Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

Last Day of the year MMXII A.D. And for me personally what a year it has been. It was the year of transformation and change. And I can always look back to 2012 as one of the best years of my life. After all, all the 3 basic ingredients for Happyness are now in place. Someone to love, Something to do & Something to Hope for.

Here is a little look back on the year gone by.
  • February 29 is the most special day in the calendar. And getting married on such a special day to a special person. Well as they say सोने पे सुहागा. Though there remains the issue of the date on which to mark the yearly anniversary.
  • Quite a lot of travel done including the first ever international destination added. Bali, Goa, Nalanda circuit, and rediscovering Mumbai as well. The journeys have become more pleasant due to the wonderful company.
  • Shifted houses. Now refer to Bombay as my home base rather than Navi Mumbai. And included many additions to the household.
  • Learning to drive. It was quite an experience. Sometimes fun, sometimes scary. 
  • Managed to lose another mobile phone, the same model as last year 
  • Lots of teething issues. Wisdom tooth pulled out, root canals done etc, etc. Bloody painful too.
  • Work continues as usual. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
  • The posts keep coming on to the blogs. And they are a little more noticed now.  Ventured into the podcast front as well with a couple of recordings
So 2012 you were nice to me. And provided such wonderful memories to be cherished for a lifetime.

Lets see what 2013 has in store for us.

Wishing all readers a very happy year and life ahead.

Ten From Twenty12

Twenty12 the year is coming to an end. And like every year this blog tries to make a list of 10 random things to remember the year gone by. (2011 compilation is here)

1. Hero of the Year
They named her Damini, Nirbhay, Braveheart & Amanat. She was most likely just one in a billion. But the brutalities committed against her shook an entire nation like never before. While she rests in peace, a change comes to the Indian society she left.

2. Non-event of the Year
December 21, 2012. The world was supposed to end as per some interpretations of the Mayan calendar. But on the chosen day, nothing happened. The world is still there, though you sometimes wish it had because humanity certainly ended long ago.

3. Fad of the Year
Online activism & Outraging. We have a lazy laidback attitude to our society. If we do not like something we outrage. And that too online. Assuming that we will somehow inspire someone else to be outraged enough about our outrage to do something.

4. Kolaveri Di of the Year
If 2011 was the year of Kolaveri Di, 2012 was the one of Gangnam Style. A Korean guy running around mimicing riding a horse while singing Korean words is now the biggest star on this planet. Unlike Kolaveri which launched millions of spoofs, Gangnam Style stayed true to the original and went on to become the first ever video to garner a billion (i.e.1000000000) views on youtube.

5. Storyteller of the Year 
Arvind Kejriwal. Once upon a time leader of the anti-corruption movement. And now a full time politician. Started telling interesting stories on corruption. There was a new big bang story every week and then it all disappeared. Am I supposed to believe that there are no more corruption stories or that the media has lost interest? Most probably the latter.

6. Jump of the year
A man went up 24 miles into space and then jumped on to Earth. Lots of distance covered, yet no displacement :P. Fantastic effort by Felix Baumgartner for making the biggest jump by a human ever. Red Bull certainly gave you wings.  But the jump of the year award goes to Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II for parachuting into the Olympic stadium to inaugurate the Games.

7. Fall of the Year
Lance Armstrong. Cancer survivor and 7 time winner of the Tour de France. He was a hero to all. But that was before the fall. Given cycling's reputation, the drug results did not actually come that much of a surprise. but what did surprise was the extent of organised doping and lies which had gone about in creating the Lance Armstrong myth. 

8. Shahid Afridi Stay forever young Award of the Year (sponsored by Santoor Soap)
And it goes to the-youth icon-who-must-not-be-named and refuses to grow up.

9. Rising statesman of the Year 
Very very difficult choice to make. It seems every time an Indian neta opened his mouth, his perceived IQ amongst the public fell down. And it was true for politicians cutting across all party lines. But finally at the end of the year with his "dented & painted" comment, the award goes to Avijit Mukherjee, MP. Although he must also be given the bravery award for offering himself before Arnab Goswami after making these remarks.

10. Blogging Moment of the Year 
Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from ODIs. And countless articles, editorials & blogs get published at that instant (including yours truly's). Some gave the impression that they had been in draft for ages and were constantly getting updated. Now waiting for the Test retirement so that more drafts can be written and published when the moment comes.

So that was 2012. Not a great year in general for the world. Lets see what 2013 has in store for us.
Wishing a very Happy 2013 to all 

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Mayan Misinterpretation

Its 21st December, 2012 - the day of a great apocalypse. The world is going to end. Thats what the Mayans said. Rather what the wise people studying the Mayans interpreted their "calendar" inscribed on a stone. Apparently the dates on the inscribed on the calendar stop on today's date. Hence all this apocalyptic predictions.

