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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Aftermath of the 3rd India-Pak test at Bangalore

The third and final test between India and Pakistan ended yesterday at Bangalore. India needed to bat the whole of the last day with 10 wickets in hand and well, they couldn't manage to do that. In the end, it was a pretty morale-boosting victory for Pakistan. I watched the complete action of the final day's play and here are some of my obervations:

  1. India should have played their natural game throughout the day. When Veeru got out, India shut shop. That gave Pakistan an advantage - they knew that India was not going for the win and so they attacked like anything. They had 6 players around the bat on an average.

  2. The pitch was a mine field - the ball was almost turning square. Having said that, Indians, who are supposed to be great players of spin should have played it better. Of course, the fact that they were in a defensive mindset didn't help - it helped Pakistan to set aggressive fields - 6/7 players around the bat.

  3. Laxman and Saurav should not play test cricket for at least some more seasons.

  4. Even today, only Sachin seems to possess the best technique to play the turning ball with soft hands - others are just rank useless.

  5. I am always scared of Shahid Afridi and well, his performance just proves it. His whirlwind innings in the 2nd innings and more importantly, his aggressive bowling on the final day really helped Pakistan to clinch the match.

  6. All said and done, it was a day where your heart was in your mouth,especially with the ball turning like a snake during the last 2 sessions and Indians adopting a defensive attitude.

  7. I cannot believe how Saurav got out - that was just poor batting - in both innings and that too to leg spinners ! - god only knows what happened to him.

  8. Finally, I think the Pakistan team deserved the win - they fought harder. The last day's pitch might be really bad for batting, but "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar".

Postcards from Kolkata - March 29th, 2005

I arrived in Kolkata on March 25th from Trivandrum. The total flying time was around 5 hours - that is because there is no direct flight from Trivandrum to Kolkata and so, I had to fly via Mumbai. Appa and Amma had come to receive me at the airport and as usual, we were all thrilled to see each other. However, there was one noticeable differencethan last year - most of the time, the topic centered around Susmita :).

It has been good till now - meeting friends, relatives, in-laws etc. Unlike in Trivandrum, where it was mostly work, here it is mostly pleasure :). Also, since you are meeting your relatives most of the time, people keep asking about Susmita. That makes me feel her absence even more. Next time, I am not coming alone - that is for sure :) !

The weather in Kolkata has been quite good. It is hot but surprisingly it is not as humid as in Julyof last year. As I write this, there is a lovely breeze blowing and I can see some dark green cocunut and palm trees outside and hear some birds chirping. From the other window, I can also hear the car/bus horns blow trying its best to spoil the tranquility that I am trying to experience - India is indeed a wonderful place !.


Friday, March 25, 2005

More Postcards From Trivandrum - March 25th, 2005

My stay in Trivandrum is coming to an end. The stay has been quite good - i thinkI managed to do what I had set out to do. In the end, it was quite hectic - the work, the installation, the training etc - but I hope it is well worth it. We will onlyknow how much all this effort will bear fruit - I am confident that it will and I hope that I am proved right.

I stayed at Kutty's place - both Babu and Kutty made sure that my stay was extremely comfortable.Starting with the morning cup of coffee to the last cup of Payasam in the night, every detail was taken care of. I felt almost at home there. It would have been even better had Susmita been with me too - next time, I shall definitely take her to Kerala - it is a place to be seen and enjoyed.

However, this time, I hardly got time to go out and see places. The only place where I went was ashopping mall, where I bought a Malayam CD (of a new Mohanlal movie - Udayan Anantha ....). I also went to see the movie and surprisingly, I understood most of the movie. I guess, few thingssuch as love, emotions, music don't have any language - they will touch your heart no matter what.

I shall sign off on that note - it was been a pleasant stay in Trivandrum. The trip was shortbut the memories that I have shall live for long.

From God's own country,
See ya !

Monday, March 21, 2005

Trivandrum Diaries - 03/21/2005

Hello from God's own country !

I arrived in Trivandrum on Saturday night (19th). The flight was good, though I always feel why technological development has been done to reduce the flying time. A flying time of more than 24 hours is simply too much and it actually leaves you so very exhausted and jet-lagged. In order to make my journey more eventful, I normally spice it up by doing interesting things along the way - take a refreshing shower during my stay in S'Pore, have a sumptuous Indian lunch and of course, have a nice foot massage. After doing all this, I was ready to arrive in Trivandrum.

An interesting incident happened at the Trivandrum airport. The customs officer asked me what I had in the computer - I told him that I had a CPU and I told him that the value was < 30000 Rs. He said that I would have to pay the duty if it was more than 25000 Rs. Then I acted as if I was in thought and then told him that it was probably less than 25000 Rs now. On hearing this, he said that I was free to go. I KNEW that I was in India right at that time !!!

