Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Many people feel that the mall culture is just vacuous consumerism, driven by globalization and the fancy-schmancy stuff that goes with it..rich getting richer and spending their new-found wealth, while large masses continue to lead a wretched existence on the sidelines.
It is true that large populations have not really benefited significantly. But, many others, who would otherwise be making do with mediocre products and services, who would not have had a higher standard of living in terms of comforts and conveniences, have definitely benefited. Anyway, this post is not really about globalization and its pros and cons, per se. It is more specifically about malls.
There is one thing about glitzy malls that I love. Nah, it's not just the trendy clothes, the lights and background music that transport you to a temporary delusional state of well-being and peppiness even when you are in the dumps.
It's that corner where no one goes to satisfy their aspirational needs. It's the place where everyone goes to satisy their most basic natural need - the call of nature. Of course, I am talking about the loo:)!
A universal problem with travelling in India is the absence of clean public toilets. Forget about that dreaded bus journey from Mumbai to Nashik or wherever else, a few years ago, if you happened to have travelled from Kandivali to Colaba (the former is a suburb in Western Mumbai and the latter is in downtown, propah South Bombay), got drenched in the rain, looked for a private outlet to pee, Heaven help you. And, to top it all off, if you happened to have the XX pair of chromosomes (read 'female'), I leave it to your imagination the level of discomfort and the almost yogic self-control you needed to exert upon your bladder unless and until...you happened to have the other type of self-control. The ability to control your revulsions as you entered a place wafting with ammonia, sulphur dioxide and God knows what other gases, all naturally produced, and filled with biological refuse of Homo sapiens . If you are the really philosophical or, rather, the clinical kind, you could dismiss it as, what the heck! But, you get the picture.
When I first came to the US, I was pleasantly surprised that there were clean restrooms in virtually every major store. As for malls, some had automatic flushing toilets and some rest areas on the highways had ornamental sinks with automatic water fountains (Gasp)! I wondered, suppose we also had our mega KMarts or their equivalent, we would soon be able to look forward to the day when you did not have to go thirsty to avoid a dreaded trip to the public loo. I was not completely wrong. The snazzy Crossroads mall in Mahalakshmi, Mumbai, and the various Shoppers' Stop outlets, not to forget the many INOX/IMAX kind of theatres, all have clean restrooms (ooh..that sounds so spa-like as compared to 'toilet' :):)) with trendy youngsters sizing themselves up in the mirrors near the sinks.
For a vast, populous country like India, where civic sense and public hygiene are yet not something people lose sleep over, some private initiative in this regard, will go a long way in improving the overall conditions of public sanitation. At least, people will get a better option. As malls become profitable, they will not need to charge people who do not buy anything from them to use their restrooms. Commercialization in this area is a good thing. After all, not everyone is like this
great man or the person who started the Shulabh Shauchalaya chain and even these are inadequate in number.
On the other hand, I wonder why some countries were able to gravitate towards cleanliness in the first place and why some, despite their ancient civilization and culture, are still lagging behind even in basic civic consciousness.
I remember a time I visited my great-grandmother many years ago, in a small village. Her old, small house did not have built-in restrooms. I, a city girl, was terrified of living there for more than a day or two. Later generations did not face this problem. Even then, the toilet was an area away from the house in the olden days. Sometimes, it was a structure separate from the main house in the backyard. These days, in homes in Western countries, the loos are gorgeous, filled with fragrant pot-pourri, reading material, landscape paintings, ornate plumbing and what not, elevating the humble loo to a place of high art. Probably, the trend has caught on in upper middle class India, too. Why am I describing all this? Because it probably helps to understand the Indian attitude towards toilets in general and helps us figure out why we have not progressed much in this regard.
Read this great article by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the pioneer behind Sulabh Shauchalaya and this.
On another note, Annie has some touching posts on human scavengers.
This is when Nature becomes a bride, decked in red and gold and a myriad other earthy hues. Except that the leaves that are so beautiful today are steadily marching towards their death. Very soon, the trees will be bare, the town desolate, robbed of its little leaves of joy. It will be the 'fall', in the literal sense of the word.
I'll be posting some pictures soon. Never underestimate the power of beauty, particularly that of Nature. The full branches with flowers and leaves and fruit do something to your senses. So do bright sunlight, glorious sunsets and sky colours.
I can really feel the difference when I am in an area that is completely swamped by vehicles, buildings and the like with Nature reduced to a sulking corner, her space appropriated thanklessly by her own children and one where humans and Nature have found their own resonating frequency.
