Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'd give anything for the simple life

Period movies, 80s music, the Beatles, the oldest Pepsi commercial in India, Amitabh Bachchan movies, visiting villages, roaming around the countryside, listening to stories about how life used to be 'in those days', almost always evokes a happy feeling. Well at least as long as the Amitabh Bachchan movies stop at the era before Toofan and stop well before Lal Badshah and Sooryavansham. I have always wondered why because almost everyone tells us to look to the future and anticipate and enjoy the surprises it brings. They always say that life gets boring when things get predictable and by and far the future is the only thing exciting. Then why does nostalgia manage to bring on a smile all the time?

Going to museums can be a drag for many. Every museum has its own fair share of pots, pans, ceramics of white with blue ink, old tables, chairs, paintings and what not. But the underlying theme here seems to be the awe that people hold for the old. Just like wine and whiskey, old is always better. And even in terms of the way our lives have panned out, life in the 'days of yore' were decidedly better. 

The other day, I happened to read about the Japanese Tea Ceremony. And as chance would have it, there was an exhibit of the same at the museum. So there was the tea caddy, a small spatula like rod for spooning out tea into a cup, a small towel, a cup, a whisk, a ladle and so on. And the whole process, as seen on a video was mind blowing. Not because they prepare tea in some sort of superhuman way, although I haven't tasted the authentic thick and thin tea and so I don't know anything about the taste, but because all this ceremony was for the mundane act of drinking TEA! Something we do twice, and some of us do once every two hours! I could devote a whole post on the tea ceremony, but the key point here is the stress given to each piece of the process, for even so mundane an act. Cleaning the tea cup where the tea leaves are mixed and whisked with hot water is done in a certain way. The towel used is folded in a certain way. The ladle used to draw hot water is placed back after use in a certain way. The whisk is placed in and picked up by an odd twist of the hands. I was awed. More than awed. Again not because of the way it was done, but because of the simple product it was meant to produce. Simple. So the key here, was simple!

Again, I happened to see an exhibit of an excavation at Godin Tepe, near Iran, where they excavated 4 civilizations built one on top of the other in the same spot spanning several thousand years. The exhibits involved pots, pans, spoons, and other instruments of simple everyday life. A simple life, where one goes to hunt food anywhere as one knows no boundaries, one prepares a simple meal,uses  rivers to wash clothes, utensils and even oneself, enjoys a simple conversation, music is folk music with them singing and at times even dancing, warmth of a fire and sleep on a simple mat on the floor.

Cut to today. Both work or try to work assuming visas and permits that separate geographies do not come in the way, restaurants cook, dishwasher cleans, washing machines launder, maid cleans. Food is fatty, unhealthy. Music is that which is spewed by anything that catches people's attention, or else what can explain the fan following for a certain Macy Gray, Lenny Kravitz or even Amy Winehouse (God bless her soul)? We're too inhibited to dance for others to see and bathtubs are too slippery to dance for oneself. Everyone carries a phone and that too not any phone but smartphones, to check emails and update Facebook while driving a gas guzzling car in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Conversations are FB updates and vowel-less text messages. And that is assuming people have the temperament to have a conversation, without picking up a quarrel!

And I wondered. What will museums look like 400 years from today? A  BlackBerry, an i-Pod, an i-Pad, a life-size portrait of a Mr. Jobs, Pyrex and Tupperware microwave-safe utensils, with an aesthetic crack since they are in a museum, a big dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, vacuum cleaner? Or maybe just a website with all these pictures. Oh! With a copious amount of inexplicable Modern Art! Joan Miro, anyone? Or even the surreal Mr. Dali? Or perhaps Rothko!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kolaveri, i-fads, Salem witch trials, INSANITY!!!

For starters, I can't believe I am writing about this. After all this hype, it just looks as though I want a piece of the action too, and that is why I am 'kolaveri-ing' away. Honestly, that is not the case. What is the case, is that this song is infectiously catchy! And oddly enough, not in an 'Oh my God! Get this song out of my head way'! so seriously, why this kolaveri???

Well, there hasn't been any shortage of inexplicable fads of late. Why, the very i-phenomenon leads the pack. How else can you explain people staying up all night to order the i-phone 4s, on a continuously crashing site? How else can you explain someone (read me) spending a whole day fighting with errors trying to install iOS 5, the day it was released, when the very next day installation on a phone proceeded like a dream? How else can you explain the phone being a huge grosser at the outset, when there were much better phones, available for lesser in the market? How else can one explain the very smartphone market? Honestly I wouldn't need to be perennially stuck to my email if I am just someone sitting at home all day, doing nothing, and no one needs an immediate response from me, whatsoever!

So, when this song caught on, I was surprised. Well, it really isn't a very bad song, given that songs like Altaf Raja's 'tum toh thehre pardesi' has had longer standing fan following. Just because it is that bad. Or for that matter, even the fame of a certain Mika falls in the same category. So good, because it is sooooooo bad. Gunda, the legendary cult movie, which even I have seen several times, just because of the terrible dialogues, or maybe just to appreciate a man who had such faith in his own work that he went ahead and made such a terrible movie. While on the topic of SGBSB (So Good Because So Bad), all new fans of Kollywood, must watch a movie called Yaarukku Yaaro Stepnee. It is on YouTube, and yes, Stepnee is the right spelling. It has awesome lines that translate into stuff like 'You think I treat you like a stepny, when in reality, I want you with me in every step... ovvoru stepu nee, in Tam'. If someone found a link and put in on FB, I am sure even this movie would get the Oscar equivalent of bad movies!

The whole Kolaveri phenomenon, the way it was covered in the news, or spoken about, or shared and tweeted on, really flashes back images of the Salem witch trials. Rajnikant's son-in-law might just hunt me down for likening his song to being burnt at a stake, but think about it. Such a massive herd following, many even 'Facebook liking' the video because it is cool to know Kolaveri. I guess, in the current age, give any thought to FB, be it an Egyptian overhaul or a scrawny guy singing a silly song with outrageous lyrics, it will end up becoming a phenomenon.

What's next then? The Bacchan granddaughter won the Miss World pageant already, or got an Oscar for future estimated sterling performance? FB like anyone???

Friday, November 04, 2011

Money at all costs.... Consultants, hedge funds and insiders

Spartacus, Rocky, Cinderella, Obama every Amitabh Bachhan movie.... What do all of these have in common? The story of the underdog. For some reason, everyone likes a good underdog story. And that is perhaps why there is such a huge surge in the number of stories and articles on Rajat Gupta and Raj Rajaratnam of late!

Insider trading is not a new construct. Martha Stewart was perhaps the biggest name a few years ago and everyone knows that insider trading is not unknown in India. But when big names and billionaire hedge funds are involved, the scale of the events just hits gargantuan proportions. Media has a lot more to talk about, and the stories look a lot more psychedelic. Imagine saying ," richest Sri Lankan born American on the planet caught in insider trading". given the current mood of 'if jobless, occupy a city square', the whole 'down with greed' theme seems to get its perfect frontpage story. And unfortunately we Indians and our 'money at all costs a.k.a greed' attitude provide the perfect gasoline steeped firewood for this fire!

I happened to read a couple of articles on these gentlemen the other day. Each written in an attempt to project the humane side of each of these supposed Wall Street manipulators. So, I learnt that Rajaratnam belonged to the Sinhalese minority (LTTE, anyone?) and that he had been physically assaulted when he was studying in the UK. Furthermore he wasn't privy to the so-called Jewish clique when he was graduating from Wharton! His father had been an upright 'head ASPAC' of Singer Sewing Machines, the largest selling brand of sewing machines in the East! He got to study in UK, and made it to prestigious Wharton, where B school education is one of the most expensive in the world! Anyone heard of Richie Rich (Poor little rich man indeed!) and as for Mr. Gupta, he was an academically brilliant young man, and a professor at Harvard made a personal call to the CEO of McKinsey to make them recruit Rajat, and not turn him down for want of experience. Here was someone who advised large companies and told them how to conduct business, solve their problems and amassed enormous wealth in the process. But there always is a gap between the cup and the lip and no matter how wealthy one gets, someone else is always richer! And looking at the South Asian community success stories in the west, a pattern emerges. A pattern of flimsy ethics and a goal described by only money!

But the story throws up a ton of unanswerable questions. Like why does a hedge fund manager educated at Wharton need to pay a million dollars a year to a consultant to tell him what is and isn't insider information? Wouldn't anyone know that discussing outcomes of board meetings with directors is material nonpublic information? How could a Wharton educated billionaire hedge fund manager whose wiretaps are public domain information plead not guilty based on a soothsayer's prediction? (There is a story that says that an ola leaf soothsayer said that such calamities would befall Rajaratnam and that he would finally prevail). And then, consultants, are known to advise clients how to solve their problems by sometimes exploiting loopholes, all the while ensuring they followed the laws to the letter, not always in spirit. But can this tactic be a process one employs in one's own life? Can knowing how to twist the rules be a noble safeguard against penalty for breaking the rules? One then wonders whether it makes any sense for someone to sully one's reputation built over a 40 year period in a quest for more and more money! One of those articles had a ridiculous line that went on to say that one needn't denigrate Mr Gupta, because everyone has twisted the laws at some time or the other! But in all honesty, if he is guilty of what he did, his fault is bigger, as he betrayed the trust of all such big corporations and their shareholders all for personal gain and also provided a dead blow to the reputation of all Indians who have tried to make it big in the world!

But the worst plaguing question is one line I read in an article that said that all non Indians had entered into a plea bargain without a wiretap while all the Indians who were accused, plea bargained with a wiretap. In other words, just the Indians had no issues making money off of someone only to turn on him ones times soured! Money at all costs, use people and throw them away and have really flimsy ethics and scant regard for human relationships? That Indian success story is better best forgotten!  

