Saturday, September 30, 2006

Congratulations and Celebrations! to me, me, me!

Today is a happy day. Yesterday at Fab India (where I buy my kurtas and ethnic clothes), I heard a girl say, "This is a happy, happy, happy, happy color, will suit you just fine." I liked that, huh, though, what she meant by "happy" raised to the power of four flummoxed me.

What do I see first thing when I open my blog? Google has upgraded my page rank to 4 on 10 from 3 on 10 (zigzackly has 6 on 10!). Some promotion this. Yippeeee! Check it out. Out with the bubblies, no, an extra cup of coffee towards evening, perhaps, if wifey permits.

I have also staked my claim to be the most consistent solo blog and the longest running solo blog at the same URL at the Limca Book of (Blog) Records (the Indian equivalent of Guiness Book of World Records). Isn't that a reason to smile?

Thanks visitors! Do please, please visit me daily (;and give me those hits I deserve;) as I write in this space every day.
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Friday, September 29, 2006

500 Women for Every 1000 Men in Jaura Block? Fact, Not Joking!

I am shocked to read this article a link of which I came across on Annie's blog. (Annie works for the Hindu newspaper group. Interestingly, her blog has page rank of 5 on 10 and her employer's web edition has a page rank of 1 on 10! Check it out yourself, if you are familiar with Google page ranks!)

"The district (Morena) has a dismal sex ratio of 822 women for every 1,000 men. In Kailaras and Pahadgarh blocks, at least 100 villages have a sex ratio of less than 600 and in Jaura block it is less than 500 in some villages."

Talk of skewed sex ratios. If there are only 500 women for every 1000 men in Jaura district, imagine, just imagine what would be the situation of the men, nay, the situation of the women there.

Now Annie and I participated in the "Blank Noise Project" which had initiated a blogathon on Street Harassment which all about public harassment of women. This is her contribution to the blogathon and this is mine.

Now what I am waffling towards is this. If there are only 500 women in Jaura block for every 1000 lecherous, grabbing, groping, feeling men, and if all the stories of harassment that I read in the many blogs that participated in the blogathon are true (I do not for a moment disbelieve it, I know) then imagine what this country is heading towards!

There wouldn't just be Street Harassment but street rapes and street killings. Why do parents cry when a girl is born and distribute sweets when a boy is born? Can somebody do something about it, fast?

Another Blank Noise Project was a walk they organized in Delhi against Street Harassment. Read Annie's account here.
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Delhi Pictures

Delhi, especially Connaught Place, has changed a lot since I visited it last. See the mall-look in this section of Connaught Place. Posted by Picasa

Delhi rickshaw driver!

When in Delhi I clicked this rickshaw driver, so peaceful, sleeping a dazed sleep, some place in Karol Bagh, where I stayed. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rang De Basanti for the Oscars!

Now, they have gone and done the unimaginable. Rang De Basanti, the film about which I had ranted in this piece is going to the Oscars as India's entry.

Says Aamir Khan in an interview to The Times of India, "Lage Raho Munnabhai" is as inspirational as "Rang De Basanti." This year two films have made a huge impact on the audience. Both have been positive and got the country thinking in a positive direction."

I disagree. I think both films have sent the wrong messages, the first that the Father of the Nation (I confess, I am in awe of the steadfastness with which he stood for the values he had faith in!) needs a goon and a petty criminal to show his importance in this age, and the second that the solution to corruption is mindless violence, in fact, hijacking of a government-owned radio station. If these films have got "the country thinking in a positive direction" as Khan states, he couldn't be more wrong.

I have heard of military juntas taking over radio stations to announce that a coup has taken place, but it is unimaginable for a band of young people to be shown taking over a radio station in a movie, however much aggrieved they are. And this, jury members, is the movie that will represent India in the competitive limelight of international cinematic art. I am shocked and amazed. Can there be a greater denigration of the values that, sadly, only a minority of Indians still strive to uphold?

Now why is the the country raving about two films about which I ranted in this blog? If one don't see hypocrisy here one must be blind.

Is "inspirational" the word, Aamir Khan? They say Indian cinema is about "mauj, masti (fun, disport)", nothing else. They say the audience goes to the theatre to see some forbidden tits and tush (yes, they show an unimaginable amout in these films), and some violence, not to be elated by high-brow lecturing. I thought these are formulaic movies made for the market, for purely financial gains, not to win awards.

