Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal
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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar" journal:
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Neelakasham, Pachakkadal, Chuvanna Bhoomi|
I liked Malayalam movie Neelakasham, Pachakkadal, Chuvanna Bhoomi, directed by Samir Thahir. The director hasn't been able to entirely get rid of those clichéd commercial stock sequences (like the hero protecting the heroine from a current of water by standing in front of her in a dramatic way, etc.), but in general he has succeeded to bring a feel of freshness to the movie, and I think the overall structure of the film, based on long bike rides interspersed with flashback scenes, is new for Malayalam. The movie is also filled with several small but delightful touches, that are seemingly insignificant to the plot, but added together, give a pleasant layer to the narrative - like the little girl confidently asking the visitor at home, "You want tea, coffee, or cool drinks?" in English, and immediately asking her aunt with apprehension: "Cool drinks undo?"; or the Malayalee puncture repair guy living in Orissa trying to acquire some work for himself by placing nails on the road, and introducing himself as "Raghav" to the lead characters, following a little hesitantly as "Raghavan"; or the reaction of a girl driving a car, upon hearing the news that her fiancé-in-planning is about to bring his girlfriend to home, picturised as a wobbling movement of the vehicle.
Music is a key ingredient of the movie. The four songs gel well with the narrative, and the background score has some interesting use of instruments. It was also good to see GECT in Cinema once again (and they haven't disguised it as some other institute, but show it as GECT itself).
I Too Had a Dream|
Read I too Had a Dream, memoirs by Dr Verghese Kurien, as narrated to Gouri Salvi. Kurien was interested in Physics and Metallurgy and had done his Masters in engineering from the US, sponsored by the Government of India. After his return to India in 1949, he was asked to work at the government research creamery at Anand in Gujarat. Kurien had no interest in creamery or diary operations, and he hoped to soon come out of his liability to the Government and take up a work of his choice. However, he found himself increasingly getting pulled into the affairs of the co-operatives of milk farmers lead by Tribhuvandas Patel, a freedom fighter and idealist, and settles in Anand. He goes on to become a pioneer in formation of cooperatives in multiple sectors, establishing various organizations and institutes in the next fifty years, like Amul, NDDB (National Diary Development Board) and IRMA (Institute of Rural Management Anand).
I think this book was not meant as an autobiography, as Kurien's personal life gets only briefly mentioned in the book here and there. Most of the book is dedicated to narrating his experiences in development and operations of the various co-operatives (He even had proposed developing a co-operative for electricity distribution in Gujarat as early as in the 1960s). He clearly brings out the various tricky bottlenecks and oppositions he had to address from different ministers as well as bureaucrats, and it is inspiring to read how he persistently tried to achieve what he felt was really required for the success of the farmers and co-operatives.
Kurien acknowledges all the deep-routed corruption and hopelessness in the various Governments, which has only been becoming worse and worse since 1947: "It is dismaying to see that we no longer seem to have that uplifting nobility of purpose to pursue, and we are producing only inferior leaders. I have dealt with the government for over fifty years and I have found that grace in public life has become rare. Today in the frantic race to acquire power and money, vulgarity reigns supreme and the devil take the hindmost. Yet, when we look around, we see that we are dependent almost entirely on our political and parliamentary system for future leaders. Since these structures now seem interested only in power and money, the quality of the leadership that emerges through them is, to say the least, ignoble..". At one point he states that our democracy has ended up as "of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats and for the bureaucrats": "If we depend on bureaucracies and politicians and not on our people to deliver the goods, then there is very little that we will achieve as a nation. The bureaucrats and politicians will only become stronger.". But Kurien still kept that spark of optimism in his mind always, and in this book he also shares some of his thoughts on what should be the borderlines for the Governments to "govern", and what should be the ways to improve the living standards and bring justice to the majority of Indians living in the rural areas.
Traffic, Roads, Potholes, etc.|
Commutation from office to home is becoming increasingly difficult day by day. It has been more than an year since the BBMP completed the construction of several fly-overs and under-passes on the Outer Ring Road, which was supposed to improve the traffic situation; However, I hardly see any improvement, and things have become only worse. After getting out of office, It takes 15-30 minutes for me to traverse the service road, take multiple U-turns over the underpass and below the fly-overs, to join the main road.
First of all, the fly-overs and under-passes were designed in a poor and short-sighted way, trying to address the problems of the Outer Ring Road alone (they say the BBMP wanted to make the ORR signal-free), and not those of intersecting roads. To properly manage the traffic below the fly-over or above the under-pass, we would eventually need another set of signals, and since this traffic is queuing up to enter (or exit) the ORR itself, it is going to add back-pressure to ORR, so there will be congestion near the entry/exit points of these fly-overs (lane discipline, which is unheard of among most of Bangalore drivers, is not going to improve the scenario). As of today, there are no signals installed, and it is utter mess and confusion near these fly-overs always, with everyone just trying to squeeze in wherever there is space, etc.
To make the matters worse, BBMP has not completed the tarring work of the service roads near these fly-overs; they have been digging up rest of the parts of the service roads at various places for installing various pipes and cables, and that work would go on for weeks, months and years. The drainages are only partly done, leaving all the concrete debris, mud etc. just scattered on the road everywhere. Part of that junk is allowed to fill the older sections of the drainage. Dividers on the road are only partly done. Even at the places where there has been some attempt to make the dividers, the two-wheeler and truck drivers conveniently remove the concrete bricks constituting the dividers wherever they feel like to take a U-turn. They leave those bricks scattered on the roads itself, which would be a recipe for accidents, and nobody bothers to clean that mess. All these would happen in front of traffic policemen (senior officers, I presume, looking at their massive tummies) who would just stand at a distance idly chatting among themselves and having some fun observing all this confusion and traffic jams. This has been the state of affairs for last one year or more, with road work moving at snail's pace. I think they just work one or two days in a month. Indeed, everyone would come to know if there is a road maintenance activity going on, because the work will be carried out at a time when it is most inconvenient for people - like from 3-6PM, at peak traffic hours.
An year back, I wrote about the road condition at Shanthi Nagar area. Things have become only worse now, with all the main entry points to the Shanthi Nagar residential area simultaneously dug up by various boards (BWSSB, KEB and what not). I think the authorities derive some sadistic pleasure and enjoyment looking at the sad plight of the residents. They are prompt and fast in demolishing the roads and digging them up, which would be only half-day job for them, after which there will be no activity on the location for several months (or years). Apparently, the massive crater they dug up right in front of the Divyasree Chambers building, would be celebrating its second anniversary soon, and grass, shrubs, small trees - an entire ecosystem has developed in the crater. Probably a nice artificial lake would develop there during next rainy season. Our authorities have a habit of frequently developing these craters near various strategic locations like entrances of five star hotels, major commercial establishments and offices, etc. and just leaving them like that for long time. Probably this is one of the ways to extract donations from the affected people.
Since there are no proper entry points to the residential area, people who drive are forced to take up the mesh of various narrow, 10-feet roads to reach their homes. These roads are in pathetic condition (what else can we expect?), filled with potholes, open sewage tracks and encroachments by the residents themselves for dumping materials used for their construction work. Most of the people cant afford to have a parking space in their own compound, so their vehicles are parked on the road itself, leaving strictly a single lane for passing through. When we driving through one of these narrow roads and are in the middle of a single lane search, to our horror we may see another vehicle about to enter the road from the other end, and in spite of us flashing our headlights at them, they would keep on driving on and on (is it because of frustration, or lack of common sense, or both?), eventually forcing one of us to take a difficult reverse drive to make way for the other. Of course, if the other vehicle is a taxi, he is not going to touch his reverse gear, so we have to respectfully make space for him. By then, if other vehicles have piled up behind us, then it is going to be a bigger problem to solve, and we will have to bear with angry looks and curses from all, as if we we are solely responsible for the entire situation. I try to avoid driving my vehicle as much as possible these days, as it has become a nightmare to just take it out to the main road and back. In fact, even walking on the roads is risky at places, as the muddy edges near various craters can collapse any time and we need to carefully negotiate our ways in between them.
The local MLA got re-elected during the state assembly elections this year, and he continues to release his smiling-face posters with a vengeance. If only a small percentage of the attention given for publishing these posters was diverted to doing something useful for the people, things would have become much more tolerable.
Sansho the Bailiff|
Sansho the Bailiff (1954), Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, is set in medieval Japan. A good governor is exiled from his province. His wife and children take up a journey to join him, but on the way, they are caught by slave traders. The children - Zushio and Anju - work as slaves for ten years at the private manor of Sansho the bailiff, rich man and manager of a minister. The movie later narrates Zushio's attempts to escape and then trace the whereabouts of his parents and to rescue Anju and even put a ban on slave trading in the entire province.
There are several sequences in the film notable for their dramatic settings, brilliant background music and excellent black and white photography. Overall, it was a very interesting movie.
The Case of the Love Commandos|
Author Tarquin hall has been coming up with one Vish Puri mystery book each every year now, and I read the fourth one this week, titled as The Case of the Love Commandos.
This book is also written in the same format as the earlier books - A main thread in which the detective investigates a case, a parallel thread in which his "mummy-ji" solves a case, with several attempted observations on various Indian social and political scenarios and frequent descriptions about spicy food (there are even a few recipes given in the appendix of the book). There is no intelligent deduction or attempts to keep the readers closely engaged in the process of guessing on the results of the investigation based on the clues given; However, the book somehow managed to retain my attention till its last pages.
The Naked Island|
Japanese film The Naked Island (1960), directed by Kaneto Shindo, shows the tough life of a small family of four - parents and two children - living in an island of Japan. They are the only inhabitants of that small island, and their source of living is mainly farming. The parents need to make multiple trips to the mainland daily by a small row-boat, to carry fresh water for their sweet potato plants, and to drop their elder son to the school and to pick him back, etc. Once they bring the water to shore of the island, they need to carry it all the way up through a steep path, to the locations where they have their gardens. The movie has no dialogues and is picturized in black and white, and majority of the 90+ minutes of the movie shows the strenuous treks by the husband and wife, carrying water.
