Necessary frustrations

You know how they say necessity is the mother of all inventions? Yeah. It’s not just any necessity. It’s necessity that’s so necessary that the absence of it causes untold frustration and it is this frustration that leads to an invention. If not an invention, then atleast a discovery.

Like how you’re so frustrated to see that all your BPEL instances have gone stale and you have no way to get back the input and output xml payloads and then you discover that you can steal the xml payloads by clicking on little links behind the big bold error that says the instance is stale [1]. Gives a very interesting feeling of satisfaction on being able to beat the system and get what one wants. No matter how trivial.

Frustration is the key.

It all boils down to how frustrated you can get yourself to be. If it’s beyond the normal limit, it will almost always lead to either an invention/discovery/workaround or irreversible physical damage to self or objects belonging to self. Given that this self owns quite a lot of objects (no cosmic value ofcourse but loads of materialistic value), the second option is not feasible.

So, here’s to more frustrations! Now if only I can find a way to have someone else be frustrated enough on my behalf and solve my problems.

 

[1] I generally don’t write about work stuff, but I had to tell someone about this little trick on the BPEL console that has saved me a lot of trouble and unnecessary debugging.

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Cricket, Football, Mondays and other such things.

Long long ago –

– Football? The one with the ball and boys kicking it around and shouting in joy when it fell into the drain (which for some reason they kept referring to as ‘goal’)? Nope, don’t know anything about it.

– Offside? Eh?

– Cricket? Oh yeah! We girls got runners. We girls were also the uppuku-chappanis (roughly translates to namesakes). The dustbin at the end of the field was a boundary for fours. Rubber ball, coconut branch bat? Sure, I know cricket.

– LBW? Say what?

The present day –

– Football? The one with the black and white ball (which is stamped with the name of the countries playing that match), lotsa men who earn in gazillions for kicking the ball around? Cristiano Ronaldo? Thierry Henry? Ballack? Scolari? Oh yeah, I know.

– Offside? Well..er.. atleast two guys from the opposite team between the guy and the goal-post when the pass is being made? Close? This is all I can remember. Ever.

– Cricket? Heck, yeah! IPL, MS Dhoni and Ganguly taking his shirt off at Lords? Sure. Power plays, third umpires, Gilchrist keeping a tiny ball inside his gloves to get a better grip? But, ofcourse!

– LBW? You mean when the Hawkeye predicts the trajectory going through the stumps? I can’t do this.

 

Lesson: Some things never change.

Seriously, what’s the deal with ‘offside’ in football and ‘lbw’ in cricket? No matter how many times someone explains it to me, I still can’t get it right. Ok, maybe the first time I do, but after that? No way! Atleast ‘offside’ I can guess, but ‘LBW’?! Dear God, no! I can’t. I mean, how in the world do those umpires know?!! Well, maybe that explains why I’m not an umpire (among other things, I’d die of boredom if I’m anywhere near a cricket match, forget bang right in the middle of the field).

I know I’m writing more often about sports. But it’s just everywhere around you, it’s kinda hard not to notice. If you spend a good 4 hours every evening in front of the TV with Neo Sports or ESPN on, you’ll start writing football and cricket even if you’d been living in the bushes for a 100 years or just discovered fire.

Or maybe it’s a darn Monday and this is the only draft in my blog-draft folder that’s worth posting (since all the others are just downright crap).

Sometimes I’ve found that you could tolerate a Monday if you have reasons other than work to come to work. Like if you’re wearing your brand new shirt or salwar-kameez or saree (as applicable, ofcourse). Or if just caught Grey’s Anatomy on TV (9 AM to 10 AM IST every Monday – life’s little mercies, me thinks) and you’re still thinking what’s gonna happen next week since Meredith got pushed into the sea trying to rescue some other bloke. Or if you have something to look forward to in your lunch box (this could keep you going till lunch time – after that, the blues hit ya real hard).

Happy Monday, everyone.

P.S: If you have nothing new to wear or if you don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy or if your lunch box contains good ol’ curd rice, you could still try to handle the blues by tweaking around with your blog template, add/remove widgets, try to edit the CSS and be met with a WordPress message that you have to ‘buy’ the feature to publish the edited CSS or add post scripts to your already published posts.

Rail Sneham

The alarm goes off at 4:00 AM. Alarms, by some freak of nature, are audible only to parents. Dad and Mom are up and ready in no time. And since we’re children (my bro and I, that is) we get an extra 1 hour of sleep. There’s something about brushing your teeth and getting ready at 5 in the morning, isn’t there? Crappy is an understatement. But then, if you’re getting ready to catch a train that will take you to your favorite aunt’s house for summer holidays, there’s nothing that you won’t put up with. Even getting up at 5 AM.

