Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Bible Jesus Read

Title: The Bible Jesus Read
Author: Philip Yancey
Publisher: ZondervanPublishingHouse
ISBN: 978-81-7362-251-9

Philip Yancey brings us through Job, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and The Prophets. I have to say that I really appreciated the different insights that he put forward, especially in Job and Ecclesiastes. One of the strengths of the book is to help the reader move from the first impression about a given Bible book to a better understanding. He uses a few analogies along the way and they deliver.

To illustrate: many people believe that Job is about suffering, when it is about pure and non-motivated faith. Some think of the prophets as only predicting things to come, but they spend a lot of time expressing things that are happening now, and expressing the mind of God. Some view the Psalms as an official worship song book, when its about pouring your heart to God. The best, for me, was to view Ecclesiastes in alongside nihilist writers, and the unavoidable comment: in times of trouble and injustice, people's mind is on seeing things change. But when everything is well, and that people are bathing in wealth, then it becomes easy to see a great pointlessness in all of human endeavours.

The book's end points to Jesus, who makes the prophecies come to life, gives a real purpose to human life and answers the itching question do we matter to God? by a resounding yes!

Now in Marriedom

It has been more than a month and, seriously, I barely had a break since them.
Getting married is an expensive and stressful project, even if you try to do it on the cheap, and my wedding was no exception.

The week before the wedding, I had a decent amount of overwork trying to make the chaos fall in place. In the end, it is the experienced church administrator who handled everything on that day.

Our wedding day was wonderful, and I have to say that I'll always keep fond memories of it.

Wedding Album

And I must say that things have been hectic after too. I never knew that I needed so many cooking vessels in the house! I really believed that I was living in a wife-ready apartment. Oh boy I was wrong!
My wife has spent a lot of energy reorganizing the place to make it a nice home, travelling great lengths so that we purchased what we needed at the lowest cost and so on.

She is a great blessing. She is full of life and of joy, and she really respects and cares for me. And did I mention that she is feeding me well too? And, even better, she is a spiritual woman who makes sure we pray twice at day together.

I am more joyful now, and you can even catch me humming a tune in the morning. My character is improving too. I feel incredibly blessed. God has made a great miracle in my life and I am truly thankful for it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FRRO Hyderabad

I have to say, what a 'different' office! Taking a part of the old airport's terminal and making it a govnerment office stands out!

Putting the aesthetics aside, however, I have to say that it is a major improvement over the FRO. Dealing directly with the decision-maker in the Central Government is sooooooooo much better than going through a lot of middlemen.

I got my visa extension done in 7 days. 7!!! Isn't it amazing?

De FRRO Hyderabad

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The End of Reason

Here is a short book review.

Title: The End of Reason : A Response to the New Atheists
Author: Ravi Zacharias

  • Publisher: Zondervan (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310282519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310282518

Ravi Zacharias essentially responds to books by the 'New Atheists', especially Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith). By the new atheists, Zacharias refers to this movement of aggressive atheists like Harris and Dawkins.
The book is essentially a more or less topical deconstruction of Harris' thesis.

Ravi Zacharias is a well-known apologist and I had high expectations. I had never read any of his books before. I was very disappointed.

The structure of the book is not very well done, making it hard to easily organize the arguments for future reference. It leaves an impression of 'oh yeah, he's right', but its harder to be more specific than that.

Overall, I saw very few new things that would help me in the defence of the Gospel. The only significant point I recall is that the 'new atheists' are really a fringe in the atheist community and they are not universally well-received. Some will go as far as stating on the record that they are ashamed to be atheists because of them. That's a 'wow' statement!

In short, give this book to your friend if he read Harris and was shaken by it. If you've never read any apologetics before, that's an easy intro to the topic, so it could serve as a warm-up.


In terms of 'classical Hindi movie', Border would be one of the famous ones.

Border is the story of some unit of the Punjab Regiment that were sent to guard the indo-pakistani border in Rajasthan, west of Jaisalmer (see map). Of course, it is in the anticipation of the 1971 war with Pakistan.

View Larger Map

They are assisted by a few jawans of the BSF and their camels and they are stuck in the desert for a few months, fortifying the outpost and trying to find spies and informants.

In short: the BSF rocks... the main BSF jawan is a Rajput who knows the terrain and the local language and it makes a huge difference for a bunch of Punjabis who never saw the desert before.

