Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Galaxy in a river …

    My office is in Shiga, a 15 minutes walk from Kusatsu railway station. There is a small river called "Kusatsu-gawa" which flows over the railway line, yes, it's not a typo, this river actually is over the railway line. Though, I have never actual water flow, I thought it was for some kind of flood-prevention or something ... The dry river banks are adorned with "Cherry blossom trees" and it also has a newly-refurbished-jogging track" ...

    I guess the residents of Kusatsu were also bored with a dry river, and they probably wanted to fill it up with something ... On one fine day, when I was going to the office, I saw a group of people doing something inside the river, I presumed it to be some regular construction or some kind of maintenance work. What else can we assume if we see people working inside a not-so-happening-place.

    But in the evening while I was returning back home, I saw the following site …  a wonderful flow of candles. Yes 10,000 of them. It filled the whole river. What really amazed me was the time it would have taken to light it up. It was done manually by a group of volunteers. This shot was taken the next day, when I visited this place with Shanthi and Anto …DSC_0357 

    The following board says “7th lighting festival …”. I am working in this office for the 4th year now, and this is perhaps the first time I am seeing this. Probably, this is the first time it was made noticeable.


The following lights were made by some school going kids … wonderful …

DSC_0376 DSC_0388 DSC_0385 

    I was happy to see the river’s simulated flow. As with any other festival it was crowded, but not like the ones seen in Kyoto so it was manageable. I had ample space to set-up tripod ;-) …

Kudos Kusatsu …

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Autumn with my FCR2 ~

Local and Foreign tourists flock Kyoto all round the year, and it peaks during Autumn. Having lived in Kyoto for 3 years now and witnessing the 4th Autumn after starting to live in Kyoto, I have had no interest in visiting those so-called-famous-Autumn-spots just to avoid the crazy crowd. But this year, since the arrival of my FCR2, I started visiting places that I normally cannot go. For sometimes now, starting this September, almost every weekend, I visit Arashiyama, early in the morning, with my bike it just takes a little over 30 minutes from my home if I take the scenic-yet-non-crowded road along the Katsura river.

(In Front of Arashiyama Park)
(In Front of the serene Lake Hirozawa)
I have heard from people that Arashiyama is at its best during Autumn, and when I visited it a couple of weeks back, I found that out for myself. On that day I had started off from my home at around 0730 AM, and reached Arashiyama at around 0815 AM, and Mmmaaannn !!! it was damn crowded, the parking lot in Tenryuji was already full. Despite the crowd, I couldn't stop myself admiring the beauty of Arashiyama that stood in front of my eyes. After buying my bike, I would have visited it at-least a dozen times, but this time was special. After witnessing the sheer beauty of fall colours for myself, I took Shanthi, and Solomon with me, to Arashiyama on Sunday. With Shanthi, we took more than (3x30) = 90 minutes. Her bicycle has only 3 gears compared to my 10, does that answer the reason for 90 minutes? … anyway, she enjoyed her ride too. We had fresh coffee, some hot toast, and bought some of the finest tofu
(Shanthi and Solomon in Arashiyama)

(Our family + a neighbour in Arashiyama)

To escape from the crowded part, we went to a coffee shop near Seiryuji and after our second-breakfast, we visited the Seiryu-ji

(Anto playing inside Seiryu-ji)

Every time I visit Arashiyama, I come across a post that says, “Kyoto-Yawata-Kizu bicycle road, starts here, 45KM). After doing some research I found out that the road along Katsura is actually a bicycle trail that goes southwards till Kizugawa city, a place near the border Kyoto prefecture, close to Nara and Mie. I wanted to try this route. But then, I had a feeling that 90 KM ride was a bit too much. I decided to give it a shot last Tuesday, it was a National holiday here. I started off from my home at around 0830AM, went to a coffee shop nearby and got involved in a petty chat till 1000AM, and started off towards Kizu at around 1030AM.

Weather was fine, 15C, clear sky, wind was on my side. Except for getting lost from time to time I had fun. By the time I reached Nagarebashi, which is probably the longest wooden bridge of its kind in Japan, I was a bit tired. I had covered around 20 Kilometers from my home. Contrary to many people's guess was built after WWII

(Nagarebashi in the background)

Despite the dead flat track, riding was getting tougher and tougher, the wind started blowing randomly, and the my average speed was down. After leaving Nagarebashi and riding for some 10KM I was tired. And in the whole Kyoto-Yawata-Kizu route, except for Nagarebashi, there is nothing interesting ... Along the cycling road I saw some Huge trees, and nothing else. And when I reached the end of the cycling road, I had much difficulty in finding the following post. Except for the partly-refreshing-mostly-tiring ride, it was an anti-climax.

