Saturday, December 18, 2010

The sublime confluence..

In a dreamy state of mind,
Her face peeped out the window,
A smile appeared on her lips,
A pretty picture she made,

The cool breeze blew her locks astray,
The sun warmed her countenance,
A shadow of a smile her only acknowledgement,
Of the beautiful contrast between the two,

A thought hopped past in the meadows of her mind,
Of the breeze on her face and the sun in her eyes,
Can anyone looking at me, she wondered,
See this beautiful surprise?

At this point it occurred,
A strange connection between the poet and his muse,
The thought became the girl,
The girl became the poem...

Image source:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What difference a good vocabulary can make

The original poem:

Oh glorious sleep
Why do you elude me so
At times I haven't deserved
You've engulfed me unreservedly

Now I lie with illnesses aplenty
Reaching out for your healing touch
I toss and turn and sigh and puff
Still you elude me, heart and soul

I tried all remedies,
I sung myself a lullaby,
Still you wont be bewitched
To give me some rest

Stop me from thinking
From bemoaning my sore throat
I have to greet the sun,
As it ushers in a new dawn,

Oh sleep, sweet sleep,
Do not elude me so
My tearful eyes plead to you,
Come to me, hold me in you

 With better vocab,

Oh glorious sleep, why you think me so derisive
When in need, I have found you so elusive
Yet when a reward is not seemly
You’ve engulfed me so unreservedly

Now when I am so rife with illness
Your healing touch is next to godliness
With gasps and sighs, I spend the night
You can take away my pain and my blight

I’ve tried all remedies for this malady
Even tried singing myself a lullaby
Yet you just don’t make an appearance
To remain sane, I call thee with deference

Remove this thought and all this dote
This bemoaning won’t cure my sore throat
The sun will usher in a new day within the hour
I have to start afresh and can’t afford to cower

You’re everyone’s desire yet so delusive
Even at this late hour you aren’t suffusive
I beg for you to take me away
To a land where dreams hold sway

So dear reader, which one's better?
I've written the first one. Since I couldn't get it to rhyme, I asked my friend Chinmay to help me out. He's written the second one. The difference makes me want to pick up a dictionary and absorb it like that robot kid from Small Wonder.

p.s. the image shows how I look when I'm sleeping.. Instead of the duck, it's a dog :D

Image courtesy:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dealing with boredom...

I used to think it's a curse to be bored. I used to chide myself and yell at myself mentally saying, how can you be bored, when there are so many interesting things to learn? Then I'd open some newspaper website and start concentrating on the day's events. For the past two days though, I've been bored beyond belief and beyond relief. No matter how much I tried to coax myself to study, I just couldn't do it. 

I decided to throw caution to the winds, and do whatever I felt like. I started watching Russell Peters shows on youtube. That guy is hilarious! After watching about 10 video clips, I thought that I was sufficiently entertained. It dawned on me much later that, in the process of entertaining myself, I'd come across quite a lot of new information. While watching his videos, one link led to another and I ended up watching his interview with Riz Khan. It's in two parts and you can see it here and here.

I came to know a lot of things about him and about stand-up comedians in general. Moreover, when he said that religion is something he never jokes about or messes with, I had an "Oh yeah" moment. Till that point, I'd never noticed that when he makes fun of peculiarities of cultures and accents, he never makes any references to a religious peculiarity. It made me think, is he scared? The reason he gave is, religion is a personal thing, and he is nobody to tell which religious habits are peculiar and which aren't.

When we watch stand-up comedians perform, we rarely realize the kind of efforts that go into making up the act. They've to always be prepared to get booed down. Or worse, they've to be prepared for no laughter at all. They're under constant pressure to come up with good jokes. And of course, each comedian is only as good as their last performance. Therefore, I was quite amazed to know that Russell has been at this for more than twenty years now, and is still going strong.

I also felt proud when I saw the vast crowds that came to watch him do his act. That struck me as very unusual. Russell is an Indian of Canadian origin. He has never been to India while growing up. In fact, he came to India for the first time to perform when he gained fame. Therefore, it is quite possible that India or Indians had very little to do with his success. Why do we feel pride for Indians based out of India? Ours has been this sort of rags to riches story, where post Independence we were a poor and developing country, with a very low self-confidence. As Indians started becoming visible in the global spotlight, our self-esteem grew, both individually and as a nation. This practice of collective victory for individual achievement is still continuing, as we take every Indian's success as a measure of every Indian's capability to become successful. Every Indian's victory is a personal victory. If he can, then I can too, irrespective of where he has come from.

So I'm happy that I got bored. It made me realize that everything you do, whether its for work or entertainment, has the potential to change your perspective and teach you something new.

I think I should really get back to work now, or else as Russell Peters says, Soma buddy gonna get hurt real baaad! Lol :D

Image source:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Diwali!

Here's wishing all my readers a very happy diwali. Of all the festivals, this is one festival that I'm always looking forward to. And, of all festivals, this is the only one which I have no idea how to celebrate. I think this is one festival that is fun before it starts. I've always had great fun shopping for a new salwar kameez, persuading my Mom to buy all possible colours for Rangoli and picking out firecrackers with my brother. Isn't it funny, that I keep wondering when I will wear my new salwar kameez, what I will do with all the Rangoli since my drawing is terrible and firecrackers have become an elusive joy thanks to environmental concerns? 