A better entry would have been a film like "Iqbal," a regional film, or, even "Corporate." Yes, I liked the latter film very much. It has an understated cinematic elegance, fine acting and a convincing story line that "Rang De" sorely lacks. By its wrong choice the jury seems to have forfeited a chance to show that there is possibility of a more meaningful cinema emerging from India, at least the hope of it.
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Anousheh Ansari's Spaceblog

If you say, "Duh, Anousheh Ansari, who?" she is the one who paid a few millions to be the first female space explorer to spend ten days in space. Read all about her adventure in her blog. And, hehe, her biggest concern is hygiene in space, or, space suit.

On the right of this blog you will notice this announcement, "Donate $ 500 and receive an autographed photo from humanity's first space explorer." So, did she go broke exploring the great beyond? From the blog it appears she is a firm believer in God, and I hope she comes back confirmed in her faith. Her blog has received 470,748 hits as of this day, tomorrow being her last day.

She reportedly paid $ 20 million to get there. By some simple mathematics 40,000 visitors have to pay $ 500 each for her to break even. That would mean merely eight per cent of the visitors to her blog can help her break even, become famous, and even earn from lecturing tours for life. I am not one for such stunts, but must confess I am too broke to even think of contributing my mite.
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Milestone crossed, 5000 visitors!

This blog has crossed the 5000-vistor milestone. See the numbers at the bottom center of this page. Thank you visitors! You make me very proud. Though I am one of the earliest bloggers in India (I started blogging in August 2003), regretfully, I hadn't put a visitor count code on my blog. I redeemed this only later. I hope to make you come back again to read my views, news, trivia about things literary and search in the search boxes in the top right hand corner.

If you are a journalist, and would like a quote, do email me, I will only be happy to give you a quick and relevant quote within 24 hours. As a former journalist I know what it means to get quotes, and how your work is judged by the "smart" quotes you get from people. You can first search my blog to find if I have anything interesting to say about the subject and then proceed.
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Monday, September 25, 2006

The Amitava Kumar - Salman Rushdie Controversy

Read this article on Amitava Kumar's Blog. Can't say that I agree with him totally, being a die-hard fan of Rushdie. But, it now turns out that Rusdie has, some how, read Kumar's blog articles (some excerpts follow) and has threatened to cancel a lecture at Vassar College if he was introduced by Amitava. This may have the potential of blooming into a full-fledged literary controversy, me thinks.

"What Rushdie did was not exactly new in Indian writing in other languages or even in Indian drama, but its intensity and range was novel in the tradition of English writing that had been inaugurated by the likes of R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao, and Mulk Raj Anand. In a land allegedly in thrall to babu English, here was someone who was having fun with the English language. Reading him was a bit like coming across a giant ad for Amul butter on an Indian street—except that Rushdie was in command and kept doing it for five hundred pages."

"The trouble is that despite all his invention and exuberance Rushdie remains to a remarkable extent an academic writer. He is academic in that abstractions rule over his narratives. They determine the outlines of his characters, their faces, and their voices. Rushdie is also academic in the sense that his rebellions and his critiques are all securely progressive ones, advancing the causes that the intelligentsia, especially the left-liberal Western intelligentsia, holds close to its breast. This is not a bad thing, but it should qualify one's admiration for Rushdie's daring."

"There can be no doubt that the threats that Rushdie faced and also the book-burnings and other protests were shameful and unacceptable. But I do not for a moment support Norman Mailer's assessment (Norman Mailer wrote Rusdie after the Fatwa "Many of us begin writing with the inner temerity that if we keep searching for the most dangerous of our voices, why then, sooner or later we will outrage something very fundamental in the world, and our lives will be in danger. That is what I thought when I started out, and so have many others, but you, however, are the only one of us who gave proof that this intimation is not ungrounded."). I don't believe that Rushdie has even found his most dangerous voice. In fact, I don't believe that Rushdie's is the most dangerous voice writing today. His is no doubt a powerful voice; often, it has been an oppositional voice; but it is a voice of a celebrity promoting commendable causes; more seriously, in some fundamental way, it is the voice of a metaphorical outsider, and therefore incapable of revealing to ourselves, in an intimate way, our complicities, our contradictions, and our own inescapable horror. I don't deny that it is a voice that can engage and delight and of course annoy, and yet it is very important to make a distinction: what Rushdie writes can easily provoke, but it is rarely able to disturb."

