Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vinayak- Part I.... The saga of love

Life is the best thriller movie ever made. When you believe the movie has come to an end, with a strange twist life leads you through further experiences.
When you meet people you never suspect that they might have a good chunk of role in the later stages of your life. The only predictable thing about life is it is unpredictable and that gives the thrill of living it.

Vinayak is one of the protagonists of my story. He was fat, cool, with those ear studs, rings… He had this unique ability to shine where ever he went and cultivated friends from all over India.
One day Vinayak asks me during a tea break ‘Dude why haven’t you ever fallen in love with a girl?’. You get a peculiar feeling soon after you finish a sentence and then wished that you had better kept your mouth shut. I professed my never ending, one way love for Swathi. He calmly took out his mobile and showed me a photo. It had him and Swathi hugging each other. Those two looked like a married couple. So I have shot myself in mouth once again.

Flashback time:

One month before this incident, prior to joining the company we had a training, this was where all three of us had met- me, Vinayak and Swathi. Swathi looked like a puppy lost down here in the bottom tip of India. Those were days of extreme pressure. You finished an entire computer language within 4 days. If I had put half the effort during my graduation, I would have ended up in some better place.
Swathi always sat around sniffing in to her hanky. One day as I returned early from the lab, I saw her sitting alone in the class. Needless to say I did not lose my chance for the initial breakthrough. And Swathi didn’t need an invitation to open up. This was the first time she was staying away from her home and family. And she didn’t have a clue about what a softie did for a living. We were surprised she was a topper in her college. She stole many hearts with her sad plight and became apple of our eye.
As the final days approached the tensions in our hearts doubled. We had to clear a minimum average to pass through. I had already started sewing romantic dreams of me and Swathi. So I fervently prayed for her. But even the almighty refused to intervene. She couldn’t clear the cut-offs. She was asked to reappear after 15 days as per the policy. We tried to comfort her. But here comes the shocker. She decides she had enough of this sick place and industry. She decides to call it quits. One more dream of mine smashed.
Later she got into a MNC in Gujarat with a great salary and position. So it became a blessing in disguise when she was eliminated.

Fast forward to present:

I became the laughing stock among friends. But I enjoyed the fun. Rarely does anyone get the chance to get caught in such a situation. But Vinayak took it in good humor.

He showed me his blog. They had fallen in love during the turbulent,tense period of training. In high pressure humans look for a comfort around them. They found comfort and love in each other. The blog contained all the vivid details of the places they went for a walk, each kisses they exchanged. Although it made you cringe, still you appreciated him for his conquest. Things went on. He wrote, poems after poems, testimonials after testimonials, blog after blog on her. He called her his ‘pari’ (angel). True from some angles she looked like one. He used to discuss about the divine feeling called love. Since none of us had any prior experiences there was no point in arguing.

I had only heard of Ghandarva marriage. Well, they went around calling each other husband and wife, although there were in two corners of India. So here was our chance to witness the true love mentioned by wise old poets where you are separated by miles and still one in mind.
He went to her home town in pretext of attending an interview and met all those folks. He with all his charm won over their hearts. I heard they made sweets and other goodies for him.
So the stage is set for witnessing the culmination of a beautiful love saga.
But the story had not ended. Things take a turn….which you will read in my next post..

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Moment...........

