Tuesday, October 13, 2009

That Feudal Mindset

His unshaven and unwashed face seemed repulsive to me. His crushed and dirty payjamas could not have made him look even worse. I asked him, “Andheri Station??” He shook his head meaning “No”. I asked again, “Will you go, or wont” He just looked away. I was sort of unsettled; the kind of feeling one has when his servant disobeys him. I also know that the so-called modern and liberal brigade of India would have made a villain out of me by now for still having a feudal mindset. But, I think most of us still carry the weight of those feudal days. It’s just that the words we use might be different.

A friend of mine got frustrated while waiting for a rick at Andheri Station. She was expecting someone to come and say “Ma’m, where do you want to go” Much to her chagrin, the autowallahs did not stop auto and asked while still driving the rick. Few of them even indicated by hand that they would go only to right and not left. She was appalled to realize that she was not even worthy of a negotiation with an autowallah. You cant blame autowallah if you look at roads and traffic in Bombay for there will be a long queue of vehicles, if you stop even for a minute to ask passengers. And knowing that the most desperate often act most practically since they don’t have the luxury of nursing whims and fancies, my friend should not have been surprised at the autowallah merely showing his hand to point at direction where he wanted to go.

As Leonardo Dicaprio said in Blood Diamond “Americans have a lot of feelings” He was actually referring to rich people being over sensitive. In this case too, my well-to-do friend got offended. In fact, she is not an exception, as even many others and I would have reacted in the similar fashion.

You would often hear a friend complaining that the servants are over demanding. “They ask for sarees on Diwali”, goes the rhetoric. But aren’t masters over demanding too? In Delhi and in fact most of north India, if your daughter is getting married, it is assumed that the maid, who otherwise does not spend more than 2 hours at your house, will give a helping hand for may be 2 days or even 3 days until the wedding gets over. Agreed that, maids get paid for this extra time, but assuming them to give a helping hand without even bothering to ask them is preposterous.

I was not surprised when many of my friends could not read more than 20 pages of the award-winning novel ‘The White Tiger’. They thought that it was simply a critique of India. They did not realize that it was actually a critique of how servants are treated and how caste is still a reality and not a myth in India. The employer is always a ‘maalik’ or worse ‘anna data’ and the employee a ‘naukar’ to an extent that when someone asks “aap kahan naukri kartein hai”, we don’t even realize that he has degraded us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What a morning??

Do we have plenty of anything? May be plenty of shit and filth…I spent 50 minutes in a rick this morning to reach Andheri Station. Normally it does not take more than 25. There wasn’t a single signal without a traffic jam. And, my rick driver was nothing but a reincarnation of Gandhi. We were badly stuck and there was a long queue of truck, bus and cars ahead of us waiting to get past the signal. I said to rick driver, “Why don’t you overtake the cars” (For the uninitiated, in India, often driving in a small vehicle like an auto, bike or a scooter is a smart thing to do. A big SUV is an even bigger pain in the ass, as the width of our roads is indirectly proportional to the increasing size of our cars. So rest assured to get stuck, if your ass is resting in a SUV)
The driver replied, “I will be heads on with the vehicles coming from opposite direction”
I said “But there are hardly any vehicles coming from that side”
He said, “If it comes, then????”
I said, “How many years have you spent in Bombay”
He replied, “Ten”
I said, “You will never be able to accumulate money for your family, if you care so much about others”
He said, “Why are you saying all shit? I have to care”
I got irked, “Care??? For what?? Why don’t you start preaching like Baba Ramdev”
He said, “I do follow him”
I said, “I am not telling you to follow him, I am telling you to be like him. You will remain like this for your life”
He said, “As if you are really happy, if you are a crorepati”
This is something, which can confound a westerner, more than anything else. We, Indians, have very easily bypassed all stages in Maslow’s need hierarchy model and no matter how poor we are; our only need is “need for self-actualization”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tribute to Mumbai

An uninterrupted two minute ride is good,
An eleven-month's stay in the same room is a boon,
A travel in local train with lights and fans on is a surprise,
A temple visit without an hour-long wait in queue is deity’s blessing,
A day without the drop of sweat or rain is unimaginable,
A day with three meals at right time is yet to come,
A visit to a restaurant without having to wait for the seat is unheard of,
A phrase to capture it all, "The Spirit of Mumbai"
Damn It!!!!

PS: Spent 2 and half hours in taxi from VT to Andheri yday, a kind of tribute to everyday life in Mumbai.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


It was the occasion of ‘Navratri’ and celebrations were going on in my complex building. The DJ had come at sharp 8 pm. At 9pm, he started playing loud music. Soon, kids, youngsters and oldies started dancing on his beats. The big gate, which usually, remains open, was shut tightly. But, I could not understand why?

Soon a deluge of bystanders gathered at the gate and started staring inside. Perhaps, this was why the gates were shut for the bystanders are not people like us. They belong to that part of the society, which cannot afford to spend even a single paisa on entertainment. Surprising was not merely the act of staring, but also the look on their faces. They were looking in with a kind of satisfaction and interest we have while watching a film in theatre. Few of them must have cursed the fact that the gate was shut.

I don’t know why but it arouse a kind of insecurity in me. After all, what is the difference between me and them? Why is that the gates are not closed to me? Why does the guard of local electronics store warmly open the gates of his shop, while a numbers of bystanders are staring at television sets inside to know the score of the match? The difference is simple and the fact that it is so simple strikes me.

Ten years back, I and a friend used to attend coaching classes. There was this fellow known as Prakash. He was bright and cunning. His father was not making much money and therefore he had started taking coaching classes for school kids. As I said, he was cunning, the only reason that a deluge of students would come up to him was because he could get the examination paper leaked. Those who had rich parents labeled him as crook. Even I think he was a crook, but he was smarter than all of us. He could crack any accounting or tax question faster than us.

It was the third and final year of our course and we were all writing entrance exam for MBA schools. I asked Praskash “Aren’t you also writing the exam” He said “No, I am not interested in this course”

I told this to my friend Karthik. Unlike me, he was not surprised. I said, “Why is this fellow not appearing in exam” Right then Karthik said “You know Sachin too is appearing in entrance exam” I replied “Sachin that hardworking yet dumb guy” Karthik said “Yeah, you can say that he is dumb but he will make it to a MBA school”

“But why not Prakash” I said. “Prakash can’t do it even if he wants. His dad does not have money to fund his education. Don’t you know that” said Karthik irritatingly. So what is the difference between Prakash and Sachin? That Sachin’s dad can spend on his education. And because Prakash’s dad can’t, no matter how bright he is, he will still struggle.

Till this point of our conversation, I was only surprised. But Karthik’s following words shocked me, “It’s always like that, as if you dint know” The world is cruel towards Prakash and those bystanders for reasons they cannot do anything about. The only difference between me and them is our parentage. I was born to educated middle class parents and therefore I am an educated and upper middle class guy. The bystanders were born to illiterates and destitute and therefore they are ignorant and poor. The difference between us is just a thin line of fate.

We really don’t wonder when a rickshaw puller asks us , “Sir, what is the time”. He is so poor that he can’t even afford a watch. We simply tell him the time thinking that it’s normal for him to ask. Strange are the ways, we are conditioned that we are oblivious to reality most of the times.

The fellas who were dancing within the boundaries of my complex did not know that the onlookers, who were staring at them, were hapless poor. For them, they were merely onlookers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dont know what to title it

"jaadon kee narma dhoop aaur aangan mein let kar" wrote Gulzar in a song for his film 'Mausam' in 1975. The poet is nostalgic about the times; he had spent relaxing at his home. Times when soft rays of sunlight would fall on him in harsh winter. If you listen carefully to this song and to many such songs, you would realize that often a relaxed state of mind is the inspiration behind.

When I came to Bombay in 2006, this was one of first things, which struck me that how can a restless, congested and filthy city has become home to so many creative people.

We hardly have anytime for ourselves in this fast paced city. Hardly that we think about our surroundings. So what if there is a stinking public toilet right outside our house, so what if there is a dustbin right outside our office and we have become habitual to seeing dogs, cats, cows and buffaloes struggling for their share of trash, our minds and eyes have become numb to all kinds of filth. And if we are actually numb, how can we think and if we cannot think, how can we be creative.

Well, one can always argue that ‘artists’ in Bollywood are not creative. But, there are exceptions after all. How can Gulzar write those soulful songs? That’s because he is from Punjab and he has seen the better part of this country. In spite of spending close to 40 years in Bombay, still those yesteryears provide the much-needed inspiration for all his songs.

Agreed that even fast paced life can be the source of inspiration. And it was the same Gulzar who wrote ‘siney mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyun hai, is shahar mein har shaks pareshan sa kyun hai”

But how much can one write on Bombay? I do not know much about the hubs of film making in the world. Hollywood is one such hub for American filmmaking. It’s in California, which is perhaps the most beautiful state of US.

With Bombay remaining as it is, or worse going further down, it is important for Bollywood that people from better and more relaxed part of India to pour in and provide succor to this talent starved industry. Ever wonder, why we are not able to produce a good lyricist after Gulzar.

