amitbhatnagar on March 29, 2009

For some time now, I had been listening to this concept of Earth-hour. On this Friday, we got  a mail from our HR deptt, reminding us of this opportunity to volunteer for this global effort. I found it a good concept and decided to contribute this time.

On this Saturday, I was pondering over how would I spend that one hour. First of all, I thought of going out around that time after switching off the lights at my flat. But that did not look like a contribution to me. So I decided that I’d be staying at my home and would be switching off the lights for those 60 minutes. The  fact that none of my two flatmates were at home made  it easy (although they too would have contributed) as it was only I, who needed to make the decision.

I was thinking whether using my laptop would be permitted at that time. No, I won’t be connecting it to the AC supply, would be charging it up and then using it, I tried to convince myself. But this sounded wrong to me. Extending that logic, people can simply switch to their inverters and keep everything running. (If we extend it a bit more, I should have kept my cellphones switched off too, but I decided against it. 🙂 )

I decided to complete some of the pending tasks during the earth-hour. For long, I was contemplating writing some linkedin recos and Orkut testimonials for some of my friends. But for one reason or other, i kept postponing this. Decided to take this up. I also thought of keeping a log of my activities as the time passed.

So at 8:28, I was ready with a pen, a notebook and a candle at my table. Precisely at 8:30, I switched off the last light in my room, lit the candle and started scribbling on my notebook.

Here’s a quick view of how things went.
8:30 -> Started scribbling down things to do. Got ready of tasks to do and Linkedin recos and Orkut testimonials to write.
8:34 -> What!!! Just 4 minutes have passed!! 😮
8:41 -> The tiny TV indicator told me that I had missed out one light. Turned that off too. 🙂
8:56 -> Two linkedin recos complete.
9:05 -> Third reco complete; never knew that this takes so less time once you’re focused.
9:26 -> This one took long. This was testimonial for a dear friend. Completed three-fourth of that.
At this stage, I got curious to know whether anybody else in the society is following this or not. As I looked from the room window, I was impressed to see 1-2 of the flats had their lights switched off. Decided to walk down to see whether there are any more of them. There actually were a number of them.
9:30 -> Earth hour complete!! But none of the flats mentioned above switched on the lights. Perhaps, they were not contributing to the Earth-Hour, but were simply not in their homes. 🙁
Anyways, I was happy at my contribution to world-energy. 🙂

Some important takeaways from those 60 minutes:

  • Staying w/o power is tough!! We better work towards saving it for the future. As Anunay’s FB message said, “Anunay Gupta  is hoping that everyone saves energy all the time, not just the Earth Hour. ” Remined me that I am actually not that responsible in using power judiciously. Followed the power-saving norms religiously today, hope i am able to continue this.
  • If I allow myself an occasional break from the laptop and the internet, there’ s so much I can achieve. (am on the lappy almost 24X7) Reminds me of similar stuff from “Monk who sold his ferrari” At times, we become slaves of the gadgets around us, whereas it’s us, who should be mastering these devices. Have decided to exercise more control on this. Even when I am on the machine, will try to do more meaningful stuff (like blogging) than just checking mails/Orkut/Facebook every 5-10 mins.

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amitbhatnagar on March 29, 2009

Last weekend, I had a terrific trip to Vaishno Devi..This had been in pipeline for at least 4.5 years for me. Last time, it was in October 2004, when we had decided to go in a group of friends. I had booked my tickets too, but had to back out due to a number of reasons. But as I look back, I see that there was only one reason: it wasn’t meant to be at that time. As they say, you only get to visit this place, when you get a bulawa from Maata.And when the bulawa is there, there would be nothing to stop you.

This time, the call was there for me. Even on last Monday, it wasn’t decided who all would be going. But this time, I had decided that I’d be going ahead even if there are just 1-2 guys accompanying me. Four days later, we were on our way in a group of nine.Here are some quick highlights of the trip:

  • The bulawa theory was true this time too. Anu was there in the trip right from the planning stage. And at the last moment, he was struck with Typhoid and had to miss the trip. Instead, Deepak, who was never in the picture, called me up at the last moment and he got in! Maybe some other time for Anu; when the bulawa comes.
  • We had booked our tickets with Volvo India (Feedback: Not recommended. The return journey costed us Rs 150/- less per head and the seats were much more comfortable.) Normally, I do get a decent sleep during a long journey, but this time, I could not sleep for more than 5-10 minutes. 🙁
  • The era of big-brands has reached Katra and Vaishno Devi too. I remember locating Barista, Cafe Coffee Day, Sagar Ratna and a  number of Nescafe outlets there. Of course, Am not complaining here. We did take breaks at some of them. 🙂
  • This time, the general energy-level around was a bit low. 🙁  Throughout the way, it wasn’t very often that I saw energetic groups chanting “Jai mata di”. But every time, we located any such group, we  were quick to join in. And I can tell you, when you’re dead tired, this chanting makes a whole world of difference. It gives you the motivation to keep going no matter what. So many times, it was just I and Akash, who were shouting the jaikara on the road and that kept us going.
  • I was appalled by the condition of the toilets on the way. Almost, all of them on the way were filthy and stinky. I tried to use one, when I felt that I had no option, but the stink there almost made me vomit. Namrata had similar experience with the ladies’ toilets too. It’s really pathetic to see it this way and I am surely going to write to the Shrine-board office for this. (Though I don’t have much expectations from the sarkari-system. 😐 )
  • Finally, at around 9, we were there at the top. Aman had already taken the token for us. But then, there was a long queue for lockers in the cloak room. After a long, long wait, finally our  turn was there. The system is a bit problematic here too.. It’s one locker per yatra-parchi (the slip that you get before setting for the trip from Katra) irrespective of number of people on the slip. (which can vary from one to five) Since we were nine in the group, we got two lockers and had to do some jugaad to get the third one.
    (Quick tip: If you are in a group of four or more, make sure that you do not get more than three people registered on a single slip)
  • Sometimes, some small things happen, which make you believe in the almighty even more strongly. A similar thing happenned in the queue for us too.
    We were dead-tired and it had been more than an hour in the queue and the queue had hardly moved a bit. At this stage, I was almost giving up. (though that wasn’t an option!!) I silently made a prayer to the Goddess that now that we have made this much effort in reaching at the final frontier, we needed her  blessings to finally complete the darshan. This was more of a helpless plea than a prayer with some real hope. I requested for some jugaad (yes!! this is the precise word that I had used in my prayer) for us to get in quickly. And lo!! my prayers were answered almost instantly.
    Here’s how it happened. Akash went ahead to ask the man-at-duty at the gate about how long will it take for the darshan (Thanks to the cloak room chaos, our number had already passed. Ours was 84; it was 105 running at that time) and Neha, the youngest of our group, decided to accompany him. She was about to ask him, when the policeman there  shouted at her and asked her to be in line. By mistake, he thought that she is right at the head of the queue and is getting out of the line. 😮 And thus, she was thrust almost at the head of the queue. Then, she politely asked him that some of her friends are left behind in the queue. The policeman initially insisted that she wait for us, but then relented and suddenly, all of us were at the head of the queue, saving at least 3-4 hours. 😮
    There was more to come. Almost, as soon as we were there at the head of the queue, at the first entrance level, the police-wallah ordered to make a 2nd queue starting with us right at the entry gate for the main premises. And within 5-10 minutes, we were inside!! 🙂
    The happiness that I felt at that time can not really be described in words. Just 20 minutes back, I was there in the queue with at least 300-400 people ahead of me. And now, we were all inside the main bhawan heading for the darbar. It really feels so reassuring to see that someone is there listening to you.
    While going for the trip and during the ascent, I had several thoughts running into my mind, some random wishes, some random worries and what not. But at that particular moment, the feeling that I had was that of plain happiness. Perhaps, that was the only time that I visited a holy place and didn’t make any specific wish. All i said was “Thanks for everything. Everything that you have given me over the years.” Was very indecisive over certain things some time back, but now I am assured that for the future too, The Goddess will show me the right path.

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amitbhatnagar on February 4, 2009

I am the kind of person, who sometimes takes time to open up and build bonds with people, but once that is done, I find it really hard when it’s time to move on.

