Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Ah, boxing day, not boxer's day, sorry for the gaffe of a few day's earlier post in which I referred to it as boxer's day, duly corrected by Peter Griffin (thanks, Peter, guess you are an authority on these subjects, and thanks for reading what I write on my blog), so accepted, boxing day it is. Today is boxing day, traditionally, the day of giving gifts to the needy and less privileged, which term, would also include employees, dependents, knowing as how underprivileged (and underpaid) this blogger is. Alas, no one gave any gifts, or, presents, so I will let it pass.
Spent Christmas at home, writing, what will be my second novel, completed a difficult chapter, i.e., chapter nine. The day outside was beautiful, the sky an inexplicable and indefinable blue, only known to the color palette of an artist, not common writers of my ilk. The valley was green as usual, myriad shades that merged and emerged, only to please the eye by nodding and waving playfully at me, as I sat writing on the small balcony attached to my bedroom. Have set myself a deadline of completing the novel by year end, which I am sure I can do, if I am freed from stupid stumbling blocks.
Friday, December 25, 2009
, unsatisfied with Austria-Hungary 's response to her ultimatum declared war on Serbia on Serbia 28 July 1914.
, bound by treaty to Russia , announced mobilisation of its vast army in her defence, a slow process that would take around six weeks to complete. Serbia
, allied to Germany by treaty, viewed the Russian mobilisation as an act of war against Austria-Hungary , and after scant warning declared war on Austria-Hungary on 1 August. Russia
, bound by treaty to France , found itself at war against Russia and, by extension, on Germany following a German declaration on 3 August. Austria-Hungary was swift in invading neutral Germany so as to reach Belgium by the shortest possible route. Paris
, allied to Britain by a more loosely worded treaty which placed a "moral obligation" upon her to defend France , declared war against France on 4 August. Her reason for entering the conflict lay in another direction: she was obligated to defend neutral Germany by the terms of a 75-year old treaty. With Belgium 's invasion of Germany on 4 August, and the Belgian King's appeal to Belgium for assistance, Britain committed herself to Britain 's defence later that day. Like Belgium , she was by extension also at war with France . Austria-Hungary
's entry into the war, her colonies and dominions abroad variously offered military and financial assistance, and included Britain , Australia , Canada , India and the Union of South Africa. New Zealand
- “United States President Woodrow Wilson declared a U.S. policy of absolute neutrality, an official stance that would last until 1917 when Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare - which seriously threatened America's commercial shipping (which was in any event almost entirely directed towards the Allies led by Britain and France) - forced the U.S. to finally enter the war on 6 April 1917.
, honouring a military agreement with Japan , declared war on Britain on Germany 23 August 1914. Two days later responded by declaring war on Austria-Hungary . Japan
, although allied to both Italy and Germany , was able to avoid entering the fray by citing a clause enabling it to evade its obligations to both. In short, Austria-Hungary was committed to defend Italy and Germany only in the event of a 'defensive' war; arguing that their actions were 'offensive' she declared instead a policy of neutrality. The following year, in May 1915, she finally joined the conflict by siding with the Allies against her two former allies.” Austria-Hungary
Thursday, December 24, 2009
It's Christmas once again! I don't know how time has passed, and the songs on my lips, as I take my shower (disclosure: I am an unashamed bathroom singer) are: "Deck the halls with boughs of holly", "I am dreaming of a white Christmas", "Christmas is the season", etc. I love to sing them, out of key, out of harmony. But what a changed Christmas: moved into my new house, the shadow of the recession hasn't lifted from my head, work, well, work is work, never ending. I haven't seen my novel to the end. Don't get the time to steer it towards the end, though I am so charged up with ideas, I only have time to drop into bed after the day and dinner is done. Guess, it will have to wait. Meanwhile I am at a crucial juncture when my protagonist mulls if he should or shouldn't have sex with his secretary. Any suggestions? Ideas? Is it ethical? He is not a very ethical person, too. Consider that.
Hm. How do I celebrate the spirit of Joy that is Christmas, then?
I used to send a lot of cards during Christmas, to my brother, sisters, cousins, friends. But now, we make a phone call, not send cards. And, here too, we make compromises. We put off calling, or, when we call the other party is either busy, else, his or her mobile is dead. Technology gives you a lot of choices, but we are left confused by the choices we are given. Most of my business contacts phone me on my cell phone rather than my office extension. The result is that they find it convenient to disturb me when I am commuting and when I am in the bathroom. Damn! I can't hear a thing when I am in a train, because of the background noises, and the constant jabber of my fellow passengers. It's good we have mobile phones, but we communicate even less and less. A friend got upset that I had disturbed him on his holiday. I don't know in what critical dilemma he was in when I called. But he later made up, so it's okay.
