Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Linguistic Patronage - a thin line between over zealousness and ridiculousness

How does a government promote a regional language?

In various states be it Maharashtra or Karnataka or Tamil Nadu (to name a few) we have seen the government using the following means however controversial or not:
  1. Make the language compulsory in school upto x/y/z class as 1st and/or second language
  2. Ensure shop boards in local language and no English or Hindi
  3. Ensure street names in the local language and no English or Hindi
  4. Drive out migrants (blue collar/ while collar ) from other states in the name of promotion of local language and interests
  5. Intimidate other linguistic communities
  6. Reservations in schools and colleges for certain linguistic communities/natives
  7. All communication (official) in the particular language and public criticism of use of any other language
The Municipal corporation of one of the major south Indian states has gone a step ahead. It has apparently budgeted for 6500 gold rings at the cost of appx Rs 2000 each (Rs 1.30 Crore )* to be presented to babies named in classical tamil in the next year! What an innovative method (sarcasm intended)! Who said corporators lack imagination especially when it comes to spending public money? What is a new born baby going to do with a gold ring I wonder? How will they ensure the name is not changed later? Wouldn't it be better to spend this in a more resourceful way on promotion of literature and education in that language? We really need to think about the people we vote into power !!!

(* Refer :

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Auto anna - Spare us please!

Four and a half years in Mumbai means getting used to the good autowalas and the card systems all which are as per the rule book 9 out of 10 times. One can hence imagine the torture is to deal with namba Chennai auto annas to strike a deal that would fetch yours truly to any destination in mind.

I thought I had seen it all I found a stubborn Chennai autowala agree with my exasperated outburst that the Chennai city's autodrivers were incorrigible and took the fun out of the city. Well that wasn't the case as I found out on a sunny Sunday afternoon as I hailed a cab for the nearby Satyam theatre with a plan of picking up a friend on the way. Having heard the outrageous demand for Rs 70, I began walking away when he accepted my only and last bid of Rs 50. However within 2 seconds when I was comfortably in the rickshaw calling my friend to hurry down before we reached her place (a good 5 mins away) the autoanna had a change of heart or mind. He began lecturing me on how I should not bargain for Rs 10 -20 when I was going to a theatre and that I should only do so if I were visiting a temple. I was dumb struck, turned off the phone , and rightfully told him that it was the distance and not the purpose of my trip that he should be bothered about. That didn't stop as he went on rambling, and being short in patience and not wanting a further scene or a headache I told him to stop the vehicle if he wasn't happy and that I could walk it down to my friends place. He immediately did so, and out of sheer habit I said thanks (though in an annoyed tone) to him. That led to the most amusing comment I have ever heard. To quote him "Who needs thanks, keep it in your pocket" (translated into english). On reminding him that he was the one who made me come back after I had walked away initially he continued: " Who needs thanks, thanks is against our culture. Where is it in our culture and tradition to say thanks" My jaw literally dropped, and as I recovered I just pointed out all my five fingers at him and asked him to get lost in the most diplomatic manner ( "seridan poya" - meaning ya ya just go away in tamil) and marched off slowly trying to digest the episode....

A few minutes later I regretted not having given him a much stronger reply. Am now determined to come up with a really really sarcastic, hard hitting, yet diplomatic insult to any autodriver who fleeces money or happiness or both !!! Do let me know if you can think of one..
Till then will make do with Seridan poya...

Also a warning please understand the value system of the chennai autowala - you can go to a temple at Rs 10-20 less even if you go at 2.00 pm in the aftenoon when temples are shut, and that its uncouth and uncultured to say thanks .... So may be you can refer to satyam theatre as satyabhama theraiulaga koil, and use nandri (thanks in tamil), vanakkam(a common tamil respectful greeting) (in true news reader style* with a big false smile) especially in circumstance where you have been left 2 streets away from your destination coz its not where your autowala wants to go even at Rs 20 more than what it should actually cost getting there.

(* watch & hear the tone as well for reciting the same at the ending of any news bulletin on the tamil channels to understand more)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Life @ social networks

My first encounter ever with any social networking site was Orkut or Ooru Kuthu (Tamil meaning City Drama, courtesy my bro). The hype about orkut, about being able to network old long lost buddies etc was a major attraction and led to me finally logging on. Well initially becoming a fan, checking and adding long lost friends, writing & receiving testimonials was good fun.... The about me pages were used as a good subsitute for a personal webpage, creative profile pictures changed (in fact pictures clicked specifically for orkut) and then the million zillion pictures that chronicled each minute of "worldly existence" uploaded or shared, friends added, morons seeking to make friendship ignored, profile visitors subject to a tit-for-tat repeat visit, sometimes this action done and mutually repeated with acquaintances (with no scrap exchange), and ofcourse dime a dozen communities added ...

Now though I think I have grown out of orkut, I still do ensure a daily visit - checking for birthday alerts, updates from friends, apart from the usual scrapping business (in fact I have still retained around 2026 of the scraps that I have received since Feb 2006 - why you may ask? - well hmmn, its useful for nonsensical nostaglia if I ever need it) ....

While Orkut has since taken second rank after Facebook for me, it still has one charm -I can appear passive when I am actually active and quietly scrap select people (till such time they don't reply - and once they do one can just reply and delete the reply that was received - what jugglery & why you may ask - well wait till the acquaintance who is not really a real life friend is a orkut "friend" and chooses to ask the most irritating of questions reminding you why the acquaintance is just an avoidable acquaintance and not a friend).

These days Facebook keeps me more enthralled - be it the quizess, or be it updating pointless status messages just for the heck of it (its like I want to say what I did but I dont want to talk - whats that? - the mood of a woman :P ) .... An advantage of Facebook is that it gives one anonymous access (without notifying them) to friend's profiles or updates or pictures .... This can be useful if plain simply are in the mood to gossip, or are checking out some new holiday places/clothes/ideas for "inspiration". Facebook has its limitations too as with its numerous posts is more public a forum which is a very painful proposition when persons you seek to avoid are on it - my solution don't answer it for a month and then ignore it...... Also you can have more practical problems like - (1) how do you crib about work or say you are open for new work opportunities, if your boss is on the same social networking site, (2) how do you ensure the "When will you die?", or "How well do you know xyz quiz (who was your ex boyfriend or ex girlfriend)?", or "Top 10 places to make out?", or "Kameena pan", quizzes are not misconstrued by the oldest/youngest persons on your friends list or by your special someone :P

Besides the usual keeping in touch, social networking sites for me are a good source of entertainment, mindless gibberish at times, some amusement, letting people witness those parts of life that I am comfortable them seeing and creating a sense of being in touch with people and things without being physically/actively present there......

What you see in my profiles in the social networking world is partly me as a person, curious, amused, bored in parts, partly reflections of what I say/do/feel/think - all of it predominantly to see what it evokes in others and at other times as a relief mechansim - just to let it out wishing for no reply/comment/like or dislike .... so see you around till the next tweet, scrap or poke :P

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Memories of Mumbai

Its soon going to be time to leave Mumbai which has been my city of work, freedom, place where I lived by myself on my terms in a really cute house, a city that has given me so many close friends, such wonderful experiences of all sorts.....

