Friday, December 31, 2010

An Incipient Slum and How It Was Removed

On my morning walk around a month ago walk I saw an ugly sight. To my horror I saw a slum was coming up near home, too close for comfort. First it was around four huts in a row, and then a few more were added almost overnight. The occupants would wash on the street, brush teeth, children would shit, dump garbage on the road, talk loudly, and on one occasion I saw them drinking liquor. A community was developing which was not to my liking. It always start with a few huts and before long it is a festering sore on the landscape, an eyesore.

I wasn't ready to see the neighbourhood deteriorate like that. So I made enquiries. I was told it was a temporary thing (as always is) and that it would be removed when some public work is finished. It always is a flimsy premise and then the slum grows. I have seen several such slums grow overnight into ugly conglomerations and becomes the den of vice and degeneration.

Here's my theory on slums. Slums make for irresponsible citizenry. If a man buys a small one-room tenement he has a responsibility to keep it well and work hard for it. But if he builds his home on government land (for free!) he hasn't paid anything so he doesn't see the need to maintain anything. He becomes part of a corrupt system. The politicians exploit him by giving him a water and electric connection. Then instead of investing in a good home he invests in colour televisions, refrigerators and lavish parties. He becomes more irresponsible and lives as a parasite of the politician who is his godfather who further spoils him for votes. He then gets into a criminal mentality of stealing, since the land he is occupying is also stolen from the government and therefore from the public funds. The politician has a perverse interest in keeping him dependent, poor, and illiterate.

I know of several affluent people living in such slums. Many of them own cars, which I have not been able to buy so far. Giving such people who have already stolen land, water and electricity from public funds a FREE FLAT to develop his lot is like giving a child candy and asking him to study well. (There's a corporation that distributes such free flats. Which to me reeks of populism.) Know what will happen? He will eat the candy and not study. The slum-dweller will sell the flat (as has been happening) and go back to live in another slum. The exploitation will continue down generations.

There's nothing like a free lunch, ever, remember that. A person who opts for a slum is having a free lunch at the expense of public funds that should have gone for his own development, education of his children, healthcare, proper roads for him to travel and abundant electricity. But that's not happening in Bombay because of the slum. A slum is the breeding ground of inertia, addiction, crime and vice.

So I and a few public-spirited citizens of my locality had the slum removed.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Swimming in a Vast Sea of Moral Corruption

Sir, symbol chahiye. I want a symbol.

Kyon? Why?

We are organising an under-nineteen cricket tournament. So we need a symbol. Take a symbol from the net no?

But the symbols on the net are all copyrighted.

But, sir, nobody will notice. Kya jata hai. What goes of anybody's?

I detect ignorance of the net and its cardinal rules. People aren't aware of copyright issues. They think everything that is available on the net is free and gratis, because the net is in every street corner and in every home.

That's how they see the net. At least, in India. I think it's a part of the vast sea of moral corruption in which we are swimming like fin-less fishes. Just another case of moral anomie we are going through.

A boss once told me, "You don't have to go anywhere, everything is on the net, you just have to copy and paste." He gave my avowed profession, my passion, my vocation a bad name, which I am still fighting internal battles to dispel. Without success, I might add.

Arre, bhai, the net is not free. There are laws in cyber space and these laws are universally applicable.

So, in my humble advice mode (IMHAM) if you are organising a cricket tournament and you have another Sachin in the making playing in your tournament, learn to respect cyber laws.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Access Control - the Fundamental Question

Here's an article by Schneier about access control in the age when we are wondering about transparency of government departments and that of corporate entities.

When access is granted to employees (in flat organisational structures these days employees has more access than they should to information, and, unfortunately, access once given is not revoked) in excess of what they need to do their jobs, there's a particular need to see that information is not leaked out, manipulated or sold.

Most scams have thrived on access the person in power had to information and the control they exercised over it. This very information became their nemesis as disgruntled elements (who didn't get the perverse rewards) squealed on them.

Most scams are discovered because someone who knows let out information. This is not to advocate hoarding of information but to see that transparency and trust exists in organisations and that information access is not manipulated. The whole 2G scam wouldn't have happened if there was a transparent bidding process, likewise the Commonwealth Games scam.

Sad, but true. We work on the concept of crony capitalism where the government and business get together into a comfort zone. The people who are involved are so drunk by their own power (and, oh, so ignorant of modern systems) that they cock a snook at the establishment they have been given to govern.

Hm. More anon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Nightmare Inspired by a Novel

Yesterday I had a nightmare, a scary one (as all nightmares are), and funny part is, it came straight out of a novel I read – V.S.Naipaul's "A House for Mr. Biswas". True, as all good works of art do, I was moved to tears as I ended the book. A favourite person left me, forever. Emotions were triggered, to a certain extent, with my total involvement with the protagonist, the lead character as they say. I feel identification with a character can lead to complete or (in this case partial) identification with the ethos of the character. Our minds are wired that way, to sympathise and empathise, which one, I don't know.

Yes, empathise, that's the word I will go with. Characters – cinematic, dramatic or plain bookish – affect us in many ways. For a moment, in my dream (or, haan, nightmare), I was caught in a situation similar to Mr. Biswas, without a house to call my own, feeling like driftwood, a victim of circumstances, a nowhere man just wandering along. That thought scared me and I woke up in a sweat. That was the power that words and the novel exercised over me. Awesome, it was; just awesome in its power and influence.