Both Anthonybhai and Kuriachen Kuriakose, regulars in this blog send their greetings to my readers for Christmas. But maro friend Dhansukhbhai Jethalal Shah, one of the biggest money bags of Bombay, is sulking because the market is going through a volatile phase. His company's shares have dropped like the burnt remains of the fireworks of Christmas.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
So? Now that this blogger has left the big folly that was Copenhagen behind, he is at a loss to understand and reconcile with what happened. A lot of powerful people gathered there. Sure. Surely they all had children – Obama has Malia Anne and a second daughter, Natasha; Berlusconi has a few: Pier Silvio Berlusconi, Barbara Berlusconi, Eleonora Berlusconi, Luigi Berlusconi; Sarkozy has: Pierre Sarkozy (by Culioli), Jean Sarkozy (by Culioli), Louis Sarkozy (by Ciganer-Albéniz). Now didn't any of them think of their children and their grandchildren when framing the terms of climate control? Hm. What I am asking is rhetorical in the extreme, I know, I know. But don't they realize they are cheating their children and grandchildren out of a good life, a reasonably good and honest life enjoying the bliss of nature and its produce.
Duh, there I go all preachy and maudlin sentimental. But Copenhagen, people, readers of this blog, was a big disappointment, and I can't get over it.
Vir Sanghvi, whose gastronomically delightful shows I sit through out of habit on discovery travel and living – though I don't like his accent which starts with a treble in every sentence and tries (um, unsuccessfully) to end in a base tone – has this to say about the prostitution of media space, considering that most politicians bought editorial space – as distinct from advertisement space – in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Says Anu Jogesh from Copenhagen in this article in business.com:
"To me, it's the first step in a series of first steps over the last 17 years. Kyoto, which couldn't get the US on board, was a first step, Bali where any semblance of a global emission target disappeared was a first step, and Copenhagen where no country signed up is being seen as a first step."
Clearly shows there wasn't an accord. Why don't they realize that the environment not a single country's responsibility - not poor, not developing, not developed - but that of the entire earth, the whole jing bang world? The article also shows Barack Obama as an old man in 2020 saying, "I am sorry. We could have stopped catastrophic climate change… we didn't." Exactly. The man won the Nobel Peace Prize not the Nobel Prize for Environment. They were supposed to reiterate the fact that the problem exists for the thousands of "nay sayers" who don't even believe that we are sitting on complacently on a powder keg about to explode, a boiler that is about to go, "boom." Guess, the leaders who were in Copenhagen didn't agree on cutting down on emission of gaseous carbon, but, instead, produced a lot of gas, ho hum, I mean of the verbal variety. No, not that, puhleeeze!
So be prepared to re-locate to higher ground, put on raincoats, wear bare minimum clothing (because of the sweating), cut hair closer to the skull (like some clones do) or wear a pony tail, which I am thinking of doing as I keep my hair rather long. From now the shadow is upon our children, we have robbed them of this beautiful world, a unique world, the only living, thinking world we know of in the universe, the only evolved culture and civilization we are aware exists, the only body of knowledge gathered scientifically and methodically, the only concept that worships a being bigger than them. From now on it's only extremes in this world: stifling hot or biting cold, drought or floods, riches or poverty, passivism or extreme fundamentalism, etc., etc., I could go on…. I will stop for now.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Have you noticed? It's difficult following the talks on climate control in Copenhagen. Damn difficult. Nobody knows what the new norms of emission are. All we know is Obama got together some face saving compromise. Which is? Will it save mankind? Nobody knows.
The world media is not like it was before. There is misinformation everywhere and people, especially journalists, aren't asking the right questions. Or those that do haven't been given the chance to ask them. We know Obama did some last minute accord, but nobody knows what. I surfed the net, perused the newspapers, and listened to bland talk on television by so-called experts. But the truth remains hidden as it always has been. Yes, there are streaming videos of Obama, sound bites, audios, by the dozens, no, millions. But the truth is: there is no news on the accord on climate control from Copenhagen. That's the truth.
I should say it is frustrating that is happening when there's media here, there, everywhere, making shrill pronouncements but not being able to get facts. And to think I saw a documentary on National Geographic yesterday which stated that we would end this planet if we don't cut down on emissions. It's titled "The Big Melt". Go watch. It shows a graph where the carbon emission level takes a steep climb, and it doesn't seem to stop. Simultaneously, it shows scientists in the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland measuring the amount of ice melting and glaciers retreating. They say if it continues all the ice could melt in a couple of years and the sea levels could rise by a few metres. The world is a beautiful place why do we want to kill it, steal it from our children? Why do we want to self-destruct it and leave it desolate with our greed? Well, I could go on.
