Saturday, January 30, 2010

Avatar-3D at IMAX

After 3 weeks of waiting to get the tickets on the day of the show, we finally booked the tickets in advance last week and managed to see the movie at Bob-Bullock IMAX theater. The movie is very well done, kudos to James Cameron and the team. Kudos to the actors also, for each of them have performed really well, I came out of the movie truly hating the head of security and the corporate guy and at the same time loving the simple life of Na'vi people. The movie truly transported us to a new world.

The movie plot is not ingenious but the execution is really wonderful. The story is about the planet Pandora where a mining company is in the process of destroying the planet and everything the natives believe in, all the name of quarterly profits. The hero in the interest of getting his real legs back volunteers to enter the world of Na'vi (inhabitants of planet pandora) and slowly learns their ways and starts respecting their simple way of life. He gets transformed so much that in the end he leads the natives in a war against his own people and for a change the natives win (happy ending, which was wonderful).

The movie reminded me of the story of American Indians and for that matter my own country India but with one difference, The Na'vi people are more selfless and placed their society and way of life more than self. I don't want to reveal any more.

Now to the IMAX experience, this was my first IMAX commercial movie and it was worth every single penny. It is tough to describe in words the experience other than saying it was a big screen and seats are elevated. A combination of Avatar-3D and IMAX is worth the extra cost and effort. I recommend everyone to watch the movie in IMAX if you have a chance.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

India Trip - Experience/Travel Log - 2

Since I named one of the previous blogs as "India Travel?experience part-1", I am compelled to continue and put out a part-2 for the post. This one I will cover the south India travel and in the next/last part I will cover North India travel.
  • Climbed up the stairs of Chamundi hills in Mysore, It was a fun experience. There is a spot about 2/3rds of the way up where we drank some fresh sugar cane juice. The interesting part I noticed was that some of the stone steps were either getting a make over or getting replaced, I was glad to see the economic progress was not just restricted to "volvo" buses.
  • Payed a visit to Krishna Raja Sagara dam, a dam built across river Kaveri. Built in a932 by the legendary Sir M Vishweshwaraiah, I would consider it an Engineering feat even by today's standards. The entrance to the dam has changed over time and the new visitors won't even get a glimpse of the dam but are escorted straight to the brindavan gardens. The gardens has a bunch of fountains which get illuminated in the night. My observation, the number of fountains hasn't changed at all and are pretty much the same, they don't seem to have changed in the last 20 years but the number of people visiting the park has definitely gone up 100 fold.
  • We made a road trip to Dharmasthala and Kukke Subramanya, both are piligrim places located in Dakshina Kannada district. The road is through Hassan and the road is amazingly well built till Hassan, but after that it is well built in patches.
  • Dharmasthala is a wonderful place for couple of reasons. It is one of those pilgrim places which we visit on a decently regular basis. The number of people visiting the place is phenomenal. Even more phenomenal is the fact that the temple provides free lunch and dinner every day of the year. The sheer logistics involved in feeding so many people (some say average 5000 a day visit the place) is mind boggling.
  • Another very important reason is the diversity of the place. The primary god is shiva who is mostly worshiped by Lingayat community, the people who perform the pooja belong to brahmin community and the executive management is handled by Dr. Veerendra Heggade who happens to be a jain. I wondered if Jerusalem could learn something from here.
  • Kukke Subramanya is about 60kms from Dharmastala and it is a smaller temple. When we reached the temple they had some pooja going on and people sat through the end of the pooja without any noise, but the moment pooja closed and prasad distribution started, the same set of people rushed so hard that it made me wonder are these the same set of people who a moment ago were so gentle and nice? It wasn't like the prasad was limited, the temple authorities repeatedly were announcing that everybody will get the prasad, I guess it was all falling on deaf ears.
  • On the way to these places we stopped at Anuganalu (near Hassan), where folks from BCRT have transformed a barren rocky hillock to a green forest. A good place to stop and have a look for all green lovers and conservation enthusiasts.
  • One last thing I observed on this trip was that the people of Hassan, unlike that of Mysore and Bangalore are still breeding Indian breed of cattle. As a conservation enthusiast I was very happy, there is still hope for the Indian cattle.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Traditional Indian weddings - stimulus to local economy

Ever since I started blogging, I feel like a news reporter looking for incidents and things to comment/report. One such event was the wedding of my sister-in-law, which recently happened in Mysore. It was a traditional Hindu wedding with traditions and customs followed to the extent possible.

Usually, I don't like traditional weddings and I feel they are both a waste of time and money and a big energy drain for every one involved. But this time around I started looking at it with a new set of eyes or rather came up with a different point of view. I felt the weddings are a stimulus for the local economy. Here are the reasons why I felt that way.

