Thursday, November 27, 2008

In wake of the unthinkable events unfolding in Mumbai

ऐ दिल है मुशकिल जीना यहाँ.....

याद होगा आपको CID से यह गाना :

ऐ दिल है मुशकिल जीना यहाँ
ज़रा हट के, ज़रा बच के, ये है बम्बई मेरी जान।

कहीं बिल्डिंग, कहीं ट्रामें, कहीं मोटर, कहीं मिल
मिलता है यहां सब कुछ, इक मिलता नहीं दिल
इन्सान का नहीं नामों-निशान
ज़रा हट के ज़रा बच के, ये है बम्बई मेरी जान।

कहीं सट्टा, कहीं पत्ता, कहीं चोरी, कहीं रेस,
कहीं डाका, कहीं फ़ाका, कहीं ठोकर, कहीं ठेस,
बेकारों के हैं कई काम यहाँ
ज़रा हट के ज़रा बच के, ये है बम्बई मेरी जान।

Those are the problems of the past. Long back, the rich in Bombay had it easy and the poor were the only ones feeling the brunt of the ruthless efficiency of the city of dreams. The people of Bombay were accused of being unhelpful and uncompassionate. Well, may be you see some of those problems even now. It is so very often that roadside accidents, daylight shootings in public places, and alike events, draw out curious onlookers, not good Samaritans on the streets of Mumbai. However, by now, the Mumbaikars (not "Marathi Manoos") have acquitted themselves of such accusations with display of great character in times of distress.

Of late, the character of people of this great city has been tested once too many. In the Mumbai floods of 2005, civilians helped each other while government helped itself to another gold star incapability medal to bolster its already impressive tally. In the several bomb blasts since 90s, people have helped the persons on site and senior cops have put their lives on risk. The problems of old, still exist - the angry unemployed, the efficient underworld machine, the poor children, the unimaginable employment conditions and appalling infrastructure... However, now more important dangers to the city's lifeline have emerged. Long back the challenge was to make it to an apartment in the affluent South Bombay. The present day challenge is to make it to your natural death! 

4 people die on Mumbai's train track's everyday. 1.6 (8 out of every 20 such deaths) of those people fall off the train. 1 crashes himself onto the poles. The number of terror attacks on Bombay make you wonder why are the people in London and NY so pragmatic when they have suffered just one each. The British government has taken away any garbage bins in densely populated areas of Central London. There is a fear that the "terrorists" might leave a bomb in the bin. So, you throw your trash on the street and one of the hundreds of cleaning staff will pick it up. I can't see that as a solution in Mumbai. The city doesn't have garbage bins since even before the terrorists started appearing as often as the full-moon.

बुरा दुनिया को है कहता, ऐसा भोला तो ना बन
जो है करता, वो है भरता, है यहाँ का यह चलन

The cue to our problems is in the above lines. Since the 1980s Pakistan has been trying to pry on the emotions of the Indian Muslims and international terrorist organisations using the Kashmir issue. It didn't have much success until we messed up the minority confidence in the rest of the country. State sponsored, mob enacted blunders like Godhara, Ayodhya have left a lot of angry souls among the minorities. International terrorists used these angry, frustrated people to set up sleeper cells, now the biggest threat to India's internal security. The presence of sleeper cells means that now acts of terror can be committed in and managed from smaller centres like Jaipur and Lucknow with a frightening ease. India has a 150 million strong Muslim population. Even if a 1000 of them (0.0007%) join these hate-mongers, that is quite a lot for intelligence agencies to handle from among its own people. We could not have afforded to let our own people join the ranks of such insidious organisations, but we still let that happen. The rise of RSS, VHP, Bajrang dal, Shiv Sena and Modi has only hastened the process of radicalisation of local Muslim youths. Foreign terrorists have allies in India, from India. Now these terrorist organisations have internal routes on Indian soil that are difficult to monitor. Did we created the monster?

