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The joys of blogging (by the poolside)

Here is one blog for the sake of it. I am by the poolside at Leela Palace Bangalore, the gentle dusk breeze laden with myriad aromas (evening flowers, cigarette smoke, and others, but word belittle me here...) is flowing smoothly, constantly stirring the surface of pool water, leading to genesis of countless turbulent ripplets, providing the perfect setting for my creative mind to blog. The pool bed itself is worth a mention here, its not your typical monochrome (the chrome being a shade of blue that skies shower on a clear summer day) but a baroque mosaic of thousands of miniature tiles in several shades of blue varying from aqua to navy, arranged in frenzied pattern.

This week has been banal providing little to ponder about besides work. A monotonous schedule at work is almost always followed by fatigue, making sleep as desirable as water for parched throat. That leaves you with very little time for any creative escapades, so when this window of opportunity to blog came by, I pounced on it immediately.

The frightening extent to which you start discovering yourself when you are left to your own for extended times, can lead to intriguing behavioral changes. The thought that I prefer books more to company of my own species over meals is scary. It also leaves you with a strange sense of vacuum in your life (which you think would be somewhat reduced with each page you flip, but it only gets worse, for you discover the depths to which your ignorance extends). Each day is a discovery of masterpiece (I would gleefully label this period the renaissance of my life) � literary, musical or artistic that makes your existence of moment gone by feel worthless, petty. I just ran into a book of Dali's prints and discovered how little I knew of the painter (how little for I thought I was his ardent fan). He had a torrid childhood, troubled youth that manifested itself in his works - some gross, some brilliant, some like hallucinations on canvas, surreal renditions in surreal colors. Take your most vivid dream (or nightmare or your most intimate fantasy for that matter) and try putting it on canvas. Does not take much imagining for the dream itself is a figment of your imaginations - its there with you already. Take your most morbid, bold thoughts and render them in oil in every color on your palette - assign it a title that still makes it all make sense - that's Dali for you. And do check out this ray trace which is a wonderful amalgamation of at least 3 of his prominent works.

Weekend beckons and I am looking forward to viewing my latest acquisition - "Swan Lake" DVD - given its reputation, should make for eminently bloggable material. Adios!
posted: 31.5.03 | permalink | 0 comments

Squirrels in my backyard and a concert of piano music for four hands...

I begin this blog with a small addendum to last. I almost forgot to mention the serene weather I came across while drive back to airport. The Indian landscape undergoes elaborate transformation each year beginning June. This is the time when monsoon ("rainy-season", I've always wondered what would've Vivaldi conjured had he been exposed to monsoons, for his four-seasons are sorely missing this one) unleashes its much needed fury on the parched land. Kerala beckons the arrival of the monsoons for rest of the country, and May is when you start seeing clear signals of what is coming. Since it was mid-May already, the monsoon clouds had started weaving their magic in Kochi skies. Thick, dark patches of clouds, moving about the blue skies. The movement had a strange touch of royal elegance to it, the clouds moved as if they were not being jostled around by winds, but were moving on their own free will - the kind of measured movement that you expect from a pawn being slid on the surface of the chess board by a chess player certain about his next move.

Saturday was a very warm day by Bangalore standards - also making it ideal for laundry ;-). I happen to live in a second floor apartment which is surrounded by trees on three sides. The height at second floor is just right to allow you intrusion into private lives of birds, squirrels and other tree-bound creatures. As I put my laundry out for drying, I couldn't help but notice the game-play of squirrels on the tree facing my balcony. They looked flustered with afternoon heat, but certainly didn't see it as a reason to drain their enthusiasm or zeal for life and playfulness (or perhaps its their lush, shady dwellings that keep them merry). Making shrill squeaks, hopping from tree to tree, nibbling on seeds - blissfully ignorant of my presence all the while. Just a few days back, I had discovered a drey (squirrel nest) in my Bedroom window. This will take a little explaining - my bedroom window has two panes - one mosquito net and a glass pane. I bolt the mosquito net pane from inside and leave the glass pane open such that it forms an angle with the mosquito net pane - leaving about 6" space. Now this window of mine opens "in" a tree, which is why it behooved one of the bolder squirrels to inhabit the little gorge between my two window panes. For a month or so, I had keen company after which the squirrel vanished - so did the drey. What transpired is still a mystery to me, but fortunately there are plenty of squirrels back there in the trees to make for an engrossing, meditative watching (and either they don't know or they don't care, for they don't seem to mind my prying eyes :-))