  • The silk sarees that were bought, I feel we wouldn't have bought them and in such quantities if not for the wedding.
  • The flower decorations in the hall and the just the flowers/garlands bought for the wedding. I am sure most of the flowers used in the wedding were locally grown.
  • In the last post, I spoke about the Indian farmers market, when I went shopping for the wedding, I saw in some cases we were buying out some of the trader’s daily quota of veggies.
  • The wedding hall expense was one I couldn't justify but when I saw the number of people it employed to run the show I think I am partially satisfied. The people working there should be paid better is a different question altogether.
  • The stuff needed for the pooja in the weddings, I know that there are lots of stores in Mysore and Bangalore who for generations have been doing the business of selling pooja items.
  • I think I need to make a special mention for beetle leaf, the wedding on the whole required quite a lot of beetle leaves. It was used in the pooja and it was given to people with their take home gifts. I am sure most people who took it home simply put it in the garbage bin but the farmer who grew it got his fair share (for the critics: yes, “fair” part of the statement is debatable) .
  • Traditional Indian weddings require a lot of coconuts too, for they are used in cooking, pooja and also take home gifts for the guests. At a time when coconut farmers are losing market and money, weddings are definitely a hearty welcome.
  • The photo/video person also makes his money with such events.
  • The cook who is an independent contractor also employs people under him and takes his share.
  • The priest conducting the wedding earns his living through this.
  • There are a lot of things that are unique to our community weddings and I felt these unique things keeps us closer to our roots (villages)
  • Even though gold/jewelry takes up decent share of the wedding budget, I don't want to comment on the jewelry aspect, for I believe the return on investment in terms of stimulation of economy in the local area is not immediately seen with gold.
  • Mysore dairy had a separate section with an officer dedicated to handle wedding and big function orders.

All in all I felt wedding is a big job creator and an industry in itself. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating for expensive or lavish weddings but I am just pointing out the fact that the money spent is helping the economy and is doing it on a broader range.

There are other advantages for a traditional wedding besides plain economics, like the gathering of relatives and friends whom we probably wouldn't have met in years and preserving the culture and traditions for one more generation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

India Trip - Experience/Travel Log - 1

I recently took a sabbatical and went to India for over 6 weeks. It was great to have such a long time off. I came back very well refreshed. I initially landed in Delhi and after spending some time in Delhi, went down to Bangalore and then to Mysore. Mysore, I had a wedding to attend and help out with the same. After wedding visited a couple of Temples in Karnataka and then made a trip to Jaipur and Agra and after a brief stopover in London finally made it back to Austin Here are some experiences/travel logs and so on of the same. I will publish in parts, for one long list will be boring to read.

  • I got to experience the true spirit of India when we traveled 7adults + 1 child in a Tata Indica. We didn't travel too long, just a few tens of KMs and I have to admit the road was pretty nice too.
  • Witnessed a completely women operated petrol bunk in Mysore, everybody from manager/cashier to the person who checks air pressure in tires were women.
  • Volvo buses were pretty much seen everywhere both in Bangalore and Mysore. I may be technically wrong in calling them Volvo buses because both Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors are making similar buses, but the people of Bangalore/Mysore recognize the brand name and call them “Volvo”.
  • Banashankari-II stage had new and improved foot paths with some new and good looking bricks on the footpath. Needless to say pedestrians haven't recognized the improvement and hog the road.
  • Traveled on NICE road in Bangalore, only half way done but very well built. I could truly witness the man power we have when it took 3 people to get us a toll ticket to travel on the NICE road.
  • I remember seeing a pen store at the UK airport which sold pens that were worth few pounds to few thousands of pounds, to my surprise I saw a similar store at Delhi airport. The prices were from few thousand rupees to few tens of thousands of rupees.
  • We went to Sapna bookstore in Mysore, newly opened and nice looking. Lots of things to browse around and they have organized their multimedia things to one floor and books to other floor. There are a ton of people employed to help customer in each aisle. The sad part was when each floor had no idea what the other floor carried and even with their sophisticated computers there was no link between the 2 databases.
  • Delhi airport this time around looked better organized than before, people were behaving well and there were no line cutting and all such things. I almost gave them a rating of 4.5 out of 5 but decided on a 3 when at the last moment they changed the gate numbers from where we were supposed to board the flight. Come to think of it, probably it is an airline problem and not the airport.
  • I witnessed some wonderful customer support by the staff at Mysore dairy, I was there to order milk for the wedding and the whole process took less than 15 minutes. The staff was very courteous and very helpful. The interesting part, even though they seemed pretty computerized they still maintain orders in both digital and paper format (not just a print copy but a ledger of orders).
  • While helping out with the wedding preparations, I went to the Indian version of Farmers market. Just like in US, people from the neighboring farm lands bring their produce and put it up for sale. But unlike here, there the market happens every day and the number of people in the market is in the order of a thousand. The people who shopped varied from every day normal people to people who sell on streets to people buying for functions like weddings and such things. Come to think of it, I didn't see any fruits sold; mostly it were all veggies. The place seemed to generate business for more people than just buyers and sellers. There were those people who helped lifting the heavy merchandise that is bought; there were the specially modified 3 wheelers which we in India call “luggage auto” to transport merchandise that is bought. There were also lots of cows which were feeding either on the veggies itself or the discards. There were the "government officials" collecting fees from the vendors and some of the local goons collecting whatever suited their taste for the day.