12.23.2008

Christmas as a loyolite

I was hit by a massive attack bloggers' block for the past couple of weeks, resulting in a *cough* slight stagnation of the blog. The grey cells remained largely topic-less till now.. till I had a look at the calendar. Up came the text editor... keep in mind this is gonna be one hell of a memory-dump.

Christmas, for us in the warmer part of the world is not exactly like they have it in the rest of the earth. You know it's December here in Trivandrum when the air chills down by three or four decimal places of a degree and people start switching off fans, air conditioners and not a crow wakes up before six thirty. Christmas time would be heralded by the sudden appearance of stars in all shapes and sizes (and nativities: think "Made in China") at all shops, from the Big Bazaar to our local 'palacharakku kada' (provision store). Peeping back the memory lane, Christmas time for us school students would be marked by a sudden rush to cram up everything from the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857(?) to the chemical properties of the famed gas Hydrogen Sulphide (together, for weird combinations of exams like History and Chemistry on the same day were commonplace). In the midst of all these, like a shining star, our school's Christmas celebs.. oops, celebrations would be held.

My earliest memory of Christmas is of wondering why Santa Claus never came to our house while Thomas, John, Joseph, etc showed off their presents 'Santa gave' them. After a while I hit upon a rather logical conclusion:
Simple... our house did not have a chimney!
(Those were the days before the artificial chimneys came into existence, so my desire to bore a hole through the top of the hall fell apart. Thank God for that, for my room upstairs would have fallen through it, had the hole been dug)

The next leaf in the book is undoubtedly that of Christmas celebrations in school. Murray ma'am and her gang of choir boys (of which yours truly was a part). For days we ate our food in a hurry (I took most of the lunch back home) and gathered to practise the songs. The first song was "Silent night, holy night"... I can hear Murray ma'am's sharp voice singing it and teaching us the right pronunciation of the words... then we had in some order, songs including "The first noel", "Joy to the world", "Oh come let us adore him".. etc. We stitched ourselves white outfits (think: railway guard) for the event, had red bows tied to our necks and stood upright atop wooden benches (we were one gang of less-than-or-equal-to fourth graders), singing to the tune of the keyboard, played by our beloved 'music sir', or Jerry sir as we called him later.

Then there was the arrival of Santa. The fattest and preferably taller-than-usual(to accentuate the bulk) boy of a senior class was the Santa of the year. His job was to don the Santa garb, stick on the beard, put on the best bubbly attitude, jaunter onto the crowd and watch the kids go ga ga over him. Great job it was :) He was also allowed a few words on the mic... "HO HO HO!!! Hows Christmas dear Loyolites? What's that?? Father Principal, you've been giving them exams, eh? NO presents for you this time sir!" and the kiddies would go crazy :) *sigh* one could watch it over and over every year!

There was also the decoration of the buses.. A couple of us who used to stand in the front every day - (acting as the assistants to the 'driver uncle' - cleaning the vapour on the windshield during the rainy days, pulling the 'stop' switch to power off the engine, joining in with uncle to swear at people who drove rashly or very slowly, listening to him talking about his old days or just admiring the way he maintained a steady 60kmph over the very worst and congested roads in the city), we were undoubtedly the ones on good terms with the bus crew and were given charge of decorating. Walking the entire length of the bus millions of times during the forty five minute journey, putting up stars, deco-balls, bits of coloured paper, stickers, calling out "dei, cello tape evide?" "paypaar, paypaar", while the good old bus rumbled on and our youngsters looked upon us, the big-chettans, with admiration.

After so many years, Christmas time in school still holds a charm for me. The general atmosphere was so cheerful and bubbly, what with running about for "Choir practice", decoration, etc etc. I was part of a gang of 'musical people' whom Jerry Sir always used to recruit for 'Christmas duty', 'Onam duty', etc. A couple of years into this thing, when the senior guy stopped playing the keyboard for the songs, either out of boredom arising out of repetition or seeking VRS, I was promoted to the position of lead keyboardist. (There wasn't any accompanying keyboardist, but there was someone always accompanying the keyboardist, and that was someone who always carried the keyboard cover, or the AC-DC adapter along with the lead keyboardist when the heavy Yamaha PSR-210 was being transported from the music room to the stage and back.) I, as lead keyboardist, had the elite power of choosing my accomplice in this matter ;)
At the moment, a couple of songs come flooding to mind: "Christmas time comes once a year.. into most people's thoughts", "God bless you merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay", "Christmas praises in the year.. Alleluia".. there are more but my favourite was "A long time ago in Bethlehem.. so the holy Bible says.." These were the usual songs that were sung every year, albeit each one by a different class, and one by the teachers.

The gift exchange slowly turned from 'Coca Cola' water-bottles to pens, hair gels and what not as we grew up. The concept of a feast was also started later.. with hot, spicy biriyani from some restaurant arriving in boxes towards teh afternoon, invariable causing a "that's for OUR class.. your's still late!" or a "Man.. this food looks cold.. this is not ours" squabble. Finally the 'feast' would be eaten sitting on grass under nice shady trees which were aplenty every nook and corner.
Our eleventh standard Christmas was the most memorable. The class had earlier written what had turned out to be an extremely difficult Chemistry exam, and the majority was sure of flunking. We brought all our question papers, put them in one heap, and burnt them to ashes. The ashes we smeared on our foreheads, as a sign of.. no not luck anyway.. maybe as a sure sign of a red mark(fail) in the progress card.

Our sixth standard Christmas was a different experience.. our class visited a home for mentally-challenged children. It was a real sad, but enlightening experience to talk to the children, sing songs, and bring true smiles to their faces. We realised what a lucky group of kids we were.

These are just a few snapshots from the memories of Christmas in school. As the end of 2008 creeps in, let the spirit of Christmas spread joy, brotherhood and hope to the world as it is today.

Here's wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy and fulfilling new year 09!

11.28.2008

Enough.

When will this madness stop? Some bloody bastard with the totally perverted brain of his, a complete failure in life, turns to the 'radical' way of life, brainwashed by other fucking bastards in such a manner that the fool is ready to give his life to take the life of others.

Again and again, the target is the junta. The same gory images flashing across all the news channels.. reporters risking their lives covering the whole events.. the brave and noble army-men, the NSG Commandoes, mindless of the danger lurking at every step, at every instant of their lives.. putting their lives at stake for the sake of the lives of the others.

The same robotic, lukewarm speeches made by the politicians, supposedly the leaders of this great democracy... their hasty arrival at the scene of disaster. The VIP, requiring Z category security, is flanked by security personnel, thus relaxing crucial security atleast by a fraction elsewhere.
Absurd is a mere understatement.
(Oh, and where is our North-Indian hating f(r)iend? Now that he has hundreds of dedicated armed soldiers, a large part of them from outside 'his' state, to take care of 'his' city and his safety while he can sleep peacefully, there is no sound from him... how very beautiful.)

We are fed up. 2008 has been the worst hitting year for the Indians. We are sick of watching attack after attack, the blame game (the way Tom and Jerry hastily pass the lighted bomb to each others hands comes to mind), the same old cold-as-a-marble-slab response, the way the hue and cry dies down, the stoicism of the people who are after all helpless, the paranoia that creeps into our day to day lives.. The pity... for all those children searching frantically for their parents, a young couple looking for their baby, brothers searching for their beloved sisters... the tears that give way to anger.. the broken heart that frantically tries to heal the wounds so tragically inflicted upon it, for no fault of its own.

When will the assembly line system of putting old arses in the control system of the nation stop? We call ourselves a youthful country when the majority of the blokes up in the House are about to shrivel and need walking sticks to go to the loo. We need quick-thinking, zest, the energy, the vitality and the action.

My heart goes out to those affected in the Mumbai attack, what is being called "India's 9/11".. and I salute the police and the commandoes who have done the best of what they can for the common man. May the souls of the brave and innocent rest in peace.

And to the fucking bastards who planned this tucked away in some part of the world, who are watching all this with glee.. I did not believe in hell. But now I do.. solely for you.

