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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Congratulations and Celebrations! to me, me, me!

Today is a happy day. Yesterday at Fab India (where I buy my kurtas and ethnic clothes), I heard a girl say, "This is a happy, happy, happy, happy color, will suit you just fine." I liked that, huh, though, what she meant by "happy" raised to the power of four flummoxed me.

What do I see first thing when I open my blog? Google has upgraded my page rank of my main blog to 4 on 10 from 3 on 10 (zigzackly has 6 on 10!). Some promotion this. Yippeeee! Check it out. Out with the bubblies, no, an extra cup of coffee towards evening, perhaps, if wifey permits.

I have also staked my claim to be the most consistent solo blog and the longest running solo blog at the same URL at the Limca Book of (Blog) Records (the Indian equivalent of Guiness Book of World Records). Isn't that a reason to smile?

Thanks visitors! Do please, please visit me daily (;and give me those hits I deserve;) as I write in this space every day.
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Amitava Kumar - Salman Rushdie Controversy

Read this article on Amitava Kumar's Blog. Can't say that I agree with him totally, being a die-hard fan of Rushdie. But, it now turns out that Rusdie has, some how, read Kumar's blog articles (some excerpts follow) and has threatened to cancel a lecture at Vassar College if he was introduced by Amitava. This may have the potential of blooming into a full-fledged literary controversy, me thinks.

"What Rushdie did was not exactly new in Indian writing in other languages or even in Indian drama, but its intensity and range was novel in the tradition of English writing that had been inaugurated by the likes of R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao, and Mulk Raj Anand. In a land allegedly in thrall to babu English, here was someone who was having fun with the English language. Reading him was a bit like coming across a giant ad for Amul butter on an Indian street—except that Rushdie was in command and kept doing it for five hundred pages."

"The trouble is that despite all his invention and exuberance Rushdie remains to a remarkable extent an academic writer. He is academic in that abstractions rule over his narratives. They determine the outlines of his characters, their faces, and their voices. Rushdie is also academic in the sense that his rebellions and his critiques are all securely progressive ones, advancing the causes that the intelligentsia, especially the left-liberal Western intelligentsia, holds close to its breast. This is not a bad thing, but it should qualify one's admiration for Rushdie's daring."

"There can be no doubt that the threats that Rushdie faced and also the book-burnings and other protests were shameful and unacceptable. But I do not for a moment support Norman Mailer's assessment (Norman Mailer wrote Rusdie after the Fatwa "Many of us begin writing with the inner temerity that if we keep searching for the most dangerous of our voices, why then, sooner or later we will outrage something very fundamental in the world, and our lives will be in danger. That is what I thought when I started out, and so have many others, but you, however, are the only one of us who gave proof that this intimation is not ungrounded."). I don't believe that Rushdie has even found his most dangerous voice. In fact, I don't believe that Rushdie's is the most dangerous voice writing today. His is no doubt a powerful voice; often, it has been an oppositional voice; but it is a voice of a celebrity promoting commendable causes; more seriously, in some fundamental way, it is the voice of a metaphorical outsider, and therefore incapable of revealing to ourselves, in an intimate way, our complicities, our contradictions, and our own inescapable horror. I don't deny that it is a voice that can engage and delight and of course annoy, and yet it is very important to make a distinction: what Rushdie writes can easily provoke, but it is rarely able to disturb."

Kumar's grouse seems to be that Rusdie is being used as a milestone in Indian English literature as when we say "he writes like Rushdie" and "he doesn't write like Rushdie." But Rusdie opened the gates to the flood (or is it a trickle?) that followed, didn't he? Admittedly Rusdie criticized and parodied Indian life for a western audience, but he did it with considerable charm and wit and even we tend to nod our heads and smile when we read what Kumar calls "academic" writing. Here's what Rushdie says about migration, as quoted by Kumar, "To migrate is certainly to lose language and home, to be defined by others, to become invisible or, even worse, a target; it is to experience deep changes and wrenches in the soul. But the migrant is not simply transformed by his act; he also transforms his new world. Migrants may well become mutants, but it is out of such hybridization that newness can emerge."

I have underlined "invisible" because in "Midnight's Children" he calls the people who live beyond posh Neapean Sea Road area in Bombay as "Invisible People," or the migrant people. This is something I can identify with as I am of second generation migrant stock, living as invisible people in an extended suburb of Bombay. Here's a poem I wrote in my blog about how indigenous people hate migrants.
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Friday, September 22, 2006

Reality Show to Sell a Book? Quite possible!

Saw the James McGreevey interview with Larry King on CNN. Now, for those who came in late, James is the former governor of New Jersey who has made a public admission to having a homosexual affair and to having cheated on his wife, as a consequence of which he had to give up his office. He has also come up with a book on the affair titled "The Confession" and may, me thinks, have been desperate to get publicity for the book. The confession includes trysts in anonymous truck stops, crawling into bed with his wife after escapades with his boy friend, etc.

What I found unusual was the handsome McGreevey was squirming in his seat while answering King's pointed and, rather, blunt questions. Several times he fumbled for answers, and on occasions he seemed as if he wasn't telling the truth, at least, fudging some. Larry King asked him if he had sexual encounters before his marriage, and he said, "yes," the next question was, "was it pleasurable?" What does he mean by asking if a sexual encounter was pleasurable? Why would he go for an encounter if it wasn't pleasurable. Come, come, now, Larry King!

To make matters worse there were also interviews with his cheated wife, and his boyfriend (no, he says, life partner), whom he kissed on the show. Yes, kissed on the mouth! All through the interview I was conscious of a brave show being put up, all that was wrong with such displays became quite obvious. I mean, the reality television kind of programs showing people embarassed, crying, shouting, and kissing.

I felt that this was the movie trailer to goad people to buy the book in millions to delve into the secret life of the handsome governor. Also, who knows, movie rights, and may be, a movie role (seeing as to how handsome he is!). Oh, the pits to which people can descend!

I may be terribly old fashioned (my blog says so), not to talk of getting old, but couldn't these emotions be handled a bit more discreetly? All through the show the interlocutor Larry King had a cynical set to his mouth, and conducted the interview with great detachment, as is his wont. But all this drama to sell a book? If this genre of publishing is so desperate to sell their books, then why don't they call themselves "The Celebrity Business" and not publishing at all.
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sportsmen or Showmen?

Why do we, the whole one billion of us, rank so low in sports? Looking at our films and ads filled with those well-toned, and muscle-rippling youth one would think we are a nation of athletic young men, and women who shouldn't do so dismally when it comes to wielding a stick or a bat.

We rank 136th in 204 football playing nations, 11th in 12 hockey playing nations, and about cricket I don't know (though, I play cricket I am not so crazy about following it as I get upset watching our country lose, and so badly at that), may be, in the bottom of the heap. Every four years, one billion people wait with bated breath for an odd silver or bronze medal in the Olympics, while a country like Cameroon wins two golds and a bronze. A collective hanging of heads is, perhaps, advisable here.

I don't accept the argument that there is a lack of talent. No. I have seen talented cricket players giving up their fight. Ravi Kulkarni was a talented player from my locality and he vanished without a trace and so did Abey Kuruvilla. Their careers were rather short.

Or, is it that we are a nation of pretenders, who build up their bulges to be "macho-looking" for the cameras and not for what these muscles are meant, i.e., put it to grueling tests on the sports field, the real tests of brawn these days. Don't believe me? Watch those gladiators battling each other on the football field. There are fans screaming, singing, hooting, waving little, long balloons, even painting themselves for their teams. And their heroes deliver.

My grouse with our cricketers is that they aren't sportsmen (except a few), and more of showmen. Hmm, that may also be the reason they fail so dismally on the field. Watch their carefully groomed attitudes, watch their camera consciousness. "Yaar, mein kaisa lag raha tha teevee par?" (Friend, how did I look on television?)

I really wonder if they do it for the sake of the sport or for getting the advertisement endorsement opportunities, trophy girlfriends, and may be later get on television wearing a tie, to say glib things like, "It is a batting pitch, there is a little grass, and a lot of moisture on the grass, what do you say Sunny?"
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Monday, September 18, 2006

My Poem on Beirut

Read my poem on Beirut here

Beirut was once known as the Paris of the East. No more. Now, militaries of Israel, Syria and Jordan enter and leave it at their whim. Its streets are full of bombed buildings and its citizens live in fear of being killed. This is a poem to its brave inhabitants. "Cedars of Lebanon" is a reference to a passage in the Bible.
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stephanie Klein to tie the knot? Pity the Guy!

Seems Stephanie Klein, she of the kiss and tell blog is getting married. To those who might say, Stephanie who? She is the one who told all in her blog about her love life with boldness and irreverence and landed a book contract. "She lets readers view, with her clear-eyed hindsight, what a liar, cheat and coward her husband turned out to be. It's not pretty, but it is fascinating," says USA Today.

All I feel is pity for the guy. How would you like the woman you are getting married to report your intimate conversations, even everyday fights and tantrums to the world?

Some of her posts have 239 comments! I go, "Wow, what's that?" When I get a measly twenty visitors on my blog everyday, and perhaps get one to comment per week, she gets 239 comments on one blog post. I suspect women have had it good, even with blogging. I mean they can kiss a man and then tell. As for a man, if he kisses and tells, his friends would ask, "You mean you just kissed?"

Look at Monica Levinsky, she sold some copies of her book didn't she? Or, closer home, hmm, who comes to mind? Preeti Jain? No, never mind. Meanwhile, have a look at this blog by Jess that hints that she has something to kiss and tell, but somehow she can't get the words out. Tongue tied?
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Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Day in the Life of Me, Myself!

This is a scenario I wrote today, just common events from my life. I might use this in a short story or novel, in future. So do not discount its literary value. Ahem!

Today is Saturday and I am thinking of finishing some work. I thought it was romantic, working in my pajamas and round neck tee-shirt working when you feel like, that is, until this morning.

Then they had to spoil it all. My neighbor is getting his house re-constructed. Re-construction is a harmless word when he is breaking it down with sledge hammers, and most of the debris is falling on my house with thuds the equivalent of minor bomb explosions, or, earthquakes. The houses in Artist Village, are independent dacha-type houses, which were constructed by a government housing scheme, and are packed too close for comfort.

Now something like a war is going on with frequent unannounced masonry falling on my house. "Oh, God," I say and run out and shout at the workers, who, are, huh, workers. For some time the earthquakes stop. They do what they are told to do. And my neighbor is nowhere in sight. See, he has moved to safe environs already. Good!

And then they resume all over again. Then I again run out and shout. Then they commiserate. And this goes on for some time, till the power goes off. I sit fretting in the dark with the debris of my despondency falling over me, darkly maligning. No, I won't ask, "Why does this happen to me? How can I get my work done?" No, that would be taking it badly.

Then I go to get some bank work done. The day is sunny and hot and sweltering, and I put on my dark, "cooling" glasses. The bank is crowded, and there's another bank I have to visit nearby to finish my transaction – actually I am making a draft to pay my son's yearly college fees. The deposit in this bank isn't enough to cover the transaction. So I have to withdraw money from another bank account across the street and come back. I didn't know that I hadn't eaten and suddenly hunger pangs strike.

I walk into a South Indian restaurant and am served by a nondescript uniformed waiter who reels off a variety of dosas from memory. I decide to have a Masala Dosa, which, I think, would be filling. Then I turn around and there is a family of beggars, the type who appeal to your religiosity to make a living, sitting next to me and eating rather boisterously. Food is spooned into wide open jaws, and the mastication is done in between loud talking. I find this particularly nauseating, eat my dosa, and leave.

At the other bank, a sales spiel keeps me engrossed. They have a unit-linked plan that would give me a pension for life, provided I invest around Rs 1.5 million now. Imagine having that kind of liquid cash lying around, I smirk, while coolly watching the earnest salesman making his pitch. Then I say I will consider his offer, and leave.

Then I take a rickshaw to the other bank with all the money for my son's fees and a helpful girl who hardly glances at me makes the draft. That done, I decide to visit an old church acquaintance who is indisposed and has been ordered rest. He and I have worked in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and we talk about old times. I guess company would keep him engaged.

And then it begins to pour, and pour. "Thulavarsham," he says listening to the rolling thunder. "Yes," I say, "It is thulavarsham, the rain that falls around the month of "Thulam." We speak of human foibles, church politics, and a priest who isn't as holy as I had considered him. Who is?

On the journey back, I am totally drenched by the downpour and my umbrella offers no solace. The sunny afternoon has transformed into a dark, menacing, darkly forbidding rainy evening. There are gangs of youngsters, college kids, at the bus stop. They talk and laugh loudly, wearing their unwashed jeans that have these ugly pockets, bulging out at the most unimaginable of places. I am wearing cargo trousers, but, it has pockets at the logical locations on both sides. I notice that they all have long hair, and acne on their faces. I too have long hair!

End of scenario.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Booker Short List is Up!

The booker short list is up. Kiran Desai made it for "The Inheritance of Loss." Those who made it:

"The six books shortlisted by a panel of judges are: "In the Country of Men," Hisham Matar's semi-autobiographical first novel about childhood in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya; "The Secret River," Kate Grenville's tale of life in an Australian penal colony; "The Night Watch," British writer Sarah Waters' novel about characters whose fates intertwine during World War II; "The Inheritance of Loss," Indian writer Kiran Desai's cross-continental saga set in New York and India; "Carry Me Down," the story of an unusual boy, by Irish-Australian novelist M.J. Hyland; and "Mother's Milk," a portrait of a rich but dysfunctional family by English writer Edward St. Aubyn."

Those who didn't make it:

"Some of the biggest names on the 19-book longlist did not make the cut, including David Mitchell, whose "Black Swan Green" had been a favorite, and Australia's Peter Carey, a two-time Booker winner longlisted for "Theft: A Love Story." Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me," another critical favorite, also was omitted."
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The Booker Short List is Up!

The booker short list is up. Kiran Desai made it for "The Inheritance of Loss." Those who made it:

"The six books shortlisted by a panel of judges are: "In the Country of Men," Hisham Matar's semi-autobiographical first novel about childhood in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya; "The Secret River," Kate Grenville's tale of life in an Australian penal colony; "The Night Watch," British writer Sarah Waters' novel about characters whose fates intertwine during World War II; "The Inheritance of Loss," Indian writer Kiran Desai's cross-continental saga set in New York and India; "Carry Me Down," the story of an unusual boy, by Irish-Australian novelist M.J. Hyland; and "Mother's Milk," a portrait of a rich but dysfunctional family by English writer Edward St. Aubyn."

Those who didn't make it:

"Some of the biggest names on the 19-book longlist did not make the cut, including David Mitchell, whose "Black Swan Green" had been a favorite, and Australia's Peter Carey, a two-time Booker winner longlisted for "Theft: A Love Story." Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me," another critical favorite, also was omitted."
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:: future :: :: Teen parenting - the road to understanding :: August :: 2006

Stumbled across this article. Well looks interesting to me. :: future :: :: Teen parenting - the road to understanding :: August :: 2006 While on the subject of teens there is this cell phone agreement for teens and parents developed by a father of teens which would help teens who are going through that interesting phase in their lives use their cell phones responsibly. I, as a parent would recommend “Off the Hook,” a free cell phone agreement developed for teens and their parents. Using this agreement parents can work hand-in-hand with their teen to find a suitable cell phone plan and then to make sure they understand the responsibility (and the costs) that go along with cell phone ownership.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Johnwriter's Raves & Rants!: Masters or slaves?

Johnwriter's Raves & Rants!: Masters or slaves? A valid point I think.

One of my blog articles has appeared in DNA

My blog post on "Untalenting Talent" has appeared in DNA (Daily News and Analysis, is a newspaper published from Bombay). Read it here.
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Masters or slaves?

It is disconcerting how technology gives us the "bum's rush" sometimes. It's like this. I have important work to do, most of it online, and most of the morning the power fails, I sit there fidgeting, reading a novel (Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved Ones"), not knowing what to do. Then the power comes on, I switch on the computer, and, and, the net is so slow, it's almost impossible to surf.

Ever faced this problem? I am sure you have. During the deluge in Bombay cell phones didn't work, during the bomb blasts emergency services went on a blink, etc. Now coming to think about it, can you imagine how much we are dependent on our little chargers for our cell phones, our digital cameras, our laptops, and our PDAs. Are we the masters of all these technology, or are we slaves still?
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Untalenting Talent"

Read this interesting article by Joel on Joelonsoftware. Got me thinking. In India we are doing our best to "un-talent talent," yes, I am coining a phrase here, which I hope to develop into, erm, a cliche on this blog, by telling our talented youth that there aren't seats in medical, engineering and management institutions. In America, as Joel's article states, they are willing to take pains to absorb students as interns and nurture them as future employees.

Well, honestly, India is "untalenting talent" by asking for huge donations - I hear it is Rs 5 million for a medical seat, around half a million for an engineering seat, and about that much for a management seat - with the result that what comes out of our high profile institutions are rote-learned, uncreative, disillusioned, unmotivated engineers, doctors and managers. The best and brightest of them go to the US where they can get scholarships, jobs on campus, or, can be picked up by a corporation that is interested in employing them.

Hm, well, who is the loser and who is the gainer? While our colleges of higher learning are becoming richer, the US is getting a steady stream of talented programmers, doctors and managers because of the short-sighted policies of our country. Look at the roster of developers in any software development company in the US and you will find a lot of "Sridhars, Shuklas, Samuels, Samants, Ramakrishnans, etc." in their list. Whereas in India a government that believes in e-governance do not have talented programmers to maintain their own sites. Visit any government sites and see if they are regularly updated. I needn't give the answer here, for obvious reasons.

And our reservation policy has contributed its mite to "untalenting talent." According to the policy, I am a bit dark here, but, will plod on, half the seats (50 per cent) are decided by the management (that means whoever pays more gets a seat) and half are decided by the government (that means around 40 per cent of the half is reserved for students who do not have the talents, but have been born in the right caste). These two chunks add up to 90 per cent and there are only 10 per cent seats available for students who have any merit, and who are genuinely interested in studying. For all I know, I am being quite cynical here, the 90 per cent who have a seat reserved for them becuase of their money power or their birthright may not be repeat may not be interested in studying at all, and may disrupt the studies of the honest and talented students. Here again "untalenting talent" takes a heavy toll.

Who gains, who loses?
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Nokia's 6800, your best bet for short messaging

One of my favorite phones is Nokia 6800. It enables sending and receiving of messages with its QWERTY touch pad. And since I message quite a bit, this is the phone I am going to watch out, to me at least. Even my son, a teenager, who likes to send jokes on his cell phone, likes it and he says nothing can beat it for performance and easy transmitting of short message on this cell phone. Mostly we prefer messaging each other than calling as it is cheaper.

However, one drawback is that downloading ring tones, games and graphics are not
yet available for the Nokia 6800 phone. Nokia also has a compact and light travel charger that is small and has a convenient cable management with the cord wrapping up inside the charger.
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Friday, September 01, 2006

Khali pili, khali fokat ka boma bom!

Yesterday I made that journey to South Bombay after the forced absence of a year working for a BPO unit in New Bombay. Now this unit, no malice intended, considers that once an employee joins them, s/he does not have the right to a life of his/her own. I believe work is worship, but work shouldn't be forced worship. So I quit.

And, lo and behold, South Bombay held some pleasant surprises, nay, some shocking surprises. First of all, I look around for the familiar sights around Victoria Terminus. Where is all the noise and shouting gone? You know the types who shout, "Whole lot, whole lot mein, raste ka mal saste mein." God, I miss those hawkers, where are they? And, yes, they are still around, slinking, chin on chest, defiantly eyeing everyone.

Guess they are hanging around in the hope that the ban on hawkers would be lifted, as everything in "Gormint" is lifted after a while. Poor sods, they don't realize that the "Gormint" has demarcated "hawking" and "non-hawking" zones and their chances of erecting a stall is equivalent to Sakti Kapoor winning the Filmfare award for best actor.

A lot less noisy, and a lot cleaner, a lot less "jhan jhat," as a Bombayite would say. And those hawkers, "khali pili, khali fokat ka, boma bom Martha tha." Meaning those hawkers used to shout for no purpose. Now I can navigate the streets better.
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