Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Never been below the equator

Hoping to leave a foot print on all continents some day :)
**Europe,Latin America,Africa and Australia still out of bounds. Need to plan.

**Not counting stop overs.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Well said, Ian Botham!

I wasn't really surprised when i read in passing that a stink was raised over cheerleaders at the ongoing IPL tamasha. I thought it was the usual suspects. The Shiv Senas and the much reviled Hindu moral police. But no. I was actually surprised that the hue was raised by our very own Congress party's minister in Maharashtra. And my shock knew no bounds when a Leftist minister Subash Chakravorty of West Bengal continued with this cry.

I was like boy, have the tables turned of what? Role reversal anyone? Is it a plan to have Shiv Sena out of business by hijacking issues close to "their" hearts :). Since when did the "open-minded" Leftists and Congressmen start moral policing? I thought they were the "cool" dudes of India's politics.

Anyways, jokes aside, all this cheerleading BS needs to be seen in a perspective. While politicians may be having their own agenda at opposing it, Ian Botham (the ultimate cricket Casanova) has made some valid points at an article in cricinfo.

In our pursuit of blindly copying USA, we tend to go overboard. Ian Botham has rightly asked for balance between entertainment and the game itself.

While NFL has achieved humongous success in USA, we still talk of the "game" itself. Of course it is glamorized by cheer leaders and rock stars during Super Bowl interval. But thats not all that is to it. And the IPL organizers would do good to note that. In copying NFL or USA in general, they should also see how regulations and checks and balances have been put in place.

By the time IPL's first tournament ends, it may have changed cricket for ever. It is too soon to say what's going to happen. On the face, it seems to have captured the imagination of people in general. The fast food version of the game is here to stay. It would be interesting to see if England, SA and Aussies have their own clubs and there is some merging after say 5 years down the line. Only time will tell.

In any case IPL has got it's timing right. Kerry Packer almost got it right 3 decades back. But the (cricketing) world was not yet ready for it. The infrastructure, the media, the speed was not quite up there. It seems like all forces have to come together to have a fully baked dish ready.

And IPL has seized that moment. It is fair to say, IPL's rebel ICL was a damp squid. It was a non starter and the likes of Brian Lara and Inzy would be kicking their own sad asses to have gone that way. It's a shame that Zee, the org that originally came up with idea, has not much to show for it's success. In today's world, it is success if it is visible, if it is tangible. Zee, just couldn't grab enough eyeballs.

Botham makes another very important point. That of T20 being all about batsman-ship. This is sad. Every one likes to see sixes and fours galore. But in my humble opinion, one of the greatest sites of crickets is when an Akhtar or a Brett Lee comes at full MoFo pace and cartels a batman's furniture. Or when a Shane Warne or Murli make a hapless victim of a dancing batman. Cricket's center of gravity is moving away from bowlers. It may sound sexy in short term, but long term we may end up belittling the game itself. We need bouncy, green pitches so that the games can be fair play grounds for bowlers and batsman alike. Of my list of all time greats, I have more bowlers than batsmen. So may be it is my personal bias here.

IPL has now started with all the reality show like drama (Sounds oxymoron isn't it) with the slap-gate and Bhajji ban in offing. Hope this does not turn into one of those Saas Bahu sagas. It would then be named KKPL.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tale of two states

There are two places i was lucky to visit as a young kid. Kashmir and Nepal. I say "lucky" coz looks like in foreseeable future i won't be able to visit them again.

I visited Kashmir (the Indian administered one) in the summer of 1989. Kashmir had still not fallen off the tourism radar till that point; but in all probability we would have been amongst the last tourists visiting it I guess. Kashmir went downhill around 1991 when Rubiana Sayeed, the daughter of the then Home Minister of India, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was kidnapped by Jihadis. Suddenly Kashmir overtook Punjab in the mainstream militant news space. By the time India woke up, Kashmir has slipped away from Democratic control and Army was the defacto ruler.