Am writing this blog with a bit of nostalgia, and a tinge of sadness at having to part ways again with my city of birth even as I begin preparations for a new phase in life. Personal Things/People/Memories I would cherish from my over four years stay in this city (in random order) are:
  1. Friends - This city has one brought me closer to a few of my old batchmates from MBA days, a few current and ex-colleagues with whom I have shared a lot of train journeys - (sometimes in the opposite direction to just spend more time yapping)/general cribbings/endless laughter/madness/pleasurable moments exploring the city/concerts/temple visits/countless lunches, dinners and breakfast ( a few restaurants may consider issuing me a frequent eater pass)/seeing mindless and mindful movies/nights out at my place or a friends place. Without these friends life would have been extremely boring if not difficult.
  2. Professional and customer centric enterprises- By this I don't necessarily mean the typical corporate workplace. Check the local grocery store, the diagnostic centre, the computer service authority, your gas agency - they are typically very professional and customer centric. This is possibly the only city where you can convince them to make exceptions since distances are huge and lives hectic. People here genuinely try to make your life easy if requested in the right way and I simply love their attitude.
  3. Two amazing people in the form of my ex-land ladies. Both brave-hearts and kind souls, one of a kind indeed, brilliant cooks, interesting company who made my stay with them most memorable and showered me with love/concern that I am truly grateful for. Another amazing person is a family friend of mine who since relocated to Banglore and has been very very affectionate and helpful to me during my Mumbai days :)
  4. Mumbai Roadside eateries - Be it the Mumbai sandwich (veg toast and the numerous cousins or alu slice sandwich) or Sev Puri or Paani Puri or Pav Bhaaji, Mumbai chat especially the Chat items leaves my mouth watering at the very thought of it. Now any craving for these will be difficult to satisfy :( ....
  5. Marathi - Bargaining with the grocery seller or vegetable vendor in hindi and understanding/pretending to understand some of the marathi they spoke was an experience indeed. My landlord tried his best until recently to teach me Marathi by purposely speaking in Marathi and explaining words or sentences that I didnt understand. To my small credit I also tried earnestly albiet for a few days to read the learn Marathi in 30 days book but unfortunately day 4 itself hasn't seen light. Expected when one frames hindi sentences with marathi words (using the book) that sound funny at best :)
  6. Mumbai rains - Amazing is the word for the Mumbai rains. Am going to miss getting wet in them, or munching a warm toast sandwich in a gentle drizzle, or buying a trademark umbrella each season and trying my best not to loose it. Dodging the puddles, wrongly forecasting the need to carry an umbrella, avoiding splashes of rainwater from passing vehicles are possibly things I would be happy missing
  7. Local Trains - Miss them ? Definitely yes :) Its an experience indeed - only the local trains can teach you how to get off a running train and run on to the railway overbridge, how to get on to a train that barely stopped, how to find the place next to the door in the direction of the wind, how to enjoy the wind standing at the door of the train (with fm on), how you can count small wins on correctly predicting the person who would be getting down soon and asking for their seat before the person next to you does, and make carrying newspaper along just to cover the wet seats on a rainy day a habit ... Of course you do also end up meeting interesting people on the train sometimes - like the women who feeds dogs from a running train, or the woman who volunteers to help you carry overweight bags in a crowded train and even drops you home since it is on her way - all for nothing in return.
  8. Significant others- Like some of my favourite doctors (dentist, dermatologist etc), my tailor, Naturals ice cream parlours, my cute little flat, Nirmal Lifestyle where I used to spend half my weekends, Chembur market, Cream corn curd at Noodle bar, Mumbai FM stations, Matunga restaurants and temples, and my office or soon to be ex-office needless to say .....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nostalgia - Rains, Monsoons

The monsoon has just begun in Mumbai and as the gentle drops turn into heavy downpour it stirs memories of the various monsoon seasons gone by.

My earliest encounters with Rain have been in Chennai during the numerous cyclones which brought along torrential downpours, gentle drizzles and puddles of water to float paper boats. Those early encounters also saw quick and easy holidays declared by my school which used to make friends from other schools envious about the fact. Invariably the sun used to come out mockingly on such a holiday :) .. Needless to say as kids we were glad for this welcome break.... Then there were the rains that were saved for the Sports days.. Each year religiously the various classes would go through the march past drill for the Sports day, in the process missing as many as 2 hours of classes and soaking in the hot Chennai sun. All this effort would be of no use as a heavy shower on the day of the Sports day would cause it to be postponed. This did happen for a few consecutive years if my memory serves me remember right.... Rains also meant wondering whether you could wear sandals instead of the canvas shoes or blue skirts instead of whites and then convincing atleast one/two friend to do the same so your teacher couldnt single you out!

The cycle and scooty rides in the rain are also a few memories that I cherish. Ever tasted a fresh drop of water from the skies during drizzle with the tip of your tongue - its a different experience indeed :)

Recent memories have been of stronger rains, flooded roads, gusty winds, and delayed trains in Mumbai. A marvellous experience inspite of any of the negatives. The weather turns pleasant, the greenery contrasting the grey skies and the murky brown sands sooths the eyes, and travel becomes an adventure. One season of Mumbai rains can cure the grumpy in you. True your feet turn messy but nothing that a nice wash can't rinse away.

A few fond memories/lessons/realisations/habits
  1. You initially keep twisting in the train to avoid the water seeping from your neighbour's clothes and then it dawns on you that that being drenched your self it doesn't matter anymore
  2. Knowing when to duck at the sight of an approaching train in case you are standing near the door during one of the downpours is a very valuable lesson
  3. Keeping an extra-set of clothes at work, even a spare umbrella may be
  4. Realising that sometimes the rain god also likes to tease you as he showers his might especially when you are wearing something light coloured or have are already juggling with too many things such that carrying an open umbrella seems worthy of an Olympic medal. All this when you head to office or someplace important , and by the time you reach the destination he's given way to a mockingly bright sun making you feel why me ?
  5. Fights peak in the trains. Close the window now, switch off the fan, can't you remove your jacket before you sit/stand, Can't you hold your dripping wet umbrella close to your own self ... you name it ... you hear it :)
  6. Keeping a track of low tides and high tides.
  7. Mastering the art of estimating how bad/long the entire train ride would be based on water logging you see at a few stations
  8. Lastly getting new fancy looking sturdy umberella's and trying not to lose them :) ...
  9. Increase your vocabulary with the latin names of all the sundry things one could contract during the rains :P
Rains are truly lovely, yes the dampness can be spoiler with food and clothes, but sparring that its a joy indeed, an adventure and a welcome change encouraging madness and adventures of a different kind :) How to enjoy them - for one get drenched a bit and do all possible madness, and two try cozing up with a good book, warm goodies, and tea/coffee ... bliss indeed :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quirky things that make you so unimitably you

There always quirks that define people. Things that aren't necessarily negative but just strange and typical of the person. Have figured out a few about myself over the years:
  1. For one the habit of arriving two hours early at the airport, railway station or bus depot when you need to go out of town. I wasn't always like this - learnt it the hardway actually by missing a flight to Chennai and being on the receiving end of a few things, and paying end of an additional flight ticket :)
  2. Second carrying loads of things - call it being over prepared or being typical of "women" - its a hard to kill habit. Not complaining since its always been more positive than negative. This trait I guess was mastered during undergraduation, practised sincerely ever since. No wonder Dad calls me "mootaitooki" once in a while. Now I have deliberately downsized my handbag to redeem myself a bit at least :P
  3. Third carrying anything readable wherever I go - be it a news paper, a book, an article - love reading or the thought of reading :) .. Not at all a bad habit as long as you don't leave a sweater or an umbrella behind while faithfully clutching the newspaper all around town .
  4. Creating excel sheets/word documents/ppts. Name an obscure purpose and I can guarantee you I would have excel-ed/ word-ed /ppt-ed it :) ... Its a passion that probably started with powerpoint - well hmmn.. ya .. made a powerpoint presentation to my parents as to why I should be allowed to drive my bike to college while in undergraduation. (On the sidelines if your curious as to whether it helped- not really in terms of riding the bike, but definitely monetarily as a recognition of my ppt skills !)
Thats all I can recollect right now :) Even a passing memory of these brings in a little amusement on a boring day for me :) Quirkiness is fun :) ....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why dread Dr Deeee ?

