Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Grab Copies of

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a gem of a book - intense, gripping drama at its best. An absolute must-read for any bibliophile.

Keeping Faith and Songs of a Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult have everything running for them - unusual themes, superb writing and great plots.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is an awesome work of historical fiction that is very creepy in parts. For those of you who thought that 'The Da-Vinci Code' was good, this is a sublime piece of work.

Gone, Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane is a brutal, hard-hitting book that takes a long, hard look at hardcore criminals and cops. For all Thomas Harris (of Silence of the Lambs fame) fans, this is a must-read.

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger boasts of a fairly unusual plot, if a tad similar to Diana Gabladon's Outlander series (which is yet another fine series).

Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd features some appealing characters. Though many of the friends to whom I recommended this book dismissed it as yet another 'chick-flick', I'd still cast a vote for it.

Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra is the heartrending tale of 4 boys who are brutalized in a juvenile prison. Images from this book still refuse to fade away - truly, a haunting book. For that matter, almost anything by this author is read-worthy.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is beautifully written; even without a great plot, it manages to be quite a page-turner. I found it similar to, but even better than Peter Hoeg's award-winning Smilla's Sense of Snow.

And of course, some of my eternal favorites:

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Goddess of Chengannur

DesiPundit has a link to a post by Philobiblon, which is pertinent to the way we deal with the issue raised in this post - menstruation. This passage, in particular, struck a chord with how we deal with, or rather, evade the whole issue.

Mum told me carefully that I had to make sure Dad didn't see my sanitary pads. (I don't recall any explanation being given, there was just an air of this being something shameful and dirty.) And this wasn't surprising when I read the sex education books that she'd had at my age, which still referred to "clearing out impurities" in the body and similar.

Now, to the title of this post: the goddess of Chengannur, a small township in Kerala, actually menstruates - this is a small festival at the temple, in fact. The temple in question, the Chengannur Bhagavathi temple, is a Shiva-Parvathy temple, though Parvathy is the 'stronger' deity in this temple.

The legend behind the temple goes this way: while Shiva and Parvathy were getting married, there were such huge crowds for the marriage that the earth began to tilt - apparently, the gods love a free meal every bit as much as we mortals do! The alarmed Shiva requested Sage Agasthya to use his powers to correct the imbalance, and promised him that the first stop after their marriage would be at the seer's abode. Lord Shiva kept his promise, and was forthright in visiting the sage after their holy union. However, it was 'that time of the month' for Parvathy, and she stayed at the place for 28 days after the purificatory bath. It was thus that the temple came to be built there.

Devotees believe that this phenomenon continues even today; the belief is that the holy idol of Parvathy has her periods 3 or 4 times a year. During this time, the idol is closed to the general public, and all daily poojas are performed on a different idol. On the 4th day, a female elephant carries the idol to the nearby Pampa river for the purificatory bath. After the purificatory bath, normal worship is resumed, and the idol is once again open to the public.

I am not about to argue with the truthfulness or the relevance of this ceremony - to each their own. However, I did find it slightly ironic that on one hand, the menstruation of a goddess is actually celebrated while on the other hand we shun the open mention of the very word. But then, it struck me that even at this temple, the idol is not open to the public until after the purificatory both - the antediluvian association of menstruation with uncleanliness raises its ugly head even here.

Prince of Trinidad

It was just a matter of time before Brian Lara broke free of the shackles that had bound him over his last few innings. And break free he did, in his own inimitable, unsurmountable style. Against a bowling attack composed of McGrath, Warne and Lee, the Prince of Trinidad conjured up yet another one of his astounding innings, leaving by yet another record in the bargain.

I have always believed that Lara is a better Test batsman than Sachin. For one, Sachin seems to lack the concentration to play really long innings; his 100 to 200, or even 100 to 150 conversion rate is absymal. Also, rescue missions headed by Sachin in Test cricket are extremely scarce. Most of all, Sachin is no more the scintillating warrior he used to be in 1998 (he averaged 80 in that year); today he is more of an accumulator, and no more the 'nightmare-inducing' Sachin he used to be. On the other hand, Lara - flawed genius though he is - remains very much the aggressor. A certain gentleman named Muralidharan can vouch for that.

There have been innumerable articles on Lara and Sachin (Cricket 24X7 has a fine collection on Lara here), but my favorite one talks about both of them, battling together against Australia in 2003. I reproduce some passages here:

McGrath decides he needs to sledge Sachin to wind him up a little. He begins by bowling a short one outside off, and spits on his follow-through: " broke these days, I hear? Asking the government to pay duty on your sports car?"
The next ball is an outswinger. Sachin watches it very closely into Gilly's gloves. "Hit that if you can, you little so-and-so...," chirps Pidge. Lara comes a couple of steps down the pitch, taps the pitch with his bat while looking closely at Sachin from under his maroon helmet. He catches the Bombay Blaster's eye, winks and goes back
he next one is a little short from McGrath but has steepling bounce and is just outside off. Sachin steps back and across and powerfully uppercuts it over third man for six. The crowd, which has had plenty of action so far, now goes completely berserk. Lara comes down the pitch, beaming broadly, and pats Sachin on the shoulder.
Waugh and Lee are deep in conversation as are the two batting princes in the middle. Sachin seems to be belaboring a point while the Prince of Trinidad, long white sleeves flapping as he squints into the sun, seems to be barely paying attention. But as Sachin stops talking, Lara turns to him and smiles broadly. Brian Charles Lara is enjoying this, while Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar seems all business, very serious. Then Lara turns towards his crease, all grace and quick steps as he adjusts his helmet strap. He checks his guard with umpire Taufel and then looks around to survey the field. Four slips, two gullies, cover point, mid-off and the lone man on the leg side at a funny position between mid-on and mid-wicket. Tugga has been studying tapes with Buchanan and has noted the Trinidadian's penchant for pulling in the air. He may have asked his hit man Lee to try and bounce Lara out. The suspicions are confirmed when Tugga asks the man at cover point to come further in, to silly mid-off. The man at mid-off, Justin Langer, is now moved to forward short leg. Just as Lee reaches the top of his run- up, Sachin decides to slow things down a bit. He takes a couple of steps down the pitch and says something to Lara. Lara nods in response and takes stance.
Lee comes in again and bowls a 97 mph thunderbolt. Unfortunately, it's a tad too full. Lara, already into his high back lift and the typical feinting movement backwards, flows into a booming cover-drive like a ballet dancer. There is no one there, and someone from the flag-waving, cheering crowd, picks the ball up and throws it towards Damien Martyn, who polishes the ball and walks up to Lee to offer some encouragement.
Lee steams back in, looking a little aggrieved, and bounces Lara. The ball is way too high and Lara calmly watches it fly over his head to Gilly. The next ball is also short and very quick. Lara swivel-pulls on one leg to the mid-wicket boundary, his bat speed camouflaging the superb control over the shot as it speeds all along the carpet to the mid-wicket boundary.
Suddenly, Tugga pulls a master-stroke, or so it seems. Lee, who has been bowling from the Vulture Street End, is being replaced. He throws the ball to Shane Warne who will now bowl from the Vulture Street End.
Warne starts off with a regulation leg-spinner to Sachin who defends towards Punter at silly point. “Well bowled, Warnie,” shouts Gilly. Sachin sweeps at the next one, but fails to time it. He however gets hold of the next one, dancing down the pitch and lofting it high and handsome over the sight screen.
What followed was the perhaps the fastest spell Lee ever bowled in his career. The cherry was whizzing past noses and helmet frames seemingly at his will. Brett Lee was making the old cherry talk and it was talking business with a very mean accent. At the other end, Glen McGrath was replaced by an inspired and fired up Jason ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie who also threw everything into a tremendous assault on the batting gladiators who seemed intent on setting the Tasman Sea alight with their sparkling stroke play.
Only twelve overs were completed in the second hour, but they were twelve of the best Dizzy and Lee could conjure up. Rippers, jaffers, snorters, rib-ticklers, and one (perhaps miscalculated) beamer. Near misses and fierce hooks, balls brushing shirt sleeves; sharply lifting outswingers and spanking square cuts and drives; reverse swinging yorkers and blazing straight and on-drives—all were testament to one of the epic battles between bat and ball, with no quarter asked and none given. Fierce pride, razor-sharp intensity and breathtaking talent provided a glow of magic to the proceedings for the Brisbane crowd.
It was one over from Warne that changed things. Warne was getting appreciable drift, making the ball bend in its loop away from the left-handed Trinidadian, before pitching wide outside his off-stump and turning sharply in. This is when Warne was at his best: the drift, the loop, the variation in length and sharp, consistent turn. Warne pitched one wide outside off, just short of length and dipping. Lara ballet-danced towards the pitch of the ball and with his left leg dramatically in the air after pushing off for his shot, he nonchalantly lofted it over deep mid-wicket Jason Gillespie’s head for a big six. The timing was so extraordinary and the bat speed so rapid, that most spectators, some of who were in the throes of “Foster’s haze”, didn’t even realize Lara had played anything more than a defensive push. Sachin applauded at the other end.
The next ball, a flipper, was pulled to the mid-wicket boundary for four, just to the right of a diving Martyn at mid-wicket. Warne again flighted the ball. This time it was hit straighter, right over the sight screen, for a six. Next ball, outside off, didn’t turn. Lara watched it into Gilly’s gloves. Last ball, again a flipper. Lara decides to get creative – he moves inside the line and square drives it for four. The crowd now awakens from their lunch-and-liquid diet-inspired stupor and get caught up in the Lara show.
Once Lara got in his stride, Sachin began rotating the strike brilliantly, occasionally producing a stroke of such delicate touch that Boycott invented the phrase “Oozing to the boundary”. Like the oh-so-very-late cut that he played off Warnie’s leg-spinner or the tuck off his hips, feet in the air – reminiscent of a Gavaskar in cruise mode against the Windies pace battery – for a single behind square off McGrath.
Next ball, Dizzy throws it outside off-stump—a back-of-the-hand slower one. Lara late cuts and the square third man ran around to collect. Sachin, ever the earnest partner, is rapidly moving past Lara, who is ball-watching, on his second run and calling Lara through for the third run that would compile a well-crafted century. But Lara doesn’t hear Sachin amidst the crowd noise and is settling for the striker’s end, when he looks up and notices Sachin half-way down the track. He sends him back, grimaces and then starts up the track himself. The throw from Martyn thuds into Gilly’s gloves who promptly breaks the stumps and begins to celebrate. Lara turns around, takes off his helmet and starts walking back to the pavilion. The crowd is stunned into some silence and a slow clap starts.
Steve Waugh runs up to the square leg umpire and gesticulates towards the middle of the pitch. The square leg umpire, Hariharan, calls out and halts Lara. He consults with Simon Taufel and eventually beckons to Sachin. Sachin dejectedly looks at the umpires and walks off. Sachin run out (Martyn/Gilchrist) 74. ROW 197-3. “Yeah, get the li’l fella off, Tugga…,” the comments from the outfield slowly filtered up to Lara’s ears. Lara realized Steve Waugh was playing another mind-game. He would now throw the ball to Glen, and try and bait me… Trying to play on the Lara-Sachin rivalry. Well, I’ll be…
The next few overs were a fiery confrontation between the bowlers and Lara. Lara, on 99, was not concerned about the single. Instead, he seemed more intent on proving a point to the Aussies. The circumstances revolving around Sachin’s departure had made him very, very upset; he put it out of his mind with a great effort just before every ball.Gillespie now changed his field for Lara. He conceded the single, while keeping the boundaries covered. He banged in one short and Lara jumped around his crease, seemingly indecisive in his approach. McGrath was brought on at the other end and he, too, began peppering the upset Lara with sharp lifting ones aimed at his ribcage/chin area.
Then, Gillespie banged one more in short. Lara decided this one was in the slot, even thought there was Lehmann at deep square leg and Warne at deep mid wicket. He pulled viciously over deep square for a six and reached a well-deserved century. He pulled off his helmet and gestured towards the dressing room where Sachin was standing to applaud, still with his pads on since he hadn’t gone into his dressing room after getting out, wanting to see Brian get to his hundred. Lara bowed to the dressing room after acknowledging the crowd.
The next half hour or so before tea and the session after that was pure mayhem. Lara unleashed a dazzling array of cover drives, on drives, cuts, pulls and hooks of such savage power that rarely did the Australian fielders have a chance to affect their inevitable destinations to the boundary line. By the end of the day, Lara had posted a double hundred in grand style, with consecutive fours off Warne.
The two doyens on the art of batting had not only provided a day to savor, but one of them had inspired the other to the kind of heights he always seemed capable of, but never brought off completely convincingly.

