Friday, August 28, 2009

My graphics

I've joined a graphics course here where I let my imagination run wild. I managed to steal some of my creations on a pen-drive. Check them out and let me know what you think...

The intsructor had asked me to design a movie poster. I thought of creating my own movie first. I found a pic of Liz Hurley with a gun, a burning car and I had the movie storyline ready. Any buyers?






Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Obama Odyssey

Book: Dreams from my father - A story of race and inheritance
Author: Barack Obama
Publisher: Canongate
Pages: 442
Price: Rs 722

Reviewed by Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Mumbai Mirror on Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 03:05:11 PM

A picture of America's first coloured President makes for the cover of Dreams From My Father. Look closer and there's a tag that says, "His remarkable story in his own words". But this book is not about the Barack Obama, we all know. It’s about the other Barack Obama, the President’s father.

The author's 'story of race and inheritance' is an autobiographical narrative was first published in 1995 after Obama was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, but before his political career began. It traces his days back to Honolulu where he was born to Barack Obama Sr of Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Kansas. The book starts with a telephone call that Barack Obama Jr received on his 21st birthday. The call from an unknown aunt in Kenya announced that the he'd just lost his father. "At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me, both more and less than a man," the author writes.

It is from this point, Obama starts telling the story backwards. He talks of his early days in Hawai, where being 'mulatto' (of mixed race) didn't really matter. He talks about the stories his maternal grandparents told about his father - how he loved to dance and win people over. He follows it up with his memories of Indonesia - statues of Hanuman, boxing with his mother's Indonesian husband, battling chicken pox, the beggars and kite-flying with children of farmers, servants and low-level bureaucrats.

It was his return to the US for schooling in Hawaii and college in Los Angeles that changed his outlook. H realised he wasn't black and he certainly wasn't white. Torn between two worlds, he sought refuge in alcohol and smoke, reading books on black history. After a brief stint at Columbia, New York, he decided to work as an organiser and moved to Chicago to work among the black community there. Obama recounts the difficulty of the experience, as his programme faced resistance from entrenched community leaders and apathy on the part of the established bureaucracy. After three years, he decided he needed an education that would enable him to serve better those in need. He followed his father's footsteps to Harvard Law School and went on to become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

But before Harvard, Kenya beckoned him. Here begins the most interesting part of the book - Kenya. He travels to his grandfather's house in Alego and traces the history of the Obama clan with the help of his father's other wife and his half-siblings. It was in Kenya, he found the freedom he couldn't have in America. "For a span of weeks or months, you could experience that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it's supposed to grow... Here the world was black, and you were just you; you could discover all those things that were unique to your life without living a lie and committing betrayal," he writes. It was in Kenya, he rediscovered his father.

Obama says, "I saw that my life in America - the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I'd felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I had witnessed in Chicago - all of it connected to a small plot of earth an ocean away, connected more by the accident of a name or the colour of my skin. The pain I felt was my father's pain. My questions were my brothers' questions. Their struggle, my birthright."

Like his speeches, Obama's narrative too is lyrical. The book's not about racism or about the atrocities on African Americans. It exposes the dilemmas African Americans face in their day-to-day lives. Nearly all are born Americans and haven't been to Africa. Still, they fail to connect with the nation that has treated their ancestors worse than animals. There lives are governed by both history and destiny.

Obama's account is refreshingly honest. What makes the book really interesting is Obama's description of life in various places - Hawaii, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and of course, Kenya. It's an amazing story, beautifully told.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I've always wondered why 'loner' is akin to being anti-social. What others look at as "Pity, he/she doesn't have any friends", he or she may look at as solitude. Being alone is not so much of a bad thing at all.

Much as we would like to believe otherwise, we're recluses in our own worlds. We try to cover up for our inadequacies by looking for those in others. If we make four friends, we try to find someone who has just two so that we can claim to be more 'social' than them.

We hide behind walls from where we shoot our arrows at others and float bubbles of hope and love to the other side. Rarely do we care to open the door to peek out to see how the world receives us. It's human nature. We were formed in a womb - in an environment that protected us from all the ills of the world. The placenta may have been discarded the day we were born, but we still live in a womb of our own. It's our private universe, where even our most dearest ones are forbidden to enter. It's built of dreams, hopes, ambitions, grudges, phobias, anger and grief. Most of us might not even know of its existence.