Alliance de Francaise in Bangalore played host to a piano concert on Saturday evening. The concert was marked "du Play - A concert of piano music for four hands". When I first read about it, my inability to think straight rendered itself beautifully (?) to hallucination of a four-handed monster gleefully stroking a grand Erard, which after some afterthought changed to two people playing (two) pianos in tandem. Call it my ignorance - but I could not think that it would be two people, sitting next to each other, playing the *same* piano, at the same time - which is precisely what it turned out to be... (Sorry, no four handed monsters yet. And for sci-fi aficionados - in the movie Gattaca, there is a moment when our protagonists go for a piano recital by this gentleman who has six digits, for the music he played could only be played if you had an extra finger - but that was science fiction and this reality).

Rants aside, the concert was brilliant, though marred by poor hall acoustics and inferior piano quality (so now I was denied both my four handed monster and the Erard ;-). Listening to Rudolf Serkin perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.5, on CD, does have the adverse effect of setting the bar too high - sometimes you wonder if its worth paying for a live performance when you could have the world's best (pianist and acoustics) in your living room for same price). Nalini Suryawanshi and Preetam Koilpillai played deftly, occasionally swapping their places around the middle C for some compositions. The second half was my favorite with jovial rendition of Albert W. Ketelby's "In a Persian Market" (which if I remember correctly has been plagiarized by at least one Indian composer for his song - "Sayonara Sayonara"). You need so much understanding, such apt co-ordination between the partners (with a delicate air of intimacy, as much as a live audience of 200+ affords) for this "strange" duet to work that it borders on romanticism (For some funny reason I couldn't help but think of Julia from Vikram Seth's "An Equal Music", who is determined to continue her career as solo pianist despite her impending deafness).

So its another one of those days when I would hit the sack, appalled at my ignorant self of yesterday. Live and learn - time to scour music shops for piano compositions for four hands but for now I have to be content with "Rondo Vivace" from Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1.
posted: 25.5.03 | permalink | 0 comments

Kochi chronicles - a travelogue masquerading as a blog...

"Passengers are requested not to carry pickle and masala powder in their hand-baggage" The crimson letters on a pale green background stared at me through a flight information terminal at the Kochi (or Cochin or Kochin - there are at least three variants of the city's name that I came across during my stay) airport as I started this blog. I've had a fascinating day at Kochi and its time to recollect some of the interesting moments and preserve them for posterity here...

I arrived in Kochi on Tuesday, and the first thing that overwhelmed me was the omnipresent greenery! Being a Delhi lad, even Bangalore seemed lush when I had first landed. But what I saw from the plane window while landing, quickly corrected my ill contrived city notions of greenery! What I read in plane's travel magazine, only asserted my observation from the plane's 6"x10" aperture: "When God painted Kerala he lost all colors in his palette except green". This was the first time I was flying over a city which had little or no visible trace of human construction, you would only see an occasional tall, white, cathedral building peeping through the trees - as if straining to stand-up to be counted amongst the trees, struggling to get its fair share of sunshine...

The landing was smooth and I soon found myself waiting to collect my baggage, which arrived after an arduous wait. The drive to hotel was colorful - never before have I seen such variety of landscape pass by me while still being in the same city! If stretch near airport was overlooked by scanty canopies of coconut trees, twenty minutes later I found myself in a typical urban Indian cityscape - replete with hoardings screaming big brand names, and then again passing by the array of coconut trees - this time trees being an even distant sight, with sea between them and my car (the beginning of the stretch marked by the words "Kochi Port Trust").

