Friday, March 14, 2008

How to explain THAT to your kids :)

In India, it is really tough to explain the whole birds-and-the-bees deal to kids. I don't think I know any parent who's done that without humming and hawing. Heck, there are even parents who don't. MOST parents I know fall in this category and just sort of expect their kids to know from various sources (school? their friends?) when the time comes.

Well, check this out. It is one of the most interactive, fun ways I've seen yet to explain love, sex and tell them that the world is going to be one hell of a confusing place in the years to come!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Get them some air!

If you don't know what this is, then you're not an Apple fan, obviously.

Anyway, this person missed his flight because the airport security officials didn't know what it was, either!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Guess who prefers Obama

No, no VVIP or anything. This ad run by the Hillary Clinton campaign must be familiar to most people by now, where she suggests that she'd be the best person to answer the phone in the White House when you are sleeping at 3 a.m.

Turns out that the little girl in that ad is now actually 17 (Getty Images had rights to the footage and it was used by the Clinton campaign), her name is Casey Knowles and yeah - she is an avid Obama supporter!!!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Are you too busy recording, or living?

"We talked about a number of other things—I can’t remember what—and he took a few pictures with his phone, which I thought was lame. I mean, if you’re too busy recording the experience, are you actually having it in the first place?"

- Hari Kunzru, 'Raj, Bohemian'

That's a thought I always have when I see friends of mine take pictures and pictures and pictures at the rate of one every minute almost, when they go out partying. I take pictures too, but not so many, because - and this is why I put in the quote here - if you’re too busy recording the experience, are you actually having it in the first place, as Kunzru says in his great short story that touches on consumerism and the urban socialite's 'hectic' life.

Is home where the heart is?!

Got this from my cousin in an email....with the message 'This bike was parked here in 1985. The owner is still in Saudi Arabia'.

And then at the bottom, 'at least visit your native place once a year'!!!!

Monday, March 03, 2008


Sometimes it is just too tiring to be good.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday entertainment!

To brighten up your Sunday, I hereby present....George W. Bush. LOL!!!!!!!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Clash of the weak-'uns

I love films, Indian and international. Sure, I’ve been seeing a lot of foreign films lately but that’s only because I think the stories some of these tell are fascinating. Film transcends language, if you ask me. Who can watch The Lives of Others, Il Postino or Cinema Paradiso and NOT be amazed by them?

But I’ve noticed the steady improvement in the caliber of Indian films of late too, so its not like I’m becoming a film snob or anything. Whether it is the quite brilliant (in my opinion anyway) Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi or the more commercial Chak De India or Taare Zameen Par, Indian cinema is undergoing a renaissance in filmmaking. (As an aside, Chak De India and TZP have brilliant websites, unlike the films of yore). There is a whole range of less commercial or borderline arthouse films coming up quietly in India as well, such as Manorama Six Feet Under, No Smoking, Dor, Via Darjeeling (a Rashomon-inspired tale that’s been beautifully adapted to a Bengali setting, scheduled for an April release in India) and Mithya – films which are riding the wave of the multiplex experience and allowing so many more people to watch these films, films that are Good with a capital G. Not just your usual rich-girl-meets-poor-boy, who-overcome-opposition-from-family-and-marry-after-at-least-five songs-of-which-two-must-be-performed-around-trees variety. Heck, some of this sensibility is flowing over into the Yash Raj camp as well, so we have them finally venturing into producing a film like Kabul Express, which was, in their own words, ‘YRF’s first film for an international audience – a new foray into this segment of filmmaking, with many more to come’.

Amidst all this, we have a film like Eklavya-The Royal Guard being the Indian nomination for the Oscars. For all those of you who watch any half-decent non-Indian film on a reasonably regular basis, and those of you who keep track of the Oscar nominations, I have a question: which brainless, money-sucking idiot thought from any angle that a film like that could even cast a shadow on films like the eventual winner, Austria’s The Counterfeiters? I highly suspect that the Film Federation of India’s committee must:

a) not even be interested in films as a hobby, forget as a job

b) be VERY susceptible to corruption and consequently, a rich production house’s dream: you pay, you get nominated – which is tragic for those independent production houses that make honest, good films but don’t have a strong enough financial backing

c) not even really care about this whole issue

I was going through the list of films that India has nominated to the Oscars since 1956. We started out pretty well: Mother India, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, slowly moving to Saaransh in 1984 and Parinda (ironically, by the same director who made Eklavya) in 1989. The 1990’s were not too bad, with the glaring exception of Shankar’s Jeans being nominated in 1998. And then from 2000 we started going downhill, with films like Devdas, Paheli and Eklavya, and no nomination in 2003 at all, for whatever political reasons, because I refuse to believe that there were no nomination-worthy films that year.

Of course, I’m sure it has escaped no one’s observation that the last few nominations have all been coming purely from the commercial Hindi film industry, with the exception of Shwaas in 2004 which was did not have that much of a big budget, and was Marathi to boot. Since the 1950’s up to now, we’ve had only about 10 nominated films that were non-Hindi. Regional films are largely ignored, and more often than not have some gems hidden among them that escape the untrained eye, which is what it looks like the film committee have anyway.

So, the questions beg themselves: what are the administrators of the Film Federation of India doing today? What are their priorities? And why has no one made a move on taking them to task?

I wish someone had an answer. Or are we destined, as often happens in Indian politics, to quietly accept what the people in power do?

Sour grapes

Indian expats in the Gelf (spelling mistake intended) are complaining that the latest GoI budget is unfair to NRI's.

I don't know if I'm missing something so help me out here - if they feel so bad about it, shouldn't they quietly go back to India and become RI's instead of sulking?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Despair. Hopeless, merciless despair.
Thrashing about the idle mind, as
waves wash the shore.
Murakami spouting Schumann through Kafka
Dahl: Liszt
Kiss, kiss.

Despair. Unwavering, murderous despair.

The sun glints through the windows
On a crisp winter's day.
If you listen closely, you can hear

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Total Time Pass


Finally, proof that Aamir Khan is more popular than Shah Rukh, Facebook is more popular than Orkut, Yahoo is more popular than Hotmail, Bill Clinton is more popular than Hillary Clinton, and various other funny comparisons.

A superb way to get back at that awful snob in college whom you never really liked. You'll probably wind up being more popular than him/her. Just type in your respective names and see.

I did :-D

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And my vote goes to...

Oscar fever is in the air, and for a change I'm not going to take shots at who is going to win the most talked-about Best Actor, Actress, Film or Director awards. I took the time to listen to all the nominees for Best Song and am safely placing my bets on 'Falling Slowly' from the OST of 'Once'. The other three nominated songs are ALL from 'Enchanted', which I found rather strange. I mean, were there so few original songs this year that 3 nominated songs wound up being from the same film? I don't even think that all three are truly worth being nominated, especially not 'A Happy Working Song'. Some of the interludes in 'So Close' and 'That's How You Know' are not bad, and the tunes are reasonably catchy, but Best Song? Not for me, anyway. So without further ado, listen to 'Falling Slowly', performed by Glen Hansard, vocalist and guitarist of Irish band The Frames, and Marketa Irglova, a Czech songwriter and musician who first met Hansard when he visited her hometown in the Czech Republic. Apart from being lead actor and actress in 'Once', the 38-year-old Hansard and 20-year-old Irglova also briefly dated.

The lyrics of the song are equally beautiful.

**Update: I forgot to mention 'Raise it up' from the OST of 'August Rush' which was also nominated, but guess what - my song won!

Friday, February 22, 2008


During a conversation with D, I suddenly remembered a really nice French singer whose work she introduced me to a few months ago. I'm linking to the song here so I remember it in the future in case I want to listen to it again (I probably will), though D informs me that engineering students in India (or maybe just Kerala - I don't know!), are very familiar with her work. Pretty young thing, and a lovely voice to boot. Small wonder that these kids know of her, I suppose!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What would we do without 'em tags?

So, since I am stuck with one foot on a stool, the one thing I do have plenty of at the moment is time. I just realised yesterday that I have been tagged by the increasingly popular Smugbug, so I'm going to give this a shot. Smugster, thanks for the opportunity. Haven't read my own archives - well, ever!!!

The rules of the tag are: Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given (family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like). Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better.

Here goes....

1. Family: I searched and searched and realized that I just about have the bare minimum number of posts required to be able to tag anything in this category, i.,e, one. This post from three years ago where I wish my sister a happy birthday is the best bet. I also realised as I read it that my sentiments are exactly the same now. The girl is off on a trip with her friends at the moment. We really need to do one of those together.

2. Friend: I suck at this. The fact that I hardly have any posts on my family and my friends must indicate that I am a pretty closed personality, no? Tcheh! And all this time I thought I was not!!! Anyway, this post about a friend's wedding two years ago is suitable, speaking of which I realised that said friend now has a baby! How time flies.

3. Yourself: Most blogs are about their owners, I suppose. I am no different. Just that the realisation that I am an egoistic blogger is not very comforting! Anyway, this post from two years ago that has 25 points about me or my thoughts that I wrote on my birthday, is the best contender in this category, and since I let my birthday go unnoticed this year on my blog, I'm going to take this opportunity to add to that list with two more points, so that the total is right for this year.

-------26. Marriage is both wonderfully difficult and wondrously delightful.
-------27. They say that by age 30, people should get their act together. I am nowhere close!

4. Your love: Hmmmmmm. I obviously haven't written much about THE love of my life, as some of you should have deduced by now, given my earlier declaration of being a closed personality-type. But this post about my love for rainy days, and then the bit in the end, make this a good piece to call up here.

5. Anything you like: This song. Still.

People to tag. Let. Me. See. I don't know how many of you will respond, but give it a try, OK, folks - please? It may even be fun! Penny Lane, The Restless Quill, Kaleidoglide, Graphic Designer Nerd, Emmanuel.

There she goes...

The other day, (a couple of days ago), I went ice-skating. In five minutes, I was down with a fractured ankle. An ambulance took me to the nearest hospital, x-rays were taken and a splint put on my foot. The net result of all this is that I will probably be out of any noteworthy action for about 6 weeks, but I am sincerely hoping it will be less. I think I’m being a reasonably good patient, apart from momentary lapses into self-pity which are completely unwarranted, because come on, there are millions of people with much bigger problems in life, after all! So I grin and bear it with good grace. The most difficult part so far was sitting on my ‘fanny’ (as the nurse at the hospital called it) and somehow hauling myself upstairs to my 5th-floor apartment, one butt and one stair at a time.(No, there is no elevator). Oh, I can be the ‘butt’ of so many jokes now, yeah yeah!

The good things I am trying to gain from this experience (and it’s only week one) are:

1. Becoming a good disciple of Buddha, (or a lesson in patience). I used to be such a ‘come on, let’s do this NOW’ kind of person, and now I am left with no choice but to wait and do things slowly, if I can do them with one leg, or else wait for someone to help me.

2. Mental self-help, (or learning to better manage my time using my head and not a sheet of paper, though I suppose I could use both now that I have the time) - how Stephen. R. Covey-like does THAT sound!

3. Learning the IHOP menu. Except in my case, it's 'I hop', i.e, the one-legged dance, you know?

Let’s see what other lessons the next few weeks bring!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A slice of Europe in South America

As the plane touched down in Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires, the sun gave me a warm welcome. Landing as I was from the cold climes of a New York winter, I felt its rays wrap themselves around my shoulders like a well-worn shawl and invisibly snuggled up to them. The highway leading from the airport to the city centre was wide and lined with rolling hillocks on either side. Against the bright blue of the sun-drenched sky, the greenery reminded me of parts of Europe. That image soon faded without warning and gave way to worn apartment blocks that clustered together and were so reminiscent of Mumbai that I began to wonder what exactly Buenos Aires really was about.

Later, walking through its enchanting neighbourhoods, I encountered more than just the odd backpacker trying to figure their way around like me, map firmly in hand. I already felt comfortable. I began my exploring with the Plaza de Mayo (pronounced ‘masho’, for those unfamiliar with the Spanish language), the seat of the country’s revolution against Spain in May 1810, as well as mass demonstrations organized by Eva Peron and the trade union movement in 1945 that sought to bring Juan Domingo Peron to power. The Plaza also witnessed riots as recently as 2001 when Argentina was crippled by its now infamous economic crisis. Uniformed policemen permanently patrol the Casa Rosada (literally, ‘Pink House’), home of the executive branch of the federal government and the most impressive building in the vicinity - though to be fair, the headquarters of the National Bank, the May Pyramid and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires, all a stone’s throw away, are also worth your time. The plaza is the culmination of Avenue de Mayo, whose tree-lined pavements shade numerous Art Nouveau buildings that led, in 1997, to the avenue’s declaration as a national historic site. One of these buildings is CafĂ© Tortoni, a charming coffee house and a Buenos Aires landmark – queues to enter are a common sight at all hours of the day, and, conversely, spending a few leisurely hours inside is a must-do activity for all visitors - one that I made sure I didn’t miss myself!

Ambling along Avenue 9 de Julio, named so after Argentina’s Independence Day, I tried to recall any other avenue I’d seen that was as wide. The best I could dredge up from memory was ParisChamps Elysees, but even that was not as wide as the Avenue of the 9th of July. Maybe there is some truth, after all, to its claims of being the biggest avenue in the world. I passed by the Obelisk, a huge monument in the middle of the avenue built in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city, and very reminiscent of the other, probably more famous Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Disappointment was probably writ large on my face, however, when halfway along the seemingly never-ending avenue I walked up to the steps of the Teatro Colon, one of the world’s largest opera houses, only to be told that it had been closed for renovation since 2006, and was slated to take a while more to complete. Well, you can’t have EVERYTHING, I suppose! I was enjoying Buenos Aires so much at this point that I shrugged it off, disappointed as I was, and continued my urban adventure. This took me to Rivadavia and the Plaza de los dos Congresos, where I sat for a while in the park and admired the imposing National Congress building and the many statues of famous Argentinian citizens that dotted the plaza.

Buenos Aires is reputed to be one of the best cities in the world to party, and for a reason. The earliest people start going out, even for dinner, is around 10 PM – we left a restaurant at 12 midnight and it was more packed than it was when we entered a couple of hours prior to that. Relaxed and easygoing seemed to be the keywords – you are expected to take your time sipping your wine before placing your order for dinner, and then enjoy a cheerful conversation with your friends (if you can hear them over the din!) before you finally see your food. And the food – ah – it would be unfair not to recommend the popular Asado, basically cuts of meat cooked over a grill or parrilla (pronounced ‘parisha’), that is the traditional dish of the country. Puerto Madero, a locality that used to be a storage area along the docks but is now a modern hotspot with excellent restaurants and cafes along its marina, is one of the best places to catch a bite to eat. I didn’t get to go to a club, but heard that they stay open till early in the morning, and drinks (and everything else in Buenos Aires, for that matter!) are extremely reasonable because of the peso’s exchange rate – a few years ago it was 1:1 to the dollar but it is now 3.15.

A trip to Buenos Aires would be incomplete without a visit to Recoleta, an area that is home to the Recoleta Cemetery, where the most famous personalities of Argentina (including Eva Peron) have their final resting place, and the Basilica Nuestra Senora del Pilar, a charming whitewashed church that seemed to almost gleam in the heat of the sun. I also walked cross-town to La Boca, the neighbourhood that houses the Boca Juniors stadium, well worth a visit for all football fans – this was Maradona’s home ground. The charming locality of San Telmo was enroute, where the weekend flea market is a lovely place to shop for gifts.

Remnants of the Argentinan economic crisis are still visible – some commercial areas of the city like Florida (many streets are named after other countries and some after American states) have shops that are technically open 24 hours, but a grill outside with a small window at the side are all that indicate any willingness to do business after 8 PM or so. Local friends also recommended that it is best not to walk about with jewellery – the only kind I saw on others was beaded stuff, so I adhered to that myself.

Nevertheless, as I was boarding my flight back to New York, I overheard a young man talking to his companion in the airport. He ended up staying more than his intended few days because, in his words, he ‘fell in love with Buenos Aires’. With its cobbled streets, historical aura and vibrant nightlife, it is easy to see why.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Tornado

Gigi giggled uncontrollably at Mummy’s funny faces. She was a happy little child. Her curls evoked memories of those perfectly proportioned, porcelain-skinned dolls with cascading blonde hair. Except that Gigi’s curls were black as the night. Anna fed her precious little daughter, burped her and put her to bed.

Gigi was the answer to Anna’s prayers. She remembered clearly the day she was brought home.

The wind shrieked like a temperamental old aunt as the leaves tore themselves away from their floundering canopies. Doors were blasted open as though with the unwavering hand of a cattle gun. Some roofs sailed into the sky like Aladdin’s magic carpet, only it seemed as if the carpets were in a tearing hurry to travel through time. The streets were emptied of their residents in the blink of an eye: now you see them, now you don’t. Tornadoes leave most places looking like ghost towns, didn’t you know? And this one was just getting started.

The house seemed eerily silent when Anna descended into the basement to escape the fury of Nature. She thought she was alone in the house till she noticed the crib in a corner, and then, as she approached it tentatively, Gigi. The helpless little infant had been wailing in her crib for hours, inaudible to anyone in the din of the tempest. The weather seemed to have zapped everyone who cared for her into thin air, temporarily anyway. Her loneliness was palpable.

Anna took one look at her face and fell in love.

A few days later, as she delicately sipped her coffee in a well-appointed room some five hundred miles away, she read in the newspaper: ‘Industrialist and wife mourn the loss of their newborn daughter in last week's tornado. Her body was never found.’

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Flies by night

Appu idly watched the flies knocking against each other in the midday sun. They seemed so stupid, he thought to himself. All they were fighting over was a watery ring on the rickety steel table, a remnant of the unappetizing tea he’d just had at the roadside tea vendor’s. He smiled sardonically. Bloody single-winged insects. Ants were much better. Hardworking little things. What did that encyclopaedia call them? Eusocial. He went home to his dark lair, devoid of any sunshine (he preferred it that way) and gave his little friends a warm welcome. Later, as he ate his dinner, rice with a greenish paste, he read out aloud: ‘Charles Thomas Bingham notes that in parts of India, and throughout Burma and Siam, a paste of the green weaver ant is served as a condiment with curry.’

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Akshara Foundation and me

A few years ago, I worked with a very talented group of people on this video for the Akshara Foundation, a nonprofit in Bangalore. Since I am in consolidating mode, I thought I'd pop it in my blog as well and preserve it for posterity, so to speak.

Monday, January 28, 2008

‘The auto slowed down on an isolated stretch. My heartbeat quickened’

It was January 2005, a cold winter’s night.

As the train sped along its tracks from Dehradun to New Delhi, I settled myself a bit more comfortably in my seat and delved deeper into the book I was reading. The gentleman sitting next to me was a nice enough person, a salesman on his way back to Delhi after at trip to Dehradun on work, just like me. As dinner was served, we struck up a conversation. Having travelled around the country alone quite a bit and having seen my share of strange people, I was not particularly receptive in the beginning, but I soon felt he was not exactly a stalker and relaxed. The older gentleman on my right (I was sandwiched in the middle, the bane of train and aeroplane travelers alike!) soon joined in our conversation – he was going to see his daughter in the city. When he heard that I was travelling alone and planned to take an auto-rickshaw home when we reached Delhi, he insisted that I take a prepaid auto and not hail one from outside the station, for my safety. As the train pulled into New Delhi station a couple of hours later, the salesman and I headed off towards the pre-paid auto-rickshaw stand, from where we could catch our separate autos home. The older gentleman had his daughter waiting for him. I thanked my travel companions for their assistance and concern and soon found myself in a prepaid auto headed towards Defence Colony, where I lived alone in an isolated little room on top of a house, my ‘living quarters’ (as they say in India) that I rented from a very nice Punjabi family.

The time was 11.30 PM. In my backpack, I had a sachet of desi chilli powder. A laughable aid to any possible danger, I agree, but all I wanted then was some sort of security. When I was leaving for Dehradun, I’d thrown in the chilli powder at the last minute, sort of as an afterthought. I’d heard far too many stories about untoward incidents being perpetrated upon women in the capital, and I didn’t intend to become just another statistic. I suppose I should have carried pepper spray, but somewhere we all think we are invincible, don’t we? We all think, when we read the newspapers, that ‘that kind of thing’ can never happen to us.

Five minutes later, on an isolated stretch of the road heading towards India Gate, the auto started slowing down. Thudthudthudthudthudthud. My heart started beating at double its normal rate, and my hand slid into my backpack. The rickshaw driver took out a beedi, lit it, and continued the journey. I could almost hear my heart rate slow down: thud-thud-thud-thud-thud. All I wanted was to get back to my room.

I did get home safely that night, but that was not the only time I felt unsafe in Delhi. A year later when I was returning alone at 9.30 PM from the airport to my paying-guest accommodation in Bangalore, I felt a similar (though less intense) feeling of fear when the auto had to take a detour along a less crowded road, thanks to some ongoing repairs. Time obviously makes you braver, as does experience. This time, there was nothing handy in my backpack. This time also however, thankfully, nothing happened.

I have lived, prior to and since then, in London, Brussels and New York. I have been to places from where I’ve returned alone at night in all of these cities. In none of them have I felt as vulnerable as I did in India. I have often asked myself what it is that makes it so difficult to be a single woman in urban, modernized India – I have even asked friends who’ve been in similar situations.

They have formed their own support systems, living as they do away from their families – when one of them has to return late, they make sure that she calls one of the others and gives them the auto’s registration number, and preferably talks to someone through the journey, if it is not too long. The recourse to public transport, like the tube in London or the subway in New York, which is what I have used in the past (and still do today, in New York) is not there in India at all. That is why in India, young working women are left to the mercy of auto-rickshaw drivers, many of whom refuse to take us where we want to go, or ask for sky-high fares. Let’s face it: if we could pay those ridiculous amounts, we wouldn’t be forced to take an auto, would we – we’d buy our own cars.

I didn’t tell my parents about the incident in Delhi that day – I didn’t want to worry them. Today, I worry about my younger sister as she travels around India. I want to ensure that she is always safe. The truth is, I can’t. I can only hope that she exercises her common sense. Just like my parents probably hoped I would.

Published in Tehelka Magazine, Vol. 5, Issue 4, dated Feb.2, 2008