Friday, January 30, 2009

The Li'l Champs finale is here !!!

After about four months of high-quality competition, the Marathi singing contest show Idea Sa Re Ga Ma approaches its grand finale. I have been an avid follower of this show (as an earlier post would indicate) and have been captivated by the level of performance on display. And now there are five contestants remaining, each one of whom has gone through many rounds and has consistently given his/her best. This week's episodes were especially wonderful, given that Republic Day was celebrated by invoking the best of patriotic numbers in Marathi. I, for one, cannot wait for the finale (and am irritated by Zee Marathi's delay in holding the mega finale !!).

Anyways, coming back to the finalists, in my opinion, the slight front-runners are Prathamesh Laghate from Sangameshwar near Ratnagiri and Pune's very own Aarya Ambekar. Both have been simply outstanding throughout most of the shows. Prathamesh has made classical and semi-devotional numbers his own, effortlessly crooning them in his own style. On the other hand, Aarya's cute smile and personality perfectly compliments her sweet voice, thus giving her that extra edge when it comes to soft romantic numbers. In fact, one of the highlights of the show has been that each of the finalists seems to have made a particular genre his/her own. Apart from these two, there is Rohit Raut who, with almost a rock-star personality, makes fast numbers even more rocking !! . And then there are the two little ladies, Mugdha Vaishampayan and Kartiki Gaikwad who seem to have left everyone else behind in the popularity charts. They will have the public support behind them (since SMSes sent by the public would have half the say in deciding the final winner).

Inspite of however wins the finals, I would forever remember this season of the show as one that bought me closer to the rich musical traditions of my mother tounge (which I admit I had never appreciated before). And once having got a taste of that, I hope to enrich it further. May the best participant win !!!


PS: For those abroad who cannot watch the show, all the songs are avaliable for download on the Zee Marathi website: here . Recommended especially are 'Dayaghana' and 'Tya Phulaanchya Gandhkoshi' by Prathamesh, 'Malmali Tarunya Majhe' by Aarya. For non-Marathis, listen to 'Paan Khaye Saiya Hamaro' by Aarya (that I bet would have made Asha Bhosle proud) and 'Laga Chunari Main Daag' by Rohit !!! Although I admit, that the actual versions sound better the downloaded versions.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Things that I learnt yesterday...

Initially, I had planned to write my account of the Mumbai Marathon 2009 with the usual stuff : how did I get there, how did it start, the enthusiasm of the people, the color and sound that accompanied the event etc etc. But then I realised that not only would that description be similar to what you would normally read in the newspapers the next day, it would also be a virtual copy-paste of my earlier posts on the Marathon. So this time, I decided to focus on something else and share what I learnt about the marathon yesterday. For the record, though, I managed to complete the 21km Half marathon course in 3 hrs 09 min, three minutes more than last year. Given that my target this time was a sub-3 hour finish, the final time was a bit dissapointing. But then again, I was happy enough just to complete it given the unfavourable conditions (it was a more than a couple of degrees hotter this time, though that is not an excuse). And I would like to thank my old engg friend Srivatsa for responding to my request on Orkut and giving me the requisite documents so that I could participate in his name (given that I had missed the registration deadline this year).

Anyways, here is some quick gyaan that I got yesterday.

a. Marathons are all about competing against yourself: Hence, it is not a question of how many of your friends are participating, how ahead are they, what is going to be their time etc. In endurance tests such as these, you only compete against your own body and resistance. What should only matter is your own targets.

b. Having a running companion helps: Now this might sound contradictory to the point above, but having a partner (of roughly the same ability as yours) helps a lot, especially in the middle stages of the course. The two of you can alternatively go past each other and set the pace for the one following. In fact, there are professional pacemakers in such races whose job is to set the pace for the race leaders. For example, between kms 8-14 yesterday, I had my IIMB friend Ketan for company, which helped a lot. Being alone in the race is quite bad. And if you have nobody, you can always befriend a handsome/attractive co-participant ;-)

c. Performance on the treadmill is not the final indicator: If your treadmill is telling you that you are not upto the mark, do not take it too seriously (of course, do not completely ignore it either). My observation is that your performance on the actual track and day is much better than the best you can manage in the gym (provided of course, the weather is not unfavourable !!). Some possible reasons are of course: the mass of people around you that provides the adrenaline rush, the fact that on the road you can set yourself tangible targets e.g. 'I will run from Chowpatty to Wilson College', 'I will walk the next km briskly' etc etc. Running on the treadmill is monotonous and hence boring.

d. The heart carries the body in the last few kilometers: By the time you come to the final stages , your body has almost completely given up. Thereafter, its only the spirit that keeps you going. The sight of the finishing line pushes the body past its limit against all odds.