Kumar's grouse seems to be that Rusdie is being used as a milestone in Indian English literature as when we say "he writes like Rushdie" and "he doesn't write like Rushdie." But Rusdie opened the gates to the flood (or is it a trickle?) that followed, didn't he? Admittedly Rusdie criticized and parodied Indian life for a western audience, but he did it with considerable charm and wit and even we tend to nod our heads and smile when we read what Kumar calls "academic" writing. Here's what Rushdie says about migration, as quoted by Kumar, "To migrate is certainly to lose language and home, to be defined by others, to become invisible or, even worse, a target; it is to experience deep changes and wrenches in the soul. But the migrant is not simply transformed by his act; he also transforms his new world. Migrants may well become mutants, but it is out of such hybridization that newness can emerge."

I have underlined "invisible" because in "Midnight's Children" he calls the people who live beyond posh Neapean Sea Road area in Bombay as "Invisible People," or the migrant people. This is something I can identify with as I am of second generation migrant stock, living as invisible people in an extended suburb of Bombay. Here's a poem I wrote in my blog about how indigenous people hate migrants.
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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Reality Show to Sell a Book? Quite possible!

Saw the James McGreevey interview with Larry King on CNN. Now, for those who came in late, James is the former governor of New Jersey who has made a public admission to having a homosexual affair and to having cheated on his wife, as a consequence of which he had to give up his office. He has also come up with a book on the affair titled "The Confession" and may, me thinks, have been desperate to get publicity for the book. The confession includes trysts in anonymous truck stops, crawling into bed with his wife after escapades with his boy friend, etc.

What I found unusual was the handsome McGreevey was squirming in his seat while answering King's pointed and, rather, blunt questions. Several times he fumbled for answers, and on occasions he seemed as if he wasn't telling the truth, at least, fudging some. Larry King asked him if he had sexual encounters before his marriage, and he said, "yes," the next question was, "was it pleasurable?" What does he mean by asking if a sexual encounter was pleasurable? Why would he go for an encounter if it wasn't pleasurable. Come, come, now, Larry King!

To make matters worse there were also interviews with his cheated wife, and his boyfriend (no, he says, life partner), whom he kissed on the show. Yes, kissed on the mouth! All through the interview I was conscious of a brave show being put up, all that was wrong with such displays became quite obvious. I mean, the reality television kind of programs showing people embarassed, crying, shouting, and kissing.

I felt that this was the movie trailer to goad people to buy the book in millions to delve into the secret life of the handsome governor. Also, who knows, movie rights, and may be, a movie role (seeing as to how handsome he is!). Oh, the pits to which people can descend!

I may be terribly old fashioned (my blog says so), not to talk of getting old, but couldn't these emotions be handled a bit more discreetly? All through the show the interlocutor Larry King had a cynical set to his mouth, and conducted the interview with great detachment, as is his wont. But all this drama to sell a book? If this genre of publishing is so desperate to sell their books, then why don't they call themselves "The Celebrity Business" and not publishing at all.
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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Story of the Grafted Weenie!

A Chinese man had another's weeny grafted on to him when he lost, (not exactly, he still had a stump left) his in an accident. The surgery involved connecting the nerves and blood vessels that makes the organ tick, or, erm, throb. But it turns out that his weeny wasn't as teeny as it was, and the first to notice, quite obviously, was his wife.

Now Zhang Weining wants his grafted weeny off. The organ wasn't rejected by his body, but by his wife. Where does that leave men of the world whose weenies have been Bobbitted. Your guess!
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Article on Caferati in DNA

Picture shows a readmeet of Caferati in progress. This meet was in the Horniman Circle Garden in the heart of Bombay. We read our works for feedback, and comments, and do a bit of patting ourselves on the back, for good work. Bad work get suggestions for improvement. The accompanying article has a small quote by me. Just FYI. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sportsmen or Showmen?

Why do we, the whole one billion of us, rank so low in sports? Looking at our films and ads filled with those well-toned, and muscle-rippling youth one would think we are a nation of athletic young men, and women who shouldn't do so dismally when it comes to wielding a stick or a bat.

