Monday, January 31, 2011

Reclusive Authors

So John Maxwell Coetzee is reclusive and media- and audience-shy. Says this article.

So were the following authors:

J.D.Salinger (author of "Catcher in the Rye"). He cut off all contact with the outside world when he was in his forties.

Thomas Harris (author of the "Silence of the Lambs" series). He was painfully shy and would avoid all contact with his fans and members of the press.

I don't know if it is the fame their books bring that makes them reclusive. After all, there is a limit to the adulation you get from a fickle public. Finding Forrester is a movie based on J.D.Salinger about a reclusive author who retreats into a shell after fame and fortune.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Standing Beside a Bad Salesman in Train

I am not a great admirer of short shirts. (A shirt which when worn looks like the man has borrowed it from his son. It gives a man a general sense of being poorly and inadequately attired.) So, what's the story?

Ahem. There was this short shirt standing beside me in train. What was worse was that the short shirt's midriff was bulging out like a huge jackfruit from below the short shirt and the jeans had descended to the nether regions of the hairy paunch and was hanging like a flag at half mast below. Phew! This short-shirt was making conversation on the cell phone. He is so close I could even hear the other party's conversation. His hand was on my chest and he was shifting about, all nervous energy.

"Sir, any time I see your number, I give you call, sir." What a lame excuse to call a person! God, some people! Naturally, anybody would be offended. Now, I hear every word he speaks because I am riled, I am steaming all over. Usually I am a very tolerant commuter. But this once I am so chagrined I could extricate my leg from among the profusion of limbs and kick him.

He is some kind of salesman. May be, he is selling insurance. But his clothes doesn't indicate even an iota of a business person.

"Patrose here, sir. How are you, sir? Family all well?"

I could guess the other party wasn't amenable to the conversation. Good. There is silence at the other end. He deserves it. God help him if he didn't know the called party's family personally. Naturally. What if he is unmarried? Divorced? Here was a man probably trying to enquire about the family about which he knew nothing. The conversation is doomed for sure.

"Er... er... thank you, sir," said the short-shirt and hung up, or whatever it is you do on the cellphone.

Then he starts a conversation with another person standing nearby. The conversation is in Malayalam. It takes all types, I guess. God's country has its characters. He produces his visiting card even before he is asked for one. He works in a bank and is selling home loans and is rather desperate about it. Bad, bad, bad salesmanship! May be, before that, he should read this article about phone conversations.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Flacidity and Casualness" - What Makes a Serious Writer?

Geoff Kloske, the head of Riverhead Books, says in this article on "More, I fear, there is a flaccidity and casualness of style that has come from writing habits born out of e-mail and social media."

Is this true, this charge of "flacidity and casualness?" If so, this blogger who has been blogging and writing emails since the invention of the internet is most guilty. Mea Culpa. What makes a serious writer?

Of late I have become a fan of Twitter and have 251 followers on it. They say it is micro blogging. Journalism is literature in a hurry, blogging is journalism in a hurry, and what is Twittering? Is it blogging in a hurry? Seems like it. I don't know most of the people who follow me but my network is growing. I am told some people have millions of followers. Are they essentially friends, fans, or just followers. How does one define a "follower?" Who is he/she? A friend, a former love interest - someone whose name (at one time) you would carve on your school desk or cut on the bark of a tree -, a childhood friend, a family member, what?

I remember when letter writing was an art. I used to write a monthly letter to my parents who were settled in Kerala. My mother used to collect all these letters. When I would go on my annual holiday I would read these letters and get an idea of my state of mind, my turmoil and tumult when I wrote these letters. Now, after her death, nobody (not even I) cared to preserve these letters. They are lost. I had a printed personal letterhead for the purpose. I still have a personal printed letterhead, but I hardly write letters these days. Letters have been replaced by phone calls and emails.

എഴുത്ത് വരാറുണ്ടോ? എഴുത്ത് അയക്കണം, കേട്ടോ?
पहून्च्तेही चिट्टी लिखना. चिट्टी आ रहा है न?
पाहून्च्ल्याच पत्र पाठवा. पत्र येत आहे ना?
"Send a letter soon after you reach," used to be a constant reminder to a traveling relative. "Are letters coming?" used to be another enquiry about a son/husband who has gone to the Persian Gulf for a job. However, now the art of the letter has been lost, and seems irredeemable. When I was in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I used to write to my wife every week. A letter was still a treasured thing as recently as the 1990s. Alas and alack! No more.

