Thursday, August 9, 2007

Rain Drops from Cochin to NYC

I was there last month in Cochin, affectionately called the "Queen of the Arabian Sea". Well, it was raining cats and dogs. And it went on an on for almost 4-5 days. But, normal day-to-day life in the city continued as usual. People went to work and children made their way to school. In contrast an overnight rain in New York City (NYC) just a day ago had shut down its subway train system. Getting to work turned out to be a huge task.

Similar to this but of bigger impact was the power blackout of 2003 that paralyzed the normal day to day life in New York City. In contrast, similar blackouts for instance occur often in the developing countries of Asia. For example in a city such as Cochin such blackouts for that matter does not disrupt normal life so much.

The reasons for these differences could be many. One might be that a cosmopolitan metro like NYC is big and increasingly dependent on technology that situations such as those mentioned above will disrupt normal day-to-day life no matter how fast or good the response is. Well, then does that mean a small and not so cosmopolitan city like Cochin capable of withstanding power blackouts or torrential rains better than NYC?

Well, seems like it is. But then, situations such as torrential rains or power outages do not occur too often in NYC. Do we need to bother then? Thats some food for thought!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


S U P E R S T A R...R A J I N I K A N T H
Sorry I don’t have that background music to give it the extra kick when you see those titles flashing on the screen.

Having seen Sivaji The Boss twice, I am now game for a third time. The first time was at Kew Gardens Cinema theatre in New York. To accompany me was my friend who for that matter did not understand much of Tamil but was willing to shell out $30 for his ticket to watch the movie.

As those titles R A J I N I K A N T H appeared on the screen...I thought the crowd will whistle or turn it was greeted with pin drop silence....I have never watched a Rajinikanth movie in a theatre with such silence...this seemed eerie....I was surprised and disappointed...Whistling through the cap of my reynolds pen I broke the silence. Supporting me was my friend who clapped with much enthusiasm...and soon we heard some whistles, claps and screaming of the words thalaiva from a couple of rows behind. After the initial euphoria the crowd went silent again...hmm. My friend sat through the movie and liked it and so did I. But, I did not enjoy in the manner I would have liked to. I missed out on two things. I thought the crowd was very silent and showed little enthusiasm and second, the theatre was too small. Not an ideal way to watch Sivaji, The Boss.

So after two weeks I was at the Sathyam theatre in Chennai to watch SIVAJI, The Boss again. I liked the movie the second time over more than the first. The fact that I was watching it right in the heart of Chennai in an excellent theatre with an enthusiastic crowd made the difference I guess.

A very entertaining movie from start to finish. The combination of Rajini with Vivek has worked out very well. The jokes were hilarious and were timed to perfection. Shreya looks awesome and fits nicely into the role. Rajinikanth never disappoints when it comes to gimmicks. Watch out for the coin tossing and the bouncing of bubble gum from hand to mouth. Truly enjoyable stuff from the super star! In the second half, Rajni the star takes over. From hereon its all Rajini..Rajini...Rajini till the end. The cast well supported by Vivek, Raghuvaran, Manivannan and others has done a neat job. Music by AR is good. But like most of AR’s music, one gets hooked to the songs only after you hear them a few times, with "Sahaana Saaral Thoorutho" sung by Udit Narayanan and Chinmayi being my favorite. The only song I did not like was probably the Balelakka Balelakka song which comes in the beginning. The movie is yet another hit from director Shankar.

I will give the movie 4 stars out of 5. Don't miss this movie even if you are not a Rajinikanth fan. You will become one. R A J I N I K A N T H takes it to a different level. WATCH IT OR MISS OUT!

Air India Sucks!

Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad, Malaysian, Kuwait and British Airways. I flew with them on my previous trips. This time though I decided to fly with Air India. It was July 6th, 2007 and the summer heat was on in NY. I was traveling from New York to India for a vacation...Chennai and Cochin to be precise. The flight from JFK, NY was delayed by more than 2 1/2 hrs and Air India made us sit in the aircraft for close to 2 hrs with no air conditioning. Nice first impressions! I landed at Chennai way beyond the actual arrival time and found that a few of my co-passengers had their baggage missing.

