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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Meri Jaan Tirangaa Hai

Saturday, October 29, 2005
Caught the umpteenth re-run of that cult classic called Tirangaa a couple of days back. This is one movie I simply cannot miss, and HAVE to watch all the way through every time I catch an infinitesimal glimpse during my glazed, semi-hallucinated channel surfing sprees (Yes, I LOVE complex sentences…). This movie stars Raj Kumar as Brigadierrrrrrr Surrrryadeo Singh, and the ever dependable Nana Patekar as Inspector Shivajirao Wagle, as the good guys, and Deepak Shirke as (hold your breath, choke and die if you don’t know this) Pralaynath Goondaswamy (lovingly called ‘Gendaswamy’ by the good Brigadier throughout the opus) as the baddie to beat all other baddies hollow.

What makes the movie so special? Take the numerous sub-plots…there’s ‘Half-Chaddi’ Harish as I like to call him (name no ring bell? I try…he was the dusky beauty with the downy upper lip in Prem Qaidi) whose pop (Suresh Oberoi) is a cop, and gets murdered by Pralaynath while they are horse-riding.

Trivia (full of corn and very very nutritious) – Pralaynath wears a helmet while riding his horse. The purpose was for identity concealment I thought initially, but now I’m not so sure, since he lifts the visor after his dirty deed, and cackles menacingly (cynics say like a geriatric gander) at Harish. I think he must have read that helmet-less horse riding fatalities were on the rise lately on the mean streets, sorry beaches, of Mumbai. Don’t hurt to be safe than sorry, do it? (or should it be don’t it?)
Anyways, Harish manages to get falsely implicated in a rape case along with three other plastic friends. He has to be saved.


Then there are the baddies. Pralaynath is the kingpin of all anti-national activities, right from smuggling grenades hidden in hollowed out raw mangoes (yeshhh you read right. And you are sober!), to planning the total destruction of all the four corners (namely ‘isht’, ‘waysht’, north and south) of India, by deploying missiles intriguingly named Pralay – 1, Pralay – 2, Pralay – 3, and Pralay – 4. In his team is a 'Minister' called Jeevanlal Tandel (intoned as 'Jiwwunnlaal' by Pralaynath) who acts as his agent of destruction. It’s up to our heroes to save the day. And how.

For starters, the missiles run only when they are fitted with desi Kryptonite called ‘Fuse Conductors’. When I first saw the movie, I was in the 8th standard. I probably thought I’d learn more about this as I sleepwalked through future education. 4 years after graduation, I still don’t know what this is about. Such bleeding edge technology. And cynics say our movies are not scientific/realistic enough. Bring them to me, I say!!!!

Needless to say, good triumphs over evil in the end. And the dialogues along the way are PRICELESS.

Samples –

“Na goliyon ki boucharrr se…
Na talwarrr ki dhaarrrr se…
Bandha darrrrta hai,
To sirrrf parrrwarrrdigarrr se”
(This is Raj Kumar’s ‘entry’)

“Hum tumhe aaj maarne nahi aaye hain Gendaswamy, hum to aaj sirf tumhare gardan ka maap lene aaye hain”

“Humara commando bada hi chaalak hai Gendaswamy, patta hilne se pehle hi pedh kaat deta hai”
(Trivia again – these commandos all wear BSC Corona type canvas shoes in the movie. Help in making quick getaways.)

The climax lives up to it’s name (gives me one every time at least) and takes place on 15th August.
Half-Chaddi and miscellaneous family members are tied up and kept inside what suspiciously look like Port-A-Potties. (minus the commodes of course. Would have taken away the menace element). The Pralay missiles are about to be launched.

Raj Kumar peacefully smokes his pipe (almost a peace pipe, as you will soon see) as Pralaynath rants like a Virar resident going home at 7.00 pm. Irritated, he wrenches the pipe from the Brigadier's hands and flings it away. Lo and behold, there’s dense Jeetendra – Rama Naidu type smoke all over the place. The Brigadier calmly does a kaltaax, rips out the fuse conductors from all the four ‘meesiles’ thus rendering them sterile, and saves the day, the nation and quite possibly the world. The look on poor Gendaswamy’s face, as he frantically works his remote control, and barks into his walky-talky is pure platinum (bechaara Gendaswamy, he had even worn his best pair of super safed, band-master cotton gloves for the occasion. It was really a big day for him). Trust the Brigadier to do this with his bare hands, without a single piece of visible equipment. Add to that the following line

“Yeh to sirrrrf hamarrrre pipe ka kamaal tha, shukarrrr hai tumne hamare rrrrumaal ko haath nahi lagaaya, nahi to wahin dherrrr ho jaate.”

