Monday, May 5, 2008


“Business casual? Now what the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“Dress formally, put on your tie and for good measure, your coat too. If you realise you are over-dressed on arrival, you can just take your coat off!”
“Hmm… I was hoping more like polo-tees and comfortable shoes”
“No dude! The word “casual” should be omitted casually. Like when someone says I am a casual smoker, I figure he is just a smoker looking to give his nasty habit a presentable appearance.”
“So, I can’t ditch the tie?”
“Nope. You won’t take yourself seriously without a tie at those cocktail parties, let alone others. Besides, it is a good ice-breaker to say “nice-tie”, and you don’t tend to say that unless you have one on yourself!”
“Oh so that’s the purpose of ties? They provide meat for cocktail party conversations?”
“You know I am vegetarian! But yes, a tie provides substance to conversations as well as to the people wearing them.”

“Is that really true?” I asked myself at the end of that conversation. Thinking for a bit about it, I realised that I have three problems with ties:

1) They are bloody expensive

2) They are difficult to maintain

3) They really have no business on our necks

My experience with ties started with school. Our worldly burdens were yoked to our necks in the guise of discipline. It was just as meaningless then, but at least they were simpler! Not only was it the same tie everyday, I had it really easy with a tie held up at the Adam’s apple by shoe-lace-like thread. The new tie had shiny metallic buckles (needless attachments to needless attachments?), but these dropped off with time, and you would usually get someone to tie it at the back of your collar in a neat shoe-lace knot, so that you could at least undo it yourself.

High School saw the emergence of the proper tie. I never knew how to knot it then, (truth to tell, I still suck at it), and I would get it knotted once at the beginning of term and would slip in and out of it (even if it slid across in the wrong direction!). I remember a line from a speech on the occasion of a graduation function in school. It went something like this: “This school has watched the growth of the people who stand before you today from immature imbeciles who couldn’t knot their ties properly to self-assured young gentlemen and ladies.” I remember thinking then how inapplicable it was to me… I stand today on the verge of my corporate career and still can’t knot my own tie decently! Yet, wearing a proper tie marked a special transition in my life… It was in grade eight that I first had to wear one and I do recall a pride associated with the school emblem on the pocket of my blazer and the nice blue tie, separating us men from the boys.

Unfortunately, the pride associated with a tie inevitably depends on the label on its back. The famous brands are inexplicably and atrociously expensive. I mean, you could choose the silkiest silk and cut and stitch it with utmost care and precision, but at the end of the day, it’s just a scrap of cloth, right? I mean, what manufacturing cost could justify a price that could as well buy a couple of good shirts and a pair of neat trousers? I’ve often had this secret desire to buy ties of the footpaths in Majestic or at the Mumbai local train stations – they look just the same to me. I know, I know… I am no connoisseur! “Ah, the feel of this nice Gucci tie… Heaven!”, my friend says while (window) shopping. Beats me, this sophistication.

While a nice classy red designer tie aids its wearer to put his chin up and cock-a-snook at lesser ties, more often than not, a tie is a symbol of conformity and servility. Waiters in hotels wear stupid black bow-ties to help finger-snapping customers identify them in the crowd. Door-to-door salesmen in Indian cities wear borrowed ugly large ties with floral patterns on them as they try to put their biscuit packets and magic massagers past you. Exposing your neck is not taken very kindly to in corporate culture. “Where’s your tie?” tie-less souls are oft-asked, the question toned with aghast, derision or surprise depending on the relation with the enquirer. One school teacher who resented our school’s policy of compulsory ties as a sissy western affront to his traditional masculine brahmanical values remarked, “What is a tie but a device to cover shirts with buttons of varying colours?!”

You might agree or disagree that when put around the neck, a tie does to one’s spirit, what Yama’s noose does to a person, but ties invariably have some symbolic significance. A red tie stands for a romantic flame, a riotously colourful one for the animal in us, a dead-black one for the sombreness of a funeral, and so on… they all have their hidden messages to tell – the striped tie, the checked tie, the dotted tie and the plain tie. How one wears it could give away the story of a person’s fortunes and the time of the day – a tie firmly in place, almost squeezing the breath out of the trachea and ramrod straight down to the leather belt at 9 in the morning, is likely to be stray a bit under the effect of gravity and the afternoon sun. By end of day’s play, it is even more likely to be dangling loose mirroring a tongue hanging down from a gasping mouth.

