Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jaron Lanier on Anonymity on Blog Forums. A Blogger's Code of Conduct Coming?


Always been a great fan of Jaron Lanier, the internet guru and evangelist, and general web supremo. So we were interested to read the following about anonymity on blog forums, in a discussion with Tim O'Reilley, he of the Blogger's Code of Conduct Fame.

"People who can spontaneously invent a pseudonym in order to post a comment on a blog or on YouTube are often remarkably mean. Buyers and sellers on eBay are usually civil, despite occasional annoyances like fraud. Based on those data you could propose that transient anonymity coupled with a lack of consequences is what brings out online idiocy. With more data, the hypothesis can be refined. Participants in Second Life (a virtual online world) are not as mean to each other as people posting comments to Slashdot (a popular technology news site) or engaging in edit wars on Wikipedia, even though all use persistent pseudonyms. I think the difference is that on Second Life the pseudonymous personality itself is highly valuable and requires a lot of work to create. So a better portrait of the culprit is effortless, consequence-free, transient anonymity in the service of a goal, like promoting a point of view, that stands entirely apart from one’s identity or personality. Call it drive-by anonymity."

"Anonymity certainly has a place, but that place needs to be designed carefully. Voting and peer review are pre-Internet examples of beneficial anonymity. Sometimes it is desirable for people to be free of fear of reprisal or stigma in order to invoke honest opinions. But, as I have argued (in my November 2006 column), anonymous groups of people should be given only specific questions to answer, questions no more complicated than voting yes or no or setting a price for a product. To have a substantial exchange, you need to be fully present. That is why facing one’s accuser is a fundamental right of the accused."

Interesting! So we are learning. We also learn that the best way to counter ad-hominem (attacks to one's personality) is to ignore the attack. Considering we had our share of abusive comments on this and several other blogging and literary forums, we are really wondering when the "Blogger's Code of Conduct" will become final, so we can whack our online critics' backs with it.

Anthonybhai rarely, if ever, uses the net. When we approach him for a quote his response is, why do it anonymously when you can do it in person, drag him by the collar, give him two dishum, dishum, to his stomach and then break his leg. But then, if the Internet has to grow as a medium (which we strongly believe it can) we need to keep it clean of the detritus that clutters our "in person" lives.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

These Are the Seats on which We sit

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The sagging seats in the First Class compartment of Central Railway trains on Harbour Branch. My book just sank in, and if I sit in the pits where my book now sits, I will be rewarded with a backache for the rest of my day.

Our this blogpost and the subsequent letter to Lalloo Yadav did receive one reply, i.e., from the Western Railway. I will scan and post the reply here sometime. The Dy. Chief Engineer (EMU) has replied with a detailed list of activities the Western Railway has been doing including:

1. Seats maintained every 21 days. Seat found defective due to opening of stitches, thread, torn rexine ect. are removed from the coach and suitably provided with rubberized coir cushions.

2. Doors are repaired for corrosion, roller assembly are replaced if found worn beyond 3 mm. All moving parts are greased before fitting them back on the door.

3. Window. There is a plan to replace aluminium windows by FRP unbreakable windows with the added advantage of lighter weight and lesser maintenance.

4. Lights/Fans: 100 per cent functioning of lights and fans is ensured by bearing change, commutator profiling, testing each fan on the test panel before fitting it back on the coach.

The letter ends with, "While all efforts are being made to maintain passenger amenity items in the overaged fleet of Western Railway, better amenities have been designed and provided in the newly introduced Siemens AC/DC rakes."

Good show Western Railway! We appreciate your reply.

However, Central Railway on which we are traveling right now has been lax in its reply. We haven't received your reply Central Railway, so please hurry up. Do you see the kind of seats on which we sit (if not, see picture)?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why the Markets Fell, and Dampened Our Diwali

Santosh Desai in his article in today's Times of India raises a few issues that, we feel, need wider coverage, to see at least how many others think and feel like him. We for our part agree with him to some extent.

In India regulators have become some sort of accomplices. You see this rampantly in every aspect of life. From the traffic cop who accepts a bribe to a babu who accepts gifts all are compromising their positions, and diluting the structure of our democratic institutions.

We cheered, we are ashamed to say this, when they said that out of the top ten richest, four are Indians. How did they get this wealth. One such richest men is building a 27 storey building for his residence which will have six floors to park his cars. But we didn't cheer when they said thousands committed suicide because of inability to pay off loans. Take the following as an example:

"The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute released its report "The World's Most Deprived: Characteristics and Causes of Extreme Poverty and Hunger" on 6th Nov 07. The Institute devised the global hunger index (GHI) as a measure of poverty & hunger in a country. This report is the first of its kind to use household survey data to look at those living below the one-dollar-a- day line. The index is designed to capture three dimensions of hunger: lack of economic access to food, shortfalls in the nutritional status of children, and child mortality, which is largely attributable to malnutrition. Some of the rankings among 119 poorest nations:

47 China
68 Myanmar
69 Sri Lanka
88 Pakistan
92 Nepal
96 India

Mauritius is among the top 20 of least hungry countries." I took this from a Google Group called Kerala farmers, because news like this is hard to find in print or online."

And in India, self-regulation is a farce. I know because I headed an industry association that had the hallowed view that self-regulation was better than government regulation and the association made rules with loopholes so big that even an elepahant of infringement could saunter through it without any problem.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Today Is Dhanteras, First Day of Diwali!

Diwali is here, but in a muted sense, today being Dhanteras, the worshipping of "dhan" meaning money and the buying of gold, silver, and precious metals. No deafening crackers that would shatter the ear, less colour, less parading of finery. Let's learn to be subdued. The market fell another 1000 points on friday, and we said "Oh, God, not again!"

There's a saying in the Bible, "Who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." The same goes to speculation, we guess. "Who lives by speculation, dies by speculation." The market was bloating like the mid-region of a properperous shetji these past few months and when time came to deflate the bowels with a well-deserved enema, all the shit came out.

Our wealth enjoying brother Dhansukhbhai is sad on Dhanteras. I say, "Kem cho bhai," and he doesn't even look up. Usually he is driven in his Toyota lexus to office, but today he is commuting by the humble local train. He can't afford a driver anymore, and is cutting costs.

"Bajar ma mandi che, thame nathi khabhar?" There's a depression in the market, don't you know. "But," we say, "You are responsible, no? The market moves in cycles of highs and lows, and you people mopped up the funds of a lot of people who lost during the lows, isn't that right?"

We notice the bags under his eyes, his hunched shoulders, his drooping lips, a picture of lonely agony, but his talk is bullish about the future. "I am saving every penny these days. Getting rid of bad stocks and buying only blue chips. You see, with reliance down to 1200 or so, I would definitely buy some more.

Guess he is right. Wasn't it Warren Buffet who said, "When the market is high be concerned and sell, and when the market is down, be happy and buy." Well, not his exact words, but something to that effect.

Happy Diwali, Dhansukhbhai!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Driving Crazy in Delhi

If you haven't seen the way Delhiites drive, you haven't seen driving! Honest, they are like Formula 1 drivers, minus the helmets and suits, of course. Such aggression, such use of the senses, such reflexes, such energy, such anxiety to get home to loved ones and have a jalebi, laddoo, chas, lassi, tandoori chicken, or, sarson ka saag and makki di roti with them. So we were pleasantly surprised when we read the following article in Time Out .


"Tom Vanderbilt started out with a simple objective: he “wanted to hear what traffic has to say”. He realised that when drivers get on the road, “we are navigating through a legal system, we are becoming social actors in a spontaneous setting, we are processing a bewildering amount of information, we are constantly making predictions and calculations and on-the-fly judgements of risk and reward, and we are engaging in a huge amount of sensory and cognitive activity.” The way we drive not only reflects our personalities but is also a function of our cultural heritage, Vanderbilt contends. Read the full article."

Colaba, in the Night!