And finally, a reinforcement:

d. There is no city like my city !!!: The sheer number of people who lined the streets yesterday was overwhelming. Not only were there more people, their support and enthusiasm was exemplary. The so-called elite of Peddar Road and Marine Drive came down in their thousands on a Sunday morning, armed with water, trays of glucose biscuits and more than a word of encouragement. But for them, I guess many would not have crossed the finishing line. A friend of mine who ran a 10km race in Bangalore was saying that there was hardly anyone on the road there. Similar was the case in the recent Delhi half marathon. My city has once again made me proud !!!!..

So as I give myself a day's rest today to allow my feet to recover, here's looking forward to 2010 !!!!...


Saturday, January 17, 2009

My previous posts on the Marathon...

As D-day approaches tomorrow, here is a flashback to some of my previous posts on THE event of Mumbai...

Marathon - 2008

Marathon - 2007 (Part 1)
Marathon - 2007 (Part 2)

The next post in this series would be out soon !!!!...


Friday, January 09, 2009


India Inc.'s worst fears have come true and what a start it has been to 2009, that too on the back of a depressing 2008 !!. January 7, 2009 would be forever remembered in the annals of Indian corporate history as the day of shame not just for one man and his company, but indeed for corporate India in general. And this is not any fly-by-night company that has its image in tatters. Till about a few weeks back, Satyam was one of the poster boys of the Indian IT industry : Over $ 2 billion in revenues, NYSE listed, over 50000 employees and, ironically, a recent winner of the Golden Peacock award for, amongst all things, corporate governance !!! All that now virtually lies in ruins.

The Satyam employees now face a bleak future in an already bad job market. With most clients virtually certain to pull out of their contracts (and these include diverse names like the World Bank and FIFA) and new business obviously impossible, these employees face a difficult task to finding new jobs. They are amongst the first to pay a direct price for all the misdemeanours of the Satyam top brass. I for one find it impossible to believe that Mr. Raju was the only one doing all this, as he stated in his letter. No doubt the auditors and the board of directors have a lot of difficult questions to answer.

For the market, this could not have come at a worse time. The last few days had seen the market holding on important support levels (3000 on Nifty and 10K on Sensex) and in fact, was trying hard to move up. All that hard work is now undone in a couple of hours of mayhem. As the market trades today (Friday) the carnage continues. And while the Satyam investors obviously have been shattered, a lot of other investors are seeing their portfolios shrink more rapidly than the polar ice caps. Even government owned and well performing stocks are getting a beating (BHEL down more than 3%, SBI down 2% etc). Of course, the market is slaughtering those companies that are seen as not having a particularly high reputation on corporate governance. Clearly, the market expects some more skeletons to come out of the closet. Now that the tide is running out, the world will see who is swimming naked !!. On the other hand, well-reputed stocks like TCS and Infosys have actually gained since Wednesday (of course, partly because the market expects them to perform well now that one big player has fallen) . This hopefully is not just a knee-jerk reaction but a sign of things to come, wherein companies would need to have good standards of internal controls in place in order to provide a fair return to their shareholders.

And what of India Inc. ? Hopefully, there will be the proverbial silver lining in this dark cloud. New and tough measures of auditing and internal controls would be in place. Corporate Governance would not be restricted to just making grandiose statements in the annual reports. Appointment of independent directors and the role that they play would be subject to even greater scrutiny. And hopefully, the corporate world would be able to come out of this mess stronger and better and prove to the investors, public and the world at large that there will be no more instances of satya(m)naash !!!


