Thursday, June 28, 2007

As tough as it gets

It has always been my desire to get into the realms of reporting. Journalism has come across as a daring and wonderful profession.I always tell my friends that I would have been a journalist if I hadn't got into engineering. It is altogether a different matter that I do not have the creative juices flowing when it comes to professional writing. It involves considerable hard work to report the news in a perfect way and it is equally important to catch the reader's attention. The most important aspect of writing is that the language must be grammatically perfect. A few words altered to your whims can completely change the meaning of the sentence. It shouldn't strike a discordant note with the listener when he reads your sentence. A bad sentence is like bad music. It cannot go unnoticed.

I realized how difficult it can get to hit the right note when different kinds of people are catching up with the blog. I have to think more than once when I translate my thoughts to words. I just had to write about what I felt in Great Expectations when my father suddenly calls me up to find out if things are fine. My friends from different parts call up to find out what in the world is wrong with me. It was difficult to explain that it was just a one off blog reflecting my feelings at that point of time. It is not strange for us to experience a wide range of emotions over a period of time.

A couple of days back, I wrote an entry(Why vernacular?) on the medium of instruction in some schools in Karnataka. I wrote a sentence highlighting the negative impact the court judgement would have on the school going children. I immediately got a phone call from back home asking me to fine tune the sentence. Obviously, I had the initial feeling of Oh! This is my blog!, but then realized the impact of what would happen if my writing is taken in the wrong spirit. So, off I logged in to rephrase the sentence.

I realize that not everybody looks at things the way you do. Everyone has his own perspective of analyzing things. The magnitude of writing a report on day to day happenings can be so tough. The report would end up pleasing a few people, and on the flip side, upset many heads. It is not difficult to get into the wrong side of somebody. There was a time when the media was unbiased, news was reported in true intentions, and brilliant judgmental articles filled the newspapers. But today, the news is filled with trivial issues, highlighting mediocre and unwanted things, providing publicity to uncalled for activities and raising its popularity with blown up controversies. Truth is in troubled waters and not many want to get themselves tested.

Journalism still remains my dream, and as a consolation, I get to fill the void thanks to blogging.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A perfect gift

Special occasions tend to create special moments and you generally tend to savour that moment for a lifetime. Happiness is a state of mind and you wish to share that with some people who make a difference. Gifts are a way of expressing your "something" for the person. The "something" can be a token of friendship signifying the person's importance. I am never a gifts guy, for I more often than not tend to forget the person's special occasion. The special occasion could be a birthday, wedding anniversary, graduation ceremony or anything else.

The thought of gifting someone with something is really not an easy prospect. It is difficult to hit upon an object that would appease the receiver. This can be known only if you know the person well enough to understand what he/she likes. I have always considered books to be the best possible gift for anybody, though I guess I have now lost the moral right to talk about books. I hardly have read anything in the last couple of months. The best thing about books is that you always tend to find the right books for the occasion. There are so many brilliant authors covering diverse topics that it is so easy to pick on the select few to gift it to somebody. If your friend is a book reader, then there is no better gift to lift his spirits.

Let us get to something more materialistic. Garments and fabrics have never fascinated me as good gift materials. Jewelry, pendants, rings, earrings and ornaments for girls have never influenced me as good gift objects. I have always felt it to be too personal to be given to a girl. I view the living room stuffs as a big bore. Those showcase materials with dolls and other small creatures have never had an impact on me. Soft toys are a fascination with a certain section of my friends. Pens and pencils are good gift materials, infact at some point, I could never think beyond pens as gifts. I had to get through that phase and come up with better ideas. Similarly, watches are as popular, though mobile phones have replaced watches as time machines. But then, I can easily get carried off by a good watch. Of course, packaging a gift is as important as the gift itself.

But today, gifts have assumed a different meaning, what with the purchasing power of the people. IPods, music players, mobile phones, laptops and other jazzy electronic gadgets have emerged as simple gifts. Gift cards and certificates are common fixtures these days, but it does not generate as much of a surprise. I still remember receiving my first gift when I was in my first standard. A nice front page photo of Draupadi adorned the cover of that time edition of Amar Chitra Katha (one of my favourite series) which kindled in me the desire to know the complete sequence of Indian mythology. Those days, the edition was not as glossy as what it is today. It was simple and economical for the common man to buy, and perfect gifts for growing up children.

