Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Greetings readers…. and welcome to my last post of the year (in case some of you are wondering, I’m off to Chennai next month)!

This November marks the first anniversary of my blog.  Through the course of this year, I’ve made many friends and even a few followers.  I’ve met many bloggers (online) who think like me and who also use their blog to express and explore a side of them that usually other mediums don’t allow.  This blog was my vehicle to vent out my thoughts both funny and serious, and a way to express myself and explore my creative side.  As an experienced IT coolie, I’ve always been taught to think logically, but this blog helped me explore the right side of my brain a lot more, and I’m a much better person for it.

Thank you blog, you’ve served me well…. and thanks to all my readers too.  I hope you'll “hear me roar” for many more years to come! :-)

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Movie Review

I realize this review is several months late but I only got the chance to see the movie a little while ago.  However, it was well worth the wait, and it was so good that I felt compelled to write about it.  Besides, I have Batman’s nickname as my blog handle. :-)

The Dark Knight Rises stars Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and a whole slew of actors in a long, 165-minute epic to a grand Chris Nolan trilogy.  It’s been eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, and Gotham City is in a state of peace.   At the end of TDK, Batman (Christian Bale) was an outlaw, a wanted masked vigilante who took the blame for Harvey Dent’s killings so Gotham’s citizens wouldn’t lose hope.  Now, as there was no need for Batman, he goes into hiding.  As Batman has disappeared from Gotham City, so too has Bruce Wayne, locking himself inside Wayne Manor.   Bruce Wayne is a broken man at this point, and he has aged unnaturally fast due to the overwhelming guilt he feels in supposedly causing Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes’ death. 
Under powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner Jim Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organized crime. While following a lead in the abduction of a congressman from the function, Gordon's speech falls into the hands of terrorist leader Bane. Gordon is shot in the process, and he promotes patrol officer John Blake to detective, allowing Blake to report directly to him.  In addition, there’s a clever cat burglar named Selena Kyle, who is a modern-day feminist Robin Hood.  All this forces a broken, rusty old Batman to face his most physically imposing foe ever.

First of all, the title “The Dark Knight Rises” is a bit of a misnomer since Batman simply re-emerges from his reclusive hideout out of pure necessity.  For the most part, he falls… both as Bruce Wayne and as Batman.  As Batman, he struggles like hell to get back into crime-fighting shape and even more when fighting Bane; as Bruce Wayne, he struggles financially, emotionally and physically as Wayne Enterprises goes closer to bankruptcy everyday and he is a recluse in his own home convinced that he’s no longer needed as Batman.  Bane is the one who really “rises”, as he masterminds a hostile takeover of the city. What’s sadly ironic is that Bane, in many ways, ended up being a blessing in disguise for Bruce Wayne.  It meant that he was needed again as Batman, and that he once again had a purpose in life.  Bruce Wayne spent so many years honing and perfecting his skills into becoming an intimidating masked vigilante that he completely forgot how to be Bruce Wayne! Even though he had an eight year break from crime fighting, he never used the down time into anything fun or constructive.  He never partied, never continued his training, and never put more time into running his business better and it was all because his constant guilt never allowed his emotional scars to heal.  It was his self-imposed punishment for the sins he supposedly committed.  

As Bruce Wayne tries to work himself back into crime-fighting shape to fight Bane, he finds that he’s quite rusty.  This shows both in his confrontation with Catwoman and his fight against Bane.  He didn’t use any clever tactics or any fancy gadgetry -- it was more like watching a cage-fighting match, which was really disappointing.  As expected, he loses the fight badly, and is taken prisoner.  Fortunately, he re-emerges (again) to save Gotham.  Luckily, this time he gets an assist from an unlikely ally in Selena Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and an even bigger assist from detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

This movie has a whole barrage of twists and turns and a flurry or details that keep you engaged…  and somewhat confused and overwhelmed at times.  You blink, and you will miss something important! Considering the hype around it and how good its predecessors were, Rises had some pretty big shoes to fill.  So the big question is….. Did it?!?!  Was it everything the movie-goers expected?!?!  Did Chris Nolan tie off the trilogy in proper fashion?!?!  Was it the biggest blockbuster of the year?!?!

