Tuesday, December 29, 2015

To don't or not to don't

I'm 29 and less than five months away from turning 30. And still, there are SO MANY THINGS that i've not done yet.
  • learn to drive 
  • be sure about my signature
  • see/touch snow 
  • fuck herpetophobia
  • sleep like a baby
  • shave 
  • get into a fight
  • write a book/script
  • have a career 
  • block someone on Twitter
  • participate in full marathon 
  • last longer than Ron Jeremy
  • publish hidden poems 
  • visit Europe/Americas
  • play violin 
  • speak Urdu/French fluently 
  • take yoga seriously
  • drink/smoke/drugs/orgy etc
  • overcome gastronomical issues
  • adopt/raise a dog
  • read all the collected books
  • watch all the downloaded movies
  • ejaculate creativity 
  • argue instead of smile
  • teach college students 
  • watch Liverpool at Anfield
  • make dad retire
  • become VERY healthy
  • turn into a farmer 
  • become a shepherd
  • get crucified
  • become a messiah 

Waiting for the itch

Exactly seven years ago, i signed up on Twitter having no idea what it was all about. It had a famous character limit of 140 which i found exciting. I simply took it up as a challenge to condense my thoughts within the available space. My initial followers were some random “gay” bots from Australia. To make matters worse, i used to reply to them thinking they were for real. It took me a while to figure out what a bot was. This was way before i turned into one. But more interestingly, i was thrilled to be sharing a platform with the who's who of the world. My favourite Hollywood stars, footballers and other global personalities had Twitter handles. Wow. It was being invited to a VVVVIP party. Like a moron, i was shooting them tweets hoping they will read it. I wasn't expecting replies from them. My expectations have always been lower than my self-esteem. I remember once congratulating Stephen Fry on something, once XOXO-ing Monica Bellucci's fake account and once telling Dalai Lama that he was absolutely right! 


I often used to disagree with Deepak Chopra and made no bone about displaying my opinions in public. Taslima Nasreen once suggested that she'd love to adopt me. OK, she didn't. But she said something to the effect of becoming rich enough one day to let me tweet carelessly the way i did. She was one of the last Twitter folks i spoke to before turning silent in 2010. I used to converse with non-celebs. A lot, actually. About movies, music, football and life in general. Fortunately, i never got into an argument with anyone. Was too lazy to do that back then. Am too laziest to do that right now. Some things don't change. What really changed though is i don't attract trolls like i did back in '12 and '13. Maybe they've realized that there's no point nitpicking. Nobody wins in a battle involving me. Not me. Not them. What also changed is the way Twitter is functioning today, especially in our country. During my early days, there was a Christmasy positive spirit throughout the year. Brand contests were just picking up. People weren't into politics and used to have random conversations dictated by the trends in the West. Nowadays, Twitter India is more desi. There's a clear balance. If there are SRK fans hosting fanaticism on one hand, then there are Sallu fans on the other. The same is true for political party supporters. There are liberals as well as bhakts. The habit of labelling people just because they don't agree with your views is also fast catching steam. The level of humour is also swinging nicely. Of course, American tweeps can't be beaten when it comes to jokes written in English. One of the main reasons why this is so is, an Indian tweep would be more comfortable RT-ing a random Umreeki guy than an Indian one. There is a fetching circle within which most tweeps operate. I-scratch-your-back-and-you-scratch-mine attitude is in full display. Which is why even the most celebrated Indian tweeps aren't going global as such as their finest tweets remain within the pre-ordained circle. The easiest route out is to stay away from these circles like i do but your reach will be heavily compromised. Are you prepared for that? If yes, don't expect logic behind everything you read. You are better off on the other side. No, not with Adele. 

Speaking of the other side, i finally signed up on Instagram and Snapchat in 2015. For somebody who works in the social media sector, i'm damn slow. However, everyday is a lesson for me in how human behaviour is ridiculously different after the login button is hit. I see how people turn funny or righteous just because they believe their online avatar demands so. If you try to break the mould they'll mock you. An Akshar can't tweet philosophical stuff even if he wants to. He has to stick with awesome graphics and lame puns. There's no scope for evolution per se. You aren't supposed to change. Your old forgotten tweets and FB posts won't let you. Look at me. I haven't changed either. I was tad boring on the evening of December 29th, 2009. I still am. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Rise of the legend

Do you really want Leonardo DiCaprio to win an Oscar? No, seriously. You should be asking yourself this question because we are at that junction in history where an actor is acquiring legendary status. And it's a critical moment for humankind. (OK, i'm exaggerating here but you get the point.) He was in his teens when he first got nominated for this award (yes, we can always argue about the merit of an award decided by oldies but we can't come up with a bigger substitute for that golden baldie in the world of cinema) and he's 41 now. It's been a long ride for him. Going by his recent films, it's apparent that Robert De Niro doesn't care much about the script anymore. He's more into comedy nowadays and seems to enjoy having fun for a change. The same is true for Jack Nicholson, who hasn't given a TV interview in over four decades now! And Al Pacino. Gene Hackman hasn't appeared in a film in over a decade now. So, the male Hollywood actors who carved themselves a niche in the 1970s aren't around to bother. Their successors are going to be either in their early 40s or 50s. Which cuts down the table to the Brad Pitts, Tom Cruises and Johnny Depps of the world. Brad Pitt has done a great job of transcending from acting in good films to producing great films. Tom Cruise seems stuck in his Ethan Hunt persona which bodes well for BO. Johnny Depp can't be recognized in most of his films thanks to heavy makeup but how many of them stand out on his merit? There's no doubt that nobody comes close to Daniel Day Lewis in terms of thespian perfection. But then, how much can you grade an actor who has worked in only five films in 15 years? Hasn't his choosiness and knack for details worked against his opportunities to test himself more? On the other hand, DiCaprio worked in 15 films during this century, each film unique in its own way. Not a single role can be found cascaded into another. The argument isn't just about his amazing work rate but also his unperturbed dedication to his art. He comes across as a careless New Yorker in his real life who loves partying but when it comes to cinema, can you think of anyone who has pushed himself the way he has—at least in the 21st century? Take his latest venture, The Revenant (2015), for instance. The pain he showcases ain't very detached from the personal discomfort he appears to have experienced during the shooting of this film. Being submerged in freezing water for one scene while consuming raw meat (despite being a vegan) for another are just two of the several difficulties he must have gone through. I don't mean to give out spoilers here but i can tell you two things for sure: 

1. The Revenant is one of the finest films of all time and it is so because DiCaprio's dedication to the cinematographer's vision is incredible.
2. Technically, you shouldn't want DiCaprio to win an Oscar because there's a lingering fear that he might stop pushing himself if he wins one. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Caught in a lingual trap

People look at me suspiciously whenever i tell somebody that i don't watch an English film without its subtitles. And i do this despite working as a business transcriber for exactly four years. During which, i used to come across different accents as a routine. So much so i could distinguish where the speaker is from by the way s/he speaks. Boston English isn't the same as Yankee English. Finns speak English differently than Danes. Chinese and Japanese might look similar in appearance but their approach to English is as stark as their foreign policies. An Aussie speaks English with careless attitude while a Scot speaks the same language with a hidden disdain. These are some of the characteristics i picked up while transcribing conference calls of MNCs as well as smaller corporations. Despite all these vagaries, i STILL prefer to use subtitles while watching Hollywood films (British and Australian films as well). Simply because i can't pretend to understand something i don't. And if i miss a dialogue since i'm more verbally inclined than visually, then it bugs me. However, if i'm in line with the words spoken in a film, then i'm at peace. So, it's a personal reason. But what i've noticed among my friends and colleagues is they avoid subtitles because they don't like to read while watching a movie. That's also their excuse for overlooking non-English gems that come from the world of cinema. They'd rather pretend to act like they understood everything that they heard in an English film (when they haven't) than take the effort to read in sync with the movie. Which makes you wonder, what precisely is foreign for us Indians? English spoken by non-Indians or non-English spoken by non-English? 

Friday, December 25, 2015


Merry Xmas!

(All i want for Christmas is your share of snow. Gurgaon touched 4 degrees last night, didn't it?)

