Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is Bangalore safe?

I was deeply affected by the recent news about the rape and murder of a call centre employee of HP. It was disgusting when the CEO of HP gave statements on the lines of "there is no lapse on our side" or "This is a one-off incident". How can he get away by saying that? It infuriated me further to hear that nothing is being done to make the situation safe in our own SLI, which also uses the now infamous SRS transport to ply employees home at night. Although I didn't use the cabs provided by SRS very often, but there were times when I did, and very often I was the only passenger. It creeps me out now to think of it. Common complaints that I have heard from other employees are rash driving and rude behavior. No concessions are given if you are a female employee in terms of order of the drop offs. Corporates need to take a strong stand in this issue. An employee's safety is the responsibility of the employer. Either provide a safe environment to work in, or do not expect employees to stay back late. After all, who wants to reach home late? Very often I have seen that employees who are not married tend to stay long hours in the office, sometimes without sufficient reason. This is more an individualistic trait, but it just goes to show the kind of culture that is prevalent. A change in this can happen only when it comes from the top management.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Goblet Of Fire: A Review

"But I am only Harry, just Harry" said Harry Potter in The Philosopher's Stone. He has come a long way, Harry has. From being a bewildered eleven year old wizard to a fourteen year old one who has to confront his nemesis (the darkest wizard of all times, Lord Voldermort), watch a fellow student die and actually fight a Dragon (a Norwegian Ridgeback, no less). Like Hagrid says, dragons are fairly misunderstood creatures! Fact is, you can't get close enough to one in order to understand it. This is what Harry has to deal with in the first task of the Tri Wizard Tournament held at Hogwarts during his fourth year. Of course, Harry never intended to participate although he has been dreaming about winning the cup and impressing Cho Chang (a girl he has a crush on and who occasionally produces a orange-juice-dribbling effect on Harry). How his name comes to be in the Goblet is one of the many mysteries of the story. One line describes it aptly: Be careful what you wish for, you might get it….
After a surprising (even to himself) success in the first task, Harry uncovers a clue about the second task, although he first has to confront a female ghost a.k.a Moaning Myrtle in his bath. I'm not sure this scene was so suitable for toddlers, but what the heck, there is a PG 13 rating stamped on the film. The underwater sequence has been superbly shot, and if ever anybody remarks that mermaids are sexy, I can tell them a thing or two about them. Harry not only rescues his friend Ron Weasley, but also rescues another opponent's target, and is credited by the headmaster for displaying 'moral fiber'. The last task in the tournament is held in a maze, and it looks awesome. Those who have read the book will watch this sequence especially carefully since it has a rather ghastly result. I will not be a spoiler for those who haven't read the books or seen this film. All I'll say is that the viewer is not spared the tragedy. There is no molly cuddling of the facts here.
The Yule ball sequence deserves one mention. It is funny, and very well handled, very much in line with what was described in the book. Ron's dress robes, Hermione's make over and Harry's first dance have been portrayed excellently.
Towards the end of the movie, Hermione Granger, Harry's other best friend, says, "Everything is going to change now". Its not very clear if she's alluding to her having found an admirer in Viktor Krum or to Voldermort's return. It doesn't help that she is actually smiling (or smirking?) while saying this. One can only guess.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fly the good times..

Finally, I am in Germany. After all the packing and storing, shipping and dumping, I finally managed to say goodbye to dear old Bangalore on 18th of October, in the process making my Bai the proud owner of a trillion things that I couldn't a) Carry to Germany b) Store c)Dump. Luckily, I even managed to attend a team outing before that, and can you believe it, the team gave me a goodbye card and I got to do a speech too (ugh..!!).

I flew Kingfisher Airlines to Hyderabad, and I know why their tagline is 'Fly the good times'. Not only are all their passenger seats royal looking, they all have personal TV screens with Yana Gupta doing a Babuji Zara Dheere chalo on it. Ok, the last part was only partly true. Yana Gupta does set the TV screen ablaze, even if its while describing how to buckle the seat belt and put on the Oxygen mask. And she is wearing the trademark red mini skirt that all the Kingfisher Airlines female crew members wear. Oh yes, the boys will have nothing to complain about. To top it all, they give cute red earphones for free (of course, this might disappear once the airline gets popular). Fly the Good Times!