One used to put a lot of effort in composing a letter. Those days receiving and reading a letter meant a lot. They would be pored over, smiled over, wept over, and then preserved. It wasn't literature but it was nearly that, the dilettante's effort to imitate the talented writer. We were spectators of the fascinating world of literature. Letters of great people were compiled into books. These days one would rather write emails and spend time on being the writer one admired in childhood. Guess, we have become more ambitious and venal. The thinking seems to be: we have a computer, we know typing (or, pecking), why don't we write a novel, a travelogue, a definitive piece of non-fiction? Today we are participants in the fascinating world of literature, not mere spectators.

Is this a good thing? I don't know. One thing is sure. A lot more people who have laptops are writing novels these days. After all, what does it take? Imagination and typing ability. I felt empathy for a youth who produced a huge tome (he called it a novel) from his bag - he had painstakingly written it and bound it into the form of a book - and called it a "monumental work." He seemed a young chap with a lot of humour in him, but when it came to his, what I may call faux-novel, he was all seriousness. We are all victims of our own deceptions. He doesn't realise that it's them - the apparently unresponsive world so lost in its own contradictions - that should call it "monumental", "seminal" or whatever.

Even I may be misguided in my quest for publishing glory. What the heck, I tried. I will not die without having tried.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This Matter of Language Writing and Publishing

It could be change in perceptions, it could be damning of the Indian Writer in English (IWE) who are desperately trying to find a foothold. (We who struggle to create in a language that is still alien to us.) Reason? Orhan Pamuk has come out against English fiction as written in countries other than English-speaking countries on the last day of the Jaipur Literary Festival and opines that other languages are ignored. Earlier in the day Salman Rushdie had said in this address almost the same thing (link courtesy Frontline):

"This is it: the prose writing - both fiction and non-fiction - created in this period by Indian writers working in English, is proving to be a stronger and more important body of work than most of what has been produced in the 16 "official languages" of India, the so-called "vernacular languages", during the same time; and, indeed, this new, and still burgeoning, "Indo-Anglian" literature represents perhaps the most valuable contribution India has yet made to the world of books."

Now what is it that makes language writers rue their chosen language of expression? I for one think that Orhan Pamuk is wrong and so is Salman Rushdie.

As regards Rushdie's observation: I speak from my tentative experience of one language of India. Malayalam - my mother tongue - which I speak and read, has a tradition of literature exceeding anything any IWEs have produced. I confess I am a wannabe IWE writer, however, I confess here that the existing body of Malayalam literature far out-weighs and out-shines the body of IWE literature we have yet produced.

For example has any IWE writers produced a dictionary or a grammar book of IWE language? (Here I speak as the great,great, great nephew of the man who wrote the first authoritative grammar book in the Malayalam language. More about Rev. George Mathan on this link.) Or, for that matter a grammar book for IWEs?

People speak and understand their mother tongue better than any another tongue. It's another matter that I am more familiar and conversant with English as I am educated in it. However, my parents put me in a school which taught Malayalam as an add-on language, so I speak and write that language rather well, but not well enough to write in it. My loss. Whenever I can - mostly when I am in Kerala - I pick up a novel or book in Malayalam and I know that it expresses thoughts and feeling much better than English. I find it difficult to express that here, so I will leave it alone.

I would also vouch that language writers find it easy to be accepted and to be translated in India. Most publishing houses encourage translations because they know the books will sell as it has already been tested by the local language reading market.

So, rest assured, dear Mr. Pamuk that language publishing is still strong and will weather whatever storms there are. And dear Rushdie-sirji Indian languages (I have only pointed out the richness of one language) have a collective oeuvre which IWEs cannot match.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Poor Service from Customer Support - How Long Can a Customer Suffer?

Yesterday I dialed SBI card customer support to get a problem resolved. I have a dread of using Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) and, yet, I do it all the time, trying desperately to make sense out of their thingammajig. After all, I worked in a call centre, didn't I? And I wrote the script for their voice interfaces (see, I told you before it's a nice word, eh?), didn't I? I keep hoping things would be better. But, sadly, it isn't. I had to spend almost 30 minutes to go through the various options and then when the option "dial 9 to speak to a customer support executive" came on I jumped at the chance. By this time I was totally frazzled and disoriented.

Have you faced this problem? 

Have you noticed how companies give customer service the least priority putting it into an IVR system and then if you don't give them their 16-digit number just disconnect you with an accusing "You have entered an invalid number. Please try again, goodbye." I could have choked the voice box of that pretty voice that said it. 

Such was my anger and chagrin as I was denied my justice that I wrote to the new minister for corporate affairs (Mr. Murli Deora) this letter. Hope he is able to do something about it.