Sometimes, exceptions have to be made.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why vernacular?

The latest court verdict in Karnataka concerns the 2000 odd schools in the state to switch to Kannada as the medium of instruction bypassing English. English is the global medium of communication and it is imperative that we get a good grasp of the language that would aid us in the development process. Here, it is not the question of promoting your local language, but you are effectively terminating the ability of the children to come up in a competitive environment.

In India, every state has a language of its own along with the national language, Hindi. Being born and brought up in India, there is no doubt that it is important to learn your local language as well as the national language. But that doesn't mean that you should shun English. India is emerging as a major global power and we are dependent on our western allies to work in close co-ordination and improve the economy. As long as a person has the basic knowledge to speak, read and write in the local language, it should more than suffice for him to live happily in the area. But what happens if he decides to leave the area in pursuit of higher studies or some other reason. He would be virtually handicapped without English. Who in the world would come to his aid if he has to learn the technical know hows in English? One may argue taking into account the example of the European nations. It is very true that people in Germany or France may not take up English seriously. But how many of them move out of their countries in search of a living. They are self sufficient in almost everything. Name any automobile major and Germany has its headquarters cemented there. People from these countries do not find it a necessity to go out of their den. In spite of that, there is every effort on the part of these Governments to promote English.

We are able to compete with our Asian supergiant China since we have overcome the language barrier to a better extent than them. Our primary strength lies in our education system which promotes English right from the primary level, and this enables us to get a good command over a period of time. We are in a stage where we should be getting along with things, not fall behind due to ridiculous opinions from high end quarters.

Kannada, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali and other vernacular languages are really important. It is our duty to preserve these languages. There is no doubt about that. But, they should not be a hindrance causing us to neglect English. How many politicians are sending their kids to the local medium schools? Almost all of them are well educated in good convents with a expensive fee structure. As the saying goes Charity begins at home, these people should serve as an example to the society and send their kids to the local medium schools. Let us see how many would sacrifice their political ideals when it comes to them.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to see a competitive India. We should not be left behind due to petty political squabbles. It is easy to ruin the present and get back to the past. The future beckons something really important and we should be in a position to find our way through.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sivaji Rightaa.....Athiradee!

There has never been so much hype and hoopla surrounding a movie release. All the big guns of Indian cinema are involved in the latest Tamil film, Sivaji. Rajinikanth, the style icon of India got together with the showman of Tamil cinema, Shankar in sync with the best music director of today's times, AR Rahman to generate funds from the oldest production house in Madras, AVM studios to come out with a product that was going to kindle the masses. The end result was something hyped beyond what any normal movie could achieve in hundred years. The sheer magnanimity of the production costs can fill anyone with awe and wonder. The movie was made at a whopping budget of close to 80 crores, no small amount by any means.

A Rajini, Shankar, ARR and AVM movie obviously would get all the media attention. How can I miss such a movie. I am sure even if the reviews were bad, I would have gone to watch the movie. When the reviews from all the channels were good, there was no choice but to watch the movie with bated anticipation. I missed watching the movie in the first week, thanks to the ARR concert in NY. I have never seen such anticipation build up in the media channels. The movie was booked well in advance and there was no chance of getting seats even after thirty days of the release. The situtation here in Boston was no different and the movie halls were getting packed in a jiffy.

