Friday, January 29, 2016

Smoke gets in your eyes (by Caitlin Doughty)

A quirky and a zippy ride into a topic that is either brushed aside or comes with oodles of melancholy -death, or more accurately the aftermath. A story that had to be told in a macabre and yet funny fashion that author has chosen here. Not for the faint-hearted though. Author, a millennial working in a crematorium, is able to hold attention for 240+ pages while she details out 3 planks of her story. Her own saga as a modern age undertaker, bizzare and yet purposeful walk through burial traditions and a shocking peak into the future of death industry. Loved it.

PS - read this book my mother's death anniversary, 26th Jan. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Machievalli - A Portrait (Christopher S Celenza)


Long live Battery Park NYPL. Came across this  mushy ode to medieval Florence, Machiavelli’s hometown was the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century, a place of unparalleled artistic and intellectual attainments. But it was also riven by extraordinary violence. War and public executions were commonplace—the protagonist himself was imprisoned and brutally tortured at the behest of his own government. These experiences left a deep impression on this keen observer of power politics, whose two masterpieces—The Prince and The Discourses—draw everywhere on the hard-won wisdom gained from navigating a treacherous world. Worth a read during a macabre winter storm!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Internal Medicine (Terrence Holt)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Picked this up at EWR. Bad decision, lacked any structure or coherence. Was attracted to the subject - a resident doctor using a thinly veiled layer of fiction to bring some real life stories is a good idea. But in the end, it is patchy and doesn't deliver at all. Life is too short to waste on bad books, left it after first 50 pages. Onto next one.
 

The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Continuing with medicine/healthcare theme, picked this up at Mid Manhattan branch of NYPL. One piece of honest advice, visit this branch after taking a flu shot and buying a good pair of surgical gloves.  Battery Park branch in lower Manhattan is a better choice. Back to the book - simple advice with multiple anecdotes showing how keeping a checklist saved lives. Author keeps you interested, centered on the basic idea through the book. Easy read, took couple of hours and plethora of examples from several industries. A good find.


Saturday, January 02, 2016

Being Mortal (Atul Gawande)


Finished this on the flight from Bangalore to Delhi, 200 pages poof, gone in 3 hours. If you liked Siddhartha Mukherjee's book on cancer (Emperor of Maladies), you will love this one as well. An absolute gem - turns a dark subject of terminal illness into a page turner. Fascinating to see a doctor talk about his nemesis - death with such finesse and practicality. Author offers a middle path - one between an aggressive treatments and "assisted suicide" for dealing with terminal disease. And most importantly a lesson on the finitude of  our lives. 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution



Bought along with book on Jefferson by the same author. Stories on spy rings and their deeds lag the glory that is bestowed upon political and military leaders. And often with a lag, comes lack of details that make up the stories. Thankfully this is a well researched account of a nascent group that played its due part in American War for Independence. The storytelling too is pretty tight, read this in 2-3 installments.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History


Often when we reflect on the past, there are moments that come to our mind - defining ones that literally shape a part of our lives. An academic achievement that led us to a new path, a meeting that gave confidence for us to make a career change. Same applies to a nation. And then it all falls in perfect order. 

Book talks about how skirmishes and military standoffs with North African militia in early part of US national history helped a nation still in infancy to assume a role far greater than its weight at that time and provided seeds of confidence and power projection unseen even in more established regimes. A bit over the top though, generalized descriptions of the "enemy" spoil a perfect theme to reminisce amidst ruins of post American world order today. Made for passable reading during the flights last week.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Obsessive Genius: the Inner World of Marie Curie

Was highly recommended by the owner of a local book store here at Jersey City, doesn't disappoint a bit. Apparently there are several biographies for Curie, but none talk about her depression and personal life in such details. It seems as melancholic and detached as the subject of the book during her lifetime. 
The turbulent life of Curie be it her mother's demise, relationship with children and her husband, affair with another man - help complete the personality that is more than the caricature in the textbooks. A must read in my opinion.

A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream

Written by a historian, this book is a reflection of the English Society in 1890s with a crime subtext. Cream who several suspected to be the original Jack the Ripper was imprisoned for murder in the Americas, later goes to England upon his release and then goes on a poisoning spree. A classical caricature of a madman who also manifests the London society of the day. It is a period that will eventually see green shoots of women rights, finally germinating the suffragette movement. A dark study of a dangerous time and place. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Boys in the Boat (by Daniel James Brown)

This is what you will get if you mix one part Jesse Owens, one part Cinderella Man and one part Oliver Twist. Brings the Great Depression to life, follows the gritty lives some of the young men endured during those years. It is a gem for some of us who are interested in Sports history, the origins of University sports culture in the US. Also, a unique commentary on how Sports became one of the fulcrums to attain greatness, not just for sportspeople but for an entire city. Thumbs up from my end, page turner to say the least.

Ada's Algorithm (by James Essinger)



It is a season for biographies and am glad I picked this one at EWR couple of weeks back. 

Starts off on a rather slow note. Although chronicling the history of the famous Byron title was in order, the details of debauchery committed by Lord Byron were not too central to the theme. The book sets the context by including the references to the earlier generations of British and Science Historians who may not have been too kind to Ada's contributions. Sexism being one of their flaws. 

A fleeting mention of British aristocracy and its social calendar is reminiscent of Downton Abbey. At the core of the book however, is a collection of Ada Lovelace's notes (titled Notes G) that she wrote to Charles Babbage which can singularly can be termed as first whitepaper on a proto-computer. For some of us unfortunate ones who are familiar with concepts of basic software engineering - these notes will appear as abstraction of modern definitions used for data processing and computing. 

Worth a read in the run up to holidays. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Big Short (Michael Lewis)


(spoilers in the review)

I admit I am in a Michael Lewis time warp (with 1 more - Moneyball to go).

This book is one of the 2 definitive pieces ever penned or recorded on Sub Prime crisis, other being documentary from CNBC journalist David Faber apty titled - House of Cards ( http://www.cnbc.com/id/28892719).

However unlike David Faber's work that takes him to one of the guilty parties - House Owners, Michael Lewis has constructed this story using an almost unaffected class of people as observers. Three sets of money managers who otherwise would have been untouched by this crisis, chance upon it as a bet of their lives and pursue it relentlessly.

What starts as purely a research effort in order to prove their hypothesis that there is a lot of money to be made by shorting the Sub Prime bubble - these three unrelated crusaders take upon themselves in unraveling the madness behind an insatiable mortgage securities market as it existed in its heydays ending in 2007. Their personal struggles are used as additional burden they have to carry in addition to their quest of proving that world is wrong on Mortgage market or more precisely entire Wall Street is dumb enough to not to see what is coming.

As is the case with other works, this book too is for someone who has some idea of the lexicon - Mezzanine CDOs, MBS etc. My own personal experience or rather brush with Mortgage market albeit on periphery (I was selling back office IT solutions to MBS/CDO/CDS traders in 2006) - made me enjoy this book even more. A must read for someone who is remotely interested in Sub Prime crisis and is looking for some closure. :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Flash Boys (Michael Lewis)

(spoilers in the review)

Yet another classic from Michael Lewis who is definitely numero uno when it comes to Finance Journalist. This iteration takes on HFT trading and their ways of rigging the so called efficient markets.

Central idea is taut - how trading shops with hitherto unknown names (e.g. GETCO) started accounted for a substantial percentage of equity trades. Also on offer is play along by wall street banks and exchanges. However just as Michael Lewis did with his seminal Liar's Poker and recent Big Short - the human thread of an unlikely crusader (Brad Katsuyama) in this case is the real story.

Overall a much enjoyed book after a long time. Pretty much finished in 2-3 sittings over a weekend. Only downside for someone could be spells of dry details on communications hardware. Otherwise a highly recommended for someone remotely interested in the subject.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ship of Theseus (2012)

Image result for ship of theseus movie
Written and directed by Anand Gandhi, a first timer or so they say. This is a brilliant movie, a masterpiece that is too good to be true. Perhaps I will be proven wrong in time to come but for now, I would wage on this film to be the most impressionable work in Indian cinema in years to come.

It consists of 3 stories, separated by distinct lives that their protagonists lead in a busy metropolis. Common thread only appears in the end and is neither unnerving nor banal. It almost becomes a matter of fact for someone immersed in the movie. It starts with a bang and reaches its crescendo in the middle - when some very spirited arguments are exchanged between an atheist monk (yes you heard that right) and his protege. Very Fountainheadesque.

First story amongst other things takes you deep inside an abyss called an artist's misery and self doubt. I wonder what would happen to me and my colleagues if we suddenly wake up to a reality that we are indeed mediocre and all the accolades that we get in our workplace were actually showered on us rather undeservedly. Back to the film, first story is very much a journey that a blind photographer takes where in she gain her sight but loses her art in the bargain.

Second story is my favorite. Protagonist is played by a very talented Neeraj Kabi who has played a physically demanding role to the hilt and shone through some very complex exchanges with a young lawyer who looks up on him as a role model. A very healthy debate on religion, world views and stand comedy is on offer. We will hear more on Neeraj Kabi in coming years, that is for sure.

Third story is perhaps the only blemish on this otherwise very well crafted film. But then it may be case of it being only relatively lesser as compared to first 2 chapters. Slightly thinner plot - a young stock broker who gains a Kidney and also develops a conscience as a bonus.

Now back to Anand Gandhi - he is the best thing to happen to Hindi Cinema in a long time. Both Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee have publicly stated their envy after watching this movie. Dibakar apparently went into depression for few days, cocooned in an envelope of self doubt thinking whether he will be ever be to make such a movie.

Note: This movie is available for a legal download at this website for free: http://www.cineoo.com/sot

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Adrift in Tokyo (Dir Satoshi Miki, Language - Japanese)

Adrift in Tokyo.jpg
With snowstorm Electra keeping its date with NY/NJ area,  I gradually warmed up to the idea of watching a a half decent movie on a cold December afternoon. And I was in luck.

This movie has very unusual protagonists for the theme which is series of long walks through the city. One would expect a couple's either sustained or past romance to act as sub plot to the walks. However, Adrift in Tokyo has a loan shark and a debt laden student as the leading characters. Together they trudge along lesser known parts of Tokyo - its quiet leafy streets and little Shinto and Buddhist shrines in the neighborhood. Contrary to the popular imagery as shown in movies like Lost in Translation, Tokyo has lot of leafy pathways that are full of foliage are most beautiful during the fall season. This movie uses autumn to its great advantage - and is quite in line with its bitter sweet subtext. 

Makers have also scored the bulls eye with two aspects - one the depiction of lower middle class Japanese, focusing mainly on their vanities and secondly the accentuated nothingness of their lives in general and their struggles with the same. Quirky elements like infatuation with Lacoste brand, using mayonnaise with Japanese curry and that ever present punk rocker walking-performing on the streets create several layers to the simple core plot of the movie that is an arrangement between the lead characters of the movie. One in which student has to accompany the loan shark as he walks through the streets of Tokyo and in return loan shark will write off his debt.

The first half focuses more on the physical manifestations of the walk - places, restaurants, food while the second half is more about relationships and together they build up the optimism of a miracle and leaves one on the crossroads at the end. 

A must watch in my opinion.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Party is dead, long live the Nation

I have a confession to make.

Whenever I find following terms being used by mainstream media in India - such as unprecedented, historical, never before, apocalyptic, generational etc , I have this incorrigible habit of going back in time and testing my hypothesis - has this happened before? And further more if it has - what were the consequences and what does it tell us in terms of what will happen next.

Current hyperbole on TV and Newspapers is no different. Following is my critique on "decimation" of Indian National Congress.

The Beginnings

Ever since the exclusion crises and Glorious Revolution unfolded in Great Britain, one aspect of democracy has remained constant - that of Political Parties.Jefferson in 1798 captured this in perhaps the most articulate and almost twitter ready form:

"In every free and deliberating society, there must, from the nature of man, be opposite parties, and violent dissensions and discords; and one of these, for the most part, must prevail over the other for a longer or shorter time."

We are as a nation indebted to a motley crowd of Britisher civil servants and an enlightened group of Parsi, Bengali and Marathi though leaders who gave us our first Political Party. Early years saw it as a countervailing force in British India to Viceroy's authority in order to improve the governance and was marked by benign appeals to British Parliamentarians mostly in the areas of taxation. What happened later has been captured quite adequately in our NCERT textbooks. I do no want to attempt a revisit.

It is sufficient to say that it evolved (note that I have not used the term transformed here) into a centre left political force that tried a mix of socialism without Communist underpinnings and with its own school of nation building. Whether it worked or not is a subject of debate - one that would involve comparative data from other democracies in their first decades. Again, this is a side topic that I do not attempt to get into at this juncture.

The Spiral

Political Parties are conceived, aborted, born, mature, age and eventually die. INC is and will not be an exception to this truth. However it is important to theorize what leads to death of a political party.

One prominent reason is divergence of the national aspiration from the central thought of that party - Whig Party is a case in point. When the general mood in the US wanted state to expand - wily old foxes of this once very prominent party were against the idea. They misread the situation and paid with the demise of Whig political thought itself. INC of the day firmly believes in entitlement economy - which is a direct spawn of the socialist thought its leaders very romantically advocated in 50s. Whether mood of the nation is infact vehemently opposed to such a state is perhaps subject of another discussion. 

Another reason of demise can rampant factionalism. Unionists in commonwealth countries saw early demise owing to this. Offshoots emerge and gradually take over the mantle of the parent's political discourse. Interestingly this has happened to INC and it has been seeing departures since 1969.

Yet another reason is fall of the cult or father figure. This can be both biological and political. Regional parties are a prime example. However INC has survived and in fact thrived after deaths of tallest leaders before independence. 

Endgame

From a pantheon of democracy, INC has regressed into a franchise that is now run by a Family. Note the usage of term franchise here - I dont think the term political party can be any longer used for INC in the absence of any internal democracy.  

I have drawn out few endgame scenarios for INC:
  • Continued downward spiral till the time it truly becomes a cult party that dies with the death of its leader
  • It transforms itself by aligning itself with nation's aspirations and improves it internal functioning through party democracy, dissolution of the idea of whips and institutionalizing accountability to all and exception to none 
  • Breaks into several factions - one of the factions takes the national stage and occupies INC's current center left stature
  • Thrives with its current leadership and structure. It may continue to appeal to some sections of society that truly believe in therapeutic benefits of entitlements. 
These are indeed interesting times for us.


Footnote
For those who have an open mind should re - read this note after "find and replace" of the term INC with BJP with few exceptions. And for those who are interested - my political affiliation is to that mythical party that advocates centre right libertarian rule. I would have voted for Swantantra Party had I been alive in 50s.



  



Monday, September 23, 2013

Why I think we do not make meaningful Cinema.

Indian Cinema- Hindi to be more precise since I have not watched much of regional films dishes out several hundred movies in a year. Some of them do get recognition that they deserve and win some awards in the festival circuit. A few others make decent money at the box office. Within that construct, Hindi Cinema seems normal, complete and solvent enough to be reckoned as one of the major cinemas of the world.

