February 18, 2013

World Face

[This post is written with no intention to harm anybody or hurt anyone's feelings. So before you arrest me or any of my pals who might end up 'liking' this post, or do any kind of harm to me or to them, do watch the movie and am sure you will cry with us.]

I was not given any pills - no red or blue pills - i had to watch it. No other go. The same way i ended up watching Argo as the first in the sequence of movies during my back-breaking and mind-numbing Singapore Airlines flight and ended up cursing those who nominate garbage for Oscars.

But before we go onto the characters, few important observations:
1. It is easy to infiltrate into al-Qaeda.
2. W.r.t #1, it is easy for a RAW agent to infiltrate, than any MI6, FBI or both combined.
3. If you are a new recruit in al-Qaeda, it is easy to spot OsamaBinLaden, for your manager will soon take you to him to get acquainted with the top leaders; similar to what happens in corporates these days.
4. Americans, despite their stringent full-body security checks at airports, still do not know that even pigeons can cause havoc in a city like NY.
5. When someone asks you about a certain element, it is necessary for you to puke out their atomic number and mass; without this we wouldn't know that you are a PhD.
6. Faraday needs a shield, for sure, preferably a microwave oven.
  ........do you really want more?

We have just lost cabin pressure!

Kamal calls this 'art'? Seriously? You mean, someone crunching out atomic number and weights of Cesium is Art? Pooja Kumar is art? Granted that she has nice eyes and all, but why make the mistake of making her open her mouth and top that of with some really bad dubbing. Senthil's voice sounds better in comparison, and his jokes are atleast worthy of a laugh.

And that Nallavara-Kettavara dialogue?  "I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn't screw to save its species. I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all the French beaches I'd never see. I wanted to breathe smoke. "

And why did you make Andrea stand there? Did you want to make that FBI lady agent look fat in comparison and talk about her 'smart-ass'? I am still trying to figure out her role in the movie.

Shekhar Kapur? Seriously? Is he becoming the Shashi Tharoor of Indian Cinema?

And finally Rahul Bose. Our media has started hailing that "Bollywood struggles to defy cliched portrayals of Muslim characters"; and there are people who are antagonized. I fail to fathom that when Palakkad Tamils are not objecting to the dreadful tamil being used, does this really matter? I would have expected the likes of atleast Vali, Vairamuthu to object to the Tamil being used.

Remember: Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.

The last few scenes of Kamal lying with the actresses under those black sheets with the voice over - true genius! I was glad that the scenes in the movie did not last more than a few seconds but I am curious as to what Pooja Kumar would blurt out during those moments. It was as if Tyler Durden had included those magical moments(changeover) himselves.

And travails did not stop there. Even when i wanted to watch table tennis videos on Youtube to recover from the numbness, the darn recommendation engine prompted me to watch The Making of the movie.

If someone tells you that tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your life after watching this movie and your breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted, then keep your kevlar studded punching gloves ready. I facepalmed so many times during and after the movie that now my palm has an oblique reference to my face and there are symptoms of my face resembling my fingers. The transposition will be complete soon i presume, if i do not recover by some temporary catharsis.

Now i know you are all eager to watch this movie, so i give you this[1] and this[2] too, if not Part-Two.

February 09, 2013

V-Day Romantic Getaways

It’s that time of the year when most couples will try to spend some private moments with their significant other. Love is in the air. A quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and connecting with your partner while relaxing in the lap of Mother Nature will offer a perfect blend of harmony and romance. Get ready to fall in love with these beautiful getaways and also with each-other...once again.

   Wake up to the sound of waves slowly crashing on the shore only to find the Bay of Bengal resemble a giant placid lake. This tropical paradise is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in pristine beaches bordered by gorgeous flora and fauna. Adrenaline junkies can scuba dive or snorkel in the clear blue waters filled with corals. Watching the ocean shimmer in the moonlight from your love-shack while snuggling up with your loved one will be an unforgettable experience for sure. Havelock and Neil Island can be easily reached from Port Blair. Havelock has many cottages lined up along the ocean whereas Neil has a few basic ones.
Morning at Havelock beach, Andamans
    'Gods Own Country' figures in almost all ‘places-to-go’ lists for its unrivalled beauty and tranquility.  Wayanad has a good mix of tribal heritage, tea gardens, waterfalls and pre-historic caves to definitely woo you. A heart-shaped lake during the ascent to Chembra peak makes a pretty good spot for a perfect proposal. Pamper your body with ayurvedic massages or head down further south to Kumarakom and spend a quiet evening with a candle light dinner on the houseboat that guarantees privacy and luxury in the sparkling backwaters. A perfect combination of romance and relaxation, Kerala truly lets you unwind while giving you time to plan and prepare for that important moment in your life.