Not until, someone tries to jump over the wall or persistently knock it down. It's not easy to let the wall fall. It's not a curtain that will fall at a tug or a mask you can remove. It's a wall and it takes time to break down - brick by brick... revealing more of what lies on the other side. Not everyone has the patience to wait. Most leave and the wall rebuilds, almost on its own, - with concrete in place of bricks this time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When I asked for it!

It wasn't hard for me to single Rachit out from the others at the CAT class. The motley included pseudo-intelligent engineers (at least that's what their degrees said) and smartass BCom graduates who believed that they already had a foothold in IIM.

Rachit came across as shy, though he tried hard to mix with the rest. By the end of the first class we attended together, I'd discovered that he was from Vadodara, Gujarat and was looking for some 'cool pals to hang out with' in Mumbai while he attended the CAT class. "That's me," I told myself. The next day, he asked me for my number. I was taken aback. Too much too soon, I thought. But then, maybe he just trying to make friends. I didn't oblige. At least, I didn't want to seem desperate.

Later, after the class, I watched him standing with a couple of classmates. I edged closer to him, waiting for him to look at me so that I could ask him out for a burger. He saw me coming, nodded and continued chatting with his pals. I thought the friends would take a hint and move over. But they didn't budge. I waited 10 minutes, then one friend left, thankfully. I turned to ask Rachit what he would be doing for dinner. "Well, I'll go with Gaurav to MacDonalds at Mumbai Central and then go home," Rachit said. He then climbed onto Gaurav's bike and said a polite goodbye. I was mortified. How the hell could he prefer a dinner with Gaurav instead of me?

In the next class, I chose to sit at the desk next to him, so that I could look at him from the corner of my eye, as he solved integration sums. Class dispersed, and the two of us started chatting. He told me he was going to Vadodara that night. He had to take a train from Mumbai Central at 11.30 pm. It was only 8 pm. He asked me if he could kill time somewhere. I pounced on the opportunity. "Well, there's a MacDonald's at Crossroads, just across the road. So you can go there. And if you don't mind, I'll come along with you. I'd like to kill some time too. And I might as well do it with you."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book: Solve Your Problems - The Birbal Way

Authors: Anita S R Vas, Luis S R Vas
Publisher: Pustak Mahal
Price: Rs 110
Pages: 200

Five centuries down the line, the Mughal minister’s wisdom and problem-solving abilities can still put managers to shame

Eisha Sarkar Posted on Mumbai Mirror on August 13

Wonder why management books are so ‘popular’? It’s because every MBA worth his or her name in salt would want to be seen carrying one, if not reading it. That also explains why most management books read the same or seem like they’re taking off from Philip Kotler, Eliyahu Goldratt, Osho and Edward de Bono. They tell you how to manage two things you believe you simply can’t handle – time and people. They tell you stories of successful people who’ve managed to shape their lives the way they’ve wanted to. But this is where Anita and Luis Vas differ… in the examples.

Instead of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the authors bring to life two men of great power and wit – Akbar, the Mughal Emperor and his minister Birbal who was known far and wide for his intelligence and problem-solving abilities.

"At a time when it is fashionable to identify various management and leadership styles with historical ad mythical personalities like Attila the Hun, Winnie the Pooh, Mulla Nasruddin, Confucius and Jesus Christ... we thought it would be appropriate to underscore the managerial wisdom and problem-solving principles, which Birbal's stories illustrate," the authors write in the book’s introduction.

Through the pages, the writers bring to life the emperor and his minister. With his wit and sense of humour, Birbal tackles all problems, conquering many hearts at once, including the emperor's and the reader's. He cooks khichri by hanging a pot five feet above a fire, adds Akbar's name to a list of fools the emperor asked him to draw up, suffers one half of 100 lashes so that a corrupt guard gets the other 'half of the prize', slaps another courtier when Akbar slaps him and answers some of Akbar's most stupid questions with astonishing reason.

The stories are interesting and seem completely fictional. In the book's introduction, the authors write, "The character of Akbar in these stories is rather far-fetched. But historically, Birbal is hardly talked about. It is not clear how many of the Birbal stories can really be attributed to Birbal. Many of these tales were probably invented by village storytellers over the ages and simply attributed to Birbal and Akbar because their characters seemed appropriate.... The tales served to boost the morale of the subjects of the Mughal Empire."

