Nineteen to six to....

It was the 1st of July, 2002. No, I think I should rewind back a day. 30 June, 2002. That is the day I landed in Bangalore to take up my job with Oracle. I had met and knew 4 other people who would join with me. Murali, Karthik (Skely), Durga (DD) and Sangeetha. As it turned out, we were a total of 19 people that would spend, together, the next few months in training. We were to stay in a hotel for a while. Hotel Harsha Park Inn. That sunday I met a few of the others in the hotel - Guneet, Karthikeyan (Chells), Rajiv and others.

Finally, the day dawned. We were all packed into taxis and shipped to Oracle. We hadn't been to Oracle yet and all of us were pretty excited to see the building. Skely got to his antics the moment we landed there. He almost crashed through the glass walls at the entrance.

That day sitting in a conference room, we began to form the bonds. We were a mix of people, from different places, different colleges, different views. One thing was common though, we were just out of college and this was our first job. And we were very excited about getting into Oracle. We took the first step into the true adult world together. Like soldiers in a fancy parade.

Let me take some space to describe the people.

Anu - the patriot, very passionate about Sachin and Abdul Kalam.
Anuj - the chubby guy, who went from fair to pink to red when we ribbed him.
DD - the sweet talker, who would later talk people into finishing the extra food.
Debarun - the mimic and a movie fanatic. Dada, we call him, in Bengali style.
Guneet - the people guy, who made friends with almost everyone around.
Karthik (Skely) - the funny guy. always ends up doing things wrong.
Karthikeyan (Chells) - the gamer, without 'Th' in his vocabulary.
Manish - the guy who got most linked to our female-tutors, by us.
Murali - the all-round helpful guy.
Prakash(CP) - the techie and the brainee. Unix fan.
Prashanth - the guy who used his fifth drink and sixth sense to get to seventh heaven.
Preethi - the no-nonsense girl with a smile.
Rajiv - the intellectual and the speaker.
Rupsa - a close second to swati in terms of childishness. chocolate fanatic.
Sangeetha - the silent one and eats the least. She still is the same.
Santhosh - the thinker. Thinks too much and mostly philosophically.
Swati - the kid in the group. Also an eater, "petu".
Vijay - the handsome dude with a winning smile. that's what most girls thought of him anyway.
As for me, I learnt that I had come across as 'frightening'. I haven't figured that out yet. :-)

We spent three months together in training rooms. Most of us, anyway. It was like being back in college. Classes, naps during classes, a hundred coffee breaks (that's exaggerated, ofcourse). Lunch would see almost all of us crowded around the same table. We would sit around, talk, laugh and have fun during our lunch breaks. I guess everyone in Oracle must have noticed this bunch of "kids".

I would dare say that I have never felt so close to any group of peers; neither in school nor in college. We became almost like a family - a big, boisterous, loud, fun family. Everyone of us was away from home, some of us by thousands of kilometers. This group was our family away from home.

Anuj was the first to leave. He got himself transferred to Hyderabad. Swati followed later. She didn't want to go, but that's what she had to do. We had all known each other only for a few months, but the day swati got the news there was a stillness in the group. It was a sad day. It was fate's way of telling us that we cannot be together forever. About a year and a half later, Guneet quit Oracle. Though he is still in Bangalore, we don't get to see much of him. Then Rajiv left to do his MBA at IIM, Ahmedabad. He had been my roomie for close to two years and a great roomie to have. A few months after this, there was a mass exodus to Amdocs, Cyprus. Prof, CP and Santhosh left for Cyprus.

We were then just a handful left - a mere shadow of the original set. But we made the most of everything and continued to be together as often as we could. This past friday, Rupsa gave us her farewell treat. She is going to Calcutta. A sad day it was, yet we laughed and smiled. After all, we didn't know when we would get another chance to laugh together.

I can only hope that all of us manage to continue being in touch through mails or phone calls; no matter where we are. And that, someday we would get a chance to get together again. All of us together, making the loudest possible noise.

Borrowing Rupsa's quote - "To meet and to part is the fate of life; to part and to meet is the hope".