Well… yes and no.

Chris Nolan did bring the series to a proper conclusion and did bring a proper feeling of closure to the Batman series.  The visual effects were also much more stunning in Rises than it was in TDK.  But it was impossible to top the villains of TDK and Batman Begins.  Tom Hardy is an imposing presence as Bane, but he has neither the charismatic and eerie quirkiness of Heath Ledger’s Joker nor the engaging complexity of Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face.  He also lacks the cleverness of R’as Al-Ghul and the creepiness of Scarecrow.  Also, his takeover of Gotham didn’t quite make sense.  He frees Gotham’s inmates, holds the citizens captive with a nuclear bomb, and expects them to believe that the city belongs to them at that “Gotham will survive”.  Give me a break!  If some maniac terrorist were to take over your city and hold you hostage, would you believe anything he says?!?! But what’s really disappointing is his horrendous voice and his philosophical rants like “I am Gotham’s reckoning”.  It takes away from any menace he does have -- he sounds like the love-child of Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins!  Ironically enough, his mask reminds you of Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter! :-)

On the other hand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was simply outstanding as Detective John Blake.  He ends up being a very central character in the story, and he ends up doing a lot of the detective work that Batman usually does.  In many ways, he was the biggest hero of this movie.  It was, perhaps, an intentional foreshadowing of things to come.  Anne Hathaway was also spot-on as Catwoman.  She’s cunning and devious yet charismatic and vulnerable at the same time.  She was a much-needed female presence after the passing of Rachel Dawes’ character in TDK.  Christian Bale gets a lot less screen time in Rises, but he gets a chance to show other emotions that he didn’t in the previous prequels since Rises is more of a Bruce Wayne story.  As Batman, he is less impressive though, since he doesn’t use enough stealthy tactics in any part of the movie.  The rest of the supporting cast like Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman et al do their job well but they have a lot less to do and have a lot less screen time.

Overall, the ending in The Dark Knight Rises leaves you with a good sense of completion and closure.  Considering the circumstances, this is probably the best way to end the series.  In many ways, the legend of Batman does end, but in other ways, Batman does live on.  When I watched Batman movies and cartoons growing up, I used to envy Bruce Wayne’s life – he’s a billionaire playboy who gets to play with cool toys, jump off rooftops and kick villain ass!  But all that envy completely disappeared after Rises.  He was a shell of the man he used to be! Plus, even in the previous prequels, though he’s a billionaire, he only pretends to be a playboy to throw off people’s suspicions.  Deep down, he’s an angry, tortured soul who does a lot of pushups; the ultimate example that money alone doesn’t buy happiness.  The entire Chris Nolan trilogy is a beautiful body of work, and what makes the Batman series unique is that the series is that it is shot as a realistic drama rather than a superhero movie.  Not only can we all watch and thoroughly enjoy the trilogy, but also learn a lot from it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cursed Life -- Part 3

Continued from Part 2

The water was very deep now.  Kathir's body was almost completely submerged as he slipped into a state of complete unconsciousness.  The end seemed all too near.  But then, suddenly, something grabbed hold of his arms and legs.  He was being forcibly dragged against his will.  Kathir started to gasp helplessly and fight back with all his might, but his efforts were all too futile.  He passed out from the exhaustion of the fight and the lingering buzz from all the alcohol inside him.

When he finally woke up, he was lying on a small cot, with a blanket over his body.  As he turned his head sideways, he noticed an old man sitting next to him, quietly tying up fishing nets.  It was the same old fisherman who noticed him before.  He gave Kathir a knowing smile, as though he understood what he was going through.  Kathir looked at the old man, confused.

"Where am I?"

"At my hut, near the beach.  My sons brought you here".

"Why did you save me?!?!" asked Kathir in frustration.  The old man said nothing.  He just shook his head in amusement.  "Wait. How did you know..." asked Kathir.