So, I got a chance to watch the movie sitting in the second row of the theater. There is no point in talking about the story of a Rajini movie as it is all the same. Riches to rags to riches forms the theme of this movie just like any other. But the main aspect one goes to watch a Rajini movie is obviously his style, which is unmatchable. The way he wields a gun or tosses a rupee coin is so unique that you just can't help noticing it. He has carefully evaded the cigar, which got him into so much trouble in Baba. This movie is totally a family entertainer with no expletives or vulgarities. The first half of the movie was filled with not so entertaining comedy. Shankar could have come up with a better situational based comedy sequence. Most of it looked like drag and drop scenes and I was just wishing for the story to go on. The second half was totally Rajini all the way. What disappointed me most was that Rajini was shown in an action oriented way. Obviously, it is good to see Rajini swirl and come up with amazing out of the world and impossible action sequences. It was fun to watch the action packed second half. But I wanted to see the Rajini who could come up with those powerhouse punchlines? It is always fun to watch Rajini play mind games with his rival, not physical duels.

The song sequences were simply mind blowing. The sets were just brilliant to say the least. Shriya is elegant in the movie. ARR's music just need not be discussed. He has given amazing background score that fits the image of the superstar. The cinematography is too good. Obviously, it has to be good, we are talking about a Shankar movie.

At the end of the day, a mass masala movie is churned out. Every Rajini fan is going to love it. There is no doubt that it is going to recover all the costs and make profits like never before. I would have really loved this movie if I had gone with a Tamil Dappangutthu crowd. But one thing is for sure, the BOSS is here to stay for a long long time. Overall, the movie is average with terrific publicity that is going to make money like hell.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

AR Rahman in New York - Simply Magical

It was the year 2005 when I came to the US to do my masters. ARR then had decided to come to Bangalore about two months after I came here. The depression of not seeing the God of Indian music perform live in Palace Grounds, Bangalore had hit me hard. Two years hence, I came to know that he was performing live in Nassau Coliseum, New York City. I was dead sure that I was not missing the show for anything in the world this time. I was in Rolla at the time I came to know of his performance and I was coming to Boston after a month, but I knew that I was making the trip from Boston to NY exclusively for ARR. Almost every friend of mine knows how fanatical I am about ARR. I just had to call Shubhika who is in NJ, Shubhika, Do you know something? ARR is performing live in NY on June 16. She replies, Yeah, Of course. I have already got the tickets for both of us. Do you think I don't know about it?

The drive from NJ to Long Island need not be written about at all. The traffic was moving at a snail's pace, and it was frustrating to force your way at a speed of 10 miles per hour. The travel took us about three hours and we reached the venue in the nick of time. Not that the show started on time, but we didn't want to miss even a bit. The anticipation was just building. It is not everyday that you get a chance to watch your favourite music composer perform live on stage. As ARR and his troupe stepped on to the stage, the cheers and applause from the 10,000 odd crowd would surely have elevated him to a Godly status. Chitra, one of my favourite singers, started the proceedings with the popular orchestra Jaage Hain from the movie, Guru, and was backed superbly by ARR with a resoundingly high pitched vocal (only he can do that at such a high pitch). This was followed by the song Khalbali from the most popular movie of the year 2005, Rang De Basanti. Hariharan and Sadhana Sargam then took over for the Roja track. Though SPB was not there in the troupe, Hariharan filled his place for the Roja Janeman song to a nicety. Sadhana Sargam's humming was just brilliant to say the least. But the highlights of the day were Chaiyya Chaiyya by Sukhwinder Singh, Rang De Basanti title track sung by an unknown entity Aslam Khan (I am sure it is a matter of time before he gets to be a household name - Another new pick from ARR) and of course the solo compositions that ARR is so good at. Dil Se Re was totally a consummating experience backed by New York Nagaram, Humma Humma and Pray for me brother. The best part about this track was that the whole coliseum was filled with flashing mobile phones. What a feeling! Neeti Mohan, a new find I guess, was just too brilliant (even her looks!!). Her Mayya Mayya from Guru was rendered brilliantly.

The whole point about the concert was to see the man in person. Being an ardent fan of ARR, I couldn't have asked for anything better than to see the maestro compose his musical hits live. The feeling of euphoria can just not be put in words. Having grown up listening to some of the all time greatest hits, it was wonderful to see him churn out the same in almost identical fashion. It was also fun to see the auditorium erupt in joy when he came up with the soundtracks from the movie Sivaji. The whole auditorium was on its feet when chaiyya chaiyya, rang de basanti and humma humma were played. The best of course was reserved for the last. Vande Mataram from ARR just reverberated the stands with a patriotic fervour like never before. It is just enough to hear that song on an audio system and get inspired, but to see and hear him perform the song live will be one of the best moments in my life. I can just let the adjectives take over now. That moment can just not be captured in words. It was a perfect concert ending with a typical ARR signature in style.

