This was the first movie of director Shankar and still one of my favorites. It has an amazing screenplay and there are very little mistakes in the movie as such…

Was seeing this movie recently in TV and the movie actually makes more sense now. The crux of the movie is “education for all” and how education is being sold like pure business – only reachable to the rich. Today, if you need to get your kid admitted to L.K.G in one of the good schools in the city you first need to get your kid in to the play school run by the same school. And that is going to cost you 50K for 6 months. 50K for what? – the kid getting used to going school. And one of the parents need to accompany the kid during that time and the timings are some 9 – 12. 3 hours a day and 6 months you pay 50K? I remember my term fees – it was 1200 for 3 months. And I am talking about 12th Standard.

I don’t have the break up for all the classes from L.K.G till 12th standard, but if the kid spends L.K.G to 12th in the same school (the reputed one) you actually end up spending 23L – a straight 3.5L for 12th standard alone. I hear some strange stories wherein some schools in Mumbai have tieups with Adidas, Nike and all – the kid needs to wear only their shoes, t-shirts, caps, etc…

There can be an argument like it is only the case with reputed schools and not with every other school. If reputed school charges 50K, then normal schools would charge 35. And you don’t get access to good teachers and may be exposure in these normal schools. It is more like real estate – big builders charge premium, small builders charge less but compromise on quality. In all we don’t get what is worth the money.

I still don’t have a kid (not even married 🙂 ) to worry about all these…but things are bound to get worse in future… I still remember crying in front of my dad for getting that 400Rs for the school excursion. And I couldn’t go to one of the excursion because that 300 – 400 Rs was way to expensive. And I am talking about a decade back.


ARHS is the abbreviation for Amplified Reverse Honking System that I am proposing for modern day Indian traffic.

As Indians, amongst of the varied things that we enjoy doing in our roads, like, Sighting, Shouting, Stunting, Spitting, Pissing, all of us enjoy this thoroughly – Honking. This proposed system is to make the best use of Honking for the Honkers, The Honked and the rest.

1. An indigenously built device will be embedded in to the steering wheel (or somewhere near) of every car, truck, buses, autos, share autos, call taxis
2. The device will have multi-frequency sound emitter, amplifier, some processing logic components, GPS integration.
3. The device main purpose is to detect if the driver just honked – if true, emit at least (2-n)X of the same sound (why same sound is explained later) inside the automobile, aimed at both the ears of the driver. I call this sound as “Honk of the Monk (HOM)”. This also sounds similar to pom (of pom-pom, aka horn)

What follows below is the detailed requirement and logic based on which the sound emitted will differ dynamically according to external stimulated factors, past history and the Indian ways of doing things.

1. The device is actually an AI (will take help of James Cameron) and has got a self learning / adapting system. Every honk by the driver along with other parameters like place of honking (using GPS), time, traffic density, distance from the signal / crossing / junction, type of road (heavy traffic, highway) will be recorded by the device
2. If the driver honks during busy traffic hours (7AM – 11AM and 5PM – 10PM) then a sharp HOM at 3X will be emitted from the device. During busy traffic hours, it is expected that the traffic movement would be slower and the driver is expected to know this common sense
3. Similarly the device keeps track of the vehicle movement (GPS) and if the vehicle is in areas like “Madhya Kailash”, “Vadapalani”, “Koyambedu Jn”, etc where traffic jams are expected anytime then same logic as above would apply
4. There is a monthly max limit of honking that is allowed beyond which the device starts working on alternate routes, such as
a. Starts monitoring the blood pressure and other vital params of the driver and says “If you honk again, you will hear a 4X HOM which is very very different from all the ones you have heard before. This noise can instantly boost up your BP to higher levels there by increasing your chances of finding answers for your life such as where you will go after this life?”
b. The device will keep changing the FM station making the driver to listen to only Advt.
c. When the driver is engaged in some conversation with co-passengers it would start answering automatically like “yes, oh noo, no-no-no,mmmhmmmm,abs-f#$king-lutely, etc”. This is the Natural Language Processing ability of the device – will use some Google Engineers for this
5. The device acts more like the God’s books – you can negate your wrong doings by doing some right things. If you do not honk for a day, it would automatically cut down one of your honking entry
6. As a bonus-goodwill feature, if the driver didn’t honk for quite some good amount of time then a registration number appears in the driver’s dashboard. This number is the nearest, next available driver who is the notorious-top-honker. The good driver has the option of going in front of that driver’s car, pissing him off and making him hear that HOM. The onboard device will help in navigating to that vehicle. On successful pissing off the other driver, the same can be updated as status message in FaceBook.
7. The device syncs up the data real time with its distributed server and the data gets replicated in real time for multiple backup and availability. We will use Nandan Nilekani to design such a huge backend system. The data would also be tied to the UID system.
8. The tying-to-UID can help in getting through people who change cars and think they can get rid of their past. Next car will be imported with all the past data.

