Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sometimes I complain to my wife that I wanted the kande-pohe route of marriage and I missed it. Kande-Pohe used to be the quintessential 'arranged' marriage dish of Maharashtrians for those pre marital family meetings. I am not sure if that dish has been replaced by something else today. Nevertheless the cultural significance of Kande-Pohe cannot be denied as far as Marathi "meeting of the minds" is concerned. Never mind. exploded on the sub continent scene post Y2K and we entered the dot com era of Indian marriages. Whether has effectively shut down all the mom-and-pop local marriage bureaus of India, I am not sure. For now I am willing to bet, they co-exist. The local neighborhood marriage bureaus I would assume are still in business. And in some cases still flourishing.

It may be argued that in anyone's life, the decision of choosing a life partner is the single most significant moment of the lifetime. No one would ever take the plunge, I believe, thinking, "Ah, what the heck, let me give it a shot and try out"; unless of course you are a Liz Taylor or a Rekha.
99% of the people who get married, would take it as a given, that this would be their only marriage. And thus, there is that extra pressure I think on both the potential bride and the potential groom to get the decision of choosing life partner right in first shot. Their decision can have far reaching impact not only on their own lives but others related to them.

So here's my question, have websites like, helped this generation ease that pressure? Or have these sites only added more to it? The jury is still out. is a perfect example of Technology mixing with Culture. I have never used the site, but I am presuming, this site will help you with informed decision making process. Because everything is out there. The height,weight,complexion, caste, sub-caste, gotra, even salary details in some cases, family background, interests and hobbies, and what have you. All this information overload; is it good or bad? Does it help to come to a decision?

Clearly I am over simplifying due to lack of experience and first hand knowledge about the usage of these sites. But I am curious to know how became the sixth most important brand in India? How Anupam Mittal became a muti-millionaire with a singularly brilliant idea? Surely, something clicked. Surely many people are using it and surely there have been success stories at

For any website, whether B2B or B2C or not, the CONVERSION rate is what guides the revenues. More than how many clicks and eyeballs the site gets, it's how many people actually stayed on and continued with the "final transaction" with the site is what counts. In case of sites like that 'final transaction' would mean, marriage itself.

There should be a follow up question too? Has helped the process of getting two people closer fast; and have the divorce rates increased too? Or the increase of divorce rates totally unrelated to phenomenon? I don't know. These are one too many questions.

Marriage is a big deal, anywhere in the world and more so in sub continent cultures. It's an enormously large industry. And Anupam Mittal just tapped into part of that billion dollar mountain. It's clear he was successful. It's also clear that the new IT savvy generation that has many avenues to "connect" with their future spouses, may it be or facebook or just plain emailing, have to fall back on if nothing else works.

I am willing to bet that the future of cyber marriages is bright :) So ending on a happy note for all the future websites including ....,,
Who knows, if people start "specialising" this huge market in future. ;-)


My favorite Cartoon comic strip just completed 30 "mundane" years. Garfield has remained lazy, rude and obnoxious little fatso all along. And I simply love him.

It will be interesting to see, how my little hero fares in the post-Internet age. Will he remain more of the same? Lazy and arrogant? Take a guess ...

[Image courtesy : ]

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Coming from central part of India, you'd think I hate summers. It's the exact opposite. Summer was my favorite season. Well may be because of the vacation, but who's counting.

Summers remind me of....

- Cut golden mango slices at lunch
- Sleeping on floor with the dessert cooler on and the room darkened.
(This afternoon slumber is like *deep*)
- Sleeping on terrace at night. (And refusing to go inside when it rains)
- Mom's new fresh loncha (Raw Mango Pickle)
- Playing T.T on dinning table with cover of school notebook acting as Bat.(Disturbing others)
- Sugarcane juice in evenings
- Dinshaw's ice cream post Dinner.
- Playing cricket, morning and evening one session.
- Going to Father's native village
- Going to forest park nearby for a couple of days.
- Watching movies on a VCR.

Airports in India

Caveat : I plan to be a little whiny today. So spare me those.. you know what.. whatever ;-)

My last two visit to India were official trips. As in, my company asked me to visit Cochin, where we had outsourced some work. On both occasions I took a brief vacation to visit my home town of Nagpur in central India.

I so desperately wanted to use train as means of transport (Train is still my fav means). But it turned out, that Cochin and Nagpur are light years away as far as Railway connection is concerned. The shortest time via train would have been 36 hrs !!! I had little choice but to keep flying between cities. And so I did.

But even that wasn't as easy as it seems. The most convenient flight connection was via Mumbai. And between transition time and connecting flights I spent like 12 hours to reach Nagpur. So much for the "super connectivity". On one occasion I missed my connecting flight thanks to the mind numbing efficiency of Air India, and had to spend the whole freaking day in Mumbai, waiting for the next evening flight to Ngp. Luckily my Aunt stays in Santacruz(W) so it wasn't that bad as I din't have to spend whole day, looking frozen at Airport.

During this time, I started observing the Airports there. Specially Mumbai Airport, since that was my most used one. And that's where I spent most of my time either reading Times of India or nibbling fingers and observing the system at work. To be fair to Mumbai, it's airport is much better than Delhi airport. I am talking domestic. I had a particularly embarrassing experience at Delhi domestic airport with my American boss by my side in the first visit. But that I will take for another day.

So Mumbai Airport is chaotic in a way, but still it seems to be working fine. One of my biggest problems with Airports in India is the constant and loud announcements. The NOISE. And Mumbai is no different. The announcements are many folds. There are flight arrival announcements and flight departure announcements. Then there are those "personalized service" announcements. Like ... "Last and final call for Mr. Gupta. Your flight to Baroda is departing from gate # 6 in 10 mins.." or something like that.

