Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Daivathinte Khat

We have our exams going on and yesterday, while I was just going through the English textbook, I came across this poem which is published in our book. Personally, I hate poems and I know my limitation that I can never write a poem.



As you woke up this morning,

I watched you and hoped you would talk to me,

even if it was just a few words,

asking my opinion or thanking me for

something good that happened in your life yesterday--

but I noticed you were too busy

trying to find the right outfit to put on

and wear to work.



I waited again

When you ran around the house getting ready

I knew there would be a few minutes for you to stop and say hello,

but you were just too busy.

At one point you had to wait for fifteen minutes

with nothing to do except sit in a chair.

Then I saw you spring to your feet.

I thought you wanted to talk to me

but you ran to the phone and called a friend

to get the latest gossip



I watched as you went to work

and I waited patiently all day long.

With all your activities

I guess you were just too busy

to say anything to me.



I noticed that before lunch

you looked around,

maybe you felt embarrassed to talk to me,

that is why you didn't bow your head.

You glanced three or four tables over

and you noticed some of your friends

talking to me briefly before they ate, but you didn't.

That's okay. There is still more time left,

and I have hope that you will talk to me...

yet you went home

and it seems as if you had

lots of things to do.



After a few of them were done, you turned on the TV

I don't know if you like TV or not,

just about anything goes there

and you spent a lot of time each day

in front of it,

not thinking about anything--

just enjoying the show.



I waited patiently again

as you watched the TV and ate your meal...

but again you didn't talk to me.

Bedtime--I guess you felt too tired.

After you said goodnight to your family

you plopped into bed and fell asleep in no time.



That's okay

because you may not realize

that I am always there for you

I have got patience

more than you will ever know.

I even want to teach you

how to be patient with others as well.

I love you so much

that I wait everyday for a nod,

prayer or thought or a thankful part of your heart.

It is hard to have a one-sided conversation



Well, you are getting up again and once again I will wait with nothing but love for you hoping that today you will give me sometime.



Have a nice day!!

Your friend,

GOD.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

De-friended

Is it just me or has friendship taken a beating these days? When we were younger, every action and every decision was taken as a collective, a gang of best friends standing by each other through thick and thin, exploring and experimenting together because we had each other for support. We were much more gullible in the days and hardly ever stopped to ponder our actions, but we always knew that whether it was the chaotic corridors of school or the loud and robust canteens in college, there was a camaraderie that was constant.

Flash forward to twenty years later and the very foundation of friendship has taken on a whole other facade. You can wake up tomorrow and find seven or eight new friend requests on popular social networking sites like Orkut or Facebook; distant friends, friends of friends, and most of the time, completely random strangers. You may accept or reject them, but you cannot ignore the reality of this very scary social predicament; where did all the ''good friends'' go? As phones replaced letters, then those long, glorious chats on the phone were pushed aside for one line e-mails and broken language text messages. Now you meet people who roll their eyes and exclaim, ''I'm just not a phone person, send me a message instead''. If we don't have time to take each other's calls, how will we find the time to bear a shoulder during a crisis?

As we get older, we embark on a long period of extreme independence where we realize that we don't really need anyone to get by on a day-to-day basis. Come to think of it, most of us have built so many protective barriers around ourselves that even the ones with the secret passwords cannot get in. Cynicism, stubbornness, and often times a fear of rejection surges over most of us, and we learn not to expect anything from anyone because inevitably, they will let you down.

Where I come from, I know (and am known to) a lot of people, but to identify the true friends amongst the crop is a balancing act I still have to master. So much of self-worth and confidence comes from a support structure you'd like to believe won't tremble, but with all the plastic friendships popping up, you really have to dig deeper and ask yourself who your people are in this world.

Where do you find them and how can you ensure that they won't change or snub you when you need them the most? Are the oldest friends really the best of friends? Do they know you as you are now, or are they stuck on the person you were before? Is a good friend someone who can affect you the most, and are you a bad friend if you cause your friend pain? We are human and we bleed very easily. We can trigger tears and our punches can blow even harder. Our actions might be restrained and our words of love and support may have shortened, but at the end of the day, all we really need is the security of knowing that there will always be someone in your corner who will run to you and clean you up no matter how severe your crimes are. I have learnt that friendships cannot be evaluated, and people shouldn't put up their friends for a trial.