If there's anything in the world I am most paranoid about apart from the usual suspects (cockroaches/lizards /snakes) it has to be ,ahem, a dentist (Dr Deeee as I call them) :P ..

A rare general visit to the dentist for tips on oral hygiene resulted in the revelation of some childhood enemies - budding cavities ... I thought I was done with cavities and the dentists after years of torture during my childhood. Well definitely so if you like yours truly have had cavities since kindergarden and your milk teeth were so strongly rooted and loyal they refused to fall off without human or rather inhuman intervention. Over the years had perfected the phobia for dentists and screamed my lungs out to empty their clinics as they merely approached me with the least intrusive of ammunition from their artillery of sharp pointed instruments. Well it was time to conquer the phobia... It did help that the dentist was really an angel and has been patient with the fillings till now so much so went for back to back sessions every evening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and also got a very cooperative patient compliment... He he.. my old dentist must be scratching his head in disbelief.. :) .. Well how did I conquer it : For one thought of a friend who had a root canal done and said that must have been worse, second - stared at the tubelight over head, third - thought of the most amusing things one could ever at a dentist's chair (without upsetting the dentist at work) and last considered it a game :) .....

It also does help if your dentist is a kind hearted angel who resembles one of your favourite cousins :) ... Still am hoping against hopes that I dont need to repeat this ever or long enough :)

However there is one poem by Ogden Nash on dentists that I love from the school days :) ... Its so true :) Quoting it here for your amusement (have mentioned in italics the lines I love the most):

One thing I like less than most things is sitting in a dentist chair with my mouth wide open.

And that I will never have to do it again is a hope that I am against hope hopan.

Because some tortures are physical and some are mental,

But the one that is both is dental.

It is hard to be self possessed

With your jaw digging into your chest, so hard to retain calm

When your fingernails are making serious alterations in your life line or love line or some other important line in your palm,

So hard to give your usual cheerful effect of benignity

When you know your position is one of the two or three in life most lacking in dignity

And your mouth is like a section of road that is being worked on

And it is cluttered up with stone crushers and concrete mixers and drills and steam rollers and there isn't a nerve on your head that aren't being irked on.

Oh some people are unfortunate to be worked on by thumbs,

And others have things done to their gums,

And your teeth are supposed to being polished

But you have reason to believe they are being demolished.

And the circumstances that adds to your terror

Is that it's all done with a mirror,

Because the dentist may be a bear, or as the Romans used to say, only they were referring to a feminine bear when they said it, an ursa,

But all the same how can you be sure when he takes his crowbar in one hand and mirror in the other he won't get mixed up, the way you do when try to tie a bow tie with the aid of a mirror, and forget that left is right and vice versa

And then at last he says, That will be all, but it isn't because he then coats your mouth from cellar to roof

With something I suspect is generally used to put shine a horse's hoof,

And you totter to your feet and think, Well it's over now and after all it was only this once,

And he says come back in three monce.

And this O Fate, is I think the most vicious that thou ever sentest,

That Man has to go continually to the dentist to keep his teeth in good condition

When the chief reason he wants his teeth to be in good condition is so that he won't have to go the dentist.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reality or Reelity

My recent laptop crisis had me switch loyalties to television for a short while. This as well as the wee hours of the day 0.00 hrs to 1.00 hrs had me do prolonged channel surfing. Have realised that Reality shows have possibly become the saas bahu soap equivalent for the Indian youth and may be even families. Be it MTM with Roadies, Splitsvilla, [V] with its Launch pad, the Hindi channels with their dance shows, singing shows, or even the regional channels with their own versions of the same, and even I think some tam channel that had one for selecting CSK cheerleaders!
Most reality shows fall into the buckets of Makeovers, Celebrity based formats, Adventure based Games based, Talent Hunts, Job Hunts, and Dating shows. Normally do not watch any of these on a consistent basis. Hate dance shows, and can just about tolerate the rest or enjoy a rare episode once i a blue moon. Managed to catch the ones on MTV over the last two weekends over not so sleepy saturday nights and realised some truths about the ones on MTV atleast:
  1. Reality shows are about bitching big time
  2. They are about showing the politics, and emphasize the dark side, & scheming nature/dumbness of the participants
  3. Its about good looking people being lunatic and immature at best and calling others the same while proclaiming how blunt/straight/truthful they really are
  4. Tears, tempers and bad words flow easily
  5. Cameras are just placed at the oportune time & place to capture it all
  6. The women on the programme are potrayed as helpless, dumb or wicked
Have been wondering why people would participate in these shows and came up with these:
  1. nothing better to do
  2. good chance to become a vj/anchor or a celebrity or a model
  3. goodies from the show sponsors
  4. can be themselves or at least pretend to childish, loud, rash and immature for maximum impact and get paid for it if they win
  5. different lifestyle for sometime
  6. wear good clothes and be chic on tv..
So why watch it ? hmmmn.. its better than the saas bahu soaps for sure - atleast better costumes and looks :P.. its mindless, the foul words could come handy & ya it makes a good conversation piece as a college kid possibly...

For me seeing the programmes is about mindless diversion & an ego a boost - well my life seems less purposeless than theirs :P ... Atleast I am thinking about mine , they are way off from even realising it possibly.. :P

Anyways resolved for now to ensure no consistent watching - its way too mad for digestion :P. Gonna limit it to getting over saturday late-night's boredom till I find a better way...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pigeons ! the bird family strikes again ...

Well if crows weren't enough in their public display of lack of affection here come their cousins the pigeons! (refer my earlier post on crows) I have woken up to the fact that the pigeons have taken up all but one window sil of my humble abode. A couple sleeps on the grill above the clothes line (in one window) every night and hop around with their friends during the day on the same grill. Between them they spread their droppings on the grills, window panes and my freshly washed clothes if left out for drying for more than one day! Another couple like upsetting the freshly wash bottles and plates kept for drying on the other window sil, leaving their mark on them and then sleeping there. The queen among all of these is the one who sleeps in a plastic bag on the third window along with an egg possibly (considering the fact that she does it for the entire day) despite my thuds on the glass panes and menacing looks! Currently regret not having removed the bag from the window at the first sight of droppings on it ! So am now reduced to shooing both the couples whenever possible and giving non-violent menacing frosty nosed stares at the plastic cover homed pigeon apart from praying that they find greener pastuers soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cases and charters -simulated real life learning....

