Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Unexpected inspiration

Inspiration can come from many many quarters... Like last Sunday, a duck inspired me to think of ways to make my life more meaningful! (Not kidding- but keeping THAT story for later...)

I have been inspired by many books, quite a few people, some movies,very very few movie-makers and actors. The last is partly because many actors receive their due from society much more than teachers, social workers, doctors and most other people who are much more deserving. In fact, many actors don't even deserve the praise they get right now, so maybe I am a lot more disillusioned about the movie industry's "struggle" in general.
Of course, once in a while, you find that one person who is an exception and is inspiring. Very rarely you find two people (or an entire crew) that is.

But if this isn't inspiring- I don't know what is!- (Link)

P.S: I realized that many people might not get why I was inspired by this interview (not just the movie!). So here goes:
  • The commitment he had to do all the research it took to make a great movie. 
  • The intelligence to differentiate between slapstick and innocence. Seriously, it's great there is ONE sensible filmmaker. 
  • The fact that he knew what he was doing and worked to create a piece of art that became what he wanted it to (which is one of the most difficult things about art!)- "This is a story about how India’s independence was also a dark moment. About the lost childhood of Milkha. About growing up to become a forgotten hero." and "The screenplay had to be kept fluid at all times, so that everyone could bring in their own interpretation." 
  • Farhan Akhtar (-need I say more?)


I am sharing what 'I Saw and I Learnt' at BlogAdda.com in association with DoRight.in.
This is my entry for the "I saw I learnt" contest. I'm not much of a contest writer, and this is probably not the winning entry types. However, I loved the topic and thought it was something worth writing about...
Some would say that I have been lucky- I have many role models around me (including my father and grandfather) from whom I learnt many values: honesty, perseverance, optimism and everything else that management gurus claim to be the recipe for success. And some might say, I just try to learn what I can from everyone. Whichever may be the case, there is one incident that taught me an invaluable lesson...
The Logue??! :P
It was one of those hot Chennai evenings, when you want the breeze but when you get it, the wind blowing is too hot and you want it to stop. I was in my 4th or 5th grade then and I had run down to the small provision-cum-stationery store to get India and world maps for school and bread and bananas. We never had the concept of pocket money in my family, so my mother had given me the exact change required for getting everything. I was in a hurry to get everything so I could leave them back at home and go play with my friends. Besides, I had quietly slipped in a 1 Re extra from my piggybank savings with which I hoped to get an Eclairs toffee, but I wanted to do it quickly because I was scared of getting caught.
You might think that getting a toffee for 1Re is no crime at all, especially when it's from your own savings, but at that time, I felt very dishonest doing it because I hadn't asked my mother's permission. From my point of view it was a huge moral crisis. Anyway, I just wanted to get it over with real quick.

The shopkeeper was a very nice helpful old man who was quietly enthusiastic about everything. I just told him the list of things I needed and he put everything in a plastic cover and gave me. The total must have been about 20-25Rs. Since my mother had given me the right change I just handed him the folded notes and coins (along with my 1 Re) and turned to run back home. I must have taken only a step or two when the old man called me.

I wanted to die that minute. Or vanish out of existence. I thought he had surely found out I was cheating my mom. 'He knows that I didn't get permission. Now he is going to tell mom the next time she comes and she is not going to ever let me buy anything. Or worse, she might go complain to my teacher like she always threatened and the teacher would tell everyone that I was a bad kid. I was the kid who bought chocolate with stolen money.' "Thief! Thief!" I could hear everyone laughing at me.

Before my reverie got any more torturous, however, I had turned and the old man was handing me a 100Rs note. "I think you put it there by mistake, little girl", he said with a smile, "You should be VERY careful with money!"

Yes, HE was returning ME money that my mother had forgetfully placed between the folded 1Re and 5Rs notes! I unthinkingly spluttered "But you didn't have to call me to return it. If you had kept it with yourself, nobody would have known!"

"Of course noone would have known, paapa (Tamil for baby/small girl)! But what's the use of being honest only when everyone is watching? There is no honesty in not stealing when you are being watched- that is just plain cunning. Honesty is when you know nobody will ever find out and you might even be punished for your actions but you still decide to do the right thing."

I returned the Eclairs. I didn't want it anymore. 
It was one of those mild Santa Clara evenings when the breeze hugs you with love. I was browsing while taking a break from work and I had just seen a contest on BlogAdda- "I saw, I learnt". I tried to think of one real life incident that had an impact on me; other than the stories of various people in my family who had struggled their way up, other than the wonderful lessons that they had taught me- not through single discernible actions, but through a way of life. I could not think of any one incident- well, I could just make one up!
So, I thought of the one life lesson I had learned and then created an incident out of my imagination to communicate the lesson. The lesson was that you are truly honest only when you did something right though nobody would have found out. After all, I knew there was no way for anyone to verify what I wrote.
And then, I suddenly realized- so I decided to add the epilogue.