The stories are divided into two parts - a problem and Birbal's solution to the problem. You're expected to pause to think of a solution. The authors suggest it may help you to think creatively. At the end of each story, the authors have listed management morals that you learn from the story (in case you haven't figured them already!) At the end of the book, the authors have dutifully devised a technique, BIRBAL, which can help readers solve their problems. But don’t task yourself too much. Enjoy the book leisurely – piece by piece. Birbal’s humour is like vodka chocolate – it hits you only when you think it’s all over.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Viva Singapura!

With its dizzying heights, dazzling malls, food courts and metro, Singapore woos the Indian tourist

Eisha Sarkar

Posted on Mumbai Mirror on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 04:16:14 PM

Snazzy malls offering fabulous discounts, mouth-watering seafood delicacies at food courts, towering high-rises and a fantastic mass rapid transport (MRT) system that will make you never want to ride on a Mumbai local again - there's no place like Singapore in South East Asia that's worth the Indian traveller's money.

At home, miles away

Most Indian travellers look at Singapore as their first international travel destination. For one, applying for the visa is easy (it takes just three days and the process is online). Two, you don't really feel away from home once you're there. Singapore has a large Indian population. Tamil is one of the official languages. And Little India could make you feel like you're in Mumbai (though it’s a little cleaner!) Besides, it's one of the countries where you can change Indian rupees into local currency easily. It's easy for a first-time Indian traveller to relate to Singapore.

Where to stay

The options range from Swissotel - The Stamford (South East Asia's tallest hotel that costs $263 upwards for a room per night) to S$90-a-night at YMCA hostel at the posh Orchard Road. Ideally, book a place close to a metro station to make travel easy.

Shop, till you drop

Singapore is for shoppers. Step into the Changi International Airport and you’ll find stores selling everything from Scotch whiskey to Burberry bags to Nikon cameras. You can finish the trip's shopping in an hour at the airport but keep some for the city’s malls too. Check out the high-end leather goods and apparels at Tikashimaya and electronics at Sim Lim Square. For cheaper options try Chinatown where you’ll find an array of chopsticks, Chinese momentoes, statues, porcelain and silk pouches (you need to bargain really hard here) and Mustafa's at Little India for ‘everything else’.

Orchids in a cage!

Fancy posing for pictures with hairy primates and dolphins? Head to the Singapore Zoo. But if you want peace and greenery both, check out the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The idea of setting up a garden came about in 1822 when Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, developed the first Botanical and Experimental Garden. What you have here is the Swan Lake with two fidgety swans, a rainforest devoid of insects thanks to pest-control, a ginger and insect-digesting pitcher plants in the coolhouse. Entry to the gardens is free but you have to shell out S$5 to see the orchids in cages!

What's on your plate?

Have the stomach for authentic Chinese food? Well, you have a range of options from pig organ soup, frog leg soup to fish head soup. For those who’re less adventurous, the Chilli Crab is the best option. Eating the crab is an experience in itself. Have it in true Singaporean style - rip it apart from the joints, work on it with your incisors and molars and pile the remnants on the table itself. Also try out tiger prawns rolled in cereal (Cereal prawns).

Vegetarian options on the Chinese menu may be limited to seaweed and stir-fry vegetables. But there are fantastic options for desi food at Little India where you can get everything from biryani to dosa. There's also the Mango Tree at East Coast Road where you get lip-smacking avial, mango mapus and appams. Also try out the local fruits - rambutans (Singaporean litchis) and Durians (a much-relished smelly, fleshy fruit.)

No history, no culture

While the joyrides at Sentosa Island, Chinese operas at The Durian and S$11-a-dress sales at Vivo City are tourist attractions, where Singapore lacks is its history. There's the National Museum at Orchard Road where you can learn about the struggle for an independent Singapore and there is the St Andrews Church and the Town Hall near the Esplanade that were constructed by the British. But that's about it.
Singapore is more about commerce than culture, technology than humanity. The 60 km x 40 km island offers you limited freedom but limitless possibilities of attaining wealth, with which you can buy yourself the freedom to migrate to USA or Canada like rich Singaporeans. That’s the choice the locals have. As for tourists, they should be happy shopping!

What you should know...

1. Bottled water is expensive in Singapore (about S$2.80 for 500 ml) so ask for potable tap water at restaurants.

2. MRT buses and trains are the cheapest modes of transport. You get prepaid Ezy-Link swipe cards at metro stations.

3. Chewing gum is banned in Singapore and if you're caught carrying drugs, the penalty's death. Smoking in public is also not allowed.

4. Don’t J-walk at signals as plain clothes- policemen are always on the watch. The fine? S$100.