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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Memories of Navaratna Rama Rao Durable Link to this BLOG
Random Memories of Navaratna Rama Rao

Cover of Some Memories

I have been reading the autobiography of Navaratna Rama Rao (Kelavu Nenapugalu in Kannada language). It is an extraordinary book for several reasons and just what I needed to deepen my understanding of life, India, and Hinduism.

The author was a highly placed officer in the royal government of Mysore Maharaja (see Wodeyars) and recollects his experiences of governance, reflections of people. Set in the early years of 1900, it is full of fascination and amusements.

For one, Navartna Rama Rao is not a writer, this is his only published book. The prose lacks literary merits, yet it is an invaluable literary work because who else could have told this story?! The author came from a very scholarly and well-respected families, was exposed to law and English (both the language, and the people), was a room-mate of Rajagopalachari, and decides to serve the people of India, as if that is his sacred duty. None of the period literature has the authenticity nor filled with as many personal historical anecdotes as Rama Rao's book.

Secondly, I think it will end once for all, the arguments I have had for years with Amma about role of  royalty in pre-and-post independent India. Like all young people, at all times in my life, I have viewed the royals only with utmost contempt. The book gives deep insights into the distinctly Indian form of governance, of maintaining law and order, of taxation, as practiced by the kings taking into consideration the local customs, castes, and local economies.

Navaratna Rama Rao was a remarkable man. Throughout the book,  he  cites examples of using common-sense and sense-of-justice to make difficult decisions. At every moral dilemma, he digs deep into his own character and upbringing to find solutions.

I also admire author's judgment in disclosing names of towns and people, as it is a very delicate problem faced by autobiographers. Especially since he was a public figure, he had knowledge of a lot of inside politics, inside affairs and I believe he has protected the private matters of common men at the same time exposing the shallowness of some leaders.

Lastly, the author has used colloquial language freely and has apologized for it in the introduction.  I believe that the apology is uncalled for, and rather we must be thankful to Navartna Rama Rao for enriching the language by using so many administrative words derived from Marathi, Persian, and old Kannada.

I highly recommend this book to Indians who are trying to find themselves, or having a mid-life-crisis, or those on a learning vacation.

See Also:
• Book Recommendations
• More Reviews

First Written: Saturday, July 17, 2004
Last Modified: 9/10/2004 12:50:01 PM
Tags: Review

Review of Victoria's Secret Show Durable Link to this BLOG
Victoria's Secret Show

I watched the entire hour of  the Heaven on Earth Victoria's Secret show last night. It was entertaining while it lasted (it went off too fast), but had very little lasting impression (quite unlike the famous 1999 Superbowl ad.).

My favorite parts:

  • Endorsement by a schoolboy who claimed the VS catalog helps him with his homework. Very funny.

  • The underwear so small, it fits into a wristwatch.

  • The selection criteria to be  a VS model -- they need to be young, tall, gorgeous, sexy, voluptuous, healthy, radiant, graceful, energetic, and other criteria that I forgot now. Isn't that just like women asking for a handsome, healthy, intelligent, sensitive, and rich man? There's no such thing, everyone's a compromise!

  • Marc Anthony's "Tragedy" performance (link to lyric)

The show was controversial due to its soft-porn nature, and also because one of the models also promoted fur. 

I'd rate Just My Size (a competing underwear company) advertisements, which featured normal women, ahead of this multi-million dollar extravaganza. For all the hype, the show had so little impact (on viewers and I am sure as it will on VS's bottomline).

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, there were riots against a beauty pageant.

Surf Log


First Written: Thursday, November 21, 2002
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
Tags: review

Monsoon Wedding, Good. Durable Link to this BLOG
Thumbs up for Monsoon Wedding

Picture Courtesy: Mira Nair Films. Used with permission
Monsoon Wedding

I saw Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding. It is a delightful movie, full of drama, visuals, and humor. I want to see/make movies like this one, that glorify beauty -- real and perceived. I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone. It challenges our assumptions about contemporary Indian culture, as it reinforces the traditional Indian customs, and their values.

My favorite parts:

  • Hemant, the groom ordering the "two very special chai" in the same joint he used to hang out as an engineering student. Man, that's so surreal. Reminded me of Kalipod's joint in Ontikoppal, Mysore. I certainly would like to meet Kalipod again.
  • A dub artist enacting an orgasm. It's as good as the one in "When Harry Met Sally".
  • When Aditi's brother whispers  "KLPD". This was quite a popular slang during my time. The movie translated  KLPD as "betrayal of the erect penis", but the slang has a far more hilarious connotation. 
    BTW, in my time, there was even more hilarious slang KLPR (khade lund pe Rakhi) ;-- )

Links


First Written: Monday, November 11, 2002
Last Modified: 9/10/2003
Tags: review

Review of Movie Lagaan Durable Link to this BLOG
Notes from the Lagaan (Hindi) Movie

When I bitched about Indian movies (see Why I hate Bollywood) in this space, I received a lot of angry pushback from movie fans. "Just watch Lagaan, and then talk" they wrote, as if one movie can undo the damage caused by thousands of bad movies. And as promised, I did watch Lagaan this week with my wife (who doesn't understand Hindi) and my mother (who doesn't understand the game of Cricket). My notes, in the form of questions and answers, as they happened.

