Saturday, March 06, 2010

Don't Cry for me America

I was born in Coimabtore, brought up in Bangalore and Chennai, did my engineering in Perundurai, worked in Chennai and Noida, got married in Chennai, went on Honeymoon to Kumarakom, Cochin and Munnar.. Hold on, there is a point to all of this... it was while ; I will let your filmy imagination run; it was while we were running in between rows and rows of tea plants , that the call came.

The call to come to the United States...A week later, 6 yrs back to the date,I landed in Detroit international airport headed to the one of the most beautiful cities in the US, Ann Arbor, MI.

6 Yrs and 2 kids later, I can say this ... This has been a dream run... One that has made me forget that I had come to this country for work, a people and a country so nice , that make you feel that you belong there , that you are a part of them, never once making you feel that you are an alien in their country... When ever the question was asked " Where are you from ?" I always answered either San Antonio or Boston or Sunnyvale, never did I say I was from India, I/we had so become a part of the American people, only the passport revealing our true origins.

Awesome memories of the so many places that we have visited; from Niagara falls in the east to Tahquamenon falls in the mid west to upper Yosemite falls in the west; from Lake Ontario to Lake Superior to Crater lake; from Mt Washington to the Grand Tetons to Mt Shastha; from the Washington monument to Sears tower to Stratosphere, from Wall st to the Magnificent mile to El Camino Real, from Harvard University to University of Michigan to Stanford university, We have seen them all... (With regards to the universities, I only said see, not study! )

And all the different people that we have mingled and interacted with,White Americans, blacks, Hispanics, Chinese, Indians and Gujjus :) all of them absorbed us and made us a part of their lives.

It is now time to leave the United states , with everlasting memories and a heavy heart, we say bye bye.

To borrow a line from Evita, Don't cry for me America!, I shall...cry for you.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What Pink Floyd would have said about the Quota system in India

The Indian Government is going to create 27% reservation for OBC(Other Backward classes) and Sc/ST in all educational institutions in India.

I strongly condemn this , it is utter madness to say that caste scores over merit.

I have a modified version of Pink Floyd's "We don't need no education" for this great tragedy that is happening in India.

We don't need no reservation
We don't need no Caste Control
Eh!! Politicians leave us students alone!!!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hurting Religious sentiments

Guess you must have all read that the muslim world is angrily
reacting to cartoons of Prophet Mohammed carrying a bomb in his
turban. I believe the European papers took it a little too far by
again printing the cartoons again.

Recently I saw posts containing images of
M.F.Hussain's paintings of Hindu gods and Goddesses having SEX!!!

The RSS in India reacted angrily too and probably closed down the art
show or something like that.

But my point is that this is now where compared to what the muslim
world is doing.

Do people in India uphold the freedom of expression so much?
Is it the vote base that talks?
Do we just not care?

I beleive there was no public apology from M.F.Hussien himself. He is
free to do what ever he wants. How do the muslim world react if this
were done to them. Put a fatwah like they did on Salman Rushdie!!!

I definitely want to listen to M.F.Hussien's thoughts on the cartoons!!!

Your thoughts???

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Srinidhi's First Watch

My first watch, no, not those toy watches that show different times when you hold them at different angles, but  real, absolutely real watch was a Mickey Mouse watch  , that was presented to me by MRV Athimbare and Athai and Veena.  The watch was really unique; it had Mickey Mouse on the dial and Mickey’s hands  showed the time!!! Man I loved that watch. I remember that I used to set the time an hour or something more than the correct time so that I could “Ahead of everybody” and I also very clearly remember that in an auto in Bangalore during one of those “time changing sessions” I lost the crown of the watch and that the watch became unusable (because I did not know then that crowns could be replaced).
I have always loved watches and have had plenty of them but I can never forget that first watch. You can never forget your first love, can you? ;)

Well I loved this watch so much that I decided to get one for Srinidhi. So where in the world could you buy an authentic Mickey Mouse watch? Well, in Disney land of course!!! So that is what I decided to do, go to Disney land!!! Well then I had a choice Florida or California… Since I prefer earthquakes to hurricanes, I decided to go to California!!! :)

Let me tell you this, this watch buying exercise turned out to be one hell of a great fun trip!!!

