Sunday, December 23, 2012

delhi

The last time i remember such mass hysteria over a rape in Delhi  was almost a decade back, while I still lived there. And I remember, even back then I had wondered, this and a lot more, happens every frigging day, why this mass hysteria ?

Ah yes, the victim was a good Indian middle class girl from a medical college no less. And yes, it wasn't like it was some family member who'd done it.. it was some uncouth ruffian. And it wasn't just your daily cat-call, boob - grab, using mother-fucker as punctuation, no no, it was that most horrific of crimes - a rape! Of course in this case, as the details have emerged, we've had leisure to let out a lot more shocked ewws at the extent of the brutality.

I remember feeling angry, years ago, back then, less on the crime, and more on how the media picks certain cases, ah only those certain cases.

Firstly, how the class of the victim will dictate the importance of a crime.

And secondly, how the millions of daily assaults on women, on Delhi's roads and buses are largely ignored, and only the rape is picked up for hue and cry.

So, for the first part, my anger on the social class dictating our news has long since dissipated. I've grown inured to the fact that this is how media works, it is of, from and for the middle class. It will take 20 Nithari children killed, perhaps cannibalized over years, to equal 1 fluke forgettable Arushi murder. This Delhi rape will always always be orders of magnitude greater than more horrific stuff that has routinely happened in our villages, in our police stations right in Delhi, dammit even in our good middle class homes, where domestic helps, often kids, have been brutalization systematically over years in manners much worse than this. YES, I will repeat this, in manners much worse than this, and do not tell me that you cannot compare. But those things are not for sustained ( meaning fortnight or month long) outrages.. Those are for occasional reporting and forgetting. No candle light vigils for them of course. So be it, this is the economic and social system we live in, and that is never going to change. So like I said, it has ceased to anger me, but I can't help but find the selective outrage amusing. Yes, we're like little idiots with no IQ, the media tells us, this rape was the pits, the last straw, the absolute rock bottom of humanity, and we say aye aye. Go figure.

Its the second bit, that still gets my goat of course. How the whole system of patriarchy and misogyny is sustained by each one of us, daily, and then how we act surprised, when in the hands of the fringes, that culture finds expression in rape. Sure better policing and better justice would act as deterrents, but guess what, those police and judges, they haven't come down from utopia. They are parts of the same patriarchy. We want to sustain our so called culture, keep the women locked inside, secondary, servile, in a world where its just not going to be possible to do so, and then we're surprised at the things that are the natural outcome of a changing order? Of course there will be a pitched battle, which will be ugly and no holds barred. And yes I realize , that it will be we women who will face the harsher punishment, but also realize , that society as you know it,will crumble as we fall. It takes two to tango.

If we want to rethink, here's the deal. The next time we see a girl smoking or drinking, suspend  judgement. Replace her with a guy and realize how much more muted the reaction would be. The next time we hear of a girl out with her boyfriend, or sleeping around with multiple men, suspend the anger and think that if we replaced her with a guy , would we respond the same way? The next time a girl chose to keep her maiden name after marriage, think, would we like the guy to change his name after his marriage to the girls name? The next time we see the want-son-at-all-cost whining by the family ( including women in the family), think of the long term impacts of this. Think of why they want the son in the first place. The next time we see this ridiculous movies and ads which talk about women making sacrifices to keep society functioning, think, would we want the guys to make the same sacrifices? ( and if you do think so, then let them make the sacrifices instead. Move into the girls house after marriage, follow the girl to her place of work, keep the house running for no money.)

And  to all those dads, husbands, brothers, best friends out there ( including my own) . Women in Delhi ( specially Delhi, although of course gradations of this occur worldwide) face daily humiliations on buses, metros and roads. SEE IT. If you can't do anything else, at least see it and acknowledge it. Do not act surprised when they say that they are groped, stared at, commented on, on a daily basis. Do not say that maybe its because you dressed unusually  or walked faster than usual, or were out at an 'indecent' time, or were laughing too loudly. Because I've been there, had my share of book-grabs, dick brushes, cat-calls. And they happened even though most of the time I was clad in ill fitting salwal kameezes, shuffling slowly, eyes downcast, in the morning and afternoons, mostly just trying to get an education. It happens no matter what we do.

And finally to all those women out there, fight back dammit. DO NOT listen to those telling you conform, I've tried it, and I tell you it doesn't work. It took me a decade to figure it out, but fighting back is the only thing which gives some returns. When you raise a shout, most probably no one will support you, but 8 times out of 10, the perpetrator will back off. And hopefully most of them will rethink before raping anyone. Its our silence, even before the sad state of police and judiciary , which gives these people the strength to go from stares to cat calls. From cat calls to shoves and brushes. From shoves and brushes to public propositioning and dick showings. And finally of course to rape, mutilation and murder. Yes the fight back will mean that some of us will die bloody unpleasant deaths, buts its better than the deaths we've suffered so long anyway.

Maybe we'd have found a little life at least in the duration, before we land up raped, with our intestines removed, while women in parliament dismiss us as 'walking corpses'. Fight back and live while you can. On your terms.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Literature

Went for the inauguration of the lit fest. The reminders about our slowly dying languages, the repeated assaults on freedom of speech, the importance of metaphors, the problems of translations..

Between all the speeches, which weren't bad, the one shining thing, was Gulzar's poetry. From the man himself, in the original ..

मुझको भी तरकीब सिखा कोई .. यार जुलाहे 

अक्सर तुझको देखा है एक ताना बुनते 
जब कोई धागा टूट गया या खतम हुआ 
फिर से बांध के.. और सिरा कोई जोढ के उस में 
आगे बुनने लगते हो 

तेरे इस ताने में लेकिन 
एक भी गांठ गिरह बुन्तर की देख नहीं सकता है कॉई 

मैने तो एक बार बुना था एक ही रिश्ता 
लेकिन उसकी सारी गिराहे साफ नजर आती हैं .. मेरे यार जुलाहे 

मुझको भी तरकीब सिखा कोई .. यार जुलाहे 


Somehow I wasn't really blown away by the translations, but for what its worth, this was the one which Pavan Verma , who was in conversation with Gulzar.


Teach me too trick or two, my weaver friend!
I have often seen you work the wrap
when a thread snaps or ends
you tie it
to some other
and begin to weave again
but in your weave
no one can see the knot
I had woven a relationship only once
But all its knots are clearly visible, my weaver friend !




Saturday, December 01, 2012

Secrets - Ruskin Bond

Delightful little read!

Its a slim collection of short stories from Ruskin, the effortless style of writing ensured that I finished the book in a single sitting in the evening.

These stories have been mostly set in Dehradoon where Ruskin grew up, and written in the first person account, largely keeping settings intact, and as he says in the foreword, with the characters often modeled on real people.

I'm struggling to quantify why the simplicity of the language and the story appeals so much, and I can't really say why, it just does...

Talaash - Reema Kagti

Rather disappointing.

Began promisingly, I thought the opening credits and the first car crash scene were brilliant, but very soon it lost its moorings, and rapidly degenerated into what looked like dragged out sequences serving no purpose. By the second half, I was itching to have the damn thing over and done with so I could walk out, and nn and I passed time, by passing snide remarks, to stifle our yawns.

A car takes a sudden veering turn and goes straight into the sea. We see this opening sequence, and we're assured that there was indeed no reason for it to turn. Apparently this has happened before. No rational explanation emerges, so whats the mystery? Sure, there's much ado about the missing money, the proximity to the red light area, call girls, potential black mail, etc. And there's the policeman walking about, still grieving at his sons death, his wife attending seances.

I don't have a problem with the story, and what some people feel was a cop out. I think one can make decent movies with all manner of improbable cop outs(prestige, truman show, kahaani, mulholland drive), I'm willing to suspend belief, I'm willing to play along with sudden twists which aren't about 'realism'.

But the point is , does the movie hold your attention? As a thriller, it just didn't maintain the pace, and in those silly long boring unnecessary where-was-the-editor sequences, we had all the time in the world to figure out the answers and ponder over the plot holes.

Its a pity really, there was some very promising stuff here, but alas!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Empires of the Indus - Alice Albinia

Quite a fascinating book.