And then the war breaks out. They are 120 infantry, with some minimal anti-tank weaponry, and there comes a column of tanks and infantry. HQ tells them to retreat, but gives the commander the last call. They decide to stay.
They call for an air strike, but the planes don't fight at night. So they have to hang in there until morning.
The rest is a mix of courage and insanity, with people leaving their covers to assist a fellow soldier and stuff like that. The craziest is when the BSF Jawan is wounded by a tank shell, goes out of the trench with an anti-tank mine all the way to the enemy commander's tank and manages to put that mine under its tracks and make it blow up. I don't know if that's movie or reality, but that's 100% crazy.

It is a pure patriotic movie that aims at inflating national pride and lauding heroes. I do appreciate the song near the end that calls for an end to war. But I can't help being amazed at the fact that the director managed to squeeze in 2 love stories in the middle of a war movie!

Bottom line: if you like war movies, then you'll like that one.

Strange Rains...

Something weird is happening with the weather this year. We're having rain even in November. The rainy season should be well finished now, and yet we are in a state of uncertainty on whether to bring the umbrella or not...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Indian Engagement

Where I'm from, getting engaged is a private matter. I have a few friends who went from singlehood to marrieddom while I was around, so I got their inside story :)

Essentially, boy takes girl out on a date. That date is nicer than usual. At some point, boy goes on his knees, open a little box that contains a diamond ring and asks "Would you marry me?". Girl says yes, both are happy. And when both get home, they tell their family and friends. Or something close to that.

Of course, some will have a pre-process of asking for the girl's hand to her father too.

In India, family values are so strong that the boy isn't asking only the girl's father, but her entire family too! And then, the engagement isn't a private matter of two people walking on the beach and a ring moving from a pocket to a finger. It is a 'function', which means 'big party with protocol.' 

I got engaged this Saturday with a wonderful Indian lady named Swapna. Her name means 'dream', and she really is a dream come true. I'll share our story another time.

The whole thing has been surreal. I am not sure I am not dreaming this up. Not so long ago, I was crushed by the rejection dealt by another woman. I then decided to drop the checklist approach for bride-selection and to go by faith instead. And then God moved things in a mind-blowing way.

About 2 weeks ago, we met her family. Normally, it is a meeting of both families. In my case, I had a surrogate family in the person of some of the church leaders who joined for the meeting. I already mentioned it in an earlier post.

Saturday, I came with the same surrogate family. The whole day was intense: I met with a brother in the morning for d-time, then it was shopping-shopping-shopping, gift wrapping, buying this, buying that, prepare sharing, iron clothes and off-you-go. 
Only to be told to come a bit later, as they weren't ready. Gotta love IST (Indian Stretchable Time)!
Thankfully, that gave me some more time to work on my sharing. I wanted something extra special for her.

We finally arrived there, and socialized with the guests on my side, as well as one of her family members. We were having something as close to a private thing as possible in this culture: with merely 40 guests, we were almost insulting a whole bunch of friends and relatives. Since we didn't have a lot of space, that falls in the 'what to do?' category :)

And then she came. My heart skipped beating and a truckload of hormones (I'm guessing serotonin) got released in my brain, seeing her great beauty.

I invited her, gave her flowers, and she came with her family members.

Then the ceremonial part started. We had songs, prayer, and a short message. The message was about breaking the pattern of the World, which is what we are doing. 

Now, my reader may ask "what is the pattern of the World that you were breaking?" To answer, here is a primer about Indian marriages: the families will essentially look for your carbon copy in the other gender. That means someone from the same religion (+caste and subcaste for Hindus), of the same cultural group, with the same job (or same level of job) for the same kind of employer (MNCs are on top, big companies follow, then its no-name companies), with the same kind of education, and from a family that is at the same social status. For example, they would naturally seek a medical doctor lady for their medical doctor son, but could settle for a dentist. And a family would be OK if their IT professional son in IBM marries an HR or Accountant lady working for Accenture, but  if she is working for a small outfit (say, Nayanaguda Infotech... ever heard of them?), then that could be an issue. Each family is different, so there will be case-by-case basis too. 
Once the match is found comes the question of dowry. In India, the girl's family must pay a dowry. Nevermind that it is illegal to do so, dowries remain routinely asked and given every day in this country. The sums are typically colossal and funded from loans that can take years to repay.
Some people do break the rules, and those are called "love marriages" in contrast to "arranged marriages". Love marriages are typically frowned upon in Indian society. It does happen that the families boycott the event. 
So, we were breaking the pattern of the World big time: IT Professional working for one of the world's largest companies wants to marry a lecturer in a local college. Then comes the fact that he's not even a Telugu boy, and he's not even Indian! And then, there is no dowry, neither in money nor in kind. Our union went against pretty much all the traditions of Indian weddings. And I must credit Swapna and her family for having the openness to not only allow our relationship to be, but for blessing it as well.

