Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Red Cherry

Ever since the Volvo or the ‘Red Cherry’ was introduced in Bangalore my life has become so easy. I need not wait for the company shuttles anymore. In the past couple of months, I have used these buses more than my company shuttles and so wanted to write about them.

This seems to be the best thing happened so far to Bangalore public transport. Most of us crib about the pathetic traffic and infrastructure conditions in Bangalore but none of them understand that using public transport will reduce the traffic. But then the state of Bangalore’s public transport has made people to abstain from it. But not any more. The Volvo has found favor with the middle and upper middle class. In fact most of the days I travel in that standing and some days it is packed!

But then it has some distinctions on its own. Plying to electronic city and whitefield, many IT professionals use it. And that means you get to see some of the finest gadgets in the bus… yes I mean the very same BMTS bus. Laptops, PDAs, ipods are the most common ones. But its not confined to the commuters alone. The conductor uses an electronic ticket issuer, the driver makes use of the LCD screen instead of the rear mirror, mic to inform people about the bus stops, FM radio and on top of all these, the bus should be very easy to drive because its gearless!!

As for the travel comfort, AC is the most crucial thing with ducts provided above every seat. No sound and pollution, no jerks which gives u a comfort as good as a car. And its amazing pick up and speed mean u reach your destination in a short time. I hope that these kinds of Volvos are introduced in other parts of the city and also in other cities also. Not to mean they should dominate, certainly not, since they are affordable only by a smaller section of the society. But introduction of more Volvos will have a two fold advantage. First, you involve the higher strata of the society in using public transport. This will reduce traffic. Also it allows the government to follow a business model similar to the mobile business. (Mobiles make 70% profit from the 25% of total sales of high end models). They can make more profits from Volvos and hence reduce prices for the common class. If trains can have different classes like AC, sleeper and unreserved, flights can have economy, luxury and business to target different segments of the society then why not buses?? Who said only the poor should use buses?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Jillendru oru kadhal... chill out!

Its been a while since Rahman gave an album in Tamil. So does it meet the expectations in the light of failures of Ah Aah and Godfather? Heres a sneak peek…

1. Kummi Adi - Dr. Siva Chidambaram, Swarnalatha, Naresh Iyer, Theni Kunjarammal, Vignesh
Rahman tries to use varied voices for this folkish number, transpiring between the young and old. Naresh provides lot of energy to this song and the voice variations of Theni Kunjarammal stands out. Shes been used well at the correct places. But Swarnalatha seems to be wasted here. A fast tune with loads of traditional tamil sounds, this should go well with masses
Pullups - Vocals by Naresh. Theni Kunjarammal and Siva Chidambaram provide the folkish feel.
Letdowns – too many voices!
Rating – 7/10

2. Munbe Vaa - Shreya Ghoshal, Naresh Iyer

This is vintage typical Rahman stuff! Has a melodious tune with soft percussions. The song starts with a beautiful prelude (not sure of what instrument it is) and leaves u gasping for the first 30 secs. And then the vocals start with Shreya… well I am in love with her. What a voice shes got!! Well taken though some beautiful chorus ‘Rango Rangoli’. This has Rahman’s brilliance all over!
Pullups – Shreya, chorus and the tune
Letdowns – Naresh? He might be a good find but somehow his voice doesn’t really have that depth sometimes. Rahman… do u remember Karthik??
Rating – 9/10

3. Maaza Maaza - SPBCharan, Shreya Choshal
Reminds me of thazuvidhu nazhuvidu(Ah Aah), spiderman(New) but then I thought in the end this doesn’t have anything much to speak of. Charan tries very hard to sound like his father but fails miserably. Shreya does some kind of a justice but in vain. Maybe he composed this for SJ Surya but this will not fit in Surya’s movie! Some call this experiment… oh come on what is the experiment? One of the worst compositions of Rahman I should say!
Rating – 5/10

4. Machakari - Shankar Mahadevan, Vasundhra Das
May not be a great composition but I expect this to go well with the masses because it is fast and catchy. And no better singers than Vasundhra and Shankar to render this. Has got good fast beats and loads of energy poured in by the singers.
Pullups – Fast beats, great vocals, and a brilliant start.
Letdowns – Can’t think of for the moment
Rating – 8/10