The author traces back the Indus from its delta, right up to its source. She literally travels upstream, on or beside the river, passing through 4 countries, and recounts fascinating snippets of history and geography of the river and its settlements. We go back and forth in time and space, as we she recounts how Karachi in 47 was brought to a standstill by the exodus of the 'depressed classes'. History gives way to geography and we move on to the politics of the dams, those temples whose utility is as hotly disputed as the real ones. We travel back further in time, back when the river was first mapped. And coming across the Sheedis,  trace back the origins of the people along the river. In the process, we  tread on genetics, language, the hugely diverse cultural and social contexts, across the two ends of the river, flowing all the way from polygamy to polyandry. How custom and cultures have changed over not just centuries, but over millennia.

Apart from factual bits of the book, which are thoroughly interesting and riveting  its the her lyrical use of language at regular interval, that I fell in love with. Consider the very first line of the preface, just this, and I was hooked:

In a land where it seldom rains, a river is as precious as gold. Water is potent, it trickles through human dreams, permeates lives, dictates agriculture, religion and warfare.

In a nutshell, its a must read!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Behind the beautiful forevers - Katherine Boo


Amazingly well written, I finished it within a day, it was that un-put-downable.

The book reads almost like a fictionalized narrative. From the opening page,s with its richly detailed description of a garbage picker in a slum hiding from the police, his family huddled next door, the stories of these people grip you. The woman aspiring to be the slum lord, the way out with politics and power. The garbage pickers fluctuating fortunes, the way out with sheer hard work and initiative. The background of every family's hope of education as a way out, and the reality of barely even a single graduate.

The thing with such stories, is that all too often , we have a neatly manufactured happy ending, which depending on the quality of writing, could either leave you dissatisfied, or with a warm fuzzy feeling of how hard work and/or education always pays. But somewhere , there's a nagging feeling that things don't always work out neatly like that. One has only to look around, and see that that they usually don't.

This book however, is a work of exhaustive research, years of spending time in Annawadi, hundreds of interviews, getting information out of a dusty leaky system, which is quite intent on burying it. What this also meant, was that there were no neat answers, no beautiful forevers, no happily ever afters. And that, is what makes it so depressing in the end.

However, depressing though I found it, its still a must read. If nothing else, then just as a jolt out to the increasingly smug attitude (i worked hard, i'm smart, and i'm entitled to the world giving me everything mentality) that a large number of upwardly mobile people seem to be succumbing to.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Skyfall - Sam Mendes

Not bad at all.

Considering that I usually find the bond flicks irritating or funny ( unintentionally), this one was almost like any other semi-action thriller type. Sure the plot is unrealistic, but then when was the last time a thriller had a realistic plot eh?

Not much to say about the story line. Some disc with names of undercover agents goes missing, and but of course the bad guy is always one step ahead, pointing neatly to the fact that its one MI's own. Bond is getting old and making mistakes, but he's sent chasing anyway. There aren't any gadgets, and no real Bond girls, the one dame he beds, does die on his watch, which I thought was pretty neat. The close ups are all not of navels and bosoms, but M's very real and very wrinkled face. ( ah when was the last time we saw movies with old women? real women? with substantive roles? ) I'm surprised the Bond fans didn't hate it, it really doesn't have any Bond masala.

As normal thrillers / action movies go, its just about average. As a bond movie, its perhaps the first that I could even tolerate !

Thursday, November 15, 2012

25 kms

Managed to complete it, yippie!

There was much last week dithering about whether to drop out or participate. Had been feeling rather low on energy in the past month, and had barely trained at all.

However, decided to go ahead on the last day, planning to walk or drop out if things got too bad. The first 10 kms were pretty much on track, the next 10 were more of a struggle, as the knee slowly gave out, which seems to be the usual pattern if I push it without enough practice.

It was the final 2.5 kms when I really gave up, felt completely down and out, and I didn't think I had anything left to run with. Not only were the legs rebelling by then, even my stomach had started growling, specially at the sight of the well stocked aid stations. Had pretty much decided to walk it, when a's pep talk egged me to some last ditch running, or shuffling would be a more accurate description. At any rate, couple of mins shy of three and a half hours, I  limped past the finish mats, necked the finishers medal, wolfed down a couple of bananas, and barely caught the last bus home.

For the first time, the post run experience was quite painful, stumbled home somehow and slept off the fever, and hobbled my way for the rest of the day. Luckily, things were mostly back to normal the next day, not too much worse.

I think it will be a long long time before I try to increase the distance past 25. For the next year, lets just see if I can better the various timings!


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Luv Shuv Te Chicken Khurana- Sameer Sharma

Decent time pass.

A prodigal son returns home to rural Punjab, hoping to steal some money from the family to pay off his debts in London. However he finds, there's no money, but just a welcoming family, who open their hearts to him, glossing over how he ran off 10 years ago, and hasn't been in touch since. And woven somewhere in the tale, is the missing recipe of the chicken his grandfather used to make, which might just be a key to a way out.

It is of course, a paen to the good Indian joint family, and the good rural life, where things are not always perfect, but they always seem to work out somehow, unlike in nuclear families and urban lives, where things can often teeter dangerously out of control. As a philosophy of course I don't think things are so simple, and my personal preference has always been for urban nuclear spaces, even with their associated problems. One can of course suspend belief and enjoy the idyllic view of the loving joint family and rural bliss, as a form of escapism.

Worth a watch, most of the movie spins effortlessly, and is reasonably enjoyable, barring a few jarring scenes, mostly in the second half. Some humour helps as well. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Harishchandrachi Factory - Paresh Mokashi

Cute little movie, I quite liked it.

Sort of a biopic on Dadasaheb Phalke. What did it take to start making movies in India at a time when most people didn't even know what a movie was? When taking a still photo was rumoured to suck out the life of a person? What did it take in terms of money, commitment, sacrifices, and just the sheer ability to take pride and joy in a venture?

Its got a simple and nice feel to it, and a general positive outlook. Overall definitely worth a watch.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chennai

Its funny how things have a way of swirling, changing course like a capricious river.. throwing up unexpected stuff.. just when you think you've got it all charted out, the course changes again.. making you rethink.

A few years ago, I was convinced I hate Chennai for its weather ( never could stand humidity), its infamous autos and its extremist lingual pride. I'd come to these studied conclusions based on about 16 hours that I'd spent there. And nothing, but nothing could ever get me to live in the city for any length of time. 

I'd never have believed that I'd spend months there, merely on a whim at work. See if I could start from scratch again, at ground zero. See if I could rethink any of the assumptions. 

Or that a few months later, I would actually rethink the assumptions. That the weather though unpleasant, could be grinned and berrited, or at any rate AC'd away. That its infamous autos could be avoided. That its insistent choice of language, although by far the most problematic, could at times be ignored, and at others be  politely overruled. 

What I hadn't quite bargained to find, was its alarming similarity to Delhi, the very characteristics which had built my misandry and the layers of hate, built them good and steady over 2 decades, cemented by the countless dick brushes and boob grabs , cat calls and stares. Of a hate which had somewhat abated, but which Chennai certainly reminded me of again in the last few months. 

So when the big bang finally exploded at work yesterday, there was a quiet happiness. There was the joy of being back with nn, of finally finishing the exhausting flights and buses, of being that much closer to the unknown waters. There were bits of regret about the end of some of the fun times we'd had, and the saying of good byes to some really nice colleagues. 

 But jostling between all those thoughts, was one clear joy, of just returning to Bangalore...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oh My God - Umesh Shukla

okish. Has its funny moments, but tends to get a bit of a drag in between.

A nastik gujju shopkeeper dismisses god and organised religion ( its a package deal to him then).Then his shop crumbles in a earthquake and  his insurance doesn't cover it, as the fine print reads cover losses due to an 'act of god' ( ie floods, earth quakes etc) are not covered. The shop keeper fights back with a claim to god then, which of course means that the confrontation then takes place between him and organised religion, ( which after all, is what most of us take to be god) .

What follows is in parts funny, in most parts loud and predictable and in a few parts actually surprisingly subtle.

What I was pleasantly surprised to see, was that after the recent flurry of bans , and my fear that we were indeed living in a kela desh, a movie loudly exhorting people to stop financing the commodification of religion is still running.

However my favourite part was the very last one that mithun spoke ( as an aside i totally loved him, although his characterisation was a bit silly) -' these aren't loving people.. these are god - fearing people'. That line, with a little imagination, can tell you a lot..  Another time perhaps, I will write a bit more on organised crime religion, god and athiesm.

not really a must watch, but ok to kill some time if you've nothing better to do.. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

English vinglish - Gauri Shinde

Really liked it. Partly because I thought it was a reasonably well made movie, partly because it touched a chord in its theme of someone making an effort to get back their self respect.

