Showing posts from 2010

A Resolve against Resolutions

Happy New Year!! It is that time of the year when we spend hours deciding the factual lies we are going to say to ourselves, family members, friends and basically to anyone who cares to listen to the ineffectual lies we generally end up saying at the start of a new year. It's that time when we resolve to make promises, we haven't a hope in hell of being able to keep. Statements such as "I'll lose weight", "I'll put on weight", "I'll not make people wait", "I'll join Alcoholics Anonymous", "I'll stop feeling sorry for myself" etc!

I'm sure you must have realized that I'm talking about the infamous "New Year Resolutions!" All of us make them, break them a few days into the new year. Well, I say, if we have to break them more like an obligation, then why make them in the first place? I can proudly proclaim that I have achieved that very few individuals to have survived on this planet, since tim…

Silence as sedition

A true measure of being democratic is not the cycles of elections--it is the dignity given to disagreement, to dissent. Why must we dignify dissent? There are the arguments that we hear everyday: so that the views of the majority cannot silence the voices of a few; so that no one can view or institution may become so dominant as to become authoritarian; and the value of freedom of speech and expression in and of themselves. Any memory of the Indian Emergency in 1975-77 is testimony to why any of these are important. Yet there is a more fundamental reason why dissent is the cornerstone of a democracy: it is the action of a free citizen.

Speech is an action. An action within a democratic framework--an action that simultaneously shows a continuous faith in the polity, the State and the people even as one (often virulently) disagrees with it. An action that keeps a democratic system alive. You dissent as a citizen, in the name of the Constitution. You dissent because you have the freedom t…

The Scamsters Dictionary

Between A. Raja and Niira Radia, the tapes and the taps, the Tata and the Chandrashekhar, it's become terribly confusing trying to figure out who has done what and when and to whom. It's almost like one of those kids' birthday party games where you try and pin the tail on the donkey while blindfolded. Competitive politics has made it tougher to figure out head from tail.

The reason everyone is totally confused is because the totals are so mind-boggling: Rs. 1.39 trillion is the figure being bandied about and anybody who had that kind of financial spectrum would be giggling hysterically all the way to the nearest bank in Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

It may have been a steep learning curve for someone but it has also been a steep learning curve for the rest of us, trying to figure all those arcane acronyms being bandied about. Try asking the Congress members what the 2G spectrum controversy is all about, most of them will draw a blank expression. They have been conditioned to b…

The Santa Cause

"You better watch, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town!"

The lyrics of a popular Christmas carol act as a time machine transporting many of us to the days when we were young, innocent, lucky and naive enough to believe in the existence of a jolly plump fellow dressed up in a red and white suit, a snowy flowing beard, who went "ho ho ho" and called himself Santa Claus!! As children, most of us have believed in the legend of Santa Claus who lives in the North Pole toils away all year long to fly on his reindeer hauled by the red-nosed Rudolph, who climbs down our chimneys and brings us our Christmas presents!

As we grow older, cynical, too over smart for our own good and lose the innocence we once possessed, we ask the eternal and perennial question which ends up marking the demise of childhood! "Is there really a Santa Claus"? We end up googling his origins like I just did and find out that the basis fo…

Santa Clauses

Santa's bag is again full of baddies. The so-called festive season kicks off with the news of more kickbacks and the hopeless wait for the promise of "tidings of great joy, peace on earth and goodwill towards all men". Women, as ironic as it may sound, never entered the beatific picture. This, despite the fact that it's the women force who now reign over us and the Christmas imagery. Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj, like the Biblical shepherds, are watching over their respective flocks by blight and the bright star in the east is undoubtedly Mamata Banerjee.

There is also the Radia-nt star who has been raining fire on all television news channels over these past few weeks, sucking her entire phone book into a black hole. So, let's begin with Niira Radia in our 2010 edition of updated Christmas carols:

Niira, the red-faced Radia,
Had a very itchy phone,
And if it ever scratched you,
You would never think you'd moan.
All the other lobbyists
Used to turn a shade of gre…

Lessons from Mediagate

Many people have asked me in the recent on what are the lessons we need to learn from the recent 2G Spectrum telecom scam and the recent Mediagate. Here is my quick take. An ordinary take? Perhaps...

