Monday, September 29, 2008

Proud to be an Indian?

I don’t understand why Indians whose mother tongue isn’t Hindi take pride in not being able to speak the language.

Hindi is our national language after all, and irrespective of one’s mother tongue, one must know how to speak the language, I feel. There is no pride in not being able to speak your national language. It’s another thing that you prefer to communicate with your family & friends in your mother tongue. That is natural and absolutely fine, but running down Hindi as a language you do not need to know because it is not your mother tongue, isn’t.

Then there is another species of people (from Hindi speaking backgrounds) who cannot speak Hindi correctly or without a Western accent, in spite of having grown up in India! Errrrr…just which planet do they think they have come from??

You are very unlikely to find a European who prefers to speak in English rather than his national language, unless in a business environment. In fact, most Europeans aren't even conversant with English, and that is not because there are no avenues for them to learn English, but because they take pride in their language. Why are Indians the only people in the world with such a dearth of self-esteem. What complex are we suffering from??

Again, I think it’s fine if one prefers to communicate in English more frequently but why are such people ashamed to speak in Hindi? Or admit that they are as comfortable with Hindi as they are with English? Why do they deliberately speak Hindi with grammatical errors and mispronounciations? Why do they fumble for words that are otherwise commonly used, pretending they do not know them?

Speaking in Hindi does not make one “down-market”. It’s not “cool” to not know Hindi, it’s downright shameful. No wonder our country is a victim of a lack of nationalism.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Sorry State of Affairs

Did you know that you need a special permit from the Government of Arunachal Pradesh if you want to visit the state?

I discovered this recently. Most people that I told this to had a very ethnocentric (I’m taking the liberty of stretching this word to fit this context) reaction. Most people’s reaction is : “They are a part of India, why do Indians require a permit? What’s so special about Arunachal Pradesh that we require a permit to visit the state?”

Very few people have asked “Why?”,i.e., very few people have tried to view this situation from the point of view of Arunachal Pradesh or North East in general.

The North East is probably the most neglected part of India. The Government of India pays little heed to that part of the country, while it pampers states such as Punjab, Maharashtra & Gujarat, probably because they are the "cash cow" states of India. The insurgencies in the North Eastern states are ignored while the government is busy pandering to the whims & fancies of Bal Thakerey & Narendra Modi, who have literally held the country to ransom!!

Even worse, the Indian government has clubbed the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland & Tripura and christened them the "Seven Sister States", which is symbolic of their isolation from mainstream India, nevermind the wide ethnic and religious diversity within the region. On the contrary, the government should take special care to ensure the states feel that they are a part of India because geographically, they are isolated from the rest of India except through the Siliguri Corridor, a narrow corridor flanked by China to the north & Bangladesh & Myanmar to the south, which makes it vulnerable to foreign infiltration.

If we neglect a part of our own country and give them step-motherly treatment, how can we expect them to consider themselves to be a part of us? We take them for granted, yet we want them to feel cared for. No wonder the states want independence from India!!

But then, that has been the story of India all along.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Restaurant Woes

One thing that ticks me off completely is bad service at premium restaurants.

I recently went to a restaurant that serves Indian, Thai & Continental food. It is situated in the IT hub of the city and is not exactly cheap, the average price being Rs 250-300 per dish. The food wasn’t great and the service was pathetic.

We ordered a Crispy Fried Lamb (a Chinese preparation) for starters. The waiter dropped the food all over the table while serving and did not clear it up until we asked him to. When we did, his expression was as if we’d asked him to do something that WE were supposed to do!!

For main course, I ordered a Neopolitaine Chicken Pasta (which comes in a tomato-based sauce) that was supposed to be served along with garlic bread. What I got instead of garlic bread was plain white bread with garlic butter on it!!! The bread wasn’t even toasted. Apparently, they had run out of the bread that is used to make garlic bread but they did not even bother to inform me about it and instead served such rubbish!!!!!

My friend ordered a second Nan which took 20 minutes to come! Fifteen minutes after he ordered, another waiter came to my friend to ask if he had ordered another Nan!!!

My point is, one doesn’t bother or complain about bad service if one is going to a cheap restaurant. But one’s expectations are completely different if it is even a moderately premium restaurant – you expect the food & service to be commensurate with the amount you’re paying.

The photograph above is of the interior of the restaurant I'm talking about. If they're savvy enough to have their picture up on the net, they should also by sophisticated enough to offer good service.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Weekend Update

Went out for breakfast in the morning...came back home & slept...followed by a long hot shower...ordered in lunch...watched the pouring ran with a cup of tea & a book in hand...slept again to the sound of pouring rain...

Looking forward to a night out with friends...a movie followed by a couple of drinks & a live band playing...