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Colaba enchanting, alluring, vibrant, like a teenager's heart beating in the breast of a distinguished old lady

Ages, probably, aeons ago, we used to work in Colaba. Went there to get our watch repaired at the Titan showroom at Hamilton House yesterday and was surprised at how Colaba had changed and, well, um, hadn't changed. (Y'know, the more things change, the more they remain the same... and all that....) The owner of the Udupi restaurant, the poky one next to Delhi Durbar, recognised me. Said hello! Then walked down the road a bit to Esperanca and Eucharistic Congress Building, and Cusrow Baug. Esperanca (pronounced Esperansa), meaning beauty or something in Portuguese, is still the serene, majestic building towering over the entire area (except Taj Mahal Hotel, perhaps), and it had the same majestic aura of Catholic solemnity and sanctimoniousness about it. When I come to Cusrow Baug there are many pretty Parsi girls and their boyfriends, bargaining with trinket vendors. I know they are Parsi by the way they talk the particular Parsi patois. I worked here for nearly 10 years, loved this area, and still do. It was here my then boss used to live, I mean Esperanca, and a visit to his flat on the fifth floow was something like visiting the King or Queen. Made me long for those halcyon days.

Back in those days, after lunch, I would go for a walk in the afternoon to friend Mani's bookstall above (see the books neatly arranged on the left), to ogle at the books and buy them, this when our salary was around Rs 800 a month, a princely sum in those days. Then I would buy an evening paper - a copy of Mid-Day - at Arjun Singh's newspaper stall outside Cafe Mondegar. Mani has done well, and has since started Searchword nearby and as for the one-eyed Arjun Singh, I don't know where he is. In the area pictured above is the former bookstall owned by Mani, and in front of it are the Malayali trinket vendors offering chains in beads, precious stones, leather belts, amulets, rings, all in an array of outre styles and designs, and we loved to just stand and stare at them (mind you, not buy them, for we were a bit shy of these things). But all those vendors from the Malabar were my friends, but no one remains. Wonder where they have gone. Maybe, back to Kerala or to the Gulf to run small restaurants and food catering businesses.

Then we used to visit Nalanda in the Taj Mahal Hotel, and was a bit apprehensive that we would be turned out in this hallowed precint. But we weren't even once questioned in the Taj Mahal, that last bastion on good manners, good food, and good living. We would go through the fantastic collection of books from everywhere in the cool environs of Nalanda, books of all colours, subjects, sizes, and surprise, surprise, they also sold comics and Bibles!

That was Colaba, once, mesmerising, captivating, beautiful, vibrant as only Colaba could be. And we found out yesterday, it still is.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Aruna Roy: Using RTI to Get Justice

Citizens for Peace has been doing excellent work to promote peace, understanding, a ray of hope in the murky world of communalism, sloganeering, vocalism, and violence. In this article below Aruna Roy, Magsaysay Award winner talks about how the aggrieved in Gujarat used the Rights to Information Act (RTI) to get the police to treat them with respect. Seems to us, poor defenseless people that we are, RTI is the only stick that a belegured public can wield against those in power who manipulate it for their own ends and reasons. Excerpts:

"Kuldip Nayyar would probably have been quite encouraged if he had heard some of the presentations made by people during the course of the day at the same meeting. Presenting a well researched and documented report of the Nyayahgrah programme in Gujarat, Surur Mander spoke about the use of the RTI by victims of the Gujarat riots. They had embarked on a mission to seek justice with a firm resolve to not resort to unethical or violent means. For pursuing the legal cases, information was a vital prerequisite. Initially, their sense of hopelessness with the criminal justice system was only getting compounded, as their requests for information were rudely turned down, and they were turned out of the police stations they went to.

"Their use of RTI soon after the Act was passed however, brought about a dramatic change. Not only were their questions being answered for the first time, but suddenly they were being treated with dignity in the very offices that had aligned themselves with their tormentors. They were now being asked to sit down, offered a cup of tea, and being treated as respectable citizens. Even more significant was the change in the powerlessness. Police officers even agreed to face political pressure and arrest the powerful communal leaders they had been reluctant to, with the request that the related RTI applications be withdrawn. Over 200 people in Nyayagraha have through peaceful persistence procured information from the police, and put the truth in the public domain. Read the full article here.

Good work Citizens for Peace. We applaud your efforts!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who Will Speak for Us Mallus?


