Treasure [Witch] hunt at Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple

The great hunt is on and each day crores of value worth antiques are unraveled from the hidden chests and dark chambers of the great Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Its really mesmerizing to read all about the treasure and its hidden coffers in such an ancient monument and engineering marvel.

South Indian temples really fascinate me, its grandiose structure and innate work and fine grained artistry really entices me. These temple just shows the passion of people who conceived this structures and passion of people who worked for them to make it as they are – a resilient structures which can withstand 1000 years of time and tide.

Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple is relatively a young temple compared to great Chola or Pallava monuments in Tamil Nadu. The great temples in Tanjore, Chidambaram, Gangai Konda Cholavaram, Kumbakonam really bowl me over when I stand before them like a kid with eyes and mouth wide open.

Its really no surprise that so much of treasure is hidden beneath the stone structure of Padmanabha Swamy temple. In fact each and every ancient temple in South India surely would have had such secret treasure troves, but alas now everything is lost because either being looted by British or invading Muslim Kings and if they have survived those stooges our own people might have siphoned off them. The crux is we Indians don’t take pride in such structures nor do we care about these marvels. Many people loathe going to temple for various reason – being an atheist or aversion to crowd or laziness to travel and many other silly reasons. No wonder in Chidambaram you see lot foreigners with cameras than Indians with camera. They are fascinated by them than us.

Coming to this unraveling story of treasures in Padmanabha Swamy Temple – what will happen to them? Now that secret is out in the open vested interests in different quarters may be frothing in their mouth to take control of temple or to seize a nickel out of it and keep it in their showcase or worse siphon it off for money. Remember the price being derived is just based on current market rates, if you add the antique value of these pieces it may run into more crores in value. But it would also be insane to argue that these whole thing is proprietary of one family now. These treasures are not earned by them, they might have been got as gifts to the state, as tax and wealth of the state. So today a family cannot come and claim them because of a lineage. Its like our Prime Minister claiming rights on India’s economy. I feel it belongs to the people of Kerala and its upto the people be proud about it, be passionate about it and care about it and preserve it for generations.

Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple is one of those finest temples out there where a visit can really calm your soul and soothe you. Its ranks high in the way its maintained and run. A big kudos to the Royal family and the trust which does it – after all they never got tempted to loot the treasures till now. Alas that today we have denigrated to such a passé that arbid ego clashes and petty interests have lead to this skull drudgery of a situation and we have no one to blame but ourselves [read Hindus] for such an impasse. From here if an ordinance is promulgated and secular Congress party decides to put a secular person [like Mr. George Joseph or Mr. Mohammed Haji] in the trust running the temple we just have to live with it.

Now the question is next what? What to do with the treasure – should we use it for eradicating poverty or negating some of our fiscal deficit or implement NREGA with that? Anything can happen in this country. I am sure some insane voices would opine that now that people know about the treasures they are not safe where they are and should be put in bank vaults. Nothing can be disastrous than that. We have smart people in this country who even though cannot be creative can easily be creative enough to make fakes and swap the real ones. Hope we won’t tread that path. I personally would like them to maintained where they are and status quo maintained on it. Or even if they can make some great fool-proof arrangement to exhibit them and open the chambers for public that would also be good (something like public viewing every year say, for 2 weeks and then they are back to the chambers). I personally would like to see them and more than the treasure I would be excited in seeing the secret chamber and its security plugs.

Its not clear as to what will happen to the temple or the treasures – a handful of cronies and their ego will decide its fate. But thank god they can’t take the Lord away or take the shrine itself away. Those two are enough for mere mortals like me to be happy about.

A walk in the alleys of this sacred temple is enough to transpire you to another realm, to mesmerize you about our rich history and culture and hope a day will not come when they won’t even allow to do that!

Google GSON – A Short Intro

We have uptaken Google GSON in our current project and have been trying to use it wherever JSON input/output is needed.

Google GSON is a Java Library that can convert any Java Object to JSON string and also form a Java Object from a JSON string.

The main advantage with using GSON is the plethora of options provided in the API which allows a bunch of customizations before converting an object to a JSON string.

One of the cases for Gson may be UI Messages. Server gets an AJAX call from browser it does the processing and want to send back a Status Message to the user. For this case we can have a small class

class UIMessage
{
      private String msgCode;
      private String msgText; //translated msg Text

      UIMessage(String msgCode, String msgText)
      {
          this.msgCode = msgCode;
          this.msgText = msgText;
      }

}

UIMessage msg = new UIMessage(“SAVE_SUCCESS”,”Updated Successfully”);
Gson gson = new Gson();
String jsonMsg = gson.toJson(msg)
;

Now we can can stream that jsonMsg back to the response and JavaScript can take in that message text from JSON.

