Thursday, July 31, 2008

Minnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd Blowwwwwwwwwwwwing!

A new word has entered the Indian vocabulary. It is used in stand-up comedy shows, in music shows, in schools, colleges, offices and public places. Celebrity judges in comedy circus/challenge/central, whatever, say that word with some glee and reverence. Nubile girls in low-slung jeans and tank tops around their breasts say it, boys bulging with muscles like so many miniature balloons blown up inside them say it, so does the man on the street.

“Minnnnnnnnnnd blowwwwwwwwwwwing,” said with a drawn breath and extended consonants, just the way yours truly has written it above. It rings in homes, in schools, colleges, etc. etc., and everyone agrees it is a nice word. But what does it mean? This unlettered peasant doesn't know.

It is our connection with the world, the international world I mean, nut just Belapur or Gurgaon. We have a fixation for such phrases. Once it used to be, “cool breeze, no sweat,” now it’s “Minnnnnnnnnnnnd blowwwwwwwwwwwwwwing.”

How does the mind blow? How does it? What does it mean?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Housing Loan Approved!

After much running around for “no objection certificates”, umpteen copies of anything from passports to PAN cards to sales agreements, and after numberless visits to the bank, after sitting in front of bureaucrats who regurgitated and chewed cud, my housing loans has been approved. Hurrah! But I am a bit cynical instead of happy, happy.

It was a long rigmarole of visits to dingy government offices, where sometimes the computer wires lay in ugly tangled mass on the tables, and the floors were ripped apart by the exposing of the said cables. A government low-life openly and shamelessly asked for a bribe from Ronnie (What a cynical way to begin his adult life?).

That means I can start re-constructing my house in Artist Village, which being a government-constructed house was crumbling, anyway. The cement used wasn't good quality, the padlock and the hole into which it had to be inserted to lock the door wouldn't match, the wood used in doors weren't good quality, and the floor came up in powdery lumps to the touch of the broom. Corruption has eaten into every aspect of our lives that we aren’t even aware how our lives are dependent on it.

And on that cynical note, I will stop. There’s a lot to be done, so much to accomplish. My head is nodding as I write this, dear blog, been a tiring day.

Kismet Konnection, Failed to Connect?

At last I saw a Hindi movie I liked. I really liked “Kismet Konnection.” It’s not pretentious, has some of the best acting put up by some of the best actors in Bollywood, and gave me goose pimples towards the end. But the theatre was empty, and my son Ronnie informs me that the movie is not doing well. Oh, why, why does it have to be the movie I liked, why does it have to be a well-made and well-acted movie, a rare breed in India.

Yes Kismet Konnection is well made, well acted, well, well everything. I am becoming a great fan of Shahid and that girl from my home suburb, Chembur. In fact, many of my friends live near where she does, and speak of her as, “Nammude Pennu,” which means “our girl.”

May be she is plump, may be she is a bit dark, but she is a good and natural actress, one of our best. On second thought, I will say, our best. Shahid and she complement each other so well. Om Puri is so good, Boman Irani is good too, so are all the actors, none of them seem artificial and gross.

But then why do they say it is not doing well? I guess, there’s a plot to see its downfall. All those ass shaking, hip grinding movie-makers are making an attempt to run down their competitor who has done a good job.

Goes to show we Indians are a very jealous lot! “Sach much,” says my friend the nice katlik boy, Anthonybhai, “anything good, they try to dalo to the ground, men. Just like that only. They only want item numbers and one Mr. SRK.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Andheri – literally “the state of being dark” – has many world-class industries which manage the IT requirements of the world’s major corporations – all very high-brow Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and other IT systems. But these companies seem to fail to manage the systems that lay around them – garbage uncleared for days, cables lying open and exposed, drainage that is virtually non-existent, flooding that occurs in every monsoon, unnamed and un-numbered roads, etc., the list can be endless.

In the evening and mornings the crowds that emerge from the trains is a sight worth seeing and recording. As the people walk out, there is a sense of chaos, redeemed only by the tremendous patience of the Bombayite, or, for that matter their callousness. Who cares only, no? What, no, men, nobody bothers a frig, men, only we the poor people suffer in silence, we pay taxes, we do the work, we only bear the brunt of bad roads and even worse drainage, says friend Anthonybhai.

Why not widen the roads, why not shift the bus depot to another place, why not have a one-way around the station? Questions which remain unanswered by the ancient railways and the new and prestigious Metro Rail that is coming up in the vicinity. Most days the commute from Andheri station to the office in MIDC takes around half-an-hour of agonisingly slow progress.

The Western Express Highway is mostly bridges but most of the times one can see a traffic jam a few kilometres long over it. If Andheri is such an important area for business why hasn’t the businesses in the area canvassed for better facilities and improvements? Is there no hope for this suburb which lies close to two major airports of the country, and is the hub of several important industries?

Anthonybhai loves Andheri. He has several girlfriends in the quaint old East Indian villages of Marol and Maroshi. But what men, our villages have been torn down to build these big, big, sky-touching, glass things, Anthony says, and there’s no space to ease one’s bike with girlfriend behind only on a Saturday date. Too bad if she gets a nervous breakdown by the end of the date, no?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Andheri - An Area of Darkness – Part 2



As you emerge from the station you notice several things. Several attempts, apparently have been made to tile the place. Only, they were half-hearted attempts. The masons, to save money for their booze or whatever didn’t pour enough concrete to make the tiles stick. Therefore when the rain fell it washed away the concrete and the tiles came loose and were shaky and were either protruding or were taken away by the slum dwellers of the locality leaving large gaps in which he water now seeped in, accumulated. This water formed slush with a lot of dust that already was there, adding to it piles of plastic wrappers which were never swept away in the first place.