The Americans and British, who have been chased single-mindedly by the terrorists in the recent attack are also facing the consequences of decisions that their governments made. Osama has the unique distinction of being created by CIA and being chased by FBI. Pakistan's ISI is not far behind. In the Afghan war against the Soviets, the US bolstered the capacities of ISI to aid itself in gaining a foothold in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, by late 80s, India started facing problems from ISI managed terrorism on Indian soil. US turned a blind eye to it. Even when they knew that the claims were right, they did not bother to purge or pressurise the extremist elements in ISI. They were a strategic ally after all, so what if they were killing a few Indians. Now, Osama has come to haunt US as a monster it created. ISI is not far behind, once again. There is a strong and growing evidence of the hand of ISI and international terror groups in the recent attack. Bombing certain sites on Pak soil and sending polite requests of improving conduct to ISI are not going to work. US will have to excercise its strategic muscle on Pakistan.

Meanwhile, India has to remain sure that it does not get washed in an extremist agenda. There will calls for divisive politics immediately after the situation is resolved. Some Hindu extremist elements will try to ration their jungle justice to innocent Muslim folk. The government will have to show vigilance to not let such anti-social elements to have their way. Mobs should be kept out of imparting justice in this case. The opposition and government alike will have to show an uncharacteristic restraint in not trying to spark riots. Out of the close to 80 Indians that have lost their lives in this attack, there are also a close to 10 innocent Muslims that lost their lives as well. Terrorism has no religion except hate. Two Turkish Muslims got their lives reprieved on account of their religion but the Indian Muslims lost their lives in an act of indiscriminate firing. 

A Hindu retort to this tragedy will be an act of terrorism as well. India has to realise that it does not have the luxury that US and UK enjoy in the fight against terrorism. UK is an island. US is too far away from the centres of terrorism. There isn't enough population potential to be radicalised in comparison to India. Both these countries have the financial muscles to invest a lot on defence. India, will have to think a solution for itself, something original and innovative. It should be based on restoring communal harmony through education, taking down divisive politicians, improving security infrastructure and above all uniting ourselves against unworthy villains such as hatred.

These perpetrators of hate should know that:

दादागिरी नहीं, चलने की यहाँ
यह है बोम्बे, यह है बम्बई मेरी जान

खुदा हाफ़िज़।

May lord give peace to the victims of this tragedy and my great nation.

जय हिंद!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Common Oxymorons

Some of the most common oxymorons (oxymora) that I have heard in the past few days:

  1. "I am funny" - That wasn't funny enough.
  2. "I am creative" - Should have found a more creative way of saying that.
  3. Somebody sending you a message "Take your own time" 6 times in a hour! How can I take my own time if you throw panic my way every few minutes. The best expression of "take your own time" sentiment is to not contact the other person at all. Then, he/she will take his/her own time and express gratitude for your compassionate behavior (of course, the expression of gratitude is also mute).
  4. "I will be there in 13 minutes" - No, you will be here in 15 minutes. You are just trying to numb my brain by puzzling me through a mathematical nuance. How dare you?
  5. "I love the Tesco beer" - No, I will not take this one. Nobody "loves" the 20 pence 6-pack Supermarket brand beer/piss water. You "like" it (because it's cheap). Let us leave "love" for the cheesy ones.
  6. "Needless to say ... blah blah blah" - Why say it then?

I will add more as I think of them. I know that the last two aren't exactly oxymorons, but you get the drift. Right?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another gem from Quote of the Day - my opinion of Soap Operas, Reality shows and current news channels

Television is the first truly democratic culture - the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.
- Clive Barnes

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The heavy leaf, the fallen page

"Let us have our coffee in the music room, Dorian. You must play Chopin to me. The man with whom my wife ran away played Chopin exquistely. Poor Victoria! I was very fond of her. The house is rather lonely without her. Of course, married life is merely a habit, a bad habit. But then one regrets the loss even of one's worst habits. Perhaps one regrets them the most. They are such an essential part of one's personality"
- Lord Henry Watton to Dorian Gray in "The Picture of Dorian Gray".

