Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja

It would be too presumptuous to write a review for this movie. Not because it is not possible, but for me, it introduced an unnoticed gem of a person from our own culture. Also, I must state the wonderful relationship Mammooty and Mohanlal have in their film career. I see very often that the one comes and comperes in the other person's movies. You don't see that every where!

BTW, is this person, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja for real? It is too fairy tailish to even believe - but yes, apparently he existed! Some notes from the movie:

* He chooses guerrilla warfare for fighting the British. Guns in a war situation, but only knives and swords in the forest. Because the forest is more important than individual people.

* In one instance, he says that the taxes imposed by the East India company causes farmers to commit suicide. I was thinking - isn't the Indian Government allowing the suicides today!?! Apparently, much hasn't changed.

* In many situations and contexts, he keeps asking - why are traders allowed to collect taxes and tell *us* where *we* should be? I always kept wondering this for several years now. I remember that scene I watched many many years ago from Gandhi where a British judge fines Gandhi for his protest. I remember thinking "Why is this guy telling Gandhi to pay? Who put him in that seat and why is he taking that power upon himself?". I am wondering if the Iraqi's are thinking the same today!

* The fact that Pazhassi Raja created people who laid their lives down for him without second thought speaks a lot about the man!

* One scene where Pazhassi Raja's closest aide and his 17-18 year old son are about to be hanged in public - as a sign of disgracing them and instilling fear on the public. The man asks his son - "Are you scared?". His son replies "No.". The man replies,  "Don't be. If you are scared, they win and we lose!". Too much power in that scene. What an expectation out of a teenager! And they both go without a whimper!

* Apparently, the greatest of the kings have all gone because of betrayals! Here there are two people! So sad.

* This man had the guts to go single handed into a British camp to confront an group of armed people (with guns). He also had the talent to come out alive (but injured).

* He displays a primal passion for his land and its people. But he also displays immense wisdom to act as per situational demands. To examples - he sides the British in a war to fight against Tipu Sultan in one situation. He also signs a treaty with the British because his feud with the British causes immense discomfort to his people (a sort of a win-win treaty which the British didn't bother to honor).

* That final scene is an overpoweringly emotional scene. It will be etched for long!

I am sort of ashamed that I grew up without hearing about him. I think it will be a worthwhile exercise to go back and read about the freedom struggle again to know about the folks who stood up like this. I hope this movie breaks-even without causing a loss. We need more elucidations of this kind.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zen and the art of straight razor shaving

I dislike shaving. I usually let my beard and mustache grow for three weeks, or more, to the point I encounter raised eyebrows from my colleagues and not so subtle complaints from relatives. The only alternative at that point is to head to a barber. Heading to the barber is painful for a different reason - waiting for weekends, queue and the loong delay. I therefore had a rule to shave after two weeks. But I don't. Go back to the paragraph beginning.

So the win-win situation is self shaving. The problem is that with the current razors available, the load is too much for them to handle. I always used to wonder why the regular "straight razor" (read: barber razor) wasn't commonly available in markets. I have been looking for them for a long time now. My conclusion is marketing. If you watched "The Story of Stuff", Ann talks about "perceived obsolescence".  It's the way of marketers to make the barbers razor look archaic. You can also make out by the fact that the number of blades in the hitech razor are increasing. Started with 2, then 3, now 4. The Gillette 3 razor blade is a ridiculous 300+ bucks.

Last week, in Coimbatore, I finally found a straight razor. I am not letting go of that anytime soon :)
The experiment of self shaving had mixed results. In addition to perceived obsolescence, there is a valid point of safety. I had four cuts on my face after my attempt at shaving. White foam on face with red spots is an eerie sight. Another thing I noted was straight razor shaving is an art. It is a way of wielding the razor with deft angling to get the shave done - the consequence otherwise being a mini sword battle with the skin. I realized that a barber possesses a skill - it is not mere infrastructure access.

Anyway, after my self-shave, I had serrated skin, 4 cuts, but a full shave (one month+ beard). I will give 3 points for the quality of the shave but much more points for not chickening out :)

Note of confession: The final piece had to be completed with the modern 3-blade razor. I will learn though!

Note of "go to hell": I recently saw a 5-razor blade by Gillette, which was motorized to give a "smooth shave". It cost 675 bucks. This is sheer misuse of marketing hedging on the safety aspect.

Why Zen? Well, if what you do is a matter of life-or-death for you, your task has the spirit of Zen. Here it is literally so!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Comparison of transportation segments

I was doing some analysis about fuel consumption by common modes of transport, along with their emission levels.

