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Monday, December 26, 2005

For the times, they are a changing

And I mean that quite literally - coz I'm shifting from GMT+8 to GMT+5.30; from Hong Kong, BACK TO INDIA !

So, good bye Jackie Chan
and so long, golden shoes
[you won't believe what passes for footwear in HK!]

Nariyal pani on nariman point - here I come !!!

Yep, am quite happy about getting back. Last trip to India was in Diwali last November... been a long time.

I quite love Bombay. And even if I didn't, I would miss it. Coz, home towns are home towns, and where else can you just pick up a phone and find someone or the other to sack out the day with? Where else can you venture out without planning a day in advance? Where else do you have 50 numbers in the phonebook at your beck and call? And if you are someone who has found all this in your new city, then I guess it is your new city that you consider home.

As for me, I've been missing all these options. And am looking forward to old company over drinks and dinners and sidey movies in the front rows. And should everyone be too busy for that, then just sulking alone by the sunset at Marine drive will be fine too.

Am already making plans to make the rounds of all my favourite places : Polly Esther. OMO. NCPA. Mondy's. Totos. Mocha. Colaba. blah. blah. blah. And if I don't visit all these places (for let's face it I'm getting old and losing all party energy) - it'll just be nice to know I have the option go there whenever I want to.

Moreover, it will be nice to hear people talk in a language that I know. Even though it will be disconcerting to find that people will understand what I'm speaking. Currently I can shout on the top of my voice in a bus about anything and anyone sitting next to me, and their lousy golden ballet shoes. Will have to really watch my tongue after next week!

But that's hardly an issue
Coz I'm getting to go HOME!
:D

p.s. Of course, after 2 months in India, don't be surprised if I start lamenting about India's roads and politicians and traffic jams and, well, everything. Cribbing's my hobby, and India provides great avenues for it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My latest crush

With all my serious posts on democracy and protests and the like, you may think I'm going to wax forth over Nelson Mandela. well, no. For the heart wants what it wants, and what it loves at the moment is Sony's latest MP3 walkman.

Here, have a look, but bear in mind that this damn purple pic (the only one I could find on a quick search) does it no justice.



What I saw in their showroom was a sexy, black glob. No edges, just curves. You can't see the screen because its camouflaged well in the body of this walkman. Only if you press its buttons, neon green words just glow out giving it a look that's (and here I must resort to teen-speak) so cool and so awsome!

Very rare for me to fall for a gadget, but I guess the season and all the shopping is getting to my head. Also fell head over heals for iMac G-5 the day before. Apple really knows how to make white look so sexy! Thank God for an fast-track obsoletion rate in gadgets - am looking forward for my comp and MP3 system to become outdated [or my husband to get bored with them, very likely to happen even faster] and then we can get new goodies :D

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Democracy - Is it Lollipop ?

Eighty thousand people or more marched for democracy in the Hong Kong streets last Sunday. It is, as you would guess from the turnout, a matter of much discussion in this country and a matter of much cover-up on the mainland.

It is also a matter of strange revelations, or at least, statements from the Chinese people that i find very strange. Its a disconcerting feeling, probably akin to how my husband feels in the fact that he will never understand me. For I think I will never understand the Chinese.

But that's not the point.

The point isn't about the goodness / badness / appropriateness of democracy either.

The point is at that quite a few people are saying how they are / aren't mature enough to have / not have democracy.

Things like: We are educated etc and that speaks volumes about our ability to handle democracy.
And rebuttals like: please lower those volumes, and we definitely lack the maturity, but maybe in 10-20 years we'll be grown up eough

Stuff like that leaves me queasy - even though I am no George Bush who thinks democracy should be clamped down everyone's throat, and nor as a non-citizen do I think I have the right to fight this fight.

It's just that the whole idea of being mature enough to deserve democracy is ridiculous!
Since when did one have to pass an exam to want or get democracy???
Does that mean that some people do not deserve democracy?
And what is this metric to find out who's deserving?

