Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Gentle Reminder

It was late night and I was returning home from work on my avenger.  Its the middle of the winter and the weather was pretty cold.  After a sharp turn, I spotted a guy asking for a ride.  He was lean and was probably the same age as me.  Stopping for a hitchhiker in the middle of the night is probably not a smart thing to do but sometimes I do it.  It was the usual spot for hitchhikers and they usually ask for a ride to the nearest bus stop.  So, I gave him a ride.

Its usually pretty windy at the speeds that I ride but still, this guy tried to start a conversation with me.  I'm not a fan of casual chit-chat, especially with strangers and so, I was just giving him one word replies.  Suddenly, he started narrating his life story.  His father was a car driver and he died a few months ago.  For whatever reason, he didn't finish 12th and was now looking for a job.  He had done his 10th in a government school even though he had studied in an English medium private school till 8th.

He had been trying to find a job for months now (he had even tried the building where I work) but hadn't found one yet.  Chennai was his hometown and he had two younger sisters whom he needed to take care of.  In less than an hour, it was the birthday of one of his sisters.  He passed a quick comment about life and didn't talk for a minute after that.  Then he said he had to walk to Guindy from wherever I drop him and from where I eventually dropped him, it was a good 4 kilometer walk.  His eventual destination for the night was home, which was in Porur (quite a distance from Guindy).

He is my age, from my city and yet, his life is so different and so much harder.  Sometimes, we forget what we've got.  We are so caught up in our daily life that we lose focus of the bigger picture.  Sometimes, we need a stranger to remind us that we are very lucky; that there are many people out there, dreaming of being in a position as comfortable as ours.

I didn't ask for his name and I didn't even get a good look at his face but I hope I don't forget what he reminded me of.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Chennai!

I'm from Chennai and I work in the IT industry, which means that my office is full of people from all over the country.  People come from beautiful remote villages, simple nearby towns and far-away cities.  This provides an unique opportunity to learn more about these amazing places and the lifestyle of people living there.  But it also means having to listen to a lot of complaints about city life, like

Yes, cities are polluted.  But cities didn't start out this way.  Lets take the example of Cooum.  Cooum wasn't filled with garbage from day one.  Cooum was once the pride of the city but as the population density sky-rocketed, there wasn't enough vacant land to dump all the garbage. When I was a toddler, we used to live in T.Nagar.  My mom says that the streets were so empty that I used to run off to the local park on my own because there won't be a single vehicle on the road.  Can you imagine such a T.Nagar now?

When it got crowded, we moved to Nanganallur which was back then, the outskirts of the city.  There were very few houses and the place was pretty much a forest and we had to walk a long distance even for groceries.  Now, the place is developed and so full of apartments that there isn't a single vacant patch of land in Nanganallur to even play cricket.  And we are once again planning to move further away.  Just because a city has a bigger municipality and the people have more money, doesn't mean that they can magically make all the junk and eventual pollution, disappear.  This is what a city sacrifices in order to support such a population.

Distant Neighbours
My friend narrated this beautiful story about the warm welcome he gets in his hometown.  A few hours after he reached home, the lady next door came to his house to offer him sweets because she had heard him come in.  That is obviously not something we see often in the city.  He went on to say that his conversations with his neighbours at Chennai have been strictly on need-only basis, like 'has the garbage collector come to the flat yet'.

Even in my case, I know a lot of kids from the street in my mom's home town where my grandpa lived.  But I hardly know the kid who lives upstairs in my flat in Chennai.  This is not because the people here are unfriendly.  This is because of the years that the family has spent in a home.  In my grandpa's street, the families there have been living there for nearly 4 decades.  Our families know each other, my grandpa knows their grandpa and my parents know their parents, thanks to the years they spend together in the same neighbourhood.  The same is probably true for my friend.  The sweet lady next door would've probably known him from his childhood days.

But its a different story in the city.  Here, the neighbourhood is constantly changing.  I have myself never lived in a house for more than a decade.  Neighbours move in and move out all the time, just like me.  My friend moved in to his new room in Chennai only a few months ago.  His neighbours have never met my friend's parents or nephew or any other family member.  All they probably see is a locked house where someone comes home at night & leaves in the morning on weekdays & on weekends, nobody is home (because he leaves for his home town).  Yet, people here accept unknown neighbours into their lives and to an extent even the loud music and booze..  :P

There are more complaints like food, weather, traffic, mosquitoes etc.  Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both metro as well as village/town life.

But I'm not trying to start a debate on city life. I'm not trying to argue the advantages or point fingers at reasons.  Of course someone who is not from the city will prefer his hometown life while I find it hard to give up my city life.  I'm simply trying to explain the city's side of the story.  Because unless you really understand something, you won't be able to see how beautiful it really is!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The first novel that I've fallen in love with

Back in Jan, I mentioned in a post that I had ordered a book called Ender's Game to keep me occupied in my spare time.  Either I fell in love with the book or I've got too much time to kill because I've already finished the third book in the series and ordered the fourth.  Its a sci-fi novel series that starts with Ender Wiggin as the central character.

