Tuesday, October 31, 2006 10 reflections

'Certain Topics'

The grunt of frustration from his parents would become all too familiar for Sagar as the days rolled by. Every time an 'A' feature showed up on their modest ‘Doordarshan’ he would be told to retire to his room. He often wondered just how ‘door’ this ‘darshan’ really was since apparently he was not fit to be part of it. Growing up in a society paranoid to discuss basic human behavior would only further push his inquisitive self to explore. The taboo of certain acts being a distasteful and disgusting topic would only make him fonder towards it. The illusive story of the birds and the bees had no context for him as he was introduced to the chaotic world of the genders in a rather bizarre fashion. The well timed anecdotes at family gatherings would have him wonder about its underlying meaning. The ill worded obscenities at school would have him trying to dissect their true form for better understanding. None of what he was being exposed to would prepare him for the truth.

‘Kids these days are sick and mentally ill! What is wrong with them? We never even dreamt of such a thing or we’d be skinned alive!’ his enraged father had shouted at the top of his lungs when he had heard of a friend’s teenage son caught with some ‘bad’ magazines. ‘They should all be hospitalized and given shock treatment, I say…’ he had continued under Sagar’s watchful gaze to try and drive home the point that the certain topics were off limits. That had put an effective end to all of Sagar’s questions and endless pondering surrounding ‘certain topics’ from the home front.

There was always someone who knew more than Sagar about these issues. If it was not his elder cousins then it was his younger brother. It seemed impossible to completely understand what exactly everyone was trying to hide with such passion. And why was it considered a terrible thing to discuss? Woven into a social fabric that did not allow free talk of ‘certain topics’, Sagar had to rely on the bits and pieces of random information he would get from these so called ‘veterans’ in the field. The sad part, however, would be that Sagar’s query list would only increase with each discovery. And sadly enough those queries would remain unanswered for a long time.

‘Oh they just have to be with each other. That’s all. Nine months later the baby arrives’ said one genius. The other would revise that version with a more polished ‘They drink something which makes babies appear’ which according to Sagar seemed a lot reasonable than the first one. A few more versions involved everything from babies growing on ‘special trees’ to babies being hatched out of ‘special eggs’ that the mother would have to eat with her food. Despite all this if there was one common strand it seemed to be that the man and woman had to be together for any of these formulae to work. Sagar found this process fascinating yet very complex.

More light dawned upon his eager mind as he bombarded his poor Biology teacher who reluctantly discussed ‘The Reproductive System’ at school one day. No one had their hands up more than our dear man as he pounded the lady with his ‘designer queries’. As the girls giggled amongst themselves and the boys threw paper balls at him, Sagar braved it out to try and figure out the clue which held this puzzle in place. Many had officially labeled him the ‘class clown’ since most of this questions were funny. The teacher’s responses to them were funnier. All his efforts to try and capture the true meaning of ‘certain topics’ had been in vain since all the technical jargon had not made much sense to him.

Circa 1997 was the ‘grand technology invasion’ in India. A time where information was said to be on the fingertips of the common man. A time when the Internet was becoming a popular mode to gain and retain knowledge. A time when Sagar would, for the first time in his life, depend on a computer to completely understand the ins and outs of ‘certain topics’. As sad as this seemed that he was getting more information from a machine than his own kin, Sagar was learning nonetheless. He realized half of what he had heard was a big pile of partial gibberish. The other half was just plain wrong.

Sagar is approaching his 30s now. Nothing more left out there for him to learn about ‘certain topics’. Everything from literature to graphic representations has made way into his knowledge base. Looking back at the nature of the topic though, he wonders what the big deal really was. He is saddened by the fact that he had to go through more than a decade of endless exploration to learn what he now knows. The near-mortal mental torture he had to put up with seems unfair. He feels like smiling when he realizes he has learnt more than he had ever wanted to thanks to the ‘fingertip tech’. The whole process of growing out of that awkward stage of risky ignorance seems a joke when compared to the ease with which material is available today. He also realizes that if he were put in a position to educate a young mind some day he probably will not threaten to skin him for bringing up ‘certain topics’.

He would probably be doing the young soul a favor by opening up this Pandora’s Box anyway. The sooner the better, isn’t it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 2 reflections


I know ‘maturification’ is not a word. But how else would one describe a state where reality intersects with fantasy? What term could best define these bizarre cross roads we keep running into in life? Which sentence can do justice to this never ending process of making a thousand quick and tough decisions every passing day? I know we all were told growing up was hard but not once were we made aware of how it was much more than that. Turns out despite the height of a person coming to halt growing itself never finds an end.