That's goodbye to backwaters in Kerala, entire country of Maldives, Vietnam, large parts of Indonesia and could be even Bombay and New York (costal cities).
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
You wonder why everything in India goes the caste and creed way. Really, I wonder. For example step into a Gujju organization and you will find all the top level executives are, you guessed who. Likewise if it is a Kayastha organization, you will find Kayasthas in key positions, if it is a Brahmin organization, you will find Brahmins in key positions, if it is a Jain organization you will find Jains in key positions. The problem is endemic, I worked for a Mallu organization (distantly related) and all the key people were Syrian Christian Mallus. I knew that if I played the Mallu card and pleased the bosses with some blandishments and obsequiousness, I could have stuck to the job, and jumping jimneys, become some hot shot like General Manager, or something. But I am not one for regrets. I have decided earlier in life to rise only if I deserve the rise, not otherwise (no asslicking for me!). Guess that's why I am still stuck somewhere in the lower rungs. Actually there are only a very few organizations which are really professionally managed. All the rest are organized into caste feudalities, governed by their own satraps.
The idea of a person getting into a job with a company and bringing along his kin from his village hasn't ended even in twenty-first century India, I suppose. It still shows at what atavistic level Indian society operates. Even political outfits function in this paradigm. The SP, BJP, Congress, all have their caste equations. In a state if a Brahmins dominate a party all Brahmins will vote for that party. Same applies if an Ahir, Gujjar, Rajput, Kayastha is in power.
Isn't it time we changed this?
Friday, December 18, 2009
I had meant to write about this for a long time. But since Ratna Rajaiah has beaten me to it with this lovely article, I will cease and desist. The tiger's romp in the woods comes as a great surprise, but most of us aren't surprised. The escapades of our leaders and politicians haven't been documented, which is small mercy. Were it to be done, the holier-than-thous would become fallen angels, pardon the bad simile. Hm. So this frustrating Friday when the week is progressing to a fitting finale, some rambling thoughts.
There's our Deepy-baby who ditched Donny-baba and Raj-babu and hitched up with Ranu, the youngest silver-spoon-in-mouth scion of the Kapoor family. News is she is out of sorts with him too. What I can't understand is how all this remains hush-hush. I guess the public relations gurus work overtime on their accounts, which is why. But these days we can't trust anything that appears in print or television. I trust Facebook more because it is an exchange between a known group of acquaintances, and you can't spread falsehoods among friends can you? I get most of my news from there be it deaths: Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, or my friends Manoj Rane or poet Dilip Chitre.
Why do I trust Facebook more? I don't have any clear reasons, but, on a primary level, I am in a lonely profession, which gets achingly lonely most of the time, and I like to connect with kindred fellow writers online (after all, this vanishing breed is notoriously shy and despondent). So online life for me is social life, and has been for some time.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
This blog has been moving up in blogosphere. (After all, what's a little sparring between kindred blogs? Hope you will forgive me those bloggers who I feature below:
Overall World Ranking
John P Matthew
Amit is the leader by far and the more talented and prolific blogger, but my blog is ahead in the Technorati Ranking and in the overall world ranking. Does that make me India's leading blogger? Don't know, it remains to be seen.
Read some depressing news on the talks going on in Copenhagen. Yesterday evening was very warm, I should say hot. I found, suddenly, that I was sweating in winter. I had to remove my sleeveless LL Bean jacket I wear during winter for protection against sudden cold. Even then I was uncomfortable, the shirt was wet, the bodies around me in the train were hot and were shifting uncomfortably, seated as I was face level against the round lips of a man's ample behind. Yeah, that's how I travel these days on the Harbour Branch of Bombay's famed suburban railway system.
The heat is inexplicable. Usually Bombay is pleasantly cold in the morning and evening, and slightly warm during the day in winter, which is okay. But yesterday I found myself fretting, frustrated that I wasn't able to concentrate on the book I had in my hand (Meena Alexander's Manhattan Music).
The world's chattering classes and faltering masses are now in Copenhagen trying to arrive at a consensus on global warming issues. There has been no consensus so far. I have been following it for some time, with frustration and above usual level of anxiety. No one is agreeing that the planet is going through a dire crisis and cities are being overloaded with people displaced by the after-effects of warming. (I know some people will dispute this, but I am reserving my reasons for a later post.) While they play their petty politicking games we the miserable citizens of the badly affected cities – mostly in developing and under developed economies of India, China, Brazil and other high in the misery index - are sweating it out.