Shashi is a devoted mom of two, and wife to a busy corporate type hubby. Cooking is her pride and joy, and she runs a small business supplying home made laddoos to her neighbours. She also struggles with the daily little snubs from a world which has moved ahead and learnt english, while she was still busy cooking , raising kids and thinking that being a 'good' person would be enough to get by.

But a chance visit to america, and a botched attempt at ordering a meal there, finally force her to fight back for her pride.

I loved the script and the humour. Pretty decent acting , direction and editing as well. And I specially loved the ending. Most movies which have to end with a little speech, tend to go overboard with it, and mess up the good work. Not this one. I loved the way they wove in the bits about your own feeling of being a 'little less', and how finally you have help yourself, because no one else can.

definitely worth a watch!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

unknown waters

so after much procrastination, and holding on to safety, the deed is finally done and complete today. its probably not wise, and i certainly haven't thought things through, but sometimes the deep end just beckons you.

january.. here i come !




Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The monk who sold his ferrari - Robin Sharma

Rather amateurishly written, strings together the conventional wisdom on how to 'improve' your life into a loose story of a high flying lawyer who finds enlightenment ( and perennial youth) in the himalayas and then returns to tell his lawyer protege all about it.

Perhaps its a sign of the times, that peddling old wisdom in a tacky story, with an equally tacky fable, becomes a best seller.

But having trashed the style of writing, perhaps its worth reiterating the old wisdom anyway. After all, we need it so much, that we grasp at it , in whatever jar it comes.

So here's the summary  ( although i don't agree with all of it, but then to each their own)
1. master your mind  ( think good thoughts, meditate, envision etc etc, )
2. follow your purpose
3. improving yourself, (silence, nature, body care, exercise breathing, sattvik food, read, personal reflection, rise early, listen to music, mantras, character, simplicity)
4. live with discipline, silence,
5. respect your time (plan, say no, take breaks, naps, )
6. selflessly serve others
7. embrace the present

ah well, if you get around to doing even 1 of those properly, I get you won't be needing that ferrari after all!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

IT

What makes people choose their professions?

Do we even choose, or do we simply get herded in, by things quite independent of our aptitudes and interests. Things like 'parental guidance', peer pressure ( or the more apt, and virtually un-translate-able phrase - bhed chaal)? Things like the fluke college we got into, and the fluke companies our resume landed in? 

And once we've chosen, ( or landed one way or the other) the job, do we really have any options to make large changes, what with multiple loans, dependents and the general lack of energy to start afresh at the  ripe old age of say 27, 30, or 35? 

Maybe yes,  and then again, maybe no

But for the large number of quite unemployable and unproductive software engineers, most of whom are really nice people, but terrible problem solvers, I really wonder, whats the solution. Maybe we can only hope that the bubble won't burst in our lifetime at least. Or sometimes, in more angry moments, actually pray that it does. 

But in less angry moments, I simply ponder. 
At a system which has created this skewed allocation of money, where a person cooking food for you , gets paid 4k a month, while the person goofing off on facebook for months on end, get paid 4k a day. 
At a system, where the guy who's a talented cook, will continue to goof off, or perhaps struggle with daily humiliation, at something clearly not his forte, for that 4k a day. 

maybe it was necessary for life to remind me of the whole charade, 
of pointless features in products, 
of projects , deadlines, estimates, 
of teamwork, talent, improvement areas
of feedback , ratings, and the whole charade of PIPs 

Worst case scenario : 3 months 10 days.





Sunday, September 16, 2012

Barfi! - Anurag Basu

Nice movie overall.

An old man lies dying in a hospital, and another old lady far away takes up the story in flashback. How did their lives intersect, long long ago, while they were young, and love was in the air. Who loved whom, and how does love begin? Is it tested under falling lampposts, under the differences of deaf-muteness, autism... And when does it change.. end? There's a sub-plot of a conspiracy also, to add some spice to the romance.

It reaches up and tries to be brilliant, I wouldn't say successfully. But considering the huge number of people it still manages to appeal to, I would say quite a commendable effort. It has the warm candyfloss feel of the mainstream movies, but it manages to insert in a good few bits which are not quite that mainstream. And its more than just token service to disabilities. Inspite to its idealistic refrain about ideal love where couples grow old and die together, you do realise that life doesn't quite work that way, although that bit isn't thrown in your face.

Sometimes the order of the flashbacks doesn't quite work, but thats a minor quibble. Overall it mostly pulls through, with a joint effort by mostly decent direction, a good script, passable editing, nice doses of humour and some good acting.


Worth a watch I'd say.

ps - As an aside, I don't like the constant harping about usage of words like 'differently abled, hearing impaired', etc. I can understand the reasons for wanting to change a word like dumb, but I still prefer using deaf mute as it is. I don't think you can go through life insisting that every disability is just a different ability etc.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Half marathon.

Completed my first half marathon yesterday, yippie!!

Ran, jogged, trudged, walked, shuffled.. Accelerated on the downhills or when a peppy song came up.. Grunted and crawled on the uphills, or when my body just wanted to give up. Brushed away sweat, snot and raindrops and finally after some 2 hours and 45 odd mins, crossed the 21 km mark !

Although everything leading up to the day seemed to go wrong, right from work, health, practice, even the train and printers seemed against our going, but the run itself couldn't have been better. The weather was lovely, cool and cloudy for the first 10, and a gentle rain kept company for the second half. And no unexpected injuries or aches came up.

I found my own pace, and enjoyed myself thoroughly, walking when I felt like it, sprinting hard on a couple of  occasions, and had enough steam in the last kms to jog along ( and past!) some runners and cheerleaders who egged me on. The weather and the rain made a world of difference, nothing like running and raising up your face to feel the raindrops patter past the sweat. And it helped that the water stations were there every 2 kms without fail, and getting water/electrolytes was quite smooth, without too much crowd. I like to run while its still some fun, and not just endless pain and the proving of points..  this one suited me just fine.

And 2 thumbs up to a and l, running partners and friends without whom I might have never completed, or even signed up.

Now for a 25 k..  

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Emperor of all Maladies - Siddharth Mukherjee

Interesting read overall.

The book is a 'biography of cancer' as the blurb says, and its actually a pretty fascinating biography, specially considering that this is a disease we're following, not a person. The book traces the disease from its oldest mentions, delving into history and archeology, and traces a fascinating journey of our understanding of cancer, of our relationship with it, and of course the battle for the ever elusive cure.

The first three fourth of the book is really gripping, reading almost like a thriller, as the doctor throws the net wide, skipping from biology and medicine, to politics, geography and psychology as we try to dig into what causes cancer, how we could fight it.

The last fourth of it got a bit of a drag for me, as it got increasingly more technical, and I couldn't quite keep pace with the jargon, although someone with some grounding in biology would have found even that section pretty interesting.

Worth a read, although I'd say it could've been made a tad more concise.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ek tha tiger - Kabir Khan

so awesomely bad, that its almost good.

ok, so usually I filter out such movies just based on the names of the actors and the production houses. Can't remember seeing most of the barf inducing silly love stories. This one , under normal circumstances, I would have never seen, but ended up watching since the whole group was going, and there wasn't anything better to do on a holiday ( although in hindside i wonder if I shouldn't have finished up some pending office work instead) .

Anyway.

So our man Salman plays a RAW agent ( snigger), and SPOILER ALERT  - the comely lass Katrina , plays an ISI agent ( giggle), and then they fall in the yash-raj-patented-starry-louuu ( loud guffaw). That takes care of the first half, which ends with a loud bang which wakes you up in case you were dozing ( which I was).

During intermission, you remind yourself of that old saying - when a rape is inevitable, sit back and enjoy it. So you pull yourself together for the second half, dig out your cell phone games, open up any pending email, and get set for the rollicking second half.

Here our man does the job of ze he-man ( beats many baddies), ze spider-man ( flies across buildings and roofs), and ze super-man ( flies into a plane) all by himself. He also takes off his shirt, at which the entire hall ( including me ) scream in a wild feral frenzy. Unfortunately he puts another shirt back on, much to our disappointment. Still we follow his superhuman exploits with many whistles and claps, until finally the movie comes to an end.

For once I have nothing much to add of my own, I think that story does summarise it all. Ah ok, i should say at least something .. hmm lets see.. good production quality, pretty locales, happy endings - go enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur - 2 - Anurag Kashyap

The steady refrain in the movie is frustiyao nai moora.. but i have to confess the movie did frustrate me, refrain notwithstanding.