There are no tricks or tips to life-long friendships, but know that when you are in the presence of a friend and with their presence you feel safe, that they are the keepers and the ones worth fighting for. Mark them, brand them, do whatever you legally can do them, but don't ever let them go because when you're staring the cold, harsh realities of life in the face, they will be the UV to your designer sunglasses, and the fleece to your coat, and on days like those, when all else seems bleak, they will be the ones to break your fall.

Pick your friends wisely, and they will make you wiser. A wise man once told me that... and yes, he was a distant friend.

Movie Review: Luck By Chance

One has often heard, read and seen (on screen) the positive and negative sides of Bollywood. It would be erroneous to state that Zoya Akhtar's 'Luck By Chance' does a ''pol-khol" of the glamorous industry. Let me put it this way: the film mirrors the behind-the-scenes drama and manoeuvring exactly the way it occurs in showbiz. Watching Luck By Chance is like experiencing Bollywood first-hand.

If you're remotely associated with Bollywood, if you know how things work in Bollywood, you'd laud and applaud, laugh and smile, identity and understand and at times, empathize and sympathize with the characters in Luck By Chance. Zoya Akhtar's take on an industry that attracts millions of hopefuls year after year is bang on target. Almost three decades ago, Hrishikesh Mukherjee had made Guddi that depicted a star-struck teenager Jaya Bhaduri's obsession for a top star Dharmendra. Along with the core issue, the film highlighted the behind-the-scenes hardwork and labour that went into making movies.

Luck By Chance taps almost every important facet of Bollywood and presents assorted characters you've encountered at some time in life. An over-ambitious aspirant who knows to make the right moves; an actress trying hard to get that big break, even if she has to comprise; an icon of the 1970s who desperately wants her daughter to be a star; a producer who looks at riding on big names, script be damned, a failed actor now looking at direction to redeem his career. One of the prime reasons why Luck By Chance works is because of Zoya's crisp writing. Right from the characters, to the individualistic scenes, to the way Zoya puts them in a sequence. Luck By Chance is easily one of the most cohesive scripts this side of the Atlantic.

Sona Mishra (Konkona Sen Sharma) arrives in Mumbai with dreams of becoming a film star. She does whatever it takes, to make it. Vikram (Farhan Akhtar) has just moved to Bombay leaving the comforts of Delhi. He is used to getting what he wants and is smart enough to know when to demand it and when to manipulate it. Gradually, Sona and Vikram develop a romantic relationship. Romy Rolly (Rishi Kapoor) is a successful though superstitious producer who only works with the biggest stars. He is making a potential blockbuster by launching Nikki Walia (Isha Sharvani), the daughter of the 1970s superstar Neena Walia (Dimple Walia). The hero of the film is the superstar Zaffar Khan (Hrithik Roshan). Zaffar decides to opt out of Romy Rolly's film and that creates havoc in Romy's life. Romy Rolly decides to cast newcomers and finally, Vikram is shortlisted for the main role.

Luck By Chance picks up characters straight out of life and that's the beauty of the script. The interesting part is that each of these characters have a story running parallel to the main story. If Zoya's writing is superb, her execution of the written-material deserves distinction marks. This maybe her directorial debut, but she treats the difficult subject like a veteran. Javed Akhtar's dialogues and lyrics are remarkable, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music could have been much better. However, the choreography of the circus song is remarkable. Carlos Catalan's cinematography captures the right moods.

Farhan Akhtar is evolving into the one of the most dependable actors of his generation. He's very real, very believable. No wonder, his character stands out. Konkona Sen Sharma is exceptional. The supremely talented actress that Konkona is delivers a sparkling performance yet again. Rishi Kapoor is incredible. A performance that merits the highest praise. Dimple Kapadia looks ravishing and is terrific. It easily ranks amongst her most accomplished works. Juhi Chawla is first rate. Isha Sharvani does her part well. Sanjay Kapoor springs a surprise and registers an impact. TV actor Ali Khan is perfect.

