Jack Daniel's completed 150 years of existence and for the first time ever, they admitted that the original recipe of their whiskey came from a slave that Mr. Daniel owned. This revelation is just another thread one can hold on to for showing how dominant racism was once upon a time. It’s unimaginable to see a white person sharing a platform with a non-white. Remember, it’s always Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay—not the other way round. But i’ve got a bigger grudge to grind here. I think the world, be it any given era, relied on the lower section of the society for the cool stuff without giving the due credit. The finest form of music came from the poor and so did the language and art. The only difference being the rich and the privileged lot somehow hold the trump to declare what is cool and what ain’t. This has been going on for ages. The so-called upper caste, be it in Europe or Asia, did two things: accepted whatever they liked and owned whatever they could make of it. The flow has been upward for the most part. Which might explain why two decades ago, the Hindi gaalis were hush-hush but today, punctuating sentences with MC and BC is a unit of cool quotient.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The correct reply to “Do you believe in God?” has to be “I believe in stories with nice endings.” On a personal front, i believe in songs where God is addressed directly. No priest, thank you. The words expressed are quite bold. Furthermore, they sound like a chat you weren’t supposed to eavesdrop on.
- Like Tina Sani’s Mori Araj Suno where she threatens God with dire consequences if he doesn’t heed her request: she’ll go and find another God to worship! You don’t take threats in Punjabi lightly.
- The passion is similar but the tone is mellowed down when MS Subbulaxmi sings Kurai Ondrum Illai with sentiments that border on defeatism as well as gratitude. She appears to be informing her Creator that she has no more grief and she’s finally in a place where she isn’t afraid of dealing with sorrow. Simply put, she doesn’t care anymore. Of course, this is one interpretation as there can be hundreds to poetry.
- There’s a Marathi song where Ganaraya (Lord Ganesha) is pleasantly chided for his shyness. It’s almost like the devotee is making fun of his God for being too coy to appear in front of him. Sarcasm at its divine best!
- A Kannada song, Sada Enna Hrudayadalli, pleads to God to make the singer’s heart his permanent abode. This song is my ma’s favourite and the innocence in its lyrics makes you want to accept the sweet marriage between religion and drama.
- When Lata Mangeshkar croons Ae Maalik Tere Bande Hum, she is basically building a case against God for his apparent injustice. Similarly, Itni Shakti Humein Dena Daata appeals to human strength of character which for some reason depends on God’s belief in us.
- There are very few singers around with a hotline to God the way Abida Parveen does. And her criticism of God in “Tune kya kya na banaya, koi kya kya na bana... ab mujhe hosh ki duniya mein tamasha na bana” is as subtle as it can musically get.
Monday, June 27, 2016
If i'd continued being a film journalist, i'd have been very close to completing half a decade in journalism. Well, that ship has sailed but there are days when i miss being part of the media. Although the pay sucked, the narcissism that followed a byline or the esteem of a press card were unmatchable. You can't go around telling people that you wrote a line/slogan for a corporate company because it doesn't carry your name. That ain't the case when you write a 500 worder for the city tabloid. Also, when you are a film journalist, you get to watch a lot of movies. Most of them are indeed shitty and you watch them just for the sake of writing reviews. But there are times when you feel privileged. Like when you could boast that you were one of the first people in the country to watch Christopher Nolan's Inception. Oh, the press shows! I wasn't a fan of the samosa-chai/samosa-cola addendum as long as the show took place on time. I just loved watching films on the big screen. The way a movie is supposed to be watched. So, yeah, i miss that bit. However, the part i miss the most is how there were no kids wailing during a press show and nobody's phone rang. Ever.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
I'm going through that phase where i don't have a clue what's going on. No, i'm neither talking about Brexit nor that jaguar who got killed by Olympics. I'm talking about lack of concentration and probably, writer's block. I must admit that i've always been scared of blank pages. I might have a thousand ideas in my head but i don't remember a time in my life when i didn't go nervous sitting in front of a blank page. It happened during school days. It happened during polytechnic days. It sure happened during college days (no wonder i dropped out). It happened during transcription days. It happened during journalism days. It's happening, again, nowadays. To be frank, the whole affair is a dissolving emotion. You look at this bully of emptiness and you're scared that it will consume you. The only way to defeat it is by punching in the keys but you don't want to rush either. You might end up with rubbish work. So you take it slow. One sentence at a time. And before you know it, you've wasted an hour writing less than five lines. Yes, that's what it has come down to. At this rate, i won't be able to start/finish that once-in-a-lifetime-novel i've been mulling over for over a decade now. The whole situation sucks. However, i've got a remedy for now: i close my eyes and imagine myself in a prison filled with dangerous people; hardened criminals whose boners can't wait to own my ass and i'm there all (over)tattooed sitting in the centre in front of a blank page diverting my focus to filling it up with words.