11.06.2008

The Time Tag

Long time since I ever did a tag... but this one's a celebrity tag!! Thanks silverine, for thy gesture :)

The tag is like this: Two questions from the past, present and future. Answer them and then tag your friends from the blog-o-sphere. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been tagged and you are all set.

Yesterday
Your oldest memories...
Toys! I had such a variety of stuff back then... three train sets, assorted 'building sets', a bespectacled duck which rocked on a chair while pretending to read a book, a 'yawning' car, a swinging monkey, trucks, cars and what not. (The fact that almost none of them survived in their entirety a couple of years later may be conveniently ignored).
The way I used to HATE going to KG.. it looked like it was miles and miles away from home, and towards the middle of particularly gloomy days I used to look from the window, see the tops of trees far away and go crying for ma!
The way my KG teacher called me "Kannaa" and used to spoonfeed me the curd rice I carried everyday...
The day I entered Loyola... the 13 years I spent inside that campus now looks like a dream!

What were you doing ten years ago?
Rewind back to third standard... Maithri Madam, such a wonderful lady one could get as a class teacher. At this time I would have been sitting in the crowded bus no.1 with all the elder guys who looked precisely like ruffians, waiting for the forty five minute-long journey back home to end. School seems like eons ago.. dunno why :|

Today
Woke up at the rather early time of six thirty. Went through the same routine and donned the "Workshop-uniform" for College since it was a Thursday. Boarded the college bus, stood for an hour all the way to college. Lugged my unusually heavy bag to the class. Sweated it out in the stiff navy blue shirt only to return home at 2 pm since classes were dismissed early due to a religious thingy today in the city. All that stuff transported 26 kms for nothing.
Then I saw this tag.

If you build a time capsule what would it contain?
Complete backup of all my photos, and my blog posts. And of course my hard drive packed in 150% shockproof, bulletproof casing.

Tomorrow
And tomorrow and tomorrow... blah blah something something.. out, out, brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.. and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.

Wohoo! DP, did you hear that?? Your students can still quote Macbeth :)

What do you see yourself doing 14 years from now?
hm.. that would be.. er... *Firing up addition engine* Ah, 18 + 14 = 32. Whoops. That's too far in the future.. I'd hopefully be married to a sweet n hot n loving beauty *ahem.. ambitions!* and will be one hell of a weird dad.. My kids would be staring at dad's crazes going from Music to Trains.. to Mom.. and computers.. to linux hehe! They'd probably have the craziest, geekiest dad they'd ever imagined :D

Thus ends the tag.. Silverine has snipped out many pieces from the original tag, and I have followed the snipped version simply because doing a short one is easy for the lazy ass I am. As always, firing up the random tagger:

Hari chettan,
Karan,
Nitin,
Sidhusaaheb,
consider yourself tagged :)

10.26.2008

Oru mazhakkaala sandhyayil

My first post whose title is in a language I've been speaking for fifteen years now... in malayalam it just means, "On a rainy evening". Yeah, the rains are back... people in Kerala this year have been in a state of shock following the paucity of rainfall in one of India's most rain-blessed states. Part of it may be attributed to the Met. Dept, who regularly irritate the monsoon. Picture this: a steady monsoon wind builds up over the region, and the rains lash one fine morning in their full fury. People scuttle for cover, with glee. The next days paper invariably carries a photo of a couple of bare-chested little kids in shorts, jumping into a muddy puddle. Few people miss the words from the Weather report: "Heavy rain expected in parts of Kerala for the next 48 hrs". The rains stop that noon itself and the sky looks crystal clear for the rest of the week. This time however, the Met. Dept guys kept quiet and fooled the rain after the lack of SW monsoon, and bingo! the NE monsoon leaves no patch of earth dry.

Niranjani had written a few days back about her memories of spending her summers in Madurai. Oye but this is Kerala and we can't remember anything about the weather except the rain (atleast we're not supposed to). As for me I just love rainy days. Apart from the obvious (and rather sadistic, I may add) pleasure of watching people outside, soaked to the skin making their way around puddles from the cool yet warm interior of the house, one hand in a sack of potato chips and the other hand feeling around a steamy cuppa tea, the rain in general dulls the sky but brightens the mind of the people here. Everything (and everyone) looks fresh after a shower, and who does not like cruising on a bike with a cool, drizzly monsoon wind across the face?

Enough of romanticising :D

I cant speak of rain without thinking of my school! When it rained there, the whole world turned into just two colours - green and black. Monday morning would be as gloomy as hell, the dampness everywhere from walls to desks, and the lights in the class would deliberately be switched off by us (and anyone trying to brighten up the room would be threatened with dire consequences in both this life and the next); so the classroom would resemble nothing short of a cave but a very open one that. Over the years we learnt the lesson of never underestimating the monsoon, albeit the tough way. A few of us sitting towards the centre of the class left our notebooks on the table before going to the lab. There was a good deal of thunder to be heard inside the lab and when we emerged out it was colder outside and looked like it was past six in the evening. Groping our way to the classes all we found was a pulpy mess of white and blue on our desks, the whole classroom looking like it had emerged from a steam bath. The monsoon wind had blown like a gale from the windows into as far as the centre of the class, from both sides. *sigh* Those were the days one could get drunk on rainwater...

(College is no different.. CET is just a couple of kilometres from school and what with the same vegetation, it even smells the same during monsoon :) During the wet, cold mornings, the floor's frictional coefficient dangerously approaches zero and many a times have I thanked my luck for not having slipped on various places)

Ah college... it's almost a month into college now and things have started falling into place. Right now there isnt much activity around, what with curbs on ragging and stuff; so the only things one can look forward to is Sargam (an inter-batch fest) coming up and another one for freshers called Prarambh; else it's just the same routine day after day. Things are bound to improve a lot anyway.. I've come to like my subject a lot nowadays, and Electronics is one of the classes I look forward to :)

Speaking of college, we have a Central Computing Facility (CCF) which is common to all students, besides computer labs in each department. I haven't been inside the latter, but as far as my knowledge of the former goes, all the computers there are dual booting with Windows XP and Suse Linux. There exists a very nice way to persuade users to use linux... viz., not revealing the password of the XP user. So any noob opens XP and stares at the login asking for a password, when the sir in charge of the CCF at that time asks him to boot into Linux, and bingo! if everything goes well, a new, curious and most-probably a future-convert-from-Windows Linux user! Great :)

A nice big college, ample free time, friends, a good course, awesome monsoon and linux everywhere... life is getting better by the day :)

10.17.2008

Eternal Favourites

It's a shame that despite being such a harcore music addict, I have never done a post which talks of music... so this is a tribute to all the people who have taught me and from whom I have learnt all the bits and pieces of any musical skill.  

I LOATHE the way Bollywood music is heading towards nowadays.. or even Tamil music for that matter. Mindless yet vain copying from English... but still so devoid of the 'heaviness' of metal (to which a large majority of the so called 'hip' audience is still deaf) - all in all a half baked attempt at reproducing a repetitive tune is what I deem it. Don't even compare it to Rock or metal!

My music tastes have kinda refined over the years and is (as of now) stable :) I have separated the favourites into my three 'genres'. (All links point to Youtube videos)

Soft:
# New York Nagaram (Sillinoru kaadhal - A R Rahman):
An absolute stunner from Rahman... very complex background instrumentals, amply loud guitar chords all through the song, and an absolutely beautiful ending... this song has the best ending I've ever heard in a long, long time.

# Nila Kaigirathu (Indira - A R Rahman, sung by Hariharan):
Classic Rahman style.. simple yet never plain instrumentals too... soothing, ideal for dropping off to sleep on a moonlit night. It's nothing short of music therapy.

# Maula Mere Maula (Anwar - Pankaj Aswasthi):
I just can't help myself from listening to this one from time to time... little known film, little known composer, but a real beautiful song. Really well done backgroud score too.

# My Immortal (Evanescence):
The sole English song in this list.. Amy Lee's powerful voice renders this passionate song in all its glory.. watch out for the part where the band kicks in with the guitars and the drums towards the end... orgasmic!

# Kuzhaloothum Kannanukku (Mella Thiranthathu Kathavu - Ilaiyaraja):
Old Tamil classic.. beautiful one from the Maestro himself.

