11 Aug 2005

Booker 2005

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:29am

Coetzee makes it yet again to the longlist for the 2005 Man Booker Prize. There's still good time for the shortlist. With some more good writers in contention, this is certainly going to be exciting.

My pick for the shortlist:

1.Coetzee, J M
2.Rushdie, Salman
3.Ishiguro, Kazuo
4.Smith, Ali
5.Smith, Zadie

And I wish Coetzee wins!

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

4 Aug 2005

The Survival Chamber

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:46pm

AD 2876. The nuclear war has exterminated almost the entire of human race. Only 400 people survive. The break-up - 100 cyborgs, 25 scientists, 65 programmers, 10 dictators, and 200 youngsters - 100 men and their sisters.

The scientists and dictators decide they must take up the cause of preventing the human race from becoming extinct. All the documentation and technology for SFC (SuperFast Cloning) has been destroyed. So, the only way left for them to have descendants is by making the young men and women mate among them and procreate. So, they put the 100 young men and their sisters - 100 in number - in the survival chamber. Everything inside the chamber is fully monitored by supercomputers so that it is always conducive to survival of all forms of life. Dictators love Chess, and scientists love Mathematics. Ergo, they decide to make this all into a game rather than a drab orgy.

The 200 subjects are not told about the purpose of the exercise until they are moved inside the chamber. Once inside, they are blindfolded and made to stand - men and women opposite each other, separated by good distance - in a random order. There are hundred rooms, designed to form a circle. The blindfolds are removed only when a person is inside either the room or the toilet. Now, the game is this - men are asked to choose their mating partners. Everybody is numbered - man 1 to man 100, woman 1 to woman 100. Each man is directed toward the place where women are standing, and the first woman whom he touches becomes his partner. Nobody is allowed to utter a word till all the pairs are formed. The dictators don't approve of incest. So, if the man happens to choose his sister for partner, both of them will be shot dead.

The entire process is monitored by cyborgs, so there's no place for tricks.

The probability of a man ending up choosing his sister for partner is 0.01. Out of all the combinations possible, there is exactly one that proves fatal for the human race - when each man chooses his sister. In such a case, all the pairs will be shot dead. So, inside the chamber, the survival of a person depends not on how fit he is, but solely on chance.

What is the best move for a man to ensure he survives?

The rooms are numbered in anticlockwise direction, and they are occupied according as men's numbers in the same order (man 1 and his partner occupy room 1, man 2 and his partner occupy room 2, and so on).

After the first round of choosing, the scientists decide that it's a better idea to enhance the gene pool. Now, the pairs need to change partners in a sequential order (clockwise in direction) and it should go on for another 49 times (after the first round, man 1 will have man 2's partner and man 100 will have man 1's, and so on). But the same rules hold - when a man ends up with his sister for partner, both of them will be shot dead. So, if a man is lucky enough that his sister is not among the next 49 men's partners, he will survive at the end and will have had 50 partners in total.

How many such combinations exist that will keep all of them survive at the end?

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

25 Jul 2005

India in 90 Seconds

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:54pm

What are the words/symbols that come to my mind - in the first 90 seconds - when I think of India? Let me see...

Gandhi's smiling face on the currency note
Express train
Jana gana mana tune
Aishwarya Rai
Satyajit Ray
Traffic jam
Road-side brawl
Filthy toilet
Marine drive
Waiting for the train
Crowded bus-stop
Queue at the temple
Babri masjid
Assassination of Indira Gandhi
Unicef ad
Indian movie
Kamal Hassan
Mani Ratnam
Harischandra ghat, Varanasi
Bulla ki jaana... video
Outlook magazine


34 associations.

17 negative, 9 positive, 8 neutral.

I hate more than I love India.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

25 Jun 2005

India - Shining?

Posted by Oblivion in General | 4:43pm

That India is shining, and that it is all set to become indispensable for the growth of World economy has been so earnestly promoted by Media for the last few years that everybody now seems to be taking it as an absolute fact. Euphoria reigns an entire generation. Consistent growth rate of GDP, becoming the preferred choice of many MNCs for setting up their shops, new hybrid car models, proliferation of multiplexes, and remodeling of shopping habits, attitudes and accents seem to be assurances enough for people to believe that there cannot be any looking back. Everybody appears to sing, "Our time has come!"

Unfortunately, positive growth rates alone do not directly translate to welfare in Economics lingo. Even in a world where nations cannot do without interdependence, development cannot be associated with a country that has not yet achieved the state of economic independence. So, mere inflow of foreign investment does not become the benchmark for measurement of growth. Given the enticing factor of those morsels of currency, it endangers a nation to gradually forget its primary strength. If an agrarian society falls for the lure of industrialisation and, in the process, ignores agriculture, it will become more dependent on secondary income. If its trade gets affected because of War or some international calamity, it won't be left with anything to rely on. It's very important for a nation to remember the focus of its resources.

This is not to suggest that globalisation is a bane. Globalisation is definitely a sign of a healthy, properous economy. Its importance in international relations and world peace cannot be dismissed. But a country's participation in global trade should be based on its principal strength; merely acting as a channel and contributing to other countries' economy, and gaining a meagre share for the same speaks bad of its economic policies and priorities.

Let's face it - India is preferred not because of a dearth of brains in the US, as Media project, but simply because of the dearth of manpower. Barring China, there is no place else where MNCs can find thousands of nice, sincere butts willing to be glued to glittering seats to earn consultancy dollars for them. All that for a pittance when one converts the currency. It undoubtedly is a win-win situation, but it is a situation driven by the motive of exploitation and that fraught with dangerous consequences that will come to light only after a few decades. We are the exploited, dependent, and colonized populace.

If tomorrow the US decides to stop all outsourcing work, close all its shops in India, and send all Indians out of their country, what will happen to millions of us? Do we have the potential to address such a dire situation? If we admit we have, it is merely out of the confidence that such a situation will never arise. This is not the case with Japan or Korea or China. India has too many problems and too many flaws in its political system. Poverty remains a perpetual problem, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is ever widening. These are not signs of a developing economy. If Media persuades people to believe otherwise, it is because of a vested interest. Sadly, people get carried away.

A developing economy is one that is striving to devise policies that, if implemented, would ensure that the percentage of population living below the line of poverty tends to become zero. Today we have 1.2 billion people in the world living in poverty (living on less than $1 a day). So, it reflects impatience and lop-sided view to flaunt a country's economy as developing, going by just the peripheral details.

A consultancy firm devises nice-sounding phrases and sells it because it is a business deal for them. Politicians promote the phrase and make it a slogan because they have to cajole people to win another term. Advertising agencies make impressive campaigns out of the slogan because that'll make their portfolio better and attract more clients. Media sell space and promote the campaign, and assure that it is the greatest thing to happen to the country, because they cannot survive by speaking truth and turning against the political set-up. It's all business for everybody. It defies all logic that people should derive their optimism out of such a manufactured image.

No doubt, the projections, the statistics, the fat pay packets, the IT parks, are all good, and indeed are a reason for rejoicing. Yet, unless India becomes self-sufficient in the first place, I find it hard to subscribe to the optimism that many people of my generation share.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

24 Jun 2005

Government vs. God

Posted by Oblivion in General | 3:16pm

Spotted on the entrance gate of Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore - Government Work is God's Work

Let me see the logical connection:

1.God is omnipotent, government is omnipotent. So, government is God
2.God is omnipresent, government is omnipresent. So government is God
3.God is omniscient, government is... well, omniscience does not matter to government because it very well knows that omnipotence suffices. So, the fact that it knows such supreme truth makes it omniscient too. That, in turn, implies, by logic, that government is God
4.God is an invention of man, government is an invention of man. So, government is God
5.Man blames God for problems in life, man blames government for problems in way of living. So government is God
6.God does not give a damn to man's prayers, government does not give a damn to man's prayers or demands. So, government is God
7.God was invented to ensure security after death, government was invented to ensure security while living. So, government is God
8.God maintains an account of man's karma and punishes or rewards accordingly (poor soul! For all His genius, that's the most interesting work He has!) after one's death , government keeps a track of man's deeds and punishes accordingly, so government is God. Interestingly, just as God's model for punishment or reward does not yield to logic, government's model for punishment is as illogical
9.God proposes, man disposes; government proposes, man disposes. So, government is God
10.Man is sent to Hell if he disobeys God, man is put behind bars if he disobeys government. So, government is God

Now, because government is God, government work is God's work!

Of course, I am dwelling on incorrect comparison - for, it is not meant to equate government with God, but government work with divine work. Technically, government is meant to focus on the 'welfare' of the populace, so government work implies serving people, with their well-being as the principal motive. Translate that to emotion, and we immediately recall the words compassion and forgiveness - the indispensable traits attributed to God.

Coming back to the comparison, althought it is incorrect, yet it is not illogical - work is averse to government, so there's no such thing as government work. It's all a game of power. That, ergo, leaves only government and God for comparison.

Will there ever be a day on which the authority of both government and God is dispensed with? Meanwhile, I'll continue with my own share of the Devil's work.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

19 Jun 2005

Movies and Symbols

Posted by Oblivion in General | 4:37pm

Movies. What's out there on screen is not anything different from what's already there in the psyche - whether individual or societal. Only, the representation is more appealing because of the complementary effect of lighting and background music. When one attempts to compile a list of shots/scenes from movies that reflect the symbols - cultural, political, spiritual, whether contemporary or otherwise - he will find many. At this moment though, with better part of the mind in a state of stupor, I can think of just two:

1.Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro - the last scene where the phrase Satyamev Jayate cuts to Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Vaswani, clothed in prisoner's attire, walking among the bustling crowd while the tune Hum Honge Kaamyab plays in the background, stopping in front of the Gateway of India, gesturing the slitting of throat while looking into the camera. Helplessness of the common man, fed on unflinching hope and strong belief in ideals, pitted against a corrupt system was never shown in a better way on screen.

2.Aparajito - the stunning scene of the death of Apu's father. Nursing her husband who is just a few moments away from death, she asks the little Apu to fetch the holy water of the Ganges for his father. He runs, walks down the flight of steps to the ghat, fetches water and runs back home. His father, in eager expectation to grant salvation to his soul by drinking the holy water, puts in all effort to open his mouth to drink, and, alas!, he dies! The shot cuts to a sudden, blinding, flight of hundreds of pigeons, symbolising the liberation of the soul from the body.

Right now, at the fag end of Funday, the symbol is - Rest.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

31 May 2005

Bullet in My Head

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:54pm

There are many games that have only two outcomes - one either wins or loses. Many games involve no risk. Some games are fraught with danger, but the probability of fatality is very negligible. In all these cases, it is easy to find out the motivating factors for the players. But, what prompts people to play games - as these guys did - that involve putting life itself at stake, and in which the probability of losing life is as high as 0.5? 

A crooked understanding of the word adventure?
A tinge of insanity, even if temporary?
A combination of poor decision-making and high degree of adherence to the ideal of keeping one's word?
Displacement of the death wish?
Unreasonable fixation for fantasy and movies?
Some inexplicable bent for experimentation?
Escape from boredom?
...or, is such a proclivity determined by genes?


Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

24 May 2005

Proximity of Death

Posted by Oblivion in General | 6:01pm

I have known him all my life, and now he is lying dead. Everyone he loved are beside him, some watching helplessly and some in tears. His mother, with a shattered look on her face, is caressing his forehead just as she must've done when he was born. His dad, old himself, is holding his cold hand and pleading him to wake up. Just once, if at all. But he is immune to everything in the human realm now. The swift, infallible cut of Fate has now taken him into the infinite distance. His wife is sobbing inconsolably. His two sons are still trying to come to terms with it. Tears flow, hearts plead for forgiveness but nothing wakes him up.

He lived all his life with ideals. As reality continued to disappoint him, and he refused to part with his utopian delusions, the chasm between him and the world only widened. The ideals were someone else's, the beliefs were put forward by some ancestors, the insights were just concrete forms of the conclusions he had borrowed from dead thinkers - great or otherwise... in retrospect, like most others, he lived someone else's life. He lived someone else's life, but died his own death. To heck with the concept of immortal soul, to heck with life after death, to heck with salvation, to heck with God; nothing saved him from the utter loneliness at the moment of death despite with his loved ones beside. No courtesy calls, no SMSs, no e-mails, one vanishes just like that! Life betrays and Death doesn't give a hoot to anything. Yes, one vanishes just like that!

True, no worse shatterer and better enlightener than Death. One lives someone else's life, but he dies his own death. Better to live one's own life, else he may not have lived at all.

An inisght into Death gives insight into everything else - Life, love, relationships, etc. 

Reminds me of the shot when Amitabh sings to the world in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar:

Zindagi to bewafa hai
Ek din thukraayegee
Maut mehbooba hai apne
Saath lekar jaayegi

May his soul rest in peace!

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

20 May 2005

In Focus: Mani Ratnam

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:37pm

Mani Ratnam.

One cannot put him in the same league as Satyajit Ray, but Mani Ratnam has his own style of filmmaking. Few would disagree he is the best in India today. Yes, some filmmakers - Ketan Mehta, Kundan Shah, Vinod Chopra, etc - started with great promise but lost their way. Shekhar Kapur is seen talking about making films more than actually making them. Aditya Bhattacharya had been making a film for more than a decade, and I'd be happy if it gets ready for the next generation. Nihalani doesn't come up with his magic touch any more. It's too early to say anything about Farhan Akhtar. Only Mani Ratnam has been consistent in maintaining excellence.

Astute camera work, brilliant screenplays, and inimitable use of music distinguish Mani Ratnam. And he is unbeatable at picturising songs. For all his skills, he has the knack of screwing up his work by minor and avoidable diversions and excesses. No wonder the National Award has eluded him thus far.

A brief take on his filmography:

Pallavi Anu Pallavi - forgettable
Idhaya Koyil*
Pagal Nilavu*
Mouna Ragam - compelling performances by Revathi, Mohan and Karthik. The take-off of the song 'Manthram Vantha' is like an ace in a tennis match.

Nayakan - the best movie India has managed to send to the Oscars till date. One of the best performances by Kamal, first-rate work by Sriram and Tharani. Such perfect screenplays come just once or twice in a decade.

Agni Nachatiram - although not quite acknowledged, this is a path-breaking movie, in that it made every filmmaker realize how important cinematography is for a movie. Ilaiyaraja at his best, brilliant screenplay - with some avoidable comic scenes though, and who can forget those songs!

Gitanjali - some of the best background scores of Ilaiyaraja, great camera work by Sriram again. Could have been just another love story, but Mani Ratnam's magic shows. Right from poster designs, the title font, the imagery - it's a lesson in branding.

Anjali - Ilaiyaraja excels again. With a baby as the centre, it demanded deft and innovative camera work, and Madhu Ambat pulled off brilliantly. Borrowed a lot from ET, yet did it leaving no room for complaint.

Dalapathi - more a Santosh Sivan's movie than Mani Ratnam's. Ilaiyaraja again comes up with great scores. A couple of songs are, not surprisingly, visual treats.

Roja - screenplay stands out. Made measured use of mush to good effect. Outstanding work by Santosh Sivan and, yes, Rahman.

Thiruda Thiruda - fun movie, for a change. Some impressive numbers by Rahman, and equally good work by Sriram.

Bombay - excessively mushy. Disappointing work, going by Mani Ratnam's standards. Managed to attract good acclaim though.

Iruvar - brilliant script, impeccable camera work by Santosh Sivan. Intricate storyline and screenplay made it difficult to follow.

Dil Se - passion runs from the first frame to the last, in the lyrics, and Shahrukh reflects it in his performance. Santosh Sivan at his best yet again.

Alaipayuthey - the sweetest of Mani Ratnam's movies. Great screenplay in years, some timeless numbers by Rahman, and non-pareil work by Sriram. Songs are a delight to watch. Any time.

Kannathil Muthamittal - magnificent work by Ravi Chandran. Some fantastic songs timed by flawless screenplay that has now become characteristic of Mani Ratnam.

Yuva - idealistic theme proved a drawback, although screenplay was again brilliant. Barring great work by Ravi Chandran and compelling performance by Surya, it was below par for Mani Ratnam's standards.

( * - movies I have not watched) 

Goes without saying then - waiting eagerly for his next movie. 

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

20 May 2005

Proof of Immortality

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:35am

The Scene: Woody Allen has a dream in which he is Socrates, awaiting the sentence. Eventually, Allen is told he has to drink hemlock. But, unlike Socrates, Allen is damn scared about death and doesn't want to die. The discussion, titled My Apology - written in parallel to that in Dialogues of Plato - then takes an interesting turn. The result is an absolutely hilarious piece.

An excerpt (taken from Complete Prose of Woody Allen):

Agathon: But it was you who proved that death doesn't exist.

Allen: Hey, listen - I've proved a lot of things. That's how I pay my rent. Theories and little observations. A puckish remark now and then. Occasional maxims. It beats picking olives, but let's not get carried away.

Agathon: But you've proved many times that soul is immortal.

Allen: And it is! On paper. See, that's the thing about philosophy - it's not all that functional once you get out of class.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

14 May 2005


Posted by Oblivion in General | 5:48pm

You walked away
To the unreachable
And I stood destitute
On the ground barren

The murky sky roared
And the dusky clouds poured
Melancholy was the song
That tore my heart

The last glimpse of yours
Faded into the dim distance
And with it, vanished
A thousand dreams

Life looked distraught
With gloom was everything fraught
World moved without care
As I searched for myself

This was the road
We walked on together once
Two souls on a journey
To the land of Bliss

Alone am I standing now
And you are nowhere to be seen
Neither a trace of happiness
Nor sorrow gnaws every moment

Fragrance of your memories
Fills the still air
With tear-dimmed eyes,
I ask, "Where hast thou gone?"

