Broken leg .. and before that !!

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It has happened to me in the past .. Guess about 4 years ago ... That time it was the right leg ... This time it is the left leg ... I also did tweet about it in between .. Which is the reason that I have been out of action ... Its been close to a month of cast and all that mess ... I rather skip the details ...

I got this one when we had been to Bhandardara on a weekend outing when my sister Shanti, Sekar (BIL) and Natasha were here for a Diwali vacation. As I had explained to you in my previous post, they had driven my car to Pune from Coimbatore to be with us on Diwali.

Apart from my broken leg, it was a very good time we had during their visit here. My SIL, Nandini, was also here to join us for Diwali. So overall it was a memorable Diwali for me.

Posting some family pictures and also some Bhandardara photos for you to enjoy !! Will be back in action soon ... I have to !!! :)

Back with a BANG !!! - Road Trip Down South India ..

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Have been out of action for obvious reasons … I have now returned back to India. Before you make hasty conclusions – that’s not what really I meant ... :) … After coming back (1st Oct, 2010), I have been unusually busy – trying to fix some operational stuff at office (like proving that I still work for Accenture, getting a place for myself in the office etc) and then by 7th Oct I took some time off for a vacation. That was an interesting part, so let me elaborate some more on that.

It was an unusual vacation and a very adventurous (and also spiritual) one at that - where I was on a Road Trip from Pune to the South of India. We drove our car for about 2200kms in total !! Here’s how we did it.

Day 1 (7th October 2010):
  • Kolhapur – we drove from Pune in the afternoon to Kolhapur. The main agenda was to visit the famous Mahalakshmi temple. We managed to get a beautiful Darshan with not much of a crowd around. The Navaratri was starting only the next day so the crowds had not started to pour in yet.
Day 2 to 4:
  • Bangalore – After staying overnight in Kolhapur we started from Kolhapur to Bangalore. We reached Bangalore by evening 6:30 pm. We could have reached much earlier but the main reason for our delay was the famous Dharwad Peda. We (Ok .. I) wanted to have the delectable peda and so we took the road into Dharwad and to get back to the Bangalore highway was a nightmare (or lets say a daymare !!) We lost about couple of hours in total because we had to stop for lunch also at Devangere. The visit to Bangalore was mainly to see some relatives and friends. Also, we wanted to check the progress of the flat that we have booked in Bangalore.
Day 4 to5:
  • Thiruvannamalai – We started from Bangalore on the Sunday (10th October) late afternoon to Thiruvannamalai. We reached there and took rest in one of the ashrams there. Next day morning (11th October) our agenda included the visit the Shiva temple there and also to the customary Girivalam (the 14km walk or pradakshina in the around the hill surrounding the temple). I managed to walk bare-feet for the entire 14 kms of Girivalam. Janani gave me company for first half the way after which she took an auto to complete the Girivalam.
  • Mailam: After the delay due to the Girivalam which took much longer than I expected, we rushed to Mailam (about 30 km away) to visit the Murugan temple there. Again, it was a quick and nice Darshan that we got there.
  • Thiruvakkarai – Our next stop was to Thiruvakkarai to visit the Vakrakali Amman Temple there. I was      hoping that I would be able to reach there before the temple’s scheduled afternoon closure – which I thankfully managed just on time.  It was a very rare and different form of Amman that we saw in the temple. The temple also has a very interesting story associated with it. The story behind this temple, Amman was about to kill the devil, finding that she was pregnant she took the child in her ear and then killed her with her leg. The posture of the deity is very different in this temple. She is slightly tilted with the small child in her right ear and her left leg extended for killing the devil. Was a nice and satisfying experience.
  • Pondicherry – After the above two temples we rushed to Pondicherry to visit the Auroville ashram.  The near-by Manakula Vinayakar temple was close for the afternoon so couldn’t visit that unfortunately.
  • Tanjavur – After that quickie visit in Pondicherry we drove towards Tanjavur to visit my relative there and also to visit the famous Bragadeeshwarar temple. The temple had recently completed its 1000 year celebrations and so it looked absolutely fabulous in its full decorations and focus lights. Here are some photos that I took there. After spending that night at my relatives place, we drove to Trichy next day morning.

Day 6
  • Trichy – Visit to Trichy (12th October) was primarily to see my many relatives there. But I also caught the glimpse of the majestic Raja Gopuram of Srirangam. Here is the photograph.

Day 7
  • Rameshwaram – On 13th October, we started from Trichy towards Rameshwaram to visit the famous island city which is part of the famous Char Dhams. As a part of the darshan one has to visit the 22 theerthams present in the temple and take bath with the water from each of them. Thanks to the prior arrangement that we had done, we got wonderful darshan at the temple. It is a very scenic town with many smaller temples around the main temple – we tried and covered some of the smaller temples as well. Here are some photos taken there including the famous railroad bridge which is a still-functioning double-leaf bascule bridge section that can be raised to let ships pass under the bridge.

Day 8
  • Coimbatore – We headed out of Rameshwaram on the 14th October to reach Coimbatore by afternoon. After meeting relatives we reached our final destination – my sisters residence at Coimbatore at night finishing our  part of the road trip. Below is the photo taken at a wind farm on the way to Coimbatore.

We then spend the next couple of days with her and then took a train to head back to Chennai. After spending 3 days in Chennai and its horrible heat we took a train back to Pune. You may wonder what about that car !! My sister and her family would execute the other half of the plan when they drive our car back to Pune from Coimbatore when they visit us for Deepavali !!! :)

Learnings from South Africa

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As I leave this country, I was thinking what can I have as a parting blog post ?! And finally, I decided, it would only be fitting that I could list what India could learn from a country like South Africa. And actually – there is lots !!

Some people may read this and go – “Sala ‘foreign-return’… Shana banana ke koshish kar raha hai” – but nonetheless I would take the effort as I feel it would be worthwhile for an “open-minded” Indian to read this.

Ok … Let me list things as it comes to my head.
  • Dignity of Labour – I have seen many instances where I have found that people have immense dignity for labour.
    • I have seen restaurants where the owner’s son was waiting tables – can’t imagine that happening in India.
    • I have seen people in senior positions in office environment talk to workers at lower level or housekeeping etc with such respect – Can’t imagine senior officers in talk to anyone but their subordinates (anyone else is practically too low to even look at, leave alone talking to them)
  • Respect for Individuals – At work environment, people are treated with lot of respect. Never have I seen loose talk or disrespect. People are never forced to do an overtime. If required, it is requested and the leaders lead from the front and are present when you are in on a weekend or are working overtime. Also people work normal hours here – I mean normal – Start at 8 finish by 4 … at max it can stretch to 5 … That’s it. It would probably never happen even in dreams in India.
  • Civic Sense – This is something that Indian have to learn from South Africa. I am not saying that situation here is like Singapore – but its definitely much-much better than India. Streets and public places are so neat. I feel that one of the main reasons for that is the absence of Gutka in South Africa (I feel that it should be banned in India). Apart from that also there are many garbage bins in public places and people really “use” them. They hold on to the waste and walk up to the bin before disposing it off. People use designated smoking areas and smoke and drink responsibly without inconvenience to general public. How I wish I could see India like that !!
  • Wonderful Traffic Sense – Anyone who has seen India and South Africa would say this. It goes without saying that people here are organized and follow traffic rules. But what is amazing is that people have this automatic way to organize themselves even in a traffic jam situation or a deadlock situation. In a four road crossing where the traffic signal is not functioning also people would take turns (one from each road) to resolve the problem. All this without the intervention of a traffic cop. Even when traffic in one direction of a road is in a jam and the other side of the road is even empty – no one dares to even cross the divider line to hijack the opposite lane. This is traffic sense – and this is patience … I mean .. wow … This can never even happen in a dream in India. Can it ?
  • Wonderful Road Planning – This is something that is present in all big nations of the world. I am yet to see anything even close to this in any part of India. There are some main roads (freeways) that cut across city north to south and east to west. Similarly, there are ring roads that circle the city’s perimeter (Please click on teh hyperlink to see what I mean). These are really wonderful high speed roads with typically 4-6 lanes for each side of the traffic. You will not have any traffic signals on any of these roads. You only have entry and exit points to these roads that happen at interchanges (this is something people don’t even understand in India) - where traffic crosses over main roads using multi lanes multi level roads without any traffic stoppages at traffic signals. The speeds limits on these roads are typically 120kmph so that ensures fast transport from one end of the city to the other. Because of this system people here coolly travel 50-60 kms to work and back home. Just waiting for such a thing to happen in India.
  • Less Corruption: I am not saying that there is no corruption in South Africa. But I feel that its much less … when compared to India, people at the grass root level are more ethical and honest here. I have never paid a traffic cop money – even when I was at fault (now imagine that India). I was not able to make fake parking bills because the parking attendant told me it was “wrong” and he wouldn’t do it even when I tried to “bribe” him (shame on me to try that !!). I have dealt with government offices and got work done without bribe. Now I don’t know .. There would be corruption at the higher levels but at the lower levels people are generally honest and maintain their integrity.
  • Happiness Quotient - This is last but not the least – I have seen that people (rich or poor – high or low – young or old) are generally much-much more happy than any average Indian. The well-to-do people work hard and when their normal working hours end they pursue other interests – cycling, biking, boating, gambling .. or anything. This happens regardless of age or physical condition. I have seen really-really old people taking the pains to come to the casino to play and enjoy themselves (In India, I have never seen people of that age even come out of their houses, leave alone have interests – the older folk there have sort of given up on life itself). Even the poorer people that I see on the roads - I find them dancing and singing and enjoying themselves. I don’t know them personally but I get a feeling that they may have problems too but they seem to be happy when they can and enjoy life when they can.
I am not saying South Africa is the best and has no problems. There are problems in this country too - but what I am pointing out here is some really good and basic things that are “right” in this country. If India can take up even a few of the above, it would go a long way in making India a better country.

Part 2 - Kruger National Park

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Just as I was starting to feel that the Day 1 was so awesome, we entered the Marloth Park in the South of Kruger National Park . We were booked at the Marloth Bush Retreat. As we entered the Park and were approaching the guesthouse, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw a Giraffe standing by the side of the road on which I was driving … a little further down some Zebras and Wildebeests on the other side of the road … I knew that there was something about this place that is going to make my Day 2 more special … And I was right !!

I had heard that Kruger National Park is famous for the Big 5 (the Lion, the African elephant, the Cape Buffalo, the Leopard and the Black Rhinoceros), but again there are no guarantees – after all it’s a jungle that you are going in there to see what you can .. unlike a zoo. The Key to a place like this is Patience and low expectation. So, I had a full day game drive booked (the patience part) and in the beginning of the game drive our Tour Guide Heinrich told us (the low expectation part) that we would try to see everything that we can but what we can see ultimately is based on our luck on that day. So with that mind-set we started our day long game drive from 5:15 am to 7:00 pm.

