Sunday, November 23, 2008

All Set

So looks like we are all set. My wife has made sure I am not procrastinating. Procrastination is something I revel at. She set a deadline for this Sunday to pack all bags, complete all shopping and documentation etc. So that we can just jet, set, go... I am almost there and mentally checked out from here of course.

Although I still need to buy a book to read on the flight. I am thinking of getting 'The Ascent of Money', written by a very smart guy - Niall Ferguson, a Brit with a sense of humor (I know, sounds oxymoron)

Also made a list of movies I need to get while coming back. I have Ijazat, Shatranj Kay Khiladi, Party, Kalyug, Albert Pinto Ko.., Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho, Nayagan(Tamil), Chanakya (TV Series), Bharat Ek Khoj (TV Series)... on the list. Not sure if they are available on DVD yet. I also wanted to get a 1980s movie called New Delhi Times. I don't think it saw the light of the day, but it might still have a DVD. There are some comedy Marathi dramas, that we need to get too. My wife has a list of those.

Totally looking forward to our train journey from Mumbai to Nagpur. Should be fun, hopefully.

Other things I am looking forward to
  • Food! of course.. this has to top the list. Bade Miya Kebobs in Colaba,Mumbai, Barbeque in Sadar,Ngp, apart from Saoji for sure. Adding 5 pounds per fortnight wouldn't surprise moi!
  • Bike ride escapades in Ngp. Two wheelers still rule. And rock!
  • Plan to fly some kites while in there. This is kite season and I might have some serious cuts on my fingers when I come back.
  • Few family get togethers at the Gondwanas should be cool.
  • Be at my niece's school for her concert. She already got me booked for that on phone today.
  • Visit either Pachmarhi, Kanha or Kalmazari. Also on her demand.
  • IMAX theater, Ngp again with my niece. I ditched her last time and need to make up for that. It's on the other end of the town apparently.
  • Visit to Dad's ancestral village, in Yeotmal district, possibly and have Zhunka Bhakar there
  • A visit to Ngp Infotech Park. A close relation owns a company there. Should be quite an experience to walk around and check Nagpur's newest feather.
  • Plan to catch up Marathi drama while in Mumbai.
  • My wife insists on going to Indian version of McDonalds (Or as they say MAK-donalds). Not personally interested though. But will have to budge eventually.
  • Mom, might insist on visiting Koradi Temple. Also Mahalaxmi temple, Mumbai should be on cards from my wife's end. No escaping either demands.

Some packed schedule this! Even 4 weeks seem short. Will see!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A phenomenon called 'O'

Long before Obama was Chicago's most famous 'O' there was the other O, the real O - Oprah. The O that has ruled pop-culture-America like no one before her, for about a quarter of a century now.

They say Oprah Gail Winfrey has more credibility than the President of the country. She has been consistently ranked most powerful women time and again and is beyond doubt, not just a media icon. She is beyond icon. She is an Institution by her self.

What makes O tick? I once put this question to my cousin sister who lived in Chicago for 15 years. 'What is the big deal with her?' I asked. Of course my cousin, a suburban 'soccer mom' herself, was Oprah's prime demography, the perfect target audience if you will. I assumed, she would know better. And she did. Her answer was simple - "She chooses the 'right' topics and good topics'.

I wonder what are those topics that can be so devastatingly popular. I haven't seen any of her shows till date. I mean a complete 1 hr (I am assuming it is hour long at least) show. I have seen glimpses of the re runs in passing, but haven't sat through an entire show. I guess I am more of a Jay Leno kinds - quick, fast consumption audience. But again, O's success is fascinating for me nevertheless. She surely is not only talking women on her shows. Or to women. I have a feeling her reach is beyond the fairer sex. Else you can't hit it such big.

I think the reason she ticks is because she's REAL. That is the only way you can explain this phenomenon called Oprah. FAKE will last only so far. But REAL will last much much longer. Her durability is testimony to that fact.

Again, it is hard for me to gloss over the fact that a poor Black girl, born to abject poverty, sexually abused in her teenage can reach such enormous heights in her career. Again salute to you - US of A. Yo gotta somethin goin far ya. For sure. If you got talent, you can go places in this nation. Thanks, USA, for not suffocating the rise of this immensely talented individual, who was lucky not have been born in a Venezuela, or a China or Europe.