At this point I was dead-tired and terribly-hungry, I wanted to eat something, sitting relaxed in some restaurant. I wished I had the bike-carry-bag so that I can take it back to Kyoto by train. I started looking for a eating spot and went on for a few Kilometers, I knew that I will be reaching Nara, and yes, that was it. I just wanted to go sight seeing in Nara, except for my brain all other parts of my body objected to the idea. I grabbed a bite, of 2 rice balls, 1 financier, 1 hot dog, 1 lemon drink, and 1 Vitamin drink. I was full. I can say overloaded. Now the entire 45 odd Kilometer stretch was in front of me. Wind was clearly in the opposite direction. Precisely 180 degrees, and it would be 180 degree even when I made a 30 degree turn, it was crazy.

I started off, feeling sorry for not going around Nara, and wondering why I had to ride my bike for more than 40 Kilometers and not visit anything. Why would I do this, I really did not know, I just wanted to get back. Back home, in my comfortable little home. Wind was making the ride a lot tougher, I wished I had something to cover my ears. I could not hear anything, the ear phones from my iPod set to full volume could not beat the noise from the wind. It was very hard that made me wonder, "if this is not a typhoon, what would a typhoon be like ...". I was riding at almost walking pace, sometimes at jogging pace, and sometimes I just stopped, taking a sip and feeling my breath. And when I reached Nagarebashi, I called Shanthi to tell her that I will be late, very late, than what I had planned.

I found out that the same wind that helped me during the onward journey turned into an enemy when I was returning. I was wishing, "cant they be friendly through-out". Anyway I came back home with this nice shot.

(Somewhere near Kizu ...)

After my (Mis)adventure on Tuesday, I decided to try some less crowded Autumn spots in Kyoto, that I had heard from a friend, and I took route 31 that is in the North of Kyoto and went to Iwato-Rakuyo Jinja. It was probably the best place I have visited, partly because I had the entire temple for me. At ~30 Kilometers from my home, It was not far compared to Nara, but tougher ...

(In front of Kyoto Iwato Rakuyo Jinja)

(Fallen leaves everywhere ...)

Rakuyo means, fallen leaves, and they never clear-up the leaves that fall and it remains like a bed. It was just wonderful to see a place like this. I met a Swiss guy who shot this snap, who told me, that he has visited this temple during Autumn every year for 20 years. It was not crowded at all, partly because, reaching here was a humongous task. On my way back I had food in a restaurant called, "Yama-no-Ie Hasegawa", which literally means, a house in the mountain. We can stay here for JPY 5K per person per night. I wish I can drink and stay back someday ... when Shanthi is not around ;-)
(In the midst of No-where ... Yama-no-Ie-Hasegawa)
After having a soup + cheese-hamburger + hot cocoa + some chatting with an old couple, I headed back home. Physically tired and mentally refreshed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Giant FCR 2 and

I lost my bicycle a few months ago. I was over-confident that no-body in Japan would steal, especially a not so good looking normal bicycle. I never locked it, and I felt confident that no-body would steal it, till such time I lost it, ... OK, till such time somebody stole it.

I bought a new cycle for Shanthi a couple of weeks back. The Beaute from bridgestone. It's a nice bike with a low center of gravity, obviously it's heavy, which directly equates to its stability. So, I did not have much trouble choosing it. I did put the extra seat for Solomon ;-)

The cycle is an actual beauty, the stand, is made for extra stability to bear the kid's weight, and the rear seat (carrier) is made to withstand the weight of a kid + it's seat... Besides the hand-bar has a lock which you can use for 100% stability when you park with heavy load in the front basket. Though it cost's around JPY 50K, including the child seat, it's worth every penny.

After buying it, we found out that Shanthi had lost touch riding a bicycle. So, I had to (re-)teach her to ride it, in doing so, I had to run behind her, while she was re-learning to ride. It was not fun. After about a week of practicing, she was riding well, if not perfectly well. So, there was no point in me running behind her.

So, after some thought, and hard look at our finances, we decided to buy a new bicycle for me, so that we can all go out together in eco-friendly bicycles. So, I looked up the internet for a right bicycle. I wanted a nice one, nothing less than 50K ;-) ... I was just kidding.

