Tuesday, June 29, 2010

City Beautiful - A Trip Down Memory Lane

Chandigarh, the City Beautiful was my home for 8 years. It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane last month, when I visited Chandigarh. Ohhh, I miss those days so much.

Wonderful skies over IXC......!!!!

Dry, parched land on the approach to IXC. Would the rains come in on time?

That says it all!!!

Tribune Chowk welcomed me into City Beautiful every Monday during those 8 years....

Have you ever seen that in any other Indian city? Order defines the City Beautiful...

"The Gehri Route" outside GCG, Sector 11. Non-Chandigarhites won't even understand what that is.... It has to be seen, felt and experienced....

That was my melting place, at Sector 17, for a good time....

Sector 17 in all its splendour....

Deepak Radios served me well in those 8 years with a good stock of music!!!!

HMs, how can I forget you...... If it's fast food in Chandigarh, it has to be HMs!!!!

It's all smiles at HMs!!!!

See, that's very true!!!!

Another one of the hangouts for yummy dosas!!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Dark Continent is Shining Brightly

I have not followed much of the FIFA World Cup, but for me, it was heartening to read about the team from Ghana booting out the United States.


That was quite an emotional high for Africa and all Africa-born non-residents, like me.

Certainly, 20 years back, no one would have even dreamt of seeing a World Cup happen on a grand scale like this, that too in Africa!!!

Just 10 years back, Africa was nowhere on the economic radar.

But in the last 2-3 years we saw Sunil Mittal actively courting African telecommunication giants, which finally culminated with Bharti-Airtel's acquisition of Zain.

That Tatas have been in Africa for ages and the papers say they are pumping on the gas.

Why this love for Africa?

That's the next frontier. It's exactly where India was, say, 30 years back.

Indian corporates have identified this great opportunity to get into the African market when it is still at the bottom of the pyramid, as C.K. Prahlad would put it.

People say China will be big competitor in Africa. But the Chinese are there for resources, and the locals feel they are being plundered. Where is the investment from the Chinese, where it matters to the continent?

That is the USP that Indian corporates would bring in, and would create a large market for themselves in the long run.

For India Inc., the Dark Continent is shining brightly.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Sun has Risen in the East!

The G20 summit is underway in Toronto, Canada.
As the world leaders debated on the state of the global economy, it was indeed heartwarming to read about our own sardar (well intentioned pun intended), Manmohan Singh, standing tall and lecturing the so-called pundits, conscience keepers of the world on fiscal management.
Can anyone forget those days in 1991, when India was on the brink of default with foreign exchange reserves barely sufficient to meet 3 weeks of imports?

Those were very depressing times. It was a low point indeed, to hear about India pledging 67 tonnes of our gold reserves, which had to be airlifted to the Bank of England, a big psychological dent on our sovereignty.
I remember the newspapers of those days made for a very sad reading.
We never imagined then that the high and mighty G7, as it was called then, would cease to exist as the custodian of global wealth.
G7 became the G8 and in its present avatar is the G20 today, while the G8 lives on as a relic of the past, an aging and toothless tiger.
This is reflective not only of the shift of the centre of gravity to the east, primarily India and China, but also of India's ability to grow despite indifferent governance. The scenario was succinctly described by Gurcharan Das when he said "The economy grows at night when the government is asleep".
We have grown this far without a significant contribution from the system.
But the challenge is managing the transition to the centre stage of the world, from the fringes of the world economy. And we cannot meet this challenge without building robust governance structures within the country.
The sun has risen in the east and it's our time to make hay while the sun shines. Will we?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bombaypolis Moments.... Part 5

An year on and Bombaypolis Moments is back!!!

"There is no way to happinness. Happinness is the way"

True, if you drive a SX4!!!!

Never too late to say sorry....

And the BMC ought to apologise to us for giving us such pathetic roads...

Shoppers' Stop Juhu promises to Re-Dress us all.....

We were promised Shanghai in Bombay by Manmohan Singh, but each year, we get a Venice here.... And Aircel gives us a "gondola" to get past the Milan Subway each year!!!! At least someone thinks of us....

Selective discipline defines the city. Queues work for BEST buses but not for the suburban trains... Why?

That's what I wanted to tell the autowallah for refusing to ferry me....

An i-pod makes the brisk walk interesting.....

Graffitti outside HDFC Bank, Lokhandwala. I wonder if that was for the shitty service the branch gives?