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wandering thoughts - II

I do not support Indian bowler Harbhajan Singh (Bhajji) on the recent issue of racially abusing Aussie Andrew Symonds. I do not buy the argument that Indians can not be racist because they are brown. Indians are among one of the most racist people in the world. We call whites as racist! To prove my point I will ask you a question - how many Indian people are ready to get married to black people? To the same people I ask - now how many of you are ready to get married to white people? Since we all know the statistics that will come out of such a survey, we should just throw away the argument that Indians can not be racist. I don't give a rats ass about whether Harbhajan actually called Symonds a monkey, he probably is one anyway.

After the ICC bought the retarded argument that Harbhajan can not be racist because he is brown, a lot the among Australian folk had their blood boiling in their veins. Next match, when Harbhajan was fielding close to the boundary, the Aussie crowd was taunting him - "Harbhajan is a Wener." Now the funny bit is that they do not know about Harbhajan's proficiency in English. For most parts, Bhajji must have been thinking - "Why are they calling me a Winner? I never get the sarcastic Aussie humour."

Lack of real issues:
I have realised that the British have no real domestic issues to talk about. This is why the front page of their newspapers are full of celebrity images. There is little their government can do to change their lives radically. The real serious topics in their media are international in nature. No wonder that weather is a dandy conversation starter in a country where the it is inconsequential (They get no real floods, no blizzards, no hurricanes and the worst is an irritating drizzle). Listening to BBC Radio 4, I am astounded by the kind of things they talk about:
  1. A presenter has brought has brought in a high level lawyer to his studio to air his views on a consumer protection debate. Case - A man in England has sued Tim Burton, the director of Sweeny Todd, for misleading him with the advertisements. Seemingly, he had gone to see a gory misadventure and it turned out to be softy musical for him. In the BBC studio they were talking about the complainant's rights. What rights? Right to be an idiot. Is that a fundamental right now?
  2. BBC is actually pretty good. It calls real experts to discuss issues, even if the issues are not real. Private radio channels are worse. They hire dumb Radio Jockeys who can speak 100 words in a minute without thinking. Quite an achievement. Everyday, Red Dragon FM gives counselling to people about topics like marriage, aggressive husbands, how to handle gay children, etc. What makes me wonder is that how come the listeners think of this RJ to be fit to counsel on topics that psychologists and sociologists would take several paid sessions to deal with? Do they really believe that a moron, who is playing a Britney song at every 10 minute interval, is really concerned about giving his honest best opinion on their personal lives? Baffles me.
A bite from my favourite BBC radio comedy, The Now Show -
"A conservative MP has been arrested for calling Prime Minister Gordon Brown a liar. Apparently, he had breached the Official Secrets Act"

Friday, June 22, 2007

The furniture Wars

Great Video from Stage6

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What looks good in literature but not in movies?

I would start by referring to this passage out of Indian author Munshi Premchand's story डामुल का क़ैदी. The context is that a wealthy businessman (सेठ) goes to prison after confessing a crime when he could have easily avoided jail using his money. When he comes back from prison to meet his wife and son, who have been through much hardships while is away, this is what he says to his wife -
सेठजी ने श्रद्धा-भरी आँखों से देखकर कहा - भगवान् हमारे परम सुह्रद हैं। वह जो कुछ करते हैं, प्राणियों के कल्याण के लिये करते हैं। हम समझते हैं, हमारे साथ विधि ने अन्याय किया; पर यही हमारी मूर्खता है। विधि अबोध बालक नहीं है, जो अपने ही सिरजे हुए खिलौने को तोड़-फोड़ कर आनन्दित होता है। न वह हमारा शत्रु है, जो हमारा अहित करने में सुख मानता है। वह परम दयालु है, मंगल-रूप है। यही अवलम्ब था, जिसने निर्वासन-काल में मुझे सर्वनाश से बचाया। इस आधार के बिना कह नहीं सकता, मेरी नौका कहाँ कहाँ भटकती और उसका अन्त क्या होता।

A very idealistic statement, I must say, where he is preaching that he got what he deserved. This statement comes out beautifully amidst a story based on principles of honesty, truthfulness and belief in god. If the same statement came out in a movie, a soap or a magazine article, it would have looked so horribly cheesy and emotionally overdone. Why is that so?

