Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gone boy

I'm not in touch with my childhood friends anymore. Kids i played cricket with. Kids i spent my summers climbing hillocks with. Kids i raced to the Trombay jetty with. Kids i learnt how to ride a bicycle with. Kids i basically grew up with. A lot of them, like me, have changed over the years. The way i remember them aren't the way they are right now. People say time heals everything but the truth it can't heal memories. They keep changing. You can't heal something that refuses to stay constant. After my school ended and i joined polytechnic in another city, my connection with them suffered. Whenever i visited home, it was the usual fake chit-chats. I'm about to hit 30 and i wonder what happened to us. We used to be a happy lot, getting sunburned in the ground that wasn't meant for any sport, let alone cricket. Our lives were simple and we sought small joys from smaller things like sweet samosas (yes, it's shaped like a samosa but stuffed with milk cream) and mango faluda. I still have a sweet tooth but i don't think my mouth waters anymore. On the contrary, i feel a void because of the realization that every little thing is so damn fickle. What is important today is rubbish tomorrow. The only consolation is the steady change. In the recent past, i've met a few of my oldest friends and they aren't the innocent kids i rubbed shoulders with once upon a time. They are different now. Life has chewed them up. Their dark circles betray the several hidden stories in their eyes. Hindu kids who used to extend their palms for niyaaz are now hardcore Hindutva stooges. Muslim kids who used to play in the temple backyard today believe their ugly beards make them a better human being. Christian kids who once didn't bother are merrily pushing the church's agenda of proselytization on Facebook. One thing is common to all of them: they feel they are absolutely right, which needless to add, is a dangerous assumption. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What's next? Evaporation

Where does creativity come from? I don't know. It doesn't matter where it goes though because it's difficult to track it on a timeline. After a while, everything becomes a derivative of a derivative of a derivative. Every second theory ends up as a deduction and the core of an idea gives rise to several idealets (yes, i love coining words which nobody will use, including me). Take for instance, fire. The discovery of fire is attributed to man (for some reason, they can't imagine a woman making such a remarkable discovery) but how many today know how to create fire with stones. Wasn't that the original script being the greatest human discovery of all time? Looks like the idea quickly moved from the discovery of fire to the invention of fire. And here we are today, lighting one another's cigarettes with burning cigarette and not to forget, destroying our planet by burning oil. One day at a time, out of sheer respect.

The point being creativity moves like a river but just before entering the ocean, it tries to stay unique by creating ripples on the banks. A river can't and shouldn't fear about losing its identity. It's part of a perpetual process. Something the ideators and the so-called creative folks should consider while asking themselves why exactly do they do what they do. Because there is this fear of entering the ocean and becoming worthless. Doubts like "what if i stopped coming up with ideas tomorrow?" are a strong indicator of a healthy mind but we are missing the point here. It won't make a huge difference to your creative reflexes if you stop coming up with ideas tomorrow. You'll continue to breathe and function as usual. Your bigger worry should be "what will happen if i managed to find solace in not coming up with ideas tomorrow?" given how deductive ideas are nowadays. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


I have nothing to say 
Not that i did anyway
Although that didn't stop me 
From expressing myself 
And saying stuff that we don't talk about 
In daylight or that darkness called common sense
We do what we have to 
I am here for myself, not others 
Maybe because i like talking to the air
Painting the silence with despair 
Hoping someone else feels the same
Like a tortoise left alone to swim 
But i could speak as if words mattered
But i could scribble as if doodles breathe
But i could theorize as if it'd solve problems 
But i could argue with nobody in particular
But i could rant until my anger finds ice
But i could render a short story untold 
Maybe i'll try tomorrow
To see if there's something to share
Until then, you, you and you take care
Oh, the one in the corner, you too. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The dark shade of agenda

"If you want to end racism, stop making everything about race." 
- Morgan Freeman 

