Monday, May 31, 2010

Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs... Always an Interconnected World!‏

What is a connection of the vaguest sort between Prannoy Roy, British Airways, Yanni and Lakmé cosmetics?
Nothing, I could not have imagined of any connection between them till yesterday when I remembered those days in 1989.

In the Doordarshan days of 1989, Prannoy Roy's The World This Week, which was telecast on Friday evenings, was the only quality source of international news. I was hooked to The World This Week. Every Friday, I would dedicate myself to watching the programme, even though staying awake after 10PM was considered late, by the small town standards in Yamuna Nagar.

And advertisements telecast during the The World This Week were a welcome break from the "Tandurusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy" type of commercials. The advertisements I am talking of were especially classy.

One of them was the British Airways commercial, which uplifted me, my moods and aspirations. The advertisement showed multi-racial groups of gleeful people in white, red, blue and black clothing arranging themselves in a such a fashion that the aerial view showed a face, which smiles and winks. Afterwards, the face turns into the impression of the globe.

The music and the vocals that accompanied the visuals were sublime, that instantly had an effect of elevating me.

I remember walking to school in the North Indian winter mornings, in dense fog and the only things that would ring in my mind would be music of the advertisement.

Years went by. I passed my exams, moved to Chandigarh for my graduation in engineering. On one of the weekends in 1996, while I visiting my cousin, Apoorav, at Panchkula, I heard Yanni's Live at the Acropolis for the very first time. The next thing I remember was rushing to Sector 17's Deepak Radios to buy Yanni's audio cassette.

The last track on the cassette was Aria, which was the same music that I had heard over 7 years back in the cold wintry evenings at Yamuna Nagar, that continuously rang in my head over the years, that always inspired to egg myself on, that haunted me because I did not have that music cassette with me for all these years.

Years passed by.

As I moved from Chandigarh to Gurgaon to Delhi to Bombay, got busier in life, fell in and out of and back in love, the world moved on from cassettes to CDs to MP3s, from Doordarshan to cable to DTH.

But in all these years, my liking for the sublimity of the audio of this advertisement (and of course, Aria) did not diminish even a bit.

And yesterday simply out of curiosity, I googled the phrase "British Airways advertisement Aria". And that opened up whole big treasure trove of evocative, sublime memories. I discovered that You Tube had a video that had captivated me over 21 years back, and Wikipedia told me that the vocals were from a duet, Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs... Sous le dôme épais (The Flower Duet), between characters called, Lakmé and Mallika, from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé, which was first performed in 1883.

I stumbled across a rough translation of Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs... Sous le dôme épais, on Wikipedia, which is something like this:

Under the dense canopy

Where the white jasmine

Blends with the rose

On the flowering bank

Laughing at the morning

Come, let us drift down together

Let us gently glide along

With the enchanting flow

Of the fleeing current

On the rippling surface

With a lazy hand

Let us reach the shore

Where the source sleeps

And the bird sings

Under the dense canopy

Under the white jasmine

Let us drift down together

Such beautiful poetry!

What's more interesting is that the opera, Lakmé was inspired by struggle of the Hindu masses in British India and deals more particularly of an Indian girl named Lakmé who falls in love with a British soldier, Gerald!

What's fascinating is Lakmé is the French way of saying Lakshmi.

And more fascinating than that is the fact that the Tatas, who have historically had a very strong affinity for France, named their cosmetics brand Lakmé after this soap opera.

So, the bottomline is that while it took me almost 21 years to realise this, the world always was, is and will remain interconnected!

And I have one more item to add on my bucket list - watch the opera, Lakmé, once before I die, in Paris. Obviously, learning French remains there in my bucket list.

Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Adieu VT-AXV

Yesterday, as I was boarding a flight to Chandigarh, I got alerted about the fatal crash at Mangalore (IXE).
I recall visiting IXE in May 2009 for a day trip. Recall landing on the scenic elevated table top runway, with red earth and palm groves on both sides. But it did give me jitters - the cliff edges were barely a few meters from the runway. This You Tube video clearly shows the precarious position of the runway.

