Wednesday, March 18, 2009 2 reflections

31 - 3 decades to find the 1

Dear reader,

Yes - it is here - March 18, 2009. My 31st birthday. As I reflect upon the journey my life has taken thus far, I am left quite speechless at the hundreds of surprises I have seen along the way. Some beautifully enchanting while others painfully sore. But as I start this new chapter in my life, I cannot help but beam with enthusiasm as the months ahead promise a lot of happiness, joy and peace. So here is a special tribute to that thought of satisfaction. And here is to note - that it took me 3 decades to finally find the 1 birthday where it all comes together. :)

The song clip you hear in this poem is a piece I have recently come to like immensely. Hence I thought of adding it as part of this minor celebration. Of course, I can never forget you, my audience, who visit and/or respond to my posts ever so often. Looking forward to another wonderful year of such blissful companionship. Thank you, reader. And enjoy!


Saturday, March 14, 2009 1 reflections

Ragging - a national shame!

As I reluctantly go to links of popular Indian newspaper websites these days, I am never sure if I will find something there to be proud about or will what I find there make me more ashamed of being an Indian. If one particular news piece reads ‘2 Oscars for Madras Mozart Rahman!’ then the one sitting directly next to it in another column will read ’19 year old youth dies due to excessive ragging’. It is a feeling that leaves me nauseated every single time along with the common conclusion – should I be happy for the achievement or sad for the disgusting root rot our society continues to exhibit so shamelessly? I am never sure.

I am not delusional – of course I know there is no such thing as Utopia where the grass is always green and streets are always clean. But notwithstanding people’s constant urge not to be preached to, the question still remains – what is wrong with our society? What good is our ground breaking technology and booming economy if we blatantly sit by and allow such heinous crimes to take place? Where is the justification to call ourselves ‘a progressive society’ when boys and girls are abused so openly right under the stinking nose of the so-called administration? How many more candles should we light in order to finally slap the sleeping ‘protectors of social justice’ and tell them – ‘Get up or get lost!’

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

Despite the constant itch for global recognition we find a thousand ways to keep scratching why are we still so uncultured? Why on Earth do we behave in such carnal ways and continue to prove that the filthy cesspool that Slumdog Millionaire’s young protagonist gleefully jumps into to get a superstar’s autograph was indeed a disgusting metaphor to the way our country continues to ‘progress’ each year? One step forward means ten steps backwards. It is absolutely sickening. The deep seeded mode of constant denial and appalling levels of merciless complacency in our nation makes me cringe.

I have been hearing of this ragging menace for as long as I can remember. Why, even today I can recall vivid conversations my mother used to have with us explaining how ruthless college hostels in India were and how the junior students there were physically and mentally abused before being ‘accepted’ into their ‘college clan’. And oh what a glorious clan indeed! Nothing more than a bunch of mind numbingly dim witted moronic rowdies who parade around their over inflated ego just for the one ludicrous reason that they are ‘older in age’ than their victims. Are we really this juvenile? Do we really have to make front page news across the globe for such asinine reasons from our 'shining' world of academia? No wonder none of the students from around the world want to study in India! Ever heard of an American or European student almost dying to go to a University in India? No? Well...mystery solved! How can we ever claim that we are a ‘potential super power’ when we can’t even control our own messy back yard? How many more deaths should take place before college administration finally brings the hammer on the sorry little heads of these criminals who reside in thousands of places all over the country? Shameful! Absolutely and utterly shameful!

Take Aman Kachroo’s example. What was his fault? That he wanted a bright future for himself? That he had dreamt of becoming someone someday? That he wanted to help the society that had given him a context by becoming a doctor? And what happened instead? Some crooks who called themselves ‘students’ did him to death in the name of ‘ragging’. A sad bottom line to the story of a man who wanted to give life but was eventually denied the same in the end.

As much as I feel angry and betrayed by the education system and the gubernatorial powers that be in India about such cases, what I also know is this isn’t the first and this wont be the last. It is in this grass root level of complacent mediocrity and shocking outrage that I send my deepest condolences to Aman’s family. Your son did not deserve this death and I hope – I sincerely hope – that his untimely, unjust and unacceptable demise does not go without being avenged.

May his soul rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, March 13, 2009 0 reflections

13th? And a Friday? So what?

The one thing I have consistently adhered to in my “avatar à la pardes” is ensuring I am always in line with whatever cultural appendages that particular society follows. Now, while this does not necessarily translate to the automatic assumption that I follow them myself, what it does mean is that I am at least aware of their looming existence. So for the last decade I have always been quite akin to recognizing something that comes to me as a ‘very non-desi concept’. And by that I mean something I had never heard of during all the joyous 22 years I spent growing up back home.

Among the many adoring little nuggets of interestingly different versions of wisdom I have received over the years, Friday the 13th happens to be a prominent one. You know…the phobia about that day of any month in any year as being a highly inauspicious day? Yes. That one. I still remember the day I heard about it the first time. I wasn’t quite sure why, but it made me giggle a bit. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that our conditioning back home with regards to what is auspicious and what is not is so intensely specific, that we rarely consider anything unholy anymore. And even if we do we will do everything to ensure its religious status does not affect our personal lives in any way. Why, even if a random rock on the side of a street happens to look like a distant cousin of a famous image of the Almighty from our generously peppered pantheon of choices, we dive at its feet and lo! There is a small temple there with thousands of devotees thronging it with hopes, dreams, desires and wishes aplenty. Before you know it every television channel that believes in “screaming the truth as it unfolds” is making the rounds at what now resembles a pilgrimage spot. So yes, I do recognize the power of faith when I see it.

But being a guy who has always hated numbers – especially mathematics! – I never really shared any major emotions with them in any form. To me there are just that – numbers. Symbols that represent knowledge and should be looked at for inspirational and intellectual components and not as sources of evil that might come looking for you to hunt you down. Be that as it may, this day is still revered as a dangerous one by many in the world. I even know of people who do not go to work that day under the fear that something horrible might befall their otherwise amazingly peppy lifestyle. But then, like most things, this number too has its share of historical (even Biblical!) references that have sound claims justifying that 13 as a number and Friday the 13th are things one should be wary of. I feel sorry for this isolated little fellow already.

Now being a man of science, I wanted to play with this theory a bit and see if there indeed was any truth in the proclamations that have made headlines on every prominent website around the globe today. Hence I did everything that could easily be considered the opposite of what I do usually. I got up on my left instead of right (no superstition here …just that I sleep to the right edge of the bed and makes for easy getting up), flipped open the cellular and saw my fiancé’s photograph before seeing God’s face (something I should probably start doing more often considering she is my new source of love and inspiration!), walked lazily towards the bus station without the usual “turn around and see if a bus is approaching” gimmick that I do to take the next bus out. Oddly enough the moment I stopped at the bus stop today, a bus came screeching to a halt and was even partially empty! Hence, I did not have to make a dash for it. I then walked lazily into the Metro station without looking at the “Next train arriving in…minutes” display that I normally do. I even took the elevator to go down into the platform to delay that process as much as possible and lo! The metro came chugging in the moment I stepped out of the elevator and what else was new? I even got a seat! Something I never do while going to work! Not only that but I also have had a pretty smooth sailing today with minimal emails coming to me requesting a zillion different things with tech assistance. In fact I have had only 1 so far! Hmmm…curious, isn’t it? What else was nice? My friend who has been proofreading my second book (yes, it is coming!) said she was done proofreading it and would send me an email with observations and corrections tonight. Phew! Will this list ever end? Nice little surprises on a day that was supposed to be the ghastliest of all! How unlikely, isn’t it?

Anyway, all this may mean nothing. I mean, after all it is still 12PM here and there are still 12 more hours to go! Maybe that long awaited chain of ill happenings will come to me after all in some form or shape. But until then, let me bask in the glory of this wonderful sequence that has been ...oh…hang on…just got another email from the boss…has it already begun?!?!?! No wait, false alarm. He just wanted to thank me for something I helped him with last week. So…I am still hopeful!

Have a happy Friday the 13th folks! ;-)

Sunday, March 08, 2009 4 reflections

[Special Feature]- Happy 1st Monthversary!

Dear reader,

Today, 8th of March 2009, is the first month anniversary of the day I proposed to my fiance and she agreed. Truly a milestone day for the two of us as we finally found the true love of our lives in each other. Our days since then have been filled with wonderful hues of various new shades that are teaching us what it is like to finally have a soulmate in one's life. A time truly so golden that no amount of planning can ever make one ready for the amount of joy and satisfaction they bring with it. Hence, to commemorate this joyous first occasion, I decided to share with you all the gift I have designed exclusively for her on this special day. :-)



PS: The presentation has audio, so make sure you have your headphones ON! Of course, there is the option to switch OFF the music as well if you choose to.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 0 reflections

The Stoneman Murders : A review

First things first – I rarely miss anything that has Kay Kay Menon in it since he is such an accomplished performer. Be it the obsessed brother in ‘Sarkar’ or the relentless cop in ‘Black Friday’ or the revolutionary hippie rebel in ‘Hazaron kwaayishen aisi’, the man sinks his naturally gifted teeth into each of his characters with a chameleon-like finesse. An attribute which is by itself worth an appreciative nod. Hence, when I heard of this rather low-publicized venture called ‘The Stoneman Murders’ I told myself the only reason I would ever be inclined to watch a movie with Arbaaz Khan in it (!) would be if something else – no, let me rephrase it – something a lot else was in it too. In this case, as it turned out, Kay Kay was that much needed boost of ample amplification.