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Indian GP and Metallica - do not mean India has arrived.....

'Master of Puppets' and whizzing cars on a racetrack - integral parts of every young person's life! A perfect juxtaposition then, that a Metallica concert and the inaugural Indian Grand Prix was scheduled for last weekend. The only problem, though, was that all this was happening in India! And for some weird, random reason, everyone wants to scream out loud that 'India has arrived'. As certified by Metallica and Bernie Ecclestone????

So, Bryan Adams, Michael Jackson, Enrique Iglesias have all come here and performed. And we've always had tamashas with these performances! What with Bal Thackeray's Patel Shot with MJ, Enrique's risqué stage performance being blasted by our very own moral police! So when the greatest band of all time (Rolling Stones and Iron Maiden fans, please excuse) was coming to town, some 'locha' was expected. But no one knew, or expected 'Shining India' Indians to turn into hooligans. Now if someone had seen those village shows that featured folk art with rural, cheap liquor swigging bumpkins as audience, they might have had a glimpse of what real Indian audiences can be like! So when crowds got unruly, noisy, restless, nonsense was expected. And honestly, when 'sophisticated' audiences started breaking up equipment, the mind brought out the image of the village bumpkin! India shone, didn't it?

And now comes F1. When news of the race started appearing on TV, other news that aired at the same time, was that of 12 infants dying in Calcutta in a span of 24 hours! When India is unable to provide for healthcare in even the metros, can we really say that India is shining, because a handful of affluent Indians who know of no better use of 40,000 rupees, choose to go see a race for Facebook update purposes? When I said this to someone, they said," go see a race and you would know why it really is such a big deal". Well, honestly, having been to one, the experience is akin to climbing a nondescript mountain. You yearn to climb it, but once you do, you don't want to climb it again. So at a time, 25000 Indians blow off freshly earned excess money on a race. Does India churn out 25000 new moneyed yuppies each year? NO! So what happens in 2012? Will the same guys go and see the race again and post 'part of history.... Watched the Indian GP (pronounced as gro pri)....' on Facebook? Again?

And why should such an overpriced sport get tax rebates? A sport that even the participants find overpriced. And why should billionaire Ecclestone be subsidized by the Emerging Indian? Why do we yearn for certification by outsiders? Someone hyphenated India and China and so we Indians wannabe China! China conducted the Olympics and so we conducted the Commonwealth Games and gobbled up a lot of money! China has a F1 race, so we should too! Why? Why aren't we proud of who we are? We respect human rights more than the Chinese do. Gandhiji refused to dress up in a dinner jacket to meet the king, and he was ok with not meeting the king. But today, we're too much of the wannabe type!

Ask any European, American or Canadian whether he would blow off a 1000 dollars on a Formula 1 race. I did ask, and I was looked upon with derision, when I told them that the cost of the best tickets in India was 1000 bucks. "You Indians are like the Japanese of the Eighties," someone said. But India can never lose a decade like the Japs did, just because such blatant shows of moneyness comes from just a handful of Indians.

And 25000 Indians do not make 900 million Indians shine! So till we can provide food and healthcare to every Indian, WE HAVE NOT ARRIVED!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I am not the 99%... Occupy Wall Street Protests

"I am the 99%" is a new slogan that has caught on with New Yorkers. All of America, some claim. They say that the 'Occupy Wall St' protest is a manifestation of the frustration of the 99% Americans who feel like they have been forsaken by the system in favor of the 1%. In principle, I agree with the protest against big bonuses with bailout money, but, when seen from closer quarters, I somehow felt that the real message had been lost in translation.

So when we walked into 'Liberty Square' as some choose to call Zuccotti Park in the wake of the protests, it just seemed like we had walked into a small crowd assembled in a flea market of sorts. For me, it was as if I was walking through Colaba Causeway in Mumbai, scrounging for junk jewelry, except that instead of random shopkeepers asking me to come sample their merchandise, there were a few bedraggled people mouthing protests. Instead of flashy store signs, there were scribblings on psychedelic signboards. And just a handful had anything to do with Wall Street. 

One spoke of bailouts, one spoke of corporate bandits in Wall Street or some such story and one just said 'Goldman Sachs hates America'. And while I looked at these posters, A band of people walked by chanting 'Less Greed, more Green'. And a little further on, someone started off screaming 'Fox News, we hate you'. And there were signboards slamming Monsanto and GM food! There were some making a statement with painted hair and faces, and the signage said 'Kill Turkish dictatorship!' There was a heavyset man with a Templar helmet and a sign that said 'Class Warrior'. I am sure he got photographed a billion times, not for his message, because I am sure very few would have grasped what he was protesting about, but rather for his getup. Early Halloween, maybe. Relevance, anyone? It looked as if there was a gross lack of theme in the whole movement, except that anyone who wanted to protest about anything could congregate there. And anything was almost anything! 

People holding out signs hinting at anti-capitalism were more than happy to smile into digital cameras. So, everyone was much too busy protesting against capitalism, on signboards made using psychedelic ink on shiny paper, or using LED lights for their signage. But without innovation and free markets dictating innovation, could we have imagined paper, ink, why even the jeans worn by people?

America is capitalist, believing in the concept of survival, and maybe flourishing of the fittest. And this model has served them well. Free innovation, knowing that he who survives will succeed has stood them in good stead and has led to the US being a pioneer in everything from life sciences to defense. There have been excesses in the recent past, no doubt, but power has been known to corrupt and history has shown excesses at all levels. But free enterprise and financial innovation cannot be done away with. One cannot fight Big Pharma just because they are big and therefore wrong! Had it not been for Pfizer, we would never have had penicillin! And had it not been for Wall Street, the iPhone 4S might have ended up in the grave along with Steve Jobs. 

And while big bonuses for bailout firms is an irony and perhaps needs to be done away with, t-shirts with 'Occupy Wall Street', that were selling by Zuccotti Park, perhaps captured the true essence of it all. The system is built in a certain way, and this system has been seen to succeed for all these years. Suddenly, if some feel like the overhaul of the system has thrown them out, and so want the whole system to be done away with, they perhaps have to realize that while they are protesting their heart out, someone somewhere is cashing in on the situation. He alone is perhaps the 1%. And if that is the message that comes out, I am so not the 99%.....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A brilliant edifice needs a passionate foundation - Part 2

Continuing from part 1, speaking of Steve Jobs on the eve of i-Phone 4S shipping day. So following his dream and starting Apple, growing the company on the basis of his vision, getting publicly fired from his own company, starting NeXT computers, a failure which proved to be the basis of today's web servers, starting Pixar which made Toy Story, A Bug's life, Antz and numerous others which have been thrilling children and adults alike over all these years, only to get back to a floundering Apple with his repertoire of i-Pods, i-Pads, Macbooks and of course the i-Phone to turn the company around, Steve Jobs is the kind of entrepreneur everyone aims to become. His artistic touch can be seen in every Apple product, to date and that's why, even if the i-Phone 4 came out with antenna issues needing a casing to be able to function, people bought it. After a while, they even paid to buy a casing that was essential to cover a true folly in the product. And soon after i-phone 4S' release, critics and tech analysts declared that the product was mediocre, and would just about catch up with the Androids that exist today. Yet, when the announcement of his death came out, it was but obvious that everyone wanted to own Steve's swansong product. Not because they wanted the technology, but because they wanted a part of Steve, his spirit, his passion. So people, even ones I know, stayed up till 3 AM to order their products online and i-Phone has seen record sales this week!

I remember his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 when he addressed the students on 'connecting the dots', 'love and loss' and 'death'. He lived his life along those lines, and he is a man, who managed to do good for the company even through his death. There is an old South Indian story about a nobleman who was known for his generosity, who apparently even performed charity after he died. The story goes as thus - thsi nobleman would give away some money to any artist who came to his door. Hearing his fame, a poor poet came from afar hoping to get some money for his art and when he reached the village, he came to know that the man had passed away. Upon hearing this he started crying, whereupon the dead nobleman's fist fell open and a ring came running out to the poet's feet. That is essentially what even Jobs has achieved - magic when he was alive and success even when he died. 

If one were to look closely at these lives, one would realize that what defined these lives, was the passion and love for what they did. Be it Shammi Kapoor and his acting, Pataudi and cricket, Singh and Ghazals or Jobs and technology. When the passion is present, the brilliance comes through. And this brilliance lives on, long after one is gone. Each time I'd look at an i-pod or i-pad or even the i-phone, the only face that would come in front of me, would be that of Jobs.  While alive, Jobs had the tag of being ruthless, arrogant, a severe taskmaster and what not. But no one today will ever remember these aspects. If anything, all they'd care would be what he left behind in the world. 

 So, if I could wish, I would wish for the attitude of these people, towards all that I do, while asking for the ability to find out soon, what I would truly like to do with my life. For that alone would define what I would be remembered a. Perhaps not on a scale as grand as those I spoke of above, but at least among those I like to call as part of my circle.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A brilliant edifice needs a passionate foundation - Part 1

Name and fame during one's lifetime is not the real deal. What truly matters is how one is perceived and remembered after one is gone. These past couple of months alone have seen several people, Shammi Kapoor, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Jagjit Singh and Steve Jobs, in particular, leave a void in our generation as we know it. And each of them will be remembered, and remembered well, for all that they have done in their lifetime. They perhaps were known in a certain way when they were alive, but their passion for their art or their profession is all that will define them in all the years to come.