The Vitalect India gang, headed by KPN Kutty was there at the airport to receive me. Kutty extended his hospitality by giving me a room to stay in his house. Of course, along with the stay came the wonderful and delicious dinner and breakfast and lunch and _you_name_what. So far, I have felt that I have arrived at home. Only difference is that in this home, I have to work and not relax.

Work has been good so far. I have had my usual share of Indian infrastructure vagaries. BSNL had a strike yesterday and to make sure that everyone knows that they are on strike, they simply switched off our Internet connection at the office. Apparently, this is very common - seeing my frustration at this, my colleagues just smiled and somehow they managed to talk to the Support guys and told them to bring back our connection :). It is amazing indeed how some of the things work here. It is not the talent that is lacking here - it is the lack of infrastructure and in general, the people's attoitude towards the work that needs to be improved. That is why I felt that Swades was such a good movie - it never said that the solution was easy - it has to come from within.

One key aspect of this trip is that Susmita is not with me and that is quite tough. People say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, which is good indeed. The only thing is that we were both looking towards our 2 weeks off from classes but those 2 weeks were exactly when I came to India. Life is strange indeed.

Signing off,

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Blog Awards ...

By now, every other person has either heard of Blogging and / or has started to Blog him/herself. So, it comes as no surprise that we now have annual Blog Awards - i.e. awards for the best Blogs for the year. Here are more details on the event -

Cheers !

Friday, March 11, 2005

Swades - Shah Rukh Khan's best ?

As a habit, I don't take other's opinions before seeing a movie - especially, if it is a movie that I want to see or if it contains my favorite stars. In the past, when I have listened to other's opinions, I have either felt miserable after seeing a very highly recommended movie or felt great after seeing a movie which was considered absolute rubbish by others. In some sense, it does make sense too - after all, how will anyone else know what I will like. Of course, if some calls some of the crap that Bollywood or Hollywood churn out as bad, then of course, there is no argument.

Curiously enough, I went against my habit and listened to other's opinions on Swades. Many of the people that I had talked to didn't have too good an opinion on it - too long, too preachy, why do they have to show the same thing again and again etc and etc. Also the box-office records were poor for the film and that just confirmed the belief that the movie was bad.

But when I watched the movie, I was in for a real pleasant surprise. The movie was not only good - it was excellent. The topic was good, the acting was good, the music was good, the romance was good. In fact, I could identify with the protagonist Mohan Bhargava to a large extent. I think Shah Rukh Khan might have given the performance of his life - the wide emotions that he displays especially when he feels the awakening inside him that something has to be done for India and that sitting in a corner and hoping that things will happen will actually not solve anything, are just too good. He is not his normal 'Kkkkkiiirrroooon' self here - he is quite mellow and gives a performance that befits the role of a NASA scientist without going overboard. I must also complement Ashutosh Gowarikar who, instead of jumping on the Lagaan bandwagon, decided to pursue a story that is so pertinent today, especially with the reverse brain drain happening.

There is a saying that a director's vision is successful if it can be proved that it has touched the heart of at least one viewer - well, it has mine for sure. Of course, the movie could have been made shorter by not preaching about India and how backward some sections of the country are. It does drag in such places - but if you overlook that and look at the concept in general, I think it is an honest effort and after seeing it, I am sure all of us (especially those staying abroad) will want to do something similar to Mohan Bhargava.

Ye jo des ha tera Swades hai tera ... tujhe hai pukara ...

Man ! - the lyrics by Javed Akhtar and the music score by Rahman are also haunting !

Check it out whenever you can !

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Contact List for New Home Buyers

When we bought our home, I realized that there is lot of material on the Internet to study and do research on. Of course, Susmita used to do the research - that is a different matter altogether :). But I also realized that at the end, I realized that you have to communicate with a human being anyway. So, we had to talk to a lot of friends and family (who have bought homes) and get the contact information about real estate agents, loan agents, movers etc. I thought that I might put down the contact numbers that we gathered during our home hunt. Use this if you enter the "house" rush !

(1). Real Estate Agents

Practically, anything you do for buying a house has to go through a licensed Realtor or Real Estate Agent. We worked with a couple of agents from Remax :

Simon Kiang (Ph : 1-510-938-1898, Website : http://www.simonkiang.com/index.shtml)
Stephen Ung (Ph : 1-510-585-6942)

Simon runs the business and so, we interacted mostly with Stephen - they were both very very helpful and extremely good.

