Thursday, December 29, 2011

Help Keep Wikipedia Free

I know you’ve looked up an article in Wikipedia at some point in your life. Reading up more on a current event, a crisis that occurred, a religious occasion you’re unable to understand, life history of your favourite celebrity, etc. We’ve all done that; read up on Wikipedia actively, that is. Since Wikipedia has been there for you, my humble request to those who are reading this post is, please be there for Wikipedia, by donating whatever you can to this awesome organization.

I’ve been using Wikipedia since 2006 – as referrals for projects, to find all facts of a particular case in one page, to understand what APA style of writing was, to find more info on my assignments. Wikipedia never failed me, not once. You will find some of the best written articles in Wiki, written concisely, to the point and informing the reader accurately, and therefore spreading knowledge actively.

I truly believe that Wikipedia is the messiah in spreading all of this new found knowledge to the world and constantly helping us become better people by learning all of this information.  You want to know about the Anna Hazare scenario, you go to Wiki. You want to know the status of the Lokpal Bill, you go to Wiki. You want to know what the big fuss is about the Mullaperiyar Dam, you go to Wiki. (Don’t write in that you go to Google, because you and I both know Google would take you to that Wiki page that has all the information).

Jimmy Wales, Co-founder of Wikipedia
Think about it. Wikipedia is really that online encyclopedia that has all the information sorted in one place; not just that, this information is constantly updated with new developments and other events that occur. And, this page is free from all that clutter of blatant advertising, glittering and flashy (not to mention blinding) banner ads, sponsored stories, etc – no interference whatsoever.

Despite having zero ads, staff of 95 people, 679 servers, Wikipedia is still the 5th most visited website in the world and serves 470 million people every month with billions of page views. That’s most certainly saying something. It’s not just you and I who rely on Wikipedia, it’s millions of people around the world who want to be enlightened with information and knowledge that really would make the world a better place to live in.

Wikipedia is not asking too much of you. They are accepting donations of even Rs.100 this year (by debit/credit card). And they only raise what they need. Once they’ve raised their budget, they stop fundraising for the year. You can have nothing but respect for such an organization.

So, please donate. Any amount. Anything that you can to help protect and sustain Wikipedia. More than any of us, our future generations depend on it.  Keep Wikipedia Free. Thank you.

P.S. Once you’ve made a donation, tweet about it and use the hash tag #keepitfree.

P.P.S. Wikipedia did NOT pay me to write this. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Harry Potter Forever!

My first love!
I was 11 when my friend Kaustav lent me his Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He passed it to me in Math class - a fat book under the bench whispering "Psst. Here's the book I was telling you about. Read it!" Rolling my eyes, I reluctantly took the book from him. I peered at its cover and found an odd picture of a boy flying on a broomstick. Flying. Thinking this was the male equivalent of Sabrina, I decided to read it later.

The next day, my friend asked me whether I started reading it. Having completely forgotten about it, and not wanting to bum him, I lied and said yes.
Kaustav: "Till where have you reached?"
Me: "Just started to. So you know, the beginning."
Kaustav: "Are you going to read it in Value Ed* class?"
Me: "No, I left the book at home."
Kaustav: "I'm sure you haven't even started reading the book then. Read it. Now."

I stared at him. He knew that I hadn't read the book. That was just odd. Completely nonplussed with his reaction, I went home and started to read it.

Little did I know that this Harry Potter boy and his magical world will walk into my life and never leave.

I couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know more. I skipped lunch. I didn't go out to play. I didn't watch TV. And I didn't do my homework. I just stayed in my room, and read Harry Potter all evening and finished it past midnight. It was the most magical journey I had been on and I wanted more of it.

I went back to Kaustav the next day and begged him frantically to give me the second book. He grinned. (I'm guessing he knew that I had actually read the book by then). I had a painful wait of a whole day till he gave me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And pretty much, the same thing happened. I went back to him the next day to receive my third dosage of comforting, magical, lively and enchanting Harry Potter. He told me that he only had the first 2 books and he'd been trying for getting the 3rd book for quite sometime, but in vain.
Gryffindor is where I felt I belonged!

I think I experienced my first 'heartbreak' that day. Not over a boy or some stupid crush. But over a book.

3 months later, my friend Ankita managed to loan me Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (her relative had bought it for her from London). The book moved me. Another 6 months later, I manager to get hold of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And, that was the first death that shook me up.

As time passed, I would reread all of the Harry Potter books and eagerly await for the next one to release. I was 19 when I finally finished reading the series (standing in a queue at 4a.m. at Crossword to buy my copy). And while I felt ecstatic that there was going to be no more painful waiting for the books, I was upset that the magical journey may come to an end.