Our ship(air :) ) set sail from Detroit to the City of Angels.
Los Angeles at first look turned out to be a completely romantic place. Take for instance the beautiful palm tree lined roads or the beautiful SIX laned highways that wind through the hills of Santa Monica or Santa Ana , or that left handed curve in Lindero Canyon, where, from the right side of your windshield you could see the green hill sides  painted golden with rays from the morning  sun, Los Angeles was a dreamer’s world come true.

Los Angeles is also the city of the rich. I had so many Porsches, BMWs, Benzes zipping past me as I drove to our place of stay at Los Angeles. And yes there was a lone Ferrari too.  

The address to our host’s residence lead us to a ranch style mansion nestled between Palm groves and Banana groves, on top of a hill. It is when I parked our car  between a Benz and a BMW, it struck me hard. Man, I was looking at a multi million dollar mansion. (I know, believe me. I work at ABN AMRO’s retail Mortgage department.). It is then that my throat ran dry. Well let me ask you this. If you do meet Bill Gates, would you rather talk about the weather or computers? :)

Well, I half expected the door to be opened by a butler.

Whom do you want to meet sire?
Mr. Narayanaswamy, please...
Just a moment…
Mr. Narayanaswamy is in the study. He will meet you there. May I have your bags sire?
Well my imagination running wild. The door was actually opened by Mrs. Narayanaswamy and she and other people in her family were so modest, we were immediately put at ease.

The inside of the house was beautiful too , just like one of those movie sets, except that this one was for real!!!. Of considerable elegance and glamour was the bath in the master bedroom. Imagine this. As you are enjoying your bubble bath with may be a glass of scotch by your side, you can look out and see the orange ball of the evening sun partly obscured by the leaves of the palm trees. Yes, that BEAUTIFUL… The bath tub is placed right next to the wall, except that this wall is not made of wood or stone but of glass, running from ceiling to floor, and from the tub your view would be just palm trees!!

Tired from our journey we spent the rest of the day watching Sun TV on one of their two 70 inch HDTV(S).

“I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place where parents and children can have fun together” – Walt Disney.

What do you expect of a cartoon making company? What I expected was a place for kids to meet Cartoon characters and that is it!!! How wrong could I be? Absolutely and completely wrong!!!

Built on 100 acres of land, Disneyland at Anaheim in California at about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, is a magical place. It consists of two theme parks, DisneyLand and California Adventure, DisneyLand being older and celebrating its 50th year. The DisneyLand at Anaheim is older and smaller than the one at Orlando, Florida. I am told that the one at Florida is so big, you need 5 days to see the entire thing!!!

For the moment you walk in to one main st at DisneyLand, you enter in to, a how can you say it, a Barbie doll world… I think you can imagine how a shop in Barbie land would look like. Well the whole of main st consists of various shops selling a lot of stuff but each shop just looks like a part of Barbie land world.

From main st you can step in to various “lands” each with its own theme, TomorrowLand, AdventureLand, ToonLand, FantasyLand and more.

The entrance to FantasyLand is ofcourse the famous and the very beautiful Cinderella castle that is a part of the Disney logo.

Our first stop was TomorrowLand, theme being, as the name suggests futuristic stuff. Space travel, futuristic science, the works !!!.

Generally each theme has atleast one simulated ride and a real rollercoaster according to the theme.

Our first ride was star wars based. A ride through space to go to another galaxy. What was so beautiful was that the walkway to the actual ride, was so could actually see C3-PO, R2-D2 , the two droids of Star wars and C3-PO was as usual talking some physiological crap!!! :)
Of course your ride has a story as to why it is going to be a violent one :) and the reason this time was that the usual driver of the space vehicle, a robot was under repair and that a new one was in place.

I can tell you that Disney is the master of 3D and the ride through the galaxy though a simulated ride was simply simply so realistic.  Your seat vibrates and tilts at various angles completely in sync with the video of course, as you evade comets and meteors and then enemy fire. It was TOO GOOD.

Our next ride was what I consider the best ride in the whole of Disney. Space Mountain. A roller coaster like no other.