I hate it when people start preaching to me about the philosophies of adult life. The infinite ways in which life is not fair and how it puts us in situations that do not make sense. We get it. Maybe partially but we still get it. But is that enough? Does hearing about something so obscure really prepare us get through this rather turbulent phase of our lives? What should we do to try and keep ourselves sane and satisfied? Where is it that real content of the mind resides? Maybe tracing our past will help construct our present and future. So here is my attempt to do the same.

Phase 1: Explore

Each decade comes with its own set of protocols. The first ten years of our life is all about exploration. We are new to almost everything that moves. As a matter of fact we are new to everything that doesn’t too. But we are blissfully unaware of anything else except our immediate needs – Food, Fun, Sleep and Love. That pretty much sums up our basic instincts during that phase. Everyone who smiles at us is a friend and everyone who is not our parent is an uncle or an aunty. Life is so simple.

Phase 2: Experiment

Then comes the worse part of human growth – the second decade. The ages between 11 and 20. I think this is the slot where personality and character finds foundation. This is the phase where individuals are free to experiment all they want with themselves and others. They can experiment with everything from cigarettes to pornography. They push the envelope of rules and regulations with almost everyone. They are put into stereotypical groups – the nerdy, the cool, the boring, the lonely, the weird, the stupid, the bad and the ugly. All of us, invariably, fall into this complex group of branches. We struggle day after day to be recognized or to be left alone. Either way by the time we are 20…we are who we are today. No major changes can be expected of us from this point. Maturification, as it seems, has already begun.

Phase 3: Expand

This definition we seek for ourselves never really finds a solid shape. In fact, the experimentation phase is just scratching the surface of continuously challenging ourselves with new ways of misery. Our connections and relationships with people around us start getting a clearer priority during this decade. The problem with this phase, as I stand at the end of it myself, is being able to constantly re-define your associations. People who once you thought were great might not be the best after all. Your ‘idols’ in whatever your passion is come out as flawed individuals who make you seem foolish. The real challenge in this phase seems to be to know when to say the right thing and how. The true meaning of being a rationale adult seems to be feeling secure and sane. The ongoing chaotic struggle with our inner selves and our exterior presentation gets fought bitterly each wake moment. Keeping that balance seems like an impossible talk. But…as most of our ancestors did, we know we will get through. We have to.

Phase 4: Everything Else

I am still wondering about this one since it has not passed me by. Maturification happens at various stages and leaves us with more questions than answers. A process that seems so complex that a small write up like this one can never do justice to it. The unpredictability is probably what makes this journey so unique since one never knows what to expect. No amount of pre-planning ever works out despite having a dozen fail-safe methods in place. Venting it out, like I just did, might help keep that sanity factor between reality and fantasy.

A factor which is quite vital once you are dealing with ‘everything else’.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 11 reflections

A whole new word

A popular joke in school was asking someone what the 'longest short word' in English was. As the poor soul responded back a feeble ‘I don’t know’ we would laugh back with a well timed ‘Mile!’ Looking back as I am quite embarrassed to admit having been part of this silly ritual myself, I also have to add that I didn’t know any better. To me these jokes made sense. They were timeless classics. A ‘mile’ was always longer than a ‘kilometer’ but shorter in length.

When I first started writing I strictly adhered to a few words that came easily to me. I did not want to use words whose meanings were hard to find. I would keep my good old Oxford dictionary (with tons of random doodles on its pages) as my reliable guide and venture out. I knew I would never have to change my style even if the future was an unknown.

From such humble beginnings my vocabulary leapfrogged into further obscurity with the invasion of technology. Words that had a clear and precise meaning till then no longer had the same context. I started using them into my regular language without even realizing what it was doing to my writing skills. English, as it were, had stepped into some abstract area. My first brush with such a word was ‘Log In’. All my life I had known a log was a piece of wood from which Donald Duck occasionally tripped over but I had never realized how the word ‘in’ got stuck with it. To make it worse I was introduced to ‘Log Out’.

Once I had consumed these two rather small but context-heavy words, there was no looking back. I went on to greener pastures with words like ‘code’, ‘server’, ‘compile’, ‘boot’, ‘reboot’, ‘warm boot’, ‘cold boot’, ‘floppy’, et al. My personal favorite was ‘floppy’ since somehow the word ‘flop’ which earlier was associated with failure had now a whole new meaning. Being ‘floppy’ed was trendy. It was considered ‘cool’.