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

13 May 2005

Sin and the Sinner

Posted by Oblivion in General | 4:33pm

"Hate the sin, not the sinner" is among those million other sentences that sound hollow and downright illogical. Besides taking compassion too far, it propogates sham among all those ardent believers in cultivated virtue. For, if I were a believer of this tenet, I would not sit and understand the mechanism of hatred, but simply change the object of hatred from sinner to sin. And if the sinner happens to be the driver who makes that deliberate cut to inflict a fracture on my leg, confining me to the hospital bed for months, it's easy enough to see that the very act of trying to change the object from sinner to sin makes the suffering all the more worse. The situation gets more intolerable if the sin happens to be homicide or rape.

Sin, simply, is just an action - a wrong one, by definition, and powerless left to itself. It needs an external force (a person) for it to have any effect. Take out the actor and the action does not exist. If there is delicious food on the table, and a chap gorges on it and dies as a result, do we blame the food for being tasty or the chap for being stupid? Yes, the tenet actually refers to the inclination of the person to commit a certain harmful deed and not specifically to the deed itself, but that does not make it sound rational either, for the argument that the inclination is non-existent without the exploiter still holds good.

It appears to be the effect of misinterpretation of advaita school of thought. Whatever, such statements do more harm than good. For a person who is Buddha, the problem of hate never occurs because he operates at a totally different plane. So, for him the tenet is meaningless. He doesn't need it. For those who are not, hatred is a reality. A reality that begs acknowledgement, not careful packaging in some spiritual balderdash. So, when one is not free of hatred, what's the point of merely changing the objects? It's a simple displacement of the focus of the problem and not a solution.

Man is unbeatable at his ability for inventions for escape.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

6 May 2005

Dead Mind Waking

Posted by Oblivion in General | 6:53pm

At a stupid monitor
All day long
Made a morgue of my mind,
What with cadavers reeking
At every unattended corner,
Putrefying corpses,
Of wishes conjured
And ambitions conceived,
Gaping and Simpering
Rather insolently
At my unenviable emptiness!
Managing morgues
With decaying corpses
That remain dead,
I surmise,
Cannot be
Half as trying as
How things would be
When the dead ones rise!

- Vijaykarthik S

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

4 May 2005

The Day After

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:15pm

The Earth smelt of blood
Despair filled the air
And anguish stared in my eye
Alone stood I amid
The whilrwind of hopelessness

Red flowed on the road
Every leaf writhed in pain
The little baby smiled no more
The ground beneath,
Reverberating in shock,
Craved for calm

The silence of Death
The resignation of Life
The tear of God
Watched in patience
The wily smile of insanity

Unspoken remained the words
Many a path left untrodden
As love and brotherhood
Ebbed away into
The rumblings of War

Shattered dreams, frigid corpses
Strewn all along
Fire of anger burned within
As I walked alone
Among the remnants of civilization

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: Yuva

2 May 2005


Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:54pm

Conscience, Life, and Mind. Location: Barista.

Conscience: I agree I'm the youngest. I cannot exist without either of you. I'm petty, and I enjoy it. I take delight in troubling this chap. He is so dumb he complicates everything. He is the slowest learner I have ever seen. I want to chill and enjoy, and he never lets me. He relies on me blindly and I exploit him. But I'm more powerful than both of you, because I rule him with the stick of guilt. One strong blow, and he drops dead. Neither of you can save him.

Mind: Consy, I appreciate you. Although I'm your elder brother and have more experience than you, you have impeccable and unbeatable strategy. And what the heck, I don't really see anything wrong with your decisions. I feel claustrophobic sitting inside this dumb chap's skull, so I enjoy it too when you play with him. He doesn't allow me to rest either. I feel so pissed off I make him feel more restless. I make him feel he is the master. It makes the game more fun, you see. I always wait for our big brother Lify to kick him off so I can take a holiday. When are you doing it Lify? Want some more coffee?

Life: No, thanks Mindy. When am I doing it? As you know, I believe in spontaneity. I will kick him off when I feel like it. It could be tomorrow, it could be after another twenty years. I want to show him the most beautiful works of art in the universe, but he never takes me seriously. He admires your illusionism school of art though. I suggest him to walk slow, but he runs. He takes me for granted, he doesn't even greet me. And, interestingly, when I ask him to go, he suddenly feels homesick, clings fast to me and cries for my help! He is such a jerk!

You know what? Maybe you are right. Let's just dump him and go on a holiday.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---
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