12.18.2007

Ghanan ghanan

The breeze was unusually cold. Ratanlal sat in his thatched hut, warming his hands near the haphazard array of burning sticks. With a wrinkled forehead and eyes that gazed back into time, he looked about the far side of forty. Yet there seemed a youthful vigour somewhere about the man, a glow as temporary and varying as the dancing shadows that the flickering flames threw at the mud-plastered wall behind him.

Outside, the wind whistled as it ruffled the vast expanse of whispering wheat-crop. An unearthly hue dominated the north-Indian sky, lending an eerie look to the clump of stones in the graveyard far out in the horizon. A mile or so to the right, a small pin-point of light marked the shining lamp at the temple.

It wasn't really a temple. Or maybe it was. As far as anyone knew, the stones marked with red sindhur and the lamp nearby lent them a feeling of secuity and a big hand to depend mentally upon. The steady point of light kept the ray of hope in the minds of the residents of Bhilampur from flickering out and dying, even in the strongest times of despair.

The makeshift fire soon smoked and gave out, plunging the shack in pitch darkness, except for a silver streak of moonlight which faithfully fell in through the open window and formed a crooked square on the rough floor. Ratanlal sat hugging his knees at the door, looking at the moon and silently wishing upon it.The monsoon was late this year. This was his first time at this field too. He shuddered. Those men, his friends... had warned him against ploughing the land near the gravestones.

"The spirits there make the land barren... they blow away the monsoon clouds to make the crops wither away... the spirits-"
He had disregarded them in a fit of deperate ambition. Acres of land, waiting to be tilled... all for a bumper harvest, he had thought as he whipped his bullocks over the mushy soil. The hope that had beckoned him to this place kept this hope alive.

Taking out his flute, he drew a long soulful raaga into the night air. The atmosphere twitched at the pathos of a solitary figure. He looked at the graveyard, partly visible near the horizon, between the waving tops of his crops. It was getting late into the night. A wavy column of smoke appeared above one of the gravestones. Slowly it climbed into the breeze and assumed a ghostly form. The wind started howling. From near the wheat crops it sounded like a parched soul whispering for water.

Water... the monsoon... rain... all sounded like a dream as he watched his crops reach the brink of death. The well near the hut had long given up its entire supply of water. He had to fetch water from a borewell about four miles away in the nearby village. Five rupees a pitcherful. Six earthen vessels stood under the slab in his hut. The last one was full. He looked longingly at it in the moonlight. Thirst... all that would have to wait... till the rains came. The bhaisaab from the city, who came monthly to the village, said he heard someone in town say that the people who watched the clouds predicted that it would rain in a couple of days. Hoping that it would, he sat gazing into the sky like a hornbill.

Soemwhere in the field, a dog set up a mournful howling. The wind gained momentum. He tried not to look in the direction of the gravestones. Lighting a small fire out of fallen leaves, he went in and sat in the warmth of his hut, huddled in a rag. The monsoon had to come... in just two days his crop would die... just forty eight hours before his dream of a harvest shattered to pieces.

His only hope lay in his prayers. Every evening, after tending to the field, he would walk barefoot to the temple and offer gulmohar flowers from the tree that stood by his hut. "Bhagvanji, please let my crops get water.. let good rain fall on the land.. let the land be fine... let the people get food.." He would spend about half an hour sitting under the banyan tree there, praying and looking at his field. Before dusk he would be in his hut.
Snakes...

*****************

The cuckoo cuckooed from the nearly bare branches of the gulmohar tree. The final day. It was today or never. he swallowed a lump that had formed in his throat. He looked up at the sky... as clear as ever. His hopes sank. With a heavy mind, he looked at the last pitcher of water that sat under the stone slab. He lifted it upto his lips... then set it down. No.. water for the field first...

He lifted it up onto his waist and trotted off to the field. The crops looked at the brink of drying up... Slowly, with a heavy heart, he sprinkled water, dipping his hand into the pitcher and waving it about to let the drops of water reach the parched ground. At noon, he had to rest. He opened a bundle he carried in his dhoti and took out two peices of hard roti. Chewing on this, he took a sip of water out of the pitcher. He gratefully let the cool water slide down his throat. In a few minutes he was ready to go. The sky still showed no signs of clouds. Only one thought remained... the temple... pray desperately... Bhagwan would hear his calls. He looked at the water left in the pitcher. His mind wavered... still over a quarter of the field was left.. and it was time for him to offer his daily prayers.. and today he needed Bhagwanji's blessing more than ever. His mind started wavering wildly..

"The crops... water... no monsoon...one year of labour...waste"
"A curse shall fall upon you"
"This day or never..."
"The wrath of Bhagwan will kill you"

Something changed him. An increased vitality overflowed in his veins... one look at the dry field and he was resolute. Anyway he was going to perish... He hoisted the water onto this waist and went into the field with the tramp of a determined ox. All that evening he watered the fields and worked like a man posessed... like a wild bull running madly.
The sun set. A biting wind started to blow.

Somewhere in the direction of the gravestones, an owl hooted.

It struck him like a thunderbolt... he had refused prayers! what would befall him now? He dropped the vessel and ran.
He ran blindly into the field... he did not think about the dangerous vipers and scorpions that plagued the fields at night. Every step took him one step ahead... to his destination. The graveyard looked more ghostly that ever...shrouded in mist. A strange howling had started to emanate from the left of the field... his heart leapt at the sound... The temple light was out... he ran blindly towards the temple. The sky above him roared like an angry buffalo, he heard it not. The stones on the way stung his bare feet, he felt them not. The moonlight had mysteriously disappeared, and he could not see a thing. Yet, something kept his feet racing. The sky above roared louder than ever. The field above suddenly glowed in a flash of blinding violet light... the howling of the wind was at its peak. The spirits... He felt the stone steps of the temple... hurriedly he struck a match and lit the oil lamp near the stone figurine. His heart was beating fast... he was breathless.

Slowly, he felt the fingers of darkness enveloping him... A haunting wail from somewhere rose into the air... Yama... messenger of death... had come for him. He collapsed... Bhagwanji...the curse... he succumbed to his aches.

