Thursday, December 30, 2010

A year in bad movies

I watch one bad movie each year. This year, there have been one too many. In no necessary order of preference. Note: It contains nothing that hasn't been said before.

Tees Maar Khan:

I have the unique ability to sleep through movies. It's subject to much jokes among friends, but sometimes it serves as a boon. If the movie seems too boring, my brain automatically shuts down, and I can't really control it. So yeah, I slept through a better part of the second half of TMK, which some of you would've liked to do.

You could ask me why I went in the first place. Having watched "After the Fox" just a few days back, I was just curious to witness the massacre, given the bad reviews. (A was particularly offended by the fact that the credits don't mention the original anywhere.)

Either way, from what I watched, the Priyadarshan-ization of Farah Khan is rather depressing. While they ripped the jokes from the original, they really stripped the joke of the humour, and they're left to being wimpy lines like "day ho". People still laugh in the theater, so it should work out fine for the monies, but it really insults the intelligence.

The so called saving grace of the movie, 'I am Sheila's flaming youth', comes much too early in the movie for anyone to want to wolf-whistle. I am a huge fan of pep-uppy item songs, but they always seem nicer when you already know the character. (A good example would be Rajini movies, where even the non-contextual songs are often awesomely placed.) But then again, if I'd heard Katrina speak, I would've pelted rotten eggs at the screen (or perhaps, slept through it). Ms. Kaif would undoubtedly win the fingernails-on-chalkboard for me, if it wasn't for a certain Ms. Kapoor who drives me insane.


Hated it. HATED IT.
With Abhay Deol being on the cast, one would hope that the movie was redeemable despite the presence of unbearably annoying Ms. Kapoor whose lisp (or whatever the weird accent is) makes me want to kill her. From the beginning, you never quite warm up to Aisha, though you buy her rich spoilt brat act, as most of her is hidden behind layers of fashion and froth. In a movie like DCH, about rich spoilt brats, we liked them because there was a semblance of connect. Here, nothing.

Which seems to be the problem with most Hindi movies - over-stylized to an extent where you don't seem to know where the story lies.

The movie drags on and on. And on with this: Shopping. Party. Shopping. Races. Shopping. Camping. Shopping. You get the drift? In between there are a couple of songs, and it ends with some monologues.

The only good thing that come out of the movie, for me was the fact that inspired by Aisha, and her black nailpolish, I decided to experiment, and since then, toenails have been painted blue, purple, green etc.


Ah, 16 part YouTube uploads, how I love you.

Yet another over-stylized movie, hidden within layers of froth and curtains. The movie had a huge potential of exploring relationships: of the love-hate relationship between a bed-bound person and his sole provider (who is his sole companion), or that between the magician and the apprentice (who comes across as a counterpoint to the nurse in intelligence and spirit), or that between the nurse and her husband (who should be insecure about her devotion for her master.)


Instead we see, Curtains, bedsheets, tall windows, and long monologues. And the red to match. The emotions and relationships, we're left to guess. Inspired by 'Prestige', my ass.
Hritik Roshan is a very vain actor. Here he delivers his dialogues believing he's has a role in a character/arthouse movie, when it is simply a masala potboiler. The effort just shows.
Aishwarya Rai flits in and out of the frames, wearing some weird attire that no woman who's functional around the house should be caught wearing.

The memory is kind of vague, but I remember it was funny. Vaccuum cleaners have undoubtedly been the preferred gadget off late - with the 3 idiots baby delivery, and here, in this movie, helping with the heist.
And code cracking is of the order of "five letter password for a man obsessed with susan"

"I'm in, it's time to win" 'nuff said.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I know, I know..

Dismal failure.

Not that I didn't write, but as always, I never finished what I wrote. Like a lot of life's grand plans, once those pieces were raised from infancy until adolescence, I sort of expected them to grow up by themselves and figure themselves out and make a mark in the world.

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Everything, everything seems to need the nurturing even through its adulthood. Abandoned verses are aimless. And that process of being, for lack of a better word, a preserver, treads the thin line between being boring or exhausting. A preserver mostly has to be a persevere-r.
Either way, this time of the year scares me - with the top ten lists and the amount of festive cheer forced down my throat. It's the time when I squeeze the truth and truce into my now tight jeans, and hide the much analysed and much handled-love within warm wintry layers of wistfulness, while the secrets get stuffed in the front pocket, so no one can pickpocket them.
I am not making any sense, am I?
Yes, you're right. It's all tripe.

To cut a long story short, past few months have been not-that-great. They seem to have passed off in a daze, without any peaks or landmines to mark progress or to remember life by. Not that there haven't been any. There have been many, but none of them give me the happiness or rebound I seek. And I don't like the feeling.

You see, there are two kinds of tangible wants: the ones you really want and the ones which you want so you can brag on facebook. I choose to believe that dig the former, those are the only ones I want. They've always been important, so much so that as a friend points out that that I'll never be happy thanks to my obsession with rockstars and rockstarriness. Nothing pleases me, nothing amuses me, nothing but people pushing themselves beyond what I think is easy. Unfortunately, these kind of wants are a moving target.

