Saturday, September 7, 2013

R for Life

So finally, we come to the end of this blog tag. Initially, when I decided to take up this theme for the blog, I was a bit skeptical about the sort of 'image' that would be conveyed. But something told me to go ahead, nonetheless. And I did.

I've had some people leave out comments, and a many more appreciating my efforts to write about this topic, both within the Chennai Bloggers group, and outside it on Facebook. The best feedback (appreciation is more like it) I received was from this one person from Bangalore, who just messaged me on Facebook ten minutes before I started this post. I dedicate this finale to you. Here's what he had to say:

"Dear Mr. Prashanth, I just want to thank you for your effort to sensitize such an important issue, so boldly on your blog. I know I may not speak for a lot of people, but just for myself. I just want to say that your posts have been very informative and yesterday's post was particularly thought provoking. I am a 35 year old gay man in a very good position, who hasn't been married, nor am I out to my parents (who, by the way, are 65+, so it is just too much effort to make them realize this). I sometimes wonder how difficult it is for the younger gay men of these days to talk about their sexuality so openly. After much thinking, I believe that it is the support of people like you who are around them, who are so accepting. I tried to leave an anonymous comment on your blog, but I guess you have turned that off. After much thinking, I decided to take a chance and send you this message from my own Facebook account, in the hope that you appreciate discretion"

To you, sir, I have just this to say - Thank You for the kind words; it means a lot.

The color R symbolizes life.

On the hopeful note that the world becomes a better place to live in,

-Prashanth Ashok

Friday, September 6, 2013

O for healing

From childhood, we are taught to love. Love thy neighbors, love your parents, love your friends, your family, your pets; well what not? Going by that simple reasoning, we all hope to love. And most certainly, be loved. Marriages are merely a ceremony that, in some sense, officiates this love between two individuals.Why should one be denied the chance to love someone who they think could be 'the one'? Why put a tag on this and say it is against nature?

Things may well have been so way back in history. So be it. But times have changed, haven't they? Cultures have evolved; societies have evolved; humans have evolved - so why not evolve our magnanimity? A mere acceptance of 'so called deviation from what has been deemed normal' - I do understand that it is hard. True, it really is.  But a trial wouldn't hurt, would it?

Every individual, man or woman, certainly has the right to choose whom he/she wants to love, make love to, spend time with, spend a life with. Indeed, as a human, that's perhaps the most fundamental right any person is entitled to. If a man wants to be with another man, that's his personal preference. If a woman wants to say 'I do' to another woman, that is her individual choice. If a person so believes that his 'given gender' isn't really what it is, that is his/her belief.

I believe that the confrontation arises when individuals want to deviate from what has been taught to be normal; what has been said is right. Again, who are we to deny them this 'deviation'? Who really bestowed this 'I have the right to reject' notion? If that is the case, the other person well has the 'right to reject your rejection' - well that's a chain, much like Rachel and Phoebe asking Joey if Monica and Chandler 'know that we know they know we know' (I had to bring in atleast one F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference). Again, even in F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Carol and Susanne were a lesbian couple after all, and the six of them seemed totally ok with it.

One may go on to argue that we, as a society, have a lot more to worry about, a lot to care about and acceptance of homosexuality is perhaps not so important. Maybe. But, just think about it. All these minorities ask is a small step towards a bigger good. Is that so hard? Don't we, the society, owe it to our fellow humans this small step? A step to be more inclusive, where one can, quite simply, love who they want?

Think about it.

The color O portrays healing

Thursday, September 5, 2013

BGY for Magic; Nature; Sunlight

My most sincere apologies for not being able to post for the last two days, and a bigger apology for having to combine three posts into one. Work and studies have taken a serious toll the past few weeks and its been very hard to write. Yet, a commitment is a commitment. Ergo ...

