Saturday, December 29, 2007

From Sassy to Plain Jane


RockYou FXText

With this year end I have decided to restore the template of my blog to the standard blogger template. The truth is, ever since I started Travel Tadka, I have been tempted by the easy features blogger templates offer. Grappling with long code turned out to be quite sticky. It would take eons for me to add a new widget for the code had to plugged in seamlessly and all the appropriate tags had to be closed. When something would go amiss, it would seethe to the surface defacing my blog and restoring it would be an excruciatingly painful exercise (clearly a non techie issue here). Finding an easier way out, I sold myself to blogger.

In the process of shifting or migrating I did loose links to many of my favourite blogs. The good part however is, the damage is not too sever. Thanks to Sakshi (She’s got a blog mine, anything happening on the blogsphere or Bollywood she’s the first to know) I was able to refurbish my blogroll with some really interesting blogs. It allowed me to delete blogs I had stopped following, or those that were outdated, deleted or stopped existing. I even managed to kick out some pointless widgets.

I would, sometime later, look for a template that is crafted for me and my inane musings, but for now and till I can afford a designer its going to be 'Hail Blogger'.

The new look is definitely a whole lot cleaner, chirpier and clutter free. The paper scribble look of the old template was chaotic; it did not support many functions and was not really blogging friendly. However, I do miss the energy and the kind of nonchalance it had. I am also going to miss the ‘oh so fantastic template’ comments. But I am nearly 25 now and my blog ought to stop looking like schools girl’s diaries (I know I am consoling myself). Although I wonder if people who really know would be convinced by a template change:).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Big Fat Punjabi Wedding

Punjus are a class apart; they are noisy, campy, colourful, flamboyant and loud and have no qualms about it. I envy them for that. A community that is the biggest consumer of practically everything from scotch to mercs has every right to be as cuckoo as them.

A week after attending my best friends wedding I am still reveling in the grandeur an authentic Punjabi wedding has to offer. I landed in the subdued town of Bariley, but subdued is not a word I would use for the wedding and definitely not for a Punju wedding.

The invite read cocktail evening, followed by cocktail and wedding the second day. So I was assured booze is going to be on the house for the next 2 days. The evening was nippy, a distant faint music was getting louder as we drove on and I could hear the music clearly “balle balle oh balle balle… sharabi…” humming along I smiled to myself knowing this was going to be one crazy evening.

When we entered, the party was in full swing. It was only 9.00pm, the Baggas (the bride’s side) and the Batras (groom’s side) had already gotten their guests dancing and tipsy. After a quick round of introductions we headed to the bar and had to fight our way through burly Punjabis. My bloody mary seemed meek amidst all the double large scotch and Patiala shots.

One had to be a Punjabi to drink like a fish and still be able to pull off a graceful balle balle on the dance floor. As the latest bollywood numbers began to reverberate in the hall, thousand rupee notes started flying all over the place. The party went on till the wee hours of the morning, punjus drank and danced relentlessly until they were forcibly asked to stop. The non punjus, well we were no competition, we passed out early on.

I am in the habit of calling my friend Neha, Bagga. When I met her on her wedding I called out to her in a rather girly high pitched voice, and had about 20 baggas turn around and look at me questioningly and then everyone knew me just like that. I loved it, punjus have a big heart and they accepted people warmly. Then all evening I had people fawning and fussing over me wanting to know if I had eaten, or if I was enjoying myself. I found food being sent to our table constantly and my glass being filled as quickly as its contents were being emptied. The buas and the mausies all hugged me and asked them to join me in their dance. In all the alcohol infused haziness guests weren’t forgotten, they made me feel a part of the family, I was truly moved.

Now punjus have an unwritten wedding rule that I unraveled during the course of the 2 days. Alcohol and dancing precedes and succeeds every little ceremony. The second morning I was surprised to find the Bagga family looking fresh as daisies despite having pelted countless double larges. We were groggy and hung over and every muscle in our bodies ached from all the dancing, while the Bagga family went around greeting us and the others chirpily. I was wondering if they were the same people who were wasted the previous night, if they were they showed no signs of it. After a hearty breakfast, I was quickly ushered next to the bride for the bangle and haldi ceremony.

These bangles are a symbol of a newly wed bride. One can spot her from miles away, the bright red colour of the bangles and its jangle always gives her away. To the red bangles the women tie a variety of golden trinkets. She later walks around clapping her hand on heads of young girls of marriageable age and when the trinkets fall on some girl’s head, it means she is going to be wed soon, similar to throwing the bouquet. We then smeared haldi on her face, arms and legs. Haldi has a lot of special properties, one of which is supposed to give the bridal glow. Later in the evening when I saw Neha ready to take her wedding vows I saw her glowing I don’t know if it was the haldi or excitement or both.

Like you guessed, after the haldi we danced again and the liquor flowed freely. This time I chose to stick to orange juice. The lunch had a huge spread and was very rich. Yes there was the butter chicken, dal makni assortment of rotis and rice but there also was the rather succulent mutton, vegetables, salad, raita, pappads and pickle. For dessert I had the yummy halwa and iceream and then decided to hit the sack for an afternoon siesta while the festivities continued. Balle balle was my lullaby that afternoon, I slept to the sound of laughter.

The evening of the wedding was the same as the previous evening, only 3 times more grand. There was a long queue of starters and snacks stalls that housed everything from pani purri to the Punjabi version of masala dosa. I obviously didn’t spare a thing, except the dosas, coming from the land of dosas I was only too happy to skip its punju version. The booze counter was bustling with activity when the groom arrived on a white horse. The dancing barath of the Batra clan were welcomed by the Baggas with garlands and host of refreshments and beverages. So you can say the drinking started at the gate only to stop at the mandap at 2.00 in the night.

The Baggas, the Batras, the Mehtas, the Chopras and the Aroras did what they knew the best, danced and drank away joyously to the music and enjoyed every moment of it. I reveled in the festivities and was left in awe for the punjabis. By the end of it I was ready to become a bagga or a chopra.