Some would say I have still not learned the lesson if I wrote the story at all. And some might say I needn't have admitted it- simply because it was a very nice story. Whichever may be the case, I had to do this because I really believe in that kind of honesty.

And of course, because I like recursion.

Friday, July 19, 2013


And today is the 31st post of the one-month challenge.

Whew! On one side, I can't believe I actually reached this point- I often thought I was definitely going to give up. On the other side, I can't believe I wasn't writing everyday a month ago and I'm almost sorry it's over (I don't have an excuse to force myself to write everyday anymore)! Talk about habit formation! 

I won't say I enjoyed every minute of the journey. I didn't. But it was like a good workout. You hate it because it kills you while you are doing it. And yet, you feel very good afterward because you survived it. There were definitely days when I'd rather have slept than written. And yet, once I finished the post, I felt very good. And there were times when I didn't know what to write: when I would just keep thinking, 'What next?' At other times I could think of lots of topics but none I wanted to write about then. (That's when I realized why I shouldn't blame newspaper reporters for writing poorly once in a while).

The good thing is this exercise got me back to writing regularly, and has made me write more concisely. It has also made me read a lot more, and more importantly, made me realize yet again that I can find time for something if I want to.

I also got some good feedback both on the blog and on fb (and also on chat)- thank you for that! It really encourages me to go on.

One small technicality. Some of you might have noticed I actually started the challenge on June 5th. How is it a "one-month" challenge if I took till July 18th? Well, by the end of the first week itself I realized it's impossible for me to write weekends, mostly because I am outside then. So, I skipped all the weekends and tried to make it just weekdays, thus changing the 1 month-challenge to a 31-weekday challenge. Ya, it's not optimal, but I really needed the weekends.
For that matter, I tried to think up topics one day before and give teasers, but that didn't work either (partly because I ran out of topics and partly because I know how much time I'd have the next day.)

For those of you who are reading this the first time (or) are not sure which posts to read in this one month, I have some I'd like to recommend in decreasing order (because they are the ones that I convey what the blog's about, and also because I enjoyed writing them the most I guess)- What's with all the marrying, Chennai express and stereotyping, Rajinikanth, Colors- A terribly tiny tale and Laura- a short story. If you want the ones that were popular by pageviews or by comments (other than the ones above)- you might check I shouldn't be here, The Unspoken and The Roman Catholic Hindu actress...

Well, thank you and keep reading and commenting.. And let's hope that my writing spree lasts...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Laura- Part 3 of 3

(Continued from Part 1 and Part 2. And part of the one-month challenge.)

Maybe it had been too good to be true and that's why Laura stopped turning up for tennis. The first few times, I waited for an hour. Then I stopped waiting. I tried to reach her, but she wouldn't respond on phone/email/nothing. I asked someone I knew in architecture and he said she was attending classes though she did miss one or two. “She does look a little pale”, he added.

I was very angry with her. What did she mean by not responding? Maybe she got tired of me. Maybe she got busy with Mike. Did he say pale? Maybe, maybe… I didn't let myself think about that.  Maybe it was just a game she was playing- to see if I would talk to her on my own. Sometimes she did crazy cute things like that. Well, if it was a game, I wasn't giving in. I wasn't going to ask her.

But maybe I should have gone then. 

I stood there, shell-shocked.

“How did it happen?”

“It looks like she slashed her wrists”

“Do they know why she did that?”

“Nobody knows. Some say it’s because the guy she loved rejected her. Some say she had been looking dull for a few weeks now. Sad and lonely. Seems she spoke to many people but wasn't close to anyone. Except one guy. Maybe he’d know.”

I could feel something tugging at my heart, Something knotting in my stomach.

“Didn't she leave a note or anything?”

“Most kids who commit suicide do, but she didn't. No message to the world. Not a single word.”

“So it could have been…” I didn't finish my question.

“No the evidence is quite clear. She slashed her own wrists. Period. It’s sad. Such a beautiful girl. And so young too.”

That day, I didn't think whether I could have done something to prevent it. I didn't wonder whether I had guessed wrongly about Mike- maybe it was me. Or whether her decision was even prompted by love.* I wasn't filled with regret about not having seen her in the last few days, nor any burden that I let someone’s life slip through my fingers. I didn't think that God was punishing me by taking her away. 
I thought these things a million times many days later. Over and over again, my mind going through every possibility, with no trace, no hope of an answer. 

