Posted in Humor - General

$1.50 a day

There was just one thing in my mind as I got to work today. My wallet.

As I left home this morning in precipitance, I was rather unmindful of a lot of things. But the one that would cost me a lot (or to be precise, the contrary) was the fact that I forgot my wallet. True, I weighed 2 lbs less which helped me climb all the stairs I normally climb in a day, a shade quicker. It was too late when I realized that I had forgotten my wallet. I was exactly half way between work and home. To make it to all my meetings and be productive at work for a full day, even the faintest thought that flashed across my rather hazy mind at that time which could have made me drive home to collect my wallet before I got to work, was a sign that I need to brush up my time management skills.

It was one of those days in a week, when I did not have breakfast at home nor did I pack my lunch. I checked my slack pockets to figure out if I had left any coins by mistake. A mistake that it never would be. Phew! As I counted 3 pennies and 6 quarters, I felt I really was rich for a moment. The elevator arrived. I pressed button 22 and exchanged customary good mornings and some friendly smiles with all the “co-elevangers” all along thinking how I should be spending my $1.53 in a wise way so that I don’t go home hungry in the evening.

Of course I have a lot of benevolent and altruistic friends who I could ask for some dough to plough my day but I was resilient because this was a great opportunity to try to experience living within a shoe string budget, albeit just for a day. So I started planning my day and came up with a time table.

The first cup of coffee felt good. The caffeine did its rounds through the sleeping brain cells. The meeting from 11 AM to 12:30 PM was a great idea. I bought a tube of peanuts at 12:30 PM. This cost me $0.75. I walked to the coffee area to get some water and found an apple that was left untouched in a fruit basket which some team member had brought in for us. An apple, some peanuts and a cup of water later, I was ready for my 1:00 PM meeting. Wow..not a bad lunch at all. I had another meeting to go at 2:30 PM and I wove it around a cup of hot chocolate. Then at 4:30 PM, I bought myself a candy bar for $0.75 and let it melt in my mouth with another cup of coffee. Finally when I left for home at 6 PM, I didn’t think I was hungry. For some this may sound like a gluttonous day – but if you find out what I normally consume (or pig out as some might want to call) in a day, what I ate today was literally “peanuts”!

Moral of the day: $1.50 a day budget is more than enough if you have a store where you can buy peanuts.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Gotalottoblog

That’s what I tell myself everyday, but seldom have I been able to sit down and spend a few minutes together with all my thoughts organized so that I could blog about stuff that I feel like. But I guess looking back, I have done better than what I expected..have survived the blog world for three months.

Hey folks..did you read about the Mumbai flood? I have never lived in Mumbai but happened to spend two weeks in Mumbai back in 1997 right in the middle of the monsoon season. I was fortunate that the official guest house I was put up at did not require me to commute in the local trains to get to my work. But I did travel quite a bit in the BEST buses and the trains. And I remember one particular day when some of my co-workers were stranded in the office because of some heavy rains and they didn’t want to take any chances. As I was staying close to the Bandra station, I could actually see how the tracks could go under water easily in those low lying areas when there is flash flooding. So I can absolutely imagine the devastation this spell would have caused specially since this is being termed as the heaviest Mumbai had ever received. I can just hope that the city gets back to normal despite all the personal damages and property damages.

After all the national award attention it received, I decided to watch the hindi flick “Page 3” last night. Not a bad movie at all. Even though it made me wonder if things were exaggerated a little bit just to drive home a point, the attempt to do so is laudable. That also brought up a good question in my mind – The Indian population, specially those who live in the Metros are leading their lives across a major cultural schism. I mean I think they literally have their legs across both the western and the Indian cultures. Makes me wonder if they are right in the middle of an evolution of a “Neo-Indian” culture. Whatever it is, as someone who left India just 7 years ago in search of greener pastures and as someone who wants to go back to settle down there in a couple of years, this definitely gives a scare. The scare is really because of the possible “disconnect” between the culture that I was brought up in and that prevails in India.

Anyway the movie itself had some excellent plot foundation to work on. I am not sure if Page 3 really deserved an award or not..but worth a watch for good direction & sensible acting.

Page 3 is the last page in today’s blog.

