Monday, January 28, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

These guys make me sick

Anand Jon, an Indian born fashion designer was recently convicted of several charges of sexual misconduct and assault by a court in California.
The court found him guilty on more than 13 counts; a staggering figure by any account.
A plethora of models submitted to witness against Jon. It wasn't a one off incident. And as reports started pouring in after the first accusation, more and more cases of his misbehavior were widely reported.

So what is the Indian Fashion community's response to this?

Yes you guessed it. They are crying "Racialism" !!!!

Now how "ghetto" is this. When will we ever be confident enough as a race? Isn't this simply a lame defense mechanism?

You come to America, you enjoy the fast cars, the non-polluted air, the glamour and glitz and all that. You even dream the American dream. You earn a ton. Till that time all is fine. This country is great.
But the moment you have to take some heat of it's Law, your "sensitive" heart is outraged. You suddenly remember India (Which by the way you royally left behind with a condescending look)

This is not to say American Justice System is just. It may have many shortcomings. But which system does not have these shortcomings? Is Indian Justice System above board?

Just because this country allows you to shout "racism", you do that? If you think that the court was unfair, its not end of the road. You have means to contest the findings of the court.

You don't do that by lighting candles and collecting a bunch of losers who's credibility in society is negligible. This a pathologically sick.

Check this statement - "If our country won't take care of us, who will?". This statement by Jon's sister made me throw up.

"Our country"? [Almost like PuLa Deshpande's "Aamchi Yeshti?"] The same country you did not even think of twice when you were in rush to leave it in the first place? The same country who's fashion designers can't stop going gaga over the west?
And who's this Majid Menon by the way? The same guy who is defending Dawood Ibrahim in Indian courts?

These limo-liberals take my goat really. Would they have lit such candles for Taslima Nasreen? I hate this "our fashion community has come together" syndrome.

Let that f**king fashion designer suffer his fate. Serves him right. And all you super sensitive bleeding hearts, just FO.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Right to a Choice

As a kid you go to school. The school is attached to The Board of Education.It comes under the state government which also has links to the central government. So basically your school is tied to the government and it's Education Department. The education board sets the syllabus and all schools are bound to that syllabus.

Without going too far on this, let me come to my point. As a kid i was expected to write an essay on the Father of the Nation- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Now as a kid i had no choice but to do the following:

1] I was expected to call MK Gandhi as Mahatma and as a Father of the Nation
2] I was expected to write only good things about him
3] I was not expected to deviate from conventional thoughts

If i did all the above my teacher would give me good marks. But if lets say i wouldn't call MK Gandhi a Mahatma but as Mr. Gandhi, i probably would have failed my Essay test. Tied to the government you see!

Now essay is a subjective entity by itself. Meaning it is not Arithmetic. Nor Science really. An essay is actually a great idea to let a person ooze out his or her creative juices. Essay's if bound by rules and boundaries loose their essence.

Nevertheless all students of the class were expected to parrot the same lines given to them by teacher. "Gandhi was a great man... Gandhi used non-violence...Gandhi did so and so..."

Basically every one of 60 or so students would write the exact same (or more or less same) lines and score marks. Marks were probably cut on bad writing or for missing out lines "given" by the teacher before the exam. Not for the "content" of the essay actually

I have heard that American school system works a little different. In a sense, parroting or mugging (as it's called in India) is discouraged and the kid is allowed to "venture out in the creative jungle". If that is the case it's definitely good. Here's why - as a kid my ability to question conventional wisdom was suffocated. Maths and Science is a little different. They are not abstract and relative / subjective (unless in a very advanced mode); on the other hand History deals with personalities and personalities have variations and cannot be boxed into stereotypes and boundaries.

As far as Gandhi is concerned, my real teacher on this subject was my grandmother. At age 9 she told me a few things about Gandhi that none of my school teachers or school books taught. It was an enlightening discussion. She told me about his mistakes, his soft pedaling with fundamentalists of his times etc.

