ramblings of an aimless mind

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Archive for May 2006

The Godfather

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It's funny, the way I came to writing this blog. It started when I heard that Da Vinci Code was being released as a movie, which made me think of "The Godfather" which is my favourite book and movie combination. That made me think of how people often compare Ram Gopal Verma's movie to The Godfather…and here I am 🙂

Though RGV movies do talk about the same general theme as The Godfather and I agree that they are a cut above the standard Bollywood fare(which actually is not so standard nowadays), there are many reasons that they do not evoke the same respect as does the 1972 Coppola classic.

Firstly, story and characters. There is a stark difference between the characters one observes in the two competitors. RGV movies invariably focus on the gun toting subordinate, who comes from a back ground of poverty and where he has not been given much reason to believe in morality. He joins the mafia, and through his intellectual brilliance (which unfortunately is stressed minimally) and lots of shooting people in the head, he achieves the invincibility and thus proclaims his triumph. He finally becomes to influential that it appears that he is accountable to no one and can then live happily ever after raiding his enemies homes and blowing their heads apart. It is generally a show of force and the brainy part is given little screen time.

In The Godfather, the spotlight is on the brains of the mafia outfit. There is enough bullet pumping in the movie, but it is not the "in-your-face" kind but more of the veiled variety. Both the book and the movie make repeated references to how the politicians and cops have to be bribed and "kept happy" which illustrates that the mafia is not unaccountable. Their business decisions are also based on this necessity to be on good terms  with the politicians, as was illustrated when the Don refuses to step into narcotics for fear of losing political contacts. Intelligence and strategy are shown to win over brute force, most notably when Michael defends his father from an assassination attempt in the hospital while he was unarmed and had a baker's boy who had probably never seen a gun in his life for a companion. When the mafia had to "hit" the police chief, an elaborate cover up attempt had to be made and the book talks about a bad phase in business for the family.

The most endearing feature of The Godfather is the level of sophistication among its characters. They are dressed in impeccable suits rather than grimy clothes. Their language is fluent and classy. It is filled with metaphors that hold veiled threats/praises/requests. The immortal "I will make him an offer he cannot refuse" is yet to equalled anywhere else, so is the extremely stylish way in which Michael Corleone gets his first wife and his address to the girl's father is indicative of his huge power, but still retains humility. It remains my favourite passage in the book and most definitely my favourite scene in the movie. 🙂

All said and done, I do like Ram Gopal Verma's films and I will be among the ones who will flock to watch the next one that comes out. What I am truly waiting for however, is the one which will be an equal of the Godfather.

Written by clueso

May 23, 2006 at 11:42 am

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The new God?

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Incident 1:
I was at a WorldSpace store the other day and it felt like a jungle. The sales persons prowled like predators, picking out the visitors most likely to spend money on a satellite radio system, once the quarry was sighted, they stalked, encouraging people to try on the headphones and enjoy the smooth transmission and excellent music quality. The client's look then went from that of incredulity to admiration and they lunged for the kill, explaining the low prices, the finance schemes, the area covered by the transmission and in general, why any living human MUST own one of these. It was a ruthless scene.

My friend had been singled out and was currently being stalked, which means he had headphones on and that look of "I-can-tell-every-nuance-of-music" expression on his face. I think most salespeople regard me as stingy, or maybe there is something in the way I say "I'm just looking" that tells them they should not waste their time, but mostly I am left alone in stores and this was no exception. Unwilling to see my friend falling prey, I started looking around and noticed a computer in the corner. Being a quintessential geek, it grabbed my attention long enough for me to notice that the person using it had a Microsoft Excel file open with fields such as "SalesPerson", "Weekly Target" and "Sales" in bold and other characters and numbers below each. Everytime a salesperson clinched a deal, he/she would walk over, get his/her figures updated and then plunge back into the fray.
Incident 2:

About a year ago, I noticed that one of my salary slips was showing a smaller number in the column where I would like numbers to as big as humanly possible. Fearing that I was the latest victim of the extremely volatile IT industry, I rushed to the finance department to ensure that it was a mistake and I was not really demoted from software engineer to the guy who lugs around boxes of printer paper. A few hours later the finance department did admit it was a mistake (much to my relief) and said that it was caused by a wrong formula in the Excel sheet they used.

For the past two years that I have spent in the IT industry, there has probably not been a single day which has gone by without the use of an Excel sheet. Anything and everything from project status, bug count, resource allocation, and even some of the UI screen documentation was done in Excel. I thought it was a wonderful tool, so useful that it has left the other members of its Office suite far behind, but it never occured to me that it was something beyond a tool…

…till the day it lowered my salary.

