Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Movie Review - Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway

The new movie, out on Netflix, Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway touches on one aspect of Non Resident Indian (NRI) life. Here's a movie review posted by Sujatha (my better half):

A true compelling story about an immigrant mother’s struggle in a foreign land

Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway is a compelling story about an immigrant mother’s struggle to get her two small kids back from the Norwegian Child Welfare Services.

The leading character of Debika is depicted as a vulnerable wife and mom who faces domestic violence  and is blamed and labelled mentally unfit wife and a bad mother who is incompetent of taking care of her own children. The director has taken quite an artistic liberty in portraying the character. Cultural and ethnic differences create problems and play a huge part in the case against Debika. Rani Mukherjee has got into the skin of the character and has done justice to the role by bringing in true emotions and feelings that touches one deep and makes us question how could a whole organization run a racket of separating biological parents from their kids and put them for adoption just to make some money. It feels there is no value for human life. It also shows that a strong willed mother can fight the whole society or the government to get back her children like a lioness fighting for her cubs.

As an NRI wife who has lived and seen the challenges that a new bride faces in a new country I could empathize with Debika’s plight and how Rani vividly brought that to life.

I've been a big fan of Rani Mukherjee and love this character role. It is remarkable to see her transition to the role of a "mom" effortlessly. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Lessons on dealing with Cauvery water supply issue at home in Bengaluru

After moving back from the US a few years ago, my wife and I have been living in the house that my dad had built nearly three decades ago – after all, the house now belongs to me and is centrally located in a nice neighborhood in Bengaluru.  

During the years since we built the house, the neighborhood has transformed. Our house has enjoyed continuous water supply for decades since my parents moved in. Therefore, I was rather surprised to find water supply from the mains had become rather erratic during the past few weeks. 

Houses in urban India are designed with a large ‘sump’ to store water from civic supply, that is supplied alternative days along with an overhead water pump. We had the supply routine noted in our calendars, but for a week or so in early January our sump started running out of water. Water supply in urban Bengaluru is managed by BWSSB, colloquially known as ‘Cauvery water,’ since the water is pumped upstream from Cauvery River. 

I checked around with our neighbors and was told they didn’t face any issues. It was only our house that was facing issue with water supply, which felt rather strange. 

I decided to call the local BWSSB line-man Avinash, who came and inspected the meter and pipe coming from the mains. Local line-men are the first point of contact since they operate the ‘valves’ from water mains into residential neighborhoods. Avinash didn’t find have any issues or blockage that perplexed us further. He suggested that I lodge a written complain at the local BWSSB office that he would review with the area AE (Assistant Engineer).

The issue continued to persist for weeks and in the interim I had to call for a local water-tanker to come and supply water into our sump. 

The sump at home had been designed to store about 2-3000 liters of water, just sufficient for a couple of days for our family of four. In the meantime, I took to social media and began tweeting about the issue too. 
While the tweet generated a few likes, comments and re-tweets, it didn’t lead to action or a response from officials. During the weeks following, I also lodged a complain in BBMP’s complaint management system and also on Sahaaya 2.0 (Namma Bengaluru) city corporation’s complaint App. These systems simply generated a ticket number, but didn’t lead to any action. 

In the meantime, I continued to call the lineman every couple of days to see if there was a follow up. He came home with his supervisor who asked me to record the meager flow of water that we were receiving on my smartphone. I also got the phone number of the local AE and sent him a message with my issue along with the video of the water supply.

Lessons on dealing with BWSSB water supply issue

During the last weekend in January, I read about a ‘Water Adalat’ (complaint hearing) that the commissioner of BBMP was conducting that day between 9 an 11 AM. 

I called the hotline at 9 AM and found the line was busy but I persisted and continued to call the phone line every few minutes. I finally got through at about 10 AM. An official took down my Water supply account number, name and address and connected me to his superior. The officer heard my rather brief request and promised to send the local engineer to resolve our issue. 

About 2 hours after my call with the commissioner, the lineman, his supervisor and the Engineer came by our house. The AE asked a few pertinent questions and speculated that our water line, drawn from the mains by the main road years ago may have changed. 

The Engineer suggested that could draw water from the water mains that had now come winding by adjacent to our compound. He agreed that the change of line would be the responsibility of BWSSB, while I would have to pay to get the pipe inside our compound re-routed to the new inlet from the mains. 

I called my plumber to figure out the re-routing of inlet pipes from the mains and the lineman brought in labor to work on the connection to the water mains from the road.

In India, unlike in the west, cartography of public water, sewage and other services aren’t well mapped or documented. This leads to a lot of guess-work while digging roads and other public areas for utilities. The guys dug a 3-feet wide circle adjacent to the road about 3-feet deep but weren’t able to strike the mains. 

