Sunday, August 28, 2011

So the Anna Fast Is Over, or, Is It?

Now that Anna Hazare is out of danger (Meaning he has ended another of his famous fasts. Wonder if he should be named "Fast Man."), a few random thoughts, as is my wont. Fasting should be a last resort rather than the first resort to achieve required purpose. Gandhiji didn't fast unless there was an urgent need. At least, I think so. Nowadays, you find a pandal everywhere and people - emaciated, disoriented, starving - fasting everywhere. I have seen employees of government organisations fasting for better wages and misguided youth fasting for rock concerts. (No, I made that up. Forgive me. Happenstance such is my ire at misguided fasters.) We are a nation of fasters. I have never observed a fast in my life and a few sad instances when I tried all have ended in disasters wherein I had to rush for the much needed refreshments.
That said.
I am in Kerala, a land not much affected by the Anna Hazare movement. I mean there is no frenCorruption is ominipresent here as in other parts of the country. The mafia is a potent force here. The reason is that all the capable youth are in the Gelf and making money. They hike the cost of land. A poor man can no longer build a small hut on his property and live a peaceful life. Life has gotten that much harder without jobs. Yesterday as I was being driver to his home by my brother-in-law, I saw a familiar sight. A man was weaving and staggering on the road ahead of us mouthing the worst profanities. The state goes to sleep at around 8.30 p.m. and after that it is the drunks, robbers and party workers who take to the streets. Meaning: it's unsafe. Anything can happen. Why? Because right thinking people who make up the backbone of every society is conspicuously absent or are too old and infirm to interfere. Hm.
That also said.
From where I am writing there's the sound of hens clucking, cows (what's it that cows do?), mooing, I think, and a stillness and silence that can only be felt in God's Own Country - Kerala. Guess I will stop here before my weak connection gets disconnected again. Pardon any mistakes because there's no time to change anything, anything whatever.
I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Random Thoughts on how Corrupt We Are

Short take today.Packing up for a trip to Kerala. Mother-in-law hasn't been well for some time. I don't know why men are so cheesed off with mothers-in-law. Mine is a sweet lady. Been very supporting. Hate to see some people fade away so quickly. She had an accident and hasn't been quite the same after that. So we are hoping for the best though it may be the end of the road.
On the way home today I saw several cases of people's corruption. Should I call it "subliminal corruption," or, corruption at a deep level, without even being aware of it. It's, I think, an offshoot of the corruption campaign being waged by the shrill votaries of Lokpals. Remember, I am still confused, so this might seem like ranting. I still am sitting on the fence and watching the world go by.
At Vashi station there was a crowd of people creating a big din beating on steel plates with spoons and ladles. The sight was a moving one. They were standing in a circle and hitting on steel plates making a noise that could harm their eardrums. Why this self-flagellation I ask. Why this flagellation of others? Isn't this corruption of a sort?
I see the temporary worshipping places erected on most roads. Agreed it is only for a few days. However, consider that roads are dug up to erect bamboo supports, traffic is stopped, and music is blared at all times. Isn't this corruption?
I am at the washerman's shop to collect my clothes. Our clothes are ironed by this man who charge us a fee. I keep my umbrella on the counter of the washerman and turn around to make a phone call. A man comes and takes my umbrella and is trying to walk away. I say, "Hey." The man comes to me and smilingly gives me back my umbrella. Isn't this stealing and corruption of the mind?
We are going through a phase when we are nothing but wanderers who have lost their way in the mad maze of modern life. The world is looking at us and deciding what we are doing about the deadly "C" word and how we deal ith it. So let's tighten our loinclothes and pull up our sleeves and do what is rational. We have lost a lot credibility. We can't afford to lose more.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Comparison of Government's Lokpal (Government-appointed Ombudsman) and Jan Lokpal (People's Ombudsman)

Here's a comparison of Government's Lokpal and Jan Lokpal of Anna Hazare. I received this as I was walking to Victoria Terminus after finishing work. It's only now that I read it. Decide for yourself who is right and who is wrong. 

