Wednesday, June 30, 2010

IPad or ILeak?

IPad, it seems, is having serious privacy issues, says this article in Valleywag.

"The breach, which comes just weeks after an Apple employee lost an iPhone prototype in a bar, exposed the most exclusive email list on the planet, a collection of early-adopter iPad 3G subscribers that includes thousands of A-listers in finance, politics and media, from New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson to Diane Sawyer of ABC News to film mogul Harvey Weinstein to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It even appears that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's information was compromised."

Will iPad be consigned to the backwaters considering that other readers like Kindle and Nook are catching up fast? Read this article about the shake up in the reader market.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

J.M.Coetzee Sighted at World Literature Festival, Norwich, U.K.

The reclusive J.M. Coetzee may an appearance at the Writers' Centre Worlds Literature Festival in Norwich according to this report:

"When the South African novelist JM Coetzee agrees to a public appearance, it's a big deal. After all, here is a literary recluse to rank alongside Cormac McCarthy and Harper Lee, who didn't even turn up to collect either of his two Booker Prizes."

The Meaning of Anomie

Here's the meaning of anomie, which word, I seem to have forgotten from not using:

"Personal state of isolation and anxiety resulting from a lack of social control and regulation lack of moral standards in a society."

Come to think of it I used to (in the golden days of my youth) use it a lot. I am feeling anomie a lot these days. Hm. May be it is déjà vu.

What’s the Meaning of the World Cup Song “Wakka, Wakka”?

Turns out the anthem of the World Cup 2010 is a song of inspiration for soldiers.

"Waka Waka (This time for Africa) is a song of inspiration for soldiers, in this case the soldiers of the football battlefield, asking them to not let their energy come down, and to keep up with the people's expectations by just believing in themselves."

As for the meaning of "wakka wakka" I discovered this after much searching, soul-wise and otherwise:

"1. peace to you, war to you 2. good to you, bad to you This phrase is most ordinarily used in times of complete confusion, when there is nothing else one could say, especially for those who regularly have panic attacks. Thus, it is really a nonsensical phrase that actually has a meaning and its meaning does not have to actually be the above, but a similar arrangement of positive wishes to others, followed by its antonymic negative wish. e.g. gumbo to you, nutra rat stew to you."

Monday, June 28, 2010

England’s Loss

I felt so sorry for England yesterday when they lost to Germany. Yes I did. They played well but, in spite of that, they lost. It happens in life also when you give everything and then lose. It's painful. I could feel the disappointment of the fans, the players – some of them crying so openly – the scenes are touching. I guess corporate life is a lot like football. Except that we don't get to shed tears so openly. Whatever happens happens so soon and then the next thing lands on our laps and we are scampering to get things done.

What's amazing about soccer is the speed at which it is played. Earlier it never used to be so fast and when it rained the field was a mess, all mud and slush. There was a special kind of joy in playing "mud football" as we called it. The players shoot from any angle and the speed and power of their shots can be judged in the close ups. They are extreme bodies playing an extreme game and I am touched that such toughened players, such well-toned and tough bodies can crumple on the ground and weep when they lose.

A lot of re-thinking on my novel is happening. I was thinking of abandoning it. It struck me that there's too much that remains to be done and I should devote my time to something that will get me out of a financial mess rather than devote time to something that may not succeed. This doubt has been a constant leit motif in my writing career. But then I think I should not be ungrateful to a profession that has nurtured me and gave me a profession.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Steady Erosion of Artistic Merit – III

Author’s note: I don’t know where this is going, but I am plodding on.

The problem with instant reviews via tweeting and facebooking is that no one is really listening to you or paying attention. They are all giving their own versions of the condition of their life, such as how they puked after the third drink, how the are lonely after their boyfriends ditched them, and how tired they are after the day’s work. They are too self-absorbed in their own geniuses to be bothered to listen to what you are saying. Nobody is reading your messages for its meaning but are judgementally dismissing it as another “sample” or “type.” They are looking to stereotype the author of the message and maybe think, “so-and-so is upto his tricks again.” That can’t compare to the joy of reading an in-depth review of a movie, an art opening or a book.

Look at art criticism. Times were when newspapers had dedicated art critics. They used to dissect the paintings, write scholarly articles about them, compare them, build up artistic merit. So I felt at least we are getting somewhere. I don’t know where all these writing has been jettisoned and the pay for review trend began. No longer. I am talking of the sixties and seventies when I grew up. Once I rather naively put an artist friend in touch with a journalist-friend of a leading newspaper boasting that he will surely cover the art exhibition. The artist came back to me and told me that the friend had given him the short shrift and told him that if he could pay he could get his pictures published. So one great myth that newspapers exist to review and to comment and, maybe, in the process set things right in the country were proved a fallacy.