Ties tell us tales, but how did they become so integral and important? It’s surely not a passing fad - they’ve been around for centuries - but there’s so little reason for this fashion accessory – I mean they don’t keep you warm or hold your pants up, right? Everyone would be comfortable without this suffocating length of fabric. So, why don’t we all just drop the tie?

I recently read that women wear high heels to make themselves look taller, which translates to more attractive. But if everyone does that, no one gains a comparative advantage. They do it anyway, I guess. Kinda like the prisoners’ dilemma situation. Or like people watching a cricket match in the stands. They stand up to get a better view, but when everyone stands up, the view is no better, and they are all expending energy unnecessarily.

The tie is a similar dilemma. Undoubtedly, it can add some colour to the drab shirt dressing your slightly pot-bellied torso. The effort and the expense, though, don’t seem worth it to me. However, people have little option, especially in the corporate world. We sell our souls, buy expensive ties. I saw this on a t-shirt once. “Success is when you never need to wear a suit”. It seems equally applicable to ties.

So ties have no practical purpose? Well, now that people do have them on, why not put them to good use? Domineering wives seem to have perfected one particular application of the invention. They yank their husbands off to quiet corners with ease when they desire to give them a good piece of their minds (but don’t think I missed the romantic possibilities). Mr.Bean, a personal favourite, employs his brown tie to amusing effect often, not least among them, to shut out undesirable smells and sounds by tucking the tie-ends into various facial orifices. Of course, it can be brought into play as a substitute handkerchief as well… but moving on from hanky-panky to the sinister, a tie is a handy tool to strangulate someone; however, I have not come across any murder mystery which make use of this plot yet. Beware, don’t try this at home - the copyright for the idea rests with me anyway!

I’ll try and end this with a joke, like Khushwant Singh does in his columns. In a crowded bus (or should I russsh bus? – a Kannada expression for a crowded bus, with the degree of emphasis on the last syllable indicating the extent of claustrophobia), a pretty woman boarded the bus and as she made her way in, I made place for her next to me, though I was being jostled myself. What happened next was somewhat unexpected. She took my breath away, and I felt an urge to make conversation to her. I offered her the strap I was hanging on to politely. “Oh that’s all right”, she said with a smile, “I have one already”. “Excuse me”, I smiled back, “But that’s not a strap, that’s my tie you are holding on to…”

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Sure, but why make the mosquito? I mean, what purpose could God have had in mind when she set them on earth? This is the biggest of many mysteries about this six-legged insect (I know because I have dissected mosquitoes – both dead and alive – in futile attempts to understand them better): why have them at all, when all they bring to this world is malaria, misery and more mosquitoes? It seems a better idea to exterminate them rather than try and answer this question, but given the difficulty in achieving this, we have to learn to live with the menace that is the mosquito by controlling it. This is no easy task. Let’s look at some of the things we’ve have grown up doing, in an attempt to keep the mysterious mosquitoes at bay.

1. Switch on the lights: This works reasonably well. Maybe, it’s because mosquitoes are nocturnal insects, tending to prey in darkness, like the Rakshashas whose powers multiply manifold at night. So simulate daytime, and drive them away with candle-power?! Hmm, maybe, but from what I have read, mosquitoes tend to go by the warmth of your body when they seek blood, rather than sight (which they lack). So I find it confusing that there is some correlation between the luminous intensity of my bulb and mosquitoes. Maybe the light matters more to us than the mosquitoes: we can see them better to manually squash them! Anyway, who cares as long as it gets you a good knight’s sleep, right? It’s another small matter, though, that some of us just can’t sleep with the lights on. It may be a good idea to count the mosquitoes hovering around the light, rather than sheep jumping over a stile, to fall into the dreamless…

2. Switch on the fan: This works quite well too. But again, what causes mosquitoes to stay away when motored blades circulate stale air around the room? Maybe, the air turbulence makes conditions unsuitable for a safe flight. Maybe they have problems taking-off, or maybe they can’t land with precision. Makes me wonder, did the Germans think of this as a solution when the de Havilland Mosquitoes or the “Mossies” were deployed by the RAF during WWII?!

3. Switch on the repellent: This works the best. During my time, I have seen repellents varying from the smelly-smoky coils, (remember the Kachva Jalao, Macchar Bhagao advertisement? – used to be my favourite, especially as part of the Sunday morning cartoon routine on Doordarshan), to the blue ‘mats’ (funny name that!) of Good Knight (to stiff competition from colourful Casper mats – endorsed by Hema Malini, I think) to the all powerful ‘liquidators’ which are in greater vogue these days. I remember the new waves of advertisements for mosquito repellents – the frog-like “All-out machine” (oft-aired during cricket matches), then the Mortein ones for dealing with mosquitoes with colourful personalities (put to great amusing use for teasing people nicknamed ‘solley’ – mosquito in Kannada – for their size, appearance and behaviour), and also this not-so-common one called Odomos, a liquid you can apply on the body to keep the bzzzz away (the advertisement showed a scantily clad wrestler – of the Indian variety, the pehlwan – ‘before’ and ‘after’ this unique therapy).

The serious problem with using these repellents is, of course, that poison for mosquitoes is poison for men too! I, for one, decided to do away with strong repellents and experiment with other remedies. Read on!

4. There is the traditional samrani which involves burning a naturally available substance in a bandli. A modern noxious variant of this method is to drop in one of the mosquito mats in the bandli. It has a telling effect, and it can be especially entertaining to take the smoke to a mosquito, and watch it drop into a free fall towards the centre of the earth, but it’s not the healthiest option.

5. A purely non-toxic method is the traditional mosquito-curtain or the “solley-purdah” that goes with four-poster beds. Grandmothers still tell us this is the safest way, and it probably is, as long as the curtain doesn’t have holes! The curtains are useful, not just in defence, but can be excellent combat weapons too, if used innovatively. I remember my cousin would wait for the mosquitoes to make their way into the enclosure (give them a small opening somewhere) in search of warm human blood, then proceed to wring the curtain to devastating effect. There would always be a few caught inside the ‘fishing’ net!

Well, these are my top-5 tried and tested – none too successfully – methods. The reason for my failure is that, somehow, mosquitoes have managed to maintain that mysterious aura, spawning so many popular theories and unanswered questions. For example, does closing my windows at sunset really keep mosquitoes out? Are they as prevalent on the thirteenth floor of a building as on the ground floor? How do you explain the fact that they get through thick woollen blankets and coarse jeans with the same ease as going through my skin? How come they manage to whisper nice things into my ears as I try to sleep, no matter how I brandish my bed-sheet and no matter which way I turn my face?

Have you heard that ‘morning mosquitoes’ are more dangerous? Or that there exist several different varieties of mosquitoes, with the ‘Talkad solley’ being the fattest and most blood-thirsty of the lot?! You might remember studying that only the female anopheles mosquito carries plasmodium vivax, but do you even know that only the females bite? Can you explain why they make that noise, why they leave behind a bulge when they bite your skin, what the secret of their flight is, how far up they can fly …?

I could go on about their inexplicable ways and unsolved mysteries, because what I seem to know about them is as much myth as reality. Hence, I seek that one pre-eminent scholar among mosquitoes who can give me deeper insight, provide a truer picture, and throw light on the imponderable workings of a mosquito’s psyche… Maybe, she could even come up with a safe way of eliminating them from the face of the earth, for surely, the world would be a better place without them. Until that search fructifies, I can only derive limited pleasure from the sight of my blood-splattered wall.

Monday, August 13, 2007


The things I am talking about here are in a state of such furious activity that this post may look foolish in a week’s time from now. Yet, I’ll say what I think about this latest addition to stories the media wants to pounce upon and made headlines of, because I feel strongly about it. As a cricket lover for more than a decade, I have always heard complaints and rebukes against the BCCI and seldom have there been any compliments. The BCCI has, of course, been successful in translating the craziness of a billion people for international cricketers into an amazingly enormous source of money. But all too often, we hear the same complaints: lack of regard for the people who make it the popular game it is, lack of contribution to development at the grass-root level, high and mighty in attitude, functioning and demeanour and always too ready to sacrifice the interests of the game and the players for some extra hard cash. In a way, the BCCI (since I have known it) has almost never been a body for cricket – it’s always for the money in cricket.