The above is the very simplistic use case with GSON. If you want to add more sophistications into it, you can start using the GsonBuilder class which is nothing but a Builder Pattern for Gson class.

By default GSON gives field name as key for the JSON text and field value as the value. In the above example the output will be like this

{“msgCode”,”SAVE_SUCCESS”},{“msgText”,”Update Successfully”}

You have also option to control which field to serialize by using @Expose annotation (when used only serializes the fields marked with annotation) like

class UIMessage
{
      private String msgCode;
      @Expose private String msgText; //translated msg Text
}


UIMessage msg = new UIMessage(“SAVE_SUCCESS”,”Updated Successfully”);
Gson gson = new GsonBuilder.excludeFieldsWithoutExposeAnnotation().create();
String jsonOutput = gson.toJson(msg);

In the above case it will just take msgText for serialization. Other way would be to mark certain fields as transient in the class and prevent it from being Serialized.

If you use the Builder you get options like whether to serialize Null fields or change field naming using the FieldNamingPolicy. Gson also handle all Collection Objects effectively.

The biggest advantage I got with Gson apart from a flexible JSON conversion mechanism is that it promoted more OO within the system. Earlier we had messages and statuses floating around like raw Strings, now all of them have been encapsulated into its own class (like UIMessage above). Also the incoming JSON from the browser is also converted into equivalent Java Classes and these objects are further forwarded to Business Delegate Classes. Earlier the parameters were raw Strings floating around. Agreed we had the design all wrong in first place, but uptaking GSON made us create lot of classes interacting with HTTP Request and Business Logic and code is getting little better.

Why I am not so enthused about Chrome?

Ok, Firefox 3.5 came and as a self-pretending geek 😉 I jumped into the 3.5 bandwagon by upgrading my good old firefox instantly. But things went haywire, 3.5 crashes when some one sneezes in the next bay that was the experience. Frustrated I migrated to Chrome. The problem mostly occurs for all our intranet sites.

I have been using Chrome now for past 1 week or so, I must say I am not that much enthused by Chrome. I think the biggest advertisement for chrome was that each tab is a separate process so one tab crashes, I can still continue with other tabs. But I never experienced that sweet spot using Chrome.

I listen to lot of talks/songs in Youtube and Chrome’s Shockwave Plugin is not that astounding. It does crash may be once or twice per day. So in between my work suddenly I see that chrome has frozen. When I do Alt-Tab it doesn’t enter Chrome. Now I just want to kill that conking tab which is freezing my brower. So I hit CTRL-ALT-DEL. I see 25 chrome’s in that processes tab. Which one should I kill? I think best way to guess is using a Random Number Generator. I make some random guess and start killing processes and it neatly kills the tabs of the half read articles and blog which I wanted to finish and one of those processes is the Master, killing which chrome closes completely.

Which Chrome to Kill?

Help me- Which Chrome to kill?

So WTF is the hype and harping about each process for a tab. It sucks! I will move back to Firefox 3.5 once it stabilizes.

I also didn’t like Ctrl+F text box coming in Right hand corner where my eye never reaches first and I think they kept their thinking user just stare at the keyboard while typing text. And ofcourse not to mention those cool plugins of Firefox, which I miss like Feedly, Last Tab & Dictionary.

Reclaiming Life….

Rather an obnoxious title for a post. Well its not about reclaiming life from the nadir of disruption and maelstrom, it’s just a reflection on certain things in life which did not go well in the past year compounded my laziness and procrastinating nature.

Professional Life – It was a least satisfying year 2008 in my professional life. Year in which learnability eroded and a sense of complacency set in. The project was rocked by many storms and tsunamis and it was floating like a rudderless ship. Work really dried up and days were spent in office like being spent in browsing center. Hopping from one site to other without any direction and nor adding any value to self, it was just wasted time altogether which cannot be reclaimed. Mired by politics at top level, hampered by technological limitations and lack of good customer feedback and acceptance is a sure recipe for disaster and project failed to take off. It was a bitter experience and it was sort of repeating for the 3rd time in succession – failure, thrashing and finally scrapping of project. Five years of energy, ideas and code getting scrapped repeatedly sapped the enthusiasm, verve and energy. The inquisitiveness to learn new stuff was lost; it was like going to job daily in the morning and a it was like a mirage of being busy and engaged

Learning and Adding Value – Last year (2008) also adversely affected this aspect, virtually stopped reading technical books and were just scratching the surface of tech blogs. Lost the complete energy to learn, experiment and broaden the portfolio. This is really synchronous to the work you do, when work dries up and you have no sense of direction, it’s same with learning new stuff. It was always about what to learn? Why to learn?

