Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Year & 2 Months Today

I just realized that my blog turned 1 on October 31st! That's 1 year & 2 months to this day.

A Belated Happy FIRST Birthday to the blogger me!!

I'm surprised I've managed to sustain blogging for over a year, but then that's the hold blogging has on you. It's de-stressing, an outlet for myriad emotions. Not to mention that reading other people's blogs is an enriching experience.

A very BIG THANK YOU to all of you who've been reading & commenting on my blog since it's inception, as also to those of you who joined the tide midway. It's been splendid having you on board.

Here's to many more Happy Fabulous Birthdays...Like to write, will write!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ghajini Disappoints

While Aamir Khan shines.

An hour into the movie I thought I didn’t like it, but then I thought it was too early to dismiss it because after all, it WAS an Aamir Khan movie, and he generally chooses his movies well. After watching the movie I was quite certain I didn’t like it.

The killers : the love story between Sanjay & Kalpana (the lead protagonists), the 3 hr 15 mins running time, the misplaced songs & Asin.

First things first : Aamir Khan is absolutely brilliant in the movie, both as Sanjay Singhania the industrialist & the revenge-obsessed Sanjay Singhania. It’s amazing how at 43 he still retains his school-boyish charm. Watch the scenes where he’s with Kalpana. He’s in love, yet displays a lot of maturity & mellowness. And within minutes he transforms himself into a yelling, screaming, out-for-blood monster. There is a reason why he needed a body like he has in Ghajini. It’s not there for effect or to make women (or gay men) swoon. It’s there because the Anterograde Amnesia-inflicted character of Sanjay Singhania who is on a killing rampage (where he can knock down people who are twice his size) would have been comical had Aamir Khan not gotten himself a body like that. So a word has to be put in about the dedication of the actor. Secondly, I felt NO OTHER actor could’ve carried off the role convincingly.

Now the spoilers…

The love story between Sanjay & Kalpana drags the movie down. It’s shown in two installments & impedes the pace of the movie. I found the action parts much better (though they’re violent & gory).

The movie was way too long. The editing could have been much crisper & the length could have been chopped down to 2 hrs 45 mins or so. Maybe by removing a few songs – one where Asin is introduced, the ‘Laddoo’ song with Jiah Khan & the ‘Kaise Mujhe Tum Mil Gaye’ song in the end which is good but a repeat.

None of the songs in the movie carry the story forward. In fact, they pop out of nowhere & disrupt the flow. It might have been a good idea to retain just one or two songs in the movie & release the rest as part of the music CD. That would’ve helped reduce the running time as well.

As for Asin, probably the most awaited debutant of 2008 (in Bollywood that is) after Deepika Padukone….I found her quite irritating in the movie. Her character was so jaded…she’s this selfless, kind-hearted young woman who helps blind men cross the road, helps disabled children across bridges, saves young girls from flesh trade etc. I mean, being kind & selfless is all good but there’s nothing refreshing about her character. Her character required her to be loud to a certain extent but she has overdone it in the movie. She's pretty in a very Indian way...reminds one of Revathy in a few scenes...but I didn’t find her to be all that she was purported to be!

There was one innovative thing about the movie though…for the first time I’ve come across the movie which is named after the bad guy!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bura Na Maano Dilli Hai!!

I love Delhi. Minus the crime against women of course!

What do I love it for? The wide roads…the open spaces…the history…Dilli ki sardi…the one million ‘golchakkars’ the city has…for Janpath, Kamla Nagar, Sarojini Nagar & Karol Bagh…for Dilli Haat…but most of all for it’s lip smacking food whether it be the parathas of Qutub Industrial Area or Moolchand Flyover, or the Punju food you get at dhabas!!

I was in Delhi for Christmas 2 years ago (i.e. 2006) & that was the most fun Christmas I’ve had in the past five years. It was freezing & I spent the day with two of my friends from Delhi itself…VJ & SA.

Christmas was on a Monday so we had a long weekend & we spent the entire weekend doing nothing but eating! That’s right….we ate and ate and ate and ate and ate some more!!

Throughout the three days, the three of us would meet in the morning and start making plans for the day. We would make many plans but eventually we would do nothing. We would make plans, walk from one place to another, eat. Make plans again, walk to another place, eat. Make even more plans, walk to yet another place, eat again!! And we ate all the unhealthy fattening stuff in the world…aloo parathas, gobi parathas, paneer parathas (doused with butter mind you, there is no other way to eat parathas in Delhi), chhole bhature, butter chicken, gaajar ka halwa. I can’t ever forget for as long as I live how much gaajar ka halwa I ate in those 3 days! Dripping with ghee that too. We ate so much over those 3 days that when I came back to Bombay after it, I had gained 1.5 kgs!!!

Christmas day was the most fun though. We spent the day at Connaught Place. The three of us bought Santa caps (the ones that have lights on them) & we wore them around Connaught place all day. We ate, we took pictures, we harassed the roadside vendors selling Christmas paraphernalia asking them a million questions, bargaining with them & not buying anything from them. We wished random people ‘Meri Christmas’.

Then in the evening we went to PVR in Saket to watch a movie (we watched 'Kabul Express' if I remember correctly). We had to kill some time before the movie so we (surprise surprise!) went into a restaurant & ate.

When we came out (still in our Santa caps), a guy from the Airtel store spotted us & wanted to take a picture of us. He went on saying things like “You guys are looking so cool! Please let us take a picture. We will publish it in our brochure.” Basically I think he wanted to take our picture as we were the only three freaks roaming around in Santa caps & he would've printed it in his brochures to be circulated NATIONALLY with the caption "Look at the 3 Morons"!! But what the hell…it was Christmas for Chrissake!! So we let him take a picture, which he promised to mail to us but never did. It came out pretty cute, actually. Then the guy started singing ‘Jingle Balle Jingle Balle Jingle Balle Balle’ to us….which has sort of become the anthem for VJ, SA & me since then.

After the movie got over, we went to a club called ‘Café Morrison’ at South Ex, named after Jim Morrison obviously. Still in our Santa caps! Stayed there for a few hours, got drunk. After we left Café Morrison, we wanted to cut a Christmas cake (please note we were completely sloshed by this time, at least VJ & I were, not sure about SA).

