Saturday, December 31, 2011

Changing years, Unchanging life

Neglect this part: For the past few days, I’ve been encountering queries like “Any plan for New Year?” and “Will you be spending New Year’s night at home again?”. The ones asking me the former question don’t know me and the ones asking the latter wish they were asking the former. Na, I'm not blaming them. They are genuinely nice people but victims of curiosity. My boringness is beyond me for a reason. Even snails are more interesting. Most of my jokes prefer not to be laughed at. In the course of human evolution, I’m a f—ing downhill. Sometimes I ask myself why am I not a chimp yet. But then chimps aren't supposed to suffer from identity crisis. For reality's sake, humankind is way too sophisticated and directional. But then there are always aberrations and exceptions and vocabulary to lean back on. So I console my bruised ego with asthmatic arguments and breathe deeply. It beats me how it works every single time. If it hadn’t, I’d have killed myself by hanging on a noose made of noodles. The worst part is I’m not even depressed and am a thorough teetotaler. The only thing I’m addicted to is cinema. Earlier I was mistaken about an apparent addiction to social media. Turns out it was just a temporary delusion. I scribble so-called funny one-liners daily masquerading as philosourphy. Luckily, I fail to laugh at them. Unluckily, some poor kind-hearted souls do. At least that’s what their comments imply. I don’t reply. I stopped communicating via tweets long time back. I’m quite grown-up for that nonsense now – making fake conversations with imaginary friends while overlooking calls from the real world ones. By the way, this doesn’t mean that my friends and I are on winning terms. Speaking of age, I’m 25 now and the year we are going to step into will try its best to make it 26. I’m prepared as I’m not ready to die as of now. I haven’t accomplished anything, you see, except few sweet words every now and then. I haven’t done well on the financial side too. The friends I grew up with have. I don't even have a girlfriend. The friends I grew up with do. Presently, they must be busy enjoying some parties somewhere. A few of them want me to be there with them although they understand that I don’t enjoy people’s company. I like individuals. I’m not adept at presenting myself as a people’s guy either. Pretending is an art and I can't pretend to be an artist. I hope all of them have a memorable night. (On a second thought, considering the alcohol they’ll be ingesting, I hope they don’t.) Coming back to me, I’m better off in my own company watching movies the popcorn-hogging people usually don’t bother with, posting meaningless blogs and creating sense out of absolute rubbish. It’s a less than pathetic existence but still fulfilling in its own precarious way. All I’ve got to do is remind myself that I’m supposed to be glum and smug and sad and fallow. And like I mentioned earlier, it works every single time.

Don't neglect this part: Happy New Year for bearing with me through factual fiction and wasting your not-so-precious time on this page! May 2012 make y’all forget what you always wanted to be.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Passionate enough to go home?

There is a memorable scene at the end of The Hurt Locker where Jeremy Renner’s character walks with a military swagger with his back towards us on the street of Baghdad before credits roll on. That moment captures a person’s commitment to his dreams – almost bordering on acute selfishness – nonetheless, inspiring. To put things in perspective, the case in point is this ain’t a tourist destination. It’s Iraq aka Shithole, for lack of better aka, especially when the person in question is an American army guy. And that’s exactly what Renner is in that movie!
One can note that he’s very passionate about his job and perhaps it’s the only thing on earth he’s very good at. He probably understands that loneliness and solitude are two different factors better than anybody else. Whatever. He literally abandons his family including his little kid to go back to being a freaking expert in dismantling bombs. The bottomline here is he does what he has to, and more importantly, what he wants to. All prices paid, it doesn’t matter whether he dies as a miserable old man regretting the arrogance of his youth or not.
Likewise, Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler strolls on a familiar terrain. It's all about love in the end. Just like it was in the beginning. In this movie, he is abandoned by folks who were supposed to be loved by him, failing which, they are not loving him. As the climax bares itself, he chooses his fans who were always there for him over his daughter and new-found girlfriend. The catch here is he's prepared to put even his life up on line to entertain the crowd. Maybe he died. Maybe he didn't. We'll never know. The bloody credits were on a roll as usual.
On a similar note, a classic moment from The Secret in Their Eyes takes place when Sandoval explains to Espósito how everything changes for a person but not his passion. It could be for anything. A football club. Books. Cinema. Alcohol. Art. Music. You name it and you have it. That’s the beauty of emotions conspiring against the host in collusion with the host. The search carries on but the quench stays unfulfilled; for if it does, there’d be nothing left to neither grieve nor pursue.
People are sad not because they are not happy but also because they've found comfort in being sorrowful. You could be one of them. I am for sure. Humans just want to go home. It could be a temporary one too. Passion simply helps us get there. This so-called home could be anything. It doesn't always have to have walls. It could be an abstract art, if you will. The sound of music might go a step further and shelter your abysmal soul. A painting's fine shades shall somehow encapsulate you in a well-protected cocoon. The list is endless, not to forget the inebriating depression. Or I like I say, the real call of nature.
Everywhere we go or wish to go, we leave a piece of us in there and once we are back, we can't help but hope to return at least one more time. This urge explains the time we spent in our mother's womb. Moreover, nine months is not a short period of time. And then one day, all of a sudden, we're forced to abandon that safe abode to enter a harsh world. Naturally, a piece of us got left behind. After all, that's where passion took birth. The place we keep looking for, fully aware that it's long gone. But passion not only works in mysterious ways but also makes us do the same.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Last Christmas

Merry Boxing Day to y’all. Or better still, Merry leftover Christmas to the poor. I love this time of the year, you see? In fact, I’m fond of every festival that offers delicious yet free food. Nevertheless, as one can guess, I’m going to be harsh from this point onwards. I waited nearly a week for Diwali bash(ing) but since I realize that my blog has got only a handful of unfortunate followers (thanks to my reluctance to unabashedly promote the way everyone is supposed to), there is no point in waiting to hurt people’s sentiments.

I abhor most practices associated with religion. It has more to do with my DNA than my parents’ as they are very God-fearing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t admire the festivity and the colorful decorations and whatnot. But then there is always something hidden behind religion that ain’t an expert with the concept of camouflage. Christmas too has its fallacious side.

"Maybe I’ll have to resurrect once again just to remind you idiots that it's not my birthday!" - Jesus Christ

We celebrate it as Jesus Christ’s birthday despite being fully aware that he wasn’t born on December 25th. He was a superb fella who had issues with his Father and all but that doesn’t mean we should distort his very date of birth. To add to his eternal woes, we haven’t tried hard enough to rectify this error. Accordingly, we should have been a little more sensitive and traced the exact night he was born.

The travelogues of the Three Wise Men who were on Maggi diet during their arduous travel could have helped. After all, we celebrate Buddha and Muhammad’s birthday every single year using lunar year calendar. So why befuddle ourselves with Georgian calendar and carry on this historical travesty?

One other aspect regarding Christ’s race bothers me. He was a brown-eyed, dark-haired Jew. There is no ambiguity in this reality. But thanks to Charlemagne and the eventual patenting of Christianity by ‘whites’, Christ miraculously turned into a blonde supermodel with blue eyes, golden-hair and an awe-inspiring set of abs. Would he be any less of a prophet (or God or whatever it is we look up to him for) were he a brunette?

Even the nativity scenes replicated by us during yuletide exhibit critical geographical and climatic flaws. We depict snowfalls in them when we know that Bethlehem had as much chance of a snowfall as Mumbai does. And it doesn’t stop there. We have this infatuation with the so-called Xmas tree when it has hardly anything to do with Jesus and his neighborhood. Those trees became a part of Christmas folklore way late into the 15th century or so in Eastern Europe.

