Monday, February 23, 2004

"To diversify or not"

Whether we should continue to work on the strength of our current products or to diversify by having new products in other areas is the thought playing into every Advee's (employee of AdventNet, our company) mind now. Pertaining to this context, let us see the histories of some well known companies, of where they started & where they are now.

First, a company this author is quite familiar with -- L&T. Henning Holck-Larsen & Soren Kristian Toubro were two Danes who set up shop in India in 1937. They started off as commission agents, importing and selling European diary machinery. When in 1939 the World War II broke out, they started to make the products that they used to import. In 1945, L&T was appointed dealers of Caterpillar, the American earthmoving machinery giant. From then on, it was no looking back. L&T now is an engineering giant which makes the things that make India proud -- from constructing buildings, roads & bridges to manufacturing heavy machiney, switchgears, earthmoving equipment etc. And it has forayed into the IT sector too.

This industrial house's HQ is the famed Bombay House. In 1878, the company began its activities with the trading and manufacturing of textiles. By 1911, it started India's first steel mill. The century old Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai belongs to this group. It now has interests in steel, electric power, locomotives, automobiles, banking, insurance, hotels and information technology. The house now constitutes 80 odd companies and its revenues of US $ 11.21 billion accounts for 2.4% of India's GDP. Its the industrial house of Tata. (as an aside, about 66% of the Tata & Sons company capital is allocated for philanthropic purposes. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore was set up in 1911 by the company's founder Jamsetji Tata.)

Do you know who owns the toilet soap brand Santoor? Its WIPRO. This Indian business group has its humble beginnings as a maker of vegetable oils & toilet soaps. Here is a short history of the company: The journey of Wipro began in 1945, when the Western India Vegetable Products Limited was incorporated in Maharastra. The vegetable products factory gradually by 1970s expanded into a consumer products group, hydraulic cylinders and then entered the InfoTech area. In 1980, in a small laboratory at the IISc Bangalore, a committed Wipro team developed the first Indian mini computer based on the Intel 8086 chip. Also in the early 1980’s when India was on the threshold of an IT boom, Wipro entered the Infotech area and tasted early success in its R & D. Wipro continued its successful journey when it tied up with GE Medical Systems to set up a Joint Venture 1992. In 2000, Wipro’s ADS got listed on the New York Stock Exchange. And its success story continues.

The House of Birla is one of the largest industrial houses in India. It owns over 500 factories in a wide range of industries such as textiles, man made fibres, cables, automobiles, industrial and textiles machines, sugar, paper, shipping, cement, jute, aluminium, copper, fertilizers, chemicals, power plants, non-ferrous semis, palm oil, insulators etc. The group also has over 40 joint ventures and management contracts in several countries such as Nigeria, Malaysia, Kenya, England, Phillipines, Indonesia, Thailand, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc. It owns brand names like Grasim, Hindalco, Indian Rayon & Indo Gulf Fertilisers. And now after making successful forays into financial services, telecom, software and BPO, this is today one of Asia's most diversified business groups.

A young man gave up practising law and took up lockmaking. His brand became a symbol of self reliance for the generations that followed. With each new product, he changed the perceptions about industry in India. He produced the finest security equipment, and then stunned the world by creating a soap from vegetable oils. He was Ardeshir Godrej. Down the lane the successful Godrej business group started to offer products in diversified fields -- from personal care to agro & foods, real estate, insecticides, chemicals, home appliances, office equipment, machine tools & of course locks, safes & security equipment.

Coming to Tamil Nadu, we have our own success story to tell. In 1911, this company started off as a bus service in Madurai. And now it has grown into a very diversified group of 25 blue chip companies. The group operates in fields like manufactring of two wheelers & automotive components (like tyres, ignition systems, gears, crankshafts, brake linings, turbo chargers etc), automotive dealerships, finance, textiles, electronics, road transport & parcel service. Its none other than TVS, the name which stands for quality, service & reliability.

Nokia. Anyone reading its story would be astonished. The company traces its history to1865 when one Mr. Fredrik Idestam started a wood pulp mill. Its history is peppered with very different products. Paper, rubber products like shoes, boots & overshoes, electrical wires & cables, electricity generation, car tires, electronics, computers, TV sets, telephones, GSM networks and finally mobile phones. Its sales now accounts for 25% of Finland's GNP and its market value is 100% of Finland's GDP. (should Finland be renamed Nokialand?)

So Sridhar, when are we going to have AdventNet cars & AdventNet pizzas? It doesn't sound that strange after all.

ps: The thought o' writing this obviously occurred when Sridhar, our CEO commented that we shud worry only if he'd told he's diversifying into making cars or pizzas. just wanted 2 have a go at his statement.

(Feb 22, 2004)

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Ganesh's Wedding Reception

Hi guys,

It was yet another o' us celebrating the abdication of the much hyped bachelorhood. Just for the guys who cudn't make it, a brief narrative o' Ganesh's Wedding Reception.

As with all o' our guys' weddings/receptions (k, I've attended just two bfo'), Ganesh's reception too turned out 2 b an out-and-out fun affair. Moreover, it being a luv-cum-arranged marriage added spice. ERHSS buddies who were there were Mani, kupilapo Sudarsan, Saravanan, Gundraa Rajesh, Samalee Swaminathan and myself. Ofcourse there was the supposed-to-be-co-ordinator 'n cousin, our good ol' Venkatesh. remember, he was the one who told he's gonna 'arrange' for a gtg, and yes he kept his word by mailing 'lets all assemble in the kalyana mandapam itself at 6:30 pm on saturday' (later changing it 2 sunday) k, allow me 2 drive the last nail - he was not to be seen with any o' us guys, all evening spent with may b, special friends o' his.

There were 'first' visitiors - guys who haven't come for a gtg/wedding bfo', gundraa & saravanan. while saravanan was his usual self, with the everpresent, charming smile on his face as during skool days, with not much talking, Gundraa was xactly opposite 2 him, being as 'Bossy' as ever. Adhe nadai, adhe bavanai and adhe dhoppai. He too, like Ganesh, is having a luv affair with one o' his colleagues (client's employee actually). Much 2 my annoyment, he started rambling abo' her brother in CitiCorp! So, as told by u Gundraa, xpecting ur invitation in November then.

Now, as the evening progressed, Mani had a queer wish - of goin' on stage 'n singing a song or two (O Podu, in particular). This wish o' his was purrfectly amplified by his Pushpa Nagar mates - those kutties (I mean, guys 5-6 years younger than us) who play cricket with him. They were ready 2 shout slogans made up by Bharathram/Chari (of Srirangam Boys Hi Skool) like "Simmak KuRalon"/"Paadum Kuyil" Mani and put him on-stage, if Mani pays 'em bucks. Tho' Mani parted with 150 bucks, thank God, the mega plan didn't take-off, thus averting a major pandemonium in T Nagar, that Sunday evening.

Word came that our 'Vellakatti' Venu had been betrothed that very morning. Seems that the ponnu, Venu please pardon me, is from "Enga avan ......., (the exact words that sucha didn't want to say) nite thanni adichutu, kavunthu kadanthu, kaalaila poi thooki yaandhamo adhe Ponmalai Patti" (as told by Bharathram). destiny, makkale!

Some news, Seems that our very own yogi o' yogis, Habitual BT @ Thayumanavan sent his asirvaadhangal to the couple over phone. Samalee will be moving out o' Polaris and join INautics shortly. Saravanan and kupilapo have just returned from UK. And from Gundraa, there is no tax for World Bank employees in India.

The uniqueness o' the evening and all kudoes go for the 'ponnu veetar'. It was the 'dappankutthu' ishtyle o' dancing by all memebers o' the gal's family, age/sex no bar. The orchestra really kept upto this challenge and started playing 'upbeat' (as against melody) tunes. Mapplai Ganesh was seen, as Mani put it "Ganesha paren, palla kadichundu sirichitu irukan. idhe vera naal, vera aala irundhuthuna kaalala etti udhachirupan". Ganecha, pichu udhareetanga po, enna aatam, enna aatam!! The tempo was so much that both the ponnu 'n maaplai were brought down the stage atleast once to be coaxed into putting a step or two. I think, the ponnu obliged, while the maaplai remained adament.

And finally, what we all (Samalee in particular) had come for, dinner was served. As with any marriage dinners nowadayz, it was grand too, with 'yegapatta' items, from jamoon to poori to biriyani to sambhar sadham, to rasam to ice cream.

Thats it guys, as I was busy with work, (k, just another reason) cudn't make it 2 the muhurtham today morn'. May b someone who attended send an update plzz.

(July 8, 2002)

Ramesh's marriage (reception actually).

it turned out 2 b a real gala affair. the guys turn out was astonishingly high, with an equally astonishing girl count! no doubt ramesh musta been his college's fav guy. those who represented ER were samalee, rakesh, ramachandran, prasanna and myself. most of the guys present were his collegemates.

the maapillai was clad in a coat-suit (which invited comments like, 'intha chennai veyulukku idhu thevayaa??') and the bride in the customary pattu pudavai. the usual band-orchestra was missing and was replaced by some karnatic troop.

the event o' the evening was, the maapillai himself goin' on stage 2 play the violin. he started of with a Beethoven's Lower C, suddenly took a plunge into Thiyagaraya and then topped it off with Mozard's unfinished 13th symphony. oops, sorry guys, konjam overa poiten, just for fun ;-). he actually played 4 beautiful cine tunes - "Konja naal poru thalaivaa.." from "Aasai", "Kanne Kalaimaane.." from "Moonram Pirai", "Style Styleuthan..." from "Basha" and "Kaadhal rojave.." from "Roja". anyway ramesh is his soon-to-b-wife's Yehudi Menuhin!

it was nice 2 know that a sizable chunk o' our guys learnt music during college days - other than bagavathar prasanna and mrithangam suchu who we all know. infact these guys had a troop named "Kalai Kaveri" and were so good that it has now been transformed into a music college sorta. kudoes 2 ER !!

as with any marriage, there was this thirtyish maami in a pink pattu pudavai who was speaking in that i-landed-just-now american ishyle. the main attraction being her 'thooki niruthina munalazhagu'! enga vaanginelnu keka marunthutun - namma cinemaakalla duet scene podhu potuppale, (illa pam lee madhiri silicone implanta theriyala) hmm, some hi-fi padded stuff, lol. (hope ramesh doesn't mind these comments!)

there was this baldy annan who was a nice friend o' ramachandran. he was fun ultimatum. he described a suppposedly thiruttu kalyanam which had who's who in kollywood as attendees! the kalyana ponnu infact left home saying that she's gonna have a thiruttu thaali on her neck soon! that annan also develops foxpro based software used by majority hotels in the city other than cutting jokes!

haa, as with any good thing, the evening came 2 an end with 'piriyaa vidai kodal' to all friends.


ps: samaalee manikavum, saapadu pathi ethuvum sollathathukku.