What has enabled its unbridled success in this direction is its monopoly. True to its name, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has held a firm grip on the game. When I say this, I don’t mean that the BCCI has controlled gully cricket or endless discussions about the game, for that it something in the hearts of millions of Indians and indeed, can’t be messed with. But when it comes to the money flowing from the craziness for cricket, the BCCI has brooked no interference. The BCCI, irrespective of changes at the helm, has always liked to maintain one status quo: constant in-flow of the greenbacks.

This is the reason why the Indian Cricket League has created such a furore. Suddenly, new tricks are being played on the old dog of an establishment, and no, it hasn’t been taken too kindly! True, the ICL is not really a creation primarily for the betterment of the game. In fact, I would be downright stupid to suggest that Subhash Chandra is showing the benevolence of a Mother Teresa for as inane a cause as cricket. The motivation clearly is profit. But I see off-shoots of this profit-driven enterprise which will certainly benefit the game.

Foremost, it’s lovely to see the BCCI running scared. This has seldom ever happened and to date, they are trying to put up a cocky face and act as if nothing of consequence is happening. False bravado, I say. The actions of the men of the establishment are speaking louder and more clearly than their words. They are clearly a rattled bunch! Think of it: Sack Kapil Dev? No stadiums?! And life bans?? The last I heard of life bans from the BCCI was in the context of match-fixing. So, is the BCCI equating playing cricket for a competing league to the sins of match-fixing and doping? Clearly, they have lost all sense of parity and perspective in their panic. A life-ban is the highest punishment they can possibly mete out; it’s their equivalent of a death sentence. Somehow, I don’t think that this hasty strategy will work eventually, and as of now, as a cricket lover, I delight in the BCCI’s sweat.

If and when the ICL comes through, it may not be the best cricket to watch. The best cricket will still be an equal contest between bat and ball, and between well-matched teams, and all the better if it lasts a full five days. Still, I feel the ICL might just work. I am no fan of Twenty20 cricket, but in a world where attention spans last no longer than a pop song, ICL might succeed in capturing Indian imaginations. The hard hitting, the frenzy and the glamour will probably appeal to the Indian masses. More importantly for me, its success would mean that more cricket players will come into the limelight. As Sanjay Manjrekar once said, we are hardly a nation of cricket lovers; a humungous bulk of this nation is not cricket-crazy, but international-star-cricketer-crazy. It is a fact that there is hardly any fan-following at the domestic level. The intermediate stages for a talented player en route to the international level are fraught with despair and difficulty. How often have we not heard of Ranji-players who almost made it to the Indian team but just fell short or missed out because of board and selection committee politics? And of so many who played for a match or two and were then found not to be good enough for the top level. Talent often goes waste because it is so tough to come through the unsupportive system and many make it, not because of the system, but in spite of it. Hence, if ICL can add a touch of glamour and fun for cricket at this level, it’s just brilliant.

Even if the ICL produces 5 x 6 = 30 guys who can bowl a good spell, whack the ball hard, dive around on the field and catch the eye of the public, cricket will be a winner, for, as the talent pool widens, so will the interest in the game (as compared to the obsession when a mere 11 players who step-out to play an international match). But the ICL will need to be creative to come good. Like World Series Cricket before, it should make people sit-up and take notice of this new animal. Mandira Bedi before and after will not be enough; the quality of the matches need to be good. In addition, there has to be ‘something fresh’. The Twenty20 format is new to India and that is a bonus in itself. But further innovations can only do more good. Suggestions that I can readily think of include use of TV replays for difficult decisions (of all kinds). An orange ball was tried out in Pakistan and that could work here as well. Matches should be scheduled such that people can catch them after putting in a hard day’s work at the office (which is a clear advantage this format has). The camera work, the graphics, the statistics, replays, ultra-motions, commentary teams, transmission quality: all of these have to be impeccable and mind-bogglingly good.

More importantly, the teams and the players have to be worth watching. While the international stars will always be wonderful to watch, interest shouldn’t fizzle out when Indian youngsters take strike. Team work and bonding could be vital and there has to be pride for their teams among the players. The young upcoming Indian players have to be promoted and branded well. They should be capable of performing well and winning matches. This is where the role of the ICL organisation is crucial. While raw talent will be available, it has to be groomed well. Along with the skills of the game, fitness, mental toughness and attitude need to be worked on by thorough professionals. Special emphasis should be reserved for fielding. Fearlessness, brashness and devil-may-care attitudes have to be inculcated in the cricketers. The ICL brand of cricket must be something to behold. ICL players must be something to behold. Andrew Symonds was training with the Australian rugby team in preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup! I would like to see every ICL player to go through a routine somewhat like that so that they emerge from the assembly-line as proud gladiators. An initial talent hunt for hard-hitters, speedsters, outstanding fielders, wily spinners and sound keepers would be a good place to start. It’s something Zee should be able to do well. Innovation should be the name of the game, be it training methods, equipment, or approach.

I have one another interesting idea for ICL. It stemmed from BCCI’s life ban for ICL players. My initial reaction was, hey, that’s a monopolistic practice; surely, that shouldn’t be allowed by law. I need to check on that, but I guess a legal battle is possible somewhere down the line given the hard stances BCCI seems to be taking. But then, I thought of another ploy that could get around the ban, and make the BCCI look foolish. What if some of the players (maybe one talented rookie per team) were to remain an undisclosed entity? He could play entire games with a mask to cover his face and go under the name of “blackmask” or “maskman” of the team, or some other fancy name. That would kick in some real interest, send the media into a frenzy and the speculation would create quite a buzz around ICL. And what about poor “maskman” if and when he’s unmasked? Well, he’ll have to take the risk (he should be paid to take the risk!) and if he feels at some point (say, after a minimum fixed number of games) that he can no longer play as a secret shadow, he could reveal himself and stake his claim for a place like any other player. The idea is probably too fanciful and might not work, but I am thrilled to think of it…

After so much thinking and planning for ICL from my side, all I hope is that it works. Also, I hope Subhash Chandra is reading this and taking note! If he isn’t, well, I still wish ICL all the best and look forward to interesting times in Indian cricket.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


This song is a work of genius! Whatever may have been the point of it – to showcase the wonderful diversity in our land, to construct a stronger Indian identity among the TV watching middle class, or merely to serve as an instrument of self-aggrandisement by featuring the best in our land – it worked marvellously. The carefully crafted video, which brought beautiful music to life, succeeded in capturing our imagination. For me, the essence of the magic is in the musical words: different words intoned in dozens of different languages, but united in their meaning and united by the masterpiece of a song, conceptualised brilliantly and executed equally well.

Star power made the video something to watch out for. Apart from the superb vocal chords of the likes of Bhimsen Joshi, Balamurali Krishna and Lata Mangeshkar, there were quite a few famous faces from the world of sport and films. Narendra Hirwani doing a bit of a jig on the beach in his whites springs to my mind as one guy who probably didn’t deserve a spot in there, in hindsight anyway. Also, there are a few people who we might easily miss, there’s Arun Lal for instance, – one of the last guys to alight from what was chosen to showcase Bengal, the metro in Kolkata (or Calcutta, as it was then). I don’t even know all the people who feature in the Karnataka segment – there’s Prakash Padukone but the other three persons sitting in the jeep are unknown to me. Surprisingly, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar don’t feature in the video. (But I do remember another video of the time in which these two icons carry torches as they run…)

The reigning beauties of the time (some past their prime?), included Hema Malini, Tanuja, Waheeda Rahman and Shabhana Azmi, all of who sync their lips to the voice of Lata Mangeshkar, the nightingale, who herself appears towards the end. The song picks up tempo just about then as it moves towards what I remember as my favourite part: fingers on the guitar leading up to appearance of the ‘heroes’ of the time – Amitabh Bachhan, Jeetendra and Mithun Chakraborty. The song ends on a high with the closing part of the National Anthem to provide a fitting finale.

YouTube has the video for anyone who wants to take the nostalgic trip in more detail. While going back in time with the video can be fun, I have always wanted to recreate the song, more in tune with the times and I have put down here a few of my ideas about what it should be like. The theme of “mile sur” should, no doubt, remain the same, but I would definitely have an entirely new musical score, to avoid messing with the pristine beauty of the old version. AR Rahman deserves to compose the music and I will give him full license to do as he pleases, though it might be a good idea to have Ustaad Zakir Hussain contributing.