I am writing this as I sit by my verandah, before gold-green-and-brown trees, the rain falling, a cloudy sky with some peach-blue-crimson-yellow in the evenings. Also, this post by Mumbaigirl was lovely, I mean, literally.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I don't know of any regular readers or any readers at all, LOL!!! But my wishes will be there, hopefully for future readers:).
Although India produces so much of tea, a few years ago, I never even saw an ad for green tea which is supposed to be high in antioxidants and very healthy for your system. The same for brown rice. I first got to know about these healthy options courtesy Anjali Mukherjee's weekly column in Bombay Times in the 'Times Of India'. The TOI was a treat in those days. Those were also the heady post Sushmita-Aishwarya-Miss World-Miss Universe days. Anjali Mukherjee is a reputed nutritionist who counselled Miss Indias. I grew to be a big fan of hers. Along with her, there was the admirable Ramma Bans who trained young, budding beauty queens such as Yukta Mookhey to be slim, strong and fit. Her recommended execises were a part of my staple reading, too, though I did not actually do all of those exercises. I picked up some other exercises from the TOI and other sources though.
The Chinese have a fascinating array of teas - white tea, green tea, tea flavoured with this and that and what not. Until I went abroad, I did not know that there are so many teas, in fact, till I got acquainted with the Internet, I did not know that tea is a generic term for the essence of boiled leaves and herbs. Until then, the only tea I knew was the regular, black chai. 'Chai' in the US , means black tea, flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, etc. I still am not accustomed to black tea and coffee. In fact, the way we Indians make coffe, it is practically milk flavoured with a dash of coffee unless you make it extra strong. So, when an American talks about a regular cup of coffee, it is very different from what we Indians mean.
Rain pouring outside, green leaves getting drenched outside in the rain...misty coldness..what else is needed? A cup of hot chai in your hands, warming you up. Truly heavenly!
Now I know why the Tibetans, Ladakhis, Kashmiris and practically every mountain region dweller in China/India and other Asian places, love their steaming cuppa.
My Kashmiri friends were the ones who told me about the different types of chai they drink, the sweet 'kehwa' and the ornamental 'samovar' used to boil tea.
And recent research proves that tea, within limits of course, is actually good for you. If you get a chance, do try the rooibos.
Thank God for chai. Annie has a great
post here on chai.
Monday, October 16, 2006
The debate over the burqa is not just about a religious symbol, it goes much deeper than that. It is a manifestation of that eternal conundrum - how much of a woman's body can be visible without being overly provocative or offensive. It's not as if this question is not applicable to men. After all, men are not generally permitted to parade naked either. If you ask this question to people from different cultures, you are bound to get differing responses. If you are brought up to think a certain way, it is very hard to let go of it, especially when you feel your community is under attack.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Of course, I respect her choice. It is, after all, her life. Whether she wishes to give it all up and settle down with hubby, kids and in-laws or continues to stay in the limelight, should entirely be left to her. But, then, why don't women in other professions do so? I have hardly heard of a female software engineer or professor or manager or doctor say, "Okay, now that I got hitched, let me hang up my dainty sandals and make babies and bountiful meals!"
These, I think, are commonly the reasons why women drop out, especially in films:
(a) Time needed to acquire basic qualifications: In other professions, such as medicine, law, management, software and pretty much anything else, it takes many years, probably even decades to reach a certain position. Most of the regular office jobs and especially professional ones, require special degrees. Thus, a doctor who graduates with a specialization, is already in her mid-20s at least. When she gets married, usually some time before or just after 30, she hardly has had any experience. And what is the point of slogging through medical college if you were not going to make medicine your lifetime vocation?
Acting, however, is a different ball game. There are no prior qualifications expected. If one takes even a cursory look at the current line-up of heroines in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam or pretty much the film industry of any language in India, very few wannabes and established actors have undergone professional training in acting in the form of a full-fledged college degree.
(b) Premium on youth and looks: This, I think, is probably the most important reason of all. Some bloggers and writers have lamented about the fact that Hollywood actresses continue with their careers even after making babies, while the talented Indian ones bow out. In Hollywood, there are female leading characters in movies that are in their 30s and 40s. They may be crusaders like Julia Roberts in "Erin Bronkovich" or an FBI investigator such as Jodie Foster in "The Silence of the Lambs". Hindi cinema in the 50s and 60s had scope for such characters. Look at Nargis in "Mother India" or Waheeda Rehman in "Guide" or Sharmila Tagore in "Aradhana" or Rekha in "Ghar". These were strong, character-oriented roles that did not merely focus on the heroine's looks or lack of them.
Somewhere, in the 80s, Hindi cinema became the domain of the macho, can-achieve-anything man. The heroine was just a pretty girlfriend or dutiful wife or mistress or the loving, pitiable mother. In short, she had no identity of her own.
Then came the late 80s and early 90s with their teenage college romances and songs with lines that went something like "Main satara baras ka, tu solah baras ki" (I am seventeen, you are sixteen) - gosh! Hindi cinema was back to the "Sound of Music" days, only without the same charm. If most of the roles involved young people in or just out of college falling in love and battling the odds of conservative parents or villains or whatever-the-director-thought-of, then what hope could even a 30-year-old heroine have? Many actresses have expressed the same view.
Now, in the 2000s, we see hope in the form of fresh, young directors with new ideas. Thus, a much married young mom, Juhi Chawla, can get a role in a sensitive film such as "My Brother Nikhil". A refreshed Kajol, who embarked on a brief hiatus after marriage and motherhood at a young age, is welcomed back in "Fanaa".
But, in both cases, the said actress had built up a formidable reputation during the early days of her career. The same goes for men who come back at a later age. Would Amitabh Bachchan be praised to the skies even for the routine father roles he essays if it was not for the fact that he was India's superstar in his youth?
The Indian actress got the meatiest roles till she was about 30, or at the most, 35. So, the natural thing for her to do would be to make as much moolah and name as possible while she was in her late teens or twenties and catch a good husband and 'settle down' when she was considered "over the hill" (at 30/35, that is ridiculous!!). In Tamil cinema, I feel, that is still the case. We have new nymhettes for every other movie, but rarely, a strong female central character role, the likes of which Kamal Haasan or Vikram, essay.
(c) Stressful, time-consuming profession: This is what some actors seem to harp. As if there were no other vocations besides acting that had stress! In fact, I think actors have the liberty to choose to work fewer days in a year as compared to most other professions. If family was a concern, then an actress could sign one film in two years rather than three films in a single year. Granted, our films involve travel to exotic foreign locales for the dream song sequences, but then, can't a leading lady raking in lakhs of rupees afford to take along her kid on a flight with a nanny or, better still, a family member to help take care of the kid/s? And, there are enough films and scenes being shot locally, so what's so great? Women in other professions travel in overcrowded buses and trains for a few hours everyday and often put in more than the minimum 8 hours, then come home and spend time with their kids besides cooking and household tasks.
I think, the real feeling underlying all this is that, the woman must stay home and take care of the kids. It is the man's job to earn a living. Thus, acting when seen as a gateway to fame and money, not as a passion, is totally dispensable in favour of duty, i.e. being there for the family. But what about the actors who truly love their job and miss it?
(d) Taboo on the married woman's sexuality: This is what my mother would say to me : Women, after marriage, lose their sex appeal with the audience as the men in the audience tend to think of her as belonging to someone else.
A married woman belongs to her husband and must not be seen as attractive by other men. But, then, pray, what about the married man? If it is not okay to covet another man's wife, it should not be okay to covet another woman's husband, no? Nobody seems to have any problems with the fact that girls drool over Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan or Hrithik Roshan, all married fathers. Ditto for the dudes down South, Ajeeth, Rajnikant, Mammootty or Surya. With more urban women thronging the theatres, this trend will hopefully slowly change.
(e) Cinematic relationships reflect society: The reason why even a 40-year-old Shah Rukh stays hot and romances heroines half his age whereas heroines, at the slightest appearance of lines and wrinkles, start to lose it, is because in real life, too, it is the husband who is older than the wife. Typically, the Indian woman who is in her 20s, usually gets hitched before she is 30, given all the matrimonial proposals she gets from her relatives and family (this is largely true for even the urban, educated woman who chooses her own mate from the pool of suitors). The divorce rate in India is very low as compared to Western countries. Premarital sex is still a taboo. So, there are rarely any interesting love stories of 45-year-old women in real life. So, what credibility will it have on screen? In the West, people divorce and remarry even in their 50s. Dating is encouraged. So, you have all kinds of permutations and combinations that can be depicted on screen.
If more and more women start marrying younger men, like a Demi Moore who wed Ashton Kutcher, around 15 years younger, then cinema will wake up, too.
(f)Older women need to maintain their appeal in a graceful way: If women in their 40s, displayed their sensuality in a graceful way, rather than trying to look like a twenty-something hottie, they would truly charm the audience member with taste. Earlier, the over-the-hill heroine would usually be overweight and wear only traditional clothes without any pizzazz (nothing wrong with traditional clothes, they can look gorgeous, but there is a certain type of traditional dressing, if you know what I mean). But, with greater awareness of fitness and nutrition, we can begin to see the middle-aged woman in a whole new light.
There is much brouhaha over the fact that, on an average, men scored slightly more than women on SAT (formerly called the Scholastic Achievement/Aptitude/Assessment Test according to Wikipedia) in a given survey sample, therefore, a conclusion is being reached that men are smarter than women.
For those who are not aware of the SAT, the test is an entrance exam for admission to an undergraduate college degree program in the US. It tests verbal and mathematical ability among certain other things.
By this logic, the passing percentage of girls is higher than boys for the SSC/HSC exams in many places in India. So, does that really mean girls are smarter than boys? Similarly, does it mean that a boy who gets into an IIT is necessarily more intelligent than a boy who misses admission by a few points? I think it is a very naive conclusion.
As for the argument that there are more men Nobel Laureates than women, the number of women who opt for high-powered research-oriented careers in science, economics and other fields is very low as compared to men. Naturally, the number of women Nobel Laureates is bound to be lower. There are several reasons for this. Research-oriented careers take up a lot of one's time and energy and for women with kids who do not have a supportive husband and family, this can be extremely difficult.
I had read a very touching, insightful book on the web.
This talks about the lives and struggles of various female Nobel Prize winners, starting with one of the most famous scientists of our time, Marie Curie. If you read the biogaphies of some of the women, then you will know that even in the 19th century, even in some so-called developed Western countries, women were not allowed to attend university.
The following URL (in which the above URL is a link) has a lot of books talking about women scientists:
U.S. News and World Report recently had an article about whether the people credited with important discoveries were actually the first to unravel them. One of those stories involved Rosalind Franklin, a female scientist who died prematurely and who contributed to the discovery of the DNA.
Watson and Crick ultimately got credit for it, but the entire story is very intriguing. This can also be found at the first link in this chapter.
There may be several such unsung heroines, people with talent, but those who dropped out due to family responsibilities or the unfriendly system.
Secondly, if you look at Nobels in science, we see very few people from Africa or Asia or Latin America, for that matter. Does that mean white people are smarter? Hell, no. This is what many women are arguing and I perfectly agree.
If we were to make a statement that one race is probably more intelligent than the other, then all hell would break loose. But, it seems perfectly okay to argue that one gender is superior to the other, without even verifying how authoritative the study is.
There is an interesting discussion at:
Please do go through it if you have the time, especially the comments. There are a lot of sensible arguments out there.
Funnily, many men do not accept that this survey by itself proves intellectual superiority of one gender over the other. The site and the commenters are mostly Westerners. However, reading the comments on this article on rediff.com, one surprisingly overwhelmingly encounters opinions such as "men are definitely smarter" from guys.
And, this shows that brain size does not always indicate IQ. So, those harping that men have bigger brains and, therefore, a higher IQ, should stop trumpeting.
The bottomline is, statistics alone do not explain everything. In order to deduce anything useful from a survey, one has to study the underlying causes and several other factors. If you conducted the same survey in different countries, for example, you might get different results. Who knows, girls might score higher in some countries!
And, it would be completely ridiculous to say, that just because the number of men in the upper IQ range is higher,the average Ramu/Shyamu is more intelligent than a Marie Curie. Remember, the survey only talks about some men scoring higher tahn some women. It does not and cannot be applied on an individual-to-individual basis.
The views expressed here, although my own, have been expressed by others on the Web and elsewhere, so their influence on me, cannot be negated. They are, therefore, not unique to me.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
There is a perception about feminists in some quarters (correct me if I'm wrong) that they abhor motherhood and domesticity, hate men and want women to hold a superior position to women. I came across a particular blog on sulekha.com here:
http://sulekha.com/blogs/blogdisplay.aspx?cid=89707 where the author has commented about the higher suicide rates of men. I just don't understand his logic there.
This book is totally different from what you would expect. She has, in fact, called upon women to be proud of their bodies as they are, to celebrate their womanhood, to not look upon their periods as dirty. She has talked volumes about motherhood and stood up for all mothers. All the pro-lifers and pro-choice people in the US and elsewhere must read what she has to say about abortion. She is neither on the left or right on this issue. What she says about sex and gender politics does make a lot of sense.
In essence, she has talked about giving single mothers social and economic support. Mothers should have the option to either stay at home or work. I have been thinking about this issue long before I read her book. Is our modern corporate culture itself unfriendly to women? I mean, our lifestyle is really so unnatural at times. People in cities have to work for long hours coupled with the harrowing daily commute. Where is the time for family or even for oneself? Parents, particularly mothers, might feel guilty about leaving their kids to the care of strangers while they juggle work and home responsibilities. Again, it is the mother who shoulders the maximum proportion of the blame.