(April 17, 2002)

Here is the much xpected world wide premiere of Wild West - Part Deux. By popular demand, here i am posting yet another report. Makkale, reporter thozhil koduthatharkaaha adiyenadhu nanri!

k, it all started with phone calls 2 Mani and Badri. We knew guys had come (as informed bfo' thru' our grp) and were also interested in having a gtg. Mani, though hesitant at first, saw 2 it that it was arranged.

'Samaalee' Swami came all the way from Tanjore and graced the occasion, thanking Samalee on behalf o' everyone for sparing his valuable time with us (spending an evening with us hope doesn't cost him his 'Man of the Year' or 'Employee o' the Year' or whatever at Polaris this time!)

It was in the af noon o' the day we decided 2 meet, that things became clear. 'Savukku' Visu, 'Maapillai' soon 2 b Ramprabhu (the 'Maapillai' story was the one which kept us occupied the whole evening, don't worry it's gonna unfold soon!!), 'Samaalee' Swaminathan, 'Battery' badri, 'Mookupodi' Mani and myself were the initial 6 guys.

The 7th one, 'Gopaldas' Shyam was the toughest 2 find. We weren't sure (think he wasn't even sure either!) whether he 'll make it. I had tried his shop the evening bfo' but cudn't get him. Next afnoon, phoning his shop, got the prompt reply - he'd gone home for lunch. called his home 2 get the answer he's started back 2 shop! hm, finally we got him somehow and he was so xcited 2 c all o' us. The 8th guy was Jambunathan,
a housemate of our guys in B'lore.

The venue decided was as the year bfo', the Wild West' bar o' Jenny's Residency. When I joined, the party was already on the way. Guys had ordered the first round o' cocktails and mocktails. As is typical with any 3 star hotel, the drinks (particularly the pineapple juice) took half an hour 2 arrive and it invited prompt comments - "he's just planted the pine apple plant daa , "he's just gonna buy a mixie daa" etc.

As was the usual case, there 's always a Hero in any party, this time it turned out 2 b Ramprabhu! Oh, everyone o' us may forget the evening but not him. Its the evening when he decided (rather we made him decide) abo' his marriage and that too 2 a particular girl. k, the girl's working in Silverline and her name starts with (oops, is it) J (guys, guess urself the name) are 'udhiri' details. Ramprabhu anna, nichayathaartham mudinjutha? actually i had promised the guys that there'll b a surprise post and had planned to post a 'virtual' invitation o' his marriage, then thought otherwise, as it was toooo much for the poor fella!!

'Battery' was in full flow, discharging a constant voltage - the drinks neither making him go more nor less. He was talking abo' his Pune environment and the girls over there. Paavam payal, says, as the PrabhuDeva number goes - "nee bike vachuruntha Marutiya paapaalunga- Maruti vachuruntha Ikona paakaraluga, Ikonaa Mercedes Benzku thaavraaluga"nu ore polambal. Inbetween he also made sure that the topic on Ramprabhu didn't simmer down.

With 3 to 4 rounds of 'drinks' (actually it wasn't a 'thanni' party at all with too many teetotallers spoiling the evening - that includes me too) with exotic names such as Virgin Mary to Bloody Mary to WildWest and talks mainly surrounding marriage plans o' 'Maapillai' Ramprabhu, it was 6:45 pm. Enter Shyam - he was the unique guy in the set. He had brought a photo album of his tour 'down under' and started xplaining 2 us the tour and also abo' his family members. It wuda been better if he had guys like Vishal Pujar or 'kutambi' Ramnarayanan as his company! His was a different world I suppose, and guys commented abo' his "there is a 'DEAD CHEAP' $800 package tour to Bahamas, anyone wanna take it?" query he posted in our egroup. He was all praise abo' 'Steffi' Sreeni's housemates in Australia taking good care o' him when he toured. Also he told abo' his meeting Mahesh and having lunch with him.

some o' the other topics - pasanga like savukku, samalee and ramprabhu 'elachu' ponathu pathi there were general grievances. hmm, naaya ulaikaraanaga paavam. and the Karnataka-TamilNadu 'civil' war, 'Panni'Selvam as CM, getting 'kuth'ified at Phy/Chem labs in Bishop for doin' mischief, seeing LH rooms with binoculars in Puthanampatti college et al.

With the drinks over, we were next onto dinner. Shyam prompted us 2 try 'Hotel Mathura' warning us it'll be just 'vegeterian'. We all strolled to the restaurant. Everyone ordered typical South Indian food - sambhar/plain idlis , dosa and the hotel being a chettinad type - idiaappam too. There was naan 2 with a typical North Indian dish 2 add variety.

As was usual, Samalee was the one who 'finished' of everything ordered, thereby ensuring we didn't leave any leftovers. And thus the evening came 2 an end for all but 4.

Mani, Jambu, Badri and myself just roamed abo' in theppakulam 'njoying the diwali shopping crowd. And from there it was home with the pleasant evening coming 2 an even pleasant end.

guys, hope i didn't disappoint anybody - its too late now 2 rem all that happened and write abo', just a ragtag report compiled in haste, sorry.

(Nov 26, 2001)

The Skool Days





Hi Guys, This is actually the first article I wrote. An earlier version of this had been sent to Sudharsan (and to a sister of mine), say a year back. Thought it's high time the skool day experiences I remember are shared with you all. These are some of the memories of The Skool - some pleasant, some unpleasant, some exciting, some sickening, some happy and some sad - but in the end it's the skool that won. Hope you all take this article in a lighter vein and believe this will make you enjoy & relive those most cherished moments that we as part of ER had. Please do add to it whatever you guys remember.

The year was 1986. My dad resigned his job in Madurai and we shifted to Trichy. It was very late, almost a month and a half after the schools start, that my Mom and myself along with one of my aunts, armed with my achievement certificates (I had stood among first 3 always in my earlier school in Madurai) that we met the then HM, TMS. But actually it was a letter from one of my Grandads (an uncle of my Mom) Pazhaniyandi Pillai - whose sons studied in ER and their donations resulted in a new block - which got me through.

TMS was very polite in saying that there was only one English section with 150 boys (strength of all 4 sections put together in my earlier school!) and still if we persist we may join. We had no option then since all the other doors were closed and so Mom and me visited VII A.

The class teacher was Mr. Nagaswamy. My first surprise - students sitting on the floor and chappals strewn outside the class room. Since he was also from Thiruvanaikaval, it made things a bit easy for my Mom. He inquired the well beings of our family and allotted a seat in the benches.

The reason for chappals lying outside, I soon learnt was because classrooms were the abode of Godess Saraswathi. One habit of mine which remained till college - to sit without chappals while in class. The whole environment was new to me who had studied till then in a Christian convent - teachers in dhothis, some in 'panchakachams' even sporting 'kudumis'. My roll no. I remember was 150A, the 151st guy of the class. ER did not follow the Lexican order of attendance but went with the admission no. order.

Another new thing was that the same teacher taught 2 subjects - English and Maths. This was not such an odd thing after all in ER. I came to know soon that a teacher can teach upto 4 different subjects!

The earliest guys I got to know were Thayumanavan (habitual BT, now a Yogi) and (TST) Ramkumar (kutti) and then came the gang of Prasanna (bhagavadhar), Suresh (ChuChu), Karthikeyan (drawing karthi), Sreenivasan (Steffi), Sudharsan(kupi), Dharma Prakash...

The best things of Std VII that I remember were the social classes taken by Mr. Viswanathan, who had a really big mouthstache in the likes of Veerappan, Gopal or Devaram. The way he taught was rather astounding. He had a very unique style of putting things into your head. We had in Geography, Australia and Newzealand and still I remember his words echoing through the class "Namma helicopter ippo The Great Barrier Reef mela poguthu." That teacher had such vivid imagination when he presented New Zealand thus, "Apdi rendu chappala inga onnu anga onnu thooki pota epdi irukum, adhu pola". Some quotes you never forget for life!

We had Rennaissance and Reformation in History. He introduced us to Machiavalli's Prince, Fredrick the Great, his Minister, the man of Iron and blood, Bismarck, and the artists Michael Angelo, Raphael & Leonardo. Another pleasant thing to happen to me was he nicknaming me "Garibalti" (since I'm black and nothing to do with the bravery/shrewdness of the original!) which stands till date. I have really felt for not joining in std. VIth itself, since he had taken Social for std VIth too. One proud thing, I always was among the toppers in Social Sciences :-)

One of the topics discussed in hushed tones during class 7 was about Mr. Nagaswamy's tuition students - he made them sit in the middle row and gave them question papers of the forthcoming exams. This is one of the first unpleasant memories I have about ER.

Science was taken by an oldie called MRS (or was it NRS??) who usually came in a pale blue shirt and a brownish white dhoti. One queer habit of his - throwing the stick (which was there always under his armpit) at guys who erred during class hours. One rumor had it that a boy was blinded, but he still kept the habit with him.

Tamil - Kannaiyinar Naidu, hope I spelt it right. His type of punishment - call the guy, put his hands inside his pocket and crush the poor fellow's balls! Many teachers had an odd, sometimes sadistic way of punishing guys (the other one coming to mind was the master for craft, who hit everyone on the back of the hands). A habit of K Naidu was to ask Dhanagopal (of Ramjinagar, roll no. 1, he always called him Dhanabal) to go to the nearby Naganathan tea-stall and get him biscuits and tea whenever Tamil period came in the afternoons.

Two more things about Nagaswami, he took care of the Pillaiyar Koil inside the school's compound and he collected money from us to put ceiling fans for VII 'A'. That's what I remember of std. VII.

The class teacher for std. VIII was SVR. He too took Eng and Math. The best things I remember of him were the nicknames he gave. I don't remember much, but here are some - White & White (Cricket Pradeep), Veeresasingha Bandhullu (wonder where he got that from?!), Kudi etc. He held his tuitions at 9 every morning and most of the times he was late, the reason being 'Vaigaikaha gatea potutan'. He was the one who named Sudharsan 'kupilapo' - 'kutti pissaasu lathi podum', the line he had scribbled on the newly built toilet's walls. One queer custom he followed was punishing boys who didn't come with their hands tied behind their backs (following the 'Stand At Ease' position) while coming back after the morning Assembly where we sang "Vaanor Vanangum Annaiye..." & Thamizh Thai Vaazhthu. I still wonder why we were made to walk like that. Two of the English lessons that I remember were the ones on John Cadbury and on 'Ants'.

We had some of our earlier classes in 'Yana Kottai', now no longer there. It was so named because of it being so huge and resembled an elephant's abode.