As far as the video goes, I have strong ideas on how it should emerge. India might well have hopped on to the paths of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation, but for me, the shots will still have the green of the trees and the blue of the seas, with a few elephants and tigers thrown in. An occasional glimpse of a flyover, a concrete jungle (probably a beautiful shot at night) and some computers (village kids or old people or smiling young people at the computers) should suffice to indicate our progress.

Now for some updated star power! Rahman would appear somewhat like Lata Mangeshkar does in the old one. Other easy replacements include the lovely ladies who make it: Madhuri Dikshit, Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukerjee and Kareena Kapoor. The heroes have to be Sharukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Hritik Roshan. Amitabh Bachhan, this time around, doesn’t make the cut, unfortunately for him and neither does his son Abhishek Bacchan. (This is not about my favourites! I am trying to be as objective as possible: I want to include only those who deserve it).

Some other people who would make it into my video include a few from the cricket team: Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Kumble, Dhoni (give or take a few) would be the men in blue standing shoulder to shoulder sporting broad smiles. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati might still manage one chest bump for the screen. Rajvardhan Singh Rathore, Vishwanathan Anand and Sania Mirza make the cut easily…

I would like to make it a well-rounded video, including so many things that people see a new dimension every time they see it. The difficult part, though, is to decide who and what should represent the various regions, while being neutral and above-board in all respects. I have to make sure that no language or region is undeservedly left out and that each gets it due, as far as possible. Plus, there are a lot of other details to be worked out: the singers, dancers, actors… But it’s a bit of a headache to plan the whole thing right now. I’ll just leave the rest for the time when I actually get down to making the video… Contributions in terms of ideas are welcome!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


This is something I had first thought about a long, long time ago. Around seven years ago, to be somewhat precise. It was the time I had to say bye to my first computer. I feared all the data I had on it would be lost to me: pictures (mostly of actors or cricketers – not personal – these were the days before digital cameras, though I had some scanned pictures, maybe), silly PowerPoint presentations and Paintbrush files, some hard-to-get-quirky music, and most importantly, those games! (How ever was I going to get them back?). But when the computer guy came home, I discovered how simple it was to effect a hard-disk-to-hard-disk transfer and I was comforted. However, I found that stuff never that exciting once I settled down with my new computer. New passions, new games, new OS, bigger hard-disks and a new feel to the computer led me to forget most of what I had wanted to preserve so desperately! “Life is short, and mental space finite.”*

But I always look back with fondness at those days I spent with our first computer at home… That does make me sound as if I really love my computers! But let me add, I have hated all my computers, every single one of them, at one time or the other. They have frustrated me with their slowness and their crankiness… the one I am on now is doing that too. Computers can be really cranky: ever known one that worked well when one person used it, but invariably “hanged” when someone else tried it? Ever known computers to work in the morning but fail in the evening? I have known a few like that and some even more eccentric. With a computer, anything is possible: internet connections don’t work, games don’t start because ‘dll’s’ are missing, software programs don’t run, movies and music refuse to play… Murphy’s laws must have been proved billions of times over. Ever heard the one about the girl who wanted to write the most powerful stuff known to mankind? She wanted to make people laugh, cry, wring their hands in despair, tear their hair apart, or dance in madness… and she did it! She got a job with Microsoft, and spent all her time writing error messages.

The worst feeling ever, though, has to be when your hard-disk crashes. Emotion, creation, pictures, music, movies, masti, everything… vanish into thin air. Or at least tens of GB containing them do. Makes me wonder: how ever did man come up with electronic storage? It’s a thin line connecting us to a world, a world which will disappear when that thin line disappears. So much stuff in one disk or drive having the capability to make your day, to break your day or just to make sure you can do exactly those mundane things that you do everyday (or ensuring that the poetry of everyday life flows on, whichever way you see it!). Now of course, this is not limited to the desktop or laptop. Devices of infinite variety are part of our work, contain many of our memories, define our personae and rule our lives. All my SMS’s I had preserved with love disappeared from my phone suddenly. My friend was too heartbroken to work for a day after her iPOD containing a careful selection of music crashed. Another one keeps having a near heart-attack whenever ‘the fatal blue-screen’ pops up on his laptop (which is quite often). Yet another keeps crying that his computer is being eaten up by viruses and that there is little he can do but watch it die a slow, but inevitable death.

So, where are we headed as more of our lives go virtual, as electric gadgets become electronic as well, as our washing machines start talking and our microwaves remember our favourite recipes? I am not sure, but I am thankful to that ocean, the internet which can take all I give it and then return it to me when I want (My research papers are safe, at any rate!). But then, I shudder to think of the day when the internet gives up on me: isn’t the internet just a network of computers like mine? Where will we all be if the internet just stops working, one fine day? Will we continue to live, to die another day?

I don’t know and I am really scared. But until that day comes, I have just one piece of advice: keep back-ups.

That, and be sincere during Ayudha Pooje.


* Thanks Bipin. (Originally of Frederick Schauer).

Monday, April 30, 2007


I have always found that the best movies, books and plays and the best moments in them are the ones with honesty in them. This does sound strange, but let me explain. I am not talking about intellectual honesty here; this has very little to do with originality in “creative” work. I am talking about how emotions are brought out on paper or caught on screen, and how stories unfold. The best example I can think of, is the climax to the movie Phone Booth. A central theme to the movie is honesty, so those who have watched and enjoyed this thriller may find it easier to appreciate what I am talking about. When Stu Shepard (brilliantly played by Colin Farell), held at sniper rifle-point, bares his soul for the world to see, it is a thing to behold. The movie shows how one must be pushed (though one need not necessarily be held at rifle-point – you could, for example, push yourself) to be truly honest. It’s not everyday that one gets to see a person being brutally honest about herself.*

There are occasions, of course, when we can be honest about others. Even that, is something really commendable because it is definitely a tougher option than to be silent when you would like to to point out something, or worse still, saying something you don’t mean at all, just to avoid possible unpleasantness. Recently, someone I worked with told me that I had a big ego, that I believed I was always right and refused to even consider the possibility that she could be right. I really loved the honesty with which she pointed out my shortcomings, but to my dismay, having done the favour to me, she immediately regretted what she had done and felt terrible about it. I did my best to assure her that I didn’t mind it a bit and that it wouldn’t affect our relationship at all. I also went on about how I really appreciated the virtue called honesty. Then, I touched upon how she should know better than to underestimate my thinking capacity and how I was smarter than to feel bad about it or hold it against her. It would only help me make myself a better person and friend, I told her in all earnestness. Recounting this makes me wonder… I really do have a big ego!

Coming back to honesty in movies, I remember this one scene in Dil Chahta Hai which my writer-director friend Harsh and I were talking about: Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) and Siddarth (Akshaye Khanna) having a laugh at the expense of Pooja’s (Sonali Kulkarni) boyfriend who presents her with a heart-shaped balloon everyday. The chatter and laughter in that scene is so believable, so real and so honest. Lakshya, another movie from Farhan Akhtar again has emotions which are very plain and honest. I really loved both these movies, as opposed to say, Fanaa. I pick out Fanaa from a million others, because it was such a huge disappointment for an Aamir Khan movie. The movie was so disjointed and lacking in logical continuity that it was a pain to watch. You have Rehan (Aamir Khan) returning to Zooni’s (Kajol) life, long after he’s believed to be dead and among the first things they do is sing a song about tongue twisters. I am amazed at the stupidity of script-writers and directors who come up with such nonsense. Equally amazing are audiences which applaud such rubbish. I agree that cinema is meant for relaxation. It can’t and shouldn’t be a reproduction of reality. But do you need to suspend all of your logic and common sense when you walk into the cinema hall?

Songs in movies are a great diversion, but as Kannada actor (of yesteryear) and director Aarti points out, it is simply ludicrous to see skimpily clad women dancing in the snow when the temperature is freezing or thereabouts. This painfully reminds me of “hit” Kannada movies over the last few years. While they may be really good technically, huge jumps from one scene to another defy all logic. The movies are just a lot of well-shot scenes put together with absolutely no regard for continuity. I have been so put off by the tripe on offer that whenever I hear of a revival in the Kannada movie industry, I am rather sceptical.

I am not that avid a movie-goer which is why some of my instances here may seem rather out-dated. But I do like good cinema. Honest cinema. And I would be happy if anyone could tell me whenever something like that comes out. I like to rely on word-of-mouth, because the “exploded” media today really lacks credibility. It lacks honesty.


* Note my deliberate use of the pronoun in feminine. It’s quite cool to do this, at least in academic circles! Those who want to do this have an easy option with Microsoft Word. Just remember to replace ‘he’ with ‘she’ and ‘him’ with her’ using Control + F. It works!!

Friday, April 6, 2007


I don’t quite remember what started me on this, but I have given it quite a bit of thought and time. To start with, an elderly gentleman told me that my posture was not quite right because I stooped too much. As a remedial measure, he suggested that I sleep without a pillow. I tried it but I would lie awake for hours before going to sleep, and when I woke up in the morning, I would usually find the pillow back under my head. I guess that in my sub-conscious I realised that sleeping without a pillow was very difficult for me and I would pick it up at some point of time in my wait to get to sleep. (In my niddegannu which is Kannada, literally meaning “sleep-eye” but actually signifying heavy drowsiness.)

I was intrigued by how difficult it was to get to sleep without a pillow at the head and googled pillows. I found that there are cushions and pillows of all shapes, sizes, designs and with wonderful sophisticated properties. But nowhere could I find anything to suggest that a pillow served any purpose. On the contrary, I came across many babas, quacks and the like suggesting that pillows were bad for various reasons. This convinced me that pillows serve no purpose at all and is just something we get into a habit of doing. Then, I found out that my brother had stopped using pillows, his reason being that he had only one pillow which he liked to hug. My new reason for attempting to kick this habit was loftier. I didn’t want to do something which I didn’t know the reason for. I determined to kick the habit and though initially, I would wake up to find a peculiar feeling in the head, I am now more comfortable sleeping without a pillow than with one.

Continuing on why people use pillows, I drew a blank while finding out the history of pillows as well. Google had no answers to when people started using pillows either. I drew on my own knowledge of history to recall the brilliant scene in the Mahabharata where Arjuna shoots a few arrows into the earth so as to make a suitable head rest for that great warrior Bhishma. But then again, he needed a head rest because he was on a bed of arrows and his head was hanging loose.

I decided to consult a professional, or at least one in the making, Nemesis currently on the brink of becoming a Doctor. I produce some edited excerpts from the conversation I had with the enlightened one:

Nemesis: You there?

Me: Hi.

Nemesis: Hey, how you are boy?

Me: Ok. What about you?

Nemesis: Yes, surviving and all.

Nemesis: There was something you wanted to ask me?

Me: Yes...

Me: What is the purpose of a pillow?

Nemesis: Er, is that a trick question?

Me: No... I want to know the answer… a scientific, medical answer if you have one...

Me: It's for my blog.

Me: My first entry will be on the purpose of pillows.

Me: As far as I can see, they serve no purpose.

Nemesis: Oops, nothing besides, for comfort.

Me: Is it really comfortable...?

Nemesis: No, I think they do.

Nemesis: Generally the pillow covers are made of an inferior quality compared to the linen.

Nemesis: So you can drool while you sleep on them without worries…

Me: Ha!

Nemesis: 2. You can block unnecessary noise.

Nemesis: 3. You can use that for homicide, like so many Hindi movies have shown.

Me: I don't think they are really comfortable... my theory is that people have just been using pillows for ages...

Me: I guess your other purposes make more sense.

Nemesis: 4. If you are suicidal, and want to stage your own death, nothing better at your disposal than a pillow and a serial killer.

Nemesis: 5. If you have a lover, pillow fights can be interesting, as documented in popular culture.

Nemesis: And now, I am thinking…

Me: :-?

Nemesis: I will put these up on my blog!

Nemesis: You know you are still the same old… Just look at our dialogue box: The ratio between our lines is some 1:10.


So, as you can read for yourself, all I got out of asking a professional on the purpose of pillows was:

1. Generally the pillow covers are made of an inferior quality compared to the linen. So you can drool while you sleep on them without worries.

2. You can block unnecessary noise.

3. You can use that for homicide, like so many Hindi movies have shown.

4. If you are suicidal, and want to stage your own death, nothing better at your disposal than a pillow and a serial killer.

5. If you have a lover, pillow fights can be interesting, as documented in popular culture.

And to top it all, a breach of professional ethics, considering that I had approached him in his professional capacity. He left me in no doubt that his blog readers would benefit by reading his discourse on my subject. Well, I forgive him. He hasn’t taken the Hippocratic oath yet, he was kind enough to say he would acknowledge that I introduced the thought to him and, I have made use of our conversation here, haven’t I?