Wednesday, December 28, 2005



Resolutions

Resolutions I have made
Kept, I have none
Why do I have to make
Resolutions anymore?

I pause through endless time
For this year to pass
And the lights of celebration to die
On this New Year day.

Remember those magical days
When the promise of meeting
Was what held us together
Alas! No more!

Years just flow by
As water beneath bridges
Gathering speed towards
The great sea of immortality.

There you and I
Will rest our weary heads
On the bed
Of our broken promises.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Interesting take on poets here.

Sample this:
Quote
They all wanted to be writers. Every maniac in the world that ever brought about the murder of people through war started out in an attic or a basement writing poetry. It stank. So they got even by becoming important heels. And it's still going on.
Unquote

Saturday, December 24, 2005

This is me at a recent readmeet of Caferati. I read my short story Rina's Dog. The response ranged from "Girls don't wear frocks anymore," to "Girls don't play house." Guess girls in my days did. Times change. So do readmeets. Someone called it an eatmeet. True. There were lots to eat including chocolate chip cookies (everybody's favorite, there were verbal duels to get to the cookie box), gulab jamuns, jalebis, home-made cakes, samosas, snacks, snacks, snacks and to top it all divine coffee.... As a wag remarked, an eatmeet it was with breaks for reading.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The wife is away!


The wife is away. I wake up groggily to do some feeding... um... chores. Where’s the bloody milk vessel? Where’s that damn knife to open the milk sachet? Where’s the blustering gas lighter? Where’s the effing knob to switch this on? Is it left for sim, or, right? Where? Where? Where?

I run cold water over a cup, rinse it. For the coffee, of course. My hands chill to the touch of water. The detergent, clammy to touch, the scrubber so squelchy, yetch. How does she do it?

Where’s the coffee power? I holler to my son. Where are the spoons? Why can’t everything be ergonomically placed? Assembyline style, asks the industrial engineer in me. There should be a system to this madness.

There’s water to be filled. I run to the bathroom. The tank’s ball valve isn’t working, so I have watch out or water will spill all over the bathroom. Is the milk boiling? I run into the kitchen. No. Safe. It’s near boiling with those little bubbles about to break.

Back to the bathroom. The tank is about full. Shut off the water; get doused though from the first part of a forestalled deluge. Sound and smell of incineration from the kitchen. The milk is all over the kitchen platform in great white tides of froth. Oh! Where’s the damn cloth she uses to handle these dorky things? Never mind, I will use my hands.

Ouuuchhhhh! I burnt about an acre of my precious epithelial cells. Quick. Douse it with more water.

Coffee is out of the question, I say as I look at the mess on my wife’s precious gas stove that she lovingly polishes to a mirror-like finish. Women, you know. Now I will have to use my knuckles to do that, or I will be a dead man.

Bread and jam, asks son. Yes. That’s easy. A cakewalk. Walk to kitchen. Put the skillet on the gas, glance pityingly at the white mess sticking to the stove. Well, let me eat first. Then I will do the cleaning. Spread four bread slices on the non-stick skillet. Non-stick skillets cost a bomb, wife had warned.

What was that song, ummm, “Christmas season, season, is a merry, merry, season. You can dance the Christmas polka...” It is the season to be jolly and I am doing this? What’s that smell?

Oh! What does this have to happen to me? Duh! The slices burnt and are stuck to the precious non-stick skillet. With my burnt hand I try to remove the damn slices and turn them over. That side is gone, a black mess. At least I can eat the other side. I turn four slices over.

Where are the plates? There should be something called ergonomics in the kitchen. I am an industrial engineer, you see, method study and all that stuff.

More smoke. The other side also has been burnt a crisp black. There goes my breakfast.

“Papa, breakfast, I have classes.”

I bribe him with a hundred-rupee note, “This is for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and don’t spend too much. Have idlis and dosas from the Udupi restaurant, okay?”

He looks at me strangely. I know what he is thinking. Papa can’t do anything right. Mummy always says that.

I am a wreck. The kitchen looks like the aftermath of the third battle of Panipat. How do women do it? She does this every morning, packs my lunch, goes and teaches children and comes back and does this all over again.

Thank god for women! As for the bread slices, I had to eat it. Serves me right!


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Muscles or talent?

Muscles, or, talent?

Just a thought struck me as I was watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie (whichever, whatever, all of them look the same to me!) yesterday.

When, I mean really, when, did this thing of acting prowess as muscles take root? I mean, when did the likes of muscle-and-brawn men like Arnold and Sylvester Stallone come to be called exponents of the fine art of acting. True, neither can act. The former confessed that directors have to make him lie down on a table to bring some expression into his immobile face. The guy just can’t act to save his life. He is an actor because of his muscles. Ditto for Sylvester, why, he can’t even speak.

Back home in India, our heroes-in-waiting have taken to the idea of brawn as acting skills as a fish takes to water. If you visit your local gymnasium you will find at least a hundred youngsters pumping iron in the hope that they would get to be actors like Arnold, Sylvester, Khan, and Kapoor. I guess our own wanna-be Khans and Kapoors must have been inspired by the Hollywood duo to beef up their pectorals and fight, sorry, scare the villains with their biceps!

Acting? What acting? We are into the “looking good” business. Acting is for sissies and grumpies who sit with books the whole day.

A big “ha!” to that!

Now, can biceps, triceps, or, for that matter, pectorals, compensate for good acting skills? Agreed Arnold, Sylvester, the Khans, and the Kapoors have churned out a lot of hits. That’s what biceps do to acting talent.

Confession: I have watched a lot of these capers, and have, ummm, liked them too. But can they really, really, act? Can they?

If they can act, then “Wat r u ding?” is great literature. And the following is great poetry:

“Honey came in and she caught me red-handedCreeping with the girl next doorPicture this, we were both butt nakedBangin' on the bathroom floor”

Written by some pop or rap star called Shaggy who is also a shabby writer. But, come on, he sells millions of records. That’s what biceps do to music. Don’t you know?

What does it say about the state of humankind when a fine art form like acting is not done with brains but with biceps, triceps and pectorals? Is acting and poetry no longer an intellectual pursuit?

Is it all about flexing the above-mentioned muscles?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thespian Charu on Reservations!


My reply to thespian Charu Hasan’s article on a Caferati thread:
"Once untouchability was practiced as a matter of hygiene. Even to day the practice is relevant in the Intensive care units of hospitals. The people who consider themselves a cut above the depressed communities must realize that cleanliness relates to bath and not birth."Charu, the above statement had me rolling in my seat with laughter.Hahahaha!Incisive, very incisive comment, Charu. It requires a wit as you to drive home these truths about the deceptions we live with and accept as a fact.As far as hygiene is concerned I would consider not touching a Brahmin if he is not hygienic. How can anyone consider himself touchable because he is born in a certain family though he may be personally very unhygienic?The government has polarized society by their policy of appeasing certain sections. This is class distinction in a new avatar. We have not solved any problems with this policy. The number of the poor is increasing. A day will come when 100% of the population will be covered (on paper, that is) by reservations. It will go like this:Backward classes: 10%OBC: 10 %BT: 10 %NT : 10 %Backward Christians: 10 %Backward Buddists: 10 %Backward Muslims: 10 %Backward Jains : 10 %Backward Sikhs: 10 %Backward Parsis: 10 %Total 100%But what about those who don't fall into any of these categories? Pray to God they may be born into one of these Brahminical castes in their next birth.Initially reservation for weaker sections was meant for ten years. Then they were extended ad infinitum to get votes. Now the follies have been compounded by the government's myopic policies for the benefit of a privileged few. That too to garner votes.For more about me visit http://www.johnwriter.com    

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Esquire on outsourcing...


I used to love reading the Esquire. It fell somewhere in the penumbral region between Playboy and Time. I still love reading it, if I can get hold of a copy, that is. But this terse article by one of Esquire’s pontificating editors methinks is too tongue-in-cheek and critical of the work I do as an outsourcing papi-pet-ka-sawal-walla in a BPO unit. So go here and read what A. J. Jacobs has to say about the growing Indian outsourcing boom.

http://www.smartmoney.com/esquire/index.cfm?Story=20050909-outsource

Excerpt:

Quote:
“The next day I email Brickwork, one of the companies Friedman mentions in his book. Brickwork — based in Bangalore, India — offers "remote executive assistants," mostly to financial firms and health-care companies that want data processed. I explain that I'd like to hire someone to help with Esquire-related tasks — doing research, formatting memos, like that. The company's CEO, Vivek Kulkarni, responds: "It would be a great pleasure to be talking to a person of your stature." Already I'm liking this. I've never had stature before. In America, I barely command respect from a Bennigan's maître d', so it's nice to know that in India I have stature.
“A couple of days later, I get an email from my new "remote executive assistant."
“Dear Jacobs, My name is Honey K. Balani. I would be assisting you in your editorial and personal job. . . . I would try to adapt myself as per your requirements that would lead to desired satisfaction.
“Desired satisfaction. This is great. Back when I worked at an office, I had assistants, but there was never any talk of desired satisfaction. In fact, if anyone ever used the phrase "desired satisfaction," we'd all end up in a solemn meeting with HR. And I won't even comment on the name Honey except to say that, real or not, it sure carries Anaïs Nin undertones.”