Thank God he didn’t give him the rumaal first, we would have been so much more the poorer. The bedlam that ensues is paisa vasool, with both the heroes pasting everybody in sight.

After the usual fights and gunfire, it’s time for our heroic duo to end it on the following note

“Dekha sir? Pehle laat, fir baat, fir zaroorat pade to mulakaat”

“Nahiiii Nahiii Wagleeyyyy, pehle mulakaat, phirrrrr baat, phirrrr zaroorat pade to laat”

“Ha Ha Ha” (Baritone)

“Ha Ha Ha” (Graveltone)

A must-see if you want a dose of refreshing and light-headed entertainment. You also lose a little part of your permanent touch with reality. Which is actually a very good thing.

posted by Tapan at 11:03 PM

Short Story - The Keeper Of The Digital Peace

Monday, October 24, 2005
This is an attempt at a short story. My very own nod to Ludlum and Asimov.

The Keeper Of The Digital Peace

The screen blinked, and then the System popped up the dreaded error message
“Login id does not match. Please contact Systems Support.”
The Processor felt his pulse rate start to rise. Not now. This transaction had to go through at any cost.

The Processor’s Manager rushed into the Director’s office, sweating bullets. He had a feeling that the big boss would not be too pleased with the bit of news he was about to give him.

“Sir, the manual Funds Transfer system has frozen again…”

“WHAT?!! Again?! We’d got it fixed just last year!”

“We don’t know sir, it’s just refusing to let anyone access the transactions…we have just one more day to meet the deadline for the release of funds.”

Swearing profusely under his breath, the Director reached for his telephone, and dialed the secret number. It was time for the Operation to begin.

After placing the phone call, the Director sank back into his chair, the stress telling upon his heart. He would not get the luxury of sleep for the next twenty-four hours or so. As he tried to relax, he recalled the stories he had heard which explained the current state of affairs.

The art of programming as mankind once knew it, was practically non-existent today. Ever since the great Revolution in the late twenty-first century, spearheaded by users fed up with buggy, sub-standard software, there had been tremendous advances in Artifical Intelligence, which had led to the current ‘intelligent’ systems. These systems did not need any manual intervention or data correction. Once the end user initiated the transaction, it would behave exactly the way it was supposed to, as per the rules defined by the AI engines used as the platform for all Systems. Worldwide.

The people who looked after the AI engines were the only programmers that the world would need anymore. A Digital Reich whose services didn’t come cheap. The Reich established select schools to impart training in Computer Science to only those who deserved it. Handpicked by the Reich after careful aptitude tests and background checks, from around the world. Human society’s dependence on computers was too risky to be handled by just about anybody now. Millions of ‘ordinary’ programmers had been laid redundant, forcing them into other befitting vocations. Protesters were never heard from again.

The AI engines were perfect in the sense that they were products borne out of the best, refined human thought, and they were mutant strains of self-improving intelligent prototypes. An ideal example of the much vaunted man-machine interface. They assured software without the fallacies associated with each individual programmer’s thought process. Everything behaved just the way it was supposed to. Define the system behaviour in plain English. The engines would do the rest. There was no scope for any errors. Bugs, after all were punishable by death. This ensured that the AI engines were marvels in Computer Engineering. The end user was totally responsible for how his own system behaved, and he was free to choose his own implementations. There would be no need for support.

The current company didn’t have the requisite funds to port all their Systems onto the AI platforms, when the guidelines were announced. Some organizations still had systems were running on the legacy versions, unbeknownst to the Reich. A case in point was this one, which failed every year, and needed manual intervention to continue.

The Director’s reverie was broken as the Programmer walked into his office, a nasty smile on his wrinkled face. His clothes were functional, but had seen better days. Eyes bloodshot, hair dishevelled. The Director eyed him with palpable distaste. Drunken old fool. The flight must have run out of the year’s supply of booze on the way here. Trust him to take full advantage of the freebies.

To think that he was at his creature’s mercy irritated him no end. But he really had no choice. Asking for this system to be AI compliant was going to be fatal. The Digital Reich would not take this lightly. Years of evasion would catch up with the company. Swiftly and cruelly.

“How are you doing today Sir?” asked the Programmer in his most sarcastic tone.

“Get it done, and get out. I don’t want to talk to you for a minute more than necessary.” shot back the Director.

“So much anger. Sure cannot be good for your ulcers.”

The Director controlled himself with a superhuman effort. Anger was not going to help things. The tramp knew he was in a superior bargaining position, and they both knew it.

“Look, why don’t you get started? I have deadlines to meet.”

“Sir, just thought I’d inform you that the cost of living has gone up since we last met.”

