Saturday, November 19, 2011

The paratha paradox

I love parathas. They're roti and subzee mixed all-in-one! You can just roll them up and be done with dinner in a few bites. Or lunch. I mean, alu parathas are heavy, I assumed they're best for a good heavy lunch.

Boy was I wrong! As I landed in the land of Parathas and looked forward to filling myself to my heart's content with alu paratha, muli paratha, gobi paratha and even rabri paratha, I found out that looking for a paratha in the north after 10 am is like looking for water on Mars.

Plus if you ask any waiter or a street vendor for one, they look at you as if you've come from outer space. "Paratha toh sirf dus baje tak milta hai madam."

Considering how I'm never up at that hour, (dozing either at home or in office) I wonder when I'll get any parathas. I think parathe wali galli might be the only place in the entire Delhi where you can get parathas in the evening. I say lunch, they say snack! Jheejhus!

Image courtesy:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rockstar.. Yeah right!!!

You know you've come for a terrible movie when:
1) You wonder when the movie is going to get over and realize that the interval is not here yet
2) You want to kill the reviewer who gave the movie 4 stars when he should have actually given half
3) You thank God you reached twenty minutes late and missed the beginning of a pointless movie, the plot of which was much better shown in its two minute trailer

I generally enjoy movies, irrespective of how boring or pointless they are, but this was the first one I felt like leaving half way through. I didn't leave because I thought, there must be some point, come on some point! But as I found out at the end of three excruciating hours, there was none.

The movie was extremely disappointing for two reasons. First, from the title it seems like the movie is about the life of a musician or 'Rockstar'. That is absolutely misleading. It is a love story. Period.

Second, the editing is terrible. I once heard from a good writer that the art of story telling requires a sense of which parts you delve on and which parts you fast forward. The plot is in itself flimsy, and bad editing makes it worse, as the movie delves on the boring love story, and fast forwards the so-called heartbreaks that turned the protagonist into a 'Rockstar', thus making it lose credibility.

In comparison, I would say Rock On came the closest to actually showing, to some extent, the lifestyle of musicians. At least it was believable. This movie does no justice to its title.

Ranbir Kapoor has tried hard and is endearing in most parts as the brash Jat boy who wants to become a cool rockstar. His transition from a geeky college kid to a seemingly heartbroken adult is smooth albeit the hard knocks which cause this transition are not convincing.

From what I've gathered so far, the guys love Nargis Fakhri and I must say that lady can point her toes. Her short dance sequence in the beginning and in Hawa Hawa are a pleasure to watch. However, her acting and her accent made me cringe.

The chemistry is sizzling between the lead pair. A R Rahman's songs are delightful and apt for a love story but not for a 'rock' movie which this anyway isnt.

It seems as Imtiaz Ali warms up to the art of film making he is getting more cautious and commercial. His 'Socha Na Tha', though a love story, was extremely off beat and fresh. The same goes with Jab We Met. He's now going to direct a South remake. I hope he shows some creativity there at least.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I am....

I bring a smile to your face,
When I ruffle your hair,
You can only feel me,
As you close your eyes,

And dream of hot summers and warm breezes,
Or wish for cool winters,
I accompany you in all seasons,
In all moments, on all occasions,

But then I disappear,
And the leaves don't breathe,
The stillness dulls you,
It aches in you, throbs in you,

So you build a high wall,
To capture me the next time I come around,
I resist once,
I resist twice,

I break your wall,
And break free again,
For I am the wind,
Only a fool would try to contain me,

Instead, wise women have advised,
Don't try to capture me,
For I'm the sand that'll slip out of your fingers,
I'm the water that'll dry in your palm,

I'm the wind that'll never stop,
Instead of trying to stop me,
Spread your wings and come fly with me,
Come, see the world as I see it,

Beautiful twilights that only seem pink from earth,
Twinkling starry nights not hidden by clouds,
Waves hitting the coasts for miles and miles,
Rolling green meadows with violet tulips,

I might disappear once in a while,
Just flap your wings harder then,
And soon you'll find me by your side,
Lifting you, taking you with me to eternity

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Zindagi Na Milega Dobara

Finally it's here! I feel like I've been waiting to write this review since ages.
Let's not forget the FR: Liked it at a lot of levels, and it moved me too, but didn't touch me...

Three friends embark on a road trip in Spain that is to double up as a bachelor party for Kabir (Abhay) who has recently proposed to fiancĂ© Natasha (Kalki). Imran (Farhan) and Arjun (Hrithik) complete the troika of the three musketeers, who were once very close, but now awkward with each other due to old differences. The road trip acts as the vehicle for the friends to resolve past differences, rediscover each other and of course realize that “you live just once”.

Abhay Deol once again impresses with his ability to effortlessly slip into any given role and make it memorable. The fact that both the other main protagonists share a soft corner for him, and slightly cold vibes with each other, also help Kabir to come across as the most likeable of the three. The initial awkwardness between Imran and Arjun due to past differences somehow carries throughout the movie, where there is no warmth even when they reconcile. It’s Kabir running the show, who truly makes you believe that maybe, the three musketeers did exist.

