God!! For some peace!!

I was tricked into watching the movie that I had already been dreading. The movie that features the young, super six-packed porn star in a miner's hat.. Om Shanti Om. OK? Agreed, I have never been able to comprehend what the starry-eyed women saw in Mr. Khan. He reminds me of Ben Stiller's hilariously depicted character in Zoolander, especially the one "Look" part. In an eerie similarity to Derek Z, Mr. Khan has only one "Expression", one "Patented Laugh" and one "Patented Arms-Widened-Palms-Upward Pose". Enough said about Mr. Khan. I didn't expect much out of him in the movie anyway and so he is cleared of any guilt in making the movie an unbearable torture.

Welcome Ms. Farah Khan. Oak-aged choreographer who should have stuck to her calling. She has managed to create, with god-knows-how-many crores, the perfect tool to torture our poor souls. The movie definitely has an identity-crisis. I don't think the maker, herself, could decide whether the movie was a spoof or serious or paranormal or plain-old stupid. Most of the movie should have been a five or ten minute sketch. Unfortunately the director decided that a sketch should be over a torturous 3 hours long.

During brief periods of time, the movie moves away from its spoofiness towards overt melodrama. The scenes are so well(over?) dramatised that I was laughing myself off the seat. If these segments were also designed to be spoofs that didn't register in my humour retarded brain.

All in all, this was a movie that left me groaning throughout.. Absurd storyline, pathetic characterizations, muddled sequences, unnecessary songs and a ghost to boot!! A true to the core Bollywood movie. Did I hear it mentioned somewhere this was an "industry" movie?

I could've caught some shut eye if not for the blaring music that seemed to be an integral part of the movie.

Ms. Khan, please don't make another movie!!!


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howdy do?

How often have you been asked "How are you?" or one of its two hundred and ninety-five million sibling queries starting from "wassa?" to Joey's "How you doing?" ? It is an accepted form of greeting and almost always follows a hi or a hello. This is especially the case when you are meeting the other after a time longer than, say, 4 hours.

How often have you answered such a question truthfully and honestly? I know it would probably be inappropriate and even irritating if I were to answer someone's "Howdy?" with a detailed summary of my current state of being, yet is it not true that a "How do you do?" is almost never answered in truth. I would venture, bravely enough, to even say that you are expected to answer it untruthfully with that blatantly colourless "Fine" and maybe add a "und Sie?" to generate the same gray-tinged "Fine" that reveals nothing and says everything. Go up to someone looking completely distressed and say a "How do you do?". You will, in all probability, be rewarded with the expected monotony.

What if, for a change, we decide to answer the question face-up. What if the next time you meet someone, at a moment when you are ecstatically stretching out on that fluffy cloud numbered nine, you give the person a run down on the exciting news that you have to share. What if you go on "... remember how I always wanted to sharpen my pencil until it could prick the boss's skin.. Well, guess what1 I did and now I am overjoyed and walking around grinning like a kid that has just cheesed a chocolate cake. So how are *you*?"

Go on. Try it. Helpless looks are guaranteed!!

P.S: I wanted to put up something on this blog. It was beginning to look exactly how my brain cells seem to - blank and deserted. It's that deadly affliction called laziness. If your sensibilities have been disturbed from their silken fine resting place my sincere appologies. :)



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under/over - react

Yesterday, while sipping machine-made coffee, I had a conversation about how I react to situations. Z was describing an incident that happened when we were both in school. About how I reacted (or did not react) after we caught up to two friends who had gotten lost while on a trip in Chennai. Z and I both knew the route to varying degrees but instead of splitting up to guide the gang we took off into the same auto-rickshaw. Of course, in the hope that the other auto would follow us. That, however, didn't happen. Anyway. I don't quite remember the incident but apparently I had asked my red-in-the-face-with-anger friend , "But you are here now, aren't you?"

I tend to underreact (which *is* a word) a bit sometimes - most times. I think that how I react is governed by what the situation is about. For example, if it is about something material or money - like losing money even if it's a huge wad - I don't react wildly, not outwardly at least. Of course, it hurts to be in whatever that situation may be but I strongly believe that it is not worth getting a heart-attack over.

I wouldn't be over-excited and lose sleep in anticipation of a favourite t.v. show/movie/book or the most incredible rock show. I wouldn't be inconsolable if I missed them as I did when Iron Maiden played in B'Lore (It would've been a different matter if that had been Metallica. ) Celebrities don't thrill me.

Even when people are celebrating something quite awesome, I might not show any excitement. If you jump up-down-left-right and tell me India that has won the World Cup, I would most probably ask, "So what?". No, that's not just because I don't watch cricket or any other sport for that matter. I am sure that some people sometimes find it irritating when I am all laid-back when there is humdrum and chaos around. That's me! I like being laid-back. Why waste your emotions and energy on trivial things?

There is a negative part to all this (There always is a negative). There are times - critical times- when it is absolutely essential that I do something and I don't know how to react. At crucial moments, my decision making is quite hampered. It takes me forever to reach a decision and when I do I am left wondering if it was right or close to being right.

What kind of a reactor (that's not even funny) are you? Do exaggerate and blow up simple issues? If yes, then what kind of issues makes you attain critical mass?

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Gone missing..

If you did notice (which you probably didn't), I haven't posted anything on the blog for a long time. I have gone missing and with good reason.

There is a remarkable difference in me from the last time I posted - which I noticed now was 3 months back. I am now what some people would like to call (often in an accusatory tone) a "family-man". The D-Day (D as in Darn-good and looked-forward-to for many many years) was on the 13th of September, 2007. In 5 days time I would've been married for a month. Wow!

Before you decide to ask the typical "How does it feel?" in Aaj-tak style, I should tell you that I don't have coherent answers to such questions as that. I have been guilty of asking such questions to other souls (who I now realize must've felt as tormented as I do now). This is a question that you *should* be able to answer but no matter how hard you try you cannot. "It feels good" sounds like the safest and all-encompassing answer to this question.

We haven't yet gotten to the "one disagreement a day" state yet. It has been pretty smooth sailing until now. I know we'll get close to that state of equilibrium some day but that's for later. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with disagreeing (or quarreling). That is just the natural way of things, in my humble opinion.