The Director knew this was coming.

“How much?”

“Four Million.”

“What?!!!! This is daylight robbery. Double what you had charged last time.”

“Then maybe you should find somebody else who’s ready to do it for less. I think I’d be moving along now. Would love to say I’ve other work to do, but you know better, don’t you Sir?”

“Alright…alright. You’ll have the money. Now get to work!”

The Programmer stepped into the heavily guarded underground room, alone, as was the norm. The server was waiting for him, just as he knew it would.

He launched a database session, and typed the following,

Update final_transaction set user_id = NULL;
Commit;

and reset the database scheduler to fire the following query to fire again next year.

Update final_transaction set user_id = ‘LOCK’;
Commit;

The front end logic was totally dependent on the value inside the user_id column. It would show the transaction only if the value matched your login id. No one had an id called ‘LOCK’.

The Programmer whistled as he wound up. 4 Million for 5 minutes’ worth. Not a bad day’s work. He was already thinking about what he was going to charge next year. Thank the Creator for that SQL book he had found in a long forgotten corner of his attic.

As the Director wired the 4 Million to the overseas account given by the Programmer, he banged his fist hard on the mahogany desk. If only they had ported the System while they had the chance. If only…

posted by Tapan at 11:08 PM

Life Of Pi

Saturday, October 15, 2005
Recently finished reading Life Of Pi by Yann Martel, this book won the Booker Prize for 2002. One of the more interesting books I’ve read in a long, long time.

It is about an Indian teenager, called Pi Patel (short for Piscine Molitor Patel) whose father happens to be a zoo-keeper. They plan to immigrate to Canada, and set sail on a Japanese steamer with a consignment of animals. The ship sinks in a storm, and the sole survivors on a lifeboat are Pi, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a 350 pound royal Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. What unfolds is a bizarre tale of survival, and the sheer, gory detail with which life at sea is described makes you believe that the author actually went through the ordeal himself.

The writing gets heavier as the book progresses, and the end is a totally unexpected twist, which makes you challenge all that you have just read. I hated the ending at first read, but a little thought over some days made it sink in, and made me appreciate it all the more. Few books have the capacity to torment the reader for days after you’ve read it. The imagery is too haunting to forget easily. You keep referring to earlier passages to ferret out the broad hints/red herrings. You either like the ending, or you don't.

The book is full of metaphors, and throws up some very interesting views on Religion and God.

A must-read if you are looking for something out of the ordinary, and something which makes you think and question, rather than blindly accept.

posted by Tapan at 9:05 PM

Kknowledge Kgained Kfrom K8-K11 Kpm

Thursday, October 13, 2005
My TV has conked out since the last week. Part of me is sad because it’s really strange to eat your food staring at the plate and nothing else. But another part of me is really happy because there are no ‘Indian value reinforcing’ serials assaulting my senses when I get home after work.

But a little reflection made me realize that we should actually be grateful to the makers of these serials for the following


  1. For showing anybody who cares that India has the best plastic surgeons in the world. They not only transform faces, but also voice, height, and weight ... would be interesting to see what they could do with sexual orientation (Oops! Have I given a future 'track' away?). This should serve as a big boost to the efforts at promoting Medical Tourism here in India. Am sure there is a mad rush already for PG seats in Plastic Surgery.

  2. For showing us that ‘Robot Farts’ can be used as effective background scores for every situation. (At least that’s what those metallic whooshing sounds every 5 nanoseconds sound like to me)

  3. For showing us that Indian society is a lot more progressive than we think it is. Families accept incest, rape, extra-marital affairs, bastard children, and murder as calmly as they accepted the last petrol price hike. "Happens, so what?" kind of thing. It’s really cool to see someone outside your marriage, but after proper demonstrations of remorse, and listening to thunderous, frustratingly teary speeches by your wife (accompanied by a regular orchestra of the sounds mentioned in point 2 of course), and your mistress to boot, which last for a week or two, you can get by. After all, divorce is still a bad word for the wife. She will take all your crap, and live with it. Not immediately of course (otherwise how would WE be ‘entertained’?!), but eventually everything turns out OK, since the mistress either dies or has a change of heart to complement a change of face.

  4. For actually showing us how some festivals are meant to be celebrated, in excruciating detail, every year. It never hurts to keep on learning, does it? After all this is our ‘culture’ (that you would see more culture on a week-old, non-refrigerated piece of bread is besides the point here…at least that’s what the cynics say anyways. Boo to them! We LOVE this, don't we?)

  5. For giving a chance to so many classic pieces of human furniture, to actually face something called as a camera, and to try and do something called as acting/emoting. Our lives would be so dull without these fine people trying their best to entertain us. Commendable.