However there is always a lament among some of us - we are often heard saying that "we dont make meaningful cinema" or that "average story with song and dance" or "I like Korean movies more". One of the simpler reason for the same is that entire categories of genre are missing in Hindi Cinema, a fact which perhaps make it one dimensional in appeal.
  1. Not enough biographies - No not about Gandhis or Nehrus. But about some extraordinary people in other walks of life whose life would make a fascinating story to tell. Stories of personal courage are often quite satisfying and uplifting. But film makers should refrain from economizing on truth or trying to put a commercial cinema packaging around a real life story. If told honestly, a biography can be a gem just Paan Singh Tomar turn out to be and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag did not.
  2. Not enough stories about immigrants - Yes we are not America and Delhi or Mumbai are far from being called Global Melting Pots but look around you. In Delhi, you can easily spot a Sikh from Jalalabad speaking in strange accent of Punjabi in Ghaffar Market or a West African  who is by the a Nigerian trying to get into a Metro in CP or that stranger with a suspicious satchel in a University Special from East Delhi to North Campus. Often theirs are poignant stories, of exploitation, loneliness, rare friendships and rarer still of triumphs. I can not recall any movie apart from Kabuliwala that was made ages ago.
  3. Not enough violence - Violence shown in contemporary movies is not violence. It is either well choreographed sequence that is enacted by action heroes ably supported by wires or dozens of Scorpio cars defying gravity in the background while our hero emerges from nowhere. It is unnatural at its worst and funny at the best. The raw appeal of violence is missing from such scenes. The one scene that used no wires or stunts or graphics is that of Ed Norton's Neo Nazi character in American History X forcing a black man to keep his mouth open on the sides of the kerb while he brings a ferocious blow of a baseball bat at the back of his victim's head. Another good example that I can recall is violence that Kevin Spacey's character unleashes on his victims, particularly that prostitute who is bled to death in the most macabre way. Jack the Ripper would have been proud of Spacey's character.
  4. There are others as well - Espionage, Political thrillers etc that are completely missing from the wardrobe. And Agent Vinods and Rajneeti are not exactly exemplary pieces of art. 

(To be continued)


What do I write about?


Should I write about my favorite topic - geopolitics and make a case of hyper realism in Indian strategic outlook. But alas I can not because I do not have any training in political science or international relations. All I have is knowledge that I have gathered by reading up few of the policy experts and therefore would not be able to write more than 100 words without quoting a published work.

Should I write about that dark story that I have thought about during one of many bouts of depression. The one in which all the four members of an otherwise normal family kills their respective nemesis during day only to return to the normalcy of their dinner table. I have not quite got the motives and method of murder chalked out. So there goes this thread as well.

Should I write about a raging topic - rapes, girl child, khaap, middle class hypocrisy and self righteousness . I do get urge to write on these topics every now and then but the words fail me and all I am left with are angry ripostes that I put on facebook status updates.

Should I write about Cinema? Should I write movie reviews? I would like to call myself a film buff and over last few years also tried to enjoy world cinema - Iranian in particular. But the lack of vocabulary when it comes to technicalities is the elephant in the room that I can not ignore.

Should I again try my hand at conjuring some silly story like I did with this blog - http://robinnirula.blogspot.com/ which was part biographical but mostly silly.

Where does that leave me? Should I talk about my childhood memories - try to make up some stories that have deeper meanings? May be I can, but till then I am busy with this “making up business”.

All in vain


Several aeons ago, a man came down to my neighborhood in West Delhi and set up a tent in a plot of land next to local grocery stores. Then he put on a strange show for the residents of that low middle class locality. He rode his bicycle in circles non stop for 4 or 5 days. The numbers of onlookers would swell during evenings, with knicker clad kids like myself making the most numbers. To this day, I could not quite understand in terms of how the strange cyclist made money for his 72 hour of motion sickness defying spectacle. To me, it remained a pointless exercise - going through extreme discomfort, pain and to top it all, misery of being called and looked as a freak.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Nine reasons why I liked Gangs of Wasseypur


(And why i am waiting for part 2)
!!!Spoiler alert!!!!

1. Transition of cultural icons (1941-1985) - Whether it was obvious references to Amitabh Bachchan, be it Fazlu's comment on Zanzeer v Deewar or women blowing kisses in cinemas, Sardar Khan announcing his threat to Ramaadheer Singh to the tune of Mithun's iconic Kasam Paida Karne Waale ki or opening scene circa 2004 showing perhaps the most overated saas bahu serial of our time. However clincher was hero worship of a docoit - "Sultana daaku" in pre independence days in village chaupals a la modern day Robin Hood.

2. Transition of music - Ik Bagal sung by Piyush Mishra is quite reminiscent of the numerous Mukesh songs in 50s. On the other Manmauji is sung in naughty 60s style. 80s are signed off by more electronic “Jiya ho” by ethereal Manoj Tiwary. In addition to these are folksy “Womaniya” and street number in “Aey Jawano’ which transcend eras but Sneha Khanwalkar (who apparently is 4th woman music composer in hindi film industry) has made sure that her music score mirrors the changing times of story weaved around 4 decades.

3. Myth of a monolithic muslim society in India – movie clearly shows fissures not only along Shia Sunni but also a class/ethnicity based divide of Qureshis v Pathans.

4. Pre and Post Independent India – Hardly anything changed for the worker class, be it wages or working conditions, which is a complete contrast to urban middle and upper classes that saw their much wider changes (and opportunities) in their lives.

5. References to sex in living room – as opposed to hindi movies treat this subject either in form of hyper-gyrations of item numbers or almost stupefying shot of two flowers converging as a visual metaphor for coitus. When Nagma gets pregnant, she finally gives in to her husband’s urges and give a reluctant permission to ‘shop’ around. Nice refresher to some of the ignorant people in our midst who have no empathy for either truck drivers (and their wives back in villages).

6. One Bihari culture – A Muslim (Badru Qureshi) gets his daughter’s wedding invite printed in Hindi, replete with a “sher” in devanagri script. Though muslims are shown to be living in ghetto like colonies, convergence of language, culture, clothes (most muslim women are shown in saree) is quite interesting

7. Its all about the economy stupid – Although overarching theme is about hatred and revenge, characters are not chasing each other in Sunny Deol style. As is shown by Sardar Khan’s transformation from being a crude goonda to a strongman who usurps a natural resource (water reservoir in the area) and creates a hegemony by supplying fish to a population whose demographics are changing (from Bihari to fish eating Bengalis).

8. Subtle references to inflation from bounty of 11 rupees in 1941 for a dacoit to “meher” of 1 lakh rupees in 70s.

9. And Last but not least – Hunter. Chutney music is such a refreshing change from overdose of Punjabi funk sounds of the day. With luck, we may see more Bihari musicians from Carib islands, Fiji and even Suriname (Dutch Bihari anyone?)



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar
Let stories be told, I told missus sometime back. Stories of men and women, of their tenacity, struggle, misery and above all their triumph. Especially, heroes among common men and women in post-independence India. Stories in public knowledge are so shallow when it comes to number of such people that have been brought into public light, although all of us have had an opportunity to know a distant relative, an accomplice, a common friend who we may have idolize or atleast be envious in terms of grit and ability to swim against the tide of life’s tragedies.
This is perhaps the reason why I have chosen to write a post on my scantly updated blog on Paan Singh Tomar. This film was chosen despite the fact that I have seen “The Artist” and “Dirty Picture” prior to my visit to Fun Cinemas yesterday, and had not bothered write an ode to either. Despite the cinematic brilliance of “The Artist” and singularly exquisite piece of performance (note, not acting) on part of Sridevi incarnate - Vidya Balan in whose form a female superstar has thus reborn. Coming back to PST, it is neither the performance not the technical excellence that is forcing me to write my less than qualified post. There are three main reasons as to why one should watch this movie:
Firstly it is a bold subject. It’s a story that filmmakers avoid talking or making movies about. It is difficult in execution and it takes lot of research and very calculated imagination to fill the gaps. Stories of sportsmen who fell on bad times are aplenty but rather than talk about an Olympic medallist who died penniless (KD Jadhav), the filmmakers of PST chose to talk about a “rebel” who took up arms instead. This is not to say that justification of such an act is in order, but an action to reverse the flow of circumstances which seem to suck the life out of any middle aged, over the hill sportsman with no means is very much a natural phenomenon. Focus is thus less on his misery, but more on vectors that align and conspire together to force the transformation of an athlete into a dacoit.
Secondly the topography of the terrain. I simply love the fact the ravines of Chambal and thereabouts are still intact to tell a tale of their own. They remain true to their mysterious and violent past. It is vastly superior to Omkara (Western UP) and almost upstages Bandit Queen. Watch out of navigable rivulets and rickety boats taking men, women and children across.
Thirdly is the language. That dialect which cuts through urban hinglish that we use today like a knife through the butter. Earthiness of the words spoken, often by very talented actors like Irfan, Zakir Hussain, Mahi Gill and Bijendra Kala stands out in the movie.
Enough said, watch it before they snuff the picture out of theatres. Strain your ears though, dialect may be a little too caustic for some of us.