If only joy and cheer could be an ornament on a Christmas tree, and Santa would leave me a note saying "you're doing just fine" in the stocking hung on my doorknob.
So I attend this event where people showcase how they are not ordinary. Speaking there are surfers and climbers and the guy who aborted his summit attempt to Mount Everest to save a life. In the audience is a whole bunch of 40+ year olds who have a sub-4h full marathon time, telling me that I have a lifetime ahead of me. I make no secret of my envy and turn to this friend of mine and tell him how their spirit stumps me. (A man-child at 44, he always gives me the feeling of being young, because he is still making those mistakes that I hope to have grown out of by then.)

"Well", he says, "Only 40 somethings do all this shyte. At your age, I couldn't have been arsed to climb even the Bukit Timah hill. You're doing just fine."

You're doing just fine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


... I lost my way. Sowwy.


Just because someone else doesn't point your faults out, doesn't mean you don't have any.
It perhaps just means that they are nice enough not to point fingers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nepal, redux

So looks like my post a week project has nearly failed. Nearly, not totally. I have three perfect drafts waiting for me. I have no idea where this odd perfectionist comes up from. I think I am just afraid to post what I write, and usually, the hard task of thinking of the title and the act 3 of any post has me exhausted. Either way:

One year after it all started, I feel it in my bones that I need to go back to the place which altered my life in a way I can't describe. That long winding painful trek to the Everest Base camp last year. Yes, the one I haven't told you about. Yes, the one that's beyond description. Yes, my ankle is not that strong anymore.

Save for the memories of the horrendous toilets, the pain has all but vanished. All that remains of the trip is the memory of the nip in the air, the euphoria of having made it, and the distant but happy strains of Resam Firiri.

And after promising "never again" a hundred times, all this while I've been wanting to go back.

So yeah. As luck would have it, I will be off to Nepal until Tihar (Diwali) starting tomorrow. On work, yes. I am in no physical state for a trek. It's alright. I'll deal with it. This time I aspire to write about the place more, and rediscover the favourite spots in Kathmandu.

Also, I am superstitious. I leave tomorrow morning without much notice. I still don't have tickets, I don't have hotel bookings. I have new shoes, but my new suit is not altered. Packing, oh well. I am almost afraid to press publish, lest I jinx it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Weak one (also, on anger)

I told purelynarcotic, on a whim, that I will try and blog once a week till the end of the year. Seems like a chore, but one might as well try. If nothing, I am a good serial quitter. Also I am whimsical.

I have this the_amit in office. Yes, the kind who judges women for the fact that they work, and assume that size of the paycheque is inversely proportional to culinary abilities. Also, the kinds who overhear conversations, and later, loudly comment. When I was younger, I would fight, but now I just shut up when the judgment comes about. Zen. Not that it gets any less annoying. Yet, zen.
In any case, this story has been repeated time and again to people, and I thought the only way this story would reach it's sell-out date is if I type it out. So here goes -

Two days after I first joined work (on a Friday), he asked me, subtly, "Weekend pe kya kiya?" (What did you do over the weekend?)
"Umm, nothing much, I had some errands to run," I said, knowing well that pubs I have visited wouldn't make for a good lunch talk.
"Acha," he delivered his punchline, "Hafte ke saare bartan weekend par hi dhulte hain?" (You do your dishes once a week?)
I replied, completely surprising my erstwhile firebrand self, and I guarantee you that my reply was quiet and soft, "We have a clear division of labour in our house. I cook, he cleans."
"Acha," He topped his punchline with the cherry," to matlab bhartiya naari ke koi gun nahin hain aapme" (You don't have any of the virtues of an Indian woman?)

Today the_amit spotted me digging into my packed lunch, which is pretty much a necessity, given I work in the wilderness where I probably have to hunt for food. Either way, he very left a very snide remark - "Yeh kab se hua, chamatkar?" (When did this miracle happen?)

As I said, if I was younger, my now-retracted claws would've been put to good use.

Which brings us to anger. I have inherited my anger from my mother - clearly ill-fitting genes. All my life, I have seen my mother suffer because of the way she gets angry. Once she does, there rarely is any looking back. Ultimately, she is the one who suffers the most. The object of her anger moves on after a bit, she doesn't. In a way, anger (or hatred, for that matter) bonds us to the object, much like love does.

Anger, like booze, has a tipping point. The point when it gets from alright and happy to nasty and ugly. You know, the xth drink that does the damage? The greed drink? The drinks-before that one don't last and the drinks-after don't matter in the bigger picture.

So the task at hand now, is to keep quiet at the moment when all goes wrong. At that moment, shut up for that leeettle bit.