If the metric is education, then can politicians rubbish three-fourths of India into taking the right decisions for them? [happens a lot anyway - and not for the better of the uneducated!]
If it is appreciation of rights, then should George Bush just turn America into his dictatorship as half of his country fails to vote at all and use the oportunity. I mean, clearly they can't want democracy if they don't vote, he can say.
Do the Burmese deserve the Junta because after all, they are just rudimentary farmers?
After getting a democracy, would you shut down the voices of those people who prove themselves 'undeserving'?

This whole "deserving democracy" line is no different from a rationalisation of dictatorship. That's what all dictators have always said: you don't know well enough, and I know better than you.

Democracy is not an award. not a prize for good grades. Not something you deserve, in lieu of which you get a punishment called dictatorship! It is an entitlement. The question isn't 'are you good enough for it?', but 'do you want it?'. And THAT is the question HK should decide.

Coz the only disqualification for democracy comes from democracy itself - if people don't want it, then they need not have it.

The whole point of democracy is this premise: no man is more or less qualified to get the government he wants.
if that govt be communist, so be it
or a democracy, if that's what he likes

The only poplulation that doesn't deserve a democracy is one that doesn't want it, or finds itself unfit for it. coz that is the poplulation that will fail to be a democracy even when it is given a chance - it would elect the same old people one after the other, creating a pseudo-monarchy.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Quidam!

Got to attend Cirque du Soleil's latest show - Quidam - on saturday. And spent the whole two hours or so with dropping-down jaw.

I was so spellbound with the cast - who were so lithe in their contortions, so comfortably adroit, and so grandiose in their choreography. The first act had a man standing within a ring - and with elf like movements he rolled it around as if it were a coin with a life of its own. He even maneouvered it to wobble near the floor, just as a coin does when it runs out of balance, and then picked it back all the way up again. Another act had a plethora of skipping ropes, and the cast was dodging swinging ropes within swinging ropes within swinging ropes. Delightful!

Then, of course, were the acrobats who twisted and turned with amazing sensualty. And when they jumped in the air, with a long, smooth step, I almost got the feeling that were flying. Their half-seconds in air seemed elongated in time - like a slow motion scene.

Even the mimes were extraordinary. They involved the audience in a couple of scenes, and managed to get such good performances out of them that initially I thought they had planted an acting cast in the audience!

As you can read, I am quite awestruck with the whole thing. The tickets weren't cheap, but worth every penny. And, if you are in Hong Kong, be sure to check out the asiaxpat website (classifieds for tickets) to get a good deal. I managed to get the 600-buck ticket for 500 only, and got great front-view seats :)

Njoy!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Coming soon to your telly... and my office's window

WTO's ministerial conference in being hosted in Hong Kong a few weeks hence (from 13-18 december). And my office is right opposite the protest grounds in Wan Chai.

But I've already had a sneak preview yesterday during a bus journey, as we passed the ferry terminal: a contingent from Thailand, marching silently with banners, was conspicuous in its members' fancy costumes. Some were in their native dresses, and some dressed up as farmers etc, to showcase their cause. They reminded me of the World Social Forum (mumbai 2004) that I had been to (and wrote about here) - where people from all over the world were airing their voices, and at the same time wearing, flaunting their local, personal attire and lifestyle with pride. It was a celebration of the indegenous, of diversity.

Of course, what HK is waiting for with bated breath is different. Some people, voiced in newspapers and even at my office, are worried that the coming "South Korean farmers" will be bringing their hot blood and violent dispositions to Hong Kong. Some bosses, around our business area though (sigh) not at my office, are handing out holidays in that week in worried anticipation.

On my part, however, there is no anxiety. At least, not yet. Maybe because I have never really witnessed violence, and do not expect it to take place outside my window. And also because I have a soft corner for protests.

I, for example, wish that I had been a teenager in the 60s. A flower child with heavy eyelids, hippy garb, lily in hair... and hope. Thinking, even believing, that I was a part of a generation that could, and would end all poverty, all cruelty, all war. That we were going to change the world. That we were saving the world.



If only I could feel that.

