Gmail Shifting to a New Version of the GUI

My Gmail was behaving in a funny way since at least yesterday. Some times there was a blank page when you clicked on something. Some other times there was a strange looking error message like “Zero Sized Reply” or something. Then the look of the interface was a bit different. Finally, the URL also was looking different: a small one instead of the usual long concatenation of apparently random letters, numbers and symbols.

On asking around and doing some experiments, I realized that Google is shifting to a new version of the Gmail interface. I wish they had given some explicit indication of this, so that I didn’t have to worry about what was happening. The network in my place has been behaving strangely and some other funny things have been happening (e.g., my academic home page suddenly and completely disappeared from the Google index).

This is what the new interface looks like:

The New Gmail GUI

I have not yet tried the new features (if any), except noticing that the GUI looks a bit different.

I have heard that there is a plan to shift to a Yahoo! like interface. Personally, I would prefer a Gmail like interface.

A Tip for the Analytical Writing Section of GRE

After the last post, I realized that the mail quoted there could be used for a very practical and profitable purpose. If you are preparing for the GRE exam, then the said mail can be used as very good practice for the Analytical Writing section of the exam.

The second essay asks you to analyze an argument, and there’s no choice of topic. You have 30 minutes (in both test formats) to analyze the passage and evaluate whether it presents a logical argument, whether its reasoning is sound, and whether further evidence may be needed to support the conclusion. This is basically a critique of a reading passage.1

So, if you are preparing for the GRE exam, why not take up the mail in the last post and do what is necessary, according to the quote given above. A PG (i.e., graduate) student should be able to do this.

यह मैं नहीं कहता। गाइड में लिखा है।
I don’t say this. It is written in the Guide.

If there are any good analyses, I would be happy to publish them here.

Anyone willing? Or is the topic too hot to touch?

Another War on Terror

In this post, I just present a mail which was sent to the students of a major academic institution in India with a large population of resident students and researchers for whom the campus is the home.

Without comments. Except this: the mind boggles.


In view of the recent terrorist attacks in Hyderabad, there is a percieved
threat to all important places in and around the city. We being a part of
a very prominent institute should also be concerned about this.You all
might be aware of the rules which were in effect during the military
games. They were continued after the games were over for the above
mentioned reason. Regarding this, We had a discussion with the
administration and those rules are being modified as following set of new

1. All the students have to carry their Identity Cards at all points of
time, failing which they will not be allowed to enter or exit from any
building or the main gate.

2. The identity cards of all the students entering in or exiting from any
building will be checked by the security guards from 10PM to 1AM.

3. The identity cards of all the students entering in or exiting from any
building will be checked by the security guards and an entry will be made
in the register from 1AM to 5AM. It is the responsibility of a student to
make an entry in the register of his/her movements from 1AM to 5AM. We
would like to emphasize here that the onus is on student to make an entry,
failing which, strict action might be taken against him/her.

4. Some student volunteers will be sitting with the guards at each of the
hostels from 10 PM to 2 AM to facilitate the process. You are expected to
co-operate with the guards as well as the student volunteers.

5. The canteen will be closed at 12:30 AM.

6. The main gate will be closed at 12:45 AM. No entry in or exit from
main gate will be allowed from 12:45 AM to 5 AM.

7. From 1AM to 5AM only the roads from OBH to Main building and Main
building to Main Gate will be open for travelling. No other roads should
be used during that time. There will be a patrolling by guards throughout
the night and any student found anywhere except the above mentioned roads
might have to face strict action. No vehicular traffic is allowed between
1AM to 5AM.

8. From 1AM to 5AM the only permissible reason for which a student can be
outside a building is to travel from hostel to lab or vice-versa.
Guards have the authority to send the students back to their
hostels, who are found loittering around in the campus.

These rules come into effect from tonight onwards and considering the
seriousness of the situation, we expect your co-operation and support.

Thank You,


(On behalf of Student Parliament)

I happen to be one of the residents.

