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What I learn from Harry Potter August 13, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Pot Pourri.
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Harry Potter

I finally finished reading ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ this morning. I’m an avid fan of The-Boy-Who-Lived and it’s not surprising to see me walk around the agency these days mumbling stuff like ‘Mudbloods, Muggles, Squibs, Filth of the Earth, Merlin’s Pants’ or using the Imperio, Crucio, Avada Kedavra and Expilliarmus charms on unsuspecting Muggle-folk. Naming friends at work after characters in the book has become a passion.

Suddenly, office has become Hogwarts School of Magic. Every client is a Goblin or a potential one in the making. The creative guys are the ‘Order of Phoenix’. The top honchos belong to the ‘Ministry of Magic’. The Prison of Azkaban is where all the ad layouts that don’t see the light of the day go. The boss is Albus Dumbledore (in real life, he bears a stunning resemblance to the sagacious wizard – hopefully he is not reading this post!). Hermione Granger, my best buddy has taken off for a fellow wizard’s wedding. Best chum Ron Weasley is soon to desert me in the hunt for Horcruxes and look for greener pastures in the Forbidden Forest (India). Hell, we even have our own Sir Cadogan, Finch and Peeves. The neighbourhood cats are lovingly viewed as Thestrals, Centaurs and Hippogriffs. Uptown Bar has been renamed Three Broomsticks. However, I haven’t yet found an apt candidate for the Dark Lord You-Know-Who.

I’ve been thinking whether to call our client serving team ‘Death Eaters’ but let me get my Invisibility Cloak around me and disapparate before I get hexed. May be Dementors is a more apt title. But I’ve pretty much figured out the likes of Draco & Lucius Malfoy, Hagrid, Neville Longbottom, Uncle Vernon, Severus Snape & Professor McGonagall. And no guesses as to who is Harry Potter. Especially when I’ve been strutting around complaining that my scar has been burning and that I can get into the dark recesses of The-One-Who-Must-Be-Not-Named’s mind, especially when I’m in the loo (now called the Floo Network).

My patronus charm varies between a WAP4 electric loco and a silver camel. Depends on the days I’m playing Quidditch. I’m sure that you get the drift. That I urgently need to be taken to St. Mungo’s for a check-up. Jokes apart, Harry is my role model. One of the best ever.

Dr John Mark Reynolds, the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola University says that Harry is an example of “mediocre” or merely “above average” people who achieve greatness if they persevere in learning virtue. Dr Reynolds then speaks of Harry’s true merit:
Harry does not think himself the “chosen one” based on his skills. He perseveres and so learns courage, moderation, practical wisdom, justice, faith, hope, and love. He is great in character and it is better to be good than to get the best marks in wizarding. Click here to read his post.

In another post, Dr Reynolds describes 5 things one can learn from Harry Potter, namely:

1. Magic / Technology cannot solve real problems.
2. A bad start in life does not control destiny.
3. People have a choice to be or not be ‘bad’.
4. ‘Authority’ may not always have solutions to all problems.
5. The need to grow up and acceptance of the responsibilities and pains which come along with the pleasures of adulthood.

For me, Harry Potter is a man of action. Someone who steps forward to accept challenges that life throws at him. A struggler who ultimately wins because of his dogged persistence to attain his mission. A decent human being who values the power of friendships and relationships to advance in life. Someone who is bold, courageous and chivalrous yet accepts his frailty in situations that demand him to. Greatness seeks out such people. Ultimately, even the Universe conspires to help the dreamer.

Here’s another interesting article on 10 things you can learn from Harry Potter.

And oh, I can feel my scar burning again.

My take on Justin Drudd’s ‘Interview at Amazon’ May 3, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Pot Pourri.
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I logged into WordPress this morning and I had to click on Justin Drudd’s ‘ My Interview with Amazon’. It was a fabulous piece of writing describing an arduously long interview process with a good ending – Justin gets the job. I love the post for the way it grips your interest right from the beginning and would recommend it to anyone on a job hunt.

Justin’s experience tells us that you can make the most of a job interview by staying cool and playing the ‘I’ve got nothing to lose attitude’, especially if you are not bringing all the skill sets needed for the job to the table. May be one of these days I’ll read his post on his job interview with Microsoft that bummed.

A weekend at London… April 28, 2007

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My camera was in London for the weekend. Yeah… it basically walked out on me, jumped into my friend Dina’s adoring arms and took off on a whirlwind trip to UK, while I spent a quiet weekend in good ol’ Muscat.
Dina’s back from her client meeting at British Airways and so is my camera. Not only has she got me a cute miniature London Transport bus (the red double decker one) from Harrods as a souvenir, but knowing my fancy for trains, she’s got herself snapped in front of a tube train. Merci ma amie… here are some snaps from her trip.

Big Ben

At the TubeAt the Tube with the train With the airplane wheel London Wheel

The longest moustache in the world April 26, 2007

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Longest Moustache in the world

Guess who I bumped into yesterday at Camilia, the Turkish coffee shop next to my office…The man with the longest moustache in the world! Mohammed Rashid, 66 from Turkey has a moustache that is an incredible 5ft 3ins (1.6m) long.

