Site Maintenance

As I have observed and as was also pointed out by Mithe, the current template on this blog has exceeded the bandwidth limit.

Since I'm not too keen on other Blogger templates, I guess I will use this breakdown to complete a long-pending move to Wordpress. And also get my own domain name.

Be back soon. New and improved.

Delhi-6: More Clichés

If there's one significant line that is worth keeping in mind at the end of a draining re-run of tormenting and heavily clichéd themes-filthy rich guy, simple town girl, impossible love, fill-in characters, overdose of drama, Hindu-Muslim clashes in a small neighbourhood- it is "How can a monkey be a Hindu or a Muslim?". And the irony is that just right there even a neutral's view of the Hindu-Muslim conundrum is converted into a drab chestnut. And one wonders whether it is eventual boredom that will lead to the end of the problem as even mutual hatred joins the list of clichés. At least in movies.

A rich young man plans to ensure a smooth return for his grandmother to her family home in the crowded streets of vintage Delhi. He becomes a part of the neighbourhood to such an extent that he is no longer just the admired-from-a-distance, sweet NRI with a crooked Western accent. He falls in love (you don't know when it happens, how it happens and why it happens), meddles in the personal lives of a few orthodox well-wishers and ends up being beaten to death, like a man who dares to mess with the rigidity of conservatism would. But he does come back alive, of course.

Rakeysh Mehra's previous efforts have been way better than what he has brought out for the cinegoer this time around. Mehra's intrinsic focus on how he will patch raw beads into a beautiful necklace lose pace as early as the beginning of the movie. A typically chaotic introduction to innumerable characters, who then keep popping in and out of the screen at unexpected times and an effort to stitch together the culture beauty of Purani Dilli for the audiences leads to a jamboree of confusion that one just cant comprehend. Rakeysh Mehra probably observed the average Delhi life, made a checklist and somehow infused every point from that list into a package. Plot - doesn't matter. Sense - who cares. Audience - bewildered.

In the middle of it all, you are taught how to slap with resounding acoustics, how to change channels from the TV remote without using your hands, how to jump from one building to another in a congested neighbourhood like a fleet-footed chipmunk chasing a banana-filled truck, how to see through a monkey's eyes and how to be insane about Indian Idol. The starcast gives a thoroughly average performance. Nobody in particular stands out. Except Sonam Kapoor's natural Chandni Chowk ki chhorri looks.

The music is impressive, but that is the least one can expect from a man who has just bagged two Oscars for some rather ordinary work in Slumdog Millionaire. A R Rahman's work in D-6 however is truly worth savouring, as are Prasoon Joshi's lyrics. But the movie is very disappointing. In an effort to build a cultural beauty and to demonstrate how long-drawn communal conflicts can be erased by projecting a common enemy, Mr. Mehra misses the point, the plot and gives us a rather average Bollywood flick. The dots just dont connect.

Verdict: Avoidable

[Image courtesy: Showhype]

Sidenote: Congratulations to A R Rahman and Resul Pookutty for their phenomenal wins at the 81st Academy Awards.

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The 25 Things Tag

1) I have lived more than half of my life outside India.

2) Deciding to pursue engineering was not the wisest move in my life. I wish I had the conviction in me to pursue a career in sports, political science or even become a pet detective (Ace Ventura style).

3) I detest fame of all kinds, but secretly dream of hot women screaming my name.

4) My social skills are not terrible, just plainly weird. Sometimes, I dont know why I've behaved in a certain way, spoken certain things in public and made certain acquaintances.

5) I like football more than cricket. In fact, I am fanatical to the point that the craze has become an addiction. I cant live without football (playing, watching on TV, brainstorming, gossiping). Period.

6) By posting the same comment five consecutive times on one of my blog posts (an example here), I do not understand your point better than I did after reading it just the once.

7) I am a vegetarian. I have had my spell with smoking. I drink very, very rarely.

8) Sometimes, I like playing the uber-cool fool when I am surrounded by people(women) I wish to leave an impression upon. Sometimes.

9) I dont enjoy being in the company of cynics and sycophants. Other types will do, but these two categories of people make me feel like I need blood donors.

