Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Tryst with our Epics

I am fascinated with our epics which are possibly the most well written scriptures across civilizations. Their importance can only be realized by those who feel the society is in the chasms of deep troubles with insecurity, immorality and crimes pegging us in from all sides. I feel relieved when I read them through Rajagopalachari’s immortal English renditions or even watch their serialized versions done so wonderfully some two decades ago. My tryst with the Ramayana and the Mahabharata began at the infant age of 3-4 years when I used to bother my Grandma for bedtime stories whenever she used to come visiting our house. She is not much educated but her fabulous command over the religious scriptures used to awe me a lot. She has also derived much of her gyan from them and uses to straighten us even to this day if at all we deviate. Since that tender age, I got fascinated with the scriptures especially the Epics.

I used to wonder how someone can become so perfect like Lord Rama. He was an excellent fighter, was a dutiful son, a responsible brother, a protective husband to Seeta, and finally proved to be the ablest king of this land. Such was his perfection that the Mahatma envisaged a Ram Rajya in this country and said that it has become all the more relevant in this modern age when people would get corrupted.

I was amused at the folk tale of the larger- than- life Rama, his birth as Lord Vishnu’s incarnation on this earth to slay Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka. Rama’s decision to follow his father’s orders to leave for the forest, where uncertain dangers lay in waiting, was really touching. His grief at the loss of his wife proved that he was unaware of his divine origin and displayed emotions just like any normal human. Finally when he set course for Lanka with the help of the Vaanar Sena it concludes that one shouldn’t neglect the poorest and the weakest. They can help you on any day of your need.

Rama’s return to Ayodhya after slaying Raavana is still celebrated in the form of Dussehra and Deepawali, especially in the north. Rama’s story can be an inspiration to any individual. I believe, on how to perform one’s duties. However we can only strive towards perfection, not be entirely perfect as that is the domain of the Supreme Being.

The Mahabharata impressed me even more with an authentic display of present day strife in the form of a war between brothers of the Lunar Dynasty. It is called the Mahabharata as legend says it weighs more than the combined weights of the four Bharats-RigVeda, SaamVeda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda. Having more than 1 lakh slokas, the beautiful story of the Kuru Dynasty was brought alive by Sage Ved Vyas in poignant terms. From the story of Yayati to the Pandavas’ final journey, it is full of intricately woven tales of Administration, Management, Political Science, Diplomacy, Military training, Valour, Romance, Devotion and so on. You name a field and it is there in Mahabharata. More importantly, it contains the Bhagavad Geeta, the sacred teachings of the Lord given to Arjuna on the battlefield which culminated in the Lord showing the Universal Form to Arjuna.

Although the 18 day Kurukshetra war was a foregone conclusion as the Pandavas were under the care and guidance of the Supreme Lord Krishna from their birth onwards, my heroes in this epic are Bheeshma and Karna. Bheeshma, formerly known as Devavrat, the son of Ganga, was born as a result of a curse by the Brahmarishi Vasistha as he dared to steal his cow Nandini. He was actually one of the Vasus, the lesser Gods, more appropriately, Pravasa, the Sky God. His perfection was also like Lord Rama, almost equal in valour, strength, knowledge. The future King of Hastinapura, he sacrificed his material pleasures through a terrible vow or pratigya to enable his father to marry his love. In due course, he got the boon of ichcha mrityu from his father who was clearly impressed. Withstanding the long suffering of Hastinapura and saddened at the plight of his kingdom due to the constant infighting between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, he was finally defeated by Arjuna when he took off his weapons. The story of Bheeshma is unique in the sense that he didn’t breathe his last till he was sure of Hastinapura’s transition into safe hands.

The story of Karna is a mixed bag of misfortunes and wrong company. Ignored by his mother at his infancy, he was the greatest among all Pandava brothers in all aspects. However he was weakened by his repeated support of Duryodhana’s eveil deeds. His consideration that he was forever in debt of Duryodhana, caused his downfall and final defeat in the hands of Arjuna. It sends a message across all of us that however good a person is; he will surely go down if he starts quivering from the paths of justice.