A strange custom of ER was the brahmanised way it functioned - skool started only at 11 am on Ammavasyas and it was a holiday for Thai, Mahalaya or Aadi Ammavasyas. Even when the district collector made a rule that all schools should commence by 8 am onwards to avoid the morning peak rush in buses, ER tried twice but could not stick to it. I strongly believe it was mainly due to the teachers rather than us students who couldn't follow that regimen!

New kid on the block was R Bhaskaran. We buddies went till Engg in the same Univ. Nice that we are in Chennai, together still :-)

School Leave - it came for everything - whether the teaching staff were on tour, some staff's second cousin's wife's sister's marriage, rain, former teacher/HM's death etc etc. It's odd that a saying about ER goes like 'Adadhu (mazhai) peidhalum vidadhu nadakum ER High School' - might have been true during Nataraja Iyer's days, who knows.

Another teacher was introduced to us, Mr. Ramaswamy, who took Tamil. He in turn introduced to us varied subjects from teachings of Osho to Yoga to Tamil poetry. It was rumoured that there is a life-size portrait of Osho in the drawing room of his house in Mangamma Nagar. He was a good bit egotistic and used to recite poems that he wrote, the best ones being the one about Vinayaga which goes like "Aval, pori, vellam.." and the other one, the song to bring rain. It rained the day he sang that song! He also wrote a sort of poetry in which letters were put into 6 segments of a circle and they formed the words of the poem when followed in a particular order.

History and Geography was taken by NB, that Mallu who always carried his dhothi in his one hand and carried a small bag in the other. His fav punishment "10 kuttu pottu velila anupuda", when the whole class rushed and knocked the offending guy down on his head. I wonder whether he realises the agony of this torturous punishment.

And his fav line was, "Uyeee, inna sound udriya?" He was the one who introduced us to the harsh realities of civic life in the real sense. Corruption, bribery, untouchability and reservation were some of them. One of his oft repeated stories - how the traders of Chathiram bus stand unitedly put meetings to collect money and give it to the local MP/MLA whenever there were talks of the bus stand being moved away. Chathiram is still there and the traders too.

Science - by an eccentric called Rajagopal, famous for his eve teasing episode. Legend has it that he teased a girl and got thrashed by the girl's brother with a cycle chain. Also he did some yoga postures like showing off all the veins and arteries of his body.

The class was divided into two in ninth. Sec 'A' had the likes of stalwarts like TMT and TMS (he can draw the map of India without facing the board, can quote anyone from Thiruvalluvar to Appar to Wordsworth!) whereas we in Sec 'B' were left to the likes of MB, NK & TSV. Only we had a better Math teacher in Mr Ramani.

An interesting thing started happening in Std 9th. All 'grown' boys wore color full-trousers to skool, changed them to khaki half-trousers behind the Pillaiyar koil. This served 3 purposes, 1) To avoid the embarrassment of showing their hairy legs, 2) to sight see the girls while coming in the bus and 3) to cut afternoon classes and go for cinema.

Rambha/Oorvasi theaters (The Sivalaya Complex) very near the school was the fav. This was coz they showed 'A' movies. Sirrocco and Playboy were the most famous of these movies since they came again and again year after year. Since I was tall and quite shy, I always sat in the last benches along with these matured guys. One of my fav pass-times then was to hear to these guys tell those movie storylines (whatever story they had!), as I didn't have the guts then to cut classes ;)

Subban who took English for us was obsessed with the pronunciation of words and the phonetic symbols. I had a dictionary with me then and was named 'dictionary boy' by him.

Two interesting teachers were VSG who took Tamil and Nehru who took Maths. While VSG terrorized the class with his double toned voice and daily punishment, Nehru told stories that kept the class thrilled. One story he oft repeated was him seeing a murder taking place right before him when he was reading his morning newspaper. The words he used with a dramatic effect were 'Appdiye top-a kalatitaan' (the head was sheared away). Remember, all this was before 'Nayagan' or 'Thalapathi'. Those teachers were our real eye-openers to the harshest realities of this world. Science was by MB, and I don't have much to say about him.

During the lunch hours we played that good old game, "Thirudan-Police", running up and down across the school's corridors like mad. The guys who played it were "Battery mama" Badri, Thayumanavan, Srinivasan (the tall guy who had a unique way of writing all the letters in a square shape) and other Andar Street guys like Kannan @ Venkata Krishnan.

Cricket as now was the omnipresent game then too. It was played in a very novel way in ER. No stumps, no bat. The net poles for Volleyball/Badminton served as a single stump and typically 2 to 3 matches were played simultaneously around a single pole. And the ball most of time would be "solakkarudhu" (corn cobs) or paper sheets rolled over as a ball with rubber bands cut from an old cycle tube to hold them. You have to be beside "Mookupodi" Mani(kandan) after he'd played such games in the afternoon - sitting beside the sweaty, heat radiating Bell-Neck was quite an experience in itself.

We did have other games like Volleyball (Vijay or Prabhu Anand was quite a player from our class), Co-Co and Kabbadi. But these weren't played as enthusiastically as the first two. The PT periods should get a mention here. Most of the time we were sent home if the period comes last or were asked to just sit down under the shady trees. Even worse, we were forced to perform drills just after breakfast or lunch sometimes.

The skool had a rusty canteen too. (Ramana, where are you?) Thankfully, it changed to a new building during our XI/XII stds. There were (still are?) vendors outside the skool too. The best of the items was the "sarak-sarak" ice for 25p.

more to come...


Chennai 2 Trichy

For many of us bachelors who work in Chennai or Bangalore, the weekend journey to Trichy is a ritual. How frequent the journey is varies from induhvidual to induhvidual. For some, its every weekend (just finished college, feeling home sick always or girlfriend(s) at Trichy), every fortnight (got many friends still at Trichy), every month (guys who don't fall in the above 2 categories & go for say, to see their parents) and very occassionally. (guys who have got accustomed to Chennai/Bangalore life, have girl friend(s) in Chennai or are just too lazy to travel).

The means of travel varies too. For the regular weekender/fortnighters, its the good old RockFort Express - start Friday night and be back Monday morning. In this case, the first step in the ritual would involve going to one of the crowded Train Ticket Reservation Counters and booking for the to-and-fro journey. The buying of tickets may be a long drawn out, boring affair. The brilliant few ask their friends or travel agents to book the tickets for 'em. Once this is done, its a long wait till its Friday evening.

Pack off from office and off you go with that dreamy thinking of Trichy - the Cauvery, the RockFort, the Srirangam temple etc etc. 2200 hours and you are at Egmore, seeing all the regulars who have made it like you. Its the same chit-chat asking about work and after the customary 'see-you-morning-daa', you troop to your favourite S5 or S7 top berth. Sleep welcomes you, as the train starts singing its trademark chug-chug lullaby. (the lullaby has become a lot more pleasant, now that its broad gauge)

Sometimes you are lucky and wake up at Villupuram and have that sweet, nourishing, hot milk. Usually you sleep the whole journey off and due to the regular timing, you wake up in time as the train slows down into the Srirangam Station. Its yet another thing remembering that favourite 'dhidum-dhidum' on the old Collidum bridge. Its absent nowadays in the new bridge which is sans those steel girders. Your hands come together 2 pray automatically as you see the towering RajaGopuram pass by and The Girls High School comes next. If you are a TBHSS guy, you are encountered with that nostalgic feeling of the good old school days gone by. You have by now completely forgotten Chennai, as you plan how to spend (read sleep) the weekend off.

Speaking of train journeys, for the Chennai folks, there is the other option of making it by another old-timer, the Pallavan Express. This option, when you are lucky enough to get the Friday afternoon off too. The journey by Pallavan is completely different from that by RockFort. One simple reason, its a Day train, you are mostly awake the whole journey and you can enjoy the experiences offerred by the Second Class Chair Car.

Your co-passengers play an important role in such day journeys. They can make your journey more pleasant or real bad. Let us limit ourselves with pleasantliness. Its really a god-send to have some sweet city girl in the age group 16-25 sit before you. Its an added benefit if the mom accompanies her! (remember Rajnikanth in "Nakeeran"!) The second best thing that can happen are children. It can be a chubby infant with its toothless grins or some school kids, (preferably brother & sister of stds ranging from 1 to 5) going for vacation. Try talking with these kids and you will know the world.

There are other co-passengers who may interest you. The big burly mama in the 'veshti-jippa' and 'vethala-paaku' mouth, the lean 35ish guy who sleeps slanting his head on the next guy's shoulders, the 'window-beku' (like our very own Mani) who keeps staring thru' the window for no particular reason, the newly married couple with their meaningless whispers & smiles in a world of their own, the unassuming thatha with the shrewd-looking paati with that shining 'mookuthi', a big village party full of 'sandhanam-thadaviya-mottais' (returning of course from their trip to Tirupathi), the list is endless.

Another interesing thing about Pallavan is its never-ending beeline of hawkers & vendors. As soon as the train leaves Egmore, they start coming. These illegal hawkers sell cucumber, groundnut, guava, mango, jack fruit or any seasonal fruit for that matter . The 'official' ones from the pantry car come and go with their high-pitched 'Sir, tea-OO' or 'kaaaa-pea'. The other items from pantry include vadai, bajji, cutlet, omlette and nearer to 1730 hours, 'masal dhosai'. Nowadays, they have that watery readymade noodles too. The man to watch out is the one who usually comes with the tomato soup. This guy is a real entertainer with his sing-song voice and unusual sales pitch. Whenever I go by Pallavan, my wish is that this guy be on duty.

Those who haven't planned the trip are left with no option but to travel by bus. Now that we belong to the upper-middle class, we guys prefer the 'Hi-Tech' (whatever that means) Air Buses run by private operators. If you are lucky enough, they play the pirated CD version of some new hit movie. Its better that they don't show any movies at all than you being forced to watch some flop. Mostly, the bus ride is uneventful. The stop-over at some road-side hotel with its tell tale urine smell may provide some entertainment in the form of some Vivek comedy or 'dindugul' Leoni's 'pattimandram' which invariably is on old-vs-new Tamil cinema.

Guys, if have any interesting traveling experiences, please do share them. Especially the Bangalore 2 Trichy episode remains to be written.