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American Idol

What's with this idol thing anyway? For that matter with any of these talent hunts. During my evening channel surf yesterday, I caught a glimpse of this year's American Idol. I think it was the first episode or something. Now American Idol (or its desi counterpart) is a talent search for a singer. Singer, as in somebody who can sing and sing well at that. Yeah, stage personality counts too and if you can dance then better. But first and foremost, you need to be able to sing.

There were thousands of hopefuls at Washington D.C., where this episode was based. Swarming around and milling around. People of all kinds. When you hear such a huge crowd proclaim in a single, differentiated voice - "I am the next American Idol", you would think that all of these people were singers. They sounded that very confident.

Like every other talent hunt, most of these people had absolutely NIL talent. When I say no talent, I mean people who know only to scream in hoarse voices. There were people who sang like a unruly gang of kids singing rhymes. There were those that seemed to croak. Those that seemed to speak rather than sing. Off keys, helter skelter highs, completely insane howling. These were the talents that most of these *hopefuls* had. Well, there were some good singers, but this competition is for them and they had every right to be there. Not so the others.

I couldn't understand what went through the minds of these people. It was pretty clear that they couldn't sing, yet there they were. Trying to win a competition that searched for pop stars. What were they thinking? It is not like they had ANY talent and fumbled under pressure. They had zilch singing capability. I can only pity the judges that had to listen to thousands of such people "sing". If it were me, I would have run down the street pulling my hair (what little I have of it) apart. It was that bad.

When the judges couldn't help laughing at the charade, these "singers" got mad. They would cry and make a fuss and call the judges names. All this, as if it were injustice to prevent them from showcasing their awful singing to the world. When they were rejected (rightly so), they would get this look of disbelief on their faces. "No, you can't do that. You can't reject me."

What makes these people audition for such shows? Why do people want to make such fools of themselves? Do they really think they have talent? What about their friends? Couldn't the friends and family tell these people that they had horrible voices? Couldn't they be honest and tell them to shut up and get on with their normal lives? Or, in the end, is this just a shot at appearing on world-wide T.V.?

There were some genuine cases of people who could sing but lost their nerves. But most were not.

My sympathies with the judges who had to bear such cruelty. Who had to live with this horror and then were called unspeakable names for keeping the horrors away from us. I don't think Simon is an evil sadist. He does a good job of telling people straight to their faces to go shove it. Keep it up, Simon.

P.S.: I don't dig the concept of such shows. But I think I'll watch American Idol. Just to see how crazy people are.

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Where do you see yourself...

"Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?" That everybody-knows-it question, asked in many an interview. What does it aim to uncover? This must be a trick question to check whether the person is ambitious enough.

Now, don't think I am going to write about interview skills. No sir, not me! What I am wondering about is this 'ambition' thing? Why is it necessary for somebody to be ambitious? People seem to have this idea that ambitious people are smart and would contribute better. I am very opposed to that idea. When I think about it, I find ambition and greed to be so closely related that they are almost the same thing. Many ambitious people go to great lengths (often on the wrong side) to achieve their ambition, don't they? That makes ambition a bad thing, atleast in my dictionary.

I never seem to understand how ambitions work. I have no inkling of how having an ambition helps. Why should I have plans of what I want to be in 5 years? It does not motivate me in any way. I cannot see myself working harder because I have an ambition to achieve.

I have dreams, dreams that don't have to come true to make me contended. There are things that I would like to happen, but I won't be upset if they didn't happen. I wouldn't strain myself to make them happen. I would probably feel good if they happened. Maybe that is what ambition is, a dream that one chooses to bring to life. Is that so? Does it mean that I have ambitions too? It can't be. "Why?" you ask. That's because everytime I hear people speak of ambition, it is either about money/power/fame or some professional ambition or a mix of all these. I don't have such ambitions (or dreams).

Am I just plain stupid to think I am any different, :-) ?

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My Big, Huge, New Cans

Music is one of those things that I love in the world. I am not a fanatic fan, I am not an expert in the nuances of music and I cannot remember the lyrics. But I love music. I can spend hours listening to music - rock, metal, pop, western classical, ghazals and almost any other genre. There is something in this wonderful thing that can put me at ease. I can forget everything else when drowned in it. It is intoxicating. I guess you get a fair idea of what I mean.

