Saturday, December 26, 2009

3 Idiots

3 Idiots is a typical Hirani film with all the masala and moral of the story in tow. Though the script loses its hold for a while in the second half, it is worth a watch. It’s after ages that i found almost house full and it’s also been quite sometime since a movie gave you genuine humour you could laugh at. The first half is full of scenes where you just can’t stop laughing! Also, amazing is how young Aamir looks in the movie even at his age.

Chetan Bhagat’s book is borrowed as a framework to suit the theme. The best part is the story moves back and forth keeping you hooked on to it with “What next?”. The second half has a chunk we could do without which would trim the movie down to a decent length. This also leaves a kind of bad taste in the mouth and i am not sure if the overall goodness of the movie balances it out with the unwanted bits.

Playing Rancho is a cakewalk for Aamir who has been into characters much intense and dialogue - driven. i kept waiting for a flash of typical Aamir lashing out at the system or something like that. His profound moments also come with a calmness consistent with his character of an idiot-genius. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi support the story well though Madhavan would look more like a student with a few kilos less on him. The trio share an amazing chemistry together. Kareena is her usual self with no great opportunities to showcase her real talent.

A special mention for Boman Irani who is an excellent actor beyond doubt. Here he does his lisp act to perfection proving yet again his sheer genius!

The message of the film is subtly thrown in but of course things are quite easy for the characters since the ending has to be happy. Might not be as easy in real life to throw away an engineering degree after 4 yrs and make it as a successful photographer. But the movie succeeds in exploring the what-you-want Vs what-others-expect-from- you very well. Another true Bollywood stroke - hence unrealistic - is Kareena eloping away without even knowing where Rancho is or if he is still single!! Well! It’s Bollywood after all!!

It is certainly a fun movie and a must watch.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


My latest assignment was to write admission essays for an Indian student looking for admission in a university abroad. I don’t know if it was ethically right for me to assume someone else’s thoughts and write an essay for him / her (don’t even know which one). I took it up as just another writing assignment from one of the companies I freelance for. So I really wouldn't be in a position to even suggest to the student to make an attempt to write the first draft himself. I went online to look for general guidelines to write such essays. Every site mentioned that the admission committee looks for simple but honest and personalised essays that brought out the applicants personality!! Heck!! I didn't even know who I was writing for!

But this certainly set me thinking. Are our youngsters, just out of school, incapable of writing a simple essay about themselves? Does the fear of rejection in the selection process make them seek out professionals to ghost write their essays? They’d rather not take any chances testing their writing skills which might affect their prospects of making it to their dream college. A lot of students in India are under-confident with their spoken English but their writing skills is even more ignored. Even after spending a good number of years in English medium schools, they might manage speaking but still shy away from writing formal English.

Through my years coaching CAT aspirants, only a meagre percentage came up with readable written matter. Most students expected their trainers to write the best answer that would help them clear the written part of the application form. We had to spend hours with them helping them churn out their real life goals and purpose of going for an MBA. As undergraduates, it seemed too late to tell them to drop everything else and develop their writing skills. Enthusiastic students could take it up for themselves and devote time to develop this crucial skill.

Their lack only served to point out that composition writing might just be a part of their English classes. No great effort was put into developing writing as an important skill-set that they would use in their life almost on a daily basis. As students, they must have dealt with routine topics that they learnt to write on using guide books etc. Whatever the case maybe, the moral is that their schooling had finished without imparting something so important to them.

I was also surprised that the parents of this particular student didn’t mind paying up for professional services! Rather than understand why such a need arose, they’ve covered up for their child’s shortcoming by helping him move up another step without the essential skills. Their money helped him buy a skill he didn’t have, teaching him that you just need money to move ahead in life.

I really wonder if such students are equipped to take on the competitive world on their own. Will they have others write their college assignments? (there are sites that cater to this need as well, just flash green-bags around!!) What about their exams, their resume, job applications and emails on the job? With the web world taking over, it’s vital to be able to express oneself with the written word. I wonder what the future holds for such students. Will they move on expressing themselves with money or learn to put words to use, after all!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A taste of tradition

No South Indian experience is complete without a meal on a plantain leaf. Despite having spent the first 16 yrs of my life in Southern part of India, I still feel alien to the whole thing. I am still very much a plate and cutlery person. But the experience is worth it. I’ve done it quite a few times as a good daughter-in-law, though it’s still not a very familiar thing to me. I guess the idea of using these leaves as plates came about because they were abundantly available around. Plantains are used in a lot of African and Central american countries, but only the South Indians have been ingenious enough to invent this use.

The service starts with the leaf itself that is given a sprinkling of water to clean it. The first thing that comes is a little sweet dish in one corner - begin your meal by sweetening your mouth. There is a particular place where each vegetable will be served. It’s the main course that’s interesting. Rice is put at the center of the leaf and then rivers of sambhar, curd or rasam flows all over the leaf. It’s only a true-blue south Indian grown up doing it can have the expertise to manage the tide of the curry!! Sometimes it even mixes up with the sweet dish and you keep guessing which one of the two you are having! I try to separate vegetables that touch each other to ensure they taste like they were originally meant to. And make best efforts with my fingers on a straight plantain leaf to keep the sambhar in control. One look around me and I can see others expertly sweeping the leaf with one motion of the hand which reaches the mouth for a quick lick faster then the liquid can drop back. And the lick is one neat stroke all the way down to where the curry has slipped! There doesn’t seem to be anything as amazing as this. I’ve always tasted some salt in my sweet dish since the same spoon - my fingers- has to be used to eat all your food, but no one around seems to mind the adulteration in the taste. The meal becomes satisfying, despite the travails, because we are doing it the way our ancestors did it. It's the traditional way of savouring your food - with your hands.

Friday, November 27, 2009

2050 AD - Traffic

Sonny: Dad, can I please borrow your Super-Cycle for today? Please, Dad....

Daddy: Darling, you are not old enough to ride a cycle so advanced. You stick to your cycle with pedals. It’s the safest for you.

Sonny: But Dad, my friends are my age and they get to ride their Dads’ cycles. We are not kids anymore, Dad! One of my friend’s dad has the Killer-Cycle that can go at great speeds and carry an entire family along!!

Daddy: Bad...bad, I don’t recommend that at all. You know when I was your age, my Dad didn’t let me touch his car till I finished college and you are still in school.

Sonny: Daddy, did your car also go zooming like the Killer-Cycle?

Daddy: (laughing) you cannot compare cars and cycles. Cars had a lot more power and speed. You could see streams of cars moving bumper to bumper during peak hours and it turned into a stream of lights by evening! I would sit in mine and listen to music while waiting at red lights, some of which could be on for minutes.

Sonny: Stream of lights!! That must be quite a site, dad! Did you have all the models that we see in the car museum now?

Daddy: Well! A lot of those models rode on the road. People were crazy about cars. To some it was some kind of a prestige issue! There were cheaper and smaller versions like Nano and Bono cars to cater to the middle class. In our joy of affording the four-wheeler, we didn’t realise the blunder we were committing! There were cars and more cars and not enough space either to park them or drive them on the roads. Not to forget other vehicles like two and three-wheelers like scooters, bikes, rickshaws and autos. The roads would get chocobloc and people would go crazy trying to handle all of it.

Sonny: But we have each one of us own a cycle today and things don’t sound crazy like you say.

Daddy: Yes but we’ve become wiser now. After the law allowing only one cycle per head and sticking to your lanes legally binding, there’s a lot of discipline on the roads. In our times, you could have as many cars as you can afford and drive them around with no lane discipline. You can imagine the kind of space it required and the noise it created. We were insane enough to leave the engines running even during our wait for the signals to turn green! And, of course, all the fuel we had ran out much faster because of this. We never dreamt of times like these when there would be no petrol left to drive our cars around!!

The noise of the engines running idly greatly added to the noise pollution. You should have been there to deafening honking that people irresponsibly resorted to. The ban of horns on cycles has made our world a much quieter place to live in.

Sonny: Daddy, I think I am happier being born when the mad phase is over and we have some peace and order restored!

Daddy: You bet! And take my cycle tomorrow...but only this time, alright!!

Sonny (happily): only this time!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2050 AD - Shopping

Sonny: Mummy, I was reading my history book which mentioned a place called subzi mandi. What's this mandi all about?

Mummy (wistfully nostalgic at the mention of the sabzi mandi): My Sonny boy, those were the days we enjoyed the bliss of going around the market, choosing our stuff and haggling with the vendor just for the heck of it! In fact, going to the sabzi mandi was a weekly chore - buying vegetables for the week.

Sonny: But mom, what exactly is this sabzi mandi?

Mummy: Oh God! What dark ages have we come to!! My own child asking me what a bhaji market is while we, as children, had a good time accompanying our mums to the market! It is a place where vendors would get a variety of vegetables and fruits from the wholesale market and sell it in every locality. We would go around checking out the quality and freshness of the vegetables and buy it only after a bit of haggling. Some of the markets were not very clean but that's feature of our country.

