Friday, February 27, 2009


One of the many reasons why car-pooling won’t quite work for me is that I am too whimsical with the radio while driving. I don’t have TV as part of my family since that thing enslaves me. An hour spent in two parts listening to the radio while commuting between office and home is my only source of passive entertainment.

Radio-Indigo, FM 91.9: Amongst all the channels in Bangalore, this one suits me the finest. I love the daily stock market update when RJ Meghna calls up their stock market expert. My heart goes out for her. She usually starts with a witty line depending on that day’s events, like “Mr. Ahuja, Are the stock markets going to make us millionaire too?” when Slumdog won Oscars.

A pretty flat toned reply comes from the other end and then he straightaway gets on with the updates “The markets are seen up/down due to global cues. * ABC is at X. * BCA seems to be doing well due to the new regulations. * CBA is coming up with new product. * Inflation numbers are at low at Y%. * …” .

Now replace all the * with Meghna’s disinterested “OK” and “Umhmm”. Mostly there are 4 OKs and 5 Umhmms, in no specific order, which makes for a good guessing game. That man could as well have been telling the scores of a Test match between Baroda and Railways. You can almost feel the relief in her voice when she hurriedly thanks him in the end, “Alright Mr. Ahuja, THANK YOU VERY MUCH”. Many times she has to ask a question related to one of his updates and at the same time concerning the financially illiterate common man; in this case she would say, “So finally we can eat vegetables now, hee hee .”

Radio One, FM 94.3: This is the only channel which continuously plays Hindi music, but it’s too mass-oriented and marred with very long breaks. I can recite all the ads including the ones in Kannada without understanding a word. In the evening there’s this request show in which the lady RJ repeats “How sweet/cute” to all the callers. Imagine listening to a tired software engineer telling “I am returning from my office” and then the response “So sweet”, especially when you too are returning from the office after a hectic day. I admit though that I couldn't have done any better than her in long term.

The greatest insult to your intelligence is done when they air celebrity interviews which are obviously already recorded and of course not taken by their RJs. They try to build up the excitement hours before the interview, then they actually let us hear Katrina’s phone ring and in between the pauses that Katrina takes while talking, they provide fillers like “Yes, Katrina, we all do that.”

However, the most annoying part is when they play a song with Punjabi touch like “Uncha Lamba Kadd” . When the song is about to begin, the RJ Prithvi, in his josh, blurts out something on the lines of Oye Sonniye, Haai Kudiye ,Mar jaavan..” in a horrible imitation of northie accent. My Gurgaon born Vinnie shudders at those sounds; her childhood memories are so timidly molested.

All India Radio (AIR) Channels: Let’s start with the irritating bits first in continuation with the cribbing I’ve done so far. Most of private radio channels have pretty catchy brand music/song. They have their tag lines too like “Radio Mirchi, It’s HOT”, “FM 94.30, the Station For The Fatafat Generation” or "Radio Indigo, The Color Of Music" and you can clearly sense the hard work gone into creating these and ensuring that everything together present a coherent image to the listeners. Here’s what our Sarkaari channel FM Rainbow has to offer: A girl sings, just like a kindergarten kid would, “FM Rainbow Aaha , FM Rainbow Aaha”, twice, with no background music to speak of.

Then there are these poll/request kind of programs. The private channels come up with questions like “What would you do if the man you've been dating for two years tells you that he actually wears a wig?” or something contextual like “How safe do you feel the next day whenever there is a Bomb Hoax in Bangalore?”. You can see that they TRY.

Sometimes back this is what I heard on one of the national channels, in a fake American accent, and even shallower deep voice “I have a very interesting question today for you. What you would ask for if a Jinnie, you know the Aladdin Jinnie, grants you three wishes. Please sms to xyz number. Now listen to the song Mahi-Ve”. Then they went on to play Mind-blowing Mahia. That song too got interrupted all of a sudden. There’s simply no attempt towards creativity and there are just too many mistakes to ignore.

Meanwhile someone in fact replied to the above question. I was surprised to hear that. So now our RJ goes “We have a very funny reply from number ending with 666. His first wish is a hundred Armani Suits. What would you do with these many suits? Haa haa. His second wish is a Ferrari car. And his third wish is a big house”. You wonder whether the sender was sarcastic enough to send the apt reply to the ordinary question. Our dear RJ found it very funny though.

However, the programs on Vivid-bharti are very genuine. Their target audiences are small towns and villages, the three fourth of India. The requests come to them in form of hand written letters and the language is totally earthy and unpretentious.

Personal favorites are “Fauji Bhaiyon ke liye”, a program where mostly the requests from soldiers are entertained and “Sakhi-Saheli”, a program for housewives in the afternoon, where they discuss domestic issues and homely tips like how to prepare pickles, what are the benefits of sending girls to the school, how to handle family finance and save money, how they celebrate Holi. You realize that these things are not as simple as they sound and such programs are very much needed for the entertainment and information they provide. The best thing is that everything is so real.

