And the meek shall Inherit

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hazaaron Khwaishai Aisee

hazaaroN KHwahishaiN 'eisee ke har KHwahish pe dam nikle
bohot nikle mere armaaN lekin phir bhee kam nikle

Mirza Ghalib

Watched this movie over the last weekend and the effects are still percolating in my mind as one of the best Hindi movies I’ve ever watched. Yeah, yeah, yeah it’s the arty farty types about the 70’s political decadence and the stories of the three protagonists whose lives are embroiled in the social events around them. But the story is well woven into the commentary about the social fabric of the late 60’s and 70’s, while mocking Nehruvian socialism and the Gandhi dynastic excesses.

Sidharth (KayKay Menon), Geetha (Chitrangada) and Vikram (Shiny Ahuja) are classmates at a urban ultra chic Delhi college, where students are seeped into the Jimi Hendrix, drugs, sex rock and roll lifestyle while some are immersed in the Che, Maoist ‘Change the World’ commie romantic idealism. Sidharth, the son of a well known judge, is the leader of this ragtag bunch of campus Naxals. Geetha, who is studying in the same college, is in love with Sidharth’s idealism, who in turn is secretly adored by Vikram, a small town boy, but with sky high materialistic ambitions. Vikram’s father is from the Gandhian era with Gandhian morals and a jingoistic demeanor, which doesn’t sit well with Vikram. Sidharth wants to leave his upper-class lifestyle and travel to Bihar to be a part of the revolution that is spreading all across lower class India, but is tied emotionally to Geetha. He promises to return after 6 months, but not before spending a passionate night with Geetha at a party, which Vikram happens to notice.

Sidharth is so engrossed in the Naxal movement in Bihar, that he long overstays the 6 months commitment that he made to Geeta. In his letters to Geeta, he describes the plight of the villages and their mistreatment by the upper caste landlords in the villages.

Sidharth and his commie brothers, endangering their lives, are helping the villagers fight back against the feudal raj, that is prevalent even to this day in the villages of India. Moved by the plight of the lower caste farmers, Sidharth asks Geeta to move on with her life, since he has decided to dedicate his life to the Naxal cause. Vikram, in the meantime is upwardly mobile in the murky political world of New Delhi of the 70’s, with connections with the likes of Sanjay Gandhi, Satish Sharma and the Chadraswamis of the world. Geeta is now married to an IAS officer, and Vikram is engaged to a rich socialite with all the trappings of a noveau riche decadent lifestyle. Vikram, by some social coincidence comes in contact with Geeta, and old flames are rekindled for Vikram despite the fact that Geeta is now married to a junior IAS officer. Vikram follows Geeta to a village in Bihar, where she is supposed to be traveling with her husband, only to find out that she is having an illicit affair with Sidharth.

Unable to lead a duplicitous life, Geeta decides to leave her husband and turns to Vikram to bail her out to start a new life. Hurting at the thoughts of staying away from Sidharth, Geetha, on an impulse, leaves Delhi and Vikram and goes to Bihar to work in the villages where Sidharth and his comrades live. She starts living with Sidharth and they sire a child amidst all the poverty and uncertainty in the village. Sidharth gets jailed for his Naxal movement and Geeta gets gang raped in the police station, after which she returns to Delhi. Vikram travels to Bihar to rescue Sidharth, only to fall victim to the tyranny of the local policemen. Almost left for dead, and bailed out by timely intervention by Vikram’s political contacts, Sidharth and Vikram return back to Delhi as changed men. Sidharth leaves Geeta and relocates to England to study medicine. Vikram, who is now an invalid, is now cared for by Geeta in the village in Bihar.