It sort of continues in the same vein as the first half, saga continuing with the son, although he's a different sort from his dad. Honestly I don't know what to summarise the plot as, I'd forgotten half the names and characters from the first half anyway. When the story kicks off, the father has died, and the son takes on the bloody mantle. Much killing happens. I'm not quite sure who's killing whom, and why. I'm not sure I understand the characterisations. Suffice to say , after much frustration, and pointless shooting, the movie finally ended, and i was rather relieved.

Like the first one, this one has its moments of brilliance, isolated sequences which are pretty good, but as a whole, for me, the movie just doesn't string together. And this time, I can't even say that its because I went in with too many expectations, I didn't. I was prepared for the violence, I was prepared for the non-sensical ( or is it absent ?) plot. I wasn't prepared for the repeated mistakes of parading far too many people on the screen with no characterisation, and for the rather pointless violence. Reminds me of natural born killers.

In some ways I feel really really disappointed that so many of those brilliant sequences didn't find place in a more coherent and tight movie.

Anyway, perhaps its still worth a watch , for sequences in isolation, but the overall have to say I liked it even less than the first one. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Vicky Donor - Shoojit Sircar

Good fun movie overall.

A fertility doctor is struggling to find sperm donors to meet the demands of many childless couples. He finally convinces a young happy go lucky punjabi guy as a potential donor. While he's single, our good doctor has a steady supply, but once he's got other commitments ( namely a bong girl friend), things start going a bit awry.

What kept the movie going, specially in the first half was the brilliant brilliant performance by the doc, and our donors mom and grandmom, ably supported by the script. I was actually amazed that for a topic like this, the entire movie didn't have a single joke that could be called distasteful, hats off to both writer and director. The second half didn't quite have the same zing, although the bong - punjabi angle was good fun. Still, it was still a steady plot, even if not upto the first half's standards.

Definitely worth a watch!


Monday, August 06, 2012

My week with Marilyn - Simon Curtis


A nice little movie.

Roughly based on true events, it traces a week when the famous Marilyn Monroe was in London shooting for a movie ( The prince and the showgirl) with the equally ( if differently!) famous Laurence Olivier. And on the sidelines, is the young 3rd assitant director Colin, and its from his eyes that we see that week. As Marilyn  comes on the sets to shoots, we see a complicted web of emotions taking over.

There's Laurence, who seemingly can't stand her diffidence, insecurity, and sheer unprofessionalism, but is mesmerised as well. There's his wife, who seems like a most confident and self assured lady, but she knows what lies below Laurence's voluble complaints. There's the other young girl, whom Colin begins dating, before he falls victim to Marilyn, like everyone else. There's Marilyn's previous lover for a week and his warnings. There's the much older British actress and her kindness. And finally of course, Marilyn herself. Her insecurity, her raw appeal, her uninhibited behaviour, her good acting, her happiness, and her unhappiness. And dear poor Colin of course. First love, as Dame Judy says, is such sweet despair.

I quite liked the many angles between all the people, and the multiple layers a lot of those emotions had. Overall quite a decent watch.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Small..

.
.

In small proportions we just beauties see

And in short measures life may perfect be.

-Ben Jonson

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Ended up watching it with on the spur of the moment, and thought it mostly paisa vasool. Don't expect too much, let your hair down, go with the flow. Laugh at the jokes, enjoy at the effects, ogle at the man's suit muscles  ( when you can see the black against black that is), or if you're male, there's the shapely cat instead.

The fact is, I'm just a byestander when it comes to superhero movies. I've never followed them, or been a big fan of them. Between batman spiderman superman and the whole lot of other masked and/or underweared 'men' I found I just couldn't see anything in either their characters or their plots, that lifted them above the run of the mill good-bad story.

As for the batman movies,  the enduring image for me, both when I saw the one back in school days, and the one 2 years back, was the joker. Without him, batman looks quite colorless.

Still worth a watch, of course, don't go in expecting too much!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Death and taxes

Gaah, every time i try to copy the form 16 data and file my own tax returns, I end up feeling mighty foolish.

And wondering how i ever passed maths. But pass I did, repeatedly, scoring cent per cent on multiple occasions. And at times I've even sinned silently, in the midst of my maths hating friends, thinking that I actually loved the subject.

But those 5 mark tax problems that we aced in class 10, seem to grow strange appendages and today I just feel unequal to fighting them! Blasted  form 16s, 26S, section 10 c, 80ccd, ITR 1 2 3 4, challan 280 281 282.. !@#%!#$

Phew!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur - Anurag Kashyap

Have to report mixed feeling on this one, mostly because of the pre- conceived notions with which I went in to watch it.

The trailer of this one, like the trailer of Dabangg , hadn't impressed me. Too much silly type dhishum dhishum, not much to mull over. But thats where the similarity ended. I went in to watch Dabang, quite prepared to hate it, so I was pretty surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and how a regular 'masala' movie could be well crafted.

Unfortunately, for this one, what with a couple of good reviews, and the general back-drop of it being a true story ( more or less), and given Kashyap's history of incisive thought provoking cinema ( think Dev D, gulaal, Black Friday), I actually went in expecting something more.

My mistake that one. The movie as far as I' can see, is just like Dabang. Good ranchy fun, not too much to the story, but mostly ok paced, keeps things going. Good acting, lots of double entendre stuff, hummable songs, couple of well shot scenes, and absolutely nothing to mull over later.

As for the Indian godfather tag - I really don't think so. Any multi generational bloody feud saga doesn't automatically become a god father, and although I'm not a big fan of godfather, I have to grant Coppola this - its thought provoking. Something which Gangs of Wasseypur is absolutely not.

Considering just how many characters keep romping in and out, and the fact that the good parts were more like separate sequences which were good in isolation, I really wonder, if this wouldn't have made a better tv series than a movie.

Anyway, all said and done, it can be watched and maybe even enjoyed, but I really won't put it in the same league as the crop of really good movies we've seen in the last 5 years, many from Kashyap's own camp.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The cow sagas - part 5 - ethics

Usual background: Once upon a time there was a milk vendor. He loved the money his customers gave. But he just wished he could make the cows disappear. Ugly messy creatures, who always had to be fed. Why couldn't the milk just appear magically in jugs? 

It sure was a tightrope walk , running a business. Some people just didn't get it.

He did his best to inculcate a good culture in his dairy, by putting up posters on ethics all over the dairy. He made rules to make sure that every cow wrote down 100 times, ' I will be honest and ethical '.

He didn't really think that the fudging of the promised milk to water ratio for the customers was really about ethics. I mean if some customers with deep pockets, were willing to pay pretty penny for watered down milk, that really wasn't unethical , was it? Everyone in the dairy business sold watered down milk. There's no way to run a profitable dairy without it. ( Profitability, these silly mooing cows didn't know the first thing about it, the damn things could probably unbalance a balanced sheet)


Anyway, the bottom line was, that ethics was about the cows giving their full quota of milk to him ( and then some). There's no point in mixing ethics up with the kind of milk he sold the customers. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pyaar Ka Punchnama - Luv Ranjan

ok movie, has its fun moments, but could have really done well on the editors chopping board to make it crisper. The songs specially are quite interminable, and so are some of the maudlin moments.

3 young blameless software engineers ( male) , are living happily in delhi in a typical bachelor pad. However part of their happiness is the ruing of their single status. As Oscar Wilde once said, there are two tragedies in life, one is not getting what you want. The other is getting it. So these young virile men, soon acquire girls in their lives. These girls soon ruin their lives, and bring these hitherto happy go lucky men , literally to tears.

The movie doesn't make any pretensions about presenting two sides of a story, which actually works in some ways. Basically the parts that work, seem to be the ones which are rather raw, and straight from the gut. I daresay Luv, who's also done bits of the screenplay, has lot of pent up angst , which has come up in this movie, and the honesty of those feeling, work in a way.

But for some deeper introspection into what makes men and women different, you'll have to work harder. And one of the hardest things to do, is to just realise, that men and women view things differently. Yes sure, there are exceptions and everyone is different etc. But its like that old woman/ young lady picture debate , made famous in the 7 habits book. How you see the picture depends on what hits you first, and what you perceive a certain thing to be. If you started by thinking that the little wiggle was an ear, and not an eye, it will be a long long time, before you can make that paradigm shift and see that there is another  perspective, right there in front of you , in the same picture.

