Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tweetposts - 29th July 2010, Thursday

We read inspiring things. We acknowledge them honestly. It is because it resonates with us deeply. But life is unrelenting. It lets us transform only if we implement it in the “here and now”. Otherwise, what we read and acknowledge fades off in due course. That is why it is said, taking one step is better than planning a million steps!

Was reading about why people in India take “aarathi”. The science behind it is fascinating. We’ve now forgotten the science and are doing it as a ritual. But even that is said to have some benefits. My point is that, despite all this it is beautiful. The thought that something so insightful is still alive, albeit in a faded form is exciting! With the right keys and people, we can easily revive it! The culture in this place is replete with things like this.

This is an age of information overload. There is no cure for it. An important exercise everyone needs to do is to make sure it doesn’t cause an attention deficit. And part of that is realizing it is impossible to keep up with it all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tweetposts - 26th July 2010, Monday

After Iraq, we now have new news about what is going on in Afghanistan. It is becoming more disillusioning because all that we seem to get is sensationalism. There is apparently no change in the actions. May be it is wiser to let this all go – cat closing its eyes. My first impression after the Iraq news was that it would cause a thunderbolt across the operations in US. I apparently need a lesson on world politics.

My car is the best place to be now – the music and the drive – two perfectly matched elements! Was listening to a song sung by Hariharan and my first thought was how it would have been rendered by iLaiyarAja. There are actually a few songs where we have both versions – most notable being the classic one from kAdhalukku mariyAthai. I always felt that IR’s rendition have a power packed emotional depth to them – but my bias towards him is very strong, so I like to view it as personal preference. There are also some songs where I have felt it would have been better if IR had sung them (ex, “adhikalai nilave” from uRuthimozhi). Over the last two weeks, my emotional affinity towards his compositions and him has been very strong. Becoming very mellow when I think about it!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tweetposts - 24th July 2010

I remember the story of a man who goes to a sage. He tells the sage that his home is too small for his family of three. The sage asks him if he had cows. The man says he does, and so the sage asks him to move the cows into his home. He man is exasperated but does it. A week later he is more miserable and goes back to the sage. The sage repeats the instructions, this time for the pigs he has. Another week later for the hens he has. Eventually, the man goes back to the sage and tells him he can no longer live in his house because it is hell! The sage asks him to move out all the animals and birds out. A week later the man joyously comes back and tells the sage he has so much space to live!
I remembered this story at the railway station yesterday - if India is that home, where do we move the excess people? We can do so much if we were one third our size in population. Any thing we do gets dissipated so rapidly because of this. I don't think it is still too late to start. If we start now, we can get there in 30 or 40 years. Just two parameters - birth and death rate. We should bring the birth rate below the death rate. The hurdle is in getting a billion sized nation on board willingly. And no one who can make a difference (big G) seems to be interested.

Also made me realize, the heart of the nation ticks because of railways! Roadways and airways simply don't scale for the population. Watching a train scream through a railway station or a signal crossing makes me realize how much our lives here are twined with the presence of the railway system!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Story of Cosmetics

No explanation needed!

Secret Santa

I’ve known about this game for quite some time, but have never been a participant. I guess I never had the situation so far and my response has been “Oh well!”

This time, I have two friends to rag at office – and I like the culture of this game! There is a boyish (girlish) excitement going on in the team about making friends do things. There is a general buzz going on in the team area and I think it helps with the team bonding with activities outside of work scope.

The other challenge is in finding fun, creative things for friends to do.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Making a difference!

I think talking about world situation without doing anything about it - in part or in whole is akin to "feel goodness". The talk in itself might look like a nice substitute!

I had mixed feelings about online petitions. I admired the gesture and making a statement, but in terms of making a difference, I didn't know what reach they could have had. Two incidents, both from made me realize that a group of people, who do not know each other, all over the globe can collectively voice and make a difference.

The first one is the petition to continue the suspension of international whaling. Ridiculously, I cannot imagine that nations continue to whale and want to continue to whale pushing the species close to extinction. Why can't we collectively agree on something that is good for the planet?

