Life... Predictably Unpredictable

Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.

Location: Alexandria, VA, United States

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Balidaan Dega Kaun (Who will make the sacrifice?)

The heinousness of the rape incident that happened in Delhi is unbelievable. It definitely has taken the whole country by storm. Unfortunately, it's not the first incident of rape but it appears that the brutality of the incident has jolted the nation.  To me, that is a disturbing truth and extremely sad situation that someone had to go through such extreme torture to awaken 1.2B sleeping Indians. Nevertheless, we have candle light vigils, Amitabh Bachchan writing a poem, political leaders making hospital visits, public statements and many other things going on. But how effective is this going to be in the long run? There was a similar uproar during the Nov 2008 attacks in Mumbai and it lasted for a few months and not much has changed since then. The mumbaikars are lauded for their spirits and I fear that in the near future, this victim and many others will be remembered as unfortunate victims. It's evident that every single citizen in India wants to bring about change in the country. The intentions are good and while that's a start, is it really enough?

Having lived in the US for the last few years, I often on many situations find myself comparing US with India on pretty much everything. It varies from infrastructure, freedom, technology, corruption to anything under the sun. I can assume majority of my fellow Indian brethren are guilty of the same? But off late, I've started to realize it's like comparing apples and oranges. Everyone talks about the legal system and law enforcement in India. On paper, the constitution and legal system is pretty sound and robust but obviously that isn't enough! Due to the massive population, the ratio of law enforcement officials to the common man doesn't really help executing the nicely bound paperwork called the legal system. To top that, there is the corruption. We talk about corrupt politicians and officials but as much as they are at fault for taking the bribe, so is the common man for paying out the bribe. But it's natural and difficult to not have a sense of empathy for the commoner shelling out the bribe as what other choice does he have? It's a vicious recursive loop that will never have an opening for change. The way I look at it, it all boils down to who will take the first step, make the sacrifice so that some unrelated Indian down the line benefits from his action. Considering the population and every second commoner being a victim of corruption in some capacity, if each one of us make that personal sacrifice, it's not going to be too long before the fortunes of the country at least get set on the right path to permanent change.

I wish I knew how another "Amanat" is not created in India history but definitely the first step would be to develop a sense of fear in the hearts and minds of every individual (Indian or Immigrant) towards the Indian Constitution, law enforcement officers and judicial system. The average employee in the company has the fear of losing his/her job if he/she doesn't perform so why not have that fear towards the Society? I often wonder if democracy is really made for a country like India. Maybe some years of military rule overseeing the government may work? I don't know as it has it's own risks but the current structure isn't going to being about any more change at least not in the near future. Until then as much as the next "Nov 2008" or the birth of another "Amanat" is just waiting to happen and I say that with extreme shame and regret.

Before I sign off, I often look at the mirror and wonder if I even have the right to blog and voice my opinion sitting in a relatively secure environment in the US as I'm no different that the helpless vigil attendees or protest marchers. But I pray to god to give me the courage to change my mindset, make that personal sacrifice and be the change instead of waiting around for it to happen through someone else.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A 'Belly' full of Delhi…or Bombay…or India

There are certain films in Indian cinema that suggest that another step has been taken in the right direction. From the many brilliant ones that churned out in different Indian languages everyday, it's tough to single a few out. In fact it's easy to single out that ones that just added to the cliched crap but of late, a new blend of filmmakers have come forward with the intent of recognizing the obvious and speaking their mind.

To me, the recently released Delhi Belly was one such film. The promos made it clear that one can expect something they haven't been exposed to and the film did live up to that expectation. A good start was the DK Bose song that hit the charts and caused heartburn to various groups who took it upon themselves to protect 'Indian Culture' (God knows why).

The first thing that stood out was the language and frankly that was the last thing that stood out for me in the movie. Otherwise, it wasn't a very innovative plot, the way it was shot wasn't very unique, it did have it's share of 'masala' songs filled with loud colors and the ever so refreshing 'guy in love with the wrong girl but realizes that in the last frame'…So why was this movie well received? There really wasn't much of Delhi in this Belly for sure. In fact the English version reminded me more of South Bombay and Bandra (Suburbs in Mumbai for those unfamiliar) than urban Delhi. To me, what did the trick was the abusive language in the movie. It may sound silly but it was refreshing to recognize the obvious and portray the urban youth the way they actually behave on a daily basis. The movie was intended for a specific audience and did not fail to deliver.

