Girls aloud: Women who rock!

This may sound like a male stereotype, but there’s no denying the fact that a talented female musician or singer who’s also easy on the eyes makes men pretty much powerless. Especially men who love music. In my years of exploring the rock and pop music landscape, I’ve discovered a few ladies who catch your attention with the first lilt of their voice, and not only make you want to listen to more but also, in typical guy fashion, check out how they look.

Without further ado, here are some of my favourite female music artistes. Do check out their discographies and get hypnotized by their vocal charms.

Shirley Manson (Garbage)

Shirley Manson

Image source: https://sallylouvintage.wordpress.com/page/14/

Scottish redhead Manson first caught my attention when I heard the theme song of the Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’, which sounded elegiac and yet beautiful. When I discovered the band behind this song, I was even more intrigued by their name, Garbage, which apparently was an evidence of a positive take by the founding members on criticism that their initial music sounded ‘like garbage’. The true power and moodiness of Manson’s voice expressed themselves even more intensely in the ode to depression ‘Only happy when it rains’ and the lament on squandering potential (female-centric) ‘Stupid girl’. Lesser heard beauties include the vulnerable and lonely ‘Milk’ and the seductive and trippy ‘Queer’. When you listen to these songs, what you remember is the lush contralto voice and her punk vocal style which echoes the seedy glamour of our visions and emotions. With her sexy vocals and engaging-yet-aloof screen presence, Shirley paints her own shades of a purple haze that I don’t mind getting lost in at all.

Amy Lee (Evanescence)

Amy Lee

Image source: http://www.nikinphaser.com/2010/02/amy-lee-promises-new-evanescence-album/

Amy Lee’s vocals have a steely quality, flexible yet consistently strong. They are similar to her personality, a potent combination of attractive looks and a 100-yard stare that could intimidate even a rabid fan. I remember watching the trippy video of ‘Bring me to life’ and thinking, wow, what a perfect combination of sultry vocals, existential themes and a nightmare vision. Amy Lee proved that she was no one-hit wonder by following this smash hit up with a string of catchy yet meaningful songs firmly grounded in illusory reality, such as the fame hungry wannabe-mocking ‘Everybody’s fool’, the zombie-living alternate reality vision portrayed in ‘Going under’; besides these, I also like the ones portraying the darkness of the afterlife, like ‘My immortal’ or the numbness-themed ‘Lithium’. Though Evanescence has been in a hiatus since 2009, Amy Lee’s soul-stirring vocals and dark vision continues to haunt, and I find myself listening to Evanescence’s classics again and again.

Marie Fredriksson (Roxette)

Roxette - The Look album cover

Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Look

Roxette was formed in the mid-80s by Swedish duo Per Gessle and Mary Fredriksson, and they sounded like a more edgy and rockish version of ABBA, with Fredriksson’s grainy vocals perfectly complemented by Gessle’s brighter one and the upbeat tempo in many of their songs. Millennial children would at least be familiar with one my favourites, the 2001 hit ‘Centre of my heart’, featuring their trademark energetic  keyboard riff punctuated by Fredriksson’s urgent and melodious appeal to understanding the maze of a romantic relationship. 1989’s ‘The look’ showed off their sexually aggressive foot-tapping energy. The album cover, showing off a hot Fredriksson in a leopard print double breasted coat open and showing off a gold bikini did not harm their appeal either. However, Fredriksson was not just a punk rocking diva flaunting sexual energy; she could carry off a mellow romantic number with equal panache. 1988/89’s ‘Listen to your heart’ made you see the desolation caused by growing apart in a relationship, as did 1987’s ‘It must have been love’. From it’s formation in 1979, Roxette has been steadily active till 2013. Though we don’t know what lies in the future, Roxette deserves its status as the second-most popular Swedish band after ABBA, and Frediksson’s energy and mesmerizing vocals continue to bring colour to a dull day.

Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters)

The Carpenters

Image source: http://insightsandsounds.blogspot.in/2013/10/karen-carpenter-solo-album-in-living.html

One of the most beautiful voices I’ve heard belongs to Karen Carpenter, half of the brother-sister duo that formed The Carpenters, one of the best-selling artists of all time. I remember my dad playing a cassette back in the early 90s, a recording of classic hits from a popular FM radio programme that used to air on Saturday evenings, and listening to a smooth and melodic voice singing ‘Top of the world’ and I instantly fell in love with it. Karen had a lovely contralto voice which instantly swept you away into her moods seemingly effortlessly. The melancholia evoked by ‘Rainy days and Mondays’ has a wistful beauty to it, as does ‘Yesterday once more’. However, she could sound equally sweet on upbeat numbers like ‘Please Mr. Postman’ and serene romantic ones like ‘We’ve only just begun’. Sadly, Karen passed away at the young age of 32 due to heart failure, caused by her long suffering from anorexia. She has truly made me feel on top of the world every time I hear her angelic voice, and she’ll be missed forever.