Anyway, leaving introspection aside, its a funny movie, which misogynists would love uninhibitedly, while the rest of us have a laugh as well, although we might also be laughing at some things the director didn't quite intend!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

Nice read, and the video of the last lecture is equally nice . Many thanks to a for presenting this one to me!

The book is a more fleshed out version of the lecture which Randy delivered on 'achieving your childhood dreams'. In a way its the essence of his credos in life. A way of crystallizing it into a lecture and a book. To leave something of yourself, to the world and to your children. At the time of the lecture , he knew he had just months to live, medical science having emptied its arsenal against pancreatic cancer.

Definitely worth a read. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The cow sagas - part 4 - Sales

Usual background: Once upon a time, there was a milk vendor. He loved the money his customers gave. But he just wished he could make the cows disappear. Ugly messy creatures, who always had to be fed. Why couldn't the milk just appear magically in jugs? 


The other day, a super rich client asked for a steady supply of fresh rose milk. So naturally he loaned over a cow to the client. 


How on earth was he supposed to know that rose milk didn't come directly from cow udders, but had to be made by mixing rose concentrate? And even if that was the case, what these cows didn't understand was how demanding these clients were, this is how sales were always made. Didn't they understand how rich the client was, how his bonus, ( and the cows bonus peanut masala biscuits) came from such sales. Ah the ingrate!


And he really didn't see what the fuss was about, all the cow had to do was get the concentrate somehow, mix it, and present the rose milk to the client. Whats all this fuss about the cow not having any concentrate, no hands and all sorts of excuses?  Surely one had to show some flexibility, some adaptability. 


And really mixing up a normal day in sales with ethics was stretching it too far. 


Uff these cows!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Shanghai - Dibakar Bannerjee

Loved it.

A brand new India-shining SEZ type area is to be set up, and of course land has to be acquired for that. But there's a crusader who's organising the people and exhorting them to not sell out.

How does this multi player game end? The mercurial hitman, the timid driver, the local political worker, the state political aspirant, the CM, the secretary, the IAS officer, the policemen, the part time porn videographer, the womanising crusader, the crusaders unwilling wife, the other woman, the other woman's maid.., where do the ebb and flow of these lives intersect, and what are the parts we see and don't see?

Its a tightly paced movie, and the characters are well balanced, well etched out and ably enacted ( mostly). I liked some of the scenes, the side angle half light shots. Also liked the the IAS/IPS/Politician equation depictions.  But what I liked most of all, was the easing of the high pedestal cries for revolution. The move away from the easy demarcation of people as good and bad. The move away from easy solutions. What constitutes the good life? What constitutes a bad one? And if those aren't so easy to slot, then neither are the solutions, which in some ways was the highlight of the ending.

Although I thought some of the scenes seemed to be hammering points home too hard ( the obvious points at that), but still, I loved it overall.

Must watch.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

There will come soft rains..

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.


                                       - Sara Teasdale


I'd read the short story back in school, and remembered it often. There was something very very evocative about the last line, with the date repeating itself. 


There was also something equally evocative about the title, and when I read the original poem, I could see the singular feeling that both the poem and the story evoked. 

Was reminded of it today when I heard about Bradbury. 

The futility of it all. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Belle the Jour - Luis Bunuel

Strange little movie.

The main protagonist is unable or unwilling to sleep with her husband, who is a caricature of goodness - nice, understanding, patient, loving. She however seems to crave the heavy duty bondage/submission fantasy, and gradually drifts into part time prostitution. ( its a day job - hence the title).

Where does fantasy end, reality begin? Interesting question that, and rather interestingly handled, specially the end.

But where do questions of sexual domination and submission begin and end? What qualifies as depravity and what as morality? Equally interesting questions, but I can't say that those were even addressed. It seemed like a whole lot of time was wasted just cataloging strange and stranger sexual quirks. I really didn't see the point of it, or what , if anything, they were supposed to convey.

Can't say I recommend it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Secret of the Nagas - Amish Patel

Was a bit hard to pick up initially, since I'd forgotten some of the characters from the first part. But picked up pace like the first one, and was a fast read like the first one.

If there's one complain I have its that its got just way too many characters and tribes now, wish they'd edited a few out.

But still worth a read.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Running - Bangalore 10 k

Some days just dawn perfect. Other don't. And the variation between them is huge, at least for me. On some rare good days, I've run continuously for 4 kms, averaging seven to seven and a half per km. On bad days I've struggled to do even 2 km at eight.

So unfortunately for me, this 10k that I'd been eagerly anticipating, just happened to fall on a not so perfect day. Within the first 2 kms, I found myself alternating with very generous amounts of walking, and at a particularly low point of the 2nd, the stomach cramps almost made me feel like give up. But a bit of persistence got me past them, and luckily they stopped by the third.

On the good side, after the initial hiccup, I didn't hate any part of the remaining 7-8 kms, and though it was hot and sunny, I'd been prepared for that after my experience 2 years back. I picked up water at regular intervals, and walked a generous amount. Found that I kept that pace pretty much till the last km, without getting any slower in the last 2 kms.

On the flip side, it just wasn't my day for running, no amount of pushing got me to a consistent pace, and that showed in the final time of 77 mins, 7 mins over what I'd been targeting, and a tad slower than last time, in spite of having prepared much more.

Anyhow, now for the next target, lets see if I can do my very first half marathon in a couple of months. Targeting 2.5 hours, which is certainly not going to happen if I go at this pace, lets hope that its a good day that day!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Em and the Big Hoom - Jerry Pinto

I don't know how 'normal' people would view the book, the book cover mentions things about it being well written , funny even. I daresay, for a normal person, many things would read differently. 

Me, I wept through a lot of it. There were phrases and lines, that seemed to leap right off the page, like I'd been thinking them all my life, and just had never known how to string them together in a sentence. While growing up in a world of voices, intrigue, paranoia, I remember how the the definitions of 'normal' had taken on layers of meaning. How ambivalence was learnt early on. How loaded the intricacies of the parent-child relationship had been become. Loaded more than seemed fair. 

Perhaps I'll read it again, and do a more neutral and objective review another time. For now, I can only say how much I identified with the son, with the home, sometimes even with the mad-dow.  And how much I loved the writing. 

Moving on..

I hadn't expected the slight lump in throat, as I finally packed up to leave this particular workplace for good.

So much had already changed in the past year.  The employer had formally changed. Friends had left. The less said about the work, the better. Packing up had been a conscious choice. Unlike my usual excuse of not making much effort to direct the flow, and usually washing up at whatever shore the tides left me, this time, I had chosen to leave. Anywhere, anything, but this.

And though I would miss the comfort of known faces, known systems, after over 6 years of familiarity, and an eternity of procrastination, it was finally time to go.

So its good bye to r and our endless cups of tea, the interpretation of dreams, the crazy food cooker designs, the terrible lunch time choices. Bye to a, whom I just got to knowing in the past few months, and the great fun we had swapping movies, books and run stories. Bye to n and k, two friends from the very first team from 6 years back, who're still around. Bye to memories of the most fun team I worked with, of which I'm the almost the last person still around.

Funny that the first thoughts at leaving , are about the people I came to know along the way, not about the work I did ( or didn't do!) in this time. Workwise, I guess these years finally baked me completely into a cynic about software companies in general. They pay the bills. Occasionally they give you a jigzaw puzzle to solve while you're at it, which can be good fun. Mostly.. ah but why bother with such descriptions, they are what we perceive them to be. I guess they can be anything.

But at the end of it all, its the rose tinted glasses that kick in, and I nostalgically look back at the flowers, rather than the thorns.





Sunday, May 20, 2012

Inside Job - Charles Ferguson

I quite liked it, a good documentary on the 'financial meltdown' for dummies like me, who don't really know much about economics or how these things work.

It has a series of interviews with various people associated with the world of finance, directly or indirectly, ranging from traders, regulators, politicians, , academicians, even a  psychologist a and sex worker. It also has a couple of neat charts which show simplified views of the money movement.

At the end of it , one is of course left with the questions about greed and regulation. No easy answers there, and I don't think the documentary seeks to provide any. Does pure uninhibited capitalism's amazing self-regulation work? Can it work, or is it indeed an interfering government that always causes problems? Do free markets with completely free information always find the best price of everything? In real life, there are never any easy villains.  Occupying wall street might be a way to vent frustration, but it doesn't solve the underlying issues.