There is a phrase ‘The moment of my career’ that a professional hears every second day of his life. The moment which is claimed to be the turning point of his career.
The moment of my career is the moment I got my enlightening. Unlike Gautama Buddha I was sitting in a conference room when I received my enlightenment.
We have a HR representative for our team. They are supposed to address our concerns and get the best possible output from us.
A meeting is called to find out if we have any concerns. Like HRs around the world these people was brimming with energy and enthusiasm, expecting some of that will rub up on us as well. The meeting supposed to be an open forum where people can throw in their questions around the room.
This is when the fun starts. Right before opening the floor this HR hot shot comes up with a really valid and intelligent point. ‘All the concerns must be reported through your manager. Your manager must know all your problems. He is responsible to solve all your concerns’. Pause… Punch dialogue: ’You must consider your manager as your father. He will show you the right career path to take and help you grow’.
I could not decide if I am supposed to laugh. Since I did not want to be thrown out, I sat there, laughing silently with contempt at myself.
All throughout a professional’s life his biggest issue is his manager. Since we cannot raise an issue to an issue (in other words we cannot complain about a problem to the problem, can we?) 90% of our concerns were resolved even before the meeting started. Please accept my standing ovation, Madame.
The floor was thrown open. Pin drop silence. Every one of us sat around with expression that says we are the most happiest and contended lot in the universe. In reality no one wanted to get ourselves in deep shit by raising an issue about some small shit. Then a guy asked ‘Will we get a salary hike this year (at least)?’
A somber mood came over. We looked expectantly at her. After a few sentences of gibberish ‘We had a wonderful performance in Q!, but Q2 did not turn out that great. So there is no hike this year too’. Pin drop silence again. I looked around the room. It would be difficult to say what went around every one’s mind. But everyone was grinning at each other as if ‘Someone just gave me a good f**k but I don’t know who’.
From the best possible information I have it has been almost 3 years since a solid hike has been given. In effect people with 3 years experience more than me would be earning only a couple of thousand bucks more than me.

A Metallica songs rings in my ears
Master of puppets pulling your strings,
Twisting your minds. Smashing your dreams.
Come crawling faster…Obey your master’

Years ago I saw a movie ’The Shawshank Redemption’. The system has turned us in to such puppets that we are unable to survive outside the system. . You are used and squeezed to make you useless for anything else. Ultimately you have no bargaining power and you end up being satisfied with the crumbs. Either be a part of the system or end up in its fringes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The prime time

Nowadays the word that raises anxiety the most is ‘Financial reforms’. The reason is simple. If an Indian FM is speaking of reforms he simply means to sell off the public property to a private hotshot. He will use some much used sentences to fool the people. They will sound like attracting more investments, to bail out the company running at loss, more opportunities. There is this famous saying of the then disinvestment minister, Arun Shourie, while he sold off the Modern Bread ‘It is not the job of the government to make bread for the people’. Only the famous Mary Antoinette could parallel this in its notoriety.

I lean a bit to the left and I am of the firm view that if there are more than one player in the field vying for a bite for the same pie, it is not necessary that competition resulting will lead to an improved efficiency. As humans we will be thinking of bringing the other guy down rather than to improve our performance.

Last day I was watching a debate on television on something regarding the serials being aired on TVs. The anchor asked a sweet, small child about his opinion on the sops in TV. He said ‘Aunties in TV wear heavy makeup and designer dresses even when they are in their home and even go to bed in their makeup’. I remembered a verse from the bible which is somewhat like this ‘You have poured wisdom into the mouth of babes’.

Some years back Dooradarshan re-telecasted the serials from the good old times like ‘Buniyaad’. It is then I realized how much we have missed out. When our homes opened up to private channels, they churned out tear laden serials one after another. In order to stay at top of the TRPs script writer is asked to fill each and every episode with some of the most despicable twists and turns. In order to keep us glued the character wears designer clothes, travel in luxury cars, and lives in big houses and conducts lavish marriage ceremonies. The good thing about corporate investment is that the industry becomes more professional and accountable. The bad thing is that industry will be in constant pressure to perform. So you will lose the finer things in life.

People make almost all their decision based on what they see in visual media. The influence can be direct or indirect one. Whatever you see in the TV lies impinged in your mind, ultimately influencing your decisions whether you want it or not. Knowing this very well the powerful have invested in the media sector for their vested interests

It is just not about the tear jerker sops, all the programmes in our channels have lost the connectivity with the common masses. If you say the common people forms the biggest chunk of audience, yes they do. The characters in TV has become what the common man looks upto rather than what he can relate with. The viewers are filled in with half cooked news, false sense of values, in the end we lose our power to discern. So the sad part is when a programme with value comes up it will not be able to hold on to the competition with the crappy ones and is pushed to god forsaken hours. Why? Because we cannot decide for ourselves what is good for us.
The recent Indian general elections was a demonstration of this. A weekly dubbed this election as Election of non-issues. If the visual media had dedicated some more of their quality time towards the real issues the election results would have been a bit different and better.