…till the time I saw it govern the lives of the Worldspace radio salespeople.

It was then that I realised, in today's world, the excel sheet is present everywhere, knows everything and has tremendous power. In short, it is Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent.

And the only other being who has so far been attributed with these characteristics?

…none other than God Himself (or Herself to be politically correct).
Such is the power of the "humble" excel sheet that I now believe that every human in the world is somewhere, somehow accountable to an Excel sheet. It governs how much we earn, how we are evaluated by employers/peers/juniors, how much money we have in our banks and how much our stocks are worth. In fact, when Doomsday finally arrives, I wont be too surprised to see a giant Excel sheet with columns such as "Name" "Sin Count" "Good deed count" "Heaven/Hell"  and everybody will be fervently hoping that they have the right values in the right places. Think about it, what better way to classify 6 billion people?

I wonder if it is time to replace our normal religious icons with those pretty MS Excel packaging boxes, or maybe the CDs since they are the ones that actually contain the software. I think for now, I will stick to my routine of worshipping the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, if only I can get rid of that nagging feeling that somewhere deep inside the offices that manage the affairs of every temple, there is an Excel sheet running the show…

Written by clueso

May 14, 2006 at 11:04 pm

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I have been learning a lot about Europe lately, thanks to a few very simple facts…

1. I have been in Paris for the last 2 months
2. I dont know enough French to plunge headlong into French cinema/serials etc
3. The only english channel I get on the TV is BBC
4. BBC is screening a host of Europe-centric programs lately.

But I always found Europe to be a fascinating place, mainly because of its huge diversity, not only in language, food and social mores, but even in the more "un-emotional" aspects such as economic models, laws, and social structures. Other nations like India and the US are also amazingly diverse, but the fact that they are centrally governed takes care of the elimination of the legal and economic diversity.

"Just one tiny little moment", I hear just about everyone who bothers to read this blog say. They would then go ahead to point out the very obvious flaw in the above comparison, that I am comparing a whole continent with just one country. The right comparison would be one between Europe and Asia or Europe and the Americas, in which case a more logical picture would emerges…

…and that brings me to that facet of Europe that I find most appreciable and laudable.

It is truly a success story that the European nations have managed to get quite a large chunk of the world to think of them as "Europe" rather than individual nation states. At a time when we see most countries with peaceful pasts tearing themselves apart, it is refreshing to have one example of a group of nations, with a history that can hardly be called harmonious, driving towards integration. They have been quite successful too, tearing down many a barrier against movement of goods, services and people within the EU, adopting a single currency, abiding by common industrial standards and in general projecting the feeling of it being one country rather a collection of many. Add to that the superb transport and communication links that make international transport within the continent akin to a train ride elsewhere and we have even closer integration.

The arrangement is still far from being harmonious and a lot of coutries have objections with what the others are doing. From what I learn from the BBC, there are huge differences between the member states on how the economies should be run, how the social service should be strutured and a zillion other issues, but they all staunchly stay "member states" of the Union, trying forever to overcome these differences and reach a consensus, aware that it is in their interest to co-operate. From my extremely lay-man view of economics, this seems to be a precursor to a the much touted "global economy" where there are minimum barriers to exchange of goods/services/people. A sudden introduction of such a system today would probably be catastrophic, with hordes of people moving from the poorer parts of the world to the more fortunate ones in search of a better life. But maybe sometime in the future, if most countries of the world settle at more or the less the same economic prosperity, then the tendency would be to stay in a place one prefers, rather than to be driven around by the lure of more money, a bigger house or a faster car. It is in such a case that the borders could be opened without the accompanying deluge and we would be truly global.

I feel Europe is a smaller model of such an economy, there are a huge number of people who commute between France and UK or France and Germany/Belgium, but at the end of the day they come back home. Not for them is the idea of being uprooted from one country, flying halway across the globe, moulding oneself completely to suit another way of life and then spending half of ones time reminiscing about home while sticking on in a foreign land.

I dont really know how far the Europeans are from their one-country-continent, but I sure wish them luck and will be watching as closely as I can.

Written by clueso

May 11, 2006 at 10:47 pm

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The best place to live.

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Often have I been involved in discussion about good cities/places to live. “Pune is an amazing place to live in”, “Bangalore rocks!!”, “nothing like Delhi!”, “Bombay!! mannnnnn!!” are just a few of the statements that go around at such times. During my school life these used to make quite an impression and I used to conjure up images of people living in these “dream cities” perenially doing something which made life more eventful/fun than that for those of us who had to live outside them. In later years, however, my education and profession turned me into more of a nomad and the experience has given me a more mature take on the topic.