But she did not tell me all this in a negative sense. All she said was - "remember Gandhi had another side too". I thought that was genius. To tell a kid, not to follow conventional wisdom blindly but seek your own judgment as you grow; that is cool. In that sense my Granny became a great teacher for me that particular day.

She taught me a lesson, not for a particular semester;but for Life.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Indian of the Year !!!

Like Bollywood awards an array of awards have mushroomed in India in past few years. The Indian Leader of the Year, The Indian Business Man of the Year, The Indian Sportsman of the Year.... etc
There are one too many of these awards now; so much so that it's hard to keep track.

January apparently is the award season. So now we have leading media houses in India like NDTV, IBN-CNN, Hindustan Times handing away such awards every year in Jan.

NDTV had the gal to name Mr.Manmohan Singh as this year's Indian "Leader" of the Year.

I would let you take a deep breath before moving ahead.

Yes Manmohan Singh and "Leader", two words, that don't really go together.
Shouldn't be a surprise as the same NDTV gave away this "Indian" of the year award to Sonia Gandhi two years back !!!

It's time this closet-Commie news channel "comes out" and make it's agenda public. It's been while since it has been known in a lot many circles now that NDTV is out and out a Congress-Commie News Channel. May be not in the politically correct public space, but you can find thousands of forums on the internet that have glaring evidence of it's total lopsided reporting on political matters.

"Leader of the Year" award to Manmohan Singh is wrong on so many levels that it's hard to cover all of them.

Shouldn't a leader inspire masses and classes both? First of all, shouldn't a leader "LEAD" ? Shouldn't a leader be a statesman who takes even the opposition into confidence before dealing on significant issues like Nuclear Deal? Shouldn't a "Leader" be a crowd puller? A person who can inspire the youth as well as the rural population of the nation to come do something?

This Manmohan Singh guy is not even a leader within his own party, forget about being "India's" leader by the way! And NDTV wants us to believe that Manmohan Singh is "leading" us from the front?

Couldn't NDTV find a single person in India who did not happen to be a puppet Prime Minister? He could have been a social reformer, a person who was working day and night in rural india trying to make a difference, inspiring masses and classes both? There are so many of these unsung leaders in India! NDTV and it's plush AC studio team who lecture all of us on liberalism , did not find a single Indian like this?

It's said that during the award ceremony, such was the lack of acknowledgement of our PM's presence that a journalist from South who was asking question to Rajnikant-the Boss (who won an award in another category) did not even mind sidelining Manmohan Singh on the stage !!! So much for our "Leader".

I don't even know why only politicians should qualify for this award? Aren't there "leaders" in other professions? Why this obessession with politicians in Award season?

NDTV is loosing credibility faster than Musharaf. If it does not hold it self up and take a good hard look in the mirror, it would soon become the official spokes-person of Madam Gandhi. And looking at the trend in India, that is not the best business direction a business house like NDTV would like to make

Friday, January 18, 2008

Food to die for

I think "Vaanga" [Egg Plant or Brinjal] is under rated. If prepared properly a "Masala Vaangi" can beat any other dish. This fact i discovered a few years back at a lunch at my friend's place. His mom had prepared delicious "Vaangi Curry". It was simmering hot curry with Brinjals neatly cut, horizontally floating and dipped inside the curry. It was brownish green in color and if i had a vote on this - it was the best Egg Plant dish i ever had. I mean EVER in bold and caps.

Accompanying the curry were feather weight phulkas all puffed up with white loni (home made butter) dripping through it's center. Can you top that? Buttered Phulkas with Vangi Curry and thats it.

That lunch still lingers on.I would be honest. Till that point of time in my life, i treated Brinjal with derision. Almost with contempt. That was the day this purple vegetable worked itself up my taste pallet ladder.

There's this thing about food. The taste has to match the mood. It is almost like music. Sometimes you want to listen to "Blues" while sometimes even hard Rock is good. Sometimes you may even want a Shiv Kumar Sharma. What the heck - lets just say food is like music.