Sponsored link

In the very least, businesses should offer gifts or coupons when they've made our lives miserable.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jaipur Literary Festival - The Literary Glitterati

The Daily Beast has this interesting article on their site about the Jaipur Literary Festival. Excerpt below:

"Yet those crowds were also intently focused on the hour-long panels in a way that any attendee of gabfests whose pulsating heart is normally the cocktail lounge would find astonishing. Events with sincere titles like "Why Books Matter" and "Reporting the Occupation" drew hundreds of rapt listeners. Audience members could ask earnest, unselfconscious questions like whether e-books were real books without blushing. South African Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee held an audience of over 1,000 people spellbound as he a read an entire short story, without a single cell phone trilling."

I know literary festivals are fodder for the fussy literary minds that work on novels, short stories, poems, plays, etc. in the loneliness of attics and dungeons with only their unwilling muses for company. (My muse often beckons me to the television, or my beautiful terrace hideout where I can lose myself in the many-layered V.S.Naipaul's novel "The Mimic Men.") Or, should I have been at the Jaipur Literary Festival instead, braving the cold, unpublished (sigh!), ignored, subdued, maligned? Better to rein in hell of my attic (yes, that's my writing space at home) than bow down to the literary glitterati in the exotic town of the Rajput kings of yore.

If I get published (that's a big "if"), only then will I go to Jaipur Literary Festival. Not otherwise. So, complete the editing for God's sake.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another Excerpt from My Novel - Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard

Since it is Sunday and I don't want to exert myself too much I will post an excerpt from my novel, just to give you an idea of what I am working on. Hope you like it. If you have feedback please write a comment. I would appreciate it very much. About the footnotes: since I use a lot of Indian terms I have written them in footnotes for the benefit of readers who do not understand these expressions. For more about the novel "Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard go here.

Another excerpt from my novel: 

We – Evita and I – party, we boogie, we stay out late in the night where jazz and rock play to the clinking of a million glasses, in semi-darkness, where ghostly shapes flit about in shiny evening clothes – pointed shoes, tight trousers, belts, cummerbunds, shirts open to navel, skirts so short I could see panties, tops through which bulge the luscious forbidden fruit, the vision that made Screw, Jimmy, Johnny and Veereshbhai slaves of the skirt for ever, its eternal ravager. Screw, he who made women want him so much, he was like Casanova and Don Juan in one. Those days were Kama-Atura[1], affected by my great love for her, almost a sickness of the lovelorn. We would seek out fun and would be its slave in the dark recesses of five-star hotels where the hedonism of the rich prevailed. Those were a series of concupiscent days where I lost my way, didn't care what I did, and didn't bother what people would say. I would sit for hours surveying the scene from my office cabin on rainy afternoons – when the rain fell like stippled spheres of incandescent light – from whence the grey dullness of the wet afternoon would magically fade into the deeper shades of dusk and my meeting with Evita would begin again with renewed passion. My escape from responsibility, darling, my escape from being your dadda, I am contrite, I am sorry to say, this was my second period of innocence. How can I say it: I was corrupted by love. On a positive note I could feel me evolving, as if I have transformed from the ugly larva into a colourful butterfly inside the chrysalis. I stopped believing in my work; it was for me just a hindrance; whatever grandiose plans I had were sacrified at the altar of her love. Maybe, it was her witchery, her alleged para-normal powers that were to blame.

[1] Affected by Kama, love.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

So, Wearing Jacket Eh? Feeling Cold?

I hate to make excuses for wearing my jacket in winter. Or, sweater for that matter. So, I will make it this once for everyone's sake and please don't tell me snarkily:

Haaahn, wearing sweater, eh? Feeling cold? eh?

Meaning to say: Showing off, eh? Showing off your sweaters and your cap?

I guess we have perfected the art of criticising others for the clothes they wear. I find this abominable habit prevalent more in Bombay and the south than in north India. The moment you have an extra garment on, they want an explanation as to why and what for. Here's why:

I live in a valley surrounded on three sides by hills. So it's cold in the morning. If Bombay is 12 degrees, we are 10 degrees or lower. So in order to protect my bones from chilling and becoming ice I need the warms of woollens and jackets.

I am not very tolerant of cold. I have a high tolerance of the heat, because I have lived in hot climates most of my life. So cold leaves me rattled and I start shivering when there is the slightest chill.

I am not a show off trying to vainly gain in your esteem by showing my LL Bean jacket and Woodland cap. I wear them because they are of good quality and do not tear. Moreover, they are comfortable. They have been with me for years and I have grown attached to them.

So, satisfied? Comment if you want here, but don't stop me and ask me why I am wearing my jacket or scarf or cap, pleaaaassseeee!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jaipur Literary Festival - Orhan Pamuk - Not Rhetorical or Lamenting

This article says (sorry the link doesn't work, so I won't link it, to save you some trouble) the Jaipur Literary Festival opened with a bang. It must have been mired in a bit of controversy this time.