This diwali, I just about managed to do one out of those three, which was buying a new salwar kameez. Firecrackers have been ditched long ago, and Mom bought all the stuff for Rangoli much before I came to Pune for my Diwali vacations. Another thing that I missed out on was buying an Akashkandil. Dude, this is the big one. Although we don't buy one every year, I would have loved to pick one out this year. I remember the great tussle I had with my Mom when we bought the last one. It was a beautiful blue globe that we both finally agreed upon. This year, Mom has picked up a pretty one made of cane.

My Mom used to tell stories about how as children, she and her sisters would wake up at 4:00 am and take baths while members of the household would burst firecrackers outside. I somehow don't see the point of this exercise, especially since I'm on vacation. Wake up at 4:00, take a bath and then do what? Go back to sleep? I must admit though, it is fun roaming around in Pune during Diwali. All the shops are lit up by strings of lights. The Akashkandil stalls are a sight to behold and I get tempted at every diya stall to spend from my fast-diminishing account. 

Apart from hogging on faraal and meeting relatives, I don't really know how to celebrate Diwali.. Anybody willing to help me?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Indo-US Youth Dialogue by GatewayHouse Part 2

Refer to previous post

Climate change was next on the agenda. Dr Craig said that US is the 2nd largest polluter in the world, and India is the 4th. However, the per person carbon footprint of the US is much higher than that of India. US is often accused of being hypocritical in this aspect as it refuses to reduce it's own emissions but urges developing nations to reduce their carbon footprints. 

According to Russell, the public opinion in the US largely seems to be in favour of reducing carbon emissions. Obama had also tried to pass a bill that would severely restrict carbon emissions by industries. However, the bill didn't make it through the Parliament. To retain their seats, members of the Parliament are/were refusing to pass bills or take steps that would make them unpopular with corporations contributing to climate change. Instead of terming the US as hypocritical, it is important to note that Obama alone cannot do much. He took the first step by introducing the bill. The final decisions are taken by the Parliament. 

Ms. Akanksha Mohla, a panelist from India, said that in order to effectively curb carbon emissions, incentives needed to be given to corporations, not governments, since corporations cause pollution. According to her - and this view was shared by almost all the panelists - climate change cannot be countered unless immediate financial incentives are provided to corporations to reduce their carbon footprint.

On the topic of terrorism, the most pertinent question asked was, "Do India and US share the same agenda?". The overall view was, India mostly faced internal threats, whereas the US faced threats from agents outside the US territory. Although the question of huge military aid to Pakistan and subsequently endangering India's security did arise, this wasn't addressed in a satisfactory manner. US's hesitancy to share intel and information about David Coleman Headly was also brought up for discussion. The panelists felt that US had the world's best interests at heart and was doing the best it could in terms of sharing intelligence reports.

A concern raised by an Indian student in the audience was, Obama is losing popularity in the US and with the mid-term elections, the Democrats are likely to lose more seats. In such a scenario, will Obama be able to live up to the promises he makes to India? The panelists agreed that foreign policy is rarely related to domestic concerns and that the result of the mid-term elections would have possibly no effect on Indo US relations. 

US was accused of being hypocritical in the matter of human rights violations. The US government perpetrated human rights violations during war with Afghanistan and Iraq.What right did it have to ask other nations to clean up their human rights records? A member of the panel pointed out that almost every US citizen was ashamed of the human rights violations by the US government. Moreover, a distinction was made between wartime violations and violations in day to day life. American citizens (not necessarily represented by the state), raised objections to day-to-day human rights violations like domestic violence in developing countries.

An American student from the audience asked how the so-called benefits of President Obama's visit to India would trickle down to a large number of Indians living below the poverty line. Also, how will India fund it's development now that United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding has been stopped. One of the suggestions to help India's poor was to invite the large majority of Nobel Laureates to India and encourage them to propose solutions to problems that plague the common man. Another solution was to make it easy to set up B2B solutions between medium and small level entrepreneurs in India and in the US.This would include lifting the visa restrictions imposed recently by the 2 countries. 

I will post the full text of the agenda as soon as it is available. In the meantime, I would request Mumbaikars to invite Obama with an open heart and not curse him for restricting their Diwali celebrations.

Update: Click here for the agenda.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indo-US Youth Dialogue by GatewayHouse Part 1

 India passed the RTE (Right to Education Act) which makes school education compulsory for children between 6 and 14 years. President Obama's Race to the Top program, urges Americans to study harder and surpass India and China in the race for the top jobs and educational opportunities. Keeping President Obama's forthcoming visit to Delhi in mind, are Indians and Americans competing against each other or collaborating with each other in the field of education?

Several such issues were raised in the Indo Us Youth Dialogue organized by Gateway House in HR College, Mumbai on Tuesday, October 26, 2010.  A panel of youth interested in international politics was chosen for the discussion, which was headed by Dr. Craig Johnson. The primary aim was to formulate an agenda that contained issues which should be discussed by Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Barak Obama during the latter's stay here from November 6-9, 2010. 

The panelists consisted of 3 representatives from the US and 3 from India. A member of Gateway House told me that they had purposely chosen young people with interest in international affairs but no affiliation with any government or foreign relations offices. The reason behind this was, they didn't want any panelists with biases or vested interests. Although the panel discussion took place at a slightly immature level, it was nonetheless interesting for students and people like me who knew considerably less about Indo US relations. The discussion also saw attendance from other US students and during the open round, many biases and preconceived notions on both sides were apparent. 

In response to a question about collaboration on education, Ms. Ali Rosen, a panelist from the US side pointed out that while there were a 100,000 Indian students studying in the US, the number of American students studying in India was barely 3000. The change needed to be in two directions. First, visa restrictions need to be lifted to make access easier. Second, on the Indian side, only the elites were able to afford education in the US. By means of grants and scholarships, this opportunity should be extended to students from poorer backgrounds as well. Also, in order to increase number of US students studying in India, American students need to be taught about India in their school curriculum. Ali recounted that during her school education, while she was taught about the middle east, Europe, China and Japan, there were no dedicated lessons about India. Thus, by introducing India as a specific topic, students would learn more about India and would gradually feel like coming here to study.