I was like, what the heck! Who is Gupta and why do I care? Why is this for public consumption?

And the announcements are not crisp and easy. They are done in two languages, Hindi and English, and are inefficiently long. Like if i had to write those announcements, I would have converted them into words instead of sentences. Actually I would ban those announcements, but*if* they were still mandatory in Indian system, I would turn them simple and easy to pick.

Like "Flight K26 to Nagpur is leaving in 10 mins from Gate 7". That's it. This announcement is clear enough. Anyone who cares to be on this flight, will figure out that s/he has to make it to gate 7, and throw that samosa plate in dustbin and run. There's no need to say, ..." And passengers are requested to please come with their boarding passes to Gate ..... or This is the last and final call.... " (God, I hate those LAST and FINAL calls.. announced ad nauseum)

The onus should be on the passenger to reach the gate, and not on the Airport authorities to "take the passenger to the gate" or spoon feed him/her. If the Arrival/Departure Schedule is not clear enough or not giving information when the passenger enters airport, there should be more charts put at convenient locations so that it's easier for passengers to figure. Why this excess spoon feeding and noise pollution? This is so MANUAL. This is so 1990s if not 80s.

The other thing that bugged me about the Airport was the number of times I had to display my boarding pass. I counted. It was SEVEN times. Yes, the number 7. As in the one that comes after 6 and before 8. WTF !!!! And it took me a while to adjust to that ticket-checking-obsession of the Airports. I kept forgetting I need to show it again at some "milestone" during my 'journey' from agent counter to the gate, and kept putting my pass back in my carrier bag. And everytime I had to take it out from the bag. It was clumsy. In some cases the checkers actually thought it was my first flight experience as I was being so naive.

After 2 major fights with Airport authorities on two occasions, one missed flight, 128 loud and noisy announcements, one missed baggage, and two dropped samosas, I have now gained some Indian Airport wisdom. I have figured that like anything else in India, the airport system is chaotic yet working in some very Indian way. And happily so. And I figured that India will embrace these modern systems of the world, as Airports camouflage more and more with the India's travelling needs, and Indianise them it in it's own peculiar way.

For all my cribbing about the Airport though, I have to add this. The Indian domestic airline service beats the American one, by 1000 miles at least. It's royal. It's regal. It makes you feel comfortable and wanted. And allows you to forget about the chaos easily. It let's you slip in back into the easy mode. I would rank Kingfisher and Jet higher than any airlines I have travelled, internationally and domestically.

On one occasion as the Jet flight took off to Nagpur, one of the stewardess addressed me by my last name and asked if I wanted something? I was like, boy, this is awesome. Last name basis service, now that's a first!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mission Sonia : Destroy IITs

I am still not sure why this government is hell bent on destroying the brand-IIT
Beats me.

Go Well Sir

Go Well Sir

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fallen Hero

Like any other guy from my generation, I was a huge Amitabh Bachchan fan. A big big fan. So much so that during my hostel life I was actually in forefront of forming a Bachchan fan club (It never really materialized, but the will was there)

When we got a VCR at home in India, I would get only Amitabh movies from the video cassette library. Trishul, Satte pe Satta, Sharabi, Deewar, AAA .... I would be deeply influenced and affected by Bachchan's persona. I even watched a Mard and a Coolie for crying out loud. So much for my being a loyal fan.

He was truly a great entertainer of his time. And his reign was probably the longest ever as the numero uno of Bollywood. India-Today once carried him on the cover page of their fortnightly with the title - 'One Man Industry'. Nothing defined him better. He *was* an industry onto himself, without a doubt.

So why do I keep saying "was"? Am I not his fan anymore? Is he not a brand, an Industry onto himself even today?

Let me put it this way. When you put someone on a pedestal and hero-worship him, you unfairly raise the bar "for him" in your sub conscious. You expect him to be more than just a normal man. You expect him to be in some ways "super" human. And I know that is unfair. But what can I do? I am normal routine human guy, so stop bombarding me with those looks of yours.

I think somewhere around late 90s my Bachchan-mania started receding. It started dwindling. Not because he was getting old or anything. Also not because his ABCL mis-adventure had destroyed him financially. It was something else.

It was because Amitabh Bachchan was not being Amitabh Bachchan. He was trying to be "too" humble, "too" down to earth, showing "too much" vulnerability. At times his 'trying too hard' came out as phony. Somewhere it did not connect. He did not need to be so low and show it. My hero was playing second fiddle to the Govindas and the SRKs of the day. And the fan in me probably could not take it.

Dilip Kumar at the age of 60+ played the protagonist in the movie Shakti right when Amitabh's career was at its peak. He even won the Best Actor's award for Shakti. (Note : not best supporting actor. But best actor). He maintained his dignified superiority even when it was not *his* era. I am no big fan of that oldie goldie Kumar. But I have to grant this. He was able to keep that aura alive. He did not let his fan down. You expect your hero to live and die like one.

Even if Bachchan had turned a pauper, it was OK with all his fans. He should have maintained that upper crest, even if it came out as arrogance. Sometimes arrogance is not all that bad. He became financially insecure alright. But again, did he have to show it? By signing movies and ads left, right and center? By being so insecure about his "visibility" in main stream mind space that he would become a regular on TV like J.V Raman was during the Doordarshan days.

When your hero shows vulnerability and insecurity, he seizes to be a hero. He is not your guy. It is strange, how the fan in you refuses to see that vulnerability and insecurity as normal human conditions. And I know it sounds weird and unfair. But who said life was fair?

