Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Morning Walk at the "Valley Park" Bird Sanctuary



I didn't realize that the trail where I go for a walk every morning (remember I have moved house to a different part of CBD Belapur) is also a "Bird Sanctuary" though I had suspected this all along, having heard the virtual sonata of bird sounds every morning. But the rain decided to play spoil sport, and not much of bird sounds were captured by my camera, as was originally intentioned.

The New Ad of, umm, New Axe!

Thousands of beautiful blondes, brunettes, Indian, Western, Mongoloid women, all of them swim, and slide down the top of the hillocks facing the sea. They jump over obstacles, panting, screaming, wearing green, blue, and red bikinis, and their skins glow, and their eyes are intent on only one thing. They are unstoppable as they swarm over the beach, careen down the hills, their supple bodies in the frenzy of arousal, they are unstoppable - this stampede of beauties, this dream sequence of every man.

The center of their attention is a man who sprays from a bottle of deodorant and smiles devilishly at his good fortune. For a moment I imagine it is me, because there is a reason. The advertising agencies call it “aspiration,” which makes even an almost bald man (me!) aspire to be the object of all these beautiful women. Sure, ads can delude people; some of them even live in an ersatz world created by so many advertisements, which they call: lifestyle.

It is my deodorant he is spraying over his body - Axe - but then I shake myself awake, as if from a reverie. It’s only the newest ad of your favourite deodorant – Axe – stupid. Sorry folks, for being so carried away. But the ad provoked because it was too gross. After all, as former Executive Secretary of the Advertising Standards Council of India, I am bound to have strong opinions on what an ad should and shouldn't be.

Meanwhile this is a discussion on the New Axe ad on Yahoo answers. Guess no one there, too, likes the ad. Is Hindustan Lever listening?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Seventy Years Together, Couple Die within a Day of Separation

"Death be not proud" wrote John Donne. Death pops up interesting surprises on us. This came as a true surprise, one that made me think enough to make me sit down at my laptop and write this blog.

But this death was expected. They, husband and wife, lived to a fruitful age of 95, were married at 25, created five children, never travelled outside the precincts of their village in Kerala, never saw an aircraft from close (or even sat in one), saw their great grand children, never touched a computer keyboard, and didn’t fall seriously ill until four months ago.

And they died peacefully at home with some of their children around them. Mercy’s sister’s father-in-law died day before yesterday, and his wife died a day later, after having lived together for seventy years. For a moment I want to stop and imagine this! Simple folks, a simple life of wearing dhotis and chatta-mundu, and eating unpolished rice for all their lives, and leading a Christian life of strong faith in their God and their fellow beings.

My parents also lived a similar life. Theirs was a life of sacrifices for their children, who looked after them in their old age. Both my parents (bless them!) never had stepped into an aircraft, never been to a holiday, never knew what a computer is, didn’t know about the Internet, and saved all they could so that they could leave it to their children, whom they considered profligate. When I suggested once that they should travel by aeroplane, my dad asked, “What for?” That was their culture, their own value system deeply ingrained in their psyche.

If there was a contest for the biggest miser of all time, my dad would win, without a doubt. After retirement when he settled in Kerala, he would control the use of water so that he wouldn’t have to use electricity to pump water to the overhead tank. So no flushing! When I came on holiday I would have to pay him to stay for a few weeks, or he would feel offended. I won’t be allowed to sit late reading a book as electric bills would go beyond his calculations. Result: he left me enough inheritances that I can educate my son without worrying. He died at the age of eighty-four and mother followed him three years later at the age of eighty-seven. They were of the same age.

The lives of these two couples – my sister-in-law’s in laws’, and my parents’ – are so similar that I couldn’t but compare them, and then, with that of mine.

Friday, September 28, 2007

BBC Worldwide Visionaries - Vote to Naught?

BBC has what is know as a Visionaries Debate going where two great people are pitted against each other, to slug it out, to see who is the better visionary (BBC Worldwide Visionaries). The latest one is Charles Dickens versus JK Rowlings. Now, I don't think either writers are visionaries in that they wrote fiction which is in the realm of imagination. Visionaries are those who do things, who are leaders and can see ahead and lead others to an idealistic goal. So BBC have you erred somewhere?

JK Rowling's success was mainly based on the marketing muscle of her publisher. Not to mention pre-release publicity hoopla of her books (does Harry Potter die?, etc). Also, pliss to note that her books are not affordable to the common-book-reading public. In this respect they are like an expensive brand of perfume, to be flaunted than read. I consider Enid Blyton a better writer than JK Rowlings. Enid wrote more books than Julianne and her books are loved by children and adults of all ages throughout the world. I still read her books, if for nothing more than reliving the guilty pleasure I had while reading it hidden within my textbook in class.

In my humble opinion (IMHO), though I admire both these writers, neither of them qualify for the position of a visionary, so my vote goes for naught.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

India Wins Twenty20 Worldcup. "Chak de India!"

It felt great to watch India win the Twenty20 World Cup. I don’t usually watch cricket matches because it wastes a lot of my time. But Twenty20 cricket is different, it doesn’t waste much time and I see a game that is similar to soccer where a result is to be had within two hours or, in this instance three hours.

But I did watch some of the Twenty20 matches. It had the edge of the seat excitement that soccer and tennis has. And our boys under Mahendrasingh Dhoni showed aggression, sportsmanship and team spirit. (Now, “Sportsmanship” is a term I use to denote the disposition where a player is aggressive, but at the same time fair to his opponents. This is different from “sledging,” the sort used by Australian players, which is outright personal abuse and insult.)

I liked the way they played as if every run mattered and they played like Indian tigers, and not the hyenas they were in other forms of the sport.

Would you believe this? The Indian seniors on the field are a tame sort, hanging their heads, mindful of the way they look, and ever so shy to make eye contact with rival players. But the aggression displayed by Shreesanth as he bowled to Matthew Hayden was exemplary. I like that fellow Mallu, and wish him well.

Well done India! Or, should I say like Shahrukh Khan, “Chak de India!”

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Project Aardvark - for Those Interested in How a Software Project Takes Shape

I am a great admirer of Joel Spolsky (he is the guy who runs Fog Creek Software, a software maker), in fact I love his writing, the way he blogs his innermost thoughts as a programmer. His comments are full of wise memes and, the best part is, he is honest in helping out others who may be in trouble, considering as to how tough software coding is.