As I emerge the effluents of a septic tank (I am sure from the smell of it) greets me on a road that is always packed with rickshaws. Wonder why the rickshaws are always looking for passengers to far off places like Goregaon and Kurla and not MIDC where I have to go. While I hunt for a soft-hearted rickshaw-wala, there are buses that are trying to knock me down, reversing, forwarding into the bus depot nearby.

Confusion everywhere…!

(To be continued)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Andheri - an Area of Darkness - Part I


If you ever want to see an example of chaotic development in Mumbai, take a train on the Western Railway, get down at the station named Andheri (which, by the by means “a state of darkness”) and get down on the east side.

First of all to go to the east side you have to walk along a railway platform that is below street level, and if it rains, that means you are wading through ankle-length smelly water of dubious origin. If you pass this gauntlet, you are crammed into what is called a “foot over bridge” in several parallel single files wherein you see only the back and hind parts of the person in front. Well, a bit of leg too if you crane your neck, but that’s another matter.

Then if you are on the bridge there are a dozen ticket checkers stopping everyone and checking tickets. And if the checker happens to be a male he will stop a fashionable girl wearing low-waist jeans just for the odd chance that she doesn’t have a ticket and will be at his mercy. See how cunning and calculating these people are. These men do their utmost to discomfort passengers by standing right in their paths.


Several times when my railway pass had expired I walked past them not making eye contact at all and they never stopped me, but if I was a girl (god, in all kindness, you mercifully didn’t make me a girl, what with ticket checkers, eve teasers, body slammers, low-waist jeans and all) I couldn’t have done that. Hallelujah! Anthonybhai tells me, “No shame, no frigging shame, men, all these bekar people, no, they are so frigging frustrated they will sell their own mothers, men.”


Then comes an even narrow bottleneck where once again you are stuck staring ahead at the cleavage showing through low-waist jeans, or staring at a rump of a “mausi” or an “auntie” who hauled herself off the 8.45 local from Virar with handbag, and big plastic bag saying “Buy Dubai,” a gift from “amcho” nephew working as mechanic in the Persian Gulf.


When you are through with this you walk on a very narrow gully, full of broken tiles sticking out, and long slabs laid, just laid diagonally, without a care for several blind people use this passage regularly. Though the neighbouring shopkeepers shout to attract customers, they never even bother to repair the goddamn path on which their clients stand to buy their banana chips and batata vadas. This very ugly area that sport crude displays of food, underwears, mobile covers, sugarcane juice and even newspaper stalls is never cleaned, and if you dig this area you will get chocolate wrappers of two decades ago.

To be continued….

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Elephant that Attacked Ganga....


The elephant that attacked Ganga.

Friend Ganga who was attacked by a wild elephant in Masinagudi wild life sanctuary, which I mentioned in this post, has at last succeeded in getting a picture of the elephant that attacked him through his photographer friend Rakesh Gupta who was in the same area and who was also attacked. Ganga swears that it's the same elephant from his looks and from the area in which Rakesh was. Luckily for him he was in a Jeep and used a telephoto lens, while Ganga was unarmed and was on foot.

Imagine being gored by such a fearsome beast. Look at his tusks, and the calloused forehead, looks as if he would kill if anyone came came near. I asked Ganga if he felt bitter that the animals he was trying to protect had attacked him.

"Nothing of that sort," he said, "even if I had held a big poster on my head with the inscription 'I am your friend, I am trying to protect you,' I would have been attacked." How noble! I am sure I would have sworn revenge instead of forgiveness.

Guess "Gangadharan" would be a good name to call the elephant as he has borne (dharan) Ganga on his tusks.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Singh Is King: Indeed!

To someone as apolitical as me, the success of the United Progressive Alliance led by the Congress Party is not something to rejoice. But I rejoiced, sort of, when the channels went crazily Bollywoodish and played “Singh is King, Singh is King, Singh is King,” on prime time news channel as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shyly made the victory sign. Guess the directors of "Singh is King" paid a decent amount to get their song on prime time. To what extent wouldn't they go?

The Congress win will mean the thumbs up for the Indo-American nuclear deal. I can’t say this is a good thing because we have a dismal record of nuclear safety. Most of us are going in for nuclear safety thinking it is a cheap alternative to oil, but the ogre of nuclear waste hasn’t reared its ugly head. What would be the consequences of leaving inside our soil radio-active wastes that would take hundreds of years to become safe, is beyond my comprehension.

Why can’t we cut down on fossil fuel consumption instead?

Monday, July 21, 2008

How Politicians Take U-turns, Betray Trust

The days are hot, an unbearable kind of heat, searing, like needles forcibly thrust into the skin, minus the, blood of course. There’s no rain. Where have the rains gone? It came wet the roads, created panic one day, and then vanished. We cursed but we good-naturedly wanted it to last, because without water our dams and lakes would go dry and our electricity supply – precarious as it is – will vanish.

Day after tomorrow is the trust vote of the Congress-led UPA coalition government – a loosely constructed alliance of several parties. The papers are full of news of horse-trading – the buying and selling of members of parliament. A member gets paid Rs 25 crore ($ 5.5 million) to switch parties and vote for the other alliance. Where does this money come from? Who gives parties this huge amount?

