May 30, 2006

Ek lambisi love story :)

Fact: Everything I say here is true

Act 1 -- 645 Baldwin Hall, University of Cincinnati

I stared resolutely ahead willing myself to concentrate on what Dr.R was saying, forcing myself not to sneak a peek to my right. I could feel his gaze burn on my cheek. Against my better judgement I peered at him. There they were, his beautiful auburn eyes fixed on my face and an amused smile gracing his lips. I groaned inwardly. It had happened again. The last time it'd happened I'd promised myself to be more careful. Now all those oh-so-nothing smiles and inconsequential 'hi's' had been misinterpreted once again as a window to try and have a fling with me, if nothing less. I had to put an end to this.

His name was some Jaime 'Unpronounceable' and was from Spain. He was my classmate in the BioMEMS class and all through the quarter, we'd hardly exchanged more words than a 'Hi..' or 'How was your holiday?' But me being me, midway through the quarter I'd helped him with some homework and because he seemed shy, I'd coaxed him into a few conversations. He spoke very nice English and was one of those intellectual European men you kept hearing about, but seldom saw. And now, my normality had once again been misinrepreted. The guy probably thought I had a crush on him!

Well, I had to salvage whatever little pride I had! And right through class I mentally rehearsed what had to be told..."We'll pick up from here on Thursday." Dr R's voice interrupted my thoughts, signalling the end of class. The class started bustling with people waking up and strolling towards the door. As I thought he would, he lingered around and I waved Ashwin to leave too as I hung back too. In less than a minute, we were the only two left behind.
"Hi..." I began tentatively. He beamed at me.
"Finally, I have solved the puzzle." He said.
"You look like the girl my Indian friend has a portrait of." He declared.
My rehearsed speech flew out of the window. This was the last thing I ever expected and words failed me.
"Your friend drew it or has it?" I asked as if the answer made any difference.
"I don't know... He was my roommate back in Madrid in my undergraduate study."
Unintentionally, my heart started racing.
"Where's he now? Are you in touch with him?"
"He's in San Francisco, I think.."

Act 2 -- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The wind was chilly.. I pulled my jacket snugger around myself. My hair was going haywire. But I was supposed to meet Mr.X who made my portrait here. Jamie 'Unpronounceable' had been tardy with the details. He thought it would be romantic to set me up with the guy... And he just asked me to wait at the 5th girder of the golden gate bridge on this day. As I waited in hardly controllable excitement, a young, tall, langly black kid walked up to me and
"Are you Shaya?" I assumed that was the way he said Jaya.
"Some dude asked me to give you this note.."

The note was vague -- TAKE THE ALCATRAZ CRUISE

What the hell? Here I was, all the way over to the west coast from where I lived, just to unravel this stupid mystery which was prolonging forever. I supposed the guy would meet me on the boat... Wrong again. I did the cruise by myself. As we rounded the Alcatraz, I was lost as to what was happening. The boat ride itself was a pleasure, the wind blowing us away almost... To top it all, they had these gypsies with caged parrots... I ambled over to the parrots which were talking happily (sounds that made no sense to them... words that did make sense to us!) One was a particularly beautiful and reminded of my own 'Pintu' who could say 'Pappi' (my nic). This one started screeching as I went near it... I backed up a little... But in crystal clear words, it looked me right in the eye and said "Go to MarieMont". And he repeated it like a mantra... It was unbelievable. The gypsy woman who trained the parrots looked at me in wonder.
"He's never said anything I havent taught him"
I was left speechless. What could this mean?? MarieMont was this beautiful locality back in Cincinnati... And this had to be a huge practical joke... Having lured me from one coast to the other, this stupid parrot was sending me back! With no sign of Mr.X, I had to go back anyways! Men Suck!