10) Thank God, I've reached Number 10 on this list.

11) I think Bollywood plays a hand in keeping India united. On a personal level, Bollywood is not for me (Reasons here). I am your occasionally-found-at-multiplexes kind of guy.

12) I was NOT a bully in school. I did NOT rag anyone in college. As far as I can remember.

13) I do not enjoy dancing, of the type in a discotheque with coloured lights and 'rocking' music. I enjoy Garbaa and Dandiya Raas, the folks dances of my home state.

14) During my school days, a history teacher who educated me on the Indian freedom struggle, the World Wars and Mahatma Gandhi was one of my role models. I scored 55 in Social Sciences in 10th. I dont know why (Dont smirk! One of the toppers in my school scored 49 in Social Sciences and 90s in all other subjects). I still believe this was a CBSE-sponsored conspiracy.

15) I hate obsessive love. Simple love is fine. But some lovey-doveys are overtly obsessed with their opposites. I feel life loses pragmatism with this kind of 'love'.

16) The Fair-N-Handsome effect doesn't fancy me one bit.

17) I think religion has been misunderstood by people to an extent I had never imagined. And it's getting worse. And the only tonic is tolerance.

18) I think Priyanka Chopra is very beautiful. And hot. I think Mallika Sherawat is very hot. But not beautiful. In an ideal world, I'd want to marry Priyanka and have an extra-marital affair with Mallika. ;-)

19) When in my teens, MyHotBoard.com was one of my favourite internet haunts. It doesn't take a genius to interpret what the site was about, from the name of the site.

20) Sourav Ganguly is my all-time favourite cricketer. During the NatWest final in England in 2002, at 146/5 (when Sachin Tendulkar got out), I made an instant bet with my uncle that India will chase down 326. And we did.

21) I try not to lie. But there are certain situations in life where you just cant seem to 'go ahead' if you choose to not lie. I also try not to lie in those situations. But what eventually makes me lie is that greatest fear of 'being stuck' in compromising situations.

22) Yes, I realize that I've wickedly used this tag to promote some of my previous blog posts.

23) I am usually very calm. MS Dhoni, for me, is a soothing brain that one should attempt to emulate.

24) Two things in the world elevate me to instant bliss - 1) making people laugh 2) scoring a goal in a football match.

25) Thank God, this tag is over. I usually dont enjoy tags. Anybody in the whole wide world can take up this tag from here. Dont pile the pressure on me by expecting me to come up with a list. :-)

Stay safe.

[Tag request: Indian Home Maker]

(I have a gut feeling that there may be others who would've requested this. If you(blogger/reader/Ram Sene hooligan/Congress stooge/BJP hardman/ISI agent) requested one before reading this post, kindly get in touch. A courtesy link is then a necessity.)

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Of Pink Chaddis, Pink Condoms & Naked Hypocrisy

So finally, the most significant Valentine's Day in Indian history is over. There were indeed incidents of violence, which is shameful to say the least, against couples professing their love in public places across the country, but the focus seemed rather on an initiative called the Pink Chaddi campaign which was followed by its adversary, the Pink Condom campaign.

Like mass mobilization movements of the pre-Independence era, the two campaigns have picked up like-minded members and proceeded full steam ahead to promote their ideologically-leaning theories. In fact, that is what is common between the two - ideology.

Reality check.

The Pink Chaddi campaign and the Consortium of Loose, Pub going and Forward Women were hysterical in the promotion of the liberal mindset and their attack on conservatives is apparent, along with veiled potshots aimed at Hindu culture(read comments on their blog). It also forgets that fundamentalism of all religions needs to be fought against, not specifically Hinduism. Indeed, there were many fundamentalist groups that had threatened couples on Valentine's Day.

Now what happens with the Pink Chaddi campaign - anyone even remotely conservative and loyal to his/her culture is 'backward', 'un-progressive' and has trapped the country in an inertia of medieval theocracy. Let alone that the person might be a commoner, a wage-earner who has a family of many to feed. But the elitist disregard for the Indian poor is clearly on display with the Pink Chaddi folks.