May be everybody has respect for morals and high principles. Such principles depict what people like to see, not what they want to be. Being so idealistic seems uncool and impractical. Saying something like that could be the last statement of a healthy social life. Therefore, when you listen to such a dialogue in theater with your friends sitting besides you, you take the lead in dismissing it as boring and cheesy and put a stamp onto the stereotype the you prefer to settle in.

When you are sitting alone and reading a popular magazine and come across something like this, you will still not like it. It wouldn't seeming fitting among the Page-3 articles and political propagandas of a commercial magazine. It will seem like a cheap stunt from the magazine to push a false image of itself onto you. But, if this was in magazines, 50 years back, you might have liked it. It would have come from writers who believed in all this. In literature, it comes from the most idealistic characters and you don't feel cheated or being dealt in lies. You believe that such a person would say something like that from the bottom of his heart. You share a moment of joy with the author and appreciate the mutual liking for good characters.

Turn the page and move on in life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mortal Fears

Everyday I read something about a few people dying. Growing up in 21st Century, I do not even take notice of it. Never ever have been these many unnecessary fatalities. My apathy towards death scares me, often pointing to my fading compassion as I grow up. I never wanted to be one of those people who are oblivious to the pain of other people. Looking at it from another angle, I am not so insensitive to death. I am very scared of my own death!

It all started when I was very young. One of my older cousin, Puneet, had come to visit us. With his popular gags and jokes he was a hit among the kids. We were all playing in the garden on a winter afternoon. I was just rolling in the grass and was laughing at being tickled by the pointed grass poking me through my T-shirt. Suddenly an insect came flying and stung me in the arm. The pain wasn't excruciating, therefore, I decided to ignore it and be cool. A few moments later, I realized that I had developed a water bubble under my skin at the site of attack. Seemingly perturbed by this aberration on my skin, I ran to the senior most consultant in the vicinity of the garden; Puneet he was. All the other kids were sitting besides him and enjoying his anecdotes. After a thorough diagnosis, he declared that I had cancer. The news came to me like my worst fears had come true.

The only thing I knew about cancer was that it had no cure and any body who had cancer in a TV serial would die and say bye to that soap. I moved away from Puneet and went inside quietly. Amidst all this action and jokes, nobody noticed my sad lifeless walk in the drawing room. I just sat onto the cushion and started crying. I had dreamed of doing so many things. I hadn't yet fired an air gun and I was about to die. This seemed like very unfair to me. Silent tears made way through my eyes and wet my lips with salty water. There was no sobbing. It was just a disciplined queue of tears waiting inside and walking out calmly when their turn came. It was uncharacteristic of me to not make a big deal about the cause of my tears. Crying was my trump card. I had always used tears as my last defense to resolve crisis. But today, I was defenseless. Today, tears weren't there to solve anything, they were there to express a newly found feeling, sadness. This was a new feeling and what bad luck that it came in form of news of my approaching mortality. Dad was walking out through drawing room when he saw me sitting quietly, making a mess of myself. When I told him that I am going to die of cancer because of the water bubble on my arm, he was both amused and relieved. He told me that they had been joking with me and I was to live a long and glorious life. He then called in Puneet and scolded him for his sad joke which was not so funny now. All the kids outside were laughing at me. The water bubble was burst open in the local clinic a few days later, but my mortal fears were not.

At the age of nine, this was the first time when I had appreciated life and not cribbed about the fact that other kids at the school were getting jam in their lunch box while I was just getting bread and pickle.

I was always a very safe child. Never fought with anybody. Always rode the cycle very slow and never took shortcuts. I was very "uncool". Kept away from dogs and didn't even curse god in my mind, after all he might just be listening to my thoughts at this very moment. Why mess up with the strongman.