Going crazy over pani-puris at the Spice of Lokhandwala.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Are You A Redwood?

There is nature all around us trying to give us a message, that we barely have had the time to understand and get that message.
That's what I realised today, when I attended a training programme on self-development today. The programme was kicked off with a beautiful illustration of the Redwood trees of California that survive for thousands of years and grow as high as 30-storied buildings.
(I remembered reading about the Redwoods in the "Tell Me Why" books that my parents gifted me, when I was a kid!!!)
What makes the Redwoods so formidable, so huge?
What ensures their longevity?
The answer lies in their roots deep below the ground, that anchor them strongly to the earth. Their roots intertwine with each other creating a robust support structure that allows them to grow tall and live long.
Similarly, our character that defines us, from within, has to be well grounded, well anchored for us, humans, to rise, to survive long and be strong!
How true, I thought!
When I came back home, I could not stop myself from getting on Wikipedia and finding out more about the Redwoods.
What I read online was even more impressive and inspiring.
The Redwoods have developed a resistance to decay, insects and forest fires. They withstand earthquakes, despite California being on a major faultline.
All this because their roots so intertwined that they have been able to evolve mechanisms to fight pests. The intertwining gives them the strength to survive earthquakes.
And this was even more remarkable. There are categories of Redwoods called the Albino Redwoods, completely devoid of chlorophyll, yet they also survive, live and grow to a fifth of that normal Redwoods do.
Albinism, the internet tells me exists in other plant species as well, but they don't live long.
But, the Redwoods are different. Their roots down below support their Albino cousins with all the nutrition they require.
That is precisely happens in some human communities, where the differently-abled are supported to not only live but also grow.
I always knew why strength of character is important. And the Redwoods succintly tell us that!
Are you a Redwood?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day, Papa....

I woke up today, oblivious to the fact that today was Father's Day.

After getting up, I went to pick up the newspapers from the door-step.

And while the ritual flipping through the pages, Neeti and I discovered that today is Father's Day.

Immediately after having breakfast, we called up our Dads to wish them for the day.

And while we were going through the rituals of calling up and wishing our Dads, my mind was flashing back to the days when I was a little kid and I was gently coaxed by Papa to have my cup of milk, when I was fed half-boiled eggs while being shown jazzy cars. As I grew up, I remember being gifted a a smart bike and Papa was the one who taught how to ride it.

It was Papa who coached me in languages, who always makes the tasty egg bhurji.

It was Papa who always accompanied me to my entrance examinations, who stood by me when I needed support. It is Papa who is always a phone call away when I am a bit under the weather.

Though I can't be with you today, 1200 kms away, heartfelt thanks to you Papa, God bless you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Raavan and real history....!!!

An impromptu movie outing, for Raavan, has driven my mind into a whirlpool tonight.

Undoubtedly, Raavan was a treat.

Though the mythical legend, Ramayana, was the inspiration for the film, it surely isn't an easy story to handle.

But Mani Ratnam weaved such a magic with his direction that it brought a certain degree of eager anticipation, despite the predictability in the story. Each scene of the movie was so meticulously shot in misty and idyllic locales that it convinced me that Raavan is indeed Mani Ratnam's labour of love.

I was quite surprised why the subtleties of the movie were ignored and critics came up all kinds of ratings from 1.5 out of 5 to 3.5 out of 5. Calling the movie a must-watch for National Geographic lovers was the unkindest cut of all. Do we still appreciate quality movies, afterall?

Abhishek Bachchan played the role of Beera (or Raavan) to perfection. Vikram looked very real as the no-nonsense cop. Aishwarya looked a bit unconvincing in her role as the captive. Perhaps she needs an Acting 101 lesson at the very earliest.

The movie made me think a lot about the legend Ramayan itself. Was Ravan all evil and no good? What is actually implied in the metaphor of the chopping off of Shurpanakha's nose?

Why did a great person like Ram question Sita's chastity?

All these are questions that will remain unanswered till eternity.

But without doubt, Ramayan represented a clash of civilisations - the one in the north which was an expansionist tribe while those south of the Vindhyas were jungle-dwellers, content with what the jungle provided. An expansionist intrusion into south by sages, presumably for cultural conversion, met with a resistance that probably culminated in the legendary conflict of the Ramayan.

But history is always written by the victors and never by the vanquished. The vanquished will always be written about as villains, while the victors will be painted as the good and upright, standing up for good for mankind.

