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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Kite Runner is an intense book. It has been a best-seller across the world, and I might have been quite late to awake to the riches of Khaled Hosseini’s writing. But I have never been a fiction-reader either. Still this book kept me glued, and I had to complete it before it goes back and down the stack of books in my cupboard.

Much has already been written about Kite Runner book, there have been plenty of reviews and also a movie based on it. It’s a story of two kids who grew up together and were almost brothers – but couldn’t be because one was son of master and other was son of slave. Slave-kid is ready to take on anything in life for his master’s son, whereas master’s kid stands as a meek mute spectator when the slave-kid is being insulted. This guilt never allows master’s kid to live a normal life, but destiny gives him a chance to pay back the price of his meekness and get the burden of guilt off his chest.

Kite Runner

Story is beautifully weaved in the Afghan country of 1980s. The portrayal of Afghanistan and its culture is simply amazing. What beautiful country it must have been! How beautiful their culture has been! Khaled has very nicely crafted the character of Baba – father of the master-kid – a virtuous, god-fearing, respected, stern Afghan lord. You can feel the strength of his character in the story.

Khaled has also portrayed with full life the brutality of Soviet invasion and the destruction it caused to the whole of Afghanistan and its culture. The plight of the wealthy noble Afghan lord, his meek child, and the also the brave but unfortunate slave-kid is horrifying to read. While the heart keeps on saying that this is just a fiction and not to be believed, we all know what mess Afghanistan has been for decades now. I have been reading about the rich culture and life and history of that part of the world, and this novel gave me one very dreaded glimpse of how horrible life have been there since the cold-war days Soviet invasion.

The story of guilt of the key protagonist of the novel is also heart-touching. And it leaves me with a question difficult to answer.

I guess every sane mind and feeling heart will have some guilt or other that keeps pricking him every now and then. It is up to the heart and mind to decide what to do with it. Should the guilt be simply swept to a dark corner of life and heart and forgotten with an iron lid on it, or accept it as your destiny and live with that for your whole life. While forgetting the guilt behind that iron curtain would just turn heart into a stone that hundred more such “guilts” won’t matter to it; making an irony of the iron-lid heart it is. You may decide to live with it if you want to. If you have an option, you would want to go back and set things right, set the canvas back to blank and move ahead in life – hopefully becoming enough careful and concerned that you don’t ever get into any other guilt-trap. That’s what our master-kid does when he goes back to the troubled homeland to hopefully set the wrongs that happened of him in his childhood.

But what do you do if this is not an option… If there is no chance to go back and erase all the black letters that life happened to write on naïve white slate of life… If the guilt is something which is going to be like the sore thorn that neither can be pulled out, nor be just brushed off in the deep pit of forgetfulness of mind and heart… What if you have to live life with that dark ugly feeling of letting down someone who was counting on you, dreaded feeling of helplessness of not being able to do you bit when it was required the most, horrible feeling of being guilty of your own soul.

Guess there isn’t an escape out of this. Mind and heart has to come to peace with it and accept it as the resident sorrow of life. The guilty serpent will have to keep crawling on its belly; Adam’s apple is going to stay stuck in the throat. Souls guilty of guilt will remain slaves of the guilt forever… till the radiance of forgiveness and peace of being true to yourself don’t cleanse you off this blot of guilt.

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Over last couple of weeks, I have been floored by the Pranav Mistry’s “Sixth Sense” technology that he showcased at TED India meet. Suddenly there was huge surge of national pride, and everybody went mad talking about it. Twitter, Facebook, forward mails and what not. Talks about Indians leading the technology and all that.

I had seen his technology and realized the immense and game-changing potential it possesses, but around 10 months back in Feb 2009 when he showed it for the first time in TED US meet. Here is the link to that. No questions about the amazing invention it is, and humongous new revolutionary possibilities it opens up. But what pains me is that this news was totally missed back then in Feb-March 2009 when it first came out of labs and was demoed to real world. We say we live in the information age today, whole world is a village, it takes not more than a blink to break the news to each and everyone across the world. And what are we seeing here.

Pranav Mistry became source of national pride only after some media guy gave it that twist. It becomes a rage across Indians when invention actually travels to India physically with its inventor and people get to see it. Is this any different than the middle-ages, just that the modes of transport has improved now and so transportation across seven seas now needs not more than few hours.  Why didn’t this ‘Sixth Sense’ took every Indian media by storm back then in March 2009 itself?