Maybe I should introduce you to the one. Given that we are in blog-world, here's her blog - Preethi'ka'. Yes, she has been around for a while.


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Subscribe to the airtel standing instructions facility

".... let your credit card pay... no tension..."

I have been hearing this damned recording over and over again in the last few days. Airtel's system seems to have FUBARed by mobile connection. It all started on Friday (06/07/07). My bill was due and customer service told me to update my credit card details through an SMS. "You cc will be debited by tomorrow," I was told. Come Monday and Airtel disconnected me out of the blue. My card account was not debited. After frantic calls to customer care, I personally paid my bill at 9 in the night. "Four hours to reactivate your account," I was told. The next day (Tuesday) my phone was still not working and after 3 calls to customer service and an escalation to their nodal officer, my connection was restored at 4 in the evening. Sigh of relief. On Wednesday, I noticed that CLIP was not activated. Another call to customer care to raise yet another SR. That didn't bother me much.

On Thursday (today), my connection conked off again around 2 in the afternoon. I called up cust care and I was told that I will need to walk into the nearest Airtel outlet. I was pissed off. For no fault of mine, this guy was telling me to spend more time to get things fixed. The guy on the phone had only this to say, "your connection has been deactivated (as if I didn't know that). You will need to place a return request." This was, of course, peppered by the repeated question - "did you ask for reactivation?"

I sent a mail to the nodal officer and tried to follow up with a call. After 15 minutes of getting engaged tone, the phone rang but whoever was on the other end took the phone and left on the desk. I could hear noises from the other end. I decided to hold and wait. After 2 minutes, someone disconnected the line. After another 15 minutes of the busy tone, I got through to the nodal office who denied putting the phone off the hook. Anyway, the girl/woman on the other side promised that it will be rectified within an hour. Ah ha, that should've done the trick but it didnt. After 5, I called the n.o. again, who said i will get an update within the day and that the process had been initiated..

At 7:30 in the night, I had had enough. I called up customer care. The guy on the other end promised to get it fixed in half an hour. 8:15 and no good. I called up customer care again. I was on the phone and on hold for nearly 40 minutes. I have now been told that it should be done by tonight. I have told them that if it is not fixed by tonight, I will go to another service provider. I don't think they care, though the cust care rep on the other side seemed genuinely apologetic. So I am without a phone now. I am pissed. I am at office at 9 in the night trying to get this damn thing fixed. I am furious. I want to go the fubared server room that Airtel has and smash up the messed up servers.

I now know the fastest way to get into their 9845012345 customer care system. A.R. Rehman's airtel tune sounds like a death gong to me now and I can almost predict the questions that the customer care rep is going to ask. That's how messed up my state is now..

There is no escalation point listed beyond the nodal officer. I would like to see that nodal officer's ass fried. I would love to shower her with some choice names. She dared to put the phone off the hook and lie about it. That is what got to me the most. To my credit, I did not once scream or yell at the customer care reps. I never thought I could be so polite when I am so angry.


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thoughts on america

Actually it's more like "unsettled". Got back from Amreeka 3 weeks back and something or the other kept mPublish Poste on my toes all of these 3 weeks. Work is getting back-logged everyday. I finish one task and there is one more waiting to complete. It's crazy!! I hope to back "properly" online in a few more weeks.

People ask me if I liked Amreeka. Now, now, now. I stayed there for a mere 2 n 1/2 months. I cannot judge the place in such a short time unless you are asking it in a touristy sense. Even then, I will not be able to answer because I don't do much of touristy things. One thing I absolutely like about the u.s.a is the road network. The interstates rock. Yes, there are traffic jams and some potholes but these are usable roads and you don't find people crossing a highway like we have here. You don't have to be on the look-out for the weird apparitions that jump out of the bushes causing you to screech and halt, though there are the occasional crazy guys in cars like the one a friend and I encountered when we were driving down an interstate.

One thing I noticed about Indians living in the usa is this. Even when living away from home, people group themselves based on language and region. So you get to see isolated groups of Tamils, Keralites, Andhraites and Hindi-speaking folks at restaurants, etc. It is not as noticeable as back in India though. I guess we will never leave those shackles behind.

I miss my food outings. Being paid for by my employer, I had the chance to freak out on some fabulous food. Sushi is now officially one of my favourite food kinds. Inspite of my apprehensions, I realised that raw fish with rice is not only not bad it actually tastes very good. I miss those yummy things.

The country offers all the facilities for a comfortable life. Most things are standardised and hassle free. Owning a car is not as big a deal as here. Most things are affordable and available to you. Police don't really bother to investigate and solve petty muggings and thievery but they do respond to your call and file a report without a bribe. :) There is also the lure of the dollar.

Of course, there is a bit of anxiety/fear on the part of the citizens about foreign workers. It's quite understandable. For the record I did not face any such trouble from my co-workers. They were extremely supportive. I could however see their concern when I talked about visa issues and stuff with the Americans.

Violence in the USA means guns and shots. That's the scariest part for me about America. Crazy people have access to dangerous weapons. The USA is not as safe as it is made out to be. The citizens live in an induced denial. Each and every day there would be one or more reports about murders. People get killed walking down a road or sitting on their porch. Often by a stray bullet from someone else's fight or by a mugger who is not satisfied with just robbing the people.

Would I want to live there? I don't know.


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yeah right!

"She's using this time to reflect on her life, to see what she can do to make the world better and hopefully, in my opinion, to change the attitudes that exist about her among many people," Hutton said after visiting Hilton."
~ Paris Hilton's lawyer, Richard A. Hutton

What a sad state it is for the world when it needs Paris to make it better! What deplorable place have we all reached!

I don't usually give a rat's behind about these celebrity reports. Paris is different. Resembling her pet Chihuahua, she is the epitome of "ugly sells" - if you have loads of cash and can do weird(read slutty) things to get noticed. For some reason, I can't stand her. Even her not-so-bad-looking "friend", Nicole, has become an unbearable nincompoop under her influence. Alright, I don't think looks are that big a deal. Yet, to me, Paris is beyond ugliness. Everytime I see her on t.v. my skin crawls. Is she an alien? She sure does look like one. What if she is here, plotting a fear-campaign against us all? I am pretty unnerved by her. She is scary enough to give me nightmares that usually have her bearing down on me with her Chihuahua teeth flashing in the disco-lights. Of course, the nightmares are in technicolor. She is a bright red colour in most of them. Scary!!

