Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shots from the Past - 2

"Wonderful Copenhagen" - that is how the city of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark is touted as. It is certainly a wonderful place, very Scandinavian and very charming. I was there for almost two years on a project - memories of which I will cherish forever.

When I first landed there, I was a somewhat dismayed by the lack of people on the streets and the rather subdued & understated architecture in the city. Copenhagen is by no means as flashy as Paris or as historical as London. But then slowly I started enjoying the charm of the city and by the time I left, I had formed a bond.

Places to see in Copenhagen are concentrated primarily in two areas - the City Center/Town Hall Square (Radhuspladsen), and then the Walking Street leading down from there to Nyhavn (translated as New Harbour) and the adjoining Palace & waterfront.

This is the Amalienborg Palace square. Amalienborg Palace is the winter residence of Denmark's monarchy. There are four different palace buildings (two are visible in this picture, on the left and the right) that open out into the octagonal square. The bronze statue in the middle is of King Frederik V. The church in the background is called MarmorKirchen (The Marble Church).

As you turn around a 180 degrees from this place, the sight below greets you. The fountain and the adjoining garden (Amaliehavn) is right across the road from the road. It forms the gateway to Copenhagen's waterfront. Across the water is Copenhagen's new Opera House. It was donated by the Denmark's largest business house, the Maersk group, to the Queen of Denmark.

Other must see places in Copenhagen are Nyhavn, Walking Street, The Little Mermaid, The Church of our Saviour, Tivoli Gardens etc. Hope to post more photos from this fascinating city very soon.

All posts in the Shots from the Past series here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Catch Twenty-2

The Indian flag flew high at the Wanderers on September 24th - India are world champions again! After a lot of promise and a lot of hype we finally have lifted a cricket World Cup - albeit a Twenty20 one. Here was a young team that everyone discounted, here was a captain who gave the impression of being more brawny than brainy - but they proved everyone wrong. Its a champagne moment, a day that we will remember for ever.

Photo Courtesy Cricinfo

What's more, this seemed a total team effort. Yuvraj sparkled in most games, but not all. Rohit Sharma (the find of the tournament for me), cashed in when he got the opportunity. Gambhir has matured and taken his game to the next level. The bowlers contributed handsomely as well - RP has consistent throughout, Harbhajan won a game for us, Pathan sparkled in the final, Sreesanth in the semis. And of course, not to forget Agarkar - his contribution, as always, was immense. His credit lies in the fact that unlike in previous tournaments he showed his true colors in the league stage itself, than thereby spared us his terrible bowling when it really mattered :-)

But amidst all the euphoria, I cannot but feel a tinge of uneasiness somewhere deep down. The reasons are threefold -

1) Just when the public had got bored with cricket, and were coming out in numbers to support other sports like football and hockey - this win will surely have given oxygen to the cricket travelling circus. If it took the 1983 win to firmly establish cricket as the #1 sports in India and a national obsession, the timing of this win could not have been better for the administrators. With millions of dollars at stake at IPL & ICL, this win surely will give them the ammunition they need to rake in the moolah. The 'other' sports could get relegated to the backbenches again, and for some time to come.

2) Already cries have been raised to remove the 'buddhas' (elderly) from the team, the ire being directed primarily at the Holy Trinity of Indian cricket - Sachin, Sourav and Dravid. I am sure the public at large will get blinded by this euphoria and bay for their blood and the BCCI will oblige. But Twenty-20 to me is a different format - this is a game where the boundary between good teams & ordinary teams is a thin line. A couple of players scoring quick 30's and 20's may be enough to put up a good score. But in ODI's and especially Test cricket, it is a different ball game. There you need experience and class - a flashy 20 may please the crowds, but will harly ever win a game. A case in point - from the batting point of view, it is only Rohit Sharma who is new to the team. The other guys already play in ODI's, and in the first team. But it still took 3 century opening stands from the old firm of Sachin-Sourav to win the 3 ODI's in England.

The contribution of Sachin, Sourav and Dravid to Indian cricket have been immense. Their generation was the golden era of Indian cricket. Yes, they are in their twilight zone now - but I still feel we need them for a couple of years more to help India in Tests & ODI's.

3) Lastly, we must remain aware of the big series' coming up. The wounded Aussies are coming to India - surely they would not have enjoyed losing to us in the semis. Pakistan too have lost twice to us, no less in the finals. Shoaib Malik too would not have forgotten his crusade on behalf of all "Muslims in the world" (sic). And then of course there is our own Final Frontier - a trip Down Under. The Holy Trinity have given India many firsts in Test cricket - memorable overseas wins, for one. Last time they came close in Australia (but for a few missed dollies from the baby faced Parthiv) - this is their last chance.

The team needs to forget the felicitations, and the hype and the hoopla very quickly. They have to remember that the Indian public have worse memory than a hard disk with bad sectors. The jubiliation of the T20 World Cup win may disappear faster than a Yuvraj six if we lose at home to Australia, and much more so to Pakistan. I may be playing a spoilsport and a doomsday sayer here, but all too often we have seen a low after a high in Indian cricket. Here's hoping that history is not repeated this time :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What, 'da' .... ??