In my youth, as an aspiring artist and as an aspiring writer, too, I thought Indian artistry is going place and that I would be a great artist, but it never happened. I somehow got sucked into space selling, writing for magazines, writing content for websites and corporate sort of writing. When discouragement and apathy from friends and well-wishers is so strong one tends to drift away. Some of our noted artistic icons left India and went abroad to settle down, seeing as to how little art is encouraged here. Souza went to Paris, so did Ara and Raza. Hussein, who steadfastly remained patriotic and struck roots in India, has been unceremoniously banished to the kingdom of Qatar. An artist’s iconoclasm should be countered by strong review and critical methods not by physical injury or banishment. Or, so I feel. Nowadays only those artists get covered who have influence, or, can pay to display his/her art. They appear regularly on the social pages, wear ethnic clothes and glasses and party hard and pay for their pictures to be published in the social columns. Everything has become corporatised. There are artists who concentrate only on painting and selling to corporates. No they didn’t paint and then considered if corporates wanted them, they drew exclusively for corporates. Visit any corporate head office and you can see plenty of badly drawn and painted canvasses on their walls, atrocious in their imagery, cheapening the very pretentiousness they are seeking by displaying the paintings. Being an artist (I mean the artist who drew these paintings) is like being an employee of the corporation.

More of this later. I must pay attention to my novel. “Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard” awaits my patient editing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Steady Erosion of Artistic Merit - II

Consigning amateurs and dilettantes to review art and books have its dangers. Clearly they aren't qualified to review what they don't know. But this is the age of "me" and "now." So we all need to be heard, understood and appreciated. Look at those reality shows. How much they talk. Yak, yak, yak, yak. They are reviewing. But unfortunately this leads to problems. First of all ignorance is rife and it's a case of the blind leading the blind. The lack of reviews or a surfeit of malevolent reviews can degrade artistic merit, sure as hell has fire. When I read a book in the train there's a lot of curiosity about the book. People borrow it to look at it, they ask me about it. I tell them I will lend the book if they read it. Then they say they don't have time. If you are interested you will find the time. I don't have time, but I read on the way to office, I read when I am waiting for someone, I read at home before the telly. I read almost anywhere. I have a book ready at all times of the day and night. That's what reading and understanding the human condition is all about. If you don't read literature or the very essence distilled from life that it offers, you turn back into an animal with lust and depredation as your only motivations.

So, once you have gotten rid of reviewers and meaningful critics of the human condition, it is easy to package a book and its author. It seems breaking into artistic market requires looks, money to begin the promotional campaign, and lastly talent. What talent? Talent can be bought. There are good sub-editors willing to re-write your book and make it presentable if you are presentable. If you are already famous then nothing like writing that book. A publisher said, "Do something, become famous." There are book packagers who can create a personality around you, guide you through the process, for a fee, of course. And if you look enigmatic and exotic like a curly-haired tropical nymph, even better. It wasn't always so. Was it? I don't know. I am told J.K.Rowlings didn't writer her name as Julianne because she didn't want it to be known that she is a woman. But that was in those days. These days a woman writer has better chances if she is beautiful and young too. You know why? The broadsheets look like tabloids and there are beautiful nymphets in the social supplement. The supposition here is that people like to look at and read about beautiful made-up faces. However this is not true. The reason why most people skip the social pages is because they do not want to read about the zombie-like made-up faces, they want human beings they can relate with. That's why Rushdie's and Ghosh's novels are about the dispossessed. They are documents of the human condition.

Someone pointed out to me that globalisation is nothing but corporatisation. True, corporations that believe in assembly line are churning out writers who have already been published and who are already known faces. An author is like a supplier these days. When corporations demand it, the supplier has to be ready with the content, the images, the juicy titbits. What about writers who are shy and aren't good talkers and good social mixers. Yes, what about them? You mean they are bad writers because they can't talk and socialise? However, that's the impression being created and this blogger is one victim of this perception.

My head is nodding with all this heavy stuff. So more of these in my next post. Remember, I am raving, but raving has its use, at least, to point out how flawed our thinking and our condition has become. The world needs people who live and work in isolation (like writers) to make them aware of the human condition.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Steady Erosion in Artistic Merit

Will come straight to the point. This has been running through my mind for several months now, as usual. Thing is I had difficulty getting to the depth of the problem. How do I get to the base of the problem and seek out what I want to write? Nobody has written anything so sweepingly judgemental. Am I qualified enough to make such statements.

I might as well blurt it out, poise fingers over keyboard and type it out of my system, out of my life. At least I can wait, instead of being torn apart, for the opprobrium, shock, anger, etc.

What I mean to say is that artistic values have declined over the recent past because we no longer have comment on artistic works. From a world that cared a lot about peer and public reviews we are a people who believe in word of mouth: Twitter, facebook, Linkedin, Ryze and sundry other media. These media are extremely effective but too shallow. So we are actually seeing a lot of  shallow comments and observations about daily habits, functions (even potty habits), without elevating, uplifting comments and zeitgeist. The tribe of book, movie, music, art, radio, telelvision critics and reviewers are over. We have now instant reviews of movies through tweets and short blog write-bites (something I coined on the fly). We want everything urgently and immediately and this kills artistic merit, or, in-depth and truly significant comments about the condition of man.The popular refrain is "If you pay us, we will review your book, art, music, film" which can also be twisted to "If you are a friend I will review your book, art, music, film."
My lament is that the artist is a beleaguered man/woman these days. From a people who were hero-worshipped (artists) we are a people who are looked with suspicion these days. Who wants artistic merit in the days of 20 Megapixel cameras? Who wants fiction in the age of trumped up reality shows. After all, a photo can capture a thousand words and that too with much higher accuracy. 