It is indeed disappointing that the BJP did not do enough to bring the Sri Ram Sene and Pramod Muthalik to justice. "But they did arrest him before V-Day?", the quintessential Rightist may ask. Well, preventive custody is not justice. It is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the past events for public interest during that particular period when the threat looms large. What about the Mangalore pub attack? Where is justice for that? What was required, if at all, was a protest outside the Sene's office and the state legislative assembly in Bangalore and calls for ban on such fundamentalist groups.

But we are too happy sending pink chaddis to be bothered about a protest that makes an actual difference and doesn't just hog all the headlines. The attention by the media is blinding and the Consortium is on the brink of victory. Once the pink chaddis reached Muthalik, the Consortium's job was done and life is back to normal.

Congratulations Pink Chaddi folks, Mangalore's victims have justice. Maybe, overflowing boxes of pink underwear will flood the SRS office, block the exits and its members will be prevented from coming out and orchestrating another attack.

The Pink Condom campaign and the Consortium of Assertive and Proud Hindus hasn't been all over the papers, but only a look at their website is enough to understand that they intend to form a shield against those maligning Hinduism. The Pink Condom campaign conveniently forgets that there may be religious Hindus in the Pink Chaddi campaign who have nothing against Hinduism and are plainly intent on embarassing Muthalik and the SRS.

The Pink Condom initiative also fails to consider the fact that there may be many conservative Muslims and Christians(read comments on blog) who echo similar feelings against the liberal West. After all, if Indian culture is conservative - then it means Hindu, Islamic, Christian and all other conservative religious cultures, doesn't it?

It hails itself as secular while also specifically defending Hindu interests. Sure, pseudo-secularism is prevalent in India and practiced by many, but to use labels like 'sickular' is quite irresponsible and ignorant of the sentiments of the ill-advised members of both campaigns and people all over India in general. Especially, when the fault lies primarily with fundamentalist Hindus like Muthalik & his SRS.

End result - liberals celebrate the success of the Pink Chaddi campaign, while conservatives are up in arms against pub culture and similar anti-cultural theses. Next time the stupid SRS is out there marshalling pubs and attacking women, liberals will bury themselves in the paranoia of hysteria once again(aided by the media) and conservatives will brainstorm and ponder over erosion-of-Indian-culture and blame pub-going girls for 'provoking' the mad fundamentalists.

As soon as incidents like these phase out of public memory, Muthalik will walk a free man, the SRS remains as it is and although they must have learnt their lessons, does just teaching a lesson count for justice?

Welcome back to square one.

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Seven and a Half Rupees

Once upon a time, at one of Mumbai's many railway stations, I was waiting to board a late train to Ahmedabad. My parents and my sister were with me. We were heading back to our hometown of Rajkot, via Ahmedabad, after a trip to Mumbai to meet a few relatives.

Our train was scheduled at 10:30 pm. And it was around 10:15 pm at the time. As usual, we were seated on the few benches there and I was looking around the platform.

I noticed a little boy, surely not older than five or six, a little farther away. Clad in a torn black t-shirt and brown shorts, the little kid was moving about barefooted, had a plastic bag in one hand and the fingers of his other hand seemed closed around something he was clutching to while requesting others on the station to take up his service of shoe polishing.

Unfortunately, nobody obliged. Slowly, he came over to where my father and I were seated. My mother and my sister had apparently gone for a walk around the station and were not present then.

As he approached us, I noticed that he was holding his earnings from a hard day's job in the clenched fist. It didn't seem to be much, as a little kid's hands can hardly hold too many coins, forget clutching to them.

He was silent. After having been asked to move ahead rather rudely by many of the people he came across, I sensed a natural dejection in him to convince my father and me.

He lightly waved the bag. My father asked him "Kitne me karoge?"

Sensing a potential customer, the little kid's eyes gleamed and he raised two fingers of the hand with which he held the plastic bag and said "Do rupey, saab.", the other hand as tightly bound as ever.

My father removed his chappals.

The kid then sat down, undoubtedly spurred on by landing a customer, and finally loosened the fist of his other hand. Some coins emerged. He sat down, placed the coins carefully beside him, and proceeded with the job on hand.

The dedication with which he took up the task was a treat to the eyes. Like a thorough professional, he opened his carry bag and out came a shoe polish and a brush. Very delicately, he opened the polish, dipped his brush into it and polished my father's chappals. What was more wonderful was that he gave it all his time, like a perfectionist, making sure that not a speck of dust remained.

He was soon done. The chappals were as good as new.

My father took out a ten-rupee note to pay the child, who had by now put the polish and the brush into his bag and gathered his previous earnings.

The child observed the ten-rupee note, and looked at his earnings. I could see that the coins were few and he began counting them. It was a small collection of one-rupee and 50-paise coins. One by one he counted the coins and I counted along.

The coins summed up to seven-and-a-half rupees.

The child, with an anxious look on his face and an innocent nod, looked up towards us and said "Saab, chhutte nahi hain.".

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That emotion called Love

So, Valentine's Day is upon us. Ah! One more reason to look him/her deep in the eyes and say I Love You, ji. One more occasion to re-emphasize memories like "Remember, you used to come to my hostel at 10 pm in the night and honk and then I used to come down and we used to go to eat American makaai. And then you would drop me back and then you would wait till I went back inside. And...", while listening to which if you have accidentally dozed off on being possessed by the spirit of lethargic boredom and you've failed the test of your tolerance, then you end up facing serious consequences.

Sadly, contemporary love seems to have developed pre-conditions, most of which are largely tilting towards materialism. According to me, it's not love if the premise on which a semblance is felt is Kya maal hai bey! or Is he rich? Does he have a car? How good is his English?. Such assumptions only lead to more and more hypocrisy if indeed there is a match and 'something happens'. Sex is becoming a precursor and dressing sense seems to matter more than clarity of thought. But in a commercial world, this is the least that can be expected.

Love, however, is meant to be a celebration. It is the enabler of peace and the forebearer of altruistic principles. And all forms of love must be celebrated. Love for parents, love for siblings, love for family, love for friends, love for society and love for country should be accorded as much importance as love for partner. What makes the emotion of love so inspiring is that interpretation of it with an open mind could showcase the emotion as an example of the tolerance that the society needs. Therefore, even homosexuals and eunuchs have the right to love. Love embodies the basic concept of humankind. And if a society directs itself towards love, then the people stand to benefit.

Love is beautiful. Keep it just that.

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They say that India is a lie because its reality falls so far short of its ideals. They are wrong. India is not a lie; it is a disappointment. But it can be a disappointment only because it is also a hope. [Pragmatic Euphony]

To be a Prime Minister

Mayawati, Ram Vilas Paswan and Narendra Modi fail on many counts

With Lok Sabha polls less than a couple of months away, most newspapers and magazines will begin the usual in-depth analysis of Prime Ministerial candidates of various parties and coalitions. But what seems certain at this point in time is that a fractured coalition is but an inevitability. No party has a share of majority seats. No party can survive without forging together regional parties. Pre-poll alliances are, hence, likely to play a crucial role in the run up to Elections 2009. But the interest here lies purely on the Prime Ministerial candidates offered by various parties, or at least the ones doing the rounds in the media.

One of the most talked about candidates is actually non-BJP, non-Congress - Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. Mayawati, according to a few estimates, could take advantage of the fractured coalitions of the NDA and the UPA. Now the only basis on which Mayawati is being praised as a beacon of hope is because she is a Dalit. A product of the ‘real’ India. A voice for the oppressed. Not withstanding her contributions in giving the Dalit India a voice, she has so far proved to be a very average administrator as Uttar Pradesh remains one of the most backward states of India. Her record in corruption and involvement in dubious murder cases (like the recent one of a BSP MLA) would also add to the taint on the PM’s chair.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has given his backing to Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP, because Lalu also wants to see a Dalit become the Prime Minister. Now being a Dalit has nothing to do with Prime Ministership simply because the focus would overtly be on the symbolic identity of the person and not on issues of governance. If Paswan or Mayawati are potential candidates, then the Indian voter should be anxious about what value they can add to the Prime Minister’s post rather than focus on the point that even India can be an America, where a black Barack Obama became Preisdent. Now, Barack Obama became President because he emerged from all racial divides. While Lalu stresses that he wants Paswan to be Prime Minister, simply because he is a Dalit. Since when did the Prime Minister’s post have a criteria for caste?