As for me, I am still confused about who is in the right and who is in the wrong. For me it's a big grey area, though I once used to read and correct legal documents. Can someone redraft the gobbledygook without all those legalese? Only then would most people (like me) would understand. I find most Government document tedious, with a tendency to obfuscate. 

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Confusion over the Lokpal Bill - Fight Against Corruption in India

Well, I am overwhelmed by the hats with "I am Anna Hazare," painted on them, the flags, the show of solidarity, the streets full of shouting boys and girls, the enthusiasm in their midst. For some time I have been dithering between "Anna is doing something great," and "What's so great about it." All around the world such demonstrations are going on: Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Libya to name a few. The reason is the world is going through a big crisis of greed and embezzlement. People are gathering wealth for wealth's sake without rationale. As Al Gore said, "They consider the world as a business under liquidation," where the idea is to grab as much as they can. They fund insurrections, they fund bloodshed with these blood money. The world is in turmoil today because the greed of man has led him into a one-way street with no exit. The world is dying of global warming, the people are being made the subject of exploitation of corporate entities who think nothing of sending perfectly do-able jobs abroad to cut costs. Well, they cut costs at whose expense and whose gain. I don't know.

I can't make my mind about what's going on in India. The din is too much. Everybody is an expert without reading a word of what the Lokpal bill is all about. Don't show your ignorance, man! Read! We are a people who go straight from praise to adoration and to deification because of our ignorance. I read once that when a youth was asked who is the father of the nation, he replied, "Tagore." The reason why he said this is beyond me. By now some people have attributed divinity to Anna. What else is the meaning of "I am Anna Hazare," if not to deify him. To them I say leave the poor starving man alone, save him from this indignity or his blood will colour your hands. Let not his frail stubbornness be seen as a sign of greatness. After all, he is only the poster boy of the movement against corruption and not the initiator and the ideologue. The main ideologues are Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and the father and son duo of the Bhushans. I still haven't studied the full text of the Lokpal Bills (Both Government version and Anna version, which I had searched and found online).  

I beg you people to study these documents before offering your views. Let's be reasonable and let's not jump to conclusions, as many of us have done. I know it has become an emotional issue. Emotions run deep, as I can see from the slogan shouting (some of which have been drafted by Mr. Kejriwal himself). They are shouting in anger. There's a whole lot of confusion going on. Meanwhile I am reading the two documents linked above to see if I can offer meaningful comment on this blog.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

This Child of an Arab Muslim - Who Came to the U.S. on a Student Visa - Is Special

For those in India who think business can't be done the honest way, here's something to mull about, nonetheless from U.S. Anil Dash writes in his blog about the amazing turn around of the U.S.'s most valued company, Apple. Just a few decades ago, I remember reading about Apple's bankruptcy and talk that it will soon be extinct. What Steve Jobs has done is rather miraculous. Who is he? Dash has this to say:

So, who is this man? He's the anchor baby of an activist Arab muslim who came to the U.S. on a student visa and had a child out of wedlock. He's a non-Christian, arugula-eating, drug-using follower of unabashedly old-fashioned liberal teachings from the hippies and folk music stars of the 60s. And he believes in science, in things that science can demonstrate like climate change and Pi having a value more specific than "3", and in extending responsible benefits to his employees while encouraging his company to lead by being environmentally responsible.

For business practitioners in India (except the Narayana Murthys, of course) who think business can't be done the honest, straightforward, uncorrupted way he has this to say:

It's a choice whether you, or anyone else, wants to accept the falsehood that liberal values are somehow in contradiction with business success at a global scale. Indeed, it would seem that many who claim to be pro-business are trying to "save" us from exactly the inclusive, creative, tolerant values that have made America's most successful company possible. I side with the makers, the creators, and the inventors, and it's about time that the pack of clamoring would-be politicians be put on the defensive for attacking the values of those of us on this side.

