Saturday, December 29, 2007

Some photos from a recent trip

Had been to my grandparents' place at Pollachi this week. The tranquil garden around the house offered numerous Sony moments. Some of them...


In retrospect, am not too happy with this pic. There is quite a lot of noise that could possibly divert one's attention from the subject - the leaf. But the coloring effect takes care of that, I guess. BTW, can you think of some interesting caption for this pic?


This one was a very difficult shot. The problem is that when you point your camera at the moon and try to focus, it will simply refuse to obey your command. The moon would appear as a blurry blob. Just try it once for yourself. For that matter, getting the camera to focus on any source of light is a difficult proposition. I got this one by sheer luck :)


And ya, I can never stop clicking flowers on macro.. These damn things look beautiful any way, making our job easier ;)

Friday, December 28, 2007

CATcalls!

I just read this post through a link on Pagalguy. The author has lambasted the IIMs. I could not restrain myself from posting this reply to him. (This actually began as a comment on his blog :) Had to shift the text here in view of the length)

Heyy Kausar.. A very hot article :) But I dont agree with the largest part of it.. My responses to your complaints:

- CAT is flawed: Yes. I agree. In fact, I was directly impacted by this last year. Luckily, this year I went ready for errors in the Qn paper. And I did spot one. So saved some time and tension.

- Standardizing CAT: This would take the sting away from CAT. I believe CAT is a great exam simply because it tests your strategical reasoning powers as well. Standardizing CAT will simply kill it. And as for candidates getting confused, BOSS!! If one is expecting to get into a B-school overpowering 2 lakh other aspirants, he shdn't expect everything to be offered to him on a platter.

- Changing pattern every year: They do it just to make sure that people do not get in simply because they were TRAINED for it. A person's true value will manifest itself, when he is faced with something never-seen-before. The IIMs want only the best of the lot. I believe this is sure one way to do it.

- Intellectual Property rights: He he :) I donno if anyone else has noticed this. But going by how popular CAT is, am sure the IIMs wont take any chance. They would have taken some permission from the original authors. Maybe they did not print that on the Qn papers TO SAVE INK ;)

- Curbing coaching institutions by standardizing CAT: Even if the test becomes standard, coaching institutes will flourish as they do today. It's not abt the test dude.. It's about the B-schools.. Am sure all of us join coaching centers to hit the IIMs.. Not to crack CAT.. We target the IIMs, and the CAT is the route to them.. So we take the CAT.. If it was some other exam, we would still take that exam with due preps, and one means to that is to get professional guidance..

- IIMs should worry about the non-successful ones: Why would they do this? They did not ask 2 lakh people to apply.. They want only those 1500.. Do you think they consciously advertise and call for applicants? Nopes! We are the ones who apply in large numbers.. They simply pick the ones who are best suited for their insti, as per their judgment.. What else can they do?

- CAT should teach something that we can use in our daily life: CAT has taught me so many things: to get on with life without being bogged down by one problem; to pay attention to detail; to analyze and interpret data better; to read actively; to prioritize commitments.

- (234 ^ 234) / 6 :) If you had taken CAT in the right spirit, you would have realized that you don't actually need to tackle these questions.. You do get a whole lot of sitters in CAT too.. Questions at the same level as those in the GMAT (I have taken the GMAT too, so I know).. You can get thru the IIMs by cracking those questions alone.. CAT simply tests if you can identify which one to hit and which one to miss.. With your limited resources (time), how much of your unlimited wants (answering 75 questions) can you satisfy? this is what CAT tests..

- Errata from IIM websites: Sure do project the institutions in poor light.. I am with you in this..

- Minimum criteria for work-ex: As you yourself have stated, this is your personal opinion. But the IIMs know what they are looking for. My logic is this: If the class is full of ppl with experience, then fresh ideas would be missed sorely.. Cos when ppl gather experience, they are actually getting trained in systems.. They fall into a groove.. To think outside of that framework would require herculean efforts.. But that would come naturally to a fresher..

- CAT applicants should serve community for free: The IIMs are B-schools.. They are not NGOs.. Each and every entity has a purpose to focus on.. It would be great if just that purpose is served by that entity.. If we want CAT to impact the society positively, we may as well expect our cars to fly..

If you feel my views are not just, do let me know.. we can discuss further..

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chennaiyil oru mazhaikaalam

I started from office at 7.30 PM yesterday.

And spent the rest of the night going home.

The roads were so flooded, one would think one were in Venice.

And I saw for myself: the Mahindra Scorpio IS truly making waves all over! It succeeded in drenching me knee-downwards at least.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My first voyeur photograph

All Photographers are voyeurs.

We always love to swoop in on unsuspecting insects having a gala time on flowers, and click them in compromising positions without their knowledge, whilst they suck away to glory. Then we release the pictures on the internet and whip up a storm.

But this time around, one of my pics whipped up a storm at home itself.

This was one of those voyeur pics, alright. My first (I've named it Hello_World.jpg). I thought it was a significant milestone in my photographic journey and put it up as my desktop's wallpaper at home. The very idea of a bug sucking the hell/gel out of a flower seemed exotic to my artistic vision.

Ok, maybe it was not a bug.



I still found it exotic.

But alas! When have parents really understood your triggers for excitement?

Mom kept telling me to pull the pic off the desktop, cos she constantly felt the urge to swat the fly off the beautiful flower.

And Dad tried hard to make me realize how revolting he found the pic to be. He kept complaining of nausea until I relented eventually.

This blog-post is an appeal to all parents in the world to understand the importance of the house-fly:

1) It is the ONLY creature in the world to be called "house-fly" (I am sure of this)
2) The name itself is interesting, giving rise to such great pieces of jokes such as this:
"A: I saw a house-fly.
B: Oh.. Maybe the building was strong and the basement, weak"
3) This is a dummy point, without any content. If someone skims through this list without reading consciously, I want him/her to believe that I have written a lot more than I actually have.
4) Last, but farthest from the least: It is the only THING to have stayed put while I clicked a pic. And I have proof.
Just have a look at the pic of a pug doll below.


It was a freaking non-living thing! And still it chose to shake instead of saying cheese. (Maybe it was still under contract with Hutch and was trying to follow my cam lens wherever it went. Who moved his cheese?!)

Proof no. 2:


Would you believe me if I told you this was a LAMP POST? No, right? Ok am not telling you anything about this pic.

NOW, Mom and Dad. Counter this :-|

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Road trip to Thirumalpur: III

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

The last of this series.

BTW, everything in the temple signifies unity between Shiva and Vishnu. There was even a statue with the face of Hanuman and the base of Nandhi. After spending some more time looking and clicking around, we both bade the priest farewell and exited.

And I have to say that Mr Sambu was very patient in explaining everything about the temple to us: right from history to what has transpired in recent times.

The priest - Mr Sambu

Some more notes from what he told us:

- The temple was built in the period around 500 BC by Sundara Chozhan

- The original Shiva linga in the temple was actually made of mud and made it through 1500 years!!! (albeit decreasing in height with the passage of time). And when the temple was renovated in 2002, a metallic kavasam was clamped on top of the small lingam. But even now, it looks fairly diminutive

- The temple is now under the aegis of the Archaeological Department

Once we came out, I set my camera on my tripod and began to lock in on the fa├žade of the temple. Hardly 5 seconds later, I was surrounded by native kids who peered from around me into my cam’s LCD display. There were some who excitedly ventured to the front and peered into my lens barrel. I looked on amused, as an old man came and shoo’ed the boys away from my camera. I then clicked a couple of pics and dismantled my tripod. As I packed it in my carry bag, the oldie asked for alms. I fished a coin from my purse and gave it to him. He had a brief look at it and handed it back saying “What can I do with one rupee? Have it yourself.” Though he actually did not say the words, his tone seemed to suggest something along the lines of “mayi*a kooda ******* mudiyadhu”. Then I realized how true that was. With the kind of hair he had, that was well nigh impossible. I have nicknamed him oldie-locks.

Oldie-locks

My bro got very angry at the man’s doing and wanted to ask him whether he accepted Visa and Mastercard.

But the kids were still lurking around, talking in hushed whispers. I called them on to pose for me, and they obliged!

Each one has emoted differently :) My favo is the topless guy

Anyway, with our expectations met, my bro and I began our return journey, briefly stopping to click some pics.


But not too many, as we were damn hungry and bro wanted to eat at home and nowhere else. We reached Chennai in record time with the weather still being too good to be true: chill and cloudy. The moment we reached home and entered the main door, it began raining cats and dogs outside!

On the whole, though the “newness” of the temple was a bit of a disappointment for me, the bike-ride and the village more than made up for it. Thank you, Dwija!

Some details for those who want to visit Thirumalpur:

Name of the temple: Manikandeeswarar Temple -- Get this right. There are a couple of other temples too in that region. One is of Guru (Dakshinamoorthy). Another is of an Amman.

Name of the place: Thirumalpur / Thirumarpaeru

Location: Around 15 km from Kanchipuram and from Arakkonam. 80 – 85 km from Chennai.

How to reach Thirumalpur (by own vehicle):

Take the Bangalore Highway. Near Kanchipuram, there is a huge flyover. Do not get on the flyover; go beneath it to its left and turn right to reach the Kanchipuram – Arakkonam main road. Drive along for about 12 km, parallel to the railway track. Once you reach Thirumalpur station, you would have to take a left and go on for a few more km to reach the temple.

How to reach Thirumalpur (by bus or train):

There is an electric train that starts at 7 AM from Chennai Beach and reaches Thirumalpur (the last stop) at around 9.00 – 9.30 AM. Take share autos from there to the temple.

But return would be a problem. There is a train from Pondy at around 2 – 2.30 PM that would take us back to Chennai. And maybe a couple more in the evening. That’s all.

Bus would be a better choice: Reach Arakkonam or Kanchipuram and reach Thirumalpur from there by bus at anytime (one bus every half hour, I believe).

And make your own arrangements for food! No decent eateries around there.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Road trip to Thirumalpur: II

(Continuation of part 1)

Our hearts sank as we stared at the huge green door that was locked.

The temple's facade

(Pan picture, stitched together from 3 separate pictures using Autostitch - freeware)

Those dimensions meant that we could not even try to peep over the doorway. And as per regular schedules, the temple would not be opened for at least 4 more hours.

But my friend – Dwija – who had told me about this temple had also told me that the priest lived right next to the temple. True enough, as we found out, he was sharing a compound wall with Mr Manikandeeshwaran. (Refer pic above)

Though a bit unsure about disturbing him (the priest; not Mani Sir), we had no other choice. So we knocked on his door. After we sheepishly told him that we wanted to visit the temple, he came out at once to open the door. He did not betray even a wee bit of irritation at being disturbed, though he had locked the temple just ten minutes back. And his wife was extremely hospitable and offered us water (while we were expecting her to abuse us for disturbing her husband’s siesta).

Mr Sambu (the priest) unlocked a small part of the huge door and went in, asking us to follow him. My cousin did that without batting an eyelid, while I had to battle with the door-lid to squeeze myself in.

Mr Sambu (right) and his assistant.

(Can you spot the small door-like opening in this picture? Look between the two men)

It was now that I began to actually observe the temple. It was not Herculean as I had imagined it would be, but it sure was huge by normal standards. But I was very disappointed at one thing: everything looked fairly NEW! And I had traveled a distance expecting to ogle at an ancient relic! The priest clarified things when he said that the temple was rejuvenated in 2002.

Drats.

That was a setback right at the beginning for me. But I labored on into the sanctum sanctorum. The priest then began to narrate the “thala varalaaru” (meaning “the story of the making of Shiva-ji’s temple”.. Not “Thalai Ajith’s Godfather-turned-varalaaru”).

Long long ago, there was a King by name something. He had some minor tiff with a sage named something else and wanted to blast him into after-life with the kind of pyrotechnics we see on TV. But since the sage was actually much more powerful (and also since Standard fireworks had not been established by then), the King could not inflict any harm on the sage. So he worshipped Lord Vishnu to help him in this. The Lord responded by setting his Chakraayudha (cycle-pedal-ring-like wheel weapon) upon the sage. The sage did die, but the Chakraayudha got destroyed as well. So the Lord’s idea of using the boomerang-like weapon boomeranged on him and he was left wheel-weaponless. After a while, another war happened during which the Lord missed his weapon a lot. In order to get another tool of the kind, He came to the spot where we stood and worshipped Lord Shiva asking for a new weapon. After 3 yugas (9000 years), Lord Shiva appeared in front of Lord Vishnu and said “Un thavatthai kandu mecchinom” (meaning “Am pleased with your penance”). Meanwhile, Lord Vishnu had had this habit of offering 1000 lotus flowers everyday to Lord Shiva, but as Murphy would concur, on exactly that day, he had one lotus less. Since there was not enough time to get one from Koyambedu market, Lord Vishnu offered an eye of his own instead. Lord Shiva was mighty pleased and granted Lord Vishnu with a new wheel weapon: the mighty Sudharsana Chakra (which has been used ever since to slay demons at daytime, and mosquitoes at nights).

And it is for this reason that Thirumalpur is also known as Hari-chakra-puram (without the hyphens).

From this, we learn that:

- Even the Lords love playing “EYE’s boys”
- Lord Shiva owns the copyright for the most oft-repeated dialog in Tamil mythological movies

Part 3 here

Monday, December 03, 2007

Road trip to Thirumalpur

Starting a new series with this blog: veni vidi civi (latin for I went, I saw, I was conquered)

I got excited the moment I read a friend’s blog on this place called Thirumalpur. She claimed that it was a must-visit place for any ancient-temple-lover. That hooked me on and within four days I had made my plans: my cousin and I were to visit this temple on a bike!

I was very excited for two reasons:

1) This was to be my first ever biking trip

2) I would be taking my new Sony DSC H3 along! I had got the cam 2 full weeks back and had not experimented much with it. And this trip seemed to be a God-send!

So this Sunday, we started at 10.45 AM and reached NH 4 (Chennai-Bangalore highway) in a short while. The first thing that caught my fancy was:

God only knows whom the NHAI wishes to navigate to Mumbai from here itself. (And if you are wondering why my two-wheeler looks like a dirt-bike: it’s been quite some time since Ayudha Pooja happened, remember?)

After a couple of warm-up clicks here, we moved on. Soon the road became less crowded and the real look and feel of a highway presented itself to us on a platter. As we zoomed on (90 kmph is zoom-range for a Bajaj CT-100), contrasting sceneries accosted us. While the SExy-Z zones of SIPCOT looked positively futuristic, scenes like the one below were a welcome respite:

After an hour’s drive, we finally reached the outskirts of Kanchipuram. Wishing to know the way to the inskirts.. I mean, interior of Thirumalpur, we asked a guy at a bus stop for the route. After answering us to the point, he added pointlessly: “Remember a huge accident happened two days back in which two buses collided head-on leaving scores dead? Well, Thirumalpur is pretty close to the place”. Big help that was.

Anyways, it was now that the real fun started. We were traveling on the Kanchipuram – Arakkonam road which reminded me of my native town Tirupattur. Lush green fields accompanied us throughout the route, with a railway track running parallel to the road the entire distance. Seemed like a scene out of a movie. Especially since the sun was being so easy on us: it was one of those cool cloudy-but-no-rain days. Both of us rode on wearing Dhanush-like smiles. And when we had to take a detour to reach the destination, things got even better. The village looked straight out of Asterix. The huts were so small. Like small. And add the characteristic coir-rope cots at the entrances. It was like we had stepped a good twenty years back in time. Grazing cattle and sheep only added to the effect. And there was just one house that had a tractor and a first floor - which we concluded must be Sarath Kumar’s (or Vijayakanth’s).

After an invigorating drive through these rustic settings, we finally reached the temple at around 12.45 PM.

And stared at the locked door.

Part 2 here