Posted in Humor - General, On such things...

On being ‘useless’ and such things…

What’s the point of living through a whole life and attaining wisdom, if you can’t share it with others? It’s utterly useless, if you ask me.

I presume, it’s that exact premise which prompted me to write this blog post.

I have decided to share my wisdom. The wisdom that is all about being in a state of uselessness and why that’s not a bad thing, as long as you are wise enough to realize that you are useless.

Before I dig myself deeper here, let us qualify uselessness. And answer some basic questions.

1) What is being useless?
2) How difficult is it to be useless?
3) Can you really be useless?

Being useless

Firstly, useful or useless is a relative thing. We often associate being useful with an act that is beneficial to ‘others’. That’s where the problem begins and it’s all to do with our society. We live in a society where if we do nothing, by being still or silent and absolutely void of any stimuli, there is a negative stigma associated with it. The implication is that one is being useless. But in reality, by doing nothing, by creating that void for your mind and body, you are being extremely useful to yourself. Neuroscientists would agree with me when I say that the benefits that come out of being useless are tremendous for your own personal health.

How difficult is it to be useless?

The short answer is – It is very difficult. It needs extreme training and rigorous practice of doing nothing before you can perfect the art of being in a state of uselessness.
I am not kidding.

It was before the birth of Internet. A time when you would walk to the street and stop at the first restaurant to get food and didn’t have to look at Yelp for the 25 different choices you had within a 5 min walk radius & didn’t need to rely on the 256 reviews, before deciding to hail a cab to go to a restaurant 29 minutes away from home.

It was a more adventurous time, if you were up for it, or if you were the kind who didn’t want to torture yourself by processing information, then I guess you resigned everything to fate. Either way, this was also the time, when you could sit and stare at a tree while sitting on a park bench, and do absolutely nothing for hours together. There were no notifications or alerts to prompt you or remind you to check your phones. It was during this time, I practiced my skill. I am not saying that it was easy to be useless back then, it was a bit easier. I often had long periods of time before someone realized how useless I was. So, that kept my determination going. The bottomline is, it is much harder to be useless these days. Almost impossible. Unless, you become a Buddha and walk away from everything. Then you can try to become useless.

Can you really be useless?

I think the answer is yes. Although I am a bit split on this question. By answering this question, if I am being useful to you, then the very premise of this question is flawed. I think that somehow makes this state of being in utter uselessness a distorted reality. May be it doesn’t exist. Even when you are being useless to others, you are being useful to yourself.  Right?

That makes me think.
Wait..wait..I know, I know..

You the reader, you are one step ahead of me. I know what you want to ask.
Before you ask me, let me clarify this.  You are going to ask me if I thought Buddha was being useless.

I would say – YES. Buddha was able to attain all his wisdom, only after he forced himself into a state of being utterly useless.  I would imagine his whole exercise would have turned useless, if he had tried to do something instead of nothing.

Buddha attained wisdom. His wisdom entailed the beauty of doing nothing and why being in a blissful state of uselessness provides one happiness. But, What did he do after all that?

He shared his wisdom with everyone.

Damn!! He became useful.

I think I have lost my own plot here. Never mind.

As Bertrand Russell says, there is much pleasure gained from useless knowledge. Hope you gained much pleasure reading this.

You can read my other posts “On such things”, right here.

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Posted in On such things...

On being a BITSian and such things…

My earnest attempt to find that remote control switch to transform the memories I hold from some 23 odd years ago, as I type this, into reality, can best be termed as my conscious effort to enter a zone of cognitive dissonance. But no. Any delusion I have that there is even a ‘remote’ possibility to achieve this is being squashed in regular intervals by a family portrait that is sitting on my desk, every time I turn away from my monitor to look at it so as to keep my feet on the ground and to give me the sense of today, as it should be. But then, it is not easy to let go off those memories.

Nothing prepares you for Pilani. Nothing, Really. Even if you have had a sibling who went to Pilani, the closest you would have gotten to the Pilani experience is probably the familiarity of slangs. Yes, those hazaar slangs BITSians use. But nothing prepares you for Pilani. The only way you get that experience is by being a BITSian. My latest visit (and my only visit to Pilani since I graduated) was in January 2011. I did notice a lot of changes. The campus had changed a lot, yet I felt right at home. There are newer buildings now, the students wear different kinds of attires now, the modes of transportation within the campus have changed a bit (more cars) and yet, there was a sense of familiarity all around. The smell, the color, the feel and most importantly the vibrancy of the campus, the one thing that makes being a BITSian unique, are still in tact.

Ha! Being a BITSian….

It was late summer in 1990 when I first found out that I got admission into BITS Pilani. I was walking back home from my then routine – A late afternoon cricket session. Sweaty, dirty and yet nervous to what was in store in mail that day, because it was the season of admissions. I opened the card and was disappointed to read that I didn’t get my first choice – Chemical Engineering. The disappointment was short lived as I soon learned that I was admitted to the Dual Degree program (M.Sc Chemistry). A cousin of mine who had inhabited the campus for 2 years already then was a proud Dualite – So I had learned a thing or two about the program & I believed it was more glamorous than a single degree. It was a matter of minutes before I started selling the benefits of the Dual Degree program, so vehemently to my parents and grand parents, for the fear of them not permitting me to go to Pilani cast a fearful shadow over my joy. Fortunately, my grand father who was going to be the sponsor of my education didn’t need much selling as he was convinced right away that I was meant to go to Pilani and become a BITSian. In the next few days & weeks, notwithstanding the Anna University waiting list news and my top choice program admission news at the local Engineering college in Tirunelveli, a 2000 km journey was being planned – A journey which changed my life for the better.

My father and a cousin of mine who was living in Delhi then accompanied me to Pilani. The train journey from Tirunelveli put me in touch with another cricket friend of mine who was also ensuing his journey toward a BITSian future. The first few days of my stay in Pilani were nothing short of intimidating. Intimidating because I was really a small town boy, who didn’t know I was one till I walked into the campus that July in 1990. My father and the cousin left after a few days & I was to left to my own device.