Hrithik Roshan is truly wonderful. He realizes that he himself had paved the way for Farhan in the industry when he is chatting with Karan Johar. Only an accomplished actor could have handled this sequence with aplomb. Among the big ticket Bollywood players who make fleeting appearances in the film, the one who registers the maximum impact is Shahrukh Khan.

On the whole, Luck By Chance is an outstanding film in all respects. A magnificient outing from the producers Excel Entertainment and Luck By Chance is sure to prove an extremely lucky and rewarding experience. On the rating scale, four out of five which means it is a strongly recommended film.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Agla Station: Ghatkopar

Just last week, I was waiting at Sion station for my usual Thane train to take me to Mulund since I had to pick up a few things. I usually observe around when I am waiting for my train. So, a hapless victim fell prey to the over-enthusiastic Bombay's local train commuters. Our hero wanted to get down at Sion, but as luck and trains would have it, he boarded a fast train that did not halt at Sion. He panicked when he realized that the train did not stop at Sion and Kurla. On seeing his plight, a sympathetic co-passenger came to his rescue.

It seemed that he had been commuting by the 05:10 Asangaon Fast for the past six years and had noticed that the train always slowed down just before the train entered Sion station and crawled at a snail's pace while passing through. The co-passenger told the man to jump out of the running train as it slowed down and that with a little bit of fleet-footedness, he would make it safely. However, knowing the man's inexperience, he added some words of caution:

"Keep running the moment you jump or you will fall. Just keep running." The man stressed on the word, ''running'' lest the man would not know the laws of motion. The train did slow down as it entered Sion station and at the prompting of his mentor, our hero jumped out of the train and started running as if he was running for the Olympics. He did not realize that he was running parallel to the train instead of running away from it. Meanwhile, the train slowed down further, so the man started running faster than the train. In the process, he reached the door of the next compartment and the foot-board commuters there pulled him in thinking he was trying to board the train!!

To his agony, the train picked up speed and sped past Sion station and his new co-passengers started to congratulate him on how lucky he had been, until he told them that they had actually undone what he had done with great difficulty. Those standing at the door of his 'ex-compartment' had witnessed the whole drama and just couldn't stop laughing at the poor man's situation, while he grinned sheepishly!!! I just couldn't control my laugh because I was standing at the platform parallel to the platform where the whole drama unfolded.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The 4:30 Ladies Special

It has been months since I posted something under the label of 'Commuter Tales'. My sister was telling me to delete all the tales because she did not find them interesting enough. I told fine, not a problem and promised to be a little more observant and update this section as and when something interesting comes up.

On Friday, I observed that the BEST has now introduced a few exclusive 'Ladies Special' buses from Wadala to Marol. Since the stop for this Ladies Special happens to be at the place where I board my bus to come home from college, I couldn't help laughing. The route number of the bus is 22 Ltd. and it goes on towards the western suburbs. It had a board saying that the bus was a 'Ladies Special' along with the number and destination.

It so happened that a man with an umbrella ran to catch the bus and heaved a sigh of relief when he got in. It was after much elbowing, pushing and swearing that he got in only to be told calmly by the conductor to alight as the bus was a ladies special. It was such a hilarious sight and what made me really laugh was the fact that the man did some brave stints in order to catch the bus in motion only to be told to disembark. I had to do an encore and get down from a running bus.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Pulling our legspace

A lot of furore has been created over Mr. Shashi Tharoor's ''cattle class'' remark on Twitter. The furore created made me wonder do those strange people who usually travel in business class--but may not be travelling in this category for a while now--really think that the people who fly economy are angry by a wisecracking Minister of State with trendy sideburns calling economy class 'cattle class? The poor dearies must be so sweet--and silly--to think that us cattle classers would mind.

Heck, that's what all those people travelling in economy class call economy class: cattle class. To think that those travelling within the relatively crammed confines of an economy class ticket (and the 'cramminess' of the confines does depend on the airline one is flying) have no idea of the relative luxury of flying business class is to be downright patriotism.

Mr. Shashi Tharoor responded to a question by a certain Kanchan Gupta on his Twitter page that read, "Tell us minister, the next time you travel to Kerala, will it be cattle class?" Perhaps, being a career diplomat Mr. Tharoor should have answered, "Absolutely, I will out of solidarity with all our holy cows" instead of repeating the questioner's term, 'cattle class' . But one thing is certain. Mr. Tharoor's colleagues, if not his superiors, don't know a witticism sitting in the aisle seat and another in the window seat.

