If I made a movie on the Delhi Elections…

DISCLAIMER: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance, including their names, to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Smoking anything is injurious to health, and I was NOT smoking anything when I thought of this!

The movie begins with the election campaign of AAP and BJP and goes on entertainingly until the result day with intermission at the jubilation of AAP clean sweep and the depression in BJP office.

Second part (Kahani me twist): The wholeKiran Bedi Kejriwal Anna Hazare AFP thing is a plan by Ana, Kejruval and Kiran Bedy after the collapse of the Jantar Mantar movement. AAP was formed by these three people to take on Congress and BJP but Ana and Bedy publically criticized it because they had certain roles to play in the future and they did not want it typecast as the same team.

Congress was an easy target so Kejruval could handle it by himself, but BJP and Moody were a challenge due to their clout. Bedy joined the BJP at the last minute to put them off track and shield them from the realities of the challenge ahead. She consciously made those bloopers to reveal certain inside information (like paying money to candidate etc.) and break their cadre strength. She made a big fool out of herself to ensure that AAP has no potential opposition in this election. Now, that the results are out, Bedy will resign from the party on moral grounds and take all the blame.

Bedi_kejriwal_650_bigstryFinal scene: Kejruval and Bedy meeting Ana and taking his blessings, CUT TO  Kiran Bedy (the former dare devil cop who actually towed the PMO’s car 😉 ) taking oath as the Home Minister in the Delhi cabinet headed by Arvind Kejruval for the next five years as Ana smiles from the first row of guests 😀




Post-credit sequence:



















Image courtesy: DailyMail, NDTV, ABP, GustakhiMaaf.com, Business Standard, Snapdeal

Thira (Malayalam 2013) – Review

This was a note to myself. Though the movie is very close to my heart for multiple reasons, I have tried to maintain absolute honesty and objectivity in my thoughts about it here.



Thira is a Malayalam movie made for the Indian audience with world cinema standards of film-making.

Plot –

The plot revolves around Dr. Rohini (a social worker who runs Arpana – a home for girl children) and Naveen (a youngster whose sister studies in one of the education hubs in Karnataka).  A pan-India human trafficking nexus involving some corporate and some key judiciary and police personnel kidnap the girls from Arpana and also Naveen’s sister. The story is about their attempt to rescue them before they are subjected to the pain and torture that are undergone by trafficked girls and children. Although there have been movies in the past on similar one-lines this is a completely original and fresh treatment provided to it by the team.

Screenplay –

The idea of a social thriller is not familiar with the Indian audience as much as we are very familiar with these two genres independently. The well-researched, social ones are often called documentaries or art films, and there are thrillers with unrealistic action sequences and editing gimmicks, also called pure commercial films. Thira falls nicely in a genre that perfectly unites these two types of movies. The biggest credit in pulling that off goes to the screenwriters Rakesh Mantodi and Vineeth Sreenivasan for the amount of effort put in to ensure realism in terms of representing the social theme, locales, lingo and most importantly balancing the pace – of the dialogues and the overall story.

thira 2

Direction –

After one film on friendship and romance each (two never-fail youth themes), Thira is definitely a challenging attempt by the filmmaker in Vineeth Sreenivasan or in his own terms, his first ‘substantial movie’. He has gone a step ahead by expressing his unwillingness to be shackled by boundaries of shooting locations (Belgaum, Goa, Hyderabad and Chennai) or the characters cast or the languages employed to maintain the realistic flow of story (You will hear English, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada in addition to Malayalam spoken by characters throughout the movie!) In a way, this would be a first of its kind attempt by a ‘new-generation’ Malayalam filmmaker who has placed undivided confidence in the famous linguistic dexterity of a globalised Malayalee community and its  willingness to accept and promote non-masala, non-item number, non-superstar, non-glitzy, classmovies like those made by Adoor, Aravindan, Padmarajan, Bharathan and their likes several years ago. Hopefully, the new-generation audience will not disappoint his brave attempt to deviate from fixed formula films.

Acting –

It is roughly two decades since her timeless portrayal of Nagavalli in Manichitrathaazhu but Shobana still manages to hold the same screen charisma (if not more!). The character of Dr. Rohini Pranab fits so naturally on to her; perhaps that is why she also chose to dub her dialogues in Malayalam herself for the first time. Dhyan Sreenivasan, as Naveen, performs way better than an average debutant and responds well to the demands of the script – be it in the variety of emotions, dialogues in various languages, fast-paced stunt sequences etc.  The characterisation of a 25 year old, agitated brother is apt for him and he has pulled it off with his natural acting ability. However it take at least a few more challenging roles before he can prove himself beyond doubt as a fine, versatile actor, and successfully break off the web of nepotistic criticism weaved around any second generation artist. That said, he has already won many a hearts with his boy-next-door looks and off-screen candidness; and is definitely on the road to popularity.  A brilliant effort by casting director (and ad  maker) Dinesh Nair means that each and every character has been picked aptly for their roles, most importantly those of Basu and Angel. His achievement in bringing together characters from all parts of India and even outside it is highly commendable. Deepak Parambol of Thattathin Marayathu fame has done a fine job in his negative role and has once again proven his innate ability to pull off serious characters with ease.

thira 4

Cinematography –

The success team of Vineeth Sreenivasan and Jomon T John has once again enthralled audience with their visual magic – this time on film! The intensity that has been brought out on the film is more beautiful than what was claimed by the team at the beginning of filming. The transition from the slow and intense romance theme in Thattathin Marayathu to the faster-paced thriller mode in Thira has been seamless, without compromising on the stunning beauty of picturization, especially with the chase and stunt sequences.

Music –

Shaan Rahman’s name comprises of two extremely popular Indian musicians’ – Shaan and Rahman, and time again he has lived up to the expectations from such a powerful name. The musical ecstasy presented by the compositions of Shaan (both songs and the background score) provide life to the whole experience of Thira. The songs are blended well into the narrative of the story, making them all the more significant parts of the movie. Click here for listening to the tracks.

Editing –

Editing by Ranjan Abraham has done 110% justice to the demands of the genre of Thira. The versatile master of the art has successfully managed to strike the right cord of balance between the pace of a thriller and the depth demanded by the social message conveyed.

thira 1

Negatives –

It is difficult to spot any significant negatives in the film, unless you really want to. There are a couple of places you find the movie a bit dragging but that’s just for a few minutes until some new twist puts you back on the edge of the seat. The use of many languages is a double edged sword in terms of reception among audience who find it difficult to understand them, and hence find it difficult to travel with the storyline (There are sub-titles though).

Bottomline –

The movie has been created thus and hence must be viewed with the objectivity of a story – that of Dr. Rohini and Naveen, and not as a social crusade against human trafficking or any form of solution to it. It is more of an eye-opener about the vulnerability of our modern society towards the venom of female objectification and how every passing day of safety is a ‘gift of luck’ to the girls and women in such a civilization (or lack of it!). The movie also appeals to its audience to open their eyes and minds to things that do not concern them directly today, as the unchecked penetration of such social evils could catch up with us any other day. Thira is already announced to be a trilogy, another bold attempt by the filmmaker and a show of his commitment to making socially relevant, entertaining films.



(Made for all segments of audience, Thira is not just another regional movie)


Prof Mani Sundaram

Prof PS Mani Sundaram (PSM), the first Principal of REC Trichy, passed away late last week at the age of 87 and I, like several RECTians/NITTians, experience a significant loss. My voice might appear extremely frail amidst the sorrow of a whole junta of his students who have had the good luck of interacting with him personally. Like in the case with most passing, PSM’s as well pushed me into a trip through the memory lane.


PSM was a phenomenon in NITT even several decades after he retired from the institution, so it was quite an event looked forward to when he was announced to be its chief guest. His presence was a typical Veni Vidi Vici thing. When I learnt The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ‘He holds him with his glittering eye— ‘, never did I realise that I would experience it one day. I distinctly remember my response when someone asked me after that event ‘how is he (PSM)?’. I said ‘Have you seen that shine in Sivaji  Ganesan’s eyes? He’s a man who carries that glint without any lights or camera.’ That sparkle was something I always loved about this man every time I got a chance to meet him, the last being at the Golden Jubilee Celebration inauguration a few months back.