Posted in Cricket

Weekend Willow World

What a weekend it was! Alright..to cut to the chase*, I did chase some cricket balls this past weekend. My Friday was rather wasted. The game of golf, which I have been elusive to all these years, saw me embrace it finally this summer. But the game is being elusive to me this year. I set out on the right course by scheduling some private lessons. The first one went well but the second one …well I have had to reschedule this 5 times so far. I hope to get my second lesson this week and that I don’t have to reschedule it for the sixth time else, the guy who writes my name in the register every time I reschedule, who now makes only a handful of spelling errors while writing my name, may end up totally familiar with my name like the back of his hand. And thanks to the wonderful game of golf, I decided to give up Cricket this year. My compromise on cricket is also partly due to the fact that the team I so much was part of during the last 4 seasons, did not field itself in the league this year.

A twist of fortune brought the willow wielding game right at my door again this year – A couple of my co-workers cajoled me into playing for their team. On Saturday, I played my first game for this team (their 5th game) as the league is approaching its half way mark. When I went for my second practice session with the team, I got a chance to hit some balls. And there the captain of the team saw my stroke making abilities. So during our pre-game team huddle, he expressed his confidence in me and made it clear that the team’s batting line-up was centered on me. That was some pressure. When I started playing cricket in Michigan in the summer of 2000, getting used to this T-Ball was a little challenging. But I guess I didn’t think much then, about the adjustment itself one has to make and the result was that I was a free flowing stroke maker in the team. Never overpowering or attacking but more of a push & drive player. But over the years, I have started playing attacking strokes a little more consciously because of acclimatization of the techniques involved hitting a T-ball in a baseball ground. But in the last 4 years, I have hardly managed to score match winning knocks except for a couple of games that I can recall but always ended up with some useful scores for the team.

My first scoring shot of this game was a six. There is a first time for everything and this was one such. I went in at the fall of the 3rd wicket and stayed there for about 10 overs, which was ok for a 25 over game. But I didn’t quite expect to get out the way I got out. I missed the line of a good length ball that had nothing in it except for some low bounce. It is too boorish to try to introspect what went wrong with that shot but I was planning to open up the gates after the 18th over (the over in which I got out). 16 was my score and I remained the top scorer of the team. But when you are defending 78 runs, you need to take early wickets however good your bowlers are. That was exactly what we did not do and hence we were scrambling towards the end. 13/6 may read like a great bowling score..but it happened too late for us – after all those catches were dropped. I was a culprit too for dropping a difficult one. I chased a half-hearted lob from my ‘extra-coverish mid-off position’ to behind the bowler, only to get my left fore finger under the ball before it touched the ground. I dived and rolled over and jammed my finger in the process. Well..for now. I have a slightly disabled left hand.

We have 3 more must-win games and then we may have a chance to make it to the play-off round. That should give an indication to my wife that my next few weekends will thrive well in the willow world.

* Interesting fact – “Cut to the chase” as you know means to get to the point. But the origin of this phrase is actually “movies” – Ha! This was a term used in the 1920s to convey that the story will now shift from a dramatic scene to an action packed scene.

Posted in Music - General

More Musical Notes

There has been quite an impulsion, sometimes to the extent of being biased, with many
A R Rahman critics to pound his albums the day they are released, which to me is similar to guzzling a bottle of fine wine hoggishly, in 2 minutes and claiming you didn’t know what the claim to finesse was all about. If I can pick an analogy from Director Shankar’s books for those of you that are teetotalers or non-alcoholics, it is like shoving a piece of a fine multi-layered cake into your mouth at one go and letting it travel straight down your gut resulting in your taste buds getting just a whiff of some queer flavour but mostly that of sugar & cream. To a wine or a food connoisseur the above are acts of sacrilege in their respective worlds.

It was not long after the album, “The Rising – Mangal Pandey” was released last week, that the media was filled with reviews of the same. Remember the movie is touted to be the most awaited release in the last 4 years! As with all such releases, the media claimed that the expectations ran pretty high with the music of this album. To people like me, the genuine music lovers (want to differentiate us from them, the box-office music lovers), we will never understand what kind of expectations you can have on a musical album, that too for a movie when you have not really watched the movie or do not know anything about. If you have expectations then this means that you want something out of this album and if you do not get what you are looking for, you will be disappointed. What you want in this case is normally based on what you have heard before. So the expectations among the general music lovers for this album could have been largely based on the music of Lagaan because of the kind of similarities that exist between The Rising and Lagaan. So when the songs from this new release didn’t have any similarity to Lagaan’s songs (be in its sound or in its mass appealing tunes), the general music lovers (!!) who listened to the album with some expectations probably were disappointed.

Here is my take on the album – This is not a review by any means. More of how I feel about the songs and general observations..