Some part of the code will be released as API, on top of which users can build FaceBook apps. Extensions can be built where the device can start abusing the driver in the driver’s own language

Now, on why the same sound but amplified version is emitted from the device? Some of these crazy people have these “dog-clearing-its-throat” kind of sound kept as their horn. They should definitely hear it how irritating it is for others.

I am also in the process of designing something similar for motorcycles / bikes especially the TVS-XL / M80 sounds. There is a design complexity where the vehicle is actually not an enclosed one.

Things that really matter…

Last Monday I made sure I reminded my bosses that this weekend (26-27) and the next have to be a long weekend due to pooja holidays and Gandhi Jayanthi. We just don’t have a leave calendar (start up!!!) 🙂 So last Saturday I was just lazying around at home (had some neck pain and decided not to step out of house). Towards the evening we were expecting guests for the kolu…Our family friend was expected to come and yeah he came just before the dinner time 🙂 It was nice to meet him after quite some time (read years) and generally we were socializing…This family friend has two kids and one of them is doing her Std 10. I wasn’t like really talking to her but my parents were pulling her leg a lot… By then one of my sister’s friend had also joined for the kolu. Soon there were lots of talking and my mom asked this kid to sing a song. Looks like she has just started planning to learn 🙂 But my sis’ friend readily accepted and started singing a carnatic song…It was a song about lord muruga and it was really nice…The modulations and the genuine interest she had in singing it was definitely impressive…

Sooner it was time for this family friend to bid adieu and I accompanied them to the near by but stop…I got them a auto to drop them at the next bus stand from where they have a direct bus to their place. When they got in to the auto and I waved them goodbye, this girl was waving her hand like anything with full smiles and saying “Bye anna”. She had this innocent smile on her face and she was waving her hand till the auto went out of our sight…

Towards the end of a boring day, these two small incidents definitely made my day. As I walked down back to my house the thought that struck me was that may be we (I and most of the people I know) are trying to find happiness by going after things like car, house, lots of disposable income, weekend getaways, etc…But I feel you get this real happiness in small things that happen in your day-to-day life. We mostly ignore such things and take it for granted. We want to buy that expensive mobile phone (N97?, E75?, HTC diamond?, G1?), a home theatre (25K Onkoyo?, 1.1L Premium Digital?, 2.5L Klepsch?), house (3 BR?, 4BR pent house?, independent villa?), car (punto?, City? Q7?)…As you see there are just no limits to each of these things that we generally chase…

But the real happiness lies in things like the smell of the freshly baked bread as you cross that bakery, giving a bike ride to that person desperately looking for it on a rainy day, holding the elevator for another 4-5 seconds as someone is running to catch it, giving a smile back and saying “thanks nna” to that security guard of a mall who directed you to another route as the usual one is water logged, catching up with the maintenance guy in your company and seeing that smile (as nobody else talks to him due to hierarchical stuff) when you are done with the conversation, telling your mom that the vada she made is really good (even if she makes it good every other time she cooks)…these are things that really matter…

One of the best heard BGMs…

Everyone would have heard “The Good, the bad and the ugly” theme music and I am no exception. But I never got a chance to see the movie until recently. No doubt the movie was pretty good. Every one played their part to the best and I liked Tuco’s character the most. And yeah Clint Eastwood was the man of full style, I could make out where Rajnikanth derived all his style elements from 🙂

Of all the things in the movie, what impressed me the most is the music. Most part of the movie has lots of silence in the scenes and it is the BGM (Background music) that fills them and adds to the mood. For example, towards the end of the movie, this Tuco reaches a massive graveyard and starts searching. This scene is actually pretty long and runs for about 3 – 4 mins…

Just put on a good ear/headphones and watch this video. The way the music progresses from slow to a fast one clearly would bring out what’s going on the actor’s head. Now that’s exactly what I am talking about and this happens throughout the movie. And I liked it the most at 0.26 of this video where the piano, trumphet (?) and a chime like music comes together. I would just hear to it repeatedly…

That was just a sample. There are many such scenes in the movie where the music definitely impresses. And I think this movie as such is a perfect example for all the best things coming together. Like the acting by the three lead characters, the camera, the narration, the music and editing, etc…I believe everyone who was involved in this film making would have put in their best to give this wonderful product.

