Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Travails Of A Writer

The writer sat in front of his laptop, staring at the screen. He had been staring at it all day long, just like he had been the previous day. The page count on his book didn't look very different from the previous day.

Technology had transformed the lowly workhorse typewriter into the gleaming sleek laptop. But while the typewriter's sole purpose was to type, the laptop performed many functions, and hence offered many distractions to its user. The writer had spent the last couple of days, as he had many other days, enjoying the many amusements the laptop had to offer him. As a result, his work on his book had suffered immensely. And now the weekend was over and spent and wasted.

The writer attempted to paint a cliched portrait of a man deep in thought, of a man on the verge of producing some of the most brilliant creative work ever witnessed in humankind or the man's mind. He poured himself a glass of whisky and took a swig. It tasted brilliant in his mouth as it slid smoothly down his throat. Then he lit a cigarette and took a drag. The combination felt fabulous. And then he looked at the laptop screen again.

He stared. Then he stared some more. Then he rested his cigarette in the ashtray and pounded on the keyboard for a few seconds. He stopped, took another drag and read what he had just written. He deleted all of it. Then he pounded some more, intermittently dragging on his cigarette. He hated what he was writing, but he wrote it anyway. At least it was content, it provided some semblance of progress.

The writer wrote till eternity with no one to read his writings.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Free Tibet

A sham took place today in central Delhi. From Vijay Chowk to India Gate, right in front of the Presidential home, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a few famous people held a torch and ran a few metres, light a few more torches held by other famous people who also ran a few metres, all the while being watched by a few Chinese and thousands of security personnel. This was the famous Olympic torch run on its India leg.

This was also a prime example of the Indian government behaving like a servant in front of the Chinese, who they treated as masters. If you've seen a servant in front of his master, he will fold his arms and do everything the master tells him, and flog his wife on the side in order to cede to the orders of his master. The Indian government flogged its own people, and gave into the whims and fancies of the Chinese overlords. Unprecedented security surrounded the Olympic torch run and the only people who were allowed direct visual access were some important officials, some Chinese and some school kids. The general public and anybody who even closely resembled a Tibetan were kept far away.

The US reaction was a lovely example of democracy. The Olympic torch run had to be protected, and it was. But free speech is also a right and the protesters were allowed that. Even though W made some random comments about how the Chinese and the Dalai Lama should engage in a dialogue, the US reaction was largely neutral. The Indian reaction, on the other hand, was very pro-Chinese. Although some Tibetan voices were heard, the knee-jerk reaction was to cow them down with force and bundle them into vans to transport them to jail. Tibetans were not allowed to demonstrate or protest freely. If it turned violent, then by all means enforce law and order, but not when it is a peaceful protest.

A major fallout of the Indian government thinking the Chinese way was the traffic situation. Since India Gate is at the centre of the city, a ripple there causes a wave in the rest of the city. The journey from my office to my house takes barely 30 min, including normal traffic. Today, it took me 150 min. There were portions where we did not move for long stretches of time. I was wondering how long it would be before the Army was called in to drop essential supplies.

Is it really worth inconveniencing millions, literally millions, of your own citizens to satisfy some neighbour who you don't like anyway? Is this not the attitude of the servant? The Chinese would have very smugly packed up the torch after the run, laughed amongst themselves at another battle won against India and left by the next available flight. The Indians meanwhile will be waiting expectantly for the largeness that the Chinese will show after this act of friendship and good faith. Do you know what the next Chinese move is going to be?

The Olympic torch is going to do a detailed run across China. But during that run, the torch is also going to visit a monastery that just incidentally falls in Arunachal Pradesh. Do the Chinese have the requisite Indian permission to do that? I don't know, but my guess is in the negative. Is it a bold move by the Chinese to claim ownership over disputed land, to show that parts of Arunachal Pradesh actually belong to China, just like Tibet? I don't know, but my guess is in the positive.

India, stand up for yourself. If you don't treat yourself with respect and demand respect, nobody will treat you with respect or give you any.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I Will Be Boycotting IPL

There has been a lot of space in the media that has been devoted over the last few weeks to the new Kerry Packer that's sweeping cricket. ICL (Indian Cricket League) and IPL (Indian Premier League), Zee's rebel and BCCI's answer, are set to revolutionise cricket and entertainment in India. Millionaires were made overnight, the marriage of cricket and Bollywood was complete and the general discerning public suffered in the process.