The sky above clashed in a bolt of brilliant white lighning. Then it opened up... water... Water! The first drops of rain hit him hard in his face...Rain... He opened his eyes, bewildered... the rain-drops fell like stones on his face... He turned and looked back at the lamp... and turned to the sky as there arose the fragrance of the first showers on dry earth... His tears fell like the raindrops... a gentle voice spoke in the wind "You did your duty, my child... and I did mine", while his own cry of joy drowned in the symphony of the monsoon clouds above.

11.25.2007

Winter Update (whew)

Bah winter... what winter? It's as maritime as it gets. The same cool morning, the bloomin' heat towards noon, the glowing radiation in the afternoon and the warm evening - It never changes. But a lot of things have.

Twelfth standard in school is drawing to a close... as are my days in school - the place where I spent thirteen best years of my life. But things have changed since Lafest got over... we were thrown into the 'study' gear (something which was done rarely till now) and that changed everything. Holidays were boring before, now I look forward to it whenever the hint of one comes round the corner. Bunking classes to study at home was blasphemy, or rather, something never thought-of before. The fun element has gone out of what was fun before. Good teachers are leaving one by one... hardly anyone will be there to recognise us once we pass out and come back after some years.

Damn.
But the school campus.. its birds, innumerable trees and its atmosphere is here forever. Enveloping us, from the time we longed for home in UKG, to the time we stayed back at nights for School day or Lafest, the feel I get in a campus is more than that of home.
All that is drawing to an end.

On a very different beat, (try not to laugh at the absurdness) yesterday afternoon I happened to glance down onto the tracks from the road bridge that passes over the railway station. It should have been past noon and is the time one can see atleast ten to twelve locos resting, awaiting duties in the evening. One look and I was shocked. What had been a feast of diesels and a few electrics from all over south India, had now changed to just electrics from Erode and Arakkonam sheds. A lone diesel hid behind one of them. The variety was lost forever. the idling chugg-chug-chugga-chugga was lost... trivandrum central has become just another station like Chennai, with just WAP4s and WAM4s. Everything has changed.



(It's been a looong time since I ever did any railfanning. I miss the sound and smoke of the diesels and the gleaming red shine of the WAP4s. But all that has to wait... a few months more.

This is most probably gonna be my last post while I remain a student of Loyola, Trivandrum. After that God knows what's in store. So, Au revoir alma mater.

And au revoir Trivandrum too? God knows.

9.29.2007

My Immortal

Eighteen years ago, a star was born
The genes said it all -
Beautiful, fair and tall.
Endowed with the most melodious voice
Like sparkling fresh water tinkling over pebble,
Like white pearls spilt from velvet bag-
Onto pure, white marble floor.
Her beauty resonating into her
Beautiful mind... building beautiful
Character, full of goodness, kindness and compassion.
Graceful as the white swan sailing down yond lake.
Calm composition, a light and lively life -
A sweet soul!
Born to achieve great heights and tread the path of success-
As nimbly as a dancing sunflower in the afternoon breeze.
But for unforgiving fate, seeking to clear the debt
From some life... to the agony of all - she was
Still-born...

My Immortal...



An everlasting tribute from her dear little brother, who saw the world a year later

9.09.2007

Futility

Dedicated to the one year everyone remembers: Twelfth standard in school

I trudge home, a weary novice
Footprints of yore get tramped on
And a dull light clouds the face
Masking identity, merging with the common

Seeing no specific destination, none -
The stars that lead the way are many...
Hypocrites. The truth clouds the sun
Into an infinite nothingness.

Everyday dawns anew, true
Yet follows the previous gravity -
Into what seems even more new
Yet reeks of familiarity.

Life, indeed. Youth, a mockery.
Wasting precious years in building
Plans to an invisible, seemingly merry
Afterlife... like chasing

The golden star.

For, everyone has changed. The world
Now sings a different tune,
And the dancing changed... long ago:
Musicians don't know their scores.

Life that ruled a year ago -
Was. Life that drags its sore load now
Is not. Yet, one clutches hope
Close to the heart and toils.

Caught in a world of familiar strangers
Fighting people I myself do not know
Nor bear any grudge whatever.
All towards an illusive goal...

Come together friends and encore
Before time changes all of us
Into sheer memories of yore
Corrupting the building mind thus.

For, in a year, you go your way
And I mine... ‘Tween the two,
Fate and future do destiny lay.
Till by providence they cross... to continue.

Malicious memory touches us so that
We remember th' times we cried,
And laugh; but recalling a laughing instant
Brings out a tear and a sigh.

When the mists are gone and the sky clear,
The storm has slept and thunder mute
Let the hands of God land me in a place dear
The times good and the future suite.

8.07.2007

LAfest 07: the story

What every Loyolite looks forward to in the 12th is undoubtedly LAfest. For those who dont know, it is an interschool cultural festival completely organised and conducted by the students of class 11th and 12th, the latter being the kingpins :) Our batch had hosted the 11th LAfest when we were in our 11th std and now it was the 12th... "All the world's a stage... here is the spotlight" ran the motto.

But this year, there was a problem.. the driving force behind it all, right from the very first LAfest to the 11th - DP (of whom I've already spoken) was no longer with us, atleast no longer with us all the time. So, yet another hurdle for our batch. (Recurring misfortune has been very special to our batch.. right from the 10th. We got our board exam papers corrected by someone who really hated humanity)... ah fine... so this was our LAfest and we had to make rock it.