Unquote

For more about me visit http://www.johnwriter.com    

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Aspiration Disease!

The Aspiration Disease!

A dangerous disease is sweeping Indian mass media. I won’t call it greed but it is something all advertisers use – aspiration.

Have you lately watched how many shows there is on television that just dangle money in front of people and make them do crazy things, yes, even eat worms? Yesterday I saw a show where a movie star brandished a check for Rs five hundred thousand and the crowd went wild.

Bachhan does the same in Kaun Bangega Crorepati – the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The check is prominently displayed with the figures on it and the crowd goes, “Oh, if only I was there to get it.” This in advertising parlance is called “aspiration.” Because if people aspire to become something, say, fairer, or, beautiful, or sexier, they will go and buy the products advertised.

I think the advertising industry – if I can call it one – and the online media is taking this aspiration thing a bit far. So imagine all those people who have never in their life held a check for Rs three hundred thousand in their hands drooling, “Oh, if it only was me. I want to be the one.”

I saw another serial in which the compere gives away cash, yes, you heard right, CASH, to people who answer questions such as, “Which finger do you wear your wedding ring?” Confession, there was a time when I wanted to be on the show till I saw one in which everyone in the audience was dressed in their wedding finery.

But why wedding finery? Seem the show organizers wanted to bring some color and asked the audience to wear wedding clothes. So there were paunchy, aged men and women awkwardly dressed in shining sherwanis and elaborate turbans and from the looks on their faces the air-conditioning wasn’t working and, they were sweating to glory.

People would do anything to bring them closer to their aspirations. The media company and the producers know that. Right now they are after television rating points.

But isn’t this aspiration bit going too far? I know, everybody likes to have a lot of money but to flaunt it so shamelessly before the deprived masses in public? For all I know most of them may be below the poverty level gazing at a small television inside a cramped hovel. Why torture them?

To see so many garishly dressed men and women winning so much money to answer stupid questions as, “What color is Bachhan’s beard?” would send the wrong impression wouldn’t it? I mean, isn’t there something like the US Federal Communication Commission to take up such issues?

Can I complain to the Press Council? I guess, with the problems they are facing, I would rather not. As for the Advertising Standards Council, well, I headed it for some time so I know What Lies Beneath.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Muskan

Muskan

When she smiles she sends happiness
A million pleasant thrills of the heart
To parched souls thirsting for love
In the vast desert of human affairs.

Oh, is there in this world such a heart?
So pure in its expression of joy, smiles
I know not how to thank you dear God
For this wonderful creation of yours.

What makes Muskan’s smile so beautiful?
Is it the deep pain and hurt she is hiding?
Wringing the joys from the sadness of life
Throwing away the bland fiber and rinds.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Good English Anyone?

Good English Anyone?

Yesterday’s TOI carried this report:

“So, while an examinee will be penalized for spelling errors in essays, letters or specific English language tests, if he writes horror as “horor” (note: even my word processor rejected this and corrected this word automatically without my knowing) in a literature exam (hear, hear!) or his comprehension passage has a couple of crooked spelling, marks will not be slashed. The same applies to science subjects and other social sciences.”

“Pavnesh Kumar, CBSE’s controller of examinations, told TOI, “This year, we’ve devised a scientific marking pattern. A history exam shouldn’t be treated on par with a spelling test.” Kumar says today’s children are “extremely weak” in spelling and blames the “change in the mode of teaching at schools” for this. Spelling and dictation classes are passé, and the focus is on developing communication skills. “It is therefore wrong to penalize kids for spelling goof-ups if they have the right answers,” he says. “Too much usage of computers is also causing this.””

Joking right? This in the land in which Gandhiji said good spelling and good writing was to be inculcated from childhood, a land where Nehru’s letters to his daughter are cherished as literary works.

I was told to recruit some writers for a writing project that I was working on. I tried and tried and tried, without success. Can you believe it? There aren’t many writers who can write Basic English left in this wide country. None. Reports like the above confirm it. Technology companies are searching desperately and compromising with writers who can at best write, “Me good, you bad,” kind of writing.

Oh, Mr. Pavnesh Kumar, do you realize what you have gone and done? You have pushed us brave writers sermonizing about good English, grammar, and punctuation in literary forums into the very nadir of despondency. Oh, why have I lived to see this day?

On the writers’ network that I am part of there was (there still is) a big debate about this and the English purists say English has to be written the way the Englishmen write it. I – being a moderate, and a fence sitter – said we should evolve an English of our own with our colloquialisms and our own sense of humor rather than imitate Englishmen. But, honestly, I absolutely didn’t support Internet Chat lingo and SMSese. I would rather imitate Englishmen than the herewith mentioned.

Now Pavnesh Kumar makes me assume that the Internet chat and SMSese genres are okay. Then we can go ahead and have our place in history as the country that voted – knowingly – for bad language.

But to give up all pretensions of writing good English and to admit openly that, “No, you need not write good English, spell correctly, punctuate,” is like giving the house keys for safekeeping to the robber before going on a holiday.

Is that right Mr. Pavenesh Kumar-ji?”

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Jean Story...

The Jean Story….

Come to think of it, this generation — Johnwriter means the young generation of his time — would be remembered for the way they wear their jeans, i.e., well below the waist. Johnwriter doesn’t know where this fad comes from, but he just doesn’t like it.

Every girl or boy is wearing jeans below their waist. Some of them can be seen desperately pulling their tee shirts that stop just above their navels down to cover that small strip of exposed flesh.

Then why on earth wear those jeans and tee shirts if you aren’t comfortable with it? Why undergo this torture for some godforsaken trend set by some idiot designer? Or, has this generation plain lost it?

Johnwriter means no offense but can’t see the point in wearing jeans if it has to be worn well below the intended place it is to be worn. Might as well not wear it. Nowadays, the fad seems to be to wear jeans so that the dirty underwear is exposed. Sort of, dirty laundry in pubic, ummm, sorry, public.

There was a time when we used to laugh at dirty underwear. “Shame” “shame” we used to holler as children. The wearers were mocked even if the elastic thong of the underwear was visible. Nowadays showing of the underwear is called “attitude”. Yes “attitude” it is, but the wrong “attitude”.

In Kerala, the native land Johnwriter yearns for, the “cheela” was the underwear of the older generation, the “langot” of the north. If a small bit of the “cheela” would jut out of men’s mundus and we children would laugh. “Appoopante cheela kande!”

But now with the change in couture preferences grandpas and grandmas can proudly display their “cheela” and their “attitude,” and not be the butt of jokes.

Funny thing happened the other day in a restaurant. A pretty young thing at the nearby table dropped her keys. She bent down to pick it up. And horror or horrors, Johnwriter glanced, Johnwriter has to do such stupid things.

The jeans had slid well below the waistline into forbidden territory. Disgusting to say, she was not wearing underwear, and Johnwriter – tortured soul that he is – could see well beyond the limits that decency would allow.

Though I admire the female derriere in its clothed form, which comes in various attractive shapes and sizes, this was too offensive, unattractive, and made me feel like throwing up!

Please, please, if you are wearing low-waist jeans, wear clean underwear for decency sake.

If it was sexual attraction that the pretty young thing was looking for, she clearly missed the bus!


Friday, September 30, 2005

The Auto Ride

An American once remarked seeing our autorickshaw.

“How do you sit in one of this things? It is so small.”

“Why, we are a small-built people.” I didn’t explain to him how big a convenience it is to driving-challenged, small-built people like me.

“I mean, what if you have an accident, do you bury the person with the rickshaw?”

I got his point.

Today I rode an autorickshaw to work. It was no ordinary ride. I was seething with fear and fidgety all the time.

The driver, a minor, hardly, about 12 years of age, had me, and another man with him on the narrow driver’s seat. I didn’t have a place to hold so I was hanging on to his steering rod with one foot on his brake. The road had disintegrated in the rain and there were huge craters in which an auto could sink without a trace.

Four people were already sitting on the back. So that made us seven people.

“Hey, Chotu,” he called out cheerfully to a friend.

“Hey, Motu,” the friend acknowledged and jumped into the auto beside me.

Now we were eight people in the narrow confines of the auto, which for my American friend was too small to seat one person. I couldn’t squirm; I couldn’t breath. Not that I wanted to, because coming up ahead of me was the open public toilet.

Everyday when I pass this area I hold my breath. When I have passed it I shake my head and say thanks to the Lord. It was that dirty, stinking, and what made it more repulsive was the squatting people. The stench was unbearable.

I held my breath and averted my eyes.

Too late!

