Friday, September 30, 2005

Rebels in Waiting

A whole generation of us, rebels, waiting for a cause. Biding our time on this planet, for something, to kick us into action. Opposing what we find. So, when a worthy cause comes along, we will be prepared ... :)


In my youth
I was opposed to school.
And now, again,
Im opposed to work.

Above all it is health
And righteousness that I hate the most.
Theres nothing so cruel to man
As health and honesty.

Of course Im opposed to the Japanese spirit
And duty and human feeling make me vomit.
Im against any government anywhere
And show my bum to authors and artists circles.

When Im asked for what I was born,
Without scruple, Ill reply, To oppose.
When Im in the east
I want to go to the west.

I fasten my coat at the left, my shoes right and left.
My hakama I wear back to front and I ride a horse facing its buttocks.
What everyone else hates I like
And my greatest hate of all is people feeling the same.

This I believe: to oppose
Is the only fine thing in life.
To oppose is to live.
To oppose is to get a grip on the very self.

Kaneko Mitsuharu

(Tr. by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Its a ... its a .. its a $100 laptop

A laptop for under $100, well atleast in the works at MIT. An interesting feature is a power crank, which would be very useful in place with undependable power supply. Here is article. And here is more information on this project.

Apparently, up to 15 million of these test systems will be distrbuted among children in Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa.

'He said a goal of the project is to make the low-cost PC idea a grassroots movement that will spread in popularity, like the Linux operating system or the Wikipedia free online encyclopedia. "This is open-source education. It's a big issue."'

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Dance Within

"Is not most talking
A crazed defence of a crumbling fort? "

A poet on my blog, after a long time. Have been meaning to write about Hafiz and his poetry.But never found the words. Hence the silence.

I have laughed out loud reading some of his poetry in quiet bookstores and fought back a tear or two in the library reading others. What can I say. Just grab a book of his poems, sit back, relax and let the pleasure begin. :)


A day of Silence
Can be a pilgrimage in itself.

A day of Silence
Can help you listen
To the Soul play
Its marvellous lute and drum.

Is not most talking
A crazed defence of a crumbling fort?

I thought we came here
To surrender in Silence,

To yield to Light and Happiness,

To Dance within
In celebration of Love’s Victory!

From: “I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz: by Daniel Ladinsky.

My first Hafiz poem, you ask? After a long, interesting (and needless to say, absolutely pointless) discussion with a friend. I start questioning the usefulness/uselessness of time spent chatting. My friend smiles, but says nothing. Later that day, I find this in my inbox. Most wonderful!

What Should We Do About That Moon?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.
That night hundred beetles and all their cousins
And did some serious binge drinking.
They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.
Then the 'night candle' rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument
Said to his friend - for no apparent
"What should we do about that moon?"
Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music
Tackling such profoundly useless

- Hafiz

(image from

I was instantly fascinated. Why worry about the why, when you are having such a good time?

Reminds me of Madhushala by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. Bachchan is another poet who can make you, care and yet not care, so easily, that it can hurt.

Let me not forget, the reason (a post by
Falstaff), I was reminded of Hafiz today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Can I have the Time please?

Cell phones, computers, coffeemakers, cars (or may be even my niece's fancy new pencil box)... and pretty much everything under the sun, seem to have a clock embedded in them.

Still, there are times, I would really love, to be able to sneak a sly glance at my (nonexistent) wristwatch.

When someone really nice (or important) is boring me (to death). Opening my handbag and scrambling for my cellphone, to check the time, just doesn't do the trick.

A friend is late for dinner and I decide to sneak in a trip to a wonderful used bookstore. There I find Buddha (!!), right in the middle of all the Astroboys, in the manga comic section (which needless to say, is in the basement-with-no-wall-clocks. Isn't that the exact place where bookstore owners would want weird comic readers shoved away, while the important looking readers come by, looking for latin/greek classics...?) Just as I am done scanning through the first few volumes, I realize, I have no idea how long I have been in that basement. Of course, my cell phone switched off (I am a civilized person in a bookstore, remember?).

I am on a trail. Many a times, I am drawn to go on, longer than I had intended to. Either by the wonderful little wild flowers or the humming birds. Suddenly, I realize, I have to walk back 6 miles. 6 long miles to civilization (and my car). There is no way of finding out what the time is. How long before the sun will set? Will I be all alone in the wilderness, in the dark.

I am chatting with someone, sipping some awesome hot chocolate, while taking (what was supposed to be) a short 15-minute break. Just about the time, when we have start discussing Gael Garcia Bernal, and both of us have no clue how we got there (considering, the conversation started with Sourav Ganguly and the state of indian cricket). Then, I wish I could check the time.

