Wednesday, November 16, 2011


What's your take on 'Opportunity only knocks once'?

This was the question posed to me in a forum recently. I used to be good at extempore (note the operative word: used), but that was at school. To help(?) matters further, this question was posed during a coming-togther of select alumni during the School Day celebrations to commemorate the institution's 25th year of existence.

Now that I have had more time to contemplate the question, while I did say some of the following, here is what would've made a better answer...

To answer the question, lets first get the full proverb for completeness -- Opportunity only knocks once, but temptation leans on the doorbell. 
Its only human to confuse temptation for opportunity. If there is a doubt, read the proverb again. During teenage years, urge to rebel is not opportunity. When among friends, just a 'harmless' cigarette ("What the heck.. its just this once, nobody will know!") is temptation. Its imporant to know and understand what is what. Answering the question 'If I let go of this possibility now, will I ever get a second chance?' should make the distinction clear.
My generation came out of school at the cusp of India's transition to a free market economy. One can argue that our career choices were invariably 'socialism tainted'. Study well, get a job, settle in life... Risk taking and offbeat career choices were neither easy nor encouraged. Exceptions do exist though.
In contrast, today's youth have a surfeit of choices. The set of people on stage is a good representative example -- we have an accomplished musician, a lawyer, an accomplished artist, a few journalists, a couple of architects, an event manager/choreographer, just to name a few. There is even an aspiring race driver with considerable achivements in karting already. 
This is not just refreshing, but is also an eye-opener for my generation of how its no longer a 2-lane highway. Its important to note though that medicine and engineering aren't bad career choices either ;-)
With more choices come more opportunities. It is therefore important to contemplate on what opportunities to 'let go'. Yes, 'let go' - exercise your choice in this matter. In hindsight, it is paramount that you never regret the choice you made.
Go out, its your world. Make the most of it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What's your preference?

A few weeks ago, I went out to the forest with friends. Looking through the pictures, I decided to give a couple of them a 'black and white' treatment. Which picture is better depends on who you ask that question.

The original (albeit pruned for size):

The black and white:

What do you prefer?

A sample survey revealed that folks who have an 'artistic' bent preferred the black and white. As with any B&W photo, it has a mystery element and feeds the fertile imagination of artistic minds.

Personally, I like the B&W and I have no artistic bent whatsoever :-)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wonder Why?

An ode to the unbiased, independent, responsible visual news media in our beloved country...

The facts as we know them:

Case 1:
  • Mr.Sajjan Kumar is accused of instigating mobs that killed large numbers of Sikhs (a religious minority), in 1984, in the aftermath of the killing of Smt.Indira Gandhi.
  • Mr.Sajjan Kumar conveniently ignores court summons for years, and finally, when he does show up, he is granted bail, for Rs.50000.
  • Poor Mr.Sajjan Kumar gets all of 2 minutes devoted to him in each newscast.
Case 2:
  • Mr.Narendra Modi is accused of instigating mobs that killed large numbers of Muslims (another religious minority), in 2002, in the aftermath of the Godhra train massacre.
  • Mr.Narendra Modi gets summoned by SIT to appear before them 10 days from now.
  • Mr.Narendra Modi, lucky guy, gets whole newscasts devoted to this!
Hmm... wonder why?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Songs, a time machine

Songs have a unique quality. To different people, a song can bring about memories of different times or places or events. Here are some from my list...

Papa Kehte Hain from Qayamat se Qayamat Tak. When the movie released, this song was a rage. I was quite young at the time (seriously! I was young, once upon a time :-)) and the first time I heard this song was my cousin humming it. The tune was catchy and for a long time, I couldn't really figure that Aamir said "Really, I mean it".

Aashiqui's songs are still hummable. The first time I heard it was in our school van. I was part of the school band (used to play the bugle). We'd just won the first place in the district level competition and qualified for the state competition. We were returning from the Kanteerava stadium when our Band Master and PT teachers treated us to some goodies on the way. Our van driver treated us to Aashiqui's songs all the way back to school.

Jaadoo Teri Nazar had totally blown away another cousin of mine. Whether it was the 'cos of song, or the person who featured in it can be questioned :-) Nonetheless, it used to be top of the charts for weeks on end on a music show on TV that played every Sunday. It so happened that we missed the start of a movie 'cos this cousin of mine wouldn't budge till he watched the song on the programme.

Anytime I hear Aane waala pal or Hamen tumse pyaar kitna, the scene is of our first year in engineering with the rickety National Panasonic player I'd described elsewhere. We had all of 4-5 tapes of which the Hits of Kishore Kumar and Hits of Mohd Rafi would inevitably play at least once every day.

