amitbhatnagar on October 11, 2007

Just finished A Thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini.. Thought of writing the review here before it gets influenced by others (and more importantly, before I decide to put off the idea of reviving the blog for another blog-worthy happening)

First things first!! ATSS is not another Kite-Runner, if you were expecting that. Kite-runner was surely better and leaves a lasting impression on you. That said, it still is a well-written book..

< You can keep on reading, no spoilers here 🙂 >

It’s a story of lives of two women trapped in the troubled land of Afghanistan: Mariam and Laila. The two are separated by over 15 years:: One fit to be mother of other ( by Afghani standards of those days off-course),but they end up as the wives of the same man: a brutal orthodox Muslim. Hosseini paints a brilliant picture of their lives against the backdrop of the Afghanistan: with regular updates on the upturn of the events in Afghanistan right from the Soviet invasion through the Taliban Rule to the American war on Afghanistan and post-war recovery: the story covers it all and in almost graphic detail. You can really see all those things happening in front of you.

It’s not only the historical events that Hosseini narrates well, he is a terrific descriptor of emotions too: anger, frustration, helplessness, elation: whatever the emotion may be, you can feel it with Hosseni’s characters. In the Kite-Runner, he mostly portrayed male emotions (Amir and Hassan are still fresh in my mind), but in this work, he goes on the other side and brilliantly captures the emotions of the fair sex. It’s mostly gloomy for Laila and Mariam and you can feel the agony, the suffocation yourself .But the brief patches of happiness that they manage are vividly described too.

Though most of the time, the story grips you well, but on the flip side, there are times when you feel the story is just dragging along. There surely are circumstances where you feel that Hosseini could have been a bit crispier. Particularly, the fourth and last part of the story: where the present tense the author uses seems to indicate that he’s winding it up. (Normally, in many films/books, you’ll find the use of present tense in the epilogue: Something like X is now a Doctor with Indian Army, while Z is now a mother of two) So you expect that the story is coming to end. But it somehow stretches and stretches. But then Hosseini manages to finish it on a high note with two masterstrokes: one after the another: Pinocchio and Mariam 2 ( No!! If you’ve not read the book, I’ve not spoiled any suspense here!!)

In all, a good read. I’d rate it 6.5/10. This is perhaps the first time that I’ve read books by same author back to back. I liked both the books, But appears it’s Afghan culture and history overdose for me now. And though I’d wait for Hosseini’s third book. But I just hope he chooses a different backdrop and theme this time, else it’s “No, Tashakor” from my side.

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amitbhatnagar on February 28, 2007

Well.. This was my first day at Adobe.. Once I was done with all the basic formalities, I was led to my seat. Had some basic intro with my immediate cubicle neighbors… After I was back on my seat after lunch, I needed to go to the rest-room. ( or washroom or loo!! Why am I repeating all this? Read on.. )

I asked the guy next to me where the rest room is. To my surprise, his answer was:: “yaar suna to hai maine bhi ki kahin hai; lekin am not sure where it exactly is??” I was a bit amazed.. 😮 That made him defend his ignorance. “Actually maine bhi abhi ek hafte pahle hi join kiya hai naa…” Well even this does not give you the right for not knowing about the basic amenities.. I thought better ask some more aware person

But the worst was yet to come.. I went to this guy who I knew for sure was with Adobe for some time now… I again repeated the same question “Where is the rest room??” His answer was even more classic:: “Kyon kya ho gaya??” I was taken aback at the awkwardness of the question and as far as I remember I just let my expressions answer his stupid question.. Then he continued.. “Rest-rooms are there on the 7th floor…” { i was surprised.. Shouldn’t they be there at every floor?? 😮 }

“But you need to call the security for them.. “ {What for!! 😮 }They’ll make an entry and then you can use the rest-rooms..” { This is weird!!!!! 😮 }

Confused I went back to my seat… Whatever he said was surely too weird to be true.. Moreover, I distinctly remember using a rest-room on my interview day and for that I certainly did not go to the 7th floor!! I was thinking whether some planned ragging session is going on. But that didn’t seem to be a possibility.. At least the first guy looked quite innocent.. (First impression is rarely the last impression… 😀 But that’s another story)

Suddenly it occurred to me if people are taking the word rest-room for it’s literal meaning rather than the euphemistic one.. .. Ya right.. Every piece seemed to fall in its right place now… It makes sense to have rooms designated for employees to take rest at one place ( seventh floor in this case) The new guy need not know about these rooms right in his first week.. And definitely the company has right to keep records which of his employees are taking rest during work-hours and for what reasons… Yes!! For sure, people had gone for the literal meaning.. I stood up from my seat, but this time I dared not ask anyone about it.. I started the hunt my self and to my relief very soon..I found a marker arrow pointing to the WASHROOM… And yes. That was right on my floor!! 🙂

amitbhatnagar on February 21, 2007

Actually I got this beautiful poem as a forward, when I was in second year of my college.. I had liked this then too..But it’s now that I truly feel the depth and the pain of the poem.. The poem is realistic to a scary degree… I guess all of us who have become so much involved with this corpo-life have some thing to learn from it…

It’s easy to think that it’s not only the ‘I’ who erred, Jim too has to share the blame…. But in relations that matter, it’s better not to wait for the other guy to take the first step.. else it may just be too late for you… ( I’m not preaching here, just drawing som conclusions for myself to think about.. I guess I’m the one who needs to learn the max from it)

Here’s the poem::

Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friends face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.