(2). Loan Agents

Normally, you would contact a Loan Agent / Company 2 times during the house buying process. The first would be to "pre-approve" you for the loan for the amount that you would want to take. This is not a commitment that you are going to take the loan from that place. This can actually be done quicker online and we used E-Loan for this purpose.

The second time and probably the most important time when one would need a Loan Agent / Company is when you actually need the money - i.e. after you have finalized on the house and you have won your bid :). We got in touch with a coupld of loan agents - some did not give us good rates, some were not good and some didn't give us enough time. In the end, we decided to go with Sherry Shah (Ph - 1-408-396-9906) from Baycal Financials, who was recommended by our friends Abhijit and Paro - it turned out to be an excellent choice. She gave us good rates, took time to explain everything clearly and to cap it all, gave us a discount too.

(3). Movers

During the course of stay in our Mountain View apartment, we had collected a fair bit of furniture. So, moving on our own was certainly out of the question. Hence, we had to look out for good and cheap movers ! After talking to a few Mexican and mostly Chinese movers, we zeroed in on the one who offered us the cheapest rates. Of course, my Boss had used their services and he was happy with their service. He had warned me about their total lack of communication skills and that it was very difficult to understand what they spoke. He was absolutely right ! - but they did a good job and helped us move in within 4 hours. You can contact them at 1-510-623-1647.

Hope this information is of some use to some one who is planning to buy a home !

Cheers !

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The "Drive" to Work

As we gradually settle down into our new home, I have definitely realized one important thing. The commute to my office is not going to be as short or as smooth as it was before, when we stayed just a couple of miles away from my office. But then you can't have the cake and eat it too.

But then, I don't really hate driving - this gives me a fantastic opportunity to listen to my CD collection, which was gathering dust, thanks to work and classes and quite a hectic day schedule. So, I am going to use my "Drive" to Work as an opportunity to catch up on my old CDs. I have started with my Mohd. Rafi collection, which I had originally created for my Dad, but which I eventually didn't part with :).

Hopefully, life should sound like music to my ears now !

Till then !

Thursday, March 03, 2005

New Google Technologies

In one of the articles that my Boss forwarded to me, I found references to 2 new technologies coming from up from Google. Here is a brief summary:

http://maps.google.com/ - Interesting representation of maps, driving directions, place of any destination on the map with a top-down view.

http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en - This is Google Suggest, which helps you to find what you want in real-time. For example, if you are looking for Sachin Tendulkar, then once you type in Sachin, then it will automatically show you the possible Searches that begin with Sachin. Needless to say, the most popular ones will be at the top. As expected, Sachin Tendulkar does come up at the top :).


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Pakistan in India

The Pakistan tour of India is almost going to start - as usual, we have the normal controversies surrounding any tour - television rights, travel arrangements, changes to the itenaries etc. This has kind of become a practice with the BCCI to leave things hanging till the very end. I wonder why BCCI, one of the richest organizations in the country, cannot hire the best managers in the country to run the organization - anyway, that is not what I want to talk about. To talk about BCCI and how it can improve will probably need a separate cookbook altogether !

The Pakis have arrived sans their strike bowler Shoaib Akhtar. I don't think that will make too much of a difference - India treated him without respect the last time these two teams met. The one bowler to watch out for in the Pakistan team is Danish Kaneria - he is a wily leg-spinner who seems to be getting better with every match. In the batting department, of course, the main people that India will target are Inzi and Youhana. That does not mean that the others are not good - it is just that many of them are inconsistent and also young and inexperienced. For all you know, this series might see the blossoming of Salman Butt, Taufeeq Umar, Yasir Hameed, Naved Rana etc into world class players.

The Indians have their own set of problems in the bowling department. Zaheer Khan is far from his best, Pathan/Nehra/Balaji are all coming back from injury, Harbhajan is still smarting from his suspect-action accusation. The only bowler who seems to be reliable is the old warhorse Kumble. It will be very interesting how Kumble will bowl to the Pakis - actually, it also depends a lot on the type of pitches that India will offer. In the batting department, I thought Kaif was unlucky to have been dropped - but then, such is the batting strength of India that it is tough to get in. Hopefully, the famed batting line-up will live up to its reputation.

Mohali and Kolkata, the venues for the first 2 tests, are definitely going to assist seam and pace - in fact, Shoaib would have been a great advantage in Mohali. But Bangalore is a square turner - that is for sure. I don't know whether this is a good strategy - India's strength is spin and so, they should play to their strength. Put up a healthy score and leave it to the spinners to do the damage.

It is going to be a very closely fought series. Pakis have just returned from Australia after learning a trick or two from the World Champions. Indians are fresh after a good break (and hopefully not rusty). I am sure both the teams must be raring to go after each other in the cricket field. So what's the wait for - BRING IT ON !