Category: General

14 Jan 2007

The Bengalooru Story

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:12pm

Average number of auto drivers you have to try before finding one to take you from A to B:
Bangalore: 2.3
Hyderabad: 1.1
Calcutta: 1.04

No. of autos with tampered meters (out of 10):
Bangalore: 8
Hyderabad: 5
Calcutta: N/A

No. of auto drivers who demand excess fare (out of 10):
Bangalore: 7
Hyderabad: 3
Calcutta: N/A

I haven't lived in other cities for a long enough time to compile similar data, but I'm certain one's experiences with autos in those cities cannot be worse than that in Bangalore. Auto drivers in Bangalore behave as if they are offering you a lift for gratis. I don't like to believe that police in Bangalore are not aware of these problems. If they are, then I don't see any use of having such an ineffective and dumb force in place. If they are aware but don't know how to address the situation, it again means the force is utterly incapable and stupid. If they are aware but don't want to do anything (which is, to my mind, likely the case), well... let me not get into slang.

Bangalore doesn't have many alternatives for transport. Calcutta has metro, one of the best in the world, trams, taxis and adequate bus services. Moving around in city isn't difficult for an outsider. Mumbai has local trains and taxis. Hyderabad has basic suburban train services, but buses and autos help commuting absolutely fine. You don't need to be familiar with Telugu to find out where a bus is going to, or what the name of a shop or a street is. Hindi, the official national language followed by majority, is prominently used so you don't feel out of place no matter which corner of the country you are from. In Bangalore, the regional language (although Kannada is one of the national languages, yet it is geographically regional) is overly prominent. Regional language has its place, but when you brag of being a cosmopolitan city, you should be more welcoming and tolerant of the outsiders. If you think it's too much and look at it as a threat to your security and culture, then drop the epithet and assert that you are a rigid city.

Cosmopolitan doesn't mean iPod crowd, more malls, bare midriffs, hybrid accents, international airport and foreign crowd; it means you are easy with the rest of the world, being mature and free of local bias. Mumbai is perhaps the only city in India than can be called cosmopolitan. I don't know about Delhi, but it might be on the list too. Calcutta wouldn't be far; infrastructure is below par, but its attitude is quite cosmopolitan even though it's strongly attached to its culture.

Bangalore, the most hyped city, has a long long way to go. It's just the Silicon Valley's loo, done with attractive interiors and appealing ad campaign. That's about it. The only good thing about Bangalore is its weather. Else, the city, vain and hypocritical, sucks! In more ways than hundred.

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8 Jan 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:26pm

She opened the door with no audible signs of haste. Heavy downpour just dampened into a gentle drizzle as she greeted me with a most unwelcoming stare. Eyes, big and wide, looking straight, her expression stern, she looked like a woman who has no stories to tell, who has had a vacuous past and lost all sense of intrigue.

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Possessed with an uncomfortable blend of surprise and bewilderment, I cleared the traces of rain on my face, quickly ran fingers through my hair, still thoroughly wet, and gestured as if to point at a moment in immediate past.


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7 Jan 2007

The Holy Sojourn - I

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:30pm

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6 Jan 2007

Heart of the Matter

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:28am

A man did not want to be enlisted as a soldier and sent to Vietnam. He did not want to kill people. After explaining all this, Krishnamurti interrupted him and said, "Yes sir, I understand all this. But what is your problem?" Again the man, being an American, explained that he probably would be sent back to the States as a conscientious objector and he might be put in jail. "Yes sir," said Krishnamurti, "but what is your problem?" "Well," said the man, "the judges may not accept my arguments and then I will have to desert because this is a filthy war!" Once again, Krishnamurti said, "Yes sir, I know, but what is your problem?" Whereupon the man said, "Listen, they might shoot me, as a deserter!" "Yes," Krishnamurti said, "they probably will, but what is your problem?"

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2 Jan 2007

Yet Another Rant by a non-IIXian

Posted by Oblivion in General | 1:27pm

Last week, as I cursorily scanned the latest books on display at a bookstore, I spotted this one that featured the most bizzare USP in recent times. Below the title By the River Pampa I Stood, the line - akin to the punchline for a product's advertising copy - read A novel by yet another IITian. It is, to my mind, an amateurish promotion method adopted by the publisher. I find it amusing that the writer should endorse such a marketing approach that exploits the reputation of his alma mater.

Erudition is worshipped in society and there seems to be no cure for this disease. For reasons beyond my comprehension, IIXians are treated like celebrities in this country. There's this prevalent belief that if you are from IIX, whatever you do is a class apart. You write a book and you believe it's enough to print "written by an IIXian" to make it to the bestsellers' list! The recent Pan-IIT meet was covered by media as if it was the confluence of Nobel laureates to discuss the sorry state of world politics. Another group that is treated similarly is the NRIs. The promotion of films by NRIs in the last few years reflects this quite. And all they make is crap! Gosh, things are bad!

I don't intend to dismiss the reputation of the institutes. Their stature is too obvious to challenge. Although they still lag far behind in comparison with the best in the world, yet they have been doing great in this country for decades. The disturbing factor is not about the institutes themselves, but about the chaps who graduate from these. The perceived value of these fellows in the industry is unreasonably high, and the chaps (not all, but most) themselves think all non-IIXians are inferior mortals. Going by the number of Nobel laureates or management gurus or research scientists that come from Harvards or MITs, our institutes are no match. We don't have a single program that can be put alongside - in comparison by any criterion - the Society of Fellows program. The joker Laloo could effectively tackle the chaps at IIM-A, but found himself cornered by those from Harvard and Stanford.

Coming back to the caption on the book, it says nothing about the content of the book. It says nothing about the writer per se either. It tells you about the group he belongs to, a group distinguished in fields not connected to writing. It's not inappropriate in all cases though - if you are a brilliant chap from the London School of Economics and you write a great book like Freakonomics, the mention of LSE fits into the equation. However, if it's a work of mushy romance or a bloody thriller, I'd find the mention of LSE a little cranky.

As regards the numbers, I believe Stephanians have written more books than IITians have. But I never spotted the line "Yet another book by a Stephanian" on any book. And, heck, the number of books written by non-IITians far outnumber those written by IITians. If I adopt the same logic and revel in the size of the group, I should have the line "Yet another book by a non-IITian" mentioned more prominently than the title itself on my book. Sounds ridiculous and reflects vanity.

No doubt, IITs and IIMs have been doing great for years, and I wholly appreciate the alumni's achievements. But I don't buy the idea that all IIXians are more brilliant than all non-IIXians. And I find it stupid when one uses his group's reference to promote his work in a field that the group is not known for. Intelligence doesn't need the crutch of reputation of institutes, and it's absurd to derive confidence from the same.

I'll be happy if someone finds the cure for the disorder of correlating intelligence with pay packets and treating IIXians and NRIs like celebrities. 

P.S. All references have been made considering the majority. So, wherever the reference seems to point to 'all', I rather meant it to point to 'most'. Considering that I respect friends (brilliant indeed) who made it to IIXs, it is rather bad writing than intent if I slipped into generalisation anywhere.

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1 Jan 2007

Cheers, 2007!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:04pm

Welcome to a BRAND new year, 2007

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Current Music: Nothing But Wind

13 Dec 2006

I Write Because...

Posted by Oblivion in General | 6:26pm

"...the question we writers are asked most often, the favourite question, is; why do you write? I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can't do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life's beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but

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11 Nov 2006

In Search of the Silver Lining

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:38pm

They were in their teens, five of them. There were at least twenty-odd other passengers in the bus, but these five thought - or at least their behaviour suggested so - they owned the bus. Denim trousers, demin jackets with those I-don't-give-a-damn kind of captions, and all kinds of rings dangling from all sorts of body parts, three guys who don't need a dash of grass to feel high, two girls whose navels lay bare so you can spot without any fucken trouble - one of the more common gangs of teenagers.

A kannada FM channel was playing on the radio, and the destination was about 40-minutes away. Radio wasn't playing loud; you could comfortably hear a fellow passenger's voice from a distance. With those five busy in gossip-orgy, nobody thought they were paying any attention to the radio. However, it wasn't so. One of the girls voiced her impatience with the boring kannada channel and the guy next to her was up to grab the opportunity. He beckoned the lady conductor and told her to change to some english channel. She was not pleased. "There are many other passengers, we cannot change for a few. Sorry", she said. The girl couldn't take it. The guy got only more motivated. He walked straight to the driver and made him change the channel. Confidence or brashness? Depends.

I wasn't enjoying the kannada channel myself, so I liked it, after all, when it was changed, but that is besides the point.

The right or wrong of it is not my concern, the world is fucked up anyways. I don't think highly of etiquette, tolerance and all that shit, but I do feel the world would be a better place if people appreciate appropriate behaviour in public spaces. The guy's deed would've been quite fine if he was in a homogeneous group - friends, for example. If you are with a group of friends and you insist on your preferences, yell, booze, fuck, it has its place, for the group is more tolerant and understanding of your choices and tastes. To expect the same of a heterogeneous group in a public space is definitely arrogant.

To voice one's opinions is verily a right and should very much be appreciated, but to impose it on the group is a disturbing trait. And if the world should become better, the young should be all the more expansive, respecting one another's space. But this seems to be becoming an obsolete trait. I don't mean to suggest that one should put up with majority's choices. Where the choice is imposed, it's fine for an individual to stand firm against. But where it is not being forced upon, and where a chap has the freedom to walk out of the group, the individual is being despotic if he expects the group - specially so if it is heterogeneous - to agree with his preferences. "Be assertive", says everybody - and it's only, unsurprisingly, misinterpreted. Be sure of your opinions and conclusions to the point of becoming totally closed to others. You are the smartest chap on the planet and everybody else is an asshole.

What kind or amount of tolerance/consideration for others can you expect from people who can't adapt to a little discomfort on a 40-minute bus (volvo bus at that) drive? It's quite fair if you prefer your drawing-room comforts wherever you go, but it's a thing of regret if you cannot adapt to anything less. You don't have to accept unconditionally, but you have to know where to draw the line when you expect the pleasures of your private space to be offered when you are in a public space. This isn't just a one-off event. Such events happen regularly. CM's son creates a scene at a hotel and his dad - the CM - justifies it saying, "boys will be boys"! The case is tweaked and the hotel is taken to task instead! Young chaps exploiting their connections with the powerful is a very prevalent phenomenon. These are the chaps who would be tomorrow's cops, lawyers, bureaucrats, policymakers, teachers, and that goddamn species called voters.

We are a pampered species. Megalomaniacal and insane, we believe that the Big Brother in the skies up above has nothing better to do than keep accounts of our fucken deeds and misdeeds, that all those glittering objects splattered in space exist with the sole objective of shaping our destinies! Everything revolves around the damn "I, me, and myself".

Fuck! Big Brother save us, for we don't seem to be doing much to save ourselves anyways!

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28 Oct 2006

Obscene, MMS!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:34pm

Manmohan Singh (MMS) - on his visit to Hyderabad the day before - hailed Y S Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) for his noble deeds toward development of state and compared him to Sir Arthur Cotton. Either MMS is wholly ignorant of YSR's exploits or he is just too innocent to have such a high opinion of indohomopolitico fucken sapiens, Indian politician in short. I don't like to believe either is true.

MMS, most able as finance minister is proving to be a dud as a PM. Politics is getting only worse, and I'm still told, with unflinching reassurance, that the country is doing better than ever!

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16 Oct 2006

Between Yes and No

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:01pm

When we are stripped down to a certain point, nothing leads anywhere anymore, hope and despair are equally groundless, and the whole of life can be summed up in an image.

Yes, everything is simple. It's men who complicate things. Don't let them tell us any stories. Don't let them say about the man condemned to death: "He is going to pay his debt to society," but: "They're going to chop his head off." It may seem like nothing. But it does make a little difference. There are some people who prefer to look their destiny straight in the eye.

- Albert Camus, Between Yes and No, from The Wrong Side and the Right Side

The only other writer, to my mind, who writes such direct prose, alluding to similar insights is Coetzee. Reminds me of David Lurie, in Disgrace, saying "One is fine as long as one is alive". No fuss, stare without a blink, objective and maverick. As regards the strength and choice of words, Vivekananda comes as a close match. Russell's writing is more intricate and witty, but it reflects as much conviction. If Freud were a philosopher, he would have been Russell Sr. If JK wrote fiction, it'd have been, in format, like that of Camus and Coetzee. But while Camus suggests resignation and Coetzee suggests acknowledgement, JK would suggest nothing. For him, there's no middle ground. A genius of the highest order.    

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15 Oct 2006

The Week That Was

Posted by Oblivion in General | 6:46pm

Sunday: Drive. Rest. Drive. Rest. Drive. Rest.

Monday: After many back-to-backs, it's three in a row for the first time in Outlook. And going by the law of averages, they goofed up with the name in the third one. Turning out to be a good experiment in probability.

Tuesday: Airports are interesting spaces. The rate of usage of electronic gadgets seems to go significantly up at airports. Books/magazines I spotted in the hands of fellow passengers: The Week, The Argumentative Indian, Outlook, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Freakonomics.

Wednesday: Aimless.

Thursday: If A and B are given the task of killing each other, what are the chances of each one's survival? How effective is probability if one of the factors is unpredictable? Extending the same to a larger set, what are the chances of my survival if everyone in the world is given the task of killing one person, selected randomly? Technically, only half the population should survive the project. But, at the end will we have only half or a little more?