The topic of marriage has always been a hell lot tricky. People have, for quite a while now, been trying to break free of caste/religion based shackles that constrict marriages across these boundaries. We have seen a lot of extreme cases, sometimes with the Khap Panchayats, fatwas and what not?! It certainly is a challenge for a lot of us to look beyond these limitations to truly have a matrimony with the person we love. That said, this challenge is a lot more Herculean when it comes to the union of two people of the same sex.

The first few years of the 21st century perhaps formed a significant phase in the recognition of marriage equality between people of the same sex. More than a dozen countries in the world today recognize same-sex marriages, the most significantly recent perhaps being New Zealand. In addition, a lot of countries recognize civil unions. And then there are countries that have a strict "Oh My God, no no, its a sin" attitude.

Ancient Chinese and Roman historical records mention male relationships.Medieval history has it that a Spanish church performed a same sex marriage between two men way back in 1061. In contemporary times, Denmark perhaps is the first country that recognized a legal relationship for same sex couples, back in 1989. Netherlands, in 2001, became the first country ever to give legal validity to same sex marriages. South Africa, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, Sweden, Norway are a few other countries that recognize same sex marriages by law. Mexico is perhaps one of the few countries that legalized adoption by same sex couples. The United Kingdom recognizes civil unions, but not marriages. And then there's Obama, who has been generally very supportive of this cause.

India is one of the many countries where discussing sexuality itself is considered a taboo. Well, discussing sex is looked down upon, let alone sexuality. However, a significant step was taken back in 2009 when the Delhi High Court read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes "sexual activity against the order of nature". This is largely perceived as a big milestone for the LGBT community's fight towards equality.

Recent years have seen a rise in the number of activists and support groups in India that patronize the cause for equality. Pride parades have been up and about in many Indian cities including our very own Chennai. There are a lot of NGOs and support groups that organize these Pride parades and like any event typically Indian, the parades are celebrated with much pomp and show; not to mention the colors and high spirits.

There is no doubt that India has a long way to go before it can even think about legalizing same sex marriages, let alone take any step towards it. That said, I do believe that in a way, this sometimes seems logical as well. A country that has a deep sense of cultural attachment; a country where emotions run deep and pounce hard; a society which has its own troubles to fathom; a community that still is fighting hard to provide respect for its citizens irrespective of caste, religion and color; a place that still strives to provide for security to both women and men; discussion of homosexuality is something way out of its league. Yet, positive strides are being achieved towards this, and things would take their own sweet time. But hope is what we as humans in general, and Indians in specific have in abundance. The country sure has a long way to go in this direction, but it will.

Blue symbolizes Magic (something that is in dire need in India)
Green stands for Nature (whose "definition", sometimes seems very flawed)
Yellow portrays Sunlight (brightness, if you can think)

Monday, September 2, 2013

I for Harmony

Resuming the CBC VIBGYOR tag after the spirited post here,

The Stonewall riots of '69 were perhaps the biggest inspiration to the whole Pride movement across the world. Following a raid by policemen on the Stonewall Inn in New York, members of the gay community resorted to violent demonstrations. Faced with discrimination even prior to that, all that was needed was a spark, to trigger a massive movement against what was considered 'unjust'.

Originally a restaurant-cum-night club for the heterosexual people, 1966 marked the year when the inn was converted to a gay bar. It did not have any license to sell liquor, but policemen were 'paid off' once a week. Patrons were required to sign their names after a bouncer 'verified' them through a peep hole.

On June 28 1969, a few policemen had entered the bar undercover to gather evidence, and in the wee hours of the morning, the place was fully surrounded by policemen who 'took' the place under seizure. By the time police wagons arrived to take custody of all the patrons arrested, the numbers had swelled outside the bar and there was a lot of commotion. Slowly, the commotion gave way to protests by the arrested people, many of whom were trying to escape or defy the police action. Later, the police were kept inside the bar, only to be rescued by another backup team. By then, emotions were running high. Slowly, the crowds cleared. But the next day, the riots began again, this time supported by tourists, bystanders and the like. The Christopher Park(image below) nearby became base camp.