Friday, October 07, 2011

She never cried

My earliest memories of my maternal grandmother (beeji) were eating her vegetarian savories, her mild reprimand of my handwriting and her 40's style spectacles.

She was a typical immigrant from West Punjab, Kasur to be exact. They had lost everything in Partition and then after coming to Delhi, she lost more. Her husband died when she was in late thirties. Story goes that she started operating coal trading business from walled city premises in Delhi, turned around a sinking business and when her children started getting married, sold the business away. At slightly less than 5 feet, with small build that she had, I still cant visualize her working in a coal trading shop, let alone managing the entire business from manpower to trade deals to procurement. But my beeji was tough as steel, strong willed woman who seemed rooted in her belief that education is the only way for her children to get out of the rut that circumstances that forced them to be in.

Misery did not leave her after her children got married off and an estranged relationship with her son ensured that she was forced to live with her 3 daughters, in turns. It is ironic that a person of her caliber could not avoid financial dependence but then more astute people have been guilty of gaffe or two. This was her sole blemish as far as i can remember.

As a grandparent, she was awesome. She could teach me and my cousins all subjects till we were in 5th standard. She had studied till 8th (she was born in 1919) , but I can bet my life that she could have easily been a post graduate in these times. She kept a sharp eye on our studies - her constant reprimand was - "saare majboona (subjects) wich number change laine ne" which was in response my asymmetrical report card which always showed variance away from languages.

Born into a progressive khatri family, she was more of spiritual person than a religious one. I did not see her spending time in front idols, instead she would wake up at 4 and meditate silently. Though she did not articulate it, she to my knowledge was a firm believer of faith being a private matter. Till the day, I find her to more progressive than the next generation or for that matter one after that.

Her last few years were very miserable, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Slow but steady decline into dementia followed. It was very ironic to see her lose control, especially since I had always seen her composed and firmly in command as far as her life was concerned. She used to tease me that I had got cavity in my molar at the age of 21 while she had full set of 32 at 80.

In 2007, she quietly passed away in my mother's arms.

I was not around, and I wept like a baby on her "chautha". I do miss her much, but I do not cry whenever I think about her. Just as she never cried when faced with adversity in her life.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

Movie Review - Shaitan
If you love cinema of Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and always wanted to see how counter culture in an Indian city looks like, this movie will not disappoint.

Lot of people will try to compare it with Dev D - another favorite of mine. Similarities are palpable, though soul of the cities (Delhi and Bombay) make a crucial difference. Twenty and Thirty year olds have been guzzling western cinema to watch mind bending, counterculture and any thing which falls under an overarching dysfunctional genre. Here comes our savior, setting is desi, relevant and most of all very realistic.

Kalki is as usual is surreal, while other female in the pack Sheetal Menon does not do bad job. But the most badass of the characters is played by Shiv Pandit - waiter, crack dealer, the only urchin amongst the upper class brats. Getting Rajat Barmecha to play a teen coke dealer in making is also superb. Highest point of the movie comes in second half with Tarantino like gunfight with
remix of Khoya Khoya Chand playing in the background.

Dont watch the movie if you dont like gore, blood and dark characters. For the rest of us, this movie is a godsent present. Hope Bejoy Nambiar (Director) give us more such gems in future.

Amen to that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Sitting on the left corner of the Auto I noticed...

A biker, caressing his hands on the chrome and taking a good look at the journey ahead. And I wondered if I would ever follow my dreams.

A retired man, sitting on his balcony with a dozen newspapers around him to read. And I wondered if he has enough money or I would ever have enough time.

School children crossing the road in their dark brown school uniforms, eager to take on whatever comes today. And I wondered if they will play during their games period and whether school has a library or not.

Construction for a multi-storeyed building going on at full swing with eastern immigrants getting into their act. And I wondered if they will make my home one day as well.

We were waiting for an unusually long time at a red light. And I wondered if i have waited longer than required for things that do not matter.

Driver's photo identity card which pictured him in his best clothes. And I wondered if lanes in his locality are as wide and as clean as this road.

Sitting on the left corner of the Auto, I wondered if I would notice so much if she was besides me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why do i go to Minar everytime I am in NYC

To disprove 2 misconceptions-

1 - An Unamericanized Indian Restaurant has no appeal for Americans. These guys persist with spicy indian food and goras turn up in decent numbers.
2 - Intersect between good indian food and quick serve restaurants (QSRs) is zero. Wrong again, try any thing on the menu, chances are that it is nearly half as decent as best fare in your city back in india.


PS Ofcourse there are sentiments involved here and sub 10 USD lunch is always welcome :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Double standards

Continuing with drinking sessions, it was unanimously agreed that there was no honour in the attitude that our parents showed towards TV wathcing.

They restricted us from watching TV in late 80s when some of the best fare was being dished and these days they spend hours on shitty things called daily soaps.

Not fair i say!


Over a peg of scotch

Friends debated who has been worst "star" son in history - Obamasque consensus was Sanjay Kapoor.

Irony is that he played a star son turned director in a recent movie - Luck by chance. And even more irony followed - he wasnt too bad either with his hat and all :)


Thursday, May 21, 2009

My XI

A week back i wrote to Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's show GPS airs every Sunday 1 PM EST regarding some of the questions i would like him to ask his guest last Sunday - Pervez Musharraf. To his credit, Fareed did not ask Ex Prez a single question from this list.

Disclaimer: Ofcourse most of these are India focussed, what do you expect from an Indian.

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Dear Fareed Zakaria,

Please find below questions that I would like you to ask Pervez Musharraf when he appears on your show next Sunday.

Kargil
· Mr Musharraf, what were the Pakistani military's strategic objectives of Kargil incursion in '99?
· Are these strategic objectives still part of Pakistani military doctrine?
· You and Pak admin have always vehemently denied that Pakistani military was not involved in Kargil, however your admin went ahead and awarded Nishan-i-Haider to 2 regulars for Kargil "conflict" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karnal_Sher_Khan_Shaheed and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lalak_Jan_Shaheed.
· What circumstances forced end of hostilities in this military campaign and what was US role in the same?

Taliban
· Shehryar Mazari - prominent journalist in his editorial in DAWN directly holds you responsible for TALIBANIZATION of Pakistan, what is your response to that? Here is the link to this editorial - http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/talibanisation-musharraf-659
· Are there any elements in Pak Army or in ISI that do not support war on Taliban and what are their views on Kashmiri militant groups once Americans leave AfPak?

Future of Pakistan/General
· Does he believe that Pak will break into 3 largely independent countries - Punjab, Largely lawless pashtunistan in north and Sinshudesh in south? If not what is the ethos of being a Pakistani
· Kiyani was your handpicked candidate, would you have given him go ahead to take Taliban out
· Where were billions of dollars in US aid diverted to during Clinton/George Sr Bush days before sanctions due to Nuke tests?
· Where in Pakistan were Mumbai attacks planned? Indian dossier contained citation regarding transcripts of Punjabi speaking army regulars shouting tactics over satellite phones, thereby implicating Pak Army of planning and executing these terror attacks. What is your response to that?

Kashmir
· What is the future of Kashmiri seperatism, now with prominent seperatists like Sajjad Lone joining political mainstream in Jammu and Kashmir?

It will be great if you could pose these questions to Mr Pervez Musharraf. Answers to some of these questions is critical to understanding why Pak is in its current position and who else is better to answer that than someone who ruled and unarguably brought this instability to south asian region.