(One clarification: In case you are misled by name, the ‘Student Parliament’ is not an elected body. Somewhat like the Democratic Republic of Somewhere).

A Not Really Musical Dominated by Songs and Music

This is another of those movies I had wanted to see for a long time, but didn’t get a chance to. I don’t really feel like writing a movie review right now, but there is something in the movie which is making me write this (pun intended as an afterthought).

What do you make of a movie like Aks? It is not very easy to talk about this movie if you don’t want to say things which have already been said. Yet, this is a movie which could be a minefield of insights (most of them probably unintended by the director or the scriptwriter) because there is a lot in this movie about what we can call the social subconscious of our society. I hope someone will do a more thorough study about this movie, somewhat in the Umberto Eco style. That is the real significance of this botched attempt at making a masterpiece. Aks is not a usual Hindi commercial or even ‘art’ movie, at least not in the first half. I will now say something which has been said by many reviewers of this movie: the first half is good, but the second is just nonsense sitting on top of the substance introduced in the first half.

In simple words, the major theme of the movie is the oldest one: the fight between good and evil. Or, to put it more intellectually, the dichotomy or dialectics of good and evil. But the best way to describe the theme of the movie is by using a single word: humzaad (हमज़ाद). Which means that the movie suggests that good and evil are basically the two sides of the same coin and ‘as long as there is Rama, there will be Raavana’. And that the society just doesn’t want to see its own evil face, which also implies that the evil is not really in a few individuals. It is there in the society as a whole. Also, that there is no way to eliminate the evil forever. That there is no real possibility of a better world. Of course, not all of this is explicitly stated, but some of it is. By the way, there is also a novel named Humzaad (हमज़ाद) by the great (so I think) Hindi writer Manohar Shyam Joshi. But let me rush to add that I don’t completely agree with this idea of the movie or of the novel. May be I am just afraid to accept the reality, but if this is the reality then…

The movie, however, does have an ambiguously positive ending: a compromise that didn’t pay off in commercial terms. If the director had just stayed true to the theme of the first half, he could have created a masterpiece. Instead what we have is a promising first half and a heavily disappointing second half. While the first half is more subtle with some real substance (even if not all of it is original), the second half has the movie maker panicking to please the lowest common denominator and to ensure that the enterprise is a profit making one. Not quite surprising that the movie has been directed by an adman and the ‘business partners’ are

The movie is quite slick by the standards of Hindi movies. As someone has noted (not exact words), there is a pleasing riot of colors. Acting is not that bad, even though sometimes the actors have to do things which would seem quite ludicrous if described in words.

But the unquestionable winners in this movie are the songs and the music. The lyrics have Gulzar’s characteristic stamp, with the difference that this time they are more wickedly than romantically poetic. As for the music, I think this is Anu Malik’s best film. In spite of the fact that his music here owes a lot to A. R. Rehman. In fact, it is as if the music was composed by an avatar of Rehman who got completely integrated into the unique and great (well, at least partially great) tradition of Hindi film music, but still retained the typical Rehman touch of playful, unusual and beautiful notes and sounds.

If only the second half was half as good as the irresistible music and songs, instead of presenting confused supernatural para-psychological mumbo-jumbo.

Did I mention that Aks is made by an adman and the media partners are Also, that the movie doesn’t take too many risks when it comes to talking about the system, even though it is based on the extremely ‘cynical’ idea of humzaad. Business is business. Nothing is more important than profit and security (for whom?), not necessarily in that order.

No Such Thing as Schizophrenia

Many posts ago I had said that I don’t like pseudoscientific terms like ‘schizophrenia’. I have found that I am not quite alone in holding such an opinion. There is actually a society working for the abolition of this dangerous label, as mentioned in this article.

I have much more to say on this, but I will hold back for now.

Meanwhile, if you are bewildered or enraged (by this opinion), you might want to read this, which I found just now.