I have practically reproduced the whole article here, and am not even sure of its authenticity. I don't even care; the mere vision of the match is enough. I'd give my right arm for a video, if one exists! Read the complete article here.

The Bong Connection

Of late, I have developed this strange fascination for anything Bengali - lotsa Bengali friends, discovered some great Bengali dishes, tried out Bengali recipes etc (I just have to mention of a certain Bengali dish made using dal and fish - I don't know what it's called, but its simply awesome). Perhaps the fact that there are quite a few like-minded Bengali folks here has made me 'curiouser and curiouser'. And of course, I do want to go to Calcutta, just to see what the sheer hype is all about - Kolkata being the vestige of literary greatness and all that, you know.

There have been a couple of great links connected to Bongs that I have received of late. One of them has already done the rounds, and has become immensely popular among many of my Bengali friends and relatives. This is a GameMaster special:

When a son is born into a Bengali household, he is gifted with a resonant, sonorous name. Bengali names are wonderful things. They convey majesty and power. A man with a name like Prasenjit, Arunabha or Sukanta is a man who will walk with his head held high, knowing that the world expects great deeds from him, which was why they bestowed the title that is his name upon him.

But it simply will not do for these men to get ahead of themselves. Their swelling confidence needs to be shattered. How can one go about it? This task is left to the mothers of these lads and is accomplished by the simple act of referring to the boy, not by his fine-sounding real name, but by a nickname which Shakti Kapoor would be ashamed to answer to...

This strategy is surprisingly effective. Ask yourself - would you take Professor Rintu seriously? Or put much weight by the opinion of Dr. Bubai? Or march into battle under the command of General Thobla?

This is a truly inspired post; click here to read on. I have a good mind to have a post on Mallu names myself, about all the Pinkys and Happys.

The next link is via DesiPundit, and is about a Bong Harry Potter. Excerpts below:

Our hero is Harihar Poddar — the boy with the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, the only person to have survived the ‘Jahanname Ja’ curse. After the death of his parents Jayanta and Lily Poddar, Hari had been staying at No. 4, Paikpara Row with his uncle Barin Das, aunt Putul and cousin Dudul. However, before he came to know that he was a boy wizard on his 11th birthday, Hari’s only brush with magic was the one time his mashi-mesho had taken him and Dudul to Mahajati Sadan for P.C Sorcar Jr.’s magic show.

Hari’s two closest friends are Haimanti Gangopadhyay and Runu Bijli.

Haimanti is a typical South Calcutta girl, and stays with her parents somewhere near Dover Lane. She is a good student and always tops her class at La Martinere Girls School. She also talks in the typically affected South-Cal Bangla. So whenever she accompanies her bapi to the Gariahat market, she can’t help saying say, “Uff! The road is so kaada-paanch-paanch!”
On the other hand, Runu, as the name suggests, hails from West Bengal’s Medinipur district. As magical an area as any, and not least because of the fact that compared with the rest of the state this district accounts for the highest number of JEE aspirants annually. Runu is the youngest of the six Bijli brothers — namely, the twins Fatik ‘Fonte’ and Gouranga ‘Nonte’, Paresh, Charu and Balai. Runu also has a sister, Ginnia.

Awesome stuff :) !!

Monday, November 28, 2005

All Good Things Come to an End

The long weekend is over. Office begins. Have to wait until Christmas until the next long weekend :(.

It was a whirlwind Thanksgiving holiday. My cousin from Seattle (whom I visited in Seattle, as posted here) was here for the weekend. On Thu, we had a party at home - a potluck supper. Emboldened by last year's success, we'd decided to bake a turkey this time as well, but it didn't turn out as well. But all the other dishes more than compensated for the turkey (pun intended), and as we were the hosts we had enough left-overs to avoid cooking for the next few days (which was the main intention anyway!).

Fri & Sat were spent on shopping (show me a girl who doesn't go into raptures at the very word, and I will do 5 somersaults!), and of course the quintessential NY tour (I donned the persona of Raju-guide most of the time). Sat night we pushed off to Atlantic City, where we did NOT make much money - terrible luck at every game (at least, we did not lose much - small mercies).

The 'Taj Mahal' casino is quite beautiful, though I didn't quite understand why Donald Trump came up with the Taj Mahal angle. Sure, it had a few domes here and there, but then it could also have been called the Jama Masjid !!! But the sheer opulence was amazing, I have to admit. Perhaps Sanjay Leela Bhansali took an Atlantic City trip before making Devdas ;).

Despite minor hiccups like missing the train, my cousin did make the 3:00 PM Delta flight, and flew back to Seattle. I believe she's searching for a 'I Hate Seattle' tee; she already bought a 'I Luv NY' tee, which even I haven't done so far ! Anyway, she's gone back, I am as depressed as ever :(.

P.S: In case you didn't get the hint: I NEED A VACATION BADLY !!!!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Adolescent Fantasies

Arnab has a great post here (thx for the link, Maha) about one of the first desi porn sites - desibaba.

This was sorta at the time India was opening up to having Internet connections at home. Every teenager had heard about the 'possibilities', but search engines routinely yielded sites with dire warnings about being above 18, credit-card-based registration etc. Desibaba heralded the arrival of every Indian teenager's silent entreaties !