And he rang mine but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.

“Tomorrow” I say! “I will call on Jim
Just to show that I’m thinking of him.”
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner, yet miles away,
“Here’s a telegram sir,” “Jim died today.”
And that’s what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

amitbhatnagar on February 18, 2007

This 26th Jan I had a chance to organise an India Quiz titled Bharat Ek Khoj at Adobe.. The quiz was to be about everything that is Indian::Indian history, Indian sports, Indian movies, Indian business, People of Indian origin.. In short, about anything connected to India… I wanted it to be a formal quiz with the main rounds to follow the written elims,but the organisers wanted an open quiz with everyone to take a chance at every Q.. So had to go with the format… 🙁

Well.. It’s never easy to design a quiz for non-quizzers. U dont want it to be flop show with every 2nd Question going over the audience’s head..So have to keep the level moderate.. So this quiz may not be to the liking of the veteran quizzers.. Also some questions were a direct repeat from old quizzes.. Actually with the very little time that I had at my disposal I cud not design many original Qs and the level was a bit lower than I’d have liked it to be..

But I must admit that I had grossly underestimated the quizzing levels of the general janta @ Adobe.. I’d say that though the last quiz which I had organised at my last company Computer Associates was surely better than this one in terms of organisation and overall event-rating, the awareness level here at Adobe is much much higher.. I had never thot that a hallfull of audience will all be able to identify Prahlad Kakkar!! Kudos to Adobe’s Quizzing janta!!

Coming to the main stuff, I had divided the open quiz into three rounds…
First was a mixed bag of direct questions.. Second was the traditional passwords round, where three clues were given one by one for a famous personality.. If u get it on the first clue, you get max points (bigger gift in the case of this open quiz) lesser points for guessing on the 2nd clue and still lesser for the 3rd one.

Last round was my original creation ( well… as far as i know 🙂 ) It used the Antakshari format for quiz.. As per the format, the answer for nth question will start with the last alphabet of (n-1)th question. Thus if if answer of the 10th Q is Abhishek Bachchan, the answer to 11th question will start with a ‘N’..

So if you’ve read this far, do take a try at the actual quiz questions and do leave a comment::

Round1: (For images, click here r1.pdf)

  1. How do we better know a fictional character with real name is Sarkeshwar
  2. What’s unique about a person called Nirmaljit Singh Sekhan winning the Paramvir Chakra?
  3. A person called Raj kaul moved from to Delhi from Kashmir and was presented a house on banks of a canal. Because of the canal, the Kauls adopted a new surname.Which one:: a very important one in Indian history.
  4. Connect the logo, the man and the cartoon character (Visual 1,2,3)
  5. Expand AMUL.
  6. Which modern-day game was earlier known as Poona as it was originally played in Indian city of Pune?
  7. What’s common to the books: Glimpses of World History, Meri Sansadiya Yatra, The Insider, “India’s Export Trends and the Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth”?
  8. What exclusively connects these great men? (Visual 4,5,6)
  9. Name the only person to have composed the national anthems of two countries.
  10. There has been only one instance of Bharat Ratna being withdrawn after being awarded. Name the person and the reason.
  11. Famous words connect these three pics. Which words? (Visual 7,8,9)
  12. Identify this formal Indian PM.

Round2: Passwords:

  1. Grimace; Booker of Bookers; Midnight Children
  2. Project Aden;Dheeraj lal Heerachand; Growth is Life;
  3. Savli Premchi ;Manohar; Sunny Days
  4. Abhas; Madhubala; Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi
  5. Phoenix, Ben Kingsley ,My Experiments with Truth
  6. Hema Hardikar, Mangeshi, Nightingale of India, song
  7. “The Argumentative Indian” ; Trinity College, Cambridge; Economics

Round3:: Antakshari (Find the images here:: anta.pdf )