I just wanted a nice bicycle to go round, and after some research I bought the Giant FCR2, a 8.5Kg carbon beauty. I am yet to use it fully to write a review, but the first 2 days had been a pain in the ass, yes, the seat is very small, but it's a damn good bike when it comes to speed. I love it, except for the seat ~~

Monday, May 24, 2010

May, 24th, 2035 AD, Kyoto, Japan

Alighting from the train, he felt, Kyoto was hot, but soon consoled himself as it was cooler than his “hot-and-humid” home town. He thought that the Japanese would recognize him as a South Asian; thanks to the programs of Indian in NHK most of the Japanese recognized him as an “Indojin”, meaning “Indian”. And when they did, the pride for his mother-land just showed up.

Carefully following his colleagues advice, he handed over his hotel’s address that he had printed as part of his travel-preparations, to the taxi driver. The Taxi driver took only a couple of seconds to read-understand-acknowledge back to his customer. This guy murmured, “Japanese! Aren’t they fast ~”.

He loaded his 3 hand-carry luggage, in the back-seat, suit-case in the trunk, and made himself comfortable in the front seat. Inside the solar-electric-taxi, everything looked cool. The seats were more comfortable than the best he had seen back home. He thought, unlike the taxi drivers back home, this Taxi driver was wearing a suit that would match his marriage suit, never mind, the politeness … He could hear some pre-recorded lady’s voice from a speaker near the driver seat, that stopped once he put on the seat belt and the veered into the busy lane. The driver was courteous enough to tell him, “30 meenits” with a smile. He smiled back and thanked the driver with his mind trying to figure out the fare for a 30 minutes ride in a solar-electric-super-comfortable car.

He was fascinated at most of the things he saw, working traffic lights that were mostly LED, people respecting traffic lights and traffic rules, cars without side-dents, clean roads, pavements with no homeless, and much more… It was his first trip abroad, and his mind was fascinated with everything foreign. The taxi was now in a broad road, where the inter-car distance was so large, that he thought that he had seen such a formation, only during a Presidents visit to his home town.

Having lost in the thick of things that was happening around him, he started focusing on a car that his taxi was following. It was a red colored Toyota, he could read “Noribito” inscribed at its trunk, he chucked, “Noribito, … a nick name is it!”. His boy-scout eyes would swear that the red-Toyota maintained a perfect inter-car distance. And it was exactly in the center of the road. He thought he wished that he could stop the red-Toyota, and measure the distance, and confirm it. He was awe-struck and murmured to himself, “Japanese perfection” … He tried to spot the driver through the transparent rear-glass of the red-Toyota and could see few heads in the back-set, but not the driver, and to this he murmured, “Short Japanese” …

The red-Toyota would respect yellow-signals to perfection, and was into ideal-driving. The taxi driver was getting irritated, and signed, “Noribitto”, the Indian asked, “Whaaat?!*” for which the driver replied, a “Tis-a drovibingu robotto, no doraiba-” …

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Inspirations ~~~

First it was Fr. Cyril, then Jeff, and then Miyuki-san, and recently I befriended another person who is planning to write a book.

These days, for work, I read Jeff’s *great* book, “Mastering Regular Expressions”. I ordered a copy from Amazon. Reading it, feels like, Jeff’s talking to me.

Of course, I have had the opportunity to chat with Jeff a few times, and reading this book was no different from those petty chats. I often read books in solitude, and it was like Jeff standing in front of me and teaching me, like a friendly professor.

I figured out that it’s probably because I know him, or something with his writing style, which is more like a story, or a friendly little gossip, a conversation.

I had always wanted to write my own book, I once started writing one, before putting it to an ever-lasting-hibernation. But, after reading Jeff’s book, I only think, at my current ability and “frame of mind”, it might be next to impossible.

Man, page-after-page, the well-written-contents, the simple-language … everything, is so great, that, I realized the 30 months or so, that he toiled, was worth all of it.

I guess, his name would last, as an icon, in the “regular expression world”, long enough, till another big-bang.

Fr Cyril, a professor at the Sophia University, Tokyo, is another great guy that I had met. I and Shanthi attended his mass in the St. Ignatius church in Yotsuya. It was a Japanese mass, and even without any judging-ability, I rightly presumed his Japanese to be fluent. So, being proud of this fluently-Japanese-speaking Indian priest, I and Shanthi went to wish him after the mass.

On meeting him, I was immediately impressed with his profound simplicity, humility … It’s not flattery, just the truth. We were newly married, and very religious, and getting to know a priest who can talk English, in this foreign land was a pleasure.

Later, after coming back home, the inquisitive me, searched the internet, and found that he had written a couple of books. I was awe struck. I guess any normal human being might not figure out his intellect, just by his looks, phoo~~ commons like me just could not, cannot.

And later, we would often go to St. Ignatius just to meet him and say, “hello” … I used to feel proud meeting him. He was an inspiration, with his intellect, humility, and everything …

Last year, I got to meet Ishida Miyuki-san, who teaches me Japanese. Going by her simple, Japanese house-wife looks, it’s probably difficult to figure out that she hold a few patents, copyrights and has written a book. And another one might follow …the most active person I have ever met ~

After getting to know these simple people in Fashion conscious Japan, I guess, even here, intellects may not look great with their attires ;-) For example, Jeff has not changed his Yellow Jacket, since the time I met him ;-).

Everyday, after work, I get tired, sometimes very tired and go to sleep. But every morning, I get refreshed thinking of these *great* people. I look forward to the day. They are my energy source, my inspiration.

Thank you guys ~~~

Thursday, March 18, 2010

strokes ...

I watch Japanese version of NHK news, in the mornings and sometimes during the evenings, mornings, just to know the day’s weather, and select the day’s clothes, and in the evenings for some actual news. I watch Japanese news, partly to improve my language ability and also for the news that I can understand ;-). I have cleared quite a few Japanese language exams; but still my level is, how can I say …bad.

Japan is a relatively crime free country, and even a petty robbery at a remote convenience store will feature in the national news for a couple of days. Sometimes I feel; NHK, the national broadcaster that extols money, if you happen to own a TV set, comes out with some absolutely fantastic programs, but for its lackluster news contents. The news content is dumb, and if you know the previous day’s news, you can predict 80% of the day’s news. I don’t know if NHK is to be blamed.

NHK’s stupid news was not worth blogging about, until recently when I got furious with the news that made headlines for more than a week now. 9 birds, strokes to be precise, that were protected in a sanctuary got killed by some animal, and this news made it to the head lines. Back in India, tigers make it to the news when they are hunted down illegally in sanctuaries, but not in the headlines though. Anyway, when I saw the news for the first time, I sympathized for the strokes, though I was more worried for Chile and Haiti, that do not make news anymore. But, the next day, to my surprise, I watched with disgust, an analysis report on the killing, OF STROKES MAN! And the next day, I got used to those 9 strokes, the cage, the 256 holes that were found in it, the many IR camera that works in the night, and the markings of predator’s entry found in some of the holes, and that the predator had been making regular visits, etc. etc.

Overwhelmed with disbelief and helplessness, though I didn’t give a damn for the strokes, when there were many more bloody things that happen around the world, I started making best use of the news contents; noting down each new Japanese word.

Strokes can makes it to headlines in Japan for more than a week. Vow …

Monday, March 08, 2010


Though I used to boast a lot when I was a kid, recently I guess I don’t, and even when I was a kid, I was not a big fan of listening to someone boast …

So, when Master told me that he would reach the finals of the table tennis tournament with ease, I summarily brushed it aside, with sarcasm. Master, as I call him, writes to me every single day, OK, every single week-day, a mail from his mobile phone, teaching me not-so-easy-to-read Japanese words. He would carefully select an article from the day’s evening edition of Asahi and write down the Japanese-reading for difficult words. I am not a big fan of writing long emails, especially from my difficult-to-type mobile phone, though I really appreciate his long-and-useful mail-lessons. Reading his email along with the “article of the day” has become a habit. So is the habit of visiting his coffee shop with Shanthi and Solomon on Saturday’s, named “Charmonee” which I guess is French, is on the ever busy “route-1”.

When I met him for the first time in a friend’s marriage, I was impressed at the first sight. Looking at his suit, and demeanor, I presumed him to be a "big shot", a great man. He gave the speech for the newly-wed. A year has passed since, and getting to know him better, he did not disappoint me, he is indeed a great man, but he was just happy (without being a big shot). He was clear in his thoughts … simple in his approach, yet from time-to-time, he utters things-that-summarily seems stupid, yet worth pondering. He was born in the same year as my dad, never married, runs not less than a 100 Kilometers a week, competes in every single marathon in the Kansai region, and plays table tennis 3 times a week, in his 60’s now. Before meeting him, I had plans to retire early.