Act 3 -- MarieMont, Cincinnati

The place was just as I had remembered it. I knew of it from my busride to Milford. Its a quaint little town, content in itself... a tiny mall, a high school, a church, gardens, a fountain.. just perfect. I wandered aimlessly. The leaves rustled.. I found myself walking towards the beautiful fountain that formed the fountain square of MarieMont... It has a statue of this man and woman, of Greek times I assume, entwined amongst vines and frozen in a dance step... It was highly romantic... I groaned inwardly and closed my eyes... After everything, the guy was going to turn out to be a loser... If there weren't more steps in the 'guy-hunt'. I mean which sane guy had the time to plan such a rendezvous? And I didnt even know if I was right on track.. What if I'd misinterpreted the parrot as a clue? Surely, that was unplanned? I was a little more wary now... This was all sooo wrong...

Then I don't know why, I felt I had to look up... And I did... There he was, at a distance, walking from the far edge of the garden, towards fountain square...I stood up... This was it... And as if to make the moment significant, the church bells started chiming... They chimed n chimed... And wait a second.. was there something wrong?

Act 4 -- Riddle Road, Cincinnati

8.26 am... Tuesday Morning


Another movie review... Again unwarranted... This time, I must impress on all you folks that untill I saw the movie, the only thing I knew about it was its starcast! So, all the opinions formed are mine... And if I have anyone to blame for expecting too much, its my bro... who gave me high hopes by saying that Kajol looked stunning and it was her best performance to date... That Aamir was his usual self... That though the movie was slow, it was good. So, here goes..

The movie began at the pace that normal life goes... They could probably represent 24 hours as 24 hours which goes to say, yes, it was slow! And Kajol did look gorgeous and Aamir looked drunk (I mean we all know he's no longer the chocolate boy we drooled over) but the bags beneath his eyes suggested he'd aged 10 years in a day... (Aamir fans like me can relax - he looks better as the movie progresses)

The one major underlying thing I never understood was the romance between the two. They are both Kashmiri Muslims... And she's blind.. And her parents (rishi kapoor and Kiron Kher) are more liberal than the most modern of Indian parents (I mean which parent tells a blind daughter she better go to Delhi to find her Shehzada??) And well, the love itself.. How did it happen? He seems like a street tapori at start and the 'shayars' after a stage are unbearable and have the audience around ranting some of their own (believe me that makes it even more difficult on what seems to be a boring movie!) And in no time, they've hooked up... Three dates later, they've slept together! (India must be bleeding tears for its culture) And as in all movies - One time is once too many... Ofcourse she gets pregnant! Everytime there's a hint of a romance, you can hear ARR crooning 'SubhanAllah' in the backdrop and after a stage, we started singing 'SubhanAllah' when we thought it was romantic... Cruelly, it never featured onscreen!

Then comes the transformation... The Tapori becomes a Terrorist.. He stages his death to his blind girlfiend (who he thankfully gets operated for her blindness and eventually cured -- This makes you wonder if the affluent parents had adopted her, having not thought of surgery for their daugther themselves) And the long-locks Aamir (going by the character name Rehan - u hear soo much of it) gives way to a crewcut terrorist in Indian army uniform. The mission ofcourse has been tried and tested - a series of bombs that can explode lakhs of people, that can be triggered by 12 identical 'triggers'. Our hero (well, villain if you insist) is on the snow, dodging the many snipers and copters chasing one man. Ofcourse these actual 'army' men have been put to task by Tabu. What prompted her to take such a lame role is beyond my imagination. She's the officer-in-charge of the operation to chase down Rehan. If Rehan was for real, he'd make India proud at the Olympics with his sureshot.. with a single pistol and a single shot, he can gun down copters.. while the poor Indian army, equipped with machine guns just about manages to wound him slightly.

As Fate would have it, the wounded 'hero' in the snow blizzard seeks solace at a solitary wooden mansion amidst the snow... And who must open the door... SubhanAllah!