Today, I had to book a ticket for by uncle and this was the first time I used and I am pretty impressed with the service. I gave all my details including the credit card information and clicked on final confirmation and I get a error screen saying that there is a technical glitch. And I was like another failed attempt in my online booking (after the ever famous irctc). But the error screen gave me a “Case Number” and requested me to contact the customer support. I immediately dialed the number and bang…the rep picks up in first ring. He asks for my details and says there is a problem with the “Travels” side; he would check and call me back. In 5 mins he calls me and says the “Travels” side problem will get solved in 10 mins, he will do the booking for me and call me back. Meanwhile I got busy with my work and he calls me in the next 10 minutes. He says he has done the booking for me and I would be receiving my ticket in email. I refreshed my email account and the ticket was there.

OK, may be whatever said above is expected out of any paid service. But me being part of a startup and getting a product done from scratch, I could really appreciate the amount of effort and thought those guys have put in.

1. The user interface was pretty simple. Max three screens till I reached my final screen (even if its an error screen :))
2. I did my booking without creating an account with redbus. Whenever I clicked continue in the first two screens, I was expecting the login / signup screen to be presented. But was surprised that the booking went through without that. Because I don’t like the idea of signing up at so many places and remembering different login and passwords.
3. When there was an error, I immediately got an email saying “We took money out of your card but we couldn’t book the ticket. But hey, here is the cash coupon for same amount. Use this to do your booking in future”.
4. And wow, I never had an experience with a customer care which actually called me back. And they did the booking by themselves and also updated me on the same.
5. They have tied up with so many travels in India and it certainly is not an easy task.
6. The CEO of that company is of 27-28 years of age. I met him at a start up meet in Bangalore.

So on a whole it was a wonderful experience for me and I could really appreciate it from both a customer and developer point of view. And I can try out these in my company 🙂

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram is the new computational knowledge search engine that has become public alpha yesterday. This one was projected to be the Google killer next gen search engine and yesterday morning I tried it for some time. First thing, there is a difference between the way Wolfram searches its database from Google does. Everybody knows Google does a keyword search on all the web pages it has crawled, cached and kept in its servers. What wolfram does is answer natural language questions instead of keywords, computes it real time and produces the results. The results are not just website links but presented in text and graphical form including graphs and charts. Some of the queries that I ran include:
When did man land on moon? What is Wolfram? Who is the american president? sin 30 / cos 30, What is the value of pi? square root of 2, pottasium nitrate, what is laughing gas, etc…

It was amazing to see the way results are presented for mathematical values. For example, when you look for the value of pi, it gives the decimal approximation (with option of showing more and more digits), series and integral representation, etc…When you search for location (where is bangalore) it brings up Indian map and shows Bangalore (Google does too, and satellite image link takes to Google maps :)) and when i ask for stock comparison (Goog Yhoo) it shows a lot of information about the two companies (not in Google). So pretty neat for all these queries. But for natural language queries, which Wolfram is trying to address, I think it is not there quite yet. Queries like “When did man land on the moon”, “Who shot kennedy”, “What happened on September 11, 2001” it was not able to produce results. Or did i read Wolfram wrong? I am not sure. But if it is trying to address natural language queries I expect these questions to be answered.