As the night wore away the crowd dwindled till only close family and friends, i.e., us, remained. In the presence of these few the bride and groom took their wedding vows - the Sath Phere and then the bride left to her new home. The Baggas were in tears, so was I to see my best friend married off.

This blog has been really long for it is not the insipid Tam Bram wedding that can be captured in lesser words, it’s a carnival, it’s the big fat Punjabi wedding.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Peacock Trails

Grandmum’s tales would be insipid without the brave maharaja, the wily snake charmer or the playful elephant, and so will our mythology itself. These tales, so much a part of every Indian child’s growing up, are still echoing in the quaint streets of Mylapore. Be it the thriving temple economy or vibrant kolams adorning door steps or the colorful gopuram of the Kapaleeshwar temple, each has its own share of stories to tell. And what better way to savour the city than through its stories. One such story teller is ‘Peacock Trails’, a journey of unraveling these little traditions and customs that makes Chennai so kitsch.

The trail, starting outside, the Kapaleeshwar temple in Mylapore traverses many myriad rituals associated with the temple, the teeming life that has stemmed around the temple. It takes you to the tomb of the St. Thomas, the apostle who brought Christianity to, Santhome and ends with a grand breakfast at Saravana Bhavan.

A lot caught my fancy, for one the Jennal Hotel (Window hotel). It has been around for the last 50 years (like a lot of other stores in Mylapore), dishing out piping hot sambar and idli in the morning and a tiffin (light evening snack) in the evening. Living up to its name, the restaurant has no tables or chairs. It is not even what you would call ‘a stand and eat joint’. It’s an old Brahmin serving food from a window. The tradition has been handed down from father to son, and what’s more, the prices still haven’t changed much since then.

Ever noticed the intricate patterns decorating the threshold of houses? It’s what we call a ‘Kolam’ in the south, Rangoli in the north, but unlike the Rangoli the Kolam is not just for cosmetic value. It is an indication that all is well in the house. Incase of a death in the house the family stops putting kolam outside their homes so passers by would know they are grieving. The rice flour used in the kolam also serves as food for ants. The otherwise white kolam comes alive during temple festivals with the women of the house trying to outdo others with huge intricate patterns splashed with colour.

They have a story for everything – why do we have so many gods to why we go clockwise around the temple. Story Trails will even tell you the right place to get your ancestral veena repaired to how to drink your filter coffee. They believe stories show you the way of life. Flavoured with traditions, these stories have grown and evolved with civilization, dynasties and people, and continue to remain relevant even today. Vijay (founder of Story Trails) and Vishna (our storyteller) are like Scheherazade of Arabian nights. They have a thousand and one stories to tell, one just has to keep listening.

With a riot of colours, seasoned with the idiosyncrasies of the tam bram community, the wafting smell of filter coffee mingling with incense, the journey is exhilarating and intoxicating.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Technicolor Dream

Totally over the top and completely bizarre is Farah's new found signature style and with the success of Om Shanti Om I am guessing it's for keeps. The movie is totally bling with its giddy music and psychedelic colours. It was a complete treat to the senses. After a seismic speculation I've decided not to get in to the glaring loop holes in the plot or reviewing the complete lack of story line. But I must say, I loved the movie. So what is the plot? You're clearly reading the blog this is just film appreciation.


The film was a celebration of the 70's as Bollywood painted it, a world of flashy make up, elaborate hairdos. The film has glorified all Bollywood stereotypes - the ma, the sindhur and the dialogues are cheesy, but really funny. The lines were oozing with melodrama and kiran kher has done full justice to it with all the necessary overacting. I would have never known you can keep the audience enthralled for three hours without a story!


Looking all dolled up was the debutant Deepika Padukone. She was a decent actress and good dancer although I must admit she didn't have a crucial role, she made her presence felt with those perfectly timed and dimpled smiles. It's a movie reveling in everything typical to the tinsel town – the red carpet stroll, award ceremonies, gossip and bitching.


What's worth a mention here is the filmfare awards ceremony, my personal favourite sequence. 'we are just good friends' haven't we heard that a zillion times before but Farah's movie has a different take on it. SRK, Akshay and Abhishek starring in films like Dhoom 5, Return of the Khiladi and Phir Bhi NRI are competing to clinch the best actor title, this one is a laugh riot. One can find the clip below.



After the super fun first half the second half was a tad stretchy. After all we are on real time again, but the song and dance sequence salvaged it. Ok, what Farha is really known for is here creds and for that let the drums beat and red carpets roll out, and let the real heroes take the stage. It's worthy of another post.


All said, it's a fun colorful film, and that too coming from a person who is not an SRK fan. I am sure that says a lot.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On a break!

There is going to be a lull at coffee and conversation but let me assure you It is only till the 11th of december. Then the blog post will be pouring in with renewed vigour. I off to Uttranchal and on the way manage to catch a colourful Punjabi wedding loads of yummy food, restaurants, jim corbett, chole bhature and experience on road. I'll have something to feed my new blog Travel Tadka as well...:)

Cheers

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bollywood on the Blogsphere

Bollywood is probably the most bizarre, the most melodramatic, the most unprofessional and the most unorganized industry and yet between their song and dance sequence one could learn a lesson or two on marketing. A lot of debate has been brewing on the web about the big banner movies hitting the box recently, and I was curious to find out how much Bollywood has impacted the Consumer Generated media (CGM).

The results were surprising at times and predictable at most others. The cumulative marketing efforts by production houses and films had a trickle down effect on the blog. For instance Om Shanti Om(OSO) had started doing the rounds in the media almost a year before its launch. To top it all there were a zillion promotions, interviews, contests, 70’s line being launched at Shopper’s Stop and hype leading up to the day of its premiere. News like the release of the film across an unprecedented 2000 plus screens worldwide, and the Manoj Kumar fiasco further drove the film towards a box office success.The chart indicates the presence of both OSO and Saawariya in the blogsphere over the past 6 months and clearly OSO has had a head start over Saawariya. My guess would be the latter is here only because of the former.