Did you see the South Park episode featuring Paris Hilton, where the high school girls of SP want to become "sluts" cos Paris is one?? Oh man, that was one hilarious show. Of course, most little girls nowadays seem to be turning into Paris' images. Aha! That's her plot. To turn all girls and women into her replica. God help us all when that happens.


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Chicago

I visited my cousin in Chicago over the Memorial day weekend. Megabus agreed to take me there for about 25 dollars. This was good considering that I don't get paid in dollars for being in the US on a business visit and no matter how much I scoff the convert-into-rupees mentality that immigrants have, I am forced to perform that teraflop conversion in my mind. Yeah, I know I am bad at maths - yes, even simple multiplication and addition - so rest assured that I merely calculate with the nearest approximation involving as many zeroes at the end as possible.

Anyway, after an overnight assault on my body, especially my neck, the bus let me out at the union station a full hour before schedule, early morning on Saturday. I shudder to think the crazy driving that must have happened as I contoured and flexed my body to find some posture that wouldn't tear me into parts. Did I mention that it was raining like.. well.. er.. heavy rain? Yes, it was pouring all over the place but fortunately the bus didn't leak - ok, the bus wasn't that bad except I am sure the buses back home, which I avoid at all costs, were better. For 25 bucks (though that's a filthy 900+ rupees, approximate of course), I shouldn't have expected too much.

My cousin insisted that I should do atleast some touristy things. I decided to play along :). Saturday was washed away by the rain. It poured like crazy and so I spent the time playing with my nephew, who has begun mouthing random words. He is a typical hyperactive busybody, running around all the time and turning things over. Seeing a brief let-up in the rain, my cousin drove me to the temple in Aurora. He knows that I am not a "temple-person", but he thought I should atleast see the place. Now this temple is sent in a sprawling campus featuring a small mound. The whole place is grassed and looks like a million-buck mansion. Further proof of the God's - none other than Venkateshwara or Balaji, as he is known - wealth was found in the almonds - yes, almonds - that were served as the prasad.

Sunday, I was on a river boat on an Architecture Foundation cruise. The boat, a large boat, took people through the Chicago river with a guide describing the major buildings that marked Chicago's skyline.

I picked some interesting bits of info about downtown Chicago. It was built over a marsh. The Chicago river was classified as toxic until recently, now it is labelled highly-polluted. Just like our dear old Kooum. Trump, of the bad-hair fame, is busy building a 99 floor structure in downtown. Chicago is called the windy city not because of the uncomfortably windy weather but because of its politicians of yore who could blow more hot air than anyone else. Downtown Chicago was burned down to the ground by the Great Fire of 1871. This was a blessing in disguise because it enabled the building of a new planned city. Some parts of downtown feature two layers both above ground, so you actually have two sets of roads and pathways.


After the cruise, I waited in a 2 hour long queue to get the chance to pee on the 103th floor of what was once the world's tallest building - the Sears Tower. The peeing experience was not as exhilarating as I thought it would be but my disappointment was more than healed by the awesome view from high up there (no not the loo, I meant the skydeck). You can see miles and miles of land stretching below. Skyscrapers around the Sears tower looked like midgets from this mammoth of a building. They didn't have any open windows though. Now that would have been mind-blowing.






Next day it was time to catch the bus back to Minneapolis. With a pretty girl for company, nope I didn't even bother to talk to her:( , I spent another agonizing trip on the bus. It wasn't too bad this time because being an afternoon bus I didn't have to go to sleep. So I spent the time gaping out of the windows. The driver stopped the bus twice on the emergency lane to check on something. I have no idea what it was but the bus didn't breakdown and so I couldn't care less.

10 in the night I treated my stomach to some gobbled up fish-n-chips before crashing into bed to save my tired body.


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Tagged: 8 things

<<8 things about me: tagged by Sunita>

1. On some days I wake up with my tongue twisted. That whole day I would end up making incomprehensible noises in place of words. I babble.

2. I like to nap in the afternoon but anything more than 1/2 an hour to an hour will leave me groggy-headed throughout the evening.

3. I hate using the loo in an airplane or bus, especially if I am not in the aisle. :)

4. Sometimes when I become hungry, my hands start shaking like someone with substance-dependence (political correctness unintended). Even then I eat lesser than most people. Sometimes I gobble up food like a hungry hyena and yet most people finish before i can.

5. My fingers are always shaking. I inherited it from my mom.

6. I hate going to doctors. :( I am no longer too scared of being injected, though. :)

7. No one ever believes that I am a mallu by birth. Most times I like it that way cos I hate being in groups made by region/language/etc.

8. I am clumsy and I bump-n-stomp people and things quite often.

I am tagging Skely cos I know he'll have a really hilarious list of 8 things about himself

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Eating Out @ Mpls - Part 2

Continued

I have nothing better to do in the evenings so every evening I open up opentable.com and read through the list of restaurants in Downtown Minneapolis and visit them one a day. Let me list down the restaurants I have been to and what I thought of them.. I hope to update the list as the days go along. :)

9. Masa

This is a trendy Mexican restaurant. No, not another burritto/fajita/taco place. The ambience is chic and modern. Being right on the corner of the street, it offers a good view too. The waiter helped with recommendations and that too after asking your tastes, etc. Impressive. Standard issue torillas chips with two dips - one green tangy and one red spicy - was set on the table. The chips were actually very good and I gobbled up a lot of them.

I ordered the Roasted Pork shoulder marinated with lime, garlic, and chile ancho; cooked and served in a banana leaf (almost like the kerala dish meen pozhichathu). The pork was sprinkled with white onions and cilantro. On the side, poached pineapple and refried beans. For dessert I ordered the "Pastel de Chocolate". It's a mexican chocolate cake with a twisty, spicy undertone to it. Yes, you read it right - spicy undertone. :) It was quite different and thouroughly enjoyable.

10. Solera

A friendly neighborhood place, solera is an independent restaurant and not a franchisee of a chain. Solera serves Tapas - Spanish small plates. Food is served in small portions and thus enables you to enjoy a wide variety in a single place. This place lends itself to hanging out with friends. Staffed by ever-smiling people, Solera sets the tone right. The dining room was a little too dark and loud for me and so I shifted back into the lounge.

The menu is divided into three sections - Seasonal, Nuevas or Modern, Traditional.The food I tried: 1) Octopus Ceviche glazed with hot pepper and cumin - the octopus was cut into thin circles and was surprisingly firm, the glazing lending a great taste. 2) Roasted Chicken with potatoes and garlic - well-cooked chicken with a sauce that doesn't overwhelm. Ideally one person could consume about 3 to 4 dishes, but I wasn't up for it that day.


11. Fogo De Chão

Fogo features a "continuous service" concept. This translates into unlimited servings of various roasted meats. You use a two-sided disk to control the servings. Red means that you are on a break or are done. Green indicates to the servers to bring the meat on skewers to your table. Of course, you can choose the meats that you want. Yeah, ok. It's mostly all about meats at the Fogo. :) but did I mention the humungously varietied salad bar? You have everything from artichokes, lettuce, exotic veggies and a variety of dressing. Alright anyway, in the meat department there's sirloin - top/bottom/middle/everywhere, filet mignon, rib eye, beef ribs, pork ribs, pork sausages, pork chops, lamb chops, lamb legs, chicken legs and some more. All the meats are fire-roasted and everything I tasted was extremely juicy. For dessert, I had an incredible creme brulee.

If you have a healthy appetite, this is the place to hit. For about forty bucks, you can eat all you want. With the red-green control disk, you have the luxury of time too on your side. :)

The waiters are very polite and quite friendly. A nice place to chill, especially if you are with a group of people.

12. Rock Bottom Brewery

As the name suggests, this is a brewery. If you are a beer lover, the rock bottom features some of their own brews. I am not, so I was there solely for the food. :) Food is good, not out-of-the-world - r'ber it has brewery in its name :). I have tried the grilled mahi-mahi on one instance and "Herbed Lemon Chicken with Asparagus" on another. The fish was pretty good. The chicken was excellent, except that I didn't quite like the white-cheddar mashed potatoes - there was too much of it and frankly I didn't like the undertaste of the cheddar. By the way, I should mention that both instances were for a quick bite at lunch, so my taste-bugs could've been fuddled by my sleepiness. :D

13. Origami

This was my first attempt at sushi. The server recommended the novice's choice - the california roll, but I was feeling a little more adventurous. I ended up ordering the Regular sushi entree. It featured a miso soup, a salad, six nigiri sushis - striped sea bass, shrimp, mackerel, octopus, yellowtail and salmon, two maki sushis - cucumber and tuna. On the side was the gari (sushi ginger), soy sauce and wasabi.

First off, wasabi is pungent but not spicy. Even a large dollop of sushi merely flares up your nostrils. It is not the tongue-burning kind of spicy. :)

I was a little apprehensive of diving full length into sushi but except for the mackerel, none of the other sushis had the fishiness. Even the mackerel was not overwhelming. It could be that the rice more than compensates for the rawness of the fish or perhaps that the green goblin had subdued my taste buds. Sushi is pretty good as a dining experience. Small bites that are sufficient enough to fill.

Overall, the experience was very good. I am looking forward to the next trip to Origami, which should happen soon enough and without the green goblin. :)


14. Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

The pagoda-style building welcomes you into a very good setting inside. You have the option of sitting at the sushi bar, the teppanyaki or the tempura. I decided to try the teppanyaki. The chef cooks on the iron gridle or plate, right at the table. You get seated along the sides of the table with the hot plate in the center. This is also a nice way to meet people, with the drawback of a lot of ambient noise.

At my table were two families both celebrating birthdays - one of a 10 year old kid who was quite anxious to see his gift. The chef displayed some really awesome maneuvers while cooking, though he was a little subdued because this cute little girl at the table got scared of the fire. :) You can choose from a number of meal combinations that include shrimp, filet mignon, baby lobsters, scallops, chicken and vegetables. I chose the imperial dinner with fried rice. It included vegetables, filet mignon, baby lobsters and chicken. The dinner combos come with a soup and a choice of dessert.

Food isn't the centerpiece at a teppanyaki. It's the chef's skills and tricks. The showmanship is great and being a sort of communal dinner, you get to have someone or the other to talk to. A must visit. I am sure to be back for more teppanyaki and also to try the sushi.


Special Mention (Update) :-)

"The Fivers". Five awesome cooks try their hand at cooking up, delicious food. You will find them in an apartment in Franklin Avenue. The specialty I tried out was lemon rice with sambar. The unique feature of this lemon rice, of course, was that the rice and the lemon-mix are served separately. You can mix them to your taste and create the perfect tasting lemon rice.. The Fivers specialises in sambars, so much so that the menu almost always consists of different sambars. Potato sambar, radish sambar, beans sambar - the list goes on and on. You must try the food!!


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empty

(random)

sometimes when the eyes
close their lids
to meditate; looking for peace
that no waking moment has.
Foraging in mind's attic
for a missing piece
to set right the current puzzle.

sometimes when the senses
go dreamy, will-less
to feel the passing of time.
Wishing away all
- both pain and joy -
for a minute of stillness.

sometimes when dark
is all you want to see.
The numbing cold
is welcome to hug
To freeze the thoughts
that are running away.

sometimes when ennui
is a soothing balm.
Temporal yet divine -
a junkie's wad of weed.
bore into mind's layers
to drain out the pus.

To feel empty
is fulfillment.


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Bowling for Columbine

This is the country that seems to never learn from its mistakes, whether it has to do with funding future "terrorists" or the mindless gun culture. Columbine didn't wake them to the harsh reality. It is not guns that kill, it's people with guns that do and this is a country where many states give you the right to carry guns. Now, it is Virginia Tech. The NRA does not care a bit, the pro-gun supporters don't give a damn. Columbine has become a proper word in English. It has become just another trivial word.

A few days after Virginia Tech happened, the t.v. is showing Moore's "Bowling for Columbine". In the documentary, Moore walks into a bank, opens an account and walks out with a rifle. That's all it takes to procure a gun and the bullets - he got them at a barber's. Yes, that's the kind of gun-complacence this country shows. Even after many such incidents, many citizens defend their need and their right to stock hand-guns in their homes. They don't just defend it. Most of them are proud of their gun culture. Watch the documentary and you will realise that some people just don't learn.