Recently, Pope got all worked up and reminded Christendom the importance of inculcating deeper religious values instead of celebratory ones. He was slyly attacking Santa Claus I guess. After all, kids (and adults alike) seem so thrilled to greet that obese character from Finland who is hell bent on promoting Coca-Cola even today after decades of slipping through charred chimneys. I adore his reindeers though. Since my childhood days, all I’ve ever requested him to do is gracefully hand me over his mode of transport. Naturally, I haven’t heard from him yet. Either he doesn’t exist or he loves his reindeers way too much.

Coming back to where I started, I can’t make a difference nor do I wish to when religion is involved. But we’ve got to understand that almost all faith-based ideologies are replete with myths, lies, tales and unsubstantial claims. Unless and until we don’t realize this, there will always be a wall of discontent and intolerance between folks belonging to different religion and sects.

In any case, what’s the harm in creating fancy stories and fake snowfall? As long as humankind is kind enough to be happy and not baying for each other’s blood, we should be celebrating whatever comes up on the calendar even if the date is grossly mistaken.

One more thing. I don’t mean to be a doomsdayist but if the Mayans were right, this could well had been our last Christmas ever!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Once upon a year in Hollywood

2011 saw a mixed bag of releases. We take a look at how a few of them fared at the box office....
SEQUEL DUDS AND WINS: Like every year, 2011 too saw numerous sequels flooding the theaters. Almost all of them had one thing in common – the hype. However, very few managed to deliver the box office numbers as well as impress critics. The ones who accomplished this feat were X-Men: First Class, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Fast and Furious: Fast Five and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Those who found themselves left out in the cold were Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Hangover II, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

THRILLAAAAA: The thrillers had a field year! A clear majority who hit the theatre came out with flying colors. The list included The Adjustment Bureau, Source Code, Contagion, The Whistleblower and The Ides of March.

SPECIAL EFFECTS: There was a slew of forgettables like Happy Feet Two, The Smurfs 2 and Cars 2. But the ones that left a mark were The Adventures of Tintin, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango, The Puss in Boots, Winnie the Pooh and The Muppets.

MEANINGFUL CINEMA’S CAMEO: Unlike last year when art took a backseat, this year witnessed a moderate resurgence. The Tree of Life took the cake along with the violent yet stoic Drive. The racial drama The Help was noteworthy. And it’s a shame Melancholia never released!

UNDERRATED vs OVERRATED: Immortals, The Rum Diary, Warrior and Machine Gun Preacher got less than what they deserved – both commercially as well as critically. On the other hand, Super 8, Thor and Crazy, Stupid, Love. somehow received much more than expected.

PS: For the record, this piece appeared on MiD-Day and is my second byline ever!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Annus Mortabilis of 2011

Folks die. There’s nothing fancy or novel about it. Living organisms have been dying since era immemorial. The luckier ones die only once. Even the dinosaurs perished so as to make sure Steven Spielberg become the most powerful Jew in cinema. But 2011 seemed a bit too crowded with dead famous people. And in this piece, I’m going to drop a few names who have already dropped dead. Some of them were not only close to my heart (mainly because they are no more now) but also occupied a lot of space in my head (mainly because it’s empty).

The year kicked off with Kobayashi’s death. Yeah, the one from The Usual Suspects. For the record, no other British bloke could have gotten away with a Japanese name and an Indian accent in a movie. Well, Pete Postlethwaite did. One of my all-time favorite actors.

A few days later, a personality I used to mock on Twitter for his staunch anti-India tweets got killed by his own security guard. Salmaan Taseer turned out to be a true martyr in a nation obsessed with religion. After all, not many voices are heard in support of Pakistani minorities. Bullets silenced him but the message was out. A month later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian cabinet member, was gunned down for his outspoken stand against blasphemy laws.

Meanwhile, a 26 year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. This event eventually exploded in the form of Arab Spring. Years of resentment against elite [read: corrupt] ruling governments expressed itself on the very street this young man immolated.

In India, Bharat Ratna Bhimsen Joshi passed away leaving behind a legacy of music and humility. He was 88 so one can’t employ the word ‘unfair’ as was the case in the aforementioned deaths. But I have a deep grudge against our media who were hell-bent on using a mugshot of his during a performance where he appears to be suffering from asthma or something. Kindly don’t tell me they couldn’t find a better snap. And the worst part is almost ALL newspapers carried the same photograph! Hmmph.

Another famous Indian who taught me the pleasure of reading decided to call it a life. I owe to Uncle Pai inasmuch as I do to every teacher I came across in my otherwise miserable life.

In the month of March when Mumbai was preparing to swelter, Knut drowned and killed himself in Germany. He was to polar bears what Paul was to octopus. With his departure, humankind learned an essential lesson – polar bears belong to polar regions, not zoos.

Actress Elizabeth Taylor, who managed to bag an Oscar while walking the aisle eight times, left us an impossible beauty and unfortunate marriages to ponder. Following suit, another exceptional personality from Hollywood, director Sidney Lumet bid farewell.

Coming back to Pakistan, Syed Saleem Shahzad went missing only to be found dead in a canal with apparent signs of ISI-marked torture on him. Maybe journalism pays way too high a price for courage. Similarly, MiD-Day’s crime editor Jyotirmoy Dey was bumped off in road daylight by Mumbai underworld.

As monsoon started approaching India, news about Ilyas Kashmiri’s probable death amid US drone attacks in Waziristan caught world attention. He wasn’t just another two-bit Islamist militant. In fact, he was in line to replace Osama bin Laden – who got mauled by U.S. commandoes *vacationing* just a few kilometers away from Pakistani military HQs – as the head of Al-Qaeda. Conclusion: Jihad works in mysterious ways.

Talking of death, Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian expired, leaving Kim Kardashian the most famous Armenian-American I’m aware of. He made euthanasia cool and even served prison for his beliefs. Those who don’t know him should watch the movie You Don’t Know Jack starring Al Pacino.

MF. Husain, a born Maharashtrian, went away twice. Once when he left India. Secondly, when he left Qatar. We lost a great painter thanks to our intolerance and lack of gumption. He lost an ancient country thanks to his reluctance to appease Hindus by painting Prophet.

In the month of July, Amy Winehouse became the latest member of the infamous 27 Club. I felt bad for her. She had a unique voice and makeup. All things sung and OD-ed, she deserved to live more. Maybe we don’t want the entertainers to leave us. They are the ones who fill our psyche with hope and color. Likewise, Shammi Kapoor’s exit widened this popular sentimentality. Watching him play that shehnai in Rockstar with those deep eyes a la Ustad Bismillah Khan was soothing, to say the least.

No matter how disparaging it may sound, no death list is complete without a mention of a Parsi. Painter Jehangir Sabavala filled the spot this year. Jagmohan Mundhra who made Nandita Das in Bawandar and Aishwarya Rai in Provoked look vulnerable packed up.

Death winked at Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi so the latter had no choice but to close his eye. Wangari Maathai who won a Nobel for her contributions towards environmental conservatism returned to soil. In related news, I admired her a lot. I still do.

With Steve Jobs joining the Dead Club much to digital world’s utter grief, things speeded up. A few days later, Dennis Ritchie who spearheaded C Programming (and compelled me to give up engineering) gave up the ghost! But compared to Jobs, he made a bigger contribution to technology by not patenting C.

Though being a teetotaler sucks but Jagjit Singh’s poignant songs never do. He shall be remembered as long as sorrow is in this world. In simpler word, forever. The same is true about Bhupen Hazarika.