The language portrays the reality of urban India brought to life by the realistic and well scripted characters whose biggest strength is their resonance with the urban youth found in any part of metropolitan India. In a country like India where methodical madness and organized chaos are key foundations for a structured society, the Delhi Belly crew deserves to be applauded to look around, recognize the most obvious and 'matter of fact' element and make it the central character of a movie. Looking forward to more such gems from Contemporary Indian Cinema.

Time to sign off and listen to Saigal Blues…again.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mumbai - Time and Again

December 24th, 2007. That's the last time when I penned my eccentric thoughts and flushed them out of my system. I guess I lost motivation to write because I don't think I can give the cliched excuse of "I was busy and didn't have time". But all that changed on 26/11 and my following trip to Bombay.

"...................." - That's what I felt during those 60 hours of siege. I would rather not talk or saying anything more than that because every comment/thought possible must have been expressed by someone, somewhere! But as I visited Bombay again in December 2008, I had to complete my ritual of visiting my favorite spots in the city. Be it the mini "Khao Gali" near Churchgate Station, the sea side promenades at Bandstand, Carter Road and Nariman Point or the hang out spots across the city; I had to visit them, relive my memories, laugh by myself, revisit my mistakes and look forward to the future. But this time, it all had a different meaning, the kind of significance I never wished for it! As I walked the bylanes of Colaba, Taj, VT (still can't call it CST) et all, I could see a haunting silence which was deafening and piercing it's way through the hustle-bustle of the city. To see VT station deserted at 9:30 PM on a weeknight is something unimaginable.

I keep hearing that this siege was the turning point as it was the first of it's kind. I guess it's true because typically,Bombay and India has been a victim of bomb blasts and never has the city/country been held at ransom for close to 3 days. But what actually prompted this to be the tip of the iceberg? At hindsight, a few factors are: Foreign nationals being targeted specifically, attacking the cultural ego of Bombay and above all targeting south Bombay which hosts the elite in the city! It just surprises me that neither of the previous bomb blasts/attacks were considered the"tip of the iceberg". Well, I guess it's better late than never.

I was watching a TV channel dole out it's nominees for the Indian of the year. It was funny to even see Akshay Kumar as a nominee. I agree he did produce some commercially viable films which further enhanced his bank balance but does that make him a contender to be the Indian of the year? I would consider that tag to be invaluable especially if you have to beat 1 Billion other people. Such a nomination just takes the meaning away from other contenders like Abhinav Bindra, Saina Nehwal and more deservedly the NSG Commondos, Taj/Oberoi/Trident hotel staff, Military, Mumbai Police, Karkare, Salaskar, Amte, Omble and many more. I would rather nominate the common Indian who ventures out bravely everyday not knowing how secure his life is on the street.

I was totally oblivious to what lie in store for me when I flipped through to a news channel. I saw Sanjay Dutt being given an election ticket to contest as a Samajwadhi Party nominee. It's shocking to see that a political party is giving a ticket to someone who is definitely famous and influential but is unsure when a pending case might crop up and he might be jailed. At the risk of sounding cliched, this happens only in India.

To change the system, you need to be within the system. I guess it's the educated youth of India are the only ones who can bring about that much needed change. But the question is all of us (including me at the opt of that list) have ideas/suggestions/ action plans/ strategies et all with no one ready to make the personal sacrifice and forsake materialistic benefits only so that someone else may reap the reward! I hope guilt drives me down that path sometime soon.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A 15 year Rewind

Everyone likes to relive their childhood days and I would be lying to say I don't. In fact, I can go a step further and say I do every moment of my life...So I decided it was time for me to relive it again and this time go a step further by being very specific. For starters, I chose my school life - especially from class 5 to class 10. Obviously I would be speaking from my experience and since schools have different formats, you may not be able to relate to all of them but am sure at some level, at some thought, they would make sense to you...rather I hope they do!