Firstly, there are no good guys left in politics. Most rob, loot, extort and steal. A few stand by and watch, doing nothing to stop them. If you unfortunately have some favourite politicians which most of us don't, you can check out which category they fall in. The chances of them falling into either of these two aforementioned categories are 100 percent. If you want to know the truth about any scam, keep digging. There is no limit to venality here. No man is a thief alone. All thieves have family, friends, friend, associates, girlfriends and of course, bosses. Everyone of them makes money as they go along. That's what politics is all about: Joint Ventures.

There is nothing you cannot get done here. Anything is possible at the right price, if you have hired the right broker. It does…

The New Guerillas of News

Everything was going fine, just fine. And then suddenly, in the midst of a warm season of 9% GDP growth and a sizzling sensex, when India was the toast of the world, came the shocking Niira Radia tapes and all hell broke loose. No, it's not that one knew about the telecom scam or how vast sums of money had been looted. But till the first stone was cast, no one in the media wanted to pick it up. No one wanted to risk the wrath of the Government and the corporate sector, both prominent players in this ugly scam as well as important stakeholders in the media.

WikiLeaks is the same story. Much of what has emerged till now was known to everyone, including the fact that the US foreign policy has many faces, not all of them very pleasant, as they present it to be, till Julian Assange took the daring step of putting millions of classified cables on the Internet for everyone to see the sheer impact of lies and chicanery that go into it was never that obvious. The next lot of posts, one hear…

Decoding the Radia tapes and other leaks

Are you confused with the hullaballoo surrounding the recent Niira Radia affair? To help you meet this challenge of our times, my activity partners prepared a few questions. Pick your answers from the multiple choices on offer and SMS them to Wikipedia. (Yes, it's bound to leak to the most important people you want to reach).

1): Who is a lobbyist?
a: She/he is a PR person
b: What's a PR person?
c: Ask Niira Radia.

2): Why does Niira spell her name with two "I"s?
a: She is superstitious
b: She is obsessed with I
c: She cannot spell

3): Why did Niira come to India?
a: To star in a film made by A. Raja titled "Radia--The Fearless"
b: To see the Taj by torchlight
c: To learn making phone calls in Tamil

4): What are Niira's hobbies?
a: Embroidery--of facts and things
b: Collecting stamps--and VIPs
c: Golf--thinking her phones can't be tapped outdoor

5): What do we know about A. Raja?
a: He is not a Raja
b: He doesn't want to be a Raja
c: He wants to be a Maharaja

6): W…

Not a wicked leak

The Outlook magazine has decided to put the mp3 audio files of phone conversations of Niira Radia on its website. For more than a week, any one has been free to download these files and listen to hundreds of conversations between Niira Radia and prominent journalists, politicians and top bureaucrats.

The conversations reveal how a British--Kenyan corporate lobbyist surviving on an Person of Indian Origin tag was trying to influence the nation's Union Cabinet formation. They reveal the amazing reach and power of this new class of "public relations" managers. They also reveal a close relationship between journalists and the subjects they cover. Such proximity is bound to affect objective news coverage. Are the tapes only an aberration, or is this the tip of an iceberg? So far nobody has completely denied the authenticity of the tapes.

Till the time of writing this, there is no court injunction to shut down the website. Simultaneously, there is a global community of voluntee…

Dangerous Liaisons

Journalism, a former editor-in-chief of the Time magazine once said, can never be silent. That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. "It must speak and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air".

At a time when the Indian media are a shining a light on some of the darkened crevices of our society, the journalism fraternity are accussed of having fallen unconsciously silent, as the fraternity suddenly finds their own dealings forced out of the shadows, as they become the story, as their faults are revealed and virtues reduced. The chances are you have either read the transcripts or heard the audio of the phone taps involving thirty journalists, including NDTV's group editor Barkha Dutt; Vir Sanghvi and the editor (languages) of the India Today group Prabhu Chawla; former managing editor Shankkar Aiyar; managing editor of The Financial Express MK Venu and The Economic Times assistant editor Gan…

India is not corrupt

Scams, scams, scams. Wherever you look, there are scams. So many in fact that people are losing faith in everything. Unless of course, you are a cynic and say, as many do, that corruption rules India with a firmer hand than any Government, you must disgusted to see how everyone in power has been looting india. A report on Global Financial Integrity last week mentioned $462 billion has been siphoned out since independence, most of it derived from corruption and kickbacks.

Now, I am the kind of person who cannot even figure out how many zeroes exist in $462 billion but it certainly looks like an astonishingly large figure. In the mid-eighties, journalists went behind Rajiv Gandhi for the Rs. 64 crore Bofors scam and even though, we knew the actual amount purloined was much more, it was never in the league of today's scams. The Commonwealth Games scam alone is approximately Rs. 70,000 crores and growing. The 2G Spectrum scam is Rs. 170,000 crore. Yes, I am learning how to count but M…


The word "inspiration" evokes so many definitions. There is inspiration to be absorbed from every individual. May it be from the way they carry themselves to the way they speak to the way they lead their lives. Some people lead very carefree, laid-back lives and some have an almost "to-hell-with-the-devil" approach to life. They face problems as they come, never stress and smile even in the face of adversity. It is an amazing trait in my opinion to see people emanating a positive side even in difficult times. Some people push their luck to the best possible limit, burn the midnight oil and personify the basic essence of "hard work".

One such story that never fails to amaze me is by the leaps and bounds of Sudha Chandran. The much-acclaimed dancer who later became an accomplished actress who had not just a humble beginning, but a very tragic one. At the age of fourteen, when most of us were riding cycles or daydreaming of making our parents proud, Sudha lo…

Movie Review: Vaaranam Aayiram

I am not a very big fan of Tamil movies since most of them defy the concept of logic. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across filmmaker Gautham Menon's Vaaranam Aayiram. In English, the title of the film means "a thousand elephants". It is an ancient verse in Tamil written by saint-poetess Andal denoting the love between her and Lord Krishna. Vaaranam Aayiram is definitely one of those few movies that have the ability to touch your heart.

The story begins with a 63 year old Krishnan (Surya Sivakumar), getting his hair trimmed at a local saloon. He dies due to throat cancer on reaching home. The news is conveyed to his son, Major Surya Krishnan (Surya Sivakumar) who is on his way on a rescue mission. Remembering his father's advice that life should go on irrespective of whatever happens, Surya decides to go ahead with his mission but he is overwhelmed by emotions.

In a flashback Surya goes down memory lane. He reflects on his metamorphosis from childhoo…

Master Dialogue

An enterprising urchin caught the attention of female commuters on a Churchgate-bound local recently when he started mouthing Bollywood dialogues each time someone to spoke to him. When a commuter asked the boy to alight, as "men" aren't allowed in the compartment, he announced, "Abhi toh mere khelne-kudne ke din hain. Bada ho jaaunga tab rok tok lagana" (These are my days to have fun. Stop me when I grow up)."

As commuters giggled, he looked around when smiled like a veteran actor. When someone threatened to report him to the authorities and warned that he could get beaten up by cops, the boy dramatically stood with one hand firmly on his waist and said, "Waise mard ko dard nahin hota (Men don't cry)."

The final gem tumbled out as the train was leaving a station and a commuter had to run some distance to catch it. Our young hero cried out, "Aise toh aadmi life mein doich time bhaagta hain. Olympic ka race ho, ya phir police ka case ho (A …


I was walking home last night on a dark night and suddenly it dawned on me that the otherwise dark lanes were brightly lit. Though most of the shops were shut owing to the time I was returning home, the trees at the end of the roads were wrapped up with string lights. My first thought to this--what's happening? Is someone getting married? I continued to walk and noticed all lanes were beautifully done and lit up. Finally, I realized it is the Deepavali week!

As a child, this was the week I used to look forward to throughout the year. Back then, it was all buying clothes, firecrackers, meeting the family and extended family, prostrating at the feet of all elders in the hope of getting Rs. 100 from them. Festivals such as Deepavali used to be the only excuses where we got opportunities to meet my extended family.