His now-seeing gf obviously doesnt recognize him (she must've gotten her ears operated as well coz she cant recognize his voice either!) Their kid, now 5, is also called Rehan.. He's a cutie most of the time but can get on your nerves some other... Progressing with the crawling story, finally Aamir confesses that he is Rehan and to cut a long story short, they get married. Shortly after, a news item on NDTV speaks of our terrorist and slaps the 'trigger' in possession with him as an identity. And guess who must come across the trigger in Rehan's jacket pocket (thats such an innovative place to hide such an important thing) but Rishi daddy! He conceals his knowledge just enough to drive Rehan to a fellow officer's house before confronting him. In a 2 minute sequence, before you can follow whats happening, Rishi falls off the cliff by accident! But this is what clinches it... By the time Aamir informs his fellow terrorists he is safe and so is the trigger and is back downhill home, Rishi's body travels in a glacier of ice and finds itself lodged right in his backyard where his daughter (Kajol) sees everything and pieces the story together!!! AMAZING!

The climax ofcourse is dramatic... Kajol tries to flee with her son from her terrorist hubby... And cutting a huge sequence down, begs him to surrender. When he refuses and walks towards his granddad (bada terrorist) to hand over the 'trigger', Kajol begs him once more and resolutely guns him down....


Final verdict: 4/10 The story was soo confused... At times, they tried to make it an undying love story and at others, some patriotism-spangled affair... The end product is a confused mess, giving importance to neither... This is Kajol's comeback movie... She's not lost her touch and this performance will work for her... Why Aamir did this movie is questionable.. I guess SRK couldnt be a terrorist if he wanted to.. Tabu - what a waste of talent... Case rested.

May 22, 2006

Da Vinci Code -- decoded!

Disclaimer: Unknowingly there maybe some spoilers here.. If you have read the book or seen the movie, don't bother... If not, you can wait to read this one!

Ok.. here I am at last obliging the many requests to write a review about the most-anticipated movie of the year... Finally it was opening night on Friday and I was about to see the movie I'd waited for about an year.. I've never quite seen AMC this overflowing... we were a bunch of 8 and we couldnt find any seating together, however close to the screen.. And so we split up and sat where we could... Having heard the critics review at Cannes, I'd dipped my expectations of the movie to a rock-bottom and now all I wanted to do was enjoy the adaptation...

It began... At the outset, in the first 15 minutes of the movie, I can probably point out some 30 things that deviated from the book.. not trivial.. not major... but to the book's fan, a definite minus point, especially because one couldnt explain why Langdon would be a suspect to Fache if he was interrupted by Collet at the lecture around the time of the murder! Didn't make sense! Putting that behind you would be a smart idea and let you enjoy the rest of the movie..

For most part in the first half, things move real fast and as someone who'd read the book more than once, I didnt understand how people who hadnt read it would warm up to the pace in the movie... But I had more things to think about.. Tom Hanks is an awesome star, but looked a little bit too old even for Langdon's character who is about 40... And Audrey was a near-perfect fit for Sophie, who's also French... And it all gelled, except that as my roommate put it, the two stars were a bit too 'deadpan' in their expressions... But then, its no secret that both the book and the movie are all about the plot that unfolds and performances could be compromised for the events that were unravelling...

After Teabing (Ian McKellen - Gandalf in LOTR) came onscreen, no one else stood a chance.. The casting was sooo perfect and he was brilliant and totally stole the show.. It was captivating and the sequence that I got a little bored in the book (the Grail explanation to Sophie by Robert n Teabing) was shown far more interesting in the movie.. And the screenplay was good in particular... The way they decoded the 'Last Supper', the way they enlightened the blade n chalice.. And in general, the way the movie flashbacks abruptly in a newspaper print fashion was particularly brilliant...

The movie gained pace and before you knew it, they had the cryptex (which is pleasingly exactly what one would have imagined it to be -- no disappointments here). But they did eat away the dual cryptex concept and simplistically stuck to just one (The SOFIA thingie was ignored). As the plot thickened, what amazed me the most was the exact locations that the movie was shot at... Here credit is due to Dan Brown himself for having made lucid descriptions of all those churches and otherwise as they unfolded in 'flesh n blood' in the movie and were exactly as I had imagined... They were breathtaking...

