March 30, 2011

2011: First Quarter

We are almost at the end of first quarter of 2011, and this hasn't been the best of starts to a year to say the least. However, I don't believe in being sad about things which are out of my control, and instead prefer to focus on the future. 

I have another month of vacation left before I join my job. I will be spending most of the time in Mumbai, and a week at my home. Also, I want to plan for a short trip to one of the nice destinations - Kerela/Shimla/Rajasthan/Leh. However, not sure about the weather and suitability of these locations at this time. Will need to check on the tour guides - Rajasthan doesn't seem to be a wise choice in April, and so does Goa. 

My flight got postponed last week, and now I will be flying tomorrow. I haven't still started packing, and am sure will forget a thing or two. This may be the first time I haven't bought a lot of stuff before a trip back home, and am sure all my siblings would be greatly disappointed. However, I can't think of anything to buy now. On my earlier trips, I used to buy lots of t-shirts as well as electronics from here. But now I have run out of things to buy - and if only they had introduced iPad2 in HK by now. 

India play Pakistan today in the World Cup semifinal, and to say it very mildly, this is the biggest match in this season. Media has gone complete nuts about it over the past few days, and all the advertisers would be laughing all their way back to the bank. Finally, their investments would be reaping fruit (in terms of TRP ratings), and am sure the number of people watching would be close to an all-time high (given the increase in population, and penetration of television). Not to mention the importance of the match as well. If we win the toss, and post anything over 260, we will have more than half the match won. 

March 26, 2011

The Quarter Finals, and The Trip

Cricket is the flavor of the season, and the World Cup is now at its very best. We have the quarter finals going on, and in a few days we will have a new champion. Only, this time it would be a new champion, after Australia dominated it for more than a decade. India, Pakistan and New Zealand have already made it to the last four, and one of Sri Lanka and England would join them soon. 

India's quarter final match was simply amazing - it had everything which the contest was awaited for. Ponting finally finding back his form, and for half the innings the whole of India feared the repeat of 2003 finals. However, he was slow this time, and overall they finished a 100 run short of the then target. Sachin was masterful, as he has been all through the WC. Ashwin and Zaheer bowled beautifully, making one wonder why did we persist with Chawla/Nehra/Munaf combination for so long. Ashwin looked like the second best bowler in the side by a huge margin. And now the attention moves to the Semi final clash on wednesday. 

My India trip got postponed by another week, and am not too happy about it. I am in between jobs, and I have to apply for renewal of my work visa with the new employer. However, I didn't know I would need to submit my passport for it as well - as we don't need the passport for fresh visa applications. Anyways, out of some error of judgement at my end, and lack of planning from the HR's end, my trip is delayed by a week. I still need to decide on what I would be doing over the next 6 days. 

I'm reading a book on Cricket titled 'The Gamechangers', and its based on the fakeiplplayer blog which was the talking point during the IPL 2. Hopefully will be finishing the book in a couple of days, as it an easy read, and will be able to start with another book as well before my trip. I still have 2 cartons full of books which I haven't touched as yet :)

March 24, 2011

Science Fiction: Isaac Asimov

I am usually not much into books under normal circumstances - as its difficult to finish them within a few days, and the long delays make me lose the context. However, I do try to read different books, from a different set of authors, just to get an idea about their style of writing. So that, whenever there are any intellectual discussions (real or show-off), I'm not at sea, and can appreciate the same (or call the bluff). 

There are a lot of writers about whom I have heard a lot of praises, and one of them is Isaac Asimov. The science fiction writer is a must-read, as per a lot of my friends. And finally, I did get to finish my first Asimov novel. In fact, this was my first science fiction, and even though have passed the age, liked it. It was part of the robotics series by the author, and book was named 'Robots and Empire'.

The story revolved around the tussle between earthmen and spacers (an advanced breed of earthmen settled in far off planets, who had longer life span). It involves space travel, deals with inter-galactic wars, and robots - everything that a science fiction deems to have. I am really amazed at how writers can imagine a consistent world (very much like Harry Potter as well) - whenever you are writing about fantasy world, you start by imagining a whole new world, with different set of rules. And it has to be a consistent world, and you define the boundaries of possibilities. In case of Asimov, he decided on the state of universe, the advancement in science, the time period, and what would be the limitations in that age. 

I have ordered another set of his books - the Foundation series. Its the most famous of his set of books, and its a trilogy (originally a trilogy, which was later extended to 7 books). Hopefully will get to read it some time soon.