Being born in a typical Tamil Brahmin family, we had days planned for specific rituals. The first day starts with the holy oil bath meant to commemorate the triumph over evil…

Movie Review: Gandha

I have always believed that some of the country's best stories are written and are found in regional cinema. Unfortunately, most of them remain imprisoned within their geographic and linguistic boundaries, flowering and withering away unnoticed or get overshadowed by Hindi cinema. Hence, it is necessary to look beyond Hindi cinema and capture the essence of regional cinema.

The Marathi film "Gandha" (Smell) directed by Sachin Kundalkar is strong on visual detailing, the perspective in which the stories unfold, the connect you feel with its character. After Adoor Gopalakrishnan's "Naalu Pennungal", this film comes closest to having a familiar plot with an originality and path-breaking in its own sense.

Gandha encompasses three simple stories about a bride-to-be who wants to fall in love and finds herself rejecting every suitor her parents find. Until one day, she meets a man to whom she is attracted to because of the way he smells. There is a stunning episode …

In black and yellow

So much of Mumbai and its typical "isms" be discovered in those black-bodied, yellow-topped moving things. Just like India lives in its villages, some part of Mumbai definitely lives in its taxis. Savour this.
On a trip from Churchgate to CST, you ask the cabbie to turn left before Flora Fountain. But he tells you, "No, the Flora Fountain route is shorter. I have done the ARD." I wondered what ARD meant. The pace of Mumbai is such, it doesn't take long to decipher that he means R&D.
Then, another day, you are returning from a gastronomic journey to Mohammed Ali Road. And, there's this one cabbie who wants to go home. Nevertheless, he will drop you at CST first. High on kebabs and nihari, a friend gets chatting with the cabbie. Asks him if it's his girlfriend who called when his mobile rings. On being told that they are waiting for him at home, the cabbie wants to know what he will eat for dinner. "Whatever has been cooked."
When we reached…

Strangers In The Night

It was Wednesday, the thirteenth of February, which marked the eleventh anniversary of Mahesh and Divya. Since morning, Divya had been extremely busy at home so much so that she didn't even have time to pause and wipe off the perspiration from her face. Divya, dressed in a modest maroon night gown, her hair tied up like a bun, her make-up all smudged was busy ticking off items in a long list clipped on the door of the refrigerator.

By five, she had succeeded in putting some kind of order into the arrangements. Chairs, tables, napkins, flowers, they were all there on the verandah, neatly arranged. Mahesh had come home much earlier than usual and was pleasantly surprised to see the arrangements she had made for their eleventh anniversary.

It was nearing nine when Divya started laying the table for dinner. As she was laying the table, there was a sudden power cut. She rushed to the kitchen and got a packet of birthday candles lying in between the Bru coffee packets above the refrigerat…

Silently, She Cried...

Ritika Narayanan

Her shuddering frame, collapsed on the chair,
Numb, disbelieving.
She couldn't bear to see that villain
The matrimonial columns, again
Nearly all that was asked for,
She had.

Beautiful girl, from cultured family,
Well educated.

She had that and more.
Her degrees, all of five years old,
Her career, the envy of her peers,
Her demure manner,
Her practical thinking,
Her compassionate heart,
All, all reduced to the background
For the one thing she lacked.

Silently, she turned to the mirror and saw
Herself in all her dusky, Indian glory.
Yet sadly, she could not answer to the foremost requirement:

Fair, beautiful girl, from cultured family
Well educated.

A last sigh let loose,
And she became herself again.

Mumbai's Answer to Tokyo

A rush hour is generally that part of the day when traffic congestion on roads and crowding in public transport is at its highest. The rush hour in Tokyo, Japan has about 3000 passengers packed in a 10-car train and about 100,000 passengers generally transported in an hour, which makes it one of the most congested railway networks in the world.

It is a slice of Tokyo's rush hour that is played out in Thane for a few hours every morning and evening. A row of young railway policemen and women queue up along the narrow foot overbridge that lies at the Kalyan-end of Thane station, virtually splitting up the bridge into two.