We rank 136th in 204 football playing nations, 11th in 12 hockey playing nations, and about cricket I don't know (though, I play cricket I am not so crazy about following it as I get upset watching our country lose, and so badly at that), may be, in the bottom of the heap. Every four years, one billion people wait with bated breath for an odd silver or bronze medal in the Olympics, while a country like Cameroon wins two golds and a bronze. A collective hanging of heads is, perhaps, advisable here.

I don't accept the argument that there is a lack of talent. No. I have seen talented cricket players giving up their fight. Ravi Kulkarni was a talented player from my locality and he vanished without a trace and so did Abey Kuruvilla. Their careers were rather short.

Or, is it that we are a nation of pretenders, who build up their bulges to be "macho-looking" for the cameras and not for what these muscles are meant, i.e., put it to grueling tests on the sports field, the real tests of brawn these days. Don't believe me? Watch those gladiators battling each other on the football field. There are fans screaming, singing, hooting, waving little, long balloons, even painting themselves for their teams. And their heroes deliver.

My grouse with our cricketers is that they aren't sportsmen (except a few), and more of showmen. Hmm, that may also be the reason they fail so dismally on the field. Watch their carefully groomed attitudes, watch their camera consciousness. "Yaar, mein kaisa lag raha tha teevee par?" (Friend, how did I look on television?)

I really wonder if they do it for the sake of the sport or for getting the advertisement endorsement opportunities, trophy girlfriends, and may be later get on television wearing a tie, to say glib things like, "It is a batting pitch, there is a little grass, and a lot of moisture on the grass, what do you say Sunny?"
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Monday, September 18, 2006

My Poem on Beirut

Read my poem on Beirut here

Beirut was once known as the Paris of the East. No more. Now, militaries of Israel, Syria and Jordan enter and leave it at their whim. Its streets are full of bombed buildings and its citizens live in fear of being killed. This is a poem to its brave inhabitants. "Cedars of Lebanon" is a reference to a passage in the Bible.
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Stephanie Klein to tie the knot? Pity the Guy!

Seems Stephanie Klein, she of the kiss and tell blog is getting married. To those who might say, Stephanie who? She is the one who told all in her blog about her love life with boldness and irreverence and landed a book contract. "She lets readers view, with her clear-eyed hindsight, what a liar, cheat and coward her husband turned out to be. It's not pretty, but it is fascinating," says USA Today.

All I feel is pity for the guy. How would you like the woman you are getting married to report your intimate conversations, even everyday fights and tantrums to the world?

Some of her posts have 239 comments! I go, "Wow, what's that?" When I get a measly twenty visitors on my blog everyday, and perhaps get one to comment per week, she gets 239 comments on one blog post. I suspect women have had it good, even with blogging. I mean they can kiss a man and then tell. As for a man, if he kisses and tells, his friends would ask, "You mean you just kissed?"

Look at Monica Levinsky, she sold some copies of her book didn't she? Or, closer home, hmm, who comes to mind? Preeti Jain? No, never mind. Meanwhile, have a look at this blog by Jess that hints that she has something to kiss and tell, but somehow she can't get the words out. Tongue tied?
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Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Day in the Life of Me, Myself!

This is a scenario I wrote today, just common events from my life. I might use this in a short story or novel, in future. So do not discount its literary value. Ahem!

Today is Saturday and I am thinking of finishing some work. I thought it was romantic, working in my pajamas and round neck tee-shirt working when you feel like, that is, until this morning.

Then they had to spoil it all. My neighbor is getting his house re-constructed. Re-construction is a harmless word when he is breaking it down with sledge hammers, and most of the debris is falling on my house with thuds the equivalent of minor bomb explosions, or, earthquakes. The houses in Artist Village, are independent dacha-type houses, which were constructed by a government housing scheme, and are packed too close for comfort.

Now something like a war is going on with frequent unannounced masonry falling on my house. "Oh, God," I say and run out and shout at the workers, who, are, huh, workers. For some time the earthquakes stop. They do what they are told to do. And my neighbor is nowhere in sight. See, he has moved to safe environs already. Good!

And then they resume all over again. Then I again run out and shout. Then they commiserate. And this goes on for some time, till the power goes off. I sit fretting in the dark with the debris of my despondency falling over me, darkly maligning. No, I won't ask, "Why does this happen to me? How can I get my work done?" No, that would be taking it badly.