When i open my eyes, i write like magic.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
The problem with inspirational people like Raghuram Rajan prematurely quitting their position is there aren't many of his likes in our country. It's not everyday you come across public servants that are universally acknowledged as the finest in their respective field. Which is sad because these personalities are known for their work ethics and they mean good. What's sadder is Indian politics somehow always wins against diligence and gumption. One can argue that commoners like myself don't have the depth to understand economics and there are better people up for the job. I hope that is the case. We all know how the last government wasted a decade. We all can see how the chief minister in the capital went from an admirable IRS to an excuse-mongering mockery. We can also see how this government is goofing up big time with its senseless appointments and dismissals. It's not a joke for a central banker to be disrupted the way Rajan was. After all, India is going to pay the price at the end for these mistakes, if any.
Vivek reached home one night to find that his room was ransacked. The cupboard door was flung open with some clothes hanging on to the shelves while others piled up, feeling the floor. Books were scattered here and there. The drawers weren't where they were supposed to be. Also, they were upside down as if hiding something from Vivek. When he lifted the wooden thingie up, there was nothing underneath them. Surprisingly, the only thing orderly was the window as it was tightly shut. Whoever visited the room before him was thorough with their search but didn't have the decency to tidy up the room before leaving. Well, then, robbers are popular for lacking the most basic of etiquettes. They had taken away his jeans, recently bought shirts, shades, runnings shoes, two external hard disks, a trek backpack, camera—among other loot. When something like this happens to you, your first resort isn't humour. Laughing about a hapless event happens after a month or so; not the very next day. But then, Vivek ain't your regular guy. He somehow found the courage to find a funny sub-plot. Apparently, after going through his room and the disdainful condition it was in, he felt a bit dizzy and went for water. Guess what? There was no water in the house. The robbers emptied the 25 ltr water can. "They were either very thirsty or thought of bathing with bottled water," was his apt conclusion.
Messi scored this magical free kick last morning and was trending on Twitter for the same. If you follow football, you're already aware of his superlation but there is something about him that's beyond the cheap thrills of bragging rights commonly associated with sports. For instance, he is quite literally short who makes up for his height with his mind and pace. As you can see above, the wall consists of much taller footballers (all exceeding 6 feet) jumping higher to contain the overhead ball. Regardless, the ball just ricochets into the top right corner as if it's following a holy command by Messi's left foot. I remember as a kid how Ronaldinho single-footedly destroyed Seamen's career by bending that ball in. I also remember Beckham saying that goal was a fluke. I don't think it was. Some footballers (like Beckham himself must know) have something special going on for them. They perform impossible feats, leaving mere mortals like us to find ways to create GIFs out of YouTube videos for the first time.