For a family of four, we sure had a lot of luggage. 2 full bags. (It’s a different story now – for a family of two, we carry 4 bags). And Dad always made a comment on how we (Mom and me, generally) never travel light. I’m too sleepy to care. My brother, ofcourse, is falling asleep on his feet. I still wonder how my Dad can be so chirpy in the mornings – one thing his children did not inherit.

A 45 minute bus ride (and a nap) later, we’re at the railway station. People all dressed up, aunties smelling of Ponds powder and jasmine flowers, uncles smelling of vibhuti and Charlie and kids our age, sleep-walking behind the parents. The moment we enter the station, I wake up. Not because of the noise or the crowd, but because of the huge time table with the train arrival and departure timings. No one told me then that my parents were very literate and could read out the departures and platform numbers themselves. I took it upon myself to patiently stand there (the sleep fairy nowhere to be seen), ticket in hand trying to find our train. Another matter that our train was almost always on platform number 1, bang in front of my eyes. And the moment we enter the platform, I used to look at the huge railway clock and adjust my own watch to the same time – after all, that was the time the train was going to follow so I might as well follow the same! We had rituals as kids, didn’t we?

Next came the hurried walk down the train’s length trying to get into the right compartment. Since our parents were excellent planners, we rarely had waitlisted or unconfirmed tickets. Get into S1 or S2, fight with brother for the window seat, give up when Mom reminds me that I’m the older one, punch him once for good measure, have him sit at the window seat for exactly 15 minutes after which the poor thing would be sleeping, gently move him beside Mom and hog the window seat for the next 5 hours – phew, it was a lot of work getting settled on a train. Having a brother who used to sleep at the drop of a hat, helped.

Like all children all over the world, the first thing we did after settling down was to start asking the million dollar questions – “When will the train start?”, “When will we reach Madras?”, “When will the breakfast come?”, “Can I have vegetable cutlet and tea?”, “I have to go the bathroom. Can I go now before the train starts?”. The last one was always met with a hard stare and a stern line that one does not use the bathroom at stations ‘coz that will make the tracks and the station stink. Good sense prevails. The second thing we did was to make Dad get us the latest copy of Champak, Gokulam and Chandamama.

The smells and the sounds of a train are from another world, aren’t they? The iron smelling windows, the rexin seats with the Southern Railway emblem stamped on it, the two sets of shutters, one just plain glass and one with ribbed bars. The stinky toilets, the gymnastic balancing act one had to do to actually use them. And above all this, the food! O dear God, the food! I’m yet to have masala dosa that tasted as yummy as the ones sold on Southern Railways. The hot coffee. I always burned the tip of my tongue trying to drink the coffee when the train was moving.

When we run out of books, we turn to the window and watch the paddy fields go by. My brother would have occupied the other window seat ‘coz the benevolent looking uncle whose seat it was, felt sorry for him.

Each big station on the way was a milestone. “How much longer to Madras?”. “Is the train late?”. “Will uncle come to pick us up?”. “Can we go by auto?”. (FYI – I thought autos were proprietary to Madras. No other place on the planet had autos.)

The moment we reach Tambaram, all hell breaks loose. People scrambling to get their luggage down for the next station, Mambalam. The train stops there for a mere 2 minutes, so if you had to get down you had to be standing at the door. We used to sit with a smug expression that we’re going till the very end and we didn’t have to hurry.

The train rolls into Mambalam. The platform is much higher and seems more closer from the window. I always thought Madras had a distinctive smell and feel. Maybe the sea breeze, maybe the humidity, maybe the Coovum (which, by the way, was a landmark)! Or maybe the simple thought of a long holiday without any books or homework.

The first sign of home were the extra railway tracks. Small stations had only one or two. Big stations had 9 or 10. Big station meant home at last! The moment the platform starts, our heads were trying to get out of the windows trying to catch a glimpse of Uncle and wave like mad so he can know the devils are here. After being sufficiently satisfied that Uncle has spotted us and won’t go off without picking us up, we impatiently wait for Dad to bring the luggage down. Champaks and Gokulams neatly packed in to be given to the cousins at home.

And as we get out of the train, surrounded by this huge sea of humanity, getting propelled out to the entrance even without doing anything, I always turned back for one look at the great giant who got us there. Tired, puffing and panting, creaking and stretching, the great big train stood there – mission accomplished. A mission of getting hundreds of people safely to their destinations.

