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The singing sensation, The ultimate bathroom singing list & The band…

The singing sensation…

Sometime in the very hectic last two weeks, I did something I haven’t done for ages…sing out aloud!

Music is a big part of my life, like it is for any normal person and for a brief phase of my life, singing away to glory was a potential career option. I sang at every opportunity in school, trained myself in music and did all that jazz (pun intended!). That was before the damned disease that plagues teenage boys struck and my voice cracked and crashed my life. After that phase I could never cross a certain high-pitched note to my satisfaction. And yes, I am self-critical and obsessive, and like to do something in an excellent way or not do it at all.

For completely different reasons, that was when my dream of being a cricketer was also done and dusted with, so I had to figure out what to do in life 🙂

Thankfully, I did okay in my career so livelihood was taken care of. But I have never sung with others around after that. I mean, if I am with a few good friends who can tolerate me, I do break into a song, but it is otherwise restricted to the bathroom (looking at the mirror proudly after that!), or with my headphone on when am alone at home. And yeah there are times when I can’t hit a high note (like when I want to sing Hey Ajnabi from Dil Se, for example), and I curse myself for that.

But this time around, my friend Silja and her sister were keen on doing Karaoke with some funky system they have at home. She has this pretty cool contraption, which plays the lyrics as you sing along so you don’t make a fool of yourself with the words. And that is very important for me, because I have always had an ear for notes and tones, but not lyrics.

Filtering through the few English songs she had that I knew, I realized how out of sync I am with most artists, songs, and bands. And so I kept saying “Next song please”, for every song I could have done a karaoke for, till they got impatient.

I finally saw the words PINK FLOYD and I sprung to life. Bloody hell, I could sing most Floyd songs that have some vocals in them! (Or so I thought!)

And so for the next few hours I broke into a wonderful musical journey till it was so late, that the peace loving swiss neighbors would have called the police! I can tell you I haven’t had so much fun in ages, and at some stage it didn’t matter if I mixed the words, even with a neat display on the screen. We all had a huge laugh riot about it….

I’ll leave you with a bunch of songs in Hindi, Thamizh, and English, that have come out in the recent years, which I find most suitable for humming along. This is not my favorite songs per se, just songs on my mind from recent memory.There is something about them that is haunting and makes me sing along, and you would enjoy it even if you can’t understand the language…music is without any barriers!

My ultimate bathroom singing list:

1. Tum ho toh, Rock on:

2. Pehli baar mohabat ki hai, Kaminey:

3. Aaogi jab tum saajna, Jab we met:

4. Kangal Irandal, Subramaniapuram:

5.  Strawberry swing, Coldplay:  

6. Fix you, Coldplay:

7. City of blinding lights, U2:

The band…

A bunch of my expat friends have decided to start a band. I was hanging out with Mark, James and Daniela (James’s wife) at Cargo Bar (where else?) the other day. James said he wants to start a band, but he knows s**t about music. Mark nodded in agreement and then they decided they have enough in common to start a band. (Actually those gentlemen know a bloody lot; James has the most mind-blowing music collection I have ever seen in anybody’s house, and Mark can name more than half the tracks. I was the only one who was speaking the truth when I said, I know s**t about music).

Daniela was immediately appointed the manager of the band, and I felt so out-of-place as I had no role in the band. As the evening wore on, and the basic rules of the band were laid out, I decided I have to have a role in the band. No, it is not that of lead singer, and I am very thankful I avoided that temptation.

I am going to be the official recorder of the band’s story. After 20 years when they become famous I am going to make a hell of money publishing my diaries. And after 30 years when they split up, I am going to write about why they split up and make even more. As an excellent blogger/  writer (!), and an eye-witness to the historic night by the Rhine when the band was formed, I have earned my job.

I’ll keep you guys updated on how the band progresses, starting with when we decide to have a name 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: If you liked this post, you may also reading: https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/friends-jazz-rain-bombay/

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Nature’s fury unleashed…all we can do is pray!

If you are in Europe, you cannot miss following the new of the Volcano eruption in Iceland and its impact on air travel due to the massive smoke generated.

Really sad to see thousands of passengers stranded at airports due to a complete freeze of flights, and billions lost in revenues to airlines that are perennially in red.  

Thankfully there is no major impact on life, but it again serves as a timely reminder to us that we are utterly powerless in the face of nature’s fury. Sometimes men can be so full of themselves, but at times like this you realize how completely powerless you are when faced with a force such as this!