Business, who else? Every businessman has his favourite politician, one who can be relied to get things arranged at the highest levels, be it a permission or a concession. According to this article in the BBC, American democratic and republican nominees are turning back on the commitments they made to win votes.

In both cases – in the India that is willing to pay to get a politician to vote for them and in the American version where candidates are willing to go back on their commitment on issues to the electorate – there’s the much touted maligning of politicians as liars and cheats. It’s true that a politician would do anything to stay in power in the Indian case and to get into power as in the US.

In either case the people lose, i.e., you and me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Am a Malayalee



Friend Sanjeevan said I must see this video "I am a Malayalee" which he says is hilarious. Just to prove I am not a bigot, a narcissus, a jingoist I am posting the video here. Judge for yourself, I haven't seen the entire video, so I don't know myself.

Am having a lazy and laid back Sunday so I don't want to exercise my grey cells for anything greatly cerebral writing today, you know a writer needs his space, his time to just goof off. Need to catch up with the editing of the poems (hmmmmppp), need to write some more lines of the novel I am attempting, I am already so much into it I can't abandon it.

Groan!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Latest Story and Poem




My latest poem "Jahanpanah Bahadur Shah Zafar - The Last Mughal" inspired by William Dalrymple's book "The Last Mughal" appears here in my poetry blog.

My latest short story "Seema and Preet", an apocryphal story about a woman caught in the fury of nature unleashed on July 27, 2005 appears here in my short story blog.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

What About Some Old Fashioned Love? Is It Dead?

Anita George, an online friend, is vastly talented, is a poet and writer, is a divorced mother, and is coping with the vicissitudes of life. She is of mixed Sri Lankan-Indian-Chinese parentage and lives in Malaysia. In one of her posts on her blog, she records the passing away of “old-fashioned” love and according to this article points out how modern men and women in Malaysia (yes, women, too!) are buying love from paid escorts to avoid the rigours of commitment. It seems they like it that way because there's no emotional investment required, and no messy split ups.

Damn! And one thought love is eternal, undying, endless (remember the song and movie “Endless Love” in which Tom Cruise had a walk on part?). A colleague, just out from college, has several female friends and his talk with them, hardly out of earshot, makes me wonder if all the talk of love is just hogwash and hokum. He is so matter of fact when he plans his evening out with his girlfriend. I think love between man and woman is all but non-existent. What is is adjustment, compromise, arrangement, etc.

I don’t know how far this is true in
India. Would someone care to educate poor ignorant me?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Carless in Mumbai

I don’t own a car. Somehow I have not managed to possess one of those glittering beauties on the roads and public places, same as I haven’t been able to conquer (with my charms) the woman of my dreams, many of who still pass me by and call me “uncle”. Ah, well, somethings don’t happen, do they? No regrets, and all that junk….

Well, what if I don’t own a glittering beauty such as the Skoda Octavia? A trainee we have in the office owns one (dad, gave it to a trainee, believe this, you dumb moron! What did dad give me? I guess he gave me enough property to own several Skodas, but still that doesn’t give me the guts to buy a Skoda, environmental pollution, you see.). So I ask and am granted a ride to Andheri railway station. Oh, my goodness gracious, what a ride it was, smooth as silk, as if we were floating celestial entities, and how marvellous it seemed to a body used to the jarring jerks of a rickshaw!


If I have the money I will buy a Skoda, I am sure the ride convinced me of that. The trainee’s driver boasts that his speedometer has touched 180 kmph mark on the Mumbai-Pune expressway (the fastest expressway in the world, according to Wired magazine, quoted by Pragya in an response to an article I wrote right here and posted on Shakespeare & Company). Writes Pragya:


“Ironically, picked up a magazine yesterday - Wired (latest issue) - that had listed the fastest highways in the world -the Mumbai-Pune highway (A6 - I guess) was listed as one of the fastest in the world where the nouveau riche Ferrari drivers tested 170 mph speeds! Makes for an interesting juxtaposition to your words.”


Ride finished, I board a train and right there in front of me is the most ugly looking ass of a man, who comes and positions his posterior inches away from my nose. Yuck! All this when there are acres of virgin commuting space lying vacant to one side. Oh! What irony of cruellest fate that I should enjoy the luxury of a Skoda and then have to sit facing a sweaty asshole’s skinny arse.


I ask him to move to one side, which he does as if he has been asked to give up his post-dinner rasogulla or something. A dirty stare follows this. I don’t pay him much heed and continue reading my book: Salman Rushdie’s “The Enchantress of Florence” which oeuvre, truth be told by his greatest admirer in this world, has by that time detoured into the obscurest part of Florence, and the doings of Il Machio, Antonio, and Argalia, in the said dream city. Will I ever see that city so vividly described, or, even pass through it to Europe? Rushdie seems at his recherchĂ© best in the novel, not what I had expected of him when I bought the book.


Oh, what a ride, I think as I run the home stretch….

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stand-up Comedian Shakeel

I am a great fan of stand-up comedy shows. My favourite was and, shall I say, still is “The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.” Must also confess I am a great fan of Russel Peters, and I think Indian and Pakistani stand-up comedians don’t measure up to him in tongue in cheek humour.Russel, by the by, is Indian by birth.


Russel’s a rage, an original. He will have you in splits, without adopting the mercenary tactics some of the Indian and Pakistani comedians use.