There were a couple of cake shops at South Ex but they had run out of cake!! We went across to a convenience store at the gas station across from South Ex. They had cakes but not eggless ones (VJ is Jain so he couldn't have cake with eggs). Then we walked to another eating joint a little further. Don’t remember the name…it was something with an R…Rameshwar maybe? They didn’t have cakes at all! Then I think we tried finding ice-cream. Couldn't find that either, so we finally settled for chocolates.

Well, we might not have been able to have Christmas cake in Delhi but we surely had enough gaajar ka halwa to last us ten winters! Say 'Aye' to Dilli!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Many Lives, Many Masters

Do you believe in reincarnation? Spirits? Do you believe that the soul survives after death and takes the form of another body?

Well if you don’t, read ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’ by Dr Brian Weiss, a practicing psychotherapist who graduated from Columbia University & Yale Medical School.

‘Many Lives, Many Masters’ is the true story of one of his patients, Catherine, who suffers from depression, various phobia & anxiety disorders. Months of conventional psychotherapy fail to bring about any improvement in her condition. That is when Dr Weiss decides to try ‘past-life therapy’ on her, where the patient is hypnotized & regressed into his/her past life. Not only does it emerge that her phobias and anxieties are rooted in the way she died during her 86 past lives, the patient, in the state of hypnosis, even starts conveying messages to him from ‘Masters’ (or highly evolved souls not presently in a body) that exist in the “space between lives”.

The Masters make some startling revelations about life after death and also disclose secrets about Dr Weiss’ past & present that Catherine definitely had no means of knowing, thereby adding a sense of authenticity to their existence.

The messages from the Masters are myriad. The soul is immortal. Reincarnation does take place. The soul leaves the body after death & houses itself in another body after a resting period in which it floats in darkness before coming into contact with a bright light that rejuvenates & re-energizes it. During this waiting-to-be-reborn state, the soul apparently also acquires wisdom or transcendental knowledge from the Masters. Souls then await instructions and guidance from the Master Spirits.

Our fate in our next life and the quality of the life itself depend on our actions in the previous life. Or ‘karma’.

We are meant to learn certain pre-ordained lessons in each lifetime, and if we die without learning those lessons, we must go back. This is apparently what happens to people who’ve had near-death experiences where they have admitted to floating out of their bodies towards a bright white light before returning to their bodies once again because they are asked to go back. People in commas can decide whether or not to return, depending on how much learning they have yet to accomplish in their present lifetime. If they feel they have nothing further to learn, they can crossover to the spiritual state.

In the ‘in-between state’, souls have a chance to reflect on the lessons learnt during the previous lifetime and can choose to be re-born, what they need to accomplish and what karmic debts need repaying. If we do not overcome our vices before dying, we carry them over with ourselves to our next life.Groups of souls tend to reincarnate together again and again, working out their karma over the span of many lifetimes.

All human beings are given intuitive powers. Some of us possess powers greater than others because they have been accrued from other lifetimes. Therefore, people are not all created equal but eventually we will reach a point where we will all be equal because eventually there has to be balance & harmony in the universe.

The Masters also tell us about the existence of many subconscious ‘planes’ or dimensions, each being a level of higher consciousness. What level we go to depends on how far our souls have evolved in the ‘physical state’. According to the Masters there are seven planes of which only 3 are revealed in the book as Catherine gets completely healed before the Masters have a chance to reveal the remaining four.

The first plane is the plane of Recollection where you are allowed to see the life that has just passed. Souls that are highly evolved, i.e., Masters are allowed to see history with the help of which they can share lessons of past lives with us (essentially what happens in this book). The second plane is the plane of Awareness where we become aware of the lessons we have learnt in our previous lives and those we still need to learn. The third plane is the plane of Transition where it is determined what dominant trait we must overcome in our next life.

The Masters also tell us that there is a God who we try to approach by going through each lifetime. Once we’ve learnt all the lessons we were meant to learn, accumulated enough knowledge (not intellectual, but what they call ‘emotional’ or ‘subconscious’ knowledge) & have cleared all our karmic debts, we can finally get close to God and rest forever.

A chilling message given by the Masters is that humans will eventually destroy themselves because they are full of greed, ambition & fear. But nature will survive.

I did not take the book very seriously while I was reading it because like millions of other people in this world, my brain too believes in the ‘logic’ of things. Spiritual talk seems abstract at best, to me. Stuff about souls, spirits, life after death, reincarnation etc. are not things that tickle my fancy. I’m one of those people who believe that once life is over, it’s over. End of story. One lifetime is enough to deal with, who wants life after death and another life after that!!

I started thinking about the book a couple of days after I was out of it. One might be tempted to dismiss the book as crap, psychological babble etc. Except that it might not be psychological babble after all. This is because the ‘Masters’ do disclose some secrets about Dr Weiss’ past & present life through Catherine, which are unknown to anyone except Dr Weiss himself and Catherine has no recollection of those things once she’s out of the hypnotic state.

Many of the concepts that this book talks about, such as the immortality & indestructibility of the soul, reincarnation, karma etc. are things one knows as being major tenets of Hinduism. Quite a few of us, especially those who are not very religious, usually dismiss such concepts as religious bullshit. At least I know I did…until I read this book. I’m not saying the book has altered by belief completely but it has definitely made me think if these things could actually be true. That Hinduism might not have been so misguided after all. And the thought is spooky!

Read the book if you’re open to questioning your beliefs. Yourself.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Naach Basanti Naach!!

There’s a reality dance show called ‘Nach Baliye’ on Star Plus in which real-life television couples participate. I find their reaction to the judges’ comments after their performance most amusing. They take the judges comments so seriously…they yelp & jump when the judges give them good comments/scores, they even start crying when the judges give them negative comments!!

The reason I find their behavior utterly amusing is because of two reasons…..

a) these people, the participants i.e., are all television actors. They aren’t exactly the "common man" for whom the show is their one big shot at fame, money & a glittering career in television. So why do they take the comments so seriously??

b) Have you seen the credentials of the judges themselves??!!! I have no clue what gives them the experience or the right to judge these shows? Karishma Kapoor & Arjun Rampal are two of the judges on ‘Nach Baliye’. Errrr….why? Karishma might have danced in many movies but she is in no way qualified to judge a dance-based show. God knows Arjun Rampal can’t dance! Malaika Arora has made a career of judging dance shows? Why again?? The only song where she’s danced well is‘Chhaiyya Chhaiyya’. All her other “item numbers” are over-hyped. She’s hilarious…she even gets offended & walks out of shows if any of the contestants questions her judgement. Urmila Matondkar & Shilpa Shetty have also served as judges on another dance show with TV actors called ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja’.

Basically the funda seems to be to take any flop/has-been actor or actress who is currently vella & to sign them up as a judge for a reality show! This works well for both parties...the judge is light on the pocket of the production house, and the actor/actress gets some visibility & income. Seldom do these shows actually help resuscitate the careers of these have-been's. Take Shilpa Shetty & Urmila Matondkar for instance. Both women were full-on doing jhatka-matkas on the reality show, obviously to show producers they weren't jaded yet. Urmila would even go on to the dance floor uninvited & start dancing. Still I don't think they gained anything from the reality show in terms of a boost to their sagging careers.

When the credentials of the judges themselves is dubious, should their judgment be taken so seriously??

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Of Peace, Hope & Faith

I am one of those people who're hopelessly in love with Christmas. Don't ask me why? There is no specific reason why Christmas warms my heart more than any Indian festival, it just does. The irony is that inspite of having gone to a Catholic school for 15 years of my life, I wasn't so crazy about Christmas then as I became after school. It's probably the memories of celebrating Christmas during my college years in the US that made the festival so endearing.

This is what our Christmas celebrations in college used to be like : The city would start getting decorated mid-November, as people started their holiday shopping. Malls, airports, streets, restaurants, hotels all would have giant Christmas trees and be decked up with lights. Every store you walked in would have Christmas carols playing in the background & Santa smiling indulgently at you. We used to play Secret Santa every Christmas, where all of us friends would write out names on small chits of paper, put them all into a box & everyone would draw one name each. The deal was that you had to get a gift within $5 for the person whose name you drew, without the person knowing it's you who's getting them a gift! The day before college shut down for Christmas, we would all meet in one of our rooms & would one by one give gifts to the person whose name we pulled out. The next day we would all be headed 'home', wherever that was (My Christmas used to be spent either in Chicago or New York, where I had family). The fun part of this game wasn't only the exchange of gifts but also those 10 days leading upto it when each person had to keep a secret & figure out something that the other person would like & appreciate.

Now, my Christmas celebrations start mid-December & last till the end of January. I decorate my home & my work station with Christmas stuff. Like every year, this year too I got this GORGEOUS Christmas tree that already has some beautiful decorations on it, and with a little bit more it will truly light up my living room. I also got a beautiful wreath for my door & a Santa to put beside the tree!

My mother, who loves Christmas almost as much as I do & is a great sport in life, will be with me this Christmas, and the two of us have drawn up some great plans to celebrate the day, which include an English Christmas lunch followed by a movie (preferably a Christmas movie - my all-time favorite is 'Love Actually'). In the evening we're calling a couple of my friends over for plum pudding & hot apple cider.

I look forward to Christmas every year but this year I'm particularly eager for it to come around. I was thinking why and you know what I came up with? We're living in times of such fear, insecurity, despair & hatred. Most of us are scared to go to a mall, movie theater or other crowded public places. Our society is becoming more & more fragmented by the day. There is so much hatred towards people belonging to other religions, so much regionalism, so much distrust towards one another. Everything, including life itself, seems so transient, and I have a bad feeling that things will only get worse with each passing year - at least for a few years UNTIL we take care of the menace of terrorism (globally) and divisionary politics (within India) once & for all.
Come to think of it, this is such a sad way to live life. Living in fear is no way to live. It is simply counting down to death because our aim then is to make it through each day.

I refuse to live in fear. I want to live believing there is still a lot goodness in this world, that is much stronger than evil. I want to believe there is still a lot of love within all of us that is much deeper than the hatred in the entire world put together. I want to believe. This Christmas I'm going to say a prayer for peace, for hope, for faith and for humanity.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

All Christmassy on the Scarlett Front

I am happy. Make that very happy. No, ecstatic actually. Why?

Because it's almost Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In case you can't tell from the pictures on my blogs, the 'Jingle Bells' carol right below this post & the countless exclamation marks above....I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's my favoritestest festival of the entire year! I like Diwali too but Diwali is more about being with family etc. Whereas Christmas is all about warmth & joy, and Christmas decorations are much prettier than decorations for any other festival. Take malls for example. They are so prettily decorated around Christmas!! Actually, I love everything about Christmas...the decorations, the plum cake, the midnight mass. The very mention of Christmas generates visions of warmth, fireplaces & apple ciders in my head. Not to mention winter & snow!

Sigh...I really do love Christmas.

So let's all be happy & celebrate Christmas. Like the Delhiites say - MERI CHRISTMAS, TERI BHI CHRISTMAS!!! :D

This one's for Moonshine, a Delhiite to the core who shares my love for Christmas. Guess where it's from, Moonshine!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's That Time of the Year

*Title borrowed from Moonsine (this is what I thought her latest post was about :)

Now that I've ensured she can't sue me, let's get on with it :-)

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
Over the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Hey, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upshot

Hey, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dick's Last Resort

I was reading an article on the World’s Strangest Restaurants on this website the other day.

I would like to add an entry to their list – Dick’s Last Resort Restaurant.

It’s an American (of course!) chain of restaurants that welcomes you with something like this : “From Rug-rats to Old Farts, from High-Class to No-Class, from the Top of the Food Chain, to the Bottom of the Barrel, it’s FUN FOR ALL AND ALL IN FUN FOR THOSE WHO DARE TO ENTER! …Dick’s has always been known for its outrageous, surly, energetic waitstaff who inflict humor upon our guests… If you’ve got any talent, git up on stage and sing with the band. Dance anywhere ya want - except… don’t shake ya booty on top of our fine tables and chairs. They’ve lasted 20 yrs, and we’ll use ‘em for 20 more if we can. You may end up wearing a 2ft tall paper hat complete with a humorous slogan, or doused in a sea of napkins. There’s never a dull moment in this 3-ring circus which is exactly how we earned our infamous reputation”.