Even when we were in Kashmir in 1989, we could feel something was coming. The tension was palpable. We had heard of a public toilet blown up by a bomb in Srinagar, when we were taking a ride on Dal Lake. I still shudder to think that we actually took a private tour of rural Kashmir in a rented car. Of course we came off safe!! But we were so close to the cradle of militancy and yet so ignorant. We were a group of 10 people including uncle and aunt and their family. We went to places like Baramullah, Anantnag etc, unaware that something was brewing right THERE. To think that we could have easily been held hostage or even killed, still bothers me. We were that close to hotbed of jihadi militancy which was in it's nascent state.(I may be sounding more dramatic, but it's not too far from reality as i see in 20/20 hindsight)

20 years down the line, much water has flown through Jhelum river and some may say, a red blood filled one. To see one of the most beautiful places in the world, come to such state, kills me inside. It kills me that more that 100,000 civilians have been killed, more than 35000 Army men have lost their lives, and more than 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been rendered homeless by mindless violence. If this is not inhuman, nothing is.
The tranquil boat house rides of Dal Lake, the beautiful snow peaked mountains of Gulmarg, the narrow roads of Sonmarg and the beautiful natural-golf-course like landscapes of Pehelgam can only be described in an Urdu word - "Jannat". And to see this jannat become a hell is heart wrenching for any one living.

My second eventful trip was two years later, to Nepal. A so called "Hindu" kingdom ruled by a Monarchy. Nepal was just about moving to a democratic set up. And boy, did we choose the wrong time to visit that place? As fate would have it, on day of first election in the tiny kingdom we found ourselves stranded in a place called Pokhra. A beautiful valley 500kms east of Kathmandu. There was no exit route for us, once government agencies decided it was going to be a bandh. Not for a day or two, but for a week. I have to salute the management capacity of my father. He is one helluva guy. He somehow convinced 2 cab drivers to drive all of us, 20 hours to Indian border in the state of West Bengal. Me, my sister and my cousins were still school going kids then. We reached Indian border all tensed and exhausted to find some of the most disgusting custom officers trying to make money of our miseries. We finally reached Calcutta on 20th May. And God was not going to leave us at that. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Tamil Nadu next morning, and just when we had thought we had safely reached our country, things unraveled. Calcutta was under curfew and again we were stranded.

If this all looks filmy, well it was to some extent. But never for once did i see panic on face of my Dad. He was always in command. I could see his exceptional management skills and his taking initiative and taking control of situation on a royal display on both occasions - In Kashmir and in Nepal.

Things have unraveled in both these states ever since. Nepal recently voted a Maoist regime to power It's hard enough to deal with a Communist regime next door. And Maoist is the xtreme end of Communism. It is militant communism which itself by nature is aggressive. India has just added one more foreign policy disaster to it's ever growing list since days of Nehru. Nepal. Now firmly in hands of Maoists and a Chinese sidekick. China can use Nepal the way it wants from here on. How the Chinese proxy, Pranchanda plays his role out, only time will tell.

Both Nepal and Kashmir are not natural problems, but man made ones. In both cases, these two states (one country actually) have been let down my people who should not have let them down. Even today millions of Kashmiri immigrants are trying to make ends meet. They have been uprooted from their rightful places by poor and soft policies of one nation. Same with Nepal. Kashmir may still recover some day. But Nepal has very little chance from here on. The Maoist/Communist grip can suffocate any thing in sight. It's only downhill for Nepal now. With Nepal, the encircling of India is nearly complete now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"We din't start the fire"

In a sense "We din't start the fire" was my foray into "foreign" music. Born in central india, the only "foreigner" i knew, who could sing was Michael Jackson before that.

I think it was 1989 (or was it '88), and our only Television channel was the state-run Doordarshan. I remember watching the recorded version of the Grammy awards on our Black and White , BPL television. It was shown late on a Friday night, after Prannoy Roy's "The world this week"

Before this song, of course, company of few friends in my school had exposed me to Pop and Rock including George Michael's Faith, Bruce Springteen's "Born in the USA" etc.But those were few and far.