Amit Kumar
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Ek akela is shahar mein..

Some of the side effects of living alone away, in a hotel for something like 7 months out of last 9-10 months-


  • Addicted to watching CNN, becoming a die hard Fareed Zakaria basher
  • Eating tonnes of snacks, drinking kilolitres of diet pepsi - becoming Shop n Stop's loyal customer
  • Sifting through deals2buy, dealnews, dealsofamerica etc etc and end up buying useless stuff
  • Hurling expletives when alone in room at people from office
  • Making sure than sofa springs are subject to intense cycle fatigue from butts
  • Overusing skype
  • Trying to find that perfect song on Youtube that will act as lullaby tonight and everynight
  • Taking clean bed, toilet, bath for granted
  • Actually started liking some of the microwavable food
  • Almost losing the concept of acting like a host to friends
  • Searching for 16 quarters every sunday night for laundry and drying clothes
  • Ironing linen shirts early monday morning

Sigh! It better be worth something in the end...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2009 Elections: 10 NDTV Bloopers /Funny moments

  1. Prannoy Roy apologizing profusely to Kapil Sibal for leaving him high and dry and going for an ad towards the end of the counting. Sibal didnt even acknowledge his apology.
  2. Chandan Mitra's exciting "This is significant" whenever someone told him that BJP is leading in WB seat even though it was quite clear that they will be falling much short of INC number
  3. Manu Singhvi tearing Abhigyan Prakash for making him wait for 25 minutes during NDTV India's election coverage.
  4. Robert Vadra looking out of place while his wife and bro in law meets press for the first time after UP results come in.
  5. Dayanidhi Maran struggling to focus his excitement - Murasoli's exit poll accuracy or his uncle's houdini act in TN
  6. Vikram Chandra moving INLD (Ajit Singh) back and forth between NDA, UPA, Third Front, Fourth Front on a giant touch screen.
  7. Digvijay Singh recalling an incident when Rahul Gandhi stumped him by telling him a little trivia - Ajit Singh won on congress ticket in one of the elections. I bet even Ajit Singh doesnt remember that.
  8. Derek o Brien rhetorically quizzing Srinivasan Jain on which non Congress party has won more seats in UPA. This was in response to Srinivasan's question on whether TC would ask for lofty miniterial berths (railways for Didi :) ) in UPA
  9. NDTV team taking Praful Patel's statement in spirit - Everyone was talking to everyone else at the same time!
  10. NDTV's take on Cong Left relationship with Emosanal Atyachar playing in the background.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Great Game

Lets try to get this straight, Pakistan needs military aid from US to fight insurgency in its own backyard. All this while it (if Obama is to be believed) fears for its existence from India. All these years Pakistan received aid from US and except for Soviet rule in Afghanistan, this aid must have gone to prop up Pakistan to make sure it doesnt fall to - its mortal enemy India. With 1 million strong strike corps breathing on its eastern border and some 3000 combat and non combat aircrat to contend with, Pakistan did a pretty good job of sustaining itself during years when FATA terrorists were not the "villians". Therefore there are only two scenarios under which this request for aid is reasonable - Taliban have thousands of special forces who can engage Pak army decisively or billion of dollars were robbed from US tax payers. Sneaking suspicion - it is latter :) Btw this also coincides with higher tax rate regime of Bill "Cigar" Clinton. So when honest, hardworking Americans were sweating it out in auto towns like Lansing, MI - Pak military was being modernized. But what the heck, we just heard from US, that Pak military is as ancient as Mayan infantry. So where were these funds going to, ahem - must to be worthy cause of exporting insurgency to India.

So lets recap - US wants to help Pak fight insurgency in its own country that is a by product of its own terror export factory that was covertly being funded by US. Whoa!

For updates on "war" - www.longwarjournal.org (Bill R has done a pretty decent job of doing what CNN and other looneys have forgotten - War journalism)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sindhudesh

Came across an interesting website here. Interestingly, this also reinforces 3 major faultlines in "Greater India" that existed prior to Independence - Punjab (Hindus/Sikhs V Muslims), Bengal (Hindus V Muslims) and Kashmir (confused to say the least). On the other hand 2 major ethnic groups got screwed as a result of collective tomfoolery on part of Indians, Pakis and Brits - Pushtuns (across Pak and Afghanistan) and Sindhis. Funnily, Hindu sindhis today are perhaps equivalent of perennial refugees in India. With all the upheaval in north of Sindh that is happening today, there is a hope for independent and moderate islamic country of Sindhudesh, at peace with India.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Little Iron Shoes

After 30 years of liberalization, China is still pretty much a commie state. Evidence - its state run channel goes by the name - CCTV :)
Kerryless

Ok, what do you do when lose US presidential elections to perhaps the worst man after Franklin Pierce to lead the country. You are also chided for making a muck of yourself by crying hoarse about outsourcing in the run up to elections.

Any sensible politician would have curled up his ambitions and retired to a Maine cottage and accept speaker engagements with far left evil called Daily Kos.

No but Mr Kerry became a stooge in Senate's foreign relations committee. Furthermore he joins other jokers in undoing perhaps the only sensible strategic makeover that Bush administration worked on - US India relations. You also come up with worst oxymoron of the century - Good Taliban. And then this.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Klick Klack

India: We sent the dossier to Pak
Pak: We sent it back, need to link 26/11 with Samjhauta blasts
India: Ball is their court (ofcourse since our PM has lost his during his operation last month), we need link Samjhauta with Mumbai blasts
Pak: Link Mumbai blasts with Gujrat
India: Link Gujrat with Godhra
Pak: Link Godhra with Babri Masjid
India: Link Babri Masjid with ISI activities /Seperatist sub culture that you have been harbouring
Pak: Link that with Muslim persecution in India
India: Link that with 500 year persecution of Hindus
Pak: Link that with your stubborn refusal to get converted
India: Link that with your religion's lack of appeal in West from Ottoman to Obama
Pak: Its a PR problem, the whole world is out to get us. It makes sense for us to get taken over by Taliban. Zardari can take couple of concubines and settle in East Ham.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Fareed Zakaria is a Schmuck!

Couple of newsbytes over weekend:

One - Fareed A-hole Zakaria asking mohamed el baradei about his tactics related to handling pariahs like India, Israel and Pakistan. Wise El Beradei smiled - " I dont know how one can treat a democratic country with 1/6th population with no proliferation history as a pariah"

Two - Mista A-hole chairing a meet on global recession in Davos which includes gents premier from mexico, South Korea and Chump Gordon Brown (his surname is testimony to the fact that reverse colonization is complete in UK). During this discussion, Fareed brands mexicans and other lat ams as experts in diffusing banking crisis. This after Mexican gent noted that Lat Am as a region had 30 such crisis in last 25 years. This is akin to awarding top award to India in countering terrorism.

Mr Zakaria, you need to formally join army of other ill informed, opinionated & psuedo centrist journos in SEE ENN ENN and get more cozy with another A-hole in your network -Lou Dobbs.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sone ki chidiya

So why am i upset at watching promos of a movie that could be perhaps first India centric movie in 30 years (Gandhi was last in 80) to win all that matters in entertainment industy, starring perhaps the only macho leading man (Anil K) since Big B (amidst all the pretenders) and has gazillion awards winning score from perhaps the only indian composer who can write original music (since ahem Rabindranath Tagore)?

For the same reason any decent person would not approve of slum tourism. Danny Boyle, what about visiting Paki ghettos in your own little island country where dry humour of present day dwellers is not enough to erase thievery called imperialism? Be absolutely clear what you show to this world - some of those public alleys in London are not any safer than taking last local from churchgate or late night blue line bus in Jehangirpuri. We ll be watching closely.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Focus Group

Its really unfortunate that US had to choose between two historic firsts - African American President and a woman VeePee.

Sarah Palin swept republican convention but it was a long slide ever since then, media blackout didnt help either. But she did create flutter or two, case in point her admission of being a "Hockey Mom".