But that day, I didn't think anything- my mind was numb and frozen. I couldn't stand there any longer. 

I just walked away.


*Edit 1: Added this line because it was part of what I had thought from the protagonist's perspective, but somehow missed conveying. Thanks to my friend whose question indirectly prompted it... 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Laura - Part 2 of 3

(Continued from Part 1. Part of the one-month challenge.)

Just when my mind began to build villas in the air (I never liked castles), I realized Mike was sitting right behind me. Mike is a very cool chap from the physics department- very smart, tall, wears glasses and still manages to look cool, not nerdy! He plays for the best rock band on campus, is considered to be the most popular man on campus, and though no one would say no to him, he is single. Some say it’s because he doesn't find anyone to be good enough for him. Anyway, I saw her and then him again. And that was when the whole point of sitting opposite me struck my slow, stupid head! I just turned to see Mike. He was buried in his book. Well, suffice it to say that her sitting there like a dumb doll without batting an eyelid really got on my nerves and I decided to leave.

I was walking with her to the tennis court. A few days after the library incident, I had run into her again while playing tennis. She had been watching the game (and Mike wasn't around) and it looked like she was waiting for her game partner who hadn't turned up. So, when my partner decided to leave, she asked if she could play with me instead of him. No, I  don’t think she liked me or anything. She just badly wanted to play. And by god, she played well! It was an awesome game. At the end of it, we decided to play more often. Now we play 2 or 3 times a week, and even if she weren't the drop dead beauty that she is in tennis clothes, I’d love playing with her- she’s darn good!

After the game, we have coffee together. And she talks. When Seo-yun talks, I get bored and my mind drifts away. Or I end up watching her more than listening. It is tiresome to hear girls talk. And they talk endlessly. But somehow, when she talks I am all ears. (Oh, I forgot to mention- I asked her name the first time we played tennis. Laura.) I also observe her a lot more than I do Seo-yun. I notice every tiny movement of her fingertip, every little shadow that falls on her, and drink in every inch of her beautiful face. Yet, I also listen to every word she says and it’s as if my mind’s capacities have doubled.

But even after all the listening and observing, I can't figure her out. Sometimes, she is like a tomboy- waiting for adventure, jumping over fences, thinking up pranks. And sometimes, she is just a girl who is animatedly talking but is prettier than any painting. Sometimes, she is the demure shy woman, and sometimes she is a small child who I must protect from the big bad world. Sometimes she is a nerd who knows too much and is too good at her work. But sometimes she is just a good friend who will stand by me, come what may. She is like a mystery that changes every minute- a book whose pages I can keep turning for eternity.

Does she love me? I don’t think so. I think she is still in love with Mike. But I don’t know for sure. She talks a lot but never once lets me ask her very personal questions. She doesn't avoid them- she just makes me forget that any question ever existed. It is as if there is a line around her that you don’t cross, and yet it isn't she who drew the line. But I can’t say that there isn't a tinge of hope in the corner of my heart.

Do I love her? I have no idea. There are times when I feel I am head over heels in love with her. And there are times when I think that I am just overcome by attraction. At other times, I feel an overwhelming affection - if it were the end of the world, I'd still want to spend the last minute with her and protect her from the coming end.

Wasn't I dating Seo-yun, you might ask. Seo-yun is my real life love. She is a reflection of me. She looks pretty, but is not particularly ethereal. Laura is a dream- her reality is too magical for me. If you dream of a perfect woman for years and then you see her, you badly want to live with her but you can't. Laura is that kind of a dream. Too real and too pretty to be mine. She can be wanted, but not had.

Anyway, I was happy with the way things were. Of all the guys who would love to talk to her, I was the one who did. In fact, I am sure she has a long list of friends, and it's good enough that I even get the amount of time that I do. This was probably the best it could have been. In fact, it was almost too good to be true...*

(To be completed...)

*Edit 2: Again, something I thought I had conveyed, but looks like I didn't. Edit 1 is in Part 3 by the way!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Laura (Part 1 of 3)

Today's is the 27th post of the one-month challenge. As the finale, I thought I will write a short story in 3 parts. This is based on a real-life story I heard from one of my former colleagues. The characters and incidents are partly fictitious, but the main incident is real. I had started this very long ago, but as I wrote the last few parts yesterday, I was also inspired by this video for some of the description.

