing a sight to see. So I decided to take the easy way out -- apt-get install mplayer. Within minutes, mplayer and all its dependencies were on my computer. I also had to get rhythmbox to play MP3s. An apt-get install gstreamer0.8-mad, did the trick for me there. It doesnt take too much guessing to realise great part about Ubuntu is the fact that it is based on Debian. It gives the distro the flexibility to install a minimal working system and the power to customise, upgrade, tweak or break. What Ubuntu does well though, is install simple yet effective defaults for a user to work with.
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The Ubuntu/Debian Installer


Screenshot
Synaptic in action


Screenshot-2
Configuring Display with Nvidia's Tool


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Mplayer running on Ubuntu's KDE

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Firefox and Rhythmbox in action

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OpenOffice 1.1.2 on Ubuntu
Ubuntu has an extremely classy selection of apps. It comes with all the popular GNOME applications, rhythmbox, sound-juicer, OpenOffice, totem, GIMP, Firefox, Thunderbird, Evolution....name it, and you have it. Whatever it lacks in its default selection of applications, it makes up for by being a distro based on Debian.

As far as hardware support goes, I dont have a single piece of hardware in my computer that doesnt run out of the box with Ubuntu; and that includes my Sony DSC-P150 which gave me quite a lot of trouble on Fedora. To beat Fedora, an out and out desktop distro, at this, is an acheivement in itself.

From what I have seen already, I am sure, that this being a testing release by Canonical, the next release, expected in May this year would be a great summer treat to look forward to. In fact Canonical has started work on a faster boot process, as well as a graphical installer. Its time the Red Hats and the Mandrakes stood up and took notice of Humanity to Others, cos Ubuntu simply rocks!!

Monday, March 07, 2005

A few things I forgot!!...never too late!!

Well here go a few things the forgetful professor forgot about...But it aint too late to share anything with the wired world is it? So here goes
First up the kick ass dinner at Kayo's place; yeah that's him...the shy guy in front of the TV, with the beautiful lady in red ...Rati...

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And then there was this evening when I ventured across to the once picturesque Pashan lake thats pretty close to my home...and it turned out to be a nice appointment with nature....Enjoy!!

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Birds in the marshes

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Thats when I caught Mr and Mrs Buffalo taking their bath!!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Apollon--P2P Power!!

Every once in a while there comes along a free software program that takes your breath away. Not just with its functionality, but the degree of refinement that goes into its design. While free software applications may sometimes lack the hype that surrounds non-free/commercial programs as also some of the more irrelevant functionality, the fact that most of the suite just works out of the box and is some much more extensible, makes them the more viable alternative in a modern computing environment.
I have recently been using an application called Apollon.It happens to be a Peer to Peer File sharing client for the KDE Desktop. Apollon uses the giFT core to connect to various networks, including OpenFT, Gnutella and FastTrack. For me the biggest strength for Apollon is the ability to bring together these three extremely popular filesharing networks and end up as the numero-uno free software P2P client on Linux systems. Apollon pops up with an Info screen which immediately gives you an idea of the kind of data and traffic that you would be encountering

Once you are done, all you need to do is search for the file you are looking for, be it music, videos, software, pictures, what have you, for which you have a fully functional search screen

And then the obvious part (the fun part!) begins....Download!! Click on the download menu and there you are with a multi-threaded download, on its way to your hard-drive! You can search for more sources while downloading, browse individual users and what not!

Apollon does the simple things right, and then gives you some novel functionality to play with. For example the ability to preview and play media files through the client itself and beleive it or not, to chat with other Apollon users. While these may not be killer features as of now, they do come handy every once in a while. There was a time when I used to miss having a stable P2P client on my desktop. But now that Apollon has come of age with a 1.0.1 release, I am sure I wouldnt feel for that aching chest anymore!!

Monday, February 07, 2005

See the light!!


What happens when you bring together, the most indulgent film director and the two best actors in the industry? You get a masterpiece called BLACK!! BLACK represents Sanjay Leela Bhansali's coming as one of India's finest directors, and Rani Mukherjee's emergence as the numero uno actress in the film industry today. BLACK succeeds for SLB, where Khamoshi failed. While SLB has had his sucess in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, BLACK is a movie that finally reveals the immense potential of his genius.BLACK is a roller-coaster ride, it is a celebration of the indomitable spirit of a woman. The story revolves around a deaf blind girl, Michelle Mcnelly(Rani Mukherjee) and her relationship with her teacher, Devraj Sahay(Amitabh Bacchan). The story is about her little triumphs, her failures, the fraility of the human mind and its immense power. When you watch BLACK in a theatre you need to sit back once the movie gets over and wait for the feeling to sink in, just the way you would, after being on the ride of your life. There comes a moment in the history of a film industry, when a movie comes that charts the course it would take in times to come. Lagaan did that for Bollywood and was a success in its own genre. BLACK is a success and a redefining moment in Bollywood history. But it cant be classified into a particular genre. It is an adventure, a love story; it is comic and yet dramatic, it wounds you and heals at the same time; it mourns and it celebrates; it makes you laugh and cry at the same time. But these are tears of joy, that you would wish, never stop. BLACK is a joyous occassion which teaches you that eyes are meaningless without light. Watch it, because if you dont, you would be missing something.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Am I crazy??!!


I am getting more and more eccentric by the day. Last night at 2340, I decided to go all alone to watch National Treasure, Nicholas Cage's latest adventure flick. Now trust me, this is a helluva movie. One of the biggest and best adventure movies that I have seen in a long long time...Nicholas Cage walks and looks the man all throughout the movie, and was as much worth the excitement as Ocean's Twelve was a damp squib.
Tonight, I plan to go watch Finding Neverland. All alone, obviously!! ;)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hail the monstrous nerd!!


I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Sahil's Married




Not that I didnt expect it!! Would have rather he stuck on to the "Bachelors' Club"!! Another warrior from the Bachelors' Bastion bites the dust!! s

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Debates

We were having this friendly debate as a brain break during our training session today and it didnt end up on a really friendly note, what with Kenneth getting a bit too intrusive and personal with his interjections and wisecracks. It started out as a debate between Rashmi and me. The motion was Marriages are a better option than Live-in relationships. Contentious as the topic was, people couldnt help joining in and it eventually turned out to be a four way debate between Rashmi, Myself, Shell and Kenneth. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and thats what happened to the debate that was otherwise progressing in a pretty healthy fashion. Well anyways, I stood forth on my stand in favour of live-in relationships. I havent ever been an opponent of marriage. But I believe marriage is an institution that one should be sure about, before stepping in. Nothing could be truer in the modern age, where men and women are increasingly independent and tend to have a set of beliefs, fundamentals that they hold dear to each other. Marriage without understanding, trust and assured compatibility, is nothing but a live-in relationship, with a legal paper indicating social ratification, attached. Such marriages are as brittle as live-in relationships, and when such relationships end unsuccessfully, they leave indelible scars. On the other hand, if one experiments with a live-in relationship, one has the option of easing in and easing out, without the burden of excess baggage. I share a love-hate relation with love itself, and I dont consider myself to be the right person to speak about an emotion like love, cos I feel I am a bit too practical for that. But then, it is but natural that people either married or unmarried, choose to live together, because they feel some kind of love to each other. And as far as my limited understanding of what love happens to be, goes, one wouldnt want any action of his/her to hurt his/her partner. I wonder how many people would agree with taking a risk of getting into a relationship, where one ends up hurting someone they love, when the relationship is unsuccessful. I dont know how much sense I made with that sentence, but what I want to say is just that a broken marriage hurts both the man and woman. OTOH, while a broken live-in relationship does hurt, it leaves both the man and woman with the strength to pick up the pieces and move on with life.

All said and done though, marriage should ideally be the culmination of any successful live-in relationship. And no live in relationship (where love is the motivating factor) should sacrifice commitment. There cant be an excuse for not being committed if you claim to love the person you live with, be it marriage or not.

Monday, January 17, 2005

We the people....