Last Friday was one such occasion. It was my last day with the Print Technologies Group at Adobe. It has been a terrific experience working with the team for over 2.5 years. After the college life, this phase has been the most impressionable one of my life so far. I learnt a lot of things technically and professionally. I had my share of working weekends and meeting late-night deadlines, but each one of these was well complimented by the sense of accomplishment echoed in GM parties, ice-cream treats or sometimes, simply a “Good job” mail from the boss. (I must say sometimes, one such mail can do wonders to your confidence)

But the best part of being in the team was having got a number of good friends. This has been a team that knows how to work hard and party harder and I do believe that I have been able to pick some of this philosophy myself too. I have learnt a lot from the team and have had an amazing time. But finally, it was time for a change. Starting this Monday, I would be joining Team InDesign.

On Friday, I had lots of things to finish off including multiple customer cases and knowledge transfer on two topics. So I decided to reach office a bit early and I was there around 8:30. I started working on the pending tasks: replying to the client queries and getting ready for another case. It was then that Anuranjan walked to my seat and asked me for a treat: “InDesign join kar rahe ho, party to banta hai..”. Although I am looking forward to my new role in Team InDesign, I somehow didn’t find leaving print-team as an occasion to celebrate. I promised him a party for some time in near future. But he insisted on at least having the lunch together in the office cafeteria and to this, I readily obliged. It made sense to share the lunch-table with my current teammates on my last working day with them.

So around 1:30, he and Alok caught me again. I wanted to call out my regular lunch-group too, but Anu assured me that he has talked to them and they’d join us directly in the cafeteria. But it was only when we reached the reception and he started calling up other members of the team that I realized that we are not actually going to the cafeteria. The team had planned a surprise farewell party for me!!

Shortly, we reached Chor-Bizarre, our team’s favorite venue for farewell parties. (or welfare parties as Gauri calls them. ) I was in the hot-seat and people started asking Qs about my experiences with the team. And as soon as I was in a mood to talk something about that, the discussion shifted to some more masala-stuff like my crushes in Adobe and some more things on this line. Now, I surely wasn’t going to answer these in a public gathering, so I warded off the Qs with some weird answers.

Then, we proceeded for lunch. For some strange reason, Chor-Bizarre had included Kadi-Chawal in the buffet menu for the day. Everybody in my lunch-table group, except me, loves it and they never miss a chance to take a dig at me whenever cafeteria menu for a day includes this item. And the worst part is that often lack of options in the office cafeteria forces me to have only Kadi-chawal as lunch. 🙁 This time too, Sandeep forced me to have a good quantity and I did not refuse.

After the lunch, the group focused back its attention to me. After some weirder answers to the same questions that were asked before, I was asked for a song and a speech. On public demand, I repeated the “Zehreelay” song that I had sung on our last trip to Manali.(I just hope that Chor-Bizarre doesn’t ban Adobe guys after my “performance”. 😀 ) Then, it was time for a farewell speech. Well, I wasn’t at all prepared for this and when you’re not prepared, you can only be honest. I winded up with a short speech covering my journey of 2.5 years at Adobe: starting from the initial few months when I did not actually enjoy being in the team to the present moment, when I have started loving being in this team. By the time I finished, I was already very emotional. To make it more touchy, there were some real good words about me from Mohit, Gauri, Anu and Alok. And then, there was this lovely farewell gift from the team: A coffee-mug with pics showing me in different moods. The central pic was marked as Mr. VxWorks. (VxWorks is the platform that I have worked on for most of the time) I really loved that and at the end of the party, I was finding it hard to hold back my tears. I really had a great time being in this team and I would surely miss it.

But a team is surely more than the official work it does together. I still would continue to take gyan on all kinds of topics from Ashish (aka actinium) and solve Hindu crosswords with my crossword-buddy Abhinav. I still would try hard to irritate Bhavya in whatever ways possible. 🙂 I still would be meeting Dahuja, Anu, Alok, Varun and Surya in Toastmasters meeting.  And of course, I will still be having lunch with my same old lunch group. The new seating plan, which has both my new and old teams sharing the same floor, makes all this a lot easier.

So people, I am still around and it’s not a goodbye. At least, not yet!! 🙂

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amitbhatnagar on January 3, 2009

This was the famous slogan coined by Devang Mehta. He wanted the government to provide the common man with electricity and benefits of information technology too in addition to the three elementary needs.

Not sure when the govt will list the last two as their priority. (They still are struggling with the first three.) But at least our lifestyle had really made these two as absolute necessities. In particular, I am talking about the last item.