How heady that would be, how potent. So much better that the dull knowledge, the awareness, that like it or not, I am stuck in a world that holds too many horrors for too many people. And that I cannot make a difference, expect perhaps at some miniscule level. perhaps.

"What you do may be a drop in the ocean, but a drop that would be missed were it not there," said Mother Teresa (as I recall from memory).

But what if we are not drops adding up to an ocean? That instead we are just making up a small puddle in a street that is too dirty and too long for us to ever clean? And am I failing to add even to that puddle?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hotel California

Ever get the feeling that you could never stop?
That you could never resist?
That you wanted 'just one more'?

Of course you do
But just in case you don't - go get your addiction at www.isc.ro

That's where I get my daily, hourly, minutely fix of internet scrabble. Have been using it for over a year now, and simply love it! Playing against people beats playing against the computer any day. Plus the software (the game board) is fast and easy.

The site allows you to choose the time lengths of the game to suit your schedule / speed (for me, it is long games over the weekned, and short 6-minute matches for office coffee breaks). But the best part is that any time I need a game, there's someone, somewhere in the world ready to grant my wish.

Try it out! Your boss may regret it, but you won't :D

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Missing: Karma

India
the originator of the karma philosophy - each man must pay for his deeds

India
The one place where this principal just doesn't appear to apply

India
the place of frustrating, horrifying dichotomy which I wish we could get rid of


Recently read about the murder of Manjunath - a guy of my age (just 27 yrs old), having similar qualifications (an MBA), getting gunned down in Lucknow - for doing his job right. As an employee of the Indian Oil Corporation, he had been shutting down illegal activities of petrol pump operators in the city.

Here's an excerpt from the news report:
Manjunathan ... had become a “nightmare” for Sitapur’s petrol outlets, always dropping in for surprise checks as part of his company’s campaign against adulteration.

Unfortunately, the result of such integrity in India, when it comes face to face with rich and powerful interests, generally results in one of the two: a) getting framed; and / or b) getting killed. In Manjunath's case, it was murder. Six shots to the chest.

Till now, no politicians have been implicated in the case, so I have hope that justice will be served. But if people high in bureaucratic command chain are connected, chances are as good as none. After all, the last time national media covered a whistle-blower's murder - of IIT graduate Satyendra Dubey - there was widespread talk, and talk, and more talk, and by all - but no satisfactory result. His gunning down was ultimately attributed to highway robbers by a CBI probe.

Incidents like this make me wonder why people with integrity aren't entirely extinct by now. Given their lack of survival, and Darwin's evolution theory, those genes that make them stand up for everyone's rights are sure to go off the Indian race soon.


To pay your condolences to Manjunath's family, please visit http://manjunathshanmugam.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Last weekend was luckier than many behind it.

For one thing, Vipul's no-discrimination policy in movies, which leads all sorts of bollywood trash to our DVD player, did not result in migraines. Saw 'Salaam Namaste', which was very funny depite Preity's hormonal screechings. Both Saif and Preity look ravishing, and even more beguiling is the beach-house where they live, that I have fallen in love with, and have been dreaming of my entire life.

Also saw 'No Entry', which is timepass material if one has rock-bottom expectations and past experience of movies such as 'Musafir'.

Then there was 'The Sweetest Thing' starring Cameroon Diaz amongst others (on Star Movies). It's a funny movie, with the friends-for-life-women backdrop that never fails to ensnare me into nostalgia. made me want to call up all my girlie friends. and made want to fight with Vipul about how come he never knows without my telling things like: I am offended with him, I am pissed with his movie choice, I am mad at his getting home late, I am giving him the silent treatment, etc etc etc whew. Men!

anyhow, as I was saying, the weekend was good, and we actually never got into any such fight on this topic. instead, we went to a nearby Island - lamma Island - where I managed to get some beautiful jewellery made of glass. Ran out of money buying it :D but will be back for more pretty soon when Vipul ditches me in favour of a cricket match next Saturday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bird Flu and Cuckoo ideas

Apparently, china is going to vaccinate all its poultry, all 14 billion of them. The Agriculture Ministry's chief veterinary officer made this statement yesterday (read here).

