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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Song Sung Blue

After reading my last post I've realised I may have grown up.

I can remember a time when I thought Madonna was deep. She's got the look was poetry, True Blue moved me to tears, and anyone crooning I Love You in any musical note was heart-searing. I suppose I was deranged.


Yet, as I read my last post, I realise I may still be a sucker.

The lines that move me most in the Windmills of your Mind are
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the colour of hair?

And my latest musical is obsession Johnny Cash singing One, where amongst other things, he wonders
Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it's all I got

Looks like all I have achieved is graduating from passion of love to love gone sour. I suppose I have a long way to grow up.



I have managed to acquire a writer's block without being a writer in the first place!

So instead of writing nonsense, let me just post one of favourite song lyrics: Windmills of your mind, penned byAlan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman for the original The Thomas Crown Affair. It's one of those numbers that leaves haunting images in my head.

If you are somehow not impressed (impossible!) by what you read ahead, be sure to listen to the song, and I'm sure you'll change your mind! With music by Michel Legrand, it has even won an Oscar. (Personally I prefer the original by Noel Harrison to Sting's version)

Round,
Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending on beginning,
On an ever-spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain,
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning
Running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on its face
And the world is like an apple
Spinning silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Like the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream.
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on its face
And the world is like an apple
Spinning silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly?
Was it something that I said?
Lovers walk along a shore
And leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?

Pictures hanging in a hallway
or the fragment of a song,
half-remembered names and faces
but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair?

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Horn OK Please

There are times when I believe that you've to be born in a place to truly understand its spirit and become an integral part, a notion that is strengthened by movies that showcase Indians not quite fitting abroad, phrases such as ABCD, and of course, idiots such as Bush who spew nonsense about places they've never been to.

And then, every once in a while, I come across portrayals of India by foreigners who've researched the subject for barely a few months and yet hit the nail right on the head.

Check out this short movie 'Horn OK Please'. Directed by Joel Simon, a Belgian, it is inspired by his journey in Mumbai.

Njoy!

HORN OK PLEASE

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My husband hasn't spoken in the last three days. Initially, for a hopeful fleeting moment, I thought that I and and my brand new red hair and a kaaya facial must have left him speechless with delight. But no. Viruses apparently have greater influence on him than my face ever did.

Anyhow, since his throat is too congested for conversation, I have finally run out of distractions and reasons that have kept me away from my blog these past few weeks. I'm back, and ready to reopen the space with my tag commitment to The One, even though I really don't like the task he's dumped me with. "8 things about me" takes me straight back to the MBA/job interview preparation days, to one of the most irritating answers I had to mug up and vomit.

Nevertheless, here's a more honest version of those pretentious speeches:

Ek
I am not aggressive. My teachers may have lamented so, my friends may have hinted so, my colleagues may have commented so, and perhaps at some point in time I will have to start acceding that a 100-to-1 majority has the ring of something like truth to it. But as of now, I must say that I am not aggressive.

Do
I get along with kittens better than with children. It's not that I have anything against kids, but just that I've never figured out their wavelength nor how to converse with them. Mostly I just give them an uncertain smile and that pretty much brings an end to their interest in me.

Teen
Aishwarya Rai's pseudo-smile nauseates me and I am delighted that Umraao Jaan has all the promise of a flop. The only other woman who nauseates me even more is Ekta 'Balaji' Kapoor.

Char
I love speaking in a punju accent. I used to find it frightful, but ever since I moved out of India I find that way of talking too tantalising to resist. I still don't use it on the roads however, and talk like a true dehati only to the telly.

Paanch
I love make-up, and I love dressing up. So even if you think I've put nothing on my face and am under-dressed for an occassion when you meet me, chances are I've spent at least an hour in front of the mirror.

Chhey
I hate exercising. Luckily, I also hate most sweets.

Saat
I hate getting old so much that I am not above pretending about it. On my latest birthday last month (when I turned 28 :() I bought myself a cake that announced 'Sweet 16'. Of course, I may not look 16, but then, Aamir doesn't look like a college kid either and if Rang de Basanti can carry it off, then, ahem, then so can I.

Aath
I day-dream non-stop. My brain doesn't know what it is to be blank, so if I'm not working or problem-solving, then I'm definitely cooking up a movie starring myself in my head. Apparently, (I read somewhere) enacting stuff in your head can spur that stuff to happen in real life. So if I become a singer-actor-writer-diva, you know the secret behind it.

That's all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I guess, after all, that I am not that artistic.

Last few movies that I've seen - all of them being the award-winning, criticially acclaimed variety - have left me quite untouched. Sure I sat through all of them, not entirely bored, and even admiring as the occassion demanded: the composition of frames here, the placement of a certain prop there, the depth of acting, the grace of certain dialogues - but that only goes on to show I was simply not engrossed enough to get lost in the movie and was instead analysing the technicalities in a detached fashion.

Of course, I defended them robustly to my lesser-pretentious half, who had declined to see some of these movies at all and gave up some more half-way. Unlike him, I persevered, intent on broadening my mind with these works of art, and impressing upon my husband and my myself just how discerning I was. So cool and oh! so refined.

But I guess it is time to give up.

Flattering though it is to have the DVD shop assistant handing me what I want with aplomb, diving right into his collection where he knows exactly where the coveted item is and handing it to me with a smile that only two people who care about the same thing can share - it is time to move on to other things less worthy.

It's not as if I love slapstick, but a doubt that I will ever understand just why The Dreamers is about innocence and not incestuous porn. And that can only mean one thing: I'm no high-brow.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Insomnia

Vipul and I recently completed seven years together, so I guess it was time I started getting the itch. Still, had not expected things to turn out so literally disconfitting! Past couple of weeks, have been feeling surprisngly like the princess in the fairytale that also stars the pea.

(For the forgetful, the story revolves around the real princess, proven to be real by the fact that she feels back-wrecking discomfiture from a single pea that rests below her bedding, a bedding that consists of 20 fat mattresses.)

Unfortunately, I can't even find that pea. Every few days or so, bouts of restlessness assail me in the morn and the weight of insomnia plagues me at night. As if something incomprehensible is nudging me to distraction. Nothing feels comfortable: the sofa's are too light, the floor too hard, the chairs unsufferably constricting, the matterss a big bore.... I feel like shedding my skin like a snake and slipping into something more comfortable and new. My body right now feels like an outfit two sizes too small, and as if I was doing yoga in it.

Fellow insomniacs may know what I mean. It's so frustrating!

The cuplprit is probably too match caffiene, or too little exercise. Anyhow, won't be surprised if I jump into meditation next for a cure. Pity, that unlike the parable, I have no royal blood nor riches to make up for the problem.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Munnabhai's mindblowing

I went to the hall last night praying for Arshad Warsi to get a lot of screen time. Hoping for a tight script without loose ends. Imagining the possibilities of jokes that weren't reruns. And surprise, surprise, I got it all!

Lage Raho Munnabhai is a superb potboiler that made me laugh non-stop, and I cannot remember the last time this happened to me in a Hindi movie in my adult life. Indeed, apart from Vidya Balan's ultra-long, reshammiya-voiced "Good Morniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing" the movie is simply perfect.

The story, smartly avoiding a pure duplication of Munnabhai MBBS, is the journey of Munna bhai (Sanjay Dutt) wooing his lady love Jahanvi (Vidya Balan). Helping him achieve his goal are mainly two men: one who inspires my heart :D - Circuit (Arshad Warsi), and another who inspires mine and thousands others' souls - Mahatma Gandhi. Full credit goes to the screenplay and dialogues of Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi for marrying Gandhism flawlessly into the script; I love the way they use the serious theme without compromising on the humour, and ultimately manage to create an original, pacy script. Very impressive, especially against the backdrop of copycats that we have been getting lately.