Another interesting point that came up was, in the near future, nearly half of US high school education will be conducted online. What will be the implications on US and India? One of the American panelists, Mr. Russell Mason said that US educational resources are good and aid in faster understanding. Hence, if it is available online, it will  be crowd sourced and will benefit students from other countries as well. By 2016, he hoped India too would put up it's educational content online and allow US students to benefit. 

Contd in next post..

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ganpati bappa Moraya!!!


Have you ever been through traffic jams caused by loud processions taking up more than half of the road and pounding music in your ears till you're sure you've gone completely deaf? I have, on several occasions, and I've cursed the tradition, the people who follow it, and the law enforcement officials for allowing it! That's why, when I was offered a chance to be part of a visarjan procession here, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to know how people enjoy themselves with abandon when they're causing so much of noise pollution and traffic nuisance. 

What can I say? The rhythm gets to you! For about an hour I stood around awkwardly taking photographs because I didn't know anybody. I walked back and forth along the procession as it slowly made it's way towards the Chowpatty. Dhol and zhanza were the instruments of choice and what a rhythm they beat up! Poor things though, some of the percussionists were spraying themselves with Deep Heat while others were wearing gloves and bandages around their palms and arms. Nevertheless, they kept everybody thoroughly entertained and seeing people dance gave them more enthusiasm.

After about an hour of standing around and staring, I stood near the dhol tasha players and I actually started enjoying myself. The noise was deafening and I could hear my heart pounding, but instead of getting angry, I just felt like dancing! I guess the reason it's terrible when you're riding is, you get distracted from controlling your vehicle and that can be quite scary. We had a line of volunteers who held a rope up, barricading us from stepping out of half the road space. Although cars and bikes did face trouble, I don't think anybody was stuck for more than a minute. Although the sound of firecrackers added to the frenzy created by the dhol, I wish we hadn't burst them. That is really scary to people driving on the road.

Finally, I asked one of the zhanza players to lend me his pair of zhanzas and I clanked them till my arms hurt. I found a group of girls around my age, and started dancing with them. Amidst all that, free food was being distributed. I had a mango ice cream, wada pav and sugarcane juice. As time progressed, I think we needed better energy boosters (hint hint). The best part was seeing small kids sitting up on the truck which was carrying the Ganesh murtis. A few kids were making groups and dancing amongst us too. Everybody from aunties to kids of all ages were thoroughly enjoying themselves. I felt out of place because I didn't know anybody, but gradually I realized that many people were dancing alone and I lost my inhibitions.

I didn't go all the way to the Chowpatty because it gets too crowded there. Nevertheless, I got a taste of what it's like to be a part of a procession and why so many people take part in it. Do I approve of it? Only if it's done in a responsible manner with no fireworks and a few volunteers actively involved in controlling the space that the procession takes up on road. And of course, it should happen only once a year!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Need v/s greed

Calling up kids at 10 pm in the night and dealing with their suspicious parents was scary enough. Therefore, you can imagine my plight when I decided to write a story on train hawkers and my teacher said to me, "get good quotes".

I don't really remember who told me that selling goods on trains is illegal but I thought it would be an interesting idea to follow up. However, I was scared of two things. First, I was scared of talking to the train hawkers as I felt they might misunderstand me, get too friendly or too aggressive. Second, I realized that I might need to speak to police officials too, and this was even scarier than the first part.

I started in small doses, pretending to be interested in buying jewelery or foodstuffs, while trying to make conversation. The easiest question I asked was, "where do you get your stuff from?". Most  hawkers were forthcoming about this and soon I had collected enough data in this part. I now needed to move on to tougher questions. 

At this stage, I started actually buying stuff. I bought a pair of hairpins from a small girl, some chikki from an old woman, 2 bottles of nailpolish from a girl around my age. I bought stuff primarily because I felt that the hawkers would open up to me only if they didn't think I was wasting their time. However, I soon realized that I was buying more out of guilt, than anything else. Moreover, almost all the hawkers I spoke to were more than happy to speak to me, even when I asked the tough questions.

If you mention the word 'Police' in front of any "respectable" person, that person immediately flinches. I am not judging here, I belong to the same crowd. Since hawking is illegal, I expected the hawkers to turn cold or aggressive the moment I asked them if the police has ever caught them. To my surprise, they didn't even bat an eyelid. Most of them calmly told me that they'd been to jail more than a couple of times. I came to know much later on that RPF officials take haftas from all train hawkers, besides fining them. No wonder hawkers are still allowed to operate without licenses, as it allows RPF officials to make some money on the side. 

In contrast to this, I asked a fellow commuter who was buying jewelery on the train if she knew that hawking on trains was illegal. She immediately started pretending that I was made of air. As a consumer, she is the last person who would be held responsible for buying illegal goods. It's ironic that she and people like us shy away at the first mention of anything illegal or related to the police.

I wasn't brave enough to ask RPF officials if they took bribes. The only information I got from them was that hawkers should attempt to get licenses. When I asked a few hawkers why they didn't get licenses issued from the government, one enterprising hawker told me, "Indira Gandhi ke zamaane mein license milta tha! Ab milta hi nahi hai!".