But how on earth can they manage it?

Even if a hundred thousand workers were working on this project (which I cannot believe)
and finding the bird and vaccinating it takes just one minute each (which is way overoptimistic)

it would still take each man nearly 292 working days (at 8 hrs work/day) to get the job done!


Someone ought to tell him to prepare for the current flu scare instead of planning for the next one.

Monday, November 14, 2005

And the Ostrich Award goes to...

George Bush
for his inane, incredible, invertebrate dialogue "We do not torture"

I wonder what the fine print is...
... WE DO NOT TORTURE. We just slowly kill or nearly kill as per our wishes
... WE DO NOT TORTURE. In our dictionary that term is usable only in relation to what Saddam Hussein has done / does / is capable of doing.
... WE DO NOT TORTURE. And by 'we' I do not include anyone who has met our Iraqi / Afghani prisoners face to face
... WE DO NOT TORTURE. My intelligence on this matter is as good as it was with respect to WMDs in Iraq.

"We do not torture", my foot!

Please visit http://www.planetdan.net/pics/misc/georgie.htm to congratulate the man senseless.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Trek, er, walk to Sai Kung

I am too lazy to write about it today, so I'll let the pictures speak their thousands of words!
Here are some pics from a hike I went on this sunday. It's amongst the easier parts of the McLehose trail in Sai Kung.

It's a beautiful trail around hills and beaches



Old man and the sea



The hills and Me



A beach worth hiking for



Which is why we are trekking



We are still trekking



We've been trekking for two hours now!



And meanwhile, the chinese are also exploiting the secrets of their slimness...
Tai Chi on the beach

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Once in a lifetime opportunity !

For the first time in my life, I was in the audience of an intenational cricket match where India actually WON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cricket Sixes
Hong Kong
October 23, 2005

Njoy the Pics :)


The ground


The cheerers


The claps


And the smiles

Monday, October 24, 2005

An obituary for my 26 years

I kept it at bay for an entire year, and then found me ensnared, yet again. My damn birthday.

This time I left town to escape. Ran away to Singapore last week. But even there it caught up with me, turning me 27 against all my prayers. Taking me unawares. Right there, on the luggage conveyor belt at Changi. Damn.

Oh yes - this is moping time. As I always mope on every occassion worth its salt. Anniversaries, festivals, anything regular... they all seem like performance appraisals - demanding to know - what I have to show, for the years gone by. Bossy creeps.

Sigh

26 gone by

I need retail therapy
:(((

Monday, October 10, 2005

You've come a long way, baby!

source: http://tobaccodocuments.org/pollay_ads/Virg03.11.html



Here's an ad that marked a change in the way things were marketed - when in it's campaign, Virginia Slims asked women to smoke for themselves, to celebrate their own success in climbing up the social ladder.

Of course, increasing one's lung cancer risk is not quite the way to mark the femiminist leap of the '60s. Nevertheless, it's better than choking up to please some thoughtful male with undoubtedly lecherous thoughts on a billboard. But that's a different story. And my thoughts today centre not around the smoking, but dieting.

Coz dieting too has come a long way. Goodbye cabbage soup. So long, starvation diets. Hello, Eating. And by eating I do not mean throw up after eating, but just good old eating, even hogging.

Atkins, South Beach diet, and now The Warrior are littering the landscape with glimmers of hope for meatloaf lovers. And Meatloaf lovers - 'I would do anything for love, but I won't do THAT'. THAT, with all its contempt for exercise. and all the love for skinniness.

I know, I know - all of these diets do not just recommend eating, but also exercise. and sternly too. Dr Atkins demands a work-out along with all those stakes, and stakes, and uhm, some more stakes. But I am not very sure as to how many of those who follow his mantra follow the whole of it. Do they run and weight-train as religiously as they stuff their mouth with, er, the stakes?