In a perverse sense, the "unwritten" history about the vanquished will always be lost in the sands of time. And "history" as we know it, will be paeans in honour of the victors.

For this reason, "history", as we know it, will always be one-sided.

But certainly, the movie, Raavan, will be in history for the right reasons!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Men and Chick-Flicks

Last Saturday, I was pulled into a multiplex to watch Sex & The City 2.

That was when I discovered what a true chick-flick is.

Neeti and I got our seats midway between the screen and the top. As we walked into the hall and towards the screen, all I could see were females all around and a loud cacophony of chit-chat.

"Man, where have I come?" was the thought that crossed my very scared mind.

We took our seats, settled in and the movie promos started.

But I was hell bent on finding a male in the hall. I looked far and wide, left and right, up and down. It was a task as difficult as looking for a needle in a haystack.

Aha, I finally found what I was looking for - found a guy sitting two rows down across the aisle. The guy was desperately trying to look interested. But only I know what he was interested in at that moment - his Coke and popcorn. After some effort, I discovered a few more males who were in no better shape than me or this guy with the Coke and the popcorn.

That made me a bit settled, mentally!

The movie began, and amidst all the girl talk that was happening in the movie I desperately tried to keep myself awake. But to me all the women in the movie looked awful. Their makeup was hideous. Their dresses looked like well wrapped, done up bedsheets.

Sarah Jessica Parker looked old, wrinkled and in desperate need of botox therapy. Cynthia Davis looked very odd and old. Kim Catrall was okay. But Kristin Davis looked the best and most elegant of them all.

As I wondering in disbelief on how could any one make a movie like this, cast actors like these, have a story like this, the women all around were letting out loud sighs in appreciation of the dresses, jewellery and dialogues.

I do not mean to be sexist, but guess there will always be things about women that men will never be able to understand, which is why chick-flicks, movies like Sex & The City 2 will always be made.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Romance of the Monsoons!

And finally, this year, the Monsoons are here!

Only a few days back, Bombay was (a bit too) warm, bright and sunny with nature at very best, gaily showing off its vibrant colours, in its full splendour!

While the skyline out of my office window looked bright and quite a bit impressive, we, in the city, were all worried. With the lakes supplying water to this megapolis running dry after last year's Monsoon debacle, it had become essential that the weather lived up to its reputation to ensure a full year's water supply.

And just before the alarm bells started clanging hard, the Monsoon did indeed keep its annual date with the city, this year at least.
After an overcast sky, with clouds floating around ominously, the rain did finally start pouring yesterday! And before we could realise, it started pouring. The temperature started tumbling down, the sunlight blocked out for God knows how many days. And the green started looking even more vibrant!
As I look of my office window during the day, the beautiful sight outside beckons me, the green beckons me.

As the rain began to pour, the intensity of the downpour increased, I remembered Forrest Gump's dialogue on the Monsoon in Vietnam, which says: "One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath."

If there's one season that stands out in the city, it is the Monsoon, the season that brings out the best the city has to offer, whether it's nature or spirit of human endurance, an extreme example of which we had witnessed in 2005!

The Monsoons not challenge the human inhabitants of city, but also it's animals. The two pigeons which have made my balcony their permanent address are visibly very unsettled with all the rain pouring. (They've been in the balcony long enough that they would qualify for the voter's identity cards, etc. etc.!!!!!)

A wish which I always had is to get out in the rain and dance like the way Shahid Kapur did in the movie, Jab We Met!

The romance of the Monsoons is here!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Great Game, Version 2.0?

Today's New York Times carried an interesting article.
The news report suggested that the United States had discovered untapped, hitherto untapped mineral reserves in war torn, faction ridden and the US protectorate of Afghanistan.
It is speculated that these deposits of lithium, iron, copper, cobalt, gold, etc. are immensely huge and could sustain the industrial engine for years to come.
The report also quoted an internal Pentagon document which called Afghanistan the potential "Saudi Arabia of Lithium".
The report goes on to say that these deposits could be worth over USD 1 trillion.
Now this is interesting.
Would this discovery affect a potential US plan for the pullout of its forces following the recent surge? Would the powerful US military-industrial complex allow for a pullout, and loss of control on these resources? Would the five pillars of the military-industrial complex allow for that?

Outside the US, would this discovery lead to the second edition of the Great Game, the classical battle for the supremacy over Central Asia?
I wonder how would China respond to a potential US pillage in its neighbourhood?
And what would be security implications of resource triggered US-Sino conflict in Central Asia?

Surely, security analysts will have to keep a close watch on what happens. India has to calibrate its security policy keep in mind the possible scenarios that this discovery could trigger?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Technology - The Holy Grail?

Today has been quite an odd day. Despite the enthusiasm the weekend normally brings, I am moving around the house like a zombie.
Why? I am facing some kind of withdrawal symptoms - of not being able to connect to the internet through the PC at home. The PC that we had acquired in 2007 is a passion for me, which I frequently used for creating a multimedia and digital experience at home, burning DVDs of family outings, ceremonies, etc., creating photo CDs, a kind of digital studio at home despite being a non-techie, besides the usual browsing and blogging.
Over the last few days, my internet connection had been quite erratic. While the recommended troubleshooting by the ISP did not yield results, the suspicion shifted to hardware issues. The irony was that the same connection, from the same ISP was working perfectly well on my laptop.
During the course of the last week, the manufacturer, Dell, shipped me a replacement motherboard to me, which was installed yesterday.
But nothing worked despite the replacement.
The Dell technician suggested it might be a Vista OS issue.
I got on to a technical support with a Microsoft engineer. That went on for 3 hours, and after 6-7 different different troubleshooting steps, the hapless chap was as clueless as I was. The chap directed back to the ISP.
The annoying part of the whole episode is that every technician passes the buck - the ISP to the manufacturer to OS vendor and back to the ISP. That's what you call going a full circle. And going a full circle is driving me nuts now.
One common thing that all these guys say is that "if ..... doesn't work, we may try to reinstall Vista." Fine, but what the hell is the problem? No one seems to have a clue.
It's like going to a doctor with a persistent urine infection and the doctor telling the patient to get a kidney transplant, it's as weird as that!
Is going all technology serving us any purpose if the techies themselves have no clue on what's brewing inside their concoction and when we still continue to bet on the laws of probability, on an OS reinstall being the ultimate panacea, the Holy Grail?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Waka Waka, the Time for South Africa!

As the Bafana Bafana get ready to take on the world, no one can dispute that the South African nation and its identity have come of age.
If one looks at history of sport, in recent times, hosting of major sporting events have coincided with a new wave of growth for the host country, an epochal change. I can recall that the Seoul Olympics were followed by the emergence of South Korea as a major economy and a member of the OECD. The Beijing Olympics was a harbinger of China's emergence as an economic superpower. (I hope the same for India with 2010 Commonwealth Games.)

Certainly, the FIFA World Cup will be a game changer for the Rainbow Nation as well!

But in September 2008, as President Thabo Mbeki was making way for Jacob Zuma, I alongwith others watched with bated breaths, with a deep sense of fear on what was going to happen next. Was South Africa going to go the Zimbabwe way?

Today I can happily say that I have been proved wrong.

And the credit for keeping the Rainbow Nation intact goes to the Madiba, Nelson Mandela, who despite his 27 years in prison at Robben Island had the grace to forgive and forget.

On assuming office in 1994, post-Aprtheid, despite apprehensions, Mandela laid the foundations of a new resurgent nation but also forged ties with his captors. There are numerous examples that Mandela's moderating influence that are obvious, many will never be known in the public domain.

One of them was the transition from the old Afrikaans national anthem, Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (of the Apartheid era) to the present harmonius multi-lingual anthem of the anti-Apartheid hymn, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika along with the Die Stem.

Most of us are familiar with the movie, Invictus, which was based on the real life incident of 1995, in which Mandela inspires the whole nation, which had been torn apart by 50 years of racial tension, to support the Springboks, white majority rugby team led by François Pienaar. Mandela used sports as the glue that made the communities stick together. Of the people I know who have seen Invictus have nothing but pure admiration for Mandela.

A lesser known incident that healed quite a few wounds was the renaming of the Day of the Vow, a commemoration of the bloody victory of the Boers over the native Zulus in 1838. The Day of the Vow was regarded by the masses as a symbol of racial subjugation. In 1994, Mandela's government renamed the Day of the Vow as the Day of Reconciliation, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity.

Even today, his sobering influence on the country is visible all over the Rainbow Nation.

A recent example of the sobering influence was the way the Zuma government handled the situation following the murder of the white-right wing leader, Eugène Terre'Blanche.