(This is not always true. I am reading John Irving's "The Fourth Hand" and I am laughing and chuckling on my commute to the office. The writer is at once engaging, witty and fantastically funny. I draw weird looks from the zombies in the train listening to their pirated music. What's better laughing over uplifting prose or listen to those senseless "dinchik-dinchik" music? That sort of music will depress them even more than they appear to be to me.)

Firstly our literature is deteriorating. All the great writers are dead. Those that survive doth survive only on the generosity of a few publishers, newspapers and journalists. Tell me of one significant work of fiction in the past fifty years and I will stop writing. (Hm. I mean I will stop writing stupid blog posts.) There is no other fallacy than seeing so many queue up to buy books at launches. The books go straight to some corner and aren't read. They are just objects of curiosity. They are actually waiting to be noticed at the launch, shot on camera by the television and press.

In the next instalment of this post I will explore: music, films, theatre, etc. But, now I must sleep. Yohhohoho!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Social Media and Blogging Are Important These Days

And this article is for all those sceptics who are sceptical (no less!) about the importance of online social media and blogs for those sneering at why they are at all necessary. ICICI Bank could scotch rumours about a run on the bank because of the effective use of social media like Twitter and Facebook. Yay! And those wet-eared ignoramuses who call themselves branding experts have the gumption to disregard suggestions about social media. Hm. Be ignorant at your own risk.

"Tweets — and comments on social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut besides blogs — can also be (and are being) used as a tool to provide customer service, generate sales (taking leads by tracking tweets that are scouting for a product) or directly sell a brand. Thus, companies, banks, TV channels and even marketers and advertising agencies are seeing value in having a presence on micro-blogging and social networking sites."

Social media and blogs are here to stay and scoff at it at your own peril is what this blogger has to say. Communication has become personalised because traditional avenues of transmission of ideas are being looked at with suspicion. That's said on this blog. Because, alas, alack, we trust what we read on Twitter and Facebook more than in the newspapers.

When’s the Author’s Best Output

The best writing of a writer comes in the evening of his/her life considering that Hemingway wrote "Old Man and the Sea" when he was sixty-two and a certain Hilary Mantel wrote her novel in her late fifties. There is hope yet.

"The underlying assumption of any list highlighting a younger generation is that writers produce their best work in their mid-thirties, once their writing has matured. But for every novelist such as Martin Amis or Graham Swift, who featured on the 1983 Granta list, and produced their breakthrough and arguably their best books around this time (Money and Waterland respectively), there is a Hilary Mantel, whose Wolf Hall, the novel that crystallised her reputation and which she said she had been waiting all her life to write, was published only last year, when she was in her late fifites."

This advice from a guru of self-help. "Sleep less: This is one of the best investments you can make to make your life more productive and rewarding." I don't think this is the right advice to give.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is Exclusivist Ideology the Answer?

This comes from Annie Zaidi, whose book Known Turf was released recently. I was there at the launch at Landmark, my first visit to this area of the city:

"If ordinary Muslims cannot find the courage to look within, to look at themselves and their own hatreds with clear eyes and not face up to their own endorsements of violence, they lose the moral right to seek protection from violence and discrimination."

Well expressed Annie. We sit and sponsor our own intolerance without thinking that intolerance could backlash on us. I have seen this same attitude among my own community members, those who endorse violence or extreme measures to the point of an exclusivist ideology. They need to understand that they need to be the sane voice of moderation in a fast globalizing world where misunderstandings abound and cleave people apart.

The stuff of good writing, extremely cerebral and insightful, Annie, I must say. I must now read her book.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Israeli Ultra-orthodox Education

It comes as a surprise (serendipitous, though) to me that Jews of Israel have their own ultra-orthodox schools which teach nothing but the Torah – Jewish Bible, according to this article in BBC.

"But now a group of leading secular Israelis wants to force the ultra-orthodox, or Haredi, education system to modernize and adopt standard subjects like Maths, Science and English."

Something like a Madarasa? The Israel schools are called Haredi. Seem there students don't even know Maths and Science and after graduation are supported by the Israeli state.

Our Griefs Are Indeed Great! Apocalypse Now!

This happened yesterday. I sat there numb as I read the headline, too dumb for words. My whole life flashed past me as if I was about to die, as if, as if, it isn't worth doing anything anymore, writing this blog, being alive and active, working the local authorities to bring light, road repairs, postal services, water supply, electric supply to my locality (being the earliest inhabitants of Artiste Village, I had to do all this and am proud of my achievements). And then petitioning the railway mandarins for better seats in trains. I believe in small and local activities, not the big picture. But then the big picture hit me between my eyes like a bullet shot through my brain yesterday.

