Jeffrey Archer’s “Only Time Will Tell” is a 4 Star Read

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 16-04-2011

I love Jeffrey Archer’s writings from my engineering days, when I first read the absolutely masterly “First Among Equals”. I read several more of his books with great delight. My reading habits moved on, but recently when I was paying the bill at Landmark, I just picked up ‘Only Time Will Tell’ upon impulse.

Set in England between WW-I and WW-II, it captures the pre-internet era, and captures the under-privileged travails of lead character Harry Clifton as he grows up across the school, then to college, falls in love and then the climax with the intensity so typical of Jeffrey Archer. Interestingly, this book has been launched in India and some other countries even before it has hit the shelves in UK, which has been set for May 12!

It took me just a day and half to finish this off. Very captivating. Jeffrey, you’ve earned a reader back.

Durga Puja in Chennai

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 14-10-2010

Lot of people have  misconception about not being able to enjoy Durga Puja in Chennai. In fact, many people ask me as to where the Puja venues in Chennai are. Here are some must visit Pujas.

I happened to be able to visit Bengal Association Puja in T. Nagar this evening.



This pandal is located at Junction of Thirumalai Pillai Road and Giri Road. Bang opposite Suriya Sweets between Vallavurkottam and Quality Inn Sabari. Scroll the below map to check out your location.

View Larger Map

Besant Nagar Puja is not at is usual spot this time. In Adyar, this time Puja is being held at Youth Hostel in Indira Nagar. It is about 100 m from LB Road on 2nd Avenue. The below map stands updated and should be helpful to make you reach.  The spot marked A is the youth hostel. It is quite close to MTC Bus Depot on LB Road which comes on the other side of LB Road. If you are coming from MG Road (the starting from Besant Nagar Church and continue LB Road) you must just cross the LB Road signal and look on the left.


View Larger Map

Bihar Association conducts Puja and cultural events at No 17, Dhamodaran Street, Cathedral Road. This is right across the road to Stella Maris college. This puja is very well attended, just like the Besant Nagar one, and food is completely vegetarian. The below map should be helpful.

View Larger Map

Of course, there are several other Puja Pandals. I have identified these 3 ones which are almost in the heart of town and easy to visit. Go ahead and enjoy!

Additional Resources: Read this great post from Asit.

Aero Modelling Event at Shaastra 2010 at IIT Madras

Filed Under (Fun, Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 02-10-2010

This afternoon, I found myself drawn to the IIT Madras stadium, where a housefull was waiting for some classy flight performances by aeromodel enthusiasts. We were not disappointed. I quickly pulled out my camera and took some pictures, and then switched to video mode. Enjoy!


A model being carried to the runway by the crew as the crowd waits for the action to begin.






DSC03664 The aircraft is being placed on the runway as the crew prepares for take-off.








This is the pre flight press conference!







The action begins with this Raptor miniature, which had a jet engine!

Then begins the action!!!

And more..

The rolls and moves executed were breathtaking. This guy flew very  fast, and even keeping him in the frame was quite a challenge. Unlike most fixed wing models that come with propellers, this one had a jet engine.







This helicopter is believed to be a scale model of a real one.

The helicopter flight was a unique experience by itself. With the smoke and fury that is. The control was amazing.









Then there were the breath gasping acrobatics.

Even as the sun was hiding behind the trees, this agile beauty took to the skies and stole quite a breath. I want this one.









And before the event concluded, there were 3 of them in the air together, even as a Boeing passes overhead. Not part of the show so I kept my camera focus on this small beauties. I bet you’ve not seen anything like this before.


Honestly, the event concluded, but I felt cheated, because I wanted even more. Somehow, the human urge to fly high became quite overpowering.Hats off to the men behind the machines.

The Smell of Ranchi’s Roses, and its Heroes

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 06-01-2009

I just returned back from Ranchi which is also my place of birth. Ranchi is a weird city. Unlike most cities in India where usually a political figure of past days occupies pristine town estate, this one has a martyr soldier of the Indian Army who has his statue in the main town plaza. Lance Naik Albert Ekka died fighting in 1971 and was awarded the Param Vir Chakra. He stands tall in the heart of the town holding his rifle and in a ‘charge forward’ posture. You ought to see the statue to feel the awe.