The first few days were filled with getting overwhelmed with running away from seniors and ragging. In hindsight, that probably was not the wisest thing to do and I didn’t have any wise man advising me to actually hang around with more seniors.

Registration, Priority number, Courses, Linear Algebra, CDCs, Electives, Deans, M-Block, S-Block, Museum, UCO Bank, Mess, Shankar, Vyas, Ram, Gandhi, Budh, Malaviya, Meera, Ashok, Rana Pratap, Vishwakarma, Bhagirath Bhawans, Rediwallahs, Nutan, C’not, Shiv Ganga, QT, Wings, New Wing, T Wing…Insti, Workshop and most importantly Sky. This is a short list of what I needed to learn to orient myself in the campus so that I could start pretending to attend classes. And so it began…My life as a BITSian.

So what makes being a BITSian unique?

I have often asked this question to myself because attending a 4 year or a 5 year program in a closed campus is not unique to BITS Pilani.

Is it the fact that Pilani is actually a small town in the middle of nowhere with no easy access to any big city that makes being a BITSian unique? Or Is it the hard to explain connectivity one gets to establish with all the places & the memories associated with these places within the campus that makes it unique? It certainly can’t be connectivity to the friends you establish during your 4 years in campus because if that is the case, then the link stops at some point and from then on, BITS Pilani becomes a mere matter of fact, while your bonding with your friends is all about your own personal relationship & memories. Is it the food? Is it the fact that BITS Pilani is still ranked in the Top 10 Technological institutions in India (This can’t be because so are many IIT campuses)…? What is it?

The honest answer is ‘I am not sure’. But I have to believe it is a combination of the first 2..

No matter whatever makes being a BITSian unique, it is getting more and more obvious to me that the pride one wears on his or her sleeve as a BITSian is almost uniform. Majority of those BITSians I know from my network still do that. In a recent gathering to celebrate the first ever “BITSians Day” on Aug 2, 2013, the oldest alum was from the 1960 batch (graduated in 1963 and 67). The youngest was from the 2008 batch (graduated in 2008). That explains the gist of what I am trying to say.

Ha! Being a BITSian…

Should I start writing about our induction into an eating system called mess where a mishmash of North Indian – South Indian culinary fare was served consistently, in an attempt to fool us that we were being well taken care of…?

Or should I focus on the Rediwallahs who were our sole tongue watchers, serving us plates and plates of samosas with some stomach churning masala and sauces, a concoction of sugar, cream & bananas, hot chai and even some lemon juice with rock salt and sugar..?

Or should I highlight the regular late night trips we made to Pappu’s for paneer maggi only to follow it up with MNB at Blue Moon in Connaught only to be followed with a late late night trip to ANC for a hot cup of chai accompanied by some hot jalebis??

May be I should just mention the sole purpose of our whole stay in campus for 4 years – The Sky..Hmm.

But this is if I just want to talk about food. What about the other stuff? Oh, my memory wheel is going crazy…

The first ModPhy quiz, the freshers night where my debut musical composition was staged, our backstage adventures and the bonding, cricket, QT cricket, my games sec tenure, my PEP tenure, my failed attempt to become a COSTAAn, trips to Delhi, the bus journeys, the ever loathful train journeys between Old Delhi and Loharu, The tests, the compres, my second semester injury, long lacha sessions, watching friends get sloshed, music nights, roctaves, OASIS, Apogee, oh..wait..Looks like I am just getting started.

Ha! Being a BITSian..

You can read my other posts filed under ‘on such things’ here.

Posted in Movies - General, On such things...

On “Seventh sense” and such things…

A haughty theory would be one that propagates a notion that the complicated structure of Deoxyribonucleic acid is a human sensory organ after all because it does sense certain characteristics of the human hierarchy that it inherited from in the first place and like human brain, it can actually recollect those patterns (and skills associated with those hence) when triggered by a certain stimulant, be it external or internal, be it artificially triggered or naturally triggered, be there a catalyst or not.

A haughty theory, specially when the said theory is propagated by a filmmaker who by any stretch of imagination doesn’t hold any academic credentials whatsoever, that could at least give him a platform to make that bold appearance, before he contemplates to propose such a theory. Yet, when a Christopher Nolan puts together a rather unimaginable and unscientific string of theories about how you can get into one’s dream to manipulate the individual through him and through the environ around him, we somehow find a way to tip our hats off at the marvel of science fiction that these moviemakers seem to dish out and somehow find a way to not only absorb the fictional theory with no questions asked like a sponge, but also become part of it to the extent that we champion the fictional cause by living in that world for a few hours…and yet, when an AR Murugadoss decides to tell a story that is probably as unreal and fictional as a Nolan dream penetration plot, we somehow find a way to get a sieve that doesn’t let even a microscopic fictional particle pass through it before asking 100s of questions and before deriding the filmmaker for trying to c-bull us or spin a garland around our ears (காதுல பூ) notwithstanding his attempts to explain the plot in dozens of interviews before, during and after the movie release.

Call it an inherent (genetic??) trait that most of us possess which prevents us from appreciating someone’s work unconditionally without any riders, when that someone belongs to us or is one of us or one amongst us. Bloated ego of self aggrandizement leading to absolute disrespect for that person because – only because he/she could have been ‘us’ but it was not. And that work could have been ours because we had the exact same background as that someone and yet that someone did it, which we didn’t and that can’t be accepted. Simply not possible.