After spending four days in the city of Nawabs, and getting pampered by my folks, I took the Emirates flight to Germany via Dubai on 23rd October.

At the Hyderabad international airport, on the advice of a very nice old guy (who was helping passengers to lift the furniture onto the counter), I moved to a counter where I could check in my excess baggage without a problem. A charming greeting accompanied by a smile, recently combed hair and an affable guy at the counter seemed to have done the trick!

12 hours, 2 movies and 2 meals later I was in Frankfurt, comfortably seated in the shuttle, on my way to Heidelberg. Voila, I was in Germany.

How different life in Germany can get is something I am experiencing on a day to day basis. Some experiences are funny, while others are downright wierd. The thing to bear in mind is to not compare life here to the 2 to 3 month business trip to Germany that SAP employees often make. Living here is a totally different ball game. And here are some of my observations:

1)An almost pollution free place. Walking in the crowded city can be a pleasure in itself, without worrying about the traffic, dust and noise. And when I say crowded, I mean crowded by German standards.
2)Learning German language is essential. And at the moment, I am facing quite a few problems because of not knowing the language. For instance, all the post is in German. So every single letter that comes, be it a bill, or confirmation of some order, needs to be taken to the office so that a kindly German colleague can translate it!
3)What fresh fruits and vegetables you can buy! When you buy grapes, you can be 100% sure that they will be sweet. Of course, its possible to also buy Indian vegetables and spices from the many asian shops around.
4)Most of the shops here do not have assistants. So if you have a question about a product, and even if you ask a fellow German, he will point you to the elaborate instructions on the product, which are of course in German. Customer service is not a very common feature here simply because the products are usually the best and they do not expect to provide any additional information/help.

I can think of many more things to write, but it will make this post too long. I am sure there's loads to learn and tell. So until then.....Guten Tag!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Few of my favorite things!

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Julie Andrews delightfully sang about her favorite things...So I thought, why shouldn't I?
Actually, I shouldn't sing it, because I don't have a song which lists my favorite things. Instead, I have the next best thing: a compiled list of things that are absolute favorites...

1) Being able to sleep till 9:00 AM everyday, and on some lucky days, also getting breakfast in bed. Sigh..The marvels of holy matrimony!
2) Being able to laugh at Joey's or Chandler's pranks, no matter how many repeats you have seen of F.R.I.E.N.D.S
3) Walking down M G Road on a Sunday afternoon, with Bangalore's trademark: awesome weather... Stopping at Lakeview for a French Toast, or at Coffee House for scrambled eggs.
4) Internet access at home, to check official mails (even if there is no need, just the fact that I CAN, gives me pleasure), and wish loved ones who are miles away, just by a few button clicks.
5) Being able to just stay at home on a holiday, read a book (Mary Higgins Clark thriller/Agatha Christie Mystery/Latest Potter), with no interruptions whatsoever.
6) Unlimited access to millions of memories made easy by just looking at old photo albums, whenever a trip down memory lane is indicated.
7) Being able to just call up special friends and gossip away about the latest soaps, the newest hairstyles, somebody else's hottest fling, not necessarily in that order!
8) Being able to send flowers, gifts, even a Rakhi via online shopping, although it can never replace the charm of a hand written letter.
9) Being able to watch the scariest horror film ever, with the safety net that I won't be home alone at night (didn't I say being married was awesome!)
10) And last, but not the least, having the free time to actually sit and pen down these thoughts!

...when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I am feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad...!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mischief managed!

It took me a while, but I finally did surface from the post-Half Blood Prince hangover! This is not strictly a review. There are numerous reviews available on the net, by now. Countless theories being discussed, J K Rowling's interviews, the works. These are just some thoughts and questions.

The name of the book is kind of a misnomer, considering the previous titles. Take Prisoner of Azkaban, for instance. The story revolves around the convict from Azkaban. Chamber of Secrets climaxes within the Chamber. Goblet of Fire, though the phrase doesn't figure many times in the book, it is still a representation of the Triwizard tournament which forms the crux if the book. Why, even the Philosopher's stone gets its due towards the end of the very first book of the series.

