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Friday, December 12, 2008

Sometimes...

I wish I hadn’t been born a girl. Girls are crazy, you know? Selfish, self-centered, calculating, catty and generally impossibly complex beings. Oh, we have some good qualities as well – we love like crazy, always have more to give, can weather many a storm that would leave a guy battered and so on. But still….

From the cartoon strip ‘Hagar the horrible’

Hagar the horrible comes upon a beautiful damsel tethered to a post.
He asks “Excuse me, but aren’t you a damsel in distress?”
“Yes”, she answers.
“Would you like to be rescued?” he asks.
‘Yes,” she replies, “but only by a handsome and young knight in shining armor from a really good family”
Hagar walks away perplexed - “Damsels in distress are getting more picky every day”

I’m reading ’10 stupid things men do to mess up their lives’ by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Read More......

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book review - Marley and Me.

Sigh. I love animals. Especially dogs. Especially golden labradors. When Marley looked at me at the library from outta the book's cover, I had to know his story. That was how I ended up picking up 'Marley and Me - life and love with the world's worst dog' by John Grogan from the shelf. Seriously, how can anyone resist that 'tilted-head' look!

The book is an biographical account of a young couple - John and Jenny - as they start out on married life. Extremely terrified about starting a family, they decide to first try to bring up a dog, and in comes the first addition to the family - Marley – a male golden yellow labrador retriever. From the beginning, Marley proves to be a handful. He is a compulsive chewer of things – eats everything and I mean that. To Marley, things large enough to get into his mouth are breakfast, lunch or dinner.

He grows up to be full of energy (which he takes out on every person in his path), terrified of thunderstorms and with a serious obedience problem that leaves his owners in despair. After three children, two moves and a movie, Marley is still with them. But, the signs of old age soon set in. Arthritis, infections, poor eyesight and a scary close call later, the family faces a day when Marley can no longer hold on.

The book takes us from right from how they picked out Marley to when they buried him and moved on with their lives. But the book is not just about the fun times and Marley's antics. It is about all the things that life throws at us – the joy and pain in work, marriage, children, moving, finding dreams and everything else. And about how a crazy dog called Marley crawled into their hearts and stayed through all that.

Through their short life spans, our pets help us to understand life. As we watch them at various stages – play, love, fear, family, old age- we realize that things happen at a higher pace to our beloved animals. Their lives are on fast-forward mode. At the end, I think they make us better people – more loving, caring, accepting of faults and help us adjust to the inevitabilities of life - which to humans are the same as to any other animal. Read More......

Friday, October 31, 2008

Book review: To sir, with love.

Everyone faces problems. How would you like to read the story of an individual who faced some problems? Someone just like you and I – a struggle to find a job, facing a hostile environment, braving on through tough times and finally gaining acceptance. A simple story told in a straightforward and descriptive manner yet, different enough to be made into a movie. Pick up a copy of the semiautobiographical 'To sir with love' by E.R. Braithwaite.

A young black man – Rick Braithwaite returns to civilian life after the war. With the end of the war, the admiration that he had received as an RAF pilot, suddenly ceases. In his ordinary suit, he returns to be a black man on the streets of London looking for a job. Discrimination and racism do not exist – only on paper. He is unable to find a job because his skin colour and his high qualifications don't go together. He finally takes up a job as a teacher in an East London school.

Predominantly white but significantly poor - the children at the school are the kind whom circumstances have forced to grow up too early. Poverty, lack of role models, living in squalor - hey don't have much to look forward to. Braithwaite faces his first class who eye him with complete hostility. A bunch of boys and girls in their last year at school, they will be out in the world earning their living after this. Nearly adults, not mere children.

Pranks, indiscipline, rudeness – the youngsters leave no stone unturned to make their new teacher uncomfortable. After stumbling at the initial blocks, Braithwaite's patience and a demand of higher standards from his students works out well to change their attitude. The change he brings about amazes his fellow teachers. Among the children and their families - 'Sir' becomes much admired and trusted.

Our teachers become our second parents – considering the amount of time they spend with us. There is always some teacher we remember years later – who did more than teach and who moulded us by being someone we could look up to in that impressionable age. The story was made into an unforgettable movie starring Sidney Poitier. Even compared to that, I think the book is better.

*****First published in Bodheverse - October 2008 issue. ***** Read More......

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What he does in play...

He sometimes picks me up without warning
And shakes me up pretending I'm a snow globe
Then sets me aside and watches, perhaps, amused
The uprising of emotions and the turmoil inside
I wish he'd let me be and not stir up the white stuff
It blinds me for some time, those feelings all around
And when things settle they are not where they were
And I'm left trying to find my self all over again.