Whenever a person hijacks a cause to promote one's personal agenda, the cause suffers. And that's exactly what is happening with the Oscars. The Academy, as we all know by now, is white, old and elite for the most part. So, the charges of racism against it ain't a surprise news. But over the years, there have been more than enough instances that proves things are changing. One can't measure the rate of the paradigm shift simply because Oscar isn't a race where film personalities run and win. It's a very complex process. The mechanism is so tiring that a lot of the films (some very deserving) give up even before the nominations are announced. Speaking of which, it's ridiculous of the Smith family to spiel just because Will Smith's work didn't get recognized by the Oscars. So much so they have decided to boycott the annual ceremony next month. 
Let's take a step back and see where they are going with this. 
If these black powerful personalities didn't have their skins in the game, they would have been far more believable. Presently, their attitude comes across as that of a sore loser. They conveniently forget that the 21st century has been starkly different when compared to the previous one. In the past 15 years, we saw how the so-called minorities from the world of entertainment made their presence felt. When they do that, too much credit is bestowed upon their talents while not enough shoutout is given to the industry. On the contrary, the entire industry—Hollywood in the aforementioned scenario—comes under the radar of unfairness when the racism card is flashed. What Will's move does is it weakens the case of those black actors who are going to be awesome and shall deserve recognition in the future. If a black actor wins an Oscar next year, murmurs will be in the air on how s/he got it just because the Academy didn't wish to be the villain anymore. The whole merit on which an award (big or small) is supposed to be based on will be eroded. 
And for what? 
Just because Will Smith and his wife thought he did a splendid job in Concussion (2015)? 
Guess what, all the five actors who got the nod this year were superb. Eddie Redmayne just pushed the threshold of identity in The Danish Girl. Michael Fassbender did to Steve Jobs what Forest Whitaker did to Idi Amin and Jamie Foxx did to Charles Ray. Bryan Cranston brought Dalton Trumbo back to life and it's a shame that his film earned only one nomination. If one excuses his aversion to lose weight for the role (you can clearly see that the thin body double wasn't convincing enough), Matt Damon owned Mars. Lastly, Leonardo DiCaprio did everything humanly possible to earn his nomination. So, if Will thinks that he should be guaranteed nomination every single time he chooses a non-blockbuster film, then he's sorely mistaken. Maybe he needs to accept that his colleagues were better. Or that the jury on nominations is as democratic as it's private. It's not answerable to anyone. Not even to him no matter whether he thinks he was extremely awesome in Concussion. Also, if he doesn't wish to be a part of the circus, kindly leave but try not to make it a race issue. Because that issue is much bigger than his million dollar cheques. 

Leonardo DiCaprio is white.
The Academy has ignored for over two decades now. 
He goes back and works harder. 
Wolf-crying racism ain't his style. 
Will, learn something from him.
Be like Leo. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kill Bill

I just ranted about food wastage in our country, in the parts where the good ol' middle class values have eroded to great extent. Here, i'm going to beat my chest about the ridiculous electricity bill that our apartment received last week. It's a bi-monthly figure and shows—believe it or not—₹88703! There are four residents in our apartments and we are barely in the house during daytime for six days a week. ₹8000, not ₹88000, makes sense given the heaters have replaced the ACs. We haven't contacted the Haryana State Electricity Board yet but our best guess lies in either a defective meter reading or somebody is stealing power from our line. Either way, it'd be interesting to see where this fiasco leads to. 

Moral of the story: With great power bill comes greater headaches. 

Problem of plenty idiots

You can't really talk about environmental degradation if you own a car and haven't planted a sapling in over 200 years. Similarly, you can't take a higher ground (if you are a guy) on Sunny Leone's morality while you enjoy her porn. Similarly, you can't lecture on feminism (if you are a girl) when all you want to do is upload DPs with your cleavage on show. These are the tricky spots of taking a stand. You can't be swinging when the issues at hand are of grave nature. If you do, you are fundamentally making a fool out of yourself and delaying progress as well. One such issue happens to be the wastage of food. Nearly 40% of all the food on the planet goes to gutter. If you reading this, i'm sure you'll be well aware of the scale of wastage. I'm sure there has to be somebody in your group of friends who is known for wasting food. But what about you? Does wastage have to be of grand scale to be noted? It begins with morning tea when you choose to leave those last drops of tea in the cup. You never bothered to ask yourself why exactly you do that. Is it a matter of establishing your status? Especially when you know that the tea is strained and doesn't have tea filaments settled at the bottom of the cup. So, what makes you do that? Does it have something to do with your narcissism that you want to have a mirror inside the cup too? 
OK, this was breakfast. 
Let's move on to lunch or dinner.  
I don't understand two Indian aspects of eating:  
1. Why take more food on your plate than required? 
2. Why waste it? 
How difficult is to avoid these two conditions when we all know there are not only kids but also adults dying of hunger in India (no, you don't have travel all the way to Africa when there is a shameful reality closer home)? I don't think we as a nation have reached that stage where we can pretend to face the problem of plenty. Not yet. The reason why i take a stand here is i haven't wasted food since the age of seven. Whoever i grew up with or spent considerable amount of time with over the years can vouch for me. I neither waste nor let others do. The credit goes to my dad who turned into a villain when it was required. I was in second grade and i remember once taking more than needed on my plate. Because of my insouciance, he did something drastic: he didn't let me get up from the floor (yes, we didn't have a dining table back then) without me eating my food. "Anna da maryadi...blah blah..." [Where's your respect for the grain of rice?] I stuffed myself as much as i could before breaking down and weeping. At the end of the drama, the plate was clean and i received a lesson for life while my ma smiled at my not-so-funny status. 

NB. Years later, my friend Rojel expressed his hedonistic opinion that food is going to waste whether you eat it or not. He was taking a microscopic view—metaphorically as well as literally—of the situation because he could afford to. Those who go to sleep hungry won't take a peek into his microscope. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Laws of moral physics

Do we need to understand art to appreciate it? If you're going to say yes, you'll have to answer my next question. How do people who don't get the nuances of music able to enjoy it then? Why do we tap our feet or snap our fingers while listening to good music? Our utter lack of basic knowledge, let alone expertise, doesn't get in the way of us relishing what our eardrums catch. 