Dalits shot down Mahatma Gandhi's term, "Harijan" as they considered it too patronising--as if they needed to be taken special care of. They preferred the term 'Dalit' or 'oppressed', for themselves. So, my dear sweeties, don't fret about calling economy class 'cattle class' because that's what we call it ourselves.

Movie Review: Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi

Some things can never change and never will. One may have a very modern outlook towards life, but most of us continue to be very traditional at heart. Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi is rich in emotions and mirrors the traditions and culture with utmost simplicity and understanding. Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi is a simple story of sacrifice that aims at pulling your heart strings. Every Rajshri film works because of the storyline and strong emotions and so, Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi follows the tradition.

Of course, a story like this one in this film may seem regressive to the multiplex audiences of metros, but the fact remains that cinema is all about narrating stories and Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi has a strong story to tell. Besides, there are ample moments in this film that strike a chord that touch the core of your heart that make you moist-eyed.

Chandni (Isha Koppikar) belongs to a middle class family, living in one of the tiny bylanes of Bhopal. She lives with her father and younger siblings--Anuj and Sandhya. Chandni, who is deeply attached to her school-going brother and sister, is trained in classical and folk music. During a stage performance, she falls in love with Prem (Sonu Sood). Prem hails from a rich family which promotes business.

Life is picture-perfect, until on the day of their engagement, Chandni's father (Alok Nath) passes away. Suddenly, she becomes the eldest in her family. One one hand, her mehendi adorned hands beckon her to the dream home of her fiance. On the other hand are her younger siblings whom she cannot take along. Chandni decides not to marry, so that she can raise her little brother and sister with self-respect. Prem understands her and waits for her for twelve long years, until she fulfills all the responsibilities as an elder sister.

Debutant director Kaushik Ghatak remains faithful to the story and most importantly, captures the sensitive moments well. The tale of sacrifice has been witnessed time and again, but it works only if the characters make you cry, even weep. In the latter part of Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi, you just cannot stop tears rolling down your cheeks at several points in the story, specially in the Raksha Bandhan sequence and towards the end, when the brother returns with his wife.

Both Sonu Sood and Isha Koppikar vie for top honours. Sonu is restrained, mature and acts his part well. Isha is first-rate, exuding simplicity and strength that her character demands. Alok Nath is good and ditto for Vallabh Vyas and Smita Jayakar. Vishal Malhotra springs a surprise by being excellent. Chhavi Mittal is effective as the sister-in-law.

On the whole, Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi is akin to a delicious Indian thali in times of pastas and pizzas. You may opt for international cuisine at times, but Indian food, for an Indian at heart, would never go out of vogue. Hence, on the ratings scale between 1 to 5, I'd rate this movie with a three-and-a-half which means a good movie.

Movie Review: The Bong Connection

The word "Bong" maybe politically incorrect slang for all things Bengali, in "The Bong Connection", the writer and director Anjan Dutta brews self-irony into a watchable, good-humoured satire. In two alternating stories, a young Indian musician from New York Andy Sen (Shayan Munshi) returns to Kolkata, while an ambitious young computer engineer Arpan Chatterjee (Parambrata Chatterjee) seizes his chance to take a big job in Houston.

The film says a lot about the new generation of Indians caught between their culture and pressure to work abroad. However, it takes Anjan Dutt a while to find his balance between dramatic narrative and broad comedy. Apu takes leave of his family and girlfriend Sheila (Raima Sen) and heads for the greener pastures of Texas. Sheila makes it clear that she prefers the young Kolkata, and they part on an uncertain note.

Meanwhile, Andy visits India for the first time and is welcomed into his grandfather's rambling old home. In contrast to Apu's comic fumbling in Texas as he tries to adapt to muggings, gay roommates and a high-pressure white-collar job, Andy takes the reverse journey of struggling to find a way to work and express himself artistically in a charming but opportunity-challenged old world. He falls for Sheila.