Sometimes even the best of B-School case studies do not make as much good sense as your own experience while dealing with utility/service companies. Your real life experiences at times not only bring across examples where as an aggrieved customer you are quite good at identifying the flaws in the process that even the best of minds havent addressed in their company. Have had plenty such instances where a strong reminder of my rights as a consumer along with some logical arguments and threats of a few escalations helps resolve matters.

Be it one of the major Gujarati owned telecom company who provides internet connections, or the local gas agency or even a laptop service centre, all of them do like to take the customer for granted. In the first case it was a company who not only failed to send their first time customer their bills on time, but also ended up deactivating connections for the unpaid bill which was not even received by the customer. The shocked customers had to stream in for resolution to the centre before 8pm to get any resolution done and yes remember to tell the centre to specifically reactivate their account. Tele-help oh well forget it - in this company they would not be able to check your details of specific plans and hence may either be of no help or incorrectly tell you there is no issue. Things just get better, if you wish to disconnect your net you need to visit their single customer care centre before 7 pm on a week day and get it cancelled personally. Also they take 28 days to effect your cancellation so be assured you will be billed for an additional month. While I have successfully protested on the first issue relating to first time customers at their Thane centre and suitably impressed the manager there who promptly got my issue resolved, tackling the others needs more effort as the feedback given to their customer service staff has fallen on deaf ears. Makes you wonder whether the guys who manage the company went to the right school or were born sadists?

The second case is that of a H.P. Gas agency in Mumbai who decided to make a package deal along with the gas company to provide a lighter, a fire extinguisher, a gas stove, an apron, a kg of tea powder as mandatory purchases along with the new gas connection. Well needless to say all these meant a whopping expenditure of six thousand which left me baffled. Escalation to the sales head of the region for the agency through its immediate owner, and a reading of my personal charter of consumer rights soon followed. Also put in some convincing arguments - that there was no way I was going to drink tea (being a hard core coffee freak), or cook in an apron (you kidding me, an apron for making maggi and coffee? ) and that the building had a fire extinguisher & thus my limited cooking would never be a serious danger to me or my building. All these got me somewhere my out go reduced to 4000 from 6000 rupees. A side effect: was gloating over my logical reasoning and negotiation skills for sometime :P - small pleasures...
The gas agency got it again when I went in for my first time refill booking - they made the cardinal sin of not recording my booking, not giving my number, assuring me of delivery in 2 days, not making it in time, and telling me it was my fault when I called them a bit miffed on the third day morning.... So it was time to sing sing my charter of consumer rights again and then they relented and gave me the gas within the same day. .

The last time was with my laptop service centre. A long argument on their not being able to meet the commited deadline and a threat to complain to the main company who had recognized them as an authorised centre lead to me getting a spare/stand by laptop from which I am posting this blog......

Real life case studies are definitely more interesting, appealing and rewarding than those straight jacket B-school ones. Be vocal about your rights and logical in your arguments for best results.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Doctor, Doctor -nostalgia about the clinic

Some of the possibly most amusing moments in one's life happen at the most uncommon of places like a doctor's clinic. Reliving nostalgia in this post by listing amongst the most memorable ones I have had so far:
  1. The visits to the dentist's clinic are possibly amongst the most memorable for me personally. It probably has to do with having literally most of my milk teeth forcibly uprooted over a 8 year period including high school. These sessions resulted in my screaming my lungs out at the dentist as he picked up his artillery and effectively reducing the patient count outside in return for the mostly imagined pain he inflicted. The positive point of all tooth extractions was the ice cream that followed :)
  2. Also ever heard of a patient who decided to carry a flask of filter coffee everytime she visited the dentist (for barely an hour) and offered the same to the bemused dentist who then titled her kaapi maami? Well that was my grandmother.
  3. The family doctor was another favourite. The countless times in school when yours truly was down with fever could be classified in two ways (i) which saw me being hopeful and very sincerely enquiring with a heavy heart whether I could go to school (while fervently praying for the opposite with normal diet) (ii) which saw me plead that I was ok and be allowed to go for an excursion, or school trip... In both cases a pleading sad mournful face did get better results :P
  4. The long wait at the clinic when I would count the mosaic tiles, check the patterns and hop across the alternating tiles used to be quite boring despite these tactics. Other favourite activities to pass time were to observe and decide whether all the others were more sick than you or not, and then to guess whose token number would come before yours.
  5. Can never forget the instance where my mother decided to inform the doctor of my habit of self medication in case of cold/fever and my resultant subconscious expression which included my trademark raising of my eyebrows warning him non-verbally even before he expressed his disapproval.
  6. There were these detailed explanations I used to give the doctor of how precisely I felt when my throat was choked during cold and his bemused reaction as he possibly concluded that hypochondriacs come is small age groups also. While the reactions made me doubt my analysis, my explanations did finally have some effect since he once specifically asked me whether I experienced one of the points I mentioned. Needless to say the patient in me was jumping with joy at being vindicated.
  7. My present doctor in Mumbai who adviced my mother to frame her haemoglobin report since the count was perfect also deserves a special mention.
  8. Last but not the least my dermatologist who told me without any provacation not to google a specific ailment and work myself up about it since that was very common in educated youth and would do no benefit to the patient. Made me realise that dermatologists also psychologically analyse people while providing solutions and how being tuned with developments in other domains can be used effecitively in one's line.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Memoirs of a Lappie

The motivation for writing this blog only grows as I key this post from the dingy locales of a neighbourhood cyber cafe. My laptop decided to give into partial paralysis on Friday thus depriving me the company of my partner of 2 and a half years - my gateway to entertainment, social networking, blogging, news, brainstorming on excel sheets from work, and a whole lot of fun. She came into my life in the November of 2006 and the lonely ranger had a more exciting life thanks to her. What resulted was constant attention from the lone ranger to the laptop as the television and books sulked. She (lappie) had eliminated the pain of visiting a cyber cafe, playing to timelines of the cyber cafe, typing away at unfamiliar key boards and glazing at painful monitors. She was the messaih who could be typed at or stared at the bed side or in any comfortable position/place, who could hold a glass of juice steady on her side board (the only stable surface on a bed/sofa), and who accompanied & served one at all places (the bus/airports/even the local train once). There are often references in stories about how the desertion of the spouse makes the other one feel they are missing just a piece of furniture. In my case however the absence of the not so wee but very bonnie lass (lappie) makes me feel like the spouse is missing .... The fond memories and the wishing that she suddenly resurrect herself are possibly much stronger than when the cell phone was down a few weeks back. Truly she occupies centerstage in my life and I believe in the lives of a lot of young people who are as addicted to their laptops/computers like me.

However there is hope as I am still searching for a service centre that can diagnoze and cure her. One word for the Compaq/HP service - pathetic!. The website says check the phone or type away some text that you scan your lappie all over for, and get gibberish or sorry we couldn't find a solution/understand your problem as a reply. The phone helpline is even worse. The first toll number was amazing - after five options that you select continuously the response you get is other helpline numbers that you must dial for options x,y,z and to top it that message is not repeated. So if it went too fast (remember you need to catch the description of the service , a toll free number and a landline number) well you dial that number again which is what yours truly did. Then when you dial the second number at the end of voice recorded messages and numerous options you need to select you get to hear that they apparently work 9-6 Mondays to Fridays & that for any other service you can check the website !!!! With all this people expect you not to get frustrated ? hmmn...... Sigh! Sigh! Sigh!