The aftermath of the Stonewall riots saw the formation of many LGBT support groups and alliances including the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance. The first ever Pride March in US history took place at the same Christopher park exactly a year after the Stonewall incident. Also, pride marches took place in Los Angeles and Chicago.

It must be said that the riots, though very sad in nature, served to inspire a lot of people to take up this activism world wide. Our own country too has had its share of activism with cities including Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi taking up the pride march each year where people "celebrate" who they are. Isn't that what life is all about - To be who you are?

The color Indigo signifies HARMONY

Sunday, September 1, 2013

V for Spirit

This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club’s CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to the 7th of September.

When the idea was put forth on CBC, I wanted to write up something that I firmly believe in - the freedom to be yourself, no matter what !! Letting the mind wander, I settled on the most obvious choice - the Rainbow flag for the LGBT movement. A firm believer in equality, I am of the opinion sexuality is one's personal choice, not something to be judged by others.

I intend to use this blog tag to give some insight into the Pride movement, hoping to raise some awareness among all of us.


Originally flown for the first time at the San Fransisco pride movement in 1978, the flag has undergone a lot of changes over time, mainly due to the non-availability of a few of the colored fabric. The San Fransisco gay community adopted the rainbow flag with much fanfare, particularly in the wake of the assassination of the openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk (remember the movie Milk?) Thirty volunteers actually hand dyed and stitched the flag for the San Fransisco pride movement.

Although the original flag consisted of 8 colors (the VIBGYOR plus pink), the color pink was dropped later, mainly due to its non-availability for mass production. Over the years, the rainbow flag has become the symbol for the pride movement all over the world. Each year, many cities across the world (and our very own Indian cities as well) celebrate the Pride March with much fanfare and gala. At each of these parades, the rainbow flag forms a very important element.

The color violet signifies SPIRIT.


Monday, August 26, 2013

What's in a spelling

Inspired by Bragadeesh's post here about the troubles his name gave him, here I am, sharing my (mis)experiences with how my name is spelt.

PRASHANTH - Its as simple as that. 9 characters that's all. Nothing more, nothing less.

But over the years, how has my name transformed? Here goes:

Prasanth (most common)
Prasand (seriously? D?)
Prasath (Oh dear God !!)
Prashant (how much trouble is it to add a H in the end?)
Prasant (yeah, now take away that one H as well)
Prasad (how? Seriously, how?)
Prasan (does that even make sense?)
Prason (yeah, this is heights !!)
Prashan (ah, that's one H back)

Thankfully, my last name is a lot more common, so it has just one variance - Asok (again, the H is left out). I have just one question. What do you have against H? Is it too difficult to even type?

The irony here is, people pronounce it properly. The 'Sh' doesn't become 'S' when pronouncing. Then, why miss out when writing? What did the H do to gain so much of wrath? Poor H !

Please don't leave the H out. That's only my favorite letter of my name.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A-Z Singapore : I for Istana

Istana is the official residence of the President of Singapore; well the Rashtrapathi Bhawan equivalent of the country.


Located along the ever busy Orchard Road (the shopping capital of Singapore), Istana is wholly surrounded by beautiful gardens and a lush green surrounding.

Although it is the ceremonial residence of the President, no President has ever lived there. It is mostly used for state functions, to receive visiting dignitaries and also houses the offices of the Prime Minister and his cabinet.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - H for Haze

This is perhaps the most apt entry for this post, something live, something concurrent

Every year, around the dry season (June - October), farmlands in neighbouring Indonesia are burnt down to pave way for palm oil planting. Around this time, the farmers practice the traditional slash and burn way of clearing the farmlands and this causes a rise in pollution levels in Singapore

Over the past few days, the whole of Singapore has been covered in smog and last two days since, it has risen to intolerable, like there's a mass Ganapathi Homam going on, as someone joked