Once the message was finished, I was asked to share about her. I read a small poem (not sure its 100% kosher poem - I must've broken a rule or two here):
Carried by the wind, a dove
Gracefully, by the cove,
Caught my eyes, circling by me
Capturing me by her beauty

Her feathers, shining like the sun,
Almost making me blind.
She stands above anyone.
She would not leave my mind.

Her song spoke of a love
Too strong for words alone
For somebody Above.

Her flight brought joy & smiles
And gave eyes to the blind.
Never tiring, no matter how many miles,
Because she was lifted by the wind of a Supreme Mind.

Her black eyes saw my heart
And looked beyond appearance.
She planted a seed of love
That is now growing to a tree
And its roots are changing me.

Now my heart belongs to you and God alone.
At which point I fell on my knees, produced a red rose and said:
मैंने प्यार तुमसे किया | मुझसे शादी करो गे ?
Which translates as:
I love you. Will you marry me?
Her answer was yes. The most beautiful yes I heard so far!!!

Then she shared about her family and about me. She told me that she truly loved me, more than words could express. You have no idea how much those words mean to me.

Then we exchanged gifts. I gave her a saree and she gave me a shirt and trousers. She was very happy with my gift. I took some time shopping for this gift, and I really wanted to give her the best I could find. Her smile was as good a payback for my efforts as it gets!

Did I mention that she has a killer smile that makes me go ga-ga?

After the ceremony was over, we took a lot of pictures with all the guests (that's a warmup for the 200+ guests we'll have for the wedding. Something tells me we'll have sore feet and a hurting lower back that day) and then we finally got to eat together.

After some more socializing, I left and waved everyone goodbye. They were standing by the gate waving me goodbye. I was happy, I felt blessed.

I am still on a cloud. I feel unworthy of being blessed with such a spiritual and beautiful woman as my bride-to-be. I love her and want to spend my life with her. We have roughly 6 weeks to go before our wedding, and I just can't wait for that blessed day to come. I long for our love to be coming to fruition, and I long to put that ring on her finger. I long to share my life with her and, hopefully, see her beautiful smile every day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

All-India Youth and Campus Conference 2010

Contrary that what you may believe, that conference wasn't an All-India conference, but All-South-Asia conference!
We had ~900 single brothers and sisters from a wide age group who gathered south of Chennai. We were divided in 3 groups: campus, youth, and special fellowship. In my case, I was in the special fellowship group, meant for those who are seeking their life partner (or have already found it :) ).

While the other groups were busy playing various games, we were busy helping our brothers and sisters' matchmaking, or, when freed from this role, talking to each other. It was great! I got to know my wife-to-be so much more.

In the morning, I would pray by the beach with a brother. We heard a lot of sermons. One that struck me was challenging us to stop having a 'small living', but to live big for God.

AIYCC 2010

At this point, I will encourage you to look at the pictures I'm linking to. We had a great time in the train too, as you can tell. We were playing cards, making jokes, singing, eating together.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Good Analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian Situation

I have the chance of reading an interview with Richard Falk, the United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied Territories of Palestine.

Here is a juicy quote that boils it down well:
I’ve just made a report to the U.N. which argues that the prolonged occupation combined with the expansion of the settlements amounts now to de facto annexation. There’s no longer just temporary legitimate occupation after 43 years. Israel has been establishing more or less permanent settlements throughout the whole of occupied Palestine. It is more realistic to look at it as a situation of de facto annexation, de jure occupation. So you have this tension between what is the factual reality and what is the supposed legal situation. At the present time I’m very sceptical [whether] inter-governmental diplomacy can achieve any significant result. And the best hope for the Palestinians is what I call a legitimacy war, similar to the anti-apartheid campaign in the late-1980s and 1990s that was so effective in isolating and undermining the authority of the apartheid government.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Joyful Human Thunder

Today, there was a special announcement during the church service. In fact, I never heard the congregation get so excited in 2 years.
What was it? The official announcement that I'm getting married to Swapna.
You know, THE Swapna from Hyderabad? The super-spiritual woman who can move mountains, who loves God with all her heart, who works at her ministry hours every day despite a busy schedule, and who has a killer smile that makes me almost blind.
Did I mention I'm getting married? To her? Truly, God does great miracles even in the 21st century!!!