On the other hand, people won’t miss Gaddafi much. Even the ones who named that Lahore stadium after him. The only rue I hold is against the way he was treated during his final moments. They could have at least had the wisdom to not record it on a video. Sadistic morons.

A young man aged 24, Marco Simoncelli, got killed doing something he loved – motobiking on the race course. Perhaps he was too young and fast to live. In the same vein, an entire ice hockey team vanished in the form of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Too cold. Too bad. Too many.

As the year neared its curtain, some former sportsperson quit. Joe Frazier was one of them. I haven’t seen him box but I’ve watched him break down in a documentary while talking about his once archrival Muhammad Ali. The kind of respect he showed immediately struck a chord. Yes, cancer is more than just a bitch.

Being a former cricket fan, I must admit I always enjoyed reading Peter Roebuck’s articles. An English county cricketer who later became an Australian newspaper columnist chose South Africa to commit suicide. If this is not intriguing enough, then the fact that his Facebook account was involved in this suicide is.

In the non-sports arena, India’s most wanted Maoist (a softer term for terrorist) Kishenji was killed by CRPF in West Bengal. No one complained as such except the Mao-loving Communist gang.

December arrived and carrying on. Bollywood is still reeling under the loss of its legend Dev Anand. For his credit, he was part of some of the finest cinema and much to his discredit, worst, too. I’ll remember him for unabashedly promoting smoking in the Har Fikr Ko Dhue Mein song. Cartoonist Mario Miranda, known for his honest caricatures of Goa (or the Goa that once was) sketched himself away a few days later.

Last week, one of my role models, Christopher Hitchens, gave into cancer. He didn’t believe in God but to most of his fans, he was THE God. One the very day, Gadzhimurat Kamalov became the 18th Russian journalist to be assassinated since 2000. This morning, the buzz about two totally contrasting personalities, Czech Republic’s first President Václav Havel and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, departing, broke out.

As we speak and read, there are millions protesting against the authorities. A considerable nameless lot got killed in Tunisia, Syria, Yemen and other distressed regions on the planet. No wonder Time selected 'The Protester' as the person of the year.

We’ve got 12 more days to go for New Year's Eve. In the meantime, let’s see how many names squeeze in onto this list.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A melancholic cede to surrealism

Lars von Trier is the director of this movie. The reason why it’s specified at the very beginning is because of the kind of films he creates. Or perhaps, only he creates. Melancholia is one such piece of art. Having said that, it’s not for the everyday crowd. Those who are familiar with his work know this. Or perhaps, only they do.

Melancholia begins with graphic visuals that occupies considerable amount of time and mind. If one pays close attention, the entire storyline is depicted in these 3D sci-fi mélange. Almost every single act is a symbol layered in mystery that unravels itself as the screen moves forward. The real world cinema begins much later.

The drama basically revolves around Justine (Kirsten Dunst) who is getting married. The trouble is she’s hardly excited about it and is visibly losing her will to live. Later it turns out that she is not only depressed but also quite assertive of her delusions about the realities surrounding us. Anyway the marriage may not even last a night. Thankfully, her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) plays stoic and cares for her. Likewise, her brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland), though highly irritated with her incomprehensible behavior, chooses to stay hospitable.

Against this already disturbing background, the world is coming to an end.

A planet named Melancholia is about to crash with Earth. But unlike in most other movies, nobody does nothing about it – no one is saving no one! Everyone involved is just awaiting end in his or her unique ways. The purposelessness of life is effectively emphasized from the beginning till the credits roll.

All the lead actors did a remarkable job, especially Dunst who essayed a similar role in All Good Things. You almost get that uncomfortable taste on the tip of your tongue when she cries: "It tastes like ashes!" Charlotte Gainsbourg proved once again why she is von Trier's favourite.

Cinematography and the background score is the key here. As for some directors like Terrence Mallick, Jim Jarmusch and Lars von Trier, of course, an image carries more weightage than a dialogue. As expected, they are often accused of indulging too much, leaving the audience exasperated. But then we are not supposed to crib as they are the torchbearers, post-Bergman. No wonder one will always find restless long shots with shaking cameras and crisp optical illusions in movies like The Tree of Life and Melancholia. A lot.

This flick is worth every single minute of its 136 runtime but your patience shall be severely tested. Must watch for the cinephiles!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Help yourself with this one!

Calling The Help a ‘fair’ movie would be racist. At least in the 1960s of USA. More so in Mississippi where the movie is peculiarly set. But the notable part is it’s not only entertaining and educative but also inspiring and poignant at the same time. Adapted from a book titled the same, it deals with an era where the demarcation between the blacks and the whites in America was redoubtable. Mason-Dixon line was the norm. Despite all these not-so-modern day aberrations, one aspect was striking: almost all white kids in the town were nurtured by black maids.

Directed by Tate Taylor, who also happens to have written the screenplay, displayed intense sparks of genius in terms of storytelling. In this racial drama, Skeeter (Emma Stone) wishes to be a journalist-cum-writer. Running along this pursuit, she goes out of town only to return back and find her childhood maid Constantine (a powerful cameo by Cicely Tyson) sacked by her parents. This sets the tone for the movie. With the civil right movement gaining strength in the background, she decides to write a book so as to deliver the maids’ “side of stories”.

This is where Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) enter the picture. Both are maids with emotional hardship to match as well as courageous enough to do what other maids aren’t prepared for – share their experiences with Skeeter. The former works for a somewhat indecisive Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly) whereas the latter, for a rather rude Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). The book starts writing itself here onwards with Aibileen’s soothing voice in narration. But only two stories won’t do. Skeeter needs more maids to volunteer but who will rise against the white neighborhood’s imminent fear? Well, as the movie proceeds, many do. Willingly.

The Help touches the sentiment’s chord with a measured restrain. And that’s what works for it. It doesn’t try to vilify one group against another. No doubt it exposes the nexus of disdain among blacks for their apparent subjugation in the form of separate toilet and such. But then it also includes cheerful white characters Celia (Jessica Chastain) and Hilly’s liberal mother (played to perfection by Sissy Spacek). Furthermore, the movie strikes a right balance between comedy and tragedy.

Emma Stone has been the biggest surprise here. Her act does to this movie what Sandra Bullock’s did to ‘The Blind Side’. On the hindsight, 2011 hasn’t been very American for Hollywood due to the lack of race-related screenplays. The Help considerably fills that gap. It’s worth a watch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Falling in snow with Bombay

No one seems to get enough of this city. Everybody who’s here remains confined under its unrecoverable spell. They may not completely like it but they won’t quit either. Not all of them may turn out as winners but they don’t mind keeping up with the joneses. Meanwhile, there is a strong sense of aberration that never goes unnoticed though... the ever-expanding crowd and the asphyxiating smells are prime examples.

And at the end of the day, Mumbai is sinking. Metamorphically, at least. The huge rubble of filth that we are helping accumulate on its surface, on land, into sea and in air, would hopefully do the deed. Someday.

Until then, we’ll survive. Anyhow. For this, we’re prepared to come along as dehumanized primates in bursting trains or honking lunatics while surrounded by an inordinate traffic. Also, we’ll litter, hock a loogie, cut queues and stage civil disobedience at individual level wherever and however possible. Despite all of this, we still manage to avoid the much-deserved self-loathing – creating a not-so-smug city full of smugger inhabitants – one day at a time.

Over the past many years, our excuse has been the cliché: chaltha hai toh chalne doh! After all, expecting anything different from us would have been a bit preposterous too given the undermining circumstances a majority of the city-dwellers survive in. There is an utter disregard for law and order, yes. But there is failing governance, rumpled administration and crumbling infrastructure to balance the blame beam. It’s a unique case of two clenched fists shaking hands to make ends meet.