 

Read More......

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A moment to remember

A handful of roses

            Half blooming buds

Held between

            Two hearts caught

In an illusion

 

Rapt eyes unaware of

            Any other presence

Or possibilities

            Gaze into each other,

Making up meanings.    

 

Their soft eager tones

            Holding many promises

Completes the spell.

           

A moment’s glance frozen 

To give reason and hope

To more hearts than two.

Read More......

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Book Review: All quiet on the western front

Once in a while, you happen upon a classic. You know what it is by the worn nature of the book when you pick it up from the library's shelf. 'All quiet on the western front' is a book of that sort. Originally written in German by Erich Maria Remarque in 1929, the book is a first person account of World War I by a German Soldier-Paul Bäumer.

Paul and his friends - a bunch of German schoolboys, enlist in the army at the insistence of their school master, some doing so against their own wishes. We see the war through the eyes of these youngsters. Though filled with fine feelings of patriotism at the beginning, they find themselves systematically broken down during the harsh training. When posted at the front,they learn to rely on their instincts rather than reason to direct their actions. They learn to give in to the animal in themselves in order to survive.

Indifference becomes their way of life - the only way they find, to be able to take the horrors of war. Starvation, disease, non existence of any personal space, fear of pain, death and the morrow fills each day. Outnumbered by the enemy, they soldier on in the face of the inevitable. How would you feel if you had to march past a bunch of newly made coffins, knowing one of them was meant for you - perhaps to be used that very day?

Theirs is a generation betrayed by the previous one. No future seems to be possible after having seen so much at such a young age. Some die painful and prolonged deaths. Some lose the will to fight. Some go insane. Some are crippled. And the rest go on, the numbers of their company reducing each day.

Nations at war depend on the bravado of the soldiers at the front. Sometimes, one wonders who the real enemy is. Is it the soldier on the other side of no man's land, the leader who first decided to go to war, the commander who has to send half healed men into the battle again, the school master who first almost bullied them into believing this was their duty or the people who sit back home and feel proud of the 'young heroes'?

This is a book that will question boundaries, nationalism and patriotism by showing what they all reduce to finally. Read More......

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First Impressions - Delhi

I was at Delhi for a couple of days in August. Here are my first impressions of India’s capital city.

Delhi is a huge city and each place feels so different – the government offices – majestic in their power, the monuments and memorials - silent and mourning, the bazaars – loud, confusing and vivacious and the people - mostly unhurried.

Very little traffic and pollution

Most of the sight seeing attractions are far from each other and hence, there is very little traffic at any one point. The roads are great, so just cruise along! You can get around on the metro or bus or autos or taxis. Pollution by vehicles is kept to a minimum by the public transport that runs on CNG.

The sight-seeing

A tour of the monuments is a must - India gate, Raj Ghat, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament building, Birla Mandir, Qutb Minar, Red fort, Bahai temple (Looks beautiful from the air). The kind of intricate work on some of the older monuments leave you gaping. I also visited the doll museum that houses over 6000 dolls from all over the world representing their country's customs and ways – quite interesting to children and adults alike.

A haven for bargain shopping

Bazaars are around everywhere and you can bargain a lot in most places for clothes, electronic goods etc! So, put away your timid feelings and jump into a heated discussion - more often than not, you'll get a good deal. Check out Connaught Place, Palika Bazaar, Karol Bagh market, Sarojini Nagar Market and Chandni chowk. Each market is closed on a particular day of the week – do check before you decide your itinerary.

The weather is pretty hot. I wonder if all the gardens and parks have helped any to reduce the heat. Most places demand some walking. You'll find lemon soda stalls everywhere and it tastes a bit like heaven after a tiring walk.

Agra is just a few hours away and I am told I missed a lot by not visiting the Taj Mahal. Oh, well – there is only so much one can do in two days.

Helpful websites:

http://www.bharatonline.com/delhi/

***First published in Bodheverse September Beta Edition***

Read More......

Saturday, September 20, 2008

When the scales fall

The truth is out there,
Though obscured by high hopes and
Hidden by clouds of love and lies;
The hiding made easier by trusting eyes.

But, when I hold a tear in my eyes,
The fog clears up; I see what is.
Everything so clear and true when
Viewed through the lens of pain

Moments of healing of another kind-
Those cold fleeting moments,
When true colors flutter into view;
Trembling, with each drop's fall. Read More......