I don’t really have a very clear memory of the first time I saw her. Not a photographic memory, at least. But I can still remember her aura (or whatever you call it) and the general feeling she evoked in me. She was jumping over a fence actually, and it was a little too high even for her long legs. That was Prof. Sharma’s’ garden, a shortcut from the cafeteria to our classes, which we didn't use because, as I said, it was Sharma’s garden, and you don’t meddle around with Sharma! She was wearing some kind of denim shorts, and a pale green T-shirt I think. Pale green or pale blue? Or was it light chocolate? I don’t remember that very well- I told you I only have a vague memory. But I remember I could smell a faint whiff of perfume from where I stood. And that I was standing across the street wearing my jacket over some blackish shirt, and dark grey jeans and sneakers, holding a few books. Not a great chap to look at. But passable, I hoped.

I didn't have so much of a crush on her, or anything like that, but I just... well, I wouldn't mind it at all if she would notice me. Also, I kind of liked her energy. You just had to glance at her, and you would feel a lot better. You know... cheerful, bubbly and all that. She wasn't smiling really, but it was as if the whole air around her was singing with joy. She looked like she was waiting to discover some new adventure lurking around the corner; like she thought reality had no room for sorrow! Well, while I was thinking thus, she had jumped and walked across and vanished in no time, (not remained frozen in the air like in the movies) and I was still standing there, a little awestruck. Or bowled over. And my mind full of the memory of the perfume, I walked away.

It was just that day. After a few days, she was out of my mind, and I was dating Seo-yun anyway. I think someone mentioned her name as something or the other, but I always remembered her only by her perfume. And that feeling she evoked. In any case, I heard she was doing architecture and that she was very good at it. If only she weren't that bubbly, she would have been a nerd. In any case, that’s all I found about her, my circles being vastly different from hers (I was always with the electrical engineering guys, and literature girls- because Seo-yun was doing French literature). Besides, we had tests, exams, Seo-yun’s PMS and ensuing fights, Saturday nights, alcohol, movies, and soccer-- enough to keep a man’s mind busy.

I was supposed to be deciding my research area, and was trying to decide between cognitive radios and transistor-lasers. Both were pet topics of mine, but in quite different domains, and I didn't know which to pursue. So I was spending a lot of time in the library reading, in the hope that somehow the odds would suddenly tip in favor of one of the topics.

On one such day, while I was reading some radio routing book, I noticed a sudden vibration in the atmosphere. (OK. I admit that’s an exaggeration!) No points for guessing who had just moved to the chair right opposite me! I continued to look into my book as if nothing had happened. Though I did steal a few quick glances. Nice pink T shirt, denim shorts again- those cute, really short ones. And awesome skin, a touch of pale pinkish lipstick, and... well, let’s just say she was stunning. It was hard for me to turn to page 453.

It was an hour maybe, and after a lot more glances and nsfw observations. I was trying to solve some equation of sorts, and of course, that was difficult with her around. I just wanted to talk to her. Nothing else, mind you. Anyway, I looked up to catch her staring at me. I was a little embarrassed. Or maybe, a little surprised. Her cheeks were just a shade too pink. The bubbly aura was gone and replaced by a demureness, almost an innocence, which strangely gave her an angelic beauty. And she was looking at ME!

(To be continued...)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Roman Catholic Hindu actress

I actually started a post about NRIs and India-ranting. But midway I read an interview excerpt and decided this was more important to write about. But before I get to that, answer this question:

Which religion do the following celebrities belong to: 
a) Javed Akhtar 
b) Daniel Radcliffe 
c) Kamal Hassan 
d) Stephen Hawkings 
e) Angelina Jolie?

(We will come back to this in a while)

The footnote I read was an excerpt from an interview of Milkha Singh about 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' and the question was "How do you feel about a Muslim actor playing the role of a Sikh?"
This question was wrong at so many levels- why should a Muslim actor not play a Sikh? Wasn't he "acting" by definition? How did this question even have any significance?

But what really bugged me was the fact that they called Farhan Akhtar a Muslim. For anyone who doesn't know- he is an atheist. He was also brought up an atheist. Javed Akhtar was born into a Muslim family but declared himself an atheist. (Some sites say Farhan's agnostic, but he is definitely not 'Muslim'!)
And no, he is NOT a Muslim atheist. Nor is Kamal Hassan an Iyengar atheist. Or George Carlin a Roman Catholic atheist. In fact, they are all just plain atheists. One might argue that they all belong to the same religion (I am defining religion VERY loosely here). So going back to the question I asked at the beginning- Javed Akhtar, Kamal Hassan, Hawkings, and Radcliffe are in fact united by their religious beliefs or the lack thereof. (Angelina does not subscribe to any religion.)

