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).


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.


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.


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.
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.
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.


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!



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.


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.