Contrary to what most critics have said, this movie is not comparable to DCH simply because both movies deal with different issues. DCH was coming of age, ZNMD is about what happens after you've made your choices. What happens after you've proposed, after you work 16 hours in your dream job, earning millions...

The movie opens with Kabir down on one knee proposing to Tanya, who agrees to marry him. Elated, he  sets off on a bachelor trip with his two closest friends Arjun and Imran. According to a college pact, each person gets to choose one adventure sport of their choice, which the other 2 have to participate in. The chosen sport is a surprise till the friends reach the destination. 

With every silly prank they indulge in, and every crazy sport they survive through, the friends grow closer, rediscovering each other, and reconsidering decisions that they thought were fixed. Kabir finds his girlfriend changing completely, while Arjun wonders whether making money really makes him happy. The movie builds towards conquering fears and realizing that zindagi na milegi dobara.

Although it is easy to dismiss this movie as a typical “rich people doing cool things” Bollywood Yashraj fare, a deeper look reveals how true director Zoya Akhtar has remained to real life. For instance, in every vacation, one assumes that each moment is going to be picture perfect from the word go. But in real life, vacationers suffer from holiday anxiety and often end up ruining their holidays.

So do our main protagonists, when fast-talking, money-minded, severely hassled broker Arjun almost cancels the vacation due to his work, and mysterious rivalry with Imran. The first fight erupts as soon as they hit the road, with Kabir pleading with the other two to let bygones be bygones and not ruin the trip.

A special word of mention for Hrithik Roshan, as he plays a  rude, money-minded guy with a delicious nonchalance, making jibes about salaries without a thought to anyone’s sensitivities. At the same time, his vulnerability as someone whose life is governed by the clock and his phone pulls at your heart. His transformation then, when the beautiful scuba instructor (Katrina) changes his way of looking at life, is both believable and endearing.

Some of the most profound moments are captured during and after the adventure sports and Javed Akhtar’s poems lead a surreal charm to the excellent scenery. At the end of the first adventure sport, with the gorgeous Laila (Katrina) guiding the friends through a beautiful scuba diving experience, all four come back onboard their ship and sit in silence, barely looking at each other. Their relationship deepens here first, where they enjoy each other’s company, without speaking a word, which can only happen when you share a profound experience with someone. The scene is made even more beautiful with miles of water on all sides, the boat rocking gently and Akhtar senior’s poetry in Farhan’s voice, resounding with the soothing background music. 

When you travel miles away from your close ones, and experience something they haven’t, you can’t help believing that you’ve changed a little, forever. With this change in mindset, come doubts about almost every decision governing your life.  It is these doubts that Zoya truthfully brings out in this movie. 

The songs are mostly hummable, with senorita being the only foot-tapping number. This song also marks the high point in the camaraderie between the stars and the sexy choreography does add to the swoon factor. 

The three good looking dudes manage to steal your hearts, but unfortunately their chemistry leaves much to be desired. Akhtar’s jokes could have been funnier, and the dialogues at some point literally make you cringe. Katrina, however, looks gorgeous throughout and convincingly plays the part of a carefree scuba diving instructor who lives life to the fullest. Kalki also impresses as she switches between loving and manipulating her boyfriend with equal panache. 

The film’s USP is its superb cinematography, and the gradual warming of relations between the three friends. I could relate to it especially because of its core theme, which is that one should spend his/her time doing what one loves best. We often box ourselves in, conforming to society, following rules blindly and running in the rat race to achieve society-defined success. But the realization, that we live just once, can often come when least expected, and then turn our lives upside down for the better. Watch this movie for the fun ride of three friends as they rebuild lost friendships, rediscover nature and its beauty and realize what has been missing in their lives all along. You might find your perspective changing too...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oh God, not again

I was merrily shopping in a mall in Delhi when my friend got an SMS.
"Terror attack in Mumbai. Red alert in Delhi".

At first I didn't comprehend what she said. Terror attack? TERROR ATTACK? That too in Mumbai. Not again, I thought. It's so unfair. I mean haven't the people there suffered enough? And moreover, this time the target hit close to home. What was once home. Dadar.

I was furious. I ran home and switched on the TV for more news, and soon turned it off. Rajdeep Sardesai totally turned me off. TV reporting is so terrible at times like these. Moreover I was disgusted to see some people on the streets smiling into the cameras. No shame. That is the mantra, it seems.

The last time it happened, I wasn't acquainted with Mumbai at all. I watched the news about 26/11 and went off to sleep after a while. After having stayed in Mumbai for over a year, it has become a part of me. The rush, the madness, the race to catch a local, reach on time, brave the humidity, all with people just like you. The city pulsates with life, at every moment, whether you are awake or asleep.

And yet again, somebody tried to break Mumbai's spirit. I am pained by this repeated attempt to kill the spirit which is so cherished and valued by people all over the world.

Though these attacks bring people together, on some level I think they make them more suspicious of each other. My cousin told me how people were panicking while traveling in the train over unattended luggage.
We have security checks in malls, but what's the point of it all if someone blows up a bomb right in the middle of a crowded street. What's the solution? Here are some, which gave me a tiny ray of hope

While much has been said about Mumbai's resilience, I think this is an insult more than anything. When the Fukushima nuclear disaster took place, many foreign journalists commended the Japanese spirit of resilience, but thought they took it too far, as hardly any blame was placed on the government. The Japanese people silently bore it all, without once demanding better security from the government, I think the same is happening here.

