Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To talk or not to talk, that is the question!

Henry David Thoreau said "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate". Probably, the context in which he said this was to emphasize that materialistic riches and decadent existence were not required to lead a satisfactory life. It can be argued that this statement goes against the pursuit of science but that is irrelevant here. What is still relevant here is that "...have nothing important to communicate".

Mobile phones (or cell phones in USA) are a product of the tremendous technological achievement in Electronics and Communications. There is no denying that such a thing would have been laughed at had it been proposed about 40-50 years ago. But it is a reality and, with ultra-cheap silicon technology, has made a grand foray into third world consumers' pockets. No one would have imagined that a country like India, where the penetration of land lines was abysmal just 10 years ago, would see pani puri wallahs and road side workers wielding mobile phones.

With new technolgy and new lifestyles come new problems that people don't know how to handle. No one has ever been instructed about how to use these mobile phones in public. There are no set rules on etiquette or accepted norms of behaviour regarding them. So what is stopping people from hollering into their phones in a crowded bus or on the street? Nothing! People just do not care about neighbours being bothered or other people trying to concentrate on their work.

We have had mobile phones thrust upon us for almost no cost. So now, whether or not we have anything to talk, we cannot stop taking. Conversations can go aimlessly or discussing your most personal thoughts and feelings in front of total strangers who are made to put up with your agonies. More irritating are the boisterous types who think that the neighbours have nothing better to do than listen to your drivel; and they go on talking at the top of their voices to the utter consternation of everyone in the room.

This even happens in friends' circles where the idiots cannot go a little distance away to speak into their phones. They sit right next to you and talk into the stupid device for hours. You are made to listen to one half of a meaningless conversation while doing nothing. Can you not make a decision whether to take a call or not? If you must, can you not learn to keep your conversation short or tell the caller that you will get back to them later?

There has even been a lot of research done on the topic and why people find mobile phones annoying. You can see simple reasons in this work "Why are Mobile Phones Annoying?" published in the Journal of Behaviour and Information Technology. [Monk, et al]. Coming back to Thoreau's quote, we lived all these years without a cellphone. Life was normal and people found a payphone if they had something urgent to talk to someone outside of their homes or offices. Now suddenly with a phone in their hands, people cannot stop talking to each other over a cellphone. It definitely is a bane rather than a boon to have a cellphone.

[Monk, et. al] - Andrew Monk, Jenni Carroll, Sarah Parker, and Mark Blythe: "Why are Mobile Phones Annoying?" Behaviour and Information Technology, vol. 23, no. 1, 2004, pp. 33-41.

Recommended reading:
  1. Cell phone etiquette : 10 dos and don't s
  2. The Ten Commandments of cell phone etiquette

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On Bookshelves and Reading Habits

I have always believed that bookshelves add an indescribable charm to any room. As soon as I see a bookshelf in someone's room, my eyes start scanning the book collection. I am attracted to the collection of their books, the condition in which they are maintained, the kind of bookshelf, etc. I cant but help notice if the books have been cared for or not. Also, I try to gauge the personality of the collector by seeing his/her collection of books.

I adore bookshelves as much as I love books. It is always a pleasure to see a well designed tastefully organized bookshelf. As Pradeep Sebastian eloquently puts it in his Endpaper column in the Hindu Literary Review, he ponders over deep vs slim shelves, pigeon-hole shelves, whether libraries should use those ghastly slotted angle shelves and a host of other dilemma a book collector has to face.

Mark Twain once famously said "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them". In essence, I think books are as essential as food, air and water (I was about to say wireless internet but refrained myself!). So, prejudiced as I am, I somehow cannot believe that some people can live their entire lives without reading any good books. The USA which is the largest publisher of books in the world is now 'endangered in reading habits' according to CNN. It wasn't for nothing that B. F. Skinner said "We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading".