Sonny: You mean you had to go around the filthy market place collecting vegetables and then carry them all the way home?

Mummy: Ah! The satisfaction of buying things after examining them with your own hands. Not like your Webmart and Webmarkets now-a-days where you just have to click on things, pay online and then they deliver it to your house. The vegetables never turn out to be the way they would be if I chose them with my own hands. But what to do that is the way life now.

Sonny: Mummy, Webmarts don’t do such a bad job. You can always choose the kind of quality you want, the size of your fruits and vegetables and the time you want it delivered at your place. It’s neat and sweat-free! You can also choose stuff and put them in a basket as you keep remembering them. And pay for them at the end of the day when you are sure there’s nothing more to add in your basket online.

Mummy: Yes, yes, you think it’s a very smart way to do it but god knows how old that vegetable will be and for long it would be there in the internet. You just go and order without finding out how fresh it is.

Sonny: Don’t worry mom, they give you the best quality and not something that’s been rotting in the internet for long!!
Life'e better and faster then it was for you way back in 2010!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2050 AD - Library

Sonny: Mummy, what are you going to tell me today?

Mummy: Today, I am going to tell you about what were called Libraries. When I was your age, we used to go to a library to borrow and read books. Every school and college also had a library for its students.

Sonny: How did you download them at a library? i just have to go my college website and choose the ebook i want to read. And did you have to travel all the way to one to get books? Interesting!!

Mummy: Everything couldn’t be downloaded sitting at home as you can do today! You had to go to a library to get books. There were stacks of books stacked subject-wise in a library. You had books for children, novels for teenagers, books on art, Science, History, Computers, Films and every subject you can think of. You could go to your interest area and look around for a book you might want to read and get it issued. And then you go back to the library to return the book after you finish reading it and get more issued.

Sonny: Woa...which meant more travelling? You had to carry the book everywhere you went? Gosh! That must be such a pain....travelling to the library so many times carrying all those books!

Mummy: Yes, it was at times! But it had a charm of its could spend hours with books around you for company. A library was a silent zone where you were not supposed to talk making it an ideal place to read in peace.

Sonny: And how many books can you have on shelves like that? And what about the space that you need to store all those books? you mean you actually had big spaces to physically store all those books? What a waste of space!!

Mummy: There were a few thousand books of all subjects put together. How many more could you explore in one go! And they had to be stored that way since that was the only way we could explore information before super pendrives and online libraries replaced physical libraries of our times!

Sonny: Well! i can't imagine walking all around shelves trying to look foe a book i'd like to read! My super pen drive can hold 50,000 ebooks and an equal number of journals with pictures and videos. So whenever i have free time, i just have to insert the pendrive on to my palmtop and click on the memory button to go to the book i was reading. i don’t have to go look for them anywhere or return them to anyone. i can also look for latest titles and topics on the web anytime...anywhere and just download them for free in seconds!

Mummy: Well! That’s called progress Sonny boy!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ogling - the favourite Indian pastime!

Ever felt a dozen eyes scan you from top to bottom as you step amidst people? You consciously glance at your well covered self wondering nothing seems to be evidently wrong with you. Yet stares, sometimes not so stealthy, keep coming back to settle on you. Don’t worry, you just experienced the favourite Indian pastime - ogling. Indians don’t mind staring at anyone. New neighbours, humans on transit systems, folks walking on the street, mortals in movie-theatres waiting to get inside the hall, persons standing in check-out queues of supermarkets, masses out for a walk in the park.....anyone at all. i suspect the ogling is more generous when the individual happens to be of the fairer sex (feminists excuse!). Being one, i go through it all the time. Even while passing through the street outside my house where i should no longer be a subject of study to the denizens around. But we are Indian and we Stare....just like that.

i always suspected we had this uncanny habit of making others feel uneasy with our unwelcome gaze. i found ample evidence to prove it exists amply in us when i began travelling by the Delhi Metro. i, more often than not, encountered stares as i entered the the train. The passengers already seated (and standing) seem to a find a new object for their goggling pleasure. i decided to check out the reaction of people around to others who got into the train after me. And Bingo!! No one's spared. We are Indian and we Stare....just like that.

All decency is thrown to the wind as a visual treat in the form of a girl in her mini-skirt walks in to the train just after her class at some Air hostess training center!

The habit comes back to haunt you and you realise how rude it could be when you go to countries where staring is not the national pastime. In a local metro train in Paris, i myself looking around at people in general. As a couple of them looked back i realised my looks might seem invasive to them. I wasn’t in saddi dilli where i could give free reign to my eyeballs!!

Uninvited looks, forget intrusive ones, can be quite rude in most countries of the world. A little experiment a la delhi metro in trains abroad surprised me that people don’t even normally look up to see who’s got into the train or who’s sitting in the next table at the restaurant. While travelling, they prefer to either read books or direct their stares at objects that wouldn’t mind it!! How many do we find reading on our transit systems? We’d rather indulge in visual gossip and make people conscious!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yeh tera ghar yeh mera ghar......

i really wish beautiful homes conjured out of nowhere like they do in our good old world of Bollywood a la Dostana, Wake up Sid and several other movies. Even new-to-city strugglers live in certainly trendy and well-furnished homes. But alas the reality of making a beautiful home starts with sweat and grime. With visits to numerous sites and talks with builders. You could be in for an adventure if you happen to be a woman doing it for the first time all by yourself in a big city like Mumbai. Thankfully, Mumbai is a city with certainly a better attitude to a woman going around exploring unbuilt homes, so they don't ogle at you and understand that even though you are making the enquiries alone, there must be a husband somewhere in the wings. Right!

My quest for my dream home began one hot afternoon (didn't have a choice about the time of day) when i set out almost looking like an apparition having covered myself with scarves etc to protect myself from the blazing heat. I had a sheet of paper with names of builders and projects, phone numbers to most and almost complete addresses. Finding the first site wasn't very difficult as the helpful rickshaw guy hit bang on target. There was a convincing sales guy there who did his best to convince me how high-class my lifestyle would be if i chose to live in their tower, even though it wouldn't complete before 2011. Not a very happy thing. The next site had a so called sample flat ready but with a lot finishing yet to be done. How does one imagine one's bedroom with sand and gravel all around the place!! Well, the guy led me to look at the bedrooms. He pointed at one of them and said "Master Bedroom with attached toilet". My instant reaction was to yell "Are you kidding me?? But....through colossal efforts i managed to mask my mixed feelings of shock and disappointment. I didn't even have to move my neck to survey the the room from one wall to the other. And the "attached toilet" was nothing more than a tiny cubicle with a shower, commode and wash basin cramped next to each other. No good news here too!

I moved on to the so-called premier properties by well-known builders. The construction was certainly better but here too there was nothing masterly about the master bedrooms with equal chances of you hitting the corners of the bed. A little free movement in the bathroom could teach the body part that attempted it with a painful lesson to remember!

My journey of house hunting is far from over, but i did learn a few precious things from my mistakes.

1. Ensure that you leave home with the name of the builder and the project you are looking for along with the phone number.
2. If you are not sure of the location, call up the number and find out. Do not assume that you'll find it since even famous constructions lead an anonymous life in the eyes of localites.
3. Ask for the plot number, street number and landmarks if any. Finding houses in the making can be quite a task.
4. Make a checklist of things you'd like to look for in the sample flat (like whether there's separate space for washing machine, sufficient number of plug points) and points you'd like to ask the builder (like car park charges, availability of corner flats etc)

But this is just the beginning. The journey continues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Next time you want to run your fingers through your hair....Don’t!

What’s with the super confident divas of the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherji, Konkana Sharma running their fingers through their perfectly blow-dried and gelled hair on TV? I couldn’t help but notice the blatant frequency of it while I ran into some old episodes of Koffee with Karan on the internet. Bollywood stars are our ultimate style icons with not a hair out of place. They mouth perfect lines for the media and make their appearances on talk shows only in designer clothes. But ever noticed what they say with their bodies? If you notice, they will let out signs of nervousness just like you and I do, while they are kinda cornered in talk shows and interviews.

Body language is a true mirror of what’s going on in our minds. Our thoughts and bodies work in co-ordination and no matter how much we try to put up a brave front, the body plays along with our thoughts. We need to feel confident to behave confident. Though we can consciously avoid the manifesting the sub-conscious vibes.

Running your fingers through your hair seems such an innocuous thing to do but body language pundits will beg to differ. Do that in an interview and you expert panel instantly knows you are ill at ease. This is the most common sign of nervousness, mostly in men. But notice how often women tuck strands of hair (that are not even stray) behind their ears while thinking of what to say. Running you fingers through your hair seems to help you buy time while you frame an appropriate answer in your mind. It also, on a sub-conscious level, makes you feel better since you just put your hair in place.