Seeing Mumbai locals crowded the very next day, we think "Ah Mumbai can take it". No, it can't. And here's praying, it won't have to..

Friday, July 8, 2011

White Lily - an inspiration

I don't expect many of my readers to recognize this woman. She has mostly played bit parts in Bhool Bhulaiya, Billu and a few other movies. Some might recognize her as Tara Fui from the serial Bandini. I rarely paid any attention to her myself, since I always saw her in typical roles with a stern expression.

My ignorance was given a kick in its butt when my friend told me that she is a veteran Marathi theater actress. He dragged me to watch her play, White Lily N Knight Rider. I was amazed at the transformation.

In this play, she plays a 36 year old woman looking for love. It's a bold role with the character wanting to explore "sexual compatibility" before confirming any alliance with her 39 year old "date". The plot has a contemporary feel as the two protagonists meet online. In fact, White Lily and Knight Rider are their chat IDs.

This was the first time I saw a professional Marathi play and I loved the experience. I especially enjoyed the sets, music and most importantly the acting. I was pleasantly surprised to see Rasika Joshi portray a role which I could relate to so easily. For a moment I wondered, why doesn't Bollywood ever give her a chance to strut her stuff? And then I found out it was too late.

I feel truly blessed that I got to see her perform live before she passed away. She was battling cancer since the last few months and I saw the play just a few weeks ago. Looking at her, nobody would've guessed what she was going through. According to media reports, she continued shooting despite her illness, and showed a remarkable degree of professionalism. I laugh now as I remember how she momentarily dropped her character, walked to the front of the stage and chastised a man for speaking on the phone during her performance.

On a Marathi chat show, she said that she'd put her play on hold for ten minutes when a dignitary sitting in the front row refused to hang up his cell phone. That was the attention she commanded. And why shouldn't she? When she can stand there despite being so close to death and give her 100% I think the least she would expect is undivided attention.

Even if I'm suffering from a mild case of stomach upset, I hang up my boots and take an off. Here is a lady who never said no, despite suffering from an illness that kills your spirit first, and then your body. White Lily is an inspiration, a lesson in perseverance and dedication to your work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Being a woman...

The SlutWalk has gained a lot of coverage recently with people expressing their opinions on the "skimpy clothing" to be worn during the parade, to the name "Slutwalk" itself. I thought I am a liberal feminist, who is all for women's lib and freedom, but even I was quite shocked after hearing the title of this movement. Why would any woman call herself a slut purposely? When I read the rationale behind the choice of the title, I was convinced somewhat, but not entirely. Slutwalk is supposed to express a woman's right to wear anything she wants to, without being called names, specifically, a slut. Ironical? I think so. 

However, the description on the Delhi events website brought a lump to my throat. Specifically, this part:

Language and derogatory slang have been used to shame women, to instruct them on how they should behave and what they shouldn’t do. This is what words like ‘slut’ do. They tell you that if you are not moral, that you are inappropriate. They are an insult. They are meant to shame you. 

In our society, rape is touted as an act of sex and sexual attraction. It isn’t. It’s a heinous crime of violence. It’s a hegemonic tool of oppression that seeks to ‘punish’ women. It’s a threat to the very being of women. Not the act itself, but the connotations it has. Rape is the complete refusal to give a woman the choice to her own body. Rape is a patriarchal tool designed to ensure that women are kept in check, that they always remain the ‘second sex’. It seeks to reiterate that women are supposed to remain at the mercy of men. We repeat, rape is NOT about sex or lust.  

Even so, the woman is always blamed for bringing on the rape. What was she doing alone at night?! Why was she wearing a skirt?! Why did she not have a male companion with her?! How could her parents let her go out of the house without her brother or father?! Why was she driving alone?! We cast aspersions on the character of the woman, and her morals. It has to be her fault, doesn’t it? The men are not at fault. The men are only serving justice on a platter. She asked for it; THAT seems to be there defence. We see it around us. Whether it is newspaper reports or in discussions related to rape. Women are told not to wear clothes that show their ‘enticing bits’. They are told they should learn self defence and carry pepper sprays, never mind the effectiveness of each. Women are taught, from a very early age, not to be raped. To be careful, to be on the guard. We feel the horrors and fears of being raped every day of our lives. But we are told to internalise it and live with it. Because men will be men. No, men will never be taught NOT to rape. ‘Aise ladkiyon ke saath toh aisa hi hona tha!’

I've felt like this every day of my life. And now, the fear is even more magnified in Delhi.  I get irritated when I see a man standing in the ladies compartment of the metro. No woman has the courage to scold him or ask him to get out. Neither do I. The fact that the SlutWalk has come to Delhi rather than any other city says something. Not to compare, but in Mumbai, men are literally scared of climbing into the women's compartment of the local. Why are women more scared and men more shameless in Delhi? 

And so I find myself confused by the besharmi morcha. I understand the rationale behind it, but I don't want to call myself a slut to not feel bad about being called a slut. Of course it's a good thing that women are getting a voice, but I felt it was a bit over the top. 