Monday, September 14, 2009


We all suffer from a disease. It is late realization. It occurred to me when I read the reviews of Vishal Bhardwaj's latest film 'Kaminey'. Critics said, "Vishal has turned the art of movie-making upside down". Few of them also said "It is an intelligent film and you can’t keep your mind dysfunctional even for a second". I watched the film and really liked it. But in hindsight, apart from good camera work and tight screenplay, there was nothing extraordinary about the film. Vishal’s best work to date is Maqbool, which got rave reviews but critics did not go mad about it. His another film ‘Omkara’ was good but certainly not as good as ‘Maqbool’. None of the many films he has directed were received by critics like Kaminey has been received. And if you read the reviews of Kaminey carefully, you would realize that it is not merely the critique of Kaminey, it is actually a critique of ‘Vishal – as a director and his body of work’. For some reason, movie-lovers, journalists and critics have now realized that there is someone by the name of ‘Vishal Bhardwaj’ and the fact that he is one of the best filmmakers of India.

On the New Year eve of 2007, we were discussing which was the best movie in 2006. And most of my friends said ‘Rang De Basanti’. I am sure if I ask the same question today, it will be ‘Omkara’. I felt like laughing, how could a sane mind rate RDB over Omkara. Agreed that choice is personal but I can bet if I were to give an option to my friends to watch RDB or Omkara on a DVD, 90% of them would watch ‘Omkara’. This was about the disease of late realization. Ever wonder, if you tell an aspiring writer to publish his work, he would reply that he still needs time. Perhaps he has not realized his own talent. And if we are such poor judges of ourselves, how could we say that our critique of someone else’s work is objective?

Now lets go back to the point of Kaminey being more appreciated than Maqbool and Omkara. In one of his interviews, Vishal said that Bollywood needs full-time writers. He also said that good writers come to Bombay and want to become directors. This is all too evident from the quality of dialogues in Kaminey. While Omkara starts with a powerful dialogue “Bewakoof aur chootiye mein dhaage bhar ka farq hota hai”, Kaminey had to manage with “Life badi Kutti cheez hai”. No doubt, quality of writing was much better in Omkara. If Maqbool had the best-penned dialogues heard in a long time, Omkara had lines, which would stay with you, Kaminey hardly has a dialogue or two like that. But none of the critics have mentioned this in their review. In fact, one of the critic said “Dhan-Te-Nan song has a huge part to play in Kaminey”. I think it was just a song in the film. Thankfully, Vishal is much more intelligent than insane critics and has not overplayed the song in the film.

Now coming to point of Kaminey being an intelligent film. It has parallel plots much like Yuva. I am sure Yuva was never particularly appreciated for parallel narratives by critics. Somehow, they have woken up with ‘Kaminey’. I feel the film had brilliant camera-work. At one point the next scene appeared, while the previous scene was not completely over. The scenes were changing so swiftly that I felt as if I was seeing a photo album. Kudos to that and kudos to Shahid, who has put in a lot of effort for the film. And thumbs down to critics, who mindlessly write about films.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jinnah's Ghost

There is no dearth of fools. To be something in politics, you must kill your conscience. Actually, I am trying hard to come out with a powerful statement. This is about the latest move of BJP to expel Jaswant Singh. His offence: He praised Jinnah in his latest book and held Nehru responsible for British India’s partition. I haven’t read the book, so purist is advised to stop reading this article from this point.

Yesterday, I saw clippings of Congress’s workers tearing the book and then burning it in public view. It is appalling to see that coz I am sure that those Congressmen did not know that Jinnah was the top leader of Congress till early 1920s. So rather than cribbing about the whole affair, I thought let me throw some light on Jinnah. Here are few facts

a) Jinnah was born a Muslim. He never practiced Islam. He was a self-acclaimed atheist. He loved having pork.
b) He studied law in Britain and had utmost faith in legal system.
c) Unlike Nehru, he was not born with a silver spoon. His father was a rich merchant. But not rich enough to afford his son’s education in Britain. I think he went on a scholarship
d) When he returned, he chose Bombay and not Karachi, where he hailed from. Perhaps, Bombay’s cosmopolitan vibe did its trick.
e) Bombay’s multi-ethic culture of Hindus, Muslims and Parsis suited Jinnah who was too ready to shed his religious inhibitions.
f) He made friends with people across religions and faiths
g) He was an active member of Congress and aimed to become its President
h) His writings show his utmost faith in secular India. He understood divide and rule policy and enlightened Congressmen and Muslim League about its evils.
i) Muslim League tried to poach him. Smart he was, he did not join them but convinced them to hold their annual sessions in the same city and on the same date as Congress was doing. So that workers of two parties can meet and exchange their views.
j) Sarojini Naidu had sung poems praising Jinnah’s principle of secular India
k) It was when Gandhi joined Congress that things took an ugly turn.
l) Gandhi wanted freedom struggle to reach masses. Jinnah thought it would lead to anarchy, as masses were poor and desperate.
m) On their first meeting, Gandhi shook hands with Jinnah and said, “It is a pleasure meeting a modern mussalman like you”. Jinnah replied “I had almost forgotten that I am a musalmman”
n) Gandhi did not like Jinnah’s elitist life-style. Jinnah wanted freedom through constitutional ways.
o) All this while, Jawahar Lal Nehru was nowhere. His father, Motilal Nehru, rose to become Congress’s President in mid 1920s
p) The competition was actually between Gandhi and Jinnah and not between Jinnah and Jawarhalal Nehru.

The only blot in Jinnah’s life was his support for ‘Direct Action Day’ in 1946, which led to riots killing thousands of innocents on the streets of Calcutta. That made Congress bow to his demands of separate Pakistan. On the other hand, Jawaharlal Nehru did not provoke masses. This is the only blot in Jinnah’s career and the only instance, where Nehru scored over him.

Intellectually, Jinnah was the most successful lawyer of British India. He fought a case for Rolls-Royce. A company, which stood for British hegemony reposing faith in a native Indian lawyer, talks great deal of his intellect. Ironically, Advani was right when he accepted that Jinnah was secular. Advani, being shrewd, did not pass it as an opinion but he only quoted Jinnah from his famous speech in Pakistan in 1947. But who cares!!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My dear customer care...

Somehow, I have not been able to understand the mentality of people working in services industry. Vodafone's customer care keeps calling me to get the details of bill payment. “Sir, when did you pay the bill?” “Cheque or cash?” Bizarre isn’t it? Don’t they have systems to record all this. If you are yet to make the payment, they expect you to tell them when and where you will drop the cheque? Few of such customer-care representatives have gone to the extent of asking the cheque number. Do they expect me to run and find my chequebook and tell them the number knowing well that I have not written the cheque? What is the sanctity of my information in this case? I might say that I will pay on Saturday. They don’t even bother to ask this or next. I have figured out that Vodafone has outsourced some part of its back-office operations. And the back-office guys want information just to pretend that they are actually working. Whether it matters or not, does not matter to them.

Banks have an equally hopeless back-office operations. And it can get worse if it’s an old styled bank like HDFC Bank. They work only from 9 am to 5 pm. Well, I feel like saying "thanks" to these guys for their service. Calling them "buffoons" will be injustice to the level of their stupidity. They don’t seem to realize that even their branches are open in this time frame and people actually need call-centers at odd hours. When you ask them, they reply that it is our bank "policy". Of course, it has to be. (Thanks again for telling) But what is the logic? Again, it is the bank's "policy". I curse the guy, who invented words like policy and sorry, for he could not have foreseen how much they are prone to mis-utlisation.

Certain breeds are harmful to all kinds of commercial endeavors. And I am sorry to say "marathis" are one such breed. I went to a resort in Maharashtra. The manager did not let me check in. The reason: Guests could check in only after 10 am and I had reached at 8:30 am. One would assume that, there was no spare room. No… Please throw logic out of window, as more than 50% of his rooms were un-occupied. When I asked, he came with a rulebook. Damn! I said "Do you get salary for getting business, or for following a completely bizarre set of rules?" He pretended as if he did not know (more of this pretense strategy later). The sales guy had promised me that upon reaching, I would be served sumptuous breakfast. When I entered their cafeteria, they had vada-pav, poha and tea. Sumptuous? It’s like saying, have as much as you want, anyways it did not cost much to us to get these “cuisines” for our guests. I complained. The manager said “Fine, I will get some sand-wiches for you guys” Then he said “I am doing a great favor to you guys by getting you extra stuff in breakfast” Great Favor??? I tried hard not to yell, but that was one of the several tests of characters, where I failed miserably. I lost control and I yelled, screamed and shouted at him. I have found out that at least it works in India, because most of us lack self-respect. Where logic fails, arrogance can work.