Now, hold this thought here please. 

What about justice? Do we really need to know the laws to infer what's just or what isn't? The most natural answer to this query would be, yes. But aren't something just beyond human intellect? And there are thousands of unexplained cases that makes us introduce us to our judicial limits. Take Talvar (2015) for instance. Although it's a brilliant film, you can't deny that it's biased towards the parents. Even those who followed up the double-murder case for almost a decade would agree that the case isn't straightforward. The same is true for Making A Murderer (2015). No matter how much you try to figure it out, you'll find roadblocks in Steven Avery's guilt as well as innocence. 

Which begs the question, do we need to understand humans to re-establish tenets of humanity? Or is it all circumstantial?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Touch me not

As a kid, i was fascinated by Brahmins. There was something very scholarly about them. I remember once asking amma whether we can become Brahmins too. She explained that we can't become them but we can be like them. She was trying to plug in the fact that they are all into higher education. Nice move. Today, when i look back, i feel stupid to believe that wearing a punool would make me smarter. However, i still believe that Brahmins (who manage to stay off non-vegetarian food, including eggs) are classy. Of course, we can still debate how they consume milk and honey, wear leather belts and bags, etc. Despite these scientific anomalies, they are admirable in a society which is otherwise prone to noise and violence. [Nobody points out the fact that most of the earliest Indian immigrants in the USA were Brahmins who didn't have a lot in their pockets but worked and studied their way up. Contrast this to the early Indian immigrants in the UK who ended up spawning gang members and their secret handshakes.] Not to put them on a pedestal but if we are going to criticize them for the erosion of Hinduism—for which they are mighty responsible—then we should also be fair enough to give credit where it's due. 

Oh, wait. 

This wasn't supposed to be the highlight of this blog post. My concern was about how hardcore Brahmins won't have food in a non-Brahmin household but are OK with sharing microwave in an office pantry. The very machine in which even non-vegetarians warm their food. If that's not funny enough, how about them keeping money in their wallets which might have passed through the hands of a butcher earlier? 

Haha, just screwing with the modernity of things. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why walk alone?

I used to be hardcore Liverpool fan. And then i grew up. I'm just another Liverpool fan now. Someone who doesn't pretend to be a scouser without even knowing the origin of that word. Someone who doesn't bother to call Man City fan shitty or a Chelsea loyal, chelshit. Someone who is calm as fock. This transformation happened during the early part of this decade thanks to Internet. In the online world, people exaggerate everything. Even their loyalty towards a football club. In their spree to be noted, irrationality becomes a favourite pastime. They pull down rival clubs' achievements. All of a sudden, Henry isn't an Arsenal legend or Mourinho, a terrible manager. This blind hatred has always been an integral part of the club football culture. Just that platforms like Twitter and Reddit highlight it brighter than ever before. If you observe from a safe distance, you can see through the hypocrisy. Just because you're a Chelsea fan, you don't have to deny that Diego Costa is an utter disgrace to football. Just like Suarez was before he mended his ways. This blind hatred also operates the other way around. Blind love makes you criticize LVG's philosophy but not raise a voice against his assistant as if he's just a puppet with no role whatsoever in the game stratagem. My question is, why be blind when there are cameras everywhere? Why be stupid when football means so much more than clubs that don't even care about you? In fact, they don't even care about their native supporters anymore. Families, who for generations, supported the local clubs but are now finding themselves in a position that they can't afford tickets. It's twisted. As for us Indians, i guess i'm too old to fake anything anymore. I'll neither call you a Gooner or a Mancunian nor will i nod to your Scousie. That's bullshit of the highest order. I can't even locate Liverpool on the map and chances are i'll never visit Anfield. Why be delusional? Better late than never. I was introduced to club football when i was in school by a cousin. He happened to support Liverpool and i followed suit. The fact that my adopted club was winning on a regular basis helped my case. It's always nice to see your team win. I simply enjoyed watching Liverpool play. I loved Hyypiä, Gerrard, Riise, Carragher and Owen. I admired Beckham for his no-nonsense attitude and disliked Keane for his freakish behaviour. Still do. I was particularly fond of Riise's left foot and magnificent celebration. In fact, he was one of the first in the color TV era to try that sliding-on-the-grass corner thingie with his glorious abs in full display. Every Monday morning, it felt great to know stuff my classmates didn't. They weren't into football as much as they were into cricket or WWE. I was soaked in Liverpool's past glories. Maybe that's why what happened in Istanbul in 2005 remains etched in my memory. When your club don't lift a lot of trophies, you end up vividly remembering the few they do! I was always big on reading so i researched on Liverpool's history and stuff during my early days. The more i read, the more fascinated i was. [Did you know Liverpool players used to wear the same red-white uniform that Manchester United don today? In 1964, the legendary manager, Shankly, decided to go all red.] The fascination continues to this day. Only the anger has subsided. I don't get into arguments that A is bigger than B or Y is better than Z. There's no more anguish on losing a crucial match. I don't feel the need to live-tweet anymore either. Of course, i feel better whenever Liverpool wins and bitter when decisions go against you. But neither lasts long. With Klopp at the helm, things are indeed improving despite the ever-increasing injury list. The point being i'm content being quiet. On Sunday, Liverpool lost to Manchester United despite attempting 19 shots while United had just one. It'd be naïve to state that i'm more interested in stats than bragging rights but thanks to the rise of data-centric accounts, i'm forced to believe that numbers are congruent to great football. Not very long ago, someone like Özil wouldn't have been appreciated as much as he is today. In fact, not just assists, other parameters like pass accuracy, interceptions, chances created, tackles won, etc are also taken into proper consideration. If now ain't the time to rise above petty clubgiri to enjoy what football as a whole has to offer, i'm not sure when is? And i feel this way in spite of having YNWA tattooed on my wrist. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Addiction and subtraction

