Friday, December 31, 2010

The year that was...


Keeping in line with the tradition of this blog, I proudly present the year 2010 in a recap here...

This year was releatively a crawler compared to the past few years. A majority of my journeys this year were by my new car, and successfully ran over 24,000 kms over this year. Railfanning took a backseat as usual, while Busfanning came forward (only to be sent back again).

Have a fun filled run on the Punalur-Shencottah line this year, and was fortunate enough to be present on the last day of service as well.

Had two fun-filled trips from college, with my classmates - One to Chennai and Vellore, Second to Sringeri, and Manipal. Although both were aimed at attended conferences, we had a blast at both places. Such trips help a lot in improving the bond between students.

Got two pets - a dog and a cat! The doggie is now just about a year old, while the cat (pussy) is just about a month-and-a-half old now. Robin (my doggie) had a long journey to Bangalore (his hometown) and back in my car in April, while my Paru (my cat) is all set for a ride tomorrow to Alappuzha! I now enjoy being a "pet owner". Paru bites hard - never knew Cats bite so hard!

Had quite some long bus journeys on KSRTC buses this year - now I know why many people do not prefer KSRTC for long journeys! This included on overnight trip as well - it was terrible!

Got a new camera this year, and had been experimenting a lot with it - no show-worthy pics though. Although a crawler, the year did rock! Perhaps a turning point in my life, as well. I hope to have a rocking year again...

The famous American author and journalist, Hal Borland, famously said: "Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."

Wishing everyone a very prosperous and fun-filled year ahead!
Happy New Year 2011!!!
 With lots of wishes that all your wishes come true in life... but, remember that better things in life happen only with hardwork.

My India! My Pride!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Unity in 'diversity'....

'Unity in Diversity' is one statement we Indian's often quote to explain the greatness of our country in simple terms. Our country is certainly diverse with a wide range of languages and cultures, stratified religions and what not. But this post is not intended to glorify India further, but is aimed at a few interesting "united we stand" tidbits from Kerala. Kerala is one tiny piece of land hanging precariously down along Peninsular India. With perhaps the largest per.sq.km population, Kerala is one helluva populous state.

While, officially, Kerala has only one state language - "Malayalam" (Note: not "Malyalam" or "Malyalee"), the actual form of the language used takes different form, so much enough for each of them being labelled a 'dialect'. Although all the strings of words spoken by common men in Kerala is called "Malayalam", there is a wide variety of "malayalams" used in Kerala. Starting from Kasaragod up in the North, the words used change dramatically and by the time one reaches Trivandrum down in the South, most words would've acquired exactly opposite meaning. Often words commonly used in the Northern Districts of Kerala (commonly referred to as "Malabar") are taboo down in the South, especially in the erstwhile Travancore kingdom.

While each Malayalee speaks his own Malayalam, we (oh! Me too a Malayalee) are united in the following... Malayalees have this love for spending more time at home than at office - thanks to the ever present Harthals. We are ready to strike work for any non-issue - so much that we struck work when Saddam Hussein was hanged! What does the hanging of this person got to do with Kerala? In one recent movie directed by the legendary family movie director Sathyan Anthikad, the protagonist mocks fun of a harthal called in Kerala to protest the "Cauvery river agreement between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu"!!! While that might seem too unrealistic, things turn very real here in Kerala!

Malayalees are very united in working to rulebooks! Any daily wage labourer will report to work only at 9 AM, and will wind up work not later than 5 PM. This includes a tea break from 10 AM to 11 AM, a lunch break from 12.00 to 2.00 PM and another tea break from 3.00 PM to 4.00PM. These breaks are in addition to the breaks to smoke and to untie-and-retie the lungi! All this for a daily wage of close to Rs. 400 now! And, they wouldn't work for more than two days at a stretch - coz they would be sick by the third day! They would not work on Sundays or Second-Saturdays.

Malayalees are very united at queuing up... no prizes for guess where do 'they' queue up! If you guessed "Railway station" or "Bus stop/station" or "Bill counters" or "Bank", you got it all wrong. We take pride in queuing up outside the nearest "Beverages" outlet. IMFL (or Indian Made Foreign Liquor) is sold by retail only through outlets owned by the Government of Kerala (Kerala State Beverages Corporation, ConsumerFed, etc). Therefore, its very essential to queue up if you want to buy a bottle to drink at home (or any place other than a bar). We take pride in waiting with utmost discipline in such queues until eternity to get our 'righteous' share. The pride goes to such levels that there is often competition between taluks to get the first price in consumption of liquor! Recent studies have shown than the average per capita liquor consumption of the state is a whopping 8.3 litres, equal to that of the US! Its not shocking that over 40% of Kerala's budget revenue comes from sale of Liquor! While the government spends money through its nose for treating people with Alcohol related diseases, its earning happily through the very sale of Liquor! (I'll leave this rant here... a special post would come up on this topic later)

North or South, we pay the same price! Go North or South in Kerala, most food items would have the same price. A Parippuvada (a fried snack made of lentils) would cost Rs. 3.50 any where in Kerala (not sure if the cost has increased recently following the exponential increase in cost of input), while a Tea would cost between Rs. 4 and 5 anywhere in Kerala. Same is the case with all food items. The prices get jacked up prior to a festival or an important event.