I had been without a pair of headphones for sometime now. I never got around to buying a new pair after my earlier one. I had been hunting around on the net for headphones that I could afford to buy. Though, I dreamt of a Grado SR I knew it was out of my reach. Heck, it was not even sold in India. Philips had some good headphones and they were within a slightly-stretched budget.

So this sunday (2nd Jan, 2005), I gave myself a New Year's gift. A big, lovely Philips SBCHP800. Yes, there are a couple of newer models from Philips, but I settled for the 800. Cost me one thousand, three hundred and ninety-five rupees. It was worth every paise. I have been playing all kinds of music on my new cans for the last two days. The headphones sound fuller, if you catch the drift. The bass is very good; subtle but there when needed. Not a mindless thumping, but a sweet, deep rumble that gets to you in a good sort of way.

Vivaldi never sounded better. The violin concertos sounded awe-inspiring through these cans. You could hear every move and slide of the violin bow. My favourite autumn concerto 3 sounded out-of-the-world. The stereo performance of the headphones was amazing real. The lute concerto again sounded heavenly. The sounds were so "warm".

I didn't know Hotel California had so much to offer. The bass was astounding, and the guitars crystal clear. I looped the song forever and ever. It was immersion like no other. The opening guitar solo blew me off the chair. I had never before heard those background sounds that accompany the guitar there. Amy Lee (Evanescence), who was already wonderful was made even more so. Pink Floyd's effects were untarnished.

I couldn't test the headphones at their loudest; my co-workers might have hated that ;-). But, they had absolutely no distortion at the levels I dared to take them. I will do some really loud test over some weekend.

The large speaker drivers (40mm) seem to have a great influence on the sound quality. But this is also the disadvantage. The large drivers mean that the headphones themselves look big and bulky. The problem is slightly alleviated by the light-weight plastic used for the body and that makes the cans look a little flimsy. Storage would be a problem, especially when you are as careless as me.

The cans have very good and comfortable ear cups. They are trimmed with a leather-like material that makes them look good as well. The head band is pretty comfortable too. The single-sided cable is less messy, yet long enough to make a mess.

It takes a while to get used to the full-size headphones, any full-size headphone. For a while, I thought my ears were on fire. Yup, it does get a bit hot under the cups. That's a good thing sometimes, when the air-conditioner is bent on freezing you to death. I haven't looked at myself in the mirror wearing the phones. I am pretty sure I must make a funny sight.

The packaging itself looked pretty cool. Everything was dandy except for one glaring grammatical error - "The 3-m long cable is ideal for us with headphone." I bet they meant use. The sensitivity likewise was incorrectly quoted as 10dB.

The specs go like this (I don't understand most of them anyway):

Frequency Range : 10 - 28000 Hz
Sensitivity : 104 dB
Impedance : 32 Ohm
Maximum power o/p: 1,500 mW
Drivers : 40mm ferrite
Cable : 3m single-side Oxygen Free Cable
Gold-plated connector with additional 3.5-6.3 mm adapter
DJ style swivellable ear-cups.

Good enough for the money I spent. The later models - the 840 and the 890 have better frequency ranges, but I wouldn't know the difference anyway.

Ins: Great sound, good looks and affordable. Outs: Bigness, no volume control.

Here's the pic:

SBCHP800 Posted by Hello

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New year

This is the mandatory new year post :-)

With new year's day behind us, it is time to settle down into yet another year. 2005. Wonder what that would bring along!

As every year draws to a close, most people have this to say - "This year has been bad, filled with evil this and that. Wonder what the new year has in store." It is some kind of unwritten principle that makes people expect the worst. That's good in a way, because they wouldn't be surprised by the things that might go wrong in the next year. This is what they expected, so no issues with that.

The just exited year had been a mixed bag for me. Lots of frustration, lots of fun, lots of everything. Some very memorable moments, some wish-i-could-forget-them moments, some serious threats to life. I wouldn't be able to list out the highlights of the last year. But seriously, I have no complaints about 2004. It was just another year. Life has been good, though I like to grumble about things. Grumbling is my way of accepting things. It helps to get the bad blood out through the mouth.

Hmmm, wonder how bad 2005 would turn out to be! Just kidding, folks!

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