The ones I like are: Raju Srivastav, Sunil Pal, Shakeel, and a few others. So imagine my delight when I bumped into Shakeel the other day. Shakeel is also a natural; he can make a person laugh without moving a facial muscle. Some of the gags he pulled on his fellow female presenters are classics; especially the one commenting on the woman’s tawdry dress, “Yeh tho sharbat ka gilas lag raha hai.”


Yesterday, I was caught in a downpour near Andheri station and took shelter in a nearby hotel’s lobby. And who should I see coming out but the Pakistani comedian with his family. I tapped him on the shoulder and shook hands. As usual, I was rather tongue tied to say something, but he did acknowledge the gesture. He got into a green Qualis with family and before driving away, seeing me still staring, with a stupid grin on my face, he waved goodbye. I don’t for the life of me know why he had to do this. But he did.


Thanks Shakeel for making several moments watching you perform on television absolutely enjoyable. You are great at making others laugh. Hope we meet again!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Caught in a Traffic Jam a Few Miles Long

I didn’t quite realize the extent of the mess. I was on the way to Thane via Kanjurmarg and since the company’s transport was available, I decided to take it. The bus crawled along the Powai Lake and there before me was an unforgettable sight. I was in shock. For miles before us, along the periphery of the Lake was the road our bus would have to traverse. This road was probably a few miles in diameter, and till the eye could see in the distance, along the road I was travelling was the worst traffic jam I have seen for a long time. A long line of vehicles, hardly moving, hardly stirring.

Forget reaching my destination, I would be lucky to reach Kanjurmarg station. I call and cancel the appointment. I have never seen such a traffic snarl in my life, and worst part was there wasn’t a traffic cop in sight.

Cars are a sign of prosperity, an announcement that one has arrived. But seeing the pile up I began wondering if I would have the guts to buy one. I don’t know how people can convince themselves to own one. People frustrated from sitting inside buses were walking.

There were the strains of old Hindi songs on the speaker.

Still no signs of cops! Where could they be?

The driver takes a diversion through Hiranandani. Suddenly we are at an intersection, the four roads of it are tightly gridlocked with vehicles. And then I see him, yes, a traffic cop, holding a walkie-talkie thingy. Who is he talking to? He stands there limp of limbs and expression as traffic cops are wont to do.

At last, a cop! Though a very ineffective and lazy one.

I put my cellphone out and take a picture, which I will post here later.

Meanwhile the letter to Lalloo, the railway secretary, the general manager, Central Railway and the general manager, Western Railway, are off on their way to their destinations. Will write here about what happened next, if at all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Open Manholes of Bombay




This open manhole in Nerul is full of shit, as you can see.

The second one is on a busy road in Andheri East. There's no warning signs, no indication that there's an open manhole ahead. If it's flooded, anyone could be a victim.

Some time back the US consulate had issued an advisory that travelling to Bombay is unsafe during monsoon as there could be open manholes that weren’t properly cordoned off. This is the newsreport in Times of India.

To which Bombay mayor Shubha Raul had said in the You Tube video shown below that Bombay was actually safe and there was no threats from open manholes. I decided to investigate, and found three open manholes without cover or warning signs. Here they are:



Problem is we have become so compliant, so without any complaints, and so cynical that we do not take politicians’ words and examine them in the light of day.

A Day that Began Badly... Arushi Murder Case - A Case of Overkill?

Had an interesting day. Began badly, but gradually I kept the faith, worked hard and am now in a position to tell all. So here goes:

One of those days: woke up in a tizzy with wife complaining that the kitchen drain pipe was disgorging water into the kitchen, which was then seeping into the drawing room. A slight leakage was detected last night, which was dismissed unceremoniously by yours truly. After all, I am only a renter of the property!

But as calamities go, this was emergency, as the house was filling with water. There was water everywhere. I was sloshing through pools within the flat. In fact, I was thinking of writing “wading” but that would be an exaggeration.

Put on my shorts above my boxer shorts and ran to the intersection to call a plumber. There, a boy said he knows a plumber named Babu. Any Babu would do under the present emergent situation, I sort of blubbered. Then he looks in his mobile phone, searches his wallet and takes out several train tickets on which he has scrawled numbers, and, aw shucks, shakes his head.

What? No Babu to repair my kitchen plumbing?

I go back yank the pipe out, go out and lash it strongly against a wall, and whoa, out comes a lot of garbage that was clogging it! Problem solved. But lesson learnt: maintain your rented house as good as your own.

Worldly wise Anthonybhai has these words of wisdom: “Kya, apun not too much caring about rental accommodation, no men? Aisaich hota hai Mumbai people, no? They think they are here on rent and dirty the place, kya men? No manners only, no?”

Arushi Murder Case

Later in the morning I watch something of a spectacle unreeling on television. A minor stampede, in fact. Hundreds of television cameramen and photographers virtually hounding, yes hounding, Rajesh Talwar and his brother, as the former comes out of jail.

I guess this “trial by media” has gone on too far. I think it is high time the media apologised to the Talwar family for hounding and persecuting them like common criminals. That a father could kill his own daughter, whatever the circumstance, sounded very odd to me. Especially since Indian fathers are so attached to their daughters, treat them better than sons (I have personal experience of this), and consider them as princesses.