Despite taking a lot of initiative, my story was incomplete because I didn't have the guts to ask the toughest questions. However, I think it was a good start and it made me realize that every person has a story to tell. You just need to be attentive enough to know where the most interesting part of the story is.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Table Tennis as a profession

 This is the essay that I submitted for the mind map assignment (refer to previous post). A few things might seem unnecessary, but I just wanted to put this up as it was submitted. I've realized, at times, its necessary to state the obvious. :)

Table tennis is a sport in which 2 or 4 players hit a small light ball across a table, with the help of rackets. Though widely played in schools, colleges and game-rooms of corporate companies, it is perhaps one of the most underrated sports in India. Since it is largely looked upon as a means of passing time, it is rarely thought of as a suitable profession. This article explores the commercial viability of being a professional table tennis player.

If you want to pursue table tennis as a profession, the first thing that you would need to do is sharpen your skills and get your techniques right. Practice with friends who play well, and familiarize yourself with the rulebook. The next step would be to join a training camp. If your school has a TT training centre, enroll yourself for starters, before heading towards a professional TT training camp.
To test your caliber, you can participate in district and state level tournaments which are held in every state. Table tennis clubs are still a novelty, but you might find one if you’re staying in a metropolitan city. Once you achieve a good rank at the State Level, the State Government Association can pass on your name to the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) for participation in National Level Tournaments. TTFI was one of the founding members of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and its most important task is to send players to the ITTF Pro Tour international tournaments to represent India.

The most popular international table tennis competitions are ITTF Pro Tour, World Championships, World Cup (also sanctioned by ITTF) and Olympics.  Continental championships like European Championship, Asian Championships are fiercely competitive. Professional table tennis players also play for clubs, apart from their countries. However, in India, there are very few professional clubs as of now.

While considering table tennis as a profession, do remember that till the national level, you have to largely depend on prize money as a means of income. If you’re good, you might get individual sponsorship from companies, but this will need to be your initiative mainly. Mostly, players at national and international level earn a living through table tennis. If you do not make it to the international level, you can apply for a job in the sports quota in government organizations. Another option is to become a coach at a table tennis training camp. However, to have high credibility and earn well, you should have played well at the national level.

Some of the famous Indian players who have represented India internationally are Kamlesh Mehta, Chetan Baboor and Achanta Sharath Kamal . Lack of professional clubs leaves TT players largely at the mercy of prize money, which may be irregular. However, a few people believe that table tennis is slowly gaining popularity in India and in another 5-10 years, India might start having its own professional clubs. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My first "journalistic" phone call

Being an avid table tennis player (but not a very good one), I thought this would be an interesting topic for an essay using mind maps. Let me rewind a little. During one of our English lectures, our teacher taught us the concept of mind maps. The idea is to draw a visual representation of any topic that you are going to write about, by drawing 6 main arms, representing the 6 main topics ,each of which has 2 arms, representing the sub-topics. The number can vary according to the level of detail and complexity of the topic. Once the mind map is ready, all your information is structured properly and your work is reduced to a large extent when you actually start writing. I must confess, I'm an unstructured writer and till date I preferred it because it's more fun to write in the flow. However, mind maps seem like a handy tool to write structured, logical essays. 

Coming back to the main topic, I chose "Table Tennis as a profession" as the topic for the mind map essay. When I started writing, I realized that I have no idea what to write! Googling didn't yield any results either. Finally, I landed on the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) website. As I browsed through, trying to get some ounce of information, I noticed that names and contact information of a few players (members of TTFI) had been put up. Some of the players were barely above 20. I was in a terrible dilemma for some time, wondering if it's ethical to call up kids and bug them, that too for a school assignment. I felt like I was thoroughly invading their privacy! Plus, I'm the last person to go and speak to strangers. Yeah yeah I know I'm in journalism, I'm getting used to it!

I finally plucked up courage and called up on the first number I came across. A very strict sounding voice on the other hand informed me that his daughter was not available. He asked me to identify myself and my intention for calling his daughter. I had half a mind to hang up on him, but I realized I'm not doing anything wrong. After a few more misses, Abishek agreed to help me out. I felt like a real journalist, calling up strangers and troubling them for my work. I must have spoken to Abishek for almost half an hour. At first he was thoroughly confused about who I am and why I was calling him. Must have seemed really strange for a guy in Chennai to receive a call from Mumbai from a girl claiming to be in some college and asking for information on table tennis. However, he was very sweet and patient and I finally wrote that article. 

I didn't get a spectacular grade for it, mainly because I screwed up the mind map concept. Most probably this was because I'm an unstructured writer by default. However, my teacher seemed really impressed by the information I'd put together and she remarked "good attempt!". The main point is, I had great fun doing the assignment!

After reading this, I'm sure you'd like to know the prospects of table tennis as a profession. Next post, coming up soon! :D

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Human Rights and Police Atrocities

At times, unless you're dragged into a debate, you don't really come to know which side you're on. Today in college, during our human rights lecture, Mr. Satish Sahani spoke to us about the other side of police atrocities. The newspapers nowadays are full of brutalities committed by the police in Kashmir. Speaking about crowd control in general, Sahani said that the media always painted the police in a bad light. Legally, the police have a right to give a warning to the crowd to disperse. If this is not followed, then the police are supposed to use every means possible to disperse the crowd and avoid riots or any other dangerous situation. 

I asked him if it's admissible for police to fire at stone-pelters. He disagreed completely and also informed us that sometimes rubber/plastic pellets can cause worse damage than a real bullet (depending on where it is fired of course). He seemed to be of the general view that police are always shown in a bad light when they have to control crowds. His  main point was, custodial violence is not permissible. To elaborate, torture/murder or any other form of harassment of criminals once they are in police custody is a clear violation of human rights. By the same extension, "planned" or staged encounters also violate the human rights of the victims. According to Sahani, an encounter is an admission of failure by the police to gather evidence against the accused. 