I said he passed away at the age of 87 but whenever he was in NITT, he missed no opportunity to prove through his quick thinking and sharp memory that he was never older than the 18 and 20 year olds around him. I wonder if there was anyone ever who has interacted with him and hasn’t been a victim of his high order wit and jest, which turned him into a perfect showman whenever the occasion demanded of him.  And what’s the best thing – he could distinctly place you even if you have met him only once in the eight long decades! I am envious today when I hear veteran RECTians remembering how he would recall and narrate personal incidents about their college days even until the recent past.

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But all these are not what PSM is for me, they are only superficial observations. A deeper impact was created when I met him, heard him and spoke to him the very first time. He instilled in me a strong belief in the importance of having a vision, and the boldness and perseverance that go into achieving it. I shall highlight a few incidents about him that are very close to me.

  1. In a war-stricken India when PSM felt as a young Indian that his service was needed in fighting the Chinese, he wrote to the Prime Minister of India Pt.  Nehru about his willingness to serve in the Indian Army’s infantry wing! (That letter did receive a reply from the Defence Ministry with an offer in the Engineering division, but due to some other turn of events back home PSM did not go to the border). What inspired me here was his willingness to actually go and surrender himself to national service despite being a qualified engineer who could easily recline into being an armchair critic. Also, his boldness in writing to the Prime Minister of the country! Come on, how many of us would do that despite having much more advanced means of communication today? That needs guts and extreme passion.
  2. He was given the task of starting a state-of-art engineering institution in the outskirts of Trichy in the early 1960s (which is what he left the Defence opportunity for). PSM was in his mid 30s then. Many of us will turn 35 in another few years or so, and I know many who are already there. Forget starting an institution as supreme as REC T, many find it difficult to manage our work-life balance! The amount of responsibility that was on him and the brilliance with which he executed it and sustained for the next two decades is immensely inspiring, and challenging!
  3. His genuine interest in his students’ overall development. I have been there in the same NITT several years after PSM left. Here was a man who loved his students and did everything in his rights to make them responsible citizens of this country. He knew them, each and every one, by name and also sometimes their parents! If I were to believe what all I have heard about his administration, he even went to the extent of allowing one cigarette in the mess menu every night (to limit and control the smoking habits in his students!) The transparency he had for the students was very deep and that was naturally reciprocated by his students. Today, the culture is not even imaginable. Teachers who teach us for three years cannot recall our names in the very next year! Deans and Directors were inaccessible VIPs who showed up to give boring monologues on the infrastructure developments in the institute every now and then. Sometimes when I hear alumni talk fondly of PSM, I wonder how life would have been if he had never retired from NITT!
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There are several other incidents with him that are both entertaining and inspiring, but to write them all would not be possible.

When I met him last for the Golden Jubilee Celebration inaugurations, PSM looked very weak but the shine in his eyes was more prominent than ever. When he took the stage and started speaking into the mic, there was a surge of reassurance. This man was still at his best, humorously taking everyone in the audience into his fold! We all looked forward to seeing him as the patriarch of our vast family celebrating 50 years in 2014 and also, on a personal level to start a venture and see through its fifty years of glory is no small feat.  But that was not to be.

When we get together next year, this vacuum created by the passing of PSM will be intensely felt. But he has lived a rich life and leaves behind a supreme legacy through his students and others (like me) whom he has inspired to be a go-getter and chase one’s vision. I am not in Chennai today when there is a condolence meeting taking place for his departed soul but I know that like many of his fans across the world, I shall too forever remember this great man who shaped the institution that shaped me.

RIP Prof Mani Sundaram, it pains to think that we won’t get to hear you one more time…


(To read some more tributes for Prof Mani Sundaram, please visit the newly created Facebook fan page – https://www.facebook.com/ProfPSM

Some old photographs of PSM – Photo Link)

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14 Things that I learnt in the last 14 months

It has been 14 months since the last post here. During this time, a constant chain of activities including consulting for a foreign firm about brand establishment in India, helping organize and doing sales for a pioneering event in Kerala, starting up and working with about 10-15 wonderful clients, meeting people, reading up and a few other things kept me occupied.

A roller coaster ride with an exciting series of ups and downs experienced first hand. Here is a list of 14 lessons that I picked up in the course of this journey.

On Leadership and Management
1. To change any system you’ve got to first walk a mile or two in the existing one.
2. As a manager, you would see them as teams or groups or subordinates but to each one of them you are his/her boss. They are two (and too) different things.
3. Creating a healthy organizational culture is very difficult but sustaining it through difficult times is much more difficult.
4. It is good to identify the core value you’re looking to gain from every association and maintain your expectations accordingly, be it monetary, networking and relationship, mentoring etc.