(brace yourself, this is an epic)

The preparations started about a month back. Since DP could only come on weekends, we had to make sure everything went on smoothly. Meanwhile, the dear ol ex-loyolites assured us that they would help us all through the thing, which they did most beautifully, not interfering too much, yet helpful in the most helpful sort of way. We, after much looking-into-timetables-of-other-schools, kept it for the ninth of July. That was close indeed! We swung into action... held meetings, formed committees and made sure everyone had a part. While everything was heating up pretty alarmingly, we postponed it to 23rd of July... for the better. We had much more time now. Since DP wasn't here, we couldnt do the usual - come to school, dump the bag, get out of class, LAfest, LAfest, LAfest, go back home - kinda stuff. We had to make do with as much time as we could squeeze out of free periods and by begging our teachers to give us a period off. In between all this, we had dear ol' DP coming to school on weekends and reviewing the whole thing. The coordinators were a really efficient gang; together they made sure all the essentials were ready - inviting schools, sending brochures and of course, what they do - coordination. So hats off to you guys!
We had a new event this year... after much sittings and debates, we had decided on a street play.. Details were all worked out by the community members, they made sure all went out without a glitch. Meanwhile my event, block and tangles was one of the oldest ones, so it was upto a team of eight hosts(two per round) to think up something novel so that the audience would like it. After some brainstorming sessions, we fixed up four rounds on the eve of one DP's visits... only to be forced to redo the whole thing. This, and the 'presentation' was to go on till the night before LAfest. We sat and put down questions, tore up innumerable scraps of paper, accused each other of blasphemy, treason and what not. It was quite fun, anyway :)

The weekend just preceding LAfest... On saturday the boys of 11th had come and we made them do what we did last year - 'physical work' - euphemism for pulling up weeds, cleaning toilets, fixing flag-poles, at the end of which everyone was left with varied opinions about them. Achuth of the other class...whatever... not going into all that now. On Sunday, we blew our brains gettting everything fixed up. The more problems we solved, even more kept cropping up. DP was to be given a tribute in the form of a presentation, the judges were to be briefed, questions for events were to be printed, judges-score sheets, gap fillers(more on that later), time keeping and what not. Asti(aka. Rahul R) was constantly helping the quiz team, the jukebox dudes and did the same all through LAfest and we all thanked him from the bottom of our hearts. Ganesh(gman), Kichu, KC, were all out to help us as we got ready for the big day. Thank you chettas!

We went home late at night.

I had a gap filler and was informed about it in the last moment... I planned to do my ol' trick - a violin classical-fusion, complete with background score(which I had composed in my dabba thanks to a composer software I had). It was partly inspired (rather, fuelled) by the fact that I had overheard some people in St. Thomas remarking that my drumming for Metallica at SanRevo wasnt that good. I somehow had to make an impression (it was a prestige isuue :) so there it was...


The big day dawned.. rather I dawned before the big day did. Half past five in the morning. Guru had very enthusiastically demanded that I start from home at 5.45, which I had very energetically turned down, and so I rambled off from home at 6.15. At the bus stand I met Rahul("Mad" Mike, lead guitarist for the band I am the drummer for) and we got into a rickety ol' bus and parked our bums. After general comments on how bad the T-shirt was and how really retarded it was, the conversation droned off to less interesting topics and then waned. There was an unsually cold breeze which made me wonder if Guru would really have lasted all the way to school if he had started off at 5.45...we took an auto from Sreekariyam to the school.

Everything was almost up and ready in the Sutter hall... The programme would start in a few hours. I met up with the remaining Block and Tangles gang and got everything ready. Holy Angels ISC(universally referred to as HAC:) had already landed. The rest were yet to come.

Time flew and the ceremony started. I kinda screwed up the intro to the school song, but that was only a few seconds. After everyone had sat following the prayer, the real heat was on... This was our thing! We had to get it done! After Mr. Ganesh Kumar's(the chief guest) speech, our Principal came up and spoke a few words. The lighting of the lamp was unlike that in any other school fest, where the Principal, school leader, Vice Principal, Treasurer and who-not of that school come up to light the lamp... Here, the school leaders of all the participating schools lit the lamp.. signifying that this was truly a student-event... Hail LAfest!

Next up came the age-old LAfest song.. La lalalala la la la la laa la... LAfest! Succeeding that, was a sort of show.. the stage filled up with smoke, curtain slowly rises.. Cradle of filth's "Hallowed be thy name"(originally Iron Maiden) played.. and the whole crowd started headbanging.. mm.. would have been fun but the audience turned out to be so dumb that they stared and listened.. sad.. this dumbess would reverberate later, through Block and tangles and all through La Persona, when most of the hosts' funny comments fell flat.

Harmony was up first... struggling to keep time, coping up with the delays of the participants. Arun "Mega"Dutt, ex-Loyolite and Axeman for "Rubbur Band" was among the judges. After all the psychedelic performances, St.Thomas came up last with a gang and just an acoustic gutiar.. and proved it all.. simple and clean - that heavy synths and expensive drumkits aren't the magic. After Harmony was over somehow, there was a lull and the publicity team made a gesture to me to head over to the stage for my gap filler. Hoping they would not cut me off in the middle of my song due to lack of time, I began... it was a smooth flow till the end, and I was greeted with a very good round of applause. Feeling quite happy with myself, I got off the stage and joined my friends when I heard to my astonishment that the HAC girls had given me a standing ovation! Well..well... :)

Next up was the Quiz - "Scientia es potentia". It went without any major porblem. The audience was really focused on what was happening, something which was not the case, say last year or so. Cheers to the quiz team! Meanwhile I had to go and join the BlocknTangles team to get updated about the prelims and to lunch before we had to brief the finalists. Heard that HAC gave a good performance, and that there was a talented guy in St. Mary's, Poojappura. The teams that would battle it through in the finals were HAC, STCS (St.Thomas Central), St.Mary's (Poojappura) and Trins(or TIS-Trivandrum International School). The luch was mainly fast food, but filling. A big paneer roll, a doughnut, a puff, something-else-which-i-dont-remember, and a pack of Real Juice made up my veg meal. Then it was back to BlocknTangles.

The briefing took place in the multimedia lab. It was very informal and we felt quite good as we chatted up the participants and made everything clear as to what challenges(!) they might be getting in the finals. Here again, the 11th ushers showed they were not of any use as the participants had to go back to their rooms alone... pity.

Dramatis Localo, the street play event was just after lunch. I completely missed it because we (the BnT team) were reclining in the lab and getting everyting ready for the next event, which was ours. At about 1445, the stage was cleared for Block and Tangles. While we seated the teams as the curtain was down, Arjun sang "Main hoon Don" fronstage, and boys did the audience love it! His voice, coupled with the effect of the song... wah!