The recent ascent of Indra Nooyi to the top slot at PepsiCo proves that when corporates lend a helping hand to women in managing their family life, there's nothing stopping the motivated females. Here is a post that talks of her success and on how she coped.
I have a lot to say about the possibilty of menstrual leave, but more about that on another day.
Monday, August 21, 2006
What is it about being young that makes all of us crave for and desperately cling to it?
Okay, a great-looking body, a sharp mind and opportunities galore, not to mention energy and enthusiasm to do what the mind wills. But beyond all this, is the promise of possibility.
Gaurav Sabnis has reminisced about his childhood in
When I was in middle school, I dreamt I could build a Giant Robot just like they showed in a Japanese serial on TV. With my friend, I drew the form of Giant Robot in the mud and fantasized about a real robot tearing the ground out, fire raging underneath, as I called out : "Come on, Giant Robot".
I dreamt that I was a great scientist, who made my parents and teachers proud. I saw myself as a detective, investigating mysteries a la Nancy Drew and the Famous Five.
When I was a kindergarten child, I wanted to be an astronaut - the inspiration came from another series on dear old Doordarshan, called "Fireball":).
Another time, I wished to be the successor to the legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci or to Steffi Graf! By the time I was twelve, I knew I was too old to be bent and curled up like a rubber ball.
As I grew older, I saw many of my ambitions burn away slowly into nothingness as reality set in, slowly but surely. At every stage, I knew I had crossed one more milestone, one more threshold and I could not go back into the room I had left behind. Once I was in college, the opportunity to be school topper was gone and the chance to be teen sleuth, too. Once out of college, the opportunity to be the college all-rounder was gone (though I did have my fill of extra-curricular activities).
Once I was 24, the possibilty of being Miss India was gone (the ad says you have be under 23). A few years down the line and the dream of being a mother will be a pipe-dream.
Slowly but surely, the possibilities shrink, you seem to go into a never land..but then, perhaps, newer opportunities light up on the way, rare gems that only an eye exposed to experience and the mind that has absorbed wisdom, can perceive. Wisdom to distinguish between reality and fantasy, wisdom that time is short and one needs to do the very best to reach one's goals and make something of meaning of this existence..and the knowledge that the end is steadily approaching..
It's finally what you do with your time that matters, no matter what your age is.
So, Carpe Diem !
Much has been said about how democratic a medium the Internet is and how it has revolutionalised the world.
Here is something I wanted to add.
The Internet - The chronicle and steering wheel of our times
Ancient archeological sites throw up many interesting artifacts, many of them being tidbits of daily life such as pots, pans, little statues, instruments and others.There are epics devoted to the exploits of kings and historical documents penned by their own court historians chronicling their lives and times. Other great men and women such as saints, philosophers, scientists are immortalised by their own work as well as parchments praising them, written by others. But there is scarcely anything known about the common man and woman of those ancient times. What were their aspirations, daily problems, their thoughts on the affairs of state, on God and religion, on life itself?
Imagine, on the other hand, if our civilisation came to an end one day. Maybe our hard disks and servers would survive .. and then would unfold the saga of thousands, perhaps even millions of people whose thoughts and opinions have been preserved for posterity. Blogs are not just a poor cousin of mainstream media, they are also the voice of their times. Mainstream media has to toe a certain line, keeping in mind its social responsibilities and taking care not to offend anyone. But, with the Internet, I have found people openly cursing fellow readers on a message board, ranting against people, groups and ideologies, which, in the real world, is considered worse than being politically incorrect. In a way, the net is a more honest and transparent medium when it comes to opinions. Sociologists and historians in the future can get a feel of the real opinions of many commoners, which have decided the course of a nation, the fate of a religion and society itself. They would be able to really deconstruct the frustrations and beliefs, the angst and aspirations of the unknown faces of history.
Added to that, consider the variety of topics being discussed on the net. I mean, could the court historians of yore possibly have the time and the energy to talk about everything in detail, right from food to fashion, arts, political strategy and daily affairs of the state? Along with newspapers which obviously have been doing a very good job of highlighting different aspects of our society besides keeping track of major local and international events, we have blogs and comments, expressing themselves on everything from the coolest cafe in town to the crooks in politics. Wanna know what outlandish flavours of ice-cream existed in the early 21st century? Chances are, you'll find it on a blog!