Hillary Scott (Lady Antebellum)

Hillary Scott

Image source: http://www.countrymusicislove.com/country-music-news/lady-antebellums-hillary-scott-featured-in-june-issue-of-in-style/

This list would not be complete without mentioning my recent discovery, thanks to my country music-loving friend, of a country music singing sensation called Hillary Scott, of the Nashville, Tennessee-based Lady Antebellum. Hillary’s vocals are clear as a bell, and can enchant you with their soaring range and emotive ability. She sounds equally perfect live, and her excellent harmony in the chorus parts with fellow vocalist Charles Kelley also adds lustre to their songs. Some of my favourites include ‘Need you now’, ‘American Honey’ and ‘Wanted you more’. I look forward to discovering more Lady Antebellum classics and hearing more of Hillary’s beautiful voice, which I have to admit, has kindled my own interest in country music and made me check out other amazing artists like Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban.

Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries)

Dolores

Image source: http://www.fanpix.net/gallery/dolores-o-riordan-pictures.htm

The Irish charm never fails to captivate, especially when it belongs to a singer, songwriter and musician who made Celtic rock as famous as U2 did, with songs that evoked freedom (‘Just my imagination’), the horrors of war (‘Zombie’), the beauty of a first kiss (‘Linger’)  and more themes impacting life. Dolores’ evocative mezzo-soprano voice and her trademark mannerism of dragging out the syllables of the last words of a verse combined with her strong Irish accent created a vocal style that was instantly recognized and loved across the world. Her vocal traits continued to shine in her first solo album post her Cranberries stint, ‘Are you listening?’ in songs like ‘Ordinary Day’. Dolores’ soulful singing, and especially her lighthearted rendition of ‘Just my imagination’, never fails to brighten my day and cheer for this pixie-like minstrel from Eire.

Before I end this piece, I readily accept that this list is anything but exhaustive. There are many more female artists I love and admire. Some names I’d like to mention before signing off include Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, British R&B singer Desiree, Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA, Avril Lavigne, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Imogen Heap of Frou Frou, Dido, Lisa Marie Presley and Suzanne Vega. Rock on, ladies!

 

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Crazy but true story: A mad adventure

This happened during the third semester of my MBA. Thanks to one of our visiting professors having skipped a few of his lectures due to other engagements, we had to attend an 8-hour lecture of his, just one of as many such lectures as it took for him to complete the exam syllabus at this last minute. However, that morning, I and my friends arrived at the institute only to be told that the professor had cancelled the lecture. Wondering what to do after travelling more than 30 kms by a shuttle train to the institute (as the next shuttle train would only be at 6 pm), we decided on impulse to take a trip to the well-known Kharghar waterfalls, in Kharghar, a Navi Mumbai suburb a few stations away from Panvel, where my institute is based.

Kharghar waterfalls 2

Image source: http://www.dnaindia.com/big-picture/photo-monsoon-magic-in-mumbai-1853672

It was not the most sensible idea to start with, as it was the monsoon season, and the stream flowing from the waterfall would have swollen in volume and might even be dangerous. But we threw caution to the winds and happily boarded the suburban local from Panvel to Kharghar, and later, the autorickshaws that ferried us from Kharghar station to the falls. There was a long and muddy pathway leading from an entrance gate, where the rickshaws had to stop, and we had to make our way afoot on this path towards the falls. The soil was slippery and slimy and we trod gingerly, as we didn’t want our clothes to get dirty, by falling on the pasty dirt. Somehow, holding each other, we walked towards the falls, which appeared suddenly as we rounded a bend. We could already hear the heavy gushing noise of a large amount of water falling hard on rocks, and as we walked down the muddy path, we saw what was supposed to be a stream but had swelled into a small brown river and was roaring past heavily, carrying branches, garbage, and other debris along at tremendous speed. This should have warned us, but we walked along lithely until we reached the falls.

The waterfalls presented an awesome sight. On both sides of it were large rocks, and people were climbing up these to reach the top of the falls! We stood surprised for a few moments, then decided to follow these daredevils. In the company of peers, even the timid man becomes a hero, as he doesn’t wish to lose face in front of his friends. I’m sure all of us felt this as we unhesitatingly walked on towards the base rocks, which we started climbing, in our bravado, even trying not to hold any rocks for support and climbing just using our natural balance. The first few of these rocks were manageable, but as we climbed higher, the rocks felt more slippery, not to mention the spray from the falls whipping our faces and stinging our eyes. There was a moment, near the top, where the water flow was thin enough that I actually managed to jump from a rock on one side to the one on the other, with the falls flowing in between. This was an act that only the foolishly brave would attempt, for if my foot had slipped on the rock towards which I was jumping or I’d missed that rock, I’d fallen a good distance down and experienced several fractures or perhaps died of a broken neck or skull fracture from hitting my head on one of the rocks below. But that wasn’t the last foolishly brave thing I did that day.

We finally landed on a ledge near the top and breathed a sigh of relief as we edged away from the falls. Looking up, I saw more huge rocks at higher elevations, and on the largest of these, which was at the very top, three guys sat around coolly swilling beers from plastic cups. I had to admire their bravado, seeing as how dangerous this climb had seemed when completely sober, and how the climb down didn’t exactly seem easy either.

