Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bring Dada back

Now that the abject surrender of the Indian cricket team at the hands of the English is complete, it's slowly sinking in as to the depths to which our team has sunk. It just reiterates my belief that this team fundamentally and gradually lost all stomach for a fight, first with the retirements of Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble, and then the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

Performances of each and every player do need to be considered, but a succeessful team isn't just a sum total of all individual performances. The conduct, intent and willingness of the players matters just as much, if not more. Why else do we see a battle-hardened swagger in the Proteas now? Or the mighty Australians of a few years back? It's in their face, in the way the conduct themselves on the field. The determination manifests itself into every seemingly pointless dive at every half-chance of a catch or a couple of runs to be saved at the boundary. Sadly, this is missing in the current Indian cricket team as a whole.

With the kind of megastars our team had at the turn of the millennium, we needed a coach who would take a backseat and quietly control things. Someone who could handle the players' massive egos. In John Wright and Gary Kirsten, we found such coaches. We all know what happened to the team with an outspoken authoritarian like Greg Chappell.

You may call this benefit of hindsight, but when Duncan Fletcher was appointed as the coach, I literally had my head in my hands. Fletcher is too mild-mannered. It is plain to see that he does not inspire any sort of confidence in the players. Add to that an increasingly inexpressive MS Dhoni and we have an equally clueless team and a watershed on our hands to boot. I don't even want to talk about Dhoni's appalling statements in the media.

Ganguly, Kumble, Laxman and Dravid have retired. Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dhoni will soon follow suit. The team will have to deal with a Grand Canyon-esque sized hole in the experience department. The likes of Kohli and Pujara will most likely be the torchbearers for the coming generation of Indian cricket. At such a time, we need an influential coach. Someone who can put some belief back into this team and inspire newer and better Kumbles, Laxmans, Gangulys and Dravids. Who better than Sourav Ganguly to do that?

By no means is this a sure-fire quick-fix to our team's fortunes. There are many more factors that have lead to probably the darkest hour in Indian cricket, not the least of which are the IPL and a rotting domestic league. However, every sustained bear run in the stock market has a turning point. The point where the luckiest and the wisest invest heavily, with the index at its lowest ebb. So now can we please sack Duncan Fletcher and get in Sourav Ganguly as coach?

Friday, November 23, 2012

An "Outsider's" Tirade

I am an Indian, living in Mumbai, who hails from Rajasthan. And honestly, I'm tired of certain Shiv Sainik Maharashtrians calling and treating me as an "outsider" in Mumbai.
Just because Bal Thackeray stamped his authority over this city during a period of turmoil in the 1960s and '70s does not mean his supporters can discriminate against non-Maharashtrians in today's day and age. Just because it is "Maharashtra" does not give a non-Maharashtrian any less entitlement over this land.
Maharashtrians and people from all over the country have made Mumbai the city it is. I do not like to discriminate, compare or judge on the basis of religion or caste, but since they attack me with that yardstick, allow me to reply with one of your own kind. If not for the entrepreneurial skill of the Sindhis, Punjabis, Gujaratis and the like, I'm sorry to say, but Mumbai may have been another Solapur.

I know loads of Maharashtrians who were born and brought up in Mumbai, have done their engineering, gone to the USA for their masters and have settled down there since, minting the greenback. Well, that is their choice and a perfectly fine one at that.
But when these same people point a finger at me and call me an "outsider", I have a problem. I am living here. In Mumbai. In "your" land. I am a professional, contributing to Mumbai's economy and growth. On what basis do you call me an "outsider"? If anyone, you are an outsider. Brain drain much?

I have been roughed up by Shiv Sainiks on more than one occasion. I was repeatedly denied the opportunity to play cricket for my local club and for Mumbai 
by officials and coaches who were Maharashtrian Shiv Sainiks. Why? "Because you are not a Marathi." I was told that to my face, thrice. When I was thirteen, fourteen and fifteen-years old. In spite of being better than most others at the selection trials. I am not exaggerating and pardon me for my immodesty, but I could've very well been playing for the Indian cricket team today.
So yes, I have a problem with the Shiv Sena, its ideologies and the extreme way it conducts its affairs. For wont of a willingness and ability to carry out an intelligent dialogue, they resort to violence and intimidation.