I hear channels like Colors are taking up more people relevant issues and doing programmes on them. That is a bit of good news. Hope this trend continues……

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good thoughts

For the past couple of days my heart is full of despair. It must be because I am just back from a reunion with my dear old friends. I have been pretty frustrated with work I have been doing. I put the blame on everyone around and like a fish that is cast in to the dry land I desperately look for a way out.
I have hit a mental block and so can’t find anything to write about too. That is when I hear this story.
There lived a poojari of a temple. He was a very much pious man who conducted all the rites of the temple with great piety and dedication. He was respected by everyone in the locality. It was difficult to find any flaw in his character.
But the poojari faced this extra ordinary situation where in front of the temple, there was a prostitute centre. For him there was nothing worse than entering into the temple every morning passing through the place where these heinous creatures lived. Each morning he woke up cursing his fate and this prostitute home.
On the other hand the prostitutes would wake up every morning praying ‘Oh God, we are selling our bodies because we do not have any other means. Please forgive us for what we are about to do and allow us to earn our daily bread’
On the judgment day our dear old poojari was thrown into the burning hell and the prostitutes entered heaven.
Reason: The poojari who is supposed to fill his thoughts with the divine, filled his mind with the prostitutes before entering the temple. But on the other hand the prostitutes started their daily lives with a prayer of forgiveness.
Everyone….what matters is what you fill your heart with. When we go through a bad patch do we bother to sit back and try to recollect the good times we’ve been through. Ultimately what matters is what you fill your mind with. The thoughts in your heart determines the person you are.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cinema Paradiso

Something you would try to fulfill unmindful of the risks and ridicule you will have to go through. That is the definition I will give for the word ‘passion’.
We Indians have a tendency to do what we see others doing. If it is fashion, it will be straight out of what an Italian or French did. If it is films then we take it from Hollywood. We have got music directors who lift from African and East Asian music. Our students don’t have the capability to think beyond MS or MBA or MBBS. We always had a tendency to look up to someone for inspiration. We end up doing things we are not at all passionate about.
I woke up one Thursday morning having decided to bunk office. As a matter of fact I have the tendency to bunk daily, but sadly I am not the CEO.
I glanced through the supplement of the daily. This news entirely hit me below the belt. CD/DVD sale in Beemapally is stopped.

As for the introduction to Beemapally, it is a Chori bazaar of Kerala. You get all kinds of pirated goods. But it has become famous for its pirated movies. You get the prints better than orginal ones and that too as soon as the movie is released. Because of the love to their motherland they have stopped selling Malayalam pirated ones or at least they claim to have stopped. The funny thing is cinema piracy in Beemapally got a shot in the arm when the CD rentals in Kerala was stopped. From then on even the common people started their purchases from Beemapally, until then BP was considered a ware house from where only big purchases were made. You would find films of all languages, of all nature, good ones, bad ones.
I got introduced to this place right after my college days. We friends had got hooked to Cinema. There was our friend Jabri who used to download and collect the DVDs after taking the top 100, top 250 list from IMDB. I too wanted to start my collection. That is exactly what I found in BP. There were rows and rows of classics from all over the world and that too at a low price. Who cared about the morality or legality anyways!!
BP had a famous mosque where a religious festival was done annually. The locality was ruled by the mosque and hence these mosque gave the traders the protection. The BP was a law unto itself.
But all these moral police, corporate houses in film industry, film producer cum stars were after BP traders because they were eating into their profits. These powerful guys were waiting to pounce on them at the slightest of excuses.

No one bothers to question these power houses because ‘anyone can buy anything using money’. Money became the king when it purchased our consciences. The purchase was done through news paper, TV, internet in other words ‘THE MEDIA’. People with money controls most of our media and hence most of our minds.

So when I read the news about the closure of DVD sales and the lame excuse given I was pretty much sure that these power houses had flexed their muscles. The papers claimed the reason as funding for terrorism, communal violence ...
I and my friend set out in the afternoon to find out if what we read in the papers were true and praying fervently that it is not. But sadly the cinema paradise was deserted and quiet as if all the angels had left. We could only see a couple of lost souls like us there.
We went ahead and asked the shop keepers we know if they will ever restart the sales. But all we got was negative responses and sometimes even unfriendly ones.
So I reconciled myself with stopping my DVD collection. But as the famous saying goes ‘the story had not ended’. One morning I was on the elevator going to my office on the top most floor. It was raining outside- sign of pleasant things to come. This fat angel called Arun smiled at me. I usually see him on the elevator but had not bothered to talk. I recalled seeing him once in BP. The elevator started its journey up. He worked two floors below mine for a different company. For a company we had a big shot manager in the elevator getting down in my floor.
He asked me ‘Did you know that they are conducting a secret sale for the unsold DVDs in BP?’
I was quite surprised. We stopped the elevator in Arun’s floor for about two or three minutes and he gave me the phone number of the contact person. I still remember the fuming face of the manager in the elevator. But I didn’t give a shit. I called the contact person, Ashraf, immediately. He was a sort of nice guy. He laid down some conditions. Since it is a secret purchase I will have to call him before setting out and after reaching there. They would take me in an auto to the secret place where the transfer is made. i said okay though with a tinge of fear. I have not done anything brave or anything illegal. I have not come into contact with any anti social guys. What if anything goes wrong?
But Ashraf went on extending the purchase daily. He would asked me to call in the morning, then afternoons, sometimes he didn’t pick up the phones too. That set the alarm bells ringing. My good friends warned me not to take the risk. So many ‘what ifs??’ came into picture. For the last time I made the call. Ashraf came with two new conditions. I have to make a purchase worth at least a 1000 bucks. I have to name the movies I wanted. I won’t be allowed to pick up and buy. I bargained and made the minimum limit to 700. He gave the address of the place where exchange will take place.
I set out in the evening. It was raining heavily. I had to make a lot of enquiries as very few people seemed to know the place. At last I found out the place to be a deserted, dark street. As I stood there waiting for him, fear crept into me. I was waiting in a place I didn’t know, for a person I hadn’t met with about 700 bucks in my pocket. Sometime later Ashraf came with a packet carefully covered and taped. It resembled a packet of hashish. I could not even check the packet there. He said it had 31 DVDs. How would I know. You cannot make a scene in a seedy place too. With a pounding heart I went home tor open the packet. As promised it had all the 31, with world class directors. I got it for a discounted price too. Now I have the works of people like Kim Ki Duk, Kurasowa, Iranian directors, Italians, Africans… I heaved a sigh of relief.

Looking back I know I did a foolish thing. I don’t know if I will do it again. But I am glad I did that…for something I loved...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mahathma.....The Great Human

I was never a psychologist, but always loved to study people’s behavior and analyze why people behave so in so and so situations.

Someone who has never ceased to capture my attention is apna Gandhiji. From our school days we were taught how great a man he was, how saintly he was. Later most of the newspapers said that, so did the world leaders, great men like Mandela said they drew their inspiration from Gandhi. Anyone who said something against him was labeled as anti nationals.

One of the best historical fiction I have read is Kushwant Singh’s ‘Delhi’. I had not read much into history. Kushwant Singh’s version of history shook me pretty much. It was for the first time I learnt what a cruel man Aurangazeb was. It was for the first time that I had come to know that Mughals where the ones who started the divide and rule policy and not the British. I came to know why many Indians fought for the British against Indians in First war of independence. There is no point in denying the fact that we would have been living in a different place and in a different state if British had not come here. Their contribution to the great Indian civilization is something that cannot be ignored.

WARNING: This blog is to encourage readers to confront the facts. If you do not want to, then please do not go on.

During our school days we were taught the Indian National Congress version of history. All the freedom fighters were angels in khadi. I don’t want to say that the sacrifices they made for our country was born out of any selfish acts. But I won’t agree that the political degradation started after India achieved freedom. I would say the degradation became more obvious and became enhanced after our freedom.

You will have to be exceptionally lucky to get a good book in the library here in Trivandrum. It is not because there are no books. It is because if the book is good, there is a good probability that it will be misplaced (don’t know if it is intentional or not). Sometimes I managed to get a good one. ‘Liberty Or Death’ by Patrick French was one.

Writing about India has become a trend among foreign authors. I believe it is because of the exotic tales you can write about poverty, pollution, practices, terrorism etc. You are bound to get a good number of western readers and a good deal of Indians too. But I really believe this guy has done his homework and has been careful not to get influenced by any particular school of thought with their own versions of history.

The part that caught my eye was the chapter on Gandhi. It seems that this guy has done some work on Gandhi. I felt slightly bad when a foreigner says he knows more about our Father of the nation than us. Well the truth is many works and writings of and on Gandhi has been expertly hid away from public reach.

We Indians need a hero in our daily lives to look up to. The hero can be from sports or bollywood or army or police (rarely). We won’t like anyone rubbishing our heroes. Free India needed some hero or saint to present to the world. The simple dressed Gandhi with his toothless smile fitted the bill. So he was elevated to the pedestal of sainthood.

Some interesting facts about Gandhi from the book, which you might not have known.

1. One of Gandhi’s obsession was with diet. He wrote many articles on food habits and proper diet to be adopted. He believed that all the diseases can be cured with proper diet and he used to prescribe diet for his fellow Ashram mates for their diseases, mostly dal and leafs. The first question he would ask the female ashram mates during his morning discourse was ‘Sisters, did you get good bowel movement in the morning?’

2. Due to his experiments with the truth he could not clearly draw a boundary between his personal, political and religious life. So all the three existed together in a murky, unclear relationship which was quite dangerous at times.

3. He had a medicine out of salivic enema which he administered personally.

4. He worked and wrote extensively on ‘Black Gold’, the extract from human excreta. He claimed that it can be used as a good fertilizer in our fields.

5. He got married to Kasturba in an early age. The young couple used to fight with each other regularly. She was a stubborn character but very much worldly wise. She did not acknowledge his teachings and practices fully. She had a firm say on family matters pertaining to she and her children. Gandhi became a brahmachari after his return from South Africa. He said he needed to conserve the ‘vital fluids’ to elevate him to a plane of spirituality. He believed sex emasculated man and made him coward, defiled woman. He wanted to eliminate sex from all kinds of relationships.

6. By now all might know Gandhi’s troubled relation with his elder son Hiralal. He changed his religion and reconverted back. He became an alcoholic. Gandhi did not believe in educating his children much.

7. Al though he is painted as benevolent to all religions, because of his attitude to his and Congress’ attitude to Muslims, Muslim league was alienated and ultimately lead to division of India. During Lucknow pact, not much effort was made to pacify the apprehensions of Muslim population. It is said that Gandhi had confided to his close friend that Hindu Muslim unity will not be possible.

8. In order to appease Muslim population he endorsed the Khliafat movement. Khliafat movement was not supported by moderate Muslims as they considered the people in it as too violent and low class. Khilafat movement came to a premature end when the Turkish government themselves dissolved the Caliphate.

9. During initial days of satyagraha he had spoken against inter caste and widow marriages. But later changed his view.

10. Even in spite of his call for Hindu Muslim unity, he opposed his son, Manilal’s, Muslim marriage. He said it is against his dharma.

11. When a controversy came up about him sleeping with his great grand niece, he said that he had become eunuch for the sake of truth.

12. He was a ruthless politician and negotiator and made sure that he got what he wanted. It was demonstrated during the partition talks. He made Nehru the congress president despite their difference in opinion.

13. Even when Gandhi was against the western type of industrialization he had no problem in accepting donation from big industrialists like Birla.

Well I think Gandhi was a human after all……..

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Donate Life....

Despite my fiery blogging, I am a really sweet, sensitive person.
I have been to Regional Cancer Centre, Trivandrum a few times. Seeing those beautiful kids with masks over them and shaved heads, I always wonder what if I was in that place. Cancer is something that will drain a middle class both financially and emotionally. The duty of rest of us is to support them in whatever way possible.
People who are going to suffer most are the ones coming from distant parts. Most of the cancer patients will need 15-29 bottles of blood daily. These people may not know anyone in the city. Lodging is another problem. An average person will not be able to stay in a rented place throughout and the patient may need good food too. So NGOs came in to the scene willing to help them. Most NGOs were started with good intentions. But later religious fundamentalist organization found an opportunity for religious propagation. So today except a few all the NGOs are barred from entering the premises of RCC.
For these people facing an uncertain future, the biggest gift we can give is hope. Another equally important gift is life. Life through blood donation.
I had this awareness throughout. But boy, I was afraid of this injections and dark red blood. I was called up for some genuine cases but was too frightened to take the big step. Once using all my courage I went to a hospital, but group turned out to be wrong. ‘Thank God’ this was the first reaction that went through my mind.
During college days requests regularly came up. I would have been waiting eagerly, with all the summoned up courage to donate blood. But when the request is announced not a single muscle in my body would move. Deep freeze!!!!!!!! As the people leave I would console myself ‘Next time’.
Days went by. I became a graduate. Once this social activist friend of mine called me up and asked if I was willing to donate blood. Willing??? Of course, I am but I can’t and how am I going to tell him that. Thousands of excuses crossed my mind. ‘Alright now or never’ I set out with him. Friend of mine who knew it was my first time constantly pumped me with encouragement. I got in there. Many where waiting for their turn. All the nurses were so friendly. When the time came to fill up the questionnaire I was looking out if I had any of the diseases mentioned. Tough luck!!! I was in perfect condition to give blood. As I lay in bed a nurse was walking around with a long scissor. I was thinking ‘ Is she going to cut the veins using that’. I was bewildered and looked around. My friend seeing my predicament laughed and said it is for some other purpose.
Surprisingly I didn’t face much pain when they inserted the needle. I closed my eyes. A nurse came up and announced ’It is over’. (So soon. No wait, I have got some more to give.) They kept asking me if I was feeling dizzy. I started getting confused ‘Am I supposed to feel dizzy?’
Anyways guys everything went on smoothly. I even went around in hot sun for some shopping. I didn’t collapse. I said to myself ‘Next time I will be more willing as the first time jitters are over.’

In our company requests for blood donation comes through intranet and there are regular blood donation camps even. But each time I was feeling more and more frightened. I managed to call some people, who had raised a request, in the numbers given. They said thanks and said they will call me up the next day. I prayed ‘Lord please I am not ready’.
One day my friend KT asked me if I am willing to donate. I said I was 200% willing. He said he will call me up soon. I was praying ‘Oh no, God please not me’.
Then the last day he messaged me again if I was willing. Again with all the courage I said ok. He asked me to wait downstairs. I went with three other willing donors in a car. There was another guy who was doing it for the first time. I thought that at least for his sake I have to pretend that I am brave.
While donating there was a guy who was lying next to me. He said he thought his needle was not balancing. That nurse said that it is fine and then suddenly blood oozed out. That guy was cool. But I was not. I couldn’t decide if I should lie with eyes closed or open. (Open to see if my blood was oozing out or not.)
Anyways this time too donation happened without any incident. But seeing the plight of that poor father running around searching for 20 donors in this unknown land struck the tender chords of our heart. The patient was a 35 year old woman with kids. Her husband on learning that she had cancer abandoned her in her parent’s home. He was a daily wage laborer. Her old parents are looking after her.

So guys if any of you get a chance ‘Don’t think…Grab it…Help make world a better place’

About Me

My photo
Shakespeare,Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln never saw a movie,heard a radio or looked at TV. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. Thay were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.