The auto’s front wheel sank into a hole big enough to accommodate two such autos and with it I lurched to one side. The man beside me, the “Motu” said something like “@#$%^&*” and jumped out just in time so that the auto didn’t keel over.

The boy-driver hung there working on the accelerator. The man on the other side also jumped out and with some help from the “Motu” pushed the auto to safety.

Catastrophe averted! Talk of Indian ingenuity.

Then there were more such holes ahead of us. I hung on to the steering rod and prayed hard. Lord, reach me safely; what have I done to deserve this?

“Why do you seat so many people? There could be an accident.” I asked out of curiosity.

“Saab, nahi tho kamayi kaise hoga? Aap log panch rupayese jyada deneke liye mana karthe hai, na?”

“How will I earn money otherwise? You refuse to give more than Rupees five.”

This is some curious fundamental of Indian economics that had evaded me earlier. I don’t know the basics of economics, so I wouldn’t dare postulate here. At this point let the economists take over. Or, let me give it a try.

By seating eight people in his auto he earned Rupees forty. That is Rupees twenty-five more than he would earn otherwise. By sitting with eight other people I saved myself Rupees ten. Whoa, anyone see the budding economist in me, or the Chotu, auto-driver?

The auto dropped me right in front of my office. This is where we offer economies of scale to western corporations by taking over their routine customer interaction and marketing functions.

As the auto sped away on the deserted road I saw written on the back of it the usual, “HORN OK PLEASE, TATA.”

Then below it was scrawled something that caught my eye, “Shubh, Labh.” “Auspicious, Profit.”

That sure was an eye-opener.

J

Monday, September 26, 2005

Hurricane Rita....

Hurricane Katrina, Rita…

Saw some pictures of the devastation in the US after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. God, what devastation! Just imagine the most prosperous country in the world going through such humiliation. They have the best resources, the best government machinery, the best executive and legal system, the best business corporations. But to be humbled by a hurricane? Seems impossible doesn’t it?

But Politicians will never learn. While people throughout the world cluck their tongues in genuine sympathy, Johnwriter — the confirmed rebel that he is — thinks otherwise, as is his wont.

Johnwriter is not tired of saying “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, a hundred times if need be to drill into readers’ minds.

Senator Al Gore had vouched for the Kyoto Protocol and if elected President of the US he would have implemented the terms of the protocol that would have cut the dreadful greenhouse gases emission. The protocol intended to reverse the emission of greenhouse gases, say, by five per cent every year. Senator Gore recently vented his ire after the recent hurricanes, I presume, to no avail. Now American should ask George Bush the same question Al Gore has been asking, “Why didn’t you sign the Kyoto Protocol?”

That way Bush will go down in world history as the president who blew it for Americans as well as the world. Or, Bush didn’t push the Kyoto Protocol. To put it simply, blame Bush for Katrina and Rita and the endless Sophias, Valeries, Janes, and Charlottes to follow.

Imagine what would happen if the world heats up as it has been doing. The icecap in the Arctic and Antartic would melt (it has already melted 20 per cent) and with the climatic changes heralded by them many cities would be submerged. Bombay is just one of them. Johnwriter lives in Bombay and has gone through hell the past few weeks, no, months. The wetness and dampness has got his goat.

The enemy isn’t nature. The enemy is our total insensitivity to nature. We have ignored it in our quest for progress out of “greed” and “laziness.” In the past few years the number of American millionaires have doubled. Now, this is serious matter. The number of American millionaires has doubled because a lot of people living in the margins of poverty have been pushed below the poverty level. It is this same poor people who have been affected most by the hurricanes – Rita, Katrina – that have such alluring feminine names.

Now nature has a way of hitting randomly and the pictures are for all of us to see. That is, torn housetops, flooded streets, people waiting in line for food, sick people being rescued, people paddling a boat, etc.

Johnwriter has been accused by many of meandering. Now let him get to the point after all the meandering and waffling. Write this in your hearts and foreheads, “The world is not going to get any better place to live if we keep throwing tons of carbon dioxide and chlorofluoro carbons into the atmosphere every day. The world is heating up and dying.”

So give up living in air-conditioned splendor and stop emitting a lot of hot air and come out and campaign against greenhouse gas emission. Better still, ask George Bush to push the Kyoto Protocol. If you don’t, there wouldn’t be a world worth living in for you, our children, and me.

Of course, this is a rant, and Johnwriter is not afraid of ranting, notwithstanding the raised eyebrows of his critics! More later….

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Dance Bar Saga...

The Dance Bar Saga Continues…

My Friend CP Surendran on the Maharashtra government’s banning of dance bars. He has a very lucid and effortless way of expressing his thoughts and feelings. Quoted below is what he has to say published in the Times of India.

“Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil clearly believes that India, in general and Maharashtra in particular need to be saved from bar girls. It was Jews in Germany a while ago. In Maharashtra now, it’s neither Jew nor Gentile, but bar girls.”
It seems the Maharashtra state government has more than a simple ban on its mind. It has offered a commission of 20 per cent for those reporting such bar girls who – like Tarannum who has been arrested living a lavish life and betting on cricket matches – live a decadent life.

CP, as johnwriter calls him, argues that if the youth goes to these bars and become corrupt, it’s the youth that needs to be banned from going to the bars not the bar girls from earning a living.

For those curious enough, yes, johnwriter has been to a dance bar, when his former NRI bosses took him and the staff on a night out to a nightspot in Andheri. Pucca Yankees, they were used to the nightlife of Miami, New York, Amsterdam, Bangkok and the like. So for them it was the usual thing – a night out with the boys.

What johnwriter saw there defies the imagination, at least, to him. The music was too loud and the strobe lights, too flashy. The majority present weren’t young people as Patil alleges. The majority were old lechers on the wrong side of fifty. There was this multi-millionaire from Bangla Desh who had stripped to his churidars and vest and was dancing and throwing money in the air. Some of them got stuck on the ceiling and some landed in johnwriter’s lap. He sheepishly gave these products of some poor third-world exploited man’s sweat and blood – I mean, exploited by those millionaires dancing on the floor with the bar girls - back to the deserving dancers, who were, the exploited ones.

First of all, the music was so loud that even the mafia don with his screechy underworld lingo would have great difficulty in being understood. Therefore “bhai usko taapka do,” would sound something like, “Bhai, usko duspethi do,” which would mean the opposite. The first phrase means, “Don, kill him,” and the second phrase means, “Don give him ten lakh rupees.” See the difference?

So RR-ji you are misguided when you say the youth is being spoilt, and you have sacrificed the wrong goat. You have even cut off a revenue generating income from your already deficit budget.

The prevailing mood in the government seems to be, “Call somebody a dog and hang him or her.” So it is the turn of bar girls now. Who next?

For more about me visit http://www.johnwriter.com    

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Cultural dictatorship...

Cultural dictatorship… freedom concert… and other matters!

Pritish Nandy in a recent article blasted the Maharashtra State government for not allowing the conducting of the “Freedom Concert” at the Gateway of India, Bombay, India. This concert is a regular feature held previously at the age-old Rang Bhavan.

Now, a law prohibits the playing of loud speakers near colleges and hospitals, and, Rang Bhavan happens to be close to Xaviers College and some hospitals, I don’t know which. Yes, the Cama Abless Hospital, it is. So the venue had to be changed. The obedient organizers changed the venue like errant schoolboys asked to take their music act elsewhere.

The organizer of the concert got the relevant permissions to hold the concert at the Gateway of India. But not all of it. The license or the right to sell tickets according to press reports is given at the nth moment before the event. This they didn’t get, poor chaps.

Now picture this. They went ahead and sold tickets, invited bands to play and did all the, urm, needful. The bands landed in Bombay with tons of equipment. Thousand of rock fans came from all over the country to find that the police had denied the license to sell tickets.

Can you beat that? The excuse being that the Gateway cannot be used for a commercial purpose i.e., selling of tickets. But didn’t they launch a book there? Was it not a commercial event? Or is it to be condoned because the nephew of the political lord of Bombay was the author of the book? Or was it because the “Freedom Concert” didn’t invite some pot-bellied, pan-chewing politician to grace the dais and say a few thousand words? Johnwriter is sure John Lennon wouldn’t approve.

Nandy rightly alleged that this was moral politicking of an extreme nature. Methinksotoo. Aren’t we a free country to enjoy rock music and prefer the type of entertainment we like? If anything needs to be banned ban 24-hour music channels and 24-hour movie channels. (Johnwriter is a big fan of these but confesses they are a big glutton of his time!)

Oh, the intransigence of those in power!

The Maharashtra government seems to have a penchant banning things. Take the dance bar issue. The dance bar ban affected only ‘dance bars’ and did not touch pubs, discos and performances at star hotels, according R. R. Patil, the puny home minister behind these decisions. “Dens of crime,” he says. Why this discrimination? Can the honorable minister vouch that the things happening in dance bars don’t happen in five star discos and star hotels? Can he?