Mandela's graciousness was evident when he gave up office after his first term, preferring to groom and mentor his successors. This leads me to think how different India would have been, had Nehru done the same.

Now that the foundation for a multicultural nation is fairly strong, South Africa is well poised for success at the world stage. And I also hope the Bafana Bafana suceed in the World Cup.

As Shakira sings, "Waka Waka", this is truly the Time for South Africa!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Towering Ambitions?

Yesterday, newspapers carried reports on a local builder's plans to come up with a 117 storey, 1450 feet high residential building at Lower Parel, Bombay.
Undoubtedly, this plan has stirred up quite an excitement in the city.
India has been on the ascendant for some years now.
Some may argue China has quite a few skyscrapers, so do Taiwan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Malaysia and the United States. And in view of our new found global status, we ought to have our own skyscrapers in the listing of tallest buildings to establish our rightful place in the world.
But if we go by what history has to tell us, we should be very scared now.
I am reminded of the Biblical storey of the Tower of Babel. Following the great Biblical flood, people decided that their city should have a tower so immense that it would have "its top in the heavens." And soon, these people got into disarray, spoke "different languages" and ultimately got scattered all over the world. All this pointing to the economic catastrophe the people faced.
And whatever was left of the tower was weathered by the elements.
Completion of the Taj Mahal (though not a skyscraper by any standard, but is nonetheless equally majestic and grand) in the mid-1600s, which emptied Mughal coffers, was immediately followed by the beginning of the end of the dynasty.
On the internet, I came across numerous correlations of completion of skyscrapers and significant downturns in economic fortunes. The website of Ludwig von Mises Institute has an interesting paper titled "Skyscrapers and Business Cycles", which graphically depicts this hypothesis.
The story starts in 1907-08, which links the completion of New York's Singer Building with the financial panic of that age. This was followed by the completion of Manhattan's Chrysler Building and Empire State Building with Great Depression of the 1930s. The opening of the World Trade Centre in New York and Sears Tower in Chicago coincided with stagflation and oil crisis of the 1970s. Completion of Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the East Asian financial crisis that happened in the 1990s, also support the hypothesis.
And Dubai's soaring ambitions saw the development of the Burj Khalifa, which was quickly followed by the recent financial crisis, leading to a multi-billion bailout by Abu Dhabi. In the neighbourhood of the Emirates, Saudi Arabia completed the Kingdom Center at Riyadh in 2002, but the Kingdom's fortunes have been wobbly ever since.
There are very close parallels with Microsoft's Age of Empires. If you have ever played the game, you would realise that after the civilisation attains a certain level of development, the player has an option to build what is called a Wonder, a grand structure, a relic, a tribute to the grandeur of the civilisation. Most of the civilisation's resources (food, gold, stone, wood and manpower) are deployed to build the wonder, depriving the civilisation's economy from critical manpower for agriculture, sustaining an army, etc. That's when the civilisation becomes most vulnerable to attacks, which can at times be fatal.
So what's the inexplicable link between the towering ambitions (pun very meaningfully intended!) and economic crises?
The answers perhaps lie in psychology.
A certain level of economic development gives planners, governments and corporations a heady, stratified feeling, which is when they head for the overkill, want to leave behind a relic that will be remembered for ages and for generations to come. The focus is lost, resources are mis-allocated, warning signals are ignored.
Before anyone realises, the bubble bursts!
Now, will the completion of the Shanghai Tower in 2014 mark the beginning of the end of Chinese economic prowess?
Already we are seeing signs of trouble coming from China - the yuan-reminbi currency appreciation issue, the property bubble and the Foxconn - Hon Hai controversies. Certainly all this doesn't augur well for the Chinese economic engine.
But for now, I will curiously wait to see how the proposed 117 storey tower at Lower Parel affects the Indian economy. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Keep the patience and win it all!

Again today, I heard this very inspiring story on way to work.

RJ Keisha on the morning show of western music on 107.1 Rainbow FM narrated the story of Lord Buddha, who was on a journey alongwith his disciples.

They came to a lake and Lord Buddha asked one of his disciple to fetch him water to drink, as he was thirsty and tired.

The disciple went to the lake and saw a few bullock carts crossing the lake. The movement of the carts make the lake water muddy.

The disciple came back and told Lord Buddha that the water was unfit for drinking as it was muddy.

Lord Buddha smiled and told him to be patient.