Now before anyone gets high-strung and leaves testimonials on this page with 'before' and 'after' snaps (not that I am stopping you guys), let me clarify, I am not trying to discredit these increasingly bizarre eating recommendations. In fact, I have been sufficiently enticed to try to try them out myself. After I witnessed a Discovery channel documentary that took up Dr Atkins work quite seriously (yes, I was jobless and there were hardly any other channels worth watching on TV) I did try out meat - meal after meal for two whole days. May sound a paltry achievement to you, these two days, but that's all my Indian, vegetable-centric palette could stomach.

Which brings me to why I am writing this column at all... any nutritionists looking for a new avenue in the semmingly over-congested dieting market? I would be glad to hear an eat-all-you-want version plan with curries and vegetables. And am sure some Mexican somewhere is looking for jalapeno and salsa laden meals. While an irishman or many are looking for Guinness-full menus. There are many more untrodden paths ahead. So Help!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When I was new to Hong Kong - jobless, lazy and wilting away in a shoebox-sized serviced apartment that's so typical to this city - I became a TV addict for the first time. I watched anything that moved: ranging from Hitler on History channel to Chinese horror film monsters on cable to even the live camera relay from the building's entrance. And I didn't sleep through anything.

The vegetative state lasted for two months, maybe more. I became quite a potato all over except for my remote-tapping hand. But the bigger feature I am stuck with is the attraction of reality shows. Barring 'Growing up Gotti', it all works for me. I've even grown to like Simon (s)cowl. really. And I think Rockstar INXS is un-missable.

Of course, I'm hardly alone in succumbing to this genre. Zee TV (the only Hindi channel I get in my building) has polished its Saregamapa singing competition to reflect more competitivness and more rudeness (by pitching 'guru' music directors against each other, half of them coming across as fairly abrasive and one of whom is further ruder).

Of course, can't help but compare the American shows to their Indian counterparts. And the first thing that comes to my mind is not the participant quality, nor production values - it's the culture!

While the American shows treat their contendors as adults - lambasting them or praising them as potential singers, the Indian judges treat them, and even address them, as if they were kids. Imagine Paula Abdul telling Bo Bice "you are like our son" or Simon tell Carrie Underwood "I am criticizing you, but take it in the spirit of our teaching heritage... we are just teachers trying to make you children better"! Nope I am not making these dialogues up - these are straight translations from the show.

The difference just amuses me: why do Indians have children, and Americans sons and daughters? What do you think?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Giant Squid - check it out

Hurrah! We have done it again! Gone deep into the ocean, tortured an animal in its own habitat, and come out triumphant with photographs. Normally we do it to things we are familiar with - you know, things that are good to eat or pretty to look at - but now we've managed the feat with something we hardly believed existed. Congratulations Tsunemi Kubodera and Kyoichi Mori. You have managed to make a giant squid cut off its own arms so that we could see hazy pictures of an animal that few people had imagined, and fewer still are concerned about.

"I think it's wonderful that we've finally got a picture of a living giant squid," said Richard Ellis, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History [as reported by National Geographic]. Oh yes, wonderful indeed. What a moving performance to see a living thing impaled on the hook. How thrilling to see it struggling to break free. And what a marvellous ending to see leave behind two of its tentacles - bleeding, cut off, and oh so helpful for our scientific deductions.

The find has already put light on the big question that has puzzled scientists for years, which is: are these creatures active or lazy? Yes, this is the big discovery that we have come up with - read this news report. As you will find out: "The efforts the squid went to untangle itself [from the baited fishing line] also shows they are capable of quite strong and rapid movement." Ah the enlightenment.

Now I have no quarrel with science, nor do I have a problem with the money spent on it. But I DO mind if we go about things in an avoidably inhuman way. You got to click snaps - feel free. But is it so necessary to send down a bait with hooks for that purpose? Especially when you DO have specimens of the dead variery that were washed up ashore? You want to eat meat - sure - but is it necessary to torture and kill whatever it is that you want to eat? And if pharma companies must test medicines on rats - all right - but for goodness sake can't they follow guidelines and use anasthesia?

Science is not a good enough reason to torture. Nothing is.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I want to be a scientist... again

and I guess Bill Bryson's latest book must be infecting quite a few others too with the same result.

