And the meek shall Inherit

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Adieu to 05

Another year draws to a close, and as human, logical creatures and all, we keep track of events and milestones by time, in years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. Its around 5 AM in the morning and the house is still as I type these words on my laptop. Today evening I will fritter away the remaining moments of 2005 in a drunken stupor, boogying with Seema and close friends into the wee hours of the morning. And 2005 will be gone. Just like that.

As I lay awake in bed this morning, I was reflecting on the year gone by. First and foremost, I have discovered this amazing medium called blogging, which made me realize some of my thoughts, good or bad, would gain credibility with myself through my blog. What started as a lark, caught on and became this all consuming tryst with words. Even if nobody out there reads most of my crap, but I realized that I had crap to dish. Tons of it. And dish, I will.

The beginning of 2005 saw Mother Nature forewarn us with the year that it was going to be. Bedinning late Dec of 2004, as the tsunami was taking hundreds of thousands of lives across South East, Asia, most of North America and Europe was dismissive of this disaster, as just another local storm. The media did not expect it to be the disaster that it turned out to be. Seema got caught up in the enormity of the calamity and destruction and suffered many frustrating days watch the tsunami wreck its havoc on CNN. One morning I saw her glued to the TV, eyes moist, wanting to travel to India immediately to volunteer for tsunami help. Part of her frustration also stemmed from the health condition of her father and her helplessness, who was dying in Bangalore after a period of protracted illness. He died in January of 2005. As she made her trip with our son to pay her last respects, I was left alone at home, with plenty of time to introspect, read and just reflect.

Most of the time, to catch up on the Tsunami’s ground realities, I would read Dilip Dsouza and Amit Varmas first hand accounts of the tsunami after effects, in their blogs. They moved me, immensely. That is how I got to know about AID India and all the yeoman work they do in the rural communities in India.

Professionally, I was assigned to a different division, within our company, which meant longer commutes to work. What began as uninteresting and insipid work, later grew on me as I learn the inner trappings of this division.

What I missed most during the time that Seema and Sidharth were in India, was coming home to the demands of an 18 month old and also a 30-something year old irate, hapless mother. Most days I would end up calling them just to hear some inane gibberish, by the infant, over the telephone.

The summer months were good, but as in Michigan, they were short, just 4-5 good months. Not much golf this summer or volleyball. But what I did was practice for my half marathon with the ASHA group. This will be an achievement that will remain fondly with me for the rest of my life. Physical exertion notwithstanding, the feeling of making a difference, however small it may be, strokes the ego. Those long training runs, arduous and grueling as they were, were liberating in many ways. Where the mind is without fear and the trail is free….

We celebrated Sidharths second birthday at Stoney Creek, near our house, with close friends. And much fun we had.

Our local heroes, the Detroit Pistons, the blue collar basketball team made its way to the NBA finals and faltered in game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs. The entire state of Michigan groaned when they lost, but the boys are back with a vengeance this season and great things are expected from them. The former coach Larry Brown moved to greener pastures and big bucks.

The going was not so good for the Lions, the loser football team amongst the other Detroit champions, the Detroit Pistons and the ice hockey team Red Wings. The Lions coach was fired mid-season and there seems to be little hope for this beleaguered franchise in the coming years.

Indian cricket had its highs and low’s. After all that messy Chappel-Ganguly affair, which divided an entire nation, the team is on the rebound. There is hope for WC07!!!

We witnessed a beloved Pope breathe his last and a new Pope take office. Religion continues to have a growing influence on peoples lives.

Hurricane Katrina and Rita devastated New Orleans. Bombay and Chennai were deluged with uncharacteristic torrential rains. A massive earthquake killed hundreds of thousands in Pakistan. Africa and particularly Niger, Ethiopia continues to fight deaths by famine. AIDS is rampant.

The year began with a lame duck President taking office for a second term and Social Security rehaul seemed to be the top agenda. We all know how that ended up! The death tolls in Iraq is mounting and the President faces the quagmire of extracting the US out of this mess that they have gotten themselves into. All this while fighting record low opinion polls. With the elections taking place on Dec 15th in Iraq, there seems to a silver lining, amidst all the looming dark clouds.

On a personal front, my fathers health deteriorated and he was hospitalized twice this years. He is 74 years old, his kidneys are failing and having both his sons away from him in distant lands, has taken its emotional toll. Our house in Bombay was burgled and as of this day there has been no information about the robbers or the significant valuables that were stolen from the house. Ah, such is life.