Here's a confession: I have a deep aversion to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs of any kind. 

I won't go to the extent of admitting that i hate everyone who drink, smoke or smoke up. But yes, i'll concede that it's distressing to see people, especially the young ones, giving in to temptations. The culture peddled by modernity is not only dangerous but also short-lived. You can't carry on long with these kinds of habits. It's humanly impossible. Your body gives up on you sooner than you guess. A lot of our actions in a party are defined by others. You want to gel in. Be part of the group so you act like the others. You chug because they ask you. You smoke because they pass the fag. You smoke up because the joint was rolled in your honour. In most cases, it's butt obviously/joint account/beer pressure from the surrounding. It's difficult to persuade someone to join you in a sapling project but it's a lot easier to convince them that addictives are cool. Like someone wise once said, if there is a problem, trail the money and see where it leads to. In this generation's case, cash is in surplus. Our fathers and grandfathers didn't have the luxury (or the inclination?) to spend it on booze and cigarettes and weed. If at all they indulged, it was an occasional happenstance. Today's youth are earning big and spending bigger. It's difficult to reason with them. Abstinence is viewed as a symptom of weakness. As absurd as that may sound. After working 12 hours a day, they'd rather hit a noisy club to relax instead of going home to a hot shower. The logic in these scenarios are so skewed that rationality goes out of the window faster than the smoke rings. If you boil down a conversation with them to quitting at once, they'll muse about death. "In the end, we are all going to die" is the usual refrain. But the problem is, it's not about your life alone. With addictive agents active in your existence, you often end up affecting others' lives—intentionally or unintentionally. And that sucks. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Betrayed by your own apathy

I had an idea about what i'm going to blog on today. But this was last night while i was watching the Norwegian film The Wave (2015) and i didn't bother to write down that thought. Big mistake. The thing about ideas is they are whores who don't wait for you on the corner of your mind. If you don't show them enough respect, they'll move on to somebody who will appreciate them. Something that has been happening to me of late. I used to jot down every little thing that crossed my mind. A habit i picked up during childhood. If you find my school text books, you'll read random stuff written on the gutter space of the page. I always preferred noting in text lest i forgot. But that boy is long gone now and what's left is a person less than four months away from 30 and utterly lazy. That explains why i don't write down stuff anymore. Sadly, words are still faithful to me although thoughts have lost their patience. And they ask me why haven't i written a book yet. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Constant in the age of change

Very few things have remained the way they were during my childhood days. My parents' antics. My brother's petulance. My dream of owning a boat. Road-filled potholes. Stupid religious beliefs and family traditions. Inadequate water supply in the colony. Kori rotti. And Parle-G. The world's most eat biscuits. To focus on this subject, Parle-G has not let time change it even a bit (or a bite). Even Colgate has come a long way from being chalky white paste to multi-colour bonanza. I think the term 'innovation' doesn't ring a bell in the main headquarter of Parle Products. Parle-G remains Parle-G. Nothing else. But nobody's complaining either. Everybody is absolutely alright with the way it tastes, especially when dipped in tea. Some years ago, i read how India sends this brand's glucose biscuits to Africa for relief purposes. It's poetic to imagine an African kid looking at the baby's picture on the biscuit packet and wondering how things must be where she comes from. I don't know about anything else but i'm sure if s/he notices the 14.2% EXTRA, the fact that Parle-G is embarrassingly honest would be lost on him/her. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Too many unanswered questions, one frozen feast