P.S. If you are wondering how I vented it out - well on an ISD call to my brother who was in a similar state just weeks before and thus bore the melodrama of it all. Had I been in a more poetic mode might just have composed a sonnet :P

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quick gun cures - Mind it :)

As a single working (staying away from family) Mumbaikar of Tamil origin (trying to be politically correct :P ) one does have occasional pangs of homesickness.. For those who can't afford an immediate trip to Chennai there are quick fix remedies:
  1. Visit Chembur for an instant T-nagar like therapy with the crowds and vendors who are quick to respond to a quick query in Tamil. Two in one benefit - hear, speak and bargain in Tamil as well as soak in the T-nagar like atmosphere if you enjoy it
  2. For those who hate crowds Matunga is a better option. With temples, an old post office, flower shops, T book/cd stores, and not to mention amazing south indian food it doubles up as a mini more cosmopolitan Mylapore
  3. Visit any mall and if you manage to stop for a minute in a place there is a ninety percent chance of hearing a Tamil family debate or discuss their current or future purchases
  4. Catch a Tamil movie at a multiplex in Mulund/Sion or at the small little Arora theatre at Matunga
  5. Switch on Sun TV/any Tamil channel/Tamil movie and bite into good self cooked south Indian food - cooked out based on the age old Meenakshi Ammal Cook and see (samaithu paar) book :) ... Read the Hindu newspaper as well.. For best returns try this is on a lazy Sunday or Saturday
  6. Visit a Tamil family friend for dinner/lunch and enjoy a good south Indian healthy meal along with some good tam-english banter
All these are definitely set to bring in a small smile and dozens of positive stimulants to make the homesickness vanish with the unbelievable efficiency and speed of Rajnikanth's stunts (no am not a fan :P ).....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Great Indian Arranged Marriage Hunt

If you are 21 & above, belong to a typical Middle class Indian family, and are still single then there is huge probability that you hear the following questions quite often:

“So when are you getting married?”, or

“Hope your parents are looking out?”, or

“So when are you giving us the good news?” , or

“What are your plans on settling down?”

It makes you wonder if settling down, good news, happiness are all contingent on getting married. The Great Indian Arranged Marriage Chase begins with Parents/Well-wishers/Family friends coming across some horoscope which they just feel would “match” with yours, or a reference to/from them of someone they know, or whom someone they know knows, “all from a good family you know” ! Initially it begins with adhoc references, then there are the good (now old) matrimonial websites promising you the made in heaven groom/bride at just the click of a mouse. You can save upto 5 search criteria and keep searching till you catch the person in the net ! Some of them offer you a personal matchmaker – Picture this you may not have a personal secretary but you can have a personal matchmaker! Of course all these specialized services come at a sizeable fee with “discounts” when you “renew”! Oh yes and when you sign up you can choose from plans that range 3 months, 6 months & 9 months - the longer the better discounts you get! Alternatively there are the community centers, religious associations, and temple marriage faciliators who also provide this service mostly for a fee. Oh yes and then comes the proverbial photos – the kind of photos typically reflect the mind of the youngster –If it is a very geeky snap then the parents would have forced the photo session, if it is a mug shot – they wouldn’t have suceeded with the child throwing a tantrum – it is this picture or nothing, or thirdly the casual snap – from the I don’t care and don’t want to impress groom/bride, and lastly the one with patient postures and forced smiles – resulting from immense parent pressure or an over desperate candidate.

The typical flow with minor variations runs this way: parents shortlist, candidate reviews, parents check horoscopes, if horoscopes match then the “good news” is exchanged, the “kid’s” are allowed to exchange mails or phone calls with varied levels of reluctance or eagerness depending on how orthodox both sides are, then there are meet the parent sessions which are traumatic especially if you don’t know the guy/girl – haven't seen anything beyond a photo max (typically mug shot or geeky pic), or haven’t yet been permitted to communicate to the guy/girl by the potential parents in law who want to meet and “understand” the person/family in an hour or two over of edibles and pleasantrie. Even companies don’t have such convoluted processes for recruitment/vendor selection! After this the kids are either allowed to meet and decide, or communicate and then let parents decide through a round number three.

The communication stage can be quite hilarious especially if located in different places. Awkward mails are written and phone calls made as the two try to “gauge and understand” each other. Elaborate discussions of Likes and dislikes, Career Ambitions, Social Ambitions, and Idealistic discussions soon occur as the two try to make a presentation of themselves, their views, ideologies, aspirations etc. All this becomes traumatic if you need to keep repeating it to different prospects simultaneously (as there is an equal probability you see .. - worse than a sales job really), or if you exchange two long mails followed by a full abrupt stop of return mails as a result of which you are left wondering where it went wrong and whether there is something known as common courtesy left. However sometimes mails and calls are easier than meeting up incommunicative prospects, especially the ones who leave you wondering whether the definition of horoscope matched needs to be changed.

Matrimonial profiles and messages on websites can also be hilarious, pathetic and irritating. More pathetic are the cases who send one line introductions asking for photo password straight with no introduction whatsoever. It’s a typical let downer no matter how good or bad the persons profile actually is since it actually communicates the emphasis on color and good looks often contradicting the superficial idealistic points mentioned in the person’s profile. The down right hilarious are the ones with bad English and which end up showing the person in very poor light. Others have idealistic reformer style statements which seem condescending and repulsive at best.

The Great Indian Arranged Marriage process can also bring to front social biases/evils/customs/prejudices still in place like

  • prevalence of dowry in some communities even among the more educated, so called “liberal”, well-to-do middle class families
  • bias to color – this is revealed if one just checks how many profiles either mis-classify themselves as fair/very fair while the picture/reality is contradictory or ask for fair brides/grooms in the profiles
  • caste biasedness – being a process driven by parents the profiles are and alliances are typically sought for same caste, same linguistic background etc
  • dependence on astrology/horoscopes – most matrimonial sites/other faciliators also provide astrology/horoscopes which are very commonly used as both filtering & deciding criteria

Another amusing (in retrospect definitely) facet of the process is the personalities one meets in the course of it. The most pathetic cum irritating cum amusing of these are the NRI category. Cases in point I have met myself or heard from my friends –

  • The mother, father, and maternal grandmother of say the NRI groom who wants to understand the prospect, judge the looks and color with the photo. All this even though the son’s friend will be shortlisting potentials for him before his impending visit so that he can check them all out before he decides, and despite the fact that they just require a glorified housekeeper to maintain the house while the son works at an other city and visits home twice a week! Moreover the parents have the prospect’s family believe that their son (a software engineer well educated and supposedly working well in the US) correctly feels that any communication before the shortlist and his proposed Indian bride search tour would be a Sin!
  • The NRI parents who come on a survey visit to understand the prospect after the horoscopes matching stage who have a solid story to sell about their software engineer son who is doing exemplary well and wants a “god fearing”, “homely”, “good looking”, bride (good looking house maid in short). Of course they will decide whether to go ahead and their son/daughter will abide by their decision even without meeting the bride. What decisiveness on the son/daughter’s part even in this era!
  • And yes again the well to do parents who are most keen to know how much property the bride/groom owns, what are the property rates currently, whether there are other claimants to property. One very “intelligent” bureaucrat father decided to survey the entire house they were visiting for the first time.
  • Demands for dowry for the mom and sister/brother of the groom (typically) are also common I hear. Unfortunately I haven't heard of any bride asking for dowry! These demands even though all of them are well off and occupy senior positions in reputed Indian/International organizations. Though I know of people (extremely well qualified, intelligent, in good employment) who have been asked dowry, I haven't met any such person/family just yet and I consider that fortunate for the other person/family !