Don’t be too bewildered or enraged, lest you be…

On (My) Linguistic Doublewrite

Some readers of this blog must have noticed that I talk about using Indian languages and providing support for them, but almost all my posts till now are in English. Well, I had started this blog with the intention that I will write mostly in Hindi. But except the About section and the first short post about Hindi ZNet, I have only written in English.

I plead guilty to the charge of limited linguistic doublewrite with respect to this blog. Whatever may be the situation, we can always have excuses, and sometimes it’s very hard to separate the excuses from the genuine reasons. In fact, a genuine reason may become an excuse (to yourself) if your level of commitment increases. I also have some excuses. Or reasons. First is, of course, that my years of higher education and professional reading and writing have ensured that even I find it easier to write, and even more importantly, type in English. So, the reason (or one reason?) is convenience (possibly to be decoded as frustration?). When viewed from a higher level of commitment, it becomes an excuse: to cover laziness or dilution of commitment.

Am I going to mend my ways? I will try. I won’t stop writing in English here, but hopefully there will be more posts in Hindi. Hopefully (again) in the near future (the MS Word grammar checker says it’s a fragment and is asking me to consider revising: I decline).

Does it sound very promising?

Hope so.

Just a Quote

I hate isolated quotes. I am very suspicious of metaphysics. And, of course, I don’t believe in God, nor do I think religion, on the whole, is a good thing to happen to civilization. Still, in this post, I will just give a quote, an almost isolated one, from a religious metaphysical poet. But then this quote is one which became one of the most well know poems and has affected the culture and language as much as any paragraph from Shakespeare (who, by the way, is unparalleled in this respect):

No man is an island. entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne ([1], [2]) in MEDITATION XVII

An Apellative Disclaimer

I read in yesterday’s newspaper about the dispute over the movie Eklavya: whether it should be sent as India’s official entry for the Oscars or not. The courts will (have to?) decide.

Sometime back I had searched on the Net for ‘eklavya’ (an exercise, the spell checker says excercise is wrong, in narcissism?). I found that most of the top results were about the movie Eklavya. This was doubly distressing for me. First, for the personal reason, but more importantly, for reasons which would be obvious for anyone who knows something about India. Actually, something here means more than something (work for linguists).

Anyway, for those who don’t know ‘something’ about India, and also for those who think they do but don’t, Eklavya (or Ekalavya: एकलव्य) was a character in the ancient Indian (Aryan, Brahmanical, almost Manuvadi) epic Mahabharata. In this massive book, which is one of my favorites, his story occupies the equivalent of one and half page. Still, given the caste history of India, he is (quite naturally) the hero or idol of many among the Dalit community. Technically, I am not a Dalit, but in a sense I am. So, I was somehow expecting that some document about this Eklavya would be at the top in the results returned by the search engine. Or, at least, would be among the top. Not so. Neither was this blog :-( but this was expected :-)

I would like to tell his story, but not now…

This blog post is a protest about the takeover of words or names (in fact, much more than that) by all kinds of powerful and influential people.

But it is also a disclaimer about the origin of the second part of the pen name used by this author. Eklavya in Anil Eklavya has nothing whatsoever to do with the movie. This disclaimer is needed just in case someone thinks that everything in the world is inspired by movies (and I talk a lot about movies on this blog). Despite all that has happened in the last many decades (centuries?), there still actually are some people in India who don’t need to know about Eklavya from movies because they grew up with stories of Eklavya in many forms with many interpretations.

The fact is, I have not even seen the movie, nor do I know what is in it. Nor does it have a high priority among the movies in my wish list.

So, please note: firstly, Eklavya was a remarkable character in Mahabharata (even though his appearance was short); secondly, Eklavya is the idol of many among Dalits; …; [inifinite – 1]ly, Eklavya is the second part of the pen name of this author; and only infinitely – that sounds positive – only lastly and leastly, Eklavya is the title of a recent Hindi movie.