What's common to opinion and asshole is everybody has one and it's bound to change when the shit is passing by. But going by the standard of conversations people have—or at least invoke—both online and offline—in terms of hard-hitting topics like feminism and culture is appalling. If you're sane enough, you'll read them and wonder why they even bother going to school. How heavy can common sense be that you remove it from your brain? Once that happens, everybody turns into a fitness freak and jumps to conclusions. Take an incident from yesterday for instance. An NRI woman posted pictures of frozen food on Facebook. She claimed that she cooked them over a period of two weeks for her husband since she's leaving for India with her son for vacation. One look at the pictures and you'll go “Whoa! That's too much food for one person”. But then she's refrigerating them for a reason as we're talking about a country like USA where packaged food is the way to go. Well, if only the amazement stopped there. No. The so-called feminists with their misplaced priorities got into discussions either pitying the woman or mocking her. Comments like "Women like these are spoiling their men" and “I'd never do that for my husband!” started shuttling to and fro. Guess what? Nobody is asking you to. Chill. It's 2016 and there's something called free will. What's wrong in being a caring wife who thinks beyond Maggi? Besides, you don't know for sure whether she was pressurized as such to cook for two weeks straight. Which again begs the question, did she REALLY cook for two weeks? Did she do it all alone with no help whatsoever from a maid? Going by her FB pics, she looks mighty proud of what she'd accomplished for her dear hubby, irrespective of whether the cooking days were exaggerated or whether it was a solo feat. Moreover, the funniest part about this issue is that the woman is being portrayed as a victim of Indian culture without even focusing on her husband. What if the poor guy didn't even ask for this mass buffet? What if he was planning to have fun in her absence? What if he's being forced to eat against his wish? How many friends will he need to finish the food before she comes back home? Howard Wolowitz needed the entire cast of The Big Bang Theory to do that. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


When i first learnt about Holocaust, i wondered how did the world let such a catastrophe take place. I thought it's impossible that there weren't good-hearted people around who wouldn't even try to fight against the system. Those with a good conscience and a clear voice of reason. A pogrom which went on for six years must have faced resistance of some sort, right? At least that's what i always thought. And when i decided to read further, i came across personalities—both Jewish as well as gentile—who tried their level best to avert the inevitable. Their efforts were appreciable but the overall result swung towards the Nazi's favour. Besides, a huge populace was sold on the idea of hatred. As we well know by now, love is cherishable from a distance but hatred makes an awesome commodity. Instill fear in people about other people and see the neighbours turn against each other like morons. Snitch. This happened in all parts of the world where multi-cultural society existed. Events like these tested humanity and more often than not, it failed miserably. The reason why you are reading this is Syria. Something really bad is going on out there. We are not talking about a country that was born last century. We are talking about a civilization that features Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities (along with Varanasi). Still, there are places in that country with names like Homs (in ruins now, also where Steve Jobs' father hails from), Raqqa (where an ISIS member killed his mom last week because she wanted him to leave that group) and Madaya (where neither the trees have any leaf left on them nor are any dogs or cats on the street as people have eaten anything they can place their hands on). This is not the worst part. That would be us. For some reason, i feel we are responsible too. I don't know how exactly but 50 years later, somebody might ask “How did the world let such a catastrophe take place?” 

NB. It's easier to shrug and say that there are problems everywhere. Why look miles away when there are imminent issues in the interiors of India? Men belonging to the lower rung are exploited by those in power. Women are violated on routine. Babies are denied basic necessities when there is more than enough for every single child who takes birth in the country. Yes, absolutely but there is much more to the equation. Being concerned is the first step because that leads to curiosity to know more about a given situation and that eventually leads to better dispensation of information. Half or quarter knowledge is extremely dangerous. A world community is manifested when people are aware and discussing stuff that matters. Someone here should be concerned about what's happening there and someone there should be concerned about what's happening somewhere else. That's how humanity won't fail the test. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

And your opinion goes to...

It's that time of the year when you'll stumble upon arguments/discussions on which film should have won which award and which actor should have been snubbed and whatnot. It's the beginning of the award season and this trend is going to continue until the Oscars. For instance, today, some of the debaters will be relieved that Leonardo DiCaprio won the Best Actor (Drama) gong for The Revenant while others will be aghast that the survival film managed to win other awards too. It took me a long while to stay away from such verbal circus where we like to believe that our opinion matters. Guess what? It doesn't. It never did. It never will. Golden Globes, like the Academy or the BAFTA or SAG, is exclusively democratic but the viewpoint of the few matters there. Lobbying plays another key role in the outcome. What else can explain The Martian winning an award in the comedy category? Just because you think Spotlight should have won the Best Picture award doesn't make any difference to the set narrative. It's a private party and we are just voyeurs who get a glimpse from the outside. If you are really bothered by this, you should host your own sweet awards function and hand out statuettes in absentia. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Zero visibility

I'm in Gurgaon and it's cold. And when i use that adjective, i mean it. Because i come from Bombay where winter is a superstition. Last month was really cold but intriguingly, the temperature soared after Christmas. It wasn't supposed to but climate change is in vogue. So, the sun was back in form and i was wondering what happened to the fog i was promised since snowfall is too much to ask for. Much to my relief, THE fog finally happened this morning. I usually wake up around 6-ish and then pretend to be asleep. But today, i overslept and woke up at 7. The picture you see above was taken soon after. Imagine how it must have been at 6.30! This is my kind of mistery. Being shrouded in a blanket that is neither there nor last long enough. If this continues for at least a week (which i seriously hope it does!), flights are going to be delayed and traffic is going to be fucked though. As if i care about them. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