Now, if you still don’t find yourself knotted up (:P), in spite of this entire search process and drama that accompanies it, build the composure and wit to handle the multitude of questions mentioned at the beginning of the post from family, friends, and “well wishers”. Also after a point you will stop getting amused at the number of people who are willing to play matchmaker, though your parent’s anxiety seems to multiply as their ordeal in monitoring the process gets prolonged. Sometimes they even resort to excel trackers, multipage word documents with profile ids for you to shortlist proving that every known technology will be put to use to ensure you find your “better” half.

Anyway to close this post and give the process some credit, a majority of Indian middle class youth still stick to this process for two main reasons among others: one for want of another method of finding partner in real life by themselves, and two for the social/family security and support that is brings with it. So if you are in it grin and endure if not enjoy (by remaining amused) till your turn comes to move out of the hunt. Two standard responses which may come handy:

  1. every thing has its time/ its destiny - a profound statement! , and
  2. counter question (especially if the other person understands Tamil) would be “Is this a case of Naan petra tunbam viyyagam um perave”. These should work as effective silencers on elderly people, when doled out with an easy casual look, eyebrows raised, & a deep entrenched smile with hint of a smirk. However it would be wise to escape through the nearest exit. Naan petra tunbam viyyagam um perave essentially translates to “Let the world also get the sorrow that I have got (through marriage)”

Also while there is an end to these questions on actually getting married, I hear from a few fortunately/unfortunately (according to them/their spouse) the next logical (or should I say illogical) question progresses to when they can hear the post marriage good news! So best of luck with that question if you have escaped these.

Politics, Identity Tags & the Need for change

The headlines screamed " NCP leader Sharad Pawar in favour of a Maratha for the PM's job". Just a few days earlier another headline stood out " Talk of 'PM' Pawar only in Maharashtra". These headlines somehow had me brushing up my memory and also framing my opinion on Politics, Identity Tags and the Need for change.

The immediate recollection was of two other contenders who feel that the PM's job is due to them - one a prominent controversial female chief minister of a North Indian State, and another a prominent politician from the North again who is also the the current Railway minister. The lady feels its overdue as she is a "dalit" while the gentleman just feels he's up to the job and he can turn it around like the Railways. Well both are dangerous propositions, imagine a statue of the lady or her so called mentor turning up outside Parliament, or the gentleman spitting pan in all the corridors of the PMO and representing/addressing the world on behalf of India (splitting image or spitting image!)... Oh yes not to mention their reach in furthering their corrupt purposes at the cost of the Indian exchequer.... The Mahrashtian leader harboring these ambitions is himself not beyond redemption and is rumored to have dirtied his hands in a power project not to mention promoting his interests while he was in power in the state.

Tags seem to be an effective way to promote individuals rather than principles or the tenets of good governance. Dalit, Minority, Woman all are tags which are used in this regard. Evidenced in the selection of Presidents. Not withstanding their achievements these tags were the justifications given by Political parties to nominate/select R.K Narayan. Abul Kalam, and later Prathiba Patil (while denying Abul Kalam a second term despite him being arguably the most popular and committed President). All this for gaining mileage from voters. Now add Mahrashtrian to the list. Imagine then all the states of India will stake claim to the top posts on a rotation basis - quota system !

Governance rather than sectarian identity tags should be the main platform to promote a PM/President. Seniority within a party can again not be the main reason for proposing a Prime Ministerial candidate (like the current projected candidate of the second largest National Party of the country who has been very adept at making useless noises rather than take bold decisions when needed). Indeed over the last five years opposition parties baring a select few have been making noises with the sole objective of presenting a contrarian view to the view of the government. The noises needless to say are not accompanied by any sound logic or reasoning. The need of the day is for parties and politicians who can rise up to the new challenges of modern India, keeping in mind the need of the country as a whole. Sectarianism, narrow minded vision, self propagation/promotion (financially) should be given up. In this regard I do feel the Congress has done a decent job. The decisiveness with which they approached and signed the Nuclear Deal impressed me. The manner in which they were willing to put a lot of things at stake was unprecedented. As for the unproven corruption charges well even if they were true sometimes the ends justify the means! Atleast the party (congress) worked more cohesively and effectively than the main opposition party whose stance was to oppose without thinking and rationalizing. Also they managed to keep in lead a Prime Minister who was least partisan and possesses among the best C V.s among all politicians who have held the post.

Have just three final points to close this post. One, the Prime Minister/President of the country are Indians first, elected by Indians for India. This cannot and should not change for the good of the country. Two, the only way of changing this is to vote, and on that count request you to exercise your franchise based on which party can provide better governance. Yours truly will now sincerely try to see if she can get her voters id card (due from the CMC since Jan 2001 :( despite many follow ups).... The third and final point - why we need to do this? - coz our country's finances (read the deficit figures in the interim budget to understand the unexploded fiscal bomb) , & security are specifically under danger. Good governance is needed so that we can have a better future. The population pyramid is wide right now - a lot of young work force. We need to manage them better, to ensure a better future for them (social security as they grow old, as we may for all we know reach an inverted pyramid state like Japan some few hundred years later) and also make a difference so that the future generations experience a better, more progressive India.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Delhi - 6

The rapturous sound track of Delhi-6 and the promos had me waiting with bated breath for the release of the movie for atleast 2 weeks now. A just ok review in the Times (3 stars) threatened to indicate disappointment (especially considering the fact that Raaz 2 also got 3 stars), forcing me to scale down expectations. Finally managed to see the movie on Saturday courtesy extra tickets that a friend had.