PS.  Like Jesus, Santa doesn't exist but festivity does so it's alright. 
PSS. Have a fab year ahead.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

For some of us, winter never ends

I thought i was cold before i shifted to Gurgaon. The weather here is colder. And a lot of people, coldest. It's an utter disappointment for someone who hails from Bombay. That city in the middle of a sea has its share of vices. Heartless people with a misguided sense of superiority ain't one of them. The genuine warmth Mumbaikars exhibit can only be matched by the annoying humidity there. People back home smile without a hint of malice. Gurgaon, on the other end, is a city that's stuck between a concrete dream and a dusty nightmare. The only ones who seem truly content here are the pigs that roam with no fear whatsoever of turning into bacon. Intriguingly enough, they've built a great rapport with the stray cows on the road. They don't really have to share food but still, their co-existence is a classic lesson for us. Everyday is a lesson, come to think of it. If you are paying attention, that is. That admitted, i don't have much to learn from Gurgaon. The lessons have been repetitive for almost a year now. Yesterday, the temperature dipped to 6 degree Celsius and i woke up in the middle of the night. I was watching a plotless movie with my eyes closed when something snatched my drowsy attention. I woke up and heard a shrieking call from the balcony's end. As i got up to check through the curtains whether there was a bird, i noticed that noise was fading away. It must have been an owl. I don't believe in superstition but i'm quite scared of them. On top of that—quite literally—my left eyebrow has been twitching for more than two weeks now. What if there's a sign somewhere in this particular incident? You never know. What if the coldness you notice in others just another mirage by your own coldness? 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A rehabilitated mind

Since i don't really have anything to write about, i thought i'll recommend TED-Ed to you. I've benefited a lot from this site. It's an humbling experience. In any case, the TED platform seems like a great place to exchange ideas. But then, somebody told me that nothing is accomplished there other than talking. To which, i retorted that that's not true. There's a lot of listening going on there too.  

Speaking of which, we don't listen anymore. It's a dying art form. Everybody wants to be on the stage and nobody wants to be in the audience. A young boy who committed a horrible crime is about to work free in our country. The society is obviously scared as well as furious. But what's surprising here is the same society somehow manages to make peace with the unmentionable acts by our politicians and entertainers. Which is why it's time we revisited Red in that parole room of The Shawshank Redemption (1994), not only to understand what rehabilitation is all about but also why some wrongs can never be righted.  

Officer: "Ellis Boyd Redding, your files say you've served 40 years of a life sentence. Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?"
Red: "Rehabilitated? Well, now let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means."
Officer: "Well, it means that you're ready to rejoin society..."
Red: "I know what you think it means, sonny. To me, it's just a made up worda politician's wordso young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?"
Officer: "Well, are you?"
Red: "There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone, and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Requiem for a reality

It's usually me asking (begging) others to watch so and so movies. But with Lucia (2013), things changed a bit. My dear friend Bee not only recommended this film to me but also took the trouble of sending me the DVD. This was two years ago. However, for some technical reasons, i couldn't watch this Kannada beaut. But that changed last night. I finally caught hold of this psychedelic caper with brilliant subtitles in place. And i must add that it's one of the finest films to come out of our country this decade. During my stint as a film journalist for mid-day, i remember interviewing Goutam Ghose. He was the head of the selection committee that chose the film to be sent for Oscars back in 2013. Since Lucia was one of the 22 shortlisted entries, i remember him praising the film when asked whether it was difficult to come to a unanimous decision. I'd agree with him now. Lucia is indeed enchanting. It's different from usual Kannada flicks and yet similar. Here, too, the hero wants to settle down with his beloved but his journey is not going to be normal. It's filled with a constant fight between dreams, realities and alternate realities. To their credit, the protagonists are brilliant on screen. The screenplay and the innovative camerawork staple your attention for good. The only problem is everybody seems to be in a hurry. The dialogues are so fast paced that the actors aren't allowed to remain in one tempo for long, making some scenes extremely theatrical. Which is quite ironic when the film affords to feature songs that do little to enhance the storyline. All things seen and judged, nothing can prepare you for the climax. No, not even repeated viewings of Fight Club. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How long?

I once had an adorable colleague during my journalism days who would remain unfazed by whatever happened around. She rarely responded with words under such circumstances. In fact, her only response to any kind of change in the system was “Kab tak?” delivered with a stoic face. In her long career, she had seen all kinds of restructuring. Nothing surprised her anymore. The editor is changing? No big deal. The team is realigning? No big deal. The page formats are changing? No big deal. To her, permanence didn't exist. She would keep reminding me that nothing would remain the way it is. Sooner or later, somebody new will walk in with newer ideas and somebody old will be going out pretending to be awesome. Today, more than four years after i heard that question for the first time, i'm yet to come across two more powerful words. 

Lyrical twists and turns

...Hmm tere kohhre badan mein sil jaaungi re
Jab karwat lega tu khhil jaaungi re...♫ 

Bollywood songs are quite deceptive, not just because they go overboard with romance but also because they sound different to different people. Some will hear “...toh baat ban jaaye” while others will decipher “...toh baap ban jaaye” effortlessly. José Covaco knows what i'm talking about. It's almost funny if you overlook that medical condition called mondegreen. Google it, i'm not explaining it. What i'm going to explain though is how a song written by Gulzar for Omkara (2006) can turn into something more experimental if we change the way it sounds. FYI, i already did that with the aforementioned two verses. I changed dohhre to kohhre and chhil to khhil taking creative liberties which might make India more intolerant than necessary. The above two lines can make an inference to tattoos now. (No, i'm not into body art anymore, been 13 months since i got inked!) So, the lyrics suggest that the heroine would stitch herself into the hero's skin (like a tattoo?) and will showcase herself elegantly when he stretches his body (like tattoos do on taut skin?). 

Sorry, Gulzarsaab. 

Trivial pursuits

I've always been a trivia slut. I digged general knowledge/current affairs as a kid too although i've noticed that i don't remember a lot of the stuff that i read of late. I tend to overlap information too. Einstein even went to the extent of criticizing libraries. According to him, original ideas didn't culminate from trivia. He had more than just a point but i continue to collect utterly useless data just because i enjoy doing so. There's no gain in there. To make a situation worse, people don't even like you if you keep telling them stuff they didn't already know. I once read somewhere that knowledge is meant to spread. If only i had the wisdom to not believe such rubbish! 

Abetment to waking up

Yesterday, i finally watched Court (2015). Before you assume it's a Marathi film, it's not. It prominently features four languages—Marathi, Hindi, English and Gujarati—depending heavily on incomplete subtitles. If you haven't watched it, you know what you should do. No, not just download. Downloading is very easy. Hoarding movies is easier. Watching is the toughest part. Anyway, if you aren't aware yet, this film is also India's official entry to Oscar this year. Going by the buzz, it won't be harsh to keep our expectations low. It's not going to win the golden statue. The closest we got to winning was two years ago but then, we botched up by sending The Good Road instead of The Lunchbox. That's how it is in our country. And coming back to Court, it's a simple film that doesn't believe in oversimplifying the ways of the world. I don't remember the last time i saw a sessions court in an Indian film. To a majority of us, adaalat is how a court is supposed to look like. Bazinga! There are many more surprises in there.

Spoiler: If you haven't watched the film yet, don't read any further. When it comes to cinema, interpretations (and misinterpretations) are always going to be a part of the package. The final five minutes of Court delivers the gist of the entire story. A tight slap on the (sleepy) face of our judiciary. However, if I were to provide a different climax, i'd have made the protagonist commit suicide and pin the blame on the system (read: the judge) for misreading the events. That would have been interesting.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Brown & White

I binge-watched the first season of Master of None (which recently earned a Golden Globes nomination) yesterday and i'll suggest that you too do the same. Ten episodes. Half an hour each. Written, directed and acted by Aziz Ansari—mostly. All the episodes are funny but not your falling-off-the-chair funny. For a change, the joke isn't on the people but it's on the society. Otherwise, what we generally witness is a group of people getting targeted for the sake of humour. Fortunately, this Netflix creation is thoughtful and much more real. Yes, certain patches are more restrained (than necessary) and nicer (than usual) but that's also where the novelty lies. The last American show that successfully managed to go this route was Modern Family. I also like the idea of an Indian American comedian wanting to do something different. Although it's quite disturbing to know that his character is named Dev Shah while his onscreen parents—who also happen to be his real parents—speak with a strong Tamil accent. Yes, one can argue that what if his character's forefathers migrated to Tamil Nadu from Gujarat but those who actually migrated from Saurashtra have surnames like Kalastri and Patnoori, not Shah. This anomaly in detail is ironic because Aziz finds white actors playing brown characters in Hollywood films improper. That said, some of his finest jokes happen so subtly in the show that if you don't pay attention, you are to be blamed. It's a good start and it'd be awesome if Master of None continues for some more years. Lastly, i won't be surprised if Aziz is asked to host the white-dominated Oscars in the not-so-distant future.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Clean cut

"When Dickens came to the United States, he was on a train, and he thought it was snowing — but it was people spitting out the window. Spitting was so popular, you would step on a carpet and it would be saturated with tobacco spit..." - David O' Russell

Thought i should share this to throw light on certain realities of the past. The cleanliness in the modern Western world isn't a natural phenomenon. It took years for them to arrive at a point where social responsibility is taken seriously, unlike say in a country like India. We might be disgusted with the way our cities are (villages are comparatively more pleasing to eyes) but we shouldn't forget that we are a nation of 1.25 billion and this figure is scary because it's always increasing. So, expecting everyone to toe in line is quite a task unless we are in an authoritarian state like China. Regardless, cleanliness is a personal activity which is sometimes public in nature. 300 years ago, the streets of Paris used to be filled with mushy filth, almost covering one's ankles. But things changed, didn't they? Gradually, yes, but they did. All that's needed is effort and patience.

Time's up?

Wastage of time is the most depressing thing in the world. Be it anyone in question. Time shouldn't be squandered away. It's the greatest of all on the sheer merit of indispensability. It exists and yet doesn't exist. What you're doing at present is reading. What you had for breakfast was in the past. What you're going to have for lunch is in the future. Your present is fading away into past with a promise of the future. See? Time can't possibly be replaced. Which is why, if we don't do justice to it, it shall do the same to us. Those who managed to succeed in their lifetime were the ones who understood this reality. To time, it doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor. It's not into wealth or fame either. On the huge canvas of time, we are mere invisible tiny specks. So it's all about showcasing oneself as an entity detached from variables that drag us down in life. And for THAT to happen, realization on a very honest level is required. Every day is divided into hours and minutes and moments but time can't really be segmented. (Theory of relativity, anyone?) It's much easier to say that we are all victims of time. If that is so, the only way to succeed is to join hands with time. You can't beat it. Those who managed to create a niche for themselves tried to beat it before realizing their folly. They ultimately joined hands with time and moved forward—and how! However, we shouldn't let the Steve Jobs and the Elon Musks of our world define success for us. For a very simple reason: they didn't let anyone else define success for 'em. The only way to succeed in time is to accept some truths about oneself and work towards them, not away from them. If time is kind enough, it might deliver us from the trap called future.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Faith, lost and found

As you grow older, you become more and more convinced that you are wrong about a lot of things. You reluctantly become a part of this corrective program where everything you once believed in stops believing in you. It's an endless humbling process. Let's begin with faith. No, not the kind that is restored everytime you see a kind picture or a heartwarming video on the internet. I'm talking about the outside world. For instance, i used to be a religious kid who accompanied his mother to temple every Friday like mama's boy. At that time, my dad used to brainwash me—much to my ma's chagrin—that faith doesn't demand physical activity. According to him, true bhakti takes place in the heart. One's mind should be clean and clear about what one's body is doing. “What's the point in committing mistakes outside the temple and then going in begging for forgiveness?” That was his philosophy and i admired it from a distance. It was only after i moved to hostel for my engineering diploma that i lost touch with the places of worship. No more visiting mandirs. No more saluting masjids. No more crossing churches. No more flooring forehead in gurdwara. I was officially papa's boy. This happened a decade ago. As of now, i've realized that praying is not about instructing God what to do. It isn't about talking to oneself like a secret self-pep talk. It's about influencing the forces of nature. When you sit down or kneel or stand to pray, what you're basically doing is you're commanding the universe to pay attention to you. It's putting out your intentions in whatever form possible. One yogi's prayers are another man's meditation. It could sound like a cry for help or an assertion of the person you've become. But more importantly, it's about listening to what you want the greater powers to hear. When you pray, you should notice how active your entire body is. Your brain is superactive. You are calm but your senses are enlightened. Which is why, there is no such a thing as “Oh, i prayed so lazily today”.  According to psychology, only two human activities demand such heightened level of awareness: sex and music. Maybe praying should be added to the list. But before that happen, we need to attempt some etymological coups. Shouldn't those who pray be called prayers? Yes? Amen.

PS: My dad is a changed man today and visits temple every Monday (his weekly off) morning while i continue to blog on anthropological pursuits of our species. 

On top of the world

The year was 1974 and a French wire-walker named Philippe Petit wanted to walk on a wire. Not a big deal, right? Oui. The only problem being he wanted to do that between the two tallest buildings at that time: World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. Both were at least 100 meters taller than Eiffel Tower to give you an idea how high they really were. Imagine the amount of vertigo that will induce in a human body no matter how trained it is. To make it more difficult, the act was not only dangerous but also illegal. He gathered few accomplices—that included his girlfriend—in France as well as the USA to make his crazy dream a reality. To cut a long story short, he pulled it off beautifully. One fine early morning, New Yorkers gathered on the streets below, looking up at the sky with their palms working as their visors, trying to understand what was going on. Why and how would a man walk on a rope stretched between two ugly buildings? Yes, ugly. What's little known about WTC is that New Yorkers didn't immediately fall in love with this monstrous piece of architecture. Most felt those two buildings were just bullying the sky behind by obstructing the sea view. Weren't they just two tall blocks with no external grace whatsoever? People's response to them was quite similar to what Mumbaikars felt about Ambani's Antilla. But, but, those who gathered on the street were relieved, if not ecstatic, when Philippe completed his stunt. They applauded in unison even when police arrested Philippe. Of course, his act became a global news eventually but what's worth noting here is he unwittingly played a key role in making New Yorkers love those twins. I wonder how he must have felt like when he saw them crumbling down on 9/11. After all, he was the only one who got the best view from those buildings.

NB. I wrote this blog post after watching The Walk (2015), which i feel everyone should. If not the entire movie, then at least the final half an hour. It's filled with moments that take you on his 280 feet journey across the wire. One step at a time. The climax marries art with philosophy so as to make us understand that he wasn't just defying gravity up there. There is a point when he feels absolute peace, something he admittedly never felt before or after. His initial fear turned into resolve, overlooking how close (given the distance from the ground!) he was to death. However, if you want to peel off the cinematic touches, then you should watch Man on Wire (2008) to see what drove him to this madness. If you remember, when this documentary won the Oscar, Philippe balanced the golden statue on his chin. What is not well known is he practised that move at Woody Allen's house on one of the many Oscars he had won. Yes, Philippe was THAT confident of his documentary winning the Oscar!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Puppy spirit

Who doesn't love puppies? Cue: That cute aggression you feel where you're confused whether to hug them gently or squeeze their pitiful face. When they are born, they are the epitome of innocence. As days pass by, they get furrier and cuter. Their competitive nature (“I'll eat/drink more than my siblings!) helps them shed their innocent image. They grow up quite fast though. Before you know, they've learnt a thing or two about the world. When they are very young, they'd walk up to anyone who bothers to exist. They won't hesitate to go to the cruelest of men to the scariest of canine. They will greet everyone they come across. But as they get bigger in size, they take note of their territorial boundaries. Dogs they are supposed to stick with and the ones they are supposed to fight. Everyday is a battle for nutrition, if not progeny. Once they are fully grown, they become one of the many faceless street dogs. Their good ol' days of puppiness have effectively vanished by then. However, there is always this one puppy among the litter who doesn't care much for food. S/he is least bothered about competing with his brothers and sisters. All s/he wants to do is run around and play. And this little fella—if at all s/he beats the harsh street conditions—manages to keep alive the puppy spirit throughout adulthood.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