The curtains lifted. First two rounds went without a hitch, except for the intro music and exit music(in short, the MUSIC) being messed up due to some unknown spirit in the computer. The third round was the dubbing round, which had been screwed up last year due to "technical difficulties". Now, we watched it go by smoothly. Till the last team. Till the middle of the video they were dubbing.. The spirit... the cursed devil which haunts BnT every year, struck precisely at that moment. The computers hung. Crashed. Trins, who was the last team, refused to return to their seats. Host Akshay then consoled them and told them that they would be evaluated on basis of their performance in whatever part they dubbed. Next up was mine-and-Guru's round. The audience was pretty restless after the crash and I had to fight to get their attention. Made up some funny stuff onstage, but it all fell flat.. dumb audience... again. But the participants had a nice time. We signed off the event after our round. Applause :)

I still ask Derrish how it turned out that ALL the music for Block and Tangles got messed up :|

Next was what everyone had been (or we had assumed would be) waiting for: what proclaimed itself to be THE best personality contest in the whole of kerala... LaPersona. Hosted by Tushar, Ashique and Kevin, they had made it sure that it would be a runaway sucess. They even had a fourth host, Bob, who was a dummy from Raymonds. And boy the audience was most intelligent. Each and every funny or kinda chuckle-inducing comment fell flat. Jokes centering around Bob simply didn't click. The part where the guys walk out, saying "Well, now we come to the surprise round.. and it is called - THE END" , after which Bob says (is made to say) "BOB DEMANDS HUMAN SACRIFICE!!!" was met with blank stares. *What the -*

All this while I have contained myself from speaking about one thing - the cheering by Holy Angels'. At any points of time, I saw various people casting a worried look at the roof and walls of the old Sutter hall.. you know... think soprano, shattering glass... Righto. These girls were screaming HA-ISC (as in heich- ay - Ai S SEE) and "angels gonna rock you" and stuff... Many were th etimes they cheered for our school. I don't know the point of the whole thing but this is it. Think bleeding ears.

After some lull following La Persona, we had the Dance-O-mania event. HAC rocked the stage, followed cosely by STCS and STRS. But the height of everything was undoubtedly what we reserved for the last... dance by loyola. What movements, what music... We had all the people from other schools (including girls) dancing right at the place where they were standing... such was the effect!

All this while, we had been missing DP and we had to give a final farewell to her. We had prepared a presentation as our thanksgiving and... well watch for yourself.



At the end of this, DP was called onto stage by coordinator Joshua and the crowd cheered their lungs out for her. DP is as well known as LAfest itself! A Highly emotional address to the students followed, at the end of which we felt we HAD given her a warm farewell.

All good things do come to an end and so we had to wind it up... The prize winning was one hell of a moment for eveyone. Before that, the closing ceremony was 'chief-guested' by Job, singer of sorts. He kept giving the "Rock on.." sign(index finger+little finger) for some indipop song (!), anyways besides that, he sang well and we were happy that he was an ex-Lafestian(new term?) from BVB. (BVB-applause goes here).. he confirmed strongly that LAfest is THE best fest of its kind in Trivandrum, which received thunderous applause from everyone out there.

As for the prizes, Holy Angels made a clean sweep and kept hugging each other after winning some prize... then came the time for the overall champions..the people standing near the HAC side moved out cutiously.. "HAC" and the thunderstorm came... A crowd of jumping, screaming girls ( :p ) jumped onto the stage and toook down the HUge Natraj we had reserved for the first! The girls fell over each other and hugged, and kissed(!)

After that din was happily over, we cheered for ourselves... the exloyolites and everyone who had been part of this.. and the Sutter Hall shook in pride of the 12th time it was part of this fantastic interschool festival... May it live on for ever and may LAfest go on, inspiring every boy and girl in the city on the spirit of fun and competition.

6.10.2007

The void that DP left

Yes, I have not updated this bloomin' blog for sometime now. Henceforth, the fortnightly-once frequency(or less) only may be expected.

Twelfth standard in Loyola was the epitome of a fun-filled-cum-studious year(leaning towards the latter towasrds the end of the year). The height of it all, Lafest. (For those who dont know, Lafest is the interschool cultural festival held every year by the 12th boys, hosted and managed completely by themselves(I repeat, completely) ). And the driving force between it all... the one woman bhind all the success - right from the first year - the one and only DP. DP was our dear ol' English teacher (known to others as Mrs. Deepa Pillai).

Expecting the first day of 12th itself to be filled with discussions on Lafest and stuff is no sin. It never was different... until this year. One or two days before the reopening, the sad news had spread like wildfire. DP was leaving... or rather, had left. It struck us like a thunderbolt, leaving no one unshaken.

Everyone roamed around the class on the first day mourning the loss. We had a new English teacher, a guy new to the school and to the ISC syllabus altogether. Everone sat hushed up in their seats like in a funeral house. It was all very different and strange. What had, for more than a decade, been cheerful and lively, was dead and gloomy. In all, a horribly tragic fog enveloped everyone, who was invariably comparing their fate to the luck of the last batch (who were the last ones to hold Lafest under DP). Everyone was dejected. Openenig the poetry book and Macbeth, we felt like looking at the possessions of a person who had just passed away. For, DP was as natural a part of us and her subject as the sun is of the solar system. It was all very sudden and unexpected. If I sound abrupt or repetitive here, it's because I'm obviously afffected, as is everyone.

DP has left a huge void in the school. Ashok(an alumnus) has written how she was an integral part of everything and everyone... damn it's not possible to describe her in words. Read what he wrote here. Be it her democracy or not(for mine own part, I dont like the D-word), she was, is, and will be the best teacher we ever had in Loyola. The lady who painfully organised memorable farewells for her colleagues had no fitting farewell. The ultimate gift we the Boys of O-Zero-Eight(BoOZE) would like to give her is the opportunity to sit back and watch the whole of Lafest this year, something she had never done before, and relish the sucess of the tradition she started years ago, braving everything that came in her way.

5.24.2007

Chengalization

Somewhere in the nooks and corners of Trivandrum breeds a species of annoying youth. Their infection spreads throughout the place and threatens the very existence of individuals like us. Whatever makes them different from normal youngsters like *ahem* us.. is precisely what they lack and we have.