".. that you were attempting suicide?", the old man interjected.  "Your eyes and mannerisms gave you away.  Compared to reading a fish's behavior, reading yours is quite easy."  Kathir could say nothing.

"Why did you do it?  What's so bad that it's worth giving up your life over?" asked the old man.  Kathir then told him his story, from beginning to end.  The old man got up and calmly said "Come with me, I want to show you something."

The old man took Kathir to his small colony of fishing huts where there were several poor families with children of different disabilities -- some were blind, some deaf, some were missing arms or legs.  Some mothers were without children, and some had to raise their children on their own.  Yet, despite all their worries, the families and their children were happy and content when they were with each other.  Kathir was in shock and amazement at all he had seen.  As he watched, he forgot all about his troubles with Anjali.

"I don't believe it", said Kathir.  "How can they smile when they have a life like this?!"

"Because they have each other.   I'm also part of this community.  Our lives are hard, but we look out for each other and give each other full support.  All the money in the world can't buy that."

"That's the one thing that we don't have.  Everybody turned their backs on us!"

"Why don't you call your wife?  She's probably worried sick now.  Besides, I also want to meet her."

"I can't.  My cell phone got damaged in the water. Can you help me get to an STD booth?" asked Kathir.  The old man agreed.  After they get to the booth, Kathir phoned Shwetha.  A barrage of loud screeches came from the phone speaker.  Kathir had to keep the phone away from his ear to save his eardrums!

After she calmed down, she agreed to come down to Marina Beach.  An hour later, Shwetha arrived with Anjali at the beach.  Anjali was unusually content as the ocean waters had a very calming effect on her.  As Shwetha finally met Kathir, slapped him mercilessly and scolded him nonstop.  She was obviously very angry, but there was some love mixed with the anger too, so Kathir didn't mind as much.  The old man couldn't help but laugh in amusement.

Shwetha finally turned around and looked at the old fisherman.  Her eyes were filled with tears as she clasped her hands together as though praying to a deity.  "Sir, I don't know how to thank you for saving my husband."

"Quite alright", said the old man as he smiled at the couple and their child.  "Come, I want you to meet some people".  He took them to the colony where Kathir had been to previously.  Shwetha was just as shocked as Kathir was at the resilience of the disabled poor people.

The old man looked at Shwetha as he spoke in an enlightened tone. Shwetha started to recollect all her fights with Kathir as the old man spoke.  "Your husband told me all about your daughter's illness.  He also told me about how everyone was pressuring you into getting married and having children quickly... and how many of them now turned their backs on you.  That's the problem with our society today.  If we all [pointing to the colony people] did that to each other, where would we be today?!?!".

Shwetha finally understood Kathir's point of view and Kathir finally decided to give up his drinking for good. As they walked back to the beach, there was a content smile on Kathir and Shwetha's faces.  They finally found some people who they could relate to and their minds suddenly felt a whole lot lighter.  They both thanked the old man for all his help and took his leave.

"Come back and visit anytime", said the old man as he smiled and waved goodbye.

Kathir and Shwetha visited the colony often after that day.  Their lives were still hard and their struggle to cure Anjali continued on but in the old fisherman and his colony they found an occasional temporary refuge from the stress of their daily lives.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cursed Life -- Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Anjali didn't act like a normal two-year old girl.  She made virtually no eye contact, no smile nor any normal human interaction with anyone.  Anjali started to have more tantrums and had trouble speaking.  Shwetha was clearly worried about her child, so she and Kathir took her to the doctor to see what the problem was.  The doctor referred them to an evaluation team of behavioral specialists.  When they took Anjali there to get diagnosed, Kathir and Anjali got the shock of their lives -- Anjali was diagnosed with a severe case of Autism!

Shwetha wept uncontrollably upon hearing the news; Kathir was in shock and was dead silent.  This was a the beginning of dark days to come and they both knew it.  After they went home, Shwetha kept repeating "My baby, my poor Anju.  She's suffering so much!" over and over.  Kathir was still speechless, totally numb.  The happy-go-lucky look that he once had completely disappeared from his face.  His world never looked darker than it did that day.  Shwetha, unable to bear Kathir's silence, shook him repeatedly to get him to talk.  Finally, he turned his head slowly and looked at her.

