Monday, 24 December 2007

Looking back

As we are into the last week of the year, I cannot but contemplate the year gone by. Each year goes by and I, instead of looking forward to the New Year, start getting attached to the year that is passing me by. In fact, I feel sad for the year going by as it will never come back.

This is my week of mixed feelings, every year. Was the year good? Was it bad? Was the bad aspect for a greater good, or was the good aspect for a larger bad?

The last year has been of several ups and downs both personally and professionally. So much so that I feel giddy as if the end of a roller coaster ride. A year of small, significant changes, but I wonder for better or for worse? Am I glad that this year has come to an end? I dont know. I look at the New Year with hope as well as trepidation. May God help and protect us all.

All I can say is, may you have a joyous new year and may you have the strength to weather your problems, to make them seem small, compared to the joys you receive this year and forevermore.

Season's Greetings, Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to all of my dear readers who spare the time to look up this blog.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Vintage. Period.

Raving about retro seems to have become a good pastime for most style gurus in India today, courtesy OSO. The Bollywood mindset currently celebrates its own past. The trend may have been set by Mahesh Bhatt's self-justifying movie 'Woh Lamhe' based on the gorgeous Parveen Babi.

But a new release 'Khoya Khoya Chand' goes beyond retro, into the vintage period of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The protagonist Nikhat (played by Soha Ali Khan) is a combine of Nargis, Madhubala, Meena Kumari , the reigning goddesses of this black and white era, with persona as pure as driven snow.

Sudhir Mishra, the film's maker needs to be congratulated for telling the story as it is. Mark my word, this movie will not be a super hit like its distant cousin OSO, as it certainly drags at times. But, the compelling way the story has been told needs to be highlighted. This is the story of Nikhat, a top heroine who started her life at 14 on a casting couch, only to climb the rungs of stardom after getting into relationships with people who mattered.

This story has no plot. It is a slice of life, showing a web of relationships, where personal and professional lives are interchangeable, pursuit of glamour and success a question of survival and above all, a tale which exposes the severe exploitation of successful actresses in the hands of producers, co-stars, directors and yes, even their own families.....

One aspect really impressed me: The heroine, unlike her reel persona was not a sati savitri. She was supposed to be a tough woman of the world who knew she had to survive the rat race. But she was innocent in her love all the same. Chastity and love were two different sides of the spectrum. There is one scene which I will never forget---the heroine indulges in self-pity and laments the fact that she had been used by the the reigning superstar, who after bedding her several times and recommending her to big directors marries someone else. The hero just reminds her that everything had been done with her consent so she had not right to crib...

Shiney Ahuja who plays scriptwriter Zafar, scorches the screen with his smouldering expressions and extremely powerful presence. Soha Ali Khan does a fine job, but I feel she could have put more passion into her character. Maybe the responsibility of this author-backed role was too heavy for her young shoulders? (Sets me wondering, would Vidya Balan, the first choice for this role, be better?). Anyway, Soha reminded me of her mom in her heydays.

This movie will not interest front benchers as it has no fairytale romance or hot item numbers. It is not a formula film, but is a tale that had to be told. For thinking people, it is a treat to watch the dark blue light and shade camera work, the sepia tinted frames, the rustle of benarasi silk and the strains of 1950s Hindi film numbers. I wonder how many of us would bother to subject ourselves to this treat....a handful perhaps?

Defining Ugliness

I wonder if most of you read through this exceedingly interesting article on the Ugly Indian Man by Mukul Kesavan. I don't have a view on it, but it was kind of entertaining to go through it. Through this editorial catharsis, there is one point we should not miss...the writer talks about ugliness more in habits and social mores than only in appearances, which we Indians obssess about. Another first in this article is discussion about male ugliness as opposed to female, which is generally the talk of the day. Beauty/ugliness in women is commonplace...measured exactly in terms of how high the nose bridge is, or how winged the eyebrow. Its even more interesting to know the author is a man

So here goes...Enjoy!