All conflicts and wars in our societies and homes are all mirror images and micro forms of that Great War of Kurukshetra. However the truth and the righteous will always prevail in this never ending war however beating they have to take. I hereby end this narrative with a respectful bow to the two great epics whose importance in this cruel world have increased manifold.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The value of Education

The world has progressed a lot since the folks of stone age started making clubs and weapons of stones and rocks to defend themselves. The discovery of fire,wheel, agriculture, and barter were important points in human history as the human race took very critical steps forward in the history of the civilization. Compared to those times, nowadays development and advancement has been too rapid and sometimes they are frighteningly fast.

As different knowledge domains have diversified with increasing expertise, so have the complexity of the education system in India and abroad. Education system nowadays have become too proficient in collecting advanced Guru Dakshina by charging hefty fees. A high profile MBA from a highly rated Business School can set you back by as much as 10-15 lakhs for the 2 year duration course in the country. The logic must be something like we are taking care of your placements, our brand name will be attached to your resume for ever and we have to pay salary to the profs. and you have the luxury to sit in AC classrooms so you have to offer us a small token of your savings. A well accepted status quo nowadays but is education for sale? Too trifle a question to dismiss it at the first instant,isn't it? Do they radically transform students overnight or in 2 years? More important is the question whether people apply the values, they have learnt in educational institutions, to their social and personal life.

How many IIT engineers, IIM grads and AIIMS doctors have really contributed to the welfare of the Indian society and how many among them have really cared to even contribute something back to their motherland? Now think about this: how many of them have become big shots and have made "big"? How many of them migrated to other countries in search of better opportunities? Is brain drain really justified? People say that in absence of facilities in India they migrated to earn name, fame and money.
To put it across simply, my hats off to those who have stayed back and have worked for the development of the country. May this country rise from ashes like the mystical Phoenix. May this great nation regain its past glory and greatness.

Friday, February 26, 2010

“Save our Tigers” by Aircel: Is it a little too late?

One fine morning I was greeted by a nice cute ad showing a young tiger cub being the centre of an emotional scene and with Dhoni, Kiran Bedi, Suresh Raina and actor Surya claiming that they fully support Aircel’s newest initiative to Save our Tigers whose numbers they claim stands at only 1411.

Lets go a little back to the era of the Raj when maharajas and nawabs used to go hunting for what not and this addiction was passed onto the invading East India Company’s footsoldiers. These people hunted the kings of the jungles so badly that the majestic Cheetah went completely extinct from India and is now restricted to only the African Savannahs.

I am sure the generation x, y, z, bla bla won’t even know that the Tiger is the national animal of the nation. 15-20 years from now, I imagine people will identify it only from vintage pictures in books or stuffed carcasses in museums.

I still remember Bill Clinton visiting the Ranthambhor National Park in Rajasthan in 2000 while on a visit to the country. The tiger last attracted the people’s attention at that time. Now I remember reading news articles in leading newspapers that tigers have been exterminated from that National Park. Another national park Sariska has been added to that wonder list where tigers have miraculously vanished to the surprise of the local authorities.

More surprising is this became known to them when not even a single pug mark was recorded in Tiger census record. The Kings simply fled the country for their lives, or they might have vanished into thin air or some deep rooted smuggling mafia have put an end to their hapless lives in this country.

Just two weeks back I read in another popular news magazine that the famous Corbett National Park, the success story of Project Tiger is now a favourite haunting spot of urban kings, who organise night shows and all sorts of nuisance parties. Not a surprise as I feel they know that no tigers will come to haunt them as they are already dead by now.

I don’t give Aircel’s initiative much chance of success as it will fizzle away too quickly amid all this confusing chaos our nation is under.It might be a marketing ploy in this age of cut throat competition or their owners might have soft corners for our national beast. However I think it has all come a little too late. It is high time we get conscious of all the dangers the varied flora and fauna of this land are facing and should extend every possible help for their conservation. otherwise, the tiger will join the cheetah in becoming a dodo in this nation and our wise politicians will have one more arduous task in their hands to choose a new national animal.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Open Letter to HP: Part II

Dear Sir,

With extreme regret I am writing my final letter to you. I wrote my earlier letter in the 3rd week of September,2009 with full details of services endured by the notebook dv9312tx between July 2007-September 2009. The warranty is valid till November 2010. For your reference I am re-uploading it to Rapidshare as it was 3 pages long.