Have you ever noticed your hands going up to scratch your face in times you are doubtful or self-conscious? It’s mostly scratching the forehead, chin or nose - another quite common sign of nervousness. Notice yourself and the people around you in uncertain situations and you will see them do that. This is also like buying time and you fill those milliseconds with a scratch.

Other signs of under-confidence include, among others, holding a handkerchief (in case of women) or a pen (in case of women) in your hand when you have to face people in public, tapping fingers on the table, shaking one leg (in case of men) or hiding your hands in your lap or pushing your feet backwards under your chair (indicates you are trying to hide a part of you).

So next time, mind your body along with your words.

Mall Dhamaal!!

Mulundwalon, hamare pass bhi Ma(a)ll hai!!

The opening of swanky malls in Ghatkopar has certainly upped the cool quotient of the Central suburb in Mumbai. Neelyog Square next to the station, R Odeon Mall near Vallabh Baug Lane and R-City in Ghatkopar West are the superstars of Gahtkopar’s new found status among other suburbs.

R Odeon Mall has only Cinemax to its claim to fame at the moment. But that's good enough for now. The interiors are really different with trademark patterns with red and comfy seats. Right now, only 2 out of the 4 screens will be used ofr screening. All the other shops have interior work going on in full swing and should open up shortly. i'm waiting to peep into the spa for women.

Neelyog Square, by Neelyog constructions, is a three-storey building with ample parking space. Shop around the floors and enjoy the latest Bollywood flick in the theatre on the third floor. Reliance Fresh outlet is certainly below standards and expectations. I found fungus growing in boxes of strawberries!!! The movie hall, Fame, is certainly at par with the best standards. With a capacity of about 1250 comfortable seats, excellent audio systems, AC halls and world-class movie projector makes for a great family movie watching session. The station is just outside, so your ride home is not much of a hassle!

It's R City at Ghatkopar West, a Runwal creation, which takes the cake. This is a full-fledged, swanky, really spacious, air-conditioned, 3 storey mall in its full glory. Famous brands have opened shop here. It's pretty organised as well. You have 2 big chunks of psace on the ground floor taken by Pantaloons and Lifestyle respectively. The first floor has saree and ethnic wear shops among others and the third floor has restaurants and the food court. The walking areas is quite large and hence no jostling around even during Diwali shopping.

Big Cinemas, the movie theatre in the mall, has 7 screens to enjoy your favourite movies. R City also has a dine and movie concept unique to the mall culture. There are tables set for you depending on the number of people in your group. The movie and dinner cost Rs. 500 per person. Still haven't tried out how it works. Watch out this space and you will know!

What will find special mention here is a great store called Ethnicity. It has an array of lovely ethnic stuff under the same roof. Indian Wear like sarees from most states in India, Salwar kameez, jootis, artifacts. Traditional junk jewellery, arty folders, rustic decorative items (like a man and a woman siting in an open horse cart made of cane) and a huge collection of artificial jewellery that looks simply gorgeous. The collection of most things is also not the usual we find at other places. Ethnicity also has it’s own eating corner with snacks like chat, pani puri and other tit bits. You can also buy a variety of delicious pickles from this store. Another unique thing about this place is they have something new keeping in the mind the flavour of the season. There was a mehendiwali sitting for Raksha Bandhan and Karva Chauth. The table at the entrance has a beautiful collection of stuff pertaining to the festive season - diyas for diwali and garba pits for navratris. There’s also a Tarot card reader for a change!

R City also has a shop for unique custom-made gifts. You could get pictures etc of your choice put on to mugs, bags, pens, t-shirts and anything else that you fancy!

What I also find unique about these malls is the range of food choices of in the food courts. R Odeon and R City have muti cuisine joints coming up. There's Italian Lasagna and Chinese manchurian with Lucknowi Kebabs and KFC sharing space on the same floor with a huge hall for sufficient sitting space.

So let the party roll on for we too have malls to cheer for.......

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mumbai Local - an inside view of an outsider

i am no authority to discuss the spirit of Mumbai since i’ve lived here for just a little less than 2 years as opposed to people who have spent their entire lifetimes here. In that little time that i’ve lived her, i can say with confidence - the city has a great spirit and an indomitable at that. And nowhere is that spirit more visible than on a local train during peak hours! Every time i travel by a local train, i cannot help but be absolutely astonished and intimidated at the same time at the way people herd together and set out for their destinations. (Thankfully i don’t need to do that everyday like other job-goers, or i’d crumble in a day!)

In my opinion, you need quite a bit of grit and courage to step into that mammoth locomotive that breathes like a living being during peak hours!! The most popular mode commuting in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the Mumbai local faces overcrowding as a compelling problem. The 9 car rake with a capacity of 1700 holds about 5000 passengers during the peak hours in the morning and evening. That is 14 to 16 people passengers standing on per square meter of floor space! Phew! Those are mind boggling statistics indeed!

People joke around saying you just need to make it to the front of the entry and the crowd behind you will ensure you are pushed into the compartment. My initial experiences were a little different. i always ended up being the last one in the crowd after being pushed away by the rest who knew how exactly to make their way and it was too full to get in by the time the other women have stuffed themselves. i am still by no means adept at making my way first, but i do manage to throw myself on the crowd which ensures that am shoved into the boggie! And i need to get right inside unlike women who insist on standing at the edge of the entrance holding the pole! It took my breathe away a couple of times when i was stuck there since i couldn’t puch in any further and couldn’t afford to miss the train!

Once inside there’s no way the jerks and bumps of the moving train can make you fall. Since everyone is held tightly packed in place by the crowd around. i can just about manage to turn my neck a wee bit and push my eyeballs to the corners of my to catch a glimpse of people my co-passengers (who just don’t look like co-sufferers!!). Everyone except me seems to feel at home and some even strike a perfectly animated conversations with their train friends about anything under the sun. i don’t need to hold on to a pole to steady myself is good news but with no freedom of movement, there’s precious little that i can do with my hands except try my best to ensure my personal things aren’t pulled away along with people getting down at stations.

A few journeys during peak hours threw up patterns and i realised there is a method to the madness. The lucky ones sitting comfortably are the ones who’ll stay till the last station. They have the luxury to be chatting with friends they've made on these trains, even share snacks turning the journey into a picnic of sorts. Then, there are people turning towards either doors and there are people stuck in the middle. The ones near the door are going to be out at the nearest station and the others will take their place for the next station. It’s after going through hard times that I realised how lethal it can to put yourself in the way of that mob on its way out. Now I ensure that I stand right in the middle, neither turn left nor right and stay away from the powerful stream of people waiting for their exit.

The Mumbai local also has a serene almost listless side to it. The second class ladies compartment in the not so rush hours is fun. You can just doze off on your seat or pass your time with lots of itsy bitsy stuff on sale. From clips to junk jewellery, stickers, kids books, cheap toys, even vegetables, Women also get home-made snacks for women who would want to munch to keep hunger pangs at bay till they reach home. Those are times you can see the city go by and extract your moments of peace on the train.

It’s only a true-blue Mumbaiite with his undaunted spirit who can go through the grind. Not accidents on the tracks, not the crowd, not the sweat, not even bomb blast succeeds in taking away the resoluteness and faith that the Mumbaikar has in this great phenomenon called Mumbai Local.

Salaam Mumbai!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wake up Sid - some thoughts

Wake up Sid, broadly speaking, has that freshness about it. It’s not the usual mushy Karan Johar flick with loads of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai-isk overdose of melodrama. The plot is simple, real and narrated as simply with no luxurious foreign locales or extravagantly shot numbers, not even for the glamour element. (Though the temptation to do that could have been too strong to resist and would spoil the whole effect of the movie)

Ranbir Kapoor, i think, greatly contributes to the fresh appeal of the film. It’s time that middle-aged men stopped playing college lads in Karan Johar’s films and someone young stepped into their shoes. None of Ranbir’s previous films have worked too well so he is not yet typecast. He perfectly fits the bill of a careless, spoilt-brat-of-a-rich-dad with no aim in life. His verve and spirit of partying and having fun add sparkle to the character. But, thankfully, his transformation is realistic through photography, which is one of his passions. It would be very unrealistic to show him succeed in his father’s business or through a 9-5 job.

Konkana Sen Sharma, unfortunately doesn’t match Ranbir’s fresh appeal. She is as brilliant as ever in her art but we have seen her to many times as the wannabe independent girl in pursuit of finding and maintaining her own identity. (Life in a Metro and Page 3, Luck by Chance are cases in point). Manish Malhotra also doesn’t seem to be too impressive in dressing her up. She’s in boring kurtis all through the film (ok, the glamour quotient is on the lower side in the film, unlike other KJo movies) and she could have been given a better look considering that she is the main lead here and its a commercial film.

Anupam Kher’s performance needs no words of praise as a helpless father of a truant son who refuses to grow up. I have no clue how Kashmera Shah or the old landlady add to the plot. Rahul Khanna is great in his cameo as the editor of Mumbai Beat and looks quite mature.

The portrayal of emotions is quite subtle in the movie. You just feel the helplessness of a father or the growing friendship between two people of opposite sex. i like the pace at which their relationship grows gradually and doesn’t presume love or sexual tension between the two right from the beginning. Sid coming of age is also brought out with ease through his struggle to mend his ways as circumstances force him to do that.

Of course, you see the usual KJo strokes in the revamp of an entire house by the leading lady even wen she doesn’t even have a job. I mean you can afford to paint and furnish your entire house and still afford to pay the rent for a Mumbai property even before you earn “apne paise” only if you have a producer’s deep pockets supporting you.

Overall it’s a great movie with a fusion of fun and emotion. It's worth watching.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I am trying to see the backside of the house.....

I cannot follow what you tell ma’am.... Can you please repeat again?

My name ij sudhasu.... I study in graduason 2nd yr and come here ....phor learn englis. Englis important...... phor job and in study

I phrom Bihar but live in dilli....i living alone....and cook myself phor dinner......

The above sentences represent the almost existential aspiration of every middle class and not so middle class Indian to spout the highest sounding language with the best foren accent. i’ve borne all this and been up close to that aspiration in every communication class of mine for about 2 yrs while i was in the garb of a Call Center Trainer (and even the rest of the years in other roles). That once ubiquitous, but now almost extinct tribe, was responsible for the metamorphosis of the Indian youth into an angrezi speaking workforce of some employer in the West.

Yes, English is important in today’s global world if you want to get ahead in life. But what’s it with Indian English that simply refuses to correct its grammar despite English speaking schools in every street corner and grammar classes in every locality of the country!! But alas the kind of English that even the so called educated class speaks ensures that aspiration remains pretty much what it is - an aspiration.

Grammar is taught right from the primary classes in our country. And great emphasis is laid on the propriety of usage of words and correctness of grammar. Everyone’s heard of Wren and Martin (not noticing how they turn in their grave when people blatantly flout all the rules of grammar they set down) whether or not the follow them. We are proud of following the Queen’s English as opposed to the slang version of Americans. Yet, the lack of expertise somewhere peeps in through the holes of unfamiliarity with the language during conversational English.

The first group i’d like to pick up are the representatives of firang counterparts - the call centre executives. Yes, Indians are very versatile and their tongues can be twisted to speak any accent. But most call centres that seek to offer help are badly marred by the poor language their executives speak. Even the ones that stand for reputed companies- from Dish TV to HDFC bank call centres and Airtel phone services. And this after, i am sure they have gone through training in language and accent skills. The only sentences they can spew with perfection are the stilted - “may I put your call on hold ma’am?” and “thank you for holding, we appreciate you patience Ms. Kher” or “thank you for calling Airtel, this is Charan Das, How may I help you?” or even more tedious “ is there anything else that I can help you with ma’am (when you answer in the negative, not having found a proper solution even to your current query), thank you for calling Airtel. We wish you a very pleasant day ahead”. Deviate one bit from their verbal screenplay and the cracks start emerging - lack of even basic conversational English!

Even if you look at the educated, office going category - even people who speak English on a daily basis make mistakes that are not expected of them. I got pulled by a sales executive of an international brand of cosmetics in a mall today. She dutifully pulled out lipstick testers and started applying on the back of my hand with helpful product info - “this lipstick also work as lip balm and have lip moisturiser, ma’am”. And I am like what the hell - error that’s so basic and we hope to attract international clientele with something like this!! ( I went hoarse all my training life explaining to my students that agreement of the verb with the subject is the life of a sentence - and Indians are champions in taking that life away!) some of the most atrocious announcements in the most horrendous English and accent happen in reputed chains like Big Bazaar!

The examples can be endless. Skills sets - most importantly, mastery over the global language - is a must if India with its workforce of 1.07 billion has to register its power in the international geo-political scenario. We have the people, we only need to equip them with the right skills. Being humans, speaking the right language has to be the first step.

(More post-mortem of the educated class English in future posts!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pati Patni aur Woh

i ran into, of all programs, Pati Patni aur Woh on NDTV Imagine. i watched it out of sheer curiosity and was downright disappointed, not that i expected anything great out of it. The show seems to have brought the Swayamvar Saga to full circle with kids raining in the lives of 7 couples out of nowhere. And just 5 minutes into the program you realise how devoid it is of any parental affection and warmth. The name of the show itself projects the baby as the source of all trouble - the “Woh” of Bollywood!. And the couples with parenthood inflicted on them are as gauche handling babies as the little ones are uncomfortable with them. The attempt at simulating a happy family is a complete mockery of the divine feeling of being blessed with a little angel.

The process of parenthood entails months of mental preparation and reading up on the general knowledge of bringing up kids. But people on this show seem to have dropped their shopping bags and happily picked up kids. Only to realise, to their horror, kids are not cute all the time. The all-of-a-sudden parents make parenthood seem such a terrible nightmare since most kids are bawling away to glory at least this early into the show. Any kid would with a new set of parents being thrust on them overnight. Our trend setting queen of the Swayamvar saga has broken all records in looking her ugly best. If feels as if the kid doesn’t even let you wear decent clothes and comb your hair. (no wonder her kid cries the most!!)

The couples are thoroughly unprepared for basic tasks like even nappy changing! One of them is trying her hand at cooking for the first time! And their attempts at pacifying a crying toddler is just as desperate. Just like you would handle someone else’s kid given to you for a few days! I am totally aghast at how the kids’ real parents agreed to subject their babies to such a blatant screw up, such immature treatment of their loved ones!!! Some of them are already shedding tears of anguish.

Guess, money makes the world go round and reality TV attracts eyeballs!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jaane kahan gaye wo din......

i really wanted to listen to something soothing last night. Switched on the radio and heard the latest hits being churned out for the umpteenth time. So i went online and started playing oldies...ummm...and that’s literally music to the ears. Golden hits from Anand, Abhimaan, Anupama....

It just set me thinking... These songs still retain their charm and pristine innocence that pulls at our heart strings even decades after they were first heard. Almost everything that belongs to those times has become obsolete...but not the music! Their appeal is just the same, their melody as sweet. Hummable at all times, in all moods. Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha, Bhonsle, Manna De, Mohd Rafi and others of their era are the true legends living through generations. The fibre of their work has the tenacity to last for ages - from our grandparents, parents down to us and who our children as well!

Simply great is also the simplicity with which they are shot. No flashy costumes, no glaring make-up and had anyone heard of size zero?? Naah! And yet the leading Ladies look so alluring and lovely in their big hairdos, kohl adorned eyes and beautifully draped sarees. Plump by our current standards yet truly gorgeous! Just the cliché running around the trees or looking into each others eyes but truly romantic and a feast to the eyes.

Today, we have hit songs and superhit ones produced out of electronic instruments (or something of that sort). We have one set of hits played day in and day out only to be replaced by another set in due course. Yes, this is contemporary music and we possibly couldn’t live without the music of our times like other things. These songs define present taste and the popular demand. They are a reflection of our times, our comfort zone.

But can never match up to the ones from the yesteryears. When we need some comforting and go looking for something different from the jang...jang...jang we listen to on our way to work and back, there’s always the tranquil and calming masterpieces to turn to. So let the music play on.....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Crackers, sweets and lots of fun.....

It’s that time of the year again when we are in the midst of festivals and celebrations. We had just gotten over the excitement of Ganapati immersion and it was time to don our best Garba gear and dance away till the crack of dawn. While we fasted for Navratras, there was the holy month of Ramadan fasting for the muslims and Paryushan Parv for the Jains as ways to uplift themselves spiritually. And no it’s not over yet! Dussehra celebrated the victory of good over evil by burning Ravan effigies and we are anticipating Diwali to mark Lord Ram’s homecoming with his bride for Diwali.

Such is the sweep and richness of the Indian culture that we have occasions to be bursting with festive spirit all through the year. Every festival, no matter which community it belongs to, has its own ancient cultural and mythical significance. And when we look around, we’ll find that we have so much to learn. These festivals usher in a didactic message - All religions are one. Our festivals mostly marry worship with celebration, fasting with feasting, austerity with opulence. The fasting signifies strengthening of the moral fibre and the successful completion of the penance calls for celebration. All, like the others, have a way of worship through penance for your past sins, a way of getting closer to our Creator. The twin themes of worship and celebration runs throughout. The feast of Diwali has Lakshmi Pooja and Raksha Bandhan has a prayer for a brother's long life. Delhities fast during Navratras culminating it with 
Ashtami pooja while Mumbaikars gyrate to dandya songs and worship Garba (the pot with diyas)

We might have our own ways of merry making but food, drink and dressing up are invariably a part of it. The market places are decorated, teeming with activity as people catch up with their shopping. Dandya sticks and Garba garbs, Rakhi for brothers, buntings to decorate the house, diyas to light outside and lots of sweets to gorge on.