My lexical inclination found another subject in Malyalam. Malyalam (like any major language in India) has its own script! I took instant liking to the slithering, curving serpentine script, (and found it a pity that its yet to make it to Windows) so when it was not trees and seas, it was city graffiti that kept my attention. (and I came out richer by 6 letters by the time we concluded our drive ;-)).

Few cultural observations (my apologies if you are offended, in which case, do drop me a line and I'll promptly remove them from this blog). I knew that actor Mohan Lal was big down here, but the notion of "big" was certainly grossly out of place. He had a complete monopoly of every single movie poster/hording I saw! Mohan Lal in different manifestations that he portrayed in the movies - the messiah of poor, the farmer, the crusader, the winner (not to mention couple of ads I saw featuring him). Then there were humungous hoardings of gold jewelry shops in more or less same proportions as movie banners (most of them hand painted - unlike their digitally printed counter parts that one comes across in most cities). Through my entire drive I must have seen more jewelry shops than the cumulative sum of number I've seen in my whole life! Gold indeed is deeply ingrained in Indian culture the extent just became clearer..

I was in meetings whole day and I was too tired to venture out in the evening, so we'll cut to the next morning's drive back to the airport :-). For some lame reason, a sudden strike had been declared by worker unions in Kerala. My car from yesterday had abruptly abandoned me to seek my own means of reaching airport (no amount of pleading or reasoning would convince the driver). I eventually had to rely on Hotel's airport shuttle - in hindsight I am glad I did, for they also sent a police inspector (and labeled the shuttle "POLICE") to ward of any miscreants and so never before have I been so glad at sight of a building labeled "airport".

I saw some of the worst ads (perhaps worst ever created by mankind) during the journey back. The first one was trying to sell life insurance policy with a punch line that went something like "Metlife's sixer to problems of life" with illustration of snoopy (the dog from comic strip peanuts), hitting a cricket ball. The second one, incidentally also selling insurance policy, muttered "There is no match for our fire policy" - the word "match" used as a bad pun to depict a burning matchbox. Perhaps the idea here was to make these ads grotesque intentionally so that they persist in your memory for the sheer disgust they made you endure (do bad ads make good blog entires - let me know ;-)).

At last I was in the plane (part of the blog was completed there!) after getting past the security formalities. During the security checks, I found something very different from any other airport I've been to (yet again!). The usage of computers was minimal. Most of the work was done manually using good old pen and paper (e.g. before I boarded the plane, my pass no. was ticked off on a sheet of paper rather than being punched in into a computer terminal). The plane that flies between Cochin and Bangalore is not a 737 but an ATR. They are popular for short haul, low traffic flights. Almost the entire "ATR" fleet of jet airways, now carries a sticker (or may be it is paint ;-)) which reads "Environment Friendly ATR" - puzzled me for a few seconds, till I realized that ATRs also fly lower than your conventional bigger planes - so they don't mess the stratosphere with remnants of aviation fuel (fine, crafty example of economic compulsion, technological limitation being passed off as an endeavor for environment care).

Kochi was a firsts in many ways - unfortunately it was also the first time I regretted having asked for a window seat. As I mentioned, we were flying ATR. Now ATRs have huge propeller blades mounted on either wings. Your seat is just below the wings, so you can see the rotating propeller blade, not to mention exposure to unwelcome generosity of engine noise. I was in seat 5A, and by virtue of that, in direct view of the rotating propeller blade mounted on left wing (the direction of rotation being counter clockwise if viewed from front) and I don't know how I conjured this phobia (lets call it propellophobia), that if the propeller were to be dislodged from the spindle, it would come crashing through the airplane window, making minced meat of my torso. Result, my appetite for picturesque outside view abandoned me (and I did not waste a single second in encroaching the empty seat next to me - just to introduce that little extra distance between the blade and myself to buy me more "ducking seconds" in case of any eventuality). Thankfully, the sadistic beasts of my fertile imagination stayed just that and I survived to finish yet another glorious entry to my blog :-) [despite the constant morbid fear of being mauled at the hands of a plane propeller].
posted: 21.5.03 | permalink | 1 comments

A blogger's dilemma and intricacies of human behavior...