Monday, June 20, 2016
What's common to Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus, Paigambar, Nanak and Joker? If you're baffled by the last name on the trail, don't be. Now, answer the question. Can't? Think harder. Still can't? Cool. The thing common to the above mentioned gentlemen is they were all laughed at when they started out on their quest. They were ridiculed for their thoughts and actions. Let's not even get to the part where Jesus was crucified. To make it worse, he was humiliated by a petty thief on a neighbouring cross. Which means, he was laughed at even moments before he left the earth. No, not taking away any credit from the great soul from Bethlehem. Just making a lame point. Coming back to Joker, like all great men (fictional or otherwise) had to go through the grind called society. Joker did the same too. His back story is gloomy and his redemption lies in setting the evil free. Like all the fellow members of his club, his ideas are radical too. He feels humans are capable of everything as long as there are no incentives—a theory that challenges the tenets of capitalism—leading him to burn the cash. He genuinely believes money restricts our true potential and our species is capable of much more. Whenever he tries to espouse his views, he's laughed at. So much so he became the Joker. Maybe, in some ways, he's the messiah Gotham needs. Just that the city is too dark already to realize that.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
I come from a family of feminist. Not feminists. Just one. My mother. As far as i can remember, she always spoke up for the right. But the most admirable bit about her is she somehow (still) manages to balance speech with non-speech. In other words, she understood the significance of words as well as silence. It’s pretty clear to me that she doesn’t want to be unfair in any way. Interestingly, her gorgeous handwriting complements her respect for words. Which is also the area feminism—at least the online version—can take a cue from. It’s one thing to be vocal but quite another to be correct. My mother, for one, never felt the need to say a lot because she did much more. The fact that she couldn’t pursue college might sound fateful but her dedication in teaching little girls later doesn’t. Even today, at the age of 63, she is one of the hardest working people i know. I feel we need more women like her who firmly believe that there’s so much work to be done that there’s no space for complacent dialogues. Words that are too hollow to mean anything substantial. If you really want to make a difference to the society or to your gender, how about talking less and working harder towards achieving your goals? When you do that, excuses evaporate. We are in the midst of an era where we hear statements like “women are equal to men” again and again. Yes, so is sky blue and water wet. Those are established facts. (If you ask me, women are more equal than men.) The bigger argument is, are you speaking for yourself or hiding behind the facade of womanhood?
PS. I still haven’t forgiven my ma for making me grow my hair for the initial 2.5 years of my life and tying chotis which make me look like a pretty girl in my jaded childhood photographs.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
I come up with unwritten rules for Twitter. Got close to 200 now but they don't mean anything. Simply put, they are crappy statements based on observations but largely meant to be funny. Besides, who am i to set rules and that too unwritten (but actually written) for others to follow? The Internet and more peculiarly, Social Media, is supposed to represent freedom. And by that, i mean everybody should be allowed to express themselves (or not) the way they prefer. It's OK to pass judgements, just like it's OK to ignore judgements. It's a matter of choice. However, i've noticed a growing legion of the so-called social media "experts" who believe they can choose for the rest of us. They attend fancy conferences and bloggers' meet and pen books. According to them, we must behave in a certain manner when we are online. They set out rules in their articles and blog posts shepherding others to toe in. The word they binge on is engagement. Apparently if we are online, we should be chatting the shit out of each other. Otherwise, it's not worth it, they say. Going by the amount of rubbish that's out there on the Web all thanks to "engaging folks", i'd pass the offer. I wrote a post four years ago and then again last year on why the concept of online engagement is banal for the most part. Of course, i was defending my right to silence (read: laziness) there. Even today, nothing has changed for me. I don't care what others tweet. I don't give a damn whether people lick their mentions as long as they don't expect me to do the same. I choose to ignore mine because i don't believe in public discourse. A conversation is meant to take place between individuals in private. It's not a circus to be enjoyed by voyeuristic strangers. The same fundamentals apply to a discussion too. The problem with online world is too many people gatecrash a conversation, thus changing it into an unchartered discussion, which ultimately morphs into a circus. I like to think of the timeline as an overcrowded elevator where you're doing alright provided you're thinking to yourself. The moment you strike a conversation with your neighbour, you're basically hijacking the peace. Which again is fine to some extent but expecting everyone to chime in would be too much to ask for. Moreover, if everybody's going to talk, who's going to listen?
She was in the kitchen when she realized her nose-pin was missing. As is the usual reaction to things that were close to you but not anymore, she panicked a bit. Without wasting a minute, she got down to searching the trail she could recollect. All the places she'd been not so long ago. The entire kitchen. The living room. The bathroom. The garden. The gate. Everywhere she could think of. Since she was indoor for the most part as she didn't have any work outside, she must have lost it on her property. Nevertheless, she kept looking given it was a gift from her grandmother. It has been a part of her identity since a young age and she remembered touching it while standing in front of the mirror that morning. Not to correct its position but out of habit. Strange it went missing. Stranger the way it went missing. Just like that. Gone. With nobody else in the house, she spent the entire day thinking of her beloved nose-pin. At dinner, she barely spoke to her husband and daughter—back from work and college respectively—after telling them what happened. They understood her attachment to that piece of ornament as well as the unusual silence at the table so they let her grieve her loss.