What are we talking about? We are talking about a really really futuristic technology, but fail to take advantage of very basic applications of information access we all have right now. Why are we riding a bullock cart on the information highway? I can understand we need to be fed news, but we can choose which source to consume and also need to give some thought before consuming it. Why do we act so dumb and take whatever is thrown at us as a Gospel truth? Information is good, but let us treat it as that only and retain the ability to decipher it with a little application of the reasoning we have.

Makes sense?

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“Yeh Housla Kaise Jhuke, Yeh Aarzoo Kaise Ruke”

This has been one song which has always inspired me and helped me find motivation to fight against all odds. Song plays in a different setting in the movie ‘Dor’, and am too far away from anything like that in my life. But for someone who has jumped in uncertain waters of entrepreneurship and now learning to swim the hard way, this is certainly a song that would keep pumping oxygen in his lungs.

Determination, dedication and belief; without being arrogant or stubborn or foolhardy; and also being modest about it – is what would hand you swimmer that oyster of pearl! I especially love these lines from the song:

होगी हमें जो रहमत अदा, धूप कटेगी साये तले…

अपनी खुदा से है यह दुआ, मंजिल लगा ले हमको गले…

जुर्रत सौ बार रहे, ऊँचा इकरार रहे, जिंदा हर प्यार रहे…

यह हौसला कैसे झूके!!! यह आरजू कैसे रुके!!!

Hats off to singer Shafaqat Ali Khan and music composers Salim-Sulaiman. You guys are blessed, really! I am still searching who has written these meaningful lines. Any hints?

Enjoy the song:

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Cricket is said to be – and I can vouch it is – a gentlemen’s game. And where else would have such game originated other than England. If you ever had followed the game closely, you would know what it means to have a game in overcast cloudy weather, just like what London weather is famous for. Last Saturday, the same magic was repeated again at the majestic new VCA stadium at our own beautiful city of Nagpur. An on-off drizzle with continuous cloud cover with cool breeze in hot city of Nagpur and a quality game of test cricket at the breathtaking new VCA stadium – that’s what we call magic!

VCA stadium at Jamtha, Nagpur was host for the final match of Irani Trophy with Mumbai and Rest of India battling out for the championship. The two squads had popular known names of Indian cricket like Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Wasim Jaffer, Ajit Agarkar, Sreesanth. However cricket crazy our country might be, domestic cricket is still a distant poorer cousin of the games involving national side. Even after all these big popular names, there wasn’t much crowd, and stadium was thrown open for all spectators for free. Thanks to this free entry, I and my brother decided in afternoon to make an unplanned trip to stadium and enjoy the game in superb weather for some time.

The drive to stadium itself was wonderful, leaving behind the city traffic and zooming safely at high-speed on the smooth NH-7. Stadium has a huge parking lot which is sufficient to accommodate all the traffic for a packed house for an international match. Stadium is walled from all sides, and just as you climb stairs and enter the stands, you are presented with lush green field and a colourful stadium. The whole lots of green, blue and yellow chairs (guess they had too much of orange colour in the city of oranges that they missed that colour in stadium!) are arranged with such discipline, and may be because it is brand new – it is really very well designed and managed. It presents the viewer with such a grand and picturesque sight that everyone is surely going to get impressed. Chair-rows have ample leg-space between them and heighted properly so that you always have whole view of the stadium every time. Although we couldn’t enter into the media-house and players’ section (pavilion and gymnasium and all), have heard that stadium has one of the best facilities available in the country. Sitting in stands it was difficult to make out who the player was (also because many of them aren’t known faces yet of Indian cricket). Score-board also wasn’t clearly visible (there was another electronic score-board but that wasn’t functional for this match). But that wasn’t an issue as the whole stadium has got free wi-fi connectivity :). I had good time checking the commentary of match over cricinfo.com on my mobile using that wi-fi connection (thanks to the superb handset that Nokia E-51 is :))! Though it was a small motley crowd of students, die-hard fans of game and people just passing time, a good fielding effort or an appeal was promptly appreciated and applauded.