Though some facts were superficially obvious, drilling down into the data and accounting for "per capita" contextualization, some results were surprising. You can view the spreadsheet here.

  1. Train transportation is peerless in terms of emission and comfort. Data for CO2 levels for train is hard to determine because electricity is used. But account for 1000 people traveling at a time, it intuitively becomes obvious it is very hard to beat a train. Add the fact that on overnight travels, you can sleep and travel, it even fudges the time factor to an extent
  2. Bus is almost as good in terms of emission levels and cost per head. However, it takes a back seat when it comes to travel comfort
  3. Surprisingly, emission levels from an aircraft are not that appalling if you factor in "per capita". In fact, its better in some instances than traveling by car.
  4. Aircraft travel, hands down beats all other transport segments on travel time. I think this is one area where no other segment even comes close
  5. Diesel cars are the cheapest when it comes to traveling on full load (4 folks). 
  6. Again, diesel cars emit highest levels of CO2  at lowest load (one person traveling).
  7. Petrol cars are the costliest mode of transportation. No surprise!

The verdict?

  1. Hop on a train. You can travel without guilt and rest in peace. However, availability is a factor. If you account for multiple parameters (emission, cost, convenience and over night travel fudging the time to an extent as well), there is no comparison to a train. There is also the advantage of dedicated transportation lane which removes uncertainty on speed compared to bus or car.
  2. Ditto for bus travel, if you can take the discomfort. For a lot of folks the discomfort is a big deal. Additionally, ladies might find restroom breaks overnight to be an issue.
  3. Use an airplane if you're too crunched for time. It's not a good idea to get used to the "reduced time" as a convenience factor. One thing to keep in mind is that air-travel includes hidden time (travel to air port, check in / security checks and some waiting time to the tune of 30 minutes to an hour). They are practical bottlenecks and must be accounted to get a true picture.
  4. Diesel cars are cost effective. If on full load, they are ultra-cost effective. Convenience is an issue
  5. Avoid, if possible, long distance car travel alone. The balance vis-a-vis cost and emission levels makes it painful.
  6. If you are traveling very long distance - 700 kms plus - there is no overnight luxury. A good part of your day will get eaten up. I think as distance increases, air travel is the only viable option. Some people enjoy the long snake cruising across multiple states (Dhyan Yatra comes to mind!), which is also an option if you have the time.
  7. If people own private jets (big CEO's mostly), you can see it is a massive fail! Why not travel 1st class on commercial aircraft to factor in per capita consumption? The only way this is ok if you're doing world work that is hugely impacting the global mass on a positive way. Anybody fits the bill?
  8. International travel pretty much rules out every other form of transport except air!

  1. Aircraft fuel consumption information taken from ATR website. Needless to say, differing aircrafts will have different consumption levels. But it does provide a good benchmark reference to how airplanes perform. Same argument for car consumption also.
  2. Gasoline/Diesel emission levels from EPA.
  3. Some aircrafts travel higher speeds (800 kmph for example) - which tilts the equation more in their favor in terms of time.

Tweetposts - 15th May 2010

Enjoy sending "cypc2md" to my colleagues on IM. One person came to my desk and said sadly, "Sorry, I did not understand what it means!". I told him, "It worked!". Get it?
Unfortunately, this surprise will last only once per colleague!

If you're in Chennai, CTC is organizing a massive coastal clean up of the Marina beach (leading up to the Injambakkam zone). It's not too late to join.

Facebook and privacy seem to be waging a bitter war. Should probably take a more detailed look at this. It will be sad if majority lose trust on the site. It's not the first time anyone is talking about this. NYT sometime carried a more easier representation of Facebook's privacy options. The two major problems multiple people are facing are the following:
1) Concerns regarding what was once private information becoming public owing to privacy policy changes (without the user authorizing the change)
2) Not being able to trust FB (as Scobleizer pointed out)

All we need to know is that it's possible. True for me (meaning, I needed that article)!
PS: The PS on that article makes me sad!