I usually come to the party a little late, when its about movies and I was really late to join the "Swades" bandwagon. Now I am going to rubbish any movie critic that says "Swades" isnt an entertaining piece of art. Swades is, by any standards, is Shahrukh Khan's most polished performance of his movie career. And if Ashutosh Gowariker set a standard with Lagaan, he has just raised the bar with Swades. The movie as most of us would already know, is about an NRI, Mohan Bhargava (SRK), who happens to be a scientist with NASA, who returns to India in search of his childhood nanny, Kaveri-amma played by Kishori Ballal. His search leads him to a small village in UP, called Charanpur. His experiences in the village, which are a result of his efforts to get his nanny to migrate to the USA with him, make him realise his responsibility towards his nation and give him more than one reason to return to his country. Now this might seem to be a 3 and 1/2 hour moral science lecture to some and for those who can appreciate the emotions that Gowariker has tried to portray through his movie, its a 3 and 1/2 roller coaster ride. I cant help admiring the performances of the support cast, that includes the charming debutante Gayatri Joshi (playing Geeta), Daya Shankar Pandey (Mela Ram) and Rajesh Vivek (Nivaran). They have done a tremendous job in packaging the movie to what it has turned out to be.

Swades, also has an excellent music score, which one could call its only drawback as well. The movie loses its tempo at times, due to inappropriate insertion of song sequences. I must point out though, the attempt to knit the music sequences to the story itself and its pretty obvious that Gowariker hasnt forgot this art which he showed in Lagaan. The athiest in me, was especially pleased the song, "Pal Pal hai Bhari". Now this may seem ironic, but it isnt. The dying moments of the song have Shahrukh Khan saying, "Man se Ravan jo nikale, Ram uske man mein hai". I have believed that it isnt necessary to believe in God or a religion as long as you can keep your mind free of all evils. Religion happens to be a way of life and is a way of bringing peace to a community. Therefore the advocacy of a religion over another and the very advocacy of religion itself, given a human being's ability to cleanse his mind of evil, makes little sense.

Coming back to Swades, I think the movie comes with a very strong message. It is an inspiration to every viewer to live his dream and be the miracle. It shows that nothing is impossible when an inspired individual leads a team. It shows that while we might have a rich culture and heritage, it is no excuse for our inherent shortcomings. It makes us realise that every citizen, no matter how powerless, is responsible towards making his country a better place. No contributions are small and dispensible. Ashutosh Gowariker should be heading for the Oscars again, for a splendid directorial venture, yet again. I would say encore on that count and hope he can bring back the Oscars this time round.

On a more personal note, I dunno if I am falling in love all over again, but I must say this girl is really special. I am trying my best to resist. But it hurts when I do that. Maybe my mind's just playing games with me... once bitten, twice shy, they say... maybe I'll never learn... maybe I will. But "girl" all I wanna say to you, if you're reading this, and know its you I am bloggin about; URABUT!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hockey, reloaded!



I watched a very keenly contested match between the Bangalore Hi-Fliers and Sher-e-Jallandhar in the Premier Hockey League(PHL) yesterday. While both sides squandered away quite a few good chances, I guess the forward line and the penalty corner conversion duo of Len Aiyappa and Sandeep Michael, from the Bangalore side would be pretty disappointed with their performance. As a result the turks from Punjab, did well to keep the Hi-Fliers at bay and eventually won the match thanks to a superb deciding strike from Prabhjot Singh, after the two teams had drawn level. I must say though that the Bangalore defence was amazingly effective. They had a simple game plan to keep the danger men from Sher-e-Jallandhar, Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur and Gagan Ajit Singh marked, and at bay. In fact all K S Vinay did throughout the match, was stick around Gagan and as a result the fiery forward wasnt able to produce any magic for his side. One just wonders what the Hi-Fliers could have done had the forwards gone about their task with the same dedication as their comrades in the defence line. Tushar Khandekar for me, was the dissapointment of the day considering the number of chances that he missed when he was just inches away from the Jallandhar goalpost. I am sure Sher-e-Jallandhar would want to tighten up their defence for their next match.