And just like the London weather, rain-gods decided to add more beauty to the already lush green field. Drizzle stopped the game and covers were out on the pitch. We took this pause in game to check out the upper stands. That was one good move we made, for the view of stadium from upper stands is still more awesome. Just thinking of having a full-house for India-Australia ODI on 28th of this month thrilled us. What a great sight it would to see live Yuvraaj hitting Bret Lee out of park and Harbhajan trapping Ponting LBW in flood-lights at this sparkling new VCA stadium! This new VCA stadium is one of the best cricket grounds in world and that certainly makes each Nagpurian swell with that extra pride for his hometown! Nagpurians – do check out this newest pride-spot for our city.

Colourful Stands

Colourful Stands

Yellow and Blue Stands

Yellow and Blue Stands

Play in progress @ VCA

Play in progress @ VCA

Entrance of VCA Nagpur

Entrance of VCA Nagpur

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A Tryst With Dengue

Last week will go down as one of the worst in my life. I was down with Dengue fever and spent 1 night in ICU and 4 days in hospital. I was supposed to travel to Delhi and Chandigarh for the new web business I am setting up, and had meetings on Monday and Tuesday (21 – 22 September). However I had started feeling uneasy on Sunday 20th itself, but thought it was because of the routine exertion and will go off with a crocin and a night’s sleep, and hence I continued with travel plans although I was feeling feverish at Nagpur airport itself. Monday and Tuesday at Delhi were horrible, with me throwing up everything I was eating, and running temperature. Somehow I finished my Tuesday meeting, cancelled my evening train ticket and returned back to Nagpur by Wednesday morning flight. That was one wisest decision that I must have taken in recent past of not traveling by train on Tuesday night. I landed in Nagpur with 104 temperature and straightway slept off after taking a crocin. Thanks to my doctor brother-in-law (jijaji) who immediately realized the gravity of situation (which I couldn’t understand) and put me on IV fluids (commonly known as saline) and gave all the anti-biotics and other medicines through it as I was vomiting everything I was eating. Although my temperature was back to normal on Thursday, blood test report showed that I am running an infection which is fast depleting my immune system. Biology students will remember the role of White-Blood-Corpuscles and platlets (which are responsible for stopping bleeding). Normal range of platlets count in blood is 1.5 to 4 lakhs, and it had dropped down to 30,000 in my case, liver had gotten an inflammation and there were all chances of complications, internal bleeding and liver, kidney and more organs failing. There was a patient with these complications in the same hospital being treated for dengue. Thankfully Jijaji understood the seriousness and I was admitted into ICU at 1am on Thursday night and treatment was started. I responded well, and by Friday evening, I was showing all signs of recovery.

But the night I spent in ICU, though I didn’t realize it then, was quite critical. For the first time I had hallucinations. I saw strange faces staring at me, and then these faces turning into monsters. I was just waiting for whole of my life to flash in front of me, but by God’s grace things didn’t turn that bad. I didn’t have a proper meal for whole 8 days and was relying only on apples and fruits and IV fluids. I came back home on Dussherra and have been recuperating since then. Thanks to my friends there in Delhi and Jijaji and my family that I managed to avoid complications of Dengue and am back in business in a span of 10 days.

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“Piya Tora Kaisa Abhimaan!!!”

This one line of song from the movie ‘Raincoat’ has been lingering in my mind and heart since I heard it after a long time last night. There is so much pity, misery, helplessness, despair, pain in this one line. Love can, at times, really be such a depressing feeling!

Love in its purest form, I have been told, is all about giving. True lover gives up everything for his love, sacrifices all his happiness and pleasures for one smile of his love. In all other give-and-take affairs, it’s the receiver who is being humbled and giver takes all the pride. But here, we see a lover in his purest form bending to his knees, but that doesn’t budge the spine of the rude loved one even a radian. And still, the lover goes on; and the loved sticks to his ego, his false ego!

While love is all that concerns for the lover, the loved one, here, puts this significance to his ego. Goals differ; ideals, priorities mismatch, and you have such miserable situation. What a pity it is to lose something as ever-lasting like love for something as ephemeral as ego!