O is the richest African American in the world. And every bit of her success is well deserved.

"I mean this is a woman that came from nothing to rise up to be the most powerful woman, I think, in the world. I think Oprah Winfrey is the most powerful woman in the world, not just in America. That's — anybody who goes on her program immediately benefits through the roof. I mean, she has a loyal following; she has credibility; she has talent; and she's done it on her own to become fabulously wealthy and fabulously powerful"

These words were not spoken by a NY-Times journalist or a media mogul or some random politician but by - hold your breath - Bill O'Reilly. For some, this dude is the very anti-thesis of Oprah herself. And if O can bring out such massive praise from a guy who stands almost at the opposite end of her spectrum, you know she has DONE IT.

You Rock 'O', you do.. and this coming from a guy, who probably does not understand women or her issues like AT ALL.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

Abdul Rehman Antulay, an old guard Congress Chief Minister, reigned over Maharashtra's biggest political scandal ever; the infamous Cement scandal of late 1970s-early 80s. This scandal probably triggered Kundan Shah's timeless masterpiece 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro' (JBDY)

It was a dark madcap satire that took pot shots at the then prevailing corrupt system of 1980s urban India; A movie that brought together an ensemble of some of the most amazingly funny characters ever witnessed in an Indian movie. Co-Produced by the venerable NFDC, JBDY turned into a cult classic and has been ranked by IndiaTimes amongst the 25 'must see' movies of Indian Cinema.

This movie got made at a paltry sum of 7 lac Indian Rupees. (This is probably equivalent to SRK's driver's salary now).

JBDY, was a refreshing way to look at a system that had decayed beyond repair. The despair of 1980s India got reflected in a unique way in this movie. When a system overwhelms you so much that you almost become numb and the only way to deal with it is to laugh if off, that's what JBDY did. In fact the title itself identified with that emotional numbness of 1980s youth. It almost became the mantra of Indian way of life - Jaane Bhi Do Yaar - "just let it go dude, move on".

No power, move on. No roads, move on. No jobs, move on. Corrupt Politician, no worries, just move on. JBDY in a weird way relieved that stress that captivates us all at some point. Whether it is the prevailing geo-political condition or socio-economic one. At some point we just say .. "Forget it. Just Move On".

Apart from the outrageously comic Mahabharat-Akbar scene near the end of the movie, there are some other super hilarious scenes I can always easily recollect. The one when Taneja (Pankaj Kapoor) interrupts a conversation with his Chief Site Engineer midway to spread perfume under his armpits, the Time Bomb scene during the supposed compromise meeting between the two builders that blows off 30 mins too late (mocking in a way the Indian Standard Time), the rat scene with security guards and my favorite one - the one where Pankaj Kapoor ,his sidekick(played by Satish Kaushik) and secretary Neena Gupta get stuffed inside the commissioner's bathroom and the chaotic,panic mode conversation that follows thereafter.

This movie almost redefined 'method to madness'. Built around two losers, played by Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Vaswani who get outsmarted by the big bad world around them and that ends with their "hum honge kamyab.." hopelessness is still endearing. It is movie that was always going to retain it's contemporary feeling, because the issues it revolves around were and always will be universal. In a sense, since it was a comic relief from the all round sadness, it also in a strange way gave us a handle to deal with our own belief system that needs to be re-charged time and again. There is an alternative way to deal with system around (or not deal at all, if that is an acceptable solution) is what JBDY told us in the end.

A famous Israeli PM once said - "Some problems don't have solutions, you just have to manage them". JBDY told us- don't try to SOLVE it in one shot; rather just deal with it, manage it and if possible work around it.

When you can talk about a movie that was made more than 25 years ago with relative ease, you should know you are not turning any young and middle age is probably hitting you. While that *is* a depressing thought, the idea of having JBDY as a collector's item is not.

Salut to you JBDY. You probably told us all in a most funny way possible that sometimes you have to 'take it easy'

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Pray tell me this is not a norm in India now.
I mean really?

Look at poor'ol Lloyd. Velvetti, Blanketti... something. I mean what the HELL is that anyways? And Border ? He could have a sleep over for ever... And our very own Haryanvi Jat, grinning as usual from ear to ear... we could play chess on it.