Ambiguous...I guess that's how I sound. Righto, let me clear the mist. These damn bloodypests call themselves 'youth' and go 'bout the bloomin' city like they are the trend, not realizing that they are the most ill-civilised, ugly-looking idiotic rascals of all time. They think wearing jeans, huge belt-buckles, donning skull-caps and riding pulsars is all what it takes to be fashionable. Well, they got the thing hugely off-track.

They are there in every place. Most of them are like rakes, and bent ones too (concave from front). What they wear on their damn carcasses is a huge statement in itself... A collage of grossly misfitting rugs with... well, not in one sentence. I guess it'll take a paragraph in itself. Here goes.. from top to bottom.

Hair on the head is glued to the head with a rich anointment of coconut oil. The sticky liquid is, however, unable to prevent the hair from (or it induces) extreme wavy patterns(think uncooked Maggi noodles)on it.

Short shirts, hugging the torso and ending a few millimetres beneath the belt(obviously not tucked in) have been adopted as their fashion. The belt consists of a strand of dog-collar leather, with a huge cast-iron buckle (about a foot in diameter) holding the two pieces together. The bottom affair was formerly jeans(not the decent ones but the 'boot-cut' and bell-bottom type ones) but these bastards have resorted to wearing our good ol' baggy 'cargo' (along with a few yards of loose-hanging rope stuck to the pockets). Footwear is invariably high-friction, high decibel sandals which are meant to be kept on top of the bottom part of the jeans(which are made to form a layer between the road and the footwear).

They speak the basest,most crude form of Malayalam and the better-off ones vainly attempt to speak weirdly accented 'Engleeehsh'. They infest their filthy culture on their brothers and friends and it spreads like some sort of trend (God forbid!) into hitherto decent schools.

Now, I would not have given a damn if they had remained in their own uncouth way for ever. What happens is the annexation of fashion. For example, caps were decent stuff that kept out solar activity from burning out the eyes and melting the human processor. This being 'annexed' a few months back, various black things now walk along the roads donning these caps and even cargo-trousers! After this shameless annexation, we have second thoughts of going out in the streets wearing what they have recently adopted as fashion... makes people relate you to them... I hope you get the point :| The same goes for other cool, hippy stuff which would cease to be cool if it were found on them.

Ah, about the title... I'm not very clear about the origin of the root word, but "Chengal-choola" is a slum-area somewhere in trivandrum where these people originally came from.

5.06.2007

Untitled

THIS POST HAS BEEN WITHHELD UNTIL THE AUTHOR DECIDES TO REPUBLISH IT.

4.21.2007

Whatever you'd call it

The action starts around five o’clock in the evening. The whole street becomes resonant with a single jingle that seems to enrapture the residents into staying inside the house. A quivery, baritone voice begins its highly sentimental recital, threatening to move the audience to tears by weaving sad, wailing words into the song.

Ladies and gentlemen, what you had just heard was the title song of the worthless yet alarmingly popular soaps (or "TV-serials") we have today. Marking the beginning of a full half-hour performance by some very talented actors and actresses in town, it warms up the spectators into the verge of tears while instilling in them the seed of anticipation of what would follow after the previous day’s incidents.

Real life is easily forgotten as the viewers merge into the melancholy, repulsive and extremely domestic scenes happening one after the other. Youngsters learn all facts of life from this trash which takes place everyday. The heroine is on a high off glycerine and the villains are ruthless figures who live, eat and breathe only one word – revenge. (One such villain had to flee an entire state because he was constantly attacked by persons on the street as punishment for the crimes he did on TV). Old women draw examples for life from the characters in the serials, swear by them and even cite dialogues from them. A few observations:

1)The name (of the show) is invariably that of a female.
2)Something in every episode makes you think that the director gets his bread and butter from tugging people’s heartstrings.
3)After a few minutes you engage yourself in better, less boring activities such as finding the exact angle between the thumb and forefinger in order to effectively pick your nose, or determining whether the cat on the wall far away is sleeping or just pretending to.
4- or was it 5?)The surprise is when you discover that the commercials are five minutes long.
watever)At the end, you sit up and feel yourself all over, rub your eyes and say “What the heck”

The bedlam continues long into the night...

The idiot-box is finally switched off after much hesitation and the people experience an awful empty feeling (as if they had pulled the plug on a loved one). They wipe their eyes and shuffle off to their chores, their minds preoccupied with sympathy towards the woman who was deserted by her drunken husband or the she-devil 'villainess' at whose deeds they had clenched their fingers barely a few minutes back.

Disclaimer: I dunno what is the case of other parts of India, but this is based on my observations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Sometime ago there was an ad in a local magazine featuring a computer with a TV-Tuner card. The ad showed a mouse (the digital variety) in tears… with a footnote – “Now you can watch 'serials' in your computer”. Well. That just about sums it up.

Sad... but true.

4.14.2007

Vista on 128MB RAM and 16MB graphics???

Vista, my foot... I don't know why the masses are going ga-ga over the latest baby from Micro$oft. Was it the graphics? You bet. That's what people usually look at. Agreed, the features included are rather interesting. And what does the Big Brother say about the features? Here's what they say

Now, this V-thing is greedy... greedy like a pack of ten unfed, hungry pigs. The damn thing needs 1GB of precious memory(for the so-called 'Ultimate' version), 128 MB Graphics memory, and an unbelievable 15GB of hard disk space! Many of you with similar configurations would love to use Vista (mostly for the fun of it, or for the "security" promised)... but are forced to upgrade their now-perfectly-working-boxes.

Now, a bit about my ol' box: It has a good 1.5GHz P4 processor and a meagre 128MB SD-RAM. The guy behind all the graphics is a humble 16MB thing. The only upgrade I've done is attaching a Seagate Barracuda(80GB) to my 40GB HDD, and a DVD-RW drive.

And my OS? Linux. Specifically, it's a derivative of the award-winning, widely popular and friendly distro ubuntu, and is called Kubuntu.

Yesterday, with an evil intention to see how much of new-age graphics my dabba would sustain, I went to KDE-Look.org and installed the "Crystal" window decor(the title bar) and an icon set called "crystal clear" (seems these guys are fond of crystals). A nice black colour-scheme would be more easy on the eyes (especially at night) than the ubiquitous KDE-trademark-white-and-bue and would resemble "Aero" in Vista. To get a more glassy look, I changed the window-style to the old 'keramik' style. The rest was just a matter of enabling transparency in the panel, and selecting black as the Konqueror(file-manager) background. Been there, done that. And the results were... well...