  1. Which Indian city gets its name from the belief that it was here that Lakhsmana chopped off Shurpnakha’s nose?
  2. If the middle name is Ramlal, last name is Nikhanj; Give me the first name
  3. Connect these pics: (visual 1,2,3,4,5)
  4. According to Hindu Mythology, whose twin sister is Yamuna?
  5. This Indian place literally means division/land of forests. Name it.
  6. India has always been stern with its stand on racism. Following the same situation, in 1974, India gave a walk-over to South Africa due to latter’s policy on apartheid in one of the only three instances that India had qualified for the finals of the tournament. Name the championship.
  7. The magician shown is a famous Indian in his own right. A genius in field of advertising. Name him. (video)
  8. AIshwarya, Diana Heyden, Priyanka Chopra were much later to follow. The lady won the First Miss World title for India way back in mid-sixties. Name her. (Visual 6)
  9. Subhash Chandra Bose called them as Swaraj and Shahid. What do we call them?
  10. Identify the company from the logo.
  11. Whose punchline:: “Never Settle”?
  12. Before resigning from Rajya Sabha in early 2006, he was the only Indian parliamentarian on the Forbes Richest Indian list. Name him
  13. << One more Q, which I’m unable to recall right now 😐 )
  14. First person to receive all the three padma awards and Bharat Ratna..

Overall the quiz was a moderate hit.. Not many people turned up, but those who did seem to like it 🙂

You can find the answers here:: answers.pdf

 

 

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amitbhatnagar on January 26, 2007

Watched Guru yesterday… Though the movie has its share of shortcomings, but overall it’s quite a likeable one. Makes you realize the power of your dreams… Great performances by everyone, nice background score.. I’d better deal things one by one….

Storyline::

Guru is the story of a winner… A typical story of rags to riches …

GuruKant Desai (AB), a young 16-something from a small Gujarat town, takes up a small-job at Turkey, after earning some money, returns to India to do his own “bijness”..
Guru has big dreams and for him, ends do justify the means.. He marries Sujata (Ash) for the dowry she’d bring in, which provides the base capital for his textile business.. Though the entry in the market is restricted due to monopolistic textile unions, GuruBhai is able to get through with help from a purist Newspaper Editor Manikdas Gupta (Mithun) What follows is GuruBhai’s meteoric rise from a simple villager to a business tycoon..
That’s where the story could have been dealt better… The tagline of the movie is :: Villager.. Visionary.. Winner… But the transition part is not very well depicted.. I believe that showing his vision had to be most critical.. But that is shown mostly in small parts… It’d have done justice to the plot if some of the “vision” were shown in more detail..
So our hero uses all means, buying out media persons, using corrupt politicians (even corrupting the clean ones) evading excise duties and many other things…. Finally things start turning sour when Manikdas, assisted by journalist Shyam (Madhvan) takes up a mission to finish off GuruBhai , puttng an end to his corrupt practices.. Great confrontation follows… resulting in Guru’s temporary downfall.. The climax sees him facing the court.. His speech in the court was good, (surely could have been better, though wasn’t that bad…And Mani could have done without comparing his protagonist (facing 20+ charges) with Gandhi.. 😐 Anyways the speech makes the judges take almost a U-turn on their stand and Guru Bhai is let away just with some heavy fine..
Finally the end shows Shakti trading becoming the largest company of India and Guru setting his eyes on being the number one in the world..
Flaws: The songs were badly placed and broke the continuity of the movie at times… The movie could have done better had it been a totally songless one..( except for the theme songs) Some loose ends are left here and there:: The Manikdas-Guru tussle should’ve been brought to some conclusive end.. Also what was the need of Vidya Balan’s character: It was totally unnecessary.(Unless she too has some real life counterpart as in case of other major characters) Perhaps only purpose was showing Guru’s softer side.. The courtroom scene somewhat doesn’t stand out as convincing as I had expected, surely could have been better…
Influences and impacts:: Maniratnam says that the story is not any specific person’s story.. I’d say that it’s nothing, if not a biopic of Dhiru Bhai Ambani… Right from the selection of name ( Gurubhai sounds strikingly similar to Dhirubhai 8) ), Mani makes every effort to show that this is actually DBA’s story.. Like DBA, our Guru hails from Gujarat, works for Shell (Yes!! Mani did not even change the company name here!! 😮 ) in an Arabic country, starts with textile industry, manufacturing Polyester ( DBA too was called Polyester King/Prince). Like his real life counterpart, he further ventures further into Petrochemical business.. I was thinking that the end will show Shakti Industry entering the communications market, but perhaps the story ended some years short of it. The similarities were just too many to be missed.
But as I followed further on net, it had more similaities than I had found. Nowhere is the original story diluted; it’s complete with tussle with Ramnath Goenka and also with Nusli Wadia (though shown in small proportion) Manikdas is clearly Ramnath Goenka of Indian Express; while Shyam is journalist Gurumurty. At one place, Guru is shown to buying out a supposedly honest minister; this appears to have a direct mapping with Ambani’s meeting with Mr Clean Rajiv Gandhi. Search this all stuff out yourself; I bet you’ll find the movie more interesting and closer to real life.
I found one more influence or may be I’m just imagining it. I guess the climax (the courtroom scene) is somewhat inspired from Roark’s trial in the Fountainhead.. I found some parallels here.. Like when Roark is first given a chance in the court to defend himself, he just says “ The defence rests.” Here, in the first hearing, Guru just says one thing:: “Namaste”.. Then the final speech, which makes the judges change their decision, again appears similar to Roark’s epic speech, though it in no way comes even close to that. Fountainhead readers, do comment if you too felt the same way. ❓
In impact on my mind, I found it somewhat similar to that of reading “The GodFather.” Well, no similarities in the stories, but still both make u feel somewhat similar things::Doing what you feel right, ends justifying the means, making offers that people can’t refuse…
Acting: Abhishek is superb.. Be it his dialogue delivery or his expressions (Particularly the victorious smile in many scenes), he was excellent in whatever he did. The movie surely belongs to him.. Ash was also good as the dutiful wife.. And yes!! Mithun da!! Always heard that he used to be a gudd actor.. But we always see him in those B-grade movies… I guess this is the first Mithun movie I’ve seen in many years… But he gelled in well with his role; looked quite natural.. Ditto for Madhavan. After RDB, he again shines in his role; here as a committed journalist. Vidya Balan, as always looks beautiful and does justice to whatever the small role could offer.
Music:: I’d say it’s a mixed bag.. There are some fully faltoo numbers ( Ek lo ek Muft, Baazi laga) Mayya mayya is an okayish item-number.. Rest of the songs are gudd.. Nanna re has a different shade.. it’s refreshing to listen to it. Tere bina has a classical touch and is quite hummable.. Ae Hairatein is also gudd; has a musical overlap with Tere bina..
But surely the best of the album is “jaagein hain”
Superb music by ARR and too gudd lyrics:: “Jaagein hain der tak, hamein kuch der sone do.. Thodi si raat aur hai, subah to hone do Aadhe adhure khwab jo poore na ho sake Ek baar phir se neend mein woh khwab bone do”
It’s not a senti song in regular sense of the word, but it grew so heavy on my head that it almost made me cry.. 😥 (Don’t know if this holds for anybody else; even I was surprised at myself 😮 )
And I guess the discussion on music can’t be complete without taking note of the superb background score.. The music announcing Guru’s arrival simply rocks.. Too powerful!! Makes u sit up straight at times.. I guess the movie would have lost half of its charm in absence of the theme music.
Overall, a good movie; with a fewer songs and a few adjustments it could have been classified as a great one..
My rating:: 3.5/5