The other one is a reprieve for Sakineh, who is charged of adultery in Iran, and was supposed to be stoned to death. I personally think Governments should leave the personal lives of adults to themselves as long as they are not a threat to others in the society. In any case, the charge here on Sakineh appears to be dubious - especially given the fact she doesn't speak the language and has hence retracted her confession. Other - stoning by death is the crudest (cruelest) form of punishments. Again, the petition has worked and bowing to international pressure, she will not be stoned. She might still be hanged. 

There are multiple petitioning agencies, Greenpeace and avaaz for example. If we can create one unified international voice for common causes, it will be great!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The bane of apathy!

I went to Gandhipuram bus stand to purchase tickets to Rajapalayam. No online booking was available and so the onerous task of booking with a Government agent fell on my lap. As expected, they did not disappoint. I first went to the counter and found no one there. Two men were inside busy on some files. My first impression was that the counter was elsewhere in the bus station. So I spent five minutes going round the station looking for an alternate counter-like arrangement. None! So I came back here, and near the entrance door of this booth was a uniformed ticket inspector. He confirmed this was indeed the counter. So I went back to the counter.

No response. I am not sure if he heard me or not.


He turned back.

"Need to book a ticket."

"Where are you going?"



"Friday night."

Deep sigh from him. Implied that he is supposed to do the job he is paid to do.

"Wait for a while."

He continued to rummage through the file with his mate for about 10 minutes. It appeared to be some legitimate task they were supposed to finish. He then comes to me to the counter.

"Give me one rupee".
My lucky day - I had one rupee.

He gives me a reservation form to fill out. It asked for my address, phone number. I was wondering why they needed all these to give me a bus ticket. Even railways don't ask these information. Besides, I couldn't help wondering why he could not have handed me the form in the first place when he was busy with his files. I filled out the form after borrowing a pen from a lady nearby. He looked and pointed out some additional information on the reverse side that was missed out. My mistake! I went back to that kind lady, borrowed the pen again and handed the filled form to him.

He then was looking at the computer for close to 5 minutes. The uniformed guard came next to him and started chatting with him. I kept staring at my booking officer intently. I wanted to find out how far he would take this. He briefly looks at me and then goes back to the computer. In this time, two folks came and stood behind me and then dispersed. Not sure if they got fed up or if they were misguided here.

"Which seat?"
"Some seat in the middle and near the window."
Finally, the printer starts printing. He pulled out the ticket, signed and asked me to verify.
"114 Rs."
My really lucky day. I had exact change. Otherwise, there is no doubt he would have sent me to fetch exact change.

All this time, I kept reminding me that my job was the get the ticket and move away from my place. Another reminder in my head was that this was a test. Not becoming upset or angry with this attitude and apathy was also on my mind. But I couldn't help feeling sad. The truth is, there is no accountability for performance in places like these. I wonder what can be done!

I hope SETC/TNSTC bring online booking soon!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tweetposts - 10th July 2010

Was watching "Lion of the Desert" today. The movie broke my heart!

When reading about Calvin scolding his parent generation for handing over a broken earth to him and whether it was possible to disinherit (as in refuse to accept) it - this movie caused the same kind of emotion. Not in terms of the environment, but in terms of utter disrespect to a nation of people. Libyan's were massacred - don't have numbers - by Mussolini's fascist government in that period and it recounts Omar Mukthar's struggle against them. A man of such high dignity - we don't see them very often. When he was captured, as a final stroke of indignity, he was hung in public in front of his own people.

I am going to be on the receiving end when the next generation looks up and asks "what the hell"! Both in terms of environment and in terms of the general consciousness of the planet. Actually, the former is a offshoot of the latter!

I have always been wondering about the general helplessness of the world when it came to international issues (country A harassing B - we have China and Taiwan for example), and also issues within a country (what is going on in Sri Lanka or Africa). Would it help if an International Government was setup? Not UN, it is more a puppet for the top nations. IG in the sense - Government's of all world countries would report into it and its say would be final - it would use armed might if necessary. Of course, some prerequisites are vital as in

1) It must be trustworthy
2) It must not serve vested interests
3) It must only look at overall global well being
4) Must make short term difficult decisions for long term welfare
5) Must have sufficient power (monetary and military) to execute its decisions

Lot of logistical issues and a far cry - I know. But we have a lot of global problems to grapple with, and unless something of this kind happens, we will only be creating patchy solutions - or worse, let it resolve into anarchy.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Srivilliputhur, Sivakasi and Sathur

Since I decided to return from Sathuragiri in one day instead of two, I had an additional day to spare.