This was some years ago. It was a wintry morning. We were driving overnight, back after attending a wedding in Bangalore. We were 7 or 8 of us, all college friends. We had rented a Tata Sumo. It must have been around 5:30ish in the morning when the driver thought of taking a break. He parked at a road side Dhaba and the Dhabawala was just about opening his shop. Every one was sleepy and sluggish. But we were hungry too. So we thought of getting down and have some tea and stop ahead for a proper breakfast later. The driver though had other plans. He asked the Dhabawala to make something for him. The Dhabawala told him he was about to make some parathas if he was interested. Some of us then jumped in and told him they won't mind trying out too.

Before we knew, all of us had gulped our way to more than 30 parathas. The parathas kept coming and we kept eating. It was kick-ass. It was delicious. It was the paratha of the century if i have to take liberty with exaggeration. It was out of the world. Also it wasn't small in size or anything. The size was alright. Not too thick , not too thin. But perfect. Just perfect.

All we had with that paratha was a small side dip of spiced up curd.Hot circles with a side curd. We just wouldn't stop eating.So 5:30 in the morning we were hogging like animals. It was an amazing experience.

This proves another thing. May be you like food you did not expect to be that good. As in, we were just done about rubbing our sleepy eyes and were preparing to have a bit of taste of the paratha and leave. But it was so unexpectedly delicious, it just took us off on a runway. That we had repercussions of over-eating later is a different issue. [Hogging can ring a different meaning in Hindi though!]

Those parathas were made by a Sardarji who did not care too much for them. He was making it as a routine. I wonder if he knew he had this talent? Was he aware they were so damn delicious?

So what is that one dish, that one meal that you would just die for? I think i may have a few on my list. So let me start here..

- Savji or Saoji Chicken

My wife has one such dish up her sleeve. Savji Chicken. We only recently discovered the recipe through a friend. And ever since, she has made it a few times. Thats the thing though, about these "to-die-for" dishes. They should be tried only in less frequency as you might end up disliking the dish altogether. This happened to me for a couple of dishes. For example Butter Chicken and Paneer Butter Masala. I don't think I have had these two in last 7 years. I over ate them at some point in my life. So we make it a point to have Savji Chicken only once in few months to maintain it's aura.

But the day we have it, we drool. We are all over it. With spring and regular onions nicely cut and placed just by the side, Savji Chicken can kick some serious butts. The multi-layered, extremely dark and red in color curry, the more than average oily dish can also cause trouble next day if the spice level is not calibrated. But for that extreme spice level, Savji Chicken is right up there on the list.

- Bombay Pav Bhaji.

Yes, and please have "Bombay" Pav Bhaji in Bombay only. Don't try it in Pune. It doesn't stick. Get down at any suburban local train station in Bombay. You would find a couple of fast food stalls right outside the station with crowd all round it. If you don't find such a stall, you are probably not in Bombay. Find your way through the crowd and grab that awesome plate. The plate with thick bhaaji almost overflowing the metal and with very finely cut onion with a small piece of cut lemon right at the center. This can give any other dish on this earth a run for its money. But more importantly the Bombay Pav Bhaaji's crowning glory is the Butter soaked Pav. The slightly yellowish tinged small puffed and very soft pav. You should surprise yourself if you don't order "extra pav"

- Pudachi Vadi and Puran Poli made by my Mom.

These two are the quintessential festival food dishes. Un paralleled in taste. They both are extremely calorie-rich and can disturb the balance of the diet-time-table. It's hard to have them in reasonable quantities. While melted ghee placed between the puran poli only adds to it's irresistibility; the perfectly developed crust around the kothimbir in Pudachi Vadi adds to the perfect combination of ingredients.

There's this thing about Pudachi Vadi. It grows taste as it grows old. An already irresistible Pudachi Vadi becomes almost compelling after a day or two. Imagine yourself in front of the Television watching an India-Aussie match and your mom gets a plate of Pudachi Vadi with a little sauce on the side. I can only top it up with a bottle of beer.

- Pizza

You would think that the best Pizza you ever had was in Papa Jones,Domino's or De Generos. Or the Chicago style stuffed Pizza or the California one. Or you would think Italy, the birth place of Pizza, would have you the best Pizza.
Think again! What if this Pizza is Indianized? Green Chilli, Heavy Tomato suace, filled with toppings in a smaller circle.
Total Ghaati. If you are up for it, try going to Mathura Restuarant on Jangli Maharaj Road in Pune. It serves the world's best Ghati Pizza. And as far as i am concerned, the best Pizza.

- Kristoffer's Cake

I am not so much into sweets. I don't find them appealing and wouldn't go all the way for deserts or cakes. But there's this one small little shop in the "Little Italy" town of Chicago. It's called Kristoffer's cake. If you ever happen to visit Chicago and miss going to Sears Tower, don't worry; you haven't missed much. But make sure you taste a cake at this place. It's beyond cake. It's beyond yummy. It is beyond words.It's Niravana

Last week on my suggestion someone in my team got it for our team meeting. That was the first time ever in our meetings that the cake got over. And it got over within no time. We did not have to place it in the cafeteria and send email to people saying , "there's a cake left over in the cafe so please help your self". The cake was not there. It just vanished.

There are so many dishes that i want to go on and on with the list. But to make it real quick here's an ancillary list of dishes i would just crave for at any point of time.

The ancillary list

- Mom's home made pani puri
- Mon's home made cut mango pickle
- Road side Sandwich in Bombay
- Sukha Bhel made by my Wife
- Wada Pav in Pune
- Aloo Bhonda at Keshav's Nagpur
- Samosa anywhere in Nagpur
- Dahi Samosa at Aaswad, Nagpur
- Zhunka Bhakar and Thecha at my ancestor's village in Yeotmal district
- Masale Bhaat and tup made by my paternal aunt
- Ghugras made at my maternal grandmother's place
- Dal Fry and Steam Rice made by my wife
- Sev Batata Puri at Anushaktinagar Colony in Mumbai

Some of the food outlets i thought were Superb

- Shravan - [pure vegetarian] in Pune
- Mathura - again in Pune
- Mahesh Lunch Home, again in Pune
- Sanjha Chula - Nagpur
- Barbeque - Nagpur
- Ashoka - Nagpur
- Any Shiv Sagar, Sukh Sagar in Mumbai
- Buffalo Wild Wings, Bloomington, IL

And lastly -

Best Soup i ever had - "Mulligatawny Soup" Taj Savoy, Ooty
Best Chicken Dish i ever had - "Shahi Kabab", Taj Ernakulam, Cochin.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nano and Mamo

Tata introduced Nano at an Auto Expo recently and ever since Nano has become the talk of the town.
In this huge heap of Nano-news, one news caught my attention.

This one.

Mamta asking Tatas to give away free Nanos to people of Singur !!!

If you read India's political news regularly, such items should surprise you no more. Freebies are India's political way of life. "Free Colored TVs, Free electricity, Free college seats..." is what a typical politician talks of.

But i think Mamta Banerjee has just raised the bar here. She is unabashed and totally oblivious to rationale. Now i don't care too much for Tatas or Mamta's opponents the Leftists either; but Mamta sure does not get any sympathies from the rest of the country who *so* want to see West Bengal come out of the Leftist clutches.
But it's a national tragedy that West Bengal could only produce a Mamta Banerjee to fight the communists. It's so difficult to support her.

West Bengal, once India's premier state, is heading south each passing year. On many parameters it is worse than Bihar. The Leftists have already squeezed out everything in last 30 years of their rule and are not stopping. A formidable opposition is the need of the hour to save Bengal. But all we could produce was a Mamta.

Rest of the states will move on irrespective. Yet its important that in a Nation, every state grows at nearly the same rate, else disparities creep in. This leads to massive inter state migration and imbalance in society. This leads to frustration and violence.

Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab,Tamil Nadu and even Chattisgarh is moving at a fast pace. If the more populace states of India like UP, Bihar, Bengal lag behind, it would create a disturbing situation and India won't be able to deal with in long run.

Soon Migration would become a hot topic in Maharashtra and Gujarat which take most of this migration brunt. Karnatak is facing a similar situation in Bangalore and Mysore.There is bound to be a backlash from local population and it won't be a surprise if more Shiv Senas take shape in coming years.