Three month tracker of OSO and Saawariya starting almost 2 months before release on November 9th till 20th of November.

OSO and Saawariya have managed to get over 50% of their blog posts in the last month alone, a time little before and after the launch.

One can only applaud the Integrated Marketing Campaign since its ROI has been tremendous. Despite the lack of any real story the movie has been a box office grosser and it’s a buzz on the blogging space with a total of 7669 blog posts only over the last 3 months alone. Some say, a great story doesn’t need over the top marketing, but I say it wouldn’t kill it either.

Its rival Saawariya hasn’t been doing too badly either. My guess would be that the two big budget films were pitted against each other by the media and the drama that followed was exciting and saw a nail biting finish for both. The numbers also indicate that despite a more sober marketing campaign the media hype saw Saawariya to a great start and still sees about 53 blog entries a day. The Razzle Dazzle of Farah’s Om Shanti Om still rules the roost and the blog pulse is an indication enough.

Another flick, Jab We Met by Imtiaz Ali that hit the silver screen on 26th October manages to scrape an average of 38 posts. The film with its fantastic story line and music tracks came only third to Om Shanti Om or Saawariya.

In the last 3 months Jab We Met has lesser posts than what OSO had in the last month alone.

The Maduri Dixit starrer - Aaja Nachle has been averaging 10 blogs over the last 3 months, and this month alone the average has been 13 plus. Now I hope there is a change of tide and the numbers are just as racy as her Jhatkas Matkas. Not only is she looking better than where she left off personally, I feel she hasn’t lost her edge despite competition. Madhuri’s return and her being the mother of two is causing quiet and uproar. She has everything going for her; great looks, dazzling smile, and what seems like a great story. What better come back could the Ek, Do, Teen gal look forward to?

Aaja Nachle is likely to rake in more posts as its edging towards its release. One can only wait and see if it challenge the astronomical numbers of OSO.

Author’s Note: I have used two tools to do the tracking one is IceRocket and the other BlogPulse (a service of AC Nielsen Metrics). I liked different features in each of them and hence have used both. In Ice Rocket the results are neatly tabulated and indicate average posts per day, average percent of all blog posts and total posts till date. Where as, Blog Pulse allows me to see a trend over a longer period of time. However, what both the tools lack is the ability to track really old data, so one is unable to track the growth or trends that have impacted the blogsphere over a couple of years. These tools are really useful nonetheless.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Art Attack

Sprucing up my blog was always a big challenge for me. At coffee & conversation I can’t let the caffeine levels dip or the interesting conversation dry out.

I am constantly looking for alternatives to keep my blog bursting with energy and voila! I found another one of those small tools that’ll salvage it from monotony – Sketchacast! A fun way to animate a doodle and bring alive an idea or just add that little zing to your blog. So if you thought blogs were all about text, think again.

It’s simple and really cool to use. Just register, doodle and publish! There are very few tools to deal with, which makes in simpler. One could add audio as well while drawing and explaining something hence it conveys the message better than a long prose. A sketchcast can be embedded Youtube style on your blogs or the URL could be shared.

I attempted 2 such sketchcasts. I admit they look retarded and my creativity should not be judged based on these. The first one is ‘faces’, oh it was a struggle to keep the pen on the canvas.





The second one is a scoop of popcorn and a film reel which I intend to use for all the movie reviews.





There’s more to come soon. But in the meanwhile, you can review my doodling. I should try a yoga sketchcast that would depict the yoga asanas Well that’s for another rainy day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Feed a mouthful


I am skeptical about writing product or service reviews even if I find it particularly interesting. Simply because reviews are viewed as paid-for promotions. I have been accused in the past for doing so (If only people knew how difficult it is to make money out of personal blogs). There is this one service that caught my attention www.freerice.com a program launched by www.poverty.com to battle hunger and starvation.

The rules look pretty simple, it’s a multiple choice of synonyms and the idea is to choose the closest fit. For every word you get right, 10 grains of rice is donated to the United Nations World Food Program.

The points are indicated by a bowl that collects rice. The words are challenging and it gets tougher as you advance. This is perfect for GRE and CAT aspirants and the best part is you don’t need to register.

You can also extend your support for the cause by plugging in one of their assortment of banners into your blogs and websites. I am hoping one of my more technically adept friends will help me do so.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Salt n Pepper Generation

For a long time fifty meant edging towards peaceful retirement, turning to Holy scriptures and planning endless pilgrimages. But today 50 marks a beginning. It’s time to catch up with life, no more worrying about kids, no more work pressures… and the salt and pepper generation are totally living it up. So what if they couldn’t travel or scuba dive or learn to cha cha in their youth they are signing up for them now. The 50 plus are ready and raring to go and their age, oh they have made peace with it.

At my dance studio a couple past their fifty enrolled for salsa. They were extremely graceful and energetic on the floor and if I may add very funny as well. A lot of dance schools and gyms have special programs and course plans charted out for the 50 plus generation.

“It’s my time and there is so much I want to do. I am not restless or insecure. I have no worries about competition and I don’t have to worry about getting somewhere in my career all the time.” My 55 year old aunt told me and boy was I jealous or what.

My yoga instructor herself is woman on the other side of fifty who runs Yogarakshana, a yoga school. She started the school only a decade back and works there from 8.00 in the morning to 6.00 in the evening teaching Yoga and Vedas to both young and the old alike. Her Yoga also takes her across geographies and she does get tired when she has foreign student visiting her for a crash course, and it’s only then that she allows herself a days rest.

Travel portals are also working over time and no they are not booking tickets to Varnasi or Kasi or Rameshwaram. The fifty plus are signing up for nature treks, adventure trails and jungle resorts in both local and international destinations.

This generation had to also grapple with technology, having to learn to use the internet and the mobile only in their forties. Today they are adept with web services like email, online ticket booking, blogging, uploading photographs, or checking out travel portals. They have no intentions of being left behind.