He got together a team of software geeks, gave them a software project and got a documentary filmmaker to make a film on how exactly a software project takes shape. Here it is for geeks and non-geeks alike to enjoy (Project Aardvark - The Movie about Software Coding).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Frown Jewels : outlookindia.com

This is Manjula Padmanabhan reviewing Binoo John's book Entry from Backside Only in Outlook - The Hazaar Fundas of Indian English (Frown Jewels: outlookindia.com). Excerpt:

"With a journalist’s flair for combining information with easy readability, John provides sharp, cheeky insights into the early flowering of the language, while maintaining a careful decorum in his own usage and abusage. It cannot have been easy: there are so many outrageous puns of the ‘backside’ kind to be attempted, so many rhyming-jingles of the ‘English-Pinglish’ kind to be created! But his gaze is kindly rather than cruel, as he surveys all the errors and omissions that ‘Indlish’ is heir to. However much we might wince at the mangled pronunciations of Indian newsreaders or sneer at the hybrid language of local banner advertisements, this book reminds us to be grateful to all the small-town babus and school teachers without whose early struggles with commas, colons and colonials, you and I would not be sharing this article today."

Manjula Padmanabhan, besides being a cartoonist and illustrator writes rather well as her blog will testify. You can buy this book on Penguin India (ISBN: 014310327X).

Even Porn and Prostitution for TRPs?

Here’s the story that had the Indian capital agog with rumors and speculation. A television channel broke the story about a teacher in a school forcing girls into prostitution and into acting in porn films. The police found no incriminating evidence, and it now turns out that the television channel was taken for a nice drive by some tele-journalist in a mad frenzy for a scoop. No, not only the tele-journalist was fooled, the print journalists, too, followed suit by publishing unconfirmed reports based on hearsay. The crowning disappointment of it all, as journalists would themselves say: NO STORY.

I have been seeing this sort of frenzy for some time now starting with the child Prince, who was trapped in an earthly dungeon of some sort. The media gave the rescue of the child live coverage and the nation was glued to the television. Of course, the TRPs would have gone up considerably for the channels concerned. Then followed stories about a child who enjoys a drink every evening with his father, a child who is apparently reincarnated and identifies who killed him in his early life, all centering around some child or the other. Dammit, all these for those bloody Television Ranting Points (TRP, my own coinage)?

Recently around 200 farmers committed suicide in the Vidharba region of Maharashtra. The issue of BT Cotton and hybrid seeds is festering and affecting a lot of farmers, and nobody seems to be bothered to report it. When Magsaysay Award winning author P Sainath tried to bring it up in a discussion in a literary show, he was cut short, too bluntly. No camera teams reached Vidharba, because it is difficult to report such news. After all, such news has no immediate TRP value.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My House in Artist Village

 


This is my house at Artist Village which is up for demolition. I lived here for 20 years, and it was a sad day on which I moved out with a truckload of books, computers and accessories, furniture, and loads of memories. In it's place would come up a spanking new structure in a few months.
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Monday, September 24, 2007

Baghdad Burning!

This blog "Baghdad Burning" is written by a girl is from inside Iraq and is a touching account of how the war has changed Iraq and it's people (Baghdad Burning). It would seem that post-occupation by America-led forces differences like being Shia or Sunni which didn't matter earlier were being used to blackmail and to kill. Excerpts:

"I remember Baghdad before the war - one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were - we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night."

And this when she and her parents were preparing to cross over into Syria as refugees, after bribing the border guards:

"It happened almost overnight. My aunt called with the exciting news that one of her neighbors was going to leave for Syria in 48 hours because their son was being threatened and they wanted another family on the road with them in another car- like gazelles in the jungle, it’s safer to travel in groups. It was a flurry of activity for two days. We checked to make sure everything we could possibly need was prepared and packed. We arranged for a distant cousin of my moms who was to stay in our house with his family to come the night before we left (we can’t leave the house empty because someone might take it)."

And this after she finally crosses over into Syria:

"The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life [Syria] from death [Iraq]? How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads [Iraq] and… peace, safety [Syria]? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions [in Baghdad]."

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Are Music Talent Search Shows Overdoing It?

It’s amazing how the television channels are buzzing with some kind of music talent show or the other, all of them are competing for eyeballs on prime time television. It’s rather confusing, even to Ronnie who is a fan of all these shows of the Indian Idol kind. Poor chap! Since all the contests are airing at the same time he has to be fast and furious on the remote button, changing channels during commercial breaks of one to catch up with what is happening on the other. Then our fights about "Why can't you watch one show begins...." Grrrr!

On Zee is a show called “Sare Ga Ma” which is a talent search show and on Star television is a show called “Voice of India” which is ditto. And, you won’t believe this, on Sony television in the same time slot is the show that started this craze for scouting musical talent, called “Indian Idol” about which I have ranted before on this blog.

Now the gyan (wisdom) of it all. Why all the glitter, the craze to showcase the hopefuls? These bright-eyed young people are made to wear extravagant costumes on the sets, ragged no end (There's talk of a love triangle in "Sare ga ma" which is open season for . When they go to their small towns where they hail from they are treated like rock stars; even before they have been crowned the idols. What if they lose? Wouldn’t it be a huge disappointment?

Then there was this presenter who is reporting from Darjeeing, “There are posters all over Darjeeling which reads “Vote for Amit”.” And there was Amit’s teachers’ spiel about how good a boy Amit is and a couple of other good people recommending Amit since he is from the locality and it would be their victory if Amit is chosen as the idol. Also, the calling booths are fully booked by people who want to vote for Amit.

The presenter goes on further and informs in her not very unexcited voice that the schools are considering giving a day off for students to fill the coffers of the SMS service providers (each of these SMS is charged around Rs 6 and in the semi-finals nothing less than three to five hundred thousand SMSes are received for one candidate. Not a bad income. In the final there would be several million SMSes.).

My simple mind blanches at these facts and figures. Are we becoming a defunct nation of idol worshippers of the “Indian Idol” type? I have seen the elimination rounds and it was nothing less than heart rending to see those young people who were eliminated by ruthless judges in the preliminaries. After all, it maybe a harmless way to pass the time, but are we setting the youth a good precedent? Are television channels whipping up mass hysteria over music talent shows to earn millions through sponsorships, advertisements, and short messages?

And what happened to Abhijeet Savant who was the last “Idol?” Is he being short-changed in the music industry by the same people who elevated him into the position? After all, which established singer likes competition from a fresh young voice that has the backing of the public?

Friday, September 21, 2007

What is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Reading These Days?

Yann Martel, if you don't know who, let me juggle your memmory a bit - he is the one who wrote a novel about how a boy makes it across the ocean on a boat with a tiger for company - is angry. And when he is angry his pen quakes with words, his thoughts spill out on paper, and this is his tirade against Prime Minister Stephen Harper who cut funds to the Canadian Council for the Arts.What is Stephen Harper Reading? (link courtesy: Swathi Sambhani). Sample this:

"On March 28th, 2007, at 3 pm, I was sitting in the Visitors’ Gallery of the House of Commons, I and forty-nine other artists from across Canada, fifty in all, and I got to thinking about stillness. To read a book, one must be still. To watch a concert, a play, a movie, to look at a painting, one must be still. Religion, too, makes use of stillness, notably with prayer and meditation. Just gazing upon a still lake, upon a quiet winter scene—doesn’t that lull us into contemplation? Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?” Then we become busy and the stillness vanishes, yet we hardly notice because we fall so easily for the delusion of busyness, whereby what keeps us busy must be important, and the busier we are with it, the more important it must be. And so we work, work, work, rush, rush, rush. On occasion we say to ourselves, panting, “Gosh, life is racing by.” But that’s not it at all, it’s the contrary: life is still. It is we who are racing by."

Or, this:

"I, for example, was 1991, the year I received a Canada Council B grant that allowed me to write my first novel. I was 27 years old and the money was manna from heaven. I made those $18,000 last a year and a half (and compared to the income tax I have paid since then, an exponential return on Canadian taxpayers’ investment, I assure you). By comparison, the equivalent celebration of a major cultural institution in, say, France would have been a classy, flashy, year-long, exhibition-filled affair with President Chirac trying to hog as much of the limelight as possible. No need to go into further details. We all know how the Europeans do culture. It’s sexy and important to them. The world visits Europe because it is so culturally resplendent. Instead, we stood around, drank our drinks, and then petered away in small groups."

What Martell and his fellow artists did when the Canadian Council for the Arts budget was cut was to picket the prime minister and his hangers-on in parliament and tell them about their outrage. Over here, no one comes forward. Why should they when they are getting a few crumbs thrown in their direction?

Wonder how many young novelists in India have got a grant from the government to write a novel as Martel got (Canadian $ 18,000 = 7,22,808 Indian Rupees)? None. Wonder why India is not producing any novelists of the category of Yann Martels? What does an Indian writer get when he publishes his novel with much difficulty after risking penury? Rs 50,000 and a plaque is what Sahitya Akademi gives to Akademi award winners.

Yes I would like to find out what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is reading these days.

Ganpati immersion and dancing

Yesterday I stood and watched the procession of the elephant god in the street before our flat in Belapur. They were dancing! So many raucous groups dancing to accompaniment from loud drums, cymbals, Casio keyboards played with speakers tied to bicycles. The men and women were dancing, pirouetting, their bodies shaking, their hair filled with a saffron powder. In fact, a haze of saffron hung in the darkened streets, and the energy was obvious when the graceful women danced their traditional steps, including the “poogdi-phoo (at least that is what I think it is called)” which is a dance in which two women hold hands crossed over each other, circling round and round.

I stood by and watched this peaceful procession of the “God of removal of obstacles” as Ganesha is called by Hindus. Though there were several groups having their own politically sponsored identities, none of them clashed or interfered with the other. Incidentally, “Vignaharta” is what Ganesh is called, the God who can take away those nasty stumbling blocks from one’s life. And people have faith in him and love him, that’s the reason for the show of such fervor.

That makes me think whether we need more occasions for men and women to dance in a group and shake their bodies. Yes, dancing is a healthy exercise, besides being a remover of tension. Most Indian cultures have an ethnic tradition of group dancing and music, it comes naturally to man. However, these fine art forms are dying because nobody these days dares to express their joys in social occasions anymore except at weddings, dandia ras, and at ganeshotsavs, and that too a minority. The western civilizations have transformed their traditional group dancing into a wide variety of expressions at social occasions. However, in India, group dancing hasn’t progressed beyond the tribal and traditional, and when it has, it has been influenced by Bollywood “jhatkas,” or “hip thrusting.” And here, men and women don’t dance together in courtship, or expression of their love for each other, but dance in separate knots.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

This Blog Is in the 976,363rd Position on Alexa!

Whooopieee, this blog has done it, it has jumped from the 7 figure limit to the six figure one! Here’s what this blog has been thirsting, dreaming, pining for all this while. Its Alexa rank has been moving at a satisfactory clip these past days and I am now in 976,363rd position, from the 1,070,838th position a few days ago. That is a jump of 94,475 positions in the rankings in just a few days. And being a certified Search Engine Optimizer of sorts I have reasons to be proud.

This is what Alexa shows (Alexa rankings are based on Google, and so, Google, I presume, is also in concurrence with the figure mentioned below):

Traffic Rank for http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com: 976,363

India Uncut of Amit Verma is still India’s number one blog with a ranking of: 149,709. My Indian rank is in the 911th position on Blogstreet.com. Not to worry, I am progressing very fast and will be in the top fifty very soon. So watch out, here I come!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Of Festivals and Body Ka Badshah Kaun…

It’s rather disconcerting: the noise, the pollution, the cracker-burst-paper-litter, loud speakers, the pageantry, the buntings, the banners, the clanging of cymbals, and the cloying sweetness of it all. Another big festival in the Hindu calendar is upon us and there’s no respite from now to December, as festival follows festival in an inevitable procession.

Most disturbing of all is the three-wheeled rickshaw-wallah’s apparent reluctance to ply his much-needed contraption during the festival. Every day there’s a long and tired queue of commuters at CBD Belapur station waiting for the rickshaw-god to show his kindness. No luck! I don’t wait, I start walking.

Khushwant Singh, the venerable editor-writer once mentioned that he is rather disturbed by the show of religious fervor in recent times. Me too! Are we a people that don’t know moderation? I mean, um, when we do something, we do it in excess. If you don’t believe me, take a look at our Bollywood item numbers, and then I will rest my case (by the way, the latest item number is “You are mind-blowing mahiya”). Groups try to out-do each other in the popularity stakes, so, the more the better. Never mind the assault on a poor writer’s senses.

And then Star New went into feminine sexual fantasy in yesterday’s [September 18, 2007] news with their special feature “Body ka Badshah Kaun?” (“Who is the emperor of the Body [in Bollywood]?). The presenter vacuously went on and on about Hritik Roshan's, Salman Khan's, Shahrukh Khan's and John Abraham’s bodies and pectorals, or whatever is making them so popular at the box-office.

Well, hmm, if it was a comparison of their acting abilities, or, even dancing abilities, I would have understood. But “Emperor of the Body”? Come on, isn’t it pandering to the obsession for a six-pack tummy? When offering them a role, do they look at the actor’s muscles and then decide? People with a paunch (such as me) are already feeling so much uglier after the show. Is there nowhere to hide that protruding ugly belly? I won’t tell you who won, I don’t believe in such in-depth analysis of the ventral display of the actors’ gastro-intestinal systems.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Indian Clerk - David Leavitt - Books - Review - New York Times

Here's Nell Freudenberger writing in New York Times about David Leavitt's new novel "The Indian Clerk" about the life of Indian mathematician and genius S. Ramanujan (The Indian Clerk - David Leavitt). Excerpts:

"Once Ramanujan arrives in England, he becomes a Cambridge celebrity: there is competition among the dons for proximity to the “Hindoo calculator,” as he’s called in the press. Another mathematician, Eric Neville, takes Ramanujan into his home; his wife, Alice, becomes obsessed with their guest’s comfort, catering to his dietary restrictions, albeit in a very British fashion (a “vegetable goose” is one of the more appealing attempts). There are various justifications for the impulse to save Ramanujan: Alice claims to be easing his culture shock, while Hardy hopes to develop his mind. In both cases, however, their fascination has a sexually predatory edge: Hardy “cannot deny that it excites him, the prospect of rescuing a young genius from poverty and obscurity and watching him flourish. ... Or perhaps what excites him is the vision he has conjured up, in spite of himself, of Ramanujan: a young Gurkha, brandishing a sword.”"