Before the reader, that is you, are ready to formulate your thoughts and present them to me, I already know what they could be. Fiction is not the issue but how it is presented and how it is narrated that makes it believable or not and that really is the issue. In principle, I agree with that argument. Hitherto in Indian movie industry, Shankar may be the only director who has managed to weave a fictional story with a riveting & entertaining plot line and somehow make it all work together in a believable sort of way. Dasavatharam tried that and came close to Robot in its execution, but as a storyline, was 100 times more complicated than Robot, thus getting caught in a web spun by itself not allowing it to express freely like Robot was able to. Thus it is not surprising when an ARM product would fall short in terms of building a convincing repertoire with the audience when dealing with an intricate  and a very original fictional story line. But it only fell short because of its attempt to oversimplify the sequences, for the sake of  providing an universal appeal to all and alike.

Now throw in a very interesting page taken out of Indian (Tamil) history, which even if mixed with a fistful of creative liberty taken by the maker, needless to say, provides a canvas larger than anything ARM has ever handled before. Incidentally, this historic reference was the real trigger for this movie and to tie the knots of this forgotten history page, with some loose ends of the DNA science fiction thread (aka ‘the seventh sense’ thread) is an absolute original idea. Well, may be Kamal Hassan did that with Dasavatharam in a distant way but in my books, ARM deserves lots of credit for this very original idea.

The churning of numerous ideas and the many emotional turnovers in ARM’s mind as he worked on merging these two entirely different ideas into a single story cannot be easily understood. As he sipped some tea with legs crossed and scratched his head to think of  the right lines that a genetic engineering student in the form of Subha Srinivasan (Shruti Haasan) would have to say to a group of scientists or to a circus artist Aravind (Surya) to explain the kind of research she is involved with, I am sure ARM tossed several papers into his nearest waste basket. The urge to dumb down some of the concepts and the ambition to ensure that everyone appreciates ‘DNA memory’ would have acted as a constant hurdle, as ARM continued to develop his plot.

Finally, I found nothing wrong with the constant harping of how most of us don’t know our history. Although a bit cheesy and could very well come across as preachy to some audience mainly because of where the scene is placed in the movie, the scene towards the end, when Aravind explains the importance of passing our knowledge in tact without any color coating or sugar coating, especially that pertaining to our culture, traditions, customs, etc.  — What’s wrong with that? I have personal memories of arguing with my grandmother and mother whenever there were traditions and customs that they wanted me to follow for all the wrong reasons (such as religious).  So, in many ways, the whole Tamil culture underscoring was done just enough. Could it have been less? Yes, of course. But as long as it wasn’t overdone and as long as it was presented with good reasoning, I have no gripe.

3 days after watching the movie, I am in a better position to swift through the movie as a whole and as a complete creative product. So do I believe in “seventh sense”? I certainly like the idea of having seventh sense. Given the retributions that this movie may bring to both ARM and the producers, Red Giant Movies (not so much to the actors as both Surya and Shruti have the advantage of just moving on after being part of a grandiose movie, box office numbers notwithstanding), could be bouquets as well as some brickbats, I merely would like to be a voice which makes those people who are ready to throw brickbats….think. Yes, just “think”.

Unless, we develop this habit of absorbing original creators and their creations with a certain warmth, the distance between where the Tamil movie industry/Indian movie industry is and where it would like to be will continue to widen. The widening distance will only act as a deterrent to the audience who on a Saturday night wants to plan a family evening out and wants to watch an Indian movie.

That just doesn’t make sense to our Sixth sense. Does it?

[You can read my other posts on such things here…]

Posted in Humor - General, On such things...

On “Being Sorry” and such things…

The day dawns just like any other day. Yet, this morning could be different. I should have known better. The inconvenience of sleeping late at night is felt only when the early morning alarm chimes or when the telephone blares a loud call when even the birds are trying to catch that last wink. I should have known better.  I make a quick decision to go out and get an hour of tennis with a friend who, now in retrospect, I wish, had returned my call the previous night itself, thus not forcing me to make a last minute decision. I should have known better.

It takes exactly 10 minutes after I get home from tennis, to realize the gravity of the situation impending upon the roof above my head in the house. The general sunken mood, the eerily quiet kitchen area which normally is hustling and bustling at this time on a sunday, the inexplicably quiet ambience in my son’s room that is more deceiving than anything else and to top it all an irate better half, mopping like she wants to pound the wooden floor planks into chips or may be saw dust. I should have known better.

What happens in the next couple of hours can simply be summarized as ‘not a great morning for me’ for the simple reason that I put aside my weekend morning housecleaning tasks aside quite flippantly on the spur of the moment based on a phone call. This, needless to add has made a dent into all the planned activities of the morning, for which I am rightfully being blamed for at this moment, while I try to take refuge under an umbrella called inadvertent irresponsibility.  On what is turning out to be this highly inauspicious Sunday morning, I am being told many times that I should have known better. Yes. Indeed. I should have known better. Notwithstanding the barrage of guilt volleys being thrown at me, looking back, what is amusing to my sane self now is how at that moment I was completely out of my real senses, trying to look through a veil which clearly is made of ego fibers. This veil ensured that my initial response to the urgency of the situation ranged from ‘I am not guilty’ to ‘You should have known better’. Yet, I know very well that I should have known better.

By the time, I reached out to my pocket dictionary (stored in my deep memory) to do a random memory access and retrieve what now seems like a worthless position to take, but would have come handy and been more powerful a few minutes ago, I have wasted more than 30 minutes. Finally I say, “I am sorry“. Too little, too late. It is pretty pointless to narrate how the rest of my sunday went even if I have to talk a bit or two about Mavs shutting the Heat down in game 6.

I should have known better. I should have said sorry the moment I realized I was at fault. Better if, I didn’t even answer that phone call.

Being Sorry. Easy to say. But difficult to really be. More difficult to say or be on time.

Every time a scandal involving an American politician breaks out, which more often than not takes its place in headlines only when it has got something to do with his philandering qualities (let me take the liberty of generalizing that all politicians who get caught in sexual scandals in the US are men), I am now used to seeing him take a defensive position first or stay incognito or quiet for a while before finally appearing in front of TV cameras to make a statement, either with his wife standing by his side (in spite of all the humiliation that has already been meted out to her) or with with his attorney, about how sorry he is to those people he has hurt.