He is in Muscat as a part of a round-the-world tour where he’s charging people 3 Omani Rials (over 7 US Dollars) a time to have their photo taken with him.

I and my colleagues had a ball gawking at him, while the coffee shop made roaring business from the people who gathered to marvel at his manly ‘taches.

Moustaches seem to be a national institution in Turkey where to any discerning Turk,  the shape and style of your whiskers defines your personality.

Put in the words of a Turk, “You can always tell a man’s connections by his moustache.”

Now here’s a man that can make us feel quite facially challenged!

Photo credit: Rajesh Rajan, Photographer, UMS, Muscat, Oman

50 things you have to know about me… April 25, 2007

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me.jpg

1. I’ve loved trains (the ones that run on Indian Railways) ever since I can remember.
2. I’ve always wanted to be a railway locomotive driver or a railway guard.
3. I believe that love can make or break you.
4. I love plum cake, banana chips, French Fries and cutlets like crazy.
5. I’m an absolute foodie, but I don’t do chocolate or most fruits.
6. Most animals take a liking to me, but that didn’t stop a dog from sinking its teeth into my thigh back in the days.
7. Most kids take a fancy to me, but I’ve lately noticed that ones I care about the most don’t return the same sentiment.
8. I absolutely adore my grandmother. I think she rocks!
9. I’ve wanted to get married ever since I was 8 years old.
10. I can wax poetic in my sleep; it’s a trait I picked up recently.

11. I’m truly addicted to blogging, and I especially dig keeping track of my blog stats.
12. I once volunteered in an elephant circus in Thailand. And then went on to bottle-feed a tiger cub.
13. I’m so near-sighted that it’s not funny. Exactly.
14. I used to be pretty good at making longggg PowerPoint presentations, but now I’m hooked onto Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.
15. I consider Guy Kawasaki among my few idols on Earth for this speech he made at a high school grad ceremony at Palo Alto, CA.
16. When I was a kid, I believed that the red zero-watt bulb in my room was the Devil’s Eye casting its evil glare over me.
17. Again when I was in La La Land, I thought that the rails moved and not the trains.
18. When I was 5 years old, I thought that clouds in the sky were continents with people living on them. I always wondered why they were not affected by gravity and did not fall on my head.
19. As a kid, my favourite lunch / dinner-time story involved a freight train with 100 cars carrying all sorts of food to treat me.
20. I’m very good at making conversation with walls & cats.

21. I still cherish the dream of being a bus driver.
22. I’m quite good at reading certain minds.
23. I believe in my heightened powers of ESP. Occasionally.
24. I go to sleep if I’m in a really bad mood.
25. I prefer to stand and eat than sit and eat.
26. I love evangelizing the merits of digital media to friends, foes and clients alike.
27. I think the quality of a man’s life is a lot defined by the women he associates with.
28. I’m quite good at picking up the right deals & bargains at the right time.
29. I think God’s love for me is unlimited and that he is doing a fantastic job of watching over me.
30. I wish I could draw well cuz as they say a picture is worth a 1000 words.

31. I believe in doing whatever my heart wants cuz I’m anyway gonna lose my mind some day.
32. I know that no human being can understand me quite well. Amen.
33. If you don’t find peace in your life, do visit this quiet railway station called Munrothuruttu in Kerala, India. You will find it there, like I did. Or, even try an early morning walk at the Miramar Beach in Goa.
34. Arunspeak: If it were not for women, life here would be a very boring affair.
35. I can brew a really mean coffee.
36. I’m absolutely plugged into music. I take turns doing justice to my desktop and laptop music players, portable mp3 player and Nokia N-Series Music Edition phone every day.
37. I want to retire from work when I’m 45. Now make that 40.
38. My dream home stands next to a railway track.
39. I believe that Creativity is one of the few avatars of God.
40. I’m an absolute cinema freak and I’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of movies in cinema theatres all by myself. In Muscat.

41. I’m a rain freak as long as I don’t get drenched.
42. I want to go on a world tour some day. Some day!
43. Arunspeak: The only thing on Earth where you will find perfection is in a Lexus ad. In the tagline.
44. I tend to clown around a lot, especially at work, but that’s just an engine that gets me going.
45. I believe that words are like weapons, once lost they are never retrievable. I don’t follow it. Usually.
46. I hate the notion of buttoning up shirts, especially the one below the collar button.
47. My next blog is going to create waves.
48. I’ve a huge crush on high heels – always wanted to be a shoe designer.
49. If you’ve still made it through till this, you probably share my quality of intolerant patience.
50. I’m who I’m. 🙂

Sporty sets off… April 15, 2007

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Styris strokes Nel for a sparkling boundary,
As Proteas stoke in a stifling quandary.
The Kiwis speed forth to a victory,
Like a rocket bang on its trajectory.
I wither in despair, ready to pull out my wispy hair.
So I don the tracksuit and decide to hit the gloomy road.
The clock tower chimes midnight,
As I rumble past it on a lonely night.
Neon lights grimace. As a slovenly drunk staggers past.
I take a curve and head apart –
Puff and pant, heave and hove, curse be to all powers above…
As I drag me past the lamp posts and billboards…
Around the cinema and past the office towers…
Into the alleys and on to the sandy gravel…
All you hear is ‘thud-thudding’ on the road…
As ‘Sporty’ bundles and trundles along
In a bid to slice all the fatty tissue off…

A date with the H2 April 8, 2007

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Happy Easter, all ye brothers and sisters out there. I had a recent date with a Hummer H2 – here are a few snaps.