What has the Shiv Sena done to promote the wonderful Marathi art, culture and language? Nothing or thereabouts. And I shall voice my opinion because, freedom of speech.

So those who call me an "outsider" in the city of Mumbai, leave "your" land and go settle down in a foreign land, which some of you have already done. If you or your kids ever face discrimination by stooges of a local don because of your caste, race or nationality, do tell me how you feel.

I was born in Bombay. I grew up in Mumbai. I embraced everything this city has to offer; the people, climate, food, culture; and am giving back something to the city. So learn the meaning of secularism before you go and poop next time. It'll come out much smoother.

Monday, November 19, 2012

As You Are Reading This...

As you are reading this, a few things are happening in the world around us, all at once:

1. Babies are being born, people are dying and many others are ill or about to fall ill.

2. Couples are parting ways and scores of others are falling in love. The number of such people is not necessarily even.

3. Mothers are feeding their children, while themselves going to bed hungry.  Children are leaving their parents in old-age homes because they don’t have time to look after them.

4. Countless trees are being cut down for the newspaper that you will read in the coming week or the week after that. 

5. Some students are studying for their exams, some others are celebrating the end of their exams.  Some kids are browsing through bookstores, while many others are glued to the latest version of their favorite video game on their consoles.

6. Plots are being hatched by a bunch of humans to kill another bunch of humans because they are detrimental to their interest. Endangered species are inching closer to extinction.

7. Gazillions of liters of petrol and diesel are being filled into cars.

8. Artists are creating art, musicians are creating new music and rehashing old tunes, writers are working on their next bestseller, movies are being made and theatre is being enacted.

9. All sorts of products, articles and things are being manufactured or built; right from toothbrushes to ginormous buildings.

10. Waterfalls are gushing down hills in all their splendor.

11. The Titanic and many other ships and submarines are resting at the bottom of the oceans and seas, along with the beautiful marine life. Meanwhile, Lord knows what is happening at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

12. Sports-persons and teams are winning and losing matches, sweating profusely, concentrating furiously, and calling up on their years of practice and experience. The next breed of sporting icons are going through their paces, tirelessly honing their skills.

13. Youngsters are thinking about their next witty one-liner or meme that will give them maximum visibility on social networking websites. Pictures are being clicked with the cell phone pointing at the mirror.

14. Investments are being made, trades are being executed, deals are getting finalized, fortunes are being made and lost in the corporate world and financial markets.

15. People are posting handwritten letters.

16. Grandmothers are knitting woolen sweaters for their grand-kids.

17. Scientists are furiously researching, discovering and inventing. Astronomers are gazing into the cosmos, trying to unravel the innumerable secrets it holds.

18. People are dying of hunger and walking miles to get a bucket of water for their family. Corrupt politicians, statesmen and bureaucrats are plundering tax payers’ money into personal offshore accounts. Citizens are paying bribes to get to the front of every queue imaginable.

19. Engineers and IT professionals are tirelessly working on designing and releasing the latest gadget or software update.

20. Civic workers are cleaning sewage tunnels and pipes, the cities beneath our cities.

21. People are making love. Soldiers are fighting wars.

22. Someone else is reading this too.

These and many other things are happening at any given point of time. The next time you feel lonely in your misery or joy, remember you are not alone.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

5 Library and Bookstore Thoughts

I love reading and hence, often find myself at my local library and in bookstores. The other day when I was at the library, I suddenly realized that I've always had these few thoughts about libraries and bookstores that have been floating around in my head since the time I was a kid.

1. This place is like a city in itself. Like an artists' colony. Where the best, also-rans and mediocre folks stand side-by-side, proudly flaunting their titles on their spine.

2. Don't these books get tired standing all the time? I mean, I'm sure they'd love to lie down on their front and back once in a while, like we humans do while sleeping.

3. I often see people picking up books from one section, say Fiction and keep them in another section, say Non-Fiction, when they 
decide they don't want to buy or issue it. At such times, these books must be feeling so awkward, being in another territory. Do the books of that  section give them the cold-shoulder treatment till an attendant returns them to their correct section? Or do they exchange friendly banter? I wonder.