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amitbhatnagar on January 14, 2007

So we got to know that we’ll be able to find some snow in Solang and Kothi. Rohtang and Gulaba were blocked due to heavy snowfall two days back. Therefore we planned our itinerary to include just the first two places and to be back in our hotel room by evening. We had booked our taxi the previous day itself from Manali bus-stand.. Contacting Taxi-drivers directly instead of booking from the official drivers’ union counter us saved us 50 bucks, but still it was a wrong choice. (Why?? Read on..)

So we set out early (9:30 is surely early by any standards 🙂 ) It was a bright sunny morning.. just the perfect start to an exciting day.. Well if we were excited with what we had seen on the first day, we were to know that it was nothing as compared to what lay ahead for us. Solang was about 1-hour drive from Manali. The scenery on the way was literally a treat for the eyes. The temperature was falling we were heading close to the snow covered areas, but we were least bothered about it.

We reached Solang at about 11. Finally we found snow!! Seeing snow from so close for the first time was driving us crazy. Hurriedly we got a pair of snow-shoes each and rushed towards the main area. And wow!!! The view inside was really mesmerizing. I was simply awe-struck by sheer beauty of the scene.. It was just snow, snow every where…. A large plain mostly snow covered area.. adjacent to some heavily snow-covered mountains… And everyone present there was enjoying the moment to the max.. Some were skiing, some were having a snow-scooter ride, others were tracking on the snow-covered hills and some others were just enjoying the beauty of the nature.. We decided to follow the group3 and go for some tracking..

We started moving up on the snow-covered rocks.. Though it was a bit slippery, but it wasn’t that hard as the thickness of snow was at least 5-6 inch, enough for the shoes fit in tightly. Now we were literally inside snow.. We were enjoying this all: Playing with snow, making snowballs and hurling them at each other..

The only thing missing was snow-fall.. We did try to create some artificial snowfall by picking up snowballs, throwing them high and breaking them in mid-air. At least, that could work well for the snaps, but it didn’t come that gudd ..

