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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Drive into the night

For sometime I had been hearing quite some about Jhankaar Beats. When in India I had purchased the audio CD for Manu. The soundtrack didn't impress me much. Manu convinced me that when I see the movie I would change my mind about the music. So finally, on Tuesday night I got the cassette and watched the movie. And Manu was right in a way. After the song sequences I was impressed, but not much. After quite sometime I had seen a fairly entertaining Hindi movie. When the movie was finally over, I was not sleepy anymore and decided to drive to work to update the blog (some sense of priorities that!). Half way there, I decided I was being overly connected (mails, chats, phone...) and decided against going to the office. At the next possible exit, i turned around and headed North to San Francisco. My previous visits to the mountains off the Golden Gate have always been fun. Not too many people out on the streets. Not too many cops! And the splendour of the city all open for me to relish in.

As I usually do when I head towards the bridge, I took a detour to the Palace of Fine Arts. In its grounds we are instantaneously transported in time to the ruins of Greece/Rome. A spectacular main structure with imposing walls around that are built to look like it was part of the "Acropolis of Athens". It reminds me very much of the Propylaea. A calm lake with numerous ducks and a few swans adorn it on one side and a theatre and exploratorium are present on the other side.

In the evenings, the palace grounds are beautifully lit up. The palace can be seen from miles away and presents a soothing feeling to the beholder. When I got there that night it was about 2AM. It was eerily silent and life seemingly had come to a standstill within its grounds. The place left me transfixed - the huge main structure, the high walls, the still lake, tall trees, soft wet grass on the grounds, the moon beautifully shinining down and enveloping the whole area in a soft shade of white and its reflection in the lake. Can't help but envy the residents of the houses surrounding the Palace - all within a stone's throw away. :)

From there I headed towards the Golden Gate. As I turned onto the stretch from where the bridge becomes visible, all I saw was a huge wall of white stretching from the ground to the skies above. There was no sign of the bridge. I was soon enveloped by the thick fog, visibility down to about 5 feet in front of my car. Having been on the bridge numerous times, I knew I was on it, but could see nothing of it. Not the sides nor its huge supporting structures. I had whiteness all around with only the road blinkers leading me on. When I reached the other end, I looped around to drive into the Marin Headlands hoping the fog wouldn't be much up there - a case of extreme optimism! I was curving along the steep mountain roads with 3 feet of visible road in front of me. I pulled into the small fort-like structure near the base of the mountains from where the Golden Gate usually appears to be a couple feet away. And all I could ever see, no matter how much I strained, was the white fog wall. I could hear the ocean waves lashing against the rocks on the other side of the fort.

The darkness, the noise the wind made as it swirled through the trees on the surrounding hills and the white wall scared me no end. Everytime someone has asked me if I believe in the existence of ghosts and supernatural events, I have always shrugged my shoulders and said I have not thought about it. And those mountains were the last place I wanted to be solitarily analysing those thoughts. Half carried by my scared legs and half blown along by the wind, I quickly reached the relative safety of my car (my car has a good security system built in and I strongly believe it can keep out even ghosts - if they exist that is! - or so I would like to believe. Anyone who doesn't think so, save those thoughts - I am not listening!!). I was surprised at how fast my car could move even through the dense fog with just 3-feet visibility. I headed down the mountains to the other side of the bridge and into the historic town of Sausalito (I think Sausalito is about a century old - and they already call it a historic town! Wonder why!!).

Sausalito is a beautiful town to spend a night in. At 3 in the morning, I had the entire stretch of the coastline to myself. And the parking lot too - that is a remarkable achievement in itself given the length of time I have had to wait in the past when I arrived in the town in more earthly hours and struggled to find 1 parking spot. Pleased with myself on my latest accomplishment, I hopped towards the pier and spent a good half hour staring into the night. Surprisingly there was not much of a fog here. Numerous private yatchs lined the pier to my left, a nice wooden restaurant was perched alongside. In front of me was the bay, occassional waves lashing the rocks a few feet below from where I stood. And again, the moon was out in all its splendour, lighing up the ocean for me.