Sanjay Dutt may look a tad old in the movie posters, nevertheless both he and his govinda-coloured-shirts shine through. He has certainly improved his performance in this sequel. Arshad Warsi and his gold chains too are better than ever. In fact, their team performance has convinced me to next have a peek at Anthony Kaun Hai so as to enjoy their chemistry yet again.

Also excellently matched are Boman Irani and his Punju accent. All in all, these three carry the movie on their shoulders to create a hilarious, vivacious, adorable, enthralling experience.

Clap Clap Clap

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The inevitable has happened. I miss Minoo, the cat more than I miss Vipul, the husband.

Maybe it's simply because Vipul is home and therefore difficult to miss. Or maybe it is a sort of forbidden fruit syndrome: Vipul is ghar ki Murgi, living with me while Minoo belongs to someone else. Either way, the point is that my cat-sitting is over, she has been reclaimed and taken to her original home, and I'm musing over her idiosyncracies in my head.

It is strange to no longer be woken up by her vociferous mewing in the morning. Once Vipul's alarm had broken her sleep, Minoo ensured the we got up as well. Mostly she accomplished this by short bark-like meows, and sometimes through cajoling licks of her sandpapery tongue over my face. Either way, she started the day with the misconception that she was a dog and made my day start like a Nescafe coffee ad.

Of course, the rest of the day was as unlike a coffee ad as can be, coz it was as full of sleeping and lazing as can be. I have never done as much of nothing as I did in the past six weeks. Initially I'd thought that having a cat might inspire me to write out more stuff, but as is now clear, her yawns were far too influential to get anything at all done.

Still, I did get one thing accomplished, and that's a good load of snaps. I've pasted some on my blog before, and here's the final tranche:





Friday, August 25, 2006

Tagging along

Quicksilver has tagged me into a confessionary, so here goes:

I am thinking about...
... loopholes in my sugar-free diet. So far, it is clear that strawberry ice-cream counts as a serving of fruit

I said...
... "coochie poochie", "shweetie paee" and other nonsensical gibberish for the first time in my life last month. After years of holding baby-talk in contempt, I somehow succumbed during one-on-one quality time with my new cat.

I want to...
... stop this baby-talk before I let it slip in public and embarrass myself

I wish...
... humans had never evolved beyond apes

I hear...
... all sorts of gossip while pretending not to listen

I wonder...
... if people know I'm listening coz I've never caught anyone bitching about me red-handed

I regret...
... being a super-mean ice-queen to the first guy I had a crush on

I am...
... a wannabe atheist. What keeps me from becoming a full-fledged atheist is that I'm so angry with God, which by implication means I think he is there somewhere for me to be angry at.

I dance...
... sexily with women only

I sing...
... better after a few drinks

I cry...
... at the darndest moments. I bawled throughout My Fair Lady when I saw it the first time because I felt fo sorry for Audrey Hepburn, the flower-girl!

I am not always...
... the dictator my friends make me out to be

I make with my hand...
... really awful Sangria

I write...
... very corny poems on an anonymous blog

I confuse...
... directions like a prototype for stereotypical man-woman books

I need...
... more optimism, more creativity, more frequent partying, more toned-up abs, more happeninng life,... In short, I need to be 20 years old again :)

I tag...
... Amy, J, and N. Let's hear you spill some secrets!

Monday, August 21, 2006

I knew Indian organisations were thinking global like never before. But I guess I hadn't really reckoned just how much till I saw this in my newspaper today:
a medical college in Bijapur (???who's ever heard of such a place outside of a Bollywood movie!!) advertising to potential students in Hong Kong!




Nope, I wasn't reading some small-time paper targeted at the Indian minority abroad, but HK/China's mainstream english newspaper, South China Morning Post. Of course, knowing what pre-coffee mornings can be, for a few seconds after I saw the ad even I did wonder whether I'd lost my bearings and was actually sitting over damn old TOI.

Now I can well imagine what inspired this secluded place in Karnataka to want NRIs on its rolls, but what on earth makes them expect a response? Having never heard their name till date, I doubt their NRI hostel on Sholapur Road is filled chockablock. But hell, no business house affiliation (which a good number of small little medical schools across the counrty are) would waste money like this without reason. Any ideas?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The good thing about having women guests at home is that I get good excuses and great company to dress up with.

The bad part is that when we ask around how we look, we get standard replies. And I'm not talking about the universal "nice" and "no you don't look fat, you're just fine" statements.

"That bag is too Shabby" says my husband of almost every bag I pick up. Everything's either too shabby, or too frayed, or too old, or too used, or some such thing.

Is this, I imagine out loud, what he's going to tell me when I develop crow's feet, and laugh lines, and frown burrows, and patchy baldness after using my body another twenty years?

To which I'm told: Of course not! Those stand for character. They represent the life you've lived, the sorrows you've been through, the moments you've grown from... they're going to be souveniers that we'll treasure. (Ok so my husband didn't exactly say that, but Oprah probably did)

To which my point is that: if a shabby face is beautiful because of the life that lies behind it, then why not a frayed bag or a braised car or holed shoes? Why can't my man look beyond my Shabby Bag, and discover its amazing elegance and worldly-wisdom? And why can't he appreciate my dad's car's unrepaired dents and be impressed by its Houdini-like escapes? Why doesn't he go gaga over the WWF-ness of our chipped glass decoration pieces, and laugh at my clumsiness that they represent?

And while he's at it, any chance that he also expand his vocab beyond "nice" and "fine"???

Monday, August 07, 2006

update....

Last couple of weeks I was absent from the blogosphere for a very noble cause. I was busy helping the Hong Kong retail sector improve its performance. My sister, here on a visit from India, and I, did all we could to ensure that the shopping festival was a success. Visiting malls, eating out, buying stuff that looks good on mannequins today and will hopefully fit us by next summer, etc etc. It has been hectic, but now she's gone, and I'm back, and we're both broke.

Meanwhile, Minoo instead is alive and kicking, even if a tad forgetful. She talks via barks, and licks our feet, and sleeps on her back at times, and thus has clearly lost her identity along with the owner. But luckily she hasn't forgotten how to use the litter box, so I cannot complain!



Monday, July 17, 2006

She's five years old. And she's been sulking since morning, right from the time she entered my home. Not quite what I'd expected foster parenting to be - I mean, sure, I had excpected tantrums, and sobbing, and a distant stranger. But Minoo has come with a different set of stress symptoms atogether.

She's sneaked under the bed, and lodged herself between a high suitcase and the low bed panelling, and refuses to come out. She also refuses to eat or drink. It would have been a total crisis situation except for the fact that she does at least meow in conversation once in a while. And she lets herself be scratched with my outstretched hand after I slither my (nearly) three decades old body at ground level. Then she suddenly comes alive and maneouvres her head and neck so that I get the spots right. But that's about it.

I wonder how many more hours to go before she'll fell confident enough to venture out, and whether it will be possible to vaccum out her hair from our black bag when she does. I hope it happens before her five weeks at my place are up. For one thing, if she doesn't get back her spirit and enslave my husband soon, he may veto all my plans of adopting a cat by end of this year!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Bill in me

Today I had excellent jam from breakfast, with compliments from Shangri La. They'd actually given their compliments a month ago, to my friend who was staying at their fancy hotel. But the freecycler in me couldn't let the cute little bottles of marmalade and honey get cleared away with the room breakfast when I visited her.