I think the PHL is a step in the right direction if one wants to see the resurgence of hockey in the Indian sporting culture. For two decades, a bat and a ball have kept the nation in raptures and we have come to be a one-sport nation. Forget about Vishy Anand, he is now a resident of Spain. Forget Leander Paes, he is a resident Florida, USA. I am sure someone would want to point out Vijay Singh. But hey, lets get real! He aint even an Indian national! The only sportsmen of international stature that we produce seems to be in cricket. Yeah, yeah we have had Karnam Malleshwari-s, Jaspal Rana-s, Anjali Bhagwat-s, Anju Bobby George-s, Rajyavardhan Rathore-s and the list tends to be endless... But lets take a closer look. How consistent are these heroes? Are they crowd pullers? Do we have a sporting culture in our country just like they have in the USA where people go for an NBA game just the way we go for a weekend movie? Like England, or Germany where a football game is like a family outing? Like Brazil, like Australia, like China, like Russia. The sports a country plays greatly define its own character. As it turns out, we prefer watching a game that may or may not produce a result after being played for 5 consecutive days. Seems like us, doesnt it? To build the a nation of our dreams, a sporting culture, no matter how frivolous it might seem, needs to be nurtured. The PHL wont make miracles happen overnight. In fact, nothing might ever happen. But we still are giving ourselves a chance to enjoy sport and to make it popular across society. Someday you might just happen to see people wearing the Hyderabad Sultans and Maratha Warriors gear and walking into a packed stadium to watch a PHL match. Maybe someday, we will back our local teams just like people across in the USA back the New York Yankees. Just like people in England back Manchester United. Just like they in Germany back Bayern Munich. Just like folks in Spain back Real Madrid. Maybe I am a dreamer. Maybe, just maybe...someday my dreams...our dreams would come true. And India can once again be the unbeatable team in international hockey.

I think the PHL is right for many reasons. First and foremost, all PHL matches would be played on astro-turf, which acclimatises our players to the kind of surface they would encounter abroad. Also, we are in a position to identify 60 of our top players and have a pool of talent to pick from, based on current form. So someday we might be able to say goodbye to zonal politics, favoritism, and witch hunts. With a credible performance metric in place, we can ensure that only the best talent makes way into our national side. Also, the fact that there are quite a few foreign players around this time, and more expected the next time around, the arena is a lot more competitive and would resemble the contests in county cricket, the Italian Serie A, the Spanish League or the EPL. I believe that the reasons for Dutch supremacy in the world of hockey is simply because they host one of the most competitive hockey leagues in the world. I guess the fact that the IHF has been able to pull out something from the hat, could mean great things for Indian hockey. The PHL has an amazing format; made for TV and made for the crowds kind of entertainment. The fact that the game is played in four quarters instead of two halfs gives players time to recuperate and rethink their strategy every 17 and 1/2 minutes. Add to that the ability to take time-outs and you have teams going at each other at full blast, every few minutes. The game never loses its tempo and what you eventually get, is 90 minutes of entertaining, high-speed hockey. I wouldnt want to imagine that there can be anything more exciting than this. Yeah, seeing Michael Clarke on song maybe an alternate sight, but I am gonna put that sight back in the closet for now. PHL rulez d00d!!

While we are speaking of sport, I guess talking about India's past year's performance on the cricket field, from a statistical point of view wouldnt do much harm. I must say, while we were apalling in the one-dayers, our performances in tests, were right up there. We just lost 4 test matches, of which 3 losses were to the Aussies. Now think of it, we won 2 tests and lost 3 against the Aussies, which is an extremely good show, considering that no one else gave the Aussies as much competition. As far as the other one goes, that was against Pakistan, in our memorable series victory. I must say, that if we consider the kind of opponents we have faced in the previous calendar year, India has been the best test team in the world, second to Australia of course! The only worrying factor for me now happens to be the fact that all our stars would retire in a couple of years. Where are the replacements to the Ganguly-s, the Kumble-s, the Sachin-s, the Rahul-s come from? We hardly experiment with our team, and those coming in are hardly experimented with much. Maybe, we need to overhaul our domestic tournaments and allow foreign players to come in and play on quick, green wickets. Maybe we need to devise a proper rating system to rate our domestic players. Get a major like PWC to do it for you, and then use those metrics to quantitatively analyse performances and come to a consistent selection procedure. If we need to keep our position in the world of cricket safe, then we need to start thinking out of the box, before it is too late.
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