After taking in the sights from this height for a while, we decided to climb down and gingerly (this time taking support of each object that helped) stepped downwards among the rocks. We slipped a couple of places on the slimy stone surfaces but thankfully managed to grab on to each other or other rocks, branches, etc., and in time, we’d returned to the base of the falls. Feeling elated with this adventure, my friend called out, ‘Who wants to wade across the stream?’, for wading across the stream was a direct shortcut to the entrance of the pathway that led to the falls, as otherwise we’d have to walk some distance on the slippery mud path to reach the gate. Once again, without hesitation or thinking, I immediately said, ‘I’ll come with you!’, and even as the others smirked at our foolish enthusiasm, I followed him to the bank of the stream and stepped in after him. Immediately, I felt the force of the current and I was not able to put my foot down after lifting it up to take another step, as the rush of the flooding stream unbalanced me and it seemed like I was going to fall sideways. As I panicked and wildly tried to regain my balance, three guys who were wading across the stream in the opposite direction, parallel to us, saw me, and one of them shouted to my friend, ‘Hold him or he’s going to be swept away!’ My friend turned and caught my wrist in the nick of time and steadied me, and we both crossed the stream without further incident.

In keeping with the apathetic Indian sense of ‘humour’, our other friends laughed at me and my escapade like it was an amusing incident instead of wondering how bad it would have turned out if my friend hadn’t caught me in time. We walked back to the gate and hailed another rickshaw and were soon in the local train going towards Panvel. In the train, I thanked my friend for saving my life, and he made light of it. Soon we were back in Panvel, and as most of us dispersed back to their respective homes taking their various routes, another friend from Kalwa suggested, ‘Why don’t we pass some time here until the shuttle comes?’ There was still about a couple of hours until the shuttle was due, and my friend had already thought out what we should do in the meantime. He led the way to a bar, one frequented regularly by students from my institute, to the extent that the bar owner knew which division we were from without seeing any ID, and we settled down for some relaxing drinks.

Now I’d never been a drinker, and this was a first. But after the day’s adventures, I felt raring to go and willing to attempt anything without hesitation. We each ordered a tall glass of beer and later, a couple of pints of vodka, with peanuts and roast papad for snacks. Needless to say, the drinks tasted horrible and I somehow gulped them down, all the while acting and feeling completely sober, like I was immune to their intoxicating effects. Soon it was time to leave for the station and I and my friend walked along. It was only while we started to climb the flight of stairs at the main entrance that I began to feel a bit woozy and wobbled slightly. My friend, who had so far admired my apparent sobriety, now smiled and teased me, ‘you are high, aren’t you?’ I smiled and said no, and walked in a straight line to the platform where the shuttle train arrived on schedule.

In the train, as dusk gathered outside and the crowd increased inside as each station en route passed by, we talked about our day-to-day lives, things that young adults like us gladly talk about, like girlfriends, money, career, etc. Initially, as the train was passing through tunnels and the sound of the train increased to a din due to the enclosed space, we were shouting at each other to be heard, but I soon began noticing that even when we were not in tunnels and the outside noise was not so high, I was still talking very loudly, which is very unlike me. Not to mention excitedly, enthusiastically, like the things we were discussing were of the foremost importance in our lives. I noticed the people around us glancing in our direction, but I continued my high-pitched yapping nonetheless. That’s when I realized I was truly drunk and feeling drunker by the minute.

After the train stopped at Diva Junction, my friend and I parted ways, and I waited for the local to reach the next station, my home, Dombivli. In the local train, I realized that I was very much in danger of lurching like a drunk or tripping over someone, and I fought with all my willpower to control myself, lest I be manhandled or abused by fellow commuters. My chest felt heavy and I wondered whether I was going to puke, but that was something I was not going to let happen. So clenching my teeth and my fists, I waited for Dombivli station to arrive, and after alighting, walked fast but somewhat unsteadily home. When I rang the doorbell, and my folks opened the door, I announced that I didn’t want dinner and was going to bed as I wasn’t feeling well. They were concerned, but I brushed aside their questions and went to the bedroom, locked the door from within and was asleep within minutes without even having changed my clothes. The next morning, I experienced my first hangover but acted like it was due to my illness. Soon, I was back to normal, with that awesome day remaining a clear memory, which is why I’m able to narrate it so completely today.

The next morning, while travelling back to my institute with friends in the shuttle train, a friend read out from a regional language local paper that five people had been swept away the previous day in the flooded stream flowing from the Kharghar waterfalls and had been drowned at sea. My heart came into my mouth for a moment as I truly realized the horror of what would have happened to me as well. I thanked God and my friend again for my lucky escape, and proceeded on with yet another ordinary day.

Google Glass: Technology of the future

The future is here, and how! What seemed like elements of popular science fiction are now becoming reality thanks to the exploration of technological concepts never attempted before by a few intrepid adventurers on the tech landscape. Among several jaw-dropping inventions that seem to define modern life by the day, stands this small and yet powerful instrument, called the Google Glass. So what does a web giant like Google have to do with a pair of spectacles?