Now, I have not been following these developments closely, barely even registering them, retaining the disdain I have for anything mass and brainless. But then the IPL campaign hit television screens and I was apalled, absolutely horrified at the creatives. I believe O&M is the agency behind the campaign and I must say that I am very disappointed that a communal inciting campaign of this magnitude and proportion could have been brought to life by one of my favourite agencies.

IPL Ad 1
IPL Ad 2
IPL Ad 3

The entire campaign is centred around hating your fellow man and making his very existence hell just because he supports another team. More than the TV, movie and video game violence that we keep complaining about, this issue ought to be raised simply because it affects us on a much more basic, real and daily level. You meet your neighbour everyday. You're Bangalorean, he's Delhiite. Following simple logic of a person seeking familiarity and therefore being kindred to his home team, you and your neighbour are now being incited to go at each other's throats. If that is not communal, then what is?

Now, one cannot simply identify a problem and then let it lie. One must come up with a suitable solution as well, otherwise of what use are you? So, here is an alternative campaign idea from me.

Alternative IPL Campaign Idea:
The basic thought behind this campaign is that IPL is competitive and it is meant to make the viewers competitive as well. But the key differentiating factor is that it makes the viewer competitive during viewing. It does not make the person competitive. The basic person remains as he/she is. To highlight this difference, obviously some amount of extremities and stretching will have to be portrayed. This can be easily categorised as 'creative licence' or 'poetic justice'.
  1. Best buddies are having a great time hanging out with each other during the day. Come IPL match time, they sit down in front of their TV sets in their respective team colours and then the rivalry begins. This rivalry ends with the match.

  2. A stranger helps out an old granny to cross the road. She then returns the favour by inviting the stranger home for some cookies and milk. The IPL game starts and sweet granny and kind stranger turn into a saber tooth tiger and a wolly mammoth. IPL game ends and sweet granny and kind stranger take leave of each other, full of smiles.

  3. A guy spies a pretty girl in a bar. He approaches her and starts making his moves on her. Things are going well and both are laughing till the IPL game starts. Then fierce rivalry ensues between the two. IPL game ends and both leave together, totally into each other.
Another shortcoming that I think exists in the current campaign is that nobody is shown watching the game. Isn't that the final objective? You want people to watch the games, not just buy keychains and wrongly accuse somebody else of misbehaving with them. I mean, it's all very good to support your team, but if you're not watching the games, then it really doesn't serve any of the corporations' purpose now, does it?

The alternative campaign not only shows people watching the games, it also ensures that the rivalry does not extend beyond the games and into real life. This way, it delivers the competitive spirit required for IPL, provides the enthusiasm to watch the games, and thereby high TRP ratings, does not cross the line, and hence ensures that society remains sane.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Emoticons

:! Jollu vittufying (drooling)
:@ Tongue rolling (lecherously)
:( Sad
:), :> Happy
:D Open mouth smiling
:0, :o, :O Agape/ Yawning
:)3 Jay Leno
:Q Rat in mouth
:q, :d Licking upper lip
:U Detective (looking over his collar)
:| Straight face
:I Straight face (with chubby cheeks)
:p, :b Sticking tongue out (rudely)
:P Sticking tongue out (mischievously)
:[, :c, :C, :{, :3 Various mustached emoticons
:B Beaver teeth
:<>:-(=3 Ancient Mayan sculpture depicting an angry woman from the chest up

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hindi Watching Spanish Reading English

The European Film Festival is happening in Delhi, just like it did last year. And I gladly go to watch some never-before-seen-in-these-parts foreign films. I've had a pretty decent run uptil now, but today's experience just blew that out the water.

Today's film was a Spanish one called Ficcion. The title appears "Ficcion" (subtitle: Ficcion). While I'm wondering why the subtitle doesn't read "Fiction", a comment from behind: "Oh, Ficcion matlab Fiction." And right then I knew it was going to be a difficult crowd. But what followed beat all expectations of mine.