As soon as a train chugs in (in the morning, trains from Kalyan and in the evenings, those arriving from CST), the policemen and women brace themselves for their task: Pushing the crowds to the exit. It made me wonder whether if these policemen knew that their task has been derived from the famed "pushers" of Tokyo's overcrowded underground railway st…

Movie Review: Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa

"Ae rehbar-e-mulq-o-qaum zara,
Aankhen na chura, nazrein toh mila
Kuch hum bhi sunein, humko bhi bata
Yeh kiska lahu hain... yeh kaun mara?"

The much acclaimed film "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa" is a narration of Sujata Chatterjee's (Jaya Bachchan) discovery of her son's Brati Chatterjee (Joy Sengupta) life. Made in the backdrop of the Naxalite uprising in West Bengal's Naxalbari, the film mostly deals with Sujata's quest for understanding her deceased son's ideologies and outlook towards life. Starting off with a mere corpse number ''1084" (which lends the film it's name), she establishes her son's identity, despite the social barriers surrounding her.

Sujata's character has been defined as a simple-minded mother whose love for her son gave her the strength to not only discover his pursuit in life, but also to find meaning in her own. Adapted from the short story of the same name by Mahaswetha Devi, Govind Nihalani's screenpl…

Kabhi Kabhie

आती हैं तेरी याद हमको कभी कभी

होती हैं ख़्वाबों में भी मुलाकात कभी कभी

कुछ अपना होश रहता हैं न दुनिया का हमें

जब होती हैं आँखों से बरसात कभी कभी

होता तो होगा तुझे हमारी चाहत का एहसास

होता तो होगा दिल भी बेताब कभी कभी

यह अलग बात हैं मुझे आदत हैं मुस्कुराने की

गुज़र जाती हैं मगर आंसुओं में रात कभी कभी

किस कम्बक्त को ज़रुरत हैं तेरी तस्वीर की?

आंसुओं से बन जाती हैं तेरी तस्वीर कभी कभी

दुनिया कहने लगेगी काफिर हमें भी

तेरे ताखौल को किया हैं सजदा कभी कभी

न पा सकी वो सुकून-इ-दिल तेरे साथ भी

जो मिल जाता हैं तेरे बाद कभी कभी

लिख तो लेता हूँ मैं हाल-इ-दिल मगर फिर भी

होती हैं लफ़्ज़ों की करनी महसूस कभी कभी

A French Toast

When two male French tourists unknowingly accompanied their two women counterparts inside the ladies' compartment of the CST bound local the previous Tuesday, an Indian woman politely pointed out to one of the white women, "Excuse me, this is ladies".

To which, the female tourist, who couldn't comprehend the statement was indirectly meant for her male friends, shot back, in heavily accented English, "But I am lady, right?" The Indian passenger then had to point towards the men who were hanging out near the door and blissfully taking in the wet landscape. "Next station, that side", she said this time, stressing on every word as if she herself were French.

Of course, it worked. While the men got off, the women stayed back, making the otherwise sluggish "slow" journey to CST quite a memorable one. For starters, they had almost every female passenger in the compartment, including the one who got rid of their friends, blushing when they start…

Driving Blues

A short fifteen minute drive in any direction will show an individual that if Mumbai's carriageways were better managed, half of Mumbai's flyovers would be unnecessary.

One badly/wrongly/double-parked tempo or taxi throws the brake on a whole line of fast-moving traffic. A garbage bin jutting out an angle, or a foot away from the sidewalk, instead of being flush with the kerbside, creates the same obstruction and gives trucks and cabs to use the "cordoned off" space as legitimate parking. A temporary BMC shed for repair or construction is soon joined by a snaking line of corrugated iron, which becames permanently long after the municipal gangs have moved out, leaving a pile of never-removed debris in their wake.

