Showing posts from August, 2016

Stars of the Academic Firmament

I am trying here to classify certain (stereo or mono) types of faculty. Any resemblance to people living or non-living is entirely due to your over-active imagination.

1. Halley's Comet. Visible, but rarely.

2. North Star. Rock solid, and will take the same position regardless of any change in the environment/curriculum/student group/peer group. Hasn't heard of  the maxim- Change is the only constant.

3. Great Bear. This guy/gal is equivalent to a constellation of stars, single-handed. Tough to handle. You've got to grin and BEAR them.

4. I, Me, Myself. This one is easy to recognise, because the three words mentioned here are used frequently. Empathy is absent from their vocabulary. Monologous, if that's a word.

5. Rock stars. They are worshipped for their craft, and they know it. Strut around in suitable postures/outfits/hairstyles.

6. The Also-rans. They are like the minions who do the grunt work, with or without-mostly without- getting the credit.

7. The I-told-you…

The ABC of Single Malts

This is an educational post, about a class of drinks that has no parallel. These are called Single Malt whiskys, or sometimes, just Malts.

My limited experience with them, about ten years now, has led me to the following conclusions (though influenced by writers or friends, mostly mine)-

There are a variety of single malts, and you may become a devotee of one or more over time. Once you are a Malt worshipper, it's hard to go back to the blends (see below for definition).

There are areas of Scotland (like Islay, Highlands, and others) which have somewhat distinct Malts. Ageing and the casks used for these (previously used for carrying Sherry or Bourbon sometimes) add to the flavours of a Malt. So does the use of peat (a sort of coal) for the roasting of Barley used in its making.

The Single Malt is so named because it does not get mixed with whiskys from other distillers. Blends (like Johnnie Walker or Ballantines) are usually a mix of several whiskys blended together. Just like B…

Ten Ways to a Bestseller

Actually, the title is slightly off. These are titles of ten bestsellers that will soon come your way.

1. Ten best ways to climb the stairs. Blurb..X is an expert in step-climbing, having climbed over many people to reach the pinnacle of his career. He explains how to, in ten simple steps.

2. Ten best ways to catch fish. Big fish, small fish, river fish (Bongs can read this too), sea fish (for non-Bongs). All the mysteries solved. If everything else fails, there's always Feviquick..

3. Ten ways to sing. Sing your way to someone's heart, or just complete your lifelong ambition (Dash, are you listening?).

4. Ten ways to eat and still be hungry enough to go to a dinner in an evening gown belonging to your younger sister (for females only).

5. Ten ways to win an Olympic medal. From migrating to Jamaica, to hiring Gopichand as your coach, to dodging officials. Winners' secrets revealed.

6. How to wear a hat. Ten ways to do it, so that you don't get mistaken for a mafia Don…

Happy Bhag Jayegi- Film Review

Playlist- RD Burman

I am trying to think. How do I make a playlist of my favourite music composer's music? Tough job indeed.

Anyway, trying to list my top 20 songs composed by him.

1. Tum bin jaoon kahan? Yodeling.

2. O mere dil ke chain..romance.

3. Gulabi aankhen jo teri dekhi sharabi yeh dil ho gaya..rollicking pace.

4. Chingari koi bhadke. Classic angst.

5. Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa nahin..Class.

6. Mere samnewali khidki mein ek chand ka tukda rehta hai..comedy.

7. Dum maro dum. A new high when it first came out.

8. Jaane jaan dhoodhta phir raha. Experiments with sounds.

9. Saamne yeh kaun aaya dil mein hui hulchul...naughty.

10. Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko. Heartfelt.

11. Gum hai kisike pyar mein, dil subah shaam. Honest.

12. Pyar diwana hota hai mastana hota hai. Love-ly.

13. Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga. His swan-song.

14. Bachna ae haseenon lo main aa gaya. Stage magic.

15. O haseena zulfonwali. Tailored for Shammi and Helen.

16. Aanewala pal jaanewala hai. Philosophy.

17. Musafi…

Some Social Media Pointers

These are picked up from various sources, but the remix is mine- feel free to blame me. One source is Guy Kawasaki and his book.