Expectedly overshadowed by his elder brother, the legendary Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor had to carve out a niche for himself in the market, given that his contemporaries were Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and all such big names whose movies would run just because they starred these people. And so he created this niche for himself as a bumbling, clumsy at times, romantic hero whose antics were more or less inimitable! Songs of his movies are still huge hits when played, and 40 odd years on, they continue to offer a light-hearted afternoon, a welcome break from the thought-provoking cinema of today. When asked what he would have done with his life, if not an actor, he said that he could conceive of no other profession!

MAK Pataudi, well, was in the news always for being the Nawab who married the then reigning supreme Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore. But he will always be respected in the cricketing world for being the youngest Test Captain at 21 and being impeccable in the sport despite having just one functioning eye! And despite all the luxury that birth in a royal household could afford, he chose to spend hours on a pitch practising, leading the country and carving out a niche for himself. And he will be remembered as one of cricket's greatest by record-holding greats like Tendulkar as well. The underlying feature here - passion for the sport.

Jagjit Singh. Well, Indian Classical music has churned out stalwarts by the hundreds over all these years. But Jagjit Singh can perhaps be credited with the laurel of making Ghazals appeal to the mainstream audience. An audience that even comprises youth that cringes at the very mention of classical music. And with a voice as sublime as his, whether he was singing 'Woh Chandni ki raat thi', or 'Kaagaz ki kashti' as part of his ghazal performances or even songs like 'tum itna kyun muskura rahe ho' and more recently 'hoshwaalon ko khabar kya' in the movies, he could evoke any emotion in the minds of the listener. Again, passion for the art.

And finally Steve Jobs. I guess the internet is replete with eulogies and anecdotes and people expressing their sentiments about the short but completely meaningful life of a man who has managed to thrill many a life through his own endeavors! And his story would need a post of it's own to do him justice.... in part 2.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chaos theory and the Great Recession

The butterfly effect - a good movie and an even more powerful mathematical construct - chaos theory. The situation that exists in today's world seems to conform to only this construct, if at all. They say that there are three main defining aspects to chaos theory, and the way I understand it, those conditions are - 1. Sensitivity or dependence to initial situations or triggers, 2. Mixing or topological transitivity or simply, overlap and finally, the most elegant of them all - density of periodic orbits, or that every point in the system is a finite distance away from a periodic, repeating orbit or simply put, every system is in a precarious state of stability, being just a miniscule distance away from... chaos! Now look at the current economic mess we are in. 

Housing boom, banking boom, loans repackaged, investment banks flourishing, CDOs, passing-the-parcel, the buck stopped, housing bust, CDOs flopped, banks plopped. Policy makers decided not to spare the rod and spoil the child and let Lehman go bust. Condition 1- Sensitivity to initial conditions. The first initial condition of what to do when Lehman was looking to go insolvent - had the reaction panned out differently, the world would have been different today! What policymakers didn't realize then, was that Lehman would take with it the whole financial system and put the world into a form of inexplicable chaos! What with European exposure to Lehman and the wonderful world of CDOs, and who expected AIG, the single largest insurer of all things risky, to face claims on all it's risks? The proverbial black swan was showing it's ugly face almost all over the world at once. And suddenly industry and producers were facing a credit freeze and people like GE were having trouble raising money to run everyday operations. TARP happened, cheap money was given out, but the economy was shaken and risk aversion kicked in. The credit freeze contagion spread and welfare state Europe began to realize how years of condoning mediocrity was doing them in. PIIGS or Portugal, Iceland, Italy, Greece and Spain suddenly found themselves in debts they were unable to pay. Unrest skyrocketed, and people took to the streets in Athens, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and grim fears of war materialized. Condition 2 - Topological transitivity! 
Obama came to power, and people expected the fairy tale to continue and half expected him to wave a magic wand that could rid them of all maladies. But QE 1, 2 and 3 can only do so much if banks are unwilling to lend and people are unwilling to spend! So once upon a time banks lent money to a man with no fixed income and let him realize his dream of a swanky house he couldn't afford. Now, bitten by the shock of a fellow bank going non-existent, every bank started playing safe... perhaps too safe at that! And now, when 'Operation Twist' happened a few days back with lowering long term yields to make the short term yields look more promising, the street took the exact opposite view and believed that long term prospects look grim! Each time a steady state is approached or thought to be approached, we get nudged into yet another unsteady tailspin. Condition 3 - Density of periodic orbits....

And grim as it may sound, the phenomenon of history repeating itself (a manifestation of condition 3) does seem a reality. Lehman was allowed to fail as policy makers wanted to set an example and teach a lesson. Talks in Europe show that no country wants to hurt itself a bit in a bid to save a pal. Will Christine Lagarde let Greece fail in order to teach a lesson on austerity? Unrest began on Athens streets, and spread over to the Middle East and skeletons keep falling out of corrupt Indian closets every day. Fights on streets for jobs is a reality everywhere and civilized society is not any different, except maybe in the absence of fisticuffs and public fights. But if the Transcanada Pipeline controversy or the Keystone Controversy as it is called is anything to go by, with Americans in Nebraska fighting the pipeline that can connect supply from Oil Sands rich Alberta to refineries in the Gulf Coast on grounds that are environmental on the surface and protectionist towards jobs on the inside, it just looks like it is the Great Depression all over again. It took a World War to get the world out saner, more humble and tragically tempered. 

Hope the Butterfly somewhere can flap its wings to preclude that repetition and somehow get us all out of this chaos saner, more humble, more cohesive, more sensible and definitely less greedy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stereotypical Screw looses : Tryst with TIFF - II

Frustrated and cowering after The loneliest planet, I looked at the lineup of the TIFF evening and saw the summary of 'the incident'. Looked promising again. 3 sane cooks at a mental asylum caught in the frenzy when the power fails! Interesting. I expected something akin to Shutter Island and given my own very recent experience with power outages in the wake of hurricane Haha, sorry Irene, the juxtaposition felt just right. So after an arbit morning, spent trying to use my intelligence to make an unimpressive movie seem nice, I persevered and made bold to go see another movie at TIFF. A friend had remarked, that Slumdog had received rave reviews at TIFF and it had gone on to become a sweeper of all awards the subsequent year. So I was on the lookout for bragging rights towards having sampled perhaps the 2012 Oscar phenomenon! 

It was a movie by music video director Alexander Courtes and the story is essentially what I just mentioned. and more than a story, the logical loopholes stare you in the face! Power outage, the criminally insane are on the loose and their only goal seems to be to catch and torture and kill the 3 cooks! Really? Motive, someone? The only thing they want to do is kill the cooks? Insane! Oh wait! They already are!!! And so am I, for sure!!!! So, there is a super storm in the year 1989, the year is perhaps a disclaimer as to why no one has cell phones, or back up power or why the police is so slow or even better, why there are no doctors in the asylum! Yes, the asylum with over 50 inmates, has 3 security guards, with no firearms, and 0 doctors. Our sane cooks take pains to feed them, all in an attempt to make money for their dysfunctional band. Again, why work in such a high risk scenario for a band when they actually hate each other?

Then comes the actual power outage. The storm knocks off power when the inmates are in the cafeteria for food. The only 'meds' they get are from this nurse and the meds they get look like M&Ms and 2 stereotypical white pills for EVERYONE! Please! Mental health covers everything from schizophrenia to psychosis and the treatment implies 3 pills across the board??? Eli Lilly might be real upset, given their extensive research into Mental Health!!! The power goes out and JB, the main, scary security guard enlists the help of our 3 cooks to take the inmates back to their rooms. Fine. And they do, in single file. Except that they take them to their rooms, and just shut the door! No electricity, somebody? So automatic locks won't work? Even a chimp would try to wriggle the door and unlocked doors open easily, even for the insane! So they're all out, they bump off all the guards at once. Clearly a bump on the head against the wall kills the guards, but it takes a lot more to power down the insane. And remember, if you are insane, all you do is staaaare! Staaaaaaaaaaare like no tomorrow, for that is all that insane guys do!

Then starts an endless cat and mouse routine, with all forms of torture being shown explicitly on screen. So battering on the head, thrusting a rod into someone's middle, skinning someone, burning someone on a burner.... the works. Ok, so the sane get tortured by the insane, and all the sane can do is yelp! Then comes the supreme gore. One of the sane cooks, who thinks one of the insane is out to get him, sees the insane guy eat his own fingers. EWWWWWWWWW! This is not horror. This is gore. And a distinction exists as per the Oxford English Dictionary! Blairwitch Project - Scary. Saw - Gory!!! So everyone is bumped off except 2 sane cooks and at the end, one sane cook turns insane. Or does he? Does he cease to exist? Or what?

Such was my last encounter with TIFF 2011. It was also the last movie to be screened this year at TIFF. While opening, the MC said that in a previous screening 2 people passed out and he wasn't sure whether it was because of the movie or the drinking and partying. I declare, it was the movie and not because it was scary, but people burst their sides laughing! At least I did!!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tryst with the TIFF - I : Arbit arbit arbit abrupt!

I knew film festivals were akin to 'modern art' exhibitions. Like looking at say a Mark Rothko and trying to make sense of it, so you don't feel too stupid in the crowd you're standing in. I knew that if the movie was arbit, it would be featured. That my first ever tryst with a fim festival would be so arbitrary, and inexplicable, was never really expected.

So on a crisp Sunday morning, the closing day of the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), I decided to sample the fest to my senses! So with jacket, accessories et al, completing my art aficionado ensemble, I stepped in to watch something called The Lonliest Planet. The summary on TIFF, said that it was a movie that explores a young couple's life against the rugged Georgian landscape. Essentially, what it said was that 2 young people, evidently in love embark on a backpacking trip in Georgia. In the middle of a hike, all equations are turned on their heads by an incident, that perhaps even ends before you realize it. And the couple then evaluates the truth of their relationship, and the very basis shows signs of being threatened. Super impressive summary, Georgia, backpacking, human nature - it had it all, I believed and I was rather proud of my choice.