I think the final nail in coffin for me as a fan came when I saw Mr. Bachchan constantly in company of a sickos like Amar Singh. That was pretty much *it* for me. Again, ideally I should decouple his personal life from his on-screen one. But I cannot and could not in his case. Again the fan in me, was being unfair and prejudiced to a certain extent. I was letting Bachchan's personal life over lap in my mind with Bachchan the professional, who at some point respected.

It is strange how what we perceive of a person from his personal life, adds or subtracts so many dimensions from our overall view of his or her professional life. No wonder actors and actresses around the world discovered philanthropy as a very effective means to add to their saleability and brand. (The orphans in Africa never had so good.) The more the actor is seen as "doing good to the society", the more s/he comes out as a 'bigger' star. In case of Bachchan I was not expecting that, as I have argued before.

Slowly but surely his moves, his actions both on and off screen started repelling me. I could not relate to his movie selection, his characters, his going over the top at times, not to mention his constant public appearances and his trying too hard to be 'visible' all the time. In a sense, I lost that respect. The intense Vijay of Deewar and Jay of Sholay, the funny-extraordinaire Arjun Singh of Namak Halal, the understated Azad of Main Azad Hu ... lost me somewhere.

I am sure, he still has a whole lot of fans. Probably more now than he ever did. The Bachchan family brand is alive and kicking. I'd say good for him /them. But as far as I am concerned, my hero has fallen.

Surprise, anyone?

Kolkatta has the worst job market. I don't know why this should be a surprise. Why did TOI even bother to report this!

May be because Kolkatta's employment opportunity is below that of Lucknow. That "may" be a little surprise. Although, the land of Mayawati and Mulayam does offer more than Buddadeb's city.
(I actually like Buddha. He is just in the wrong party I think)

'The Cat is out of the bag'

Communist Party's 'communal' agenda is out in open, apparently.
Good the Indian Express finally opened it's eyes to this fact, which "some of us" always knew.

No further comments

Atul Gawande

I discovered this dude by accident. I was casually strolling through the shelves in a book store in Glenview when I stumbled upon "Better: A surgeons notes on Performance".
And boy I am hooked.

For a person who has never looked at the Medical system in USA through positive lens, this was the much needed dose, if you will.

Hope to put out a review of the book soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Boo to India's foreign policy

With Nepal firmly in its kitty now, China is taking all steps to ensure it's proxy acts as per it's wishes.

Indian's are generally known for short term thinking. I rank Nepal going to Maoists as India's biggest foreign policy failure in last two decades. It surpasses stupidity of the highest order even when compared to Nehru and Kashmir, Nehru and China, Rajiv Gandhi and LTTE.

If we had long term thinkers and really dedicated nationalist leadership, India could have Nepal to it's advantage rather than see it slip into the RED corridor. In less than a decade Nepal will be our problem rather than a buffer. It will join the ranks of Pakistan, B'desh, Sri Lanka as our "naughty" neighbor. And China will use these levers to brow beat India when it wants to.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Note to self

Changed pen-name from Kaunteya to Kautilya.
//todo : update email address soon.

-"Change is the only constant in the world"


Saturday, June 21, 2008

The 'Look'

So I had a very weird day yesterday.

By the time I reach my metra station to take my 8:18 train, the parking lot is full. I decide to park a block away at a place not designated for Metra parking, but is officially a valid parking zone. As I start walking towards the station, a middle aged lady looks angrily at me. I am not sure what is wrong, so I ignore her and continue walking. She persists with her anger and those "looks"...

Now I am like 'wtf'. So I ask her, what's going on? Does she want to tell me straight? She says, "Why din't you park ahead. I had to squeeze in".

OK lady, lets get this straight. We are talking of a road side parking, where there are slots. I pick up one parallel slot. The one i find easiest. Now what am I expected to do. Figure out a difficult slot so that you can royally swoop in? I am a good person, but I am no saint!!! Damn it. If you require good ones, care to start early lady!!! I parked at a legal parking slot that was the first one I saw. Too bad you missed it. So screw you... (All this goes in my head. I just say 'too bad' and move on)

She could have said the same thing in a better way, and may be we could have struck a healthy conversation. But anyways... so I take my train. It's full as usual. But there are some vacant seats. I find one, but a lady has put her big bag on the seat and is reading Chicago Tribune. I walk a few steps ahead and come back to indicate I am interested in the seat. She sees me and ignores. So i have to politely ask her to remove the bag as she is wasting one place. She gives me a look. (Oh damn that 'look' again). Only this time with a smile. A very sarcastic fking smile. I am like, who cares. I place my butts on the cushion and take my book out and start reading. She keeps squirming and fidgeting to indicate she was happy earlier when she had the entire seat to herself. Yeah, too bad, I say.

Now I alight at my downtown station. Herds of people are all in a hurry. Swirling those revolving doors at 3 rounds per second. They just walk past me in a swoosh. Everyone is in a great great hurry. Ready to take on the world. There's a big line at Dunkin Donuts counter for collecting morning break fast at the mezzanine floor of our office building. This Dunkin is run by a Desi. Everyone is Desi on the counter. They keep shouting "Can I help the next person?" in hoarse Desi accent continuously. The "next" person is the 5th guy in line actually. They are multi-tasking. They do not want to loose the customers. So they are so fast, they keep taking orders incessantly. They shout and the customer's shout too. It's mad rush everywhere.

And then I make a mistake. I am actually not ready with what I want. I am still "thinking" what to get.


At 8:40 am 'thinking' is not allowed in Chicago downtown. You have to be "ready". The counter babe gives me a look. Damn, that 'look' again. I have still not decided. So she moves on, still holding on to her "look", asking the next person in line. I am made very aware of my indecisive nature as I ask for my egg and cheese on a croissant. I try to load an accent on "croissant" but that does not help. It's too late to make an impression now.

I reach office. Reach my desk. Everyone is already deep inside their workzone. At some end phone is ringing, while at other end, some people are fervently collecting for the next meeting. I open my inbox. There's a sarcastic email from someone. My day just started.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Impossible Is Nothing

{Copying this post from my old blog. This is about a year old post. Remembered this since its the soccer season again :)}

Adidas's new ad with the tag line - 'Impossible is nothing' - has caught my imagination. The ad has two Latino kids "imagining" a dream football team each. They toss and select a player each. They not only select players from different countries but also from different generations. At one end they have Zidane,Beckham and all and at the other end one guy selects Platini and Beckenbeur. And then they start playing till one of them is stopped by his shouting mom to stop playing and come back home.

The ad instantly touched my core. I could relate to it since when we were kids we used to do the same for cricket. For example me and my cousin in the backyard of the house would make two imaginary teams and select a player each and start playing. I would choose Australia or England and he would choose Windies or India. And then we would select players and play a 10 wicket game between just the two of us. That is he has to get me out 10 times so that "my entire team" is all out and then i would have to do the same :)

After seeing that ad i was reminded of those innocent days. In that sense the ad has a universal appeal. Showing how kids all over behave the same. All have their moms shouting to come home for having their bath or lunch or getting something from grocery store. And making sure she embarrasses her lazy son.

If an ad is all about sending a message, this ad has conveyed one too many. I must say i was impressed !!

Nuke it

In an important editorial in Times of India today, the newspaper has made some valid points about the jinxed Indo-US nuclear deal.

The government of the day has nothing to loose if it goes ahead. The Left front, as we all know has more bark than bite. It won't dislodge this government. After all it's a free meal for them. The notion of "outside" support means, take all the pleasures of power at zero accountability. And Leftists have got habituated to this free power now. They never had it so good. So it's hard to see why they would want to go ahead and remove the support.

As a rule of thumb, you should always do what Left does not want you to do. Because Left will always align with something that is not good for the nation. Here's a list of things that Left did in past

1. They opposed English language education
2. They opposed introduction of Computers in West Bengal
3. They supported British during Quit India.
4. They supported China during Indo-China war
5. They support China over human rights and Tibet

These are only a few of the things they did. And India was better off doing the exact opposite.

But here's the real thing. We need to get into the nuclear club. More so for the technology. As the article argues, its not about India and USA. It's about India and the world. India cannot keep itself cut off from the emerging nuclear technology. It will have to keep it self updated and upgraded all the time.

Second point and the biggest need is Nuclear energy. We need 100s of MWs of power in coming years. We just can't afford to be complacent. As more industries grow, more middle class grows, we need more power. We are facing and going to face acute power shortage in coming years. This deal is about national crisis and not about foreign policy.

I have zero respect for MMS and this government. But I am pro-Congress on this issue. (As i have argued in the past. I believe in being pro or anti issues, rather than personalities or parties). For this particular issue I am pro-Congress and anti-BJP and of course i do not even consider Left's opinion to have any rational. (I don't know what the f... BJP is opposing this for)

Left is opposing only because it does not want to be seen doing business with US, which according to them is world's EVIL DEVIL. Thats their only problem. All this talk of 1-2-3 agreement is pure bull shit. It's easy to see that the Left is prostituting for China, the client who the left service royally at India's cost.

So I'd say to Sardar Manmohan - go ahead. Nuke it man.
For God sake, you will have at least something to show for your 4 years in power, apart from inflation, terrorism and disrespect of your government towards Nation's constitution i.e your suffocating of democracy in Bihar,Goa,Jharkhand.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Obituary : Tim Russert

Media needs more like him, not less.

NBC lost Tim Russert, but America lost one of the last remaining, objective, non-fussy, sincere journalist of the old school era.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Of DDLJ, SRK and NRI-ism

(Please note: I don't intend any bragging of NRIism or condone candy floss movie culture. I am trying to connect events that happened surrounding this movie and see if i can make sense)

Some movies reflect nation's mood. They reflect the generational change...and sometimes tap on the changing sensibilities of a sub culture.

Almost 12 years back, one such movie was Dilwale Dlhaniya Le Jayenge. A 'coming of age' movie for lot of people including the lead - Shah Rukh Khan.

How was DDLJ different? Well to start with how about the acronym DDLJ itself? I don't remember we used to have many acronyms like this before. DDLJ firmly etched the notion of the shortening of big name movies. Although it wasn't the first to do that, the movie goers lingo definitely changed post this.
{My wife has just argued that QSQT was the one that started the trend. But I am going to stick with my gun. I think DDLJ made this acronym notion more prevalent}

But there were many other 'firsts' to this movie. It was the first "hit" movie where the romantic couple was NRI. Before DDLJ, the hero would be "foreign returned" at most; but not an ABCD or in this case British born confused desi. He would be that patriotic Indian who would come back to "serve" his country. DDLJ broke that glass ceiling. It was unapologetically NRI in it's portrayal.

The second "first" for this movie was the romantic rebel who wouldn't try to be "too nice". He wouldn't try to be the devdas or the good guy. He would use brain to fight out his situation . He was NOT a good guy. He was NOT perfect. He was charactersiticly rude and in your face lover.
Something that was never fully attempted earlier. And the third "first" and in my opinion one of the big jumps was the strong feminist portrayal. The female lead in a romantic movie always had to be the coy, all-adjusting girl who would stay within limits all the time. Although in the movie Kajol does portray that "good girl" image, its different; she is shown as fiercely independent and confident and decisive to a large extent in the first part. At times she irritated me too. But that also indicates that the heroine lost all pretense of the good girlie character.

The year of DDLJ was 1996. This was the time when NRI-ism was coming on its own in urban India. It was a period when economy had just opened. Urban India was seeing American brands like Pizza Hut and McDonald opening their shops around the corner. Coke and Pepsi were already a part of the pop culture. Coke was the official sponsor of the Cricket World Cup in India in 1996. IT revolution was also slowly unraveling in India. A revolution, that, with it's one big tide would sweep a whole generation of middle class Indians into an upper middle class mode. The middle class Indians of wannabe NRI types.

In some sense DDLJ tapped that mood of the nation to it's most profitable best. It must be the business acumen of the Chopra camp to have sensed that mood. The mood of a generation of Indians who were ready to move on to greener territories. DDLJ had all the makings of a candy-floss love story with loads of rich NRI shenanigans. It's not hard to see why a generation of India was caught by this fancy flight to Europe. The Flat world of Thomas Friedman was flattening in India at a very high rate at that time.

The globalized Indian was at ease with the NRI romance. He was ok with a convertible car being broken in Switzerland express way. He could easily relate to train journey in Europe. Although Yash Chopra had taken Indian audience many a times over to his favorite destination, it was with DDLJ that he camped in Europe for good. Just 5 years before DDLJ an NRI hero had failed in Chopra's own Lamhe.

In 20/20 hindsight it's easy to see why DDLJ would not have failed even if it was totally crappy. Some may argue it was still crappy after all. But just seeking an objective analysis, it cannot be denied that it was SRK's signature movie. It was for SRK what Deewar was for Amitabh Bachchan or what probably Hum Aapke.. was for Madhuri Dixit.
Any numero uno needs that ONE big movie to propel him or her in a different league. One movie that is permanently tied to that star. DDLJ was that movie for SRK and also to some extent for Kajol. While Deewar reflected the angry socio-economic situation on mid-70's , DDLJ mirrored the new emerging positive India to some extent. Both movies hitting the sweet spot as far as box-office is concerned.

The gloss that Chopra movies started acquiring with Chandani and Lamhe finally reached it's crescendo with DDLJ. Remember Chopra was the same guy who gave Deewar and Mashaal. The suave urbane hero was not Chopra's real deal till very late in his career. Some may say, the coming together of SRK and Yash Chopra spawned a new thread of candy floss cinema. A new lane on Bollywood traffic. A lane which Karan Johar would keep driving and go for an overkill of NRI centric stuff. KJ even created an NRI family in London who lived in a palace that would be bigger than the Queen herself; for crying out loud. I am referring to the sub-standard attempt at movie making - Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam; K3G as it was called.

DDLJ opened new gates and market for Bollywood and soon other big movie houses joined the bandwagon. NRIs were the new target audience. And before we knew, every one from Saif Ali Khan to Abhishek Bachchan were living in Australia, UK and USA.

But like any other notion, the NRI syndrome had to fail. Not because it was meant to. But because of the curse of Bollywood. That curse is called overdoze. Of over kill. A curse that has been induced time and again by its unidimensional Directors, who cannot think beyond "formula".

The over used formulae of DDLJ may have seen it's sell by date already. But it's significance in the larger pop culture of India can simply not be denied.

Friday, June 13, 2008

OOOOOOOOOrange !!!!!

The "Orange" Dutch decimated the French 4-1 just couple of minutes back in Euro 2008. And I am loooooooooving it. I love it when France soccer team looses. And it may have something to do with this little game that i saw as a kid. It was the quarterfinals of 1986 Mexico WC. Unbelievable game that was. Some people with knowledge of football have called it the greatest WC game ever.

Anyways, since i was supporting Brazil that day and have always been since then, I started "hating" the French team. And always rooted for the opposite side.

Today the Dutch were awesome, as they were 3 days back against the Italians. 4-1? Man, if you beat the French 4-1, you got to be the tournament favourites. Schneider's goal was awesome but, the best goal was the second one set up by Arjen Robben's. And he topped him up with his own goal just few minutes later.

Would like to see thee teams make the Semi-Finals line up : Holland,Spain,Portugal,Turkey.

We live in a strange world

The guy who abolished one of the worst human crimes - SLAVERY - was a Republican

The guy who ordered bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the worst possible human massacre EVER was a Democrat

our liberal PM and one of India's most respected Economist call Bush, India's best friend

Although Al Gore happens to be the poster boy of Environmentalist's campaign of Go Green, it's the Conservative Republican Governor of California who makes remarkable strides in bringing out the strictest laws related to Environment. Talk of "talk vs real action" (Al Gore uses his own Chartered plane to move around, btw)

Bobby Jindal, a conservative gets Louisiana to top position on Ethic Laws beating Washington state. In doing so, making his own conservative base of rich politicians and Corporate houses see RED.

Renuka Choudhary, a loud feminist brings about the most damaging and draconian law in Indian marriages. Her law includes "boy friends" too. So much for her party's liberal views.

Narendra Modi, India's most hated political figure, brings about radical change in Gujarat. Ensures the school kids drop out rate falls by 70%, ensures 100% power in Rural Gujarat, ensures 15% growth rate beating nation's average by miles, makes his ministers and IAS officers visit villages instead of European vacation in summers, brings about the best infrastructure development in the state EVER.

Some trivia:

- India has been ruled by one family for more than 40 years now. So much for it being a democracy.

- India lost more soldiers in Sri Lanka, thanks to Rajiv Gandhi "trying to win Noble Prize", than to Kashmir terrorists.

- More riots have happened in states run by the Congress party than any other party. 5 times more people have died in Delhi riots of 1984, Assam massacre of 1983 and Bhagalpur massacre of 1989. Ironically all these "riots" were orchestraed by the Congress party of India.

- The richest political party in India, is CPM of Kerela.

- West Bengal was leading Gujarat and Maharashtra in all spheres till 1965. Then Communism happened to West Bengal.

- India's slow growth rate of less than 3% for 4 decades was derogatorily called "Hindu rate of growth". The term was coined by Nehru.

- Most communist leaders of the world send their daughters and sons to USA for higher education. Most of these sons and daughters settle in USA. The problem is - Communists call USA the most evil imperialist Empire of the world.

- Most people who hate America or America's way of life, prefer living here.

Got Tagged

blue bike tagged me and I still need to work on it.

I have many secrets, but I am gona be circumspect. I came to know last week, that my 8 year old niece reads my blogs. I don't want to ruin her mama's image.

So still working :)

China disliked?

Postulate : "Any entity that is seen to be tending towards being powerful or is powerful is disliked by the mainstream"

Point(s) in case : America, Microsoft, Ambanis, Oil Companies, Wal Mart, Clintons and now China

I wish to present a case in more elaborate fashion soon.

But again, there are exceptions to the rule :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Zhunka Bhakar

Every region of the country boasts of one or two of its specialties as far as food is concerned. Chennai has its dosai and idli, Kolkatta has its rosogollas, Delhi has it's dahi bhalla and what not, Punjab of course has glamorized Sarso-ka-Saag and Makke-di-roti umpteen times via bollywood, Bombay has it's chaat thing going for it, Pune has it's wada pav, Indore has it's farsan, Hyderabad has its biryani, Kashmir has it's pulav, Gujarat has it's dhokla and basically an array of items which other regions have adopted, Rajasthan has daal bati...

The list is endless.

Nagpur has nothing. Well nothing, unless you have heard of Savji Chicken or Zhunka Bhakar. Now here's the thing though. Zhunka Bhakar can be claimed by all of Maharashtra. But i am going to argue it's very Nagpuri. The very "personality" of Zhunka Bhakar is Nagpuri. Now howz that?

Before we go further lets first establish something. A food dish is usually associated with the availability of resources around the region. So Punjab has sarso because it can grow sarso. Bombay became chaat heaven because it has been a very fast city since eons and the notion of chaat suited Mumbai's fast character. The food habit is built around the regions needs,convenience and resources.

Now, the region around Nagpur is suited for a few things including Jowar (or as they call in Marathi - jwaari). It also had chick peas (or besan) going for it. The region bordering Maharashtra and Andra Pradesh produces the chilliest of red chillies. And Nagpur happens to be close to that border. So the third and in my opinion the most important ancillary of Zhunka Bhakar, the "Thecha" also finds its way in here. In fact without thecha, Zhunka Bhakar would loose its most important ingredient( and also motivation for me to eat, personally).

The name Zhunka and Bhakar sound very Vidharbiya. You have strange names in this part of the world. And when someone calls something "zhunka", it's an open and shut case. It has to be from Nagpur area :)

So far so good. Now it's not something i should brag about though without applying a positive spin to the dish. For starters it's not "visible" on the Indian food radar. 99% people won't even know it exists. Yet for me its special. Leaving aside the nostalgia and memories it brings, i happen to love it immensely.

There are 4 things needed to build it. Red/Green chili, Besan (chick peas flour), Jwari and Onion. Thats all. If you have these four, you are good to go.

Now comes the tough part. The preparation. Actually it is not tough at all. And this is my wife's opinion who did not know much about this dish before marriage. She comes from a different eating culture. In fact before marriage, me and my wife belonged to two different planets as far as food habit was concerned. There was no overlap in our eating habits. Our culinary planes were skewed.

And if she says it's easy, than it is. Now here's the thing; although it is easy it needs dedication and fine skills in preparation. Meaning, a small amount of attention to detail can change the taste and aroma drastically. This notion can be argued for all dishes in the world, i guess.

Zhunka Bhakar is this region's fast food. Yet, it needs some amount of culinary skills to get it right. The right texture and softness is important. The color (for me) is very very important. I like a little reddish tinge to this yellow dish. And the Bhakar has to come out exactly right. Else it spoils the deal. It has to have those small tandoor like black puffed circles on the surface while still retaining it's greyish color. It should be "burnt" only so much so as not to loose it's essence of being a circular bread complementing the delicious Zhunka.

Now I am going to also argue that Thetcha happens to be one of the most important ingredient of this dish. If not the most. It completes the dish. Imagine this. You go to a village in Yeotmal district. You park your car at a road side hut. The female of the hut is baking circular Bhakars on a mud stove, while simultaneously blowing the fire of stove with a small wooden pipe. Parallely the cut onion Zhunka is being cooked on the side which is steaming and yellow in color.

As you start eating on the road side cot, Bhakars are being prepared at run-time and served. What would be the only thing missing? Thetcha. In few cases curd. The perfect antidote for Thetcha.

Wouldn't you be green with envy if i tell, i have experienced this version of Zhunka Bhakar at some point?

Quote of the day

“If you sleep on the floor you never have to worry about falling out of bed.”

This quote i picked up from the master's article. The big boss of contemporary writing - Mr.Thomas Friedman.

This guys' amazing or what!

How about - "While you were sleeping, Israel has gone from oranges to software, or as they say around here, from Jaffa to Java."

And this one's the best - "Israel’s economic and military power today is entirely dependent on extracting intelligence from its people. Iran’s is a dwindling resource based on fossil fuels made from dead dinosaurs."

Topping it up with - "Israel’s economic power is endlessly renewable"

Brilliant is the word i guess.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

An intoxication called Gulzar

From Mora Gora Ang Layi Le to Tere Bina Besuwadi, Sampooran Singh Kalra has had an amazing journey so far. It's incredible to note how this Sikh, born in Pakistan and who started his career as a car mechanic would go on to achieve, what he achieved.

Penning himself with a peculiar name like Gulzar, Mr. Kalra went on to produce and create some of the most defining lyrics ever written in Hindi cinema. His body of work in last 45 odd years includes amongst other things, poetry, film script, song lyrics, writing books, writing gazhals, producing and directing movies and also politically incorrect adventures.

For me one of the most striking attributes of Gulzar as a creative mind is his creative scalability. His ease of transitioning from one generation to another. That a person can create an almost consistent kind of magic with Sachin Dev Burman as with A.R Rahman is mind boggling if not utterly ludicrous. Gulzar transcended almost 3 generations of music lovers and his creative juices were fresh enough everytime to lure all of these 3 generations into an enduring experience of pure magical lyricism.

To envelope his entire work into one article would be doing gross injustice to everything I pretend to know of Hindi cinema. So I won't even try. For someone, who had the pleasure of meeting him personally by accident once, I still find him a mystical figure. A kind of figure who will make everyone in the audience swoon to his silken commentary. To his lyrical subtleties. To his weaving of words in such a way that the collection of those words would become a classic almost everytime they are written or spoken or sung.

At the very basic, Gulzar is a magician. A magician of words. A wordsmith of the highest order.

From the very energetic or energizing Chayya Chayya to the contemporary-feeling Sham Se Aankh Gulzar manages to keep us "engaged". Nothing is more brilliant than having listeners "connected" to your work. And this connection Gulzar can have with his loyal fans or even not so loyal fans, could easily be a subject of someone's study. Why Gulzar can connect with a substantially large group of people even though he uses heavy dozes of metaphor ism, both in his lyrics and scripts, cannot be explained by a simple one para answer.

It's hard to think how a brutally bare and abstract 'song' like Ek hi khwab can still be appealing! Or the simple and intentionally childish Lakdi ki kathee can be so powerfully forceful, that it was a given that it would be shown on Doordarshan every 14th November. No other "children's" song till date has replaced this one. And we are talking 25 years past Masoom.

But Gulzar is not only about lyrics. He kept on raising the bar everytime he ventured into something. Like the movies he directed. His, matured-adult love triangle Ijazat remains my personal favorite. He took Indian audience where no one had gone before. Infidelity with an uber face. But the infidelity shown was so Gulzarique, it almost gave an alternative justification to the protagonist's character in the movie.

You would be mistaken if you stereotyped Gulzar into one creative identity. That of a relationship centric writer with pseudo romanticism as premise of most of his work. Gulzar never stationed himself on one platform. Or genre. Angoor till date remains a timeless classic. Again not by coincidence it happens to be my favorite comedy movie. It was Gulzar's tribute to another cinematic genius and his own mentor Bimal Roy. Some might say Gulzar retains Bimal Roy's sensibilities; only grows on it.

Gulzar or his work,i feel has not been reasonably appreciated by his fraternity or even the Government. (He was awarded a Padma Bhushan in 2004 though) But I guess his almost cult following more than makes up for that. You have to be in one of those forums to know what i mean, when i say cult. Gulzar wouldn't care less about lack of recognition. He underplays his achievements and remains out of mainstream focus almost by design. Unlike some heavy duty alleged song writers of the day.

It would be an incomplete article if R.D Burman is not mentioned in any obeisance to Gulzar. It's not unreasonable to say that Gulzar brought out the best in RD and some may say "vice versa". His numerous gut wrenching tributes to RD in form of albums can almost always make it to collector's shelf.

This is then, to 45 years of durability, class, genius and creativity of the very highest order. This is to - Sir Sampooran Singh Kalra a.k.a Gulzar sahab.

Some known and not so known, but priceless pearls from Gulzar :

Ghulami, Maya Memsaab, Namkeen , Khoobsoorat , Lekin , Gharonda , Marasim

More on Gulzar here

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thats right, Mr.Prime Minister

My views are usually at loggerheads with current Indian government. But i fully appreciate the need to raise prices of fuel. For once I agree that the government of the day had no choice.
Here's the link to PM's speech

But there lies opportunity in every crisis. Here are a few things that government can start looking at.[This is the "aam aadmi's" idea]

1. All VIPs and VVIPs (like Robert Vadra etc) should not be allowed to use more than One Car. The entourage that usually follows one VIP costs like 5 times the fuel.

2. Each politician should pay for his own Gas. The state exchequer should not be subjected to expenses. Say for example, Lalu's moving around the country should be paid by from his own pocket. (Yeah i know i know... but what's the harm in dreaming)

3. Raise taxes on new Cars. In cities like Mumbai,Delhi, Bangalore force the state government to provide infrastructure.

4. Provide incentive for car pooling.

//todo: Note for myself: Pinch myself hard. Then remember, I am talking of bringing change in Indian political system. Then go back to sleep.bzzzzz...

P.S :

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama Obama

Hillary Rodham Clinton [HRC] lost two nominations yesterday. One, the Presidential nomination and two, because of her inexplicable speech, the Vice Presidential nomination. You had to see the faces of CNN "political analysts" after her speech. They were like.."what the.."

While HRC takes time to process and let the situation sink in, it cannot be denied that America has just witnessed a momentous event. An event worthy of saluting not only the democratic party, but America itself. No other "white" country in the world has ever done this! The Europeans and Canadians, who never tire at taking dig at America , lecturing it to glory, should take a leaf or two from here. Barak Hussein Obama and Condelizza Rice are not just figurative symbolic figures of USA. They are actually very very powerful people in their own right. This is "affirmative action" at its working best.

They say, that you do not appreciate History that is too close to you. We will never fully fathom what we just saw. Imagine this. Blacks were not allowed to vote in America just 47 years ago. They had separate public restrooms just few decades back. And now they are at a cusp of electing the first African American President ever.