Does not get better than this...I'm sure Moonshine would approve :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oh Calcutta : Calcutta Chapter

This post is right up The Knife's ally!

A friend and I went to Oh Calcutta for dinner. I was surprised at the differences in the menu between Oh Calcutta in Mumbai & Calcutta.

The Mumbai restaurant offers a wide range of chicken & mutton dishes where as the menu in the Calcutta restaurant is overloaded with fish. Understandably so.

We started our dinner with Fish Fingers. The Mumbai restaurant serves a pungent mustard sauce with the fish, called Kasundi. It goes very well with fish fry & fish fingers. But the Calcutta restaurant served a sauce that was a mix of mustard, mayonnaise & sweet mango chutney. It tasted good too.

For main course we ordered Boneless Hilsa, or Ilish as it's also called, and Chittagong Chicken along with steamed rice.

Ilish is a delicacy fish that is available only during certain times of the year. It lives in sea water for the most part but can travel upto 1200km inland to deposit it's eggs. Fresh water Ilish is supposed to taste better than salt water Ilish. In India, Ilish is found in the Ganges near the Bay of Bengal and in the Narmada river in Gujarat, where it is known by another name. It is oilier and therefore heavier than other types of fresh water fish but is supposed to be tastier as well. Also, it smells less pungent than other types of fish. The Ilish we ordered came in a mustard gravy which went very well with steamed rice.

The Chittagong Chicken however was a far cry from the mildly flavored Ilish. It was spicy as can be! It was a Bangladeshi dish with a tomato & onion gravy & plenty of red chilli powder!!

Overall, we had a nice meal and rounded it off with a bowl of mishti doi :)

A Wednesday

Trust Bollywood to take an original, innovative script and ruin it (well, almost) with over-dramatization & overacting. ‘A Wednesday’ is a case in point.

It’s a story of a common man, a Mumbaikar in this case, who has had enough of being the victim of bomb blasts in different parts of the country and wants retribution….because he thinks it’s unfair that it’s the common man who becomes the sacrificial lamb in the war between religions. He is sick of living his life in fear & uncertainty. He thinks there is no reason why he should be worried about the safety of his family members when they step out of home. He should not feel afraid to travel by bus or train in his own country. He is appalled that the government we elect to take care of us is powerless in front of terrorists & only reacts to gruesome acts of terrorism such as bomb blasts by condemning the blasts, sending out condolence messages & praising the famed “spirit” of the people. He bemoans the fact that the pulverized police force gets down on bended knees when it comes to implementing an effective counter-terror policy. He is saddened even more by the fact that the common man has become “used to” terrorist attacks & the loss of lives they entail, and “adjusts” to them & to the apathy of the government. And he thinks it’s about time that the common man shakes himself out of his slumber & gives it back to the terrorists as good as he got. How he goes about doing this is the material of this story.

The story is unique because we haven’t seen anything like this in Indian cinema before, and it is only befitting that the director got Naseeruddin Shah to play the protagonist. Needless to say, Naseeruddin Shah has done a marvelous job of playing a man who packs sandwiches & a flask of tea, buys vegetables for his home, tells his wife he will be home soon & that even if he gets irritated with her for calling him every couple of hours to check whether he has had his lunch & to ask him to run errands, he has the entire city of nameless, faceless people to vent his frustration on, and gets down to the business of sending the police force of Mumbai on a wild bomb chase, with precision. His monologue in the climax is spine-chilling! Absolute knock-out!!

The other pivotal actors including Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill & Aamir Bashir too have done a good job.

The things I liked about the movie were:
  • It's less than 2 hours including the intermission
  • It does not lose it's edginess or pace at any point, thanks to the short length
  • The performances, especially the face-off between Naseeruddin Shah & Anupam Kher
  • The fact that there were no songs in the movie, not even an "item" song!!
  • The story was completely original & had no similarities to any movie we've seen before, except a couple of take-offs from Die Hard 4.0 here & there
  • That it was shot completely in Mumbai
  • It highlights the role that the media CAN play when there is a terror threat in the city, rather than creating unnecessary panic among people
  • The fact that the protagonists's name is never revealed to prevent any allusions to religion, and to emphasize the fact that he is an Indian first & a Hindu or a Muslim later

The movie makes jibes at every organization right from the media to the police to the government. It does not even spare the common people for having become accepting of terror attacks as a way of life.

What I didn't like about the movie were the lame title (A Wednesday?) - though there was some justification for it, it wasn't convincing enough, the background score which was too loud & jarring at places, and the overdramatization which made it look like a typical Bollywood movie.

Overall, the movie is a slick, racy thriller with a reasonably high IQ. The script was so strong that it had the potential of becoming an understatedly impactful thriller along the lines of Hollywood thrillers. The Bollywoodization not withstanding, 'A Wednesday' is definitely worth a watch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Howzzat for Narcissism?

I saw something on TV yesterday that made me laugh till my sides split.

The preview for Himesh Reshammiya’s remake of Karz. Sorry, KARZZZ.


So there’s one song where who else but our man Himess (notice I do not say ‘Himesh’) with his Paul McCartney-inspired haircut has his hands folded & is going “Hari Om, Hari Om”...which I’m assuming is the new version of the cultish ‘Om Shanti Om’.

As if that wasn’t enough to kill fans of the movie, there’s another song ‘Tandoori Nights’ with our man (again) on the dance floor with Urmila Matondkar who seems to take the term ‘bee-stung lips’ very seriously. Her pout is fake as can be, and isn’t she like, 100 years old??? Someone please tell her that ‘coz I think she has become forgetful with age. Urmila has always been a challenge to one’s tolerance levels but she’s getting progressively worse with time.

And then comes the scene-stealer….a back shot of Himess with a guitar slung over his back, against a black backdrop with a giant red disco ball. The caption reads, “Monty is Back….With a Vengeance”.

Poor Monty….of the original KARZ spelled with a single ‘Z’ that is.

I’m sure that after seeing the preview of the new KARZZZ with a triple ‘Z’, Rishi Kapoor would be contemplating disappearing from this planet & Subhash Ghai would be counting the number of hair left on his head beneath that famous cap of his.

Himesh Reshammiya for Rishi Kapoor, anyone?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Post-Colonial Indian Writing

I don’t like reading Indian authors who write in English. Most of them that is.

They have not been able to shake-off their colonial hangover yet. Every book they write has linkages to the freedom struggle or the events immediately preceding or following independence. They can’t think beyond.

The books are written with the single-minded aim of winning awards, who cares whether they are readable or not!! The plot is as vague as can be...there is only a semblance of a story. The language is unnecessarily ornate, laborious & doesn’t flow easily. The general consensus seems to be that the more difficult your book is to understand, the higher your chances of winning a literary award. Sadly, this is true as well.

As a result, good writing takes a backseat and what we get over & over again are rehashed versions of India before independence & India immediately after independence.

Good writing is not about overwhelming the reader. It need not always be about the way Hindus & Muslims were hacked to death during the partition or the atrocities committed on the common people during the Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency of 1975.

Writing is about creating a world that the reader can identify with and enjoy, if not feel a part of. In this context, Indian authors have a lot of maturing to do. They might have an exalted vocabulary but they do not know how to use language to make the maximum impact. A book like ‘The Kite Runner’ is as sad as any book on the events leading up to the partition of India but it makes a stronger impact and lingers in the mind of the reader for much longer because of the optimum use of language in the book.

Sadly, even most of us as readers praise the books that we probably understood only half of, to the sky while we know that we enjoyed reading Anurag Mathur’s ‘The Inscrutable Americans’, Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Five Point Someone’, Karan Bajaj’s ‘Keep Off the Grass’ & Abhijit Bhaduri’s ‘Mediocre But Arrogant’ much more!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Entwined Destinies

I have always been intrigued by why we meet the people that we meet in our lives.

It seems to me that there is a reason you meet every single person that you do. You don’t know it upfront obviously, but during the course of life certain things happen that make you realize that there WAS a reason you met X, Y or Z.

Some people pull us out of trouble. Some help us when we really need help. Some come into our lives to teach us certain things about ourselves, life or the world we live in. Some add the fun quotient to our lives. Some enrich our lives in a way that we realize one fine day when we’re doing some sort of introspection.

In short, no one exists in our lives “just like that”.

I’m also completely baffled by the fact that we often meet complete strangers who come out of nowhere & become such an integral part of our lives that it becomes difficult to imagine life without them.

There is no logical explanation for meeting them….you’ve grown up in two different worlds, your backgrounds are as different from each other as chalk is from cheese, you interact with two sets of people who have nothing to do with each other etc. Yet, you get thrown into a common circumstance by some freaky stroke of luck…such as ending up at the same workplace, or you move to a completely new city and meet someone randomly…and you become the closest of friends. Sometimes even life partners. When you look back you find it completely bizarre that you met because until a while ago you didn't have a clue of each other's existence!!

This is as intriguing as it is baffling, but it is these people that we meet randomly along the way that make life worth every bit of pain that it is :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

When I Say 'Beer', You Say 'Here'!

There are two kinds of people in this world – beer lovers & beer haters.

I do not like beer, yet fifty percent of the times that I’m drinking, you’ll catch me with a beer in my hand. It’s perplexing to people. It should be perplexing to me too…why do I drink beer if I don’t like it? I get asked by people all the time too, and I’m sick of going over the story again & again, so let me put this in the public domain so the next time someone asks me this question, I’ll just ask them to go read my blog!!