Now lets go back to “pretense” strategy. This is the most irritating part, when these guys are called, they pretend as if they don’t know how can there be a problem in the first place. Take the example of the guy, who is supposedly responsible for hardware and software at my office. So there was some problem with my monitor. I called him up. He arrived only to reciprocate my disbelief at having faced the problem. A clever guy would have a kind of re-assurance on his face. When I asked, “By when, I would be able to work at my system”. He said, “It will take lot of time”. I was on the verge of getting heart attack as I had a deadline in half an hour. I asked, “It will take a day or two?” He said, “No, it will take 30 minutes” That was lot of time for him?? Not because he is super-efficient, but because he is a handicap at English.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


We do lack a sense of aesthetics. Take, for instance, the latest decision of Maharashtra Government to get statues of ‘Shivaji’ constructed next to Gateway of India. Or, several of such statues of Mayawati, which came into being, as she came to power. Lets leave aside the logic behind them; for there is hardly any behind the narcissism of power obsessed politicians. But are these guys blind? Haven’t they seen hundreds of such statues of Ambedkar in cities, towns and villages? They were so hopelessly built that no child feels any curiosity to ask his parents about the credentials of that bald, bespectacled man. In fact, in small towns, when they don’t have red light at the crossing, they make sure that Ambedkar statue is there. Its raised hand and pointed finger is there as if to discipline the traffic. Crows and pigeons are the only living creatures, which have got some value out of these statues for they don’t have to think twice before to defecate. Scared of crows humans built it, so that they can defecate on its top and save the earth from their gracious presence.

Now lets talk about Shivaji's statue. Marine Drive and this part of South Bombay is perhaps the only place in India, where you feel foreign. I have put it very bluntly. But have you seen cafes like Leopold and Mondegar, structures like VT and Gateway of India in any other part of this tradition obsessed country. I am from Delhi and no matter how elite a residential area is, religious folks never leave it without a temple, where they can congregate and make life miserable for those outside their gathering. Ironically, they have transformed dustbins into temples at many places. Hygiene can suffer but religion should not. You would come across nothing like this in South Bombay – where people keep their value systems inside their homes and don’t harm the beauty of roads by carrying out religious processions (save one or two instances of Ganpati visarjan). But where pandits and mullahs failed, politicians succeeded. And they will have a statue of Shivaji among the structures and the vibrancy, which have nothing Indian in it. Not that they don’t have the right to. But they should have seen how many commuters even take note of the Shivaji statue at VT station. No one cleans it. It is as earthly as the earth. I mean as dirty as VT station.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My constant cribbings...

I was walking on the… (Read it carefully)...ON THE MARINE DRIVE yday in evening. The "THE" is used to convey the idea that Marine Drive is the most aspirational residential address in urban India. So there I was. It rained, I was drenched but it did not matter much. The shoes got soiled, water seeped in, but the feeling was divine in that breeze and the showers. Fitness freaks were running with their dogs. Ha...Their dogs were cozy inside raincoat.

Half an hour of walk and I reached Charni Road station. Entered the train, obviously there was no place to sit. There was a place to stand, so I took off the raincoat. My shirt was wet. The fan was teasing me. Despite my 6 feet height, I couldn’t get any air from it. The windows were shut as rains had wreaked havoc. In minutes, I was off the best-ventilated part of Bombay and I was on to the worst. And, it was so bad that after few minutes, I couldn’t figure out if the drops on my brow were thanks to rain or my sweat glands. And, there was continuous pressure to adjust co-passengers. There was a passenger comfortably sitting and reading newspaper. Bastard was giving me a disdained look, when I happened to touch him. Motherfucker, if you want so much of comfort, tell your wife to turn whores and spend their money on a Merc. I couldn’t say anything to him. I was sure that with my size, it was easy to figure out that I am from north India. It would have been easier for that bastard to abuse me in marathi and also invoke the sympathy of his state brethen. I kept mum.

Came Dadar and it was like sea of humanity desperate to get on to train. I wonder why filmmakers work so hard on the screenplay of movies made on the subject of partition. For them, it’s much easier to visit Dadar Station, where the stage is set for another round of division. There wasn’t enough space for my two arms to hang around my big belly. So, I had to raise my hands and I cant tell how envious I was of a man who was sitting and playing games on his mobile. From behind, an old man kept cribbing "aage ho jayo" (please move ahead). I told him "agar aapko jagah milta hai, toh aap jaao na" (why don’t you go, if there is enough space for that).

Came Santacruz, I was still two stations away from Andheri. But, I started gathering my stuff - a polythene bag and a raincoat. I told the guy standing next to me that I had to get down at Andheri. That was to check if he was kind enough to exchange places so that I move few steps ahead. He smiled awkwardly. What was his smile for? Was he empathizing with me? Was it the kind of smile, you give, when you hear something impossible? Who knows...But another man did exchange his place with mine. May be my innocent face did the trick. I had just four passengers standing in front and it was certain that the mission was achievable. There was a surd, who perhaps wanted to get down at Andheri. But he was late and of course was uncertain if he would be able to get down or not. This is what I hate most. When you know that you are in Mumbai Local, isn’t it your duty to plan your exit well in advance. But few of us keep on shagging on our seats and expect the crowd to make way for us as if we are monarchs. A bloody monarch in a public transport, Fuck it. The surd's bag touched my ass twice. I had to tell him in unequivocal terms of his misconduct, else his bag would have touched other parts of my body too. I told him "even I have to get down at Andheri with a kind of angry look". He said, "did I say anything". As if he had not said it, I would have let him shove his back up my ass. My foot. I ignored him. There was a lapse in my concentration for few seconds and I realized my one leg would be in train and the other on platform, for a deluge of desperate passengers were eagerly waiting to board the train at Andheri. One wave of passengers desperate to get down and another wave desperate to get in. As with other things, this might seem beautiful from air. It would seem like union of two rivers. While this union produces music, the union of human waves at train stations brings cries, screams along with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Matrix

In any press conference, the first person to greet you is a PR lady. What better use, you can put a woman to? She gives you a welcoming smile and introduces herself. No matter how obscure a journalist you are, she would’ve read your articles. Needless to say, she must’ve liked them too!

You enter the hall, which is the venue of press conference. The hall with its high roof and chandeliers is reminiscent of British Raj days. We, Indians, still seem to be obsessed with our maharajas. Perhaps, it is due to reinforcements by our elders and never forgetting media. Everything about the setting of the press conference is hell bent upon making you feel important in overall scheme of things. It is ironical that often journalists, who are guests at such conferences, do not even afford a 2-bedroom hall flat. What a contrast! You wake up every morning and while you are yawning, you have to be careful else your hand will reach the fan and you will be behanded (what atrocious use of language, but I think it gets the message straight). You go to a conference rubbing shoulders with who and who’s of industry. Journalists surely live in illusion. A delusion that they matter, a delusion that without them the society cant stand on itself. Well, I dint intend to write for journalistic illusions, but this matter is too important to be left untouched.

Right in front of you stands a man wearing a black coat and a pensive look. Many men, who are also in black coat, surround him. They nod on every word he utters, and every expression he gives. They seem to be discussing something important. There are few deputies of CEO, who behave in most sophisticated manner and make sure that they are within his gaze. What else can be the motivation behind such an inspirational acting. They act like a club of elites with their handshakes, pleasantries, mannerisms and dressings. And, they are careful of the impression their acting has on journalists, who are looking at them with a kind of awe a subject look up to his master. There is another breed of journalist too. They act like police with their piercing eyes and sharp questions. The only difference is that this time, the police is much weaker and the criminal more powerful. (A disclaimer is required. I did not intend to say the corporates are criminals. In fact, you should blame those headstrong journos, who ask offensive questions without getting their basics right and often forget the difference between a conference and a lock-up).

Now coming to the point. At every step of this press conference, I realized that the media and corporate world is nothing but a big show-off. Everyone is an actor. The girl, who greeted me, must have been bored of smiling tirelessly at people. She knows that most of the journalists, she is giving the press release to, are not going to read it. So, why doesn’t she show a middle finger to them? The elderly CEO of PR company told me that I dint need to introduce myself. Ha ha ha. He thought that I am a fool, who would believe him. I, a common man, who stays in a small flat, does not need to introduce myself to those, who have spent their life in corporate world. It might be true, but I pity them. I would not have been comfortable to acknowledge that, if I were in their place. But their job requires that.

The CEO and his men don’t need to be so formal. They can be normal. They don’t need to discuss in mild tone. They can crack jokes and laugh. But they don’t. They are afraid that they will not be taken seriously. Seriously by whom? By someone, who has nothing but a faint idea of his business.

I think we don’t think seriously about such things. We are programmed like the watchman who bows endlessly all his life. May be, few of us get richer doing it, but at what cost? At the cost of our freedom, at the cost of giving up the choice of being what we want to be. If this is true, we are all in a Matrix, where we spend most of our lives in doing what we are expected to do and not what we want to do. There is hardly any difference between robot and us. In fact, robot is better as he does not pretend he is human.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Black Umbrellas

As I waited for an auto, I could see only black umbrellas on the road. Reaching office wasn’t going to be easy. The black umbrellas had reduced the wide road to a labyrinth. And they seemed to enjoy absolute power on the traffic. The buses, cars and autos had to stop, change their lane as per the whims and fancies of black umbrellas.