But this movie had an opening sequence that almost made me cringe. Darkness, a creaking sound and a woman screaming made me fear the worst, and shocking as the scene may be, I still haven't quite understood why the opening scene was so inexplicably ridiculous! Apart from a shock element and the unnecessarily presumed essential entry condition of female nudity, there was no coherent reason why someone would want to show a soap clad, not-intensely-attractive woman screaming and jumping in a decrepit bathroom. Someone, incidentally had a better immediate interpretation! He felt that the lady was insane, and the hero who ran in to wash off the soap was her caregiver! Maybe she was! Or maybe, as hindsight showed, I am insane, given my wonderful capacity to choose movies!

So after our great art movie opening sequence, we are told that the lady is not insane and the man is not a caregiver, but they are rather a couple who is very much in love and engaged to be married. Man, love is blind in more than one way! So they're in Georgia for a backpacking vacation and for company they have a Georgian tour guide. They walk, climb, frolick in the grass, take together-together pictures and walk and walk and walk in silence. Then came a shot of a large mountain and I was stuck looking at that mountain for a good one minute, wondering why, when suddenly 3 figures were moving at the bottom of my screen - presumably, tour guide, distance, man and woman together. The only dialogues so far are random comments like 'I want to buy a Japanese car' by the rambling tour guide, who has performed the best despite the hero being the guy who played Che Guevarra in the Motorcycle Diaries or more notably Octavio in Amores Perros!

Then comes the shattering scene, the famous scene that is going to change everything and expose the fragile threads that hold these people together! Great scene, all in Georgian, but understandable. Here is what happens. What appears like a band of bandits come to the site, yap animatedly with the tour guide and when interrupted by our hero, he points up his gun and instinctively the hero hides behind his fiancee for a split second, before hurrying in front. The next scene is again a landscape, and three tiny figures move across the scene, and it is tour guide, distance, woman, distance, man. Very well taken, and perhaps the only good thing about the movie. After this it just looks like the director has squandered away what could potentially have been something akin to a 'Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf' in terms of implied psychological undercurrents! I, for one, expected some flash insight into the past, which could perhaps have blown up in the current context. I expected an exchange, at least with expressions, if words are not arty enough and I expected a re-evaluation of relationships as the summary claimed. And I fretted so much after the movie, because I expected my creative instincts and expectations to be satisfied!

In what appears like a movie where the editor went on strike, we have another patchwork of silences in the rain, where the hero walks off in a huff when the woman smokes a puff and the woman, who so far has been angry holds her raincoat over the drenched hero. Then we have a bonfire picnic, where the tour guide gives his poignant story and yet another level of ridiculous inexplicability follows. The last scene is a do-it-yourself guide of how to dismantle a tent. End of story.

At the end of this, I was left dumbstruck, yet thankful that the movie ended and I wondered whether arbit movies with abrupt endings are definitions of film festival movies! A sense of perseverence prevailed and I went to watch yet another one later that night, though I shall write about it in part II.... where I flirted with psychos! I mean the movie and not necessarily the crew! Or maybe not......

Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 years on......

What is with people and the perennial focus on depressing events? Every news channel has a show that glosses over pain and suffering in Africa, or on refugees in the Middle East. For so long, every single twisty wind in every ocean around this land mass was the center of attraction. And now, given that tomorrow marks the ten year anniversary for the Sept 11 attacks on NYC, even if it had slipped someone's mind, the media wouldn't let anyone forget. The buildup has been going on for over a week now, with every news channel streaming decade old pictures with captions like - Lest we forget.

The stress has been on so many real depressing aspects like the psychological effects on first respondents, or how survivors remember the event and so on. Beyond a point, the melancholy really makes you wonder why! After all these years, why exactly should one gloss over the old, really sad, depressing events? That too in a world, where 'moving on' is the only static rule in life - be it relationships, jobs, or even life in general!

The irony of it all perhaps hits someone from a country like India, or maybe a place like say Israel or the Middle East! Places that have been ravaged by war and strife over all these years! The September 11 attack is perhaps really stark, because after Pearl Harbor, there had never been any attack on American soil. Pearl Harbor too was a wartime event and perhaps doesn't quite qualify! And bringing the perpetrators to book, was an almost expected act on the part of the World's superpower. The very power that America wields on the world, on the basis of it's economic capacities, at least those that existed before the Great Recession, allowed her to make the bold move into Pakistani soil and take out Bin Laden. And maybe 10 years on, you must applaud the fact that they were sincere about the wish to bring closure to those who suffered losses on Sept 11, 2001.

It is time we took a lesson from this sincerity and maybe decided not to let Qasab and all other perpetrators, from the Memon era continue to cool their heels on Indian tax payer money while letting those who suffered in Indian terror attacks continue suffering every living day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane HaHa

If only I had decided to spend this past weekend in some remote forest, completely cut off from civilization, without network coverage would I still believe that Irene was just Sherlock Holmes' evasive love interest. Given the continuous hammering given by the news channels and news websites, I have no choice but to know now, that  Irene is/was also a hurricane. Hurricanes are not new to the US, with places like New Orleans, North Carolina, and even provinces like Puerto Rico, Bahamas being so used to hurricanes, that they have an additional season - the hurricane season. But Hurricane Irene came and went like a breeze. Except that the media refused to let it just go! And decided that everyone else had to endure non-stop hammering with senseless, meaningless news all day long. Rains ensured that one couldn't step out. And news channels ensured that one could not tolerate sitting inside the house. Why did I spend time watching the news? Well, soaps need some conditioning to get used to (pun intended), Netflix was being rude and after a while the idiocy of the news got super hilllarious!

So what started as a category 4 storm projected to hit North Carolina, got downgraded to category 2 by the time the weekend approached. And when it finally arrived over the weekend, it became a category 1 or rather a tropical storm, much like the winds that lash Mumbai's sea face during the monsoons. But the hype had been built, the speeches written and Bloomberg exhorted New Yorkers to buckle up and face this adversity, as they were after all living in the 'world's best city'. Clearly he hasn't visited Tokyo, or Paris or Mumbai! And Fox and CNN had found a reason to finally ditch Gaddafi. They started 3 days before the weekend with continuous analysis of the storm, and expert views on which way the wind should ideally blow. Then followed a big discussion of the psyche of New Yorkers who were worried about the hurricane, given that all they've faced so far was light rain in the wake of hurricanes hitting elsewhere. There were special reports with people saying that they were stocking up ropes, wooden boards, flashlights, clearing up their patio and worrying about what they would do in the wake of the wind! Then the hurricane arrived and in typical 'Khoda pahaad nikla chooha style', it ended up being a whooshing wind with some rain.But the stories continued. They had to, given that they had already ditched Gaddafi. So came a video of a rotund guy swimming in shin deep water on 160th street with the newscaster proclaiming how New Yorkers, as always, found something positive to turn any situation around, saying, "What do you do when life hands you lemons? Make lemonade!" People, on their part, took the cue and got scared. Definitely in NYC, and also all over the east coast. Bread vanished from shelves in my nearby grocery store, and flashlights and batteries are still missing!

Unfortunately, the crumbling infrastructure ensured flooding ensued and swaying old trees broke on electricity cables rendering a greater part of the east coast powerless - literally too! So the vanished flashlights perhaps came to good use, given that 4 days after a wind blew, most gas stations still don't work. and a greater part of East Coast Americans are out of power. Floods were all over the place. Basements flooded, people complained, and Tylenol ads have since been on an overdrive.

Mumbai, on an average has faced rains. Our prediction systems are not as wonderful, and no one knew 26 July 2005 would inundate all of Mumbai. Almost every year we have intense rains, leaky ceilings, waterlogged roads, and transport is painfully slow. But somehow, the panic is never there. No vanishing flashlights, no stockpiling of food, and no weather channel on primetime television. I must say, people here, the media in particular have psyches as volatile as the weather! Given a choice, the media could sense a breeze and call it Hurricane Haha and all of America would definitely react!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Anna Hazare is not following FB and Twitter posts

A movement that began in April with an Independence Day ultimatum is on in full force now thanks to Anna Hazare, a man known best for his developmental initiatives - Ralegaon Siddhi in Ahmednagar in particular - a drought-prone village which began seeing year-round water supply, a grain bank, a school and no poverty after his efforts rallied the villagers into becoming self-sufficient and empowered. The blatancy of the Commonwealth scam, the 2G spectrum allocation scam, shamed the average Indian, but a sense of 'what am I going to do, anyway' crept in as always and we kept watching the TV screens in horror as scam TV started hogging prime time TV space! Till one day, one man decided that enough is enough. A man with a track record, given that his crusade got the Right to Information act enacted and this act has benefited people by the millions! Very good! It is high time someone told our Government that we are a democracy and though we may be too involved in the throes of everyday life, at some point, some of us care about how we are perceived in this small world!

His protest has managed to galvanize the average Indian, and that is heartening. It feels good to know that people are gathering in places to express their solidarity and also joining Anna Hazare in his fast. Finally, after putting up with terror attacks, the Government's damp squib responses to terror abatement, image damage in the wake of scams, the average Indian perhaps believes he has had enough. And Bravo to that!