"We have to help her, Kathir.  We have to do everything we can for her." said Shwetha, her voice full of worry and her eyes full of tears.  Kathir weakly nodded his head agreement.  He was feeling weak and in no mood for a conversation.

Their days were filled with overwhelming stress.  Anjali's tantrums were getting worse, and she started to become a lot more violent. She was always restless, always causing some sort of chaos, and looking after her was a major hassle.  Anjali's disease made her violent, made her senses go all out of whack, and completely hindered her ability to speak.

Since Anjali couldn't communicate with her mouth, she had to use her hands and legs.  She would pull Shwetha's hair hard, kick her or scratch her violently to communicate what she wanted.  Shwetha would cry in pain but accept the suffering for Anjali's sake.  Kathir couldn't stand to see his wife in pain, so he would angrily pry his daughter off with all his might and screaming in her face to let go of Shwetha.  But to his dismay, Shwetha would only shove him away.

"What the hell are you doing?" asked Kathir in exasperation.

"Don't you dare touch her!  She's my daughter -- she can do whatever she wants to me.  I'll sacrifice anything for her".  There was a fiery conviction in her eyes, even through all the tears.

"What, I'm supposed to silently watch while that little brat scratches up and bullies my wife?!?!"

"YES! And if you can't sacrifice for your own child, then you're not even a man!"

Kathir could say nothing.  Shwetha might as well taken a knife and stabbed him -- it would have been less painful.  She directed all her anger and frustration at him, but showed infinite patience toward her child, no matter how difficult she was.  Kathir understood Shwetha's pain, so he fully supported her.  His sense of duty to his wife kept him going.  Still, he couldn't help but resent being her verbal punching bag.  He would often absorb Anjali's blows during her usual tantrums to shield Shwetha, but right afterward would snap at her and say "So, am I man enough now?!?!" sarcastically, much to Shwetha's chagrin.

Upon seeing Anjali's behaviors, many of Shwetha and Kathir's friends, neighbors and even some family members started to distance themselves from them.  The same people who pressured them into having children were now nowhere to be seen.  Nobody wanted to go near the people with the "special child".  The couple were really feeling isolated at this point.

Their days of punishment would continue.  The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years.  Anjali's nonstop barrage of  tantrums and behavioral episodes would continue on a daily basis, causing much emotional trauma to her parents.  Each of Anjali's violent tantrums and panic attacks was a harsh pounding thrust onto her parents, each one more painful than the last. Kathir and Shwetha were worn out, edgier and more nervous day by day.  Their bodies and minds were full of scars caused by their daughter.  Shwetha continued to vent out on Kathir -- it was her only outlet. Kathir, on the other hand, didn't have the heart to go off on his already weak wife -- alcohol was his only outlet; it didn't make his problems go away, but at least it dulled the pain temporarily.

A deep rift was starting to form between the couple now.  Shwetha focused all her attention on Anjali, leaving Kathir all alone.  She would only talk to him to give instructions or vent.  One day Kathir finally reached his breaking point.  Anjali's panic attacks were worse than ever.  At this point, all he wanted was out!  But he last thing he wanted was to be separated from Shwetha.  Besides, if you're a divorcee, the Indian community tends to treat you like you have some sort of disease... especially in a conservative city like Chennai. His pain was worse than ever, so he went to the local bar and drank more than ever.  Finally, after much intoxication, he took an auto to the beach.

It was present day.  As an intoxicated Kathir sat on the sands and  reflected on his painful past, he finally came to a big decision.  He slowly got up and heaved a big sigh.  There was now an eerie calm in his face, a look of a man resigned to his fate.  He slowly walked closer and closer into the waters.  With each step, the water level reached higher.... and the end came closer and closer.