The root cause of all the nonsense
But for better or for worse, the world is still here, and going as usual. So why did the dates stop at this point. My possible interpretations to this Mayan conundrum
  1. the Mayan fellow given charge of inscibing the stone must have got bored of his job, OR 
  2. the time cut-off for the work would have reached, OR
  3. he would have run out of space, OR
  4. the calendar thing wasn't meant to prophesize anything at all, OR
  5. the date might have been inscribed correctly but has been misinterpreted as today's date. After all translation has always been a big challenge in communication. So the apocalyptic date could be totally something else, any time in the future. (Tomorrow, day after, month after, next year, next century, next millenium....)
P.S. Poor India TV, what would they do now? Which date to assign for apocalypse?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rajgir - The Ancient Magadh Capital

As promised in the previous post, here is the picture blog of Ragjir - the ancient Magadh capital.

From my experience, I would say this is the place to be developed in Bihar as the alternate urban centre which will ease out the load on Patna. 

Highlights of Rajgir - Beautiful weather being surrounded by seven hills, the Buddhist temples, Jain temples, ancient ruins dating from Mahabharat times, the hot springs.

Here is a photo trip of the chief attraction - The Vishwa Shanti Stupa
The Ropeway
Aakashiya Rajju Path (आकाशीय रज्जु पथ ) - The ropeway leading to the Vishwa Shanti stupa. The ride was fun with the chair cars swaying along as it climbs the hill to the stupa.

The Vishwa Shanti Stupa

Lord Buddha

Another view of the Stupa

View from the Stupa
The Japanese Temple

Son Bhandaar
Its claimed that this hill hides a huge treasure. So far attempts have failed to locate the same. Only a cave exists as on date.
Gardens in Venu Vana - a modern day monastery
The setting sun over the Jal mandir
The Jal Mandir, Pawapuri- A jain temple located in the middle of a beautiful pond. The entire pond is covered with Lotuses 

It was great to find so many interesting & fascinating places near my home place. There were quite a few other places which couldn't be visited due to time constraints. Hope to visit again.

So till next time in the TravelNotes.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Visit to the Nalanda University Ruins

Personally, 2012 among other things has been a year of adding new travel destinations. (An entire 2012 wrap-up blog post will be coming up later).

After the previous one to Goa, here is a little photoblog of a visit to the Nalanda University ruins, some 90 kms from Patna, the capital of Bihar The ancient unviersity was established in the 5th or 6th century A.D. and was a renowned seat of learning with scholars coming from far an wide. The Budhhist university fell into ruins once it was ransacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turkish attacker. So all that is standing now are the ruins which are still being excavated. 

Having my roots in the present day Nalanda district, I have been quite ashamed at not having visited the place even once. Although my parents claim that I had but was too small to remember. So as I had no memories of the same, this was my first trip to the place. Here are some picture of the once-great-university. The destruction of the Nalanda university certainly took away lots of our intellectual & cultural heritage. Hopefully the Nalanda Open University being built not too far from the site would be better able to preserve the intellectual wealth.

A beginning can be made by preserving this sign first

Dormitories for the students

Another view of the hostels

The Great Library

Inside the corridors of "learning"

Another view of the Library

A headless statue of Buddha

The Great Bell of Peace with inscriptions in many languages

Overall, a nicely maintained place
The place was nice and relatively quite clean, lots of greenery around. Already amajor truist attraction, it certainly has potential to become even more attractive. All that is required is a little more marketing. But before that infrastructure should be built to be able to handle the large amounts of tourists coming in.

Coming up next - A visit to Rajgir, the ancient Magadh capital.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

PMji Samjhoji

Following is an open letter written to the Prime Minister as part of the PMji Samjhoji campaign conducted by the online journal The Viewspaper. Originally published here. It felt good to be part of an organised initiative to collect ideas to be presented to the Prime Minister. A little change will also help in a great way.

Dear PMji

I am writing this little note to present a little idea on how to improve India.

Gandhiji had said, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. But what we see in modern day India is lots and lots of filth. Roads, Railway stations, bus stops, rivers, there is no spot which seems to have been spared. What worsens the situation is the fact that we Indians have got so used to living in such dirty conditions that the sight of garbage lying around makes no impact on us. We simply ignore and move on.

But how do we attempt to create a cleaner India? I would like to share a few thoughts on the subject. If implemented properly, I for one certainly believe that this little initiative will create a cleaner India.