--Of Hygiene, Hair and Horrible Habits

Some years ago, I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of Hindi film heroines and the ugliness of Hindi film heroes. After researching the matter, I concluded that the explanation was straightforward: leading men in Hindi films were ugly because they were Indian men, and Indian men were measurably uglier than Indian women. You don’t have to take my word for it: cursory surveys of marriages, morchas, classrooms, offices and homes will bear out this observation.
While my observation was accurate and the data I had gathered reliable, I made the mistake of attributing the ugliness of the Indian male to nature. I know now that Indian men aren’t born ugly: they achieve ugliness through practice. It is their habits and routines that make them ugly. If I was to be schematic, I’d argue that Indian men are ugly on account of the three Hs: hygiene, hair and horrible habits.
Let’s start with their extremities. Examine the nails of any Indian man: the cuticles will be yellow with haldi and the underside of the bitten-off tip will be spotty with accumulated dirt. When you think of where they put those nails, this is not surprising. I’ve seen respectable men conducting conversations with their index fingers two-digits deep in their nostrils, digging with industrial enthusiasm. If you ever see a desi man delicately rubbing the tip of his index finger over the pad of his thumb, beware. Don’t go near him: he’s rolling the bogies he’s mined into little balls.
He uses those same fingers to adjust himself in public. All Indian men do this, without exception. The refined ones do it furtively, but the majority do it openly without shame or embarrassment. A famous Indian batsman does this regularly with the butt end of his bat handle under the gaze of thousands of spectators. You can’t do this and be good-looking, you really can’t. You could be John Abraham (an exception to our ugly rule) and your looks wouldn’t survive this particular habit. And if it isn’t the thumb and forefinger, it’s the pinkie inserted into the ear and vibrated with manic vigour. This generally comes with eye-rolling and little oinks of pleasure. You’ll never see women doing this, only men. It’s an important route to ugliness.
The sounds they make are crucial to the unattractiveness of Indian men. For example, an Indian man with a cold will, in company, try to snort up the congestion and swallow it. He’ll do it over and over again, completely unaware of the revulsion it causes. When he eats, there’s another repertoire of sounds born of the fact that sub-continental men don’t keep their lips together while chewing. If you think this doesn’t apply to you because you do keep your mouth shut while processing food, you’re wrong. A second before swallowing, you part your lips and swipe your tongue over your palate, to juice the last taste out of the morsel, and you make a sucking noise. If you want to test this out, use grapes: they generate the slurpiest sounds.
But hair habits do even more to intensify the ugliness of Indian men than the sounds they involuntarily make. Statistically, some ninety per cent of all south Asian men wear moustaches, their masculinity seems to be critically dependent on this growth. I don’t mean the beard-cum-moustaches style which is respectable, but the standalone moustache. Even here, a bushy, Zapata-style moustache has something going for it, but the styles Indian men favour are a) the twirled moustache and b) the little trimmed one. The first makes its host ridiculous, the second makes him look like a harried clerk or, if the hair has been trimmed into a thin line, like a sexual predator.
Middle-aged men improve on this by dyeing their hair a radiant black then letting their roots show. Or, like General Musharraf, they will dye the hair on top of their heads but leave their side-burns grey because they think they’ve read somewhere that this makes them look distinguished. It doesn’t: it makes them look like unreliable car-dealers.
Indian men wear badly because they look into magic mirrors that hide the changes middle-age brings. For example, they don’t notice the hair growing out of their nostrils in little tufts and, consequently, don’t trim it. Even worse, the hair bristling out of their ears in great wiry jets is invisible to them because their narcissism is so complete, so proofed against reality, that what they see in the mirror is not their reflection but a favourite photograph taken twenty years and twenty kilos ago.
But speaking for myself, the oddest aspect of the Indian man is the things he’s willing to wear, and I’m not talking about his dress sense because that would need a book. I’m talking, for example, about the thick bands of rotting pink threads that north Indian men wear around their wrists. I’m sure there’s some respectable ritual reason for this that requires them to keep these threads on till they discolour and fall off, but why would you change your clothes every day if you’re willing to wear something that you sweat into for weeks?
Then there’s their keenness on necklaces. Not one, but as many as they can wear. Not content with doing this, they leave the top buttons of their shirts unbuttoned so you can see that tangled jumble of amulets and gold chains and lockets. Sreesanth and Ganguly wear so many that they look like shady trinket vendors.
Any inventory of the ways in which Indian men achieve ugliness has to include their relationship with rings. We’re not talking about nice rings, say a discreet wedding band, but cheap rings with coloured stones in tarnished silver settings worn on every finger of both hands, not excluding thumbs. Since the average Indian man’s fingers aren’t long and slender, the net effect is one of sausages banded with metal.
Why are Indian men like this? How do they achieve the bullet-proof unselfconsciousness that allows them to be so abandonedly ugly? I think it comes from a sense of entitlement that’s hard-wired into every male child that grows up in an Indian household. That, and the not unimportant fact that, despite the way they look, they’re always paired off with good-looking women.

I wonder what most men would have to say to this....Some men I know have taken it very sportingly and have admitted that this is true. Some women (mothers of sons) are offended and feel it a cultural attack on North Indian men by a South Indian.....and so the debate goes on...hmmm ..interesting, very interesting!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Are you busy?

We are constantly caught up in our busy lives. A friend sent this pretty thought-provoking piece. I don't agree with this fully as it goes against the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism and the idea of hard work being rewarded with success and prosperity. But this will definitely set you thinking. So here goes...

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons.
In his opening address he said,
"We can't keep people from going to pray."
"We can't keep them from reading their holy books and knowing thetruth."
"We can't even keep them from forming an intimate relationship withtheir GOD."
"Once they gain that connection with GOD, our power over them isbroken."
"So let them go to their prayers; let them have their covered dishdinners, BUT steal their time, so they don't have time to develop arelationship with GOD.."
"This is what I want you to do," said the devil:
"Distract them from gaining hold of their GOD and maintaining thatvital connection throughout their day!"
"How shall we do this?" his demons shouted.
"Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerableschemes to occupy their minds," he answered.
"Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow."
"Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands towork 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford theirempty lifestyles."
"Keep them from spending time with their children."
"As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escapefrom the pressures of work!"
"Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, smallvoice."
"Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever theydrive." To keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly intheir home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the worldplaysnon-biblical music constantly."
"This will jam their minds and break that union with God."
"Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers."
"Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day."
"Invade their driving moments with billboards."
"Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs,sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter andpromotional offering free products, services and false hopes.."
"Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so theirhusbands will believe that outward beauty is what's important, andthey'll become dissatisfied with their wives. "
"Keep the wives too tired to love their husbands at night."
"Give them headaches too! "
"If they don't give their husbands the love they need, they will beginto look elsewhere."
"That will fragment their families quickly!"
"Give them distractions to distract them from teaching their childrenthe real meaning of life."
"Even in their recreation, let them be excessive."
"Have them return from their recreation exhausted."
"Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God's creation.Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, andmovies instead."
"Keep them busy, busy, busy!"
"And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossipand small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences."
"Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seekpower from GOD."
"Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing theirhealth and family for the good of the cause."
"It will work!"
"It will work!"
It was quite a plan!
The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing people everywhereto get busier and more rushed, going here and there.
Having little time for their God or their families.
Having no time to tell others about the power of GOD to change lives.
I guess the question is, has the devil been successful in his schemes?
You be the judge!!!!!
Does "BUSY" mean: B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-oke?

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Racial stink?

Helloooo there all the cool babes and hot guys who visit my blog. I havent been posting much since the last few days.Was weighed down with office work and a busy weekend watching the India-Pak test match at the Eden, Kolkata.