On Sales
5. Sales = Science + Art + lots of Luck + extreme Efforts + Shrewdness
6. ‘Yeh I like it’ has ZERO value. It lies entirely in the next ‘Here’s my money’ line.
7. The money you make out of something and your motivation to do / sign up for it are very closely related.
8. The contract/agreement is an extremely powerful tool you wield. Handle it unwisely and you’re bound to doom.

On Starting Up
9. The best thing about being unemployed is the freedom that you have, to welcome new opportunities that come your way and chase them.
10. To let go of a well settled life and a good paycheck to start up is a challenging decision and it is not something everyone can, or should, make.
11. Entrepreneurship/ Starting up is an over glorified thing especially considering the extremely high ratio of strugglers to successful ones in that breed.
12. Ideas are aplenty but successful businesses out of them are few and far between.
13. Products facilitate services, and service sells.
14. It goes a long way to have an understanding family and a bunch of close friends who discuss ideas and do so with candidness

Samaaj ke Koyle

समाज के  कोयले

माना कि हीरे कोयले से बनते हैं ,मगर हर कोयला भी तो हीरा नहीं बन सकता !

लालची तो ये समाज है कि जो , कोयले को कोयला नहीं रहने देता .

रगड़ रगड़ कर खूब दर्द देता उस को , कि न हीरा हाथ में आता न बचता कोई कोयला .

और अंत में येही समाज वापस आकर , उस कोयले को असमर्थ कह धुतकार्ता !

बच के रहना भाइयों इन मूर्खों से , भरा है इन से दुनिया सारा

कोयले के गर्मी से दिन -रात चलाते हैं ये , किंतु उसको भी मार कर बनाने चाहते हैं हीरा

– H N श्याम (३० अगस्त २०१२)

Aadhaar losing its Aadhaar, and aadar?

Came across this article this morning in Indian Express paper that Aadhaar cards (Unique ID Cards) have been issued in the name of Dhaniya (coriander) and Seb (apple). I remember the ordeal that was to get my finerprints and iris scans taken and attested by the officials. It comes as a surprise how the coriander and apple got through these biometric tests! 😀


Things have changed… A nostalgic sojourn

Before I sat down at my work-desk this morning, I had already made a mental list of things to be completed by the end of the day. It was a long list, and I braced myself for the long day ahead. I switched on my system, and as was customary with me opened my gmail and facebook accounts to check for any updates.

Same set of emails from some of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites in the world. God knows when I subscribe to these! And no matter whatever filter I apply they still continue to dominate my inbox every morning. Sigh! I meticulously checked all of them, and click – Deleted!

I moved to the Facebook tab. ‘This person posted in that group’, ‘that person posted in this group’. Another bunch of spam notifications. I carefully went through them to look for any relevant notification, from friends I have not met for long. Not really any to say. So I went to the home page.

As I was casually browsing through them, I couldn’t help wonder how things have changed in the last 5-6 years for me. I saw the facebook updates of a few old friends and my thought fastened itself unto me for a while as I sat staring at them forgetful of my commitments for the day.  A nostalgic sojourn.

Six years back, I was in one of the grandiose classrooms in the Anna University Chennai, nervously pacing around looking for the sight of at least one familiar face. I was there to appear for the IIT-JEE 2006 exam. For many of those nervous students around me, it was the culmination of two years of their undivided hard work and unworldly existence almost meeting sainthood. The air was filled with our nervousness and there existed a chillness inside that room completely uncharacteristic of Chennai’s weather in April-May.  Some of them were anxiously going through their notes for one last time, not wasting a moment before the all-important exam while several others were meditating with closed eyes and chanting all those good words that they had come across since birth. Some of them were so engrossed in it that I felt that they had begun to radiate an aura of scholarship around them. Phew! I tried hard to concentrate on the piece of paper I was holding. It contained some important formulas that I had written down – my only revision strategy.

