Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cricket in New York

This is a photograph that appeared in an otherwise well written article in The Economist.

Question: Is this how they play cricket in US? All the slip players are on the other side!!!! Unless the batsman is gifted and is a switch hitter.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Indians do not Stand in Queues?

Indians just don’t like to wait patiently in a queue. Why? It took me years to figure out why, but now I am convinced that the reason has nothing to do with mutated genes or skewed education or indiscipline or lack of consideration for others. It is a cultural thing.


Come, let me take you back some 5000 years (give or take a few 1000 years, depending on who you believe). We are entering a very critical phase of an ongoing story. This is the bedroom of a person who has already been recognized as God. Krishna is sleeping. Duryodhana enters his bedroom. Looks around. There is only one seating place, near Krishna’s head. He sits there and patiently waits for Krishna to wake up. Shortly after Arjuna enters the chamber. He hesitates for a moment, Duryoshana, the person he hates, is in the bedroom before him. But he contains his anger and stands at the foot of the bed.

Shortly after Krishna wakes up. Who do you think he attends to first? Not the person who came first. But the person who Krishna sees first. So it is all about grabbing eye balls. Doesn’t matter who came in first. What matters is who the clerk / officer / babu / chaprasi decides to attend first.

There, you see why Indians do not like standing in the queue. As I said it is a cultural thingy.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Jagjit Singh Passes Away

People die.
The man with silk smooth voice, Jagjit Singh, is no more.
All we can do is listen to his gazals over and over again.
There will be no new ones any more.

I wonder how Chitra Singh will take this.
First son.
Then daughter.
Now husband.
But she is a brave woman.
And this too shall pass.

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Pursuing French

A very effective way of committing oneself to a project is to open up. This works in a very paradoxical way. On one hand you would like to keep things to yourself, especially if you are a private person. And therefore, opening up to public scrutiny makes you feel vulnerable. On the other hand, however, once you are open to public scrutiny, and because you are in open to public scrutiny, you may feel motivated to do what you always wanted to but did not have the discipline to.

Take an example. Assume you always wanted to write a novel. You have the rough sketch in your mind but because are oh-so-busy the wonderful story inside you in not taking shape. What do you do? You tell others that by the year end you will publish a novel. There! Now you are vulnerable to ridicule. Now you need to prove that the tittering were all misplaced. Now you need to do something by the year end. Got the idea?

It is with this intention I have thrown myself open to public ridicule. And not just to those who are within reach, but the whole world. Visit Learning French and judge for yourself if I have taken a step in the right direction or not.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Karnataka Heritage: Story of 3 Rocks

It did not strike me till the guide at Hampi told me so.
Karnataka has three types of rocks: a) Soap Stone, b) Granite, and c) Sand Stone.

Hampi (a UNESCO World Heritage) ruins are made of Granite.
The temples of Pattadakal (a UNESCO World Heritage) and the Badami Cave temples are of Sand Stone.
The temples at Belur and Halebid are made of Soap Stones.

Follow the stones and you would have covered a considerable part of Karnataka's tourism offerings.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Emotion Sweep

I have just about started reading this book and I already have three of the most common emotions sweep already over me:

1) Envy: When I read this: "Sheena Iyengar is a professor at the Columbia Business School, with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology". A women writing a best seller and is doing better than me! (I guess a bit of caveman is still alive in me)

2) Shock: When I read this: "... I was taken to a vision specialist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. He quickly resolved the mystery: I had a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease of retinal degeneration, which had left me with 20/400 vision. By the time I reached high school, I was fully blind, able to perceive only light."

Which quickly changed into 3) admiration.

I am now looking forward to reading The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar.