Hey, before I forget hold on to your seat restraint!!!
Imagine this. A completely dark tunnel. With lights, low blue, psychedelic lights. Rotating lights. Lights rotating around the track of the roller coaster. Lights that make you feel as if you are rotating although you are going in a straight line. Your eyes are playing tricks on you. And then , uuuuuuuuugh, you are sucked in to a vortex. At least that is what your eyes are telling you. You are traveling at a minimum of 50-60 miles/hr . you can feel the wind in your air. There are stars all around you . You are whizzing past these stars. Suddenly you hear someone in front shouting. You dunno why. You can’t see because it is pitch dark except for the light from the stars. Aaah there it is .. A comet… You are yanked to the left at such a force. May be 2 Gs , may be more. And before you can say my god, you are yanked again, this time to the right. reason meteorite. Left, right, up, down , some god forsaken reason for the maneuver. 3 minutes. Ink black tunnel. only lights from stars in the tunnel and then you are sucked in to another vortex. This time you can be thankful for the vortex because it leads back to the base.

You can imagine how I was at the end of the ride. The only person of course to have a 1000 watt smile was Vidya. “Excellent “ she claimed. Well not for me!!! I was still seeing stars!!! (pun intended). But all in all, full marks to Disney to have made such a wonderful ride.

4D. Ummm… 3D I do know. What is 4D? Ha ha:) . Our next stop was the show, “Honey, I shrunk the audience” . Based on the movie “Honey, I shrunk the kids” , in which a scientist invents a machine  which can shrink objects to a miniature size. Unfortunately his kids switch the machine on by mistake and become miniatures themselves and the movie is all about their adventures when they are miniatures and how the scientist finally brings them back to normal size.
In “Honey, I shrunk the audience “ the scientist’s kids switch on the machine and shrink the audience!!! Yes, the visual 3D effects are such, that you will feel that way. What follows is pure fun!!! Also one of the scientist’s kids puts a mouse in a replicator machine and then there are thousands of mice and where are the mice? Running in between the shrunk audience!!! And guess what, yes, you can feel the mice running between your feet!!! Ha ha .. that is 4D!!! 3D + special effects. You know I was completely amazed . After the show, I saw under the seat if there was any equipment to cause the effect of mice running between your feet. None. I really don’t know how they do it. But Disney is a master of 4D. In “bug’s life”, in California adventure park, ‘Flick’ , one of the bugs in the movie asks another bug how it protects itself when danger arises and the bug says” this is how..” and it farts and yes, you can smell the foul smell in the theatre!!! ( . one bug says that it spits and ha ha suddenly out of no where there is water on your face!!! :) wow… simply superb.

Parades at Disney are simply awesome. Each float, each dress, each member of the dance crew, I mean everything, is so immaculate it is real feast for the eyes. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Buzz light year, the mermaid, Cinderella, Beauty and the beast, Pinocchio, Ginger Bread and many many more form a part of the parade that is a complete treat to watch. we watched two parades and  both were completely superb.

After the parade we went to FantasyLand. First stop “It’s a small world”. One truly amazing ride.A boat takes you inside a castle(not the Cinderella castle) like thing where toys or miniature robots of different nations sing and dance “Happy Holidays” and Happy New year and peace be in the world etc. But what is amazing is the effort that has gone in to this ride. Each doll is unique and DisneyLand has gone in to each miniscule detail to make it look authentic. Consider may be the woman from India, doll  or the Mexican doll, perfect, perfect and each doll/robot has such rhythmic movement. It is simply class. In the face of the castle is a clock which is similar to the salarjung museum in Hyderabad. At the strike of every hour some characters come out of the clock to sing and dance. But what is special is that  for every hour something different happens. We were lucky to be there when the clock struck five,six and seven!!! Each time it was different. But when it struck seven, man suddenly the whole place  lit up and suddenly on the face of the castle a breathtaking Sound and light show went on for about 5 minutes. When the show finished the whole of Disney erupted in to an applause. That was how truly amazingly , breathtakingly, awesome it was!!! (

Mickey’s house in ToonLand was again testimony to the beauty of all things that are Disney created. Consider the small glove in the washing machine at disney’s house or the ToonTox( instead of Clorox) bottle, I mean everything is made with such imagination ,Disney and all those who made this theme park are truly legendary. At the end of the house was Mickey himself and yes, you could take pictures with him and so we did.

After a night’s sleep in a hotel near Disney ,we were at Disney again the next day to visit rest of the unvisited lands and of course California Adventure park.