After some time, the disciple went again and to his dismay saw some suspended matter.

Lord Buddha told him to wait, again.

As time passed, the mud settled, the suspended matter settled and the lake water became crystal clear and fit for consumption.

Just as the lake water got muddy, there would be circumstances that could be beyond our control at certain points of time in our lives. There could be people in our lives with whom we don't get along.

We just need to be patient, the dust will settle, the water will get crystal clear and we'll get a clear direction to move ahead.

Being patient is the toughest part in life. It is easy to get frantic, impatient and angry with the situation you find yourself in. I too find it exceptionally diffiicult in dealing with such circumstances and people, in keeping my patience.
Moral of the story, you lose the patience, you lose it all. Keep the patience and win it all!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's Still A Man's World!

We like to call ourselves progressive, we like to extol values of gender equality and empowerment. We like to believe that there is no glass ceiling.
But episodes like the sacking of Debrahlee Lorenzana from Citigroup for being too hot, prove that all these concepts are indeed alien in the workplace.
Frankly, Debrahlee looked pretty ordinary to me from the her photos that appeared in the press, but there may be men who thought otherwise.
But honestly, aren't men supposed to rest their raging hormones when they are at work? In any case, if they don't, it's their problem, and not that of women like Debrahlee.
This episode got me to think a lot. And it forced me to recall my conversations with career women, both in the family and friends.
I have felt this in the past. Female friends have told me this.
It's still a man's world out there.
If a woman is exceptionally successful at work, colleagues would speculate that she sleeps around with the boss. If she's aggressive, the males around her get threatened and she's asked to take it easy, whereas, similar aggression by her male colleagues would be appreciated and applauded with backslaps.

If she gets involved in discussions on the nuts and bolts of business, menfolk can't believe their ears.. She's not taken seriously.
If she becomes pally with the folks around, it's taken for granted that she's "easy". If she avoids inappropriate and off-colour conversation, she's accused of having an attitude.
These attitudes show up in all professions, politics included and across geographies. The recent Nikki Haley case in the United States shows that sexist attitudes may still be all pervasive. Perhaps, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman may be a tad better off, given their experience in battling sexism in the boardroom over the years.
For God sake, women are not playthings. Women are not "women" in the workplace, they are just employees like her other male colleagues around - love to look and dress smart, have ambitions and aspirations and crave for success.
But unfortunately, it's still a man's world!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A 5 on 5 for Raajneeti!

Neeti and I just got back from watching "our" movie last night, or perhaps early this morning.

Yes, Raajneeti was a much awaited movie for us, just because that's what both of us are called by our folks and pals.

The movie is eyeball riveting, astounding and gripping in every second that it was played.

The movie bares what goes on behind the spiel of our politicians, how we are manipulated or rather goaded into believing what suits our politicians.

All this, in the name of the supreme national interest, which is some kind of fantasy woven around a pack of lies.

And, we the gullible citizens of India fall for it at each stage.

At unexpected moments, some or the other character in the movie is bumped off. If you look back at Indian political history, you would also tend to suspect whether a few deaths were actually accidental or were they engineered.

Prakash Jha's painstaking research was actually paid off by his flawless depiction of intra-party politics and shadowy dealings of politicians. The sex and the sleaze in the movie makes you speculate about the number of skeletons (in thousands I'm sure) waiting to fall out of the cupboards of Indian politicians!

The casting was near perfect.

Nana Patekar, the real power centre, the "remote control", shapes the destiny of our characters skillfully with utmost finesse!

Manoj Bajpai is the quintessential underdog, who doesn't give up without a fight till the very end.

The icing on the cake was Ajay Devgan, who despite having few very dialogues to mouth, had an overpowering screen presence that said it all!

Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor, who despite having great potential as actors in their own right, were unsuited for the roles they played. They ended up looking more like eye-candy than anything else. In my view, Shahid Kapur would have been a bit better.

Undoubtedly, Katrina's character was modelled on Sonia Gandhi. That gait and accent was unmistakably similar.

The only flaw in the whole movie and Prakash Jha's direction was the (mis)casting of Nikhila Trikha as Bharti Rai. Perhaps someone more established would have made this character a lot more believable and powerful, at the most critical turning point of the storyline.

I felt someone like Vidya Balan would have breathed life into Bharti Rai's character. Interestingly, I feel that Vidya today is India's most under-rated actress with oodles of unrecognised potential and energy.