But while the protest has managed to rally people together against the ineffectiveness of the Indian Government, it has managed to stoke the imagination of the 'Social network patriot', as I'd like to call that breed! The timing of Anna's protest has been very opportune for the average Indian. Tahrir Sqaure is fresh in everyone's mind and the Facebook Revolution has seemed like a fun thing to do for everyone! People suddenly got fired up, seeing how one FB message overthrew the rulers in Tunisia and 40 years of dictatorial rule in Egypt, and completely shook up the Middle East. Urban India suddenly wanted their own Facebook saga. And the tweets and status updates began in April and lasted a couple of days. And on August 16th, they began again. Trite comments like "Anna...I am with you" or "Down with corruption" are all over the place. And I wonder why. Does someone believe that these messages are going to scare the Indian Government? Does someone believe that FB updates are going to be collected and sent by Anna Hazare to the Government? Does someone think that such messages imply patriotism? I still remember how in 2008, when Mumbai was besieged by Kasab and his cohorts, a friend of mine in the US kept asking me in Mumbai for updates, as he wanted to update his tweets and report about the attack in real time on Twitter! Why, I exclaimed then and I ask now.

If one really wants to 'Root out this evil corruption', one needs to realize that we are ourselves at fault. And little drops do make an ocean, but not on Facebook. One must stop rolling that 100 rupee note inside his palm while whispering to the traffic policeman - 'Kaka, zaaoo dya na', when booked for a traffic offence. One must stop investing in houses where the 'black' or unaccounted and untaxed cash component is 5 times the white or taxed amount. One has to stop bribing Ticket Collectors on trains while traveling ticketless. And then, when every young Indian is rallied in this manner, it makes sense to ask the Government to 'root out this evil', by looking at the pay scales of Government employees who are most prone to bribery. We can then ask the Government to enact laws that have a self-correcting mechanism when it comes to corruption.  We can ask for better transparency in property deals and the like, and that can in effect root out asset bubbles! 

And  then we can show that the final power does indeed lie with the people, when we choose not to elect a corrupt government. The power does lie in our hands, but not through 'hip and happening' social networking routes which go more like 'one status update, a dozen likes, end of story.' True power needs true words and real, sustained action.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Darwin in today's world

'Survival of the fittest' screamed Darwin in the 1800s while explaining his theory of natural selection in the process of evolution. Not many believed him and he was accused of heresy, by none other than the Church, which for all purposes lies at the peak of civilization and knowledge. Or so it was believed. What Huxley, Darwin's earliest and strongest supporter should perhaps have told him is, "Don't you worry, Charlie old boy! When the world enters 2010 and beyond, they will learn to believe!"

Now, welfare states are those exalted nations that have amassed enough wealth, so as to be able to provide for the basic needs and more, for their people. So, if they're poor but American or French or Italian or Spanish or plain developed nation citizen, they'll still eat, get healthcare, pocket money courtesy dole, etc etc. In other words, even if one is unfit, one survives and how! In a way better than an average working lower middle class Indian! In other words, someone, in this case the government covers up for all faults and incompetencies of its citizens. Now what happens if a greater part of the nation goes 'poor'? The coffers don't have enough! And all hell breaks loose, as on London roads today or Athenian roads a year ago!

Immigration, which perhaps is the reason why Canada, UK and to a large extent the US has thrived so long while Japan decayed, is called into question and threatened. For suddenly, someone fitter and more motivated is willing to work more and hard and get maybe 70% of a citizen's worth,which in itself is perhaps a three fold growth for him compared to his status in his native country! Gaps between the haves and have-nots grow. Tensions ensue. Cities burn, minor issues become burning issues. Frustrated people with no means, looking at a fast depleting national coffer, take to the streets. As is the case on London streets today.

We've seen it all at the Bastille, but we somehow believe that world citizens have evolved over time and so we condone the signs! The same we, who did not believe in evolution and survival of the fittest in the first place. Maybe it is high time we sat up and took notice or we shouldn't complain if we face the guillotine.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Curious case of the S&P

A man is known by the company he keeps, was something told to me ages ago in a Moral Science class - a not-so-liked 8 AM class, in school. A true example of which I got to see from very interesting times in global markets! For all the dreary, sad, somber economic news doing the rounds, the least one can do is to (like self-help artists would say), 'step back and look at the situation'.

So, Obama came into office after inheriting an economy in a shambles. People believed they had not elected a President, but rather Mandrake the Magician (With the wand), Superman (out of this world capabilities) and Batman (if not anything, maybe Bruce Wayne's resources) rolled into one, to office! And so, when the economy sputtered, stalled, regressed, threatened to sink, there were cries of 'Oh No! US might default on its loans.' In the wake of PIIGS (not the cute tailed pink oink oink creature, but rather the mild name given to Portugal, Italy, Iceland, Greece and Spain  who look all set to go down under, unless Chancellor Merkel works her magic wand), everyone imagined a PIIGSU! They were afraid of uncharted territory, where risk free rate of return would no longer be treasury rates. Afraid of the face loss in case the US defaulted. Afraid of the country's debt being downgraded. So after two weeks of political tamasha, with Republicans acting like the typical 'chick flick leading ladies', who in their heart of hearts want to be wooed by Prince Charming, and yet wish to play hard to get. They did not want the accompanying face loss of default, while at the same time did not want to relent to Democrat plans! Outcome, in typical Cinderella style, the deal was signed by the stroke of midnight! Well almost, 'the stroke of midnight' was for a dramatic effect. The default was averted, Government salaries would be paid, over time prudence shall prevail. Amen - was the belief.

But then, in Munshi Premchand novel style, we have an anti-climax. S&P still downgraded the US to AA+. Note, Moody's and Fitch maintained AAA. Much ado over nothing? Clearly! 2 weeks of political blahblah, and the outcome was the same. If anything, further stimulii have been effectively canceled owing to the deal! Optimists believed that the downgrade might lead to weaker USD, better exports, and a probable recovery. But as markets are quick to reveal today, all kinds of cracks are showing up. Stocks tanked, oil stank, Gold soared. What do you do, when safe haven currency gives you the slip? Buy that which women shall covet forever. Not Adonis, but Gold!

Not just so much, but everyone associated with Treasuries is being downgraded unceremoniously too. Clearly S&P has been rubbed on the wrong side by the Government as a whole. So first the Govt was downgraded, and now anyone with a glut of Treasuries faces downgrade. The Saint of Omaha, who is famous for his own Coke story and for famously declaring in the wake of the debt crisis that US needs a Quadruple A rating, finds his Berkshire Hathway demoted from AAA. Why? Because he holds Treasuries.The question here is - what happens to the largest holder of Treasuries? As in, the mighty fire-breathing Chinese dragon? Do we downgrade the country to the level of junk?

And a bigger question is - why exactly should we believe S&P? Weren't they the ones responsible for the credit crisis in the first place? FannieMae and FreddieMac believed S&P ratings while securitizing mortgages, faced a beating, and now S&P has the nerve to downgrade them too?!!!? In summary, all one can say is that the Great Recession story just got curioser and curioser!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Immigrant Song

I was listening to the 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin the other day, one of his better songs according to me, as I am not really a huge fan of Jimmy Page's voice. But along the long drive that had been kick started by this song, I got to thinking, about the past month. This one month alone has been witness to two bomb attacks - one in Mumbai (tell me something new) and one in Oslo (seriously, Norway? Isn't it too cold there for people to be able to think evil?)

The initial reports, soon after the attacks in Oslo pointed to Islamic fundamentalists and the authorities were quick to correct themselves once they found out that the perpetrator was a native right wing fundamentalist. The attacks in Mumbai though, were typical acts of terror - a bomb on a stolen scooter in a bustling marketplace of old Mumbai. While we don't have a definitive finger on the perpetrator yet, the story remains the same. At such times, it is quite interesting to note the 'tapri-wallah' conversations - talks between people in corner tea stalls in Mumbai. I still remember one such remark after a similar incident in 2006, where a train was bombed in Mumbai, where one gentleman remarked to another, 'I wonder why these people come from across the border, live here and kill our people, or worse still, force our own to kill their own. Why can't all like minded people just move bag and baggage to the land where they can live in peace and practise whatever it is that can lead them to salvation?'

The key issue here then is immigration. That wizened gentleman had perhaps seen so many such acts of terror that he, like most Mumbaikars, was disgusted by the meaningless loss of valuable lives in the achievement of a mythical, goal. He perhaps believed that the asylum India gave, and has been unintentionally giving to illegal immigrants was being exploited. Just as most native French citizens believed that increased terror levels were tied to immigration from Algeria. Or citizens in UK ghettoized pockets of Islamic immigrants in the wake of the 2005 London bombings. So the finger verily pointed to Islamic immigrants in Oslo, who were assumed to have retaliated to the detaining of a cleric. While they were vindicated in this one instance, usually though, rather unfortunately, before the whole of the worldwide immigrant community manages to get away with a puppy, innocent face, something like the attack in Mumbai, forces them back into the spotlight of doubt and suspicion!  

The question then is, why do native citizens not embrace immigrants willingly everywhere? It is not difficult being an immigrant in a developed society like say US or Canada. Natives of these countries themselves are some subsequent generation of immigrants. India, and most of Europe on the other hand are a bit too tight-fisted when it comes to sharing land space with those not born there. Being an Indian with a few non-Indian friends, I do know that people with a foreign skin (sorry if I sound racist), do not find it easy to settle down and work in India. People may claim that an open arm policy has resulted in the arm being blown off much too often, but perhaps it is time we stopped victimizing immigrants and started looking into what makes them huddle up under the cloak of religion or country of origin, as against country of current residence!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dev D and Gunda - the movie spectrum!

Movies are like perfumes. They draw you into a separate realm altogether. And based on how your brain wishes to interpret the scent, it's either a feast to your senses or an assault on them! And Dior might perhaps agree with me when I say that one woman's scent is another one's poison - pure poison at that! This week I decided to treat my sensibilities to some cinematographic brilliance. And the ingredients used for this recipe were - Dev D, Delhi Belly and the icing being Gunda, altogether forming a deadly concoction to say the least. Having seen all but Delhi Belly once before, the stories were never the issue. I spent most of my time analyzing the sheer brilliance of it all!

So, on one end of the spectrum, I started with Dev D, which is a modern take on Devdas. While I am aware of every character in the novel, the beauty of the movie lies in realizing that every character in Dev D is perhaps the exact opposite in characterization to the original characters. For instance, Devdas' father is portrayed as cruel and opposed to Devdas marrying Paro. In Dev D, a sad father remarks why Dev is so stupid as to not want to marry Paro! Paro herself in the original is a simple, shy girl madly in love with Devdas. Paro in Dev D is wild, violent and pretty vindictive in places! Apart from the antithesis, the way the movie is shot, using music as an antithetical undercurrent to the events on screen is a very Kubrick-esque technique! So for talking about Leni's (Chandramukhi equivalent) story, which is based on the Delhi MMS scandal, a very sunshine bright, happy, cheerful song is used, while the events unfold telling a very dark, sad story! Abrupt camera movements, and the abrupt ending just add on to the sheer brilliance!

Move on to Delhi Belly - it's in the middle of the spectrum. A plain story, with typical people-next-door characters and supremely profane dialogues. A minor assault on the senses, when it comes to gore. And for the poor uninitiated souls who have no clue what the profane words and dialogues mean, it's just another movie, where you want to look away and maybe wrinkle up your nose each time 'shit happens' as the tagline says!

And then I topped up my weekend with Gunda. Or should I say as Bulla would, Gundaaaaaaaa?! Breaking the ice with men who've lived in hostels, or away from home 101 - Talk Gunda! I must admit that Gunda is like the sacred potion one needs to ingest as part of an initiation ritual into Indian hostels! If thou hath lived away from home, thou shalt have seen Gunda - is the eleventh commandment. I was just extolling this masterpiece to a friend this morning, and she said, "Gunda?? What the heck is that and why????" The question amounted to sacrilege! A total breach of the hostel code! Gunda is sooooo bad that it's soooooooooooo good! Simple story of simple, poor hero v/s weird villains, with weirder names, and weirdest rhyming tag lines, so terrible I can't repeat them. The hero - a coolie at an airport, who is the son of a constable, so poor, but yet can afford jackets and matching scarves! The opening sequence which moves from airports to deserts to ports, all with a pot-bellied rotund guy running with a sword stuck in his belly! Fight sequences that involve a dozen Ambassador cars and another with a zillion auto rickshaws that make sounds of an F1 car and are oblivious to hits by a rocket launcher! Humane, moving scenes with the hero, Shankar, distraught after the death of his father finding an abandoned girl infant in a dustbin and deciding to adopt her! A whorehouse where the women swing on charpoys in a supposed seductive manner, but a look at their expressions is enough to make you want to roll over in laughter! And the final sequence where Shankar faces off with the evilest of evil Bulla, where every dialogue rhymes! If this is not Pure Poison, then what is?

All in all, if you've not seen the movies at either ends of the spectrum - all movies that define the spectrum are of no use. So, go watch Gunda to see some serious, unintentional rib-tickling cinema!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Memory lane

Nostalgia! A supremely abused concept in my opinion! We have movies, songs, poems, stories and what not revolving around this topic. Why, even Ol man Yanni has a song that goes by that name. It is an awesome song, no doubt, but the concept? Quite suspect indeed!

Now, I am not writing this piece just to prove how 'against the flow' I can be. Most people love dwelling in the past. Why, even I loved my photowalk in the random gullies of Mumbai, when I knew a separation was imminent! (spoils of the photowalk still scream out to be shared and they shall meet their due soon). But through the photowalk, I began to wonder why exactly I was getting a thrill out of that walk. Why was I feeling cosy while being engulfed in memories? Why did I see a younger me in some shop, at the ticket window of a theater, on the katta alongside the sea, at an ice cream place, and why did I feel all warm fuzzy happy?

Luckily for me, I got into a bus that took a circuitous route around town to get back and I got myself some time to think. And think I did! Only to realize that maybe I was scared and a tad apprehensive! And nostalgia was my way out of the pressures of the present and the future! This might sound bizarre but I felt it made sense! Too afraid of the imminent uncertainties that the future held, I tried my level best to hold on to the pleasures of the past! We all write in B school essays that we love and relish change and challenges. I think somewhere, we all lie! The very fact that we smile each time we walk down memory lane, perhaps shows how change-averse we are, that we prefer holding tightly to the certainties of the past!

I know I loved the clothes I bought at that shop or the movie I saw that day or the conversation I had with a friend on that katta and how I loved the fact that on that very brick wall, we had buried our differences and fortified our friendship! Those moments were truly pleasurable! I wondered whether the future would bring even a handful of such events!

But then again I thought back about the moments that preceded the memorable ones. I know I was apprehensive about going to a shop I'd never tried and I was worried about wasting toooooooo much of my time. I did not want to see 'Dhamaal'. I was too worried about hurting my own self prestige and ego to want to go and mend fences with my friend by the seaside. In short, in the moments preceding the ones that now line my memory lane, I was worried about the future.

And by the time I reached my bus stop, I decided that it was time I limited my dwelling on the comforts of the past to just a bunch of pictures and focused more on the challenges and excitements of the future!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Bai Chronicles - II : Itna paisa mein itnaich milenga!

Bai chronicles is back! And this time, I'll talk about a very touchy subject - Pagaar, as in pay. Now, all of employed India, indeed all of the employed world operates on an overworked yet underpaid model. (Is someone somewhere listening?) Even members of the mafia might perhaps believe that they need to be paid more for all that 'conscience killing', 'mental trauma', 'haunting nightmares', 'additional risk of hanging out with super mean boss' etc etc. Well in reality, if that last point did indeed have a yardstick for measuring proposed compensation, 'Is anyone listening again??? Please?'

But while all of us may have serious pay scale issues, most of us are not in that super enviable position that goes with bargaining capabilities. In my humble experience, negotiating one's pay and achieving the life, work and pay one wants is stuff dreams are made of, and only the high and mighty, who perhaps have a core competence anyone would kill for can hope to achieve that enviable state! But as it turns out, our Bais almost always have bargaining power. Especially the awesome ones! And while us pitching a 10% upgrade in pay would perhaps meet with a 'It was nice talking to you, but we'll get back if we have a spot vacant for you', vis-a-vis the maids in Mumbai, they manage to easily wrest out at least a 30% increment per job!

Now, there was this lady who came to work for us once. She came with an awesome recommendation from this lady in a neighboring building. Why did this lady send me this maid, well, once I wept out my 'dukh-bhari-bin-baai-kahaani' to this lady at a shop, and she commiserated with me over a tetra pak of milk. So this maid came over, and I explained all her tasks to her. She listened carefully. And then I asked her the all-important, pain inducing question. 'Kitna legi'? 'Hazaar rupya'. I was over the moon! A thousand bucks! Wow! a true bargain indeed. Given that this lady was trying to find her bearings in the 'baai market' and get herself some 'kaayam ka kaam... (permanent employment), I felt that I had found my very own 'Ramu Kaki'. I imagined myself several years down the line, in horn-rimmed glasses, a streak of gray hair on my well maintained tresses, sitting on my porch with a news paper, saying 'Mandaaaa, ek chaai lana zara' (Manda, can you get me a tea please). And I saw this lady, a few wrinkles on her face walking over with my tea in clean polished China, setting it down, and informing me that the grandkids have left for school and.... 'Total chaar kaam ke liye chaar hazaar maheene ka'. (For 4 tasks, 4000 bucks a month).

'What?' I screamed, almost. 'But we're two people in the house! And both of us leave for work early in the morning. Given Mumbai's sterling real estate scene, I honestly don't live in a palace! We both eat out. So why exactly did she want a thousand bucks to wash four and a half utensils and another 1000 bucks to wash 5 pieces of clothes? Most of my clothes go to the dry-cleaners anyway (thanks to the new fashion trend of jewel encrusted necklines! Bah). And since when did sweeping and swabbing, the legendary, hyphenated jhaadu-patta become two tasks? I gulped in horror, as she stood steadfast, unrelenting. I explained all this to her and all she said was, 'Itna paisa lagega itne kaam ke liye'. When I asked her to be reasonable, all she said was, 'Bhabhi, yeh address mein aake kaam karne ka paisa toh lagega na? Parvadega nahin toh aisa area mein rehne ka nahin. Mere ko bhi bhaada dena padta hai na mere ghar ka? (If you want to live in such an address, you must be willing to pay. If you can't afford the maids of this area, perhaps you must live elsewhere. I need to pay my house rent too, right?) "Chalega toh bolo. Baaki bahut log waiting mein hai." (Lemme know if it works, or else I have a long list of prospective customers!)

I accepted my relative poverty and thanked the lady for her time, as I trudged back to the kitchen and sadly looked at my 4.5 utensils waiting for redemption. I, for sure was not willing to give up a part of my salary so that Manda Baai could pay her house rent. I was not willing to over pay for what I believe is a highway robbery and a plain play on my weaknesses! After doing the dishes, as I sat with a cup of tea and the newspaper, I saw this piece that said that Prince William and Kate Middleton are having trouble keeping a maid, as no one is willing to do all that work for a mere 20,000 pounds a year! Suddenly I felt like a princess!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saudi Arabia - A drivethrough!

This week, most people have been talking about how the 17 of June marked a turning point in the lives of repressed Saudi women! Given how almost all of the Middle East of late has been showing impressive implementations of the legendary domino/ snowballing effect, it cones as no surprise that one bold woman taking to the streets in a car sparked off a whole revolution which finally culminated in a law allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia. People in places like India may ask, what's the big deal? I was speaking to this gentleman who lives in my apartment complex when he was discussing an episode where his SUV gave way just before his rather large family was to go on a Rojas trip, and he was describing to me his frantic attempts at finding another driver as he had to split the family into two cars and he had already declared 'vacation time' to his regular chauffeur ( known as driver in India) "doesn't your wife drive?" I asked innocently. "Of course not. Why should she?" came the reply. "But don't you ever wish to drive?" I asked looking at the wife. " I choose not to! Driver hai na? And when we go as a family, Jignesh drives", she said referring to her husband.

Therein lies the difference.

A greater part of female urban India around middle age, doesn't drive. One, because when they were younger at licensable age, they were lower down the economic spectrum and a car never crossed their minds. Now, they're on the opposite end, and not having a chauffeur is demeaning on the 'log-kya-kahenge' arena! Secondly, the women had a choice. Never were they prevented by law, from anything, driving included. But for Saudi women, they were prevented by a weird law, which for some inexplicable reason prevented them from driving. The minute there is a denial, a rebellious urge to have that which is denied, springs up. Much like a child's tantrum or a diabetic craving for sweets. The issue, though, has been more symbolic, than anything else. Unreasonable repression of all kinds needs to go. Restricting women from driving has no logical basis other than blatantly declaring that some men want to prove ascendancy in a lame, almost desperate manner. Otherwise, how can it explain closeted driving skills? How exactly did the women learn to drive in the first place? Clearly they and their fathers, brothers and husbands care a jot about the law and it is perhaps the regressive cleric alone who holds on to his view! If anything, the women take the allowance to drive as a symbol that they may one day, finally find their own voice in all aspects of daily human life.

As an aside, though, my sympathies to Saudi society. There lay a society with lesser idiocy on roads. Even yesterday, I hurled a bunch of silent expletives at a 'late-evening sunglasses touting', 'make-up clad yet not-so-PYT' who clearly bribed her way to get a license! No, I am not being judgmental. I am a female driver myself with scant regard for my clan, although my sterling skills behind the wheel have been certified by my 0 crash record, and also by scores of my darker sex friends who strongly believe that I am an exception to the lady-driver category! But what the offending female driver did and why I was half in a mind to screech past her car, stop abruptly in complete filmy style, step out in stilettos, grab the woman's hair and slap her face real hard, I will leave to 'driving me crazy -ii' But till then, Saudis can now enjoy the phenomenon of abrupt lane cutting, left indicators before a right turn, indicators with no turns, terrible parking skills, middle of the road stopping and many other such wonderful antics of the fairer sex behind the wheel!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Risky business!

Old man Newton once upon a time said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Given the number of engineers who end up becoming fin geeks, it is no doubt that such a dictum forms the basis of the whole finance industry. For every risk averse guy out there, there is an equal risk-loving guy out there too! You make your profits by expending effort in looking that dude up. Which is why, the episode of a Chinese entrepreneur hurling abuses at Morgan for purposefully underpricing their IPO looks bizarre!

Now the story caught my eye not just because it involved Chinese, IPOs and Morgan. But because it was an out and out war on.... TWITTER! Speak about suits in wall street putting their BBs to good use. The issue was more like the Chinese entrepreneur of an e-commerce company called Dangdang (I know!!! wonder how bankers managed to go past the name in the first place) was disappointed when his IPO was priced at $16, but opened and settled at $29. Close to $240 million apparently was 'left on the table', or rather was money that could have been got with niftier pricing! A war of expletives broke out on Twitter between Mr. Dangdang and someone claiming to belong to Morgan. I say claiming, since Morgan was quick to wash it's hands off this dirty business.

But the issue is not so much the use of Twitter or the entrepreneur's endless tirade but rather how exactly is one to quantify risk. Morgan underwrote the issue, which, in other words means that if the IPO went undersold, they would pick up the pieces at the issue price. So obviously, being the risk absorber in the face of the ebullient risk-loving entrepreneur, by Newton's law, Morgan is bound to be risk averse and hence cautious. Besides, underwritten IPOs have an inherent conflict of interest, is perhaps a given, as they need to set the best price for the client, while minimizing their losses. So, in all honesty, Newton perhaps dictated the price!

One place where Newton's law does not apply though, is in the wonderful world of insurance, which perhaps has been the theme of countless books and movies to date, with the term 'pre-existing condition' being used akin to a cuss word in places! The most elegant part of insurance is the inherent irony in the whole concept. One, usually the more risk averse people are the ones who prefer to get insured, in order to protect themselves in the event of a rainy day. However, while Newton might have said that a risk lover is to be coupled with a risk-averse entity, as it turns out, given the wriggly, defensive stance taken by most insurers, you wonder why two risk-averse individuals have been thrown together into the bond of not-such-a-holy matrimony!

All in all, the fact remains that Newton not just missed out on a lovely red apple, but also set the very foundations of the frameworks that underlie this risky business!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Bai Chronicles - I

Maids have been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons! What started a couple of years ago with Shiney Ahuja in India, seemed to afflict even the ex-IMF chief, and our very own Terminator took the idiocy a step further, by literally 'keeping a house' with his housekeeper! So much for maids dictating people's lives! And I thought that I was the only one with the dubious honor of having allowed my maid to wrap my whole life around her little finger! I seem to have a horoscope that shuns hired help! If a maid so much as dares to agree to come work at my place, Rahu, Ketu, the maid's 'marad', the aunty who lives upstairs who incidentally was her ex-employer all wreak havoc with my peace and cruelly whisk her away. If I fight against my stars and manage to find someone (fight sounds nice, but plead with every maid who walks past my building gates is more like it) she ends up being someone with the work ethic of a vagabond!

So once this lady made bold and came home, with the intention of being employed by us. How my anti-maid track record went off unnoticed is beyond me. Praise be to the fact that she was just recently married and she'd only just come from her gaon! I explained everything to her and she said she'd work here! Yaaaaayyyyy, I almost screamed out loud. She then asked me to keep her number just in case. "Madam, aapka number do, mein meees call maarti hoon", she said, pulling out a swanky looking touch screen phone from a decrepit plastic bag. I thought back about my own strictly functional, terribly scratched, un-stealable brick phone and told her that my phone was in the other room, and that she should give me a call and I'd store the number when I next saw the phone! The next day, a Saturday, I got myself a hair appointment, having found a new found freedom from 'bhaandi ghaas' and 'jhaadu'! I walked over to the salon, and savored every moment of freedom. I had to spend a good 4 hours there, getting my hair straightened. I made the cautious, half-hopeful call back home and was very happy to know that the lady with shining cell phone had indeed turned up. I relaxed and went through the intense hair-straightening experience, at peace with the world!

The next day, while I was on a strict 'no water on your hair' and an even stricter 'no clips on your tresses' and the strictest 'no hair behind ears' routine, the morning was slipping by, and there was no sign of the woman of the moment! Fearing the worst, I made The Call! The call didn't go through. Thinking my dilapidated phone was perhaps to blame, I tried with another phone. Yet no luck. Frantic attempts later, amidst a massive cacophony that sounded more like a movie theater in the background, a voice answered. 'Haan, mein baahar hai. Kal aake baat karega'. And click. No explanations, whatsoever. Not even a courteous moment of conversation to a lady whose hair was saturated with chemicals! Anxious to know why she hadn't turned up, I tried calling her again. She cut my call. Not to be put off so easily, while feeling a little embarrassed myself, I decided to try one last time. And I was met with the dreaded 'Jya numbershi tumhi samparka saadhu icchitat, toh sadhya banda aahey'. I gave up. Wrapping a scarf around my chemically endowed tresses, I set to work. Hoping the few thousands I'd belted out on my hair wouldn't literally be washed down the sink.

The next day, the dame arrived and declared that her marad felt that she was working too much and hence she shouldn't come work here any more! Aaaaagh! "Tell your marad to talk to me!' I almost begged. I would have gladly bribed that marad fellow to just let my cellular maid stay! 'Nahin. Kal poora din mere peeth mein darad tha. Uthne ko hi nahin hua! Mera marad na bolta hai', she said. (Apparently her back was in agony all day yesterday and her husband told her no more working!) I was tempted to ask her whether her house was a movie theater and the seats there comprised of her bed, but I wanted to salvage the bai as much as I could! As it turned out, the love shove between them was too much to fall for bribes, increased pay, lesser work et al and I was left again with straight hair and no maid!

I have a billion such stories and I could write a whole book on my maidscapades! But so much for now!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Media's Favorite Husain

The papers screamed out 'India's Picasso dies in exile'. And if the headlines weren't enough, the life and times of M F Husain were covered in vivid detail in the inner pages. All along, in my opinion, underscoring the very hypocrisy that defines us! Harsh? Yes. But true.

To be honest, I didn't really know about the whole controversy. I did know that MFH was involved in a 'nude painting' row that involved Hindu goddesses, but I didn't know about the quasi fatwa issued against him by Hindu factions, and I definitely did not know that these Hindu factions were epitomized by the 'holier than thou' entity who runs Mumbai as his fiefdom, who has taken the responsibility of safeguarding 'Indian culture and moral values' even if means of safeguarding involved vandalism and mindless rioting and disruption of law and order!