Starting with "We din't..." i got into that mode, where you talk of music, collect stuff (cassettes and custom recorded stuff), exchange with friends and so on. I actually did not understand this song at all, but somehow it was appealing. Some names in the song were familiar. Nixon..monroe..stalin..h-bomb..

That this song is a "classic" and is referred to even today, is a little strange. It does not have any "lyrics" per se, yet it has a message. An effective one. The list of personalities and places it mentions, ring a bell across the globe to any listener. And yeah we get the message - 'The fire was always on, ever since the world was turning.."

Brilliant, humorous and very straight. No poetry, yet hummable. It's weird how some songs become timeless classics. Specially this one, which started as a conversation between Billy Joel and his friend's son. Just another random thought!

No Country for Old men: A review

Finally saw it. huff..!
Too many things din't make sense to me, including loads of Oscar nomination and wins.

Ending the review abruptly, like the movie itself (Aah got it.It was "the end" that got it all nominations)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Turn offs

Random list - as it comes - of things that turn me off

- People wearing sunglasses - Indoors
- Safari Suit (an old Indian concept of male dressing)
- 'Just married' desi babes, wearing kumkm/magal-sutra on a western outfit.
- Wet socks
- Squeaking noise of chalk on a black board (old times)
- Attention seekers (specially at office meetings)
- Loud mouths
- Bull Shiters and Buzz word users
- Vulgar display of riches
- Karan Johar and his sensibilities; not to mention his movies
- Orkut
- Rediff readers comments
- Parking in Chicago downtown
- Sean Hannity
- Larry King
- Air India
- The word "desi". I prefer "deshi", if at all
- Nehru-Gandhi family and related news
- Secular elites of India
- Loaded (and attempted) American accent of "deshis"
- Program Managers (whatever that means)
- Job Switching
- Relocation (trust me, it's a pain)
- Sunday evenings
- Unending Chicago winter
- Domestic flights (USA)
- Gas prices
- Infrastructure in India
- Simi Garewal
- Pink
- People calling the Indian movie "Black" a Classic
- Gadget zealots
- Socialism and Communism
- Lou Dobbs
- Starbucks
- Reservations (the Indian notion)
- Gaudy over decorated homes with lots of stuff
- Indian Restaurants in USA (90% of them at least)
- Devon street, Chicago
- Awkward silences
- Over friendly people
- People asking personal questions on first meeting
- Los Angeles
- Political ads on Television
- Over doze of liberalism (We get it, Thanks)
- Mayawati and color Blue
- Lalu
- Mandira Bedi commenting on cricket
- Medical system in USA
- The idea of Nanny state
- Office politics
- Lame Award speeches
- Hunting for deals on internet
- Long phone conversations
- Random forwarded emails
- No responses for emails
- Dogs
- Cats
- 23 year old, fresh out of college MBA Directors (ya i know, Sour grapes :( )
- Meaningless arguments
- Raj Thackrey
- Big movie stars dancing at rich private parties
- Mamta Banerjee
- Loss of Baggage at Airports
- Customer Service calls
...... and many more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Haven't we moved yet?

Trust me when i say this. I did not know there was a movie called Baghban. No i am no ABCD like Mr Nene/Dixit who did not know (apparently) Hindi cinema exists. I am very much into Hindi movies. Yet i somehow missed this. I missed the fact - Baghban existed.


I got a glimpse of this Baghban thingy at a friend's place last weekend. It was running on his cable while i visited him. The movie was already done half way by then.I must have watched the movie for about 10 minutes or so and got the entire picture. It was about the relationship of parents with their grown up kids. This is an oft-repeated theme of Indian movies. I remember an old Rajesh Khanna / Shabana Azmi movie with same theme some years back. I think it was in mid-80s. It's almost a formula film. And in Indian context, a winning one. Because Baghban, i am told was a hit !!! (I need to pinch my self hard..wait)

So haven't we yet moved on? I thought the mushy-mushy senti stuff was a thing of past. What's with this whole, over-the-top sentimentality in Indian relations? Whether its bhayya-bahena or bhayya-bhayya-tyaag or even dost-dost thing. We just have to bring out the ham in us. The we-will-do-anything-for-each-other stuff. We Indians just take it a bit too far. I mean showing that infinite love for each other thing. Need some subtlety folks!!