They left after covering up the dig and said they’d be back the next day, but didn’t come back as promised. They came back after a week citing other work emergencies by which I had to order another tanker of water. When they started digging a bit deeper in the same spot, they found the water mains and went on to connect it to the line my plumber had already extended from our house.

That evening, when the water was supplied to the mains, water supply to our house resumed. Finally; after about 3-4 weeks of complains and calling.

Lesson learnt: 
  • While dealing with public officials, be persistent and pursue the matter at the top and also work with local officials 
  • If you are able to reach a top official, it will streamline the communication and ensure your work gets done promptly. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Without music, life would be a mistake – Sivamani makes an appearance at Ganesh Kumaresh Celebrating 50 years of Musical

One of my resolutions for the New Year was to take a few spontaneous breaks from my daily routine. I decided to act on this yesterday when I saw an article in the local paper announcing a concert by the Violinists “Ganesh Kumaresh Celebrating 50 years of Musical." I immediately went online and booked a ticket for the show  scheduled for the evening.

Ganesh and Kumaresh are noted Indian duo of violin players best known as proponents of modern contemporary a.k.a fusion genera of music. The dynamic brothers, who grew up as child prodigies, carved a niche in the  contemporary Carnatic genera. The brothers have gone deeper into the realm of the music and brought out a refreshingly original content and instrumental style. Fusion style includes ‘western style’ of percussion, guitars and drums played alongside modified Carnatic Ragas. The duo began the concert with a few of their popular compositions from their albums and went on to mesmerize the audience for a couple of hours. 

At the end of the first half of the concert, a previous unannounced “special guest” made an appearance and the crowd burst into raptures. Indian percussionist “Drum” Sivamani took to the stage in his signature style, switching between drums, cymbals and other instruments, enthralling the audience. It was fascinating to enjoy and see the showman in action. 

As the old adage goes, Music speaks the language of the soul. And I was glad I took the spontaneous decision to attend the concert and to be lost in the music.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Narayana Murthy and Narendra Modi: Two unlikely examples of extremes in work-life balance in modern India?

 Towards the end of 2022 came two stories demonstrating distinct tradeoffs of work-life balance in modern India that make one reflect. Here is my video on the topic

The 76-year-old godfather of Indian outsourcing, Narayana Murthy, spoke about the time he devoted to building Infosys and how it came at the cost of spending quality time with his two children. In interviews, was quoted saying he was so dedicated to building the software services company that for years he would reach his office every morning at 6.20 am and work till 8 or 9 pm into the night. Mr Murthy was reflecting on the growth of the company and how it came at the cost of spending quality time with his two children.

Another story is that of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose mother passed away at 99 a few days ago. Immediately after attending to her funeral rites, Mr. Modi resumed his official duties.  A few hours after his mother’s cremation in Gandhinagar, PM Narendra Modi virtually flagged off a host of infrastructure projects, designed to galvanize West Bengal and Kolkata.

In my years in the corporate world, I have worked with scores of middle-managers and executives who have dedicated their lives to being “corporate men,” foregoing their personal commitments. Like Mr Narayana Murthy regrets in his sunset years, spending quality time with his children. They are driven to the extreme and don’t mind hopping on a plane at a day’s notice for the next bid or client project. They are willing to get on calls at 6AM or 9PM and just don’t let their personal life come in the way of their work commitments and more.

The fact is that leaders like Mr. Modi, Naranaya Murthy and the workaholic colleague are outliers.

Most of us are not. We rightfully strive to balance our work-life priorities. Quoting eastern philosophy, most of us strive to balance the Yin-Yang of life without getting into extremes.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Musing on the year that was: goodbye 2022

Hard to believe 2022 has finally come to a close. 

I have been observing that we are all successful losers. We are all losers because of the setbacks and failures we encounter in a life journey. Successful because we eventually overcome loss and failures. As we come to the end of another eventful year, a few of my musings on balancing it all

Loss and failures

  • My MF, investments and assets have been flat. The global stock market tanked, and they are talking about recession. Indian stocks aren’t doing great either

  • I have been working through the maze of agents, lawyers and officials on the paperwork for a piece of land my dad bought years ago. The issue keeps dragging on since I am hesitant to pay a “huge” bribe before assurance of approval.

  • At work, I see laggards regularly suck-up to the boss and get nominated for trivial awards that they post on LinkedIn. These ‘humble brag’ posts generate likes and shares, further reinforcing this charade

  • Few of my elderly relatives including grandma passed away this year


  • After a 2-year pandemic and slowdown, and got to travel a bit and meet with family and friends

  • I paid off our mortgage this year and resolved to live a debt-free life. Credit cards are handy to earn points or discounts as long as I pay it off monthly.