Well, a well-known yet highly secret division of Google, called Google X, set up specifically to create technology of the future, came up with the vision (pardon the pun) of creating a wearable computer in the form of a head-mounted display on a spectacle frame in 2011. Though the prototype weighed a spine-bending 8 lbs., the new and improved version, called the Explorer Edition, weighs less than an average pair of sunglasses.

So what can Google Glass do? Ever wondered, as you’re driving down a highway, and your GPS system isn’t working, and there are no signs to guide you, how you’re going to find your way? If that seems far-fetched, consider this: you’re driving down a road to a destination you’ve never been to before, and you need a quick visual on the route by which you can get there, and voila! Google Glass can show you a route projection that you can look at and follow right while driving! Thus, you’d see:

Google Glass

Image source: http://www.cultofandroid.com/37468/u-k-government-bans-drivers-from-using-google-glass-behind-the-wheel/

What else can you do with this futuristic gadget? Well, you can record any situation with the touch of a button, and get the best style of recorded video, one that has everything that appeals to you. You can take high resolution snaps, and app developers have even developed apps using which you can take a picture using voice commands like ‘Okay Glass, take a picture’ or even by winking! I can’t imagine that a person seemingly randomly winking at different objects or people would be seen as entirely sane or safe by others, but well, that’s the kind of futuristic technology we’re talking about.

We all need to keep reminders nowadays as there are just too many things to remember. But with Google Glass, the advantage is that now a reminder will literally beam in front of your eye, making it impossible for you to forget the task that needs to be done.

Besides this, you can see weather information, circle updates from your Google+ account, phone calls, photos and more. Android app developers, and even iOS ones, are developing apps for the Glass, including those providing news updates, facial recognition abilities, photo manipulation, translation, sharing to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Here are some images of views through the Google Glass.

Google Glass 2

Image source: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2013/02/google-glass-inside-view-reveals-functionality/

Google Glass 3

Image source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EvNxWhskf8

Google Glass 4

Image source: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/google-glass/

Google Glass 5

Image source: http://glass-apps.org/gps-google-glass-app

Google Glass 6

Image source: http://www.rgekay.co.in/2014/01/google-glass-gets-nametag.html

So what does the Glass comprise of? It has a touchpad, a camera and a display. The touchpad allows you to see a timeline where you can see phone calls, weather information, circle updates, etc. The camera has the ability to record 720p HD video, and the LED display provides clean images easily readable by the retina.

In spite of its futuristic looks and handsfree computer-like capabilities, Google Glass still seems like something that was designed not for the common man but for tech specialists, as well as those in fields like medicine. There is a documented case of a doctor who recorded an important operation for future study and analysis by wearing Google Glass while performing it. Notwithstanding such benefits, the very steep price tag of $1500, coupled with the fact that most features that you can enjoy today on an Android device are missing, make this device a miss for the layman. Google has come out with an improved version of the Explorer Edition of the Glass, called Google Glass 2, that included new accessories and made prescription glasses compatible with the frames. Google is slated to launch an Consumer Edition of the Glass sometime late this year. Let’s see what new improvements are in store and whether this becomes the next tech phenomenon to become part of our regular lives.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Latin America’s literary icon

gab6

Image source: http://flavorwire.com/375640/adorable-gabriel-garcia-marquez-photos-juxtaposed-with-poignant-gabriel-garcia-marquez-quotes/

Magic realism: A literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy.

This is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition for this literary genre that was pioneered by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a writer who has been compared with the likes of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and Victor Hugo. He is considered the one of the greatest Spanish-language writers and a Latin American icon whose works purportedly sold second highest across the continent after the Bible. Latin America and the rest of the world mourned the death of this Colombian literary giant at the age of 87 on April 17, 2014, in his adopted home country of Mexico.

Garcia Marquez was born on March 6, 1927, in Aracataca, a river town located in the Carribean Region of Colombia, to Gabriel Eligio Garcia, a telegraph operator, and Luisa Santiaga, who hailed from Barrancas, and whose family had shifted to Aracataca after her father, Colonel Nicolás Márquez Mejfa, had killed a man named Medardo Pacheco in a duel over a point of honour. Garcia Marquez was the first of 11 children, and his parents moved to the city of Barranquilla shortly after he was born, as his father left his occupation to become a pharmacist there, hoping to become rich. However, Garcia Marquez was left in the care of his maternal grandparents for the first 10 years of his life and remained in Aracataca. His grandparents’ turbulent history and colourful tales would provide the ethos for his fictional works, and his birthplace became the model for Macondo, the imaginary village that formed the backdrop for his most famous work, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.

Once Garcia Marquez joined his parents, he was sent to a State-run boarding school just outside Bogota, where he was a stellar student with a love for Hemingway, Dostoevsky, Faulkner and Kafka. In fact, he would come to regard William Faulkner as his ‘master’ and would quote him at his Nobel award acceptance speech, saying, “On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, ‘I decline to accept the end of man.’ This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.” He wrote his first short story, ‘Eyes of a blue dog’, in 1947. He mailed it to the newspaper El Espectador in a response to its literary editor’s statement that ‘Colombia’s younger generation has nothing to offer in the name of good literature anymore.’ ‘Leaf Storm’, his first novella, was written in 1948, when he was only 21, but he had to pursue publishers for seven years before the novella was finally published in 1955.

Though his father wanted him to pursue law, Garcia Marquez felt drawn to the world of journalism. He unflinchingly reported on the civil wars and social unrest that was beleaguering Colombia during the 1950s, and his style of reporting came to be known as New Journalism. His leftist political leanings, inspired by the tragedy of the 1928 massacre near his home town, of banana workers striking against the powerful United Fruit Company, and the assassination of a people-centric leftist presidential candidate, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, in 1948, were apparent in his journalistic ventures, often resulting in adverse reactions to his work. This was most apparent in the case of his 1970 non-fiction work ‘The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor’, where he recounts government corruption as contributing to the disastrous events narrated by the real life protagonist Luis Alejandro Belasco, which caused a great scandal at the time.

In 1953, Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, an Army General, became the 19th President of Colombia and proceeded to establish a dictatorship in the country. Garcia Marquez had returned to Bogota in 1954, where he worked for El Espectador as a reporter and film reviewer. His narrative of government ineptitude and corruption, serialized in ‘The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor’ as an elaborate expose, provoked the ire of the dictator, and the newspaper, fearing a political or violent backlash, sent him to Europe as a foreign correspondent. Unfortunately, while he was in Europe, the Colombian government shut down El Espectador and Garcia Marquez was forced to live a hand-to-mouth existence, barely making ends meet during the day and writing fiction at night.

After publishing his novella ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’, based on the life of his maternal grandfather, in 1957, Garcia Marquez travelled back across the Atlantic and found a position at Momento magazine in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1958, he briefly returned to Barranquilla, Colombia, to marry his childhood neighour, Mercedes Barcha, with whom he has two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

Since the age of 18, Garcia Marquez wanted to channel the stories told by his maternal grandmother into a novel, but could not find the right tone for the story, until one day, while driving to Acapulco, inspiration hit him and he turned his car around and returned home and started writing. He sold the family car to finance his family’s needs while he devoted his full attention to writing every day for 18 months. His wife also took credit from the neighbourhood stores and their landlord to keep the family afloat. By the time ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ was published in 1967, the family was several thousand dollars in debt. Fortunately, the book went on to become Garcia Marquez’s most successful and critically acclaimed work, selling in excess of 30 million copies. It also netted Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982.

‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictitious village of Macondo and provides a metaphorical look at Colombian and Latin American history. Although the book has been praised by renowned individuals, from authors to politicians to critics across the world, as one of the most profound pieces of literature that should be a required reading for everyone, and many intellectuals have ascribed deep meanings to the symbolic elements of the story, Garcia Marquez himself disliked intellectual pretensions and preferred to experience a story intuitively.

Garcia Marquez’s fame exploded post ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and made him an influential person in world politics. Most notably, he became close friends with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and unsurprisingly, their friendship was criticized by many notables, including American literary icon Susan Sontag, who famously rubbished Garica Marquez’s justification of his friendship allowing him to get Castro’s dissidents off the island as ‘weak and ridiculous’. However, Garcia Marquez continued to remain the toast of kings and Presidents, forming a close friendship with, among others, former American President Bill Clinton, who professed himself to have keenly read his works even as a young man in law school. Though critics accuse him of being attracted to power and deriving a weird pleasure from it, Garcia Marquez did indeed use his influence to negotiate between the Colombian government and the 19th of April Movement (M-19) guerrillas as well as the FARC and ELN organizations.

Garcia Marquez is known for other works as well, including ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, an atypical love story between couples in their seventies who find love, even as death is all around them. He had based the premise for this story on the history of how his parents met each other and proceeded to marry against the wishes of his maternal grandparents. Another hard-hitting work is ‘News of a Kidnapping’, a non-fiction account of the high profile kidnappings that occurred in Colombia during the early 1990s during the reign of drug czar Pablo Escobar, whose Medellin Cartel was building an empire based on narco-trafficking. ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ is a mix of realism, detective story and reporting, and is based on an actual murder that took place in 1951, of Garcia Marquez’s childhood friend, Cayetano Gentile Chimento. Another controversial work was ‘Autumn of the Patriarch’, based on the life of Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gomez. Garcia Marquez’s family moved from Barcelona to Mexico City soon after publishing it, and he agreed not to republish it until Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was deposed. However, he went ahead and published it while Pinochet was still in power, as he could not remain silent in the face of the oppression and injustice rampant during Pinochet’s regime.