To begin with – the patience and low expectation paid off and we were able to spot all the big 5 and much more. In fact we had multiple sightings of the Big 4 (Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard and the Rhinoceros) and one sighting of the Lion.
  • Leopard – Caught this guy relaxing on a tree after having his big meal (an impala). After a meal like that … All one can do is relax.
  • Elephants – Caught the elephants as the herd came by to the river to drink some water. It was fun seeing the huge animal relax, play and chill out in the water. Also got a nice close up of the elephant just minutes before leaving the Kruger Park.
  • Cape Buffalo – Came in a herd of about 500 together to have some water at a lake and then they also came by close to our vehicle to help some good view
  • Rhinoceros – Saw both the white and black rhinos … (incidentally the difference between the white and black rhinos is not because of the color … actually there is no color difference .. read more here) .. Saw the white rhino multiple times and once with a small baby rhino too. We were lucky to see the black rhino too just by the road side … considering that the white:black rhino ratio is about 5000:300 !!
  • Lion – saw only one male lion but it was far off the road and was deep asleep and so we couldn’t do much about that …We kept trying till then end to get a better sighting of another lion – but didn’t happen :)
  • Zebras, Kudus and Impalas – Loads of them … Every few kilometers … and in dozens …
  • Giraffe – Again loads of them … They are very shy …. Caught a photo of a baby giraffe feeding on the mother giraffe .. was so cute !! :)
  • Hippos – Got to see them swimming in water … basking in the sun beside the river … and showing their discomfort when the buffalos came in hundreds to drink water at the river …
  • Hyenas – We again had multiple sighting of Hyenas … in small groups … Somehow looks horrible :) … We saw one which was badly injured … probably by a lion or by some other hyena.
  • Crocodiles – Saw many of them across the banks of Crocodile river also got to see a baby croc while crossing a bridge.
  • Loads of Vultures, Eagles and lots of other birds
Overall, it was a pleasure to be up-close and personal with Nature. Got the time in life to hear the silent sounds of nature. I present to you some of my best shots taken at Kruger Park. As always click on the photos to take an enlarged view.

I also tried a very innovative way to take some excellent photos … All the above photos were taken with my modest Sony Cybershot 7MP Digital Camera … I enhanced the power of my simple Digital See-and-shoot camera using a Binocular … I was myself amazed at my creativity :) … I used a powerful Binocular (that belonged to my tour guide) as Extended Lens and took these real close up shots of the animals … This is how I did it. Put the Camera lens behind at the viewing eye-piece of the binocular … and then use the digital monitor of the camera to focus and click !! But before doing this I had to first see through the binoculars and focus the view in there. It was actually hard to hold the binocular on one hand and the camera on the other and still not cause a shake as well !! :) .. Quite an effort ! I am proud of myself ! Bravo Hari Bravo !!
 I would like to put in a word of appreciation for Heinrich who was an awesome tour guide – he was an “walking/talking wildlife encyclopedia”. He knew all about the animals, birds, plants and trees. He had such sharp eyes that he could spot animals at such a long distances that I used to surprised every time. It was such an informative guided tour (Thanks to Heinrich) that I would strongly recommend that anyone who plans to go to Kruger can take his help and have a wonderful visit to Kruger National Park.

Indeed … It’s a perfect way to end my South Africa Stay …

Sabie and Krugar National Park – Part one – Sabie

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If I could just start with one Word .. It would be WOW !! I really doubt if there was a better way to culminate my stint in South Africa … Krugar and Sabie were places that I had heard about from the beginning of my South Africa visit and I wanted to go see them, but somehow it just never happened. Finally it came in the best of times … This would leave a lasting memory of South Africa in my mind for a long time to come …

Day 1 – Sabie

I had the company of my friend Arindam in this visit … Wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be !! ;-D … So we started our Sabie and Krugar National Park weekend tour on a Friday early morning. We had planned to see Sabie and Hazyview first and then reach our Guest House in Krugar by Friday evening. As we approached Sabie weather started to chill up a bit and the view started to get prettier with every passing kilometre. At one point the fog started to get so thick that I had a visibility of only a couple of meter after my car’s bonnet. So I was relying on the road’s divider lines to drive ahead … a fog that thick was a first time for me … a very unique experience !!

We viewed Bridal Veil Falls and Lone Creek Falls for starters. Thanks to our wonderful planning, we had forgotten to withdraw money so by the time we were at Lone Creek Falls we were down to our last R5. We pleaded our way into Lone Creek Falls as the entry fees there was R10!! The person there was kind enough to allow us in for half the charge. We had to then make our way to Sabie town to get to an ATM to get money for the rest of our journey. Our next destination was the Mac Mac falls. It was a probably the highest of all the falls we saw (about 65 meters I remember reading). Looked majestic from the top where we saw it – the water then flowing into a canyon … It was a beautiful sight indeed! The last falls that we saw was Lisbon falls it was also had a very scenic panorama. Photos R to Lin the order described above.

We then went to the Pinnacle at Blyde River Canyon. This was close to the God’s window and the view that I saw was something that I had never seen before. I could never imagine that there could be a place like this. Absolutely spell bound. No wonder, its called the God’s window. There was this huge structure protruding out from the gorge between two cliffs. Just see the image to see the awesome view. When we did reach the God’s window, the fog again surrounded the area (just like before) and we couldn’t see the view at the actual God’s window. Well … Guess, God decided to close the windows for me that day. :) .. But its ok … his creations that I saw that day was satisfying enough for me.

Last destination for the day was Bourkes Luck Potholes at Blyde River Canyon (incidentally Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest Canyons on earth). This Canyon had some really huge potholes possibly formed due to water repeatedly circling specific areas for thousands of years. Its again a sight to be seen to be believed.

After that unique experience we drove past the sleepy town of Pilgrims Rest and beautiful area of Hazyview to our Guesthouse - Marloth Bush Retreat at the Southern end of Krugar National Park.

