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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Sarawana Bhawan - South Indian Food served American style

The last weekend, Susmita and I had been to the new Sarawana Bhawan (yes! - the same guys from Chennai) for lunch. They had shifted their business to a new and a bigger location (from Castro, Mountain View to Mary, Sunnyvale).

Here's is the list of things in their location that I found was different from their previous location :
  1. Bigger and spacious Parking Lot - the previous location had almost very little parking space, making parking there a virtual nightmare. Thankfully, things are a lot better here.
  2. The restaurant is at least 2 times the capacity of the previous location - this means that you don't have to wait outside in queue and you will be taken inside quite fast. Of course, there was still a small queue, but it was far less compared to the long ones that used to mark the older Sarawana Bhawan.
  3. The best part is the American touch ! - you are escorted into the restaurant to your seat by an American, well-dressed in coat and suit and wearing tie. This is DEFINITELY new :).
  4. Menu - the menu seemed to be the same and so was the price. Of course, the menu card is new and very sleekly designed.

Overall, we had a good experience with the food there, though the coffee was just too bitter for our tastes.

What puzzled me was that there were so many non-Indians in the restaurant too. I didn't know South Indian food was also popular among the non-Indians. The only food I knew that most Americans loved was 'Chicken Tikka Masala' (for whatever reason). But looking at the non-Indian crowd in Sarawana Bhawan, one can safely say that things are indeed changing.

Bon Apetit !

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Indian agony in the Olympics

The Athens Summer Olympics of 2004 is over. It does bring about a tinge of sadness in everyone because it has provided us with some wonderful sporting achievements. As an Indian though, I am more than relieved that the games are over. At least, we don't have to go through the agony of not being able to finish on the medal podium.

It's true that Jawaharlal Nehru once said that the games should be played for the spirit of participation and not just for the purpose of winning. I do believe that winning is not really everything, but when you represent your country, you must be able to give off your best. Sadly, that was not to be seen among the Indian participants. Many were confined to the fact that they didn't stand a chance of winning and so, never bothered to raise their performances. For instance, our women 4 * 400 relay team went against expectations and qualified for the final, the first time since 1984. This was indeed a very creditable performance. However, they faltered in the finals and ran far below their personal best. I am not blaming them for their performance because their performance was one of the better ones for India. But their example can be used to prove my point.

However, things were not totally bleak for India. Major Rathore held his nerves in the Shooting finals and won the Silver for India (read my previous post on that). Anju Bobby George not only leapt to her personal best of 6.83 metres, but I think she leapt a few notches higher in all our hearts. At least, she gave everything that she had and tried her best. Likewise, there were other notable performances in archery, boxing and tennis. But even if you count all the names, they will just be a handful, which is what really saddens me.

We are one of the populated nations in the world - with our population just next to China. China has ended up with 32 Golds (total of around 100 medals) and we have just 1 to our name. To add salt to our wounds, our Sports minister Shri Suni Dutt has said that India's performance was commendable. That left me quite speechless indeed.

I am sure there will be committees set up to review our performance - reports will be generated, fingers will be pointed, board members will change. But I doubt whether there will be any postive step taken to improve the sports infrastructure and the quality of atheletes in India. India needs a wholesome change in this process and it's time to do it now ... or NEVER !


Sunday, August 22, 2004

Pain of Losing

The ongoing Summer Olympics at Athens, Greece has given us some wonderful sporting achievements - most of which, we shall remember forever. We are least likely to forget the unbelievable swim of Michael Phelps, or the incredible 100 m race, where 5 runners finished before 9.9 seconds or the domination of the Chinese divers. If you are Indian, you are most likely to remember Major Rathore for being the saving grace for India's performance (at least till now). But one incident that I shall forever remember is the tearful withdrawl of Paula Radcliffe from the Woman's marathon at the 22.5 mile mark.

Paula's failure to complete the course has actually left many (including herself) mystified. Of course, the doctor's reports are still awaited, but it seems unlikely that anything might have been wrong with her. Paula was the outright favorite to win the title - mainly because she is the current world record holder in Woman's marathon (2:15) and also she had been training really very very hard for this race. She had trained in the hot and humid weather of Spain to simulate the hot weather of Athens. She also had been doing a lot of altitude training - something that most African atheletes do a lot.