The policeman too wasn’t untouched by its influence, as he halted the traffic despite green light to let pass the black umbrellas. I was seeing it all sitting in an auto and waiting for it to reach Andheri Station. Close to the station, the black umbrellas seemed to have wrecked havoc on humanity. They did not let autos pass easily; they let a bus pass only after fifteen minutes of struggle. Perhaps, they were angry with those enjoying the comforts of a bus, car or an auto. It seemed as if they were ordering others to stop acting like armchair critics and come out of their shell and lend a helping hand in their daily struggle to earn a living.

It occurred to me that I would not be able to bear the heat of their fury and I alighted from the auto. And, I opened my own black umbrella…

Monday, July 6, 2009

East of Eden - John Steinbeck

So we know that we are all children of Adam & Eve. They had twins - Cain and Abel. They wanted to please the God by the fruits of their hard labour (I am not quite sure if they wanted to please God or their parents, but I know they wanted to please, so assuming it was God that they wanted to please). God liked what Abel had done. Out of jealous, Cain killed him and he spent rest of his life repenting his act. Killing a man is a sin and killing one's own brother might have been the greatest sin.

We are all children of Cain and we are also caught in the web of good and ugly, guilt and regret. Cain was enslaved by the idea that he must win over his own. And then God told him "thou mayest" - which means, he may win over his sin. In other words, he may not win over his sin and its all too human. However, the spiritual leaders, the mullahs, the fathers did some operation with the bible and changed it to "you should win over your sin". By doing it, they had taken back the choice given by the God to mankind. The choice that winning over one's sin may not be possible. But these religious gurus wanted to control the world around them. So how could they have given the choice? Aint it sound so similar to those babas who appear every day on TV and guide (or prod) their followers. Shameless bastards they all are, they have committed the worst sin by cheating the world for so long.

Well I am not writing on Bible. I just finished reading the book "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. I started reading only 2 years back and havent read much but of all I have read this is the best book that I have come across. Steinbeck sets the story in California. Tsark has two sons - Charles and Adam. Charles was always guilty of being too agressive with his brother. Adam gets married and his wife gives birth to twins - Cal and Aaron, who are nothing but the replica of Charles and Adam. Cal thinks he is made of all bad things, he thinks bad, goes to bad places. Aaron is a nice looking sweet guy and everyone likes him more than Cal. Cal is jealous, which drives him to cause the death of Aaron. His guilt does not leave him and then the book closes with his father telling him "Timshel - Thous Mayest". In a way, his father forgives him, for committing a sin is all too human. Moreover, by giving the choice (the word "may" stands for choice unlike "should" which stands for order), he had set Cal free of his guilt.

In hindsight, it seems too obvious that this book has come from an American, for this country stands for freedom of all kinds. Freedom from Church, freedom from King. And this is what Steinbeck implies when he says "we might have been living in caves if human spirit wasnt free"

Friday, July 3, 2009

On mockery known as popular awards

I have been cribbing a lot off late in my previous posts. So if you are tired of reading, I warn you to not read this post. Ha ha ha I am writing as if millions read my blog. Whatever....
There is nothing more irritating than the popular awards. Zee Cine Awards, Sony Awards, Filmfare and IIFA. The idea of this blog came to me as I just glanced at TV and saw Abhishek Bachchan holding a trophy at IIFA and Amitabh Bachchan looking at him full of pride, with tears in eyes. My mind raced through the films released last year. Why did Abhishek get the award? Obviously for Dostana - a mediocre attempt at making a gay comedy. Though the fim was paisa vasool, but does Abhi deserve an award for it?
Then came the scene - Sonam Kapoor was dancing and Sushmita Sen was clapping like mad, as if she gave birth to Sonam. I think Sushmita can easily become the next Nirupa Roy. She has publicly declared that she does not mind being Angelina Jolie of India. The way she was clapping, it seemed obvious that Sonam had told her before the performance to behave crazily when Sonam appears on the stage so that people, who are otherwise staring at the revealing dresses, notice that something is happening. The same trick was used by Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor when they hosted Fimfare - the only difference is that at that time the encouragement came from Abhishek. I think that was genuinely a smart move as their jokes were worse than PJs.
Doesnt Abhishek Bachchan get bored of receiving award for third class trash year after year? If it is being popular, then I think he is more popular for his parents than for himself. His inner self doesnt curse him. If I construct this argument logically it seems that perhaps Abhishek is not even intelligent to understand all this. It has been 10 years that he made his debut. Why does he need these cheap tricks?
And what does Big B think? After spending 40 years in cinema, having worked with best of directors, actors and technicians, he has to sit among idiots who are self proclaimed actors. I agree that these awards serve an important platform for new comers to show their face and half baked talent to who and whos of film industry. But, shouldn't they be choosy in selecting the guest list? What kind of encouragement can come from Sushmita Sen who has not given one decent performance in 15 years of cinematic career. She was reduced to performing dance numbers. Later she adopted a girl and created so much hype around it that her image was propelled to a certain extent. Can she actually provide any encouragement?
Dont audience understand the sheer travesty behind these awards? I mean how can we have Zee Cine Awards? What has Zee done to become an authority to give awards to artists? There should be some association of artists or some academy after which the awards should be named. Forget it. Any asshole, tom, dick, harry who can book Bandra Kurla Complex for one evening, pay the actors to dance on the stage and arrange for drinks and food can easily start giving awards.
What do these awards mean after all? Nothing... It is not surprising to note that none of the serious guys appear in these awards. Mani Ratnam, Aamir Khan, Gulzar - they dont care. Om Puri came for life time achievement award. Am sure that an actor like him would have come just to prevent the masses to think that he is arrogant or may be he was in dire need of money. Who knows what it was? But these awards are not worth a pig's shit.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why Rafa is important for tennis?

It is sad to see a game, you love, becoming a sort of comedy. This is very much the case with lawn tennis today. Before Nadal emerged, there was hardly any player, man or woman, whose name you could recall but for Roger Federer. And when Nadal pulls out of a tournament, it becomes a cake walk for Roger. Not that it is his fault, but there is hardly any reason to watch tennis when you know, at the start of the match itself, that Roger will come out with an assuring smile of a guy who has won all and proved it to all.

There are surprises but they are definitely not good enough to set your pulse racing. So, what if Lleyton Hewitt managed to reach the quarters, why should someone give a fuck knowing that this erratic and inconsistent player may pull out of US open because his baby is not well. Same is the case with Andy Roddick, who is known for changing coaches faster than anyone but that does not help him in going past the semis. I dont like Lleyton and Andy generally, but I respect them for their motivation.

A year back, Novak Djokovic had shown promise when he had beaten Federer in the semis of Aus Open. The loss meant a lot to Roger. He is known to be the most consistent player because he has reached 21 consecutive grand slam semi finals. Of the few semis that Federer has lost, the one is this Djokivic one and the other, which I can remember, is against Nadal in 2005 French Open. But, for these losses, Roger might have made the most number of consecutive appearances in finals of Grand Slam. But, Joker was too erratic after that win. He just cant handle his frustation when he is down. And, it was all too apparent yday, when he just dint know how to balance himself against Hass.

The scene is worse with women's tennis. Most of men watch it for the short skirts and nice figure these players have. Else, there is hardly anything to watch or stare. It is so open that the Number 1 woman tennis player has not won a single Grand Slam. Thanks to Russia, that the audience still have some interest in this game. Russia has produced players consistently and often their names sound very similar. Their records too. So, you have a 19 year old Sharapova winning wimbledon few years back. Some other 'ova' or 'eva' won the French. Consistenly, all 'evas' and 'ovas' lost their way after winning one grand slam. It is impossible to have the rivarly once we saw between Steffi Graf and Sanchez. When the younger ones are hopeless, the only ray of light comes from the William sisters. For some strange reason, tennis lovers dont give a fuck about them. I was surprised to know that Venus has won wimbledon 5 times, still her name is not taken in the same breath as of other legendary women tennis players.