Till I read this article. Key point:

...the number of “missing” women has risen to more than 160 million, and a journalist named Mara Hvistendahl has given us a much more complete picture of what’s happened. Her book is called “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.” As the title suggests, Hvistendahl argues that most of the missing females weren’t victims of neglect. They were selected out of existence, by ultrasound technology and second-trimester abortion.
The spread of sex-selective abortion is often framed as a simple case of modern science being abused by patriarchal, misogynistic cultures. Patriarchy is certainly part of the story, but as Hvistendahl points out, the reality is more complicated — and more depressing.
Thus far, female empowerment often seems to have led to more sex selection, not less.

It’s society at large, she argues, citing evidence that gender-imbalanced countries tend to be violent and unstable. It’s the women in those countries, she adds, pointing out that skewed sex ratios are associated with increased prostitution and sex trafficking. 

 The tragedy of the world’s 160 million missing girls isn’t that they’re “missing.” The tragedy is that they’re dead. 

I was simultaneously depressed and elated on reading this article. Elated, that my parents didn't think this way. And depressed, that no matter which class of society you belong to, people still consider a female to be inferior to a male. And WOMEN do it to their own daughters.  Female infanticide is not restricted to people from lower income groups, who might be forgiven for hoping for sons as they might bring in more income. This mindset is ALL pervasive in our society. 

And now I think, hone do besharmi morcha. In a society where a female's life has such little value, maybe a hoarde of women in skimpy clothes might force "sharam" in a society that has forgotten the meaning of the word. This besharmi morcha isn't merely about being labelled a slut, it's about having the right to live, away from the labels that society thrusts upon a woman. The label of being weak, the label of being a poor income earner, the label of being weak minded, the label of being not fit to live. I am going to participate, just to reiterate the fact that I'm a woman, and proud of it.

Who would've thought?

First off, apologies to my readers. I'd unconsciously entered the phase where I felt like my thought process and thoughts are changing, and that I should wait till the change is complete. I just realized though, that I hadn't entered this phase willingly. I'd been pushed into it. And I got kicked out as unceremoniously for the same reason.

Reading good books/stories seems to have either of the following two effects on me. I either get inspired to write. Or I realize what a long way I have to go before I can write really well, and I clam up. The latter happened to me a few days ago, as a result of which I stopped updating my blog. Here's the reason. And now I've finally come out of it, thanks to another piece of excellent writing, which I will share at the end of this post.

As a writer, I have a tendency to write a draft and consider it my Mona Lisa. Rookie mistake. It's amazing what a world of difference editing can make.

Coming to the title of this post, most of you already know how much I hate cooking. The very idea of standing in the kitchen can bring an ugly frown to my face. When I came to Delhi for my new job, I found out that my new roommates all cooked for themselves. They are consummate cooks, who prepare round chapatis, yummy subzees and perfect dals for themselves everyday. I took one look at all their samagri and said, "Not me!"

After haggling with the maid about her salary, I convinced her to cook for me. I had to coax, cajole and yell at her to put in less mirchi, less oil and less haldi! But after all, it was worth it, because I didn't have to COOK! Or so I thought.

Yesterday, I don't know what came over me. I entered the kitchen with a knife and some vegetables in hand. I washed, chopped, sauteed and cooked, as if I'm a world class chef! I had full faith in my skills, despite never having tried to cook that particular dish alone before. Just a simple dal, but it turned out tasty nevertheless. More than anything else, the satisfaction of tasting food that remotely resembled ghar ka khaana was an amazing feeling.

So, now I've decided to cook more often. I'm sure a lot of my close friends have fainted out of disbelief. Oh and my parents too. I guess I'm just growing up.

If you managed to make it to the end of this post, you should definitely read this article. It's the one responsible for ending my writer's block!

Image courtesy:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Colouring therapy - it's a thing!

My first birthday gift has made it's way home and I've been busy trying to make good use of it. I got 3 colouring books, 2 sets of sketch pens, 1 set of colour pencils and a large box of crayons. No, this account hasn't been hacked by an 8 year old. I just love colouring. How old am I? I'll say :P and also inform you that colouring therapy is a thing. It's supposed to be soothing to fill colours in a weird circular design for hours together. Well, that's the cover story at least ;)

Honestly speaking though, I have this innate urge to create beautiful things. My hands itch to paint something, fill colours, mould something or just create something pretty. The tragedy is, God didn't give me the hands for it. Everyone in my family has been blessed with artistic capabilities, while the only thing I can draw is a cat. That too the one that sits on its hind legs. I tried to learn painting, but guess what? That too requires the ability to draw! I tried my hand at making candles, quilling, paper craft and what have you, but to no avail. I just don't have it in me.

So, anybody sweet enough to ask me "What gift do you want?", always gets the answer, "Give me something to colour, I love colouring!" This is usually met by a stare that says, "Ok, weirdo alert!", but I usually just ignore that. Since colouring a pretty drawing doesn't take much skill, I pretty much manage to make myself happy. I showed one of my latest creations to my Mom and she said, "Having trouble staying within the lines, are we?"