The words make whatever I have done fade away into the paleness of the paper at which I am staring. It says, "Humans to be extinct in 100 years," convincingly. It says the world will end not because of climate change (which, of course, is one of the causes) but out of over-population. Another oracle says cutting down on emissions and other stuff of environmental mumbo-jumbo will only buy us some more time, not total reversal of the process of degeneration.

There's great grief and disquiet amongst us. I can sense it among the people against whom my body grazes as I get into the train. They stare at me with loathing, as they did this morning. They are sweating and impatient, I can understand. The morning, in spite of the rain, is unnaturally humid and hot. And they don't know from where so many people are coming only. According to Anthonybhai, "Dey just land up with plastic bag, work as waiters, put their own betelnut shops, and bring dere entire families, man, just fooling, fooling us peoples, like we dunno, we original-voriginal [no, not virginal, he mean that not!] peoples of this city."

People are saying, "What do I care?" as if they didn't really care. Al Gore the champion of Global Warming and all things proper went and divorced his wife. The ultimate "What do I care?" That was after his one-time-boss was found to be fond of cigars stuck in unseemly places. Closer home families and relationships are breaking down or have broken down and are temporarily being held up by "cello tape." Girls as young as three are being raped. A man who professed to love his wife and children walked out on them and now lives with his girlfriend. An eighty year old politician, a nicely avuncular figure was found carousing with three nude apsaras, the last bastion of intellectual certitude was shaken when the golden boy of publishing was found out and charged with molestation, and on top of it, sustained sexual harassment.

Oh, our griefs are indeed great, our redemption nowhere in sight, our leaders are besmirched, our women unsafe, the world is progressing towards apocalypse. Enough of this, I am off to sleep.

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Don’t Say Anything Helpful – We Are Like That Only!

The following passage from "Letter to Sister Benedicta" by author Rose Tremain (link via author John Baker's blog) had me puzzled and then sit up with a feeling of serendipity. Truly epiphanic. Taste it:

"Oh, no, Gerald!" I [Sister Benedicta, I presume] said relieved, "it was a terrible lunch and I think I should have written to you really. You see, I was brought up in India, Gerald, and I'm afraid I've never quite lost it, the habit of never saying anything that's helpful. No one in India seemed to have a feeling for helpfulness, only a feeling for what is right, and it took me a long time to see that almost everything they thought was right was actually not all that right, but in fact rather wrong. And this deficiency in helpfulness, I mean, I've had it all my life and I blame India, but who can say if it was India or if it wasn't born in me, because it's a long time since India now and thank goodness all those feelings of rightness have been swept away . . ."

"If you were ringing to ask me to lunch again," Gerald said quietly, "I'd love to come. You were right about no one helping. They don't [in India]."

Could it be that we are so full of our self-righteousness that we don't say anything helpful?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rain Dancing in Belapur

When the rain is here can the rain dance be far behind? Nope. So the office gang went for a one day outing to formerly-owned-by-Amitabh bungalow in Belapur's Parsik Hills when it was pouring, as if the heavens were draining its precious liquids. I guess I should stop harping on this as people will consider me paranoid. Hehe. So the guys and gals from the office danced the day away. The view was lovely; the ambience was naturally beautiful, the mood evocative and intoxicating. I will upload a picture soon.

Needless to say, a good time was had.... Don't know how long good times will last as corporate hassles are piling up (as they always have a habit of doing), beyond the scope of resolution. Fight or flight? Hm. Every silver lining has a dark cloud as someone once said. Yawn! Need some sleep.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Serendipitypur – My New Blog

This is going to be short. The computer is cranky, needlessly asking for attention. Last rain, it buckled under and I had to spend a bomb to repair it and give it a new keyboard. This time the old lady is going off at will, seeking attention, the conceited one. Guess she is getting old, so the crankiness, which I can understand. Poor thing. She is old you know, the loyal beleaguered but still going strong kind, the sort of stuff good wives are made of.

I am typing this on my son's new twenty inch computer screen, which is wwwiiiiiidddddeeee. It's like penning a 70 mm movie script. By the way, I made a new blog on Wordpress, having read online that it has some new interfaces. So here's my new blog serendipitypur for your reading pleasure. I don't know if this is a good thing addressing a reader so directly. Amitabh does it, so does Shobhaa, both celebrity bloggers. I guess writing should strongly be a third person thing. Any writer addressing the reader directly is being indiscreet. What say? Any comments?

Heard this on the telly. A pretty young thing is saying to a young thing, a male, "Old is not gold for girls." Hm. Why not?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Two from the Tribe of the Exploited

I feel bad that I had to reject her offer. They walk in, trying to sell something. Don't misunderstand. An aging man also has feelings, unlike what some members of the younger lot forget. When one is deep into the layers of talking, typing, sharing, communicating, one tends to forget that one is also human. She is young, breathtakingly and achingly beautiful, with a vulnerability that sits on her like a second skin. That humane nature appeals to me. She hangs her head, disappointed at my insensitivity, and walks out. I notice she had opened her bill book and was almost writing out the invoice when I said an emphatic "No." Her colleague was all agog expecting me to buy, since I had asked so many questions. But then something struck me as odd. Very odd.