The thrill and euphoria associated with such events are bound to last for a lifetime. This was my first ever concert and I am glad that I was witness to see one of the best personalities of my era in person. There are some people who get that unbelieveable feeling instilled within you. ARR definitely falls in that bracket as far as I am concerned. It was a delight and a privilege to share the same roof with the genius atleast for a couple of hours. The music was ethereal and the effect everlasting. The thrill and joy in our faces will be etched in our minds forever.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

River of thoughts

Ramu was lazing on the banks of the Cauvery. The local folks were worried that the surging water level may render them homeless. Ramu always thought it to be a little funny, for Cauvery seemed anything but threatening to him. He had literally stayed on the river bank for the last fifteen years. Be it studying for the exam or having fun with or without company, the river offered the kind of solace that could not be provided by any other. The rains had lashed the village in the last month or so. Warning messages soared from every source. Ramu found the whole thing to be a big ado about nothing. Nothing in the world could make him change his opinion about the river. He had even shouted at his mother when she tried to advise him to avoid the river bank. He lay there well into the evening with no inclination to head back home. The aura of this place can be matched by no other place, reflected Ramu. How can people consider this place to be dangerous, he wondered. People who were staying close to the river bank were being evacuated. The thatched huts had to be put up elsewhere. The plight of the poor dwellers moved him.

Ramu found it a perfect place to reflect about the worldly aspect of life. He sighed at the futility of money. He had his board exams coming up next week and nowadays he devoted a lot of time in studying for it. But, during these moments, he felt that high marks led to good college, which in turn led to a good job which ultimately transformed to money. Money cannot buy everything. There is a limiting point for man's desires, but sadly not many understood this important insight. The happiness he gained from lying on the river bank with the cool breeze fluttering whatever little hair he had could never be replaced by the hard currency for which he had to toil day in and day out. But, that is the futility of life. His parents were simple to do farmers who led a peaceful existence without getting into anybody else's way. They wanted him to grow up to be a big man with comfort and luxury. That was the only reason why they were sending him to a school located twenty kilometers away from the village in the town. Even if he had to buy a simple stationary item, he had to cycle all the way uphill. In spite of all the odds, he was one of the brightest pupils in class with a sharp intellect backed by hard work. He was a popular student in school well in contention to top the upcoming board exams. As his mind wandered, he knew that this was not the time to get lost in philosophy. He had the vacations after the exam to think about it. But still, he wanted to spend the night on the river bank.

The boats were lying on the bank bereft of their owners. No one dared to venture out into the open. Generally, one could see a lot of people crossing the river getting to the other side. But today the river wore a deserted look. He sometimes liked to see the river this way. The peaceful solitude gave him a feeling of bliss. As he turned his head to the other side, he saw his parents head towards his direction. His mother told him to come home quickly lest the river swell upto dangerous proportions. Ramu tried to convince them saying that there can be no harm because of the river. They had lived out their entire life depending on the water from the river. His mother told him that tough decisions were the need of the hour and it was destiny that propels them in a certain direction. Compromises had to be made when it came to life critical decisions and now was such a moment. Ramu certainly could not come to terms with his parents. He told them come what may, he wasn't going to leave the bank for the night. It was the river of dreams. He had seen it all from the bank and could not imagine the prospect of deserting the waters during such a time. In fact, he told them to stay with him for the night and see what happens. His parents tried to convince him unsuccessfully, and then finally decided to stay with Ramu.

In the middle of the night, they heard screams from the village. Ramu and his parents were surprised as the bank was normal as ever without a trace of overflowing. They set out to the village to see it engulfed in flames.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yeah, she is the type

After much contemplation, we (read me and my roommate) decided to watch Choti si baat. The best part about watching this movie is that, the characters are so close to reality that it is easy to step into the character's shoes. Amol Palekar fits the middle class character so perfectly that it is easy to map yourself in his position and feel like a fool or bask in his glory. There were certain scenes where you really feel for the hero, when he is trying to patafy (Indian slang meaning to woo) the heroine.