As usual I met him this Saturday, and invited him for a film party in my home-theater on Sunday; he told me that he would take part in the local table tennis tournament. With an 80% chance of rain, and bunking church when Shanthi’s not around, and nothing else to do on a rainy Sunday, I thought I better go to support him. I wanted to see him live up to his own boasting and hence expressed my desire to go and support him, he was happy, and told me to come early. I asked him, “How about, 12 Noon?”, for I considered, 12 noon to be early for lonely-Sunday’s. He replied, without hesitation that he would be "playing in the finals" by the time. I could not hide the sarcastic flash from my face, though I tried hard not to show it. For a moment I thought that he was also sarcastic.

Master, as I have learnt over the period of time, never cares about sarcasm, and never gets angry. He is a character, the character. Last year, he was eliminated in the earlier rounds by a man, whom I knew. In fact, I considered his table tennis as "beatable". Anyway, with nothing to do on Sunday, I decided to go and support him. I thought, that it’s a tribute to a person who writes to me every single (week) day.

Having said all this, I myself, like table tennis, hmmnnn…I play table tennis, better than my tennis, in my own amateurish style, with my JPY 800 racket, whose rubber Solomon likes to stand on. It’s lost its shine and gleams with Solomon’s shoe marks, does not have any grip what-so-ever, yet I stood second in the Kishoin table tennis tournament. I was mostly lucky as my opponents simply lost, and eventually made me win. And in the final’s, I was pitted against an old guy, far older than my dad, and lost my mood for any competitive table tennis against the elderly opponent, and simple gave way for his victory, and after he had won, I figured out, that I would have lost even if I would have fought, for his game was (far) better than mine.

I had noted down the name of the venue and told him that I would put the GPS enabled iPhone to test. iPhone GPS is not bad, after-all, it is the first ever GPS that I am using, and I never knew anything better or worse for any sort of comparison. During the rainy Sunday, in which you hate riding your bicycle, it took me for a real-good-ride. The iPhone GPS predicted that I would reach the destination in about 45 minutes by walk, and I took 55 minutes riding my bicycle. I was definitely not riding at walking speed. I will analyze what went wrong later. But, Master and I took only 25 minutes on our way back. Master is definitely smarter than the iPhone GPS, inside Kyoto. Or I went 30 degree uphill and came sliding down ;-)

7th, March, 2010, Sunday, woke up for the 1st time at 7AM, thought it was early, and wished to sleep for an hour more, woke up again at half-past-9, and stayed in bed till 10. When I finally managed to get up, a mountain of “to-be-washed” begged me for attention. I quickly transferred the mountain into the washing machine. Thanks to the drier function, I don’t have to bother drying the clothes. Made some garlic toast, and ate it with milk, took a hot shower, for some strange reason shaved my face (though I don’t do this (even) on weekdays) … and then left home at around 11:15AM, and hoped to reach the venue before 12. After getting to know some new places around my neighborhood as I was just going in circles, (thanks to iPhone GPS), I reached the Venue, 15 minutes past 12.

Inside the big gymnasium, there was Master, standing with a grey Jacket, white gloves, and a dry unfathomable smile in his face. He was standing as if he wanted to leave. Looking at all this and adding my own creativity, I for a moment, thought, that he had lost and was just waiting for me, and would probably leave with me. He was standing with some kind of urgency in his face. He did not bother much even when I went near him, and with the same dry smile in his face, he told me that in the first round, his opponent got defeated 3-0, and quickly ran to the toilet. Urgency ... ah, my creativity.

I saw a big contingent from Kishoin (the place where I live), and the place where I play table tennis. The group from Kishoin was happy to see me, and even gave me some sweets, for they thought I had come to cheer them. But when they learnt that I had come to just support my friend, they gave a, give-our-sweet-back “you moron” look. Despite their staring at me, I ate it.

Master was running here and there, till his 2nd round match. He predicted that he would beat his next opponent, 3-0, and he did. For the first time, I saw master, playing table tennis. His table tennis, like his whole life, was smooth, ordinary, simple, neat, and gentle; it was an ideal show like the great Roger Federrer of tennis. Master never tried to win, but his opponent simply lost trying to win. Master for his part, made sure he kept the ball at play. His face did not look rash, confident, or dejected, it was just flat. During the match, he was just gently smiling at his opponent. And while I was clapping intently to support him, I felt, it did not matter much.

