Friday, September 29, 2006 4 reflections

Go 'Glocal'

During one of our weekly conversations, my father used the word 'Glocal'. The words 'global' and 'local' no longer had any context, he said. 'All that matters now is how Glocal one really is' he continued. I laughed at his wit and word play initially but as I pondered about it I realized how true his statement was.

The planet indeed has lost the context of being a global place. No matter where you live you can always stay in touch with almost anything and anyone in this world. The words 'impossible', 'distance' and 'far away' seem meaningless when it comes to communication in this day and age. Gone are the days when Indians would sit amazed at Dev Anand's NRI exploits around Europe preaching the classic art of love. Gone are the afternoons of gazing at 'white folk' somewhere on a beach in Goa. No more making those long drawn out 'Hello! Hello! Yes…I can hear you! Go on! What?' back to humble Bengaluru from somewhere in the snowed-in New Jersey. Not to mention the very familiar delay that would end up making the ordinarily 15-minute call twice as long.

One of my fears with life abroad was exactly this. The concept of the Internet did exist back then but there was also the added anxiety of the parents being able to use it. How on earth would they get the hang of an Email and check emergency messages? Those fears came to an ease as the Web became as common as a toothbrush. Then came the next big thing – the cell phone. Automatically the Internet was now crammed into our palms. No more trying to get into a cyber cafe and dishing out money to try and get a glimpse of the world. All one had to do was get their thumbs in motion and lo! The world would present itself in its infinite forms.

The advent of the non-stop Internet concept called Broadband seemed unreal when I first heard of it. Just the thought of being able to have 24/7 Internet access from my kitchen while being able to use the phone at the same time! This sounded like something from a fake Star Trek set. But today it has integrated itself into our daily lives so much that we spend more time on the Internet than with the people around us.

Communication sure has come a long way. The advantage of this for people like me, however, is being able to stay connected to their roots without breaking a sweat. Family is just a click away and home is just a smile away.

So how 'Glocal' are you?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 0 reflections

Bizarro Bengaluru - DH Article

One more article of mine has been published in the Deccan Herald. This one was recently published on this blog with the same title. It was published in the Bangalore edition of DH dated September 27, 2006 / Page 10.

A dream about Bengaluru, as it were.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 2 reflections

Lose Control!

‘I’m a rebel!’ yells out a pack of drunken brats in the middle of the night on the dark streets of New Delhi. With them is a young English filmmaker who is in India trying to recreate the images she sees in her grandfather’s diary. A past of a foreign country that brings tears to her alien eyes. A chunk of history she never saw but has now become a part of who she is. A different viewpoint of humanity and patriotism in the face of injustice and oppression.

Welcome to new age Indian cinema. Welcome to ‘Rang De Basanti’ which was the tongue-in-cheek pop culture cutting that came from the able hands of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. A different and throbbing take of patriotism and its relevance in today’s India.

‘Rang De Basanti’ became one of my instant all-time favorites the first time I saw it. The raw energy it oozed into my senses still lingers around me like falling petals of a flower. The revolutionary concept of ‘democracy at any cost’ it left me with still has me wanting for more. The mind blowing performances of stalwarts like Aamir Khan injects new life in me every time I see it somewhere or hear it’s music.

To complete the circle this tale of modern patriotism has been selected for the coveted Academy awards this year in the foreign film category. Personally I have never followed the Academy awards myself since it is out of context for Indians like me. But when India gets showcased on such a large platform, it makes me want to see how it is received. I have always wanted my motherland exhibited everywhere around the planet. Everyone should know who she is and what her children can do. People from all walks of art should acknowledge the gems we manufacture for the world to watch.

Good luck RDB and team! Another feather in Aamir’s cap after Lagaan’s entry into the Oscar nominations. Let us hope RDB strikes the right ‘rebellious’ chord with the selection committee this time.

And even if it doesn’t…RDB has done more than it ventures to acknowledge as far as the Indian youth's psyche is concerned. You dont believe me? Look around.

Lose Control!

Monday, September 25, 2006 3 reflections

Bizarro Bengalooru

‘Bizarro’ is a term associated with a character in Superman comics. This is a guy who is exactly the opposite of Superman (in terms of everything). Everything in his world is the opposite of Earth. Up is down. Right is left. Yes is No. Good is bad.

The context in which I envision this concept is our very own – Bengalooru. I started thinking if indeed such a thing as Bizarro Bengalooru(BB) existed, what it might look like. What would it be like to live in BB? Would the sky be a different color? Of course not. Would the traffic flow on the right hand side (not that it doesn’t happen now) of the road? Not at all. My vision is more about the people than the semantics of the city itself.

For the record, BB would still remain the capital of Karnataka. The first thing people would notice when they arrive in BB would be that everyone is extremely friendly and helpful. Getting out of BB’s railway stations or bus stands, auto rickshaw drivers actually would come running up to you and help you with your baggage. They would make you feel comfortable by asking you how the journey was and if everything was in order. Next they would start the engine without any qualms about your destination or the related fare for the ride. The vehicular movement in the city would be orderly and people would actually let you pass through if you were to honk just once. Honking would be a thing of emergency only. If anyone were to honk then it would be an assumption that something serious has occurred and needs priority. Needless to say ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles would get automatic importance in such situations. Buses would keep a minimum distance of 5 feet behind any vehicle to ensure safety. Irrespective of the condition of the roads everyone would maintain a safe speed and over-taking would happen, again, in extreme cases only. Traffic signals would contain the humble traffic policeman back in place. No more digital urgency here of the second timer that is more for a racing track than common traffic. People would stay behind the zebra crossing and wait for the signal to move ahead. Every citizen would be cautious about their vehicle’s condition and thus pollution would be considered offensive. People would respect each other and the law with a warm feeling of comfort that would envelope the city.

What occurred to me as I envisioned this version of Bengalooru was that our city was like this not so long ago. If being like this means being bizarre, then I guess it is not so bad after all.

Isn’t it?

Saturday, September 23, 2006 3 reflections

Life is a game of Hearts

On a recent outing my colleagues introduced me to the card game called ‘Hearts’. Ironic to its name, the objective of the game is to ensure that you don’t end up with any hearts from the pack. ‘Think of it as golf…but for cards’ was the priceless advice I got about what I needed to do if I intended to win. The aim was to score as less as possible until one of the four members playing the game reached a score of 100. Now, being someone who is always up for a challenge and never quits that easily, I found it odd to play a game and not score to win! Coming from classic games like my personal favorite cricket, scoring was what defined the game, according to me. Be it any competitive sport all that people ever asked eventually was ‘Who scored the most?’ implying that they wanted to know who won. But here I was playing with a bunch of experienced ‘hearts-men’ who apparently knew the trick to win by not scoring at all. ‘How on Earth could there be a game where scoring was a bad thing?’ I wondered.

Nonetheless after a fair amount of ‘trial rounds’ where they wanted me to get a hang of it, we officially began. My immediate instinct to make sure I got the highest card was clearly the wrong one since the game was all about the opposite. Opposite of logic. Opposite of everything that said more was good. Opposite of any pattern you might have seen in your life. It was like I was in a ‘Seinfeld’ episode where nothing is everything. Dubious logic took over and soon I was scoring faster than one could say ‘Hi’. One of my colleagues even took a jibe at me saying ‘Whoa! We need a calculator for this guy’s score!’

I endured the many defeats that followed with a lot of patience. Expressions like ‘you don’t want the Queen of Spades. That is a bad card!’ and ‘Shooting the moon is a vital trick to win so make sure you keep the Queen of Spades!’ started making the rounds of the table. A few hours and having gotten shot in my moon a few times, I wound up losing most of the games. I was like a Ferrari at times as I paced from 0 to 100 in less than 5 rounds. Yes. I had vowed to learn the game properly and get even with these chuckling hearts’ veterans.

But as I started learning more about it later on, I realized how similar the game was to real life. In life too, getting rid of all the high cards (read bigger problems) as soon as possible was the key. In life too, making sure you didn’t get any hearts (read love tragedies) was a priority. In life too, the Queen of Spades (read high stake risks) is a definite no. In life too, scoring as least as possible (read tension and stress) is what everyone wants. And in life too, ‘shooting the moon’ (read winning by tricks) was always the goal. You might initially pass on the bad cards to someone else, but it might eventually come back to bite you in the behind.

Ah! Indeed this game was a good metaphor for life itself. It has now come to a point where if I end up spending more than my upper limit at the groceries I say to myself ‘Ah I ended up with all the hearts today. Darn!’ But I am not quite sure ‘shooting the moon’ at the supermarket would be a good idea though.

Don’t you agree?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 1 reflections

Me in Times of India - Role Reversal ?

Today is a special day for me. Out of the blue my father calls me up (that too on a weekday which is very unlike him) and tells me someone has used me as an example in an article in the September 18th Editorial section of The Times of India. Of course I have absolutely no idea what it is he is talking about. So I hang up and pace towards the website of Times of India to investigate.

Sure enough! Edwin Sudhir (who works with TOI I assume) has written about me in an article entitled The Bangalore Code to emphasize the growing state of my beloved city. All these days I used to write about my roots and show it to everyone. But this seems to be a rather interesting change of roles as someone else uses me as an example in an article! Truly a special event for a writer.

Please click on the clipping here to read the entire article.

Monday, September 18, 2006 2 reflections

Back to BLACK

Very few movies have the power to move you in a way you had never imagined was possible. Especially if it happens to be coming from a movie maker known to make loud and colorful cinema (Khamoshi, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas). I had, for some reason I no longer remember, avoided seeing Sanjay Leela's BLACK all these years. While some said the subject was too dark others debated the same. Nonetheless, I finally went ahead and saw the feature today.

The movie is a masterpiece. A classic that needs special recognition and mention everywhere around the world. A story that goes beyond language, color, cultures and other man-made boundaries that bind us away from each other. No amount of appreciative vocabulary can do justice to a brilliant movie like BLACK and hence I decided to give it the same poetic feel that Sanjay so successfully gave.

I just hope I have come remotely close to what I want to express. And even if I have not, I do not care since experiencing experiencing light itself.

Back to BLACK
Her eyes see more than we ever can
Dream of with our eyes shut tight.
Her fingers speak volumes than
All mortals put together ever might.
Her voice springs hidden streams
To life and sound with her every fight.

His eyes see more than she ever could
Wish for in a life of dark solitude.
His fingers on her trembling lips of
Innocence shows her an attitude.
His voice brings the light of a different hue
And shade to her soul’s endless feud.

They are soul mates who meet on a dark evening.
Their fates bound to show each other the light.
His heart beats as one with her every move.
Her smile is his as her pain and delight.

His aging self holds on to his final ray
Of hope who descends in the form of Michelle.
His past and future are no longer his own
As they have found themselves in a magic spell.
He teaches her to see, he teaches her to be
An angel of liberty with a story to tell.

Her aging self is living his every moment
Infinite times and all over again.
Her past and future stitched in a pattern
So unique that it appears mindless to the ignorant sane.
She learns from his wisdom and determined hold
About love and life under the pouring rain.

They are the ideal teacher and student for each other.
Rare individuals who will not give up. Never.
They are the ones who have found true light.
While we with vision are back in black forever.

The rainbow of colors is defined by one.
The mind of melodies is second to none.
The world of darkness is not the world of the blind.
True vision means nothing without knowledge to find.

Friday, September 15, 2006 0 reflections

Seriously Kidding (!)

As a boy growing up and getting used to the ‘ways of the west’ I came across a lot of new expressions that had nothing to do with the English I knew. Words so very American like ‘gotcha’, ‘ahem’, ‘jeez’, ‘darn’ and my personal favorite ‘er…’ which would be dotted all across the material I read. My earliest memories of getting a glimpse into this ‘foreign world of words’ is via the various comics available all across India. Everything from Super Man to Archie would adorn the tables and shelves of my room establishing their domain with a lot of pride. If at some moment it would be Phantom – the ghost who walked - then at another it would be Tarzan – The King of the jungle. Every super hero who was familiar to the west was a member of my life as well.

The unfortunate part of this was that I never really got a chance to learn how exactly some of them were pronounced. After an embarrassing moment with my American-born cousin one summer I learnt a few things about understanding these words and their accent. It was then that all these ‘cool words’ finally made sense to my blossoming mind. As years went by and the influence of the west started becoming more apparent in India, my western vocabulary increased accordingly. Thanks to the many Hollywood flicks, TV shows, foreign tourists and cartoon strips - I was pretty confident about my familiarity with the ways of the west.

Once I decided to take the plunge and travel abroad a complete circle of this journey seemed to be taking place. With each passing year abroad my sense of the various cultures, lifestyles and their inherent stereotypes has also grown in quantity. New expressions like ‘Aww!’, ‘You know what I mean’, ‘For crying out loud’ and ‘No Kidding!’ are now part of my polished and updated vocabulary set. Not only do I get to use them a lot but they also have become so much a part of me that it is sometimes scary. The days when the word ‘Amma…!’ would pop out as an instinctive response to a cut or a burn is now replaced with ‘Jeez!’ or the more complete ‘Jee-zus Christ!’ or the more extreme sounding ‘Son of a…’. It is interesting what long term associations can do to a personality.

Despite these developments and adaptation of a new living standard, if there is one expression that has always puzzled me it is - ‘Just kidding!’ My understanding and appreciation of this two word mystery started becoming more obvious with every usage. If someone would use it at me then I would use at it someone else. It seemed like a great way to justify any statement irrespective of how grave it sounded or how much truth was in it. Adding this expression at the end of any statement would make the whole act of the original statement 'absolutely fine'.

Initially I would laugh back as a standard response to help myself fit into this grand scheme of things. I would even pat the other person on the shoulder with an earnest cackle. But with time I started realizing that there was a lot more to the statements than ‘Just Kidding’. Just the fact that the person thought of saying it had immediately made the emotion real. Just the idea that the person spoke the words before saying that it was a joke made the feel more authentic. At times I would even pause and reflect on the words that came out without the ‘Just Kidding’ portion and the results would be interestingly disturbing.

I personally have no qualms about people using it to get their real feel out in one way or the other. We all are humans and we need to vent at some point – fair enough. But the next time someone you know adds this little nugget at the end of their line, I suggest you wink back with a ‘Are you?’ so that there is an equal amount of deceit in both your conversations.

Just Kidding!


Wednesday, September 13, 2006 2 reflections

Desperate for a miracle

Growing up in a conservatively liberal family my values towards God and devotion were also modest enough. Do I believe in His existence? Of course I do. But my belief is not limited to the Gods my faith recognizes. At the risk of sounding like some pretentious avatar I confess – to me the feel of the Almighty is more important than His shape or form. To me devotion towards the concept of Him is more valuable than orthodox rituals and endless rites. To me the platonic connection with His being is what matters rather than seeing Him as a person with magical powers. His blessing is apparent to me in the deeds I do and not in what I offer Him as a token.

Day in day out hope is crushed all around India much like anywhere else in the world. Be it the common man’s basic rights, be it the next door girl spurning the romantic advances of a love sick teen or be it the hopeless hope of finally winning the illusive cricket World Cup. When compared to hope the real unfortunate kind though is the ‘faith card’. Bogged down by the constant battle in our daily lives, we cling on to our faiths like there is no tomorrow. It seems like the most logical thing to do when absolutely nothing is happening like we would want it to. No amount of early morning bathes and prayers are bearing the fruit of our liking. The problem with this attitude is that everyone else seems out to abuse the faith card for their personal gains. People following one faith have no faith in the other. People who do have some faith in something are made to lose all their faith eventually. It indeed is a vicious little circle of endless mind games.

I am not a naysayer. If there is one thing I have hated with a lot of passion is the habit of refusing to agree with a concept without proper scrutiny. Despite this rather generous approach the incidents of idols of Gods performing seemingly unnatural miracles has me pondering every single time. It all started with Lord Ganesha’s idols beginning to drink milk. Only Lord Ganesha knows how many tens of thousands of liters have been wasted down his trunk during that phase. Of course, to hype up our already famous stereotype of being a ‘land of the cows’, we did not seem to care. If only that milk was used for the poor and the needy. Sigh! There was also an incident where the Arabian Sea got a ‘sweet tooth’ recently which saw scores of people taking a plunge into the sweet water that seemed to erupt out of nowhere. Another incident had a deity somewhere shedding tears from the eyes which also had a good audience as I understand.