Ok, that's not the point that I am trying to convey here. I wanted to talk about girls in certain movies who set me thinking for an instant. Yes, she is the type of girl I would like to spend my life with. That's happened to me with a couple of movies big time. So, when we were watching Choti si baat, both of us were drooling over Vidya Sinha. The simplicity of the lady just bowled us out. She was the perfect example of a calm and composed face with oodles of beauty. I know it is a bad adjective to combine beauty and oodles, but at this point, I can't think of a more striking adjective. She had an image that was not bombastic or pompous, but fitted the bill in more ways than one with her attractive and clear countenance. She had a beautiful smile that was devoid of any malice.

Coming to the next movie, I love the characted played by Simran in Kannathil Muthamittal. This is one of my all time favourite movies, thanks to the brilliant direction and wonderful music. Simran in this movie has all the vital ingredients to be a perfect Indian wife deftly balancing her househould chores and work life. Her simplicity and her ability to handle various issues with a neat composure gives a sense of assurance to those around. Of course, we are ultimately guys. Combine all these things with the beauty factor and you are left with a brilliant combination!

My next lady love is another of those simplicity personified girls, the lady from Swades, Gayatri Joshi. Her love for the country with simple ideals and a radically structured outlook filled me with awe and wonder. The character portrayed by her had all the ingredients of a perfectly compatible partner who would argue with you for all the simple and sane things in the world. A perfect blend of tradition and modernity.

At the end of the day, a nice combination of tradition and values combined with a touch of modernity wins hands down when compared to high end sophisticated fashion geeks. A tough task to hunt for such a girl considering the fact that I am neither Amol Palekar nor am I a Madhavan and of course not a Shahrukh.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Great Expectations

Life is not all fun to talk about just the interesting things. Relationship is such a strange and complex thing. It is funny to visualize how human beings react differently to the same situation with different people. This phenomenon set me thinking about the underlying essence of a relationship. There is a certain extent beyond which you can't reveal your inner self to everyone. Rather, it is difficult to say more about yourself to another person beyond the limiting point. The limiting threshold can be extended, but certainly not by much.

Expectations from a relationship is viewed as highly farcical. We interact with hundreds of people on a day to day basis, getting close with certain tens and finally finding the right set of people whom you can call as real close friends. You can count on these few for most of the things in life, be it the times you require material support or emotional strength. So, we do expect certain things to be done for us by a certain section of the society. On a common point, I guess most of us would agree that relatives do not fit in this category. It is a common perception with everyone that it is more comfortable to be with friends than with relatives. We count on friends a lot. Change that word from count to expectations, somehow people associate a different meaning to it. Why is it wrong to have expectations? I really can't understand this point. Obviously, friendship is a mutually exclusive product that has no tie up with anything in life. But, at every point in life, you look up to certain people in life to stand up for you. It really doesn't matter to me if Mr. X does not care about me, but when a known face fails to notice you, it can set you thinking. A sense of individuality is as important. It is right to do what you think is right even at the cost of staying away from the crowd. But the equation changes when your friend asks you to do something for him, and you shy away from it. Here, it is not the question of righteousness to have a feeling of individuality. It is a simple case of not meeting someone's expectations. In this case, was it right to expect something from the other person? I am not sure whether I have touched this line at some point in life. All of us are humans and are bound to make mistakes, but this is one of them that I would like to avoid as much as possible in life.

At the end of the day, I would be lying if I say that I do not expect anything from anybody. Relationships are symbiotic and there are phases in life where you want some people to share the agony and joy of your ride in life. Most times, it is difficult to continue the relationship with the same zeal once you are affected by certain things. It can never be the same again even though these things phase out over a period of time. The wound heals, but the scar remains. As I lay sleepless for some time last night, my vision was blurred with a flurry of thoughts that I wish could well have been forgotten.