Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Deluge, Bombay Style

The first I heard of it was from my niece -- I am currently in Madras, and she lives down the road from where my Mother and sister live -- around 10 pm, by SMS. About her brother (my neph) being stranded at the Bombay Gym because of the rain. It's not entirely unusual for the rains to flood the streets in B/bay during the monsoon but this sounded like some sort of catastrophe. I immediately SMSed Govind Nihalani (a long-time bud and also well-known film-maker) -- and he radioed back that he'd been stuck in his car at the top of a flyover seven minutes from home -- for SIX HOURS!!! Not long after, an SMS came in from Zig (of ZIGZACKLY -- see blog-list on the right) to say that the living-room of his home was ankle-deep with water. And I heard from another friend who trekked 10 Km home, in mostly waist-high water, but in one place CHIN-HIGH!! But he got home and SMSed when he was dry and safe.

No power, no transport. Hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded miles from home.

That was Tuesday night. Today, a day and a half later, reports have been trickling in of how people coped. Zig will probably post his account at his blog. Amar sent me a long account of his 10 Km trek and if he allows me, I'll upload it here. Govind got home at one a.m., after wading in waist high water. No power or food at home. Reports have come in of good Samaritans who have been active all day, feeding and assisting hungry, tired and thirsty commuters -- the lack of food and potable water in the city have been part of the crisis. Another report from a friend of my niece is an indication of the range and level of horrors: because of the power outage, a death in the friend's family could not be accommodated at the electric crematorium and the morgue had no storage facilities -- so they had to cart the body home with them in their car!

To all the brave, hard-working and indomitable people of Bombay -- a big, heartfelt hug.

And here, with the inimitable Amrobilia's permission, is his account of his ordeal (very lightly edited Amro, for your asides to P!)

I was shooting in Powai that day (day b'fore) when the deluge started at 2pm. The studio started flooding at 3pm and the shoot was packed up (cancelled). I tore towards home in the Tavera, encountering rivers of water over the road, and four kms. later, came to a grinding halt. Over the next four hours, the car moved about half a KM. I was surrounded by sheets of rain, a deluge of humanity under umbrellas and otherwise and bumber-to-bumper traffic. I was preparing myself for a night in the car, when the intensity and "immensity" of the rainfall (more like a continuous cloudburst) convinced me to abandon the car and head home. I reasoned I could be stuck in the car for more than just 24 hours (that turned out to be correct) food, little water, sleeplessness...

Unwilling to abandon my loved new car 'just like that' I somehow managed a U-turn, found a parking space on the side of the road on a slight rise, waterproofed my iPod, cellfone, audiodeck and wallet stuffed them in my beltpouch and headed home on foot with a bottle of water and a coke I'd purchased a little earlier at the roadside.Home, I knew, was exactly 10 kms away. I use this route regularly and knew the 10km mark 'by heart' - I was right there. It was 8pm so I thought I'd be home by 10, doing 5km/hour. I was told there was waist-high water up ahead for a stretch, but after that I thought it'd be pretty flood-less.

After dismissing a young fellow at the start of the flooded area who told me "yeh aapke bus ka nahin hai - aap ki umar bahut jyaada hai*"(*roughly translated: you won't make it, you're too old), and handing him one of the half-dozen bananas I'd just picked up to fortify myself - off I went. It was a cinch, really...walked and walked and walked till I got to Juhu gulli - 4+km from home, when I saw a sea ahead of me...I'd have to walk waist deep in water till the Juhu circle, I was told - about 1+ km ahead - and then it's 'fine'. As it turned out, it was waist deep all the way to 4 bungalows crossing, and then calf deep all the way home from there. A particular stretch in the four bung area, that everyone else was avoiding (there were tens of people wading away) but thriough which I decided to wade, becuz it was a short cut, had water coming up to my collar-bones! It was an effort to keep the pouch above my head and the bottle of water which still had a bit left, in the other hand. There was also my umbrella!!!...the coke I'd consumed.

Well, got home at midnight and awarded myself the Gold Medal!!! Drove the car home today - it was all on its own all of yesterday and 2 nights. Started first we're stocked up with milk, bread, sugar, veg available since ystrday still littered on the roads...abandoned for now, being pushed, mechanics n owners peering into their hoods... That's it!

Except for a little back trouble, I'm fit as a fiddle!

[Thanks Amro, for letting me post this]

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Happy Potterday!

Received, Read and Reviewed -- by 7.15 p.m. today! Phew. I feel like I've been riding bareback on a centaur -- wheeehoooo! The review should appear in tomorrow (Sunday 17th July)'s Times of India Weekend.

Here's what I wrote:

We enter the seething cauldron of sixteen-year-old Harry Potter's spell-bound life with a crackle of green fire, in the office of a nameless British Prime Minister. Yes! Magic has begun to seep out of Hogwarts, the school for young wizards and into the world of unsuspecting Muggles. That's you and me, in case you haven't already been seduced by the first five books of the internationally best-selling series by British author J.K.Rowling.