He also spoke about how police should not be deployed to handle Maoists. Policemen believe that their uniform and command is enough to make people listen to them. However, Maoists and other terrorists have openly declared that they will not follow the law. Specially trained forces are required to tackle terrorists and Maoists. 

Another interesting aspect that was discussed during class was, why are policemen perpetually rude to us? According to Sahani, no government officer in our country believes that it is his duty to serve the public. The primary reason for this is, they are not accountable to the public. The best solution according to him was, to hold the electorate responsible for the ill-behavior of all government employees. The citizens should let the government and opposition know that this is an issue which needs to be tackled immediately or else they'll face the music during elections. An interesting course of action, no doubt, but I wonder, will it really work? Perhaps a law is required which will make all government officials more accountable to the public.

At the end of this lecture, I realized that I care. I care deeply about apathy of the police when any citizen tries to file an FIR. Or when police blame a rape victim saying "she asked for it". Sahani said that as citizens, we should stop fearing the police. As citizens, we can't just wait for government officials to change. We need to become the change.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ranting and raving..

Nowadays, whenever faced with a difficult situation, I laugh. Not the forced-nervous Dr. J Asthana kind of laughter. Real bubbling laughter. Noisy aunty elbowing me out of the way to get into the local, I laugh. Students cutting across the line to get food before me, I laugh. I've genuinely started laughing in circumstances that would otherwise make me hopping mad. However, Shivneri just took away my calm. I was ready to burn down the entire Shivneri bus stand, not before stoning down a few buses.

I'd bought the ticket for 6:15 pm asiad. The boarding point was Swargate. Till 7:00 pm, there was no sign of the bus. The officials refused to tell us where it was and when it would come. Finally, we decided to cancel the ticket. It took us fifteen minutes, just to find the person who would give us our complete refund. He had the audacity to go and check whether the bus had really not come. I mean, come on! There should be some compensation for a bus that is an hour late! After filling out some form, he sent us towards the cash counter which was safely tucked away in one corner of that damned big maze called the Asiad bus depo.

It took us about forty five minutes to get our refund. I then booked a ticket for the next day 6:00 am. As usual, the bus came at 6:25 am. At 9:45, the driver asked all the passengers going to Mumbai Central to get down and sit in an ST he had flagged down. Reason? The bus had broken down. Somehow, the bus magically repaired itself and the driver dropped off the remaining passengers at Dadar. I mean, what the f!! Just because they were too lazy to drive the bus beyond Dadar, they shipped off the passengers to another bus! Worse, the bus drove right past where it would have been convenient for me to get down but the driver refused to stop there. They could waste 10 mins shuttling passengers from 1 bus to the other, but couldn't stop 2 mins away from their designated bus stop.

Insensitivity is a word we've all come to associate with government workers. For some reason, I thought Shivneri is more reliable. This incident just proves how wrong I was. I've sworn to myself, I'll never ever travel by Shivneri again. Damned nonsense!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


First off, apologies for not updating the blog since a long time. I feel like putting up an "under construction" sign. Something like:
"The author of this blog is undergoing a radical change in her thought process and her writing abilities. Any inconvenience caused is regretted." 

Since college has started, not a single day goes by when a new thought doesn't enter my mind. Not even a new thought, a new thought process, a new way of thinking. Either it is planted, or created. I have never been in an environment where my thoughts have been given so much importance. In an engineering college, knowledge is just drilled into you. As opposed to that, in a journalism college, especially in a good one, the aim is to open your mind. Not just in one direction, but in all directions possible. 

From wondering about the role of English in India today, to critiquing a gut wrenching documentary on the Dalai Lama, each day is unique and wonderful and completely unpredictable! It was on one such day that Bittu Sahgal came to our college to give us a lecture on "Save the Tiger". He is the editor of the Sanctuary magazine and has worked on Tiger projects in India. I am ashamed to admit that when he came in, I didn't know who he was. Post lecture, I spoke to my friends and they told me all about him. In a way, it helped me look at him and his message (and the delivery of the message) in a very objective manner. At the risk of sounding pompous, there are ways to improve his lectures on the subject. 

The gist of the matter was, we not only need to save the tiger, but also our ecology. Mainly, our forests, or else the whole water balance would get disturbed and the consequences so on and so forth. We were all so moved at the end of it, that we were desperately asking "What can we do to stop this!" And he said, just do your bit, don't waste water, don't waste paper and most importantly, as journalists, spread the message! So that's what I'm doing when I strongly suggest you visit the sanctuary website. Not because you are an environmentalist, or because you care about global warming. Simply because "global warming will not affect the 'earth'. The earth will exist long after we've gone. It's humanity that needs to be protected against global warming, You and me.. "

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bharat Bandh

Performing an appropriate chance pe dance, I left for Pune the moment I came to know that there is a possibility that Monday will be a holiday. Promptly ignoring the reason for the holiday, namely the Bharat Bandh, I built wonderful castles in the air about eating out, watching I hate luv storys etc. Needless to say, dil ke armaan aasuo mein beh gaye. While I simply made plans to catch up with friends and relatives, I started wondering about this so called for-the-common-man-movement. 

