Wednesday, February 22, 2006

No title.

I avoid writing about discussions which are political or controversial in nature, so will try and give a passive third-person narrative.

This was a discussion over a formal dinner. The participating entities included two natty Frenchmen F1 and F2, a Korean K1, two singaporeans S1 and S2, (all named thus to protect anonymity and prevent ambiguity), and of course, the very non-anonymous Indian: yours truly. The topic of discussion was Lakshmi Mittal's bid to take over Arcelor.

For the uninitiated, Mittal, world's richest non-american, has made a "hostile" bid for Arcelor, the detailed analysis of which can be found online in abundance. This bid has sent the price of the Arcelor stock and the pulses under the white skin racing.

So, S1 asked the frenchmen about their opinion on this proposed merger/acquisition/takeover. The opinions at the start of the argument were predictable, plain vanilla - Jobs will be lost, hostile bid is contrary to practise, Mittal will control a bit too much etc etc.

Then came the part of the argument which was strange to say the least. The part of the argument which has been labelled as "cultural differences" in papers for lack of a civil word. F1, F2 firmly argued that this takeover would compromise the quality. Of what? The quality of life. As corroborative evidence, they quoted the example of the slums in Mumbai. The quality of life in EU was supposedly already pretty good, the best in fact, and there is no scope for improvement. This was peppered with the *characteristic french shrug*

K1 argued that as European the firm is a brand, and the brand value will be lost, and pointed it to the French wine on the table, and said "This cannot be replicated". (perhaps, by then he had enough of it to swear his allegiance). To this S1 quoted an article from the Time magazine which described how the Chinese have managed to replicate French Wine to such a degree of accuracy that even connoisseurs are confused, and that its more cost-effective. All of them vehemently shook their heads to this and said it was impossible. Even if its expensive, K1 claimed that people will still pay for it, since its all in the name. A brand is like an insurance for which you pay a premium. Hmm... Nice parallel that.

S2, like a typical Singaporean, kept quiet through it all.

Brands? Quality of life? Is that argument remotely convincing?

Xenophobia, certainly. Nationalism, chauvinism, jingoism to various degrees, perhaps. Maybe, the french ideas are like they prefer their wine to be: vintage. But what really bothered me was, why did I feel the undercurrents of racism in it all. Its easy to be passive towards it when the news aggregator bundles them up as "all 3xx related-->" but, you really feel the pinch of it when you are right in the middle of it. Like I typecast them using alphabets, I and I1 - I1000,000,000, yes, we are typecast too, because of the colour of our skin.

(As an aside, strictly within the boundary of cultural prejudices, it was strange to see a Korean talk about brands, and genuine stuff.)

In any case, it's just a matter of time.....

After-thought: Very tempted to quote Russell Peters. If you know what I am talking about...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine Baba ki jai!

That was the subject of the email I received yesterday from a friend. Very innovative indeed.

So I wondered, if we changed the wish from "Happy St. Valentines Day" to the above, would it please the Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal and whoever else thinks its a "bad" influence on Indian culture? As they fervently claim, love and the expression of it must be a sacrilege to Indianness. And hence, poets wrote volumes about lovers canoodling in the parks in springtime. And, emperors spent collosal sums of money to build what are now known as wonders of the world. And, we pray to those who loved since they loved. Not only that, 64 different ways of eating the forbidden fruit were described in detail in a book, which makes excellent dinner conversation in the western world. (Are we a fairly bad influence on them too?)

For the record, I detest 14th of Feb, though for a completely different reason. My abhorrence springs from the fact that I think this pop-movement was a started by card companies to generate revenue. Don't you think the popularity is a very good example of superb marketing? Who had heard of Mother's day, and Father's day and Friendship day, and every-other-day till maybe 15 years ago?

Also, belly full of Helium or otherwise, I detest heart-shaped balloons. Yes, even before Dil Chahta Hai.

So, after careful consideration, in search of something not so cloying and yet practical, (and succumbing to peer-pressure of giving a gift), I have decided to give my valentine a potato as a gift. Why?
Its unique, can be eaten in various forms (baked, fried and mashed), its full of energy (high carbs) an nutrition, everyone loves it and the best part is: it is sometimes shaped like a heart (Not the oh-so-sweet-oh-so-red type, but a real one like in bio text books).

Here's looking at you, kid!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Fiery love story

She was a-little-over-four years old and he exactly a month younger than a-little-over-four. They had been friends for the longest time possible and spent all their time together.

He learnt this little trick of holding a matchstick between the forefinger and thumb, balancing the matchbox on the back of his hand, tossing it up in the air and striking the match. Its quite a feat, if you know how to do it right.

One day they were playing under the bed, and he decided to demonstrate his prowess by demonstrating this trick. Somehow the matchstick slipped, and the "modha" (the small cane stool), which was carefully hidden under the bed, caught fire. Before they could control it, it rolled over and the bedsheet caught fire, followed by the whole bed.

So he, the one with the trick and the intelligence, asked her to get some water to douse the fire. She, the one without common-sense, found a soap dish: the wrong half, the bottom half. Obviously, by the time she would get to the room the water would fall through those little drainage holes in the soap dish.

Girly Girl panics and screams "Aag". Parents come to rescue.

They get fired.

It was a bad accident, a misadventure that could have ended badly... Thankfully, both of them got off unscathed. And lived happily ever after.

One scar however remains: This story is often narrated as "They set the bed on fire".

Yes, they struck a match at four.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rang De Basanti

( Paint It yellow: Indian Yellow to be precise!)

Reviewing Rang de Basanti is the in thing to do. I shall conform. But instead of the ubiquitous dissection of every aspect of filmmaking and a detailed study of characters, I will make it an inane and brief questionnaire for all those who have watched it or plan to watch it. Will add more questions as and when they occur to me. Here goes:

The theme of the movie:
a. Coming of age movie
b. Patriotic movie
c. Both
d. Neither

The time period of narration:
a. Historical aka. "Period movie"
b. Contemporary movie.
c. Both
d. Neither

a. Sepia
b. Vivid with all hues of the spectrum.
c. Both
d. Neither

Characters are:
a. Black and White
b. Colourful
c. Both
d. Neither

Rate the end of the movie:
a. Melodramatic/ Conventional
b. One with Poetic Justice/ Unconventional
c. Both
d. Neither

Entertainment factor:
a. Fun
b. Thought-provoking/ Serious
c. Both
d. Neither

a. Predictable
b. Entertaining and Funny
c. Both
d. Neither

a. Brilliant
b. Exquisite
c. Both
a. Neither

There I am done. So you c?

And for completeness will add this piece of trivia that goes with every review of Rang De Basanti:

Did you know Alice Patten is the daughter of Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong?
"Azaadi hi meri Dulhan hai."