"“The Indian Clerk” is loosely structured around a lecture given by the brilliant English mathematician and Cambridge don G. H. Hardy. In 1913, as Hardy is engaged in trying to prove the Riemann hypothesis — a mathematical problem involving prime numbers that Leavitt (the author of a brief biography of the mathematician Alan Turing) seems to understand deeply."

Must tear that book to shreds! To the occidental eye all Indians are either turban-ed Sardarjees or Khukri-wielding Gurkhas. Ever heard about Tamilians (S Ramanujan was one) and Malayalis (me!)?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Million Monkeys on Million Laptops

Fact is people really, really believe a million monkeys on a million laptops can write a best seller. So they buy a laptop huddle over it like monkeys do and, scratch, scratch, click, click, whatever keys look attractive and catch their fancy.

A recent conversation made me think the above as the person I was talking to was in no way aware of the realities of the publishing world. This person was, what shall I say, oozing confidence that all she has to do is to find time to finish the novel for the hungry editors waiting in publishing houses. It goes without saying that millions of mutinous hordes are also waiting at bookshops for her creative output to hit the shelves, a la Julianne K Rowlings. And, here I am having contacted several publishers, submitted my novel and waiting for that email or phone call. Oh, misery!

Apparently aspiring authors nowadays say, “Yeah, when million monkeys can scratch their keyboards and come out with a bestseller, just like that… what’s her name… then mine is far better and it’s definitely going to be published.”

The whole thing about writing now has become: buy a laptop or desktop for that matter, and then go on clicking at random, whatever, I mean, whatever comes to mind in a disjointed, self-pitying effusion. Everybody has some slight, some bitter experience that would shock somebody, and it’s the shock value authors are hell bent on making them a success. After all, literature dwells on the forbidden realm of human experience, and it’s from this obscurity that the brilliance of serendipity strikes.

But then think of the millions right now pounding their laptop keyboards just to be a shade better than those imaginary million monkeys! Oh, god, it’s so awful, I just want to scream, “Why didn’t I choose some other path to success and fame?” Mumble, mumble, scratch, scratch!

All this when there are a million other authors [not monkeys] more talented than I; who have fallen into the huge cracks within the submission-rejection cycle.

UPDATE:Poet David Raphael Israel said...
John, the tone of voice, rueful view, self-irony, etc. -- all these elements make this a very appealing piece of writing . . . indeed, I would even hazard saying, this could be incorporated into a work (the millionth-and-one submission that indeed manages to attract the yearned-for approval); there is a pleasing novelistic quality here, in short. Please proceed!
cheers, d.i.


John said... Hi David, You make my eyes go moist man! Thanks a million. Yes, I will proceed, as suggested by you. Tearfully, John

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VS Naipaul on Writers and Their People

Here's what Chandrahas Choudhury writes in his blog The Middle Stage about VS Naipual's new book A Writer's People (The Middle Stage):

"The path leading up to VS Naipaul's A Writer's People is littered with a writer's rubble: the debris, that of canonical figures knocked off their pedestals. Henry James: 'that dreadful American man…the worst writer in the world actually.' Thomas Hardy: 'an unbearable writer…doesn't know how to compose a paragraph.' Ernest Hemingway: 'didn't know where he was, ever, really.' EM Forster's A Passage To India: 'it has only one real scene, and that's the foolish little tea party at the beginning.' Jane Austen: 'If the country had failed in the nineteenth century no one would have been reading Jane Austen.'"

Apparently VS Naipaul (never known to mince his words) is out to mangle a few literary reputations. I am just waiting to get my hands on a copy of the book!

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Train Rage, and Sridala’s Reading from “Reluctant Survivor”

The purpose of this blog is to look into everyday happenings in my life and relate it to people with a bit of frankness, thoughtfulness and rationality. Maybe, the visitor (such as you) would or could be tempted to come back to read more and enjoin in a friendly conversation of sorts, which can better be done through the “comments” interface. I am giving you, and your profile on Blogger, a bit of exposure, too, as you will appear in the “Recent Comments” box on the right hand side of this post.

So I am writing this with a bit of trepidation, because I want to be frank with you, my readers. Not that I want to be all goody, goody with you, I am human, I have my faults. And one of those faults surfaced very badly this morning.

Yesterday was a late night as I attended Sridala Swami’s poetry reading from her first book “Reluctant Survivor.” It was nice meeting Sridala and other poets at the PEN-sponsored reading at the Theosophy Hall in New Marine lines, near where my sister used to work, and near the US Information Service, which is now the American Center, a favorite haunt during my college days.

I met for the first time the well-known Rashid Irani (about whom Suketu Mehta has written one and a half pages in “Maximum City”), whose movie reviews I enjoyed in the Times of India. Later at the beer valedictory in his Irani restaurant Brabourne, near Metro Cinema, he refused to let us pay for the beer. Hehe, he would be out of business if he does that. But we prevailed over him and he reluctantly relented.

I digress. I will un-digress and come back to my Train Rage story. Usually, you see, I am a calm and collected person, easy on the draw, reluctant to take umbrage, make a scene, unless severely provoked. So even if there is provocation I am calm and dismissive, and a bit abstracted.

But I lost my cool this morning and badly at that. The reason: Train Rage. So picture this: the compartment is crowded, there’s not a centimeter space to move even to breathe. I am standing on my toes to get some fresh air and people around me have formed a tight knot of flesh.

I have heard people fighting loudly in the train compartment on the way to work. I have all these days nurtured contempt for the sort who can’t adjust their personal spaces for a few minutes considering that most of the others are also undergoing the same torture in Bombay’s crowded trains.

Usually from CBD station a tacit understanding is given that commuters getting down at Vashi (the major center in New Bombay) are given the area of the right side of the entrance. Now this area is sacrosanct for commuters to Vashi such as me, and we all know this as our territory. So this man gets into the train in the wrong side of the entrance (meant for us Vashi disembark-ers) and plants himself squarely in front of me.

Now, poor me! Vashi is fast approaching and I don’t have space to maneuver myself towards the door. Panic strikes! What if I have to go all the way to the next station which is around five kilometers away? Will I be late to work? I lose all self control, as if some infernal demons have been let loose.

That’s when the shouting match started, all of it in English:

“Will you go inside or not?” I asked.

“No, I will stand wherever I want.”

This is rudeness and stubbornness magnified. As 20-year resident of New Bombay I had got used to the easy-going nature of my co-passengers. But the old order has changed and I was now facing more aggressive new residents from far, far away with their sense of what is right and wrong. And, with their own rages, and provocations.

“I have to get down at Vashi and you are blocking my path.”