There are lots of interesting people still popular in the media who show no signs of tiring despite being way past fifty - Shobha De, Amitabh Bachcchan and heck the grand old Zohara Sehgal.

Here is a generation that is waiting to be explored, pampered and indulged. The Silver scalps know that happiness is not the monopoly of youth. Despite having to deal with the inevitable signs of aging and the changes it brings with it they are probably living their most creative, productive and dazzling era of their lives. They are on a high and living each day with wisdom, zest and that thing called fun. Mark Twain rightly said "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Image Source: Cartoon Stock

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Agony Aunt 2.0

The WWW has been around for a while, and has grown to become our pillar of support of sorts. Our best friend (as corny as it may sound) to be precise. Its incredible how one can turn to the net to complain, to whine, to celebrate, to connect, to reach out and to make a difference. And, in return, the internet has shown its relentless support by listening. Sadly marketers haven't explored its potential, they haven't been able to put their finger on the thump that is getting stronger and louder.

True the internet has propelled a whole lot of things, but it has also been a favourite medium for grouse. I did a rather juvenile search ‘hathway sucks’ (now that would clearly spell out my intentions). There were some 100 odd groups bitching about the service provider, while I was contemplating which one to join I searched for many other such angst portals. There are like a zillion of ‘this is terrible’, ‘that is horrid’ websites. However, there is not a single platform trying to play aunt agony. There are too many conversations but no one listening.

Today almost any service provider promises a great customer experience that is for keeps. I often wonder if ‘customer delight’ is their chosen pursuit or is it just a sexy term straight out of a management textbook. There is hardly any delight in dealing with the customer care officers, for starters they rarely ever get on the phone, which is extremely frustrating (especially if you have to lend a ear to the tireless electronic voice). And when they do get on the phone they are rude and insensitive.

Blogs, social media and communities are mushrooming all over the internet and consumers are splashing the pages with their angst. It has become critical for corporates to hear what is being said about them more than just pretty PR articles. I chanced upon a BusinessWeek article that made me write this blog and conduct many childish searches. A brand like DELL truly found itself by listening to blogs. The ROI of blogs and social media has been proved without a doubt, atleast in my head. All corporates need to do is put a little money and ear on the thump to plug the hole.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Great Indian Brat

Just the other day I was having a really quite nice date at a swanky restaurant in Bangalore. It is a charming restaurant on the thirteenth floor with a lovely panoramic view of the city. This is the last place one would bring their children to. Somehow Indian parents insist on bringing children to late night dinners at expensive restaurants and wreck everyone else's privacy.

'Aunty, what is this?' I turned around to find a little kid tugging at my skirt.

'It's nothing baby. It's just a fork,' I smiled and turned to concentrate on my date.

'Aunty, is this your mobile?' the cuteness was fast fading for this brat had pulled out my mobile from my hand bag.

'Yes it is and now would you be a good boy and give it back to me?' I forced a smile.

After much deliberation the kid dodged me and ran with my mobile to his mother who was sitting two tables away. Politely but firmly I asked the mother if she could get me my mobile back as it was important. Instead of being apologetic she tells me kids are like this only and that I ought to be more tolerant.

I mean seriously, as much as we feel proud that our little Bunty is an active child bursting with energy, or love to see our little Chintu sing "Twinkle Twinkle", the rest of the world is under no obligation to indulge them. Parents should stop thinking they are entitled to some special rights.

Even at the movies I happened to get seats next to a boisterous family who had bought all the junk available at the multiplex and the kids were fighting over it all through the movie despite several refills. Also each kid by turn kept wanting to go the washroom, and each time he would have to cross me. I don't think I caught a word of what Captain Jack Sparrow was saying!

I don't know what we are proud of. We make monkeys of our kids. Feed them all the junk and make the world listen to them singing Jack and Jill a zillion times over, and force them to clap and cheer. So we all have sung Baa Baa Black Sheep, it has been the most natural part of our growing up, cute as it may sound it really is no rocket science.

So I think it's time to impose a few rules, Children below the age of 13 should not be allowed to
-Fancy restaurants at dinner. Even if they do allow children it should clearly mention they are 'child-friendly' or whatever, so that the rest of us can stay away.

- At the theaters for all shows from the evening show. The parents can rent the DVD and watch it later.

- At the beauty parlours where I like to get a my head massage done without having to hear pesky kids running around and trying to handle the equipments.

I don't have kids of my own, I am not even married. When I do I'll ensure they follow all these rules but right now I don't want be deprived of a good movie or a great dinner.
Published first at : Desi Critics

Saturday, July 14, 2007

TVC Hots & Nots - Parachute Advansed

I totally love the new 'Parachute Advansed - Gorgeous Hamesha' commercial that has been on air recently. The ad doesn't directly talk about the product yet the intrensic benefit of the product comes through very clearly. Its feel good track and simple execution makes this commercial an example of great advertising, that helps build strong brand vaules for the company and phenomenal recall for the product.



The ad resonates well with its consumers, with its base line 'Gorgeous Hamesha' this ad makes me (their target consumer) feel really good about myself. And the whole stickness and phobia associated with hair oil is very clevery masked.
A clutter breaking ad that has all the right ingredients to strike the right chord with its consumers and to build a great brand.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

F-C-U-K Fashion

The attention-grabbing marketing ploy of naughty-but-nice British fashion retailer French Connection, reborn in 1997 under the brand "FCUK" borrows shock tactics in equal measure from 1970s punk rock group the Sex Pistols and rival clothing retailer Benetton, The controversial campaign was an enormous success for several years

French Connection is a clothing company first established in United Kingdom in 1969 and was mainly aimed at the youthful demographic. Over the last decade it has reinvented itself for the new generation shoppers and has now evolved to be a cult brand world over under the name FCUK which they claim is the acronym for French Connection United Kingdom. The company has recently announced the 'fcuk' label is to be phased out.