I just want to tell him and people like him – “You should have known better!“.

You can read my other posts “On such things” here.

Posted in AR Rahman, Humor - General, On such things...

On Anthems, Theme songs and such things…

The enormity of tragedy that this CWG anthem has turned out to be, or to be specific has been made out to be, especially if you have been reading or watching certain media outlets of late, makes one do some kind of self introspection. I don’t mean the superfluous & the self-indulgent kind of introspection – The kind which makes one superimpose their present with the past with a what if scenario of a future state and arrive at a pathetic conclusion which is supposed to make one miserable. The kind I am referring to is a little easier on the palettes but harder on the tracts. And also the ‘one’ I am referring to here is the super patriotic Indian citizen who rises to the occasion when it is most needed. Take this incident for instance. CWG is after all one of the most prestigious sporting events and every true Indian should rightfully be looking forward to the anthem associated with such a prestigious event with bated breath, unblinking eye and most importantly with some really scathing & hurtful musical crtiquing sense.

So when the anthem was finally released a few days ago, I was surprised to notice that except  for a handful of media outlets, which carried the really strong views of some of these patriotic Indians, I was puzzled and disturbed heavily by the non-reaction of bulk of the Indian media, very importantly the ones from South India and also by the indifference shown by most of the usual music critics who normally pounce on any new music release like starving vultures. And believe you me, although those handful media outlets went all out as part of their campaign in painting a grim picture of the anthem and how much of an international disgrace this means to India..literally by even including certain really irrelevant & unrelated-to-CWG anthem programs , like “How much do you hate the music director who composed this?”, “What are the top 10 things you dislike in the man who through many unspoken acts has brought more laurels to India than any political leaders of the country in the last 5 decades?”, etc., it wasn’t enough proof to me why the reaction overall has been so inconsistent.

Which brings me to the original intent of this post – Self Introspection!

My introspection starts with the thought that I get goose bumps (ok..that was added to bring some dramatic effect) when I notice that some of these patriotic Indians have what it takes to bring out their hatred on one man at the right moment. You know..the exact right moment..The moment of course being – a year after the man being judged reached the perceived pinnacle of his movie music career and a month after the whole CWG financial scandal broke out. The moment has exposed many true hearts and minds. Those who showed their hatred by vilifying the musician at a personal level, are the real patriots, as they claim and as these outlets want us to know, because they know exactly what it means to have an anthem. Because they know what an anthem signifies and how a certain sound, a certain style could not & should not be an anthem, while a vague Latino samba style interspersed with heavy tones from African folk ringing Cameroonian military chorus would be just apt for a prestigious International event that India hosts. Because they are the best judges of music – especially of the anthem kinds & the theme song kinds.

I wonder since when Indians have become this patriotic on all the things that don’t particularly seem fair and square and why it takes an anthem to bring out what people really feel about a humble man who has redefined patriotism in a very unconventional but in a very powerful way, much more than most of of the 1.2 billion population could.

And I continue to introspect with another thought “All my life I have had a choice of love and hate…I have chosen love and here I am..”!

*** Links to my other posts on “such things” can be found here. ***

Note: The above is a satire and is not meant to offend anyone.

Posted in Humor - General, On such things..., Politics - General

On Telangana and such things…

As I was one tile away from snatching a 200 point lead in my 8th Lexulous game over my unknown friend on Facebook, I tabbed through my browser for a quick mental break, as the difference between quirt and quirty was far too confusing, and it was important for me to sort it out because to devise a strategy to break away from a very evident word that was going to provide me a triple letter in combination with a double word score and to come up another word with a triple word score possibility, was not only totally radical but also was like treading into an unchartered territory, leaving behind a chaos that only an experienced Lexulous player can handle. Now that I have successfully managed to complete that very long previous sentence, I can take a quick breath and explain you how this confused state of mind led me to opening up Rediff, where the first thing that struck me was the headline that read “I thank God and Sonia Gandhi”…

Now…I am like you, like any average concerned Indian citizen, whose natural response to this headline was..“Why would anyone want to thank Sonia Gandhi for anything at all?”. Contrary to what everyone thinks, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is waiting for an opportunity to thank her yet, which he may or may not ever get and should he get, it will only be after he has been asked to give away his Prime Ministership to someone else in the Party, while Congress still holds the majority.

Now..remember, I am like you, very much like you, any average Indian, whose understanding of Indian Politics stretches and shrinks every day and is constantly under scrutiny by one’s own righteous self. So, naturally, the next question that arose in my mind was, “Who would want to use these two words – God and Sonia Gandhi in the same sentence..”?. My other half of mind was still prodding me to validate the existence of the word quirty in spite of it knowing that the probability of a word like that existing is less than 1%, because of the given premise “quirt”  being a noun. And my other half of my soul (a.k.a. wife) was deeply engrossed in yet another murder mystery on Television in a sort of humorous way (humorous if you watched only how her face reacted and not listened to the NCIS scream on TV). She very rarely does this on a Wednesday night and this night being an exception because of all the craziness that the winter storm brought with it, she decided to sit through the storm by watching one episode after another, presumably because she liked the idea of  how the howling winds added the extra eerie effect to the suspense that was being built . That’s when I bumped onto the answer for my above question –  Who would want to use these two words – God and Sonia Gandhi in the same sentence..”?…As it turns out it can be done very easily, specially if you want to pull both their legs together at the same time with an abundant sense of humor!