That really got moms and wannabe moms to react. One such group was Indian (as in those brown skinned people who got their names from Indus) American Moms. Now they would identify themselves with likes of Sarah. Almost every mom in India is a hockey mom, thats what they use to beat their kids, some ofcourse are cricket bat moms - this number is rising though in recent years, then there is license-to-slap moms who would choose most public of the places to imprint lasting memory in her son's/daughter's mind. There are also chappal moms who are kind enough to select flattest of soles so that her child is not permanently impaired.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Errata

Song below is Rabbi's Bilqis. I watched him perform this live (in a Bangalore music store) when he was promoting his album. I think this is one of the most topical songs ever written, without any metaphoric blankets that other artistes chose to wear. Ofcourse i am leaving out commercial/gen xyz wallet share mongrels out of the equation here.

Jinhe naaz hain hind par woh kaha hain..

Mera naam Bilqis Yakub Rasool
Mujhse hui bas ek hi bhool
Ki jab dhhundhhte thhe vo Ram ko
To maen khadi thhi, rah mein

Pehle ek ne puchha na mujhe kuchh pata thha
Dujey ko bhi mera yehi javab thha
Fir itno ne puchha ki mera ab saval hai ki

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan the
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain

Mera naam Shriman Satyendra Dubey
Jo kehna thha vo keh chukey
Ab padhey hain rah mein
Dil mein liye ek goli

Bas itna kasoor ki hamne likha thaa
Vo sach jo har kisi ki zuban thaa
Par sach yahan ho jatey hain zehreelay

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan the
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain

Mujhe kehte hain anna Manjunath
Maine dekhi bhatakti ek laash
Zamir ki beech sarhak Lakhimpur Kherhi

Adarsh phasa jahan naaron mein
Aur chor bharey darbaron mein
Vahan maut akhlaq ki hai ik khabar baasi

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan the
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain

Mazha nau aahe Navleen Kumar
Unnees june unnees bar
Unnees unnees unnees unnees
Unnees baar

Unnees unnees unnees unnees
Unnees unnees unnees unnees
Unnees unnees unnees unnees
Unnees baar

Looto dehaat kholo bazaar
Nallasopara aur Virar
Chheeno zameen hamse humhe
Bhejo pataal

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan the
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lalu for PM

US presedential elections are popularity contests - no this is not an H1B alien sermonizing, I hear it everywhere in this city which by the way is shamelessly democrat to the core. You can hear thi over office coffee machine chats, lunch table talk and even 2 minute break between or before another stupid call. Fox and MSNBC have their own army of partisan shows -one of them Rachel Maddow has a look that could fittingly describe Neena Gupta's angst at never been able to match Smita Patil or for that matter even Shabana Azmi's standards. And she is mad at everything conservative.

With these media dogs (and bitches) barking 24 hours, this election tends to be boring and unidimensional - who needs a truth squads when you have tabloids free on the train platform!

Nevertheless, US being the "oldest" democracy (history before 1776 is a debated topic here in this part of the world) has its nuances that can surprise even a hardore political observer in me.

Case in point is Alfred E Smith Memorial dinner - a tradition which makes both contenders to come on stage and deliver a stand up comedy act with thier object of affection being - themselves!

I caught glimpses of this year's hilarious act - McCain with his Joe the plumber jokes and Obama with this cross dressing Rudy G jokes. Everything said and done - this does make this democracy "great" atleast in relative terms when compared to whats happening around. Only India comes a close second, albeit i am not sure if there is any humour left in our plitical circles at all. There is one beacon of hope - our Railways minister. How i wish we could have television debates - say between Lalu and Advani.  

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tendlya!

(Excerpt from Cricinfo)

Tendulkar made his debut in Pakistan. Of his team-mates then, one has become an insufferable television commentator, and two others have become good ones; one was convicted of murder and sent to jail, another banned for life for match-fixing. One eliminated the line between whistle-blower and perpetrator, one ran a banned series of matches, another was chairman of selectors. One has dropped out of the public eye and another has turned television actor. But Tendulkar bats on. Longevity is intrinsic to greatness.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Maan gaye Mughal E Aazam

Easily one of the worst movies that I saw (Oops, Goonda (Prabhuji), Anth (Suniel Shetty dubbed by someone else are other gems in my list).

So why did cast comprising of Kay Kay, Rahul Bose and Paresh Rawal fail?

Consipiracy theory 1 - Rahul Bose sabotaged the movie since he did not want "filmmakers" to believe that he and Mallika Sherawat are a great pair after that freak "Pyar ke side effects".

Consipiracy theory 2 - Kay Kay torpedoed this movie since he wanted Celina J as hottie instead of Mallika (remember bomb called "Silsile"

Consipiracy theory 3- Mallika believed she and Rahul were a great pair and worked hard at it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Poo Poo

So what are the choices in front of us to avoid total disruption in our industries, cities, households due to energy crisis?

  • Nuke deal - will take 10 years for 1000 MW reactors to build
  • KG Basin - Not sure if critical mass exists
  • Iran-Pakistan NG Pipeline - Pipeline dream

So we ll have to think slightly out of the box or use the box instead!

What about biogas, with so many people and fauna around us, i am sure this merits a case. What we need is to toilet train all the stray cattle, mongrels (bangalore will be top contributor) and people living near railway lines!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Murder she wrote

Bangalore police and MSM are gloating over India' first female serial killer.

But I would suggest them to give it a thought before they bestow this crown.

Certain Ms Kapoor did lot of damage in early part of this century. One of her famous massacres still sends shivers down the spine.
Same2Same

I noticed him for the first time while we were together boarded a dimly lit bus from suburban Tokyo to Narita airport. I had not slept for last 24 hours, largely due to anticipation of going back to India after 8 months. I was looking forward to getting some sleep in plush seats of Keisei line loco and came armed with my new ipod as well. But something about this person made me feel as if i had travelled all 5000 miles in few seconds. Whether it was his 80's suitcase (with S.M written on the handle) or his golden brass buttons on blue blazer, something told me he was much closer to home than anything on that bus. His cap too reminded me of endless middle aged gentlemen in Delhi who would venture out in biting north indian winter for their chartered buses enroute to performing daily chores as North Block clerks/section officers. Matter was finally clinched when conductor engaged him in a small talk - bingo! he had a jhangi/multani accent. I would now call him Mr Makhija (from S.M on his suitcase) from Geeta Colony.

Rest of the bus journey was pretty boring, i kept my ipod on shuffle mode since i was too tired to make any efforts in choosing the songs. Makhija too started snoring much to chagrin of a young looking japanese woman sitting directly behind him. Bus veered past concrete jungle that Tokyo is into green landscape of Narita and surroundings and landed us directly in front of Thai airways gate.

We took our bags and started walking towards yet to be opened economy class counters. As we waited for Thai airways employees to complete their little christmas celebration, Makhija appeared quite interested in starting the conversation. "Going to India?" he asked. "Yeah, and you?" "Bangkok jaa raha hoon" replied Makhija. His bald head shining in lustre from numerous christmas trees that adorned the concourse in that terminal.

We parted soon after he uttered his destination, booking counters were now open and we were soon ushered into security check.

I glanced at him while i waited for my turn, he was standing in "Foreign Passports" queue. Fortunately my work permit status ensured speedy immigration check and soon i was on my way to departure gate.

I had arrived full 3 hours before departure so some airport shopping was always on cards. However 20 odd kimonos, 5 liquour and endless souveneir shops later I was bored and tried to head back to departure gate.