Their communication is a ...
Word Game

Misspelt words - whoever said one has to know his spellings

Attitude

Their advertising oozes with controversial, rebellious, and blatantly kinky attitude. Be it enormous billboards or their store display the brand has tantalized and infuriated people with words. It raised the bar for young advertising professional.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Setting up a President

In India, politics has always been a drama that helps in sustaining competitive TRPs for news channels. The new issue that is gripping the nation is the rat race for the highest chair of honour. Who is going to be appointed as the next president of India? There seems to be a surge in jingoistic spirit and everyone is feeling compelled to contribute his 2 paisa worth to this issue.

Politics for me has been a source of entertainment, being a silent spectator I have thoroughly enjoyed the nastiness enveloping it but this one event triggered me to write about it.

Our domestic help called to say she was not coming to work. My mum being irked by this asked her to justify her reasons.

‘Madam some lady who is going to be the next president of our country is going to be in town. I am going to get fifty bucks and food for sitting through the ceremony. A bus is coming to pick up people from my slum and will drop us back when the function is over. If I take my whole family I’ll get more money than you pay me for the whole month!’

50 bucks and a plate of chicken briyani is all it takes to climb the Indian political ladder! The UPA and left will go any length in setting up their candidate, Pratibha Patil as the country’s next president and guess who is talking about it.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bangalore Bloggers Meet Part 1- Prelude to the Barcamp

With two bloggers meet being organised simultaneously (initially, both oblivious of each others existence) the blogging junta found itself in a confounding situation, clearly questioning the motives of both these meets. Nonetheless, this confusion lend itself as an ice breaker for the bloggers meet on Saturday evening, the gathering had a good laugh over it.

Before we were through with that we found ourselves in an even funnier predicament. The venue, cafĂ© coffee day flatly refused to accommodate the overwhelming response we received from the blogging community. As people started trickling in it was evident for an impromptu meet the number was looking really promising. Then we did a little walk to Koshy’s and finally settled at Koshy’s Chill out (yes not the best of places, but we were getting a little desperate after having spent 40mins hunting for a place).

This meet was a prelude to the Barcamp Bangalore 4 (BCB4). So after initial round of introduction, Hari, BCB4 organiser introduced many of us to the Bar camp concept. He further went on to explain that this year a bloggers collective was being introduced at BCB4 and that it was upto us to take it forward. Bangalore Mirror, July 8th 2007

There were a lot of concepts thrown back and forth. One thought in particular that hogged most of our time was how the bloggers need to probably be more socially conscious. Sridhar on that note suggested we start a web NGO. Interesting, the idea could be explored and would probably even get support from many non bloggers.

Also how Non tech bloggers like Sanjukta and myself be given a few lessons about the web and the various tools we could probably use. I agree with this one, I find so many bloggers doing really neat stuff with their blogs and would really like to use a few on my own.

We had reporters from the Times Group - Niranjan & Balanarayan attending the meet besides the following bloggers.

Sanjukta – who also organised the meet
Hari, Prayank, Sridhar, Anand, Sukumar, Ram, Jothi Vel, Amith, Vinu, Cipson (I hope I haven’t missed anybody)

Like expected I was a part of the minority one of the only 2 girls and one of only 2 non techies. However, Hari did go out of his way not make us non techies feel a little more important..

I was amazed how 13 strangers had so much to share and discuss. Frankly, I loved the attitude of these bloggers everyone wanted to use this medium of blogging to bring about a positive change. And in my opinion that’s a great start. Thanks Sanjukta for organising this one

The next meeting on July 21st at Brewhaha will be to freeze the agenda for the barcamp, we are hoping to see a lot more people.

To join kindly edit this wiki page – http://www.bangalorebloggersmeet.pbwiki.com/

I will update photographs once people send it across to me but I have put up what Bangalore Mirror had to say about the meet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Window Of Controversy

Lee jeans are straight and this has been the reason for the furor. Lee has recently unveiled its straight fit collection and they didn’t don a celeb to mark this momentous occasion. What they did was to go for a drastic window display makeover and that stirred up a controversy.

So they said 'No matter which way you bend Lee fits you straight.' The gay activists not getting the joke staged quite a protest. They claimed the communication was down right insulting and cheap and that Lee had no right to insult homosexuals.

In India homosexuality has been quite taboo, and is considered to be a criminal offense were one can be subjected to upto 10 years of imprisonment. We also view it as a bad influence of the west, when in actuality same sex love has been around since the time of the Kamasutra. So are the Gay activists overreacting after the harsh treatment they have been subjected to for years, or is it just to gain sympathy votes?

Whatever the case may be in India, homosexuals must realise that their chosen path is not a bed of roses and they can be subjected to nasty treatment. It is time they look at the broader picture and not go around calling the rest of the world narrow minded for just about anything, and definitely not for this.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sip Lick...mmm... Yuck!

Somehow for a Tam like me the concept of instant coffee doesn’t fit too well in the frame of things. However, this line of thought doesn’t seem to perturb our marketers too much. Bru introduced the 3 in 1 coffee mix in both hot and cold variants. The mix contains coffee, sugar and creamer, all one has to do is to add hot or cold water as per the instructions indicated on the pack.

The ‘Sip lick Ummm!’ gives an interesting feel to the ad. I though I could get Barista home but the product turned out to be a big disappointment all the lather and foam of a great cuppa chino was hoax. When you pour the piping hot water into the mug containing the mix it froths and rises up just like in the ad and it looks absolutely yummy. You would even get the froth moustache like they show in the ad but you may not want to lick it! The drink is way too watery and insipid to pass of as coffee.

So if this wasn’t bad enough we have another player joining them in the weeks to come– COFiCOFi. Manufactured by Sarsan Foods Private Limited in collaboration with Manzaro Global Ventures Limited, COFiCOFi with its baseline ‘Concept of Harmony’ will be available in 7 variants each priced at Rs.5 per sachet!