Traditional-minded Apu meets and resists flighty Indian rich girl Rita (Piya Rai Chaudhary), despite the best efforts of her family to marry them off. This peek into Indian expat life has a ring of truth to it, reaching the painful conclusion that despite their money and success, these immigrants still feel like "second-class Americans". More fiction than fact, on the other hand, is Apu's taxi-driver and friend Hassan (Shauvik Kundagrami), a hyper Bengali from Bangladesh who talks like a bad television movie and, lamentably, is scripted into an absurdly trite shootout with the Texas police, Shauvik earns points anyway for a rocking perf.

The young cast brings life and personality, topped by Shayan Munshi's romantic charm and a strong screen presences and by Chatterjee's confused but principled corporate player. It is particularly interesting to hear Shreya Ghoshal and Shaan attempt Bengali songs. The wild visual contrast between Houston and Kolkata is played up in Indranil Mukherjee's confident cinematography. The editor Moniak Bhowmick performs an outstanding balancing act in smoothly alternating the two stories, avoiding the usual feeling of channel-flipping. Neel Dutt is credited with the movie's highly-enjoyable modern fusion sound, which subtly recaps the theme of the old vs. new culture clash. On the ratings scale, four out of five.

My First Teacher

Memories of some people are etched in our minds and stay with us forever. Even after years, certain memories remain fresh and it feels as if the things happened just yesterday. I was in the first grade when we had a fair and an extraordinarily sweet teacher named Kiran Rane.

This happened during the lunch break. Since I was in a convent school that time, prayers used to be compulsory before eating. Hence my teacher recited the prayer, "God is good, God is great. Let us thank him for our food." After the prayers, we settled down to have our lunch. I remember it was bittergourds in a cream coloured, oval plastic tiffin box. It had a small partition so that the chapatis wouldn't soak up the liquid from the curry.

I hadn't started hating bittergourds back then. Now, I end up throwing up if I just whiff the smell of bittergourds. Suddenly, one of my classmates discovered a lizard under my desk. He made a loud announcement with all the gusto that could have put Archimedes, the Greek mathematician to shame.

The curious lot of sixty four year olds rushed to my desk to have a good look at the creature. Amidst all the confusion, my lunch box toppled over and its contents spilled on to the floor. The kids were just too busy discussing the colour, the tail and the eyes of the lizard to notice this. I had eyes only for the ugly and tasteless bittergourd curry that was now on the floor. I don't remember if I cried but I remember feeling miserable, lonely and lost, as all the pupils returned to their desks and the creature retreated, fearing its life at the hands of these little devils.

Everyone had now settled in their own seat. My teacher noticed my sad and lost expression. She stroked my back and asked me if something was wrong. When I told her that I'd not eaten, she made me sit on her chair and ordered a steamed idli for me. I was happy for the deep concern and attention. I also remember when it rained heavily, she dropped me home in an auto.

In my later years, I lost touch with Ms. Kiran Rane as she left the school within a year. So far, I've had bitter-sweet experiences with my teachers. The pre-requisite for teaching at any level is not a degree or a diploma in teaching but lots of love for students just like my Kiran teacher had.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Friends Forever

Of the countless books I have read on the evolution of man, I've observed that most of them have agreed to the fact that 'Man is a social animal' . A need for love, affialiation and affection are the primary emotions that everyone craves for. Friends are undoubtedly a major part of one's social sphere. Strange enough the large spectrum of people we call friends are again categorised, like school friends, college friends, train friends, childhood friends etc.

What amazes me is that with each relationship we get a package of emotions attached ranging from love to hate. I had some amazing friends in my world who made my life worth living. Some friends act as your strength in difficult times, some are fun to hang out with while there are some who even treat you like use-and-throw tissues. Some even worse, who are possessive about you. It is with our friends that we let ourselves loose and take the plunge to reach higher heights of freedom.

Let it be a childish attempt at a gate-crashing at a wedding or enjoying an adrenaline pumped night at the night club or just driving through the city post midnight. Our life is filled with memories which make it cherishable and appreciative. But as they say, each coin has two sides, with happiness also accompanies the pain. There are many who have lost their close friends or have been backstabbed. Some are difficult to keep a track of as years roll by.

