May 29, 2007

Way to go

An extract from an op-ed article in DNA published on May 24:

The French are the worst tourists in Europe, says a recent survey released by European hotels. Before we declaim loudly about famous Parisian rudeness, the balloon must be deflated — Indians are the second-worst. We are followed by China, marginally better behaved than us.

Indians are disliked because they are loud, untidy and poorly behaved. Lessons need to be taken from the Japanese who are the best tourists. They are polite and tidy. The Americans come second for being very courteous and the Swiss third for being, well, Swiss — quiet and considerate. The British are the fifth worst in the world because they are the rudest.

Incidentally, this is the second instance of this kind of ‘Indian trait’ I've heard/read in the last month. Few weeks back, one of my friends who has come on his vacation from UK happened to share with me a similar example. The university he studies there in UK offers a free overdraft facility to its students in association with a local bank. The overdraft (short term loan) can go up to GBP 2,000. The facility has been extended to smoothen the cash flows of the students who typically work as trainees there to fund their education related expenses. Apparently, this facility had to be withdrawn after reported cases of Asians (mainly Indians) utilizing the entire GBP 2,000 overdraft and flee back home. At today’s exchange rate, the booty is approx. Rs.160,000/-.

Though the two incidents are entirely different, there is a common link that reflects on the underlying psyche.

Obviously, it is really disheartening to know these things. Indeed, one may chosse to ignore such ‘irrelevant’ and ‘baseless’ surveys and information. But as they say, there is no smoke without fire!

Apologies for the anti-national skew in the post.

Cheeni Kum

I got to see Cheeni Kum yesterday. Went into the multiplex with buoyant expectations, for the movie has three of the finest actors in the film fraternity today – Big B, Tabu and Paresh Rawal. Also, the movie is directed by Balki (R. Balakrishnan), the advertising guru. I happened to see Balki for the first time on television as a guest in Barkha Dutt’s ‘We the people’ few years back. I was floored by his persona. He, along with, Prasoon Joshi and Piyush Pandey have to be few of the most creative and multi-talented people in the country – Prasoon Joshi for sure.

Back to the movie. The core underlying theme of the movie, of that of a relationship between a 64-year young man and 34-year old woman, was handled well. The movie is subtle and the dialogues are really classy. Loved many of them. The first half of the movie was excellent where love blossoms between the two. However, I thought the film lost a bit of its focus in second half. The movie dragged into some bit of melodramatic stuff and lost its finesse.

There is no real take-away theme in the movie, except perhaps that aging has nothing to do with the number of years of living. I guess it is made for a pure entertainment value for the 2hrs 15mins it spans out for. The climax scene per se, where AB comes to know about the baby’s death and becomes desperate and guilty that he did not pray for her, was good but was not converted to a classic by AB. There was something missing in the scene as far as the enactment was concerned.

Frankly, the movie fell short of my expectations. Could not go home with a good ‘after-taste’ of the movie. I felt there were voids at many places in the movie. I cannot point out instances where I felt so, but there was a sense of incompleteness somewhere.

In terms of performances, Big B is brilliant, as usual. But I have to say that Tabu is exemplary. To my mind, she has over-shadowed Big B in this movie, and by a distance perhaps. Paresh Rawal (as Tabu’s father) and Zohra Sehgal (as AB’s mother) were excellent too.

The character of Sexy (the baby) is portrayed brilliantly by Swini Khara. She is terrific and supremely confident as an actor. This movie would have lost a lot of charm without her. She was really too good…

The movie is worth watching for the superb performances, if not for anything else.

By the way, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that there was no kissing scene between AB and Tabu – a serious deviation from the trend these days.

Worth a thought

I read this saying somewhere:

Being a good person is like being a goal keeper - no matter how many goals you save, people would still remember only the ones you missed.

Isn't this true?

May 22, 2007

What's the BIG picture?

We come to this world as 'some one', become 'somebody's son/daughter', 'somebody's sibling', later 'somebody's spouse', 'somebody's parent'. Then we die. Full stop.