Heart shaped lake, Chembra Peak, Wayanad

   Sipping a hot cup of chai and just spending those precious moments looking at the breathtaking views of the snow capped mountains takes one to a totally different realm altogether. An overnight train to Kathgodam(one of the cleanest railways stations in India) from Delhi takes you to the heart of Kumaon, from where you can either head to the famous hill-station of Nainital or take a longer ride and hit Kausani or Chaukori. The sceneries will surely make your partner swoon while you immerse yourself into the lap of serenity and calmness. The Mall Road in Nainital, overlooking the lake, is dotted with many hotels catering to all wallet sizes while the KMVN lodge in Kausani and Chaukori will keep you warm in the freezing temperatures.

Lake at Nainital


    An evergreen honeymoon destination for many Indians and a perfect-spot for Europeans to escape the winter and get their tan, Goa offers an unique experience to all its visitors. Clubs, late night parties, discotheques are aplenty and so are the beautiful cathedrals and churches. Be it the array of shacks lined up along the shore offering a multitude of cuisines in Baga or the picturesque seascapes of Vagator and Anjuna or Palolem and Calangute for watersports or shopping, the magic of Goa will remain in your hearts even after you return to the madness of the city. The late night walks along some stunningly beautiful and secluded spots does offer a glimpse of Goa that many party-goers often miss. The sun-sand-surf-food-wine combination can sometimes become the perfect place to drop the M-bomb.
    This holiday in the monsoon forests is truly for the adventurous couples. Climb up the Kudremukh peak to soak in the enchanting views of the rolling grasslands and lush green meadows. The occasional clouds passing by, probably makes the best ingredient for romance and also a perfect place to pop the question. Accommodation is basic and the options include tents, cottages and homestays lying at the foothills of the mountains. Watching the mist enveloped mountains while trying to count the different shades of green will be an indulging experience for sure. Walk hand-in-hand across the numerous aromatic coffee plantations followed up by an authentic malnad lunch in one of World's best biodiversity hotspots to be in harmony with nature.
(This story was published in The Hindu Metro Plus Dated 09-Feb-2013)

Book Review : Three Mediocre Books on Corporate Preparedness

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 21-Jan-2013)

There is no magic formula for making it big in life. It’s all about your preparedness and how. These three books are trying to look at corporate preparedness and make a feeble attempt to teach the subject to its readers. While Make It Or Break It by Partha Sarathi Basu is a guide for the novice in the corporate world, Daddy’s Logic by Anthony Rose encourages us to get out of our cosy cubicles and get going. Jack’s Business by Gabriel Fuchs is a manual on how to tame greed, something that has built and broken industries in many parts of the globe.

Basu is finance director for India and South Asia at AkzoNobel. His books include Why Not. . .! Racing Ahead with Mentors. His latest book mainly targets aspiring teenagers or young professionals who are just about to start a corporate life. Through fable-like stories as examples that prepare young professionals to manage everyday life, Basu acts like a mentor and motivator. And in that effort, he performs well, though he is not great. His examples portray real-life scenarios in any office and show how a young executive should prepare so that her early career remains “successful”. To Basu, success merely means not committing any blunders due to the lack of knowledge of corporate culture and being aware of one’s environs. There is no protagonist and the author spews out rule after rule meant to ensure a trouble-free career as well as cordial relationships with peers and seniors.

This self-help book is written in simple and lucid language and teaches the importance of common sense without making any effort to talk about the relevance of having dreams and how to chase them. In the preface, Renu Karnad, managing director of HDFC, calls this book a “Lonely Planet” for aspiring professionals fresh out of campus. Aptly so. And just that.

While Basu guides the path for a novice, Rose, a public relations veteran, goes beyond the customs of a cubicle. In Daddy’s Logic, he covers larger aspects of life. Spread across 20 chapters covering 20 aspects of living a regretfree happy life, these are primarily based on author’s interactions and experiences with this father over a span of 30 years. The author has superimposed advice from his daddy with examples of corporate leaders, underscoring the fact that our parents play an important part in shaping our early life and their advice is often followed and implemented even after they leave us. This book contains a surfeit of practical advice peppered with loads of anecdotes and pragmatic insights.

Fuchs talks about more than just greed, which has become a prominent keyword for any book associated with the finance industry, along with arrogance and skills. The plot is generally the same: a nobody’s quest for success sees him going on to achieve the heights and then losing everything due to his ego and greed. There is no place for feelings of guilt, sorrow or pity and the lure of fast money leads one to the fast track to success and by the time he realises that he has gone too far, he generally ends up languishing in a prison cell. The central premise of any such book is similar to the tagline “Greed is Good” from the 1987 epic movie Wall Street  by Oliver Stone.