'A short history of nearly everything' is different from most other history and science books in a very fundamental way - the passion shows - a passion that is not limited to just the theories and the logic, but also to the scientists, thinkers, philosophers, cheaters, braggers, and other varieties of people that have populated the subject. Bryson knows all those dead and alive comfortably on a first name basis, and revers all elements that build our universe with an overwhelming wonder. So if up till now you weren't exactly impressed by the atom, things are in for a mojor overhaul by the time he's done with you.

How Bryson managed to amass the knowledge that he has, in just a couple of years, is quite simply, baffling. He found out what the Earth weighs, and when it was figured out what it weighs, and how it was figured out incorrectly at first, and then correctly, and who were doing all this figuring out, and why. And then he does the same with the Earth's age. And then ditto for the galaxy. And then for the atom. And this, of course, is just the beginning of his obsessive inquisitivesness about the world.

Read Bryson for a fresh take on the world and its majesty. Or to enjoy his lilted writing style. Or the hilarious quotations sprinkled all over. There's a reason for everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Boo Yahoo!

"To be doing business in China or anywhere else in the world we have to comply with local law."


And that's all that Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang has to say on the subject of becoming an informant of the Chinese government. That his actions support human right violations, and led to a 10-year improsonment term for a journalist is not something he is much bothered about. So long as he is acting 'legally', he is not worried about being right or ethical. The blindfolding, after all, ought to serve him well in making riches from the Chinese market.

Which leads me to the rhetorical question that a letter to the editor in the South China Morning Post asked recently: would Yahoo have been as willing an informant on Jews in the Germany of 1930s has it existed then?

Well, if IBM didn't have a problem under those circumstances, I can wager Yahoo would have no qualms either. After all, as they seem to think, what are a million lives or so against millions of dollars?

Laws and Governments are NOT valid excuses for despicable actions. And if Yahoo does not have the guts to defy the Chinese government, or finds itself too feeble to take a moral stand, it should not be doing be doing business there in the first place.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Watery Vengeance


sourced from: www.doonesbury.com


The last twelve months have been a procession of mass murders. Beginning with the Tsunami that drowned out whole cities with lashing waves, waters have swept into region after region - China, Europe, India, and now, United States. They're pouring and flooding with an uncanny regularity, claiming more lives, more land, more pain.

Till now, each time they struck hard, what came out stronger was the spirit of the people who donated money, materials, manpower, support and anything else they thought would help. At least, that was the case till the latest blow came from Katrina.

The images from a submerged New Orleans show only despair and horror - there seems to be little to soften the blow: relief too slow to give hope, gangs too rampant to allow peace, police force too feeble to give strength. The apathy of those in positions of power, who can make a difference, is unbelievable - far from responding with compassion, they have failed even in their duty.

It's the Titanic all over again - each man for himself - unless of course, you happen to be a first class citizen, in which case you row out in a lifeboat or leave town in a car, while others wait for a backup plan that simply doesn't exist.

Welcome to the Government of Today, which has forgotten why it had the right to collect taxes. They are not paid for the rich to become richer. Nor for increasing the bottomlines of corporates. Not even for the GDP to get higher. Economy, important though it is, is simply a means to an ends called humanity. It is not a proxy for the people, but a support system. And if a nation cannot even try to improve its people's lot, it has no business pompoming its riches.

Had it made any effort in the Katrina catastrophe, we would not be reading of patients killed in hospitals for lack of evacuation plans, of women raped in a stadium as they waited for food and water for days, of Red Cross being requested to keep away from places where people were dying (It was too dangerous to go to, apparently, even though the storm was over). If the US adminitration's own conscience cannot move it to help out, let's hope that at least public outrage will.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Disneyland Hong Kong: Much Ado about not much to do

[with due apologies to Bob Dylan]

How many people must at one spot stand
before Disney finds there's a crowd?
And just how many rides and shows must it make
to get them involved and move out?