Not only that, now that Rajesh Talwar has been proved innocent, how about allegations that he was having an affair with Mrs. So-and-so? The media has no right to speculate. It went into overdrive as it graphically showed the murder situations that “could have happened” when that was the job of the forensic department of police. The presenter on television went into overkill by strutting around and pointing fingers and discussing “what if” scenarios, which weren’t their domains. Their job is to report facts and leave it at that. Instead why couldn’t they say, “A teenaged girls Arushi was murdered and the police is investigating the case.” And why the “Arushi Case”, why the hoopla? Because Rajesh Talwar was high profile and lived in a tony locality? Thousands of murders occur in India and why was only this case picked up. Was it because it was convenient to show a successful couple as being decadent? I could hardly believe that when I saw the cameramen virtually fight with each other to get a shot at Rajesh Talwar. They were like hyenas attacking the carrion left behind by a lion.

The individual is vulnerable in today’s world. The media is not where an individual can go to seek justice he doesn’t get from the system. In halcyon days gone by, a man could write a letter to the editor and get his affairs sorted out at the highest levels. Not anymore. The media will only show what is profitable for them, get them better TRPs.

Anthonybhai has a perfect explanation for this, too: “These media people no, men? No sense, kya men. They only after TRP-BRP, as the rights-vights of common people are friggin kachra, men. These people are like that only, aisaich hai.”

Friday, July 11, 2008

More on Commuting....

More on commuting. By the by this blog is turing into a commuting special of some sort, don’t you think?

Yesterday I was deeply into Salman Rushdie’s “Enchantress of Florence” and lost all track of time. Stations came and went, the rain turned to drizzle and then back to rain. Suddenly it descended a decline and I thought it was Wadala. I gathered raincoat and queued up to disembark. People weren’t moving, as they do when the train comes to Wadala. I struggled a dying man’s struggle before giving up. The wall of flesh in front of me wouldn’t move.

They all were staring at me, not knowing what was wrong. I asked a man which station it was. “Mahim,” he said.

Oh! So that was it. It was Mahim, not Wadala, which was two stations away. But the way I was stared at, grrrr, I got a funny sort of creepy feeling contrasting with the goody feeling I described here.

And then, thinking of the tykes one meets on one’s daily commute, what do you say to the guy who uses your head as a reading table, and the guy who pokes his book at your nose, and the guy who carries a big backpack, and tears my shirt to shreds as he swivels around inside the packed train.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Too Tired and Sleepy to Blog! Zzzzz!


Anup and Princy


I have to blog something today. Google rankings you know. I have now reached the six-figure level and have a lot of catching up to do. I am too tired and sleepy. Yet, I must blog, must blog, must blog.It rained towards evening, after a long hiatus. When it rains the drivers of those rickety contraptions that go by the name of rickshaws behave despondently, even aggressively. Kya sala eating bhav! (What man, trying to be pricey.) I was caught in a monster of a traffic jam, and whiled away the time talking to the rickshaw driver, a quite decent and polite chap from Nagpur. He says it didn't rain in his village. Shows we shouldn't stereotype a class of people, e.g., rickshaw drivers.Earlier in the day Anup, my cousin's son and Princy came to the office. They got married recently and its my regret that I couldn't attend the wedding. They actually called me on the phone and I said since you are staying in Hotel Tunga so close to my office, do come down. Anup lives and works in South Africa, where Rajan-chayan my cousin is based. I am very happy that I could meet the young couple. They were in Bombay for the visa formalities. Princy is beautiful, and I quite forgot to ask her what she studied. I will post a photo sometime later. Now I am too lazy and sleepy to do it. So, bye goodnight, blog, until tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Back from the Brink!



Ganga in a reflective mood, back from the brink of the netherworlds, in which, first of all, he doesn't believe. Here he is at the window of his Chembur bungalow when the morning light streamed in like magic. I shot him and his silvery beard with my Nokia E61i, after we had a night of companionship with nine other friends, all classmates of forty years ago. He said, "I came back [from death] for you all, so let's meet."

He was tossed to one side by an elephant, the tusk of which entered his back and made a gash that barely missed his Aorta and his spinal column. A few centimetres here or there, he wouldn't have been here to pose for this picture. Here he is seen enjoying his second life. He showed me a list of some 40 wild life sancturies he had visited and photographed in.

As I wrote on this blog earlier, he is the one who got Indira Gandhi to make Silent Valley a national park when talk was going on to construct a huge dam in the valley and destroy all the plant and animal species there. He showed her his documentary on the Silent Valley and she, in babuspeak, did the needful.

Thanks Ganga for coming back for us! We love you for what you are and will always look up to you with awe and respect.

Fellow Benchmate Sanjeevan

It's Sanjeevan's constant complaint that I do not publish pictures of his. So here he is, my class mate, and bench mate (yes, we used to share a bench), and now big shot "chief manager" of India's biggest newspaper group. He has a whacky sense of humour, and used to keep me entertained through boring social studies and maths lectures. I owe a lot to him. Thanks Sanjeevan. For some time we used to work on the same floor of Vashi Infotech Park. Partially seen are Chandran and Geeta, who lost her mother recently.

Shutterbugs Rejoice! Filthy Lucre Is Waiting at Flickr!