After looking around a lot, I finally managed to meet this friend of mine. We were together in IIT classes. (I always believed that I was pushed into it by circumstances around me but this friend, he was very passionate about engineering entrance examination, always working his way through assignments and tests and most importantly raising questions in the class which obviously disturbed the sleeping back-benchers like me. Finding the familiar person in that hall kinda made up for all that he did, such was the direness of my situation. ) He was silently meditating too, with an imperfectly made streak of holy ash on his forehead and a long plain-green shirt with unfolded sleeves, that had become a characteristic feature of his appearance in the two years I had known him.

I went up to him, and waving away all thoughts of disturbing a meditating pseudo-saint, patted on his back with a friendly ‘Hey!’

The goodness and virtuousness that was demanded by the situation perhaps, he was kind enough to not show the displeasure for being interrupted by me. A friendly chat with the regular “You prepared well?” “Ready to go?” Sometimes, I wonder if even soldiers share such empathetic understanding of nervousness before going for a war as we did before an examination, such was the fraternity brought about by academic adversities like these. Anyway, he told me that his mother was waiting outside and I perfunctorily glanced at her (she was also in closed-eye prayers for her son). Very soon, with friendly good wishes, we parted ways to our respective tables as the examiner showed up.

Results of the JEE exam were published, and both of us did not make it! I felt sad for him and several others with us in our IIT class who were genuinely keen on making it into one of those 7 prestigious IITs.  But we moved on and graduated from different colleges. He was enrolled into the same campus of Anna University where we wrote our IIT-JEE test while I was selected at the National Institute of Technology Trichy. Its been two years since we graduated from our respective universities with engineering degrees.

Somewhere down the line, we found each other on facebook. Not that I talk to many of them regularly, I do keep a tab on what my friends have been up to. My work and the commitments it brings with it keep me busy and their’s them.

As I glanced through my feeds today, I saw an update from this friend. It was a photograph of him in a black graduation robe with the same imperfectly made streak of holy ash on his forehead, standing with his proud mother after graduating from a prestigious university in the US.

I was touched. He had pursued and persisted beyond that IIT-JEE exam hall where we last met, and so did his mother. She was there then praying for him and she was here today, basking in the glory of her son’s achievement. Quite a priceless moment, I stood hypnotised by the beauty of it!

Time was frozen, or so I thought. But a shrill sound from my phone brought me back to my senses. It was half past ten. Gosh! And I had a long list of things to be done. But before all those,  I felt that I must blog this moment.

The nostalgic sojourn that it was, the photograph spoke to me of all those wonderful changes that have happened around me in the last few years. I would have loved to put that pic here but it would be a violation of his privacy. The photograph was meant only for his friends, like me, who would be delighted to participate in the happy moments of his life, like this one.

My friend here is only a representative of many of our friends. Friends that we all left behind at some point of time in our journey called life and earnestly long to get back in their company and those hassle-free days of school and college. But we know that things have changed and those are just nostalgic moments from the past worth cherishing till death 🙂


Dedicated to all those wonderful friends I made through my life… Cheers to our bright future and those unforgettable magical days of the past! 🙂



Spirit (2012- Malayalam) – Review

In one of those truly rare occurrences, I went fMohanlal Madhu Thilakan Ranjith Spirit 2012 or the first day show of a movie. A malayalam movie I have been waiting to watch in awe of four mesmerising talents: Actors Thilakan, Madhu and Mohanlal, and Writer-Director Ranjith, and more importantly their team – SPIRIT.

I must say that I felt the movie lived up to its name in more than one sense. It was a spirited experience as it played last night but when I woke up this morning I had this familiar feeling of ‘What the hell was it last night!’ I am not saying the movie was not good. I stick to my stand that it was VERY GOOD (for an average team) but for what you expect out of this talent- combination, I am afraid it could have fallen a bit short of the mark.

Like always, the good things first. Excellent choice of subject by Renjith. Alcoholism is indeed staring at the Kerala society with a threat of drowning the entire state sooner or later. Brilliant, near-perfect performance by ALL actors. Special mention for the lead cast Mohanlal, Thilakan, Madhu, Kanniha, Shanker Ramakrishnan, Nandu, Kalpana and others. Quite captivating tempo and sequence of scenes and melodious music.