Woke up this morning only to see that three-wheeled autorickshaw, our choice of transport, had kept off the roads. Oh, hadn’t they struck work only last week. Why again? What’s wrong with these rickshaw drivers? Oh, ho, then we receive a call from colleague Harjinder who says that Raj Thackeray the politician has been arrested and there’s unrest in the city. So we go back home. Things could take an ugly turn, so am not going to risk it. Another day lost.

As we write it this there are images on television and talk of Raj’s arrest. There are those images that are put on some kind of loop, again and again we see a woman in dark glasses and confident mien being shown entering a court with a man in a black coat, obviously a lawyer, a man asking a policewoman something, and then the policewoman pointing to something, or some place, and the man walking away, and a lot of hands being raised, waving, shouting something, and the people assembled there are smiling, arguing, shouting, waving flags, there seems to be a lot of screaming into cameras, as a lot of cameras are held upright above the head. And look, there is a cameraman climbing on the shoulders of his colleague to get a better shot.

And it happens. What is called a “lathi charge.” A lathi is a staff carried by the policemen in India and when they charge and beat up demonstrators with that stick, it is called a “lathi charge,” a mild one this time. Mild, because they can be ruthless at times, too. If you ask us we have never seen a “lathi charge” and are amazed the able way our corpulent cops can wield the stick, so lustily they beats them up. Yeah, they are efficient, at least, in this activity. Y’know beating up people comes easy because you can vent all that pent up anger.

Our friend Anthonybhai has a different take: Men, these are people whose pride has been hurt, whose rights have been taken away, deprived, men, by the migrants to the city from far away. We ask: but why the wanton destruction of property? Wasn’t passive resistance the Gandhian method of protest? Gandhi didn’t ask his followers to break glass or blacken people’s faces. Our other wealth-enjoying-brother Dhansukhbhai is fearful, after all he was also under the weather recently for not displaying the name of his company in his posh Nariman Point office in the local script. A mob entered his office and blackened his face. “No comment,” was his reaction. But then he calls me up in the evening and says, “I don’t think I should be saying this, but don’t quote me.” We say, no, we are only citizen journalists, nobody takes us seriously. “Pachi, these regional parties, no, I somehow have a bad feeling about them. Baddu, baddu, gana, gana, che. Raj talks about the right of Maharashtrians, and Lalloo talks about the right of Biharis. Who will talk about the rights of us Gujaratis?”

He is right. Who, for that matter, will speak for the rights of a Mack-English speaking Goan like Anthonybhai? Who will speak for us Mallus?

And here we would like to introduce our new character Poovannamnilkunnathil (it simply mean 'House were the Poovannam tree stands') Mathaichettan. No, don't try to pronounce the first word, you will find it impossible, on your uninitiated tongue, and send Mathaichettan into a tizzy about "ignorant", "arrant" "uninitiated" bourgeoise customs. Just call this president of the local Kairali Association as Mathaichettan, meaning elder brother Mathai (which is the Malayalam equivalent of Matthew). His face quivers with indignation when we ask him for a quote for our blog.

"It's alright for people to fight along regional, er, er, caste-based, er, er, language-based political lines. But according to God and Karl Marx we were all created equal, can't you see," says this god-fearing believer in class struggle.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Being Driven into Town

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Had a brief respite from commuting when colleague Harjinder picked me up and drove me into town, as it was the company's annual conference. Harjinder and me are from the suburb of Chembur, where we grew up together, and must have, unknowingly, passed each other a hundred times. It is only now that we have met and, as coincidence would have it, got introduced.

So, as we drove through Chembur we reminisced the old haunts of the suburb, the RK studios where we (I) and our friend would go to see the stars, the Basant theatre where we would see movies such as MacKenna's Gold in 70 mm, the eateries of Sindhi Colony which had the best street food, the RCF colony, the factories that would give Chembur such a bad name, and countless other places where we had walked, which still bore our footprints (or, so we think).

We were in town in one hour from New Bombay as we took the private refinery road which is less crowded. From this road we could see the railway tracks on which we commute on a daily basis. The place has changed: swanky housing complexes, factories and slums dot the landscape in a rather higgledy-piggledy mien, totally without form or planning.

But then, that's Bombay.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CBD Belapur - The Central Business District that Never Was! Instead Vashi Took Its Place

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St. Xaviers Ground Where We Played Our First Collegiate Football Match

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(The St. Xaviers ground where we played our first collegiate football match)

This is the St. Xaviers ground where we played our first collegiate football match, as we were in the college football team, obviously. We lost by a big margin 6 to 0, thoroughly thrashed by a more professional team. That was the first and the last match we played. Since we were the last man in the team, we were asked to be the linesman, only getting to play for five minutes when another member retired out of exhaustion. We only got to strike the ball once. Our team never got near the goalpost of the other team because they were dominating our goalpost and rewarding us with goal after goal. Groan! Grumble! Grumble!

We pass this ground everyday on the way to work near Metro Cinema, Marine Lines, to be exact, and the scene was too tempting to be missed by our phone camera. (Nokia N 61 gives good pictures, by the by.) Memories came flooding by, as we survey the first Waterloo of our sporting career. Our team had our class friends Saswata, Ghanshyam, Kaviraj. Haven't met them for a long time. Where are they?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Winter Has Arrived! There's That Mellowness about the Sun!

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Glad to learn that Arvind Adiga won the Booker Prize, or, is it Man Booker Prize. The media is blaring it in scrolling texts in its ticker tape inspired, screen bottom animation of news. One just sits and stares at the words that scroll past. Indeed a proud moment for India, for it's millions of struggling writers, and for the writing craft itself. What that means for us is another novel to read and to write about. We are also a bit despondent because our career in writing hasn't taken off. We can only hang one's head in shame, despite having been tried our best, the feeling remains, through the curtain of loneliness that has been our won't recently, that the dream will never come true, however hard we tried, and that perhaps writing a few words on this blog is what we have been destined for.

And on the train an urchin screams in his throaty, high-pitched wail: novel, imported, novel imported, as if anything imported - even novels - is better than what is perhaps Indian. Oh, bollocks, go to hell, will you, we feel like screaming. We grow more depressed hearing that. Aren't we good enough? Aren't we just a cowardly good-for-nothing writer, who hasn't made an iota of progress in our craft, because we didn't try hard enough, taken enough risks and put oneself to the test in the craft? Questions, questions, questions, and no answers. We contemplate the life of a writer, the diminishing role he has in modern life, how insignificant he is, how without purpose.

Congratulations Arvind Adiga, be prepared for what they are going to say about your writing, and don't let success get into your brain.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Taken from a Taxi on Marine Drive

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Taken leaning out of a cab at Marine Drive. The Cabby said "God made all people different with a purpose"

Cabbie’s Lesson: God Created People different with Purpose

Yesterday: time: evening: was driving a cab with a cabby from Illahabad, huh, we say, and he says, “Amitabh’s town,” and we talk of the situation in the country, inflation and the like. We say we are sorry Amitabh is not well, and we say we will pray for him. We connect. And he is a good talker, says he is a Baniya, the trading class, and eats meat, “Veggies don’t know what they are missing,” and makes around five hundred rupees a day, which isn’t bad. But driving a cab is tough work, what with the October heat!

He says in Illahabad, farm labour is difficult to get because all the labourers are in cities like Delhi doing house painting, carpentry and other skilled work. So he has to go all the way back to his village to cultivate his field, or it will become fallow, and the soil would leach from not being used. That’s his worry. Yes, that’s his worry in this buzzing city of Bombay where deals are struck every moment for millions, no, crores.

He says God made people different, “Hindi, Chini, African, Angrez (English)” with a purpose. God wanted people to be different, wanted the animals to be different, like black and white so people are in a constant state of surprise, as “see that dog, its nose is flat,” he says pointing to a bull terrier. We laugh.

Yeah people are different, they behave in their own cultural milieus, social fashions, they behave strangely all the time, and looking at a person you cannot make out who is what. We like to chat with cabbies just to keep our jaws working, and to ease the tension. And we lean a bit out of the taxi and take a picture of Marine Drive (see above).