Definitely worth a watch, for its slick narrative and neat editing.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Doctoring the Mind - Richard P Bentall

The full title of the book is 'Doctoring the mind - why psychiatric treatments fail' , and that perhaps says a good deal about whats going to follow in the book. Good read overall.

The book raises some some interesting questions. Firstly, the description of metal diseases itself can be relooked at. It builds up a case of how the neat slotting of schizophrenia , bipolar etc doesn't always hold ground. And a continuum probably exists for the symptoms, rather than a clear demarcation of 'healthy' to 'ill', rather than a neat demarcation of where health ends.

Another area to reconsider is the simplistic descriptions about genetic causes, imbalances in dopamine etc. Its  an area not fully understood, and there are various complexities to deal with, if you treat dopamine like it was hemoglobin or something.

Then there's the whole area of clinical trials data , and how the data is open to much simplification, glamorisation, and plain misreading. If someone's never worked on any areas of data mining/number crunching, that part itself can be rather eye opening.

The parts where he was building up the case of psychiatry's limitations, ( and why psychiatric treatments fail) was fair and information enough.

However, the author is a psychologist, and one can see quite clearly, where his sympathies are. The problem is, that the arguments against the simplifications of clinical psychiatry, don't automatically mean scored points for psychologists or the alternative forms of therapy. In fact, I couldn't really find any convincing case in the book against the so called dodo bird theory, which claims that all forms of psychotherapies are equally effective. Its important to note the distinction between ineffective and equally effective, the therapies do seem to be effective.

On the minus side of psychotherapies, which he's mentioned, and I've read in numberous other places as well, is the much larger burden that falls on the effectiveness of the psychologist , rather than the branch of therapy that she/he aligns with. Its something that can't be underlined enough. While we're beating down the effectiveness of dopamine blockers and SSRI's or the seeming cruelty to ECTs, you can't underestimate how psychotherapy will also vary hugely based on the effectiveness of the therapeutic alliance.

My own take has been that the two things are needed in conjuction, and in various situations one or the other can be more effective. And its noteworthy that effective doesn't always mean a cessation of symptoms, it can sometimes mean just the ability to cope. Thats something psychiatrists often underestimate, guided as they are by a very symptomatic view of illness, and their general low opinion of things 'touchy feely'.

Interesting book overall, but it seemed to be a little lopsided, since it was more of a reaction to the blinkered view that psychiatrists often take. But for someone who's just interested in what makes the brain tick ( or not) and doesn't really have a dog in the psychiatrist vs psychologist fights, it won't come across as a balanced book.




Monday, May 07, 2012

Future Shock - Alvin Toffler

Sort of mixed feelings on this one. Found chunks of it really interesting, and chunks of it rather repetitive and boring.

The book first builds the case, that the rate of 'change' in our lives has exploded dramatically in the last few decades, and we have in-built limits on how much change we can cope with, beyond which we start reacting in atypical/sub-optimal ways. ( which the author describes as future-shock).

I liked the way, the general vague idea we all express - 'life is too fast/ there is too much change' is actually quantified over many chapters. If we compare our lives to someone living a hundred years go, the rate of change is huge. The noteworthy thing here, is that its the 'rate' being talked about, not the change itself. Its the number of items we use and discard, its the homes we change, its the number of people we meet/interact with , just to name a few. Its noteworthy that the book was written in 1970, and the case that he's made laboriously, is now increased by orders of magnitude, when we think of FB/twitter/email etc.

Its also an interesting read, because of the various interesting snippets of studies and factoids sprinkled throughout. Eg increased inductrialisation doesn't necessarily translate to increased uniformity or lack of choices.

However beyond the the fact that these changes exist, and are indeed increasing, there's still not enough to go on, in terms of what can be done about this. Of course, given the general idea behind future-shock, there's obviously not going to be any easy way to 'diagnose' it, or prescribe simple remedies.

Worth a read definitely.





Wednesday, April 18, 2012

'Yoga with Yogini' launched!

The yoga DVDs are finally out! . Here's the trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjnLTxhwiT8 and the launch pics.

My yoga teacher Yogini, has brought out a set of 3 DVDs , each is about 1 hour 15 mins. These cover the workouts we've been following on 3 days a week. Each day focusses on different muscle groups, and sets of asanas.

I'd been looking forward to getting these DVDs, because I've found the way the sequences are grouped, and her voice over, very very helpful in our classes, and when I couldn't attend the classes, I really missed something like this.

Of course, this isn't a polished product.  Neither in terms of the production quality, which has a home video feel to it. Nor in terms of the perfection of the asanas, specially by the students. But its part of the reason I totally love them, its real people, real classes, and all very very doable, all the while with her voice over reminding of what we strive for!

PS - I have a bit role in them as well.  A few glimpses can be found, of my grim faced, determined visage , or the large derrier!

PPS - Sales plug - The box set of 3 together costs 500 bucks.  Please feel free to put in any requests directly to her (yoginim at hotmail.com) or mail me and I can route them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ugly Indian

Attended another of the clean up drives this weekend.

Now that I've followed the pages and comments for a couple of months, and I understand a little better the strategy that goes into them. And as I'd expected right in the beginning, it isn't all a magical clean up and everything becomes hunky dory.

And as I'd expected, the hard work is not in the actual clean ups. There are plenty of us, with great good will, and momentary adrenalin, to help fuel those.

The real hard work, is the prep that comes before, the follow ups that come after it. It is a continuous , slow , ongoing process. And like in everything else, there are setbacks, but the most amazing thing is the mix of creativity, doggedness and patience with which they've continued to go about it.

Lets see if some of those rub off on me! For now, I continue to take the easy path out, with the broom and paint brush, leaving the brain to take it easy.


what do you fear

you,
who hide behind the curtains,
peeping

are there mirrors in the room?
warped..

or are you,
awaiting,
the perfect attire..

what if,
this
is
as good as it gets?








Monday, April 09, 2012

The year that was..

Couple of weeks back, on one of our endless tea breaks, r and I started thinking about the year that was. It had been a rather washed out one professionally, and once we realised there wasn't much we could think of on that front, we cast out net wider. Thats when I realised, that it hadn't been all that wasted, it had its moments. Some jottings on it...

Joined a gym for the first time.  Although it got rather boring after a while, it was good fun for a while. Stamina improved, was fun to be able to run continuously on tradmill for over 15 mins. Pumped iron, and got a compliment or two on bearing and posture!

Tonsured my head, something I'd always wanted to do for ages. Loved the way I looked, and on the whole, was pleasantly surprised at the reaction of people around me. Although there were just 1-2 who actually thought the cut suited me, most admired the act itself, and was quite amazed to see how many people actually wanted to try it out ( even if for very diff reasons) and just never got the guts.

Became a member of the complaints committee at work, and it was quite an experience. It wasn't quite what I'd expected it to be, which in itself was a good reminder against generalizations. Learnt a good deal about the nitty gritties of just how these things work, and how tricky they can sometimes be.

Realised that some things just get hardwired into you, and it gets very very hard to change set responses. At times that makes the response alarming and amusing at the same time.

Put aside a trip just to meet old friends, something I'd always wanted to do. Loved having the late-night-girls-heart-to-heart talks, just like we used to back in school days. Saw some things change as well, and for once, mourned and let them go, aided by rabbits. Lost some friends to distances, kids, marriages, timezones, business, and sheer misalignment ( to use a corporate term!). Made new connections however.

Started back on the yoga and the runs. Loved the sheer high from the endorphins released!

Spent much time trying to 'get in touch with myself'. Slowly came to somewhat appreciate the generously used word - awareness. Went the full circle, just like in yoga. Initial breakthroughs, plateaus, breaks.

Moved to our own house, and had much fun setting it up with nn, although our defining word remains spartan.

Lets hope the next year has new things to scribble about !














Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The cow sagas - part 3, maternity

Usual background: Once upon a time, there was a milk vendor. He loved the money his customers gave. But he just wished he could make the cows disappear. Ugly messy creatures, who always had to be fed. Why couldn't the milk just appear magically in jugs?


He couldn't understand this whole wasteful concept of CSR . Corporate social responsibility. He was running a business. A dairy to be precise. Why did any social responsibility of any sort have to come on his head? And parental leaves for cows sounded like the worst sort of responsibility to him.