A poll on some crappy (but I presume reliable) news channel showed that 40% viewers believed that the bandh was for their good, whereas 60% felt that it had no bearing on their lives. The papers are full of rising inflation and rising prices of essential commodities. Everyday a question is posed to the government about their inaction regarding this burden on the common man. The opposition has run from pillar to post, ensuring that the people get to know about inflation and the supposedly indifferent government. From moving cut motions against price rise of fuel, to the latest bandh, from the look of it, we seem to have a very reliable opposition working in our interest. However, is moving a cut motion the right method to agitate against price rise? Don't even get me started on the bandh..

Obviously, I'm most upset because I didn't get to watch I hate luv storys. Apart from that though, the bandh brought normal life to a complete standstill. Though the government took efforts to ensure that it didn't, it pretty much did. Thank God, hospitals were working properly. When such incidents occur, you usually find the common man cowering at home, and mawalis ready to pounce out on the streets, destroy public property and slap people around. The whole atmosphere is tense, tv channels keep showing damage and destruction in a repeated loop, further forcing us to get scared and sit at home. The loss to the public coffers due to bandh on trade should be considered an insult to us as now there is less money to perform work for the good of the public. So, what was the point of all this? Apart from political mileage, save little. 

As a solution, I hope the day comes when any goonda mawali thinks 10 times before destroying public property. An intelligent opposition has twin tasks. One is to challenge the government when it gets too sure of itself. The other is to engage the government in dialogue to skillfully solve any crisis. It's never enough to just do one of the two. For political gain, the opposition can ensure that  the media  gives it due credit for good suggestions for improvement of the situation. I believe this would be a win-win situation for all...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Limitless creativity...

I love the process of deconstructing an unnatural phenomenon. The wonder that I feel, just before discovering the truth, gives me a real high. For instance, while traveling, I've often noticed that a few homes and buildings appear as if they have no entry roads leading up to them. Now I know, its impossible that such a building would exist, but when I was younger, my imagination would run wild at the thought of living in such a house or building. Do the owners magically teleport into their homes? Do they leave their cars on the main road and always go walking in? More than anything else, the very idea of a home with no visible road leading up to it fascinated me, since it is such an outlandish idea.

When my friend was younger, he used to get scared looking into puddles during daytime. He could see the sky reflected in them, and assumed that the puddle was that deep! When I was young, if I ate a lot of chicken, my parents would say, "tomorrow  morning, kukuchakoo noises will come out of your stomach" and I used to actually believe that. When we see magic performed by a magician, till the trick is revealed to us, either by our own brain or by the magician, we believe it to be true. The point before the truth is revealed, the mind is free to explore so many possibilities! Such creativity can be employed to explain even a seemingly simple incident or object. It amazes me, the kind of constructive and destructive distraction our own minds can provide us...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quarter century complete!

My 25th birthday started off with a looong chat with my best friend of 10 years. Voice chatting with her till 2 am in the night was as usual very entertaining and it felt so good to catch up! As I blissfully crashed into bed, envisioning a late morning, little did I know that my sleep would be mercilessly shattered at the crack of dawn by a shrill ringing tone. Well, not dawn really, early morning. 8:30 am! It was my Grandpa wishing me a very happy birthday! I was the sweetest grand-daughter as I accepted his wishes and hung up in a civil manner. At exactly 8:45 my Grandpa called again and said, "here talk to Grandma". Argghhhh.. I still didn't give up though. Numerous calls came through but I kept my eyes shut through all of them and got out of bed not a minute before 10:00 am! 

Then it was time to prepare for the huge get-together at my place. I'd invited all my college friends and a couple of new friends. The morning flew by in preparations and soon it was time to meet my cousin and grandparents. The birthday girl was quickly forgiven for turning up fifteen minutes late. Much talk ensued about my driving skills (my cousin actually convinced my Grandpa that people were safe when I drive since I only target donkeys :P) and adjusting to the fast-paced Mumbai life. A quick imaginary candle-blowing and real yummy pineapple cake cutting later, I left to start dressing up for the partieeeee...

Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, due to bad time management, I reached home late and a few of my friends had already turned up. One friend actually dared to show up in a kurta! A pretty kurta, no doubt, but still! After giving her a fashionable top, I also slapped on some make-up on her.. Now she looked ready to party! Soon, all my guests arrived and the first thing I did was to open all the gifts. A totally insanely funny diary cracked me up (I've already started writing in it) and an original Parkar pen had me oohing and aahing. A pretty kurta from my college gang ensured that I was totally set up for a journo-college life! 

Next, A suggested that we should all play Mafia. Since a few people didn't know the rules, one trial game ensued in which a stupid villager gave away the identity of the Sheriff! Really silly girl I tell you. Of course it wasn't me, don't believe what all my friends tell you :P Since the game includes a lot of arguing and fighting, the next few hours just zoomed past in which contrary to the aim of the game, the Mafia won in each round! They were very sly, I tell you. Then Mom started worrying that no one will eat all the delicious food that we prepared (I helped!), so we put Mafia on hold, and began the cake-cutting ceremony.

My very mature, 25 year old friends lit up candles that don't go out in one blow. Very mature guys, really :P Anyway, I tried a couple of times, got bored and then finally cut the cake with the candles still lit up! At the end of the cake cutting ceremony, this is what I looked like:

After the beautiful chocolate face-pack, we all hit the dance floor for some groovin! Everybody had to pick a song and perform a short solo. At the end, we all expressed our happiness in the most primitive dance-form known to man.. Tribal Dance! Veera veera veera! Soon it was time to send the guys on their way home, since it was a girls-only pyjama party! A looong drive to Baner via the highway was especially eventful as we all belted out Dooooori in our most awful voices. Anyone shy enough not to sing was instantly pinched (thanks P :D). Suhana safar aur ye mausam hasin, humein dar hai hum kho na jaaye kahin! Wonderful drive with my closest friends! 