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alone

Each of us - we walk alone,
Despite all the noise around,
Solitude - the only tie binding us together.

No one really close enough,
To claim a complete hold on me,
I live with, without, due to and despite you.

Nothing to envy, prove or seek
No one really knows better than me,
All remain amateurs when chance plays the game

Given freedom to just live
Nothing does seem to matter.
All there is to do seek and sate my self. Read More......

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Writing good emails at work

These are a few things to remember while you send an email at work. This may be especially helpful to fresh graduates at their first job.

Catch the attention of the reader with your subject - The subject line is how you capture the interest of the reader first - especially when you are mailing busier people in higher ranks, make sure your subject is clear and gives a good idea about the contents and its importance.

Keep your mail short but don't leave out important details - You don't have to set the context by explaining the whole story in your email. If you reply on the same thread, anyone can see what you are talking about. Keep your mail short and precise. Don’t beat around the bush or use verbose language.

Don’t get fancy with the formatting - Use bullet points wherever possible. Highlight important points by bolding them. Use easy-to-read fonts at a readable size – Arial or Times New Roman at 10 would do nicely.

Start with a salutation and end the mail with your signature - 'Hi ABC' or ‘Dear ABC’ are both quite acceptable these days. ‘Thanks’ or ‘With Regards’ or ‘Thanks and regards’ and followed by your name. Don’t send mails with just the content. As far as possible, address your mails to a specific person. Avoid ‘Hi all’ kind of mails unless to merely inform people about something. You can also share your contact details in your email signature to avoid people searching for phone numbers.

Mark a copy to all relevant people in your team – NEVER be the only person to know about some issue/requirement. If you aren't available for the day, someone else should be able to carry on with the work. Keep the relevant people informed about your work – this may include a peer or two as well.

Follow up on important emails with a phone call - If it is important, always follow up an email with a call. This impresses the importance of the issue in the receiver’s mind as well and ensures a quicker response.

Summarize large attachments in the body of the mail – When sending attachments, keep in mind the allowed size at your and the receiver's end. Check if the correct version is attached. Always include a short description of the attachment in the mail body – this will save people’s time.

Paraphrase important phone calls in an email - Sometimes, we discuss things over the call and proceed with the work. Are you sure you understood that requirement correctly? When you send an email putting down your understanding in black and white, you are reducing the chance of errors due to misunderstanding. This is important. Friends or not - no one likes to take the blame when things start to crumble. Make sure you don't have to take the blame either.

Use keywords in your subject line - Many times it happens that you need to search for an email months after it was sent. Instead of putting all the important things in a mail just titled 'Status', send a separate email with a more relevant subject line. You can always refer to the other mail in your status mail as well.

Keep a separate paragraph at the end to mention what you expect the reader to do - If you expect someone to give you specific details after reading your mail, then mention it in the mail. Most importantly, give a deadline by which you expect the reply.

Don’t spam mailboxes - Don't send inappropriate emails or forwards to your colleagues’ official ids. If you are thick friends, it may not matter. But people generally don't like their official mail box being spammed.

No tag lines please - All the fantastic sayings that you live your life by - please don't put them on your emails. Keep emails professional. There are other forums where you can use those lines.

ALWAYS review before you press send – Use the spell check option to avoid embarrassing mistakes. Press send only after you read through the mail once however long it may be.

Use the settings provided by your mail client – There are many options like return receipt setting, rules setting, creation of .pst to move mails from the server to your local machine, marking importance in mails, usage of flags etc. USE THEM. THEY HELP.

Set an out of office message when you are on planned leave – If you are going to be on leave for some day, make sure you let people know. Setting an out of office message helps if you are being contacted urgently by someone out of the blue.

Don’t share passwords through email - Strict NO. Get it encrypted or by phone call.

Reply to e-mails promptly - Prompt replies to emails is appreciated by everyone. Penning a few quick lines does not take too much time and gives a good impression with both peers and superiors.

These are things usually acquired by experience and they become second nature with time. Experience here refers to mistakes. Learn from mine rather than making some of your own.

Read More......

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Book review: We the Living

'Ayn Rand' - We have heard criticism from some quarters and adulation from others – but the fact remains that her words have the power to make people sit up and take notice, 70 years after she first wrote them. Unlike her later and more famous works like 'Atlas shrugged' and 'Fountainhead', her first novel –'We the living' is slightly less known. A decidedly smaller book than either Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, this book may be the perfect one to start out with.