Click here for Part 3

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cursed Life -- Part 1

It was a cool winter evening in Marina Beach.  Several people were heading back home, but there was one man who sat there motionless, staring at the water.  He was Kathir, a successful software engineer. He had it all -- a wife, a child, a nice flat in Triplicane, a calm and comfortable life... or so it seemed.  As he stared at the waters of the Bay of Bengal, there was a look of sorrow and pain in his face.  The day was cooling down, but there was still a deep raging fire inside his heart.  No one else noticed this except an old fisherman nearby. Even from a distance, he could sense Kathir's torment -- he could sense something bad was about to happen.  As Kathir continued to gaze, his life flashed before his eyes.

It was six years from the present day.  Kathir and Shwetha were a newly married couple, and their family and well-wishers were congratulating them and wishing them well on their marriage.  Shwetha's parents were more relieved than happy that their daughter was "finally married off after all these years".  For years, she and her parents were feeling the pressure from the constant barrage of interrogative questioning of their relatives and friends.  That only made her feel older, even though she was only born 24 years ago.  Kathir and Shwetha, the newlyweds,  were doing the usual round of visits to all the relatives houses.  Everywhere they went, they got the "In nine months, I hope you'll come back as three" routine from everyone.  Kathir was a little peeved about hearing that over and over.  Once he and Shwetha returned to their flat, he confronted her about this.

"Shwetha, why do your relatives pressure us so damn much?"

"What do you mean?"

"What's with the whole 'come back in 9 months with a baby' routine?  Why can't they just wish us well and let us live our lives as we choose?"

Shwetha was clearly irritated at this point.  "Look, I don't appreciate you talking that way about my family!  They only mean well, and if you can't take what they say in the right sense, then kindly don't talk to me anymore, ok?!?!".  There was a angry glare in her eyes -- Kathir sensed it, and slowly walked backwards in fear.

"Hey, hey, relax.  I'm sorry, I was only saying that they were putting too much pressure on us, that's all."  There was a short, uncomfortable pause.  "Intha chinna vishyathukku ellam yaen ivvalavu kovam varuthu [Why do you get so mad over little things like this]?".

"I wasn't angry, I just don't like anyone talking ill about my family, that's all".  There was a clear defensiveness in her tone, so Kathir decided not to argue with her anymore.  Kathir and Shwetha were total polar opposites.  She was very traditional and conservative; Kathir was free-spirited and adventurous.  He was also a bit mischievous and immature; she was was very mature and responsible.

More than 18 months had passed, and the couple went to many places together and engaged in many fun activities, mainly due to Kathir championing their R&R activities.  Shwetha was a rather high-strung girl, so Kathir did his best to keep her as relaxed as possible.  They both seemed happy, and all seemed well....until that one day.

"Kathir, I need to talk to you about something", said Shwetha, clearly looking worried.

"Sure, what's on your mind?"

"It's been almost two years, and we still don't have a baby yet.  Our neighbors and relatives are all always bringing up the topic.  I'm getting worried.  What if we never have a child?  I'm scared!"

Kathir was exasperated and even a bit upset. "Oh god! Why are you so worried about this?  It will happen at its own pace, just let nature take it's course.  Besides, who cares what they say  -- don't they have anything better to do than to just gossip all the time?!?!"

"You just don't understand, do you?!  All I've ever wanted was to be married and be a mother like any normal woman.  All my college friends are married and have kids already.  I'm still lagging way behind."

"Oh for god's sake Shwetha, this isn't a race to see who gets pregnant first.  Why do you get all worked up over stupid shit like this, Shwetha?!?!".  At this point, Shwetha was starting to break out into tears.  Upon seeing this, Kathir quickly consoled her to prevent more waterworks. "Hey, hey.  Sorry dear, I didn't know it meant so much to you.[short pause] Alright, let's do it.... we'll try really hard for a baby this time" .

Shwetha was completely happy for the first time in her life.  She was finally going to get what she always wanted.  She and Kathir would try for several months, and finally succeed. Little Anjali Kathiresan was born a year later, much to everyone's joy and relief.