I walked up to the kiosk at Garuda mall wanting to try this coffee. I had choose between Original, French vanilla, Irish Cream, Hazelnut, Mocha, Mintolatte, and Tiger. I settled for Hazelnut, I had to then decide if I wanted my coffee hot or cold. Hot it had to be! So the sales person fixed my coffee and I was shocked at final product. It looked nothing like coffee and tasted even worse than it looked. Since I was the 100th customer to visit the stall (although I like to think it was my incredible smile) I was given a cap! That’s not going to change my opinion about the product. To put it simply the Coffee sucked!

In south India coffee is a religion, no Tam can start his day without his fix of filter coffee anything else would only put him in foul mood and I being Tam can vouch for that. Despite high levels of stress and constant lack of time people still take pleasure in making their own coffee no instant coffee can dream to change that. COFiCOFi’s 3 in 1 blend of coffee, sugar and creamer hardly seems be the harmonious brew for the southies.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dry Week

A friend of mine, V, recently had his kid brother visiting him. V’s brother had just finished his 12th board exams and wanted to relax and have a good time before joining college. So V gave me an emergency call to help him baby sit. V explained that his brother was just about 18 and he didn’t want to take him drinking and also told me to shut up about the times when we had drunk ourselves silly.

As is the case with most middle class families, V’s parents also continued to remain oblivious, stubbornly so, of their 20 something son’s alcohol consumption habit. Sitting in another town, they like to believe he is their golden child, brilliant in academics, always making them proud no matter what he did and he would never do something despicable such as consume alcohol or smoke. No doubt V is a brilliant boy, but the boy also enjoys his whiskey and can't do without his nicotine pacifier. V has been one of my best friends and this blog is not intended to sully his golden boy image as it may sound.

So V and I decided to come up with a whole lot of activities that did not involve alcohol in any form and it was bloody difficult. Whenever we have had friends visiting us, we never really had to plan we just do the rounds at the pub till they get completely wasted and the rest would take care of itself. In their drunken stupor they would either throw up or simply pass out. And then you load them in the car and bring them home and tuck them in bed. It was as simple as that. I played a good host, a great tourist guide who showed them all the watering holes in town and entertained them. No one ever complained about this arrangement and we continued to do the same each time.

When V and I go around town we have a track record I am not particularly proud of.

‘Remember Dhiv, you threw up here the first time.’ V smirks pointing at some pub

‘Oh you were no better, you threw up and fell on it there.’ On my turn pointing to another pub

‘Dhiv You danced on the road.’

‘You took of your shirt V.’

‘You…ok this is not about who made a bigger ass of themselves. It is about where are we taking my brother?’

‘Undoubtedly you were the bigger ass. Hmm…’

We drove around silently racking our brains for ideas. Suddenly booze seemed like the inevitable ingredient of good times! I mean to think we have spent most parts of our life without it and it still was merry seemed so strange now. So we spent a good 2 weeks without a single drop of alcohol, we did everything we had forgotten we had fun doing. We went cycling, played loads of board games, drank loads of coffee, went on long drives, watched loads of movies, cooked at home. All in all it was a dry week and I have had so much fun, in fact I am all ready to play hopscotch (ok now that’s going over board).

I guess what I am trying to say is beer guzzling is fun, no doubt but it can never really be the quality fun that we have all given up long ago. Nothing can really substitute a good game of scrabble or lovely Sunday lunch.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Problem Child

I found myself in a very embarrassing predicament, and it stemmed from my own attitude. I offered to help this friend of mine with his corporate blogs, who by the way has his own unique set up. It’s hard to write about someone when you are not working with them and those were his exact sentiments.

‘Hey you could help us out during weekends and write about it during the week. And your job is to ensure everyone has a great time while not compromising on your own fun.’

How can I do a waiter’s job? What will my friends think of me? All sorts of dumb illogical thoughts where running through my head.

‘I am really not patient with people. I don’t think I am made for it’

Yeah right! I was lying, lying so bad that I was feeling sick. I felt I was really different, always ready to try something new in life, and I never wanted be tied down to one career (main source of ulcers for my parents). For me conventional was boring. To vindicate why I hadn’t sought after the excitement I could feel in my head the adrenaline rush that was bursting through my veins. I claimed nothing exciting ever happened. The truth is I was being an absolute hypocrite! I was just like everyone else, 9-5 bore.

The same evening another friend called me up and said he wanted to start a pub of his own, and said he would like it if I could help him out. This got me heady, alright here was my moment to do what I have always wanted. However…

‘I don’t know too much about that particular genre of music.’

What! I couldn’t believe I had said that. What was wrong with me why I am so petrified about taking a plunge? Ok I wont have my security blanket around – my salary! At least I would be happy1

I was aptly called the ‘Rebellious Conformist’, in my head there are so many adventurous plans, but when it comes to actually executing them, I shy away! And it depresses me.

After much deliberation I decided I would agree, and when the time comes I would face the hurdles I’ll also help this friend over the weekends so that I can write his blogs. So long I have turned away from opportunities glaring at my face, but I want to make a conscious effort to make the best of what comes my way instead of waiting for something earth shattering to happen in my life! If something life altering happens…great! In the meanwhile I don’t want to miss out on any more experiences waiting for that big day to come.

Monday, June 11, 2007

First Day First Show

I hate first days. First day at school, first day at college, first day at work, first day in a new city, first day at almost just about anything. There is always pressure to perform, to impress, to look intelligent and to be the best at whatever you do. And even walking up to the loo becomes an excruciatingly painful task. Everyone looks at you like you’re from another planet or so you think.

I changed my job recently so my first day on my second job gave me a rather queasy feeling. I had moved from an organization with not more than 30 people at any point to an organization with 250 odd people. In my first job, I knew every individual by name, history and geography and suddenly I found myself in an ocean where I couldn’t identify with a single face.

It’s almost like the fate of a Bollywood movie, the first three days of its release makes or breaks it. And the producer undertakes a pilgrimage in the interim.

I maybe exaggerating, but I would be lying if I claim that I am super excited about my first day at a new job, the second time over. True, I’ve gotten over the apprehension about jobs in general, a feeling I went through before my first job, but I still sweat at the thought of having to start again.