So who says people with liberal values can't do business the open, honest way? Certainly not Steve Jobs. I am a great admirer of his though I haven't bought a single product of his: iPhone, Mac, iPad. Why? I think they are good products, but are expensive.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Orhan Pamuk's New Book "Other Colours"

Here's the Book Review of Orhan Pamuk's Other Colours by Richard Marcus on Judging by what's happening in India Pamuk wrote about the social changes happening in Turkey with increasing conservatism and the straining at the leash of secularism. Though secularism is enshrined in our constitution very often we work against its principles as can be seen in what happened in Gujarat and Bombay during the riots. Excerpt:

Whatever the reasons, Turkey is experiencing profound changes, and reactions there are as good an indication as any of the moderate East's opinion of the West. I can't think of any man more sensitive to, and capable of documenting, these events than Orhan Parmuk, and if you care about the world beyond your borders, you would be remiss not to read every word of this book carefully. Somewhere within lies the secret by which we might all survive the next decade or so as the world's balance of power shifts. Pamuk might not come right out with the answer, but he asks the right questions to put us on the road to discovering it.

I was present when Orhan Pamuk visited Bombay and was interviewed at the British Council auditorium. You could miss him in a crowd as he is quite conservatively dressed and he talks very fast with an accent. I haven't read the book yet, but I mean to. I find his books a bit tedious, but enjoyable after the first half has been huffed and puffed through. Most good writers of fiction mature after the first half of the work has been done away with. Wonder what the reason could be. Right now I am reading the monumental work of Jack Kerouac, "On the Road," which is about his frequent escapades (in a broke and beaten condition) with his friend Neal Cassady.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Visit to My First Office, the Place of My First Job

This evening I climbed those steps I had first climbed... thirty-one years ago. Yes, three decades and one years ago. I felt trepidation, anxiety, and excitement as I climbed those steps which led to the office where I got my first job. I worked there for only three months and each of those days seemed like eternity. 

As a fresh graduate I was thrown into this office, a job which followed a good friend's offer. I was unemployed after getting my degree in science and wanted to somehow earn money. So when a friend offered a job I fell for it. I was a science graduate and the company sold chemical dyes. Those days - more than thirty years ago - are still fresh in my mind. The sort of clothes I wore, the movies I saw, the books I read. Bell bottoms were a rage then and I remember wearing bell bottoms to work. The wooden steps of the old building, falling apart and encroached by hawkers and booksellers now, frightened me at first, as did the moodiness of my bosses. They were small men and didn't rise much. One was called "Dhansukh" (enjoyer of wealth) and being unlettered he spoke only Gujarati, which I didn't understand at the time. When he spoke I used to panic because I understood nothing. Nothing, at all. Forget him, for he was a very venal and restricted man. I don't think he came to much.

The friend who had given me this job, luckily, was working with me then. He would help me out from tight situations. I learned to lie to my bosses and keep them in a state of suspension all the time. Once my boss asked me what I was doing. I said nothing. I got a scolding for not doing anything. My friend told me never to say this. Always pretend you have lots of work, otherwise they fire you. Good. I was too honest and eventually I got fired. My first salary then was Rs 300 a month. But then a lunch with rice and chapatis cost only Re. 1.25 then. 

Everyday, with a lot of reluctance and dread I would climb the stairs of the dilapidated old building on D.N. Road, Bombay. The worn stairs would creak, the smell of paint would fill my nostrils - the office was being given a new coat of paint. I would smell the musty smell, the smell of carbon paper and typewriter ribbons, the smell of moldy letterheads and envelopes. 

I saw it today. I saw it as I made my way to the station. I never imagined I would do this thirty-one years back. I never imagined I would come back to inspect my first office. I never imagined that I would be me, better or worse. Those days were difficult, but I cherished them. I did what I wanted and didn't have the mantle of achievement constantly troubling me. I was only a clerk in a private business owned by a Gujarati businessman. But I remember being happy.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Lokpal Bill: The Anna Hazare Version and the Government Version: Both in This Blogpost: You Decide

As friend and fellow writer Manjul Bajaj says in her Facebook update: "Its the discontent, the noise, the media hunger, the ugliness of it that I abhor completely."

There isn't any media worth its name which is not in a frenzy about Anna. I think creating hype is good for their staple Television Rating Points (TRPs). I can see it from the media vans that clutter the roads outside Azad Maidan. God! If there were these vehicles during the actual Civil Disobedience. Imagine Gandhiji giving sound bites like Anna gives them. Straight in the face of the television anchors, and so unfazed. Some call it the second Civil Disobedience, the second Gandhi, a second coming. I say let's wait. 

