Archive for January, 2009

29
Jan
09

Dear God

Dear God,title2

How does it feel to be You? What is it like to have the ultimate power in the universe, the power of boundless Love? You indulge in endless creation, yet the very people You’ve created wallow in wanton destruction, harbouring greed and envy, wrath and pride, and the rest of the seven deadly sins. Does it hurt when You see Your children fall prey to sinful temptations? I’m sure the pain would be as excruciating, if not more, as a mother losing a child to sin, alive in her heart yet dead in her spirit.

But, God, where do You find the patience to persevere our actions, us as Your creations? We turn away from You each day, each minute, yet You love love us so much that You are ever ready to forgive what we had done. You know our deepest, darkest secrets, each of us, secrets which we would take to our graves if need be, and yet You chose to overlook our shortcomings to embrace us as Your children when we come back to You, repenting our sins.pray1

We hardly know You well, yet we say we are Christians. We make a mockery of Your teachings, manipulating it as we see fit for personal gains. We wage wars in Your name, wars that has become a part of our lives, murdering innocents while believing that we are doing “the right thing”. We come to You in our darkest hour, when everything else fails, when it is beyond the wisdom of mankind and You take us in Your arms and chase our troubles away. You are truly the Almighty, for no human goodness can match Yours. We forget You when we’re happy and pray endlessly when we’re in despair, not knowing that You were always with us even when we thought we did not need You.

pray12Had we been in Your place, God, and see our creations fighting, declaring war on each other, seething hatred and exchanging blows of anger upon one another, wouldn’t we be tempted to end it all and start afresh? Wouldn’t it be easier to wipe the slate clean and begin all over instead of waiting for eternity for your creations to come around? But You are righteous, and for a few good men, You chose to let us be, not overlooking the possibility that the few good men would eventually bring the others closer to You. Your actions are beyond human comprehension, and it is not our lot to try and understand Your rule.

And God, I have been a witness to Your mercy in my life, not just once, yet I still shy away from You. I’m not one of Your better creations, but I am trying in my world of odds, to be a better person for the people around me, the people who care, and mostly, for me. A coward may die a thousand deaths, but God, at least, let one of those deaths of mine make the people I love, proud of who I was, and who I could be. Please..

28
Jan
09

Slumdog : A point of view

I watched the famous Danny Boyle movie last Sunday. It was well directed, an oscar deserving movie and a great performance by the cast, refreshingly so because of the lack of main-stream Bollywood stars. It’s amazing that after decades of churning out movies upon countless movies, Bollywood is yet to make a movie comparable to Slumdog Millionaire. This goes to show that you do not need breath-taking foreign locales,  scantily clad exotic dancers or a star-studded cast to make it to the oscars.poster1

The movie released the same day as “Chandni Chowk to China”, which was a super budgeted movie starring the currently ruling King of Bollywood, Akshay Kumar. The project had roped in Warner Bros. and Orion Pictures production houses with a massively anticipated North American release. What happened next was the obvious, it failed miserably to impress anyone, not even Indian audiences.. and they wonder why they don’t win oscars! It was probably too ambitious a venture anyway, Indian cinema still needs to learn the ropes when it comes to the international entertainment market. Musicals are a thing of the past, unless performed by good-looking high school-going teens with endless energy coupled with a great performance and acrobatic dance sequences.

bournesupremacyThe level of maturity of Bollywood action directors can be measured by the fast paced chase sequence in the first scene of Bourne Supremacy. The scene was shot in the streets and gullies of Goa, with a Hyundai Sonata and Maruti Gypsy. I could never imagine  the 4 wheeled gypsy to be so maneuverable, but with a world class director, anything was possible. There were no unnecessary explosions, but it was still one of the best chase scenes shot in india (Another one would be the Auto Rickshaw chase in James Bond’s Octopussy). No Bollywood Blockbuster movie would come close enough to making that impact on the audience.

