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Cyber Chat

(Published in "Studio Systems" July-August Issue)

By now the readers of this column know about my passion for the Internet. Therefore it is with some trepidation that I write that my recent experience with it has been far from satisfactory. I recently opened an Internet banking account and was quite impressed with their enthusiastic response. After all the passwords had arrived by courier etc., I had the account going within a few days and logged on to their site only to discover that at times some of their pages do not open and I get an error message. This can get very frustrating especially when you are in the middle of a transaction as you are uncertain about the process. I complained to their help desk and immediately got replies from their staff who were courteous and prompt. After a phone call from their technical head, they seem to have managed to lick that problem as I haven't experienced that again! Encouraged my this I finally decided to pay some bills through the account. My Internet hours disappear fast and one day I received a mail from my ISP to say I was low on hours and need to renew. Using the Internet banking account, I renewed with VSNL and saw the money disappear from my account. They told me that it would take at least 2-3 days before the renewal would take place and I would receive an email from VSNL confirming the payment and renewal. After five days of waiting I got panicky and after getting another mail from VSNL about my low hours, I emailed them informing them of my renewal. What followed was a barrage of emails to the bank and VSNL and it took all of seven days to finally have the account renewed! This is truly a mockery of the Internet and it has been done by the very custodians of the technology.

Even more depressing was my experience with an ISP(Internet Service Provider). Wanting to try an alternative to VSNL and enticed by the attractive ads and schemes dished out by the various new ISPs in the market, I approached one of their franchisee for a connection. The man that appeared at the door was so rude and arrogant that I was aghast! He obviously was in a hurry and would not entertain any enquiries, saying that everything was written very clearly in the instructions(English). I can assure you that it was not and if the aim of the ISP was to confuse and intimidate the consumer, they sure succeeded! If they can do it to me, I can't imagine the plight of the masses as they grapple with this new technology, especially the non-English speaking ones. Instead of welcoming this huge market in their fold they will only succeed in pushing them further away. Finally, after trying for many hours, I managed to register the service online and that too by not using their software but through VSNL! Truly a sorry commentary on the state of our ISPs. I hope that we are just experiencing the growing pangs and that things will be honky dory soon.

Madan Mohan remembered

July 14th 2000 was the 25th death anniversary of one of India's finest musicians, the great Madan Mohan. A military man who thankfully forsake his military career to give us some of the greatest film music that we have had the honour to hear. To observe this occasion, the Madan Mohan family invited a select gathering to view an excellent half hour film that his son, Sanjeev Kohli, made on Madanji after which a five CD/cassette pack of all his great songs was released by Lata Mangeshkar and Yash Chopra. Interspersed with rare recordings of Madanji singing and observations by music stalwarts like Lata Mangeshkar, his favourite singer, Zakir Hussein, Begum Akthar etc. the recordings are an excellent tribute to what is one of India's foremost film composers. The function itself was an excellent evening graced by almost all the leading musical luminaries in India, from the classical to pop. The entire Mangeshkar family including Asha Bhosle, Ghazal stars like Jagjit Singh, Classical masters like Shivkumar Sharma were all present to pay their respects to this great artiste. To be in one room with so much talent was an incredible experience and it was truly an emotional occasion for all us to participate in this tribute to the great maestro. May his soul rest in peace.

AES Seminars

Attended the AES seminar on Acoustics and Indian Instruments by Prof. Bhide and was very impressed by the professor who is obviously a highly learned professional and a musician to boot!. Mr Sood later informed me that his daughter is the famous Indian Classical Music artiste Ashwini Bhide. The combination of the arts and sciences in human beings is indeed intriguing and special and history has proved that some of the greatest scientists have also been good artistes. Our Dr Ramanna, the Atomic energy genius, is an example of this rare combination. I believe that the creative urge in these individuals make them reach heights that differentiate them from the common.

The second seminar was on Surround Sound, the sensational sound revolution that has engulfed the film industry and which has made a quantum leap in the quality of sound in Cinema. Organised by Onkyo, the home audio hardware company of Japanese origin, the AES members were exposed to an excellent demonstration of the development of 5:1 and 7:1 Surround Sound and the various formats available in the home theatre arena. The features of Dolby Digital, DTS and THX surround were discussed and demonstrated and music on Surround was heard with the unplugged live version of 'Hotel California" by the Eagles as the demo. Truly an exhilarating experience! Surround has indeed taken the Motion Picture Industry to a new level of excellence and because of this, Cinema will continue to be paramount in the audio visual experience. Just imagine all the special effects of "The Matrix" without the accompanying sound and you will know what I mean! However, it's relevance in the Music scene has still to be determined as that kind of separation can be distracting for the ultimate musical experience. I'm sure the creativity of the artistes and engineers will realise the potential of this potent technology and soon we should be having our very own Indian artistes mixed in Surround Sound.

Both the AES seminars saw large attendance, definitely the biggest gatherings that I had ever seen at AES functions which speaks well for this budding society. I hope AES grows in this fashion and one day India can have its very own AES convention. This will see even greater interaction between International and Indian Sound Engineers and hasten the process of India's progress to the centre stage of the Entertainment Industry of the World.

World Citizens

I recently read about the merger of two American Airlines in the papers. United, (the no 1 airline in the world) and US Airways( the no 10) were going to merge to form one giant airline and the CEOs of both the airlines were Indians! Not only are we acknowledged as leaders in the Information Technology Industry, our Managerial excellence has also been recognised and the Indian dollar millionaires are multiplying. Today, Indians are proving themselves to be world leaders and with Lara Dutta winning the Miss Universe crown, we have the beauty market cornered too! Yet, inspite of this beauty and brains, why is our country in such a sorry state? The answer is not too far to find as the cure can only lie with us. The integrity crises that has engulfed this country has strangulated its growth and has delayed our rise to the potential we possess. The recent cricket match fixing scam has further emphasised the point that the blame does not lie only with the political leaders of our country. Of course, there is no doubt that they have shown us the way but there is no need for us to follow them blindly!

More power to the patriots who have uncovered this scam and why am I not surprised that there is a dot com company behind the exposure. The net generation does have unconventional means but it has the ability to force the situation, go against the tide and hopefully stem the rot. The traditional safeguards like the print and television media have failed to uncover the truth and thus stronger and tougher measures were required. Maybe, after all, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Nandu Bhende

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