A lot of unofficial spokespersons have been basing their diatribe on a lack of knowledge. I think it's the "Argumentative Indian" which is at the forefront here: grumble, grumble, complain, complain. Because the ignorance is huge. The misconceptions, terrible! Nobody knows anything about Anna Hazare or the bill except that it is against corruption. As Manjul states, "the, noise, the media hunger (frenzy?), the ugliness which I abhor," how well expressed.

I have not read the Jan Lokpal bill.So I went on the net and got together the two versions so that people can read them in one place and discuss and debate:

Here's the Anna Hazare version (which states that the Prime Minister can be investigated when he is in office).

Here's the Government version (full of obfuscations, clauses, sub-sections, sub-sub-sub-sections, which states that the Prime Minister can be investigated only when he has demitted office).

I intend to peruse it in the next few days, that is, when I can take time off from my busy schedule. I suggest you also do the same and let's have a healthy dialogue on this blog or elsewhere. I don't mind. It's better we understand and then raise our voices instead of just shouting:

"Abhi Nahin to Kabhi Nahin," which is what I heard today while passing by Azad Maidan on my way home.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anna Hazare Is Big News

Anna Hazare is big news. Yesterday, on the way to work, I walked through the underground passage to Azad Maidan (Azad Ground). I was accosted by these enthusiastic gentlemen to turn around and go home, or, join them in protest. Quite frankly, I am not a big fan of Anna Hazare. But he is fighting for a good cause and I think he needs our support. So I stood by unable to decide. It was then that this man caught my eye. I clicked his picture. He had a slogan written and bound on his chest with threads. The slogan read, "Please arrest me." 

What? Whoever would like to be arrested? But then I remember Gandhiji had used the same tactics. I was reminded of the "Jai Bharo Andolan" (Fill the Jail Movement). I don't think one man can fight a big establishment and the true onus is upon us citizen to prove that we are honest and not corrupt. We live in certain degrees of dishonesty all our lives. We make promises. We break them. We pay taxes. We hide them. We bribe clerks to get our work done. We deride them for accepting bribes. We give donations to get our children into English-medium schools. We curse the schools. We pay tutors a huge amount to get our children to earn a good percentage of marks to get into professional college. Then we criticise the college for taking bribes. After that we pay to get our children into masters of business administration. There, too, we bad mouth the colleges. If they don't get a good job we again criticise the education system. We are facing systemic corruption in our lives, which will not go away by shouting a few slogans.

So, tell me, please. Who is corrupt? We or them? What's one man when it's a whole way of life that we are against. I took the narrow cracked road cutting across Azad Maidan to my place of work, still undecided. I didn't bother with Anna Hazare, though I know he is fighting for a worthy cause. 

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Independence Day - The Times as It Looked on August 15, 1947

The Times of India has brought out a supplement which is what the newspaper's edition on August 15, 1947 looked like, when India gained independence. The layout is black and white and basic, the content is of a bygone era of letterpress typesetting and the ink has run on the pages giving it a blurry look. 

Inside the pages are a revelation. The accompanying photographs shows how India looked like at that time. Bombay included a major part of Gujarat also. Uttar Pradesh was United Provinces. Bandra had a separate municipality. And, please see the advertising, which is a revelation. "Girls' dainty art silk frocks," goes one ad. 

Loved the idea. Thank you Times of India.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shammi Kapoor - The Farishta from Heaven - Rest in Peace

Shammi Kapoor R.I.P. There was a time when people said there were three schools of acting in Bollywood (the name came later, those days it was Hindi Films). One was Dilip Kumar, the second was Dev Anand and the third was Raj Kapoor. However, I think they forgot the fourth - Shammi Kapoor, maybe, because he was part of the Raj Kapoor family. Shammi Kapoor had a distinctive acting style which was copied later by his nephews Randhir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor both sons of Raj Kapoor. Most aspirants to stardom in those days copied Shammi Kapoor rather than Raj Kapoor. Even Randhir and Rishi said that they were more proud to say they were nephews of Shammi than sons of Raj. Even Anil Kapoor's style reflects on Shammi Kapoor. Anil is Shammi's cousin Surinder's son.