As news filters in Pamuk says being rhetorical or lamenting is not his type in this article. I like Pamuk and his straight from the heart delivery, which I had heard when he was in Bombay. Here's a link to that interview by Sunil Sethi.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hierarchical or Open Organisations? What Do We Have in India?

This is only for corporate types.

I am a great fan of the blogger Confused of Calcutta. I read him regularly. He is based in London and writes knowledgeably on several technology issues that vexes us in the digital age. Me, too. Consider for example this article about what modern organisation should be, how they should function, how they should be team oriented and not hierarchy oriented. It's not enough to make a job description (JD) and tell the employee that this is what you need to do and then do a severe test on his performance (all at the instance of the boss, the team leader). This is all very well for the hierarchical organisation concerned with structure and direct performance incentives. However, it fails when it comes to optimum utilisation of the employee's inherent talents.

Therefore the millions of disgruntled - talented, I assume - employees who get disillusioned soon after they join and leave after taking a few months of salary during which time they have contributed nothing to the organisation.

I think this is where most Indian organisations fail. They hire an employee and ask him to do a job instead of fitting the job to his talents. In the process the employee is disoriented and the organisation works on several pockets of, shall I say "vacuums," in the knowledge sphere.

A common enough problem in the several technology companies I worked. But how do we resolve this problem?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gand Pe Lath (GPL)

This is awful, this is pitiful, this is abominable. **Groan**

Yeah, it is. I rank very high on the search word "Gand Pe Lath". What is called GPL in India. (For those who came in from other countries, this is the term used when a man is rejected by a woman, a man loses his job, is generally rejected, and it means "kicked in the ass."). Just do a search of these words and up crops my blog. Go on, try.

Hm.Sigh! You see why my blog is so popular? What to do?

I wrote this as a blog piece on "Uses and Abuses of the Word Ass" some time ago. Didn't know I would become so popular for this word - an abuse word at that. Well, there it is, me and my quirkiness.

Anothonybhai (an authority on these things) says, "Men, men, men, Johnnyboy, what men, you forgot to include 'Gand Phad', 'Gand Phatti', and 'Gandha Gand', how can you men, when I only taught you these words.

I tell him to turn around. He does. Then I swing my left leg (I am left handed, you see) the way I would do my goal kicks in my footballing years and give him a royal GPL.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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Death of a Sport? (Cricket, I Mean)

Yesterday I read Santosh Desai's column in the Times of India. He is good. He does a brilliant analysis of IPL as a sport and I admire for the way he dissected his subject and presented the facts. But it left me deeply disappointed. Ugh!

First of all, he mentions that India is the only country where auction is done for players publicly. (I thought it was the norm, stupid me.) So India being the only country doing public auction of players with number tags, and all, I do not understand the significance of what sports has become – an auction house by any chance. The Sotheby of cricket? I think it's against public morality in this day and age to auction actual people. I think the human rights commission should take this up.

Secondly, he succinctly he brings the issue of entertainment taking over a sport. I don't think there are cheergirls and leaders in cricket matches anywhere in the world. So this must be another new trend that India (or, whoever is in charge of IPL) brought about. I mean, the importing of white-skinned girls from U.S.A. and Russia – where they don't play the game at all – dumb! How daft can we get? No wonder the girls look so confused when they emerge from their underground bunker to do their Bollywood number. "Whatcha they gone and done this time, mate?"

So, this is all about the new star system in sports (read: cricket) and also about how this sport is now an entertainment (read: cheergirls, public auction, lights, camera, action!) and, of course, I forgot about sex. Yes, sex, which sports star is dating which Bollywood actor, who is who's girl friend, and who is in an arrangement of convenience with whom.  Who is the tycoon team owner's secret girl friend?

All this is very well. The disappointment came because the title asks "Death of a sport?" and Desai conveniently sidesteps the issue in the concluding paragraph by writing something like:

"The number of activities deemed to be entertainment run into millions, while the number of activities accepted by sport and followed by any significant number of people can be counted on one's fingers. Sport is vastly entertaining but it is much more than a format of entertainment. Sport generates money, but it is much more than a financial engine. The battle between these two competing visions of the future of sport is being played out right here in India. If the IPL succeeds in its present form, it will challenge not just other formats of cricket, but the very idea of sport. Consider it, for what it is worth, as India's gift to the world."

That's all? "Consider it as India's gift to the world." As safe a conclusion as any. Here is this abominable and worst-ever trend to come across a sport that people love and the writer is suggesting that it is a "gift" to the world? Oh God! The author seems to be in a hurry not to antagonize anybody, be safe, all's well, you know, nothing amiss. Let the sport die, who bothers, you know, let them have their fun.