In movies we identify totally with the character – i.e., if the story is told well –, narrative is good, pacing is just right and sequences imitate our thought process. Unless this happens we lose empathy with the character.  Cinema has the power to influence more than novels and stories, the reason being that it is a visual medium and we see it in a darkened room where there aren't many distractions. However, movies tend to overstate things, what with special effects, and such like.

I am a literature person who has a liking for movies and primarily my thoughts are shaped into words first and then into images. So words have a great power over me, they overwhelm me, make me want to do things. They even appear in dreams. I am reading "Tough Guys Don't Dance" by Norman Mailer and a passage made me want to write like him. I rushed home sat on my laptop and found that I couldn't, because I am not Norman Mailer. Writing is as unique as are fingerprints and the pattern on the retina. So my advice is do not try to imitate another writer, find your own voice.

Great literature is nothing but words. In the annals of novels here are some of my unforgettable characters:

Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

Humbert Humbert in Lolita.

Oliver Twist in Oliver Twist.

Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye

Salim Sinai in Midnight's Children

Mr. Biswas in A House for Mr. Biswas

Of course, only some, not at all the only ones, the last one being a recent experience.

Hm, not to overstate my case, the following are some movie characters with whom I identified:

The protagonist of "Sonata Above the Lake" – A Russian film

The character of "The Fly" – a film starring Jeff Goldblum

The lead of "The Hustle" – a film starring Burt Reynolds

The lawyer of "The Verdict" – a film starring Paul Newman

Of course, only some of them....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Do You Have a Good Birthday Message?

Do you have a good birthday message?

What can't you write a birthday message?

No, I don't know. I want to impress this person.


I want this person to be impressed by my language skills.

Then break your head, think, write the best message you can think about, then I will edit it.

After an hour, the person comes back with a message: Dear So-and-so, on this day, when sky is washed in blue, the air feels like glue, I think of nothing but you, wish you on your happy birthday.

There are problems here. There are mixed metaphors and the adjective in "Happy birthday" has been turned into a noun. You should have written "wish you a happy birthday."

No. I don't know how to write, you write for me.

I charge Rs 100 per word to write, my rate for friends. I am expensive. I am choosy about clients I write for.

I can't pay that much.

Then send the message you have just written.

No, that will not impress. Oh, why didn't I learn to write a simple greeting!

Then don't send a message.

Oh, why didn't millions like you in this country learn to write a message? Oh, why?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thinking of Christmas on Boxing Day. Slum Removed.

Hung the star, bore the chills, hm, unusual for it to be so chilly in Bombay, sorry, New Bombay. The flu had left a mild aftertaste in its wake, the throat was dry, the cough was a constant reminder “be careful, or you will land up again on bed.”

Sniffle, sniffle....

The sum total, the ultimate result is that I spent two lovely days at home, eating cake, watching television, and wrote when I wanted to (as opposed to forcing me to write). There was no hurry. Today being Sunday (actually the Boxing Day) gave a bit of help to the legitimately poor and needy.

Also saw that the slum which I had complained about here, has finally been removed. Will post a photo tomorrow when I go there for a walk. Actually, it shows that if we take timely action slums can be eliminated. My timely action and that of my neighbours (I assume) rooted out this slum which was making a shaky beginning near Artist Village where I live. I observed that the inhabitants had turned the road into a bathroom and were drinking liquor openly sitting on the road. They used to be quite shameless about it. They used to dump garbage on a side of the road though there was a bin not 20 metres away from them. We can’t excuse their callousness and neglect when we pay tax to maintain our homes and environment.

Tomorrow, I have to go to work. Oh! Why did this blog have to remind me? Ugh! Getting up on chilly morning is not my cup of coffee, er, it is if I get my cup of coffee first thing on waking up. Which is difficult as the kitchen is on the ground level and I sleep on the floor above and I don’t want to trouble wifey.

It was never this cold in Bombay so far. There is heavy snow in Europe, there are floods in California, feel a bit sad about this unpredictable weather. Have we gone wrong somewhere? Went to a mall nearby and became sad seeing all the gadgets I can’t buy. Is there end to man’s need?

What am I doing? Coveting? When Christ said remove the eyes of the covetous. 

Sponsored link

Or an expensive yet very warm Helly Hansen coat would be nice.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Is There any Place Which Is Not Cluttered?

This post is about clutter. So I am not responsible if the following looks like clutter. 