So here’s what I think will put an end to this miserable crap. Snowfall. Yup. Mumbai requires snowfall more than anything else. This city burns throughout summer but then which Indian city doesn’t! The only difference is the excruciating humidity. Expectedly, rain happens every monsoon that leaves us asking for less. Soon afterwards, winter takes place. Now, winter is supposed to be cold but Mumbai has a rather warm winter so basically what we get is a raw deal from Weather God. We are supposed to shiver and enjoy the whims of supercool wind (as long as no one’s homeless) but that’s not part of the ongoing reality.

A regular snowfall might change the whole scenario.

  • First of all, it will keep more people off the street and in their school, home and office.
  • Secondly, as the roads would be layered with snow, the chances of littering and defecating on them shall drop axiomatically.
  • Thirdly, and most importantly, unchecked immigration may take a belated pause, if not complete shutdown.
  • Fourthly, India as a nation will wake up and realize that Mumbai alone can’t carry the economical burden of the entire country.
  • Fifthly, global warming will turn out to be just another myth inspired by Iraqi WMD.
  • Sixthly, politics might suffer as an eventual byproduct.
  • Seventhly, Kashmiri snow could end up facing inferiority complex.
  • Eightly, miracles will be back in business.
  • Ninthly, Mumbai may not sink, as I SO want it to.
  • Tenthly, I might score better (read: sensible) topics to write on.

I’m sure there are more than ten reasons/outcomes why we should be having snowfall in Mumbai but I don’t know what.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Write whatever is left

Last week, I found myself in a conference room with an elegant lady sitting across the table asking me “Why do you want to write?” That question caught me off guard and I did what I do best – gape with a patented awkward look. Then I mumbled trying really hard to make sense in my fluent Nonsense. Obviously, she didn’t buy them. Neither did I.

But now that I have ample time to improvise on my answer, I’ll sit back and type what I believe are the reasons why I want to write. For a start, I’m neither mundane nor skillful. And this reality is attested by my absolute disregard towards learning something as basic as replacing empty cooking gas cylinder with a filled one. It goes without saying that I’m darn lazy. But when it comes to writing, I guess I’m a different person. I can write. No matter how rubbish my thoughts are, I can truly write.

A: "I want to be a writer."

B: "You mean you want to die of hunger?"

A: "Nope. I want to be a writer."

People usually wait to break in. Like actors have their break with a certain movie. Or an IT professional with a remarkable project. But a majority of us often forget that we had our first break with education. We were lucky enough to grow up as literates. And the ugly fact that there are still billions who don’t receive the kind of exposure to knowledge the way we did is preposterous. No matter how big a Pink Floyd fan one is, s/he can’t disagree that that cult song couldn’t have been penned had the band members been illiterates.

Having said that, not everyone can write. Everyone has a story, yes. But not everyone can write, no. There is a widespread misconception among literates that they are always write. In simpler words, some of the brilliantest writers who lived never had the fortune to write. There are zillions of thoughts enveloped in an idea but very few are able to draw them down to alphabets and let it flow on a page or screen. Besides, it’s rather tough to find an excellent writer as they are mostly lost in thoughts. On the other hand, some of the greatest writers will remain so as long as we don't get to read their books.

I want to be a writer too but while I’m at it, I wish to get paid. Though I don’t harbor Indian middle class’ (read: parents’) ambition of getting married and settled, I don’t desire to be broke either. You know the awkward moment when you and the ATM screen engage in a staring contest and you always end up blinking first. Yeah, that.

My love for writing is conceptualized in a simple philosourphy – don't bother whether you're wrong or right, simply write whatever is left. In a not-so-ideal world, a writer is the pauper who writes on his own, of his own, but nothing to own. Well, that may be the harsh reality but a writer is not someone who writes but someone who gets paid for doing so.

For instance, have a look at Twitter. Some of the brightest thoughts disguised as jokes are relegated from public memory in the name of tweets. These lines get circulated far and wide but eventually they don’t carry the name of the person who wrote them in the first place. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with it as plagiarism and attribution don’t sleep with each other on Internet. In any case, pro bono tweeting is rubbish for charity. And to help this illation, there are remnants of a failed writer in every tweep.

Fair enough.

Coming back to the HR’s question, I thought I’ll be able to express why I want to write in this blog piece but I digressed and got carried away as usual. Perchance I need to abandon one-linerism and go back to poetry. Back to a boundaryless world where the poet and his poems are meant for each other. He writes them. They read him. Or maybe I just need to STFU and then write a book on how.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lost and found... in childhood

No matter how tough we think we are, we aren’t as tough as our childhood memories. There is something about them that grows on us. And then we reach that point in our life where it's impossible to go back. And then we die. And then they return to the womb of nature.

Childhood memories are untouchable. I mean, in a good way, not in the Indian casteist context. Of course, you may not remember every single detail of what happened thousands of days ago but still. Your childhood memories will never forget you. If you think about it, memories are what we are left with at the end of the day. Or for that matter, at the end of our existence. And what can possibly beat the era when we had no idea what we are getting ourselves into. Everything little incident was a surprise and continued to be so.

My childhood lacked imagination as I never had a friend like Hobbes. It wasn’t epic. The primary reason being that I can recollect quite vividly most parts of it so the veneer of mystique remains missing in my case. Though there were folks from those days who threw permanent color on my psyche when we passed each other. Such people somehow fail to perish. They just linger on in the nous triggering your nostalgia button every now and then.

One such personality was my grandma. I miss her as she was the only one I knew who loved me expecting absolutely nothing in return. She was a wise angel who weaved and narrated ceaseless yet brilliant stories. She used to tell us, “At any give time, you can be a lot better human being.” At that age, we had vague understanding of what she was trying to convey but those words, along with myriads other words, remain etched in my Tulu mind.

My cousin was another such person who made a huge impact. He was a free spirit – someone who won’t lay manacled to societal (dis)order, especially bunt community’s endogamic mores. He dropped out of medical college. I still wonder why he did that. After all, he was the one who told me, “A doctor saves life. It’s a rare gift.” I too wanted to become a doctor when I grow up but that phase didn’t last long. All things said and not done, he passed away at the age of 29. Unfulfilled potential, withstanding.

We basically miss the childhood we never had. Exaggeration is a pain reliever against our present state of affairs. The shy child in us is what makes us act all grown up. Sometimes, there is not only a child but an entire kindergarten in each one of us. Funny how our species is programmed to grow! By all accounts, one stops growing the moment one avoids being childish and begins to perceive others as childish.

I reminisce all the stupid things I committed when I was very young and how little I’ve changed since then. I guess it’s my karma to be an aching two-legged creature who failed to become a superhero despite being bitten by spider on numerous occasions. Perhaps selecting a proper childhood hero makes a hell lot of difference. Hence I blame Mowgli for whatever I am today.