And we, as Indians, would shamelessly claim the success of Slumdog Millionaire as our own, where nothing from the director to the actors were remotely Indian. Let’s see, director : Danny Boyle, Screenplay Writer : Simon Beaufoy, Adapted from the book Q&A by Vikas Swarup, who by the way, has been nominated and won awards possibly everywhere else except India (But I’m sure he’ll win a few Indian awards soon enough, judging from the International popularity of the movie). The actors were never heard of before, except for Anil Kapoor whose influence in Bollywood was kinda waning, what with him getting old and stuff. The kids (Jr. Hero and Heroine) were superbly impressive, and kudos to the Director for not making it JASMBF (Just Another Stupid Mushy Bollywood Flick). The locations were life-like and not overly extravagant, with the Millionaire Don’s house looking pretty humble, a relief from the usual golden staircases and diamond-studded chandeliers which indicate affluence in Bollywood movies.wednesday1

Anyways, Indian Cinema is in its adolesence with the “off-beat” movies released which makes more sense with a realistic view of life and the problems we face. Movies like “A Wednesday” which didn’t involve murderous lyrical songs with “Item numbers”, but rather focussing on the story line making it a movie worth spending money at the hall for, and left you thinking about the movie when its over, than about the stupid dialogues and pick-up lines which only roadside romeos would utter in utmost confidence. Afterall, it happens only in India.

23
Jan
09

Formats

A wise man once said that with too many different formats of different files in the world of technology nowadays, its headed for a breakdown. I second the motion. I’ve spent a majority for my virtual life trying to convert files from one format to the other. From .PDFs to .DOCs and then back to .PDFs. Documents are alright, as long as you can make out the text, you can always find a way to copy it somehow onto your desired software using the Copy-Paste function. But what about media, music, videos, pictures? It’s going  to be one hell of a problem, not that it hasn’t been already.

I was trying to put this video form Youtube onto my phone, which does not accept anything other than .3gp files.  I downloaded the video using the Youtube downloader onto my computer, it was a .flv file, what it stands for, I guess only the developers would know. Then I had to download another software to convert that to a .3gp file, and finally I was able to view it on my mobile. (BTW, the software is called ImToo 3gp converter software for anyone who wants to know!). So, conversion is the only option, and anyone with enough expertise with file formats would be able to tell you why your .wav audio files don’t play on your phones, unless its .mp3 enabled, which would require you to convert your .wav audio files to .mp3 files….. whew..

I’d like to think that one day, they would run out of 3 letter extensions for the different files, and that they would have to start using 4 letter extensions for files. For example, there are so many extension for picture files, .bmp, .jpg, .png, .gif, .pcd, .pcx… etc etc.. and there are more for the audio files, .wav, .aac., . mp3, .mp4., .wmv and much more for video files..  and so on..

Apart from all the different formats, there are diferent ports to add to the confusion. I was trying to transfer the pictures from a Sony Digicam to the computer, but I wasn’t able to find the cable, so I thought the samsung digicam cable would be as good, only to discover that it wouldn’t even fit in the goddamn hole. I was frustrated. Why can’t they make standards, like for battery cells? They fit in your remote control for the TV, VCR and the wall clock! No conversion required. Makes life so much more simple, doesn’t it? I guess i’m bound to spend half my life converting one format to the other, just because its easier for the manufacturers to have their own formats, so that they can profit not just from the files, but for the converter software that their files require.

23
Jan
09

kawm-piu-tar

While I was pursuing my Bachelors in Computer Engineering in the outskirts of the city, each time I go back home for vacations, I would be asked the same question by some of the older members of my family “What exactly do you study?”. As much as computers continue to play an increasingly important part of our lives, I realised that for the computer-illeterate, its just a piece of equipment comparable to the television. So, they would, in turn, tell their peers proudly that I am learning how to make computers, and their friends would still be really impressed, not knowing what exactly a computer does or what you can do with it.

My fascination with computers started the first time I saw one while in boarding, way back in 97, running Windows 95. (I had seen others while in high school, but it was such a secure room, what with the “No footwear” sign and the AC running all the time, it wasn’t a really attractive option at the time when we had Nintendo and rented VHS cassettes for entertainment) I didn’t know what it could do then, but I sure as hell wanted to find out. It was hooked up to the internet, with a 56kbps dial-up modem, and it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. So, one night my friend, who was more computer-savvy, managed to get the keys to the lab from our computer instructor, and we spent the whole night surfing the internet, and to this day, I still use the email account we created that night, call me nostalgic… or not, whatever.

Today, I cannot live a day without spending time on the internet, checking my mails and posts online, keeping in touch with friends, etc. But when I went back home this time, I realised that even though we may have the knowledge and ability to exploit this technology as we needed, how does it benefit the people who don’t? Out state capital may be as technologically advanced as the next, but what we need to achieve is overall development for the people.