At the workplace, it's a mess of artworks, newspapers, magazines, designs, paper and clutter. On the roads is a clutter of hoardings and advertisements and hastily stuck notices reading "Baba Hakim Bangallee's Instant Remedies", in the toilet somebody has scrawled dirty pictures, at home there is a clutter of credit card bills and internet connection bills, in the station the cleanliness has been obliterated with a notice stating "wanted smart girls/boys, monthly five figure salary with only office work", in the market there are vendors spilling on the roads, on the roads are parked cars in a big clutter, the bus stop is pasted with posters of "Pastor Mathew Chirayil, coming soon", the booking office is defaced by a poster "Senior Citizan, que here," the restaurant has a cluttered board stating the following:

"No arguing about personal matters
No sitting for long
Pay bill to cashier
No fighting with waiters
No tipping
No sharing half tea with friend"

I have a no clutter policy at home. And I enforce it. So I have minimal furniture, less pictures on walls, less newspapers lying around and I try to keep everything in their place. My wife is a keeper of old things, I deliberately throw away old things. She has rescued several magazines, shirts, trousers, sweaters, etc. which she gives to the poor. Once a rickshaw driver asked me if I have any old clothes and I brought him home and gave him some. I don't see him now, or, I would have given him the things I have bought in my impulse buying sprees. I ask him if he can pick me up and drop me to the station, he says that won't be feasible as he doesn't have a fixed schedule. 

The newspapers are cluttered, the television is so cluttered with their ticker tapes that watching it is a pain. They have BSE, NSE, Dow Jones, Futures, Dollar Rates, all flashing together. What's wrong with these people? I wonder. The internet is cluttered with several banner ads flashing their messages, the roads at night have a number of neon signs flashing - which is the only clutter I like to see -, the road is cluttered with hastily disposed plastic bags when I go for a walk in the morning, the sky is a clutter of clouds, the people clutter and cluster around as always.

Meanwhile, here's the star I put up for Christmas. Hope the joy of Christmas touches you and brings peace to you. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

IIT Mood Indigo Blog Camp - II

As the O Henry short story Gift of the Magi (the whole story on this link) goes "...Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating." Sniffles predominated the last few days as I became a victim of the sudden cold that seemed to sweep the world. I went for morning walks without enough warm clothes and that must have aggravated the situation. The back of my throat still feels like it has been rubbed by sandpaper, but still. So I have been irregular. Sorry. I have erred. What it must have done to my ranking, I have no means of knowing.


So here goes. The cold is abating, but when it was at its height, I was reminded of this saying, "When you are well, you don't remember what it is to be sick, and when you are sick you don't remember what it is to be well." Well, not exactly, something similar.




So inside the Blog Camp, before the sessions began the IIT-ians (Aside: I am a bit scared of these "double eyes" you know, they psyche me out. Yes, completely. Something I can't just figure out is how these frail looking girls and boys [some of them looking as if they hardly sleep from all the mugging they do] can make it to the top of the 20,000 who qualify for admission in the IITs. And every year there are another lot of 20,000 thrown up into the IIT vortex. I think it's a government conspiracy, keeping the "double eyes" swotting all the time and leaving the country soon as they finish, without causing much damage to the land that gave them birth. If they stayed back you can imagine the trouble they can do with their intelligence and graphical memories. God forbid! They could make governments fall like nine pins. That was a huge aside.), were setting up a wide area network (WAN) and one IITian kept goading the other by saying, "they say we are the best, man, so do it."


So much for the "double eye's" legendary confidence.


Before me was Meetu Kabra who spoke about her movie review blog "Wogma" which gives impartial reviews and rating for movies; it seems she is doing a great job from her page rankings (She has a page rank of 5, while I have only 4. Good showing.).


What I wanted to get across in my talk was that regular blogging pays and it's also a way to flex your writing muscles. Besides it can also be a medium of your activism, your free expression (artistic, writing, painting, drama whatever) and also your frank and uncensored opinion of what you recommend and what you don't. Almost all good writers set themselves a target of daily writing. And if they do it on their blog, it can only get better and good writing can be achieved over a period of time. I have absolutely made the transition from a sloppy writer (see some of my old posts, ugh!) to a rather careful writer (I hope, I hope.) who goes and re-writes if he sees a lot of mistakes.


Wrongly interpreted it could also mean that if a blogger posts anything in a hurry to get it on the blog, it would create work for Google and thereby would the internet space with garbage. However, however, Google doesn't send its spiders to index all websites and doesn't rank all of them, only the ones they think are important. Garbage will remain garbage! So, maybe, this thing of burdening Google and the internet space doesn't hold water, in my humblest opinion. And also, moreover, if the writing is crap then nobody would visit the blog and over a period of time the writer would get bored and give up.




That's why most blogs end up in dead ends, because the writer decides that only the best and deathless of his prose will go on his blog and ends up writing nothing. Alas, another voice dies in blogosphere. That's not what I intended to say. I said be quality conscious, fine, but don't be anal about it. Blog regularly, write about yourself, revel in the life around you, we could make it a learning experience until the time bloggers get wider acceptance and bloggers would even be given accreditation cards as a source of providing information.


Don't want to sound anal, but just clarifying things and in the process clarifying my own thoughts. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blog Camp at IIT’s Mood Indigo - I

The blog camp organised as part of IIT's Mood Indigo festival was an eye-opener in many ways.


I treasure my Sundays and going 30 kilometres to deliver a talk (hauling a laptop and bag weighing a few kilograms) is not my idea of spending a quiet Sunday. Hm. But I did. As I wrote in a post below, I dressed up in a round-neck tee-shirt and jacket and showed up. Well, it had its moments.


Ramya (Idea Smith) is the only person I knew and the sole contact point. She very nurturingly gave me instructions about the Powerpoint, the organisation, the basic ground rules by email. Netra the other contact person is away in Ahmedabad and she called me to give me directions to IRCC, which sounded a bit like IRCTC (which is where I do my railway bookings).