Those of you (includes me too) who are shutterbugs, lenseyes, and click-happy can now rejoice. Getty Images, the premier image licensing agency has tied up with Flickr to licence images. Which means: if you have images uploaded in your account on Flickr they can be purchased by Getty, if they like it and meets with their requirements. Ah, hah! Some filthy lucre may be on its way to your bank accounts! This release is what Yahoo has put up on their website (read the small print as always). Excerpt:

“Getty Images has always been interested in discovering, championing and marketing great imagery. The availability of economical digital cameras and the dramatic evolution of distribution technologies over the last five years have changed the landscape of our photography industry in exciting ways. It has had a hugely democratizing effect and now image makers all over the globe are able to share and develop their imagery within global communities such as Flickr.”

Considering the six-figure amounts my employer expends on buying rights-managed images, I guess some of this passed to humble folks like us would be welcome news! Pass this on to other lenspersons.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Day That Began Badly... Arushi Murder Case - Overkill?

Had an interesting day. Began badly, but gradually I kept the faith, worked hard and am now in a position to tell all. So here goes:

One of those days: woke up in a tizzy with wife complaining that the kitchen drain pipe was disgorging water into the kitchen, which was then seeping into the drawing room. A slight leakage was detected last night, which was dismissed unceremoniously by yours truly. After all, I am only a renter of the property!

But as calamities go, this was emergency, as the house was filling with water. There was water everywhere. I was sloshing through pools within the flat. In fact, I was thinking of writing “wading” but that would be an exaggeration.

Put on my shorts above my boxer shorts and ran to the intersection to call a plumber. There, a boy said he knows a plumber named Babu. Any Babu would do under the present emergent situation, I sort of blubbered. Then he looks in his mobile phone, searches his wallet and takes out several train tickets on which he has scrawled numbers, and, aw shucks, shakes his head.

What? No Babu to repair my kitchen plumbing?

I go back yank the pipe out, go out and lash it strongly against a wall, and whoa, out comes a lot of garbage that was clogging it! Problem solved. But lesson learnt: maintain your rented house as good as your own.

Worldly wise Anthonybhai has these words of wisdom: “Kya, apun not too much caring about rental accommodation, no men? Aisaich hota hai Mumbai people, no? They think they are here on rent and dirty the place, kya men? No manners only, no?”

Arushi Murder Case

Later in the morning I watch something of a spectacle unreeling on television. A minor stampede, in fact. Hundreds of television cameramen and photographers virtually hounding, yes hounding, Rajesh Talwar and his brother, as the former comes out of jail.

I guess this “trial by media” has gone on too far. I think it is high time the media apologised to the Talwar family for hounding and persecuting them like common criminals. That a father could kill his own daughter, whatever the circumstance, sounded very odd to me. Especially since Indian fathers are so attached to their daughters, treat them better than sons (I have personal experience of this), and consider them as princesses.

Not only that, now that Rajesh Talwar has been proved innocent, how about allegations that he was having an affair with Mrs. So-and-so? The media has no right to speculate. It went into overdrive as it graphically showed the murder situations that “could have happened” when that was the job of the forensic department of police. The presenter on television went into overkill by strutting around and pointing fingers and discussing “what if” scenarios, which weren’t their domains. Their job is to report facts and leave it at that. Instead why couldn’t they say, “A teenaged girls Arushi was murdered and the police is investigating the case.” And why the “Arushi Case”, why the hoopla? Because Rajesh Talwar was high profile and lived in a tony locality? Thousands of murders occur in India and why was only this case picked up. Was it because it was convenient to show a successful couple as being decadent? I could hardly believe that when I saw the cameramen virtually fight with each other to get a shot at Rajesh Talwar. They were like hyenas attacking the carrion left behind by a lion.

The individual is vulnerable in today’s world. The media is not where an individual can go to seek justice he doesn’t get from the system. In halcyon days gone by, a man could write a letter to the editor and get his affairs sorted out at the highest levels. Not anymore. The media will only show what is profitable for them, get them better TRPs.

Anthonybhai has a perfect explanation for this, too: “These media people no, men? No sense, kya men. They only after TRP-BRP, as the rights-vights of common people are friggin kachra, men. These people are like that only, aisaich hai.”

Dear Lalloo-ji, "Aap Kaise Ho?"

It was the usual commute back home today. Just the usual faces, avoiding eye contact, keeping faces blank. Then one passenger mentions how he is sitting on a bump in the seat. Yes, I say, I have sat on a bump in the first class compartment of Bombay local train and have suffered from a backache for days. One for the record: Bombay trains are centuries old, and never maintained.

“Yes, I have suffered your fate,” I say.

And then conversation flows between the six of us sitting facing each other, as if we have known each other for years. I feel sorry that I said on this blog somewhere that they were all creeps. No they aren’t. They are nice people, only a bit confused.

“They don’t listen to us.”

“No they do. They do reply. I got a reply to a complaint I posted, only it was 6 months late,” I say. Government departments do reply to mail, it’s the private companies who don’t. Try reaching customer support of your favourite cellular operator.

“I had complained against a bus conductor and they deducted two days’ salary as penalty,” another, a senior citizen said.

“We must complain, why are we paying three times more when we aren’t getting any comfort during our commute?”

“Yes we must.”

So I draft this letter to Lalloo Prasad Yadav, the railway biggie shot (I just saw him reading a poem in broken English on television), saying how his railways suck though it takes a lot of money out of our pockets. I just finished writing that letter and I will post it tomorrow.

Watch this space for further developments. Will they reply?

Anthonybhai says, “No men, they not bothered only. What you think they will do, they are all lazy buggers, lazy frigging, badmashlog. No justice in this world men, kya re?”