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the graphics my 128MB-RAM/16MB Graphics system produced:

(Notice the transparent effect on teh bottom panel and the title-bar of the window)

And here's how this place looks:


To get the ultimate eye-candy, check out this post from my friend, who uses linux on his old 512MB(minus onboard grapics)-RAM system. The results are stunning. And for those who have seen it, THIS IS NOT AVAILABLE IN VISTA hehe :) I mean, the cube and all..

If you have a system with specifications similar to mine(described at the beginning), then woudnt you love to have some basic eyecandy, but still not give up on speed? No, dont run Windows 98 on it! Well, then a minimal linux installation is for you. It will come with ALL the latest hardware support, latest, but fast applications specifically re-engineered for low-spec systems. Put it on your oldest PC and watch it fly! Check out how to do so here.

If I've got you interested in linux - its speed, power, capability.. in short, its awesomeness: Know more here: http://www.getgnulinux.org/. Still not convinced? Read this too.

The final word...there's really NO need to upgrade to Vista. The feaures which have been promised have been available in Linux for ages. And for the graphics, well... you've seen the worst!

4.07.2007

Lord of the Rails

Ever since man invented machines, there has been no stopping him... from the polygonal wooden wheel to the huge atomic reactors, man and his machine have been inseperable friends.

The steam engine was the most wonderful machine ever invented by man. Some say 'twas J. Watt,.. while others shook their heads and hailed Carnot. As for me, I don't give a damn except for the machine, which was crude and primitive and rather without glory, until it hit the rails... and when it did, boy! IT WAS GOD! Starting with the 'Rocket' it grew in size and glory and attaining its height in the golden age of steam, with these huge metal beasts chuffing with authority. And with the introduction of diesels and the dumb electrics, steam was definitely hurtling to its fall. And the stupid government did not even think of preserving a few lines to be run on steam, in India. I was born too late to hear a whistle blow, but I can imagine what the elders called with a gleam in their eyes, "The magic of steam". Now, when all the world is beginning to remember with nostalgia that age, our govt wakes up with a start and brings out their few preserved WPs, WGs and does nothing more than a parade of these locos.

Ok... past is past.. we still have better (ok, different, though) beasts that rule the Indian rails!
And undoubtedly, they are the mighty DIESELS

For a bit of history of diesels in India and more, chew on this

First of all, the oldest surviving, but the most rugged and undoubtedly the most awesome loco... the inimitable WDM2. Built as ALCo's DL560C, it entered India in 1962 and changed the face of diesel traction forever. With its rugged looks, awesome, simply awesome sound and a bit (rather a whole lot of) smoking action, this one was, and still is, the favourite of thousands of loco-lovers both in India and abroad.
(This is the Karnataka Express with twin Etarsi WDM2s)

Watch a WDM3A smoking off from Londa Jn. with a hell lot of smoke and a wonderful exhaust sound

For all who thought that old is gold, well, ladies and gentlemen, introducing the killer on rails, God of diesel, the mighty WDP4.

Imported as GM EMD GT46PAC from, as you might've guessed, General Motors, these beasts are homed at Hubli and Krishnarajapuram and haunt the rails in the Goa-Bangalore-Hyderabad area. Its acceleration sound is similar to a jet plane doing the same, and it gives very little smoke.. as a fellow loco-lover put it, a WDP4 at full throttle gives less smoke than an ALCo [WDMx] at idle. See and hear the beast here!

Its goods-cousin, the GT46MAC, or the WDG4 as its is known to us, is the ultimate diesel freighter, but I personally prefer to be awed by a freight train hauled by three screaming, rumbling WDM2s or WDG3A "shaktis" than a lone WDG4.

(Location: Near Doodhsagar Falls)

With the making of more WDP/G4s and of the newer cousins of the WDM2, the WDM3Ds , diesels are here to stay. And RULE!

All photos and videos are the copyright of the respective photograhers/video-takers who have submitted their material in irfca.org

3.31.2007

The Penguin Rules!

Wohoo! I finally got my Linux system up and running! This is my first blog-post from Tux... Before that, a bit about my Linux ventures so far:

It all started three years back. Inspired by Srikanth, ex-Loyolite, working in Infosys, I set out to get my hands on a Red hat distro. But then Mishel(my tech-buddy) told me he already had a Mandrake 9.1 CD set. Installing Mandrake was a breeze. Got the system up and spent some days configuring it and doing...er... stuff on it. But heck, I couldn't get my modem (in the dialup days) to work in Mandrake. After a few months I got bored of it.

Then I got my hands on SuSE linux 9.1. This one was great. Very stable and rather quick... I fell in love with its features and looks. Even then I couldnt spend much time on it since I still couldn't get the stupid modem to work under it.

When Knoppix 4 arrived, it was a huge sucess. Equipped with the latest KDE 3.4, it was all eye-candy plus a HUGE lot of applications in just one live CD. It ran grudgingly on my (by then)legacy PC after a few tweaks. Ubuntu came, but it failed to please me (maybe because I hate GNOME).

Then came the big SuSE 10. It was just AWESOME - 5 CDs of goodies and offered the perfect blend of stability, eye-candy and a HUGE stock of apps. I got it installed (after trying to do so - FIVE times, as my lowly 128MB SDRAM was adamant). It was slow, obviously.