My friend encouraged me to pick the goodies and was glad to see her money recovered. (She would have picked them herself had they been sugar-free)
I don't think Shangri La cared.
But my husband, as usual, is the problem. He thinks this amounts to stealing. In fact, he thinks this everytime we are out on vacation when the magpie in me collects matchboxes and stationery with glee, therefore at those points of time he frowns as menacingly as he can, which given his lineless forehead, isn't half as scary as he imagines it to be. So I continue.

Besides, his opinion on morals doesn't carry water given that he's a banker. And not just any banker - but a banker working in credit derivatives. For the uninformed, let me just say that Warren Buffet considers what he sells "time bomb"s. Me thinks his snooty highness finds two-dollar robberies beneath contemplation and would be quite delighted if I stole the whole Shangri La itself.

Anyhow, his opinion is quite dwarfed by a celebrity endorsesment I have just uncovered. The marvellously funny Bill Bryson, whose 'Notes from a small island' I am currently reading, candidly reveals his pocketing at an expensive hotel. I am a bit dubious about his being as Scroogy as he sets himself to be in the rest of the pages, [given how rich fans such as me must have made him], but in any case, it is nice to knaow that I and Bill have at least one thing in common. And I intend to keep it that way.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I've always hated weddings. Even back in school I can recall trying to wriggle out of attending ceremonies that my parents were invited to. Partly of course coz teenagers are embarrassed to be anywere in the visible radius of thir folks. But largely because I found them depressing - always ended up feeling sorry for the brides in question. How could I not feel pity for someone whose face was doused in Red lipstick, Red bindi, Red eye-shadow, Red cheek blush, and Red in every other remaining nook and corner as well. And just in case the beautician had missed a spot on the visage, her embarassment and glaring stage lights were enough to cover the remains, also in Red. What a way to begin a new life, I would think, and almost weep.

Thankfully I was young, and could easily avoid most occassions by pretending to be in the thick of studies and narrowly avoiding failure in the next exam. It worked like a charm right through school and college, and even university. But it hardly sufficed against the big daddy of them all - my own matrimonial marathon.

As expected, I look as Red as Christmas. Resembled a witch straight out of a bloodbath. [Somehow, my husband thinks I look cute as a doll, but then he has strange tastes, Or he's a liar, Or deeply blinded by love. whatever]

I would show you the snaps, but I don't enjoy writing lengthy disclaimers for heart patients. Plus I don't have the pics with me any longer. They're housed in my parents' place, where I intend to keep them despite their protests. They wanted the wedding. They can keep the snaps. I wanted the marriage. I'll keep the husband.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ghosts

Today is dedicated to the reading my old diaries. To the hundreds of good looking guys that littered Delhi's streets when I was young and hormoneful. To the thousands of times I fell in love with at first glance, and out of love two weeks later. To the mllions of times I felt that it was the best day of my life.

It's just that I am unpacking my bags for my new house. And in the middle of the mess is my box of memories - useless stuff such as old movie tickets, college rock show entrance cards, school uniform remains, pages from diaries - useless stuff, yet priceless... all souveniers of a time when I was really alive. When everything, just everything, mattered. When every smile could be dissected into a thousand meanings ('He likes Me!', 'How dare he sneer!'. 'I am super duper funny!', or as was most often, 'He is so Sweeeeeet!') Yes, every feeling had an exclamation mark, every mood was heady, and there was nothing that inspired nothing. Life was a Bollywood movie. An inconsequential Helen-Sridevi-Jeetendra movie maybe, but a movie nevertheless.

Here's a scrap of something I then wrote:

Speak those words
that your eyes say
everytime you look at me
After all,
it is just a metter a time
before you cease to look at me
and I cease to understand your silence

Coz that's what always happens -
Things end.

So say something,
coz words I can remember
and words can soothe,
but memories blur and fade away,
and tomorrow I will not believe
in what I think I saw today


Interesting in hindsight, (and enchanting when you are living them), how chemicals irridescently colour our world. And funny even how "adolescence is the most difficult period of your life" according to my mom, but it is the most beautiful. So wonderfully exaggerated, so brimming with emotion.

I would gladly live that madness again.

Monday, May 29, 2006

movie: Fanaa

In keeping with the promise held out by its promos, Fanaa is pathetic. And for bonus, it is corny too.

Sure, you would think that an Aamir 'Choosy' Khan movie must have something to redeem itself. And a Kajol comeback has got to count for something. But no.

The movie, for all creative purposes, was probably made ten years ago. It has every obsolete formula of that era: from silly dialogues that no one ever mouths in real life, to love at first sight for no reason whatsoever with a roadside Romeo who aims vulgar pick-up lines, to dream sequqnces that include dancing in sleeveless dresses on snow.

Hence, only if you're nostalgic for those days (why??) as well as obsessed with the star couple (in which case you probably left my page after the first line) will you enjoy the movie.

Of course, Aamir and Kajol, as always, act well. But sometimes that is not enough. To start with: Aamir. He has been given many names and a half-baked role where he's half psycho controlled by a grand-dad, and half street-side Romeo. And for a good part of the movie he decides to seduce the audience, against all common sense, with ghastly couplets. Most of these four-liners resemble PJs that we used to laugh at in middle school. Unfortunately, I've graduated since then. What's worse, some of the disasterous cliches are repeated every now and then in the couple's reverie.

And then there's Kajol: who laughs and laughs and struts and smiles at the camera, and then some more. And the director, as if he were still unsure that we hadn't got the point of what a great catch he had made in signing her and how beautiful she still is post-kids, goes on to put "subhan-allah" in the background music.

But let us move on beyond he main characters of the movie. After all, Fanaa, apart from its leads also guest-stars Shiney Ahuja, Lillete Dubey, Kirron Kher, Jaspal Bhatti, and many more - essentially just about anyone that director Kunal Kohli could manage to get on board. Definitely a good strategy for cost cutting, especially if it generates as little revenue as I'm guessing it will.

More importantly, the few laughs that the movie generates - yes it does manage some - are all thanks to the guest appearances and smaller characters. Especially good is a young boy introduced in the movie. Unfortunately, he too is forced by the script writer to repeat the same lines ad nauseum, what a pity.

The last hope one may have had - from songs penned by Prasoon Joshi - are lousy in timing and boring in melody, with one even having ambitions of 'lakdi ki kaathi' (but it fails easily just like its brethren).

Easily one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time, and fanaa-ed by a really really bad script.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Things that make you Grrrrrrrrr

If you want to kick Arjun Singh but don't know how, read this transcript of Karan Thapar interviewing him. You still wouldn't have kicked him, but will at least have the pleasure of smirking at him and his moronic, brainless replies. Moreover, his spinelessness may give you the added ingredient you need to get really enraged and go kick some butt.


Karan Thapar: Most of the people would accept that steps are necessary to help the OBCs gain greater access to higher education. The real question is: Why do you believe that reservations is the best way of doing this?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to say much more on this because these are decisions that are taken not by individuals alone. And in this case, the entire Parliament of this country - almost with rare unanimity - has decided to take this decision.

Karan Thapar: Except that Parliament is not infallible. In the Emergency, when it amended the Constitution, it was clearly wrong, it had to reverse its own amendments. So, the question arises: Why does Parliament believe that the reservation is the right way of helping the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Nobody is infallible. But Parliament is Supreme and at least I, as a Member of Parliament, cannot but accept the supremacy of Parliament.