The African-American girl sitting next to me in train today could not have been more excited, reading every minute news item on that newspaper. I could feel the energy. And i guess so does America. The momentum and energy is clearly with one man today. A man whose father was born in Kenya. A man who, went to Harvard and rejected plum jobs to work with his community in Chicago; is almost there. The "investment" has clearly paid off.

Obama would do good to himself by not assuming things from here on. The popular opinion can easily change like climate. HRC, just a year back thought, it was cakewalk. All she needed was to call out her nomination and the coronation would follow. If Obama assumes a cakewalk from here on, he may find himself precariously close to HRC's position today. The position of being in denial. If Obama thinks, Clinton machine was mean to him, he has not even seen half of it. What Republican machine can do, he has no clue.

If McCain wins the election, he would become America's oldest President. If Obama wins, he will become youngest ever. It's easy not to gloss over his ethnicity, but the fact remains, he is well educated, articulate, energetic nominee, Afro-American or not. In fact Afro-Americanism is coincidental to this rather than the core. But people will continue pressing that till it becomes embarrassing for him. To his credit, in his "victory" speech he never once mentioned his race. He spoke like a statesman.

Comparing Obama's speech with McCain's speech yesterday, was like comparing a Rock stars' show to a Office meeting. The difference could not have been more obvious. But when America will vote in November this year, they will not be looking for a Rock Star. They will be looking for someone they can trust. And Obama and McCain both will have to work on this. Obama will have to forget he is Black. He will have to keep focusing on issues and make sure he does not take the Republican bait on race.

Whether he is up for the challenge only time will tell.

Monday, June 2, 2008

IPL : 3 Cheers

Debabrata Das is from Siliguri, West Bengal. If there was no IPL, we would probably have never known this guy existed. He played for Kolkata Knight Riders. By end of IPL's first season, this young man of 21 yrs from a small town in India had already made enough money to support his family for next few years.

My first cheer is for all the Debabratas and Asnodkar's and Trivedis of India who became "visible" because of this great tamasha of cricket. Rural, non-upwardly mobile class of Indians who reside in small remote towns are now seeking the same space in Indian mainstream today that was the reserve of a handful of well connected city elites. And IPL probably was successful in providing a semi matured forum for their talents.
The cash rich IPL has probably broken that first barrier. The barrier of small town-big town wall.

Dhoni, the cool captain of Indian national team had already in some way, made a dent in that wall sometime back; but with IPL that wall was official brought down.

My second cheer is for Decentralization of Power of Cricket's governing body. ICC, the once all powerful body would remotely control and wrest all powers of cricket till very recently. But post-liberalization, India became the natural cradle of world cricket owing to its large following and the center of gravity of Cricket itself shifted gradually towards the Indian sub continent. IPL was only the natural consequence to those chain of events. The club culture that was never a forte of cricket, finally found it's genesis in India. In India, that was willing to experiment, was bold enough to call out, and smart enough to sense the opportunity. An India that was for once "Ready".

My third cheer goes for the Indian crowd. Notwithstanding what Yuvi had to say for Mumbai crowd, they showed that they understood what was on the table. What was being offered to them. Mumbai was supporting Mumbai. Mohali was supporting Mohali and Chennai was supporting Chennai. Simple. So Yuvi should stop whining already. When India plays Australia, the next time in Mumbai, crowd will be backing him totally. BUT... for now let IPL be what it is. And the Indian crowd showed their maturity all over the country. They were cheering Jayasuriya when he was making a mincemeat of Ishant Sharma's bowling. They were supporting Akhtar full throttle when he got Sehwag out. Yuvi, the cricketer could not read, what Indian crowds had already learnt. Loyalties can shift and they will with IPL. So just shut the f up Yuvi.

Now for some reality check.

It is obvious that IPL was no philanthropic movement started by a big hearted BCCI. It was all about money. Sharad Pawar, Rajiv Shukla, Lalit Modi, I.S Bindra had a windfall. Let there be no doubt about it. But during the course did it help other aspects? The jury is still out, but.. yes, it helped build good stadiums, it helped poor local lads of states to rub shoulders with the greatest cricketing heroes, it helped generate a lot of buzz and employment in all franchises as more hands were required to manage. Basically the decentralization of power led to cricket's democracy becoming healthier.

If only more sports such as hockey and soccer could generate and roll such money in economy, we would be better off. We need our own NBAs and NFLs and MLBs. The combined economic clout of NBA/NFL/MLB is probably more than some countries GDP. The biggest challenge in India is to generate interest in these sports (hockey and soccer). And thats only possible if India succeeds on world stage. Not qualifying for hockey Olympics won't help.

I keenly followed IPL and so here's that inevitable list that every sports follower HAS to come up.

According to me..

The Team of the tournament : Undoubtedly Rajasthan Royals. The team that was treated as mere pushovers before the season started, proved us all that you don't need the hyper marketing of SRK or million dollar babies in your team to win. Common sense and simple cricketing sense is good enough.

The Captain of the tournament : Without doubt Dhoni. The image of Chennai team forming a huddle after the loss to Royals in a close finish is enduring. No blames pinned, no excuse furnished. That showed character. And strength.

The worst captain : Again without doubt Sachin Tendulkar. If your team is loosing three games by one run on last ball, you have issues. Your captainship has issues. You choke once- you are unlucky. You choke twice, thats pure shit.

The cry-baby of the tournament : Probably a tie between Yuvi and Ganguli. Or wait. Let's give that to Sreesanth. Sreesanth was on display after the slap-gate with Bhajji. The public sobbing of Sreesanth was lame to say the least.

Sour Loosers : SRK and Zinta. Suddenly invisible post knock out.

Find(s) of the tournament : Raina, YK Pathan, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, Asnodkar, Manpreet Goni, Jadeja.