Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Happy diwali to everyone!

My memories went to the 60s and early 70s when I was a school kid and how Diwali was at that time…

Our house, Chintamani, was right in the middle of everything – at Edward Elliots Road (now Dr Radhakakrishnan Salai). Where there are now 20+ office complexes each > 3 floors, we had just five or six really sprawling buildings with its contingent of mango trees, Coconut trees, the beautiful vazhai maram, nandiyavattai tree, parijatham tree, etc etc…

The diwali excitement would start a few days before diwali itself.. buying lots of crackers, new dress etc. My generous dad used to get more than Rs 100 (yes, hundred) of fireworks. That will include countless “kambi mathaappu”, flower pots, chakkarams (two varieties – one on floor and one on a “kambi”), the red fort, Lakshmi and Kuruvi vedis and the thin “oosi vedi” which can be split into singles. Brave kids (like Srinath) and macho elders (like Ramesh Mama) used to light the singles in their hand and throw it and lesser mortals like me will watch in awe and scare! Mind you these were not the days of the 1000 wallahs and 5000 wallahs. What we got was absolutely “state of the art”! One other unique device was what we light on a rope tied between the veppa maram and a pillar and it goes like a train (anyone remembers the name of the contraption?) Oh yeah, if you think Rs 100 is peanuts, consider this: If you were to buy today all the things we bought, you will spend a minimum of 5K! For this year, I just bought 5 kambi mathapu boxes, a box of flower pots, a box of chakkarams and four rock forts – the bill came to 600 bucks!

While I don’t have much memories of the evening diwali, the morning diwali is still very fresh in memory. Sleepy faced, we will all be woken up at 330 by the nadaswaram of a guy who touches the instrument only once a year (and for rest of the year he is a barber!). After his troupe leaves (and their “music” will resonate from the next house), we will all sit in a “pai” (mat) and will have an “akshana” done. They would have lit the fire in the “anda” (beautifully decorated with mango leaves and red kolam) with “laankada” and it will take a few minutes to have hot water. No geysers those days! As we finish bath and come out, the wonderful looking Kalki (mostly with the cover of a Pillayar and “arul vakku” from Mahaswamigal in the first few pages) and Ananda Vikatan Deepavali Malar (with the amicable Vikatan Thatha) would have arrived. But much before that, first my thatha (mother’s dad) would have come (with his pet dog) would have come walking from his home less than a km from my home. Also by that time Sama Kaka would have collected milk karandhu-fied from the cow right in front of him and my Amma would have coffee ready soon. Chattering incessantly, after hurried namaskars to Motti Amma, Thatha, Sama Kaka and parents, I will head to bursting crackers. Very soon Appi, Sriram and Srinath will visit and after the traditional “Ganga Snanam Acha”, we will all burst crackers for about half hour. Oh yeah, one thing we used to do was lighting up the famous “paambuu maathirai” a black color tablet which when you light up, will produce long black coils and mess up the floor. (Don’t blame me if this reminds you of something yucky!) We will then head off to others houses with Thatha’s house, Raghu Kaka’s house and Appi’s house were sure stop-bys. Some years we will also visit neighbor Balaji and Babu and of course an integral part of the family , my alter ego, M Ramesh. After a sumptuous lunch, we will simply sleep (no TV to see!)

When I was a little older and could ride a bike (by which time Narayana Mama had taken the mantle from my Thatha), there was always a race between me and Narayana Mama as to who will do the visit first. I will “monkey pedal” my tall “Reliagh” (not “Raleigh”) cycle and go to their house before 530AM!

How simple life was! I think that much intimacy existed because there were very little distractions like TV and also the presence of powerful and benevolent elder generation in the form of my Thatha, Sama Kaka and of course Motti Amma! It was indeed a single family of 30+ people spread over four or five physical houses.

அந்த நாட்கள் எல்லாம் திரும்பி வருமா?

Monday, October 24, 2011

A horrible movie!