The very idea of keeping a cow's name in his register, while she was off having a calf, and producing no milk for him, sounded like business suicide to him. How was it his headache to know where the next generation of cows come from ?

He was running a business, not a charity. The memory of that meeting kept haunting him. He had set it up to tell all the cows how nice he was to be giving them maternity leave of 3 months. But instead of being grateful, the whole lot of the cows ganged up and started fighting with him, on how they needed more.

More?? The word rang of the Oliver Twist's infamous demand, and ruinous welfare states. He wished the whole world could be just like america, the land of  opportunities, hard work, and no parental leaves.

The cow sagas - part 2, of slip discs

Usual background: Once upon a time, there was a milk vendor. He loved the money his customers gave. But he just wished he could make the cows disappear. Ugly messy creatures, who always had to be fed. Why couldn't the milk just appear magically in jugs?

Today for instance, one cry baby interning cow came to him, whining about a slipped disc, and how the doctor had adviced a 1-2 weeks rest.

Uff these cows, no idea of how a business is run. He had to enlighten the cow, how this was the last batch of the compulsary 1 month training on how to produce milk. If the cow missed this, then there were no repeat trainings in the near future. And he couldn't promised the cow a place directly without the internship, who knew how the situation would be 3 months later.

Hopefully this would help set expectations among these darned cows. Sometimes they started thinking they were people and not resources, the nerve!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The cow sagas - part 1, hide the cows!

Once upon a time, there was a milk vendor. He loved the money his customers gave.  But he just wished he could make the cows disappear. Ugly messy creatures, who always had to be fed. Why couldn't the milk just appear magically in jugs?

Today, for instance, he had to spend so much effort , just to make sure that when the customers came, they were greeted with a clean shining dairy, and no cows. So much effort to shoo away the cows into the back lanes.

Still, he was a high performance guy. He delivered.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chameleon - Krisztina Goda

Caught it on the recent european film fest in Bangalore. (many thanks to a, who got the schedules, and the enthusiasm to catch the fest! )

Totally loved this one. Initialy while reading the summary, I'd not been too hopeful about it. We've all seen enough movies of con men who pretend to be rich to woo/con someone, and how it all goes terribly wrong. Luckily a couple of interesting reviews, and the desire to check out the priyadarshini hall at badami house, got us to the movie.

And I must say movie was a prime example of something I've always believed in - its not what you say, its how you say. Or in this context, its not the story or theme, its how you tell it.

Really slick direction, keeps the pace moving. And the characters are always edgy, shades of gray.  Excellant acting by most of them. The main protagonist, the sidekick, the ballerina, the doctor, the actor.  And you're never quite sure where to slot the people, who's the good guy, who's not. At what stage does do your sympathies slip from the 'helpless' women being conned, to the con artist. And slide to the doctor? Are you then wreched away from him too? How about the unfortunate ballerina? I totally loved the constantly changing equations. As he says somewhere - 'Illusion is expensive. But it's worth it.'

I'd say its a must watch.

ps - a chance scene in the movie, made me wonder about another thing. How do we decide whats funny ? In movies like baby's day out, or home alone, the villains get it rather thickly to say the least. But we can't stop laughing. Its sort of easy , because the demarkation lines are clearly drawn ( good blamless kids vs bad thieves/kidnappers) We know where our sympathies lie. So we laugh when the kidnapper gets it badly you know where.

But flip that scene a little, take a blameless vulnerable kid, about to be beaten up, and we'll all flinch. Again, our sympathies are elsewhere, even though the situation is exactly the same.

So , what happens when the character is neither black nor white? What if, as in this movie, you can't easily take a side? Where exactly does someone's pain, cease to be funny, or begin to be?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Letting go.

why do we hold on, so tightly, so desperately? Why do we get so comfortable in that position, that letting go, becomes an exercise fraught with so many hurdles, stories brought into being, just to hold on.

Anyway, sometimes one is forced to let go, and then once the silly arms flailing is over, you realise, its ok. Its not so bad. You can look at how nice it was, while it lasted. Cry over it a bit, and then hey, its not the end of the world. Who knows, perhaps the change will do you good.

And then, after you've lived with the changes, sometimes you even forget why you were resisting so hard anyway.  We try to look ahead, plan things, fear things. And most of the time, life has its own plans anyway. It always finds new way to surprise, pleasantly or unpleasantly. Whatever it brings on, its not often what you anticipated. And sometimes you realised, that the anticipation of the change was much much worse, than the change itself. And after a while, like everything else, you get used to the change.

Funny that all of this introspection was brought on by airtel's pathetic service. A phone number I'd had for ages. Sentimental prefixes. Memories of happier days. Many years of accumulated acquaitances.. and friends. The gazillion places the number lived, for logistical reasons. The off chance, that I'd lose touch with someone, or lose an 'important' update. And then finally, after umpteen humiliations and bizarre customer service responses from airtel, the realisation that I really had to let go, it was after all just a number.

It still doesn't make it any easier to relinquish other positions, but it does shake them..



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Kahaani - Sujoy Ghosh

Quite enjoyed it on the whole, although the ending was really strange, almost like the director, writer and editor together fell ill due to some plague which hit the unit, and they outsourced it to mainstream 80s bollywood to finish off the last 10 mins.

But anyhow, I found the remaining parts quite paisa vasool, good pace, good acting, a feel of the city, and adept direction and editing. Vidya comes to our city of joy, looking for her missing husband, and then we go down the journey with her. As the stories come apart, one thread at a time, you begin wondering how many kahaani's are going on.

I hadn't guessed the ending, which perhaps is just as well, because guessing it would have removed half the fun, ( as it did in a wednesday, where i guessed almost right in the beginning) . There were plot holes as one could call them, if you really took apart the kahaani, things that were niggling at the back of your brain, which if you choose to ignore and go with the flow. Agreed fully with this description from Anupama Chopra - "Kahaani is a nifty thriller with an enjoyment quotient that is indirectly proportionate to how long you spend thinking about the plot."

Overall, good fun, good time pass. Definitely worth a watch.

Ah, and how can I complete without mentioning the insurance agent - whoever came up with that casting , utter utter respect!

A twist of lime @ Jagriti

okish watch. Its an adaptation of 3 short stories from Anita Nair, one that I remember reading.

One is the story of two sisters as they go to confession in a church. The second has a typical mama's good boy going to see a potential bride, but the meeting is happening abroad, where the girl's been for some time. The last one has the chance encounter of the wife and the mistress in a parlor.

Decent time pass, worth a watch, but nothing exceptional.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar - Tigmanshu Dhulia


This is just the kind of movie that I missed over the years, specially while growing up. There were plenty of this biopic genre to be found in English cinema, but their settings and their characters could never bring the same familiarity or the lump to throat, which our own milieu could.

But we seemed strangely reluctant to make nuanced biopics. To make use of our rich history, geography, people, language, culture. While mainstream cinema was too simplistic and formulaic, even the so called parallel cinema often refused to explore beyond the obvious, specially for re imaging historical events or people.

So this one, was really an achievement in storytelling and movie making, and not the least because of its superbly nuanced script, which always teeters close to stereotyping, perhaps just to remind you of your own urges for easy answers, but always edges away from the brink, reminding you - this far and no further.

Paan Singh is the athlete from the army, who breaks records, represents India internationally, but finally ends up a dacoit ( or as he reminds us repeatedly baaghi ). These are historical facts. So what happened here?

You can almost feel the Bollywood formula taking over, the evil system, ( for eg kalmadi our poster boy, as if the rest of us are blameless), the evil uncle, the helpless hero, driven by his sisters rape, to pick the guns, with a classic sunny deol/dharmendra speech about canine blood drinking.

Surprise - none of this happens. Its a multi layered script, and a multi layered character, superbly enacted by Irrfan.  For the athlete with no options, a coaching offer was open. For unhelpful policeman, there are other shades of grey in the trainer and the army commander. For those unanswered petitions, there was at least one which was answered. There are moments of subtle emotion, the parting ice cream, the sending of the children for toffees, unexpected and generous amount of humor.  The last scene was perhaps the only slightly jarring note, in this otherwise close to perfect movie.

The closing credits and dedication, are evocative, but happily, the movie is not a one dimensional condemnation of how the system treats our athletes badly, but a many dimensional construction of a life, of its circumstances, and of its choices.

Must watch.  ( A warning, the dialect and diction is very specific, and if you're not comfortable with Hindi, specially its dialects, better wait for subtitles on DVD. And find a friend with a big screen tv to watch it with! )


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Came across this on someone's status today, found it just perrrfect!