Friday, May 6, 2011

My first live match - IPL PW v/s MI :D

Not too long ago, I had professed my undying hatred for cricket. It runs in my family, this total disregard for cricket and "all the fools who have nothing better to do than watch cricket". So please don't faint when I tell you that I BOUGHT a ticket, took a BUS all the way to Nerul, and saw the Mumbai Indians v/s Pune Warriors IPL match on Wednesday. Not only that, I was also out on the streets after watching both India-Pakistan and India-SriLanka World Cup matches, celebrating just like any other cricket fan (or patriotic Indian). Oh well, seems like hatred doesn't last forever.

Now I understand why watching sports is considered a form of entertainment. Nothing can beat the thrill of watching a game live. Moreover, with thousands of spectators cheering and waving flags at every boundary or wicket, the energy is boundless. There were a few things that irritated the hell out of me, but considering that I'm not a huge cricket fan, I had a really good time. Here's my journalistic account of what happened.

The first thing that struck me when I reached Nerul was the large number of policemen. There were almost a hundred khaki vardis, eating and drinking at the nearby restaurants/dhabas. I have never seen so many policemen in my life! They were carrying weird plastic sticks, which resembled the toy swords of the Star Wars franchise. No wooden lathis of yore, I see! A half an hour later, two policemen casually walked past with 6 ft rifles, as if they're carrying toys. I imagined them taking aim from the topmost point in the stadium. I didn't know whether to feel scared or reassured.

Then of course, my pet favourites. Hawkers! I saw more than 50 of them, waiting along the edges of the stadium, in all ages, sizes and genders (wait, that's not right). From team flags, t-shirts, vuvuzela-lookalikes (equally annoying), whistles, to painting the team colours on your face, everything was on offer. Negotiations were happening all over the place, and money was exchanging hands fast, until the municipality jeep came by, with kids not very different from the hawkers themselves, chasing the hawkers and confiscating their wares. The most nimble ones would run and hide in nearby colonies, only to come out a few minutes later when the jeep was out of sight. The funniest part is that no flags, whistles, vuvuzela-lookalikes, chart papers or fake blown-up swords bought from outside were allowed inside the stadium. My friends most probably guessed right when they said that the "merchandise" collected outside the stadium would be given back to the hawkers. And that's how we were looted.

Wait, that's not the only funny part. We were informed that flags are available inside for free. Good for us, we didn't buy them from the hawkers at ridiculously high prices. However, when we walked in, only Pune Warriors flags were available. There were no MI flags! Not a big deal for me, I was anyway supporting PW. But it makes no sense! Some ingenious fans managed to smuggle MI flags and whistles inside, but it was definitely hilarious to see the PW flags being waved for any boundary or wicket on ANY side.

My chief grouse is against the PW cheerleaders though. The MI cheerleaders were blond, firang and dressed in short clothes. The PW ones were in Bengali sarees, south Indian dresses and something that suspiciously looked like a Navvari saree, but I'm sure it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, I'm not racist. But if you're a cheerleader, at least choreograph a decent routine and do it in co-ordination! Very very sad. No wonder PW lost. Who would want to win with such tepid encouragement. 

Speaking of tepid, that would be an under-statement for the soft drinks on offer. Not only were they warm, they were watery! And there was no drinking water available inside the stadium, although the guards at the gates were refusing to allow people to take in their Bisleri bottles, saying water is available inside. Drinking the weird coke to quench our thirst resulted in more sore throats and hoarse screaming. Very bad combination. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I realized that the only food I was going to get was popcorn. In the interest of full disclosure (thank you Dr. Sheldon Cooper ;)), there were food stalls outside the stadium, in the DY Patil college ground. Once we were in the stadium though, with hardly any breaks in the match, we couldn't risk missing a single ball.

Despite all this, watching the game live had my pulse racing. I was up, sometimes on top of my chair, to cheer EVERY boundary and wicket, irrespective of the team. Watching a match live also needs very skillful switching between the pitch and the screen. In the beginning I found myself looking at the screen instead of the pitch, since the screen is so much bigger. Then of course I started looking at the pitch till the ball was bowled and then at the screen to see if I missed anything. I wonder if binoculars would've helped. 

The screens showed us the SetMax screening and I was surprised when I observed a lag. However, it was for the best since most often people would get up to see if the ball was going to for a wicket or boundary and poor-short-me would miss the action. Action replay surely helped! Spotting Sachin was easy with his orange cap, but for the rest of the players, I needed some help. I knew when Bhajji and Malinga were bowling because of their peculiar styles. I totally lost track of the overs though. When you're watching a match on TV, there's so much background information being fed to you. At the stadium, I could barely even keep track of the score which was being flashed on a tiny portion of the stadium boundary. Still, it was fun to see the action live.

So, at the end of it all, am I cricket fan? Not quite yet. But I might not say the following when my brother is watching the next IPL match: 
"Change the channel! Now!"