All around, you can see people sporting swanky masks, with fancy names like N95 and so on, that I really got to wondering if this was the case when SARS hit the island big time ten years back.Almost every person on the streets has been wearing one and when you don't wear one, you feel a little out of place. No, seriously

While diplomatic tensions between both countries has escalated and some sort of a blame game is being played, the lovely Singaporeans go out of their way to help one another, distributing free masks being one of the many ways

The Pollution Index soared up to its highest ever (401) yesterday, with that being categorized as hazardous to live in, if sustained. But thankfully, it has been coming down and right now, as I am typing this, everything seems clear outside.

Lets hope the problem doesn't last long

Friday, June 14, 2013

CBC : Six Word Memoir

The following is a part of Chennai Bloggers Club Six word memoir tag where one runs a quick rewind on his/her life and comes up with a simple yet totipotent sentence having just six words that reflects on his/her journey

After much deliberation, I come up with this, something that I firmly believe in.

A choosy pessimist with perennial optimism

I thank Sriram Acharya for passing the baton on to me. Sriram blogs here and calls himself a "A Son, a brother, a friend, a HR professional , a science aficionado. In their respective order of importance !"

I now pass on the journey to dear friend Vid who blogs here. Vid is an amazing singer, I vouch for that. In fact, her dad is a great singer too. You should definitely hear her sing classical music. What a mesmerizing voice the girl has. I also like her blog's theme and design. She calls it the Pensieve, I am sure she was inspired by Dumbledore using it. But why don't you check out for yourself?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

55 fiction - The One Night Stand

Two bodies became one, entwined. As we passionately made love, the whole night seemed eternal. Positions interchanged, over and over again. We never seemed to wear out. Six months apart can do wonders. One final time, we came together. For, he had to go away again. "Happy birthday, love", he said, drifting off to sleep.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - G for Geylang

When I decided to take up the A-Z, I knew what I was going to write up for G. The choice was pretty obvious. G for Geylang - the red light district of Singapore.

Initially built on reclaimed land to build a commercial airport during the British days, Geylang has seen much transformation since. Current day Geylang road has been built in a strategic manner. The main road is divided into North and South sections (called Lorong, in Malay). The beauty of this road is it retains the colonial style buildings, cramped one right next to another
While during the day time, Geylang looks like any other place, with people carrying on with their usual day jobs, come night (more specifically post 10 PM), the area completely transforms itself to what some may term paradise.

Although prostitution is legal, related activities including public solicitation are not. Various spas and massage centres do exist, that cater to various needs.

That said, people here sure do know how to enjoy life - something we really must learn from Singaporeans, how exactly to enjoy

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - F for Flyer

So, Singapore wanted its own EYE. Much like London. Some even say the island wanted to compete with Britain. Thus came about the Singapore Flyer.


So this gigantic wheel is located along the Singapore river, overlooking most of the traditional tourist places of Singapore - like the famous Marina Bay Sands, Gardens By the Bay etc.

Airconditioned capsules that rotate as slow as an ant can accomodate close to 30 people and an entire round takes about 40 minutes. The idea is, as your capsule rotates, you get different views of Singapore, but since it rotates very slowly, that isn't always the case. Although, I must admit that it is definitely a feast for real photographers and self-proclaimed ones as well.


One must definitely get to see the Flyer at night. Towering over the skyline, the blue lights of the flyer are a visual treat and makes you wonder how brilliant these Singaporeans are, with construction. 

What's interesting is one of these capsules has a small make-shift restaurant which can be used for "romantic dates", as a friend puts. I haven't had the chance to go on such a date, but if I do, I would definitely share my experience.

Until then !!