Finance – It was getting contagious, lethargy crept in here as well. A good portfolio of equity thoughtfully constructed during the previous years (when Sensex was at 6k-7k levels) was just left idle in the bank and demat accounts. In stock markets it’s all about timing and planning your entry and exit. Now if you just don’t track it regularly it’s just going to be winded away. Yes I left a lot of money in the table and never booked profits/minimal losses in a timely fashion. The net result is blood bath in these bearish times.

Health – Further bad news, eating out, eating in, eating at, all sorts of prepositions you can add with eating, and factor in sedentary life result is bloating up horizontally on all sides. And naturally had to pay the price in the form of intriguing back aches which were diagnosed to be slip disk later. It’s sort of a permanent handicap which I have to carry along whole life.

Enough of bad news, is it not time to take control of life and steer it in the right path rather than leaving it adrift? I started 2009 with the right earnest, hope and energy.

Professional Life – Things had to change, change for good and that trigger happened in November, after I read “The Bonsai Manager”. That lingering feeling and inkling in me to break the comfort zone finally materialized and I finally put the papers in current team and looked for opportunities within the company. Opportunity to face new challenges, don new roles and prove everything from the scratch. So 2009 started with a fresh note, a new team, new role, new challenges, facing customer, feeling the heat of customer issues and a whole new domain. It feels a lot better now, coming home in the evening with a satisfaction of adding value to myself and doing something worth the salt.

Learning and Adding Value – When you have enough work to do, to keep you busy then naturally you get energy to read and explore new stuff. It’s like learning with a sense of purpose to assimilate ideas that you can implement in the current work, innovations which you can envisage in the current way of doing things and technologies and latest fad to be brought up in meetings and be incorporated in work. So its lot more fun now, inspite of being engaged I am able to extract a couple of hour or two to read blogs or e-books and add value to myself.

Finance – I owe this to “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. Frankly it changed the perspective with which I viewed money this far. I realized money is all about building assets and making it work for you rather than being left idle in nonchalant savings account. I have shed my lethargy now I track my stocks daily once, re-jigged the portfolio. I read a lot about stock markets, learnt how to read charts, how to trade options and futures (though never got the guts to try it out) and now I am actively shopping for stocks with strong fundamentals each day when the market crashes. It’s all getting tracked in a neat google spreadsheet doc and I plan to invest every month a significant chunk in equity markets.

Health – This I owe it to my Doctor, Dr. Raghav Dutt. He has inspired to me do regular exercise, to bring down the calories. So at least for past 6 odd months I am walking daily in the morning for 1-1.5hrs. And I have lost 9kg in the process and come down to a manageable 89kg now. The aim is to reduce further 3-4kg. But it’s going to be tough because I feel this is the maximum achievable for now, the last 3-4kg is going to difficult unless I can do severe diet modifications and resort to little bit starving. But for now I am going to pamper my stomach with regular food. So things are looking really good now, this year I also joined in Twitter and found it be an amazing source of gathering good stuff from the Net. Let me hope to continue this in the coming years!

PS:- I really love the Title, its used as the tagline by Tata Safari and I love their ads as well. And if ever I change my car I will seriously consider Tata Safari and Reclaim Life!

Melghat Adventures – I

 Thanks to a geographically diversified coterie at workplace, I get to visit different parts of India in the pretext of attending marriages. Being a wildlife and nature aficionado, I prefer the marriage itinerary to be packed with a visit to wildlife sanctuary near the venue. Earlier it was gir, then sunderbans and now is the time for Melghat, pre-cursor attending a marriage in Nanded.

Melghat Tiger Reserve located in Amaravathi District of Maharashtra is relatively less-known tourist resort. Thanks to which, much of the forest is unperturbed with crazy tourists and pepsi cans and bisleri bottles. A 13 hour bus drive from Hyderabad took us to Amaravathi, the heart of Vidharbha. From Vidharbha another 1hr drive takes us to the shanty town of Parathwada. Much of the journey from Amaravathi to Parathwada criss-crosses killer cotton fields skirting on both sides of the road. As a first time visitor to this part of India, I was having a mixed feeling passing through Vidharbha heart lands – where every tick of two-and-a-half hour culminates in a farmer suicide. My mind was perplexed and I was curiously gazing out of the window on the villagers and their homes, trying to read the misery on their face. An amalgam of shame, sadness and discontent was brewing on my mind, the overwhelming thought – how venal and insensitive we have disintegrated to?