I am wondering what it would be like if people boycotted all products endorsed by celebrities? After all, its the consumers who're paying Sachin to drink Pepsi right? But that would mean I cannot use a mobile service provider in India! :)

Obama says "Car hungry China and India will worsen fuel crisis"
Dude! Clean up your house first. All this from a man representing a country that is consuming 40% of what the world is consuming totally. The crisis will inevitably get worse unless we break through with some innovation. If we look further ahead, the crisis might actually be good. But it is going to leave a lot of unpleasantness (civil, national and international) in its trail.
Actually, some student in China asked someone representing US - "you used up all the available fossil fuels to get where you're now, and you're here to tell us we cannot do that?"
It's not a fair argument, but the US has to answer this question properly. The only relevant way to do that is to become a leader in the long term vision for energy consumption, use and innovation. You cannot speak out to other nations when you're guzzling 40% of what the world owns today.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is the Internet making us stupid?

Found a very interesting article here:

The title "Yes, the Internet is rotting your brain" was provocative enough to warrant a reading.
The bottomline is that the Internet (and big G) are causing an attention deficit.

I don't think this aspect requires much research. It is true! Simple fact being, there is too much to read/see/do on the Internet. The tendency is to jump all over the place. However, as the article/the book indicate, it's not a good thing.

Some things in life are only attained by patient consistent effort. I can also see that this attention deficit, that manifests in terms of impatience, hurry and a constant pull towards the "next thing" is present for me during browsing.

Needless to say, it has to change. Extreme attention deficiency is a disease! This was discussed earlier in the context of Twitter as well.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

What I am listening to now...

prejudice/bias warning ahead!

1Nandhavana Kuyile...[IR]...iLaiyarAjAPonnu VetukkaranI remember the time this album came out. We (I a couple of IR nutcases at the time) knew the album was destined to be a flop along with the movie. I still brought the album, the loyal IR fan I was. This song came in two flavors, one sang by HH and the other by IR. It turned out that, as the HH version finished, if I flipped the cassette (yes, those old days!), the IR version would start. I skipped the other songs in the cassette and would do this ritual. I can't even count how many times I must have listened to this.

One time, during a trip on the train to college, I was miming the charanam of this song. A friend got curious and asked me which movie/song this was. I told him the name - then he wanted to listen to the song himself. After some follow ups etc, he got to listen to it. He loved it, then remarked,
""just imagine, I got hooked to it even when it was *you* who was singing""! Nice gesture of gratitude.

But, yes, beautiful song! Unfortunately, our culture of running after ""hit songs"" causes these gems to go unnoticed. Whose loss is it anyway! I later sang this song at an audition for one of my company programs. Of course, I got chucked out!
2thAyuNdu...iLaiyarAjAkOyil kALaiOnce when travelling in car with a colleague, the song from Guna, ""appaNenRum..."" started playing. My friend remarked, ""this song is such a mood drainer"" - not in a positive sense. I knew why he was saying that. That song would make you devoid of all thoughts, emotions and desires. I view it in a positive sense.

This song is somewhat of the same category. Of all years of music listening, IR's voice holds a special place in my heart. The ""bhAvam"" he is capable of bringing to the song is unbeatable. Add to it, his Spiritual inclination/bearing/disposition, I think there is some
magnetic attraction to it. Of course, coming from an IR nutcase, you should take it with some skepticism.

""thiNNaiyil nAn vaLarnthum theruvil tharmam kEtkavillai, mElum yEn intha sirumai?"" (I grew up without a home, yet I never begged for anything.Why still this disgrace?) How Raja sir? I think as the musical appreciation of our culture evolves over time, we will reach a point where
we will bow down to IR. The musical Goddess flows through him at his will and whim. I do not know who the lyricist of this song is, but I feel in my gut that it is IR. Only he can write this way!
3I Love my India…Nadeem ShravanPardesIf the world is a bride, India is the bhindi on her forehead.
I do not know who the lyricist is, but he/she should take a bow! It is not possible to give a more precise and apt description for India! The analogy hits home powerfully! The bhindi is not of any utilitarian value. But when a woman/girl wears the bhindi, the gestalt of the face changes. Suddenly, the face takes on a deeper dimension. It's so hard to explain, but so easy to grasp!

But a song on India! The song more relates to the culture of the nation, but the culture has it roots on the Spiritual foundation of the nation, so it is close to impossible to talk about them separately. The tune also ""clicked"". I wouldn't have imagined NS to come up with a tune of this calibre. I guess, when the right team and the right situation meet, things happen better than you expect.

The emotions on this song are not about patriotism. It is about a love affair with the culture. For someone steeped in it, a material life will look alien. That is what the story is about anyway.

One mystic wrote ""I am hallowed; my body touched that sod."" - referring to India. His body touched the soil of India, and it is more than enough for Him - that is the power of this space. Any person any where who awakens within has to trace his or her root back to this space. I am more than
awed that this song managed to capture that magic!
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