Saturday, July 07, 2012

First Summer Rain

I reached home all wet. It was a big relief from the burning Summer.
Here's the naughty me.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Night I Couldn't Sleep

DivisaderoDivisadero by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grazing through Divisadero is like inhaling in the spirit of Ondaatje. Bought this in anticipation of meeting the man himself at Jaipur Literary Festival. Couldn't go due to bad weather.

Sat up the whole night yesterday trying to write a review, but couldn't. My words become weak in front of his. Read it to feel it. Wonderful. Happy that I bought this book.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Celebrating Latin America in India

"Shukriya, very much" - A "thank you" in Hindi from the professor arouses more cheers from the crowd. It was the second day of the event that spanned three remarkable evenings. For the common music and art enthusiast in India, this was just a sneak peek into the virgin world of Latin America - something we see and hear only in documentary channels highlighting the rich history or diverse wildlife. Fiesta Latino Americano was the result of a coordinated effort between Indian Council ofCultural Relations (ICCR) and the Embassies of Argentina, Colombia and Mexico.

For first-timers like me, this was a window of opportunity to have a closer look and feel of various kinds of music and performing arts from Latin America. Day 1 saw the foot-tapping numbers of Afro-Colombian music for the common man of the city streets, presented by award-winning band "Mama Julia y Los Sonidos Ambulantes" from Colombia. They knew they are performing in front of a totally foreign audience who don't have a clue about what is coming up, and hence took pains to explain their music in English.

Day 2 bloomed with the sweet smiles of Ballet folklorico presented by representatives of the University of Veracruz, Mexico accompanied by Tlen Huicani - a group of musicians in Mexico specializing on regional Mexican music from different states and regions. Viewers were swept off their feet at the amazing level of coordination of the rhythms and the movements of the salsa dancers. Every tap of the foot, every turn of the leg, every twist of the body appeared so much in sync no matter how far on the stage the dancers were, from each other. They presented Ranchero and other forms of music originated from different states of Mexico. A bold move from the male dancer asking the audience to follow his steps counting "ek, doh, teen" (one, two, three) made the audience cheer out loud before joining him.
 After several songs and dances, the professor and his team just took off their colourful traditional shawls, to reveal shining white shirts and trousers.

 To a disappointed crowd thinking that the event just came to an end, the professor explained "Now, we present the music of Veracruz.. we all are from Veracruz. Our traditional costume is all white.. see? white shirt, white trousers, white shoes, and ..mmm...maybe this too!" pointing to his head emphasizing the shining white hair, much to the crowd's joy. In a country where elders (especially the ones with white hair) are openly respected, there was no wonder why we shouldn't stand up and cheer for him. 

The audience were mesmerised on the final and concluding day by "Tango Emotion" the brain child of ace musician and national music professor Enrique Cuttini and his team from Argentina. His Excellency El Ambajador de la Argentina indicated us to "just close your eyes and enjoy the music." The tango dancers elevated the spirits of the audience with their rhythmic moves making sure no one even dares to blink.

Professor Cuttini is a man of small stature and a smile as sweet and innocent as a child. He did not need to ask the audience to clap their hands to the rhythm of the music many times, unlike his predecessors did during the previous days' performances. We were actually clapping hands to the rhythms of tango. Part of the group was an amazing vocalist who walks on to the stage with such ease despite knowing that the majority of us who cheer for him don’t have a clue about what the lyrics say.

The whole exercise taught us Delhi-ites  a valuable lesson – when it comes to music, you don’t always need to understand the lyrics to feel it. Sometimes the feeling the music itself is sufficient.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What's In a (Place) Name?

It all started with a business request. After an overwhelming delivery of a project within a short term, the customer in Russia was happy to hand me over a long list of requirements. The problem: The city names were all written in Russian, and the time to work on the business proposal was very less. He was quick to direct me towards Google to address this issue and get going as quick as I can. Quite a good idea. It was surprisingly quick. The one special kind of translation Google has that Yahoo hasn't: the ability to translate a file. Select and upload. The good thing is that Google tries not to mess up the formatting of the file (mine was an Excel table with place names. Good job, Google!). But the problem wasn't over.

Google Translator's job is to translate. Literally every word of it. Well, if the entry is a sentence, the Translator does the additional job of making sense out of it and presents a clear message. Since I'm using translators almost every day since the past five years or so, I have learned the art of communicating with simple messages so that the person using a translator at the other end understands my idea well. But translating names is a different ball game altogether. It just needs the expression of the original term in a different language, not the exact meaning. So I had to write back to the customer citing that English place names is necessary, because I am not able to locate many cities in the map. Try translating the city name “Yellowknife” to Chinese and ask a Chinese man to locate it in the map of Canada!

With limited time to demarcate the city areas, it was a literal firefight to locate city names like “Electric steel” and “Queen + Anniversary” on the map. I shook up my hitherto inactive Russian basics and got the job done. Two days after I finished the job, the apologetic customer (himself a Chinese) got back to me with a detailed list of city names in English. 

The follwoing weekend, while traveling on the Metro during my weekend pilgrimage to the library, I stumbled upon the announcements in English and Hindi:

What if the English messages were just translations of original messages in Hindi? What if they tried Google to make instant translations? Will they face the same trouble that I did? I was curious. I was thinking and laughing to myself during the following part of journey. Imagine this:

NOIDA Sector Pandrah
NOIDA Sector Fifteen

Agla station New Ashok Nagar hai
“The next station is New No-Unhappy City”

Mayur Vihar
“Peacock Park”
Akshar Dhaam station
“Letter-House station”

Pragati Maidaan
“Development Ground”

Rajiv Chowk
“Former Prime Minister breathless!” (Oops! That looks like designing cryptic clues to a crossword puzzle.) Sorry, I made that up.

Check-out the Metro Map and you will know what I was thinking.

Does your city/country/locality also have such names that sounds funny when translated? Feel free to share.

Image Courtesy: