Sunday, April 21, 2013

I wish there was some way to just filter out the news.. closing tv, and rarely reading newspapers isn't enough.

Was reminded once again of the 4 times I'd had the privilege to go to police stations in Delhi. The first when someone flinched my purse during a bus ride.  The first station I went to simply told me it wasn't in their jurisdiction. I was 19, alone, frightened, and losing my bus pass , identity card, and 700 rupees, which was probably over an years saving,  had seemed like the end of the world. I found correct police station, and the lady officer flatly told me that it was a loss not a theft. ( Kho gaya likho. likho usmein koi paise nahi the). Thus was the FIR filed, with most of the information being provided by the policewoman, and I threw in a few bits of information as well.

Couple of years later, someone stole my phone. This time I again went to the station, they again redirected me based on 'area'. This station had cleverer cops, after sniggering among themselves and ensuring that I was discomfited even before I started talking, they listened to my story, saw my bills for the phone, and told me that I need to go to court, get an affidavit on stamp paper, get it counter signed, and then they can register the FIR. I was older and wiser, and knew by now , that there are no such requirements for the FIR.  I looked at the man smirking in front of me, and thought of the office work piling up, and the trade offs of fighting with him, vs getting those unnecessary affidavits, vs doing nothing. I looked around, saw the next policeman's leer, and walked out, leaving the theft unreported.

An year later, as another phone got flinched, this time while I was barely 200 metres from the police station, I rushed there and insisted they register the FIR. While the junior policeman argued with me that it was a 'loss' not a theft, his boss, came and told him 'nahin, jaisa madam bol rahi hain, vaisa hi likho'. I could barely believe my ears. After shouting at them ' Maine kitni baar kaha hai, jaisa woh kehte hain chup chaap vaisa hi likho', he gave me a reassuring smile, told me the phone would be traced, and went to another room.The minute he was out of ear shot, the constable again told me ' chori thodi hui madam, yeh to aapse kho gaya hai', while I looked speechlessly at him. The senior happened to comeby and shouted again, got my FIR registered, apologized to me. His eyes belied his reassuring words, and I wasn't surprised when the angst showed in the words  'Main koshish karta hun magar.. ' his voice trailing away helplessly..

The last time I had to enter the police station, for a friends purse snatching, nothing surprised me anymore. I knew the script. First the 'jurisdiction', then time wasting and convincing about the pointlessness of FIRs, and then of course the insistence on usage of the word 'loss' vs theft.

These were what are probably labelled as 'petty crimes'. Low priority bugs, P4s. And the system seems quite geared to prevent them from being reported.

I was reminded of these again and again over the years, at the time of Nithari, at the time of the bus full of men gone amock, again this week...

stricter laws and death penalty makes me laugh... because the alternative to laughing is of course to cry.. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where there's a will @ Rangashankara

Finally after a rather long break, thought I'd catch a play again at Rangashankara, and luckily there was one playing with decent reviews.

Quite enjoyed the play, ( not to mention the first day in a long long time, when I actually went all over town, and didn't feel dead) . A rather overbearing rich  man tries to bend his family to his way of thinking, although his wife , son and daughter in law don't seem to be quite falling in line. In fact his son just seems to be waiting to get his hands on the money. But our wily old man has made other plans.. but then we know what they say about the best laid plans..

Its a tongue in cheek look at the characters, as they jostle for power and control, and the dialogues are mostly a laugh a minute. Barring a brief interlude of 2-3 minutes much later in the day when the tone dipped ( really didn't think that jelled with the rest of the play), most of the play is really enjoyable, with a clever sub-text which isn't too much in your face.

A good watch overall.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

All things bright and beautiful - James Herriot

Had read all of this books long back in college and totally loved them.

Along with Wodehouse he has been my all time favorite authors. Yesterday while scanning my book shelf looking for something light and easy to read to tide me over, I found the whole set of the Herriot series and picked one up after many years. Was reminded of a conversation with a friend who had been in a pickle once, and while discussing Wodehouse, we'd both agreed how the humour was just so precious.. the perfect antidote to life's blows.

Stuck between heart warming stories of the dogs and sheep and cows and horses, was the stoic philosophy of 'these things happen'.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hitch 22 - Christopher Hitchens

Not really meant for a reader like me.

The autobiography is steeped in mentions of his literary and political contacts, most of which ( yes even the literary ones, since they are the intellectual luminaries) are not familiar to me. It would really be enjoyed only by someone who's familiar with the people and literature mentioned.

There's also a lot of stuff about his political outlook, how it evolved and changed, which might also make more sense to someone with knowledge of politics.

Not much about his family, I daresay some people wouldn't like to write about their spouse and children who are still alive. much easier to write about tracing your ancient historical roots, ( which he does on his mothers side). Not much about the evolution of his atheism either.