We all believe in using a single brand! Quite literally! When it comes to any product, Malayalees prefer purchasing a single brand. Come to Kerala, you'll see one particular maker of household products outsells its nearest competition by exponential margins, while you would see a particular model of car in a particular colour selling the most! One such example is "Pigeon" brands of Gas Stoves, and the humble Maruti Suzuki WagonR! We have the same preference for newspapers as well!

We do not argue! Malayalees believe in peace (perhaps a reason why we all wear White Dhoties!). We don't argue on trivial issues - we only argue on major issues like "was it fair on the US's part to bomb Iraq" or whether "north korea and south korea should settle their disputes". We don't argue on trivial issues like "maintenance of roads in Kerala" - but we are concerned about the poor state of roads in Kashmir (is it?). We will not argue on whether the bus fares in Kerala should be raised or lowered, but we are certainly annoyed that BMTC charges a minimum fare of Rs. 10 for their Volvos!

We don't bother meeting a doctor if we are sick - we know better than Doctors on what drugs to take! Have fever? Take an Aspirin or a Meftal Forte Tablets along with any antibiotic you like - never bother about doses. Afterall, we know better than Doctors/Pharmacists, right? Meet a Doctor only after you are unable to walk or you slip into a coma. So much that toddy (palm liquor) sellers recently discovered that adding "Diazepam tablets" along with Ethanol provides the much needed "kick" to drinkers!

Despite all diversities, we are all united, as Malayalees. Recently a mail forwarded by a friend claimed that the word "Mallu" (a phrase commonly used to refer to Malayalees) means "monkey" in Hindi according to the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary. Although that mail had by blood boiling initially, a lot of calm thinking led me to the conclusion that the term matches the common Malayalee mentality - of that of a Monkey. We never stick to one thought - but keep jumping from one thought to the other!

This post was not intended to hurt any Malayalee (or any reader for that matter). This post is to be taken with loads of salt and intended to be taken light heartedly. I apologise in advance this post in whole or parts thereof is hurting any reader.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The abyss of blogging..

The year 2010 would easily go into the history of this blog as an abyss. With just over 30 posts over the year, Platform7 was dormant for most parts of the year. Not because nothing happened over the year, I got all the more lazy to post! Life has been on the slow track over this year (more on that later).

Getting back to studies after close to two years of living off my own money was not a simple task. My exams just got concluded - and was preceeded by a two month study vacation. I began each day of my vacation with the pledge to start studying "today", and ended up the day with a pledge to start studying "tomorrow". The two months ran off as if it were just two days, and it finally dawned on me that the exam starts the next day! The regular "guilty" feeling of not starting early dawns, and finally ends up in leaving me hurrying through! I do love "performing" under pressure, though!

All the 5 papers had something in common - a terrible "Second" part. Our question papers were divided in two sections. In almost all the papers, the first section was annoyingly long, and the second section had to be left part way. Getting back to writing 3 hours at a stretch was not easy either - been used to typing out text, writing for that long was indeed a painful experience. I wound up each day with my hand paining like hell. As the exams ended, the regular drama of "Will I Pass" started as well!

As a part of getting back to studies (more specifically, with exams nearing),I quit both my hobbies this year (not completely, though) and concentrated on doing nothing (quite literally). After having spent most of the year at home (yeah!), I've now got used to doing nothing! However, doing "nothing" does require some skill - given the fact that I get close to 18 hours to do "nothing". Acquired a new camera sometime in the middle of this year, and have been experimenting with it since. Recently got a new set of lens for it, for me to go places!

Although I don't plan to get back to my hobbies with vengeance, I do plan to get back to them in a somewhat slight manner. I do wish the year ahead has some fun!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A painful movie experience...

Watching movies at cinema halls are usually a mixed bag experience - one gets the fun of watching it along with comments from other viewers, while the horrible state of cinema halls gives the overall experience a thumbs down. My experience last night at a cinema hall in Kochi was such. I had written a half-baked story comparing conventional cinema halls v/s multiplexes a while back (read it here). I am one who loves watching movies at cinema theaters, but not ready to compromise on comfort.

Last night, I (and my family) went to a pretty major cinema hall in Kochi (one of the three "S"s) to watch the latest Mammootty flick Best Actor. The movie in itself was watchable (not great by any extent of imagination, but a nice movie). The movie is directed by the debutant Martin Prakkat. The movie is all about the experiences a wannabe movie actor faces in his attempts to hit the screen. He finally succeeds, but after overcoming a lot of funny and intense situations. Mammookka has really indulged in his character, and has presented it with ease. He does look a bit out of situation in some places - especially the hair styling. He has presented Hindi dialogues with the typical Malayalee punch, and adds to the humour in the movie. The ending did confuse a couple of people, with many walking out even before the movie ended.

Leaving the movie aside, the experience of watching it was horrible. The theater had narrow seats, with almost non-moving backrests. Cushion was inexistent, and I got the feeling of sitting on a rock. The seats were too narrow, and the seating layout was even horrible. Its high time these theaters renovate their seating, and get better seats - people are ready to pay-up for good facilities these days, and its time theater operators utilise the opportunity. This particular movie hall (Saritha) is part of a "complex" of three movie halls. I had watched movies at the other two halls in the "complex" and felt their seats were better than this one.

A word of caution to those heading to this movie hall - please enter the hall as soon as it is opened - you might be lucky to get a good seat. But if you suffer from a back ache, please postpone your outing. This experience only deepens my pro-multiplex beliefs. Multiplexes are indeed paisa vasool while normal halls have this suspense angle.