Taking that into consideration, one has to feel really sorry for Paula. After finishing a dismal 4th in the 10,000 m in Sydney 4 years ago, she was determined to win the gold in Athens in the marathon. It's no doubt that the marathon route was devilish. There was 15 miles of uphill in the middle of the race. Add to that, the weather was not kind either. The runners ran the race in really hot and humid conditions. Of course, the conditions were the same for all runners too.

It might have been nerves or it could have been something that she ate or ... - whatever be the reason, the race is over and she is not going to be in the podium. I am no fan of Paula - but I just feel sad that 4 years of preparation went down the drain. But then that's how sport is - there is a very thin line between success and failure. Games are great levellers - they make you a hero and a legend on one day and a nought on another.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Workrave - Open Source Software for prevention of RSI

Recently, one of my friends told me of Workrave, an open-source software, that assists in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). I have seen various softwares of the same type, but none of them were open-source.

I checked out the features of this software. They currently have support on both Windows and the Linux platform. The software has some really neat, cool features such as prompts for regular breaks, regular rests, regular exercises etc. It also mentions some of important exercises to be performed to prevent RSI.

Having seen many of my friends suffer from this really frustrating injury, owing to the nature of job that we perform (sitting for 8 hours in front of a computer and just typing away), I feel software such as these can really help out. Of course, one has to be sincere in following the instructions that the software keeps popping on to the screen time and again. Also, this is open-source software. So, if any of you have some free time, then you could use it to contribute to this software. At least, the fact that you are contributing for a software, which has more of a humanitarian feel to it, should be incentive enough.

Let me know if any one else knows of somthing similar - it's worth mentioning about them.

Adios !

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A Silver Lining for India at the Olympics - FINALLY

India's Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore today won the Silver medal in the Double Trap shooting event at the Athens Olympics, 2004. This is indeed a great moment to savour for India - India has never an individual Silver medal ... ever !

Additionally, there have been good news coming in for other sports for India today. Firstly, the Indian Hockey Team came from behind to defeat South Africa 4 - 2. Lastly, the Indian Tennis Doubles ace Leander/Bhupathi defeated the Swiss pair of Federer and Yves Allegro to move into the Quarters.

In short, its a day for celebration ! - rest assured, we shall do so :).

Cheers !

Monday, August 16, 2004

Has USA lost its touch ?

By now, the euphoria of the Olympics, 2004 and the security fear surrounding the games, has died down a bit. After the first 3 days of the games, its time to take stock of the proceedings.

Firstly, the USA team has performed far below its best in most of the events that it has participated - they were fancied to win the 4 * 100 meters Men's Relay, but they were relegated to the 3rd spot ! Michael Phelps was lined up to win gold in all the events that he participated - he has already bagged 2 bronzes along with 1 solitary gold. Last but not the least, the USA basketball team was thrashed by lowly placed Puerto Rico. From what I can see, USA doesn't seem too hungry to win - probably, they do have the security fear in their mind ... probably !

On the other hand, third world and poorer countries have performed solidly till now. China is leading the medals tally with 8 medals. Its been a joy to see the Chinese in action - be it in shooting, archery, weightlifting, diving - they have just been fabulous. All this is indeed testimony to their extremely good sporting infrastructure and the very high levels of sporting regimen that they follow.

India, a country almost similar in population to China, has struggled to give any notable performances. Many of the atheletes have already fallen by the way-side. The only medal hopes who remain are Leander/Bhupathi in Tennis Doubles (they won against the USA today) and Anju George in Women's Long Jump (though the chances are quite remote there as well).

Of course, these are still early days and there are lots of events to come. USA can still catch up in the Gymnastics events (although Romania is their biggest obstacle) and in the track and field events, where they should expect a rich gold haul (even though their preparations have been hindered by drug scandals). As fat as India is concerned, I can just hope and pray for the best - I just wish to hear the Indian National Anthem played, at least once during the Games !!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Snaps of the India Trip

Hope everyone is doing great and gearing up for the upcoming Summer Olympics. Incidentally, if anyone is interested, there are still tickets available for the Olympics - its a sad state of affairs compared to the spectacular Sydney Olympics 4 years ago. The duel of Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps in Swimming is definitely going to be fascinating. The other sport that I am interested in is the marathon - it will be a joy to see these guys running ! [I shall be posting another Blog with my predictions for India's performance for the Olympics, later on during the week]

I was reading a recent survey by Price Water house Coopers, where they said that India was likely to win 10 medals ! - I think, the report is horribly wrong. I doubt it seriously even if they can win a single medal. Another sorry state of affairs indeed.