When I was in college, alcohol was an integral part of my existence. Thursday nights used to be party nights…I don’t know why, they just were! We never felt the need to question it. Friday nights & Saturday nights of course were party nights. Sunday afternoons used to be spent lounging in the outdoor courtyard of ‘He’s Not Here’ in shorts & flip-flops, guzzling down beer from a 32 oz. signature ‘He’s Not Blue Cup’. In short, beer used to be plentiful in college and a cheap way of getting drunk for cash-strapped college students!!

Once I graduated though, the number of female friends I had declined mysteriously. All of a sudden I started acquiring male friends only, and where there are men, there will be beer.

When you are in the company of men, you start drinking beer even if you don’t exactly relish it. Maybe because you get taunted for being a typical "chick" with tantrums every time you order a green apple martini or a mint chocolate chip martini or a cosmo while everyone else on a table wants a simple beer. Or maybe just because it’s a pain to explain to the usually clueless Indian bartenders how to make a mint chocolate chip martini whereas it’s so much easier to just ask for a goddamn beer!

Whatever the reason, the beer ultimately wins the battle of the alcohols. So until the green apple martini can beat the nasty beer at its own game, bring on the Bud!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Takes Time to Heal A Wound

It’s been 7 years but the scars remain. Today is September 11th.

We used to read about the world before World War II & after World War II. After September 11th, people talk about the world before 9/11 & post 9/11.

Sympathizing with what Americans suffered on that dark day does not mean sympathizing with America. We know the whole world loves to hate America. Every country has its own reasons – Indians hate America because it is perceived to be a Pakistan ally more than an India ally; the Middle East hates America for religious reasons, the Europeans have their own reason to hate the Americans.

Sympathizing with the loss of the Americans is sympathizing with humanity. Because the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was not only an attack on America, it was also a crime against humanity, where innocent civilians, who might not even have shared the government’s opinion towards Islamic countries, were killed for no fault of their own.

Terrorism is always about Us vs. Them. Let me clarify that by ‘them’ I’m not referring to people of any religion or community. I’m referring to people who think it’s OK, even justified, to take innocent lives to make their voices heard. What they don’t understand is that if the world isn’t listening to them, maybe they don’t have anything substantial to say!

War, in my opinion, can be justified under certain circumstances but terrorism cannot be justified under any. And as Indians, we cannot distance ourselves from what happened to America by saying “It happened to them, how does it matter to us?”

Of course, it matters to us! It SHOULD matter to us. Our country itself is a soft target for terrorism. There are blasts in some city or the other almost every other month. They claim lives but as a nation & as a people, we have become apathetic towards them because we have no value for human life. We condemn the blasts, watch the coverage on news channels for a couple of hours, then go back to worrying about what percentage salary hike we would be getting next year, whether our salary will be 50,000 more or less per year compared to a particular colleague etc. Only when the terrorist attack happens in the city we live in, like it happened in Mumbai on July 11th, 2006 that we get scared.

9/11 was probably one of the darkest days for humanity, the other being August 6th, 1945 when bombs were dropped over Hiroshima & Nagasaki. No country deserves to be attacked so brutally & its citizens punished for views that their government might harbor.

ABC to XYZee

American Born Confused Desi Emigrated From Gujarat, Housed In Jersey, Keeping Lots of Motels, Named Omkarnath Patel, Quickly Reached Success Through Underhanded Vicious Ways, Xenophobic Yet Zestful

This is the fun part of it. The difficult part is living the life of an ABCD (or American Born Confused Desi) as second generation Indians in America are mockingly referred to by first generation Indians studying & working there.

Being an ABCD is tough. It carries with it loads of anguish – being the one that is discriminated against by your own people; and an identity crisis – not knowing whether you are Indian or American as you live the life of an Indian at home (enforced by parents) and of an American outside.

Living with an identity crisis must be tough. Not knowing which side of the fence you belong to, you are constantly being torn apart by two worlds. Your family & your friends as well as people you interact with outside your home push down totally contradictory set of values down your throat. And if that isn’t enough to deal with, you are discriminated against by people who share your ethnicity yet consider themselves superior to you as a) they know where they belong, and b) they made it to America on their own merit & hard work whereas you got American citizenship served on a plate!

Most ABCDs deal with this by building a wall around themselves that they let only other ABCDs in. This doesn’t earn them any brownie points; in fact only makes things worse for them as they are perceived to be snooty & arrogant.

What few people understand is that this is their defense mechanism. Most ABCDs would be happier if their families just let them be what they are for all practical purposes – essentially American. Because they go to American schools, study American literature, watch American television, live on pizzas, burgers & Coke, live by the norms of American society, have American friends, teachers, bosses & peers, date Americans (secretively if not with the consent of their parents), work at McDonalds & Starbucks when they are in high school, hold summer jobs etc.