When I hear “Jhumka Gira re” is requested by Billu, Tinku, Jamuna, Suman from Nagda, Nafeez, Tinu, Babu from Betiya.., I slip into nostalgia. As a child I had a peculiar insomniac condition of not being able to sleep in the afternoon (which is now getting compensated for). While my mom and younger brother used to sleep, I would be listening to the radio waiting for a request from Dewas. The other times I would just play cards by myself or would kill the passers by with my gun as the radio played. Of course this was before we had a TV.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Think Therefore I am

Don't know why, but I find myself in an academic mood today. Please pardon me for these feeble attempts at explaining things that are too profound for a novice to declare command over. Nevertheless, it can be seen as an interesting challenge to be able to put the terms in a layman's language.

Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) .This is a logical statement. It's not your regular wisecrack or an inspirational saying like "I believe, so I will. ", but a conclusion arrived at with much deliberation and analysis. The great philosopher Descartes spent years in seclusion, clearing up his mind of previously acquired wisdom, to come up with his Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences.

The mindless adoption of the statement in puns and quips on TV and in everyday life goes to show how knowledge/things are taken for granted once they are created and ready to use. A classical example is "Zero". It took millenniums and civilizations, before "Zero" was "invented" and now we find it hard to even imagine that "Zero" was something which needed to be "invented”. To us, it now appears to be such a trivial concept that we put it in the syllabus for kindergartens. Please do read this link to appreciate the sweat gone into creating "Zero".

Returning to the topic of the day, why does "I think" conclude that "I am”? Why didn't he make a statement like "I breathe, therefore I am"? To get the answers, one must first know what the need for the statement was.

One of my friends is partially color-blind. The day we discovered his "condition", we were arguing over the color of a flag on a temple about half a km away; he claimed it was green while to me it was orange. Thankfully enough, a couple of other guys joined us and we won 3-1. Later on, that friend had a check-up done and the "condition" was diagnosed.

Still, the whole episode left me wondering, what if someone identifies a color as green, but the shade he perceives is what looks orange to me; and vice versa. The problem with my friend was that he saw both of them as one color which he called green. However, it seemed perfectly plausible that some other person perceives the color-spectrum in a different way like the way we do when we wear colored goggles; what if someone would have put a colored goggle on me right from the time I was born. I wouldn't have been diagnoised with color-blindness since I would have still distinguisehd between all the colors; just that the perception would have been different. Is there one "true" perception?

Descartes noticed many such inconsistencies around him. Then there were questions like what if reality as it appears to us is a dream too. Am I just a part of someone else's dream or imagination? Or things and people around me are nothing but creation of my mind.

So he decided to build a system based on reasoning alone and devised a few rules to help him do that. One of the most important rules is known as "Cartesian Doubt", which, in his own translated words, is to "reject as absolutely false everything concerning which I could imagine the least doubt to exist.” This explains why he cannot start with "I breathe, therefore I am". To make this statement, one must first define what is breathing. That would involve defining nose, air, lungs, life etc. Not an ideal way to begin. He doubted everything he perceived and nose was definitely amongst them.

Once again he beautifully explains: “considering that all the thoughts we have when awake can come to us also when we sleep without any of them being true, I resolved to feign that everything which had ever entered my mind was no more truth than the illusion of my dreams. But I observed that, while I was thus resolved to feign that everything was false, I who thought must of necessity be somewhat; and remarking this truth--I think, therefore I am--was so firm and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions of the skeptics were unable to shake it, I judged that I could unhesitatingly accept it as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking."

So there. That's why it is "I think" and not "I breathe" or "I sleep". Thinking is the first and only activity that is self-evident,verifiable and not needing a definition.

One must be careful here; the above reasoning does not allow me to conclude that Priyanka Chopra exists because she thinks. For me, she is an external being, a perception and hence may be part of an illusion. A lot more reasoning and arguments than the one involved in reaching this first principle is required to even start considering Priyanka Chopra's existence. However, when and if she is thinking, then she too can be sure of her existence only. I am afraid that even after establishing further principles, I won't be existing for her.

Another point to be noted here is that the reasoning involved to reach the statement, or the first principle as it is called, just means that "I" that is proven to be existing here is something that is thinking and not necessarily the "Prashant Dhanke" as I know him to be; in fact that existing, thinking thing is not even established to be a human being. Many more principles need to be established and reasoned before such complex statements can be discussed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

In Praise Of Routine And In Glory Of Life

The skin is getting its colour back. The blood is pure red now; gallons of alcohol have drained off. Sometimes though, the eyes yearn for the watery horizon. The waves bring a million messages from the end of the world. The meanings and interpretations they represent are overwhelming. I can't wait to write about my conversations with them. But not now.