Well, he is no more. Shammi, wherever you are, you will be missed. In those halcyon days my friends were crazy about Shammi and whenever there were re-runs of "An Evening in Paris" in Natraj, Sahakar and Basant in Chembur we would go to watch it. My friends have seen the movie around 40 times each. Such was the craze for his movies for fans of his. He was the eternal loverboy wooing his love on the slopes of the hills of Kulu, Manali and Darjeeling, he was the one on the helicopter who would woo his woman surfing in the sea below, he was the jocular nice guy playing pranks, and all these he did with consummate ease. 

I guess in those days we had good Bengali directors, good Bengali music directors and singers and good Punjabi actors. They made for great screen chemistry. "An Evening in Paris" was directed by Shakti Samanta - a Bengali. Once the Punjab da puttars and others took over film direction our industry suffered. I may be wrong, but that's a very biased opinion of mine. I would like to be proved wrong. We have no Bengali directors left in Bollywood, nor do we have Bengali music directors and singers. What a loss! We need our Bengali intellectual-artists back to pep up whatever is left of the glorious Hindi film industry which is currently in the throes of too much vulgarity and tripe. I hate to sit through even a single movie without being driven to tears of boredom. The story doesn't exist and there is no co-ordination in anything. 

What turned out as an elegy for Shammi has turned out to be a tirade against the Hindi Film industry. Well, Shammi-ji your memory will stay with us as we watch endless re-runs of "Aasman's Se Aya Farishta."

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Etiquette for Air Travellers - 3

This is the last post, promise, absolutely the end. All these have been witnessed firsthand by yours truly, so am sharing. So here goes ettiquette for air travellers, Indian especially:

Thou shalt leave women alone. I know in the rarefied atmosphere male libido takes flight. But desist! There's this Malayali minister who felt up a co-passenger on a flight and has therefore become a joke in Kerala. The woman knew who he was, his status, his power and lodged a complaint. Now people look knowingly at him everywhere he goes.

Thou shalt wash and brush and apply deodorant even though it's the 3 a.m. flight. Thou don't-est knoweth who mightest be sitting-est next to thou. It's could be Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra, or Preity Zinta. (I am just guessing!) So please don't smell like a cow that has been grazing in the pastures and sleeping on it's on refuse.

Thou shalt not put your feet on the seat before thou and push it's occupant thinking it's a soft cushion kept there as your footrest. You may get an irate sleeping man throwing dirty looks at you all through the flight. If he is an Indian underworld don on the flight to Bangkok, Malaysia or Dubai - their favourite haunts - you may even get bumped off once you disembark.

Thou shalt not push others with the trolley hoping to get ahead in the rush to the check-in counter. With women's liberation ladies protest too much, especially Indian ladies.

Thou shalt not ask for napkins to wipe your dirty face because being budget airlines, they charge even for putting your bag in the overhead bin (Rs 200) and closing it (Rs 100). If you ask for pillow and blanket it will be Rs 1000. Hold on to your thirst and hunger: who wants to have tea costing Rs 2000 and coffee costing likewise? Food is out of the question. That's how they make money, you see, from these little tit bits.

Thou shalt not snore or drool on thy neighbour's shoulder. If it's a woman prepare to be slapped and shaken awake 30,000 feet above the ground and told, "Ghar mein maa bahen nahi hai kya?" (Don't you have mother and sister at home?)

Thou shalt not speak to failed stars of Bollywood sitting next to you. If you do be prepared to hear things like, "Karan-ji, was so nice, Yash-ji was also very, very kind, you know, Steven Spielberg-ji is casting me in the next Indiana Jones film as his snake-charming rope-trick-man." Also, "I am on twitter and facebook, you know. Please look me up and become my fan."

Guess that does it! Hope you liked it. Do write in if you did and didn't.

Please also read my train commuting ettiquettes here and here.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Etiquette for Air Travellers - 2

Continuing my etiquette lessons for air travelers.

