Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I finally managed to check out the links in Metro Plus' article about learning Languages Online. C'est facile, n'est pas?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Beware the Agrarian Utopians talks about the futility of rejecting the future.

The Coming War on Blogs deals with likely legal restrictions on bloggers & blogging.

The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress looks like an interesting book.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince already tops the Amazon wishlist for books.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Pyrrhic Victory

I distinctly remember the day I first used 'Pyrrhic victory' in writing. It was a sunny morning in September 1997 and the city of Coimbatore was comfortably cool after the lashing of the South West monsoon. The yellow rays of the morning sun lent a cozy air to the second floor classroom where my classmates and I were seated for the first hour of class - Software Engineering. I felt a heightened sense of awareness that morning and was rather pleased with the cheerfulness of the room. The lecturer arrived on the dot at 8:30am and class began soon after. I opened my scribbling pad and with an elaborate gesture of concentration, wrote a title on a blank page - 'He Lost'. I was surprised at it because I had not consciously intended to write it. What followed was an inspired outpouring of thought and I filled two pages with words that had barely any space to breathe. I think it must have been twenty minutes but I loved the sense of total focus that I was able to effortlessly manage.

My last sentence of that article read, "As he lay on his death bed, he realized what a Pyrrhic victory his entire life had been. In his quest for the bromide material success, he had missed the path to self-realization. He had failed to recognize that man is not the means to an end but the end himself. He had merely existed. Had he lived, he would not have lost". Like all writers, I loved the way this piece had turned out and there were two particular turns of phrase that I delighted in. Sadly, friends of mine who read it appreciated some other lines and somehow thought that the whole article was pretty esoteric. To this day, this piece of mine evokes warm memories and a wonderful surge of inspiration.

Pyrrhic victory stays on in my mind as a constant reminder of what is worth fighting for. It is not worth picking every battle ground that is available for the taking. Anything that eats into the essence of an individual cannot be a worthy pursuit. What is the point in fighting when there is nothing worthy left to fight for? King Pyrrhus of Epirus learnt it the hard way.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

All in the crowd

A couple of days ago, I was waiting at the Gemini Flyover (now called Anna Flyover - a landmark location in Chennai) signal. The countdown was a slow progress...60, 59, 58...and I looked around, as always, trying to soak in the motion picture on either side of my vehicle. When I turned to my right, I noticed a fifty-ish man seated in the front in a chauffeur driven car, reverentially holding an open copy of The Power of Now. He seemed totally oblivious to the vehicles around him and continued to read without looking up even when the last 10-seconds for the green light caused a significant increase in decibel level. I continued to watch him curiously and smiled at the concentration so wholly appropriate for such a wonderful book.

The vehicles made a furious dash at the switch to green and in barely a few seconds, I was crossing the side road that leads to the hallowed entrance of Landmark, Nungambakkam - my favourite parking place outside the home. I resisted the urge to turn and continued straight on Nungambakkam High Road reminiscing. Last week at Landmark, I spent a number of minutes at the new arrivals section happily browsing The Wisdom of Crowds when someone pushed me aside and thrust a bulky hand overadorned in gold bangles past me to the rack that had yet another Da Vinci Code book. I heard loud Telugu chatter behind me and the only word I could make out was 'Da Vinci'. I was a bit annoyed to be rudely interrupted by the bulky woman who now filled my vision in bright yellow and red Kanjeevaram (ok that's jargon. Kanjeevaram is a sari weave famous in Tamil Nadu. For a more elaborate description, go here). I was forced to turn behind, only to catch sight of two old men in pristine white panchakacham and white kurta. The men were urging the woman to pick up any Da Vinci code book that she could find. I was starting to get curious by now and diverted my attention to the study of the wisdom of this crowd.

I found that the family had more representation in Landmark in the form of two more men both clad in regular dhothi and shirt and three women all in bright and grand saris. I heard more 'Da Vinci' along with Telugu babble. It looked like they were collecting books that had anything to do with Da Vinci or cracking the code or Dan Brown. I also heard a female name being mentioned - Brinda or Priya - and I imagined a pampered young woman who had sent her entire family on a Da Vinci book hunt. I moved to the Literature section in the far corner of the store for some peace and quiet. I hovered near the Umberto Eco collection, eagerly fingering Foucault's Pendulum and fighting the temptation to add it to the shopping basket. A few minutes of intense focus on the book is all I could manage before the Da Vinci brigade attacked again. They were looking for Da Vinci books in the Literature section as well! Need I say that I made a hasty march to the checkout counter?

Funnily, when I tried adding a wiki link above for Umberto Eco, the description had this quote for Foucault's Pendulum - "the thinking man's The Da Vinci Code". Now that's what I call an eerie coincidence. Hmm...maybe the brigade did come to the Lit. area to look for Foucault's Pendulum! Whatever they came for, it was an amusing scene - eight people in traditional Indian wedding attire, combing every rack in Landmark for Da Vinci books!