Now I can hear someone think- "How does it matter? It's a minor mistake. If he were not an atheist, he would be a Muslim!". It matters because this statement is equivalent to saying- "If I were not born Hindu, I would be a Christian". or "If I were not born an Indian, I would be Chinese". That's a ridiculous argument because if you were not an Indian you might have been an African or American or Eskimo or a hundred other things. Just because Farhan Akhtar's grandfather was a Muslim, it does not mean he is one. Also, saying he is an atheist Muslim is a contradiction in terms.

Which brings me to the real issue- why should people be identified based on their religion? Do you identify people based on their favorite beverage or favorite color? Religion is a far more personal choice than that. If you judge a person based on his religion, you might as well say "All people who like the color purple are violent maniacs who mistreat their women." or identify people as- "He is a Diet-Coke drinker.","She is a strong believer of green tea." , etc. Religion is a more important choice, but it is still a personal one.

Ok. If you really want to judge people on their religion, so be it. But why judge them on their ancestors' religions, when they have expressly said they don't follow it? Calling someone a Muslim because his grandfather was one is like saying "Your grandfather hated pani puris. So you must hate pani puri too".  It reminds me of Dawkins writing- 'That's all fine. But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?' Well, I hope you can at least see how ridiculous this sounds. It is hard for most people to look at atheists as non-religious people. I know I also used to identify some popular atheists by their former religion. It is too easy a trap to fall into. Religion is an easy way to categorize people- have them in neat slots that you can generalize about. But most often, we tend to get carried away by the slots and forget what it really means.

So, let me state it here. RELIGION IS NOT SOMETHING YOU BELONG TO AUTOMATICALLY because your parents do. RELIGION IS SOMETHING YOU DECIDE TO FOLLOW (or not) based on what you want to believe about certain questions. And the next time you see an atheist, don't classify him/her into a religion based on his/her name, family, or place of origin. 

Preferably, try not to poke into their religion at all.

P.S: I forgot to mention- the Roman catholic Hindu actress is Julia Roberts. Born a Roman Catholic and currently practicing Hinduism. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Unspoken

I have wrote of sorrow, of joy and nature, 
Of the little girl that smelt beauty in soap cartons,
Of sunsets and valleys filled with roses,
But never did a tide befall my heart, as today-
A tide of words, of you and of love,
Of an emptiness that bade me to speak yet sealed my lips
Of the debris of castles I had once built;
Of a dream once dreamt that would never come true
But still dreamt and re-dreamt-
Alas, if only we could live in our dreams!
I wish to write till the words form a passage to enter your heart,
And yet the word-souls refuse to take lives;
Maybe our love was destined to be,
Not just unsuccessful, but also to remain unsaid!!

(I wrote this poem very long ago- I don't know why I never put it up!
And this is the 25th post of the one-month challenge I gave myself!)

Why time doesn't move while reading textbooks

You know how time flies when you are simply lazing around or watching a movie? But when you take an advanced physics book and read, it feels like hours even though your watch shows only minutes since you started reading? Or you might remember the meme which says- Sleeping in the morning: 7 am->sleep for 5 mins->8am; Sleeping in class: 1pm->sleep for an hour->1.05pm. (Couldn't find the image. if someone finds it, let me know).

I always thought this is something you think but not really a biological phenomenon. Though, now that I think of it, how can there be a phenomenon not based on natural science? Anyway, I never thought someone would study and try to explain this. But I read this post today and it looks like we might be getting close to understanding why this happens.

The basic premise of the post is that our perception of time is based on what the brain tells us i.e. there is no special faculty or organ by which the body measures time. So, the brain infers the passage of time based on information from the other senses. Now, when we are doing something new or complex, say solving a system of DE, the brain has a lot more work to do and infers that a lot of time has passed.  This is also why time slows down at important crucial moments- when your brain is trying to process as much sensory information as possible. Whereas, when you are doing a familiar task, the brain has much lesser work so time seems to fly.

Great explanation, huh?

But wait.. it still doesn't explain some things. When you are not doing anything and are bored, you usually feel that time is moving slowly. Your brain can't be working too much at that point- in fact, it is not doing much work at all. Similarly, when you are very busy or racing against a deadline, time flies past without you realizing it. Don't these seem to contradict the article's premise? 

The only way (that I see) to resolve this contradiction is to negate or extend their premise. I'd guess that time perception in the brain also depends on attention i.e. how involved you are. The more focused you are on something, the faster time seems to get. And when you have nothing much to focus on- it seems slower. Maybe the attention part is also a lot of work for the brain.. Anyway some time perception neuroscientist has to validate my theory and unify these. Right now, it's just something I leave you to think about...

In any case, the idea about time perception was cool, right?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I shouldn't be here

(This is the 23rd post of the one-month challenge I gave myself!)