# Oru vaakku mindathe (July 4):
Little known song, this. A lot similar to "Ay Hairathe" from Guru, I may add.. but the beat is a different timing.

# Ye jo desh hai mera (Swadesh - A R Rahman):
Rahman-tic.. need I say more? Listening to this song on an absolutely still, chilly night gives me goosebumps every time :)

# Akhri Alvida (Strings):
We performed this one during our batch's farewell at out school.. makes me nostalgic. Powerful chorus and soft enough to be instantly likeable.


Heavy:
# Wherever I may roam (Symphony and Metallica):
I get a high every time our band plays this during a jamming session! Simply awesssumm orchestra at the back, the classic ]\/[etallic/\ style... and awesome lyrics!

# Diary of Jane (Breaking Benjamin):
I just keep listening to this one every now and then.. powerful chords, an awesome hi-hat tapping at the beginning.

# Rime of the ancient mariner (Iron Maiden):
Loong song. Iron maiden guys are poets or what? Just listen to the lyrics!

# Jesus of Suburbia (Green Day):
Another long song... with lots of variations.. typical Green Day punk.

# Knockin on heaven's door (Guns n Roses):
Classic GnR with an awesome lead by Slash... you may safely click the link :)

# Sweet Child of mine (Guns n Roses):
I dont need to give any introduction to this one!

# Beyond the realms of death (Judas Priest):
I liked this only after I listened to this a couple of times over... it's real awesome... Philosophical sh!t all over.. based on a riff which the band's drummer made when he was fooling about with the guitar.

# Livin on a prayer (Bon Jovi):
The chorus and its pitch gets you on a high... classic Bon Jovi.

# In the end (Linkin Park):
No intro.. everyone's heard this one! My first Linkin Park song.. and my most favourite!

# Going under (Evanescence):
Whatta voice... Amy Lee! Awesome guitar chords and superb singing :)


Instrumental:
# Instrumedley (Dream Theatre) God how could I forget this one??? And how the hell do those guys remember all the bits and pieces in this utterly complex and sophisticated medley!! Must listen to this, anyone!
# Fuer Elise (Beethoven)
# Scenes from childhood (Schumann)
# Symphony in G - [the one as a monophonic ringtone in the old Nokia sets](Mozart)
# Toss the feathers (The Corrs)
# Any good Carnatic/Hindustani piece in my favourite raaga: Yaman Kalyani
# Moonlight (Beethoven)
# Hymn to the sea (Titanic sountrack)
# Khwaja Mere Khwaja - instrumental version (Jodhaa Akbar - A R Rahman)


So there... check out the tracks... I give you my word that you wont be disappointed! Bricks/Bouquets welcome as always..

Hence ends another post construed due to lack of time and patience ;)

10.08.2008

A monsoon sojourn

This is something that was long pending... this is about a journey had nothing meticulous to it, yet is something that I remember so vividly now. Sometime during my post-school holidays, a couple of months ago, I took a ride to Madurai on the Anathapuri Express. The route was Trivandrum --> Nagercoil --> Tirunelveli --> Madurai. The train left TVC in the evening and would arrive at MDU near midnight.

The weather till that day in Trivandrum had been blazing hot, without as much as a speck of white in the sky. My train was scheduled to depart at 1620 hrs and an hour before, almost eveything was packed. All of a sudden Murphy struck and the skies darkened threateningly. I glanced outwards and uttered the foulest curses... it had started raining heavily and the sky was pouring for all it worth. All my plans of a perfect evening journey were foiled and I was really angry. Boy little did I realise what was in store!

Anyway, braving the thundershowers, our humble and faithful old M800 took us to TVC. By the time we got into the platform, the rain stopped and I heaved a sigh of relief. Since there were just a few minutes to departure, I didnt do my usual routine viz., checking out the loco. Anyway the beast at the helm was a blue-white WDM2 from the Erode stables.

At sharp 1620 the diesel sounded its twin-tone horn and we set off, negotiating the points south of TVC till all the lines merged into one and the speed restriction was cleared. Then came the sound and smoke show... the V16 engine inside the locomotive roared to life as the loco-pilot yanked the throttle open and the smoke rushed out of the exhaust stack. Within minutes we were cruising at a comfortable pace of 70-something kmph. This route is non-electrified, and single line. The world outside was green, and devoid of the 25-kV wire mess and also the cantenary posts which appear at regular intervals and threaten to smash into your head (if you happened to be leaning out the doors on the left hand side, in an electrified route ;).

The weather outside was just perfect... thanks to the rain that had stopped a few minutes before. Unlike the case when you travel by train north of TVC, the south-bound route immediately gives way to greenery, instead of winding through residential areas. I had got the emergency window (which is devoid of the iron bars) so I was having a great time with my head out the window, the monsoon wind in my face, and a very microscopic drizzle to add to it. The WDM2 at the front was doing a great job, constantly at notch-8 (full throttle) and since my coach was the third or fourth from it, I could hear the symphony clearly from my perch. There was nothing I had to care for... my exams were over and my results were long out. For now all I had to do was to enjoy my holidays.. and when carefree journeys like this happen in the midst of nothingness, the feeling is just not expressible!
There are a couple of stone tunnels in this route near the Kerala border.. we roared into them in full song, and even as the lights were switched on and it looked like night, the tunnel would refuse to terminate. With even more obstinancy, our loco would refuse to notch-down the throttle, and so the aroma of the smoke would fill the whole coach and put me on a high ;) A few seconds later the sea of darkness would end and out we would emerge into fresh air and greenery.

After an hour or so we trundled into Nagercoil Jn.(NCJ). Here the loco detaches itself from our rake, runs around and couples itself to the other side, as the route here is like a Y (we come by the left fork, reverse and take the right fork). The north end of NCJ was spectacular - the Western Ghats in all glory, clouds kissing the green peaks and the skies threatening to open up any moment. At the station, I stood at the door and savoured the place. A couple of rakes were stabled at the lines, and the green-grey mountains loomed above the azure-blue coaches. A couple of locos idled in the trip shed far away. As we pulled out of the station and the far away mountains came into view again, we took the track to Tirunelveli and moved closer to the hills. The monsoon breeze was getting stronger and stronger as the train pulled into the twilight. Finally we took a gigantic curve and slowed down to enter Aralvaimozhi station. Well I had come across a photo in wikipedia and I knew precisely what to expect:



Windfarms studded with windmills! Hundreds of them in the distance.. I got myself a cuppa chai and went to the door to watch them. The breeze was really strong here and the windmills were infinitely rotating on and on. It was getting dark and the train gathered speed and chugged away from the station, right into the windfarm! I had to crane my neck from the door to see the full height of the machine.. (Many of them were those of Suzlon). For a full fifteen minutes or so we played hide and seek with the mills, darting across them till we left them behind as they receded into the distance. The last images in the fading light were undoubtedly those of the towering white giants.

We reached Tirunelveli station (TEN) well after dusk and had our supper here, accompanied by the famous brown gooey halwa. The dim, loud station atmosphere.. the "chaaya", "kophee kophee" vendors and the intermittent announcements over the PA system... all made the previous couple of hours look straight out of a dream figment. Trundling past its dark, silent yard populated with freight wagons and the occasional idling loco, we picked up speed and rocked into the night. The drama was not yet over... the breeze soon turned into a gale.. albeit a very dry one. It blew like a cyclone into the coach and at times I even feared that the train would topple over. The wind spared no one and within a few minutes every shutter was down in the coach. Feeling a little adventurous, I ventured over to the door. The heavy metal (pun unintended) door was swinging wildly in the wind and I didnt want to risk my life.. It was quite frightening really! I returned to the coach, only to be given the job of "responsibly looking after the baggage" while my parents and my sister slept. It was already around nine o clock or something and the train slowed down at a wayside station. For a night crossing...