But Johnwriter can read between the lines. Allegations were made that money was in play and that the politicians were allegedly seeking a big pay-off from the bar owners who were allegedly rolling in the stuff. Something is black in the lentils here, for sure (an old Indian saying!).
     
Now another pet peeve of Johnwriter, the innocent plastic bags. Johnwriter knows they are a nuisance. It litters every street; renders railway lines unsightly and are an eyesore. Myself is pleased to be knowing, kindly sir. But plastic bags were banned not because of environmental concerns. It was banned because they clogged the drains and caused the recent floods in Bombay! Holy ****! That’s news to me. Then why didn’t the mayor of New Orleans, or the Governor of Louisiana ban plastic bags?

Got to go. More later. Watch this space!


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Of plastics bags and dance bars!


They banned plastic bags for causing the floods of July. Imagine. What are a few plastic bags when it comes to global warming and the aftermath? I mean, can’t they see that the harmless plastic bag has nothing to do with the flooding?

But the Maharashtra government in a fit of pique banned plastic bags of all things. Floods? Ban harmless plastic bags. They clog the drains. Tell me, which drain and where. Quick solution, forget about the whole thing. Who the **** offered these dumb solutions, I wonder.

Next time a flood occurs they say, “We banned plastic bags didn’t we?” Some very archaic thinking here. Doesn’t reasoning ever figure in their regressive minds? Some high falutin expert with an axe to grind with the plastic industry said it was the plastic bags and they went ahead and banned plastic bags.

So I went to shop with my own whatever micron plastic bag. I thought it would be safe. The bajiwalla looked at me suspiciously at it and said, “No, these are prohibited. A big fine for you and me.” “What should I do then?” “Use paper bags instead.” “But wouldn’t that lead to cutting down of trees. Aren’t plastic bags cheaper?”

Then there was the banning of dance bars. Some logic of spoiling the youth. Youth is more spoilt by music television and 24-hour movie channels more than dance bars. Here also some very twisted reasoning applies. Some hearsay, ill-informed and village panchayat kind of thinking. Hack out a simple solutions to problems that need to be thrashed about and discussed. But that is not the wont of our khadi-wearing politicians whose intellect is that of small villagers tending to their rice, or, bajri, or, tapioca fields (I know, I can see Kolhapuri chappals flying in my direction for saying this).

Come on. Why ban bars and kill the Bollywood dreams of so many nymphets. They all came here thinking they would be stars. Most of them have dependents that have got used to the idea of a steady income. Why cut it short so abruptly. Give them a life; or, better, get them a life, if you can’t do that.

I am not saying here that all dance bars are good. But to everyone their own. Foreigners used to the nightlife of Bangkok, Amsterdam, New York, etc. go to these dance bars to see some exotica. And those girls wear more than our Bollywood item dancers. So why beat them with these fatwa kind of laws?

Don’t know if the government will learn. Not, at least, Maharashtra’s sons-of-the-soil kind of politicians.

For more about me visit http://www.johnwriter.com          

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Who is responsible for Bombay and New Orleans?

Now there is damning evidence why hurricanes (New Orleans) and floods (Bombay) happen.

An about.com article states, "Global warming began in the 20th century with the modern industrial age. 21st century continuation of this warming trend will result in melting glaciers and arctic ice sheets, which will cause rising sea-levels to inundate coastal areas. Cities as London, Shanghai, Bombay and New York can expect major flooding. Global warming also changes weather patterns, increased risks of droughts and hurricanes, and many health problems. The arctic ice sheet has shrunk 20% since 1979."

The Kyoto Protocol set binding targets for countries to reduce greenhouse gases emission within seven years to five per cent below 1990 levels. If enacted countries would have had to cut down on emission and used more renewable sources of energy like solar and other forms.

The US which contributes 25 per cent to greenhouse gas emission had initially agreed to sign the Kyoto Protocol. But later George Bush refused to sign it stating that it would cause major unemployment in the US. To quote the above article, "Lately, the White House has even questioned the validity of the science behind global warming, and claims that millions of jobs will be lost if the US joins in this world pact."

Though India has signed the Protocol the power that drives governance in Delhi, "maintains that the major responsibility of curbing emission rests with the developed countries, which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time," as reported in Wikipedia. Therefore it is exempt from the framework of the treaty.

So who is responsible for Hurricane Katrina and the Bombay Deluge? Without the support of the US the Kyoto Protocol is as good as dead. And if India continues to play truant expect more deluges like the ones we recently had in Bombay.

Why am I going on and on about the Kyoto Protocol?

This is one chance in a lifetime of humanity to clean up the environment that has fed and nurtured it and its forebearers. If this opportunity is lost then there is no looking back. Make sure you live on a hill (then you aren't protected from landslides), stock your house with provisions for a month (still you don't know when the deluge will end), and buy a boat to get you to safety when the rains don't stop!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Deluge and other things!

I wrote this article a year ago and people sneered, "What is John talking about?"

Read it to understand what the rains have done to Bombay and New Orleans. Unprecedented floods are a result of the heating of the atmosphere and consequently of the ocean and this in turn "alters storm tracks and creates unusual weather patterns in various parts of the world."

Hmmm, more grist for the green brigade!

Saturday, September 03, 2005


This is Artist Village (the place I live) dam's floodgates during the recent deluge.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Lavender Garden

If I had a choice this is where I would like to be... now... right now!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina's real name is "Global Warming"

This article argues quite convincingly that Katrina's real name is "Global Warming."

Also scientists feel the cause of the floods on Bombay was global warming. As the atmosphere heats up droughts, rains, and storms will become more intense. Unless, that is, wiser counsel prevails and we cut down on CFC emission, burning of fossil fuels, and automobile emission.

DeadlyKatrina.com

Hurricane Katrina has wreaked havoc in New Orleans. Looters are systematically stripping department stores of computers, televisions, food, jewelry and anything they can lay their hands on.

The police are not intervening. They even joined the looters according to this article.

At least in Bombay during the downpour the citizens and the police didn't resort to looting.

What is this world coming to, eh?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Smiley Brackets and Grumpy Brackets

Peter Griffinis the inventor of the smiley bracket.

(-:A smiley brackets something you can say with a smile:-)

What about a grumpy bracket? :-(

I take pride to announce my invention the grumpy bracket.

:-(A grumpy bracket is something you are gritting your teeth while you are keying in)-:

Anyone can use my grumpy bracket for free. Only give me some credit, won't you?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Something I posted on Caferati
Do we need to be better than the originals?

A well reasoned article that is long overdue. Max you expounded on the theme well enough. We Indians want to be one better than the originals. Marxism maybe dead in the world but we can still find the last vestiges of hardcore Marxism in Bengal and Kerala. No, these are not just some old and faltering diehards but hatta katta people who elect Marxist governments.

Nirad C Chaudhari wrote and lived like a pucca Englishman in England. But he was sneered upon by the Britons. Our own Rushdie with his Indianisms like "killofy" found a lot of supporters among Britons. That he wrote,"to be born again, first you have to die. 'ho ji! ho ji! to land upon the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly. tat-taa! taka-thun!" (I don't know the exact origin of these words, so please explain) and was accepted is proof that Britons love it when we are ourselves and do not speak in a hoity-toity stiff upperlip fashion when we speak or write to them.

I write in English though my mother tongue is Malayalam and I speak Hindi with my friends. I studied in an English medium school which had Malayalam and Marathi as optional languages. So I read and write English, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi.

But I am drawn to the English language as a magnet because of the immense literature available in it. I am reasonably well read in English but not in Malayalam, Hindi or Marathi. English no longer belongs to England, it is a universal language. We may say, "Come here na," the Chinese may say, "Come here, la," and many international speakers may pepper their English with their own ethnicisms.

I was bewildered when I heard Afrikaans (the mixture of English and, I think, Dutch) spoken in South Africa. I could understand a few words but most was greek to me. But, given the chance to speak to a Africaans-speaking PYT I can make myself understood;-)

Max, in the article on "Good Writing" I had reasoned that we being Indian Writers in English should evolve a language that can evolve and enrich the English language as we know it now. That's what I thought would happen after the huge success of Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. But sadly it is not happening. We seem to be regressing back to old days when we were content with being mere clerks of the British Empire.

Note: I am using an invention patented by our own Peter Griffin here. (-:We are still doing that with our call centers and business process outsourcing companies which train our youth to be just that — clerks. Why even one company is named "e-clerk.":-) (-: Peter I hope you won't sue me for infringing your patent. Go to his page to see what a "smiley bracket" means:-)

In this context also read a posting on my blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


This William Dalrymple's historical book "White Mughals."
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This is William Dalrymple author of "The White Mughals."
visit my website: http://www.johnwriter.com

Monday, August 22, 2005

From this article in the Scotsman it is obvious that our own Englishman in residence William Dalrymple (link to whose site is given alongside) has Indian blood in him!

Having worked in the Persian Gulf in a British multinational I know for a fact that Britons have an attraction for Asian women. Most of the white men there were married to Indian, Philipino, or, Bangladeshi women.