Lesson for me ... do not wish a life that is not yours.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

My first visit to France

The year is 2002. This is my first trip to a non-English speaking country. I am going to France.
I land at the Toulouse airport via Milan. Upon landing I search for immigration. To my surprise, I cannot find it. Funny! How do I enter the country?
I approach a person who seemed to be wearing a police uniform. I ask him about immigration. He rattles off something in French pointing to doors marked "Sortie".
Hmmm... Sortie. When I was small I was an avid Commando comics fan. RAF used to fly sorties. Why is this person pointing to sortie? And why doesn't he speak English? This is an airport and if he is a policeman, shouldn't he be there to help?
I stare at him for some time trying to catch some words that I read in a French phrase book that I had purchased some days ago. Nothing!
I move away. Traces of panic appear. If I am delayed here, my baggage will be taken off carousal and who knows how to find them. In desperation I look around. There is a young man standing near a desk. All others are moving around. Perhaps, he can help. I go to him. As I walk towards him, I am trying to remember what I learnt in the phrase book.
"Parlez vous anglais?: I stammer out.
"Yeah, a little".
I ask him about the immigration.
He looks at me strangely and says, "collect yous baggage and walk out." and points towards "sortie".
"But if I enter France without an immigration stamp, I will have trouble going back."
"Hmm... How did you come here?" he asks.
"From Bangalore to Bombay via Milan."
"Did they stamp your passport at Milan?"
"Yes they did."
"Then you have nothing to worry. Since we are all part of European Union, you can enter anywhere into Europe."
"Oh I see!"
I thank that person immensely, find out where my luggage could be (it was more than half an hour since I have landed) and exit.


I have since visited many other non-English speaking countries - Germany, Belgium, Switzerland - but that first trip is frozen in my mind.

Lessons learnt:
a) No matter how much information you have about a place or about related events, nothing will prepare you when you reach that place (I knew about the formation of EU.)
b) There is no substitute for local language. Your customers may speak English well, the person on the street will not.

All memories came flooding back when I created this web page on Free Online French Learning Resources. If you are planning to visit France in future, or wish to learn a language that will exercise your brain cells, this is the place to start.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Music Instruments - see and listen

Have you seen a Rudra Veena before? Did you know that Shiva created the instrument inspired by Parvati's shapely figure? No? Then head straight to Instruments in Hindustani Classical Music
This page shows how the instruments that are used in Hindustani Classical Music looks like, how it sounds and in some cases how it has been used in popular songs. Have fun.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Big Two

My musical reminiscences couldn't have possibly completed with out paying by obeisance to Rafi and Kishore.

So here it is:
Rafi: The Voice that Launched 1000 Romances
Kishore Kumar: The Man with the Golden Voice

Did you know that in the earlier days of Kishore Kumar's career as an actor, Rafi was the playback for Kishore? It feels very surreal when you hear Rafi's voice when Kishore is singing on the screen. You can see a few such songs on the Kishore Kumar webpage above.

By the way, if you wish to include a few of your own favourites please drop a line in the Guest Book in the webpage and I will include it.

Have fun listening and seeing.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Celebrating Lyrics

Quick! Name 5 lyricist from Bollywood. Go on ... I can hear you ... Gulzar, one. Javed Akhtar, two. Very good. Go on ... Hmmm. I see you are struggling. Oh ... oh ... Anand Bakshi, ..., yes ... this is so difficult. And yet the songs that you have appreciated over the years are so much about lyrics. As are all songs. A pity that lyricists are a neglected tribe.

One name we tend to overlook is that of Neeraj. He is essentially a poet. His poetry has been translated into many languages. And yet, unless you are a cognoscenti, chances are that you would not have heard of him. Though I bet you listen to one song of his and you will recognize the song straight away.

Here's a compilation of 17 of his songs => Neeraj: The Poet Who Strayed Into Hindi Cinema. Each better that the other.
Check out Devanand humming ...

Saason ki sargam, dhakan ki beena, sapnon ki geetanjali tu;
Mann ki gali mein mehke jo hardum aisi juhi ki kali tu.

I wonder if Juhi Chawla's mother was inspired by this song.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Searching for Heroes

Remember the glorious songs of yester-years: 'yeh hai reshmi zulphon ka andhera', 'zindagi ittafq hai', 'Allah yeh adaa kaisi'? Remember the actress who made these songs memorable on screen? Oh yeah! I am talking of Mumtaz. Did you know that of the 17 odd years of her career, she spent only 7-8 years as a top rated actress. Before that she struggled as an extra, heroine's friend, supporting actress, and a side-kick. Now how many actor or actresses you know who have persevered and made it the top? Rekha's name comes to mind. But she was always a lead actress - a bad one who reinvented herself, but a lead actress, nonetheless. I checked with a few of my friends; there is no such example in the South India too. Similar, but not quite. That's why she is a hero and someone to be inspired by.