Parents would not only be doing them a huge favor by letting them be, but also prevent them from suffering from the complex that results from not knowing where you belong.

The antithesis of an ABCD is an FOB (Fresh off the Boat). This term is used to refer to people who have freshly arrived from India and who :

  • Speak with a strong Indian accent ala Appu of ‘The Simpsons’
  • Haven’t been introduced to the concept of bootleg jeans; rather wear straight-leg or (even worse) tapering jeans that get bunched up above their ankles and keep slipping inside their sneakers
  • Have unshaved legs or armpits (in the case of some women)
  • Do not understand the concept of standing in a queue
  • Do not believe in saying ‘Please’ & ‘Thank You’ to housekeepers, janitors, grocery-store workers, bus drivers & other such “miscellaneous” people
  • Say ‘rubber’ instead of ‘eraser’, ‘lady fingers’ instead of ‘okra’ & ‘brinjal’ instead of ‘eggplant’
  • Have not been introduced to beef yet
  • Wait to come back to India to get a hair cut as hair cuts in America are expensive
  • Try to bargain at Walmart
  • Whose exposure to American television is limited to ‘Friends’ & ‘CSI Miami’ and who think ‘Saturday Night Live’ (or SNL) is a show about places one can party at on Saturday nights
  • Who don’t understand the concept of having a beer on a Sunday afternoon

Monday, September 8, 2008

Khuda Jaane Yeh Movie Kyon Bani Hai

Every once in a while there comes along a movie that redefines the term “bad movie” (I’m not even including the movies that tumble out of RGV’s closet, they belong to a different league altogether!!)

'Bachna Ae Haseeno’ is one such movie.

What’s surprising is that it’s a movie by Siddharth Anand who made ‘Salaam Namaste’, which I thought was a sensible movie that tackled the concepts of live-in relationships & having a child out of wedlock – concepts that are still bold for a majority of the Indian society. The least he could’ve done was to make a half-decent movie this time around.

Mahi, 1996 – Minnisha Lamba can’t act. She can’t speak in Hindi (in reality, she’s a Punjabi from Delhi, so I wonder why she speaks Hindi like an alien). So why the hell did she become an actress???

Her character is stupid to stay the least. She plays a 17-year old touring Europe, when she meets a guy (another 17-year old), spends one day with him, falls in love with him & thinks he’s going to marry her. He doesn’t obviously, and she’s scarred for life. Literally because she makes life hell for the guy she eventually marries.

Radhika, 2002 – Bipasha Basu does well what she’s hired to do, i.e., look hot. Her character is well etched-out - girl from Ranchi who has come to try her luck in big bad Bollywood, is open to live-in relationships, seems progressive but at the core she’s a small-town girl who dreams of getting married & settling down.

She does a good job of being a bitchy diva with starry tantrums, in the second half of the movie. But she’s given the most retarded scene EVER...she’s all decked up for her wedding, the groom fails to show up, she’s sitting on the stairs of the court crying when it starts pouring in true Bollywood style, and she outstretches her mehndi-laden hands as if to symbolically wash away the mehndi. Didn't we see similar stuff in the movies made in the 60s-70s when women would rub off their bindi or break their bangles against the wall when they came to know that their husband passed away! Phew!!!!!

Gayatri, 2006 – Independent girl doing an MBA in Australia, attends b-school during the day, drives a cab & works at the departmental store at night. Believes in love but does not believe in marriage because of the trappings that come with it.

She feels that after marriage the guy will try to control her life to some extent, not let her do things she wants to do...whereas she wants to live her life the way she wants to!

The problem is...Deepika Padukone can’t act. She has a pretty face so the camera tends to linger on her face, and this highlights her lack of expressions.

There are flaws in her character too. She dumps Ranbir Kapoor, then slides “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how much I loved you” notes under his door for 6 months. Without any response, of course. Any woman with even half a brain would get the hint...the guy is either not getting your letters (i.e., he’s not in town) or he’s ignoring them. Either way, STOP WRITING!!!

As for Ranbir Kapoor’s chemistry with Deepika great shakes. Bipasha Basu looks much better with him.

The movie is boring, ridden with flaws, there’s no story whatsoever & the songs are completely unnecessary. Khuda Jaane is the only decent song in the entire movie.

The movie is unbelievable too! Check this out...after Deepika dumps Ranbir, he realizes how he’s hurt the other two ladies in his life (Minnisha & Bipasha) who he had dated 12 years ago & 6 years ago respectively. He packs his bags & goes in search of them to apologize to them. Which guy in today’s times goes to apologize to a woman he had wronged 12 years ago??!!! Come on man, where are these guys? Show me one & I’ll show you a guy who is misplaced in time & out of his mind!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

War of the Worlds

So which do you like more….Cricket or Football?