Shwetha showered the baby with all the love and affection in her being, as did everyone else.  Anjali was the center of attention, always surrounded by someone to play with her or feed her in a timely fashion.  But, after nearly two years since her birth, Shwetha had noticed something terribly wrong with Anjali, something that would change all their lives forever!

Click here for Part II

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stop Blaming Facebook!

A few weeks ago, I saw was reading some news on the internet and came across a couple of articles about some disgusting, horrendous acts of violence.  Here’s an excerpt from the article about a Hyderabad techie who is beaten to death by his girlfriends’ parents:

The victim, Satish, was murdered by his lover Lavanya's father Yadaiah and his associate, Raju Goud, on February 1 after abducting him from Ameerpet, police said on Thursday.
While the two killers were caught, Lavanya, her mother Manikyam and cousin Sravan, who misled the police by concealing facts about the killing, are still at large, Saroorangar ACP J. Amarender Reddy said.
Here’s another one about a couple in Tennessee, USA who were killed for simply ‘unfriending’ someone:

A Tennessee couple who 'unfriended' a woman on Facebook were murdered in their home by the jilted woman's father and another man, police said on Thursday. 

What do both of these have in common?  Facebook!  Yep, that social networking tool that everybody wants to hate but most of us still use anyway.  The first article was shamelessly entitled “Facebook friendship costs techie's life” as though Facebook was the cause of the murder of the poor techie instead of the girl’s parents.  In the article, the guy not only met the girl in Facebook but also several times in real life too.  Even though the girl misled both the guy and the police… and even though her dad and a bunch of goondas beat the poor guy to death, the article somehow blames a social networking tool as the root cause of the murder.  No one held the girl's parents or the social system responsible.

As for the other article entitled “Facebook 'unfriending' led to double murder”, this article blames the Facebook “unfriending” feature as the cause of the couples’ death.  It doesn’t blame the scumbag loose cannons (pun intended) who pulled the trigger… the ones whose egos are so fragile that a small thing like a Facebook unfriending causes them to go into a mad fit of rage and go on a killing spree! No-o-o-o… once again, it’s the fault of social networking!

There was yet another article that blamed Facebook as the reason for one-third of the divorces across the globe.  This one was the worst! It didn't blame the couples' lack of communication, extramarital affairs, or any other root causes.  No-o-o-o, it would be too much to account for the fact that divorces used to happen long before FB.  Nope... once again, Facebook was to blame... and this time for one-third of the world's couples' inability to keep their marriages together.

So what are we, as society, supposed to do?!  Live in fear and reluctantly accept any friend request so that our lives will be spared for another day?!?!  Or maybe… just give up our Facebook accounts altogether out of fear of being killed or divorced?!?! Better yet, let’s go over to Palo Alto, CA and arrest Mark Zuckerburg and shut down Facebook completely!  That’ll solve all our society's problems, right?!?! 

Give me a break!!!  Anyone who thinks that Facebook is at fault in any way… or that not having Facebook will prevent divorces or these senseless acts of violence is kidding themselves! These unfortunate events have been happening for decades, long before the era of social networking sites.  In the case of the Hyderabad techie, do you really think that the techie guy would have been spared if he had met the girl in some other way besides FB?!  

It’s time to stop using Facebook as a convenient scapegoat for the ills of society.  Whether it’s heartbreak, murder or divorce it’s time to take action and show responsibility instead of just sitting back and shamelessly passing the blame.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Boss on Land!

It was only a few weeks ago that I started my new job, but along with the new job came a whole new set of changes, including a busier schedule that cuts into my blogging time.  But on the plus side, I finally found an office close to a train station... literally a few steps away!  Finally, my burning desire to ride a train was fulfilled once again.  The train line here has very limited reach, but the ride is cheap and the parking is free -- you can't beat that!