While I was at Georgia Tech, I participated in a survey for female students, intended for high-performing women who were not completely satisfied with their achievements. (Turns out that was in September! How time flies!)

Think of yourself (or if you are a guy, get into the shoes of a woman you know very well.) You are a high achieving woman- you went to a good college/grad school and performed excellently. Or work for a reputed organization and are regularly lauded for your work. And yet you feel that you don't deserve it. "I'm not smart enough for all that, I don't know why everyone says I'm good- I am doing well purely by chance". 
When someone praises you for a good job done- you think "I have done nothing at all. I just got lucky that whatever I tried worked". And when you get a salary hike or a promotion or a new offer, you are scared to tell people- you know it's superstitious, but you feel that telling people is going to screw it up. In fact, you feel that you have just been lucky so far and are going to fail tomorrow. Sometimes, when you are overwhelmed by a task, you imagine you are going to fail and be the laughing stock of the office. When you see a  small problem you can't fix, you think "I can't do this. I'm such a fake."

'I shouldn't be here.'

Well, THIS feeling is called the impostor syndrome. (No, I am not starting a series on different syndromes. I promise.) I was surprised they have a name for it, because some of these feelings are pretty common.

At first, I thought many of this is simply perfectionist behavior. But then I asked one of my friends (a guy) with about the same qualifications as me to fill the survey. And guess what- he did not feel any of the things I mentioned in the last paragraph. He was worried about details, didn't think he had done anything great with his life (common for any ambitious person), but he didn't think that the praise he got was undeserved. He had never once felt he had got anywhere by chance! Contrary to that, most of the women I know admit to having felt one or more of these things at different points in their lives.

Anyway, like a true grad student I read a paper which tries to explain why this syndrome is more common among women. The short explanation is that many women achieve a lot but grow up hearing that they are not good enough (or not hearing that they are good enough) compared to the men around them. This creates a subconscious low self-evaluation that keeps nagging them even when all the evidence points otherwise. The explanation sounded a little roundabout and sort of Freudian to me. But then, with no other explanation available, I will have to accept this I guess.

In any case, after all that reading, I began to consciously notice whenever I felt any of these things and try to push out such thoughts from my head. Which is why I decided to write about this for all the women out there. It is easy to think you are going to screw up and everyone's going to think you are an idiot. But the more you pump in confidence into yourself, the more you will appreciate yourself AND have the world appreciate you! 

If ever you think 'I shouldn't be here', just remember- you wouldn't be wherever you are if you didn't deserve it! In fact, the 'I shouldn't be here' is true in a different sense- you shouldn't be here because you are better than this. You can get ahead of 'here'. And you very much deserve to!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Ayn Rand movies

As promised yesterday, I'm here writing about the movies I was watching. Since both are movies based on Ayn Rand books, most of the post may not make sense unless you have read the books.

The first one: Atlas Shrugged- Part 2. It has a pathetic rating on IMDB and is said to be worse than Part 1, but I had to watch it still, didn't I? Surprisingly, I liked Part 2 much better than Part 1. As an independent movie, it's not even average (bad graphics is one reason). As a movie that explains Objectivism, just so-so. But as a movie that somehow showed characters close enough to what I had imagined them, it was pretty awesome.

For part 1, I had thought that the characters didn't have what you imagined them to from the book. And the whole idea of setting this movie in the future seemed stupid. But in part 2, there were some points where I thought it was a good idea. You relate more to the characters because they live similar lives and speak similar language (like using tablets and saying 'asap'). But I didn't like Dagny in Part 2- she was too emotional, didn't have the right amount of confidence AND showed too much cleavage. In fact, what's with all the women in the movie? An inordinate amount of cleavage, even for a Hollywood movie. Maybe somebody thought this abstract philosophy stuff puts people off, so lets make it up with some low necks. Honestly, it made the movie a little weird-looking.
Anyway, I liked most of the other characters- James Taggart (who I think makes a good Peter Keating), Ken Dannager, Lilian, Cheryl. I was not completely happy with Fransisco, but there was one moment in the movie when he said "Isn't money the root of all evil? I have decided to stop being evil" and it made me laugh. For that moment alone, I think he wasn't a bad choice at all. But I LOVED the guy who played Rearden. He was awesome! Just the right amount of sarcasm in his smile, just the right level of confidence and laughter in his voice and perfect expressions in his eyes. And for him alone, I'd say I love the movie.
There was one thing I noticed about the movie that was minor but irked me still. When Dagny waits outside Ken Dannager's office, she thinks that she COULD open the door, but she doesn't and she notes that all that's stopping her is 'civilization'. I love that moment in the book. In the movie she actually pushes the door open, and that bothered me a lot- not because they weren't true to the book, but because that one action betrays the rest of Dagny's character so much.

