Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 will be the year of....

1. Showing you care for the environment

I have always cared for the environment, but 2009 has told us, in no uncertain terms, that you have to walk the talk. Terms like 'carbon footprints' have become part of normal usage. The recent (near) non-event in Copenhagen has shown us that while nations slug it out over coming to a common understanding over carbon emissions, it is we ordinary people who have to make a start, whether it be reducing our fuel consumption, conserving power at home or exploring alternate sources of energy. For me, this means watching my carbon consumption closely and seriously evaluating solar-powered appliances at home.

2. Writing more often

I started the year with a target of 50 blog posts for the year, and have been spectacularly off the mark, this being my 36th and last post of 2009. Hope that next year is better both in quantity and quality. And hopefully, I will actually write my first genuinely funny post !!!

3. Eating healthy

2009 has been an entirely forgettable year in terms of health. Have been down with fever on four separate occasions. And the cause in two instances was stomach upset. So this year will hopefully see me cutting down on the roadside vada-pao's and instead opting for more of home-made food, which leads me to.....

4. Cooking a few dishes

For a foodie like me, I hardly know cooking, besides tea/coffee and Maggi. This year, I resolve to make atleast five dishes at home (not the simple variety). Who knows, some hidden talent might come out ? ;-)

5. Working out

This has become almost a passion for me and this year will be no different. Have set myself ambitious targets at the gym, and the forthcoming half-marathon will tell me where I stand.

6. Being discrete in cyberspace.

Many of us fail to realize how time flies when we are hooked on to the Net. Whether its checking the latest score or chatting away with friends, it is mostly unproductive use of a wonderful medium (besides earning the wrath of my wife). So this year would be all of making more productive use of my time online, exploring new worlds and learning all the time. Even one article a day on Wikipedia is good enough for me !!

7. Being aggressive with finances

I have realized that this is the age to be aggressive with your investments. To take small but calculated gambles as far as money goes. If one does not take risks now, it will be never. After all, how else would your dream retirement holiday fructify ?

8. Learning a new language

I strongly believe that learning a new language broadens your horizons, besides giving you an unparalleled sense of fulfillment. And with so many learning resources (books, CDs etc) avaliable on the Net, it has become much easier than before. So here's to getting to know a new language this year. And that one of my blog posts in 2010 would be in that language.

9. Read 10 books

To many, it may sound like a ridiculously easy target to set. But for me, getting quality time is a challenge. So finishing ten decent-sized books in a year would be a challenge, The list is almost ready, have to get cracking...

and last but definitely not the least,

10. Learning Swimming !!!

Something that I should have done long time back, but better late than never !!!. This is one resolution I will definitely keep. After all, who knows which would be the day when it can save me ?

See you in 2010..



Sunday, December 27, 2009

3 Idiots: An endearing experience !!

I start with a question to all engineers reading this: Can you truly claim to have seen this movie and not felt, somewhere deep down, a tinge of sadness thinking about how those four years could actually have turned out ? Rajkumar Hirani's latest offering definitely touched a nerve somewhere. And which is why I, an engineer having a degree that says 'passed with distinction' but who does not do much beyond changing light bulbs at home, call '3 Idiots' an endearing experience.

More than a laugh riot, it is one of the first movies that takes on India's illogical, high-pressure, learn-by-rote centric higher education system. A system that venerates the cuckoo who begins life by destroying his competition. A system where the teachers pet is the guy who can reel off text book definitions without even pausing to think on what he is blabbering. A system into which many people end up trying to like what they are doing, rather than doing what they like. Into this system, at one of the country's premier engineering colleges (located at our IIM Bangalore campus ;-)) comes Rancho. A non-conformist, an iconoclast. Right from the beginning, when he wards off his seniors at the ragging sessions (seems to have become a Hirani patent) with an ingenious use of common physics (hopefully it will not be repeated at engineering hostels across the country), he comes across as someone who does not want to be part of the rat-race, even though he ranks first. Someone who is at the college because his heart wants to be there. And it is this that endears him to his two room-mates, Raju (who is one of the millions of young men for whom an engineering degree is the passport to prosperity) and Farhan (who has simply been bulldozed by his father into studying engineering while his heart lies in the jungle). But this also causes Rancho to cross swords with the tough-as-nails dean of the institute Veeru (Boman Irani in another repeat Hirani character). What follows is a sequence of events through which Hirani addresses various ugly facets of higher education in India, whether it be the unfortunate student suicides, or the emphasis on learning by rote (the hilarious teachers day speech).