4. What happens during the night-time, after the library or bookstore shuts down? Do they all come out and party, play, stretch themselves and then hurriedly go back to their shelves as the day breaks? Because I swear when I go to the library on consecutive days, sometimes I see some books on a completely different shelf than where they were the day before. Well, I now know this is because someone else must have shifted their place, but I was a kid when this struck me. Such thoughts tend to occur at that age.

5. Finally, this is the one thought that troubles me even today, whenever I step inside a library or bookshop. I can't help thinking how books must be feeling so very suffocated being shut all the time. Especially the titles which people browse through rarely. I look at them, standing straight and shut. I hear their silent cries, imploring us to open them and devour what they have to offer. At such times, I feel like opening each one of them and reading them.

Well, these are just my thoughts, but I feel we all should read more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wanting The End

I have some time, I can do this now,
But I'll wait some more and start somehow.
I have some time, won't panic yet,
And just like that goes another sunset.
I wish for some things so hard it seems,
I'll will them to me with my daydreams.
I wish for some things when I fully know,
That I don't deserve them without sweating the plough.
I know the answers that my questions beg,
I just condemn them into a sub-conscious corner instead.
I know the answers that my problems ask,
And yet here I am, masquerading in a mask.
I wish I could tear my mouth apart,
Reach down inside and pull out my heart.
I wish I could tear into that bloody mess,
And sort out these troubles that I have confessed.
Nothing will happen by writing these words,
By rhyming this broken glass' shards,
Nothing will happen by wanting the end,
I'll just have to buck up and start over again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Freestyle fitness

If your aim is body-building, I'm not sure if this is the post for you. If you are looking to remain fit, strong and in lean shape, read on.

I am a huge advocate of doing freestyle exercises, rather than working out in the gym. Anywhere, anytime exercises, where the only equipment you need is yourself and the floor. There are four exercises which I feel are all that you need to get into splendid shape and remain fighting fit.
1. Push-ups
2. Pull-ups
3. Surya Namaskar
4. Skipping

Of the above, if you cannot manage everything, the least you should do is Surya Namaskar. It exercises all the muscles in your body extremely well. People who are on the heavier side can start with the 12-step Surya Namaskar. Others can do this version of the Surya Namaskar.
For skipping, you don't necessarily need a skipping-rope. Skipping on-the-spot whilst moving your wrists will do as well.
There are many reasons why doing push-ups and pull-ups is way better than lifting dumbells and weights in the gym. One basic reason is, when you are doing push-ups and pull-ups, you are in fact, unwittingly lifting almost your entire body weight; something that you cannot usually do while lifting weights. What more would you want? Imagine trying to lift bars or doing benchpress equal to 60 kgs, 70 kgs or whatever your weight is. Almost impossible!
If you can supplement these exercises with swimming, nothing like it. This is also for people looking to lose a lot of weight. Please invest in a pool membership, a good pair of swimming costume, cap, goggles and ear plugs. Learn and start swimming regularly. You will get instant results.
As to how many counts and sets of each exercise you should do, it depends on your body type, weight and such things. I'd suggest that with these exercises in mind, consult any physical trainer to guide you on this aspect.

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified fitness instructor. These observations are largely based on my experiences over the years in my constant endeavor to remain fit. I believe they will help everyone as they have helped me and many others with splendid results.

Monday, September 10, 2012


We look back
We peek ahead
We strain our neck standing where we are.

We want to cover our tracks
We want a red carpet rolled out
While we stand on the quicksand of today.

We want one eye at the back of our head,
While the two in front gaze far ahead,
Not bothered with where we tread.

The ghosts of the past haunt us,
The uncertainties of the future taunt us,
But our biggest punishment is, we must live in the present.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Toe the line

If there is one thing I’d love to do,
It would be to stray beyond the realm of your consent
to toe the line
- just a little bit, a tiny bit.
Enough to make you wonder if you should be cross
or allow yourself to feel refreshingly exploited,
In a way no one would have made you feel in a long time
Or maybe in a few weeks.
For your demeanor discourages initiative
but I know better, because I have come close more than once
And you have allowed me to, in spite of yourself.
And so I will toe the line
- this once, just this once
and you’ll know if you want more.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Hidden Human

They say man is a social animal. There are two parts to this saying, both of which ring very true.
From the time we are born, there is a web that society slowly starts wrapping around us. We are largely oblivious and innocent as kids but as we grow up, we pull that web tighter around us. And all along, this action is voluntary on many levels.