Albert Ekka Chowk

But that is not all what makes Ranchi earn the title of ‘weird’ in a positive sense. The city is a highly multi-religious and multi-cultural. If the marwaris from Rajasthan running the wholesale business, the best restaurants in town are owned by Punjabis. The tribal cultural is all around. Then there are folks from Bihar and Bengal who are living here for ages. Arguably, the best Durga Puja celebrations outside Calcutta happen in Ranchi. The best part is, it is possible to get a flavour of each and every culture in this city. That, one can say is the Ranchi culture. The sense you get there is of an extremely proud and confident city. Proud and confident, just like MS Dhoni.

Dhoni incidentally is not just the captain of the Indian cricket team, but a super class icon, the most well known sportsman that the city has produced – and by the way, they have produced not one or two, but dozens hockey players that have played for India- both men and women. Coming back to Dhoni – Everything around Dhoni is followed with a microscope. His arrival into town during Christmas is a front page picture in newspapers, as well as his departure out, with details right up to which flight he took! I incidentally learnt that his much talked about upcoming villa is just couple of hundred yards away from where my parents stay. However, in the interest of MSD’s privacy, I have no pictures to post here. Instead I have a picture taken by my phone when I went to see MSD’s boys at CSK play the Delhi team at an IPL match at Chepauk.


What I also noticed was a Mahi eatery close by, which had heavy advertising across the town. It isn’t owned by Mahi, but someone saw a business opportunity around this brand and decided to act. See the billboard on top of the Firayalal building.

The Mahi Craze

The Rock Garden next to Kanke Dam was an absolute revelation, where the terrain has been beautifully used to create an ambience of leisure.

View of Kanke Dam from the Rock Garden

Children playing in the rock garden, Ranchi

We also went to the Jagannathpuri temple on the other extreme of Ranchi. This temple is atop a hillock.

Lord Jagannath's Temple, Ranchi

Like Puri’s annual yatra, Ranchi has a mini-yatra too, in which the mythological Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna) goes to his aunt’s place for a brief period every year in a wooden cart (‘rath’ hence rath-yatra, and this event held at Puri is the etymological origin of the word ‘juggernaut’) pulled by enthusiastic devotees. This is the picture of the frame of the cart. As a child I remember seeing it drawn by crowds on a rainy day.

Lord Jagganath's Official Transport

In closing, there were some amazing dahlias and roses in my parents’ garden, and I made this collage out of this.

Dahlias and Roses

Every Dog Has His Day – II

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 05-12-2008

Continued from part I.

Those who do not know, the Canine Caucus of Peninsular India was in emergency session to discuss matters of urgent canine concern. To participate in this meeting, all dogs, pets, street, and uncared alike, had run away from their homes. Lunata, the bitch was incharge of canine defence was the next to begin. She was furious and began without much ado. “We must not forget that the first life to be lost in the Man-pen at Mumbai Taj was a member of this community. Fellow canines, we must remember that man is collectively territorial given that it has things such as ‘countries’, it has its own limitations. Moreover, in matters of loyalty, we must rate man at par with ants and termites. we must therefore, rely on a member of this community to extract a suitable revenge as per canine law”, said the hon’ble canine defence councilor. Then she let off a series of barks, which given the undulations in her voice, appeared to represent anger and resolve in equal measure.  The dogs applauded, “wuf, wuf”.

Every Dog Has His Day!

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 04-12-2008



The Canine Caucus of Peninsular India was in emergency meeting. The mood was indignant and unforgiving. “We must teach these humans a lesson”, barked hound Tommy, the usually quiet member of the society. “What do they really think of themselves?”, he wondered, with his right paw pointing towards a human settlement, otherwise called a city. “Wuf, wuf”, agreed all other dogs in the audience.  Tommy was a Boxer, gray, and had a business line look on his face. He concluded, “And with this friends, I hand over the session to our councilor responsible for public hygiene to elaborate his vision for 2009. Dogs and Bitches, here’s Jacky.” They clasped hands and Jacky the Terrier began his bitching.