Ask any self-respecting lover of both games & they’ll look at you as if you’ve asked them the most forbidden question of all times.

Their quandary is understandable too….for a person who loves both the games, choosing one over the other would be as difficult as choosing between coke & heroine (not that I have done either but going by their popularity, I’m assuming they give comparable kicks).

I started watching cricket about 12-13 years ago. For the wrong reasons of course! The reason being Ajay Jadeja. Probably like every other teenaged girl at that time. I say wrong reason not because of the match-fixing controversy he got embroiled in (unfortunate as it was, it didn’t take away an iota from his talent)….but because when I look back on it now, I feel it’s always a shame to start watching a game for a particular player. After all, no player can be bigger than the game. But then again, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. That is why we have “stars”.

Gradually I got addicted to cricket, much to the chagrin of my mother who, like all mothers, was worried about her daughter failing the tenth boards. I started understanding the game, and today I can have a conversation over cricket with any guy.

My favorite team, apart from India of course, was South Africa. Unusual choice, I know. But then, they had Jonty Rhodes!! And Hansie Cronje. It was really disappointing when Cronje got implicated in the match fixing case too, and even more sad when he died in a plane crash. South Africans were the perfect “gentlemen” playing the “gentleman’s game”.

I didn’t like England because they have been thanda for as long as I can remember. They were responsible for the genesis of the game but they lost it somewhere along the way.

Didn’t…and to this day I don’t like the Australians because they are too aggressive & virulent, except for a few players like Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee - among the ones I have grown up watching.

Then I moved to the US for college and lost touch with cricket. When I returned, I realized I had very little left of my old love for the game.

UNTIL Twenty20 happened!

That got me right back where the action was. The world is full of doubters but I feel T20 is the best thing to have happened to cricket since one-day cricket was invented & it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Then came the IPL that put India right in the center of the cricketing map. These are glorious days for Indian cricket. The sun is shining on India and any player who is worth even a dollar is wallowing in it! Wonder what the English have to say about what the world has done to the game that was literally THEIR “baby”, and that they took with them wherever they went. They must have spent considerable time thinking up the game, and even more time & resources teaching people across their colonies how to play it! It’s like having a child that you have given birth to and raised as a conservative for 20-30-40 years, and one fine day some outsider comes along and changes her/him into a hippie overnight!!!!

I got initiated into football as a kid. I remember kicking the ball around with my dad in our huge green lawn when I was all of 2 feet tall. Then life took over….I got caught up with studies, we moved, we lost the football somewhere in the process & a new one never made it home. I have no subsequent football memories.

Years later I rediscovered my love for the game. And I loved it for the right reasons. For the sheer beauty of it. For the skills required to hold on to the ball & score a goal.

Football is pure skill and stamina, whereas cricket is more about precision. It’s like the tiff between the head & the heart. Cricket is played from one’s head….keep a cool head, keep your eyes on the ball, try to get inside the head of the bowler & guess what kind of ball he’s going to throw next etc.

Whereas football is ALL heart. Just go out there & play. Give it all you’ve got. Pass, dribble, block. Do whatever it takes to score!

Football requires skill which is mostly innate & not often acquired. What can be acquired is honing the skill. Take for example, the Brazilians & Argentines. Every child in these countries grows up playing football on the streets. That’s what they know and they are brilliant at it! If you look at the way Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo, Robinho, Messi, Riquelme etc. play….or the way Maradona & Pele played….you HAVE to agree that they were born with it. It can’t be purely acquired.

Cricket, on the other hand, is learnt. You can learn to put bat to ball, you can learn to think like the bowler who is bowling to you. I think one is born to be a footballer but I’m not sure if one can be born to be a cricketer.

So I like football for (not necessarily in this order) :

• The beauty of the game
• The moments when goals are scored
• The brilliant passes
• The tenacity and athleticism of the players
• The hysteria it generates
• Brazil
• Kaka
• Cristiano Ronaldo
• Fabio Cannavaro
• David Beckham’s free kick (and his drop-dead gorgeous looks, of course!)
• Manchester United
• And most importantly, the memories it brings back of my dad teaching me how to dribble in our lush green lawn, of picking me up every time I fell and scraped my knee, of asking me if I had ever seen a tiger cub cry when it got hurt….

Notice I haven’t mentioned Zinedine Zidane. But then, you can’t touch him. He’s right up there with the Gods, that’s how talented & blessed the man is. Is it possible not to love a game that has given the world a Zinedane Zidane?

This post is more a labor of love than a post on cricket or football. It has been as emotionally satisfying to write as it is to think back of the times my dad taught me to play ball.

Oh, What A Night!