That skill will need some practice.
Much like blogging once a week.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Of purpose and other debates

I have a friend, a good friend. Though the time doesn't stand still, when we talk, and neither do we indulge in discussions of national importance. But something great almost always comes out of each conversation. For me, the comfort of being able to tell the truth about my fears, and my fears being understood sans judgment always alters me in a way I can't explain. If not the solution, at least I figure out a problem.

You know what my problem is? That I am full of doubt and I am aware of it. I think I get even more unsure of myself because I am constantly told that I am unsure. And fickle. And unpredictable. And everything a woman my age shouldn't be. But what to do? Making peace between the two -- what I am, and what I'm expected to be -- would perhaps be a lifelong battle. The editorials from others are positively exhausting.

But I digress.

This friend, on the other hand, is an expert in planning the unpredictable. Step by step, bullet point by bullet point, this friend runs through a list of scenarios. Every risk is measured, every fleeting quirk is evaluated for impact before execution.

In a way, both of us suffer from wanting too much for ourselves, perhaps in admittedly a selfish way. Or maybe the thought process has become an infliction. And we're both petrified of fading away.

Two separate conversations with the niece. She's all of 15, if you remember.
She asked, earnestly, "What is the purpose of life?"
I ran through my list of acceptable answers, and replied with an answer which I surprised myself with, "To be honest, I think it is to procreate -- to advance the species, nothing more than that."

Two days later she was back, "I have no ambition. I could've been a florist, but my allergies won't let me."

15 minutes later, "Since I don't know what to do with my career, I think I'll be a career counsellor"


Somewhere within those two questions lies the quest that baffles my friend and me. The purpose v/s the ambition. Ambition is man-made, purpose has to be for something God-made.
At 20, aspiring for the cash, the car, the credit card, is all ambition. At 30, when one hunts for purpose, it all falls flat.
I seriously have no strong ambition like I once had. Money doesn't inspire me anymore. Fame, maybe, but not that much either.
Somewhere I've managed to narrow down the answer to this - it is to create something of value.
Of what, I know not. To create, instead of just consume and support the system that exists.

Hopefully my friend has a plan chalked out for this, while I will patiently wait for divine intervention.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ravana and Father's day

Off late people seem to have discovered the character of Ravana. Movies, comics, stuff exploring the anti-hero, exploring the good things and rationale among the creation of the quintessential bad guy. It makes me look back at my first encounter with the idea.

No, it wasn't because of the TV series.

At the age of 8 or 10, I don't remember exactly when, Dad made me memorize verses from Ravana's Shiv Tandav stotra. I think he was bored, and this seemed like a good project. Something about memory, something about Sanskrit, heaven only knows why. What is strange is that he could've picked any other hymn, but he picked this one. Slowly but painstakingly, we decided to make through the fifteen odd verses. It wasn't an easy task, simply because it is easier to memorize things you actually understand. This was all rhythm, and tongue-twisting words. But memorize I did, and I still remember a few verses.

Often we would sit in the evening, learning a sentence or two, and then repeat it again first thing the next morning. Once while we were practicing it, a snake was spotted outside our house, and I remember wondering if there was power in the hymn.

But that wasn't the point. The point is, I remember asking him wasn't Ravana the "villain", a word I must have picked up from Hindi movies. I remember him explaining to me patiently that Ravana was in fact a great scholar, and the reason why he has turned out to be the bad guy in the books is because his actions were wrong and that it's equally important to recognize his virtues. [That idea was a stark contrast to what I was made to believe -- that life and people are pretty black and white. Good student = good person, et cetera.]

It's pretty unfortunate that often like my mother, I stereotype. (It's faster). But this lesson is something I remember and try to act upon - that as much as possible, one should try and keep perspective.

Thanks for that, Dad. Though you have no clue this blog exists, but it's easier said here than to you. And I know you would'nt be very proud of this soppy piece.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pyramid scam

People in my family firmly believe that I spend more time on travel and tourism than I should. So to clarify, I was in Egypt on work. Just that I had a day to see the place. I was super excited.

A tourist almost always gets scammed. But given that I'm not one of those tour group 15days/20countries/take-pics-with-monuments kind of traveler, I always assumed that I get scammed less than others. It's not so. This is the email I wrote to a friend of mine describing what turned out to be my single worst experience as a tourist.

Background first - The people from the client side have two company cars at their disposal. One of them, a BMW, has been given to this 47 year old wine-and-womanizer called Waeel (Wild minus the d, he lives up to his name). His driver is called Araabi. In Egypt, the drivers and the drivees share a very Munnabhai-Circuit kind of relationship. You would often see an Egyptian get into a serious discussion with his driver, furrowed brows et al, as if they're discussing matters of national importance, only to figure out that they're discussing how many crates of diet coke are needed for the day.

Anyway, Araabi introduces himself as someone who doesn't know English well, but he knows every tree in the whole of Egypt. The latter is far more important. He's a geology graduate. He has three children - one engineer, one commerce grad and the third is still in high school. He insisted to his boss that he will escort me to pyramids, otherwise I will get cheated. He tends to be very dramatic when he talks, and needless to say, I had no choice but to trust him. My colleague chickened out, and I was left in the care of Mr. Araabi.

Determined not to get cheated, and knowing well that they hike price of water at tourist spots, I picked up two bottles of water, and left to see the leftover wonder of the world. It was a long drive, and it was hot outside, but I was way too excited. Araabi convinced me on the way that the best way to see the area is to take a horse carriage (a tanga), and that he knew people. Of course, I agreed. As soon as we reached, he quickly took me to this guy, supposedly his friend, the "owner", who told me, "I have three type - small, medium, large." I thought he was refering to the size of the seat for my butt, but he wasn't. The long tour included a perfumery tour and a papyrus factory tour, where they'd sell stuff which I wouldn't want. Medium tour had something else. Short tour was just a glimpse of the pyramids and the sphinx. "You cannot see much." The pyramids are huge and impossible to miss, so I don't know what he meant by the last bit.

He then promptly lifted me into the tanga.

I asked, "how much?"
He said, "450 LE for the small tour, 650 for medium" et cetera. (5.6 LE = 1 USD)
I said, sharpening my fangs, "I pay you 150 LE for small"
He said, "500 LE for small, 650 for medium", clearly not understanding a word of what I was trying to say.
I said, "No thanks, Very expensive. I don't have money. Let me go, I will walk."

Note, how the numbers are moving randomly much like the stock market. Also note, I am already on the carriage, and almost held hostage.

That's when Araabi came running to intervene, much to my relief. He discussed something intensely in arabic with the owner for 5 minutes, and turned around and told me that the owner has obliged to take me on the long tour. "To everyone it's 600 LE, but since you my friend, for you and only you, my friend, it is 400 LE." Very good price, he said.

They should be recruited by investment banks.

Not wanting to offend someone I'd taken a favour from, I paid my way out and agreed.
That's when I was introduced to Mahmood (pronounced Makhmood), the tangawala. A flamboyant young man, who seems to like tourists and women in general. So he put me on the carriage and took me around to enter the area.
His principle was rather simple - Not letting me get off the carriage. "You should see the pyramids from far, since you can't imagine the scale from close by". (What about my childhood dream of touching the pyramids?) Then, at random points during the tour he snatched the camera out of my hand, and started clicking pictures randomly making me pose. (You know and I know, I am very insecure about giving my camera to people.) He also made me get up onto random walls and places - and in the process of helping me get up and down, as you would expect, he was a tad too touchy feely. Hands under the armpits to lift me up, trying to hold my hand, et cetera - you get the drift? The good thing is, this chap has a perfect idea of perspective. The pictures are howlarious, all of the Patel variety - me touching, feeling, kissing and kicking the pyramids, but all from a distance. It didn't take him more than 10 seconds to compose and click. I was suitably impressed. As for the guiding part of the tour, he told me the names thrice, and then repeated the same fact 15 times - "All the artefacts are in the Egyptian museum, there is nothing here."

Needless to say, I was totally annoyed by now. So I told him, I will walk on my own and click pictures I like. Or just sit around for all I care. He insisted, we still had the papyrus factory and the perfumery to see. I insisted on walking around on my own. Got off and walked around and then to the sphinx, only to be welcomed by a familiar language - "Behenchod", "hat yaar photo kharab ho rahi hai" "yaar, isme zoom kahan hai yaar" etc. That little enclosure where the sphinx sits, indeed has the highest density of Indian tourists I've ever seen. And by ever, I really mean ever. It is full of peddlers who sell you everything from headgear to tiny pyramids (all made in china) and speak in every language from Spanish to Chinese, but don't understand the three simple words - "Leave me alone". You can imagine what a hassle it can be to arguing with them and dealing with them.

To cut a long story short, there is no peace. The big moment you imagine in your head about the day you'll finally see the pyramids, gets ruined by all the noise around.

Mahmood asked for a baksheesh (a tip). He said "They give me 100bucks." I didn't give him anything. The "owner" took 400 bucks from me. Araabi asked me if I was happy. I said I was, wondering if he and the "owner" are a nexus.

And that's the story. Either way, the place is stunning. Each of those rocks you see is 2.5 tonnes, and to think they achieved it back in the day leaves me confused. More on that later.

Yep - so: Entrance to the area - 60 LE. Scam Tour - 400 LE. Patel snaps - Priceless.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

State of the union..

.. it is not. But there are odd thoughts about twitter and facebook.

Amit Varma speaks of Twitter* and Internet Hindus and the alleged Enemy #2** on twitter, and how we shouldn't take people seriously. His point is rather simple, and I quite agree with it. The people who argue passionately on twitter will often not take such extreme positions in the real world. We often argue for the sake of argument, without any objectivity, and sometimes without a clue. We have little to add - voice has indeed entirely become noise.