There’s still a small part of me that longs for those train journeys and summer holidays. That feeling of having done the journey, of travelling from one home to another, the sights and the smells – you don’t get that when you travel by air, do you? It’s an experience in itself to travel by rail. And when you go home and wash off the smell of the train from your body, it is with the knowledge that 30 days later you will be at the same station, waving goodbye to Aunty and Uncle, ready for another journey in that wonder of a transport mechanism, the train. And exactly a year later you will come back for another summer, on another train, but the journeys are new each time.

Chennai Egmore celebrates 100 years of being Chennai Egmore! For close to 18 years I have set foot on those platforms every year, without fail. There’s a personal relationship with Egmore that’s not there with any other station – not with Chennai Central, not with the Secunderabad station. Egmore was summer holidays and cousins. Egmore meant I was going to see Grandma in about 30 minutes. Egmore was the destination.

So, here’s to the big station. Here’s to the station being what it is to me, to many more children in future.

P.S: ‘Rail Sneham’ is a term used in Tamil for the friendships one makes over a train journey. My friendship was more with the train itself than the people in it!

Lal Salaam

Ok, so this could be a rant.

Do you know what’s been hogging the Malayalam news headlines the last few weeks? I’ll give you some clues – not inflation, not the oil-price hike, not the strikes/hartals by the omnipresent Commies, not global warmning, not the Aarushi murder case, not any murder case, not Santhosh Madhavan and finally, not even Euro 2008 or the just complete Tri-series in Bangladesh.

What else can it be? It’s the story of how a proverbial mole-hill was made a mountain by the I-have-nothing-better-to-do brigade of, get this, people from the Mallu film industry!

So here’s the whole deal – once upon a time in Kerala (approx 4 years back), there lived a producer Tulasidas. He used to make movies. Along the same time, there lived a very popular actor, Dileep. He had a lot of hits and was one of the hottest stars in the industry. So our man Tulasidas gets dates (the calendar ones, for purely platonic purposes, mind you) from Dileep for an upcoming movie and pays him 40 lakhs for the agreement. All was good and done. Then one fine day, Dileep decides he doesn’t want to act in that movie anymore (director had a lot of flops, the script was not ready, yada yada yada) and tells Tulasidas that he can’t keep his dates and he’s willing to give the money back. All of it.

And what happens then? Tulasidas decides he’ll have nothing of it and goes to town saying Dileep must (MUST MUST MUST) act in his movie, he can’t just give the money back and go. Dileep doesn’t care, basically asks him to take a hike around the world.

Now till this point it’s just an issue between one director and one actor. But then, one forgets that it’s Kerala. Nothing is between just two people. It’s somehow twisted and turned to be between the down-trodden working class (even if they happen to make crores in the film industry) and the arrogant one-man capitalist. Always. So what does Tulasidas do? He goes crying to MACTA (Malayalam Cine Technicians Association) and the general secretary of MACTA, director Vinayan decides enough is enough and convenes a meeting with all the executive members (which includes the whos-who of Mallu filmdom) and announces that all Mallu movies will be put on hold if Dileep doesn’t act in Tulasidas’ movie. Hah!

But then, one of the directors in that meeting, Siddique, got up and said that film-making was his bread and butter and he cannot stop doing that just because two people in the industry were having some issue. And what does Vinayan do? He goes up to the mike and says something to the effect that ‘people’ will tarnish their wives also for money these days (put very very mildly). Siddique sees red ‘coz the comment came exactly after he gave his opinion and he says ‘people’ actually refers to him.

This is enough fuel for the entire industry to burst into flames and split into two. Big guns like Siddique, Sibi Malayil, Fazil, Sreenivasan, Priyadarshan and Sathyan Anthikad resign from MACTA. The Mallu actors association (called AMMA) takes Dileep’s side. MACTA is on Tulasidas’ side. There’s the third front formed by the breakaway faction of MACTA who just want to get on with their movie making. Now add to this other ‘associations’ like FEFSI (South Indian film federation) and ABCD and XYZ, you have a full blown crisis on your hands. And the media, ofcourse, has a field day (actually weeks) running live updates on every single meeting between these ‘associations’.