At least the journalist who subbed the article has had the good sense to give it a cynical title "Death of a Sport [see the question mark after the statement, haha, some kind of journalistic tongue-in-cheek this]?" Consider my answer as being in the affirmative.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Singing: "I Want My Freedom" at a Caferati Meet

Just a small post to mention that I sang "I Want My Freedom" at the Caferati read meeting at Devika's place in Andheri West (have a look by clicking the link). It's a song about Freedom and what Freedom should mean to young people. I got there in time despite a traffic snarl and three changes of vehicles: bus, train and rickshaw. I may also mention here that I got a good response to my song which I accompanied with my tambourine. "A very 60s sort of song," "You have a nice voice," are some of the praise I got. Songs speak more than poems because they touch people with its rhythm and music. Our ancestors used to sing songs and dance whenever they had an occasion for it, till, till, something came , don't know what, and made them self-conscious.

Might I also mention that I wrote, composed, memorised, rehearsed, and performed it. I compose songs without musical notation - by ear. I have this superstition: Being a Piscean tunes come easily to me when I am beside water. Hm. I compose easily when I am bathing. I actually wanted the chorus to be sung by all present but that would require a projector, which I don't have.

Anyway, good attempt. I have also sung at the Kala Ghoda Festival and the Blue Frog Poetry Slam. Hope this is a new beginning which takes me further to integrate my poetry with song and music. Wish me luck! Sorry, I don't have a picture to share as none were taken.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Excerpt from My Forthcoming Novel

Here's a small excerpt from my forthcoming novel "Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard: "What does the future hold for men and women shamed into submission?" Shame is a powerful weapon in the sub-continent. We are experts in shaming people with our false accusations and allegations and bringing them to their knees in submission. Therefore the phrase "shamed into submission." We use it very often: in society, in the office, in corporations. We still haven't outgrown the idea of shame as a weapon. Have we?

Meanwhile, yesterday I walked into Belapur station and found tiles missing from an entire wall. Here's a picture. The tiles had been neatly dislodged and taken away and must have been laid in some home nearby.

Hm. I have heard of Vandals stealing from enemy territory, not of Vandals stealing from its own government and railway. Such meanness! Such misery!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Libraries of the Rich and Famous

Go here for the libraries of the rich and famous. For example:

  • Woody Allen
  • Diane Keaton
  • Michael Jackson

What? All these are show personalities. Why do they have such beautiful libraries?

Walk into any Bollywood star's/director's flat/residence can you even find a single book anywhere? I haven't been to any Bollywood personalities' flat/residence so far in my life. (I have given up hoping, too!) But I wonder if I would find even one book in any one's residence except perhaps Amitabh Bachchan's residence. Forget it. Nobody would even have a book shelf to boast about.

American show people at least have libraries to show off. Every home in America has to have a book shelf. They buy books at least to display in their bookshelves (the most they can do is buy a book and memorize its title to drop names in cocktail parties). It also exhibits their awe of books and their reverence of their authors. Which again shows that success comes with wisdom and wisdom comes from being well read and knowledgeable. Forget Bollywood personalities, even our aspiring writers don't read. I find the interest in book abysmally low in the present generation. They would rather listen to pirated music on their ipods.

In Bombay find me a good bookshop except Strand Book Stall and Nalanda (at the Taj Intercontinental). There are none. A bookstall in Vashi station has converted into a facility selling Vada and Pao (potato fry and bread).

And our libraries (except American Centre Library and David Sassoon Library, perhaps) are in a sorry state.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yesterday's Front Page in TOI - the Corrupt Zeitgeist

Oh God! Just as I imagined. Yesterday's front page of TOI sent a shudder through me. How can it be possible? Hence this post. I am shaking as I write this, so I don't know if I would do any justice. Nevertheless, here's my feeble attempt at portraying what little (tip of the iceberg?) that emerges from the humongous corruption that exists in the present zeitgeist (the spirit of the time; the spirit characteristic of an age or generation).

1. The information commissioner of Maharashtra (more about this august body anon) himself has been allegedly accused in the Adarsh building scam. He is alleged to have kept a flat for himself in the controversial building.

2. And to top this The Chief Vigilance Commissioner (more about this august body anon), the big shot himself, stands allegedly accused for his involvement in the alleged Palmoleine scam among other scams including the alleged telecom scam.

No, don't faint. I didn't. I just about managed to stay conscious.

1. The first mentioned The Central Information Commission is a body that has been constituted for the Right to Information of citizens of India. More in this link.