I headed to the door(after waking up my sis ;) and stretched my hands and legs in the breexe which was still blowing. The station was a typical wayside one, with a single platform for the loopline and none for the mainline. We waited on the loopline, to the sound of crickets in the bushes nearby, the only sounds being the soft chatter of people and the gentle whirr of fans inside the coach. The semaphore signals at both ends were at danger with their arms held horizontally. Then the pinprick of light appeared in the distance, growing larger and larger and finaly materializing in the form of two WDM2s smoking for all their worth with an express in tow.

Soon after the tail lights faded into the darkness, the semaphore arm lifted up and we tugged off. The rest of the journey was a dash in the darkness.. going on and on for miles and miles into the night with the WDM2's headlamps illuminating the darkness ahead while the train was on a curve, the piercing green signal far away, the glow of some city far out on the horizon, tiny wayside stations where we stopped for a crossing or two... and finally pulled into an ever busy MDU station a couple of minutes past 2300 hrs. As I took a final look back at the train I was surprised at why I loved this journey so much.. After all, I have travelled such a lot on trains and there was no particular speciality to this one! Well these are things we cannot always find a reason to like...

Total distance covered - 300 kms.. ticket fare - a hundred and fifty rupees.. the six hours spent in the sleeper class coach on an unelectrified single line route, relishing the monsoon magic - priceless!

PS: Photos are not exactly of good quality as this was the best I could manage at very low light and at ISO200 on my cam.

9.24.2008

College: First impressions!

After a long period of almost five months of holidays during which I dreamt of spending my time usefully, but ended up doing nothing at all, college has begun. For those who didnt know/care, I'll be doing my B.Tech in Applied Electronics at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum (better known as CET). Considering the fact that we are in a country which churns (yes, churns is the word) out engineering graduates year after year, and in a state which, if you double the number of colleges, would produce more engineering graduates than the whole of the US, I'm just a tiny speck.

But I'm proud to say I'm one of the people who chose this because I liked it and hence wanted to do the course, other than just going with the flow or succumbing to parental pressure or doing it just for a job. I had always had an inclination for the engineering world from my younger days, and today I'm happy to say I'm doing a subject I would love to do. And it was the icing on the cake when one of our professors told us (who had taught in many top colleges in the state) that though we might not be the best engineering college in the state (we're considered to be the second best), as far as our department was concerned, one could safely say it was the best in the state.

I have had many 'first day's till now. Three to be precise :) One was the admission day, when we were told that it would be another two weeks till college would start; the second was last Friday, when we had an orientation seminar, got our timetable and stuff; but the third and true first day was the day after my birthday - Monday, the 22nd. Managed to get a seat in the crowded 'M' route bus which then wound its way through snarling city traffic till it traversed the thirteen odd kilometres from my stop to the college. A senior chettan tickled me for a few minutes asking me about my spectacles, why I was wearing one with a red leg.. then demanding that I talk in C++ for five minutes, asking me what I knew about logic-gates etc etc.. could be called ragging :D Well I reached the huge, green, campus around nine o'clock.. proceeded to our rooms (after a seminar), and settled down to our classes.


As far as my class was concerned, there were a few guys and gals whom I knew, so making friends was not a problem at all.. Around sixty people in all, and something like twenty-plus of them girls :p Classes were of one hour duration, with a lunch break after three hours in the morning... Sorely, no other break between periods. After all those lazy, idle hours spent at home, the body was having a tough job sitting and being forced to concentrate. Something was being done to curb ragging in the college and it was omnipresent. A bus 'exlcusively' for freshers, teaching staff hanging about near the first years' classes to pinch off any ambitious senior with an intent of ragging.. there are rumours that the whole 'ragging' phenomenon will begin in full blow after two weeks, but no one knows the truth. Anyway. it would have been nice if there was ragging (IN THE ORIGINAL SENSE of the term) - as in a casual but interesting way of seniors introducing themselves and also getting to know the newcomers - so we missed the part where we would get to know some of our seniors; but I'm not asking for anything here, let me put that clear! (just in case anyone is reading this ;) So nowadays the 'moving-about' around the campus is limited, and in groups (there's safety in numbers :)...

Well in a nutshell, college life has begun.. as everyone says, the most memorable four years of one's life.. well that also means my internet activity is bound to decrease in frquency and duration.. :D Right now I'm happy I've got into a reasonably good college and am doing a good course too.. so it's just a matter of a bit of time before I become a real part of CET and enjoy my next four years in its beautiful campus.

9.21.2008

Seventeen plus plus

[Note: Blog on autopilot... I am not responsible for anything untoward which it posts while I'm asleep.]

The blogowner turns eighteen this moment. He's happy. In fact, he's so thrilled. Even ecstatic. um.. wait he's asleep.

The bike awaits his touch.. the politicians have one more guy to depend upon for their survival in the battlefield.. oh and he can watch anything he wants ;) [but dont quote me on that!]

Damn... I screwed up a perfectly respectable post.. hm, that's why I let him do all the writing. It's better when a real person writes stuff.. instead of a blogger-Bot coded in Python.



Time to stop my stupid automated gibberish and wish him a happy birthday.

Signed,
The Blawg

9.16.2008

From a fascinated kid to a ferroequinologist

People acknowledge that I'm a normal person on first glance and first conversation. By and by the talk drifts to what I do, and finally to my passions and hobbies.

Someone: So Sriram, what are your interests?
Me: uh.. you know, books, music, computers, linux..
Someone: Ah.. geek eh?
Me: Well if you think so.. :D
Someone: And what else man?
Me: And.. trains.
Someone: Er.. what did you say? I thought you said "trains"
Me: Ye got me right. I did say trains :)

By this confirmation of the whole matter from my own lips, the person mentioned above begins to seriously doubt my sanity. That is one of the reasons I chose to write this post. Instead of blabbering about my craze for trains, or to answer 'what is railfanning' and 'why do you have such a lot of people in your friends list who talk weird stuff like WDP4, WAG9 etc with you'. No people, I am no secret agent :D

All of us have loved train journeys as kids. A lot of us do so even now. The scenery outside the window, the cool breeze rushing through your hair as you stand at the door watching the world go by... As any kid would, I was fascinated by the whole thing... the huge brown "engine", the long array of "bogies", the rhythmic clickety-clack from the wheels, etc. We travelled a lot when I was small. Many a times my dad or mom would take me to the end of the train to show me how the locomotive was being attached to the rake. (No, mom and dad were NOT railfans... they were just usual people :D ). Later, I observed what caused the clickety-clack, why the signal always was red and my train was going past it without stoppping, etc. There was also this book "The train: how it works" which my uncle bought for me at some point of time when I was still a kid, from that I learnt how the whole thing worked (obviously).

At almost every journey, I used to watch the locos(please, it's not an "engine".. the engine is within the locomotive). The locos were the very epitome of power, the sounds emanating from within only highlighted the power of the beast. (Yes, those were the days Kerala was un-electrified and diesel locos ruled the rails).

It was in early 2004 that the biggest step happened. I had chickenpox, was confined to bed. In the initial days, though I was strong enough to walk about. I searched on the internet for stuff relating to Indian Railways, just by serenendipity. I then stumbled on a site, which led me to the biggest base of Indian Railfans - IRFCA.org the Indian Railway fan club. Imagine my joy at realising that I was not the only one, and that there were thousands of people in the country who felt the same and knew cartloads more things that I did. Then there was no stopping... seriously, that site is a real good one even for non-railfans. Then I moved on to railway photography, snapping a ripping WAP5 or a screaming WDG4 as it roared past with the force of something beyond imagination...