My blog is now 4 entries strong (including the log you are traversing through right now, oh btw I think 4 entries long is a better phrase). First a brief, vivid (yet inconsequential) description of settings under which I am doing this blog. (Something tells me that this is the most sentimentally elaborate blog I'll ever churn, so please bear with me for the next few sentences). The weather here in Bangalore for last 3 or so days has been bordering on perfection. Its 10:22 PM, and my trusted Altec Lensing speakers are emanating soothing sound of "Oh Vennila" (which when translated to English means "Oh Moon") [a composition by A. R. Rahman from the movie "Kadhal Desam"] - no this isn't coincidental as the chaste moonlight filters through the somewhat bushy cloud cover and renders itself magnificently on the marble floor of my home's balcony (imagine being at Taj today!), prompting the selection of song with these words (and O Vennila are the only words I understand in the entire song, just enough for my little, private, ode to moonlight :-)). Of course there's fine, soothing breeze laden with poignant aroma (not sure what it is, but it has had a surreal calming effect on me).

The biggest predicament that a blogger faces after the initial inertia of having started a blog wears out is how often is enough? Till date I've followed instincts, thoughts (right brain!). But instincts are mostly random - not bound by time of day or days of week, and my blogging pattern reflects that. Two updates on the very day I started this blog, another one a day after and then total calm for good two days. If you are a seasoned blogger, do drop me a line about your experiences after the euphoria died out... Is chaos your friend or is it order that actually makes things chaotic?

Another strange thought (rather obvious one at that) that struck me a day back is the contradiction between Blogging and Texting (SMS). Both are forms of communication which rely on words - one on verbosity and abundance of them, the other on paucity. So here I am saying more and more about less and less while I could be SMSing moments later trying to say less and less about more and more. Yet both are equally popular amongst youth - at times same person being apt at both acts! Isn't this a fine illustration of deep behavioral incongruity of perhaps God's finest creation - human beings - and I guess that this very unpredictability, this ambiguity makes us an interesting subject of ample curiosity for aliens observing from light-years away... Spare a thought.

The music in the background has (been?) changed to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik (a little night music) the breeze, the moon, the night acting to amplify the turbulent tumult of emotions it usually generates!
posted: 18.5.03 | permalink | 0 comments

What is your Braindedness (*not* to be confused with Brain-dead-ness)

Welcome to third installment of insanity :-). Today was a rather monotonous day at work, and one of those rare days where left half of my brain got put to more use than right. Which means that the right half is fresh as freshly chopped cucumber and raring to blog! First a quick crash course on human brain (without making it too gory). Our brain (you know that thing up there ;-)) happens to have two halves. Now for some weird quirk of nature, things get a little messy here - the left half controls right half of your body and vice versa. Not only that, both halves are associated with different centers of learning. You do your creative thinking using right half and logical thinking using left. So as things stand (and they are most unlikely to change in foreseeable (or not so foreseeable) future), when you are painting or enjoying music, you are putting your right half to use while when you are cracking a mathematical problem (calculus anyone ;-)) you are straining your left half. Any guesses as to which half is being put to use when watching an Arnie action flick? Neither of course!

Really bright people are known to use both halves in more or less equal proportions. Einstein for example, was a physicist and a (albeit lousy) violin player. Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter and scientist. The list could go on.

It is possible to create situations where your left and right brains tell you conflicting things to do, and I am going to put you through precisely one such situation. Try to say the colors of the word instead of what is written (remember say the colors, *don't read*, and do it loudly for maximum effect ;-)):


Depending on how many of those you got right, you are either right "brained" or left "brained" (or brain dead).

Changing topic, and this should appeal your right brain, I've just laid my hands on soundtrack of the movie "Catch me if you can" (one with Tom Hanks, directed by Steven Spielberg). The score has been composed by John Williams and is a fine speciman of progressive Jazz - especially the title sequence "Catch Me If You Can" - it captures the true essence of cat and mouse, spy vs spy chase which the movie is all about. If you remotely like the sound of Jazz, its a must have for your collection.