The title track, “Mangal Mangal” which has 3 variations in the album is probably the catchiest tune in the album. Will fly well with everyone for sure. The tune is very very earthy and highly folksy. And to top it all what a choice of the singer! Kailash Kher’s voice is absolutely the perfect salutation to the composition and the freshness & the coarseness are truly brilliant. Rahman said that when he recorded Kailash’s voice for the intro part of the first track, he wanted it to be “real”. In other words, the crack of a flaw you may associate with his lines were meant to be there just so that the rustic feel is not lost. Genius. This makes a difference and what follows in terms of rhythm accompaniments in all the 3 versions are truly Rahmanesque in all aspects. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it.

The “Mujra” * song “Mai Vari” has admittedly been the most difficult one to compose according to Rahman. During my first listening itself, I knew why. What a grand variation throughout the song. The melody, the rhythm and as a result the mood changes throughout the song and needless to say, brings you the earlier part of the last century in front of your eyes. It will be interesting to see how the song is cinematographed. Kavitha’s voice is apt.

The “Holi”song has been dismissed as a noisy number by many. I just couldn’t bear that kind of a brush-off in less than day after the song’s release. This probably will be the song that is cinematographed in the grandest manner in the movie and will attract the international audience (on screen) because of the colour, the texture, the joy and the festivity associated with it. Rahman couldn’t have gone wrong anywhere given the task he was given. The song is full of amazing rhythm patterns and grand orchestrations. Yes..There is lot of music in the background and many singers too. But that’s what the beauty of the song is all about.

“Rasiya” is an amazing seductive number. Richa Sharma has been given an opportunity to experiment with her voice. She has done that wildly, boldly and in short she has passed the test (smile). Rahman has done similar songs before but to get a period feel to the song is probably the challenge he faced. There is no authentic source who can claim that this was how seductive music sounded in the 1800s, so Rahman’s creativity is our benefit.

“Al Madath” is Rahman all the way and he is a pro now in composing such fervent prayer songs specially that reflect Allah. Coming too soon after “Zikr” may make it sound similar but the structure is entirely different. Rahman’s cry of “Maula”..is haunting and I can’t get enough of that.

“Takey” is an awesome foot tapping number. If the movie was made in the west it would have made out to be a good bar-camaraderie number for the period. Absolute winner this one is and I hope the audience get enough exposure to this song because this one is an easily likeable number. As usual, Rahman shows he is the best when it comes to using children’s voices (even if his own) and that is a stroke of genius in this song.

It is less than 6 days since I started listening to this album so it may be too soon to appreciate all the songs in their entirety. And like all Rahman albums, the music will grow on me (and on you too..if you give it a chance). Even after 5 years from now, if I listen to this album , I will find something new in every song which I did not observe before.

I just feel gifted to be listening to Rahman’s music.

*** Please buy original tapes/CDs. Do not support piracy***

You can listen to the songs online through streaming audio at :

http://www.raaga.com/channels/hindi/movie/H000897.html

*Mujra – An Indian Classical Dance; has Moghal roots..

Posted in Music - General

The Thiruvasagam Symphony

-The Literature, The philosophy and My musings-

It’s my turn to contribute to the symphony reviewers’ world. The sudden burst of interest in trying to understand what a symphony is, what an orchestra means (with an obvious extension “What is Budapest Symphony Orchestra?”) and most importantly what Thiruvasagam is – can all be attributed to one person. Ilaiyaraja.

Ilaiyaraja – The man known by many south Indians but only by a handful of North Indians. Of course, it is pointless to try to figure out how many non-Indians would have heard of this genius, because if people on the other side of the Vindhyas* cannot associate with him or understand & appreciate his music, then to the International audience to whom Indian movies and music mean “Bollywood” and Bollywood only, the concept of movies and music in any language other than Hindi will totally be strange. This is a topic by itself and may be I will save it for another time. Without digressing, let us try to understand why there is a surge of symphony reviews in the cyber world – especially in the kingdom to which I belong – “Blogdom”.

Ilaiyaraja had been the king of Tamil film music for more than a decade – starting in early 80s, his commercial reign lasted until early 90s. He still produces music but to his defence, he is caught in his own creative web and is trying to prove he can still match the new generation musicians, hence to the old Raja fans, the new Raja music is not his best. Composing a symphony, writing the complete score for it and getting it arranged & played by a reputed Orchestra and most importantly having the compositions mastered, recorded and distributed to the music loving population around the would be any true musician’s dream. He being no exception to that, Ilaiyaraja had been dreaming about it for more than 20 years.