Then why do I think The Half Blood Prince is not that important to the whole plot? If you take the identity of the Half Blood Price, then of course, yes, it is an important character, a character we can recognize as someone very crucial to the whole big picture. But beyond that, the book does not entirely revolve around it. After completing 3/4ths of the book, you don't get a feeling that your life (or for that matter Harry's life) depends on knowing the identity of the HBP.

Instead, what comes across first and foremost is how much Harry has grown by the time he is in his 6th year at Hogwarts. And I don't only mean physically and emotionally. Take, for example, his level headed discussion with the Minister of Magic (no less!), his insistence on always doing right thing, no matter how tempted he is to do otherwise (remember the Quiddich try outs?)

Not that Harry isn't a normal kid. He doesn't mind using somebody else's notes to get higher marks in Potions, much to the chagrin of his best buddy Hermione. (How I wish I had someone to help me out with Chemistry in school!).

Some of things in the book were oddly reminiscent of the previous stories. Prof Slughorn somehow reminded me of Prof Lockheart. A whole lot of new stuff - Disastrous Love potions, Luna Lovegood's Quiddich commentary, Harry's moral conscience (to snog or not to snog I_am_not_going_to_say_who), Ron's emotional outbursts, the hell_hath_no_fury_than_Hermione_scorned bit made for a particularly delightful read.

But the most Rowling-like part of the book was the way it ended. On the face of it, lots of things have happened. An important character is dead, Harry discovers who HBP is, and is one step closer towards his final battle with You_Know_Who. But is everything exactly as it seems? Rowling also leaves Harry with a very cryptic note written by a hitherto unheard of character, which should keep us waiting for the next book. Two years more to go?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Paheli on Paheli

On Monday night, I embarked on a discussion with Ferose about watching the latest SRK flick.
His question:Do we really have to see this film?
My reply(delivered with appropriate horror): Of course, we SIMPLY have to see this Amol Palekar directed folksy art film starring commercial big wigs with MM Kreem's music.
In my defense, it also happens to be the only film that both of us haven't watched. After lots of arguments, I convinced him that the 10:15 show at PVRs was the only way to catch the film. Another arguable point was, why not watch it at Innovative Multiplex? The terrible traffic situation around PVRs doesn't endear us to that magnificent complex. But the Innovative guys these days prefer 1960s Bengali literature to 1800s Rajasthani fables. Result: No night show for "Paheli" at Innovative. Working in a global company ensures that I work in multiple time zones on a single day, hence watching a late night show is the only possible option.

So there we were, on Tuesday night, armed with our online ticket booking confirmation. After getting hold of the tickets, made a dash to the Transit food court. This place is a potentially time-staking option, mainly because of the numerous choices one has make. Should one eat Indian, or non-Indian (Thai, Chinese, Mexican). If Indian, then should it be the idli-Dosa fare or the paranthas. If paranthas, then gobi, alu or .... the point is, its a lot of thinking on a weekday, especially after having driven 20 KMs. Fortunately for me, I was single-mindedly focused on completing dinner in 15 minutes flat. So I made a quick decision to have gobi paranthas and hubby decided on the usual masala Dosa (why he prefers the Dosa in Salem's kitchen to the one at the Shiv Sagar counter is beyond me, and is a point that I would like to discuss at some point in the future).

Right at the point where we were entering the Hall, the ticket checker (not sure if it's the right term to define his exact occupation in PVR, but think it'll do for the moment) decided he didn't like our tickets (and probably our faces too!). Turns out, the git at the ticket counter had given us tickets for a previous show. We had to wait for an Outrageous 20 minutes before the matter was cleared up and we were ushered to our seats.
I quickly asked the guy sitting beside me (not my husband) the usual question: When did the movie start?
His reply: Just now.
Satisfied, I relaxed and started unwinding into the story.