Some more photos ... surprisingly taken from my Digital Camera ... :) .. Wait for Day 2 ... soon ...

Last few weeks ...

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Ok .. spate of laziness .. pure laziness .. was the cause of my inactivity for the last few weeks. So, anyways lots happened in the last few weeks … I will start with the one that I am most excited about.

1. Finalized Date of Departure from Johannesburg: My stint in Johannesburg is going to end after a period of close to one year. And I have to say that it has been lots of fun, learning and broadening of my horizon/perspective. Tickets booked and I am now counting days ...

Now back to chronological order.

2. Carmen (Ballet): I am a complete novice to Ballet … so I decided to try that out. And I must say that its an experience that one should experience. Coz I hadn’t seen anything like that before. Live music .. wonderful dance and in all an experience that I was completely mesmerizing. Here is some cut-paste material about the ballet. “The saga of Carmen and Don José is one theatre’s most fiery love stories, based on an original story by Prosper Mérimée and later adapted as an opera by Georges Bizet. Now this tale of tragic love comes to the stage in a sensual ballet version by choreographer Veronica Paeper. Carmen captures all the fiery heat and passion of Spain in a ballet highlighted by spectacular pas de deux that chart the unfolding story of love, pain and loss, and blends classical ballet with the dances of Spain in a ballet of lavish entertainment and excitement.”

3. Indiaday Celebrations: The week after the Independence Day was the India Day celebrations at the Brightwater Commons in Johannesburg. It was good to see so many Indians in one place … mostly “desi” Indians .. if you know what I mean .. The program was nice … with performances by Local Indians here covering the culture and dance of Major Indian States … Lots of color and lots of lively music.

4. Avaniavittam: I had my first Avaniavittam in a foreign land. And I went off absolutely wonderfully. It was conducted by local Vadhiar Mama (Mahadevan Iyer). Thanks to him - I feel that it was conducted in such a detailed manner that I would rarely have such an experience even in India. I also had a peaceful Gayatri 1008 japam on the next day. Overall it was a peaceful experience.

5. Visit to the “actual” Rooftop Market at Rosebank: I have been to the African Craft Market before but I somehow had missed the rooftop market there every time I went there before. It was a wonderful experience. The place was bustling with activity and there were so many stalls selling all kind of stuff from craft to collectables to food items. I felt that that it was a nice way to pass sometime and pick up some interesting stuff …

6. Back to Back movies and other movies I felt like I should get back to college days where we used to go for back-to-back movies. So I was able to do that when I saw “Salt” and “We are Family” back-to-back. It was nice experience given both movies were decent and tolerable. Also saw some other movies … Aashaayen … Peepli Live … Grown ups … and some others.

7. Airtel Champions League Cricket matches: It was a wonderful experience as we went for couple of matches till now. One in Wanderers where I was able to see the God himself in flesh and blood… Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. And he was playing so well … and when it was looked all well, he got out and some more quick wickets saw Mumbai Indian lose the match. Then I saw one yesterday .. Bangalore .. at Centurion it was also fun to see some big names again … Kumble, Dravid, Kallis apart from others. It was a one sided match which saw Bangalore getting to Gayana’s score in 11 just overs. We managed to get some autographs and not to mention photographs. Got one more coming up Chennai … Dhoni and his men .. lets see what they do.

A big event that is coming up .. which is going to culminate my stay in Johannesburg .. Is my forthcoming visit to Krugar National Park. I am now looking forward to that one.

Accenture's “Indian Independence Day” Outing

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We Indian Accenture employees at South Africa decided to celebrate the Indian Independence Day eve (14th August, 2010) in the form of a get-together filled with “action and appetite”.

Action – What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to do it with a game that is akin to a religion in India – Cricket!! We decided to commemorate the leaders who architected the freedom struggle in India and South Africa. We split ourselves into teams and named them Team Bapu and Team Madiba (Nelson Mandela is affectionately called Madiba). We thought that it would be apt to celebrate the Indian Independence Day remembering both of them.

Inspired by the game of Cricket is an action packed version that is played in South Africa called the Action Cricket.  This is an exciting team game that last for approximately 70 minutes that combines fun, fitness and competition, and its simplicity allows people of all ages to enjoy the game weather - men women, young old, or cricketers or non-cricketers.

Our game was as exciting and action packed as promised. It started with the Team Bapu electing to Bat first and got off to a great start with about 96 Runs at the end of the third pair’s batting. The game changed drastically towards the end of the innings as Team Madiba managed to get the fourth pair out multiple times, reducing the final score for Team Bapu to 68 Runs. The Team Bapu managed to regain control of the game in the next innings with Team Madiba scoring just about 20 Runs at the end of second pair’s play. As the game progressed Team Madiba improved its game and now it was moving towards a cliffhanger. It was Team Madiba in the end which held on to its nerves and took the Victory Lap.

Appetite – After that exciting match between Team Bapu and Team Madiba we freshened up and headed out for our lunch to enjoy some great Indian food at Bukhara – Indian Restaurant. The restaurant claims that the food there is “arguably the Finest Indian Cuisine on Planet Earth”. Though the team thought that it was too tall a claim – But the Indian food that we enjoyed there was undoubtedly one of the best in South Africa.

It was once again that we as a team came together, had lots of fun (like always) and took back some really fond memories. What a way to celebrate Independence Day being away from India !!

Long Weekend that went by ..

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Last weekend was a long weekend with Monday being public holiday on account of National Woman’s Day in South Africa. So I had added responsibility to pass time for one more day. So I decided to pack up my day with activities of all kinds.