"What is this web?" you might ask. Well, it's a web of societal norms, obligations, expectations and validation. And we happily fall prey because we are trained to find happiness and satisfaction in the fulfillment of the above.
There is nothing wrong with the idea of a society and it's norms, but when these norms have their genesis in a selfish motive or blind faith, every action performed towards fulfilling that end makes us lose our humanity. It's a gradual process which takes up more than half of our lifetime. Deep inside we all know the error of our ways but it's a selfish world and one has to be selfish to survive. The fact that such type of survival is also the reason for our contentment
 paints a morose picture of the animals we have become.

In the circle of life, we get only as much as we give. And so it holds true for humanity too. There are folks tearing our world apart in ways unknown even to themselves and there are a few others who only want to give and to help.
The bad news is, most of us selfishly fall in the former category. The good news is, there is a human being hidden inside all of us. We only need to look.

A Walk To Remember

I walk to work and back home everyday. It is a twenty minute walk and I usually listen to music on the iPod. Sometimes I call up and speak with whoever I feel like. Like most others, this routine too gets boring after a point of time.

This evening I started the walk back home. Automatically my hands reached for the iPod and earphones. I plugged in the earphones and started scrolling down the Artists list. There's another thing with me. While walking to work or back, I like to listen to songs by any one artist only. Sets the mood for the walk. Lends some kind of consistency, if you know what I mean.
Half-way through scrolling, I suddenly decided that I don't feel like listening to any music today. So I put the iPod back in my pocket, rolled up the earphones and continued walking.

Thankfully, I find it quite easy to let my mind go blank and so I did, for five minutes or so. Then suddenly, out of nowhere a thought struck me. "What would it look like if I could see myself walking from up above?" Like an aerial view.

And so I started picturing myself walking home on the road I know extremely well from my usual line of vision, but hardly at all from a higher vantage point. I started imagining how the streets I'm walking on would look like. As the thought process continued, a whole new world opened up in my mind - cars weaving through the traffic, people walking, crossing the road, children playing in the playground and on the terrace - all in one glance.

To make things more interesting, I traced the path of a car and myself, both far apart initially; slowly converging in such a way that it was difficult to say whether our paths will cross or not. Eventually our paths did cross and a pretty girl rolled down the window to ask for directions. Well, all of this happened in my mind's eye of course, so I moved on quickly lest things got more interesting in my imagination and the tug back to reality became more disappointing.

I imagined myself walking into my lane and all the way into the building in which I live. As I climbed up the stairs and reached home, I couldn't help feeling how this had been one of the best walks ever.
Try it sometime.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I was commuting by bus today and gazing out of the window at the world passing by, when this thought struck me. Except nature, everything that we see around us is made by man. If you just let your mind absorb this fact, it's pretty amazing. Leaves you stunned if you dwell on it sufficiently.

Your mobile phone, the buildings, roads, signals, tube-lights, advertising hoardings, clothes, vehicles, airplanes, cups, pens, machines; the list is endless and encompasses almost everything.

It tells us that we humans are capable of extraordinary things. The proof is above, below, inside, around and on us. We have made tremendous progress in our thirst for knowledge and comfort. But at what cost to our planet? The answer lies in the simple fact that even the lack of nature is man-made.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Featherweight of Expectations

Many religious texts and discourses by learned men and women tell us to live our lives without any expectations from anyone. They say that if these expectations aren't fulfilled, we are left with nothing but regret, sadness and disappointment.
Many people keep saying, "don't expect anything from anyone and you will remain content in life". It has become like a tagline of our times, to guard ourselves from the ever-deepening depth of the hollow lives that we lead. 
Prima facie, this widely preached adage is fair and true. I beg to differ, though.