Mercifully IRCC (Industrial something... something...) is nothing like the unpredictable IRCTC (which has a habit of cutting me off mid-booking and asking me re-log-in, or, sometimes stating rather bluntly, "Train list not available."). IRCC is a quiet – though old-fashioned – building set in the IIT campus to which I walk through a tree-lined road full of banners of sponsors of Mood Indigo. I have heard great things about Mood Indigo, that it's the largest festival in Asia, that it's organised by the best minds of the country.


At the registration I try to schedule my talk early, before people go to sleep. I am told to speak to the organisers. So I hunt for the organisers and am met by Ramya. She schedules my talk for 11:45 a.m. and tells me that it – the schedule – is flexible and can be changed. I agree.


When I enter the auditorium I see that most of those present know each other. There are knowing comments and secret jokes passing back and forth. However, Moksh Juneja is a good compere and wonderfully guides the speakers. When the sessions start with Meeta Kabra and Harpreet I too join in to comment as I don't want to seem like a spoil sport. I find the energy quite infectious and a welcome change. Also, I didn't know there were so many serious bloggers in Bombay (incidentally, IIT is still IIT, Bombay, I don't know for how long). 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Speaking at Blog Camp, Mood Indigo, IIT, Bombay

I am speaking at the Blog Camp organized as part of the Mood Indigo festival at IIT, Bombay. The registration form is here. Would like you to attend and do some serious networking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Riding the Fast Train to Borivli

I rode a train on the Western Line to friend Manish's daughter Eliana's birthday in Borivli. (I usually travel on the Harbour Line, a different railway route. I haven't travelled that frequently on the Western Line to know its unique, and at times quirky, rules.) When I entrained from Churchgate I was told by a man wearing two watches and a three-day stubble on his cheeks that I should board another train, a slow train. Why? Because you will not be able to get down at Borivli. The reason? It was a fast train and most people are travelling to Virar or thereabouts and those standing at the gate would form a human barrier and won't allow me get out. 

Yeah, they have these violent gangs of hooligans operating in trains, like in New York and wherever there are train services.

This is some thuggery, dadagiri. I decided to take a chance, time being short.  So there I sat trying to compose my face assuring myself that I am a veteran of forty years of traveling on Bombay trains. The men sitting around me were looking at me pityingly, as if I was going to be hanged or guillotined or something. Anthonybhai would have said, "What men, you get down only no? What kit-pit making, no?" I would have said, "No, men, what nonsense, why should I? His father's train, this, or what?"

Okay Anthonybhai wasn't around and I said nothing of that sort and proceeded with a slightly disturbed mien through the journey as stations whizzed by and Andheri came and the next stop was Borivli.

I fought my way to the entrance, making polite enquiries if the person in front wanted to get down. One man told me:

"Borivli queue is there," indicating a space to the right of him.

I went and stood there. I have read Suketu Mehta's Maximum City and knew what this meant. In Bombay trains there are these spaces which eject you like a ball from a cannon when a station comes. If you are in the wrong place - er, the wrong cannon barrel - then the cannon jams and you are left struggling inside. There are four queues, or cannon barrels, near the entrance, the queue on the right side (it may vary from day to day, train to train) is meant for people getting down at the next station, Borivli. There was an invisible queue of people inside the train, not visible, but there nonetheless and one of the carnal rules of queue is that you should always stand at the tail end and not break it.

I join the queue indicated at its indistinguishable tail and ask the man in front, "Bhaisaheb, will you get down at Borivli?"

"Yes, I will, bhaiya," he says and lets out a ear-piercing holler of "Chalo, chalo, bhai." I take this is a ritual common to the Western Line of Bombay trains. I have company. I lay all my vexations to rest.

Comes Borivli station and I give a great heave with the others in front joining in not unlike a medieval gunner firing a cannon. I am half out of the train, but there is a crowd already struggling to get in. There's a bit of a scuffle but I manage to free myself and get out from the melee. For a while I was wondering if the cannonball - me - had got stuck.

Who said one can't get out at Borivli? I didn't. Experience won out vis-à-vis thuggery and hooliganism.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Year's Most Powerful Tweet on Twitter

After the Haiti earthquake the international relief agency "Doctors Sans Borders" went to the country with aid and was not allowed to land. Ann Curry Tweeted the following message at usairforce:

"AnnCurry Ann Curry @usairforce find a way to let Doctors without Borders planes land in Haiti: THE most effective at this."

Doctors Sans Borders was allowed to land. Have a look at the 10 Most powerful Tweets here. Link Courtesy Zigzackly.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Social Network - Movie

One movie I would give my right hand to see is David Fincher's The Social Network.

Being a content writer and a technical writer for tech companies I worked for a social networking portal based on the theme of Facebook. But. There's always a but.

So, but, whereas Facebook made members, we didn't get many visitors. The team did their best to innovate. But the innovations turned too cluttered. We tried different technologies, didn't work. That when we decided nothing would work and shut it down. So I have to see what worked since I already know what didn't.


