Thursday, March 31, 2011

Damned if you vote. damned if you do not

Here comes the election time in my part of the world, when we flock to the designated booths to vote our representatives for the next 5 years. The all too familiar visual would be a flock of middle aged men queuing up in the election booths waiting to cast their votes. The camera would pan on to a college campus where the new-gen kids would be munching, dreaming, flirting, laughing and chatting unmindful of the great democratic process around them.

The TV anchor would ask them: ‘Why didn’t you cast your vote?’ ‘I have no clue about politics’ (This is the ‘cool’ statement of the day. A line borrowed from the film star interviews) ‘I hate politics and politicians. They are too corrupt’ ‘They ought to bring in youth. There is a lack of fresh ideas’

Only an average 30% of votes are cast in India. Do I hear any alarm bells? In short the 30% decide the running of country. It makes the task quite easy for the politicians. They need to concentrate only on the 30%.

Another irony in the Indian political scenario is the variety we get to choose from. We scoff at USA for their two party system. But are we getting any variety for the last few years. Every single time the election boils down to a 3 horse race (maximum). Where then is the ability to exercise the ‘judicious vote’?

Our system is so badly designed that the winner takes it all and loser will have to grumble and fret till the next chance come. There is no space for the loser except to make a cacophony. As long as a party is out of power the greater the probability to get extinct.

So the opposition will have to check out the possibilities to make a comeback to the corridors of power. In the race there’s no good or bad, evil or righteous. Hence the corrupt system called election has been churning out the corrupt politicians for decades. Whether you like it or not, the ‘judicious’ vote can only make a miniscule and irrelevant change in the scenario.

The ecstasy of a newly formed government soon diminishes as the electorate soon finds out that it’s the old wine in the new bottle. The same old corruption comes back in the new form and the common man waits for another 5 years for the ‘change’. The bitter pill we have to learn to gulp down is the bloody common man has no say in his governance except for one second in every 5 years.

I was recently invited to a group in Facebook. It had some header like ‘Election is the costliest day…..’. I was very rightly confused on the purpose of the group and hence asked them if the group is meant to persuade the users to boycott the election. There were different replies from different people. I soon realized that no one there had any clue on why they were here.

The group was started by an ‘enlightened’ MBA graduate from some IIM. Everyone called him ‘Sir’. It’s quite surprising that inspite of the huge pay packets offered our IIMs have produced the ‘enlightened’ ones who are hell bent on eradicating our country of all ills. We have an IIM in our company. He always starts his sentence with ‘When I were in IIM….’

So the ‘Sir’ comes out of his hibernation to enlighten us ‘Please donot be bribed by cheap gifts from candidates’

I asked him, ‘Do you think the people who are vulnerable to cheap gifts have joined Facebook’. The hardcore reality is that the disparity between the upper and lower middle class have so widened in our society. Our basic needs and aspirations have so differed that it would be stupidity to think on the same platform.

Now here comes the hard question: ‘How do we choose a credible candidate?’ The average voter wouldn’t do a case study on him. He most probably would skim through the most popular channels or the popular newspapers. So how to win the hearts and minds? Buy a television, buy a newspaper or atleast pay them some money. This is exactly what every one are doing now!

In short, you vote or not, you are very well damned!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An ode to my college and friends- How I miss you

My younger brother demanded if he could get a rid shirt and yellow tie. I asked him what the hell was that for.
‘Demo Week’

I smiled. Memories rolled back to 4 years.
When years go on, the good memories would turn sweeter. We would wish the days to come back to us. But they never will. We would then vehemently argue that we had the greatest years in college. The tune of ‘Summer of ‘69’ will start playing out in our mind.

‘Demo Week’ is the celebration in one of the last weeks of final year of your graduation. May be it’s because we convince ourselves that the days are going to be the last days of unabashed fun in our life. So people come out in all kinds of fancy clothes and do all kinds of crazy stuff. The lecturers close their eyes towards all the raucous and smile at the good time the kids are having. And of course no one attends the classes. We roam around the college taking in eyeful of the sights we might not see again.

I browsed through the attic in my computer and fetched a few snaps of great times I had. Here are the few snaps I am going to relive with you.

This is the trophy we won for the inter college cricket tournament. And we beat our arch rivals. I still remember the hot and sunny afternoon. We only could manage a small total. And they had some great batsmen. But our boys maintained a straight line and when Mudiyan Anish came up with a stunning running catch, we were all over the ground. The celebrations and parade continued all over the college. But this was followed by a disappointment in football finals the next week.

These are some of our batch mates. Many have moved to different parts of the world (we mallus are good in migrating). Boys have grown fatter and balder. A few of them have fallen in love and married, fallen in love and waiting to get married, married and fell in love and some even got dumped. The guy in the centre who is poking the head in joined the Air Force. He dreamed of becoming a la Tom Cruise (remember Top Gun). He has ended up striving to finish his liquor quota in the barracks. A few migrated to UK for higher studies and found out that the English have no jobs. A few turned to teaching. And few, I simply don’t know where!

This was the bard of out class. A simple and very religious guy. He used to break into a song so easily and used to sing in the typical folk style. A very lovely guy. Now making his living somewhere in the sands of Arabia.

Now this was the guy to watch out for. He had a very beautiful lady love and he went around boasting her beauty. He used to sing for hours for her though the phone. We used to wonder if he had some free phone schemes. We admired her tenacity to survive his torture for hours. One day we came up with a funny hoax. One guy moved to the next room and called him up claiming he was from TV. They had come to know his crooning skills. He was asked to hum a few numbers. He sang on for hours, in all sincerity singing every song he knew in all kind of pitches.

An attempted rape!!!!

Here we are posing with our nemesis. They used to be there in the next room. The football and cricket matches we had with them enjoyed great rivalry.

This was our divine child. He was conspicuous for his thinness. And he used to challenge the fattest for a fight. He was the best punching bag in our class. And we used to come up with all sorts of joke on him. He graduated, worked very hard and now is in an enviable position.

This was our Head of Dept. He is one of the best professors in our city. A very lovable and sincere man. How much did we enjoy his classes.

This was our theme for the demo week-‘The thieves and the police’. We used to barge into every classroom. The girls shrieked out in horror. I think the black is from the shoe polish. The guy on the left most is a famous blogger. I challenge you guys to find out who. I will be kind enough to dispense with a clue- he is there in the blogs I follow.

So SCT College I miss you, I miss you my friends. The days I had with you, will be a treasure!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Movie Review- New York (Hindi)

I was tempted by the claims that this is a movie with a difference. When I picked up the movie, I was totally bowled over by the fact that this is a product from the Yash Rajs. Have they repented their sins atlast? After going through the movie I can safely say, although not a perfect product ‘New York’ is a good one.

The good things come first. The movie has a very relevant and original theme. The credit goes to Aditya Chopra. Remember this comes at a time when the film makers are too eager to sensationalize the terrorism, Islamophobia, world policing. Aditya Chopra has taken a very sensible stand which could have been very tricky too. But again I would say the kind of dimensions he gave to the American viewpoint has been over sanitized and towards the end you get a feeling of pro- Americanism. Overall Chopra has avoided the cliché pitfalls and opted for the broad minded path when others opt for the narrow ones.

Unlike the trademark ‘Yash’ products there are only four characters throughout. There are no relatives, buddies or any other forgettable sidekicks. Hence there is no opportunity for tear-jerkers, family saga, bawdy jokes, love triangles. There is no interference with the flow of the story. But again lack of a sub-plot can bore you!

The director is relatively new comer and amateurism shows through at times. But there are brilliant moments as well. The opening is very good. We are pulled to the edge of seat for the first few minutes. Then there is a sudden wilting away of flow which can disappoint you. Again the pace picks itself up. The opening narration gives a ‘forced’ feeling. The police officer asks Neil to narrate his story. To be frank when Neil starts narrating the story it resembles diarrhea. Then again the speed of narration is too fast and depth so narrow that you are left clueless on the inter relationship of the protagonists.

The second part goes on very well until you are left open mouthed at the gaping holes in the script. The speech and stance of Irfan Khan is good to hear, but too unreal and irritant.

Now coming to the acting department- imagine the situation where three out of four actors does the most disappointing piece. No chocolates for guessing, Irfan is the only saving grace. John Abraham, even after being tortured in Guantanamo for months, being fed only in a soaky white semen-like-thing maintains his well-toned body. I have seen three films of Neil and he does the same act with his face throughout in every scene. The guy specializes in sudden shivering /shaking of his head and open mouthed gape. I have no clue what Katrina Kaif was doing in a movie where she really had to do some acting. Sadly there was no opportunity for her specialization-short skirted hip shake.

Now the common problem in all our NRI movies- I have no clue why the firangis don the role of hookers, drunks and biknis clad beach dancers. Don’t they have any prominent role in the life of our NRIs? Or aren’t they good enough as us in acting?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A travel to Maramon

Speaking about Maramon convention, it’s the biggest yearly Christian gathering happening in Asia. It happens every February at Thiruvalla, Kerala, India. The traditional venue has been the banks of Pamba and 2011 was the 16th version of it.

116 years ago, when it started off, the Marthoma Church(the Christian denomination responsible for the convention) didn’t have the strong financial background. The leaders then gathered together and saw a need of missionary workers and started the MC (Maramon convention) as a ground to attract more youth to gospel work.

116 years ago if the assets were the will-power, penury and zeal, today the Church has a very wealthy backing. It would not be appropriate to single out Marthoma denomination in terms of wealth. The Christian community as a whole has been very well refurbished thanks to the immigrant money flowing in from the Gulf and America.

So with changing times the MC has changed too. The convention is a 7 day long event happening in the second week of February. We, a group of four friends, decided to make to the MC for a day. It was not because of the piety. We wanted to experience what was happening there. For most of us it was the beginner’s pilgrimage.

The climate was hot and humid, which is quite unlikely. The climatic variation is being prominently experienced in Kerala. The irony is the Marthoma Church has been fighting a battle on environmental degradation. But the MC has drawn flak for the unscientific waste disposal on the river banks. The sandy river beds have given way to muddy grounds, thanks to the sand mafia.

By the time we reached there, the crowd was heavy. The either side of the grounds were lined with stalls- a place to attract in donations. The ground was filled with people. Unlike a gathering of faithful, the place resembled a carnival ground. It was tough to make out what happened at the front. So there were LCD TVs to help us out with that.

We went around brought a couple of CDs, books, heard some sermons and came back home. Did it influence me? I leave it to the time to answer that question. But I am pained at once meaningful activities turning into pomp.

Here are more pics

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let us Lent

The period of crucifixion and resurrection is around the corner. This is that time of year when Christians would prefer to go glum faced. I am not pious and, least of all, want to show my faith around. That puts me in the uncoolest category where you have the ‘faithful’ on one side and atheists on the other.

I read from the blogs that my blogger friend, Jane is observing her lent too. That prompted me to write a few words on what I feel about lent.

It would be hypocritical to say that the physical & spiritual element of a human being is independent of one another. All the religions firmly understood that spiritual quest can only be fulfilled through physical hardships. Hence they have ascertained certain practices to help us not to go astray. They may be pilgrimages, fasting, lashings and even piercings.

So lent comes under that. The direct impact on lent in Kerala is that the prices of broiler chicken goes down as Christians form a considerable amount of population and they form a good percentage that consume meat. But for the present generation meat has become a part of staple diet that it’s tough to forego it. So it’s very rare to see a Christian who practices lent with absolute resolute.

From another perspective lent provides a window for a healthy diet free of the cholesterol and hormone laden meat. But then reports of dangerous chemicals used in farming has again cast a confusion of which is healthy- vegetables or meat?

But these physical exhibitions have to reflect in our spiritual life, which is not happening at all. The Bible says to the Jews to release all their slaves. Since we may not have any, it would be difficult to free them. But I hope the lent becomes an opportunity to develop some clear and positive feelings for your poor neighbor.

We had formed a two-day-a-week football team. The good part is that people from all the age group and from various strata of the society comes into play. One day I came up with a photo session in my digital camera. The digital copies were sent to all. But one guy among us didn’t have a computer. Then one good Samaritan volunteered to take the hard copy print out. The situation may look trivial. But the care you give to the smallest has the scope to make a big change. The bottom line is you needn’t go searching for orphanages to pour out your love.
I am a partial observer of lent. By the end of it I am planning to regulate a few bad habits!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Movie Review- Shirin (Iran)

Warning: The movie is not conventional, entertainer or a time-pass. If you are of the school that a cinema has to have any of the above three element, then give this movie a skip. If you believe in a director who leads you to a magical world through his sheer genius, then go ahead. In short get ready to be bowled over!

‘Shirin’ is an Iranian movie directed by Abbas Kiarostami. The movie is a product of his thinking that audience should have more than a passive role in film making. The viewer should have as much as responsibility as the one behind the screen. It was my friend VR who had suggested the movie.

The movie is based on the epic Persian love story of Shirin and Khusroo. Shirin was the heiress of a kingdom, when she falls in love with emperor Khusroo.There is love failure and in comes a famous mathematician Farhan. The movie is basically the heart break, anguish and distress on separated lovers.

The magic of the movie, based on the much heard of love story, is we never get to see the visuals. We are shown a group of people in a theatre and we hear the visuals. We construct the movie from their faces.

I wouldn’t say the movie Is a experimentation that has succeded completely. Abbas has opened a magical door which leads to a garden with more fruits and flowers to pick from. ‘Shirin’ (the one which we do not see) is a mixture of narration and visuals. The theatre characters are a mixture of women of different ages and characteristics. There are proud women, shy women, intellectuals, young and dreamy ones. As the camera pans from one face to another we see a different dimension added. Thus we give flesh and blood to characters, do the set designs and cinematography. As simple as that.

I refrain from going into depth as I am no student of Cinema. But before I sign off- Mr. Abbas Kiarostami take a bow.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sometimes the grim reaper is a gift

The ink hadn’t dried up after writing the previous post on the strange crossroads of death, when the news came in about Anita. Her sister had passed away. Everyone seems to be busy dying. St. Peter must be working overtime these days.

Anita is a person whom I didn’t know much about from close quarters. On the contrary I learnt to admire her from a distance. She was hearing and speech challenged from birth. I met her during our annual youth conference. In the midst of a group of ‘perfect’ people she stood out. She had to make what is being said by reading lips. The guys were a bit reluctant to go out and speak with her. But the lady folks were quite quick in befriending her. I think our lives have become so cocooned that we rarely come in touch with an ‘odd’ person.

She turned out to be a vivacious person with all the trappings of an adolescent. On the final day she expressed her sadness that no boys did come to speak to her! We guys bend our heads in shame! Well it was not that difficult to communicate with her. She made some legible voice and read the lips well. There was even a joke going around, that she asked for a cellphone as a gift.
I was quite intrigued when I came to know more about her. She had an elder sister (who was older than me). She was an incapable person- she couldn’t get up, lied down all day, made some gurgling sound. I am sensitive to the R word. So I refrain from using that. May be her parents wanted a normal child after the first one. But Anita too didn’t turn out ‘perfect’.

Last day I got the news that the sister died. We went to her home. Of course, we couldn’t console Anita so just nodded. I do not know how attached she was to her elder sister. They never would have talked to each other. They never laughed, shared pains or cried together. What would be the thread that held them together if there was one?

A curious incident happened during the funeral. An old man got up to pay respects and to speak a few words. He ended up describing the condensed version of autobiography until the priest requested him to conclude. He apologized saying, ‘I do not know much about her’ .

I have written about this earlier. I am not a pro-choice activist. Neither will I blindly judge against people who abort. But I salute the courage of people who dare to consider an invalid as human and give him/her a decent life.

I looked at the mother. 27 years is a long time, a very long time to care for a person without confining her to an institution. Did I see a tinge of relief in her tears?!

About Me

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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.