Parathwada was a picture of typical India, with a dilapidated bus station, shabby roads and flith all around. From Parathwada, began the journey to Melghat which almost 900m above sea level. This was the best part of journey passing through bucolic settings and innumerable hair pin curves and breath-taking views. Our stay was booked in Forest Guest House at a place called Kolkas. A two hour topsy-turvy ride through forests and mountains left us in Kolkas. The only proof that we had indeed landed in Kolkas was a sign board which read Kolkas Guest House, Turn Right. Rest apart it was dense forest all around, the conductor while getting down pointed his hand and said walk down 3km you will find a guesthouse and with that bus chugged away. No sign of human civilization, no concrete structures, no electric poles….. just trees, trees and more trees with a road in the midst winding away. The first thing I did was to check if there was a mobile signal, the Nokia was blank. No GSM, No CDMA – welcome to Jungle Land. Then started our trudge on the 3km path in search of the guest house. On the way was the first sighting of the trip – a beautiful golden red spider, resting on a labyrinthine network of web between two trees. Out popped three digi-cams to capture this fascinating handiwork of the spider and the spider itself. I was struggling for 1minute, to get a shot, the spider just couldn’t be figured out through the lens. Thankfully the photography connoisseur in the midst helped with the hint of Manual Focus. So with the mode set I harried my lens in search of the spider and finally caught it through the eyes of the camera. Click! Click! Click! The camera had kick-started for the first time in this trip and on its way to capture the magic of mesmerizing Melghat.

A 20mts walk took us to Guest House, resting on the banks of River Sipna, it was an idyllic setting to unwind one-self and recharge. The guest house is manned by a two-man army and the rooms were pretty shabby and bathrooms were awful to say the least. But outside the room was the lap of nature, pristine, atoned with green, rustling with the sounds of birds and winds gracing the trees. So for once we forgot what’s inside and our souls were kept wandering outside while physically our body was cozying in the warmth of two layer blankets from chilling cold outside. But let me accept here for just 200/= for a suite for 3 persons together per night, what we got was supreme luxury.

The first rude jolt of the trip occurred here, when the two-man army welcomed us and told you are stuck here if you don’t have a vehicle. As I mentioned earlier, since it’s not much hyped destination, there are no private resorts and those who wish to do safari had to have their own vehicles. A pall of gloom descended on us, then started a series of debates, interrogation and quizzing the guys, finally we worked out a plan to sent one of us along with a guy to the nearest village and find if we can get a vehicle. My dear friend Alosh, took up the charge and thankfully the guest house had a bike. They set out in dark, yes darkness at 5.30pm to Semadoh which is 14km from Kolkas. Semadoh is a small village which has a couple of tea stalls and a phone booth. Dropping a new one rupee coin can make you talk for 20sec to outside world. I sent my SOS message to home through my messenger Alosh. While me and Kunal had a hot water bath and comforted ourselves in the confines of the bed, Alosh battered the cold and brought back good news. He got a Commander jeep for the whole day next day for 1500/= and our adventures were to begin next day at 5am.

Inside Guest House was resident a family, and the only source of food here was their home. They prepared us a simple yet sumptuous dinner and we were having the first proper food of the day at 8pm after the long arduous bus journey. 9pm, with nothing much better to do in a forest, we crashed to bed dreaming about tigers and bears and an eventful day awaited us in the horizon.

(End of Part-I)

Srisailam Trip – 2007

After an ordeal of a trip in the summer of 2005 smothered with some fine memories it was time for another Srisailam trip. This time it was a packaged tour from APTDC. The deal worked out to be 660/- per head inclusive of conveyance and stay in an uber cool resort in Srisailam for one night, altogether I felt it was a dandy of a deal.  

 Off we set on Friday, Aug 17th an early morning start with overcast sky and benign weather promised it to make it a picture-perfect trip. So I loaded my camera with fully charged batteries and a neatly formatted 2GB card to capture every bling of nature. The travel itself is very pleasurable as the destiny. Srisailam route criss-crosses rustic villages and Nallamala forests which houses Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve. Nallamala forest is the hotbed of Naxal movement and the forest covers are profuse hide outs of naxalites. An avid watcher can easily spot monkeys, deer’s and wild boars enroute to Srisailam.