The scene soon shifts to Hogwarts and remains there for most of the six-hundred pages of the book. Gone are the burlesque scenes of Harry's adoptive Muggle family the dismal Dursleys. No more do we tryst with giants in distant forests or learn the correct technique for subduing Hippogriffs. Even the various budding romances remain, thankfully, minor tendrils compared to the heavy breathing of the previous book. In this, the penultimate volume of the series, the shape that the final confrontation will take is clearly stated: Harry will need to find and destroy the separate fragments into which his nemesis, Lord You-Know-Who Voldemort, has splintered his soul. How Harry comes by this knowledge and what he needs to find out about himself before he can embark upon this difficult and dangerous task is what occupies the current book.

It is an altogether quieter story, despite the usual quota of soul-rotting curses, unforgiveable villainy, despicable betrayals, corpses, deaths … none of the books is anything less than a bullet-train of plot! This time around, the headmaster of the school, white-bearded Dumbledore works closely with Harry to uncover the secrets of the boy's destiny. He is one year older and less volatile than when we last saw him, less spontaneous, more distant. Slowly but surely, like a train drawing away from a platform, he is leaving the station of his youth behind. There are apparently going to be no stops now: when the next book ends, he will be a man.

There are several moments of hilarity, of course, such as Harry's first use of the Levicorpus spell that throws all the sleeping boys in the dorm around him soaring up into the air at daybreak; there is Hagrid and his rough humour; there are the snog-wars of teenage couples. But the overwhelming agenda of the book is grim rather than amusing. We are never very far from the brink of extreme doom and even when small victories are won, they are always against the backdrop of dastardly murders and hell-brewed schemes.

If we clear away all the distraction of spells and potions, characters and caricatures, though, we find one all-engrossing theme: identity. Who is or was the Half-Blood Prince? Was he Voldemort? Was he a she? Or was he some as-yet unknown, but unusually gifted wizard who left behind handy crib-notes for Harry to use in his borrowed copy of Advanced Potion-Making? Come to think of it, the search for identity is what animates all the Potter books. Each one is about discovering the true nature of the characters who appear in various guises, whose back stories fill the shop-windows of their lives. Is this, perhaps, a clue to the global popularity of the book? Because it is certainly true that in this alphabet soup of cultures that we live in world-wide, understanding who we are has become the overwhelming goal. Once we know that, we can decide what we eat and where we'll shop; who we'll marry and where we'll live; when to wear our head-scarves and whether or not to strap on a belt of explosives that will blow up a train-load of passengers.

Identity is the raw material of the human cultural machine. The Greek myths used the gods to pepper their stories with half-divine heroes while we use the word "magic" in the place of "divine", but the stories remain much the same: seek the source of power, ponder its meaning and struggle to use its burden wisely. No surprise, in today's desk-bound reality, that our hero is a geeky-looking boy with glasses, dark-hair and a spindly frame - and no! I'm not going to tell you who dies. I didn't read six-hundred pages in six hours just to give the plot away!

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Well, as you can see, I couldn't resist attempting to design a SUDOKU-based game. Here are the rules and stuff --


For three players

The AIM: For each player, the aim is to fill rows, columns or 3x3 boxes with complete sets of critters. The player who places the final critter in a row/column/box claims it as his/her own.

The RULES: (revised since yesterday)Players take turns to place ONE critter at a time. Placements must conform to the standard rules of SUDOKU -- i.e., there can be only one of each critter per row/column/box. Once a critter is placed, it cannot be moved or removed. There is no restriction on placements that may block FUTURE valid placements -- i.e., players are not required to play in such a way that the whole board can be correctly filled up. However at the time of each placement, it MUST be valid. Players do not have the option of skipping a turn, even if it means making a disadvantageous move.

WINNING: The player with the most rows/columns/boxes is the winner. Given that the game will very likely be blocked by invalid moves, I am guessing that the typical game will end in deadlock, with no winner. Therefore it's to the advantage of all players NOT to block the board with placements that will lead to deadlock -- but not necessarily to the advantage of the individual player.

THE METHOD (for this blog-version) I moved first*, followed by PRAMOD and MINAL, who have very kindly agreed to play along. In theory, anyone can join in the game, by leaving moves in COMMENTS (NOT as e-mail, pls!) which I will incorporate on the board and post here from time to time -- I'm planning to do this a couple of times a day -- but in practice, it's very likely that Pramod and Minal will be the only players. I will only incorporate those moves which follow the 1-2-3 pattern -- i.e., if someone posts a move out of turn, I will not incorporate it.

At this moment, it makes sense to me if the three of us continue our moves in rotation, through COMMENTS without waiting for me to upload the changed board each time. This way, the game will go quicker (after all, we have 81 potential squares to fill up!!) We can keep track of the game on our own stored versions -- then I can upload the day's moves all together at, say, midnight IST (New Delhi).