So what are the take aways from 05, I think? Mother nature reigned supreme. From the tsunamis in Asia, thru hurricanes Katrina, Rita, earthquakes in Pakistan, torrential rains killing thousands in India, famines and forest fires, the deaths and destructions were unprecedented.

And my realization, that nothing, absolutely nothing, comes even remotely close to the profound joys of parenthood. Pure unadulterated, unmitigated, incontrovertible, veritable bliss. And that’s that.

Friends who became parents, some for the first time, some once again, “blogger”buddies, layoffs, friends and family relocating, and possibly a new career prospect for yours truly in 06 are the take away from 05. Falling in love, all over again, with the amazing world of books and reading. Marathons and social causes. Assertion, to live life to the fullest. To make each day count. Managing work-related and family stress and learning, hopefully to evolve, as a better person, with each passing day. All this and much much more I've learnt in 2005.

So as the clock ticks away on yet another year and the scientists add a second to the atomic cock to keep up with earths rotation, there is renewed hope for 2006. Hoping that everyone and their loved ones are healthy and happy. Hoping that you succeed in whatever it is that you do or covet. Hoping for a happy, healthy, safe, peaceful and great 2006.

Happy New Year.

Peace. Out.

I end with lyrics from this great song by ‘The Byrds’

Song: Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season) Lyrics

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The curse of "Vani"

Five women from the same family in Pakistan's Punjab province have refused to be "united" with their prospective husbands as ordered by tribal elders.

The village council has told them to "honour" 1996 childhood marriages, when the youngest of them was just five.

Elders ordered the marriages to resolve a feud between the girls' family and a rival one - a practice now outlawed.

The refusal to marry has renewed tensions, leading to a shooting incident and arrests on both sides.

Read the rest of the story here.

Vani supposedly is a outlawed tradition in Pakistan, just like the dowry tradition that has been “outlawed” in India. What is a major cause of concern is the treatment that girls, who are forced into marriage as “peace offerings”, will be accorded at their in-laws house. Many of them will be forced to live the rest of their lives in slavery, being subject to humiliation of every imaginable kind, physically and mentally.

Though this barbaric custom has been outlawed, I suspect that just like in dowry cases in India, not many brides or their families would venture to complain about this marriage with the authorities, in fear of retaliation. As the article notes “Although the practice is banned, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail, our correspondent says the law is rarely enforced.”

How does that Louis Armstrong song go again?


 I see trees of green, red roses too
 I see them bloom for me and you
 And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
 I see skies of blue and clouds of white
 The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
 And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
 The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
 Are also on the faces of people going by
 I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
 They're really saying "I love you"
 I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
 They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
 And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
 Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world
 Oh yeah

Unfortunately, not for these “vani” brides.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Goodbye Saurav Ganguly

Having been axed from the third India-SL test matches, looks like it’s the end of the road for Ganguly. Though his performance in the Delhi test match was nothing much to write about, he performed consistently in both the innings. I would rather not go into the performance and cricketing reasons for Ganguly’s exclusion from the team, since I am not qualified enough to comment. Far from being qualified, I am just an occasional cricket enthusiast, my enthusiasm peaking for the sport whenever the World Cup draws close. Only to be quashed mercilessly for another four years, by our perennial bridesmaids.

During our stay in Australia in 1999-2000, the Indian cricketing fraternity was at its lowest ebb and the Australians reduced the team to mere spectators under Sachin’s captaincy. Returning back from that Sachin stepped down as the captain and the reigns of Indian cricket were handed over to Saurav Ganguly.

Agreed that in the past four years there were no tournament worth serious consideration we won or we became a colossal cricketing power. What happened, was that we stopped rolling over against our opponents. Well until we reached the finals, and then it was the same of the old.

Under Ganguly the team got balls. He defied tradition, riled his opponents, goaded his teammates and berated the slackers. Ganguly’s legacy will be the Viru Sehwags, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif’s, who undoubtedly will serve us well in the many, many years to come.

What Ganguly gave the team was the never-say-die attitude and the unwillingness to walk away from a fight. Cricket captains don’t wave their jerseys on the balcony at Lords after a win or make opposing captains wait for the toss or be the first Indian captain to win a series against arch-rivals Pakistan, in Pakistan. This kind of behavior is expected of a rugby player, not in a game where they break for tea.

But Ganguly did all these things and much more. He was assertive, demanding and cared deeply about winning. No Indian cricket captain, maybe with the exception of Kapil Dev, came even close to Ganguly’s never-say-die demeanor. Its unfortunate that this is how his career had to end, but sad as it may be, he set the team upon an irreversible path of winning, despite his own performance being patchy.