I blame God too for not existing nor pretending to listen to my childhood prayers. I’m convinced that if at all there is a God, he'd be a lot like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Only a bit more childish and with severe OCD.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diwali is Jack's utter lack of darkness but noise

The smoke has settled. The noise is dead too. By this, I mean nobody is bursting firecrackers nor feeling jubilant about not getting burned in the process. All in all, Diwali is no more. At least for now. Just two nights ago, I wished folks in my neighborhood took a break and while they were at it, donated their ammunition of firecrackers to Army or something.
Yeah, I must be sounding like a party pooper here with an anti-festival stand but that’s only half of the truth. What I am versus are these morons who sadly belong to the very same species I come from. Now that’s not to surmise that I’m wise et al but considering the present situation, I won’t give into invisible peer pressure and create unnecessary din.
Early Stone Age men who discovered fire must have been Hindus. Perhaps that could have explained our infatuation with firecrackers. Or maybe not. Anyway, show me one person who enjoys the noise these firecrackers produce. Just one person. You can’t, can you? Well, those who fired crackers are the only ones who derive sadistic pleasure from them while the bystanders’ eardrums wish the commotion end as quickly as possible. This is the other half of the truth I was referring to earlier. The government has already levied a noise curfew but not everyone adheres to it and to top that, the power-that-be hardly reacts to such disobedience.
You see, it’s quite interesting to note that Diwali is a festival of lights, not chemicals. I’m pretty sure no one exploded loud irritating bangers when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya crooning ♫ ♪I’m coming Ommmmmmmm♫ ♪ a la Ozzy Osbourne! But what we witness today is a chaotic aberration of how things should have been but are somehow distorted by overt commercialization of an event. Correct me if I’m wrong but Diwali should be more of diyas, sweets, lanterns, rangolis, social gatherings and noiseless-firecrackers-bursting-in-the-sky, if you will. But that obviously ain’t the case.
Though it’s not specifically a Hindu festival, so to speak, considering the fact that Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs celebrate it too according to their assorted legends, the diyas are nonetheless missing in numbers in urban India. Diwali has become an Indian festival celebrated with made-in-China lanterns. Blame it on globalization. Of course, everyone have their own way of celebrating as well as celeberating and one can’t superimpose their beliefs on others. End of argument.
I love Diwali too as millions out there do. Especially when I’m not wondering how Sri Lankans feel about this hyped festival of ours. My mind may not comply with religious byproducts but my tongue holds nothing against delicious festive food. I have a soft corner in my mouth for sweets. My decaying sweet teeth can vouch for that! But you get sick of sweets after a while. This is how it works – you crave Diwali sweets; you devour 'em; you get bored; you run out of 'me; and then you miss 'em. Tada. Diwali has ended. You know the drill.
I also like to see my house spick and span though (unlike my amma) I resent the painstaking procedure called cleaning. Just to put things into better perspective, the reason why I hate firecrackers so much is I can’t possibly make more noise than they do. And for the record, in an internet-less parallel universe, each one of us must be busy participating in criminal activities like bursting firecrackers be it Diwali or not.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

the Bucket List stops here

Everyone has a Bucket List. No, not the DVD of that senior citizen movie (nor the torrent considering how deep we’ve dived into the Somalia-less ocean of internet piracy). I mean the real deal. We may not jot down on a paper or notepad lest someone accuses us of being pedantic but it’s always hovering in the backyard of our empty mind. These are those stuff that you wish to accomplish before you go back to hell and brag in front of His Evilness Devil himself. The list could include anything from watching Elvis perform live (he ain't dead) to visiting El Dorado (yeah, it exists) to tapping a Playboy model (die, Hefner, die). Ahem. I got carried away there. Regardless, Bucket List is a must-have, especially when you are sure that you are not immortal.

A Bucket List is very similar to the one we prepare at the very beginning of the year. Like every January, we invent this huge list of to-dos which we resolve never to do. On the contrary, they do us. Likewise, there ought to be a list that addresses the disappointments and the apparent adaptations-cum-modifications required to fill the vacuum of a lifetime. In fact, the only difference between Bucket List and New Year Resolutions is there isn't a movie titled on the latter YET!

Just to give a peek into how a Bucket List should NOT look like. Here's mine. It is a bit haphazard, to say the least; but honest, to say the most. Just lying.

Bucket List #01:-Tame the Fail Whale and then take it for a long ride.
Bucket List #02:- Reach the top of Mt. Everest and burp loudly.
Bucket List #03:- Conserve Tulu-speaking tigers (whatever that means).
Bucket List #04:- Find a heart that's made of glass. And break it.
Bucket List #05:- Unlearn to sing in my crowf-ed voice.
Bucket List #06:- Rewrite (in)human history.
Bucket List #07:- Check into Hotel California and then leave.
Bucket List #08:- Fluently talk like Marlon Brando in Godfather sans the toilet paper.
Bucket List #09:- Pen a script on Orwell’s life and persuade Sean Penn to take the leading role as well produce the movie.
Bucket List #10:- Get laid.
Bucket List #11:- Bag a Nobel Prize for letting others win Booker, Pulitzer and whatnot.
Bucket List #12:- Quit passive smoking.
Bucket List #13:- Write a song in favour of arranged marriages just for the heck of it.
Bucket List #14:- Fcuk off for real.
Bucket List #15:- Die on the last Sunday of my life.
Bucket List #16:- Learn break dancing to Vande Mataram in the background.
Bucket List #17:- Discover new colors.
Bucket List #18:- Strike out all the previous seven inanities mentioned and focus hard on #10.
Bucket List #19:- Make an offer that got refused the first time around.
Bucket List #20:- Learn to write the way Obama does with a twisted wrist.
Bucket List #21:- Quit social media sooner or later…whichever happens later.

Come to think of it, every little thing we do must be a part of someone else' Bucket List. By that logic, we are all living each other's dreams.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A majorly known minority and NOT counting!

Which is the first word that springs to your mind when you think of Parsis? Other than endangered, I mean? Homi Bhabha? Rich? Dhikra? Elite? JRD? Philanthropy? Berry Pulao? All right. These are few associated with them but there is this one term they truly deserve but hardly get referred by. Minorities. They are one of the very few communities in India who can actually call themselves THAT and get away with whatever they want in the name of political reservation. But unfortunately, that ain’t the lame case. No one assorts pity when it comes to Parsis for a very simple reason – they don’t need it. Ironically, the word 'parsimonious' has nothing to do with Parsis.

They may be accused of being English during the Raj but then so were the princely Maharajas and Nabobs of that time. What matters is Parsis have been actively contributing to the bigger canvas named society thanks to their collective acumen in the world of business. In other words, they kept the promise their Dastur made to the Gujarati king centuries ago. Even today Tata is the most beloved brand hence duly respected too. Reliance may be roaring loud but it lacks overall public goodwill. The balance Parsis maintain between personal prosperity and public welfare is worth emulating. Thanks to the number of hospitals, schools, museums, and other such people-oriented undertakings, they have successfully carved a niche for themselves in metropolitan India.

About two weeks ago, I and my equally crazy friends biked all the way to Udvada in Gujarat to visit India’s (or should we say, world’s) oldest functioning Parsi fire temple. The only trouble was getting in as Parsis are quite particular about prohibiting non-Parsis from entering their religious premise. Give or take, that day, four guys from New-Bombay were utterly disappointed. Not with Zoroastrian in general but with their own lack of preemptive research! But anyway, it was an enriching experience as we visited a nearby museum, coincidentally inaugurated by NaMo, that detailed Parsis and their way of life and a lot more. My personal favorite was reading Sam Manekshaw’s contributions though I’m a pacifist and all that jazz.

Coming back to their dwindling number, one can’t overlook the stringent laws Parsi religious heads adhere to in the sensitive matters of inter-religious marriages and the resulting proselytism. This penchant towards staying ‘pure’ has badly affected their census number. Had there been some relaxation and due acceptance of non-Parsis into the fold once they marry a Parsi, things could have been numerically colorful. And Parsippany indeed would have been a place full of epiphanic Parsis.