In line with the code of the Canine Caucus, it was completely unacceptable to call anyone to deliver a speech, since it was an expectation in the canine community that they were hear to discuss facts and plans, and not fiction. Or dog bark human talk if you like.

Jacky began slowly.”We must ask the municipality to invest substantially in our human free area programme.In light of the new research that has emerged recently, we must also do all within our means to discourage our members from keeping humans as their pets. And more so in homes which have growing pups, so that they do not catch infections or pick up bad words. The new human pet policy will allow humans in dog pens only if their enclosures are at least thirty feet away from the nearest dog pens. Further, the license will require you to take humans for neurological exam twice a year, in addition to the prescribed shots. If there is any evidence of mental activity in any human, the law would require that such human must immediately be moved of dog pens in accordance with the law. Such humans, it goes without saying, are considerable risk to the dog society”.

End of Part 1. To be continued, hopefully, all of December. In celebration of you know what.

Part II here

Two Realtime Traintracking websites or apples and oranges

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 13-11-2008

Indian Trains1

Having grown up traveling long distances in trains in India (Since 1989 kms, have stayed more than a thousand kms away from the city my parents lived in). As a student, I used trains extensively for the travel and if you have travelled even half as much as I have done, you would know that ascertaining the location of a train in India can be such a problem.

No more, because someone has started this mashup that gives useful bytes of information. It gives fairly detailed position but not real time information which is still pretty good. I wish someone could give me a solution to an answer that I oh-so-frequently heard from the Railway Enquiry office which was that the train is almost in (In Hindi, the answer used to be ‘Outer par  khadi hai’). The same answer would be repeated for upto an hour sometimes!

The second must see site is this Mashup which mocks up Swiss Rail train movements. This site lets you almost travel with the train and see birds eye view of locations as a train passes along but does not use real data but only simulates the movements and the stoppages based on the time table.

Swiss Trains







And if you thought not having real time data is a bad idea, wait till you read the below notice available from the Swiss Rail mashup. You have obviously forgotten that Swiss Trains operate on time and hence real time data is inconsequential and so wasteful of money!

Indian Trains2

Diwali Shopping, Mars and Venus

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 20-10-2008

Diwali is the only time I do some shopping. Last Friday evening we went to StyleOne, the latest store to mushroom up in next door Adyar. My wife actually wanted to go to the real shopping hub of Chennai, simply called T.Nagar.

Unbeknown to my wife, the key factor in in me engineering this silent change of destination was neither some unbound discounts, nor grapevine stories of film actresses being sighted but the knowledge that StyleOne has an exclusive parking arrangement in the basement.

So, for a change, I did not have to hurriedly drop my wife at the doorstep of a T.Nagar shop and while she was busy getting attended to, roam around all the bylanes looking for a parking slot looking beggingly at the parking attendants to get noticed and awarded the coveted p-spot. My T. Nagar routine also includes making calls every few minutes ( My wife says they were actually just a minute apart) just to check with my wife if she was done looking for that green dupatta. But optimism does not always result in good fortune. Every time my phone rings, I would hope to hear my wife say she’s done, and all I need to do is pick her up and we head home for the warm dinner that’s waiting. But this is what I’d hear, “Honey, these guys don’t have  that green. So I am into the next shop 200m away. Just make sure you join me there once you are done with the parking. And after this dupatta, I would also do some pavement shopping, so just look for some ATM and get some cash, these guys on the pavement are real nerds, you see, they don’t accept cards – I just spotted a good pair of chappals that was up on a deal”.

As we headed for StyleOne, I felt this time I was in control. If you are male and married, you would know what a rare feeling that is. Parking was guaranteed, no pavement shopping (though I had some money), some nearby eateries in mind. It all sounded so good. I was looking forward to this shopping trip! 


