Thursday, 28 July 2011

Mallu 007

Disclaimer : I spoof a lot of things on my blog and elsewhere and this is only one of those which are totally pun intended. So I request my mallu friends to take it like a man with whiskers. I mean, in that rightly valiant spirit that defines a man. I have pieces for other states too. Leaving them for the future, he is this one on Kerala.

We do this annual trip to Sabarimala and I have been doing it for about 20 years or so. It would do injustice to my diary if a page doesn't go towards Kerala and my observations there by and large.

  • Both the CPI and Congress in the state have done nothing whatsoever to make amendments to the rule that men should wear a mustache to get their name on the state census. In fact, babies born with mustaches (One happened in July, 1968) are considered true and patriotic malayalis without any additional levels of screening.
  • Shaving, as a routine or time pass is more or less considered criminal and as people from civilizations like ours do not wish to commit sins by and large, they brush aside the need to shave. Last time they saw a razor is recorded around 1848, when razors were much talked about owing to the period of French Revolution.
  • Talking of razors and the historical bit associated with it, school text books in Kerala have a chapter dedicated to this lethal weapon and it has been gathered from underground channels that that particular chapter is to be marked with a double star and pages highlighted with a permanent marker. The razor subject is a very important question in the state board exams.
  • Jesudas is a guy who non keralites find it tough to identify though he is a famous name and all that in musical circles (not musical chairs, the circles where those oldies talk about Kalyani, Sankarabharanam and the like). Simple reason : The beard. It has triggered an identity crisis in the state.
  • Malayalam is a wonderfully sexy language. My first ever crush was on a malayali girl way back in my 4th grade or something and ever since, the language flows like music in my ear when someone speaks it. I am like, I go cute.... when someone says something like nyaan toylet poyi ippo kazhuvi vannu. The only other language that I classify under the 'sexy' category is bengali. (My second crush was from Calcutta)
  • They don't cook in Kerala. Period. Unless one considers fish, meen, karuvadu and those related things as food, that is. Nothing else is edible, including their rice (The big, thick grains that I have always found heavy to carry from plate to mouth.)
  • The way they put garlic and chilli powder in all and sundry eatables in Andhra, these chicks from the Kerala kitchen like to have their servings with coconut. The dishes may categorize under 'sweet' or 'savory'. Doesn't matter much.
  • The lungi is one thing that is strikingly common between the tamils and keralites. But the color in the latter's is mind boggling. They are artists by birth. I mean, that category of modern arts and the corresponding artists. With all colors and nothing else on the canvas. But there is one stark difference. They don't prefer the pattapatti (striped boxer) under the lungi unlike tamils.
  • Owing to the proximity to Kerala, tamil, which is an otherwise not so beautiful language in my humble opinion, sounds sweet in Kovai and Nellai districts. But no, I have not had girl friends from those areas broadly.
  • The architecture of houses and villas in Kerala are just too good and they give an optical illusion of gulf money on their facade at first look. Glittering outers, just like currency notes.
  • The amount of vegetation in Kerala is second only to the amount of vegetation on the upper lips of protagonists in Wodehouse novels. Bertie's occasional vegetation pips theirs once in a while. But otherwise, Kerala has a clean record of being on the top.
  • One of the many reasons why I respect Kerala as a state is the vast difference in the quality of banana chips. They are not like the ones we get from the Kerala Bakery on Usman Road. Speaking of food, Nairs there, are just too good in their chai recipe. The nairs with shops on street corners in Chennai are mere imposters.
  • Kerala stays close to my heart for one more reason. That is the only other state (first one being tamil nadu) on the map of india where the alphabets 'z' and 'h' make sense in combination. As in Kozhikode and Alapuzha. No one else can say it right. One of my colleagues from Bihar is taking a crash course from me on that, but he is not a bright student and not coping too well, I should say.
  • Last but not least, how can I miss the 'koooffi', 'oomane', and other similar pronunciation patterns, if you get the drift. Sweeeeet! I can give anything for those sweet syllables uttered by that hot Menon babe..I forgot her first name.
P.S : Disclaimer repeat! No offense meant. Pun intended. My malayali friends can sharpen their mustaches and give a scornful look at me if they feel hurt. But not more than that.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Human Capital