Adventure land , a land of rides that are spooky. We went on Indiana Jones and the evil eye. A ride with skeletons hanging everywhere and eerie sounds and stuff like that, based on the Indiana Jones, movies. Again here the level of detail was amazing… The walkway to ride itself is so well made. It is like going inside a mine, just the minimum lighting and sounds.. Truly Fantastic.

New Orleans Square, the place for really ghostly stuff. We went to the Haunted mansion and man what we saw inside blew our minds. Like I said Disney is the master of Special effects. Can you believe that in the ride as you go through each room of the haunted mansion , in the living room, you can actually see two ghosts dancing? Yeah!!! You know, I don’t know how they do it, may be laser beams or something but man you can see two ghosts dancing around the room!!!  Right in the middle of the room. No, no strings nothing, these are not dolls. These are light effects. Mind Blowing. Simply Mind Blowing.

Our final ride in DisneyLand was “pirates of the carribean” again based on the movie of the same name, I think, a ride that details the life of pirates and like all other rides, truly superb.

Calfornia adventure park is a park dedicated to all things Californian. Oranges, bears , the golden gate and whole lot more!!!

Vidya and her mom went in one mega roller coaster “Screaming California” . I told Vidya’s mom that her daughter had lost her marbles to be going on a ride like that. Who heeds the words of a wise man? When Vidya came out of the ride she herself looked flustered, her mom ha ha, I can still see the look on her face. All that she told me was that she was glad to be alive!!! ( ( .I believe her. Vidya can’t handle skeletons and ghosts, I can, she can handle mega roller coasters. Oh me, sorry, I stay at a mile’s distance from them (.
A host of other rides in California adventure park, notably, the ride “Soaring Over California”, a simulated, 3D ride where you are suspended from above(as if in a helicopter) were really good.

Spectacular, I have not used the word before in this letter. I had reserved the word for this paragraph alone. Fireworks. Fireworks celebrating 50 yrs of Disney. Spectacular. I can’t think of any other word. Truly specatular. Really.
The best place to watch the fireworks is just in front of the Cinderella castle in DisneyLand. We somehow rushed from California Adventure park and got this plum spot. At night the Cinderella castle itself is beautifully lit and in fact everything in Disney is. In fact DisneyLand is even more spectacular looking at night.
Ok the fireworks.All the lights in DisneyLand are switched off for this. Just the castle is lit up.

The fireworks have a story line as if tinker bell is telling the story. Basically the story is about spreading good will and cheer and how good wins over evil and how dreams come true at DisneyLand. The fireworks that go along with the story line, simply awesome. I cannot describe in words how magical it was. It is in that no light,dark environment , as you watch the fireworks streaking across the night sky, that you are transported to the surrealistic Magical Kingdom of Disney. Half an hour of jaw dropping fireworks. One perfect way to end our stay at Disney :)

Did Walt Disney keep up is word? You bet!!! :) and yes ofcourse I did buy a watch for Srinidhi. And  because she is a girl, I bought a Minnie Mouse watch and not a Mickey Mouse watch!

Job done, back to Detroit ? common :)

Having come all the way to Disney, just a little more south is San Diego. Say San Diego and people will ask you just one thing. Did you visit Sea world ? Yes, we did.
After staying for the night at San Diego itself, the next morning we went to Sea World.

At Sea world we saw lots of shows featuring various animals. One should say that their dolphin show is really really good, the show at Shedd Aquarium, Chicago arguably the biggest aquarium in the world, pales completely in comparison to this show.

But the star of Sea World is “Shamu”, a killer whale. Not one but quite a few killer whales have been trained here at sea world. In fact Sea world is one of the foremost research facilities for killer whales. In fact go to Google  and type killer whales, you will come to the page!!!

It is really amazing to see these mammoth sea predators so meekly do tricks like jumping in the air at simply a nod from their trainers. And the amount of water they displace when they do a flip in the air,oh by god!!! If you know Archimedes’s Principle, then you can imagine how much water a 3-5 ton whale doing a flip will displace :)
Shamu has its own website,

From San Diego, we went back to Los Angles the same night and had a good night’s sleep. The next day we visited one of the very famous Studios in Los Angeles

Universal Studios, in Hollywood, Los Angeles is one of the most renowned studios in the world. As it turned out Universal Studios, is good, but in comparison to Disney, is nothing!!!

