Saturday, April 26, 2008

Isha Yoga Program at AIG, Chennai

Even though "Waves of Bliss" is scheduled for May 2008, the corporate programs have begun in April 2008. Several teachers from CBE are already here in Chennai to conduct the programs. This particular class I am referring to had 35 participants from AIG. Today being Saturday, there was a sharing session on "BSP". For the period during which I have volunteered, this was
my first sharing experience :). Standing before 35 folks and trying to convey what happened
during BSP without revealing program content in a two minute window. Hmmm, of course
I am typing all this in retrospect, I walked there and spoke whatever came to my mind.
Not sure if that prompted someone to decide to take BSP or decide no for good - LOL!

Ma Erin is the one conducting the aforementioned class. I had some other plans for Saturday
and Sunday, but the way she asked if I could make it - it was not possible to say no!
Things happen at Isha!

Speaking about "Waves fo Bliss" - Anandha Vikatan issued a Free VCD with this week's issue
(25th Apr 2008). That is an amazing promo, for AV reaches all of TN. The VCD includes
an introductory speech by Sadhguru, QA with Sadhguru and a sharing section from
practitioners of the IYP. The most telling aspect is that IY is changing hats - from being
polite to being candid :). This also correlates directly to Sadhguru's earlier Satsang "let us
make some noise" just after Gramotsavam.

I am pretty sure the VCD will be on YouTube sometime very soon.

Finally, I read this about Sadhana. I still don't get it :-(

“When a person doesn’t seek anything but still he can act totally, with utmost intensity, then there is a way. If you seek, then something else happens; you get entangled with this, then nothing happens. So the whole process of spiritual dimension or the path is just because people don’t get this distinction. They have a mind which doesn’t allow them to be intense and involved with anything where there is nothing to get. That is the reason why it seems to be a great sadhana or struggle; otherwise, it is nothing. If you see this aspect, if you just eliminate this one calculation – “What can I get?” and simply you know how to throw yourself into everything that is around you, then 90% of the sadhana is over in one stroke. Simply, it’s over.”
- Sadhguru

Global Famine Warning?

A few weeks back, "The Hindu" reported a UN warning about wheat shortage in the world and trends in increasing wheat prices. That time, I had spoken about this with a few friends. My prediction was that Africa would be the most hit with developed nations deciding to consume grains themselves. My view point was very limited and I had made the statement without much understanding. Japan, US are all "net importers" of wheat and rice and a shortage warning is already in place there. Major shopping outlets are now "rationing" rice and wheat there. Personally, I did not think this would happen so soon. Economically, it would have been a rude awakening to US, Japan, and possibly several developed nations in the world. Several exporting countries have decided to become "consuming silos" in the wake of this and have either
stopped exporting or reduced exports (for example India, Pakistan, Kazhakastan) and
the outcomes are mixed and unpredictable because the transportation and consumption channels are vast and complex. In this situation, apparently, money is not the key. I also fear it is way (way way) too late to do anything about this. The world population is not going to reverse
itself overnight. This may or may not be a temporary phenomenon, but there would be
other implications that will begin to show up as we continue to treat (and as repercussions of the way we have treated) a finite planet as if it were an unlimited supply engine. Our past history shows we do not know to handle situations like this gracefully, but I hope we do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The Indian Premier League, which was initially labelled as a rebel organization, has finally kicked off its tournament amid lot of frenzy. One must say it is living up to it's hype, gauging purely by public support. The fact that it is not "ICC official" seems to have very little bearing to the euphoria of the atmosphere. To me, the real positives of the tournament are the following:

1) The cultural mix this tournament brings in was previously only seen in charity matches or one off arrangements. You never see McGrath playing for Delhi or Symonds playing for Hyderabad. Infact Rahul Dravid joked that it was very unusual to see him hit a four in Mumbai with no one clapping!

2) The money! Leave out the star players, the IPL now creates an opportunity for so many other stakeholders to make more money!