Religion is the art of turning unanswerable questions into unquestionable answers.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Descendents - Alexandar Payne

Good movie overall, and decent acting by our man who pretty much carries the movie on his shoulders.

A husband finds his wife in coma, and tries to make sense of the situation he finds himself in. A pre - teen kid, another kid almost all grown up but not quite, the wife who wasn't quite what he pictured. As he picks up the threads and tries to negotiate a financial deal which also ropes in his extended family, the threads briefly intertwine.

I liked the slow pace, and the drama from the subtle everyday things in life, without too much hyperbole, background music, or histrionics.

Worth a watch.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Kickstarting the runs!

So after a brief hiatus in the runs ( just a matter of an year or two !), I took part in a 5 k, and managed to complete it without too much hassle, even if with a fair bit of walking.

Was quite happy with the timing, considering that this was done mostly without preparation, barring the couple of gym runs in the very last fortnight. Was reminded of the last day cramming for the exams, old habits die hard after all.

Hmm, now to see if i can shave off some 5-6 odd minutes from this, while still enjoying myself .

On another note, the irony of a womens day run , sponsored by a hep shot gym, and adding a breast enhancement brochure in the kit wasn't lost on me. So much for womens day. Gah. Note to self - avoid paying for this run next time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The artist - Michel Hazanivicius

Good movie. Good acting. Good music. Good direction.

In terms of story, its a very simple age old one. A very successful actor of the silent movies, has to adapt to change, as the world around him moves from no dialogues, to the 'talkies'.

A tribute to the old style of movie making, no dialogues, no color, letting the situations and expressions speak for themselves. I loved some of the evocative scenes. The very first one, as the spy is being tortured, and he screams 'I won't talk'.  The dialogue on the stairway, as someone on the way up,  meets someone on the way down. The part where the wife is busy drawing on the photograph. The scene where a wannabe starlet plays out a fantasy as she steps into the overcoat of the famous star. The loud bang of a feather hitting the ground.

It was a throwback to some of the movies I'd watched in film festivals as a kid, sometimes getting through to the hall after hours of wait in serpentine queues, sometimes watching the movies in almost empty halls. Reminescent of Chaplin, Welles, Ray.

And yes, any movies with a dog in them, automatically get bonus marks from me ! 

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Unfinished Portrait - Mary Westmacott

Many years ago, back in college days, I'd once stumbled upon 'Absent in spring', while searching for another Agatha Christie whodunit. I was surprised to read the jacket which said something vague about Christie writing 'romance' novels under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott.

I'd picked it up on a whim, and completely loved it, which wasn't a romance by any stretch of imagination. Perhaps it could be called a study  I remember the story and its build up quite well, and I remember reading its quite satisfying ending and thinking ' yes people don't just change magically'. At that time I didn't know the internet existed, this was back in the stone ages when most of us wouldn't have email for another 3 years. So I never found anyone else to swap thoughts about it, since no one seemed to have read it. However, today while searching on the net, I found that Christie herself had described that book as something that satisfied her completely. I couldn't agree more.

This one, 'unfinished portrait', was equally moving, although it wasn't for its neat literary merit, like the previous one, but more for its raw emotion. Its probably the closest to an honest autobiography that covers the years of childhood and the initial years of the broken marriage. Although the world she lived in was very different, and I couldn't identify with some of the observations, there were other passages which resonated with me completely.

Although I found it boring in its description of childhood, the latter parts more than made up for it.

Was quite worth a read.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Step Across This Line - Salman Rushdie

The right book to talk about would have been Satanic verses for today, but since I'm not bold enough to court jail yet, I'll make do with this one.

Good read overall. Its a collection of essays on varied topics like books, music, politics, sports, movies and television . And not the least being the fatwa , ban and free speech in general.

Some of it is too high brow for my taste, but much is well written and was read with much satisfaction and pleasure.

An excerpt from from an essay, written on 14th of 1999, which was the 10th anniversary of the unfunny valentine as he called it.

The best defence of literary freedom lies in their exercise, in continuing to make untrammelled, uncowed books.

Amen to that.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Free Speech.

Liked this idea of a flashread on 14th. Shall post something tomorrow. Meanwhile for now, one of my favourite quotes has always been this

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Long back I'd posted another of my favourites from Tagore on this blog, tomorrow might be the day to repost it - where the mind is without fear.

The Lives of others - Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Quite liked this one. I'd missed this few years back when it was making news, and caught it on TV by fluke. Lucky that UTV world movies exists!

An east german secret agent ends up bugging a writers house, and listening in to his life.. ( hence the lives of others). The story has some predictable turns, but its  restraint and direction is just lovely.
And I completely and totally loved the ending.

Do watch!

I'm OK, you're OK - Thomas Harris

A good introduction to transactional analysis, something we've heard of now and again.

The idea behind the PAC ( Parent, Adult and Child) , along with the concept of a transaction is explained. I found it a useful tool at times, however like all such tools and techniques, its a lot of hard work, and you end up leaving it aside a lot of times, because the effort of making your parent and child go back and the adult come forward is just too uncomfortable.

Some things I didn't like were its constant harping about treating PAC like the proverbial silver bullet which can fix everything. Plus there are lots of chapters towards the end about morality and world affairs etc, which I just found pointless.

Worth a read though.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Screw Indian values. Hail individualism, hedonism, freedom!

Some days you just wake up wanting to pick a quarrel with someone. Anyone. Today is one of those days. After giving it back to an unreasonable conductor, and staring down some street gawkers, trying to push down a cars rearview mirror, I finally arrived at office in one piece.

Came across this post from amit verma, and I couldn't agree more.  So since this is still a free speech country ( or so I think, rushdie, teli, mochi, godse notwithstanding, ) thought I'd give a piece of my mind in response to the senior idiot pung. Before mr sibal sits down to his screenings that is.

So lets take apart this punj fellows bullshit. After all if he's got an opinion, so have I.

Demise of family = Some ass in norway gunned down tonnes of people. If I remember correctly, some ass in the nepali monarchy gunned down half his family some years back. And thats your poster child country, right mr punj? Would you say that was a right reading of 'our' hindu family values ? eh?

Society in decline = Under 16- pregnancies, another pet peeve of these assholes. Lets consider this one. A ton of our grandmothers, great grandmothers etc etc, were pregnant by their teens. A few were taught to revere women who burnt themselves on their husbands pyre. Heck, even we were taught how jumping into a burning pyre was preferable to getting raped. Really??? I mean really??? If you consider death a better option than rape, then you really need to think about your real reasons for being worried about teen pregnancies. So what is this really about ? Is this about the age ( teens)? Or about the pregnancy (without the marriage)?  Or , ah dear lord, the failing control over a womans' sexuality?  Sure it becomes a social problem, but teenage pregnancies ( within the accepted social constructs ) of 70 years ago, were an equal problem - for the women. We didn't hear you complaining about that.

Loss of abiding values in family life = Increasing divorce rates - amits written an excellant piece on that, let me not repeat it, except to say - Divorce is a damn good thing, specially if it threatens our rotten family values. The more the damn things are threatened, the better.

Family = Marriages - ah, where do I even begin. If marriage is not contracted for raising a family, apparently it becomes haram. I can't even counter his logic, because he doesn't have one. I guess his brain stopped funtioning at the very thought of gays and liberals, ( not to mention me - a human being with no desire or intention to produce another human being. )  Extremist liberals are demanding that gay and lesbians be given the right to practice what they believe in. , erm and that is worrying because???

Powerful ideal leadership = Singapore. Singapore, singapore, what can I say about singapore, why not pick one of the poster communist countries then? Who chooses what is to be controlled? What if the chooser turns out a little unbalanced? But then the lure of the good benign leader is endless. We've had a good example of that in India in recent times.

The failure of capitalism is also ascribed to a stagnant population. Although my knowledge of economics is almost zero, that simplistic statement seems full of holes, even to me. Just some common sense thinking about the implications of such a 'fact' make the mind boggle. Lets leave that one aside to the economists to debate over, but if its true, then I guess the human race is doomed any way.


In a nut shell, what Mr punj is calling 'values' is after all a social system, which worked, like all systems, at the expense of some. In this case the women. So forgive me, if I choose the immoral west, or world annihilation, to a patriarchal system ( thats all it is, not a bloody indian value, its a bloodsucking system in which some thrived at the expense of the others)