Connecting the invisible dots

Have you ever been to a museum and stared at people staring at a painting? You aren't alone. I used to do that during my younger days. Most of the exhibitions i attended were marked by my curiosity about the people there more than the creations on display. For some reason, i couldn't figure out why so much importance was given to random strokes of colour. Or shapeless objects. I admired the visuals but somehow couldn't comprehend the hidden clues in them. It was beyond me. I was more fascinated by words. Still am. However, as i grew up, i also became attached to cinema. I can't explain how i ended up becoming a cinephile but it has something to do with the marriage of words and visuals. Movies provided me the window to peek into others' lives without having to pay the price. It was a perfect scheme. Over the years, i started reaping newer meanings from what i saw on the big screen. Many a times, the director wants you to notice a lot but you miss them because you are too busy watching the movie. Which is why it takes you a while to understand why certain characters behaved in a certain manner in certain films. For instance, it's only at the end of American Beauty (1999) that you realize Kevin Spacey's character spent about two hours of your life in finally acknowledging that he was seeking beauty, not love. Similarly, Al Pacino's Scarface is never going to be happy because he loves his sister way too much, to the point that he can't tolerate another man in her life. The only problem being he is restricted by incest to ever have her. On a different lane, Robert De Niro's war hero could have shot that deer at the climax of The Deer Hunter (1978) but you can't shoot a harmless creature after what you've been through in Vietnam. Brad Pitt's Tristan attains his adulthood by chopping off a bear's claws in Legend of the Fall (1994). Eventually, his life comes a full circle with a gruesome death by a grizzly bear. During the classic parole scene in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), the camera zooms in on Morgan Freeman's face but you don't even realize it. Dissimilarly, the camera is always shaky when Marlon Brando's face is in focus because even the camera is scared of the godfather. Christian Bale's different accents in different movies are more than just about showmanship. It's about building a character and that takes extra effort. It's a different story that Charlie Chaplin managed to do so even during the Silent Era as well. There are dots to be connected in great cinema. If you miss them, nothing would change but you'll remain oblivious to what great filmmaking is all about. To appreciate it, you'll have to stare at the right people.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Making a difference or staying indifferent?

I complete 10 months at Zomato in 10 days' time. And i've never been prouder of this company. It's one thing to be cool (which Zomato is by default, particularly on social media) but quite another to step up to a given situation. As you all know, Chennai was reeling (the conditions are comparatively better now) under intense rain last week. So what Zomato decided to do was create something called Chennai Flood Relief which encourages active participation from public. What it meant was, for every meal you buy for the affected people in Chennai, Zomato will buy one too. This was launched on the afternoon of December 2. The initial response turned out to be of mixed nature. Some people were more than happy to contribute while some were at their usual skeptical best. According to the latter, this was a gimmick by the company to grab eyeballs.

The only difference was it wasn't that.

On the contrary, it was a genuine effort to take charity to the next level. Yes, Zomato could have easily made donations to the relief funds but that wouldn't have aroused the interest or provoked awareness about what's going on in the southernmost metropolitan city of India. Besides, where do you get a meal for Rs50 nowadays? Of course, the subsidized cost we are talking about here is shouldered by Zomato for the most part. After all, it doesn't own a single restaurant and can't obviously expect the same charitable concerns from those who have agreed to cook food for the ones in need. But that's the problem with social media. People jump to conclusion because everybody wants to be the messiah who sees things through even with their eyes tight shut. However, by December 3, the response was overwhelmingly positive. The detractors were still squeaking their cynical songs but the general public at large continued to buy food packets in tens and hundreds and in some cases, thousands, for the affected souls in Chennai. Within 24 hours, on the afternoon of December 3, the donation window had to be paused. The reason was simple: the company was getting overwhelming amount of orders for Chennai. The idea was to ensure that the distribution of food packets keeps up with the orders made.

Zomato could have continued accepting orders but it didn't.

On the other hand, it scaled up on the distribution of food packets by engaging our teams in Bangalore and Chennai, Robin Hood Army volunteers, several NGOs in Chennai and Coimbatore and when things got really rough, even NDRF. But despite these measures, media picked up the misleading signals (as they usually do in our country) for the heck of it. Mint's headline did more than enough for this cause. It sounded like we weren't able to handle what we started. Instead of appreciating our integrity in not going overboard with orders, they decided to highlight something else. Think about it. Zomato could have continued to keep the donation window open but we didn't. What stopped it from milking money from the public in the name of grief/relief? I'll answer that. The word is called sincerity. When you want to make a difference, you try your level best on planning that the actions undertaken lead to desirable results. And you just do that by getting people in place and working against all kinds of obstacles.

Speaking of which, people sitting in their comfortable homes have no fucking idea how difficult things were on the ground in Chennai—if you could see it, that is. The waterlogged streets (extensive gutters?) were just one of the several problems we faced. Failing phone/data networks was another such scoundrel. The amount of frustration you feel when you aren't able to connect in order to relay crucial information is beyond words. Some kitchens that were supposed to cook food were flooded overnight, making us run around to reach out for other options. The circumstances could turn shitty within seconds (and they did in some cases) of downpour but our teams managed to keep their hopes high. They were the real heroes and are because they are STILL at work distributing thousands of food packets and other supplies. Reaching out to as many people as they can, not discriminating between anyone. Hands outstretched for food is never a pleasant sight but these are moments when you don't care much about etiquettes. I asked one of our point-of-contacts to send me pics and his reply was eye-opening: "We've got bigger issues here :) ...but we'll send whenever we can."

And they did. 

On the night of December 4, we reopened the donation window again. Moreover, this time around, we announced that Zomato didn't have the financial agility to match the meal-for-a-meal arithmetic. The public would have to do on their own, if they wish to. The cost per meal continued to remain low at Rs50 per food packet. As expected, people didn't care whether the company donated or not. Within the next three hours, 35000 meals were donated, averaging 600 every minute.

If you think, it was all rosy, you're mistaken.

Like i said, it always feels nicer to sit on a comfortable sofa and spew rubbish than get up and do some research. Something at least one journalist at Scroll would agree with. He wrote an article which is more of a theory than a story. According to him, we stopped the donation window on Dec 3rd. Mind you, stopped, not paused. To him, it was a PR stunt (What isn't a PR stunt in the big bad world of internet today? Isn't a journalist taking a byline for his article a PR stunt too?) to get people to loosen their pockets and then run away with the moolah. He didn't care to check whether the window was reopened or not and if yes, why was it closed in the first place. No. None of that. Just assuming because that's so much easier to do. I mean, i've been a journalist for 3.5 years and i've had my share of inaccurate reportage but never once did i poke my finger into a crisis that was bigger than my petty assumptions. We are talking about thousands of people stranded and foodless and whatnot. And here we're having journos lazy enough to not understand (not even try, in fact) what is going on out there. Everybody wants to be a hero nowadays. Very few want to be a part of something that might bring about a change for better. And those who actually make a difference don't care about having heavy opinion inside their skulls. They just quietly contribute and hope something good comes out of it.

If there is one thing that Chennai floods has taught me for posterity, it's the fact that there will always be more good-hearted people on this planet than the not-so-good-hearted ones. The doubting Thomases will continue to waste time while others will push the cart of humanity. That's what keeps this world spinning. Also, noble intention and great work travel far together. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Naan thaan Chennai

Remember that India-Pakistan test cricket match in Chennai which India lost narrowly? Yes, the one in 1999 at Chidambaram stadium. The entire stadium gave the winning team a standing ovation as Pakistani players reciprocated with a victory lap waving at the crowd. Something that never happened before. Something that never happened later in our country. I even remember watching the video of that crowd standing there. One guy with bloodshot eyes even had tears rolling down his face while his hands clapped. The atmosphere was soaked in dejection but still they did what needs to be done. [An attitude Chennai folks have displayed during the ongoing crisis there. Instead of whining about the lack of infrastructure, they've gotten down to solve the problem by chipping in whatever ways they can.] I'm fully aware of the emo-ness of this post but our planet needs more of such emo moments to go forward instead of backward.

Last month, we went overboard with Je suis Paris (justifiably so because we didn't feel for Paris overnight; it was a result of years of effort to make us fall in love with it) but you don't need a Naan thaan Chennai to love this city.

Factual crisis > Existential crisis

The last time i shared a video on this platform, Marlon Brando smirked in his coffin. This time, however, the topic at hand is a bit too serious. The student in the above video delivers a splendid speech if you understand Hindi/Urdu. But she ends up following the same script that people belonging to theocracy do: letting religion dictate the terms of nationalism. So much so that one particular religion becomes the overriding indicator of nationalism. I think that's the problem with the narrative nations found on the basis of religion stick to. Pakistan ain't alone in this basket. Israel too suffers from the same disorder. Both these countries were born out of insecurity and hatred for their neighbour. And it's showing even today. Almost seven decades after their birth. When you make religion the basis of your existence, it's difficult to differentiate between your personal and public identities. Which is also why culture as such suffers because one dominant narrative (which is severely flawed as can be noticed in that young girl's poetic speech) tries to overlook established historical facts.