In my opinion, I don’t think Wolfram can be a Google killer. Both would co-exist. But what Wolfram has started is a very big step in terms of answering questions in natural language and real time computing of the answers. There should be millions of lines of code and a wonderful algorithm behind Wolfram which actually does this. And the way the results are shown are also pretty good. One can interpret and arrive at conclusion easily. Keywords search is still very much required until we build systems that can understand all of human queries. And that day would be the beginning of the Judgement Day when computers understand us a whole lot better 🙂 (Yeah I am in the mood of watching Terminator: Salvation :))

At last some action…

…yes, after some dry months of Hollywood not releasing any decent action flick, looks like the coming months would see some real action movies coming in. Starts with X Men Wolverine, followed by Angels and Daemons which I heard is better than Da Vinci, we have “Terminator: Salvation” and “Transformers: Revenge of the fallen” quickly following. I am big fan of action / Sci-fi flicks (no surprises) and I have seen Terminator 2 countless number of times. Though Terminator 3 was very disappointing, reviews say that Salvation is better than Terminator 3 but not up to the mark set by Terminator 2. I think James Cameroon needs to come in and give something better than T II. The trailer of Salvation looks impressive

Watch the video at 0:47 for a bike sequence and the famous T II BGM at 2:18. This BGM was missing in T III but now looks like its back in Salvation. Its getting released on May 21 in the US. But looks like Indian release would be little late. Hope to catch up the action soon in RDX at Satyam Cinemas 🙂

And the next one is Transformers 2. I loved the first part for the amazing visual effects and the awesome sound effects. In fact its the sound effects that impressed me a lot and I had seen the movie couple of times at the theatre itself for that. So I am expecting the sequel to be equally good. But the trailer ( gives me a feeling that they have gone little bit higher on the visual effects. I mean, it gives an impression that the bots are everywhere on the screen. The first part, though had the bots in action, had the human touch too. Anyways, its another RDX one at Satyam 🙂

I guess before these, I would be watching X-Men Wolverine and “Angels and Demons”. Would be waiting for one of my friends to come back from the US. He too is a major movie freak. I hope these movies forget me the haunting days of watching Tamil movies at theatre.

Fasttrack call taxi

Have been completely out of writing for about 6 months now owing primarily due to hectic work schedule. Had tight schedules for the product we were working on and we went live by April. I have so many things to write on and starting on right away.

Last Sunday, my sister went back to Ahmedabad to continue with her training and I had booked a cab with Fasttrack for airport drop and coming back home. And I am pretty impressed with their service. Whenever I require a cab, I always call up Fasttrack though there are umpteen number of service providers in this line. This time when I had called up and told my mobile number they were readily able to pull up my data from their system. After the representative took my details, she suggested couple of packages that are available and finally gave me a confirmation number. Till this, it is pretty much expected out of any service.

Next day morning, 30 minutes before the pickup time, I got an SMS from Fasttrack saying that the cab is on the way and the SMS had details on who is the driver, the driver’s mobile number and approx time by which the cab would be present at my door. And the cab was present right on time. In the past, the cab actually comes in well before the pick up time and the driver would start the meter exactly at the pick up time. On the way back, just minutes before the cab reached home, I get another SMS saying “Hope you enjoyed your trip. For any assistance, please call at…”. That was just two simple SMSes but from a pure customer experience point of view, it gave the feel good factor and I would definitely go back to Fasttrack.

Had a word with the driver too and was enquiring about their model. Looks like Fasttrack doesn’t own most of the cabs. The driver’s themselves own the cab and they run it for Fasttrack. Fasttrack does the advertising part, running the system, coordinating different routes. Drivers’ would get allotted a pickup – drop route and each cab has an ID attached. When the trip starts, drivers’ update Fasttrack through the in-car equipment and when the trip ends they update again so that the next trip can be assigned.

Though the rates are little on the higher side, the experience was pretty neat. They could do something about their website as Google reports the site has malicious. If that gets fixed and one can book through internet too, then it would definitely add a lot of value to the customer.

Kaaranam Aayiram

Warning: If you watch movies just for entertainment – just go to the hall for 3hrs of time pass and relaxation, then you should be leaving the theatre when the interval card gets shown.

There could be thousands of reason why one would like Gautam’s Vaaranam Aayiram. But I guess the single most reason why he made the film is his dad. He seems to have drawn lots of inspirations from his dad and has tried to make a film out of it.

You could watch this movie more than once, because its really worth spending that money to experience what Gautam does to you at least in the first half of the movie if not the most part of the movie. He just fills the theatre with love in the first 90 minutes of the film. Fill as in full of love…:) Starts with the dad Suriya chasing Simran it goes on till the other Suriya sweeps Sameera of her feet in the US. By the time “Mundhinam Paarthaenae” and “Nenjukkul Peidhidum” songs gets over, supported by the evergreen numbers of Ilayaraja songs there are just three possibilities of things running in your head.