Parsis basically follow 3 principles in life: good thoughts, good words and good deeds. No wonder they are on the endangered list today. Secondly, the word of the year for Parsis is and shall always be reproduction. Seriously. One can fully understand the vanity in preserving something that is not at all interested in avoiding extinction but still. After all, who cares whether Freddie Mercury was a Parsi who just happened to be gay enough to title his band “Queen”! Speaking of which, I’m aware of four Boman Iranis. Perhaps along with Parsis, their names are scuppered too. Blame it on globalization but we are so busy running that we have stopped bothering where a person comes from as long as we know where he’s headed to. And there’s hardly anything wrong with it, ad hoc.

Concluding where I started from, if you think of Parsis and the word ‘endangered’ doesn't click in your mind, then you are definitely a Parsi.

P.S. When I have absolutely nothing else to do, I worry about Parsis' declining population.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Through a jobless pair of eyes

I’ve entered my fourth week of unemployment. This whole newness is so surreal in a very non-Luis Buñuel kind of way. Being free and moneyless and all. The thing is when you have a job, all you want to do is slack. For the employed, job is a dirty word. But as soon as you get to the other side of the fence, things starts falling into perspective. Or rather, things fall into uglier perspective. For the record, most of my weekdays are spent on a mundane hype called weekends. No kidding. I literally wait for Saturday. I haven’t figured out why yet, though.

Once you’re jobless, you notice stuff you used to take for granted or forgot to notice in the first place. For example, all unhappy employees are alike. They’ll find excuse to hate their job more than they are supposed to. It’s an evolutionary build-up against complacency. You’ve got to abhor the very enemy that supports you financially. That’s how it works. Of course, I’m not speaking on behalf of all employed folks. I am just pitching up for 98.71% of the crowd. The bottom-line is some people will never be happy. Let's just call them employees.

I was once Jack's raging employee who was not able to keep up with social media. In my erstwhile office, I used to struggle with the organizational setup to tweet on a regular basis which was nevertheless difficult. That’s one of the reasons why I turned bot on Twitter. But now that I am majorly indoors, I wonder why core issues like unemployment are seldom discussed on the timeline. The reason is pretty simple – most of the tweeps are unemployed and home truths are hard to swallow (or sell). Furthermore, no one can match unemployed folks in driving the point home. There are positive sides too. Unemployed folks try not to take God's name in vain on a Friday morning.

I miss my colleagues as well as my boss sometimes. Just for old times’ sake. Nothing personal. Whenever people ask me why I left my job, I try to be at my diplomatic best and suggest that there comes a time in every person’s life when he contemplates becoming a farmer with unlimited access to internet. And then, in my defense, I remind them that my forefathers were bona fide farmers so maybe I should go back to ploughing. But the truth is there comes a time in an employee's life when he decides to take a lifelong break from serving a particular field. And that’s exactly what I did. On a broader scale, I was done with transcription.

I don’t want to be an employee anymore. I want to be one of those guys from Indian TV soap operas who never have a job yet live a rich life full of dialogues. Just kidding. By the way, although I’m a Christopher McCandless fan, I’ve got nothing against money. I’ll never burn them. I’ve been working since I turned 20 so I guess I value money and the hard work that goes behind earning it. And Nickelback's Rockstar is nothing less than an inspiration. Not.

Having said that, employees are nothing more than salaried machines. We like to call ourselves employees as it sounds cool but it doesn't change the fact that we are bonded laborers who gave up too soon. For the record, the company I used to work for was way too kind to tolerate my mediocrity. I remember the chair I used to sit on. It was like the loyalest employee out here. It won’t let me get up unless my job allowed me to. OK. Granted, that was an exaggeration. I can afford one, as always. Like jobless guys are expected to.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Life, try not to die today

Everybody believes the race is up against time when in practicality, it is Death we are chasing. The poor florist has to sell his flowers before time smuggles them to Death. No matter what, we are all programmed to end up on the losing side of Life. You see, the problem with Death is it knows exactly what it's up to. Life, on the contrary, doesn’t. In the battle between Life and Death, one of them gives up to let the other survive. Furthermore, Life speaks Death fluently and vice versa. They are made for each other. Ironically, Life and afterlife are conjugated by Death.

A few days ago, I woke up to the news that Steve Jobs has passed away to a place in dire need of technological innovation. I always admired him for the way his Life shaped up and inspired millions not only to touch buttons on their small screens but also give digital revolution a chance. And like the rest of them, I too was shattered. The last time I felt such grief was when Pope John Paul II deceased. It’s kind of a strange feeling to be sad for someone whom you haven’t met but are damn sure about their goodness.

A few hours later, I was confronted with the knowledge that my close friend’s mom has fallen victim to a fatal heart attack amid Vijaya Dashami in a local temple that very morning. This was too much. It was like Death retweeting itself (for those who are familiar with Twitter). She was such a beautiful person. This was not only cruel but also unjustified. But then, who will challenge the final verdict? No one, I suppose. Maybe Death is the most pragmatic thing that ever happens to us. If not, kindly point me down the path that won’t lead to Death.

And then today, dad informed me that Jagjit Singh, one of the finest few Ghazal singers I admire, has left earthly bounds. Of course, there’s nothing phenomenal about people taking birth and then dying eventually. But still, you want others to survive; live one more day; get a better hang of Life. And if things don’t materialize according to your wishes, then you pray or hope the person dies an easy Death. The reason for this concession lies in the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect Death. How can there be a perfect Death when there ain't no perfect Life? By the way, Humpty Dumpty deserved a better Death.

Dying is totally over-rated. So is birth. Both happen every single day. Well, can't say the same about Life though. After all, the most constant side effect of Life is Death. People die in earthquakes and whatnot and term it accidents, either man-made or natural. While doing so, we conveniently overlook the truth that Death is a natural disaster, too. These are the times when all our opinions about Life and Death sum up to what they are indeed worth – nothing. Apparently we face too many of near-Death experiences but very few of near-Life ones to comment. That’s the reason we haven’t come to terms with this reality YET! Give or take, nothing else kills us faster than Death.

Birth gets trampled by childhood that gets trampled by youth that gets trampled by dotage that gets trampled by Death.

Lately, some Tibetans immolated themselves as a protest against Chinese aggression in Tibet. They merely burned themselves to Life, not Death. I fully endorse these sort of protests in which you hurt yourself instead of innocent bystanders. Needless to say, The Burning Monk is my hero. History is rife with such hyped glorious stories, permanent deaths and a little bit of temporary lives embedded in between.

Poets, not philosophers, came close to deciphering the mysteries of how everything begins and ends. They made a habit of romanticizing the experience of leaving this planet forever. I've got nothing against them or the alcohol they were on but I’m sure there must be better ways to die a poetic Death. Metaphors containing myriad meanings had been employed by them which help us get close to the cold truth. I agree with most of these verses and disagree with very few. For instance, economy, not Death, is the great leveler. And sometimes, we do feel older than Death.

Tip: Smile. Death can wait for your poker face.

There comes a moment in everyone’s Life when they finally learn to STFU. Nah, I ain’t talking about Death here. It’s called common sense. The court think it can decide (preferably, on behalf of the citizens and based on human laws) what is right and what is wrong when it comes to sentencing someone to hang till kingdom come. In any case, Death penalty itself is a crime. You can’t go wrong with this. If A kills B and C kills A via legal frameworks, then there is very little difference between A and C. Having said that, I’m not at all in favour of Kasab *enjoying* the costliest criminal status in India. There is no way can he reconcile with the grave mistakes he committed under the guise of ignorance and brainwashed ideology. Perhaps Death is more disappointed in him than Life itself.

"If you were on a death row, what would you like your last meal to be?"

"Delivered on time."