And now, after all the hype about Ubuntu being good (courtesy Mishel ;o) ) I wanted to get my hands on its KDE cousin (I still abstain from using GNOME - so there's one loyal KDE-fan!) I ordered two Kubuntu CD (for 32 and 64 bit systems) from shipit, but I got one of my friends' Kubuntu CD and installed it. There were a couple of problems with mounting and stuff, and Windoze put its foot down and refused to boot. I panicked and ran a repair. Also, this hard-disk of mine was cluttered up, even having the old SuSE 10 distro and its swap(which was a big boon, as Kubuntu uses swaps on the HDD during live boot and this was the only way to boot live on my ancient box - one of the irritating things is it can install to HD only after booting live). So I repartitioned the whole HD and proceeded to install Kubuntu after getting Windoze up. However I forgot that there was no swap for it now and it, as expected, hung while loading KDM. I booted my old Mandrake CD and created a swap, allowed the installation to proceed for a few seconds. Then booted Windoze and deleted Mandrakes root partition and set up partitions in such a way that there was just 10GB of free unpartitioned space left. Then it was back to Kubuntu installation and giving "Use largest continuous free space" during partition-selection (as custom partitioning causes the installer to crash - reason: gparted is rather memory-intensive) I got the whole thing installed and running in half and hour. The remaining things were configuring mounting of my Windoze partitions and doing a PPPOE configuration for setting up my ADSL modem to connect to the internet. All that said and done, look at the beauty:




Whew, nice start to the summer vacations(yeah, school closed yesterday).

PS: Linux is user-friendly, just that it aint idiot friendly.
PPS: Getting M$-Windoze is like buying a toy car. Getting Linux is like buying a buildable, fully-customizable model.
PPPS: (my favourite)Computers are like air-conditioners - they don't work properly if you open Windows... use LINUX!

3.15.2007

Summer update

Well, its been a long time since I blogged anything... a few things have changed, as you can see. First of all, the old logo (or rather 'profile pic') of dear ol' Calvin smiling away has gone and in the place is what has been one of my favourite logos for sometime now. Then the stupid old template has made its exit for good (of which I have already spoken)

Summer has begun, and in a big way. Two more suns have been transferred to kerala from Godknowswhere and are working at their full potential. A single minute of walking or even standing outside the house leaves any bushman sweating his bum off. The sea nearby tries its best to get hings worse than ever by making the blessed atmosphere more sultry than ever. The hot afternons return to plague me during exam time. One fat book, a pillow and some nice breeze (all of within easy reach) are all it takes to drop me into the hands of omnipresent sleep. After a few minutes of sitting upright with the book on my lap, feeling uncomfortable, I snuggle down a bit to bring my neck against the pillow... a few minutes - pillow is under the head... then the magic of sleep, with a fat "Organic Chemistry" monster on my tummy. (I made up my mind to really study Chemistry somehow now...hehe)

Such is life...

Oh, and the Fotopic guys (bastards) suspended both my accounts(one is the railway pics site and other one is non-train pics :). I immediately removed the latter account and requested them to reinstate the former one(Gosh i cant afford to lose that!)... no reply. After a few morte similar mails, I had enough of them. Rohit told me that it was of no use pleading to them. So I made yet another account, transferred my existing gallery to it and deleted the old account. So there! (you might as well check the latest album out... featuring some of my artwork!) I started a gallery in Flickr for my general phtography... chk it out too

On the tech side, I got my hand on Kubuntu (6.06) and plan to format my Os-partitions and install Linux and windoze again... after the exams :(

All these plans dawn on my when I'm studying for something and don't have the time to carry them out... damn!

3.06.2007

See new, feel new

I changed the template... again.

This is the fourth time, I think. Now all the gaudy, obscenely over-graphical colours are gone... and in their place lies a simple, clean, pleasant looking, decent blog.

Live with this for the time being.

PS: Comments are welcome.
PPS: If that wasn't obvious...
PPPS: I was considering moving to wordpress, (reason? 'just like that') and had even created my account, but then abandoned it.
PPPPS: So there.
PPPPPS: I am irritating, yes I know.
PPPPPPS: Last one, honest.
PPPPPPPS: HA! I lied

2.23.2007

Travelogue

This is my longest poem yet ... please have the patience to read through this and leave your comments


Sometime, just about a year ago,
When excitement in life was cold and low,
Nothing was new, nothing was indeed,
With nothing to see and nothing to read.

The web was stale - stale and rusty
Blogs just stank and email was musty.
And then I got that smashing idea-
Embark on a tour, a tour of India!

Arrived by plane to the big airport
The ride was good, and there was nothing to note
Except a guy spat on me (only) once,
And the day, it was hot like eighteen suns.

I stepped out into a splendorous world
Far away, the Tricolour unfurled.
This was India! WOW! Way to go!
India’s great! To the world I can show.

The first thing ever to strike me,
Was the rich, beautiful and resplendent greenery.
Trees of all kinds swayed above my head;
(And on my head, a crow its droppings shed)

The roads were not very much clean
The buses and cabs looked a bit really mean.
A guy in a car almost ran me over once
And asked for the way to the Sunderbans!

Such a lot of languages, mine was one of them;
Vibrant culture, heritage, all I attribute to them.
I once visited the splendid museum
And out of it in a fright, I did come.

Then I had to rest for quite a few days,
As an electric post fell right on my face.
I stayed in my room till I was well;
I used to watch the children play with a shell.

Later, I took a train to another place
(the locomotive looked really full of grace)
The rails rocked and shook me to sleep,
Me, in a nervous state, did they keep.
I trekked and toured for days and days
I fell in love with the gorgeous place.
I got back on a bus, worth mention,
Couldn’t take the train, due to a strike at the station.

The bus was fast, to say the least.
(To a scrap merchant, it would’ve been a feast)
It shook like hell and tossed me into air,
And I landed on another seat bare.

After some days, the monsoon began
Rain and more rain poured on the land.
I travelled around in a country boat,
(and the rain even damaged my bullet-proof coat).

The water was rising and a flood reported
Many days before, I felt, I should’ve departed.
(Another such flood was reported later,
But soon realized that it was yesterday’s paper).

I stayed in my room and watched with a sigh,
The things that came floating by-
A tree, a car and a broken piano,
A pencil, a switch and the horn of a rhino.

The rains finally bid goodbye,
And the sun started coming out shy.
The world turned suddenly green
Greener, greener, than I’d ever seen.

The rains had woken nature’s repose.
(I tripped on a branch and fell on my nose)
In spite of all my misfortunes,
I wanted to stay for some more moons.