And now, they saw off monsoon-precarious branches of roadside trees and leave them to rot on the carriageway, creating a literal logjam. I am not even going to mention the potholes, because I have fallen into them a long while ago. How easy it would be to smo…

Movie Review: Oru Pennum Randaanum

Adoor Gopalakrishnan's "Oru Pennum Randaanum" is a compilation of four separate short stories, written by prominent Malayali writer Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. The film has been set in the 1940s and it succeeds in taking the viewer to those times, which we all know about from the history books, old movies and of course, from the anecdotes of those who lived then.

The stories have been titled "Kallante Makan", "Niyavum Neethiyum", "Oru Koottukaran" and "Pankiyamma". The anguish of a young kid, who has to bear the brunt of living as the son of a robber (M.R. Gopakumar), is the theme of Kallante Makan. Niyamavum Neeyathium zooms in on an old police station where two corrupt constables (played by Nedumudi Venu and Jagannathan) finds some easy ways to solve certain cases.

"Oru Koottukaran" says the story of a lawyer (Jagadeesh) who is trying to help his friend (Sudheesh), a student to get rid of his secret lover's unwante…

Sister's Day Out...

With Raksha Bandhan coming up, I thought the most natural topic for this week would be my young cousin sister Nikita Subramani! Nikita and I are seven years apart and though we don't live in the city we are perhaps even closer now that she is occupied with her studies and other things.

To begin with, we have never been very close since we meet each other annually. I'd like to believe that fate brought us closer. I remember as kids we used to fight over such silly and worthless issues like Bombay v/s Bangalore. Typically, we would meet whenever there were outings or family functions and I would make sure that I pampered and troubled her thoroughly and her group of friends!

Eventually, we started growing more and more distant but it was Nikita who first took the initiative of calling me up every weekend. She has always been a great sister and a huge support structure to fall back on. I have always been exacting and have high standards that I judge myself and it's Nikita who al…

Be A Freedom Fighter

"It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you." Any person who has lived through the traumatic two years between 1975 and 1977, when the Indian Emergency was imposed by the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi will mention this point.

Today, as we celebrate our sixty-third year of Independence, something occured to me. Most of us have no clue what it means to not be independent. We were born free and have always been fortunate enough to take it for granted. We don't know what it's like to live with tyranny and we've never felt the frustration and despair that comes attached with it.

In school and my junior college years, I had the opportunity to study history. I wasn't the topper or anything of the sort but I was pretty interested in the subject. I remember the way I used to feel when I read about the struggle for independence from the British Raj. The laws and taxes imposed by the British in our country were nothing sh…

Left, right or centre?

You are full of questions in a distant land. But one question that haunts you in the first few days in a new place is 'right or left?' No, it's not about your political leanings.

It is a simple question that a cabbie might ask you once he senses that you are new to the place and wants to test his instinct by asking if he needs to turn right or left to reach your destination. You would try and say, "take the shortest possible route", confirming the taxiwallahs doubts and making his day.

My sister made an interesting observation about how to tackle this question. "When a taxiwallah in Bombay asks 'left or right', always choose the left," she advised.

You've Got To Find What You Love

Steven Paul Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computers, delivered this commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University, USA.

Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots. I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months before I really called it quits. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms. I returned Coke bottles for the 5 cents deposits to buy food with, and I would walk seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Here's one exa…

Movie Review: Devdas

Melancholy reigns supreme in "Devdas", a heartrending story of lover committed to self-destruction, a story penned by legendary Bengali writer Saratchandra Chatterjee and given the shape of an all-time classic by a master filmmaker Bimal Roy. The timeless Saratchandra Chatterjee novel has been treated impeccably by Bimal Roy in this 1955 movie that starred Dilip Kumar, Suchithra Sen, Vyjayanthimala and Motilal. Devdas is a film that grows on you and ultimately leaves you devastated by the tragic end of the protagonist.

Devdas is a moving tale that revolves around three characters: Devdas (Dilip Kumar), Paro (Suchithra Sen) who are childhood sweethearts and grow up together in Tal Sonapur, a village in West Bengal. Their association assumes the form of love when they become adults but Devdas faces opposition from his father, who rejects their marriage proposal since Devdas belongs to the higher caste zamindars. Paro is married off to a man who is twice her age with a grown up …