With a long day ahead of me, I decided to catch on some sleep and locked myself in the car and dozed off for a couple hours; not before calling Manu to give him my spill on Jhankaar Beats.:) When i woke up at 5:30, dawn had already arrived. As i stepped out of the car, a nice cool breeze swept in from the ocean. Since I was anyway planning to jog on getting back home, I decided to instead jog through Sausalito and explore the place some more. I tried to stay as close to the pier as i could so I could look out into the ocean as I ran. Within a mile, the houses and shops blocked out my view and I was soon running through a very sleepy town. A few folks out walking their dogs looked on strangely as they saw me run by them in my jeans, sweatshirt and windcheater! :) Soon realising I was running late, but still not wanting to take the same route back, I circled into the hills and came across some very quaint houses built below ground level with simple but beautiful porticos. Most every house had a small garden. When I reached the top of one of the hills I stopped to take in the view from the hilltop. Around me were houses nestled in the hills, a thin mist screen covering them. In the distance was the vast sea, with a couple ships and a few boats. The Sun was peeking out from behind a few clouds. A few vehicles were plying the roads below. For a moment I felt like I was in dreamland.

By the time I reached my car, I was already running late. It was almost 7:30 and I had to get to work by 9. Enough time to just make it in I thought. By the time I reached the Marin Headlands, it was too tempting not to stop again to boo the ghosts, err spirits, errr... whatever they were that had scared me away the previous night. My belief that fogs clear away in the day was proven wrong. The fog was thicker than it was the night before. From where I should have been seeing the bridge, all I could hear was the cars plying on it. Not a tinge of the famous International Orange! With nothing much to see, I quickly got back to the car and headed homeward.

From that point in time onwards I seemed to have stepped into the real world. I was faced with a toll booth at the start of the bridge with about 20 cars in front of me and hardly budging. Past the booth, I found myself in fender-to-fender traffic. A ocean of difference seeping in within a couple of miles of each other: a blissful town on one end and a bustling metropolis on the other! And I smiled on as I drove home humming to the music of Rahman's latest masterpiece "Boys".

Icarus II

Quite some feat this! I was very intrigued when I read about the planned attempt and hoped Felix would make it across the English Channel successfully. Jumping out from 30,000 feet into an atmosphere at 60 below freezing, Felix headed towards the French coast appearing more like Superman out to get his breakfast from across town early in the morning. Gaining 4 feet horizontally for every foot drop vertically, Felix touched ground safely in under 10 minutes.

His flight did not go without incident. When he deployed his parachute a few hundred feet from ground, it became entangled with the 6-foot carbon wings fixed to his back. He managed to cut off the entangled wires even as the crowd on the ground anxiously looked on. When he touched ground, he became the first human being to fly across the English Channel with nothing more than an aerodynamic jumpsuit and a carbon wing. Quite an accomplishment for the Austrian who has taken quite some risks in the past. Thankfully, Icarus II emulated Daedalus and not Icarus.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Some futures trading this!

Amazingly creative idea. But as with any creative idea, support is hard to come by and is spurned early on.

It has its share of creativity, hypocrisy, stupidity and insensitivity. Imagine someone placing a bet on Bush/Cheney/Rummy's head! They would have been called terrorists for instigating an assasination attempt(s). But here we have the Pentagon planning on a complete marketplace. They even managed to get substantial funds. Given the state of the economy, it was worth a shot I guess. It would give jobs to displaced software engineers, market analysts and of course to Taliban and Al Qaeda men on the run! A little encouragement and a few futures on terrorist attacks indeed makes trading a fun career.

Monday, July 28, 2003

In nature's lap

Have been wanting to write about each of my trips - but somehow never got around to it. So decided to sit through and pen the trips from the last couple weeks. Will begin with the Portland trip.