'We the living' is set in Soviet Russia in the 1920's. It is a time when the Czar's army has been overthrown by the Communist army. A new political system is being established and the country is changing dramatically. The Argounov family's comfortable days during the Czar's regime as the owners of a textile factory are over. It is the day of the collective when they return to Petrograd. The system in which they ruled the roost has collapsed and they find themselves to be the dregs of the new society.

Despite the hard times, Kira Argounova steps into Petrograd with all the hopes that youth carries with it. She despises the communist ideology - its basic premise of the importance of the collective being against her belief in individualism. But, being a realist, she decides to go with the flow till she grows strong enough to oppose it. She joins the Technological institute to study to be an engineer.

At the institute, she meets Andrei Taganov- a Party member and a soldier of the Red army. Andrei has a deep belief in the ideals of Communism and truly believes that he is on the right path to building a better country. Despite their completely opposite beliefs, a trusting friendship forms between them. Andrei seems to be very similar to Kira herself, but his intentions are turned into the opposite direction.

Circumstances lead Kira to meet Leo Kovalensky and in him, she finds a person worthy of her adoration and love. Leo and Kira begin to live together, but Andrei is unaware of this situation. Life is hard for them - Kira – the daughter of a textile factory owner in the Czar’s days and Leo – the son of an Admiral in the Czar’s army represent what communism had fought against, conquered and still lorded over.

Leo falls ill with tuberculosis and their poor living conditions threaten to be his death warrant. Kira tries to persuade, beg and borrow money to send Leo to a sanatorium, but, is unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Andrei’s feelings for Kira turn slowly from friendship to love. Kira is shocked when he confesses his feelings but seeing a way to save Leo, she accepts Andrei. With money that Andrei gives her for her family, Kira sends Leo to a sanatorium. Both men are unaware of the other's real relationship with Kira.

When he comes back with his health restored, Leo immediately gets into an illegal and dangerous game of speculation. Kira's pleas are in vain. Frustrated by a system that will not let him live the way he wants to, Leo turns reckless and indifferent to the thought of corrupting or destroying himself. Leo’s dangerous business venture leads Andrei to arrive at their house to arrest him and there he discovers about Kira's and Leo's relationship. The three of them are very similar despite the glaring differences and at that point in the story, each chooses a different path to take.

Throughout the book, using her three main characters and a host of minor characters, Ayn Rand describes the life in a communist country - the new regime, the starvation of the body, mind and soul, the disregard for the individual, the demand placed on a person to put the collective before himself and the grotesque forms that people choose to twist themselves into in order to survive. It was not a novel written to merely share the story of the trio - but also to tell the world the truth about communism's effect on a nation. Read More......

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sometimes...

Sometimes, there is so much to do. Keeps me completely occupied, gives tangible results and that sense of satisfaction of time well-spent and a destination arrived at. But, sometimes, my search for tasks like them seems to be an excuse to avoid the difficulties brought out by just thinking and feeling. There are also times when there is so much to do, that I end up doing nothing at all. Read More......

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini’s book ‘The kite runner’ has made a great impact on readers all over the world. It is on every person’s list of ‘Must Read’. It’s as if, everyone who reads it is recommending it to everyone else. I finally picked up the book at my library a few weeks back. And when I finished the book a few days later, I sat and thought about it a lot.

The reason for its success was immediately apparent. The story of the kite runner is one of human beings and their flaws. Real people – the kind who make mistakes, their guilt and the ways they choose to redeem themselves. Everyone can identify with that kind of a feeling, isn’t it? It reminds us of our flaws and assuages our guilt, helps us to go forward and do the right thing.

The story is set in Kabul. The main character – Amir is the son of a wealthy Afghan businessman. Ali is their servant who lives with them with his son Hassan. Hassan and Amir are inseparable friends.

Hassan is the ultimate Kite Runner – someone who rushes to catch the losing kites as they flutter to the ground when their strings are cut by the others. When Amir wins the Kite flying competition, Hassan runs the losing kite for him. However, he is confronted by Aseef – a bully who takes pleasure in harassing the two friends at every opportunity. Amir, who goes looking for Hassan witnesses a horrifying incident but does nothing to prevent it.

Back home, Amir is unable to face Hassan again - his guilt and cowardice gnaw at him and he decides to take the easy way out. He frames Hassan in a theft and Ali and Hassan leave the house. Even at this stage, Hassan does not denounce Amir. His loyalty is unwavering, almost as if to give so much for Amir was an unconscious reflex than a thoughtful action – just as inevitable as the wind and the sun.