Oh, what a night

Late December back in '63

What a very special time for me

'Cause I remember what a night

Oh, what a night

You know, I didn't even know her name

But I was never gonna be the same

What a lady. What a night

Oh, I...I got a funny feeling when she walked

In the room and I

As I recall it ended much too soon

Oh, what a night

Hypnotizing, mesmerizing me

She was everything I dreamed she'd be

Sweet surrender, what a night!

Guess today will be a good day

You know, one of those days when you're listening to FM on your way to work and you wish a particular song plays. But it's kind of an obscure song that doesn't get played on the radio often.

You keep flicking channels and guess of the stations starts playing your song!!!

Amazing feeling, idn't it?

Guess today will be a good day :)

PS: The song in question was 'Bol Na Halke Halke' from JBJ

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Farhan Rocks!!

Watched ‘Rock On!!’

On the recommendation of a friend who thought the movie was “deeply moving & emotionally satisfying”, and was accompanied by another who had seen it just the night before & couldn’t wait to watch it again!!

After having watched the movie I was completely clueless as to why either of them loved it so much. ‘Deeply moving & emotionally satisfying” it definitely wasn’t, and unlike ‘Jaane Tu…’ it didn’t make me want to go back to the theater to watch it again. So I have concluded that both those friends of mine are W-E-I-R-D.

So, on to the movie….

The story flowed easily. It was simple & something that HAS been told before but the strength lied in the execution.

I thought the casting was perfect. Farhan, Luke, Purab, Arjun, Shabana Goswami (Debbie) – all fitted their roles to the T. They sunk their teeth into their roles. Must have taken someone capable of out-of-the-box thinking to conjure up images of Farhan Akhtar, Purab Kohli & Luke Kenny in their respective roles!! Hats off to the casting director (IS there something called a ‘Casting Director’ in Bollywood?)

Farhan Akhtar did a great job. His acting was restrained yet impactful; his body language never betrayed his voice or his character. He sang amazingly well for a non-professional singer, his raspy voice adding to the appeal of the songs. Farhan Akhtar, in short, was a revelation for me. One more tiny observation that might be of small interest to women & inspiration to men….he has an amazing body!! Lean is so much more in for men than body-builder type bodies.

Arjun Rampal did well as a loser. The character was required to be thick, and his acting didn’t betray his intelligence even once.

Luke Kenny was a surprise and quite likeable. Must say he looks much better with long hair than short.

My favorite character in the entire movie was that of Purab Kohli, a.k.a. Killer Drummer (KD). Not because he played a Gujju & Gujju character are of late being used as a comic relief in many movies, ‘Jaane Tu…’ being a brilliant case in point. But because his character was the most happy-go-lucky of them all, took life as it came, hardly ever cribbed, didn’t make a big issue of things, and always had a smile on his face. The only time he lost his cool was towards the end of the movie when Joe fails to show up for their performance.

Shabana Goswami did a good job too. There were quite a few times in the movie when I went “What is this woman’s problem in life?”, “Why is she so bitter?”, “She’s got issues!” I guess that is a compliment for Shabana, the actor.

I did not like Prachi Desai’s character OR her in the movie. Her much hyped-make over didn’t suit her at all. The lipstick was too loud. You can’t have stylish, straightened hair like that, dress like a Page 3 woman, live in a house with such tasteful, classy interiors & say “Who aaj nahin aa payenge, unko kuch kaam hai” (while referring to your husband) or say “Mujhe English gaane nahin aate, main sirf Hindi gaane gaati hoon”. I mean, nothing wrong with not knowing English songs, just that your actions should be compatible with your personality. What I also didn’t understand was why she wasn’t happy or excited at even one point in the movie. Surely, the fact that she had finally started to get her husband back (after the band re-unites) must have been enough to bring some joy to her life!!

The other crib I had with the movie was the use of language. The bull-headedness with which the director stuck to Hindi was jarring at places. Sometimes it just didn’t suit the characters. Luke Kenny & Arjun Rampal were both playing Catholic characters, and having lived in Bombay for years I know for a fact that Catholics don’t communicate in Hindi at home. In fact, most of them can hardly speak a sentence in Hindi without grammatical errors! Farhan Akhtar too said some things that, in the context of his character, would’ve sounded much better & more believable had they been said in English. I understand the “you-can-reach-more-people-through-Hindi” theory, but there lies the dissonance – Rock On!! wasn’t meant to be a mass movie. Rock music isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea yet in India.

Finally, the music. If it’s a movie based on rock music, you’ve got to talk about the music. I find Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to be immensely talented, apart from Vishal-Shekhar. Connoisseurs of rock music would be better qualified to rate the music on the scale of “rock” but I personally found the music to be OK. Not something that would want to make me buy the CD, though I did like ‘Meri laundry ka ek bill’, the title song & ‘Sindbad the Sailor’ (out-of-box thinking again!!).