Years passed on and as the writer inside me suffered in silence I made merry with my updated vocabulary. ‘Floppy’ soon went extinct and in came ‘CD’. Not once in my life have I called it a Compact Disk. From there I dabbled into some biological terms like ‘virus’, ‘debug’, ‘quarantine’ and ‘infection’. I also dealt with governmental/official terms like ‘corruption’, 'transfer', 'quit', 'upgrade' and ‘copy’. I then moved onto scarier zones with violent sounding words like ‘cut’, ‘hack’, ‘burn’, 'delete' and ‘crash’. Words I had never used before in a regular sentence was now part of a daily routine.

‘Oh don’t worry. I will burn that file for you. ’ I would say without a blink.

A decade ago such a statement would have sent my father running to fetch a bucket of water and a blanket in case I injure myself. But today even he is trendy enough to say things like ‘I will scan and shoot across the papers to your inbox. Do you want them as JPG or GIF?’

The latest buzz with me is ‘seed’ and ‘leech’. I could almost hear my rather old fashioned aunt gasp when I told her I was ‘seeding on KT for the last few days'. I had to explain to her that KT was a website where I downloaded movies from and not ‘Katie’. She was a phone call away from pressing the panic button all across my family tree.

I am pretty sure she is still not convinced.

Saturday, October 21, 2006 2 reflections

Found in translation

Life in Latin American countries is a linguistic roller coaster ride. One never really gets a complete hang of the dialect despite coming from a well versed nation like India. This truth dawned on me quite early on during my tenure here but I am stumbling upon new discoveries each passing day.

It all began when my boss began responding with a ‘See…’ every time I spoke to him about something important. As unorthodox as that response was, being used to English as a main mode of communication back home, I would wait for him to continue his thought. As in ‘See….the thing is…’ and so on.

He never did. That was the end of his response. One word. ‘See’.

A few days later I realized the truth behind his bizarre responses. He had gotten so used to speaking in Espanol (Spanish for the uninitiated) that he looked past the fact that he was talking to a newbie. ‘See’ had not meant ‘seeing’. It sure sounded like it but was actually ‘Si’ as in ‘Yes’ in Spanish.

My first lesson in Spanish – Si. The one word that sailed me through many a turbulent time. The only time tested way to get a cabbie to bring you home safe. All you had to do was agree with whatever he was saying. Si.

With time and experience comes knowledge. Not all of it is always worth retaining but the bits that do stay behind are life savers. My second brush with a mixed up word came when I heard someone yell out ‘Mira!’ at a dinner party. I was quite excited to know there was someone named Mira at the party. I even toyed with the idea of letting her know my name had Krishna in it. You know…ice breakers. A few minutes later I realized ‘Mira’ meant ‘Look!’ in Spanish. I got so used to it that when my cousin Meera actually came down to India last Christmas I showed her my new laptop and said ‘Mira Meera!’ Being a Californian she got the joke.

Thus began my research of homonyms in Spanish and my base languages – Hindi and Kannada. Within the first few attempts I had actually assembled an exhaustive list of over 50 words that sounded the same. Some had amusing translations like the word ‘papi’. In Hindi and Kannada it meant ‘Sinner’ but in Spanish it meant ‘Daddy’. Other interesting ones included ‘Sala’ which meant ‘room’ in Spanish but meant ‘loan’ in Kannada and ‘brother-in-law’ in Hindi. Interesting patterns emerged with words like ‘cama’ which meant ‘bed’ in Spanish but also meant ‘lust’ in Hindi and Kannada. Not far from the truth, I thought.

The best anecdote I found was at a friend’s wedding when I realized the word for marriage was ‘boda’ in Spanish. I mentioned to him that it meant ‘a bald man’ in Kannada. He chuckled at me and responded ‘Not surprising. I am so sure I will be a boda after this boda. Do you know how much this thing is costing me?’


Click here to view some of my Homonyms

Friday, October 20, 2006 5 reflections

Well lit memories...

The humble streets that had seen Sagar grow up were now posh neighborhoods. His eyes lit up with amazement as he passed by one wonderfully designed apartment building after another when he returned home the first time. He was at a strange zone where he no longer could distinguish between his past and his present. Everything seemed to have changed so quickly that his attitude of remaining simple no longer held context. He was now a part of a more sophisticated social fabric that he could not run away from.

His roots are connected to patches of earth where happiness has no connection to wealth. His beginnings are made of patterns where satisfaction does not find source in material. Being together and spending time with family is one of the only memories he has left worth mentioning. Every year he would be almost embarrassed to carry the clay idol of Lord Ganesha bare foot across the crowded market place in a steel plate with uncooked rice in it. He would find visiting children annoying when they would come up and enquire if his house had Ganesha’s idol in it. He was frustrated at the never ending beeline of relatives who would come and appreciate his mother’s fine art work during Dussehra. The whole backstage workload of having to get the boxes down and unpacking the thousands of dolls and accessories would make him bitter. On many an occasion he would find a reason to get out of the house to escape helping his family during such festivities. He would reluctantly follow his father and brother into the front yard to burst a cracker during Diwali. The sound and debris associated with his father’s excited freestyle dancing would make him run back into the house. During the Sankranti festival he would detest the thought of going to every house in his street to distribute sugarcane and sesame seeds. ‘I don’t want to do it!’ he would yell back at his patient mother who would almost beg him to carry on tradition. The lack of a daughter, she would say, was a lifelong pain.

