Fun stuff

  My first experiment with Microsoft’s Photosynth software that creates one large image stitched out of nearly 50 photos.  A view of one of the most beautiful parts of Stanford.  For best results, expand this to full view.  

Photosynth of Stanford on a beautiful cloudy day

I am sorry to disappoint you in case you came here for some gossip on our friends, Bill & Melinda.  This article is about two bizarre structures, one in Delhi and one in Los Angeles.  The front gate of the Delhi School of Economics is massive and ornate, and it is supported by pillars that hold the massive gate on either side. It is said that the two pillars are called truth and knowledge.  What is special about these gates is that they have never been opened, and people have been forced to use the rear entrance to access the […]

Two bizarre gates

The woman sitting next to me was travelling on air for the first time. She grew up in a small town and there was not much discussion about air travel among her friends. I did my share to make her feel comfortable. We did a round on how to buckle the seat belt, how to turn on the light, how to turn off the air vents and whether she should hold her three month old tight through the flight. After we reached the altitude she asked, “Chal rahi hai kya” (is it going?). I heard it as “Jal rahi hai […]

Hawa mein bath: Stories from the Indian airspace

In a world that is deeply worried about extremism I have learned to love it. In fact, there is nothing as entertaining as it is. Whenever I am bored and need a diversion, I find extremism and its close cousins: insanity and craziness, to be extremely reliable means of getting out of my boredom quickly. That’s insane, you must be thinking. Or perhaps not, if have a YouTube view of the world, as I do. All I need to do is to go to YouTube and start typing “extreme” or “insane” or “crazy” and it will give me an assortment […]

Nothing as entertaining as extremism

I discovered that the papers that I had written with a lot of hard work were cited only once in the last four years. A note on the academic peril of working hard in writing what will probably be never read by any one. To publish is to perish. Read on.

Publish and perish

Madras is one of those conservative cities that likes to keep its boys and girls at a safe distance. Parents clamour to get their children enrolled in colleges that are rather strict about this, and colleges have responded to this with enthusiasm. One famous college made a rule that girls will sit at the front of the college bus and boys behind and there will be a firewall of teachers in between. To counter this attraction other colleges have come up with separate roads and staircases inside the campus for boys and girls. In this context of competitive conservatism, I […]

Salsa in Madras: Social dance in a conservative city

At one point I used to think that mothers know us the best.  Today there is someone to beat mothers thumbs down in how well they know us – the advertiser.  Unlike my mother they seem to have the access to my innermost thoughts, conversations and moods with access to my mails, facebook, search histories, and what not.  With the advent of targeted advertising I have started learning what they have learned about me. Last week almost all advertisements carefully picked for me were buxom women, enticing me to join a dating service. These advertisements seem to suggest that the […]

On being the target of targeted advertisements

My relationship with sex could be summarized in the following terms: ignorance, followed by awareness, followed by an absolute unwillingness to engage, academic engagements, followed by willingness (accompanied by lack of opportunities) and finally now, the curious sexual turn.  After having had a fairly pristine life – sexually speaking – sex has now become an integral part of my life: they are always making love in the room upstairs.  The charm of living in old wooden houses in America is that it gives you a sense of community.  If (concrete) walls have ears in India, the wooden walls here have […]

My sex life

Tagore wrote a beautiful poem called “Playthings” that I was reminded of when I saw this child play Child, how happy you are sitting in the dust, playing with a broken twig all the morning. I smile at your play with that little bit of a broken twig. I am busy with my accounts, adding up figures by the hour. Perhaps you glance at me and think, “What a stupid game to spoil your morning with!” Child, I have forgotten the art of being absorbed in sticks and mud-pies. I seek out costly playthings, and gather lumps of gold and […]

Playthings by Tagore

It’s difficult to imagine that the suave Bombay girl and I will have a common attitude to clothing (see note on cloth shopping). In my recent trip to Bombay, I discovered just that. Priyanka and I both prefer loose cloths. We just seem to do it from different perspectives. I do it conscious of my expanding waistline and she does it so that she can brag to her friends about having lost weight!