Now is the time to get out of the Goa hangover and get on with daily life, the reality, the one that sustains, the one that allows for such dreamy patches and so resolutely absorbs randomness. If it wasn't for the half an hour of Yoga and other health practices that each day of my routine life follows, I wouldn't have been able to ride the mighty horses eight days in a row with less than four hours of sleep and more than the same number of beers.

The efficiency and strengths of a disciplined life are enormous. I almost surprised myself last Monday by reporting to office half an hour earlier than usual, full of verve and all prim and proper in my formals ,very much unlike the half naked drunken wanderer in Goa just a day ago. I dig formals to death at workplace .On Fridays, it's easy to spot me in the office even if you don't know me; I would be the only man in the entire office with polished black shoes. I pay my bills at least two weeks in advance, the reason I was able to stay unexpectedly longer towards the end of the month without worrying about defaults. My car never runs out of fuel, there is always some money in my wallet, I always carry a spare pair of spects and almost always have a backup plan for even the silliest things I intend to do e.g. getting a haircut.

I shall not bore you further with all the optimizations done for making daily life easier and hence thoughts richer; some of them are heart wrenching. Let me just give an example and move on : while booking the air-tickets I always select the window seat numbered F rather than A, so that I could lean on my right hand for sleeping. Someone told me that my face looks less uglier from left side; so this helps too.

However, point is that an organised day-to-day life allows one to enjoy vacations and other deviations in better ways; but due to thinking and talking about Goa the entire last week, I am not able to get back into that rhythm of the routine. My body, mind and soul thrive on those patterns. That is the reason why I have decided to give a very short break to talking and blogging about the Goa trip and it's experiences and concentrate on other aspects for a while.

Still, I miss the lonely walks late in the nights. One can't go for a walk at two past midnight in Bangalore. I used to do that some times during my undergrad days at IIT Kharagpur. Yesterday I came across the video at this link, which left me with wonderful memories of those days. Yes, I agree that it doesn't do justice to the video of "Where the hell is Matt", but that's not the purpose anyway; just watch it for nostalgia.

The song played during the video is “Praan” by Gary Schyman, and the lyrics are from the poem "The Stream of Life" by Rabindranath Tagore. Below is the translation. One can so relate to the feelings when one stands watching the endless sea under the dark starry sky, and then the waves come, one after the other, and then the most youthful of them reaches out and slowly envelops the feet, bringing one out of numbness; heavenly is the touch of life, coming straight from the source and the infinity . Here goes the poem :

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A few Snaps of the trip in Goa

Here are a few snaps. I am waiting for more from friends who may be kind enough to mail them at if at all they are reading this blog.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Goa Trip : Introduction

So how was the trip ?

Words one expects to hear are : "Awesome", "Fantastic"," Disaster" ...
I am going to use similar words in a chain of posts devoted to Goa, but if there has to be an answer in as little word as possible, then I needn't utter a single word. The trip was planned for 4 days, but I ended up staying for 8 days. Action has, once again, roared louder than words.

I would be writing quite a few posts on the trip; this post is just to give an overview. The trip can be divided into two parts. The first 4 days (the planned ones) when Chitto was there with me and the last 4, when I stayed back and wandered around alone.

God has painted Goa a million times more colorful. Life and people are very different and even more interesting. And then there is the Sea: blue,benevolent, vast and playful. Of course, it is the troop of beaches that run the economy, but you've got to visit the place to see how charmingly humble the Sea is when it allows the land and its inhabitants to shine through.

I feel that right now I am too tired to do justice to the romance of the place, so let me quickly write down an unordered and incomprehensive list of things I would be talking about in weeks to come :

1. Experiences in the mighty Sea.

2. Beaches and the shacks.

3. Bike rides and water sports.

4. Excellent food and the drinks. (I didn't have a single meal sans alcohol for over 8 days).

5. The drunken walks on the streets and sea-shore late(very) at night. Sometimes I pictured myself as a lost soul, the other times as a warrior, or someone leaving Las Vegas, or...

6. Stay at the resort. Each hotel staff is a story in himself. Very friendly and interesting bunch.

7. People I met. This is going to be my favorite part.
There was this lunatic Russian; two Spanish ladies carrying their own paragliding kit ( pretty heavy); a Polish Kid on a beach who took a liking to me; people I met at the Titto's (the most over-rated place in Goa) and on the streets; another naughty kid Louise at the resort; the musicians who would come and play at the bar in the evenings; and then there were these three lovely ladies from UK , each prettier than the other, who soon became the life of the resort. The hotel staff named them "Pariyan", I prefer "Butterflies"; more colorful and yet so real.

8. Culture, tourists, haggling and miscellaneous.

Despite the excesses of the last week, my body( which is bronze now) isn't tired at all; but my brain is. Once I get in the groove, the detailed posts on each topics should be much more exciting and would do justice to the one heck of a trip I had.

Right now, all I need is some sleep; from one dream to another.