Times changed and so did his attitude with such annual festivities. With age he became more tolerant than careless. He would go along for the ride just to avoid being yelled at. He would help out just to prevent his father from reading his frustration. Being an open book no longer seemed endearing.

Tomorrow is Diwali again. Another year for Sagar to send across dozens of electronic greeting cards with animated lighting and pleasant words. One more occasion for him to exchange greetings with those he considers his own. This time, however, he does not do it because he has to. He does it because he wants to.

His alien host is filled with gloomy clouds instead of the bright blue he remembers. His next door neighbors know nothing about Diwali’s enthusiasm. His friends and colleagues do not understand the need to dress up and burn paper filled with explosives. But Sagar does. He now longs for those warm evenings when he would help his mother light a flower pot. The smell of burnt gunpowder and lazy clay pots with dying lamps would bring a familiar peace to his mind. He now reminiscences about the ‘10000-wala’ firecracker chain that would thunder for what seemed like eternity. His lonely mind is now filled with images of friends dropping by with sweet boxes with golden ribbons and a genuine smile. Moments etched in his nostalgia that reflect his journey.

Yes. Sagar now cares. This Diwali his festive season is filled with these well lit memories. He now looks out the window of his apartment into the pouring rain and sees bright little lamps burning in the distance. He sees his family waving to him from across the foreign sheet of relentless thunder.

He smiles and waves back.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and well lit Diwali / Deepavali this year. Play Safe & Stay Safe.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 0 reflections

Fake, Naturally

Someone mentioned the words 'Artificial Intelligence' the other day. It sounded like a pretty interesting thing to be part of but in essence meant nothing more than 'borrowed intellect' I thought. There was something about the word 'Artificial' that has always made me associate it with something untrue. Something fictitious.

Regardless AI is a blazing theory today and is breaking ground in more places than one. In the fields of science and technology there are folks who swear by this concept. 'Borrowed Intellect' sure sounds brilliant as far as AI is concerned.

But unfortunately this revolutionary concept of modified truth ends its trail right there. Since everything else that is artificial in this world is anything but intelligent. When I moved to Venezuela I was introduced to the fairy-tale concept of ‘beauty’. It was like I was living in some Utopian society where everyone was too perfect to be true. Creatures that seemed to be popping out of Greek mythologies with the perfect smiles and the clear skin. How was it possible that I was living in a city filled with such timeless beauties?

My childish wondering came to a rather abrupt halt when I realized all that it took to become one of them was a little ‘Nip/Tuck’. Cosmetic surgery has revolutionized the concept of ‘self-esteem’. In countries like Venezuela the charges of this is so low that people fly in from all over the world for this purpose. What a place it should be where people come to become beautiful. Shallow? Maybe. Interesting? Definitely. What’s more is this is not limited only to women either. Men too, in smaller proportions, are going in for lifts and fix to start looking like the naked statues outside secretariats in Washington.

The biggest word for me back home was ‘Plastic Surgery’. When I saw faces magically transformed from hideous to gorgeous in Indian movies I would sit dumbfounded at the miracle this kind of science was. Face value, as it seemed, had indeed increased.

American shows like ‘Extreme Makeover’, ‘The Swan’ and ‘Dr. 90210’ only added more fuel to this already bubbling beauty pot. Looking good was automatically associated with brilliance, confidence and success. I wonder what Mr. Einstein or Mr. R K Narayan would say had they been around. It has now come to a point where every time I meet someone I wonder what part of their body might be ‘artificial’. It is like my own little guessing game.

The best came when I was passing the hallway and one of my colleagues was dropping something into her eyes. I asked her what it was to which she responded ‘Oh this? Artificial tears.’


Monday, October 16, 2006 4 reflections

Living with a shadow

Two is a crowd when one starts living alone. Having lived with my parents all my life the concept of living alone sounded too juicy. To me the bottom line of such living (and considering I am no different from any average male out there) was independence of what I could (or did not) wear. I could do whatever I wanted to. If I felt like getting up at three in the morning for some left over slice of black forest then so be it. Switching on the television all day even if I was never in front of it was just fine. This was my personal island and I was the only habitant. I made the rules. I broke them.