During my various trips zipping around town, I could not miss the new hoarding by Vodaphone which advertises the new call filter facility they are offering as part of their new service. I wonder if anyone has noticed, but the whole ad to me, has very definite racial undertones. It has three face cartoons on it. One of a white man, a white woman and a dark-skinned man. The dark skinned man has his mouth wound up with leucoplast while the white man and woman are smiling. What does it mean? Do dark skinned people make unwanted calls, which should be filtered?

Wonder how this gaffe was overlooked by the senior management of the company. Someone should wake up and take this ad off as fast as they can, or they will be opening a Pandora's box.
Watch this space for more updates as I plan to write to the editor in any newspaper/mag which will care to carry it.

Ciao dearies.. let me sharpen my claws a lil bit ......will catch up later. Meanwhile, please put in your pearls of wisdom as comments to this post!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Cast(e)ing a bad spell

Seriously, I thought I lived in modern India. At least in pockets where I could relate to. My kind of India definitely consists of urban, semi-urban, salaried, upwardly mobile, gym going, mall and multiplex visiting, thirty or forty somethings.

But what I recently heard was disturbing. No, no it was not the recent rioting over Taslima or the blasts in UP or some such important life-threatening, politico-economic scenario, but a rot, which has always been around and never been stemmed. It is something beyond our day to day concerns, but present in our chromosomes.

Here is this wife of a top bureaucrat who frequents a well-known gym in the city and demands that her place, towels etc be kept separate because she belongs to the upper caste! (hamara to bahut chhoot par vishwas hai----'I believe in untouchability'!)

She makes no secret of her caste (loudness is her second nature) and expects special treatment including being allowed to nap on her massage bed for an extra 15 minutes just because she belongs to the upper caste and is the wife of a senior bureaucrat in the city. Never mind if this eats into appointment time of any other gym client. She is definitely bad news for the poor gym attendants!

I have even heard she was stopped by the city traffic police because she had compelled her driver to speed through the no entry sign and go in the opposite direction of the traffic! The traffic constable had to warn the poor chauffeur and ask him to take some other route.

Somebody needs to tell her about diversity and the Indian Constitution. Maybe I shall take it upon myself and do it one day. Before that, I want to know if she is breaking the law by talking about untouchability in a public place. Won't it be gleeful seeing her with other convicts, pleading for a special cell!?

It is people like this take the country back several centuries. Time to change the Indian Genetic Code!

Friday, 23 November 2007

God and mortals

I recently had the good fortune to meet Mr Kassim Ebrahim of Noor Culture Centre in Toronto. I was intrigued by the deftness with which he conducted inter-faith marriages. One eye-opener for me was the striking resemblance between Prophet Muhammad's prayer and the Lord's prayer.

Prophet Muhammad’s Prayer -- Arabic transliteration

Rabbu nal laa hooll lazee
Fiis samaa-ee
Takad dassus mukaa amrookaa
Fiis samaa-ee wal ardh
Kamaa rahma too kaa
Fiis samaa-ee faj al rahma taka fil ardh
Igh fee lana hoo bana
Wajaa taaya na anta rab-boot tayib-bina
Anzil rahmatan mir rahmateka

Prophet Muhammad’s Prayer -- English translation

Our Lord, thou are the one who is in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thine is the command in heaven and on the earth
Even as Thy mercy prevails in heaven
So, let Thy mercy prevail upon the earth
Forgive us our sins and failings
Thou art Lord of the righteous
Send down mercy from Thy mercy

The Lord's Prayer--

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. for ever and ever.

If anyone has more comparisons with prayers of other faiths, please contribute. We shall in our own small way, take the wind out of the sails of those who propagate religio-sectarian politics at the local, regional. national and international levels.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Return journey

As I had mentioned about my interest in previous births and re-incarnations, I had the opportunity to read a strange and intriguing book by Dr Brian L Weiss called 'Many Lives, Many Masters'.