Arnab's post rekindled some old memories, to be sure ! Ah, the sheer usability - the black screen and the yellow 'Enter' button (there was an 'Exit' button too, but who cared !). Those were the days :).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Honesty is NOT the best policy - Not in India

For, honest people like Satyendra Dubey and Manju Nathan paid the price for it - they died. Or rather, they were brutally murdered. What you see in the movies, and what our puranas say, and the tales our grandmothers told us - everything is a sham; a lie. In India, only MIGHT matters. Good does not win over evil in India, as these untimely deaths show us. And we aspire to be a superpower. Wah!

It is sad that the media has not taken up the case of this young IIML graduate, who chose to work with IOC instead of a multinational and paid for it with his life. And to those 'intellectuals' who complain about bran-drain, I have just this to say: SCREW YOU. If you cannot, at the very minimum, guarantee the personal safety of honest officials working in the public sector, do not even open your mouth to talk about brain-drain. I, and thousands of others, wouldn't be caught dead working in the Indian public sector, and you have no right to point fingers at us. Especially after this.

Gaurav has a poignant post about his senior here.

has a brief tribute here.

DesiPundit reports that Mridula has compiled a list of links paying tribute to Manju Nathan. It is indeed an thoroughgoing list.

The Motorcycle Diaries

This post was inspired by Gaurav's posts on Che - this PJ and then a more sombre one.

I have long been a fan of the movie 'The Motorcycle Diaries' - the movie was based on Che Guevara's autobiographical book of the same name, and had some breathtaking locales as well as some fine acting by Gael Garcia Bernal (who did a such a great job in Amores Perros, which inspired Mani Ratna to make Yuva). I have seen it quite a few times, and kep discovering new subtle directorial touches every time I see it again.

The movie traces the adventures of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado as they embark on a motorcycle tour of South America. Initially, they just have fun chasing girls and ripping off naive farmers. The bike they travel on breaks down quite frequently, adding quite a bit of hilarity to the proceedings. Ultimately they are forced to sell the bike, and this is when the movie takes a serious turn. The director brilliantly captures the political unrest in Peru, the sad remnants of the Incan culture and the San Peblo leper colony - Che's eyes flashing with resentment, compassion and a hidden rage.

It is difficult to believe that the Ernesto depicted in this movie went on to become the feared guerrilla leader. Che was one of Fidel Castro's most dreaded executioners, and has almost become a capitalist brand now. It was Che who espoused 'hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine'. There's no room for doubt that whatever traces of the quiet, wide-eyed lad (shown in the movie) that existed in the revolutionary Che had vanished long ago. This makes the movie all the more interesting, as a study of how a man could change so much (small scenes here and there hint at the element of violence in Ernesto).

Go ahead and watch the movie; and as Gaurav puts it, learn more about the man.

Rangeela Re

Chanced upon this slideshow in TOI - 'Bollywood 15 Babes At Their Boldest Best' !!! Talk about corny :). Well, I did take a look (yeah, you could say that!). The slides include one of Urmila Matondkar in Rangeela, one of the cult hits of the 90s. The teasing trailers of a sensuous Urmila wearing just a wet white shirt prancing around a Goan beach caught the imagination of every male teenager in the country (including me), not to mention a passable percentage of the adult males. This was also A.R.Rahman's debut into Bollywood (everything else so far had been dubbed), and Tanha Tanha (the song to which Urmila was gyrating) was already a chartbuster.

How we went for the movie is another story by itself. We took along a chap who barely knew Hindi (he'd been born and brought up in Singapore, and was just visiting), and after the usual maara-maari managed to get decent seats (this was actually quite an achievement, because movie-theatres in Kerala have not discovered simple concepts like advance-booking or seat numbers yet - so a ticket and a decent seat is pretty good going). Expectations were high, and the high-testosterone audience waited for the entry of Urmila with bated breath.

She did not disappoint. Dressed in skin-tight leotards and short mini-skirts, Urmila ensured that the audience had no complaints. Aamir took care of the emotional angle (in a career-defining performance as Munna), while Jackie and Urmila provided the oomph factor. Everybody was waiting for THE song now. As Urmila's screen-mom informed a crestfallen Aamir that Urmila and Jackie had gone to Goa for a film-shoot, there was wild cheering from the audience (I whisted too).

The trademark interlude of flutes marking the beginning of Tanha Tanha boomed from the newly installed Dolby system, and the screen panned from the foamy beach to a vision of Urmila, dressed in the by-now-famous wet white shirt, running in slow-motion. The audience stopped all the catcalls and began to watch in rapt attention and intense concentration. Then IT happened.

There was a power failure, and the screen went black. The speakers shut down. And, the incensed audience began abusing the theatre staff. This probably had to be the longest phase of sustained revilement ever. For a long 5 minutes, gaali followed gaali, followed by yet another more-insulting gaali. At last, the frantic staff managed to get the generator running. And the audience settled down once again.

At the end of the movie, the guy from Singapore said that the heroine was 'hot'. Guess sex appeal has no language barriers !!

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Weekend

was lovely. Along with my friend Archana, I tagged along for the Broadway version of 'Fiddler On The Roof'. As all the reviews say, Harvey Fierstein gives a beguiling performance as the old milkman. He exudes a cheery warmth that makes you like him from his first monolgoue. We almost missed the monolgue due to our "Indian Standard Time' arrivals and my pathetic sense of direction, though!

After the show, we wandered around for a bit near Times Square, and then pushed off toward this Korean vegan restaurant called HanGawi. All reviews list this as one of New York's best vegan restaurants, our expectations were pretty high. Thankfully, we weren't let down. The ambience was terrific, and the food was yummy. We ordered some green tea as well as citron-paste tea, and some appetizers - a pancake platter and veg-dumplings, to be precise. The pancakes were dosa-like, but I'd have loved some chutney to go with it :). For the main course, I ordered 'Vermicilli Gengis Khan' !! It turned out to be pretty good, before you laugh at me. It was sweet and spicy all at once, with a distinct flavor of tamarind. Archana ordered 'Vegetable Stone Bowl Rice', which turned out to be fried rice with yucky cheera/keerai (lettuce) in it - I hate lettuce, but she said it was good. Altogether, a pleasant experience.