"To wear a quality watch and feel its weight; to know it is carved out of blocks of steel, not squeezed out of plastic, is deeply reassuring." - Sunday Independent

And I know, I am not alone.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Clown

Reading Shalimar the Clown.

Parts of it are classic rushdie,
Some parts are just pompous and fluffy...

Reading the different sections, here was my reaction -

Hated it, loved it, hated it, loved it...

Then, sadly, today, had to return the book, as it was 'On Hold'.

An affair left incomplete...

Useful reviews can be found here

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Only Three Who Have Real Meaning

Like Murakami? Check out his short story in this week's New Yorker.

Murakami is the kind of author I like to read when I feel the need to stop and reflect on my own life and the strange things that happen in it. His stories manage to help me to pause my wandering mind and make me reflect. There are times when life seems busy and I don't want to stop and reflect. I cannot read him then. But now seems like a time when I need a Murakami fix.

His stories seem to have a lot more going on inside the heads of the protagonists than in the outside world. They always seem to be about a guy and the women are only there as catalysts, that cause changes in the guy's inside world.

This story starts with an interesting pronouncement by Junpei(the protagonist)'s father -

"Among the women a man meets in his life, there are only three who have real meaning for him. No more, no less," his father said—or, rather, declared. He spoke coolly but with utter certainty, as he might have in noting that the earth takes a year to revolve around the sun. Junpei listened in silence, partly because his father’s speech was so unexpected; he could think of nothing to say on the spur of the moment.

"You will probably become involved with many women in the future," his father continued, "but you will be wasting your time if a woman is the wrong one for you. I want you to remember that."

I find it interesting that someone would say such a thing to a sixteen year old. But what is even more interesting is, how it affects the choices he makes in his life.

I wonder if there were things people told me when I was sixteen, that are still affecting my life?! If I need a - Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day, in my life too.

Of Culture, And Polluting It

Israeli couple gets fined for kissing after getting married in a temple in India. Each had to pay up 500 Indian rupees (about 11 USD) for the pollution they were causing.

I only wish, that people who dump toxins into rivers and air also get fined similarly.

"The Asian Age said priests at Pushkar's Brahma temple were so incensed when the couple smooched as hymns were still being chanted that they filed a police complaint."

Here is the article.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Network of Dreams

An AI experiment on the web - GNOD. Kinda like a friend, who might introduce you to a new Author, Band or Movie.

Would you like gnod's suggestions? Check it out...

music : U2

books: Rushdie

movies: The Bridge on the River Kwai

Dutch Treat?!

"The Dutch government will begin tracking every citizen from cradle to grave in a single database, opening a personal electronic dossier for every child at birth with health and family data, and eventually adding school and police records."

The article on Wired does say this will help raise a "red flag" to alert authorities when a child is in trouble etc. But really is this a good thing?

Would they also provide a record clearing option for the powerful? Will there be an equivalent of the memory erasure in the
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (Don't you see a market for a record erasure service?)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sign of the Times

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Graduation Speech

Is this a whole genre of inspirational writing (speaking?).

For a long time my favourite one used to be Hindsight - Guy Kawasaki's speech at Palo Alto High School in 1995.

Then there were others. Steve Jobs' at stanford this summer - Stay hungry, Stay foolish. Which was kind of interesting. He talks about, how college is useless (I can only imagine the faces of all those parents, who had paid tens of thousands and were sitting in the hot sun, listening to this.)

One of the more shocking ones - Muhammad Ali's speech at MIT.

"Me, We"

2 words. period.

Here is another one I came across last week. The Johns Hopkins University commencement this summer. The talk by the President William R. Brody. If you haven't heard/read this one and like commencement speeches. ;) Here is the complete text.

And, here is small snippet for the lazy people! ;)

"I'd like to close with one last story that I think you will especially understand, because today you are receiving a degree from what you know firsthand is a very competitive school. All of you, I am sure, have along the way felt pressure from your peers and perhaps from your parents to get good grades and become accomplished, so you can go on to even greater achievements later in life.

Today, I want to turn those expectations on their heads. Today, I want to encourage you to do well by doing good. The trick is not to fall into the trap of thinking that the way you do well is to do so at the expense of others. It's not a zero-sum game. And I'd just like to relate this story to make my point.

There is another trustee of Johns Hopkins who I'd like to tell you about. His name is Sandy Greenberg. In his youth, Sandy was a very good student, but he came from a poor family. And so he went to Columbia University on a scholarship, and there he met his roommate, who also was receiving financial aid.