Now why am I endlessly droning on two different topics - books and bookshelves?
There is a connection. Recently I chanced upon the website of Strand Books which, believe it or not, sells books by the foot! Now have you ever heard of such a thing? I had heard a few years ago of buying dresses by the kilogram(!) but selling books by the foot is the height of it all! My first thought was what sort of an idiot would go to a bookstore and say 'Hey, I want about 4 feet of books to fill up my bookshelf'!!!! Then after seeing this site it became apparent that people who build beautiful houses and are rolling in money with no time to read want to have a bookshelf in the study or in the living room. It would test their patience to go out and buy books that they could read. So they buy artistically bound or gilded books with golden coloured spines, golden lettering with leather covers and weird sounding titles. I am seriously not against beautifully bound books but buying them only to decorate your living space is ... um... really crazy.

This website even announces on its page that "A home without books is like a room without windows" and the offerings vary from $300 per foot for Victorian era books, $250 per foot for art books and so on. I really do not understand why people have to portray this false sense of literacy. Or it is that they just want brand new books to go with that shade of wallpaper and mahogany!?!? As someone said, "The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it". how can you explain that to these people!?!?

Check out the webpage. It really is fun to see what all you can sell if you can convince gullible rich foolish customers. People with lots of money are really crazy. And I don't have lots of money :-)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Guddada Bhootha - Title Song

Those of us who used to love the tele-serials of the early 90s in Kannada could not have missed Guddada Bhootha! The tune was haunting, the storyline suspenseful and I still remember the ending which was superb! In fact, it was also the serial that made actor Prakash Rai. It is a different story that this talented actor found greener pastures in Tamil and Telugu film industries.

I had been searching for the title song of that serial since ages and recently found it in Ravishankar's website in Multiply.com. I have uploaded it in my website with all the other Kannada Serial songs for your downloading convenience. Or simply, you can listen to it in the flash audio player embedded in this post.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Coffee Blues

Wake up. Brush my teeth. Go to the kitchen. Keep a half-mug of milk in the microwave. Put one teaspoon Nescafe instant coffee and some sugar in it. Inhale it and start sipping it. This is how my daily routine begins.

I somehow cannot kickstart a day without coffee. Surprisingly, it was not like this. I used to drink milk or Horlicks or Complan earlier when I was young and not allowed to drink coffee. Or at the best, what was described as 'haalu kaafi' (very milky coffee).

Go to any restaurant in the US and as soon as you order coffee, they ask "Black?"! Which senseless fool can drink black coffee? Of course I feel like shouting "NO! Brown!" the way R. K. Narayan shouted at a waiter in a New York cafeteria. But people here wouldn't understand and I give it up as a lost cause.

Every single day while I am drinking coffee, I remember the taste of coffee back home. The coffee in the outside world is a far cry from what we make in South India. I must say that I don't know how coffee tastes outside Karnataka but it must be somewhat the same. Now what is it about us that makes us crave for the same kind of coffee that we are used to bak at home? I can distinctly tell the coffee from New Shanti Sagar and Kadambam and Pavithra and Vidyarthi Bhavan hotels in Bangalore. The difference in the bitterness, the strengths of the decoction, the colour and not to mention the kind of tumbler that comes with it makes each a savouring occasion.

These are the days when the 'youth' 'hang out' in Cafes sipping Mochas and Lattes and soaking in the ambience of the place. Yeah, Right! If you pay Rs. 100 or thereabouts for a cup of that drink they dare call coffee, you might as well enjoy the ambience since you are not getting your money's worth in the coffee! This is the coffee culture from the West that is now seen in every corner in Bangalore.

Perfect coffee is prepared in a coffee filter which contains space for the coffee powder between the two cups. As hot water percolates through the powder from the top, the strong decoction is formed in the bottom cup. The dripping rate defines the strength of the decoction. Add a little hot and sweetened milk to some decoction from a height and you have a frothing cup of 'filter coffee'. Three years ago, if coffee was not like the this, I would probably have said, "Can I have tea instead?" like Manohar Malgonkar. But it looks like these things are here to stay. It's a strange world we live in. We don't get what we want and we cannot like what we get!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Intelligent Design

Now, why didn't anyone think of this?