The political atmosphere changes in Afghanistan with the removal of the king and it is a dangerous time in Kabul. Amir and his father decide to leave to Pakistan. Eventually they find their way to the USA where they form a part of the small Afghan community. Amir grows up to be a writer and marries. Years pass by and out of the blue, Amir’s father’s friend – Rahim Khan asks Amir to come and meet him in Pakistan.

When they meet, Amir learns of a shocking truth. He struggles with dealing with it – his impressions of several people changing in one instant. What Rahim Khan gives him is a chance - one go at making amends for more than one sin. It is a chance that he can not let go of and one that will not return. This time, Amir chooses the difficult but right path. His journey back to Afghanistan is a journey into his past. What he does there forms the rest of the story.
Amir’s character is wonderfully complex – it shows those shades of grey that we see in ourselves. Neither God nor the devil. Confused. Scared. Guilty. Insecure. Blundering through life, hoping things would turn out ok. Everything to do with being a human in this world. Pick up a copy and try it, if you already haven’t. You won’t regret it. There is a bit of Amir in all of us. Read More......

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Testing posting by email

Test post for posting through email :) Read More......

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Poem: The Pedestal

One day, I found that you existed,
And was delighted by my finding.
Don't come too close, though.
Don't try to be anything to me.
Just be there...be you as you are.
Let me have something to admire.

Even my enemies are close to me,
Just as my friends are so dear…
For, I see clearly the faults in both.
It is merely the distance between us,
That keeps me safe from seeing yours-
And frankly, I prefer to keep it that way.

So, just stay up on the pedestal and,
Let me look up to you from down here.
All the things in you that I admire -
Let them get their whole due,
Without the taint of the faults that
Make you mortal like the rest. Read More......

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Something nice happenned...

Sometimes, the sweetest things happen to you out of the blue. This happenned a few days back. I had just settled down to eat, when the kitten ran into the room from outside. I put down the plate and ran after it, of course. It ran from room to room - meowing loudly. It was cute - grey and white -absolutely perfect.

Uncle mixed up a little rice and curd and gave it to me to feed the little thing. We put some on the stairs and it ate hungrily -but not much. It kept running away to roam a bit. Then came back to eat. It fought valiantly when I or anyone else tried to hold it.

After roaming around the house a few times, it saw the stuffed pink doll on top of the TV. I don't know what it thought. But a few jumps, some careful navigation and it settled down on top of the TV, next to the doll - nuzzling it now and then. It seemed to like it there. We let it be - though someone or the other did try to pick it up to cuddle - in which case, it wailed till it was deposited again on the TV.

Soon it fell asleep - yup, on top of the TV - Despite the TV running and a crowd of people around. I just sat there and watched it for some time, stroking its soft fur. You know what - that must be one confused cat. It heard around five different languages from various persons around. It heard loads of delighted squeals - each louder than the last, even a few expressions of alarm and distaste. I wonder what it made of all the hungama that its arrival had created. Maybe that why it preferred that doll - warm, furry and quiet! I do hope it comes back..we haven't seen it for two days now, though. :( Read More......

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Storm

The day had been cloudy throughout. A welcome respite from the heat of the summer sun. A storm was expected. They had even named it - why do they always give it a female name? The usual jokes were cracked about female tempers. I hoped it would break in the middle of the night when the world was asleep and did not care. But, as I walked towards the bus, the signs were already starting building up for the perfect storm.

I reached the bus and had to shut the windows against the dust that the rising wind threw up. The book that I was reading was soon covered with a fine layer of dust. The first sign - the rising wind.

People were rushing on the roads trying to beat the storm home. Umbrellas would not help, they knew. The traffic jam built up rapidly as did the anxiety levels. As the bus moved through the traffic slowly, the wind fell again. The second sign - the calm before the storm.

Vehicle windows were being opened now. The night was turning cold quite abruptly. The summer warmth seemed to have vanished. The third sign - the cold summer night.

It took some time, but the rain drops began very very slowly first. Just a few drops people didn’t bother opening their umbrellas or rolling up their windows. They just concentrated on getting to their home. The fourth sign - the beginning of the rain.

It continued at a slow pace for quite awhile. I hope no one was misled. It slowly increased. Oh! ever so slowly - if you had kept watching it, you would have hardly noticed the difference happening. But take a break from the window and then look again in five minutes - there..do you see what I mean? The rain was pelting down hard. Umbrellas were out on the roads. People without umbrellas were rushing towards every possible shelter. And then, the fireworks started. Thunder boomed all around scaring the kids. Lightning streaked across the sky. The fifth sign - nature’s fireworks begin.