The end result, despite some flaws here and there, is brilliant.

Finally, we have someone who's created a work of art that stands up to the likes of 3 Idiots and Aamir Khan.

I would rate the movie at 5 on 5.

In all, it's an unmissable flick, depicting the Mahabharat of our times!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

All Decked up for the Monsoons!

While everyone in the city is complaining about the heat and humidity, I love to think otherwise.
After a few showers last week, the city looks a bit more cleaner, a bit more brighter.
The rain washed down the suspended dust in the air, reducing the pollutants. Now look at it from another perspective, the skies look bluer, the bright and intoxicating hue of blue - that kind of blue that makes the whole world around me look pretty.
And the sun shines a bright yellow these days, complementing the bright blue hue of the sky.
Walking down the very uncrowded lanes of Bandra Kurla Complex post lunch, I can't help but appreciate the glow of the dense green foliage in some locations - all this magic woven by a few short showers, which we call the pre Monsoons.
And big white clouds which look like huge balls of cotton float around the sky in gay abandon, their splendour reflected in the glass facades of buildings in Bandra Kurla Complex!
Coming to office these days has a special charm.
From my seat I get a clear view of the Mithi River with lush green mangroves on both the banks. The Gulmohurs on the banks on the Mithi look aflame with their red flowers! And the Mithi itself gently flows, reflecting the blue sky giving a false sense of calm. And it was the same river that wreaked havoc in Bombay on that fateful night of July 26, 2005.
And one does get a clear view of Mahim, Worli, Lower Parel and Prabhadevi. The city's newfound symbol - the Bandra Worli sea link looks splendid in the bright yellow sunlight.
All this beauty is temporary - is only here for a few more days till the Monsoons come in.
Or shall we say Bombay is all decked up for the Monsoons to come in?

India: The New Minnow in Cricket?

India's second loss, in a row, to Zimbabwe is quite shameful indeed.

The Indian tigers now just seem to be purring like pussy cats in front of the Zimbabwean lions.

Surely, the politics and sleaze associated with cricket in India has taken its toll, a very heavy toll indeed. Very soon we could see a repeat of what happened to Indian hockey decades ago if nothing is done to arrest the downfall down.

I was never a big fan of the game nor do I still claim to be. I am not an expert on the game, but there are a few things that I am absolutely convinced about.

Firstly, we need to get the basics right. Cricket is a game. If played well, success will come and so will money. But, the business aspect is secondary and subservient to the sporting aspect.

Secondly, fitness and technique is something the players should focus on or rather should be made to focus on. Post-match parties, drinking binges and brawls, chasing pretty chicks and soliciting commercials are secondary to the game.

Thirdly, attitude is everything. The Aussies have shown it time and again. We simply seem to lack it.

Somehow, we seem to lack a vision in cricket as well. And it seems all is well as long as the BCCI is able to rake in the moolah.

Sad but true. If things don't change, twenty years on, India will be a minnow in international cricket.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gaza Flotilla Attack: Was Israel Wrong?

It's surprising to hear the outcry over Israel's attack on the six-ship flotilla headed for Gaza.

Israel is a sovereign state and it has a sovereign right to defend itself and its borders from potential attacks. Is it wrong to assume this?

It has been suspected that the ships, which were sponsored by a Turkish "humanitarian" outfit were actually carrying supplies for the Hamas, which leads a terror war against Israel from Gaza.

If that was not the case why did the flotilla not heed the Israeli warning to head to Ashdod port for inspection? And when confronted, why did those on the flotilla adopt an aggressive posture?

We all know very well that the supposedly "humanitarian" outfits may actually be fronts for terrorist organisations. That seems to be very much the case over here.

As for the international reaction, well, it again is a reflection of hollow and double standards.

The United Nations was as spineless as ever.

The United States (which under Obama has developed the knack of pissing off allies and courting rogue states) regretted the attack, but at the same time pursues operations operations half way down the globe that supposedly threaten its security, another classic case of double-speak.

The media was also critical of Israel's approach with the sole exception of the Wall Street Journal.

Israel's "no nonsense" and "I give a damn" attitude when it comes to national security is indeed admirable and worth appreciating.

Mossad's operation to eliminate senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, earlier this year, using faked British, French and German passports was one such incident that was characteristic of Israel's internal security policy.

Hats off to Israel for standing up for rights, against the might of global opinion.
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