Can we have some consensus soon please? We are sweating and guess you need to switch off your air-conditioners, climate controllers, whatever, to see what we are going through.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
On the way to work I can see cute girls in green striped jerseys playing football at the Goan Sports Association football ground at Cross Maidan, Churchgate. Makes me think of the green football jersey I had when I was in the Somaiya College of Science football team, Vidyavihar, for which I didn't play a single game. I was one of the extras. Well, hm, I have played the game and love it still. It requires skills, keeps the body toned, and you can strike the ball all over the field. That's the game I love to watch on teevee. Atta girls, football's the game for you to keep mind, body and soul together. This also refers to this post where I lamented (quite ingenuously, I suppose) why I hate cricket. Mercifully, there were no hate mails, or, hate comments, whatever. There were a few nice comments agreeing with my viewpoint for which thanks are due. Thanks.
We think most of the small businesses we see on the roads are illegal. Not so. They pay protection to the police and municipal authorities. Yesterday I heard my fruit seller curse the men who had come calling with choice expletives. All these vendors you see on the roads: gram, vada pao, fruits, newspapers, sugarcane juice, tender coconut, flowers, etc. are protected by the police and the municipal corporation. This system is called "hafta" meaning weekly, meaning a weekly bribe. Seems a politician's goons beat up an engineer because he failed to give a hafta to a chief minister's birthday party. This underground activity is prevalent in most parts of the country and is an economy of its own volition.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Poet, sculptor, translator Dilip Chitre passed away on December 10, 2009. I never met him, except for exchanging messages on Facebook. In my interaction with him, he seemed a warm and friendly person. My loss. With his passing recedes an era of vernacular and Indian English writing, of writers eager to pass on the richness of local languages to a new generation. He was renowned for his translation of Sant Tukaram's poems into English. The loss is even more evident when I learn of his multiple talents as a sculptor and painter. Truly, Dilip is a big loss to all of us in the literary world. He deplored the crisis in Indian culture "where any dissent can be seen as an act aimed at 'hurting sentiments'" in this article reproduced in indiauncut.com. Other works include Ekun Kavita, An Anthology of Marathi Poetry, Travelling in the Cage, Says Tuka, etc. He also directed a movie named Godam. Dilip Chitre RIP.
Here's the Random House India editors' compilation of what authors have been reading this year. The list includes Vikas Swarup, Basharat Peer, Namita Devidayal, Jhumpa Lahiri, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Alice Albinia, Geoff Dyer, Mohammed Hanif, etc. Rather impressive, I should say. Link through Chiki Sarkar by way of Facebook.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I actually got this mail in my inbox. WTF? Is this the communication of the future? Must say brevity is the trend of the day, but such brevity?
this is anil xxxxx
my contact no. is xxxxxxx
i am forwarding u d proposal of d event.
if u like it pls reply here.
I hate to open the proposal and read. It is written by a college level student who wants sponsors for a theatre event he is organizing. Is this what is being taught in colleges? I wonder. Here's my reply:
Dis is Jm
I kno u r despr8 2 gt sponsor \_/< --- ship
but thr iz a way 2 ask no?
can u pls send me prpr request?
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Why is it that a lot is written about cricket and cricketers in the papers and in the electronic media, at the cost of diverting attention from burning issues (pun intended) such as global warming and melting and receding of antarctic glaciers.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I know many people will hate me for writing this. I can't help. For them cricket may be religion, for me its not. On my way across Azad and Cross Maidan, today, I see an abundance of white; white every where, as M F Hussain famously put it. However, the white was from the uniforms of thousands of young cricketers practicing the game of patience and uncertainties. Made me wonder why I hate cricket. I just can't stand it anymore, in spite of being a left-hand bowler who scored a few good wickets and a left-hand batsman who has scored a bit of runs.
It happened thusly: I was captain of the Green House in school and was leading the team in a crucial game. It started off well. I took an amazing diving catch in the slips when I latched on to a ball with one hand, in an act I never thought I was capable of. I then took over the bowling and took some good wickets. Then the sun hit me hard. I became tired. A friend and batsman from the opposite Yellow House team, Abdul (who later became notorious as the gangster Abdul Kunju) began punishing my bowling all over the field.
Now imagine this. A good start, mind you, I am in excellent control of the game when the game starts to slip out of my hand. Abdul hits my bowls all over the fence. Still I persist. Then I change bowling and he does that to the other bowlers too. The heat gets terrible. I am dehydrated. By the time they wrap up, they have a huge total. Then we bat. My top line of batsmen is decimated by some good bowling by Abdul and company. My side is in disarray and batsmen gift catches and walk back. When I go to bat, I have a queasy feeling the game has flown out of my hands altogether. I get out cheaply. That did it. We lost.
Abdul's team, lead by the talented Gangadharan Menon (captain of the Yellow House and their wicket-keeper), won. I started hating cricket. Why did the game slip out of my hands when I was in such good control? Then I decide that all my time, my interest, my analysis of scores and averages aren't worth it for a game of such immense uncertainties (Only Englishmen and Aussies with their outdoorsy physiques can be good at it). The whole nation goes on a state of stasis when there's a match on television. Abdul remained committed to cricket, he played, and he even got killed when watching a cricket match. Abdul Kunju, my childhood friend (he became a gangster much later), rest in peace.