I was in Ahmadabad in May 2001 to appear for an exam. This was only 4 months after a death-hungry earthquake had engulfed a large part of civilization and life in the region. The aftermath of this tragedy shook me from inside and brought another of my fears to the fore. A few months later, I was living on 1st floor in Ganga Hostel, IIT. One fine evening, an earthquake shook the coastal city, I lived in. I ran down as soon as I realized what was happening. A lot of other people followed the suit, but I did not return inside the building with them even with calm restored. I was still waiting downstairs for an official message about likelihood of another shaker. Just about then, somebody came and announced on the mike that more earthquakes are expected and everybody is instructed to go to Sangam ground to to seek safety. I dashed to Sangam. A match was going on over there. One of my classmates who had come there to support one of the teams asked me why the hell was I there, after all I didn't support either of the teams. I did not want to confess my fears to him so just avoided him by moving to some place else. I returned to hostel only when I found out that the announcement was a prank played by one of supporters of the teams in Sangam to get more audience. Later the Dean released a public statement saying that Chennai wasn't on the fault zone, so we may go back and sleep peacefully. I still couldn't. I forced my roommate to let me sleep near the door. I had a planned an escape route via the tree close to the door in event of an unlikely earthquake. Sleep avoided me all night. This was not the end of my nightmare. Even now, very often, I wake up in sleep feeling a quake, waking everybody beside me. Moments later, I am put to sleep again after being forced to believe that it was the dog moving under the bed. If computer games were never my type, Quake sure is my last choice game.

I believe all of us have some mortal fears. I feel quite light after the confession of my fears. If you say you do not have mortal fears than you are not brave enough. Not brave enough to face them.

Good night
Wishing you all a safe world.

PS: Anybody got the connect between the photo in the beginning and the post?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Music is for everyone

It is always believed that music is not well understood by a lot of people. The taste for music is used by a lot of people as a pretense, to be seen as cool. These are bad people. But there are ignorant imbeciles as well. These are the ones who have a habit of breaking into a ruthless cacophony. There are people who have a very bad memory of lyrics and make a mockery of songs without an malicious intention. Wide range of capabilities exist in producing, reproducing and digesting music.

I have always belonged to the bad-in-all-respects category. I can't produce harmonious sounds, nor can I remember lyrics. Sometimes I believe it is something you are born with. Once in my third year of undergrad, I grabbed a keyboard from my ex-roommate Munna. My friend, Sid, used to live besides me. He was both gifted and trained. So, I asked Sid to teach me keyboard. He started by teaching me about the SEVEN Notes. The key was to be able to distinguish between them. I was not able to do that even after a few sessions. Sid gave up and said - "Its not your fault. If you can not feel the difference between notes, you will never create music." I took his word as god's will and humbly admitted my limitations to myself. Then on, I never tried to learn music. But, that hasn't deterred me from listening to a wide variety of music. I was and am pretty ease to please. I could even enjoy my next door guy singing. I realized that I was bad at lyrics. But, on the other hand, my taste for music was such that it ignored lyrics a lot of times. I could listen to songs from any language and feel happy, feel sad, feel something. There are a lot of songs that stir me up.

There are a billion people on the earth who fall into my category - good listeners alone people (GLAPs). We are the people who make music timeless. Music was created for expression. Not everybody can express it, but most of us can read the expression. If it was only for the ones who could express, I believe music would have become so limited and prone to death. IT wouldn't have survived till eternity. I raise a toast to all the GLAPs on the planet.

This is one of my favorites:

Monday, October 30, 2006

English - Language Bridge or Language Divide?

English - Language Bridge or Language Divide?
The question that has been troubling Indian intelligentsia for quite some while.

Why couldn't we have a national language like China which has even more people and a greater area?

Why is English, or the popular modified local version Indish, the language to communicate across the various Indian states?

