Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Blue Mug

So the name was BLUE MUG. When I told my friend that I was going to see a play by this name, her immediate reaction was - 'Of course I know why you're going. You love all things MUG', referring to my bizarre hobby of collecting mugs. Frankly speaking, my curiosity in the play was piqued primarily for this reason. Plus it boasted of a rocking star cast - Konkona Sen Sharma, Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Sheeba Chadha and Munish Bhardwaj. Plus, I was going to go watch a play after sooooooooooooooo long. Plus, it was term 8, time to start living up whatever little Hyderabad has to offer - no offence, but Hyd is small compared to Maximum City.

So there we went to watch the BLUE MUG. Unfortunately, the title words make an appearance all of thrice throughout the play. And right at the start, they said that they have no props. So there went all my hopes of seeing a blue mug. Secretly I was hoping to get tiny blue mugs along with our tickets, as an ad gimmick - call it wishful thinking, but what else can you expect out of a mug collector? So, anyway, no freebie blue mug, no props, so no real life blue mug. I went running from a class, straight to the play, so no mug of coffee either. Although after reaching the venue, I was made to wait in a serpentine line to enter the air conditioned, mosquito-free part of the audi, before crowding up to enter the actual theater, which we entered after almost an hour! But since I was with my gang, it never really hurt. Plus I was too busy displaying my histrionics, for who knows where I could be 'the new find of 2010'????

Then the play started. The audi was good, albeit a tad cold. The artistes were awesome. Their lines were perfect, the lights were perfect. But in an attempt to tie the whole play to a theme around memories, according to me, something was lost. Ok, I am not a theater afficionado, but I appreciate art and entertainment. Note to self - visit Prithvi and Rangsharda more often, so I have more entities in my consideration set. (Did I just say consideration set???) Anyway. The play certainly had its moments. At some places, like in Ranvir's portrayal of a Punjabi with a 15 minute memory, the humor was strong, and at some places, rather contrived. The play, according to me could not be classified as either serious or humorous, and I prefer silos, so that I can make up my mind whether to come out smiling or reflective.

Sheeba Chadha is an amazing artiste. But her parts were motley to say the least. Glass pieces, to Saharanpur to suddenly Babri Masjid? Yeah, seemed just like the movie Page 3 that aspired to cover all aspects from drug addiction, to paedophilia, to riots to what not! Again, Koko according to me was wasted. Her talent certainly deserves more depth in terms of character. There some portions, like the five petal leaf part, which my little brain didn't quite get the relevance of. So, part serious, part humorous, somewhere frightfully deep, and somewhere ridiculously banal, this play should rather have been called motley or scrapbook or collage! It certainly had its moments and the talent was amazing, and in terms of portraying a theme around memories - their variety and the emptiness of a life without memories was well portrayed. For me, though, it was another tryst with art, theater after a long time, exercise for the right side of my brain, and yet another topic to blog about.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


This has been one helluvan eventful weekend indeed! And yes, Tiger has been in the middle of it all as well. There are just 1411 left, the hoarding claims, and today's papers spoke of 2 more that succumbed. So, 1409 pieces of our National Animal! I just wonder. If this is the fate of our national animal, what could be the fate of all other species in India?

Hoardings, TV ads scream out - 'SAVE THE TIGER'. The idea is to spread awareness amongst our people, about the plight of the tiger. But you know what? Those who need to know, know. The poachers know that the numbers are dwindling. But Chinese medicine demands a killed, mutilated tiger. And how does it matter? Some random animal is killed for medicine. After all, a human being would be cured, only to go on and pillage the environment further. Ok, I may sound harsh. But there are always alternative routes to co-exist, right? If Chinese medicine exterminates a species in totality, tomorrow, this same tiger-parts driven cure would need to move to something else. Why not move to that something else before Stripey loses its mom?