For instance, she invokes the "Muslims" who died for the creation of Pakistan. First thing first, they didn't. Not a single Muslim died for its creation as such. The riots that ensued were solely a chaotic clash between communities who otherwise led peaceful co-existence for ages. None of the families that perished did so for martyrdom. They hesitantingly became victims of myopic political vision. Which brings us to the second point. She mentions Quaid-e-Azam's (Jinnah) vision. Again, his vision didn't really see far. His idea was so self-conflicting that a modern Islamic state that he wanted wouldn't have materialized anyway given the circumstances in which Pakistan was born. To make matters worse, he passed away within a year or so, leaving the newfound nation—world's first Islamic republic, mind you—vulnerable with no appropriate replacement, let alone a constitution to hold on to. India at least could rely on the likes of Nehru and Patel after Gandhiji was killed. And a guy like Ambedkar to draw up the constitution ASAP.

Lastly, the existential crisis so apparent in the video is true for any of us (as individuals) who refuse to accept certain inalienable facts about ourselves. Self-denial takes you far but not very far. The acceptance of ultimate truth helps sooner than later. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

All rise, silly!

Yes, the sun is intolerant. Nobody matches it when it comes to intolerance. Doesn't give a shit about what the season is. It's the greatest troll out there (a bigger troll than God herself) in India. Will make sure you don't have a great hair day. Will burn you, irrespective of what the Met Department wants. On second thought, our sun is a constant reminder of how we are as people. It is with us the way we are with our fellow humans. Aren't we a nation filled with silly people who refuse to stand up for national anthem only to heckled out of the room by over-patriotic sillies? It's a never-ending game of one person trying to outscore another's silliness. And while we are at it, a silly cartoon has offended a silly group of overzealous people who earlier cried foul that this country couldn't even ensure the safety of a great artist like MF Hussain. I hope everybody here gets a grip because the sun ain't going to budge under any circumstances.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

When you need help with help

I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And... I was really... I was alive.”

- Walter White, Breaking Bad (Season 5)

I have a severe case of OCD. The utensils have to be placed in the drawers, one after the other. We have a maid who cleans them but i've got to put them in. I'm perfectly OK with her slacking on the cleanliness scale but i need to design the placement. The books have to be stacked neatly, even during an earthquake. The shoes have to be lined up nicely on the rack like civilization expects us to. The clothes have to be folded properly even if ironing ain't my thing. Basically, everything has to be in order. There shouldn't be strains of hair on the white floor nor an assembly of dust on the fan blades. Nobody notices a tidy room as much as they notice an untidy one. No surprises then that i get down to brass tacks every morning followed by a lengthier swings during weekend. I don't know about charity but orderliness begins at home. Thanks to my condition, my area of compulsion isn't limited to my apartment. I keep picking up litter be it on street or in office washroom. Although i try hard but i've failed to become the indifferent person that my personality otherwise exudes. My office drawer at mid-day was a sight to behold. My colleagues used to comment that even girls don't keep stuff so tidily! (I know it's a myth that girls are supposed to herald spick-and-span.) Now, at Zomato, we don't have desk culture. We only have a table at our disposal and you can see how immaculate my desk is. So much so it used to annoy Akshar when we sat next to each other. Coming back to our apartment, i can't help but clean up the mess my flat-mates leave behind on the main table or in the kitchen. They don't do it with the hindsight that i'll clean but me being me, i end up moving stuff around. The bean bags go back to their place. The cups and plates move to the sink. Washed clothes are demarcated. Windows closed on time. I don't even care about intrusion laws as i enter my flat-mates' room to switch off buttons to save electricity. And this can get tiring. It's a thankless task, no doubt, but it gets taxing after a while. I don't know anyone who's 29 and worried about such little things in life. I believe all of them are busy either living it up (and leaving mess behind for others to clean?) or conquering the world. But then, i've also realized that whatever you do, even if it's for others, you basically do it for yourself. Even if it gets exhausting at times. I spam some chosen ones on WhatsApp with quirky/funny images every morning. Although it takes seconds to send pictures across but it takes much longer to procure and curate them. But then, again, i don't do it for others. I do it for myself. I feel good when i learn something new or laugh at something newer so i decide to share it with others. Anyway, my style of spamming is faaaaaar better than the good-morning-good-night spammers'. Like i said, most of the activities we get ourselves into have a direct connection with what makes us happy. I don't know much about cooking but a clean kitchen allows me a sense of calm, if not achievement. They say cooking is therapeutic. I think my OCD does the same for us. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Once upon a baraat

I seldom get to laugh hysterically. Most of my going-to-die-laughing moments happen unannounced. My favourite laughfest moments are random in nature. As a kid, i remember laughing like a moron after watching this cartoon about a baby who eats everything that comes his way. He's perpetually hungry. Fed up (ironically) of him, the government puts him in a rocket and bids him away to moon. However, their relief is short-lived as they notice later at night that the full moon is changing to new moon. I still laugh thinking of him. Similarly, i also laugh thinking of the way Charlie Chaplin behaved in most of his films. The one where he's boxing and the one where he's stuck in a cage with a lion destroy my belly. The kind of stuff that crack people up—online or offline—leave me asking for more. Humour is too meme-based nowdays. I'm not trying to assert my comical superiority here. Just sharing a story that cracked me up although it left my friend bewildered why i found it so damn funny. He told me about a wedding procession back in his hometown which happens to be a tier 3 city in Uttar Pradesh. As is the thing with northerners in our country, they like making noise. Since firecrackers weren't enough for this purpose, they had rifles to help them up the decibel. But something untoward was about to happen that night. As the baraat was proceeding through the street, curious onlookers started gathering on the sidelines and womenfolk were poking their heads out of their balconies and windows to grab a better view. The bridegroom seated uncomfortably on the horse was goaded by elderly men from his family to shoot a bullet towards the sky. Needless to add, the young man was hesitant to go ahead with the proposal. To make him feel better, one avuncular figure took the rifle and shot three times. — perpendicular—before handing the weapon back to him. The poor chap was left with no option but to pull the trigger. In his clumsiness, he ended up shooting a woman who was standing with her relatives on a nearby balcony. She died on the spot.

OK, so why did i find this incident funny? Apparently, after that night, people in this neighbourhood stopped checking out a baraat proceeding on the street. On the contrary, whenever they hear a band baaja approach, they run back into their houses asap and shut their windows tight. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Why faith shouldn't determine your mindset

It's that time of our lives when we'll come across stinging words on the Internet. Mostly political but driven largely by religion. And that's a deadly combination. I've witnessed how people change once they are exposed to online radiation. Some of them happen to be my childhood friends who were so freaking liberal as kids but grew up to grow ugly beard or turn into Hindutvawadi. It's not their fault. No matter how much we try, we end up becoming the product of our environment. This morning, i confronted (something i seldom do) my school friend. He has this botched viewpoint when it comes to Indian history. Again, i don't blame him because we do and feel what makes us better. I usually don't humour such conversations but today, i decided to him rant before shooting him a lengthy missive. 

I'll tell you something because i care for you. Not because i've read a lot more than you have. Try to rise above this rubbish that the right-wing has been spreading online under the disguise of Hindutva. They don't care about you. They don't represent your interests either. For your benefit, read more and rise above religion. To negate your point, let me assure you that Gandhiji was the last person to wish a divided nation. But the ones who killed him (Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS) did. However, their agents make sure you believe otherwise by peddling their doctored version of history. You know why they do that? Because they weren't freedom fighters. None of these people gave a damn about the nation. They were too busy creating a place for themselves. So, my advice to you would be, either read more to understand the political realitybecause you appear stuck on religion, which is very dangerousor just don't read whatever you're reading. Because it will only make you shallow(er). Also, stop playing the victim. Hindus are 1.1 billion strong today. And no external force can defeat them. History has tried again and again but failed every single time. If at all Hindus get defeated, it's going to be because of the shallow-minded ones who prefer to see things from only one angle. If you don't understand what i'm trying to tell you, it'd be alright. But if you continue thinking on the same line that you do today, your future is going to get affected. You'll have kids tomorrow and you'll (unknowingly) pass the poison of hatred to them. Do you want that?

The only response i ended up getting from him after a long pause was "I'll read more." which is not bad. As i mentioned in my last post, i'm planning to read a lot more too. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Read and left?

Going by the awesome stuff i get to read on a daily basis thanks to the wide shoulders of the Internet, i'm now dead sure that i'll never be able to write like them. Their words and the culminating thought process are like dreams that you never want to wake up from. They are simply gorgeous. I can't even imagine or try to fathom the depth of their minds. I'd be lost anyway. So, taking this newfound reality into consideration, i've made a small change to the purpose of my life. Call me cynical but i've noticed patterns you missed. So, instead of aiming to be an also-ran who won't be counted at the end, i'm going to invest my time into making sure that i continue reading the finest piece of literature ever attempted—be it from any language as long as it's translated well into English—by humans. I wish those words continue to greet me with the same delight that i pursue them. I vowed something similar about a decade ago with cinema although i had no intention of filmmaking but the plan worked in my favour as ii managed to watch gems after gems.

Thought you should know because you are part of this fruitless ridiculous journey and also because, as you are well aware by now, i love y'all from the bottom of my fingertips.

PS. You won't be part of my will though. 

Ohm ashanti ohm

I really don't understand this intolerance people are blabbering about. I fully get what that word means but the context is so dragged out that its usage has become a sham now. Especially thanks to the nature of those who are hijacking it for personal gains at the expense of making the nation look horrible (as if India isn't dented enough!) than she already is. It goes without saying that the whole exercise is a political assumption, not a social one although it is presented in a manner that'd make you wonder whether the entire nation has changed its behaviour all of a sudden. Guess what? It hasn't. We are what we were last decade and most probably, the decade before that. Which is why we should question whether intolerance is rising from the government's end or the people's. So far, those accusing the nation—and by extension, her people—are being cautiously vague. It goes without highlighting that they never liked the government in the first place. To put the accusers' attitude in context, it looks like they are absolutely blind to the attempts made by the reigning government to make up for the lost decade by the previous government. When perception is missing, logic is designed to suffer. As the result, a scapegoat is being sought for all the things wrong with our country—political as social (note that nobody talks about the 'economical' side anymore)—to feel better about themselves. A government, if you acknowledge how vast our country is, can only influence social precincts to some extent. Even if it was taking steps to raise intolerance, it'd take years given the rate at which things get done in India. And this government completes 1.5 years tomorrow. On the contrary, i think intolerance was at its peak during UPA 1 and UPA II if you too don't have a short term memory. The biggest Hindu-Muslim riot since Godhra happened in Assam (followed by Muzaffarpur), 100+ Kashmiris were killed one summer (some of them being teenagers), Indian women's safety points dropped thanks to incessant rape cases in cities as well as far-flung places like Manipur and a lot similar mishaps took place. And who can forget the greatest cases of corruption ever recorded in the history of politics? I wonder when will people who are so sick of NDA so soon although it has barely done anything drastic (though i'm sure they've got moves waiting to unleash) realize they are doing the nation a huge disservice by stalling whatever little goodwill we can garnering. The nature of geo-politics has changed. It's not about weapons anymore. It's all about Big B now. Something businessmen understand and that's why they don't make irresponsible statements no matter what their political standing is. (Unless you are NR Murthy who couldn't digest the fact that his son was replaced in an education advisory board.) Nice image matters. Soft power matters. Shit happens and is always going to happen irrespective of what the conditions subscribe to. One should be fair, yes, but not by letting the so-called conscience turn you blind. That thing in our head is for stopping the bad from happening, not for seeking scapegoats. I'm not fond of the Hindutva leaning but at the same time, i might be guilty of mocking NaMo and his never-ending foreign tours which is reminiscent of Nehru's reign. However it's a necessary medicine. And when you read about Bollywood personalities who reside in ivy towers and cry chants of intolerance, it's damaging no one else but us. These folks never cared about anything other than their box-office returns. Of course, they have the right to express their opinion but at the same time, they shouldn't be surprised by the reaction. The opposing parties have the right to express their opinion too, as long as nobody resorts to violence or disorder.

On second thought, maybe there is a rising intolerance for stupid remarks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Talk to her

A pigeon appeared out of nowhere in our office this morning. The exit door must have been open because the windows are always closed. In its panic to get out, the poor thing (it's shitload of a bird otherwise) kept crashing its face into the glass window again and again. After half a dozen failed attempts at crashing through the window, it settled on the hanging tubelight. Most of my colleagues were amused as well as concerned so we opened the gallery door as well as the main glass door for it to fly away. But then, years of co-habitation has taught pigeons that humans are the last creature to trust on this planet. Why do you think they shit on us and our cars?

To cut short story shorter, the trapped pigeon took its own sweet time to get out through the gallery door. But i couldn't resist imagining the possibility of walking up to the frightened bird perched on the swinging tubelight and extending my hand for it land on my palm. If that wasn't magical enough, it'd have been awesomer to escort it out to freedom like a messiah. Imagine the expressions of my colleagues if i were able to do so! This is exactly why Mowgli is my all-time favourite superhero because he could have pulled off that stunt. The ability to communicate with all beings other than humans has its advantages too.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

When is this world going to the dogs?

This is my eleventh month in Gurgaon and i often come across questions asking me how i find Delhi. I end up explaining to them that Gurgaon is different from Delhi as they are two separate places. However, there is something very common to both these cities: assholes. So what? All cities have them, right? True (and you can trust me on this given my journalistic background in mid-day where i heard some of the goriest city stories) but these assholes are different. They are quite proud of being assholes. Their stories aren't featured in newspapers because they are considered normal by their kind. They'll cut queues in supermarkets while chewing gum. They'll take your parking spot with a smug face. They'll request you to take your bag off from the chair in a restaurant only to later keep their bag on the same chair. They are loud in cinema halls and create a mess out of their popcorn buckets. They'll keep honking in traffic despite knowing that the signal is red. They'll resort to violence because they don't know what logic means. They'll shoo away labourers' kids from the park just because they look poor. They'll treat their maids like shit not only in private but also in public since they don't care. I know of a building where they don't let the nanny drink water lest she has to use loo, something they can't let happen lest she ruins their fancy toilet. They have a problem with street dogs in the colony because they bark. They don't have a problem with others having a problem with their loud annoying music (read: Yo Yo Honey Singh) playing late into the night. Forget dogs, they even have a problem with puppies. So much so a lady from my neighbourhood intentionally ran over a puppy killing it on the spot. Her son is the only kid i know who STILL uses his Diwali toy gun to scare away the dogs. During Holi, he bombarded a mongrel with water balloons and when the startled creature gnarled back at him, he ran to his mommy dearest claiming that the mad dog was trying to bite him. And if that's not unfair enough for you, last winter, an elderly Jat guy (who stays three buildings away) set a street dog on fire to prove a point to another guy who used to feed it. [The police and animal helpline were called but nothing helpful happened because it's stupidity to expect animal laws to be effective in a country where human laws are effete.] I mean, how fucked up are you, man? I get it that you are wealthy and i'm not even going to question how you made your money because we both know that won't be a comfortable spot. But still, how difficult is it to hide the fact that you are a Grade A asshole? I get it that you can buy designer apparels but it's impossible to buy class. I know that must hurt you. I empathize with you. It must be very tough to prove to everyone around you that you've been traditionally rich with your swanky villa and flashy cars. In the back of your head, you know it's a charade that won't last long. I hope you see light someday but i'm worried about your kids and grandkids. They are probably going to emulate you thinking you are normal when you aren't. And someday, they'll crash into the bigger truth. When THAT happens, they'll hate you. They'll be sorry for they come from you. Until then, enjoy your smug face.

The greatest irony is these assholes own (purebred) dogs too, not because they love them but because it's a symptom of status. No wonder they hire a walker for their overfed but underloved pets.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The scale of luxury

I finally got to watch Cristiano Ronaldo's documentary (it's not great, almost good, which is a surprise when you've got someone like Asif Kapadia—of Senna and Amy fame—on board) and the first scene after introductory credits makes you aware of the privileged life Cristiano Ronaldo leads. Which shouldn't surprise anybody given he makes £300,000 a week for his footballing exploits. He doesn't even know how many cars he owns! Moreover, there's no doubt that he's a legend in the making. By the time he retires, we'd be sorry for the lack of footballers of his calibre. The amount of discipline and industry he pours into his profession is so apparent that he doesn't even have to rip off his jersey or celebrate by running half the stadium. But then, people are always going to compare him to Messi because of a simple reason: Cristiano appears obsessed with Messi, not the other way round. Cristiano is more obsessed with Cristiano by any yardstick. Going by the press reports, Messi barely mentions CR7. The lil' genius is way too busy talking about Barcelona and his teammates. Also, there is a whole lot of me-me-me going on (as evident by the documentary too) in Cristiano's life, which might very well be the propellant for his incredible success.  Everyday, he's trying to prove to the world that he's the best. And when you have a rival like Messi on the leaderboard, that's going to be really tough. 

I digressed.

This blog post was supposed to be about privilege, not footballers who are professional enough to know which badge to kiss. So, while watching the aforementioned documentary, i couldn't help but wonder how awesome it must feel to be Cristiano. No worries about bills to pay. Everything is sorted. There are people to take care of your needs. All he has to do is perform (which he does anyway). Such a blessed lifestyle! And that's when it occurred to me that there are people on this planet who might be praying to have the luxury you and me are having. An existence where you are at least aware of what's going on. I'm sure there must be people who are way too occupied by their battle against hunger and ignorance that they are dying to have a bird view. The way we do thanks to technological accesses that we take for granted. If Cristiano is making millions per year, there are people who are making less than thousands per year. And for them, a footballer in La Liga doesn't matter. They are far more closer to realities. A reality populated by people like you and me.  

PS. I hope DF10 (Diego Forlan's upcoming documentary) turns out to be a better film because Ronaldo's relied heavily on vanity and excuses. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Amma is typing...

My brother and i got amma on WhatsApp. We thought since i don't stay with them anymore, it'd be nicer to have a group of our own where we can message each other and share pictures from our daily lives. For some reasons, she didn't pick up how to upload a picture although she's fluent in emojis now. It's cute to see her use that emoticon where one eye is closed and another too big with tongue out. Turns out she uses them because she is quite slow with QWERTY. The time she takes to reply sometimes is longer than the essay that she could have written offline. But here's the catch: she was recently invited to another group where relatives (mostly women) are very active. They converse in Tulu which has made my ma type faster and stay more entertained. :(  

Much against yourself

One of the most grueling onscreen interviews has to be from The Departed (2006). It's set in FBI's office where Leonardo DiCaprio's character can't wait to shed his family's ill reputation by becoming a cop. The proverbial good guys. But it can't possibly be THAT easy for him so, the interviewer is tough on him. Tough is actually an understatement. Mark Wahlberg was brutal. At the end of the interview, it becomes obvious why what just happened happened. Leo's integrity wasn't under the scanner. It was his perception about himself and where he comes from. He wasn't supposed to be deluded. You see, it's easy to let go off one's family roots but once you do that, you are on your own. That interview was an assertion of this ground reality.  

When you stop running

Don't butterflies feel the burden of their wings? Wings they themselves can't admire. You often see children chasing these beautiful insects (if mosquitoes wasn't so keen on eliminating us, it'd have been beautiful too) with no success. They keep doing it repeatedly, hoping they'll somehow outrun their prey. They never do but they don't give up either. And then one day, all of a sudden, these kids grow up and switch on the mosquito repellants in their room. Mosquitoes aren't worth running after.

Moral: Chasing is just for the time being regardless of what age you are.  

Karma could be a dog

We live in an era where the most one can do for the street dogs is let them be. Unbelievable as it may sound, the urban reality is very harsh on the canines, especially the uncollared ones. My grandma used to say that whatever little goodness we attempt, we shouldn't do it with an intention to receive something in return. Otherwise, there is no merit in trying whatever you hope to for others. I agree completely with her but whenever i'm feeding the street dogs in my colony, i can't help but wonder whether my act is going to help me in my next birth (it doesn't matter if i don't believe in such things because it exists, it's going to happen anyway) in any way. I mean, what if i take birth as a mongrel in my next birth? Wouldn't i be depending on the kindness of absolute strangers? I don't know how i'll survive but i'm sure how i'm going to die if those strangers don't show up on time: perish like street dogs do nowadays. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Be a better son

I met my amma last week after quite a long while. This had been the longest i stayed away from her. It's difficult to sum up what i felt during my interactions with her for about a week. Time is ruthless to those who love and care too much. They say that it's difficult for a mother to part with her child because for her, it's about letting a part of her go away. And nothing could be truer. It even beats the acceptance of the truth that nobody in your lifetime is going to love you as your mother does. In this narrative, the emotions a son has for his ma is generally overlooked. He may never get to express himself wholeheartedly.

PS: This blog post basically wrote itself because my original plan was to share in detail how my mother's face looks septuagenarian now and her left leg is crooked thanks to a surgery she had recently. None of that happened. I'm sure she is a tough person but i'm also sure that it's tough to be her. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

From M-word to M-ward

In an ideal setting, you won't have to get married to anyone. But we don't live in an ideal world so the least we can do is be as practical as possible about stuff that are sentimental in nature. If you love someone, ask yourself some tough questions. Is it really love? Are you capable of distinguishing between attraction and love? [Attraction is what bee feels for flowers while love is what sun feels for flowers. Attraction may or may not nourish while love nourishes as well as destroys.] Why do you want to marry her? A bill of permanence maybe? What is it that would change if wedding takes place tomorrow? Anything at all? Will you start taking her for granted once you stroll around agni seven times? What are you scared of? A worthless paper? Isn't wedding something of a formality to appease the society and to stop the bureaucracy from breathing down your necks? Do you want kids? One is enough? Can't you have one out of wedlock? No? OK. Just asking. 

There are many more questions which i'm not aware of. 
Try to find them and answer them before you take the plunge (hopefully not into agni).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Time, please

If you think 2015 is passing by way too fast, it says more about your relationship with time than your lack of perspective. We all receive 24 hours a day on this planet. It's up to us how we spend them. We can very well squander them on stuff that would leave us weak. On the other hand, we can also invest them in endeavours that would enrich our existence. It's clearly a choice. However, sometimes, things happen that aren't within our control. They shape us into what we are going to be tomorrow. You gain some and you lose some in the bargain called life. The least one can do is acknowledge the realities of time. Respect it a bit, perhaps? Because if it chooses to be harsh on you, nobody can save you. The feeling that you think 2015 is passing by way too fast confirms the fact that you didn't lose anybody/anything significant enough. Or else, you'd be mourning because when something like that takes place, time drags.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The unbearable lightness of Diwali

It's that season when firecrackers are back in fashion. In a nation like India, you don't really need a festival to make some noise. Noise happens to be the most followed religion in the country anyway. Regardless, it's that time of the year when we begin to hear some people advocating noiseless Diwali. I wrote a piece four Diwalis ago on the same subject and it seems like not much has changed. Everything depends on how one looks at things and for that to materialize, one requires light. Ironic as it is, this is a festival of lights despite the ignorance surrounding it! It has never been about sound. Even if one follows the recorded history, Ramayana was written around 5 BC and firecrackers weren't invented by Chinese until the 12th century AD. So, the logic behind firecrackers is pretty much global. We crack them for the same reason that the Olympics does on its inauguration day. There's nothing religious about it. The association of firecrackers with Diwali took place thanks to Hindi cinema, which for dramatic reasons, used shots of firecrackers to signify revelry in movies. Something the entire nation (not just other vernacular cinema) picked up over time. But you can't make that argument with sensitive Hindus—well, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists celebrate this glorious festival too but aren't known for their noisiness—who prefer overlooking facts. So much so they feel their freedom of practice is being hampered by those who expect them to avoid firecrackers during Diwali celebrations. In their defense, they'll make lame arguments that Muslims broadcast their prayers (azaan) five times a day and nobody seems to have a problem with that. First thing first, Muslim festivals are noiseless by default if you don't consider the bleating call of death that's pretty bloody and distasteful. Going back to azaan, it's a technological shame that they use loudspeakers to relay prayer when it's clearly stated in Qu'ran that muezzin's voice should be enough to make a believer take notice. But still, isn't the infamous loudspeaker a thing of exclusivity in Muslim-dominated neighbourhood? And can the same be said about the noise that keeps emanating from a temple throughout the year—as you know, we Hindus love celebrating life—for one festival or the other irrespective of the neighbourhood? Let me answer that for you: No. Besides, it's ridiculous to compare human voice with firecrackers, especially in the times of Yo Yo Honey Singh. 
But then, again, firecrackers aren't about religion. It's about environment. People are bound to pounce on this by saying that pollution is a common thing in the country and a week (yes, the neighbourhood kids make sure that the Great Noise lasts at least seven days) of chemical cloud won't change the status. Guess what? It does. Due to blatant ignorance on the part of urban India, Diwali has become a festival of chemicals celebrated with lanterns made in China. In an ideal world, we would be decorating the entrance with rangolis and placing diyas on every windowsill of the building. But no, that's not what happens. It looks like we are celebrating Christmas with fashionable neon lights that twinkles on and off! Technology breeds laziness but it shouldn't make us forget who we are and where we come from. My parents aren't vastly educated but they had the gumption to teach me at a very young age that it's all about lights (and sweets, of course!). Also, it's only when you have pets at home that you realize how difficult (read: traumatic) it can get for them when firecrackers burst in the vicinity. Shock is too weak a word to describe how they behave. The situation gets worse for the street dogs who have no place to escape to. Now that i've mentioned the so-called animals, i'm tempted to mention heart patients, pregnant ladies, oldies and people who are vulnerable to startling sounds here but you get the picture. The only funny part here is that the innocent being called kids are responsible for a majority of this chaos.  
But then, again, Diwali is not about the props. It's about spreading the light and happiness. In a simple word, sharing. Gifting those who don't have an excuse to celebrate the festival. But no, that's far from what's really going on in our society. The market dictates that it stays within the house. We share gifts with those who share gifts with us. It's a lot like asking "how are you?" to those we know are fine. We'd rather burn the world than see the light spread. We'd rather waste money on chemicals that's eventually going to choke us someday. We'd rather stay ignorant and feel better about ourselves. Worse still, we'd rather assume that making some noise leaves us powerful. We'd rather not question the need to gift toy-guns to our kids only to be surprised in the future how India copied America's culture of gun violence in college. OK. Let's not go there. 
Four Diwalis later, if i'm alive and typing, i'd write another piece on this subject. Till then, remember that noise affects only those who don't make them. 

PS: May the light in you shine brighter than ever before. Happy Diwali!

Rising tolerance for nonsense

There's a debate in place that India is currently more intolerant than ever before. Going by the dominant voices who believe so, it's pretty obvious that their assertion is more political than social. The epicenter of this argument can be located at the recent Dadri lynching case. After the shameful mob justice that happened in UP, echoes of 'intolerance' started ringing. Interestingly enough, this perception was specific to English media. Hindi media, which has its nose closer to the ground, didn't jump on the bandwagon. It'd be safe to assume that never before in the history of the English language has the term intolerance been abused the way it is now. If one wayward incident can smear the entire nation (imagine the backlash Brand India would be facing in the international community/market due to this campaign), then the Bodo-Muslim riots of 2012 and Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 did far greater damage to the fabric of our country when hundreds of people were massacred. Weren't these two deeply religious in nature? Weren't we intolerant back then too? To make matters worse, the media was indifferent. Also, the most important point to note is both these events took place during the UPA regime. Which is why i find the whole India-is-intolerant debate misguided. It's been a massive facade (so far). When India is being labelled intolerant, the target is not Indians but the government that is in place. Because unlike Scandinavians, we don't take labels seriously. Call us uncouth, noisy, barbaric, cheap, unpunctual, vain, foolish... it doesn't affect us at all! We've grown immune to labels. That's one of our greatest achievements of the 20th century. We managed to stay the way we were no matter how ugly that made us look. And a propaganda initiated by select mediapersons—which has been propelled by artists who otherwise don't stand for anything—come to think of it, still don't because returning awards don't mean they are returning the cash prize too—isn't going to change that. It's just a theme running its course. Despite being political in nature, it doesn't affect election results either. People in Bihar cast vote for their castes, not what the likes of Sardesai or Ghose spew on TV. If at all anybody is intolerant as such, it had to be the people who claim to be democratic but can't stand the fact that NaMo won the game of thrones. I'm not a NaMo fan nor am i a BJP supporter. In fact, like several others, i'll never forgive what happened in 2002. But at the same time, the political arguments debasing NDA government has reached such intellectual lows that one can't help but hope that the country rises out of this circus. If one understands economics, there's no substitute for time—no, not even money—and India is forced to waste time thanks to the rising level of tolerance for nonsense. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

A business of bias

Other than helping us waste time in fashion, Twitter's greatest achievement has to be its exposure of hypocrisy practised by political journos in our country. People who otherwise hide behind lengthy articles in newspapers end up showing their agenda-based journalism in their 140-character tweets. The least one can expect from politico-journos (given how much they help shape the conscience of the country, unlike say a sports journalist) is fairness.  Maybe that's too much to ask for. Nowadays, different journalists have different leanings and their reportage are laden with personal opinion instead of recorded facts. Of course, they have every right to voice their beliefs but shouldn't they be sensitive before making blatant statements that reeks of prejudice? Their political standings reflect heavily on their outlook, which is quite dangerous when they are meant to be the messengers of reality, not harbinger of imagination. Secondly, they have to ensure that they know what they are talking about, especially online. One week, you defend burqa saying it's a woman's choice to wear what she wants and the next, you mock Karwa Chauth citing its patriarchal leaning. One week, you find everything right with China and the next, you are wondering why India's democracy is hollow. Seriously? 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Karma isn't your bitch

They say Karma is a bitch. I don't know whether that's true or not because i feed my favourite biscuits (Parle-G) to some bitches in the neighbourhood every morning and they don't look like they can get get shit done. Karma, on the other hand, appears like she knows what she is up to. I'm saying this because i've often heard people reckon Karma when things are working against them. Always notice this trend. They'll never mention her otherwise. For instance, when you are hurt, you are bound to say that Karma will take care of this by hurting the one who hurt you. While doing so, you conveniently forget the basic question: what if Karma was doing her job when you were hurt? Or what if you hurt somebody in the first place but your self-fulfilling memory isn't helping you locate that incident? 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Forever alone and how!

After watching the latest John Lewis ad, i remembered how i used to wave at the moon as a kid. I'm sure you also did that. There was something attractive about the moon. The way it followed you on your way home on the bus. The way it stayed up all night even after the stars stopped twinkling. The way it was cold and calm while the sun appeared hot and angry. The way you drew it with a smile on your face as well as its. There was an in-built fascination with moon and the chanda mama stories only augured our curiosity about this white little plate in the sky that changes shape night after night. So much so some of us even dreamt of becoming an astronaut someday so that we could travel in a rocket and land up on our childhood friend to say hello. Of course, that part never materialized. For what it's worth, we are dreaming of colonizing Mars when our only natural satellite seems like a safer option to me. Maybe moon is destined to be forever alone. 

Friday, November 6, 2015


I'm going home. Tomorrow. Been almost ten months now in Gurgaon. The longest i've stayed away from family. Not really a fan of Diwali but am happy to be heading south. Would be nice to see how Bombay is doing. Can't possibly be worse from India's G-spot. 

That's all. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Catalysts for catalyst of change

My expertise in design is as limited as Steve Jobs' pancreas was to his longevity. I'm a copywriter. I wordplay for a living but every once in a while, i encounter situations where i get to peek into the epicness that is design. Well, design is nothing without words to describe it, isn't it? But that's for another blog post. As for now, let's concentrate on the non-verbal part. Think about it. Every little thing that you see or use or experience has something or the other to do with design. Basically, everybody is a blind slave to someone's design. You don't decide how your water-bottle is going to be shaped like. It could very well resemble Monica Bellucci's curves or flatter Kate Moss' waferness. Somebody else designed that bottle for you. The same principle applies to so many other things that we put to use in our day-to-day life. From the plates we eat from to the cars we drive in to the desk we spend our entire day on to the social networking sites we swear by—all of them owe their existence to designers. People we never get to know. They work quietly behind the scene with minimum fuss. But they shape our world. Just like an architect dreams of capturing a piece of sky with his buildings, these designers hope to influence the way we look at things (or better still, change the way we look at things!). What sets a designer apart from the rest is they can binge on originality without having to worry about repeating themselves. Let's call it the designer's touch. He'll go back to his designing board again and again and again, hoping to churn out something that reminds you of something else but not exactly. There's no such a thing as original idea and nobody knows that more succinctly than designers. They can't afford to live on the false premise of absolute creation. You can only push the wheel forward because the wheel is already invented. You can't claim to reinvent wheel either. I know this because of my association with some wonderful/promising designers like Akshar, Vivek, Nitish, Vishal, Jas, Bilal and Arpit. These guys are young and full of ideas. Out in the market, there are many more like them who appear careless but are fiddling with the very make-up on the face of our world.