One needs a very thick skin & a damn good sense of humor if one wishes to lunch/dine at Dick’s and enjoy the experience.

The USPs of the restaurant are : rude waiters that insult you & provide poor service, bizarre interiors & strange things you’re made to do while eating at the restaurant.

First about the waiters, which I found to be the most amusing part of Dick’s. They are rude, they abuse you, they will throw the cutlery in front of you, they bang your plate etc. They will even go to the extent of asking you to F-off. I kid you not. They can get really offensive. I have been to one & it’s happened to me and my friends.

The restaurants are generally huge with wooden interiors. The one I went to (in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) resembled an airplane hangar, and had a number of motorcycles strewn about & women’s undergarments hanging carelessly above the bar. The décor is completely random and unrelated to food.

The food is greasy, served messily, and accompanied by a big bib & a paper hat scribbled with nonsensical stuff that every diner must wear.

The menu consists mainly of American Barbecue, Steak & Burgers, and offers a couple of bizarrely named entrees such as ‘cluck & moo’ (chicken & steak) and ‘oink & cluck’ (pork & chicken). Here’s a sampling of what Dick’s has to offer its guests…

For all their crass humor & patron abuse, you will be surprised to find that the patronage consists not only of high school/college kids but also families with young children. It’s a fairly pricey restaurant, the food is greasy but good, and comes in gigantic portions.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Went to a very nice resto-bar called Zara for Sunday afternoon lunch. Zara is a Tapas restaurant (Tapas refers to Spanish appetizers) but it serves Chinese, Italian & Mexican food as well! The main course is mainly Continental but both the times that I've gone there we have stuffed ourselves with their spicy, delicious appetizers, skipped the main course (which you would get at any Continental resaurant) & jumped straight to the dessert, which are Oh-My-God-Heavenly!! It was my second visit to the restaurant & I'm beginning to think the people who work there have developed a liking for me (grin from ear to ear :)

The story goes somewhat like this...

The first time I went to Zara, they gave my friend & me an appetizer (a very nice one) on the house! I have no clue why!! The second time was even better (isn't it always? ;)

They make these awesome Strawberry Martinis. Basically, they add fresh strawberry juice to Vodka and leave it to ferment for a week, so the Vodka truly imbibes the taste of strawberries. They prepare this concoction in-house.

Fresh strawberries were not available in the market the first time I went there, so instead of using strawberry infused Vodka they made the martini by adding Vodka to strawberry puree. And it tasted divine. This time around when I went, they were back to making their original Strawberry Martinis. I ordered for one thinking it would be the same as last time (since I didn't know the difference), but when I got my martini I was quite disappointed as it didn't taste the same, and much to the waiter's displeasure I kept insisting it was not the same thing I had last time. The guy at the bar probably saw me sulking & before I knew it, there was another glass of Strawberry Martini infront of me, the way I had had it the first time! And it was ON THE HOUSE!!

I quite like the ambience & the food at Zara though not the decor so much. They've got three types of seating - couches where you can lounge, tables & chairs, and bar stools along the bar. The music played is good...on Saturday night they played Spanish music, followed by Retro, my eternal favorite. Yesterday too they were playing pretty enjoyable music though I don't remember what genre! I didn't notice!! But the best thing about the music at Zara is that it is not so loud that it is impossible to hold a conversation. It is a resto-bar afterall.

The best feature of Zara is undoubtedly their desserts. I've had a dessert on both my visits there. On my first visit I had the Dark Chocolate Mousse with Kahlua Cream (thick layer of it :) I'm sure I don't need to explain what it was in detail. The second time I had a Pancake Filled with Molten Chocolate & Served with Ice-Cream. The molten chocolate gave the entire thing a bittersweet taste, and the hotness of the pancake/chocolate contrasted well with the ice-cream.

The hi-point for eating-out enthusiasts...the waiters are polished, well spoken, conversant in English, know their dishes, can recommend good ones, are chilled out & always have a big smile on their faces. That makes a world of a difference at a restaurant. Nothing pisses me off more than dumb waiters at restaurants.

Zara has two outlets in Chennai. They've just opened in Pune & are planning to open in Delhi in February & Bombay in six months if things work out for them in terms of space. I hope they do, and you guys should head there for desserts as soon as they do! And for their strawberry martinis! And for the sweet people they are :)

PS: As you can clearly see, I can only think of food right now. That's because I'm on a self-imposed-diet-under-enormous-societal-pressure. And as anyone who has tried dieting will know, when you're on a diet food is all you can think of!!

Friday, December 12, 2008


I am an urban woman - well-educated, career driven & financially independent. And unmarried to boot. I’m adept at juggling the demands of work with the stress of living on my own; have been doing so for the past five years. I am also 28 years old & getting ready to celebrate my 29th birthday early-ish next year (yes, birthdays are a big deal :-)

Over the years - say between the age of 23 when I first started working and 28 - I have seen a significant change in myself, in my opinions & my views on issues that affect women, the choices women have to make in life etc.

As a 23-24 year old, I used to be fairly certain – make that absolutely certain - that I wasn’t the types to make sacrifices for husband & children, if & when I do get married. I found no reason to do so. Always believed that if a man isn’t expected to make sacrifices for his family, why should a woman be expected to? But as all of you women who’ve been there before me would know, age mellows you down :-)

As you grow older, you tend to re-evaluate your opinions, particularly your stand on various issues assailing the women species. I think the major reason behind this is the events you see unfolding in your social & professional circle. You see your female friends & colleagues, who are just like you (career driven, ambitious), getting married and making certain choices that would seem contrary to their personalities.