The plane involved in the fatality, operating as IX 812 an Air India Express 737-800, registered as VT-AXV was manufactured by Boeing in 2008 (shown in the photo alongside, from

The 737-800 is a modern fly-by-wire aircraft, leaving little room for pilot error.
IXE is ILS equipped and VT-AXV was locked on to the ILS glide slope in its approach to the runway. So there was little room for pilot error on that count. It is reported IXE was having a touch of rain - probably an aftermath of Cyclone Laila. But still the pilots overshot the threshold by 2000 feet.

Was there a sudden gust of wind that prevented VT-AXV from touching down?

ATC protocol leaves the final judgement to the Captain and the First Officer. There was no distress call to the ATC. It is evident that the pilots were reasonably confident that the landing was manageable despite the overshoot.

So did the reverse thrusters fail, did the flaps fail or did reverse thrusters fail to work? Or was the aircraft too overloaded to take off for a go around in the warm, wet and humid conditions?

It is easy to blame the pilots for any crash, or rather quite immature to do so. There was an immediate backlash against expat pilots. (The Captain was a British national of Serb origin). What does his nationality have to do with the crash? Would an Indian pilot have done better? Aren't we being too judgemental? Aren't professionals supposed to take calls? Don't doctors, engineers, other professionals fail at times?
Having said that, the VT-AXV crash was a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions. Carrying over 150 migrant semi-skilled workers back home, after toiling in Dubai for years, with dreams of a better life for their families back home, the crash crushed all those dreams.

My condolences to the families of the passengers and the crew. And I will miss VT-AXV with its pretty livery....

Adieu VT-AXV.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The City of Joy!

A day trip to Calcutta yesterday and whole lot of beautiful photos......

Never realised the approach to CCU was so pretty!

The Laila Effect - Cyclone Laila had hit the Andhra coast a day before......

A part of the ground gets the sunlight and the other doesn't..... the effect on the hues of green..... lush and so full of life....

One of the numerous waterbodies on the way to the city!

How long with Calcutta remain the Red bastion?

The Calcutta hand pulled-rickshaw.... despite the pain, Calcutta is the City of Joy...

A heritage building at Chowringhee Square......

My favourite hangout at Calcutta - Flury's at Park Street - tuna sandwiches and a range of flavoursome teas to choose from....

A sculpture in bread at the Flury's. The old world charm lives on here!

Another heritage building on Park Street....

The signature vintage taxis of Calcutta - upgrade, Ver. 2010 required....

Headed to CCU for return to BOM

An Alliance Air (Air India Regional) ATR42 taxiing to the runway for a feeder service connecting CCU to the North East

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dealing with Pakistan - Homeopathy v/s Chemotherapy

Is the Indian state coming of age?
Perhaps, we are seeing the beginning of a change in the way the country thinks.
I believe this change is very well manifested in the statement of Judge M.L. Tahiliyani's conviction of Amir Ajmal Kasab.
He said "Every man who wages war against India forfeits his life to the Indian state."
This is a far cry from the so called Gandhian philosophy of peace and non-violence. Had Gandhi been alive today, who knows he may have opened the country's borders, made more CSTs, Taj's, Oberoi's and Nariman Houses to Jihadis, hoping this may bring about a change of heart in them.
India has for years tried to follow this Gandhian philosophy in our approach to Pakistan. Each time India failed.
Perhaps now India believes we can't afford the Gandhi's utopian concepts any more. They have cost us years of progress and development, years of lack of focus and trillions of dollars in lost GDP.
But still, people like Manmohan Singh are still trying to cling on to the old ways which have not served us well.
He is trying to talk to Pakistan again. He perhaps thinks homoeopathy is a good substitute to chemotherapy, that Obama has spoken about.
I am sure he'll fail in this attempt and the will of the people to act tough with Pakistan will prevail.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fly like an Eagle‏

I got this piece on my email a few days back. I thought it was really inspiring and worth sharing.

Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it arrives? The eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm.