In the US, railfanning ("trainspotting" as it is called there) is a rather recognised hobby. In India it's rare. I love bikes, cars, jet planes... but most of all trains. So much that my love for locomotives (especially diesel locos) influence my taste in other vehicles also :) I'd rather own and ride a Royal Enfield Bullet than suck off some Pulsar's ass. No offfence, but the Bullet SOUNDS better, and gives you the impression of the POWER that's in it. It's the same with diesel locomotives. They give you the right impression of the power that's within them - listen to the heavy-metal chugging of a WDM2, or the jet-plane-like revving of a WDP4 and you'll see what I mean. Today, I can identify a loco from its number or from its horn. My house is like one and a half kms from the Trivandrum-Quilon mainline and I can hear the horns during most of the day or even the chugging of the diesels when the loco pilot clears the speed restrictions and lets the beast rip through the night, throttle wide open. And thanks to me, my sister is already a railfan :)

I guess it's time to wind up 'cos I'm boring you already.. Its a big relief to have written this post, for I can always point people to this one when the inevitable question is asked :D And of course I'm not the only one. Besides the 5000+ people in IRFCA, a couple of bloggers in my blogroll list are also IRFCAns - Shanx, Vrij, Ranga, Macabreday, Naren.. Their recent blogs might not give it away but dig their archives and you'll find compromising material ;) Oh, and coming back to the title, I guess the word ferroquinologist would make sense by now. (google it if you want, but try to work it out yourself!)

In short, people like cars and bikes. What's wrong in liking something a hundred times more powerful and a lot more times bigger?

9.07.2008

Die Geschichte bis jetzt...

I finally decided to.. er.. clean my room. Really, I mean it. I should have been in College these days, but as luck would have it (or in the way of life, rather) - classes have been postponed to start only on the 19th of September. Four months ago, it was the time of the boards and the entrance exams. During such laborious times of my life, my faithful room bent space around it so that it could hold more than its volume. It did the job pretty well, but it can't for long..


For the past four months precisely, this was one 'job' I kept putting off till eternity. I mean, there's absolutely no need to clean my room. I have argued a lot in that respect and since my points are clear and logical, my folks don't usually win the argument.


1. Only I use (most of) my room.
2. Besides my things, only two almirahs are used by others.
3. To use the almirah, the only requirement is that the pathway to it should be clean. That is satisfied.
4. My room is a separate siding(a loop line), through which people need not pass in order to get anywhere else.
5. Therefore, point #1 rings true.
6. I know where exactly everything is, where anything was, and I have the absolute guarantee that it will continue to stay there until disturbed by an external force. My room is the only place in my house where Newton's first law still holds true.
7. I hereby prove that there is absolutely NO NEED WHATSOEVER to clean my room.
--------- quod erat demonstrandum ------------

But then at the end of the day, it's the persuasion that gets on your nerves until you decide to do the damn thing yourself. But it's no easy task.

The whole thing has to be planned out, and one has to think logically, in terms of layers. One layer currently covers the floor. A second layer occupies it here and there. The third layer temporarily holds things like dust and people walking in the room, and the fourth layer is one onto which things fall when you drop them. The biggest challenge is the book-rack in the corner. To clear that you need to put it on the floor. But the floor is already loaded. So another layer is added. Once the shelf is clean, you need to figure out what to put in there. But as it always turns out, the things you decide to put in there are miles below, in the first layer kissing the floor. You need a lot of planning and a lot of resistance to dust to get the dirty job done.

I looked almost similar to g-man in his Osama-ish pic while he was cleaning his room months back. One heave brought down all the preparation material of yore (Objective books, Physics, Chem, maths today magazines and a couple of other odds and ends) in a huge show of smoke. (My neighbour swears to have seen a mushroom cloud, but I'm sure he was exaggerating). God, looking at those things was akin to moving a dear one's belongings after he is no more or something. My heart ached to see such material having been of not much use to me. After all, I had counted on acing the AIEEE so much :( So much so that I even kept a copy of an India Today issue featuring an "India's best colleges" article somewhere under my desk, to take it out "for inspiration" whenever I got bored on studying for the entrance exams long back. I took out that mag for one last time, and tore it into pieces.

Countless sheaves of paper, notebooks, all scrawled with Physics, calculus, chemical equations, or arbit calculations went the same way - torn, disfigured, and into the dustbin. The feeling was horrible. I was so crestfallen by the way something, someone up in the control-panels of life had screwed up somethnig I was looking forward to. Everyone, almost all of my friends in my little circle had gone elsewhere and I was left to rot in this same old city for the next four years of my life. True, I had got into a good college right now, but I couldn't simply ignore the fact that it was something above that which I was aiming for. All the extra work, all the time I put in was simply wasted.. thrown out the open window into the gloomy, rainy afternoon.

I have finished stage-one of the cleaning. The bookshelf is clean, with just the dictionaries, a few of my school books which I dont wanna part with, and a couple of blank papers. Everything else - entrance notes, objective books, tuition study-material have been dumped into a big cardboard box. I don't want them now. Or again. Hell, I dont want to look at it again. College starts two weeks from now and I know what I want to do and where I want to be. Four years ahead, I want to look back and smile.. and to give my past mistakes the finger..

Right now, it's a new beginning. A new page in the book of life... once or twice I received a bolt from the blue. It ends there.

I will not let life surprise me again.

9.03.2008

hmph... Education!

Being a jobless(for now) brother at home doesn't guarantee you exclusive rights to the computer, the internet or the license to do anything you want. As a result, one fine morning I found myself nodding in acceptance to mum's order to teach my sister whatever she needed to learn for the next day's exams. This wasn't as difficult as it may seem, as she is only in the fifth standard.
We had breakfast together and proceeded upstairs to her room. I committed a particularly dangerous act by thinking of starting off the day with whatever she thought was difficult... Hindi. Little did I know that I was at the deep end of the pool. 

When I was in school, we started off Hindi in third standard, beginning with the alphabet.. then to simple words for pen, cat, cloud, etc. After that came simple sentences - Hindi equivalents of "What's your name?", "This is a boy..." ."Look at this family. How many people are there?" and moving on to grammar. It seems they have done away with the last two steps. In other words, after the alphabet and words, the books jump directly to something of the level of a Bachelor's degree in Hindi or something.

The teachers are least bothered. After a lot of coaxing and sly prompting, my sister revealed that her Hindi teacher wasnt really teaching them much. It seemed her teacher just explained the whole point of the lessons in one go and only took the trouble to point out the meaning of simple words that the students knew otherwise too. No explanation of grammar. None of why this is suffixed with "oonga" and not "tha". All this was revealed rather hesitantly, as she belongs to a quite well known school in the city and is, obviously, rather proud of her breed.

I was furious. It was because of those lazy teachers and the idiotic syllabus-setters and the even more moronic book-choosers that my eyes were popping out trying to explain stuff that I stopped studying years ago(and I really didnt like it, frankly!). I just know my way around in Hindi - basic stuff... and my knowledge beyond that is so poor that I want subtitles for Hindi movies :D Pathetic, yeah I know. Well atleast I'm okay in English. Thank God the international language isn't Zulu or something (no offence meant to anyone *whew*)... 

I have talked so little Hindi that I remember almost all the long sentences I have spoken in my life! One of them is particularly interesting.. it happened in the October of 2006 in Delhi, during the Aerospace Olympiad - Chandigarh trip:  Vice Principal and six of us standing near a chaayakkada(tea shop), where really nice smelling tea was being served piping hot... I found it too hot to taste, so I wanted one more glass to ..er.. is there a word for the process of "transferring the tea from one glass to the other (preferably held at a higher position than the cup into which the tea is to be transferred next), cyclically" ? If there is, please let me know for it was my lack of knowledge of the Hindi equivalent for it, that prompted my next (I think longest ever) continuous sentence:

"Bhaisaab, ye chaai buhat garam hai.. isko yehi(making the cooling action with my hand) karne ke liye, ek aur glass chahiye"
*applause*
Well I spent around two or three minutes making up that sentence, and it paid off.. the good man handed me another glass without as much as a glance in my direction. Boy I felt so insanely proud of myself :)

I was, I think with that happening in mind that I must have ventured foolishly to teach my sister Hindi. The rest is rather obvious... halfway through a particularly torturous poem I told her to learn it herself.

Righto, coming back to the original point (dont ask me what now), none of the kids in her class know how to speak Hindi. They mug up meanings(in Hindi), mug up bizzare-sounding question-and-answers. Someone up in the book-selection and syllabus dept. of their school got it all horribly wrong. It doesn't end with Hindi though. She was trying to mug up "What is force? Force is something that can cause, or tend to cause; stop or tend to stop motion" last year, without understanding a bit of it. Being physics, I was enthusiastic to tell her in simple words what the heck it all meant. But you can't always blame the teachers. Why the hell would a fourth standard, nine year old kid need to learn the formal definition of force? The Indian education system is soooo f!!ked up. 