I stumbled upon a recent report somewhere on the internet, published by Rutgers University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences which said 53% of Indians, who had gone to the United States to pursue higher studies, want to come back. Or at least, they have said so. The report gave another number that could be of interest. Only 8% of them felt "they wanted to stay back". So the important thing to notice here is that 92% of people are either not happy or they just don't know if they are. This fact is interesting and it triggers a train of thought. Folks like me, who have chosen the alternative route by not opting to take an educational loan and get a Masters Degree from an ivy league university think these guys over there are having some good fun and they are not home-bound any soon. I mean, at least their avatars on social networks hint something of that sort. The trips and fun and frolic and what not.

One possible reason for this popular choice of moving abroad after under graduate studies is definitely explained by the money factor. The other is the plethora of "high-skilled" job opportunities out there as opposed to the situation here, where we still count more low-skilled ones, though we see ourselves as a "maturing economy" by the day. Basic economics suggests that a more educated population will bring prosperity to any economy. And that will also help the betterment of many other social indicators that define a country's growth. I read somewhere that though we can be happy about something like an 80% literacy rate in our country, there are only 4% of people who are "computer-educated".That is alarming.

With "local entrepreneurship" being the buzz word of modern times in our country, I think folks over there, on that side of the Atlantic, have a dilemma to ponder. It is probably one of the best times for them to walk back with their pockets loaded and try to make well advised technology investments in their homeland. Now, coming back to where I started, if 92 percent of them want to come back sooner or later, then what are they waiting for? What with the rumors about a possible second wave of recessionary times in the west, one should probably count one's silver and look up the air fares. What we as a country need right now, to avoid something like the middle east crisis where high rates of unemployment hampers growth, is for some quality people and quality jobs to sustain themselves inclusively as part of our growth story.

One simple reason why a country like ours still has so much more low-skilled opportunities than the high-skilled ones is the fact that most higher management positions in niche sectors are reserved for the advanced markets like the US and the Europe. But that situation is, more likely than not, prone to change because of the stunning increase in the number of quality entrepreneurial ventures emerging each day. One other aspect of this ideal scheme of things that I am defining, is how the government and the the educational system in India can do their part. About 20% percent of our population drop out after primary school, as yet another survey elsewhere points out. So to make people stick to the educational system to complete their studies, the system should mature and evolve. That will in turn apply the brakes on the battalion of under grads who were heading westward hitherto. I know I am not doing justice to practical sphere of politics, so to say, by weaving an extraordinarily ideal growth story for the future, like in those Shankar movie climax sequences. But I think that is the way forward.

P.S : I am not against going abroad and making a career out there. Neither am I claiming to be someone who would not put himself on the next flight if the situation calls for. I am just saying if a good number of people who want to come back, really come back and contribute to our story, then that contribution will definitely be one that will count.

Friday, 8 July 2011

1 Person -1'd this

Man should exercise patience, as the saying goes, and I am one of those men who try and practice such virtues in their day to day life. I restrained myself from expressing views about Google+ on public spaces over the last few days, when an apprehensive article about this new networking platform was the hip thing to do. But as a master of science in chemistry, I stress the importance of the concept called "saturation". Any quantity in this material world has a level or brink above which it will start to show signs of breakage. So is my ability to stop myself from writing a critical note about Google's new social networking platform after patiently trying it for more than a week.

I would definitely not be a fan of this particular product fron Google. Being in the IT industry makes each person a techie, like it or not. So, I have forcefully convinced myself to choose a side when it comes to this banal Google vs Microsoft war of the 2008s and 2009s (Those cubicle mates call you a fool if you can't make a point in an argument like that). I chose to be on the former's side. Still, this product especially doesn't seem to bring home the bacon, in my humble opinion. The argument is many fold. Examining each one in a bit of a detail,

Firstly, I don't seem to like the idea of someone telling me to form circles. I mean, I was that rebellious kind of blighter at school and I used to get pricked instantly when my PT master called the class to form circles for a republic day drill or an aerobics performance. It somehow sounded to me like a girl thing, this forming a circle business. Boys, in general, prefer other shapes, like square (as in four square) or triangle (as in love triangle). Circles are definitely not the preferred ones. Secondly, I have a serious problem with this new parlance that Google is trying to introduce. "Hangout". Sorry? I didn't get that. Hitherto, I have not appreciated this "Tooottaally Rrroocckkinnngg Ddduuuddeee!!!!!!" kinda behavior that is common amongst today's youth. I am not trying to act like that gaffer sitting at the bar parlour, narrating stories from his childhood to poor twenty-somethings. But then, this idea of "Wassup mannnn", "Kewl dood", "Yo maannn" et al. never seemed to give me any sort of high. So this "hangout" thing makes me throw in the towel.