If Paswan proves his leadership skills and emerges above all divides, I will vote for him. If Mayawati does the same, I will vote for her. But neither have ever objectively enlightened us about their ideas for India’s progress and are instead focusing on the one aspect, that of being a Dalit, to foster their prime ministerial ambitions. The focus instead of being on good governance, bonding of stand-alone minorities with the majority and the unity of India, is rather on identity politics and the rise of leaders that represent a particular race. This would do no good to India, would it?

Even Gujarat CM Narendra Modi fails at this juncture, despite being endorsed by various corporate heads and celebrities, simply because his focus is also on region and religion. Most of his speeches play to the tune of Hindutva. And a failed ideology like Hindutva is not a trump card to being a Prime Minister. Even regarding the people, Modi’s stress on Gujarati pride will also do no good to the rest of India and the “India first, Gujarat second” Gujaratis.

Hence to all questions that ask where is India’s Barack Obama, the most un-partisan and truthful answer seems to be - “He/she’s not here just yet”.

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IPL Ins and Outs

After Shilpa Shetty and her boyfriend Raj Kundra's investment of Rs. 7.5 crores in Rajasthan Royals IPL franchise, Ms. Shetty has said and rightly so that she is here to add glamour to the Royals. The Royals were the winners of the first edition of the Indian Premier League.

"Well I am not going to bullshit myself into believing I've been brought in for my business acumen. The team had it all. They needed the glamour quotient and for that I am here," Shilpa told IANS. [CricketNext]

Refreshing honesty, I must say. Although Ms. Shetty also goes on to add the following gems later in the interview:

Raj is a crazy cricket fan. And why shouldn't he be? He's an Indian who lives in England. All Indian men are crazy about cricket. And everyone knows cricket was born in England. So Raj has a double reason to buy a part of the IPL.

All Indian men are indeed crazy about cricket (and glamorous hot women, skimpily-dressed cheerleaders and Shilpa Shetty herself of course). And cricket was but of course born in England.

And hence Raj's reason to buy a stake is not to see a return on investment but because he is "an Indian who lives in England" and because "Indians are crazy about cricket" and "cricket was born in England". The logic is confounding.

In the wake of Ms. Shetty's pomp-filled arrival on the stage of cricket ka maha yuddh, the IPL has also faced some withdrawals.

Pakistani players
The Pakistan "government" stepped in to ensure no Pakistani player features in the 2009 IPL season.

"We have been informed by the foreign ministry today that the situation is not conducive for Pakistan cricketers to travel to India," sports minister Aftab Jilani told the Associated Press. The sports ministry had last week given clearance to the players to participate in the Indian Twenty20 league, while informing them that their security would be their own and their IPL franchise's responsibility. [Cricinfo]

Oh. Whom will Shah Rukh Khan now jump on after match presentations (and expose a little innerwear in the process for girls to go ga-ga over)?

Michael Clarke
Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke has also pulled out of the IPL. Clarke claims that a busy international schedule is the main reason, but Lalit Modi has a few more things to say. Apparently, Clarke's base amount of $1m was too much to pay.

"I don't think anybody is ready to pay that kind of price," Modi said. [IE]

Maybe Clarke needs time out to contemplate how Australia can undo this.

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Trivializing Terrorism

Mangalore was hooliganism, gender abuse and sexual harassment. Not terrorism.

In the wake of the inhumane incidents at a Mangalore pub which are undoubtedly tantamount to goonda-ism and autocracy in free, democratic India, the media and public in general have rightly raised voices calling for strict and severe action against the accused. Such deplorable acts of violence against women have no place in contemporary Indian society that has progressively evolved in the right direction and offers opportunities galore for all sectors of society to earn rewards for hard work and perseverance. Perverted, fundamentalist groups that masquerade in the name of God hence go against the spirit and values of the India that is making commendable strides in diverse fields.