Flew into Portland on Saturday last and was welcomed by surprisingly warm weather. I always believed that Portland and Seattle share similar weather. My trips to Seattle left me feeling nice and pleasant about the weather - the not bright, very light occassional showers, pleasant smell from the freshly wet soil type of weather...but I never thought I could live in that kind of weather through the year. Too soft (dull/pale???) for my liking. So when the warm blast hit me in Portland I was very surprised. Well, turns out that this is the one month when they enjoy this weather. In a few days they will be back to the "softer" weather, or so I am given to believe.

Surabh, Ravi and I soon set off to see the "few" waterfalls along the Columbian Gorge. The roads were much narrower than the Californian roads and was for long stretches covered by huge trees on either side of the road. Made a wonderful canopy protecting us from the harsh Sun. In a way, it reminded me of Highway 1, just that the roads here ran along the Columbian river's banks. First stop was at the Vista House. I was completely taken in by the astounding view. I would easily rate this among the top 10 best places I have ever seen.

Picture this: A huge mountain range slit in the middle by the Columbian river flowing softly along. The mountain on the left is completely covered with trees. As you scan the horizon from the right, you see this green mountain and as you gradually move to the left you will see the Columbian river. Further to the left you see the other half of the mountain. This one however is only spotted with trees and some foliage. The rest of the area is taken up by huge golden fields for as far as the eye can see, intermittently sprinkled with huge trees. And amidst this natural beauty is the Vista House. Constructed at the supposed highest spot on the historical Columbian River Highway, the Crown Summit, the Vista House sits on a cliff overlooking the river providing unlimited views up and down the river. And that view is a must see. The Vista House was undergoing some repairs when we went there. I would love to go back there sometime in the evening when the Vista House is all spruced up and see what it looks like with a setting Sun in the background.

We then drove on into the mountains to see a "few" waterfalls. The one that took my breath away was the Multnomah Falls. The Multnomah Falls cascades in 2 segments: a 542 feet drop onto a ledge, flows a little on the ledge before plunging another 69 feet. Just above the ledge is a person-made bridge that is almost a picture out of the movies. A winding road leads up to the bridge. The trail leads further on to the top of the Falls. Late and tired we skipped if for a later time. The best view is from near the Falls Lodge at the base of the Falls. From here we can see the higher Falls crash down on the ledge, the beautiful bridge suspended above it and then the lower Falls gently hitting the base. I am sure the view in winter is just as spectacular, but in a different way. I saw a few pictures of the frozen Falls and it was very inviting.

Oregon sure has a rich trove of breathtaking wonders.

War guilty?

How far will this fight against the war-mongers go? Must appreciate the Greek optimism given the events of the recent past:

Triggering events:

Resulting actions:

F1 in India

16 circuits worldwide and a massive following! Die-hard fans of each of the manufacturers line up year after year to watch the cars disappear around the corner and then patiently await it at the opposite corner.

For a long time I had wondered what kept them on the stands with nothing to do except those few moments the car zips by them. Not that they can catch a glimpse of their hero - helmet and all; but the waving and shrieking doesn't stop. I was first drawn to the sport when I read a reader's digest article on the madman and the professor and their rivalry. And so I ended up following the entire 1997 season and was disgusted at Schumacher's lack of sportsmanship - die-hard fans attributed his attempt to take out his nearest rival Villeneuve to the game's strategy. Anyway, that does not take away the respect I have for Schumi's driving skills. :)

This year I will finally get to see first hand at Indianapolis what really drives people to stand in the hot Sun 3 days in a row to see zipping cars!

There are attempts now being made to bring F1 to India. Here are the Indian F1 kids: Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Democracy from within

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made a very nice point when he said democracy should not be imposed on Iraq from the outside - it has to come from within. Imposing a governing council is as far away from democracy as Saddam's fiefdom.

Spin doctors claim another victim

Dr. David Kelly is the latest victim of the spin doctors in the higher echelons of power who were reeling from the "sexed up" dossiers controversy. First his disappearance and then the subsequent finding of his body has raised some very glaring issues, including the protection meted out to whistleblowers. Meanwhile, a shocked neighbourhood talks about David.