But I guess, we can blame this on the very nature of humanity. I allude to the movie Avatar - (pop culture drives points across more effortlessly). So, the huge red bird, in the movie is a predator and slays the smaller birds, which are the Navi peoples' mounts. So, the princess makes a comment, that the red bird never looks up, since it is never the prey. And this point is used by our hero to tame the red bird and win the peoples' respect as the movie pulls on. So, my point is, that the human race has never been plundered and preyed upon by a more superior species. And yes, this feeling of invincibility has made us nonchalant towards others we share our environment with. Every other entity is inconsequential in the human side of things. And unless something comes to sting us personally, we don't bother about anyone else. Tomorrow, if an arcane tribe develops a medicine for H1N1 or HIV, that needs human liver oil, I wonder about the consequences!

So, what can we do? Honestly, I don't know. The poachers clearly don't care. China is too huge a market. Chinese are known for their scant regard towards anyone but themselves. Laws are lax. Poaching is not punished with severe penalties. The money is huge in the grey market for tiger parts. Here is some perspective. A newspaper report says that 10 grams of tiger parts sells for $30. 10 grams of Silver costs $5! In front of the bullet, the ferocious tiger is powerless. We faced a similar situation early on vis-a-vis the ivory of the tusker. But then ivory was banned, and the problem subsided. Does anyone have the guts to ban Chinese medicine that needs tiger parts? Does anyone have the guts to take on these international cartels and nip the market at its source? A mass movement by you and I, to spread awareness is good. We care. Granted. But this issue is like terrorism. Nabbing the terrorists and punishing them, is just a symptomatic cure. The issue is in the source, and unless terror funding and terror perpetrators and planners are picked up and taken out, the problem shall prevail. Till then, Save the Tiger, Save nature - from us...

Monday, February 15, 2010

No na nein non Part 1

Saying 'no' to someone almost certainly the most difficult thing for us to do. People have said that cultures play a role here and Japanese and Chinese perhaps never say no, because its impolite to say 'no' according to their cultures. But for me, I prefer the closure that comes with a no. At least I've cut out the expectation that goes with a 'non-no'. Unfortunately, those who interact with me, do not know this specific preference of mine! And as a result, the anecdotes are plenty. Here are some - The first in a trilogy :)

I lost my cell phone. Yes, sob sob. I loved my Moto, and I lost it. And with it went my sim. The service provider told me that once I'd blocked it, it would be defunct. So I began my expeditions to cancel my sim card. On every trip though, I was met by expressions that began with "WHAAAAAT???? YOU WANT TO CANCEL YOUR SIM CARD???? Oh no! My bonus is gone" and ended with, "Oh Lord, forgive her for she knows not what she does". And several trips and conversations at various octave levels later, I was told that my sim had been laid to rest. All was good with the world, when suddenly one day, a friend of mine said that a guy answered my phone! And that day I was at an all girls pajama party. No I am not telling you what happened at the party, but I was perplexed. The next day, another friend told me about a guy speaking some weird regional dialect when she called my number. And at this point, I went from perplexed to shocked. And the final straw on the camel's back came when my Jason Bourne instincts, made me call my own number. And instead of speaking to myself (don't laugh), I was talking to some guy!

That's it. I called customer service, expecting the issue to be resolved, only to learn that the piped music was 'never say noooooooooo'. So I called, and I waited, and while I was explaining my problem, they kept cutting me mid-sentence, to... tell me my problem!
'Ma'am, you have a number with us for so long.'
I wish I'd said (IWIS) - 'reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally? I wonder why!!!' I said, "Yes, you see, I'd lost..."
'Ma'am you reported a lost sim card 2 days ago'
IWIS - 'Thank you for telling me, I had been hunting for it in my safety deposit box' I said," Yes, so the issue..."
'Ma'am, we've issued a new sim card and it has been operational since yesterday'
IWIS - 'Ah! indeed. I wonder who's cell phone I am calling from!!!' But by this time, I was a tad angry. Sensing my irritation, she quickly asked me what my problem was. I told her, and she gave me a complaint number and said that she'd revert. I let a day go, with newer reports of strange men receiving my phone calls.