After the match, master came to me, and while I congratulated him, he told me that it would be difficult to beat the next opponent. He was not worried, but he just thought that it would be difficult. And difficult it was, master lost the 1st set, without any fight. The opponent was way too good. After the 1st set, for a moment, I thought, everything was over. Into the second set, master lost the 1st 5 points in a row, the opponent was 180-degree opposite to master, he would cheer himself, with “ehhhh” and then look at Master and say things like, “now-you--serve” and things like that. I thought, master is losing the mental game. But master was just trying to keep the ball in play. And into the later part of the second set, his opponent started making errors, unforced errors, and got into a shell … really … no-body could believe it. He lost the 2nd set 12-10. And went on to win the 3rd, but he lost the 4th and the 5th, 11-2 or something like that. After the game Master told me that he was lucky. I thought the guy perished in his own mind-games.

As promised earlier Master was in the finals. Having seen his game, I was no more surprised that he was in the finals. I am sure that, if I was ever pitted against him, he would defeat me, while he is just sleeping.

Master and I had earlier planned to leave the venue at around half past 2. But since the final’s was yet to take place, Master was worried about his promise. He went into the match with a lot of confidence, and won the 1st 5 points in the 1st set, and suddenly I saw some anxiety in him, and he started playing for the winners and eventually lost the game-set-match 0-3. He was different in the final game, it seemed like he wanted to win. I should never take the credit away from his opponent, who was very brilliant.

After the game, I promised myself that I would indulge myself with a better table tennis racket that Solomon wouldn’t stamp, and put in some more practice and beat the guy who defeated Master. Vengeance is it? I am sure I can defeat him if I practise 24-hours a day, for 1 whole year ;-)

We reached home at around 3PM. Master was more interested in coming back with me just to keep his promise, rather than receiving his runner’s up trophy. He is a "real Japanese" man, a nice human being, an innocent child in his sixties, who teaches me a lot more than Japanese. I used to like him, and now it’s a mixture of respect and liking.

In 2007, when I stepped into Kyoto, I would have never dreamt that I would meet so many humble, yet great people. Now I know that, there is something special in Kyoto that I would never get anywhere else in Japan …

Thursday, March 04, 2010


If we shall say that, it’s hard for someone to find the way into the heart. It’s doubly hard to let them leave. In planet earth, most of the human lives are attached, with emotional attachments. Like it or not, we will have to live with it. Trying to be conservative and closing the way to you, might make things worse, loneliness. And allowing many would makes things equally difficult as allowing none.

My wife and kid are spending their vacation back home and I am living alone bombarded with emotions. Man it’s hard for me to stand, sometimes often.

There are some people who have got their PR in your heart. It may be your family, friends or your co-worker. Sometimes they are in your heart, since you respect them, or sometimes you like them, friends for example, or you love them, as your kid, Mom, Dad, Wife, Siblings, … You never miss those people you respect, for example, your manager in your first job, or a brainy co-worker that you admired. But you miss friends, and family. Sometimes it’s hazy when we try to differentiate the feelings towards a friend and a family member.

Recently, I started liking weekdays, as I am busy with work, and the room for emotions squeezes out into vanity. But once you return home, its cold, heater doesn’t help, yes, you seek warmth, and man-made heaters are useless. You miss the warmth of your family, friends, and the need to socialize. You live to perform the ever mundane tasks of making things that are faster, cheaper, lighter, etc. and all things that we think can make your company’s stakeholders rich. Mundane task, oh these mundane tasks. Sometimes there is a feeling that everything is Mundane, tennis, photography, eating, drinking, everything. Why!

Initially, I judged it as depression, till I started listening to Anto over the telephone, saying “arigato”, “potato”, and a host of non-decipherable words. They echo in my ears, long after he speaks to me. He’s a kid, and never talks for more than a minute, and his creative words, which only god and angels can understand. Sometimes, I listen intently to what he speaks, the more I concentrate, the less I make out. So these days, I just listen to the tone, which he changes with finesse. Probably, like his father, he may talk people into anything or is he an orator of some sort. Well, frankly, I have no idea. I miss him, that’s it, and sometimes terribly.

Sometimes you might assume that some of your friends might compensate these loneliness with their friendship. But, probably, you, and your heart, don’t want any compensation. They just want what they want. They never seek compensations. They don’t use their head, they are heart, the emotional part …

From time to time, I clean my home to find his table spoon, well below the TV stand, or the refrigerator, just to smile at it. I would have yelled at him, when I see him doing that, but now I simply miss those things.