Thou shalt not make a ragged crowd near the entrance and exit. Seeing as we Indians are poor followers of the queue system (What "Q"? It was invented in India. So why do we have to follow it, tell me, hahn?). Woh tho firang log queue lagatey hain. (It's foreigners who follow queue.). For us a queue is a "Q" meaning we stand in a circle in the shape of a "Q" and talk, talk, talk, about our "paltics" and usually the person who boards first is the man who is at the tail end.

By the same corollary though shalt not jump over thy aisle-seated neighbour when accessing your window seat. Bad manners!

Thou shalt say and "please" and "thank you" when the hawai sundari brings you pillows and blankets and food and despite the cramped space will not try to brush her a little, and will say "sorry" if you do.

While disembarking thou shalt do as said in the first etiquette in this compilation. You will also beat up whoever sidles up to you and asks to get into "Q" with you and ask him "Baap ka raaj hai kya?" ("Is it your father's kingdom?)

Thou shalt not spill tea, or ketchup on the, whatever thingy is in front of you which is for your eating pleasure. Because if you do the hawai sundari will throw the emergency door open and dispose of you into the Indian Ocean below. Sorry, nothing of that sort will happen, though she might look at you as if she would do just that.

I am sleepy, virtually drooling on the keyboard. See you guys with more etiquette for air travellers tomorrow.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Etiquettes for Air Travellers

Still facing a drought of topics when I chanced upon one more set of etiquettes. Since there is a probability of air travel in the near future I will write here about etiquettes for air travellers, of the Indian variety:

Thou shalt not travel like you are shifting house. I know it's your holiday and you need a lot of bedding, pillows, badminton racquetts, extra food so that you don't starve. But please, please don't carry with you stoves, pails for water, chairs, and other paraphernalia. For goodness sake it is an aeroplane you are boarding not a ship crossing the seven seas.

Thou shalt arrive in time and only crowd around the airline counter when your flight is announced. Please read the thingammajig for the flight announcements, better still listen to the announcers. They are trained to entice you with their voice.

Thou shalt not try to jump the queue, anywhere. Please don't make a beeline for the airline counter saying you are late and need to catch this flight or you will die of cerebral hemorrhage. We are mortals and have been patiently waiting for our turn.

Though shalt not carry oversize bags in the cabin, because, most Indians travelling in economy class being obese these days a poor thin chap like me get perfectly obliterated. So, have mercy!

Thou shalt not bang the overhead bins open and shut as if it were your father's property. Have some consideration. Or, ask for help from the trained hawai sundaris (air beauties).

Thou shalt not wander about the aisle showing how macho you are. We know you are macho from the bulge in your pectorals and biceps, so don't block the aisle when people are boarding the flight and finding their seats.

There's more to come in the next installments.... So have patience.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Nothing to Write About, Except Badminton

Usually I am full of topics to blog about. There are at least four or five subjects I would love to blog about circling inside my head, begging me to develop it into something meaningful. However, today I have nothing, absolutely nothing to blog about. I think I have reached a trough in this blog. Will it go on? I think every writer feels it some time or the other, this lack of subject to write about, this emptiness. 

Speaking of emptiness Hemingway wrote (I searched and didn't find a reference anywhere on the net, so it could be one of those Internet hoaxes) he felt empty after writing, neither happy, nor sad, like after having sex. That's Hemingway speaking, not me. At least, a fake Hemingway, for all I know. You can't do it all the time, so you have to save yourself, marshal the facts, develop the ideas, gather, gather, gather, before you sit down to pen a few words each day. 

I think that's what I would do. Lay my pen down a bit. Or, give my fingers a bit of rest that it has been craving. Sometimes, I get these cramps in the fingers, I had shoulder pain also, before I started playing badminton, that is. Now that is gone. The sport invented in India which has the shuttle whizzing around the ground keeps me fit. It's a good sport and my sporting companion is my friend Henry and a young chap named Rainier (nice name that) who lives near where we play.  