I recently spotted it again with the Kasab sentencing. Like the incredibly hot SpyMaami said, 90% were talking like right-wing nuts and 70% like Arundhati Roy***. That death sentence led me to have a little flashback to the day it all fell like dominoes on twitter. It was 26/11. That day, we were sitting and chit-chatting like we always do. We discussed failwail, jazz and punkrockers (with flowers in their hair). And then the attacks happened. Twitter came handy, people managed to organize help and resources. It was quite brilliant, the way it all worked, the way it really put power and control in the hands of the common person. Everyone became very involved and suddenly, very serious. For a few days, anyone who would dare to say "Oatmeal for brekkie" was reprimanded. "Be serious, this is no time for frivolity", they said, "a country is in crisis". #Mumbai was trending for days. The aftermath was that the publicity in MSM brought many more curious people to twitter. Soon the mood had almost entirely changed - it became about issues, about making a point, shouting a message out. Some people thought that twitter would give them an opportunity to see their name in print. The lack of care was gone, and twitter, for me, came of age.

Now the place is all herd, all mob, especially when it comes to re-tweets and trending topics. It looks odd when people start talking about topics other than the ones which are already under discussion. People celebrate the arrival of a celebrity on twitter. People re-tweet the celebrity till the comment has lost its context. Often a discussion on a serious issue loses its merit because the objectivity is long lost, and people are relentlessly hashtagging.

Not that all is lost, not just yet. I've met and still meet wonderful people there, who have become some of my close(st) friends. There is still a lot of wit and wisdom -- in fact, way too much of it. I still have a lot of fun, but when there is noise, I tend to run away. Still, somehow, I don't turn and run, I don't quit.

Elsewhere, I find this piece about why one can't quit facebook. The list-maker says:
Sure, Facebook has privacy issues, but you don't care about privacy anymore. Remember when you wouldn't use your real name on the Internet?

I absolutely hate it when they equate lack-of-anonymity with lack-of-privacy. People don't mind using their real names on the Internet only because there are gazillion people out there, and to some people there seems to be little point in hiding a under a name.

Privacy is different. It's more about who you really want to share whatever you want to share with. That's why I have the Internet, so it can make sharing easier, so to me, it's quite strange when people say, "Don't put it on the Internet then!" Don't get it? Picture this - I have a, errm, picture I want to share with my friends. Instead of spamming their inboxes, I want to put it somewhere, so they can see it. I don't want to share the picture with my colleagues. Both these sets of people know my real name. In fact, I don't want these people to ever know my moniker, lest they google me out. See the difference?

*Quite a few sentences are more than 140 chars. Such a noob (sic). :) See, some of us can now naturally write sentence shorter than 140. I'm quite sure the first bit about twitter above is all under 140.
**Who's the enemy #1 that everyone likes to trip on, is anybody's guess.
*** According to me, 35% belong to the third kind - the people on twitter who claim that people on twitter don't know anything.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Death sentence

The capital punishment for Kasab leaves me very confused. That guy came to India all prepared to die, then how can giving him a death sentence act as a deterrent to the terrorists? They'll just call him a martyr, and he will perhaps make an example to all the hot blooded but confused young men, much more than the others from 26/11 whose names we don't know. As my friend Senthil says - "It's applying a common man's law to an uncommon man, almost like sentencing a fish to drown." It barely counts as punishment towards such a heinous crime.

I was also given the argument that it will allow the families of victims to make peace. Which makes me think (and it's at 5 am now), how our ideas of justice are perverse it's always been about tit-for-tat, albeit structured and rule based.
Though we throw words like Gandhigiri and "Hate the crime but not the criminal", most people perhaps don't actually believe in it.

As I said, it leaves me confused.

Friday, April 30, 2010

On criticism

I remember watching "Up in the Air" (the book is better!). The critics unanimously agree on George Clooney’s "raw portrayal", but reading those pieces of criticism left me wondering if a critic can ever identify with Ryan Bingham the way some of us do. The Us who've taken the red-eye, and have spent time picking shoes that don't get caught in the dreaded metal detector. Can a critic ever feel the coldness of the hotel room, and the abandon with which one approaches a single-serve conversation at the end of a tired day across a bar stool? Can a critic imagine how troubling it can be - being “professional” towards a task, a job that one’s not entirely convinced about? Can a critic feel how some of us treat frequent flyer miles and the free upgrades to be only quantifiable incentive for a lack of a personal life? Can a critic ever feel how disconcerting it can be when the guy at the reception in a hotel looks at you and says "Welcome home!"?

Roger Ebert has argued that video games can never be art. It's supposedly a five year old debate, which makes me wonder where I was and what I was doing five years back. Needless to say, his piece has infuriated the gaming community (and a lot of other people), who have since flooded his comment-space and their blogs. I doubt it's because they seek validation, it's only because no one wants to be dismissed.