Friendship surely doesn't need words to cement it but gestures. I am thankful to all my buddies who encouraged me to keep writing.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A Tribute To Google


I was in the middle of a fight. My mother and I couldn't agree on who was Shahrukh Khan's first co-star? Was it Kajol or Juhi Chawla? "Google it," my sister intervened. Google led to the answer that it was neither of them but the late. Divya Bharati.

Yesterday, I couldn't remember how singer Sadhana Sargam looked like. "Google her," my friend told me. Even when I'd lost the recipe for Anjum Anand's steamed spinach and rice dumplings, my cooking buddy's answer to my question was simple, "Google it".

Two words. It's become as simple as that to find an answer to most of life's questions. Hit Google and you'll know the answer to everything under the sun. You could find out, for example, whether there is life after death, or why the sky is blue. Or Asin's age or even why your boyfriend is mean to you.

Google has answers to 'everything'. You don't need to go to a shrink anymore; the search engine can provide you with the most insane as well as the best advice anyone's ever given. Some even went on to believe that Google is the closest thing to God. In fact, there's even a Church of Google that believes that Google is omnipresent and therefore can be scientifically verified. It's true, Google thrives on the absurd.

Don't get me wrong. I love Google. In fact, I don't think could survive without it. But it has taken the fun out of a fight and the anger out of an argument. There is no scope for speculation any more--Google has ruined all my chances of being right on a bluff. Which makes me wonder how we ever made it without search engines, or, for that matter, even the Internet.

While it's only been eleven years since we've had Google, it's the big 4-oh for the Internet this year. Four decades of virtual knowledge that have changed the way we remember, forever. While it has tamed my enthusiasm to memorise everything, it has given me the ability to know about all things I love. I don't think, at 17, my mother could rattle off answers to how to groom a horse, or which the best headphones are, or what hedge funds are--all in one breath.

I am fairly certain my grandmother never even imagined that I could bump into my third-grade English teacher or I could be taught to make payasam or adopt a black sheep in Farmville without human intervention. The truth is, I cannot live without the search engine. Google has helped me grow as a person. Plus, it's the only reason I don't mind sitting on the laptop the whole day without getting up.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Movie Review: Nandanam

With the release of a healthy family movie like Nandanam, one gets a feeling that hopefully Malayalam films are slowly coming back to the old footage. Nandanam is one such movie that seals that feeling, it is a simple love story bordered on fantasy but handled really well by director Ranjith.

The story revolves around the young Balamani (Navya Nair) an orphan who comes to Guruvayur to work as a servant maid in a big 'tharavadu' (ancestral house) near the Guruvayur temple. All she yearns is for a 'darshan' of Lord Krishna. But some how she never makes it to the temple, although she could daily hear the sound of the poojas, bhajans and the crowd from the temple while doing her chores. She shares her sorrows and worries with the picture of the idol kept in her room. Her employer is an old lady Unniamma (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) and besides her, three other old ladies live in the house.

Balamani has a dream of marrying a man of high stature. She feels this is what her Lord has in store for her and she starts believing in her dream. Likewise, when Unniamma's only grandson Manu (Prithviraj) arrives to spend a few days with his grandmother before going abroad to pursue his studies. Balamani realises that he is the man of her dreams. Both of them are drawn towards each other and soon fall in love despite Balamani's reservations about their difference in status. Unfortunately, their happiness does not last long as Thangam (Revathy), Manu's mom fixes his wedding with her friend's daughter and it is too late when Manu confesses his love to his mom.

Manu and Balamani decide to part ways not to hurt his mother's feelings. Balamani finds it really difficult to forget her dream and strives hard to hide her grief. But there is this man Unni (Aravindan) living next door who understands her feelings for Manu and constantly assures her that miracles do happen and dreams are achievable.

The simple story has been deftly handled. The director takes us on an emotional journey through the mind of the young Balamani who is in love, her insecurities, hurt, rejection, faith and happiness that anybody can relate to. It is a positive change from the super-human characters and loud dialogues that we commonly see in movis these days. The cast has given their best. The lead pair gives a wonderful performance. Debutant Prithviraj as Manu and especially Navya as the lively and young Balamani is excellent. Revathy and Kaviyoor Ponnamma as the mother and the grandmother are a delight. Jagathy Sreekumar as the fake 'Sanyasi' is hilarious.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Detractors

No matter how hard you might work, and how high you may climb, you will always find people nipping at your feet, trying to pull you down once you've reached an enviable height. Vultures flock to the wounded and dying, but humans prey on the powerful and thriving, hungrily trying to drain each other of our glory. Whether you're merely a spectator, privy to the scheming and plotting produced by a bitter bunch, or an honest victim of planted rumours and deliberated damage designed against you, we have all encountered with stark realities, the demonic detractors.