I have seen this happening more in my family than outside. My aunts are all over-achievers. One is a lawyer in Chicago who studied law at Columbia & Northwestern Universities – some of the premier law schools in the US. She got picked up by one of the top law firms in Chicago and was well on her way to becoming a partner at the firm when she realized that her kids, who were between 5 & 10 years of age, needed more of her time than she was able to give them with 13-14 hour workdays. Her kids were growing up with babysitters - who to their credit were doing a good job - but the kids needed “mom-time”. So, she decided to go part-time which obviously meant she had to give up on her ambition to become a partner - something each lawyer covets.

Another aunt (IIM-C graduate, did a Master’s in IT from Berkeley & went on to work with Oracle & then Morgan Stanley) too gave up her job because she felt she needed to give more time to her kids. The third aunt, a psychiatrist by profession, too chose to give up her job when she had her second child because she felt she was not able to do justice to her first, as she had to divide her time between him & work.

One might wonder what the big deal about this is? Women, particularly Indian women, routinely make such sacrifices without batting an eyelid. Fair enough. But the big deal - at least for me - is that it’s happened in my family, where every woman is brought up being told that she needs to be financially independent when she grows up. In fact, I don’t remember my parents or anyone else in my family ever telling me that choosing not to work when I grow up is an option too!

Let me just clarify, I don’t belong to a fascist family, in case you’re wondering :-) It’s just that since my grandmother downwards, every single woman in my family has been a working woman.

The interesting thing about my aunts is that all of them went to the US as students in the 1990s, without financial backing from their parents, which meant they had to struggle and survive on stipends for as long as it took them to complete their education, so they could have what they thought was a better life as compared to what they could have had in India in the 1990s. And they reached a point in life when, just like that, they gave it all up!! It was not an easy decision for them at all, as they all admit, but one they NEEDED to and WANTED to make. It was a big step for them and had many implications not only on their financial standing but also on their psyches, but they took that step nonetheless. And that really made me sit up & think.

I’m still undecided on what I would end up doing if & when I do have a family. Would I keep working as I am currently…or go part-time…or quit working completely? While on the one hand, I do think it’s important that kids get quality time from at least one parent (which one of the two it should be is a matter of endless debate :-), on the other hand I also know that I would be miserable if I had to depend on someone else for money. I’m interested in seeing which way I swing and how long I can sustain it.

Point is….you should never say ‘Never’ in life!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Noble Initiative & On To Other Things...

Finally, India Inc. has come together to the aid of terror martyrs' families. One knows that any kind of financial compensation cannot make up for the loss of a loved one, but the harsh reality is that we need money to survive.

Some of Mumbai’s young industrialists have set up a fund of Rs 2 Crores for the families of the security personnel who died in combat. The families of 14 policemen, NSG commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan & Marine Commando Gajendra Singh will get Rs 25,000 per month for the next 5 years. They are also evaluating the option of giving out Rs 10,000-15,000 per month for a longer duration, as opposed to Rs 25,000 per month for 5 years. This aid, in my opinion, is much better than the measly one-time compensation the government gives to the families of the deceased, as it is drawn out over a period of time, and the amount is substantial.

Most of these industrialists have refused to divulge their identities, which is so refreshing to hear. I was touched by what one of them had to say on the issue: “This is only a gesture to try and give something back to those who laid down their lives for this city, this country. This is a salute to our security agencies and reassure them that if, God forbid, anything happens to them while they are performing their duty, the people of this country will look after their families."

In a separate initiative, Mr Ratan Tata is setting up a new trust solely to help the victims of the terror attack under the flagship of the Indian Hotels Company, the company that owns the Taj. This financial aid will not be restricted to the families of staff & guests who got injured or lost their lives inside the Taj but will be available to anyone affected by the attacks, be it at CST, Leopold, Cama Hospital or Trident Hotel. Such is the character of Mr Ratan Tata. The man makes us respect him all over again - again & again.

Rebuilding the Taj is being estimated to cost him Rs 500 Crore but he’s not being stingy about helping the victims of the attack. Would like to see a similar initiative coming out of the Oberoi-Trident, if not for everyone who got injured/lost their lives during the attack but at least for their staff & guests who were victims. Also waiting to see if the Ambani brothers come up with any such initiative. In my mind, they definitely should. But I haven’t heard any noise from that quarter.

I’ve decided that this is going to be my last post on the attack. Unless I have something very significant to say. I need to bury this issue now, with all my respect to those who lost their lives – guests & staff of the two hotels, residents of Nariman House, people who lost their lives at CST, Cama Hospital & Leopold – and prayers for their families. Just because I’m putting this issue to rest does not mean I’m going to forget it. Not anytime soon. Probably not ever. Even though the terror attack did not affect me directly, it did strike a city very close to my heart. But the gloom has lingered for quite a while now, and I just realized it’s only 15 days to Christmas – the time of the year I wait for all year (apart from my birthday, ofcourse :)

So I need some HAPPY & CHEER. It’s time for Christmas, everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Arms & The Media

The media has been criticized for telecasting live the operations at the Taj, Oberoi & Nariman House. Barkha Dutt has responded by writing an extensive piece defending the role of media & applauding them on the way they gallantly covered the attack, the threat to their lives notwithstanding.

In addition, Rajdeep Sardesai has been quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t buy the logic that television coverage compromised security and the rescue operations. Everybody wanted to know how the events were unfolding. It was extremely tense. And, the security forces were dealing with fidayeens. They (fidayeens) wouldn’t time their actions by watching television. That’s a ridiculous thing to even suggest.”

While I do give credit to the media for reporting from the site of the siege with death staring them in the face, I think they should have acted more responsibly given what was going on. I agree terrorists would not have been watching television while inside the hotels, but anyone with even half a brain would know that people from their organization would have been following the news & would most probably be relaying it to the terrorists. As has now been proved, the terrorists were each carrying a cell phone & were in constant touch with both their Lashkar commanders in Pakistan & in India. And I am pretty sure they were constantly being updated on NSG’s moves!!

Had the media exercised some restraint, maybe - just maybe - the operation might have gotten over sooner & a few more lives would have been spared. After all, knowledge of the positions & plans of the NSG with the terrorists would definitely have put the NSG at a disadvantage, maybe even have cost them a few lives.