Anyway, I still love the movie for Rearden alone.

After that, I saw 'Fountainhead'. It's a black and white movie and the screenplay was by Rand herself, so I thought she would stick to the book. To my surprise, she didn't. While there are no character breaches in this one, the plot is changed a great deal. Some of it might have been for length, but it appears to me that when the movie was made, they couldn't show an engaged woman being someone else's lover or getting a divorce etc. Which messes up the plot badly. I could also see the difference in acting styles (compared to now). Maybe it was that but I wasn't too impressed by any of the actors- least by Roark.

And it led me to think about how interpretations and imagination change with time- what Rand saw in her own novel is not good enough for me today! I also realized how changes in movies (compared to the respective books) sometimes annoy me. It may be because I have imagined something and what they make is not as good as what's in my head. Or maybe I hate the parts where I feel the changes don't fit the essence of the plot or characters. (Like Dumbledore shouting out incantations and waving his wand too much. So so un-Dumbledoreof him!)

The other thing is that because I have read these books, my mind fills in the info for everything that's not in the movie. Which means I have no idea whether people who haven't read the book got it or not. And that makes me a poor judge of the movie. 

But well, I'd rather read the book and imagine the story first before I see it. So, its a minor loss I will have to take I guess..

Friday, July 5, 2013

Does taking photos take from life?

(This is the 21st post in the one-month challenge series. This topic is one I have wanted to write about for a long time. Reading this article finally gave me the push to write it!) 

For some of you this title might feel weird- especially the way I have phrased it. So, let me explain.

A long time ago, when you had to actually have film rolls in cameras to take pictures, most people would take very few pictures of their vacations. Then you had to develop the picture, keep it in an album and you would take it out only once in a few years to cherish the memories. Then you got the digital camera with which you could take nearly unlimited photos (limited only by memory- but you could use multiple sd cards; and battery- which also you could have spares for). Even then you would store those photos on CD/DVDs, and see them once in a while. Then came the deluge of devices- handhelds, tablets, ipods, almost anything with a battery and an on/off switch could take photos (and most of them boast 3-5MP cameras!) Every device manufacturer tried to pack more and yet some more camera features- better sensors, higher resolution, filters and more filters; the phone/tablet may be lousy, it may even stop working after a year, but your camera should be the absolute best! Also came along facebook, flickr and instagram. You could not only take unlimited pictures but could put them up online for everyone to gape at. And that's when the problem began.
In a mad mad rush for likes and comments, people started filling the digital world with photographs. When you go to a beautiful place, you (and me included) think of taking the best pic to put up. Does standing here look better? What if I use this filter? (I haven't used any filters so far. The most editing I do to a pic is cropping out strangers from it.) But you see the point- people want to take photos more than enjoy the destination. Or to put it better, I quote this brilliant line from the article above- "My first thought at a pretty sunset--where's my phone?"

Which brings up the question- Are we so much into digital storage and instantaneous shots of facebook-induced dopamine that we have stopped to 'live'
(Click on Read more for more...)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Just a link

Have been on a short movie marathon. Will post about it tomorrow.

Until then, here's something to read :)


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Following your dreams etc.

(This is the 19th post in the one-month challenge series)

I often see posts like this and this.You have probably seen them too. And 'liked' them. Or shared them with a 'So true'. I have written about this before ('The other side of 3 idiots'- Part 1 and 2), but somehow got frustrated reading the Quora thread, so decided to write about it again.

The scenario is this- Someone doesn't like his/her job and wants to change. He is not sure if he has to, especially because of the money. Then the responder/blogger says "Go after it. Follow your dreams. Zindagi milegi na dobara." and all that. The other scenario is where someone says "Should I go to IITK- Civil  or NITT-ECE to earn more?" (or) "Will I get into IIM-A with a 7.0 IIT or 9.5 from BITS?" And the holier-than-thou writer says "How could you? This is the whole problem with our nation. Don't run after money. Dare to think beyond the IITs and IIMS. Follow your dreams"

About 5 years ago, I was very much a "follow your dreams' person. At some point, however, I realized there were caveats to this approach. When I say "Go after it" I usually mean "Go after it, but look before you leap". Somehow, that message is not conveyed in most of these posts I read. If there is one thing I know about life- it is that there are NO simple answers.* It is not a "follow your burning passion" vs. "stick to a miserable job". There is a spectrum of positions in between.