The plan was to visit Andal temple at Srivilliputhur, which is five kms away from Krishnan Kovil. However, buses frequently travel from Wathrap to Srivilliputhur (SVP). I got a bus from Wathrap that went directly to SVP. This was travelling to Kovilpatti, crossing SVP, Sivakasi, Sathur. SVP, Sivakasi, Sathur, Rajapalayam, Kovilpatti, Virudhunagar are all connected towns, normally within 20 kms from each other. So businesses, working folks, college folks live and behave as if all these are their towns and frequently commute on a daily basis. So bus networks within these towns abound. Add Madurai to the mix, since it is the district hub!

The bus was crowded since it was crossing three towns. Ticket was 6 Rs. Suddenly made me realize how expensive bus travel has become! Anyway, I got a seat but couldn’t look out because of the crowd. In one stop college students rushed into the bus. Apparently a bunch of them at least lived at SVP. I also presume the college was Kalasalingam college of engineering – the most popular college in the area. The bus travel was close to 30 minutes – but the trek down had really tired me. I asked the man next to me to wake me up once SVP arrived and dozed off. He did and I had to board down at SVP.

SVP before I visited it evoked the sense of a large and ancient town. This was the birth place of Andal and now home to one of the largest and ancient temples in Tamil Nadu (India perhaps!). But the town is very small. Just 2 kms in radius and is choking with its own infrastructure. It appeared that there were just two things that kept the town going:

The temple and pAlkOva (milk sweet) business. Otherwise, residents used it as a stay area and commuted to nearby towns. Of course, supporting businesses exist. I could clearly see that the town isn’t even attempting to slowly expand to outer empty regions. You can actually walk around the towns radius in 2-3 hours. Jammed streets, hence converted to one way and very high population density are the norm here. Obviously, people here have more than settled down to the fact. It’s a way of life. Actually, any necessity (appliance shops, scooter/bike shops) are all just barebones. The Whirlpool appliance shop had ten fridges, and that was the only one in town!

I was looking for a stay area after I had un boarded. Not now, but at that time, I was surprised when I was told there were no hotels in the town. Only lodges. I roamed with my back pack for 30 minutes to find one. I settled down in my room. My agenda for the evening was to visit Andal temple. I took another bath and changed to my veshti/kurta. It was about 6:30PM – I found out that Andal temple was about 2 kms away. I hence used my favorite mode of transport – foot!

The first time you do this is fascinating. Walking through narrow, thickly populated streets, both with people and shops is interesting. The shops sell anything from eatables, stationery, temple items or CDs and DVDs. After a while, as a precursor to entering a “temple zone”, an overhead thatchery appears which then lasts for as long as the path that leads to the temple. I looked up and noticed that it would still leak in the event of rains. Finally, after about 20-25 minutes of walk, in all its magnificent glory was the temple tower!

Just one sight at the temple is enough to make you forget the humdrum of the city. And the perception the temple gives is that it is half the size of the town itself. What magnificence! The very thought of the king to erect a sanctum of serenity of such size for the populace of his kingdom is a reflection of the values and culture of the time.

This is the temple where Andal sang “thiruppAvai”. I first visited the Andal shrine and lit a ghee lamp at the shrine. The thiruppavai is sculpted on the temple walls. For some reason, I didn’t want to leave that place, so I sat there for some time – I will also sheepishly add that I was half expecting a vision to appear about Andal’s life history. None did! I then visited the rest of the temple – which included the deity of chakkarathazhvar as well. The temple is maintained very well and just walking around gives a sense of awe. The amount of work that should have gone in chiseling the intricate carvings on either the stone pillars or the wooden adornments on top is wearing out to think! The priorities and dedication of that time were different I suppose! One disappointing aspect was that recent renovations to the temples also included huge slabs of credits stating who contributed to the renovations. It is funny to notice that the king who built the temple did not think to carve out his name as credit!