Class 5 ( Jump from Primary to Secondary)
This was one of my most memorable years because it suddenly changed overnight. There I was waking up at 8 AM, doing my home work for the day, packing my bag, grabbing lunch and drowsily heading for the bus-stop at noon to fall asleep in school in the afternoon session (1 PM to 6 PM)...well that was class 4! Fast Forward...class 5...wake up by 5:45 AM, breakfast by 6:15 and out of the door by 6:30 to be in school by 7 AM. The only thing that didn't change was the fact that I was sleepy before (after a nice lunch) and now (I had woken up at 5:45 AM...) !!

Class 6 to 8 (Transitional)
Having gone to a convent school, I could not experience the thrill of the "first girl who sat next to me", or the "girl who would have lunch with me", or the "girl who would support me when I came last in athletic sessions" and so many more...I wouldn't know them all as I didn't experience them right? But with an "all girls" school right across mine, we didn't seem to miss much. My school shared the wall with St.Anthony's girls school and I can recollect those PT (physical training) classes where we were taken to the ground to play soccer and all we would do is kick the ball into the girls' school compound and the fastest "dude" to the wall would be the chosen messiah to fetch the ball back for us and be the least for that day...
I must be honest that I never got a chance to be the messiah but to be able to look back and enjoy that "innocent" moment...sure is priceless!

Class 9 to 10 (You are the Man!!)
Well, having your school bag strapped onto both shoulders seemed like a big "no-no". It was as if the other strap was attached to the school bag just so that one can be used and the other one hangs loose while you walk around school feeling like....literally without a word. Still don't know why we, including me did that!! Oh well, by the way, a water bottle is for sissies. The purpose is to quench your thirst from the brutally hot Bombay summer but naaah...those are for kids ( I can bet that in class 9 and 10, I took it upon myself that water bottles are for kids though I can't buy a drink,vote and many more things...). Bullying the junior kids in school, pretending to be Mr.Know All within the school boundaries gave us such a heavenly high, I just want to jump right back into those days...

Well, I can continue to hallucinate but I have a few loans to take care of now, do taxes, earn for a living....blah blah....

Everything in life happens for a reason and if you wondering why I chose to go back two decades of time - it is thanks to Taare Zameen Par ( Stars on the ground). Again, for the unfamiliar, it is an Indian movie based on a dyslexic child. I don't think I need to write about what I think because it is too good to be written about, it doesn't need to be written about and I am not qualified enough to write about it too!

The one thing that sure came to my mind after I walked out completely mesmerized after the movie was how this movie would not do well in India as it "makes" a lot of sense, has a message/story and also how the ever famous Mr.Shah Rukh Khan is going to walk away with all the honors/credits for his nonsensical three hour attempt (at least compared to this one) called Om Shanti Om....

Monday, July 02, 2007

Formula One..

Always been fascinated by these 19000+ RPM monsters who rip the racetracks and burn rubber as if its like gulping cold water on a lethally hot day! Here are a few interesting facts I came across...No wonder their specifications are rightly titled "Formula One"

An F1 car is made up of 80,000 components, if it were assembled 99.9%correctly, it would still start the race with 80 things wrong!

When an F1 driver hits the brakes on his car he experiences retardation or deceleration comparable to a regular car driving through a BRICK wall at 300kmph!!!

F1 car can go from 0 to 160 kph AND back to 0 in FOUR seconds!!!!!!!

F1 car engines last only for about 2 hours of racing mostly before blowing up on the other hand we expect our engines to last us for a decent 20yrs on an average and they quite faithfully DO....that's the extent to which the engines aer pushed to perform...

An average F1 driver looses about 4kgs of weight after just one race due to the prolonged exposure to high G forces and temperatures for little over an hour.

At 550kg a F1 car is less than half the weight of a Mini.

To give you an idea of just how important aerodynamic design and added down force can be,small planes can take off at slower speeds than F1 cars travel on the track.

Without aerodynamic down force, high-performance racing cars have sufficient power to produce wheel spin and loss of control at 160 kph. They usually race at over 300 kph.