Wonder if the British Raj was actually more democratic than we imagine as far genetic and racial exclusivity was concerned. In that case many of our distant cousins are stiff-upperlip residents of the Blighty.

Talk of racial intergration :-)
After the deluge

This flood is not unique to Bombay. Every year there is one or two days on which there is flooding and disruption of services. But the authorities never learn.

The city planners were talking about converting Bombay into another Shanghai. The problem is people who have been to Shanghai tell me that Shanghai has worse problems. So why Shanghai?

Pictures of the deplorable conditions in Bombay have been flashed throughout the world and people are laughing at us. Most of all the Chinese.

"Shanghai you said? Hahahahha" I can hear their laughter.

We should have modeled on Tokyo instead. Tokyo has similar problems according to a Discovery documentary I saw. They have constructed viaducts and storage areas deep inside the city that drains away water when there is a deluge or high tide.

The whole city of Tokyo is built over these viaducts and water drains into them at the first occurrence of a flood. Why do those jokers want to model on a city that itself has problems? I don't know the answer.

Thanks for your feedback. In times of a crisis like this it is the common people who suffer not the politicians or bureaucrats.

Some more feedback at this link on Caferati for those who are interested.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The deluge and after....

The deluge is behind me, us rather. Some time ago, the tsunami struck the eastern coast of India. We, in Bombay even made jokes. Said, the tsunami can never strike Bombay, because it is a protected harbor.

That was a tsunami from above. Yes, the water fell like a wall from above. The memory remains. The mind is filled with horror at the slightest rain, the body shudders at the touch of water, the mind numbs when the skies look dark.

It was horrendous. People trapped in their cars and dying a cruel death from suffocation. Many thought they were safe in the upper storey of a double-decker bus. No, they died too. Many waded through neck-deep water for miles. A woman collapsed immediately as she reached home after walking the whole night and died. The epidemic claimed a thousand more lives. So many sorrowful stories.

The photo I published below really happened. Only a friend morphed the face on the actual face. A man carrying his child on his shoulder. They could fall into a drain and die, the water is rising. The people in the background have horror in their eyes. That speaks the condition they were in.

Now there are intermittent showers. The roads are still covered by a black slush, and cratered with a thousand pits, wide enough for a car to sink in. Many cars have been damaged.

What does all this teach us? The backlash of man's rapacity against nature is manifesting itself at last. First the tsunami then the floods, water, the prime force of life, the life-saving liquid. Now it has made a deathly tomb for many in Bombay.

Many houses were submerged. Their valuable certificates, shares, photographs, furniture, food articles lost for ever. The villages along Raigad have been hit the worst. Many villages have lost their crops, their granaries were flooded. Many died. These are simple folks. They live on what they get from the fields and the skies. Now the skies have turned mercenary marauder. They didn't have wood to cremate their dear ones. They sprinkled kerosene and lighted the pyre instead.

Many, many, such stories tumble out. Would man learn? Would he amend his ways? Will the rapacious rape of nature stop?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A girl in the bus

A girl beside me in the crowded state transport bus did the unimaginable. Yes, shocking. She looked the traditional, untouched by modernity types wearing a discolored sari and not even a touch of anything I might call women's "vanity" thingammies.

First she took a plastic bag, took a pinch of fennel seeds, put it in her mouth, closed the bag, and returned it to a torn and shredded bag.

Then she thrust her hand again into her bag again and came out with a small book of sorts. It was probably a prayer book. Yes, it was. But the picture on the cover of the book was what shocked me. It was that of a criminal gangster wanted by the police. I looked again. It was he, the same moustache, the same eyes.

She touched it to her temple, kissed it and then touched it to her heart and then opened it. Inside was another photo of the gangster. This time he was posing with his wife. Can you believe this? I went, "Whoa, what is this?"

Then she opened it further. It was a prayer book. Only the gangster had printed it, subsidized it, and conveniently inserted his photograph on the cover.

But what a mixed message it sent to me the first time? Were these simple folk worshipping gangsters thus? What if the gangster also inveigled into this book his philosophy of "kill somebody ruthlessly for supari"?

How sacrilegious it would have seemed? Is there a blurring of the lines somewhere? Or, is it just me?

Open to discussion, all ye lurkers on my blog!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Are typos inevitable?

(Something I posted on Caferati)

The consensus seems to be that a few typos may occur. I typed “ocur” here but my word-processing program promptly changed it to “occur.” So much for small mercies. We have word processors powerful enough to correct even before we notice the mistake.

Caferati was conceived as a forum to learn and to grow. I guess that purpose wouldn’t be served if someone says that if there is one typo in the contribution he/she was put off and didn’t read the entire contribution. That is not serving any purpose here. I have read many contributions though they were replete with typos and were full of muddled thinking.

I had to literally wade through the prose to find out what the writer wanted to say. But then I got all of what was being expressed and have commented, if, and, when I had the time, or, when I felt that my comment would make a difference.Let us not be “holier than thou” here. Get this straight and let it remain in your heads always: TYPOS ARE BOUND TO HAPPEN IN ALL WRITING. Nobody can write a first draft without typos. But as we go along we should try to reduce the number of typos at least as a gesture of “courtesy” to our esteemed members, as somebody mentioned on this thread.

That said, in a literary forum like Caferati we can declare at the beginning of the contribution that this is a “work in progress” and therefore there is bound to be typos and grammatical inconsistencies. In this case the writer is merely “workshopping” his work for the views of the members. He is not presenting it to Caferati members for publication and as the moderators repeatedly point out, they don’t edit anyone’s contribution.

None other than Geoffrey Chaucer, considered the father of English poetry was a bad speller. Consider the following extract from his poem Troilus and Criseyde:

But, you lovers, that bathen in gladness,
If any drop of pity in you be,
Remembereth you on passd heaviness (Remember past sorrow)
That you have felt, and on the adversity
Of other folk; and thinketh how that ye
Have felt that Lov durst you displease, (made you suffer)
Or you have won him with too great an ease.

He writes “passd” for “past” and “Lov” for “love.”

These notes were not made by me but were gleaned from a scholarly study of Chaucer by Michael Murphy (so, do not assume that I am being “holier than you”). Editing was so bad then that even bad spelling escaped the editors’ attention. With technology came word processors and this sanctimonious obsession with, “give us flawless prose, or we won’t even look at it.”

To be fair to those who come on board to write and learn how to write, let us be generous and tolerate the typos and grammatical inconsistencies if it is mentioned at the beginning of the work that it is a “work in progress.” At least we must make that much allowance, in the common interest, as none of us here (I may be wrong!) claim to be above board as far as typos and grammar are concerned.

Monday, August 15, 2005


The Tsunami! This is the tsunami, the huge wall of water that struck the eastern coast of India and killed thousands.
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005


This is me reading my poems at a readmeet organized by Caferati. I read my poems "White" and "Bombay Train Song."
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Monday, August 08, 2005


This picture is doctored. The guy in the pic is a colleague but posted this just to show the desperation on the faces of those in the background.
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Friday, August 05, 2005

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Interpretation of Good English, or, Love in Tokyo in Kerala

Some time back I had written an article on the online literary forum Caferati, “Your thoughts aren’t written words.” I don’t know if anyone noticed that article or cared to read it. Never mind. If you know my blog address, please be kind enough to visit it and read (as we say in Indian officialese), and leave a comment.

This is a continuation of that debate. I am putting on my thinking cap and examining why Indians can’t decide what is good writing. There is a big controversy raging on Caferati, right this moment on this subject.

When I was a humble sub-editor I would get copy written by journalists who couldn’t spell or write but the content was excellent. They got the story right. We had to re-write the entire stuff for our readers.There were journalists who wrote immaculate English and instructed that only major mistakes should be corrected and they should be informed of the changes.Both these tribes had their own interpretation of writing and we sub-editors knew this. So we worked hard around their ideas and polished it as best as we could. We made it presentable to our readers.

It was fun working on the copy desk. We made jokes about each writer and his/her way of writing. Sometimes we were hauled up by the editor, the big boss himself. He had his own idea of what good writing was. We sub-editors had to paddle carefully around all those icebergs of what was “Good Writing.” I must admit, we did a decent job, given the situation, and had fun playing with language. But we didn’t let anything slip as we had a very, very, good chief sub-editor who taught us what little we know about English language.

In another job, I was fired by an editor just because I misplaced a “the” in a sentence. Not fired, actually, but the relationship worsened and I had to leave. It happened like this. I had written “Indian Patent Act” and the editor, a literary purist, insisted it was “The Indian Patent Act.” I stuck to what I had written. I didn’t know that sitting right next to him was the world’s most powerful research tool, or, the most misguiding tool. Again, interpret it the way you want. He searched “The Indian Patent Act” and found what he wanted to nail me with. But I said if he searched “Indian Patent Act” he would find several references to words strung exactly like that. That led to an argument, which ended in my resignation.