Karan Thapar: No doubt Parliament is supreme, but the Constitutional amendment that gives you your authorities actually enabling amendment, it is not a compulsory requirement. Secondly, the language of the amendment does not talk about reservations, the language talks about any provision by law for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes. So, you could have chosen anything other than reservations, why reservations?


Arjun Singh: Because as I said, that was the 'will and desire of the Parliament'.

Karan Thapar: Do you personally also, as Minister of Human Resource Development, believe that reservations is the right and proper way to help the OBCs?


Arjun Singh: Certainly, that is one of the most important ways to do it.

Karan Thapar: The right way?


Arjun Singh: Also the right way.

Karan Thapar: In which case, lets ask a few basic questions. We are talking about the reservations for the OBCs in particular. Do you know what percentage of the Indian population is OBC? Mandal puts it at 52 per cent, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) at 32 per cent, the National Family and Health Survey at 29.8 per cent, which is the correct figure?


Arjun Singh: I think that should be decided by people who are more knowledgeable. But the point is that the OBCs form a fairly sizeable percentage of our population.

Karan Thapar: No doubt, but the reason why it is important to know 'what percentage' they form is that if you are going to have reservations for them, then you must know what percentage of the population they are, otherwise you don't know whether they are already adequately catered to in higher educational institutions or not.

Arjun Singh: That is obvious - they are not.

Karan Thapar: Why is it obvious?


Arjun Singh: Obvious because it is something which we all see.

Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that the NSSO, which is a government appointed body, has actually in its research in 1999 - which is the most latest research shown - that 23.5 per cent of all university seats are already with the OBCs. And that is just 8.5 per cent less than what the NSSO believes is the OBC share of the population. So, for a difference of 8 per cent, would reservations be the right way of making up the difference?


Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to go behind all this because, as I said, Parliament has taken a view and it has taken a decision, I am a servant of Parliament and I will only implement.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely, Parliament has taken a view, I grant it. But what people question is the simple fact - Is there a need for reservations? If you don't know what percentage of the country is OBC and if, furthermore, the NSSO is correct in pointing out that already 23.5 per cent of the college seats are with the OBC, then you don't have a case in terms of need.

Arjun Singh: College seats, I don't know.

Karan Thapar: According to the NSSO - which is a government appointed body - 23.5 per cent of the college seats are already with the OBCs.


Arjun Singh: What do you mean by college seats?

Karan Thapar: University seats, seats of higher education.

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know I have not come across that so far.

Karan Thapar: So, when critics say to you that you don't have a case for reservation in terms of need, what do you say to them?


Arjun Singh: I have said what I had to say and the point is that that is not an issue for us to now debate.

Karan Thapar: You mean the chapter is now closed?


Arjun Singh: The decision has been taken.

Karan Thapar: Regardless of whether there is a need or not, the decision is taken and it is a closed chapter.


Arjun Singh: So far as I can see, it is a closed chapter and that is why I have to implement what all Parliament has said.

Karan Thapar: Minister, it is not just in terms of 'need' that your critics question the decision to have reservation for OBCs in higher education. More importantly, they question whether reservations themselves are efficacious and can work.

For example, a study done by the IITs themselves shows that 50 per cent of the IIT seats for the SCs and STs remain vacant, and for the remaining 50 per cent, 25 per cent are the candidates who even after six years fail to get their degrees. So, clearly, in their case, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: I would only say that on this issue, it would not be correct to go by all these figures that have been paraded.

Karan Thapar: You mean the IIT figures themselves could be dubious?


Arjun Singh: Not dubious, but I think that is not the last word.

Karan Thapar: All right, maybe the IIT may not be the last word, let me then quote to you the report of the Parliamentary Committee on the welfare for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes - that is a Parliamentary body.

It says, that looking at the Delhi University, between 1995 and 2000, just half the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Castes level and just one-third of the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Tribes level were filled. All the others went empty, unfilled. So, again, even in Delhi University, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: If they are not working, it does not mean that for that reason we don't need them. There must be some other reason why they are not working and that can be certainly probed and examined. But to say that for this reason, 'no reservations need to be done' is not correct.

Karan Thapar: Fifty years after the reservations were made, statistics show, according to The Hindustan Times, that overall in India, only 16 per cent of the places in higher education are occupied by SCs and STs. The quota is 22.5 per cent, which means that only two-thirds of the quota is occupied. One-third is going waste, it is being denied to other people.


Arjun Singh: As I said, the kind of figures that have been brought out, in my perception, do not reflect the realities. Realities are something much more and, of course, there is an element of prejudice also.

Karan Thapar: But these are figures that come from a Parliamentary Committee. It can't be prejudiced; they are your own colleagues.


Arjun Singh: Parliamentary Committee has given the figures, but as to why this has not happened, that is a different matter.

Karan Thapar: I put it to you that you don't have a case for reservations in terms of need, you don't have a case for reservations in terms of their efficacy, why then, are you insisting on extending them to the OBCs?


Arjun Singh: I don't want to use that word, but I think that your argument is basically fallacious.

Karan Thapar: But it is based on all the facts available in the public domain.


Arjun Singh: Those are facts that need to be gone into with more care. What lies behind those facts, why this has not happened, that is also a fact.

Karan Thapar: Let’s approach the issue of reservations differently in that case. Reservations mean that a lesser-qualified candidate gets preference over a more qualified candidate, solely because in this case, he or she happens to be an OBC. In other words, the upper castes are being penalised for being upper caste.

Arjun Singh: Nobody is being penalised and that is a factor that we are trying to address. I think that the Prime Minister will be talking to all the political parties and will be putting forward a formula, which will see that nobody is being penalised.

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about that formula, but before we come to talk about how you are going to address concerns, let me point one other corollary: Reservations also gives preference and favour to caste over merit. Is that acceptable in a modern society?

Arjun Singh: I don't think the perceptions of modern society fit India entirely.

Karan Thapar: You mean India is not a modern society and therefore can't claim to be treated as one?


Arjun Singh: It is emerging as a modern society, but the parameters of a modern society do not apply to large sections of the people in this country.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you Jawaharlal Nehru, a man whom you personally admire enormously. On the 27th of June 1961 wrote to the Chief Ministers of the day as follows: I dislike any kind of reservations. If we go in for any kind of reservations on communal and caste basis, we will swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate. The moment we encourage the second-rate, we are lost. And then he adds pointedly: This way lies not only folly, but also disaster. What do you say to Jawaharlal Nehru today?


Arjun Singh: Jawaharlal Nehru was a great man in his own right and not only me, but everyone in India accept his view.

Karan Thapar: But you are just about to ignore his advice.


Arjun Singh: No. Are you aware that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who introduced the first amendment regarding OBCs?

Karan Thapar: Yes, and I am talking about Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, when clearly he had changed his position, he said, “I dislike any kind of reservations”.


Arjun Singh: I don't think one could take Panditji's position at any point of time and then overlook what he had himself initiated.

Karan Thapar: Am I then to understand that regardless of the case that is made against reservations in terms of need, regardless of the case that has been made against reservations in terms of efficacy, regardless of the case that has been made against reservations in terms of Jawaharlal Nehru, you remain committed to extending reservations to the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: I said because that is the will of Parliament. And I think that common decisions that are taken by Parliament have to be honoured.