Anyone can get angry about something. Any kid can get a gun and shoot up people. Anyone can walk into the streets with a weapon, even if it's concealed. That's the kind of country this is. The place I am in now, Minneapolis, passed laws in 2003 that allowed people to carry concealed weapons. As I walk down the street, I realise that some of the people that walk by could have a gun on him/her. I realise that one of them could very well pull out an automatic weapon and spray the place with bullets. Life is a flimsy thing, I agree, but it is doesn't help to know that you live in a place where the government works towards worsening your odds. It doesn't take a minute for a human to lose his temper. It wouldn't take a minute for a gun to take a life.

There are a million such things wrong with the land of dreams and opportunity. There are a million things wrong with India too but at least in India only the goondas carry guns. In India, I have less chances of being looked down upon. In India, kids don't go shooting up their classmates. No, I am not a patriot but I feel safer back there than in this modernised world. Like Moore says, "Watch the news every night and America is still a very scary place".


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Eating Out @ Mpls - Part 1

I have nothing better to do in the evenings so every evening I open up opentable.com and read through the list of restaurants in Downtown Minneapolis and visit them one a day. Let me list down the restaurants I have been to and what I thought of them.. I hope to update the list as the days go along. :)

1. Ping's Szechuan Bar and Grill

No. of visits: 2

Quaint little place. The menu is vast. I had a difficult time deciding on what to eat. Food is good, not great. The portions are a bit too large for me and they "make it only one size". The waiters are friendly and chatted with me every now and then. Some of them anyway. The entrees are served with steam rice. I tried the Szechuan Chicken, which the waiter modified a bit to make it tastier ;), and the Tiger Pork. The rice though is a little too lumpy for my taste. Overall a nice place.

2. McCormick and Schmick's

No. of visits: 1

Sea food place. A good rounded menu. The menu also features almost 20-30 fish on the fresh list. The place was busy on a weeknight so I guess it's a popular restaurant. I tried the Oyster sampler. Can't comment on the oysters cos I am no expert. I liked them :). The Swordfish preparation I tried was very good. Properly firm and a delicious tomato based sauce. I finished off with a Chocolate truffle cake. Yummy! I was too full to walk by the time I was done. The waiter was very helpful and cheerful.

3. Skywater Cuisine and Lounge

No. of visits: 1

The in-hotel restaurant at the Hilton Minneapolis. Serves American cuisine with a local mid-west touch to it. I had the Grilled Salmon from the Hilton Eat-right menu. Delicious though I keep forgetting that I don't like Salmon that much :). The sauteed mushrooms that I ordered on the side were out-of-the world. The side contained a few varieties of mushroom. The waiter was pleasant. The dining experience was good.

4. Palomino

No. of visits: 1

Serves Mediterranean cuisine. A very spacious dining room with large windows gives it a great ambience. The staff are very friendly and pleasant. The decor blends in with the room and looks nice. The food was great. I started with the Portabella Mushroom Soup. The soup was thick, tasty and quite filling. For the main course, I ordered the "Seared arctic char with Creamy Herb Sauce". (Yes, fish again. As I write I realise that I have been eating a lot of fish) The sauce was excellent and the fish very well done. I rounded it off with a Tiramisu. The tiramisu is not the best I've tasted. The coffee flavour was very subdued and quite unlike a Tiramisu. Will definitely visit the place again. The waiter was overworked being a Sunday evening and so I spent quite a bit of time waiting for the food, etc. That's a good thing if you are having a relaxed dinner with friends but when eating alone it's a bit irritating.

5. Basil's

No. of visits: 1

Upscale restaurant in the IDS center. The seat outside look down into the beautiful Crystal Court atrium and a very nice place to sit and eat. The waiters, like any upscale restaurant, weren't overtly friendly but they were very polite and helpful. The dip served with the breads was extremely yummy. The amuse bouche - a salmon with a mustard sauce - was very well made. I ordered the venison loin (well-done). The venison was very juicy and quite tasty. The sweet potato mash added the twist. For dessert I had the Apricot Layer Cake. Out of the world and very very well presented. A very good dining experience. The presentation was impeccable especially of the dessert and the food was great. A must visit place.

6. Zelo

No. of visits: 1

This restaurant serves Italian food. It is a very popular place and hence a little loud and chattery. The outdoor seating is filled to the brim when the sun is out. The menu is quite exhaustive and the fresh list menu is quite good too. Yes, I ordered the fish again. For the appetiser I ordered the Mediterranean mussels. The tomato based sauce was yummy but made the eating very messy. For the main course, I order a sea bass from the fresh list. Very fulfilling. The fish was very tasty. The wasabi mashed potatoes a little too much in quantity. The waiters seemed a trifle overworked and I had to remind my waiter to get my drink. That can be pardoned because he was otherwise quite good and helpful.

7. Bombay Bistro

No. of visits: 1

Serves Indian cuisine. A very subdued but good ambience. I ordered the madras chicken curry with white rice. My friend ordered a bhindi (okra) dish. The portions are very large and both of us could not finish our respective orders. Food is the usual Indian restaurant fare. Quite tasty. The waiters are never around. They just take the order and bring the food over. Service was fast.

8. Vincent a Restaurant

No. of visits: 1

An upscale restaurant serving French cuisine. The ambience justifies French sophistication but that doesn't stop the waiters from being warm and friendly. The serving sizes just right. I was able to go through the full 3-course meal.
I went French especially to get a taste of the escargots or snails. I was not disappointed. Escargots are a bit chewy and taste pretty good too. The escargots were served without the shell and so eating them was not a messy, tongy affair too. :) They were boiling hot though and I almost burnt my tongue. Yeah, I was warned but still. :D For the main course I ordered the Roasted duck breast. The broccoli sauce/paste in the dish was a genius idea. Added that extra flavour to the food. The duck itself was well done. For dessert, the waiter recommended the chocolate cake. Hmmmm. Yummy doesn't even begin to describe it. It was frozen and a tad difficult to cut into initially but the varied texture was well worth the effort. Presented on a frosted glass plate with poached pear slices on the side, it was a sight to behold. I am still smiling about the cake.. Ahhhhh!! I will be back at Vincent's soon, if not for anything at least for the heavenly cake.