Day 1 – Pretoria Darshan 

Joburg’s twin city Pretoria … We have been so close to this place, probably crossed this place as well several times while visiting other places but we could never make time to actually go see places of interest in Pretoria. So this was the time we decided to go visit places in Pretoria. We started our Tour with a visit to the Union Building office to the President of South Africa – I would have liked to meet Mr Jacob Zuma, but he was a bit busy that day so I told him “Not to stress too much .. Its ok”. After that was the quick visit to the Krugar house and Melrose House – which were basically Museums. We then had an lunch at a restaurant that gave below average food which was priced exorbitantly – Geet Indian Restaurant (My advice to people – Let it pass … Its not worth even a try !!). Post that disaster of a lunch we headed out to our last destination for the day – Vootrekker Monument. This monument was built to honour the Voortrekkers who left the Cape Colony between 1835 and 1854. I am not much into history but if you are interested in the long story then here is the link. It was a nice photo opportunity for me and I present to you some of the best shots of that day.
Day 2 – Bruma Flee Market

I have been here several times and this was yet another time when I went there. My time to leave back to India was approaching and I thought it was right time to buy some souvenirs to take back. So, I spent half a day to pick up some neat stuff to take back home back home.
Day 3 – Nanhua (Chinese) Temple

This was my second visit to the temple. I had last visited the temple of the Chinese New Year which was a nice experience with all the crowd and fireworks and food stalls.  This time around it was a different experience. It was silent and serene – with practically no one in the temple except us. I tried capture some different aspects of the temple this time around. We had the pleasure of eating nice Chinese vegetarian lunch with the Chinese Monks at the temple. We left the place with a peace of mind that stayed on with me for the rest of the day. We ended the day by seeing the movie – Once upon a time in Mumbai (A nice movie). Here again are the best shots of that day.

Untill next time ...

Review: Inception

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In short – A Intellectual Masterpiece Movie !!
Inception showcases a unique and complicated ‘idea’ in the form of a movie. What is discussed in the movie is so abstract and complicated that its commendable that someone (writer and director Christopher Nolan) was able to bring it to life through this awesome audio visual treat. I feel that to describe every plot in detail would take away the magic of this film you must see yourself to believe.

The plot in short - DiCaprio with the help of a team works his way into people's subconscious to steals ideas from their minds. In his last assignment he is assigned not to steal an idea from someone, but to plant one inside that person's mind. The difficulty comes when certain people are trained to block their ideas from being taken. Hahah !! I can see raised eye brows !! .. But wait … Its more interesting than what it sounds. Imagine making a movie what that as the subject.

I feel Nolan did a great job in putting together this intellectual movie. There was still a lot about this film I still didn’t understand (similar to what I felt when I saw Matrix first time), and may require multiple viewings to better understand.

Infact, the movie just takes over you and challenges you with so many new ideas and concepts, that you come out itching to know/read more about what was shown in the movie. In a strange way the movie plants an “idea” (like in the movie) into your mind … and as Chance Cole says “Once once we change the idea in the subconscious mind, we don’t have to mess with it any more – Just leave it alone and let it do the hard work”

Go watch it !!

World of Beer, African Craft Market and More Movies

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Was out of action for the last two weeks. As my return date approaches (end of September), days are seeming to move painfully slower than usual and its making life increasingly unbearable. To make things move faster, I have been filling weekends up with some outing or the other. I also pack up the rest of the weekend with movies so that it ‘atleast seems’ that time is moving faster.

The World of Beer: I have been seeing this building from my office from the 24th floor for sometime now … I thought that it was time that I finally make a trip to the World of Beer. 
The South African Breviaries Ltd has invested in this unique museum which explores just on topic “Beer”. Its actually amazing how one can create substance enough for 1.5 hours of tour on Beer. The Museum uses Displays, Audio and Video to take you through a journey of Beer right from ancient Mesopotamia, through Africa and Europe. The tour unveils beer heritage all the way to a honky-tonk pub of Johannesburg mining camp days and a traditional Soweto shebeen. The Tour also gives you a taste of traditional African Beer which is served to you in a Ukhamba. You are also served a glass of Beer in a olden day Pub setting with Piano and all that … So to be a part of the spirit of the event, I decided to taste the beer. I did finish my glass of beer but I wouldn’t say that I liked it. :) … But the experience of knowing the history of Beer and the process of beer brewing was really memorable.

African Craft Rooftop Market, Rosebank: This is a nice collection of Stalls offering African craft, handcrafted items, clothes, furniture and jewelry all under one roof – where you are encouraged to bargain and get a nice deal in whatever you want to buy. I also indulged myself to buying some things that would remind me of South Africa and I did get some good deals. The key is – as always – to start by quoting a really “ridiculous” price and you would be surprised by what you would end up getting finally. Patience and sweet talk are the key requirements to bargaining.

More Movies: I have been watching movies like crazy for the last month or so … Let me see what I recall
  • Tamil: Masila Mani (Masala to the core), Kallori (Village-side college story)
  • English: Shutter Island (Nice/Vague movie with a “The Sixth Sense” kind of revelation ending), Stag Night (Lots of gruesome scenes of violence), Sherlock Holmes (Absolutely Awesome movie .. Robert Downey has acted with such finesse that I was absolutely in awe. Would there be more such in a series coming up !?! I Hope so !!), Everybody’s Fine (Nice Family movie with awesome acting by Robert De Niro as always), Its Complicated (Cute and funny movie on post divorce love story !!), Collateral (Gripping thriller, Wonderful acting by Jamie Fox and Tom Cruise) and Zombie Land (gross comedy movie)
  • Hindi: Khatte Meethe (Horrible Movie by Priyadarshan – guess he can stop making movies)

Untill the next post ...