I, like almost everyone around me, am a complete internet addict. Although I have cut down my activity on social networking sites (Orkut and Facebook are the two that I am active on) substantially, I still have to check my mails almost every minute. Wikipedia is another thing that I find hard to live without and I really feel restless when I need to know something about a topic and I don’t have wiki to help me. And then there is the blogosphere: There are some blogs that I frequent these days and am gradually developing an addiction towards blog-hopping.  I am not totally addicted to posting on this blog as of now, but it’s very irritating, when you have just thought of resuming blogging and you have a pleothra of ideas to blog about and then you don’t have the internet connectivity.

I knew that this may be an issue when i left for my hometown. In past too, whenever I have visited my hometown, Airtel GPRS has been my slow, but steady companion. The speed can be a real pain at times, but most of the time, it used to be very much tolerable.

But this time, it was quite different. Most of the time, my GPRS connection refused to connect, citing different reasons each time. (Remote computer out of order, PPP protocal terminated, remote hardware problem etc etc) And whenever it did connect, the data transfer was painfully slow and then too, it disconnected in another 10 minutes or so. 🙁 I managed to check my mails in between, but my frequency on posts on this blog suffered badly. I had some posts written and saved offline, which I tried to post whenever there i got connected. I had some posts planned for my birthday, new year day etc, but without live-blogging, I lost the enthu for these.

Finally, when I could not bear it any longer I decided to cut my vacations short by 1.5 days and left for Noida today morning. ( Had planned for Jan 4 evening earlier) Had to struggle with my lunch and  evening snacks today, but no issues. Ab mere paas internet hai!!  🙂

Hope to post more regularly now. 🙂

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amitbhatnagar on January 2, 2009

It was one of those rare occasions when I went on to see a movie without having a prior review or idea about the story. I am normally too choosy when it comes to movies, particularly on the big screen. So it’s really rare for me to see a movie without hearing a good word about it either from a friend or a critic. I first experimented with RDB and had a good experience. Decided to repeat this with another Amir Khan starrer, this time with much awaited Ghajini. I had almost no idea about the plot and had not got a chance to read the reviews for the movie except for some news headlines, which claimed Aamir’s performance to be his career best.

Now, when you are talking about career-best performance of somebody,whose list includes gems like RDB, DCH, Lagaan, and Sarfarosh, it certainly raises expectations. And surely, these expectations were not betrayed.

The movie starts on an eerie note. And I am not talking about the first scene yet.. It’s the way initial casting is shown, (the music and the visuals) that sends a chill down your spine and sets the tone for the next three hours.(I suppose that they were taking us through a tour of the human nervous system.) Going forward, the movie maintains a fine balance between the present and the flashback. When the story is in the present tense, it’s a thriller, in flashback, it has a lovely romantic side. And you don’t miss the other side, when one side is being played.In partciular, you are bound to love the scenes when Aamir and Asin are together. Whether it’s the scene when she sells off her car to “help” him, the scene in which they enter the new house together or finally, the last scene in which Kalpana is killed, each scene is  touching in its own way.

As for the acting performances, Aamir was superb as usual. Though I am not sure whether it was his career best, but surely, it was a terrific performance. As the affable CEO in the flashback, he was quite good. But it was his second avatar, that impressed me more. I have seen some of his action packed performances in Sarfarosh or Mangal-Pandey:The rising, but this was the first time I saw him in a beastly role. Flaring his nostrils and flexing his muscles, he personified rage and revenge. Among others, Asin played the role of an upcoming model to perfection. Her entry-point (“Aye Bachchoo” song) lowered any expectations that I could have from an unknown actress. But after that, she was quiet likeable. The villain Pradeep Rawat was menacing in his role as an organ-trading devil. Jiah too was okay in the small role that the script had for her.

You may be wondering about the direction in which this review is going. (especially after seeing the title of the post) Actually, this is the way it happenned. For the first 2.5 hours, I was glued to the seat. But IMO, for a thriller, it’s  often the last 30 minutes that matter the most. If in these 30 minutes, the director connects the pieces well, the movie can make a lasting impression on the audience. This is exactly where Ghajini fails.