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Minneapolis FIR

I'm in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a short business visit. Landed here on Saturday. The plane ride was tiring. Almost 30 hours on the move is pretty irritating. Jet lag hasn't been a big deal. I do feel like napping off now and then, but even the very next day after landing I was out looking at the town :)

I'm staying in the downtown area. Skyscrapers are the norm. Roads are wiiiiiiiiide and straight. Pedestrian walks exist and are wide enough :) They have this cool skyway/skywalk system in Mpls Downtown. Most buildings are connected to each other through these skyways - essential a covered bridge on the second level of the buildings. The skyways are public-accessible so you don't even have to step out into the cold to get to some place. That's a real cool thing if you ask me. I prefer not being frozen to death, you see. My hotel is connected so all I have to do is to walk through these heated pathways to get to my office. Brilliant. Especially when it is snowing like crazy outside.

Yep, it's snowing like crazy today. Yep, my first snowfall. Took a walk in the snowfall. Feels like rainfall but you don't get wet as much. Almost like how dust swirls around back home, the snowflakes swirl around like hyperactive kids. It's a pretty sight but after a while the gloomy, dull weather gets on your nerves.

VJ lives here. So this last weekend wasn't boring. This past Sunday he took me to the Mall of America, supposedly the biggest mall in America. It's got an amusement park bang in the middle. Unfortunately, it being Easter, most places were closed down.

Some phone cam pix here: http://picasaweb.google.com/bijeshkrishnadas/Minneapolis07?authkey=n877AUwFz6w

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memories

(ancient)

Memories to be cherished and cuddled,
Preserved like a forever wine,
Now lay in a shoe box, touched by darkness,
Caressed by the unseeing eyes of the mind.

Memories that were once the elixir and the tonic,
Sweet medicine for the soul, when in need.
Are but their mere physical selves,
Papers written upon, roses whose scents died.

Memories that once brought an unforced smile,
Forget-me-nots that revealed hidden beauty.
They leave a scar on mind's face,
A reminder of what was not and what will not be.

Posted in Labels: | 3 comments

requiem for a dream

Astounding! Dark! I finally managed to watch this movie that I have heard about a lot.

The way the movie is stitched together is out of the world. It engrosses you while keeping you at a distance. Some frames do overwhelm you more than necessary. Some frames get a tad repetitive. On the whole, though, these imperfections lend a magical spell to the movie.

The cinematography stands out. True art.

On one level, the movie paints this soul-digging portrait of drug abuse and addiction. On another, it allows you the freedom to interpret the deeper meaning.

We talk so much about people addicted to drugs. We pity them, we hate them, we think of them as low-lifes, we cannot understand their need, we think they are cowards. Why? Why do we hold such opinions?

Aren't each one of us addicted to something or the other? Some of us are addicted to our work, some to the idea of luxury, some to the need for appreciation, some to the need to be. How are the drug users different? Of course, they are addicted to something that alters them but so is everything that we crave or want. Perhaps it will end up killing them or ruining them, but isn't that a choice that they have made.

Like the mother in the movie - wasn't her true addiction that of popularity and looking good. How did she end up dependent on her pills? It all started because she wanted to wear her pretty red dress and be on television. That would make her popular and as she puts it *liked*.

Of course, not all drug users turn addicts. Yet, most of us that can accept *occasional* drinking or smoking have a very different view about substance use. Why? How different are these habits? How different is a rare drink from a rare pill? How different is our need for luxury? How different is our craving for chocolates? How different our constant effort to get noticed? Such are the questions that the movie left in me. Nope, I don't have answers.

p.s: thanks sanchapanzo. your short, to-the-point movie reviews rock.

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visual dna

I am not a big fan of these widgets.. but when you are tagged, you are tagged :)
This actually was fun. thanks sunita




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Live, Leave

(this has been sitting on the stove for too long. patience died. the title is no more a title.)

I sit in the bus, the sweater pulled around my shoulders. It isn't cold but I need the extra warmth. I am leaving town after all and without a good-bye wave to anyone or a polite nod that would've meant, "Until next time then". The bus would stand still for another 25 minutes. Until then I am left to ponder the cloudscape - my send off party, I presume.

I wonder if I'll miss anything or anyone. Surely, this question has been through the mind of every single person that has ever fled from his life, his town or anything else for that matter. I have walked on these roads for years, I have shopped at this convenience store, I have seen these people that I look at from behind tinted windows. I even know the names of some of those people. That's Ram, he runs the only restaurant in town - a sorry little affair with only two tables. He's a happy man though, it shows on his face even now. Oh and that woman in the red sari sitting behind that pot of buttermilk. I think her name is Lekha. She has set up shop at the same spot for over five summers now. She doesn't live here, she has to travel 10 miles everyday to get here. The ragged dog that you see hanging around Ram's restaurant, that's Tony. Tony is what all of us call him. He's ragged but always clean. I suspect that he is someone's pet but nobody owns up to being Tony's master.

I have lived in this small settlement forever. Do you see the tree that stands alone on that small path which leads into town? That's the tree I used to pelt with stones as a kid. The juicy tamarinds were every boy and girl's favourite. Not mine though. I felled the pods for my best friends - Meera and Prashant. I don't want to think about them now, but I know that my mind will wander back to them.

We grew up together - the three of us. We were friends even before we started school. Our mothers used to visit each other all the time and we would be left to play our games.

If things were different, I would have gone to college in another year. Meera wasn't too keen about college and she always dreamt about waiting, while Prashant and I worked towards a job. She always talked about the longing and the pain of the wait. She was a romantic and you didn't have to see her half-dreamy eyes to know that. Before I miss the point, I should clarify something. Meera and Prashant were in love. The whole town knew it, their parents too. When Meera spoke dreadfully mushy things it was about Prashant. Not me.

Their togetherness often annoyed me. I was happy for them and all that, but it often got weird when after talking about something for a long time I realised that they were lost in their own lovey-dovey world. They were a sweet couple - the two of them. I used to watch them walk hand-in-hand, blissfully aware of only themselves and wonder if love would strike me ever.

Prashant died last week. At my hands. It was an accident but I don't expect anyone to understand that. Noone else knows how he died, only Meera and I were present there. Meera is no longer in a position to talk about it though. She has retracted her life into some hidden corner within herself. I am leaving town because I cannot bear her lifelessness. She thinks I pushed him into the rushing train's path. I can see it in her eyes.