Weekend Activities

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Imagine a weekend full of activities and movies .. That is what I had this weekend. So, I managed to see about 9-10 movies during the weekend. Its so much that if I vomit now .. I would vomit movies .. :)

  • The Departed (Nice … )
  • Nim’s Island (Cute Kids Movie)
  • Cast Away (Mindblowing .. Wow)
  • Sleepless in Seattle (Cute .. I loved Meg Ryan)
  • Tere Bin Laden (In the movie theatre .. Nice .. For a change America took the beatings!!)
  • Swades (Always good to watch this movie !!)
  • Angaadi Theru (Sad and Depressing movie .. but pretty well taken)
  • Arai En 305-il Kadavul (Ok movie … liked that nice conversation between a God and an atheist)
  • Modi Vilayaadu (Absolutely third rate … couldn’t tolerate it .. stopped in between)
I may have missed some more (will add if I remember later) … this is what I could recall …

I also had a peaceful experience at the ISCON temple at Lenesia, Johannesburg. Maha Prasaadam there is sooo good … its like nothing I have ever had for Prasadam before.

Apart from the above, I also happened to go for a Bryan Adams Concert at the Coca Cola Dome here in Johannesburg. It was my first concert and the experience was absolutely… *I am at loss for words .. and I say ‘awesome’ a lot* … Ok, how about “beyond words” … only an experience would tell you what it was like. The guy is 50 yrs old now .. but I cant see him age at all .. Absolutely “18 till I die” kinds .. Was reminded of some wonderful songs that we used to listen to during college !! Summer of 69 … Back to you … 18 till I die … Everything I do I do it for you … Please forgive me … etc Will blog more about if I feel like later.

For now I am having the "Back to You" song playing in my head ... in a loop !! :(

Learn to write the Indian Rupee Symbol

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Practice !! Practice makes Perfect !!

"Unseen" Problems with Technology

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My Good friend Sachin Sharma mailed me links to some very interesting articles that I thought I should share on my Blog …

Importance of Boredom in life by Peter Bregman
The iPad, as it shows in the Article, is such a wonderful piece of equipment and makes life so much more entertaining and informative. But Peter also goes on to show us so wonderfully, how we sometimes get stuck in this midst of this plethora of gizmos that surround us. They (these Gizmos) make us feel like life is so wonderful and nice and create this mirage around us that we keep chasing with pleasure. In midst of these amazing gizmos we unknowingly tend to forget and ignore some finer things in life- but nonetheless important. Peter reminded us of some seemingly trivial (but important) things in life like Boredom – I quote him here

“Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that's where creativity arises. My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive. When I am running but not listening to my iPod. When I am sitting, doing nothing, waiting for someone. When I am lying in bed as my mind wanders before falling to sleep. These "wasted" moments, moments not filled with anything in particular, are vital. They are the moments in which we, often unconsciously, organize our minds, make sense of our lives, and connect the dots. They're the moments in which we talk to ourselves. And listen. To lose those moments, to replace them with tasks and efficiency, is a mistake. What's worse is that we don't just lose them. We actively throw them away.” ... Wow … What a revelation …. !!

Googlethink - The giant’s creepy efforts to read my mind by Nicholas Carr
Google Suggest is the new feature Google has introduced where the moment you start typing in your search Google suggests you search strings that you ‘may’ be looking for. At first it may look all helpful and interesting but as Nicholas rightly points out this whole thing also can be very nosy and interfering. This whole ‘personalization thingie’ sometimes leaves us with little room to act for ourselves. And he goes on to say that and I quote

“Software programmers are taking the displacement of personal agency to a new level. Relentlessly focused on making their programs more “user friendly,” they’re scripting the intimate processes of intellectual inquiry and even social attachment. We follow their scripts when we click on one of Google’s keyword suggestions, and we follow them when we select from a list of categories to describe ourselves and our relationships on Facebook. These choices are convenient, but they’re not our own. They’re generalizations masquerading as personalizations.” ... Ya … Again soo true …

Both these above articles show some amazing things happening in the field of information technology (viz the iPad and Google Suggest) but if you look deeper you find that its posing more problems than ever – and the problem is that you would not even see the issues if you don’t look hard – which happens so often – since on the face of it looks like an Angel but it may just be a devil in disguise.

Gold Mine and a Museum at my Workplace

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I have been hearing of this Gold Mine and Museum at my Workplace for a while now but I didn't get the chance to see it until today. I realised today that I have been passing by it on a daily basis - which proves that "sometimes its easy to miss out the very obvious".

The Standard Bank Gallery is currently exhibiting 'Halakasha!' - It's a glorious exhibition celebrating the historic first FIFA World Cup in Africa. The Museum is showcasing a range of artworks dealing with the feeling of nationalism, pride and passion that is linked to the game of soccer.

The photo above shows clockwise from top-right - The soccer boots of legends Eusebio, Pele and Maradona - The history of Vuvuzela, which is so much part of the country's soccer - Some photographs and Handicrafts associated with South African Soccer history.

The Standard Bank literally sits on gold. Ferreira's Mine - an old abandoned gold mine from the late 19th century was rediscovered during construction of the Standard Bank head office in the 1980s. After taking the access tunnels of the mine into account, construction continued over it. Portions of the original mine as well as the new museum associated with it, have now been opened to the public.

The above photos shows rremnants of old time Stamp Batteries belonging to the Stamp Mills used for mining in olden days - Artifacts found while clearing the mineworks - Entrance to Mine shaft (now closed) - and photos on the walls depicting mining and associated activities in those days.

It was amazing to find how much fun and activity is possible at work itself !!