So coming to what I am waffling about, let me explode this myth about good writing. Nobody knows what good writing is. Or, to put it simply, good writing is too subjective a topic, a matter of interpretation. We all have our own concepts, colored by our own education, background, and upbringing. “Arree where going, men?” is okay to some and not palatable to others. One person’s good writing is another’s literary hara-kiri.Even spelling and grammar. Americans spell with an “z” as in “specialized” while British spell with an “s” as in “specialised.” Indians have their own ways of expression like “time-to-time” and “preponed.”

My chief sub-editor said there was something called Punjabi English, Marathi English, Malayalam English, Telugu English, Bengali English, and so on. And I agree. English is written differently by Malayalis like me than by Marathis like many of my friends.So are we agreed on one thing? That English is subjective to various influences and if you approach it with your puritanical rose-tinted glasses it will look downright macabre and unintelligible. Hope we are. So for some suggested solutions.

The solution

The solution? India has to evolve its own brand of English, which is tolerant and not dictatorial and puritanical in interpretation. If we take the colonial or Jesuit-convent-school type of English as pure English, Indians will lag behind in defining their own idiom and will not help Indian English evolve.Even Rushdie used words like “kill-ofy” in his writing. I think that is a good beginning from a Booker winner. We should follow his example and improvise.

Arundhati Roy, another beautiful (I mean this literally) improviser of the language uses words and idioms from Malayalam. She refers to “stick insect” and “Fountain in a Love in Tokyo.” Now “stick insect” is something we use in Malayalam English. Also nobody outside Kerala knows what a Love in Tokyo is.

Just to test Arundhati’s language I went to a general store in Kerala and asked for a “Love in Tokyo.” Yes, believe me, I actually did this.

“Give this man a Love in Tokyo,” the owner of the shop shouted to his salesperson.

Please don’t misunderstand. I wasn’t buying love. Again, people, how misconceived can your interpretation get? I actually wrote “Again, people, how misconceived your interpretation can get?” That is another Indianism, putting the verb at the end of the sentence.

Instead of love, which I wouldn’t have objected to then, the salesperson fished inside several boxes in a dingy corner and came out with my “Love in Tokyo,” which is a hair clip that girls use to hold their hair in place. Ask a Malayali girl if you know one, she will concur.

Shobhaa De, another good improviser of language, is adept at Indianisms. If she finds somebody a “maha bore” I know exactly what she means, more power to her words.

So when a group of Indians from diverse backgrounds get together and discuss what “Good English is,” I tend to choke. With laughter, I mean, because I have been through it enough times to make me puke with choking.

Be tolerant and tolerate interpretations is what I would like to say. If you follow British English stick to your “s” and “coloUr.” If you follow American English stick to your “z” and “color.” If you wish to sprinkle your work with a few qualified regional words, please do. But, not too much, please.Did I make my point? Again, it is subjective and subject to your interpretation.

Monday, July 04, 2005

(Something I posted on Caferati)

City scapes

NOW

The rain came to Bombay as a bit of a shock. I was reeling. Everything was soaking and wet. From rickshaws that hadn’t yet put up the flimsy plastic doors to the waterproofing that was required on my house in Artist Village. I was unprepared. Getting up in the morning was a heavy task. I had to drag myself up to say a prayer. With the prayer I usually brace myself and throw a lot of guilty stuff behind me and begin my day.

But these days it is different.A waterfall in Artist Village becomes active. The dam beneath it is full of water. A canal that runs from the dam is full of gurgling water. I like the murmuring streams as they wend their way down to the sea. It soothes me like a lullaby. I think the shock will go away.

Nowadays I feel like sleeping a little longer, pulling the sheets over me a wee bit more, and snuggling into the warmth for a fraction of a nanosecond. But the nanosecond turns into a second and a second into several minutes and so on....The roads have sprung a thousand craters. Splatter, spash, whooooom, goes the rickshaws wheels. I curse at the dirty drain water that wets my formal trousers. God, when will they learn manners? I have to sit in the office with my feet and trousers all wet. Dreadful, isn’t it?

I buy an umbrella, a three-folding one it is called. I am still in shock. I open my three-folding umbrella and the wind immediately up-turns it and snaps two valuable rods that hold it up. One hundred and fifty rupees gone. I have to buy another umbrella and resort to using my imported rain-and-winter jacket bought when I was in Saudi Arabia.

A week later, I am still in shock. Everything has turned grayish. Even the colorful umbrellas look gray. Women, women become more attractive and haunting. Guess they adapt to change better than men do. Look at that thing there. She looks unconcerned as she adjusts her raincoat, balances her saree, touches her hair in place, and holds aloft her umbrella daintily, and there is a jaunt in her walk. But the men. They all look depressed, uncombed, and unwashed, and god alone knows what. Why do men have to take change so badly?

From the office window I can see a road splashed with the colors of the sky. A uniform gray. The glass is a dark bluish gray and therefore the scene looks divine with the manicured lawns and decorative plants and trees. I thank almighty I don’t have to be out there. The tall glass-fronted towers of the BPO units shine depressingly gray. Guess they won’t have to clean the glass-front every week as they do.

THEN

I used to love the rain. I used to wait for it to float my paper boats of innocence. I used to splash in every puddle, catch fish, and put it in bottles; stomp in a pool and with the other leg hit the splash with an explosive “splotch.”

We, Deb, Kavi, Ghanshyam, and my friends from college would play rain football. The field would resemble a battlefield with all the mud and slush. We would tumble, roll, and splatter gleefully in the mud. We would give each other walloping shots on our bodies with the football that had become as hard as stone. It was fun. Then we would wash in the college washroom to make ourselves presentable to the world. We would laugh our mysterious laughs as we sing obscene ditties in the changing room.

“Hey, your sweetheart, I saw her with her new crush.” “Hey, *#$%^&, she was never mine, man.” “That one in your building, she’s a real looker, friend. Why don’t you?” “Yeah, she is giving me line, yaar. You won’t imagine; I spoke to her one day. We stood like this, sala, so near.”

Like birds and bees we were looking for the perfect mate, love. Exams were like the clouds that were hovering over us angrily. But all we cared about were puppy love movies, romantic novels, latest hits, and football in the mud behind college.Perfect life, perfect love, perfect everything seemed a long way off then.

That might explain my shock now. That I haven’t made anything perfect as I had imagined. The house needs waterproofing. The great epochal annual event of my life has come suddenly and given me a rude shock. I hadn’t expected it and made little, little arrangements to welcome the rain into my life. But I must relent.

“Welcome rain,” I say to myself. And the shock lifts a little.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

(Something I posted on Caferati about the need for poets and writers to edit their work)

I don't know how qualified I am to make a comment, as I started writing poetry recently after having given up long ago to write fiction, content (which feeds me), and my soulful outpourings of anguish.

Some artistically inclined people have the wrong notion that poetry is easy and they can write anything so long as they feel like writing and it is naturally good because they wrote it. I would like to recall JJ's comment here "Just because you are lovesick like a puppy doesn't mean you have to write good poetry" or something to that effect, I don't remember, blame it on advancing age.Poets who tend to think whatever they put down on paper is great poetry are "lazy" poets. They do not let their fires rage and then pick up the few embers that could light fires in others. This debate has been raging in all our readmeets.

Should poetry be edited? Some poets say, "I wrote in the spur of the moment to express my feelings. I won't change a word." Well, then, you write your poetry and read it to yourself and keep it in some corner of your mind and then, may be, look at it a few years later to go all misty eyed.Point is, as poets or wannabe poets we are all seeking an audience. If not why would we post here or read it at a readmeet?

As you said "We are artistic performers, who perform our oeuvres with passion so as to inspire others." Great poetry inspires as does great music.Editing of poetry is as important, if not more important than editing prose. Because there are only a few words, the need is greater. As performers and actors of words we don't want to present our bedraggled, unrehearsed, unwashed, un-madeup, thoughts before the public. Presenting such a "lazy" profile would depreciate his/her work considerably in the eyes of the audience. Can such "lazy" artists make progress in their craft remains to be seen. It's like a hotelier who says, "Eat if you want to. This is how I cook my food and I do it to satisy myself. By the way, I eat any rubbish." He would be out of business in no time.

Just my two-paise worth! I don't mean any offense but I am posting this to help those like me who are teachable and learnable and wish to improve their craft.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Where Giant Mushrooms Grow!

(Written after seeing a Discovery documentary about a field in Nevada, USA, where they test the latest weapons of mass destruction)

In Nevada there is a field where giant mushrooms grow
One mile high and two miles wide, they say on the show
That’s where they test how to vaporize people and flesh
By splitting and fusing atoms and start the world afresh.

A new era, a new definition, with the nuclear shield
Dawned with huge mushrooms grown on Nevada fields
Can erase whole cities, no need for guns or battle tanks
Tomorrow’s wars, the voice says, will be fought without ranks.