Rajdeep Sardesai’s reasoning above is demented at best. And Barkha Dutt’s piece is clearly an attempt to save her butt. Sample this : “In the 72 hours that we stood on reporting duty, not once were we asked to move further away. We often delayed live telecasting of images that we thought were sensitive so as to not compromise the ongoing operation. Not once, were we asked by anyone in authority, to switch our cameras off, or withhold images. When we did so, it was entirely our own assessment that perhaps it was safest to do so. Across the world, and as happened in the US after 9/11, there are daily, centralized briefings by officials to avoid any inadvertent confusion that media coverage may throw up. Not so in Mumbai. There was no central point of contact or information for journalists who were often left to their own devices to hunt down news that they felt had to be conveyed to their country. No do's and don'ts were provided by officials. While we understand that this situation was new for everyone involved, and so the government could not have been expected to have a full plan for media coverage, surely the same latitude should be shown to us?”

She further goes on to say, “Should there be an emergency code of dos and donts for the coverage of such crises? We in the media would welcome a framework for sensitive events and are happy to contribute to its construction. But it is important to understand that in the absence of any instructions on site and in the absence of any such framework we broke NO rules.”

I think her entire argument of “we broke NO rules because there were none” is simply an attempt to prevent any legal action against the media from any quarter. Our system isn’t even equipped to handle terror (after all, our police went to counter the terrorists who were armed with AK-47s & grenades with lathis!!) How can the government be expected to have a list of do’s & don’t’s for the media, and expected to brief the media on what they should & shouldn’t do on an everyday basis, given what was going on inside the hotels & Nariman House??

Secondly, guidelines or no guidelines, there is something called ‘morality’, ‘ethics’, ‘conscience’. Self-censorship is something which the media MUST exercise in situations like this, and especially when national security is at stake.

Barkha Dutt’s argument about delaying live telecasting of images is feeble as well. Very few will argue that a terrorist who has details of the offensive the forces are planning against him, the direction they are coming from etc., though delayed, is much better equipped to battle the forces than one who has no information whatsoever on the strategy of the forces or the direction of their approach!!

Halfway through the live telecast, the journalists also started saying things like "without giving away too much detail, we will tell you that…". But did they have to give away any detail at all to the terrorists?? Updates on the situation would have been enough. There was no need for the entire country to watch live what was going on at the Taj. I mean, we were in no way involved with the operations. There was no reason we needed to watch it live!

Talking of updates, the ticker at the bottom of the screen was often misleading. One instant, it would say ‘Operation over at the Taj. The other instant it would read, “2 terrorists still inside the Taj’. Or ‘No more hostages left inside the Taj’, followed by ’15 hostages still trapped inside Taj’. How ridiculous!!

The journalists, in the face of criticism, are going around saying “We showed live coverage because people wanted to know! The country wanted to know! The country has a right to know! You cannot deny them right to information!” etc. etc. To my mind, this is all crap. We are only too familiar with how journalists abuse the rights they enjoy in a democratic country. They use their ‘PRESS’ pass to gain access to anything & everything, where as the truth is they will go to any extent, break any barrier, just so they can grab more eyeballs & jack up their TRP ratings.

There is something called self-censorship which the media completely lacks today. Their favorite pastime is to invoke the ‘Freedom of the Press’ clause, which they are doing in this situation as well. But nothing – absolutely nothing – is more important than national security. I sincerely hope the courts in India understand & appreciate this, and issue a writ designating the IB Ministry to formulate a Code of Conduct for the media that they must abide by at all times.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Some more random (or not so random) thoughts

Simi Garewal needs to be yanked out of her Breach Candy illusion & plunged into reality. How can the woman make such blatantly ignorant & inflammable statements on national television, such as there being Pakistani flags everywhere in slums across Bombay & the idea of carpet-bombing Pakistan, at a time when the country is already on tenterhooks?

The Pakistani flags she referred to are religious flags of Muslims, and carpet-bombing an entire nation certainly isn’t the optimal solution a democracy should seek. I hope, on hindsight, she understands the gravity & enormity of what she callously uttered on ‘We the People’ on NDTV.


I think politicians not only in India but even in Pakistan have lost it after the Mumbai attacks. Everyone’s running around making nonsensical statements. Take the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, for example. First he says that even if the terror attack was carried out by Pakistan-based terror organizations, they are non-state actors so the Government can't do much about it.

How can one make a statement like that?

Even if they are non-state actors, it is Pakistan’s responsibility to get rid of them for the simple reason that they are thriving on Pakistani soil. Other countries certainly can’t go rushing into Pakistan bombing them, can they? The crackdown has to come from the Pakistani government.

Then he insists he got a call from the Foreign Minister of India threatening military action again Pakistan. Jesus! Hasn’t he been in politics long enough to know that any call from a Government Official/Minister of one country to another follows a protocol, which includes activating the foreign affairs ministry & embassies of both countries? The Minister of a country does not randomly pick up his cell phone & dial the number of a Minister of another country! Definitely not to make calls to threaten military action against the other country for whatever reason! And this joker not only believes the call was genuine, he even mobilized his country’s militia to respond if an attack happens!! Isn’t that worrying?

Really…who makes such jokers the Prime Minister??!!!


SRK was on NDTV saying that the scariest aspect of the terror strike was that the terrorists came through the sea & could simply disembark & enter Mumbai. Come to think of it, that is actually scary. Who would’ve thought they could come by boats into Bombay! SRK too lives by the sea, and the terrorists could very well have disembarked at Bandstand instead of Badhwar Park and bombed the daylights out of ‘Mannat’. That would’ve been a big enough story too! He’s lucky they had other plans!


I can’t believe there was a debate going on between political parties in Maharashtra on whether a Dalit or a Maratha should become the next CM of the state. These @^%&*$# politicians can’t think beyond caste & ethnicity even in times of a national crisis!! Why don't terrorists annihilate them I wonder. Maybe because they too know no one will give a rat's ass in India if politicians die.


Raj Thackerey finally emerged from his hideout to thank the security personnel who rescued Mumbai. I don’t even want to waste words on that man. But I read a funny poster held by one of the silent protestors at the Gateway of India which said “Missing : Raj Thackerey. Find him and win 5 Vada Paos!!” It’s befitting to him.