Naomi Wolf on Julian Assange's Rape Charges

The Huffington Post has this article by Naomi Wolf about how the world treats a rape victim and rape offender around the world. Here's Naomi Wolf on Julian Assange's criminal arrest for rape (In case you don't know who Naomi is, go here):

"In other words: Never in twenty-three years of reporting on and supporting victims of sexual assault around the world have I ever heard of a case of a man sought by two nations, and held in solitary confinement without bail in advance of being questioned -- for any alleged rape, even the most brutal or easily proven. In terms of a case involving the kinds of ambiguities and complexities of the alleged victims' complaints -- sex that began consensually that allegedly became non-consensual when dispute arose around a condom -- please find me, anywhere in the world, another man in prison today without bail on charges of anything comparable."

Guess two powerful nations are victimising Assange for what he has gone and done. Tut tut!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Samanth Subramanian Wins Shakti Bhatt Prize

News is that Samanth Subramanian has won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize for "Following Fish" his debut novel.

Here's a review by Dilip D'Souza. I am a great fan of fish and look forward to reading the book, as I presume Dilip is too. Hope to write something about the delicate art of separating bone from fish and smacking the red dripping curry with tongue and injesting it with rice of the Kerala variety. "Meen choru" is a Kerala speciality I gorge on when I am thereabout. I am addicted to fish, so is wifey.

But, alas and alack! I don't have the time. So this note of appreciation would suffice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meera Shankar's Patting Experience in the U.S.

I don't know the full implications of Meera Shankar's pat down in a U.S. airport. But whatever happened to diplomatic immunity. The following may have been the conversation that took place there:

Security: Ma'm please this way, we need to pat you.

Meera: What pat, you want to pat me on the back and congratulate me? That's nice. Thanks for appreciating the thankless job I am doing. **smiles**

Security: we need to check if you are carrying any unwanted substance.

Meera: Oh! Don't you know I am the consul of India to the U.S.?

Security: Ma'm we need to check everybody, consul or Snoopy Dogg Dogg.

Meera: Who's Snoopy Dogg? You are comparing me to a Dogg? How awful.

Security: Internal procedure, ma'm, Snoopy is a rap musician and he wears much jewelry.

Meera: So you want to check my jewelry? I have diplomatic immunity, don't you know?

Security: That's exactly the point. The U.S. is so conscious about security after 9/11 that we need to check everyone, even consuls.

Meera: What nonsense, we had a 26/11 and still we don't check everyone at our airports. Barack Obama and Michele Obama came and we didn't pat them. Hillary Clinton came, we didn't pat her.

Security: Oh, that Obama guy, he happens to be our president. As for Hillary, I don't know who that is, we will still pat her if she came here.

Meera: (Thinks: this woman doesn't know who is Hillary Clinton, what he will remember a country called India. No use arguing.)

Meera: Okay, okay, but don't get too personal or I will file a complaint for sexual harassment. In our country we respect women and we don't pat them, wherever, except maybe in public places, that too, by accident.

Security: (After patting) Thanks ma'm for co-operating.

Meera: Well, did you find something, some substance hidden?

Security: Actually I was curious how you people wear your sari. You know I have heard so much about this wonderful garment. I want to wear one myself, so I was, kinda, exploring. Thanks ma'm.

Meera: Then you should have told me so. I would have taught you how to wear a Kancheepuram Silk Sari, a nine yard one.

Security: Now I am have second thoughts you know. I will never be able to hold them or carry them, you know. I admire your grace ma'm. Thank you again.

Meera: (Sniggering) I thought so. What do you know about India?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yeh Public Hai, Yeh Sab Jaanti Hai (This Is the Public, They Know Everything)

Ratan Tata may be justified in seeking redress for the leakage of tapes in the 2G scam case. What's galling is the breach of trust and the free trading of information. Of course, the media is also not above board and the play of money has boggled the mind of this blogger and - he is sure - of the reading and understanding public. Somehow, despite what politicians think the public knows everything.

"Yeh, public hai, yeh sub jaanti hai
Yeh, public hai."

Sang superstar Rajesh Khanna in a film called "Roti" of yesteryears. The film released when I was in college and I attended the premier show. It means:

"This is the public
They know everything."

Crudely put. But see the meaning contained in it. I tend to content myself with the deeper meaning of such songs after I hear about the magnitude of the 2G scam. 2.75 lakh crores is beyond my imagination. If that money was used to better roads and electric supply this would have been a happier nation. 

What more shall I say?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This is Weird

This person has a Twitter profile picture as shown. I think it is a gif animation picture. She has more than 1,00,000 friends. Being sassy and what she calls "EPICNESS" sells?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mita Kapur’s Book Launched in Bombay by Shobhaa De

Uggghhhhgggaaah! That's the guttural sound I produced when I went to Harper Collins' launch party for Mita Kapur's F-word.

The evening was full of surprises for me.  First surprise I get on crossing over to Eros Cinema is this: Eros is screening Hindi films. Gone are the days when I used to tremble with excitement when I would buy tickets for: Trinity Is Still My Name, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Towering Inferno, such like movies of the seventies. Ah! Those days are gone I say to myself.

Then I see that they have done up and renamed "Sundance Café" into "Chez Nous" (Pardon my ignorance, what does this mean? I am too lazy to use Google translate.).  Gah!