Here is wishing all those stranded and affected, a speedy return to home, and a sense of normalcy!

 Do check out the images and videos of the volcanic eruption, there is a sense of raw force in it that is unmistakable:

Cheers!

Vasu

Playing around with words, images & themes…

(Note: This was first written on April 15, 2010 based on that day’s blog template. I intend to keep updating this post as and when I make changes to my template, to trace the journey of my blog design!)

As people who visit this part of the virtual world would have noticed, this blog has seen a fair bit of tinkering over the last few days.

I would say my attempt at developing a good blog site, is going more or less according to a loose plan I had in mind last year, and here are some points beyond what I covered in an earlier post:

  1. Read a lot of blogs to get a sense of discussions in the blogosphere and develop my point of view. My first experiences of the blogosphere led me to believe that the most popular blogs are run by any combination of cute / hot girls, people who ultra aggressively promoted their blogs, people who wrote about topics designed to get greatest hits, people who poured their heart out with poems of love or wrote extensively about every guy / girl they met. (I read some very popular blogs by some girls that described their multitude of emotions with so many men, that I lost track, and wondered how they kept track so well as to record it!). Since I could did not fit into, or did not want to fit into, any of the above, I was fairly skeptical about blogging, but thankfully probing further revealed that there are some extremely impressive bloggers whom I could seek to emulate
  2. Get the content in – a good bunch of entries on a variety of topics. This is the most critical phase for an old-fashioned, “content is king” guy like me. This would probably explain why some of my posts are so long…it’s my obsession to look at a topic from all different angles and in-depth (which I don’t want to change), plus my writing style in general (which is evolving & improving constantly).
  3. Look at forums where I can promote my blog and read more blogs, and
  4. Play around with the layout, themes, widgets and tools to make it more interactive, attractive and for lack of a better word, jazzy

The next steps are to keep building on what I did well above and at some later stage think of having my custom website / domain. (I’ll stick to the free to use wordpress.com version without any ads for now).

It is step 4 above that’s been on my mind in the last few days, and I would say that’s the most challenging task for me. That’s primarily because I am not too artistically inclined. (I used to use terrible colors and fonts in my early days of work, before consulting helped me settle down to making professional content, but it’s never been jazzy or stylish). It’s also because I am a bit technologically challenged. Trust me, I took a long time understanding how to use widgets, create a web feed and all that. I used some type kit fonts on this blog and still don’t know if they are active or not 🙂

 So playing with a custom style sheet (CSS), or experimenting with a web template is a scary thought for me! At the same time I was really impressed with the templates used by a fellow blogger, Shruti. Check her blog template and the story behind that at: http://songofsacredeastwind.blogspot.com/2010/04/my-aeshu.html

And I do have a sense of imagery and a liking for photography. My Flickr page is lousy, but I have taken some pretty decent pictures over the years in so many places, that helped me appreciate the power of visuals.

So, I have tried to get a few images on my header, that blend well with the blog title (Journeys across a pathless land), and the nature of topics. Some random  keywords I had in my mind while looking through my pictures and that of others on FlickR were Journey / Travel, Climb, Rough terrain, Adventure, Beauty, Lonely  man / animal / vehicle, Nature, Unchartered or remote places, Fun, Learning, Movement, Mountains, Color / vividness

The previous picture I used, was taken by me during my trek in the Himalayas, and the full picture is below:

Himalayan sheep

I liked it for many reasons including the sheer effort I spent that tiring afternoon stalking this massive flock of sheep to get some pictures in.

The picture I have put up now, is titled “Shepherd in Morey Plains”, and attributed to Koshyk, who has been kind enough to authorize me to use it. It turns out that he his also a blogger and runs a very interesting blog! Do, pay him a visit at: http://scretlover.blogspot.com/

The full picture is reproduced here:

Shepherd in Morey Plains

It can also be found in his photo stream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/2260639712/

It captures a shepherd and his sheep in the barren landscape of Ladakh. Ladakh has always been a dream destination, and if I make it there one day, I’ll probably end up dedicating a full day for pictures (to be shamelessly publicized on FlickR, Facebook and on my blog!)