[taken from IBN Live. You can catch both the transcript and the video on this page]

Let's weep

Yesterday was two years since the UPA government came to power
It also marks two years of me making excuses for Manmohan Singh

When he took the oath, under the order/benevolence of Sonia Gandhi, I and a good part of India developed expectations. Sure, we didn't think he could perform miracles with a fractured government, but we did think he would stand his ground on what he thought right, and while we didn't think he would race in the right directions, we did look forward to baby-steps.

What a disappointment. The budgets have been useless. The fringe benefit tax, a trivial and idiotic nuisance, remains stubbornly enacted. The communist parties throws a tantrum over EVERYTHING - and usually gets its way. Ordinary people can scream and rant all they want on the streets - be it the Narmada Bachao Aandolan activists, or the striking doctors - but our man doesn't listen or respond.

I, for one, am sick of saying "Oh but he doesn't have the decision making power really", "He'll fix it later, for sure", "What can he do? The Left is arm-twisting him", etc etc etc

It is time for me to take the blinkers off and put the blame where the responsibility lies - at the shoulders of our Prime Minister. Which is just so sad - because now there is not a single person in the political community I can think of who can offer even a sliver of hope as an able anchor.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Just another rainy Sunday

Hong Kong skies have a horrid habit of weeping at weekends. If you stay here long enough, it can be quite depressing. All dark, dingy and sloppy. But I haven't entered that phase, not yet. Plus, I am too lazy to have ventured out today anyway, and instead had a good time pretending to be a photographer. Here goes:



Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I have finally find a house to move into, finally a place whose walls I can drill and paint the way I want, whose floor I can populate any way I please. I can put clocks where I wish, and a table where I desire, and the curtains will be of my coice. all Mine Mine Mine

Up till now, life had been a a parade of hotels, and pseudo-hotels. Grew up with parents, where mom ruled. Then a hostel - which was the nearest to freedom I ever had, and of course I made the most of it... but studentship is a poverty-ridden part of life that lacks choices. Then came 'paying-guest'dom, all furnished and fine. Then marriage, where MIL ruled. Then a serviced apartment, and before I knew it, 27 years were gone.

Now, finally, my time will come.

But there's one small hitch - my husband.
All of a sudden he has discovered an interest in house layout and interior design. After 30 dormant years where his care was limited only to keeping dust away, he now has ambitions to choose cupboards and decide which direction the bed will face. He has developed opinions on colours that our couch can have, and what size a mirror should be. What's worse, each and every thing he thinks is in direct opposition to mine.

In short, setting up the house is not looking half as attractive as I had day-dreamed it to be. Maybe we should divide the house into two fiefdoms. Maybe we should toss and decide who gets to be dictator. Maybe I should threaten him and usurp the power.

Or maybe, just maybe, God will be kind and let me win a lottery so that I can get a new house and do it up entirely my way.
Amen

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Aunty aur Bubbly

champagne on flight...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram

Can't believe I'm packing my bags yet again, relocating across countries for the second time in four months. Tonight is my flight to Hong Kong, just a few hours to go, and it has finally begun to sink in.

My mind has begun to list out things that I will miss, which is a rather long series, ranging from street cats that spring up in various nooks and corners and garbage cans of Bombay to commanding buildings that have kept their backs erect despite bad maintenance and ravaging years. It's a beautiful city, Bombay.

Did you squirm at me calling Bombay pretty? But I really do think so. It gives me so many reasons to smile. I'll be walking down some road, and if some cricket match is taking place that day (which it so often is) I am bound to discover some new obsessive taxi driver shouting out the score across the road for joy as he stands by his parked taxi. And though he's not aware of me presence, and not shouting out for my benefit at all, it just gives me a strange feeling and my head tells me, like that song, "This happens only in India". I just feel anew that, yes, I am back home. And suddenly, drab walls no longer look like brown, unpainted houses. Instead I wonder how old these places must be. As my cab travels over the JJ flyover, I find the journey picturesque as I spy the gleaming mosques in the middle of huddled tenemants. There is somehow, something romantic in the disparity of the spaces we live in, in the people that we are all together, on the things that bind us despite all the separations that we stay with.

There is something so beautiful about Bombay.

Something enticing, even in the tacky ads painted behind buses.

Something rusticly funny, funny enough to have infested T-shirts, in the shayri written with paint on rickshaws and trucks. 48 phoolon ki 96 mala; buri nazar waale thera moonh kala.

Yes I love Bombay
I have loved it since my first month here, when I first saw cats and dogs, predators and prey, skirmishing through the same rubbish pile by a building at Churchgate. I loved the way the cat just swished a contemptuous tail on the side when some dog decided to create a ruckus in the background.

That's the light I've since seen Bombay in - a place egalitarian at heart.

Where you don't need to sit in a fine restaurant and order one coffee after another to see the sun set against the sea. (In fact, chana at Marine drive would give a better view.)

Where Steven Freakonomist Levitt is available from anything between 100 rupees and 750 rupees, depending on where you buy it from.

Where managers and labourers travel stuffed together in the same local train.

Where everyone's called 'Boss'.

Which is why, I'll be back
Coz I'm in love

Friday, April 14, 2006

I think my mom has thrown away my old stuff. She has an innate frenzy for cleanliness. And she believes that all old stuff (with the sole exception of photo albums) deserves to be thrown away. Over years the rest of the family has managed to mellow down her campaign for minimalism through shoutings, weepings. tantrums etc.

But the streak remains.
What is gone is my report card with my first and only A+ grade, which I'd finally managed to earn in the last term at school.

Some old english note-books, which had superior writing style than what I've been left with today.

A diary which has the opening paragraph of the first book I'd ever started to write.

Signatures and scribblings and notes passed during class from a friend who's no longer living

A list of all Doctor Who novels I'd read, and their authors, and what they were about

A class notebook of my then best-friend, which I kept to preserve his hand-writing, after he left the country for good

It's a long list of memories, and every now and then I remember something more that's gone missing, and inwardly swear, Oh F*** I've lost that!

I guess I should have carried all my stuff with me when I shifted out of my parents' house. But how do you carry a truckload of sentimental papers with you, especially when you're shifting to a cubby hole in Mumbai?

Sigh

Saturday, April 08, 2006



Unfortunately, Arjun Singh is neither as amusing nor as harmless as Calvin.

Deciding, without any public debate, to increase reservations in educational institutions to 49.5% is a stupid idea. It is politically stupid - as I am sure he will find out soon enough. More importantly, it is also educationally regressive.

There is no doubt in my mind that casteism is still prevelant, and that it obstructs the growth of millions in the country. But reservations, that too in higher education, are not an answer to the problem. It can only make the 'normal quota' students feel more enstranged. It can only encourage them to search for options in education and profession outside India.

As for those who get into IIT / IIM / AIIMs and other government institutions through lenient quotas - they may soon find that they have few takers in the private sector jobs. The brand of a quota entrant doesn't wash off easily - definitely not when their abilities are at sharp contrast to the others.

Monday, March 27, 2006

It would be amusing if it weren't so enraging.

Lawyers of rape-accused Kasliwal say he is too educated, too qualified, just too pedigree-ly sound to have been a rapist. Yes, that's part of their defense. To read just how overquaified he is for the job he supposedly couldn't have done here.

(If you're altogether unfamiliar with the case, you can read my post here. But to cut a long story short, Kasliwal's a rich heir, accused of rape by a 52-year old widow in Mumbai.)


It would be amusing, if it weren't such a deja vu.