We first went on a studio tour that takes you through various sets and also shows you how various special effects are done. Quite a few “neat” stuff!! Like how they made the sea part for Moses in the “ten Commandments” , or even how King Kong was made, and most impressive was the part in which the tour stops in the set of a train station and you feel the effect of being in the midst of an earthquake, and even an helicopter comes crashing and most importantly a train rams in to a oil tanker and the oil tanker explodes right in front of your eyes. That the fire is so controlled that the audience is not affected speaks volumes on their mastery of special effects.

Of movie sets , one can see the sets of the motel and the house from Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie, Psycho. Also on display is the scene from the movie “War of the Worlds”, an adaptation of H.G.Wells book of the same name, where actor Tom Cruise walks in to the wreckage of an aero plane downed the creatures from outer space. It is widely believed that a real aero plane was broken down for this purpose. Both on screen and on the tour the scene wreckage is really awesome.

Both the 3-D,4D shows at Universal were poor compared to the ones at Disney. Even their famous ride “Back to the future” is only ok. But their shows pack a lot more star power, the governor* himself giving the introduction for Terminator 2:3D show.

But two rides were really awesome at Universal. The ride “Mummy”  was too good. Based on the movie, “The Mummy” ,the ride is similar to the space mountain at Disney. Except here you are trying to escape from the Scorpion King. But the beauty of the ride is that the roller coaster comes to a sceerching halt in front of a wall and there is no where to go and the Scorpio king is infront of you. So what do you do? Go back!!! , Yes the roller coaster goes backwards from that point on at the same speed that it goes forwards!!!.. My god, that was terrifying!!!! Really superb!!!

Another ride that was really good was based on the Steven Spielberg super hit Jurassic park. Here again the ride takes you through a park where the dinosaurs are freely roaming about behind a electrified fence. The robot-dinosaurs look really realistic. But suddenly there is an emergency and the dinosaurs are free and then you come face to face with a 50 foot T-REX and the only way to escape is to do a 84 foot vertical free fall!!! Yup, we did just that !!! :), Thanks to gravity , you are down even before you can shout. But one really realistic ride.

The next day we went to various places of interest in and around Los Angeles. The world famous Kodak Theatre was our first stop. The venue for the Oscar ceremonies that are held every year, the place has a royal aura around it. Outside the theatre there are many star’s names in the “pavement of fame” as I call it. I did find my favourite ,Nicole Kidman’s but much to Vidya’s consternation she did not find her favourite, Tom Cruise’s!!!  we were also able to see the famous sign of “HOLLYWOOD” from near the Kodak Theatre.

Beside the Kodak theatre is another famous theatre, the Mandarin theatre. All the movie previews take place here. The sculpture on the doors of the Mandarin theatre was also very beautiful. In front of the mandarin theatre are hand prints and foot prints of various actors, in the cement, these being collected by Sid Truman, the owner of the mandarin theatre. Here Vidya found solace, there were Tom Cruise’s hand and foot prints here. So were Marilyn Monroe’s (  her ’s reading “Gentlemen prefer blondes” )  , Sean Connery’s and other well known famous people ‘s prints.

The sky, a resplendent orange, like dying embers of coal, the water, like a mirror reflecting the orange color of the sky,a lone ship on the horizon, a single light in the silhouette of houses on the hill. Perfect .Picture perfect. Beautiful.Pristine. Santa Monica beach at sunset. We simply devoured the unadulterated beauty of this world famous beach. As the waves of the pacific kissed our feet , Di caprio’s famous dialogue to Kate Winslet in the film Titanic, as she is about to commit suicide by jumping in to the Atlantic, “Don’t , the water is so cold , it feels like a thousand knives”, comes to the mind, and believe me it is true, the water was FREEZING!!!!

Our final leg of the journey started at a place that is almost always mentioned on the same breath as Los Angeles, San Francisco. Earlier in the day we flew from LA to San Jose and went to our friend Rani’s place. Together all of us went to the place that San Francisco is most famous for.