So though it was time for Ganguly to go, he will leave the scene as the most successful cricket captain in the history of the sport.

And I for one, am pretty convinced, that in my lifetime, I am never going to see any Indian captain, wave his jersey from a balcony, at any opposing team. Goodbye Dada.

Monday, December 12, 2005

To be Big B

Mere paas aao mere doston, ek kissa sunao.

Oh Big B….a billion rupee Bollywood industry has been rendered paralyzed and an entire nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo hoo hoo. What you eat, when you pee, what you see, what you don’t see, the tweety bird flannel pajamas that you wear all make front page news in the main stream media. In homes across India the religious light lamps, chant shlokas and offer manat’s for their hero, who is lying in a hospital bed in Bombay. Yes, Amitabh Bachchan has captivated the attention of the nation once more with his health being circumspect. No public figure has received such adulation in recent memory. Farcical pictures have popped up all over the web of Bachchan look alikes performing elaborate puja , houses adorn with portrait of their hero next to the gods, artistes sculpting idols of India’s demi-god , and hospital break-in’s by cub reporters. All making up for immensely juicy tabloid stories.

What’s all this fanfare about Amitabh, you wonder?

My buddies, Anshul and Karan may deny this vehemently with me and Pratibha may stop talking to me altogether for stating this, but in my opinion, the angry old man is clearly past his prime. In fact he’s been past his prime for the past two decades now. Also his political alliances are really circumspect and the choice of ads and films that he acts in is questionable, at best.

After 1985, I cannot think of may notable movies from the superstar. By notable movies, I mean the Bachchanesque performance that we have come to know and love in the 70’s and the 80’s. Of late, maybe because of the vagaries in public taste and market demands, he tends to be loud, hammy and buffoonish in many of his recent movies. Buntu/Babli, Veer Zarra, Kaanta, Black, Kyun! Ho Gaya Na (Groan) are a few where Bachchan’s performances are best forgotten. Agneepath, where he won the national award, was highly over-rated. Khakee and Sarkaar were the only exceptions, with semblance of semi-decent performances.

Whatever happened to the mellow, simmering, subdued and smouldring Bachchan from Zanjeer, Sholay and Anand? His last decent gig was ‘Shakti’, IMHO, where he was pitted against the superstar of the 50’s, Dilip Kumar, who also was terrific, playing Bachchan’s morally upright and emotionally distant father. A poignant scene in the movie was when father and son cry over the death of Rakhee, the common denominator in the lives of both men, with otherwise vastly different outlook on life.

Amitabhs earliest movies, were where he wasn’t afraid to experiment defined him as the ‘angry young man’ that he came to be known and loved as. Movies like Parwana (one of the best and original murder mysteries ever), Bansi Birju and one of my personal favorites Saudagar.

In Saudagar, Bachchan stars opposite Nutan, as a jaggery selling vendor, where he secretely pines for Padma Khanna, but marries Nutan just to collect enough dowry money by making her slog to make jaggery, so that he can marry Padma Khanna. It was a mercenary kind of detached performance by Bachchan, the kinds of which, sadly, he didn’t get many more to enact, because of the iconic stereotype that was branded into.

Deewar saw Bachchan was at the peak of his prowess as an artiste, where he plays Vijay, a smuggler, with a chip on his shoulder (‘Main aaj bhi pheke hue paise nahi uthata’). Vijay, after establishing himself as a top-notch smuggler, in one scene, stares outside the window of a high rise at the footpath below when Parveen Babi, his lover, asks him ‘Kya dekh rahe ho Vijay?’. Vijay replies, and I paraphrase from befuddled memory, ‘Dekh raha hoon ek Ma, uske do chote chote bache, is foothpath pe thokrey khaa rahe hai….’ and something along the lines of his childhood struggles. But the voice and the pathos, the hurt in that voice when he delivers that dialog is unforgettable. Besides the now famous ‘Mere paas maa ki daal hai’ scene, there is another scene in the movie where he laments the fact that he can’t go visit his mother at the hospital. Vintage Big B.

In fact Yash Chopra has been one of the few directors who has exacted consistent performances from the Big B. Kaala Pathar (remember that ‘Why don’t you try to understand, doctor? line), Kabhie Kabhie, Deewar, Silsila, Trishul, all performances bordering on the subdued to the superlative.

And so did director Hrishikesh Mukherjee, exact memorable performabce i.e., with fantastic movies like Mili (give me an alcoholic, caustic Amitabh any day over Jaya’s goody two shoes, irritating Mili) , Namak Haram, Abhimaan, Anand and the rip-roaring, evergreen ‘Chupke Chupke’. Some of his best films, to-date.