My return journey in the morning of July 28th from Chennai to NY was a nightmare. The flight from Chennai to Mumbai was delayed by more than 3 hrs. And, by the time I landed in Mumbai the flight to NY had already left. There I was stranded with my co-passengers in the front of the Air India counter at the Mumbai airport. There were some 6-7 Air India officials at the counter with none having a clue of what needs to be done. It was 7:00 AM in the morning and I was feeling a bit tired. But I felt more tired when I saw the nonchalant and clueless attitude of the Air India officials. No announcements or a word of what will be done was conveyed to us for more than 3 hrs. People by now had lost patience with the babus. Request for alternate arrangements fell on deaf ears. Request from my co-passengers now turned violent in the form of shouting and screaming. Still no response from the tie clad babus. Did you just mention customer service?....huh...I should have known this was Air India...Its not in their dictionary.

Finally after 3 hrs of pleading, screaming and shouting, we were put into a flight to Newark, NJ. Thank God I thought!...I was finally flying back and I couldn’t believe my luck. But passengers traveling to Chicago weren't with much...they had to wait for the next day and I did not see Air India arranging them an accommodation to stay, at least until I was there at the airport. That was like for over more than 4 hrs. I am sure the passengers received the accommodation after that, but why the delay in arranging one when it was known that the Chicago passengers will be flying only the next day. Why wasn’t Air India prepared to handle such situations in a more professional manner? Isn't it Air India's responsibility to take care of the passengers in the best possible manner when the fault was entirely their's? Shame on you Air India!

In three words my impression of the airline --- "Air India Sucks!"

During my vacation I flew in a few of the domestic airlines operating in India....namely Jet, Kingfisher and Paramount. I thought they were excellent and even better than most of the domestic airlines operating in the United States. Air India is just an exception to an otherwise good number of airlines operating now in India.

My vacation to India though turned out to be FANTASTIC! And I am planning to fly again soon. This time though through a different airline. Air India?...huh...Never Again!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Kodambakkam to Mylapore - A Fateful Encounter

It was the December of 1999 in Chennai, India. In my opinion the best time of the year to visit this wonderful city located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. It was Y2K time. Most people I met had either visited US or knew of somebody who was working there already. I for that matter was at that time working for a software company in Chennai.

Dressed in a black trouser and maroon shirt I stood at the bus stop waiting for the bus to take me to work. The commute from my home to work was about 45 minutes. The city bus was operated by the government's Pallavan Transport Corporation (PTC) and was the cheapest and reliable means of public transportation for most chennaites. I had been travelling on the bus ever since I was a kid and had witnessed many interesting incidents. But, today was different. It had repercussions in my life. So I think.

It was around 10:30 AM when I had made my way to the bus stop in front of Meenakshi College at Kodambakkam. The bus came around 10:40 AM and stopped with a screeching halt a few meters away from the stop. I ran and was the first to get in to the bus. As I made my way into the bus I was lucky to find myself a seat. Righh!.....preeeeee...... preeeeee......yelled and whisled the conductor and soon the bus was on its way again. The bus had to make numerous stops before it could reach my destination. A few minutes had passed and by now I had settled nicely and was already thinking about how my day would fold at work. Twenty five minutes into the ride the bus made its stop at Teynampet and there entered an elderly gentleman in his early 60's. From now on I shall refer to this elderly genteman as G.

G came forward and took the vacant window seat next to me. Random thoughts filled my mind as I was enjoying the breeze that December brings to this warm city. The breeze from the window of the bus had put me to sleep many a times and I almost succumbed to it. But not today. That was when G who was seated next to me turned sideways and looked at me. This happened three times in succession. I thought he probably wanted to ask me something. But for some reason I was not willing to let anybody disrupt the string of thoughts that was engaging my mind. But then, all of a sudden G interuppted me by asking as to whether I was an American! It took me by surprise and I found the question very funny. I felt as if G was poking fun at me...huh...what nerve? crazy old man.. so I thought. I did not bother to respond and so ignored him. Oblivious of the fact that I had ignored him, he went on to ask me this time as to whether I was from America. The question I thought was answerable. I responded by saying "NO". Now, I assumed that he was one strange old man indeed. The response from G surprised me. He told me these words "You will be in America in 6 months time". And I said ehhh??? Thinking that I did not hear him G repeated the same words again. This time it was loud enough that every one on the PTC bus must have heard him! I nodded and said politely "OK" with a sarcastic demeanour and smile. He thought that I did not believe him. So he went on to add that he was until a few years ago a sanskrit professor at a college in Mylapore, Chennai. He then spoke about similar predictions that he had made which according to him had come true. By this time my initial inhibitions about G had vanished and my demeanour towards him was of general respect. He then went on to ask me whether I will be able to recogonize him if I ever happen to see him again. Ofcourse! was my reply accompanied by a customary smile. This time it was not sarcastic. A genuine one. Thats when the bus made its stop at Mylapore and G suddenly excused himself to leave and made for the exit. I could manage only a quick "Thank You" before G made his way out of the bus. He smiled in return. And after a few minutes I reached my stop still thinking about the encounter I just had with G.