In our own styles: Priyanka & I

Joie de vie could just be another name for Jubeet. Even in the exam season of D.School, you could count on her to see a perpetually cheerful person…and it was infectious. “Oh Vivek, I should tell you about this”, she’d often start, her face brightening as she broke into mild laughter – and thus she started delightful stories of sweet little things in her life. When I met her and Rukma some years ago, they were besides themselves with joy, and I knew that they had a story to say. “Ohhh Vivek, I MUST tell you this” started Jubeet as […]

The umbrella

Eisenhover in a memorable speech talked of the danger of the military industrial complex.  His warning has sadly been borne out time and again in the decades following the speech. In this context calculations of gain overwhelm concerns for morality in foreign policy.  Thankfully, the same decades have also seen an appreciable growth of people’s voices for peace.  This movement has made remarkable use of media to covey its message; this song by Jayashree is a good example of such efforts. Set in the tune of the Sinhalese song “Surangani” that took India by storm, “American war par da” is […]

American war par da song by Jayashree

A Panchayat president I interviewed recently told me sweetly that people listen to her because she’s plump.  Two years and twenty additional kilos earlier, I would have missed the import of the statement, but now I don’t.  Let me give you a quick background before I start. I was very thin and was often called a skeleton, stick of a coconut leaf and other colourful adjectives. I left to the US in 2005 and after two years of Americanisation I got on the weighing machine. I pushed the scales to a familiar position and it remained upright.  I nudged it […]

The importance of a pot belly

Thanks to a Historian, I now see the sublime where I merely saw superstitions The district gazetteers provide a good background to the important events of a district in a historical perspective.  They were originally written by British civil servants and was then taken over by people appointed for the task with India’s independence.  The British “manuals” (as they are often called) offer colourful details about the wars, positions taken by various parties, etc.  The post independence gazettes (at least in the Madras Province) have a greater slant towards understanding development in a historical perspective.  I was going through some […]

A Brahmin historian at work

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A little note on how Hariprasad Chaurasia’s concert left me between agony and ecstasy Hariprasad Chaurasia is a man who never disappoints. I have been mesmerised for a while in every performance of his and always.  Typically I walk out in a semi-trance with a feeling of ecstasy that only a great live music performance can give. I was thrilled to bits when I heard that Chaurasia is coming to Madras for a concert – and that too free. I took a seat by the aisle that was furthest away from humanity in that auditorium. He started with a slow […]

Dis-concert in Madras

I was sauntering around in Toys R Us at Time Square in the Christmas season. Anyone who has been there around this time knows of the incredible amount of crowds that come there. Most people sport a wonderful festive attitude – even New Yorkers. I was there just to enjoy this atmosphere and was happy to look around and talk to anyone who cared to.  I sustained myself with some wonderful small talk. I started having a conversation with a latino family from the mid-west. They had come to the ground floor so that their 17 year old son can […]

Child care – American style

Hi: I am Vivek.  If you insist, I am S. Vivek and I don’t have a surname.  If you wish to be formal, you can call me Mr. Vivek, which in my culture is quite appropriate.  My identity cards in the US specify my name as Vivek Srinivasan and I get quite a few polite letters calling me Mr. Srinivasan; which happens to be my father.  Much as I like him, I find it odd that he gets the credit for things I do.  For example, a local newspaper reported a talk I gave at Syracuse as ‘Srinivasan said this […]

Look, I don’t have a surname

My cousin had left Pepsi – a lab and Spicey – a pup of mix breed with me for a few weeks. I started noticing that the two of them watched every move I made carefully. They were always watching me and monitoring me. I had just read discipline and punish by Foucault and I promptly objected to being monitored. I told Pepsi and Spicey that they surveillance gives them undue power over me and I object to it. But Spicey seems to disagree and I am unable to convince her. She tells me that surveillance does not give her […]

Puppy surveillance