The movie is a good one time watch, especially for its marvellous cinematography and brilliant sound track. The story if you dare ask is hmmmmn... hmmm........ well its about a guy (Roshan - Abhishek Bachan), who accompanies his grandmother to India as she wishes to spend her "last days" in Delhi. There are a lot of characters -
  • neighbours, specifically two brothers who spend most of their time fighting with each other,
  • their sister who is unmarried and disappointed with her life,
  • a daughter (Bittu - Sonam Kapoor) who aspires to become an Indian Idol - anything that would get her away from her middle class life,
  • her mom and aunt who maintain their family link despite the walls created by their husbands' egos
  • a local money lender with an adulterous wife,
  • the adulterous wife's paramour - a small time lecherous photographer
  • religious leaders who are quick to take the cudgels to defend their religions without thinking of logic or reason
  • a simpleton who is actually much wiser than he seems
  • an untouchable who is also equally wise
  • pigeons including one Masakali whose wings have been clipped so she can't fly
  • two cute kids who give Abhishek & the pigeons a lot of competition in looking cute and end up coming second after the pigeons
  • a "Kalabandar" (black monkey) whom everyone in Delhi is mortally scared of for the "crimes" that "he commits"
  • a Local politician who somehow vaguely seems to resemble a watered down version of a prominent MP based MLA belonging to a leading Hindu National political party
  • Amitabh Bacchan in a brief guest appearance
The movie is set along the time that the Ram Leela festival is happening in Delhi. The movie depicts various socio-political issues like untouchability, influence of politics on religion, poor governance and the acceptance of the same (power/water), lack of freedom for a lot of women in shaping their life, lawlessness, and the chaos that's a part of our lives. All these almost convince Abhishek to leave the city with his grandmother. However he stays back on account of his love for Sonam and the city. (Choke)

The movie about how the "Kalabandar" is being used by everyone an excuse to unleash their inner evil or to cover up their mistakes. The main message is that both God and Satan ("Kalabandar") are present in each of us, and that we should recognize the God in others. Further it cautions us against letting the Satan within dominate our thoughts & actions. While all the songs move along with the story and hold it together, the picturisation of Arziyan song is commendable as the camera smoothly pans the prayers in the huge mosque in varied sequenced angles. The movie will do best with the young adults.

It comes across a rehashed version of Swades especially if you consider the similarities of NRI returning to India, NRI attached to an old lady, NRI falling in love with a young girl who is/wishes to be independent, NRI staying back, issues of untouchability, poor electricity and NRI dealing with the chaos that our life is ! Even Ram leela scenes reminded me of Swades. In fact while the song of Swades has a line "Ram tujme hai, Ram mujme hai, Ram ham sab me he", Delhi-6 has Abhishek say that God is in all of us. The difference -Delhi-6 is more on the emotional/social/psychological nature than Swades which was more about doing something physically tangible to make a difference to society at large. Delhi-6 is also more about changes at a personal level, love for the idiosyncrasies of life, observations on how we complicate things, and how everyone is actually good at heart. The events covered in the movie are not really Delhi centric - in fact they do happen in every city/town of India. Overall an interesting movie that has something to say in a refreshing way.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The pangs of being 25 something and somewhere there

If you’ve crossed the effervescent age of twenty five just recently you would probably empathize best with this blog. Prominent characteristics – recent member of the rat race called work, just couple of years out of B-School or any Post-Graduate, unmarried/single and yes trying to figure out what life wants of you and what you want of it. The most common issue that I have encountered in my conversations a wide range of people who’ve past 25 recently and experienced myself is:

What is your true calling in work? - You don’t seem to be enjoying what you do, or atleast think you don’t but aren’t sure, or you know someone who is enjoying theirs better. You aren’t sure you want to continue the same work for life unlike your parent/s. Thinking doesn’t seem to help as you either are blank, or are sure what you don’t want to do, or get such obscure out of the box ideas that your middle class and risk averse mind doesn’t want to harbor it further. Dissatisfaction with status quo and not knowing an alternative seem to torture you day after day.

Given the wide spread occurrence of this thought it may be fair to conclude that we – the current generation possibly do get disillusioned easily. Books in general don’t seem to have the answer quite rightly so. Pro Bronson (in his book W should I do with my life?) states that there are two ways by which people figure it out - one being lucky to know what your calling is, and alternatively two - by being forced into a situation where in survival is at stake and the work that one is pursuing automatically becomes the calling. Possibly the recent good times (before the crash) and the fact that most of us are financially better of than our earlier generations were may contribute to more of us being dissatisfied.

How do I plan of tackling it? Hmmn… by taking calculated risks or so I have been thinking for a long time. Easier said than done.. Its complicated because at times you get a sporadic kick (feeling of exuberance) at having something right at work which makes you feel albeit temporarily that you have found your calling and then you question your dissatisfaction! The games your mind plays or rather you play with your mind :)

Apart from this the other common thoughts that seem to weigh down on the average bloke who has just passed 25 are:

1. Sudden confusion of one’s self identity

2. Anxiety concerning life goals, and finances in the long run

3. Lack of confidence in self and one’s present accomplishments

4. Loneliness, even more so in crowds or gatherings

5. An presentiment that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

6. An overwhelming feeling that no one really understands you

7. Aversion to social interactions

8. Tendency to hold stronger opinions – knowing new things that bother you a lot surprisingly so. Involves realising that its your mind devil which needs to be tamed but at the same time finding it unshakable.

9. Emotional frustrations in personal relationships

10. Anxiety in taking decisions and a constant fear of failure

Labeled as “Quarter life crisis” this seems to be very commonly prevalent in both India & the world. An article dated 13th January 2008 puts India’s median age at 24.9 years – with over half its billion people under 25 indicating the huge demographic dimension. The term “Quarter life crisis” originated from the U.S according to some news articles. Help is handy it seems as there are apparently books on coping with the Quarter life specifically. There is a website called & even a movie called Quarter life crisis. To sign off the blog lyrics from a John Mayer song, Why Georgia Why , that rings aloud:

"it might be a quarter life crisis
or just the stirring in my soul
either way

I wonder sometimes
about the outcome
of a still verdictless life
am I living it right
am I living it right
am I living it right
why, why Georgia, why

so what so I’ve got a smile on
It’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head

don’t believe me
don’t you dare believe me
when I say I’ve got it down

everybody is just a stranger
but that’s the danger in going my own way
I guess it’s a price I have to pay
still everything happens for a reason
is no reason not to ask yourself if you are
living it right"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Life for granted!

Read this article about the recent birth of octuplets – the second set of octuplets born in the United States and now the longest surviving. The mother Ms. Suleman lives with her parents, Angela and Ed Suleman, and her six other children. Normally do not feel strongly about the personal lives or decisions of others but the startling pieces of information have had an impact.

News reports have emerged the mother of fourteen, a divorcee aged 33 years, living within modest financial circumstances had all her children through in vitro fertilization. She had refused the option of a selective abortion when told she was expecting multiple babies. Strange world indeed!

Without judging right or wrong wish people used their head more than their hearts especially when it s to do with bringing lives into the world. If as her mother indicated Ms. Suleman did indeed want to be surrounded by children adoption or even taking a profession as a kindergarten teacher might have been more sensible. If one does play the ethical card then how is it that using science to propagate children is acceptable, while selective termination especially when one lacks the financial means considered sinful.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An evening with Nandita Das, at IIT Madras

A chance visit to IIT Madras to meet up an old classmate of mine yielded the opportunity of attending a talk by actress and activist Nandita Das. Being an ardent fan the expectations were high.

The session was on Social change brought about by Cinema and turned out to be an extempore followed by a Question and Answer session.

The session was quite interactive, as she began with asking the audience their definitions of social change. Accepting that it was a change in social behavior and perceptions manifested by change in attire, attitude etc., she proceeded further. She went on to explain how cinema and society have a chicken-and-egg sort of relationship in influencing each other. Her belief was that this nexus was the raison d’etre of commercial cinema. I would choose to believe that this applied to the all cinema parallel or otherwise i.e., art influences society and is influenced by it. Though she was quite erudite we soon felt that it could have been better structured. However a few interesting points that she conveyed and my opinion on the same are what this post is about.