Three months passed by.
She was again in her kitchen and quite delighted to prepare the lunch. After all, her son was coming back from the UK. While she was preparing his favourite dish, the potato she was chopping julienne had something to say: "Clink!" It's difficult to guess who the nose-pin was happier to meet—the knife or the lady who grew her own vegetables.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I once asked my boss what his childhood dream was. Before i reveal his answer, let me prep you up. He's the co-founder of a unicorn. A unicorn is a startup that is valued at at least $1 billion. For the record, there are only 166 unicorns in this world right now. Furthermore, he's at the helm of the only desi app that has gone global. There's no doubt he's an accomplished individual but coming back to the question, his answer was far from memoir-ish. On the contrary, it was as simple as it could have been. He said he didn't have a dream as such. All he wanted to do was make enough money so that he doesn't have to depend (financially) on his folks. He didn't tell me whether he always wanted to do something on his own. However, let's not assume he had the entrepreneurial streak in him from his early days on. Let's forget he's a Punjabi Bania, from a community well regarded for its business acumen. Let's overlook the fact that he went to the finest college in the country. Let's just focus on one thing: he managed to do much more than his initial plans and that achievement can't be evaluated in money.
Sometimes, the finest lessons greet us without any make-up. The bigger question is, would we learn something from them?
Can you recall an instance from your childhood when your parents sat beside you and told you you've got to be the best at whatever you do? No, not just studies. Everything. Can you? I can't. I don't remember any such anecdotal event from my past where my dad or ma coaxed me to exceed my limits. On the contrary, the environment i grew up in was relaxed. I was naturally good at academics so i was exempted from everything else. They didn't care whether i won the potato race or whether i participated in plays or dazzled in elocution competition. They just didn't give a damn. Well, they couldn't afford to. Dad was working three shifts waiting tables and ma was juggling teaching with sewing. To them, the fact that i was ranked in the top-10 was more than enough. In hindsight, i can't blame them. Being decent people with restricted ambitions, they neither had the mindset nor the need to ask their son: "Do you plan to be the best at at least one thing in your life?" Such conversations are necessary so that 20 years down the line, he doesn't stare out of the window during working hours wondering what is he great at. No, not just good.
Monday, June 13, 2016
That's my amma on the right. The young man on the left used to be her student about two decades ago. They bumped into each other at a wedding last week. Going by this picture, both are evidently delighted. What's more intriguing is my ma looks happier than she did during my wedding.
Where is a thirsty person supposed to go when the laws of the land don't hold water? That's the question worth sleeping with in times like these. For a change, i'm referring to the USA instead of India here. This is not to forget what a mess of a nation we've built for ourselves but two events from Amreeka compel you to think through the surface. Americans takes pride in being a functional democracy with utmost regards for laws. But if a rapist gets preferential treatment for being an ex-Stanford and a psychopath can get easy access to weapons, something is rotten. Brock Turner of Stanford received six months (he'll be out within three) of imprisonment in a county jail (not even a federal prison) for committing unmentionable acts to a sloshed woman. Omar Mateen killed 50 and injured 50+ in Orlando (wonder how he managed to pull off this action single-handedly but then, he pales in comparison to Anders Brevik who killed 77 and injured 300+ in 2011) merely because he couldn't stand gay men. Whatever their backdrop, these two ungentlemen proved how ineffectual human laws could be. Neither of them had a Wikipedia page three weeks ago but now they do. They are a part of our daily conversations. A part of our reality we can't escape.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Friday, June 10, 2016
“By the 90s, prisons had become America’s dominant mental-health institutions. The situation is particularly extreme in Florida, which spends less money per capita on mental health than any state except Idaho. Meanwhile, between 1996 and 2014, the number of Florida prisoners with mental disabilities grew by 150%.”
This is something i read recently on The New Yorker, before sharing it on a WhatsApp group i’m part of. It’s nobly called Spamkhors Inc. We spam there with utmost dedication. Not your usual good-morning messages with a flower bouquet in the image. More like random stuff with the potential to enlighten/entertain/educate the group members against their wish. Of late, i’ve started sharing stuff that is generic to the USA. Things like how more than 50% of the world population today are susceptible to heart diseases thanks to only one cause: stress. Or for that matter, how addictions are leading to cancer at a rate faster than ever before. In other words, lifestyle has become an unavoidable symptom and most of these research studies are conducted by American institutes and pertain primarily to the West. Nobody there gives a rat’s tail about how Asian and African countries fit in the equation. Having said that, the reason i keep sharing stuff that are American in nature is because we—believe it or not—agree or disagree—are a part of American Civilization. They call it globalization but that's an insufficient term. Whatever is happening in the USA is going to happen in other countries. And India happens to be amongst the firsts to ape the West (read: the USA). Of course at a delayed rate as we are not THAT quick yet. But the patterns are obvious, sociologically speaking. As a nation, we stopped looking for solutions from within. Got a problem? See what "they" did and copy.
I once watched a YouTube video, a clip from a Pakistani show where a gentleman was making a point on how the Ummah hasn't done anything significant in over half a millennium. He was, undoubtedly, referring to the Golden Age of Science when the Muslim world came up with astonishing discoveries and inventions. (Algebra, Alchemy, etc.) In that clip, this man surmised how Pakistanis should be ashamed that they live in a world where they haven't contributed anything significant to the society. ("Not even the rubber on a car windshield wiper...") I firmly believe that slap applies to India as well; especially the urban side of it. What exactly have we accomplished so original in nature that the flow turned from East to West? Let me think about it and never get back to you.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
I’ve got 33 tattoos. There’s a Buddha’s face, Che’s too, Mowgli and Baloo dancing, a brooding Sadhu's face, Calvin peeing, Tuarean bull—among others. I got my first one in 2011, soon after i became a journalist. Quotation marks (opening and closing) on the back of each palm. I thought it meant something as i was busy running around getting quotes from the film industrywallahs. By the end of 2014, my torso was almost covered and so was my back. There is one on the side of my neck too, as if it’s trying to reach my face. For someone who finds syringe nauseating to the point that i can never see it enter my skin, i guess i’ve crossed some limits. I was on a spree perhaps. My amma was always critical of my (then) newfound attachment to my skin. She never liked the idea(s) as she noted how swollen tattoo ‘wounds’ can get; not to forget the fever that followed the pain. Also, she was the one who helped me put on my t-shirt as my movements became awkward! For the record, i haven’t gone under the needle since November of 2014 and there is no plan either. However, in hindsight, i think there is no point in permanence. People keep asking me “Why so many tattoos?” and the only reasonable reply i manage to chalk out is “I don’t know.” Fortunately, i don’t have any regrets about any of them. All of them came out well and are busy greying along. (Blame the Indian weather because the heat and humidity doesn't let the ink stay black!) If i pay attention, they actually mean something. The only problem is they’ve become a part of me now. And like all things close to you, you stop giving too much importance.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Leonardo DiCaprio is living. The 41-year-old isn't presently shooting or signed up any film project since The Revenant (2015). Being the classic role model for work-hard-party-hardest, DiCaprio is nowadays in the news either for his humanitarian causes or bohemian excursions. And this peaceful boat was disturbed yesterday when the news (rumours?) of him being approached to play Rumi surfaced on the Internet. The initial reaction to this piece of possibility has been explicitly negative. How can a white guy with an American accent portray a Persian poet/philosopher/thatguywhosaideverythingawesomely? Fair enough. But, here's what i think should be the ideal case: DiCaprio takes up the project and plays Rumi regardless of what the online world thinks. Later, everybody would be able to throw in their one cent on whether he did a good job or not. Until and unless a biopic happens, our racist apprehensions are nothing but that. After all, didn't a dude who couldn't even speak an Indian language—let alone appear desi—portray Gandhi so bloody brilliantly?
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
If you’re the kind of person who waits for trains on a daily basis, there are two possibilities:
- you must have paid attention to the corrugated roof
- you’ve got better things to do with your smartphone
Either way, the roofs shadowing our railways platforms have gone through an interesting transformation. Earlier, they used to be of white-and-maroon shade. Nowadays, they are white-and-blue. This didn’t happen overnight. It was Mamata Banerjee’s initiative when she became the railway minister (for the second time) in 2009. Just like her sari usually is: white with blue border. Interesting move, isn't it?