But the offer was to buy a packet of CDs worth Rs 4,000 for just Rs 1,000. By my bad math that's a discount of 75 per cent. Or, is it? How can a company give so much as discounts unless, they have been exploiting someone? Agreed, they have foregone their profit which is 25 per cent, they have written off the cost of the CD which is another 25 per cent. Still the figures don't add up. So, they should be selling at least 50 per cent of the cost of CDs.

So who all have been exploited? Firstly, the girl is being paid almost nothing, I am sure; looking at the big rucksack she is carrying with all the CD packets. Such a beautiful beast of burden for free! Scar her for life by making her a hardened and cynical salesgirl. Then what options does she have in today's India? Work as a call centre executive which is even worse.

We are a country that exploits our young people. What options do they have?

And among the exploited, one other category; the artist, photographs featured on the cover of the CD album. Artists of the floating world. They don't even add up to 25 per cent of the company's funds. Hm. I am sure the artists, talented flautists, vocalists, instrumentalists, have not been paid their dues. Another exploited lot, reviled and left to rot without recognition. I consider myself one of this tribe. Or, am I?

We are a country that exploits our artists. I weep.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in That House

Meghan Daum, a humour writer, lives a fast life in the Gen-x superhighway, is a nomad; she moves dozens of times, and finally decides to settle down to a life of domestic life in - horror! – Nebraska. The rent is cheap and her boyfriend is an "aging slacker" and the farmhouse which she inhabits has a sagging porch and a great view. She downs whisky on the porch and keyboards a novel. From then on life changes and money and fame pour in like a flood. Then she decides to move again, this time to Los Angeles. Her novel is named Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House and a review appears here.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Video about Strange Paranoias

This video of a presentation by Michael Shermer about common beliefs and patterns we see in simple things around us. I think in our world it makes a valid point. Our life is a familiar pattern, we follow habits and patterns everyday. A salesman who gets the door slammed on his face in all the first five calls he makes will give up sales for sure. Ask any salesperson. He will never go back to sales, at least, I didn't. What we believe as true, and how we are deluded by things that don't exist. When we look around we see a lot of people who need compassion, understand and help, not too great on the mental health department. Can say this is the patternicity that Shermer talks about. View the video if you have the time. Hope to arouse your curiosity. Happy viewing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

About Amitabh

I am off for a two-day break in Amitabh's formerly-owned bungalow in CBD Belapur. The bungalow has now been bought and converted into a training centre and I will be training here for tonight and tomorrow.

While on the subject of Amitabh (who happens to be an obsession, fellow blogger that he is, my ambition is to meet him), in this post he is emotional in his outburst about the several charges leveled against him in the Barabanki, Bofors and other scams.

Why do we trouble our good men? Amitabh has been a paragon of suavity, grace, and good manners. People have troubled him and he has taken it all with grace. Of course, I was a bit angry about him marrying Jaya because I remember having a crush on her after seeing movies like Guddi, Mili, Anamika, et al. But that can't be helped. Can it?

Amitabh is just one of our living icons, a man who has gone through enough, and I am proud to sleep tonight in a bungalow he must have inhabited. Feels good.

Man and the Wild

Yesterday being Sunday and all I went for the usual walk in the wild and met the man described here. Happens that he is not the lone man living alone in the wilderness like a modern day Thoreau beside his Walden Pond. His name is Aliya, and he actually lives in a nearby hut in a slum colony that has sprung up on the foothills of Parsik Hills. He has planted some rice in the aforesaid wilds where I had gone and has also constructed a hut to take care of the rice, protecting it from wandering wild cows that inhabit these areas. There is plenty of ground water, there’s fertile soil, good rain, life is fulfilling for this venturesome man of the wilds. Meaning, in the shortness of it all, that he is not a permanent resident of the hut but an occasional one, once the rice has grown and it needs protection. But he does sleep in the hut sometimes, to protect the rice he has planted.

Oh, disappointment, why do you have to come into my life like an intruder?

“Hee chawal thumala varshabhar purthath kay?” I ask in Marathi, looking rather sceptically at the small patch of rice he has cultivated. Does it suffice? Does it last a year?

“Ho, purthath. Pushkal purthath.”

Yes, it does.

I think immediately of the early farmers living such a life, a small patch of rice in the wilderness, a small hut like his and his self-confidence. I ask him many other things, like is he afraid of wild animals. He says he hasn’t seen any. Snakes? No, snakes leave you alone if you leave them well alone. Snakes have never entered his house.

I feel like I can talk to him for hours and days. But I don’t impose.