-Prashanth Ashok

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Modern Healthcare - touching lives

Over the last two decades, the healthcare industry has undergone radical transformations. Just like any other field, medicine has been no exception to adapting to technological drive. Indeed, the usage of technology for medicinal purposes has just risen manifold. The latest addition perhaps is open-source medicine where open source software tools are used in hospitals and labs. While it is no surprise that the US and Europe are leading this race, Asian countries - particularly countries like India, Singapore and China are catching up pretty fast. Of course, for these countries, it is only natural to be part of the race, considering their stronghold on Information Technology and its services. Apollo Hospitals in India certainly is one of the pioneers to tackle complex medical problems with the effective use of IT. 

My post on this topic comes out of personal experience. Five years ago, I visited Germany as part of an internship program. I worked in a biomedical research company there, where I was part of a team that developed an application to detect the presence of cancer. So, this lab treats cervical cancer among women. Until then, tissues and samples were processed onto a microscope and analyzed manually by experts. Needless to say, this was prone to human error. The lab, thus decided to automate the whole process.

So, the idea was to take these slides, digitize them by transferring onto the computer. These cell images would then be subject to various image processing algorithms. On level one, all background information would be removed, leaving only the actual cells. On level two, cell borders would be identified. Moving further, a split algorithm would be applied to try and separate individual bunch of cells. After this, a watershed segmentation would be applied to separate individual cells among a bunch. This is very tricky, since no part of the cell image (that being actual samples from the body) should not be lost, as this would then prove to be utterly pointless to analyze. The last level is sending these processed images to a system that uses Neural network and Artificial Intelligence techniques to actually detect the presence of cancer.

I was involved in the first four phases of the project, the most critical ones. This involved a lot of research on the Internet about both Mathematical/computer related algorithms as well as biological concepts. Now, that proved quite difficult, but was informative nonetheless. More than anything, it made me realize the actual potential of such a vital aspect of medicine.

What I have explained above is merely one particular idea being explored. Tons and tons of such research is being carried on worldwide even as I type. Scientists and technologists are working in parallel to expand the reach of IT into medicine to ensure effective treatment. This gains prominence in the wake of the emerging medical tourism industries.

The purpose of healthcare is quite simply to ensure everyone's wellbeing. Gone are days when primitive or not-so-developed facilities actually resulted in lack of healthcare welfare for the needy. I personally have experienced losing a really close family member due to non-availability of the right treatment. I have also heard of successful treatments which have saved a person's life. Critiques always argue about the demerits of the use of technology. However, breakthroughs are proving them wrong. Everyday, we read of success stories about how a patient's life was saved due to timely use of technological expertise. Such stories are always heartening, at the same time, putting faith in the use of technology in the healthcare industry.

The journey traversed is fairly small, the path sure has been difficult, but the journey ahead is going to be a lot more challenging and the path all the more difficult. Yet, the final goal is crystal clear. On that note, I would like to reaffirm my firm belief that modern day healthcare, with the usage of technology, would go a long way in enriching and enhancing the lives of people

- Prashanth

(This post is written as part of contest titled How does Modern Healthcare touch lives organized jointly by Apollo Hospitals and Indiblogger.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - E for East Coast Park

Located at eastern end of Singapore, the East Coast Park (or ECP) is a must-visit place in Singapore. A beach park built completely on reclaimed land, ECP serves as one of the "natural" wonders of Singapore.


The largest park in Singapore, it also has a man-made beach where it is possible to swim (not that we cannot in the natural one, of course). On one side runs the ECP expressway that connects to the city. It perhaps is the most ideal place to enjoy a quiet evening all by yourself, or for family picnics.

Numerous barbeque pits adorn the place all along its length (which is really huge). Considering that ECP is open round the clock round the year, many groups take refuge in these pits on weekend nights and drink all night long. I personally have done so with a group of friends where we drank till about 6 AM the following morning. The best thing is, many benches and shelters are found close to each pit that once you are sloshed, you can go flat on these; wake up the next morning and try to get the hangover off with sea water and head back home.

Cycle tracks can also be found, and it is possible to rent cycle on a per-hour or per-day basis. The tracks run for more than atleast 5-8 kilometers in length.