Cut to our discussion on the journey back home. Nice film, nice colors, nice music, nice acting, passable humor (except for that one brilliant scene with Rajpal Yadav). Some shocks like Sunil shetty. Some pleasant surprises like Amitabh Bachchan. A pity that Juhi Chawla was relegated to a small role, but she still shone through while emoting with her eyes and that gorgeous smile. SRK was good, but hammed in a couple of places. Rani Mukerji delivered, as always. But I have a question about the story: Why didn't the ghost do his last trick in the first reel of the film? Would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. Had it been just a film, I would have not been too bothered. But the original story is a novel and I am keen to know how it ended and what was sacrificed at the altar of cinematic glory.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

1000 Desires...

What does one desire from life? Happiness, relationships, money, fame....? How many of us actually desire something for others? I had a revelation few days back when I watched a film called "Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi". Just to clear things up, this is not a complete hindi film. In fact the main characters speak in English. Although not entertaining in the commercial sense, its a gripping and thought-provoking story. The story is about three friends, and their lifetime from college till....that's the thing, the story doesn't actually end. One can see what is in store for the three main characters long after the credits start pouring. The backdrop is a politically turbulent India of the 60s and 70s. Siddharth, righteous and fighting for a cause he believes in, Geeta who loves him and his ideals and then there's Vikram, who yearns for Geeta, yet knows its useless. So different are the three from one another that you wonder at their friendship.Siddharth, though from an affluent family, goes to the grass roots of Bihar to help the poor, oppressed lower classes and in turn becomes as outlaw. After a failed marriage with an IAS officer, Geeta follows Siddharth, works with the villagers alongside Siddharth, and even mothers his child. Vikram meanwhile has quickly gained money and power (not always by the honest means) and is titled "Business Tycoon" by the politicians who seek his help. In the midst of all the chaos, the three still meet once over a bottle of beer beside the river. They argue about morality, about success and about life. Yet they each do what they think they ought to do. Do Geeta and Siddharth succeed in their ambitions? Does Vikram actually know what he wants out of life? Answering these questions would be telling too much. I would end here by just stating that what seems like the best thing to do in one's youth doesn't always define the rest of the life. I think I have passed the age when I could have made any dangerous decisions, but I haven't really done anything to be proud of in Siddharth's book of right and wrong!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Back in Bangalore

Finally, I am back! After two months in US, I was more than ready to return to home. Although home didn't have the welcoming presence of my Husband (who is in Germany and just happened to be with the windmills in Netherlands around the time I landed), I caught up on my quota of sleep (actually much more than my quota!!). Dash and Madhu very nicely took me out to a south indian dinner where I had Brinjal curry cooked the Andhra way. Needless to say, it was HOT.
More on the US trip: Had an interesting time working for Forest Pharmaceuticals, the last week there was especially pleasant considering there was barbeque and a cruise!! I lived in Long Island and New York city which was one hour away was like my mecca. I landed up at Times Square every other weekend. The shops on Broadway, particularly Toys R Us, Virgin Records and Sephora will surely recognize me. For once, I was not a tourist with a camera, but someone just enjoying the city's sights and sounds. One of the weekends, watched a musical "All Shook Up", based on Elvis Presely's music, and the leading man, though nowhere close to the original king of pop, was certainly worth the $50 I paid for (both in sight and sound!!).
One other time in the city, I also made it to LOEWS Cinemas and watched KAAL, the experience of which is something I prefer to forget. After buying the ticket, I walked into an empty hall, and checked twice if indeed the movie was running there. After I sat down, one really shady looking guy walked in and sat 10 rows ahead. Of course I shifted to a seat nearest to the exit. The movie started and the whole time SRK was gyrating with Malaika, I was planning on what to do if the Shady Guy decides to mug me (this was before a family of three walked in, and I gave a sigh of relief). I vowed never to return back to LOEWS for a hindi movie.
The last weekend before I was to return, I paid NYC a visit (how could I not?). This time I decided to avoid the crowd and go to Central Park. It was glorious day and sitting in a lake in the middle of the park, with downtown Manhattan in the backdrop, I couldn't find fault with anything.
When not in New York city in the weekend, I paid a visit to a dear old friend in Chicago, attended my sister's graduation in Oregon (man, people here really do fuss about the kids in black graduation gowns) and got pampered staying with friends in New Jersey. All in all, not a bad trip at all!
Still, I am glad to be back.
Trivia: Long Island Ice Tea, did indeed originate from Long Island ;-)