Why am I all frustrated about this? First, I have to watch the darn news and I have absolutely no interest in such issues of ‘world importance’. Second, I’m sick and tired of the Commie way of doing things where common sense is chucked out the door and the common man is made to undergo difficulties because some bloke up there on a red throne said so. WTH! Thanks to these trade unions, if I had to move house in Kerala, I can’t do it myself! I have to call the trade union guys to do it for me and then pay through my nose.  Did you guys know that? Say I have 3 huge couches to move and  I have 5 of my friends/cousins who can help me move it, I still can’t! The union people just won’t let me. I have to call their guys, use their lorries and do the moving. And what’s worse?  They will unload the material only till the gate. Not till inside the house! Again, WTH! There are no movers and packers to neatly pack your stuff in the old house, move it to the new house and unpack and arrange the things in the new house. There are no movers and packers. Period.

Maybe I don’t have the whole picture. Maybe I don’t know the other side of the story. But from whatever I know, this just seems the most unfair way to do things. And that frustrates me!! 

Is it like this in all Commie ruled states? How about West Bengal? Any better there? Does Communism in it’s original format even hold good in today’s times? In India, at least? We all know China is the other extreme, but what the heck is happening here?

Desperate times, desperate measures. No, no desperate housewives, sorry.

I login to WordPress today and what do I see?

Yep, that’s right. It’s dropping dropping and dropped. And I have only myself to blame.

I could get all philosophical and console myself saying why do I even care if my blog stats drop. I mean, I have a life right? It’s not like this blog is the only reason I’m alive today. But you know what? If you own a blog you would know it too – from the moment you start a blog, somehow, unseen, this little thing called ‘responsibility’ creeps up into your life. ‘Responsibility’ towards readers (imagined or otherwise) who spend a minute or two to click their bookmark or their blogroll and reach your blog. And Responsibility never came alone now, did it? No, it always brings along it’s best pal, Guilt. The moment you slip up on this ‘responsibility’, dear ol’ Guilt ruins your life.

Reminds me of something I heard on TV yesterday. The famous Malayali actor, Srinivasan (he’s acted in over 500 movies, directed a bunch of ’em and written stories for many many more) was a guest judge on one of those reality singing competition (Star Singer, and it’s on Asianet if you have to know. The entry level talent you see on this show would put the Indian Idols and SaReGaMa champions to shame). He was narrating an incident in his life. He was walking towards some place and on the way he met this really poor man, dressed in torn clothes, basically like a homeless person. This guy, the moment he recognized Srinivasan, got very excited and started waving to him.  Srinivasan waved back, but a moment later a thought struck him – this man, without proper clothes or food or a home has probably given me 10 rupees over time by watching my movies. His 10 rupees are now in my pocket. He’s out there, scavenging for food and here I am, a big movie star and his 10 rupees are in my pocket. Srinivasan concluded by saying that it humbled him that day, to be adored by fans like that.

I’m not big star blogger or anything (actually, not even close – mediocrity has some advantages, like more mediocrity) but somewhere in that narration above I see a small parallel – this relationship between blogger and reader. In this short life, when people spend precious minutes to read a blog, it means something, right? It does to me.

Which necessarily means I need to be a bit more diligent in keeping this space updated. I know, I know I say I’ll do it and I never do. Maybe because it doesn’t hurt me in any way when I don’t update my blog. It’s not like I’ll lose this url if I didn’t post (but hey, if I don’t update it for like 10 years, maybe it might. But let’s not think of that, ok?) or I lose money for every day I leave the blog un-updated. It’s not like I lose money, right?

Hey, that gives me an idea! Why don’t all of you start paying me for blogging? That way, I’ll have this fear of losing out on cash and I’ll keep this space updated. Oh dear God, I’m so brilliant! Why didn’t I think of this before?!!

Um, I know what you’re thinking now – Why would I pay you for writing nonsense when I’m pretty darn sure I can write better nonsense myself? Well… I don’t have an answer yet, but how about you give me some advance and I’ll come up with something intelligent? Huh?

 

P.S: Here you were thinking I’m going all senti and ‘responsible’ about blogging, using big words like diligent, responsibility, relationship, etc. Heh heh. Love the look on (imagined) people’s faces when expectations come crashing down. Love it.

P.P.S: It’s not like  I don’t want to update the blog. It’s just that my internet connection at home has gone bust (it’s BSNL, duh!) and it might remain that way for another 2 weeks. Yeah, I know the excuse sounds lame, but it’ll have to do.

P.P.P.S: Did you know the above lame excuse would also hold true for why I’m not visiting the blogs on my blogroll? Yes, it does.

P.P.P.P.S: If only my posts were as famous as my post-scripts.

P.P.P.P.P.S: Now is a good time to stop, no? Ok.