The next day I called again, and the same process repeats, with a guy this time. And yes, I got a different complaint number. This went on, till one day, I said, "Can you or can you not help me?"
"Yes, ma'am, we can. Here is your complaint number".
"Enough of complaint numbers, connect me to your manager."
"I am sorry ma'am, but what would that be regarding?"
IWIS ' I want to ask him out you moron!!' I said, "I am frustrated with complaint numbers, and I want you to tell me whether you can solve my problem, yes or no."
"Yes ma'am. Our person is looking into it. Meanwhile, please note your COMPLAINT NUMBER"
And that was when I solved my problem with one simple message. With a boiling temper, I got to writing my message - 'Hey everyone, please note my new number ......'

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Avatar

Long long time ago; Well, not really that long ago, I'd put in a piece on the perils of social networking. Right here - 'The perils of the social network'.

Yup! FB is addictive. And with Buzz on Gmail, I guess I am a vociferous entity online, completely against the demure dame I am in real life. Ok, don't blame me, but demure dame seemed too good to resist writing! Anyway, on one of my thoughtful jaunts, which I somehow undertake only on FB, I posted a random thought - 'What have I turned into'. The responses were immediate. 'Crackpot', ' Caffeine-addicted thought centered maniac', 'human being', and so on. While I guffawed and grunted at these answers, what amazed me, was the ripple effect a single inane thought could trigger. And that is indeed the power of Web 2.0, as it is called. Within minutes news spreads, the feedback is immediate, almost, and the collaborative effect is huge.

But this same thought also made me think again. Yeah, I do nothing else but think! So, I'd just recently seen the movie Avatar, and the concept of a man telebonding with his blue Navi Avatar was cool. But interestingly, we're all doing the same thing. One human being has numerous Avatars. One on Orkut, one on Facebook, one on Blogger, one on twitter, one on Flickr, one on Picasa. Sometimes, they're all one avatar. But many-a-time, since these avatars are not created concurrently, they are all different, and also have privacy rules set such that specific target audiences alone get to see em! Oh yeah! I am many Navi people :)

All this is great. Jason Bourne has 5 passports, and I have 5 identities online. But there have to be flip sides right? Like Bourne has the passports and cash, but no memory and a Carlos/ Stepan Spalko/ Fadi in hot pursuit. So, social networking, while great has one major flip. And that is the fact that this cuts out real social bonding. And the funniest thing happened to me some time back. I got an FB friend request from this chap in my class. I knew his face, but we'd never really interacted. And now, I was in a fix. If I'd ignored the request, I'd look like a conceited snob. If I accepted, well, how could I, I didn't really know him! But then, out of guilt at not being more socially active in trying to know everyone around me, I accepted the request. And then, Tadaaaa..... the next day, I went to get myself a coffee, and this chap walked right in front of me. I smiled, a big smile of recognition, of friendship, of long lost kinship, of.. ok, you get the point. And what happened next, made me, rather makes me want to go jump off into that water body behind the chai wali tapri. (More on chaai wali tapri later, right now, focus on big picture please). So, as I flashed my 1000 watt smile, this guy, my newly added friend on FB, gave me a puzzled, perplexed look. A look that said in no less words, 'DO I KNOW YOU?????'

And that is where the perils of the social network came crashing down on me. I decided, 'No more conscience/ guilt driven social networking. For me, Facebook shall no longer remain just my book of FACES. Before accepting a friend request, I will ensure I say one real HI to the target first and then Facebook him/ her. At least I can prevent jumping off into a smelly water body and getting drenched up to the ankles!

I read somewhere, that people were moving from emails to Twitter. And I thought. Wow! From the Greek running messengers to pigeons, to smoke signals, to post, courier and email. And when emails started, people lamented the fact that handwriting grew murkier by the day. The emotion that manifests itself in the written hand, suddenly was lost. And now, we are moving from the written word to the Twittered word. So, I guess v nd 2 b prepped 2 read msgs dat luk like German txts or Hebrew codes, going fwd. I can only imagine how bful all dis wld luk n only wish my English teacher cld c how gr8 my riting skills r in dis currnt mode of comm.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

To be or what to be

People keep saying that you need to be different. Stand out from the crowd. Everyone is special and different. Follow your dreams to make your mark in the world. And so on and so forth. And all through life, we go on, believing that we are indeed the next best thing after penicillin. Well, elders would say, no harm in igniting a fire within the generation to go ahead and achieve their goals. And I agree. No harm done in letting us go on with stars in our eyes. Harm is done only when these stars end up becoming shooting stars! Red giant to a white dwarf indeed!
So what is the whole deal about having to be different? Standing out from the crowd that everyone touts all the time. Does it make sense? Well, diversity can perhaps take one to Harvard - like in the movie Legally Blonde maybe. But in life, this diversity comes to sting one back. You are so different from the typical mould, that others don't know where to fit you! And from being a model prototype, you become the outcast, the atypical! And that definitely hurts.