Thankfully Manmohan Desai is dead, else I truly don’t know how many more nonsensical movies we’d have to sit thru where asses, dogs or parakeets drum the “dhol” and light lamps/candles in temples, masjids, churchs or gurudwaaras while a blind, amnesic, constipated mother Nirupa Roy regains her senses to clasp her long lost son in an ‘Oh, that doesn’t quite look right kind of’ embrace. Ewww, where’s that enema, doc?

But seriously, Amar Akbar Anthony (AAA), Naseeb, Parvarish, and Coolie were cult classics in their own rights. After the release of AAA, I vividly remember hordes of youth roaming the bylanes of Bombay with hair parted in the center, long long sideburns and multi-colored banians. On cue, they would break out to ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves….In hostels all across India lines like ‘Tereko kitne baar bola ke daaru maat pee’ and ‘Daarau peene se liver khaarab hota hai’ must have been mouthed millions of times by inebiretaed Bachchan wannabe’s.

Thanks to the long legged one, millions of middle aged, graying Bachchan devotees have their coif parted in the center. Some, to this day, still wear the colored banians!!!

And suit vests were in after ‘Don’, shiny, brazen, loud vests, with stars on them. As a teenager growing up, inspired by Bachchan bell-bottoms, I remember fighting with the tailor to sew the trouser bottoms at 42”. His response “would you like to have your pants stiched or a ghagra?”. Such was the Bachchan mania.

The death of the full-time comedienne side-kick can be attributed to the impeccable comedy timings of the Big B. Who can ever forget the famous mirror schitk from AAA, the one-liners in ‘Sholay’, the facial expressions in ‘Chupke Chupke’ and a host of movies where he’s played the buffoon.

It will now be apt for Bachchan to ride off into the sunset, when there is still a shred of regard for his past performances, instead of overstaying his welcome and reducing his legacy to the two-bit parts that he now is reduced to playing and let the likes of non-actors like Shah Rukh Khan’s or John Abraham’s steal the spotlight from him. For Amitabh Bachchan, the audience is standing in awe, the applause is deafening, the accolades are raining, and the curtain is falling.

Please, take a bow Mr. Amitabh Bachchan , its time to exit the stage.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Word AIDS Day

Today being World AIDS Day and everything , and 40 million diagnosed with HIV, I thought this article was pertinent.

Check out this moving story of a courageous HIV survivor Kousalya, in rediff here.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican newspaper said on Tuesday that homosexuality risked "destabilizing people and society," had no social or moral value and could never match the importance of the relationship between a man and a woman.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Its heartening to see the church finally take a stand against homosexuality, in no uncertain terms, and decide, with a firm bias, its views on gays and the alternative lifestyle. But what is still unclear is its views on pedophiles and their initiation into the clergy. Why stop at drawing the line at homosexuality? Pedophilia is criminal behavior and homosexuality is not. Yet.

Why are we tip-toeing around the homosexuality issue? On one hand, in all walks of life, gay men and women are accepted into all strata’s of society. Even celebrated, in some circles. Despite all this, when it comes to be joined in holy matrimony, then public opinions warrant that they ought to be burned at the stakes. Either, we as a society, accept this alternative lifestyle and accord all privileges that are permissible in a conventional relationship or make rules that condemns this lifestyle altogether. No middle ground. Period.

It is time for society puts its foot down and makes up this mind about this issue. Well, this begets the question, society meaning who? This definitely can’t be the governments responsibility, since government only implements rules that have been dictated by society. Religion, as much as I abhor the concept of it, to begin with, is a good start, since religion still dictates the thinking and lifestyle of a majority of the populace. It should then flow down to us, the public, to make our own decisions to deal with the homosexual lifestyle.

Though I firmly believe in the ‘Live and Let live’ dictate, the homosexual lifestyle is something that is forcibly being pushed down our throats. The media, movies, television and even in academia there has been a proliferation of the ‘being gay is cool’ ideology. Gay cliques actively try and recruit kids in schools and college campus. There is an active propaganda by the gay community to exalt the carefree lifestyle, the display of creative talents in the gay community and flex political muscle to further gay causes.

But homosexuality is not an easy issue to tackle, since a lot of aspects, like freedom of expression and our basic inalienable rights to choose the way we live comes under scrutiny. Yes there are no easy solutions, but this is an issue that we shall have to deal head on in the not so distant future. Its not that gays are someone I hate, its just that the sexual preference, in my opinion, is not in the realm of normalcy.