Fuchs is a consultant and a business intelligence expert. His book claims to be based on a true story and so readers would expect something new to be told in it, but the subject has become so mundane that almost all plots read alike. Perhaps, Greg Smith’s open resignation published recently on The New York Times – ‘Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs’ — would give us a realistic feel of what goes on in the industry. Still, the book is a much better, faster and credible read than most such books.

Book Review: Makers - The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 10-Dec-2012)

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard commands the Enterprise Replicator to make “Tea. Earl Gray. Hot” and pop comes the hot beverage. This was a sci-fi movie with tonnes of similarly fascinating gadgets that looked unbelievable, but in Makers, Chris Anderson brings in similar elements of surprise. He makes a strong argument about how digital fabrication is going to aid desktop factories in the near future and how it can bring many such gadgets to life. Anderson is the editor-in-chief of Wired, co-founder of 3D Robotics and DIY Drones web communities and the author of best-sellers such as The Long Tail and Free: How Today’s Smartest Businesses Profit by Giving Something for Nothing. His new book is all about the new wave of innovation and instant-entrepreneurship using various digital tools.

The author hails the importance of ‘doing’ or ‘making’ as the most important catalyst and claims the ‘garage-culture’ is going to lead us to a new world of innovation and great products. Calling the ‘maker movement’ an ‘industrial revolution’ does sound exaggerated at a cursory glance, but the author has done a fine job by describing the various innovations in 3D printing, digitally-controlled milling machines and laser cutters that are going to be important tools for rapid prototyping and manufacturing.

The author sees the Third Industrial Revolution as one where digital manufacturing aids personal manufacturing, and calls for the industrialisation of the maker movement. His excitement is felt all over the book as he starts off with his experiences of seeing his grandfather work in his garage, and until now where he works with people from across the globe for DIY Drones.

Today, the Web is increasingly becoming a part of our life, and the networking cable is the conveyor belt of the digital world. The cycles from ideas to entrepreneurship have reduced drastically as Web-centric and open-innovation models have led to increased collaboration between people in a geography-agnostic world.

Anderson cites the example of initiatives such as KickStarters, where innovators can post their ideas even before they produce the prototype and get funding and also get a feel of the possible adoption rates. There are no barriers to variety, and digital tools have helped customise products even when they are mass-produced. Especially, says Anderson citing the example of 3D printer, this has led to individualisation and customisation and goes on to a state where buying a 3D printer is similar to buying a front-row seat to a cultural transformation. The author’s hyper-focus on 3D printers makes it sound as good as the Enterprise Replicator in Star Trek, but we, as readers, should not get carried away, as the technology is still in its infancy.

The flowing felicity of writing makes this book extremely easy to read; one can knock it off in a few hours. That said, there are a few disappointments too. One, is the lacklustre and uninspiring cover, and the other, the lack of stories citing failures in the maker movement. Entrepreneurship has not always been about serendipity and rapid-prototyping, and it would have been great if Anderson had cited cases wherein many millions of dollars were spent with no product being delivered. The book does not spur any questions, but during the course of the read, catalogues the desirable products in the Maker’s wish-list.

Anderson makes innovation sound easy for someone who has all the right tools, and, hence, loses focus from the rigorous process that has to be followed during any product design and development. He does not unravel the mysteries of entrepreneurship either. Also, the author does not brainstorm on possible intellectual property issues that will arise with digital fabrication technologies. Custom-made coffee mugs or t-shirts are easy, but will the larger population opt for other critical things made via a Replicator?

10 Places to go in 2013

(This article was published in The Hindu Metro Plus dated 5-Jan-2013)

Make your travel resolutions for the New Year with these Top 10 ideas

1 South Korea
Much friendlier and easier to access than its Northern counterpart, South Korea is one of the biggest international business hubs in the region. Visit the World's Newest City Songdo (Isle of Pines) along Incheon's waterfront, which has been built from scratch for a staggering $35 billion on an artificial island spread across 6 sq. km, reclaimed from barren mudflat. Cisco intends to bring its state-of-the-art technology to make Songdo one of the most technologically advanced, smart and connected communities in the world. Is Songdo the way to go for modern cities? You must visit this ambitious aerotropolis, still under construction, that aims to take cities like Dubai, New York and Hong Kong head on.