They are making bullets and missiles with lasers
That can picture the enemy, see in the dark, and subdue angers
Soldiers of the future don’t have to die for their country’s glory
They use their Global Positioning bullet, that’s another story.

Agree with me, don’t dissent, fall in line futile windmill tilters
Your wars are lost before you even see victory, dissenters
No more carpet and saturation bombing and damnation ally
They have no time to negotiate it’s you or them, you have to die.

They say their soldiers are smart weapons, they see in the dark
Their bullets can pierce armor; they can blast your flimsy mark
Where were you soldiers of the mind, intellectual, I mourn
When from your ceaseless toils such Frankensteins were born?

No more carpet and saturation bombing and damnation ally
They have no time to negotiate it’s you or them, you have to die.

Monday, June 20, 2005

THE GREAT BANK ROBBERY!

"I won't break, I won't bend
Someday soon we'll sail away
To innocence...
And the simple life again."

Elton John's (my favorite singer, the greatest singer alive or dead in my jaundiced opinion) lyrics remind me. My life is getting ever more complicated.

My bank sent me a statement informing me that they are withdrawing the zero balance facility that came with my salary account. This means I will have to pay the bank the following.

1. Rs 750 per quarter if I don’t maintain minimum balance (which I never do!)
2. A charge for withdrawing my own money from the bank
3. A charge for a chequebook
4. A charge for making a draft
5. Charges if I withdraw from another ATM
5. Charges, charges charges, when they are earning interest on my money!

Someday I am going to give up all this and keep all my salary with me in bundles of notes. My grandfather used to do that. And he never had to give my grandmother Rs 750 if he didn’t maintain Rs 5000 minimum balance in the safe deposit vault.

That way neither would I need to keep my own money in the bank, nor pay them to withdraw MY OWN MONEY.

Imagine this. You can keep Rs 50,000 in the bank and can gradually lose all of it through this open theft. Whereas if I kept it as bundles of notes, I wouldn’t lose a paise!

I think that would be better than the above “Bank Robbery.” What say?

That’s why I want to follow Elton John to the simple life again.

"I won't break, I won't bend
Someday soon we'll sail away
To innocence...
And the simple life again."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I have been tagged by Peter alias The Griff alias Zigzackly and I am passing it on. All you have to do is answer the following posers on your blog so that somebody picks up the tag from you:

Total Number of Books I Own:

Lost count, really, lost count. There are books piling up on my desk, a cupboard full of books of all kinds and descriptions. Fiction, non fiction, books written by uncles and great-uncles (in pure Malayalam! Where do I have the time to read you dear uncle? So please don't turn in your grave or you will disturb great-great-great uncle).But here's a rough guesstimate. One millionzilliontrillion would be it. Sorry, joking!

Last Book I Bought:

Hmmm. Last book I bought was Da Vinci Code, from a snotty boy selling newspapers who said it was the latest beseller. I believed him. But haven't got down to read it as I am engrossed in "The Life of Pi." If you haven't read this book, beg, borrow, steal, or commandeer a copy. The story of a boy spending 200-odd days on a life boat with a man-eating Bengal tiger for company is too engrossing for words. Right now the supense is eating me though. Oh, when will I get to complete it! Confession: I am a very slow reader!

Last Book I Read:

I really don't know. But "The Razor's Edge" is on my computer table. So that must be it.

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

The Bible - The world's biggest bestseller. The stories have the veneer of fantasy, reality, tragedy, comedy, epic poetry, wisdom, etc. etc.

Lolita - Nabakov's novel was an eye opener. I try to imitate his style without success. Taste this sentence for example, "She died of typhus in corfu" or "petrified paroxysms of pleasure" a triple alliteration. All heady stuff in my teenage days in the seventies.

The Sun Also Rises - Hemmingway's oeuvre.War and Peace - Tolstoy's masterpiece. I remember falling sick reading it uninterrupted for a month.

Sadie Thompson and the Stories of the South Sea Islands - Maugham's short stories.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Faith in the power of voodoo — sometimes called juju — is deeply ingrained in West African culture. It's a direct link to ancient ancestor-based beliefs that include a wide variety of spirits and other supernatural entities, and it forms the base for rituals brought to the Caribbean and elsewhere. In West Africa, voodoo priests still are often used to seal financial transactions or root out suspected thieves — often with a threat of a deadly curse for the wrongdoer.

Prostitution gangs parlay this fear to their advantage, Babandede said. Thousands of women and girls seeking transport to Europe — sometimes with false promises of legal work — undergo voodoo rituals that can involve drinking blood from cuts and taking nail and hair clippings as totems.

"They are told that fleeing the traffickers will bring death to them or their family," said Babandede, who addressed a recent human trafficking conference in Turin, Italy, one of the hubs for Nigerian-based prostitution networks. "This is a heavy power over these women."

It is also something difficult for most authorities to comprehend.

The international prostitution trade in Europe is mostly built upon other methods of bondage: holding women in prison-like conditions or setting impossibly high repayment sums in exchange for their passports and IDs. For some women who manage to escape, the ordeal is finally over.

Friday, May 06, 2005

“Your thoughts aren’t written words”

“Your thoughts aren’t written words,” said my English teacher in college.

I was a science student then and English classes were a joke for us budding scientists and engineers. At least, that’s what we thought about the essay under discussion in our English textbook. Certainly we could write better than those hackneyed pen pushers could. But we indulged her because of her pretty looks, friendly demeanor, and the way she teased our brains, not to say our other senses.

The discussion was about why some people are so arrogant and think they can write better but do not put pen to paper. These people often viciously run down a written work, saying they “think” they can write better than any author can.

The teacher had earlier asked us to comment on a famous author’s essay that was in our textbook in college. She also asked what we thought about the author as a writer. We were all into Ayn Rand, Harold Robbins and even JD Salinger and thought we were literary geniuses. “Harold Robbins” was heady stuff with his characters’ sex and promiscuity, Ayn Rand stoked our ambitions to be world changers and JD Salinger, well, JD Salinger, we read because everybody said we should.

“I think I can write better than him any day,” said one hotshot blood rushing to his head.

“You “think” you can. But that is a thought. Your thoughts aren’t written words. Why don’t you sit down and write a better essay and show us?” Said the pretty Shanti Narasimhan.

That brings me to the point I want to make here.

When somebody writes something there would be hundreds, no millions, who “think” they can writer better than the writer, the hapless one who ventured into the wide world of written words. But that is just a “thought” and remains in the realm of fantasy, ideology, and dreams.

As an analogy if you can picture a beautiful painting in your mind can you draw and paint it too? Isn’t it that too simple to be true? Imagine it in the mind and, lo and behold, it is on canvas and you are a famous painter. If everybody could do that everybody would be Miachaelangelo and Rembrandt. Likewise if everybody could imagine that novel in their mind they would become great writers like Shakespeare and William Faulkner.

But the sad fact is that is not the way it is. Not everybody is Michaelangelo and William Faulkner and not every person who thinks he or she can write is a writer. Nor can they transfer their “thought” by way of motor nerves to the finger tips, coherently think and write it down and polish it enough to be read by the hawk-like eyes of the reading millions. Not everybody has the mind-to-hand co-ordination to write even a grocery list without mistakes.

No sir, if you can’t do that, then what you think remains in the realm of thought and not in the realm of “written words” and published articles. Accept it as writing’s bitter truth.

Now imagine what happens when an author works hard on his manuscript and his work is published and he gets some amount of grudging recognition.

“I “think” I can write better than him. I can write circles around him, any day.”

“I “think” he is a poor writer. I could have done better.”

“He absolutely can’t freaking write. I can “think” better than he can. I have better ideas. I would have written that piece, if I had the time.”

The learned community called reviewers just destroys hours of concentrated labor with remarks like “absolute tripe,” “not worth the money,” and “so and so should stop writing.”

All this is accompanied by a lot of jealousy, many snipings, daggers to the back of the author, and a lot of smirking. But remember the parenthetical word “think” in the above sentences. Your thoughts were just “thoughts” not “written words.” Because you didn’t sit down to create something out of nothing.

It is only when you sit down, make the fingers move, take that important step to organize your thinking, side-step the verbal pitfalls, the grammatical chasms, the lurking dangers of syntax — into which a less experienced writer can fall — is the time you learn that writing is difficult and you need a lot of experience to write well.

One thing a writer has to realize is the fact that all his or her work will be judged by people who are poor writers who mistakenly think they can write better. A writer has to blank out this potentially dangerous army of critics to progress in his or her career.

We are living in desperate times for writers. If you send your manuscripts to publishers or agents, remember, the people looking at it already think they can write and “think” better than you. So you have to be absolutely, undoubtedly, brilliant to impress them.

Even if the poor and harried writer makes some progress, is published by some publisher at last, there will be people who say, “He or she can’t write.” They said it about Tom Woolf, a writer I consider one of the best writers alive. They will say it about you, too, when you are published. Don’t let it deter you.