Monday, January 05, 2009

A Sunday well spent..

My recent Sundays have been as different as two McVeggies from your neighbourhood McD's. Unless I am attending a marriage or some such function, I usually have spent my Sundays doing the same things over and over again: wake up at leisure, skip the gym, take a shower at about noon, gorge myself on the sumptous lunch prepared by Anjali and mom. have my favourite afternoon siesta, then spend half the evening thinking where to go out to in the remaining half, come back for a relatively light dinner and then, of course, end the day cribbing about how the weekend has just sped past !!!. This, I guess, is the way most of us spend our Sundays. But for me, 2009 has started on a different note and I have spent its first Sunday in a different and highly satisfying way.

Yesterday, Anjali and me went to her mama's farmhouse near Karjat alongwith her mama and mami. I have never been to many farmhouses before so it was a new experience for me. We had to wake up at 5 am in order to go to Dadar and get the connecting local to Karjat. I had planned to counter this lack of sleep but catching up with it in the train to Karjat. But any such hope was quickly dashed as the train got packed at Dadar and we were thankful to get a good place to stand, let alone sit. And the train was full of groups of teenagers going to the various picnic spots near Karjat and of course, good ol Matheran. We reached Karjat at around 9 am and after a quick breakfast of vada-pao (possibly Karjat's only snack ;-) and tea, we took an auto to go the village nearest to the farmhouse which is around 10km from Karjat. The last half a mile or so was a good old fashioned walk through the village, the nearby fields and a stream with knee-high water.

After we settled ourselves in the farmhouse, her mama took us around for a tour of his farmhouse. And what followed was a hugely enlightening session in Botany. Now, Botany has never been my cup of tea. I am more interested in fauna (in fact, I was trying to spot any snake, lizard etc in the farm). Come to think of it. why does Discovery or National Geographic have hardly any plant-focussed shows ? Anyways, the bottom-line was that my knowledge, and hence appreciation, of various trees and their flowers n fruits increased by leaps and bounds (to the extent that I imagined myself doing full-time gardening/farming and quite liked the idea !!!). One of the discoveries that I made yesterday was that in some plants, there is also the concept of gender !!. After the tour and lesson was over, we took a quick tea break followed by a hands-on session in gardening. Right from gathering the fallen leaves on the ground, collecting and disposing them in the pit, cutting of old branches et al, we spent almost an hour literally getting our hands dirty. It reminded me of the social service camps that I used to go in school. After the clean up activity, it was time to water the different trees. Lunch happened thereafter, with a nearby village household serving us the most amazing home-like meal you can ever expect to have !!. And for once, my Sunday afternoon siesta was more because of exhaustion from the shram-daan rather than overeating.

As the afternoon sun began to move towards the horizon, we went on a quick tour of the adjacent surroundings before finally getting back to Karjat in time for the 6.24 pm train. Another three hours later and we were back home, having spent a Sunday unlike any other and one to remember for a long time !!!..


Thursday, January 01, 2009

A new beginning !!

As they say : 'Start as you mean to go !!'. Therefore, with the objective of having a more active blog this year, I begin by writing on the first morning of 2009 !!. And, as is mostly the case, I don't have anything particular to write about :-(. Therefore, I will just wish everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year !!! As we leave behind what has definitely been a very difficult year, we look forward to this year with new hope and anticipation !!. May all your dreams and wishes be granted but more importantly, I pray to God to give everyone the strength and discipline needed to pursue their dreams to the fullest !!!!.

Now coming back to my blog, I have had a relatively quiet year. 26 posts in 2008 as compared to 34 in 2007. So this year, I hope to be more prolific in my writing, both in terms of quantity and (hopefully) quality as well. And hopefully write on a greater variety of topics, especially on lighter topics because I acknowledge that this is what my blog has been lacking so far. It has been mostly serious and contemporary stuff that I talk about. I wish 2009 would be different in that sense and, as I mentioned above, I pray to the Almighty for the ability (in terms of writing skill) and discipline (in terms of finding time regularly to blog) to fulfill both these wishes.

So once again wishing all readers and their near and dear ones a happy and prosperous new year !!!