5. New York - Rahman
The best track of the lot. The tune fits well with the lyrics portraying the pain of separation. Defnitely likable from the first hearing itself. Starts with a gentle loop that goes for a long time (couldn’t figure out if it was a hum or techno loop). Rahman has definitely improved as a singer off late. From arabic kadaloram and mustafa mustafa to ye jo desh hai tera and lukka chupi, its been a learning process for him as a singer. He is well supported by the low chorus in the background. Subtle guitars and soulful tune makes it a good pick for bedtime listening.
Pullups – Tune, suitable light arrangements and the harmony (chorus).
Letdowns – Nothing I could think of… perfect in every aspect. Somebody said it reminds of Malai kovil vaasalil… maybe the opening lines yes but not more than that!!
Rating – 9/10

6. Maaricham - Carolisa, Mohamad Aslam, Krishna
Rahman has tries something similar to “chandralekha” (Thirudha Thirudha), “Toofan ki raat” (Thankshak) but fails in a way. First hearing, I felt as if it was a Harris Jeyaraj number but then subsequent hearings put this song in a different light. First Anupama, then Sunitha, and now Carolisa… all reach the high octaves with ease. This is complemented by the deep low voice of the male singer. But really couldn’t understand what the last 1 minute was about!! But as is the case with other Rahman numbers this grows on u after 10 hearings.
Pullups – The deep low male rendention, chants of ‘Gautam Gautam’ that add a sensual feel.
Letdowns – The beat structure changes throughout but sometimes doesn’t fit the tune. Would have been better off to have followed just a single pattern. Maybe just the techno sounds of the first part could’ve been used throughout.
Rating – 7/10

7. Jillennu Oru Kadhal - Tanvil
Experimentation to the core!! May not go well with the masses because I am sure if you don’t appreciate Jazz u will not understand this song. But I never imagined listening to a Jazzz in Tamil!! Comparisons arise with Rahman’s own “Hello Mr Ethirkatchi” (Iruvar), “Strawberry Kanne” (Minsara Kanavu). But I feel that the Iruvar song had an Indian feel to it. Though the orchestra made it sound like Jazz but the tune was more Indian. But this song is Jazzy in all aspects.
Pullups: cat sounds. Now how on earth does a person (Rahman) think of putting such sounds (even if they are last minute additions to the song). Definitely great addition!!
Letdowns: Singing could have been better. The processed voice at some places doesn’t really suit the song. Lots of modulations but some of them sound too shrill. Maybe Sunitha Sarathy…
Rating – 8/10

This is definitely not in the same league as the 90s Rahman albums. But seems to be lot better than Godfather atleast! But with Rahman a lot depends on the director as is the case with others like Illayaraja and Yuvan. But nevertheless a gr8 buy. If you love experimentation u would love this!

Overall rating per market standards – 9/10

Overall rating per Rahman standards – 8/10

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

5, 10, 25, 50 &… still counting

Few days back the HR Minister Mr.Arjun Singh drafted the bill to increase reservations for OBCs, SCs & STs in all institutions including the prestigious IITs and IIMs. Many people, from students to professors have vociferously opposed the change, which gives only 50% of seats for the general category. Is fair enough for the people belonging to the general category? Are the political parties right in supporting this? Should caste be criteria nearly 60 years of independence?

The facetious facts…

Now for the facts first! Currently the reservation levels at IIMs and IITs are around 25%. So how does this 25% of the batch perform?

In IITs 60% of the students who have backlogs (and hence complete the degree in more than 4 years) are students from the ‘privileged’ 25%

75% of the privileged ones in IITs have GPAs in the range of 5 – 6.5 whereas the average is 7 – 8. This in spite of the fact that they spend a whole one year in a preparatory course.

Netas… stop the pander please!