We face disappointments in life at regular intervals. After every disappointment, we expect ourselves to stop expecting anything from others henceforth. And with this expectation from ourselves, we fail in our endeavor right at the beginning. Why not expect everything from everyone? Just don't let the fulfillment of that expectation be the basis for your existence or reason for your happiness.
A life lived without 
expectations is devoid of hope; it's just a passive existence. And hope is the fuel we all function on.

Expect others to irritate you. You'll be prepared for it then. Expect happiness from what you do and sadness from what you are missing out on. The entire purpose of living life is to feel. If you feign indifference all the time, you aren't living. Let yourself feel. Allow yourself to live an uncomplicated, vulnerable life.

Album Review. "Strangeland" by Keane.

Strangeland is the fourth studio album by English alternative rock band Keane. It was released on May 4th, 2012. This is the first album to feature bassist Jesse Quin as an official member of the band.

Keane are:
Tom Chaplin Lead vocals, lead electric guitar, acoustic guitar, organ
Tim Rice-Oxley Backing vocals, piano, keyboards, synthesisers
Richard Hughes Drums, percussion
Jesse Quin - Bass guitar, rhythm guitar, electric guitar

Here is a short review of all the songs on the album.

Track #1: You Are Young
Keane starts off proceedings with this sweeping, encouraging song. It is replete with soaring piano melodies, motivating lyrics and an upbeat tempo. A good beginning to the album.

Track #2:  Silenced By The Night
This was the first single from the album and to be honest, I was disappointed when I heard it first. It grew on me slowly, but I'd question their decision to release this as their lead single. There's a lot going in the song in terms of music, but the lyrics leave a lot to be desired.
"If I am a river, you are the ocean / Got the radio on, got the wheels in motion."
That made me cringe.

Track #3: Disconnected
The first two tracks on the album were somewhat on a similar tempo scale. Disconnected breaks it down a bit with it's off-beat beginning. The chorus of this song is addictive. The "Ooooh" by Chaplin will haunt you comfortingly at least for a week.

Track #4: Watch How You Go
At this point of time in the album, you feel they're deliberately slowing it down. Nevertheless, this is a nice, slow ballad. The lyrics are uncomplicated and so is the music.

Track #5: Sovereign Light Café
One of the two best tracks on this record. A wonderful song talking about "wide-eyed dreamers", familiar streets and heavy on nostalgia about their teenage years. It's been just over a month since the album release and I play this song at least five times everyday.

Track #6: On The Road
On The Road straightaway has an anthemic sound to it, but gets exhausting. Lyrically, the last line is the best on this track.
"Sometimes a dream itself can keep you safe, all along the road..."

Track #7: The Starting Line
A song that will inspire and comfort you in equal measure. Some of you may find this the best track on the album and understandably so.
"Each heart is a paper kite, blown around by the breeze / Love won't rest till it brings you to your knees..."

Track #8: Black Rain
Dark, brooding and melancholic. For the first time in the album, you feel Keane is experimenting with their sound, breaking away from their signature style. An honest effort. 

Track #9: Neon River
I love this song, especially the beginning notes. It slowly picks up tempo and climaxes with a full-throated sound on Rice-Oxley's piano, which fills your ears wonderfully well.

Track #10: Day Will Come
Day Will Come picks up where On The Road left off, tempo-wise. Only it carries the baton much better overall. Chaplin tries to convince the listener that the good times will return.
"Some days set your world on fire / And some days they sink like stones."

Track #11: In Your Own Time
Tom Chaplin shows us his full range of flawless vocal abilities on this track.  And Tim Rice-Oxley showcases how he has become the backbone of Keane's piano-rock sound since 1997.

Track #12: Sea Fog
Tom Chaplin, take a bow. His vocals on this concluding track will give you goosebumps. The pain is evident, the hope shines through and the result is a strong case for him to be regarded as one of the finest lead vocalists of our time. Sea Fog is an elegant end to a solid album.

Keane are often criticized for not experimenting much with their predominantly piano-rock sound. When they do, they are panned for moving away from their strengths. As we all know, this doesn't matter much. The fans love their music.
This has been termed as a back-to-the-basics, safe approach by Keane; a step backwards from the bold forays of their 2008 album, Perfect Symmetry. Honestly, I don't see any problem with that. Rediscovering your roots is no crime, as long as you have good material and sounds for the public.