My train fetish started when I was but a young lad.  Many of my friends were fascinated by planes, some by cars and and quite a few loved motorcycles.  The long lines at airports and the tiny airplane seats made me hate airplanes.  Traffic jams made me hate cars, and driving even more!  I grew up in a cold climate most of my life, so motorcycles were also impractical.  That's when my attention turned to the ultimate land vehicle -- the train, the boss on land!!  The train had its own path laid out and came and went as it pleased, just as I did with my life. Traffic jams never deterred trains since they never run into any real traffic to begin with.  And if a train is coming, you better damn well get out of its way!  Cars, buses and two-wheelers have to yield to each other.  The train has to yield to no one.... because everyone else yields to it!  Haven't you ever noticed that there are gated railroad crossings but no gated bus crossings or car crossings?!?!  Now that's power, my friends!

When I'm inside a train looking out of the window, I can't help but have a smug chuckle on my face as I look at the rows and rows of cars fighting to get past each other during rush hour.  Meanwhile, I coolly pass by them all, stress free and traffic free.  Many of these car riders were the same co-workers who would lecture me about the freedom they have driving on their own car and starting to work whenever they wanted.  I don't wanna be tied down to a train schedule!  It's too dam restrictive. I want my freedom, dammit, they would proclaim profusely.  And the very next day, reality would smack them hard in their faces as rows and rows of cars lock up the road, viciously gridlocking these freedom-loving junkies.  And yet, they never learn their lesson!  They continue to drive to the office, full of road rage, oblivious to the fact that there's a train they can take which arrives every 10-15 minutes.

One of my favorite type of trains is the monorail (above).  They ride high above the ground and go about their rounds without getting in the way of traffic.  If I was a train, I'd be a monorail -- I just go about my business and get my job done without getting in anyone's way and without letting anyone getting in the way of mine.  Would be great to have one in a big city with dense population to ease the traffic problems, right?  Unfortunately, Los Angeles didn't think so.  Those dumb-asses turned down an offer to have a FREE monorail system put in their city back in 1963, and they've literally and figuratively been paying for it ever since.  Way to go, LA -- you proved once again that your IQ is less than that of Forrest Gump!

If a monorail is the type of train I am, then the Maglev (above) is the train I want to be.  They are called Maglevs due to the fact that they literally float above the tracks they are on using magnetic levitation.  Not only do they hover using magnetism, they also use magnetism to propel the train.  These babies go up to 581 km/hr.... and without a motor!  Imagine living in Pune and working in Mumbai while having a half hour commute to work every morning!  Well..... we can dream, can't we?!?!

So remember folks, be like a train.  Set your own track, choose your own destiny, and let no one stand in your way! Oh.... there's my train now, gotta run.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Is it better to be selfish?

After many weeks of writers block ("bloggers" block?!), my creative juices have started to flow once again.  Part of  the reason for my rejuvenation was my father, part of it was my recent California trip, and part of it was Purba Ray's blog, which I follow regularly.

Last weekend was another typical weekend -- way-too-short, too many things to do and too little time to do it.  Once again, another week had passed by in a flash.  As usual, I did the dishes, helped with the laundry and getting the kids fed.  I did my duty.... things I had to do, as a parent and a husband.  A lot of things got done, but many others were still pending.  These were things I wanted to do, and as usual, there just wasn't enough time for them.

You see, I have a huge wishlist of things that I want to get done before I die but often wondered whether I'll get to do all of them... or even half of them.  Ever since I was a little kid, my parents (mainly my father) often lectured me about the importance of duty and hard work.  My father was the strict type who believed that harsh discipline and tough love was the key to success, self-reliance and building character.  As a mechanical engineer, he would toil for countless hours at the office but only spent a handful of hours really enjoying life.  I suddenly started thinking about this about four months ago when I had decided to visit the Bay area.  I didn't want to be a nonstop workaholic all my life the way my father was!  Nope.... I wanted to live life, visit San Francisco, see the Golden Gate bridge, go to Napa Valley.... pretty much do all I could in the short time I was there.  I wanted to play as hard as my dad worked.  A fire inside me was lit, and nothing could stop it!