Which is the thing with gamers, or at least the thing with my friends who play games. They've never tried to educate me or dismiss my interest in anything else. All they ever wanted to do is try to get me to share, and I quote, the "awesomeness" they feel when they play, despite the restrictions of rules, points, objectives and achievements.

The passion and fascination with which they speak leaves me envious. They want me to be a part of the world that changes at every iteration; it turns out different for each player. Which is what art does, isn't it? It's almost always been a subjective assessment, a personal experience. Be it a movie or a poem or a painting, it touches each person differently, so much so that it would perhaps be safe to assume that there is no single way of evaluation. There can be pointers and pathways, but there can’t possibly be absolute rights or wrongs.

Given that awareness, to say something is "not" art is quite strange. It doesn't appeal to me, to others, maybe it does – so good for them. Who's anyone to decide what appeals to someone?

But then again, Critics have always perched themselves on a pedestal, and peddled their opinions as judgment, almost like it is their need to decide for us what is good or bad, what is art and what is not.

Art, like religion, has fallen prey to its keepers.

Friday, March 12, 2010


"C+", someone graded me today, "Wit", "General behaviour", "Overall intellect", adding "What happened to you?"

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback since this came from someone who thought I was intelligent once upon. And if it indeed was once upon a time, I'd retort and fight and turn aggressive on them, or read, or do something to prove a point. I just got upset. "If you say so..", I said. The reason being, that particular compliment was doled out to me for missing a Pulp Fiction reference. The momentary blank out which happens, which shouldn't happen. Slap forehead, yes, but what to do? Am rusty around the edges.

For as long as I have known, the intelligent people have consumed everything that pop culture offered them: music, movies, books, tv shows. To be known as intelligent one has to have read/watched/had/devoured all those things, to be known as witty one has to bring out sitcom references right on cue, and occasionally twist them. So yeah, to have intellect, one has to be a glutton.
That awareness that I am such a shameless consumer, bothered me a bit. If at the end of my life, if the only thing I was left to speak of would be my experiences of consuming other people's experiences, I doubted if it would be something I could be proud of. What have I created? What have I produced? Do I have any thoughts I can call my own? Or nothing can ever be original.

So I set out. I stopped watching movies, TV shows, and for a while, reading. I set out to see what I could see. I set out to feel what I could feel. And see and feel I did. So if you speak of mountains, I can tell you how they are. Or if you speak of the quiet underwater, I can tell you how it is. Even if it was for a brief bit, that firsthand experience, that adventure will have me talking for many years to come, and was a lot more fulfilling than reading about the same things.
Only time will tell whether I've made the right choice or not, but I know for a fact that despite my efforts, I'll always be evaluated for how much I've memorized from creations of people who're truly original.

So yeah, to use a very popular blogger and dear friend's line-

Until next time, see plus...

Saturday, February 20, 2010


"Why are you like this? Why can't you be normal?"
"I don't know what qualifies as normal."
"You know like other people, people who want an ordinary life. Marriage. House. Car. Kids. In that order."
"I think my life is pretty ordinary."
"No, you're crazy. You want crazy things."
"Once I get my driving license, I will be on rung#3 of ordinary."
"Then you'll find something else, random."
"I'll drive a stick shift."
"Sticks are cool."
"Why can't you want what others want."
"You expected otherwise? You fed me all the stories of your mother and her adventures and how happy you were doing what you wanted. I want all of that freedom."
"Sounds good in stories. Who would've thought you'd take it so seriously and turn into a gypsy."
"Sometimes being Bohemian is conforming as well, only differently. But to be honest, I am not addicted to the idea of being a nonconformist."
"Ma, all I ever want is to not be afraid of wanting something, regardless of whether I get it or not..."
"You take after your grandmother."
"That's a compliment."
"I think we gave you too much freedom."
"Too much freedom? No Ma, am tied, as tied as tied can be."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Fwd: Past Forward

Dad sent me a forward, a Powerpoint presentation, and he and I ended up having an argument over emails. Yes, it's in the genes, picking up an non-issue and having tedious arguments which follow like streets (and twisting metaphors on their feet.) Hell I could write a post on it, but I won't inflict the pain on you, unless you want me to.

But that's not the point. The point is, the forward was so bad, and so damn bad that I loved it. It was like watching a bad B-grade Hindi movie. And that's when I thought, that these forwards, the original weapons of mass distraction, are all but gone from my inbox. Gone are the days of the subject lines: "Fw: FWD: Fwd: FWd: [tbc1998_thebest] Family(Beautiful mail) Must read.", "Amaaazing video [Must watch]", "Too funny", "awwwesome" all with an "enjoy" in the body of the email as the sender's helpful comment. No more retelling of "History Mystery..........Lincoln & Kennedy", in font size 45. No more doing to death of "Cow economics", in pink and blue and green and black. No more "Tips for staying young....... NICE". No more wmv attachments. No more studying the forwarding trail and knowing the email addresses of strangers. All gone.