Another amazing facet of the movie was the 'makeup'. Silas' bloodied back and punctured thigh (from the cilice) couldnt have been more perfect if he'd really punctured it! Bloody, yet brilliant! And the sudden attacks that he made was terriffic shock elements that startled almost everyone... You knew it was coming.. yet not the way it did! At this juncture I must mention that some facts felt twisted --
1) The connection between Fache n Aringarosa was revealed too early
2) Aringarosa was shown a bad guy
3) They overstretched the well-shaft incident for Langdon bringing in some Christ belief, etc...

After the 'APPLE' cryptex got open, someone like me would remember the book ending in a few chapters and 20 pages at the most. The movie however dragged one full half hour after that... I couldnt take it at that point.. It felt like it went on forever... There were some unnecessary scenes of Langdon enlightening Sophie at a basement library (which isnt there in the book)..

Here I must mention that the last scene, where Langdon realises where the sacrophagus of Mary Magdalene is, is one of the best shot scenes in any movie.. The way the camera takes you right to the bottom of the 2 pyramids of Louvre is absolutely breathtaking and leaves a feel-good feeling from the movie..

All in all, its surely not one of those movies that leaves you complaining every 5 seconds that it didnt match the book (well the story line didnt - here n there, but they pretty much stuck to most of the facts), the locations make the movie worth a watch and.. I am surely visiting the Louvre sometime in the future. :-)

May 12, 2006

The red shirt

"If something can go wrong, it will go wrong." - Murphy's Law

What better example than today? I begain today as my Thursday mornings go.. Group meeting in the morning.. I'd worn one of my favorite tees- a bright red one thats won me a lot of compliments, but in essence a simple red button-down t-shirt... I didnt think anything of it as I pulled it off the hanger from my closet this morning. Little did I know what the day had planned for it...

First sign - As I walked from my office in ERC to my lab in Rhodes, I pressed against the corridor to allow someone pushing a cart to pass. Alas! As I regained stride, my t-shirt pulled at a loose nail and ripped at the bottom.. I was bugged... But there was nothing that could be done now.. I called n awoke my sleeping roommate and asked her to bring me a spare. Till then I would have to manage with this one at the meeting... No biggie..

Second sign - People in close quarters with me will tell you that I do things very fast, almost as if I am in a hurry to finish everything. Thats not the case really.. but I do tend to speed up a li'l.. The best example is of my 'nathanaar' duties at my bro's wedding. Even while I watch the tape, it looks like my actions have been fastforwarded!! I guess all that adrenaline in me needs some outlet! Ok.. back to the meeting... We were having coffee, the one delightful part of the meeting.. Well, to cut a loooong story short, I spilt some over the front of my t-shirt and had to go to the washroom right away.

Third sign - Imagine my horror when I dabbed at the coffee stain with a napkin soaked in water, tiny, almost minuscule holes started appearing at random places on the t-shirt!! I was flabbergasted to say the minimal... But then I figured that I must've spilt some acid on the poor tee before and washing it in water seals the deal (remember how our chem labcoats used to become back in school??) Did u think my sob story was over? Not quite... Read on...

Sign of four - My roomie brings me this cheery candy pink t-shirt. One slight problem - I think its slightly transparent.. And today was the ONE awesome day I didnt bring any sweater or sweatshirt! How tragic can life get?? I actually had to go to the campus bookstore and buy one of their overpriced t-shirts on sale!

Reminders n requests: 1) Anyone who feels bad for me after this t-shirt fiasco and wants to buy me clothes - DON'T BUY ME RED (Have tooooo many of 'em - Any other colours are moooost welcome)
2) If each person I narrate this story to paid me a dollar, I would've looooong reimbursed the 18 bucks I spent on the bookstore one.