Picture courtesy : Times of India

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saoji Beckons

Looking forward to India vacation next month. Can't see no reason not to have Saoji Chicken in Nagpur. Last time I had it near Sai Temple on Wardha Road...

This time I am looking to go to the "original" Saoji folks.. I am assuming this is controversial, because everyone would claim their chain as original. Last time one of my cousin bro-in-laws (and I think I have like 50 of them) suggested we go to a place called Umred, which apparently has the original Saoji.. (I was like wtf... why should Umred have it?). But the dude seemed convinced and one thing I have learnt over the years in Nagpur - NEVER ARGUE - with a hard core Ngpite. It's waste of time and energy amongst other things. Just go with the flow...

Saoji's taste, IMO, is directly proportional to how un-sanitized the place is. If the pot, is really burnt and dirty, if the place is filled with the (perversely defined term) "unwashed masses", you are in for a good deal.

Cant' wait..

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Education System of Yankees

Few years back, a co-worker friend of mine made a very interesting comment - "We have to hire people from India to make software because we Americans don't find I.T jobs very sexy".

The words 'job' and 'sexy' in same breath was striking for me. I always thought a profession like say Advertisement was a sexy job or I don't know.. movies may be. But I.T? Why would Americans want even their regular jobs to be sexy. Never mind.

In other words, either the I.T job is too geeky or not macho enough for young white kids to pursue.I told him, we Indians don't care really, whether our jobs are sexy or not. We "just do IT", Nike style. We Indians are like herds. If 5 of our friends are going in IT, we will follow. We are very communal and social. We like to travel in groups, notwithstanding the "Ekla chalo ray" theme. Then it does not matter what branch or field we come from. Mechanical,Electrical,Civil,Fisheries... doesn't matter. I.T - it is.

Actually even before we are born, our parents have decided in their minds what their sons and daughters are going to be. And they ensure to push their choices down our throats from day 1. But we can't blame them. Given the socio-economic conditions, they choose the "safest" route.

Today's article by Nicholas D Kristof is spot on.

"So let’s break for a quiz: Quick, what’s the source of America’s greatness?

Is it a tradition of market-friendly capitalism? The diligence of its people? The cornucopia of natural resources? Great presidents?

No, a fair amount of evidence suggests that the crucial factor is our school system — which, for most of our history, was the best in the world but has foundered over the last few decades."

Key words here? Yes - "has foundered over the last few decades".

Every year India's heavily subsidized education system produces a huge talent pool. A good %age of that talent pool migrates to USA because the "native talent pool" finds certain jobs non-sexy. This an amazing demand-supply paradigm. But how do we look at it? Is it America's loss and India's gain? How is it India's gain if a good %age of skill is 'brain-draining' it's own economy?

According to an estimate, Govt of India (GOI) spends about 100,000 $ via subsidies etc for a decent Engineer in India. If that Engineer happens to move to USA, and becomes productive here and creates wealth in a way, isn't that like GOI gifting USA 100 grands for free?

100,000 Indian students in USA

BUT, here's a good counter to that. Say, the Engineer X comes back to India after 10 years and starts an enterprise that creates amongst other things wealth and employment. Isn't X transferring the knowledge back to India? And 10 times more? This interesting phenomenon of shared brain-drain has compelling arguments on both sides and I don't want to get into it.

Kristof's point is American Education is decaying and needs a reinforcement of ideas . He is clearly concerned about his own country's future and rightly so. By same token we should be concerned too. I think we in India have a retrograde policy towards our education system. We need to "de-centralize" it smartly to leverage our immense talent pool for our own good. The socialist mind set of monopolizing everything including Education has proven costly. The smart thing to do is not for us to remove education subsidies but optimize it's vast advantage for our own good first. We need many Kristof's to tell this loudly to our leaders who's panacea for all problems is one word - RESERVATION.

It is important that we make sure the rich people in India, who can afford, are not subsidized. I made a simple case before. I pointed out that Indians spend 500 crore per year on educating their sons and daughters in USA. This means we "give" USA 500 crore per year to educate our kids. In a way we are 'outsourcing' our Education needs to USA. The smart thing to do was to actually keep that money back home and educate 10 times more kids in same amount of money. There is an extremely high demand for education in India. I mean people are willing to spend like crazy. Now if the GOI was smart enough, it would have sensed a perfect economic opportunity here and not allow the cash flight to USA. But alas, for every Arun Shourie we have ten Arjun Singhs. And I think that is an explanation in itself.