Friday, April 22, 2011

Need v/s Greed - the highs and lows of being an illegal train hawker

Warning: Long post
While travelling by locals in Mumbai, it is a common sight to see vendors selling some or the other paraphernalia at the station or in the trains. Most of us never stop to consider the legality of this business though. Shweta, a 20-something hawker who sells ‘Ads’ nail polish for Rs. 10 a piece on the CST-Thane route says, “I don’t have a valid license to sell on trains. I also never bother to buy a ticket. ” Her profit margin is Rs. 2 per piece and on an average she earns more than Rs. 100 per day.
Besides travelling without a ticket, most train hawkers break another law. Under Railways Act 114(1), selling goods on trains without a license from the government is illegal. If caught, illegal vendors are tried in a Railway Court and as per the judge’s order, either fined Rs. 1200 or sentenced to six months imprisonment. While any government official can catch unauthorized train hawkers, only officials of the Railway Protection Force have the power to prosecute them.
Ramesh, a stationery hawker at C.S.T. recounts, “I have been caught by the police several times. I have also been taken to court and fined. At times I have spent a night in jail.” There is a darker side to the story however. Ramesh continues conspiratorially, “Sometimes, RPF officials pocket some money and let us off the hook. If in junior position, RPF officials take Rs. 20 to 30, and senior officials usually take around Rs. 50 to 100.”
Of late, middlemen have started collecting haftas from unauthorized vendors. They then come to an understanding with the RPF officials regarding their “customers”. Sandeep Gupta, a chikki-seller on C.S.T station says, “Everyday, sethji collects Rs. 250 from me and other hawkers. He then distributes it amongst the RPF officials. This way, we can go about our daily business of earning a living.” Elaborating on the role of the middleman, Sandeep said, “Jab bhi humko koi RPF wala pakadta hai, sethji humein chhudwate hain.” (Whenever an RPF official catches us, the middleman gets us off).
Despite paying daily hafta, Sandeep said that sometimes they are arrested and tried in the Railway Court. As a result, they have to cough up another Rs. 1000. Interestingly, most hawkers would prefer to operate with a license. Instead of paying daily haftas, and occasional fines, a license would enable them to operate at a much lower cost. Sandeep went on to state, “License milta kaha hai? Indira Gandhi ke zamaane mein milta tha. Ab toh milta hi nahi hai. Milta toh hum nahi lete kya?” (Licenses were issued during Indira Gandhi’s government. Now it’s impossible to get one. We would prefer to operate with a license).
Regardless of rampant corruption and continued loss of earnings due to hafta to police, and prosecution fines, many people continue to sell on trains. Suman, a chikki-sell at C.S.T aged above 50 says, “I have 3 boys and I don’t expect them to take care of me. My husband died 10 years ago. I’ve been doing this business since I was 20 years old. It brings me enough to survive. God has been very kind to us.”
In light of train bombings of 2006, security is a concern, as most unauthorized vendors have no ID proof. Sandeep Khiratkar, senior RPF official says, “I’ve been transferred here from Patna. There, I regularly registered complaints about vendors looting people. This is Mumbai. These are poor people. We have nothing to worry about.” Such a lackadaisical attitude is shocking to say the least, especially when a large-scale attack took place recently.
Issuing licenses to vendors who wish to sell goods on trains will stop the exploitation of poor vendors, for whom selling on trains is the only means of earning a living. It will also reduce corruption by RPF officials and drastically cut down on security risks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The acid test

This is what it all boils down to.

It's been more than a year now, since I took the decision to leave my job and find my true calling. I had utmost confidence in myself and the world was my oyster. I gave exam after entrance exam, and rejected admission to several colleges, till I finally got the one I wanted. And there I was, living the dream.

And what a dream it was! I learned so much! Every day I would break my head over some assignment or the other, but I would derive consolation from the fact that my friends were going through the same. I did things that I never thought I would. I researched food journalism, created a radio show about stand up comedy and made a documentary about a thrash metal band! And I wrote. I wrote more than I've ever written before in my life. Most often the words wouldn't come. Somehow though, I'd manage to finish the assignment. The sense of accomplishment was always new.

All that is over now. It got over too soon. And we're all looking for jobs. Some have got what they wanted. Others are looking. I'm looking. And hoping and praying for something that I truly care for, to have an opening. 'cause I've spent the last 8 years of my life, doing something I absolutely don't care about. And I can't waste a minute more. To all my friends who're still jobless out there, and even to those who've got jobs they're not very happy about, I say, take a chance. Keep trying for something you truly do care about. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Believe in your capability to learn new things as you go along.

I'm still holding on to that belief. And I'm sure it's going to be severely tested in the coming weeks. But I won't lose faith. I have too much to lose if I do. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

No comfort

I found this poem in some old chat conversation that I had with a friend.. I don't even know why I wrote it.. I guess it was just one of those sad moments when writing a poem seemed to be the best way to let it all out..  Expectations to sadness,
Giving way resentfully to anger,
No comfort, no comfort,
From one friend to another,
Even well known enemies to surrender,
My heart tearing, little by little,
For every back to my face,

Suicide is cowardice,
This state is transient,
Yet no relief seems in sight,
No light at the end of the tunnel,
No sense that it is a tunnel,
Wandering in a stupor of melancholy,
Seek comfort in the smile of a stranger,

Dance with the whistling wind,
Sing with the tear filled echo,
Converse with the sleeping street dogs,
No comfort, no comfort,
Unknown thoughts giving way,
To unknown emotions searing,

Why does this happen to me
Why is it so painful
How does one reduce attachment to oneself,
How does one get to the root of suffering,
Fake smile does light up the mirror,
But no light for the heart in eternal darkness...