There he is. The driver that would drive me away in this tin-box bus. He wouldn't understand the significance of today's journey. I'm sure he doesn't find anything different from his routine. He's walking up to the same bus now, spits into the same corner and wipes the same palm across his face.

The wind feels nice. I wish it blows away all the negatives that are on my mind. The memories too, if it could. The familiar fields pass by, weaving a farewell tapestry. I can feel my heart wrenching its way away from this heartland. It's tearing away with a fleshy rip - long drawn and painful. I hope the pain is just the rite of passage to something less empty and further from the present.


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Wind of change

What would you do? When the pearl that's been denied you for so long is now within your reach, what do you do? When the clouds decide to sprinkle you in the midst of a long, dry desert walk. When a cold breeze flows in from the sea, spotting you with goosebumps? What do you do then?
Will you jump up and down like on a trampoline? Would you have a grin stuck to your face all the time? Would your dreams, until then gray and black, turn into technicolor fantasies? Would your days be filled with sunshine and your nights with peace?

Have you ever felt what it is to be on cloud nine? Really known that feeling?

Do you fear that the elation will fade away one day? Not because the reason to feel elated is missing, just that you have gotten used to the feeling. Do you worry about the storms that are yet to come? Or should you enjoy the glory of the moment and drown your worries in its golden glow? You have come this far and it shouldn't be more difficult to go further. Once you have experienced the cold, the river is indeed a calming balm.

Won't you let yourself float in this lovely river? Won't you let the river take away your baggage and turn you into the lightest winged fly? Come, you are worthy of it. Come, wash away your past with this cool splash. For there are miles to go on this joyride and you won't want to miss a thing.


Posted in Labels: | 7 comments

Fly the good times...

yeah. trip to chennai last friday. company sponsored. Chance to fly the good times. The air hostesses are a hype. in my humble opinion. I, perhaps, expected Yana to be on the flight. They were polite though. All of the ground staff were too. Except for the woman at the check-in counter. I should've taken the baggage on board. Sheesh!! Had to wait in the queue to check the baggage in, inspite of a web check-in and a printed boarding pass. Neat touch that - self-printed boarding pass. Do all airlines do that now with web check-in? If I had only carry-on baggage, I could've walked straight from the airport entrance to the security check and boarded the flight. Ah! That would've been so pleasant.


In-flight magazine is hundreds of page 3. Mallya is on most of them. So are a number of pretty women. Thumbed through the mag in less than 1 minute. Not my type of reading material. In-flight entertainment. the video is a mix of tv channels - ndtv, hungama, etc. The audio channels had a nice selection of rock and jazz. The headphones (which you can take away with you) were of standard issue airplane sound-quality. Should have brought my earplugs along.

Flight to chennai was a mere 30 minute affair for the jet. Dinner was three *small* aloo-masala sandwiches. You are given exactly 7 minutes to gobble it all up before the hostess is back for the tray. :) Can't blame them though. Baggage was out quick.

Return flight from chennai. Extremely polite and helpful ground staff. They are all over you. In a nice way. Infact my check-in baggage was carried across to the check-in counter by one of the ground staff. Wow!!

Plane was an ATR72. The turbo-prop toyplane (Ok, I agree it is not that small). The one with those huge exhaust fans. Well, they are not exactly exhaust fans.. Before boarding, I was wondering how the plane would even fly. After boarding, I was blown away by the interior.. Cushy, really cushy seats. fake leather, I presume.. enormous legroom. I could sit with my legs crossed. Do they fly this thing to other destinations? Both sides are two-seaters. that's all the plane can contain. Only one class. No economy/first/business. Would make it my choice of flight. :)

My window seat's window opened right out to the edge of the fan's blade. Scary to see the blade rev up and spin at those mind-numbing rpms. What the heck would I do if the fan decided to unhinge? :-O

Food was great - comparatively speaking. I don't expect much from airline food, so my opinion might be coloured. Steaming hot chicken-egg fried rice, chicken in some sauce (the menu card claimed basil-flavoured sauce), salad of corn-cucumber-peppers and rasmalai for dessert. Decent food and a very pleasant hostess.

Yeah, definitely the good times.

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Heart Strums

The stream of light circled the floor until it found the guitarist and flooded him with its white shine. He sat on a tall stool, his hair brushed back, one leg on the floor and the other tucked onto the stool's lower step. His face was lifted up into the glow of the light, exalted and content. The guitar stood with its side resting on his thigh. His left hand held its neck in a loving embrace as the fingers on his other hand gently caressed the wood, lightly reaching up towards the strings strung taut against the body. He was in love with his guitar and with the music that came forth from its hollow like a coin from thin air.

He sat in the front row, watching the guitarist performing a ritual so close to his heart. He closed his eyes to listen to the ecstatic cries of the strings as the guitarist moved his fingers from fret to fret. He felt the friction slide through his own body. He watched as the fingers waltzed around the sounding board, playing and cajoling the strings to dance to the rhythm, that ironically was their own. The air reverberated with the notes that flowed as part of it. He could sense the heart beats of space salute the notes that passed through it. He listened with wonder as unrelated sounds came together into an all-encompassing oneness.

He had wanted to be there. He dreamt that he could be there. Not in the limelight. Just the center of where music came from. Where the music relived its life. To swim in the fluidity of the guitar chords. To pick notes that could set pulses to dance along. To be able to slide his fingers across the fret to arouse the rose wood into a sensual rendition of its song of joy. He wished he were able to conjure order out of chaos, music out of crude sounds, joy out of thin air.

He wanted to be there but he wasn't. He called himself a loser and immersed himself into the dream that the true artist weaved for losers like himself.


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Touching Lives

What does it take to touch people and lives, that a foe stands by to show you his respect? What does it take to leave behind a mark? Not something that has quantity or weight. Not a statue, not an elegant tombstone. Just the thoughts that reside in a mind. Not the story of your life, not of your success. Just the remembrance of a moment. Like the softness of a rose, long withered.

Or would you rather melt away into oblivion? Ash to ash, dust to dust. Leaving behind no footprints in the sands.


