Tuesday, December 30, 2008
My American Sister in law and high school age niece will also join us on our adventure. We have travelled a lot together before and being with them is super easy and not stressful at all.
My question is... would you take a vacation in Kashmir in August with 2 little kids and some American relatives as companions? Is it safe, is it good weather, is it a good thing to do? Would you do it? And if you would do it, how would you do it? What would you see and where would you go?
I have never been to Kashmir before. I need suggestions and your input. I do not know the situation on the ground, given the political situation that is in flux.
The husband is quite uncomfortable with me taking the kids to Kashmir by myself. I need to convince both him and myself that it is ok. I also feel responsible for my sisterinlaw and niece when they are in India.
Do you dear reader have any ideas or input about a vacation in Kashmir in August?
Sunday, December 28, 2008
What movie did we watch?
First let me state that I went to watch the movie with few expectations. The reason for this is two fold.
Many years ago, my first brush with a film dealing with the sweet sour lives of children in urban poverty was the iconic Salaam Bombay. My appreciation of the honesty with which the brutal lives of street children was depicted in this film, however soon turned to dust. Within a few weeks I saw a Portugese language film on PBS TV. The film was Brazilian I think and I cannot remember the name at all. This Portugese language film was made chronologically before Salaam Bombay. To say that Salaam Bombay was a straight frame by frame lift from the Portugese language film would be stating the obvious. I think I lost some respect for Mira Nair as a filmaker and Sooni Taraporewala as an original scriptwriter (not an adaptation) at that point.
Recently, a few months ago I saw another well received Brazilian film "City of God" dealing with the abject travails of children and young adults in a Rio Slum. The film had an "in your face, punch in the guts" sensibility about it. Brutal storytelling about brutal lives. I think for a few nights, I dreamed about the violence I saw rather than the shaded human stories woven into the film. For me, that is never a good thing.
I did not have much information about Slumdog Millionare until I actually saw it. I had read something about it in entertainment magazines and had read the announcements about the Golden Globe nominations. However, I did not know anyone who actually had seen the movie and had an informed opinion about it.
So you see, I went into the theatre, determinedly a blank slate.
Like Shehrezade wove a thousand Arabian stories of suspense and intrigue into an instrument prolonging her life everyday, director Danny Boyle and scriptwriter Simon Beufoy have woven a very taut web of a believeable story that kept me suspensefully at the edge of my seat until the last second.
Until the lights came back on in the theatre, to put me back in time and space... squarely into seemingly safe and priviledged suburban America.... I was lost in the Mumbai of my most honest romantic dreams and my excruciatingly brutal nightmares. This is a Mumbai that actually exists. I know that. You probably know that too. You and I have both seen and walked by all the incidents that make up this movie. Walked by them a thousand times and never seen them for what they are.
This is a story masterfully told with an Indian sensibility. Yes, I said Danny Boyle has an Indian sensibility. He totally "gets" it. He understands the way Indians think. He sees the colors we see. He hears the sounds and the music we hear and yes he can even smell the smells that we smell (big scene there). He understands how we live cheek by jowl, rich with the poor, with poverty and brutality and without judgement he presents the whole picture. No mean achivement this. He understands that we see heroes and villans perhaps differently from a western sensibility. He understands that in the Indian cultural context we can also view both Truthfullness and Deception sometimes as an "amoral" quality rather than only in Judeo Christian influenced immoral/moral categories. There is a lot of unspoken philosophy in this movie at many levels, but still the story telling reigns supreme.
I do not want to give much of the story line away so I will just touch briefly on the touchpoints of the story. The film follows the life of a street urchin called Jamal, his brother Salim and Jamal's object of yearning, a girl called Latika. They are all orphaned as children and left to the vagaries of street life. Harrowing and mind numbing encounters with gangsters controlling child beggers follow. Salim and Jamal are able to escape from the beggers gang. Alas, Latika is left behind. She will be sold into slavery as a prostitute of many kinds, in later years. The children grow up, each persons character honed in a unique way, each streetwise and each with a different path to and a different version of success and stability. A life on the knife edge of power and money in the pay of a gangster for Salim, a life as a chaiwala in a modern office setting for Jamal, and a reluctant gangsters moll for Latika. Every one of Jamal's actions and decisions is always influenced by his yearning for a reunion with Latika. He engineers an opportunity to compete in "Kaun Banega Crorepati", not for the joy of winning or for the money but because it is his chance to connect with Latika. He wins at every level on the game despite the motivations and machinations of a smarmy game show host with his own megalomanic agenda. How he manages to win at the game forms the storytelling framework of the movie.
Does he win the final game and does he get the girl? And what of Salim? For that my friends, I reccomend that you immerse yourself in one of the finest depictions of the surreal life that is the underbelly of Mumbai.
The pacing of the film is taut and very much like a thriller movie. There is suspense aplenty. There were absoluetly no moments of respite, and I was on the edge of my seat till the closing credits.
The music by AR Rahman was perfect for this Western made film with a very Indian heart. When the score of a film is seamlessly woven into the visual story and you cannot seperate one from the other or point out any part of the film as having a particularly striking musical moment, you know you have struck gold. AR Rahman has struck the mother lode of gold here.
The photography is gritty and suits the pacing of the film and its locations perfectly. The locations and sets had plenty of attention to detail and I could not find any fault with them at all.
Dont leave before the closing credits are done. The bollywood lover in me was satiated by what happened there!
There were only two problems I had with the movie. Both were script quibbles. One was the strangely unidimentional communal riots depicted with no backstory. Perhaps that was just part of the story the director wanted to get over quickly and carry on with HIS story. The other problem was completely surprising to me. It was the unsophisticated and standup comedic depiction of western tourists in India. I imagine that the director and scriptwriter were once themselves such tourists in India. In the movie they paint tourists in unsubtle, broad, brush strokes almost like caricatures in a Bollywood movie. Perhaps they had become too Indian in thought by the time those scenes were canned!
Dev Patel (Jamal) is perfectly cast. His chronological age belies his maturity as an actor. As Jamal, Dev gets into character seamlessly this vulnerable, brave and flawed hero. A bollywood seasoned actor would have been too much of a hero type and totally miscast. The role needed an unknown, and an actor who looked like he might fail as a human, to look and act the part of Jamal. Dev delivers.
Frieda Pinto (Latika) has a luminous quality about her. Beautiful in a touchable sort of way, and unselfconcious she IS Latika. I predict big things for this actress on the international scene as long as she has good handlers. The raw material is there for the molding.
Madhur Mittal (Salim) did a competant job, as did the rest of the supporting case. Irrfan Khan, Saurabh Shukla, and Mahesh Manjrekar have small, but important parts that were played with thier customary ease.
The "big star but most underrated actor who did really, really great" award must go to Anil Kapoor as the smarmy game show host with his own agenda. He played to the gallery when he must and depicted all the complexities of a flawed megalomanic with subtlety and very effectively. So yes Anil Kapoor, its been a long time after Parinda when you did anything other than ham through a role. Enjoy your moment. And give us more. Please! A fan is waiting.
What did I love most about the movie?
The movie depicts romantic idealism at its best even within the limitations of the underbelly of the frenetic and monetarily driven city that is Mumbai. Jamal's love for Latika was for me one of the strongest and most evocative depictions of hope amidst barbarism in recent movie making. We need more of that now. Hope that is!
So Hopefully you will see this movie. Tell Anil, I sent you!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tomorrow I think I will breathe deeply for a moment, after the guests are gone and the dishes are clean and the presents are put into" delightful so use immediatly/useful so place in closet/return to store for gift certificates immediately" piles and then I will update to talk about some serious stuff that I have been reading and thinking about.
Meanwhile, have a very Merry Christmas everyone!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Today I got an email with these pictures from a very dear friend who is also the parent of an active preschool age boy and I see all the characteristics of my son and hers in all these pictures.
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
I dont know who the photographers are, so I cannot acknowledge them. I guess these pictures have been floating around cyberspace for a while. Thanks folks, you show me what I must contend with in the growing years!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
This is so funny and just a bit mad.
Try it for yourself. Go on throw a shoe at Bush!
You know you want to! I know that you know that you do!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
As the inauguration nears I pause and reflect at the long way American cultural and political mores have come.
Some of what I write about Obama's electibility and victory relates very well with electoral politics in India, the controversy over reservations (affirmative action) and how minorities and the "others" feel about vote bank politics.
What are your thoughts now that the election is past and we have all had time to digest what it means to Americans and the world?
So my main girl Hillary was not even in the running and I voted for the alternative. But… what an alternative! My muffin man! Yes, I am shallow that way! And yes, he has a simmering low-key hotness that I think is just super.
Hotness aside, I am going to be all stream-of-consciousness while I write down some thoughts about the Great Election. No editing, just what I feel. Some cynicism tempered by a sprinkling of hope. A pinch of salt, to balance the sugar or vice versa… whatever makes your pie taste great!
I took my 6 year old daughter into the voting booth, to press the button after my final selections were made. With great gusto, she thumped on the Vote button and ran out of the curtained booth shouting “Mommy voted for Obama”. There were a few cheers, and a few boos but it was all good. I was in my own familiar territory, upper middle class and privileged and amongst friends and neighbors. People who seemingly could ride out 4 years without being decimated whatever the final outcome of the election. I followed my child out of the polling place somewhat embarrassed by her exuberance but proud that she is on the vanguard of a time and generation where democracy will mean more of a genuine equal chance for a half brown person like her.
She was so excited when we (she punched the button) voted for Hillary in the Primaries. To her 6 year old mind, a woman President was a wonderous thing. She was disappointed when I told her this time around we would not vote for a woman, but the excitement she felt at the process of voting remained the same. Obama didn’t mean much to her, but his name rhymed nicely and was cool name to say and chant. He wasn’t a woman but for her it was enough to be able to punch the Vote button and be a part of the voting process. I pray that she will always be able to punch that vote button without fear or favor. This flawed but essentially wonderful concept that is democracy will shape her future in good ways. It will always allow her to dream the big dreams, and to believe her dreams can really come true!
To many white Americans who voted for him, Obama was”just black enough” to be their own special symbol of liberalism. He plays just enough basketball, wasn’t too dark in color, spoke no Ebonics, or had any lasting relationships with traditional black power groups. He is educated, and very importantly had a mother and grandparents who looked just like them. His wife does not braid her hair or have a name which ended with a “sha” or “ta”. Oprah and Colin Powell are his friends, rather than P Diddy and Snoop Dogg and he doesn’t call everybody Girlfriend or Brotha. He probably smoked weed as a student, just like them and wasn’t afraid to inhale. He was in effect “not scary”. For them, Obama was the best first baby step towards a more equitable equation for a racially and economically divided America. Voting for him made them feel good about themselves and their own evolution as thinking people.
For the people of color, (and that by definition includes me, doesn’t it?) it was a very passionate vote. For older African Americans who have experienced the sting of overt racism and have seen how long it takes for change to come about, electing Obama was mostly a symbol of the culmination of their long held hopes and desires. For the younger lot however they were voting not just for a symbol; they were voting for their immediate hopes. It was about decayed inner cities and racial profiling and economic hardship and fathers in jail and breakdown of traditional family structures and most importantly of being on the dole and losing your home. It was about being able to buy groceries without public assistance and paying the mortgage or rent next month and their sons and daughters not becoming cannon fodder in the army because they couldn’t get another well paying job without the right accent or dressing the part of the upwardly mobile.
I wonder how it will play out… these very separate agendas. Very disparate but all so necessary to the conditions that America sees today.
White America is satisfied that Black America has been appeased. A little self congratulatory back patting is in order. After all White America helped to vote in the Black President and symbol and that there should be no further complaining about racial discrimination or affirmative action. You have your guy, now enough! No more whining and really you are not going to get anymore sops!
Black America wants all their troubles to disappear with the waving of this magic wand. Of course, Obama is going to make it all happen. They will see good times en masse.
Everyone who voted Democrat this time around wants their mortgages paid, their retirement accounts brought back to health and for the war to go away. Obama will make that happen too. And he is also supposed to make it happen in 4 years!
As I see it, the situation will get worse in the short term, before it gets better. But it will get better. After all a start has been made, a new goal has now at least been visualized. The route to that goal still remains to be examined and seen. That will take time.
A child of color or a poor child can now truly believe that he can become the President. After all there is one like him up there. But will the path to that spot be self evident or even open for a long, long, long while? Will a child who knows no privilege right now, know what to do to get there?
That my friends will take a very long time. A beginning has been made, but there are many who are going to be disappointed in the short term. Obama has inherited a thankless job in the worst possible circumstances. So can Obama sustain interest in his vision and sustain support long enough to be the change he seeks? 4 years is too short to do all he seeks to do. He is going to have to be more than clever to do that. He will have to be very, very lucky.
I want to send him my lucky Ganesh ring. He needs it. Very badly!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Oh my... there are no visions of sugarplums dancing in my head anymore! No siree, . As soon as the doctor bounced back into the exam room, waving her just washed hands in the air, I knew something serious was up.
Son had a mild fever for 2 days starting Thursday night. The fact that he had a fever made me very nervous. As a baby he had 2 episodes of Febrile Convulsions... convulsions from the sudden onset of high fever. That is harmless the doctors assured me but even the memory of those two episodes has me trembling. Holding him in my arms while he shook with convulsions, the frantic 911 calls, the ambulance and police cars screeching into our driveway to whisk us to the hospital. I have never been so frightened in my life. Horrible!
So ever the vigilant mother, I rearranged my work schedule, got a friend to transport Daughter to school and back and afterschool activities and I devoted my time to Son.
He stayed home from preschool on Friday. He played videogames and we did endless "art projects" involving copious amounts of glue and glitter and every string and paper in the house. He bounced and jumped on the couches until they were creaking for mercy. He wouldnt eat a thing, except for drinking copious amounts of lemon flavored Gatorade (a electrolyte sports drink). But he did not seem "sick"... none of the usual clinginess, crying, and temper tantrums that kids specialise in when sick. He had no other symptoms. No swollen glands, no sore throat... nothing! It seemed like one of those mild viral fever episodes that the kids bring home from school on a regular basis.
Sunday we went to the movies! He fell asleep during the movie and when we got home I noticed that he had a faint rash on his neck. I figured he was just wearing too many layers and was hot. He seemed just fine and and had not had a fever for 24 hours so I sent him off to school on Monday.
When I picked him in the afternoon he was covered in a red, sandpaper feeling rash. I mean just covered all over with rough red skin! Every possible inch. Just awful. I called the doctor and described the symptoms and she was all... come here right away!
A throat swab, culture and 5 minutes later, the diagnosis... a bad case of scarlet fever.
The room dimmed around me for a few seconds! Every Dickens book that I ever read had people falling dead from scarlet fever. So many books, written even in the first half of the twentieth century had people suffering irreparable damage or death from scarlet fever! Look at the references to scarlet fever in popular culture. I actually have an uncle who has a weakened heart from rheumatic fever/scarlet fever in childhood. The ground fairly shook under my feet. Like a Victorian mother given this diagnosis, I was a blubbering mess.
I was quickly brought to life by the doctor waving a SINGLE precription in my face. A prescription for a 10 day dose of Amoxicillin. Thats it! A single prescription for a disease that claimed lives just 40-50 years ago. A disease that had people quarantined for months if they even recovered!
The doctor assured me that it was ok to send him to school by Wednesday and that 3 doses of the antibiotic would render him non contagious. Imagine that! So simple.
Ofcourse she also said to make sure that he finished the 10 day course of medicine and to bring Daughter to see her if she develops a fever in the next few days. She said Husband and I will probably also develop some symptoms from exposure because Scarlet fever is so contagious. I was hardly listening to all that. My heart was just pumping joyously now. A single prescription and he was going to be okay!
Ofcourse today, I have to call the school to warn them that Son had come in on Monday in a contagious state. They will have to send letters out warning other parents to look for symptoms in thier kids and will have to disinfect all the toys. I am embarrassed about this. But really, how could I have known?
The wonders of modern medicine! Over and over I am thankful we live in todays day and age. I know our rapid technological advances have allowed us a greater ability to destroy and self destruct but we also have greater means to protect lives. So it is all good isnt it?
I for one dont exactly view the past in a Golden Hue. It was what it was, but today and tommorow is even better!
Warsmaking ability or not, a mother thanks technology!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I laughed, I cried, I ate ham! Yes I ate Samosa Chaat too, but later - after the ham had been consumed. During the movie my kids dozed off and my husband embarrassed me by yawning too loud and too often. But then they dont love SRK for his hamminess like I do. I am an unabashed fan. I am as they say... lattoo for SRK in the movies.
Okay first things first... the movie was a homage to SRK. Funny, the actor in an homage to himself and every film he has ever acted in. Lucky Ducky! How many of us would get to do that!
Secondly... SRK celebrates the art of Hamming it up. He does... he almost makes overacting a joyous thing! And his likeability factor makes us rejoice in it with him. He is the Ham Laureate! The meek average man, the rowdy rather vulgar alterego, the lover, the friend every frame he is in, he played unashamedly to the peanut gallery. I do not know if he means to overact quite so much, but the fan in me would like to think he did his entire part with tongue firmly in cheek. I really want to believe that he was laughing at himself as much as I wanted to while his chin quivered and his lips pursed up and his rheumy eyes filled with just enough tears to become lakes of pathos without spilling over untidily onto his cheeks.
For a man of his age (he is my contemporary so I should not snigger too loud) SRK's bod is impressive and he flaunts it well. Alas he didnt take off his shirt for me. Perhaps in his next movie. After OSO I was left panting for more. But oh my.... does he need a facelift or something... badly! He is looking haggard and my heart breaks to even say that.
Everything else about the movie is just filler. Literally. The story, the lead actress, the sets, the script, the supporting cast, the music and yeah even the myriad shameless endorsements. It is all really quite forgettable.
Having made the statement that the story is just filler, I will not bother to give you more than the outline. The script follows a linear, completely improbable story. Something along the lines of... Average man marries Average girl, but they are not "doing" each other yet for all kinds of stupid reasons. Average girl falls for vulgar showman type man who is really Average man in disguise. Average man happens to be a peculiar and rather unlikeable (to me) mixture of emotional masochist and chauvanist who enjoys playing emotional passive/aggressive games. They dance together and talk a lot about Rab. Then Average Man and Average Girl finally get together in the end and finally and hopefully start "doing" each other in the epilogue. Dammit... if they had got thier minds around to do the sex thing in the first few frames of the movie, perhaps Aditya Chopra would not have a movie to make.
The lead actress who has an unmemorable part is perfectly cast. Her looks are average, the acting skills are average and everything about her is unthreateningly average. Her dancing skills are average to boot. Her mannerisms and deportment are perfectly in sync with who she is supposed to portray. She could be any one of the gori, chitti, punjabi, very average girls I knew in Sadi Dilli. The clothes fit, the punjabi size nose fits. Her very ordinarniness is what makes her perfect for the part. A stunning or distinctive looking actress would have been terribly miscast in this story. In her very averageness she did well enough in the movie so I cannot fault her for anything. She really did not detract from anything. On a cynical note I will add that unless Anushka finds what more she has to offer ... looks, talent, powerful godfather, fewer clothes or noteriety she will find the going very hard in Bollywood. I do not think middling parts for average girls are at a premium in Bollywood.
Vinay Pathak provided able support. A talented actor and consistantly willing to let go of his ego and self, he provided polish in his loosely written part. He skipped between comic relief, pathos and detemination seamlessly. I wish his part had been more tautly written and he had better lines to say.
The camerawork was precise and good. The colors of the sets were beautifully photographed and in that the movie was a visual treat.
The movie could have been edited down by atleast an hour or so. Just cutting back on the trillion close up shots of a pursed lipped, quivery chinned SRK would have cut the movie down to about half its length.
Amritsar as location was interesting, as it has not been cinematically explored in Hindi Cinema too often. In that it seemed fresh. The Golden Temple looked lovely. The Amritsar streets could have been a dozen places in North India. Did the story actually need to be located there? Probably not, except Aditya Chopra probably already had the title picked out. The word "Rab" is very, very Punjabi and since that word is used about a million times in justifying the non-story of the movie, a Punjab town it had to be.
Being that the story and script were so lame, the music and choreography could have been the reason d'etre for this movie. Unfortunately both were dissapointing. I cannot think of a single song or peice of background score that stuck in my mind. The Item song was badly done and a complete waste of resources. What a waste of 3 popular actresses who could have added magic. And I said 3 not 4 since I did not intend to use the words Lara Datta and Magic in the same sentence. Whatever was Aditya thinking... he the maker of the perfectly scored and choreographed movie DDLJ! He crashed and burned in this department.
So did I enjoy it and was it paisa vasool?
Being that I paid matinee half price and my son got in for free (yes I have connections... hehehehe) and the Samosa Chaat was not bad and it was all about SRK and SRK and more SRK...
Yes I had a good enough time.
Next time, SRK take your shirt off. I will not be satisfied with less than that!
My review will be up in a couple of hours right after I have eaten the Samosa Chaat that I had orginally bought during the intermission.
Paaaaniiiiiii .... teekha hai!
In a few folks!
I want to live at least to 100. If I had my druthers I would like to live to 150!
Is that wrong? Should I wish for a healthy shorter life? Should I wish for a more meaningful but shorter life?
I probably should. Right?
But you know what makes me want to live so very long? Selfishly, I am a voyeur. I want to see what happens next... and next... and next... and next.
Just think, in the last 50 years, world happenings and technology have progressed so fast, evolved so fast, and disintegrated so fast. Faster than ever in human history. More things that touch my life are changing faster than ever before. I know my parents and grandparents and all my esteemed ancestors down to a Rift valley Lucy, could never have ever hoped to see so much change in thier lifetimes.
This pace will only increase exponentially. We are the vanguard of an era that Humanity has never seen before. Lucky us!
Can you even imagine the earth and our lives a century hence? What do you think you will see?
I know we will have the same conflicts and successes because that my friends is the human condition, but all in all it will be an exciting time because everything will happen so much faster.
And I have so much to see before I sleep!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
There are several versions of this list floating around the blog world. Each version I imagine has relevence to a particular geographic region. I chose this one because I wanted to see how much I have done based on my experiences as a desi transplanted to the US.
I think I am going to track down more versions and see what else in the world needs to be done! I guess I am going to be very busy until I am atleast 100.
The points in purple are the ones I have done and can tick of my... "been there, done that " list.
As for #89... yes I have!
Do you have a list? If you want to share, copy this list and put it on your blog and tick off what you have done. Dont forget to let me know to look!
1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Touched a cobra/snake
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Kutub Minaar
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a Divali fort- "killa"
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone swimming in the Ganga
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a houseboat in the Dal lake in Kashmir
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a sixer (cricket)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Visited an Adivasi community ("pada")
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Taj Mahal (monument, not hotel) in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen the Himalayas
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen the eruption of a volcano
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited the US
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Been to VaishhnoDevi
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Visited a Masjid
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served as a volunteer at a public meeting
61. Helped someone not related to you , with studies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone parasailing
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten karela happily
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood at the Gateway of India recently, after 26/11
74. Toured Kashmir
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards at the Wagah border between Ind-Pak
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Parliament in New Delhi
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in KanyaKumari
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bhagwad Geeta
86. Visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi (President of India residence)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
96. Swam in the Indian Ocean
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I am just run off my feet and so crazed. Why is christmas so hard??????
As much as I want to simplify my life and do away with the materialism of the holiday season, I cant seem to do it. I have kids. They expect things to be a certain way! They need the trimmings. Or do they ? Yes, they do.... I think.
It started in October with Diwali, and Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then New Years. Dont things ever slow down?
Pass me that bottle will ya!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
All this was brought into sharp focus for me a couple of days ago. I was speaking on the phone, with a very good friend in Karachi and we talked about the tragedy that befell the city that we both grew up in and love so much. At some point I asked if she had been in touch with her cousin in Mumbai who also happens to be a friend of mine. This woman had been caught up in the Taj Hotel attacks in some way but was thankfully unharmed.
There was dead silence for a few seconds until my friend was able to gather her thoughts and speak coherantly. She then told me of the strained conversation she had with her cousin in Mumbai. There was uncertainity on both sides and stilted conversation laced with the fear of approbation and accusations. There were so many things left unsaid and the conversation meant to be healing ended very quickly.
What a pity, but this mistrust will have to be endured until lasting solutions can be found.
What are the solutions? Will the issue of Kashmir have be the first to be resolved for any detente? Is this business of trade and rail connections and more streamlined visas just hogwash? Is it even possible to put aside the question of Kashmir and pretend it dosent exist and carry on trying to form other connections?
I do not know the solution to Kashmir and I cannot think of any that will please all parties.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Yes, that is my 6 year old baby girl who is quite the gymnast. This is a fun summertime picture taken in the backyard.
Yes, I do see the dandelions! And ofcourse to cover up our general laziness when it comes to detailed lawncare we tell enquiring people we are going organic and hence those pesky dandelions.
There is some truth to this going green business. Tis not all a lie! Our promise to ourselves is that we will live as green as possible for atleast a year and only then will we add on the extention to the house, an extention that we have been putting off for so long.
A little repentance before we add to our carbon footprint with a mucho bigger house with its greater energy needs and greater ecological mayhem.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Do keep in mind that this is primarily written for a curious and well informed Western audience as opposed to having been written for the Western Tabloid Press.
Bare simple truths, that we forget so easily. This should be compulsory reading for everyone in India! Atleast if we want to tackle the "otherization" of a large part of India's population.
What do you think of what he writes? Comment away everyone!
In October 1947, a bare six weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence from British rule, the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote a remarkable letter to the Chief Ministers of the different provinces. Here Nehru pointed out that despite the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland, there remained, within India, "a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want, go anywhere else. That is a basic fact about which there can be no argument. Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilized manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic State."
In the wake of the recent incidents in Mumbai, these words make salutary reading. It seems quite certain that the terrorists who attacked the financial capital were trained in Pakistan. The outrages have sparked a wave of indignation among the middle class. Demonstrations have been held in the major cities, calling for revenge, in particular for strikes against training camps in Pakistan. The models held up here are Israel and the United States; if they can "take out" individual terrorists and invade whole countries, ask some Indians, why not we?
Other commentators have called for a more measured response. They note that the civilian government in Islamabad is not in control of the army, the army not in control of the notorious Inter Services Intelligence agency, the ISI not in control of the extremists it has funded. They point out that Pakistan has itself been a victim of massive terror attacks. India, they say, should make its disapproval manifest in other ways, such as canceling sporting tours and recalling diplomats. At the same time, the United States should be asked to demand of Pakistan, its erratically reliable ally, that it act more decisively against the terrorists who operate from its soil.
One short-term consequence of the terror in Mumbai is a sharpening of hostility between India and Pakistan. And, as is always the case when relations between these two countries deteriorate, right-wing Hindus have begun to scapegoat those Muslims who live in India. They have begun to speculate as to whether the attackers were aided by their Indian co-religionists, and to demand oaths of loyalty from Muslim clerics and political leaders.
There are 150 million Muslims in India. They have gained particular prominence in one area: Bollywood. Several top directors and composers are Muslim, as well as some of India's biggest movie stars. One, Aamir Khan, was a star and producer in "Lagaan," a song-and-dance epic about a game of cricket that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002. But Muslims are massively underrepresented in the professions -- few of India's top lawyers, judges, doctors and professors are Muslim. Many Indian Muslims are poor, and a few are angry.
Pakistan was carved out of the eastern and western portions of British India. To this new nation flocked Muslims from the Indian heartland. Leading the migration were the lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs who hoped that in a state reserved for people of their faith, they would be free of competition from the more populous (and better educated) Hindus.
Pakistan was created to give a sense of security to the Muslims of the sub-continent. In fact, it only made them more insecure. Nehru's letter of October 1947 was written in response to a surge of Hindu militancy, which called for retribution against the millions of Muslims who stayed behind in India. Three months later, Mahatma Gandhi, who was both Father of the Indian Nation as well as Nehru's mentor, was shot dead by a Hindu fanatic. That act shamed the religious right, who retreated into the shadows. There they stayed until the 1970s, when, through a combination of factors elaborated upon below, they came to occupy center-stage in Indian politics.
If the first tragedy of the Indian Muslim was Partition, the second has been the patronage by India's most influential political party, the Congress, of Muslims who are religious and reactionary rather than liberal and secular. Nehru himself was careful to keep his distance from sectarian leaders whether Hindu or Muslim. However, under the leadership of his daughter, Indira Gandhi, the Congress party came to favor the conservative sections of the Muslim community. Before elections, Congress bosses asked heads of mosques to issue fatwas to their flock to vote for the party; after elections, the party increased government grants to religious schools and colleges. In a defining case in 1985, the Supreme Court called for the enactment of a common civil code, which would abolish polygamy and give all women equal rights regardless of faith -- the right to their husband's or father's property, for example, or the right to proper alimony once divorced. The prime minister at the time was Rajiv Gandhi. Acting on the advice of the Muslim clergy, he used his party's majority in Parliament to nullify the court's verdict. After Rajiv's widow, Sonia Gandhi, became Congress president in 1998, the party has continued to fund Muslim religious institutions rather than encourage them to engage with the modern world.
Partition and Congress patronage between them dealt a body blow to Muslim liberalism. The first deprived the community of a professional vanguard; the second consolidated the claims to leadership of priests and theologians. In an essay published in the late 1960s, the Marathi writer Hamid Dalwai (a resident of Mumbai) wrote of his community that "the Muslims today are culturally backward." To be brought "on a level with the Hindus," argued Dalwai, the Muslims needed an "avant garde liberal elite to lead them." Otherwise, the consequences were dire for both communities. For "unless a Muslim liberal intellectual class emerges, Indian Muslims will continue to cling to obscurantist medievalism, communalism, and will eventually perish both socially and culturally. A worse possibility is that of Hindu revivalism destroying even Hindu liberalism, for the latter can succeed only with the support of Muslim liberals who would modernize Muslims and try to impress upon these secular democratic ideals."
The possibility that Dalwai feared has come to pass. From the 1980s, the dominance of the Congress party has been challenged by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP seeks to make India a "Hindu" nation, by basing the nation's political culture on the religious traditions (and prejudices) of the dominant community. Charging the Congress with "minority appeasement," with corruption and with dynastic rule, the BJP came to power in many states, and eventually in New Delhi. However, its commitment to the secular ideals of the Indian Constitution is somewhat uncertain. For the party's members and fellow travelers, only Indians of the Hindu faith are to be considered full or first-class citizens. Of the others, the Parsis are to be tolerated, the Christians distrusted, and the Muslims detested. One form this detestation takes is verbal -- the circulation of innuendos based on lies and half-truths (as in the claim that Muslims outbreed Hindus and will soon outnumber them). Another form is physical -- thus, the hand of the BJP lies behind some of the worst communal riots in independent India, for example Bhagalpur in 1989, Mumbai in 1992, and Gujarat in 2002; in all cases, an overwhelming majority of the victims were Muslims.
The rise of the BJP owes something to the failures of the Congress, and something also to the example of Pakistan. As that society has come increasingly under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists, there is a more ready audience, within India, for the rants and raves of Hindu extremists. Likewise, the expulsion, by jihadis trained in Pakistan, of some 200,000 Hindus from the valley of Kashmir in a single year -- 1989-1990 -- has been used to justify attacks on Muslims in other parts of India. But to explain is not to excuse -- for the BJP has stoked feelings and passions that should have no place in a civilized society.
In its activities BJP is helped by a series of allied groups. Known also by their abbreviations -- RSS, VHP, etc. -- these were in the forefront of the religious violence of the 1980s and beyond. Roaming the streets of small- (and big-) town India, they addressed their Muslim prey with the slogan "Pakistan or Kabristan!" (Flee to Pakistan, or we will send you straight to your graves). Meanwhile, their ideologues in the press -- some with degrees from the best British universities -- make the argument that Muslims are inherently violent, or unpatriotic, or both.
In fact, the ordinary Muslim is much like any other ordinary Indian -- honest, hard-working and just about scraping a living. A day after I heard a BJP leader denounce the Congress for making the Muslims into a "pampered and privileged minority," I found myself making a turn into the busiest road in my home town, Bangalore. Just ahead of me was a Muslim gentleman, who was attempting to do likewise. Except that he was making the turn not behind the wheel of a powerful Korean-made car but with a hand-cart on which were piled some bananas.
That the fruit seller was Muslim was made clear by his headgear, a white cap with perforations. He was an elderly man, about 60, short and slightly-built. The turn was made hard by his age and infirmity, and harder by the fact that the road sloped steeply downward, and by the further fact that making the turn with him were very many motor vehicles. Had he gone too slow he would have been bunched in against the cars; had he gone too fast he might have lost control altogether. Placed right behind the fruit seller, I saw him visibly relax his shoulders as the turn was successfully made, with cart and bananas both intact.
One should not read too much into a single image, but it does seem to be that that perilous turn was symptomatic of an entire life -- a life lived at the edge of subsistence, a life taken one day at a time and from one turn to the next. In this respect the fruit seller was quite representative of Indian Muslims in general. Far from being pampered or privileged, most Muslims are poor farmers, laborers, artisans and traders.
The failure to punish the perpetrators of successive pogroms has thrown some young men into the arms of fundamentalist groups. But the number is not, as yet, very large. And it is counterbalanced by other trends, for instance, the growing hunger for modern education among the youth. The desire to learn English is ubiquitous, as is the fascination for computers. Even in the disgruntled valley of Kashmir, a press survey found that the iconic founder of India's most respected software company, Infosys Technologies, a Hindu named N. R. Narayana Murthy, was a greater hero among Muslim students than the founder of Al Qaeda.
Since the reasons for the poverty (and the anger) are so complex, a successful compact between Indian Muslims and modernity will require patient and many-sided work. It would help if the Pakistan center was to reassert itself against the extremism it has itself, in past times, encouraged. It would help some more, if, pace Hamid Dalwai, there was a more forthright assertion of Muslim liberalism within India. But perhaps the greatest burden falls on India's major political parties. The Congress must actively promote the modernization of Muslim society. And the BJP must recognize, in word and in deed, that the 150 million Muslims in India have to be dealt with in a civilized manner, and given the security and the rights due them as equal citizens in a democratic and non-denominational State.
Writing in 1957, the historian Wilfred Cantwell Smith pointed out that Indian Muslims were unique in that they shared their citizenship "with an immense number of people. They constitute the only sizable body of Muslims in the world of which this is, or ever has been true." True no longer, for in many countries of Western Europe and even in the United States, the Muslims are now a sizeable but not dominant component of the national population. This makes this particular case even more special. For if, notwithstanding the poisonous residues of history and the competitive chauvinisms of politicians, Indians of different faiths were to live in peace, dignity and (even a moderate) prosperity, they might set an example for the world.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Dear Mr/Ms Celebrity,
We realise that the Mumbai Tragedy is more about being a PR opportunity for a ton of folks like you. The media uses you and you use the media equally shamelessly. While you may really want to believe (and have us believe) that you are a bleeding heart, we ain't so dumb honey! Besides which we can call as spade a spade, especially when it has to move a load of bullshit. Okay so this is a spade and that pile over there is bullshit. You and me clear on that?
The media, yeah even the "thinking" media uses you to gain eyeballs. Agreed! Your Goofball celebrety friends who have never before shown an iota of sustained public interest in matters of public policy or security are recruited by media for endless discussions. Ofcourse darling, the real victims and eyewitnesses and situation handlers of this appaling tragedy are convininetly ignored. It dosent make for good composition on the screen or in print to have them in the same frame. Case in point that really disgusting discussion by Barkha Dutt with total public policy zeros like Ness Wadia and Simi Garewal. Ridiculous and stomach churning ranting and a complete waste of precious airtime. Okay so the media got a pound of your willing and toned and airbrush tanned flesh. But honey you benefitted too wouldnt you say, despite the fact that some of us thought you were totally disgusting?
Oh and if you dont quite get into that TV thing, you always have the PR statement route. There you have it... a great opportunity for making innane "closing the barn door after the horse has bolted" comments and rants. Case in point... Saif and Kareena's statement that says nothing at all. You got your name in print for today and you got your name ticked off on that great leapord skin wrapped register that records "dont you forget, I was there too"! Okay we wont forget that you were breathing the day all this happened. But you know, some of us public were breathing a littl bit harder. After all we really had to run for our unwashed lives.
Ofcourse and then you have other bretheren of the "Candle lighting" and "10 point agenda presenting" fame. Case in point... Karan Johar and his cohorts and thier agenda. Ofcourse doing any of this in private would be blasphemy. Without it being made public, none of this agenda business would help you in any way would it?
And yes we know that while you did benefit directly and indirectly from the showbiz-business-underworld nexus... and dont say you didnt (remember the spade... it's still a spade) and you were discrete enough to keep that aspect private, what matters is your statement is public. Yes we do know, you were there. Okay?
But darling, given all that, and the fact that you really dont come off as too bright or even a real bleeding heart, unless you have something significant to add that will make a real difference, shut the hell up.
And sweetie, if you cant shut the hell up, do something REALLY responsible and useful. Atleast a bunch of Hollywood stars got together and had a massive fundraising telethon for funds of victims of terrorism after 9/11. Has anyone on your wife's kitty party/boyfriends/designer-friend set said something about being of service like this? Have you considered donating your own time, money or name to a cause that really makes a differece to combating terrorism. I am not seeing any of this and I have been looking really hard.
Oh and darling, I just have to add this... you know all those showbiz star friends of yours... you know, the ones that are extremely moderate (almost parsimonious) in various things...religion, and public policy and ohhhhh.... ethics. You know they are really begining to really piss me off.
We get it... Islam is a religion of peace. Understood and point noted and underlined in red. Every statement of thiers starts with this point. I get it!!!!! I am not going to argue that fundamental belief. I belive my religion teaches peace and tolerance too.
Okay so we got over that point.
Yeah but what about the rest that needs to be said? And Mr. Celebrity if you need me to tell you what really needs to be said, your testicles havent decended yet! And Ms. Celebrity you aint ever going to grow a pair so moot point. So what needs to be said? Lets hear it from you! Lets hear it. Louder.. darling... louder... you can say it... yes you can!
Sweety, stick your neck out. If you cant be sincere and do something useful, go back to sleep and tell your maid to tell me .. "saab/memsaab bathroom mein hein"... when I call for help or comfort. Both of us will be happier that way. Our roles will be validated.
Just Another Member of the Unwashed Masses
Another Kiran in NYC
Monday, December 1, 2008
Chief Secty Maharashtra: http://www.maharashtra.gov.in/english/government/govSecretaryShow.php
Home Minister India:
ADD MORE EMAILS TO THIS LIST.CALL AND WRITE. FLOOD THIER BOXES AND PHONES.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
As a viewer, it was very interesting to see and hear the various agendas of the panel participants and the degree of vehemency with which thier view was presented. While the emotion of anger was a common denominator, for each the object of thier anger and thier solutions offered were just slightly different.