I'm just waiting to see in which year they are taught the Special Theory of Relativity or numerical calculations based on Integral Calculus... oh wait, I havent checked her present textbook yet.

9.01.2008

Lorem ipsum and other stuff

I hope the new template looks good... spent all the time from morning till afternoon looking for a suitable one. The main requirement was a wide template. Pages and pages of mindless surfing, testing around 20 odd ones on the blog and hours later, I finally settled on a rather inadequate prototype of the one you see now. The rest of the time was spent in the XML column and in photoshop (as much as I admire Gimp, I hate its multiple-window interface). And the end result looks satisfying.

Damn, 150 MB eaten out of my broadband transfer... on the very first day of the month :(

On the other side of the things, it looks like college will start soon. Soon as in very soon :) I'll thankfully be doing my B.Tech in something related to computers and digital circuits... Applied Electronics in the College of Engineering, Trivandrum(CET) beckons. I screwed up my AIEEE, and this is the next best college I can get into. Thank God for not springing up yet another unpleasant surprise on me again :|

Finally four months of vacation are drawing to a close.. I haven't done anything really worthwhile (see earlier post for a detailed rant!)  Thought I'd start learning PHP, a few days ago.. and that language is awesome. It forms the basis of all the 'working' things you see on the web (ok, besides HTML and Javascript).

This isn't a regular post, anyway... but do chip in with your comments about the template --> what you like about it and what sucks.

In true sync with Kerala's weather, it's started raining heavily for apparently no reason at all. Whatever. I miss the chilly, rainy morning rides to school. Almost everyone in my circle of friends is scattered all over the country. I miss the songs we sang together, the countless lunch breaks that turned into heated discussions on technology, international politics, girls in that-other-school and what not., "Dont Panic" messages being flashed around to alarmed backbenchers during Chemistry classes. I miss the phone calls calling me for tech support, city bus rides with G while listening to anything from Rahman to Rammstein... Damn, I miss my school life a lot :(

On an angrier note, boy I was damn surprised to see that some dude actually's got a site something-to-chew-on.com. And some other inhuman creatures seem to have started blogs with the same name. DAMN IT! I'll sue you people! Wait till I *&#$(* @#$*&#$(%*@ #$(@

Think I'll hit the publish button now.

8.28.2008

i -what?

No I didn't pick this one... was properly tagged :D Thanks Merlz!

I am: myself... a sophisticated Earthling.
I think: heh therefore I am.
I know: that it (^) was an extremely boring cliche, but I just filled up two difficult things in this tag!
I want: (everyone) to laugh, and be happy all the time.
I have: a lot to live for!
I wish: the world was rational.. each and every human being in it.
I hate: people who seem to be nice outside but are quite a different sort inside.
I miss: My school and my circle of friends. Waaaaaah :((
Miss you, Loyola!

I fear: none. ha!

I hear: A lot. Maybe seven years of training in music made my ears rather sensitive :|

I smell: A lot here too! I've heard that when one sense organ becomes weak, the others grow strong to compensate. Or as mum says, I was an alsatian in my previous birth.
I feel: music. I feel the song in me when I play it or sing it or listen to it. That feeling is heavenly.
I crave: For better means of expression than words.
I search: I dont. I send in a request to the google server and it returns a page to me.
I wonder: What that wasp is doing, making regular trips to the hole in the back of my monitor. Think I should check... AAAAAAAAARRGH!!!
I regret: My impulsiveness to over-react at times.
I love: A lot of people, and a lot of things, which have made my life what it is now.
I ache: When I long for some happy days that are simply indelible.
I am not: Stuck-up or vain just because I dont talk a lot. First impressions are false.
I believe: that someone, somewhere will love me for what I am.
I dance: Correction: I never have danced.
I sing: Rather often and whenever I feel like. My mind is always in a song.
I cry: Inconspicuously.
I don’t always: remember to eat while at the computer.
I fight: The most with my sister. (Merlz, I can't change this one!)
I write: a lot. I'm more expressive when writing in English than anything else.
I win: almost all the arguments I start :)
I lose: my temper only at home. Wonder why :|
I never: seem to remember anything important which mum tells me to do :D
I always: am straight from the heart. I don't hide my feelings.
I confuse: people sometimes, with long and loopy sentences! Looks like I have a lot or RAM or something :|
I listen: to heavy metal, Rock, AR Rahman, the Yaman-Kalyani raaga, the chugging of a diesel loco, some song floating from afar in the midnight breeze, the raindrops falling on leaves...
I can usually be found: in front of my computer, or roaming about with no particular intention.
I am scared: of a failure surprising me at the last moment. (Correction: I'm fed up of them).
I need: to skydive atleast once before I die.
I am happy: most of the time. I mean it :)
I imagine: myself riding the Y2K superbike.
I tag: Nikhil(your first tag buddy!). the mysterious Maverick and Guru(whenever you choose to update).

8.24.2008

This evening...

The blogger's block had struck me for the last couple of days. Today in particular, I was in a surly mood. To top it all, it was bright and sunny... rainy days atleast let you savour a bad mood :| Stuck with nothing to do in a city with absolutely nothing to be done, life wasn't quite fun and excitement.

I had only my three loves to turn to... who nowadays work in shifts ;) One of them at night, one of them for most part of the day, and the third comes to me now and then. I mean, music at night, computers (and linux) during the day. The third beckoned - the rails. I decided to take a walk to do a bit of railfanning, and in the process, think of a topic to blog about. Thus began the evening... and you'll either love this post, or feel bored(which is the case if you 'skim' over the post) and think I'm a nut. Either way, I don't give a damn :)

A quick evening bath and a shave were refreshing. Putting on my favourite jeans and a tee (that hadn't seen daylight for a long time), I set out. All I had was a ball-point refill in my pocket. Time was 1740 hrs...er okay, 5:40 pm :D I rounded the curve from my house to the mainroad and started walking, towards Eastfort. Road-widening works on one side of the road meant that one side of the road resembled a desert (with particular reference to sand-dunes), and that the snarling traffic always chooses to take this particular road. Implying --> continuous risk to life :\ Hardly had I walked a few steps when I was greeted with a hiss of airbrakes and a loud honking, putting me wise that it was just a few inches that had saved one Mr. Sriram from having become the late Mr. Sriram. I continued walking...

South Fort... with its numerous little houses. A small girl trying to master her bicycle. At the end of a particularly daunting turn, she falls. Her friends, ahead of her, turn at the noise, giggle and go back to help. A couple of old women sitting on their perches - stone steps that go up to their houses - chat idly. 'Rajdhani buildings'... a long line of jewellery shops greets me as I turn left. I have always wondered why the people construct their shops right next to another one which deals in the same articles. Altogether, there are some twenty jewellery shops in some hundred metres. The very refreshing breeze on this stretch is a plus point to the pedestrian movement on this road, apart from the shops.

East Fort... The bus stand. I have been through this thing almost every alternate day one year ago. Long line of passengers waiting for their buses amidst a continuously moving stream of would-be passengers walking to their respective buses, while hawkers peddle a variety of items like magazines, peanuts, mobile-phone covers, and the poor owner of the makeshift umbrella-repair facility or the watch-service one goes about his livelihood. The whole affair takes place in a concrete shelter perpetually reeking of foul bus-exhaust and occasionally, of pee.

I walked up the perpetually busy road leading to the bridge which passes over the north-bound railway tracks from Trivandrum Central, and is obviously named "Overbridge". A huge stream of humanity was trickling in and out of Big Bazaar, one of the few shopping malls (if it can be called so) in the city. The road climbed up and up, till it levelled out over the tracks. I paused and had a good look at the station. Electrification had taken its toll and there were only a couple of diesels to be seen. A right turn takes me along the road to Thampanoor, parallel to the tracks at the station. Under the shade of huge, leafy trees sits an occasional beggar, who manages to earn out some coins from the many pedestrains who walk along the footpath. Casting a few glances at the movie posters that adorned the wall (which hid my view of the station yard) and a couple of furtive glances at a few sleazy ones, while the electric locos hum inside the tiny tripshed, the occasional "phisssshhhh" of air-brakes sounding, walking down the gradient to the main entrance of the station is literally a breeze.

The only diesels visible at the northbound end were WDM2A #18332 from ERS and TNP's WDM7 #11001(which is now the regular shunter). Erode's 22558 was moving to the trip shed while 22670 waited at the helm of the Malabar Express. The surprise visitor was a blue-liveried WAG7 #27355 from Tughlaqabad!

Moving down the road, a guy was painting a picture of Ganapati and the Shiva-Parvathi duo, maybe in view of the coming festival concerning the former. A good amount of the junta were trickling out the station exits, carrying bags, looking worried for apparently no reason at all, talking into their phones and waiting to hail an auto. An army truck was waiting with a few civilians (or people clothed like civilians) inside it. The road, now having passed in front of the station, climbs up again to pass over the southbound track in the form of another bridge near the place called Chenthittai. The evening breeze feels awesome here, and this flyover is not as congested as Overbridge. A few people from the nearby houses were standing in the evening light and watching the activity below. The regular shunter WDS6 #36011 (from GOC shed) was smoking up and shunting three coaches. WAP4 #22357 was lurking behind some rake at platform 1.

After some time I went back the way I came, back to Overbridge and arrived just in time to see the MAQ express go thundering under the bridge. Another train (this time of the evening sees pretty heavy traffic in and out of TVC) was waiting at the outer signal, so I went down the road, this time towards Vanchiyoor. A man and his little boy were also looking down, watching the train come in. Erode WAP4 #22527 brought in the Sabari Exp. from HYB.

It was dark already and I took the long road that stretches right alongside the track before it crosses over it in yet another bridge. The sun was down and the sky looked beautiful. The breeze hadn't ceased and birds were making their way back to their nests. Crickets began their high-pitched din from the tracks nearby. Sparrows chirped from the trees in the houses along the road. It was another one of those beautiful moments when one feels that the world isn't so bad after all and that the best things in life are indeed free. In the fading light, the mullah's call from some mosque far away and some song from the nearby temple floated about in the breeze.

I had made up my mind.

An hour out in the evening.. some five or six kilometres... and still no blog-topic? I couldn't be more mistaken.

8.17.2008

Frivolous Feline?


Meet ubuntu. A couple of months old. Regular visits to my backyard, and its characteristic colour has earned this kitten the name of the widely poplar linux distro :)

Ubuntu is not alone. Its friends are... no, not Kubuntu or Xubuntu, but 'Jammu' and 'GMan'. Jammu - the thin, white kitten has a very ravishing appetite compared to ubuntu, and GMan(yeah, the pic looks rather like a painting, so I didn't crop it) is one hell of a frightened kitten, darting away at the slightest drop of a pin.

The liberty used in naming the above two kittens may be attributed to my kid-sister who no doubt compared Jammu's colour to snow in the actual place called Jammu, and the grey colour of the second one made way for "Gray man" and further shortened to GMan. (Sorry g-man the blogger, but I've had no part in the naming of these two). The mother's name is still pending.

My earliest memory of cats near me was a greyish striped tom which used to rule the places around my backyard(sort of). It wasn't exactly tame, but could put up with humans around it. As a kid in an urban environment, I was so fascinated to see an animal that was not a human and this even led me to write my first poem at eight (quite obviously titled, 'My cat'). Generations and generations have risen and fallen thence, but my fondest memory is of what may be called the grandma of these kittens, a black-white-tan blotched cat. She was hugely popular among local toms, and thus raised a lot of kittens in her life. One rather amusing encounter with those infants took place some years back. My sister, who sleeps along with my parents got frightened at some mysterious noises coming from the loft above her bedroom one particular night. It appeared to be coming from the TV's cardboard box, which was then empty and just kept up there among various other rubbish. There arose thuds and sounds of paper being ripped apart. We had decided that it was some big, fierce rat and I banged on it, trying to scare the creature out of it. At the first bang, the noise ceased. A little while later there arose a small, weak meeeew, which had all of us laughing! Whew... it was just a new member on the earth after all!
What I remember about that cat was that it was decent. Some days of encounter with cats will do justice to all those quotes and the first paragraph, about this animal on uncyclopedia. But this cat was way better. No upsetting the milk in the kitchen, no territorial-peeing, no running about inside the house without anyone seeing. Infact, many times have I been studying in my room, when this cat stopped at the door, gave a small meow as if to say "I wanna go through". Upon my giving a nod or not minding it, she walked through to the other side. After so many years of bringing up kittens and leading the feline family, one morning she was found dead by the side of the road. RIP you gentle creature...

Coming back to the present gang...it's noon and ubuntu is already bathing in the sun, and the kitten's brown hue exactly resembles the shade of brown used in the 7.04 version of Ubuntu - the Feisty Fawn (and thus the post title - Ubuntu 7.04 Frivolous Feline!). Jammu and GMan are busy trying to chase and kill a spider. Ubuntu looks up to my call and gives a faint meow as if to give the green signal to hit the publish button, while the terrified GMan runs for cover and a hungry Jammu goes back to hunting.

8.14.2008

It's the Potpourri tag...

Picked this tag from a couple of blogger buddies: Hari-chetan, Merlz, Nitin to name a few. Ok, lemme get down to business:

LAST MOVIE YOU SAW IN A THEATER: 300! *ROAARRR* And spent a week discussing it with my dearest pal :) Let's be frank: I'm not exactly a movie person!
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING: Linux from scratch by Gerard Beekmans. Oh.. if you mean fiction, The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. A must-read for anyone.. simply awesome read.
FAVORITE BOARD GAME: Scrabble, monopoly (well that makes it two I guess)
FAVORITE SOUND: A bit of elaboration here: Fav. music --> Good, complex instrumentals, rock and metal; Fav. female voice --> Shreya ghoshal, Fav. noise --> The powerful chugging of a WDG3A locomotive!
WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD: Being suspected or framed.
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE: Huh... morning or afternoon?
FAVORITE FAST FOOD PLACE: Fast food... in Trivandrum? lol!!! I'm a fan of Northie dhabas anyway :D
FUTURE CHILD’S NAME: hm... if it's a girl I'd go for Krishna (dont really know why.. I just like it).. and if it's a boy, maybe Sriram v2.0 ;)
DO YOU DRIVE FAST? Well that depends upon your point of view, and what I'm driving.
DO YOU SLEEP WITH A STUFFED ANIMAL? No. Prefer my own species.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? Boys will always love their toys! My first toy car was a white-blue sportscar (I took it apart before I could learn what model it was). In real life, its the M800.
FAVOURITE DRINK: Tea... custom-made :p
DO YOU EAT THE STEMS ON BROCCOLI? Never eaten one :| But I dont think I really wanna devour the stems...
IF YOU COULD DYE YOUR HAIR ANY COLOR, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR CHOICE? Deep shades of burgundy... I want a preview and an undo facility too!
FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH: Cricket, football, tennis.
ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU: I picked this one off many, so we'll skip this.
WHAT’S UNDER YOUR BED? Nothing usually. At night, my glasses, my mp3 player. And no, that's not a crocodile.. just my violin case lurking yonder.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE BORN AS YOURSELF AGAIN? hm... yes. Why not?
MORNING PERSON, OR NIGHT OWL? Night owl! Wake me if you can :)
FAVORITE PLACE TO RELAX? Usually in front of the computer, with music streaming through Amarok. Or (if power fails), the terrace above my room. Otherwise at the door of a train somewhere far away in the country(wish I could do this often, though!) :)

Whew... that about winds it up. Firing up Random_Taglist_Generator: Tagging - Niranjani, Vrij, and Vipin for now.