The beauty of such living is it changes your personality in such a subtle manner that the realization comes to you as a shock. Simple things that enhance you as a person start coming to light. For instance, the one thing you get better at almost immediately is your auditory skills. In a matter of weeks you are a master of every single clink and thud in your house. You know what the stove should sound like. You know what the washer and drier will do when it stops. You are so aware at one point that the slightest hint of an alien sound will make you get up and investigate. This might seem like borderline paranoia to an untrained eye but those of us who do this know that we are doing the right thing.

The other amazing thing about being with yourself is your voice enhancement. Lets face it. We won’t be partying all the time will we? Neither will we be entertaining friends round the clock. So this means there is always a window wide open for you to talk to yourself. Contrary to popular belief this is not a bad thing at all. In the six years I have been with myself I cannot even begin to tell you the things I have learnt about the way I sound. All this tends to get mixed up in the sounds and sights of a life with a family.

Another advantage of an island life is knowing more about oneself. For instance, I never knew I was such an anti-kitchen person. The idea of flipping over pancakes for breakfast only looks good in a sitcom series. When it comes to reality I would rather be the guy eating it with maple syrup than the one making it. I also learnt I hate alarm clocks. Being a person who was usually woken up by someone all my life I had never really needed an alarm. This probably explains why I missed the initial few weeks of ‘alarming friendship' since I hated a machine yelling by me at five in the morning. But then much like a castaway I had to befriend the thing.

In such dwelling survival becomes a key and thanks to today’s various technological advancements this is not such a big deal. Any external interference can be easily filtered out. This is not quite possible when one lives with family or others. My first shocking realization of this happened when I was told I needed to carry my cell phone at all times when I retuned back home for the first time. ‘Call us if you are late!’ was the advice I got. And sure enough, having gotten used to not calling home I conveniently forgot. Oh the words I had to hear later that night is something etched in memory. Yes. Living alone did not include this in its package deal. My little island seemed so wonderful that night. I could not wait to get back.

I love my family. I really do. But there comes a time when after having lived with a shadow for company, you want to go back to that. You no longer find it soothing that someone is waking you up. You miss your annoying little alarm. You no longer can walk into the kitchen in your underwear without your mother screaming her head off. You no longer can come back home at three in the morning and go to bed without some extra audio effects.

My next immediate challenge is the notion of living with my ‘soul mate’ as it were. Only one island dweller can truly appreciate the life of another. A classic case of takes one to know and live with one. I hope she too comes from an island and recognizes my island’s rules (or the lack of it thereof). It could get tricky otherwise, isn’t it? Let us hope it does not.


Sunday, October 15, 2006 2 reflections

Weeping for a stranger

If there is one thing life has taught me it is this – caring for someone other than what means to you is nearly impossible. I say this with a lot of caution since we live in a world that is always striving to be politically correct to everyone except politics itself. When I would meet people who would claim genuine compassion for others I would always wonder if they really meant it. If I were to put them in a room that could be like a morality X-Ray, if you will, then would the ‘real ones’ show a different structure? What does it take for us human beings to actually find it within ourselves to actually care about anyone else but us? Why make a special attempt at this if being compassionate is a human nature? What causes the varying degree of ‘compassion ratio’ in all of us? And is that really a bad thing?

These questions haunted me every single day of my late teens. I mention the era since this is when a human actually starts becoming the kind of person he/she will be for the rest of their lives. This very attribute makes this phase one of the trickiest ones there is. It is suffice to say that this was probably when most of our well known humanitarians decided to dedicate their entire lives in the service of others. What could they have possibly seen or heard that we did not? How did it happen that they got the natural inclination for this while the rest of us were too busy trying to get a date? Was there some sort of unique gene construction that made them who they became later in lives or was their personal suffering a part of the change they wanted to see?

So many questions. I had a professor once who said a good lesson is one where you walk away with more questions than answers. Being a caring human apparently seems to be one of those life long lessons. Some get it in the very first lecture. Others keep reappearing time and again to try and understand why this is important.

‘The struggle is the glory’ I had heard a preacher once say. This is the life humanitarians lead all over the world. Visiting people and societies where the biggest battle is to attain things we take for granted. When I watch footage of such societies in places like Africa and Asia on the National Geographic, I would be so repulsed by the sights that I would thank my stars for the remote control in my hand. But with age comes a time when one asks the question ‘Why did you change the channel? Are you not the kind who can stand others suffering and grief? Are you really that superficial and self-involved?’