Perhaps you can recall the case of Bhanwari Devi, a dalit woman. She was raped by five upper-caste men for trying to prevent child marriage. As a social worker - a saathin in Rajasthan, she had dared to interfere with the wedding of an infant girl. She was therefore taught a lesson, in the presence of her husband.

Of course the FIR and the medical examination, as you must know/expect, didn't happen the way it should. And even when the case reached court, the trial court acquitted the accused saying that upper caste men could not have condescended to have intercourse with a lower caste like her.

In case you didn't know and are surprised: No, I am not making this up - that is actually what the judge wrote in his ruling. And i won't even bother to give you a link on this, you can find this piece of info all over the net.

And no, you won't find any news of her getting a redressal.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Give me a tight deadline please!

Have too much work, and enough time to do it
which means I will keep on postponing work thinking I have enough time to do it, till the time I have too little time to do it, and then be left be too little time to do do anything except work.

I know everyone suffers from this law, but I am convinced that students and freelancers (such as me) are the worst hit.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Didn't think Essel World could give me such photo opportunities! This is the night ferry to Borivali.

Monday, March 13, 2006

One more

The subversion of justice in Jessica's trial is hardly over, and already one can see moves being made to trample the case of another woman - a 52-year-old widow, raped (allegedly) by the scion of a business family in Mumbai. (Read Here). She says he offered her a lift, and instead took her to the Shriram Mills compound (which he owns) and violated her four times.

Just one day since the crime took place - and already I can see all sorts of facts and comments coming to light.

"Facts" such as she is a single woman living in Mumbai. A former bar dancer. Don't get the picture? Let me read between the lines for you - she is Available.

Comments such as the alleged rapist, Abhishek Kasliwal, is such a nice charming boy, whom his neighbours have known since he was a kid. So well-behaved and polite. Oh he could have Ever done such a thing!

Mid-Day has already proclaimed (or has found "sources" to proclaim) that she is currently a prostitute. That she filed the complaint drunk. That she and Kasliwal were acquainted, having consensual sex. That the man is now being framed coz he refused to cough up Rs50,000 for sexual favours.

There you have it - a debauched woman trying to bring down a repectable chap. A story that so sellable, so believable, that it will no doubt also be the line toed in the courts for Kasliwal's defence - that is, if it ever reaches the courts; if the victim continues to display her guts to take him to court at all.

Currently what she has is a heads-he-wins-tails-she-loses situation. If she goes and fights against these allegations against her "character", she'll probably have a horrendous time at court. If she gets an inkling of what she's up against and withdraws the FIR, everyone will think it's because she never had a case anyway.

Of course, I cannot know what really happened. I do not know whether Kasliwal really committed the crime - maybe he didn't. And maybe there is no conspiracy by his family to degrade the woman through media.

But there is definitely something wrong in the way the media is treating the subject.

How can it even suggest or believe that the sex was consensual - when it is on police records that there are bite marks and signs of violence on her body - evidence of the fact that she was resisting the situation?!

If Kasliwal is such a nice guy who could never rape, where did his morals go when he decided to make out with a 52-year old prostitute (as is the alternate scenario being projected)???

Even if she is a prostitute, or was even drinking with him before the crime took place, how is that relevant to the fact that she was raped? Is it permissible to sexually molest "available" women?

And where is the outrage of the high society we had seen when a South African model was raped in Mumbai some months ago - how come her drinking with the men who eventually raped her did not put an unseemly light on her? Why were we disgusted when her rapists said that raping her was all right because she had lax attitudes to sex? And why this time are we expected to be sympathetic towards the rapist instead, though the situation is hardly different?

Why is the balance in favour of the "eliter"?

Am I over-reacting? Are newspapers just reporting what they've come to know - no more, no less - leaving us to judge and decide for ourselves?

No, I don't think so... After reading thousands of reports of rape cases - there is no dearth of them after all - I can see a significant difference here: a distinct lack of sympathy for the victim. There is no report of what her family and friends are thinking (that would be a norm), instead I'm reading the nice life history of the perpetrator. Why have the tables turned????

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

For Blank Noise

In Delhi where I grew up, things are different
you can evade taxes
you can cheat death through reincarnation
But roadside romeos, well, they're inevitable

I remember a time, some ten years ago, when as a teenager I came home weeping hard. My mom went pale on seeing me so, and wanted to know what had happened. Between sobs, I admitted that my wallet had been stolen in a packed bus - along with a princely two thousand bucks.

You should have seen the relief on her face.

That's life for us - so expectant of being treated like public property that we're thankful for every time we aren't.

That's how I lived in Delhi. Afraid. Depressed. Demoralised. And wondering everytime a student "committed suicide" because of exams, if an unrelenting attack on her personal space had been the reason. It would be a good reason.

Yes, a good reason. You can spew dialogues and sagely advice on how women should shout and fight back and end all molestation. And how my statement is so like the stupid Hindi movies where the only way out to save your izzat is to go jump in a well. And how being a victim does not make you lose your dignity, and is no reason to end your life over. And I would agree with you.

But fighting back is so much easier said than done. And it doesn't take away the despair.

I know that every time I've tried - and I've had sufficient times to try, along with a lot of mental preparation for the 'next time it happens' - it just doesn't work. One moment I'm a strong Anuja, ready to write blogs on the issue, and air opinions in discussions, and shout loud on the issue - and the next I am a weakling without voice, with no coherence of speech who's too dazed to take any action. I don't know what happens - I know it doesn't happen to everyone. I wish it didn't to me either, but it does.

The one time when I got strong enough to try and smack the face of the man in front of me, I missed for lack of coordination. Twice. It wasn't funny. And it did scare him away anyhow. But I cried later. Not because I missed hitting him, but because even though I stood up for myself, it didn't change the big picture. I could feel the strain on my freedoms. Lewdness had a free run of the streets, while I was in essence home-jailed. If I needed to go out, it almost like parole, where I felt the need of an escort.

That's why I hate the place I grew up in, and left it at first chance.

And that's why I love Jamshedpur, because that's where, for the first time in my living memory, I could walk in the middle of the road without feeling scared, without turning around hastily at the sound of a vehicle approaching from behind, without needing to be at full alert regarding the traffic on the road and what it might do to me in passing.

I have never forgotten that first time I felt free.

I know Jamshedpur, or Mumbai where I am now, also suffer their share of crime against women. Indeed, as many blogs today will report, whistling, commenting, eve-teasing, shadowing, groping, molesting, and other things depressingly, unendingly worse have proliferated without boundaries. "Delhi-Style' rapes, as a stupid tabloid cruelly and tastelessly labelled them, have occured in Mumbai too. Just yesterday, a woman's nude body, with eyes gouged out, and limbs tied up was discovered in a railway cabin.

Can the worsening of our world be reversed?

Generating awareness is just the first step and faaaaaaaaaaar from enough.
What we need are vigilant spectators. And we need a legal and judiciary system that can support conviction, and fast.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

The last time I met Ashish Asthana, it was a winter day in Hong Kong, but too sunny to feel the season. Especially as we, a picnicing group, had been walking for the past hour or so to reach a beach. Luckily for him, at least the water hadn't fogotten that January is supposed to be cold and chilly and made amends for the sands.

In went Ashish Asthana, all alone, tracks rolled up, full speed running into the ocean.

You see, he was preparing for his trip to Antarctica.

I know, sounds like a lusy prep, but let's just say he made the most of what was available... And what's more, it has worked!!!