Dr. Weiss is the author of several top selling books based on his experience as a psychiatrist and healer.In his first book, Many Lives, Many Masters, he vividly describes the insights of a young patient named Catherine. She came to important realizations about the circumstances of her life today and the intricate thread of previous beings within her experience.

The book goes into details about Catherine who after hypnosis could recall as many as 88 previous lives. Enthralling book, had never read anything of the sort before.

He has a new book now called 'Same soul, many bodies'. Must be readable too.

For more details please visit

The Middlemen

At my age, I know of enough men going through a mid-life crisis and enough wives of such men trying to put up with as much nonsense possible.

For such afflicted men and their tortured wives, I stumbled upon a website named

I know of one wife who subcribed to the newsletter of this site in her hubby's email address. What needs to be known is whether he opens these emails and goes through them and whether he at all will admit he is going through such a crisis in the first place!

One has perhaps heard the proverb: 'You can take the horse (or the donkey??, I forget) to the water but you cannot make him drink'....Sigh!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Some clear favourites

When I am not trying to juggle my dreams, anger, frustration and aspirations all at the same time, here are somethings I like to spend time with:

1. Hit oldies (music and songs like Lara's Theme, Old Summer Wine, Where do you go to my lovely, Carpenters, Cliff Richards and others of the same genre)

2. Bollywood (SRK, SRK , SRK): In my eyes, he can do no wrong (God help me! but can any man ever be perfect??) I shall wait to be disillusioned about him. AND all his movie songs! Ah and of course the huge camaraderie between him, Farah Khan and Karan Johar. How wonderful to have friends and colleagues who contribute to each others' success and the perfect understanding they work with. To die for!

3. Contemporary South Asian authors in English: Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Monica Ali, Khalid Hosseini and others of the same ilk.

4. Business (State of the economy): Uselessness of x and y percent GDP growth if it is not linked to number of people lifted from below the poverty line. Information, of the sort would anyway be government-fudged--so no use trying to fight for it. An independent agency to measure this phenomenon would probably be the answer, but who shall pay for the truth to come out?

5. Lifestyle : Just to make living a bit easier.

6. Ralf Fiennes before his infamous aircraft loo trip.

7. Innovative marketing gimmicks.

8. Travelling across the world.

West to East--We are like this only

For me, T N Ninan is the only editor who believes in calling a spade a spade, without rhetoric or sabre rattling. His crisp and simple story telling style only reflects his clarity of thinking and his ability to incisively comment on issues without pontificating. Stating mere facts without the drama. Cutting the crap, but getting the point across.....

His recent take on the Nandigram issue has been very deftly dealt with. Lets raise a toast to this vanishing tribe of editors with moral turpitude. For more funda on this, please read:

Globe or goldfish bowl?

I recently read a magazine which says that blogging is a form of narcissism. I wondered why?

Reading it cleared my doubts. You have a chance to be I, me, myself (what ecstasy!) to the whole world or whoever cares to read your views and perceptions, about this and that!

I have a slightly different take on it. I want to blog for entirely selfish reasons. When the double standards of the world get to be too much, andI want to get it out of my system, I want to blog. Vent my ire and anguish about what's wrong with the world and sometimes my joy at something really heartwarming that has come my way.

Something like the Indian queens of yore who used to use 'kope bhawans' (anger rooms) where they would vent their spleen about wrongs done to them. Lets says blogging for me is 'cope bhawan' when I try to cope with my stress or raise my voice against it.

But rabble rousing is just a part of my hobby. I gravitate towards psychics, future tellers, previous births, but I am God fearing, and understand the distinction between right and wrong. I shall begin my journey into the fourth decade of my life soon. (My Dad used to say I was born 40, so I guess my real age should be 80!). It s my ability to look through people and their hidden agendas that keeps me afloat and still illusioned (what's that?) with life.

I hope all who choose to read this sometimes eccentric sometimes ascerbic, mostly tongue in cheek, stoic posts keep returning to see what's new in my world.