The other major problem is this tendency of assorted scientists from random universities in the United States to barge into this platform instantly after it was labelled as "one for the geeks". I am referring to these PhD pursuing, french beard sporting, wannabe scientists who are by and large not my cup of tea. I have heard from various sources that words like "publish", "research", "nerd", "geek" and the like give orgasmic pleasures to these young gentlemen and that explains why the "Google + for nerds" campaign caught their attention. But, to hell with my wall full of these blokes? Tests my patience, if I choose to euphemise exact facts. What with the XXL size images that Google has chosen to use for pics on walls, it gives me nightmares to see dozens of french beards on one single page. I am not that bravo kind of guy who girls dream about in their dreams, picturing them on black horses and what not. I am that pince nez kinda guy who is afraid of dreadful sights after 11 pm in the night. So this business of scientists' profile pictures does give me nightmares for sure.

This man here has spoken at length about how moms wouldn't like Google +. He says she would have difficulties in having her text bold or italicized while she posts about her latest hair-do or her new piercing. The argument is that it is not as simple as clicking that 'B' button or the 'I' button. That thing pisses me off too. I am not that aunty kinda person, don't mistake me here. Just that I think text editors need to be plain and simple. This business of adding asterisks and hyphens in my text box is not an easy task for me. I prefer the click B fundamentals.

Now, I am running out of points to support my anti Google + stance. But I think it is important to drive home my point before that chick in the green tee yawns for the third time in as many minutes. Heyyy! that guy in the red formals, hold on..just a bit..I am kinda wrapping it up.

For a bachelor like me in his twenties, the one, all important and primary reason to be on FB or any other equivalent social media website is the amount of color and variety he gets to gaze (read as ogle) at. I mean, this "Google + is for the geeks" thing is threatening to drive away those female flies. (I seem to have so few girls on my friends list). In that case, where is our motivation to hold on? The PT master calling for a circle formation?? or the scientist from Purdue uploading his display pic?

Monk! I need a monk!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Of Marguerite St Just, Sir Percy Blackeney and those golden days!

Disclaimer : For those who are uninitiated with "The Scarlet Pimpernel", here's where you can get your copy. The rest of you, here's a piece dedicated to that marvel.

And for those to whom, these names do ring a distant bell, welcome back to the age of English I (Prose) and English II (Non Detail). 'The Scarlet Pimpernal' was among the non detail books that we read during high school. It surely has been one of the best reads for me till date, though I have matured from the school book reader to the regular bed-time reader. I vividly remember the opening scene of the novel portraying the busy guillotine at its ghastly work. The carnage ceasing only at the late hour of the day, so that people could move on to spectating another amusing event of sorts..viz. the massacre and abuse of the aristocrats who have been exercising tyranny hitherto. The Calais to Dover ferry is another thing that comes to mind when one thinks of those 3rd period English classes, where people took turns to step onto the teacher's dais and read their assigned chapter out loud. The ones who gave a lyrical and musical touch to the narration were an instant hit among the girls and our beautiful English teacher who used to test those boys from the back bench frequently for their language skills. Of course, those lucky ones who stood out by way of narrating it musically, became articles of scorn from fellow last benchers. But it never stopped one from trying one's best to catch the eye.

My personal favorite from that beautiful novel has always been this prose that repeatedly appears through the narration.

"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel."