Of these detractors there are many strains and varieties. There are those who breed contempt for you openly, making their feelings and intentions towards you all too clear. They will wait for any opportunity to jump at your vulnerability, and they will gloat at your failures as if it meant that their own success were only moments away. Then there are the ones who straddle the fence with you, staying close enough to have access to your life, while simultaneously chipping at your foundation from the outside, hoping to make you crumble.

Finally, you'll find the traitors, nestled closely to you, completely unsuspecting, supposedly supportive of you silently and sinisterly maligning ans aligning every piece of ammunition they have against you, hoping for that one fateful day when the bomb will drop. Even if you don't think you have detractors and energy suckers, imagine what it would be like it to have an army of people working against you. Why would anyone feel happy for one man's failure? When you are someone important and have power, your worth is measured by how much someone else can gain from you.

If you're a public figure, not only is your life put up for scrutiny, but your efforts, earnings, sucesses and failures are monitored obsessively by those waiting for you to stumble. It is in our nature to want what we can't have, but at some point you have to ask yourself, at what cost? As we evolved and developed a competitive spirit, we forgot to wire in some humanity. Green with envy and jealousy a jaundiced yellow; we don't feel like we're getting anywhere until someone else is floundering. I know why detractors exist. I just don't agree with their agenda.

We are a country that roots for and supports unequivocally the underdog. In the underdog, we see ourselves; struggling to be understood, eager to be appreciated. We've convinced ourselves that we've generally had it harder than most, and so bask of glory can only be warmer. We are God-fearing, and superstitious. We have proven that there's not a whole lot we won't do for success, and we have more drive and horse power than most nations put together. When people complain about the filth in India, the corruption and the inefficiency, they forget that the country was built and continues to develop on the strength amd resilience of the self made man.

The proud examples people from small towns can attest to, the successful cricketer who was raised by the village and now travels the world, the chess champion who had to struggle to find his support structure, the young enterpreneur who dreamt big out of a tiny garage, the entertainer who stoically played to a shifty, meek audience before making it big, they have the same perseverance we possess, and if they can make something of themselves, so can we.

So to all the detractors and haters out there, focus your thoughts and energies not on others but on yourself. Don't worry about pulling someone else down to make it to the top. Climb steadily and confidently and try to remain an honest person. Don't cheat by looking at someone else's answer, try coming up with your own solution. There's plenty of room at the top, but you'll enjoy it if you know you got there the right way.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Claim Your Birthweek

Well, I'm not shamelessly gleeful on my birthday. I am literally not denying it. In fact, no one who knows me closely would let me accept the fact, that I am the "hey-it's-my-birthday" kind of boy. Case to point: I haven't celebrated a single birthday since I was eight except for my fourteenth birthday. Instead, I celebrated my birthweek. It's true, we celebrated so much that my friends and I had to coin a term for the mass extragavanza. It was almost like a carnival or a festival, except it was a birthweek!!

Yes, I'm rather shameless, but I'm not as obnoxious as the concept of birthweek makes me sound (I hope). I love birthdays, in general, not just my own. All holidays and celebrations are wonderful, however, a birthday is the one day a year that is for you alone. It's a beautiful thing to take that time to show people what they mean to you. I often get wildly caught up in the birthdays of people close to me. I'm the type of person who likes to plan an entire day of special surprises. I hate planning parties, making cards, wrapping presents, and all those wonderful things. Everyone deserves that one really special day of ther own.

As for the birthweek, the plan did not start out like that. Last minute, I had decided to have a birthday party. But half my friends couldn't make it on the planned date, so that's when I decided to have two small parties, one week apart, rather than one large party. That's where the trouble started! With my actual birthday being right in between two parties, we started to joke about the term birthweek, wthout realising how true it was soon going to end up!!