Most elegant solutions are really simple! And this one is no exception. When you only have two USB ports on your laptop, you surely would love to free them up with multipurpose devices. This new wireless mouse from Microsoft is no earth shattering achievement but something so useful that it shows the necessity of practical user interface design.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Watched this lovely movie 'Mostly Martha' last week. The movie is in German with English subtitles. Really worth it. Watch it at least for the lead actress ;-)

Watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Garva serial DVD

Someone recently left this comment on my blog. It seems that people are interested in bringing out the DVDs of the super hit Kannada serial Garva. If you are interested in getting the DVDs, please contact Aman (details below).

For now, you can listen to the superb Garva title song, a composition by Purandara Daasaru. (I had a long discussion with a friend about the meaning of some of the words in the lyrics. Fantastic lyrics and meaning.)

Personal set of GARVA DVDs - a possible reality!
Dearest GARVA brethren,

Following tremendous pressure, support and request from you all and the like, Prakash has spoken to Etv-Kannada into actually "selling" all the 202 episodes of our favourite TV series GARVA into a collectible, personal set of 25-27 DVDs. Each set will cost a mere Rs.2000/- provided we have a confirmed list of 400 buyers in the least. Prakash has delegated me - your 'Nakul' - to garner the buyers. I need you all to turn the best Sales/Mktg professionals for this. Please send me your & more confirmations with complete contact details of the prospective buyers to natakaman@sify.com only. Thanks & Regards - Aman

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Living without the Idiot Box

[Image Courtesy: http://notelevision.freegar.org]

I have not watched TV in almost 3 years. No. Let me put it this way. I have not had a TV at home for the past 3 years. Cable TV itself was late entrant to our home in Bangalore. we finally got cable TV in 2003. By then I was working and hardly had the time to watch the shows. Now after coming to USA, I have deliberately avoided buying a television set so as to not get addicted to it.

Now, this does not mean that I do not watch TV. I do watch it at the student union, or at a friend's place occasionally. The last time I saw was the French Open finals. Before that, I don't remember! It must have been a few months ago. However, the frequency is so rare that I really do not even know if I am missing something or ever care about it anymore.

In India, the only channels I loved to watch were NGC, Discovery, some AXN, some sports channels for F-1 and the occasional good programs on ETV and Udaya(such as Divya Darshana early in the mornings, or the one with Hiremagalur Kannan, and such). I also used to watch an occasional movie once in a while but kept away from serials and soaps and reality shows as much as possible. In fact, when I tried watching Band of Brothers on HBO, the only obstruction was some stupid home-wrecking soap that my mother did not want to miss! That led to a lot of arguments and I totally gave up fighting for the remote.

In the USA and not to mention in India, of late, people are heavily addicted to television. Teens and elders cant stop themselves from watching and discussing soaps and other bogus shows. Kids are glued to Pockemon and whatnot from the time they get up to the time they go to bed. I think that the AC Nielsen survey which says that people watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day is a conservative estimate! Thank goodness, at least that WWF craze is behind us!

Whenever I bring up the argument that TV is a useless gadget(according to me, that is what it has metamorphosized into), people talk about its good programs, exposure to a lot of topics(yeah right! Its only exposure these days!), blah blah... Are they kidding themselves? Does everyone watch such things?!? Then why are Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, Saas Bhi..., etc so highly rated? How many people watched an informational program such as the Sunday night special 'Pompeii Uncovered' on NGC or ETV Raaga Ranjini or for that matter anything else?

I don't know what to talk in gatherings when people are discussing the latest episode of some television show. Fine. I can live with it. Neither do I care nor do I want to watch those brainless things just so that I can find a topic of conversation at parties. Without the TV, I find time to play tennis, take a walk, read something, etc. In fact, more and more people are waking up to the fact that the TV is spoiling homes. A Google search of 'living without TV' yields 42 million hits!