You can see and hear her journey here => mumtaz-a-study-in-perseverance

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Remembering Jaidev: The Musical Genius

Recently, the movie Hum Dono was re-released in colour. The movie was a rage when it was first released. The songs were very much appreciated. During its re-release in colour, Hum Dono trended to the top 5 spot on Twitter, the present generation social barometer.

On the eve of the re-release, Devanand spoke highly of Asha Bhosle's philosophical 'Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai...' and Lata Mangeshkar's ethereal 'Allah Tero Naam ...'. But I do not quite remember Devanand talking about the man behind these songs, Jaidev. Perhaps, I missed it.

In any case, I think Jaydev did not get the recognition he deserved. He received the National Award for best music thrice. The only other music directors to have received the National Award thrice is A R Rehman and Ilayaraja.

Since Devanand did not remember him, and since most of you either do not know him, or have forgotten him, I have compiled his songs here =>

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Did Amitabh Bachchan Kill Melody?

It is commonly assumed that rise of Amitabh Bachchan as the Angry Young Man in Hindi Movies is responsible for the death of melody in Hindi film songs. With a complete entertainment package like Amitabh in a movie, perhaps the emphasis on good music decreased. But is this impression really correct?

I have compiled some of the most memorable songs sung on Indian silver screen by Amitabh. The playbacks range from Kishore to Yesudas. Have a listen and let me know what you think of this collection.

The link =>

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Friday, March 25, 2011

If Lata is in, can Asha be far away?

I must say, I have never enjoyed myself more. Making web pages dedicated to the golden era of Bollywood music was the best decision I have ever taken. I bet I would have visited these webpages more than anyone else. Whenever I get a chance, I pop in and do a quick listen to one of my favourite songs.

And this time I am back with Asha Bhosle. I was very uncomfortable with the fact that I had a web page dedicated to Lata, but nothing yet on Asha. ("What would Asha say?"). I feel a little better now.

Here have a listen yourself => Asha Bhosle, the Voice that Spans Generations

And in case, you are feeling lazy and do not want to scroll up and down searching for other Musical webpages, here's the complete list, so far.

25 Songs of the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar
25 Songs from a Musical Maestro, Manna Dey
5 Songs each from Bhupendra, Manhar, Suman Kalyanpur, Vani Jayram and Sharda
21 Songs from Music Directors singing their own composition
Female-Female Duets in Hindi Cinema
Binaca Geetmala 1953-1972

Since I am enjoying myself so much, you can be sure that this list is only going to grow.
Watch this space.
And thanks for all the support.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Binaca Geetmala

People of my generation and above will remember the Wednesday evening 8 p.m. This was the Binaca Geetmala and the golden voice of Amin Sayani time.
Binaca Geetmala was the most definitive music countdown show for India. Times have changed. With a surfeit of TV channels, each having its own 'top 10' shows, no one really bothers.
So, how about recreating the romance of Binaca Geetmala. I have created a webpage with just that intent. The webpage is a collection of the first 20 years of Binaca Geetmala. From 1953-1972.
You can not only listen to the chart bursting top song of each of the 20 years, you can also see it. And there are small quizzes to go along.
Have fun.
Here's the link => Binaca Geetmala

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Musical Lenses Featuring Lata, Kishore, Manna, Hemant and many more

The last week and the weekend were spent in absolute ecstasy: listening and choosing music of the golden era of Hindi playback singing.
There is magic in these songs and now that I have created webpages that is a mini-collection of sorts, I now have two wishes:

a) that more people listen to these - both those who understand Hindi and those who don't
b) that these songs find their rightful place in world music.

Today, if you search music in Internet you will find Beatles or other pop-music at the top of the heap. I do not deny their rightful place, but is there any reason why Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Hemant, Manna, Asha should not rub shoulders with them.