Death is beautiful because, unlike most other things in Life, it happens just once. It will certainly smell sweet if one is drowned in a pool full of chocolate or ice-cream. I keep discussing Death as it makes me feel good about the Life I never had. As I’m growing older, I’m realizing how lonely I really am. I don’t fantasize killing myself or anything. I am too selfish for such foolery. But every time someone I look up to or love decides to call it a life, I wonder why. Thankfully, I’ve stopped molesting poetry. Or else I’d have written some miserable verses on the perpetual shallowness of Life and the escapism facilitated by Death instead of this lengthy falderal. Anyway, just because I never had a Life doesn't mean I can't comment on it. By that yardstick, none of us should ever mention Death.

Monday, September 26, 2011

RIP My Transcription Career (Mon, 24 Sept, '07 – Fri, 23 Sept '11)

Today marks the first Monday of my unemployment. For the past four years, this particular day has been the scariest of all. But not today. I left my job as a transcriber gone Friday and I guess I’m done with business transcription for good! I always knew I’ll be quitting someday but I just didn’t know whether I had the guts to type out a polite resignation letter. We tend to find a comfort zone and then get stuck in it, not knowing what lies beyond that perfunctory farewell mail.

Two years ago, I wrote this piece commemorating my completion of two years in the industry! But as of now, I can claim to be a former transcriber instead of a transcriber. What a relief! No matter how accomplished a transcriber you are, it's always a pain to explain what transcription is all about. And trust me, not many people are aware of it. I’m sure even you don’t know much about it. (So, you don't know what transcription is all about, huh? I wish I had that privilege!) Unfortunately, the greatest thing about transcription does not exist. The corporate clowns speak. The listless transcribers discern. The editors curse transcribers for shoddy work. The transcription industry yawns.

A:- "Which one is easier when you're dead sleepy – transcribing or editing?"

B:- "Sleeping."

I joined transcription after I dropped out of engineering college. It was like an escape or a detour or something to ease my cluttered mind. I just needed a job and got one and stayed with it for the consecutive four summers. Much to my colleagues’ amusement, I often joke that I drained 4 years of my not-so-precious life for the *betterment* of this industry. You see, transcription requires a very basic skill – listening. And not many of us carry a good pair of unbiased ears. A lot of joinees discontinue, unable to take the stress. Yes. There is a very stress-friendly environment out there with the blaring microphone latched on your pate; eyes rolling; fingers tap dancing; a leg placed on pedal to adjust the flow. In spite of all these hyperbole, the job is rewarding to those who know for sure why they got themselves into this nocturnal number-chasing rigmarole! ‘

The next level of progression for a transcriber is to become an editor. Editor’s job looks easy but is way too tedious and arduous, too. For me, if you’re are transcriber and aspiring to be a better transcriber, you’re screwed. Your aim should be to be ANYTHING other than to be a transcriber. An editor, perhaps. Or a Quality Analyst or a manager or the CEO of the damn company.

Of course, this shows the kind of transcriber I am. I mean I was. Every time I watch an English movie without subtitles, I realize how terrible a transcriber I turned out to be. Being a lousy transcriber, I hated my profession from the bottom of my fingers. My typing was not an issue. 90 WPM is my bitch! Even the foreign accents were not an impediment provided the audios were of good quality. My issue was I just couldn’t find out the reason why I wasn’t in some other job that involved writing – to be a writer – the ones who are able to accurately transcribe what the voices in their head dictates.

The unfavouritest quote in transcription: "Please standby. We are about to begin."

As a kid, my only ambition was to become Mowgli. I don’t know when exactly Mowgli got replaced by Transcriber. How life transforms from chasing dreams to chasing deadlines! As a solace, Transcriber is the superhero who types so quick that sparks fly from his fingertips, not to mention his bleeding ears. Professionally speaking, the fact that Lord Ganesha ‘transcribed’ Mahabharata was a huge consolation for me.

The favouritest quote in transcription: "And we have no further questions. You may now disconnect."

People ask me why I quit and that too in the middle of the fiscal year. I could have stayed back 4 more months and collected my annual bonus and then quit. On top of that, I recently got a raise. My colleagues are basically perplexed. Nothing new but I had many benefits in this job which I’m not entitled to anymore. They always had a hunch that I am a moron but this abrupt act of leaving confirmed their doubts.

To be honest, I myself have no particular reason or answers. Perhaps I just wanted to be blissfully unemployed. Anyway, for a two-bit transcriber, I was way too busy. Secondly, my health was suffering too. My former sleep pattern jumped out of the window and committed suicide. I can say I was healthy once upon a time and then I joined this ball-busting industry. My ears have grown deaf, too. In fact, partial deafness is the first sign of becoming a brilliant transcriber. But in my case, the brilliance got replaced by a higher volume of deafness.

I know I’m sounding pathetic and unprofessional. But let me remind you, a jobless guy can’t afford to be professional. Besides, they'd call you unprofessional in case you died transcribing in the office. Even if you are the world’s finest transcriber, you'll never hear an ant sing or a heart break. And then one fine day, your will be speaking in a strange accent and your job would have rubbed off on you.

Stuff you don’t ask a transcriber during quarter peak season: "How are you?"

There were things I liked about my job. For instance, we work in absolute silence. Transcribers appreciate silence. In reality, no one appreciates silence more than a transcriber who is covering an accented conference call. Although I couldn’t become a good transcriber despite spending four years on it, there are guys out there who can pick up stuff normal human ears can’t possibly replicate.

So, what next? I’ve got no idea. I don’t even have a back-up job. Most probably, I’ll stay home for a while and try to get my procrastinating ass into some writing-related work, if possible. In the meantime, also teach some SSC kids grammar for a month or so. Sleep at night for a change. Jog. Live.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

the journey from Pakis(ass)tan back to Pakistan....