I am still in a state of unbelief. This is too good to be true. I wonder if I'll wake up a day and see that I dreamt the whole thing.

Meeting her family on Thursday was an experience! There must've been 10 people from her side. I went with two couples from the church, and most of the talk happened in Telugu and was handled by them. I only answered some questions to reassure the family that I am, in fact, a good guy and very much committed to be faithful to her. That's pretty easy to reassure them because I am both :)

When asked what I wanted, I told them (in broken Hindi) that I only wanted 3 things: her, their blessing, and their love. I saw an immediate reaction in the family. Its like if, at that moment, they accepted me and agreed that I would make a fine son in law.

So I am in the interesting status of 'engaged-to-be'. Our relationship is official and family-approved, and we're agreed to marry. So why not say 'engaged?' That is because Indian culture warrants an 'engagement function' with the families in order to make the engagement official. Also, because Indian culture warrants a big party whenever something good happens in your life :)
This is in sharp contrast to my culture, where engagement is a surprise a man gives his girlfriend and happens in a private manner.  It then gets communicated to the family in an (one would expect) exuberant form ("Ohmygosh...ohmy...goodness!Mom...ohmygodohmygodohmygod... I'm getting married!!!!")

We're both going to the singles' retreat next week. Our last one (maybe except as chaperones). Its going to be a great time for me, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to meet brothers from all over the country, many whom are my friends. The extra edification will help too. God willing, we'll both deepen our friendship as well and get readier for a new life as one flesh.

Please pray for us and all the preparations. Also, please pray she gets her passport fast!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

King Abdullah II of Jordan

King Abdullah II of Jordan was on the Daily Show. And it was nice to hear a moderate voice talking about the opportunities and the pitfalls ahead for the Middle East. I couldn't find a link to the interview only, so you'll have to scroll a bit. Sorry about that.

And the rest of the interview is here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - King Abdullah II of Jordan Extended Interview
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

I found very interesting his observation that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is really at the center of their politics and concerns right now. And it is giving power to a lot of baddies. Also, his concern that the lack of stability is preventing the governments to create opportunities for a lot of well-educated young men and women who just want a normal life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Web Privacy Closer to Disappear

Someone had the idea of trying to re-generate cookies from as many ways as possible. And it works in Javascript too!!! This is called the evercookie.
It is an open source project, so the genie is out of the bottle. I somehow foresee a lot of people using evercookies in the future.
I hope someone programs an evercookie wiper soon!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Retreat in Vishakapatnam

The last weekend, I joined about 35 other brothers and sisters from the AP churches for a retreat in Vishakapatnam (aka Vizag).

Our guest speakers were Felix and his wife, who are leaders in Chennai. We spent one day in the Araku Valley and saw some nice sights there. The other two days were lessons and fellowship.

I learnt about dealing with feelings of failure in the Christian ministry (when brothers leave the faith and nobody, etc.) and the need for boldness, as we are covered by God's authority when we use the Bible properly.

Have a look at some of the pictures. P.S. My camera is giving me trouble, so that means less pictures. Don't buy from General Electric!!!

AP Retreat 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Book of Ruth

I recently watched The Book of Ruth, as I got that DVD at a OM super discount.

They spent a lot of time in the early verses, essentially drawing the degenerating family situation and the sons dying, etc. They added relationship elements as well as tensions that were between that Hebrew family and their heathen neighbours.

Of course, everybody knows the ending, so there is no surprise.
I think they made some cultural/historical elements clear to the audience. But clearly the New Testament quotes in there were out of place.

It is an overall passable movie in terms of entertainment, and it has a little bit of faith building value. Its biggest utility, in my opinion, is to help disciples with little knowledge of the Old Testament know it better.

AIESEC IC and AIESEC Global Alumni Congress

I have had the joy of living in the same city as those two events. I got to join as partner representative for my company's presentation. We even made our own dance :)
Then I attended one day of the Global Alumni Congress. We had a superb India Night that evening, and the speakers were encouraging us to get creative and get bold!
Here are some of the pictures:

IC 2010 + AIESEC Alumni Conf

Monday, September 13, 2010

Safe Food in India

I got an email from Greenpeace India about their update to the 'Safe Food Guide'.
The title is a bit misleading... it is only about GMOs. So, if a product is full of lead or arsenic, this won't tell you.
This is useful for people living in India who want to avoid GM foods out of concern about their safety (or whichever other concern).

Personally, I'm much more concerned about pesticides and other forms of contamination in my food...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Even More Backdated Updates

Update #1: Hampi
I recently went for a short trip to Hampi, Kanartaka.
The place is nice-ish, but that's not a necessary detour for the ruins themselves. But a good guide who would tell you much about the history could make a difference.