So, here is a request. Please visit the webpages I have built. Give me your suggestion to make it more attractive. But more importantly,spread the word. Please tell at least 10 people you know to visit these webpages, and they can tell 10 more and so on ...

Here are the pages:

25 songs from the Nightingale of India: Lata Mangeshkar
25 songs from a musical maestro: Manna Dey
21 songs by Music Directors singing their own composition
25 songs from the minnows of Hindi Playback

You can rate the songs you like best. I hope you enjoy listening to these songs as much as I enjoyed creating the webpages.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sachin Tendulkar Factor

Everyone who has once held a bat in hand seems to have an opinion on the Indian cricket team. So here's my two bit:

The reason why Indian batting order collapse after a great start involving Tendulkar is because Tendulkar is so good. This may seem to be a cock-eyed logic but hear me out ... Because Tendulkar is so good, and because he bats so effortlessly when he is in full flow, the rest of the batsmen in the dressing room think that the pitch is playing true and that it is a batsman's pitch. They ust be going, "Arrreee! Sachin has hit 3 sixes. Wow! I will go and smash the ball all over the place." Unfortunately, they get it wrong and they fall flat on their respective faces. The sad part is that there is no lessons learnt.

I think it was Rahul Dravid who got it right. In one of the interviews, given quite some time ago, he said something to this effect: Watching Sachin at the other end is a great experience. Of course, you need to be careful. You cannot play like him. So, you play your game.

So, here is my advise to the Indian batsmen: Recognise your strength and play to it. Let Sachin play his game. You play yours.

By the way, this applies to daily life too.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

My 50 Squidoo Pages

Finally! This is one milestone that I was aiming for, for quite some time. With the lens on the book review of the book Mother Pious Lady I managed to hit the 50 Squidoo page mark. And did one better: the lens on the Assyrian Lion Hunt in the British Museum makes it the 51st. Please visit these pages and let me know what you feel about these.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Indian Museum

Sad, but true. Not many Indians like visiting Museums. Though every largish city in India has one. The Science Museums are usually visited by children as part of their trips organised by school, but that's about it. The museums that are related history and culture are given a pass.
Now you may argue that this is not true. That you have visited the museum in your city. Possible. But how many times did you visit that museum. Once? That's not good enough. Museums have so much to see that one, or two for that matter, visit is never enough.
The museums in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata are world class. The Government Museum in Chennai is absolutely fantastic. And so is the Indian Museum in Kolkata. Those living in cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata are lucky. They can visit these museums as many times as they wish too. Others who get to visit these places only a few times in their lifetimes can only take satisfaction by looking at the photographs they would have taken. Here's my set that I took at the Indian Museum, Kolkata. Did you know that the Indian Museum in Kolkata has an Egyptian Mummy? Go see my pictures.

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Mother Pious Lady

Sometimes knowledge is packaged in a certain way that you would not grasp its utility unless you actually encounter it. So it is with this gem of a book: Mother Pious Lady by Santosh Desai. Packaged as a current affairs book, it is actually a gold mine for advertisers and marketers. I can see it as the basis of thousands of advertisements and marketing initiatives targeting the existing and for years to come. Actually Santosh Desai can make more money if the book is sold free, and he charges per advertisement based on this book.
Oh! You are not a marketing chap? But I am sure you would like a book that is witty and hilarious. I am sure you would also like to know the mind of the Indian middle class. Or better, you grew up as one but only recently moved up the ladder, thanks to the Indian success story. Nothing like curling up with this book and losing yourself into nostalgia. An occasional chuckle helps!
Want to read more? Check out the book review.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bodh Gaya: Photo-Lens

A few of you may have noticed that the list of World Heritage Sites visited has an additional entry - The Mahabodhi Temple. Yeah, I finally visted Bodh Gaya. You can find lots of pictures and some details in my 'photo-lens on Bodh Gaya: Land of Enlightenment.

Let me know what you think of the pictures.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Indians in Business Novels

That Indian characters are increasingly finding a central place in Business Novels is a sure sign of Indians having arrived. At least in Harvard Business Review Press books. However, if the author is not very conversant with the culture, it could lead to some awkward situation. Especially, when the culture in India is as varied as it is.

In the otherwise delightful and very knowledge-imparting business novel,What I Didn't Learn in Business School by Jay B. Barney and Trish Gorman Clifford, Vivek Chatterjee (the almost central character) is "a native of India with a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkley."

Stereotyping is to be, of course, expected. "Turns out that Vivek and I [Justin Campbell - the central character] had something in common. He was once a good cricket player, and I once saw a cricket bat."

But what I found very amusiing is the following extract:

Bill entered the room with his hand extended and a smile on his face. Vivek was closest and introduced himself.
"Hello, I am Vivek Chatterjee And these are my colleagues Justin Campbell and Gordon Lee." Bill turned to Vivek, quickly withdrew his hand from the handshake, brought the palms of his hands together, and bowed slightly.
Vivek did the same and responded, "Namaskar."

Hmmmm... I think the authors have heard that Indians greet each other with a Namaskar or Namaste and they wished to show how culturally senstive they are. I have never seen Indians in formal business meetings greeting each other in this manner, and I have lived here all my life! The real life Vivek Chatterjee would have been equally amused.

Please don't get me wrong. I immensely enjoyed the novel. I would rate it as high as The Goal. It has the same quality as the Goal that makes you want to read it again and again. The theme is gradually elaborated and you feel as if you are part of the whole experience. Also, at the end of each chapter there what are called the Reflection Questions. Meditating a while on these questions could be a learning experience. I was very impressed with was the Reading List that is the end of the novel. Very neat list.

I really wish the authors come up with a series of Justin Campbell novels so that, along with Justin, we too discover "How Strategy Works in the Real World."

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Friday, January 21, 2011

India and the Millenium Development Goals

There are times when growth and progress needs to be seen from the perspective of human development; and not just in terms of % GDP growth or industrial output. The UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG) provides an alternative reference point.

The UN published a report on where the world stands with regards to meeting the MDG in 2010.
There are three references to India in the text of this report. I reproduce these below ...

The fastest growth and sharpest reductions in poverty continue to be recorded in Eastern Asia. Poverty rates in China are expected to fall to around 5 per cent by 2015. India, too, has contributed to the large reduction in global poverty.

Asia, on the other hand, registered a net gain of some 2.2 million hectares annually in the last decade, mainly because of large-scale afforestation programmes in China, India and Viet Nam.
These three countries have expanded their forest area by a total of nearly 4 million hectares annually in the last five years.

And if you thought that this report was written to show India in favourable light, consider this ...

[P]roblems of contamination with naturally occurring inorganic arsenic, in particular in Bangladesh and other parts of Southern Asia, or fluoride in a number of countries, including China and India, have affected the safety of water supplies.

There you have it.
India is doing rather well in (almost) all fronts - beyond that indicated by the macro-economic indicators. What is more interesting is the India is and China seems to have the similar growth trajectory as far as the MDG is concerned.

It must be borne in mind that this report came out in the middle of 2010. Wonder what impact the recent spate of inflation will have on the above statements.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Swear if you care

Once in a while you stumble upon information that forces you to think. It might also push you beyond your comfort envelope.
The information can come to you from any domain, even mathematics. Especially when it comes in the form of an article titled 'If mathematics is a language, how do you swear in it?' One instictively knows that this article by David Wagner would be an interesting read and indeed it is.

Here's an extract ...
[H]istory ought to remind us to listen to students who say things that we think are wrong, and to listen to students who say things in ways we think are wrong. ... Furthermore, pursuing the non-permissible opens up new realities.

Read this article even if your are instictively repelled by the word 'mathematics'. There is no mathematics (in the normal sense of the word) in this article but lots of uncommon sense.

To wind up here's another extract from the article (after all, I need to justify the topic of this post)...
To help my students develop a sense of attachment to their mathematics, I need to give them mathematical investigations that present them with real problems. They may swear in frustration but they will also find satisfaction and pleasure.

I bet David Wagner is a great teacher.

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