Then I go to get some bank work done. The day is sunny and hot and sweltering, and I put on my dark, "cooling" glasses. The bank is crowded, and there's another bank I have to visit nearby to finish my transaction – actually I am making a draft to pay my son's yearly college fees. The deposit in this bank isn't enough to cover the transaction. So I have to withdraw money from another bank account across the street and come back. I didn't know that I hadn't eaten and suddenly hunger pangs strike.

I walk into a South Indian restaurant and am served by a nondescript uniformed waiter who reels off a variety of dosas from memory. I decide to have a Masala Dosa, which, I think, would be filling. Then I turn around and there is a family of beggars, the type who appeal to your religiosity to make a living, sitting next to me and eating rather boisterously. Food is spooned into wide open jaws, and the mastication is done in between loud talking. I find this particularly nauseating, eat my dosa, and leave.

At the other bank, a sales spiel keeps me engrossed. They have a unit-linked plan that would give me a pension for life, provided I invest around Rs 1.5 million now. Imagine having that kind of liquid cash lying around, I smirk, while coolly watching the earnest salesman making his pitch. Then I say I will consider his offer, and leave.

Then I take a rickshaw to the other bank with all the money for my son's fees and a helpful girl who hardly glances at me makes the draft. That done, I decide to visit an old church acquaintance who is indisposed and has been ordered rest. He and I have worked in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and we talk about old times. I guess company would keep him engaged.

And then it begins to pour, and pour. "Thulavarsham," he says listening to the rolling thunder. "Yes," I say, "It is thulavarsham, the rain that falls around the month of "Thulam." We speak of human foibles, church politics, and a priest who isn't as holy as I had considered him. Who is?

On the journey back, I am totally drenched by the downpour and my umbrella offers no solace. The sunny afternoon has transformed into a dark, menacing, darkly forbidding rainy evening. There are gangs of youngsters, college kids, at the bus stop. They talk and laugh loudly, wearing their unwashed jeans that have these ugly pockets, bulging out at the most unimaginable of places. I am wearing cargo trousers, but, it has pockets at the logical locations on both sides. I notice that they all have long hair, and acne on their faces. I too have long hair!

End of scenario.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Booker Short List is Up!

The booker short list is up. Kiran Desai made it for "The Inheritance of Loss." Those who made it:

"The six books shortlisted by a panel of judges are: "In the Country of Men," Hisham Matar's semi-autobiographical first novel about childhood in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya; "The Secret River," Kate Grenville's tale of life in an Australian penal colony; "The Night Watch," British writer Sarah Waters' novel about characters whose fates intertwine during World War II; "The Inheritance of Loss," Indian writer Kiran Desai's cross-continental saga set in New York and India; "Carry Me Down," the story of an unusual boy, by Irish-Australian novelist M.J. Hyland; and "Mother's Milk," a portrait of a rich but dysfunctional family by English writer Edward St. Aubyn."

Those who didn't make it:

"Some of the biggest names on the 19-book longlist did not make the cut, including David Mitchell, whose "Black Swan Green" had been a favorite, and Australia's Peter Carey, a two-time Booker winner longlisted for "Theft: A Love Story." Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me," another critical favorite, also was omitted."
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Masters or slaves?

It is disconcerting how technology gives us the "bum's rush" sometimes. It's like this. I have important work to do, most of it online, and most of the morning the power fails, I sit there fidgeting, reading a novel (Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved Ones"), not knowing what to do. Then the power comes on, I switch on the computer, and, and, the net is so slow, it's almost impossible to surf.

Ever faced this problem? I am sure you have. During the deluge in Bombay cell phones didn't work, during the bomb blasts emergency services went on a blink, etc. Now coming to think about it, can you imagine how much we are dependent on our little chargers for our cell phones, our digital cameras, our laptops, and our PDAs. Are we the masters of all these technology, or are we slaves still?
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Monday, September 11, 2006

One of my blog articles has appeared in DNA

My blog post on "Untalenting Talent" has appeared in DNA (Daily News and Analysis, is a newspaper published from Bombay). Read it here.
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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Yesterday I sat in an orange office, facing an orange table!

The cursory (:smile:) to introduce this piece. (: This, the smiley bracket was invented by Peter Griffin, and is used with his kindest permission:) This is to ward off criticism that I am slowly losing my sense of humor as a colleague recently alleged (see the comment on one of my postings below). This colleagues said "we, in the office are shocked," now how the hell am I to know, you in the office would be shocked by something I wrote on my blog, my personal space? Come on, isn't freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution?