To me, the first book is about a brilliant kid who is put in a challenging position where he has to struggle every single day.  Not only does he have to fight against others intellectually but also with himself morally.  The story and the concepts are smart and the twists are powerful.  The way Ender's struggle comes to an end is just beautiful to read; a perfect ending.

The next book is called Speaker for the Dead and it really does take the series to the next level in my opinion by bringing philosophy into the mix.  It goes deep into the human mind and explores the various feelings of an individual.  The story starts digging deeper into human relations, motivations and even religion.  In essence, its still a sci-fi adventure but beautifully sprinkled with philosophy.

The third is called Xenocide and it dives head first into ethics, moral and nature of intelligence.  We humans are the only species in this planet with such advanced levels of intelligence.  We are not aware of any other type of civilization or society.  Our species has individuals governed by leaders and people who follow or rebel.  What if there is a completely different way of looking at life/society?  How would our morals and ethics be perceived by a completely different species?

The books don't attempt to completely answer philosophical questions.  In fact, whenever the books provide an answer, it also provides a counter-argument against it.  This is really where the book succeeds as a philosophical piece.  You see, all our lives we have been stuffed with answers, in our schools, colleges, at work etc.  But in the books, the various characters in their moral dilemma ask complicated questions which are hard to answer.

Let me try to explain why asking questions are more powerful than simply giving answers.  Say for example you  hurt someone.  Now, all our religions will immediately ask us to repent our sin and ask the victim for forgiveness.  But have you ever wondered why we should ask forgiveness?  The word "sorry" is not going to undo the suffering you have caused him.  Its not justice either because you barely suffered while the other person clearly did.  Are you asking forgiveness to simply feel better?  See how many questions raise from a simple situation?

When it comes to philosophy, asking questions will have a more profound impact on us than reading answers.  There are so many characters caught in tough situations and struggling over different questions.  They are all inter-connected and one thing affects the other which makes their moral dilemma even more complex.  Smart, complex and philosophical, I love it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First road-trip in a car

Just returned from a one day road-trip to Pondicherry.  My road-trips are usually on bikes but this time around, it was a car. I usually prefer bikes because I love to drive/ride instead of sitting idle as a passenger.  But I would be lying if I said that a car is not as much fun as a bike.  Its just not the same sort of fun.  On a bike, its about the freedom, adventure, scenery, speed, highway and being in control etc.  But in a car, its more about relaxing, chatting, listening to music, fooling around and not to mention, the comfort of air-conditioning..  :P

I was also quite surprised by the speed.  Intellectually, I knew that cars were capable of going much faster than bikes without stressing the passengers.  I was staring out the window and suddenly wondered, why the hell are we going so slow!  Then I looked into the speedo and realized that we were doing 80 and above.  Even my avenger can do 80 without breaking a sweat, but I would be aware of it.  When I'm on a bike and going past 80, I would be able to sense it and feel the speed as the wind hits me and pushes me back.  But in a car, I feel nothing and the comfort of it fools me into thinking that we are just sailing along slowly.  I'll have to keep this in my mind if/when I get a car and go on a drive.  I did drive the car for a couple of kilometers, thanks to my friends who were brave enough to let me drive.

Its always hard to explain why a road-trip is such fun.  We don't do it because its cheaper or more comfortable or to show-off.  There isn't always a quantifiable advantage with choosing a car/bike over a bus or train.  Maybe, that's exactly the point.  We spend our entire life calculating the advantages and taking rational decisions that once in a while, it just feels good to simply let go and do something just for the heck of it.  You don't worry about planning anything; you just start when you feel like starting, rest when you feel like resting and have fun non-stop.

When the trip comes to an end and you realize that you have to return to your life, go to work, etc., that is the moment you will also realize that this meaningless trip was so meaningful that all you want to do is rewind the clock and start the trip all over again.  So, thanks again to my friends Thyagu, Deva and Arjun for making this possible!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pay It Forward

I watched a movie today called 'Pay It Forward' and something happened that has never ever happened to me before: "I shed a couple of tears for a movie character!"

Nothing more could I say to express what I want to say..

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Its all a GAME

There is something about the celluloid heroes that I really hate.  They always do the right thing; people around them always adore them; beautiful girls fall for them at first sight; they never have a single bad thought in their head.  I mean, come on!  There was never such a person on earth and there will never be one till the end of time.  Every man has his vices.  Every great person that you admire will have his share of negative thoughts/deeds or at least would've had one which turned him into the great person that you now admire.