The ideal place to spend time with friends or family, ECP sure serves its purpose of bonding people together. And the view from the park is just absolutely breathtaking.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - D for Duxton Hill

Duxton Hill in Singapore has a long history. Going way back to the 1800s as a nutmeg plantation, it has undergone much transformation to right now consisting of colonial style buildings and some sleazy bars.

Duxton Hill
Popular among the rickshaw pullers back in the colonial times owing to its proximity to the rickshaw station, Duxton hill later transformed itself to an opium trading and gambling hub. Duxton Road, one of the few roads that have been built on the hill housed several cheap brothels

I personally have walked on Duxton Road every single day for about a month, when I was interning with a startup. Looking at the picture in B&W above, I realize that not a single building has changed along this road. Only the cars have.

Today, Duxton Hill & Duxton Road serve as home to a few commercial establishments and a fairly few number of sleazy bars as well. Atleast, that's what it looks like from the outside. What I really like about this place though, is that when you walk along it in the evenings and let your mind wander, you tend to get back to the colonial days and imagine which rickshaw puller would have parked his rickshaw here; which gang fight took place here etc.

Personally, I'd recommend this place to any visitor to Singapore, apart from the usual places of visit.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - C for Clarke Quay

The very sound of this place gives me such joy. A historic river side quay, CQ is a drinking paradise. Located along one of Singapore's rivers (that's a given, since it is a river side quay), CQ is home to scores of pubs and bars, some sleazy and some really worth the money.

So basically, you have the river in the middle and on either side, it is paradise. On one side is Clarke Quay, the main hub of alcoholic commerce and on the other side is River Side Point, where my favorite pub is located - Harrys ! And this whole place is an absolute eye-candy for both sexes. Everywhere you turn, one is bound to say 'Holy cow'. Just sitting along the riverside and staring at the people walk by gives such pleasure.

Depending on how much money we have, if we are rich enough, we head to Harrys. Their premium beer is the most amazing drink ever - brewed to perfection indeed. If we aren't so rich, we purchase a couple of tins of beer from the 7-11 nearby and sit by the riverside and drink our way out. That's the beauty of Clarke Quay - sitting on the footsteps of the riverside and make all the noise you want, do anything you please but as long as you are aware of the limits. You don't disturb anyone; no one else disturbs you. Not even the police, no. Sipping on a bottle of Long Island Tea by the river side is sometimes the best.

The bridge @ Clarke Quay is again an amazing spot. Weekend nights, the bridge would be full (not just by numbers). Friends, colleagues, partners, well just about anyone would be on the bridge, drinking away all night long. Sometimes, late in the night around 3 you can actually see people sloshed up and crashing on the bridge, too inebriated to even take a cab back home.
Overall, if you have sufficient money, and a great passion to get drunk, CQ is the place to be. How many of you are coming down here to visit CQ?


Thursday, May 9, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - B for Bugis

Bugis - one of the places in Singapore that never sleeps. No, I mean literally.

Bugis has a very long and dark history associated with it. Many years back, Bugis served as the red light district of Singapore where anything and everything was possible. Although, it is widely said to be flooded with people today referred to as "trans-women". Bugis also founded the city's "pub" tradition, which in fact goes way back to the 60s. Back in its days of "glory", the streets of Bugis attracted many a Caucasian men who had never witnessed "Asia" in its true spirit and color.

Ironically, this contributed majorly to the country's tourism economy and the whole area flourished in all grandeur.

And then, things slowly changed and Bugis became one of the commercial hubs of Singapore. Of particular significance is the Bugis street, which is one of the largest and busiest shopping locations in Singapore.
Much like our very own Burma Bazaar and China Bazaar, you can get almost everything imaginable and bargain your brains out. As for quality, well it sure isn't the best, but it is not bad as well, as long as you know what to buy.
On the other side of Bugis Street is the Bugis Junction Shopping Mall. One of the largest in Singapore, it is another shoppers paradise. The food court sure is one of the biggest, and smelliest ones I have seen in Singapore. But walking around the food court is surely a wonderful experience.