There are some gaping loopholes, something that you can never expect in a movie starring Mr Perfection himself. Okay, not everyone of us knows the CXOs of even the biggest companies, but it becomes too indigestible, when they put a bold statement that  “Noone has ever seen Sanjay Singhania” (says Kalpana’s boss b4 the new year party) You’re talking about somebody, who is the CEO of India’s leading mobile company, whose articles are published in leading newspapers like Economic Times, you’re inviting everybody (from presswallahs to NGOs to potential clients) to the event and you expect that nobody has ever seen him before. And then this CEO (Yes, he continues to hold the position) goes on wrecking havoc at will and again no one notices. Yes, one cop does notice and traces him quite easily before getting butchered, but then rest of the police deptt doesn’t bother to catch him.

Another irritating thing was the presence of songs that come out of nowhere. Almost all of the songs could have been just snipped out without the slightest change in the flow of the movie. I thought that Bollywood had left these behind and we now even have some songless movies. Worse part was that the songs were not only out of place, but most of them were intolerable!! (Only exceptions were Guzarish and Kaise mujhe..)

But these flaws are something that I could have lived with. But as I said earlier, a thriller is about connecting the pieces well. And Ghajini does not even make an attempt to do so. I would have liked to know how exactly the friendly CEO turned into a revenge-seeking monster. And that too, when he has no sense of memory left. But not only he remembers Ghajini,the villain, he also remembers each and every one of the killers. He needs to scribble every minute detail so that he will remember the same 15 minutes later; he has his entire body tatooed to remember “Kalpana was killed”, but the director does not bother to show us the transition. How and when did he prepare for this?  And then another transition that the movie misses is Sanjay’s return to normal life. After killing Ghajini, how does he actually remember that his mission is complete. Further, he’s not shown to be convicted or punished for so many cold-blooded murders.  He simply returns to his normal life with an orphanage named after his beloved.

Also, a masterstroke by Ghajini the villain (wiping out all the text on Sanjay’s body so that he has no map to his revenge) is left unanswered. I could imagine the scene, in which Sanjay would have woken up with some vague memories only to see his body with signs of something overwritten all over it.That would have made for a superb scene, but I am sure that must have been editted out to keep the movie within the 3 hour limit. ( Why did they not snip the Bachchoo and lattoo songs instead!!)

The end is a bit touchy with a gift of Sanjay and Kalpana’s footprints followed by a replay of “kaise mujhe.. “.  Despite the feeling of inconclusiveness for the main story, I could notice my eyes getting moist at this moment.
Overall, I’d remember Ghajini as a movie, which for the first 2.5 hours, promised to be in my all time favorite list, but then went down as just another okayish movie. BTW, I am now eager to see Memento and check how was this terrific premise handled there.

Rating: 6.5/10

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amitbhatnagar on December 29, 2008

The winter-break is back again.. For the uninitiated, Adobe has this policy of keeping its offices closed worldwide for the last week of the year. This shutdown period is something that almost everybody looks forward to. This is a period when you can chill out for 9-10 days without having to worry about any work getting accumulated at your workplace. (Don’t get too envious, these holidays are deducted from our earned leaves!! 🙁 )

Two years back, I had a wonderful trip to Himachal. Last year’s shutdown was relatively uneventful except for my cousin’s wedding right at the start of the holidays.

For this year, I have some specific plans: Lots of movies, some books, catching on some lost sleep and spending time with my family. Now, this may seem too boring to some of you, but if I look back at the hectic year gone by, this is exactly what I need for a break. Last I made very few trips to my hometown, Saharanpur and all of them on some special occasions.(festivals, niece’s birthday etc). So, I need some time with my family. Reading is something that I love, but I read very few books in full in last one year. As for movies, though I am very selective normally, but last year, I had missed even the movies that I really, really wanted to see.

I had planned to leave for my hometown at about 4:30 in the evening. After doing a bit of cleaning up my room in the morning, I decided that the first day of the vacation can be utilized better than sitting idle in my room. Thought of watching Ghajini, but tickets were not available anywhere. Considered “Rab ne bana di Jodi”, but my roommate Mayank had already watched it. Then, I was reminded of Bhavya’s post and Prat’s comments on watching a movie alone. At least, Prat’s comments seemed to suggest that it’s not that bad an experience. So I decided to go and watch RNBDJ all by myself. (Now, will you stop giving me that stern gaze? I didn’t actually go to see RNBDJ.)

Just then, Monkey came in with an idea of trying out Ghajini at Ghaziabad. I looked and finally found some seats available at Adlabs, Ghaziabad. We booked our tickets and made it to the place just in time. I had suspected GZB-malls to be not so hap and systematic and I was proven right. In spite of the heavy rush , which in no way was unexpected (Public holiday and Ghajini’s 2nd day), they had just one counter for everything: internet booking and on-the-spot purchase. And there was this heavy confusion over the seats: the seat-map that they show on bookmyshow is quite different from the actual seating plan. Finally, we settled in and watched the movie mostly in peace. Won’t comment on the movie here; planning to write a separate review for that.

Moved on to catch my train after the movie. And while on train, I picked up item 2 on my list: reading some books. I had books of different genres in my kitty ranging from a Harry potter book to a Sidney Sheldon masala novel and a mathematics-based book. I decided to start with “Message in a bottle” by Nicholas Sparks. Looks to be okayish story so far: not too gripping, but not too boring either.

In short, the vacation season has started on a good note. I have quite simple, workable plans and I seem to be on track so far.

amitbhatnagar on December 26, 2008

Had a great outing with my team last Wednesday. We normally have a team-outing every quarter. And for this quarter (Dec-Feb), the boss suggested that we have it on the last working day of the year.

I normally hate going for movies for outings, so was bringing out ideas of going for bowling or some other activity. I was especially opposing the idea of wasting an outing on a movie as all others wanted to go for “Yes man”. (or “Sorry Bhai”, which most of us had already seen) I hadn’t watched a Jim Carey movie ever and for some reason, didn’t want to try that either.  I vaguely remember some promos from “The Mask” and perhaps because of those, I found him to be a bit repulsive. But eventually, I had to give in reluctantly as rest of my team seems to be crazy about him.

Anyways, we had planned to leave at 12 and though none of us had actually planned to work before that, it was amusing (though certainly not unusual) to see our boss keeping an eye on everybody and checking, “Kaam to nahin kar rahe ho naa aap??” 🙂

We had planned for a lunch before the movie and there was some drama over choosing the venue for the lunch, but finally we settled for Pind Baluchi in TGIP. (One line review: Khana is good, but they make you wait a lot for everything except “aam ka panna”) In any case, we had lots of time at our disposal and we used that for some light moments (some Kodak ones) during and after lunch. And then we proceeded for the movie.

I went with fairly low expectations. As it often happens when you have low expectations from something/somebody, I was in for a surprise. The movie wasn’t great, but was interesting enough for me to rate Jim Carey above the “Govinda of Hollywood” level that I earlier put him at. (Okay, this was meant specifically to irritate some Jim Carey fans. J ) Seriously speaking, I actually liked the movie and found it to be almost in the same genre as some Adam Sandler movies like Click and Anger Management: the “moral behind the comedy” types. And comparing it to the two I have mentioned, I would surely place “Yes Man” at third.

Overall, it was pretty decent and I now want to try some other Jim Carey movies too.  Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura series are in queue when I return to office in Jan.

After the movie, I returned to office with Abhijeet. (seniormost guy in our group after the boss) In the 15 minutes or so that it took to reach the office, he shared some general gyan about career and life in general and his experiences with Adobe and the software-world in particular.  I always enjoy when somebody senior shares the wisdom of his/her experience and this time too, it was no different. Thanks Abhijeet, I have a lot to learn from you.

We wound up the day with about 2 hours of one-tip-one-hand cubicle cricket. For some reasons, I almost didn’t want to go for the vacations I was waiting for. This always happened to me in my college days and I really liked to see this feeling to be back, this time at my workplace.

Overall, it was a lovely day. I don’t think that anything too significant happened. It was simply that I enjoyed the simple not-too-significant things too to the full. And since I will be moving to a different team next month, this was my last official outing with the team.  I have truly enjoyed being with this team in last two and a half years (especially the last one year or so). I have a lot to say, but maybe I should keep it for my farewell day. 

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amitbhatnagar on December 24, 2008

No sir, This is not another post about somebody exercising “Right to Information” act to extract some info. This is about me coming back to “Racing Towards Infinity”.

I really like to blog and have always encouraged those around me to have their blogs too. This year I successfully convinced Akash, Alok ,Bhavya and one more (name/link not to be disclosed at the guy’s request:-| ) to move into the blogging business. Still trying hard to get Ashish (aka actinium, refer the comments section of almost any post in Bhavya’s blog) in too.