In a street course race like the Monaco Grand Prix, the down force provides enough suction to lift manhole covers. Before the race all of the manhole covers on the streets have to be welded down to prevent this from happening!

The re fuelers used in F1 can supply 12 litres of fuel per second. This means it would take just 4 seconds to fill the tank of an average 50 liter family car. They use the same refueling rigs used on US military helicopters today.

à TOP F1 pit crew team can refuel and change tyres in around 3 seconds. It took me more than that for sure to read the previous point

During the race the tyres lose weight! Each tyre loses about 0.5 kg in weight due to wear.

Normal tyres last 60 000 - 100 000 km. Racing tyres are designed to last 90 - 120 km.

A dry-weather F1 tyre reaches peak operating performance (best grip) when tread temperature is between 900C and 1200C.(Water boils boils at 100C remember) At top speed, F1 tyres rotate 50 times a second.

An F1 car's engine is designed to perform at 19,000 RPM. The interesting fact is that its an FIA regulation which restricts automobile manufacturers to go beyond that. So imagine, if the ban were lifted, how far beyond the revs could go..

To think of it, these have been designed by humans in flesh and blood. Looking back, i keep gibbering about Perception and Reality. I guess F1 proves that if it can be perceived, its only a matter of time and space before it's transition to reality!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A momentary brush with awareness...

Working for a consulting firm has its own perks and disadvantages. But apart from that the lessons to be learnt are immense and i just don't mean the lessons you learn on corporate bullshitting in a conference room filled with IBM/HP notebooks and a few dozen chewing gum packets ( I guess that's most important after your cellphone!!).

I have always believed that Family plays a very important role in one's life or maybe i was brought up that way. But either way, I personally have started feeling it does. During one of my travels, i got an opportunity to meet my cousin and her family. I decided to drop in for some home cooked south Indian food. I was meeting her and my bro-in-law after about a 12 years and needless to say,I hadn't seen her kids ( now 14 and 5). Eagerly waiting to catch up on childhood memories, I drove to their house. Within a few minutes of my arrival there, I realized that I wasn't able to catch up on any memories as I could not recollect anything. Every second line was " you were such a small kid when this happened and blah blah blah". "You were so small when I last saw you". With a MS degree in hand and a job at one Big 4 Consulting giants in today's world, I kind of had a reality check at that moment. Incidentally, my cousin's son who is 14 walked in and waved out. Unknowingly, I blurted out "You were so small when I last saw you". Oops!!! It didn't even take a second for me to realize that I was just a part of the same system against which I was fuming a few minutes ago...

For some reason, my whole life came to a perspective at that point. I somehow enjoy moments when you feel, your entire existence this far can be summarized into probably in a sentence/word or alphabet in that one instant!!! It was one of those moments for me...All these years, I knew I was a part of the family, had my own place but suddenly at that point, I could suddenly visualize an opportunity to give a direction to my family tree.

As I drove back, I enjoyed this new kind of serenity I was experiencing, a new kind of awareness, a new thought, a new relation.....all with myself!!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Perception?? Reality?? Duh...

Its been an eon since I scribbled my mind and not that I didn't have anything to write. Knowing my eccentric thoughts which zoom across at the speed of light, I am sure there were tons of stuff, I could have rambled upon. But I can just say that things took a twist and something we all know as "Life" happened to me. Lets leave it at that without dwelling too much into details.

I always believed "Perception is Reality" and started to run my life on those three words. To such an extent, that i found myself becoming more patient (or rather what I define as by the day simply because I literally started using that thought as my defense mechanism to deal with issues and also to exploit my strengths. But I guess it all came crashing today morning when I woke up to the most natural alarm clock ever. The gentle sound of a heavy downpour! I always for some reason equated rainfall to the balcony of my childhood home in Bombay. Sneaking a peek through those trees which formed a beautiful arc around my balcony, I remember trying to gaze into something I was completely oblivious to. I kind of had a Deja Vu today while sipping my morning tea on the porch of my apartment across one of the busiest highways in the Nation's Capital.