1. Do more rather than less. Many reasons- it's an ocean, you are likely to get lost in it. Of course, this assumes you are sharing sense and not nonsense (from your followers' point of view, before you ask).

2. Be bold, and take positions. This establishes your credibility (assuming you want it).

3. Choose a good picture of yours for the Media, and stick to it for a while. If you don't have a good picture, God help you.

4. Don't use bad words. Bad words are bad on any medium. Learn to do without them, unless you are a teen trying to be cool. (Everything is pardoned THEN)

5. It's impossible to generate loads of new content regularly. Use curated stuff mixed with original content. Cite the source, where applicable.

On Handling the Non-routine

It is very important to learn how to handle the unexpected, non-routine situations in life. Let me try and illustrate.

There are many things we expect, or even take for granted. Simple example- we expect parents to be around for a long time. Suppose one of them is absent, or passes away early, what are you supposed to do?

You fail in a class/course. What next?

Your spouse threatens to walk out of your love marriage...?

You are fired. From your job. Much more common in the U.S., now the fever is catching on in India.

Your aspirations to get into a program, a course, a sports team, are not fulfilled.

You are broke, because of over-using your credit cards/taking on too many loans.

Many of these situations can seem nerve-racking, or worse. More so because nobody told you this could happen to YOU. How you deal with these may be vital to your well-being. Of course, in all these situations, it helps to have someone like a mentor, or a friend to talk to. But I know of lots of people who have…

Cool Runnings- Film Review

A film about the Olympics and Jamaica, that is fun to watch. Made in 1993 or so, it is about a Jamaican sprinter who fails to make it to his country's athletics team due to an accidental tripping during trials. Desperate to go to the Olympics, he is told about an American maverick who lives in Jamica. He is a former Bobsledding champion, and has a theory that sprinters would make good Bobsledders. Never gets to test his theory though, because sprinters aren't convinced.

So our hero begs him to coach him and 3 fellow athletes-a ragtag team of Bobsledders- for the Winter Olympics. Everybody laughs them out, including their Olympic Association Chief, and potential funders, but somehow, they make it to the Olmpics, and compete, in their own unique style.

It's a fun, uplifting movie, and good to watch if you can get hold of it. The typical West Indian spirit comes through unmistakably.

Indian Obsessions

Government job.

Selecting the Indian cricket team/coach.

Subsidies- on anything.

Talking as if you are an expert on things you know next to nothing about.

Holier-than-thou feelings about our culture.

Same (as above) about your mother tongue.

Criticism of most food made outside our kitchen.

Slavery towards ideas originating in the White West.

Throwing garbage anywhere.

Driving recklessly.

Telling others what to do.

Getting your kids married.

Getting others' kids married.

Names That Ring a Bell

Not literally, of course. But names that you remember, for some reason. Memorable? May be.

Since Badminton is the flavour of the (Olympic) season, I'll start with Prakash Padkone. I watched him in a great game against Liem Swie King (Indonesian) that he lost. But I remember both names.

Lalchand Rajput is a name that I'll never forget. I had predicted once that with a name like that, he'd never last in the Indian cricket team for long. He didn't. Predictions score- One.

Nadia Comaneci, who got a perfect 10 in some Olympics. She was a great gymnast.

Katarina Witt, a German ice-skater. Watched her long ago in Winter Olympics.

Johny Walker, comedian. For obvious reasons, though I have outgrown that drink.

Michael Jackson. Easy to remember, great to watch. Prabhu Deva comes close, at times.

Dhurandhar Bhatawadekar. Utpal Dutt's name in a film.

Manasa- the name has a nice ring to it. I had a student and a faculty colleague by that name, but it's not too common.