Although Garcia Marquez will always be remembered for implanting the concept of magical realism forever in readers’ minds, he was a pragmatist and an acute observer of the reality around him. In fact, his surreal motifs only heighten the wretchedness and banality of the reality represented in his works. Ultimately, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing philosophy and worldview was aptly summed up by the man himself when he described Latin America in his Nobel prize acceptance speech: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.” Garcia Marquez has brought the common man across the world in touch with the uncommonness of his reality, and allowed him to see a world beyond himself, in which he is a metaphorical figure. The legacy of Gabo will live long.

2014’s most-awaited smartphone: The iPhone 6

iphone-6-side

Image source: http://www.macrumors.com/roundup/iphone-6/

2014 marks the advent of five major smartphones that may redefine the benchmarks for the industry. These are the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Sony Xperia Z2 and the HTC One M8, the Nexus 6 and the iPhone 6. Samsung made waves with the release of the S5 on April 11, and the Z2 and the M8 are the best models yet of Sony’s Xperia Z and HTC’s One series, respectively. Considering the triumph of the Nexus 5, Android fans are eagerly awaiting Google new flagship phone. But there’s little doubt that the showstopper of the year promises to be the iPhone 6.

Apple has reluctantly followed in the footsteps of its competitors in introducing phones with bigger screens, making the iPhone 4 with a 4-inch screen long after competitors like Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and others had already made phones with larger screens and were regularly coming out with phablet models. This year, the mobile industry is expecting Apple to pay attention to the demands of the segment of smartphone users that like phones with large screens. Two versions of the iPhone 6 are expected to hit stores, one during September, and the other towards the end of the year. The earlier version is expected to be the one with the smaller screen, of around 4.7 inches, while the latter version is the one with the bigger screen size of 5.5 inches. This marks a major change in Apple’s philosophy, which had hitherto been along the lines of Henry Ford’s famous statement, ‘The customer can have a Ford car in any colour as long as it is black.’

Screen

The 4.7 inch screen is expected to have a screen resolution of 1920×1080 while the 5.5 inch screen is expected to have a resolution of 2272×1280. The iPhone 5 models use Low Temperature Poly Silicon (LTPS) and Apple is likely to continue using this technology in the models of the iPhone 6. One major change that is expected for the screen is the switch from the tough Corning Gorilla Glass to sapphire crystal, the element used in the manufacture of the iPhone camera lens as well as the home button of the iPhone 5S. Traditionally, sapphire crystal has been very expensive to manufacture, but Apple has teamed up with a company called GT Advanced to manufacture this tough material in large quantities at lower prices so as to be able to use it in the production of the entire body of its devices. Currently, GT Advanced’s Mesa, AZ, sapphire plant can product up to 200 million sapphire displays, which are enough for Apple’s entire line of devices.

Design

Although initial rumours suggested that the iPhone 6 might have a curved screen, recent ones suggest that the display would remain flat, as in the case of the iPhone 5S. It has also been suggested that the design of the new iPhones will takes cues from the iPad Air and the iPad Mini, and thus have rounded corners. Also, there may be no bezels; instead the glass of the screen is expected to curve downward at the edges. This would increase the size of the display without making the overall chassis of the phone bigger.

Processor

The new 20-nanometer A8 processor, though not a revolutionary upgrade from the current A7 processor that powers the latest iPhones and iPads, will be smaller and more energy efficient. The A8 chip is expected to include both a quad-core 64-bit processor as well as quad-core graphics and will contain 1GB of RAM, the same as its predecessor.

Camera

The iPhone 6 is expected to use an 8 MP camera, similar to the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, but improvements will be added in the form of increased pixel size, a larger aperture, a ‘True Tone’ dual-LED flash, optical image stabilization (OIS), among others.

Other features

The Touch ID fingerprint sensor currently available in the iPhone 5S is expected to feature on the iPhone 6 as well, and there are also expectations of the phone featuring sensors for pressure, temperature and humidity. The phone may also support the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, also known as ‘Gigabit’, which offers speeds upto three times more than existing 802.11 wireless networks, possessing the capability of reaching speeds as high as 1Gbps

It is rumoured that Apple may introduce two variations of each of the two large sized devices, as in the case of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, allowing it to offer a full-priced flagship device, a mid-tier device, and previous generation devices at lower costs. Apple is expected to sell more than 90 million units of the iPhone 6 worldwide, for 2014, which would mean immense work for its manufacturing partner, Foxconn. This might well be the biggest iPhone launch ever. We can’t wait!

What will a Modi government be like?

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‘Ab ki baar Modi Sarkaar’ – this is not just the punchline of many internet memes lampooning the massive promotional campaign of the BJP in its bid to be elected as the party that would form the next Central Government. It represents the sentiments of many across the country, including some of his detractors, who are tired of the corruption, scams, inflation, unemployment, and other ills plaguing the Indian economy and people. Narendra Modi, the man of humble origins, who famously used his tea seller background as a concept to meet and talk to commoners about their day-to-day problems, hopes, and desires, seems to already be heralded as the next PM by a huge mass of supporters, many of them youths who hitherto had not had a strong opinion on India’s political scene. In the one-upmanship game of politics, where perception is often accepted as reality even before it happens, Modi seems well on his way to become the most important figure in the country, holding the country’s future in his hands.