I just started on William Butler Yeats' biography by Terence Brown. I hope to be wiser about Irish Nationalism soon.

Handy hints

I finished Charles Handy's Beyond Certainty yesterday. It is a compilation of essays, columns and lectures on the changing roles of people and organizations written / presented by Handy over a period of time. This book was first published in 1995 and the point that interested me was the amazing accuracy with which Handy was able to predict the trends of the present decade in the early 90s. He talks about concepts like portfolio working, higher taxation's link to a better standard of living, companies getting rich but staying small and many other lateral ideas.

While surfing on the subject of changing roles, I came across the Learning Revolution e-book, which seems like an interesting collection of ideas - culled from famous people in the last ten years.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Madras Bashai

Madras Bashai - a unique dialect of the Tamil language spoken in Chennai.

A friend of mine sent me this an hour back and I found it quite amusing. You can laugh at it if you have been exposed to Madras bashai earlier.

Friday, March 11, 2005

When Backward means Forward

Answer this: if a meeting scheduled for Wednesday is moved forward two days, what day will it fall on?

Here is an interesting research about culture and the perception of time that explains the answer to the question above.

Spell 'em right

unless you want to be explaining your 'e's and 'u's like this.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

De-lite-full

Spouse - The truth about marriage is the most talked about book in recent weeks. Rightly so, because it sold 10,000 copies in just three days. That is an amazing feat for an Indian writer publishing a book in English. So there - claps for her success.

Shobhaa nicely moves from the sex and sleaze genre to home-truths served the non-fiction way. Spouse is just the kind of book that everyone will buy and read; the independent urban hot-heads will brush away the book as oh-so-boringly-traditional; the intellectual types will raise their brows and say that they are smart enough to strike their own balance in a marriage and do not need a help book, least of all from Shobhaa De; the via media types will admit that the book is probably good in parts; and Shobhaa De will smile the knowing smile of a bestselling author. Spouse is solid advice and Shobhaa makes no bones about speaking her mind. The book is full of things that everybody knows but seldom practises. If 1% of the readers of this book make an effort to practice her tips, I am sure we will have more happy marriages in the making.

Most of us like advising far better than being advised, therefore it is pretty natural to trivialize this book in public and read it anyway in private. Bouquets or brickbats, I am sure you are going to be reading this book someday.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Serendipity

Serendipity is

  • discovering that my ex-colleague trips on the same kind of music and books as I do
  • finding the draft version of a speech I gave in class six
  • happening upon my husband's upper nursery (U.K.G.) report card
  • learning that my mother used to wear lipstick when she was newly married
  • knowing, after a year, that a small act of kindness on my part had made a huge difference in someone's life
  • laughing when I found out that my friend carries a bottle of water around the house just like I do
  • re-discovering that my best friend and I still think and say the same things at the same time
  • reading two strangers saying nice things about my blog

Monday, March 07, 2005

Clap for Flickr, Stuck in Catch-22

I have been out of touch with the blogging circuit this past week. Now, this is a statement that should not be taken literally. In fact, my primary leisure activity last week has been the creation of another blog, not a sole/soul commentary kind of blog but a community blog. It is still work-in-progress since I have to figure out the best way to retain the community pictures on flickr and still make the blog page load faster. It is so much fun to be involved in the creative process for a group activity. I particularly enjoyed the time that Suku and I spent in writing comments for the pictures. More on that blog once we are ready to let it be known. However, you get the idea when I say that I have been out of the blogging loop - I have not posted a thing here nor have I read anyone else's posts. Before I jump to the next paragraph and thought, here is a tiny paean to Flickr - if you have not tried it yet, wake up! I found it far easier to manage and use than Hello. I am still comparing merits but flickr deserves this first-cut praise.

I am admitting in black and white that I have not read Joseph Heller's Catch-22 yet. Yes, I know it is a classic. And yeah, "How could you miss it?" is a perfectly valid question to shoot at me. The answer is of course that I just did not get to it yet. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine did a very successful pitch for this book and I rushed to the bookstore the same evening and bought myself a copy. And I have not read it yet! Some books are like that. You just need to be in the right frame of mind when you pick it up. What can send you into raptures can also send you running, depending on your frame of mind at that point. So I do not know if Catch-22 is destined to grace my bookshelf along with other unread 'spotlighters' like Midnight's Children, Half a Life, Soul Mountain, The Vicar of Wakefield...phew, you know now how much I actually read :);until there comes a point when I pick it up, go into raptures, and shake my head in puzzlement at my stupidity. For now, it is a Catch-22 situation :)

Okay, yawn! Time to sleep off my travel fatigue (caused by a quick day and a half trip to the delightful temple hub of Tamilnadu, Kumbakonam). I seem to be thinking of a lot of things to say now. Tomorrow is a better day!