The Internet already has its budding stars. Until cinema was born, how many people knew of actors? Today, actors live in a rarefied world, adored and envied by millions. The print medium has its stars, too. Popular columnists, cartoonists and writers have carved a niche for themselves though a Thomas Friedman or Shekhar Gupta may not evoke the frenzy that a Shah Rukh Khan or Tom Cruise do. The internet is fast becoming a medium in its own right. Now, common people can become little stars of the blogsosphere or have their names on websites. You don't have to wait for a publisher to appreciate your writing. Have access to a computer and the Internet? You can fire away on those keys! Some bloggers and writers have their own loyal fan following as well as the usual critics. Of course, internet writing may not be in the same league as published print today but it may fast catch up.
The Internet is a truly a democratic medium, giving a voice to the otherwise not-so-influential. A talented individual need not depend on someone else's approval to show his worth to others. Very soon, we might have amateur painters, chefs, music composers, even documentary and film makers, relying on the net to publish their material. This may get them notice from the honchos at television networks, the media and producers. So, both mainstream and internet media could feed off each other. That will probably turn the course of our society.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
It talks about why Vajpayee did not sign the nuclear deal. It is basically an interview with Dr.Ashley Tellis who worked with US and Indian officals to seal the nuclear deal.
Here's a question that has rankled me:
When asked what it is that the US government wanted from the Vajpayee government, he refuses to divulge it.
I am curious. I want to know what has India offered the US in return besides the provisions that are in the agreement.
Furthermore, he says that, according to US law, barring the five permanent members of the Security Council, if any other country conducts nuclear tests, sanctions would have to be applied.
And this could be done against India, too!
I still fail to get it:
Why should only the permanent members of the Security Council be given a pass regarding nuclear weapons? One of these countries - China, is not even a democracy! Nuclear weapons are dangerous and their proliferation should be curbed but the restriction should apply equally to all countries.
Added as an afterthought:
I think the reason the major powers are trying to curb nuclear weapons is because ultimately, it will lead to an arms race and pose a serious threat to human civilisation itself. But the problem is, what about the world's existing nuclear warheads in some countries? Some of the others who do not have them, (either the ones with dangerous ambitions or the ones that feel threatened by the 'nuclear haves' as a newspaper piece had once called the countries that possess them), will keep clamouring for them until something more powerful is invented.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Friday, March 31, 2006
Are we less in awe of technology and invention than what we were a few decades earlier? Movies of the 1980s seem so quaint now..I know when a movie has been made in the 80s or early 90s just as we would recognise movies made in the 50s, 60s or 70s - because they are not using cellphones (!) along with certain other hints such as the costumes, the computers they used, and so on. 'Time' magazine recently had a story about how kids are too wired these days..what with IM, cellphones, iPods, laptops, etc.
A lot of us know who invented the telephone, the radio, television, evolution of computers, the transistor, the printing press, the electric bulb, alternating current, rubber, the steam engine, the aeroplane and many other pathbreaking discoveries. But, technology today is getting scaled at a rate never imagined before and probably, we are living life in such a fast-paced lane that we do not have time to 'stand and stare' (to quote a famous poet -
What is this life but full of care?
We have no time to stand and stare)
stare at the wondrous discoveries and inventions that have made our lives so much more convenient.
But, some inventions are more entrenched in the public imagination and gave birth to more inventions in their genre. Maybe that is why some scientists fade into oblivion even after winning the Nobel whereas some remain in our consciousness even when they have not, long after their time is past.
Take alternating current, for example. Till then, humankind knew only of direct current. Although alternating current was another type of electric current, the implications and the effect it would have on human society were humongous.
Alternating current is the reason why turbines are able to provide electricity to millions of homes and offices worldwide. There was this programme on Science Channel, I think, which showed the intense rivalry between Edison and Nikola Tesla and how finally, Tesla teamed up with Westinghouse. ( Aha! I just found out I share my birthday with Nikolas Tesla..whoopee! Makes me feel capable of achieving something in life:) ).
Maybe, the media must have had a field day and indirectly promoted science.
Think of any modern day discoveries or inventions that have been truly earth shattering.
The discovery of the DNA, the Internet, the first heart transplant, the cloning of Dolly the sheep come into mind. But do the majority of us know of the countless others that walk away with Nobels year after year? Do we know the names of those men and women who have made them possible, slogging away day after day, holed up in labs?
Is the media to blame for only highlighting the names of actors, models, politicians and sportstars?
Okay, this post continues later. Let me google who really invented the cellphone.
Finally, today, I cleared the road test and have the license to venture out on my own. This is one of the most important practical skills in life and feels like an achievement. I was all rosy and smiling on the picture of the license:).