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Future of Books and Newspapers



It's the future of the book as we know it. It's the future of a lot of things like a wrap around computer screen. You could check emails with it and then roll it and keep it in your pocket.

Readius made by Polymer Vision is designed mainly for reading books, magazines, newspapers and mail, and is the size of a cellphone. So, goodbye paper books, here's the Readius.

Isn't it cool? I mean a time will come my novel will be published by an electronic publisher, downloaded into the Readius and read on the way to work. Wishful thinking this, but that seems to be the future of books and newspapers in a world with no more Amazon forests to cut down to supply your newspaper business.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Last Mughal - Story of a People's First Freedom Struggle



I am reading William Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal” and couldn’t help wondering how our past has been so full of bloody conflicts, wars, riots, crimes against humanity, barbarism, rape, looting, and such like.

Dalrymple (despite my earlier reservations about his books) is a wonderful chronicler of history, and has gone really deep into the first war of independence of 1857 to record the fall of an empire under the somewhat ineffective emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. The book is full of man’s cruelty and greed against man.

A fellow passenger, a total stranger (who saw me read the book), remarked to me in the train how Delhi was built on the blood of so many people, how on its roads blood once flowed. It’s true. And Dalrymple’s words make it come alive. I couldn’t but wonder as I read the book, how I had travelled on the streets of Chandni Chowk, the Kashmiri Gate, Red Fort, Ajmeri Gate, Darya Ganj, the Hauz Khas, etc. without realizing that blood had flowed here once, blood of both the white British and Indians alike.

Bombay hasn’t seen any blood, nor has blood been spilled on its streets. But Delhi seems to have had a bloody past, one I couldn’t even imagine in my wildest and restless imaginings. I wrote this poem about Delhi and feel that it may be way off when the bloody history of the city is concerned.

This passage is about how the British forgot their spies and collaborators when they entered as the victorious army into Delhi:

“None of the inhabitants of Delhi had expected a general plunder still less a mass slaughter. But once within the walls, the British conveniently forgot all their allies and supporters. Even their most devoted spies were not safe as Maulvi Muhammad Baqar discovered on or around 15 September when, without explanation, he was picked up and arrested.”

Baqar, the editor of Delhi Urdu Akhbar, had sided with the British and supported their return to Delhi. He was later killed. Only Ghalib (the poet) survived the mass murder and massacre, under very tenuous circumstances and lived to tell his tale.

It was systematic genocide, and it’s regrettable how it hasn’t received much attention in the history books of the sub-continent. I remember my history textbooks mentioning it as “Sepoy Mutiny” while it was actually not a mutiny but a legitimate government of the people of India rising up against a few traders who abrogated the power to govern over them.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Over the Top, Greenpeace?


When Greenpeace was born I was one of the first to approach them to start campaigning in India (yes I still have correspondence to prove it). But their latest campaign against Tata which is constructing the Dhamra Port has certain elements that I find a bit dicey. A letter I received recently from Greenpeace has the following:

“Thanks to you and another 83,000 loyal Tata customers, the campaign to stop the Dhamra port and save the Olive Ridley Turtles is bearing unexpected results.

“And now this. We've just received a pale green envelope in the mail. Inside, a note explaining "I am Namrata's mother… these were made for your campaign by children in the primary section of the Vishwashanti Gurukul, Pune."

“Dozens of paintings, sketches, drawings, each lovingly done by tiny hands for Mr. Ratan Tata. Each asking him to stop the port and save the turtles. It's as if a door has opened to let in the morning light.”

Along with it is this letter to Mr. Rata Tata from one Neal which say:

“Please, please don’t kill them [the turtles]. I will cry, then I will tell to Karad sir, Mr. Tata. Then I will kill myself.”

I guess Greenpeace campaigners have overstepped it this time. I know, from experience, that Greenpeacers are known as the extremists of the environmental movement. Even their fund raising campaigns are very aggressive. (Have you seen those green-jacketed interns dominating railway stations, lately?) However, this is a bit over the top, IMHO.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Things Getting Hot at Google for for Misha?

I am a great fan of "Fake Steve Jobs" the blog run by a journalist who impersonates Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers. He once wrote that whatever Steve Jobs innovates don't have buttons because Jobs hates buttons. (That may be the reason he is always dressed in a polo neck sweater and coat. Also, iPhones don't have buttons!) Brilliant! Here's the fake Steve Jobs' spoof on the murky side of things at Google, with strong sexual undertones. Scandalous I would say.

"Better yet, they also give up the pussy, and even better better yet, they have insurance to pay for their abortions! Ah, America, you sweet blonde cheerleader whore of a country. I love you. I do. Misha, who's been here fifteen months, tells these brain-damaged whores that he's pre-IPO [pre-initial public offering of Google] and only working as an AdWords drone because it's what he loves. He's got a whole story about the glory days at Stanford [where Google was born] with Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin], working in a dorm room, eating pizza and coding all night [just to impress the Ps mentioned above]. Works every time. He's seen more 20-year-old pussy than the gynecologist at a college health clinic."

Interesting stuff! No wonder guys are dying to work at Google!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Morgan Stanley's The Little Green Book

It seems Morgan Stanley is serious about eco-friendliness and conservation. Here's their little green book which I think is a valiant effort at energy conservation. I think every one of us can contribute to the saving of the earth's precious resources. Link courtesy Reena John.

Commuters in an Autorickshaw!