I then wave a goodbye to this bold adventurer. I wish I had the guts to live like him.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Feverish on Football

Football fever has started. I am a great fan of soccer having played it without much distinction. I was on the bench in the only match my college – KJ Somaiya – played because there were more talented players like Kaviraj and Saswata – my friends – in our team. Great footballers. One became a professor and another is working in the private sector somewhere. We dribbled (pun intended, though it is bad) apart. I remember that the only time the ball got past the half line was when Kaviraj made a foray there, in the second half. Football or life, Kaviraj made it all look like poetry. We were pitted against a college in Goa, and I guess these Goans are given some soccer-enhancing tonic each day by their maters. They beat the hell out of us. We lost 6-0.


Not all adolescences are rosy. The cricket team I captained in school also lost miserably thanks to some haphazard bowling by me.

But football is a more watchable game than cricket. Any day I will hand it to football. It is lively, isn’t luck-oriented, it’s a delight to watch a good player handling the ball so well, as if, as if, a thread connected his foot to the ball. Believe me its difficult to dribble like that and to watch it being done by a Maestro makes it look simple.

So I am glued to the telly screen, typing away this post. So, frankly, crazed fan that I am, hope I am forgiven some bloopers in this one.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ethical Questions, No Answers!

I have no strength to write after a strenuous day, the first after a debilitating back problem. The first day after the pain was like freedom, deliverance, and whatever. I feel light and painless, the usual concerns are back, also the general ennui, laziness and déjà vu. I rest my case.

But then getting back to work, blogging, a blogger’s life, the wretchedness of it all, having to write and write and write. I have gotten to that point in a blogger’s life when he/she wonders if it is worth it, after all. Ho hum, I must be this foggy old man, who lives in eternal optimism, even when the mustard-sized optimism has vanished from the horizon. I mean I am not moving up in the blogging ratings. I crib, I crib. The past two days have been bad. Stuck in a rut, sort of. And that doesn’t make me a frontline blogger of India, which I want to be with Amit and Dilip and who else? I guess, we bloggers are a couple of people who struggle and hold on to our dream of making it as novelists because we know blogging will not support us.


The futility of being a writer struck twice in the past two days. One was when an agency trampled on an individual’s rights as a client and wanted him/her to do something that is quite unethical. I know the world is corrupt and full of sleaze. But this corrupt? Then who is ethical in this world? We all bend our ethics to a greater or lower extent to serve our purposes. No doubt we are an unforgiving nation of excuse givers and shirkers. Another came when a request came to lower myself in my estimation and value, which I certainly will not.

Ethical questions.  No answers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vampire Story Sells 100 Million Copies

There are times when I have wondered why I wasn't so interested in vampire stories as to write them myself. I did like Dracula, Bram Stoker's tale of the evil stalking Transylvania. Yeah, loved that absolute evil novel, so well captured in words by a talented writer. Gave me the creeps on certain nights while looking at bats flitting about in the dark moon-lit sky. But then it seems state side a certain Stephenie Meyer is sending 100 million buyers to bookstores with her novel "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner".

Makes a writer's mouth water. Mmmm.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Union Carbide Verdict

I have been a bit dazed about the Union Carbide verdict. I wasn't expecting them to be let off so lightly considering that there were incidents in the U.S. where the justice system has dealt heavy penalties on erring corporates who have broken the law and caused damage to human life. I have seen Erin Brokowich which documented the huge payouts which were made when it was realized that a corporate had polluted the water around its factory.

I was seething, literally, at the meager compensation and punishment handed out, but words failed me. This is horribly unkind to the sufferers, who lost life, and whose generation is still plagued by the after effects. The intrepid, incredibly talented Annie Zaidi has expressed it better and in a more detailed manner. She has put all my thoughts and more into words in a letter to President Barack Obama. So read her reaction here.

Will Bombay Get the World Tallest Residential Tower?

Bombay's and indeed India's tallest residential tower is coming up at Lower Parel. Correction: this will be the tallest in the world, given that Q1 on the Gold Coast in Australia will be dwarfed by the giant on Bombay skies, the tallest residential tower in the world. The 117-storey tower will rise like a monolith on the city's skyline. Estimated height is half a kilometer. Hm.

But is this a good thing? Imagine around 276 apartments, the total water requirement, sewage disposal, parking for cars. It will put a big strain on the eco-system in the area. Imagine 276 toilets flushing on 117 floors in the morning. Haha. Already environmental bodies are crying foul, as the cliché goes.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

About Apple Employees in China Who Are Committing Suicide

Didn't know suicides aren't the problem we are facing. Hm. It's prevalent in the cities of China too. It seems, according to this article courtesy Valleywag that Apple employees in China are committing suicide. The problem has gotten so vexing, so to say, that they have introduced a clause in the employment contract which makes an employee pledge that he/she will not commit suicide (something to that effect, the language is very vague):


1. If I encounter problems and difficulties after entering the company, I will ask for help from the "Employee Care Center" [...]

2. [...]I will not harm myself or others; I agree that, in order for the company to protect me and others, it can send me to a hospital should I exhibit abnormal physical or mental problems.