My 4th Marriage Anniversary

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Maintaining the tradition of taking breaks on my Birthday and Anniversary, I took a leave yesterday and decided to stay home and relax. I started by day with a visit to the Madhya Kailash Temple located in Midrand. Peaceful and serene as it was – it gave a perfect day to start by day with some silent prayers. . I then decided to reduce my “head weight” by having a haircut and for the “head weight” that I had a nice close crop was what I deserved and I got. Back home and I took a nice second bath before having my simple lunch of Puliogare – Tamarind Rice. I then had a looooong talk with Janani (who told me her part of the day) – a visit to the Temple and a Spa. She was also planning to visit the Kokum Restaurant in Pune to try some Kerala delicacies there – Heard that it was good.

I had an evening outing with my friends to the Sandton City Mall to enjoy the festive environment out there.
Soccer Handicrafts
Brazil's Kaka Autographed T-Shirt
Maradona's T-Shirt
 Me with Zukumi

We enjoyed the splendor of the Sony’s 3D Television and a sample 3D movie show, that displayed the excellent effects that a 3D makes possible. Now you can see all your daily TV programs in 3D with the Sony TV. It seems, the 3D TV would convert even the normal broadcasted TV programs to 3D. But the only problem is … will I want to see all my programs wearing 3D specs? Imagine .. Guests come over to your home and you tell them “Sorry you cant enjoy the TV” … because you don’t have enough 3D specs with you !!! The only way it may work is - if there is a feature to switch off the 3D feature and see the TV normally as well. I am sure Sony would have thought of all that !! But it was wonderful nonetheless.

We then headed to the North Indian Cuisine Restaurant – Dilli Durbar in Sandton. I have to say that this was the best Indian food that I have had in Johannesburg. The food was absolutely delicious and every different dish that we had ordered had a distinct flavor. Samosas and Tandoori Mushroom for starters, Paneer Tikka Masala, Dhingri Mattar and Dal Makhani along with Butter Naan and Rice for main course. It was a highly satisfying dinner and we returned back home to see the second half of the first Soccer semis between Uruguay and Netherlands. Again it was a very exciting match with totally 5 goals scored. The Dutch won 3-2 to proceed to the finals – I was a wee bit disappointed as I was backing Uruguay - Just for Forlan … the guy has had an excellent world cup till now .. it was shame they couldn’t proceed to finals !! Anyways I am waiting for today’s CRACKER match Spain vs Germany … I support is slightly swaying towards Germany. Lets see … May the best team win … It would be a memorable match for sure !

Birthday Gift to myself ... Skydiving experience

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If I were in India now, I would be surely be on a holiday somewhere, continuing our tradition of a vacation on every Birthday/Marriage Anniversary weekend. But this time around, I am here in Joburg and Janani is there in India. So, its a difficult time for both of us and I have been feeling down all of last week. But still I decided that I should celebrate and do something different on this Birthday also. So I enrolled myself to a Skydiving Experience on the 4th of July, 2010.

Did it cheer me up or what !?! It was a once in a lifetime kind of an experience. So I will let the pictures and videos do the talking.

Just to explain what happened in a bit more detail. So we went up in a plane that took us to an altitude of 11500 ft. So I am attached to my Tandem Master for my own “Good”. The Door then opened and I could see the ground so below … and it was an awesome view. The instructors had given me enough confidence that I was not feeling very nervous … Just a little … It was almost unbelievable that I jumping off from such a height that I didn’t feel much nervousness … If at all that makes any sense :) … Then immediately after the fall the instructor on the top opens up the Dragger Parachute - which is a small parachute to slow our fall down, as two people tied together would fall faster … Then the video guy started the filming … and I am all waving and enjoying the view … The feeling is absolutely awesome and it was like I am floating on a layer of thick fluid … I am hearing nothing as all I can hear is the sound of the wind blowing …. This lasts for about 45 secs … and then the parachute opens up … After this it’s a cozy ride back down to the ground … :) .. The Experience … PRICELESS !!!

Brazil crashes out ....

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And with that it also brings down twitter ... So many tweets that the twitter server crashed ... :) .. Ok ... Ghana has a good chance now ... Ha ha .. Interesting Soccer world cup !!

Sent from my Nokia E71.
Do visit my blog @

A step closer ...

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The God himself replied !!! To my tweet !!!! Yeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyy!!

Welcome Amitji

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Sir ... I am hoping you are here and you read this ... If that happens ... I am blessed !!
For other who are not having a clue of what is happenning, Have invited Amitji to see my blog !! Lets see if the God himself visits my online home !! :) Keeping fingers crossed !! :)

Awsome cars on display

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Thought i'd share with you the wonderful cars that were on display in a mall here in the weekend ...
1. Rolls Royce ... The absolute fantacy car of any person who may ever want to own a car ...
2. Aston Martin .. The James Bond car .. Another absolute beauty ... You have to see it to believe it ...

Sent from my Nokia E71.

The World Cup Fever’s caught me too !!

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The World Cup fever is here … and strangely its caught me too !!

I was never a soccer fan, but strangely I have been following each and every match since the start of the Soccer World Cup … I can probably say since there is nothing else to do … but its not that only … its strangely feeling nice seeing those exciting matches … Wondering why it never attracted me before.

I guess the earlier world cup matches used to normally at odd hours, which added to my disinterest. And this time around seeing the event happen in normal time and experiencing the mania right in front of my eyes has probably made the difference.

Year 2006: Just around my marriage time the soccer world cup was going on. I was, as I have said before, in a crazy state of mind because of my mom’s health issues. But even then I remember I had seen a little Soccer … See this post … The German - Klose scoring … :) … So I must give the game some credit.