It was suddenly time to step off the bus. I had an umbrella, but doubted if it would be useful in any way. The wind had picked up again to a howling fury when I was busy looking at other things. I rushed through the torrent of water with my flimsy little umbrella. In a few seconds, I was completely drenched. The wind turned my umbrella inside out. I stopped at a crowded bus shelter. I tried to fix the umbrella, finally closing it, slightly battered. No use anyway. Right then, the lights went out in the whole area as if they were giving up under nature’s assault. Just the headlights of the vehicles on the road kept the world from turning black. The sixth sign - the power cut.

There you have it. Every sign of a perfect storm!

Home didn’t seem too far off. Why not make a dash for it? The rain was icy cold. I decided to keep moving - towards the promise of closed doors and a roof above. Visibility was bad, but I crossed the road and stood in front of my little street. Behind me, there were the lights of the cars to show the way; in front, was a deserted dark street. No one seemed to have taken the plunge like I had. The swirling water was about ankle deep and all rushing somewhere. I hoped there were no open drains waiting for me to fall in.

The raindrops seemed to be getting sharper somehow. It took me a few minutes to realize that it was no longer just rain, but hail - tiny pieces of ice were raining down and it hurt quite a bit when they hit. Then, I had to take shelter under my battered umbrella, huddled down on the door step of a house. All doors and windows were tightly shut. And no one else seemed to have been as fool hardy as me. After the painful hail stopped and it was just the rain and lightning, I started again - reaching home - cold, shivering and completely overjoyed. The usually cold house seemed warm. I felt the concern in the voices around me. We ate in the meager light of our cell phones and life felt so good.

Now, I don’t know why I was foolish enough to walk into that storm. I just did. And reaching home, felt like an achievement. I somehow felt exhilarated. Maybe this feeling is what people are looking for when they climb mountains, run marathons, sail the world or explore underground.

Others had waited for the rain to stop. But they weren’t the ones with a tale to tell. For them, it had rained and then stopped. Me? I had walked in a storm.

Maybe, there is something about that unknown darkness that makes you want to walk in to it. Of course, it could have ended many other ways. But, it didn’t. Not yet. So I’ll do it again, I think.
Read More......

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Movie - Krazzy 4

Sigh...I pity myself terribly. And I pity the two friends who also plunked down 200 bucks each to watch this totally forgettable movie with me. On the brighter side - it did help us kill a few hours.

Ok..Let me stop grumbling and give you a brief synopsis. Juhi Chawla (looking more beautiful than ever) is a Psychatrist who comes up with the plan of taking four of her group therapy patients to a cricket match on Independence day - so that they would learn the value of team work. The four are Arshad Warsi(his problem being inability to control his temper), Irrfan Khan (suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder), Rajpal Yadav (lost track of time and believes it is the period of the freedom movement), Suresh Menon (A kid. He never speaks).

Kahani mein twist is when on their way to the match, Juhi Chawla is kidnapped and the four of them are left to fend for themselves in the streets of Mumbai. How they manage in the big bad city, how they finally rescue Juhi, uncover a few ugly truths, singing some bad songs on the way - forms the rest of the story.

Irfan Khan has done an ok job. Arshad Warsi loses his temper a lot but is the saner of the lot. Rajpal Yadav is totally wasted with some repeated dialogues which lose their funniness as time goes by. Item numbers and guest stars do nothing to save the movie.

I squirmed in my comfortable seat a lot. There are better movies playing. Read More......

Movie - The Lives of Others

The German movie 'Das Leben der Anderen' ('The Lives of Others') won the best foreign language movie Oscar in the year 2007. The movie has been released in India with English subtitles now. It's on at PVR in Bangalore, in case you are interested.

The movie is set in Germany in the 1980s. Germany at this time, if you remember, was split into East and West Germany. After watching this movie, I did some digging to get some context. Here goes (thanks to Wikipedia)- After the defeat of the axis powers by the allied forces in World War II, Germany was divided into four zones to be occupied by USA, UK, France and Soviet Union. The regions under the control of USA, UK and France eventually joined together to form Federal Republic of Germany or West Germany with a democratic political system and a capitalistic economy. The region under the control of Soviet Union was called German Democratic Republic or East Germany with a Soviet style economy and political system. Berlin being the capital city was also divided (by the Berlin Wall)- despite it being in the Soviet region. So, West Berlin was surrounded by East German territory. The Stasi were the secret police in East Germany - modeled on the similar agencies of the Soviet Union.