Dont get me wrong. I am not advocating that everyone should live without the television. But does it justify giving it the place of honour in the living room? What do you say?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Puerto Rico: A Paradise in the USA

Just came back from the enchanting island of Puerto Rico which I visited for a conference. I stayed on the island for 5 days. It was really a memorable trip looking at the awesome scenery, the beautiful tropical beaches, the rain forest and not to mention the stunning Ritz Carlton.

Check out some photos. (Click on the photos for description and resizing.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Really Old Oldies...

The term Oldies acquires different meanings in different circles. When I was young, what I meant by Oldies was maybe songs from the late 1960s and 70s. Thereafter, I discovered the gems of the 50s and listened to them for a while. I had recently met someone who is about 55-60 years old. While conversing with him, when I said I like Oldies, he took it to mean the 1930s and songs by K.L. Saigal, Pankaj Mallick, R.C. Boral, etc.

Of late, I have been listening to songs of the late 40s and 50s. In fact, I have gotten bored of listening to the late 60s and 70s. In this post, let me concentrate on some of the notable songs of the late 40s.

The late 40s was the period when actors had just stopped singing their songs in the song and dance sequences. The times when Ashok Kumar, Noor Jahan and other who sang and danced and acted had just ended. The era of big time playback singers was about to begin. Noor Jahan had acted and sung fantastic melodies in Anmol Ghadi (1946) especially Awaaz De Kahaan Hai standing out amongst the others. In 1949, one song single handedly launched the career of arguably the greatest playback singer India has ever seen - Lata Mangeshkar. When she sang the song Aayega Aanewala for the inimitable and most beautiful Madhubala in Mahal(1949), listeners swooned to the voice that would entrance billions for years. Legend has it that the people in the studio started talking excitedly about the new singer who had made a huge impression. When the movie was a hit (probably because of the song), Madhubala started insisting that Lata sing all her future songs.

It was also the time when Noor Jahan was displaced as the undisputed singing queen. Also, since she went over to Pakistan after the partition, she got fewer opportunities to sing than Lata did. In fact, Noor Jahan was Lata's idol in the initial stages of her career and even imitated her style of singing in some of her early songs. The other mindblowing songs were from Raj Kapoor's Barsaat (1949). Shankar-Jaikishen composed a remarkable score for Raj Kapoor's first directorial hit film. It established the Raj Kapoor-Nargis combo along with Shankar-Jaikishen and Shailendra-Hasrat Jaipuri pair for music and lyrics. Raj never wavered from this and they went on to deliver hit after hit. Mukesh only got two songs in the movie but Chhod gaye baalam is outstanding. Lata again reasserted her supremacy making this movie a terrific hit. In fact, RK made the RK studio emblem based on a Barsaat scene where he holds Nargis in one hand an a violin in the other.

Some other outstanding songs from the late 40s that are my favourites and immediately come to mind are:

Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki, Na Jaane thum kab Aaogi (Dulari, 1949) by Rafi
Mere Piya gaye Rangoon (Patanga, 1949) by Shamshad Begum
Tu Kahe Agar (Andaz, 1949) by Mukesh

These are some of the earliest songs that I have listened. I have no recollection of having heard from the 30s. It must have been the glory days of KL Saigal, Khemchand Prakash, Pankaj Mallick, etc.

In fact, while I started this post with enthusiasm, it waned towards the end since I have not been able to weave a systematic classification about any one singer or movie or director. I have just been able to touch upon various geniuses who kickstarted their careers around the same time - Lata, Mukesh, Rafi, Raj Kapoor, etc. Maybe subsequent posts will be on individual movies and personalities.

Watch out for more in the future posts.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


After a long hiatus, I will make a comeback on this blog. There are lots of reasons for not posting new blogposts here, lack of time definitely not being one of them. I also have a full page of blogable topics that I have listed at various times. Watch out for my next post shortly.