Friday, December 11, 2009
"Yeh, kya hai boss?" I ask the corpulent man sitting on a plastic chair outside New Empire. (What is this boss?)
"Yeh, vanity van, hai," he answers. (This is a vanity van, used by actors.)
"Koi shooting chal raha hai?" (Is a shooting going on?)
"Han, Veetee mein shooting chal raha hai." (Yes, a shooting is going on in Veetee.)
So this is a vanity van? I have never been to a shooting except when I walked into a set which was set right in CBD Belapur station, from which I was shooed off. It looked like the opulent resting place of an actor of some high pedigree. It set off a trend of thought.
That trend of thought goes something like this: What is it that makes our movies – meaning Bollywood movies so obvious. As I surf channel, if I come across an over-lit, over-made-up, over-colourful set and characters over-hamming their part without a trace of shadow anywhere, I know it is a Hindi film. Even a sunny garden is lit with tens of reflectors, so that the over-made up heroine is made to look like a doll frying in an oven. (I know there are exceptions; some like "Taare Zamin Par," but exceptions prove the rule, isn't it?)
I watched a prominent south Indian cinematographer's interview on television. He had won several awards, and what he said struck me as very important: "A set should not look lit." Meaning – for our Bollywood folks – a set shouldn't appear over-lit as they are prone to do. I am a student of cinema - and an avid cinema watcher - and I enjoy a well-made film and all the good films I have watched do not appear lit at all.
Anthonybhai is also a film aficionado. "Men, what, what, films I see no, I like when films are subtle-vubtle, men, I tell you, like this only."
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I think a pat on the back, even if it happens on ones own back, is not a bad thing. Really. It's nice to know that this blog has a Technorati authority of 123 (the authority of all things in blogging) and is ranked 37466th in world rankings. Not bad. But there's a lot more to to go. Amit Varma's Indiauncut.com has an authority of 536. I am getting there, slowly. This blog also has an Indiblogger rating of 80 upon 100. Newspapers such as New York Times increasingly refer to bloggers on their news pages. I guess, that day is not far when Indian newspapers also will follow.
I use technology to pull my blog post (through syndication (RSS) ) to my Facebook and Twitter pages. That's how you see latest posts on my Facebook wall, Facebook fan page and profile page.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
But before I go into that, let me detail my personal encounter with health-care in India. I remember falling ill with a stomach infection last year. I was admitted. The bill came to Rs 28,000 for a 3 or 4 day residency in the local hospital. When it came to settling my insurer cut down the amount to half what was due. This, despite paying my premiums on time and going holiday-less for months. Hmm. We need an Obama here to upgrade our health-care system. Fast!
"Ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.
"Over the last three years, 12 million people were denied coverage directly or indirectly through high premiums due to a pre-existing condition. Under the President's plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny coverage for health reasons or risks.
"Limits premium discrimination based on gender and age.
"The President's plan will end insurers' practice of charging different premiums or denying coverage based on gender, and will limit premium variation based on age.
"Prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage when people are sick and need it most.
"The President's plan prohibits insurance companies from rescinding coverage that has already been purchased except in cases of fraud. In most states, insurance companies can cancel a policy if any medical condition was not listed on the application – even one not related to a current illness or one the patient didn't even know about. A recent Congressional investigation found that over five years, three large insurance companies cancelled coverage for 20,000 people, saving them from paying $300 million in medical claims - $300 million that became either an obligation for the patient's family or bad debt for doctors and hospitals." So on….
In India medical insurance stops at age 75, after that you are on your own. What do I do when I turn 75? It's cruel, very cruel. Growing old is cruel in India, they don't care; they take you for granted and will you to die.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Okay, okay, you are bored of my review of 2009. What has changed and what hasn't changed is subjective, really. Everyone will have an opinion on it in this opinionated nation. Just look at the contestants of Big Boss and you will know what I mean. So I am moving on. So this post is about my favorite whipping boy – advertising.
Television is really spreading the butter thin through their content. The The same ads repeat over and over again. Taste this for example, "Babur ka beta Humayun, Humayun ka Akbar…," etc. Is it some history lesson? Then it is followed by, "You are worth it." Are we? It's misleading. What is really worth is the money we spend for your products. Then "daag ache hain" (stains are good), "have a happy period" about which I have written here. As an advertising practitioner and former Executive Secretary of the ASCI I find a lot wrong with these ads, but I don't have the time to point out what. When I sit through the barrage I wonder why every model in these ads are fair-skinned, has thin lips, almost Western in looks. Come on, no one looks even Indian, the sort you meet on the streets. Do we hate ourselves, and encourage our people to hate themselves? I don't know if such a bias exists in a country other than India. In the only country I lived for a year other than India, the ads were really representative. Even dark models were used.