I won’t deny it but HP India contacted me soon after I posted the above letter. Two customer care executives spoke to me over phone. Inspite of my repeated statement that the notebook suffers from perennial problems and even 4 services couldn’t rectify the defects, they continued to stress on the idea that I should once again take my notebook to the nearby service centre. This would have been my 5th service. Already the notebook is using its 3rd system board with nvidia graphics,2nd LCD panel,2nd Fan and 2nd optical drive.

However, taking into account the endless loss of productivity and business hours which I have incurred on account of this notebook, I have decided not to go for any more service as it would only temporarily rectify the problem and delay the motherboard failure which is imminent after every 4-5 months.

What has frustrated me is that each time an executive contacts me I have to explain them everything and begin from level zero. And each time they have said that I need to go to the service center. Sorry but I have run out of patience. Even after spending Rs 72000(Rs 65000 for the notebook and additional Rs 7000 for extension of warranty), I have not got the desired level of satisfaction from the product which I purchased based on my prior positive experience with HP from 2001-2002(2 printers and 1 notebook).

I am extremely saddened to inform you that I have to opt for a new notebook in future as it has become virtually impossible for me to store my valuable data in a notebook which is so unreliable. Moreover I work in a private sector bank, so a reliable machine is very crucial for my day to day work.

Hoping for a patience reading.

Thanking You

Yours sincerely,

Pranjal Patowary


An Open Letter to HP : Part I


I have been somehow holding off my feelings for the last one year or so but suddenly it felt so overpowering that I had no other option but to write a letter to you conveying my experiences with HP in the recent past. I have been using HP products for the last seven years. The product portfolio as of now includes inkjet printer and two laptops. My satisfaction with the printer and the Compaq notebook assured me of HP’s quality and forced me to go with HP yet again. As a result, considering the reliability of HP products and their superiority vis-a vis the other market competitors, I decided to purchase an HP Pavilion dv9000 series notebook. That series was one of the highest end consumer laptop models in the summer of 2007. Since I am an enthusiast user of notebooks, I purchased the gleaming new HP Pavilion dv9312tx from Dotcom in Chennai, India. The purchase date was 1st July, 2007. The notebook came with the following features:

Intel Core2Duo T5300, 1024 MB DDR2 RAM, 240 GB dual hard disks, 256 MB GeForce Go 7600, Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit OS version, 17 inch screen(1440x900), DVD+RW burner, Intel 3945 abg Wi- Fi capability, 1.3 MP camera, HDMI and 4 USB 2.0 ports.

Serial Number: CNF7190LQB

Product Number: GJ156PA

Total cost of the laptop was Rs 65260.00 plus one old Toshiba Satellite A60 notebook.
I bought this notebook primarily for its multimedia capabilities although occasionally I would play a few games as well. However, since I joined an MBA programme in the same month, I felt it would be a worthy companion since the large storage capacity would help me in storing high quality management videos and the large screen would help me in preparing attractive presentations.

All went well for the first six months. I could watch high definition videos and play games due to the GPU and also was involved in quite a lot of presentations. Also because of the HDMI port I could connect it to an external LCD and view HD content.

1st Service:

Gradually the laptop started overheating and the keyboard became loose. One of the keys even came out. I took the notebook to HP Service Center, Peters Road, Chennai on 16-01-2008. That was exactly 6.5 months from the purchase date. The fan and keyboard was replaced. I received the laptop back on 19-01-2008. Case number was 2216429725.

2nd Service:

In the month of September, 2008 the laptop went dead. There was absolutely no display on the screen and on turning it on, the LCD remained dark. There was no BIOS display. I read in many web forums like Anand Tech, Notebook Review and even HP’s own Business and Consumer support forums about the faulty Nvidia Graphic cards which led them to overheat and burn prematurely. But I resisted the temptation of doing further experiments of my own and took the notebook to HP Authorised Service Centre, Gandhipuram, Coimbatore on 26-09-2008. I had to wait till 03-10-2008 to receive my laptop. However it was repaired with a new system board and I was tense knowing fully well that it will only be a matter of time before the new board burns out too. I was informed by many individuals that HP has extended the warranty by another 1 year on certain notebooks with specific product numbers. I visited the HP site and was disappointed to know that my product number was not listed. However I enquired HP India and they told me that my warranty is valid till November 2008. Case number for this service was 2603259966.

Renewal of warranty:

Knowing fully well that it would be dicey to continue with this “premium” laptop without an extended warranty, I purchased a 2 year Care Pack on 31-12-2008. The Care Pack number is G05UINAC908A. That was again after I was e-mailed by HP India several times that now I have the option of renewing my warranty within 90 days of expiry of my 1 year original warranty.

