Monday, January 09, 2017

Day 320: Munchkin Monday : Little Claire and her adorable voice

The coming week starting today until Sunday will be a series of special posts. The days of the week will have a prefix of my choice and that will lay the theme or plot for the post. So, today is Munchkin Monday. Why munchkin? Well, I love little kids and babies and this is an informal term for them.

Today's post is about a little munchkin I saw online. She is an internet star and is around 3-4 years of age. She performs and sings Disney songs with her dad and they are adorable.

Their YouTube channel is called Claire and the Crosbys and the subscription list and likes they recieve with every post is a proof of her adorability. I see a succesful and talented singer in her and I am sure she might also be good for voice overs- especially the animated movies.

Here is one the videos that I saw and loved. It is a song from Tangled. It amazes me to see how a three year old has learnt her lines and has rendered it so beautifully. Pitch is one of the most important trait for a good singer. At 3, she is perfect. Pitch-perfect.

Note: Video is copyrighted to the channel- Claire and the Crosbys. This blog nor the author has any authority or rights over this video. Please offer the due credits for this channel if you happen to share and spread the video. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Day 319: Christmas Colt

Picture Courtesy: Google Images
I know I have discussed my reading saga on this blog many a number of times. However, I am not sure if I have ever mentioned about one of the first children's books that sowed the seeds of becoming a writer (It is still a dream). This book is also the reason for my love for horses. Well, otherwise, I had never been near one while back home in India. The book is called, 'Christmas Colt' by Mallory Stevens. I must have been 13 when I read that book. I am grateful for my parents to have taken both my brother and me to a library during our younger days as none of the schools I studied ever had a good collection and nor did they encourage children to use it well. Even though the book is for young children up to 12 or maybe a 13 year (at max), I think most of us would enjoy it even as an adult (at least for a one time read). 

The book is about a little girl called Chrissie and her dear horse. It had the magical charm of christmas and as a child I was transported to the stable and snow capped mountain place (at least that is what I remember). I still remember how I became Chrissie as I read the book. The book's name also brings back the memories of the small but wonderful lending library, the moments when I tried to evade my mom's hawk vision and secretly read the library books instead of the boring school text books. I remember scribbling down somehwere that I should also write such books, own a horse like Chrissie, own a ranch style house and of course be able to read many more books! The reason I discuss this book here (though I have forgotten a lot of the parts from the book) is because I think sometimes a wonderful book can change our life, sow seeds for bigger dreams, and even make us a better person. 

So here is to reading and the joy of printed letters and strokes of colors. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Day 318: Some ramblings on social comparison and gratitude

Picture Courtesy: Google Images
Can I ever be you? I don't think so. I am a different person and so are you. So is each one of us. We are all running our own race, a few of us are running marathons, a few of us are walking at our own pace, a few hopping all around with no strings attached. Some of us are attached to our family and will run with them on our mind and for a few others, it is a lonely walk and whatever we decide we do as we tread.

However, we try to stop and pause as we meet others who are on this journey. We weigh in ourselves with others to determine our strength and personal worth. It could be on attractiveness, financial status, professional or educational growth, status in society, friends, family, intelligence and so on. This in psychology is understood as social comparison.

From a very young age, we develop as irrational beings and the size of someone else's pie or toy will make us feel that we are left with nothing in this world. These ought to change as we grow and mature but does it? Not really. The only thing that changes is the toy or the pie but the rest of the feeling remains strongly ingrained and it lights up when we are facing a crisis. In fact,  in some cases, this itself will be the reason for pressure.

In due course of time, as we keep comparing ourselves and weighing our worth, we can progress to the next zone which is green and that is envy. Envy over time is corrosive and can stress us, create hatred, eat away the goodness within us and even provoke revenge against the person or people we feel this emotion.

That is why it is essential we practice the art of gratitude from a very young age. I even feel that prayers were kind of a way to teach us how to be thankful for what we have and yet strive to earn and learn more than what we have. In the past (which was long ago), we had very limited access to someone else's life, unlike today. We met our friends at school, met our extended family at festivals or vacation, and so on. However, with a pervasive social media, we are watching everything (depending on who shares and a majority do) every day. People forget that social media is a set stage and people only share (mostly) the good and golden memories that they want to cherish. This is totally good and fine as that is the healthiest way to look back at our past. However, watching our friends and acquaintances thrive and flourish usually helps prove the social comparison theory of upward comparison. This is when a feeling of being low and less valuable happens. Of course, for a few who are sick due to health and other issues, these can be easy triggers even if they don't tend to do it.

Now, coming back to where I began, we need to remember we are running our own marathons or races. All we can and must do is work hard to fight off the hurdles and choose our trail or create one.
Practice gratitude and give thanks for the many blessings in life.

So, here I sign off with many thanks for the wonderful life I have even among the hurdles and setbacks that I face today. I promise myself that I will fight the demon in my mind if and when it pops out. Hopefully, it doesn't. Let us always find our happy place!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Day 317: 50 years of golden music

Picture Courtesy: Google Images
When I first got a chance to listen to A.R.Rahman, I was probably a 9 or 10 year old back home in Trivandrum. The lack of options at home to stumble upon cinema music was compensated by the set of friends in the neighborhood who owned walkman and stereos that played new music. The very first song that both my brother and I got to listen was the one from 'Kadhalan'- mukkala mukkabla laila, oh oh laila ! At that age, all I understood was 'Jurassic Park' as that was a movie that was popular among everybody during that period. It was one of my first and only exposure to Hollywood movie for a very long time. The song stayed with us even as we did not get to listen to it often. Then on a random day we stumbled on to songs from Roja on television. We usually never watched much of television and on a rare holiday occasion, Roja music was played because of it's National Awards. I surely felt very celestial listening to the songs and I am sure he stayed on my mind from then on. Being a little nomadic in our earlier days, we moved from Kerala to it's closest neighbor- Tamil Nadu. While in Coimbatore we got to stay next door to music loving neighbors. They cared less about what others felt or liked and played their our music day and night. Err.. probably that's a stretch, evening would be better. They owned stereos of good quality and good sound speaker sets that their music was audible at least two to three houses away on either side of their stretch. It was both a pain and a pleasure. A pain when we had to do our homework or study for exams and a pleasure as we got to listen to every song possible without having to spend money on cassettes. That was the time when Kamal Hassan's "Indian" got released. So, the songs from that movie was on a roll for a very long time, especially, 'Akandan thadangu'.. I never understood the meaning of the lyrics and do not even now. However, that magical music and mesmerizing voice of Swarnalatha still rings in my ears.

From then on, I have remained a loyal Rahman fan and I think that both Raja sir and Rahman created magic in different styles, they were able to weave and hold their fort with ease. Today happens to be his 50th birthday and when I look back at the songs, I think it would be super hard for me to pick and choose the ones that are my favorite. However, I am going to attempt doing that and will just write down a list of the quick 50's here. It doesn't mean that I only love these 50 but these sure are on my mind today. I haven't looked up online or searched for my playlist, instead I am just writing the ones that I am humming as I think of the top 50. And this is in no particular order.

1. Pudhu vellai mazhai (Roja)
2. Vellai pookal (Kannathil muthamittal)
3. Hai rama ye kya hua (Rangeela)
4. Oh re chori oh re chori (Lagaan)
5. Hosanna Hosanna (VTV)
6. Shauk hai (Guru)
7. Padagali chandi (Yodha-the only malayalam ARR has ever composed)
8. Netru illadha matram (Pudhiya mugham)
9. Marghazi poove (May madham)
10. Uyirum neeye (Pavitra)
11. Kandukondein Kandukondein (same movie)
12. Malargal kettaen (OK Kanmani)
13. Paranthu sellava (OK Kanmani)
14. Vennilave Vennilave (Minsara kanavu)
15. Kabhi kabhi aditi (Jane tu.. ya ... Jane na)
17. Sinamika (OK Kanmani)
18. Poovukkul olindhirukkum (Jeans)
19. Minsara kanna (Padaiyappa)
20. Ennavale adi ennavale (Kadhalan)
21. Ishq bina kya (Taal)
22. Kune kune (Yodha)
23. Nila kaigarithu (Indira)
24. Theekuruvikku (Kangalal kaidhu)
25.Mehrabaan (Ada)
26. Arziyaan (Delhi-6)
27. Haji Ali piya Haji ali (Fiza)
28. Behne de (Raavan)
29. Kannukku mai azhagu (Pudhiya mugham)
30. Agar tum saath ho (Tamasha)
31. Guzaarish (Gajini)
32. Khwaja mere khwaja (Jodha Akbar)
33. Jashne Bahare (Jodha Akbar)
34. Barso re (Guru)
35. Newyork nagaram urangum (Sillunu oru kadhal)
36. Snehithane (Alaipayuthe)
37. Pachai nirame (Alaipayuthe)
38. Sandai kozhi/Dol Dol (yuva)
39. Tu bin bataye (Rang de basanti)
40. Khoon chala (Rang de basanti)
41. Chandralekha (Thiruda-Thiruda)
42. dheemi dheemi bataein (Zubeida)
43. Aye hairathe (Guru)
44. Munbe va en anbe va (Sillunnu oru kadhal)
45. Piya milengae (Ranjhnaa)
46. Khamoshiyan ghunghunane (One 2 ka 4)
47. Dekho na zara dheko na (Swades)
48. Aye sakhi uljan (Ranjhnaa)
49. Ae ajnabi (Dil se)
50. Ye jo des hai tera (Swades)

I know I haven't been able to cover the very recent ones as much but this was a hard list to pen down. Happy birthday once again to the Mozart and very humble music director and let there be more good music in this world. 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Day 316: Demonetization- who is bearing the pain?

Picture Courtesy: Google image

November 8, 2016 will be set as a phenomenal date in the history of the world. Too many things changed everywhere and sometimes these turning points will lead humanity to a new horizon. Ah, but don't ask me if it is for the best or the worst. In the United States, a businessman trumped the world by becoming the president elect of United States of America. While this was making waves all around the world and most countries especially India's national media had all their eyes and ears on to happenings here in the US, the Prime Minister decided to play a master stroke and took all by surprise. He decided to bring in a new 'change'- demonetization of two of the largest denominations of Indian currency. Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000  was nullified and that is almost 86% of Indian currency.