I happened to see the movie "Engeyum Eppodum" today. It was an absolute disaster. It shows a road accident in very gory details. While the flash backs were decent and the characterisations of the two heros and heroines were nice, the movie ends in melodrama with "oppari" scenes more macaber than worst violent scenes in fight movies. Avoid the movie!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One more bites the dust

Well, what a month! First it was Steve Jobs, now it is Dennis Ritchie. The famous K & R Book was a bible for all of us doing comp sci in the 80s. I got my first copy in 1982 in my first visit to Oracle (in 3000, Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park -- Oracle's first office with just a couple of hundred employees). I used this copy extensively, true to the Tamil phrase "padicchi kizhichiitten". I had to buy a second copy in 1991 or so. This is one of the very few comp sci books I preserve. It is still a joy to read the various strcat and strcmp programs, each one smaller than the previous one.

One of my friends posted this Facebook today:
int main(argc, argv)
int argc;char *argv[];
{... printf("Goodbye World...\n");}

RIP Dennis Ritchie

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pains for who?

An interesting event took place when I was at hospital waiting for some tests. A little girl (3-4 years old) was in the room taking blood samples along with her mother. The girl was crying her head off with her grandma trying to console her. While we thought the little one was having some tests, it turned out that it was the mom who was actually having the tests and the little girl was crying because she did not want anyone to hurt her mom! After a few minutes, the mom was given some colored drink (must be glucose tolerance test). Grandma told, "see now amma is given juice". The little girl was so thrilled that her mom got juice! The flowing tears in her eyes got replaced by a sparkle and a smile that was patent even in the eyes!

Kids are kids! Their sense of involvement in what they do is simply great. No wonder someone said "The Child is the Father or the Man". (may be seeing this cute little girl, also say "The Child is the Mother of the Woman". Gender equality folks rest contended!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kalki's coverage of Steve Jobs

The lastest issue of Kalki has a one page eulogy of Steve Jobs that is very well written. The article refers to Jobs as a "swayambu" -- i.e, someone who is self-made. His biological parents abandoned him; he dropped out of college; did not have a formal management degree; did not do any customer survey and yet(so goes the article) his products were super-hits.

Other than the parents part, this context and the word "swayambu" made me see a parallel to Srinivasa Ramanujam, the great mathematician from Kumbakonam / Chennai. Just as Jobs' products will be part of the stories this gen may tell their grandkids, Ramanujam's unconventional "note books" which perhaps being out the beauty of symmetry and properties of numbers as much as Jobs' products are things of beauty, has kept mathematicians busy for well over a century and with no end in sight...

Only sad part is Ramanujam died at 32 and Jobs at 59.. if only they had lived longer...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Well, after a couple of somber postings re Jobs, something more earthly and recreational. Last couple of matched RCB played in CLT20 were simply superb. One can pooh-pooh these as "just club cricket", but no getting around the fact that the quality of batsmanship was simply top class. If Gayle and Warner were embodiments of sheer power, Kohli was absolutely grace personified. His fluent cover drives and off drives were from a different era of cricket. Reminded me of Tiger Pataudi and Doug Walters whose strokes in front of the wicket was as much folklore in my younger days as was Vishy (G R Vishwanath's) delectable square cuts. Such grace combined with power to clear stands by 10+ rows? Wow! I think we have India's future in Kohli for the next 10+ years!

At the team level, it was exciting to to see RCB successfully chase down 200+ twice in a row... of course, wish it was CSK though!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and God

I have read that, unlike traditonal software development which talks of "requirtements gathering", Steve Jobs never really believed in "consumer surveys" and the like. He apparently mentioned that "consumers dont know what they want till we place a product in their hands". In this sense does he not look like a God (or for that matter an over-protective parent)? It is often the case that we pray God for something and we end up getting something else. It is said "God gives you what you need and not what you want". Isnt Steve Jobs something similar?

BTW talking of God and IT CEOs, there was a book long ago whose title read "What is the difference between God and Larry Ellison?" and the subtitle in small print says "God did not think he was Larry Ellison".

Long live the tech Gods of this generation who gave us Jobs (no pun intended) and a different (better?) world for us to live in.