Despite the arty documentary feel of the movie, what remains at the crux of this story is a simple love story. The difference in this movie is that there are no moral judgments passed, no preachy rants and no theatricals in the storyline. The acting is top rate, though the pace of the film is a bit slow at times. There are several poignant moments in the movie when the lordly policemen while berating Geeta, has his sights aimed directly at her breasts, or when Sidharth and his comrades incense the villagers to confront the landlord, the landlord suffers a stroke and the villagers come to his rescue to find him a doctor. The scene where Vikram almost gets killed by the Bihari policeman is gut wrenching. The music is eclectic and excellent. The movie beautifully points out the irony in Sidharth and Vikrams lives. Sidharth at the end of the movie loses everything, his beliefs, his convictions and Geeta and Vikram despite having lost most of his memory and physical abilities, wins the one things that means most to him, Geeta. Definitely one of the best Hindi movies that I have seen, ever. Sudhir Mishra, hats off to you. Please give us many more.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sidharth Tidbits

Just wanted to paraphrase Sidharth’s antics over the past few weeks, since it’s been a while since I have written anything about him, despite him taking up most of my free time. He is by now quite well settled at the day care and is now spouting his friend’s names regularly when he misses them over the weekends and holidays. Names like Jake, Jessica and Kamini have become a regular feature of his vocabulary and at times these friends come up in his conversations with us. Of course his teacher’s names are also thrown in there for good measure.

And he can also sing a few words now. When asked to sing and when in the mood he will belt out Rabbi’s “Bulla ki jaana mein kaun”, the same line repeated many times over until he has been enticed to stop by some other distraction or we cease to pay any attention to him, whichever happens first. To me, I’d like to think that he sings with a lot of soul. Like when he is singing “Bulla ki jaana mein kaun”, he places special emphasis on the last word kaun, letting it drag for a few extra seconds, before repeating the entire sentence again. Mercifully not a William Hung, the American Idol comedic reject, in the making! Sidharth can now also recognize nursery rhymes and responds by hand movements for “Twinkle Twinkle little Star” and “Peas Porridge” and ‘Pat-a-cake”.

Sidharth’s mother has bought him a 10 gallon fish taken and the novelty of watching fishes in the tank is still very much in force. We initially purchased two guppies and then let them acclimatize themselves to the tank and then purchased two other aggressive small fishes, whose name eludes me. One of the guppy’s fish is already dead since it was smaller and did not take to the new fishes very well. So now we have three little fishes in the tank and will add a few more after a month or so. Sidharth wishes them good morning and goodnight when ever he wakes up or retires. It’s going to be an interesting endeavor, looking after these fishes, I tell you.

We have also bought him a little toy car, and I have cleared the furniture in our living room to resurrect a Formula One race track for this car. On his own, Sidharth does not elect to drive around in his car, since that entail too much work of dragging the car around with his two little feet. So I play the car engine most evening, pushing him and his little car around the race track. A mere two or four lap does not give him the speed thrills that he craves, I suppose. So after a hard days work, I am relegated to pushing our son around in his car for about 20-30 minutes. And most days he will make my task even harder by dragging his feet on the carpet, making it that much more difficult to push his car. The things we do for our progeny!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

We are the World, We are the Children

Children are being imported into UK and beaten to death as reported by the BBC here.

“Children are being trafficked into the UK from Africa and used for human sacrifices, a confidential report for the Metropolitan Police suggests.”

Its surprising how children tragically are usually the victims for our insecurities and inner demons. This aspect of human psychology never ever ceases to amaze me, the fact that someone would abuse and vilify innocent children, just to justify their own faith. Absolutely incredulous.

On a lighter note check out this interview of Triumph the insult dog of Michael Jackson fans waiting outside the courthouse during the trial. It is absolutely hilarious and had me in splits.

Our Chinese brethren using Shanghai MSN Network will not be able to use words like “Freedom”, “Democracy”, “Human Rights” and other common words that we do not even spare any extra thought. And Microsoft apparently has given into this, bowing to pressures from the Chinese government. Its not just Microsoft, but Yahoo and Google also had to follow suit. So much for “Freedom and Liberty” for all. Read the entire article from here.

And finally something that has captured my fancy of late is this Japanese puzzle called Sudoku. It is a good test of logical and analytical thinking and all you are required to do is fill a matrix consisting of nine 3x3 grids which need to be filled with numbers 1 thru 9, both horizontally and vertically. There is no math involved. The trick is not to guess even a single number and complete the grid by absolute logical conviction. Harder than you think, since I had to resort to guessing a few of the digits to complete the puzzle. Download a trial version from here and check it out, but be forewarned that it’s highly addictive.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Asexual and Proud

Thanks to V, one of the members from our Book Club who forwarded this interesting article from to us on asexuals. Check out the entire article here, but you may have to get a free pass to view an advertisement to get to the article.