Well, that could be an existential question, but television is a powerful medium and there are millions who sit through the ads thinking that what is shown is the gospel truth. Almost every brand today has a fairness cream in the market: Garnier, Ponds, Emami, Fair and Lovely, and now even Vaseline and, countless others. I am sure fairness creams are an invention of the Indian mind. Nowhere else would people spend huge amounts of money just to look fairer for a few weeks, at the most. How do I know? Well, I am ashamed to say, I used it, and gave it up. Mea Culpa!
Saturday, December 05, 2009
The saga continues…. I don't know what 2009 had done to me to be so nostalgic, not wanting to let it go, not ominous, because I am not a superstitious type. Nah! So here goes my list of things that have changed, very droll, very self-serving cud-chewing type of thing, really. In a world of calloused sentiments that have turned into extremists warts, sour grapes of the un-fermentable variety, I am a softy with a core that refuses to develop a hard exterior, the hard kernel that I talked about in my first post, the one that started this "Here's looking at 2009" stuff. (Actually "here's looking at you kid" was spoken by Bogart's character Rick to Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca", a film I loved and consider a classic.)
What Has Changed
The markets aren't stable anymore, we can expect more shocks, wild swings (Disclosure: I was earlier in financial journalism). The huge financial bubbles that hung over the markets haven't been deflated, not yet, they are still full of hot air waiting to be blown, one day, soon.
The job situation has changed. No longer are companies hiring for the heck of it and putting recruits "on the bench" but they are making do with the downsized, dwarfed drones who helped them pull through the recession.
The mall culture has failed in India. Most mall projects are finding it hard to sustain, even, take off. Long live the street corner kirana store. They combine hard business acumen that malls can't replicate, however much they try.
Outsourcing is on the way out. Outsourcing means greed and it was meant to destroy young men's/women's careers. Most of the young people I know who took to outsourcing are out of it and learning things like underwater welding (yeah!) as a solid way to make a living.
What Hasn't Changed
People continue to be callous about global warming. "Yeh global warming kya hai," asks Marxist thinker Kuriachen Kuriakose. "Another publicity stunt by the imperialists hegemonies of the west? They need a firm whack on their behinds for spreading canards such as this."
Slums continue to grow in Bombay in spite of the slum re-development program of the government. These new slums are situated just outside the high-rise free-flats created by the government for the poor in exchange for their tin hovels. Take a train from Vashi to Victoria Terminus and look to your right before Mankhurd station and you can see the steady progress of slums – another Dharavi in the making.
The rich are growing richer and the poor, well, poorer. In the US the number of millionaires doubled between the nineteen nineties and two thousand, while in China the number of dollar millionaires is about to double. In India I am sure it is set to triple.
Enough griping for the day. More anon!
Friday, December 04, 2009
Yes, yesterday I nearly collapsed on my laptop writing the post that appears somewhere, ah, just below this one. It was about change and how it happens unannounced, how things change, how we grow old and how things change but they remain the same. I promised to expand this theme and here it is:
Things that Changed
In 2009 Bombay entered the terror map. Everywhere I turn there are armed policemen, their eyes alert, fearful, on edge. Will they fire on me, a crazy burst? One feels a bit insecure, a bit on the edge and wants to leave the city as soon as one can after finishing work; don't know if the Toyota Qualis coming from the opposite directions would contain the deadly barrel of a Kalashnikov pointed at one by "external terrorists". These agents of death are funny, they kill without reason, quite randomly at that. So, it's just a throw of dice or a game of Russian roulette. Bomb blasts, grenade blasts, AK47 fire, in a laidback trading town, which has never been conquered, pillaged, or desecrated, sounds odd, and for this suburban boy from the somnolent suburb of Chembur - a bit ingenuous at that - it is a difficult thing to digest.
It is also the year when the government thought about aerially attacking its own people in tribal areas it suspects are hideouts of what I call "internal terrorists". No, terror isn't good. It's the worst thing that happened to ever since the Afgan hoards invaded India. And to attack one's own people using bombs and firepower from the skies is like declaring war on its own people. Has anyone heard of discussing it with them sitting across the table? Has anyone found out why tribals in the hinterlands are taking to extremism? Anyone? We have a responsibility to be compassionate to our own citizens before dropping bombs on them, which only tinpot regimes contemplate doing.
It is also the year of two reality shows called "Rekha Sawant Ki Swayamvar" and "Flawless Bride" both of which touched nadirs in television content programming in India. Can you call these reality shows when everything is gaudily made up, and just about everything appears artificial and crassly vulgar? Give me a break. The "Tamashas" and "Lavnis" are more real in this respect.