So while pulling everybody in, where have I been?  Well, it has been quite long that this blog has been missing in action, but  it’s not that I am not into blogging these days. In fact, I have been more active than ever in the blogosphere these days and have been blogging extensively on my other blog: surely more than a post per week on average. But that blog covers just one particular aspect of my life and I was really trying hard to come back here to touch on my life in general.

So finally  here I am .. Back again on RTI.. Though I don’t promise, but I’ll try to be regular here. I have lots of things to write about. So please keep checking..  🙂

/* BTW,Some of you may already know about the other blog. In case you don’t,  please wait for some time.  Hopefully, it’s just another few months before I drop the pseudonym there and link the two blogs.    */

amitbhatnagar on July 23, 2008

It has been a long time that I copy-pasted some stuff directly to my blog. (except for my own TM projects) I normally don’t like the idea unless you’re regularly posting your own writings too. But I just got a mail with Chetan Bhagat’s speech to the incoming class of Symbiosis, Pune and thought of sharing it.  Now I’m not a big fan of Mr Bhagat’s books, but I really liked the speech.. It’s quite long, but some points are really terrific.. Do read it in full if possible and if you’re too busy, then may be you’ve all the more a reason to read this..
BTW, before I draw some flak for coming back to my blog after a long time and then too with a copy-pasted  stuff, I’d like to mention that I’ll be back with a post max by tomorrow morning. In any case, I need to keep the spark of my blog..

Inaugural Speech by Chetan Bhagat for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program 2008

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party several months in advance just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing – to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn’t any external measure – a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement.

But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.

I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes – Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school. Where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said – don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I’ve told you three things – reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don’t go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you.

But it’s life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember – if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that’s where you want to be.

Disappointment’s cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don’t know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release.

Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life – friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness – this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you.

In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty darn lucky by Indian standards. Let’s be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don’t. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don’t get literary praise. It’s ok. I don’t look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who  think I am more beautiful than her. It’s ok. Don’t let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I’ve told you the four thunderstorms – disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, you eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying – I come from the land of a billion sparks.

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amitbhatnagar on May 29, 2008

We had booked tickets for IPL match between Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI to be held on Saturday, May 17. (Yeah, I’m late again in posting it here.) Going by the quality of the matches played so far and the fact that this was a very crucial match for both the teams for qualifying for the semis, this surely promised to be a high-voltage drama. I was very excited as this was the first cricket match that I was about to see in person. But even my wildest imaginations could not have prepared me for the day that was in store for all of us,

So we left for the venue a good 3.5 hours before the scheduled time. There were five of us: Aman, Anuranjan, Gauri, Neha and me. Some more were to meet us at the venue itself. After having a quick bite at Wengers’ in CP, we proceeded to Kotla. After going through numerous security checks, finally we were there climbing the stairs to third-tier. The excitement was building up and every roar of the crowd made those 2 minutes on the way to the top all the more unbearable. And finally we were there on the top: the view of the flood-lit ground was mesmerizing to say the least. Though from the distance, it was not easy to identify everybody , but some like Mcgrath, Srisanth were most quite easily recognizable… Aman, the most experienced of us all, guided us to the best seats that he could locate. And I was still savoring the moment and relishing every bit of it. Bulb too had joined us there, other members of the group were lost elsewhere and after some phone calls, we decided it’d be impossible to locate each other.

Now the drama started unfolding.. Even before the first ball was bowled, the sky started turning overcast.. And perhaps even before we could start praying, the rain started coming down heavily and that too with a heavy thunderstorm.. And with in minutes, the covers were on the field and we were completely drenched in rain.. But yup, it was a lovely sight to see the rain coming down in the flood-lights…

Meanwhile, our prayers got answered and finally the rains subsided. After some time, the covers were taken off with some wild cheers from all of us. Finally the game started and we were treated to some phenomenal cricket by Veeru and Gambhir. Such was the pace of the game that when Bulb and I took a 5 minute break to get some soft drinks for the group, it had already costed us 4 sixes and dismissal of Gambhir. 🙁 By the time, rain stopped game again, Sehwag had already raced to 48 off some 17-18 balls and Daredevils were blazing away at a rate of more than 10 per over..