On behalf of cats, I protest!

Picture this. A 90s villian sitting in a dark den, surrounded by his minions. He looks tensed about Inspector Vijay Singh capturing his latest shipment of drugs. "Kya karein uska", he asks. One of his minions reply, "supari dete hain". "Supari?", he asks, and a huge smile spreads across his face. "Pehle baar akalmadi dikhayee hai," he says, while lavishly stroking his big fat furry cat.

This scene can be found in any Bollywood movie in the 90s. The cat invariably belongs to a villainous gangster. Or someone who is evil at heart. Case in point being, the sadistic wife-beater husband no.4 of Susanna Anna Marie in Saat Khoon Maaf.

In contrast to this, in Hollywood movies, cats have a dignified portrayal. Even if they play short roles, they're usually playing the hero's or heroine's best friend. For instance, Italics in Runaway Bride.

Even Julie of Julie and Julia has a cute fluffy cat smelling all the good food that's being cooked. As an ardent cat-lover, I want to know why Indian film makers show cats as villians' pets? What's the underlying psychology? Are we still living in the dark ages where a black cat crossing your path is considered to be bad luck? 

Cats are intelligent creatures, who can sense moods as well as dogs. Plus, according to me, they're way cuter. As a cat-lover, it is my sincere request to Hindi film-makers, please show cats in a better light and dump the cliche of a cat being a symbol for evil.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saat Khoon Maaf... not really

FR: Vishal Bharadwaj has underestimated my intelligence and my ability to count. I am seriously offended.

This is a smart movie, made for a dumb audience. The theme is art house, but the treatment is mainstream. I'm sorry, I'm insulting mainstream by calling this movie mainstream, it has been dumbed down that much. I mean, the murders are literally counted out in the end, to give the viewer a recap (in case you fell asleep mid-way). WE CAN COUNT Vishal Bharadwaj!! Arghhhh!

This movie could have been a dark brooding masterpiece. It could have been an abstract work, that allowed the intelligent viewer to make his own inferences and fill in the gaps by imagination. But no! Everything has been literally spelled out, and worse, spelled out again! Worst of all, the movie employs the most cliched reasons to justify the murders of the erring husbands. Not to play spoiler, but to give an example, a "rock star" WILL fall prey to drugs and lie to his wife. Oh jeez, really? It is very easy to predict the reason why Suzanna is going to kill every new husband. That really killed it for me.

I'm not going to go into the details of the plot because it will definitely play spoiler. It will suffice to say that Suzanna is in search of love and every single time she gets married, she finds a reason to kill her new husband. "Unlucky in Love" could have been an equally good title for this movie. Is she a bad person? Are her murders justified? Despite all my ranting and raving, I suggest you watch the movie to find out. There are a few good dialogues and the acting throughout is excellent.

Where this movie falls short is plausibility. Either Bharadwaj could have chosen to make a completely abstract movie requiring all suspension of disbelief. Or he could have made a completely realistic movie with real, relatable characters. Unfortunately, he's tried to get a mix of both and hasn't succeeded in getting either. Suzanna's character is well-etched, but she too confuses at times by arbitrary behavior. Special word of mention for Neil Nitin Mukesh. Finally, he can act! Most people found Irfan Khan's performance to be the strongest in the movie and I would have to agree with that.

And what the hell is Konkona Sen Sharma doing in a two bit role? Yeah, she's there.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Curtain Raiser

Ohh blogspot, I've missed you so.. I'm sorry for my temporary transgression.. Wordpress just looks pretty you know, I couldn't help myself.. It didn't mean anything I swear! You're my one and only! Your beautiful ease of navigation, your wonderful ability to let me see my followers.. I don't know what I was thinking when I got bewitched by Wordpress. I promise I'll never cheat on you, ever again.. 

Obviously, I'm referring to my new film blog on wordpress. For some reason (I can't even remember) I always wanted to own a blog on wordpress. When I got an assignment to start a group blog, I jumped at the opportunity of finally doing that. And oh God what a mess! It was like struggling to walk through the jungles of Congo. Never again! *shudder shudder*

Now that I'm back here, I just realized that I haven't blogged about so many blogable incidents. I wanted to talk about Sir Robert Swan's electrifying lecture about his walk to the North and South Poles that had me and a crowd of 1000+ students and faculty on their feet cheering wildly. I missed a chance to write about my awesome trip to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park accompanied by Sanctuary Asia's Director Dr. Anish Andheria. I'd like to think that I WILL get around to writing about both someday.

Today, though, I want to write about our college fest - Xuberance in Colours, organized by the Public Relations batch of XIC. A flashy stage with a cool poster in the background and a royal red carpet leading up to it, rows of white chairs neatly lined up, and beautiful pink and blue speckled cloth giving a shamiana type effect, the venue was set for a rocking party. It felt nice to see everybody dressed up for the occasion. Most importantly, it felt nice to get an occasion to dress up for! All my nice clothes are just gathering dust :(

Coming to the fun part of the evening, I performed a group dance with my classmates. While changing in and out of costumes, I missed other performances and that was my biggest regret. But then, nothing can compare with the joy of dancing, especially for such a huge crowd! We danced on a medley and since we didn't do a single dress rehearsal before this, it was a miracle that we all managed to .. let's just say, perform as planned :P I was grinning like an idiot throughout, coz it just felt so damn good.