Sentimentality is a multi-billion dollar industry in India. Ask Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year awarded Ms Ekta Kapoor. She created an industry out of tears. The more tear jerker, the more TRP she got. Baghban some how is an extension of that whole emotional thing. So was all time hit Hum Aapke Hai Kaun. A case of tyaag (sacrifice) taken too far.

Sometimes i need to know, where are all these mega families? Where are these bhayyas and well decked bhabhis? Are they only a figment of Ekta Kapoor's and Suraj Barjatiyas imagination? Or they do exist in some remote farm houses of Delhi's elite?

Which is why i appreciated Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding. It was real world (to some extent). It was very north indian, joint family, Delhi elite stuff. Yet it managed to contain it's indian-ness without having to go over the top. But who am i kidding? Comparing Mira Nair with these folks.

Having said that, Mira Nair and Ravi Chopra (Baghban's Director) were of course targeting different audiences. Both meant business. Baghban's audience was large, middle class India. The wannabe rich, joint, family-walas. Mira Nair on the other hand was looking to impress her alma mater at NYU. Both succeeded in reaching out to their respective niches. To that extent Baghban makes perfect business sense. It is an ensemble of beautiful people, with tons of time and money at their disposal, having a luxury of crying 24X7. Which middle class indian lady wouldn't want to be a part of this mushy mushy dream roller coaster?

I guess in the end it is fair to say, we haven't moved on. A large population of India is still looking for that next tear-jerker. And as long as middle-India craves for that pastel pink sentimentality, Ekta Kapoor and Suraj Barjatiya will have a field day every time they start a new production.

Funny stuff this

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another Black Day

Supreme Court virtually acted as Spokesmen for Arjun Singh.

UPA's cruel reservation policy won a victory today.

No wonder Congress keeps winning elections. This time it was 50% quota. To win next election Sonia and Co would have 100% reservations :)

Booo...to UPA and its supporters..

-Frustrated India.

Post Script: Updated Today.

And the Congress continues playing with the future. Now it wants quota in Private Institutes too

Monday, April 7, 2008

Paris : Way to go

China needs to know, smokescreen won't help. Everyone is not like India

More on China here and here

Of course the China sponsored Indian newspaper The Hindu's Editorial shows its true colors (The Red one). No prizes for guessing where N.Ram's pocket money comes from.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rajni Sena

Shiv Sena recently asked Amitabh Bachchan to look up to Rajnikant for inspiration and act like him. Act- as in real life.

Now Shiv Sena's comment is un called for and self serving. It is trying hard to re-establish itself as a "Marathi Manoos" party after Raj Thackrey took out some wind from it's wings. These latest comments are a part of the Sena vs Sena deal. This is politics and nothing else. Having followed Indian politics for over a decade very closely, nothing surprises me. Even the Sonia-asking-her-Ladla-to-become-a-Minister and the sacrificing "lal", that Rahul Baba is, so magnanimously- refusing-it sham, does not amuse me anymore

But when i read of Sena's comment, i started doing some research on Rajnikant's public profile. I also spoke to a few friends from Chennai who sort of gave me a first hand Chennai-eye-view of Rajnikant. And boy! that man is a Hero or what? Rajnikant commands such an awesome following in most of southern part of India, i was a more than a little surprised. His following they say is not only for his roles in movies, he is actually worshipped because of all the philanthropic work he has done in Tamil Nadu.
There was this incident that happened some years back in Chennai - a friend tells me. J.Jayalalitha was the CM then. She had some strict rules about her moving in the city. The roads would be closed and no traffic would be allowed to move an hour before she and her troupe used the road and one hour after she left. She would make the whole city come to stand still just so that her royal highness's entourage could move around. This was obviously causing a lot of inconvenience to ordinary mortals.