Things that Haven't Changed
India continues to be bad to writers and their ilk. I am still unpublished, despite trying my best. Yes, I will go on being like this only, just to see where it leads. I am the eternal hopeful. What was hoped to be the great middle-class reading public is no longer extent. People listen to music while commuting, they don't even buy pirated low-cost books, forget the fancy priced ones. Homes don't feature book shelves they feature plasma television sets and home theatre.
Apart from a few print newspapers and magazines who ply their craft with diligence, the rest of the print media has been bought by business interests. It's the age of Rupert Murdoch, who I am not quite sure if he will be another Robert Maxwell, notice the similarity in names.
I have to go. More anon. Watch this space.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Borrowed this from Aditi Machado's Blog. Since poetry is the soul of literature, just as the mind (or, whatever is in the centre of the body) is the soul of the human consciousness, the following definition of poetry fits well into the vast amounts of drivel poets (and pretenders, like me) have to sift through to arrive at the few lines which pass off as poetry.
Poets on Poetry: Han Dong
" The direction of poetry goes from bottom to top. Poetry is something dimly discernible in the sky which descends to the human world thanks to the productive force of the writer's waiting and yearning. Poetry is not an excavation down into the depths; it is not coal. Writers are not labourers — they must set aside the attitude that writing poetry requires some form of exertion."
That said, I can't, just can't write poetry to a deadline. I tried it recently for a Poetry Slam and came a cropper. That may be the reason I don't participate in writing exercises which state a theme and encourages you to work hard. If I did that, not only would it turn out bad, I will be like a shirking schoolboy, hating his homework. Because poetry as Han Dong says, cannot be dug out by hard work, it has to descend from the sky, shape into a few pithy words, transcend obstacles (bad grammar, bad figures of speech, worse pretentiousness), and then sit on the poet's finger tips burning to be put on paper or into pixels.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
A colleague brings me a second-standard-child's homework. He is flummoxed. His child can't answer it because it seems too profound. Neither can he, though he is almost, not exactly, literate. He sees me as somebody erudite, which impression I maintain by looking distracted and being a bit weird at times. And he knows I write so I could possibly have the answers. But he doesn't know I write perverse and anarchic things, things that are never read (especially this blog). He shows me the homework teacher has given his six-year-old. Oh! I exclaim this is weird, as weird can get. I don't know the answers myself. I guess I will fail a second standard test of these days. The questions (verbatim):
- What is population?
- What are responsible for growth?
- Is this growth has positive effect and how?
(There are more questions along these lines, but I am ashamed to go any further.)
God! Imagine a six-year-old being asked such deeply, mentally-taxing, econo-socio-centric questions! I ask him: "Who is the teacher who has set these questions? I would like to meet him or her."
He senses my agitation and withdraws the paper, feeling contrite, as if he has really offended me.
I am confused, really am. I don't know what or who is at fault: the educational system, the poorly paid teachers, the abysmal anarchy of the questions, the overbearing dictatorial tone, the self-righteousness of it all. Apart from the language, lack of basic understanding of a child's intellectual powers, what boggles is the associations one makes with the teacher's mental state. Is that person an ogre who preys on the minds of small children? In this open letter to Kapil Sibal, I had raised some issues about the level of education in the country. Why are our children treated to such homework by such malicious teachers when they should actually be playing and enjoying themselves?
Or are we turning into a super-illiterate country, unable to grasp even the basics of language and primary education? I guess I should withdraw the request to Minister-ji it because it may have gone beyond the permissible remediable limit.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Regarding the recent shift in US's allegiance to China, Fareed Zakaria writes in The Newsweek, "Obama must keep in mind that South Asia is a tar pit filled with failed and dysfunctional states, save for one long-established democracy of 1.2 billion people that is the second-fastest-growing major economy in the world, a check on China's rising ambitions, and a natural ally of the United States. The prize is the relationship with India. The booby prize is governing Afghanistan."
How true! US have a propensity for playing with fire before being fired upon itself. China is exerting its economic might over the US and the US is turning a blind eye towards it and now this! Says this article, "Last week, China's pool of reserves passed the $1 trillion mark, making it the largest lake of money in the world." And it is said it is adding dollar reserves at $ 30 million per hour.