The festivities is also a time to catch up with near and dear ones and shore up the ties with them. It is in India that we have so many occasions to be a big large family! An occasion to take time out and spend some quality time with old parents, school friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents and the neighbourhood who saw you when you were a little kid!!

So go all out and enjoyy!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weekend trip to Lonavla

There is nothing like driving out of the city hustle and bustle even if it is for a weekend. Driving from Mumbai to Lonavla is a fun journey through the Eastern Expressway. You can easily hit 160 km/hr on the smooth and well made road. It almost gets surreal as you see the scenery whoosh past in seconds! There are trains and buses that take you to Lonavla - which are also convenient and not very expensive. Around 96 kms from Mumbai, Lonavla is a hill station that can be reached in 2 hours flat.

To me, places like Lonavla and Khandala are ideal weekend getaways for many reasons. One they are at a drive-down distance and can do without booking train/bus tickets. You just need to dump stuff in your car and get going! Once there, it's a pretty laid back, predominantly a touristy place and doesn't rquire much planning to look around. You can use your own car to explore the place than having to call a localite to drive you around. The best thing is the quiet at such places. You don't have horns honking and automobiles blaring on the streets outside. And that's exactly what we, denizens of metro cities, crave for!

As with all elevated places, the 'points' from where you can view the valley below are famous. Lonavla has its fair share - Rajmachi point, Lion's point and a few more places that have mushroomed with food stalls and camel rides as tourist attractions. The higher the point, the more misty it gets. And honestly, you look down one of those points and its good enough. The verdant greenery and hilly terrain is a welcome sight to the weary eyes tired of watching the urban jungle day in and day out.

Lonavle mein chikki khayenge, waterfall pe jaayenge - who can forget the lyrics of the famous song. And truthfully so, the experience of Lonavla is incomplete without chikkis in mouth-watering flavours and colours. With Maganlal Chikkis dominating the marketplace, savour groundnut chikkis (my personal fav!) to the calorie rich dry fruit chikkis (my husband's fav!) or chikkis of til, coconut and ground groundnut - made in sugar or jaggery. The soft roles in different flavours of anjeer, mango, dates, pan simply melt in your mouth. Not to mention jelly sweets that are just as irresistible. Once you go chikki shopping in Lonavla, which you must, throw your diet chart out of the your mind and just indulge!!!

Fudge in different flavours is another delectable offering of this hill station. Available in flavours like chocolate, mango and strawberry, you need to develop a taste for them, which i didn't. You get to taste them before you decide to buy them, so you can be sure before to take your pick.

What really becomes memorable through your Lonavala experience is the drive to Aamby Valley City. I had never even heard of it and was helpfully informed by my husband that it is a self-sufficient luxury metropolis built for those who can afford a piece of land in that heavenly sprawl of 10000 acres. You get an idea of the exclusivity of the City through your drive that is breathtaking. It's about 25 kms from Lonavla, nestled among the Sahyadri range amidst verdant greenery and fresh air. The drive through well made and maintained mountainous roads and thick, lush vegetation is a feast for the eyes. As you go higher, mist covers the mountain tops as if leading you to the heavens above. Cruise along at 40 km/hr and thoroughly enjoy the Nature around you and breathe fresh air for a change!

Ironically, it's not the tour of the City itself but the drive from Lonavla to the City that's etches itself in your memory. You need special permission even to step into the gates of the city. You meet with tight security and interrogation at the gate but no permission to enter. No wonder we found tourists happily getting themselves photographed sitting next to the ornate name plate "Aamby Valley City" as a proof of being there to flaunt it to friends.

A little research back home gave me a virtual peek into the city. It not just has villas of different sizes but also a Golf Club, Fitness and Convention centers, Swimming polls, gardens, an airstrip 128 kms long and open spaces with verdant greenery all over. It's worth taking a look and enjoy viewing the pleasures of luxury might own some of it someday!

Though the trip was really short, it did serve as a refreshing break. And now i have to raid the kitchen and bite into one of those delicious chikkis!!!

[Photos of the trip will have to wait till i find my lost card reader or buy a new one :( ]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To do or not to do - that is the question...

All of us face the Hamlet-like inertia a lot of times in our lives. When we know we have to do something but find ourselves incapable of surmounting that sense of ennui that hampers action. This was exactly the case with me for the past one week. i knew i had to post here and kept contemplating on what to write but just couldn't get myself to writing. First I had the excuse of studying for my exam. And then the absence of motivation in the lack of readers kept my blog in abeyance! i knew my not writing here wouldn't make much of a difference to how the world functions. The wheels of time would move just as slowly and Cyberspace would continue to expand at the same speed. No, this is not on a wistful note at all - but plain fact. But i shall try to be more regular in future - my monthly resolution since i started this blog!

i've begun to realise that it is not easy to maintain a general blog like mine. i knew i would run into stone walls looking for interesting things to write about. Who would be interested in knowing what i ate for lunch and how much time i spent simply changing channels on my Tata sky Plus in search of that elusive program. And now i know why people stick to specialised subjects. It not just makes writing easy but also makes the posts keyword rich. i too will gradually move on to the realm of including cyber jargon like keyword rich, SEO etc in due course. But i'd like to first be a generalist before i go on to be the specialist. But for now it is important to keep writing to keep the flow going.

So watch this space!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A baby's smiling face

There's no bigger joy in this world than a baby's smiling face. And the time just flies of in the company of their innocence. It was something similar for me during my trip to Delhi last weekend. My four-month-old niece is so great to be with. My sister had mentioned a lot of times about the lovely and Kute smiles she's begun throwing at faces looking at her trying to engage her in baby-talk. And i was really eager to see it for myself.

When i finally landed in Delhi to see my Darling Princess, i found her to be an absolute bundle of joy. She looks up at you with her big black eyes and looking at you smiling at her she breaks into her kutest smile! Her wide toothless smile simply makes my day! It's such a beautiful phase of life and I often wonder what are a baby's thoughts about the world around. The simplest of things amuse them and make them so happy.

She's a gurgling baby quite happy to be baby talking by herself on the bed.
Her eyes move around taking in the actions around her and legs rapidly kicking the air to show her excitement.

Another of her favourite diversion is to blissfully suck her thumb. It begins by putting in a few fingers and then find the thumb. If her gurgling stops midway you can be sure she's her thumb has found its way neatly into her mouth and she is happy to indulge herself!

But nothing makes her more happy than to have people around who talk to her. That's when you get to see her cherubic smile every 4 seconds. She is thrilled to be talking to you and sometimes knits her brows while making a profound statement in her baby language!

Baby Ananya has her own set of moods as well! She'll stare at you as if angry. And give you a good stare at that! :)

Or simply yawn away with boredom.

She is truly my Princess!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hollywood Bollywood ishtyle!

There have been enough Bollywood movies based on Hollywood movies. At times, the desi version is a frame to frame copy of its angrezi counterpart. Was wondering how would it be to reverse the equation. Imagine superhit Bollywood movies being made in English. i am most curious to know the plight of our famous and cliche hindi movie dialogues. And the reaction of the english audience when the hear lines that are mouthed only in this part of the Globe. Here's my guess:

Kutte, main tera khoon peejaaunga 
Dog, I'll drink your blood


Main tumhare bache ki maa bannewali hun 
I am going to be the mother of your child.

Maaaa, tu mujhe chhodke nahin jaa sakti 
motherrrrr, you can't leave me and go.....

kitne aadmi the? 
how many men were there? 

Basanti, in kutton ke saamne mat naachna.... 
Basanti, don't dance in front of these dogs

Mujhe tere charanon ke sugandh, maa, main us aadmi se badla leke rahunga jisne teri maang sooni kardi
I swear by your feet, mother, i will take revenge from that man who deserted your partition (on the head)

We've grown up dialogues like these but to imagine them in Hollywood flicks is so out of Place! 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Big Fat Traditional Indian Wedding!!