(Apr 22, 2003)

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

the moment ARC announced it wud b bringing isha here, i'd wanted 2 join it very badly. thats coz of thayumanavan, my friend who wud most probably be there for life. the introduction talk was as expected - some young yogi talking in a sing-song voice, the goodness of yoga.

oct 7, the eagerly awaited day came and we were there at 6:15 am. there was this guruji's photo placed on a white cloth covered chair. an american woman, angela then started discoursing. she talked and talked and talked. the topic was abo' rules, why you should consider them to be your rules and how this will result in very positive results. it was such a long speech that she fainted & fell all of a sudden. my first impulse, may be it was some staged theatrics. poor woman, she must have been exhausted doing all that talking & standing there with an empty stomach. another female continued from where she left. one thing here, the institute seems to have a good number of females. who knows, jaggi
(r someone in the ashram) may turn out to be the next premananda.

we went through pairing exercises like this: one should tell the other what moments made him most happy. and then they caught us unawares by saying "see, thats the problem with you. you are happy only at specific moments. it shouldn't be like that. what stops you from being happy all the time?". at the end of such an enlightening class, we were given 3 questions that asked us how the teaching helped us in situations in the next 24 hours as homework. should someone teach us to write or what? we all wrote some story or other and brought it for the next day's class. that day it was all about responsibility. how unlimited responsibility will make you & the world so good and stuff like that. we did do some yoga this time - sitting in vajra asana with 3 of the basic mudras chin, chinmaya & adi, chanting aaa, ooo, and mmmm respectively. the same homework with the same result.

third & fourth days we did get to know abo' some mo' yoga - a breathing technique involving the 4 basic breathing actions - breathing in, holding in, breathing out & holding out at 4:2:5:2 ratio of time. This day the talk was on how the present moment was inevitable and how the next moment had millions of possibilities to unfold. All these truths were mind blowing, you know, that it was difficult for us to think on it. many felt 'confused' thinking about such a difficult philosophy as how THIS moment can be inevitable.

in one of the classes we were asked what we felt of these 2 options: whether "the body is mine" or "i'm the body". after closing the eyes and thinking very very hard, you know we really have to concentrate on such a thought provoking dilemma, i couldn't arrive at any answer. It was fun to tell I felt neither and was made fun of by the amerian guru. lucky that i had company, dunno who the other guy was, lol.

sunday came and we had been told repeatedly of the great day, of how much fun it would be to be part of such great activities like eating non-cooked food, how energising we'll feel etc etc. we were asked to get flowers, sweets, fruits, a coconut and a white cloth to class. first to the Marina we went. the best part of the program was here. it was surprising seeing all the young and old play games. they said afterwards, "see, what all this play can do for you. didn't you see that it brought the child in you? see how good it feels!". it'll b nice 2 c if everyday we did play & saw how we felt. anyway, it wasn't that great as i was into jogging, cricket & such games that have been played during our company get-togethers. may be the oldies and others who haven't played for long luved it much.

then after a break for breakfast we again assembled at T Nagar. there was a recap on the learnings of the past week. at one moment everyone was asked to scream their lungs out. oh, the sound was unbearable and many kept goin' even after the stipulated time of 5 seconds. time went by as meaningless words tried entering your logical, sleepy head. we were asked to take the pledge of giving parental love to the whole universe. the general idea was everyone should come upfront and mumble something on the mic about how they are gonna luv everything in this universe from that moment on.

suddenly it was time for us to learn meditation & a mantra for clinging onto while we meditate. there was this special guruji who had come just to tell that one single, powerful word. think she must be low in IQ or something as she found it difficult and had to use her hand in a threatening action to get that single word from the back of her head.

the supposed lunch wasn't that disappointing. though it didn't fill one's hunger, it did have variety.

our main teacher who taught us yoga doubled up as a do-this-don't-do-that guru too. she taught us good eating habits. about why we shouldn't be eating meat, about why we shouldn't touch tea, coffee & alcohol (they are nerve stimulants you know, scientifically proved!), about +ve, neutral & -ve pranic foods etc. she proved this phenomenon beyond doubt (sic) by using the rudraksh. ah, how it goes clockwise, anticlockwise & in oscillation - in her hands, of course. anyway, i still don't unnerstand, why the hell should i bother if the mala goes whatever way it did.

isha yoga went hi tech too. there was this multimedia film clip of isha, the dhyanalinga & of course the great master. of how life at isha is, of how famous artistes have performed there, of how maha siva rathri, other special days are celebrated, of the bhavaspandana & samymaa programs, oh the list is endless. "you just have to come to the isha yoga centre, what are all you doing here wasting your very life?" was the message in short.

there was this whole session dedicated to knowing about the great master too. the story started with the master's master who lived in some remote place in karnataka. of how he worked from morning till late nite, of how healthy he was even at 83, of how he lived to be 108, of how he ran all of 70 km once, of jaggi being a disciple of this great man.

the master himself is such a great personality. he was different (oh no, he too!) even from his childhood. he used to be with nature always traveling & being there in chamundi hills quite often. while in college he never read but still passed out ranked second (wow!) and then he started a construction company which soon became number one in the whole of mysore (wow wow!). one fine day he left all these just like that and started teaching yoga. and to use the cliche, the rest is history.

with all these teachings goin' on, there was some interesting yoga being practised too. first was mahath pranayam. i got a bit afraid when dilip the volunteer during his first practice threw his head back violently and came forward to lock his head/neck. to beat this, there was swana pranayam where we were asked 2 pant like a dog (so that we get a powerful nose to smell) and cawed like a crow (for rounding off our voice). the last one was the most interesting as we had strange sounds emanating from our different throats. the worst ones had very coarse caws while the best one's comically resembled a puppy's.

altogether, the program's been a real entertaining one where one can max 'njoy seeing all the comedy happening around. kudoes 2 isha for making me benefit from such a fun-filled program.

ps: the above's just a parody & is not 2 b taken seriously

At the Barber's

It started off like any typical Sunday morning, the late hour movie on Surya TV the night before making you get up late. You try sleeping a lil' more but the craving in the stomach hits you hard. As you lazily wake up to brush your teeth, the wizzened unshaven face stares you back on the mirror. And you notice there's too much hair on the head too.

You start contemplating a bit about the risk of going for a haircut/shave on a Sunday. With nothing in particular to do then, you put a Tee on and drag yourselves to the good old neighborhood saloon. As you had expected, there is the whole Sunday bunch of competitors waiting before you.

However, you are welcomed by the Senior, the owner of the saloon and you answer it with your best grin, showing the others there that you are a favored customer. Since all the waiting chairs are occupied, you stand there trying to get any bit of newspaper or a magazine and to browse through whatever you lay your hands on. As you try hard not to show your inner feelings, there's a hot political topic being discussed. You try to think and at the same time read but end up doing neither. You finally get out of the shop, to the nearby tea stall, a note of caution thrown at the Senior to keep note of your going inbetween just for a tea.

As you drink the watery tea, the stomach tries to throw up. You try very hard to contain it with a smoke. You grab a biscuit from one of the bottles which had not seen a wash since it was made. You then trudge back to the saloon.

After waiting for almost an hour, it's your turn to mount the King's chair. When you sit there, a kutti paiyan approaches you with the comb and a pair of scissors, asking you how the hair needs to be done. You throw an angry look at him, rise your voice saying that only the Senior can touch your hair. But the senior is engaged with a fatty, fiftyish mama and he looks at you with a pleading face. You then make what you think was a clever decision. You ask the boy to shave you first while you can wait for the Senior to finish off with uncaji and come to you later.

As the boy works up a rich lather, you give him a doubtful look of whether he'll make an ugly cut to your face. The shave begins and you start to relax a bit. All the waiting and anxiety till then makes you relax a wee bit too more and you doze off. As your head starts falling to one side, the paiyan, obviously more intent in listening to a new Tamil number in FM makes a slip. And you wake up to find a quarter of your mouchstache gone. The offender looks at you miserably for all your pity.

Hmm, you give a sigh and accept the world's fate. The boy quickly takes the whole mush off and through slit eyes you see yourself for the first time on the mirror, sans mouthstache. You console yourself of it neither adding nor reducing the beauty of your great face.

With the shaving session taking its toll, you now wait for the senior to start his battle with your head. He starts off with pleasant questions about your state of life and even trying vaguely to boost you up saying, 'Meesai illama edupaadhaan Sir irukku.

As every barber does, he finishes off the back of the head first and had almost finished your left side of the head when all the hell breaks loose. There is a commotion on road. Shouts ring through the air. Everyone goes out to see what the thing is about. Neglecting the state you are in, you too get anxious and join them outside. There's some stone throwing going on as some party procession opposing Karnataka's decision not to release Cauvery water turns violent. Even before you realize the full gravity of the situation, traffic comes to a standstill & shops start pulling down shutters. The saloon, where you were inside a few minutes ago closes shop too! You stand there with one side of your hair cut, not knowing what to do next.

As the scene turns more tense, you think it wise to go home. As you approach your neighborhood, a kid asks 'Enna uncle, space age hair style aa?'. You smile sheepishly at him and without answering rush back into your bachelor's apartment.

You think hard and hardly think at the same time to get rid of the mess you are in. You finally think it best to ring one of your friends up and ask him do the rest of the cut. You reason to yourselves, afterall, it's only going to be a temporary cut. Within a day or two, you can go back to the saloon and get trimmed up properly.

Your friend agrees and he arrives at your door saying how easy it is to hold a pair of scissors and run through one's hair. You submit yourself to fate for the thrid time that miserable Sunday. As your friend starts to show his amateurish skills on your head, you soon find that the left and right sides of your head aren't going to match at all. This moment there seems to be a little more hair on to your right while the next moment the balance tilts to the other side. A point arrives where no more hair would pass through the comb's teeth and still you aren't on the clear.

Totally disillusioned by now, you finally give the go ahead to your friend to give you a complete mottai. As he finishes, the phone rings. It's mom from your native, after hearing the Flash news of Sun TV and the breaking news of NDTV wanting to enquire your safe whereabouts. As you tell her you are safe and sound at home, she finishes off saying 'Dei, Samayapuram Maariyathaalukku romba naal vendudhal onnu baaki irukku da, Tiruchi vantha mudi irakanum unakku'.

Note: The idea to write the above obviously struck while i was taking a haircut. And the way to write in second person was from a short story by David Morrell. The (supposed) humor inspiration is from one of Sujata's short stories, 'Kudhirai'.

'Hotel' can easily be the most used misnomer in Chennai. Any place that serves food from roadside stalls to small/big eateries to lodges to three and five star restaurants are all referred to by the plain, simple name, 'Hotel'. Of particular interest are the food factories, the ones that cater food to thousands of people daily. They affect the lives of bachelors like me (who depend on them for all three meals a day) very deeply. Let me try describing to you some types of hotels that an average guy in Chennai comes across.

The lowest in the ladder (in price, not in taste) are the 'Kaiyendhi bhavans' (no tables/chairs, plate to be held in hand). They offer you the typical South Indian 'tiffin' varieties - idlis, dosais, pooris, etc, muttai dosai (egg dosa) being their specialty.

A little above in stature are the 'tea shop-restaurants', i.e., if you count any and every place that has tables and chairs as restaurants. Invariably, a board in front would announce that the hotel is 'Pure Vegetarian'. It brings a smile to your lips as you wonder whether there is anything like 'impure' vegetarian or 'partially pure' vegetarian (remember, there's no McDonald's in Chennai yet to offer French Fries fried in tallow and there's still time for genetic engineering to poke its nose!).