I felt that like there's no collective reality. We all seem to live in the same world
while everybody sees things in a different way. For everyone reality is
different then, because we perceive things differently. If so, how do people get so
close sometimes if they live in different worlds? I'm aware of the most cliched scientific principle based on magnetism that opposites attract. Maybe that's the reason why relationships are so difficult? It means that our perception is shaped not only by our way of looking and understanding but also by the influences/experiences of other people having a parallel existence. Our realities collide a lot causing constant uncertainty and distraction.

How can reality be real if it changes constantly? Looking beyond reality, I discovered that there's no reason why I came here - there's only a future consequence of it.Life is abstract. But it sure is more fun by the day....

Monday, November 20, 2006

Syracuse, New York - 13210

I still remember my flight from Detroit to Syracuse, I was as excited as a baby playing with his favorite red ball! I was going to get down in the city which would help me fulfill my dream of getting my folks to visit me someday in the United States. It is pretty cliched considering the fact that everyone makes the trip "saath samundar paar" but still at that time it was a major goal (still is...) in my life. It was about 6:30 in the evening, the sky was overcast and there was this very evident "dullness" floating around in the air. I was tired and weary after a mamoth flight and as I pushed the trolley with all the luggage out of Hancock International Airport, I was hoping to see some tall buildings, sophisticated constructions but instead all that greeted me were a few Cabs and a bunch of other Indian aspirants like me trying to figure their way out of the airport.

There was this unique silence in the air which made me very uneasy. There weren't many birds chirping or any crows going crazy flying aimlessly in the sky. There was nothing wrong, no tension but still the silence just made me too too uncomfortable. I found some deep solace when I looked towards my friends and found the same "Where the hell did we land" look on their face. I was aware that I shouldn't expected the sophistication of Manhattan but the eerie silence was not what I had pictured during my last leg of travel from Detroit. I hopped into a cab really wondering what I have gotten myself into! It was the first time it sunk into me that I had actually left all comforts of home, food, familiarities and am out to develop an identity from scratch.

As planned, I crashed at a friend's place. I am still indebted to him for doing his best to help me initially but there is only little a person can do when he is pretty much trying to get into his own! Coming from the most popular city in India, this was too much of a shock for me to take and though I knew, I would pull off my time there somehow, I never ever thought I would actually sit and recollect those days and pen down a few lines. The place was horribly cold, I had to work in a food court and wash dishes, face the brunt of limited public transportation and many more things but still, to me, Syracuse is home in the United States. Not many of my friends who read this would concur with me as there are many more places worth remembering in the US.

I still call Bombay home and never thought I would call another place by that name but Syracuse taught me that home is not where the heart lies or people do. Home is a place which you can identify with, a place which doesn't have anything in particular to offer but can generate some of the best/worst memories,experiences and learnings for life if one is aware and receptive enough!

This has been the most random assortation of my thoughts but I am sure there is some small (or smaller) town student somewhere who has moved into a big city for a job but still reels on old memories like me and can relate to the eccentricities inside my senile mind!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

My bollywood debut in the US

It had been a major regret for me to have not seen a Hindi Movie in the United States for a long time. Being a self confessed student of Filmmaking with a major in bollywood Cinema ( at least that’s how I would like to call, I always wanted to experience a Hindi movie on a 70 mm screen and wait for an interval! Something one doesn't see in a Hollywood movie.

Behold, I had my moment with reality as I walked into a theatre which had people carrying the latest models of Cell Phone, decked up in the most colorful dresses ever, and obviously a bunch of people who speak English with an American accent not known to Mr.Dubyaman himself! Its been three years and I always found it awkward that I haven’t seen a desi movie in the second home of Indians. But it was worth the wait as the whole experience was indeed a memorable one. For starters, to get a “darshan” of Munnabhai and Circuit along with Mr. Gandhi himself was a delight in its own way. I had actually come here for my MS but to be educated by a fictitious bloke from the streets of Bombay about a new found concept called ‘Gandhigiri’ was like an icing on cake!