I still remember the way I used to finish that paragraph stressing the "demmed elusive" with all the fervour and respect for the guy in command of the 20 member secret committee. The war between the secret society of English aristocrats and the conspirators at the guillotine was an enthralling one and the narrative of the spy novel was too good to resist for any high school guy. The eloquent blend of espionage and romance between the Scarlet and his wife makes for a wonderful ending. Chauvelin was probably one of the most successful villain characters of that era and his portrayal brings to mind Col. Hans Landa of Inglourious Basterds fame. Still, the literary character (Scarlet himself) who captured the imagination of many generations of readers from around the world was definitely the hero for many boys in my class and I remember how we used to steal scenes from the novel and enact it with modifications during those interval recesses in between classes. In fact, theories suggest that the twin lives of Zorro, Batman, Superman and the like have been copied from this one time and again since Orczy put pen on paper. Though the celluloid adaptations of the book didn't bring home the bacon, they become known names in the period drama genre as the movies and series captured something as sensitive as the French Revolution and espionage during that period.

All said and done, this one has been and will always be the most convincing book I have ever read and I would do injustice if I write a punch line to finish my lengthy acclaim of this novel.

Baroness Orczy, apparently wrote sequels to this masterpiece later on. But none of them made such an impact as this one. Here we are, talking about it 6 years later, on a fine monsoon afternoon, just because of the impact it has made in the minds of readers. I am sure those who have read the novel aloud in class, along with me, will second my opinion on this stunning book.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The way it felt in 2002

June 29th 2011 is going into the tennis book shelves as a date to remember. But for two completely ironical reasons surrounding one man. Roger Federer. The good part was the record Fed created for the number of continuous grand slam QF appearances. The other : the way Jo Wilfred Tsonga served to outclass class himself. It was definitely a sad visual for those ardent Fed-Ex fans. I am not that big a fan of the Swiss maestro. To say it with candour, I have never been a fan of someone who has ruled a sport for a really long while with very less danger from any opposition. Take for instance Schumacher, I have never convinced myself to back his red Ferrari during his reign as the king of racing. Coming back to the point, Federer's defeat to Tsonga portends something more than what met the eye that evening. It was in 2009 that he last won his dearest slam of all- The Wimbledon. The year before and the year after, Nadal showed him that athleticism and class in combination can outplay skill on a given bright summer morning, be it lawn or clay. The point is Federer's win in 2009 that sandwiches Nadal's wins on either side, was partly because Nadal had pulled out of that year's slam.

I am not trying to take anything away from Federer's trophy chest by downplaying any of his achievements. But I am afraid if 2011 is to him, what 2002 was to the master Pete. Nirmal Shekar pointed out on his column in The Hindu recently that Federer's loss to Tsonga reminded him of Sampras's loss to George Bastl in 2002. Bastl was ranked 145 in the list that year. After that devastating 5 setter, Sampras gave some food for sensation-hungry media by sitting on the pitch and staring at the grass, long after his conqueror left the stadium. But Federer gave nothing of that sort. He sported a composed look but with a blackish mask portraying doom as he waited for Tsonga to pack his kit bag. It was a heart breaking sight for anyone who loves the maestro. It was just a couple of days back that his picture with tendulkar made its rounds on social media and created a furore like never before. Fans doing their salutes and wishing their wishes, confident of another Wimbledon crown to prove his critics wrong. But this one was a sight that spoke louder than words. He went down in a macabre sort of way even after he played a decent game with only half as many unforced errors as his decisive opponent's. In contrast, Sampras played one of the worst games of his career in that loss to Bastl. But just 2 weeks later he went on to win the US Open as he conquered his arch rival Agassi to end his glittering career on a high.

I hope something like that happens to a man like Federer who is undoubtedly a master of this generation. Though, in my opinion, he might not be able to better Sampras's record of 7 titles at The Championships Wimbledon, I wish he gets to equal that number and retire on a high. But age is definitely something that is pitting against him. And Nadal's dominance is reaching new highs year after year. But the man has it in him to pull off something out of the blue and show the world that he is truly a champion. I wish a smooth retirement for a man of his class and I wish he conquers Nadal on that lush green court on the suburbs of London just once before making a bow. A win when Nadal was not in the fixture list was not good enough to make the point. A win in a grand slam final against the world no. 1 himself, would be what is a good show of true class and character.

P.S: I have always wanted Nadal to win whenever I saw him opposite Roger. But the way the latter went down this year is definitely a bad sign for tennis lovers who would like to see a legend pass out like a legend.

P.P.S : I so want Murray to win it this year though! An English winning it after ages!. Poor thing. Give one to them