I got back home at around 11:00 PM after all this, and then went for the 12:30 AM show of 'Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire'. I have to say this - the new Dumbledore sucks. He has no semblance of the dignified Dumbledore that J.K.Rowling has created. Hermoine is oh-so-beautiful, and Ron has really grown! The movie was pretty neat, and a must-watch for all HP-fans. However, as the Rediff review says here, its not all that pleasant an experience for non-muggles (my roommate Amit was an unfortunate martyr !!).

After a whirlwind Saturday, Sunday should have been relaxing. Not the case, though. We discovered a new restaurant - a Mallu one, called Chola Samrat. They had a lunch buffet, priced at around $7.00, which included the most scrumptious fish-curry with kodam-puli and the typical Mallu fare. Plan to return !!!!

Got back, cleaned the house and threw away truckloads of stuff. I really don't understand how a single house can have so much junk in it. We found dusty underwear, dozens of mismatched socks, medicines that expired in 2003 and enough cockroach eggs to survive a nuclear explosion! what beats me is, everytime we set out to clean (which is usually around once in 2 months, admittedly), we find the same quantity of stuff ! Anyway, the house is clean once again!

Fragrance and Pre-Marital Sex

Now, now, that's just my coarse sense of humour at work - this post is about Khushboo (the film actress) and her much-maligned statements on pre-marital sex.

For the uninitiated, bit of background: in the Tamil edition of 'India Today', Khushboo aired her views on practising safe sex, whether it be after marriage, or before. She also went on to say that 'no educated man should expect his wife to be a virgin'. Her statements were the cue for all sort of political parties to jump into the fray, and begin the usual nonsense - burn effigies, shout slogans and make life hell.

Now, the question: why do we have this piece of parchment called the Constitution - does it have no more value than toilet paper? If it does, then the words 'freedom of speech' on it ought to mean something too. Freedom of speech is not saying 'good morning' to my professor at college, or doing chamchagiri to some geezer in khadi ; it's also my cue to comment on controversial issues. As long as my statement do not constitute libel, I have the right to say it. And in essence, even if you disagree what Khushboo said, that's all she did - give her opinion on something.

Pray, why does the topic of pre-marital sex raise the devil? After all, in today's metro-sexual India, pre-marital sex is very much a reality. I strongly suspect the reason for such vehement protests is that a woman had dared to talk openly about sex (pre-marital at that too!). After all, talking openly about sex is taboo, and not 'part of Indian Culture'. Never mind the fact that we have the second-highest population in the world - the lights were off then!

All this 'sexy' talk aside, the issue is really one of change. On one side we have the old fuddy-duddies who'd love to see Sati & child-marriages reinstated (part of culture, you know), who'd encourage dowry, believe that women should only sit at home, cook and bear children (I earn enough !!) and would rather have sons than daughters; on the other end, we have folks who believe in change, increasingly decide what to do themselves without binding themselves to dumb superstitions and are individualistic. The old order (and I do not mean the aged, necessarily) is threatened, for they do not want to see the world changed. And they know in the back of their minds, that change it will, for change is inevitable.

The more fuss they make, the more scared they are. Let them fuss and rant - the battles might be theirs, but the war is ours.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

DNA, I Salute You!

After several bloggers firmly established that an article on DNA (Daily News and Analysis) had been pilfered almost outright from Cricinfo, DNA had a choice - do the right thing and warn the author, or ignore everything. They have displayed some ethics in choosing to do the right thing - by issuing an apology in their Sports section, and sending out a strong warning to their staff, they've sent out a pretty strong message. Kudos, DNA - you've got yourself a fan for life!

Friday, November 18, 2005

More Copycats

Dilip's found this one. The journo from DNA has done some really hard work on this - I mean, open up a browser, go to Cricinfo, find a suitable article, edit it, good job dude! I think Dileep Premachandran (author of the original article on Cricinfo) should sue the other guy.

As Amit says here, I hope DNA takes some form of action against the perpetrator of this peice of brilliant journalism - if nothing else, would be a good deterrent to plagiarists-in-the-bud.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pilferers and Plagairists

We do have many of them, but director Priyadarshan takes the cake. All his Hindi movies are 'inspired' from Malayalam blockbusters (except 'Kabhi Na Kabhi', and we all know how good that was!). So what - at least he makes some classy comedies in the bargain, you might ask. Fair question (even though there have some unforgivable mutilations of Mallu classics like 'Kireedam' and 'Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam') - my gripe against the man is not that he churns out endless remakes. My complaint that for a plagairist, he's so darned arrogant! For instance, check out his latest interview (from Rediff):

"'Kyon Ki' was from my heart; it's failure broke my heart...I want to make films that I believe in, but now it doesn't seem possible. doesn't seem possible, at least in Hindi, where the market is dictated by formula...If films where Bollywood stars try to go beyond convention don't work, they will continue to do the same kind of safe films. No wonder big banners like Yash Raj Films make films based on formula. At least they're ensured of their success."

Who's he trying to convince? 'Kyon Ki' was a remake of 'Thalavattom', which in turn heavily borrowed from the classic 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. Where does the 'experimental' bit come into the picture? And pray, what 'experimental' movies has Priyadarshan made in Malayalam? A 'Kaala Paani'? Apart from the technical finesse (courtesy Sabu Cyril, Ilayaraja and co), that movie was a collage of scenes from internationally renowned movies (including 'Schindlers List' and 'Papillon'). Just a few of Priyan's movies:

Garam Masala - Boeing Boeing (Mal) - Boeing Boeing (Eng)
Vandanam - Stakeout
Cheppu - Class of 1984
Chitram - Joru Ka Gulam (allegedly, have not seen it myself)
Kakka Kuyil - A Fish Called Wanda
Chandralekha - While You Were Sleeping + Crocodile Dundee climax
Hulchul - Godfather (Mal)
Hungama - Poochaykku Oru Mookkuthi
Abhimanyu - Godfather II (the De Niro portions)
Megham (is not even worthy of being called a movie!)
Vettam - French Kiss
Kyon Ki - Thalavattom - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Gardish - Kireedom
Yeh Tera Ghar... - Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam
Doli Sajake Rakhna - Aniyathipravu
Viraasat - Thevar Magan (this one is credited to Kamal for the screenplay, though)

and so on, and so forth. Guess you get the picture!