Alas, when I went yesterday, I wanted to take some snaps, but that is exactly when my phone decided to die down. But sure enough, I'd visit another day and make up for it.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - A for AYE

Inspired by all the people who took up the recent A-Z blogging marathon, I decide to give it a shot too. Sadly, I couldn't take part in the marathon due to exams. But the whole purpose is to boost the spirit of blogging. So, anytime is good time.

AYE - Ayer Rajah Expressway

Most cities in the world owes its very existence, very survival to a landmark tourist place. Be it the Queen's Palace in London, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But Singapore is known for its uniqueness. The very survival of Singapore runs fairly long. It owes much of its daily life to the Ayer Rajah Expressway; or better known as AYE.

Singapore is supported by a few major expressways such as:
1. Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE)
2. Pan Island Expressway (PIE)
3. Central Expressway (CTE)
4. Kallang - Payalebar Expressway (KPE)
5. East Coast Parkway (ECP)

Of all these, one that is most extensively used is the AYE. During peak hours, the expressway gets clogged up with cars of different sizes, shapes and stature. You could find an Audi rarely a Chrysler zooming across, and you can also find a Chevrolet Spark, petitely driving by.

AYE has around 25 plus exits, each connecting different parts of the city. The logic being, you can get on to AYE from any part of the city within five minutes and drive along till you want to get to another part. Something like our Ring Roads, but only its a lot more sophisticated in its setup.

During peak hours, drivers are charged extra for the usage of AYE. This is to promote the use of public transport. Yet, affluent Singaporeans are ready to bear extra expenses, to the tune that during peak hours, there is a huge traffic jam on the expressway, only it is very orderly.
 All said, AYE sure serves as the lifeline of Singapore.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Miracle or coincidence?

Remember those times when you 'hope' for something knowing fully well the chances of it happening are very rare? Like if your music player is on shuffle mode and suddenly you are reminded of a song, but lazy to scroll down to it and out of nowhere that song plays? Well, is that a miracle? A coincidence? I believe there is a thin line between the two and one can never see the difference.

To most people, once is a coincidence, twice is somewhat of a coincidence, but beyond a point, it is more of a miracle. Of course, these numbers are absolutely relative

Our heritage is just jam-packed with such ambiguities. What might seem to be a coincidence might turn to be realized as a miracle much later. Imagine this. I am going to quote two incidents from my own life.

The first one happened sometime around seven years back. Dad, mom and myself were on the way from Chennai to Trichy to attend the SASTRA counselling. That was also the time when I was waiting for results from PSG Tech as well, and I was really hoping to get there instead of SASTRA. But it seemed difficult. Legend has it that when you cross the Cauvery bridge between Srirangam and Trichy, you drop a coin into the river praying for something and it is bound to happen. So, the train crosses this bridge and dad asks me to drop a coin. I did. And trust me, moment the train crossed the bridge, I get a call from PSG asking me to appear for an interview with their admissions office. Miracle? Coincidence?
The second one happened a few weeks back. I was really clueless about my intern options and one particular week, was extremely dejected. So, I decided to visit a mandir which I used to go to regularly till end of last year (somehow, couldn't go for around four months). I go to the temple, sit and just keep calm for a while. Some fifteen minutes later, I had calmed down, so I left and took a cab back home. Two minutes into the cab, I get a call from one of the companies I applied to, asking me if I was available for interview the following day. Again, miracle? Coincidence?

Honestly, I find it very hard to separate the two, or point out at either of them. Perhaps, few years back, I would have called it coincidence, but now, I may not be so sure to call it one. Yet, I don't completely agree that it is a miracle. Like I said, there is a wafer thin difference between the two, and try as one may, it is hard to tell the two apart.