Now..at the cost of reminding you again, let me just say that I am very much like you, an average Indian whose view of India from outside is still the same as it was 12 years ago, when I was residing in India every day and night. So, naturally, after these two questions popped out of nowhere in my mind, for a moment I didn’t care (notwithstanding my desperate desire for someone slyly adding the word “quirty” into any online dictionary), if I can stretch my lead by 200 points with that one tile or not..They (the questions) soon gathered critical mass and they brought with them a third question, “Who could have such a bright sense of humor so early in the morning?”. It took me a brief second to acknowledge the disappointment when the other half of my mind confirmed that “quirty” is absolutely non-existent and as my eyes scrolled to the right half of the screen……it turned out that the other half of the same headline had the answer to the third question. “I thank God and Sonia Gandhi, says TRS Chief”.

If you are anything like me, an average Indian citizen who wishes well for his country and dreams of living in an ideal India sometime during his lifetime even if it is for only 200 years, you should be able to relate to my feeling at this point. The first question (technically, it was the 4th question..but given that I have a backdrop to work with, I am resetting the question numbering scheme) that popped in my mind was, “When did he die?..”. Of course, it was a rhetorical question..I knew the answer to it. He couldn’t have possibly been dead because Rediff was quoting him and there was no Breaking News on top which said “TRS Chief dies while trying to pull God’s and Sonia Gandhi’s legs at the same time”. The curious and confused state I was in, I had to know “How could someone have such a bright sense of humor so early in the morning in spite of not eating for a week. Wouldn’t the mind be too weak?”..These were the first 2 questions that came to my mind at that point. As you may have noted, I have reset the count again because the first one above was really a rhetorical one and hence was disqualified to be in the list.

I hope you have had a chance to relate to my feeling. If not, I will give you a minute. Now, if you have, then you will know what I mean when I say, I am like you – an average Indian citizen who is always worried about the chaos that exists in India and yet, how we have managed to come this far. I don’t mean, you and I coming this far to the USA, I meant transformative progress. So, it was natural for me to be in an utter state of shock as my left click on the Rediff headline revealed more about the reason for TRS Chief to be waking up with such a bright sense of humor. It took me approximately 3 seconds to come out of the shock. I wanted to make sure I do my research well before I came to any conclusion. After all, anyone with such a bright sense of humor deserves a lot of respect in my books and hence, before I shower them with my respect, I would like to make sure that the person truly deserves it. This led me to opening up Samachar.

Now, if you are like me, an average Indian citizen, who lives in the USA, but wants to stay connected with his homeland and does so by reading Rediff and Samachar, then you know why I used Samachar for my final level of research on this humorous issue. Rediff for Indian news is like having Biscuits and Tea. Refreshing but not filling. But when you launch Samachar, you are being served Indian news at a whole different level. It is like walking into a buffet. You can choose to have Tea, Coffee, Biscuits, Samosa and Biriyani all at the same time (if your browser allows tabbed browsing). The choices are varied and the spread has something for everyone. Anyway, before we get hungry, thinking about food, let me continue where I left off. The Samachar page was very confusing for an already confused soul at 9:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)..It was like walking into a 24×7 Chinese buffet and you so cravingly want to eat Spring Rolls, but you are lost because you don’t know where to start. There is no order. It could be right next to the Egg Drop soup or it could be next to the Lo Mien. I think I am making you hungry again..by making a food reference. So let me really get back to where I left off. I glanced through the page with the key word “TRS” or “Telangana”. I finally found a couple of headlines. That’s when it all began to clear up.

If you are like me, an average Indian reader who spends 15-30 minutes everyday on Samachar, you would agree with me when I say that we should take everything Sify says with a grain of salt…(or sand, whatever works for you specially if you have high BP). But when you actually have to stop to take your breath after reading a headline on Sify, you know it has to be apocalyptic. Or you have to be reading it on January 1, 2012. At this point, my mind quickly asked another rhetorical question Did I sleep for over 2 years?” and came back with a sarcastic retort “In your dream”. Things began to sink in. Lot of things that had been going on in my mind at that time including a 200 point Lexulous game lead seemed so trivial at that moment. I had no choice but to accept the fact. Even if I read it thrice, a fact is a fact. It has happened.

Every man is presented with one opportunity to show his sense of humor in his lifetime. Ok. May be more than one. But the key to success depends on how smart you are to recognize that moment and make use of it. By making use of it, I mean “Go all the way”. Here is a man, who had been living in a 5 star hospital for 5 days, being intravenously fed by his 5 star Doctors, who every 5 hours released a press report underscoring how critical his health was (which surprisingly never got worse than how it was on Day 1, meaning it was critical all the way) and if he didn’t break his fast, he would die. Yet, if he had the presence of mind to make a statement like that, I have to say he scores very high in my book of all Politicians with any sense of humor. He defied all odds by single-stomachly going on a fast and breaking it only with his sense of humor. He went all the way.

Now, if you are with me till this point, which I am sure you are because you are already reading this sentence, I have to say, I am like you, an average Indian citizen who has witnessed what politicians are capable of doing in India and historically what successful gimmicks they have used to get their political agenda across even if people didn’t really care about it. So, you would understand when I say that politicians are basically salesmen. They convince people that they have a problem even when everything is hunky dory. Then they make people start worrying about the problem which never existed till that point, and make them start protesting for what they think they don’t have but probably already have it and just didn’t know about it. This vicious cycle goes on and on till they start killing each other and may be killing a politician or two in the process (which is nothing in the larger scheme of things), till election time. Of course, what I just rambled about politicians in general till this point is of absolute no relevance to my experience last night. Or may be it is. I blame my subconscious sense of humor for this distraction.

The sense of humor that we very rarely get to witness on politicians, specially involving each other was a welcome change. Yes, that was exactly what I was thinking as I read through those couple of news items on Sify. The apocalyptic fact that I was referring to earlier was exactly this. In decades of Indian political history, rarely had a politician shown the guts to pull God’s and Sonia Gandhi’s legs together at the same time. And this man, this TRS chief, whoever he is, clearly had this plan etched out from Day 1, probably even before he got admitted into the hospital, knowing very well that this time around the opposition parties of the state are going to be his side-kicks when he pulls off this massive joke.