“Arre you are talking as if you own this train.”

“There is a rule [I don’t know what rule I am talking about] in these trains that states that people who disembark in Vashi occupy the right side of the entrance and those embarking should, through the left side. Don’t you know that?”

We were shouting by this time and I had lost it completely by then. Rage had taken over me, I was virtually, no, really shaking. The words of my rage came from my mouth without restraint. He called me names and I called him names and I thought it would end in a scuffle in the less than few inches boxing ring. Fed up of the whole thing I said:

“You don’t talk, just go in.”

He disregarded this and started off again. I shouted again:

“You don’t talk, okay, get inside or else…”

Then it went in the usual unending, “or else” and “or else, what?” dialog.

Mercifully it ended when the train stopped at Vashi station and I found myself still shaking with indignation. No, it didn’t go away, and stayed with me most of the morning, and only post-lunch did I find my hands stop shaking.

No, I am not justifying myself. On hindsight I was trying to enforce an unwritten rule that even I knew was tenuous. But how did it all happen to someone who is content to let things be, as I see myself mostly. But I must admit I have anger inside me, which must have been made obvious in my writing, my rants.

So here I am, helplessly ranting about my Train Rage.

Anthonybhai would have said: Why men, kalipili, khatkhat doing, no? Let it go like that only, kya men?

UPDATE: Rochelle writes: I think anger sometimes can't be helped. In spite of good sense and commonplace wisdom, we can react in a manner that is startling in hindsight.

...and when we go over this event like a scene in our heads to see if we could have acted it out differently, there may be no better way than the one we already chose.

I also think that uncontrollable situations like anger immediately expose well-concealed thinking patterns and self image.


MY REPLY:Thanks for being on my side in the scuffle. I had sort of polarized the compartment into supporters and opposers when the fight happened. Rage was in everyone and I could sense a riot-like situation happening. Actually what you say is right, I couldn't think of an alternative way I could have reacted in the situation.

Yes, anger can expose concealed thinking patterns and self image. Also, ahem, I don't know if it was the beer of the previous night, as I am drinking after a long time and had sort of forgotten what it means to be hung over. Yah, right, maaan, a hangover makes you very testy. What?


Today, another day, another fight in the compartment I was traveling. "Know who you are talking to, till date nobody has been born who can fight me," a man was saying to another in a filibustering voice. The thickly packed compartment broke into laughter as one, embarrassing the man. Subash Desai in his column in Times of India equates this with a class thing. No, it isn't. Everyone is equally vulnerable. Heard of road rage? That's what I mean. I blame technology. Technology has made us into furtive, impatient beings seeking instant solutions (even at the cost of others' freedom, like the blustering man who shouted "till date nobody has been born," et al) and gratifications instead of investing time in finding longer-lasting solutions that would be more permanent. Well, if New Bombay is bursting and we need more trains, it's the leaders we have to fight to provide us transport and not fellow travelers. Makes sense?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Death at the railway station

It was a heart-wrenching sight. The man lay bleeding on the stretcher at Vashi station, the ambulance came and took him away. (Since Vashi is a big station ambulance was available what happens if it is a small one?) The first thing that struck me was: he is someone’s child, someone’s brother (there was a rakhi thread on his wrist), someone’s husband. Center for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) has fought to implement several guidelines which were, sadly, not in evidence at the site where the man lay with blood spurting from his nose.

And I notice several things: the stretcher isn’t clean, there is no cloth to cover his body, no first aid is available, helpline numbers aren’t displayed in compartments and stations, etc. Thousands die in Bombay in railway accidents (because trains are thickly crowded and a man can look back and can be hit by a column in no time), and most of them die because medical help isn’t readily available. And the directives to the railways read thus:

“The entire purpose of this exercise is that the victim gets immediate medical help within the period of one hour (Golden Hour) from the point of accident.”

More than one hour must have passed. His body had a yellowish pallor.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Terror Mini-series

The mini-series on terror being shown on Zee Studio is an engross saga of the terror network that led to the 9/11 incident. I was so engrossed that, how should I say this, drifted into sleep. I woke with a start to realize that it was still on and my son said they were showing the second part.

I am surprised how they did it. They even have look-alikes for Madeleine Albright and Condoleeza Rice. I thought they have gone and asked both Maddy and Condi to act in their film. But no, there are subtle differences that I could make out with some effort. And the dialog and the presentation are worth watching. One special doubt: How do they merge a recreated (in short, acted) scene with original television footage so effortlessly?

Watch it if you can, when it returns. Will it ever?

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The DavVic Factor

I have nothing against the look-good industry represented by the likes of David and Victoria Beckam (I will call them DavVic, the representatives of sports and entertainment, both multi-million dollar businesses) except the following:

Firstly, why does a writer of a book – who should offer something novel and unique to the thinking process of people the world – need to look good to be worth promoting? Aren’t literary ideas worth their salt anymore? Is it because of the DavVic factor?

Secondly, sports and entertainment have been hijacked by the sponsorship brigade and have been turned into businesses for the benefit of the DavVic brigade. I would have rather preferred to keep it in the old fashioned “sportsmanship” and “showmanship” matrix, after all, who wants spoilsport businessmen who fight association elections like dogs to manage a sport? Be a sport, will you, and give sports to the sportspersons?

Thirdly, and what promoted Victoria to write a book (Learning to Fly) and the publishers to publish it? Doesn’t it show the stupid brainlessness of the publisher who put it through the press? Will this prompt David to try his hand too?

Fourthly, does the beauty business have an, ah, well, ulterior motive in promoting the looks of these celebrity writers, sportspersons, entertainers to sell their fairness creams, vanishing creams, make-up, etc. at highly inflated prices. Does it help the couturiers to sell their skimpy dresses for prices that would feed a family of five in Palanpur for a year?

I know looks are important, always have been, but haven’t the whole manufacturing-promoting-sponsoring-advertising-publishing industries been overdoing the DavVic factor? Should all the plain-looking, obese, thin, dark people of the world kill themselves like suicidal lemmings?

Just some thoughts that passed through my mind. As Anthonybhai would say: “Whaddappen, no, men, my item should be beautiful-ich only, no?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Namdeo Dhasal: Street Fight Poet "Hurl Poems Like Stones"

Here's what poet Dilip Chitre has to say about poet Namdeo Dhasal in an interview first published in Tehelka (Street Fight Poet: navayana):

"Namdeo’s a lumpen, as he describes himself, with no assets except poetry — he sometimes says he hurls his poems like stones, so they’re a street-fighting weapon as well. To convey the idea that poets can come from anywhere, that they bring from wherever they come something to the surface of the world — that’s a role he plays exceptionally well. Namdeo’s also an activist, and he’s been a good activist. But like most Dalit leaders, small-time and big-time, he knows he lives in India where Dalits cannot, by themselves, form a government anywhere. They can only act as a pressure group…"

Moved house

Moved house during the weekend that was, I mean the week ended September 8, 2007. That is, um, after twenty years. A truckload of books, files, papers, vessels, clothes was transported to the new abode in what else – a truck. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did it. The truckwalla gave me a fright when he turned up one and a half hours late after tens of frantic cellphone calls. But he showed up as promised.