Yes, Ashish, the funniest man I knew in HK (who however, like Surender Sharma, owes all his jokes to his wife), has made it to Antarctica in one piece. So here's:
3 cheers for Da Man!
3 cheers for India!
and of course - 3 cheers for XLRI :)!!! (he's been an alumnus for the past 10 years or so)

and I guess, also 3 cheers for Coke, who's sponsoring this expedition led by the now-legendary explorer Robert Swan (the first person in history to walk to both poles).

Visit www.2041.com to follow the expedition, and to hear Ashish's dispatch from the pole today.

On a more sombre note, let us also pray that the HR of our organisations too gain enlightenment and send us for such leadership training soon. Ahem.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Have been househunting these past few days, and it is a lousy waste of time. The brokers are currently in their first phase of selling - they're beginning by trying to break our spirit, energy and expectations by showing useless places which are way overpriced.

Apparently, that's the typical beginning for any house search, where brokers try to get the lousiest properties off their hand. I am hoping that is the case here - can hardly imagine living in what we've seen till now: dingy shoeboxes that pass off as homes! Some have cabinet-less kitchens, others have big passageways and small rooms, and then there are the houses with windows too tiny to allow for any light, and when they're big, they're either boarded up or next-door neighbours to the opposing building. And worst of all - all houses have tiny, badly designed loos! How is one supposed to live?

Meanwhile, friends advise that I must tire out the brokers before they out-tire me, and by the end of a month or two, something reasonable and worth-living will come up. I doubt I can manage to see crap for that long, but looks like have no choice :(

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Dirty airports. Dirtier politics.

(am posting this post really late as am stuck with a neanderthal computer at my parents place since 2 weeks)

Flew in from Mumbai to Delhi on the first day of the AAI strike - Feb 1. It was afternoon - just a few hours into the no-working zone - and already the airports resembled a Bus adda: a pile of rubbish here and rubbish there and passengers sitting on steps, awaiting boarding, just before the gate.

Somehow the flights ran on time, more or less, but that hardly takes away from the disgust one feels at the attempted blackmail by the Unions and the communist parties.

That airports of India need an overhaul is a given. To think that AAI can manage the metamorphosis is a laugh. We've seen the level of service we've recieved from them all these years. And even if one were to consider their skills up to the challenge (HA!) the fact is that the government doesn't have the money to invest in such a huge poject. It hasn't had such money to put in its businss ventures for years!

The budget deficits year after year have meant a freeze on capital expenditure - is the reason why these assets and many others (like the thankfully sold off ITDC hotel properties) have been as musty and smelly and in an utter state of direpair as they have been. The airports need and deserve a bigger pocketed owner.

Moreover, the government has no business to run a business - particularly if the industry is established!

And lastly all this hullabaloo of selling ourselves to outsiders is absolute bullshit. One, the government has specified that the foreign partner in the winning consortium cannot have a shareholding greater than 49% (though mind you, they alone bear penalties for not meeting certain service standards). And two, Indian companies (which GVK and GMR both are, being Hyderabad based) are not 'outsiders'.

All that CPI wanted was some media space - which it got, and that is a fuck-all reason to screw the travellers. And it is a horrible face to put to the foreigners visiting the country. It is ugly. It is dirty.

Anyhow it is over.

And I for one, am glad to see the privatisation of the airports. Not that the process with which this government has managed the process is exemplary - it quite stinks with lack of transparency. Changing the criterion for winning bids is ridiculous. Also painful is the high-handedness with which the govt treats the prospective buyers - mostly unwilling to negotitate the process (which is why Singapore's Changi walked out). It's like when you go to Goa to the silver jewellery tibetan markets - they give you ridiculous prices, and the moment you bargain they look at you with comtempt and ask you to take it or leave it and they have a thousand (ignorant) potentials in line. Mostly I walk out of shops at this point because their demands are exhorbitant (and of course I can buy that stuff in Delhi).

The point being, arrogance doesn't sell well. Few may tolerate the nakhras, but you may lose the guy who could have put your asset to best use. And should another seller country come into the picture, then you would have no buyer at all, coz everyone would pack their bags and leave. We are not doing anyone a favour by leasing out the airports for privatisation - we are doing it coz we desperately need better services ourselves.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rang de basanti Film Review

If you're one of those strange people who need to read the review of a movie before seeing it, even if it has great trailers, receives wide press coverage and stars Aamir select-few-movies Khan - hi there.
Now GO book your tickets before they're sold out!

Rang de basanti is the story of a group of friends coming of age and discovering their patriotic passion. The leader of the pack is, of course, Aamir as DJ. As you may guess by his nickname, he and his friends are the stereotypical Delhi-Punjus, spewing heavily accented Hindi and English and using expletives by the dozen. Being college kids, they seldom attend classes and drink lots of beer and engage in long drunken drives. (And I am not being sarcastic here - they are truly doing what you and I know we did and do!)

Change in their lives comes in the form a foreign film-maker, a young girl Sue, who casts them in her movie on Bhagat Singh. As expected, it impacts their sensibilities. But the awakening comes when a MIG 21 plane crashes, killing their friend alongwith. The change wrought in their thoughts, and the actions they take to announce their potency is the focus of the second half (also the better half) of the movie. There is a proper plot to the story - you will probably guess it as the movie progresses - but I won't spill the beans here.

There are a lot of funny short scenes along the way - helped largely by Aamir. DJ is kinda like the urban, middle-class version of Rangeela man. Humour is also extracted from the way the guys speak - but North Indians will probably not find that funny - especially as these are not-quite-perfect punju accents, or so my Delhi-trained ears tell me. Only Kiran Kher masters speech perfectly. Anyhow, by the second half of the movie everyone's speaking all right. (whether coz the actors improved their diction, or I got used to the way they spoke, can't say)

Songs are awsome. (Personally, I am delighted to see the return of Daler Mehndi in the title song)

And thankfully, dancers do not drop out of the sky without reason. Which is reason enough Rang de Basanti fits perfectly in the "different" movies genre that we've recently seen in Indian cinema. Moreover, the story-telling stands apart: it is partly first person, and partly a parallel narrative. And the filming is just beautiful - whoever did the location search for the movie did an outstanding job. Would make you want to go to the hangout places these guys had.

Rang de basanti is a movie with a serious essence - it touches sometimes subtly, sometimes stridently on many social issues, using the independence struggle as a synonym for what we need to do today. Yet, it is not your regular 'serious movie'. There is enough comedy and feel-good factor to make the evening a non-teary outing. And you will often laugh. Which takes us to what I think is the downside of the movie - it doesn't make you cry. It's a sad story of our times, and it should be touching enough to make one cry - even King Kong achieved that with me - but Rang de Basanti doesn't. For those who don't like tear-jerking movies or have OD-ed on Balaji telefilms will probably note this as a positive. But I would have liked to cry :S

Another negative: I really don't think Aamir fits into a college kid role any longer. Yes, his outstanding acting makes up for his mature face, and many would argue that without his screen presence, the movie would fall some notches. But I think the role didn't demand Aamir's look / persona. Moreover, this director - scriptwriter team could have pulled off a younger actor in Aamir's role with equal or even great aplomb. The narrative style, the social sensibilities - these are the things that work in the film for me. They would have worked with even a Vivek Oberoi, or Abhishek Bachchan.

That apart - casting is really good. The firang girl in the movie is a superb find: prepare to be shocked by her hindi. Even guest appearance guys - like Gaurav Kapoor - are well-chosen.

All in all - I would bet that this movie is going to do well and become a hit. So if you're going to book tickets, book tickets in advance.

Aamir gets married nearly every day !