Anyway, its been quite sunny and pleasant out here. Time to go out and do some outdoor activities. We are trying to organize a picnic towards the end of the month - lets see how that goes. We saw Dev yesterday - I thought, the confrontation of Om Puri and Amitabh was simply fantastic. Wonder, why they haven't acted together too much !

I managed to upload the India snaps here - take a look at them whenever you guys have the time.

Till then,

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Art of Losing

The Indian Cricket Team is an enigma of sorts. Till today, I have never been able to say with 100 % confidence it would win the next game - even when it is playing against lowly placed nations such as Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Kenya etc. On one day, they play like champions and on another, they just end up pauper. The latter is exactly what happened in the Asia Cup finals, the last Sunday. It was quite frustrating to watch the team unable to chase a paltry total of 229 and that too for a team boasting of players such as Sachin, Dravid, Saurav, Laxman etc.

The presence of VVS in the 1-day team has always surprised me. Many might be up in arms against me when I say this, but his records just prove that. In 87 test innings, he has got 7 100s and 19 50s. Thats 26 50+ scores in 87 innings or 33%, which is quite good and almost similar to Tendulkar's performance (33 100s, 37 50s in 187 innings or 33%). But his 1-day performances are just not upto the mark - 6 100s and 9 50s in 73 matches or 16.5 %. On the other hand, Sachin is consistent with 37 100s and 69 50s in 330 matches or 33%. Also, VVS is just a specialist slip fielder (but still manages to spill catches regularly!) and a liability in other areas in the field.

I am not trying to point the blame of the defeat solely on VVS. Of course, he did spill a catch in the slips of Sangakarra. [I remember, he dropped 5 catches in the TVS cup finals too!]. The 1-day game needs different types of players, who know how to improvise. VVS is still in the classical mould. People like S.Sriram, Gautam Gambhir, Rohan Gavaskar are waiting in the wings and they should be given a fair chance.

India's record in the final is also baffling. Under Ganguly's leadership, they have reaced 13 finals and lost 10 ! - thats an alarming percentage and something to be worried about. Its time we come out of our World Cup honeymoon and look ahead. Other teams such as England, Sri Lanka and even Pakistan have taken the cue and moved ahead.

I know, its just the beginning of the season and so, all the players are still rusty. But then thats the demands of the game. Look at Tendulkar - he has been playing for 16 years and yet, he still is willing to innovate in his game - whether trying out his new leg spin, or bowling around the legs to Jayawardene, or batting a long subdued innings etc. I think, players all around the world should take a leaf out his career.

Thats it for now - its a period of momentary frustration and sadness. Another tournament will begin and my hopes shall rise once again. But then knowing the Indian team, I shouldn't be too surprised, if I am disappointed.

Yet, I still hope ...

Monday, August 02, 2004

First brushes with fame !

The last weekend has been my first brushes with fame.

Firstly, my name and email message [see below] were read out on Cricket Info Radio during the course of the Asia Cup Finals - Farooq Engineer, one of the most flamboyant cricketers was answering my questions. I thought, that was quite special indeed.

Secondly, my contribution to Rediff Diary was selected. It's not a big thing I guess - but its something that I shall treasure forever. Here is the link for the article whenever you have the time.

Email Message to Cricket Radio

Hello to the Commentary Team,

Firstly a very hearty congratulations for some excellent commentary. For a die-hard cricket fan such as me, sitting in California, this ismy best source of LIVE action. I have been all night listening to you guys.

I had a couple of questions to ask :

(1). What do you think of the Indian decision to play 3 seamers ondocile Sri Lankan pitches, where the ball is sure to spin ? - although the spinners have done a decent job till now, do you think that the inclusion of Kumble would have helped ? - i mean, he could have grabbed some more wickets and the total would have been worse !

(2). Farooq Engineer keeps telling about the threat that Murali possesses. I don't buy that completely. Firstly, he can only bowl 10 overs. Secondly, as you guys mentioned, Indians are fantastic players of spin. [remember, Shane Warne in India ?].

(3). However, what does bother me is that chasing in Premadasa is very difficult - dew and humidity will make the ball very slow. So, it will be difficult for our strokemakers. I believe that the first 15 overs will make the difference. What do you think ?

Hoping to hear my questions on the radio.