After going to a certain height I gave up; Could not dare to go beyond that point…It was not that hard to proceed further.. But looking at the ground and seeing that we had already come too high ( at least for me), the idea of coming down through the slippery snow looked already a bit tough to me.. So I decided not to go further, though Kaushik, Aakash and Anuj did go to some more height.. For me it was time to take some rest in the snow 🙂

After spending some more time in snow, we headed for paragliding… Though it looked pretty fascinating, but the thought of jumping off a high cliff even with the glider and a trainer was a bit too much for me.. Moreover due to some problems in Manali ATMs, we were running somewhat short of cash and in any case were not in a situation for affording 4 paragliders. ( The cost was 600 bucks per person) So I and Anuj decided not to go for it. Kaushik and Aakash went ahead. Kaushik had some problem due to upper-weight limit, but finally the paragliding-waala gave in to Kaushik’s persuasions and allowed him to go for the action. And as they say, it was an experience of a lifetime for both of them. I managed to make a video-clip of Kaushik enjoying paragliding, though that resulted in the glider falling on me.. 🙁

With paragliding done and having had our lunch, we were left with little money. With about 150 rupees in my pocket, I was the richest in the group at that time :D. So we had to give skiing a skip. But just for the records, we had managed a snap holding the ski-sticks with the local-ski waalas. 🙂 And yes.. the bargaining here knows no limits. The ski-waalas were ready to let us enjoy skiing for Rs 300 for 4 persons; while another group from STM (Anuj’s friends) paid as much as 500 per person!!!

Finally it was time to bid a goodbye to this paradise of snow. We did enjoy a yak-ride before we left. As we were to know later, the Solang world was surely the best part of our HP trip.

Next we decided to move to Kothi: the next thing on our itinerary. But we were in for a disappointment. The driver stopped at a point called Café Kothi saying that this is the place. Now the place looked marvelous if considered a restaurant to be stopped at on the way. But that surely wasn’t a place which a person would come to see specifically from Manali. We asked the local janta and got to know that though the place was really Kothi, the thing which people come to see is a snow-point 2-3 kms higher. But the driver was adamant not to take us any higher without charging more money. We called up the Taxi Union President in Manali. He appeared to understand the situation, but he said that he can’t do anything in this case because though the driver was on the roll of the Union, the booking wasn’t done through the union. If later was the case, he’d have instructed him to take us to the desired point. So anyone reading this and planning to go to Manali, make it a point to book through some authorized body only. After arguing for some time, we decided not to spoil an enjoyable day with some stupid driver.. In any case we had seen enough of snow. So we decided to head back to Manali.

We were back to our hotel by the evening. Someone had earlier told me that a sunrise/sunset at a sea-beach or in mountains is one of the best sight that one can see on the earth. Though we missed the sunrise and the sunset, but we did manage to see a glimpse of the last rays of the sun, falling on some distant snowy mountains. And it was truly a picturesque view. 🙂

We were too tired now to do any marketing, though had planned earlier at least to buy some Kullu-shawls for mom. We rested for a while and had our dinner. Before long, it was time to pack up and move to bus-stand for an overnight journey to Shimla. We had a real great time at Manali. Considering that we were not able to go to many places ( Gulaba, Manikaran, Rohtang etc are some names I remember), perhaps two days are not normally enough to cover this beautiful place fully. I would surely like to come back to the place with more time at my disposal if given a chance.

For the next post over to Shimla…

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amitbhatnagar on January 9, 2007

Just had a wonderful trip to Himachal…. So what better way to restart my blog with a description of the trip…. Won’t be possible to cover this in one post… Better to go one post for each trip day…

Initially we were planning this trip as a college friends get-together… and indeed, in the starting I was more excited about enjoying with friends than the place we were planning to go.. Shimla or no Shimla. I was in for the trip… But that didn’t go as planned… Some of my friends didn’t get leaves from office, some had chores to do at home, some dint find the trip convincing enough 😮 So finally we were only four in the final list… Me, my college batchmates Aakash and Kaushik and their colleague Anuj..

So we took off on December 27, Wednesday.. an overnight bus journey from Delhi to Manali.. Started the trip with a bit of Dumb Charades, Gave up after some time as Kaushik and Anuj were pure newbies in the game and were not enjoying as much… We stopped at Karnal for dinner before we decided to have some sleep in favour of a hectic day ahead..

We wake up at around 7-8 in the morning.. We were already in Himachal…and the scenery outside was just too gudd….

But the weather too was literally freezing.. But what else can ne expect in Dec end in Himachal..

We passed through Kullu….. Didn’t look quite gudd to us.. Nothing bad about it…But somehow it didn’t offer us anything special.. Moreover we knew that manali has so many places which had to be missed if Kulu was to be included. So there itself we dropped Kullu from our itinerary..

So Now it was just Manali and surrounding places to see..

Time for some history (rather, mythology) lessons:: Manali translates to “Abode of Manu”. As per Hindu belief, after the great flood had wiped out life through out the world, it was at this place, Manu stopped his ark and re-created the world.. (The story is a parallel to Noah’s ark in Bible). So Manali can be considered as the place from where the life re-originated..