  6. For hooking women on to a daily 'weepie-waily' fix far more addictive than Manali grade pot, and single-handedly impacting dinner times the nation over. The withdrawal symptoms that people exhibit when actually watching a decent comedy show, are downright revolting... (Why is everybody so HAPPY?! What?! Ain't nobody cryin'? Am outttaaa here!!)

  7. For beating H.G. Wells (God bless his soul) at his time-travel fantasies. 20 years in one episode is a marvel. And plus the ladies look HOTTER as they ‘age’ (that probably explains why I have such a major older woman fixation). And also for making 20 something actors pull off the older roles with just a solitary streak of white in their jet black hair, and with such wonderful attention to detail and the nuances of older age. Nothing short of histrionic history.

posted by Tapan at 12:02 AM

'Systemspeak' revisited

Saturday, October 01, 2005
BAU:
The first time I saw it in a mail, I thought it was an acronym for another system. Father Time and a couple of discreet queries later told me that it stands for ‘Business As Usual’. If I could have my way, it would be modified to ‘Bullsh*t As Usual’. A LOT more apt that way.

EOD:
This too I must confess stumped me. It wasn’t as difficult to figure out as BAU though. Stands for ‘End Of Day’.
Could mean two things.

Usage 1) Comparatively Benign - The End Of Day account feeds that are generated by Financial Systems.

“Aaj EOD run karne ka hai…ghar jaldi mat jaa"

Usage 2) Severely Malignant - A manifestation of pure evil, when wielded by the boss

“I need this done by EOD today”

OBVIOUSLY, EOD is very very subjective here. Simply put,
“I don’t care how you do it, give it to me before you go home”
And yeah…
”I don’t care when you go home”

Touch Base:
This comes in thanks to the solitary comment on the earlier Systemspeak article.

This is an Americanism for “Let’s waste half an hour’s worth of time and boost MTNL’s bottom line again next week”

“Let’s touch base again next week…”

My fav retort?
Maybe if you had a butt like Jennifer Lopez or our very own Shakeela, I juuuuuuust might…

Sanity Test:
Was totally lost the first time I heard this. Used to signify a basic, trial test case, to ensure that a release has been successfully cut over.

Now that I’m a li’l more aware, I guess the name originated from the need to check whether you are still sane after doing everything short of actually selling yourself AND your soul for good measure, to have seen the release through.

Dry Run:
A distant cousin of the Sanity Test (Once removed).
Basically just like a sanity, only in this case, the testing is done by the technical team, and not the users.
Don’t know what ‘dry’ has to do with the process. Explanations welcome.

Ballpark Figure:
An 'uber' glamorous word for the ugly ‘Rough Figure’ or the even uglier ‘L0 Estimate’. This word has a certain ignorant savoir-faire about it…what irritates me is ‘Oh look at me…I’m in the States’ Indians using this and acting surprised when you don’t know the meaning. There is no shame in not knowing. Especially an idiotic term like this.

Massaging the BTCs:
Two for the price of one.
BTC = Business Test Case.
Massaging – Now this conjures up images of Oriental chicks in an incense laden, dimly lit room. Guess that is exactly what is needed to make the task of ‘re-writing business test cases’ a tad more enjoyable. Check out the dreamy smile on the face of your Business Expert the next time he’s asked to do this.


Patch:
Very very esoteric. Heard it in my first week.

“Aaj UAT pe patch maarne ka hai…yaad hai na?”

A euphemism for an SQL update statement, which serves as a backdoor data correction. Kind of like the white ink markers you see for correcting typing errors in print.

Thookpatti:
The cornerstone of the Indian IT industry as we know it. Stands for an absolutely sloppy, hasty, non-optimal piece of code, which will just about solve a problem. Just. Sort of for as long as a spitball will stick to something. No guarantees. If it works, good for you. If it doesn’t, god knows who wrote it. Sometimes used by programmers when pushed a little too hard to meet deadlines.

“Abbe yaar, kal tak kaise hoga?!”
“Maaf re, kuch to thookpatti laga ke release kar…”

Bachche Ki Jaan Lega?!
Can ANYONE tell me what the **** does this exactly mean?! Have heard it being used majorly by the Northies. They prefix it with an ‘Oye’…and then collapse onto each other…laughing uncontrollably. The Mumbaikars and the South of the Vindhyas types just stare, and smile politely. Sooner or later, they too start saying this and try to join in on the fun. Without knowing when to use this. Which makes the Northies smirk and laugh even harder.
Can’t quite get the joke, unless the idea of serial child killers is supposed to be funny.

posted by Tapan at 7:44 PM