There were 50 odd people already waiting near the gate. It was a usual sight that one comes across on any international flight. Excited first timers, sensible business travellers, hassled mothers of infants, even more hassled mothers of young children who are busy saving their kids from next catastrophe. Makhija looked at ease as well, perhaps this was not his first voyage to Bangkok in recent times. I was sitting few seats away from him, trying to kill minutes before boarding. He was watching TV on his japanese mobile phone - some NHK program, sight didnt amaze me. If you spend few months in Tokyo and commute on metro, you will come across many men and women flexing their eye muscles on mobile TV. Suddenly his phone rang, it was irritating ringtone, one that is associated with old MTNL landline phones. His neighbours were startled to say the least. Then something went wrong, somewhere between his TV app and his call - his phone tanked. Ringing didnt stop and neither did his TV. For a moment Makhija appeared lost. When his countless attempts to revive his phone failed, he went for the jugular.
Took out the battery and heaved a sigh of relief. Somewhere I felt relieved too. Was I embarassed as well?

Makhija turned on his phone and called the moron whose call destroyed decorum of our lounge.
It was a plainspeak - "Behanchod is time pe call kyun kari? .. Accha theek hain, Main dekh lunga, Abhi phone rakh" No Bon Voyage No Good Days. Sometimes I think we are the worst people when it comes to phone conversations, atleast Makhija was no exception to my belief.

Couple of announcements later, boarding started. Ritual of boarding includes standing at the end of a long queue with your passport and boarding ticket firmly tucked in your shirt pocket. Makhija was 4-5 spots ahead of me. Soon he reached the boarding counter and passed on his boarding pass to the Thai airways employee.

And then i saw his passport with "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" embossed on the green cover while he waited for the lady to complete her drill.

Sadiq Mansoor was going to Bangkok and so was I, atleast enroute to my final destination.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Last Six Months have been spent in

Boarding DLR to Bank
Learning 10 words in Nihongo
Tube journeys from Heathrow to central London
Tube journeys during strike
Trying out Yakitori food in London
Evading Yakitori in Tokyo
Sunday window shopping in Greenwich village market
Guzzling Newcastle Ale
Fitting suitcase in a small Tokyo hotel room
Finding my way from Roppongi to Otemachi
Walking the streets of Kyoto - Especially Gion corner
River rafting
Roller coasting at Tokyo Dome
90 minute treks at Takao
Poising next to Nizomi - Bullet Train
Shedding inhibitions in Onsen at Nikko
Finding bargains in back alleys of Akihabara
Late night coffee sessions at AM PM store
Boarding last train on Fridays to Shinjuku/Roppongi/Shibuya
Boarding first train on Sat from Shinjuku/Roppongi/Shibuya

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Aag ka gola

I am watching Harrison Ford- Anne Heche starrer 6 days 7 nights on a listless Sunday evening and among other things that really caught my eye was one particular scene where our Hans Solo is trying to take off using a vintage plane. Ofcourse to add spice to this situation, screenplay is being shared by Samoan-looking pirates trying to gun him down. Now we are talking about pre Jack Sparrow era where pirates were not being in not same league that of skywalkers.

But apart from humiliating these wretched seafarers by portraying them as dimwits, this movie has actually insulted proud generations of artillery engineers. This unpardonable goof happens when pirates are shown trying to aim at Ford's plane and the release of the shell occurs when the gun is at right angle to the pirate ship - shell is lobbed overhead. Needless to say, it misses its aim and comes back to wreck havoc on poor souls. Why on earth would a gun with no guidance system be designed to avert a foolish scenario. Inexplicable to say the least.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tick Tocking Pollies

Politics is never a favorite subject with my peer group. Most of the people either belong to This-doesnt-affect-me-Hence-I-dont-follow or I-am-not-interested camps.

Well for others there is something to cheer about - proliferation of political blogs.

One of the better reads is http://offstumped.nationalinterest.in/.

PS Even Yossarin (author of this blog) got UP elections wrong :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Just a thought

Why do we use the term "Answering the questions" when it comes to exams back in India while most of the first world uses the term "Solving the problem"?



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Classical Music(k)

Wonder why those gullible folks in Egypt, Iran, Iraq and other middle east countries feast on Indian film music?
Check this wonderful effort from a good and very smart samaritan, Karthik S - http://www.itwofs.com/

Now i know why these guys are called Music Directors and not Composers.

Please inform your friends in Oceania (especially among Maori community), Nordic music circles and Chad's Rock fraternity about this, you might be able to save their originality before someone ships their CD to a certain address in Chennai.

Monday, April 02, 2007

U Turn

Have just changed the name of the blog, will try to shift focus away from self. It will be a gradual process though. Hope to survive the same

Saturday, March 31, 2007

300 and score is settled

As usual Saturdays go, yesterday too was spent thinking hard about whether or not to have tea in the morning without customary biscuits. High point on any saturday is reached when thumb goes comfortably numb from flipping channels and you suddenly remember that personal hygiene has been neglected all the week. As I watched some more hair go down the drain, I decided it is time for me to soak up some sun, use BMTC' bus services and satisfy my psuedo reading apetite by buying a second hand book from MG Road.
I was sure that it would make a great addition to a dozen other books i havent read for last 2 years. Met up with a friend who trampled on my juvenile habit of not saying no when it matters the most and we decided to watch 300 at Rex.
Oddly enough, images that this numbers conjures in blue billion mindset are those of Indian batters screwing hapless bowlers from other countries on a belter of a pitch in locations like Kochi, Vizhag and newest addition in Puttaparthy. Thats where 90% of centuries for Tendulkar, Sehwag, Ganguly and Dravid come from. Groundsmen often come from road construction business. But thats another thing altogether.
Coming back to 300, we got the tickets, although i secretly hoped that the guy on the counter turns out to be a ex anti hindi activist, argument could lead to scuffle and finally to us getting thrown out of the theatre premises. As is the case, nothing of that sort happened and we headed for a mug of beer to kill time before show was supposed to start.
As I was sipping my share of Kingfisher (thats the only brew that you get in the Beer capital of this country), one question kept coming back to me - why on earth (and vulcan planets) was I shortlisted to be invited to this movie.

May be it was because of my unkempt demeanour and lineage (jatlands of Delhi). For the record I used to play french cricket with tennis ball at a ground that was close to vikas puri govt school where Sehwag used to abuse bowlers and Umpires alike before socking them up in case he got out for less than 50 .These experiences have shaped up my anti Non Violence posture till Rang De Basanti came last yeat and has further reinforced my beliefs.
So we finished our Beers (okie couple of Mugs) along with complimentary popcorn and headed to watch film that had originally cast Sunny Deol who wanted to go alone instead. However since the book was titled 300 and not "Iklauta" (The Only One), he had to back down. Although there were efforts to pursuade him, his insistence on having Late Amrish Puri as Xerxes and Bobby and Abhay Deol as Indian princes who make a guest appearance in an item number finally did him in.
Well honestly I did not watch most of the scenes, we were sitting in the second row, the guy in front of me was very tall - around 5 feet 8 inches and he managed an upright position (of his back) for 2 hours. Thankfully we parted our ways soon after the movie - I did not want to get into a review discussion.

Yet I think it is a great movie if you are:
  1. A Student of a girls only school and your treasure trove of beefcake pics has just been confiscated by your mom
  2. Critical of Persian military advances in 300 BC
  3. or Into body piercing
For others I recommend safe ride home in an auto.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

DeckHeads all

Whenever i get a chance to meet some of my peers working in other companies/industries, coversation is usually two dimensional - gossip about job switching in group and bitching about the fact that we are all Powerpoint coollies.

Its the latter that fascinates me. On an average day, i make/collaborate with others in my company to make presentation - mostly for internal use. Often these presentations are laden with figures, tables, images and almost prosaic text.

It is funny but the sheer size of information on the presentation is OBSCENE.

This is certainly contrary to what we were taught (sometimes on the job) about using much abused powerpoint presentations. I am sure most of the junta in the Pre Sales/Marketing/Product Management fields would agree with me. So why this blatant departure from obvious best practice. Answer lies in the use - for internal and extraneous (as in for others) purpose.
In plain words, someone ELSE is going to use them and it is going to be asset for the firm for the time immemorial.

So in a sense, what they actually need is a document (detailed to the last hilt). However a document is more difficult to review (frequent check ins and NY traffic) and is therefore less suited to a US/Client facing lifestyle.