So I get really irritated when Priyan discourses on how audiences don't like experimental movies. Priyan, first learn to make them - and then blame the audience!

Fascist Retires

Mr. Bal Thakeray announces his end of active role in the Shiv Sena (read the full article here). Thank god for small mercies! Maybe now, pubescent teenagers can at least get/give roses on Valentines day.

Or maybe not - for the geezer goes on to say "I will continue to have the remote control!". Looks like the gods haven't decided to smile on Bombay yet - cringing teenagers and beef-cravers will have to wait!

Blog of a Doppleganger

My doppleganger Vidya has begun her own blog, and her first post has me on it! Am so flattered :).

Vidya and I met through an online networking community, and discovered to our amazement that we shared an huge number of similarities - school and college percentages, univ-ranks, fav' books/authors/movies, likes & dislikes - mostly everything that mattered; it was damn uncanny. I used to spend ages chatting with her, leaving aside pending work and other activities, discovering more and more intriguing coincidences (metempsychosis, anybody?). After I moved to NY, we have not been in touch as frequently, most of which is my fault.

But then I needn't worry, for I know what she is happening to her is probably happening to me too, and so I have a pretty good idea of what goes on :). And am sure she does too !

I believe she has a post on cricket in store soon...waiting on it, Vidya!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Penniless in Seattle

Just kidding, of course, though we did blow up a lot of money in 2 days! Spent the previous weekend in Seattle, Washington with my cousin, who's on a short-term stint for 3 months. And o-boy, is she having a hard time of it ! First she's in a project that is almost an emodiment of Murphy's 'If anything can go wrong, it will' law. On top of it, she has wierdo who collect 100$ per month to drop her to office. And this chap (the s.o.b in question) is pretty high up in the organization, to boot. I would have addressed the guy in 'insulting terms of address for people who are stupid or irritating or ridiculous', but then my virtuous self invoked itself, and I resisted !

One of the purported 'attractions' in Seattle is the Pike Place Market. Dunno what all the fuss is about - its just another big bazaar, like Delhi's Chandni Chowk or Chennai's Pondy Bazaar (cleaner, though!). They have these amazing fish shops, where the shopkeepers seemed to play catchball with the fishes all the time. Some of them even hit the bystanders, though I suspect they were aimed at those bystander who had no intention of buying anything. You can be sure I watched from a pretty safe position :).

Then there is the Space Needle, which was pretty awesome. It offers a pretty good view of Seattle at night, and then they have this amazing revolving restaurant called SkyCity. The tables are all by the windows, and the restaurant completes 360 degrees in roughly 45 minutes. The service was impeccable, and the food was very good as well. Reservations are necessary though, especially on a weekend.

While travelling from JFK, there was this old Punjabi lady on the flight - she must have been at least 85, if a day. Shockingly, she was travelling all alone. And she knew not a word of English. In fact, she spoke just Punjabi, and pretty rustic at that (she had just one piece of luggage - a cloth bag). I had a hard time translating her worries and fears to the chap who was pushing the wheelchair. Basically, she was worried about the fact that the airport attendant handling her wheelchair had not returned the boarding pass he took from her. The airline took good care of her, and she landed safely. She reminded me of my grandma, somehow - all helpless and flustered. She was all cuddly, like most grandmas are :). Feels nice to just think of her...hope she is having a blast in Seattle.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Provocation - dress code for women

Uma (of IndianWriting) has a link to this absymal piece of trashy writing on the otherwise dependable Hindu daily. The author argues:

Though there is definitely some logic in the question, "Then, why should men eve-tease and molest even the decently-dressed girls?" a sane girl would ponder the consequences of inviting avoidable trouble on herself by wearing such dresses that border on obscenity by posing herself the counter-question, "When most men cannot behave decently even with decently dressed women, what a more dangerous situation an indecently dressed girl would be inviting upon herself?"...

The mode of dress has nothing to do with decency, but the mode of wearing it has something to do with it! A girl in salwar-kameez shall look more modest than in a sari, if she puts on a dhuppatta for covering her upper body and pins it to her kameez at appropriate spots, as suggested by the woman principal mentioned above...

Some girls raised a hue and cry that pinning the dhuppatta would restrict the movements of their hands, but it is not so, if one judiciously does it. Even if girls feel that dhuppatta is irksome, the upper part of the kameez could be provided with frills in such a way that it would give a modest look to it.

My dear girls! Have not you observed where the gaze of men around you and opposite you travels on your bodies, irrespective of their being either close relatives or strangers? Some of them are so clever as to look at you that way when you look away from them... Let us not make even decent men indecent by wearing indecorous dresses and T-shirts with obscene wordings...

Let us not, in the name of equality, liberty and modernity, tread the path of the so-called liberated women of the West.

In my opinion, the above article is neither well-written, nor well-researched. Moreover, the points the author wishes to make are preponderous as well as belabored. However, the article has given me an opportunity to rant my vitriol on one of my pet-hates. Here goes !!

"When most men cannot behave decently even with decently dressed women, what a more dangerous situation an indecently dressed girl would be inviting upon herself?" This is exactly like saying that 'Even houses without watch-dogs get burglarized, so what chance does a house without a watch-dog have? Lets go buy a couple of watch-dogs immediately!". Make much sense? Well, exactly the sense the asinine rhetoric above makes, I'd say.

As for a 'dupatta to cover upper-portion of the body', DUH !! These 'upper portions' are mammary glands, also known as BREASTS - ever heard of the term? Ah, this 'dupatta' rule is ridiculous. I have encountered this rule in my college too (don't wish to take names, but this college is referred to as the 'second-best' college in Coimbatore after PSG) - 'have dupatta pinned on at all times'. I wonder, are these ridiculous rules made up by guys or gals - I bet its guys, though I have encountered some strange women too. After deep thought, I have to conclude that these law-makers must be repressed (and probably sexually frustrated too). Thankfully, the rules don't say anything on undergarments! Wonder why men's pants are not provocative, though (this is why I stipulate that most of these rules are made by men!) - they do all that a dupatta-less salwar does i.e. permit 'clothed-exposure' of a 'sexy' body-part. Nobody bothers about us males - am insulted on behalf of the entire male specied!