Hope Bengal wakes up soon.

Monday, January 7, 2008


2007 CE came to an end a few days back. There was no Tsunami, Katrina or a Mumbai deluge in 2007 but it was not without its share of moments; both good and bad.

Al'Gore won a "Noble" peace price for going green !! Wonder what the connection really was? Anyway he made his bit of news and got sidelined later in the year as focus shifted to other democratic presidential hopefuls.

Other than that the GOP lost its control over the Senate majority and Nancy Pelosi became the queen of the chair. Bush Jr's popularity touched a nadir in 2007 and kept going southwards way beyond his Texan shores.Chavez and Ahmadnibejad continued to "finger" Bush and USA and got away with it.
Iraq remained chaotic as ever but the "surge" apparently "worked" somewhat.

Paris voted for a conservative regime and so did South Korea. In other world news as India continued clocking 9% GDP growth rate, in neighboring Pakistan, General,President,whatever-Musharraf continued to preside over chaos and more chaos that ultimately culminated in death of Benazir Bhutto.
In all this "Time" magazine found it apt to name Russian Putin as their MAN of the YEAR !!

Narendra Modi fighting all odds stacked against him won a 2/3rd majority in the Gujarat state elections keeping BJP's hope alive. That was my "political moment" of 2007. A "V" from Modi thumbing down national mainstream media of India to its collective shame.

In other Indian political news the Pinky-Pinky-Didi Mayawati dislodged Mulayam Singh's government and became media's darling for a while till Mr.Modi dethroned her.

Also the Indo-US nuclear deal more or less was dumped into dustbin by Karat and co.
Mammohan Singh the "alleged" PM of India remained timid, slow and as impotent to deal with anything as possible. His Guru, Mr Narsimha Rao must surely be turning in his grave.

On terror front there was no letup in India as jihadis continued their free ride all over India. Train from Pakistan was bombed and then a Masjid in Hyderbad was followed by a brutal and sickening strike at a eating joint in Hyderabad. While the soft under belly of the Indian state continued to be exposed after each blast, it continued the tradition of appeasing Muslims, first by bringing about the communal Sachar Report and then playing hide and seek on Taslima issue.

On positive front the greatest moment of 2007 was provided by the Indian Cricket team. The young tigers beat Pakistan in the 20/20 World Cup. A picture of flag waving crowd on west Nagpur's busy road was my personal "signature moment" of 2007

Payton Manning brought glory to Colts finally but start of the new season Tom Brady continued with his upper hand cakewalking to the playoff for 2008 super bowl with record 16-0.

On the Entertainment side Helen Mirren walked all over the Oscars while Madhuri Dixit's "comeback" movie in Bollywood flopped. SRK gave a "Chak De" performance and iced the cake with an OSO.
Ash-Abhishek wedding had the Indian media eating out hands and making the Bachchan's life and TV audiences life miserable with irrelevant details about the wedding.

In TV "The Sopranos" ended their sitcom journey that left a lot of viewers confused and unsatisfied.

On Economic front, the sub-prime issue (some may call it a scandal) continued to ruffle many a feathers. Dollar plunged to record lows. Indian economy grew stronger and was reflected in its booming stocks which touched dizzying heights. Also just another feather in Indian-expat's cap was added when Mr.Pandit became Citi Groups top guy.

The real estate took a real dip in some regions of USA and fears of similar bubble burst in India started doing rounds.

All in all it was a mixed bag.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Friends and Seinfeld [FNS]

Of course they both are relatively old and well past the public space of discussions.But what the heck- they merit a mention even today.
No two sitcoms in recent past have hijacked the pop-culture space as much as Friends and Seinfeld.
I don't see any harm in saluting entities which till a few years back became part of every day American and to some extent European and Asian urban middle class lives.

I wonder what really ticked for both? How was "Friends" equally popular in the same demography of NYC as it was in Mumbai's? Check Orkut forums to see how Indians flood the "Friends" forums/groups. They literally dominate the forums.