But rain was to play spoilsport again.. And when it stopped after some 30-40 minutes, it was followed by a very strong dust-storm. Bulb, who was standing on his chair now, passed the oft-repeated remark “Bhatti ko pakad lo, ud naa jaaye”. And just as he finished, he almost lost his balance thanks to strong gush of wind. 🙂  And if it were not enough, 2 minutes later, his specs were “gone with the wind” Hold on!! Not off his eyes, but from his pockets.. 🙂 We had a tough time locating those, asking others and explaining to them that he wasn’t actually wearing the specs when they flew. 😀

After some time, when rain stopped, we were able to locate the rest of the party, thanks to now almost half-empty stands as many had already left. With Dahuja supporting his hometown team (Kings XI,Mohali), cheering for Delhi got a whole new meaning. J Thankfully the players agreed to play, even when conditions were totally unplayable. Things like chips-packets and plastic bags were flowing all around (including the field) and at times, the batsmen had to ward those off with their bats. The match was already curtailed to 11 overs a side game and the Daredevils could not cash much on the blazing start that they had.

Second innings started without much ado, though the dark clouds were still looming around. And we were turning mad as the Daredevils produced one marvelous catch after another. All my eyes craved for at that moment was a replay of those three spectacular catches, but yes, there was this sense of excitement at being live witness to such quality stuff. And just when we thought the Daredevils were cruising to victory, Sehwag took the ball in his hands and that one over turned the direction of the match. It was already raining lightly and perhaps Sehwag wanted to finish off the mandatory 6 overs quickly. I too thought it to be wise move, but after that over, Kings XI never looked back. Finally when they were just ahead of the at-par score (with a six!!), they decided to walk off. The end was a bit anti-climatic as we in the stands never knew who actually was ahead. After 15-20 minutes, there was an announcement, which wasn’t clear at all in the noise, but the janta started leaving and then, (from someone who got a call after seeing it on TV) we got to know what we were already speculating: Kings XI had won on D/L method. People all around were dejected, though some like Dahuja were jubilant. As for me, I’d have preferred Delhi, but didn’t really mind the triumph of Yuvi’s boys. 🙂

Finally at about 12:30 in the night, a day full of drama had ended. Or so we thought. There was some more drama to come. The cab that we had booked was on its way from Noida. We instructed the driver to meet us at Raj-Ghat gate and decided to walk to the point. But none of us knew that Raj-ghat has multiple gates. The confused driver reached some other gate. Meanwhile we decided to relax outside the Gandhi-Darshan Bhawan in front of Rajghat. That as it later turned out was a very wrong decision. The place was mostly isolated and except for an occasional vehicle or two that passed by, there was almost nowhere there. And as soon as Gauri brought this subject, (“Yeh Dilli hai, Yahan kuch bhi ho sakta hai” ), a rogue man walked out of nowhere and started asking the way to Old Delhi. Perhaps he was testing whether we’re conversant with the place and I idiotically blurted out that we don’t belong to this place. Anu asked him to ask the guard of “Gandhi Darshan”. He then questioned that where has he come from. (“Tu Kahan se hai”) We decided to completely ignore him; and he started repeating this question to each of us, his voice growing sterner every time. Then he took out his cell-phone from his pocket( I was glad that it was just a cell-phone when it came out; In that one second, I had imagined more dangerous things.) Then he called up someone and started speaking: “Yahan 2-3 ladke hain, saath mein ek ladki bhi hai… Maine poochha to kuch bata nahin rahe hain.. Haan.. Yeh Raj Ghaat ke saamne hi hai” Obviously, he was purposefully being loud enough to make us listen to whatever he was saying. He walked away while he was still on phone leaving us quite tense and I must admit, a bit scared too. We checked out the number of each passing cab, hoping that it were ours. Finally in 2-3 minutes, the cab arrived and we breathed a sigh of relief. We located the man at the next crossing and he was still on phone. Not sure whether he was just a drunkard or had some more dangerous plans, but he surely succeeded in making us uneasy for a few minutes.

At the end of the match, one of us had rightly commented: The day was like an Ekta Kapoor serial full of every masala that one could think of: tension, excitement,drama etc. Perhaps, the fear factor was missing.. And the day-end made sure that we didn’t lose out on that front too.. 😀

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