I’ve heard of projects started by the Indian Goverment in remote rural areas which allowed farmers to approach a goverment installation where a computer operator would check online for future weather updates, prices of commodities in the national market and availability of better and scientifically improved varieties of seeds custom made for the climate and terrain. Why can’t we do that back home? We have DSL now, we have satellite-enabled internet and statewide availability of Mobile networks. If we can’t apply the knowledge we have for the greater good, what good is it then? For chatting? Surfing porn and downloading media content?

I am a man of few ideas, but I know that we have highly-educated and brilliantly practical youths who could come up with effective and achieveable solutions to our growing problem of rural poverty and the means to implement these ideas on a large scale. If Assam can import their tea leaves worldwide to the extent of being  uniquely exclusive, why can’t we do the same with our food products? We have various fruits and vegetables which are not known beyond the state borders, the same ones which we desperately long for when we move outside the north east. We need to find a way to introduce them to the world, which would bring overall economic growth to the state, and that’s something worth being proud for. I pray that we achieve this arduous yet attainable feat in my generation, or at least lay the foundation for the next generation to accomplish.

22
Jan
09

If I had one last day to live…

– I’d get up early in the morning, for once, and admire the beauty of Sunrise over the misty mountains of home, one last time. It had never failed to uplift my spirits, and Im sure it won’t disappoint.

– I’d reminisce at my past life and mentally relive in the moments I laughed, the moments I cried and others that drew my emotions which make the memories worth remembering. I just wanted to feel human again, overcome by emotions, the virtue that seperates us from other life forms.

– I’d ask my beloved to be strong, and that my life made more sense since we met. I’d tell her how much she meant to me, cos’ I need not  restraint myself no more. I’d pour my heart out so that she could understand why I did the things I do, even when we don’t see eye to eye. I’d ask her to chase her dreams, and be all that she wanted to be.

– I’d say a prayer for the lonely hearts, and wished they won’t leave this world being alone, which is the worse curse. That they realise sometimes if you can’t have the ones you love, you need to love the ones you have.

– I’d spend some time alone, penning my thoughts for the people who have, in my life, touched me and taught me things I would have never learnt myself, be it the hard way or the easy way. I’d write a letter for the people whom I love, and apologise to those I don’t. I’d thank my folks for who I am and my friends for who they are.

– I’ d thank the world for not picking me up when I was down, for being a silent observer in my life, for teaching me it’s own lessons no matter how many times I failed and for letting me believe that I could always be better if only I had tried harder.

 -I would end the day watching the sun go down, wondering not about my journey ahead, but about the journey that was, with a glass of scotch, taking a drag from the last cigarette I will ever smoke, cos’ there ain’t gonna be any where I’m headed.

21
Jan
09

Losing my Religulous!

taheri-azar_letter

Above is a part of Meditation II from Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar’s justification for his terrorist attack at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Meditation II, has appeared on numerous websites critical to Islam. One can view the mentioned verses from the Quran at the following Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Taheri-azar_letter.jpg

Some would consider this a true martyrs letter, rightfully justifying his act, but I would like to think that it is just a misinterpretation of the Holy Texts, a youth misled by Religious leaders to exploit his strong belief in his Faith. No religion in history gives the right to murder another without facing severe consequences, and the murder of innocents is murder most foul, payable by death indeed.

If you go through some of the verses, they look strangely similar to Bible verses, except for God’s name..

 “..By Allah’s will they routed them; and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him power and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed..” 2:251

“..Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): ‘I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them..’ ” 8:12

Could it be possible that we are actually worshipping the same God? That due to difference in cultural interpretation, we are merely calling HIM a different name? We have Saints in Christianity who walk and converse with God. Was Muhammed possibly one of them? It does leave one to wonder, doesn’t it?

I used to think that religion one day would solve all the worlds’ problems and bring Peace on Earth, but it was just a kids daydream. Most of the world’s chaos, anger, hatred and violence is brought about by the clash of religions, the friction faith creates when they collide. And the most scary and disturbing part is that either side so very rigidly believes they are right, so there can never be a conclusion or an agreement on common grounds. That’s where politics come in.

Politics and Religion can flourish beautifully without meeting each other, but they won’t. That is because they do not exist themselves without man. They have crossed paths for Centuries and will continue until eternity. To those who say “Religion driven Politics is the best form of Government” I would say “Which faith?”. Because countries are not divided by religion but by geography, or are they?