As I ponder over this gloomy song, I am reminded of a story of a pundit and a scorpion that I had read in my childhood. It must be from Panchtantra – they used to make such interesting and meaningful stories, I owe a lot of my ideals and principles to them. Story goes this way – a pundit was taking a bath in river, and he saw a scorpion getting swept away in the water current. Taking pity on the poor animal, pundit picked it up and started moving towards river-bank to take the scorpion safely out of water. However immediately the scorpion stung pundit with it’s tail. Pundit felt the pain running all through his body, he almost fell in the river, and scorpion fell off his hands and again began drowning with the river current. Pundit immediately gathered himself, and again picked up the scorpion and started moving towards safety of river-bank. However again, scorpion stung pundit, pundit felt immense pain, and scorpion fell off in river, pundit again picked it up. This picking up, stinging, falling off and picking up again went on for some time, and finally pundit managed to get the scorpion to the safety of land. An onlooker was watching this from bank, and said to pundit – “you are really a stupid man. Its dharma of scorpion to sting, and yet you kept on picking it up”. To this, pundit replied – “if that small animal cannot let go his dharma, how can I – a human being – let go mine. That animal was dying, and it was my dharma to save it”.

Doing what is one supposed to do when all is hunky-dory is no fun, is no great deal. It is when things go against you, it is when all your goodwill, noble thoughts, selfless help goes unnoticed, unappreciated and unanswered; that you need to continue being good. True test is do what is your dharma when everything practical around you suggest that it is stupidity to continue. In the last book I read – “Games Indians Play”, there is a quote from Bhagwad Gita which goes like this – “You have right only to your actions, and not to their results!” Nothing can be more true!

Blessed is the person who loves selflessly. Love is too precious to be put at stake for one’s ego. Love is said to transcend all boundaries, and so often I have seen it faltering at boundary of false egos. So often, people play the “who-blinks-first” game and stake their love, their friendship on the outcome. Not to lose in this game, their eyes are always wide open, but even with these wide-open-eyes, they miss seeing the obvious truth that love is far far more precious than these false egos. By the time their open eyes and closed brains realize this, often it is too late.  It becomes too late to blink and make up. It becomes too late to go back and erase everything, and start afresh. It simply becomes to too late to set it correct. It is simply lost, forever!

5 seconds of this song tells you all this, in the most hard-hitting manner… “Piya Tora Kaisa Abhimaan!”

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Yahoo! has finally lost the search battle. It gave up its own search and now a few months old Bing will power Yahoo!’s search. But before we write obituary of Yahoo! Search, there are a few immediate questions that come to my mind:

  • Flikr Integration: Yahoo! had a fantastic integration of Flickr in Image Search which made it comparable to Google in terms of relevancy. Will Yahoo! open Flickr to Bing as well? Image search on Bing sucks big time
  • Mobile Search – oneSearch: How about ‘oneSearch’? Yahoo! has a good mobile search product in oneSearch and its federated search result pages were a big hit, and had higher market share than Google in many local markets
  • Local Search: What happens to Yahoo! Local Search? Or for that matter other search verticals like Jobs, News, Maps? Of all these, Yahoo! had poured a lot of money in Local Search, and I guess Bing is nowhere close to Yahoo! in these verticals. The minority of loyal Yahoo! search users is only going to shrink further if Bing powers these search verticals. A huge opportunity to compete with Google in these verticals (where actually Yahoo! was not lagging way behind of Google and was doing comparably well) goes down the drain
  • Social Search: There was a lot of talk of integrating Del.icio.us with Yahoo! Search, which I thought had great promise. Search needs to be more social, and success of Twitter as search engine is for everyone to see. With a strong social bookmarking product like Del.icio.us with it, Yahoo! could have done a lot in search. Wonder what happens now with search technology getting outsourced to Bing?
  • Glue: What happens to Glue? Yahoo! launched it last year as a new search product and Yahoo! India Search have Glue pages for a large chunk of popular queries

These questions may be of no relevance once Yahoo! says that its technology is not the one which can provide the best search experience to its user. And as it says that, Yahoo! writes-off all the investment it had put over years in improving its search engine and adding those awesome search features like ‘Search Assist’ to the latest one of ‘Search Pad’. With this, it also writes-off all the effort engineers there had put in building the search and its various features. Carol Bartz announced that there will be lay-offs in search team, and am sure elsewhere also in Yahoo! there will be a huge attrition now.

May be Yahoo! should have just spun-off Yahoo! Search as separate company. That would have unlocked the real value of rest of Yahoo!’s businesses in which it is doing quite well (It is still the most trafficked portal in world. Display advertisement remains Yahoo!’s forte altogether). Market would have determined the right value for this separate search company, and am sure Yahoo! would have got a better price for it than what it has got in this deal.

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