Tennis became an interesting sport, as Nadal came up and challenged Federer's dominance. Their matches are as much a test of character as of skills. I think it is very important for lawn tennis that Rafa recovers and plays like earlier else it will become one of those least contested and may be least watched sports in the world.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New York - The Film

Last night, we watched New York. I think I have become too repetitive with my comments on Bollywood movies, but that does not stop me from using the same words again "Bull Shit, Ridiculous, Piece of Shit, Fuckall...please help me with more such words.
The story is about three friends: Sameer, Maya and Omar. Sameer turns a terrorist. By some unexplained accident (Movie makers need to understand this thing that u can take liberties but please explain 'how' of your script) FBI finds guns and bombs in a taxi, which they claimed was owned by Omar. Omar is not shown to be a taxi operator or owner of a fleet. How the fuck can that car be his? He is detained and the interrogator is Roshan. Roshan is a muslim and says because he is a south asian, FBI has given him the task as he is a muslim and its their way of showing that America loves all. The idiot film maker does not know that investigating agencies like FBI, Raw do not have to prove to anyone that they love all. Its the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the states who have this propanganda. Needless to say, the dialogues could not have been more screwed up. Roshan says he understands Omar. WHAT THE FUCK.......AM SURE IF FBI COMES TO KNOW OF SUCH DIALOGUES, IT WILL BE DISGUSTED.
So, the trick for Omar to prove his innocence is to somehow go back to his friends Sameer and Maya, who are married with a kid, and stay with them in their home and work as FBI informer. As is expected of all Hindi films, Omar rejects the proposition only to accept it seconds later. Ok if Omar has accepted it once, I can assume he has accepted it for all. But no, the film maker is horribly confused on how to project the image of Omar in minds of audience. How can a nice man in a hindi movie screw his own friend? So, Omar every now and then bursts with anger and tells Roshan that how can he expect him to betray his friends? And says he will do it only if FBI guarantees that they wont kill Sameer (Man it can not be more ridiculous) And Omar says it to Roshan "I mean it". I was wondering what the fuck he "means". How can a detained have such an attitiude?
Coming back to story, Sameer has not told Maya that he has become a terrorist, but she knows it. Last scene, Maya comes to know that Omar works with FBI. Omar convinces Maya that she should go and talk to FBI in their headquarters and they will give amnesty to her husband (How ridiculous) She goes and is sitting in FBI HQRS talking to Roshan and his superior. Just then, Sameer is planting bomb in a building. Omar knows it but does not know in which building he is planting the bomb. FBI HQRS is a glass building and Maya happens to see Sameer hanging out the FBI HQRS pretending that he is cleaning it, while he is actually planting bombs. What an accident. The husband, who is also a terrorist, is planting a bomb in a building where by some great coincidence, his wife also happens be in. Even the dumbest would know that they love each other too much and no way will the husband set the trigger off. And this way, Sameer does not let the bomb blast. How can he kill his beloved. Rather, he is shot by FBI snipers.
For those, who were wondering what happened to their kid. He is adopted by Omar. The kid, Omar and Roshan go to eat pasta. So, why dont Kabir Khan make New York Part-2, when the kid grows up and realises that his care takers had killed his parents and takes revenge.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I owe my allegiance to..........

Don’t you feel that human beings (in fact even animals) are desperate to owe their allegiance to a group? I always keep on complaining about India and I am desperate to leave it if I get a good chance. I was talking to my friend (for anonymity sake, let’s call him X). X agrees that India is a hopeless country. X is quite a techie and likes new products and technologies. He gets excited when his friends in US tell him that they bought a Toyota Corolla by spending just a year's savings. Last week, he agreed that all white-collar employees of India get underpaid but definitely overspend. Who would pay Rs 17,500 per month for a two-room flat in any other city apart from Bombay? Am sure an economist can use purchasing power parity theory plus quality of life criteria to reach a conclusion that for the facilities it offers, Bombay is the costliest city in the world. Still, X says that he would never settle abroad. At max, he will go there for a vacation. If the logical side of his brain is convinced that there are better parts in the world, it’s the emotional side of his brain, which makes him, clung to the ‘Indian’ batch'. Isn’t it such an illusion? I think few (may be many of us) would just like to stay at a place far removed from the chaos of this world. And, that place can be anywhere.

My boss in e-serve used to take huge pride in the fact that he works for Citibank - the largest financial conglomerate in the world. Not even that, he used to take pride in being a chartered accountant. Why doesn’t he value all this by a simple fact that these batches put together earn him Rs 10 lakhs a year? He should be taking pride in the fact that he is a lakhpati in an otherwise poor country. But far from it, he takes pride in being an employee of a world-class company. Isn’t it a marketing gimmick by the institutions of the world? And, such institutions can vary from a nation-state to a business. When a CEO addresses a company, he knowingly or unknowingly reduces every audience to a mere employee or worse still a worker. Many of them can be great singers, many of them can be great painters, many of them can be great sportsmen but that hardly matters to him. He sees them as his men (saying his women can be obscene, so women please forgive me). It works wonders for him and the impact is all visible, when employees raise from their seats and start clapping. May be they felt like an orphan and CEO assured them that he is their maai-baap.

ICAI – Institute of Chartered Accountants of India – has told all its members to prefix their gmail id with a ‘ca’. So, my gmail id can be cakaran@gmail.com or cakaransehgal@gmail.com. My CA friends find it okay. But isn’t it ridiculous? For the rest of their lives, their names are prefixed by their qualification as if nothing else matters.

One of my friend visited Germany. She did not like it. She said Germans don’t respect their country. I said, “How does it matter”. We respect our country, but we rank 112 on Human Development Scale, Germans don’t respect their country but they are in top 10. The fact of the matter is we may like India but not Indians. For all countries, which have not reached a high stage in social development, a country remains an illusion in the eyes of its countrymen. An idea – We may not be a superpower but in another 25 years, we will be. The truth is my father also thought so and so did his father. Isn’t it better for our politicians to keep on promising perpetually that we will be a super power so that they have a sales pitch in elections?

I think this is one of the most important reasons that the nation states exist. We don’t think twice and stand up when the national anthem is played. At that time, not even 1% of us think that do we actually respect our country or it is just a ritual? Respect your country is something taught to us. I had acquaintances in Delhi, most of them sons of rich businessmen. Their father had never paid a penny as tax, yet they all used to stand up when national anthem is played. In fact, the conditions are so bad in certain countries that you might as well get exempted from all taxes if you stand under their flag. The government knows that this sense of pride is far more important than paying taxes. Aren’t Germans better off by simply paying their taxes and affording to have a kind of disdain for their country?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Bombay the best city of India?

A strange idea has pre-occupied me for the past few days. It just struck me that if one were to say how good a city is, it has to be seen from the perspectives of the outsiders. In simpler words, if you are born in a city, you should not be judging it as your judgment will always be partial. This leads to dangerous conclusions, which xenophobic wont like, as the opinion of a Punjabi on Punjab is irrelevant. The reason is simple. Take my own case. I was born in Delhi. I was brought up there itself and all my concerns were taken care of by my doting parents. I did not know what hardships they faced when they constructed their house or when they were humiliated as tenants. I cannot identify with my dad's harassment when he was made fun of for not knowing which bus route goes to Connaught Place. I cannot relate to my mom's paranoia with the roads and buses, which she could hardly relate to being from a small town. This is all because I had them to turn to whenever I wanted to know which bus goes where, which market is famous for what. Moreover, ever since I have gained senses I had a roof as my parents got a house in 1987, when I was just 5.

A city has to be seen by its behavior towards people who have just come into it. And, if this is a yardstick, Bombay will be the most civilized city of India. The city has local trains so conveyance related problems are taken care of. And, it is damn affordable, which shows that the planners had known that not everyone is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Moreover, the auto rickshaw drivers are rare breeds among their brethrens who charge you as per the readings of the meter. Compare this with the behavior of auto drivers in Chennai. In no other city that I have visited, was I shouted upon by the auto driver. In Chennai, they understand that the commuter does not know Tamil. Then, they ask for obscene fares and sometimes mid-way they stop auto to bargain again. If you do not agree on higher fare, you can move out but remain assured that the auto driver would abuse you will all filthy words. I know it is too demeaning a statement to say, as one would ask isn’t auto driver a human too? But, in India such rights are reserved for rich. Poor auto driver hardly shout at passengers.

In Bombay, if you need a flat, there is an army of estate agents. I know that new comers in the city often criticize this system. Because this agent asks for at least one month’s rent as commission for the services he provides. But, doesn’t he deserve it? Who would show you tens of apartments at short notice? Who would bribe the police to say that they have done the inquiry without seeing your face? Who would stand in queue at the office of rent authority? Who would bargain with the flat owners who know that you are new and can be screwed easily? By this, I don’t intend to say that the estate agents are saints. In many cases they too have over priced their services but they do a job, which many white-collar employees would refuse to do, as they don’t want to dirty their collars by bribing the officials. Moreover, once you have paid the commission to him, he would take care of all disputes with owner. And, a tenant is never looked down upon. In Delhi, I remember there was a robbery next to my house. The owner’s son threatened the tenant saying that he would beat him up unless he accepts that he helped the thieves. Chennai is yet to recover from its madness for Tamil language and many agents wont help you knowing that you are not from their part of land. My friend Venkat helped me get a flat in Chennai, else I was jacked.

Among many other things, Bombay is the only city in India where you can get liquor and vegetables delivered at your home. I can open the pandora box if I start explaining a liquor shop in Chennai. All liquor shops are government owned. The drunkards often hijack the shop. They drink right in front of it. And, because it is government owned, the seller thinks that he is doing such a great service by selling you the booz so “home delivery” is not in his dictionary. Though, the scene is not as bad in Delhi. Still, many cases of rape are reported near such liquor shops, which talks about the kind of people around it.

If someone has told you “customer is the king” the best thing you can do to him is to buy an air ticket to Chennai and gift it to him. The government has made the local channels free to woo the voters. Localities hardly need to watch any other channel apart from famous ones in Tamil. All other channels like Zee, Star require a set top box, which is sold by company owned by Chief Minister’s son. It is too obvious that most of the customers buying set top box would be those who are not familiar with Tamil. Else, why would need it. The CM’s son does not seem to know it. The person who explained the functions of that box to me knew only Tamil and no other language. Not only that, he was dressed in dirty pajamas and I don’t want to hazard a guess on his education. It is like showing middle finger to the customer. As it is only CM’ son company which can sell the set top box. So, the customer has no other option.