In all the rage that engulfs us, we also need to be calm & rational. I see a lot of dangerous sentiments flying around. People are criticizing an entire community for the act of a handful of fanatics, and that is just so dangerous for our country. Communal violence within India is what the terrorists want; we can’t give it to them. People need to be careful of what they say. Everyone’s calling it Islamic terrorism. That’s the same as calling the demolition of the Babri Masjid Hindu Terrorism. How true is that? How many Hindus sympathized with & supported the demolition of the Babri Masjid? That was the action of a handful of Hindu fanatics, just like terrorism is today.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Want

  • I want accountability. I want the Government to stand up and take responsibility for what happened, and stop playing the blame game.
  • I want the Government to take concrete steps to prevent such attacks from happening again on Indian soil. I want to see tangible results – such as uprooting of all terrorist training camps from Pakistan & all terrorists wanted by India being brought to book – and I want timelines for these.
  • I want the Z-Class security cover of politicians to be taken away immediately.
  • I want the army to take over the country until the entire system is cleaned up. Like what happened in Punjab. Yes I know we’re a democracy but desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • I want Raj, Uddhav & Bal Thackerey put behind bars for good on a non-bailable warrant for playing divisive politics among the people of India.
  • I don’t want my countrymen to die cheaply, in bomb blasts or floods or terror attacks.
  • I want the Indian Government to stop all peace talks with Pakistan with immediate effect, until the Pakistan Government cooperates fully with India on the fight against terrorism – with tangible results.
  • I want more patrolling of our borders, land and sea.
  • I want tighter security measures at airports, railway stations, malls & theaters, and I want Indians to stop cribbing about standing in queues, getting their bags checked & getting frisked. We will have to give up some liberties to be safe, and that’s a choice we have to make.
  • I want apparatus like CCTV & metal detectors that actually work at these places.
  • I want the defense forces, the NSG & the police to be better equipped & better paid. I want our money – the taxpayer’s money – to go into bolstering these organizations & not to provide Z-Class security to useless rubbish piece of s*** politicians. The defense forces deserve much more than they have, and India deserves much better.
  • I want to hear no talk, absolutely none, of the “spirit of Mumbai”. The Spirit is dead, gone. It is now time for you loathsome politicians to swing into action, to payback the people of India for all the facilities they provide to you.
  • Let us not think that a change in Government will bring about an end to this mayhem. It is just the bad luck of the Congress party that it happens to be at the Center right now. The other governments have equally tarnished records with communal riots etc. to their name, and things would have been no different had another party been in power. The only way things will be different is if there are concrete steps taken to end terrorism against India.
  • Let us be united in this hour of tragedy. Let us not think about who is a Mumbaikar and who is not. Who is a North Indian, who is a South Indian & who is a Maratha. Who is Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Parsi. This is an attack on India and not on Mumbai. It is a coincidence that Mumbai happens to be the financial capital of India & a city visited by many foreign tourists. The same thing could very well have happened in Delhi or Bangalore or Kolkata. Let us understand that we have been done in as a nation, and let us stand together with Mumbai.
  • I want us not to go back to our daily lives pretending as if nothing happened. I want us to remember those 3 days of terror for a long long time. I want us to grieve for the people, both victims and security personnel who lost their lives. I want us to remember that our politicians have let us down like never before. I want us to remember and even respect the grit & determination of the terrorists, who were so convinced of their mission & so completely focused on their goal, however heinous it was, that they held hundreds of security personnel at bay for 3 whole days. Let us respect that, because if we don’t we will not be able to sustain our rage against the Government that has failed us. We will stop pressing for accountability from the Government. We will stop asking questions. We will stop demanding better homeland security. This furore will subside just as fast as it rose, and we will go back to being the lax, vulnerable people that we are.

Letter To Prime Minister

I got this forwarded letter in my mailbox from a Mumbai resident whose name I have withheld as I don't know if such a person exists, and if they do, I don't want them to be inundated with unwanted letters/mails/calls. The letter certainly drives a couple of points home...

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

I am a typical mouse from Mumbai. In the local train compartment which has a capacity of 100 persons, I travel with 500 more mice. Mice at least squeak but we don't even do that.
Today I heard your speech. In which you said 'NO BODY WOULD BE SPARED'. I would like to remind you that fourteen years have passed since the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai took place. Dawood was the main conspirator. Till today he is not caught. All our bolywood actors, our builders, our Gutka king meets him but your Government can not catch him. Reason is simple; all your ministers are hand in glove with him. If any attempt is made to catch him everybody will be exposed. Your statement 'NOBODY WOULD BE SPARED' is nothing but a cruel joke on the unfortunate people of India.

Enough is enough. After seeing the terrorist attack carried out by about a dozen young boys I realize that if the same thing continues, the day is not away when terrorists will attack by air, destroy our nuclear reactor and there will be one more Hiroshima.

We the people are left with only one mantra. Womb to Bomb to Tomb. You promised Mumbaikars a Shanghai; what you have given us is Jalianwala Baug.

Today only your home minister resigned. What took you so long to kick out this joker? Only reason was that he was loyal to the Gandhi family. Loyalty to Gandhi family is more important than blood of innocent people, isn't it?

I have been born and bought up in Mumbai for the last fifty eight years. Believe me corruption in Maharashtra is worse than that in Bihar. Look at all the politicians..Sharad Pawar, Chagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane, Bal Thackray , Gopinath Munde, Raj Thackray, Vilasrao Deshmukh are all rolling in money. Vilasrao Deshmukh is one of the worst Chief Ministers I have seen. His only business is to increase the FSI every other day, make money and send it to Delhi so Congress can fight the next election. Now the clown has found a new way and will increase FSI for fisherman so they can build concrete houses right on the sea shore. Next time terrorists can comfortably live in those houses, enjoy the beauty of the sea and then attack Mumbai at their will.