2. The Chief Vigilance Commission has been constituted to curb corruption in government departments. More in this link.

So both the bodies that were appointed as watch dogs against corruption have turned out to be corrupt themselves. So what does it say about what this country is going through.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cricket - a Spoilt Sport?

This shouldn't boggle the mind. No, it shouldn't, considering we all know how cricket is the spoilt brat of Indian sports. Consider this as a rant from a cricket hater, if you will. But I have to rant nevertheless. Consider the amounts involved in the coming Cricket Indian Premier League (IPL4).

Money spent on auctioning of players - Rs 282 Cr.

Total advertising expenditure - Rs 1125 Cr.

Total: Rs 1407 Cr.

So much for only one game, tournament, whatever.

We spent Rs 28,054 on the Commonwealth Games, I mean, it is all sports combined.

I went through this document of the Sports Ministry and found nothing by which I could nail a particular sport to an expenditure (you know hang them by the nail of their own making). But I knew the futility of it all, because all they want is to obfuscate and confuse. See if you can find any allocation of funds to a certain sport and mail me, or, leave a comment.

The men in flannel take away the cream of funds and starve football, hockey, volleyball, badminton, etc. Why this craze about a lazy pastime of the British? Why do we take the sport of our colonisers so seriously?

If it were a Premier League for football I would have been interested. But, cricket? No, thank you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Indian Premier League - Auctioning Men Like Slaves

The figures quoted by the Indian Premier League auctions do not hint at India being a poor country. By God, they don't. See the swish set snap up the macho guys with shapely butts at fancy premiums. For some time it seemed like auctioning of slaves in the American South. How can they do it when most of India is poor and the team owners are throwing money down the drain. And, damn it, most of the money is going to foreign men with thunder thighs and biceps like tree trunks. 

This is an unholy alliance, me thinks. How can players struggle for the country's pride when they are playing with their opponents (in the World Cup for instance) in the same team when playing in the IPL? How can you avoid a match being fixed when your friend asks you to throw your wicket with, "Hey pal, there's Georgekutty (that's the colloquial Mallu terms for cash) in it, man." Such alliances do exists as does that of a pretty girl and her estranged neurotic lover, a luscious and willowy sex-kitten and her Non-resident Indian boyfriend, and heaven help the pretty girl who is known to be a front for a top politico?

Ah, the whole thing stinks to me as does the game. I hold my nose in disgust. I look at those white-clad guys swaggering in Azad Maidan and wonder if they have a future. With big money everything has become elite, affordable only to the rich. Yes, I can make that out by the smooth faces and chocolate cheeks of the boys in flannels. They reek of wealth and of greed. No more can a Chandu Borde, a Chandrashekhar, or an Eknath Solkar ever come into Indian cricket. They worked their way up, while these guys "kiss ass" the way up. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Movies that Are Better than Books (Apparently)!

This came in the mail from someone named Tim Handorf and lists a few movies that are (presumably, I suppose) better than the books on which they were based on.

I do not agree on this count. The list features Godfather I and II as better than the novels. I found Godfather I - the movie - good, but not as gripping as the book. Still in school, many scenes of Godfather (the novel) aroused intense curiosity and amazement. Maybe, it was a part of growing up. I remember a friend giving me the novel with an admonition to read it carefully, meaning out of sight of parents. I did. For many unsuccessful oeuvres I tried to imitate Mario Puzo's style. No success! But those were the days that went by in a daze. Days of innocence and missed opportunities.

On a general note I think movies can never be better than books because books are written by writers. Hm. That's mean of me, I know. Books set off thoughts that connect to a lot besides just images. Why I say this is because I can remember scenes I read from the book better than from the film. How's that for comparison?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Two Internet Scams that Perturbed Me (Still Does)!

On the internet I am awestruck at the number of mails I receive promising to make me a millionaire. I don't know if I should take the net seriously at all. All are con jobs by con artistes and should have gone directly into my junk folder. But it doesn't. They are smart, they can overcome those gateways, hoodwink the gatekeepers (are there any, these days?) slip in through the cracks and make your life miserable. 

I, me, myself was victim of two such attractive-looking carpetbagging offers. 

First was a multi-level marketing company whose name begins with the letter "A". The sponsor was here and I became a member of his network and made around six members in one year. Then I realised what a cruel game it had played on me. Here I was doing all the work and my bosses were getting points and moving up the echelons. A person who had voluntarily joined my network asked me to give back his money. Network marketing didn't work for me. I don't know about people for whom it has worked. Does it work at all? Are they beyond the 3 per cent commission stage? How long have you been rotting away at this stage while your bosses made huge profits on the promotional seminars they asked you to attend without fail and the books they fobbed on you? You may be super beings whose hide are as tough as a hippo's to take all the rejection that I took. Big time rejection. Their seminars cost Rs 400 for a half day and you are supposed to bring 10 people to the seminar, or, you lose favour. They can be quite mean if you don't do the minimum target. Their smiles freeze, their warmth grow cold. I told some friends, "Come on, just show up for a seminar, I will foot the bill." I bought their tickets, no one showed up. The seminar money pays for their jet-setting and lavish parties. They become richer, I stay poor. Greed! I quit. 

Second was a job offer in England which seemed like the best job for a writer. For around Rs 1,00,000 a month I had to teach two children (you know, history, geography, what the heck?), living as an au-pair in their furnished home with a television in my room and a working time of only four hours, with all meals paid. I found out on Google maps that the area is a tony side of Edinburgh. Wow, I thought, I have made it, at last. As a writer I can peep into the lives of rich Brits, and write about their decadent ways. Plus, Rs 1,00,000 a month could make me a millionaire in ten months and I could retire after that. My elation was short-lived. It's called the "au-pair scam." I did some furious online searches and I discovered this was (and still is) a neat bit of deception. They promise this cushy job but ask you to pay a small sum (around Rs 50,000) which will be given back with your first salary. You think what the heck, it's a matter of waiting for a month and getting double of that. Sadly, there's no job in a swish area of Edinburgh and no salary. They vanish into the thinness of the air. Read about it here.

I guess the Internet is a reflection of modern society, of how corrupt it has become, and of how sorely it lacks in sincerity. Dear reader don't be a victim, stay smart. Good luck!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Islamic Development Bank

Just stumbled across this picture of the Islamic Development Bank at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on which I worked (as an ordinary assistant, nothing great) for nearly a year.

Just loved the night view and thought I should post this on my blog. In the lonely night shifts, as I looked out of my window, I could see this magnificent view taking shape. Now that it has become a reality and a presence on the skyline of Jeddah, see how it shines like a polished diamond of several facets.

Feeling Nostalgic.

J.D.Salinger Would Have been 92, Were He Alive!

J.D.Salinger (author of the magnum opus "Catcher in the Rye") was born on January 1, 1919. Were he alive he would have been 92. The secretive author turned a total recluse from the year 1965, when he would have been 46 (or, so I presume).

The reason he became a recluse is explored in this article by Steve Alburty in

The cost of popularity can be onerous for most authors who aren't prepared for it. (Though some crave, even would give a limb, for it and don't get it.) Because writing is a lonely profession and a writer lives in his imagination and story most of the time.

Happy reading!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Train Rage - 2

In my talk at the Blog Camp at the Mood Indigo at IIT, Powai, I said bloggers should be given accreditation similar to the one given to journalists. After all, journalism is literature in a hurry and blogging is journalism in a hurry. Doubts? Ask Julian Assange.

Jokes aside.

So why not an association, an authority, a department, a directorate (as the government is fond of calling its emasculated enforcement agencies) for accrediting bloggers. Or, better still, why can't the Press Information Bureau (the authority that accredits journalists) accredit bloggers also. I once applied to this hallowed body and was told that the journalist has to work in a fortnightly and since I was working for a monthly my application was rejected. Hm. I am good at being rejected and taking it in my strides. Ask my childhood friends, or, sweethearts.

Here's a picture of me waiting for a train in the wee hours of the morning at Belapur station. Inside, it's warm because of the pack of flesh grating against each other. Inside the train there was a fight brewing, too close to comfort. I hoped they would say something nice to each other and end their animosity, on a cold morning when the chill fills one with dread. It's like the standoff between Saddam and Bush. But they didn't. Following is the malfeasant conversation that took place:

- When you can't stand properly why do you enter the compartment?

- Why did you enter the compartment then?

- What did you say?

- What did you say first?

He replies with an insult to the other's close relative, a female one.

We shush both of them and separate them. C'on guys, its a cold morning and you need to warm up to each other. Spread some warmth and cheer, fellow commuters. Show some compassion. That brings me to the misplaced realisation: are we compassionate at all?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Another Bubble Building in Silicon Valley?

Another bubble is building in Silicon Valley, or, so it seems according to New York Times (I read NYT as often as I can at the American Centre as that's the newspapers that offers news and insights on a variety of topics). It says:

"These days in Silicon Valley, a billion dollars seem downright quaint" issue dated December 4, 2010.

I guess tech companies will never learn. It was such a bubble that led to the dot-com bust of the last decade. A lot of people lost their job (I am one of them.). Again companies like Zyngna (the Farmville maker on Facebook) and other start ups are ruling the roost with massive valuations. Zyngna is valued at $ 5 billion.