After a fantastic party in Chembur the first Saturday, two guys I know who are professional gourmet chefs at a restaurant near my house, invited me for dinner. As a special birthday treat, a not-on-the-menu six course meal for three of my friends and me. On my actual birthday, I spent the evening with my parents and we went out for a lovely Kerala dinner.

By then, it had all become a big joke and some of my friends got into the festivity of it all with me; we spent the rest of the week doing all silly things like wearing kurta-pyjamas when we went out, eating ridiculously large, glittery cupcakes, having sleepovers when we were children and eating chocolate for breakfast. All in the name of birthweek!! Finally on Saturday, we had a huge birthday night, wreaking havoc in my tiny flat. I really must have had the best friends. It was fantastic fun and I recommend it to everyone. Claim your birthweek!!

Birthday Insights

"What kind of birthday person are you?" It's a simple question which surprisingly not many have an answer for. Let me explain. I am simply asking you to describe the kind of person you become at these times-- 1) a week before your birthday 2) the eve before your birthday 3) and most importantly, on the day of your birthday. The reason: it's strange, but I do believe that people do have a certain hidden "birthday personality".

There are many kinds... excited, sad, confused and all those in denial !! It's almost like figuring out what kind of 'drunk' your friends are! Not to sound rude but don't we all know which person in the group is likely to pass out after a night of hardcore partying or the one that will weep throughout the evening about issues you've never heard of... it's crucial information admit it!! It can make or break an evening of fun!

In a similar sense, it's very important to understand what kind of 'birthday person' your friends and family are, mainly because it will allow you to make their birthday and what they want it to be. For example, if it's an excited, 'hey-it's my birthday' kind be warned... you'd better be ready with well thought out birthday plans and gifts, because you will completely ruin their mood if it's not up to their expectations.

If they're the confused kind... then be warned even more... because you will feel like you're being dragged down with a mountain, with just your socks for protection....aarrrgghhh... The easiest lot to deal with are those in denial (who wants to be a year older is their theory)... so even if you forget their birthday... they won't be upset !!

I'm celebrating my seventeenth birthday on Thursday and I am the one who lives in the denial kind of personality. I'm super-excited but I'll never do something for myself. However, I do not even expect people to do something I love to do and surprise me with it. BUT, I won't ever give them even a little hint of what I want (except writing about it on a blog in an Internet portal...hmmm) and then I'll really feel bad and let down if nothing happens. Eeeeks, that sounds scary.

Anyways, I've got four days more to go for my seventeenth birthday and (hopefully, someone's planned something for me... hint, hint)! As of now, I have no plans in particular... just being me around with people who love being with me!!

So Special

Birthdays are probably never more special than when one is a child, when, as kids sa, with a wonderful zeal that it's their "Happy Birthday"! Happiness is co-joined to the idea that the day is special to them, or rather that each child is special on his or her birthday. Each child becomes a small shining star around whom friends mill, loaded with presents and adults pamper with extra indulgence.

Children also add with great satisfaction, a new and full number to their age: no longer 'six-and-a-half' but seven and so on. Parents too have a special relationshp to their child's birthday--besides obvious joy. Each passing birthday brings home the realisation that they have created the gift of life together, subtly enhancing their bonding: the parents' relationship as a couple.

Of course, there are single parents, warring parents, unwanted children and the deprived, to whom each birthday maybe more a remainder of conflict than joy.

However, when I my neighbour Ashita on her son Aryaveer's birthday, an otherwise calm woman, looking harassed, I asked why. It was her son's birthday but the birthday planner had taken ill. A reception hall for the children to play in was booked. Decorations, games and entertainers were installed but the final flourish was still not in place.

This made me realize that this is truly the age of commercialisation and made me think of the phenomenon of children's birthdays as a market commodity. From on-call tattoo artists and DJs to booking pools at five star hotels for the day at nearby resorts, kiddies celebration is a big business. The high-end is often incredibly loud and vulgar and even middle and low-end parties seem to emphasise consumerist fantasies over the idea of cherishing life.

So, I thought how much more meaningful a child's birthday might be if parents decide to spend of the money on educating deprived children. But then, I'm perhaps wishing for a truly happy birthday.