8.09.2008

That boy with thick glasses

My eyes are not exactly top notch. To be precise, my spectacles are my window to the world, giving perfect vision at (minus) six-point-five diopters. Ah, the nerd, you might say, but thats not exactly how it is...
My myopia('short-sight', if you prefer) began to get noticed when I was eight or something, when my parents found (to their alarm) that I conveniently chose to ignore sign-boards that were far away and started to copy down rather gibberish text from the blackboard at school. Being quite an innocent kid then, I attributed the fuzzy text on the board sympathetically to the teacher's growing old age. At home, the situation would be analysed:

Someone: Hey Sriram, whats that score at the bottom?
Me: hm... *cough cough* (squinting and trying hard to make some sense of the blurry mess)... excuse me, what did you say?
Someone: The score, kid.
Me: Oh that.. (choosing a number that looks almost similar) hm.. Two hundred fourteen for five.
*TV commentary*: Well that wraps up a fantastic over... England at a hundred and seventeen for three.
Me: Uh oh... *sheepish grin* Well, a slip of the tongue, ye know!

Well, mom decided that enough was enough and asked me to read some random stuff that seemed far away. Needless to say I was (literally) at a loss for words. The next day saw a visit to the ophthalmologist, resulting in my being caught red handed with a power of minus one-point-five. As most kids are, I was filled with glee at getting my own pair of glasses (in my family, everyone had glasses and so this was just like getting your own bed or something) - round, black, carbon-rimmed spectacles with that pair of strings hanging down from each leg, and over to the neck (something analogous to an 'L' board for an automobile). Thus I was induced, at the young age of eight, into the community of the bespectacled.

For the less enlightened, shortsightedness DOES NOT mean the world goes black when i take off my glasses.. objects get blurred(the farther away, the more blurred and out of focus). Read about it on wikipedia.

As the years passed, my age increased and so did the power of my glasses. It kinda struck a new high at minus five, and it elevated my position to the guy with the most powerful spectacles in the class (or the guy with the most retarded eyes, but I preferred the latter). I held on to that post for seven long years and still am :) And as a result of nine years of having to look at the world through lenses, I can reproduce the far-sight test chart at my ophthamologist's letter by letter: (Beginning in a giant A and ending in a tiny line NEPCATOL)!

People's first reaction at hearing the power of my glasses is similar to a person hearing the height of the Eiffel tower for the first time. Then, invariably, LASIK is suggested. True, wearing spectacles for the whole of your life is a pain. Those who dont have glasses, but want to wear them for the fun(or whatever) of it, kick that thought off your mind. My most haunting thought is the scene in the movie The Mummy, where one of the guys loses his glasses in the fight and a short scene is shown like from his eyes - the dark, raining night, and the blurred vision of the monster far away, advancing. *shudder* If I happen to lose my glasses in a life-threatening fight or a flood or something like that, I'm lost. Lost as in hopelessly lost. It's almost like an enlightened state - all blurred and nothing in focus - an elevated state of mind where no worldly object is important ;)

I'll have to be 21 before I can get a LASIK surgery done. Though it would be a relief to throw away my glasses, a part of me still wants to hold on to them.. the piece of metal and (fibre)glass that faithfully serves as my window to the world... and of course I look better with my glasses :)

Minus six-point-five and still going strong!

PS: Comments about the redesigned blog header welcome!

8.03.2008

Clickety-clack

As much as I love trains, something recently struck me as my most boring, stupid train journey in my life: New Delhi to Amritsar on the Amritsar Shatabdi. Well this train gets an Alstom LHB rake (unlike the regular azure-blue rakes that we see all over the country). Click here to see a video of an LHB rake. The loco we had was a WAP5, slightly less powerful than the one in the video. The train started slightly late from NDLS, negotiated the various points slowwwly and continued slowly for the rest of the journey.

Or so it seemed. Till I went to the door. Before I reveal what happened, a little word about travelling at the door in Shatabdi and Janshatabdi trains in North India: You are automatically assumed to be what I call, "the ubuquitous and disinterested traveller", in other words, the "I'm a busy arse" kind of person, who, at the first moment of getting into a train (or any other moving object for that matter), shuts down completely and goes to sleep, his only goal being his destination. So, most doors are jammed with big crates and what not. If you try to open the door when the train is moving, you are given stern, suspicious("Suicide case?") glances by the people inside. Well I managed to evade a couple of those glances, and parked myself at the door. The train was doing 110+ and the gentleman at the helm (read Big White WAP5) was making mincemeat of the whole rake. Add to it the fact that the WAP5 loco has a feature called BPCS, similar to cruise control, and it was probably set to 118kmph, so the whole train was just going on and on at that speed. It was quite frightening to stand by the door, actually :) Since it was a straight, long section of track for most of the journey from NDSL to ASR, it was pretty boring too. Last but not the least, it was an electric loco at the front, so none of that powerful turbo or chugging sounds or the smoking action all we diesel lovers love :)

So much for the outside, now for the inside. Inside, it was a room. A 'room' because in any room, you wouldnt expect it to shake or emit sounds or give you an identification at what speed it's travelling (given that it travels at all). That was how the LHB coach felt from the inside. Food kept arriving by the minute - snacks, tea, soup, supper, ice-cream. None of that "clickety clack" of the wheels, none of the air rushing through the open window at high speeds, none of the echoes of the horn of the loco sounding on a curve, nothing.

Miserable.

And the people inside read magazines and listened to music from their phones without so much as a cursory glance outside. They have a sleek carriage.. they need to get to their places fast, they have it. What else?

Amidst all this smoothening, polishing and trying-to-make-it-look-more-like-an-aircraft kind of design, what's lost is the very essence of the train journey. The journey is what entertains you, unlike journey by air. Heck, that's why they HAVE the inflight entertainment onboard aircraft --> simply because there isn't anything else to do. (Oh wait, maybe you could try counting the number of electric lamps inside the plane, or try to guess the air-hostess's age. Which are, in my opinion, rather dull and pointless means of passing the time).

Metre-gauge train to Bodinayakkanur, shot by yours trulyTake the second class coach in a casual express train on a non-electrified route. The lovely horn sounds, and a slight tug tells you that you're moving. A few seconds later, the chugga-chugga-chug music from the loco sounds and the train picks up pace. There are no cantenaries (posts that hold the overhead wires) periodically blocking your view..Just plain green Indian countryside, with rocking movements from the coach and lovely rhythmic track music to add to the cheer.

Wayside station near Trivandrum. Shot by yours trulyThis is India laid bare. The train passes at a comfortable pace, blowing lots of dust at top speed onto the tiny platforms in wayside stations, and stops for a crossing somewhere deep in the heart of the journey. Enjoying a cup of fine tea and waiting for a crossing train at some wayside station, under the shade of old banyan trees with the birds chirping overhead is something with no words to express it. Yes, in a couple of decades we will have high speed rail transport - plush cars and sleek trains, but what is lost is the Indian touch to it.

Yet the ever present irony continues across the country. Parents still introduce babies to trains in books as "Koooo.. chuk chuk chuk". Steam traction disappeared off Indian mainlines and branch lines by the end of the last millenium. When these toddlers grow up and see an electric locomotive on the track, they'll obviously be left to wonder what the hell went "koo chuk chuk" in it. Hell, you want those lovely steam engines in colouring books, picture charts and general train 'iconification' but you DONT want it in real life. HOW MORE HYPOCRITIC COULD YOU GET? I fully agree to Ranga's view that the steam locomotive is the most awesome machine ever created by man. Who would have thought it possible? Just climb into the cab of a steam loco (in Ooty, for instance) and check out the number of levers and gauges inside the beast. It is mechanical engineering at its best. All run on superheated water.

Courtesy http://www.wuwm.com/media/lake_effect/gallery/112206/slides/INDIA-10203.jpgCountries like England have preserved their steam beauties with a sense of pride. They run these locos for specials in weekends and the like, to uphold the reverence to the machine man engineered and perfected to embody the very notion of speed and power - You fed it fire and it ran. We Indians on the other hand, just waited to dispose of these workhorses and move on. I listen with envy when I hear my grandpa relate how he used to watch coal being piled into the firebox and how the smell of steam rose and the pistons hissed as the train inched out whistling, from the station. I was born too late to hear a whistle blow. I guess my children will never know it ever existed.

That's the way everything is, I guess. Life just goes on, isnt it. How very beautiful.