Don't get me wrong. The reason why I have specified 'somebody' in the above sentence is because from a broader perspective, that is what everyone around us are. Small parts of a bigger picture, aren't they? We do not necessarily choose a lot of people who get associated with us. Yet we believe they are important and spend almost our entire life for their happiness and well-being. We create a clear and distinct 'universe' of 'somebodies' whom we think are worth our time and energy. Rest of the world becomes irrelevant or fall within the 'I do not care' zone. Simply because they have not been 'incorporated' to our universe. For instance, I may meet 'somebody' in the train whom I do not know. We see each other quite some times but don't really take efforts to know each other. I don't get up to offer him a seat when I see him. We just 'see' each other. However, if I later get married to that 'somebody's' daughter, this person suddenly becomes very important for me! Offering a seat when I meet him is the least I could do, isn't it? As I said earlier, we do not necessairly cherry-pick few 'somebodies' into our universe.

If we take a third-party view of our own lives, the observations are so interesting. I do a lot of things in my life for few 'somebodies' who are a part of my universe. Some of them leave our universe, many die. On one of the coming days, my parents will die. They will just leave me, never to be seen again. Years of association just ends one day.. we do not have a choice even in that aspect! I don't know how to put my feelings in words. One day, all the 'somebodies' leave us forever, people whom we loved so much, people who cared for us, loved us, who were with us for years together.

We are still expected to continue living for the rest of the 'somebodies' in our lives. The process continues till eventually we die. That's about it?

Don't you think there is something missing in this scheme of things? I feel so, and strongly. Are we supposed to be living just like this? Chasing something without ever knowing what is it that we are chasing? Striving hard to earn money without ever knowing how much money is enough? So many things happen around us and beyond our control. Some affect us, many don't. We eat, sleep, drink, walk, cry, laugh, run.. all without knowing the big picture. Where is it that we are headed? Is it all about money, more money and some more money? And about happiness and welfare of only those 'somebodies' who have come within our universe? And end up dying after doing some things, and not doing many? There has to be something more, something deeper and more meaningful than all this..

How many of us smile at total strangers? If we do, how many of them smile back? Am sure the reaction would be a strange stare, at most. Rarely would someone genuinely smile back at us if we do. I've made a reference to this smiling thing only as a pointer towards the fact that we have become so self-indulgent, so much into our own interests and that of the 'somebodies' in our universe.

At work, we have our deliverables defined clearly by our boss. We have targets and roles to play. We get rated on that basis. Extending the same concept, what is the Key Responsibility Area (KRA) of our lives? What are our 'goals'? Have they been defined for us? Who rates us? And what is the rating process like? Would we ever know all this?

Whenever I start to discuss things like this with 'somebody' in my universe, the typical reply is: "Hey mate, all's well? You seem disturbed!" And the topic ends there. Sadly so.

May 21, 2007

Those were the days!

I met two of my best friends of my school days yesterday. Those little kiddos have grown up so much, so fast. Time flies yaar..

We spent a good couple of hours together and remembered those days gone by. When class teachers were so close and affectionate, where fun meant a free period, stress was homework and examinations, relief was whole 2 months vacation (wow.. really miss this), 'KRA' was to try and be in the rank list.

A good part of our time yesterday was spent inquiring about our 'lost' classmates and their whereabouts. Especially our crushes.. all of them married now :(

One of the two I met yesterday (Renny) was always my team mate for quiz competitions, elocutions, science exhibition projects, dramas, etc. One of the dramas that we did in Standard VII is quite a memorable one.

This one was based on one of our history lessons that showed Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj's greatness! The story went like this... Shivaji sends his chief of army (Sondev) to win a nearby territory belonging to some enemy. The chief of army comes back victorious. He brags about the war and how he managed to win it finally by risking his won life, blah blah.. He proudly tells Shivaji that he has brought a special gift for the king. The 'gift' is the queen of the territory he just won. On hearing this, Shivaji loses his cool and gives a long lecture on the 'izzat' and 'garima' of women, how we should protect them and not look down on them as objects of desire & lust, etc etc etc.. In the scene above, Shivaji is giving a dressing-down to Sondev for this cowardly and shameful act!

I played Sondev (second from left in the pic! - though it was so different from my true self ;) ), Renny played Shivaji (next to me). The girl played the role of the 'gift queen' and the boy on the right is the minister (Moropant).

The best part of this drama was a scene where Sondev (me) had to lift the dupatta of the queen. Now, the original girl who was supposed to act as the queen backed out at the last minute. So, this girl was brought in as a replacement. However, no body realized that poor me would not be able to lift her dupatta over her head b'coz of her height! Finally we managed to enact that in stage through team work - she stooped slightly and I jumped simultaneously! It was hilarious and the drama turned out to be a comedy flick.. :)

Oh man, that was fun.. really miss those days.