Not to worry, that won't happen, I mean losing my sense of humor. I am still going strong, and as Elton John (my favorite singer) sings,

"Don´t you know I´m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I´m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind."

It's like this. I am looking for work and yesterday I had this interview in New Bombay, Vashi to be exact. What do I see when I get there. Oh the usual security-bicurity stuff, forms to be filled, and a building painted a bright orange (my heart skipped a beat). Must be the latest trend, definitely adds some shock value, doesn't it, I ask looking at the monstrosity? Losing my sense of humor, no way!

Not only that there was an orange reception, orange chairs, a shocking violet tackboard in front of every employee. I am asked to go to the second floor in a lift that is also orange. When I emerge on the second floor, what do I see. Orange, orange, orange, everywhere. Even, you won't believe this, a very tempting ripe red orange table that stood appetizingly before me. I love oranges, one of my favorite fruit, and had to swallow hard the temptation to drop drool all over the smooth table top.

And the table had spiky, pointed cones protruding from beneath the table top, juxtaposed level with my knees. I dread to think what would have happened if I crossed my legs. Aaaah! One of those spikes would have hit my knee and bruised me severely. How do people work in such offices, the major part of their lives? I kept seeing orange, orange all over on my way back from that architectural oddity. Losing my sense of humor? Well, sometimes I do.

Design complements function, did I hear right.
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Untalenting Talent"

Read this interesting article by Joel on Joelonsoftware. Got me thinking. In India we are doing our best to "un-talent talent," yes, I am coining a phrase here, which I hope to develop into, erm, a cliche on this blog, by telling our talented youth that there aren't seats in medical, engineering and management institutions. In America, as Joel's article states, they are willing to take pains to absorb students as interns and nurture them as future employees.

Well, honestly, India is "untalenting talent" by asking for huge donations - I hear it is Rs 5 million for a medical seat, around half a million for an engineering seat, and about that much for a management seat - with the result that what comes out of our high profile institutions are rote-learned, uncreative, disillusioned, unmotivated engineers, doctors and managers. The best and brightest of them go to the US where they can get scholarships, jobs on campus, or, can be picked up by a corporation that is interested in employing them.

Hm, well, who is the loser and who is the gainer? While our colleges of higher learning are becoming richer, the US is getting a steady stream of talented programmers, doctors and managers because of the short-sighted policies of our country. Look at the roster of developers in any software development company in the US and you will find a lot of "Sridhars, Shuklas, Samuels, Samants, Ramakrishnans, etc." in their list. Whereas in India a government that believes in e-governance do not have talented programmers to maintain their own sites. Visit any government sites and see if they are regularly updated. I needn't give the answer here, for obvious reasons.

And our reservation policy has contributed its mite to "untalenting talent." According to the policy, I am a bit dark here, but, will plod on, half the seats (50 per cent) are decided by the management (that means whoever pays more gets a seat) and half are decided by the government (that means around 40 per cent of the half is reserved for students who do not have the talents, but have been born in the right caste). These two chunks add up to 90 per cent and there are only 10 per cent seats available for students who have any merit, and who are genuinely interested in studying. For all I know, I am being quite cynical here, the 90 per cent who have a seat reserved for them becuase of their money power or their birthright may not be repeat may not be interested in studying at all, and may disrupt the studies of the honest and talented students. Here again "untalenting talent" takes a heavy toll.

Who gains, who loses?
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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Munnabhai MBBS (MMBBS) and Rang de Basanti (RDB) – Flawed Beyond Recompense

Both are, in a manner of speaking, super-duper hits. Both are targeted at the Indian youth and makes pretenses to be different cinema. Both have captured the imagination of the Indian youth who swear by the originality of both movies, not realizing that both movies are flawed beyond recompense, at least, to me, a minority of one.

RDB was shown on Independence Day, probably to incite patriotic feeling in citizens. Patriotism? Is killing your own father – as one of the protagonists does, although, the subject is a corrupt politician – patriotism? The message here is that murder is good and that would include parricide. Are we back in the dark ages? Amir Khan in a scene from the film is clearly shown giving money to a policeman to stay off a fight that his friends had started. The message here is that bribery is also very good and worth emulating.