We dropped off A and then headed towards CCD to enjoy a midnight sojourn. However, tab tak sabke wicket gir chuki thi and everyone was yawning away to glory. Still, not a single person complained or made a fuss about hitting the sack. After returning home, I was in no mood to sleep. It's a wonder that my friends haven't denounced me yet since I kept them up with my gibberish way past their usual bedtime. It was fun nevertheless. For me at least :D

At 4:00 am we finally turned off the lights. At 8:00 am two of my friends were fully dressed and ready to leave. It is a great achievement that I remember which of my two friends left. I was completely lost and barely able to stand. Sending off the other two friends with chai and biskut, I dived right back into bed.. Ahh what a 25th!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ravan (Tamil)

FR: I'm speechless

I'd heard at a couple of places that the Tamil version of the latest Mani Ratnam movie, Ravan, is much better than the Hindi version. Blindly assuming that all theaters screening Ravan in Pune would show subtitled copies, I booked tickets at City Pride Kothrud. What happened next is easy to guess. Five minutes into the movie and I realized, crappy doo, there are no subtitles! I'd dragged Mom along for this one and I half expected her to kill me right in the middle. She quite liked it though. And me... The very fact that I've posted the trailer here instead of a standard movie poster should say something about the effect it had on me.

I'd like to admit first off that this review is going to be incomplete since I've no idea about the dialogues. However, I can't stop myself from voicing my thoughts on this movie and hence this post.  When I watched the Hindi and Tamil trailers, I felt it was more believable in Tamil. In Hindi, it just felt adapted. Moving on to the plot, the movie starts off with Ragini(Aishwarya) getting kidnapped by Beera (Vikram). Dev is a police officer and Ragini is his wife. Beera kidnaps Ragini to avenge Dev as he holds him responsible for his sister's wrecked wedding and suicide.

The battle lines are drawn at the beginning. Handsome Ram's beautiful wife Sita has been kidnapped by Ravan. Ram plunges into the forest to search for his beloved wife. Or is his sole aim to capture Beera and win medals? While Sita haplessly tries to screech and plead her way out of the situation, she sees a hitherto unseen side of Ravan. Sita's loyalty to her husband is tested by seeing the gray in each man's character. Ultimately which one will she choose? Between a good partner and a good crime fighter, which one will you choose?

The cinematography is superb and most of the scenes in the first half leave you breathless. While Aishwarya is looking stunning, Prithviraj looks handsome and apt for the role. The scene stealer though is undoubtedly, Vikram. I saw raw power in Beera. A little crazy and very aggressive, Beera scares and amazes at the same time. Perhaps, because I haven't seen Vikram in any other role, Ihis portrayal of Beera seemed even more real to me. I can't wait to see the Hindi version in which he has played the role of Ram. I don't think I'll be able to stomach it, so powerful is his performance of the deliciously mental Ravan.

A special mention of the music which is, again, much more effective in the Tamil version. The reason I use the word effective is because, I somehow associate tribal life with tribal music. The background music and the songs in this movie give it a more rhythmic tribal feeling. I won't praise Rahman because I don't know that much about music. I'll definitely admit though, that the music worked for this movie. The whole package is simply awesome.The reason I loved this movie was because its central theme is, there is no pure good and pure evil. If Ravan can act compassionately, then Ram can be cruel too. Which one will you choose? I still haven't got the answer. Moreover, I simply got carried along like a feather in a storm. This journey through the dense forests of India is likely to be more exciting than any wildlife safari.

Most importantly, I observed that language is a hindrance only when acting is amiss. With superb performances from all 3 protagonists, there was very little I missed, although I'm sure when I see the movie with subtitles, I'll definitely enjoy it more. Ultimately, I'd just like to say that I didn't regret watching this movie in Tamil. In fact, far from it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Before Sunrise n Before Sunset

Before Sunrise...

On a friend's insistence, I watched this wonderful movie called Before Sunrise, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you do so. The sequel, titled Before Sunset, is equally amazing.

Before Sunrise is about 2 strangers, Jessi(Hawke) and Celine(Delpy) meeting on a train in Europe. While Jessi is American, Celine is French. They strike up a conversation and end up spending the whole night together since they enjoy each other's company. Is it love or simply attraction? The romantic teenagers decide to leave it to fate and agree to meet at the same place after 6 months, exchanging no contact information. The movie ends at this point, open to interpretation about whether the 2 meet...

Before Sunset... 

Before Sunset has been produced exactly 9 years after Before Sunrise and the story sticks to that time line. Jessie is now a famous novelist and is on his book promotion tour in Paris. Incidentally, he has written about his night with Celine(Julie) in his best-selling book. Will the 2 meet again? Did they meet after 6 months? Finally, was it just attraction or was it really love? 

These 2 movies once again made me realize that you don't need action, drama, comedy and sex to sell a movie or a story. A simple story about 2 strangers falling in love can be enough to evoke a mountain of emotions from me. And a million other people, since both movies have been received very well. For most part, both protagonists are walking and talking about anything  and everything under the sun. However, not at a single point do either of the movies get boring or banal. The dialogues have been especially well written and the acting is so convincing that it's easy to forget that you're watching a movie. Very few Hollywood movie sequels live up to the first part, but in this case, the sequel surpasses the  original. You've got to see this one to believe its brilliance. I for one, have truly fallen short of words. But believe me, you won't regret it. If you have already seen it, please do share your thoughts.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Feral distraction

Scene: My maushi's place.
Witnesses: Cat and Dog
Crime: Not listening!