Srisailam is on a hill top about 2800mts above sea level. Going from Hyderabad one has to hop from one mountain to the second one through a gorge which houses the Srisailam dam between the two mountains.  The beautiful spectre of nature unravels when one descends the first mountain pass through a narrow bridge to start the ascend of the second mountain. The bridge runs parallel to the dam at least a couple of kilometers away. Standing on the bridge embers of tranquility engulfed me; all around lustrous tinge of green from the skirting mountains lent a mystic charm to the place. The river – which is a sangam of Krishna, Tungabadra and Bhima rivers – underneath was in full spate thanks to the copious rains and shutters of the dam were open aiding the cataclysmic flow. The sight of water gushing-seething-scuttling out from the dam was mesmerizing and it really pulled everyone into a thrall.

 Our first stoppage was at the dam view point. Enthralled by the spectacle everyone was out with their cameras and truly a photographer hidden in everyone was blooming out. Sheets of water were cascading down the dam walls and once it cascaded down, from the sheer pressure the sheets of water ricocheted and transformed to a shape of parabola made from droplets of water. The water gushing looked like infinite lustrous white beads of pearl roiling down in a chain. Because of the sheer force of tumbling water the whole milieu was draped with tiny droplets of water as if an artist has stippled the canvas of nature with tiny white pearls. The atmosphere was engulfed with these sprinkling droplets and from a distance it was as if writhing vines of steam emanating from a hot water stream. It really made my day I was gasping and swooned by these splattered water droplets and splashing river traversing amidst the silent mountains.   

 The next stop was Panchganga which is a small waterfall amidst thickets of forest cover. A very tranquil and serene place and its believed Sankaracharya scripted Soundarya Lahiri and Sivanand Lahiri sitting here. Our next stop was Padal Ganga which also is the backside of the dam or the reservoir. A rope-way takes one to the bank of the reservoir and a boat ride through the water was a riveting experience to behold forever. 

Coming back to Srisailam the destiny – the abode of Lord Mallika Arjuna Swamy, Srisailam holds a high pedestal as is one among the 12 Jyothir Lingas in India. The idol itself is half concealed underneath the earth. One of the most amazing traits of this temple is devotees are allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum and are allowed to touch the main idol itself and one can ever perform pooja on the main idol in their own, which is not allowed in any other South Indian Temple.

Next day morning after a nice darshan and sumptuous breakfast we embarked on the return journey another joy ride through the natures lap bequeathed with charm and greenery. Most of my pictures which I shot in this trip were taken sitting in the moving bus on the return journey and to my surprise they have come out very well, truly capturing the natures best with tactility and are here to stay refurbishing my memory – a poignant travel memoir.

Top 3 Presidential Candidates

The commies dikat is out for the upcoming Presidential polls “….a secular candidate with political background….”. The word secular in the vernacular of commies is obviously to be interpreted as someone who has proven traits of being anti-Hindu (esp. middle class Hindus), minority appeasement gets bonus and political background means he/she should have slithered around with politicking in his/her past?

Under such a concoction  of politics and secularism the top 4 candidates coming to my mind are

1. Arundati Roy – A hardcore hypocrite,  funded by NGOs to globe trotting, stay in five stars and known for giving acerbic speeches on India and Indian civic to elite European, American diaspora. So whenever there is development/industrial/infrastructural projects involving land acquisition Arundati and coterie are there upright with a Socialist Commie ideology to put hurdles in the project and grab media attention worldwide. Her secular credentials are impeccable, after her fight for a Afzal Guru (Muslim) convicted by Indian Law for terrorism. And also have many such vibrant ideas like troop pull out from Kashmir, ways to malign and demoralize armed forces for human right violation etc. Overall a fitting bill for a political, secular candidature matching wavelength with Commie ideologies.

2 .  Arjun Singh – The messiah of  Muslims and downtrodden sections of Indian society, fighting hard  and raging a battle today against social  injustice,  apartheid,  untouchability and what not? An entirely palatable candidate for Commies for doling out sops to (creamy layer) for the so called backwards he is definitely one of the strong contenders. It would be even sacrilegious to question his secular credentials. Having strong political background for amassing wealth and building bungalows worth 20 crores in 1980’s its time for all to give serious thoughts on this contender. And above all he is a good player of yes-man, sycophantic roles all through his life for the Family.

3. Shahabuddin Bihar RJD MP with strong political credo with 52 criminal cases on him. Vast experience of Constitutional loop holes to escape each time after being convicted. Being a Muslim no one can question his secular colors. And probably the only candidate who can match the Left mandate of “person with thorough knowledge of the working of the Constitution”.