Same Singer Different Sounds

I am sometimes amazed by the ability of a singer to sound very different. I am of course talking of playback singing in Bollywood, an under-recognised art form globally. But anyway, I am going to illustrate using a favourite singer's songs. Kishore Kumar is the singer. A sample of his different sounding songs-

1. Ajnabi, tum jaane pehchaane se lagte ho..

2. Mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu..

3. Tum aa gaye ho, noor aa gaya hai..

4. O manchali, kahan chali..

5. Ajnabi se banke karo na kinara..

6. Dukhi man mere sun mera kehna..

7. Tum bin jaoon kahan..

8. Bachna ae haseeno, lo main aa gaya..

9. Naach meri bulbul ke paisa milega.. https…

Watching Sindhu at Rio

I watched at least three matches that Sindhu played, and a couple which Kidambi Srikanth won. Mostly because I used to play Badminton as a kid, and like the game. At the Olympics, we Indians get few chances to watch giant-killers. Sindhu is definitely one of those!

Gave me goosebumps to see how she fought a close first game without losing her nerve despite a good game by the Japanese opponent (semi-finals). The second game was amazing, and she just dominated her after the halfway mark where they were tied 10 all. Went on to a 21-10 score, smashing her way through a (now) baffled opponent. Did not seem to have an iota of doubt that she was going to win! The hallmark of a champ.

Confidence in yourself is an amazing thing, whichever way it shows. And she had oodles of it. Wonderful to see an Indian assert herself on a sports field in an individual event. The Gold is a distinct possibility, if she plays the finals like this. Great show, proud to just watch her! Congrats to her coach Gopi…

Olympic sized Competitions

We can certainly create some competitions where we will have the Gold for the asking. If nothing else, we can win the Creativity Olympics.

1. Speeches. If you go by speeches made, we leave American Presidential candidates far behind. We have been pretty much making/hearing the same speech for around 70 years, which could be in for a medal, you think?

2. Good intentions. Whatever we may do, our intentions are always good, and cannot be faulted. So, here's another, for good intentions.

3. Inseparability of officials from players. It's hard to say if the players are playing games, or the officials. There are so many of them. Maybe if the officials can compete among themselves, we might win a few gold medals.

4. Media hype. Perfected in cricket, we can create hype about almost anything, and do a few debates after that to continue that through the night. Gold Medal material?

5. Excuses. Not just realted to games, but in all walks of life, we are a Golden Benchmark for excuses. Sma…

The Killing Fields

There is a period in the history of Cambodia when one man, who called himself Pol Pot, killed a few million of his own citizens, in a nightmarish call for a "pure, peasant-driven" society (influenced by Mao's ideology). He seized control of the capital, and literally drove all the urban people out of the cities, into rural camps with hard labour and little food. Many died of starvation, and all who were perceived as threats were simply put to death- these included govt. officials, celebrities, intellectuals, traders, businessmen, doctors, professionals, and minorities from other nations and religions.

The atrocities lasted four years, from 1975 to 1979, and ended when Vietnam removed him from power. There were several reasons for his rise, including turmoil of the Vietnam war in the neighbourhood, and the ambiguous stand of the Cambodian government led by their king. But the brutality that he unleashed was equivalent to the death camps of Hitler. There is a monument tha…

Characters I Would Like to Meet

Mr. Walker, or The Phantom. I think I'd get along well wiith him, what with his mysterious ways of dealing with the various people in his life-friends and foes. Not to mention living in a skull cave. Sounds like fun!

Lille Lotta. She could throw punches like no one else could. Dishoom!

Casper, the friendly ghost. He was cute. I would keep him as a pet.

Richie Rich. I'd like to meet him just to get served by Cadbury, the butler.

Thomson and Thompson. I want to know the differences between them, apart from the spelling..

Captain Haddock. Billions of bule blistering barnacles...

Tirsingrao. He was my childhood hero, a rustic, mustachioed guy who drove an Eveready Half-ton. From a Marathi series for kids.

Faster Fene, a character who was a mix of Enid Blyton's Fatty, and Huckleberry Finn.

Mandrake the Magician. Living in Xanadu, and gesturing hypnotically to achieve things, ..what a way to do things.