'The upper part of the dupatta could be provided with provide a modest look' - wtf !!! Do dupattas have frills? I dunno, sounds wierd to me anyway. I have the perfect 'modest' garment all designed...a salwar with a sewed on dupatta (much like the 'tied' dhotis/lungis available nowadays). The dupatta has to reach all the way upto the chin, and has to be covered with blossoming flowers and, of course, lots and lots of frills.

'My dear girls !'...ROFL !! Hee Haw !! This is as condescending as they become. I do not wish to reply to this point, except to say that if a guy offends a gal, fell free to abuse him, or even better to drag him to the nearest police station. And when I say offend, please take this in the strictest sense of the word. Looking is not always offensive, but touching or passing lewd comments definitely is. But forcing girls to dress conservatively is obviously not the answer - its their right to choose what they want to wear. And what somebody wears is her/her business, nobody else's.

As for 'treading the path of...the West', let me reiterate that salwars are in no way Indian (check out Anne's related post here). By that yardstick, neither can be dupattas. So much for the 'West' influence.

End-result? Things are changing, albeit slowly. Unless more and more of us protest voceiferously against this kind of ill-informed propaganda, such sick unspoken rules will increase in our schools, colleges and even cities. Stand up, and be counted.


Anand (Locana) pays tribute to Mr. K.R Narayanan (one of the more astute presidents India had) here. The very first paragraph of this post struck a chord:

Indira Gandhi's death is one of my earliest political memories. I was in the fourth standard then. Our classes were suspended, and we were asked to go home. I remember watching her funeral on TV... I think the school restarted after a week or so. The school assembly went on for a longer period as a few of the khadi clad teachers were in no mood to end their eulogies.

Somewhat eerily, I remember exactly the same thing happening. I was in the second or third standard (don't remember exactly), when the principal of the Hari Sri Vidya Nidhi School - Mrs. Nalini Chandran, who remains the most naturally gifted teacher who ever taught me - came into the class and whispered something to the teacher. Then she turned and told us that classes had been suspended for the day, and that the school vans would leave shortly. Of course, we must have been in ecstasy, but I really don't remember now. On the way back, the 'Kanchana Supermarket' (in those days, a supermarket was any store where you could walk around and pick your own stuff; that place is long extinct now) near our house had its shutters down - a sure sign of an impending bandh/hartal (Kerala has not changed much in that repect).

I don't remember much about the funeral. I have aways found televised funerals a big bore, and I suspect I wasn't especially keen on them when I was a kid either. And of course, there must have been the out-of-work ghazal singer sitting on poor ole' 'Bore-darshan' strumming a borrowed sitar. Always wondered why somebody's death is made into this kind of farce!

This has been quite a pleasant jolt - I'd forgotten about this whole incident completely. Perks me up early in the morning ! Thanks, Locana.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Film Review: If These Walls Could Talk

A bit of background first: abortion has often been referred to as America's second civil war. In the early 1900s, abortion was in the process of being outlawed (allegedly due to the efforts of a large group of physicians who wanted a monopoly on performing abortions) in most of America. In fact, by 1965 abortion was legal in barely 3-4 states. Of course, the environment this must have lead to is unfathomable - for instance, where would a pregnant 16-year old go? The answer was: to a quack. Inevitably, this lead to a whole lot of women haemorraging to death. Although the Supreme Court overturned this law in the 1970s in the famous Roe vs. Wade case, pro-life and pro-choice movements continue to battle it out.

'If Walls Could Talk' narrates 3 separate tales of people living in the same house, set in the '50s, '70s and '90s respectively. The '50s story has Demi Morre deliver in a sensational performance as a War widow, who simply has to get an abortion if she has to live on in that town. The scene where she tries to self-abort, and the ones with the 'quack' pack a wallop. The '70s tale stars Sissy Spacek who gives a subtle touch to her role of a pregnant housewife, who just succumbs to the sheer pressure and decides not to have an abortion. The '90s story starring Anne Heche is perhaps the most in-your-face of the three, but nonetheless effective.

Incidentally, a similar 3-story technique was used in a 1980s Malayalam cinema named 'Adaminte Vaariyellu' (Adam's rib), considered almost outr'e at the time. Of course, it is now considered a mini-classic (and the director K.G.George, pretty famous in the 1980s can preen forever, even if his latest offerings are almost excretory).

Of Volatile Affections

Read a superb article by Harsha Bhogle on the current Indian team, and of Ganguly's ouster:

There was a banner at Ahmedabad. It was crude, pathetic and, yet, a stark reflection of the reality of Indian cricket. Tendulkar-Master, Dhoni-Blaster, Ganguly-Disaster it said. The last time someone sat down to write a piece on the resurgence of Indian cricket, the man labelled disaster was the toast of the town, he had the world at his feet and I am sure the pitiable person who wrote that banner thought Ganguly was the best thing to happen to Indian cricket.

Ganguly is in a tough spot, no doubt. He will really have to claw his way into the team, against public opposition as well as internal politics. For a long time, SG was the captain who could do nothing wrong; he was practically the second-best batsman in the team after SRT (in the pre-ODI Dravid days). And the SRT-SG opening combination was second to none. But then, this is the way things should be - a Sehwag, Yuvraj or Ganguly should not take his place in the team for granted - ideally nor should a SRT or RD, for that matter ! Bhogle goes on to say indeed this (though the statement in this instance is directed at Ganguly):

Dravid is a great admirer of Steve Waugh and you can expect the same directness of approach. Early in his captaincy, Waugh had to leave out Shane Warne. You can be sure that Chappell and Dravid will not, similarly, allow sentiment to come in the way of leaving out a champion fallen on bad form.

Read the rest here (Indian Express).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Genius is as genius is...

Yesterday I saw a movie called 'Amadeus', directed by Milos Forman (of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' fame), based on Peter Shaffer's play of the same name. And I was spellbound - both by the music and by the movie itself.