There are some people who are lucky enough (for want of a better adjective) to have ONE passion. They know what they want and all that's left for them is to go after it.
But sometimes, you don't know what you want. I LOVE what I am doing right now. But, is it my burning passion? I don't know. Is something else my burning passion? Not that I can think of. I love a lot of things. I don't know if I would want to do them for the rest of my life. Heck, I don't even know if I will continue loving them for the rest of my life. 
On the other hand, I know some people who don't love anything much. They are ok with software, ok with investment banking, ok with having decent meals, an average marriage, 2 kids and a house in the city. All they want from life is to be able to get these things. And maybe some music, movies and travel along with it. They are not particularly for reaching for the skies or swimming against the current or any of that stuff. And they form most of the crowd.

Just because you have one passion or many passions, are you superior to people with none? Is it wrong for someone to be happy where they are? Who gives you the right to say "You MUST want the same things from life that I want. And with the same intensity"? Granted that many of the world's innovations come from people who are passionate. But I see no point in enforcing everyone to HAVE a passion or look for it.

The other problem with this idea is confusing hobby with passion/profession. I love reading. It's one thing I love more than anything else in the world. But do I make a career out of being a book reviewer? Not necessarily. Reminds me of this comic- 

 For some people, their hobby IS their passion, but not for everyone. Also, most things become boring once they become your job.
It's the fact that you have to focus on the nitty-gritty details and spend every day on a  particular thing- basically, get down and do the dirty work. Just because you quit you job to follow your passion, it doesn't mean you don't have to do the dirty work. I remember reading an article by a journalist (sorry, lost the link!) who wrote that he had forgotten how to write normally- he always thought of filling spaces, title hooks and word limits. He says- When you work for a paper and try to write a certain amount every week, you recycle topics, you think of topics that are bound to catch the public attention and try to avoid the truly enlightening ones. Many people who write think it will be awesome to do it for a lifetime. And then you see people like Chetan Bhagat publishing.** Enough said.

I guess saying "look before you leap" doesn't sound half as much fun as saying "reach for the stars". It sounds old school, boring, uncool. And it doesn't sell self-help books. Why else would a whole industry of people insist on forcing otherwise content people to move out? Has any guy, who moved out and failed, ever written a book? Why don't people mention that when you move out of your job, you are taking a risk- it's like playing stocks- you might make it big or lose all you have?

So, all ye faithful dream-followers, I only have one thing to ask of you. I believe in optimism and positive thought and all that. But please admit that to be successful you need to work hard and be good at what you do- both of which are not necessarily correlated to liking what you do. At least in tiny text, mention at the bottom of your misleading pages- 
"Conditions apply"!

*Now, you might say- THAT is a simple answer in itself. I agree. That sentence is not completely true either. but qualifying it is quite simple, so I leave it to you.
**Arguably, he is making a lot of money. Just that his writing got worse with each piece he wrote, and he started pretty low anyway!

P.S: After writing this post, I found this amazing post by Scott Adams. He nailed it!

RIP Google Reader

I'm back from the weekend and am literally forcing myself to post. So I might just take the easy way out and rant my way through this post. 

About 4 years ago, I started using Google Reader as recommended by a friend. Before that, I didn't spend too much time on the net - at least, not on regular reading. Google Reader brought me to a whole new world that I had heard about but never participated in. I got some blog recommendations (nanopolitan, KrishAshok) and found some on my own through Indiblogger. I also looked up DesiPundit which led me to an entire list of people whose writings I love- greatbong, Shenoy, and CoconutChutney.

One day, I was looking at a Calvin Hobbes comic on the net and I suddenly realized I could subscribe to Daily Comics. That started a whole folder in my Reader- Calvin, Dilbert, Abstruse Goose, xkcd, PhD Comics. I resumed my Coffee-with-Calvin ritual. (I used to read the daily calvin on The Hindu while drinking my morning coffee when I was at home. Once I subscribed to C&H on Reader, I started reading Calvin with my afternoon coffee at work.) Google Reader was one of the tabs always open on my browser.

And today, as a last time effort, I read Hallucinations on Reader this morning. I was just hoping in the corner of my heart, even then, that the guys at Google would finally see sense and let Reader be. Well, considering they are the guys who gave us G+ AND tried to integrate G+ into every good feature until it turned annoying- I should have known better. Midnight today, Reader went out of existence.

Seeing the page say "Thank you for stopping by", it almost feels like one of my best friends died.

So, dedicating today's post to one of the sites that opened me up to the world AND made me spend a lot more time online than I ever would have. To the site that enlivened my coffee breaks through the years. And the site that gave me a lot to write about...

RIP Reader! RIP....

(Update 1: Added links to all the blogs mentioned, except the popular comics!)