It was an interesting point that she made about each of us having multiple identities, one of which is emphasized by various interested parties to provoke us into action, which helps them achieve their end, often divisive. She went on to explain that quite a few of her movies and dramas were believed to influence society. The opposition to her movies, from fundamentalists, only emphasized the fact that they were believed to have the potential to influence society. Not a convincing justification in my opinion. In my opinion, movies do influence by making things that happen behind closed doors more apparent to people. This might have a side effect of provoking insecurities of a few who are thirsty to make non-issues issues and using the publicity to their gain (typically votes). That wouldn’t make the side effect the cause now would it ! For example, the recent hindi movie which got banned attracted more publicity because it was banned. The movie, which had the perfect credentials of a C grade movie, might have sunk without a trace but for the unnecessary ban – an instance of a movie with poor influencing power. The ban doesn’t necessarily grant it any influencing power in spite of improved publicity.

She concluded her talk with a short clip of her movie Firaaq based on Gujarat a month after the riots, before opening it up for questions. The trailer looked interesting and boasts of a stellar cast (Nasserudin Shah, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal to name a few). Apparently the movie has already won a few accolades.

A few nice take-aways not necessarily related to the subject of discussion were as follows:

  • Hearing her, I couldn’t help feeling that she was truly one person who loved what she was doing. She came across as someone who was clear about her priorities, focused on the kind of subjects she wanted to work about, and as someone well aware of crime rates and such events in spite of her schedule. On the contrary she confessed to not seeing or hearing about a lot of commercial movies like Dostana, Singh is King, Chandni Chowk to China etc.
  • Simplicity and sense of humor work well with anyone
  • Even if movies are thought provoking they influence different people differently – quite obviously so. Related to this a question was put to her whether directors of movies like Rang de Basanti and A Wednesday were being responsible. I do agree with her response that ends need not always justify the means. She went on to emphasize that every director/actor/each of us has to be socially responsible. Valid point, however in my opinion a director is merely putting forward through a movie his thought and the actions that the characters take in response to a situation. Doesn’t mean that it is expected to influence each of us to adopt the same response! That’s where our own discretion comes into play. Awakening people to a thought is also influence.
  • While explaining the different identities/conformist labels being applied to people she gave the example of fair skin and the instance of a parlor lady trying to convince her to a facial promising her a cure for the tan. Her response this tan is congenital! This has been something I have encountered and my standard response has been the same. Was amusing to hear her recount a similar experience. Have always found it ironical since the parlor lady who asks you also inadvertently has the same permanent sun tan !
  • Being an IIT student need not necessarily mean asking intelligent questions… No offense but the sample that I saw/heard definitely led me to that conclusion! As an afterthought may be they were overwhelmed by her presence… Then again probably not :)

Goat @ Mayajaal

A hungry goat climbing on the cars to eat some leaves fresh off the trees.. The fox from the Aesop's fables might not have had a problem had it found a car underneath the wine and taken jumping lessons from the goat!

Up on car now

Let me nibble a bit

Ah Tasty.. Need my fore-feet now for Petpuja.....

Go away you .. let me see if I can climb on to the branch...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

From the movies

The last fortnight of January saw me catching up with a lot of movies – Six DVDs on the computer and 2 movies in the theater. A few of them lingered on beyond the 2-3 hours of playtime. This post is about the thoughts/views/learning (in the lighter vein read Raaz-2) from the same:

1.Mona Lisa Smile –
A movie that had been eluding me for a long time, it turned out to be a beautiful realistic story where the director did not tie up ends to make it a “happily ever after” kind. A bitter-sweet story with a poignant ending endorsing the need to retain one's identity to the best possible extent and encouraging women to go beyond the so called “role” pre-ordained for them by society. It is a movie that shakes every woman into self-introspection and forces her to reassess her priorities in life. While the film may initially be perceived to deride the traditional role conceived for women, it redeems itself later in a very subtle way. A confidence booster as well as a thought provoking movie.

2. Friends with money –
A movie about mid life crises with a happy ending. It dealt with multiple issues of couples/families/psychological changes/unemployment/changing value systems in a group of friends. It was not preachy, instead it focused on the issues and solutions that they came up with – not all necessarily wise. Considering the fact that it pertained to a generation at least 10 years and more older I decided not to burden myself with “how I would have dealt with it?” thought process thus preserving my peace of mind.

3. Serendipity –
A beautiful love story after which my conclusion was 2 fold – one John Cusack is really cute (:P) and two try not to leave things to chance as you wouldn’t really want to torture your self waiting for the universe to put you together. Am a bit crazy and romantic but wouldn’t risk so much – the side effects of being a risk manager.

4. Slumdog Millionaire –
A realistic well-made movie. It showcases an underprivileged kid’s triumph over the dark side of India as it tries to cripple his childhood, his life, his love, and even his luck. While there is no denying that it shows India in bad light one must acknowledge the truth in the depiction. It’s a pity that as one of the largest democracies in the world we aren't able to protect a vast majority of our citizens, provide them a safe haven, or shake prejudices and genuinely help out the underprivileged. It's a reality check for a country whose citizens have defined it as a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic. Secular, & Socialist seem to be lost some where ! Population control and Poverty remain un-addressed. Easier said than done yes but my only take away is to find a way to contribute in addressing the same. May be more long-term objective I think considering the typical middle class worry of financial security, and as usual my risk aversion!

5. Raaz 2 –
Ah! This movie started as a disaster ended as a comedy! A tight schedule on Saturday made me make an advance booking for this movie (no other shows available at suitable timing!) on Thursday. Just as I overcame the disbelief at booking a ticket for an Emraan Hashmi movie (first ever) the scathing Friday review (The Hindu) stumped me with a googly … We considered different options including selling the tickets in black before it struck us that there would be no buyers! We approached the theater on Saturday steeling ourselves and mentally convincing each other we could turn the movie into a comedy. This since we were sure that the movie would succeed in disappointing.

The learning from this movie on the lighter vein:
  • Going into a movie with negative expectations always works – you end up feeling much better at the end of it (than you did at the beginning that is)
  • Carry ear plugs and use them liberally as soon as you sight a long pause especially if you don’t enjoy being stressed by the high pitched shrieks of the damsel in distress
  • Focus on the hair styling of the actors – its bound to be hilarious as a good luck sign. You see the ghosts take one look at the hair and go ha ha he he.
  • If the lady (heroine) wears heavy eye make up she’s bound to shriek and get animated in the scene. Be wary of the one screen histrionics to follow immediately.
  • If you find your friend disinterested and getting carried away distract him/her on whether there is God and Satan or just God in the theater loud enough for others to hear. It gives them a break. A few of them might just reach the conclusion that there is no God since the Intermission or The End sign is no where near.
  • Do not carry liquids – if you do wish to sip on any liquid ensure its water. Also ensure that people on the 4 seats around you carry only water, and do not sip on any hot liquids, and colorful liquids with any form of fruit pulp. Why? - you may be subject to a sudden air drop of the liquid which drenches you in case the heroine shrieks too loud or a hand reaches out to grab one of the actors and the person like yours truly decides to get scared for once! As a corollary do not wear white or light colored clothes and carry a lot of tissues! If you inspite of these precautions do end up subjecting your neighbor and your self to the divine shower – remember to use sorry liberally and then do not forget to drink up the rest of the juice (from the one remaining in your glass of course!).