Whether in the wildlife sanctuary,
With the lions and bears frowning at me,
Or at the sunny sandy bay
(In whose wind the palms do sway),

On the hills or beside the stream,
In a nightmare or a comfy dream;
On a gloomy, soaking rainy day,
Or a hot, sweltering, sunny May,


When in the shiver that winter did bring,
Or the brightly smiling, blooming spring;
When in the moonlight, beside the Yamuna,
Or on the mat, doing the yoga,

When in the stupendous, rocking train,
Or watching the leaf trembling in the rain;
When admiring the tropical sun,
Or looking through the web the spider had spun;

When listening to the intoxicated drifter,
Or joining natives in peals of laughter;
When hiking and camping in the chill mountains
Or waiting for cabs in crowded stations

A difference have I observed, a distinction
That is sole to India, and it’s worth mention.
That, I may say, is the spirit of the place
(And it’s been there right from the old days).

The time finally came for me to leave,
Time to bid goodbye, time to heave-
Myself out of the place, a unique land
(Though it held me on like quicksand)

I packed my bags and hailed a cab.
I got in, gave the air a triumphant stab,
(I strayed close to the door, unfortunately
And fell out on the road, regrettably).

I bid goodbye, while on the flight
To that wondrous land, a land of light.
I surely had a great time, really very nice
And thus ends this poem of a hundred lines.

2.09.2007

Chemistry Class

Incessant rain, damp classroom,
Spectacles misted with the sweat, when
Heat radiating radiates off twenty people which loom
Large in a class of (present+absent) forty seven.

One lone human about as tall as
The table, droning off into sheer -
Undecipherable strings of benzenes and complexes,
Words which hardly reach a forty ear.

Heads nod, vacant eyes blink, mouths gape;
This wet afternoon... do I care?
Heck, does anyone? Drunk? Dope? Nope.
To give a ear, does anyone care? Nopes.

Thats it... Chemistry class!

I think the most pointless subject one has ever been forced to study is
Chemistry. Sharply contrasting against its beautiful companion, the
mighty PHYSICS, this wretched subject is totally out of relevance in the
world we live in.

"Pointless, huh? Look at organic chemistry!"

%$#&^ Organic chemistry... pile of rotten weather-beaten brinjals. Does
the fact that Benzene has a hexagonal structure make any difference to
my life? If u think so, I'm afraid u're vastly mistaken.

"Hey most of the medicines that u have today are wonders of Organic
chemistry"

Like I care. I'm gonna simply buy them and STUFF 'EM DOWN MY THROAT! I'm
not gonna MAKE them. Let the losers who make them comtinue doing it
themselves...

Such a totally pointless subject...phew!

1.24.2007

Chasing the Barbie doll

Yes... some moments in life are truly rewarding and these just spring on
you in a rather unexpected way.

To begin from the beginning (duh!), I recently have started doing a bit
of railfanning continuously nowadays at Trivandrum. What was earlier
confined to merely peeking from inside my school bus everyday to check
out the state of affairs in TVC station while passing on the overbridge
now got a shot in the arm and grew into waiting for trains (rather,
arriving at the correct time by speed-regulated walking) at Vanchiyoor
rail-overbrige and photographing them!

One fine Sunday morning, I looked over the bridge as I returned from
Maths class and nearly fell off the bike in astonishment... None other
than Miss "Barbie Doll" WAM4 from AJJ! It was staying outside the small
trip shed in the north end of the station. Now my mind set working...
since the time was 0745, I had every reason to believe theat it would be
taking out the Kerala exp or atleast the MAS mail in the afternoon. This
was because the only trains ggetting an electric were MAS mail, Kerala
exp and sabari exp. Since Sabari had left at 0730, I sat home and made
up my mind to try and get a pic of the long Kerala exp hauled by the
barbie. I told mom about this... that I was going off to vanchiyoor to
spot the train at 1130. She was hesitant... after all, vanchiyoor was
about one and a half kms away from home and i had not even recovered
properly from that cold and coughing fit I got a few days back. Also,
since I dont have a (proper) bicycle, the only way was to walk all the
way there under the hot sun or ask dad or uncle to take me there. As for
the latter, *ahem* I knew better ... They were both busy that day and I
didnt want to take my "train spotting" request before them. So I was at
wits end what to do.

Time: 1100 hrs... If I was going on foot, I needed to start in 5mins.
Mom told me to atleast tell dad and then go by myself. I did so and
golly! dad offered to take me there. Gud... so far so gud. My little sis
also decided to come with me as she also wanted to spot the WAM4 ;o)

We reached there by 1130 sharp and saw to my dismay that the MAS mail
had pulled in before the home-signal and was blocking the photographic
view of the outgoing train-track. (MAS mail had a WAP4, by the way.
Erode.) So we went to the other side of the bridge (the rail line is
surrounded by road on both sides). and waited. In the distance, I saw to
my utter disappointment tat it was a WAP4 that was coming. Anyway I kept
a straight face and took two snaps of it. ED WAP4, 22560, built in 2002.
Nice.

So that left the chances to be the MAS mail. For this I had luck, as I
had physics class till 1430 and the Mail come to the bridge by around
1435 hrs and I cud easily get there before that. But a bloody girl there
had some doubt to be cleared (some IIT question) and Sir made us wait
till 1439exact time heh). I was out of breath by the time I ran to my
spot... just in time to see the Mail pulling along behind another stupid
WAP4. DAMN! Cudnt even get a fleeting foto *grumble* Now that left only
Sabrari exp next day morning. I was creastfallen. No chances of catching
that! It leaves just as I get ready for school at home. So I rid my mind
of it and next day morning, I didnt see the loco in the shed... So that
was it. Left with Sabari, I thought..

That evening, I had chemistry class and wanted to get a nice photograph
of the diesel-hauled trains that leave at around 1715-1745 hrs evening.
So I adjusted my speed to catch the 1730 train (the MAS superfast xp).
Just as I was climbing up the road, I saw an incoming passenger rumble
down and stop before the Home-singal. As always, it blocked a view of
the outgoing train. I quickened my pace as i cud shoot only from the
bridge now... I heard a honk behind me and thought it was the passenger
getting the clear to enter thestation a but it drew nearer turned out to
be the MAS exp. I started running and was nearly breathless as I stopped
atop the bridge.. And wonder of wonders!!! BARBIE DOLL WAM4 was hauling
it! I shot out my cvam and took a nice pic of it..

I was feeling
euphoric... got the loco I was running after for the past two days...
unexpectedly today!