3. [...] In the event of non-accidental injuries (including suicide, self mutilation, etc.), I agree that the company has acted properly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, and will not sue the company[...]


Firstly, these are days of economic hegemony, dominance of multinational brands and corporations. Having worked in outsourcing I know how much pressure a client sitting in the US or thereabouts can exert over outsourced employees. They increase targets which gets so harassing that employees dig into a hole from which there is no escape. Familiar territory, eh?

Secondly, how can anyone pledge that one wouldn't take one's own life? Agreed, it's a crime. But isn't society (in this case a greedy corporate) equally responsible for driving a man/woman to suicide? This comes to this blogger as shocking news after the various reports of farmers committing suicides in different parts of the country.

Corporatisation, huh?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Manipur Blockade

Well, I didn't know it until I read a tweet by Gul Panag on Twitter. Seems there's a blockade being orchestrated of Manipur by Naga students. And that it is now in its 50th day. What's happening? Clearly our administration is not in control. Vast tracts of our country are under the control of Maoists, and now this? Clearly somebody has been caught napping.

How come I got it from Twitter and not through the newspapers and television media? Okay, okay, I am not a great fan of both media I mentioned, but I read and see an awful quantity of them every day. Does that indicate another blockade, of news, I mean. Much of what goes on in the North-East go unreported, me thinks.

How Sawariya Scuttled Sony’s Movie Ambitions

So this is it. From the horse's mouth. Whatever. Here's a well-written article authored by Rahul Bhatia about how Sawariya saw the debacle of Son's movie ambitions published in Open magazine.

Guess executives at Sony with all their Hollywood expertise couldn't break the deadlock over a Bollywood release. Click the mouse and read on.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Reinforcing My Faith in Mankind

As is usual on Sundays I went for a walk in the wilds surrounding Artiste Village, New Bombai, where I live. The serenity, the calm, the wind in my hair and ears, the whistling, the whispering trees as they swayed. The trees here are still green because of the plenitude of ground water. Monsoon is only a few days away and soon these tropical rainforests would be dripping with rain. I felt a calm as I have never experienced before in the midst of nature, thinking about those nostalgic times when I hiked on the hills surrounding me with Captain Yadav (well, I was and am reluctant to go alone in the hills), an intrepid explorer and army man, who, alas, is no more. He had survived wars and insurgency in his army life but couldn’t come to terms with life in the raw in Artiste Village. Poor man! Like all good men he also left this world, the prey of the vicious manipulation of a family into which he was married.

I also think of other people who are no more. Just a chain of thought, and think how vulnerable man is. He thinks he is indestructible, indeed, he is. As I sit there I watch a man cutting firewood with a machete, he lives alone in a small hut in the wilderness, surrounded on all sides by the forest. I wonder how unafraid he must be to live like that. There are leopards around, yes, friends have sighted them, maybe, even tigers. And, snakes. I think of his courage, to live all alone, in the dark when the night closes around him. He doesn’t seem to have a wife, I can’t see anyone near him. He is quite self sufficient, he cultivates a patch of land, collects firewood from the forest, and is dressed only in a white cloth vest and a dhoti.

I think he is incredibly courageous. He looks healthy and is invulnerable, reinforcing my belief in man’s survival instincts.

Captain Yadav, and you, lonely man in a cloth vest living on the brink of a rain forest, I salute you, I admire your courage. You reinforce my faith in mankind.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Amitabh’s Poetry

As Amitabh says in this post, someone asked him if he wrote poetry and he replied that his mother said, "One poet in the family is enough." However he wrote the following lines, which, erm, may, sort of, kinda, in a manner of speaking, pass of as blank verse, methinks:

"I sit and think,

Of ways to blink

Of ways to close the day.

There is none their

Who can compare

Life's all encompassed fray .."

Or should one let this pass? Let's take a re-look. Note that "their" should have been "there", a common mistake even seasoned writers make, including this blogger. Gah! "Of ways" is repeated twice (redundancy), and "all encompassed" (participle not adjective) should have been "all encompassing". And in the end ".." should be an ellipsis with three dots "…".

Amitji, to write you need patience and I mean, infinite patience, to write, revise, remove all those embellishments like two and three exclamations (!!!), triple question marks (???), a random succession of dots (….) which you use so liberally in your blog. They clutter your writing without adding anything to the text. Powerful as your words are, a leeetle more caution is advised. This comes from a hack who has been a sub-editor in another avatar and has edited poetry such as the above.

Let's take another look at your poem, the way I would write it, perhaps:

"I sit and think,

On the many things

I have to do before close of day.

There is no one there

With whom I can compare

My life's all encompassing sway…"

Oh! Never mind. You should stick to acting, Amitji. Lots of love.