If you're married
And you had a regular, Indian, traditional marriage
I'm betting you aren't planning to get married again

Coz ANYONE whose been on the stage saying 'Thank you' to a thousand guests, and smiling to a thousand guests and the photographer, and starving while he / she propped up the smile and kept up the voice, can never, ever want to do it again

According to me and Vipul, it is this shared misery of our wedding reception that has made us models of fidelity
And we are sure it is the dread of having to go through the ordeal again that keeps everyone from remarriage

Which is why, when we saw Aamir Khan yesterday at the premiere of Rang De Basanti, we felt realy sorry for him.

As he smiled and mingled around with the IAS and IPS officers (for whom this special screening had been arranged), he reminded me woefully of all the thousand weddings I'd seen. And I thought - he has to do it nearly every day! The premieres, the parties, the fans everywhere he goes... his choice is (more or less) between a never-ending marriage vs being home-jailed!

smile. Hello. smile. So glad you liked it. smile. Thank you. smile. you audience are the king. smile. you remember the dialogue! smile. Thank you. smile. Of course I remember you. smile.... amile... smile..

Wow

There's gotta be tremendous bottled-up repression inside the man.
I, in his shoes, would have killed by now.

But then, I am not in his shoes, and maybe am overestimating the impact of all the intrusion. Maybe it's all cool to him, and just a part and parcel of fame, and even a welcome, ego-boosting game.

Imagine meeting a thousand people who all know you, and claim they love you, and smile at you coyly, and speak to you adoringly, and vie for your attention, and demand that you say a few words to them, and then stand beside you for a photograph that they are going to frame... and they do this day after day after day after day after day....

hmmm
I hope Aamir's enjoying it, but the 'ad infinitum' part really makes it sound like a nightmare
Even in a single evening it becomes a nightmare
ask any Mr&Mrs



Coming up next: review of
Rang de Basanti

Friday, January 13, 2006

Pulling life from the jaws of death,... something like that

No No No
This is not about what Dravid XI have to manage to do in Pakistan. Sheeesh!

This is about what I have to do when I read the morning papers. Now I read loads of newspapers everyday, about 2 kgs at least, or so my raddiwalla tells me.

In case you're wondering why I'm spending all this money on all these papers, my answer is I am not. Coz if you're an Indian, your tax pays for half of them (Business Standard, TOI, Mid Day) and the rest are dumped free by Mumbai Mirror and DNA for the noble cause of their circulation statistics.

In case you're wondering why I'm reading all these papers, please refer to Wikipedia for Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.

In case you're wondering what anything I've written so far has anything to do with life and death and the pulling thereof, sorry, I digressed. But here goes:
reading news is mostly like reading an obituary of decent society. What usually makes the cut for news-worthiness is something appalling like murder, or something heinous like torture, or something disgusting, or something terrible, or awful, or saddening... you get my drift. Then there's the ridiculous aka Page 3 which is no news at all. The rest is boring stuff formally known as business news ;)

And everyday, therefore, I trudge my eyes to find out some damn nice story to remove the taste of death from my head.

It's a inordinately tough task to find Chicken Soup for the Soul in the papers, but I try, and sometimes I get lucky. One story that had me totally impressed was of a man named Navin who married Neha, a sex worker, in Indore. You can read it here.

Don't know how Navin and Neha met and where, but that and the ensuing events would make for a great feel-good potboiler. There's an evil sister of Neha, who along with her mother, was responsible for pulling her into prostitution. There are police chases across Nagpur and Bhopal, as the couple try to escape and get married. And finally, the sweetest part is that Navin's mom, a school teacher, is most pleased and supportive with her son's choice. What an amazing happy ending!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Report Card: Hong Kong

I had been dreading the onset of HK winters since last october. Previous experience had led me to expect a season overrun with gloomy, sunless, grey skies and over-wrought with muggy air and inspirational for suicidal tendencies. I was ready for it to arrive a trifle too early in November and then subbornly refuse to leave even past March. I Hated it.

But this year has been literally a pleasant surprise. Yesterday, and many days behind it, have been sunny enough for a tee and even a tan. Which is why I went off with friends for a day of hiking / picnic at Sai Kung. It was a beach we'd never visited before - Long Ke - and turned to be faaaaaaaaaaar more beautiful than we'd expected. Emerald green waters has see-throughness that let one spy the rocks and grains below. Marking the shore's boundary was powdery white sand that just sunk under our steps and made us wish we were carrying beachwear with us!





This hike essentially marks the last rounds I and Vipul are making of the places we love in Hong Kong. With 19 months in this country behind us and just two more days to go before we fly back, we have a last darshan agenda that we are carrying out. Our other favourites (already done) are Stanley, Shek O, and Avenue of Stars.

It is probably also time for me to do a countdown of the top-3 things about HK (in no particular order) that I'm going to miss:

The hills and hiking trails
Not that I was trekking often, but when I did, it was marked with green seas and sigh-ful beaches. And they were so accessible - some just three minutes from my place, and some half an hour of a bus ride away. The closest I'll get to doing this in Mumbai are the monsson treks, for which I'll have to get up at an ungodly pre-dawn 5am :(

Seeing my tax-dollar being spent and not wasted
HK is small, and HK is efficient, and though it taxes me much lesser than India, it gives me back much more. I've seen roads being repaired, and had Government officials help me out politely, got my tax clearances in a few hours, managed my PF through a website... it all adds up to an unbelievable convenience that my tax money is financing for me. I LOVE paying for it!

A month from now, I'm going to be subjected to the expecses of the renaming of another city and weep as 35% of my income (or more) will go into printing new letterheads, and direction signs, and all the red-tape-y things that result from a strategically inconsequential decision. And I'm going to be paying an MP oaf for attending the parliament to take an oafy decision that only increases my expenses!!! Yes, I am expecting a lot of frustration.

Peaceful traffic
Don't expect to explain this!

Of course, as I wrote in an earlier post, there are a thousand things in India that I miss in HK. And for now, I think they'll make up for all that's lacking!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Have a happy new year, and other superstitions

Every year, I try damn hard to enjoy myself on New Year's Eve. Like that Indian advertisement jungle goes "It's got to be-e-e-e-e-e-e Perfect" (what product was it, anyone remembers?).

The deal is that whatever happens on the D-Day follows you around the whole year through. So they say. And so at least it happens with me. Three years ago, I travelled out to Goa for celebrations, and as is law in Goa, had a blast for many, many hours followed by consciousness late next morning and then some beach-bumming and food hogging. That's what I did for the rest of the year too.

Then two years ago, I travelled out again, to another location but with the same regimen. And I've never travelled in my life as I did in the year that follwed: went to some new city every month, and not on work (and when it was on work, I managed to not have to do any!)- Kerela, Jaipur, Beijing, Shanghai,... The point being, this Happy New Year achievement can really work wonders, and has never failed me.

Last night was a mixed bag though. Maybe coz I was avoiding the wine (intend to have a level-headed year) or maybe coz I'm getting old (unavoidable despite all attempts). At least made a lot of money on Poker with good luck which is a welcome sign of things to come! But had a really Bad Hair Day, plus husband became bankrupt, and well, this combination foretells certain tragic movie scenes.

So currently I am on repairment mode: hair oilling, and taking over husband's finances, etc. Am also doing all the things I hope to do regularly for the rest of the year. Friends must be called, and schedules must be easy, and cooking must be avoided, and gifting must be encouraged, and for starters at least, this blog has been written.

Hope you are having a great day too. Try harder!