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

"Kallu Kudichal"

Saw parts of a Malayalam movie Oru Small Family. It's about the ills of drinking.But, in a round about, vacillating sort of way. Now Kerala is a state that has a serious drinking problem, as I have written here. It has gotten so serious that people, when they don't have time to sit and drink, go straight to the cashier asks him for a "Nilppan" (meaning something drunk while standing) downs it in one swig and walks out. Of course, he pays the cashier-cum-bartender. Believe, me the problem is that serious! But instead of dealing with the problem the film endorses drinking. At least, the part I saw does. 

In Kerala "Small" means "drink." "Small adikkuka" means have a drink. So, in this instance "small family" means a "drinking family" where everyone drinks from the grandfather to the women and children. There's a song which goes "Kallu kudichal, ellolam illa kallam," something like it. Which means if you drink there isn't a grain of falsehood. I mean, how can a film promote drinking in a state that has millions of broken families because of drinks? Or, was the film made in a drunken haze? I don't understand it even a bit.

I remember seeing an interview with K Babu, the excise minister of Kerala. He said the government is establishing more "de-addiction centres" in Kerala. So, the government is doing something great, isn't it? First it makes a lot a money from taxing liquor and then establishes de-addiction centres. Instead of that why not put some breaks on drinking itself? Come on, are you being real? Are you being sincere Mr. Minister? 

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Phantom Phone Hand - Do You Have It?

Heard of the phantom hand?

That's when a man whose hand has been amputated feels as if his hand exists and performs functions as if his hand (the absent one) still exists. 

Now here this: there's something called the phantom phone hand. Fast company has this article on this phenomenon.

That's when we reach out to our mobile phone to check a short message or email when it is not there. I have seen plenty of such weirdos in the train, constantly checking their phones, talking continuously, not being able to control their impulses.

Must say I have felt it too. But I have fought this urge with all my will. Nowadays, I ignore my phone and don't answer calls if it is after 9.30 p.m. I guess nobody has the right to disturb my privacy after that time. Unless of course it is a close friend or family. I think we must draw the line somewhere.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia Is Going to Be the World's Tallest Tower

Kingdom Tower being planned in Saudi Arabia is going to be the world's tallest tower and is planned to stand 173m higher than Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

Reminds me of the multinational company I worked for Taylor Woodrow International, which built the tallest tower in Jeddah around twenty years ago (twenty years, my God!), which is actually the world headquarters of the Islamic Development Bank. I don't know how time filed past the gawping me so quickly. Nothing done, nothing achieved, all my dreams in tatters, all my aspirations broken. I am tired and weary. Gone is the innocence, gone is the ingenuity.

I wish for those days to come back to me, even for a little while.

Jeddah, where I lived for nearly a year, is a quiet city compared to Bombay and, cleaner. I loved to roam its downtown shopping area on my weekly holiday - Friday - looking into shop windows and enjoying the cool breeze from the Red Sea.

Am nostalgic for those days!

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Adil Jussawala on Indian Writers in English (IWE)

The following is written about Indian writers by poet and writer Adil Jussawala, whom I admire for his erudition (I grew up reading his learned essays, mostly in magazines like Debonair, which was supposed to be for intelligent males and had lots of pin-up girls. I don't know if it [the magazine] exists anymore.):

The resilience of individual writers has helped them survive the worst shocks of history, and there's nothing so bad about the situation in India that will silence its writers permanently. But if Indians who write in English don't normally consider it important to produce novels of social history or write poetry that fully confronts the social and political realities of their time—despite their real admiration for such work from other countries—there must be a reason—perhaps several reasons—and I think it's important to examine them. Some of us, certainly, are going through a crisis which is making us question the validity of our work and our usefulness as agents of social change. Now, more than ever before, we are unsure of ourselves as witnesses. Far from helping to change the course of history, we are finding ourselves its bullied victims. It's as though History had become the Englishman in Victor Anant's novel The Revolving Man, telling the writer, as the Englishman tells the novel's protagonist, "Spin, you Hindu bastard. Spin!" And the bastard goes on spinning.

I read this and weep. Truly, we, Indian Writers in English (IWE) do not change the course of history, we are its bullied victims. If we speak out frankly against the shortcomings of our own society we are maligned, beaten, threatened, derided, abused, laughed at.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.