Same with Seinfeld. Four unhinged, unidimensional characters, often crass and outrageous people connecting with world wide audience. Something strange about it, you'd think?There are only a few shows that had such a reach. Lucy show comes to mind, in terms of universal appeal. But i cannot think of many. The universal appeal of both these shows make them unique.

I have seen several reruns of both. I don't miss an opportunity to see George's stupid antics and Chandler's wisecracks. These names - Ross, Elane, Krammer, Phoebe...all became part of us at some point. You would meet them every day after work. Sometimes on weekends on DVRs. Their antics just clicked.

Friends was smooth. Also it was consistent (except towards the last season). It started getting a grip, i feel somewhere around 3rd Season. Confidence was showing on its characters as they started becoming more and more popular. Clearly they were improvising more and it showed. Seinfeld had patches of brilliance. It was not consistent. Larry David going off and coming back might have made the difference.

But yet both clicked at some levels.Both became sitcom classics. I thought Friends picked up great topics to connect. It was sleek in marketing itself. Seinfeld was more upfront and in-your-face. If Friends picked topics like all guys stranded owing to someone forgetting to pick the keys of the apartment, Seinfeld chose loosing car in the parking lot. So universal, so very connect able topics. These things can happen in Mumbai and London as it can happen in Beijing and Tokyo as much as it can happen in NYC.

To click, a sitcom should connect to the audience. To connect it should have humour that is easy,quick, digestible and at the same time contemporary. Very few jokes transcend age and demography. It's safe to say that lot of us won't find "Three's Company" and "Who's the Boss" funny today. But they were big hits in late 70s and early 80s. Same is true for FNS. Both won't be funny in 2010. Or they already are not?

I somehow feel Friends and Seinfeld humour is still catchy and even contemporary. But i woudn't bet on it. My latest favourite is "The Office"- i find it refreshingly different.But F-S did transcend age, race, Geographical regions as well. And therein lied their success.

Friends had a certain group dynamics which very few shows had. It was about six people in exact same age group. It is safe to assume that the audience for Friends was primarily an age group of -10 to +10 years of the Friends characters age group. So lets say 20 to 40. Now this is pretty much the most targeted age group for any sitcom.
The topics in Friends like - Ross's multiple divorces, Chandler's coming of age after many failures in relationship, Monica's affair with a man of her father's age, Ross and Rachael's off and on relation etc was relate able. The age group of 20-40 could be easily be appealed by such stuff. And it was a marketing master stroke of Friends to have brought in such topics.

Seinfeld on the other hand used humour to sweeten sometimes the dark side of human nature. Like people making politically correct noises about an ugly baby, or taking a death causally (After George's fiancee' dies they all go for a coffee, instead of mourning), etc

Seinfeld was not that sleek and appealing to lets say a very sensitive hamptons slash suburban crowd. But Friends was. Seinfeld though struck a chord with what i would call the humorists. People who can find humour in darker shades.

Seinfeld was very New Yorkish and very Jewish. Friends was New Yorkish alright, but also very urbane and soft.

I have already compared the two unintentionally, though i shouldn't have. I loved them both, and i may say equally. They were awesome.

We all need humour don't we? Humour is the positive side of life. It makes you forget and sometimes forgive. Humour can be addictive and infectious at the same time.
FNS, were additive and infectious.

I still feel that the vacuum post Friends/Seinfeld is hard to fill. TBS still runs reruns of these every day, and TBS people are not fools. They know people are still hooked to those jokes. There's still a very loyal audience for both, even after years of them going off air. These two raised the bar many times over. We are talking of 50-60 million watchers. NOt sure any from the current crop commands that kind of following.

As a tribute to two of my favourite shows here's a partial list of quotes that cracked me up -

1] "Joey, for one last time, it's not named after every individual"

2] "So exactly how many cameras were there on you?"

3] "I am speechless. I am without speech"

4] "I am still a cool guy. I am still neat"

5] "I invented the Its-not-you-its-me-routine"

6] "It was not a pick. It was a scratch"

7] "That was one magic spit"

8] "Can you sense anything now?"