‘The Stoneman Murders’ follows a storyline that was quite infamously making the rounds in the early 80s about mysterious killings of pavement dwellers in the pit of a dark night’s belly by an unknown killer who used large stones – some as heavy as up to 30 kilograms in weight! – to silence off the snoozing unfortunates. Although it is said that this case was never solved – which is what is officially documented in real life – the movie however stitches a plot around this series and decides to pepper it with some Kay Kay magic. Now, while I am not sure why Arbaaz Khan would feature in such a venture, I was eventually not too bothered by it given that the role was ironically tailor-made for the wooden faced performer who still seems to believe that acting is a genetic thing. Be that as it may, his presence as the emotionless police officer Kedaar takes back seat as a hot blooded and kick-happy cop Sanjay (Kay Kay) belts out a no-nonsense portrayal of a man who doesn’t take BS from anyone. This furious attitude of his slips out of hand one day when he accidentally kills a man in judicial custody. Needless to say, Mr. Hot Head is suspended while Mr. Emotionless takes charge. Given his reputation of being an excellent officer, Sanjay’s senior (Vikram Gokhale in a very clichéd character) manages to give the man the assignment of tracking down this mystery killer who seems to strike every Tuesday and Saturday. With the timely aid of a reluctant constable Daawle (Virendra Saxena), Sanjay heads off to seek and hunt down the stoneman.

A few leads take him to a strange taxi driver called Mohammed who becomes the prime suspect initially. But with some jarring domestic altercations with the wife and some disturbing run-ins with the stoneman, Sanjay is convinced that the killer knows he is being tracked and would go to any extent to save himself. This suddenly takes a twist such that Sanjay finds himself becoming the target of everyone’s suspicion given his very convenient appearances every time a fresh murder takes place in the slumbering streets of an ignorant city. In fact, Kedaar and some constables actually catch Sanjay red handed one night as he pulls out a dagger from a dying pavement dweller’s bleeding chest. So what does this mean? Is Sanjay the killer? We do know he is quite the kick-happy goon back in the day, right? So has that obsession finally manifested into a gory stream of mindless killings? All these questions are answered as the movie enters its final 30 minutes.

Things I definitely liked about this feature – many. For starters it is tautly timed. At a tight frame rate of 1 hour 45 minutes its narrative goes quite smoothly from scene to scene and keeps you interested in Sanjay’s investigation. Kay Kay again delivers a very convincing performance as the hassled Sanjay Shelaar who changes skin from being a hot headed cop to a manipulative investigator on the run. Given that this is a thriller, it has all the ingredients that will surprise you at the right times with just the right amount of sound effects and camera movements. A gripping climax completes the circle of the stoneman’s killings and what eventually happens to Sanjay and his investigation.

Things I found a tad hard to digest: the ill placed bar dance sequence with a typical Bollywood ishtyle item number. A random nude shot of Sanjay's wife from behind (above the waist of course. This is Bollywood!) which came out of nowhere and seemed a tad forced to please the 'aam jaanta'. The needless domestic horseplay between husband and wife with the woman going from one roller coaster of an emotion to another with a clear indication that she doesn’t trust her husband at all. This, despite being the wife of an honest and hard working police inspector for so long! Odd, I felt. Also the use of the expression ‘shaaririk sambandh’ ! Something I hadn’t heard in a very very long time! But then again, this was supposed to be set in the 1980s so who knows…maybe couples did talk to each other that way. I can’t be sure about that one but it did catch me by surprise. It reminded me of a badly made Doordarshan commercial for family planning.

All said and done ‘The Stoneman Murders’ is a well executed thriller by debutante director Manish Gupta. Given the derth of good thrillers in Bollywood lately, 'The Stoneman Murders' definitely was a treat to watch. Also, I thought it was a brave move for a first time director to tread down this path given that most of them seem to stick with the stereotypical romantic-comedy genres and other 'safe zones'. We definitely need more risk taking movie makers like Manish. I wish him all the best and definitely look forward to his next feature which I hope has Kay Kay yet again! Kay Kay rocks!

Monday, March 02, 2009 2 reflections

Just dance

What does a guy called Matt dancing on every random street in the world have to do with humanity, peace and connecting with people? Nothing…perhaps. Or is that really true? I am not sure anymore. It was a chance encounter when I happened to come across this bizarre phenomenon where Matt went around what seems like a hundred nations to do just that – dance with complete strangers in absolutely random places. Why…he even managed to get into the demilitarized zone in Korea! What kind of a dance you ask? Well. Again, you have me at loss of an explanation there since there is no kind really. It is what I would call ‘the dance of humanity’ where people join you because they want to! No steps to learn, no choreography to observe, no rules. Nothing. Just dance like no one is watching. But then you know what? It doesn’t matter since this has to be one of the most amazing wordless video on humanity and what we need today in the world that I have ever come across. I guarantee you that a few seconds will have you smiling or even laughing in joy when you see it.

So here you go. Enjoy ‘Dancing Matt’ as he takes a journey around the world spreading that little tap of his that suddenly seems quite infectious. Go on! Join in!

Also following this video is another clip that shows what and how he managed in his very special project of getting complete strangers to dance with him.

Dancing Matt 2008

The making of 'Dancing Matt 2008'