Mars and Venus rotate around the sun


Now, control is a term that represents a relative and transient state. There was slight change in my comfort level, when upon asking my wife what she wanted to buy, her answer was that there was nothing in particular that she had in mind. Not to give up so easily, I made helpful suggestions, perhaps a salwar suit, or a sari, or pair of jeans is what she wanted. Now if you are an experienced co-shopper like me, you would know that it means danger. I kept my discomfort to myself. The parking was there anyway.

When she wanted to go to the children section that was one floor below the ladies section, I was truly alarmed. It was only a week back that we bought some dresses for our daughter. But patience, as you know, is the middle name of married men.

She selected a piece and wanted a bigger one.  Then she picked up a piece and wanted a smaller one. The attendant could not help locate either one. The exercise repeated itself quite a few times, as I made my long pending call to my friend in Delhi.

The call was abruptly cut short by a roar. Another man, on phone standing almost next to me, was yelling to what appeared to his workplace subordinate. Then, his wife waved him from almost the other side of the hall, and before he cut the call and ran, all he said was, I-will-throw-you-out. To the guy on the phone, that is.

Soon, my wife declared that the shop was no good and started looking at the watch. I could say it was real soon because the Singapore GP rerun was not even over, only almost. Yes, it took only about an hour to know that the shop was no good.

The next day was a Saturday, and as soon as it was time for my afternoon nap, my wife had an idea. Would parking in T-Nagar not be a little easier if we go during the non-peak hour. It meant getting up right then. She wanted to shop for ‘nothing in particular’. On the way, I told her I would try parking a little to the north. “You mean near the camera shop?”, she asked as a matter of fact. I said yes, and explained that I would also spend a few minutes checking out the camera models, since our circa 2000 1.3 Megapixel camera looked a little outdated. “Common, it works”, I was almost slapping myself for considering wasting my millions on something so worthless as a camera!


Encounter by the Counter


Now if you consider yourself capable shopper husband, you would know exactly how to prepare in advance for the real shopping. That includes, of course, charging yours and your wife’s mobile phone completely before you go to the market, and pleasantly minding your time for indeterminate periods in the shop without mindlessly whining at the end of every hour. So, if you get nervous at the sight of 65 sarees on display on the table and still your wife seems looking for that elusive one piece, you better stand next to her with a straight face.

Now examine this situation very carefully, she puts her hand on one, indicating that one has been shortlisted, rejects the next five, shortlists two more, reject the next seven, shortlists the next three, till the point that the shortlist is about seventeen or eighteen strong. Then among those just rejected, shortlists two more. That makes it about twenty. By now the salesman gets extremely excited, and hopeful that he would achieve his days sales quota by this one customer, starts showing some more. By now the shortlist is about 31-32. The soft-drinks arrive in no time. So sorry you don’t like Coke that much, perhaps Limca, Mirinda? You are certain that the any moment your wife make a pronouncement on the final selection. The suspense is killing. From the shortlist, she keeps the blue one aside, indicating rejection, then the green one, then orange one till about seven are left. Then she asks for those seven to be spread on the table, the salesman complies, and does so one by one, uttering every time the virtues of that particular piece. And then the lady looks at the salesman and utters, “You don’t have anything good?”. Now, the salesman is not like an impatient husband who gives up so easily. He points to the next collection, a few feet away, and still appears so excited to make a sale. My wife does not even look at him and moves on.

That’s when the fully charged mobile phones come in handy. I tell my wife to carry on and call me on my phone when she is finished shopping, and head off to the computer accessories shop nearby – the laptop mouse’s not behaving smooth. Who knows, I may like the laptop itself- when I stole a look at the shop on my way in, they had some new banners reading ‘festival offers and new arrivals’. That’s some excitement finally.

The girl in the computer shop is, just by the way, very attractive. So I end up buying an 8GB thumb drive which I never felt the need of, and feel very very good. It would be foolhardy to miss such a good deal. I can think about the uses of this thumb drive once I reach home.

By then my wife calls. She finished her buys too. I help her with the packages containing ‘nothing in particular’ and head home.

Happy Diwali to you all.

About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar