Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The week that was...

Obviously the biggest news of the week is the Indian team's superlative victory against arch rivals Pakistan in the inaugural edition of the Twenty 20 International Tournament comprising all the test playing nations. I don't think I can add anything more than what is already said in all the websites. Basically, everyone has run out of cliches. The feel good factor for an average Indian cricket fan is at an all time high, thanks to the out of the world victory in a big tournament after almost 25 years. No wonder, we are so excited about this wonderful victory. Dhoni and his boys have got us a great pre-Navarathri gift.

All said and done, I was just wondering when the Indian media is going to look beyond the actual euphoria of the win. Well, what is that, you may wonder. Shoaib Malik, the Pakistani captain, came out with one of the most atrocious comments. Let us quote him verbatim, so that we can clearly understand what he says

First of all, I want to say something over here. I want to thank you back home Pakistan and where the Muslim lives all over the world.

To be honest, I went back to that phrase many a time when watching the video. What is he saying? Am I hearing it right? The actual message left me stunned. I just could not come to terms with what he had said. It was too shocking and totally disgusting to say the least. Nobody cares about his communication skills. We all respect sportsmen who play the game, let him be from any nation. We are not in a English class, where you expect the student to come up with perfect sentence formation. The whole point is to convey the right message across. As long as the message is conveyed, nobody cares as to how it was conveyed. Luckily, the point was put across today in IBNLive and Times of India, and of course, it was nice to see the blogosphere take note of this. I just hope Malik comes up with a proper explanation of what exactly he meant. Just a hope, you see!!!

Well, what can be said about the Indian media. They were the same guys who ripped the team just about four months back, when we lost miserably in the World Cup. Why to raise them on the pedestal and then bring them crashing back to earth. Both are extremities and we should realize that it is after all a game. Today, they are literally treated like Gods of the planet. I totally understand what Dhoni's parents are going through. Four months back, their home was stoned by unruly fans and the media went berserk with its comments. Today, when just the opposite is happening, it is easy to realize why they are shunning the media. It is not easy for us to take a loss and at the same time, we cannot keep a win in place. It's all gone overboard.

Wow, Shahrukh Khan visited the final match. Wonderful! Great! No doubt about it. He took his son to South Africa to watch the finals. As one of the readers in IBNLive pointed out, what was he doing wearing a Om Shanti Om T-shirt. It was too clear to see what he was doing, promoting his latest movie, getting the best possible mileage. Taking the Indian public for a ride in the name of patriotism! Patriotism should come with no strings attached, Shahrukh!!!

What else is happening apart from cricket? Oh yes! How can I forget not writing about that "wonderful" person in Tamil Nadu. He will call Him(Ram) a drunkard, a liar, a myth and what not. Oh, how wonderful it is to see the atheist make derogatory comments on the most fundamental fact of religion. Faith is the binding factor for every religion and when he goes to question the basic premise of a religion, you just wonder why the media has not shred him to pieces. Faith is something you fall back on when science fails to explain the reason. The media has taken it in a very light manner. The government is too keen to maintain its power at the center. So, obviously, they do not want to take the risk of questioning him and lose power at the center. Definitely, fair enough!!!

Media plays such an important role in Democracy. It is a big letdown sometimes, when media views things from a biased perspective. Get the message across to the people, and let the people decide what is correct and what is wrong. We need to raise a hue and cry for the right reasons, if there is something wrong in the country (Paradoxical!!).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The love affair timeline

Timeline #1
My gaze was fixed on the main deity of the Sringeri Sharadambal temple; She had the power to encapsulate my very existence with that divine sight. I only wished She would come to life for a split second and embrace me into Her fold; Her eyes had such a might. But then, that is what all the learned men, the so called sages have been praying all life for that split second darshan. She could destroy anybody with that glance, and equally, bring any inanimate object to life with the minimum of fuss. The all pervading being had everything within Her control; Her simple glance encompassing so many facets of life. Simplicity and majesty are two words that can lend a paradoxical touch when describing someone, but She had both these qualities embedded within Her in such a way that it is very easy for a normal being to identify distinctly the difference. I closed my eyes in front of Her. What can I ask Her? She knew everything that I wanted. I prostrated before Her, flat on the ground, without any idea of what was happening around me. I could really understand the feeling of being in trance.

I came out of the main sanctum to the open space, where my friends were waiting for me. "Where were you?" asked Anand. "Oh, I was lost in Her divine presence." "We are starving, let's get to the main dining hall." shouted Kanna. "Yeah, let's get moving. We just can't keep waiting for you forever." said Prasad. I just nodded my head in an absolute sense of subconciousness and moved ahead. My glance suddenly fell on her. She was the only one standing right opposite our end. She looked to be a perfectly simple being. She was clad in a traditional saree, the colour of which can be likened to that of a mango pulp. She had grown her hair long, and there were exactly two strands of her hair jutting out from the back right across her cheeks. She used her tiny finger to get them back in place, though the effect was not as pronounced, as it slipped back in the light breeze. I understood the meaning of the term lotus eyed for the first time in my life. She stood there as if not interested in anything, just looking at the wide expanse of the vast sky with not so many birds flying high. She caught sight of me staring at her, and I could sense the gleam in her eyes. It was unforgettable. Suddenly, I heard a voice from the background....lunch....get going!!!

Timeline #2
The railway station was totally jam packed. There was not a place to move around in the main station. I had to get onto platform #1 which was not too far off from the entrance. But the main hall was packed with almost the whole of Bangalore. I had to go to Madras for the weekend, and I had serious doubts of going ahead with the journey in spite of having a ticket in the night train. Friday night is not a good time for short distance travel, my friends had remarked. Everyone in the station was shouting at the top of his voice. I could not hear a thing. The announcement through the speakers could hardly catch my attention. I was straining my ears to find out if the train was on time. If it was, then I could as well forget my travel plan. There was no way that I was going to get onto the platform on time.

Against all odds, I made it to the platform on time. Now, it was the time to find the right compartment. I hustled and bustled taking note of every compartment on the outside to find out if it was the right one. I was relieved to find mine quickly. I just wanted to get in, shut my ears, be totally oblivious of what is happening outside, pull out my blanket and get to sleep. I was just making my way into the compartment to find my seat, clutching my shoulder cum hand bag, when right in front of me she stood there. I just could not believe my luck. There she was, when I least expected her to come, in the middle of such a big crowd. Her black T-shirt was generating so much radiance, contrary to the laws of physics, where black objects were supposed to absorb everything. "Excuse me!", she said with a clear voice. I just stepped aside to see her moving away from me. I got my seat but lost my sleep for the night.

Timeline #3
The British Council Library on St. Mark's street in Bangalore is not a highly imposing structure, but has an elegance that beckons me to visit the library on a regular basis. A yearly subscription allowed me to borrow three books of my choice at a time, also giving me fifteen days to read and give them back. That was the time when an online system was not in place, and so a physical presence was deemed mandatory for the renewal of books and cassettes. Remember, it was some time into the past, and so there was no choice but to borrow only cassettes. DVDs were unheard of! I took a couple of Shakespearean classics (As you like it and The merchant of Venice to be precise) and a Jeffrey Archer novel to beat my boredom. Not that my job life was treating me easy, but the pleasure of reading books elevated me to a high.

I was standing in the queue to borrow the books, and get the entries done. Waiting in lines always seemed an eternity to me, what with heights of restlessness creating havoc in me. I was not the poetic kind of person, to observe other people when you had no job to do, note down their mannerisms and then blog them in detail. No way, that was just not my job. Luckily, as I feared a bout of restlessness about to take over, the lady at the counter called me. She noted down the books I had taken, told me to return the books in two weeks' time and was kind enough to wish me good reading. I gave a beaming smile and turned around to see her waiting behind me in the line. Now, who in the world told me not to observe people when waiting in a queue. Both of us exchanged fleeting glances along with a smile, a smile which had the Should I smile or not written all over it at both ends. Now, now, wish I had been poetic!

Timeline #4
Yes, I had done it. Finally, my boss came over to me and told me that I was in line for a bonus, a promotion and an increment. That is one of the few happy moments in the corporate world, and I was feeling on top of the world. He said that the management was extremely happy with my progress and they had no choice but to offer me the said incentives. It was not easy to obtain even one of the three easily, but to get everything at the same time just left me spellbound. I just had to call up my parents to inform them, but I held back in time. It would be wonderful to surprise them on the face, I thought.

It was a long ride back from office. As such, the Bangalore traffic can leave you gasping for breath taking a long time to commute from one end to the other, and on such a day, I felt I was riding for eternity. It was so difficult to contain my excitement and I just wanted to meet my parents quickly to share the good news. I was waiting for the signal light to turn green at one of the numerous signal junctions. It was frustrating. To top it all, it had to rain at that instant. Small pools were getting created on the roads. Across the road, at the bus stop, I could see a little kid playing with her mother. She was totally at bliss in the pouring rain. What a contrast of emotions, I thought. Her mother turned around, and I was staring at her face. I was lost for words. My love affair had ended even before it had begun.

I reached home, and almost instantaneously, my mother asked me "What's wrong?" I replied gruffly, "No, nothing, just a bad day in office."

Timeline #5
I decided to do my Masters from a good engineering school in the United States. I had got bored with the monotony of job life, and I thought that it was time to do something different. The application process and all other formalities taken care off, also fortunate enough to get my F1 visa cleared in the first attempt at Madras, I was all set to take off to the States. My parents had organized a small get together in a good restaurant at Bangalore.

I happened to meet my father's good old friend during the party. "Even, my daughter is going to the US to do her Masters", he said in typical South Indian style. "She has also got a scholarship. She will be traveling on the fifth of August by Lufthansa from Bangalore with a stop over at Frankfurt. She will be pursuing her Masters from so and so university." I was surprised for a second. "Sir, I too, am going to the same university", I said. Immediately, he called his daughter, and I had no words to say as I stood staring at her again, for the nth time in my life. "Oh, it is nice to see you pursuing higher education even after marriage", I said. Both, father and daughter burst out laughing, and then I realized, that I must have faced a typical Hindi movie scenario. I felt totally embarrassed. Anyways, "Sahana, that's my name", she said. "Ravi", I said.

Timeline #6
It just blossoms...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Some cents(sense) for an instinct!!!

Today would have been just another usual day for us - get up early in the morning (I meant 8:30 am; my definition of early means till noon), quick ablutions, get running to the office, be back by evening, play some tennis weather permitting, else self made food and retire. It sometimes can get on to your nerves. Life follows such a predictable trajectory that I can define my weekdays for the next ten weeks easily. The pattern has injected such an expected response, that any deviation, even if slightly from normal, soothes us to no end. Oh! That was something different for the day!

Late in the evening, after dinner, I had this incredible urge to try out a sundae at one of the ice cream parlors in Reading. I am basically an ice cream freak and love to try it out at various places. We had tried to go to this place on one of the weekends and found it closed. It was more of a loose statement directed at Sameer, my roommate, "Come on, why not go to Reading, let's try out the ice cream there!" I was expecting a not so enthusiastic response from him. "Come on GK, it is already too late. Forget it!" But to my surprise, he too was pretty eager to get ourselves moving to the place. So, we decided to call the third member of the trio, Chetan to accompany us. It was in fact, Chetan, who had suggested us this place sometime back. So, off we went at about 8:30 PM taking the nearest exit to get to the ice cream parlor. As we entered the complex, we(Sameer and I; Chetan has been here earlier) were totally impressed with the setting. The ice cream parlor is housed in a big complex, and there was this musical fountain playing out to different tunes in different colors. It was a totally impressive setting. I took my sundae while the other two helped themselves with smoothies, and stood near the fountain, chatting away to glory. It was a perfect place to spend a romantic evening with your better half, but here we were three of us, with no other alternative! At the fountain base, we could see a lot of coins of different denominations. Suddenly, out of the blue, Chetan lets out a statement "GK, if you throw some money into the water, you will get the perfect girl." My initial reaction was an instant dismissal; all of us let out a sigh but then somewhere in the corner of my mind, I had a second thought. Once I had the second thought, I was sure I was not taking any chances. There you go, I am throwing a cent(well, that was the coin that my fingers could find in the wallet) in the water. The other two were obviously dumbstruck for a second, and then the three of us had a good laugh. But, then I was quick to tell the other two. "Guys, if you want the perfect girl, you better throw a cent(not any other coin) in the water." Both of them gave out a broad grin, pulled out their wallets, and found the solitary cent to throw it into the water. At the end of the exercise, all the three of us burst into a hearty laugh. "Wow, we are not taking any chances with this!!"

We just realized that come what may, there are certain things in life for which you tend to be superstitious. The cents in the water may not mean a thing, but with some strings attached, it takes a different meaning altogether. As humans, we tend to follow our heart very well knowing that it does not mean a thing. Well, well, well, wait a minute? Does it really mean something?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The North South Divide: A Chasm

In a land of billion people, with 1500 miles separating the east from the west, and an equal distance separating the north from the south, the resulting cultural exchange that culminates across different parts of the country allows us to accept the similarities and probe for those differences that can get baffling at times and at other times, equally glaring. India has in her the wherewithal to adapt to the changing times, and in today's fast paced world, she is really doing a good job in staying in tune with the present.

North, south, east and the west, but if you notice, people tend to classify India into two broad divisions, the north and the south. The east and the west somehow tend to get aligned with one of the two major divisions. Ask any Indian about the two regions, and he will be quick to draw the boundaries. At least 99% of the Indians will agree with me: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu fall in the southern part of India, and anybody hailing from any of the four states can be called a South Indian. What about the remaining states? OK! The rest are the North Indians. My friends from Maharashtra tend to argue with me, But, we are neither north Indians nor south Indians! We are more cosmopolitan in our outlook. I know that the times are changing. A typical north Indian attitude: Anybody who does not speak Hindi should be from the southern part of India. Just apply the logic to suit the other end. According to a typical south Indian, anybody who speaks Hindi is a North Indian. So, a southerner would most definitely place a person coming from Bombay in the northern part of the country.

Hindi was adopted as the national language of India post Independence. The late sixties and early seventies witnessed quite a battle down south. The Tamilians wanted Tamil to be incorporated as the national language, the Telugu speaking people obviously wanted Telugu, Kannadigas wanted Kannada and Keralites wanted Malayalam as the official language of the country. The country was obviously in a turmoil, with each region declaring its language as the preferred choice of communication at the national level. After much discussion, Hindi was chosen as the national language of the country. There were protests from the southern quarters to ban teaching Hindi in schools and colleges. The leaders of these states did not want to promote Hindi in any way, and they felt that Hindi was a direct threat to the vernacular medium. Talks on logistics and numbers failed to find any reason with these people. The south felt that Hindi was being thrust on them. It actually took some time before news was aired in the local language. Even today, a southerner is not at ease speaking in Hindi. Why is that? Right from the beginning, he is brought up in a surrounding where people around him are speaking in the local language - Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam or Telugu. A habit that formed an integral part in him two thousand years back requires some changing, and it has to come voluntarily. Though English and Hindi are a part of the school syllabus, I am really not sure how many south Indians feel comfortable speaking in Hindi, though it is the national language of the country. There is always this reservation of Oh! Am I using the right words? Do I have a Southerner accent? Is he laughing at my Hindi? Though such an attitude is changing, it would really take some time before he comes out of such thoughts. When I was having a talk with one of my friends the other day, he told me "GK, first the preference is Telugu, then comes English and then comes Hindi." Why? I have problems speaking in Hindi, I just don't know. We can never be comfortable in Hindi, how many ever years we learn Hindi or how many ever Bollywood movies we see! I have had Hindi for close to twelve years, learning Prem Chand and other illustrious authors of the good old times, but coming to speech, Hindi takes a backseat with a certain kind of unknown preference to the vernacular languages and English. Just that the system of learning is so different down south. We are forced to speak in English in schools, and outside schools, Kannada gets important for local conversation, and somewhere down the line, other than learning for tests and exams, Hindi never gets the cake in the conversation sector. Pretty bad, but that's the truth!!! Language clearly defines the line between the north and the south, actually, unfortunately.

Bangalore has transformed itself into a cosmopolitan city. There is a good influx of people from the north what with the booming IT sector having set up a base in the silicon valley of the country. People down south have always been hailed as conservative compared to the counterparts from the north. Now, with the IT scenario, things have changed. There is no point in trying to draw comparisons as the flambuoyance is slowly finding its way down south. About ten years back, it was easy to notice the difference in a person, whether he is from the north or the south. Getting into the details can just be a touch controversial!!!

A laughable fact is that people from the north can never accept the south Indian film industry. Many of them find it amusing how a Rajinikanth/ Kamal Hassan/ Chiranjeevi/ Mohal Lal can be called as good film stars. Why? Because, their Hindi has a south Indian touch! But, come on, they are meant to be south Indian film stars belting out dialogues in the local tongue. South Indian films are not catered to the North. It has its special audience section down south. Obviously there is a difference in the style of film making. It is impossible to appease the other section with products from the southern market. It is a pretty tough job! Bollywood draws its fascination down south, but people have more choices from the local industry and so, Bollywood stars though popular, cannot drive a south Indian fan crazy.

The north and the south have their differences, but it gets fascinating, when in a different country, all of them unite for a common cause. Be it a religious or a social cause, there is no opportunity lost to join hands and get together for a cultural fiesta.