I watched the other performances and cheered wildly when my favourite teacher won the award for Pied Piper (a teacher whose lecture you'll never miss). Then came the DJ with the most terrible selection of tracks ever and we all said to each other "Itne paise mein itnaich milenga". Food is always the best part of any event and we hogged on paneer, dal makhani, raita, rotis and kulfi! The party was supposed to continue at Big Daddy's, but I came home thanks to a documentary shoot the next day. Moreover, I wanted that part of the evening to be the most fun part. Swaying to Raghav's Leke pehla pehla pyaar and aloo chaat playing in my head, I merrily made my way home, feeling blissful about the wonderful evening! :D

Thursday, January 13, 2011

To fleeting moments...

 She stood on the edge, the very edge of the earth. On the cliff of the highest mountain she could find, that overlooked the deepest valley in this world. She looked down on rows of pretty flowers, having names and fragrances unknown to her. A sudden feeling of elation began to creep over her, as she realized... She realized she was growing wings. Wings that would once and for all cut off the strings that held her down. Held her down to what, she did not care to remember. Closer and closer she moved to the tip, feeling more adventurous by the passing minute. Her heart leaped up and settled down, unable to recognize the purest form of ecstasy. 

On tiptoe she now stood, with a naughty smile on her face. She lifted one leg, standing like a ballerina on the smallest edge of the cliff. The anticipation heightened her euphoria. A fleeting moment in time, captured against a purple-orange twilight. The ballerina on one toe, the bird with her wings stretched out. And just like a bunjee jumper, like a daredevil, mischievous bunjee jumper, she stepped off, as if stepping off a curb..

Into the wide abyss that was the valley. And her heart soared, this time not pushing away the pure elation. Her wings spread out and caught a steady wind. She didn't want the wind though, to keep her up. She wanted to beat her wings, to beat them till she could justify the reason she was given them... So she went up, higher and higher, and flapped her wings to her hearts content. Up and above she flew, now free from unknown shackles... After what seemed like an era, she tired, and caught a slight breeze, enough to keep her up..

And she remembered her daredevilry, as she twirled on tip toe, at the edge of the highest mountain, painted against a twilight sky, forever captured in a fleeting moment...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It sucked me in!

After reading this spoof on Twilight, even before I knew what it was, I'd pretty much decided never to stoop to the level of reading such, well let's just say, no-brainer chick lit. Like I'd mentioned in this post, I'm not a big fan of the fantasy world, and I didn't want to be anywhere near an "ordinary girl with no defining characteristics, whom every girl could relate to". Of course, what good is reading about an all-too-perfect Adonis who doesn't even exist in real life? And like I said, vampires?? Urghhh

So it is with great shame that I admit that I did it. I read the damn book. Not only did I read it, I actually liked it. Not only did I like it, I ran over to my neighbour, whom I'd caught reading New Moon, and asked for a copy of it. Not only did I sigh in world-weary disappointment when she said she didn't have it, I jumped three floors high when she offered to give me the movies for all 3 books instead. The shame of it all!

I think the absence of a love life, and the absence of time to go hunting for a good book is responsible for all this. I picked up the book because I didn't have anything else to read. A random chapter told me that I was reading something akin to Mills and Boons. Now this is where the hormones kicked in. Yeah yeah I'm not a teenager anymore, but remember, absence of love life? 

Oh well, the heart likes what it likes. This isn't to say that I completely let down all my defenses and got carried away with 'The Book'. No siree, not a hardened journalist/critical appreciator like me. Throughout the book, I kept making objective observations like, "My god, she doesn't have a life!" or "My God, what a slut!" or "Whooooshhhh I wonder if he has 6 or 8 pack abs?" Err... never mind.

This is a strong example of why its always more fun to read the book than to watch the corresponding movie. The girls will agree with me on this anyway. To make a few comparisons between the book and the movie (I can't believe I'm doing this!), I'd say, Pattinson tried really hard and with a few good camera angles, they got his devilish smile in. Stewart was pathetic. She was nowhere close to the whiny, immature, self-deriding Bella in the book. I don't think she expressed anything except for screaming when that vampire guy broke her leg. 

The Cullens were pretty apt, but somehow I'm imagined them to be much taller than other people. The scene where Edward steps in to defend Bella against James could have been fiercer. I'd imagined them to be transformed almost into animals. I thought the baseball game was damn good in the movie. It was slick and fun. 

Of course they've totally messed around with the story, but that's ok. The only thing that was totally not right was the romance between Edward and Bella. A part of the blame should fall on Stewart because she didn't emote a damn thing. And of course the 2-hour length of the movie didn't give much time for their slow romance to blossom. 

I don't know if its just me, or did Bella's Dad look really young? I actually found him more adorable than Edward! Alright, I've embarassed myself enough now. I've written like a real Twilight fan, *shudder shudder*
I hope I get over the obsession soon. Excuse me now, as I satisfy my bloodlust for New Moon.

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