Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chinmayi

Did you love the song "Tere Bina" from Guru?
Did you love "Sahana" from Sivaji even more?
Did you know that the singer behind both these songs was Chinmayi, Rahman's latest hit?
Did you know Chinmayi blogged?

Yes she does.

http://chinmayisripada.blogspot.com/

Reader recommended this as a feed and as usual I got to reading it without even checking who it was etc. I read "calling for male singers". Ignored. I read something about some show. Ignored. I read Star Screen awards and Shreya winning it and "I didn't win it". Boom! Who is this? What do I see, its Chinmayi.

Well, I think she not only sings well. She writes well too. Its difficult to not sound as if you are bragging when you have achieved so much;) But she does come forth as being modest :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An unforgettable Tahoe experience

Notwithstanding my extreme hatred for snow and anything remotely connected with it, I agreed to go on a skiing trip with the gang. My cousin is visiting from Hyderabad. He had met up with me once while I was still fighting it out in Wisconsin. When we met a couple weeks ago, he was going over things and was mentioning how much he misses snow (cringe!) and I was telling him, he should go to Lake Tahoe. There is practically nothing that California cannot offer in terms of weather/nature. He said he had already heard of Tahoe and the snow and if we could go there, so I told him, I'd talk it over with Subhash and we can "see" if we can plan anything.

Then one of the gang's ever enterprising guy sent this email the very next day asking how about a trip to Lake Tahoe for skiing. I look at my calendar at work. It looks hopeless. I look at the planning pending for that much-awaited Hawaii trip. Again hopeless. All this AND planning a trip to Tahoe. Impossible! My best bet to making my cousin happy was to tag along with the gang. No troubles with planning anything, they usually take care of everything. I agreed! I went, well, we could still take my cousin all the way there, show him snow and get back. Let the rest of the world ski, we can have hot chocolate in the very cozy mansion these guys checked out for the trip.

Little did I know that this trip would be a bundle of firsts!

First, I was dreading the drive up to Tahoe, it was raining incessantly the past couple days even in the Valley, lord knew how it would snow up there. I couldn't get off work fast so we had to leave at 6.30pm. Very bad time. Office traffic coupled with rain. And the darkness?! Not looking very bright. But unbelievably, as much as I dreaded the drive up there, it turned out to be a nothing. Pooh pooh. We made it in 5 hours (Google said 4.5, so that was extremely decent) and Subhash was brilliant as the driver, as always :)

We vehemently refused to ski on reaching there despite the pleas and the taunts and the threats ;) We even left about a couple hours after everyone left, hoping to make the excuse that there are no classes left for "beginner" skiers. But as soon as we reached, since none of the gang was in sight we started getting bored. We inquired about a ski lesson and were told that there was one at 1. We took it. And what did we find as soon as we booked our lesson and turned back! The rest of the gang! Excepting the pro skiers, the rest of them who needed classes (including my cousin and his friend who came along with us) were all lined up for the 1 pm class. Now it was exciting. To be in a class AND to be with company. Couldn't have asked for more.

And so, for the first time I skied . I still cannot believe it. What four winters in Wisconsin could not get me to do, one trip to Lake Tahoe did;) And I should admit I enjoyed it. Doing it with Subhash and friends. Everyone falling and skidding and just having a lot of fun!!

But the best (?!) was yet to come. The next day a blizzard was expected and we left at noon after a hearty breakfast and the Australian Open final on TV coupled with Winter Games live afterwards. It didn't look very promising but we had to get out so we didn't have much of an option. And here comes another first-time event. Snow chains! We needed them for our tires as it was made mandatory on CA-50. We used GPS to cut through grueling CA-50 traffic using by-lanes only to find that we bypassed the one point where snow chains were being fitted on and where the entire gang had stopped. We were hoping that we would find one down the highway. But the drive was getting more and more exasperating. 3 hours into the drive and we still were not even out of the Tahoe checkpoint. Finally we found it! One place that would fit us with chains for the tires. We took the Honda because it was used to snow, it has seen 8 midwest winters, and in general its a very dependable car. I knew it would see us through, but even for that car this was a first. The ride was so bumpy with those chains on, we didn't enjoy it at all;) But the more we went into the snow, the more we realized how life saving those were. Cutting through the snow was not something for ordinary radials. And then we had to take them off when we came down the mountains. While the guy was installing it, I noticed what he was doing and I had to be the tactic person in removing them. Not very welcoming. Now the snow had turned to rain and we finally managed to get the chains off the tires, 20 minutes and a lot of sludge later.