In another news in the same newspaper an article features Barkha Dutt on the infamous 2G scam. Says the article, "Her florid style would be familiar to most cable television viewers in the US, long accustomed to reporters who put themselves at the heart of the action."

"Florid style"?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sleepy as Hell, How Things Have Changed!

Sleepy as hell. But first some thought which I must post. 

For the past 22 years (since the time I shifted to New Bombay) I have been passing through Chembur where I have grown up and spent 20 of my best years, dreaming, heartbroken, playing, enjoying movies and books. Simple pleasures of a simple life. I like to look at the place of my childhood as I pass, remember those days. Today I was sitting at the window and I couldn't recognise Chembur as I looked out. It's all towers and housing complexes now, gone are the marshes, where the Kurla Terminus now raises it's ugly asbestos roof. There is a new highway now which connects Chembur to Santa Cruz and there is a sky walk (elevated bridge-like walking space) near the station. In the night I couldn't recognise the place. A lot of other things have changed. Two of my best childhood friends committed suicide. I do not know why.I will never find out what happened to them, why they took such a drastic step.Did life's vicissitudes drag them down into the unreturnable path? Did they lose faith and trust of their loved ones? What? What happened?

First day in son's first real job. He dropped me to the station on his bike. How children grow up and mature. It seems only yesterday I took and left him in school. Today he leaves me to the station. And he is being given a salary that is sixty per cent of what I am being given at present. How time changes things. In 1980 when I started working I drew a royal salary of Rs 300 (a benevolent sum considering a meal could be had for Rs 2). Today's salaries are much higher, though the work is more exploitative. 

Sleep overcomes. So I am off to bed. Thank you beautiful people who are reading this! I crave your indulgence.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Go Ahead, Raise the Bar, Amitabh

Sunday evening: I am watching Amitabh and Shweta on Koffee with Karan. I have been a big fan of the family: right from Amitabh to Jaya to Abhishek and Aishwarya. Shweta was a surprise, an articulate person, she floored me with some words she used and her general outspokenness. Something about the family came out, a distinguished family, a very apt first family. For example Amitabh said Shweta is a good writer and that she should write more. Then I remember that her grandfather was a great writer and it must run in the family - the idealism, the concern for the downtrodden, the urge to write and express. Amitabh also write well, there's a basic flow in his language which I like and he is the quintessential blogger, good at putting thoughts into words with ease and panache. He would have made a good writer if he tried to make a mark in that field. Well, I don't want to gush. I guess I am. 

But a slight offbeat note was struck towards the end by Shweta telling her father not to raise the bar. For whom? For everyone. Now, to this I must object. Amitabh is a fine person and he should raise the bar. If not for himself, for the world. He has broken records in stardom, at the box office, in TRPs (with KBC), personal charm, and the like. I have not met him but he is one of the most witty and charming men around. Now what does Shweta mean by asking him not to raise the bar? 

I am asking because people hint to me to do the same though I am in my early fifties. In spite of what they say - the crap about we respecting our elders - we don't even tolerate our elders these days, forget respecting. Shobhaa De said life begins at sixty, not forty. All the accomplished people I know are in their sixties or thereabout: Amitabh, Shobhaa, for example. Sorry, I confess, I have a memory lapse here. Well, some of my favorite musicians and poets would have been in their sixties, were they alive (actually, weren't they to self-destruct): Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Freddy Mercury, Ginsberg, Silverstein, et al. Why should they stop raising the bar? Because the generation of today are too lazy to raise any bar at all? I heard my son also saying something to that effect. I am sorry. But, I will never lower the bar, I will keep raising for all it's worth, all I can. We were an idealistic generation and we love raising the bar, in whichever field we are. Try and catch up.

So, my adivce to Amitabh, go right ahead, sir. Raise the bar for all you can.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Promises to Myself, Not Resolutions

This year is beginning with a lot of hope. Ergo, no resolutions. Problem with resolutions is once you write them down you lose interest. We are creatures of habit and by changing our habits only can we make progress. Of course before changing habits you have to change a lot of routines, unwanted interruptions. So my bag of wishes is full, some of which follow:

Complete editing of the novel (which is going on in full flow).
Complete the travelogue on Kerala (line editing remaining).
Edit poetry blog (I have been ignoring it for sometime). 
Do something in publishing (which I have been itching to do for some time).

I know these may be futile exercises. But I must complete them, and be ready when the time of reckoning comes. After all, I have made a promise to myself that I would do these things. Note: I said "promise" and not "resolution."

So, now the field is fertile for me to sow and the harvest is plenty, or, something such I read in in the world's best and number one bestseller.