I’m looking mighty pleased posing in front of the irreverent Hummer. My growing paunch may be excused! I’m joined by Sharad Phalgun, a kingpin of Muscat’s advertising fraternity, with a very dapper look about him.

How to brew a perfect cup of coffee? March 18, 2007

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The venue: Pantry at an interactive agency in the Middle East.
Ingredients: A glass mug, teaspoon, Nescafe, powdered milk, sugar, a Russell Hobbs kettle, yourself and a bit of showmanship.
Way forward: Wash the cup. Rinse the spoon (if you really want to). Fill the kettle with water and leave it to boil. Turn the kettle off, much before it touches boiling point, that’s when the kettle switch goes off. Meaning, don’t leave the water to boil. Just make it hot-warm. Trust me; you don’t want the scalding water to mess up Nescafe’s flavour. So water’s ready. Add two and half spoons of milk powder to the cup. (Oh yes, I prefer using the same teaspoon in all the acts of coffee making.) Lift the kettle, tilt it at an awkward angle and pour water slowly into the cup to form a milky froth. Ensure that the water doesn’t hit your groin. Add howmucheva spoons of sugar you would like to this creamy mix. Make sure that your natural showmanship shows. Now, uhm, ideally take two teaspoons of Nescafe and add it to the milk and swirl. For added effect, take another mug and pour your coffee/mixture from cup-to-cup to create a consistent, well-blended drink. Serve with a lot of chutzpah.
Comment: The presence of a pretty gurl as you brew coffee will have a marked improvement on your coffee making skills.
Upcoming Attraction: The ‘How to brew a perfect cup of coffee using the scrambled egg approach’ tutorial.

Muscat’s gettin a shower! – 2 March 18, 2007

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A friend of mine sent me snaps of how the Muscat roads, especially those at Al Khuwair, have been affected by the rains this morning. Did you notice the hapless hatchback sinking like a torpedoed schooner? I guess we can call them waterways more than highways. Muscat has been taken for a spin due to these unexpected showers. Wadis have been overflowing, umpteen numbers of vehicles as well as roads have gone under water and a lot of accidents have occurred. But hey no worries, things are gonna get back on track in a day or two, like it always does!

Muscat’s gettin a shower! March 18, 2007

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It’s raining in Muscat. I woke up early in the morning to watch rain drops pitter-patter against the window and thought I must be dreaming. May be it was the effect of the bottle of Wincarnis I had downed yesterday I thought, so I went back to snoozeland and then when I finally dragged myself out of bed, voila… raindrops were still pitter-pattering against the glass panes. Tried to take snaps of the mountain view across the window. I’m afraid it didn’t turn out that well. Missed having my blue cheeked bee eater friend hanging about the satellite dish, I suspect he is having an affair, I see him crooning to another bee eater these days. Hope he is somewhere safe away from the rains. Lemme just think some of the best memories I have about rain…

1. Jumping about in the rains when I was a kid at my ancestral home in Ernakulam, Kerala. I used to actually wade about in the pools of slushy water using as an umbrella as a boat!
2. Fishing in the overflowing drains of Ernakulam using baskets and sticks, and then yelling ‘Karuppine pidiche karuup’ (Karup is a thorny fish). Moi was an expert in netting the best catch out there.
3. Have the rain hit my face as I stare into the heavens leaning out of the door of Kerala Express racing out of Coimbatore on a moody April morning.
4. Racing on a bike braving the lashing downpour, desperately trying to make it on time for a science quiz at primary school, turning up late eventually and having Jayanti Ma’am get the water off my head with her perfumed hankie.
5. Lying on my bed / standing at the balcony and trying to listen / watch the rain compose its symphonies of anger, despair, depression, mirth and more. Happens very much often.
6. Walking alone on the streets of Bangkok as a quick evening shower drenches the fetid city, sending up plumes of a million odours.
7. Taking little Unati out for a walk today, sequestered under a umbrella, as the Muscat skies open up for a sob session.
8. Writing this blog while sipping coffee and being serenaded by Tamil music when I try to recount my best memories of rain.

Chan from UMS Advertising, Muscat clicked a few snaps on the Muscat rains – mostly of overflowing wadis. I particularly love this one which has got giant trucks drowned next to the Darsait Lulu Hypermarket. The weatherman has forecast showers for Oman in days to come due to ‘an expansion in the current atmospheric depression in the region’. Whoa.