It seems like ages since i sat down to write my blog. i was kinda busy with a big, fat, traditional Indian wedding.  i was aware all my life that an Indian Wedding is nothing short of a mini carnival.  But i seem to notice more of its details since i myself got married. Aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, grand mums and grand dads, family friends and neighbours all descend out of nowhere to stand witness to the union of two bodies and souls.  There's a whole lot of shopping for clothes, jewellery, flowers, fruits, bookings for the venue, caterers, musicians, beauticians (even for men!) and mehendiwalis. Not to forget innumerable items to be bought for the ceremony itself depending on the tradition in which the wedding will be solemnised. Invitations to be selected, printed and distributed to a formidable number of relatives and long-forgotten friends. After all, a wedding invitation is a strong message of solidarity and unity towards all those who get it. (It is of great concern if there is a wedding of someone you know and you don't get invited!!) And then the management of the D-day itself to ensure that duties are delegated and all fronts well armed to handle any mishaps. The boy's side should have no reason to complain about anything. 

i also want to add that we are such slaves of tradition that i no matter where we are in the world, we home home to get married. Guess the feeling of being married doesn't register without the elaborate rituals. i know of a couple who met in the US and settled down there. But came back home to dare a gruelling and ponderous three day long ceremony that was required to declare them man and wife!! Smiling through the misery in the hot and humid month of June! After all, marriage is a social institution and it has to be social event as well! Warna log kya kahenge!! 

i find all this frenetic pace of activity very common across communities. (I've witnessed the union of both North Indian and South Indian souls!!) But then there can be an alternative way of this union. Go to the court and sign a register before the Magistrate (which is also not as simple as it sounds, trust me, but simpler than the traditional jingbang!) But can we ever conceive an Indian Wedding as humdrum as signing a register and it's all over!! Or is it?

At the end of the day, everyone heaves a sigh of collective relief. The coy bride is finally gone with her groom for a happily ever after married life.  The decorations are pulled down and all the relatives are gone into oblivion waiting to re-emerge in the next family congregation. The long day is over and the musicians have gone home. We don't need them anymore because the music will be made elsewhere! 

In the midst of frantic preparations for the event itself, we forget that this is not the end but the beginning for the two people involved. It doesn't matter which way you got married - traditional or registered (Trust me! I have been through both -  with the same person!!!!). Or how many guests ate at the feast or how expensive were the gifts everyone got. All that matters is the course of married life that the couple follows. Ironically, the entire swarm of relatives will be missing from the action when the two actually learn to co-exist with each other. The true challenge actually begins when all the romance of the courtship goes poof in the face of realities. There's much more to life after the initial euphoria of getting  married is over. One can make a good life and justify all the hullabaloo or just give up on the each other and be in the news once again for the wrong reasons - Seperation! 

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Men Vs Women

WOMEN SHOP: i just loooove going around the mall because it's so nice to look around. i don't intend to buy anything. Wow! That blue scarf looks so nice, let me check out more of those.

30 minutes later - none of these scarves are worth buying, i think i'll buy that green shirt. Bhaiya, can i see more colours in this pattern? Show me that red one and the blue one also. Does that jacket go with this?

20 minutes later - How much for this peach one, bhaiya? 200 rupees?? That's very costly. i won't give that much. i'll give only 100 rupees. No? ok forget it! i don't think i like any of them. Will try some other shop.

Passing through a purse shop - i really don't need a purse but there's no harm going and looking at the stuff.

40 min later - i can't believe i got such a good deal on this purse. Wait till i show this to Sheela and make her jealous. i think i should try and look at some junk jewellery now. Since i have come all the way i might try somethings out.

MEN SHOP - Walk into the shop. Head to the desired section. Pick up the desired colour. Try. Buy.

WOMEN TALK: You won't believe i went out shopping yesterday and there were these lovely shirts and i couldn't decide which one to buy at all and this shop keeper showed me so many colours but i wasnt sure so i went and bought a lovely purse instead. In between, i actually wanted to buy one of them but that bhaiya said such a high price that i said forget it. You know i tried this new face wash and it really makes my face look so soft and nice, i'll show you when you come to my house. i have so much work to do at home and just not enough time. What did you make for lunch today? i just made $@%^& because it was so boring to cook today. i am planning to order food from outside for night. A new restaurant has come up in our area, have heard that it is good. You know kids are so happy to eat outside food now-a-days. So i don't mind ordering food because kids means so much of more work that i dont get free time at all to chit chat with anyone, not even with my husband. Today i thought i'll clean my room because its been so long sincei did it that i can't find my things anywhere. Oh btw, did you watch the latest episode of &#(*^ what a big twist in the story! i feel so sorry for urvila, i don't know how she's gong to manage now....

MEN TALK - So how was office today? i am fine. Working towards meeting my targets this year. The markets are so slow. Let's catch up for a drink someday after work.Whatsay?

What a lovely saree you are wearing Mrs. Garely! i bought mine from this store in the downtown that has only imported stock. My husband says no local shocal stuff for us. He is going abroad tomorrow and get me imported perfumes from there. Tomorrow i am going to my aunt's house, arre the one who lives in T nagar because she is celebrating her 60th birthday. Oh you should see her the way she dresses up. She just doesn't want to accept that she has grown old. She spends so much on her clothes and make-up i wonder from where she gets all the money. She has so many servants and my bai here does such sloppy work. i told her that if she doesn't work properly i'll kick her out and get someone else in her place. So many girls are available now-a-days. Is that real diamond, Mrs. Dido? oh Solitaire! i like diamonds only from Amsterdam, real diamonds you know. My boss is such a B**** .....

MEN GET TOGETHER - Wonder where our country is heading to with the kind of politicians we have! We have no action plan to fight the recession. Our travel budget has been slashed by half. We can see any hope only if $#@%^ party comes to power. We need young people like Obama to come to power. Btw, i read about this really advanced version of a radio today. It can not just play your ipod and FM channels but also has a remote you can operate it with.

WOMEN UPSET: i just don't have enough clothes to carry for the picnic next week. i also need to buy a matching nail paint with my new dress. $#@$% has such a lovely pair of boots and it suits her also with her slender figure she looks like a chick and all the men must be drooling looking at her. Oh God! i got a fresh pimple last night and i have no clue what to do tomorrow for the get together of our colony society. It should not be too much of a problem because there are going to be only lots of aunties with flabby waists and i can show off my new dress and take their attention off my face and the damn pimple. i also have to go the parlour tomorrow for my facial appointment and waxing i already look like a chimpanzee with hair all over me....

MEN UPSET - i missed the match on TV. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hum Hindustani!!

India is land of festivals. Almost everyday is celebrated by one or the other community somewhere in the country. We have a fair idea of the common festivals like Diwali, Christmas, Holi and Id. We know about lights, cakes, colours and Biryani! But there are a plethora of other festivals celebrated across India not just in other communities but also in our own. But we only have a vague idea about them. And most of us don't have the time or inclination to educate ourselves about the mythical significance or sagas that went into the making  of these special days.

As children, we have been a part of the preparations for special occasions. We have seen our mothers clean and decorate the house (we were only assistants back then!!), make sweets specific to the festival and tell us what to do on those days. We were only happy to gorge on sweets, rustling around in our new clothes! 

Born and lived in Bangalore for 16 yrs, i am at best a pseudo-punjabi and can't claim to be grounded in either culture. As a child, i have nibbled on neem leaves and jaggery for Ugadi, been part of Mahashivratri festivities and burst crackers for our own Diwali. Another decade in Delhi exposed me to a whole lot of festivals, more North Indian in flavour. The fervour of Navratras twice a year is a regular feature up north of the country. In fact, even we began the ritual of making halwa, puri and chhole for Ashtami - something that we didn't do while in Bangalore since that spirit was hardly palpable down south.  The festival Raksha Bandhan that i thought was just tying a thread turned out to be a huge festival in its own right. Sweet makers extend their stalls for at least a week in advance to cater to the demands around the festival. Diwali brought in even more feverish pace of festivities. 

Having been through the khichdi of Indian festivals, i am still not sure if i can really claim to know properly why even one of them is celebrated. What is the importance of the rituals or the sweets associated with the day. i wonder how equipped are we, as a Young Generation, to pass on those values to our kids. Will we, with our busy lifestyle, have the time, energy, inclination and motivation to teach our kids about the rich Indian festivals and why they are celebrated? Will i as a mother, sit my kid down on Onam and make floral rangoli outside my house? Will we be able to educate them about the importance of Durga Pooja, Easter, Vishu, Gudi Padwa? Will i, on my own, even keep track of when those festivals come and go? i don't think i could do justice to days like Lohri and Baisakhi which are festivals of the Punjabi Community - technically my own. 

With the extent of cultural decline in our generation, i wonder what would it be like for the next generation. i wonder how much of that festival fervour will our kids be lucky enough to experience. We have lived a fair bit that our parents handed us town. It wasn't the real thing like it probably was in their childhood with extended families, palatial homes with verandas and the real culture in its true essence still alive and kicking. Folk songs for every festival and home made tasty food stuff. But we have still seen some of that glory and lived it! 

Today, i feel, we are so captivated by the so called modern culture that we are forgetting our cultural roots. This is a double-edged sword. It's not just taking us away from our own culture but also not helping make an alien culture completely our own. It is so important for us to try and retain some of that ardour we have inherited. Because we belong here, to this great nation called India. And no matter how much we laud other progressive nations and ape the west in what we wear and eat, our Dil will still be Hindustani. We need to ensure that our rich cultural heritage is not lost in our generation. We need to do justice to our Indianness and preserve its true reflection for the future generations - our festivals. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Aaj pehli taarikh hai!