Again I go to Eros East side and see Valhalla (the hall in which the souls of heros slain in battle were received by Odin) and a form breezes past me with the slightest of nods. The Griff is here, I think (He has waist-length hair, you know. I am jealous of him. The reason is when I grow hair all I get is a few wisps below my bald spot at the back of my neck and when I tie it in a pony tail, it rather looks like a pig's tail. Gah!). So, this must be important. That's surprise three.

Then when I open the doors of Valhalla, I have this feeling of enjoying some salacious passages from online friend Mita Kapur's "F-word". I was completely, no, totally, taken aback when salaciousness was replaced by talked of salads and dal tadka (sauted lentil soup).

So there was Shobhaa De in conversation with Mita Kapoor, who I had seen only in photographs. Here were two very articulate women in conversations and again I go "Gah!" Not only because I didn't get the salaciousness I expected.

So there I am standing beside The Griff and all the television cameras and Cannon EOS cameras get trained on me and The Griff (because he has waist-length hair, and all) and I think I have become some sort of celebrity. But, that's only reflected celebrity-dom. "Gah!" I go.

There are celebrities plenty at the launch. Om Puri is present with Nandita Puri (made up I guess). There is Rashmee Uday Singh (or, someone who looked like her), other people who were celebrities or trying hard to look like celebrities: neat beards, long hair, glasses with fluorescent strips on the sides, ponytails, you know, the works….

Since I had joined in the middle of the launch I wasn't aware of what vibes were going on, or, what had already taken place. Mita is absolutely articulate about her book (which incidentally is about Food and not the other "F-word" your dirty mind was conjuring up), about restaurants, about what to cook when you are dead tired, and various domestic situation she has faced.

"I put my daughter on rice and dal (lentil) for the rest of the week after the binge," she says. Good. Mr. Kapur is smiling supportingly from the side. A lot of family is in attendance so, obviously, a lot of Punjabi bon homie is on display. I love their earthiness.

Shobhaa says there aren't any good Maharashtrian restaurants. I would suggest that she stop at Belapur on the way to Pune and have Kombdi Vadi and other Malvan food at Chillies in Sector 6, Belapur. That's where I order the said delicacy.

I meet Ramesh Gowri Raghavan and David DeSousa, my Facebook friends. The latter I am meeting for the first time after being be-friended online through a common friend. It's amazing how we connect with people on Facebook, I have made a lot of friends and keep in touch with them. I ask David how his book "Itinerants (launched at the Kala Ghoda Literary Festival)" is doing. He says it has done well and only a few copies are left.

I would have liked to meet Mita, but I saw her being mobbed for book signing and couldn't penetrate the thick crowd of admirers. So, since I had a train to catch, I left without saying "Hi." Sorry, Mita. Hope your book does well.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Exhibition: Women Changing India

Got this request in the mail. BNP Paribas is organising the "Women Changing India," which is an exhibition, entirely dedicated to Indian women and their importance in society, in collaboration with Magmum photo agency.

Must say some of the photographs included in the mail look interesting. It's a worthy cause, so please pass it virally on social media (which this blogger haunts regularly, less frequently than before, he hesitates to add) such as: Facebook, Twitter, Ryze, whatever.

Use the Word "Interface"

Don't know what word to use?

Use "Interface". I just did.

I was thinking of an NRI thingammajig, and I didn't know what word to use: meeting, association, joint-effort, interaction, conclave, seminar, conference, etc. but nothing worked.

So I used "NRI Interface" and "wow" suddenly I come out looking erudite, knowledgeable, uppity, modern, progressive, whatever.

Lesson learnt: use "Interface" gratuitously. It's a nice word, it will fit any description.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

We Are a Loud Society. Agree?

We are a loud society. Accept it. I do. We hear people speaking at the top of their voice in crowded train compartments, absolutely unaware and unashamed that their secrets, the way they live, their misery, is being heard by all. We can't speak softly because we aren't trained to speak thusly. We are a loud people. Watch the way we dress: evening shirts during the day, patterned shirt, patterned jeans. The ringtones on our mobile phones are set at the loudest, because we want to be noticed. On the way home, in a crowded compartment we hear at least a few mobile phones blaring loud music on the FM radio. This happens when there is no space to stand. This happens when we need a little peace and quite after the high-decibel-high-testosterone maelstrom we have endured in the office fighting with suppliers and with colleagues.

When we reach home there are at least half a dozen loudspeakers blaring music in our locality. Our televisions are turned to the loudest volumes because our neighbors want it to be know which are their favourite programs, so that they can induce us to see it. Our advertisements are the loudest, the most boisterous, the most flashiest.

Yesterday I saw an ad for a car which was shot in a part of Bombay they usually shoot these sort of ads. Actually it is Horniman Circle where a few grimy and battered building (I don't remember the names) were made to resemble some faux-European city. They wanted to give the car a foreign look. The reason I am mentioning this is that it looked very flashy. And, pray, why an European city in an Indian ad? Why can't we be proud of our history and show the buildings at Horniman Circle as it it. We like to exaggerate a lot. We are loud. Watch any Hindi Movie.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Wikileaks Mastermind Julian Assange Arrested in London

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested in London according to this item in Reuters.