So, those who saved these notes in their piggy banks or inside their wallets or inside secret stashes at home had to find ways to get that changed. Most of India tries to keep cash in hand for emergencies and cards are more popular with the younger generation or urban folks. Initially this move was proposed as a means to curb black money and all those who had these money had only one place where they could use it- the banks. However, the banks did not have enough cash in hand to give back to those who came to withdraw and from then on there is no dearth to the serpentine queues in front of banks and ATMs.

It is not that this kind of move has never happened before. This did happen earlier for the very same motive- helping curb black money or hawala. In 1978 and 1946 when this happened they only voided the largest currency which was Rs. 10,000., Rs. 5000., and Rs. 1000. This time again the two of the highest removed are 500 and 1000. However, had this remained that way with only an introduction of 500 and lower denominations it would have been a better deal. Instead the government decided to introduce a Rs. 2000 note. The catch was that there was a limit on how much people could withdraw from the ATM, the bank per day, per week and so on.

This topic also took a U turn when the Prime Minister announced that he plans for India to go cashless and use digital money. Well, we don't know what he actually intended this move to do but he sure has no clue about how he has executed the plan. As of today, it is only the upper middle class folks who are moving through this chaos without much issue but the common man like a farmer, daily wage laborer and so on are struggling to keep his/her life together. As for the black money it is safe in some Swiss bank!

Here is my two cents worth on this topic. As much as I think the move was essential and probably might help a few (read A FEW) of the hoarders which is a part of the collateral damage, it is hard to even fathom the amount of printing new currency that will take to help settle this issue for the common man. Again I am all for introduction of digital and cashless transactions. This will surely tighten certain loopholes in businesses but the problem is that there is no infrastructure that will support the rural towns and cities. Even tier-II towns and cities have no infrastructure to support such a large project. Good intentions are always not that great enough ideas. Even if one's intention is good a better planning and execution is required for projects or changes of this scale. Perhaps this change issue will help in a long term plan of digital money in India but how much will change and how effective it will be can be answered only with time. Meanwhile the 'demon' in demonetization is playing games in the lives of a common man who is trying to save for his future and surely not having any ties to the Swiss banks. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Day 315 : What's on your bucket list?

Picture Courtesy: Google Images

Bucket List. A term that has become popular much after the famous movie with the same title in 2007. The term would have probably taken after the euphemism 'kick the bucket', which was again popularized in the movie, 'It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world'. The 2007 movie was a massive hit and how would it be not? It had Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in the lead. The term was meant to have a list of things you wish you can do before you leave this world.

It is like a goal list that can evolve as you grow and change perspectives in life. I used to have a wish list that worked as a to-do list mostly like a work list for short-term goals. However, off late, I have decided to make one and keep it as an ever evolving list.

The first one on my list as of now (that was from the past too) is to get my biggest degree in life. Hopefully I will tick that one off my list soon.

Do share your thoughts on your list and how do you plan on getting it all checked out.


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Day 314 : Swindlers !

Picture Courtesy: Google Images

A recent article in the NYT was a shocker. It is about the call center scamming of Americans. Big cities like Mumbai host a plenty of call centers and all these off shore outsourcing benefits countries like the US. A phone, a PC, insurance, baggage claims from airlines, etc., are all outsourced to such call centers. And when you pick the call, an Adam, Sandra, John who talks to us are actually, Prem, Sandhya, or Prakash from India. Just like companies with a good intent (that helps finding a lost baggage or insurance claim), there are many companies whose sole purpose is to scam in the name of Federal government. Taking the cue that US citizens have a great regard for its police and government and are petrified at the thought of being questioned by these officials, these scammers get their way to the bank accounts with just a few confusing information. Apparently, such companies have been able to swindle almost $300 million dollars from Americans. With the help of two whistleblowers, the FTC and FBI were able to bring down a couple of companies. Their tactics are simple- talk to the customer in a rough and firm tone, tell them that their offense will be questioned by the federal government, and the only way out is to transfer money or share the details for solving the issue. Once they know that the person at the other end of the line is shaken, they pull the bait to get hold of the account details. The story about how these companies swindled an immigrant's $17,000 is sad and shocking. That is, almost all of that lady's life savings.

Reading this article was a painful thing as the title read "India's call center talents put to criminal use". It was sad to see a title that used India in a wrong light. What has come down to. I know that these people do not represent the Indians around the world and in India. But when companies actually recruit and train employees for the sole purpose of scamming international citizens and that it goes unnoticed for a long time, I am lost.

From the comments written in this article it was clear that there are a lot of them who have had some experience - either their older parents or themselves. Ah well, I can only hope such things don't happen to people around me (and myself). Like they tell kids-don't talk to strangers, we probably ought not to trust the person on the other side of the telephone. Measured words, measured and short information, and disconnections are most important things to keep us off from such baits. God save us !