Post-rape trauma

One in 20 women are raped in UK according to Home Office statistics! Here is a very revolting description of the aftermaths of rape as described by a victim. Hope a better support infrastructure is built and stricter sentences are passed against assaulters.

Is Blair declaring war against the US?

When Blair told the US Congress that "history will not forgive" world leaders who fail to confront the threat posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, was he implicitly declaring war against the US, the biggest proliferer of weapons of mass destruction? Or is just another of Blair's hypocritical whimpers?

Now they want an international flavour!

First they went to war with utter disregard to all international laws and violated all the possible conventions. It was more of a "With or Without you" for justice and errr some oil, we shalt fight on and in the process rid the world off the bad guys. They went in, "secured" the country and distributed all the "rebuilding" efforts amongst their own consortiums. But with the raising toll, they realised they needed some brown skins around. Personally, I don't think it had anything to do with giving an international hue to the war effort. I suspect it was more to use them as shields, just as they accused Saddam of using his people as human shields. They wanted to lean on the goodwill some nations such as India enjoy in the region and hoped to keep a minimum of their troops on the streets. But with these nations refusing to help unless under a UN mandate, the pressure is building on the US - in Iraq and at home.

With their HUGE budget deficits, they now realise that their Department of Defence is quickly turning into the Department of Massive Foreign Aid.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Why worry?

Came across this very beautiful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From evil that never arrived!

Reminds me of Rajesh Khanna's line in one of my very favourite movies "Anand":
"Hum anae valae kal ki gum ke barae me sochke, aaj ki kushiyon ko kho baituthe hain". (please excuse my rusty Hindi! :) It translates to "We lose out on today's happiness in speculating about tomorrow's problems.")

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

A day for our healers

A very Happy Doctor's Day to all you wonderful healers!

As in every profession, I have come across both the caring passionate doctors who are forever conscious of the very sensitive role they play and also the cold-blooded greenback focussed individuals for whom the Hippocratic oath was a mere formality and photo-op. With growing public-awareness and improved teaching methodologies, I hope more of the latter are converted to honour the oath and trust that is bestowed on them. Laid bare to their scalpels is the society.

In times when we read of a few who leave their patients on the operating table while they stop at their banks or accept bribes for preferential care, a couple quotes come to mind, from a must-read book for doctors, "The Lost Art of Healing" by renowned cardiologist Dr. Bernard Lown whose organization, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985:

"May I never forget that the patient is a fellow creature in pain. May I never consider him merely a vessel of disease." - Twelfth-century philosopher-physician Maimonides.

"I wouldn't demand a lot of my doctor's time. I just wish he would brood on my situation for perhaps five minutes, that he would give me his whole mind just once, be bonded with me for a brief space, survey my soul as well as my flesh to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way...Just as he orders blood tests and bone scans of my body, I'd like my doctor to scan me, to grope for my spirit as well as my prostate. Without some such recognition, I am nothing but my illness." - Anatole Broyard, NYT magazine, Aug 26, 1990.

To the caring individuals, who put aside their personal lives for this very demanding profession; hats off and sincere thanks! A very Happy Doctor's Day to you!

Galloping cancer

Been a while since I last posted to the blog. Not that there was nothing to write about. Plentiful thoughts/events in the last one week - but limited access to the internet kept me away.

Am on a brief break in Bangalore - thru Jul 12th. Had to rush in here cause one of my childhood friend's mom passed away. Cancer notched another victim. Harldy 4 months ago, she was healthy, active and enjoying her retirement. But was rapidly consumed by what the doctors called 'Galloping Cancer'.

It was painful to hear the news...but the full-blown effect was felt when I went along to the hospital to settle the bills and the hospital staff pulled out her records. On top, in block red letters, was the line "EXPIRED Jun 19, 2003". We just stood there holding each other and taking in the words!

Meanwhile, the battle against cancer rages on...

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