Talking of the inconvenience, there are many posh localities in Delhi, where if a not so rich man happens to go and he does not have a car, he wont be able to find either a bus or a rick. You would be left stranded. No matter in which part of Bombay you are, you will easily come across auto-rickshaws.

Similarly, a country should be judged by how well it treats its minorities. For all practical purposes, minorities are referred as outsiders in the majority circles. So, India should not be judged by Hindus, rather it should be judged by what Muslims and Christians have to say about it. And, I am sure we will have to cover our faces in shame in many cases, if we were to ask them. This is precisely the strength, which US has, and this is why no other country will become super power unless it adopts a liberal migrant policy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Bombay Roads

If a tortoise had at all beaten a hare in a race, I am sure Bombay would have hosted that race. The traffic moves at a snail's pace. The pee-pee of auto-rickshaws and pon-pon of the trucks cause such a headache that you wish to get rid of your head knowing well that the headache wont go. To a larger extent, this is due to the abysmal condition of the roads in the mega-city of India. Going by normal standards, only few roads in the city can qualify being called a road - western express highway, eastern express highway, JV Link Road are few of them. Remaining all roads are no better than the narrow lanes which are either meant for the kids to play marbles or for the youngsters to speed away on their bikes. By no stretch of imagination (obviously the imagination of non-mumbaikars, for a mumbaikar's imagination is polluted by the realities of his city) the narrow lanes of Bandra are not meant for the BMWs, Mercs, Audis of the several cine-stars who stay there. You would come across tens of hawkers selling anything from orange-juice to footwear just outside the Bandra station - a structure built by Brits almost a century ago. On the same road, there is always a queue of people eagerly waiting for auto-rickshaws. On the other side of the road, there are small shops which have been unmoved in last fifty areas. Such shops resemble the shops in medieval times. There are many other illegal stalls in front of these shops. In whatever space is left, you would see foreign made cars trying to make way somehow. If the same was the case in Delhi, the owner of Maruti-800 would have taken pot shots on the BMW owner for irrespective of more powerful engine of the latter, his car moves slowly than a Maruti.

At many other places, the roads have sharper ups and downs than those seen in the Sensex in seventeen months. Mahakali Caves Road is one exapmple in the eastern part of Andheri suburbs. It is obvious that this road is named after Mahakali Caves which are few meters away from the road. Though, I have not seen the caves, but I think the journey on the road is tougher than the one in the cave. As we say in Media, Sensex had a tipsy-turvy ride, I think if you want to experience such a ride, you should travel on Mahakali Caves Road.

This was not enough as the God made Bombay a coastal city. The rains are so heavy that it washes away the upper layer of most of the roads. It is like taking the mask-off from the face of BMC and MMRDA, which were claiming only few months ago about the substantial investments they have done in road infrastructure of the city.

On the top of all of it, metro rail is coming to Bombay. The construction of this rail has taken almost one-third of many roads as its construction site. The other day, I was travelling in an auto. It was late in night and the driver was sleepy. He was about to drive straight into the construction site that I yelled at him and he somehow took a right turn. I asked how could he do it. He said he has been driving for the last thirty years on the same road and it is his hands who do the thinking more than his brain. I pray as I wish his brain to think more than his hands.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Bizzare Parallel

Finding parallels between present and past always is interesting. I was thinking of one such parallel between Gandhi and Narayanmurthy. What inspired me to compare these personalities, despite of absence of strict similarity, is their patriarchal image - that of a bespectacled man, old in age, calm in demeanor like a saint.
Gandhi officially retired from Congress in mid 1930s to his ashram in Wardha. Yet, he continued to remain the numero uno of his party men and his line of thinking was seldom breached. Similarly, Mr Murthy retired from Infosys in 2003. He continues to remain on the board of directors and his approval is necessary for all-important matters concerning the company.
Gandhi smartly mixed godliness with politics. One moment, he would be strategically demanding ‘poorna swaraj’, thereby weakening the demand of separate Dominion of archrival Jinnah – who represented Muslim League. In simpler words, Gandhi wanted Britishers to leave India entirely, while Jinnah wanted a status of separate Dominion like Canada and Australia – commonwealth countries which owed their allegiance to King.
Smartly maintaining distance from Jinnah and his Muslim League, Gandhi preached brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims much like a saint. Gandhi had confused Jinnah so much that Jinnah could never understand in which capacity his counterpart spoke – of an individual who has retired from Congress or of someone who still controlled Congress. Gandhi had confused even Nehru by referring to God in those shrewd political discussions to such an extent that Nehru had remarked – “his constant references to God, God had told him to do that and God came in his dream irritated me”.
Mr Murthy too has attempted to confuse the audience as regards to the capacity he speaks in. Does he speak as an industry veteran? Does he speak as one of the ‘old uncles’ of neighborhood? Does he speak as a social reformer? It seems that Mr Murthy has ideas on anything under sun. He has spoken about the plight of rural women. Much like Gandhi, who educated the masses about the evils of poor sanitation. Though, Mr Murthy may not be as shrewd as Gandhi (or in absence of detailed evidence), but it is clear that he too had the ideas to change the world he lived in. Both Gandhi and Murthy wanted to impact the world beyond their respective areas that of a freedom fighter and an industrialist.
Gandhi argued hard with Ambedkar as the latter had no faith in Congress’s ability to represent Dalits. Gandhi argued that having too many leaders would weaken their stand against British Raj. The man did not stop there. He launched many programmes for upliftment of untouchables – one of the most important being giving them a new name ‘Harijan’. Though such kind of evidence is not available for Mr Murthy. Still, there are incidents, which show that his ambitions are really high and he does not want to remain idle after retirement. It is heard that Mr Murthy said, rather arrogantly, that he would change the face of Bangalore if the Government allows him to do so. Tales of his wishes to become the Indian Ambassador to US and later of becoming the President of India have been doing rounds in media circles for quite some time.
It is clear that both these men carefully cultivated their image of being a self-less, responsible elderly and then used it to get maximum gains for their own aspirations. It is also said that Mr Murthy used to get the minimum salary of all founder members of Infosys. In 2003, his annual salary was Rs 18 lakhs. Phaneesh Murthy’s salary was more than a crore just before he was sacked.
The list of similarities between the two men does not stop here. Gandhi was and is still the most respectable politician. Mr Murthy too will feature among the most respectable industrialist of India. In fact, before Tatas went on an acquisition spree, it was Mr Murthy and not Mr Ratan Tata, who was hailed as the face of globalised India.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lesser Known Fact

I am currently reading 'The Last Nizam' by John Zubrzycki. Before, I started reading this book, I always wondered why Indian monarchs fell easily into the trap laid by colonial powers like France and England. The book explains that as per Islam, the eldest son is not the obvious heir to his father's fortunes. The patriarch can choose anyone among his sons or even grandsons. In Hydrebad, Nizam could even choose his heir from his illegitimate chidren or from several adopted ones. This one practice simply explains why Aurangzeb imprisoned his father and killed his brothers (something, which a modern day Indian can not fathom). It also gives another insight, I considered Aurangzeb to be brutal to the core, while now I think he was less brutal but more pratical, for he ran the risk of himself being assasinated by his own brothers.

So, we had at least three colonials powers, Portugal, Britain and France. So, the target was very much there ready to be aimed and won. Britain knew that France would support one of the 'would be monarch' and they had little choice. If you are lucky, the guy whom you are supporting would win. In such an event, you can easily exert influence over the monarch and for all practical reasons, his territory would be ruled by East India Company. Not only this, the Britishers were never shy of reminding the 'Installed King' that he still ran the risk of being overthrown by his brothers, in many cases his own sons, or other noble men (noble?? Am sure English is the sweetest language). Those were starting days and Britishers learnt that if they can make a man take up arms against his brother, it will be easier than a child's play to make hindu and muslims fight. I am in awe of the vision of these colonial powers, for their pratices are still followed by US.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nano Shano

News channels had an easy job at hand as most of them simply telecast the launch of Tata Nano for hours on Monday. The world’s cheapest car would not have got more attention anywhere than in India for seldom do we come across a vast continent more obsessed with affordability. How many times have we seen a neighbor arguing with the sabjiwallah knowing well, or pretending to not realize that the bargain would not fetch him more than few rupees? The last time, the government announced hike in fuel prices, petrol pumps had to shut down as hordes of vehicles got lined up for fuel as the rate hike was effective from next day. Obviously, in India the most famous four letter word is not ‘f*#k’ but ‘sale’ as there are showrooms which have such ‘sale’ on for twelve months in a year. On the top of it, the optimists claim that we are getting richer year after year. Statistically, we may be, but it will take few generations to learn how to act rich. As they say old habits die-hard. Mr. Tata might have been applauded by media for being the new trendsetter. In his country, people save few lakhs by buying cars without air bags. Nonetheless, the applause is well deserved as Mr. Tata has not only successfully manufactured the cheapest car, but also has made money by selling his cars to ‘mama boys’ who are known to get best deal out of each paisa they spend.