It was an avalanche. It was a blizzard. It was beyond what I can describe. I would have never thought that I'd see something akin to this weekend's ever outside of Wisconsin. I thought I was done with bad days in snow but yesterday was amazing. Terrible and beautiful at the same time. I wonder how Subhash managed to drive. What should have been a 4.5 hour drive back to the Valley took us a grueling 9 hours. (I drove the easy part from Folsom to the Valley.) And of those, we spent the first 6 hours (normal conditions 1.5 hours) coming down the mountains! Wow! Just when you think you've seen it all, there is yet another experience waiting around the corner.


I used to argue with my friends that the midwest was more beautiful than the west coast. (knowing very well that it was a failing and an entirely wrong standpoint). I just didn't think of California as home yet and I wasn't prepared to let anyone think of the midwest as a place less desirable. But after three years here, I feel at home in CA. And its beauty never ceases to surprise me. You have it all here. I don't need to live in depressing winters anymore to experience snow. I can simply see snow-capped mountains all the way to work everyday. Or I can drive to Tahoe and truly experience it for what it has to offer. If I yearn for picture perfect sunrises and sunsets, nothing can beat CA-1, the Pacific Coast Highway. If I want warm weather I drive South for a couple hours. If I want snow I drive north for a couple hours. Its as simple as that. And its simply unbelievable. I can now agree when anyone says, the Bay Area is the best in terms of weather. Maybe not for the weather itself, but definitely for the convenience in the varieties! :)

Today was bright. Perfect warmth. I was driving to work. Green hills in the front and a snow-capped range just behind them. I was thinking, less than 12 hours ago, I was on this very same road, driving in rain coming back from snow, snow and more snow. It seemed so far away, yet it was so near. And I had to pinch myself ..

Go California! :)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tiffin Box

While I am in that just-back-from-one-meeting-got-to-go-for-another-one phase, I thought I'd post this interesting item for sale here that Subhash pointed out:

Stainless steel seems to be the latest craze in the US. I remember not long ago we were all sick and tired of that ubiquitous stainless steel dishes and just wanted to see more porcelain. But the US seems to be going reverse (as always?!). Stainless steel stuff is so unbelievably expensive and desirable here that it astounds me;)

This is what the website selling it has to say about it:

The term “tiffin” is used in parts of Britain and India to mean a light meal or snack. In some areas, the word specifically refers to lunches brought to work or school. A common approach in India is to put rice in one tiffin box, dal in another, breads or naan in a third and so on. A smart solution for storing and carrying different food types, both dry and wet, the Tiffin Lunch Box Set is a convenient tool you’ll turn to again and again. The set includes three stacks of stainless steel containers that lock together for easy carrying. The large set has three plates and four containers; the medium set has two plates and three containers; and the small set has one plate and two containers.

----
So true! ;) I just remember those school days when we used to religiously take 2-3 things to eat, used to make me feel like I was living to eat :P

Source:
http://www.dwr.com/productdetail.cfm?id=12751&Prfrm=1&cmp=AFC-GB9049936277


Monday, January 21, 2008

What a fight!

I was watching yet some more of that Presidential race "scoop" on CNN. Its a different matter that they don't talk about anything else these days. But then CNN was never a sensible news channel. Their news is always full of such insipidity that I find highly intolerable.