3rd Service:

Hardly 3 months had passed since I bought the Care Pack that my DVD Writer died. I was amused simply because I had used it only twice in the nearly 2 year period: for creating HP Recovery Disks. I normally don’t burn DVDs and prefer to carry all my extra data in external hard drives which are much more reliable in my opinion. In addition to that the Quick Launch Buttons died without a reason. The case number for this service is surprisingly missing. I don’t know why. May be the service centre’s carelessness or my own indifference.

Again I took it to the HP Service Centre, Coimbatore on 17-03-2009. The notebook was returned on 27-03-2009. By this time I was frustrated as I didn’t spend more than 65,000 bucks to get a lemon laptop that seemed to develop one problem or the other over a short period in addition to the already defective system board/GPU combo which fries every year although I am using a notebook cooler. Money is hard earned Sir and before making a purchase decision, I normally sit down and do a thorough analysis of all brands before selecting a particular product. It may simply be anything-a digital camera, a notebook, an LCD TV, a washing machine or even a refrigerator. There are factors like reliability, consistency, price/performance and finally product reviews which go into the customer’s mind when he/she makes their decisions. At least for the record I follow this process and I expect the company on the other side to honour the commitment and faith reposed by me on its products. However the saga with this notebook doesn’t end here. One latest addition makes the list truly complete.

4th Service:

This incident is very recent. Green lines appeared on my display and all dark colours were replaced with an ugly light green shade. I wasn’t even able to type properly because visibility was minimal. I promptly took it to HP Authorised Service Centre, U.N Brahmachari Street, Kolkata on 04-09-2009 and was given a case number 4603379253. I was told that it would be returned in 4-5 days and only the display cable needs to be changed or repositioned. The notebook was returned on 19-09-2009.
The service report says only the system board was changed for the “umpteenth” time. However I found that they have even changed the LCD display. Because the plastic generally found on top of newly bought laptops was present on the panel. Also Everest Ultimate Edition diagnoses it as Chi Mei Display whereas previously it was recognised as an LG-Philips display. Worst of all, when I talked to the service engineers, they refused to acknowledge the change in LCD panel and they claimed that only board was changed.

I didn’t argue with them as I had already made up my mind regarding my next approach. On coming back home, I found that on turning the num lock key on, even normal alphabet keys started producing numbers. I am sure while changing the system board, they might have misplaced the keyboard ends. Please be aware that it is a complete full sized keyboard as the notebook is 17 inch.

Final words:

I was once a great connoisseur of HP products and have even recommended them to my near and dear ones for years. Additionally as a part time system administrator in my organisation: The Federal Bank Ltd, I am asked to recommend brands of IT products and also to troubleshoot them. Please advise me what to tell them if any such query is asked by them.

Sir, this letter is not meant to belittle your valued company or its products considering the fact that I am an HP user myself for years. Every word of it has spontaneously resulted out of my experiences with an HP product for the last 27 months. But what pains me a lot is the fact that my investment in this high end laptop (by 2007 standards) has gone waste. I am also a staunch follower of the statement that an organisation can prosper more when it keeps count of its Triple Bottom Line and how strictly it adheres to it. I eagerly wait for your reply so that I am convinced that HP indeed cares for its regular buyers.

Thanking You
Yours sincerely

Pranjal Patowary

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kerala Travelogue: Part II

With another Sunday on the horizon, we decided to go for a trip across Kochi. The day was 2nd August. Around 10 am, we boarded a public transport bus from Rajiv Gandhi Bus Terminus, Aluva to Fort Cochin. Each was charged Rs 17 which made us aware of the fact that the journey to Fort Cochin is definitely going to be long and arduous. The bus journey took more than an hour, however the journey was definitely a treat for the eyes as the bus snaked around the major landmarks like Marine Drive, Shipyard, Naval Base INS Dronacharya, Mattancherry before stopping at Fort Cochin Bus Stand.