Now, link sharing is through FB, video sharing through youtube, "good morning" sharing through twitter. Save for some people in my parents generation, no-one else seems to send them. At least to me. It's good, but it's also sad because the glorious opportunity of judging people on the basis of forwards they send is now gone. (I am like my mother. I stereotype. It's faster.) A friend of mine once broke up with a girl who made the ultimate mistake of sending him a "Gud morng!!!!" forward replete with pictures of soft-focused flowers leaning in all directions. A friend of mine lost his job because he accidentally sent his lady boss some misogynistic stuff. She wasn't offended by the content, but by the all those hopping gifs. Ok, the last bit is made up, but this bit is true: a friend sent a wedding invite in that format, peppered with animated gifs, and am sure many people missed the joke, not giving him credit for his degrees, and skipped his wedding.

So yeah, I'm really glad that these are all but gone from my inbox. Do you still get them?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pay per clique

Dear Mr. Vir Sanghvi,

This issue is nearly five days old and I am opining now because I feel the need to. What's strange is, when I first read your post about how the bloggers are the bad people of the Internet, I wondered why you were bringing up an issue that was roughly five years old. Nobody complains about bloggers anymore. For some strange reason, you seem to have just discovered them.

Don't get me wrong, I am barely a blogger, but I read a lot of them, and I will tell you why. For that, I'll have to go back to my origins --

Like in any educated middle-class household, as a part of my education, I was forced to watch the news and read the newspaper, to inculcate a love for current affairs, opinion and language. In the evenings, we were forced to sit in front of the TV as Salma Sultan and Rini Khanna (née Simon) told us what happened in the world that day, with a certain amount of indifference. Once a week, on Friday nights, I was allowed to stay up late and watch Prannoy Roy on "The World this Week" (Loy Mendonza's title track gives me gooseflesh.) Back then, Hindi was Hindi, and English was english, we were told to respect language. For analysis, we had to read the newspaper or magazines..

All this reading came with the strong belief that the people who were writing in the newspapers were qualified to comment and were the best people to do so. That they wouldn't write just to please us (or please anyone, for that matter). Having never seen their faces, and content with those little caricatures (by RK Laxman) accompanying their pieces, we put our blind faith in these could've-been-pseudonymous writers. To be honest, to me, Jug Suraiya never felt like a real name, but it didn't matter. I liked reading what he wrote.
Similarly, when movie reviewer gave a movie his "stars", we assumed that his judgment was right, because he knew what he was talking about. Even if we liked a movie he didn't, we assumed we'd missed something. We would perhaps not even admit that we liked it. In fact, for a long long time, I barely blogged because I always assumed my opinions were wrong.

Times have since changed. (Times has since changed too. Heh.) In the papers, instead of Mukul Sharma's Mindsport, we have "news" about Konkona Sen Sharma's latest party appearance. On Live TV, for current affairs, we have a journo shouting at us from outside the gates of the Bigg Boss household. In studio, for opinions, the moderator is shouting at the panel of analysts, all in some undecipherable mishmash of a language. Hell, now the media people are even shouting on twitter. Amidst all this, we, the then middle class, now haunt silent spaces to find good opinions and good writing. We find this noise to be unbearable and it seems easier for us to ask our friends for what they think. I don't remember when was the last time I read a "valid" movie review. These days I just ask a couple of my friends, read a couple of blogs -- people whose taste matches mine. Even if I don't agree with them, I read it for all the wit and good writing. I also take it as my responsibility to tell them of my opinion, sans fear. I usually put in some effort to articulate my thoughts. You could call it clique formation, you could call it forming a network of people you can trust.

It works fine for me as a reader, but why does it upset you?

I don't know what your exact grouse is, but it seems to be one of these: that the bloggers don't take your opinions seriously, or that that the bloggers are not qualified to opine, or that you are no longer the elite, or that we've found our friends who don't talk "at" us, and we prefer taking a weighted average of their opinions.

This was our little party. We hung out here, in our crowded little dark rooms, happy by ourselves. You seem to have entered the place right now, breaking the fourth wall, and are upset at us for having a party.


PS: Am not sure if Mindsport is still published. Can someone please tell me?
PPS: Other better posts on this topic: Manu, Lekhni and this for all the revie-wit: Manu, again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Twinkle of my sky

You know I've been thinking a lot about death. Three drafted, one published, and one published-and-retracted post later, my brain is still trying to make peace with the mechanics of loss. My brain still tries to get the early mover advantage on grief. I think it's a phase thing. You know how 25-year-olds discuss getting married, 30-year-olds discuss midnight feeds, and 40-year-olds discuss clogged arteries? My parents are losing their peers, and I can't offer them comfort that their friends went and became stars in the sky.


I realized yesterday, I had forgotten how to look at the moon. I had forgotten how the moon looked. Crescent, half, full, spotted, pimpled, you know the phases. Sometimes there is no reason to look at the sky. Sometimes there is no reason to spot the Orion or the Big Dipper. Sometimes there is no reason to draw the line to the Pole star. Sometimes there is no reason to wish on the lone star.