Making a sequel or extending the persona of a character, who has been well etched into the minds of people, has always been a challenge for any filmmaker. It was clearly evident from Phir Hera Pheri which could not evoke the same response as its original. But Rajkumar Hirani showed the class of qualitative cinema by maintaining a perfect balance of humor and emotions and added a perfect touch of social message through the most powerful medium known to an Indian worldwide, Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. If he came up with ‘Jaadu ki Jhappi’ and ‘Mamu’ in his last outing, Raju bhai (who I feel deserves equal respect along with Sanju baba and Arshad miya) has coined a ‘chemical locha’ and ‘Gandhigiri’ in this one! It does sound weird to get Gandhi out of history and make him visible to a street goon but hey, if that’s what it takes to spread the message in India and if it seems to do the trick, I don’t think anyone should have a problem!

But what I enjoyed even more was the fact that I got to experience an "intermission" in a movie after ages! It felt like an eon since I actually left the theatre with a thought that there is something more to come in the next 10 minutes. It was a wonderful feeling to see the huge queue for the popcorn and soda and also the mad rush to hit the restroom before Circuit starts rattling off again.

Once I had enthralled myself to some fantastic cinema and 3 hours of time spent quite worthily, I got out as expected discussing the dialogues with my friends! We were trying to figure the way out of the theatre and it took me a minute before I realized that I just need to follow the huge line of Hondas and Toyotas making a dash for the exit. Being the owner of an ancient Honda Civic myself, I just couldn’t help laughing. I guess these are the moments, when you just step back and look at yourself, the world around you and laugh not ridiculously but with a sense of familiarity. (Maybe that isn’t the right word but if anyone could actually comprehend then do feel free to let me know!!!).

BTW, despite my criticism for Mr.Panzy Johar, I did go and see his movie!! I think, we should let that be another episode! But for the moment, all I would say is Lage Raho Rajubhai...

Until we meet again, Simba roars....have a grrrreat time ahead.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Well, its been a while since I penned some random nonsense from my mind. Not that there was a sudden shortage of those but just that I decided to write something sensible...which I have realized is very difficult for someone as senile as moi!!!! A friend suggested that I write my perceptions about Beauty pagents to which my instant reaction was..its "nothing"!! how can i write about something which really doesn't have any value? I guess thats what engineering does to you. You always search for a cause and a consequence to every action and somehow Beauty pagents don't answer quench my search in either criteria. What is the cause of organizing the event? People dress up and parade and answer questions for which they have been trained. Do the participants really speak out what they feel? I understand the questions may be impromptu but their answers are surely based on a lot of practice and prior preparation. These are the same women who are so particular about their looks and attire but still maintain that Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and whats on the 'inside' really matters!!!

No disrespect to the pagents but i am not too comfortable with the platform and the criteria against which the women compete. The winner gets a huge cash award but also has to do social service for a period of one year mandatorily and then it is optional. Isn't contributing to the environment and mankind, a social responsibility? How many of the beauty queens actually do it with heartfelt commitment? There are always exceptions but when I look at the amount of funds invested into such events and calculate a ROI ( return on investment), I just don't feel the necessity to do so! In India, it is clearly considered as a stepping stone to Bollywood.

Moving outside the domain of Beauty Pagents, what got me thinking was basically ROI. A bunch of Astronomers gathered a few days ago to kick Pluto out fo the Solar System. What was the significance of that decision? The Israel still is at war with hezbollah, India still wakes up each day fearing a bomb blast in some corner, Osama Bin laden is still hiding and blah..blah...blah..
The time, energy and money spent in coming to this redundant conclusion about Pluto could have been thrusted elsewhere for gloabal development. The only solace I can seek is that the Pluto Fiasco wasn't funded heavily by the Indian Government!!!! I guess the same would go for Beauty Pagents... it does provide good entertainment and probably I am not against the system. But I feel the platform should be more sensible and challenging rather than just asking a few questions and askign them to parade in a swim suit!

As I find all this worthless, I guess, I shouldn't have wasted my grey cells writing this! And my apologise to those who wasted their time by reading this!! Just look around, there will be a bunch of stuff which can easily be called redundant to exist.

PS - Appreciate your time to scan through my words...