Is it that we procrastinate things because we have a deep fear somewhere inside? I remember reading somewhere that procrastination may have some deeper cause such as fear of failure or something else.
One thing I have learnt is to get going and attempt whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. A friend of mine talked about "inertia" - apparently Newton's first law applies to us living beings, too. When you are trying to get back to work after a hiatus or going back to school after a long, long time, you might feel you are not able to do things that effortlessly. However, achieving smaller targets can set you on course and once the momentum builds up, you again reach another inertia - the inertia of motion. How true my friend was!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I was watching a movie the other day called "Red Eye" starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. Rachel McAdams plays this very dedicated, into-her-job, smart hotel receptionist - Lisa Rivers, who is travelling back to Florida after attending a family funeral (I think her grandmother's). Her father lives in Florida, too, and she works for the Lux Atlantic Hotel in Miami. Cillian Murphy plays a friendly (at least initially) co-passenger who later on turns out to be the villian, blackmailing her to be part of the assassination of a top government official and his family.
At the airport, her flight is delayed and after speaking up for an airline official who is berated by another passenger for the delay (after all, she has faced this several times, too!), she strikes up a conversation with Cillian Murphy standing right behind her. Later on, they have a drink at the lounge bar before the flight and he ends up on the aisle seat beside her.
Suddenly, after Lisa who seems to get sick whenever the plane takes off or lands or sways in turbulent weather, has settled down, the conversation takes a sinister turn. He starts blackmailing her, asking her to change the reservation of a government official in her hotel to another room - the number of which he gives her or else...her Dad would be taken out by a hired assassin camping out at her doorstep.
The entire movie is about how she outwits this guy and saves her father in the process, all withOUT the help of cops or a strong boyfriend/fiance/husband. Now, some scenes are far-fetched, like when she esacpes at Miami airport, takes off with somebody else's car and goes staright to her house rather than call 911. What was she thinking? That the cops would not be chasing her for stealing a car? Or that the assassin would be stupid enough to let her go? Well, she does ram into him and kill him when she gets there. Not only that, almost a wall gets knocked down with the impact and not a single neighbour hears. All this happens in broad daylight in a leafy suburban neighbourhood which definitely seems to be the abode of many families.
Okay, but I have to appreciate the girl's guts and wits. She tries to mark certain words in a book that she as lent to another co-passenger, an elderly lady, who has stopped by her seat when Mr. M (let me call him that since I don't know the character's name) has been called upon to help another woman with her cabin luggage. But, Mr. M gets suspicious, flicks the book from the lady when she has dozed off and finds out. Once when she manages to get permission from him to go to the bathroom in the plane, she tries to get him caught by scribbling a warning with his seat number on the mirror in the bathroom. But, just as she opens the door, he is right outside, he pushes her in and hits her ruthlessly. The stewardesses think they are making out:).
There is a scar below her shoulder that he asks about.
At the very end, just as the plane is touching down and after she has made that dreaded call, she lies down pretending to be sick, gets hold of something like a valve from underneath her skirt.
she tells him something on the lines of,
"It happened in a parking lot two years ago in broad daylight. The man held a knife to me all the while. From then on, I have been trying to convince myself (pause).."
Mr. M : "That it was not your fault?"
Lisa: "No, that it would never happen again."
Then, as the plane touches down on the runway. In a lightning second, she pulls out the valve-like thing from beneath her skirt, clips it to his throat, takes off her seat belt and bolts away to the shock of fellow passengers out of the gate and into the throes of the public at the airport.
Now, can you imagine a Hindi or any other Indian film heroine doing anything of the sort? Except for a Zeenat Aman (Don) or Hema Malini who played the spunky Geeta (Seeta Aur Geeta) and Basanti (Sholay), we rarely have anyone who can at least put up a fight. In the Southern films, it is even worse. All the heroines seem to have a standard dubbed voice that they use to screech for help while they are about to be molested/raped/killed, all the while thinking of NOTHING, absolutely nothing to help themselves. This applies even if they are not tied and gagged or taken away in a speeding vehicle. Our heroines seem to always want a man to save them and the hero can fight against a gang of 50 even if he is unarmed and the others are carrying hockey sticks, knives, etc.