LOL and disorder

The greatest problem with India isn't illiteracy or poverty or pollution. It's plain and simple. India's greatest worry should be absolute disregard for law. We are the kind of species who don't care much for law unless it's forced on us. Seldom do we see adherence to written edicts without a caveat in place. Maybe this shitty shortcoming has something to do with the decline of our civilization. We weren't like this. We had toilets on our terraces when the West didn't have the common sense to use drain on their streets. But that was back then. Ages ago. As of now, we are a disaster. And nobody else is to be blamed. Not our colonial past. Not our present politicians. It's just us. The hoi polloi who constitute the society. We don't have heroes from the world of law. Our idea of a hero on that line is restricted to a sarvggun-sampanna filmi hero who upholds law by taking revenge. We may mock Alia Bhatt for not knowing who the president of the country is but how many of us know who the chief justice of India is? Isn't s/he most powerful person from the judiciary side? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Missing the chase (part 1)

As a film journalist, you learn to like the chase. It's a practical joke worth wasting your time on. Bollywood personalities, unlike those from the South cinema, tend to have an uplifted view about themselves. Due to which, it's difficult for them to be punctual or admit that they were mistaken about something. In my 3+ years on the field, i encountered quite a lot of amusing incidents, peculiarly while interviewing them. Sharing a few of those memories here...
  • When you are a rookie, you don't understand whom to call or when. Javed Akhtar happened to be one of the first filmwallahs i spoke to. So, i dailed his number for a quote and introduced myself. The thing about being with mid-day is people usually pay attention to you. But not him. He sounded grumpy and told me to call him later as he was having his afternoon nap. 
  • Some directors won't ignore their phone but will ignore you. Pradeep Sarkar (director of Parineeta (2005) kept delaying my request for a phone interview by saying “Ami abhi bohot busy oy...tum boddmein phone karo!” only to say the same thing again when you called the next day. Had to give up. 
  • You can always bet on the foreign desis to be different. Mira Nair was getting late for her flight and yet she decided to call me up for the pre-scheduled interview. Since it was delayed, i assumed it won't happen and i had already left for home. My phone started buzzing when i was at the railway station. With nowhere left to go, i took a phone interview amid the platform rush. 
  • Sneha Khanwalkar was apparently very media-shy but i still wanted to try my luck. Back in 2012, she was the only active female music composer (I think she still is) in the Hindi film industry. She picked up my call the first time i rang her, asked me to fix a date for interview and then never got back. Stopped picking up calls. Stopped replying to my messages.
  • I chased Goutam Ghose for weeks before he finally agreed to speak. The interview made the cover of entertainment section. Before that happened, he was polite enough to keep saying “next week, sure thing” again and again and again and again. 
  • I was one of the last journos to talk to Mrinal Sen and Farooq Shaikh. Both took their own sweet time to get hold of on phone. And both of them were extremely cordial and frank in their replies. I still have their numbers on my phone. 
  • King Khan is reachable only during the promotions of his films! I waited in the lobby of Mannat for over three hours to get a fantastic chat out of SRK. It was nearing midnight and he looked tired but his weariness didn't get in the way of his charming answers. 
  • In a lot of cases, media is to be blamed for journalistic excesses. Anurag Kashyap used to be very approachable. Always the one to pick up phone or reply to texts. One fine night (he was at Sundance Film Festival), he even replied to my long email of questionnaire. But the way his answers got edited in the final cut got his goat. He angrily messaged me saying he'll never talk to me again. Thankfully, he didn't keep his word
  • It's funny how you go to a fancy hotel and wait in the joint near the lobby. And then after an hour or so, Shekhar Kapur walks to your table, looking all snoozy and apologizing for the delay. To his credit, he was gung-ho once the interview picked up speed. 
  • I kept chasing the acclaimed cinematographer Santosh Sivan (Roja, Dil Se, Thuppakki) for days, which turned into weeks, before finally giving up on him. 
  • It's only when a celebrity confesses or clarifies to you that you fully realize the reach of your profession. There was a buzz that Lootera was going to be beautiful thanks to Mahendra J. Shetty's cinematography and Vikramaditya Motwane's vision. But there was something else too in the air. The rumour that Amit Trivedi has committed the irredeemable act of plagiarism. After pulling some strings with a friendly PR, i got my 20 minutes with him. And a truly candid interview. 
  • What can you ask an Indian filmmaker who makes one movie every five years? Well, a LOT. When i finally got hold of Raju Hirani, i bombarded him questions that were mostly ad-libbed. Being the gentle soul that he is, he made the wait worth it. 
  • I was on my way to attend a press screening of some English film when i got a call from Katrina Kaif. I remember saying “Ma'am, i'm in a bus. I'm on my way to... blah blah...can i call you tomorrow morning at 11?” All she said during that call was “Hello, am i speaking to Shakti?” and “Sure” in English accent. She picked up the phone the following day at 11.30am.
  • One would expect the wife of one of India's richest businessmen to be reeking of uppity. At least i expected Yasmeen Premji to be like that. Don't ask me why. But she proved me wrong as she patiently answered all my questions related to her book (which took her more than 20 years to complete) as well as stuff not related to it. At the end of the interview, she expressed her surprise that young men STILL laughed like me. I generally did that to overcome nervousness. 
  • Something similar happened with Sudha Murthy too. I met her in a book store as she was busy signing some copies. When she finally noticed me, she asked "Are you going to ask any questions now?" before multi-tasking answers with autographs. 
  • One of my favourite Indian filmmakers, Jahnu Barua was supposed to call me at 7.30pm so i was well-prepared for the same. He called at 8-ish, explaining that there was power issue in his building. Later, he spoke for at least 25 minutes. By the end of interview, he told me he is in his apartment in Sanpada. Had i known this earlier, i wouldn't have stayed in office for the interview. It's much easier to talk in person, especially when the person is staying just 5 minutes away from your house. Also, when i got home, there was no power at my place. 

Last year, this time around, i was working for mid-day and had no clue that i'd be moving to north India. Now that i'm away from that paper-filling jamboree of print media, i keep going back to my days as a scribe. Which can tell why i couldn't keep myself from dropping names here. I guess there are many more to drop. Some other time maybe. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Eponymous much?

I don't know who you are or where you stay but if you are expecting a baby, chances are i'll find you and beg you to name your child after me. Yes, i'm weird and have a penchant for posterity. Well, this was supposed to be a 2011 joke but it isn't. I've tried it with so many people by now that it has turned into a blaring reality. Sadly, my pitch's conversion rate remains at a humble zero. The only reason i'm on Facebook is to check on my school friends who are having a family of their own. But no luck there. They say people on Facebook are dumb and those on Twitter, smart. Guess what? You are mistaken. After all, nobody has bought into my plea yet. Or maybe i'm a terrible salesman. My partner's sister happens to be my latest victim. I sweet-talked her into saying “I'll think about it” while we both know she won't name her firstborn after me. This, despite the fact that my name is unisex and is gentle on tongue. People assume that it's a common name when it isn't. Just because it's one of the most popular words (Rin Shakti, Shiv Shakti, Shakti Bhog, Vanish Shakti, Milk Shakti, Shakti Prash...and it goes on and on) in the country irrespective of whether you are from north or south, people think it'd sound lame on a child. Look at me. I turned out fine if you overlook my emotional problems. To make my pitch stronger, in my entire life, i've come across only two people with my name. One of them is from Zomato. Lastly, i think you should TOTALLY name your offspring after me. In 2030, if somebody asks you the reason why you did so, just say “it sounds powerful”. 

PS: There are (few) downsides too. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Not a day goes by...

Some thoughts keep recurring until you give in. A lot of mine are done. A few more to go.
  1. Not a day goes by i don't think of Jesus and how his abs went to waste.
  2. Not a day goes by i don't thank my parents for being illiterate enough to avoid internet.
  3. Not a day goes by i don't feel bad for those from a village called Chutiya in Maharashtra. 
  4. Not a day goes by i don't spare a thought for how Pluto must be coping with its demotion.
  5. Not a day goes by i don't worry about the dwindling Parsi population.
  6. Not a day goes by i don't imagine this world without any media
  7. Not a day goes by i don't look out of the window hoping it'll snow.
  8. Not a day goes by i don't wish i was powerful enough to make things right.
  9. Not a day goes by i don't see you committing the same mistakes we are supposed to.
  10. Not a day goes by i don’t trouble Shanty with dumb questions.
  11. Not a day goes by i don't miss the person that i could have been.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Gurgaon diaries