The Spanish film inexplicably had Spanish subtitles on. The audience immediately started making noises, an expected reaction. Somebody shouted for the English subtitles to be turned on. People applauded. Somebody started thumping on the table. More people joined them. Other people who had no access to tables clapped loudly. The place was deteriorating. The operator who had left the arena returned and stopped the film. The audience applauded. The film was restarted with English subtitles and when the first English word appeared, the audience applauded again. And the rest of the film was doomed to Indianness.

Now that tongues had been loosened and postures relaxed, random comments started appearing, like this was a cheap Hindi movie that had been made for the front benchers. All subtleties at showing the growing fondness between two strangers were completely lost on these buffoons as they made silly comments on how some camera that the woman was carrying must be a Chinese model camera.

After a sizable portion of the film had passed in this manner, every time a blank screen appeared for even a second, a loud "Khatam" (finished) would emanate from the very sociable gentleman sitting next to me who obviously carried a very high self esteem and opinion about himself and his endearing sense of humour.

The only time there was any sort of silence during the film was a scene where there was a certain amount of sexual tension in the film. It was a beautifully portrayed scene where the man and the woman are very uncomfortable and don't quite know what to say or do, but I could just sense the audience waiting for the steamy sex scene in the foreign film that most of them had quite obviously come in expecting. The Khatam gentlemen even asked the bloke sitting in front to move slightly because he wasn't getting an uninterrupted viewing experience. They were sorely disappointed, much to my delight.

What I don't get is that this was a FREE film screening. Nobody paid any money to buy any ticket. Why couldn't they just get up and leave? One of the reasons I love going for foreign film screenings is that the riff-raff usually don't make an appearance.

Hindi watching Spanish reading English.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Storm's A-Coming

video

This was the weather at 4pm today. There's a storm brewing outside and all hell is about to break loose. It's a Friday evening and it is an absolute crime to be working now, or ever.



Update:
It's about 4:30pm. The storm broke, but the rain wasn't a torrential downpour. Rather, it was a very light flowing rain that could hardly be felt but turned the roads jet black in no time at all. In the distance, the rain could actually be seen as it made its journey from the heavens earthward. Although the attached picture and video aren't the greatest in terms of quality, they might give you a fair idea. This is one of those moments when I wish I had a D-SLR.

video

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Year In Delhi

One year ago, I came to Delhi. One year ago, I spoke to that woman for what has been the last time.

It wasn't the first time that I had come to the national capital. A couple of months previously, I had come for a sporting contest in the national capital region. It was bitterly cold, being early Feb, and I distinctly remember standing on the cricket ground in the middle of the night, too cold and numb to move, for once thankful that I wasn't being called on to bowl, as my team crashed to a first round defeat. But we did end up as runners-up in basketball.

I also remember being amazed at Delhi. I would stare wide-eyed at the spacious roads, the cool infrastructure projects and the sheer size of the city. I was super excited as I rode in the Metro and buoyant that such a world-class city existed in India. I already knew that I was going to move to Delhi and was unabashedly happy at this wondrous stroke of luck.

A year on, much has changed, and not much has changed. I still think Delhi is a world-class city and I still think it's a fabulous city to live in. The streets are wide, the trees are lovely and the space is ample. However, the summers are very hot and the winters are bitterly cold.

Unfortunately, the other large influence in my life over the past year, work has come quite a cropper. Poor bosses and a very unethical style of working are rampant in the organisation, and though it pains my heart to continue, I must, for a little while longer, for reasons I need not delve into.

The past year in Delhi has taught me many things. It has taught me how to live on my own and cope with the pressures of living alone. This is the first time I have lived away from home and family. The 5 months in Chennai in 2004 don't really count because I was staying with my aunt and home was just an overnight train/ bus journey away. The 2 years at MICA don't really count because everybody there eventually became family and we were well taken care of. This one year in Delhi counts.

I know that, even though this is a status report, this post reads like an eulogy. I think it probably will become one. This month, April, will determine future course of action. Depending on what happens in this month, I will find myself either in Bangalore or Delhi next month, but certainly in a different role, either as a jobless writer or as an advertising professional. This month holds the secrets. This month will tell all.