How do we go about it? Just place dustbins at easily accessible locations. You will notice that people will start using the garbage collection bins and not throwing stuff around. There may still be a few who would be spreading rubbish but a majority will use the bins. Also it will reduce the workload of the municipal authorities. Garbage lying in the open only encourages people to throw more garbage at that spot.

Let me share a personal experience. I had gone to the “Gateway of India”. It was a perfect setting with a slight drizzle and a cool breeze blowing. Also the perfect setting to have a “bhutta” (corn) from a local vendor. After eating I couldn’t locate a single bin where I could throw the cob. Finally had to throw it in a pile of other cobs in one corner. If there had been an easy to locate garbage bin around, I for one would certainly have walked over to use the dustbin. And I am quite sure there would have been many others who would have done the same.

So a humble request is to ensure the availability of dust bins at all public places. And this project need not be begun at a large scale. Start with monuments of national, local, historical, religious, cultural significance and then extend to the next road and the next and so on. And slowly you will have a cleaner India.

Results will only come once there is a basic civic sense in the citizens. But we need to make a start somewhere. After all a little spark is all that is need to start a fire. Hopefully this will be the little spark.

Yours sincerely
Nishant Kumar

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Nishantzworld - 200 Not Out...

That is the number of posts that have been written for Nishantzworld. And writing this little post to celebrate the landmark.

More than 6 years ago, an idea of writing a blog came to me. And I took my first tentative step. It was a confused beginning with me having no idea of what I was getting into. After that first step, posts started coming in as and when I felt like writing something. Posts would be on campus life and some other world events which I thought strongly enough at the moment to express my thoughts upon. Apart from my life, there  would be the occasional movie review and the more regular cricket related ones. There were also a few random ones whose content had zero originality.

Had an idea of closing the blog after moving out of campus but was dissuaded by a couple of readers (whom I am very grateful to). Post campus life, the posts became more world oriented. The frequency of posts went down. However there was something which kept me going. Slowly the writing style also underwent little changes. Cricket has been shifted to an altogether different platform called Slipstream Cricket (which reached its double century in double quick time but has slowed down off late. There have been the occasional writer's block but have still gamely carried on. Some cosmetic changes have taken place to keep up with the time. Now I have a dedicated MovieNotes section where I review the recent movies seen. (debuting today to mark the 200th post). Hopefully sometime soon there will be enough posts to start a dedicated travel section too.

What keeps the blog going on? The occasional comment which comes in. More than that the satisfaction on seeing my own thoughts getting published and being able to share them to the world. There is never any dearth of ideas. It also feels great to be occasionally published on other forums.

Special thanks to the 22 people who publicly follow this blog. 

And lastly the Fab 5, my favorite blog posts from post 101-199 (something which I had done for my 100th post as well). In chronological order here they are.
  • The Fast & the Corrupt. Where I wrote about Anna's movement
  • Jhansi Ki Rani. The Don Bradman of my posts. For some weird reason the most visited blog post so far.
  • The Inhuman Humans. An account of a painful encounter with the Dentist
  • Bombay. Expressing my inability to call Mumbai my home.
  • Driving Lessons. A set of 3 posts chronicling my efforts to learn driving. Made some progress in there.  A blog is a good way to note your progress. And I need to post the 4th one in the series.
Hopefully more and better ones will follow.

Thanks once again to all who have have read this post. Your comments are most welcome. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

MovieNotes: Ted

Movie: Ted
*ing - A Teddy Bear, Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis
Language - English

How to describe a movie for adults in which a cute (only in looks) teddy bear is the main star? Hollywood does come up with interesting concepts at times. 

Synopsis - A loner boy (John) makes a Christmas wish which makes his newly gifted teddy bear come to life. And so begins an unlikely life-long friendship between a boy and a teddy bear. They grow up. Complications arrive in form of the John's girlfriend. John now needs to make a choice between the girlfriend and his best friend. In the end issues get resolved and they "live happily ever after".

USP of the movie - A "living" teddy bear, who becomes an instant celebrity just because of the fact that he exists. And has the usual celebrity lifestyle issues (drugs, women, indecency in public, rash driving etc.). Nice little comment on America's celebrity culture there.

Word of caution - The central character may be a "cute" teddy bear but his crude language, wild living, drinking, drugs ensure that the movie is not meant for younger audiences. Although that is also the reason why the audience would go watch the movie in the first place.

Special Mention - The "thunder buddy" song which Ted & John recite whenever they hear thunderstorms.

"An adult fairy tale" - that is how I would describe Ted. Made for people who have grown up but on occasion would want to go back to being little.

Rating - 7/10 (A fun one-time watch, though some of Ted's more crude scenes have loads of repeat value)

Previously on MovieNotes - Life of Pi