Recently I had to purchase house in Mumbai. I met about two dozen builders. Everybody wanted about 30% in black. A common person like me knows this and with all your intelligence agencies & CBI you and your finance minister are not aware of it. Where does all the black money go? To the underworld isn't it? Our politicians take help of these goondas to vacate people by force. I myself was a victim of it. If you have time please come to me, I will tell you everything.

If this had been a land of fools, idiots, then I would not have ever cared to write this letter. Just see the tragedy..on one hand we are reaching the moon, people are so intelligent. And on the other side you politicians have converted nectar into deadly poison. I am everything.. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Schedule caste, OBC, Muslim OBC, Christian Schedule caste, Creamy Schedule caste. Only what I am not is INDIAN. You politicians have raped every part of mother India by your policy of divide and rule.

Take the example of former president Abdul Kalam. Such an intelligent person, such a fine human being. You politicians didn't even spare him. Your party, along with opposition, joined hands, because politicians feels they are supreme and there is no place for good people.

Dear Mr Prime Minister you are one of the most intelligent people, most learned person. Just wake up, be a real SARDAR. First and foremost expose all selfish politicians. Ask Swiss banks to give names of all Indian account holders. Give reins of the CBI to an independent agency. Let them find the wolves among us. There will be political upheaval but that will be better than the dance of death which we are witnessing every day. Just give us an ambience where we can work honestly and without fear. Let there be rule of law. Everything else will be taken care of.

Choice is yours Mr. Prime Minister. Do you want to be led by one person or do you want to lead a nation of 100 Crore people?

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Abyss

I can't f****** believe these f****** politicians we have!

R R Patil is at it again with another insensitive, almost barbaric remark : "Woh 5000 maarne aaye the, humne 200 mein nipta liya".

Another one, Mukhtar Naqvi, BJP Vice President saying, "Lipstick powder lagane wali mahilaayen terrorism ke baare mein kya janengi jo woh politicians ko gaali de rahi hain", about women who turned up at Marine Drive for the candle-light vigil & were protesting against the politicians.

Vilasrao Deshmukh is defending his decision to take RGV along on an official tour of the Taj by saying that RGV is no terrorist or militant, and lots of people went to see the site of tragedy, and so did he. But Mr Deshmukh, "lots of people" did not go inside the Taj on a guided tour. Why should RGV?? Who the hell is he?? Is he a concerned official? No! A security personnel? No! An intelligence official? Definitely not. The media?? Or was there some circus or belly-dancing show happening inside the Taj??

Why the f*** should we not curse the good-for-nothing politicians? What are they doing for us? Their Z-Class security, which I learnt today consists of 100 NSG Commandoes per politician (can you believe that??) is paid for by us, the tax payers of this country. It is your f****** job to ensure our security, and if you can't do that, why should we pay for yours?

To say that my blood is boiling is an understatement.

The only shame is to have none

Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh, went on an official tour of the Taj along with Ram Gopal Varma & Ritesh Deshmukh. Deputy Chief Minister said on national television that “In a big city, small incidents like this keep happening. One should not call it a failure of intelligence.” Obviously he thinks his job description is limited to moral policing of dance bars in Mumbai. Shivraj Patil was quoted as saying, “Thankfully, the terrorists did not kill too many foreigners.” Obviously, the death of 160 Indians (apart from the 22 tourists) was not enough to make his blood curdle. His insensitivity was evident even after the Delhi blasts in September, when he needed to go home & change his outfit before he could mobilize the armed forces because he is used to changing his outfits 4 times a day!!! Thank God he’s gone! L K Advani couldn’t attend the all-party meet called by Manmohan Singh on Saturday because he was busy campaigning for the elections in Rajasthan & it wouldn’t have been possible for him to leave midway, national security be damned!!

Let’s face it…we are being governed by a bunch of selfish idiots who are concerned only about their vote banks. They do not care for the lives of Indians as long as they have power.

On the other hand, IB & RAW claim to have issued repeated advisories to the Navy, warning them of the Indian seas being infiltrated by terrorists, the latest coming on Nov 18th stating that “a ship full of dangerous cargo has left Karachi & may be headed towards Gujarat”. Check this out as per NDTV’s reports :

“In March 2008, intelligence agencies had warned the Maharashtra government that the Gateway of India and Oberoi Trident hotel were potential targets. Sources said that it was revealed by Fahim Ansari who was arrested in Lucknow.

Later in August, intelligence agencies warned the crime branch that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was training 500 to 600 terrorists for attacks through sea. Agencies said that the terrorists would be disguised as fishermen. They also mentioned that two West Asians recced Goa and Mumbai for two whole months.

On August 21, the Fishermen Union complained to police that illegal permissions were issued to 800 Gujarati trawlers. Majority of the crewmen were Bangladeshis. The Union feared that RDX was being trafficked through those trawlers.

Then in September, the Maharashtra state police was again warned of potential attacks on the Taj and Oberoi Trident hotels. Agencies also mentioned that terrorists were doing recces of the targets. Following that, a month later, intelligence agencies warned of a sea-borne attack and said an Indian, unmarked vessel might be used.

Finally, on November 18, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) again issued a warning to the Coast Guard, Navy and Maharashtra Police that the Taj and Oberoi were potential targets.Naval intercepts revealed "chatter" on the sea and RAW said that the attack was being planned by the Lashkar-e-Toiba's naval wing”

Why were these warnings repeatedly ignored by the Government of Maharashtra & by India’s usually efficient and well-regarded Navy? The attacks cannot be called “unfortunate” or an intelligence failure. There was sufficient intelligence about it, alright. These attacks were a direct result of the Government’s negligence, callousness & apathy towards the plight of citizens in the face of terror. This Government should be charged for large-scale manslaughter & those accountable should be penalized as per the Constitution of India. Nothing less should suffice.

PS: By the way, I want to know where Raj Thackrey is now? Probably cowering inside his house somewhere. Whatever happened to his zeal to protect the interests of his "marathi manoos"? I am sure he has no answers...because he can only wreak havoc when he's dealing with a powerless enemy, like the North Indians in Mumbai...because most of the men from NSG who stepped up bravely to rescue the hostages in "his" Mumbai were non-Marathis. Imagine if they had refused to do so. I shudder to think of what would have happened in Bombay.