Agreed, that you have to keep most of the people happy to regain your vote bank but not this way. Mr.PM, if your dreams of achieving a 10% economic growth year on year are to be true, this is a huge step backward!! The other day I watched Ram Vilas Paswan on NDTV, telling how important it is to have this kind of reservation to uplift the people. Though this may seem to be right, it is not… simply because the people who make use of the quota are either rich or have been uplifted in the past 50 years due to similar quota laws. And then we also have the opposition BJP which is opposing this move in a different way i.e. BJP wants the quota to be extended into more colleges. Also BJP clearly stated that it will not support any religion based quotas (which is good!). But then the verdict is clear: Regardless of the country’s future make use of the quota system to gather votes

Better implementation?

One professor from IIT was frantically telling the media about how the ‘privileged’ ones couldn’t qualify for the campus interviews due to poor GPA. Now what is the use of pushing an underperforming student along with the cream and have him perform badly? It will only dent his confidence even more. Politicians must understand that the strength of the tree lies in its roots. The government spends a puny 2% of GDP on education. This has to be increased. Also it makes more sense to have reservations for economically backward in schools. Every school must have a 25% reservation for the economically backward irrespective of the caste / religion. The cost for this must be borne by the government. If these people do well in the nascent stages there is every possibility that they will improve with time. If this gets implemented, I am sure there will be more people who deserve seats in IITs but may need financial help to pursue studies. Here is where we can have some reservation… again based on economic status alone. Mr.PM, this is the meaning of upliftment!!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Cellular phones & ipods may be the fastest selling commodities in many countries but if you ask me something that took the world by storm in 2005 I would opine it was Sudoku. It has become a craze among commoners that the print media wasted no time to cash in on the opportunity. I am not sure which newspaper became the trendsetter in India but now even newspapers (including reginal ones) that seemed content with semi nude poses of Anna Kournikova & Angelina Jolie now feature sudoku as part of the daily compilation to lure more readers. So what makes it click?

Sudoku relies purely on logic unlike the traditional word based crosswords. While crosswords require a good vocabulary, Sudoku does not need any prerequisites (but for some brains of course!!). Learning to play the Sudoku is quite easy. Different levels of difficulty are present in Sudoku and hence it facilitates people to start from the basic to learn the art of solving it. By the time we do close to 20 – 25 puzzles, we would have learnt more than 90% of the tricks involved in solving it. From here on your previous experience doesn’t matter much… you don’t need to remember things unlike a crossword. Every puzzle is a fresh experience.

The classical sudoku has a 9 * 9 grid divided into 9 grids of 3 * 3. We have to fill numbers from 1 to 9 in each 3 * 3 grid also taking care that the number is unique across the particular row and column. There are also tougher variants with 12 * 12 (numbers from 1 – 9 and alphabets A – C) and 16 * 16 (1 – 9 & A – F). More info on Sudoku can be obtained here.

Walking past… 2005

No… going by the title I am not going to walk past 2005, rather I am going to fly past some events in my life that happened in 2005. Staring at an incipient 2006, I am writing (rather typing!!) whatever I remember so that I can remember 2005 forever.If you think this will be similar to “Best and Worst moments of 2005” seen in Rediff or Sify or other portals… I am sorry mate… this will be more of a 2005 from my life.

1st Jan 2005, I and my friends decided that we would celebrate the year differently. We took a couple of cars and visited few villages affected by Tsunami. We distributed bread and biscuits to many affected people… a very satisfying day indeed. At work, my project work was at its peak. Nighouts had become a routine reflecting on my family’s routine. I still remember spending my birthday night in office along with some colleagues. That’s when I started thinking about a shift. First week of Feb, I got a call from SAP labs in Bangalore. I had a telephonic interview following which I was asked to come down to Bangalore. I was determined to take this on and prepared to an extent in the 2-3 days time I had. I have to admit I was kind of flummoxed… the interview was on Java, Java and only that… an area where I had done well more often than not. The following day I gave my resignation @ Cognizant. Even as Valentine’s Day was just another day in my life (as has always been!!), end of Feb saw me bidding an adieu to Chennai.