But take the other view. People can't cast you into any of their pre-decided moulds. They expect you to change. Change who you are, how you act, who you deal with, change everything. Project what you are in a way that appeals to others, in a way that others want to see you. That hurts all the more. Why? Because you are in a way shedding what you are, and you are turning into something you have no clue about. And in all probability, you will end up being neither yourself, nor what others want you to be, but rather a weird half-baked concoction that dangles somewhere in between. And that is certainly not very nice.

But what is wrong in being yourself? Why adhere to peer-created mores? Why be politically correct and refrain from calling a spade a spade? The answer is simple. No man is an island. You are what you are perceived to be. And you will be perceived only if others like what they perceive. I know, it is a bit circular in reasoning, but think about it. If being me is so contrary to what others perceive, then it's a sign that what I am is perhaps not as liked by others. And individuality to the extent of being loathed is definitely not what even the most individualistic, self-willed person would want.

So, till society exists, duplicity in all its forms, will perhaps persist. Perhaps that is why behavior is a science, complete with hypotheses, findings, conclusions and underlying principles.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Mumbai - Please leave my city as she is

I am a Mumbaiphile. I love everything about my city - the people, the lifestyle, the culture, the vivacity, the safety, the public transport infrastructure, the everything. Yeah, I know, people may exclaim, "Public transport? Dangling on the foot board of a Virar local is public transport?" All I can say is, well, we at least have a Virar Local, unlike several other cities, where one needs to call a cab to get to places, let alone hail one on the roads. So comparatively Mumbai is a lot better.

But of late, the more I mention Mumbai with the fervence and affection of a Carrie Bradshaw (The New Yorkphile from the show Sex and the City), people look upon me derisively. They say that I speak fondly of a city that is apparently only for the Marathi people. And I feel like screaming - Mumbai would lose its charm if it became yet another vernacular city. I know how tough it was for me, despite being a southie to find my way in a city like Thrissur in Kerala. All signboards were in Malayalam, hardly anyone spoke Hindi, let alone English and my sign language skills just got perfect post my stint there! I can't begin to imagine my city without my Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu speaking friends. In fact the multi-lingualism is what defines the pot-pourri called Mumbai.

India alone is home to several 100 languages and dialects. The Constituion of India recognizes 18 regional languages. Which is why we have a national language - Hindi. Granted, one language should not supplant another. But trying to fractionally distillate a country that has finally merged into one united entity (calls for separate states notwithstanding) is not just counter-productive, it is wrong. Imagine petroleum. It takes millions of years to form and only a few hours to fractionate. At least some good comes out of the fractionation process, but dividing a country as diverse as India on the basis of language, serves no purpose whatsoever.

Take the example of politicians blaming actors for supporting Pakistani cricketers for the IPL. I find that rather funny. The purpose of a sport or music is to unite warring factions. This has been the case right from the days of the Olympics, when all wars were suspended during the period of the games. And now statements like 'SRK is a Muslim first and an Indian later' are ridiculous. Both SRK and Aamir Khan have Hindu wives! How on earth can they possibly be religious fanatics??? Just to score media brownie points, our politicos make statements and that really shows our country in poor light.

Several foreign countries would do anything to have our kind of diversity - geographic, cultural, linguistic - you name it, we have it. And we, instead of thriving on it, squander it away on mindless, petty things. I hope we realize the gift we have and learn to cherish it, before it's too late. Mumbai, my city the way I know it, is great just because it is a melting pot of cultures and languages. I hope no one kills the soul of my city by bringing in mindless divisions, that serve no purpose whatsoever.