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.