Yes, people are different and we should not discriminate because they are different. We do that all the time. And we are told we are different, and that we have a strange walk, as if we were doing the “goose steps.” Yes our steps go wonky once we start walking and we guess that’s a gift of our being shy. Yes Prince Charles also walks that way. Every beautiful person has something different, something which isn’t normal, such as our walk isn’t normal. I saw a guy today, good body, good walk, good face, good dress sense, but then my eyes travelled to his hand, it was bent quite wrong. Aaaaaaah, we exclaim, what an aberration, what a disappointment. But then nobody is made perfect, we guess.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Barack Osama?

This is the mother of gaffes, as gaffes go. Sure it will have a lot of election officials go red in the ear, white in the face, green behind the ear, whatever....

The New York Times magazine has this story.


"This week, hundreds of absentee ballots were sent out to voters who are registered in Rensselaer County with the names of two presidential candidates on them: John McCain and Barack Osama. Yep, that's right, Osama.

"Both Democratic and Republican officials insist this is a typo, but according to the Albany Times-Union, everyone feels pretty embarrassed. Roughly 300 voters received the ballots. "Is it a Freudian slip, intentional act or a mistake?" asks the paper. "Voters are sure to have opinions, and one pol pointed out that the letters 's' and 'b' are not exactly keyboard neighbors."

Anthonybhai has a different take, "What men, this Obama guy has potential, hahn, he and that other bhidu, whassisname, John Macdonald, something, they are slugging it out, it's the dirtiest presidential fight so far I have seen, men. What am I bothered, here with the markets down and vegetable costing a fortune." Anthonybhai says this and turns to his job of selling soaps and detergents for a living.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Apologies to Bob Dylan's "The Times They aChangin"

We have done a Bob Dylan-ish take in this poem "Yes, the Times They Have Changed". We mean "The Times They Are aChangin" song. Hope you like it.

It goes thusly, do kindly read:

Television’s full of wars and countries breaking,
Mutilated bodies, running people, and reporters screaming,
Don’t believe newspapers or channels any more,
It’s TRPs they are after, truth is just a chore.

Yes it’s true the times they have changed,
Yesterday’s history, the future has arrived.

More here:"Yes, the Times They Have Changed".

Thursday, October 09, 2008

On Reading Amitav Ghosh's "Sea of Poppies"


It's raining. We have recently finished Amitav Ghosh's "The Sea of Poppies" and had drawn close to the well-etched characters, their foibles, weaknesses, strengths, courage, etc. We think novels are a manifestation of how vulnerable we are, how inside us we are all alike. We like it when we draw close to a character in the story like Zachary Reid, his courage, his strength becomes ours too. Zachary Reid epitomizes the strength of character that he exhibits when Serang Ali tempts him to be a pirate. But that would be giving away the plot of the story, wouldn't it?

Deeti, Neel, and Jodu are other characters which came within reach, so much so that one could extend ones arms and touch them, feel one with them, and get inside their heads. The extensive bibliography provides references to the book that Amitav used for writing the book and it's nothing short of amazing the amount of research that must have gone into it.

Neel's transformation from a Raja to a convict and criminal and his serving of his cellmate shows the tender caring side of him. Though brought up in luxury as a Raja he makes the transition from luxury of the palace to that of the cooped up cell inside the slave ship without rebellion and accepts it as his destiny.

The novel works in several parallel levels, independently, and then brings all the characters together in the slave ship to reach its climatic scene, the one enacted against the backdrop of the storm.

Well done, Amitav, loved to read this!

We Go for a Walk and This Is What We See, an Incoming Storm!

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A storm is coming, and as we type, it's raining a soft but steady drizzle.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tomorrow Is Dussehra, So New Bombay Is Awash in Flowers!