By now, if you have any doubt that I may not be like you, then this should make it clearly known that I am like you, because I am an average Indian citizen, who can only be amused by and can complain about the anomalies and eccentricities of Indian politicians, but won’t do anything to change it, forget about even making an attempt to do so. So, naturally I was amused by the fact that this lady who apparently wields so much power on her forefinger and had not known a word of Hindi till she met her late husband a few decades ago in England, carries so much knowledge on drawing lines on Indian maps. I mean, we all know she is not a Cartographer, but did you for a moment stop to think how difficult it would have been for her to get a crash course on Cartography overnight? At least, this was what I learned from those apocalyptic news items on Sify, which confirmed that since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was out of the country, she had to wait for him to come back so that both of them could do a group study on Indian maps. She is such an intellectual, knowledgeable, powerful and above all a very shrewd leader that, she sometimes forgets how to spell Pasta. Of course, she does it with a sense of humor that is a very rare characteristic in Indian politicians. But talking about her invincible ability to draw lines on Indian maps and her knowledge on the political landscape behind those lines, you  would believe me when I say she is the best we have ever had in India, if I point out the fact that even Shashi Tharoor a great Indian Historian, the one who wrote the famous History book “The Great Indian Novel” and drew his own lines on Indian maps as he imagined thousands of years ago, is taking political lessons from her. Now, I am sure you too believe that she is the best we have ever had in India.

I hope you would also agree with me on this point – This man, TRS chief, whoever he is and whose name does not matter anymore, in spite of his supposedly critical health condition, had the sense of humor to pull one off very easily on the best we have ever had. He made her redraw the map and create a new state, from an old state, just like adding a “y” to quirt and creating a new word “quirty”, which my opponent would have challenged on the Lexulous board, had I done it, all by simply getting admitted into a hospital on liquid diet with the best doctors to care for him . This is exactly why I said that things began to become clear for me at that moment, as I sat through and listened to the NCIS detectives solve a murder mystery, while the other half of my mind still wanting to breakaway to take that radical step of creating a word with just one vowel. I turned to my wife and said, “someone pulled a fast one on someone”.

As the sun broke its first ray though the clouds this morning, I was already flipping through my things-to-do list for today. And yes, while doing so, I remembered the confusion I had in choosing the right word when it was my turn, which I never did because of all of the above thoughts spoiling my otherwise perfect Lexulous night, but also remembered the new lines drawn on the Indian map thanks to a humorist and an overnight cartographer. So I decided to imagine the prospects of the new state that this situation is presenting the people of India with…Needless to add, if you are like me, an average Indian waking up in the morning, trying to go about his daily routine after being struck by an apocalyptic news on Sify the previous night, I am sure you would appreciate when I say that the first thing I did after I got to work was to look at the map of this new state.

Here it is:

Telangana Map (To be)

Do you see what I see? I see 3 “BAD” things in the map of Telangana:

1) AdilaBAD

2) NizamaBAD

3) HyderaBAD

That was more of a humorous observation but the real question is will Hyderabad be part of this new state or not? The man, TRS Chief, who we shall refer to as just “The Man”, has been very adamant about it being part of his new state. I think that may be his only reason to go on a fast and pull this fast one. Because when you really look at it, what else is there in this new state that can attract people like “The Man”? In all fairness, It is like creating a word with just one vowel. It is like picking a cricket team with just one specialist batsman. But if that one specialist batsman is a Tendulkar or a Sehwag, then “The Man” has every right to be happy and can afford to make jokes on fellow politicians at his will.

As I squandered the morning with all such thoughts, I realized that I had to reset my counter again..and start asking a few more questions…

Ok. I see you are tired. Tired of my questions. Because, I sure hope that by now you have come to a strong conclusion that you are indeed like me, very much like me, an average Indian citizen, who ponders and ponders, is affected by daily happenings in India – both good and bad, gets disturbed by the ridiculousness of Indian politicians and their acts, yet likes to find humor every now and then, whenever possible, to keep our lives going and just to keep our hopes alive.

Yes. I know, We are alike.

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The author thinks he was given the opportunity to go all the way today. And with this rather stale attempt at expressing his humor, he completes the 5th in the series of blogging “on such things.

You can read his other equally stale but not necessarily humorous posts “on such things” here.
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Posted in On such things...

On Political Nepotism and such things…

One of the most scandalous pages of Indian political history has just been written, although the outcome of it hardly pierced the ears and hearts of the common man. The metamorphosis of a political party that has thrived on its core reformist ideals, much deviated from the mainstream political ideals in its formative years and much deplored then, now and forever, for inculcating hindi hatred and for infusing regional passion, into another hero worshipping party that no more stands for ideals & philosophies but rather for power and nepotism, is a shame.

There were not many choices when I grew up, to politically tune my ears to. The eloquence with which M Karunanidhi would carry home his propaganda was a very good recipe for an adolescent looking for diversions from his daily mundane stuff. All I was interested was Politics and the way people could get carried away in a hypnotic manner every time there was an election, was & is still fascinating to me. For me MGR was a magic politician who knew how to touch the right nerve of the utterly unexposed public. But Karunanidhi was a literary figure who got into politics for his own principles and eventually took over the leadership in a more traditional corporate hierarchical way. In the process he did learn a trick or two about touching the right nerve of the same utterly unexposed public but since he was not a natural, he just didn’t do it consistently. But the experience pushed him forward and so did his administrative skills.

Many political pundits, notwithstanding their tormented annoyance over the DMK party and the way Dravidian parties in general have unfavorably dominated the Tamil Nadu political scene, will vouch for MK’s senile acumen & his sheer willpower to withstand all kinds of ruffles and his ability to iron them out diplomatically. The party’s fulcrum in the post-Anna era is him and only him. It has been in the reckoning and presumably everyone is foreseeing the end of MK’s era soon. So what next for DMK? Personally, I think the party should just dissolve into fragments. There should be no more DMK and no future leader should campaign for votes with MK’s picture in the backdrop nor should they try to carry on a party with an outdated propaganda and ideology that do not fit the 21st century. But we all know that this is not going to happen.