San Francisco, here I come, I thought to myself.  So I did it all.  Even with the added burden of dragging my wife and two small kids everywhere, I still managed to explore all the things the Bay area had to offer.... and it felt great!  And the reason?   Because I did it for me... for my enjoyment!  Yes, I wanted my wife and kids to have fun too, but I was going to live it up regardless of whether they did or not.  And that's when I noticed a revelation in me -- I was suddenly feeling much more energetic and alive than ever before!

I drove through Lombard Avenue (the "crooked" street, shown above) with utter ease, up and down, left and right, sideways and forward.  The rental car's brakes almost failed, but my resolve did not.  I kept on  exploring, walking up the Golden Gate bridge in style, driving through 'Frisco's streets, maneuvering through the plethora of traffic and pedestrians all around. There were many logistical challenges, but on that day, nothing seemed too difficult... not for SuperTouristMan!!  No, I happily squeezed my rental car between buses, cable cars, anything San Francisco could throw at me.  Shit, if I can handle the brutal Chicago winters all those years, I can handle this architectural nightmare of an overpriced, yet fun & touristy city, I thought.

And so, my bravado continued on that day and through the rest of the two weeks in California.  And that got me thinking.... should I be like this more often?!  Should I make enjoyment my top priority?!?!  I admit, I was feeling a bit guilty at first for thinking so selfishly, but then real life examples came to mind.  Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerburg, Lakshmi Mittal, Mukesh Ambani... did they get to where they were in life by being selfless?  Of course not! Yes, they worked hard... but they enjoyed their job so much that it was mostly play for them.  Heck, even some of my past co-workers enjoyed life a lot more than I did just by being more selfish about what they wanted.  Once I realized that, I also started to do the same, and I'm much better off for it.  I delved more into personal interests that I put off for a long time. This blog itself is one such indulgence -- I do it for myself and no one else, and it feels great!  Yeah, it's a bit selfish... but so what?!  If Purba Ray would rather be a bitch, why can't I be a self-indulgent asshole once in a while?!

Now, this post isn't meant to send the wrong message by saying that you should be completely self-absorbed to the exclusion of all else.  The only message I want to send across is that you should make the most out of your limited time here on this earth.  Yes, it's good to be selfless, but before you help other people, shouldn't you help yourself first?  After all, if you don't take care of yourself, who will... the government?!?!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ole Nole!

Yesterday, Novak "Nole" Djokovic won his third Australian Open.  Unlike the semifinal match between Federer and Nadal, which featured a lot of brilliant shot-making, this was a long, hard-fought grind fest.  It was like watching two heavyweight boxers trying to wear each other down by trading heavy body blows in the form of heavy, hard hit groundstrokes with vicious topspin. As I watched this long, grueling match, I felt almost as worn down at the players themselves.  It was the longest final in history at 5 hours 53 minutes.  Djokovic and Nadal could barely stand at the end of this match for the awards ceremony. Their arms and legs were understandably sore from the beating they inflicted on each other over.

What makes this win remarkable wasn't just the fact that he beat Rafael Nadal, the toughest guy on the ATP tour.  It's the fact that he beat Nadal at his own game... yet again!  Nadal likes to wear his opponents down with punishing groundstrokes and make them run all over the court.  In this match, the Djoker made Nadal do all the running and wore him down all the way to sweet victory.

It was a bitter defeat for Rafa -- he came so close to beating his nemesis but failed yet again.  But he seemed to take the loss in stride, which is a good sign.  I do hope Rafa can bounce back from this loss, but it's pretty apparent that Djokovic is in his head.

Enjoy this sweet victory Nole.... and take some pain killers for that sore body of yours!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This scene from "Batman Begins" is one of the greatest, most inspirational ones in all of Hollywood cinema.  The scenery and the music are superb and flow together in perfect harmony.  The acting performances from both Christian Bale and Liam Neeson were outstanding.  But that's not what makes this scene so great.  What makes this scene so great isn't the outstanding dialogues, the magical scenery, the background music or the legendary actors in it.  What makes it so great, what makes it so inspirational... is the fact that you can actually learn from it.