'Shivaji' has just completed his Masters from a university in Scotland, 'Moropant' is a qualified engineer and the 'queen' is married with two kids now!

Cheers to all.
Keep smiling!

May 18, 2007

Enough is enough. Why not go the BEST way?

As each day passes, it seems that the pathetic situation in the local trains cannot get worse. Alas, the feeling is short-lived. The crowd simply keeps on increasing and the rate at which the rush increases is simply astounding. It does not matter whether you travel by first class or second class, it is all the same. The situation inside the crowded compartment in peak hours is so terrible that just the thought of traveling in it puts me off. At any given point in time, my body is in contact with at least four other bodies from different sides. The stink after a hard day’s work on the return journey home is just the ‘icing on the cake’!

What makes me feel more disgusting is the fact that our tolerance levels almost edges at the point of indifference. Nobody does absolutely anything to try and improve it, and it includes me. Oh yes, people do talk about how grave the conditions are but the reaction stops just there. I admit that a group of people cannot just change the situation, but collectively I feel we can. Easier said than done though... I will be the happiest person to get up one day and see all the commuters on an ‘indefinite strike’, refusing to travel in such appalling conditions. Imagine what would be the implications. Even if you ignore the loss to the government’s exchequer, absence of such humongous workforce from work will cripple the entire business of the city! Do you think the administration would then be able to sit pat on this issue? More importantly, will the business houses and companies allow the government to stay put?

If I probe more into the entire situation, I find that the core problem is not just limited to the local trains. It runs deeper into the state of our minds. We are a rotten set of selfish people who are completely indifferent to what is happening around us. This pathetic state of mind gets appreciated by being referred to as ‘strong willed people/city’. Bull-shit! The fact that we travel in such conditions does not reflect our strong will. It exposes our lack of courage to stand up and demand better living conditions. We just don’t have the balls to change things around us. Who would want to sacrifice a day’s pay and run for the larger cause of betterment of this city?

We still have the same old four railway tracks on the central side for decades now. I see some work going around for few months now to increase the number of tracks. But I fail to understand how it would solve the problem. Is this being done to moderate the crowd conditions or to just smoothen traffic flows during peak hours? Laying down additional tracks for long-distance trains separately would not address the former issue at all.

Rather than expanding in width, why not expand in length? How about having double-decker trains like the BEST buses! To my mind, raising the height of the overhead wires would be simpler than laying down more tracks. Of course, the ‘widening’ task can continue but the concept of double-decker trains would address the rush factor more cleanly. At least I believe so.

Having said all this, the practical side of me is smiling sympathetically. I should be happy if all these are seen before my son has to use local trains. The thought scares me. May be, it’s time to float my CV for overseas jobs!

May 17, 2007

What a day to start!

Incidentally, May 17 is quite an eventful day. Circa May 17, 2004, three events occured:
a. My CA Final examinations started on that day. Was real fun.. not just that day, but the entire CA voyage. Happy to have come out unscathed :)
b. The NDA government got replaced by the current UPA, something that came as a shocker.. and hence..
c. ..the equity markets tanked, handing over the first relatively big loss to me in the markets. And helped me in understanding the concept of 'beta' much better!

On the third anniversary of that eventful day, I still remain with a single degree (ACA), UPA has survived this term without too much of a scare and equity markets remain hunky-dory as ever!

To my mind, and I take a risk of getting myself verified then, three years down the line things would be completely different on all the three above counts.

Finally, here it comes!

It has been quite some time that I have been contemplating to start my own blog, partially to get into this relatively new bandwagon but largely to use this as a dumping ground for my thoughts. After introspecting about the last few years, I realize that I haven't done much towards my passion - writing. Also, I feel the need to instill some discipline in my life, a need to sit down everyday to do something specific. May be this page triggers a disciplined start of better and bigger things going forward, viz., walking, reading, etc. Hopefully..

I really do not have a specific agenda or list of topics that I want to blog about. My guess is they would be extremely random and volatile. Let's see how it goes.

Am unwinding to RDB's Luka Chuppi as I write this. An awesome song - kudos to Lata Mangeshkar, A. R. Rehman and Prasoon Joshi.