I realized yesterday that the night sky had stopped being black. It had stopped being the metaphor for a maiden's hair. Instead, it had turned into this nightmarish shade of ink blue. It looked faded. The salt and pepper was gone. It looked like all the stars had been forgotten, and hence they went undercover. Ah, the blinding city life, the bright lights have taken the twinkle away.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art...

One of my mother's students committed suicide. Dad informed me, adding, "The 3 idiots effect."
I didn't ask for any other information, because sometimes it is easier to deal with statistics than dealing with real people. However much we try and shroud it in euphemisms, "13 people died" is far easier on our tongue, on our mind, than saying "Ma's student passed away." However indifferent or concerned we pretend to be, it always seems closer home when it happens to someone we know.

I can't imagine the parents are going through. Ma feels as guilty perhaps, being the teacher, and I wouldn't blame her. She has always taken it as her responsibility to counsel all these kids about their adolescent problems with love, puberty, alcohol, career, studies. I wonder if there are many teachers who take as much effort as she does, to connect with the students. Needless to say, she is immensely popular with her brood. So with all the honesty they give her, I can imagine why she would feel guilty. If she had spotted signs early on, that what this kid was going through was more than what other kids are also going through, maybe a life could've been saved. It may just be that she finds it unethical being part of a so flawed education system where students/kids are humiliated in school and at home for not performing well. I don't know, I will have to ask her.

What is also interesting is how many people have connected the dots and drawn a line to the movie. We can't help it, it's the job of engineers and scientists to collect stats, and present it as a trend. Somewhere along a trace of that line, the individual and his problems get lost. As I said, sometimes it is easier to deal with statistics than dealing with real people. "Suicides are on the rise after 3 idiots"-- was anyone even collecting statistics before the movie was released? Was anyone even serious about them? Plus, I fail to understand why 3 idiots has collectively had such an impact, but not a movie like Rocket Singh. How does watching the movie create such a big impact? Why do kids suddenly identify with the character, and like him, to take the harsh (or easy?) way out of life's troubles?

Which brings me to the bigger question - is the blame really on the educational system or on the society in general? The way it seems to have evolved, everyone seems to want to raise a prodigy, you know, a multilingual blackbelted rockstar with an IQ of 175. Studies, exams, education are just a small part of this.

I was reading some posts here and there about how the government could help it with educational reforms etc. The policy is important, but this could also be the issue of mental health in general. I still believe that the onus for it lies closer home. We see our family, our friends, our neighbour's kids. It should be easier for normal people to see signs of depression or anxiety in people who are amongst us. It should be easier for us to accept these as a valid illnesses. It should be easier for us to accept that some people need help, and not be dismissive about it. The govt can only do as far as to create helplines and ease up question papers and collect stats, but unless there is a broader social change, an acceptance of the individual and his mental state, the problem will perhaps not go away.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Dirty Rock

Finding NiMo.

I slip underwater effortlessly and at that depth feel calm and peace that comes with being in control. And yet that control comes with an equal amount of dread -- something could go horribly horribly wrong. Every time you take that risk of doing something else, something different, apart from being on the couch, you take an unassisted step forward. Scary, yes, but the thrill makes up for it.

"Age is just a number" or "30s is the new 20s" -People who say that are really really old. Youth is wasted on the young, and yet, nothing's perhaps ever wasted if you've devoured every little bit of whatever was on your platter. I feel I have.

I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Of course, the butt's too big and the hair's too frizzy and I haven't still bought the Ferrari I swore I would. Frankly, I don't care. I don't feel the need to drastically alter myself because I know nothing's going to change much. I don't look over my shoulder for approval. I am way more confident than I ever imagined I would be.

Gone is the anger of the early twenties, or the slogfest of early-mid twenties, or the crisis of mid-twenties years or the sinking feeling of mid-late twenties or just the tic-tac-toe of "what's up with life" of really-late-twenties. There's a life to be lived, and I feel I am making the most of it.

To be fair to me, I never had a consistent list of what I wanted to achieve before I became this old. It's been switching every year. Earlier on, my to-do list was filled with silvery shiny things and checkboxes, now it's just the hope that I'd not be ashamed to have a pink haired day. Someday, someday!

So yeah, since I record gifts, this year, I bought myself a birthday card.

Friday, January 01, 2010

End of a yearn

  1. Quit job without having another
  2. Moved to a new house, and did it up.
  3. Wrote, a lot.
  4. Got my diving license.
  5. Sketched/drew/painted things I am proud of.
  6. Baked my first cake.
  7. Traveled, and a lot.
  8. Trekked to the Everest Base camp.
  9. Dived in the Great Barrier Reef.
  10. Didn't waste time on movies (rather, kept the resolution from feb).
And many others. Not bad, not bad at all.
Happy new year, y'all.