My buddy Hari used to have a unique taste in music -- the Bappi Lahiri types. He'd never miss an album of the Mithunda-Bappi-Usha Uthup generation. To this day Mumbai Sheher Handson ka Sheher hai rings back 3rd year engineering memories (not that it plays all that much either).

My friend Promodh was a Delhi return. Delhi, in the mid-90s boasted of Times FM. Promodh never let go of a chance to show off his "Western" music knowledge. One of the best albums he'd bought in Mysore was "Now, thats what I call Music" or somesuch. It had awesome tracks like Wet, Wet, Wet, 25 minutes, etc. At the time, MLTR was to me, the greatest band in the world :-)

Another significant album at the time was one that Promodh got as a gift from a family friend. Funnily enough, it was called "RB Tone Sangeet Mala", 'cos it was a compilation a drug company made to gift doctors. It had some of the evergreen songs of the 50s and 60s, including Beqarar karke hamen, Dil ka bhawar karen pukar, and even a KL Saigal number, that, Promodh and Hari decided was my favourite song of all time!

Whenever songs of Main Hoon Na or Veer Zaara play, the scenery is of the freeways of New England. Those were the only two CDs that my rented car could play.

What are yours?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Living from story to story

Sorry Shah Rukh, your time in the limelight is up. You are no longer 'hot'. 9 people died in a bomb blast in Pune. That many more would die in single road accidents, or in building collapses elsewhere, is of no interest. They are victims, of a different malaise -- of the terrorists who devour money when nobody is looking to sign on the dotted lines for licences to drive and to build when the people who end up getting them aren't capable of either.

Rest in Peace, Departed Souls. As I write this, your untimely, unnecessary death has caused the 'News' channels to rehash the same debates you were privy to, after the Parliament attacks, the Mumbai bomb blasts, Akshardham, 26/11, .... Further, it has helped strengthening one aspect of our National culture -- we are really getting good at the "All talk, no action" doctrine. You have also provided fodder for the 24x7 'News' Channels. Thanks to you, they can survive a few more days. But, I am sorry to report, there aren't too many mentions of who you were.

I am more sorry that you'll be completely forgotten as soon as a new 'hot' topic comes up. Talk about living story to story... the Indian News media thrives on it.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Life had gotten very busy this new year, and when an opportunity presented itself to combine work with some weekend adventure, I jumped on the idea. I went to Bandipur last weekend with a bunch of people at work. It was, to say the least, a wonderfully wild interlude.

The Bandipur-Nagarhole-Madhumalai belt is supposed to have one of the highest concentration of Royal Bengal Tigers. We hoped to catch a glimpse of one during our 3 hour safari. At one point, our driver heard a 'warning call' from a langoor -- indicating that a predator was nearby. But we couldn't sight one. Further in the forest, we came across a nuclear family of elephants -- dad, mom and calf. The calf was never allowed to wander from between the dad and mom. Scouting around, we saw a small herd of bisons running up a slope, away from dense bushes. The guide said there possibly is a tiger in the bushes. We waited for about 20 minutes, enough to instigate the elephant dad to make some aggressive moves to ward us off, but the tiger was nowhere to be seen.

That we did not sight a tiger comes as no surprise. Later that evening, I was chatting with one of the guards at the camp. Just the previous week, a tiger census was conducted and they could find 30 tigers in the area surrounding the camp. Further, it was found that there are all of 1411 tigers in India.

It is sad that in a few decades, people may have to talk of tigers in the past tense. The national animal is in danger of becoming a relic of the past.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What if?

Have you ever had a "What if" moment? If you are a rational human being with empathy, you most certainly would've had not one, but many such moments.

What if Ravana hadn't kidnapped Sita? What if I'd studied better and gotten into college A? What if I'd chosen Commerce instead of Science? What if I had listened to Mr.X? What if the illness was diagnosed a few months earlier? What if I'd said 'no'? What if...

There are times in life when one is at crossroads, and you are required to choose a path to tread. If one is lucky, the decision of which path to take is either automatic, or is self-evident. Sometimes, its neither -- someone else makes that decision for you; you just tread along. Some other times, its a decision that leaves you between a rock and a hard place. "Can't I take both paths?" "Isn't there a middle path?" "Do I listen to my mind, or my heart?"

Sadly, answers to those questions are neither simple nor self-evident. One just needs the courage to weigh the situation and have the strength to stand by the decision. Its particularly hard if the decision involves antagonizing one person over another. One just hopes, in the end, everyone involved will concede whatever happened was for the best. The most important part is to not regret the decision.

Destiny and fate are words that most people who swear by logic love to hate. If the world were to simply run on logic, it would be inhabited with only atheists; but we know believers outnumber them many times over.

Keep the faith!