Friday: Song, dance and drama to kick off the weekend. It's a pleasure to sit back and watch someone perform.

Saturday: Dandia nite. For someone interested in studying human behaviour when in groups, it's easy to see why indulgence is easy in a party setting.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: The Godfather theme score

8 Oct 2006

Season of Remakes

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:50pm

Shiva just went past and Don is next in line. Not surprisingly, Ram Gopal Varma's much talked-about remake of his debut movie (telugu, not the hindi one) turned out to be a hugely disappointing work. Remake is always a challenge, and it's even more so if the original was a good one. So far as I remember, Virasat, Gardish, and Nirnayam (telugu) are the only remakes that were as good as the originals. Interestingly, all these are Priyadarshan's works. 

Shiva, made in 1989, was a path-breaking movie. Anybody could identify himself with the setting. Simple yet compelling script, backed by Ilaiyaraja's brilliant work, outstanding audio effects, superb performance by Raghuvaran made for an irresistible package. It outperformed the success of Mani Ratnam's blockbuster Gitanjali at the box-office. It made Nagarjuna a superstar. Fittingly, neither Varma nor Nagarjuna had to look back ever since.

Cut to Shiva 2006. Barring a few typical Varma shots and a couple of great background scores by Ilaiyaraja, this stands nowhere in comparison with the original. Not that Varma's talent has depleted, but just that the original was too novel a film that any attempt to remake is doomed for failure right from the ideation stage.

Varma, one of the best directors now, is also remaking Sholay. Now, if one picks five outstanding hindi films that should not be remade, Sholay would feature as the first. Given the legendary status of the movie, I have no doubts as regards how utterly Varma's remake would fail to match up.     

A few days from now, Farhan Akhtar's Don will hit the screen. Don - the original -had, besides the imposing presence of big B, great music. It's too early for me to dismiss the remake, but I'm confident it'll not have any magic that the original had. The promos suggest the movie would be definitely more stylish than the original, but there ends it. The remix version of Ye Mera Dil sounds awful for anyone who loves Asha's number. And the only actor who can do a Bachchan is Bachchan himself. Shah Rukh might impress, but the Don would still remain Bachchan.

I'm not against remakes, but the idea doesn't sound appealing to me. You cannot remake great movies any more than you can rewrite Russell's or Tagore's works. Good that nobody has thought of remaking The Godfather. And thank God, Sandid Ray is not contemplating the project of remaking Ray's movies!

May this 'season of remakes' end soon. I'm happy with 'good' originals.      

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7 Oct 2006

The Truth

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:42pm

"A corporeal phenomenon, a feeling, a perception, a mental formation, a consciousness, which is permanent and persistent, eternal and not subject to change, such a thing the wise men in this world do not recognise; and I also say that there is no such thing."

- Buddha

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28 Sep 2006

Basanti, Wapas Aa Jaa!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:01am

So they send Rang De Basanti (RDB) to the Oscars. It confounds me how the jury manage to goof up with such consistency! Year after year, they send a film that cannot make it even to the top 25 competing for the best foreign film award. Not that Oscars are the benchmark for quality (remember, Titanic won a bagful of awards!) - they cannot beat Cannes as regards that, but the movies that compete for foreign film award are definitely great. And we send inferior stuff.

RDB is, without doubt, a better flick than most other bollywood crap. And it's surely among the better ones in the past few years. But how good is it when pitted against the best films from across the world? Thank goodness they don't send such stuff to Cannes. I feel it's better to not send any movie at all rather than send a passable one and make a bad presentation of our filmmaking. It's one thing to do good at a game in one's backyard and a totally different thing to play against the best in the world.

I doubt if the chaps in the jury ever watched movies made by our own Satyajit Ray. If they did, they would know how the best in the world movies ought to be. And if they know that, they wouldn't commit such blunders. Ray won more awards at Cannes than any other filmmaker in the world. No filmmaker in the country makes movies of the quality that Ray had made. I just hope some chap comes up with great stuff and makes it good at Cannes again.

Till then, let's not send any movie to the Oscars. It's better to send one Aparajito in five years than ten RDBs every year.

Current Mood: Happy
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19 Sep 2006

Booker 2006

Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:51pm

The shortlist is out. With Claire Messud not making it, I've no favorites left. Looks like a dull affair this year.

The shortlist:
Desai, Kiran:  The Inheritance of Loss  - Hamish Hamilton
Grenville, Kate: The Secret River  - Canongate
Hyland, M.J.:  Carry Me Down - Canongate
Matar, Hisham:  In the Country of Men  - Viking
St Aubyn, Edward: Mother

Current Mood: Happy
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