I was reminded of this Gubernatorial Election in California in 2006. I never understand their primaries concept. Here is two people from the same party fighting tooth and nail, simply trying to be the "candidate" for their party. This particular election at least, I wouldn't be too far from the truth if I said that 90% of the reason for Arnie's win was because Steve Westly and Phil Angiledes turned no stone trying to sling mud at each other. Those were the campaign days. TV was full of Westly abusing Angiledes and vice versa. All that Arnie had to do was place 1 little ad showing 2 little things that he actually did for the good of California after 20 of those Democrat ads. These guys were so involved in winning the primaries that even before one of them made it to the generals, the Democrats had lost. And Arnie had won. Even before they went to poll.

Some model this is!!

(Wow! I didn't know Arnie was from University of Wisconsin too ;) I guess all Wisconsin guys end up in California! :)) )

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An ode to the Indian Test Win..

They said it was impossible. They were celebrating even before it all started. Notwithstanding the pressure, Kumble and his team made it:) Here is a small clip to their win.

video

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kudos Mehr!

I recently watched Asambhav. I wanted to confirm if the hero was Arjun Rampal or not and so I asked Wikipedia. Then I got to reading about him, his work, his life etc. Discovered (yeah I didn't know that before, dumb, dumb) that he was married to Mehr Jesia, erstwhile super model. Wow. I was interested. Read on, did some more searches and landed here:

http://www.rediff.com/chat/trans/1025mehr.htm

I thought she was pretty slick when chatting, I didn't know she was this smart:) One particular answer that impressed me very very much:


-----------
Lehar Messiah (Wed Oct 25 2000 4:6 IST) So you too, Mehr, the supermodel, fell to the trap of tradition and adopted your hubby's name for your surname? WHY? Why can't you remain just Mehr Jesia? *Mehr Jesia Ramphal* sux, I say.
Mehr Jesia Rampal (Wed Oct 25 2000 4:11 IST) Lehar Messiah, naturally it does when you dont know how to spell. It's Mehr Rampal. period.

-----------
Very neat, and very to the point. Very no-nonsense attitude :) I like it!

Another good one was this:

------------


Shahezadi (Wed Oct 25 2000 3:45 IST) How come you didn't take up acting as a career?
Mehr Jesia Rampal (Wed Oct 25 2000 3:53 IST) Shahezadi, I guess I became too old by the time they started making sensible films!

------------

:)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Back to India - Footnotes

If you have come back looking for my earlier Part 2, its now merged with Back to India and is more streamlined. Actually, I was very apprehensive about writing this post. In fact, I got a couple of my friends to read it and tell me if it was not too offensive, didn't feel very extreme etc etc. You see, I blog as an outlet for my thoughts, I know I can write anything, its my space, but all the same, I care about the people who read it. And this is a sensitive/touchy topic and everyone reading it can interpret it in their own way. One of the perils of written language. And I didn't want to sound arrogant when saying anything. So I took feedback, went over it, trimmed it down where people thought it might give offense and put it all back into one post.



Again, what I say here is purely my own opinion. The object of conversation here is a few million Indians who migrate every year to the US. And obviously there cannot be one general rule for all those millions of people. Each has their own reasons and each has their own circumstances to deal with. If I were in a different position, culturally or economically or in any other way, I would have probably had another opinion. That is what Subhash has taught me. Everyone decides their life based on their environment. What seems the right thing for us need not be right for everyone else. What is seemingly wrong to us, can probably be the best thing for someone else. So I've learnt from him not to be judgemental. But I do love having these discussions. Because every time I do, I get a new perspective from someone new. And that either reinforces what I already think (when I hear a similar opinion) or forces me to find clarity in my thoughts (when I hear a conflicting opinion). And every time its clearer, I am happier :)

Back to India

(Disclaimer: This post is long. You cannot sue me for sore eyes or numbed brain. You have been sufficiently warned ;) )

An ever enterprising colleague sent this to us a few months ago.