At that time remember to say to yourself, “People, your thoughts are just thought. They aren’t written words. I wrote it and that makes all the difference.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

This is not about the movie but about the seventies. I was in school and college and inspired by some excellent teachers I and a few friends also became leftists. But later I changed tracks as did my friends. They are all pucca capitalists now running advertising agencies, publishing houses and even industries.

The Movie 'Reds' depicts Russia at the time of the 1917 October revolution and also makes a scathing comment about Communism. The film was based on a biography of American journalist John Reed, named 'Romantic Revolutionary', published in 1975. Reed, played by Warren Beatty in the film, had also written a celebrated book on the events surrounding the revolution, 'Ten Days that Shook the World'.

Emma Goldman, John Reed's friend, arrived in Russia in January 1920 and like Reed, soon became disillusioned by the course the revolution was taking and her initial feelings of euphoria soon degenerated into disappointment as revolution was followed by dictatorship, hope by despair.All went to prove that Marxism is good in theory but lost a lot when translated into action and governance.

This struck a chord when Sunil mentioned about people who changed tracks.

Friday, April 15, 2005

This is a post made on Caferati message board about the corruption of art forms and culture that is reproduced here just to show my view point

Richa, I never knew the term, “Randi” meant a woman of noble birth, having known it to have only pejorative meaning.

What I am against is the “randification” of art forms. Hardworking artists work over the centuries to raise the levels and standards of art forms to a higher level and along comes some hotshot upstart who “randifies” the whole establishment. A noble art form is turned on its head into a vocation of good for nothings and wastrels. In other words “noble women” have been reduced to “randies.”

All art forms should be open to experimentation and change. But that doesn’t mean we should accept all experimentation as hallowed. That would be akin to “randifying” the noble women of the earlier royal gharanas.

What we see today is a total breakdown of the establishment of criticism. Remember, I don’t mean writing per se but the fine art of criticism, which is an art in itself. I used to read columns on music reviews, drama reviews, art review, in newspapers earlier. Audiences were led by the hands of these learned critics about what to patronize and what to rubbish. Their criticism was the last word and anything they didn’t like perished. So the artist and creator used to be literally afraid of them. Thus one knew what is art and what is trash and garbage.

But today they don’t exist. Many newspapers do not have music, art, literary criticism columns anymore. So people like us are left with nothing to call a “benchmark” to decide what is good and what is not. That is the fine difference that I have been talking about.

Dalip, I think that answers your question about “who sets the standards” and Sonia that answers your question about “who cares.” We all should care because it affects all of us and we writers are the ones to write and express our angst and anguish. I am talking of my teenage days in the sixties and seventies, not the last millennium or the last century. There was enough literary, music, and dramatic awareness then to decide what is art and what is trash and garbage. Period.

Even literature has its detractors. So when somebody comes on board and writes in the Jamican “Netin, newayz, me no tink thatz good” style I and a few other Caferati members raised enough heat to make them vanish.

Sonia remember Acid rock? Acid jazz will also die that natural death. So don’t worry. As you rightly said these undesirable sub-cultures will be given the short shrift as time passes. But it is our responsibility to be aware, as writers.

Yes Max, trends in culture, literature are glacial and move a few millimeters an year. But that doesn’t mean we should stand and stare and do nothing when genres that are unacceptable should intrude and bring about “randification” of our treasured art forms.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Item numbers and trash and garbage

An elaboration of the point I was making with my take on "Item numbers." I guess most people missed the point.I guess we are growing more greedy and lazy. The popular culture has invented "remixes" and "item numbers" out of sheer laziness. For them being creative was to do some "matha fodi" or "breaking of head."

Why bother? Why break your brain when you can get a curvaceous model to suggestively mime the sexual act and have people ogle.The question is where do you draw the line between art (in its pure form, e.g., literature) and trash and garbage. I guess until the wide world accepts "item numbers" as an art form (which they never will) let us keep calling it trash and garbage and generally debunk the laziness and greed that go behind it.Somebody rightly said that BPO and outsourcing units in the developed countries are giving away their work to "call centers" in India because of greed and laziness. Gartner (a research firm that is an authority on such matters) has said that 80 per cent of such companies will fail because of their extra laziness in not managing their outsourced operations. Halleluiah, I might say, so they will ultimately fail, which they deservedly should.

So greed and laziness will also be the undoing of the Indian pop music industry (because of remixes, etc) and our movie industry (because of item numbers, rehashed plots etc.) and ultimately they will produce many failures and only a smattering of success! A phenomenon that is already happening.But will they learn? None of the recent Bollywood releases this year have been successes, accordingly to a newspaper report.

The odd runaway hit has the vital ingredient of a good story, and that is the secret of its success.But the purveyors or trash will never learn. Once greed and laziness enters their minds it will remain and remain forever. So be prepared to accept more trash and garbage.

Explore new themes, encourage new talent who look at life through their unique prismatic viewpoints, let there by an ocean of ideas from which to choose serendipitous pearls, discuss the story (instead of inviting the bombshell actor to the casting couch!), do a little honest labor and don't be greedy. Draw the line when somebody is trashing and garbaging your medium. And don’t be armchair critics, go out and fight your battles, even in message boards like this. My advise to the purveyors of trash and garbage.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Thought piece – Are “Item Numbers” over-stepping the limit?

Saw Sanjay Dutt’s and Koena Mitra’s act in the song “O, Saki, Saki” from the film “Musafir.” I had seen excerpts of it earlier, but it’s the first time I am seeing it in its entirety. The song is a rage with the youth, my own son being a cult follower of the latest trends. He has downloaded a ring tone on my mobile phone and plays it often.

It irritates me to hear the tune every time I receive a call. The irritation became even more pronounced after today’s viewing of the entire song. Here was I doing my daily morning exercise and my eyes nearly popped out on seeing the visuals. Shocking, would be an understatement, in my opinion.

There are no appropriate words to express my outrage and indignation at this song. It pushes the limits and then proceeds to cross them. No, not the fine boundary, but the extreme limiting line between gratuitous violence, murder and mayhem. And it is sure to spoil the impressionable youth, like my son, who will be persuaded to believe that violence, sex and indecency is okay. Moreover, it sets out to glorify deadly and insidious habits that can be harmful for health as proved by science and medicine.

First the thrusting, and hip wiggling Koena Mitra is constantly shown gyrating, her panties on view, tantalizingly. “Item number” the purveyors of such stuff would say. But how would she like being called an “Item number” on her face. She is naked except for some shiny underwear stuff that adds to her allure. Okay, a little eroticism is needed to sell a movie, but this is outright sexual provocation, nothing else.

Then Sanjay Dutt brandishes his knife. Then the dancers come out with weapons like scythes, swords, machetes, and make motions like killing each other and the sexy Koena. Suddenly, there are enough weapons on the screen to fight an entire medieval war.

Come on; is this okay to show the deprived millions who watch these acts of suggested violence? I mean, the film is already full of such stuff, showing enough gore, but do you want to show violence in a song too? They say it is harmless, I don’t think it is harmless when it would even incite one person to think about violent acts.

“Oh sharabi, kya sharabi, jo nasheme na rahe.”
“What is a drunk if he isn’t intoxicated?”

Now, don’t tell me these lyrics aren’t provocative. It is, in the extreme. It gives the impression that to drink is to be in a state of bliss. True Indian poets have poeticized intoxication in their works, but this is pushing the limits further. Dutt is shown in a state of drunkenness. And he passes the blade of his knife around Mitra’s throat several times. If it isn’t provocative and violent what is?

Drunkenness, lewdness, lechery, provocation to sex is what we see when we switch on the television. Is this needed? Isn’t it incitement? When such questions are asked the songwriters, directors hide behind the curtain of artistic freedom. Is this art? Not by any stretch of the imagination, I think.

Would somebody do something about this? I don’t know what the public think. But the makers of such “Item numbers” would even claim that it is artistic and that what is elevating. Being hypocritical comes naturally to the Bollywood denizens.

Over to you Caferati, what do you think?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Ron MacLarty

Ron McLarty was so convinced hewould never succeed as a novelist that after years ofobsessively churning out book after book in his basement, hesought the help of a shrink to make him stop.

http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/highestrated/*http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/nm/leisure_mclarty_dc

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

FBI rates animal rights and environmental activists as the major threats of domestic terrorism
Tilak and Jinnah worked together: "During the year Tilak had worked closely with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, one of the prominent young Muslim leaders. As a matter of fact, when the government tried in 1916 again to convict Tilak of preaching seditious doctrines, it was Jinnah who represented him before the court and won his acquittal. Tilak knew that a united India, Hindu and Muslim, could best promote India's cause, and through his efforts the 1916 Lucknow session of the Congress witnessed the development of a common programme with the Muslim League. It is because of Tilak, the organised Muslim community worked with the Congress and demanded equal position to India in the British empire. "
Section Two: "'All I wish to say is that inspite of the verdict of the Jury I maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destiny of things and it may be the will of the providence that the cause which I represent may prosper more by my suffering than by my remaining free.' "