So on my first day, I got a huge bouquet of peach roses hmm… sweet! I must admit, but then I saw at least 3 other tables with identical bouquets. I felt even better, I had company!

Then I got sweets, my obvious guess ‘birthday’.

‘Happy birthday’

My boss chuckles and everyone around me seemed to be snickering. Ok, my first slip.

‘It’s my third day sweets.’ Replies the unidentified object rather bashfully.

‘Your what?’

‘Oh! it’s a tradition here. On your third day, you give out sweets to everyone and introduce yourself.’ My team mate was quick to explain.

Hence, three days later, there I was, doing the exact same thing. So before I get my paycheque, I’ve already spent a bomb on sweets, but it’s worth it if I am going to get to know people before I start.

Next is induction, which in my opinion is a boring monologue of the company’s values, its achievement, yada yada. A lot of people walking past my cubicle ask me whether I have been inducted, I couldn’t help noticing a mischievous grin on their faces. So I inferred it was obviously not any normal induction, another reason for me to worry.

All the newcomers assembled at the induction room at a given time with writing pads and pens to copiously take down notes. Treatment imparted to us was similar to that of sacrificial goats. A huge gathering of people from various departments assembled to watch the show. We had a round of personal introductions and then the latest item numbers in various languages were played at full blast and we had to dance just the way item girls do!

I was pretty much left with no choice, and so I did my bit of grinding and jahtak mahtaks. Now, I am on my second week and I still feel awkward approaching people, pushing them to do work. Besides, I get the ‘you’re the new kid on the block and your telling me how to do my work’ look all the time. In a month it wouldn’t matter, but this would probably be my longest month here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Aerosmith... A Rant

I didnt get to go for the concert, but people I knew went. And after much cajoling, coaxing, pleading, terrorising and unlimited refills of beer. Sreeram writes this review for me.
Here is what he has to say.

They came, they saw...and by all accounts, they conquered. The papers scream that it was a marvellous, mind-blowing show, with Tyler and Co. belting out all our favourite numbers and holding us in thrall for all of two hours. Maybe they're reviewing some other show that I wasn't invited to, for it sure didn't turn out all hunky dory for the poor fans who swarmed the palace grounds on Saturday!

After two days of unending fawning reviews...someone has to say it... "The sound quality at the show SUCKED big time!". Thanks DNA for screwing us over... wait.. that should read, thanks DNA, for making us drive an hour each way, treating us like cattle through the gates, packing us like sardines into a pint-sized ground, taking nearly 50$ from us and THEN screwing us over.

Which is not to say that it wasn't a good concert. Somewhere, between a great performance by the band, and a great crowd that sang along to most of the songs at some stage or the other, this was indeed a good concert, despite the sound engineer's best efforts to screw it all up. Tyler and Perry played some wonderful numbers... "Sweet Emotion", Dream On, Walk this way, Falling in Love Is...,Livin' on the Edge... it's one long list! I also think they genuinely tried to reach out to the fans.

However, it was a sad spectacle to see Perry's guitar reduced to an anonymous, also-ran sound, Tyler's ear-shattering "Demon"screams were reduced to a purr, and you really couldn't hear anything distinctly beyond the woofer belching out the beats. I thought the saddest parts were when the bassist went center stage to play out his solo and you couldn't hear a damn thing despite Tyler specifically requesting them to "fuzz it up", and poor Perry's rocking bluesy "Mess Around" guitar work fading anonymously into the background.

So thanks to Aerosmith for coming down and doing their best. It was still a memorable show. We hope you'll come again. We hope you'll play more of the hit songs we so desperately want to hear ("Pink" and "Janie..." were the mostly loudly demanded on my side of the crowd... tho' if you were to go by what DNA says on its site http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1100759, they actually played "Janie got a gun"... go figure... or maybe.. wait... maybe ... we just couldn't hear it! Schmucks!), and we hope to god we can actually hear you play the next time around.. we Don't Wanna Miss a Thing either y'know!
And here's to the real heroes of the day... the fans who came out, sang along wildly and made it a great memorable show!

Rock on!
PS
To Mr. Sound Engineer... from the Monopoly Man - Go to school, go directly to school, do not return till you pass, do not screw us over again.
Image source: Bangalore Metblogs

Monday, June 04, 2007

Wanting To Make A Difference

The past week has been really exciting I have met so many interesting people wanting to make a difference in this world. All of them seemed to have one common passion and drive in life ‘to provide equal opportunity for every child. I found their stories inspiring and gripping.

Anusha Veluswamy

We were classmates and best of friends in 7th standard but after my father moved abroad and mounting pressures of school with every passing day, we eventually lost touch. It was only yesterday, after a decade, that I met Anusha again and we started off where we had left off. She was just the same with her dazzling smile and charming personality.

Anusha always loved children but went the conventional way and got a B Arch degree and landed a job with an architect firm in Bangalore. While learning the ropes of the trade she decided she would volunteer to teach at the Parikrma Humanity foundation schools. She put her architect skills to use and designed two of their 4 schools.

She then realized that helping society was her true calling and set up the Chennai branch of iVolunteer where she helps people who are interested in voluntary services, by placing them with the right organization based on the location, interest and skill set.

iVolunteer is a platform to bring together individuals, corporate houses and Non Government Organisations (NGO) for mutual benefit.

So if you think you can share you talent as a medical professional, designer, writer, engineer etc. get in touch with Anusha via email av.anusha@gmail.com

Also you can log on to their website (http://www.ivolunteer.org.in) and see what kind of work iVolunteer is into.

Shumit Vatsal

Although I know Shumit for a relatively lesser time than the others, he had a very passionate story to tell. After having completed his masters in economics from the States, he felt he could use his skills to help the poor

‘I think i am extremely passionate about poverty. It’s hard to run away, not that i can do too much to change the situation here right now but i definitely want to contribute.’