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/india/article.cfm?articleid=4236

I have been intending to take a shot at a critic to this feature since then. First I took a couple months before I could read it in full. Then I had to prepare for my CCIE so that pushed my critic-writing to another couple months. But finally here I am.

Actually, there is another thing I should mention, well a couple things, before I start. Intentionally, I haven't read this article again before posting this blog. I went over it in my mind, thrashed it out with Subhash, got some perspectives from him, put my own thoughts together with his and now have come to some conclusions which I think are not as extreme as they were earlier. He always has this moderating effect on me;) The second thing is that, whatever I express here is solely my opinion, rising out of my own experiences here in the US. Now I know that the said experience can range from one end of the spectrum to another so no offence meant if you think the exact opposite of what I do:)

Here goes my critic..

1) The author mentions, and repeatedly, that she was always in a flux about whether or not to go back because she spent those 10 glorious single years in the US which put the US on a pedestal for her. I think more often than not, its those "un"glorious first years for most of us. For me, it was those terrible first few years. Mainly because I went through a bad phase in life then. Also, there are some other categories of people who find it intolerable in the US. I have always observed that people who have had some amount of independence in India while growing up never find any great difference between there and here. (No sudden surge of independence). And ones that have lived affluently in India just can't tolerate the US because undeniably you got to do all your chores yourself and there will be no one at your beck and call to do the lowly stuff for you. I fall somewhat in the first category (not entirely).

2) The second thing she mentions repeatedly is that US is "meritocratic". Now that is one thing I completely and utterly disagree with. The US is as meritocratic or as non-meritocratic as any other country. Personally, I have seen rampant non-meritocracy in the US. I have seen talentless people getting ahead, way ahead, so long as they know how to talk their way through. I have often observed that as long as you can talk, whether or not what you say makes any sense, as long as you can make it "sound" impressive, you are through. In one sense, to be able to talk like that is a "merit". And I suppose that way, the US can be considered meritocratic. (And after that H1-B lottery fiasco from last year, a lot of my fellow citizens will agree with me that there was nothing meritocratic about it ;) )

3) In the article, the author mentions how she thought all desis in the US were "pretentious" when they took up local hobbies. I don't feel so extremely about that. You can always adopt local culture, it adds something to your own lifestyle. (Of course whatever I adopt or do, I think there is nothing wrong with it, its very natural, but I can seem pretentious to the author, and that is also fair enough:) )I carve a pumpkin for Halloween, that doesn't make me think I am traitor because I perform pujas at home for Indian festivals too. Halloween pumpkins bring something of that creativity out in me, and it enriches me that way so I do it:) As simple as that!

4) I never dress by rule, I always wear what I want, so I end up wearing jeans to the temple and salwars to work, more often than not. But then my whole dressing is fusion. So I don't go through any torture when I have to attend Desi parties. But then I have never attended "happening" parties, just ones with friends. I guess all goes in those. So I can't really be a critic on that.

As to the rest of her piece I pretty much agree with most of it. We are economic immigrants. We are not prone to hate our country so we cannot completely give in to the US culture and mingle and disappear as one in the crowd with them. We still follow our culture, believe in some parts of it at least. Hence, we always stand out and have our kids labeled ABCDs.

While on the same topic, one of colleagues mentioned this in a casual conversation and it struck me much. She said it so casually that I was surprised, because it had a very deep impression on me. She said, "What is a job, its just a way to earn money and keep yourself occupied. Leaving your home for a job is the most ridiculous thing.". And that perspective was one I never took before. Yet, I sort of agreed with it. Not completely. I know that a lot of people cannot afford to think of a job as a mere nothing. If those people didn't have opportunities in India and came here, I will not say its ridiculous, but I would call that necessity. Yet sometimes it does feel that this is all not worth it.

These days we have had discussions. Whenever the topic of moving back to India springs up, everyone has their own opinion. And I see one whole spectrum of opinions. They mostly range in the India is hot/unhygienic/polluted/cramped/corrupted range. Yet I remain unfazed. Whatever people want to debate with me, I simply say this:

US could be a great country. It could be paradise too. But it cannot be home to me and will never be able to take India's place in my psyche.