My thought and hence the purpose of this post was manifold! One, nudity in art is something we've known since caveman times. That painters, sculptors and photographers have a thing for the nude human form is a known fact. To the extent that I read somewhere that artistes make a distinction between 'nude' which is natural and free-flowing artistic, and 'naked' which is supposedly suggestive art, although both are to be considered aesthetic! Why they gloss over nudity, is something I can never understand. They say they are catering to a greater human consciousness, although I feel they're just pandering to a larger human population! But then again, I accept that I am not an authority on art, not even a novice! But we've all seen 'David' and studied about renaissance art in history books. So MFH really did not manage to do something pathbreaking like his predecessor Van Gogh who pioneered the use of the color yellow! So why did we create such a ruckus in the first place?

Second, why did MFH need to rile Hindu sentiments? Everyone knows that people in India take their Gods and Goddesses very very seriously. Our Goddesses are not akin to Greek Goddesses, who have forever been depicted in a certain way. So why not respect that part of what is intrinsically Indian and not 'firangify' everything! So if not for free publicity, what else could have been the motivation for such depiction? Why not call her Svetlana and the Veena? Making the picture just any picture, not necessarily tied to any religious sentiment! Ah! But that wouldn't have gathered so much publicity, including tomes being printed and published post his demise!

Third, why did we fly off the handle in 1996 about a picture that was actually painted in 1970! If not for blatant hankering for eyeball space by the media, who published the picture in the first place, and then again by political powers who suddenly found themselves turned into toothless tigers with no meat to chew on, what else could explain such unnecessary, irrelevant controversy creation? And then the whole 'death threat' circus. In what way are we any different from the clerics who issued a fatwa against Rushdie for Satanic Verses? How on earth can we adopt a 'holier than thou' attitude and preach about how intolerant those clerics were, that they could tolerate not even a word
against their religion! and if this is indeed our stance, why call ourselves sham secular with freedom of expression? No one forces us to be a free-for-all society like the Americans, who take their freedom very seriously! Let us agree that we have a thing against blasphemy! Nothing wrong at all!

And lastly, what a supreme level of hypocrisy we show, by feting the individual after he passes away! Extolling his virtues, forgiving his faults, reminiscing over the Maqbool Fida he was to various people and so on! News channels speak of nothing else all day. Newspapers publish tomes and tomes of MF times! The sheer blatancy of it all is appalling to say the least! Publicity, eyeball space, TRPs at all costs. Doesn't seem all too blatant, given the controversy-courting individual, who is the subject of the media's present fancy!

Monday, May 02, 2011

The world Bin Laden (The world without Laden)

Osama Bin Laden is dead. And it's been written about and spoken about, complete with an unwitting tweet account giving a bit-by-bit update to fake pictures up on the internet. The whole operation, looked like the 'capture-and-kill' operation in the movie 'Face/Off', with the high security house being ambushed and the main bad guy being asked to leave the world by a bullet in his head. And with this event, on May 1, 2011, Osama Bin Laden, the man who lent a face to terror, for all Americans and the world population to see and hate, left, hoping to get to the place he has been promising every gullible, impressionable, poor mind, that agreed or was coerced into becoming his foot soldier. Now whether he got there or not, is something only he can tell, and God willing, he doesn't come back to tell us of his escapades!

The bigger point though, is that this means the end of nothing actually. The man was supposedly frail, reportedly needing dialysis to keep him alive, albeit with a razor sharp brain, nonetheless. Agreed, this heir to billions founded Al-Qaeda as a retaliation to US setting up defense bases in Saudi Arabia to assist Kuwait against Iraq, and ever since he has been the one man who took it upon himself to cleanse the world of all things not Islam, a diktat that perhaps would make Prophet Muhammad's blood boil! The issue is that this man has managed to build ranks and ranks of lunatic foot soldiers, capable of inflicting horror on millions on their own, without the need of a larger lunatic! The funding might still continue, since over at least 10 years, OBL has managed to incite thousands of millions into the 'Jihadi cause'. Rumor has it that he was a very strong orator with a strong tongue to guile many an impressionable mind. What happens to that network? Those fund routes? All those millions leading Al-Qaeda offshoots, with a framed picture of OBL hanging on their cave walls?

Secondly, will anything be done about Pakistan being a terror haven? That nation is in a state of utter chaos, such that their President could have done nothing, had OBL been plotting his next move, right in his own backyard! Although in reality, that did happen, since OBL was captured barely a 100 kms from Islamabad and more glaringly a mere 800 meters from a large Army training camp! Army - ISI - Taliban - Al Qaeda, anyone? The relationship is too blatant to dismiss as mere coincidence.

This may be a moral victory. Placards of '9/11 victims may RIP' flashed through TV screens all of yesterday. A small voice in me asked, "what about the victims of 26/11 in India?" OBL was elusive, living in caves in South Waziristan, maybe, Pakistan, Afghanistan for a while and so on. The capture operation went on for a long time, and the forces were diligent in their quest. Qasab, the man who inhumanly killed scores of people at CST station is alive on Indian tax payer's money in a prison in Mumbai. Wouldn't the blood of victims' families boil each time they cross the prison road that houses that monster? What about the souls of these victims? What about the souls of the victims of the 1993 blasts in Mumbai? We have had a face to terror long before OBL even broke into the terror fraternity! So, why do we lack the will and wherewithal that the US possesses? Is our PM's mandate any different from the mandate of the US President in issues of terror, given that both are democratically elected?

It is indeed high time our own people were taken less lightly and their lives and souls given their due. Even the body of someone like Osama Bin Laden is given a burial, albeit at sea, in adherence to Muslim convention of disposing of mortal remains within 24 hours. If only our elected leaders felt for those who elected them and were serious about bringing them justice!

Friday, April 08, 2011

I support the fight for a corruption-free India.... do you?

The past few weeks have seen upheavals follow each other. First came the barrage of scams and scamsters in the Indian scene, and while India was busy getting disillusioned with almost everything from politics to sport to industry, a 26 year old immolated himself in Tunisia, setting off a snowballing domino revolution of sorts. The revolution spread from square to square toppling Governments, creating unrest across the middle east. Last checked, Tunisia and Egypt had toppled leaders, Libyan Gaddafi was at his rambling best and now Syria, Bahrain and Yemen were also joining the revolt bandwagon. Not wanting to feel left out, our own country too is debating, wondering, and getting charged up about an all-out war on corruption!

I, personally am a huge fan of people movements, akin to Munshi Premchand stories where the protagonist, who all along having been ill-treated by the 'mean Britisher' finally turns around and hits his 'master' with a stick! Gandhiji's Satyagraha which formed the basis of winning India independence from British rule is the starting point. More recently, Justice for Jessica was a classic case where miscarriage of justice was brought out to the open and people fought for the blatantly smirking Manu Sharma to be booked for cold blooded murder. So, non-violent populist protest movements are not new to India. In Tunisia, ages of despotic rule despite simmering resentment, perhaps reached a tipping point and the youth's self-immolation was the trigger the already incensed nation needed to break free. And Tunisia, perhaps was that precedent, Egypt needed to set her revolutionary wheels in motion. Yes, the current Middle Eastern revolutionary spree is nothing short of a fairy tale - one small event sets off a 'Facebook' revolution of sorts and manages to topple regime after regime. But the issue is, not all fairy tales have predictable endings! Like say, in Egypt, people now are suffering from revolutionary fatigue, the army that took over comes across as an equal, if not a bigger devil in terms of human rights violations, the economy is in a shambles, tourism is dead, and the void looks alarming, to say the least.

Why am I bringing this up here? Well, Anna Hazare's current movement is my trigger for this thought. The slew of scams that India has seen does make me feel rather ashamed to say that I belong to this country as it stands today. I've almost forgotten the look of the newspaper without a scamster headline screaming at my face. Winning the ICC World Cup perhaps helped salvage some pride, though the up coming Indian Premier League (IPL) brings back memories of blatant frauds and scams of less than a year ago. The way scamsters and Indian politicians work hand in glove is disgusting, to say the least. I know for a fact that a greater part of the Indian youth has lost faith in Indian politicians. No doubt, democracy is lovely, the freedom to choose who governs me is excellent in concept. But, given the kind of people I see ruling over me, I feel that I'd be happier being disenfranchised! It is election time in Tamil Nadu, and laptops, TV sets, gold, clothes, money are being promised to all and sundry. Protesters are being harassed, thrashed even and the brazenness of it all makes one's blood boil!

Having an independent entity oversee the moral uprightness of people who govern us, looks like a plan that can deliver us from such disgrace as what faces us in India, today. The fact that the Lokayuktas would comprise upright, respected members of civil society is a shot in the arm. The fact that they would have rights to press charges and prosecute any wrongdoer who might be in power seems most necessary. The fact that those in power cannot protect their own, hopes to ensure no more Jessica Lal cases, or instances of Marie Antoinette, steeped in arrogant power! It is a new model, where we want a stand alone entity apart from democratically elected leaders, put in place by us, to keep a check on those who govern us. The old, existing model has clearly failed, as there was the office of the Central Vigilance Commissioner, appointed by Parliament to check corruption, which, as it turns out, was toppled as the CVC himself was kicked out for being corrupt in a palm oil scam!

So, why not try the new model? Maybe those who govern us, need a higher power that governs them, because clearly, depending on a conscience and God is a non-existent concept vis-a-vis Indian politicians. No doubt, this is not a panacea. In my humble opinion, I would perhaps be happier saying I am an Indian if such a body did come into place, and did manage to keep a tab on the corrupt corridors of power in India.
This revolution is not a be-all and end-all. But it is not a trigger happy FB revolution, either. If not for anything, I, like scores of Indian youngsters, want to give this concept a fair chance. So, my bit for this movement starts with 'Here' is what you need to know about the current Anna Hazare movement for enacting the Lokpal bill.