March 23, 2011

Favorite Places

I guess everyone has their dream destinations and favorite places. Dream destinations are usually the places which we have seen in movies, or some friend's facebook album. For me, there are the places I have never been to, but want to visit at least once - Italy, France, New Zealand. There is something associated with these places which is hard to describe, and I sincerely hope that when I actually visit any of them, they don't turn out disappointing. 

There are a separate set of places which are our Favorite Places - where we have been earlier, and would love to visit back on the first opportunity. These are the places where we have had some memorable moments, and we find ourselves comfortable in. I haven't seen too many places round the world as yet, in fact not too many in India either. Goa would be one such place, and another for me would be Hong Kong. Even though I have been living in HK for some time now, I still like the place very much - for all the reasons why a Mumbai fan would like the city in spite of all its shortcomings. Hong Kong is lively, is comfortable to set in, and has a place of almost everyone in the world (culturally). There is no one big over-bearing culture in the main area, and it contributes to ease with expats can settle in. 

I'm going to India this week, and would be spending at least a couple of weeks there. Not much planning done as yet on things to do, and places to visit, but guess once I'm there things would fall into place. Hopefully would get to meet a lot of people this time - something which I always plan but never end up doing. 

March 18, 2011


We are all very strange in terms of how we get used to things, and then move on to other things. 

When I was small, we used to play cricket. Almost on every alternate days, if not daily. We used to play in the big grounds, as well as in the small places near our house. We played even at the rooftop (chat, as we used to call it), and had all sorts of weird rules. Then, all of a sudden, after school life ended I never played it. Once in a while we played it during our final year in engineering, and a couple of times in the B-School. But never on a regular basis since my school days. 

Another strange habit which comes and goes is the choice of drinks (not liquor, but general drinks). In my engineering days, it was always Ice Tea. We had a lot of small stalls outside the academic complex where we got Ice Tea and Veggie Pattice. So, it was almost always that for me - between and after the classes. During my MBA days, I got used to hot tea (made from tea bags), and even though it tasted real bad the first time, over time I got so used to it that I preferred it over freshly made tea as well. I came to HK for my job, and as there was no tea available, discovered a really nice coffee pack. During my two months in Manila, I got used to Hot Chocolate (as I disliked both the tea and coffee there). The thing is, at different points of time, I developed different hobbies, and then moved out of it as soon as my surroundings changed. 

Currently am on a 3 months leave, and am now getting used to it as well. In my first job, I was used to working long hours, first to come to office, and last to leave. In my last job, I was never in office for long times, and was always moving around. I had never imagined what life would be when you do not go to office, and have full time to your self. Or how it would be to spend you time deciding on which movies or serials to watch next. As days pass, I got used to it as well. May be, this is the longest break I may get for a good part of my working life. All my life, I always woke up early in the mornings - and now its never before 10 AM these days. And am sure when I re-start my job, I would be back to the schedule of getting up at 6 AM. 

March 17, 2011

Kafka On The Shore: Book Review

Finally laid my hands on a novel after ages, and finished it within a week. 'Kafka On The Shore' is a 2002 novel by the famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami. This was my Murakami novel, having heard a lot about the author from a few friends. 

The plot is very confusing and mysterious, with two seemingly unrelated parallel stories running - very much Tarantino style (I guess one of these guys may be inspired by the other). All the odd-numbered chapters tells the story about a boy named Kafka (which is not the real name of the boy) who runs away from his home to escape his 'curse'. He undertakes a journey from Tokyo to Takamatsu in search of his mother and sister, who left home when he was 4. After stopping at a few unlikely places, he finally finds a job and home at an obscure library. He spends his time in the library reading all sorts of books, and develops some fascination for the head librarian, Miss Saeki. 

There is another parallel story running on the even-numbered chapters about an unusual fellow named Nakata. He is a weird way of talking to people, and has an ability of being able to talk to cats. He met an accident when he was a kid, and could never become normal again. He lives on the state subsidy, and in his free time tracks lost cats to generate some extra income. It was during one of his searches that he gets into trouble, and expected events unfold. 

I would stop here, as anything more might be a spoiler (there are already a few). The novel deals with metaphysical world, and is full of surreal events. The book is open to interpretation, and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. When Murakami asked public to ask him about the questions, he got 8000 questions from people. He later said that one needs to read the book more than once to grasp it fully - and might need to make some assumption (and hence a linked set of assumptions as there are many loose ends). And different people might reach at different conclusions using their assumptions. The book reminded me of the Matrix Trilogy, and its ending - which was to a large extent an open ending. Different people could end up with different conclusions about the whole trilogy, and the director made no effort to clarify the same. 

Overall, its one of the best books I have read - not so much in their final treatment of conclusion, but the overall plot and how it develops. The writing style is amazing, and there are times when you can imagine being at the scene. 

March 15, 2011


(A random, uninteresting post on geo politics) 

A couple of days back one survey confirmed what world had come to recognize slowly - that it is not the US President who is the most powerful person in the world, but the Chinese Premier Hu Jintao (newspaper link). This is one of the after effects of the global financial crisis. Some people jokingly mention that soon history would be divided not by B.C. and A.D., but by pre 9/11 and post 9/11. And just to make the point clear, the crisis was just a manifestation of the fact that US economy had lost a lot in 9/11 (in the incident, as well as in wars which followed). The treasury had to raise the rates when deficit got out of control, and all hell broke loose. So, in a stroke, US lost its status as the biggest super power and US President no longer ruled the world. 

Slowly and slowly, the world is coming to acknowledge the fact that soon there would be a change in status. Soon China would be almost the same size as US, and then go past it. Lets keep it serious, and not unnecessarily put India in the equation (we are miles behind in all the parameters, and I still can't find the reason as to why we are put in the same bracket as China. They must fume at the mention a similar way we get angry over clubbing of India and Pakistan over any issue). The point is, China is already past Japan in GDP size (and post the quake the differential would grow), and US is next. 

My only concern is, power transfer are seldom peaceful. If you are an aging tiger, and a young wolf is getting stronger every day, what do you do? Do you peacefully wait for it to grow stronger than you, and one day defeat/kill you? Or you make some pre-emptive strikes against it and leave it much weaker? We are entering a very dangerous period, and I think we may have some BIG geo-political events in the coming decade. 

March 13, 2011

The Japanese Miracle

First things first - this post is not about me offering my well wishes and thoughts to the people of Japan. Or how much I wish they would all come out of it soon. I do feel against all  these tragedies, but I'm against forwarding/tweeting/blogging about them. And lets be real, my writing 50 words about something happening over a thousand miles away won't help even an ant living there. So, lets stop uselessly caring and pretending, and unless we really want to do something, lets move on with our life. (I was inundated with all the #prayforjapan tagged messages on my twitter time line, and I'm sure more than half of those guys haven't ever helped a living soul on this planet). 

Japan has always been a miracle, and am sure it would come out of this crisis pretty soon. I have always wondered about such a small country, which was devastated post the World War, with so little natural resources, small land size and even population, could become world's second largest economy. Japan has never been the most stable region - geographically, and suffers earth quakes every now and then. And yet, its perhaps the most advanced region in the world, with amongst the highest per capita GDP. Everyone with dreams goes to USA or UK, but in my view, the Japanese miracle exceeds both of them. For the past couple of decades, Japanese economy has been stagnant, and its stock market Index (Nikkei) has dropped by almost 75% of its peak levels. The future looks bleak for the country, and it has had two decades of zero to negative growth. However, its still one of the most prosperous country on the planet. And I have a feeling that some of the recent events might actually work in its favor. Like the post-war economy provided plenty of opportunities of growth, similarly, the post earthquake economy may see replacement demand from industries and household. Lets see how this pans out. 

I plan to visit the country some time this year. I have heard lot of good things about the place - from almost everyone who has visited it. The people are really wonderful, and one always wants to come back to this place. Also, I have seen some of the snaps, and they are awesome. So hopefully I will be able to plan something around middle of the year, and see the miracle first hand. 

March 11, 2011

About Subways and McDonalds

A couple of days back I was reading the news about Subway lapping past McDonald in terms of number of stores. So, its official now - a simple sandwich store has more stores globally than the mighty McDonald. It does seem hard to believe, that something as simple as Subway is now the leading fast food chain in the world. 

(Its a different matter that I still do not see them succeeding in India - compared to other economies where McD or Subway are cheap food options, in India they are not so cheap. With one getting a meaty 'Grilled Sandwich' or Vada-Pav in every corner of Mumbai (and similar stuff in other cities), am not sure of the appeal of these outlets. Apart from the hygiene and cool quotient, they don't offer any substantial improvements). 

It got me thinking about how Twitter and Facebook might shape up in coming years. Or for that matter the other Social Networking sites which might come up. Facebook is very much like the McDonald in this comparison, and Twitter is very much like Subway (the comparison has to be back dated by a few years, when McD was much larger). Facebook has the universal appeal, but has much more of media attention (and hence scrutiny as well). And perhaps the most serious concern is the target segment - its mostly used by school and college going kids to share some random snaps or indulge into harmless and useless banter. But as they grow up, they would use it less and less - its addictive, and they know it. Much like the fast food, they like it - at the same time knowing that its not good for health, and hence would very much like to limit it. And may be in five years time, some of the most heavy users of Facebook would out grow it. 