Is a shift in allegiance in order for the US, as Fareed argues? Can Manmohan (now on a trip to the US) undo the damage?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I didn't know how prevalent in televison, which was glaring made apparent in a recent encounter with a leading channel the other day. Whoa! Here the stakes are higher. This one was about panel discussions in the business section of the channel. They needed sponsors for the discussion which you presume are objective and purely of academic interest. Not so. The sponsor can send one representative to the discussion to plug their point of view, and the associate sponsor can send one person to augment their corporate image. So, in effect that mean you can have your publicity and visibility if you are able to pay for it, and they quite blatantly mention this in their pitch. Credibility, did you say? The cost, which I wouldn't mention, is no trifling matter either and would run into eight figures. Whoa, again!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Writing a novel is a tough, difficult job. Apart from plotting there are the characterizations, the settings, the subject, the voice, the tone, the foreshadowing, the explication of ordinary things you understand but others do not, the picking up of the tempo, the organizing of the work, everything takes so much time. The most difficult part is organizing the work on your computer so that files don't get over written by the wrong versions and the one you open and edit is not the wrong one. If the latter, you undo all you have done in the past several days. I don't know why I have embarked on such a journey when I can sit back and watch television, or, spend more time on Facebook. No work needed for all this. I had committed myself to doing this and I guess I am right, if I have the will, and so on….
The market for the novel is drying up. So the last bastion of publishing (as we know it) is crumbling. Poetry is already dead, because nobody reads poetry, and publishers and literary clearly state, "We don't accept poetry," as if it is a pariah dog. If poetry – the most sacred of written arts, the most sublime of thoughts sifted through the sieve of experience – is given such shabby treatment, then what's the future of literature? Will it survive the onslaught of a mindless media – television – or a sea of irrelevant information – the Internet? I don't know the answers. Only time can suggest some answers.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
While on the subject of New York Times (NYT) I am amazed to see that the articles centre around people's experiences in online forums like Facebook, Orkut,
Myspace, Twitter and such like. Is NYT following a future trend before it has arrived? Will newspapers in future follow blogs for opinions or vice versa? I must admit that I do follow newspapers for news and information, as of now. Or, is it with a view to gain popularity of these online networks. I am a bit confused because I don't see the trend here. Also most articles have at least one reference to bloggers, or, blogs, giving them more than their due in India. One steady and consistent Twitter user is the President Barack Obama himself. His latest tweet: The senate has unveiled an excellent health reform bill. Call your senators and ask them to move forward: http://bit.ly/8Ar4yG #hc09.
Perhaps, this is only a conjecture, over here most people aren't as familiar with online networks as they are in the U.S. And when Shashi Tharoor wrote some micro blogs on Twitter there was a lot of tittering in media circles. Are we a bit out of sync here?
(I am testing this upload on Word 2007, so the picture is insert to see if it really appears.)
Friday, November 20, 2009
Like it or not, social media or networks, call it what you will, are here to stay. Why else should all celebrities insist on writing their own blogs, even sending micro blogs about snuggling close to ones husband, as Mrs. Ashton Kutcher (Demi Moore) is fond of doing? So the initial euphoria may be over, but blogging and social media are still growing and millions of addicts are being added every day.
Being stalked online, as Alankrita wrote in her poem, is a good thing. It gives you pleasure to know that someone cares about your posts without getting too intrusive. It is also a ready audience for communication, connection, and getting to know another person. And you don’t divest yourself of your power to control the situation. Intrusion is not a question because you can just remove the person and cut him/her off. And nobody can intrude without your adding him or her.
Since the mainstream media (newspapers, channels, news websites) are run by the so called vested interests, people are constantly searching for communities where they can get the latest from the horses’ mouth, so to speak. They need to know from someone they know, even remotely, because they have grown to distrust paid newspapers articles, manipulated network coverage. No wonder the daily newspaper these days look like public relations handouts by agents who are interested in spreading the cause of their celebrity clients. In fact, public relations agencies are paid on the basis of how many articles they could manage, how many interviews they could garner. There are also celebrities who charge the media for rights to cover their wedding, anniversary, birth of child, whatever.
Actually, I wouldn’t expect too much from so called friend on these networks, but don’t rule out lasting friendships either. I have known both sides of friendships online – one elevating and deep and the other shallow and superficial. Remember they are in some other parts of the world, and may have views and affiliations that you don't agree with. But overall, you can exchange ideas, catch news as it happens, and even forge genuine friendships with people in the same professions and with the same concerns. Our online identity, according to me, is a reflection of our true selves and only the ones with strength of character can survive what I call the dumbing down of the global community through these virtual communities. Our online persona and our real persona match exactly, so don’t bother to hide behind a mask. You will soon be found out. Persons who have joined for ulterior motives perish in the end and go away.
What I do is consider online networks as an extension of my blogging activities. I import my blog posts into them and have them read and comment. I have 800 followers on facebook, 200 on twitter, 300 on bloglines, 500 on ryze and its networks, around 100 who subscribe through feedburner, and around 50 daily visitors adding up to 1600 subscribers daily which is a very good thing. And I know my network will grow.