PS: While typing a post, my mind overflows with strings of thoughts, each leading me away from each other, that sometimes, its difficult to decide which string to follow, and I get tangled in my own web of ideas. I hope with time, I get better at this so that I can isolate each string and place them neatly in my pages for all to read and dissect and in the process, I hope to discover myself.

20
Jan
09

driving? me mad !

I was on my bike at a traffic intersection in Pune the other day when the lights, all of a sudden, went off. For some, it may be straight out of  a sci-fi computer-hacker-villian-terrorist attack movie, but in India, its just another day to the office. Everyone knew what was going to happen next. All the possible space in the junction was filled up with 2, 3 and 4-wheelers before anyone could say “Amitabh Bachan”! The funny thing was that no one looked surprised, they just accepted the fact that it was the law of Indian traffic. Sure, they were hurling colorful abuses, the likes of  which would put all rappers out of business, but no one got physical. They were simply doing what they do best.deadlock_thumb

Back home, one would drive with caution so that they don’t hit any other vehicle, but here, its different. We drive carefully so that no one comes close to hitting us. If you’re on a 2 wheeler, you’re at the bottom of the Traffic food chain. No one would let you pass them, it’s a matter of ego and horsepower. Driving on your side of the road when there’s no partition is taboo, and blowing your horn, boy, the horn is substituted for the siren politicians use. If you blow your horn in a crowded street (Considering your horn is loud enough) gives you the right to break the sound barrier on land. All lowly pedestrains are expected to give way for the loud-mouthed devil machine.

And bus drivers (they still scare the shit out of me) are not to be messed with. Their threat is evident in the daily morning newpapers where at least one unfortunate bike or bicycle would be overrun and the incident would be forgotten the next day when another similar incident would grace the same pages, same incident, different names. If you see one, behind you or ahead, keep as much distance from them as possible. They are like Gladiators on wheels, and if you happen to encounter one after dark, pray hard. 

Back to the gridlock at the intersection, since there was no more space to move, people just waited for the traffic cops to come and sort it out. Afterall, that’s what they get paid for, right? Why should we make their jobs any easier. Any sign of courtesy on road is considered a weakness, and the liability to be destroyed where one stands. 4-wheelers argue they should be given way since they are bigger, 2-wheelers disagree since they are smaller and should pass first. The amazing thing, though, is that the matter was resolved in a matter of minutes, and traffic flowed normally as usual, under the supervision of the cops. It seems no one wanted to cooperate unless there’s a hypothetical DANDA up their ass. Maybe that’s why Indians are considered really good workers and employees, they can follow orders, but are reluctant to agree to a descision of their peers.

I still love driving back home, just because people are so courteous, and you’re an asshole if you aren’t, for instance,  the dipper. If you dont use your dipper at night, other drivers have the right to start a fight cos’ it just the traffic rules. In Pune, the only reason you use a dipper is to warn oncoming traffic that you are overtaking a vehicle on a two-way road in broad daylight, and you need to flash it threateningly to be convincing enough. At night, a dipper is simply to have a better look at the road for potholes. There goes the traffic rules.

I knew a Flight Lieutenant while I was in Military school. He once told me that while he was posted in Mizoram, he was stopped by a cop one night in Aizawl. Apparently, he was not using his indicators to make a turn and the cop thought that it was broken, so he stopped him to inform him that. He was deeply impressed with the cop and the traffic culture, and it felt good to be a Mizo at the time.

Christmas 2008: I was driving without a license ( I had lost mine, and it was holiday season, so it was difficult getting it re-issued). I was never stopped by any cop and asked to produce my license, so as far as I’m concerned, I loved it. In other parts of the country, as long as you don’t look LOCAL, you are stopped and checked for your license and papers while others, half of them without either documents, zoom past you, and you can feel them sneer at your back “Serves them right!”. I’m not bitter, but I’m simply telling like it is. I’m a realist.

Anyways, I love riding a bike. It gives me a feeling of so much freedom. True, I must’ve jumped a couple of red lights in my time, but the trick is to never get caught, localite or not. And I would always enjoy driving just for the sheer pleasure of it, be it home or any other place, no matter how screwed up the traffic would be. Power, always, to horsepower.