3) Perhaps, most importantly, the kind of possibilities for Indian youngsters to play in the company of incredible international talent is excellent. It is a great confidence booster and provides very valuble experience which would be hard to come by otherwise.

4) The cheerleading squad.... Ok, never mind!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Random thoughts on a weekend

A new project to construct a railway link into the Chennai Airport has been drafted. It is a good move as it also connects a few other locations for which there are no railway connectivity currently (Washermanpet etc). I feel a massive project to link all of Chennai is due now - something to the tune of how NYC is currently operating. It will be a massively expensive project (the airport project is ~2000 Cr), but it is worth it. In ten years time, the traffic situation in Chennai will be excruciatingly slow (it already is during peak hours) - train travel will be the only way to reach a place in consistent time.

Again, in relation to the train project, there must also be an initiative to increase the average speed of an Indian train. It must currently average 60kmph. The joke is that within this limit there are umpteen classifications (passenger, express, fast passenger, superfast, superfast express). China recently launched a train that hits 350KMPH! And they call it a "bullet" train appropriately! The bullet train covers a 120KM distance in 30 minutes! My office is ~60km away and it takes 1.5 hours today.

An interesting analysis about the new work-culture that technological advancements are spawning. Office -> Telecommute -> Nomadic. I have sort of glimpsed all three of them essentially because I work in a "production support" environment. Otherwise, my office is generally operating on a "office" culture! Telecommute is rarely allowed, nomadic culture is for executives. I sort of disagree with this demarcation, but there is a lot of complexity in managing the nomadic culture in a 90K employee organization. Without proper process or tracking, it will be insanity!

Jaya TV's "ennOdu pAttu pAdungaL" ("என்னோடு பாட்டு பாடுங்கள்") by SPB is becoming very popular now and they have switched the program to prime time. Yesterday, apart from the regular program event, SPB divulged into social responsibility. He talked about the "spitting culture" and "chewing gum culture" (if you chew gum you are a "cool" guy). I liked this idea of introducing side notes into the main program - every one sees what is going around them, but we sort of take it all for granted. Either, we do not care, or we back off seeing the enormity of the change needed. When some one like SPB talks about these things, people at least tend to listen.

Long after it happened, I had a chance to view Rajni's speech on the Hogenekal issue. Outside the specifics of the issue, the amazing aspect is his ability to cause ripples across both states through his speech. About the issue, we are in a very sad situation. Sadhguru said (out of context - he spoke in general), "... instead of celebrating our differences, we are fighting over it...". The only difference between TN and Karnataka, apart from the imaginary border, is the language being spoken - and we are unable to agree over a protocol to share water. More shameful is that this is being used for political mileage. Situations like these make me think about our 10,000 year culture, then a deep sigh, and then laughter!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vantage Point

There are spoilers! It takes too much craftiness to comment about this movie without spoiling...

If you saw "Ayutha Ezhuthu", you already have a flavor of the screenplay of this movie. Except, over here, there are eight POV's. It amazes me how might time goes into writing a screenplay like these. Each POV presents so many loose ends which must be accounted for in a different prespective the next time. It also is very pleasing to see MR thinking so much ahead of time!

Another interesting facet is that we don't have this luxury in real life. We only have our first person perspective and there is so much that we do not know. Each person is living in a different world, and the tagline for the movie is "One Truth" - wow! It is a mystical metaphor! :)

Within the second minute or so, the movie kicks off into high gear and stops only when the movie ends.

A few things that bothered me:

1) A clear shot at the president - I would assume the security checks would have covered that?

2) Remote assassination? Is that like the next genre of technology? Are we already there yet? Or is that like a fancy James Bond gadget?

3) Sigourney Weaver was totally wasted in this movie. I could not see any reason for using her in a character that probably did not require her presence. The only reasonable explanation could be that she was edited out.

4) There is no dearth for thrills or action, but there are no emotions. So at the end of the movie, you finally have a ringside view of everything, but the lack of subjectivity in the movie will be a sore point as it leaves nothing for the audience to relate to. Even at the end, for what Dennis Quaid went through, a shallow "Thank You" from the President seems totally off sync.