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Stop lookin. Start zook.in

<Ziva is a mobile search company run by a talented group of folks. This mail is an announcement of their service launch. >

*Zook is going live.
*Zook is a new mobile search which helps you quickly get answers. It identifies clear answers upfront, or interactively narrows down to what you really meant to look for.

Today Zook works for

* Ringtones
* Restaurants (Bangalore)
* Movies (Bangalore)
* Events (Bangalore)

More coming soon - and to more cities too.

To start zook.in

* WAP : http://zook.in/
* SMS : "ZOOK " to 3030
[when SMSing, remember to always start with "ZOOK ... " ]

If you like what you see, please do include your friends in *groups* or as *friends*, and spread the word about Zook. Also, please send your comments/suggestions to svcfeedback@zook.com.

A short how-to guide can be found at http://www.zivasoftware.com/faq.php. More details about what Zook can do for you below.

Happy zook.in



Zook FAQts :

Whats Zook ?

Zook is the new way to use your mobile phone. Let it now be your friend which helps you find a place to eat, or catch a movie, or download fun stuff for your mobile.

Its on your WAP phone at http://zook.in

You can also send an SMS - "ZOOK " to 3030
[BTW, You can also just use "Z" instead of "ZOOK" ]

So, a local search engine on the phone? So?

Zook is not just a search engine. Zook makes sense of the data, and of what you asked. It analyzes the data, your interests and interprets the likely intent of your query.

A few examples [ Remember : on SMS start all queries with "ZOOK" , e.g. "zook chinese" !! ]

*you* : chinese
*/zook/* :1:Restaurant:Chungs Chinese Corner, Indiranagar
2:Ringtone:Theme Of China Gate, Monotone
......
7: Restaurant (31+)
8: Ringtone (19+)
9: Locality: Indiranagar (5+)
10: City: Bangalore (31+)

*you* : 7
*/zook/* :1:Magnolia, Koramangala, South Bangalore
2:Aromas Of China, Langford Town
....
6: Locality: Indiranagar (6+)
7: Locality: Church Street (4+)
8: Locality: Koramangala (7+)
9: Locality: South Bangalore (4+)
10: Locality: Palace Road (2+)
More
*you* : 6
*/zook/* :1:Wangs Place, Indiranagar
2:Chungs Pavilion, Indiranagar
3:Wan Ley, Indiranagar
4:Gokul Kuteera, Indiranagar
5:Oregano, Indiranagar
6:Vishals, Indiranagar
7:Ramya, Indiranagar
8:Bangalore Mandarin, Double Road, Off Richmond Circle,

OR

*you* : thai kgla
*/zook/* :1.Magnolia, Koramangala
2. Pan Asian Bites, Koramangala
*you* : 1
*/zook/* :Restaurant: Magnolia
Cuisine: SE Asian, Chinese, Thai
Phone: +918041102222
Address: 840, 7th Cross, 15th Main, 3rd Block Koramangala
Bangalore - India (Koramangala ) 560095
1. sms "RES 1 for 5" to 3030 to book a table for 5 at Magnolia
2. ORDER to 3030 for a callback

(these are some things you can "do" now after you find
something. We're adding lots more soon)

OR

you : guru pvr
*/zook/* : Movie: Guru (Hindi)
Theatre: PVR
Timings: 12:00pm, 12:15pm, 3:50pm, 3:30pm, 6:40pm, 6:45pm,
9:50pm, 10:00pm
Address: The Forum, 3rd Floor, Nr. Madiwala Checkpost
Koramangala Bangalore 560095
Phone: +918022067511

And Zook is not just local. Its about your leisure, your music, your
tastes, your choices, your neighbourhood, your *friends*....

Friends ?

Yes. Your friends give you the best references, and beyond a point can give you a way better answer than even we can. So if Zook cannot dig out the answer, it helps pass it on to your friends.

You can create *groups* of people you hang out with for various different things - work, bowling, golf, whatever. Your *contacts* and each set of people can be your 'expert circle' for answers and advice (and soon we'll enrich the data for the entire community based on stuff you find out and share). You can both *ASK *these contacts about choices, or information, and *TELL* them about what you like (whether or not you found it on Zook).

*you : *korean kgla
/zook /:No Matches Found
ASK your friends?
send "ASK "
*you* : ask amit, 9878709878 Is there a good Korean place in Blore ?

*amit : *Tell nopes theres a couple of good Japanese ones tho

You can ask more than one friend, and we'll summarize their responses too.

Need WAP ?

Zook works fully featured on both WAP as well as SMS!
SMS is charged at whatever your operator's premium SMS rates are.

Next time you need to look, Zook it!

Rgds,
TeamZook @ Ziva


Posted in | 5 comments

The Return of the Horrible Voices

Yes, American Idol is back. I don't like the show itself but the auditions are mindbogglingly funny. Such colourful characters, such weird confidence. If you want to laugh without restrain, there is nothing like the AI auditions. Keep away from the actual show though. That's not funny enough and not worth the hype. :)

Oh and Simon is in rocking form this time around too. Surprisingly Randy has upped his digs too. The best one so far has been this incredible guy who calls himself Red. Red considered his high pitch a masterpiece. That obviously was quite far away from the truth. Bohemian Rhapsody never sounded funnier than through his false voice.

Brilliant Stuff!!

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The river says..

"You asked", said the river, "why I run along these paths, twisting and turning under the sky's blue, trimmed by the forest's green. Do you want to know how I change with every moment, with every ripple? Do you wonder how I remain the same? I am kissed day after day by the sun's love. I am caressed to sleep by the moonbeam's polished silver lullaby. Leaves -brown, yellow, red and sometimes green - float into me and journey with me for a while. One day there is this one, the next there's another. Do you want to know how all of this feels? I reach my goal all the time. I reach the sea and meet old friends. I spend time with them and go to sit-down dinners. Then someday I am back at the beginning, trundling again through the same forests and past the same farms. Ah! You are perplexed by the futility in the cycle, aren't you? You might want to know why then do I not leave. There is no leaving, my friend. There is no end-station on this railroad. No, it does not get monotonous. The scene changes on every trip, though you have to look well to see the difference. Seasons change, the weather changes, the stones get smoother. Why, even the moon waxes and wanes. Do you want to know of it all? Look into me, I am a mirror."

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