OK. Now pay attention to this screenshot from the trailer of the upcoming biopic based on MS Dhoni’s life. Notice something? Yes, the white-and-blue roof there. That’s an error from the filmmaker’s end. It should have been white-and-maroon, ideally speaking. They could have done a more detailed job at recreating the early days of our beloved cricketer. For the record, Dhoni was a ticket examiner between 2001 and 2003. Mamata Banerjee’s first tenure as the railway minister of India was between 1999 and 2001; the period during which she had no interest whatsoever in leaving behind a colourful legacy.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
"Probably the best punch of the whole fight...was never landed. Muhammad Ali, as I was going down, stumbling, trying to hold myself. He saw me stumbling. Ordinarily, you finish a fighter off. I would have. He got ready to throw the right hand and he didn't do it. That's what made him—in my mind—the greatest fighter I ever fought."
The year was 1974. The venue was the heart of Africa. Muhammad Ali was 32. George Foreman was six years younger. Eighth round of probably the greatest boxing match ever. And something phenomenal was happening. Before the match began, it'd be polite to say that Ali's greatness was waning as the odds were against him. But then, what's the point of greatness if it ain't to be challenged by time? As Ali built momentum over the rounds, Foreman began to reveal weakness. The above mentioned words were spoken by Foreman in the must-watch documentary Facing Ali (2009) and it shows you how competition doesn't need to forego basic respect for your opponent. More vividly, it shows how a legend is hollow without his fiercest rival appreciating his greatness.
Friday, June 3, 2016
Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) is a fantastic film. It's the kind of cinema that lays bare itself while doing the same to you. And when i say you, i'm addressing everyone who is a constituent as well as a beneficiary as well as a victim of capitalism. That's the beauty of Scorsese's filmmaking. He isn't shy to laugh at us for who we have become.
But that's not the point of this silly blog post.
The reason i decided to type 10 lines is something caught my thought this morning. In the aforementioned film, cocaine turned out to be an able supporting actor. And every time you see someone snort a line, the punctuation to the shot is complete with the person tilting his/her head back. Now, not to overstretch imagination here, but don't wolves also tilt their heads back? The only difference being one species sighs while another howls.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Wouldn't it be every actor's dream to be the only guy in a movie? All the cameras focused on just one person? Instead of having to share the screen with others, why not have the 70mm to yourself? Sounds enticing, no? Ditto. But when i tried to come up with a list of films where the entire film featured just one actor and nobody else, i couldn't come up with anything worth sharing. This was before it dawned on me that the recent past had two such glaring examples. Just that neither of them seemed like a one-man show. Life of Pi (2012) and The Jungle Book (2016). Both primarily starred just one actor (yes, in the former, there were others in the beginning and at the end but...) and played heavily on CGI or motion capture with animated animals. Both featured young actors of Indian origin. Wonder how it must be like to perform to the camera with no other person except some voices to guide you. In some ways, it must be terrifyingly awesome to hog the limelight. In some ways, Hollywood is too racist and won't have anything to do with brown skin on the screen.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Jab jaanwar koi insaan ko maare,
Kehte hain duniya mein wehshee usse saare,
Ek jaanwar ki jaan aaj insaano ne lee hai,
Chup kyun hai sansaar?
Kehte hain duniya mein wehshee usse saare,
Ek jaanwar ki jaan aaj insaano ne lee hai,
Chup kyun hai sansaar?
These lyrics from Haathi Mere Saathi (1971) resonate with what recently happened in an American zoo. A 17-year-old gorilla got killed because a 3-year-old boy's parents weren't careful enough. This kid falls into the pond and the gorilla shows up near him. It appeared like the big guy was being protective but then politeness doesn't come easily to the wild. Long story short, the gorilla was shot dead and that too in a world that hasn't ran out of tranquilizers yet. In an ideal setting, nobody would have died and the little boy would have been 'saved' too. It's much easier to wish in an ideal world anyway. It's the easiest to think of gorilla's well-being when the boy who slipped into the pond doesn't belong to you.