The young "hope of south mumbai" Milind Deora impressed the least in his bumbling attempts to deflect any suggestion that as a elected politician he could and should own up to any responsibility for reform at the simplest level (for which he is well funded)... the constituency level. His argument that attempts to change anything at a legislative level will result in further politicising terrorism, are completely stupid and iresponsible. Terrorism is inherently a socio-politico-religious matter. Accept it for what it is and take the bull by the horns. Why be cowardly about debating the tough questions? Should we add cowardly and conviniently blind to the list of nasty attributes that we associate politicians with? I was appalled at his attitude. His suggestion that infrastructure and the bureucracy and strategy be "fixed" first before politicians are brought to task was preposterous. The rot starts from bad leadership in the first place. With a corrupt political will the best infrastructure will mean nothing. It does not matter how many subinspectors are moved around and how many bulletproof vests are distributed or how many commisioners heads roll. Unless the man at the top is made accountable, nothing will change. Milind Deora should be ashamed of himself. I am afraid Milind has learned his political lessons too well at the knee of family.
MN Singh had good points to make as a tried and tested bureaucrat and his clearly defining the role of the local police... for civic policing, not for terrorism policing and rescue... was something that needed to be reiterated for us to hear. I agree that we need different bodies to take care of different types of security and that it should be more decentralised. I hope someone is taking notes!
The person on the panel who I found the most interesting was Nikhil Wagle who is a journalist from the local Marathi media. He certainly had his finger on the pulse of the "aam janta"... the people who make the machine that is Mumbai... actually work. He begs for civic leadership and political will to change the scenario of a presently leaderless but "willing to help" populace... Mumbaikars who are moved and willing to make a grassroots difference. Put that man on a steering committee or a citizens think tank.! I think he will have valuable input along with the pragmatism that comes with being a journalist in the thick of political reporting.
Shobhaa your expression of impatience with the present status quo is finely tuned and your display of righteous civic anger will make a big difference. Now it will bode well, if only more regular people will speak up and keep aflame the fire of this civic disgust at ineptitude. I am so glad you say what is to be said. We must as ordinary citizens take your lead and hammer away at it too.
And Rajdeep, brilliant journalist and interrogator that you are, please speak slower and less excitedly. It helps if we can understand what you are saying when you are totally impassioned.
On a personal note Shobhaa, I am so glad that at the end of the panel, you paid tribute to the people at the VT Station and non prestige locations that were ALSO victims of willful and malicious terrorism. They are being too soon forgotten, in the rush to focus on the more glamorous(?) aspects of this tragedy.
I personally pay tribute to all the armed service, security and municipal agency personell who risked life and limb to bring about an end to this madness. In particular I would like to remember and salute the bravery and professionalism of the Fire Department of Mumbai who battled raging infernos under gunfire (despite being unarmed) and who rescued so many from a certain death. There have been too few kudos given to them in all the round of congratulatory messages.
My suggestions about what can be done... why there are all in the preceeding paragraphs! Lets start with what Milind Deora and his ilk should NOT DO as politicians...
Thursday, November 27, 2008
This time, the violence fill me with emotions that are different from anything I have felt before. As much as I want to be all rational and grown up about it, I am filled with a rage and a desire for base animalistic revenge. But against whom? Who do we condemn and fight with as we demand our basic rights as citizens of a peaceful world? Should I fight the enemies, within or without or just my own complacency or the complacency of those who allow such things to happen? Whose fault is it? Is it even rational to place blame on any one doorstep? Will I be fighting a tangible enemy or will I just be shadow boxing with ideological abberations?
In a few hours, I am going to be at Thanksgiving dinner with all my inlaws. Today, I am supposed to be thankful for everything and pay tribute to all the opportunities and people in my life. The irony of it!
Can I really be sincere about it today, when I am filled with emotions of rage and sadness? Can I sit there, make small talk with family and friends and drink a toast to peace and happiness without the bitter bile of anguish tainting everything? Am I even supposed to?
Today I am going to have to reassure my American sister in law and teenage nieces that it is still okay to come to India with me next August.. that it will be peaceful and that India is really not always in the throes of violence. They loved thier previous trips to India and are always asking when they can come next. Will they still feel this way today? How much do I have to explain away?
I hope atleast this time, Mumbai will not go into "Business as usual" mode in a effort to show resilience. We have shown resilience so many times, I wonder if it is actually insensitivity now. Mumbai needs to make a HUGE STINK about it and continue to hammer the message home over and over in national and international arenas, until it gets the kind of noteriety and attention that a Madrid, or London or New York got. I realise that the vast numbers of poor people who depend on daily wages have to go on everyday despite the trouble. For them resilience is nessecary. However, I sincerely hope that big business and politicians show the will to highlight this despicable act for what it is. Mumbaikars need to show the world how badly terrorism hurts them for something to be done through political means.
Wake up Vilasrao and show the canny leadership we should expect of CM's of a premier state like Maharashtra. Go on, show the political will to help the city and free it from the clutches of ideological and physical violence. Can you? Or is a more OPENLY communal minded Raj Thackeray, the better alternative so that Mumbaikars can sleep with some reassurance that they will be not be murdered in thier sleep by terrorism.
Today, instead of only speaking of how thankful I am for my good fortunes as I eat a meal with my family, I will pay tribute to all Mumbaikars whose faith, will and lives have been destroyed by acts of willful and malicious violence.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
And I was going to be so good and post all kinds of interesting things. Oh well!
The powers that be at blogger, please consider turning that spamblog thing off for me. Won't you, oh won't you reply to me?