Why couldn't we use some indigenous language like Hindi or Sanskrit if we wanted a common language?

Padam Shree Javed Akhtar was answering these questions in a public gathering at IIT Madras in January 2003. He said - "In this dynamic world where knowledge and science is the primary form of wealth, a language has to be flexible and dynamic to be able to survive. A language has to keep adding new words to describe the new inventions, discoveries and ideas. It should be expanding so as to be capable of describing ongoing research. Hindi or other Indian languages are not doing that. Thus, English has become our language of academic discourse. Young Indians will find English more suited for their future lives as it will help them to describe their times. Hindi will not have enough expression to match the things of future."

It is not that Indians and Chinese have to learn English to be able to communicate with the west. If India and China decide to force the world to start using their language, they might be able to do so after some time, by virtue of sheer force of their numbers and growing stature. But their languages are slow evolving and they depend on English a lot of times to move forward in describing new ideas. Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and a lot of other languages are far ahead of Hindi in this regard, but still there is a long way to catch up with English.

In the few days that I have been in UK, I have often come across the compliment that you learn languages pretty fast from people of various nationalities. I thought may be it comes naturally to us Indians. Most of us are at least bilinguals.

Yesterday, I was talking to this British friend of mine, Ball Williams (Will). He was curious that "why was English (Indish) the common language in India?". My answer was in taking a parallel to the European situation. Most Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu, Marathi are spoken by a population spread over an area bigger than most European nations and spoken by more people than most European languages. Read this to know better. The common language across Europe is English and so is it in India. Quite naturally so. The first time when a diverse Indian plethora was united in a formation that resembles the current concept of Indian nation, it was due to the Imperial forces (Raj). It was the first time that people from all over the India felt the need to learn a common langauge to communicate with a central government. Raj gave us our "first common language" and hence, Indish is our common language. It will be quite futile to expect Hindi to do the same job. If we wanted that, the Hindi Rulers should have done what the Raj did before them, they should have united the country. Language evolves by ease of use, not by an measure of patriotic and cultural coolness. Will was quite impressed by the statistics that we ourselves ignore so very often. I never thought about these statistics until he asked me this obvious question. It is very easy for North Indians to feel frustrated when they can't use their Hindi to communicate in south. The same north Indian wouldn't feel the frustration while talking to a Spanish guy with a broken English. The frustration that we so often find justified and take for granted, is letting a regional indignation creep into our otherwise unprejudiced and secular minds. Its feet stands on a soil of blatant ignorance of largely telling statistics staring into our face.

Okay, lets say English is not that bad. After all Urdu also came from the influence of Invaders and we have accepted it so warmly. Why not make India a one language nation and kill the regional divide? "Why not do it like China?"- as the popular Indian herd mentallity statement goes these days. In China, when Mao Tse-tung rose to power, he brought about the Cultural Revolution. He made Mandarin (Chinese) the compulsory common language. So he killed two birds with one stone - regional divide and regional diversity. With democracy, at least our regional diversity has survived. That is something that we are very proud of. IITs get a very diverse population with no special effort. Even the much revered IVY schools like Harvard and Columbia make an conscious effort to get diversity, even at the cost of merit at times. Respect for diversity is a tradition in India. This is the most important tradition that we have to preserve, more than the arranged marriages and saarees.

Thus, we should let the masses to choose their language and wait until a common language evolves with growing education and literacy. We still have a good reason to preserve Hindi and other regional languages. Our regional languages are much more qualified to describe our lives, the Kachoris, the dosas, the ishq, the mohabbat, the sati, the harijans, the kudiyan..... List is long. They are much more apt when describing the Indian emotions. So, the hindi fundamentalist who are advocating abolishing English from our education have a more costructive job left to them than obstructing scientific education. They have to fight hard to spread the beauty of Hindi Literature. I am sad that most of my Indian batchmates can't read Hindi books. Lets preserve our languages. Let us youth work for preservation when we become fathers and mothers. The opportunity is in our hands - Carpe diem.

Jai Hind.