Rajnikant who was living in the neighbourhood decided to do something about it. He has this kind of magical effect on ordinary people on streets. He decided to use this "majic" in a manner that JJ would never forget. Just when it was announced Madam JJ was about to use the road and all traffic would be blocked, Rajni-The Boss decided to "stroll" on the road. Just a causal walk. And that was it. The crowd went berserk. Imagine their God on the road in white kurta and lungi. Talking to them, laughing with them and all. No police force in the world can handle this. The police could do nothing but be bystanders. JJ got the message it seems. And decided not to have her royalty hamper ordinary folks daily lives.

I thought it was a telling story of Rajni's real life antics. One of the reasons Rajnikant is so popular is because he is so close to ground. He is humble and humane. Off-screen he is like any other person. And every Chennaite can relate to him without feeling the "wall". He has such magical powers because he has none.

Shiv Sena is asking Amitabh to be like Rajni. It is wrong on so many levels. First- it is individuals choice what and how s/he wants to behave and conduct. Rajnikant by his very nature is not flamboyant. Philanthropy comes to him easily. His belief system is very different than Bachchan. Rajnikant thinks he owes everything to Tamil Nadu and it's people even though he is a maratha born in Karnataka. Mr. Bachchan does not feel that way. And is not obliged to feel that way. So Shiv Sena cannot dictate Mr. Bachchan's way of life.

Bachchan likes to move around in the "upper circle" of Ambanis and Amar Singhs. But that's his personal choice. How is it anyone's concern as long as he is honest to law and country. To ask him to do something for Maharashtra just because he is originally from UP is plain silly. Rajni is not Bachchan and Bachchan is not Rajni. Simple?
Well not so for Sena i think!

Bachchan and Rajnikant are actors. First and foremost. If Bachchan has political ambitions and looks at Uttar Pradesh for those things, so be it. He can open as many colleges in UP as he wants. He can open hospitals in UP if wants. It's no one's business where he wants direct his "social work". His obligation to Maharashtra is not binding to social work as long as he is paying taxes and is a law abiding citizen. It's like Shiv Sena saying - "See why can't you become like Mahatma Gandhi" to some one who does not want to and not obliged to.

Maharshtra and specially Mumbai has been a good platform for a lot of creative folks. But that does not mean Maharshtra needs to demand from these people to "give us back" something. It does not work that way. Long before Bachchans came, TATAs, Bajaj, Godrej, Mahindra, Kalyani, Firodias and lot many non-Marathi families made Maharashtra their home. We have not asked them "what they gave back to Maharashtra". They came to Maharshtra because this was the promised land. It provided them an environment where they could be successful entrepreneurs. And it worked both ways. These people came and created jobs. And opened new avenues. And it was a win-win.

Shiv Sena would do good not to antagonize harmless important citizens like Bachchan and shoot off their big mouth.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

O' Chicago !!!

"It's a beautiful day in Chicago"

"Being a Cubs fan prepares you for life - and Washington."

"Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world"

"It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows her prophecies faster than she can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time"

"Recommended items for your time in Chicago: hat,gloves/mittens,thermal underwear,scarf,ear cozies/earmuffs,winter/snowboots, small package of Kleenex, lotion"

"Chicago is perhaps the most typically American place of America"

"I have struck a city-- a real city-- and they call it Chicago.... I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages"

"I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib.It is alive from snout to tail"


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Aam Admi's curse

Price Rise : Skyrocketing

Reforms : Null

Handouts and Freebies : Hundreds and Thousands of million dollars in politicians pockets

Reservations : Doubled.

Deaths in Terrorism : Tripled

Infrastructure Development : Negligible

Foreign Policy : USA and China , thumbs down.

Monarchy : Very Strong

Democracy : Weakened.

Aam Aadmi : "Who's that? Go to Hell"