They play to their strengths and the result is that Strangeland will find a place for a long time even in your 2 GB iPod Shuffle.

Rating: 8/10

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own. Not everyone will agree with them. Feel free to post your comments.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tax Refund Notification - Bogus Email

If you receive any email titled 'Tax Refund Notification', do not pay attention to it. In all probability, this is fake. Read on.
The email will be similar to the following:

Dear Valued Taxpayer,

We regret to inform you that your tax refund request was NOT processed successfully. This is beleived to have been caused by the submittion of incorrect/inacurate account information.

However, after the last account audition, the total refund payable to you is now 42,320.00 INR. Please follow the link below to re-submit a refund request and this time, endeavor to fill in your Information accurately to avoid further delay in the remittance of your tax refunds into your account


Note: Your request will be processed within a period of ten (10) working days

We appreciate taking the time to learn about our tax refund. It's one more way Income tax department can make your tax payment experience better.

Tax Refund Department
Department 0f revenue,
Ministry 0f finance,

There are various reasons why I feel this is a fake chain of emails.

1. The spelling mistakes in the email.

2. The 'Click Here' link mentioned in this email takes you to a stunning copy of the  http://incometaxindia.gov.in/ website, with a link which changes various addresses and settles down on something like http://hanami.com.

3. If you visit the National Website of the Income Tax Department of India, the link for which I've given above in the previous point, it is specifically mentioned that:

The Income Tax Department NEVER asks for your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts through e-mail. 

The Income Tax Department appeals to taxpayers NOT to respond to such e-mails and NOT to share information relating to their credit card, bank and other financial accounts.

4. Once you click on the link given in the email, it asks you to select the bank in which you hold an account, where you want your tax refund to be credited. Suppose you choose ICICI Bank, it takes you to the ICICI bank website and asks for your login ID and password. All this while, the domain name keeps changing in your address bar. Highly suspect. Besides, the bit about asking for your email ID and password reeks of spam and scam.

In my five years of working in the accounting and taxation field, I have never come across the Income Tax Department sending such emails. All correspondence related to refunds is through written communication.

One of our clients forwarded this email to us yesterday, asking how to go about the refund process. That's how I figured out everything I've mentioned above.

However, I must warn you. There has been no news regarding this supposed fake chain of emails from the Income Tax Department. Nevertheless, I urge you to exercise caution and ignore such an email, if you receive any. Approach your Chartered Accountant or write a letter to your Assessing Officer, in case you want to know more about your tax refund status.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Comfortable Plateau

The other night I fell asleep with all the windows and the door of my room, shut. Needless to say, I woke up with a start in the middle of the night, gasping for breath.

In that instant, the first thing that came to my mind was the scene from Kill Bill 2 where Uma Thurman's character has been buried alive by Budd (played by Michael Madsen). I do suffer from a mild case of claustrophobia and so this scene quite literally took my breath away.

This was immediately followed by another, more pressing idea. What if there was a limited supply of oxygen for each person in this world? Would you breathe freely, live each moment to the fullest and accept death or would you sacrifice the pleasure of every breath to prolong your life?

In a world consumed by the urgent need to grab every inch available, most of our choices are taken keeping the "long-term perspective" in mind. Many of us, including me, live a carefully calculated and measured existence. From the day we are born, our parents plan for us. We take over the mantle to a certain extent by planning for our future, once we have to decide our career path after high school. This uphill climb is undertaken to achieve that comfortable plateau of a well-settled family life. A good job or business, spouse, kids, retirement, etcetera. By all means, this is a scenario worthy of being pursued and once achieved, cherished.

It is possible that many of you might say that you would like to achieve that delicate balance between breathing freely and saving up oxygen for the future, much like how what we strive to do with our finances. Like everything else, this too is a matter of your choice. Whatever you do, just don't gag yourself.

Just like the background image you see while reading this, you'll reach that comfortable plateau at some point in your life. But once in a while, take the plunge off that cliff. It will be worth it. Breathe.

-- Harshvardhan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Every Picture Tells A Story...