Smile.....Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the birth of the now ubiquitous Smiley - "a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis". It was first used as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message by Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman.

To quote CNN - "Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11:44 a.m. on September 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humor and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly."I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)," wrote Fahlman. "Read it sideways.""

Those of course were the days when the internet (or for that matter computers) remained confined to university campuses. Computer labs were as sacrosanct as temples, especially in India. You had to take off your shoes before you could spend a few happy hours inside and come out looking pleased as punch - er, punch cards...

Its difficult to imagine today how different was it then. Internet today is empowering generations and defining new paradigms in our socio-economic life. The smiley has been an integral part of this revolution. It has firmly estabished itself in our electronic lexicon. Millions around the world use the smiley (or its different variations, collectively called emoticons) every day, in their electronic conversations. A perfect example of technology being humanized, perhaps...

The flip side to this sort of language revolution is SMS English, in my opinion. Its origins are obvious - a child of the other major revolution in our day, proliferation of the cellular phone. It is from the widespread usage of text messages from where this trend emerged.

Photo taken at Jungfrau, Switzerland - April, 2005

I consider this form of communication as the bane of our age - it makes my blood boil to see words such as 'n' (and), 'da' (the), 'dis' (this), 'wad' (what), 'fren' (friend) used in written conversations on the internet. Maybe people are plain saving time, or perhaps a silent revolution is underway to eradicate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the world.

Or perhaps it is me who is thick headed & old fashioned - because I surely don't understand what charm SMS English brings into the picture. It surely would not have received the blessings of the now tormented souls of Wren & Martin I imagine....

So, perhaps there's more than one facet to every story - ditto for the electronic revolution and its effects. The good, the bad and the 'da' ugly :-)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Shots from the Past - 1

This is the first in a series of posts that I am going to make featuring some photos from my travels in the last 3 years or so.

Although I have been into photography for roughly the same period (3 years), it is only very recently that I have developed a huge fascination & keen eye for the subject. Now I am slowly coming to understand the basic technicalities and trying to achieve them in my work. In my Flickr page I have put up the ones where I think I did a decent job technically (Albeit some of them are unconventional choices with deficiencies such as centrally placed horizons, uneven exposure et al).

In contrast, the ones that I am going to post in this series have little or no technical merit. They just relate to some good old memories that i cherish. So here goes!

This is a view of the city of Bern (or Berne), Switzerland taken on a rainy day in April, 2005. I found Bern to be a lovely little city - very European, very charming and very elegant. The city center of Bern has been recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking the narrow cobbled streets lined with medieval architecture, one can sense why. Quiant little red trams trundle along providing a flavour of modernity amidst the old world charm. The building below is The Clock Tower, the most prominent building in the city center.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Looking for a Steve Irwin

Last year on this very day (September 4th), Steve Irwin (of Crocodile Hunter fame) passed away. He breathed his last doing the thing he loved the most - filming wildlife. His shows on Animal Planet was loved by all who watched them. He brought wildlife to our living room couches and sentitized us to the treasure wildlife is. All his life he crusaded for conservation & preservation of Mother Nature's bounties.

Unfortunately today, especially in India, this spirit is waning. It is no less than the Indian Tiger that is at threat. Their numbers have diminished and the clock is ticking.

Fuelled by the demand of their skin and their bodyparts in the international market (primarily Tibet, China and Taiwan), tigers in India are today being slaughtered. Of course economic reasons, more than anything else, is at play here. Apart from the poachers, villagers living in the forested areas also participate in the mayhem by poisoning water bodies - all for less than 10 US$. For a poor man picking wood from the forests, that is indeed big money.

But apart from the economic perspective, I believe there is something more at play. Now, I know there are still quite a few people who love Nature and being one with it. There are trekkers who even go on treks alone, just to be one with Nature. There are some people (notably Valmik Thapar) who has carried alone crusades for conservation India's natural habitats & for tiger protection.

But there are also many, no less in the privileged & educated classes, that just don't care. They somehow don't really appreciate & enjoy the enormous fulfillment and peace Nature gives us. For example, I have seen many instances of a picnic/group holiday to a beautiful tranquil place being marred by loudspeakers blaring 'item numbers' at full blast. To me, it just plain hurts somewhere.

I don't believe this feeling of being one with nature can be taught to anyone. You either have that sensation, or you don't. A few posters/hoardings there and a Born Free movie there simply does'nt do it. I wish Steve Irwin was reborn in India and through his shows inspired that love for Nature again. It is the little minds that can be changed - and they are our future.

I consider today's (urban & educated) children in India singularly unfortunate. Most of the time they are weighed down by huge burden of books, or are being dragged along by parents to activities they don't enjoy. I see playgrounds going empty and children spending their time playing FIFA 2007 on their computers instead. We need an icon like Steve Irwin to make it happen. He was a lovable, adorable maverick who can mix education with entertainment to touch childen's hearts. He is hard, almost impossible to replace. But there is always hope - if not for the Indian tiger in the forest, but for one on the screen.