The answer, unfortunately, to most of the questions above is probably just that. Yes. We are shallow and extremely superficial people who like the idea of helping but our compassion ends with a thought. Our explanation is ‘Oh there is always someone else out there to do the dirty work so why bother!’ which is probably true but then is that how one should satisfy the all-knowing conscience? Is that not really the most disgusting sight? A shallow and meaningless conscience?

Recently I had to suffer a brief eye-related illness and was in extreme pain for a couple of days. An eye-patch, the limited vision, the incoherent walking, the eye drops… the whole nine yards. I felt I had been cursed for some previous sin and that I was the one in the most pain. A few days after the illness faded I was walking down the street one evening when I saw a blind beggar on the street singing a local folk song with a bowl of pennies in front of him. As I walked by him my personal experience with partial blindness flashed in front of my eyes. I could absolutely not imagine living a life like that. I would rather kill myself than be on a street somewhere with no vision and a broken violin for a living. To me my social representation was larger than becoming a public property like this man.

But as I walked by I turned around and for a moment thought I saw the blind man smiling in my direction. Maybe he had read my mind with his X-Ray moral structure and seemed to say ‘You will do the same if you are in my position. You could change your viewpoint or live your life as a shallow coward.'

I wondered later if it really was all about that. Our point of views. I guess the people who did become humanitarians did just that. Changed their viewpoint in their late teens and never looked the same again. I may not be equipped with the faculty to become one myself but I salute everyone who is saving a stranger and weeping for their lives.

A few days later I saw the same show on the National Geographic. This time I decided to watch.

I knew I had to start somewhere.


Monday, October 09, 2006 6 reflections

DOR - A mirror to good cinema...

Simple movies are the hardest to make in India. Being a traditionally colorful culture that subdues to the varying degrees of pomp and glitz, it is rare that something so simple yet powerful comes across.

‘Dor’ comes from the able hands of my personal favorite Nagesh Kukunoor. The man who revolutionized the so called ‘parallel cinema’ by giving it a relatable look with the classic- ‘Hyderabad Blues’. With time his understanding of the cinematic life cycle has only matured and this is quite evident in his recent works.

I was on the flight from Frankfurt to Bangalore when I happened to see his brush with India’s real religion – Cricket. ‘Iqbal’ brought to light more than just a story. It brought to me glimpses of an India we all can relate with. An ounce of style with the right amount of emotion made me appreciate this creative genius as I flew over unknown land specks that evening. It was then that I realized that Nagesh was more than just a movie maker. He was indeed a ‘mirror maker’ who had showen us visions of various parts of our own society. Parts we rarely get to see. Parts that are easily forgotten in the razzmatazz of everything else that surrounds us.

At the risk of trying to avoid this write up from becoming another review, I am attempting to capture the mood of the feature rather than the semantics of it. ‘Dor’ goes across the nation towards the Northern part of the country. Two stories running parallel to each other but united by one tragic cause. We have a story of a couple from the foothills of a valley in Himachal Pradesh. We have another story of another couple from the dune hills of Rajasthan. People from two completely varying faiths and cultural limitations find each other in the face of a tragedy. Simple people with not so simple challenges. People like you and me.

But then ‘Dor’ is so much more than just that. It is about the ignored woman section in India. It is about their eternal struggle in a male-dominant world. It is about the anguish a young widow faces in her close minded and medieval society. It is about a friendship that is born out of grief and put to test. A test that can easily make or break it. It is about mending broken hearts and ailing relationships. It is about hope that is so easily lost in the chaotic lives we are part of.

‘Dor’ is about the delicate threads that bind us as human beings.

Indians have always been fed on a rich diet of fiction and endless melodrama. To escape from reality is the easy way out but to own up to it and reflect upon it takes a bigger individual. ‘Dor’ attempts at encouraging us starry-eyed scapegoats to pause and look into that mirror we live in.

As I said, simple yet powerful representations like ‘Dor’ are easy to ignore. But it only adds up to the injustice such genuine pieces of work meet with. I sincerely hope this is not the case with ‘Dor’. Do yourself a favor and be a part of this qualitative journey for once.

As for me, I have found my mirror and I acknowledge what I see. I hope you can do the same.


Sunday, October 08, 2006 1 reflections

About a date...

India woke up to the concept of dating quite a while ago. Thanks to the many channels of global influence, we found ourselves wanting to go on a ‘date’. Somehow this seemed to be the manliest achievement for the crowd still in between things in life. After fire, if there was one creation man was really proud of it had to be this – a date.

This did not really sink into my humble self up until I had passed my 18th year of existence. Coming from a family with no female siblings my natural association with girls was not at its peak anyway. Being in a unisex crowd was hard enough but mustering the courage to actually ask a girl on a ‘date’ seemed a far fetched notion.