Thankfully though, many creators and directors understand this (much better than I do).  Its the reason for some amazing movies like Watchmen and The Exam where there is no real hero.  And better yet, television series executives have also picked up on this, producing outstanding series like House M D and Game of Thrones.  This conveniently brings me to my next point that both these series have resumed this April.  Game of Thrones in particular is just into its second series.

Game of Thrones is a complex story involving a huge list of characters who are all after one thing, the Throne of the Seven Kingdoms.  Some are more worthy of the throne than others and some are better at playing the game than others.  There is no, one good guy or one bad guy.  Some characters are more wise than others but they have their own pitfalls.  Some characters are rude and are cowards but there is more truth to their words than what most people understand.

There is no one person whom you can really root for but there are a number of characters that you will love to see more.  Unlike me, you may support different characters, or support the same characters for different reasons and THAT, is the best part of a story like this.  You can choose your own heroes and bad guys based on your own perceptions and you won't be more wrong than the other person.  Its much more closer to reality and much more exciting!

If you feel that you understand what I'm trying to say, then you should check this series out.  Though, I wouldn't suggest it for family viewing or for people who don't like serious/harsh stories.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Lost Honor

Movies are many things; they are fun, they are thrilling, they are grand and so on.  But a handful of movies are more than that; they provide a glimpse, a window into a world that existed centuries ago.  They show us something that has no parallel in today's world; something that is hard to relate to.  They act as a record of a lost feeling.  The Last Samurai is a movie about honor.  Though honor is a virtue that still exists today, its not the same as what it was centuries ago.

There are a number of war movies which touch on subjects like freedom and conquests.  But honor, is an entirely different subject altogether.  Its a virtue that is both hard to explain and hard to understand.  Still, the movie brings it out beautifully.  Katsumoto played by Ken Watanabe is a perfect embodiment of honor.  His character is probably the first thing that will come to my mind when I think of the word 'honor'.  The movie is narrated from the view of Nathan Algren played brilliantly by Tom Cruise.  His character adds the necessary punch for Ken's character.

Performances aside, I've always believed its the director who should get the first credit/criticism for any movie. This movie is by Edward Zwick.  Though I've seen the movie a number of times, I never really made a note of this name.  So, I checked imdb today and was pleasantly surprised when I saw names like Blood Diamond, The Siege and Glory under his direction.  How did I not know about him for so long!  Got to check out more of his films.  By the way, music is Hans Zimmer; it was his 100th movie, to be precise.

I really hope that one day, someone will make a proper tamizh movie that expresses similar feelings.  Imagine, an old age war movie starring Kamal, Parthiban, Napolean etc. with music by Ilayaraja.  Just wishful thinking..  :P

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Someone shut it up!

We have all had the feeling of emptiness in our lives.  That little voice in our head that looks at our daily life and says, 'this is not right; this is not how I want my life to be'.  This is probably why we try to keep ourselves busy, and distracted, so that we don't have to listen to that voice.  Well, I ran out of distractions this weekend.  And you know what, the voice is killing me.

I don't hate my life, no, that's not it.  I like my life; I like the comfort, the secure feeling, good friends, sweet family, normal and simple life.  But lets be honest, comfortable life tends to get monotonous and boring.  There is no adventure, there is no feeling of uncertainty which means there is no surprise.  It doesn't mean that I want to quit my job and go do something exciting and different.  I'm not that desperate, no.  It just means that I want to spend my spare time doing something challenging that I'm passionate about.

A simple example would be my gaming team or my website.  When we started playing as a team, we knew that we weren't going to become paid professional players.  But we wanted to try anyway; we wanted to give it a shot and see how far we can reach.  When we started our website, we knew that we might not be able to turn it into a profitable endeavor.  But we were passionate about it and we wanted to do it.  Both adventures failed, true, but I don't regret either of them.  If I could, I would repeat them all over again.  The fun is always in facing impossible odds, in fighting a battle worth losing.

Sadly, I don't have any battles to fight anymore and also running out of distractions pretty fast.  I did search for my next fix (or addiction) and I kinda found it too.  I'm in love with coding and I wish I could start a little project, a website or application that I can put all my spare time into.  'Well then, why don't I', you ask.

When I started gaming, I had no training but lots of friends to join me in the battle.  When I started the website, I had some training but only a couple of friends to join me in the fight.  Now that I want to start a project, I have a good amount of training but no friend with similar passion.  You see, without a person to join you in the battle, its simply not worth fighting.

Whenever I spent sleepless nights on something, trying to figure something out, it was because the next day I could solve it and show it to the person who wants it as much as I do.  The feeling that someone else wants it and that we are in this together, matters more than everything else.  That is always the biggest motivation.  Without this motivation, we are bound to give up.

Oh well!  I'm probably better off searching for more distractions.  Ordered a book online "Ender's Game".  Hopefully, it'll shut that voice in my head or at least, make me deaf for a while!