I'm not a critical expert on cities. It was only after working with mid-day that i learnt what Mumbai was all about. Before that, i was just a simpleton Mumbaikar nostalgic about a Bombay that wasn't mine. It was only during my days as a journalist i saw how a city behaves just like a person. Some days are good for it. Somedays, not so. A city develops its character by the people who build it. Mumbai, as we know it today, was built by immigrants. Delhi was built by refugees; people anxious to have a place they can call home. Who built Gurgaon? However, i've been here for almost a year now and i've noticed certain undeniable observations here. Listing some of them out with no malice towards those who are capable of looking at the cheerful side...
  • Gurgaon looks like a city waking up from a terrible dream.
  • The dust never settles for less here.
  • Everybody's in a hurry. Haryana explained.
  • What happens in Gurgaon strays in Gurgaon.
  • It's boiling during summers with nobody to turn off the sun.
  • That's also when most of my aspirations got roasted!
  • On the brighter side, the sun doesn't set us on fire when it's fully capable of doing so.
  • Going by the earthquakes, dust storms, unseasonal rains and warm winters, Gurgaon is yet to come to terms with my presence here.
  • This city is the perfect mix of unsettling dust, filthy pigs, sweltering summer, rude autowallahs, bored cows, corporate residents and farce.
  • Love is like the Gurgaon summer. No, wait. Forget it.
  • Thanks to G-spot (that's my nickname for Gurgaon), i'm a wildweather photographer now.
  • Gurgaon didn't go to the pigs. It went to the people. Pigs were here first.
  • "Bhaisaab, aapka Gurgaon dick raha hai."
  • It takes 3cm of rain for this city to flood.
  • Dusty. Dustier. Gurgaon.
  • In Gurgaon, it either rains like dogs and pigs or it doesn't.
  • Mumbai mein rehne ke baad sabhi sheher gaon lagne lag jaate hai.
  • Completing half a year in Gurgaon today. That's like a lifetime of dust in Bombay.
  • Baarish mein maloom lagta hai ki Gurgaon kitne paani mein hai.
  • After moving north to Gurgaon, i've developed a healthy respect for junk food.
  • Gurgaon is not THAT bad. Just makes Delhi look better.
  • Zuckerberg hosted FB Townhall Q&A (Oct') and DiCaprio filmed his documentary (Nov') in Delhi. Gurgaon was dusty as usual.
  • When in Rome, be a Roman. When in Gurgaon, honk.
  • The greatest difference between Bombay and Gurgaon is people from the former won't give you wrong directions just to entertain their ego.
  • Mumbai has sea. Gurgaon will never have a sea. Gurgaon: burn Mumbai: won
  • During winter, it's pitch black even before the clock hits 6. 
  • Went home for Diwali and came back here to shoot Interstellar part 2.
  • As a social experiment, go to any supermarket in Gurgaon and scream "Hey, asshole!" and count the no. of heads that turn. They cut queues.
  • So used to the contaminated air in Gurgaon that i might fall sick in a cleaner city.
  • Before Christmas, the correct reply to “how are you?” was “freezing”.
  • Why are ALL the cars dented in Gurgaon?
  • It was only after watching Everest (2015) that i realized Gurgaon isn't THAT cold.
  • Not a day goes by here i don't see a moron driving while talking on phone.
  • The class discrimination prevalent in Gurgaon is as feudal as it can get in the 21st century. Maid in India, anyone?
  • Gurgaon tries way too hard to be a city.
  • Lastly, i haven’t been molested even once despite being so damn pretty.

Friday, January 1, 2016

it was perfectly all right

since it's difficult to describe a year in a paragraph, i'm not going to even take a shot at it. what i'm going to do is just share what i feel a year should ideally be like. ok, here it goes. a year should be exactly the way it is right now. with million possibilities and a billion problems. with darkness waiting to trap the light in us. with you and me still wondering what the fuck is going on. regardless, a year—or should we say time?—shouldn't get trapped in the cocoon of idealism. every passing moment is screaming at the top of its voice that there is no future. what we have is the present and how we apply it to decide our past. change is inevitable. what we once thought was right is turning out to be wrong. what we deemed proper yesterday seems stupid today. experimentation is in the air. nothing is permanent. but it doesn't mean anything except that we are more sure about our doubts today than ever before. we hope a lot. we hope everything will be great and rosy. it's a human trait. while doing so, we conveniently forget that we are here for others as much as for our own. we fail to see this inalienable truth because strangers are supposed to be scary. especially when they are not. the weight of the world isn't on us but we pretend that it is. we are sold by our lies. isn't that amazing? there are going to be earthquakes every now and then. there are going to be moments of triumphs too. every event, big and small, shape us into what we are. if you think that you're unlucky, then you are so. if you choose to believe that luck is the greatest myth after god, then you are not bounded by destiny anymore. it's all inside our head anyway. everything happens for a good enough excuse to keep us going. even death fails to stop us from existing. we leave behind traces in the form of people and deeds and memories. we define the time, not the other way round. the depth of an ocean isn't defined by us though and so aren't the tides on its surface. we are mere participants of a system that is so huge that our curiosity can only lead to more questions than answers. if there are stories of injustice on one hand, then there are stories of emancipation on the other. the world as we know today is bracketed like never before. everybody is falling under categories they never knew existed earlier. we've successfully created a generation that doesn't need others to be distracted by. it's doing a pretty good job on its own. in such a scenario, if somebody tells you that the planet is going to explode/sink/perish etc, all you need to know is that's precisely what a living thing does. it goes away only to return. it's a cycle that keeps the universe in check. besides, in the grand scheme of things, we are nobody. but for our own good, we like to assume that we are important. and this attitude is what makes all the bullshit so damn worth it. we want everything else to budge while trying not to give space to others. not even to the amount of time we like to bracket under the word 'year'. 

ps. lower case, because change is inevitable and nothing is permanent—not even this experimentation.