I have a queer ear for music (actually queer is a queer term to use in this context). On several counts, while watching movies in theatre, I've found the entire audience gripped by a tense sequence on screen but yet found myself savoring the dark notes of the piano in the background. Now if I am with friends, this usually spawns a brief dialog that goes like:

Did you hear that sequence in D Flat Minor!!!?.

This habit (knack?) can make it watching movies with me a slightly testing exercise - unless of course your inclination for music is >= mine :-) [the >= was meant to probe if your left brain was still paying attention].
posted: 13.5.03 | permalink | 0 comments

I must mention Anand M, who for want of better words "inspired" me to start blogging. Now he bears the brunt of providing me peer support as well.

I also thought it would be worth mentioning "how" I blog and I paste excerpts from a mail I exchanged with him sometime earlier today:

"Btw, I've been smitten by blogging bug as well. I still prefer to do things the old fashioned way. So my first blog has been done in fine blue ink (and even finer calligraphic hand of mine ;-)) on a *real* notepad - all set to be digitized and shown to the world. Will post you the link as soon as I've gotten over the laziness of keying it all in :-)...[Did I hear someone say *tablet pc* - yeah right ;-)]

Actually the reason I got back into the writing business is rather sad. I actually type faster than I write! The fruit of twelve+ years of cultivating a fine hand was ruined within three years of proximity to computers (and odd hours spent with them). So one fine day when I actually tried to scribble, I was appalled at the illegitimate scrawl that I had to call my "handwriting". I then took it upon myself to reform the state of affairs. Got myself a shiny new Hi-Tec Point V5 pilot pen, a decent *notepad* and started writing for the sake of it (at times just putting down random blabber, noise - but I was happy to be was writing again :-)). Today I have a legitimate hand - a calligraphic one (by very little stretch of imagination) at that! Re-acquiring this basic skill (which was crucial to your very existence just few years back) was hard and I would hate to lose it again.

As for tablet PCs, I miss the juicy flow of ink, the friction between the pen and the paper, the delicate "scrawling" noise that emanates when the pen gently drags itself against the paper and stuff that poetry is made of ;-)... (oh the joys of writing)"
posted: 12.5.03 | permalink | 0 comments

It wasn't that I was up against writer's block. That couldn't have been, for I haven't been much of a writer in the first place (that is if you write off the hundred of e-mails that I answer as course of my job everyday ;-)). Yet I didn't have a blog. It wasn't ever the shortage of time that kept me from it, it was shortage of things to write about. That seems to have undergone a sea-change since I moved to Bangalore. And of course since I have taken to reading again (partly out of interest, partly to escape the torments unleashed by hobgoblins of solitude ;-)), I seem to have re-discovered my gift for being playful with words.

But why a blog? Why not keep a diary? I am a firm believer of the old maxim - keep a diary today, and the diary will keep you all your life! I am hoping that since a blog is open to the rest of the world, my degree of candidness would be restrained to sensible generosity :-)...

So here it is my first blog entry. Nothing fancy, just a random train of thoughts (isn't this what blogging is all about ;-)), manifesting itself on paper (more on it in my next log), as I am occasionally distracted by menacing housefly at St. Mark's road Barista (1 | 2 | 3), whose calisthenics against the glass window pane seem remarkably in sync with the music being belted out (which is seldom to my taste at Baristas). And if you have made it so far, it seems that it would be fair to declare what you should be expecting from my blog. Let the word "random" be your guiding force there! Jokes (was that even faintly funny ;-)) apart, it would mostly be philosophical rants, critiques of music that I am presently listening to (expect everything from Beethoven to Dave Matthews Band to latest Rahman flick), commentary on books (with occasional quotes worth my blog ;-)) and Art (contemporary digital and Dali - oh btw 11th was his Birthday).

I've finally run out of cappuccino and it seems along with it of steam to continue further. Signing off (with hopes that my first blog entry doesn't turn out to be my last one :-))
posted: 12.5.03 | permalink | 0 comments

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