Overall, the movie was good for a one-time watch, but if you find it to be “deeply moving or emotionally satisfying”, you’re W-E-I-R-D. ‘Coz it’s got none of that shit.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some like it cold

I love winters. The kinds where you are chilled to the bone. You wear a cap, gloves and muffler and still shiver. The kinds that makes your eyes water and the tip of your nose, red.

I started missing the winter when I moved to Bombay and could no longer experience the windy, bone-chilling winter of the US that I was used to. It was then that I started craving trips to Delhi in the winter to be able to feel the chill again. I did manage a few trips to be honest, and expectedly they were a blast!!

On one of the trips, my friends & I walked around Connaught Place all day in a Santa hat with lights (LOL) and even went to a bar wearing them. It was Christmas. On another trip, we had kaala-khatta at India Gate at 2 in the morning!! It was so cold we couldn’t even hold the damn thing properly.

Winters in the US are excruciating. Temperatures fall below 0 degrees Celsius and what makes it worse is the wind. God, it’s windy in that part of the world!! Only a heavy-duty L.L.Bean, J.Crew or North Face jacket can save you from dying.

One of my most memorable winters was during my Sophomore year when it snowed in North Carolina after 20 years. The state hadn't got snow in a long time, so it took the city some time to put snow clearing activities in action. Classes were cancelled for a week as professors who lived in the Raleigh-Durham area, which is a 30-40 minute drive from Chapel Hill and which is where most of the professors lived, couldn’t make it to Chapel Hill. The boys stole huge plastic trays from dinner halls (hiding them inside their over-sized jackets) so we could sled in the snow. We rolled about in the snow, had snow fights, and took pictures. Life had come to a standstill in the small town of Chapel Hill. Thank God the pizza delivery guys were still working or we would’ve died of starvation because no restaurants were open! You can always rely on them Gumby’s & Papa John’s guys :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Birth of a Blogger

I often ask myself why I blog everyday. Well, almost. I average a post a day unless I’m sick or out of town. Even when I’m swamped with work, I make time to blog…lunch breaks, dinner time. I somehow find time.

The reason I came up with was quite simple actually. I love to write. Always have. Just that earlier, I didn’t have an avenue for it.

One of my dreams remains to write a novel and get published. A novel with a simple story and one that flows easily. I never wished to be the next Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi or Arundhati Roy. I don’t belong to the school of writing that believes the more ornate the language and more abstract the content, the better. I believe in a contemporary style of writing that absorbs the language and colloquialism of the times we live in, and makes the piece of writing more relatable to the people reading it. I mean, come on…people from the 18th century aren’t going to come back from the dead to read your book!!

Of late, I have also been feeling like writing a movie script. It would be shorter than a book and more fun to write, I guess.

So it’s understandable that once I started blogging – with no idea of how long I’d be able to continue – I fell in love with it and have been at it since. I wouldn’t say it’s a release for my emotions…or the way I channelize my pent-up energy. It’s nothing as profound. It’s just something I like to do, and hence make time for it.

So to all those people who encouraged me to become a blogger - Staarin & Serendipity - thank you. And to those who are yet to discover the fun behind blogging, come hop on the bus! What are you waiting for!! :D

Monday, September 1, 2008

Never Too Early to Sing the Carols

There’s still 115 days to go to Christmas. So what? It’s never too early to get excited about Christmas!!

Christmas has a very warm, fuzzy feeling associated with it. It’s about happiness. It’s about celebrations. It’s about love and being with the people you love the most. It’s about forgiving people. It’s about patching up with people you’ve had differences with. It’s about The Holidays!

Maybe it’s my years spent in the US, where everyone looks forward to Christmas as much as Indians look forward to the monsoons every year after parched summer months, which is responsible for my love for Christmas. The malls, airports, streets, restaurants are all decked up with Christmas decorations. There are Christmas carols being played inside every store. Coffee shops serve seasonal creations such as Eggnog Latte, Apple Ciders & Christmas/Holiday blend of coffee. There is a Santa Claus in every mall handing out gifts and candy. Families hang out together, while friends hug & kiss each other. The only emotions to be seen around are love and happiness. The icing on the cake? If it snows!!

What can be prettier than a white Christmas?

I love putting up a small Christmas tree in a corner of my house and decorating it with ornaments & lights. I love having friends over on Christmas eve, playing carols, having a traditional Christmas dinner and exchanging gifts. But what I love the most about Christmas is that unlike Hindu festivals that are all about noise, pollution, inconveniencing others and creating public nuisance, Christmas is celebrated the way it should be – quietly within our own homes, surrounded by happiness and amidst the people we love.

How is it possible to not love a festival as beautiful as Christmas?