Now moving on to where I felt there were some gaps. When a senior director like Renjith who has an impeccable record of delivering successes takes up a very pertinent issue like alcoholism in Spirit, we expect him to cover the issue very comprehensively and in-depth, striking the menace on its head. However the representation of alcoholism in Spirit is majorly restricted to the lives of two individuals and their friends/families- the affluent Raghunandan and the impoverished plumber Manian. The issue of alcoholism unfortunately is much much beyond such cases, especially with the late teenagers and young working adults. It is unlikely that younger people will abandon drinking like the protagonist but it would have certainly driven home a more powerful message to the ‘upcoming’ community of alcoholics if Renjith had used this movie as the platform to do so. After all who wouldn’t mind giving up such habits and weaknesses at 50 or 60? 😉

Also, the touch-and-go coverage of sports drug usage and other forms of intoxication at high-school and colleges seemed quite like the haste of an amateur film maker to widen the breadth of social issues compromising on their depth.

Thilakan is a supremely powerful character actor and his return to mainstream cinema was one of the most anticipated events in recent past. However I strongly feel that the role of Maestri in Spirit does not meet the thirst of a master actor that he is. Sadly, in spite of a brilliant performance by Thilakan the character still seemed like an addendum in the end.


On the whole, Spirit (like what it stands for) is an enjoyable experience and definitely worth tasting at least once. So go for it with an appetite for a good show of spirit and of course our own Lalettan’s amazing performance! 🙂



Other reviews for the same movie (with the plot):







Eight Things To Do With Your Car Now

With another hike in petrol prices (more than 10%!), here are eight things that you can do with your car to save/make money. Of course none of it involves (considerable) use of fuel! 😀

1. Thattukadas/Roadsideeateries

Car Thattukada

Car Thattukada in Trivandrum (www.trivandrumlife.com)

Thattukadas are Kerala’s definition of roadside eating / Street food.

2. Boot fairs/Flea Markets

Car Boot Fair

Car Boot Fair

Boot fairs is selling items from the trunk/boot of your car. I saw a boot fair happening in Kent.

3. Interior Decoration

Car Interior Decor

Car for Interior Decoration


4.  Car Garden

With your car not moving out of your garage here is a nice way to convert your garage into your private garden.

Car Garden

Car Garden (www.apartmenttherapy.com)


5. Extra Bedroom… ‘Non-AC’ of course!

Car Bedroom

Car Bedroom


6. Storeroom

Car Storeroom

Car Storeroom


7. Personal Gym

Car Gym

Car Gym

Car Gym



8. Petrol Savings Account

Petrol Savings Account

Petrol Savings Account

Gone are the days of saving money and gold. Here is a simple trick. Fill your tank to the full capacity and hold on to it until the next fuel price hike (which will be very soon) and then siphon off the petrol and sell it away at the higher price!

In a few months, you could end up with more than 10% returns!

President Bano Foreign Ghoomo Offer

Foreign Travel

A lot of taxpayers money goes into foreign travels of public servants and elected representatives in India

With the oncoming of an era of transparency, the run up to the 13th presidential polls throws some light on what was otherwise dark and spooky corners of the room. The process of getting a new president was historically a close door affair to the common man, more of a mutually agreed understanding between the major political parties to find a ‘harmless’ person among them who would not disturb the government or poke his nose. But things have changed today. Thanks to the widespread reach of media and television, bachcha-bachcha of the country is aware of the candidates, the political preferences and bias, partisian ideologies emerging from various political units etc. So when I was going through some related news articles about some of these candidates, I felt they had a bigger picture to present than what they would put together.

Before we move on to the new presidential candidates, let us for a moment reflect on what I would call the futile presidential tenure of Mrs. Pratibha Patil. It is well known, thanks to media again, that she was herself a compromise candidate for the UPA (after pitching for former minister Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, whose name seems to go around this time too) standing out for her loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family and the UPA’s deep interest in doing something different to bolster its image among the people by nominating India’s first woman President. Multiple demands and ambitions caved the way for Mrs. Patil from Jaipur to Delhi, and the loyalty that powered her to the highest office was also showing no signs of bowing to presidential prudence.

As her tenure is coming to an end, like it always happens in India, Mrs. Patil also came under the scanner for all the wrong reasons. Her palatial post-retirement home in the military area became a serious issue before it was amicably settled before the people of the country.

But what, according to me, is more serious an observation is that she

President's Personal Staff

President Patil is accompanied by her personal staff which includes armed soldiers on these trips

has undertaken thirteen (an ominous number?) foreign trips in her tenure and spent over Rs.200,00,00,000 (just to show the magnitude of that figure) on it! What makes it more alarming and embarassing is that these were family outings, with anywhere from 3 to 11 family members accompanying her on these trips!