Twitter on the other hand has endorsements from a whole lot of celebrities (and that too for free, now try to beat that!!!). Almost everyone whom people would like to 'follow' are on Twitter, and as long as there are celebrities in the world, a 'twitter like' service may have its appeal. People from all age are using it (very much like Subway), and they don't intend to leave the habit one day. So, most of the users here may be sticky, and continue to use it years later. A few things would necessarily change, but the essence may remain. And it has lesser privacy concerns as well - and one-way communication ensures you are not obliged to respond immediately. 

Well, these are just how I feel they will evolve over time. However, as with most internet and tech companies, its very very difficult to predict the changes - until they happen. However, given the current valuations (with FB almost valued at 10 times the valuation of Twitter), I would put my money on Twitter over the long term. Even though I admire FB as a company, and am a big fan of its interface and design. 

March 6, 2011

The Coalition Dra(r)ma

It was bound to happen - you cannot make 170,000 Cr without making a few enemies. DMK is humiliated and hurt, and rightly so. It was their man who masterminded the loot, and when everything was secured, Madamji and MMS got him arrested, and declared there was no money to share. Overnight, 170,000 Cr changed to 0, all thanks to one Mr. Sibal. It must have been a deadly combination of Italian Hawala and Oxford Economics which accounted for such a large sum of money. I can hear a Katrina Kaif's alter ego shout - 'Humne Bofors ka paisa nahi khaya hai, those agents didn't pass the promised commissions to us. But this time, we ensured there was no middlemen, and saari dealings humare PMO se hi ho.' MMS is the Dhritrastra of this age, and all his ministers are looting the helpless country. Every now and then, he keeps asking - 'yeh kya ho raha hai, but goes silent again until there is a large uproar.'

With the state assembly elections approaching, there is palpable tension all around. With the money now gone, DMK is fighting hard to run all its companies - now it somehow needs to secure working capital. Its hoping it can get more than 150 seats in the assembly, and at an average of 100 Cr per seat, can still reach its target of 15000 Cr for this fiscal. Madamji on the other hand is still pissed with the Finance Minister - he forgot to add her share in the budget and by mistake announced the fiscal deficit as 4.6% for the next year. Now she has to choose between a castle in Italy, and a sea-facing house in Mumbai. Earlier she was planning for both, the castle for herself and the sea-facing apartment for Rahul baba. Rahul Baba wants to see the poverty in India (after he missed out seeing it due to his stay abroad for almost 99% of his life), and who better than the sea to advise him, which has seen it all. A clueless imported prince in the waiting, and a blind man about to be retired - state of affairs in the next wanna be superpower. 

March 1, 2011

Movie Fest

I have re-started my movie marathon sessions, and am now watching a couple of movies per day. As I might have mentioned earlier, back in my college days I had planned to watch the complete IMDB Top 250 movies. But like so many dreams from the college days, this one too remained just a thought. This year, I plan to give it another shot, and hopefully will be watching a lot more from it. 

Saw quite a few movies recently, and here are my mini-reviews:

Gangajal - Had heard a lot about the national award winning movie, and the performance by Ajay Devgan. And I wasn't disappointed either. I'm not a great fan of Ajay Devgan (specially in a comedy movie), but this was one of the movie where perhaps no one could have played the role better - just like Company, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, etc. Certainly worth a watch. 

Patiala House - I had expected this to be trash, just like the other AK movies in recent times. And I was happy to be proved wrong. This was a Yash Raj/K Jo formula movie, and after zillions of years AK did a sensible film. However, it fared badly as I guess he fell pray to 'Bhediya Aaya' syndrome - and no one expected a nice movie from him. 

7 Khoon Maaf - If its Vishal Bhardwaj, anything is Maaf. Not many people have 'really' liked it (5-star level), and its not a classic in the same league as his earlier works. However, its still a very nicely made movie, and Priyanka is certainly one of the best actress today (not that she has much competition with industry filled with Sonam Kapoors, who can't even act to save her life). 

Black Swan - Not a typical movie, in fact may not even qualify as being a movie. It could very well be a personal diary of Nina (the lead character). Natalie Portman is awesome in her role, and portrays the character wonderfully well. Not many people will like the movie, but its powerful, and meaningful cinema. If you are a Cinema lover (and not just 'movie fan'), then you may like it.