Overall, the books still holds your attention in the way its written, notwithstanding the large vocabulary, both in terms of language and contacts.

another year goes by..

did a couple of girls only trips.. had a lot of fun.. realized that some of the fetters are mostly of our own making. specially the guilt trips.. about work, about family..

ran a few half marathons, some with preparation, some without. enjoyed them thoroughly.  before taking a break from running altogether.

improved on yoga, helped get the dvd out, and then pretty much took a break from that as well..

tried working in a new work place, starting from zero. realized that with a handful of supportive people, its not as difficult as I'd thought.

lived in a guesthouse for a couple of months, and realized that some lucky people get to live most of their lives in this blissful state. arrive at the meal times, and have fresh hot meals served to you. never have to worry about groceries. come back from work, and find the rooms and loos all clean and ready. never worry about bills and stuff. but then of course, its an empty room to come back to..

finally after many years of waiting, chucked my job, and tried doing absolutely nothing for a while.. which was quite glorious. wake up when you want, sleep when you want, read , watch movies, travel. unfortunately the glory only lasts while the money lasts, and when that runs out...

traveled and met some long lost relatives and friends...

tried to learn swimming again, made a small bit of progress. maybe one of these years..

and finally of course rounded off the year with an 'illness'. tried hard to change, and realized that i'd only found new reasons not to.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The deer hunter - Michael Cimino

Its an interesting watch, packed with some pretty good acting. 

A bunch of steel workers in America are getting ready to leave for Vietnam, and we get a glimpse of their life. The life isn't idyllic, and thats partly what makes us so invested in it, the work, the romances, the marriage, the little fights and the not so little fights. They go deer hunting, and the main character, Michael views the exercise as one of skill, as game, the whole point being to get the deer in one shot. Once in Vietnam, they are captured, and forced to play the russian roullete. So much for the one shot. Much follows on from there, as in many ways they escape from the physical prison, but remain in many ways imprisoned. 

As a slow moving movie, I found that it still held my interest, inspite of the length and the lack of action in many places. However, for a movie which shows the turn-around of a deer hunter, I found it ironic that it couldn't help avoid rather jingoistic scenes of american 'rightness' in many places. Hey if you want to have an ideological discussion of the Vietnam war lets have one, it doesn't take much to see how ridiculous it is to defend your 'capitalism' by bombing a land you have no locus standi on. However the movie does not take any idealogical stands about capitalism etc. And given that, its a little unwarranted to show one sided depiction of north Vietnamese cruelty. I mean either you show both sides, or you leave well alone. 

However, those are somewhat minor quibbles, overall it was pretty watchable.


Conviction is such a lovely thing. The conviction that you're right. What mountains you can climb with that. But what if you don't have it? What if at every stage you're assailed by doubts, as new evidence emerges, as things you expected, don't happen, as you're forced to rethink, again , and again.. and again?

What then do you do with your vacillation, that most abhorred of all states? 

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Bad Boy's Guide To The Good Indian Girl - Annie Zaidi & Smriti Ravindra

Quite disappointing overall.

I'd read 2-3 short stories by Zaidi before, which I had really liked, so took a chance on this one. Plus the general theme had seemed interesting... where do the double standards of our society's judgement of bad boys and good girls intersect?

The topics were all promising, but most of the stories just didn't seem to flow effortlessly.

Does he know a mother's heart - Arun Shourie

Can't say I liked it, inspite of the fact that its sub - title ( how suffering refutes religions), should appeal to my atheistic views.

The book cover shows a family photograph of Shourie, his wife and their son, with the couple pointing towards the camera, and looking straight at it, obviously urging their son to do likewise. One can't say whether Aditya with his cerebral palsy is really looking at the camera or not. The slim first chapter of the book is an emotional autobiographical summary of Shourie's life before and with Aditya.

Then the majority of the book turns towards religions. Christianity is torn apart, with its rather egotistical , chauvinistic and unforgiving god, not to mention the inherent contradiction I'd caught even as a 11 year old kid, wondering why we were supposed to hate Judas, when God had already decided that Judas was the chosen one to do the betraying. It was like a play, with an already written script, and we were just acting out the lines. There's no free will anyway , right? Why the vilification then ? Islam with its shared texts  of course fares no better. Then Shourie trains his guns on Gandhiji's superstitious statements about the earthquakes. A major chunk then goes into quoting and ripping apart hinduism's wishy washy - the world is an illusion, but wait no, karma is real silliness. And of course the free will debate - Not a leave moves..

All pretty much common sense stuff, organised religion seldom makes sense on critical analysis anyway. Whether it is still a useful crutch, is perhaps a harder question to answer. Shourie does leave quotes which suggest that it is useful to some people, even though his own conclusions are to the contrary. The central question of course remains unanswered convincingly by any of the religious texts - Why the suffereing ?

Overall the book is far too long, plodding and repetitive, and I honestly had no patience left to read the last few chapters, which I just skimmed through.