I see myself experimenting a fair bit with a variety of images, colors, themes, and possibly some art (If I have the right friends for the job!). It also gives me the chance to use so many wonderful things others have done to their blogs / photo sites on the internet and leave a dedication each time. I know how nice it feels when someone visits your site and appreciates any words / images / videos that you have created!

So, please do leave any tips on how I can JAZZ UP my blog, and please give a feedback on the image I have used now. (I’ll also try to create a poll for that some time)

I pride myself in being well-connected with so many people who have special talent each, but I don’t have a single friend who can claim to be good at art! So till I can take that master piece of a picture myself, I will be hounding Suman, who is an awesome photographer, to take some pictures with my blog in mind. His photo stream is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vrsuman/

If he does take that perfect picture for my blog, the advantage is that I won’t have to pay him. After all, what are friends for?  🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

Update 1: April 19, 2010

New picture titled “Insuperable barrier of Nature – Lonely truck in the Himalaya”.

 

Many thanks to alles-schlumpf for allowing me to use a brilliant picture she took at Leh, Ladakh, in 2006. Danke 🙂

Update 2: May 6, 2010

I have adopted a newly launched theme called Bueno, which gives me new features such as Custom background, Featured posts. The picture that seems to look best on this background, is something I took during my Himalayan trek in 2007. It was the end of a long day of uphill climb, and some time in the afternoon I saw very interesting jagged rock formations, juxtaposed against the vast sky above. It was just me, the earth, the sky, and nothing in between.  It was a very spell binding, almost primal feeling.

So, till the next update, this would be my theme background:

Touching the skies!

 Update 3: February 2011

I set up this theme called Coraline. The custom picture I have used for the header, is that of a Tram approaching the picturesque Schützenhaus stop in Basel:

Tram 8 at Basel, Schuetzenhaus

From Chennai to Chelsea, Anaivarukkum iniya puthaandu vazhthukkal!

“I wish Chennai a very Happy Tamil New Year” M.S  Dhoni signed off, after Chennai Superkings (CSK) thrashed Kolkata Knight Riders at Chepauk, in the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.

It brought a rare smile on my face on what has been a day of lousy, but not to unexpected news alerts, on the ugly affairs behind the scenes of IPL. For those who are bothered in reading further, I would recommend an excellent blog and discussion on this topic, which I’ve been tracking all day: http://prempanicker.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/actions-reactions/

It made smile because CSK jumped from 7th place to 2nd place, in a league so tightly contested that there are enough voices guessing that all this is all fixed to ensure a successful IPL 2010. While I am not jumping the bandwagon with the conspiracy theorists, given the people involved in running the show & our cricket history, I won’t be too surprised. And Chennai’s 7 to 2, and may be back to 7 in a few days show, just makes you wonder and indulge the conspiracy theorists for a while.

 That was a curiously funny smile 🙂

It made me smile, because CSK is one of the teams I support, and though ultimately I don’t really care who wins, sometimes native loyalties can break all cynicism and indifference you may have for a sports tournament. To me, the real buffet as a cricket lover is India touring South Africa this year, and Australia next year; that what would be the last time I get to see pillars of the Indian game like Sachin and Dravid, before they fade away into the sunset. It’s probably our best chance ever for those two missing series victories to justify our #1 test team tag.

The IPL is a good evening snack to have before the sumptuous buffet later this year, but a CSK win brings out a chuckling smile nevertheless 🙂

For the record, my loyalties for the IPL are divided between Chennai (where I was born and grew up), Bangalore (lived most of my adult life, and is a second home), and Delhi (I’ll back any team Sehwag plays for in any format)

It made me smile, for one of the few positives amongst the hordes of stupidity that the IPL brings. That Dhoni, a man from Jharkand, is seen as their own by the Chennai fans is beyond doubt. He was obliviously playing to the gallery, and expects the Chennai crowd to be even more vociferous in support in the coming matches. I am hoping the IPL does not divide us even more, and make us add to our four walls of religion, community, language and social strata. The bonding that happens between a Dhoni and Tamils; a Yusuf Pathan and Rajasthanis; a Bhajji with Mumbaikars (how did Raj Thackeray allow him to play in the first place?); and a Sachin Tendulkar with all Indians is a special feeling that only sports can provide. Witness the Argentine Messi playing at Barca, for sheer magic!