March 1st, a new job, a new place and a new environment beckoned. Introduction, induction, ID cards, bank account etc happened over the next few days. My ABAP training started in a couple of days and it was to have me occupied for two full months!! Being from a Java environment I felt that ABAP is a primitive language. But as we proceeded to advanced concepts, I started enjoying ABAP but then fate was not without irony. End of March, I met my team for the first time as we gathered to have dinner at Taj West End. India was playing Pakistan in Bangalore and I met (rather saw) Irfan Pathan n Kaif dining there. We took photos with them and the evening was coming to an end when my manager called me and said “U had worked on Java in your previous organization right? Why don’t u join the team tomorrow?” And thus my training was cut short and I never ventured into ABAP again. Phew!! End of financial year 2005 meant that whether India’s GDP grew or not, my pocket got a bit heavier.

April 1st and all those who joined in March were invited for the freshers’ party @ SAP. Music, dance and beer glasses broke the silence of the serene night. Soon after EJBs, web services, Net weaver and footer (a game of football played with ur hands) et al started falling into a routine. This continued for April and May. End of May our team was shifted to another office known as GR Tech Park. Not that it made a difference to my work, but then footer was kicked off from my routine from then on. Back home, we bought a new gas stove and there started some exciting adventures i.e. cooking. I used to leave office @ 6 to experiment with the sambhar and the curry.

June 10 it was and me n my friends decided on a team lunch. But the funny part was we did not invite any of the leads or manager… it was strictly meant for people at my level only. We had hot pizzas and chicken stuff from pizza hut n kfc @ itpl only to come under speculation back in office. Even as the high level design was in progress, my team’s enthusiasms never plummeted and end of June we went to Club Cabana, a resort on the outskirts of Bangalore. Bowling, pool n snooker marked the day as the first half of the year drew to a close.

July… one of my roommates got admitted in US university for MS. We had a rousing party coconut grove. From then on we were only two in our house. In the workplace, the designs and architecture reviews continued. The architects visited from Germany, not that I had lot of interactions with them, except that their presence was the very reason that we had another team party @ palm meadows. August, September, October and November were probably the time when a minute had only 10 seconds. Now I realize the truth in what Einstein had said “When u sit on a hot stove a minute seems like an hour but when u sit near a pretty girl and hour seems like a minute… that’s relativity”.1000, 2000, 3000… the never ending lines of code put an end to my cooking abilities. I had a long weekend for Diwali and even though most of my friends left for their native, I held back for reasons unknown to me.

By first week of December, integration was on full flow. Now that I dint have much work, I picked up a new trade from one of my colleagues. It was a game called “Collapse”, a game from the yahoo network. I was mastering the game even as our release date approached. After lot of integration and testing, the project was released on 23rd of Dec. The day before, on 22nd, we had an extravagant party @ Leela Palace.So 2005 had been kind to me, I must say. Hope I have many more pages like this in the book called life…

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Rise & fall of the Phoenix…

In the past 6 months Indian cricket has undergone humongous changes starting with Greg Chappel’s appointment as the coach, and then Sourav Ganguly being stripped of captaincy, resulting in Dravid taking over the mantle. And then Ganguly was shown the door in one-dayers but still considered for the tests (which left me flummoxed since he had done better in one-dayers). And today he was shown the door in tests also which now casts a shadow on his career. Analysts seem confident that this is the end of the road for Sourav. I hope people vociferous for Sourav’s cause read this blog and understand the real logic behind this…

I would say Sourav has not been in form since 2003. His average in both tests and one-dayers (excluding countries like Zimbabwe) has reached its nadir. If Sourav had recognized his problems and quit cricket in 2003 or 2004, the whole nation would have given him grand farewell, for the way he uplifted Indian cricket from dire straits when Tendulkar had quit. But then I don’t blame him because all Indian cricketers feel that they are superhuman and can continue to play forever. Why doesn’t any Indian cricketer do the way Nasser Hussain or Steve Waugh or Mark Taylor quit at their peaks?

The leniency of the Indian selectors is a known thing of the past. I don’t want to venture into Ganguly’s association with his mentor Jagmohan Dalmiya, but then only in India you have a person not performing for nearly two years and still comfortably finding a place in the side. No… I am not opining that BCCI selectors should be as hard as ACB (Damien Martyn was dropped for not performing in one series – Ashes). But then they need to look beyond a player’s past & statistics while doing selection. But even after all this when he is dropped, we see people clamouring in Bengal (weird indeed!!). Well change is the only thing eternal in the world…. For people following Indian cricket it is imperative that they realize this sooner than never.