Fort Cochin is a nice and tranquil place with the cool sea breeze constantly hitting our faces which swept away the tiredness and anxiety from our minds. The sentry which greets any visitor to that place is the Santa Cruz Basilica just adjacent to the Bus Stop. The nearby backwaters made for a perfect backdrop to the innumerable stories and legacy of this spot. Chinese Fishing Nets can be seen from a very close viewing distance and natives say that they were installed there in the 15th century itself. The sea looked very rough and ferries were plying all over it. We proceeded to the Beach area which was tiny. A large portion of the sea shore is rocky in nature. So tourists were frolicking in the limited available beach space. The beach was, nevertheless, littered with coconut fronds and maybe due to the offseason, wasn’t maintained properly. The distant horizon was marked with boats and ships of varying shapes and sizes. Marine Drive can be seen from Fort Cochin itself and the skyscrapers looked like tiny matchboxes. Our next stop was St. Francis Church. Excitement soon turned into despair as we found it locked as it was a Sunday and we were a tad late.

Nearby was Mattancherry, hardly 2.5 kms from Fort Cochin. The major landmark is the Mattancherry Palace built by the Dutch for the Varma royal family. It has now been converted to a museum with full grants from the Archaeological Survey of India. The halls were adorned with Ramayana Paintings which described the story of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya and his war with Ravana, the demon king of Ceylon. They were very vividly made and the figures looked life like. The next hall was filled with inscriptions and cartographic references describing the history of Kochi and how it was inhabited. The rich traditions of the Jews and the biblical references are also mentioned through pictorial representations. Further down, we can see the portraits of the Varma rulers and their descendants and ministers. The royal articles prevalent during those times have also been neatly preserved which gave an idea of life in Kerala during those times.

In Mattancherry itself, located in the midst of an idyllic Jew Town is the famous Jewish or Paradesi Synagogue, one of the oldest in South Asia. It is a Jewish place of worship and located a km away from the Palace Museum. This was my first visit to any Synagogue and I wondered about the similarities of religions all over the world and how their adherents worship their Gods in a similar manner. So different we look outwardly, but how strangely similar are human nature and ways of life I thought. The entire Jew Town is littered with antique shops where collectibles are found ranging from a few rupees to lakhs of rupees. They are worthy places of visit for those interested in taking back home some nice memorabilia from their Kochi trip.
The ferry services in Kochi are another notable attraction. Countless of them ply through the lakes and backwaters carrying daily commuters, vehicles and tourists. Kudos to the state govt. For maintaining the daily ferry services between the different islands which has eased congestion to a large extent. Also the low fare of 2 rupees is attractive and many people take advantage of the facilities. For that purpose, boat jetties are located along the islands’ coastlines. The most famous of them is located near Marine Drive which is an upmarket area of the city consisting of swanky shopping malls, showrooms and the like. Various delicacies can also be seen being offered here and there which adds to the charm of the place.

Visiting Kochi is a rewarding experience in terms of the beauty and tranquillity of the city and its environs. And especially during the monsoons, one shouldn’t miss the opportunity of being drenched by thundershowers while boating in the lagoons. Definitely on my recommended places to visit list.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kerala Travelogue: Part I

With training rigour slightly easing itself from my neck, I decided to visit some nearby places in and around Federal Heights, Aluva to unwind myself. First on the list was a quaint locale called Cherai Beach. Around 20 kms from Aluva Bank Junction, it is a long stretch of verdant sandy beach in Vypin Island, Kochi. Regular buses ply onto Paravoor, a transit point towards our destination and onwards to Cherai. Our journey date was 26th July, a Sunday and we started our trip in the afternoon hoping to catch the dying glimpses of a setting sun in the sea waters. It took almost an hour to reach Cherai from Aluva and we proceeded the last few metres on foot as a bridge was under repair. Lovely backwaters and cool breeze emanating from them greeted us. The salty smell of the sea tinged my senses as it was almost a year since I visited the Marina Beach. Upon reaching the exact location, I was thrilled to find hordes of tourists already soaking themselves in the cool waters. It was simply gorgeous and simply unexplainable to describe the view which I enjoyed of the setting Sun although it was briefly obscured by a few clouds in the horizon. The water was however a little murky which can be explained by the intermittent showers happening around this region quite recently. I also got very involved with some mouth watering delights especially fried delicacies cooked at the beach huts. By the time I arrived in Aluva, it was already 8 pm and I was satisfied and relieved knowing fully well that there are lots of exciting places to visit in Kochi. Also I was a bit irritated knowing that I have to wait another week for those peek-a-boo opportunities of slipping away from Aluva.