Certain ideas change definitions with location. The same happened with me as I traveled overseas. Back home, there was no such thing as walking into a bar and bumping into a girl there. For starters, the word ‘bar’ was always associated with a vice. The expression ‘Bar and Restaurant’ has a whole other story of its own. Needless to say the actual location of this so called ‘date’ was a tad askew. The next thing I noticed about the dating rituals here was that everything had a process. A guy was supposed to dress this way. A girl was supposed to say these words. He was supposed to pick her up and drop her off. A typical (read good kind) date was almost always in the evenings with a good chance of intimacy. A lot of excruciating details about this ritual seemed to emerge.

Back home, dating was nothing more than a movie and lunch. Of course the girl had to make sure no one saw her so she would have her dupatta (veil) around her head the whole time. I later realized that the only reason she would agree to a movie was because it was dark inside and so chances of her being ‘caught’ would be slim. Here the guy was pumping up his ego by thinking he had achieved something grand without realizing the girl is trying not to be seen with this fellow the whole time. Sad but true.

It has been a while since I have lived in India and maybe the concept of casual dating has indeed changed. Maybe it has become more like the western world after all. Reminds me of when I told my professor that I had to leave class early since I had a date. He responded with a naïve look ‘Today is the 12th.’ I hope he now understands this concept better than I ever did.

3 reflections

Age of 'Innocence'

According to me as a child, there are only two things that satisfy the confused little soul – Chocolates and Cartoons. If there is not enough of one then there is always another to get hyped up with. I remember my Sunday mornings being filled with Spiderman, Tom & Jerry and He-Man features.

As a child if there was one safe place for me that was not my house, it was those incomplete and geometrically impossible landscapes of these cartoon worlds. The neatly decorated house where Tom would mercilessly chase little Jerry around in was a personal favorite. The well painted and spotless roads of Disney would be an immediate treat. I always wanted to live in that place with those characters. I also loved the fact that even if Donald Duck walked off a cliff he would still land safely back on earth with nothing much than a funny bruise. I also liked it when Jerry would bang Tom with everything from hammers, tree trunks, large metal balls or chainsaws and yet Tom would be fit and fine immediately! Yes. There was no death in those worlds, I thought.

But as an adult this feel fades away at some point. You continue enjoy watching them but no longer wish to be part of that world. This probably because you have realized they are all fake and that the reality you live in seems more soothing. With this realization comes another one. These 'cartoon representations' of life are so violent! I mean, can you really imagine chasing someone down the road with a lit bomb, catching up with him, opening his mouth and shoving it down his throat! Can you expect him to get a smoke out of his hair and faint clumsily as a result! I don't think so. While there is a good chance you might kill yourself in the process, the gallows is also a neat option that you have. I realized that there was no way reality can ever imitate what is shown in the cartoons. The other thing I also realized is these might be a good reason why kids these days are so violent. With time the amount of hate crime shown in these 'innocent' animations have only grown darker and scarier. Take the harmless seeming 'Happy Tree Friends' as an example. These innocent seeming creatures find the worse way to die at the end of each "chapter". Death, as it seems, is no longer a subtle option. It is a definite one.

But again, I might be wrong. With such meaningless action shown maybe we are grooming the innocent mind to mature faster than it should. Nevertheless, this is something to think about the next time you see Goofy dive into a waterless pool and crack his body into a hundred pieces.

Thursday, October 05, 2006 3 reflections

Stop stopping India!

One more bandh has left us. One more state is crippled for an entire day. One more daily wage worker has probably gone without food today. One more emergency has turned into a tragedy without public transport or first aid. Yes. One more ‘successful’ bandh has been executed in modern India.

The concept of a bandh was the product of civil disobedience during the British Raj. A bandh was the non-violent way of shutting down everything for a certain period of time. The victory was supposedly sending a strong word of protest without doing anything. The gist was to call for a bandh anytime something was supposed to be done. The logic was the administration would cave in since it could not afford such loss from a single day. So what started off as a non-violent movement slowly started becoming synonymous with violence itself. Here lies the irony of this concept. I agree this might have worked in a day and age where not going to work was a feasible option. But India is growing out of control with each passing day. Shutting down one major city in the country for one day means nothing less than suicide.

Growing up the word bandh only meant ‘no school’ to me. I never cared to find out anything else about it. Why was it called? Who called it? What was the damage? With time I think Indians got used to the disturbing concept that during such a day, anyone can do anything and go scot-free. You see an open store then go ahead, throw a stone in it or light it on fire and flee. You see a newspaper office sitting quiet with no one around, picket it and take to your heels.