But I could never get enough of Harry Potter. I wanted someone like Ron Weasley to be my best friend. I wanted Hermione Granger to help me make the right decisions. I wanted a friend like Hagrid who would care deeply about me. I wanted to be on first name basis with Albus Dumbledore! :)

Thank you!
The Harry Potter book series was not just a 'book for kids' or a 'fantasy fiction'. The book actually gears you up for life. It teaches you to value friendship, stand up for what you believe in, confronting fears, having each other's back, believe in unconditional love, value people and appreciate them for who they are - lessons that actually help you become a better human being.

For me, the series could never be over. Something about reading anything from a Harry Potter book cheers me up instantly. Lame as that might sound, it's like what people feel when they read a passage from the Holy Bible/Bhagwad Gita/Quran. I found solace in Harry Potter. And more than anything, it made me realize that I should never stop believing.

On behalf of all of us in the wizarding world, just, thank you, J.K. Rowling! Your books have affected all of our lives SO much! :)

*Value Education class in school, supposed to be 'inculcating holistic values' in us.

Friday, December 2, 2011

So Viral-very!

Yes, you've heard it. Yes, you've caught yourselves humming to it. Yes, you've sung it out loud. Yes, this Kolaveri is everywhere!

Dhanush's "Why This Kolaveri Di?" is one of the most viral music videos of all time (you know you've hit crazy viral when you're more popular than Lady Gaga, the brand most companies strive to achieve; but more on that later). It earned a million hits in just 5 days of the video being uploaded on You Tube - and it's the first Indian music video to have achieved that feat. Ruddy brilliant, I say (while writing this post, the views on You Tube are currently at 13 million and steadily growing, and it's been exactly 2 weeks since the release of the video). 

The video was released on Nov 17 and I remember 2 of my friends who shared it on their FB wall. I almost wanted to ignore it, till I saw a friends' comment that said "LOL! Unfucking believably funny!". Now if he had left that comment with just "LOL!", I would have ignored it (since 90% of my friends on Facebook LOL for every post, even though I know they barely changed their facial expressions when they viewed the post). The rest of the comment was what piqued my curiosity. Also, since Dhanush almost never turned up in any shared videos on my non-Tamil friends' walls, I decided to click on the link. 

 My first reaction: that's one helluva cool song, but one helluva fake video. Really. It was cool because even though I heard the song only once, I was able to remember most of the lyrics. And, I loved how the English subtitles to the Tamil pronunciations were Cow-u and Now-u. It was fake because Shruti Hassan looked way too pretty and dolled up for being holed up in a studio for a song recording (why was she there in the first place even? She didn't sing, did a good job promising us she'd sing, didn't sing, and Dhanush stole the show to such an extent, that nobody found the need to look at her). Aishwarya looks great and has set her hair well. Anirudh (the music director) is extremely patient with Dhanush and not directing him at all. And, Dhanush looks WAY too happy for a debutante singer in a studio. It all seemed so mismatched.

You have to hand it to Aishwarya though. She's a smart business woman. She had no plans to launch the song as a single, till it was leaked earlier online. When it caught popularity, she decided to capitalize on the opportunity and shoot a behind-the-scenes video a la Akon's Chammak Chalo style (at least that was real. It was, right?). Only that it wasn't actually a behind-the-scenes video, more like an airbrushed version. The funny Tanglish subtitles was a brilliant idea, and tickers of 'Dial 12345 to set as Callerback Tune' was a genius stroke. I should probably take some marketing tips from her. 

 Dhanush said he couldn't fathom the virality and popularity of the song, and said it was absolute nonsense, but many seemed to disagree. The song caught on with youngsters for a variety of reasons - the easy to remember lyrics, the funny subtitles, the songs' supposedly casual demeanour and a large chunk of men empathizing with Dhanush, for apparently they 'instinctively knew' how he felt. Whatever be the reason, it sure did catch on, and how! 

I'm going to end this post with a few comments: 
 Aishwarya R. Dhanush - You're a smart business woman. I'm in absolute awe of you. 
Dhanush - Brilliant song. Brilliant work. But then again, you've always been brilliant. 
Anirudh Ravichander - Great music. You're gonna go big in the Tamil music industry. 
Shruti Hassan - Please get your old nose back. It was the only Kamal Hassan trait you had in you. 

 P.S. I don't hate the Kolaveri song. I've raped the replay button on You Tube! :P
For those who live under a rock and haven't seen the video, here it is (also for those who simply want to listen to it)