The movie is all about the life and times of arguably the greatest musician the world has ever known - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, shown through the eyes of his bitter rival (though I believe this is historically challenged) Antonio Salieri. The music pieces are, of course, sublime (and believe me, that is an understatement). F. Murray Abraham does a tremendous job in portraying the different emotions of Salieri - bitterness, admiration, rapture, jealousy, even evil. Tom Hulce was slightly less effective as Mozart; his version of eccentricity walked a tight line from being a caricature. Altogether, the movie well deserved its 8 Oscars, I would say.

A fact that particularly fascinated me: Mozart was often shown 'creating' his music, never even putting down a wrong note. He just wrote his music, not even bothering to play them out. I have read that our own genius - the inimitable Ilayaraja - operates in much the same fashion too. Coincidence, anybody ? Don't know, but somehow makes me proud !!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Of Other Blogs...

Dilip's post on why Indian Muslims need not condemn every act of terrorism committed in the name of their religion has been attracting quite a bit of attention. I wonder why: to me the issue is simple enough:

Do I abhor of, hate, absolutely detest every single sick act of genocide committed by the members of my own fraternity (against Sikhs in Delhi, against Muslims in Ayodhya, Bombay, Gujarat etc)? Yes I do. But I do NOT believe it is my duty to stand up and protest against each of these acts, nor does anyone even have the right to link me to these depraved acts of cowardice. And this is true of all religions.

Aishwarya has two wonderful posts on the run here. The first one (read it here) is an excerpt from another blog, I believe, but nonetheless wonderful. It's about Bong nicknames, and I have already fwd-ed it to anybody with a Bong connection I know. The second one is about an ad I have not seen, but the post is evocative of nostalgia, shame and guilt (I have done my share of doll-bashing too, as I am sure my sister would attest to). Read it here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Do Statistics Lie ?

I don't think so. Then, why is Ganguly not in the Indian one-day team? Take a look at these statistics for the last 35, 50, 75 and 100 matches respectively:

Last 35 ODIsLast 50 ODIs Last 75 ODIsLast 100 ODIs

Agreed that many of Ganguly's runs might have been scored against the so-called minnows like BL and Zimbabwe. However, if the above statistics are not a contention for selection, then I don't know what is (link from Political Blogs).

Update: I am wrong on this one; a search on the last 20 ODIs would reveal a clear disparity.

Just Read

this farcical article about 'how to spot terrorists in a bus'. Apparently, bus drivers and conductors are being trained to 'read faces, which will enable them to spot terrorists who might be riding on the bus'.

The most hilarious part is in a seperate section titled 'what you can do too'. Read on:

What you can do too:-

# Look out for people who appear tense, over-cautious, have shifty eyes and keep looking over their shoulder.

# Look out for people who are in a hurry to get out of the bus.

# Point them out to the conductor, and help 'him' catch hold of them.

# The conductor will then question and frisk them, and if necessary check their baggage too.

Point #2 is my favourite..half of us would be under the 'needle of suspicion' then (that is a term an old fuddy-duddy prof in my college used to use, often to hilarious effect !). Also, note that the conductor HAS to be a

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SRK Superstar

turns 40, though he doesn't look it most of the time. He remains likeable, charismatic and immensely quotable. And of course, he delivers. Hit after hit. What if Swades and Paheli were not blockbusters - he has Karan Johar's next coming up - as close as one can get to a guaranteed hit.

I 'discovered' SRK in his 'Fauji' days, and he did register as somebody 'different' from all the AB-clones of that decade. Once SRK graduated to movies, he simply chewed up co-stars (Rishi in Deewana, Sunny in Darr, D.Tijori in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa). There was a raw finesse to him that made him endearing, especially in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. It was after DDLJ that he became 'the' SRK.

This phase delivered the most hits, but almost alienated the actor in him (and there is one, behind all the grunts, the stammering and the hamming) . Whenever SRK attempted to break free of the shackles (Asoka, Hey Ram), mediocrity dragged him back. Swades was a valiant attempt in the right direction; so was Paheli (though that was more of Rani's vehicle).

Here's hoping that SRK continues to experiment with roles other than the 'Rahul' persona.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


In these days of callousness, it is heartening to see such solidarity. The only sad part is that it took a tragedy of such mammoth proportions to bring people together.

Of Tacit Denouncement

Barkha Dutt is somebody I look up to, and this moving piece of hers asks some hard questions of us (link courtesy Uma of IndianWriting). Excerpts below, on why help to the quake-ridden Kashmir was dismal:

Disaster fatigue, said most...But was the truth just a little more akward ? Is it simply, because it was Kashmir ? ... First there's terrorism... But there's another unspoken reason...Many people privately argue that they just can't be bothered about a people whose loyalty to India they question...

This is, of course, true. The amount of help mounted by civilians and corporates for the tsunami - be it in labour, money or prayers - was immense. There is none of the same urgency for Kashmir. As the above article says, it is almost as if the earthquake happened in some other desolate part of the world.

I often wonder why people behave the way they do - I mean, is there some defective part in their brain or something, that makes people beat up their spouses, rape and rob, be racist, condone vicious acts like Sati, child marriage and female infanticide? I wonder...(especially on comments like these in response to Dilip's wonderful post)

Lankans have no clue

as to what has hit them. First, Sachin threw off the shackles that seemed to have bound him and returned to re-claim his throne. When Sachin is on song, the best of the world have struggled, and at present Lanka are nowhere near that. After Murali lost the duel to Lara (although Sri Lanka won the battle, with a clean sweep), his duel with Sachin had been keenly anticipated. So far, it is a draw, and Sachin hasn't taken the challenge to Murali, but now it is a question of 'when' rather than 'if'. If Murali is taken apart, the Lankans will have their work cut out for them (they already do).

Harbhajan has been bowling with all his old guile and control, and this has gone a long way in controlling the middle overs. He has a lot to live up to, after the promise he showed in the previous Down Under series. Irfan has been on a roll too.

After the World Cup, its the first time that India is again playing to its potential. Welcome back, Team India !