Post Script: Reservation is an emotional subject. I am all for "affirmative action" for economically weaker sections. But I vehemently oppose cast-based reservation. Because with caste-based system even a stinking rich person like a Lalu or a Mulayam can get his / her daughter to IIT.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My first evers...

My First ever Bike - Hero Cycle / Red color

My first ever cricket bat - "SG" (Not original, but because it was written SG on it and had Sunil Gavaskar's picture plastered on it)

My First Neighborhood Friend - Pintoo Bhagwat. (I never knew his real name. He was always called Pintoo, Pintoos, Pintya, Pintal, Pinti.. anything but his real name)

First girl I spoke to in school - I think her name was Janaki. But I don't remember. I must be in 3rd grade.

First ever Newspaper I read - Nagpur Times.

My first home address- New Ramdaspeth, Nagpur (I still don't know why it was called 'New')

My first school friend - Aditya

My first school Rickshaw wala - 'Parkaas' (Actually he must be Prakash, but that's what he called himself)

My first pencil box - Waterman (It was called Compass Box for some reason). I graduated to the upscale "Camelin" much later

My first "failed" test - Elementary exam for Drawing and Arts / 7th grade. I screwed up royally.

The first ever Television I watched - It was called 'Televista'. At my aunt's place in Mumbai.

The first Hindi movie I watched in theater - Shaan. (At Saroj 'Talkies' Nagpur. The only things I remember is Yamma Yamma and Shakal)

The first English Movie I watched in theater - Superman (Liberty cinema, Nagpur)

The First auto two-wheeler I rode - TVS 50

AND ..

The First time I "mastered my domain" - 8th grade (Check 'master-of-my-own-domain' episode of Seinfeld)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Singularly Brilliant

The word brilliant cannot even begin to do justice to this.. "President Bush, because he was so easily demonized, made being a free-rider on American power easy for everyone — and Americans paid the price. Obama will not make it so easy."

Friedman, the dude... doesn't stop at that, does he?

"If you want Obama to succeed, though, don’t just show us the love, show us the money. Show us the troops. Show us the diplomatic effort. Show us the economic partnership. Show us something more than a fresh smile. Because freedom is not free and your excuse for doing less than you could is leaving town in January." {clap,clap,clap...}

I wish he would have added one more line - "Just coz Obama is President, Angels are not going to rule this world". I know he wants to say this but holding it back. He seems to have said this in as many words or more...

Friday, November 7, 2008

'Quantum of Solace'

LOL.... how on earth do these Bond guys come up with such cool titles...!
'Die another day'... I am like wtf... and then how about 'Tomorrow never dies'... I mean what the hell..
But 'You only live twice' takes the cake amongst Bond titles.... (yeah I am sure I do only live twice.. :))

I think Daniel Craig has got the Bond back in the Sean Connery mode. Tough, brawny, techno-machismo mold. I liked the last one.. Casino Royale, although I would have liked a little more wit and humor. A depressed Bond is no Bond as far as I am concerned.

Waiting for 'Quantum of Solace'. If for nothing else, I am watching it for the title.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Tomorrow morning Chicago will wake up to it's biggest news ever, that is, if it sleeps at all tonight. Chicago's favorite boy, Barak Hussein Obama(BO) will have been declared USA's 44th President.

If I was Obama tonight, I would thank at least 2 Republicans. One, of course, Abraham Lincoln, the guy who laid grounds for a humane road to end slavery and two,George.W.Bush, who screwed up so bad, he helped create the biggest media movement ever against any incumbent President till date.

It would have been insane to even think just 7 years after 9/11 struck USA, that a Black man who's middle name would be Hussein would lead America someday. But that is America for you. More action, less blabber. Did you get it France? Don't just lecture others, make "affirmative action" work. This fairy tale journey of a son born to a Kenyan immigrant to become most powerful man in the world, could have possibly been scripted only in America.