These specialise in dinner dishes. They have paneer masal dosa, paneer paratha, naans, kulchas and oothappams for dinner. The side dishes are great -- the list includes the ever famous aloo gobi, mutter paneer, palak paneer and any other permutation/combination you can think of involving these five. These 'tea shop-restaurants' being very close to office or on the way to office, one tends to frequent them most of the time. Of course, it also helps that the food served is inexpensive.

There are real restaurants too, where you can have an occasional proper dinner along with 'thanni' (alcohol). These are perfect eatouts to take your roommates, and friends who, while visiting Chennai, stay at your place. You can have a great time here, remembering and laughing about the good old times.

Many dhabas have also sprung up: 'Punjabi Dhaba', 'Dhaba Express' and 'Sachin ka Dhaba' (or is it Sachin 'ki' Dhaba? Sorry, we South Indians are always confused with the Hindi language where each and every object has a gender) being some of the famous ones. You can get the best chicken tikka masala at these dhabas. It is my opinion that every one of these dhabas is owned by the same Sardarji family and it is their way of fooling the Tamils who like to tell and listen to Sardarji jokes.

There are the 'Peetzaa' places too: Pizza Hut, Pizza Corner, Dominoes Pizza, Pizza-Whatever and Whatever-Pizza. The rich, the NRIs and the 'hi-class pepal' frequent these places. More than the food, they offer us bachelors a chance to see the normally orthodox Chennai girl wear something other than the standard salwar kameez/churidhar/saree. You can sigh the evening away jollufying (any proper English term for this? Ogling?) at them.

Last but not the least are the new coffee shops, rather pubs, the in thing in Chennai. You have Coffee-this and Coffee-that and even the Chennaivasi, the diehard coffee fan, has been a little overwhelmed with such offerings like Cappuccino and Muckucheenoo (just to make them rhyme -- Srinivasans, no offence meant).

As you know, the above list isn't exhaustive, but since every good thing has to come to an end (to be read as the article has become too boring by now), I sign off here. For a nice eating experience, do visit Chennai.


(Story in a jist - read this paragraph last:) The story is simple. Russell Crowe (Maximus) is a loyal commander in the Roman army. The King has a son, who, in the King's own words is not moralistic. And the King thinks Crowe would make a better successor than his own son. The villanous son, seeing these developments kills the father and tries to execute Crowe. Crowe escapes, but his wife and son get brutally killed. He turns up as a slave and is bought by a guy who supplies men to fight as gladiators. He fights his way forward and finally lands up in Rome's Colosseum to fight the biggest fight. The son who had succeeded by then, as the Roman Emperor tries to get him killed again but then finally, truth and honesty triumphs as Crowe the gladiator kills the villain in the Colosseum itself.

The picturisation of the film is fantastic. The film begins with preparations being made for a war to be fought in a jungle surrounding. Catapults and arrows loaded with fire are sent upwards into the sky and they come screaming down burning down everything they land on.

Men kill men with daggers, swords, spears, bows & arrows and soldiers on horse back kill and sometimes get killed by the land soldiers. Finally Crowe's Roman army emerges victorious and he's congratulated by the old Roman Emperor. The trouble starts when the Emperor sees in Maximus a worthy successor rather than his own son, Commodus, who lacks moral sense.

As the son kills his own father by first hugging him onto his chest and then slowly crushing him with his embrace, the brutal murder has Maximus revolt against him. He is arrested, brought to a deserted place, the executioner makes him kneel down and rises his sword for beheading him when Crowe asks for "a honourable soldier's death" meaning not to behead him but to pass the dagger straight into his neck's back, through the spine. While the executioner tries to do this, Crowe's reflex skills get him and he kills everyone of the men present there, and escapes. After all he's a General!

As he escapes on horseback to goto his own village to get to his wife and son, he's overtaken by the enemy. His son gets trampled over by horses and his wife raped and hung. Its a scene done well by Crowe when he sees his wife's charred body hanging, saliva drooling from his mouth, kissing her feet with a deep sounding ode in the background.

He, being a wounded man, becomes unconscious & when he opens his eyes again, finds himself captured by slave traders. He gets sold to a gladiator merchant/trainer who himself had been a Gladiator once and had become a free man now. Crowe gets trained, fights in amphitheatres, kills anything and everything that comes his way and soon makes his name as 'The Spaniard'.

His fame finally leads him to the great Colosseum at Rome where the Emperor, now the evil Commodus himself would see the fight along with the maddened Roman crowds. The set put up for the huge Colosseum is really breathtaking & amazing.

His master, the gladiator turned merchant-trainer keeps on saying "Win the crowd, you'll win freedom". As Crowe and his men wait for their avengers inside the ring for the fight to begin, Crowe says "Remember, we fight anything that comes out of that together. Together we stand, together we'll win". Chariots come racing out killing some men instantly who didn't heed to the Spaniard's advice and were standing alone. Its a beautifully choreographed fight scene that brings you to your seat's edges, eyes popping out with horror, when Crowe and his men bring down their enemies one by one.

As the victorious men stand there, the Emperor himself comes down to greet them. Its now time for Crowe, the obvious hero of the fight, to get himself introduced as he comes face to face to the sly Commodus. He is the perfect bad guy, with an asymmetrical cut on his upper lip and deep cunning eyes that spew evil on anything they see.

The stage is set now, as each man plans how to get rid of the other. Crowe is helped by one of his old friends and the sister of the baddie himself. As in many histories of Roman/Greek kings, the baddie loves his own sister and wants to bed her. But she's defiant and keeps him at a length. She too conspires now with Crowe to get him killed.

But the bad guy kills all of Crowe's friends and finally Crowe too is captured, beaten up and brought back to the Colosseum. There is yet another one-to-one fight with a specialist this time, hungry growling tigers on the prowl in the background making it more exciting. After slaying this guy too, and as the weakened Crowe stands there, the bad guy himself tries to fight him down to his death. The climax is also a nicely taken fight where finally Crowe emerges victorious by passing a small dagger into the villain's jugular ever so slowly. But all this had made him so weak that he too drops down and fiannly dies on the Princess' lap.

(Nov 22, 2002)

A perfect upper middle class home,
AC's soft sweet purr all day long,
Gorkha at the gate,
Gardener to mow the lawns,
A Maid to cook, another to wash clothes,
Nurse to look after
the diabetic Mami and the arthritic Mama,
Whose sons in California
send their hard-earned green-backs,
To run the home, sweet home.

i'd b damned if u call the above poetry.

Laws of India can sometimes be, no - they actually are, very complex. The present system makes us break laws while doing, what we think, are mundane activities. Let us see with two example issues how a normal Indian citizen is made to break laws.

Everyone of us is aware of the fact that, money not accounted for is termed as black money. We will see how this is violated by an average Indian. Take the example of a petrol bunk. Do you know how much a litre of Petrol or Diesel costs? I mean, the exact price. The cost varies throughout India and let us assume for an average, Rs. 28.36 and Rs. 19.83 per litre respectively. You are made to pay 29.50 and 20.00
respectively per litre. Now, this rounding off results in a huge amount of black money generation. Lets put an approximate simple calculation. Say a bunk sells 5,000 litres of petrol and 10,000 litres of diesel everyday. The money generated thats unaccounted for per day would be Rs 2,400 (0.14 x 5,000 + 0.17 x 10,000) per bunk. Suppose there are 5,000 bunks in India, it would be Rs. 1,20,00,000 per day and per year, it would be a mind boggling Rs. 438,00,00,000 - thats four hundred thirty-eight crores and this just a rough estimate! (I am sure the actuals will definitely be more than the figure quoted here) Imagine what this kind of money can do.

Now, it doesn't stop with petrol bunks. When you make calls from an STD booth or when you buy medicines, you are made to round off the prices. Have you ever wondered why this happens and why this should continue to happen?

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any Government has, is to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. ...just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers." The antagonist in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" remarks thus. This applies to the Indian
Government it seems. Let us see the second issue which very much reflects the above quote.

The issue concerns the sizable chunk of the Indian populace - what we call the salaried class. The month of March can turn out to be an absolute nightmare for them. The main reasons for this are, one, the Finance Minister presenting the Budget with usual price rises etc and two, the TDS (tax deduction at source) done by the employer, resulting in usually most of the month's salary going as tax. You have to
understand what a salaried class citizen is made to do due to some of
the unneccessary rules involving taxes.

Two allowances that most private companies give for their employees are HRA (House Rent Allowance) and Medical Allowances. The Medical Allowances are generally from Rs.1,000 to Rs. 2,000 for one getting a salary of Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000. That makes it approximately 10% of one's pay. An average human being isn't expected to spend that much money per month towards medical expenses. Why then is this ridiculous allowance? The company gives so much because anyone can produce fake medical bills and claim it under the allowance. One excuse given is, it
is spent on dependent parents. But then, its just an odd case. Coming to
HRA, its again a huge percentage of salary, usually 20-25% of it. Here
again, the IT rules are complex. Without going into the complete rules
fully, what it actually does is, it compares 3 different criteria and
takes into account the least one of those. What most folks are advised
by the company to do (indirectly ofcourse) is to get a rent receipt for
such and such months that will amount to slightly near the least of the
criteria above mentioned. Other allowances like petrol allowance, telephone allowance, vehicle allowance etc are just equally as misused as the above.

The solutions for the above issues? Ofcourse very simple. Round off any commodity or service being offered to the nearest 25 or 50 paise. Make the tax rules simple without any clauses. Say for example, it can be made a flat 5% till Rs. 2,00,000 and 10% over Rs. 2,00,000 of the gross salary earned. Will the Government of India oblige?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


saw this humorous film - American (Born Confused) Desi recently. a
review here. (sorry if u had already seen it and sorry of course, for
forcing u read some crap)

the film tells the story of how second generation indian students in
american univs lead their lives. main characters were the lead pair of
kris-nina, kris's friend salim who falls for farah, a muslim indian
student, there's this chubby bubbly sardar, jagjit, who wants 2 b an
artist but is compelled by his dad 2 do engineering and there's this
other fun guy Ajay. these 4 guys (kris, jagjit, salim & ajay) live
together. of course as in any desi film, there is a villain student who
tries wooing nina and gets all beaten up in the climax.

there's this indian lecturer who takes class for these 4. in the intro
scene, the way in which he repeatedly asks for 'rubber', intending 2 get
an eraser was so funny. but the banal fly-open-students-laugh scene cuda
been avoided. another scene where he gets drunk and does all sortsa
nonsense is hilarious too. just cudn't stop laughing thru' out the film.

kris has a major identity crisis. he identifies with everything american
and hates everything indian. nina, just the opposite. naturally the
poles attract, but whenever nina tries 2 b close 2 kris, some event or
other messes their relationship up. there's this proposal of seeing 3
hindi movies (aradhana, sangam & tere mera sapne) at a stretch. kris
gets so vexed up seeing these that at one point of time, he blurts out
"i've seen porno films with a much better story line than that!". and
there's this scene of the guys calling nina up for a home-cooked dinner.
they try hard 2 cook the dinner and end up messing the whole house,
throwing at each other whatever they had 'cooked' till then. kris, who
doesn't know/like anything indian, learns dandya/bhangra, does other
such things & tries hard 2 please nina.

the climax is an indian association function where all the
students/parents meet. jagjit uses all his artistic vigor in designing
the sets & other arrangements for the function. the entrance designed as
a ganesha and the godess durga over a lion with all her hands flying
were real good but the writing up of 'om' in every light bulb makes it
too much 'indian'ness. finally, its a sweet end, the pairs pairing up
and jagjit's dad complimenting his son (he asks jagjit, 'putra, what did
u use for durga matha's hands - pulley system or a gear system?' for
which jagjit promptly replies 'gears, dad')

there'll of course b reruns (star movies). c it if u haven't yet

btw, there's 'Leela', starring (still) charming dimple kapadia. tonite
at 8 in zee. the film made ripples coz of its story line, young college
guy - middle aged woman relationship (similar 2 her 'dil chahta hai'
role). hope the film doesn't disappoint

(Feb 27, 2003)

its one movie i like cing any number of times. shows how a mentally & physically challenged guy comes up in life. forrest gump (played by tom hanks) joins the vietnam war. as a marine, he starts playing table tennis & football and becomes a champion in both. meets his buddy bubba (a dull negro who knows/talks nuthing but shrimps - u have to listen to him talk "shrimp this, shrimp that", real funny), gets a medal from jfk (nice graphics thru out the movie, as he meets nixon, elvis etc), comes back from nam & he along with his leg amputee mate he had saved during the war start 'bubba shrimps' (bubba dies in the war). it becomes a huge success and they become millionaires. he promptly gives a share of the shrimp company to bubba's mom too.

finally, he starts to run across the united states and along the way, funny events make him an american icon. there's luv too in the form of jenny, a swinging sixties hippie, naturally an lsd addict & who comes on and off during his whole life. she finally walks off his life after getting AIDS.

the film's got everything and is such a feel-good movie that really peps u up with the moral 'never give up in life'. the way the story's told, u find in some books - by mixing events in history all along it. hanks, while waiting for a bus just sits on a park bench and tells his whole story to folks who come and sit beside him. got him his second consecutive oscar after 'philadelphia'.

(14 March, 2003)

CITY OF JOY (the film)

a film that deals with etching out a living in a calcutta slum is a heavy depressing subject but nice picturisation that blends with very good character portrayal elevates it 2 a very high std. at no part of time do u ever feel like u r watching an art movie. its similar 2 'life is beautiful' without all that humor of roberto benigni.

hasari pal (played by om puri), that poor bihari farmer coming 2 calcutta with his family for survival, his wife (played by shabana azmi) who turns out 2 b a helping nurse, their 3 chidren, the american doc max dada, the god father, his villanous son (think he's the one who played the terrorist villain in arnold's "true lies"), the white lady helping out in the slums and the rickshaw-wallas/other slum dwellers make anand nagar come alive bfo' ur very eyes. there r people other than mother teresa & her missionary nuns helping it out in the slums of calcutta.

a slight itch was that the dialogues were in english. but what 2 do, the film's meant for the western audience. the best thing i liked was the sound coming from the gilugilupai sorta thing that the rickshaw pullers' always hold between their fingers. hmm, its sad that rickshaws were banned from main thoroughfares of calcutta few years ago :-(

(March 18, 2003)

y men (shud) watch women's sports

The other day I happened to watch 2 female colleagues of mine play what according to them was a game of shuttle. That made me wonder whether women sports were as interesting to watch as men's and hence this mail.

Lets analyze this a bit more. There have been women greats in many a sport. They have also been equally famous as their male counterparts. But the question here is whether the average audience watches them for their sports talent or for other reasons.

>From the late 80s and the early 90s, one can remember the sweaty Tee clinging to the Argentine tennis player Gabriela Sabatini. The latino sensation was so famous that there was a perfume released in her name in Steffi Graf's Germany (remember Steffi was number one then!). You can still see snaps of her on the internet sites dedicated to her. Now, its another tennis star Anna Kournikova's turn. No wonder she has earned more from modeling than as a tennis professional.

Yet another thing to be noticed is how the appearances of these female players change. I remember Martina Hingis playing in her first year as professional with the average teenager-next-door looks. She wins a Grand Slam and thats it, her looks changed to that of a model for TV advertising! Just to digress, the same can be said of male cricketers too. There sure is the dangling 10 sovereign gold necklace after a year of playing internatinal cricket. Talking of cricket, its the audience which is more interesting to watch. Mischievous cameramen turn their cameras onto barely clad ladies in South African & Aussie venues. Who can forget the dancing around the pole by an Aussie spectator in the 1992 World Cup? It was on par with any erotic dancer's in a StripTease bar. Another interesting thing was the focus on ear-rings shown in Sharjah which was in a way the precursor to the bags/belts trends being shown in FTV now. Henry Blofeld, that humourous commentator fell in love with these astonishing array of ear-rings and finally ended up collecting them. It sure must have cost him a lot, both monetarily and personally ;-)

While its protruding nipples on sweaty clinging-to-the-body T-Shirts and flying micro skirts revealing colored panties in tennis (who wants to watch booming aces by Roddick or Hewitt when such sexy rallies are available), its bare skin exposure in beach volleyball. Its a real treat to watch the long legged bikini-clad females fight it out on the sunny beach sands. But the same cannot be said of women track & field athletes as they aren't that sexy, have more of a masculine body and aren't as well endowed as say, Serena Williams.

One more sport to watch out for is water polo. We had instances of dress slippage in the last Olympics putting the cameramen in a dilemma whether to continue focussing on the event or not. Not to mention, there was no such dilemma on the TV watchers minds ;-)

One extreme sport where silicone injected breasts come into play is the popular women's wrestling. If you like hard muscled women wrestling their bodies over, its THE sport to watch. Somewhat less interesting are the regular morning work outs presented by women aerobic specialists.

Gymnastics is a pretty good sport to watch too. Who can forget the barely 13 year olds of Soviet Russia, China and USA fight it out in many an Olympics? The arching female body doing a difficult routine on a Horse Vault is a real treat to watch. No wonder Nadia Comaneci got a perfect 10 way back in the 70s and women gymnasts continue to dominate till date. Gymnastics has been one sport where women always score over men.

A rare sport to watch is figure skating. Its magical to see the guy carry the lady around on ice skates. The flowing music and the following spotlight add on to the effects.

So guys, the next time you buy a ticket or switch on to a sports channel, remember one thing, there's more to watch than watching the Men in Blue play fixed cricket matches.

(June 10, 2003)


seems its calcutta time for me now! saw this movie directed by aparna sen last nite. the city in the early 1980s is captured vividly in this beautiful film, almost the same as in 'city of joy' - the rickshaw pullers, slums, trams & poluting traffic, the howrah, bazars & poverty in general.

the story's abo' an old anglo indian english teacher ms. violet stoneham. there's her elder bro in an old ppl's home (somewhat surprising that the city had those homes in the 80s itself). she meets her old student nandhita, nan-deee-ta in her accent, who's having a jolly good time with her lover. the couple manipulates ms.stoneham's innocence and start romancing in her pigeon hole flat thru deception & flattery. they get married and ignore her, she coming 2 know o' it only in the last scene. her teacher life, her visits to her bro', her cat named Sir Toby, her reciting Shakespeare's 'twelfth nite', her temporary happiness with the young couple all make up the rest of the film.

think the whole film is abo' how out o' context things become as time passes, here anglo indians in an independent india. a slooooooooooow dull film but a nice c.

btw, konkana sen who got good reviews for mr & mrs iyer is aparna's daughter. we have 2 c whether daughter follows in her illustrious mom's footsteps.

(July 2, 2003)

CITY OF JOY - the book

as an indian, was ashamed reading the depictions o' a slum in calcutta, that too by a foreigner. what forces ppl like teresa & lapierre 2 come & live in such filthy conditions, where as we middle class indians just c escapist cinema caring a damn abo' those poor souls. its hard realising the fact that the environment in slums can be that bad. the closest i've observed is from passing train windows the slums of chennai by the cooum and by the central station.

it was very depressing & disheartening reading those accounts of lapierre which were full of "windowless hovels", "bodies chained to their machines", "blown up bellies of children due to malnutrition" and a whole lot of other such phrases. the way those ppl live - their early morning ablutions, their eating styles, the jobs they do, the bhang & the bhangla, their dieseases et al and not to forget the miserable lepers & their stench filled colonies - nuthing less than hell, as lapierre repeatedly says.

it came as a bolt reading abo' the the most cruel scum that have ever inhabited this earth - those who sell human foetuses. gaawd, how far can humans go?? and the next in line, the bone sellers. as expected there were accounts on prostitutes, hijrahs & other such living classes along with those of the various ordinary people leading their own occupations in a typical slum.

max making luv 2 that wealthy widow manubhai and the assamese female, whats-her-name (bandona?) were unneeded tho'. may b lapierre was overwhelmed cing some indian masala cinema and wanted such things in the middle. annoyed me quite a bit. what happened to dr talwar, one who is described as "the future nobel prize in medicine" for inventing the sterilization vaccine? is there such a man in real life, we need 2 check that out.

the most important and sometimes the sole purpose of a christian missionary is to evangelize and nothing is said abo' kovalski converting ppl. may be he didn't want to, may b lapierre felt its bad mentioning it. anyway, liked the way kovalski starts meditating bfo' the shroud with 'Om's, a completely indianised christian!!

though lapierre has done xtensive research on indian ppl and the indian literature, was surprised 2 find he made a silly error abo' ramayana - got confused between dasaratha & janaka.

hmm, it was sad reading hasari getting red fever & coughing up blood towards the end, dunno what that disease is tho'. atleast they left this and all other gruesome things like ur fav one - dog carrying the sawn leper's (Anaur) hand - out in the film.

may b, 'salaam bombay' came close in conveying something similar abo' bombay. hope u've cn the film. that brings a thought - when & who's gonna portray chennai's slum life?

July 9, 2003


read harper lee's "to kill a mockingbird" over the weekend. a nice novel indeed. think lee won the pulitzer for it in 1961.

if its castes here in india, its the races in america. tells the story o' how things stood as late as 1940s in america. the story's told by scout jean louise Finch, the 8 year old girl child o' atticus finch. think the same style o' narration is followed by arundhati roy in "god of small things" & rushdie's "midnite's children".

finch is an honest widower lawyer & has got 2 children, the other one being the eldest boy named jeremy finch (jem). there r other characters o' the small town of maycomb in alabama that make up this novel. tho' the novel starts of with describing o' the childhood life o' the finch children, the plot unravels all o' a sudden when u never xpect it to.

tom robinson, a hardworking, decent negro is accused by an unworthy white bob ewell, o' raping his daughter. finch argues the case for the negro and ultimately loses it. tom is shot dead while trying to escape prison. bob ewell tries harming the finch children. the children are saved tho' & bob gets killed in a nice climax.

shows how cruel american whites have been 2 their black counterparts. altogether, the book's a real classic, read it if possible.

(July 14, 2003)


one's a nephew o' director francis ford coppola (of 'godfather' trilogy fame) and the other a rock star o' the 70s. those r nicolas cage & john travolta for u. they have acted in many an action flick (travolta - 'broken arrow', 'the swordfish', cage - 'con air', 'the rock'). not surprisingly, when these 2 big guns join 2gether, what we get is a pure, garami garam, hollywood masala fulla breathtaking stunt sequences.

the story's a bit complicated. so we'll have 2 leave out cage & travolta here. a terrorist, castor troy is pursued by the fbi guy sean archer. sean gets cas deeply hurt making him slip into a coma. sean then comes up with a brilliant plan o' placing himself as the terrorist cas. this by replacing his own face with that o' cas' thru' hitec plastic surgery. the original sean (who's now with cas' face) is then switched into the hi security prison for knowing of secrets from cas's bro there. but the plan ends up in disaster as cas regains consciousness, steals sean's face, kills all the people who know of the switch & replaces him at the government agency instead! oof, thats super kozhapam rite? for the film 2 progress, good guy sean escapes & comes after cas. after some superb stunt scenes, he kills him in the climax. all's well that ends well & so he gets his face off from the dead cas again, finally getting reunited with his family :-)

(Aug 19, 2003)

ooty travelogue

It came as a surprise when Raja's call came out of the blue asking about me joining him to a weekend trip to Ooty. The StorageTek team had planned for the trip & a guy had dropped out. So I am to be the replacement. Agreed happily as I'd nothing worthwhile to do that weekend.

As planned, we 19 guys started off from AdventNet at 6:30 pm by van, courtesy our very own aasthana taxi service, PKS. It was such professional planning, all credit to the StorageTek guys, we saw things going precisely according to plan through out the trip. Reached Central & had our dinner at the Refreshment Stall there. Dosa, Idli, Pongal & Vada amply substituted with P S Vijay's home-made idlis & thayir saadham with ooruga. So nice of him to have brought that.

Trooped on then to the Nilgiri Express. As was my general habit, checked the reservation chart for any fairer sex entries. Surprise of surprises, horror of horrors, there was a bevy of some 10 -15 college girls of age group 18-20 listed, that too next to our own coupe! Just couldn't believe my eyes. Joy knew no bounds as the immeasurable possibilities of such a fun filled journey started slowly sinking into everyone of us.

We did have fun commenting on the girls, Kamal & Krishna making the most of it. But then the girls must have felt the heat & were so offended that they moved out quickly to a farther coupe down the carriage :-( It was some disappointment allright, but that never got the boyz' spiritz down. Ji had brought 6 packs of cards (courtesy Singapore Airlines) and 8 of us started playing Rumme while the rest played Ass. Dilip was in high spirits as we got treated with some pleasant flute music. He played the flute for almost all of the 2 days. I tried playing it knowing too well that its a futile excercise. Not even a hiss came out of it. It definitley requires some talent & discipline to play that damned reed!

The card game slowed and came to an end as guys one by one began to sleep. As with any such journeys, there was beer masked in Pepsi 2 litre bottles being guzzled out. Some guys opted for the 'hot' rum to the 'cold' beer. And, we did have the customary rub with the TTE for smoking. As the night progressed, it began to progressively get cool and I blamed myself for not bringing a blanket. The windows of Southern Railway coaches refusing to close fully made matters a bit worse as the cool wind attacked mercilessly on the uncovered feet & face. Atleast I should have taken an upper berth.

As Salem & Tirrupur passed by, the guys started waking up. 4:30 am, we were at Coimbatore junction. After a photo sesion & a tea break, we started off in a 20 seater, a Swaraj Mazda, to Ooty. Lucky us, the girls were on their van too, just next to us. The guys had already gathered info regarding them - they too were on a 2 day trip to Ooty and they will be returning by the same Cheran Express we were to get back on. Ooty, here we come!!

With all our baggages packed on top of the van, it was an eventless climb, with cine music on & we 'singing' along. Reached 'Hare Rama, Hare Krishna', where Sathish had booked 5 nice cottages for us. The guys got their first disappointment - the hotel was 'Pure Vegeterian'! Soon their fears were allayed as the hotel's arrangement was to bring non-veg food cooked from outside.

After settling in, we were to have our breakfast & start our sight seeing tour. Breakfast was a lovely affair as we 3, Sathish, Raja & myself gouged somewhere inbetween 20-30 idlis, 10 vadas & 5-6 dosas altogether. We did keep the bearers occupied, didn't we?!

Our first place of visit was the pine forest. This has come in many a movie, recently in 'Dil', where 'un samayal araiyil...' was filmed. Compared to Kodai's pines, the earth was very much slippery and it lacked the fallen leaves which formed a soft carpet there. Next was a cine shooting spot too, just a lush green grassy slope, where the hero/heroine dance with 50 odd dance artistes in all our movies. It offered a spectacular view of the dense trees on one side and the city at the other. From there, to Pykara dam and falls. There was no water being released from the dam and so we had to satisfy ourselves with a very small 'falls'.

The boat house was our next stop. While some preferred the lazy motor boat option, I opted for the rusty paddle boat. Paired along with Ji, we talked about our college lives, work experiences & family. After an exhaustive 30 minutes of paddling which covered almost three-fourths of the man-made lake, we found ourselves sweating even in that somewhat chilly weather.

It was 3:30-4:00 pm by now and our stomachs had started craving for food. From the boat house to Coonoor bazar where we were to eat our late lunch. We decided to have a tiffin instead, (so that we can have a go at the buffet, that night) and it was Dosa/Puri this time. Compared to the morning, we 3 kept it 'light' this time though.

The next place of visit was Glenmorgan. Had heard about the steep winch but just didn't expect it to be that steep! Haa, it WAS steep and boy, wouldn't we have loved a journey in it! Sadly, it was under the control of TNEB and we weren't given permission :-( The view from the Glenmorgan cliff was too nice to describe.

It was window shopping time then, as we were allowed to roam the Charing Cross Hotel's small bazar where stores sold tea, home made chocolates, spices, oils, sweaters, toys, handicrafts and what not. The biggest purchase I made was a free monkey cap lent by Subbu! In between all these, a strange fancy caught the StorageTek guys - that of snapping Raja smoking a cigarette. It continued all for the 1-1/2 days. We did succeed in taking 2 pics of him with a cigarette to his mouth.

The exhaustive first day tour came to an end as we reached our cottages again. After the guys had settled down for a round of drinks, it was dinner time soon. The buffet was good though it didn't have much of a variety. The camp fire was the last item for the day. Kept thinking of the Kodai campfire which was a long drawn out affair, trying to burn the moist wood with litres of diesel, fighting the smoke from the eyes. But this time around, it went too smooth - the logs caught fire and everything ended in 30 minutes. Hey, weren't we supposed to sing & dance around? Hmm, sadly we didn't. May be makkal were a bit tired & wanted to sleep - badly.

Back to our cottages & playing cards again. Finally sleep caught up with us.

Day two, after a breakfast of masal dosas, (this time they didn't show us the idlis first!), many had trouble with their stomachs. A little late start than of the day before, but that didn't dampen our trip to Dodabetta. Its the highest peak in the Nilgiris, at around 2600 m, a little more than a quarter of Mount Everest's. It was sort of a failure, as I badly wanted misty clouds floating around. That sure would have made Dodabetta interesting.

>From Dodabetta to the Botanical Gardens. We did have jolly good time with snap after snap of ourselves before every kind of vegetation found over there. A few included having girls in the background too. Raja came up with the novel idea of playing 'bums'. A poor fella was chosen and we did have a go on his butt! Luckily, the plan to find more unlucky guys fizzled out.

It was lunch time again, and this time around we didn't want to miss a full non-veg lunch. We had a real lunch and of the three tables, our table topped with a bill of 1600 bucks! Our girls of the train too arrived to lunch in the same restaurant and we had a bonus treat for the eyes (which had gone so tired taking in all the bountiful nature) too ;-)

>From there, it was to Dolphin's Nose. On the way, a stop in a huge Tea Garden, supposedly of 230 acres (or was it 2300??) and belonging to the erstwhile Mumbai star Mumtaz. Nothing much about it as we were then taken to an estate shop where the goods were said to be cheap. Tea in various flavors, spices, 'home made' chocolates & oils again.

Dolphin's nose was a let down sort of. It was just another bend in the road. It too offered a panoramic view of the hills. The girls' van was here too, but they came as we started off.

It was the end of the tour, as we started climbing down. One last stop at the Coonoor market where we shopped for fruits and rusk. It was a fun ride down to the plains as guys were invited to dance in turns. Soon we were in Coimbatore, having dinner at one of the many Annapoorna's.

We weren't as lucky this time as the girls had another compartment. A sleepy ride back to Chennai by the Cheran Express, thinking of the week & work ahead...

(Aug 26, 2003)


Its a film coming from Shankar after 3-1/2 years, if we don't include 'Mudhalvan' being remade in Hindi. It had created a lot of expectations, but I think it'll only be a hit in the A centres, as the film is about and hence targets the college goers of liberalised India. The girls & the Indian family in general may find 'Boys' a letdown.

The film begins with an introduction of 5 college boys - Munna, Juju, Krishna, Bob & Kumar, their habits, family backgrounds & their 3 pass times - ponnunga, figurunga, girls. There's this neighbourhood girl, Harini, who all of them try to woo.

Vivek, portraying the role of an ICICI bank executive, joins the boys gang as a friend-philosopher-guide at a local bar. Each guy's plan to seduce Harini ends up in disaster. Oppurtunity knocks on their doors finally, as Harini herself comes and asks for help. On helping her, the boys get all beaten up, but end up with the catch prize - that of a date with Harini & her friends!

Munna is the one who finally catches the eye & mind of the pretty girl, but thanx to a prank played by Harini's friend, only after he crosses the Mount Road in nude & spends a day in jail.

Till then, the film is all play as the boys-girls affairs is shown Shankar ishtyle - funny but a bit too obscene. The parents come to know of the affair. They get all heated up as all parents do and come to the conclusion of separating the friends and putting conditions of no meeting afterwards.