Frankly, the logistics to get there are pretty lousy. No direct buses from anywhere, and the buses to get there are the less-than-luxurious kind. There is no government shop either, which helps a lot making sure that tourists don't get ripped off. The Karnataka government has much work to do for raising the profile of this place.

Update #2: studies
I am one IP agreement away of being able to start a PhD in Montreal soonish. God willing, this will unblock soon.

Update #3: Heart Matters
I had asked you to pray the last big update I gave you. Well, the prayers went answered and the relationship busted very quickly. I had asked God to either open the door wide or close it shut. And close it He did. And I am so glad! While on the surface we had stuff in common, it didn't take a lot of digging to realize that we were as incompatible as two people can be.
God had a better plan for me. A plan that He is making into a reality in an astonishing way. I will tell you more very very soon. Please keep on praying.

Update #4: Stability
Things have gotten better lately, as the political agitations have been on-again,off-again thing. And even when there is a bandh, we don't even notice it, or barely do.

Update #5: Work
My project is slated for a major deployment. By major, I really mean MAJOR. Something like I've never done in my career. Many departments to synchronize with, code to keep on writing while this is happening. Suddenly, one of our focus areas is ease of deployment and ease of upgrade.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A short rant on the Israeli raid

Here is a quick rant... I took some time to look at the whole 'israeli raid' thing. Lets put it that way: no angels on either side. But I'm a bit annoyed at people's overreaction on this. I have the impression that some people took the 'OMG Israel evil' line without doing any analysis.

Let me summarize my thoughts: the raid shouldn't have happened in the first place. That was IDF's mistake. But since it did, I'm giving a lot of blame on the activitists on the ship. When you're dealing with special forces, a Gandhian approach is highly advisable. Let me repeat that: if you are dealing with a bunch of elite soldiers armed to the teeth, you should do this: a) duck for cover and b) offer passive resistance at the most.

The activists had prepared themselves for the raid. You could claim that the iron bars were improvised weapons one grabbed on the spur of the moment, but that doesn't fly when we talk stun grenades, slingshots and pepper spray. Also, if you walk around with a big metal bar and throw something at a IDF commando, don't be surprised if you get a bullet in the head. More on that later.
Have a look at the IDF footage. Even if the soldiers interviewed were lying and evidence planted, you got some scary images.

In particular, look at those two:

On the IDF side, you have to wonder who's the guy/girl who coordinated the assault. Did they sleep during their strategy class? The IDF ships approaching the vessel were thrown stuff at, including stun grenades. Don't get surprised when some of your commandos get attacked BEFORE they even finish reaching down. I'm no military commander, but I think this situation demanded a LOT of flashbangs before you put any of your commandos down.
And I'm not the only one thinking along those lines:

Some people were accusing the IDF of sending grenades first. I haven't seen that. Maybe I just haven't seen the right video. If that is true, that's a pretty gross human rights violation right there. But I doubt they did that, because I have problems believing that a bunch of guys would be patiently waiting for commandos to come down the ropes to beat them if they just had received a few grenades their way. We're talking about a ~15m antipersonnel blast radius here.

The biggest DOH here: why did they even raid in the first place? They were in international waters, and they were underwhelmed... Can't you wait until the ship reaches territorial waters and wait for it with a much bigger force?
I am an armchair analyst, so take my word for what its worth... Now, for the other armchair analysts who are bound to criticize me: don't come up with this slingshots vs bullets argument. First, because I know for a fact that you can use a slingshot with metal balls to hunt small animals (my dad has that equipment), so that's a real threat. Second, because we are talking about a combat situation with microsecond reaction time: nobody has time to do any threat analysis. If you're attacking a commando, expect a bullet back. Consider yourself lucky if you got a kick in the gut or a rifle's stock in the face.
It looks to me like both sides wanted a fight, and they got it. Shame on IDF for assaulting a ship in international waters. Shame on the minority of crazy activists who transformed their vessel in a small warzone.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lots of backdated updates...

Here it is in short:
- I was back home for the holidays and had a great time
- I watched a ton of movies in movie festivals (American Chai, Sita Sings the Blues, Cleo de 5 a 7, Auroville, Jules et Jim)
- I attended some concerts organized by the Hyderabad Western Music Forum
- I've been doing better spiritually and I've been more involved in the church
- I'm building a relationship with an awesome sister in the USA

The last two will benefit from prayers. Please don't hesitate.