Q: Does Lagaan mean "Once upon a time in India" ?
A: No, and I don't understand why the byline appears only in English.

Q: Do people really dance for the rains in India?
A: In some states of India they sing and celebrate the arrival of the monsoons. But they never dance in temples as shown in the movie.

Q: The movie shows such unreal things as the hero fighting injustices of  untouchability, trying to protect wildlife by disturbing the hunting etc. Why then does it try to be real by showing the hero's widowed mother clothed only in white?
A: It is only a movie darling. Don't read too much into it.

Q: What does this Wicket  mean?
A:  Wicket has multiple meanings in Cricket. The Wicket sometimes means "the pitch" (as in "The wicket is slow"), it indicates the number people who have gotten out ( as in "India lost three wickets"), or has gotten out ( as in Kapil Dev has 434 wickets). In addition, the wooden stumps on either sides of the pitch are also called wickets (hence the name Wicket-keeper).

Q: Why is this movie so long ? (the movie is four hours long)
A: Perhaps because poor people in India want a long-entertainment for their buck  Perhaps the makers of the movie thought they were producing an epic.

Q: Were all the Indian kings as weak as the movie portrays?
A: More or less, at the time the movie is set in (1893), the Indian kings had become weak due to infighting, and lack of leadership. At the time of India becoming free, there were 700 such good-for-nothing princes.

Q: Did you like the movie?
A: No.

Honestly, I didn't like the movie. But I enjoyed explaining  the game of Cricket to the ladies.

Laggan perhaps captures the imagination of the Indian movie goers very well, but didn't do it for me.Sorry.


First Written: Friday, September 27, 2002
Last Modified: 1/23/2003
Tags: bollywood, review

AnthoBLOGy Good or Bad? Durable Link to this BLOG
To Endorse or not to Endorse AnthoBLOGy?

A small battle of wits has broken out among the Indian bloggers after Just a Little Something complimented this blog.

• Deep Link to the discussion (cached copy)
• Sins of Bloggers

In her comment, Anita Bora makes a special mention of my blogging engine. For sometime now, I have thought about making my blog software available to the public. However, I am hesitant as the support questions that would arise would take away all my time. For, it is designed for me, with tight integration with our CMS, and there are no themes, tools etc., that other bloggers would expect. However, it has so many super-cool features that even other so called advanced tools do not have. I did not realize that till I looked at the features of Blogger Pro and CityDesk.

Most importantly, I have closely embeded SQL and Rules into the blogging engine. So if you know a scripting language (PHP or VBScript) and know something about Relational Databases, it is a great tool for writing blogs. I can seamlessly write SQL, Script, English and HTML, in addition to my own short-cuts that I call rules.

Perhaps someday...


First Written: Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
Tags: reviews

Review of Chang Durable Link to this BLOG
Siam of 1927 and India of 1977

In 1976-77 my father temporarily closed down his business, and packed his bags to study and live with the tribals of Madhya Pradesh for a whole year. Upon his return he would narrate stories of the tribals, their hardships, joys, and ways of life. He showed his photographs, line-drawings and artifacts (bows, arrows, masks) to enhance his stories. He went on to write several books about the simple, yet thrilling lifestyles of the native forest people of Central India.

But it was not until today, that I could visualize that lifestyle in such brilliant detail. Today I saw the 1927 film Chang by Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack (yes, the same guys who made King Kong) of life as God intended it to be. The slow pace, the earthly music, cohabitation of men and animals just took my breath away.

Cover of Chang DVD

It is a silent, black and white movie and you might not enjoy it as much as I do. However, if you have liked father's Stories of Bastar travel or have a remote interest in the anthropology, I encourage you to rent/buy the movie.

The movie is set in Thailand (Siam), but I claim that it portrays life no different than life of the period (why, even of year 1977) in India.

More Pictures of Boys Riding Animals in India

Boy riding water buffalo to work, West Bengal

Boys taking turns to the joy ride the water buffalo


First Written: Thursday, January 10, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
Tags: review

Review of Microsoft Notepad Durable Link to this BLOG
A Review of Microsoft Notepad

Notepad.exeMicrosoft's disgust with Plaintext is exemplifed in the primitiveness of their text editor - Notepad.exe. Some versions do not even have the simple Replace functionality. The keyboard shortcuts keep changing (in Win2K I have to use Control+F, but Controll+S on WinNT) from system to system, and in some versions you cannot save an empty file.

Want to open two files? "Oh, close the first one first!"
You want regular expressions? "Why would you need that?!"
Want to control tab width? "Give us $700 and we will give you Visual Studio!"
Want to vertically select something? "Why are you bothering us?"

Microsoft has done great injustice to its customers by deliberately watering down the text editor. Features available even in the EDIT.COM of MS-DOS are missing. I think the Company of Innovation -- as Microsoft likes to call itself, certainly needs to do more. And in my opinion, doing more is not simply giving a free copy of Microsoft Works; they need to provide a robust text editor.

This is hoping for a decent Notepad.exe with Windows XP.


First Written: Saturday, August 11, 2001
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
Tags: review, microsoft

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