2 St Vincent and The Grenadines
A paradise laden with coral reefs, turquoise lagoons and idyllic beaches, SVG is the perfect place to spend that romantic moment with your partner. For the adventurous, there is plenty of eco activity involving volcanoes, waterfalls, whales, diving and snorkelling. Try the novel concept of a de-tech or digital detox holiday, which lets you get away from your digital gadgets and immerse yourselves in nature. Don’t fret if your tablets and phones are confiscated; unplug from the world and enjoy your break exploring the 32-odd islands and cays in this archipelago.

3 Singapore
Celebrating its 50th year of independence from the British Crown, this culturally bio-diverse nation state offers lots of festivals and fetes in 2013. A shopaholic's trusted destination, Singapore is among the most beautiful and clean cities in the world. If you want to grab a shopping holiday, there’s no place like Singapore. But rapid urbanisation has led to some heritage areas getting lost, so if you want explore places like the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market or the Bukit Brown cemetery you need to go now before they are lost in the urban madness.

4 Mandvi, Gujarat
Tucked on the western-most part of India facing the Arabian Sea is one of the most beautiful and uncharted spots of the country, often missing from the tourist's map. This is the old ship-building town of Mandvi. Ship-building is still active, and you can see the silhouettes of abandoned ships and the ones of new ones being built on a beautiful moonlit night, lending a ghostly charm to the skyline. With its pristine white sand beaches, a beautiful palace (Vijay Vilas) and ornate Jain temples, along with sumptuous Gujarati thalis and dabelis, Mandvi is the perfect epitome of that beautiful town you always wanted to visit but did not know existed.

5 Amsterdam, Netherlands
There is more than one reason to visit Amsterdam in 2013. This beautiful and splendid city is celebrating a lot of festivals this year — from the 400th anniversary of the Amsterdam canals (Canal Ring is a UNESCO heritage site) and Vincent van Gogh’s 160th birthday to 175 years of the Artis Royal Zoo and the 125th anniversary of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Get ready to celebrate with the Dutch with concerts and events in this alpha world city. The town and visitors are also eagerly awaiting the re-opening in April of the Rijksmuseum (which houses masterpieces from Rembrandt and Van Gogh among others) after a 10-year renovation.

6 New Zealand
It happened during 2003 to 2006, when The Lord of the Rings was released and it will happen again with the release of The Hobbit. Tolkien Tourism is one of the most potent forces pulling visitors to Kiwi country, among the most beautiful and naturally diverse places in the world. The Kiwi landscape truly represents the magical setting of Middle Earth but there is more to New Zealand than just the Weta caves. Indulge in any of a dozen adventurous sports like bungee jumping, skydiving, whitewater rafting, hydro-zorbing, spelunking and more. No wonder they call this the adventure capital of the world.

7 New Fantasyland, Orlando
Just a few weeks old, with double the area (21 acres from 10 acres) of the old Disneyworld, your visit to the Magic Kingdom just got a whole lot better, with loads of new attractions and rides. This is the largest expansion in the Magic Kingdom’s history. Old rides like Snow White’s Scary Adventures have made way for new ones like Ariel's Grotto, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Barnstormer and others. Splitsville Luxury Lanes boasts of a 50,000 sq. ft bowling, billiards and entertainment zone. With the expanded space and two new themed areas, Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus, and two highlights yet to open, neither kids nor adults are going to be bored soon. And do try to find the ‘hidden Mickeys’ tucked away all over the park.

8 Reunion Island
With beaches that morph into lava fields and mountains, what has been often hailed as mini-Hawaii is a French overseas territory neighbouring Mauritius and is off the coast of East Africa (Madagascar). This island nation has almost a thousand kilometres of hiking trails along with Piton de la Fournaise, one of world’s most active volcanoes, that has exploded more than 170 times since the mid-17th century. Reunion Island is a must-visit destination before tourists and mega-resorts crowd it.

9 Tokyo, Japan
If you are interested in exploring sub-cultures, then look no further than Japan. Tokyo, a Blade Runner-esque city, offers a subway culture that no other city in the world can boast of. You will see a riot of colours in the trains and tunnels, filled as they are with bizarrely dressed gyarus, lolitas and yankiis! You may even spot a favourite Manga character in one of the fashion shows held so often across the city. Japan offers a mixed platter of cross-pollinated culture where manga madness merges with the tea ceremony; and cherry blossom season competes with ultra-modern urban landscapes.

10 Space
The Spaceport terminal in New Mexico is going to see a lot of action in the next few years. SpaceX's reusable space rockets and Virgin Galactic’s 2.5-hour suborbital flight, which includes a six-minute interval of weightlessness, are on the verge of making space travel a reality. What was once every kid's dream is going to be on everyone's bucket list. With 530 bookings already made, at a ticket cost of $200,000, get ready to conquer the blackness of outer space. 2013 could be your year!