1. If you are in love, you would go even more crazier.
2. You could be thinking of that first love that didn’t happen. The memories of good old days when you were actually crazy about some one.
3. You would be cursing yourself, why you wasted so much of your life without experiencing anything like that. And why things just don’t happen to you alone 🙂

Certainly I would rate the first half next to the 30 minutes of Karthik/Revathy in Mouna Ragam when it comes to how Tamil movies have portrayed love/romance. The Mouna Ragam 30 minutes is something that can be watched over and over and every other time it would bring a smile in your face invariably. Well its the same case here too. Somehow Gautam does this very easily.

Yeah I am coming there. It is an out and out Suriya show. This guy has shown the real meaning of commitment and it clearly shows that he has put his heart in to this film. Right from the expression on his face when he sees Sameera for the first time, the 70s Suriya going behind Simran, the school boy who starts drawing inspirations from his dad, showing some guts to his senior, the typical college guy who feels responsible for his family and also having Sameera on the other side…The 40 year old Suriya, the Major Suriya, the shell shocked Suriya on the death of his girl, the drug addict, the 70yr cancer patient, the inspirational dad…You seamlessly get lost in the different Suriyas you see on screen and he does every role perfectly. The home work he has done definitely shows in the screen and all girls would certainly be jealous of Jothika 🙂 Especially with the six pack he has got which probably gets shown only for max 15-20 seconds in the movie. He certainly has moved on to the next league and if he continues to do so, can definitely take Tamil cinema to next levels.

Dad plays a very important role in any guy’s life. He is the first person whom a guy looks up to draw inspirations, set role models and imparts certain quality of his in to himself. As a kid one sees dad as the man-to-be and looks up to him for lot of things. The same is valid for even girls because dad is the first man in their life too. Whenever they choose their life partner too, girls I think would compare certain attributes of the guy to their dad. And Gautam has tried to tell exactly the same thing. Probably one common attribute to all the dads is that they don’t want their kids to know with what difficulty they are being raised. You could see this in any middle class family, where the dad could be working in a bank/public sector company/govt trying to meet both the ends. But he won’t even let the kids know what all he goes through to get that first bicycle, the first excursion fees in school, that engineering seat, takes a loan on his provident fund to do your MS App/flight ticket, sees you off in that train/flight when you start to pursue your dreams and the list goes on. And all these without a single element of selfishness, the only thought of “my son/daughter should be in a better position than what I am in”.

And Gautam gets amazing numbers from Harris to open that champagne of love and spill every drop of it in the movie hall. “Mundhinam Paarthanae” set in the 70s is the initial gush out of that champagne bottle. As Gautam shakes the bottle more and more “Nenjukkul Peidhidum” and “Oh shanthi” carries the feel over to the interval of the movie. “Anjala” tells you that if you shake the champagne in full enthu it gushes out real fast and gets over in a blink of the eye. Harris has given a pretty decent BGM and does well in the re-recording area too. Somehow Gautam was able to see the today’s girl next door in Sameera. Never liked her for whatever she was doing in bollywood films. But here she is just the modern yet simple girl you meet in your today’s colleges and offices. Can’t blame Suriya for going crazy about her 🙂

I don’t think the movie is going to do well in B & C centres. There are conversations that happen fully in English and terms and life style that you would understand only if you were brought up in the city. But people in the cities would certainly like the movie. Of course there are flaws in the movie like the US consulate guy getting moved by the explanation Suriya gives to go to the US (gets a 5 year visa:) ), not much emphasize on the ill effects of smoking/drinking, thin portrayal of Divya ( noway I am talking about her size here:) ), how the old Suriya went in to advanced stages of cancer and the family didn’t even care all through the days, no convincing scenes on how Suriya comes out of drugs, with all the loans that the dad Suriya had, the son flies off to US for 3 months to just meet his girl (yeah, cmon Gautam), etc… At the same time, if you are in 20s or 30s you would be able to relate the movie to your life. At one moment in the movie you would have thought about how inspiring your dad has been for some part of you, for whatever reason it could be.