Overall, the movie is an admirable effort, but it doesn't pull it off completely. Case in point for a movie that did manage to pull something off like that: "The Bourne Ultimatum"!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Whose property is it anyway?

A few days ago, when traveling on the train, I noticed that a neat semi-circular section of the train seat had been cut off. It definitely was not an 
accident as can be seen from the way it has come off. Also, this sight is not 
new - I had seen the same scene at least three or four times before.


Somehow, somewhere - we have it in us that anything outside our home is not ours. 
Even if that would be the case, why spoil a perfectly good seat?

A few years back (probably ten years even), I read an article about a German woman
who was stitching the seat of a train on which she was traveling. Apparently, the
startled co-passenger (an Indian), asked her why she was doing that. The reply
was - "my seat is broken, I am mending it.". With a ten-thousand year culture,
where are still tottering about like infants when it comes to social responsibility.

Yet another incident (involving Germany again!) narrated by actor Vivek. They had
been to Germany for a drama programme. His friend spit (oh yeah!) chewing gum on
the road after he had finished with it. A lady who was watching this came over, picked
the gum with a paper napkin and threw it in a nearby dustbin!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Music and Lyrics

Listening to Music is one of my big-time "passions"! Of this, TFM (Tamil Film Music) takes a big chunk of time. For quite a few years, my listening was music-centric. Then the lyrics for the song gained importance as well. A couple of years ago, during an IR interview, he gave an eye (ear?)-opening explanation about how the lyrics need to fit with the mood of the song (I guess this is a no-brainer), but also to the nuances of how the music moves. For example, if the music is rising in pitch, the lyrics need to fit with this rise by moving upwards as well. Otherwise, they will strike a discordant note. He sang with examples to illustrate the point. It left me wondering, how many lyricists are even aware of this requirement, because it made perfect sense. That point onwards, this aspect would come to my awareness whenever I listened to songs. To further diversify this requirement,

TFM songs can either have lyrics written down for music (load is on the lyricist)
Can have music composed for lyrics (music director's onus to fit both)

Often, it is also the case (again IR illustrated this with an example) where lyrics need to take a back seat to accentuate music. The need is contextual and the lyricist needs to understand when to do this. The example IR used was "sunthari kannAl oru sEthi" from thaLapathi, where he explained Vaali used very simple words so that the lyrics *do not* stand out compared to the music.

I still do not understand this fully, and will probably take a few more years to grasp fully. But even as I listen now-a-days, I come across examples of all kinds - awesome fits, neither-good-nor-bad types and outright bad fits (I wrote an example sometime back).

Awesome fits:
vizhiyum vizhiyum... (sathurangam by vidyasagar - music composed for lyrics)
nallathor vinai seithen... (bharathi by ilaiyaraja - music composed for lyrics)
thathhom thalangu... (vettri vizha by ilaiyaraja - lyrics for music)
masaru ponne varuga... (devar magan by ilaiyaraja - not sure)
kaadu pottal kaadu... (karuthamma by ARR - not sure)

Bad fits:
yakkai thiri (ayutha ezhuthu by ARR - music composed for lyrics). The tune for the song is too dramatic to fit with the lyrics, even though the tune by itself is quite good.

There should be several more :)

On a different topic, some time back I wrote about anjAthE and it's BGM. I recently got the audio CD and noticed that several songs were excellently composed by Sundar C Babu. He looks like a great find to TFM and should definitely be on the watch-list for future projects. Also seems that he and Mysskin are striking up a good chemistry - similar to ARR/MR, IR-Balu Mahendra, Bharadwaj-Saran. The other point that I made about the movie's BGM - on second thought, take it with a dose of skepticism. It may be quite good, considering how solid the songs are composed. I saw the movie only once, and I probably may/will not see the movie again in the same detail. Keep in mind that so much of the movie runs silently, it will take an 
extraordinary effort for the MD to come out with flying colors and this
 is only his second (?) movie. 
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