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Dussehra is tomorrow and the streets of New Bombay are awash with flowers

"Diwali Dusera, hath pair pasra"

The above has been a favourite saying of ours since our childhood in the suburb of Chembur. The festival season is heralded by the offering of flowers, the doing of pooja on books and business accoutrements, and the burning of Ravana, signifying the death of evil. It is also the advent of the festival season, as Navratri comes to a close and the colours and lights and merriment of Dussehra and Diwali start. We look forward to the millions of lanterns, wicker lamps, blinking lights of all hues, and the giving of sweets to friends and relations. Our neighbours bring sweets and we would have to watch out for our sugar levels.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Paul Newman Is No More



Among icons of Hollywood cinema we consider the following inevitably ineluctable and their craft ineffable. For their towering personlities, presence on screen and off it, and for their dedication to their craft in spite of setbacks. They didn't just fade away as Indian stars (except Amitabh) do, but kept on pursuing their careers and acting dreams, and at age 78 Clint Eastwood still makes moves (sorry movies!).

Paul Newman
Gene Hackman
Robert Redford
Clint Eastwood
Burt Reynolds

And, we say this with some shame, Paul Newman, the one with piercing grey eyes and a set of the mouth that we enjoyed watching, the one with the taciturn and brooding presence, and star of movies such as Towering Inferno, The Verdict, The Sting, and many others I haven't seen, IS DEAD. "Just impossible" we said when we heard the news, we thought stars DON'T DIE but they fade away like Suraiya, Kishore Kumar, Meena KUmari, Raj Kapoor, Catherine Hepburn, and the like. Their roles get shorter, their presence less commanding, and the gossip rags are rude and stop featuring their mug shots.

But Paul Newman was a favourite, a strong solid and dependable actor and here's what his friend Robert Redford writes about him in this article


"The friendship that grew out of the experience of making that film and The Sting four years later had its genesis in the fact that although there was an age difference, we both came from a tradition of theater and live TV. We were respectful of craft and focused on digging into the characters we were going to play. Both of us were fundamentally American actors, with the qualities and virtues that characterize American actors: irreverence, playing on the other's flaws for fun, one-upmanship — but always with an underlying affection. Those were also at the core of our relationship off the screen."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Inside Our Church, This Morning!

Writer poet John P Matthew church
The faithfuls having holy communion

The faithfuls (of which we are one) have the Holy Communion which is a holy sacrament. Picture above shows our parish priest administering the body and blood of Christ, which we believe renews us in the faith and gives us release from our feeling of sin and guilt because we have asked for forgiveness. Christianity is a religion which believes in forgiveness of one’s sins if we forgive those who have sinned against us. We, too, forgive people who have said or done wrong things to us, because as a Christian it keeps us free from overt feeling of guilt and a pervasive consciousness of sin, which can be a heavy burden on anyone’s shoulder. We don’t miss church whenever we can, and the above picture has been taken during today’s worship.

When we hear of the atrocities in Kandhamal in Orissa (nun raped, woman raped and killed, houses looted and pillaged, churches destroyed), our heads lower in shame, is that all we could make of our freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution. And speaking of the violence where are all the policing authorities who are supposed to bring law and order to the people, even minorities?

Particularly alarming is the way the states of India are turning into theocratic states that sponsor violence against minorities. It happened in Gujarat under Narendra Modi, and now it is happening in Orissa, ruled by Naveen Patnaik, who has the support of BJP. It happened again in Karnataka which reported incidents of violence against Christians, which is again a BJP ruled state under Yeddyurappa.

The verdict is all clear as daylight for everyone to see, i.e., that the BJP-ruled states are encouraging atrocities against minorities and not restraining elements within their party who are out to foment trouble and deny minorities their right to freedom of religion.

Three states are guilty of this crime against humanity and the verdict is clear enough. There is no doubt about which party is guilty of inciting trouble. Why isn’t the moderate centrist central government led by the UPA acting against them? Manmohan Singh says “Orissa Tarred India [sic] Image,” but, forget the bad language, will he ever do something? Even that outburst came because the French Prime Minister pulled him up recently.

Religious extremism and terrorism are linked, yes, they are. One begets the other. A sense of insecurity prevails in us; we are constantly on the lookout for terrorist attacks at railway stations, for we are dependent on it for commuting. And when going to church we are again beset by fears, which we weren’t earlier.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why Are Our Malls So Loud!