As i was mulling over what to write, write i had to on the first day of the month....i remembered the punch line of Cadbury's. The world of advertising just got a little more aggressive. My memories of retaliation in advertising go back to the Pepsi-cola war when there were sequels of ad campaigns fiercely trying to outdo each other. And the most recent one being the hit-back of Munch with the proposition that Munch can be eaten on any date, day after day!  i thought that was kinda cute way of getting back. Also the ad of a competing water filter brand has a guy in a yellow raincoat reminding us of Pureit. Maybe we don't have enough original ideas left in the industry that copy writers look at existing campaigns for inspiration. No harm on making fun of your opposition but i think this could be done with more subtlety. 

One thing that i really love about ads today is the widespread presence of kids. From washing powders to selling insurance - kids are all over the place. i feel this makes the ad that much more easy to recall. With most choices made in the family being pegged on kids' whims and fancies, it seems to only reflect the change in our social fabric. While kids provide us entertainment value, whether or not we buy the product and their parents are laughing all the way to the bank, i guess no ones complaining. We can hope to see more cute kids showcasing their talent for those few seconds pulling at the strings of our hearts.  

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kaminey Faale!

How come thif movie haf become fuch a hit! For me, it turned out to be a dud! I am ftill not fure what waf exactly the focal point of it! Feparated-and-reunited- twin brotherf or a ftory about gang war? The wanton bloodfed (bloodshed) and violonfe (violence) at the end isf abfolutely pointleff. Fahid Kapoor is juft about ok and all the hype about hif fterling performanfe uncalled for. And the villainf too are hardly fcary and don't make for a hair-raifing experienfe. Priyanka's juft herfelf trying her best to lift up the vain

The ftory initially feems alright with identical twins separated - one vituouf and the other not. But then, i juft kept waiting for the plot to thicken. But even when they exchange placef and i thought there'f going to be fome comedy of errorf. Inftead, they are quickly reftored back to their original settingf. The confrontation that they have at the end and the tragic circumstanfes of their father'f death bring no catherfif (catharsis). The angle comef as an after thought in an attempt to prop up the childhood enmity between brotherf. 

Priyanka Chopra isf running moft of the time and doing thingf a woman in the initial ftages of her pregnancy fhoudn't be doing. She ftill managef to have pretty healthy twinf!!! i know i fhoudn't be ufing common fenfe in a Bollywood movie...but couln't ignore something so obviouf. Shahid Kapoor (the one who lisps, hence no f's) is beaten up all the time and he ftill goes on without any medical attention or firft aid! The blood clot is a perennial feature of his make-up in the second half! 

All in all, 3 hours in the hall were a colossal waste of time for me! Just couldn't wait for it to be over! (mein 'fa' ko 'fa' nahin bolti!) 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Obsessed with Size Zero!!

i know i have dealt with something similar recently but this seems to be all over the place. We are undoubtedly a generation obsessed with weight loss and acquiring that perfect figure. We talk about the goodness of diet food at dinner tables, have switched to low fat and sugar free options and hang on to any and every advice we hear that can help us reach our goal. We are ready to take on any form of physical activity to beat us back into shape. Aerobics, Power Yoga, Gym, Yoga, Sports or simply hour-long walks. Anything at all. 

Like i said it is everywhere and try as much as you like, you cannot escape the truth staring in your face - you don't have that perfect figure. Switch on the television and you are likely to find fitness programs on every third channel. Pick up the newspaper and you will more often than not run into articles related to health and slimming tips. How many glasses of water, helpings of fruits and vegetables, minutes/hours of physical activity- it's all there for you to follow. Even aunties will tell you how they try to beat those extra inches (only 'try'). Chatting up with Mrs. Sharma while waiting for the school bus to arrive, in kitty parties, at Yoga classes, at all-women family get- togethers or simply while sweating it out in the local park in saree and sneakers! There is no dearth of information we are inundated with. 

You decide to turn away from all that and catch up with a quite movie to make you feel better. But you are sure to be haunted by the size zero figures and six-pack abs on screen to add to your torment. And your thoughts move back to the dream of achieving slim thighs and a slender waist someday! And every woman who aspires to make it to size zero dreams of flaunting a John Abraham as her man. And every man who yearns for the six-pack body fantasises of Kareena Kapoor for a spouse. (no wonder matrimonial columns even today demand 'slim and beautiful' girl) We might not reach our ideal situation but over the years the desire remains buried somewhere deep down in our hearts. 

i wonder if this craze of losing weight and looking better is not because of cosmetic reasons. The way lifestyle related diseases threaten us, it's not easy to ignore our health. It's worth the time and effort to look good and also be able to keep diseases at bay. On the flip side we might choose to accept that Indian figures are not meant to be as slender as they are in the West. We are broad and we look beautiful that way. Eating in moderation and enjoying the life we've been given could be such a better approach to being happy and healthy! 

As for me i promise not to make my blog a commentary of health obsessions of people! 

Friday, August 28, 2009

No Bang..... only whimper!!

That’s exactly what it has been, with me missing from action for a few more days even after i finished my exam. The days just fly past and i only end up contemplating what should go next on my blog. And my blog being very special to me, i want exclusive time (lots of it, actually) to mull over what to write, how to write, researching facts etc. i promptly visit my blog first thing when i switch my comp on (half hoping some good samaritan has done the deed for the day by commenting on any of my posts!), but that’s the end of it. A fastidious person that i am, i want my post going online exactly when i finish it and not when i start writing it since i might do a post in bits over a day. So now you know that i take my blog pretty seriously and do not want to write things that wouldn’t interest my precious readers!

And i also know the reasons i have elaborated above are insignificant to you. So let’s talk of something else. There is no dearth of different professions in today’s times. Changing times have given birth to a lot of newer ones. We call them offbeat professions. i find some of them quite intriguing. When I was in school, i only knew about subjects that would make me a teacher, doctor, engineer and all those kinds of usual stuff. i never knew what made a Social Commentator. Or a Relationship Expert? Imagine making a career out of commenting on the changing social fabric of a city. Or better still being paid to state on a TV program that men are genetically programmed to be unfaithful!!

And then there are Mind and Body Experts who can tell you how to find what all of us are looking for - Happiness!! That's a cool off beat profession. A couple of such people are a huge rage in India. They get quoted in the leading newspapers and readers gulp down their nuggets of wisdom first thing in the morning. i wish i was one. i would never ever be unhappy since i would know how to capture the elusive emotion the whole world is striving to achieve. Leadership Gurus. That's another category of innovative people who have given rise to another fraternity altogether.

i am wondering where would i fit in! Will be back with some innovative off beat careers i can pursue! Watch this space!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back with a Bangg!!

Deep into the bottomless pit. Without any source of light. No window to the outside world. Waiting for someone to find me and get me out of there. Futile attempts at scratching the dark walls around in an effort to free myself of the nightmare but all in vain. Mouth wide open trying to snatch as much air as I could but for vague reasons air dint seem to reach the depths. Just going round and round within the confines of mournful existence. Living in the reality of hopelessness...

And then my saviour with a click of a switch restored glowing brilliance of light into my life. i could see light and connect with the world around. Oxygen rushed into my lungs giving me a new lease of life. i was suddenly unfettered and free to do what i chose to. And....and....then i realised my life had no meaning without my internet connection!!!!

My computer seemed only a box fit enough to watch movies and that’s it.... It had life but had lost it’s soul... i could put it on and but had nothing to do with it. The modem decided to act up just when my knight in shining armour (read my husband - in absolutely mundane terms) was away. i couldn’t check mails, log onto Facebook or write my blog!! It was like i could think of all important things to do online just then! And a nut that i am wen it comes technology, i made umpteenth hopeless and fruitless visits around the cables to figure out the wires that to me seems to send out internet signals by magic. But all i could find were plugs for the printer-cum-fax machine, modem, wireless port, telephone adaptor, table lamp, radio....phew and a couple of other things maybe. And wires emanating from all those sources of modern conveniences all over the place! And how would poor me figure out what the hell was wrong.

While i was ‘down under’ trying to set things right and undo the tragedy that had befallen me, my knight told me to simply switch the modem off and then on!!!! And lo! the internet buzzed into life! Gawd! Technology has strange ways of behaving. i can say that. And the astonishing grip that internet has on us is truly unbelievable. Moreso for me who’s become the owner of a laptop only a year ago and spent the better part of my life without computers and 24 hour internet access was a far away cry. As children, internet and computers were relegated only to the dominions of books and scientists. i was so excited when my sister decided to buy a computer in the late 90's. Reason - multimedia kit that she bought with it so i could watch movies and listen to music on it!!!! i got to use computers everyday only when i started working. And i wasn't really excited at the idea of being with them.