That was a genuine smile 🙂

It also made me smile, as officially I do not think it is the Tamil New Year in the first place! There was an utterly unwanted, and stupid political move thrust upon by the DMK government a few years back to make January 14 the Tamil New Year, changing the traditional date of April 14. All their petty agendas aside, the people still celebrate April 14 as the New Year, and January 14 as Pongal. I do not know what the official stance is now and I do not care. Even Wikipedia is inconclusive.

 Just as Madras will always be Madras to me, (and so it goes for Bombay, Calcutta etc), April 14 is always the New Year, and it usually means good food. And oh yeah, I would celebrate January 1 and any other new years that are there as well; the more festivals there are the merrier, I say!

That Dhoni was oblivious to the controversy, and wished folks of his temporary adopted home well, and in the process give a middle finger to divisive politicians who have no other work, brought out the biggest smile of the day for me  🙂

So here I am wishing any person reading this now, “Iniya puthaandu vazhthukkal”, or a happy new year in Tamil. We have a short life, so any occasion to celebrate and be festive is precious, and meant to be lapped up.

 I’ll leave you with a song from one of the few Tamil films I loved in the recent past, called Subhramaniapuram. This  is a period film set in early 80s, and this song is a modern fusion of traditional Tamil folk sounds. Sort of represents the good, silly, and funny things about our culture in an interesting way. The dances and village road shows (Thiruvizha) are truly representative of life in the Tamil hinterland.

Have a ball everybody 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu 

Footnote: If you are inclined to comment, please wish me a happy new year in your language, in addition to whatever you had to say. That would be nice and interesting 🙂

Update on April 25: Thanks for those who voted on the poll earlier. For the record, Chennai won the IPL in a classic final beating Mumbai Indians. In spite of all the controversies around, the game was the winner, and Dhoni is on track to become Tamilnadu’s chief minister in the future, given our love for embracing an outsider who shines in our territory 🙂

Looking back at a thousand hits, and looking beyond the numbers….

This blog is reaching a small milestone of a thousand visitors today. Nothing great in the blogosphere, but just a mini landmark for me to acknowledge and smile about! It’s also time for me to look at more stats that WordPress lets you analyze, and reflect on the blogging experience so far!

To start with, some stats trivia for those who like stats for the heck of it:

The most read blogs have been:

  1. The home page – fair enough, you all want to know a little bit about the stranger who wrote the blog; but a whopping 417 people have visited my home page, and I dunno how many of them actually read any blog post!
  2. A few sentences I wrote regarding Ramachandra Guha’s book “India after Gandhi”. Damn this Guha man, much as I admire him, he is stealing my thunder. 70 people visited that page, must have gone to Outlook magazine from there, and onto reading more about Guha from there on. Who the hell is Vasu now? 😦
  3. My post on Rahul Dravid. That was original content, and I still find that funny. Yeah Jammy, you have given me so much cricket viewing pleasure all these years, and now more people have visited my blog because of you, than they would have otherwise. 65 hits out of a thousand tell me that cricket still sells big time amongst Indians. I could write a few hundred posts on the game I love the most, but thankfully, that’s not my intent! 

People from the following countries have been most frequent on the blogs: Switzerland, India, U.S, U.K, and Canada. More or less expected, but someday I want to expand to countries where I have never been, or don’t know anybody. I want to hear from people from Mongolia, or Uruguay, or Kazakhstan, or Madagascar, and reinforce my belief that our planet is a global village, and that people can connect and bond beyond barriers! 

Now this is the incredibly funny part. Here are the most interesting key words or search terms that have been used most visit my blog:

  1. Rahul Dravid shirtless (Also searched: Rahul Dravid ex girlfriend, hmmm…in some way  it makes me feel good that it’s not only the Indian men who are desperate!)
  2. Indian sheep (Also searched:  funny sheep, British sheep)
  3. Found the message before I finished typed
  4. Free typing program
  5. Mallu sex in net cafe & Kama stories in telugu (when did I ever become a porn writer / up loader? damn you people, find this stuff else where on the net!)
  6. One world one tribe (who are you, my psychic connection buddy?)
  7. Kraft locked down pcs (Hmmm I should get money from Kraft now!)
  8. Why don’t IT departments give employees money? (I wish I had the answer to that mate!)
  9. Manali bars (There is so much more to this incredible small town apart from bars)

 Now move over stats & silly jokes, it’s time for introspection. 

I have been writing this without any specific agenda or target. The key motivations were, and remain:

  1. Sharing my opinion on any current social topic, or an older one that I find significant. I also try and balance popular topics, with stuff people do not normally discuss much about. The big factor here is my transition to an avid reader of newspapers & watcher of T.V news to a fully online person. I shun most traditional media now, and the internet gives me incredible abilities to filter through biased opinions and get to the truth in most things.
  2. Getting stuff off my chest, that I do not have friends I can talk to about immediately
  3. Write something on a topic I am curious to learn more about, and use the incredible powers of Google, WordPress, and websites such as Swiss Expat blogger, Indiblogger, and Youth Ki awaaz to read more articles, and blogs on the same. It’s been a very rewarding exercise!
  4. Write something useful to share whatever good experiences I have had.  I wrote something about Yoga that a few people found very helpful and they signed up for yoga programs. A few lazy bum friends of mine signed up for YHAI treks based on my travelogue. I can’t claim to transform the world, but a few people benefitting from what I wrote makes me feel good. Really good!
  5. To try and have a creative pursuit / pet project that keeps me going beyond the four corners of my office cubicle, apartment. It’s been nice to constantly think of something to write, write a few drafts, delete them, write it up better, publish them, and follow what people say!
  6. To write about my culture and my country and spread the word about how cool we are; to challenge what we accept as cool, but is not quite so; and to share my experiences on the good things I have picked up where my travels take me! i believe every person who interacts with a foreigner or lives abroad, is an ambassador for his country and has to do his bit to break down artificial barriers we have created amongst ourselves!
  7. Now this is something I am yet to do justice to, but is a motivation nevertheless. To get out of my writing comfort zone and try things I haven’t before: Fiction, poetry,etc. Also, challenge myself to write crisper, write funnier (incredibly tough to do. I always thought i was a funny guy when I talk, but to translate that to words on a blog has been very challenging!)

But having done most of what motivated me in the first place, I know I can do much more! To do that, I would love to hear from people who have subscribed (Started off with family and dear friends, spread to some good Samaritans I have never met!), and other regular readers. I want to hear which blogs you liked, which you didn’t, which topics you want to read about, which articles made you think or had an impact (if any), and if you area non blogger, whether reading my blogs have made you feel like writing yours some day!

So, this is my biggest push so far to make my blog very interactive and conversational, rather than the way it is now with me saying things you never read, or ignored, or you had an opinion but never said it.

I need all the encouragement from friends, family, fellow bloggers or curious strangers! Even a one liner or a smiley as a comment on any of my posts, would be appreciated 🙂

Here is a big thank you to those who have been here, let alone read & commented.

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: If you liked this post, you may enjoy reading: https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/playing-around-with-words-images-themes%e2%80%a6/

Sakura!

We all love spring. At least, those who live in regions where there is a concept of a spring. (There really is no such thing in most parts of India)

This year the spring has started in Basel and its been pretty good so far. People are out on the streets, folks hang out by the river, there is sunshine, and people are smiling and yada yada.

I hope this turns out  as good as it promises. Looking at the cherry blossom flowers, I was transported to the best spring I have witnessed.

I was in Japan In 2007 / 2008, and saw the fall, harsh winter, an a bit of the summer. But the best time ever to be in Japan is now, the spring / Sakura season.

Sakura, can refer to the mid spring season’s cherry blossom flowers, or in a related context “sorrow”. The cherry blossoms seasons is the happiest time in the country, with people hanging out by parks and drinking with friends, just to see the flowers blossom. But the sorrow analogy, as I understand it, refers to what happens after the cherry blossoms stop blooming.

People are back to their dreary lives, the streets are not s picture perfect any more, and I guess it symbolizes the sorrow that occurs when a good thing is no more.

Anyways, I meant this to be a happy photo blog. I just wanted to leave you all with personal memories of the Sakura season in Japan, through some pictures taken in Tokyo & suburbs, Kyoto. I had a fantastic time and probably my photography skills may not do justice to how beautiful it feels to be in Japan, during the spring.

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: Those who know the concept of Sakura far better, are open to add details and correct me where I got it wrong. And I don’t mean a Wikipedia explanation, I can do that myself  🙂

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P.S: If you are inclined to look at more pictures and stories from my travels, you might try:

1. https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/saurkundi-pass-trek-a-travelogue/

2. https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/a-woolly-weekend-in-valais-pronounced-something-like-wallis/

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