So what do his supporters expect from Narendra Modi? How will he change the perception of India, both in the minds of Indians, as well as the international arena? Here are some expectations about the way the Modi government will handle the vast and complex Indian economic, political and cultural landscape.

Economic revival

In a situation where inflation is double the growth rate, the rupee is struggling to revive its former levels against the dollar, and foreign investments have reduced, Modi has promised to make economic resurgence his top priority. However, he would need the support of his coalition partners to push forward his progressive foreign investment-friendly policies that would also encourage State autonomy in investments. The political clout of the BJP will come at a cost: it cannot afford to pull the plug on populist programs established by the Congress, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the National Food Security Bill, which offers food subsidies to the great majority of the country’s population. As a result, economic revival might be slower than expected.

Infrastructure

India has been crying out for better infrastructure to accommodate its burgeoning population as well as its growing commercial initiatives for a long time. Under the Congress government, though measures were taken to create adequate budgets for infrastructural projects as well as several key projects were greenlighted, actual progress was little due to massive scams and rampant corruption. Infrastructure in the form of roads, bridges, highways, seaports, airports and more, are sorely needed to improve connectivity and quality of living, and the cost for this would come to billions of dollars. For the Modi government to follow through on his desire to significantly improve the country’s infrastructure, controlling corruption would be a major challenge.

Security

Modi has a ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ attitude towards security threats, both within the country as well as those stemming from outside. His policy is expected to be to work towards the economic development of impoverished regions where Naxalites and other insurgents hold sway, as well as take a hard line against militant groups that threaten peace and order in the country with terror attacks.

Women’s rights

The BJP is known to be a conservative party that espouses old-fashioned patriarchal values that have defined Indian society for ages. Narendra Modi seems unlikely to deviate from the unchanging stance of the RSS when it comes to promoting women’s welfare. Additionally, many BJP members have raised the hackles of feminists and women across the country by asserting that rapes are the inevitable result of an urban, westernized lifestyle that promotes liberal values and loose morality. Modi is expected to have to field comments like these from several of his own party members going forward. However, it is also expected that he would give suitable lip service to the issue of women’s welfare.

Welfare of Muslims

There is a perceived thorn of contention between Modi and Muslims across the country, post his handling of the 2002 Godhra riots, that left more than 1200 people dead, most of them Muslims, besides displacing around 180,000 Muslims. Even though the BJP can win despite a lack of support from the Muslim community, which makes up about 13% of the country’s population, Modi would not be able to maintain his credibility if he alienates this voter base. At the very minimum, the Muslim community expects a sincere effort from him to atone for his silence and apparent lack of regret for the Godhra tragedy.

Foreign policy

Modi will have a challenging time balancing the priorities of India’s allies in the West, the Middle East and Asia. Modi has already shown his understanding of the necessity to counter China’s might by having high-level talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A delicate balance also needs to be maintained between sustaining cordial relations with Saudi Arabia, while also preserving India’s long-standing friendship with Saudi Arabia’s enemy, Iran. The focus, however, would be on increasing the pace of trade and economic cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Finally, the seesawing relations with the US would need to be smoothened, by ensuring that recent frictions caused by issues like the Devyani Khobragade issue do not reflect on trade or economic investment. However, it is expected that Modi would turn to other possible trade partners like Japan while maintaining good relations with the US.

To sum up, Modi is hard-selling the ‘Gujarat model’ of development and promises to grow the entire country along similar lines if elected. Considering the enthusiasm of big businesses, foreign investors, as well as the masses to his vision, it remains to be seen whether Modi would create a sustainably growing economy, promote relations with all strategic partners, ensure security and raise the image of India as a growing superpower, if his party comes to power and forms the next government.

How Steve Jobs changed the world

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“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”                                                                          – from Apple’s 1997 ‘Think Different’ campaign

These words are not only the memorable message of a brilliant and award-winning ad campaign, but are also a fitting eulogy to one of the greatest creative visionaries and business legends of our time, Steve Jobs.

Few business leaders have changed the way consumers perceive multiple industries as Jobs has. From personal computing to the entertainment industry to smart mobile devices to retailing to software integration to user interface and hardware design, Steve Jobs has redefined the mindsets of manufacturers, marketers and consumers. Robert Pirsig, the erstwhile author of ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’, who explores the fundamentally important question of what quality means in his classic book, would have found a kindred soul in Steve Jobs.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at how this business icon, who helped create the world’s most valuable technology company, has immeasurably changed the world and our outlook through his vision.

Design

In the early 1970s, while working at Atari as a technician, Jobs teamed up with Steve Wozniak, a software engineering prodigy then working as a programmer at HP, to market Wozniak’s brainchild, the Apple I, which was exhibited as a next generation computer at the Hombrew Computer Club, an informal association of computer engineers who were looking to create more efficient and powerful machines. While Wozniak’s focus remained fixed on finding ways to accommodate more circuits, and thus harnessing more computing power, on a compact circuit board, Jobs realized that a lay user would focus more on how immersive the operative experience of the external unit would be, from the graphical user interface to the hardware design to the durability. It is to Jobs’ credit, thanks to his interest in calligraphy, his preference for smooth and curved edges and his dislike of fan noise, that the Apple II became the first computer that created benchmarks in the industry in terms of overall user experience.