History repeats itself

History repeats itself more than anywhere else in the subcontinent political space. It was Zia who unseated Bhutoo in 70s, without either of them even having a glimpse of future, when Musharraf would dethrone Nawaz in 90s. The two incidents are like mirror images, sad to say that the political realities havent changed for good, in fact, in many cases, we are worse off today. In our own country, similar incidents happened in last one week, though of lesser intensity. While, it was Sanjay Gandhi whose arrest for leading a protest, accidentaly under the prime ministership of his own mother, Indira Gandhi in 1970s was gimmicked as outburst of a passionate young leader, the situation is not much different when more than two decades later, his own son, Varun, has shown the desire to spend some time behind bars and not to defend his case in court. Needless to say that, this is again an ugly gimmick of a young and aspiring leader, hungry for power, and finding parallels in their not longer than few hour's stay in jail with those of never ending years spent by their own fore fathers under foreign administration. Surprising is the fact that for a politician to find his foot in jail is a virtue, for a commoner it is a vice. It will be shameful if Varun is able to leverage his jail stint for getting more votes and to prevent it, the Indian voters have to come of age.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mumbai Local

The train is full of passengers as usual. Knees touching knees, legs entangled, four sitting on the seat meant for three, sweaty foreheads, pushing and whistling continuing, meanwhile dirty jokes are being passed. The automatic speaker announces the next station, but who cares? the sweet voice of the lady cautions that the unidentified object can be explosive, but there are so many such objects that the train would never move if caution is raised at everything suspicious. Religious folks chant tirelessly at the top of their voice unnerved by the inhospitable condition in the train. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu considered Narad's devotion unmatched. I pity him for he never travelled in Mumbai local.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bizzare Pakistan

I have been reading a bit on Pakistan these days. The most interesting part to me was creation of Bangladesh in mid 1970s. Prior to the split, Pakistan was one country with a western and eastern part. Isnt it bizzare to think what came to the mind of creators of Pakistan that they chose to have two parts which were 1000 miles apart, with India in the middle. That a huge country like India, which is dominated by the followers of hindu faith can be dangerous for a muslim country which existed in two parts miles apart from each other did not come to the mind of the Pakistani leaders baffles me. In case of an Indian attack on the eastern part, how would they retaliate sitting in their offices in the western part of the country. How would they mobilize the army?

Yet, the muslim leadership went ahead with a state with two parts hanging on the either sides of India. It should have occured to the Pakistani leadership that the eastern part of their country should be made to feel part of a larger Pakistan, so that the populace dont feel alienated. Contrary to it, the leadership of Pakistan, be it Army or the elected leaders like Bhutto did not leave any stone unturned to oppress East Pakistan. The official language was Urdu, despite of the fact that the language of East Pakistan was Bengali. When Muzib-Ur-Rehman won the elections, his mandate was not recognised by the regime. Post, which East Pakistan witnessed wide scale military oppression to quell down the uprising. All this through, the Pakistani leaders considered East Pakistan as their playground for bizzare experiments without giving a thought that India might use that as an oppurtunity, which it did. Had they lost their heads by first accepting a country which had two parts having absolutely nothing in common but for the religion, then avoiding and oppressing the other part without caring a damn about the geo-political realities. It is clear that Pakistan had perhaps the worst administrators, who had no vision. What they did have was the inability to think beyond their own petty short term objectives.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Last night, we went to watch 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' on reverse ageing. Before the movie started, it said 'Paramount Pictures Presents', I remember seeing this many times, it always comes with a mountain in the back. However, this time, it came with buttons of different colors coming together and saying Paramount Pictures. I didn't really realise this, while I was watching..only later in the movie, when the protagonist, Benjamin's father tells him that he actually owns a buttons company that I understood that it was a clever move to show Paramout Pictures that way. Well, this also shows the extent of involvement the crew had in the film. The layers of make-up, the backdrop in scenes, the nuances in body language and the complex emotions told a tale, writenn by F Scott Fitzgerald in 1910s and this is the very story which film makers attempted to create on big screen some fifteen years back but could not do it. It seems that they understood the great challenge they faced. For it was a story of a man ageing reverse, while other characters ageing in a normal fashion.

The movie spans across 91 years, from 1918, when a kid was born with multiple catracts, with wrinkles all over. Doctors said that the kid's body is as worn out as that of a 90 year old man and he has very little life left. His mother dies in childbirth and his father leaves him in front of someone's house. A kind hearted lady, Queenie, sees the kid and may be because of her inability to conceive feels like bringing him up. So, it was a 90 year old man ageing backwards with all old people around. He felt though, his body is old, yet he is young.

When his mind is 7 years old and his body 83, he meets the love of his life Daisy, who says "you are not like an old person". At the age of 14/76, he takes up a job on a ship and leaves promising Daisy that he would send her a postcard from different parts of the world he would be visiting. Meanwhile, Daisy becomes a famous ballet dancer, she has a male partner too. Benjamin comes back. I think, here, the makers have taken bit of liberty as Daisy is shown to be in her prime, less than 25 years of age. By this logic, Benjamin should also be of 25 years, but should look like 65 years of age. However, he seemed to be a man of 50-55 years of age. Coming back to the main part, Benjamin meets Daisy and Daisy is still in love with him, but Benjamin does not really respond. Daisy tries to convince him, while her boy friend is waiting inches away near taxi. Years later, when Benjamin seems to be a 45 years old man, he goes to Paris to meet Daisy. This is the best part of the film, you would not feel you are watching a film, rather you would feel as if you are reading a story. The scene shows the importance of time in life as a man forgets to keep an alarm at 10 and wakes up at 10:05 am, a woman takes up a taxi while coming out of a showroom, a van comes in front of the taxi and the taxi gets late. In the due course, Daisy is getting ready to go somewhere out but she too gets late. The result of various people getting late is that the moment Daisy is walking past the road, the taxi comes and hits her. This happens while Benjamin is narrating it with sentences with so many 'ifs'. It shows that we can not comprehend the 'what ifs' in our life. Rarely that we come across such a brilliant adaptation of the novel. Am sure, Fitzgerald's heart would have come out with this scene. Daisy meets with an accident and her leg is fractured and she can never dance. Benjamin meets her, but she is in no mood of taking the relationship further and he returns to New Orleans.

Another few years went by and Benjamin is in early 40s, when Daisy comes to his New Orleans's house and they finally decide to live together. Daisy starts dance classes and Benjamin runs his company Buttons&Buttons, which he gets as a heir to his original father's property. Sometime later, Daisy gets pregnant and Benjamin realises that he can not grow older with his own daughter as he is reverse ageing. Daisy is hell bent as she thinks she has considered all these complexities, but is unable to stop Benjamin from leaving after their daughter's first birth day. Benjamin wanders around the world and realises the fun of being himself. Few years later, a young man in early 20s or late teens comes to Daisy's dance school, Daisy can not recognise him until he gets closer and Daisy sees his face. She introduces him as a family friend to her husband, whom she married as her daughter needed a father. The story finally ends with Benjamin becoming an infant and one day he says final good-bye in Daisy's laps.

Three character remain in the film remain all through, Benjamin, Daisy and Queenie and since its a story spannig across 90 years, the make up that the technicians have done to really make reasonably young actors play teen, youth, and old is really wonderful. The first half is completely taken over by technicians.

I have not mentioned several things, which are integral to the movie, as it would take me 3-4 blogs to cover those.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Khans and Mediocrity in Bollywood