The answer, unfortunately, is still blowing in the wind and Disneyland is yet to hear any of it.


photograph credits: ME


Dunno how many visitors sunburnt themselves under the unexpected sun yesterday, but the number sure rivalled Bombay's Victoria Terminus rush hour, or for that matter, HK Central's lunch hour. The trains to the park were packed in the morn when we joined the throngs, and I would guess, right through the day too. But that's all right, and well-expected. At least there was the air-conditioning to save one's sanity.

The real assault to my senses began when the sun broke out as I entered the park - though I would blame the theme park's logistics, and not the climate, for the fiasco. Disney's done a fine job with its modelling - the Main Street's quaint, with all the air of a Hollowood set. And the different 'lands' (tomorrow, fantasy and adventure) aren't bad (nope, not great). But how could the architects forget that this is not Europe where people die for every glimpse of the sun but the sunny locale of Asia? There are no shaded paths to walk under, and at some attractions (such as the not-so-attractive Tarzan Treehouse) no shades as you queue up! In short, unless you carry your own umberella in the manner of sun-phobic women, it is not possible to avoid getting slowly roasted.

The problem gets worse, of course, when there're too many visitors around. To my mind, their number may have exceeded the theme park's reported capacity of 30K when I visited. The resultant long queues extended out not just from the major attractions, but even the 'fast-food' restaurants! Imagine waiting one hour for chips and burger, and you know why I'd had my fill of the place by just 4 pm (as did quite a few others judging by the number of people in my compartment during the ride back home in the evening), though the place was open till 10 at night.

To be fair, it wasn't entirely a nightmare. But the small windows of enjoyment at the colourful Broadway style Lion King musical or the fancy roller coaster in space were simply not worth the hassle. And half the time, it was clearly bad logistical planning that was the root of the problem. For instance, to visit Tarzan's abode, we had to take a 1 minute boat ride through a water body - which would not have been such a slow affair if they'd just built a bridge across. After all, why create a bottleneck for no reason? Then at the Lion King, we had to wait for 35 minutes in a packed enclosure, thankfully shaded but not air-conditioned, before we could enter the auditorium to be able to get any seating - and that's when I had a fast pass!

All in all, it was 200 bucks down the drain. Once the park officially opens on Sep 12, (I visited early thanks to the discounted passes distributed to Standard Chartered for the weekend) I don't see how Disney plans to avoid the overcrowding, the resultant chaos, and ultimately, the disappointment of its guests. There is simply not enough to keep people of HK interested for long, or induce people outside of HK to specially make a visit.

The experience reminded me of Appu Ghar (Delhi) when I was a kid - some 15/20 years ago: More of waiting, less of playing. That place clicked despite the problems because there was no other choice available in the city that time - but HK has an up and running Ocean Park. It seems to me that the moneyhole Euro-Disney will soon have a buddy to debt-up with.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Of cats, kittens, and other things that matter

The trouble with a kitten is
THAT
Eventually it becomes a
CAT

This is one of the very very very few Ogden Nash poems that I don't agree with.

Cats
after all
are no trouble at all

Indeed, as their perpetual yawning and stretching away from us shows, we are quite an irritating and avoidable bunch for them.

Still I've given his grievance much thought, I can come to only one conclusion about the problem he had with the feline: He can't digest the fact that the cat is way beyond him in efficiency and effect in its disdain for the world.

While Ogden sat for hours on end, or maybe days, to poke fun at yet another target - toying with Miranda who just turned thirty, or summarising away the baby who did little else than walcum the talcum - the cat surpassed his belittlement in just a few seconds with a most effortless yawn. Yep, and each every cat can do it. Plus, that ultimate achiever of too-boring-to-even-be-loathed directed itself not to just one element but towards everything on the universe (i.e. everythings beside itself and pieces of string).

Oh Cheer up Nash, cats do not have the capacity to make up whimsical rhymes as you did. (Of course, they do not need to, nor would they ever condescend to gift anyone a prose of their own!) And if they did, remember what Avis said - you're number 2, so you've gotta try harder...