This and that..

1) I have taken to drinking tea at work. I was that no coffee-no tea-no milk kind of person. I have had many eyes rolled at me, sometimes in disgust, sometimes in wonder, sometimes in curiosity and sometimes in sheer disbelief whenever I have said this to someone. But due to the recent genius on the part of WPR @ Cisco (Work Place Resources), the temperatures inside the building have been so cold, that I just need something hot going down my Oesophagus to keep me from shivering and unable to type ;) I still drink it with just hot water and haven't taken to the traditional tea that we are used to (with milk). Somtimes, I just don't feel like it and just drink Hot Water. But I do hate the way it tastes/smells although I cannot pin down a smell/taste to it :)) Funny me!

2) I was reading various blogs on Shriya Saran's recent "adventure" with those people from Madras. Tsk..tsk..tsk. They should learn something from the Andhra audience ;)

3) I have heard that Brahmanandam did yet another good job in "Krishna", the latest Ravi Teja release. Got to get my hands on that soon. You Tube, here I come!

4) Yeah, and I also kept myself up-to-date on the latest YouTube storm, Sreesanth's dance item with Shah Rukh @ that Aaja Nachle show on STAR. (What is with Shah Rukh and his gay jokes, man, too much influence from Karan Johar I imagine!) One of the gang's ever "on-your-toes-updates" person, sent it to us right after it was on YouTube I suppose. It was good to watch.

5) Finally completed and checked off a long pending task. Printing and sending photos from Subhash's parents US trip. Need to send them another lot and that will complete my task. A successful US Trip for them:) I was quite impressed by the e-commerce scene in India. Very nice job with the prints. (I am becoming too much like Subhash and am beginning to analyze businesses, as if my own Networking job was not enough! ;) )

Ok, I need to get back to my well-performing routers that have finished the task I assigned to them now :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Welcome Diversion

I have a couple of very pleasant diversions from my normal boring weekday routine. My cousin is visiting from Hyd and my very good friend RR from Boston. I am so looking forward to catching up with them. Its been a while :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Delicious Plight?!

I was watching Lage Raho Munna Bhai on Comcast's On Demand when I saw these very amusing subtitles for its very famous song. I couldn't resist putting it down here. I have seen some funny subtitles but by far this is the best;)

Bole toh bole toh kaisi hogi haai
-->What a delicious plight ( Whaaaaaaaaaat! is a delicious plight??)

Aisi ya waisi arey kaisi hoyegi haai
-->I wonder what my lady's like

Bole toh bole toh kaisi hogi haai
Aisi ya waisi arey kaisi hoyegi haai

Apun ko jaise maangta hai waisi hogi haai
-->Is she pretty? Does she glow?

Haai re haai haai re haai - 3
-->There is only one way to know..

Lage raho Munna Bhaai
-->Get in the fight, Bro!


Khwaabon mein woh apun ke roz roz aaye
-->Even in my sleep she gleams..

Khopdi ke khopche mein khalbali machaaye
-->She gives me "to be continued" dreams.. (:)) )

Khaali pili bheja sala yun hi phadphadaaye
-->My brain's turned to jelly or so it seems..

Bole toh bole toh kaisi hogi haai
Aisi ya waisi arey kaisi hogi haai
Apun ko jaisi maangta hai waisi hogi haai
Haai re haai haai re haai - 3
Lage raho Munna Bhaai..



Kisiko ho khabar toh yaaron humko yeh bataaye
-->Will someone put me out of my misery

Seedhi saadhi hogi woh ya item hi fi
-->Tell me, is she simple or a bag of trickery

Maa ke pair chhuegi
-->Will my mom get a hug (Can you believe they went from the feet to a hug!!)

Ya just kahegi hi
-->Or just a cold "wasssup!" (Why does Hi need a translation to Wasssup???)