One incident after another keeps ringing the faith bell and getting thousands of miracle- enthusiasts lining up to see it happen. The latest one has Lord Hanuman apparently blinking at the visitors but the one witness who did manage to see it claims no such thing happened. Regardless of how much truth lies in these incidents we, as devout Indians, have done everything we can to let Him know that we await His blessed arrival in every form and shape. If there is one thing which drives an otherwise educated, sophisticated and well rounded individual to line up with folded palms to see these happen is faith.

I wonder if this is some kind of proof to showcase the timeless oppression we have been a part of. Maybe we are so fed up of being a ‘developing’ country for so long that we seriously need a break. Even if it means a divine one.

So the next time you hear a miracle like this happen at a place near you, I urge you to please go ahead and have a look. Who knows…maybe He is indeed making appearances in India to tell people to stop being so desperate for a miracle. That they are the real miracles who can do wonders if they put their skills to proper use. They are the ones who can create heaven on Earth with the right decisions. They are the real wonders.

After all, haven’t we been told all our lives that each one of us is a form of His being?


Tuesday, September 12, 2006 4 reflections

Smile please, Mr. HDK!

I guess the title of the article says it all. Do you still need me to elaborate? Gladly! Our dear Chief Minister is doing a lot to score points with the public. And why shouldn't he? After all the only proof governing bodies can provide that they support the people is by doing things for us, isn't it? So here we have dear Mr. HDK going around the state checking into the various villages dotted across the state and dining in them. Fair enough. Here we have Mr. HDK fending off accusations with the familiar shrug we have gotten used to it with a lot of integrity. Good enough. Here we have Mr. HDK dressed as the common man in a simple cotton shirt and trousers to symbolize his down to earth personality. Bull's eye!

But if there is one area our dear CM saar needs a little help with is his body language. A lot of chief ministers in the past have had their own unique personas. If Mr. Krishna had a profound thinker's look on his optimistic face then we had the 'leave me alone…I am tired!' look in Mr. son-of-soil. If we had to put up with the unshaven machismo Mr. Hegde exhibited then who can forget the dancing miracle in Mr. Bangarappa! Indeed we have had our share of a very interesting bunch of individuals who have steered our state in various directions and at varying speeds. Mr. HDK is quite possibly the best thing to happen to us after a long time as far as age is concerned. We do like to see young men and women become part of our aging administrative force in Karnataka. And if the chief of staff on that committee happens to be a bright 40 year old then the better, one would think.

But that is where the error occurs. I challenge you to Google Mr. HDK's photographs and I can confidently wager that you will find only one smiling photograph of our dear CM saar. Does this seem like something we should be bothered about? Yeah! I have always believed that a smile goes a long way. A firm hand shake takes us places and a gentle wink at the right time can do wonders for a career. The situation with Mr. HDK has gotten so beyond hope that even his cartoons and illustrations showcase him as a 'Angry Young Man'. Is Mr. CM so bogged down with baggage that he has forgotten how to smile and send out positive vibes? I hope not.

Come on, sir. We could use a new smiling photograph of yours. I think it is about time. Say cheese please!


Thursday, September 07, 2006 5 reflections

I did not kill Gandhi....

‘I did not kill Gandhiji on purpose….please believe me!’ cries a desperate professor Uttam Chaudhury. An intellectually gifted man who has lit many a soul now sits explaining himself to a psychiatrist as his family is convinced he has lost his senses. A common man, who has no recollection of when his wife passed away. A man with no acknowledgement of his daughter’s internal war to help him survive the battle of life. A man who is so obsessed with the thought of having been responsible to Gandhi’s death that he wants justice for his unintended sin.

Scenes like these from the movie ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara’ strike a chord we have long forgotten. I saw this movie many moons ago and it had disappeared in some corner of my forgotten subconscious. Disappeared like the message it carries with it. Forgotten like the Rupee note on which the Mahatma smiles back at us. Movies like ‘Maine Gandhi Ko…’ are mirrors to a lot of burning issues in today’s India. Issues concerning the integrity of people, issues concerning the chaos that surrounds the lives of the elderly, issues that threaten to expand themselves beyond the sane borders of the human psyche and issues that showcase the relevance of Gandhi in today's India.

As I watched the immensely gifted Anupam portray the role of a schizophrenic college professor who is coming to terms with a childhood trauma, I could not help but think of the upcoming Gandhi Jayanti. Times for us to sit back and think of our beloved father of the nation and garland him to ensure obligations are taken care of. A time when we sing Vaishnav Janato in groups and summarize the day with a blissful tribute to his soul.

A time to remember Mohandas.

But this year my reflections are no longer caught with these mundane rituals. It is no longer a time for me to rejoice at being identified as someone from ‘Gandhi’s Land’. It is not a fragment in time when I am proud to be a person who is from a country that saw the Mahatma live his life. Instead, I have chosen to count the number of times I have managed to kill him since October 2nd last year. It is a time for me to grieve the hurt I have caused the angelic soul of Mohandas in my trivial pursuit of mortal gains. A time to acknowledge the many mistakes I have made fully aware of the equally sinful consequences.

All of us who are fed on a rich diet of Gandhi’s ideals and principles in life somehow manage to grow out of it once the reality train arrives. We get into it and no longer remember nor care about brotherhood, peace, truth and selflessness. We no longer find pride in being labeled an individual with strong principles. We no longer are Gandhi’s children.

This Gandhi Jayanti I urge you to get off at the next station and sit a while. Sit a while and try to acknowledge the times you have managed to kill Gandhi this last year. Hopefully a day will come when that count will be a zero. Till then with your infinite wisdom please accept our apologies bapu.

Saturday, September 02, 2006 0 reflections

DH Article - God of small things

My tribute to the late Sh. Hrishikesh Mukerjee was published by Deccan Herald in their September 2, 2006 edition on Page 12. This article was also published earlier on this blogsite at God of Small Things.

Please click on the image for the larger version.

Friday, September 01, 2006 2 reflections

Where is the humanity?

My day starts by looking at the pages of Deccan Herald and Times of India on the Internet. This is a ritual I have stuck to for many years now. Even when I was home in India, my mornings would be decorated by a steaming cup of my mother’s excellent coffee and the newspapers spread eagled across the living room. If my brother found solace in the movies section then my father was a fan of the articles. My mother would occasionally skip through the sections and glance at the news from around the world. Bottom-line was that we all have been great readers of the happenings around us.

I never talk about stuff like this on my blog. This is probably why you will never find many articles here which talks about my daily life or what I am going through in my personal environment. But today is different. Today is a day when my blood is boiling so much about what I read that I just have to write it. If I don’t then chances are I will explode and so will my calm Friday at work.

I am against violence. Nothing can justify it. Nothing should. Not against any living being does violence find justification. Never. If you can breathe, you shall not harm. If you can feel you shall not harm.

Given below are two very tragic and outrageous pieces of crime. The first one is about a sister-duo that went on a killing spree of innocent children. A bunch of seemingly uneducated pair who resorted to kidnapping and extortion to make a living. Without a proper education and upbringing they seem to have found the gall to kill an innocent child. My eyes are filled with blood just writing these words down. Where do these people find the mindset to commit a crime against a child? What sort of human beings are these that do not have the least bit of human element left in them? Has greed and selfish endeavors made us so immune to love that we resort to such demonic rituals? Where is the justice in this? How will putting them to death now do any good for the families who lost their little ones? No. Nothing they will find on earth will ever undo what they did. Never.

The second story below is of an educated chap. A ‘techie’! He goes ahead and chops off his wife’s limbs and dumps her off. As always, here too, money plays a role so big that it takes over humanity. A normal seeming individual who went berserk and decided to kill his own life partner.

Did it matter that the former crime was executed by people with little or no education and that the latter came from a person from the "educated class"? No it did not. It never will. Will it matter that these people will get a death sentence in the courts? Maybe to the generic view of justice done but nothing they will ever suffer can undo their crime.

They did not kill humans. They killed humanity - a crime with no earthly punishment.