The Golden Gate Bridge, in Orange Vermillion, which is commonly known as International Orange, when built in 1937 was the longest Suspension bridge in the world. Even though that record is now beaten by Michigan’s Mackinaw bridge, it still is a 1 mile long beautiful bridge, especially at night. Our cruise took us under the bridge and also around the “Rock”. Alcatraz, the world’s most dreaded prison. Considered an impregnable fortress, only once has a prisoner known to have escaped from the prison ever. Now of course it is a tourist spot. You do have tours inside the prison itself but we did not take the tour.

Near San Francisco is a place called Monterey bay. An enchanting 17 mile drive takes you along the picture perfect wave scrubbed pacific coast. Also along this stretch is the world famous pebble beach golf course. After returning from Monterey bay we filled  our hungry stomachs from a hotel known for its culinary delights, Saravana Bhavan in California!!! :))

After an excellent vacation for a week in the sunshine state, consider my consternation when I had to remove a week’s snow from my car!!!

Photos can be viewed at my webshots home page

* At the time of writing Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California

Monday, January 31, 2005

What else the great Ferrari

My Trip to Niagara falls

Hi Guys,
Yes this is me..after a very long time...Yes, we visited the Niagara falls and here is the complete story of the trip!!!
The first great thing about the trip was the car..Yup, we had rented a Ford Mustang 2 door for the trip.. a real sporty I should tell you she(???? (she/he had some real American muscle) was a real beauty to drive..Real raw power.. was a plesure to drive it...
ok so we left Ann Arbor on Friday evning at around 5.30 and reached Priya(Vidya's cousin) and Guhan's place in Toronto at around 11.30 because of the long wait at immigration, the queue being longer because of the very many visitors to Canada during the memorial day weekend. Had a nice sleep that night ..
We started off in the morning to Niagara...As I write this and when I think of Niagara I get goose pimples...MAN what a sight...MAN..MAN..MAN..Awesome..Awesome? No I think the word does injustice to the dazzling beauty that Niagara is...When we reached niagara we spent a long tome looking at the falls itself...I think the photos would do injustice too,but if you have not got link to the photos of the trip here it is
Look at it.. 36 million gallons of water fall over in a MINUTE!!!! and the water reaches 65 miles to the bottom and the spray of water after hitting the botom rises OVER the falls and touches the sky(at least that is how it looks!!!).. I don't think i can ever describe the falls in words.. I was never a poet and in situations like these I am simply lost for words... Well after looking at the falls we went to "Journey behind the falls". Journey Behind the falls is a trip though tuneels that take you to the side and behind the falls itself. This was an amazing experience.. There was so much water and the spray was falling on you.. You are quite close to the falls at this point though not dangerously enough but close enough to experice the power of the falls... After getting completely wet and endangering the camera by trying to shoot in the spray(thank god nothing happened!!).. we went to the "Maid of the mist".. This is a boat that takes you close to the falls.. words cannot describe the experince in the boat.. When you go so close to the falls you are simply mesmerised by the falls.. it is simply enormously powerful and amazingly beautiful..The falls are so powerful that howmuch ever the boat tries it cannot go any further..but think of it the boat oes that close...Man Amazing....

After all this we ( I and Vidya alone) went and grabbed some grub and went to the "House of horrors" where you hear some unearthly sounds and a lot of skeletons!!! ha ha.. yeah ok let me accept it.. it was scary!!! after that we went to "Ripley's Believe it or not".. Even this place is awesome.. real good stuff.I guess I can't explain all te stuff at Ripley's .. but yes one has to go there some time.. It is really amazing what that guy has collected!!!

Then we drove 1.5 hrs back to Priya/Guhan's place and woke them up at 2 in the morning.. Had a great sleep and then left for CN tower the next day... The CN tower is the world's tallest free standing structure. and after a long queue to get to the top we had some real fun there... The CN tower boasts of a GLASS floor at 300-400 ft in the sky!!! and the view from that glass floor is really good... Though I was scared at first.. Vidya was jumping on that glass floor!!! :)) Well they did say that it could handle around 10 elephnats on a square inch .. what if just one jumps ;)!!!

Then we went to Skypod the world's highest observatory and had a beautiful view of Tornoto from there...

Since I have to go now.. cutting short this mail.. The next day we went on a tour of the city in an Amphibious vehicle which took us around the city on its wheels and around Lake Ontario on its Hull!!! :))