We reached Manali at around 9…took a cab to Hotel Vintage, which we had booked thru travelmasti… As we were going to experience in the coming two days, the hotel was quite good.. Good food, Good hospitality, Reasonable prices and location-wise good too.. I’d recommend Vintage for anybody who plans to visit Manali with a reasonable budget…

This experience is in sharp contrast with Hotel Shubham at Shimla.. A bad experience.. will talk about that later)

We planned our itinerary to cover Manali local on Day 1 and visit the nearby places like Solang, Kothi , Gulaba etc the next day… Manali local was mostly temples.. though not as exciting in itself.. But the sceneic Manali surroundings made even this simple trip enjoyable.. We had 3 digi-cams between four of us.. And rarely had any of us had seen such beautiful natural scenery from so close.. The snow covered mountains, the River Beas flowing down in the valley everything was really so gudd..So we were clicking at anything clickable… ( We finally ended up with 900+ pics plus some videos; With this collection, I suppose we’re ready to make a documentary or at least an ad for Himachal Tourism 😛 )

We decided to start with Vashishtha temple… Some 2-3 km from our Hotel… Took an auto and reached there at about 1:15. But we found at the Shiva temple at the entry that the temple is closed from 1-2 PM… Without checking it out, we concluded that it must be the same for the main temple as well.. Smart people!! Aren’t we??? Decided to pass the time in visiting the market around and some photography…That’s the beauty of a hill-station.. You can stop just about anywhere and start clicking.. The beauty is scattered everywhere..

After we were done with our photo-session, we found a handloom-waala selling something called Chingu 😮 We got interested and went in.. The chingu was a quilt kinda thing.But the difference was that it’ll keep you warm in winters and cool in summers!! 😮 Moreover, it wasn’t for sale.. It was for lease.. The cost was 6K; after a period of 5 years, a person from their side will supposedly come and collect the chingu from you after paying you 5.4K!!! That is you can use it for 5 years by changing just 10% of the cost…. And why so?? Because Maneka Gandhi has banned the furnaces that were earlier used to heat the chingu stuff to make out shawls frm it… 1 chingu once heated expands to make 5-6 shawls each of which sells for around 20-22K. Now human body is the best furnace in the world!! 😮 So they’re actually using our body heat to make business!! Height of marketing fundas!! The guy must be a marketing genius, except that he cud not convince any of us to buy those… 😀

Shiva TempleNow it was past two and we were back to see the Vashishtha temple… Only to discover that that the main temple is closed from 2 to 3!!:-( We had not bothered to check the main temple and just expected it to be the same as the Shiva temple.. Now we were not in a position to wait any further… We just visited the open temple (Shiva Temple)and left for Manali market..Inside Tibetan Monastery

After having lunch, some marketing and booking our tickets to Shimla, we moved to Tibetan Monastery… Well.. this was the first timeI was visiting a Buddhist place… And I found the atmosphere inside really peaceful and serene.. The constant chanting of some mantras and sounding of chimes made for some real divine world inside.. Would surely like to visit such a place again in future if i get a chance..

It was getting cold.. So we decided to drop other temples from our list and visit just Nature Park (In front of Monastery) before winding up the day.. The park was in itself quite beautiful and well-maintained.. But the best part was river Beas flowing through it..That was a perfect ending to an enjoyable day…..

But we were still missing the stuff we had come for.. We hadn’t seen any snow yet.. Snow and other stuff in the post for Day 2.. Coming very soon..

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amitbhatnagar on January 6, 2007

Happy new year to all visitors to this page…

Finally I am back for blogging!!! After more than a year of total non-activity!!! Often I thought of resuming blogging, but always found some excuse or another to postpone it… “I’ll post once I switch from CA…” then “will resume once I get internet connection at my room…” Then though will be back after Didi’s wedding… Procrastination doesn’t have its limits!!

But finally with the new year, one of my resolutions is: to be regular on this page… Have much stuff to write… 2006 was an eventful year for me.. Want to write about many many things…. It may not be in chronological order… But it’ll come all.. Perhaps best to start with my Shimla-Manali trip.. details coming in full graphic details very soon.. Till then keep watching this page…

/* Above “I’m Back” post was meant for my previous blog Spartan’s Home (amitbhatnagar.blogspot.com) I had planned resuming posting there with the new year… But with the transition from old version of blogger to the new one, blogger somehow managed to lose my blog :’( */

SO this time i’ve gone for wordpress.. Here’s a new blog “Racing towards Infinity” here on wordpress.. Plan to be regular on this one.. Even wordpress import engine is unable to import stuff from thenew blogger.. So Have copy pasted some stuff from Spartan’s Home here….

BTW, Why “Racing towards infinity” ??

B’coz it best captures my fav quote and to some extent, my philosophy for life “Aim for the sky.. Even if you miss, you’ll end up with a handful of stars

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amitbhatnagar on January 6, 2007

<< Originally posted on my blogspot blog on Sunday, November 20, 2005 >>

This was one of the best blogs I’ve ever read

Definitely the stuff is appealing n makes one think whether we Indian S/W professionals are anything more than Cyber Coolies?? The aura of intellect that we seem to wera around ourselves..is that real or we’re just fooling everyone (not excepting ourselves) aroound.. Does the work which we’re doing is the same which we dreamt of while we were in College? Don’t u feel (I do feel) that ur mind is going blunt as each day passes..though u may be becoming technically sound..