"Police said Assange, at the centre of a row over the release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, had been arrested at about 9.30 a.m. (0930 GMT) on Tuesday by appointment at a London police station under a European Arrest Warrant.

Presidents can be dumb. But didn't know they can be this dumb. See picture.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Have You Seen Sita Singh's "The Blues"

So on the front page of a national daily are these words:

"... but also lent his voice to Sita Singh's The Blues." The obituary is for Manish Acharya and must surely have made him uncomfortable were he to see it. I didn't know Manish Acharya. From all accounts he was a brilliant man. I wish him well. May his soul Rest In Peace. I offer a prayer for his soul considering how they mauled his obituary. Just mauled and maimed it good and proper. 

I also don't know Sita Singh. Is she brother of Singh is Kingg? Sita is kinda odd for a Singh, isn't it? She must in some way be related to some famous king - some king of rock, some king of pop, some king of Bollywood type. There are many going around with their puffed up chests and tree-trunk biceps. But does the poor man deserve so many mistakes in his obit?

Oh, why bother to spell correctly when you kan mak yorsilf un-r-stood? 

Let's have headlines such as: 

"Sita Singh's The Blues brake ol rekords."

"Sita Singh wins Kaan's aword."

"Sita Singh is the new kingg."

All very well, says my friend the disgrunted sub-editor, who is without a job, "except that the movie Manish Acharya lent his voice to was "Sita Sings the Blues" and not "Sita Singh's The Blues.""

"Sita Sings the Blues" is a unique experiment in bringing cinema to the people through free downloads as this excerpt from its website shows:

"I hereby give Sita Sings the Blues to you. Like all culture, it belongs to you already, but I am making it explicit with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show Sita Sings the Blues. From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes."

Just a little research would have avoided such meaningless and embarrassing gaffes on a Sunday morning. Oh, never mind.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

My Painting Exercise This Morning

Things that look easy aren't that easy. Most notably those involving physical labour, such as painting. Well, good lesson learnt as I set out to work on the staircase that led to the terrace at the second level of my house. The rain was harsh this year and the coat of paint had peeled and rust was eating into the iron framework. Seeing the rotten iron framework and relating it to my recent commitment to physical fitness, I decide to paint it myself. I am confident. I was a well-known sketcher and painter in school and had won some awards and painting a railing is actually kid's play, not much bother, according to me.

So I bought primer, turpentine (what's called a thinner), some sand paper to scrape the rust and a brush and set out to work (Cost Rs 188.). The idea isn't to save money but to make exercise more meaningful. Instead of walking with hands swinging idly by the side I wanted to see if labour can save me any money. Two birds in one shot, right, eh? So, I forgo my morning walk and instead decide to work up a honest sweat. One thing I forgot, I was wearing good clothes and my rather nice clothes got splashed (It's not worth spoiling an expensive pair of shorts for a job worth Rs 200, is it?), so I changed into something more appropriate, i.e., shorts I haven't used for a long while and a promotional tee-shirt bought from a literary group I belong to (If you are interested, the name of this group starts with a "C".). Hm. 

I pour the turpentine into the tin of the primer and try to stir the contents, but the brush wouldn't go in. Lesson two: do buy a smaller brush that will go into the can of paint. Then I pour the whole can of turpentine into the tin of paint and stir. Uh-oh, too late. Too dilute and watery. Will do, I think.

Then I began work in earnest. Ronnie comes and gives advice, which he always does. He has been to a friend's house-painting party and has some experience in painting. He says the primer is a bit over-dilute (obviously), but will do and to start from the top of the stair and work down. He will periodically pop his head through the door and murmur some advice and disappear not heeding my plea to help out when the task got progressively harder. 

The scraping part over, I start painting. Wifey supplies some coffee and then some lemonade and commiserations. 

It's difficult painting something you can't see or are too near to see clearly. After coating the top horizontal portion (see picture) I come down to watch and appreciate my work and find that I have left a wide swathe of railing at the bottom, which I couldn't actually see from up there. Then I again climb back and rectify this. Now I know why painters stand back to watch their paintings. Haha!

Then Ronnie pops in to see the progress and I remark how difficult labour is and he says, "Who asked you to do it?" Which is really really very subversive. I swallow my pride. I calm myself saying this is also about accepting criticism and continue my work.

Then as I paint I look at the blue winter sky and appreciate it all the more. I appreciate the green coconut tree and the jackfruit tree in the courtyard more than on any other occasion in my life so far. When you work hard you appreciate things more. Another good lesson learnt, via the painting exercise. 

Then when I think I have finished, I notice that I have forgotten to paint under the stairs. These portions mock my handiwork of the morning. So up I go on a high stool to rectify this mistake and only then I realise the foolishness of painting directly above ones head. The paint drips into my eyes and I have to go and wash my eyes for fear of growing blind. At the washbasin I can't wash because my hands are full of wet paint. So I soap the hands and rid it of paint and then wash my eyes. 

This done. I resume painting of the underside of the staircase which proves ever harder as the sun is above me and I am squinting directly into it. My concentration is wavering and twice I almost knock the container of paint from the stool. Mercifully this also gets done. 