Imagine what sort of people you come across on your daily commute to work. People who drive or are driven to work I would advise you to commute by train, you know, public transport and save this world a lot of pollution, and you can save money for that holiday in the tempting resort tucked into the Kerala backwaters.

I meet a friend of mine outside Andheri. This friend, is a real estate biggie, a general damager, sorry, manager. Then rickshaws being rare we decide to share one it with an ordinary looking guy wearing a half-sleeve shirt. So we sit, me in the centre and these two guys on either sides of me. The guy we picked up works as a risk analyst with one of India’s biggest banks, 3i something. Risk analysis? What’s that? I ask. He says he analyses risks, worst case scenarios, and best case scenarios and depending on them what decisions you should take, you see. Ha… hahn… I saw, the sort like the smart chap who came to my company analysed the risk and told the management that we were over staffed! Exactly, he said.

And this guy used to drive a Ford Ikon, and he gave up because he wanted to really know the pulse of the people. Now he commutes to his office in Andheri (East) through muck, crowd, flies, sewage, and what not. Now he knows what life is all about.

“So risk analysts must be well paid,” I ventured. An owner of a Ford Ikon has to be.

“Yeah a couple of hundred grands.”

“An year?”

“A month!”

God! Why didn’t you make me a risk analyst? I could have made so many worst and good case scenarios. The general damager I am with also makes as much, I know, I am his friend, amn’t I?

Then the conversation veers to something totally alien to an unlettered Johnnie from peasant stock, such as yours truly.

“See the downturn should last till bank PLRs show improvement,” damager says.

“No, the CRR also should show improvement,” says the risk analyst.

God! I wonder where I am; these two moneybags that earn ten times my salary are talking rotten rubbish.

“The market is unstable, only right polices can bring stability,” damager.

“But where’s political stability? When brokers short selling like mad.

“Don’t you think short selling will bottom out?”

“No, not until FIs bring in more funds.”

“What are FIs?” I ask.

“Why? Entities that bring in FDI,” damager, my friend says dismissively.

“Oh! That!” I say unsure of myself.

Then I tune out. I am no longer clued in. I drift away to the smoke belching out of the toad-shaped autorickshaws, the traffic that doesn’t inch even a centimetre, the blaring of horns, and the rain falling on the windshield of the autorickshaw.

But I am still wondering about CRR, PLR, FIs, and FDI as the chatter goes back and forth about NBFCs, FII (not FIs, mind you), WPI, GNP, etc. etc. I am in a totally different world than them. Then I guess they should drive their cars and not the humble rickshaws.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Torrential Rain: Total Chaos, Not Again!


Drenched: dispirited: dejected: as I waited at Kurla for a train back to New Bombay. There was chaos everywhere. No not again after 26 July 2005. There were trains going towards Victoria Terminus but none coming from there, and friends tell me not to go beyond Kurla, I could be stranded, you know.

The Punjab Mail is on the other track, and it is not moving. I take a picture of it. I read “The Last Mughal” and still no trains. Despair, pandemonium prevails. The platform is full of flies, I feel hungry, I buy a packet of gram and eat, standing there and reading my book. I try to SMS my boss but the messages aren’t going. Then I realize there’s no balance in my prepaid phone account.

There are buses that run to New Bombay from here. 501, for instance. I climb the bridge, it’s leaking everywhere: the platform, the bridge, and the trains. Guess Bombay turns into what it were when it rains: a primitive swamp with mud and water everywhere. Yes, that was what it was a thousand years ago – a swamp. And they reclaimed it to build the city and roads. The problem is they didn’t see the once derelict fort and trading post of the British turn into a modern city with the demands of space from so many different businesses.

Guess we get the administrators we deserve. Selfish men who have their self-interest above everything else. They hanker after petty things like re-naming roads, buildings, and whole areas, yet they can’t keep the city dry during monsoons. Why, they can’t even tell trespassers pitching tents in their property to get out, instead offer them houses, FOR FREE! Imagine you giving someone trespassing in your property a free house! The irony becomes all the more evident.

When I descend the stairs there’s a 501 just turning from the depot. I jump in. The bus is packed and there’s hardly room to stand. A man is poking his umbrella and bag in my face. Off with it, I tell. Nothing is visible outside. Some people are laughing and smiling.

“It’s good, let it rain like this for five days, let it get flooded.”

It’s a bit of fun for them. Others make silly jokes about the rain, which I don’t find funny. I wipe the glass to look outside. People are crowding the side of the road, asking for rides. Guess drivers will ask them Rs 50 to reach them to New Bombay. Rascals, preying on innocent commuters.

At last I cross the Thane creek bridge and am in New Bombay. Another deluge in Bombay, another chaos, another case of being stranded, another trudge through ankle deep water is now past. Now I am in a cyber café typing this, and I think the keyboard sucks!

DNA Covers Caferati Meet



Had a great time at the Caferati meet on Sunday, the day before. S. Surekha was there to cover it for the daily newspaper DNA. Here's the link. Quote:

"Caferati arose out of the need to meet, listen to each others works', be appreciated or get feedback. It was initially called the Bombay Writers Club (BWC), but renamed Caferati, about a year after its inception in 2004. John Matthew, a corporate communications person and a member of the forum for the last four years, says, "Writing is a lonely profession. There is a need to share it with like minded people. I have benefited greatly from the forum. It serves as an outlet for my creative works.""

It's Bombay Writers' Cafe not Bombay Writers' Club, Surekha. Anyway, feels nice indeed for the ego to be stoked thusly.