Oh well, I wish you were still around and writing for us. My cats don't speak to me any more :X


p.s. some quote websites seem to have mutated Nash's rhyme to "The trouble with a kitten is that when it grows up, it's always a cat." I am sure what I have on my website is the correct version, having read it in one of his poetry books.

p.p.s. actually I don't have any pet cats at the moment. Damn apartment rules and regulations. But if I had, they would probably be ignoring me (which is not really a problem, because as we all know, chasing is the fun part :D)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Long Live India ! (but hopefully in an upgraded version)

It is a trifle late to post Independence Day musings, but newspapers are still flogging the topic (on websites at least) and I was reminded of a statement by my grandfather: wo waqt behtar tha. kam se kam jo maarta tha woh angrez tha, ab to apne hi log kaisa bartaav karte hain. Zyaada chot lagti hai. [translated - those times of the British were better. If the white man was hitting us, we knew he was an outsider who could not be expected to feel for us. But now it our own who exploit us - and it feels worse]

I've heard him say this just once, and it is the only time I have felt annoyed with him. I felt like arguing with him at his blasphemy - to say that pre-independence we were better off! The shame of it! To admit to the 'better' rule of people who tortured us, impoverished us, brutally killed us - those who left us to suffer bloody riots in a partition that they fuelled as well as they could!

The line goaded me for quite a few days, and I hotly answered back in my head many times over - though at some level I wondered if he knew better what he was talking about. After all, his knowledge wasn't a result of just movies and history books like mine.

I finally realised the true import of his words during my daily religious reading of the newspapers. Littered with every abominable exploitation that you can think of, they slapped me with the answer in every headline. Woman forced to march naked in her village. Rapist asked to marry his victim. Thousands of crores of welfare money eaten by Babus. Schools without teachers. Jails with innocents. Corruption. Corruption. and then some more corruption.

It wasn't my grandfather who was insulting freedom fighters - it is the powerful of today. And I grudgingly wonder - would the independence heroes still have made their efforts if they'd known that the crimes would still persist, only some of the victims would change?

Perhaps they would have still, in hope. And I guess, despite his statement, my grandpa will not be welcoming the Brtitish rule back, far from it! But I do wonder - where will India's next freedom revolution come from? The first one could not quite make it to its destination all the way, so how can it inspire the next? [It was not just to overthrow the British - it was a desire for a better India, without persecution, poverty and the ills of a heirachical society with an exploitative powerful class]

I'm sure many will suggest killing off all the politicians we have. It's a good start indeed, but not quite enough. Coz ironically, though we are quick to see how politicians are milking us to their advantage, we're quite blind to how we treat those below us in the earnings ladder.

Read this piece by Sainath, whom I've been lucky enough to be taught by a few years ago. I am not sure how many of you will agree with his words against slum demolitions that took place recently in Bombay, but I am hoping you will see how callously we think of decisions that affect those below us. It seems so black and white, that illegal occupation equals legitimate kicking out. But is it? Would you have thought it all right if the British, through their negligence, caused poverty, which then forced the poor to live in illegal slums in a city to find work, and then burnt down these slums overnight? That's not justice, that's nightmare, and we're the ones who're standing by and cheering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

For starters...

... let me begin with what I want to end up as. It would be a fitting introduction, coz I've spent a good part of my life-span conjuring it. or rather conjuring them. There are many versions, and many desires - not much different from Bollywood potboilers and tabloid headlines. For instance, I've killed some dictators, quite a few terrorists, and many many hearts. I've been an admired actress, a hypnotic singer, and a best-selling writer. I've even sported shiny skin and striking poise at sixty, without going through the rigours of a makeover reality show.

At this point, you must be thinking, as I often wonder myself, this cannot possibly all happen. In fact, not even one of these is going to take place. But then at times like this, I get inspiration from George Bush. If that man, whose voice and frowned-head-equals-compassion-face has the same effect on me as chalk screeching in soprano over blackboard, can win two elections in a row - boy, I can do anything.

So it is that I am still day-dreamimg. After all, staying alive has its trials: bad news, and what's worse, true bad news. What I'm counting on for relief is kicking back, in thoughts and in words.