According to the article “A growing number of so-called asexuals insist that their indifference toward sex isn't a pathology, but an "orientation" like being gay. But some experts say that instead of comforting themselves with a label, "amoebas" should seek help.”

Oriented to be indifferent towards sex, yikes, Kama knows that we horny Indians could use some of these asexuals amongst the 1 billion of our ilk, to say the least. Also check out this impressive essay by Vikram Sequeira about sexuality in India and sexual behavior in modern India. It makes for an extremely interesting reading. But before we get to that, oriented to be asexual is something that I don’t get. Growing up either with little peepee’s or wee-wee, the curiosity to check out the tools of the “other” team is innate, even as toddlers. This captivation only enhances with age, of course there are exception cases who prefer the package of someone on the “same” team or as in the case of the likes of Michel Jackson’s who retain their lifelong fascination for peepee’s of little boys, but barring these minorities the rest of us only propagate this curiosity. One couldn’t quite get enough sex growing up, at least for the likes of unathletic, unassuming, quiet, geeky types.

The article further accentuates

What does it mean, exactly, to be "asexual"? If you're a sea anemone, it means you reproduce without the union of male and female gametes. If you're human, it means, essentially, that you experience no sexual attraction to either males or females. Generally, you're not so much freaked out by sex as you are entirely neutral to it, if not a little puzzled by what all the fuss is about. "When someone brings up sex, I start thinking, 'I need to replace that light fixture, or I could take a nice hot bath, make myself a sandwich and pop "The Way We Were" into the VCR; I haven't watched that in a long time,'" says Debbie, 47, a self-described asexual who works in sales in northern Wisconsin and preferred not to use her last name to protect her privacy. "Sex is just not high on my list of priorities."

Pop “Way we Were” into the VCR in lieu of sex??? If there is something that Debbie aint getting, my guess is its enough popping. And I don’t mean cassettes into the VCR kind. Despite having the sex education classes tutored to us by a Mallu Jesuit brother during our early adolescent formative teen years, we turned out ok, i.e. sexually. He would go “Just watch how the beezee bumbble bee moves towards the Bollen (Pollen). And just see how its antennas are standing yerect. Oooooo, watch how he bumbble bee sucks the negtaar from the flower. Yesssss” And on and on with bumble bees, bollen, mating and masturbating. Almost turning us into asexuals. During a study of John Miltons “Paradise Lost” in school, the subtleties of metaphors and euphemisms of the poem were lost upon the truly naive and truly innocent yours truly, which led to a lengthy and heated argument with the frazzled English teacher about where’s the sin in chomping of an apple, albeit palmed off by a shady slithery snake to an unsuspecting Eve. The teacher was going red, blue and pink during the course of this argument, having failed to explain how exactly did Adam and Eve sin, when one of the high priests of street smart, seated at the backbenches of the classroom yelled out “They did it, dumbass”, did the lights finally come on upstairs, thus the revelation of the Original Sin.

Oh, and how we salivated as teenagers looking at Bo Derek, the movie posters plastered all around the city i.e. Too young to be allowed into the movie theatre for this adult affair, we had to resort to our imaginations for all of Bo’s munificent glory. The trick was to avoid being caught while imagining!

In this day and age with sex, Viagars, Madonnas and Paris Hilton’s all around us, its truly startling to learn of existence of the ultimate renouncers viz. Asexuals. Maybe this is how the dinosaurs truly became extinct. One fine day, Barney, the curiously quaint dinosaur must have declared himself asexual, thereby starting a cult and a following amongst young baby dinosaurs. He must have been on TV, day and night, teaching them to hop, skip and jump instead of the salacious but always enjoyable, bumping and grinding. Hop, skip and jump must have caught on whereas bumping and grinding was relegated only to the bunnies and lo and behold, POOF, the dinosaurs disappeared from the face of earth. But in the case of mankind it may be a tad difficult, I reckon. As long as there are 2 billion randy Indians and Chinese around blissfully bonking away, maybe not with each other, mankind could be safe from extinction. Asexuals, metrosexuals, homosexuals, hydrosexuals, hetronormative blah blah blah hogwash all…this too shall pass. A throbbing libido beckons, let the good times roll.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The King is dead, Long live the King