The lovebirds find it hard and they do meet now and then, get caught in the process etc. Meanwhile Harini's parents decide to send her to the US for doing her MS. This makes Munna & Harini decide to tie the knot and they travel to Tirupati with friends & of course Vivek. On their way back, they are caught by the police and another showdown happens with their parents.

This time around, the boys with Harini all decide to fight it out by living on their own. Thanks to Vivek and other friends, they get petty part-time jobs, some real nasty quarters to live in (a pump house & an old car). But to continue their college studies, they require fee money for which they come up with the idea of coming out with an Iyyapan cassette. The cassette is a hit but all the money from it goes as advance for their newly rented house. When they try to rise money again, they are approached by a naxalite who wants them to write revolutionary songs. Not knowing who they are gonna work with, the boys & Harini end up being arrested under POTA.

Finally they do come out of it as they are proved to be innocent, but only after being put into the rigours of jail life. The colleges suspend them as they now have criminal records but Vivek eggs them on to put a pop music album this time.

They approach SONY and convince the top guy there of their talents. Disaster strikes again, as Harini gets angry and walks out of Munna & friends over a trifle matter - that of the boys' experience with a call girl before she got married to Munna. As expected, the music company guy remains adament that Harini should sing along.

The boys have no alternative but to go beg Harini to sing (reminds one of 'Minsara Kanavu'). Her mom agrees, but being a real vamp allows so only on the condition that Munna agrees for a divorce first. In between, Kumar sees the call girl traveling in a bus and in the bid to get her talk of the real things that happenned to Harini, dies tragically, getting run over by the bus.

The BOYS album gets made after all this mess & becomes a huge hit. The band bags the MTV music awards too. In the final court scene, Solomon Papiya comes as a judge and predictably, the couple gets rejoined in whats left of a sweet climax.

The song sequences are typical of Shankar - huge number of dance artistes ('Maaro Maaro', a modified cheaper version of the 'murasu' dance in 'Chandralekha') & graphic effects ('Boom Boom' by Adnan Sami & 'girlfriend venum'). Rahman doesn't have many scenes to emote, so his BGM comes out fine. Seems the film was remade after 'Thulluvadho Illamai' came & Sujata rewrote the whole script. That really has taken its toll as the screenplay lacks vigour and the events are so predictable. The 'convent' Tamil being spoken through out slightly irritates. But the enthu & raw talent of the youngsters, the catchy music/dance sequences, combined with some (Vivek) humor make the film somewhat watchable.

(Sep 2, 2003)


The film begins with an old man alongwith his family visiting a graveyard. You get 2 know that its a war cemetery with the camera going along the symmetrical array o' crosses (and some Stars of David too, afterall Spielberg is a Jew!) where soldiers souls r supposedly 2 RIP. As he kneels down on one o' the graves and cries, the camera zooms into his bluey eyes, and as in 'Titanic' we know we'll b transported into a flashback.

The flashback begins with soldiers, obviously of the Allied command preparing the landing at Omaha beach, Normandy, France. The liberation o' Europe is abo' 2 begin. What a foolish hapless way 2 go abo'! As the boats near the shoreline, the doors are thrown open and the German bullets rip thru' the helplessly defenceless soldiers.

The camera whirs past frames where men die in every gruesome way you can think of (a man lying with his intestines lying beside him, one's leg gets thrown away shot by a shell, a third gets hit on his helmet with a sniper bullet and while he's still dazed with shock, another bullet hits him right on his forhead throwing his brains out) while machine gun fire provide the background.

There's also a scene where unanaestic surgery is performed with the man crying out aloud first, the crying ebbing out 2 muffles as he goes unconscious due 2 pain. As all this is going on, we somehow find Tom Hanks, the hero of the film, trying 2 commandeer his men 2 get into the German bunkers line. He, alongwith some men get cover fire & get 2 hide. With a gum from one o' his Privates, Hanks sticks a mirror 2 a bayonet and sees the German position. He then sends his sharp shooter 2 clean the man behind the machine gun. Once the gun stops 2 fire, every Allied soldier goes over and shoots whoever German they come across.

There r sentimental scenes too, a soldier collecting the beach sand and putting 'em into a tin marked France, to his collection of such tins marked 'Italy' & 'Austria'.

As the beach comes into the Allied Forces' hands and as the sea turns red with blood & corpses strewn everywhere, the scene shifts 2 a war office in America. An old woman clerk stumbles across some info which she thinks wud b important. The info being, 3 outa 4 brothers belonging 2 the same family r dead. And the fourth, had been parachuted into France, his whereabouts, whether he is dead or alive unknown. The humane Major decides 2 send a rescue mission 2 get back the only guy back so as it wud console the poor parents back home.

Imagine the situation of every American household when they see the black car (which carried the death news of fathers/husbands/brothers/sons killed at some far-off land) rolling 2 their house. Mrs. Ryan seeing the car, just sits down, her old legs giving away.

Now, the job of safely bringing back Pvt. James Ryan (nice 2 c boyish Matt Damon who plays the hero in 'Bourne Identity') back home. Tom Hanks chooses his own men and labours across France to find this young gentleman. After criss-crossing the French countryside, they somehow find Ryan, but not bfo' a faux paus in which another Ryan being mistaken for the man in ?. This part provides a brief humour scene in the otherwise war torn film.

Much to the chagrin of Captn. Miller, (thats Hanks' name in the film, he says he was teaching English Composition back home in one scene) Pvt. Ryan refuses 2 leave his post. So, 2 just make the film along, the whole gang decides 2 stay back alongwith the Allied command 2 complete the operation of carrying out a rout o' an incoming German unit into the French town.

So, all's set and under Hanks, his men wait for the Germans 2 enter the wrecked town. While they wait for the Germans, with an old country song played by a rickety radio, Damon remembers one o' his good ol' memoirs spent along with his family. As he finishes, Hanks' hands begin 2 tremble as he senses the approaching enemy.

The final battle as a long climax begins. Molotov cocktails are thrown into tanks' throats, greased bundles of dynamites stuck to their wheels xplode crippling 'em o' movement. The Allies lose their men too, for instance, the sharp shooter as he keeps shooting the Germans down from a church tower, he finally being shot down by a tank shell. Also, a guy dies in a pool of blood as the German with whom he's fighting drives a knife very very slowly into his heart. Finally the battle and the film ends as Allied Fighter/bomber aircraft fly over and the Germans surrender.
The film is full o' vivid war scenes like showing grenades xploding directly on men as fire envelops 'em, a soldier hit in his gut lying there as blood oozes out, he dying finally with muffled sobs o' 'mummy', 'mummy', a German carefully aiming his scope lens crosswires on the sharp shooter, only 2 find the bullet from the shooter hit him through the scope into his own aiming eye & many such scenes.



In the third & concluding part of 'The Matrix' trilogy named 'Revolutions', Neo 'The One' as identified by the Oracle breaks all rules, fights his way with his eyes blinded & there's peace between the machines & the humans at last.

Just to unnerstand the trilogy, a recap o' what happened in the first 2 parts. In the not so distant future, as many SciFi novels have warned, the human race is gonna be ruled by the computers & m/cs. The Wachowski twins as directors have a new story to tell. In this, there is this whole new set up where human embryos are cultivated in a controlled environment. We humans make the best energy cells, taking in food & converting it into energy that the machines require for their own running. Just for the humans to 'think' that they are still living in the real world, the machines run programs that have the humans make-believe they are living normally where as actually its just a virtual world, the Matrix (pronounced The Maiyy-trix). The idea was so revolutionary that made one wonder whether we are here for real!

There are some humans who due to their extraordinary brains escape this matrix, waking themselves up and start to live elsewhere outside of the m/c controlled world. Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) & others are some such individuals who are out of the machine controlled world. They are there to rescue Thomas Anderson @ Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) who's breaking out into consciousness from the virtual world. According to an oracle, Neo is 'The One' who is gonna be the saviour of all humankind.

Once Neo's rescued by Morpheus and brought abroad their ship (named 'Nebuchadnezzar' in memory of the gr8 Egyptian king), the action starts as they try repeatedly to break the machine programs, in particular one Agent Smith, who's after trapping Neo. As usual, Neo being the hero shows tremendous prowess, even dodges bullets & escapes every time from Smith & his baddies. In the climax of part one, we see Neo with Trinity's help rescuing his good friend Morpheus from the villains.

In the second part, we are taken to Zion, the last city of human resistance that still survives the machines. Nothing much happens in this part. Neo dreams of Trinity being shot by Agent Smith. And finally, when that happens, he's there to save Trinity. The important character in this film is the key maker, who makes the key for Neo to get anywhere inside the machine world. The film also says of how the rogue program Agent Smith self-multiplies, just like our current age viruses/worms causing much harm to the machines themselves as also for the humans.

'Revolutions', the concluding part of the trilogy brings in more characters. We are told of how Neo is trapped in a world between the two worlds and can only be brought back by the program named TrainMan. Neo wakes up to find himself in a subway station The TrainMan hits Neo hard and takes back only the other 3 people in the station. (who happen to be Indians! the girl child Sati is so cute in her acting while the Indian father's karma/love related dialogue is a bit too long). Neo tries running away from the station, only to come back into it from the other side. This can be taken as one of the rare humor scenes. Meanwhile, Morpheus & Trinity, with a 'proposal that he cannot refuse', make TrainMan bring Neo back to them.

Meetings with the Oracle happen more than once and she has more of a part 2 play in this concluding part. The worst fears of the humans are confirmed as the machines are just a few hours away from breaking the hull of the city Zion. Various plans of actions are discussed to hit back at the machines & the action sequences start. There are these giant APUs (Armed Personnel Units) which take on the machines that look like octopuses made of steel with camera eyes. The APUs with their very clumsy movements have tremendous firepower though, as they fire hundreds of rounds at the swarming, seemingly endless streams of those machine devils.

As the war at Zion rages on (first round victory to the humans), Neo with Trinity in a spaceship of their own enter the machine world. At the very end of their journey, Neo loses Trinity, goes alone and strikes up an agreement with the Machine Head. He agrees to destroy Agent Smith and if he succeeds, there'll be truce between the machines & humans. He wins the last fight sequence with the Agent and (temporary!) peace returns to the human world.

Oof, that was pretty long. Actually there's more to the Matrix trilogy than the above. By more I mean more characters (like Niobe, Link) and more sub-plots (like that of Merovingian's). I may even be wrong in conveying whatever happened in this bizarre series. The first part stormed the world by its innovative idea and its no wonder that we now have a cult following similar to that of the Star Wars. In general, the use of fast paced martial fight sequences in a futuristic film combined with brilliant graphics make this trilogy a must see.

(Nov 15, 2003)