A bandh is clearly more than just protest. It has translated into crime. The kind of crime one would not dare do on a regular working day. So my question is – What exactly is being accomplished apart from this obscure ‘message’ by calling for a bandh? Being democratic what if I choose not to follow it?

People do not stay home to support the cause anymore. They stay home to be safe. The Supreme Court of India has banned such bandhs and has even fined a couple of political parties in the past. But this is not enough. We need to stop ‘bandhs’ from happening by getting out there anyway. The true and democratic way of opposing something should be by holding a rally somewhere near places like the Vidhana Souda where no commoners are allowed.

As for us common citizens - please let us carry on our lives and country forward. Please stop stopping India!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 4 reflections

Wisdom in one column

Life as a writer is all about being read. Your genre and style of writing seems to form coherence when you actually see it responded to. As an aspiring writer of sorts, if there was one passion I always treasured it was seeing my name in print. At the time when the words 'Computer' and 'Internet' were unheard of I would fill thousands of pages with my thoughts. It ranged from silly narrations to presumptuous social commentary about the world around me. I always liked the idea of being called a ‘prodigy’ since somehow riding on that elephant waving at millions of live audience on Republic Day seemed like the ultimate goal in life. I would spend most of my Sundays buried writing everything from the greatest incomplete novel to the shortest short story.

Early teens became late 20s as my lifestyle changed with the invasion of technology. From the humble bound pages of ‘Vidya’ notebook I went on to an HP Notebook. I went from refilling my ink pen to connecting my mouse into the laptop. I had managed to retain the writing but somehow managed to forget the source it came from. Nevertheless the writer in me lived on. My writing matured with time as I realized usage of complex words randomly in stories did not indicate style and sophistication. I had to keep it simple and natural. Perhaps this was the only way the writer in me would be satisfied to an extent.

Hunger to let others know about what I think increased like the crescendo of morning traffic in India. My words found way into the web pages on the Internet. My thoughts now had a medium to broadcast themselves with. But was anyone listening? The written word needed context else I felt like I was talking to myself. This was no fun since I knew I would agree with myself. So the next stop was ensuring it was strategically placed at a spot where others would pass by. Some stopped, looked, read, shrugged and moved on. Others stopped, looked, read, wondered, responded and moved on. Others returned and still do.

The greatest achievement came to me when I was published in a leading newspaper in India – Deccan Herald for the first time. My joy knew no bounds that day. Despite the fact that the article would be old and forgotten in 24 hours I still held on to this timeless gift.

The writer in me now yearns for a column of my own that will hopefully come to me some day. A real estate with my photograph smiling back at the reader with a hint of pride and a pinch of wisdom.

The hunger for words is the worst kind as I package all this wisdom into one column each day.

Sunday, October 01, 2006 2 reflections

Democracy ke Side/Effects

Knowledge is the key to all happiness. This is the truth we have been conditioned to understand. Be it the crawling stages of infancy or the crawling careers of adult life – knowledge is what matters. And to a large extent this is true as well. All success in the world in any field is thanks to knowledge. The more we know the more we can achieve.

To a simpleton like me this makes perfect sense. Life is not that simple though. Knowledge is like fire. An excellent servant but a cruel master. There are some areas where the more you know, the less you are aware.

I was recently watching a movie which deals with the most common and debatable urban theme in India – Marriage. There was nothing new in the movie that I had not seen before. Fear of commitment, fear of relationships, fear of responsibility, and fear of babies. Fear of pretty much everything. A phobia that covers all that is supposed to be good and natural. As I watched the feature I realized one of the reasons why we are equally confused about getting married is because of the applications we have seen of it. They have seen it work, suffer, blow up, die, cry, laugh and of course, split up like the atom into various portions. With the increasing influence of democratic voices in India this process is anything but getting easier. To add to this already chaotic curry pot we have movies pushing the envelope of our patience with this subject.

For people like me who are on the verge of marital calling it helps with the exposure to various viewpoints. But it does not help with making our personal decision. On the one hand we have our family to please. On the other we have ourselves to please. Making that jump from an independent individual to a married one is always tricky, as it seems. There are surprises all the time but one is supposed to get used to it. New people become part of your 'I know them' circle and associations of the neutral kind are established. Marriage as it appears is getting ready to adapt to a whole new society of people out of whom only one is your 'soul mate'.

This is an infinite cycle of thoughts and decisions. I am sure there will never really be a perfect solution for marriage since uncertainty is probably what keeps it alive. But that still leaves me confused as to who I should rely on. My gut feeling or that of my family's? A movie or those of people already down this road?

As it turns out democracy can also be a pain sometimes.