The main character in the movie is a Stasi Captain - Gerd Wiesler. A man with no family. One who has a dogged belief in the system which he enforces. He is a clever person - that is made evident by his interrogation methods. Watch out for the first scenes where Wiesler is teaching a group. The kind of analysis of the human mind that he speaks about lets us know just how well-developed a group he belonged to. Their work was almost an art. It was not mindless noise.

Some things told to you during the movie is disturbing - like when Wiesler's friend is talking about type of artists. He talks about one particular type -

A 'hysterical anthropocentrist' Can't bear being alone, always talking, needing friends. That type should never be brought to trial. They thrive on that. Temporary detention is the best way to deal with them. Complete isolation and no set release date. No human contact the whole time, not even with the guards. Good treatment, no harassment, no abuse, no scandals, nothing they could write about later. After 10 months, we release. Suddenly, that guy won't cause us any more trouble. Know what the best part is? Most type 4s we've processed in this way never write anything again. Or paint anything, or whatever artists do. And that without any use of force. Just like that. Kind of like a present.


Those are the kind of things that made the Stasi into a much feared group. It is scenes like the ones described above that set the context so well in this movie. It is a troubled time in East Germany - when you trust no one and even a child's innocent talk is enough to trigger an downfall. To survive, one needs to be a part of the system - a system that has rules but also is controlled by men and their passions. In a world like that, no one is safe - even if they play by the rules. In the end, it becomes a game of power and lust - and one just gets caught up in its whirl, tossed around and finally thrown out - sometimes dead, sometimes alive.

Wiesler's friend Lieutenant-Colonel Anton Grubitz is the head of the Stasi Cultural Department - responsible for curbing any signs of revolt in artistic venues - books, dramas and the like. Based on the Culture Minister Hempf's doubts and reinforced by Wiesler's suspicions, Grubitz places a playwright, Georg Dreyman, under surveillance.

Wiesler starts 'Operation Lazlo' wherein he is constantly evesdropping on Dreyman's life. As time goes by, he finds himself being drawn in to the world of Dreyman and his girlfriend - Christa-Maria Sieland, an actress. Dreyman seems to be a harmless soul - Straightforward, principled and rather slightly astonished at the way things go. Slowly, Wiesler's convictions in the system that he is a part of begins to loosen their hold. He becomes some sort of a guardian angel - pulling the couple along and keeping them out of trouble with fabricated reports of his surveillance.

When Dreyman's friend - Director Albert Jerska - commits suicide after years of being blacklisted by the government, it triggers Dreyman to write an article to be published in the West German magazine 'Der Spiegel' on suicides in East Germany. The planning for the article goes on in Dreyman's house which they are convinced is safe - unaware of Wiesler's presence in the attic above. Wiesler's own change of heart leads him to safeguard the little group by filing cooked up reports.

The article is published and it ruffles a lot of feathers. Grubitz is convinced that it was written by Dreyman. Christa is pulled in for questioning based on a tip off by the Minister who is disgruntled by her avoidance of his advances. The decisions various people make over the next 24 hours forms the climax of the movie.

An epilogue too follows when a few years down the line, the political situation changes, (Gorbachev being elected, The fall of the Berlin wall) and a few truths are finally unveiled.

It is a beautifully made movie spanning about 2.5 hours. The characters are built up beautifully and very realistically. During my diggings, I came across articles which said that the character of Wiesler is not very convincing. That a Stasi Officer would just not act that way. I don't know. I was not a part of that world and no doubt, that reviewer was - but just as another human, it is only people like Wiesler who make you trust in a stranger. And I really believe that people like him exist even in the worst of the world.

Check out the movie at imdb Read More......

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Random thoughts...language...

The kannada song 'Ninindhalae' was playing on the radio. As always, I listened - though I don't understand the language. Sonu Nigam was singing - that was one reason. He went along those twists and turns beautifully. He could actually be cursing - but, I would still listen as long as I didn't know the meaning and he sang it in that way.

It reminded me of a scene from the movie 'Three men and a baby'. Tom Selleck is reading out the details of a boxing match from the newspaper to the baby - in a tone normally reserved for reading out children's fairy tales. When asked what he was reading, he answers in the same tone 'It doesn't matter what I read, it's the tone you use. She doesn't understand the words anyway'...and continues...

That was a cute movie, really. There has been a movie in Hindi on the same lines -'Heyy Babyy' - but me thought it was rather lame. I couldn't sit through it for more than half an hour. Whereas I'd happily watch the original again even now! Read More......