Then the double bed wouldn’t go through the door. Ronnie suggested that we dismantle the whole thing and being an engineering student he knows how to wield the spanner and make things work, which I loathe doing. He has to, that’s going to be his profession, isn’t it?

At the new place, there is no television on the first night, and I start having withdrawals symptoms. I am alone in the house since wifey and sonny are back at the old place. I phone the cable vendor ten times; he promises to turn up – not immediately - but the next day. Oh hell! But the net on my laptop works anywhere in India, and I surf and reply to Ryze and Facebook messages.

The morning of the second day, a Sunday, I wake up early. And… I listen… there are bird sounds like a distant symphony, sparrows and I know not what all (I am a bad Orinthologist, sorry, Salim Ali), singing their various sweet songs. Seems like I can’t do without bird sounds in the morning, they are my morning symphony, or raga, or whatever. I woke up to bird sounds in Artist Village and I am gratified that I can do so here, too.

Then I go for a walk. The road in Sector 9 of CBD Belapur leads me into a thickly wooded jungle of sorts. I guess we denizens of CBD Belapur are such a blessed lot. Just behind this wooded jungle is a smallish hill and if one crests it, one is in Artist Village which is again a valley surrounded by thick, green vegetation. And to add to it, there’s the small pond in the middle, and two waterfalls that feed it.

In front of my present house are a couple of tall Ashoka Trees and a tree nursery of sorts which is called “Mango Garden” because there are plenty of mango trees in it, in addition to a lot of other fauna on top of a smallish hill that adds to the “birdsound” factor. Just when I think this, I see a man with a discman earphone clamped to his ear, jogging ahead of me. Aaaarrrggh! Some people will never learn!

See, I am surrounded by thick vegetation on all sides and, of course, there has to be bird sounds, which seem like a sine qua non in my life now. Then I have a hectic time taking out all my things from cartons and putting them back into shelves and cupboards and inside table drawers. That finished, the cablewalla appears at six in the evening, after having promised to come at twelve in the afternoon. He is a rakish guy with the nervous mannerisms of a smalltime goon; the sort you see parodied to death on the small screen.

I refuse to pay up a transfer fee, as I say that he used to supply me a cable connection at Artist Village, which is where I used to stay. So he rakishly, and making some film-like adjustments to his hair, tells me that if I pay for six months he won’t charge me transfer fee. So I say okay, and pay for six months and save Rupees Two Hundred and Fifty.

That settled I lean back on my sofa and surf the channels. The flat is pleasantly situated and we spend the first day getting adjusted to the various utilities. Wifey doesn’t like western toilets (unhygienic) but has to adjust, son ditto. I say I have washed and rinsed it with Harpic, nothing less.

The cartons that seemed endless are in various cupboards, safely out of sight except a few that are dumped in the bedroom. I have to work on them when I am more settled. I also want a small corner where I can write and am told I can have one in the bedroom. So that settles it, readers, do look forward to more literary output in the days to come.

This quote of VS Naipaul about Nirad Chaudhuri came from Jaya Tripathi of SASIALIT, a literary network I am a member of:

"Chaudhuri, in spite of all the great names he takes, was not a scholar. He had no idea what scholarship meant. He held on to the idea only because it was the main part of his self-esteem. Take that away and he would have been completely lost.... Being Chaudhuri, he thought successes came to him not for his picture of East Bengal and Calcutta between 1890 and 1920, but for his hundred pages of 'scholarship', his ideas about the history of India...."


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Monday, September 10, 2007

The top 10 guitar solos - Times Online

John Perry has short-listed the 10 great guitar solos of all time. Knowing as to how much I love the instrument, here it is with the kindest courtesy of John Perry and The Times. (The Top 10 Guitar Solos - Times Online. And, yes, my favorite band The Doors is on top of pack. I recently held my friend Abu Abraham's Statocaster guitar in my hand and strummed it. Was it heaven? Don't ask!

Here it is:

Quote

1 MOONLIGHT DRIVE Robbie Krieger, the Doors Krieger created visual soundscapes: look at Francis Ford Coppola’s use of The End in Apocalypse Now. With a lyricist of Jim Morrison’s singularity, he had to devise a way of accompanying narrative. Krieger did it without ever straying into melodrama, as on this signature track from Strange Days.

2 LOVE IN VAIN (live) Mick Taylor, the Rolling Stones Live from Madison Square Garden on the Stones’ 1969 US tour, the one that stepped in something nasty at Altamont, Taylor’s solo (among the loveliest he created) can be heard on the album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, but it’s better watched on DVD (the Maysles brothers’ documentary Gimme Shelter). As Taylor improvises an achingly lovely bottleneck refrain (on a standard-tuned guitar), the film cuts to slo-mo footage of Mick Jagger doing his Nijinsky routine.

3 OMAHA & HEY GRANDMA Jerry Miller, Moby Grape Moby Grape are among several groups with peerless credentials whose careers were wrecked by CBS Records. Bursting at the seams with talent – three great singers, three great guitarists and one authentic loony in a five-piece band – here was a band that simply could not fail. What’s more, they were great live.

4 BANGKOK Alex Chilton He was the 16-year-old Memphis prodigy who sang The Letter with the Box Tops. Chilton’s later work included Big Star’s essential third album, Sister Lovers, released shortly before Bangkok, a solo single of 1978. The guitar solo here is made up almost entirely of feedback, noise and random squeaks.

5 PAINTER MAN Eddie Phillips, the Creation Unless you’re familiar with rock’s back streets, you probably know this song as a mid1970s MOR hit for Boney M. But, 10 years earlier, the original, by pop-art band the Creation, scraped into the Top 40. Phillips used a violin bow on the guitar, and, since electric-guitar strings don’t respond well to a bow, all sorts of strange overtones are generated. Hard sound to describe. Red with purple flashes.

6 DRIFTING Jimi Hendrix, on First Rays of the New Rising Sun “Drifting. . . on a sea of forgotten teardrops” – Jimi’s favourite compositions were his ballads.

He was clearly a man carrying a weight.

His melancholia found its purest expression on ballads such as The Wind Cries Mary, Little Wing and Angel. Drifting is not the greatest of these, but it contains three or four seconds of the most beautiful electric-guitar tone ever recorded: 2’23” to 2’26”. Amid sparse backward-guitar, Jimi hits a high note, slides down, then, playing with just one hand (his right), weaves a melodic phrase through his backwards-guitar part. It’s Hendrix in cameo; beautiful, effortless, casual, throwaway.

7 I CAN SEE FOR MILES Pete Townshend, the Who (best on 7in vinyl)/CINNAMON GIRL Neil Young, on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere Two very different examples of that specialised solo form, the one-noter. Townshend uses (rapid) mandolin picking to turn that one note into a blur; Young keeps steady time and holds a single high D going over eight chords.