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As we have said before, we find malls relaxing, so we wander around, have a snack and walk out again when we get the time, and these days we don't buy much, as an expensive trouser we bought at a so-called "sale" bled colour, shrank, and made us look uncouth and uncool when we wore it. So, it's finito to shopping for us, but we still hang around Raghuleela mall, because we worked close to this shopping extravaganza, and we stare at its atrium, and we stare some more at the clothes and wonder what we would look like in them, and then we walk out, away from these meretricious things.

Makes us wonder why our malls are so loud, the one above even had a disc jockey playing earsplitting music, so we couldn't talk to the sales men, couldn't browse in peace, couldn't meet with the inner self as we perambulated around this mall by the rail that Raghuleela actually is.

Money-loving Dhansukhbhai approves of what we do, we guess. He says malls are for foolish people, he prefers his Cambridge shirts and trousers, cheap, a spot loud, even though it might be. Bless him.

I keep a close watch on people in malls, I know I would be least conspicuous as we observed them and here's what we think. People who buy in malls are people from out of town, you know the small town types who come to Bombay with wads of money tucked in their mundus and dhotis? Yes, they are. We saw a couple of "achayans" from Kerala and immediately guessed who they might be: rich rubber plantations owners and cashew and pepper traders, out to a wedding of someone in the family in Bombay having enough time to gallivant and even more money to spend. And they wore crisp mundus and starched shirts, and their women looked like they walked straight out of the Jayanti Janata Express or the Netravati Express, as the case may be.

"Aiiyo, achayo, enthundu vishesham," before they could smile broadly and say these words, we exit, and make a beeline for the exits.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Google Faces the Heat from Microsoft!

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Seems Goggle Page Rank, the undisputed ranking of the effectiveness of a website bestowed by Google will have a tough competitior in Microsoft's recently launched BrowseRank. Says Michael Lowry in this article:

"Microsoft recently unveiled the details of BrowseRank, its new browsing algorithm meant to compete with and eventually outperform Google and its PageRank. Instead of measuring the links to and from a specific page, BrowseRank calculates how often users visit the site and for how long. Microsoft feels this will give Internet users, and not web developers, more control over page relevancy, thus leading to a freer, more democratic Internet.

"Search, like many things in life, is all about Rank. And right now Microsoft is a distant third, a dark and unfamiliar place for a company so used to dominating the computer industry. Indeed, Microsoft is struggling to remain relevant in the search world, peering over the shoulder of Yahoo while trying to catch a glimpse of the real superstar. Of course, I am talking about Google, the undisputed Internet Search King. As of June 2008, Google accounted for a whopping 70% of all U.S. searches, which is up 6% from June 2007. Yahoo came in a distant second with a 20% share, while MSN had just five and a half percent and barely held off Ask(dot)com for third place."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Vandals Have Struck, Ye Gods, and How!

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It's the height of vandalism, it's the height of defiance of rules of civil living. Go anywhere in Bombay and you see tons of spit on all walls, on every corner, in every waste basket, in every laboriously painted and maintained wall. This is a disease our society suffers from, spitting all the time. The roads are full of spit and we dread to step on them.

We dread even to look at all the spit and the spitters. But the language and this piece of vandalism caught our eye and we captured it on our cellphone camera. The spit is aimed right at the mouth of the drawn face. With what precision! Amazing!

Anthonybhai is back from his vacation in Goa and what he says is, "Why can't the gormint provide proper spittoons for people to spit men, then, at least this ugliness on all our buildings can be avoided. Make sense, men? People should be taught to take care of the city's walls, after all, men, do you spit on the walls of your own house?"

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Scene Inside the Train This Morning, All You Can See Are Hands and Bodies!

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We clicked this twisting ourselves, raising our hand above the grind of flesh, so you know how hard it is commuting in Bombay. Moving or stretching hands and feet are prohibited as bodies are thickly packed, a few movements can irritiate the person stand next to us. So we had to be careful. All you can see are hands, hands, hands everywhere. There's a mass exodus when the train comes to Kurla, because that's where the hoi polloi get down for the sweat shops of Andheri and Bandra-Kurla.