While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm. When the storms of life come upon us - and all of us experience our own personal storms - we can rise above them all by understanding that the storm is really just a challenge brought to us by the Divine as a means to lift us up.

In life, growth from challenges is what life is about. When you understand this, you will be able to rise above the winds of the storms that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in your lives.

You can soar above the storm. Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down. It is how we handle them. This is reminding you to understand that when you are given a challenge in life, it is there for a purpose.

So take the energy of the challenge to go figure out the true purpose. Then you will have really soared.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

India Deserves An Apology

In March 2010, I had written about the Shenanigans of our Stars.
While the blog post was about movie stars, I did make a reference to cricket and the that our much-loved players don't give a damn.
The IPL was underway then.

We soon had the entire nation hooked on to the Modi-Tharoor spat. The nation was salivating over the salacious gossip doing the rounds.
Chennai Super Kings won the IPL. Just as the nation was getting with its work, the T-20 World Cup happened at West Indies.
And our Men in Blue faced the ignominy of an early exit from the World Cup. I am told the post-IPL parties were to blame for the debacle.
God knows what else happened in those parties.
Did the Men in Blue ever give a thought to the emotions of a billion Indian fans sitting at home, glued to their televisions?
Do they even have an iota of respect for the normal Indian fan, who would do anything to watch a match?
Do they ever think of the office goers who remain glued to the Net for the latest score, neglecting work?
(It would be interesting if an economist could calculate the loss to India's GDP because of our cricket obsession.)
Perhaps not. They seem more interested in money, exercising their testosterones and chasing the skirts of starlets. There is hardly any dedication to the game. And zero respect for their fans, who would do anything for the Men in Blue at the drop of a hat.
We deserve an apology. The nation deserves an apology for their ignominious conduct.

Friday, May 14, 2010

澳门 Macau - There's More Than Sin in Sin City!

The post on my photographs of Macau is way too delayed. Better late than never!

Bem Vindo A Macau - Welcome to Macau

By the Rivers of Babylon....

The Guan Yin (觀音) statue - her legend reminded me of our Meerabai

Macau Science Centre

Macau Tower in the distance....

Amazing glass structure on the streetside...

Lovely view of the Grand Lisboa...

The Grand Emperor...

Amazing reflections...

The Ponte Governador Nobre de Carvalho Bridge - the bridge connecting Macau and Taipa

Looking up to the Torre Panorâmica - the Macau Tower

The Golden Lotus -- a sculpture of the floral emblem of Macau

Bungee jumping at the Torre Panorâmica

89 days to go for the Shanghai Expo

Pousada De São Tiago - a 24 room boutique hotel - the epitome of luxury...

Mr. Ho pedalling us on his Trishaw....

Ohhh, that's Guangdong province of the People's Republic of China - a PLA frigate just passed by - photography was sadly not permitted

They even pray in Sn City! A-Ma Temple - how close the Chinese are to Indians, both culturally and spiritually...

Streets of Macau - An epicure's delight. Smoked layers of pork in various flavours. Lip-smacking, delicious and flavourful.....

Ruins of St. Paul's, the façade of what was originally the Cathedral of St. Paul built in 1602

Fake medicines?


A wonderful blend of Oriental and Portuguese architecture and lovely riot of colour....

Instituto para os Assuntos Cívicos e Municipais -- A beautiful library block, reminds a bit of the Asiatic society at Horniman Circle, Bombay. But an decrepit building behind.... So much like Bombay

Santa Casa de Misericórdia -- The Holy House of Mercy -- the oldest social institution in Macau established in 1569

A street scene....

Largo do Senado all decked up for the Year of the Tiger -- Kung Hei Fat Choy -- 农历新年

Relaxing at McDonald's...

Banco Nacional Ultramarino -- A relic of the bygone Portuguese era....

The footpath designed smartly reflecting the Portuguese heritage of Macau....

Night fall brings out another aspect of Macanese life...

A Macanese Matador?

Grand Lisboa in all its splendour....

A huge diamond on display..... Guess the caratage ....

Simply opulent.......

The bridge to Taipa...

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