Result - a confused sales support guy who unlearns all the virtues of using a powerful tool :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Colonial Past

Its been 6 weeks since i have tasted salty fried doughnuts (read Vada) or a Rice/Carb tablet(read Idli) but strangely it is not food that i am missing here in NY. Infact its not even cricket, our consistent non performance in One days came handy.

So apparently it is a sport that India doesnt even excel in (read my sarci post below).

EPL is what is making feel so misty about other almost forgettable saturday evenings. Oh i miss watching those matches that come so close to basketball quarters/attack at all costs games :(

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Go Ogle!

Yippee Google Videos are here in India!
Searched for Star Trek Voyager and saw sexy high res snippet of one of the best episodes - Endgame Part 2. Bad news for my to do list

check out video.google.com

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Phoosball

Argentina could not win World cup again, i have been watching this crazy game since Italia 90 and they have disappointed an ardent fan in me time and again. But i am sure they ll be back, Messi will only grow stronger and cleverer, Requelme will be 30 and Tevez, well only uglier and craftier in South Africa.

Brings me to indian football scene these days, apparently we have a new coach who says that we need taller players (duh), and he is sure that he ll find 4-5 of such folks in North India. It has all come down to this! We are easily 130th on a list where apparently war torn ex yugoslav republics are hitting top 20s easily.

So story goes that Indian National team was in Canada where they were playing against world class teams in Vancouver White Caps and Cardiff city. We ended up third there. Competetion was certainly tough, apparently Vanc WC were so desperate that they enlisted highly professional local street footballers to stop Indian juggernaut of five feet gaints. I must also add here that third side Cardiff has long tradition in English football, albiet they have failed to make presence in EPL for decades now.

Nevertheless there are going to be celeberations in Kolkata when Indian team comes back and hectic football season starts (yet) again. Man there is no other place when micro achievement is met with such enthusiasm. I still remember when Sao Palo club had come over to India with 4th or 5th string team and were beating India 4-0 at every centre matches were held. And suddenly in a game someone scored (certain malnutrioned Bikash Panji i think, used to be India captain) with a seeminly impossible volley from 25 yards. My TV (middle class Texla model) started jumping up and down due to deafening noise in the stadium.

Then came '92 and Star TV. I chose less pompous crowds of EPL and Serie A instead.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sharp

Have you ever curled yourself
Around a razor blade because
The cold bite and sharpened
Tang were all you could feel
And it was better than
Feeling nothing?

ps : taken from here

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I miss

Janeway steering Voyager after a close escape frm certain death, Neelix' delta quadrant culinary skills, Kes and her unexplained disappearance, Seska's betrayal, Chakotay and his tattoo, Torres and Paris, Paris and Kim, Tuvok's rationality, Janeway's irrationality, Species 8472 and Borgs, Resistance is futile, Delta flyer, Time travel, Q and Q continuum, Seven of Nine and her memory flashes about Raven, Doctor and his idiosyncracies about being human and most of their journey back home.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Delhi Rape

added to lexicon here

I think I can give a try to Delhi Bus Ride

'' Travel in a Delhi bus that is often served hot with expletives 'Saale Maa ke !@#$ aage kyun nahin hota hain', 'Is Ch!@#$ ko yahin utaar do', 'Behan!@#$ ticket le, Tera staff nahin chalega' and often results in either getting down with high probability that you will hurt yourself"

Ofcourse this is nothing as compared to being "felt" by organic tresspassers.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Core Competencies

Attending Press Conferences by Rahul Dravid - Guy needs a break, I think he was better off when he was keeping wickets and donning Vice Captaincy hat during Ganguly era.

Burning "Heart Shaped" effigies by Shiv Sena - Awesome work, doesnt hurt anyone and is good fun too, they need to concentrate on this rather than burning down poor florists' shops in Mumbai.

BP Singhal on News Channels - He can use the frown on his forehead in a RGV horror movie, Daraana Zaroori hain

Afridi's sweet somethings while fielding in Point region - Could channelise his competency in Vernacular abuses to educate first year zoology students on female anatomy and in some case wierd male anatomy as well

Friday, February 10, 2006

Outlook - Microsoft or otherwise!
Just changed jobs, well job is not the word, I think organization or rather organization from whose account i draw my wages is a better one. I now am part of Sails and Mark-Keating (Oh those S&D classes and understandably challenged people) in an IT firm. So what has changed for me:

Am I working more, well if work is a function of number of keystrokes in a day, answer is yes. Also now I can relate my lack of sense of humour to utter lack of work in last few months, not that i have improved in last 2 weeks but i am getting there

Is it thought provoking? Yes, in a way but it also reminds me of how almost everything that an MBA does is quite similar to basic tenets of world's oldest profession, in terms of being customer focussed - not mixing personal with professional life which in other words means having none of former till you retire/burn out and die/take liberal arts.

Every morning I send this to atleast 4 morons hoping Read Receipt did not fool me the night before.

"Hi JackAss

I just saw your mail today, so did this call happen yesterday?

-Bumpkin
"

Friday, October 07, 2005

Foot in my Mouth

If there was one aspect about myself that has been a bugbear it has to be my lack of listening skills. For years I have been interjecting conversations with my verbal pricks and most folks have found it very bugging. Some of them have told me so and I am thankful to them.

However there has been one such person who stands out in this regard, she not only has been patiently admonishing me about but has often tried to diagnose it as well. Her latest theory has been quite revealing. She claims that I must have been one of those over zealous students who would rush into answering any question that a teacher would asked when I was in school/college. Hmm prettty plausible I must say, not that I had a high accuracy in answering those questions I remember being such a jack in the box students not too long ago.

Alas embarassment I faced during school has only seen considerable addition in recent years.

Enough of problem definition, would you please offer some solutions as well? :)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Eagles Farewell Tour 2005

I was standing
All alone against the world outside
You were searching
For a place to hide
Lost and lonely
Now you’ve given me the will to survive
When we’re hungry...love will keep us alive

PS Makes me feel like a romantic fool again
PPS For people who are in US this might be your last chance

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Death Wish

The Creature crept slowly into the room
and waved at Bird
She waved back almost in unision
''Is he around" Creature asked
"He is sleeping in attic..
..Been sleeping for years now" replied Bird

They could play their games at will
Bird and Creature's cheap thrill

But they wonder what I ll be thinking
Coz they know I am in a deep slumber
Though I lay awake in my stupor
watching them play

Then in a flash I lit up the house
What have you done? asked Bird
It was her idea said the Creature

And as I saw our skins burn
I bid my final goodbye to both of them
See you in hell

Sunday, September 11, 2005

You sure you dont want that scotch?

No it aint abouth drinking, this is about a species that seems to be inspired by ducks. No they are no fat bottomed easy targets as many people would believe them to be, in fact they are exact opposite they take you by surprise. Behind their sweet naive looks that entice onlookers to feed them from poolside is frantic paddling underneath that keeps them afloat. They are menacing if you just look under the surface. And whats more , they can fly too at their own sweet will.

Keep a watch always.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Heard somewhere..

Conserve Water, Drink Beer

- Cactus, Downtown Chi

Are these guys stinking criminals?

- Gas trader, NG up 100 basis points

What type? Oh She is a female dog

- JoAnne on BA 295

Chicago Beer, You should try this!

-Pig Tail

This doesnt smell like a men's room untill I came here!!

- Guy in Bucktown

You should never go to Puma Store across the street.

- Drifter

How you are so mature?

- Sadhu

Its a trick question

- Me

That chick was hot on me

- Drifter

She was depressed

- Sadhu

You think 6 million people live in Chi for its weather?

- Sadhu

Pigs in blanket with honey mustard dressing

- Read the menu

What the hell?

- Me after Miiller-Guiness-Hienekin-Guiness-Alpha King-Kolrsch-Guiness

This is good food for someone who has a taste for this

- World Chess Champion

I am not normally like this, I swear

- Low Probability