In the summer of 1984 I happened to watch Michael Jackson do his moonwalk on TV and that performance was so graceful and powerful that I remember not blinking during the entire performance. It was a performance the likes of which I had never seen any entertainer perform, and immediately I was hooked onto the Michael Jackson bandwagon. Of course what happened afterwards with “Thriller” and everything else is now history. There was brashness and confidence about this young man and it looked like he was born for the spotlight. It was only obvious that Michael Jackson swept the Grammy’s, despite showing up in that cheesy and flashy navy-like outfit, and evoked unprecedented mass hysteria wherever he went. Madonna and MJ ruled the roost in the 80’s and the 90’s, and it seemed they could do no wrong. Growing up we spent innumerable hours trying to perfect the moonwalk and accentuate our pelvic thrusts. Some of Jackson’s songs like ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Thriller’ evoke nostalgic memories for their coordinated dance numbers. The songs as such, were not much to write home about, but the dance choreography was really something else. Since Thriller happened to be inspired by ‘An American Werewolf in London’, me and my buddies suffered through this mediocre movie as well. Annual college day functions were incomplete without a Jackson song medley with the resident college star shaking his rump trying to emulate the original gloved one.

And then things started going horribly wrong. It started with the hair that got set on fire during shooting of the Pepsi commercial. This was followed by the cosmetic transformations which were steady fodder for late night parodies and constant media scrutiny. There were accompanying stories like sleeping in the bubble, friendship with the Chimp and Macaulay Culkin, infatuation with Diana Ross, Peter Pan fixation, Neverland, the short lived marriages and then the pedophilia charges. Too much weirdness. The complete deconstruction of an American icon into a freak show, a source of ridicule and unending snickering the world over. Despite having being acquitted of all the charges in the latest media sham court case, his persona has taken a beating. Michael Jackson will never again be viewed in the same light or capturing the dizzying heights of adulation that earned him the epitaph ‘King of Pop’. Whatever happens to these super achievers? It seems like the bigger they are the harder they seem to fall. Icons like Brando, Elvis, Liz Taylor, Maradona and many others reduced to mere caricatures of their former selves. Seems like there is truth to the adage ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’, at least for some of these megalomaniacs. Whatever is the truth behind Michael Jackson’s pedophile charges, will now stay under a cloud forever. Even if that could be disregarded the other eccentricities are piled up way too high for any semblance of normal human behavior. With his career almost non-existent, his vast fortunes now spend and public goodwill squandered, Michael Jackson will be wishing for a life on the moon even if the courts on earth let him walk a free man. As for me, the moonwalk will never be done any better by anyone else.

Robert Hilburn has an excellent article on Michael Jackson in Yahoo news. Check it out.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Lemony Snicket's: A series of Unfortunate Events

Jim Carrey is a genius. On a lazy, cloudy Sunday interspersed with light drizzles and after a sumptuous and delectable lunch, I settled down to watch ‘Lemony Snickets: A series of unfortunate events’, starring Jim Carrey. And how well was it worth my time. At the onset of this article let me warn you that being a life long die-hard Jim Carrey fan, any critique offered on Jim Carrey will be contemptuously tossed into the vast edifices of the cyberspace junkyard. Everything else will be tolerated.

This movie is based upon three books in the Lemony Snicket series, The Bad beginning, The reptile room and The Wide Window, and though I have not had the chance to read these novels, viewers of the movie will not be disappointed with the adaptation. The movie is based upon the adventures of three Baudelaire children Violet, Klaus and Sonny who find themselves orphaned under mysterious circumstances surrounding their parent’s death and are forced to take shelter with a distant relative, the diabolical actor Count Olaf , played by Jim Carrey. Count Olaf a vain, egocentric, megalomaniac, as most actors tend to be, has designs on the children’s fortune after disposing off his young wards. The movie details how the kids with their ingenuity and some serendipitous occurrences keep abreast of Count Olaf, despite his pursuit as eclectic characters.