In another scene which I found very objectionable, the character played by Amir Khan is shown standing on a high wall bending backwards and drinking beer, a hit song sequence, I guess. Drinking while bending backwards down into a precipitous pond is a juvenile and dangerous exercise for a youth, of that everyone is aware. But the movie is absolutely insouciant about the wrong images it is sending to the youth. Firstly, the impression created is that drinking is good, and drinking and doing risky things are even better.

What sort of message does this convey to the youth? I will summarize: Parricide is good, bribery is good, drinking and doing foolish stunts is good. How can such a movie not even be panned by critics who rave about its great qualities and even confer awards on it? How can a censor board – which has been constituted for this purpose – not object, at least, where the politician is shown as being bad and killed by his own son?

There are many more flaws in this supposedly youth cult film which I am not mentioning here. One of them is lewd remarks made to a white girl which she cannot understand. It is clear that there is sexual harassment involved. The movie left a bad taste in my mouth. Are our youth so cynical as to applaud all these bad qualities in themselves? The stereotype here is youth of the north somewhere around the Punjab. Do they behave so grossly, if so, what can the nation expect from these citizens? Peace or violence?

This is over the top, way too exaggerated, and made with a view to appeal to the baser instincts of viewers. Is it an ironic reflection of the state we are in that this movie is a huge hit?

Here's another flawed film that is a super box-office hit. Here the protagonists are Central Indians, most notably Bambaiya, and talk the language of the Bombay hoodlums. The character played by Sanjay Dutt is admitted to a medical degree college to train as a doctor. There is a shortage of bodies to be dissected and the hoodlum phones his sidekick to bring him a body from somewhere. The sidekick played by Harshad Warsi clobbers and kidnaps an oriental-looking man and brings him to the dissecting table.

Okay, okay, what went wrong here? Raju Hirani, in an interview said the film portrays some of the problems that MBBS students face during their training. Yes, there is a shortage of bodies in medical colleges, but, can it be solved by clobbering a foreign-looking oriental and bringing him to the laboratory in a sack? Again, what message are you sending across Raju Hirani?

Munnabhai doesn't know a single letter in the proverbial three "r's", even to spell or sign his own name and forces a doctor to impersonate him in the medical college entrance examination. And, surprise, surprise, he is admitted. He is doing all this to take revenge for some slight against his family's honor. Message: cheating in exams is good for your family honor.

The irony doesn't end there. Munnabhai becomes a doctor in the end. That means cheating, lying, impersonating, threatening teachers; all are accepted behavior in Indian medical colleges. Believe me when I say freaky messages are being conveyed here, messages full of bitterness, insubordination, deprivation, and the use of violence.

Would the people of India trust the medical fraternity after seeing such gross exaggerations of their profession? Why didn't they speak out? Is that again an indication of some malaise at the root of the medical system that extracts millions of rupees from students seeking admission into medical colleges?

And this film too is a box office hit. It raked in enough cash to encourage the director to make a sequel with the same theme. The sequel goes a bit further and hints that hoodlums should be treated on the level of national figures – with pictures of them printed on currency notes. What an insult to the nation's leadership! I can only say, what guts and gumption these directors exhibit to the public, and that when it comes to exaggerations Indian films recognize no boundaries.

As they say, "Whither, Indian Cinema?"
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Khali pili, khali fokat ka boma bom!

Yesterday I made that journey to South Bombay after the forced absence of a year working for a BPO unit in New Bombay. Now this unit, no malice intended, considers that once an employee joins them, s/he does not have the right to a life of his/her own. I believe work is worship, but work shouldn't be forced worship. So I quit.

And, lo and behold, South Bombay held some pleasant surprises, nay, some shocking surprises. First of all, I look around for the familiar sights around Victoria Terminus. Where is all the noise and shouting gone? You know the types who shout, "Whole lot, whole lot mein, raste ka mal saste mein." God, I miss those hawkers, where are they? And, yes, they are still around, slinking, chin on chest, defiantly eyeing everyone.

Guess they are hanging around in the hope that the ban on hawkers would be lifted, as everything in "Gormint" is lifted after a while. Poor sods, they don't realize that the "Gormint" has demarcated "hawking" and "non-hawking" zones and their chances of erecting a stall is equivalent to Sakti Kapoor winning the Filmfare award for best actor.

A lot less noisy, and a lot cleaner, a lot less "jhan jhat," as a Bombayite would say. And those hawkers, "khali pili, khali fokat ka, boma bom Martha tha." Meaning those hawkers used to shout for no purpose. Now I can navigate the streets better.
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