For me, what stood out about the movie was that Hirani gets his message across without restoring to melodrama or heavy histrionics. In fact, there is always the danger of the audience missing the message amidst all the gags and comedy. For example, he could have ended the movie with Rancho delivering a lengthy monologue on the ills of the education system. Instead, he chose to portray the ultimate triumph of the protagonist, who, as a scientist, not only opens a school with a scientific bend of mind for young children, but also acts as a consultant to the firm in which his former geek batchmate works. And throughout the movie there is a strong undercurrent of the serious and contemporary (note the jibe made by Rancho about engineers going on to do MBAs and then working in banks - am sure quite a few would have felt offended). And the cast supports him brilliantly. Sharman Joshi is outstanding. Boman Irani, as expected, is first-rate. The newcomer Omi registers a strong impact. Kareena stands out in a brief role. And which other seasoned actor would have got away with playing a character half his age ? Anyways, I need not comment on Aamir's performance here.

To be fair, the film is not without its flaws and exaggerations. Veeru Sahastrabuddhe, I thought, was badly caricatured. Made almost stereotypical of senior professors: curly-haired, eccentric and wearing trousers upto his belly. And a new born baby responding to 'All Izz Well' was pushing the limits of cinematic liberties a bit too far. But these are minor blemishes in an otherwise superior product. In fact, the government can do well to screen this as a part of the induction of wannabe engineers at all institutes. Even if a few 17 year olds get inspired by it and choose to be Idiots - I Do It On my TermS, the movie would have done its job.

Till then, if you havent seen the movie already, go ahead and be inspired. While all of us might not build schools in Ladakh, at least some of us can be in the place where we want to be, rather than the place where we have been pushed to.

All Izz Well...........

~ Amit

Thursday, December 03, 2009

AR Rahman : My top 5 !!!

Ever since that March night in LA when AR proudly held aloft the Oscar (for admittedly a below-average number) have I been wanting to write this. Today, when he has been nominated for the Grammy for Jai Ho, I have finally decided to take the plunge and list my all-time top 5 AR Rahman favourites. So after spending a few hours listening to a shortlist of 20+ songs (And yes, Jai Ho was not amongst those :-), here are my top 5. Feel free to shoot your agreements and disagreements :)

1. Dil Hai Chhotasa (Roja - 1991)

The gem that started it all. The first AR composition that I listened to. I clearly remember the day. I came back from school (must be in 8th grade then) and my elder cousin had bought an audio-tape (remember it ? :)) of Roja and told me it contained music of a kind that was completely unheard of and refreshing (those were the days of Nadeem-Shravan and Aashiqui). So I played it, the first voice was Chitra starting this wonderful number and the rest, as they say, was history.

2. Bombay Theme (Bombay - 1994)

By a distance, the best theme score for a movie. Right from the first few seconds (when the flute begins) this haunts you. Then suddenly in the middle, the flute gives way to a more disturbing kind of sound (indicative of the riots) and then a fantastic violin crescendo. This theme touches you straight at the heart.

3. Ishq Bina / Kahin Aag Lage Lag Jaye (Taal - 1999)

AR and the showman of Bollywood combined for the first time and came up with a classic. All songs in Taal were hits and I have taken two of my favourites. The first one, because of the soothing effect it had on me when I heard it the first time (and it came when I was in college, when you identify better with these things). On the other hand, 'Kahin Aag Lage Jaye' was A-A-A magic (AR, Asha Bhosle and - even though I am not her greatest fan - Ash). Also, it still holds a place in my heart.

4. Chale Chalo (Lagaan - 2001)

If 'Chale Chalo' cannot charge you up for battle, very few other things can. While his other compositions in Lagaan were also good, this made it to my list because of its attitude ('dharti hila denge, sabko dikha denge, raja kya praja kya ho.'.) and, of course, AR Rahman the crooner.

5. Title Song
- (Rang De Basanti - 2006)

The song that proved AR could do bhangra-style as good as anyone else. A fantastically infectious number, gets your feetitapping almost by themselves :).

Note that this is AR Rahman's top 5, hence I have omitted gems like 'Tu Hi Re' (Bombay) and 'Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera' (Swades), wherein I felt that Hariharan / Kavita K (in the former) and Javed Akhtar (in the latter) were the men-of-the-match. Some others that were worthy of mention were 'Humdum Suniyo Re (Saathiya)', 'Piya Haji Ali (Fizaa)' and 'Kehna Hi Kya (Bombay)'.