Living in one of the “happening” cities does have its advantages. One can grab a sandwich at midnight after a long day in office, there are a host of pubs and bars that await one’s patronship when the body craves for alcohol; and for the adams and eves interested in huge populations of each other, this sure is Eden. These are places that never sleep, the lights are always on, the cars always roaring, the streets crowded and a level of energy that would rival a small nuclear reactor. All this geared towards one motive…work hard, party harder…..

… and then there are people like me, for whom lying in bed staring at the ceiling and thinking of such intellectual matters like “the best place to live” is as good as any party with loud music and frenetic dancing. And with the “party harder” part taken care of so easily, why really bother with the “work hard” ?

Most of my life has been spent in quiet locales. Schooling in Goa, where people, far from never sleeping, sometimes spent days never waking up. Moved to studying in Kanpur, where I was shielded from the unsavoury traits of an Uttar Pradesh city by our vast, sylvan and again, pretty much idyllic university campus. It was thus with great expectation that I arrived in Pune for my first job, excited at the prospect of being able to do hitherto never done activities like “socialising”. I mean, the dictionary meaning simply says that it involved meeting friends and other human beings, but then it did not seem to count until this meeting was in a select few cities. Lots of my friends had similar dreams I think, and we spent a very happy few days tramping all over Pune, picking out the most popular streets, hang out joints, restaurants and the one sole pub that seemed to look more sophisticated than those bars where hindi movie heroes go when they are dejected…in their movies I mean.

By and by, the desire waned and I once again took to lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to convince myself that I should go out. But the few months of Pune life was no contest to the years of Goan conditioning and ultimately I used to just roll over and fall asleep.

Next stop, Mangalore. Goa’s little cousin a bit southwards along the west coast of India. What made it more interesting was my circle of friends, all good-life-having-fun-in-Pune hopefuls, for whom having to live in Mangalore was not too far from being imprisoned in the Chateau d’If. Complaints about how the place was was dead and done with were frequent and nostalgia about Pune was even more so. Though I never mentioned it out of a fear of being cast out from the group, I kind of enjoyed the place. It had one nice ice cream parlour (which closed at 10pm sharp), was small enough for an avid walker like me to cover from end to end in an hour, had amazingly good and inexpensive eating places, a plentiful supply of drink and a person could actually get a little bit of pure oxygen in every breath. Not to forget the proximity to the sea and the open roof restaurants where one could sit and catch the sea breezes for a good 2-3 hours without being bothered by people waiting to pounce on our table before anyone else did. Sure Pune offered more choice and a more flashy ambience but then as long as there are a couple of good friends around, good food is still good food, good movies are still good movies and a couple of hours spent chatting and laughing are still equally enjoyable.

For some reason though I think fate wanted to give me another chance at being a party animal and I landed in Hyderabad, one of India’s fastest growing cities. Here I routinely take noisy autorickshaws and travel half an hour to work, every time some one calls me when I am out of home, I duck into the nearest store to escape the ambient noise and I spend 5 minutes (literally!!) looking left and right with an occasional glance up and down before crossing a road.

Big cities have their charm, but for me its the small town anyday. Swimming in a sea of water rather than that of humanity and the small pleasures like crossing a street without having to look on either side, or maybe standing in the middle of it, stretching ones arms wide and shouting “I’m the king of the world!!” a la Leo Di Caprio in Titanic. Except I cannot ask for a Kate Winslet, she will most likely be in a disco in some far away “happening” city…

Written by clueso

May 9, 2006 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Hello world!

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Being a software engineer who owes the first step of his learning many a new language (the computer ones i mean) to those humble two words, I decided to leave them as a title for the first post. Going by this, most likely my second post would be titled "please enter your name…" and then maybe i will wait for some to add a comment with his/her name in it.

Decided to start blogging when i found out, much to my surprise that i have opinions on lots of different things and (not too surprisingly) not too many people who are willing to listen to them in person. What exactly I will be blogging about in the future I am really not too sure, I find a lot of things interesting and the moment I pick up one thread to follow, something else more inviting pops up. some people tell me to "focus", but thats easier said than done, given that my problem lies in the step just before that, in deciding "what" to focus on. i think i will ultimately land up doing justice to the name of the blog and simply being aimless.

 for now let me finish this post just to ensure that i have got the hang of it.

Written by clueso

May 8, 2006 at 9:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized