Archive for May, 2009

Chashme Buddoor

  • So, I was watching the movie Chashme Buddoor yesterday. There is a scene in the movie, when the hero takes the heroine to a restaurant and orders an ice-cream for her. She orders Tooti-fruity. Somehow, to this day, that scene is embedded in my memory, and ever since watching that movie some 15-16 years ago, I have always ordered tooty-fruity whenever I go out. Infact, I remember that it was not an easy ice-cream to get in our friendly neighborhood ice-cream stall which used to sell Kwality Walls, and only when they started stocking Vadilal’s that I got tooty-fruity. (Now that was until I got pampered by Corner house and Cold-stone. My favourite ice-cream now is the Ice-cream with French Apple cake, that is served in Corner house)
  • The movie reminded me of those Saturday afternoons in Vishal Apartments. We would be watching some old Hindi movie on DD. Often it would be some Rajesh Khanna romantic tragedy or an Amitabh action movie. Sometimes, they would play absolute treats like Chashme Buddoor or Golmal or Choti Si Baat etc. Vidya and I would watch every movie thrown our way by DD, battling groggy eyes after an exhausting morning session of games in the sun and a great lunch. Around 4 PM, Amma would go into the kitchen, and start making tiffin, which would end up being hot-and-delicious dosas of the tava or my favourite tiffin, verum-arisi-adai. I would go on eating in, often eating much more than I need, mainly because of the heavenly taste and also because my senses would be lost in the movie world.  Later, Amma would bring hot tea to the room, and  we would drink that and continue to watch the film, with one ear on the door-bell, waiting for Appa to come in, on half-day Saturdays. Around 5, friends from below will shout out, calling everyone to play, and the movie will be promptly forgotten, thick plots erased from memories, thrilling who-dunits would be set aside for Amma to fill in the story much later in the evening, and we would start our evening games of football or cricket or kho-kho in earnest.
  • Chashme Buddoor is a movie that I have loved to watch over and over again. It is a simple comedy, and the comedy is in the day to day events of life, and it is brilliantly made. The movie was the first time, I saw about young men living alone and enjoying themselves. As a teen, whenever I saw the movie on TV, I would dream about the day I too would go to college away from home and stay alone and have fun with friends. Much later, when I was in 10th or 11th, we were getting back to Calcutta from Madras, and in the side-berths, two bengali students were returning home to Calcutta, from their college in Bangalore. Amma has this amazing ability to strike conversation with absolutely anyone, and she started talking to them, and I heard, for the first-time, first hand account of hostel life, and my resolve to go to hostel strengthened, mainly because I get to travel back home alone by train (the side-upper berth has been a fetish for me, till I grew too long for that berth). In 2001, I was stubborn in my decision to go to Bangalore to study and not stay in Madras, where Appa got transferred.  Only thing that I was sad about was that my distance to home was now just 361 kms, and not 1700 Kms, if home were still Calcutta.
  • Did I say Amma has the amazing ability to strike conversations, like the conversation with the German tourist in our hotel lobby in Port Blair. On our trip to Bombay when I was in 7th, Amma got into a conversation with a few people travelling with us. The conversation later turned into an argument on public decency, when they started to smoke. On listening to Amma debate, the old thatha in the upper birth said that Amma should have been a lawyer. On that trip, I was sad that the route from Calcutta to Bombay does not go through the ghats and we will not be able to see the 22 tunnels that adorn the Pune-Bombay route. Somebody said that Nashik-Bombay, the final leg of the journey is also beautiful and I woke up all night to see the sights from Nashik to Bombay early in the morning. The early morning chill gave me a bad cold which tortured me for much of my Bombay trip.
  • I still remember many of the sights and sounds of that Bombay trip, and Bombay mesmerised me then too. The first time I took the local train after getting into IIT, I was amazed that I remembered few of the stations on the central route in order, and as the train sped past Dadar-Parel, I saw the lower Parel station on the western line, and it was like a worm-hole, and  I remembered the journey back from Mullund to Colaba during the Bombay trip. Parents have moved back to Chennai just today, and I wonder if I will ever  get back to Bombay again. Hopefully work takes me there often. It is a mesmerizing place.
  • Hmm, I have rambled along. As I went to sleep last night, this was the stream of thoughts in my memory. I decided to write it down, because we do make weird connections, and it is impossible to even figure out how our memory is wired!
  • I saw the animated movie Up yesterday in digital 3-D, and it was a treat. The film had a moral (that living your life itself is an great adventure, enjoy it, and look for new ones), but the fantasy world that the animated movies can create is uplifting. Believing, even for the two hours of the movie, that helium balloons can lift your house up and you fly to a paradise island in South America, to fight talking dogs to save an exotic bird is refreshing. However, there was a realistic part in the fantasy movie that was the most brilliantly done part of the film according to me. The hero and heroine meet, marry and live out their life, with its shares of ups and downs, and every time they save money to make a trip to S.America, some life situation begs for the saved-up money to be used, and the dream remains a dream. This was shown in one fluid sequence with a beautiful composition in the background. And, as the sequence ended, you had formed a deeper connection with the old thatha, the protagonist, the hero of our fantasy story, who is old, grumpy and has lost his best and only friend, his wife.
  • Reviews of Chashme Buddoor on the Internet, led me to another Sai Paranjpe movie, Katha. It is about an idealist, instinctive do-gooder, Rajaram (Naseeruddin Shah) and his con-man friend Bashu. As with many of these off-beat old hindi movies, this was a treat to watch with a good story, brilliant screenplay and marvellous acting by an ensemble cast.
  • Thanks to Anjana’s post, I have been hooked to ‘Allo ‘Allo, a British sitcom. It is too funny, and sometimes, I wonder if I can transport myself into the totally foolish world of Monsieur Renet!


Armchair Analysis! What went wrong for the BJP?

I got into a  nice comfortable position, had the windows open, NDTV for the “secular” viewpoint and a BJP sympathizing live chat session, to watch the results live, and as with much expected and awaited India cricket matches of the mid- 90’s, got disappointed  really soon. If I could have voted in this election, I surely would have voted BJP/NDA, as I would have had in 2004. So, it is a second consequitive defeat for me. And as every armchair strategist should do, I have been pondering the future of the BJP for the past few days, and why they lost. Here are some thoughts, most of it shaped from reading a lot of blogs for the last 40-50 days. It is hard to find those links again, and I am not making any attempt to find them. There may be factual inaccuracies, and I am willing to correct them, remove them, if pointed out (or if I find out)

  • Target Audience: I took some time to read the party manifesto’s this time. And, I noticed the BJP’s internet advertising. Personally, I believe that in this elections, the only party that had a manifesto that addressed national issues and provided plans for our development, if elected, it was the BJP manifesto. They showcased their vision, through the IT, Infrastructure vision statements etc, and had an statement of intent in their manifesto. Congress on the other hand, was totally diplomatic, and except for the sops, made no real claims in theirs. Samajwadi Party, came up with a cropper, and a vision of taking the country back to the 1800’s.  On a policy to policy, a vision for the country basis, the BJP should have won hands-down. But, unfortunately, good manifesto’s do not add up to much in our country. The manifestos and the vision statements, have been targetted at the upwardly mobile, educate middle class Indians and NRI’s (but the only urban area that the BJP manajed to sweep was Bangalore, so it does not seem that their vision documents got enough penetration). In my opinion, the average upwardly mobile educated Indian is not going to go out and vote. The central or state government is not too much of a concern for him, and his fortunes are tied more cloesly to the global economy. They may be more intersted in Obama or McCain, as the US policies are much more likely to directly affect their wallets. The Indian election is won in the poor households, the semi-urban and the rural votes. And, these people are not going to care about the “national ” issues. Security,  IT-vision, Infrastructure vision etc are not what they are bothered upon. Whilst, it is important that a political outfit which aims to govern have a vision, the elections must be fought and won on a more personal and tangilble issues. The Congress got this correct, with their populist moves, the NREGA (which accoridng to some reports that I have read, if implemented strategically, can mean improved infrastructure in the Indian hinterland with better roads, electricity, irrigation etc, but currently, it is about giving *some* job to the rual youth), the farm loan waiver (which according to me, is a near sighted, stop-gap solution for a long term problem). On these issues, I could not find the BJP being able to go out and connect to the voters. Their policies, could have ended up in a better future for rural Indians, but there was no short-term carrot that was dangled in front of their eyes (apart from the Rs 3 Rice, to counter Congress’es claim to distribute cheap rice).
  • Wrong Leader: Personally, I have never really liked L.K.Advani. He was one of my most disliked political person, even when the NDA was in power and most of my political views were being formed. His image lacks the certain charm and a calmness, that both Vajpayee and MMS seem to posses. Talking to a few friends, after the elections, I get the impression that it is just not me who thinks like that. This, probably could be a reason on the BJP’s non-performance in urban centers, with people wanting to vote NDA, but not L.K.Advani. Personally, had the elections been a couple of years ago, or even before 26/11, I would have gone the Congress, just beacuse MMS seemed to be a better ambassador of the country than LKA. LKA surely, built the BJP and nurtured it, but he is too much of a hardliner to excite the non-committed voters. He is also not a natural mas leader like the Rahul baba and Priyanka to sweep votes based on his personality and charm. The congress has a lot to thank to the Gandhi name, and the (apparantly) in-born mass leadership that they Rahul and Priyanka are able to provide. The BJP themselves have admitted that they missed Vajpayees’s moderate appeal to just about everyone and his mass-leadership abilities.
  • Media Bias: This election, much unlike the previous ones, has ALSO been fought on the 24 hour news channels, and most of them, to a disgusting degree, have painted the BJP as a communal hatred spewing party, and the UPA and the Congress as the only option to lead India into a secular future. The media, to a large extent has been succesful in marginalizing the BJP. Gujrat-02, even after 7 years, is the hottest topic of discussion, the Kandhar issue was highlighted much more as the BJP failing national security than 26/11. The sikh-riots and their dissents have probably never been discussed on national TV. Varun Gandhi’s statements were discussed more on TV than the BJP manifesto and promises, while similar statements of hate by some muslim congress leader, came to notice because of the website linking it. Karunanidhi’s claims that “Ram” does not exist, does not stir up the media’s secular credentials, but a single BJP comment on hindutva or minorities is dissceted again and again on national TV. Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN could as well rename his channel as the official Congress news channel. There was a time when I used to get my daily dose of News from NDTV, but after Bharka’s histrionics of 26/11 and the subsequent developments (including the Cheytanya Kunte issue) and their coverage of this years election, I am sticking to blogs and twitter for my daily news supply.  As has been pointed in many forums, it is time that the BJP gets itself a media house, much like Fox for the republicans here, and introduce some balance into the one-sided reporting that we are seeing these-days.
  • Fair Elections? I am sure this is a case of shifting blame somewhere else, the grapes are sour kind of argument. But somethings are hard to overlook. Mainly the TN elections. TN swings one way to the other almost every election, and ADMK should have been on the recieving end this time. Add to it, the SL voter issue, because of which, many people thought that the DMK and Congress are going to suffer. Despite the DMDK theory of splitting the anti-incumbency votes, the DMK performance surprises me. There have been accounts of money for vote kind of things being perpetuated by the DMK in Madurai, and accounts of EVM’s blinking on the DMK even if other party buttons were pressed. To add more to the suspision was PC’s victory  after recount. It is not manual counting to induce errors, the computer does it all, and I am surprised that the results changed.  But, these cannot be the reason for resounding Congress victories elsewhere, and the BJP can do better by not providing fire to these conspiracy theories.

The next few years are very important, not just for the BJP, but also for democracy in India. BJP has to get its house in order as soon as possible, and, instead of pointing fingers at each-other for the election debacle, should introspect and find out as to why they have mis-read the pulse of the country in two elections consequtively. They are at 116 or 118 seats now, down from nearly 190 in 1999, and it is high time they consolidate, or we will get back to the Congress hay-days of the 1960’s and 70’s when they won more than 2/3rds of the seats in the LS.

It is all the more important that the BJP not throw the towel and consolidate the few states that they have a major presence in. This will make them a fringe player in National politics. The opposition is as much a part of the democratic process, as the governing party. They provide the choice that is essential, and among the hundreds of other parties in India right now, the BJP provides the best alternate choice.

In my opinion, first and foremost, the BJP has to redefine its stance on Hindutva. Personally, the hard, extremist stance that they had in the past, is not going to work, and they will lose out on many hindu votes if they stick to that. I always try to give the American example when it comes to secularism. America is a secular country, but most of the country is devoted christians. That is the kind of secularism, I want to see in India, and I want BJP to potray. Congress and the so-called secualr parties, are pseudo-secular, and when the prime-minister can make statements like this, it hardly induces confidence in me. I strongly believe that the Congress has different definitions of secularism for the minorities and hindu’s and that has to change. It is a dicy situation for the BJP, but this is where they have to find inspiration from somewhere and define their political ideology (which definitely has to change from Ram mandir and hindu chauvanism), that does not alienate the minorities and yet give confidence to the hindu majority in the country that BJP is going to be better for them. It is hard, but if the BJP have to remain relavant, they have to address this issue.

Secondly, as many forums have pointed out, it is essential for the BJP to grow. With absolutely no presence in TN, AP and WB, they lose almost 100 seats to the Congress (atleast, this year they have gained easily on the anti-left votes). The growth has to be organic, and by dedicated work of the foot-soldiers. High level alliances can only get you this far. Increasing their presence has got to be a major focus.

Finally, they need to be a responsible opposition, and not the type of opposition they were in the 2004-09 LS. Opposing for opposition sake is really bad, and I had a bad taste for the BJP brand of opposition almost all the time the 2004-09 UPA gorvenrment was there. There was mindless opposition to every minor issue, and the worst thing was siding with the Left during the nuclear standoff without reason or rhyme. A strong opposition can play a decisive role in good governance and nation building, and the quicker the BJP becomes one in the present LS, the better it is for them.

The BJP is almost down in the dumps, and as with KKR in the IPL, the only way for them is up. I cannot resist using the cricket analogy again. As I said, Friday evening, it almost felt like supporting the Indian team during the disastrous Aussie tour of ’99 or the ’99 world cup or many of the other “away” assignments of the Indian cricket team. Domestic, home series performances (much like NDA sweeping state elections), promise a lot, my expecations used to rise a lot. But, it came tubling down within lunch on the first day of big away test matches. The Indian selector, team and think-tank have realized that stop gap solutions like sending Nayan Mongia as an opener or making square turning dust-bowls in Chennai and Bangalore is not the solution, and the present team, has won lots of succeses. They got a leader in Saurav Ganguly in 2001, to beging the process of turn-around. The question is, who is going to be BJP’s Saurav Ganguly, and I have a feeling that the death of Pramod Mahajan is going to haunt them for a longer time now, as they look for a new face for the new bhajpa.


Is Winning everything? Pop Philosophy

Let me set the context for this rant, which draws from my personal experiences over the years. Also, since this is my blog, I am correct ( arguments in the comments are invited). Also, so as to not offend any person I know (and who reads this blog by-chance), I am going to use character names from the book “English, August”, which I just finished and absolutely loved and recommend. It is a story about a lost youngster, who does not know what he wants, but realizes the job that he has is something he does not want… (when I find the absolute need to introduce an character)

Anyway, its almost summer here, and we play cricket in the evening by the base-ball grounds. And, we have a motley collection of junta who come in to play and have fun, after (for many of them), a long and probably frustrating day of research, and for some, the first outing into the day after a long day of sleep! So, around 15-20 of us get together to play ball each evening, and as it happens with every group, there are some good players, some pretentious players (like me, who cannot get bat on ball properly nor can bowl a string of 6 legal good deliveries without being hit to the boundary), some players who are mediocore, and some players who are not good, but come there for fun. Thrown into this mix of players, are some guys who desperately want to win, and sometimes go to absurd lengths, which often includes things we did as kids, arguing for every decision, making the not-so-good players feel unwanted by not giving them a bat or ball, and sending them to obscure field locations. As a principle, I am opposed to it, for me, it is about having fun, and I don’t have fun if I see that there is some guys who feel unwanted in the ground.

It is fun, dissecting the match later in the evening, talking about the great cover drive you played, or the absolute unplayable yorker that someone else sent. But, I don’t want to lose sleep over lost matches, nor shout at non-performing non-players. Even when playing, I find some players being super-competitive, which is definitely good, but if you are really good, you don’t have to torment the guy who can hardly bat by bowling your best deliveries to him, because that puts the other team down on the run-rate. He will be happy, given his standards, to hit a few singles and give the bat to the better players. The same goes for the bowling.

You do play to win, otherwise there is no point in playing. But there has to be an inclusiveness and a spirit for having fun. Winning could just happen, but the process of winning, should be fun, not only to you, but to everyone participating in the game.

Over-competitiveness, the ‘I-just-have-to-win’ attitude, frankly, puts me off…

I strongly believe, that we are the sum-total of our experiences. Hindsight is supposed to be 20-20, and looking back, I am happy for lots of things that have happened to me, because of which, I am in it to enjoy it now-a-days, and not to win it.

I have been really lucky all my life. Really.

It is a world for the winners only. The cool guy is the great musician, the God level guitar player, the great batsman, the super forward with a golden foot. The role-models are the toppers, the first rank is coveted, second rank is no good,  the IIM converts, JEE crackers. Success is never relative. Your next-door-neighbour’s first cousin, who landed a 20 L p.a. job is the bar. Whatever you do, is not good compared to him.

I am none of these. I have always considered myself to be ‘mediocore’ (no humility here).

Our school had this tradition of writing the names of the top-10 rankers on the board on the report-card day.  Amma had promised me a gift (a set of water-colours, if I remember correctly), if my name appeared on the board on the report-card day. I would spend my days, with that goal in mind. But on the report-card day, the story would be the same. I would come really close sometimes, and get the 11th rank, and sometimes, I will end up 16th, and a few times, I would end up leading the class from the behind, and like Force-India cars, finish the list up, with 20th and 22nd ranks. I would be dissapointed, Amma would be too, but she would be the first to encourage the hard work that I put in. Although, she would not buy me the water-colour, I would get some gift or the other.  Vidya, was similar too, and a little weaker than I. Appa and amma, would never take the result days to heart, and it was their encouragement, that we yearned for most.

We were dreamy kids, lost in our old dreamy utopian worlds, and we studied hard, but never chased marks and ranks. Sure, amma had lost some bragging rights with other aunties, whose kids topped the mark-sheet, but she was always there to encourage us, motivate us to try harder the next time, not to lose spirit. Thinking, back, that freedom given to us, to continue living in our dream-worlds, has been the genious touch of parenting, that has got both me and Vidya to where we are, more content than happy with our successes, and less heart-broken than others with failures.

On a warm August afternoon, the 9th standard report cards were distributed, and for the first time ever, the rank column on my report card read 3rd. I was overjoyed, but there was no name on the board. The new principal discontinued the tradition. On a hotter May afternoon in Chennai, Vidya, stood among the top students in her school in her 12th boards, and won a scholarship to a free education.

It was the sweet taste of victory, but the process of getting there, had given us a different experience, which has helped us still remain contented and happy, when marks have not stuck to our results later.

“Mandy” (obviously name changed), is a charachter from school days. He was this exeptionally talented student, with the Midas touch. His mother had never seen him come second. And, the one time, this other dude, a quiet boy, actually beat him to the finish line (1st rank), and Mandy’s mother bawled all over school, and the dude’s mother actually asked the teacher to add 1/2 a mark to Mandy so that he could be the joint topper.  Years later, when the Midas touch magic was over, and Mandy found out that he is one among many other similarly talented people, his dissapointment of not making it to the top, has lost him many friends.  “Mohan” is another such guy. He has always been the topper. Exceptional record everywhere he has studied. As time passes, and the degree gets more complicated, his efforts have doubled and trebled, to get that top marks. But, I think, in the process, the fun of learning is lost, atleast in my opinion.

First semester memories in IIT are similar for me. I lost the pleasure of learning, struggled with concepts to get the top rank. Similarly, 11th and 12th, in the hope of a good JEE rank, I tried to become the perfectionist, tried to get every answer correct (and you had to, the margin of error in that exam is really small), and in the process of going towards the goal, I lost the fun of it…studying was no longer fun, it was a pain, it was an torment. The results were in front of me. Now, I try to enjoy the learning. I spend the days before an  exam relaxing, and watching movies (Appa really wants us to do that). And, after the grades are out, I am content in the knowledge that I gained some knowledge. The ‘AA’, if I get it, is accidental, and that much more sweeter then.

“Shankar” has always tried to extrapolate his life. His parents, cousins, social circle, have been the definition of success for him. Everything that he does, he puts it in perspective with his “ideal” of success. And in the process, once again, I think, he is missing out the fun of the tinier details of life.

Under-graduate days in Bangalore, I spent a lot of time toying with the “ideal” dream. But, somewhere along the race, I realized that losing sleep over “ideal” was hardly ideal. I spent a lot of days sulking, feeling sorry and pathetic for myself and lost. It took some time to get over it, but now, I try to be cheerful and hopeful, over things that really have not gone my way.

For many, it is winning. It is crossing the finish line before everyone else. I guess, its in their DNA. These may be the types of people who change the world.

For me, it is slowly walking across the finish line, breathing in every inch of scenery along the way. I have been really really lucky, that I have been in places where these “winners” reside, but I guess (atleast I hope that this would be the case) that I would still have been contented otherwise.  Still, I hope to remain lucky!

And, I am sure, a different 25 years on the planet, would have meant, I would have written post like ” I hate losers!” or “Some people are just plain lucky, they know to be there in the right place at the right time” or “Nature is against me” or “Really, dude! Look at me, and learn to be a God”…

I shall leave you with this song, which captures the story of the “The Guide” so perfectly, that I have been listening to it on the loop….Hmm…have to put that on my list of to be read again but only after “A suitable boy” 🙂