We Are Never Too Far from Our Tribal Past – Here and in Africa

In "A Bend in the River" which I am now reading, VS Naipaul – he of the fluent prose that incorporates so many different layers that one is amazed how he writes it all – writes about a certain tribalism in the interior of Africa where Salim goes to set up his many-splendored shop selling daily necessities. The president of the country even dresses in an African chief's dress to impress his citizens. He even rules like a tribal chief putting down dissent before it can progress to rebellion, or, in short, his overthrow. Such tribalism in this ancient land reminds me of the tribalism of the metropolitan agglomeration that is Bombay, a city that has absorbed people from different tribes, castes, communities, religions, languages. Each time you speak to someone you are probably probing into his tribal customs, some surprisingly familiar and some bizarre.

So this thing of "Khap Panchayats" of Haryana and their form of jurisprudence about which friend Manjul Bajaj has written in her novel "Come before Evening Falls" (reviewed here by another friend Julia Dutta), seems of interest to me in the context. (Read the book, it is beautifully written.) I have heard about cases of honor killings in the New Bombay area where I live in Bombay. A girl and her husband were shot dead in full daylight by her relatives as she married out of caste. That too, in a teeming city where thousands live.

When I think of some of our leaders I am reminded of this tribalism. So where are we? Are we enlightened and rational people living in a democracy or are we a tribal society? These are questions that need to be asked, addressed. Or, else, we would be treading a long wasted journey, not knowing where we are progressing as a people, which is the impression I got from Reading Naipaul's "A Bend in the River."

Friday, June 04, 2010

Whatever Happened to Compassion?

As often happens I can't resist a sob story. So at my railway station, totally exhausted by the day, and with a trace of a backache on my behinds I stopped hear the story of this couple. The man was dressed in a traditional pheta and kurta and dhoti, all white and the woman was wearing a nine-yard sari, faded and of indeterminate colour. They had come to the city to meet relatives and were broke and didn't have the guts to ask them for money for the journey home (loss of face?). It was a situation that could happen to you and me. They don't live in our age of ATM cards and credit cards.

Curiously they asked me for a "Vada-pau" (potatoes fried in gram batter and tucked inside bread) as they were hungry. So I gave them money to buy two "Vada-paus" and wished them well. You know, with farmer suicides and all I know what our rural folks are going through. The need today is for compassion.

When I joined the queue for a rickshaw, homeward bound, I heard a prosperous-looking and nattily dressed couple say in Marathi, "Look at those con artistes, trying to fool the public."

Hm. Con artists? Whatever happened to compassion, at least for your own compatriots?

The Youth of Today

I drew this picture of the youth of today. See if there's veracity in it. Do comment..I forgot a few things initially which were pointed out by "ms" which have been incorporated here.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Quote Woman Unquote

"If this is what modern womanhood means, then just f'in veil me and sew up all my holes." Lindy West.

A suspicious Indian has gone and done just that as reported here:


"A villager in eastern India sewed up his wife's private parts with iron wire after getting suspicious that his wife has [sic] illicit relationship with someone, police said today."


Hat tips to Nilanjana Roy for the first quote.

Mangalore Tragedy – What Actually Was Wrong

Dilip D'Souza, writer (Blog slogan: "I am not a leftist, I am not a rightist, I am a typist."), intrepid blogger, travel writer (his book Roadrunner is out), has blogged this piece about the Mangalore plane crash tragedy which exposes the negligent attitude of our powers-that-be for the safety and security of citizens.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Saundhi Mitti

That's what they call the biscuit-like odour of freshly-wetted-by-rain earth in Hindi – "Saundhi Mitti". Just read this on Facebook. Reminds me how rich our Indian languages are when our own idioms need expression. I don't recollect reading an appropriate phrase in Malayalam, but how about "Saugandhikamaya mannu." I know my Malayalam is bad at times. Forgive me.

The brilliance in the air after the first shower is something different altogether. There's a crisp quality to the brilliant greens and multi-hued shades that come leaching out, as if it were hidden by the heat and dust. The Saundhi Mitti smell lingers in the air, in the conscience, taking one back, till one is overwhelmed, trying to piece together one's life all over again, grabbing at the pieces one has so far kept hidden in dim recesses of the mind.

Seeing those little ones walking to school reminds me of my own uniform, the new bag, the new umbrella and raincoat, all a distant memory, lingering still, over a suburb of Bombay I pass everyday to work. This place has changed, the buildings have been redeveloped, the neighbourhoods torn, the roads have disappeared into little hills of plastic. The suburb of Chembur has changed a lot. I look as if a stranger through the train's window as I speed past to an unrelenting present of deadlines and mindless work. Time has taken its toll.

Work, work, work, work. When will I be liberated from work and smell the Saundhi Mitti?

It rained last night

I sat up in bed. I had left the window open due to the heat and the shower wet me and I woke up immediately to the chatter of raindrops on my windowpane, the heavenliest sound in this universe.

The world outside was serene, the wind turbulent, the lightning brilliant and the thunder, well, awesome!

In the morning the roads were wet as I went for my morning walk by the dam. Well, it's a dry dam now, but it will fill up gradually. The cuckoo is still singing its sweet song and I am full of nostalgia of a very maudlin nature.

Another monsoon.