8 YOU’LL BE MINE Hubert Sumlin, with Howlin’ Wolf The one and only Sumlin mixing it with the Wolf’s peerless Chicago blues band. Marc Bolan “borrowed” most of the song for T Rex’s Jeepster.

9 CHAMBERTIN Bert Jansch Davy Graham came first, but Bert had the charisma. This record is unobtainable on CD, but there’s a knockout live version on an album called River Sessions. Jansch at his finest.

10 I’M LEFT, YOU’RE RIGHT, SHE’S GONE Scotty Moore, with Elvis Presley On this B-side of Presley’s fifth single for Sun, Moore rocks up the basic Chet Atkins style to give the King the bounce he needed. The solo is a gem, mirroring the vocal in the treble register and bouncing it off syncopated picking in the bass line.

Unquote

Friday, September 07, 2007

Portraits of Thirty Beautiful Women on Flickr

If you are an ogler of beautiful faces, are overwhelmed by the beauty of delicate feminine features, and wondered (like me) how the female of the species can look so good and the male, well, um, hmm, er, erm, krrr, so ugly, then these pictures are for you: 30 Portraits of Beautiful Women on Flickr . Ogle to your heart's content, and don't forget to come back and read my other posts.

Sigh!

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Poet Namdeo Dhasal

Here's a post I wrote on Caferati replying to a post by David Raphael Israel regarding the prominent Dalit poet Namdeo Dhasal who was hospitalized recently. When the press wrote about how he didn't have money to pay his bills Amitabh Bachchan came to his rescue and contributed Rs 5 lakh.

"Namdeo Dhasal is a revolutionary dalit poet who has many admirers. He is also an activist for the rights of the downtrodden lower caste people of India. His poetry reflects the anger and rage of black poets in the US of A and speaks out against oppression, discrimination and bias of an age-old system.

"Recently the poet was in the news as he was hospitalized following a debilitating illness and didn't have the money to pay his medical bills.

Film star Amitabh Bachchan who contributed Rs 5 lakh to pay his bills came to his rescue and reportedly he is making progress. Shows the Big B has a big heart too!

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Latest Book Deals from Publisher's Lunch

Here are the latest acquisitions in the publishing world with the kind courtesy of Publisher's Lunch of Publisher's Marketplace reproduced here for information:

Mystery/Crime

Colin Cotterill's sixth and seventh "Dr. Siri" novels, featuring the
septuagenarian Laotian state coroner introduced in The Coroner's Lunch,
to Laura Hruska at Soho Crime, by Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis
Associates (NA).
rcurtis@curtisagency.com

Foreign rights to the series to Albin Michel in France, Quercus in the
UK; Text Publishing in Australia; Fanucci Editore in Italy; Sony
Magazines in Japan; and Goldmann in Germany, by Danny Baror of Baror
International.
barorint@aol.com

Thriller

NYT bestselling author Steve Berry's three additional international
thrillers, again to Mark Tavani at Ballantine, for publication running
through 2011, by Pam Ahearn of Ahearn Agency (world).
Rights: ctisne@randomhouse.com

Women's/Romance

Daddy's Girls author Tasmina Perry's Gold Diggers, about four beautiful
and powerful women who will stop at nothing in their quest for the heart
of the world's most eligible bachelor, a handsome, sexy American real
estate tycoon, to Trish Todd at Touchstone Fireside, in a very nice
deal, for publication in summer 2008, by Sheila Crowley at AP Watt (US).

General/Other

Wife in the Fast Lane author Karen Quinn's Holly Would Dream, about the
madcap adventures of a calamity-prone young woman named Holly, whose
obsession with Audrey Hepburn could be either her blessing or her curse,
to Trish Todd at Touchstone Fireside, in a nice deal, for publication in
summer 2008, by Robin Straus at Robin Straus Agency (NA).

Phillip Lopate's Two Marriages, a pairing of novellas portraying two
less than perfect unions, to Rosemary Ahern at Other Press, in a nice
deal, for publication in Fall 2008, by Wendy Weil at the Wendy Weil
Agency (World).
clazare@otherpress.com

John Vernon's Lucky Billy, a postmodern take on Billy the Kid, to Anton
Mueller at Houghton Mifflin, for publication in February 2009, by Susan
Wyler at King Hill Productions (NA).

Dreams of Speaking and Sixty Lights author Gail Jones's Sorry, about a
lonely child raised in the remote outback of Western Australia during
World War II, and her friendship with a deaf mute boy and a forsaken
Aboriginal girl -- and the terrible event lays waste to their lives, to
Kent Carroll at Europa Editions, for publication in spring 2008, by
Melanie Jackson (NA).

Young-ha Kim's Empire Of Light, Manhae Prize-winning novel about a day
in the life of a North Korean spy who is recalled from the South and
must decide to either give up his family there or return to an uncertain
fate in the North, to Jenna Johnson at Harcourt, by Barbara Zitwer
Agency (NA).

Dale Peck's Body Surfing, a dark literary thriller about a race of
demons who possess their prey, moving from body to body via sexual
release, and the female hunter bent on destroying them, to Peter Borland
at Atria, by Richard Abate at Endeavor (NA).
Foreign rights: roliver@endeavorla.com

Children's: Young Adult

Sarah Rees Brennan's debut urban fantasy trilogy starting with The
Demon's Lexicon, about two brothers hunted throughout England by a
powerful magician's circle after their mother steals a charm and when
the eldest is marked by a demon, the younger uses swords and dark arts
in an effort to save him but unwittingly uncovers the darkest of
secrets, to Karen Wojtyla at Margaret K. McElderry Books, at auction, by
Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency (world English).
knelson@nelsonagency.com
Translation: wlee@fieldingagency.com
Film: EvashevskiK@unitedtalent.com

Barry Lyga's Hero-Type, in which a 16-year-old boy goes from hero to
zero in his small town after he is seen removing "Support the Troops"
magnets from his new car, to Margaret Raymo at Houghton Mifflin
Children's, for two books, for publication in Fall 2008, by Kathleen
Anderson at Anderson Literary Management (NA).

Children's: Middle grade

Eight books from Yang Hongying's children's series Naughty Ma Xiaotao,
said to have sold over 10 million copies in China, about a mischievous
boy and his eccentric, naughty father and the scrapes they get into at
home and school, to Gillie Russell at Harper UK and Stella Chou of
Harper China, for publication in spring 2008, by Bai Bing at Jieli
Publishing House (world).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

JB D'Souza - The Old Order Changeth!

JB D'Souza, former municipal commissioner, bureaucrat, champion of causes, and flawless writer is no more. He died on September 2, 2007 at the age of 87. I got this from Zigzackly who was informed by JB's (Bain's) son Dilip D'Souza.