A couple of years ago, Rev. Jegath Gasper Raj approached Ilaiyaraja with this idea and what I have in CD form is a result of many people’s hard work in the last two years. Agreed, it is a commercial venture – but there is a noble cause behind this, that is to popularize & preserve some old Tamil literary works, which may help the next generation to carry forward some of the language in its pure form not just to keep the language alive but also to show the rest of the world, how rich Tamil language is. This project, thanks to the internet, spread its purpose and message throughout the world mainly among the Tamil community. This prompted many donors to volunteer their time and money to this project. Finally by word of mouth and perseverance on many people’s part the project has seen the light at the end of the tunnel. True achievement. Because of the amount of stir this project created among many music lovers’ minds and many language lovers’ minds, seeing the completion meant a lot of relief and jubilation. This may explain why a project that mainly found a channel of survival through internet would evoke such a high amount of eagerness among the bloggers.

Thiruvasagam – I guess I will be too embarrassed to even talk about the greatness of this epic. But to know a thing or two about of this Tamil literary work, one must understand the background. Here is a quote that may help one understand where Thiruvasagam falls.

The following works of art and literature are among the most remarkable contributions of the Tamil creative of the Tamil creative genius to the world’s cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and beloved by all in the same way as the poems of Homer, the dramas of Shakespeare, the pictures of Rembrandt, the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece:….The school of Bhakti … Saiva, which is one of those most sincere and passionate efforts of man to grasp the Absolute; and its supreme literary expression in the works of Manikkavasagar, Tirugnana Sambandar…. The philosophical system of Saiva Sidhdhantha, a system, which may be ranked among the most perfect and cleverest systems of human thought”

Czech Professor Dr. Kamil Zvelebil in 1956 –

The work that is being quoted there is called the “Twelve Thirumurai(s)”. A collection of Twelve books essentially consisting of poems & literature praising Lord Shiva, a Hindu “God Almighty”, the light & hope for Saivites. All these poems were written by 63 leading Saivite saints** spanning approximately over 600 years.

Thiruvasagam along with Thiruvempavai and Thirukkovaiyaar belong to the Eighth Thirumurai written by Saint Manickavasagar. He was a minister in the Pandya kingdom in the early 9th century AD, who led his life by his faith and devoted its entirety to Lord Shiva. It is said that one who does not get moved by Thiruvasagam will not be moved by anything else. This collection has 51 poems, each one a gem and needing you to spend a long time to understand the nuances.

If we can keep religion aside for a while and read this literary masterpiece, (of course you have to master Tamil before you can appreciate the work), you would understand the depth and the lingual aura that makes this work a rare treasure. Many had come and many had tried to learn this work. Noted among them was Rev. G.U. Pope a scholar from England. His translation of Thiruvasagam is by far the most popular English Translation work available for Thiruvasagam.

I have been listening to the CD the last couple of days. I should admit that I need much more time to really make any sense out of it. The entire album is absolutely a crossover attempt and hence it is taking a very long time for me to even understand the structure of each composition. Well, to begin with, I do not understand symphony. I just pretend to. The melody in the album is so characteristic of Ilaiyaraja and I would be lying if I didn’t mention that most of the melodies have a “heard before” feeling. Nevertheless, all the melodies are haunting – again so very characteristic of Ilaiyaraja. The arrangements are spellbinding. Right now my favorite piece of the album is “Putril Vazha”. This may be an unusual choice because from what I have read, most reviewers like “Polla Vinayaen”. I think that piece is a little too long for me to connect all the broken parts together and appreciate it as one single work. But the vocal fusion of Ilaiyaraja’s classical Tamil, Ray Harcourt’s Operatic English and the symphonic chorus make that number (Polla Vinayaen) a brave & an innovative attempt. A twenty minute composition with so many variations – C’mon I need more time to assimilate it!

I may just get better at “pretending” after a few more hearings of this album.

Some useful links:

Thiruvasagam – http://www.tamilnation.org/sathyam/east/thiruvasagam/tvasagam0.htm

G.U. Pope – http://www.tamilnation.org/literature/pope.htm

Pope’s translation work – http://siddhanta.shaivam.org/thivapop.htm

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/812060315X/tamilntamilrelat/104-9845025-0121531

The Thiruvasagam Symphony Project – http://www.tis-usa.com/

*The Vindhya mountains cut right across the country, from West to East, and form the boundary between North and South India.

**63 Nayanmars – “Saiva Siddhanta” is southern saivism. These 63 saints who lived by this philosophy are considered as gurus of this philosophy.