On 19th September, 2011, Pakistan woke up to a bomb blast in Karachi and somehow managed to end the day with the same in Peshawar. And to top it all, Pakistanis are pretty much used to the trend now. For a nation carved out for the welfare of the minorities, it doesn’t care about smaller communities nor bears the necessity of protecting them at any cost.
To paraphrase, Pakistan is an international headache. Worse off, an incurable migraine. Add to this, the natural calamities it faces nearly other year. Last year, one-fifth of Pakistan was under water. As we speak, Sindh is badly affected by flood and the kind of apathy shown by the government as well as the people in other parts of the nation is shameful to say the least. All in all, you’ve got a country that’s mired in acute hopelessness and financial debts. Over the years, it has accumulated so much bad press that the image is not going to cleanse itself overnight. The throes of disasters ranging from serious internal rumblings and suspicious bearing in the global fora are everyday fodder for news.
Sounds clichéd? Well, the word is facts.
Now, let’s change the track a bit and see what could be on the other side of the canvas. After all, challenges beckon opportunities to rise! I know we can’t compare instances of revival that happened in the case of Japan, S. Korea, Singapore, and China. But did Japan in its heydays anticipated that in the years to come, China will recover its lost economic ground and gain foothold in world affairs?
Well, Pakistan finds itself in a unique paradigm. So that’d be totally out of question considering the extreme parameters and present day circumstances. But then, we can’t discard the possibility either. Anything can happen. And anything does happen. There is still a floating probability that Pakistan will rise in the future. All it has to do is some soul searching provided some soul is left in there. It has to ask tough questions and then settle with the truth.
No other nation on the planet in modern era had tried to tamper with genuine history the way Pakistan has. Here is a nation founded on the basis of fear. Fear of being ill-treated and subjugated by the majorities. And to sustain this theory, it had to create a false grandeur of paranoia and self-righteousness. Of course, this practice helped for a while to keep the newborn nation united but eventually the seams came apart. And the Frankenstein we are witnessing today in the form of domestic terrorism is a byproduct of that experiment.
People often say Pakistan’s biggest problem is its obsession with religion. Yes, it’s true but that’s not entirely the case. Religion is merely a blindside designed for the benefit of military, mullahs and self-proclaimed ultra-nationalists. The real problem is commerce. Or should I say, the lack of it. Citizens shy away from paying taxes. Law and order is synonymous with nepotism and cronyism. The loans granted by the Western countries are rising on a daily basis. Net-net, everything appears shoddy thanks to the sway military holds within the boundary with no opposition whatsoever. Democracy is a charade. Ironically, Pakistan wholeheartedly exercises democratic freedom of expression only when it comes to allowing anti-India slogan rallies.
Furthermore, the National Assembly is highly inspired by the Indian Parliament and functions more like a circus and less like the way it should be. Under such situations, economy is bound to choke. And it is choking. Badly. As far as economics goes, Pakistan has become the 51st state of United States but pays the price with innocent lives.
Foremost of all, Pakistan needs to be at ease with itself. It should embrace its history. There is no point running away from its origin. Changing syllabus doesn’t change a nation’s chronicle nor its destiny. Secondly, it should breathe free and develop a vision for itself. That doesn’t necessarily have to coincide with what Jinnah had in mind for it’s quite obvious that Jinnah was a confused personality. Like Gandhi, he too was a flawed character, but unlike Gandhi, he wasn’t the introspective kind. No wonder Pakistan finds itself without a horizon today.
Islam at its sectarian best resulted in nothing but bloodshed after bloodshed after bloodshed. Even during the holy month of Ramadan. The idea of secularism should be given a chance. If not, the most reasonable solution would be to allow Pakistan to be a moderate Muslim country. That'd include electoral reforms like abolition of separate electorates system, reorganization of provinces based on mix of ethno-linguistic claims and administrative convenience, etc.
Reforms must take place be it in agriculture or foreign policies. Speaking of its neighbors, it has to build a more transparent relationship with everyone in the vicinity. China may be an all-weather friend but when the heat’s up, only Pakistan sweats. Plus, it’s high time Rawalpindi overcame its India-centric complex. Pakistan's fiercest enemy is Pakistan, not India. In fact, Pakistan is one of those few blessed countries (along with India) that can do without an enemy!
Kashmir is and will always be an apple of discord but a Pakistani snubbing Balochistan but urging for Palestinian freedom is a lot like an Indian ignoring Kashmir but advocating Tibetan independence. Go figure. That’s how things are in Indian subcontinent.
Trade should be the language between the two countries; forget conjoined past and sentimental attachments. Better grow up before time runs out. Besides, the nuclear warheads ain’t going to feed the masses (especially, those from the non-military end). Besides, the climate of hatred and indifference should be checked.
I know expecting the above said would invite lot of criticism, muted or otherwise, or may even invoke laughter in some quarters as Pakistan is indeed a very curious case. Agreed, the State of Pakistan is in denial with its milieu but will that be the case forever (or to be honest, aren’t there still many sane voices, maybe overawed by extremist souls?). Someday, there’ll be a strong possibility of ordinary citizens asking very uncomfortable questions to the State instead of mullahs and televangelists and demand legitimate answers and not postulate conspiracies as pills for remedy. That day isn’t far away.
Like the world is now coming to terms to rise of the East i.e. Asia [exclude Myanmar, Pakistan (you were expecting this, right?), etc], others may need to comprehend Pakistan when it may rise (if it will). Assuming that it will, it’s better to hope for the best and work towards that goal. Anyway, Pakistan is a 64-year-young country. There is still time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

When China dialed 911

Technically, it’s still 9/11 today in New York. And that’s what matters. For the unaffected lot, it could be ‘World Conspiracy Theory Day’– a day that shocked humankind at the very onset of the 21st century. It was also a morning that redefined the word Terrorism and its extramarital affair with another word called Islam. Humanity, poor as it already is, paid a huge price. After all, hundreds of people perished within seconds leading to minutes leading to hours leading to days leading to months leading to years leading to a decade.

All in all, it was a terrible thing to have happened. And more importantly, it was a terribler thing to do. As a consequence, millions suffered and died (and are still doing) in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world where Western imperialism holds a sway. You see the problem with United States (unlike India) is it values her citizen’s life highly. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with it. Every nation should do the same. But not at the expense of others’ lives.

No other nation on the map today has disrupted and meddled in other countries’ affairs the way USA had. It’s an open secret. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that America’s foreign policies work mysteriously. For America. Perhaps with great power comes great responsibility to take care of your own. And no one but your own!

Now, my intention ain’t to decide who is right or wrong and whether the whole 9/11 tragedy was justified. First of all, it CAN’T be justified and secondly, who am I to decide? Thirdly, people shouldn’t be killed when they are at work in their offices. And we are talking of a casualty figure amounting to 3,000 lives within half a day.

Anyway, thousands of conspiracy theories have been circulating on internet since the day those two humongous buildings gave birth to Ground Zero. Some people are still not convinced of the terrorist attacks’ genuineness. They feel it was a deliberate attempt by US to enter Middle-East politics via Tora Bora and to ultimately gain a foothold in the neighboring regions. Muslims across the world pointed their fingers towards Zionist agents in Washington D.C.

Patriotism is a funny thing. American authorities lied through their teeth about WMD’s presence in Iraq and gave Saddam Hussain a free dental checkup while they were at it! Sophistry is a part and parcel of globalisation and the bloodshed it entails.

Amid such opaque circumstances and Pentagon classified documents that maybe shall see daylight 30 years hence, I thought why not add a new dimension to these theories and contribute to their long-lasting legacy in human entertainment?

Here’s my inference on what really must have happened: CHINA WAS BEHIND THE 9/11 ATTACKS!

The reason why I say so is, if you wonder who profited the most from the two pyrrhic wars Bush, Rumsfeld & Co. dragged United States into and the resulting financial crisis, the answer is plain and simple. China. The last decade proved to be a tilt in China’s favor in terms of economy and an unceremonious decline for her immediate rivals, Japan and USA . Also, better keep in mind that China is capable of such stunts. Moreover, since it’s China we’re discussing here, the question of morality doesn’t even arise. This is the very country that daringly sells arms to African outcast Sudan and Asian pariah Myanmar. And we better not talk about its clandestine contribution to Pakistan’s nuclear prowess. China does what it has to do to do others.

Coming back to the Sept ’11 attacks, the question that rings a bell in everyone’s mind is – how did those idiotically bearded terrorists manage to pull off such a brilliant Hollywood teaser with so much precision? The answer is simple. They didn’t. Some Kung Fu expert Chinese who grew up watched Con Air did. And they all died in the process leaving no trace of their identities. Who knows? Even Osama might have learned his withdrawal and tough-terrain-survival-tricks in Shaolin before ISI took pity and offered him an appartment at Abbottabad.

8 years down the line, United States slipped into recession while Beijing exhibited the most magnificent Olympics of all time. Collective embarrassment of banking sector followed by double-dip followed by quantitative easing followed by record unemployment followed America's bleeding trail like never before. On the brighter side, China continues to plays with the idea of pegging renminbi and boasts of an ever-increasing stake in U.S. foreign reserve. You get the picture.

Enough of lashing China for faring better than India at the moment in its race to superpowerdom! I guess I should stop here. This nonsense is getting stupider than I planned it to be. Whatever. This is exactly how a conspiracy theory ought to sound like.

Peace y’all.