But today, the endless dalliance with my laptop takes up chunk of my day....and why me! It’s that way with most of us. How many hours in a day do we spend dawdling away reading stuff that others have written, scrapping friends on Orkut and Facebook, checking emails, forwarding emails, chatting with friends etc etc. Doesn’t matter whether we are lounging on our couch or in the middle of travel - technology has ensured that we have access to the cyberspace wherever we are!!!

Most of what we do online might not be educational or informational but we have to be online and stay connected! It just helps feeling so much better. And I know losing that connection even for a while can feel like losing a close bosom friend!!!! Hail Internet!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Will be right back....

Well! i've been missing from action for a few days cz of time constraints. i have an exam next week and i really don't seem to be reaching the end of my textbook. But i've also been exploring other blogs, reading them (cursorily though, exam remember!) and trying to figure out interesting things that can be put on my site to make it look more happening and fuller. Right now i feel it looks so empty. And once my exam is over, i shall get down to actually trying out gadgets that i want to put on my blog.

Since my exam is on my mind, i've not been really keen on mulling over things to write about. And there hasn't been anything in the past week to really trigger my responses. Except maybe the hullabalu about SRK's detention at Newark airport. Big deal! Should have belted out dialogues from a few of his movies and the officials there would have themselves ensured his speedy ejection from the airport!

Anyways, i got to get back to my studies and stop hacking away at the keyboard with my mindless rambling! Till the next time......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

30 is the new 60

This is the best time to be born on earth! Even the original creator of the world couldn’t have dreamt of such variety! Mankind has beaten him in all departments of innovation and creativity. We’ve decoded the DNA, found ways to modify our food, figured out each calorie in every morsel that goes into our mouth, unveiled the mysteries of nature to manipulate it to the best of our interests, found cures for every ailment that man could possibly suffer from. Satisfied with his accomplishments, Lord Mankind decided it wasn’t enough to vanquish Nature, he would invent his own nature and call it Technology!

Today, we can stop aging and look naturally beautiful (thanks to botox and its ilk), plan the traits you want in your children (refer to the advancement in Genetics), talk to people living in another corner of the world as if the person were in front of you (haven’t you heard of internet!?), be available at the press of a button (I meant the speed dial on your phone!) get paid obscene salaries for your job (corporate world). There is a solution to every problem. Marriage doesn’t appeal to you? Live-in. Can’t go to office today? Keep the office at home- work on the laptop silly! Can’t stand men, you can still produce a child of your own (ever heard of IVF?). And the list is endless…

But with all those luxuries around, we have forgotten to move our precious ass and go get some exercise. We are just too busy (even with all the gadgets around to save us time and make our lives so much easier) Added to it is the array of food options available in all kinds of cuisines. Eating out has become a fashion rather than a rare family ritual it used to be about a couple of decades ago. We are in such a tearing hurry that we can't spend time to even walk down the lane to buy basic stuff that doesn't need carrying around. Something drastic seems to have gradually changed (ironically) in our lifestlyes over the years - from the time we were kids to the time we've become a part of the fast paced choked with more than we can cope with.

Suspicion of diseases unheard of in the 30s seem to stare in our faces. At least threaten to. Cholesterol, Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure, Heart issues - the list seems as impressive as the former list of conveniences that results in the latter list of problems. There are paranoid discussions about healthy diet, good lifestyle habits and quick ways to shed pounds all around. So i guess Nature has its way of levelling out and getting back at Man almighty who thought He could achieve anything. He has. And a little more.

i feel all we need to do is to slow down. God has blessed us with no less than 24 hours in a day and all of us can afford to spend some time for ourselves. All the more important because we live in this fast- paced world. Just watch what we eat (indulge once in a while, though!!) And more importantly - get out of the air-conditioned interiors and make your body work (out)! i am sure our bodies would go back to their natural selves only if we treated them the way they were meant to be. We need to let our body catch up with the pace at which our minds are racing. Or better still, slow down the pace of the mind. "God is in His Heaven and all will be well with the world"

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pink Money

Legalising Homosexuality in India has taken our country by storm. It is certainly music to the ears of gays who were forced to stay closeted fearing the stigma attached to them. The move of the honourable court is a commendable one in ensuring that discrmination is not done on the basis of something as personal as a person's sexual preference. A mere proclivity doesn't make a man (or woman) since a whole lot of other characterisitcs define a human being.

But all the halla gulla about the Gay relationships being made legal in India seems almost anachronistic when you look at it from a global angle. In countries like the UK and the US, the power of Pink Money has made its presence felt across business sectors leading to a flourishing economy that runs on it. (funny that even money changes colour depending on who it comes from - greenbacks to pink dollars!) In the US, huge amounts of Pink Dollars even went into prestigious campaign accounts in the Presidential Elections and both Obama and Hillary Clinton wooed the gay vote bank. While we in India are still coming to terms with the fact that people can fall in love with others of the same sex, pink money is a multi-billion industry abroad. There are shops, restaurants, resorts and even cabs that cater exclusively to the Homosexual communities.

Well! Those are liberal and broad minded societies that condone a lot more than this. But it is an insult to our rich, cultural heritage of India to even think of such a thing. It is a sin, against God nd Nature. People who love others of the same sex are possessed and probably need curing etc etc. But hey! Look around and you will find the ripples of change just beginning to emerge even in our country. Designers who cater to this commnity also, spas where you can enjoy with your partner without feeling awkward and event management companies who can put up an event together just for gay couples what want to come together and enjoy with some of their own kind. It might take a while before this trend becomes current but the mindset is slowly but surely changing.

We country moving towards being a developed country would be so in the real sense when we have made sure that no sectionsof our society are discriminated against. We need to exemplify equality which is one of the pillars of our Republic. And the new law is a major step towards upholding those very values that make mera Bharat mahan.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Where's my old dose?

Women are liberated every where in the world except on the Indian idiot box!!! The serial makers seem to revel in the teary saga of the oh-so-weak-dependent-on-her-husband Bharatiya Naari. What strikes me is that these serials are so far away from the reality that it sucks. Especially from a woman’s point of view. (i don’t know if men derive a vicarious pleasure watching their species dominate women at least on TV, cz that’s where you can find them so often) i am not an avid watcher of the soap sagas. One doesn't have to be. Just run into the promos and that's the high point of the day's episode! Most of them are in the same vein.

It’s good to expose the existence of child marriage and female infanticide even today but the focus seems to get lost through the episodes and it is back to woman-bashing. Milk any situation to get the TRPs going and what’s better to tug at the hearts people (apparently women watch them more than men do) than a bechari woman being put through exploitation.

Without exception, none of these women seem to have a mind of their own. Most serials are endless epics of putting up with gross injustices perpetrated on them. All of them, no matter what time of the day or night, are found dressed in their costumes and jewellery (does that get any farther from real life!) The women are made to put up with the most igniominious situations just to add to the melodrama!!! And all these characters don’t seem to know that her counterpart in real life has transformed her fate. She has left behind men in most professions (I think I can safely say all professions!)

The second most common theme in our daily dose of entertainment is conspiracy, bitterness and politics. Once again, without exception. Even a seemingly innocuous and appealing story of Meera has intrigue and envy surfacing right in its first week. And that was the last time i watched it. It’s as if people have no better business but to concoct schemes and machinations against whoever they can target. None of those characters lead normal lives. There’s always a storm rocking the boat of their lives.

i agree that there are a lot of sections in our society where the women are still at the receiving end. Domestic violence, female infanticide are very much a reality. But i am talking about daily 'entertainment' that craetes recreation and diversion after the end of a tired day. We expect some clean and positive entertainment. Gone are the days of comedies like Yeh jo hai Zindagi, Dekh bhai dekh and classic programs like Buniyaad, Hum Log that depicted family values and were the favourites of the masses.

People responsible for television should realise that these uninspiring stories have so much of potential to become instruments of social change. Today, when we are talking about television as a mode of entertainment and information in every Indian village, it is important that it reflects the positive changes of society. Rather than condone presentation of women in poor light, television should ensure that the less exposed in the society are inspired with stories of man-woman equality and what a woman is capable of achieving.

A New Beginning!

Hello Everyone! Bookmark this blog cz i am sure none of you want to feel left out when this rocking place becomes the talk of cyberspace! Too haughty, right! Nah! Just trying to feel upbeat since i finallllly started a blog and have begun taking baby steps towards making it going great! Of course, i look forward to your comments, suggestions, arguments, questions, disagreements, affirmations etc to make it an interactive place.

My primary intention to begin with is to just hack away at the keyboard and the rest can follow later when i figure out the meandering pathways of settings, layouts, gadgets etc! i don't promise to give to spicy gossip or biting reviews, neither do i intend to sermonise or elevate through my blog. It's going to be just a rambling, flowing stream of thoughts that stop by at points of interest and examine, investigate or simply comment!

For now, thanks so much for visiting my blog and reading my first post. Do drop a line if you happen to know me and you are welcome to do so even if you don't!!!