Yet, fact remains that some incidents in our lives are certainly way beyond our control and are destined to be so. The way universe operates in this aspect is really hard and complex, we cannot even think of trying to comprehend, let alone accept. The only thing we can accept is how events unfold and play along with forces beyond us.

What's your take on this?


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Netherlands -> Singapore - a tulip journey

So, last Wednesday, I wanted to celebrate. Well, I had just completed my exams (or hoping I clear each of them, to be precise) and wanted to rejoice after all the hard work. And a friend of mine wanted to go to Gardens by the Bay, one of Singapore's prime tourist attractions. His mother was to return to Chennai a few days later and he wanted to take her there. I was glad to say ok.

After reaching the Gardens, I was in for a happy surprise. Remember that old Hindi song Dekha Ek Khwaab where the erstwhile Bollywood heartthrob Rekha used to run along some Tulip Gardens? Or our very Sada dancing away to Vikram's Kumari? The tulip gardens of Netherlands? Well, the tulips were here, right in tropical Singapore.

 KLM, the official airline of Netherlands transports around 2000 kg of tulip buds each year across the globe for such garden shows in different countries. How can Singapore alone be left behind? The island is well known for going out of its way to bring in things that are not naturally available. And that is just what they did. Bring the tulips of Netherlands to the Gardens of Singapore.

And the whole setup was too huge, truly spectacular. Anyone out there in the gardens is bound to become a romantic, atleast for a while. I sure did. What was even more beautiful was, each tulip variety was accompanied by a fact about the world famous tulip mania of Netherlands. What I am going to do is, put up a picture with each fact I can recollect, in no particular order

1. Back in the Ottoman Empire times, tulips were extremely expensive for ordinary people to afford. Slowly, it thus became a symbol of perfect love where a Turkish boy would save up enough to purchase a red flamed tulip for the girl he loved
2. Tulips of different colors carry different meanings. e.g. Red - true love, pink - affection and care, orange - energy and enthusiasm, purple - royalty and wealth etc.
3. Tulips come in a vibrant variety of colors like red, yellow, purple etc., but never in blue

4. The months of April - May are the most ideal for flowering
5. Tulip is the national flower of Turkey
6. There are almost 3000 varieties of tulips, each with a different name. That's 3000 different names
7. Tulips generally have around 2-4 leaves only. Some rare species have upto 12
8. Most tulips have a life span of 3-7 days only
9. Tulips are best grown in climates having a long, cool spring and early summer
 10. Though Netherlands is the largest cultivator of tulips, the origins are traced back to Central Asia.

11. Tulip means turban in the Turkish language

 12. Certain varieties of tulips have medicinal value

So, how was your journey?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Of Mavadu among others

I am a die hard fanatic of Mavadu pickle. The slightly sour, but much spicy pickle that is a delicacy among most TamBrahms, is something to crave for, big time. And I always do.

Src : Mavadu
I vividly recall my grandmother meticulously making a jar full of mavadu each year just so that I am happy. Back when she used to walk around much more, the two of us would go to the shop, handpick the raw mavadu, go to supermarkets nearby to buy the other ingredients just for this, even though everything would already be at home. But no, mavadu is always special. Once back home, she would set to work, and make the pickle with such dedication that I cannot remember a single time when it went even a bit out of taste. No, it was just perfection each year. We would always ensure that the stock lasts for atleast a good six months. The six month period is mainly so that we build up our craving over the other six months.

Src : Mavadu
The taste - well, it cannot be explained at all. Curd rice and mavadu - the combo is the best and nothing can match upto it (maybe curd rice and mangoes to an extent, but not much of a competition). The beauty of it is when you take the very first bite and a sensation just hits you right in the brain momentarily. The feeling is just absolute bliss. One has to experience it first hand to understand what it feels like

Why do I write so much about mavadu, you may wonder. Well, grandmom has just sent an entire jar of tasty delicious mavadu here to Singapore. So, well, you know the rest right?