These emotions, are without doubt, hard, but are wonderful. I want to cherish them with joy. But it beats me, more than often …

Monday, January 18, 2010

iPhone 3G-S (Beware)

Slowly and steadily I am getting used to the iPhone which replaced my (much loved) normal phone. Though everything’s new, one thing is for sure, I will have to get used to this, paradigm shift in user interface, or should I say, mobile telephones. But, being an avid user of a (normal) mobile phone, I expect some of the (useful) features that were available in my normal phone in this apple’s version. Trivial things that made me comfortable with my old phone are no more available in iPhone, I will be listing them after some (brief) complaints on the contract related stuff …

The iPhone contract (in Japan, Softbank) in itself is a bit less user-friendly,
 The Japanese carrier Softbank sells the iPhone at a price much (much) higher than the US. Never know why? Its really ridiculous ~~~
 Previously, I used to pay a small insurance on my telephone that covered my phone against repairs, or accidental break-downs, like falling into water, etc. And, iPhone too comes with an expensive Apple care, which does not cover accidental break-downs etc. (The safety pack (Anshin pack) is no more available). So if you accidentally drop your phone, you will end up paying JPY ~20K, or JPY ~60K depending on the damages (your luck). And when I think about this (accidental fall), and the 20-60K thing, somehow I am uncomfortable handling the phone. Phooo …. iPhono-dropo-phobia is it?
 If you wish to re-pay for the iPhone in installments, then you will have to repay in exactly 24 months, and you enter into a contract for 24 months, and you need to cancel “some the contract” exactly after 24 months, not the 25th or 23rd, barring which, Softbank will extend your contract for another 24 months. And, you need to pay another JPY 9800 to break the contract. And … the beautiful (hmmm … the bad) thing is, as of now, Softbank would never know (say), when your 24 months will expire. Is it a trick Softbank?
 Once you sign your contract, there is no way out. Absolutely, no way. Funny thing is, when you sign up with them, they get your signatures in at-least 5 different places. So, you will be signing more times than, when you are buying a brand new car. Somehow this made me uncomfortable.
 One important thing, I still use Softbank, NOT because I like them, but just because many of my Indian friends (still) use Softbank, and they would kick me, if I changed my carrier. Sigh. I hate the signal quality. Once I happened to visit someone near Himeji, and there was absolutely no tower for a long-long distance in and around the area. In fact, I HATE Softbank’s signal quality. iPhone 3G only adds to the woes.

Enough of the contract, the following features that are normally available in your standard mobile phone are not available in your phone,

 Disaster warning, like earthquake warning, which was part of my earlier mobile phones, is not available in the iPhone. So users of iPhone cannot be informed of disasters.
 In my earlier phones, there used to be small (multi-colored LED), that would flash, when there is a missed call, or an un-read email message. This really helped me know about the missed call without un-locking the mobile phone’s screen. In the iPhone, there is no such LED, or any Indication, you need to check your home screen to find out.
 I like clean desktops, and in my earlier phones, I go to the Menu-bar to see the applications and perform other operations. So, when there is a missed call or something, the notification was very clear. But in the iPhone, it seems to be lost in the crowd of icons in the home screen. I think, the home screen is (very) crowded.
 Getting a App store account, without a credit card, was a night-mare. And it is mandatory for downloading applications (which you will need for transferring your phone book from your previous telephone).
 Transferring “my phone book” from the previous mobile phone to the iPhone was a pain in the Ass, really. (Especially with the procedures that I had to go through)…

Though I would never come to terms with the contract related issues, even after I signed one, I think the functional issues in iPhone are due to the paradigm shift, which apple experienced.

The standard mobile phone started as an extension to the basic cordless telephone. Features that were needed while we are on the move were then added to it, bit by bit, like, a pager, the music player, an email client, a mini web browser, the document viewer, a movie player, television, … and a host of applications.

Now, iPhone started as a (simple) Music player, in iPod touch and grew into a mobile phone. The only new thing they have given us is the touch panel. Now, if that is the only thing that made it unique, there are a host of other telephones like the Nokia N95, Sharp 941, …. Which are far better than the iPhone, in every single aspect.

But then, why did I buy an iPhone. Do you want to hear why? Frankly … I wanted the Nokia N95, I searched, researched, and found out that no-carrier in Japan has one. And … then I though, I would settle for the Sharp 941, the worst part is 941 is almost 2 times expensive than an iPhone.