The screenplay, since being adapted from successful books, is extremely well written and the visual images that every scene have is nothing short of spectacular. The acting by the three kids is extremely good, the brunt of which is borne by the two older siblings Violet and Klaus. But the ‘piece de resistance’ , of course is Jim Carrey. Some may consider his acting a bit ‘over the top’, as he usually is, but the role of Count Olaf absolutely demands it. His take on Stephano the Italian lab-assistant and as wooden legged sea captain, besides the pernicious Count Olaf are nothing short of hilarious. At the end of the movie the oldest of the Baudelaire clan, Violet tells Count Olaf in a tongue in cheek manner ‘And here’s some news for you. You are a bad actor’, which just cracked me up. Check out more about the movie at the very busy but well designed site here and check out the details about the books at this site . Jim Carrey rulez.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

BOL Meet – 5th June 2005

The second Books On Latte (BOL) meeting took place on 5th June at 4:00 PM and the august gathering comprised of the following luminaries MidWestChic (MWC), Bored, AR Fan (ARF), Brat and yours truly (I have not yet asked my BOL mates if I could use their names in my blogs, hence their alter-ego monikers). Three of the club members could not make it because of other pressing matters or in some case, just plain indolence to finish reading the book. This meeting took place at MWC's beautifully maintained house in Farmington Hills and MWC played the gracious hostess to the hilt.

The book that was dissected was Hanif Khureshi’s ‘Buddha of Suburbia’, which was discussed quite enthusiastically by the members present. The book is set in England in the 70’s and tells the story about a disillusioned Indian expatriate, Haroon who turns to eastern mysticism during the sex, drugs and rock and roll halcyon days of the 70’s. The story is narrated by Haroon’s young son Karim and his metamorphosis and coming of age while taking up a career in the theatre and pursuing a wild lifestyle that delves into sexual ambivalence and moral excesses.

Here is a gist of the book review conversations.

MWC: Though that this book was an easy read. Felt that there was too much hype surrounding the book and that she expected much out of it, but was disappointed. Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5. She skipped quite a few pages since the events were so predictable and made for boring reading. The entire book was written facetiously and had to be read in the same vein. She also pointed out the difference in the two primary chapters of the book viz. life in the burbs and life in London.

ARF: Did not like the book, since could not relate to the story in anyway. However gave it a few points for some humor. Liked the character of Changez, an Indian immigrant who travels to England for an arranged marriage with Jamila, who is blackmailed by her father Anwar into marrying Changez. The character of Haroon or the Buddha of Suburbia was a phony and it was not detailed well as to what happens after they move to London. Overall rating: 1 out of 5

Bored: Also did not like the book and felt that this was a common affliction amongst Indian writers writing English novels. What Hanif Khureshi was trying to market in this novel was novelty of his mixed cultural background, and he does not do a very good job at it. Besides Charlie all the characters lacked depth and were not detailed very well. Hanif Khureshi does not detail emotions and relationships very well, since no relationship had been detailed to the fullest. Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

Brat: Too many characters introduced and the author did not close many of the angles that he started. Because of the number of characters, there was no scope to sketch any character to the fullest. There were nicknames provided to all the characters in the novel.

Sourin: Basically most of what everyone had detailed in their conversation and also the story felt disjointed in many parts. Throughout the reading of the novel, I kept asking ‘Where is he going with this ?’. None of the characters at the end of the novel stayed in memory and there were sections or intents that didn’t seem very coherent. Overall Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Of course, we flitted between various different topics like the social structure of Britain during the 60’s and 70’s, the ambiguity of the age of the characters in the novel, sexual ambivalence of Karim, psyche of immigrants particularly Indian, to the West, relationship of Changez and Jamila and the fact that Changez accepts a child sired by Jamila and another man, and the writings of Salman Rushdie which was unanimously agreed as boring and rambunctious. Overall the reviews for ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ book were not very enthusiastic and one can only conclude that the author was flitting in and out of a doped demeanor or blissful inebriation while penning this novel. My personal recommendation: magnanimous waste of time.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Will you remember ?