Just go through the stuff below..It exposes some harsh realities..
Find the original text at:
http://www.indicthreads.com/blogs/316/software_job_india.html

IT Survivors – Staying Alive In A Software Job
Written by Harshad Oak
Tursday, 03 November 2005

Before I started working for myself, I spent some years in some of the top IT companies in India and still have many friends working in various software companies. I wrote a blog Recruiting like crazy, about the same time last year about how Indian companies are recruiting like there’s no tomorrow and the possible consequences. However I was avoiding writing this particular piece as it seems like an unpatriotic thing to do, to tell the world how bad the working conditions in software companies in India have become. And there’s always the risk of excerpts being used out of context to bash up IT in India.

I am now writing this because I just keep hearing horror tales from the industry and it doesn’t seem like anything is being done in the matter, so I thought I will do my bit and write.

First and foremost, before stereotypes about India kick in, I would like to clarify that I am not saying that Indian software companies are sweat shops where employees aren’t being paid and made to work in cramped uncomfortable places. The pay in software companies is very good as compared to other industries in India and the work places are generally well furnished and plush offices. India being a strong democracy, freedom of expression is alive and well and Indians are free to express their opinions and voice their concerns. Yet, I say that the software industry is exploiting its employees.
IT work culture in India is totally messed up and has now started harming the work culture of the nation as a whole. Working 12+ hours a day and 6 or even 7 days a week is more the rule than the exception.
Consequences:
 A majority of IT people suffer from health problems.As most of the IT workforce is still very young, the problem isn’t very obvious today but it will hit with unbearable ferocity when these youngsters get to their 40s.
 Stress levels are unbelievable high. Stress management is a cover topic in magazines and newspapers and workshops on the subject are regularly overbooked.
 Most IT people have hardly any social / family life to talk of.
 As IT folk are rich by Indian standards, they try to buy their way out of their troubles and have incurred huge debts by buying expensive houses, gizmos and fancy cars.
Plush offices, fat salaries and latest gizmos can give you happiness only if you have a life in the first place.
The reason I feel this culture has emerged, is the servile attitude of the companies. Here’s a tip for any company in the west planning to outsource to India. If you feel that a project can be completed in 6 weeks by 4 people, always demand that it be completed in 2 weeks by 3 people.

Guess what, most Indian companies will agree. The project will then be hyped up as an “extremely critical” one and the 3 unfortunate souls allocated to it will get very close to meeting the almighty by the time they deliver the project in 2 weeks. Surprisingly, they will deliver in 2-3 weeks, get bashed up for any delays and the company will soon boast about how they deliver good quality in reasonable time and cost. Has anyone in India ever worked on a project that wasn’t “extremely critical”?

I was once at a session where a top boss of one of India’s biggest IT firms was asked a question about what was so special about their company and his answer was that we are the “Yes” people with the “We Can Do It ” attitude. It is all very well for the top boss to say “We Can Do It “.. what about the project teams who wish to say “Please….We Can’t Do It ” to the unreasonable timelines…I was tempted to ask “What death benefits does your company offer to the teams that get killed in the process?”. I sure was ashamed to see that a fellow Indian was openly boasting about the fact that he and his company had no backbone. The art of saying No or negotiating reasonable time frames for the team is very conspicuous by its absence. Outsourcing customers more often than not simply walk all over Indian software companies. The outsourcer surely cannot be blamed as it is right for him to demand good quality in the least cost and time.
Exhaustion = Zero Innovation
 How many Indians in India are thought leaders in their software segment? – Very few
 How much software innovation happens in India? – Minimal
 Considering that thousands of Indians in India use Open Source software, how many actually contribute? – Very few
Surprisingly, put the same Indian in a company “in” the US and he suddenly becomes innovative and a thought leader in his field. The reason is simple, the only thing an exhausted body and mind can do well, is sleep. zzzzzz
I can pretty much bet on it that we will never see innovation from any of 10000+ person code factories in India.
If you are someone sitting in the US, UK… and wondering why the employees can’t stand up, that’s the most interesting part of the story. Read on…
The Problem
The software professional Indian is today making more money in a month than what his parents might have made in an year. Very often a 21 year old newbie software developer makes more money than his/her 55 year old father working in an old world business. Most of these youngsters are well aware of this gap and so work under an impression that they are being paid an unreasonable amount of money. They naturally equate unreasonable money with unreasonable amount of work.

Another important factor is this whole bubble that an IT person lives in.. An IT professional walks with a halo around his or her head. They are the Cool, Rich Gen Next .. the Intelligentsia of the New World… they travel all over the world, vacation at exotic locations abroad, talk “american”, are more familiar of the geography of the USA than that of India and yes of course, they are the hottest things in the Wedding Market!!!