It has been two decades that the three Khans - ShahRukh, Aamir and Salman have been calling the shots at Bollywood. I remember reading an article few years back, which said 1990s belonged to three Khans and Kajol. And, there is no denying this. The three Khans not only provided vibrance to the hindi movies, which failed miserably to produce superstar when Amitabh Bacchhan was not actually young to play the angry young man.
Not only that, the music of their movies was undoubetdly fresh! Remember the 1980s music, when audience used to move out of hall to smoke a cig, grab a cold drink, and returned to the hall only when the song got over. In fact, it was the feeling of 'something new and unseen' which gave SRK his first few hits like Baazigar, Darr, where the villian was bigger than the hero or the hero had villanious touch.
Towards, the end of 1990s, it seemed that it dawned upon Khans that their time was running out and they have to step up their efforts to compete with the young brigade. I remember reading an article wherein SRK had said that he was afraid of his fans forgeting him in his old age. And, there was a precedent to it as well. The 'Jubilee Kumar', Rajendra Kumar used to get so many letters from his fans that he had to appoint a secretary just to read and reply to them. Years later, when Jubilee Kumar was old, he said he was craving for even one letter from a fan. No one had written to him in ages.
It seemed to me that the three Khans knew that post they cross their mid thirties, they have to be extremely careful of their image, the kind of movies they do, the kind of directors they work with. However, all three of them gave more importance to have a certain image in audience's eyes. They even tried to expand their fan club. Take SRK for instance, the youth icon of 90s who had girls drooling over him and who once did bold film like Maya Memsaab, he said he will not kiss the heroine. If this was not for making sure that old ladies treat him like their son, then what was this for? SRK knew it that he was famous only among young people, which he did not afford with his age meter reading one more every year. SRK also made sure that he does movies with same directors like Farah Khan, Karan Johar. All his experiments like Maya Memsaab, Oh Darling Yeh Hai India, Darr, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman belonged to 1990s. In the current decade, he has done just three different movies - Swades, Chak De. It is strange to know that Swades and Veer Zaara were released at that same time, still SRK went on to win the awards for Veer Zaara.
Aamir Khan, known also as 'The Perfectionist', has done few experiments. There is no denying that Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameein Par were experiments considering the kind of repetition prevailing in Hindi Cinema. But, to label Aamir as an actor who does take huge challenges would be over-rating him. If we compare these movies, with the real experimental stuff which happens in other parts of India, we would realise that actors like Kamal Hassan, MohanKumar are far superior than Aamir in acting department and they have done such varying roles that with Aamir's pace, he might end up spending his life and still would not be able to do half as those experiments.
As far as Salman Khan is concerned, the last time he did a serious role, which the audience could digest was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in 1999. Post that, it has been an endless series of comedies, which are often cheap comedies, double meaning in nature, which are not even a surrogate for the kind of comedy, the world has seen.
I think the kind of cinema SRK, Aamir and Salman belong to definitely discourages the new breed of film makers, who see their experiments tanking badly because the distributors think the audience can watch Billu Barber, but not movies like Dev D.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Few of us love being non-conformist, don't we. Bombay has been a non-conformist city, where women wear clothes of their choice and not dictated by the whims and fancies of the other sex. Kids don’t return to their homes at 10 pm, the deadline in rest of the India, else your dad might well be found waiting for you in front of your colony. Well, this is the social and cultural non-conformism. There are different aspects to this side of human nature. Most often, you would find non-conformism breeding due to reinforcement of its opposite by the majority. In case such happens, the non-conformist must be prepared to be at the receiving end. The existence of God, for instance, has often led to the conflict. Majority of us believe in God, which leaves a small fraction of us non-believers. Those great men, who invented words, called them atheist, am sure this word is a creation of a believer. Isn’t it too striking that the English language does not have an equally well sounding opposite to atheist. Well, the obvious opposite is a 'believer', but the word does not carry the weight, which 'atheist' carries. Am also sure that if you call a non-believer an atheist, he might deny to accept it, which shows that it might not be the case of him not believing in the God, its just that he/she does not even care thinking about it. For a non-believer, the time, which others spend in going to temple, or making rounds around a peepal is better, spent in pursuing a hobby or just doing nothing.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Why I am sad for Federer!

Well, yesterday was again a sad day for me. Federer lost to Nadal in a Aus Open Final in five setter. In the last one and half years, Nadal has gone on to win grand slams on grass and hard courts. With yesterday's win, he also stopped Federer from equalling Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slams. I have never come across such battles on a tennis court in almost two decades of watching this game. Well, you can always compare Sampras and Becker matches or Sampras and Agassi matches with Fed vs Rafa, but the difference is while the odds were 50-50 for great players in 1990, the odds for Federer against Rafa is 0 today. Rafa has beaten Federer on clay in French Open, which made Federer and his fans say that Rafa is the King of Clay and Fed is King of All but Clay. That was certainly not arrogance from Fed, he is far too superior to show such kind of emotions, it was sheer belief in his game which made him pass that remark.

Yesterday, the belief was broken. For Fed, who stood through that gruelling Wimbeldon Final for five sets after having dropped first two and then trying to maintain the calm for the next six months enroute which, he lost to many unknown players, while doing the important thing of not shying away from loss, there was no surprise that he broke down during the presentation ceremony. It was clear in fifth set, that he had either run out of options against Rafa or run out of energy. The world had started regarding Federer as the greatest player ever on Earth. Even other legends like McEnroe had said that, Fed contemporaries said even if the match is on ice, this man would win it. From those heights, his stature is relegated to a great player who could not pass through the possible greatest players ever. I dont think it would be possible for Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver or John McEnroe to understand what is going on in Fed'd head. Because to understand that Sampras should have played an equally great player like Borg or Laver in his prime. I feel that the world has never seen two players of this class to come and play in the same era and with little age difference. This is evident as the two players have met each other seven times in a grand slam final more than any other pair of legends in their era. Though, an age difference of five is not insignifcant, still Federer is 27 and he started playing Nadal when he was possibly 23. In no way, can anyone say that Federer was too old to face Nadal, the excuse which Sampras could give when he was beaten by Federer.

Though, am sure that such matches are good for the game of tennis, still they leave an incomprehensible feeling with every match Federer loses to Rafa. Perhaps, this shows that am still a Federer fan and shall remain so. Not that I dont like Rafa, he is simply unstoppable. Sometimes, you like what is not the best at that moment and in this case it is Federer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Something I wrote on Mumbai

The narrow by lanes of Mumbai are in complete contrast to the image of the city, which has space for everyone. Getting out from the Dadar Station, you will come across a deluge of hawkers, vegetable vendors, sweepers, coolies – all are tyring better than their best to make a living. And, they don’t pretend otherwise; for instance if you try to negotiate with the coolie at any station, he would reply back saying that much as you come to Mumbai to become rich, so has he. And, this is the very fact, which makes this city different from hundreds of other cities, or glorified villages, which are trying hard to be called a city. In no story, no novel, would you find mention of man, who went to become rich to any other city in India apart from Mumbai. And as for Mumbai, you can spend your life counting such examples – the legendary actor Dev Anand was once working for the postal department, and then went on to leave his job to become what we know him as, and who can forget Dhirubhai Ambani, the once petrol pump attendant who went on to become the owner of the mighty enterprise called Reliance Industries. Or, Zeenat Aman, who once used to work in the magazine called Filmfare and later went on to become a film star herself. Similarly, growing up in the crowded suburbs of Chembur, Anil Kapoor would never have thought that one day he would be a part of world renown film called Slumdog Millionaire, which revolves around the same city, he has grown up in.

A city of such a great divide and the divide is more mental than physical. In the history of humankind, there would hardly be a more dividing line than the western railway line of Mumbai. On one side of the line is eastern part and on the other western and therefore every suburban area has an eastern and western part of it, like Andheri East, Andheri West. The disparity is to such an extent that you can easily come across people attending their nature calls in morning on the railway track itself for the lack of space and sanitation facilities and a few kilometers from these seemingly third world conditions are the bungalows of Bollywood stars in Bandra suburbs of Mumbai – stars who are the icons of millions of fans across the world. For those stars, they have Carter Road running parallel to sea on one side, and bungalows, luxurious flats, hotels on the other side. For the commoners, the roads on the eastern side of Bandra never fall shy of giving smell of rotten fish, garbage or various kinds of miscellaneous filth. There are numerous such startling differences in the mega metropolis of India. Driving up from Taj Hotel to Malabar Hills on Marine Drive, you could spot a constellation of rising buildings on the hill, before which the Arabian Sea is spread. And, one of the closest railway stations from Malabar Hills is Grant Road, the notorious original red light are of Mumbai, crowded as hell with people as diverse as different animal species in Africa. You can see women with layers of cheap make-up, who want to make a difference by their appearance so that the customers can locate them from a distance and often one among those customers would be a rich businessman, broker or estate agent. That Malabar Hills is costlier than the costly places of New York and Grant Road is filthier than the filthiest red light areas of third world itself shows that there is no dearth of variety in this city.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Guns, Germs and Steel

Currently, am reading a book called Guns, Germs and Steel. The book gives a history of almost everything for the last 13,000 years. The book contains surprising facts like:

a) None of the big mammals Africa is so much famous for, originated there. Their origins lie in eurasia.

b) The people of Madagascar are similar to those in New Guinea and this has baffled archeaologits. There are theories that all the continents were one land mass, which kep onb drifting apart resulting in creation of continents. However, what is not explained is if New Guienans mixed with natives of Madagascar, what stopped them from mixing with the inhabitants of East Africa.

c) Aborigines of Australia were still hunter gatheres when europeans arrive in Australia.

d) The direction of the spread of continent is an important factor. If the spread is more from north to east, like Africa then climatic conditions will vary significantly making the survival of things in North difficult in South and vice versa. This was the reason that so many plants and animals which thrived in North Africa could not survive in South Africa. On the other hand in eurasia, the spread is more east to west, therefore climatic conditons remain same making the movement of plants and animals much easier.

e) All domesticated crops like wheats, barley, rice have a wild ancestor which could have been posinous. Humans have changed the crops in thousands on years making them suitable for them. The latest fruit to be domesticated is apple because the process of change from wild to domestic was an extremely complex one. Have we ever realised its difficult to trace apple orchards. In India, only Kashmir and Himachal are famous for apples, I dont know of any other place.

f) Surplus food production is the bed rock of all human development. It leads to settlement at one place. Post that a certain section of society thinks that benefits are larger by controlling the production of food grains than by growing them themselves. This section become the rulers and beureaucrats. This is not possible with hunter gatheres, though they too have leaders but those leaders have to find food on their own and have too little time to rule.

g) Fertile Crescent is the name of the place where today we have countries like Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and etc. This was the place which had plants and animals of different varities. Hard to imagine today!