Music

The digital revolution of the 90s changed many industries, not least of which was the music industry. Even as Napster, the peer-to-peer file sharing service started by Shawn Fanning became the bane of musicians and record labels, Steve Jobs pioneered the world’s largest music retailing platform, iTunes. iTunes now has more than 200 million registered users worldwide, who have purchased and downloaded more than 15 billion songs. The iPod, which has become the world’s best selling portable music player, only added to Apple’s supremacy in the music industry. Apple also invented the podcast, a series of web episodes streamed to different devices, and audio podcasts became the means to learn new things and share useful and important information, and were increasingly downloaded or streamed, which increased the popularity of Apple’s online store on iTunes massively.

The personal computer

Throughout Apple’s ups and downs in the personal computing domain, Steve Jobs never lost his vision of creating a computer that created a paradigm shift in what a personal computer should be. Though the Apple I never became a mainstream device, and the LISA flopped, as did the sophisticated business machines he helped create at NeXT, Jobs continued to bring sleeker and more sophisticated machines into the market, that were not only admired by individual home users but also by professionals, notably in the design industry. The Macintosh, iMac, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, and the Power Mac all bear the Apple stamp of excellence, thanks to Steve Jobs’ acute awareness of the importance of the human experience aspect of personal computing.

Mobile computing

Back in the early 1990s, one of Apple’s visions for a portable computer, an early precursor of the tablet device, called the Newton, failed to generate much excitement and was shelved. Similar attempts by competitors such as Microsoft also went unnoticed. However, after Jobs’ phenomenal comeback in 1997, he soon reworked Apple’s concept of a tablet using an industry leading compact design, an easy-to-use mobile operating system, a relatively long battery life, and an app store that is praised for its high quality apps, on which apps of other mobile operating systems have been modelled. The result was the iPad. The latest incarnations of the iPad, the iPad Air and the iPad Mini with Retina Display pack in the power of an A7 processor, combined with the beautiful user interface that have mesmerised and converted millions of consumers to Apple products over decades.

Smartphones

Steve Jobs scored another first for Apple with the iPhone. Introduced in 2007, it redefined the concept of a touchscreen mobile phone that functioned equally well as an internet and multimedia device. Effectively, Apple created the first functional computer that could be carried in a pocket and could be used as a phone, among other things. The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry, and since its launch, smartphones have become one of the biggest selling electronic gadgets of all time, selling in excess of 1 billion units per year worldwide since 2012. Although it faces tough competition from Samsung, which has overtaken it in several markets, the iPhone today still remains the most coveted device in the smartphone category. With features like a 64-bit architecture, a fingerprint identity sensor, a better and faster camera, ultra-fast wireless, an app store with more than a million apps, a cloud platform that seamlessly supports file storage and editing, and more, the iPhone has all the characteristics of a futuristic device that has altered our perceptions of a phone forever.

Movies

After Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985, he founded a company called NeXT, which was aimed at creating powerful and sophisticated business machines. Though NeXT’s products never became the commercial successes that Jobs had hoped for, he got a breakthrough when he purchased Pixar, a computer animation company owned by legendary Hollywood filmmaker George Lucas. Though Pixar struggled initially, when ‘Toy Story’ was released in 1995, Steve Jobs again was hailed as an industry game changer. In a genre dominated by Disney and Sony Pictures Animation, Pixar became an overnight sensation, grossing an average of $600 million for each of its lavishly animated full length feature films. Almost all of Pixar’s films have now become animation classics, watched and re-watched and admired by millions of viewers across the world.

Retailing

After returning to head Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs realized that Apple needed to make its own foray into retailing to push sales. While Jobs had always known the power of great presentation, he was disappointed to see that even well setup displays of Apple products in major retail stores did not seem to significantly push sales, owing to the poor training of the stores’ salespeople, which adversely affected customer loyalty. True to Jobs’ maverick style, the first Apple retail store was opened in a brick-and-mortar town called Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, in 2001. Jobs ensured that visitors got hands-on experience with a variety of functions, such as checking out multimedia interactions, specific gadgets, accessories, etc., for each of which a specific section of the store was allotted and hands-on demos were readily available. Apple’s retailing concept boosted customer experience to a large extent, and a testament to its success is the massive sales figures of $11.7 billion, achieved in 2010 through retail store sales alone, which accounted for 15% of its total sales of $76.3 billion dollars.

In sum, Steve Jobs can easily be called the Midas of the modern age, redefining industries, creating new standards, and moulding people’s minds through the sheer intensity of his attention to detail, focus on quality, and his understanding of the importance of the human experience of technology. He was indeed a messiah of the tech and business world, and an icon that many have tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success. The world sees men like Jobs very rarely, and it remains to be seen whether we will see another legend like him anytime soon.