Then comes the cleaning of the fallen rust particles. Then the desperate washing with soap and hand lotion to get rid of the stains on my hands and forearms. These are stubborn and don't go away giving me a spotted-deer-sorta look. After rinsing for half an hour I decide to let it be and take a bath. 

Hindsight: if I had known it would take so much trouble and application of thought, I would have hired a labourer for Rs 250 and I am sure he would have done a better job. On the other hand there was so much learning in such a small task and I could feel the lazy muscles of my bulging ventral (front) region move for the first time in so many days. It was worth it, at least, on that count. 

Saturday, December 04, 2010

In Gwalior "Nothing Is Impossible"

In Tansen's Gwalior, "nothing is impossible" says Madhulika Liddle in this article in Mint.

"What You Do in Privacy of Home Is Your Business" Rules Bombay High Court

Watching porn in privacy of home or hotel isn't criminal offense as ruled by Bombay High Court in its landmark judgment. A friend was once caught with some soft porn material and was threatened with punishment and was asked to pay up. That's how these things work in India. This blogger thinks the judgment is landmark and important. Only if it is performed for a public audience is it an offense, Judge Tahilramani ruled.

This would also bring respite (I hope) for people who have been threatened with action in case of watching online internet porn. The Cyber Laws of India is a bit vague about this. This site is a good reference for those interested. It also states that e-mails are accepted as a valid form of carrying out communications in India:

"The Act [Cyber Law] legalizes the e-mail and gives it the status of being valid form of carrying out communication in India . This implies that e-mails can be duly produced and approved in a court of law , thus can be a regarded as substantial document to carry out legal proceedings."

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Picture from Mahabaleshwar

A picture of me from Mahabaleshwar - beautiful Mahabaleshwar of strawberry fields forever - taken outside the room where I stayed. Watch the play of sunlight dappling the Kota Stone seat on which I am sitting. Such bliss as I never experienced in a long time.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What Is "Seedy and Timely Redress of Grievances"?

This net wanderer, fond of circumnavigating the cyberspace was wandering, wandering, yesterday in the virtual world. The wanderer wanted the name of the information and broadcasting minister (I & B Minister, as the worthy is called. Was in a churlish mood and not ready to condone small infringements, being sleep deprived and all.

Imagine the wanderer's surprise when the worthy found the following on the ministry's website:

"Seedy and timely redressal of grievances by creating friendly environment."

"Seedy" hm could be overtly influenced by the current going ons. May be, happenstance it could be a mis-spelling of "Speedy"? Good. What seems isn't always so.

And what is "redressal"? My word processor throws up a angry red on the world. It's a revolting red. And it's oozing red on to the page. May be it is "redressing"? The government likes to use "redressal" quite a lot without referring to the dictionary.

Then the wanderer went to the home page. An image was blocking the entire front page, the navigation bar, the left bot and parts of the right bot (these are the strips that appear on the left and right of the page). The wanderer is positively infuriated by now. How can this be possible in the information and broadcasting website? No, not possible, he wanted to scream.

Surely, with e-governance and all, the ministry needs to take a re-look at its website, first of all. Scampering to see if "re-look" is a word. Yeah, it is. We, blogger, poor souls, have to be careful, you know.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thoughts of a Feverish Mind - "Ayikotte"

A usual rush hour in train. Fatigued by work I sit reading "A House for Mr. Biswas." I am engrossed. My fellow passengers all look dazed and surprised to have survived another day. I wonder what it would be like to not have something like literature to make life interesting. I would consider it (meaning life) a wasted desert if there weren't any of these vividly portrayed characters of Trinidad. 

Such an individual, a man, was standing next to me in train and was talking in Malayalam. I am a keen observe of the little, little nuances of the language as it is my mother tongue. The compartment is a mix of various tongues spoken with their own lilt, accent, emphasis, stress on vowels, a bewildering array if you listen to all of them at the same time. Which is what I try to do. I like the lilt of North Indian languages and the stiff urgency of South Indian ones. I like languages and speak around six of them. I try to speak the mother tongue unless the person happens to look irritated with my pathetic efforts, or, laughs at my attempts. 

He said, his breath reeking of drinks, "ayikkotte" meaning "Let it be." He didn't say "Shari", or, "athe" or "haan." The term is new to me. I haven't heard "ayikotte" meaning "let it be" so far due to my being away from my mother land. I think it is a bit subversive, showing a cynical side of a person to say "let it be." A friend's wife said it when I called him and got her instead. I remember being insulted by the word. Times change. May be, I heard wrong. May be, it isn't a wrong expression in the context.  

But I don't know if this is the standard way Malayalis respond to each other. I may be out of touch. But pray tell, isn't it a bit too cynical and skeptical. For one who was born in a land where cynicism takes a new meaning, I couldn't but think deeply about it. I have sought answers, I win some lose some. Not a big deal.

I have always felt this. If journalism is literature in a hurry, then what is blogging? Of course, of course, it is journalism in a hurry. How dumb not to think about it.

Nira Radia's designation is given as "corporate communications consultant." She must be a disillusion lady these days. Many young people aspire to have such a job. Do they have any idea about the ethical issues involved? And by the extent of money involved its a very paying field. Don't they think fate could catch up with them? 

Ah, well, I am sleepy. Wake up tomorrow and think of something serious enough to write and not this drivel. ;)