Initially, it left me wondering - It may be true that the family cant afford a motor boat; But why cant they think of some simple optimizations to easily transport the water from the shore to their garden, especially if that activity has been a part of their daily chorus for several years? But then slowly I realized that the director has perhaps kept these treks as symbolic in nature, and whether they could have transported the water in a more efficient way or not, is immaterial to the subject of the movie. After many long sequences of the hardships comes a day of leisure - The children manage to catch a medium size fish from the sea, and the family goes for a short picnic to the mainland to sell the fish and use that money to dine from a restaurant, go for a trip over the rope-way, and also buy toy-swords for the kids from a carnival. Life goes on for the family like that, with long days of stressful labor interspersed with brief moments of joy.
The Naked Island has some excellent pieces of background music and beautiful cinematography, which add a level of intensity to the touching moments in its climax. Overall, it was a moving and inspiring work of Cinema.
End of an Era|
Sachin Tendulkar's retirement marks the end of an era in Sports in India. It has always been so touching to hear the legendary cricketer talk with so much humility while standing on the peak of success and popularity, and his farewell speech was no different. Rarely do we get to see celebrities like Sachin.
Bankerupt is the latest in the series of Banking thriller novels by Ravi Subramanian. I have read two of his earlier novels, The Bankster, and The Incredible Banker, and hence the premises in the latest novel looked quite familiar (with the GB2 bank and all). However in Bankerupt, the banking sector takes importance only in the first quarter of the book, after which the story moves to Boston, and the main subject of the book is corruption and ethical issues in academia, manipulative research work in institutes, etc.
We see the narrative of Bankerupt going through a pattern similar to the earlier books - High level executives indulging in financial crimes driven by greed, their dramatic exposure in audits or interviews, twists in story in almost every chapter, mostly revealed through a phone call in which the receiver's face would "become pale" hearing the news but the reader would be updated more on this only a few pages down the line, the lead character looking for something in a cupboard and finding it only during the third or fourth iteration of search, voice-mails and redial button of telephone providing critical clues during investigation, along with some supposedly "highly technical" clues coming from a hard-disk, an iPad or a video clipping, etc. Ravi Subramanian has skills to keep the reader engaged from beginning till the last page of the book through these twists, clues and phone calls, and Bankerupt is also as interesting to read as his earlier books.
Went to Chennapatna, 60Km from Bangalore, for buying some toys for my son. Chennapatna is famous for the wooden toys that are manufactured there, and as we approach the place, a board installed on the road welcomes us to the "City of Wooden Toys". However, when I visited the shops in the town, I was surprised to notice that many of the toys sold there are "Made in China", which are available in toy shops in Bangalore too.
I had visited Chennapatna once before, a few years back. I think most of the toys displayed in shops those days used to be made in that town itself. At least I don't remember seeing these many Chinese toys, so it seems like this was a recent development. In general, the Chinese toys have better finishing and brighter colors than the locally made ones, and they are cheaper too, so they quickly attract kids and their parents. These toys are often very flimsy, but I suppose it doesn't matter much, as the pampered kids from the IT world of Bangalore would anyway consider these toys as a one time use and throw material, without necessarily developing any emotional attachment with them. I guess the real Chennapatna toys may be finding it hard to compete with the Chinese imports.
Asterix and the Picts|
I got Asterix and the Picts, the 35th book in the Asterix series. This book is written by Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrated by Didier Conrad. This is the first Asterix comic book to be written by an author other than the original makers of the comic - Goscinny and Uderzo - and this is the first one to be illustrated by anyone other than Uderzo.
After Goscinny's death in 1977, illustrator Uderzo had taken over scripting as well, and had brought up several interesting books in the Asterix series, though the quality of the scripts have been deteriorating consistently since the 29th book, Asterix and the Secret Weapon. The last three books really showed up the lack of ideas, though the illustrations continued to remain as brilliant as ever. Uderzo is now in his eighties, and it looks like he decided to handover the responsibility to a new set of artists.
Didier Conrad has done a brilliant job in illustrating the latest book, and a quick look at the pages wont reveal to us that the artworks are not by Uderzo. I was happy that the artist chose to imitate Uderzo's style and maintain the traditional appearance of the drawings, instead of coming up with any "new generation format" for the comic. The script, however, is still a let down (though I have to say it is as good as the previous three books). This is a full length story in the old format and thankfully there are no aliens, etc. like in one of the recent books (though the Loch Ness Monster makes a brief appearance in the story). Many of the standard characters including the pirates are still there, but I felt that humor content was very minimal in the dialogues. In fact, I found the storyline to be too boring.
I am happy that the legacy of Asterix is going to continue. I hope that there will be more books, with more humorous and engaging stories than this one.
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