This temple is the only high point of the town. But the town can take pride in hosting the temple. Otherwise, only monotony is visible in people’s faces. Instead of the temple being the fulcrum of their day to day experiences, it appears to be the opposite. The temple seems to be taken for granted. With some work, this town can be made a major tourist hub and the surrounding areas can be expanded. The funds can then be used to take the temple to another level. I also think the disappointment stems more from my expectations. I was hoping to get into ancient times!

I retired back to my room and was very tired. The day’s trek had taken its toll. I had another pack of rice which I had taken for the trek and I just ate that for the night. I hadn’t had an opportunity to do my practices before in the day, so I completed them prior to dinner. I hit the sack and went into oblivion for 12 long hours!

Next day was practically unplanned. I woke up only by 10am. I finished my practices and my bath and was looking for a place to eat lunch. Then it dawned on me that the town had no hotels! It had “messes” and all of them were vegetarian-non-vegetarian combos. I wasn’t comfortable. I did walk for close to an hour trying to find a “veg only” mess. I saw a statue of the great leader Kamaraj in the process. It is a landmark in SVP. Finally, I resigned to the fact and decided to have fruit juice for lunch. Juice was cheap here. I found a shop and had this “fruit mixture” juice. I loved it and hence had another. As I was savoring this, I incidentally turned to the right and saw the “vegetarian mess” I was looking for. May be it was God’s plan for me to skip lunch that day!

I wanted to see how it would be to be with the people of this town in close quarters. So I decided to watch a movie. There are only two theaters here – Santhosh and Revathi. Santhosh was near where I stayed. “Goripalayam” was running there. I got a ticket for 20 Rs (that’s the highest priced ticket!). We really were in old times! I don’t think any theater in Chennai or Coimbatore will have tickets priced at that level! Hindu aptly named “Goripalayam” “gore” palayam! The theater had just ceiling fans on the sides. Wow – how long had it been since I went to a theater that was non-air-conditioned. The chairs were all wooden with no cushion and the afternoon heat was clearly felt inside. A board on the wall said “Do not smoke or spit in the theater”. Apparently, people ignored both! The movie period was uneventful. Only about 20 folks watched the movie and the hall was filled with cigarette smoke! It was disappointing! I am wondering what it would take for this town to wake up to the treasure they are hosting there!

It was time to leave SVP – so I packed my bags, checked out and headed to the bus stand. Next stop was Sivakasi – 20 kms from SVP. I didn’t want to board a bus that passed through Sivakasi but stopped there. It’s a common destination from SVP so I got one easily. I enjoyed the ride. It passes through two primary locations – “malli” and “layan”. I later found out that “layan” was the Tamil morph of “Reserve Line”! The evening breeze was cool and at dusk, the skies had turned bluish grey. At one point, the pattern of clouds, skies, the evening breeze and the electric lines on which the birds sat all formed a delightful sight! Finally, the bus strolled into Sivakasi bus stand.

Sivakasi, the land of firecrackers! I had my dinner there – yes there was a hotel! It is a much larger town and I could decipher at least two major cracker shops here – Standard and Kaleeshwari. Standard actually has a very large permanent showroom here. After dinner, I got on a bus to Sathur – which was where I had to board the train back to Coimbatore. In the bus, I got my SVP palkOva which I missed to buy there. It was delicious – I understood why it was so popular. It is also not advisable to give into the taste because I forgot to buy one for Radha. When I was going blah about it, she went blah about how selfish I was! Sathur is again about 20 kms from Sivakasi. But the outside was pretty much dark. When the bus finally reached Sathur at about 9:15pm on Sunday, 4th July, I couldn’t do much else. I was again happy to see a statue of Kamaraj outside the bus stand. He is very popular here!

The railway station was about 1.5kms from the bus stand, so I used my favorite transport method. The railway station is small, quiet and secluded. All three descriptions are unusual if we take other cities as reference. I took a seat waiting for the train. Two or three trains passed by before mine arrived at 11:15 pm. The train was on the dot! In the mean time, I was talking to a man and his teenage son who was joining engineering at Erode. Wishing him all the best, I finally boarded the train.

I think it is safe to call the trip “eventful”!
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