Here's what JB wrote on what some greedy newspaper owners who consider newspaper publishing as a business like any other, i.e., the business of reaching news to the masses. It's for disseminating news that newspapers enjoy certain freedoms of expression, special privileges vis-a-vis the executive machinery, newsprint at subsidized rates, postage at subsidized rates, special train bookings privileges, invitation to government function, and the list goes on endlessly.

Well, hm, if it is just like any other business (e.g. "selling of pig iron" for instance) then let them eschew their special privileges mentioned above, and act like the kirana shops that print advertisements, which is what they have become of late. Some of the newspapers have become money making enterprises with a high margin of profit while delivering sub-standard news.

Here's what JB D'Souza has to say on the subject, and from how he said it, he didn't mince words (Journalism: Profit over People).

"It is, of course, possible for publishers to argue that theirs is a business like any other; they are in the business to maximise profit and that profits come not from news of events and analysis of them, not from readers’ satisfaction, but from advertisements, and advertisers have to be kept happy. The fact is that the press is not a business like any other; it is much more. Its prime responsibility is to its readers, a responsibility to inform. It is for this reason that it enjoys the freedom protected by the Constitution. The lust for money must not be allowed to obscure this advantage. “As editors collude ever more willingly”, writes Neil Hickey in the Columbia Journalism Review, “with marketers, promotion ‘experts’ and advertisers, thus ceding a portion of their sacred editorial trust; as editors shrink from tough coverage of major advertisers lest they jeopardise ad revenue; as news holes grow smaller in column inches to cosmeticise the bottom line; as news executives cut muscle and sinew from budgets to satisfy their corporate overseers’ demands for higher profit margins each year...then the broadly felt consequence of those factors and many others, collectively, is a diminished and deracinated journalism... which, if it persists, will be a fatal erosion of the bond between journalists and the public."

UPDATE: Wonder why JB D'Souza's death didn't appear in the papers, and I read three of them and watch several news channels and I found nothing. It's galling to the think the press would ignore such an eminent man's death because of his views which, in my humble opinion, were frank and forthright. Case of the press gagging the public? I got the news from Zigzackly's blog and, he, it seems, was informed by Dilip, JB's son. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth though it proves that citizens' journalism (such as blogging) works in times when the mainstream media (MSM) fails.

UPDATE: Dilip D'Souza writes: Thank you John. Actually, TOI and HT both reported it on Monday morning; HT carried a profile on Tue, DNA carried a news item on Tue.

UPDATE: My Comment: I read TOI, Daily Mirror and DNA, but didn't notice. Maybe it was published without a picture in some corner. I feel JB deserves more.


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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Moving House

I am moving house. Last monsoon I vowed that I will never live in the house I am currently residing for another year, read: another monsoon. I wanted to spare my wife and son the indignities of a monsoon in Artist Village. True the area is the best I can ever get in the city of Bombay; it has more than hundred acres of green forests, a dam, and a walking trail. I wake up every morning to bird sounds and on my daily morning walk listen to the birds relating their agonies and angst of the previous day at the walking trail. However, the omissions and commission of the house I live in are many, and should, I think, be a case study in bureaucratic bungling. Like everything built in India, especially a construction done with government intervention, the life span of the structure is over. It has lasted me a reasonable twenty years and now that its life is over I have to think of doing some drastic repairs or break it down completely.

Problem is that though bad, I am very attached to this house to which I moved twenty years ago. My son grew up here and I have fond memories of him as a small child running around in the small courtyard. The thought of destroying so many memories is what is disturbing. I have also accumulated a bewildering range of furniture, computers, computer accessories (which includes computer books), and other paraphernalia that comes with having a computer, and believe me, this can be a variegated jungle of wires and cables. I know I have to move out but I can’t bring myself to do it, call it attachment, nostalgia, or, whatever.

The government housing corporation – CIDCO, from whom I purchased this house –constructed it in such hurry that it didn’t have time for niceties like matching door bolts and latches. The doors don’t close properly, the space is narrow and cramped, and because of the bad cement used there’s mold on the walls every monsoon. The flooring is coming out in powdery bits, the walls are peeling paint, and the doors don’t close properly. All this I have tried temporarily to remedy by repairing, putting false ceilings and doing all I can to keep life possible in this case of bureaucratic bungling. But I am at the end of the tether and have decided to break everything down and rebuild it as most of my neighbors are doing. The plot belongs to me and I will have the luxury of more space.

A lot of my money has been spent on making this house comfortable for the three of us. But now it will all go waste. But which building constructed with government funds has had a life of more than twenty years? Some of them in my locality are disintegrating. Now I have decided to move to a flat nearby till the rebuilding of my house can be completed. Meanwhile the old house, with Mangalore tiles and all is going to be demolished and a proper structure, with reinforced concrete, and mice-proof doors are going to be installed, with a loan from a government-owned bank.

Now, this piece is about how a house that is in its death throe can irritate. I have transferred half my belongings to the new flat and the house is full of cardboard boxes, and dismantled computers, and knick knacks. The last mentioned also include a large collection of books some of which I will have to throw out, which makes me go mushy and sentimental. I have put them on the floor and find that there isn’t space to navigate in the little house. At night there is an unwanted guest in the form of a little mouse that comes and moves in between the cartons and plays havoc with my wife’s sleep, she being a light sleeper. As for me I sleep like a dead man, even an earthquake couldn’t wake me once.

Having seen “Mouse Story” the movie about how a mouse can destroy a big mansion, I have no illusions about the destructive power of this smallish furry rodent. The problem is: it is so industrious in its foray for food that it will take every risk available. I have tried waiting with a broom handle to swat it down, but its movements are so furtive that I just can’t foresee where it will go next.

I have tried poisoning it and it seems it went and died inside my neighbor’s water tank and he became quite upset at the maggots falling from the bathroom ceiling. Soon it (the dead one) was replaced by another, furry creature, its offspring, I guess. So poisoning is out this time. Then I try mousetraps, and that too doesn’t work. The mouse soon got wise to my machinations and would just nibble at the chapatti without going in to eat. Intelligent creature this is.

Then I try catching it sneaking in and by thumping my legs on the floor and making all sorts of noise to only see it scurrying past me under the bed and disappearing, I don’t know where. I would take the torch and would bend low under the bed, and, broom-flying wizards! it’s disappeared. Suddenly it would materialize with its high pitched, super-sonic shriek and destroy my peace of my mind when I am watching a particularly engrossing movie on television. Gone would be the momentary enjoyment and I would start to fret about the mouse’s next move.

Now it’s having the worst case of diarrhea and there’s rat dropping all over the floor, making me clean up after it the whole morning. I am so fed up with this mouse’s antics that I have decided to write this blogpost and move out and go and live in the rented flat next Saturday. The loan has been approved by the bank and the architect is drawing the design of the house, and the sooner I am out of here the better.

My new house is going to be mouse-proof and I am personally going to ensure that there aren’t any cartons or big wooden beds around where my mouse friend can hide from my searching gaze and my broom handle.