Mom: Listen carefully to what maushi is saying. She is giving suggestions for accommodation in Mumbai. I'll just freshen up.

Maushi (from what I remember): Blah blah blah....

Me: Yes yes.. Sure!

Later in the day..

Mom: So what did Maushi say?

Me: Errr... I don't remember.. I was too busy pulling out all the chairs to find out which one the cat was hiding under. When I pulled out the right chair, the cat jumped off and started running around the kitchen. The dog got excited and started following the cat. With great difficulty I caught the cat and picked it up to play with it. The dog then got jealous and started trying to bite off the cat's tail.. Amidst so much of drama, do you really expect me to pay attention to what maushi was saying?

Mom: X-(

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Success - a ladder

1.... 2..... 3.... breathe! 
1.... 2.... 3.... breathe!! 
Yeah this blog is not all that dead..

Doctor's diagnosis: A simple case of writer's block. 

First off, updates. All the newspaper reading finally paid off. On 3rd June, I got an admit from Xavier Institute of Communications in Mumbai! Needless to say I'm on cloud 9. Most importantly though, I realized, this is just a step towards what I really want.

While I was waiting with baited breath for the results to come through, my entire focus was on getting an admit from the college of my dreams. I kept thinking, once I get this, I'll be happy. What I didn't realize was that it was just a small part of the larger picture. This became evident when, along with my admission letter, I was given a list of suitable accommodation. Now I'm thinking, once I get a decent accommodation with good roommates, I'll be happy. I'm sure once I join college, there'll be another 'once I do xxxx, I'll be happy'. It never ends.

I guess this is how life works. You conquer one Everest, and there is another one right around the corner. Most importantly, only those who don't keep gloating on the first Everest ever become really successful in life. However, life cannot be a dreary trek of climbing one Everest after the other. Some celebration is surely due for all the small and big victories achieved. What I've learned though is, when the next Everest comes, face it with a big smile instead of a "Sigh! Not again!" ;D

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DID - Dhona India Dhona

Dance India Dance is back! This time with precocious little kids who are encouraged to behave even more precociously. Before I start my all-out b***ing, I will admit one thing. Those kids can surely shake a leg. Right, now that being nice is out of the way, I'll go back to being me. 

First and foremost, it is disgusting to see some of the kids gyrating their hips to raunchy item numbers. I don't understand how their parents allow it. Worse, the parents are backstage praying to God that their kid gets selected. Second, offer to give kisses in return for selection. I guess I get scandalized easily but it is supremely irritating to see kids begging to be allowed to participate in DID. Either they plead to be taken in, or offer "kisses" in return. I mean, who teaches them such things! Third, and the worst, the incessant flood of tears. From kids, to parents to the judges themselves! Throw in a devout granny and you have the best soap opera in the world. I suggest DID should tie up with Nirma to sponsor the phrase Rona-dhona.

The previous para is a bit back dated as it applies to auditions. Now the competition has begun and there is thankfully less rona dhona. I just had to get that out of my system though. Most of the antics on stage do elicit a laugh I am wary to admit. I just wish the kids learn to enjoy the competition instead of constantly feeling pressurized to not get eliminated.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Which one are you?

Some claw their way towards perceived happiness,
Others perceive happiness within their confines..
Which one are you?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Badmaash Company - movie review

FR: Too long! 

I don't know if this movie was poorly edited or I'm just used to short song-less English films. Either ways, like I told Manna, it was more of an educational film than an entertaining one, at least for me. I learnt that in 1994, Manmohan Singh reduced import duty on imported goods from 120% to 20%. And sundry such small interesting details. Moving on to the plot..

Karan (Shahid Kapoor), Bulbul (Anushka Sharma), Chang and Vir Das (Damn I don't remember their screen names :P) are thrilled to go to Bangkok for an all-expense paid trip. In return, they have to buy foreign goods for their mentor Archibhai. The movie is set in 1994 when the Indian Government was still levying heavy taxes on imported goods. Archibhai has moles in the customs department which allow him to bring in imported goods and evade import duty. Karan loves the luxurious life of easy money and soon hatches a scheme which will get the "Friends and Company" greater profits.

When the import duty is reduced from 120% to 20%, Karan and his friends find that they are unable to go on using evasion on import duty as a lucrative option. Soon, Karan uses his ingenuity to hatch another money-making scheme which just borders on being illegal. As happens with every hero doing anything slightly wrong, Karan too has to face the music for what he has done. Kya Karan apni bhool ko sudhar payega? Ya apne saare paise jue mein haar jayega? Interesting questions all. But it takes too long to answer them.

Vir Das turned out to be a nice little surprise package with his puppy dog looks and superb acting. Shahid was predictably decent and I felt his mean act was so good that this movie should have been called Kamine (Notice the missing y ;)). Anushka Sharma cuts ice with her tough girl act, but doesn't have much to do in the second half. Chang was disappointing. The only time he evokes any reaction is when he is the butt of a joke (Bewde Chini :D). One dose of acting classes here please. The cinematography is excellent and I would say Bangkok is looking more appealing than the US.

Although the movie seems a bit too long, I won't say that it ever gets dull. The camaraderie between the lead actors is good and their dialogues and costumes evoke laughter. The climax is super lame and the audience unanimously burst out into laughter when Karan announces his ultimately-for-the-ultimate-good-scheme. The feeling I got from this movie is, it has been made by an innocent child. Too many things have been assumed and that's what always makes me go "they had to prove that it is a BOLLYWOOD film". Nevertheless, definitely worth a watch once for A-Y-A-S-H-I on the Bangkok beaches ;)

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