Recession lurking around, I became a proud owner of the (all new) iPhone 3G-S …And started counting to 24 ;-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sayonara ...

You made me hear the world, when I was away from home, and at home. The gray shade in you had been turning white, age shows. You brought me messages and pictures from friends. I always walked with you. Even Shanthi used to be annoyed if you don’t accompany me. Living in Japan, I made you silent for most of your life, but you had to listen to my conversations, and occasional blushing and blabbering. If only you knew Japanese, you would have been laughing everyday, at me, when I talk. You were not one of the best of my friend, but helped me make best friends, a lot of them, thank you. You woke me up. Sometimes I have played with you, but I should be honest, I didn’t enjoy it.

Antony liked you too. You would make him smile when he cried. You lit up even after he threw you to the wall, the floor, and every-place he can throw you to. You started again and when he walked over you, a few times. Probably, he believed that you can talk. Sometimes he saw himself in you.

I had to part with you. Mortality had got you too, or was it my greed, selfishness, ego, or what-ever. Of late, I had been thinking of abandoning you, and yesterday decided on it, and got the all new, iPhone 3G-S.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Missing Anto …

Discounting anger, it’s long since I was emotional to this extent… Least did I expect this to happen. After 3 weeks of vacationing with our parents, I had to leave, my family, for work, back to Japan. After a long … long time, my eyes welled up, I was reluctant to leave.

Things only got bad when we reached the Madurai airport, being a domestic one, security used to be a bit relaxed, not anymore. Normally the procedure to board a flight in Madurai is

“ You Check-in→ Clear the Security screening → boarding”

You enter the airport to Check-in, after which you would be allowed to come out of the airport to talk to your folks who usually wait outside till such time your flight takes off. So, usually I come out after checking-in, talk to them, and bid good-bye before proceeding with the security. So, this time, I left some hand-baggage with them, hoping to collect them after my check-in.

But, after check-in, this (merciless) military policeman, guarding the airport entry, for in-explicable reasons, did not allow me to go out of the airport, to meet my parents. I was upset, as I could not bid good-bye to my family members. Shanthi’s parents had come down from Trichy just to see me off. Some how, while all these things were happening, for a moment, I thought that I would be missing Anto, very much. Shanthi was standing on the other side of the gate with Anto, and me inside the Airport. Cursing those terrorists who are the reason for this “high security”, I was still hoping to find my way out.

Madurai is a small town, hmmm…, not so small though, but small. But, somehow, I knew many people who work in the Airport. Talking to a few of them, I completed some procedures to get out of the airport, talk to my family members, and bid them good-bye.

But, after the incident with the security personnel, and the subsequent emotional flash, of missing Anto, I felt like I am going to miss, Anto very much. This thought did not strike me when we were arrived at the strategy of a month each in Madurai and Tiruchy. Shanthi and I had decided that Anto together with Shanthi will stay back for a month each with my parents and in-laws, hoping that he would get used to my parents, in-laws, traffic, noise, dust, mosquito, food, etc …

The emotional feeling would only grow stronger and stronger when Anto was enjoying innocently, watching the cars passing by, and making inviting gestures at the other kids. For a moment, I thought, he was ignoring me. Silly me! The gravity of the situation took to me.

Actually, many of our close family friends did warn me about this “missing phase”, which I could not visualize when Anto was always with me. A transit time of 18 hours in Kualalumpur helped me with the introspection. From the time he joined me in mid 2008, I had less time for him, as I was always busy, with my career, Japanese language, sports, photography, etc. I did not spend much time with him, to the point that, when I spent 3 hours with him in the absence of Shanthi, I wrote a blog. I loved him; somehow, I did not find time for him, with him. But, the past 3 weeks, without my own knowledge, I spent 3 weeks with him, all time, all day long. And, probably, he got closer to me than ever before. I had always loved him, so much… but never imagined that I will miss him, if he is away from me, for his much needed education. I don’t know, if he is missing me.

During the course of writing this post, I was wondering, if I could cut short their stay in India, may be, 15 days each or something. Looking loo…ong down, one thing is for sure, I need to get used to living away from him. He may go to a college is another town, find work in a far away country, marry and go away … But …now, its … hard, for me.

I am just wondering, how much my parents would have missed me, when I left them for work, to Chennai, to Bangalore, then to Japan, when I got married, … , I wish they did not miss me ;-) but … for now,