A few months later...on a bus again. This time travelling from Bellevue to my work in downtown Seattle, USA. It was June of 2000. Exactly six months since I had met G! The commute from home to work took the same 45 minutes. Though today....the window seat next to me was not vacant. I leave that to your imagination!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Take home exams and cheating!

The only thing constant in this world is change. We have seen profound changes in the social, economical and political aspects of life. This is reflected in the way we think, act and collaborate to keep up with the new innovations and changes happening around us. Keeping the above context in mind how should we see the recent cheating scandal that happened in the duke business school. In a nutshell it was a case of a group of students collaborating on a take home exam. Now, let me not address the duke episode in particular here. But let me tell you about collaboration and take home exams in general. Is it cheating? Is it really??

The world of myspace's, facebook's, twitter's and text messaging has made it increasingly convenient for people to come together and collaborate with one another. Moreover, the information that we get at the click of a button is simply amazing. Information of various forms is being shared with people around the world. We are being led to increasingly collaborate with one another like never before. Moreover, to work as part of a team is the mantra that is being preached in the upper echleons of the corporate world. Take home exams as a matter of fact gives students the chance to seek information from the web or from various other sources. How different is this from collaborating with ones fellow classmates. Both pertains to seeking information. A student who is able to collaborate with his peers and get his work done has shown the ability to work as part of a team. One can argue that the individual thinking process is lost here. But, not really. In this case individual thinking has only paved the way for collective thinking. Cheating is when students copy and paste information from the web or other sources into their answer sheets. Is the integrity and ethics of students in question? Not really again. If a student has collaborated and got the work done, why should it be held against him or her. It has rather addressed a vital skill that any student needs to be successfull in todays business world, namely collaboration. Collaboration is not cheating. But, then the rules for a take home exam dictate otherwise. If it is to restrict any sort of collaboration then there is always the option of keeping an in-class exam.

The rules that dictate a take home exam needs a revisit and has to consider the impact that innovations brought about by technology is having on society and its various bearings. Take home exams cannot escape the wrath of change. Bracing for exams? Start Collaborating!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Indian cricket in the aftermath of world cup 2007

The world cup of 2007 is finally over with the Australians winning it for the third straight time. Somebody stop them! And after a disastrous exit the Indian cricket team is bound for their tour of bangladesh. The reasons for exit has been numerous and rightly so although Greg Chappel’s comment on the Indian cricket board being run like the Zimbabwe and Gavaskar’s retaliation of the Australian cricket team with Greg Chappel as the coach being defeated by Ireland sooner rather than later seems slightly exaggerated.

I grew up playing and watching cricket and cricket is still my favorite sport. So I was disappointed like any other Indian cricket fan for the spineless show displayed by our team. The world cup of 2007 might be over but Indian cricket is far from done. There is still talent and experience in the team. It is only a question of putting the pieces together. I guess its easier said than done! The team still has in it to become world-beaters. But to realize the potential the BCCI, who also happens to be the richest cricket board in the world, has to implement a few important steps. Some of which will be in the likes of giving young performing cricketers a chance to play along with their seniors counterparts, preparing sporting pitches, creating a pool of players for one-day and test cricket, rotation policy for players and making fitness a priority. And please keep politics out of cricket!!!

The Bangladesh series is a fresh start to the season. A few younger players have been brought into the side for the series. A step in the right direction I should say. Shastri's interim appointment is also good, as he is known to be a keen observer of the game. His comment recently of having patience with experienced players seems to be correct. A player like Sachin is not done yet and still has a couple of years in him. Having said that there are a quite a few talented players waiting in the wings to break into the team and replace the senior players. After all isn’t it India that produced the likes of Gavaskar, Kapil and Sachin who with their brand of cricket gave joy to the millions of cricket fans? India sure has talent! But talent alone cannot win matches. It’s required of team India to now play as a team. And with that lets look forward to the year 2011 with renewed vigor and anticipation.