Inarguably, India has judiciously moved on to an improved standard of living for its people and any attempt to sabotage a safer, developed nation should be effectively curbed and eliminated. The threats imposed by fringe right-wing groups should be pre-empted and the bhakt senas banned immediately irrespective of political affiliations or blessings from power brokers.

However, a disappointing outcome of the outburst against the Mangalore hooligans has been the constant attempts by the media and the public in general to equate the larger threat of cross-border terrorism with the incidents in Karnataka. By no means does Mangalore even feature close to the audacious terror attacks on Mumbai or for that matter even Delhi/Ahmedabad/Jaipur/Bangalore and several other Indian cities. The sheer scale of the number of dead in the various blasts of 2008 is enough to ensure that terrorism from across the border features at the number one position on India’s priority list.

Moreover, terror acts are meticulously planned, extensively prepared for and then executed with a monstrosity and fanaticism that only believes in the piling up of dead bodies irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Then how does Mangalore feature in this category? Or is the Mangalore incident yet to be completely disclosed by the media and there were indeed a lot of girls slaughtered and raped to death?

Another inadequate term that might soon become a catchphrase with the media which has emerged in the obsessive reporting of this incident is the word Taliban. Sure, the Taliban’s ideology is the complete disempowerment of women and their ostracism from societal participation. Sure, even the hooligans in Mangalore would have that deep down in their minds. But there is a difference between slapping a woman and chopping her head off without the slightest remorse. Just like there is a difference between India and the fundamentally wicked “original” Taliban. If incidents like Mangalore occur in every nook and corner of India, only then do words like “Taliban” and “terrorism” deserve to feature in mainstream vocabulary.

Surely, there is a difference between Mangalore’s reprehensible violence and the Indians dead in the Mumbai attacks. Or have our feelings for the dead gone astray in the wake of the acts of Mangalore, the videos of which are replayed again and again by the media to invoke rage and the “true Indian” in us who spares a minute or two for its people? The same “true Indian” who conveniently glues the tag of terrorism to such incidents. What is required is to deal with all wrongdoing rationally and at its magnitude of occurrence along with other factors like fatalities involved and degree of violence engaged in.

May the Law have the last say.

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Can anybody stop Dhoni and co? In a thundering second one-day international, India defeated Sri Lanka by 15 runs to take a 2-0 lead in the away series.

But what was more post-match news than the match referee summoning Yuvraj Singh for dissen(raised bat towards the umpire for a blatantly wrong decision) and a Sri Lankan, on the lines of Pakistan's famous seen-in-every-match supporter, signalling towards Rohit Sharma to sit down when the player was celebrating the win?

The bails. Umpires are humans. Their mistakes are understood, irrespective of the existence of a bias. But bails! What could basic cricket equipment have to do with India's path to greatness in the sport?

Well, I managed to sneak up on the bails. For no reason, I choose to call them President AAZ and Prime Minister YRG as I failed to get their names. Here's what happened:-

President AAZ: Hey listen YRG. Today, I've come up with a master plan to make sure India doesn't win.

Prime Minister YRG: What plan?

AAZ: Today I've decided that whatever happens we will just refuse to move when India is bowling.

YRG: What? Are you sure of this? Will such denial work?

AAZ: Yes. Trust me. The only way India cannot present a just case to claiming a wicket is by us refusing to fall off.

YRG: Wow. What an idea! This way India may just fail to win. When do you plan to not fall?

AAZ: When Zaheer Khan is bowling. If the ball just merely touches the wicket, don't fall down.

YRG: OK. But wouldn't the Indians be suspicious?

AAZ: Dont worry about that. Even living, breathing umpires are against them. We are non-living.

YRG: Any other time?

AAZ: Yes, when their captain Dhoni attempts a stumping or a run out. I urge you to not fall during this time too.


Later, when Dhoni's attempted run-out fails to dislodge the bails, Dhoni moves towards the wickets in an attempt to shake the stumps up off their ground and fix them back again.

Dhoni grabs hold of the bails.

AAZ: Aaaaaaa....Ouch.....Oooohhhh....I'm falling.....

YRG: Aaaaa....Me too....

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