And as for the events today (Sourav was dropped from the test squad also), many feel it is unfair since he had decent scores of 39 & 40. Yes, those are not bad scores but you cannot eliminate Yuvraj (who scored an unbeaten 77). Ganguly can at most continue for another 2 years and more so with tougher tours and Pakistan & England coming India’s way, Indian selectors have to look into the future. It’s been 5 years since Yuvraj and Kaif started playing for India and its high time they are drafted into the test squad also. So, Sourav you had his highs… and now its time to accept that his silken cover drives that he used to play only result in nicks to the slips. His legacy as one of the most successful Indian captain will always be remembered and its time for younger guys to take over.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Elements of Modern Music - Fusion

One fine morning I was having a small dream as though I am speeding in my Mercedes car when the TV roared “Maha Ganapathim….” My dad had switched it on to watch a concert of late Maharajapuram Santhanam. (For those non followers of carnatic music late Maharajapuram Santhanam was one of the finest classical singers). Ah what crap early in the morning or so I thought. But then few hours later a song “Chennai Senthamizh…” (It is a song from a Tamil movie) was roaring loud in my own FM. And to be frank I liked the song even though both the songs were essentially same except that the latter contained a loop beat or rhythm, whatever u call it running all along.

Well I don’t have any formal training in music nor do I know to play any musical instrument. But then I do listen to lot of them and my spectrum of music is wide enough to do an analysis of Indian music. Here I just wanted to talk on fusion in Indian music.

Well if u thought fusion was just adding programmed loops to classical tunes… I am sorry you are only partial. Ok mixing of genres is definitely fusion but then there is lot more than that. Fusion can exist even at the instrument or the orchestra level. Dream Theater(a popular rock band) often use the keyboard in their compositions. I still remember one of their beautiful compositions ‘Home’ where the keyboard was used to produce sounds of a string instrument (it sounds similar to sitar) and slow percussions are embedded in the tune until finally the guitar takes over. A.R.Rahman once used a rhythm wherein the beat actually came from the mirdhungam but then it was accompanied by the bass part of tavil. (A rhytm instrument on the same lines of tabla and mirdhangam used mainly in festivals and marriages). In essence it meant that you are playing two instruments using one side of each but then they complement since the right side of the tavil produces the bass just as the right side of the mirdhangam. Frankly I am not an expert to recognize that by hearing the music but then when I came to know about this, I realised fusion is definitely more than mixing of genres. Other fusions I like include saxophone with drum pads (used extensively in the movie Duet) and flute with keyboard.

Fusion may also mean mixing of languages. I still remember the first time I heard Colonial Cousins (Hariharan & Leslie Louis) singing ‘Krishna ne begane...’ accompanied by some English lyrics. Now, so many songs have this skeleton where English lyrics are inserted in between the regional ones. The previous example was one where the genre of the song still remains the same. But there are others wherein the genre classification becomes an issue because of distinct genres being part of the same song. An example for this could be ‘Oh humdum suniyore’ from Saathiyaa where Blaaze raps in with some English lyrics (here we go…) followed by a classical type interlude (dheem theem thana na…). But even here each of the genres holds their linguistic originality. We do have a third classification where a genre is used in a language different from the parent language. Some of them are Blaaze and Apache Indian who rap in Hindi or other regional languages.

Finally to fusion of genres… few of which we discussed above. Some more examples I can give are fusion of sufi and techno (Noor un nala in meenaxi). So what about remixes?? Please I don’t want to associate fusion with something cheap as remixing. Remixes may sound good but then I believe its just few minutes work for somebody well versed in the Yamaha synthesizer. Ok in a way it’s a mix of old numbers with some trance-techno loops. Fusion of genres is something you can research your entire life but then I don’t want this blog to run into pages. Will meet you soon… next time I will talk more on loops and technology stuff in music.