The Importance of Antakshari

There is this game of songs-no idea what it's called in English, if at all- called Antakshari, where you sing a song, and the next person sings another song starting with the last letter (Hindi) of your song. This was our staple in family or friend circles, and also on picnics etc..There was even a popular TV show by the name, sponsored of course by Closeup or someone.

The point of the game was to have fun, and make it participative, regardless of age. There's hardly a soul who doesn't know a few lines of Hindi film songs (in India), and that qualifies you to play this game. It's simple, requires no technology, and is ideal for situations when the power goes off (a common occurrence growing up in India), or at any other time, really.

The ability to have fun-rather, to extract fun out of an unfunny situation, boring situation like a  train journey, a traffic jam, or in a group who doesn't know how to play Golf (just kidding), you could play Antakshari. We played i…

Angkor Wat Temples

Angkor Wat has been on the (bucket) list for a while, and a conference in Phnom Penh provided the opportunity. You can go there straight (and not via Phnom Penh), as the nearby airport is an international one- Siem Reap. The temples are a great place to wander around for a couple of days (with a tuk-tuk to drive you from one temple to another)...a bit like the Hampi-Vijaynagar complex in size. The temples are in worse shape than Hampi, but some are being restored with help from Germany, India and France. Anyway, here are some pics-

 Shot on the go, from tuk-tuk.
The moat around the main temple.
 Three on the rock, and two in front.
 These are Apsaras (celestial nymphs). There is a German project to restore all the Apsaras (!)
 Our tuk-tuk, a contraption with a bike pulling a cart.
 A long shot!
 Walls full of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
 Bayon temple..against a blue, blue, sky.
 Interesting point of entry.
 This one has entangled roots of large trees. Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider w…

Phnom Penh- Photo Essay

Garuda and me.
 An interesting govt. building.
 and a similar Royal Palace.
 Conference colleagues- Sunway Hotel.
 Silver pagoda in the Royal Palace complex.
 Laxmi(s) carved into the door.
 Boat carrying salads. Buffet.
Wandering around the Palace grounds.

Flying Zebras and More

There was this place called Flying Zebra pizzas that I happened to eat at in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A small, homely but distinctive eatery, it had a wood-fired oven that was right at the entrance, and you could see the pizza being put inside it- it was a big oven. The taste of the thin crust pizza was very different, may be because of the wood. Better than many I have eaten elsewhere. It was served on a wooden plate too.

The TV played Charlie Chaplin films- a couple of classics that I must have watched ages ago in a theatre were on, bringing on nostalgia. There was also an interesting drink available, made of crushed mint and ice, with lemon juice and water/soda that looked unlike anything I remember having before.

In other words, a nice touch here, a nice touch there, and service with a smile. What more can a customer ask for?

Another interesting feature in Phnom Penh is that all streets are numbered, so they are easy to find on a map. They have names too, but names are usually tough …

Hotel Design- Cambodia

Lounge at the reception.
 Lamp shade.
 Above, pond with a shrine at the far end. Below, a view of the first floor.

This was a hotel called Tea House Urban Resort in Phnom Penh that I stayed in. The design is stunning, open plan, and pleasing to the senses. Why don't more hotels look like this?

First Impressions- Cambodia

Just returned from a conference on Emerging markets in Cambodia, Phnom Penh..OK, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. My fist impression is that it's worth a visit. Cambodia's major temple, Ankor Wat, is built in the Hindu style with Brahma type four-headed figures, and Vishnu and Shiva in most places. That's a major attraction, and not located in the capital city-it's at Siem Reap, 300 kms. away. But Phnom Penh is on the banks of two rivers, Mekong and Tonle Sap, and has a lot to offer also.

Peaceful, English-speaking, squeaky clean, and with the US dollar as its major currency for day-to- day dealings as a tourist. Damn convenient. And you can take a tuk-tuk (a tonga with a motorcycle or scooter in front instead of a horse) almost anywhere and bargain, like with the auto-walas in India-what fun!

More photo-essays will come up, but I must say the conference itself was truly multi-cultural. Kenya, Norway, Philippines, Canada, Austria, USA and Slovakia being some of the countries rep…