While we were still mulling over these numbers (rather, coming out of its shock), here comes another one. Meira Kumar, our soft-spoken speaker, who reminds each one of us of our kindergarten teachers in her inimitable style of aap baith jayie, kripya baith jaiye… aap shaant rahen… emerges as a potential candidate for the post of President. And with such announcement, comes the shocker that I mentioned earlier. Madam Speaker has also made almost 30 ‘official’ foreign trips in her 35 month tenure, and more importantly spent over  Rs.10,00,00,000 on it! According to news revelations, the maximum number of visits she has visited abroad was in Switzerland. (Hmmm…)

Well now that we know how our Madam President has indeed outplayed Madam Speaker in the foreign travel expenses game (Rs. 200,00,00,000 vs Rs. 10,00,00,000) it is quite justified of Ms. Kumar to wish to perform better, from a better (read: more advantageous) position. Good luck to her for that! (and that translates as bad luck to the taxpayer. Sigh! )

We move on to the next person, Mr. P. A. Sangma. Actually, he is a familiar name from my childhood. In those days of GK and quiz competitions, it was indeed important to know him well. However, in retrospect, I can see that he was the speaker for barely 2 years! A congressman, who parted from the party over Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin alongwith Mr. Sharad Pawar to form NCP and subsequently left him to join Ms. Mamta Banerjee over NCP’s reconcilation with Mrs.Gandhi. Impressive, you might feel, as a tall politician sticking to his ideologies and convictions.

When Mr. Pawar returned to be a UPA minister, Mr. Sangma’s daughter (a second time MP) became the youngest Minister of State in the UPA goverment. Oops! I am sure he is now trusting the ‘Foreigner (Italian) Mrs. Gandhi’s’ Hindi skills to understand and appreciate the old saying Subah ka bhoola shaam ko ghar aa jaye to usey bhoola nahin kahte! Never mind, like they say in Tamil ‘arasiyal-la ithellam sahajam appa‘ (These things are common in politics).

But wait, we are not done with Mr. Sangma yet. Recently there were articles that Ex-Speakers were about to be granted post-retirement benefits similiar to that of retired Presidents, Vice-presidents and Prime Ministers. ‘Who’ took the initiative to ‘whom’ about the state of Ex-Speakers? Voila! What a coincidence? Mr. Sangma to Ms. Meira Kumar!

So Mr. Sangma, who abdicated his constituency seat to make a minister out of his daughter and presently functioning in the Meghalaya State Assembly of which his son is the Leader of Opposition, is fighting for the post-retirement benefits of a position he held for less than two years. Not bad, but don’t you see another happy-retirement plan in the making after happily seeing off his children in good positions?

Sad! But we all know what humiliation does the President have to face when he decides to go against the ruling party in favour of his conscience. No?  Please ask Dr. Kalam about the Office of Profit Bill. At this juncture, where do we stand?

President no doubt, like Ms. India and Ms. World, is an ambassadorial position. But an ambassador must be a messenger of the good and bad of the entire country and not just its population explosion or joint-family system! 😛 People look up to the President as the kulapati of this rashtra and it is needless to remind that opulence is certainly not a tolerated trait in this country of aam admis. Again, ask our youth icon NRI MP Dr. Tharoor and his tennis-loving senior Mr. S. M. Krishna for their hotel bills and you know what I mean!

I am not a fan of austerity myself (Hehe!) and believe foreign trips of Presidents are justified, but they MUST achieve the objectives of the country. Treating the highest civilian office in the country as a paid family vacation or post-retirement fun time would be an insult to the people of the country and the hard-earned taxpayer’s money.

Anyways, this attitude of ‘Post pe aao aur phoren foriegn ghoomo‘ (Get a position of responsibility and immediately go on foreign tour)  is certainly not a healthy, morale-boosting one for public offices in our country; And with citizens becoming more powerful (literally) by the day and the goverment weaker, I believe there is something here for the candidates for Indian Presidency to make a note of.


Dubai Dreams

Around Dubai city in July 2009.