Monday, March 24, 2008

It can happen to you too.

Don't fool yourself into thinking,
That you are safe within your life.
What has happened to me today,
Can happen to you on the morrow.

Looks of pity and sounds of sympathy,
I get in plenty from you and your like.
From all the ones who stand out of reach,
But never once move out of my sight.

Constantly watching ;gloating silently,
Over the contrast between our lives.
Using my sorrow as a measure to find,
How much joy there is in your life.

Your present is just a page from my past,
And my present could be your future too.
For, my yesterdays lie close to your today-
Closer than you'll ever want to know. Read More......

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Movie : The Bucket List

Dad was in town yesterday and there really wasn't much to do except to head for PVR. Human dramas aren't really my cup of tea but it was either that or nothing yesterday. I don't mind the ones that have action in them. Those which span over a long period are easier to bear than those few life-changing moments that are stretched to fill 2 hours.

"The bucket list" is a humourous drama of the latter sort. Two men - Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), find themselves with less than a year to live. They come from different backgrounds - one a self made billionaire and the other, a hard-working and self sacrificing mechanic. They strike a friendship as both go through the torture of living with Cancer.

Carter begins to make a list that he calls 'The bucket list' - things to be done before he kicks the bucket. The idea catches Edward's fancy and he invites Carter to join him to fulfill their wishes. To finally live and do the things he wants to do for himself.

The movie is humourous throughout - the part played by Edward's assistant Tommy contributing to a large part. The actors themselves are veterans and do a great job.

The movie is nothing amazing. But you won't want to run out of the theatre and you definitely will enjoy the humour, if not the drama. It hits on an important truth though - that no one wants to die alone. The major fear of most people - loneliness, being left uncared for, having no one to cry, having no one to miss you when you're gone. Its a movie about men preparing for death and realising what's important in life and death. Read More......

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Food!

I know that last post said 'To be continued', but I really have nothing more to continue on that right now. so, maybe later...

Funny really, I have been blogging here as if I'm talking to a person - someone who has no choice but to listen. Maybe no one is reading this after all...I really should stop thinking so much!

I have been eating too much these past few days...and not going to the gym much too. Have you noticed how socializing always revolves around food? Treats, birthday parties, meet for lunch, for dinner, for b'fast, for a snack, for a coffee.... We all invariably gravitate towards the familiar comfort of food as we catch up with people and chat.

Sometimes, I cook - usually when I am idle and find that I am just 'thinking' too much about stuff. At those times, I get into the mode of cutting and chopping and measuring and mixing and frying and tasting. It makes me feel good when I make something and it doesn't turn out to be disaster. But it has to be pretty aimless. I don't like cooking when I am hungry. Those times, I just want something to be available magically! :)

Sometimes I cook to try out new techniques. The food court at work has partially open kitchen and you can see the cook as he works. I was particularly impressed by the nice round omelettes that he made and tried out his technique and am now hooked to that 'technique'. Sometimes, I cook to make something exotic. Not the regular dal, rasam and poriyal. Maybe to bake a cake ( disaster, BTW), make a sweet, try making things which I enjoyed eating someplace and so on.

But when it comes to actually eating, nothing really beats dal and rasam and rice, and poriyal. Read More......

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Happiness

Something has been troubling me for awhile now - The extent to which a person's happiness depends on others. A badly placed dependency can wreck us. Yet, we start out on things eagerly, joyfully, thinking nothing bad can possibly happen. That is the way man is. As Ayn Rand says

'The best of mankind’s youth start life with an undefined sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead.

It is not in the nature of man—nor of any living entity—to start out by giving up, by spitting in one’s own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity differs from man to man.'


This is the only way we know to live our life. To hope that all our dreams are going to come true. That sense of invincibility - brave, almost touchingly child like and trusting in the unknown. And we somehow don't understand/believe it when rotten things happen. Yes. It is not your fault. Yes. It can still happen. Maybe we are prepared for bad stuff in some aspects of our life, but not in others? I really don't know.

I know I have no control over others in my life. I cannot make them behave in a manner that pleases me and makes me happy. Extending that, I have no control over the creation of happiness in my self. But extending that a bit more, others' happiness also depends on my actions. So, I can still make joy. Just not in my own heart. Some people are too perfect. Creating joy in the world is their source of joy. They are probably more happy than most of us despite pain. But, that is again probably the most difficult thing to achieve as a person. Anything worth achieving is difficult to achieve.

To be continued... Read More......