  • Despite a few minor bumps, the family continues to be in fairly good health, which is a great blessing.

  • I have continued to read, blog and write. My book that was published on Amazon, with 20+ reviews is reasonably successful  (Amazon - Diary of a Successful Loser)

  • My job allows me to WFH, that gives me a work-life balance

So, how have you been a successful loser in 2022?

Friday, December 9, 2022

I decided to use an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for a promo-video for my new book. Here's' the result

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies and tools have been advancing at a fast pace. Many new tools continue to evolve and they are increasingly targeted at improving productivity of end consumers. 

After my book - Diary of a Successful Loser - was published last month, I had been reaching out to reviewers and bloggers. Along the way, I decided to explore the use of of Text-to-Video AI software to generate a promotional video for the book. 

Here is one version of a resulting video : What do you think?

While the resulting video is not bad, it is not as slick as one from a creative team or professional videographers. On the flip side, it is much better if not similar to what I would have got by paying a gig worker on Fivrr or Upwork 

After researching for a bit, I decided to use the freeware version Steve AI an online Video making software that creates Videos and animations in seconds. The UI is intuitive and easy to use after a quick signup. 

The challenge with Text-to-AI software is the human element and creativity - the creator (you and I) need a robust yet simple script with the right keywords that we can feed into the AI software. One can choose from a variety of templates, video and voice formats. After that, it is a matter of playing around with different formats, voiceovers and narratives. 

Bottomline: Image synthesis has great implications on creative arts and creation of visual art similar to what smartphones did to still camera. I came away impressed with the ease-of-use of such Ai software, and how they can be a powerful aid to less-creative people. With software like With steve AI’s video maker one can quickly create Facebook ads, video slideshows, newsfeed videos, stories, and cover videos. 

There are a number of 'Text to Video' AI software with varying levels of usability including 

  • OpenAI's DALL-e AI - Open AI announced that it removed the waitlist for its DALL-E AI image generator service. More than 1.5M users are now actively creating over 2M images a day with DALL·E—from artists and creative directors to authors and architects—with over 100K users sharing their creations and feedback in our Discord community.
  • Make-A-Video - Meta's Make-A-Video is an AI-powered video generator that can create novel video content from text or image prompts, similar to existing image synthesis tools like DALL-E and Stable Diffusion. Make-A-Video research builds on the recent progress made in text-to-image generation technology built to enable text-to-video generation. The system uses images with descriptions to learn what the world looks like and how it is often described. Link to Meta's research paper 
  • Stable Diffusion - A newly released open source image synthesis model called Stable Diffusion allows anyone with a PC and a decent GPU to conjure up almost any visual reality they can imagine. It can imitate virtually any visual style, and if you feed it a descriptive phrase, the results appear on your screen like magic.
  • Imagen Video - Google’s newest AI generator  that creates HD video from text prompts. Google's engineers claim it is a text-conditional video generation system based on a cascade of video diffusion models. Given a text prompt, Imagen Video generates high definition videos using a base video generation model and a sequence of interleaved spatial and temporal video super-resolution models. According to Google's research paper, Imagen Video includes several notable stylistic abilities, such as generating videos based on the work of famous painters (the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, for example), generating 3D rotating objects while preserving object structure, and rendering text in a variety of animation styles. Google is hopeful that general-purpose video synthesis models can "significantly decrease the difficulty of high-quality content generation."

Friday, November 25, 2022

My new stealth-help book - Diary of a Successful Loser

I invite you to review my  new stealth-help book - Diary of a Successful Loser  

If you are looking for a non-preachy self-help book with motivational stories, you are in the right place. This Kindle eBook is a Stealth help* book. The bestselling book with life stories that will leave you inspired.

All of us are successful losers – Losers because of the setbacks. Successful because we have overcome setbacks, loss and failures. This book is targeted at those who find typical self-help books - with preachy quotes and advice off-putting. 

In the narrative, I have picked up a few failures and setbacks that have been part of my life journey in ways that I didn’t anticipate. These stories hold a mirror to typical experiences that we are likely to encounter in a life journey
  • Bullying, teasing and jibes
  • Setbacks that reshape one's career
  • Breakup of a relationship
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Difference of opinion with a boss or colleague

These chapters in a life story, when stacked on top of one other. make for a memorable layered cake.

The book is available for Kindle Unlimited download on Amazon and on popular Amazon portals

In a span of a few weeks, the book has gathered nearly 50 reviews on Amazon

Stealth help book do what self-help books do - inspire and motivate - while they may not make you cringe or gag A mix of memoir and self-help genera, stealth help uses a person's experience to inspire readers to better their lives or themselves.