For Sidharth and my parents.
Inspired by Anshul's Time Really Flies post

All these years growing up
When you have Mama and Dada
At your every beck and call
Little sniffles agonized over
And your diet being discussed forever

With every new truant you played
Oh, how our day is made
When you show us Airplanes above
We crane our necks
As if a new discovery, you have made

Those nights that you wouldn’t sleep
Your distraught mother, she’d weep
Till dawn us awake you’d keep
But then it would be well worth it
When into a blissful slumber you’d retreat

Oh, my back is perennially sore
Playing Horse, the brunt of your weight it bore
In your little toy car, with me pushing you
All around the house we drove
Your mother crazy to the core

Barney and Simba seem like your siblings
Every song memorized,
Along with BJ and Baby Bop, your mother and I
Were forced to sing along lullabies
And all the dialogues we can quote at will
We sat through them, a thousand times
How that dumb purple dinosaur, Barney, I’d love to kill!!!

Every tantrum during dinnertime
Patiently we are forced to bear
We try and cater to your every whim
Just to watch a 2 year old grin
It’s all worth it at the end of the day
To watch your face when you are asleep

Will you remember all these years?
We saw to it that you were forever near
Will you remember all these times?
When you grow up as a young man fine
Will you remember these days and nights?
When, for extra allowance or a car you might fight
Will you remember, because I certainly can’t?
Remember all this that my parents did for me
Forget it, I’m sure you will
Just do the same and more, for your kids

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Trading Spaces

What’s the statute of use of personal spaces while confined to claustrophobic steel traps and what could really be considered impropriety and transgressions of ones own personal space? These were the thoughts that were running in my head when I boarded a flight for Houston from Detroit Metro on business. There was this decent middle aged, but rather portly, gentleman sitting next to me on the flight, in the commoner class where you really pay for a contortionist’s career and a bag of peanuts. Unlike first/business class seats where you are swallowed up by your loveseat with the built in Jacuzzi, which reclines almost 180 degrees to enable the rich to catch their z’s, the economy class has your knees pushes up against your chest and your elbows tucked in doing the chicken dance.

So it was a 6:00 AM flight, and being a full flight, no seats were empty. After takeoff the lights were dimmed and people were slumbering away, some snoring and grunting and wheezing to the dull hum of the airplane. Having reached late to catch the flight, I barely had space for the tip of my elbow to be placed on the elbow rest. The entire elbow space was already monopolized by my fellow traveler. Let’s call him Jaaba for now. Just a teeny weenie patch of elbow room was available in the protruding end of the elbow rest. So I gingerly placed my elbow there, since you want to avoid any physical contact, not out of any homophobic predilections but just in the fear of antagonizing some redneck who might take it the wrong way. After takeoff Jaaba next to me begins to snore rather loudly and his head is rolling between my shoulder and the other chap sitting next to him. Next thing I know is my elbow has been knocked off its perch and Gulliver has gained control of the entire elbow rest. As I am thinking of ways and means to reengage and get a ‘shoe in’ on the elbow rest, my legroom space is being invaded as well. Well blow the conches, bang those drums and clang those cymbals, its holy war how. But moving the leg back means er. resorting to physical contact again, with a man. Yikes. Spilling that hot coffee from my cup into his lap did cross my mind, but sometimes for some inane reason the humane side of your mind tends to win these kinds of arguments.

So there I am scrunched up even further in my seat, praying for the drinks cart to make its appearance sooner. And now Jaaba begins to drool in his sleep, luckily not on me, but perilously close to the passenger on the other side. That passenger begins to freak out and proceeds to wake up Jaaba by gently tapping his shoulders and politely asking to borrow his magazine. Nicely done mate, wily, crafty approach. Intrusive yet not provocative, smart indeed. Jaaba turns and looks at me quizzically when he sees me plastered to the window and cowering in my seat. Quickly I resort to reclaiming my half of the elbow rest as well as restore the original position of my legs, which Jaaba gives up without a fight. Jaaba is now laughing and engaged in a conversation with the guy next to him, while I am lulled back to sleep by the hum of those airplane engines.