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.