He has been one of the founding members of Chennai Runners and helps train underprivileged children of the basketball team ‘Success’ at the Sports Development authority of Chennai (SDTA), Egmore.

‘US is a completely built society. Nothing needs to be really done there right now.’

Chennai runners are now supporting his cause and want to provide equal opportunity for these kids. Besides providing them with shoes and jerseys, they also want to mentor the kids and help them stay out of trouble. They recently organized a Friday run where anyone could run with these young basketball players and spend some quality time with them.

The run starts at 6.00am on Fridays at Nehru Park Egmore. If you want to support the cause or participate in the Friday run you can get in touch with Shumit via email at shumit.vatsal@gmail.com

Remember, you are running for a cause so don’t carry your ipod or any fancy gadgets and scare the kids away.

Janaki & Shubha

Janaki and Shubha are 2 women in their forties and have been teaching for nearly 2 decades now. They have long since recognized the shortcomings of the Indian education system. Janaki feels the government provides no special aid for children with learning disabilities.

Ever since, these women have been associated with Madras Dyslexia Association, a non-profit, voluntary organisation established in the year of 1991 to support children with Learning Disabilities and to prepare them to cope with challenges in academics.

Since dyslexia is a hidden disability which does not allow the child to perform to his/her actual potential, the under achievement of an otherwise intelligent child is puzzling to both teachers and parents alike. Timely identification and appropriate help will ensure that these children continue in mainstream education and their potential is fully tapped.

You can help by organizing a debate or quiz, or by volunteering your time to teach these children music, painting or any sports. You could also join them as a teacher
Log on to their website www.mdachennai.org and see how you can contribute.

Their stories truly moved me and I have decided to contribute my little bit in making this world a better place.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Legendary Bollywood Villains

There have been some movies in bollywood that have been better known for its villains and their trade mark comic dialogues that have been repeated over and over again for generations after. And these characters have become larger than life bollywood icons. With their gaudy clothes, flashy wigs and corny dialogues, who wouldn’t remember Loyan, Gabbar or Pran? So this blog is for the good old bollywood that has for so many years entertained us, shaped our lives in just more than one way and has endured all our criticism silently. Bollywood is perhaps the most dynamic industry constantly changing, evolving and growing. I have grown up watching these bollywood badies and even today I like them just as much.

Gabbar Singh of Sholay

‘Pachas pachas kos door gaon mein jab bachcha raat ko rota hai to maa kahti hai beta soja ..soja nahin to Gabbar Singh aa jaayega’ booms Gabbar’s voice and the place rings with his manic laughter, his tobacco-stained teeth and the trademark ferocity showing. No one could have done it better than Amjed Khan. And Gabbar is by far Bollywood’s best villain. He is unarguably the most legendary character of tinsel world. ‘Aare Oh samba Kithne aadmi thei?’ Gabbar Singh went on to become the movie’s most memorable character. Post this Amjad Khan appeared in advertisements as Gabbar Singh endorsing Britannia biscuits, and it was the first incidence of a villain being used to sell a popular product.

Mogambo of Mr. India

He is my all time favourite comic-book-villain. The audiences were thrilled every time Amrish Puri glared down at them with his fiercely bulbous eyes sporting an atrocious blond wig and garish knee high silver heeled boots. They came back again and again to hear him mouth possibly the most repeated line of Hindi cinema (post 80s), ‘Mogambo khush hua’. Mogambo has carved a niche for himself amongst Bollywood’s most classic villains.

(Lion) of Kalicharan

Sara shehar mujhe Loyan (Lion) ke naam se janata hai’ Lion found ample support in his overly made-up sexy assistant, Mona. Together they epitomized the ‘smuggler villain’ and his dumb-but-sexy moll of the 70s and delighted us by making a complete mockery of their mean act. He always played the suave smuggler with his typical nasal twang drawl of ‘Mona Darling’ and with his comic threat like ‘is ko liquid oxygen me duba do. Liquid ise jine nahin dega aur oxygen ise marne nahin dega’. His liking for names like Michael, Robert, Peter and Lilly is almost legendry. My favourite has got to be ‘Lilly don’t be silly’
Chopra of Bobby

‘Prem naam hain mera. Prem Chopra’ and a chill runs down your spine as he menacingly looks on. This famous line from the film Bobby gave him his ticket to Bollywood Hall of Fame.

These are my all time favourites. Gulshan Grover, Pran, Kulbhushan Kharbanda who played Shakal in Ramesh Sippey’s Shaan, and Danny Denzongpa of the Burning Train came a close second. In the more recent times there is Kkkkkkiran (Sharukh Khan) of Darr and Bhiku Matre (Manoj Bajpai) of Sathya who are also pretty memorable characters.

Over the years peoples’ tastes have changed, so has the industry. The newer villains are stylish slick and plain cold blooded. Its hard imagining Hrithik, Abharam John wearing garish clothes and delivering semi comical dialogues. I wouldn’t even remember them a fewer years down the lane unlike Gabbar who’ll live forever.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wild Wild Bollywood!

Whats common between Shilpa Shetty of Big Brother and Rakhi Sawant of Big Boss, (besides the fact that it was both their tickets to stardom) its PETA!!!



'Boycott Animal Circuses' screams the poster that tigress Rakhi is holding in her hand. I agree with that, and would much rather prefer to see Bollywood take on this role. In my opinion they'll be bloody good at the circus and will also rake in more revenues.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has joined the bandwagon of celebrity advertising in India and they are botching up big time. PETA has signed up Shilpa and Rakhi for its campaign against the use of animals in circuses. Great cause but the only problem was the ad looked more for these sex sirens than for poor, captive, caged animals. On the whole a brainless pointless, terribly executed ad. Although it could passed off as the cover for Debonaire or Man's World.



PETA looks beaten, lonely and abused and not the animals, no one is really thinking about them!

One could expect Ms Shetty or Ms Sawant to pull a gimmick like that, what surprised me was Anoushka Shankar.


What can I say, daddy Ravi Shankar is not going to be thrilled.