This I feel is the core problem because if employees felt they were being exploited, things would change.
I speak about this to some of my friends and the answer is generally “Hey Harshad, what you say is correct and we sure are suffering, but why do you think we are being paid this much money? It’s not for 40 hours but for 80 hours a week. And anyway what choice do we have? It’s the same everywhere.”
So can we make things change? Is there a way to try and stop an entire generation of educated Indians from ending up with “no life”.
Solutions
1) Never complement someone for staying till midnight or working 7 days a week.
Recently, in an awards ceremony at a software company, the manager handing over the “employee of the month” award said something like “It’s unbelievable how hard he works. When I come to office early, I see him working, when I leave office late, I still see him working”.. These sort of comments can kill the morale of every employee trying to do good work in an 8hr day.
Companies need to stop hiding behind the excuse that the time difference between India and the west is the reason why people need to stay in office for 14 hours a day. Staying late should be a negative thing that should work against an employee in his appraisals. Never complement someone for staying till midnight or working 7 days a week .

2) Estimates:
If time estimates go wrong, the company should be willing to take a hit and not force the employee to work crazy hours to bail projects out of trouble. This will ensure that the estimates made for the next project are more real and not just what the customer has asked for.

3) Employee organizations / forums
NASSCOM (National Association for Software and Services Companies) and CSI (Computer Society Of India) are perhaps the only two well known software associations in India and both I feel have failed the software employee. I do not recall any action from these organizations to try and improve the working conditions of software employees. This has to change.
I am not in favor of forming trade unions for software people, as trade unions in India have traditionally been more effective at ruining businesses and making employees inefficient than getting employees their rights and helping business do well. So existing bodies like NASSCOM should create and popularize employee welfare cells at a state / regional level and these cells should work only for employee welfare and not be puppets in the hands of the companies.
If the industry does not itself create proper forums for employee welfare, it’s likely that the government / trade unions will interfere and mess up India’s sunshine industry.
4) Narayan Murthys please stand up
Top bosses of companies like Infosys, TCS, Wipro, etc. need to send the message loud and clear to their company and to other companies listening at national IT events that employee welfare is really their top concern and having good working culture and conditions is a priority. Employee welfare here does not mean giving the employee the salary he/she dreams of.
Last word
I am sure some of my thoughts come from the fact that I too worked in such an environment for a few years and perhaps I haven’t got over the frustrations I experienced back then. So think about my views with a pinch of salt but do think about it. And if you have an opinion on this issue, don’t forget to add a comment to this article

amitbhatnagar on January 6, 2007

<< Originally posted on my blogspot blog on  Wednesday, October 26, 2005 >>

Hey!! I contributed this quiz in the CA Newsletter some time back..
Hope that’s a likeable collection…
Leave ur comments with ur genuine score…

What’s in a Name

A Brand Name Quiz

Try these questions involving popular brand-names. Most of them are workable and the brands are all around you.

    1. “I have done more than anybody else to change the face of mankind.”, boasted the founder of this company and he was not wrong, at least literally. The company is named after this founder. Which company?
    2. The company was founded in Yonkers, New York in the United States in 1853 by Elisha Otis. Now this company is the world’s largest manufacturer in its field. Identify the company and the product.
    3. X is actually a popular variety of apples in United States. It looks logical then the name X was chosen for this famous brand. Identify X.
    4. Expand ESPN: the popular Sports Channel.
    5. “Zero Engine Noise” The USP and the origin of another common brand. Identify it.
    6. An easy one: Among all names under consideration, the name was chosen because it included the letters HTML in the same sequence. Which name?
    7. The Goldstar group of Korea was into electronic goods, while Lucky brand was into household products like laundry detergents and household cleaning products. Which brand resulted with the merger of these two brands?
    8. What is the contribution of the French Town of St. Tropez to the Indian Car Market?
    9. This Germany company, one of the world leaders in its market, is named after its its founder Adolf Dassler. Identify the company.
    10. Though not exactly a brand, still I’d like to put this question to end the quiz: Expand HITEC as in HITEC city (Yes!!! It’s an acronym)

                      Scroll down for answers…..

                        1. Gillette. The founder’s name was King C Gillette. Wasn’t he right in what he said?? J
                        2. Otis Elevator Company. You can see OTIS written on the elevators in the VIT too.
                        3. Macintosh of Apple Computers.
                        4. Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Though the channel no longer uses this expanded form, it treats ESPN as a word.
                        5. Maruti ZEN.
                        6. Hotmail.. What else it could be?
                        7. LG. (Lucky Goldstar. Here too company no longer uses the expended form)
                        8. The origin of the name Santro.
                        9. Adidas. Adolf’s nickname was Adi Dassler
                        10. Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy

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