May 10, 2006

The chain story

continued from here

He ambled in past the 19 steps that it took from the gate to the front door. He fumbled in his pockets listening hard for the jingle of the keys. He faintly heard them as he glanced upward prompted by the low grumble of thunder. The bluish sky had turned a stormy grey and clouds had gathered out of nowhere. He found his keys and even as he heard the lock click open, the sky tore apart and the rain came crashing down.

He hurried inside. It was pretty dark and he groped around for the light switch and flicked it on. No change. There was no current. A tremendous flash of lightening accompanied by a clap of thunder eerily illuminated the large empty hall in front of him for half a second. He swallowed hard and reluctantly shut the door behind him, now enveloped by complete darkness. He went over to the coffee table and found his lighter next to the cigars. He used it to find the candles in the drawer of the TV cabinet. A gentle circle of light spread from the candle. He lit a few more and set them some distance apart from each other. The light calmed him and he sat back at the sofa and closed his eyes.

He must've dozed away because the next thing he heard was the splattering of a huge branch on the open front hall window. It was still dark.. the current wasnt back.. And he had no clue how the window had unlatched itself. He cursed the electricity board as he hurried over to shut the window. He reached out of the window to pull it back in when a shadow caught his eye in the almost completely faded twilight. His heart caught for a second before he realised it was a stray dog. What was with him today? Why was everything giving him the creeps. He shook himself off the reverie and latched the window securely. The house felt even more gloomy and silent. He spun around.. the candles had either burned out or their flames had been blown away. He stood there almost mesmerized for a second wondering what to do. Another flash of lightning... with a jolt, he realised he was not alone in the house.

Continued here..

May 9, 2006

Taste of Asia

Over the past week, I have been to a multitude of places and had a lot of fun... And yes, I did take into hibernation, more out of laziness and loyalty to my good old diary than anything else. This past week was a 'Global Village' kind of thing in UC where they showcase the variety of arts/crafts/food and essentially cultures from different places. We had this Chinese fest which was a short n sweet affair on a crisp Thursday night...

It was a festoon of color, costumes, music and pictures. To me, all the clothes seemed beautiful and authentic and the women, lithe and slim and the men, just as flexible and nimble.. It was a short n sweet portrayal of what seemed like the best portions of China. I went with the intent of sampling authentic Chinese cuisine (fat chance, given that I am veggie) and ended up being drawn by the performaces... really nice and new and a class apart from what I had seen. Most of all that struck me was that they started at 8 and ended at 9 -- unheard of in Desi functions!! It was sweet... And as expected at 9, there was nothing I could chew on, but my thoughts :)

And come Sunday, it was 'Taste of India'. It was an aptly coined name coz the food they gave was basically just enough to 'taste'.. Lol... But that apart, I think, the AID chapter @ UC deserves to be applauded for their continuing efforts as whatever they did... I was an active volunteer last year and have become a bit dormant.. having done enough for the ISA!

The above pic was not @ Taste of India.. was at Deepotsav.. and the basic idea is to give u a feel of the Desi touch @ UC.. And true to Indian standards, the fest itself lasted from 12-3, followed by a movie (RDB again) in the campus theatre... a day's events planned for people like me, who awaiting their stuff to arrive from the likes of Fisher-Sci had nothing better to do! Well, to keep the crowd entertained, our organizers played multilingual songs... And they seemed to have the same DVDs paavam as last year. In fact as I entered, I heard 'Poonkatrile' from 'Uyire' and I was pretty sure it was the same song that had played as I had entered the premises last year. And as for Tamil there are a million, seriously million wonderful songs and guess what was being played next? 'Oi.. enadi Kappakazhange' from 'Dhool'. To the westerners, Rima Sen probably came across as sleazy... what a showcase to India! But the stalls were nice - a lot of colorful mehendi and other merchandise being sold.. including some pretty baubles for women like me... After some food and some timepass, it was some performances. I donot speak ill of children who 'try to perform'. The key word surely here was 'try' because it certainly wasnt 'perform'! Lets just say, Lady Grace didnt grace us at all!