From the games that I have seen till now … Lots of Draws .. but some very interesting matches. Like the opening match – Mexico vs South Africa. I have to say that it was quite a challenge for South Africa (which is Ranked 83) to take on Mexico (Ranked within the top 10 or 15 and who defeated Germany Italy [Sorry ... Correcting the error] in the friendly match). All that SA was banking on was the wishes of the local crowd. It was struggling in the first half, somehow surviving after a Mexico goal – which was negated because of an offside – managing to keep the score at 0-0. I don’t know what the hell happened during the break, the Bafana Bafana team was a different team when they came back after the break. They scored an awesome first goal against Mexico and kept attacking them throughout the second half of the game. A defence error resulted in an equalizer by the Mexicans. Even after that there were couple of really close chances, which if had converted to goals, SA would have won the match. But it was not to be … but even with a 1-1 score at the end, I feel that the SA team did have a great start. If they keep up their form they could still have a chance in the top 16 to move ahead to the next round. Best of Luck to the Bafana Bafana Boys.

The next wonderful game was the one I saw last night at the Montecasino Fan Park. It was Germany vs Australia. It was a match where Germany sent out a loud and clear message across to all teams. It was not going to look like any weaker because of the absence of its “star player” and Captain Michael Ballack. Phillip Lahm took change of a team in Ballack’s absence. The world got to know what he meant when he said that “He has the Best German Team that he has ever played in” – when they annihilated Australia in a thumping 4-0 victory. Australians struggled and showed signs of desperation as the Germans went on an “impossible task” of satisfying their appetite for goals. Had they converted the missed chances they would have made much more goals than just 4!! It was a pleasure to see goals from the Germans including the excellent one from Klose (again). This German team is according to me the best team so far in the world cup.

Another good game was the Argentina vs Nigeria. It was a good game where I was able to see the Argentinean Living Legend Maradona. The Argentina is looking good but not as good as the Germans. The star player Lionel Messi missed quite a few changes that was expected of a player of his calibre. Hope he does better in the further matches. The Argentineans settled for a 1-0 victory much to dismay of the many Nigerian fans here.

I plan to frequent the Fan Parks to enjoy the game along with the many fans in the electrifying environment that I enjoyed yesterday. Enjoy some pictures.
Cheers !!

Soccer Celebrations @ Office

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As South Africa celebrates the 2010 Soccer World Cup with full fun, frolic and enthusiasm; our project also made sure that we also join in the celebrations. We are having soccer celebrations in the form of floor decorations and various floors in our building are competing to win the honor of the “floor with the best decoration and most soccer spirit”. So today, to add to the soccer sprit, we had all come dressed in the Soccer Jerseys. Our floor has also been decorated with lots of colorful props and flags of various countries. All of us contributed to bring in snacks/drinks to form a Soccer pub-of-sorts called “Mama Lee’s Tavern”- we very well emulated a real soccer match party environment. We had also set up a mini soccer field on our floor to play some football during free time !! :)
(Click on the photos for a better view !!)
We had created a wonderful environment at office which I have rarely seen or heard of in the Indian scenario. I must say that I had a lot of fun and had a very relaxed day at office today. Days like these make coming to office more fun !! :)

New “Fun” Experiences in Johannesburg

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Accenture had arranged for a “fun-outing” event for us folks from the India location. Events included:
The Ice skating event took me back to my childhood days !! I had learnt skating (roller skating) in my 7th or 8th class (Something like that, I guess) … I started Skating when my Appa bought me roller skates and I started my first lessons on the corridor in front of our flat in Baroda along with other friends and then went on to the terrace of the flat. We had to soon change our location due to increased irk that we caused (due to our and the roller skates noise) to our flat dwellers. My father then figured out a Skating Rink where I used to practice for some more time before finally losing interest in it. I had seen ice skating on TV and had always wondered if it would be similar in feel … and if the same technique would apply. The ice skating rink was the right place to get my answers first hand. After a somewhat “jerky” start, I realised that it is pretty similar to roller skates and I found myself much more comfortable and enjoying myself – all I had to do was to let go of my fear. Thanks to my Appa (who took the pains to buy me roller-skates and take me to skating rinks in Baroda), I was able to thoroughly enjoy the experience. I always used to wonder how could someone balance on just two blades on the feet !! But I still don’t know how .. but I managed well. I did fall down couple of times (because I was not able to stop at the correct time and bumped into some kid there !!). The environment was initially cold because of the Ice but as I started skating, I realised that I was starting to sweat and get exhausted – the cold was then no longer a problem. I already had just started a bout of cold and cough just couple of days before, Thanks to the ice skating, it just became worse at the end of the event. But I think it was worth it !!
Bowling was another experience that I was trying for the first time. And I was experiencing something that one of my colleagues referred to as beginner’s luck !! And Luck it was - as I was consistently making good strikes and spares at will … And I defeated two pretty experienced players with my score at 108 (I guess). It did get close at the end with the two contenders coming close to my score. I don’t think my technique was exactly the correct one … But I seemed to have a knack for it. Good for me !!
The Bollywood Movie that we saw was “Kites”. It was one of the super hyped movies since last 2 years. And I can only tell you that it never came up to the expectations that the hype had created. I really cant say that it was a “bad” movie, but what I saw in the movie was a normal love story, some nice songs, some good dance, “ok” performances and sort of a drag in the ending of the movie. Just not what I was expecting out of it … I normally go open minded to movies … but this one was so hyped that I also had some expectations … of something special … from the movie which it never delivered. I heard that the Indian audience was also pissed off that it wasn’t a real “Hindi” movie. Overall … Very “average”.

But my day on Sunday was a very exciting one as a whole, with some really new and exciting experiences and some nice time out with my colleagues. Days like these are what keep me going in Johannesburg, as I pass my days here, missing my family back in India.