Rewind to 1996: In one of the most dramatic elections since the advent of satellite television in India, DMK thumped Jayalalitha’s party to give MK a clear majority to rule the state for yet another term. But one of the main reasons for the election turning out to be so dramatic was the fact that it was a combination of many factors that excited the voter’s pulse at that time. DMK’s alliance with the breakaway Congress party TMC, the prevailing anti-incumbent sentiment, growing discernment towards the authoritarian style of governance by JJ, her megalomaniacal acquisitions of power, property and people, Rajnikanth’s tirade against JJ and most importantly SUN TV that made these factors all the more accessible to everyone’s living room and all the more affecting, to everyone’s soul, by lynching on to a powerful vehicle that only the Maran’s family at that time thought of investing in. Yes. A golden investment it was…Simply by being the first one to do it – (well, not exactly simply), Kalanidhi Maran became a pioneer, no matter what, for being the visionary of this kind.

The connection between the Marans and DMK go a long way back from what I know. Murasoli Maran was a permanent fixture in Delhi political scene, being the low and sole voice of his beloved leader and uncle. He carried the burden of being a true Dravidian politician locally, as well as being a suave union commerce (or Industries at times) minister, dealing with international dignitaries, both at the same time. I think he did his job fairly well earning reputation among his colleagues as a no-non-sense politician. He was not a great stage orator but was a good communicator. He was well read and that shows in the way his sons were brought up. So, when Kalanidhi Maran took on the role of being a media visionary & an entrepreneur, he too did fairly well and was quite successful in making SUN TV the biggest network in South India.

Contrary to the popular belief that SUN TV needed DMK when it was launched, I believe it has always been the other way – DMK needed a media mouthpiece and what better way to do it than to do it through SUN TV? After 1996, it got to a point, majority market share notwithstanding, the network became a direct hotline for anything and everything the DMK leadership wanted to convey to the Tamil Nadu people. So much so, that Jaya TV had to get really aggressive, albeit a little late, to do the same thing for ADMK. For me, that was end of truly enjoy watching SUN TV.

Fast Forward to 2007: What happens to DMK after MK? If there is one political blunder that MK can never be forgiven of, it is his hypocrisy on family politics. For those of you still wondering, well….I am really no longer the boring adolescent falling for eloquent charisma and political gains….I earnestly believe, that the Dravidian parties have had their share of fortune at least 15 years too long. We should have brought in a messiah from the political third world. But no one could. None did.

Azhagiri or Stalin? This is the question that has been looming large in the minds of many party cadets for almost a decade now. It would have been a lot easier if MK had been a true leader and not a hypocritical one – he would have simply pushed Azhagiri to the corner or away from the limelight or even to the prison, for the last thing the state wants is a publicly confessed “Thug” to be in power. At least, Stalin gets the benefit of closer scrutiny to take over the mantle, because of his gradual growth along the party rungs.

In the aftermath of Murasoli Maran’s death, the party needed someone to fill his shoes in the center. That’s how Dayanidhi Maran came into politics. The 2005 elections saw Dayanidhi being elevated to the podium along with Stalin in all major DMK shows. He was his grand uncle’s right hand, supporting hand, the party’s voice in Delhi and arguably the most powerful minister in the cabinet from south India. To many trade pundits’ pleasant surprise, he was simply doing a fantastic job as the new IT&Telecom minister. He was a little biased in some of the FDI he brought in, as some claim…because he brought more for TN. But then, which minister isn’t? Isn’t that how our whole cabinet is formed? At least a representative from each state that is ruled by a party that is either in alliance with the party in power at the center or supports is, to take care of the state? Everyone was bemused my Dayanidhi’s sometimes abrasive style, as he is not your typical Dravidian politician. He, to me was the DMK politician that the party needed for the twenty first century. He doesn’t so much represent the old ideology of DMK but is modern, young and aggressive. Yet, a member of the DMK clan.

It was in this background that Dinakaran, a powerful DMK print media ally, currently owned by the SUN Network group, decided to publish a survey (For crying out loud… it is any newspaper’s prerogative to publish what it wants – Freedom of speech is very much part of the Independent constitution of India). So what if 70% of the state public thinks that Stalin is the heir apparent to MK? What happened at the Dinakaran office in Madurai is unquestionably unpardonable and yet, the government decided to shift the focus on to someone and something else. The 3 individuals who were murdered on May 3 have become forgotten history already and the party switched to a blame-game mode.

I guess the general resentment over Dayanidhi Maran’s growth and the grudge the Azhagiris and the Stalins had on Dayanidhi came to the fore last week. It all ended when the handicapped prime minister, who is otherwise intelligent, acted upon MK’s wish to accept Dayanidhi’s resignation. So, a fairy tale story of Dayanidhi leading the country’s IT&Telecom sector quite successfully ended rather abruptly due to family politics.

And it is a shameful scandal that no politician should be proud to be part of.

As always, in politics, nothing else matters – other than the larger interests of the politicians.

As always, hypocrisy works even when it comes to making your family fight public.

Amidst all, Dayanidhi may never be able to take over DMK leadership. A scandalous loss to the party.

****You can read my other “such things” posts here****

Good-byes

Baby names

Catabiosis

*******

Posted in On such things...

On Catabiosis and such things…

Aging is a necessary and an inevitable evil. Terming it evil may just be a matter of perception but the universal fact remains that getting old is not what you and I want, yet we will do so against all our good intentions and will. I was browsing through some family pictures of a recent engagement ceremony thanks to the powerful online connectivity of the twenty first century. The images of some of my aunts and cousins just made me stop for an extra moment in a poignant way as I flipped through the pictures one after another.