Now while he was a sophomore at Columbia University, he contracted an eye disease that eventually proved to be glaucoma. But the trouble was, it wasn't detected early enough, and as a result he became legally blind, while still a student at Columbia. I ask you all to imagine for a moment having been sighted all your life, and then all of a sudden being faced, in a very competitive school, with losing so much sight you could no longer read. This is what happened to our trustee, Sandy Greenberg.

But something else happened to Sandy that may surprise you. Sandy said that when he lost his sight, his roommate began to read his textbooks to him, every night.

So I'm going to put you in that position, in a competitive school like Columbia, or Johns Hopkins. If your roommate had a serious disability, would you take the time to read textbooks to him every night, knowing the more you spend time reading textbooks to your roommate, perhaps the less well you might do with your other activities? That's not as easy a question as it first appears.

But luckily for Sandy, our trustee, his roommate did. And as a result, Sandy went on to graduate with honors. He got a Fulbright Scholarship, and he went off to study at Oxford. He was still quite poor, but he said he had managed to save about five hundred dollars as he went along.

His roommate, meanwhile, also went on to graduate school. One day, Sandy got a call from him at Oxford. And his former roommate said, "Sandy I'm really unhappy. I really don't like being in graduate school, and I don't want to do this."

So Sandy asked, "Well what do you want to do?"

And his roommate told him, "Sandy, I really love to sing. I have a high school friend who plays the guitar. And we would really like to try our hand in the music business. But we need to make a promo record, and in order to do that I need $500."

So Sandy Greenberg told me he took all his life savings and sent it to his roommate. He told me, "You know, what else could I do? He made my life; I needed to help make his life." So, I hope you'll remember the power of doing well by doing good. Each of you, in your own lives, will be faced with challenges, with roadblocks, with problems that you didn't anticipate or expect. How you are able to deal with adversity will be influenced, to no small extent, by how you deal with others along the way. What you get will depend a lot on what you give. And that's the end of the story of doing well, by doing good.

Ah! I almost forgot. You probably are wanting to know who Sandy's roommate was. I think you've heard of him. Sandy's roommate was a fellow by the name of Art Garfunkel, and he teamed up with another musician by the name of Paul Simon. That $500 helped them cut a record that eventually became "The Sounds of Silence." Recently, we had the pleasure of going to Sandy's daughter's wedding, and it was Art Garfunkel who sang as Sandy walked his daughter down the aisle."

- President William S. Brody, Johns Hopkins University, Commencement 2005.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Play It by Trust

(, Yoko Ono, work date 1966-1998)

An all-white chess set! By Yoko Ono.

Ever since I saw this in an exhibition in the SF MOMA, I have been interested in seeing someone play a similar game. Last week, I got a chance to try a similar experiment myself.

I was playing one of these games that seem like an extension to tick-tak-toe. Except you have a bigger grid, colored coins and had to line up 4 of the same color in a row to win. After a while, we decided that both players would use coins of the same color. Interestingly, it was not trust that was the issue, but just remembering who placed which coin, is very difficult.

There were so many other things to think about while playing. For instance, the strategy, the conversation on the side, your food, etc, and then it becomes really hard to just remember what you placed and what the other person did.

I guess that is what happens in real life too. Its not just a question of Playing it by Trust. It is a question of paying attention to stuff.

The Caterpillar on the Leaf

If Kerala is truly - God's own country, then he/she most certainly is - The God of Small Things.

Here is a small selection from an amazing collection of pictures, shot by my friend (Ashok Srinivasan) during his recent trip to Kerala. (And in the spirit of, Yaam Petra Inbam Peruga Ivaiyagam - he lets me share them here with you all). To enjoy these better, click on them, to get a higher resolution image.

The main reason these pictures captivate me, is the style in which they are shot, that make them look so much like portraits. Unlike most others where they are made to look like specimens under observation.

Just check the picture below. This is the first time I have seen a bug pose for a profile shot, and very slyly making sure the photographer is doing a good job. I strongly suggest you see the higher resolution for this one, to actually see the dragonfly looking right at you!

Or, this guy who seems to suffer from serious stagefright.

I have been lucky enough to experience a lot of things Kerala has to offer, Kathakali and a Sadya, the beauty of the beaches and the backwaters, the country sides and the pristine temples ( Veena has this interesting piece on architecture. Which has a bit about the temples I am thinking of here. )

Unfortunately, with all these big flashy things competing for my attention, I must admit to having ignored the bugs. But honestly, they were just not big enough to grab my attention. (Unless it was a bee or a wasp chasing me.)

Looking at the next one for the first time. For a second, I was not sure if the bug was encased in a dew drop?!

Wish my eyes would let me zoom in and see these intricate little creatures. And more importantly, wish I have the patience...

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
The Caterpillar on the Leaf
( Auguries of Innocence by William Blake)