Soon it was tie for the movie... Rang de Basanti @ campus theatre. I expected no one but jobless souls like me to be there (my faithful comrades bade me goodbye coz they all had something better to do! Sob!) but was pleasantly surprised when I walked into an overflowing theatre! Lotsa forgeiners and ofcourse desi public. Having waded in alone, I was even more pleasantly surprised to find Aravind with an empty seat next to him.. I plonked next to him to enjoy the movie a second time.. And enjoyed it much more I must add...

The end of the movie brings me to the end of this blog.. Just a coupla quick thoughts as I conclude --

1) Its very easy to be critical. Having organized a bunch of programmes like this, I can tell you that when you do things, there are somethings that will always get screwed up -- Its Murphy's law. So, when you havent done any arrangements, atleast dont crib!

2) The spirit of a country is always underplayed when you belong to it -- That would explain why I enjoyed the Chinese function far more than the Indian one. The Indian function could never live up to what the 'spirit of India' is to me - I'm glad for that...

Jai Hind!

May 1, 2006

Yaaay! I m a grad student too!!

Yeah, I know the topic is weird... you'd think I'd know that I was a grad student for the past 2 years almost... But not quite... In my first year here, I was surrounded by the VLSI junta... who couldnt stop touting how difficult their course was... how many projects they had to complete... their deadlines... lack of sleep... lack of appetite... their weightloss... their cool (actually hot - that place was sweltering!) 800 Rhodes Lab nicknamed 'FishTank' blah blah...

Both my roomies were VLSI... Consequently, I saw little of them in the first year... They came home (if they did) at 3 am or so n though I am a self-proclaimed insomniac, I tried to sleep by then so I could be up and gone early.. Around the time I rose was midnight for them and none of our classes clashed etc, so I practically never saw anything more than their sleeping forms next to me! I am in MEMS and even with 4 classes a quarter, I seemed to have more time than them to do most stuff -- cooking, laundry, even steal a movie or two here n there... And I pitied them... Till not so long ago... The VLSI track basically drops after the first year when you have a ton of coursework from insanely high amount of work to practically nothing in the second year when all you have to do is research... As for my track, well, the first year was comparitively all dreamy n nice... with no great amounts of anything... from work to study.... To like a huuuge amount of time in the cleanroom and lab doing some form of research work..

Only the past few weeks, I've felt like a REAL grad student... living on coffee n cookies, sleeping practically in the lab... and up till 3-4 am writing abstracts n what not... And for a change, it actually felt nice! I know that sounds weird... but then atleast you know that something is happening in your research... hehe... And thats a totally different feeling... This past week, I have almost felt disjointed from myself... Theres been too much that I've done... And now that today is my deadline... I have NOTHING to do... Which consequently is reflected in the fact that I have written 2 blogs in one day!

Poor me..

I work in MEMS... So, I work with chemicals... The main chemical I work with is Hydrofluric Acid... It sounds innocent enough right? I mean, you would think that atmost it would be as harmful as say sulphuric acid?

Read on...
Hazards Identification -- HF
Emergency Overview

Potential Health Effects
Exposure to hydrofluoric acid can produce harmful health effects that may not be immediately apparent.
Inhalation: Severely corrosive to the respiratory tract. May cause sore throat, coughing, labored breathing and lung congestion/inflammation.
Ingestion: Corrosive. May cause sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, severe burns of the digestive tract, and kidney dysfunction.
Skin Contact: Corrosive to the skin. Skin contact causes serious skin burns which may not be immediately apparent or painful. Symptoms may be delayed 8 hours or longer. The fluoride ion readily penetrates the skin causing destruction of deep tissue layers and even bone.
Eye Contact: Corrosive to the eyes. Symptoms of redness, pain, blurred vision, and permanent eye damage may occur. Chronic Exposure: Intake of more than 6 mg of fluorine per day may result in fluorosis, bone and joint damage. Hypocalcemia and hypomagnesemia can occur from absorption of fluoride ion into blood stream.

I rest my case... Poor me..