They say "every picture tells a story". This one is no different, though it does throw up more questions than what it answers.
For starters, what is it that she is capturing on her camera?
Where is this photograph taken? It looks like a classroom to me, with the blackboard in the background.
Is she wearing a watch on her right wrist?
And most importantly, what does her face look like? Her long arms, fingers and endless, washboard abs suggest that she is a tall lady.

I came across this image on the internet and quite frankly, I've fallen for her, big time.  The delicate arch of her back, the perfectly toned arms with the solitary bracelet on her left arm, the snug t-shirt hugging her body and accentuating her slim, graceful figure and the hair pulled together neatly, make the camera quite inconsequential. Or so you would think. As it turns out, the camera is the reason why she's standing the way she is.

Questions there are aplenty, but this picture does give me one answer that makes me feel good. There is no ring in the fourth finger of her left hand... :)

-- Harshvardhan.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Album Review. "Scars & Stories" by The Fray.

Scars & Stories is the third studio album by American alternative rock band, The Fray. It was released on February 7th, 2012.
The band spent a portion of their budget for this album to travel the world and hence, most of the 12 songs on this album have been inspired by their travels.

The Fray are:
Isaac Slade - Lead vocals, piano
Joe King - Backing vocals, bass guitar, rhythm guitar
Dave Welsh - Lead guitar
Ben Wysocki - Drums

Here is a short review of all the songs on the album.

Track #1: Heartbeat
The album kicks off with this disappointing track, which tries hard but does not work for me. The chorus is uninspiring and nothing about the song makes you want to go back for a repeat hearing.

Track #2: The Fighter
This should have been the first track, ideally. Isaac Slade's wonderful vocals backed by consistent, rhythmic riffs throughout by Dave Welsh and Joe King, make this of the two best tracks on this album. 

Track #3: Turn Me On
Listening to this song is like peeling off layers. From the outset, the funky bass line suggests that this will be a catchy song. Foot-tapping music. The girls will like this one.

Track #4: Run For Your Life
I reckon this will turn out to be one of the more popular tracks on the album. Very good work on the guitars and brilliant songwriting.

Track #5: The Wind
Everything about this track is likeable except one thing - the music during the chorus. One gets the feeling that Dave Welsh (lead guitar) and Ben Wysocki (drums) are holding back when it matters the most. Need more strength, conviction and a fuller sound in the chorus.
Apart from this, throughout the song there is beautiful layering of the guitars over Slade's vocals.

Track #6: 1961
The sound of 1961 as a whole is a sore disappointment. Unremarkable.

Track #7: I Can Barely Say
Beautiful song. Pained lyrics. Wonderful vocals by Slade. Backed only by the piano, this song is full in it's sound.

Track #8: Munich
By far, the best track on the album. Everyone will agree with me on this. Munich has what The Wind was lacking - a strong chorus.
Soft rock at it's best. In addition to the the piano, guitars and drums, this track also has the violin layering seamlessly to create a wonderful, rich sound. Arguably one of their best tracks of all-time.

Track #9: Here We Are
One of those songs which start, finish and you don't even realize. And if you do happen to notice anything, it is the only thing the fact that the chorus becomes supremely annoying as the song wears on.

Track #10: 48 To Go
Rest assured, this song will grow on you. And it won't take 48 repeat hearings. A good song.

Track #11: Rainy Zurich
As with most good songs, it is the bass line on this one that makes it work. Take a bow, Joe King. Love this track.

Track #12: Be Still
The final song on Scars & Stories is a slow, moving ballad. With only the piano accompanying Slade's mellifluous vocals, this a perfect ending to a solid record.

By no means is this a groundbreaking record. The Fray stay true to their strength, a piano-driven pop-rock sound; and come up with a consistent record which neither bowls you over nor makes you toggle to the next artist on your music player.
Though this album will not give us any runaway successes like 'How To Save A Life', 'Over My Head' and 'You Found Me', it has firmly established this Colorado-based quartet as masters of their formula.
If you are a fan of this band, you will enjoy the album. If you aren't, I suggest you start with the previous two albums before listening to this one.

Rating: 6.5/10

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own. Not everyone will agree with this assessment. Feel free to post your comments. :)