A day in the dream city of Dubai covering the Dubai Creek, Dubai Mall, Drive on the Sheikh Zayed Road, Souk Al Bahar Mall (i think so!) and the  Burj-al- Arab. It is a shame that Burj Khalifa was not yet open then.

Cambridge University

In and around Cambridge University, UK on 16 June 2010

Cambridge University must be special to most Indians. The first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as well as our present Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh were students of this University. Not just that, what is cosidered to be modern India’s most consequential love affair between crown prince of the Nehru-Gandhi family Rajiv and the Italian Antonia Maino (later Sonia Gandhi) was staged in these locales.

All this and more makes a visit to Cambridge highly attractive for any Indian in the UK, and I just could not resist when made an offer to accompany our family friends Shivan Uncle, Shanti Aunty, Suraj and Meghna.

We reached Cambridge in a little over an hour’s drive from our place in London. The first signboard that I saw there brought back a lot of those familiar high school jitters – ‘Cavendish’ Laboratory, ‘Charles Babbage’ Road, ‘J J Thomson’ Avenue… Phew! Chemistry, Physics, Math, Computers, Economics… Seemed like Cambridge contributed to most of those long, dreaded, exhaustive (and exhausting!) lessons from school. More was in store.

Now it would be quite unbelievable if I told you that I still remember the path we travelled through the day after these two years, so I will stop short of the chronological narration and just go by the selected pictures that I have here.

University Campus Map in 3D and Braille

University Campus Map in 3D and Braille

We found this very useful 3D map outside the Great St. Mary’s Church. What struck me was that it also had somethings imprinted in Braille for the visually challenged tourists.

Corpus Clock, Cambridge

Corpus Clock, Cambridge

The Corpus Clock, one of Time magazine’s best inventions in the year of 2008, at the Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. In Bollywood, the song video of the song Mudi Mudi from the Amitabh Bachchan starrer  Paa was shot around this clock.

Cycle Stand Cambridge

Cycle Stand Cambridge

Realised that cycle stands are as bad and disorganised as they are, be it the Cambridge University or the Garnet Hostel in National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli (where I studied!) One of the greatest personal mysteries I had to face at the finish of my college was that I could simply not find my cycle among all the cycles thrown around in our cycle stand!!

Trinity College, Cambridge

Trinity College, Cambridge

The Trinity College was home to Prime Ministers Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi, mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, cricketer Prince Ranjitsinghji and last but not the least, Sir Isaac Newton!

Entrance to St. Johns College, Cambridge

Entrance to St. Johns College, Cambridge

St Johns College Cambridge

St Johns College Cambridge

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is a former student and faculty at the St. Johns College Cambridge. After completing his honours degree in Economics in 1957, Dr. Singh worked at the College from 1957 to 1965, progressing from Senior Lecturer to Professor of International Trade. As a student, he won the Wright’s Prize for Distinguished performance and the Wrenbury Scholarship.
The College went on to honour its distinguished alumnus by offering the Dr. Manmohan Singh Scholarship for prospective Indian PhD students.

Newtons Apple Tree Cambridge

Newtons Apple Tree Cambridge

Now this one really gave me a shock. How can that tree still survive? I still remember the jokes on this apple tree. Had Newton been in India, and the tree been a coconut tree?! 😀

To know more about this tree visit here

Calvery's Ode To Tobacco

Calvery's Ode To Tobacco

‘Ode to tobacco’, yeah, you read it right. Written in 1862! So you know things weren’t very different around 150 years ago. For complete details of the plaques in the area, visit here.

Kings Chapel Cambridge

Kings Chapel Cambridge

Kings Chapel Cambridge

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Kings Chapel Cambridge

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Kings Chapel Cambridge

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Kings Chapel Cambridge

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

King's College and Chapel (on the right), Cambridge

King's College and Chapel (on the right), Cambridge

After the chapel, we went to the market which had some really cool things to offer. Check out these pics.

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market - Bottle Art

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market - Ice Cream

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market - Indian Incense Sticks (Agarbatthis)

Cambridge Market

Cambridge Market

After the market, if I remember correctly, we went for punting on the river Cam


Punting in Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge - Flood level indicator

Punting on River Cam, Cambridge

Thats me and Suraj

I had a wonderful time in Cambridge as a tourist. Hopefully, I will make it there some day as an academician! (Good joke, I know! 😛 )

University Walkway

University Walkway

University Walkway

University Walkway