So is this clear? I will include moves based on those which get posted to COMMENTS here. I will place my own moves every third time. I will only change the board at the end of the day.

And ... please, anyone, correct me if I make incorrect placements on the board!

The moves so far:

MARGINALIEN: FLAMINGO (9) to 3C; CAMEL (6) to 4G; CAT (3) to 7D





July 12th

MINAL: SWAN (5) to 6A



July 13th



July 14th


MINAL: LOBSTER/SCORPIO(7) to 5G; PENGUIN (1) to A9; GOAT (2) to B5

MARGINALIEN: CAT(3): 1E; CAT(3): 5I; CAT(3): 9G


July 15th

MINAL: FLAMINGO (9) to 4B; PENGUIN (1) to 8D; CAT (3) to 6F
MARGINALIEN: CAMEL(6) to 5C; FLAMINGO(9) to 5D; SWAN (5) to 5F
PRAMOD: GAZELLE (4) - 6B; PENGUIN (1) - 6C; CAT (3) - 4C

July 18th

MINAL: PENGUIN (1) to 3B; SWAN (5) to 2H; LOBSTER/SCORPIO (7)to 7E


July 19th



PRAMOD: FLAMINGO (9) to 8E; GOAT(2) to 8F; RACCOON (8) to 7F

July 20th

MINAL: CAMEL(6) to 1B; SWAN (5) to 7B; CAT(3) to 8B


PRAMOD: RACCOON(8) to 6E; SWAN (5)to 4I; CAMEL(6) to 8A

JULY 22nd

MINAL: GOAT(2) to 3G; CAMEL(6) to 7H; GAZELLE(4) to 8G
JULY 23rd


... at long last, I have updated the board with the next few moves! Sorry, sorry, sorry.

AUG 8th: Pramod:

GOAT(2) to 6D

GOAT(2) to 1A

GAZELLE (4) to 1C -- Pramod gets 8 pts for column C

Aug 10th: Minal:

CAT (3) to 2A -- Minal gets 8 pts for box

CAT (3) to 3H

GAZELLE (4) to 3I -- Minal gets 7 pts for box.

*I made three opening moves, just to start the game off.

Also, for the sake of completeness, the names of the critters are:


Monday, July 04, 2005

For Folks Who Don't Like Number Puzzles

Here's a version of the previous puzzle rendered in pix ...

The other day I got to thinking about SUDOKU and why certain people (yes, I'm looking at you, Zig! And you too, Chandigarh J, in a reduced sense, because I suspect you're not put off by numbers, but would just prefer pictures anyway) who might otherwise be expected to enjoy something clever and new, might not be attracted to it. And I wondered whether it might be because the numbers make it look like the kind of challenge which involves calculations. But it ISN'T (or else why whould I like it? I like maths but am numerically challenged in various ways -- dysnumeric, if the word exists) -- the numbers are merely nine different symbols and their use in the puzzle is purely incidental. So ... I thought I'd try substituing them with pictures. I didn't want to draw 'em myself so I checked MS Words fonts -- and sure enough! There's a face called Mini Pics Li'l Critters -- and you know what? For a change, they really ARE rather cute. So I used nine of them in place of the numbers. This puzzle is the same as the previous one, except for two penguins (i.e., "1"s in the previous version of the puzzle) which have been placed in their correct spaces in the grid.

As with the numbers, the challenge is to place one of each type of critter in every row and every column and in every 3x3 box. There's only one correct solution. It's possible that this grid here is too small to work off -- I don't know whether it'll download at a bigger size than what you can see on your screens. In case anyone wants to get a full-size copy of it ... well, I might be in a good enough mood to e-mail it out. Or (if anyone complains) I could just try posting a larger version of it here. The way to use it is of course to select, COPY and then paste each of the coloured critters on the side, into the grid. It's best to save the template and then work on a copy of that version.

Chandigarh J, you asked for a starter's hint? Well one method is to look across each row and up and down each column, locating (say) the penguins -- since every row MUST have one and every 3x3 box must ALSO have one --and ONLY one -- you can sometimes see a situation where there's only one possible space in which the missing penguin CAN go. The penguin in the top row is a case in point. The two rows beneath that one both contain their penguins. The only space in which the top row CAN accommodate a penguin is therefore at the end, in the right-hand box. Similarly with the penguin in the lowermost box on the left: there's no other space in which it could stand but there, since the columns on either side already contain one penguin each.

And if that made sense to you ... you're well on your way to being a Sudokan!

BTW, you know what I bet? This would make a GREAT board game. Can't you just see the cute tokens and the cool board? I can. Too bad I lack the skills and entrepreneurial temperament to go the distance: developing the prototype, filing a patent, selling it for millions to Parker Bros. Yup. I can just see it happening ... to someone else. Take it from me, in about one year or less, there'll be a SUDOKU board/card game and it'll be the smash hit of the decade.

Five years from now maybe you'll find me lurking in the parking lot of the SUDOKU theme park, looking up at the bright lights and *sighing*.