From Martin Luther King to Mohammad Ali to Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice to Barak Obama, it is only America that has given voice, platform and avenues to achieve greater and greater heights for these minority leaders. (I can't for my life think an equally important personality in entire Europe, the so called "Liberal" Mecca)

Obama Obama

The pictures coming out of Grant Park, Chicago are nothing short of spectacular. These pictures are saying loudly and clearly -Take that, World. Stop lecturing us. Set your own house in order if you have balls.

Obama has beaten an honorable man. And he beat him fair and square. Let us not take away anything from his well oiled and well managed campaign. This is a massive massive win for Democrats, who never forgot the "stolen election" of 2000. They have never forgiven Republicans for that. Today's massive win can only be sweet vindication of 8 years of relentless campaign.

This is clearly a watershed movement in America's life. A sustained campaign against Bush has finally come to it's fruitation. Obama was an idea who's time had come. And nothing explains it better than a huge, a huge surge in young voters coming out in unprecedented numbers. Obama had captured nation's imagination and more importantly tapped it's emotion. I have not seen what it was like to be in Reagan's America or Kennedy's America, but I can't imagine it being as electrifying as today.

If I was a numerologist, I would have looked at these figures. BO was born on *4th* of August, he assumed his first office as a senator on *4th* of January and he won the Presidential elections on *4th* of November, even as he is declared the *44th* President of USA. Interesting coincidence of number 4.

But beyond a doubt this is Obama's calling; this *is* America's calling.

What would the post-Election Obama look like? Will he move this country more towards Left with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? Or will he take the Bill Clinton centrist path. More importantly how would this icy cool head, deal with enormous load of expectations. How will he deal with unpopular decisions? I am not sure. All I know for now is that, he is a smart guy with a grounded attitude. He is a good man for sure; whether he is the "right" man, only time will tell.

Presidential Election

This is such huge movement that it is easy to loose sight of the loosing candidate. I always thought that McCain was an honorable man, a war veteran with an impeccable integrity. I think he and his running mate got a raw deal from media. Specially Sarah Palin, a mother of 5 kids, one of whom will be deployed in Iraq and other a son with down syndrome. I thought she got the rap of her life on her knuckle. Some of the attacks on her were plain spiteful and tasteless. In the end they were not only running against Obama, but against a hugely unpopular incumbent President. In the end they could not beat Bush.

It's fair to say, this was a year for Democrats in the cycle of Elections and Obama was smart enough to sense that. And he hit the sweet spot with the American electorate. Truly a remarkable movement in history of the world. I am ending this post, even as Obama has started his speech at Grant Park.

Live well Sir!


Post-Script : I could not come up with an appropriate title for this post. Should I have called it "Obama Wins" or "McCain Looses" or "Liberals Win" or "Conservatives Loose" ...
I think I should have called it "Bush Looses". But again, he was not running.. so I did not go with that..although I thought 'Bush Looses' came closest to what i was thinking, coz even though Bush Jr did not fight this election, he was looming large over it.

May be I should have called it America Wins... but I thought '!!!' said it all :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The 'O' Factor

The is running a WORLD POLL on USA elections on it's website. No prizes for guessing who is leading hands down. Check it and Vote

This is obviously not scientific and complete reflection of world opinion, but definitely a "pointer".The entire globe on that website looks "Blue", except 3 countries - Iraq,Algeria and Congo. These three nations are liking Mc more, apparently.

But there's something interesting I observed - amongst the 'blue' countries only one country is supporting McCain much more than others. Guess which?

Yep, it's Pakistan which is relatively less Obama than others. I also have a theory. There's a good chance that if this website link was available to a larger Chinese populace, the results would not have been so lopsided. The reason - the Republicans right from Nixon days have been China's favorite politicians. What with all business going to their land post-Nixon era.

So when O finally wins this week, there are at least 2 countries that may have issues with his win - Pakistan and China.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

You said it!

There's a reason I like to read Friedman, even though I do not agree with everything he has to say; he "keeps it simple".

I have argued against this over-correction of "evil" capitalism in one of my previous posts where I mentioned Google too. In his latest article Friedman gives example of Larry and Sergey asking for loan from a "nationalized" bank. So apt, given the current scenario.

Coming from a country where socialism ruled for more than 5 decades and still continues to be dominant philosophy, I think I am qualified to judge it's consequences. Nothing explains it better than Churchill's quote

Just simply put - "We need to fix capitalism, not install socialism." As Mr. Friedman has rightly said