We try to visit our family and home town almost every year. But these 2 week trips to India are not the same as having our feet rooted there and living there. I still carry memories of my childhood with me – of the many short & livid moments that filled my life in my home town as I grew up, till I was 17. Even though I spent 8 more years in India after leaving for college, those memories, events and images from those rooted 17 years are what I have in my mind when I think of someone in the family or some place around my town. It is funny sometimes to actually try to equate the current reality with my memory – some of my cousins in my instant and colorful memories were as old as I am today. It does not matter. And that is why when I flipped from one picture to another and as I saw some wrinkled skins here and some gray hair there, some pale faces here and some shrunken cheeks there, some drooped shoulders here and some dark eye circles there, these younger and colorful images of the same people came rushing to my virtual vision. I wanted them all to remain the same yet what is now is what I do not want…Then as I stared at some faces and some familiar grimaces & smiles (in the pictures), I felt sorry for them. I do not know why.

A few minutes later, I was done with viewing the online album. Droplets of those pensive thoughts pervaded through my mind as I continued with my day’s work. Later that evening, when my mind was unburdened with the spreadsheets and decision points at work, I got back to my memory lane jog.

Wait a minute.. Why should I feel sorry? By the same token, I am sure the younger members of the family could have a similar image of me and should justifiably feel sorry for me for having grown older. May be they do and that’s not for me to guess. But do I really need that empathy just for growing up? If growing old is part of everyone’s life, why should I feel sorry for someone who is older than me and for being older than what I want them to be? Am I being arrogant and snobbish & hence my empathy for them? I don’t think so as those two qualities don’t result in empathy. So am I being reluctant and concerned? Probably a little bit of these two.

Now the “age old” question – Can we do anything about aging? Of course there are age old answers for this. Everyone talks about why aging as we think is not bad at all, what matters is your physiological age and not your chronological age, etc. So my question really is – Can we do anything about our sensitivity to aging?

Philosophically, it is possible to be sensitive to the problems associated with aging and not be sensitive to the actual process of aging itself. Is it practical? We know the skin has to loosen, we know the eyes have to lose their luster and we know senility is just one more step towards the ultimate. Still, how can we conquer that sensitivity?

As such thoughts rubble through my mind in the middle of some waving silence, I know what and how I felt when I saw those pictures, was just a real human moment. The care, the tenderness, the cherished memories and the way all of them came together to create a poignant moment actuating the humanness in me is beyond the boundaries of the philosophical containers I may try to build around them. Try hard or not, you have to grow with your age – You have to believe in capturing good memories from all the ages.

* Catabiosis is the normal process of aging of cells.

* Links to my other “Other such things” – Good-Byes, Baby Names.

Posted in On such things...

On Baby names and such things…

-Dabbling with babbles-

I consider myself to belong to the baby booming generation. Don’t we all belong to that – at least all of us who have been fortunate enough to procreate? In the last year and a half, there were at least about a dozen of my very good friends who added new members to their respective families, in the form of babies. Or if I can quote one of my friends whose baby announcement read “Our home has grown by two feet”, I should say that my friends’ homes have witnessed 24 feet of growth all together, in a year or so. This is just my friends – given that I am not the type who has too many friends, this has got to tell you something, that there is a baby boom always, whether you belong to that generation or not.

Giving a name to your baby is not easy. That is what everyone told us. I cannot recall if our experience confirms to that general belief or not. But I do not think my wife and I had any difficulty in zeroing in on a name for our son. It was neither a very scientific process that we adopted nor an argumentative one. As one would suggest a name, we would discuss why we liked that name or why we didn’t. And when there were names that we thought both of us liked we would add it to our list. And when both of us ran out of names to suggest, we looked at the list and we had 3 names in it. Since we also had an agreement that said if it were a boy then I get to make the final decision and if it were a girl then my wife gets to, it was pretty easy. We did not buy any Baby names books – We did not Google for baby names to build our repository.

When a friend told me that they had to decide on their to-be-born-son’s name based on what the astrologers say, I wished him good luck. (The astrologers decide on some letters (or letter) that the baby’s name should begin with, based on the star alignment and other factors). Then you have to choose a name that begins with one of those letters given to you. Funnily, the star alignment is the same immaterial of which part of the country you come from. So I really do not know how astrologers from different states who speak different languages take into account of the lingual subtleties and the alphabetic bumps. More often than not, they do give some difficult letters to confuse the parents. I wonder if they actually get creative and test the parental vernacular skills in this process. Whatever the case may be, if the parents believe in such a Byzantine way to identify and be satisfied with their baby’s name, then choosing a name for your baby becomes more laborious & thrilling than conceiving and delivering the baby.

I called my friend to greet him, as soon as I was told that his wife had delivered a baby. I asked him if they had received the puzzle yet from India or not. He responded in the affirmative and uttered the 3 letters they were given. As I expected, there were 2 out of those 3 letters that were hard to choose a name from. Once again I wished him the best and hung up.

A week later, I called him again to ask him if we could drop in to see the baby. As our conversation drifted over to baby names, I worded my question in a scrupulous and a conscientious manner – “Have you decided on a name yet? I am sure you must have as you have already been released from the hospital…Hmmm…”

“Yes”, came an uppity response in a sanguine tone that I had never heard him speak with in the past, every time the conversation touched baby names.

“So what is it..?”

He told me what they have named their son as.

“Hmm…but didn’t you have to choose a name that begins with one of those 3 letters..?” I tried to remind him of those 3 letters.

“Well. This is his official name. But for our religious records and for home town annals, we have chosen a name that confirms to the astrologer’s norms”.

Then he told me what the other name of his son is.

He went on to add, “You know this is basically a string of names…we picked the first name that begins with that letter, now we have left it to our family to amass all the names they want to be strung to that first name..”.

“So this is a working name for now..??”

“Yep”

I paused for a brief moment before deciding on a germane way to put an end to this conversation on baby names and such things.

“Cool…Congratulations man! Seems like you have solved the puzzle..”