Bole toh bole toh kaisi hogi haai
Aisi ya waisi arey kaisi hogi haai
Apun ko jaisi maangta hai waisi hogi haai
Haai re haai haai re haai - 3
Lage raho Munna Bhaai

Monday, January 07, 2008

Want to win, no matter what!

I did the unthinkable. After 8 years of giving up on watching cricket, I followed a match closely last night. With the gang. At the end of it, I was glad that I emotionally detached myself from Cricket a long time ago. Otherwise, for what happened yesterday I would have been heart-broken.

No point in going into gruesome details here, I am sure everyone already knows how attrocious yesterday's match was. For once I felt sympathy for our pathetic team. And Kumble proved once again that he was the gentleman through and through:) I always liked him, he had the appearance of being a very honest player and a very down-to-earth one. Yesterday, he proved it.

Two examples in the near past that I didn't miss much by not following our team closely all these years. One was our pathetic world cup stint, and the second was the even more pathetic umpiring (and shameless dishonesty on display by the Australians, just to win) in the Border-Gavaskar trophy. I am sure I am not going to test waters again anytime soon!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

2008, thinking back a decade

Usually at the turn of a year, I think about the past year, how it has been. Its ups and downs, good or bad. Thankfully, the last three years have been some fun ride, whatever the years before those might have wreaked:)

But this year, 2008, I cannot help thinking back a decade. Not just retrospecting on 2007 but on that whole time that was 97-07. A major milestone this year is that Subhash and I will have known each other for 10 years. And we talk about it often enough :) How we were and where we are, how much has changed yet how much remains the same...

We began engineering (B.Tech) in 1997. (Subhash was was in his last year when I was in my first) It was supposed to be a normal year, except for that it was everything but. We were completely jinxed and doomed, started college only on December 29, 1997;) Just 2 days between us and ignominy! We used to joke about it saying that we started on 29 December just so we could have 97 in our records and not be mixed up with our next batch!

Back then engineering was just becoming a "routine" thing. With our batch we had an explosive growth of private colleges, which, now, has gone so far that it has completely diluted the profession. Disastrous, how much changes in 10 years!

I made some very good friends, thanks to being in JNTU. And in general, the engineering stream itself. I cannot help but notice that when you are in Engineering you just about know anyone and everyone in your city who happens to fall in that four-year overlap. Both ahead and behind you. I know a lot of people who are friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, and you know how it goes. Three years before me and three years after. I am sometimes amazed how well networked we are and how little we realize it. I, myself, was ignorant of this till I joined Orkut;)

Needless to say, I am proud of my profession and what I do. And 1997 is when it all began. I have journeyed a decade of life in this profession and I cannot believe that it has been 10 years! I still remember when I was in engineering, I used to think that I would work right out of college for a couple years then do an MBA and then get out of this whole technical end. And that a techie job was not exactly my cup of tea, I just couldn't endure Electronics (when you consider the fact that my major was Electronics and Communications, that was pretty pathetic;) ) but little did I know, that I would find solace in the Communications part and be happy! Maybe, for ever after..

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What's a little rain..

Its a storm out there. Its been raining incessantly for the last 24 hours at least. And proper rain, not some of your everyday showers. This morning was it. Huge storm and fierce winds. I almost walked getting knocked off ;) I drove @ 60mph on 237, which is probably the lowest I clocked in my stint on that freeway;) Any more than that and there would be so much water swooshing around the car that it became impossible to manoeuvre it as well as see anything!! But heck, I am not complaining. For more reasons than one;)

1) It is not snow !
2) Reminds me of those "rain-holidays" we used to get in school. Also endears me because it reminds me always of school re-opening, new uniforms, new books etc etc etc.
3) I can listen to this song.
4) The hills behind Cisco are all green at the end of this ordeal!

Well, I love rain in general. I simply love it:)

I am to go to lunch now in a little bit with my team, and someone proposed maybe we should go another day, because its a storm outside and like Rob said..

What's a little rain..

;)