When will we get our version of Lara Croft/Xena/Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or at least, a smart, brave woman who at least makes an attempt to get away? Producers and directors, given the high rate of crimes against women, at least give women some role model to look up to.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
A dinner-table discussion that I had about a month ago suddenly veered to religion. It suddenly occurred to me that some Hindus have been having all the wrong expectations of other religions. Some Hindus complain that while they see the same God everywhere and visit mosques, churches of every denomination and pagodas, gurudwaras, etc., their reverence is not reciprocated. We got to see the facts as they are and not get emotional and expect everyone to fall in line with an all-embracing way of thinking. People of other religions who do not bow down to Hindu deities are not bad people or do not want to take away your right to worship (except the fanatics who resort to crooked means to get their point across). Not everybody will like you or your religion. If the holy book of some other religion prohibits idol worship, why would they ever want to be a part of your religious ceremonies even if they respect you as a human being and your right to your way of life? If their book claims that theirs is the only route to salvation, why will they ever take you as an equal?
It may be hurtful to be told that you are a heathen/pagan doomed to hell because you do not believe in so-and-so but hey, when one is sure of one's beliefs, that we are going to be judged by our deeds and not by our creed, why should we bother? The more all-embracing one does not lose out on anything as long as s/he is not physically threatened.
Don't have unrealistic expectations - you will not be disappointed.
There are days when I seriously want to write something and I want to spout out all the outrage I feel onto a page to be read by other people. But, I fret and fume and pace about my room. After that, there are chores to be done around the house and then the whole thing is totally lost! You've got to have that passion to write for the creative juices to flow. The fruit of thought has to press against the compartments of your grey cells, waiting to explode, turn into juice. I must seize the moment. As they say "Carpe Diem" (seize the day!) ... what is Latin for "Seize the moment"?
Friday, February 10, 2006
and Asha Bhosle myself and I think they have been blessed with divinely melodious voices.However, I feel that the current crop of abundant talent crooning away the latest numbers from A.R. Rehman and Shankar Ehsaan Loy and other new music directors is really good. Good for the confidence of youngsters, good for Indian music in general.
I could sing well but always had a complex about my voice not being on the more feminine
side. A deep, low-pitched voice is typically not suited to many of the numbers sung in old
Hindi film songs by melody queens such as Lataji and Ashaji. But a lot of Western pop
singers on the other hand had completely distinct voices. Just listen to Beyonce, the Spice
Girls, Celine Dion, Cher, to name a few. Ditto goes for those deep-voiced expert voices in
Carnatic or Hindustani. MS Subbulakshmi and Kishori Amonkar have their own place in the
music world. I started to think - well, if the Western pop singers can belt out great tunes,
then so can we deep-voiced ones back home and I don't mean me (as of now, I have no
intentions of becoming a professsional singer, pop or otherwise). There is plenty of talent
in this country (India).
Just as a fair-complexion was the ideal of feminine beauty, so is the high-pitched, tender, thin as a silk thread female voice. But this is not taking away from Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle's achievements in any way. Listen to the high notes in "Dil hoom hoom kare" from 'Rudaali', "Aapki aankhon ne samjha pyaar ke kaabil hame" from 'Anpadh' or "Ajee roothkar ab kahaan jaayiegaa" from 'Aarzoo' to name a few. They are mind-boggling. The voice stretches like a malleable, molten metal over the high notes and is as agile as an Olympic gymnast when it comes to the "aalaap" (stretching the voice over a particular note).
But I am just glad that we have begun to recognise voices such as the full-throated Sunidhi
Chauhan who is also very melodious and handles the high pitch with aplomb as also Vasundhara
Das, Alisha Chinai, Suneeta Rao and many others. Remember the "Deewane deewane to deewane hain" number by Shweta? Indian pop gave a lot of the husky-voiced singers a chance to showcase their talents and we have numbers that rock such as the above mentioned one and
those such as the "Made in India" title song by Alisha Chinai. I am happy to hear diverse voices and see diverse faces such as Kajol (totally unconventional) who burst on the scene with her magnetic on-screen personality, expressive eyes, bubbling enthusiasm and an individuality that set her apart from all the slim and/or fair typical Hindi heroines.
The bottom line is that talented people in India today have many more options and opportunities available to them than even a generation ago. More power to them!
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
I realised that the best thing to do is to stay away from temptation...so I ventured to the local bookstore. I had tried the local library, too.
The main thing is, getting out to be amongst other people, albeit strangers, seeing the sunshine and the world outside sort of gets you going towards your goal. Sitting all day at home, that too in the depressingly short and gloomy winter days, unshowered, gets to me after some time.
It is not that I did not try. I have tried changing my surfing patterns to sites related to of my field. I do study sometimes, too.
But if the time-wasting goes on for a series of days, it hits me hard. When evening comes and I have nothing to show for it it only makes me sad and angry at myself. That spills over into my relationships and messes up everything.
So get up, get ready (shower, dress, etc.), get out and get going!